The time during which the Edinburgh fringe festival is on – just under a month, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, of non-stop madness (there are some 2,500 different shows, most of which run 6 days a week, and an endless number of visitors) – is both tiring and invigorating, fun and soul-destroying, not to mention ridden with borderline alcohol abuse for the vast majority of its visitors; residents included. Indeed, I have only experienced sleep paralysis (where you become ‘aware’ before your REM cycle has finished, thus you’re paralyzed and hallucinate) twice and both times were during the festival – it can be caused by sleep deprivation and excessive alcohol consumption, you see, the two hallmarks of a good fringe festival.
It’s also a great opportunity to meet and talk to an eclectic mix of people from across the world – with something like a million visitors, and thousands of performers, you can’t help but get a funny old mix –and in my opinion that really adds to the magic of it all. The fact that the whole town is buzzing with just one purpose – going to comedy (largely) shows and having a laugh – everyone is in a similar mindset (except the poor buggers who have to fight the crowds to get to and from work) and happy to chat.
That’s why I ended up talking to a (not so) mildly drunken Spanish fellow in his mid-50s the other day while ordering a drink in a city center bar. As I was straining my blurry vision to try to make out the whiskies on offer behind the bar, he came up next to me and said something along the lines of ‘you looking for the whisky?’ to which I replied that yes, I am indeed looking for whisky, and he said ‘get Highland Park 18, is the best’ at which point he proudly produced a drink of the stuff with all the grace of a drunken man; nearly scooping my eye out with the rim. At that point I felt it would be rude not to go along with his suggestion, so I ordered a drink for myself (you don’t want to know what I paid for it, Christ almighty they know how to put prices up during August!) and asked him if he was a big whisky drinker (I figured that if he approaches strangers to make recommendations, he must be) and nearly wet myself when he winked at me and said ‘this,’ (again vigorously thrusting the glass up to my eye) ‘this is my first’. It was his utter confidence in himself, summarized in that cocky little wink, paired with his drunken slur, that made it so darn funny.
That said, he had chosen one heck of a nice whisky to start with; I love Highland Park, and the 18 is sublime! The nose is ever so slightly acidic when you first approach it, but this very quickly fades into a divine sweetness consisting of warm honey (the stuff you get when you buy straight from a keeper, rather than supermarket; the good stuff), sherry (full of sultanas), grapes, juicy red apples, apricot jam on a warm crumpet – and all of these sweet loveliness is balanced to perfection by a sprinkling of freshly ground cinnamon, a little pinch of salt, and a few turns of the peppermill; by Jesus, I’m salivating to the point of drooling just at the thought of it. Oh! And I nearly forgot, there’s just a whisper of peat in there as well.
Then there’s the palate, the creamy, smooth, loving, lovely, loved, luscious palate! Again it starts out sweet with a good old helping of fruit and sherry, the peat is there too though still very subdued (it merely caresses your senses, which is exactly what you want it to in this whisky), and there’s still just a touch of salt and a few cracked peppercorns; then there’s homemade orange chocolate – imagine melting dark chocolate and adding to it fresh orange zest and letting it set, that’s what’s in here. This is a true masterpiece, if you ask me, and a must for anyone who appreciates a good whisky. The best thing is, you can pick a bottle up for under 493! Now there’s bang for your buck, right there.
Color: Light-golden caramel.
Nose: Warm honey, sherry, grapes, red apples, apricot jam, cinnamon, salt, pepper, whisper of peat.
Taste: Creamy, smooth, sherry, fruit, whisper of peat, salt, pepper, good quality orange chocolate.