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Big City, Small World

An unexpected encounter in a vintage Rolls-Royce while en route to taste the Bowmore 50 Scotch whisky.

March 13, 2017
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Bowmore scotch
The Bowmore distillery is located on the shores of Loch Indaal on the Isle Of Islay in Scotland. Courtesy Bowmore

Everybody has a story. if you talk to people in the marine community long enough, you’ll hear about the time a builder or broker, hapless or full of guile, bumped into a guy who seemed like he wouldn’t own a boat, but who happened to be quite the opposite. As I stepped out the door into the cold, dark flank of an early December night in Manhattan, I had no idea that this would be one of those times.

I had been invited to try the Bowmore 50, a Scotch whose final 50 bottles recently hit the market. And Bowmore was doing it up: a vintage 1961 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II awaited to whisk me away to my private tasting. The driver was a short and exceedingly gracious man of about 70 named Diran.

He promptly informed me in his Slavic accent that he was a huge fan of Yachting.

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Sensing some harmless, professional ­sycophancy, I parried, “I bet you say that to all the girls.”

“No, really,” he replied. “I’ve been collecting issues since the ’70s.” He then launched into the succession of boats he has owned, climbing the ladder to a flirtation with a Viking 55 at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

The guy was legit. Though I was a bit confused.

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“Wait,” I said. “How much do they pay you to drive this thing?”

“Oh, this is just something I do to stay busy,” he answered with an easy grin. “I sold my leather goods company years ago. I really do love Yachting magazine, and boats.” Tickled, I offered my contacts on the way out of the car as we pulled up to the luxe Beekman Hotel in the Financial District, the location of my tasting, and asked him to keep in touch. I hope he does.

The tasting itself was a true occasion. Bowmore set up a one-on-one with its “master of malts,” and we drank our way through the ages, tasting 12-, 15-, 18- and 25-year-old whiskies before meeting the star, the rarefied 50, which ­retails for $23,000 a bottle. Presented in a handsome wooden box that opens like a triptych, the 50 would be the highlight of any onboard bar — and works as the perfect celebratory pour for the first night spent aboard a newly purchased yacht.

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Once sipped, this whisky simply dances across the tongue. It shimmers from a frangipani nose to a start that blossoms with the flavor of tropical fruits tinted with light peat smoke. There’s then a delicate shift into a finish that’s at first truffley, then almondy. At the very end, it was something like apple pie. By the time I got to the apple pie, it was a lovely surprise.

The second-loveliest of a memorable evening.

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