If in the south of France we have the LOUPGLIER (the legendary animal half wolf half boar that I had the misfortune to meet in a previous tasting) in Scotland we can meet creatures no less terrifying: ghosts carrying dead children, bagpipe players wandering in manors, chubby trolls...
One of them looks like a giant black wolf with sharp teeth and drooling lips. He haunts the mountains overlooking the Loch Ness (territory of Nessie still a rather singular endemic being!) and roams at night around the village of Tomatin in the Speyside region: the CÙ BÓCAN.
He thinks he feeds exclusively on sleeping children but also sometimes on peat moss when he can't find any more children. This second food source makes him spit smoke at the peaty smell of his nostrils (it is thanks to this that the villagers detect him and hide when he arrives).
Brrrrrrr is a little creepy.
The fact is, one of the legends about him tells that the current master distiller of the Tomatin distillery, Graham Eunson, had the misfortune to come across him in the 1990s, when he had just been hired. In the prime of his life, he nevertheless managed to face it and fought it with a bungled key and tried to burn his eyes with vintage head (well, that's how I translated the Gaelic story but I'm not completely bilingual!).
The fact is that in memory of this great victory he decided to create a "peated" whisky. Finally, not really peated according to the "rules of the art" (i. e. distilled from peat barley), but peat aged in barrels that have contained peat whisky.
Here we are today, I'm going to test for you the one that seems to me to be the best of the range, the original one: the one from 1990.
Here is the decor, Graham Eunson returns from his fight with Cù Bócan, recovers from his emotions over a glass of Tomatin 18 years (which I will make you taste later) and gets to work. The distillate obtained is then left at the bottom of the cellar for 23 years in a few bourbon barrels, then woke up from its long sleep to be transferred for 4 years in other bourbon barrels but smoked by a highly peated whisky from the magic island (Islay).
In the end 27 years later we find ourselves with 1400 bottles of a legend (and some time later in my glass 😎).
Unlike the rest of the Cù Bócan range in transparent bottles, this espression retains its mystery to the very end with a black bottle that masks its colour.
When it finally reaches our glass we find ourselves facing the distillate of a beautiful golden color with slightly dark reflections (it has taken on the color of the barrel by staying there).
Given its age, it is advisable to let the beast wake up. I clearly advise you to leave the whisky in the glass for a few minutes to let it air and reveal itself. This will give you the opportunity to check if your door is properly closed so that you don't let the Cù Bócan in if it passes through there!
The result of this waiting time is worth a visit. When the nose approaches the glass without really going in, you go on a trip with the sweet and light scent of tropical fruits. Then you take your courage with both hands and dive your nose straight into the glass. That's when the beast starts to come out of its den. This whisky is bottled by barrel force at 52.9% (after 27 years!). However, alcohol is not as aggressive as one might think. I think the beast is smart and stays in the background to attack better later.
Nevertheless, we leave the sunny islands to go to the humid forests (kingdom of Cù Bócan) with green and fresh aromas. Get some air and dive again! The peat is here! No, this one doesn't come out of the beast's nostrils but from the whisky. It is sweet and pleasant with a hint of chocolate. A little more patient, come back and the smells get more chocolate.
Come on, let's wake the beast up.
When the liquid enters the mouth it is clearly accompanied by the beast because the peat is very present and it smokes everything: tropical fruits, woods,..... Keep it for almost 30 seconds (without blinking if you are able - I remind you anyway almost 53% - and you will see how peat is first very powerful and then soften with the anaesthesia of the palate bringing more smoky aromas and ultimately sweetness. The long time in the mouth is like an acceleration of time. First the flower fields and the forest burn, then over the months the smell of smoke fades and at the end the smell of flowers and undergrowth takes over. Nice! Nice!
The memory that remains of this whisky is still quite long. It leaves in the mouth notes of ripe fruit and the sweetness of a pastry. The peat has struggled but exhausted by the years and showing elegance it has disappeared.
As often we spent a pleasant moment with this bottle (for which we still have to pay the coquettish sum of 280 € but which certainly means Graham's heroic act in 1990).
I'll leave you because I think it smells like peat smoke and I wonder if the Cù Bócan is not in the area healing. 😬