Friday, February 23, 2018

What's the Best Island Whisky


In my early twenties, I moved from Hannover to Karlsruhe. Hannover is notorioulsy Germany's grayest city, so I moved to Germany's sunniest city. Supposedly, Karlsruhe was inspired by the sun's rays shining through branches as the prince napped beneath them. He woke up and planned "Sonnenstadt" setting up the streets to emanate from the palace like sunbeams. He called it Karl's rest, but many called it sun city and still do. Some even say it has ties to sun worship and the occult.

Karlsruhe 1721

There's a grave in the middle of the city that looks like a pyramid. Inside is the prince. It's one of those cities city planners, transit designers, and architects know about. I taught English around town and spent most evenings at a pub called Flynn's Inn.

Dave Flynn was a guy who traveled around the world opening Irish pubs for other people until he got sick of that and opened his own pub in Karlsruhe. Flynn's Inn was where every English-speaker in town congregated. It was home base. Dave was a whisky nut and had a secret stash from Kildare and other parts of Ireland he'd share with regulars and friends.

I think it's safe to say I knew almost nothing about whisky before knowing Dave Flynn.

One of the bartenders, Simon, a kind Irish poet, rented a room from me for a while. And even though I never had any money, Dave took good care of me and even let me take advantage of some whisky tastings. At one of those tastings I had a glass of my all-time favorite Scotch: Scapa 12-year.

It tasted like a little bit of peat mixed with the sea and grass of Scottland. I couldn't get enough. It transported me to windswept cliffs. I got really romantic about this Scotch. The host of the tasting told me they let Scapa Flow flood the distillery every year and do nothing about it. I can't find any evidence of this online, but I like the legend, so I'm going to keep repeating it until the distillers write me and tell me to stop.

My last night in Germany was spent in Flynn's Inn surrounded by friends I'd mostly never see again.

Stateside, I almost never found Scapa, but when I did I flipped out (I found it at the Franklin in Vegas and nearly drank them out of it). And when I was in Europe I usually sniffed some out. Their 12-year tasted like an 18 and brought me back to unknown shores. Little did I know Scapa produced no new juice from 1994 to 2004.

Now there's the Orcadian, widely available at least in the western states.

The Orcadian is a smooth and super-quaffable 16-year. It's all honey and salt and citrus, and so delicious it's hard to compare it to anything the same age. That seems to be the magic of this distillery: everything tastes much older than its age statement claims. That means it's a bargain because something of similar quality with an older statement is usually MUCH more expensive. Also, they claim that their angel's share is far less in comparison to other distilleries because of their location. Scapa is on the bank of Scapa Flow, and they're the second-most northern distillery in Scotland (Highland Park has them beat by half a mile).

The new packaging screaming for Americans to love them makes me think I'll be able to get this for a while into the future. And it's pretty and blue and has a little boat on it, and I love it. 

I miss their 12-year. That might be just my nostalgia. I love the Orcadian and want to drink more of it and tell my stories of my expatriate days when the only place I could speak English was with the other foreigners at Flynn's.

I don't know what happened to his spot in Karlsuhe, but Dave Flynn has a Flynn's Inn in Bonn now, and I hope to visit him some day. 

No comments: