Monday, August 22, 2016

Whisky Review: Oban 14 years Single Malt

Steve McQueen starring in Bullitt (1968)
"The best scene in Bullitt is not the car chase scene," Keith advised as he puffed his Bolivar.

We are in Odell Park, quietly breaking the law among the stately elm trees, duck pond and cooing Mourning Doves.  The local politicos had recently passed anti-smoking legislation that even applied to public spaces like park benches.  I mean, what has the world come to when two middle aged guys, let alone somebody's grandfather, can't smoke a cigar in the afternoon sunshine on a park bench without risking a fine?  Ah, the limousine liberals have truly taken over.

I was taken aback by Keith's assertion.  The riveting car chase scene between the dueling '68 Ford Mustang GT fastback and the '68 Dodge Charger R/T was what I considered to be the best scene in the film, and probably the greatest car chase scene of all time (McQueen did his own driving too, no stunt drivers needed).

"The genius of Steve McQueen was that he didn't waste dialogue.  He could convey displeasure with an iceberg stare or a few stark words."  My friend tapped his Cuban and contentedly watched some kids, on the other side of the duck pond, playing on the swings while their moms stared at their hands, which cradled their other precious extension of their being: a smartphone.

I thought about this.  Unlike McQueen, too many actors, then and now, overuse dialogue to try and convey feeling and tell a story.  I mean some thespians just don't shut up.  Benedict Cumberbatch, James Woods, Ed Norton and Robert Downey Jr. gotta fill every scene with as much witty/cute/psuedo intellectual banter as possible.  Granted, screenwriters are a huge part of the problem, but actors could demand a leaner script.  They could push back if everyone was not so polite.

Keith elaborates on this motif:  "About 35 minutes into Bullitt, McQueen's character, Frank Bullitt (a San Francisco police lieutenant) and Robert Vaughn's character Walter Chambers (a sleazy politician/lawyer) are talking in a hospital.  Chambers is corrupt.  Bullitt is not and does not yield to the sludge Chambers represents with a simple parting shot:

  You work your side of the street and I will work mine."

Steve McQueen starring in Le Mans (1971)

 "Le Mans," I said nodding approvingly.  Gray clouds had moved in and interfered with what had been a sunny August afternoon.

"Exactly!" exclaims my friend.  His choice of cargo shorts and novelty print t-shirt no longer seemed appropriate with the wind picking up and the sun obscured by the cumulus.  I was in a crumpled nazy pinstripe suit, white button-down, with a slackened rep tie.  I went to lunch with Keith and never went back to work, like a stockbroker learning of a market crash over noon hour, who decides to duck the inevitable wave of angry client calls.

My Ramon Allones had an immaculate ash with a perfect draw.  Staring at the swirling smoke it emitted made me more contemplative.  I added, "There is a scene where a horde of reporters question a woman, who lost her husband in a night time crash during the 24 hour race of Le Mans the year before.  She, Lisa, is confused and troubled and the reporters continue to try to interrogate her while photographers snap away at her vulnerability.  McQueen's character, Michael Delaney, sees this and helps her into a waiting Citroen.  Turning back to face the crush of reporters, one of them asks if the accident he has just been in can be compared to the accident of the year before that killed Lisa's husband.  The question is cruel, uncalled-for, a punch-in-the-gut, but Delaney stares down the journalist and then simply walks away."

I thought about cold stares and how they communicate so much.  In fact, one of the moms was staring our way from across the pond, replete with lilies and a couple mallards.  Keith looked her way and smiled.  Sometimes I think the guy registers a bit on the Aspergers scale.

"I know the scene."

"What whisky would be McQueen worthy?" I ask as the ash on my cigar tumbles unceremoniously into my lap.

"It would have to be a whisky that does not need or seek any external validation."

"Kinda like Frank Bullitt or Michael Delaney in Le Mans."


"Can't be a blend.  They are all trying to be somebody's friend."

"Yes, has to be a single malt that is uncompromising, unimpressed and not trendy."

"That rules out Highland Park and definitely those over-the-top show off releases from Bruidladdich and Ardbeg in Islay.  Glenmorangies would be too pretty, friendly foppish with their endearing 'finishes.'  It has to be a malt that just doesn't care about trends.  An uncompromising malt.


"Yes, absolutely."

Single Malt Scotch whisky


Age Statement
14 years.

Cork stopper.


Nose (undiluted)
Fine sherry, Cabernet Sauvignon, slight smoke, maybe some roses in the distance.

Palate (undiluted)
Smooth, sweet arrival of red grape tannins that make me thing of a very fine and vibrant Merlot or easy Cab.  A warmth spreads through out the body from the first sip.  Rhubarb pie, with a sprinkle of dill, anise and orange chocolate.

Finish (undiluted)
Drying sandalwood, fieldstone and saddle leather accented by malt, orange rinds, hint of peat with wisps of creamy cigar smoke.

"The minimalism of the flavor profile is easily overlooked as not being complex."

"The complexity is in the the hidden and restrained notes."

"Or rather the complexity is the lack of complexity."

Keith and I were in Zen-like bliss.

Our reverie was interrupted by one of the doting moms striding towards us in dark purple Lululemon that was immaculate in form and fit.  Probably never been dampened by sweat, other than that of the child labor used to sew it in the first place.  When she arrived, Keith's smile evaporated.  She looked us up and down, pausing to read Keith's t-shirt: "Let's drink and make bad choices."

"I am reporting both of you for smoking to the park officials,"  she fumed, as she pointed her iphone at us with toned arm extended, like a cop showing his badge, and started recording.  "Please state your names."

Just then, the clouds parted, the sun shone through a little and we replied:

"Frank Bullitt."

"Michael Delaney."