Second and final day
There is a nervous atmosphere when I come down the stairs this morning. My kids are a bit itchy, my wife stays out too long from her weekly weekend shoppings at the local mall and the cat has scratched the doormat to a minimum. I know what day it is: the finals of the yearly Annual Tilburg Blind Whisky Tasting Competition are running to a close today. I know the days before Christmas are always a bit hectic but today is really weird. There’s no reason whatsoever to break down though; I’m quite confident as a matter of fact. It has been a family thing for so many years. But this year is different, that’s for sure.
My daughter always keeps an eye on the ice cubes and the glass. My son makes sure the sample from the local off licence is unwrapped and set on the kitchen table left from the glass. My wife is there to keep an eye on the overall performance; she makes sure my chair is on the correct height, my note paper is on the right side of the glass and that my pencil is sharpened. And finally the wooden kitchen table has just been scrubbed to get rid of all the germs that might effect my palate. It is a bit like preparing for a piano recital: getting everything ready for the moment supreme. Till yesterday my ratings were OK, but this morning the mailing from our local off licence came in telling us that the Blans Family had dropped a possible 20 points out of a 100. They’re not sure yet, because there’re four more families participating. A bit disappointing, but nothing to get alarmed about. We had the first dram yesterday and there is one more to go and I feel quite relaxed.
There’s the set ritual that has not changed much for years. I wash my hands, check the central heating is on 18.5, make sure the cat is out for the day and the phone off the hook. Then I position myself in the front hall just behind the glass stained windows, loosen my neck, waiting for the signal. Hearing the sign from the kitchen I start walking through the long hallway glancing to the left and right, smiling, waving. I feel like a man in shape. Like always my wife opens the kitchen door, pulls back the chair and puts her hands on my shoulders as a token of confidence ….. again, it’s a family thing, we’re in this together.
Off we go !
Sniff: too much alcohol in the nose, apples, pears, fruity smell, pleasant. Not a bad start. I pinpoint the ABV just below 50%. My daughter is disappointed…no ice, no water. Could be Speyside…I don’t know why yet…definitely not a Lowland….too flavoury ….soft, again, yes, peach, defenitely peach. Speyside, just a hunch. I am sure. It is a Speyside. Can’t be too expensive coming from the local off licence. No Macallan….that’s it…I’m sure.
Sip: mmmmmmm ….this is good. Ah, very good. I close my eyes. Feel the alcohol get hold of my tasting buds. I shake my head to get them in line again. I keep the dram in my mouth for about 22 seconds. That’s it….. 22 yo. Piece of cake. The name, what’s the name ? Come on Fred, you can do it ! I can hear myself mumbling. No reason to get nervous.
Swallow: it’s gone…too fast. No real character. I empty the glass to taste again. It’s a Gealic name, I’m sure. I can feel history going down. Must be something like ‘dhu’…yes, Tamdhu. Definitely. Could be Tamdhu 22 yo. I start sweating…almost there. I open my eyes and see my family in awe at the other side of the kitchen table. I jump up from my chair and shout out: ‘IT’S A TAMDHU, TWENTY-TWO YEARS OLD, FORTY-NINE POINT EIGHT PERCENT’. Screaming, yelling, hugging, they go wild…..
F*C*, **CK, F**K … !#@*
I’m exhausted. Sit down again. Hands on shoulders. The hardest part is yet to come…taking down the form to Annie’s down the street. I don’t know if I can handle this. My legs feel heavy. I have to, I know. It’s been a tough week: 2 drams in 2 days. But I know I can do it. Had some training the last few months. I did it last year …handed in the form just before closing time at noon. I scribble down the last notes. **CK…the pencil breaks !…pushed too hard. I am not allowed to use a new one. It’s a rule: take down your notes with the same pencil in one go. This tasting competition is getting harder every year.