This redoubtable dram offers an invitation to a spectacular chef’s tasting menu. First course? We’re told only that it’s a desserty amuse-bouche. Specifically, it’s banana bread, but it has been so etiolated by the Michelin star pastry chef that all that remains is a fog. It is, of course, a delicious fog that awakes my sensibilities like fruit flies suddenly summoned into a methodical murmuration. All around me, the austere walnut cabinetry of the kitchen cools the fog onto china dishes that now glisten. I put a spoon full of butter cream frosting into my cup instead of creamer, for kittens have made milky mittens from the cream and are painting the floor with atavistic images of aurochs and mammoths. Next up is a very refined apricot. Our server explains that it was broken for use in a rodeo by a nameless mountain man who has been living alone way too long. We nod as if we understand what this means. Finally, as the nose opens up, citrus notes tumble out like bell chimes echoing across the piazza.
The next course finds us tasting a butterscotch-candy caterpillar with stubby cinnamon-stick legs. I imagine myself as this very caterpillar, as this very hungry caterpillar, and I begin to devour a honey-covered baseball bat, tiny spice sachets made by fairies, white peppercorn buttons on a gingerbread man’s cardigan, and whole forests of nutmeg. Then I come to be told it’s all part of a deconstructed pumpkin spice latte and I think, this is the first time since Of Grammatology that I’ve enjoyed deconstruction! It is the subversion of the very idea of a meal, a tale told in reverse, just as a child would wish it to be.
The finish recalls the best topical dental anaesthesia ever, the kind given only by boutique dentists whose commitment to their craft is rivaled only by their magical ability to allay anxiety. My gums brighten up with Handel’s hallelujah chorus. As the music surrounds the table, the chef’s offerings are now animated. Teeny tiny tartlets dance with sugar plums. Hydrophobic cherries confidently stride out into stem-deep waters. I see now that the spine of this whisky comprises the essential oils of Speyside. If ever I realize my ambition to open the world’s first whisky spa and aromatherapy massage center—where all the massage tables are reclaimed staves, and the coopers lay their ruined hands upon the knotted muscles of the guests—then this whisky shall be the one with which to infuse the massage oils.
On the scale of fun facts about the Michelin guide–
The Craigellachie 23 is the fact that the guide, written by a tire company, aimed to encourage more travel–What I know about this dram is that I’d drive very far indeed to enjoy one.
–Our thanks to Georgie Bell and Craigellachie for the sample!