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Jack Bettridge

Re-Exploring the Room

Posted: Nov 14, 2011 12:00am ET

Back in June, I wrote in this space about missing out on a windfall cigar opportunity because I wasn’t packing heaters (as I normally would have been before all this cigar regulation nonsense).

I would have made the same mistake again last week had not my illustrious colleague David Savona saved me.

We were headed to the same venue—Manhattan’s Explorer’s Club—where I had spent an early-summer evening wishing I’d brought smokes because the society’s upper-East Side facility has a second-floor patio on which smoking was permitted. (I suppose it isn’t such a stretch that an organization that notoriously hosts dinners where such dishes as earthworm stir fry and maggot-covered strawberries are served would have an outlet for smokers.) On the subway ride there I slapped my head and said, “Doh, we should have brought cigars.”

I explained the situation, and Savona—a former Boy Scout who almost made Eagle and is always prepared—said not to worry, “I’ve got you covered.” Not only did he have me covered, he had enough smokes to hand out to other guests willing to explore the possibilities of a great smoke and a Scotch whisky, which as it happened was the theme of the evening.

Perhaps you’ve heard of how several bottles of Scotch abandoned by the Ernest Shackleton expedition in Antarctica around 1909 were recently recovered. That dram—Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky—is no longer made, but there is a way to taste a facsimile thereof. Richard Patterson, the master distiller of The Dalmore, analyzed the whisky that was recovered and blended a replica of it using several Highland and Speyside malts from Whyte & Mackay (the Dalmore owner). That effort is now available for sale in a limited edition of 50,000 bottles ($175).

Bottle shot of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky.

Patterson evaluated the antique whisky on several levels to create the copy. He analyzed the cask extractives to determine what kind of vessels it had been aged in (Sherry-seasoned American oak) as well as scrutinizing the peat content (Orkney Islands). Of course, he also used the old-fashioned methods as well (he sniffed and sipped it).

I will not attempt tasting notes here as I sampled said whisky in less than clinical surroundings, but I will say that it went down rather well with a smoke on an unusually balmy November evening. What added to the always felicitous combination of a malt and a smoke was that Patterson, himself the blender of The Dalmore Cigar Malt, had uttered a hearty “By all means!” when I had mentioned that Savona had had the forethought to bring cigars. He joined us on the patio, where fortunately I was in possession of a torch lighter so we didn’t have to make use of Savona’s merit badge in starting afire by rubbing two sticks together.  

All and all, it was an ideal evening. There was the Old World atmosphere of the club (where else do you encounter a stuffed rearing polar bear). There was the great company (I forgot to mention the legendary Jim Fowler of “Mutual Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” was also a guest). And, of course, the excellent cigars and drink. As we stood and smoked I reflected on the fact that we must take advantage of these moments—however rare they are—when they come up. And I don’t necessarily mean Shackleton’s whisky (I wonder if he brought cigars on the expedition). You just need good company, good drink and good cigars. I won’t forget them next time.


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