Snippets from the book: Port Ellen 1979

Waiting for the right moment to open up this beauty.
Waiting for the right moment to open up this beauty.

A bit of nostalgia from Chapter 2 of Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations…. 2005: After a few days in Rochdale, we hit the road for the historic Eaves Hall for a weekend birthday celebration for our dear friend Catherine. Eaves Hall is situated on thirteen acres of gardens and beautiful Lancashire countryside. After the formal and festive dinner, a nightcap was suggested and the liveliest of the Party People eased on up to the sophisticated lounge and bar.  I eyed a bottle of barely opened special edition Lagavulin sitting innocently on the top shelf and asked if I would be allowed to purchase the entire bottle to share with my friends.  The bartender, young and obviously not well versed in tending bar, thought why not and gave me a price. Deal done. I hope his supervisor never found out about the bargain I received. Don’t judge, the bar made their money back on the wholesale price of the bottle. Absolutely! We didn’t quite finish the bottle that weekend, the remaining gold became a gift for the birthday girl.

During the following afternoon a group of us decided to walk to the Clitheroe town center a few short miles from Eaves Hall.  The word was that Clitheroe had a superior whisky store that we must investigate just in case something had our names on it.  The shop, D. Byrne & Co., was glorious; it was paradise found. It was more whisky than any one underpaid overworked person could ever manage to bring back to the United States or anywhere else for that matter.  What to buy? (My first impulse was to ask for a Springbank 21 Y.O., but they had none.) I settled on a Signatory, 1979, 22 Y.O. Port Ellen for a reasonable price.  Securely packaged in a round metal container, I thought it would be more protected to bring home in the suitcase than the usual cardboard box.  This was post 9/11 and I knew nothing would be allowed with my carry-on luggage.

Whisky in tow, it was time for snacks and window shopping around the town. I found some ice cream to satisfy my sweet tooth and pal Tiffany offered to carry the Port Ellen while I ate.  Some of us were sauntering along and spotted a bench to sit on and finish our snacks.  The next thing I knew I heard a loud clunk. Everyone looked at Tiffany; everyone looked at me.  Yes, it was the bottle that had tumbled out of the bag and hit the sidewalk.  Horrified we all ran towards the precious baby. The container had a dent. Gingerly and with bated breath I opened the  container; were there any signs of leakage? The metal container saved it. All was well with the world. While writing this chapter in 2014 I pulled out the Signatory – as yet unopened, gave it a pat and clicked on The Whisky Exchange web site to see if it was still available and what was the going price.  To my astonishment and delight, The Whisky Exchange was asking about $750 when converted from the British pound. I went back to check while writing this blog and now it seems to be sold out on all  the sites I viewed. Needless to say, I am thrilled to pieces (of course, pun intended) that it didn’t break that day.  My friends and I were still a number of years away from the ultimate whisky trip, but the seeds were sown during this long ago trip and the birthday weekend at Eaves Hall. I raise a glass to fond memories and good whisky!