A nose of cherry caramel candies, boiled beef with burgundy mushrooms, ace bandages, and apple brownies. It recalls the time I attended a birthday party for an 8-year-old gymnast and her gymnast friends. After romping around on the mats and apparatuses, they got into the trainer’s cabinet and simply went to town on the ace bandages. First ankles and wrists, then whole arms and legs, finally heads and torsos. By the end the sprightly girls looked more like mummies than the exuberant pixies they started out as. They had trouble bending their arms to eat the treats and cake, but this only enhanced their delight. Meanwhile many of the tired fathers gathered wordlessly around a slow-cooker for the stew. The Tomatin Burns Malt 12 brings it all back. In that musty, corrugated steel gym pierced by squeals of joy, I was wishing instead that I was at a Burns Night supper just now underway across the Atlantic.
The mouth straddles the vast semantic gulf that ought open, but does not, between the terms “flammable” and “inflammable.” Which is to say, it is almost inflammatory, like an insult hissed during the gymnast party at a pimply DJ who pumped Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Put ‘em on the Glass” through his cheap Peavy sound system as he stepped out for a cigarette. Burnt oak staves. Smoked syrup. Just a hint of camphor. Pine resin. Camp Four in Yosemite valley, meals cooked in tin cans, leather boots left too close to the fire pit. A strange Burns Night supper set in the quiet gloaming. But why not there, I ask, and why not such food?
The finish is not complex but really, really good. It finishes with the solemnity of a Seamus Heaney poem, which is to say, with a directness and simplicity that is the maker’s mark of profundity. During the finish, I saw myself again in that florescent cube of a gym, watching tiny mummies spinning and falling and tripping and laughing, my arms heavy at my side, drawing my shoulders down in a posture of resignation. But why not a moment of triumph instead; why not a motionless dance to my own merriment and festivity? For if the nose of the Tomatin Burns Malt 12 can reawaken a mundane memory previously lost, so too can it help me to transfigure the commonplace, to enjoy a moveable feast on Burns Night. “It’s five o’clock somewhere,” the shallow pates say as they reach for some awful drink. To them I reply, “It’s Burns Night everywhere” and offer the Tomatin Burns Malt with a warm smile.
The Tomatin Burns Malt 12 Year 2001 TWB Exclusive is the following exchange from The Exorcist by guest Thad Watkins, who enacted it with salt and pepper shakers:
Karras: How long are you going to stay inside of Regan?
Regan: Until she rots and lies stinking in the earth. [Father Karras pulls a vial from his pocket] What’s that?
Karras: Holy water.
Regan: Keep it away… [Karras sprinkles the holy water onto Regan, who starts screaming] IT BURNS! IT BURNS!
Thad: [looking up] Get it?!? Get it?!? Bwwahh, hahha, hhaahhha!
Thad was not invited back. But for being memorable, his Toast was matchless. To this day, the McDiarmids, hosts of that fateful supper, share a knowing glance when a guest reaches for the salt or pepper.
Our thanks to Alastair and the good people at The Whisky Barrel for the sample!
*–The Whisky Barrel (Tomatin Burns Malt 12 Year 2001 TheWhiskyBarrel.com Exclusive)
You can also find The Whisky Barrel’s Facebook page here and their Twitter feed here.