We like Lark. And part of what we like about it is how it defies generalization. The bottling of distinct casks means that slight variations in the distilling process are magnified during maturation. In Scotland it’s common to refer to the yearly loss of volume as “the angel’s share”. With the Lark, though, we must assume that demons are making furtive deposits into the casks. How else to explain the taste of butterscotch that’s been run through an alchemical apparatus by a 14th C. mad scientist, adding lemon, sour orange, and spoiled Gran Marnier? This is then poured onto great drums of bubbling beef tallow, causing it to caramelize into an exquisite taffy. But the taffy is decidedly not the sort you’d buy on the boardwalk. To get this one, you’d have to go under the boardwalk and look around for a rangy guy named Seth. He’s the one parceling it out in his mother’s Ziploc bags while looking compulsively to his left and right during the exchange—not that you heard any of this from me, mind you. All of this is to get at the taste, but we have to say, the heat compressed into this winning dram is intense enough to turn charcoal briquettes into lustrous cubic zirconia. It peels back the upper palate like a sardine can, but the can contains alternating layers of hearts of palm, whole Guntur chilis, and 3” pilchard. Remarkably the dram is even hotter with a few drops of water added. Think of how a scirocco blowing onto a motel patio
in El Centro, CA, intensifies the afternoon heat. But it’s an oddly welcome intensifying heat, as when you’ve just set your hand-lacquered ceramic pink flamingos out on said patio to dry (and then, once dry, to make the place feel more like home). In sum, this is emphatically a whisky for everyone. But especially someone with a Southern Hemisphere shelf in her whisky cabinet.
The Lark Cask Strength (Cask #658) is xlokk [Malta]–Similar to xaloc [Catalan] and shluq [Lebanon], we find that xlokk captures far better the bracing complexity of the Lark Cask Strength than does la calima [Canary Islands] or leveche [Spain], and it has more substance than the descriptively-challenged jugo [Macedonia] (it comes from the Slavic word, jug, meaning “south”). In fact, we were sorely tempted to say that the Lark Cask Strength rates on this scale as ghibli [Libya] but the word makes Bill giggle. The Lark Cask Strength does not.