In the gloam, you hear the whine of the terrifying hound Cù-Sìth from the valley. Your blood curdles. You have already heard the legend that any soul who hears the bark of the wild dog three times would be petrified into the silence of the hills, and would never return from the underworld where demons and fairies roam. Doomed forever!
The history of Scotland, its rich culture, beliefs, and local myths are so closely intertwined that sometimes you cannot possibly tease out reality from the fantastical. Mythical beasts like that Cù-Sìth are believed to be roaming around the hills, valleys and even isolated islands. So it is no surprise that imaginative entrepreneurs have been working hard for centuries to bottle the ethereal beasts, just for the thrill of it. Did I say, bottled? Yes, literally so.
Cask88, a family-owned business house based in Edinburgh and one of the world's foremost experts in rare and unique whiskies, had long been wondering about capturing the soul of such Scottish myths and legends in the bottles they trade.
Soon with the help of leading distilleries in Scotland, they decided to bring out a few unique single cask expressions. In their Folklore series.
Ben Nevis 45 year old
The first one was a 45-year-old whiskey that featured the legendary hound named Cù-Sìth. The beast with its murderous bark that once gave sleepless nights to the locals today finds itself been tamed, ladled and sipped by whisky aficionados.
The Ben Nevis 1972 Single Malt was aged in a sherry hogshead for 45 years before it was bottled in 2017.
Sip it slowly. Your nostrils won't fail to pick the massive attack of fruit aromas as you put the glass to your lips. The sweet taste of the dark amber liquid would simply bowl you over and see, you are now more than ready to follow the dreadful hound to any distant hell. Cheers!
Arran 22 Year old
Riding on the wave of popularity as the first in the Folklore Series had won three prestigious awards in a row, Cask88 soon brought out another phenomenal expression - Arran 22 Years. The second release carries forward the folklore theme by adopting another legendary creature from Scottish culture - Selkie.
Who is Selkie?
It is hard to pin Selkie under a label. Selkies are dubious in nature, have multiple personalities. They are predatory, they are prey too. People believe that they can see them sunning on some beachside rock, with their skin lying by their side. If you are a lover, recently got rejected and hence dejected, be warned when you get near. You are a potential meal for Selkies. You'd be lured into the bottom of the big pond by these innocent-looking creatures. Instead, if you a loafer, just mooching around the beach half in earnest looking for a bride, do not go any further than a Selkie. Hush! Get close to one and steal its skin, without which a Selkie cannot return to the home, I mean, the ocean. Kudos! You've got your girl! Lead a happy married life with the selkie. PS: But never, never in your life, let her get anywhere near the place where you hide that stuff, that underwater skin, your once stole. Or else, she is history, remember.
Arran 22 Years captured the attention of whisky enthusiasts all around the world. The outstanding cask distilled in 1987 was bottled in the year 2019.
Laphroaig 19 Year old
A single cask of 19-year-old Laphroaig was chosen to become the third release in the Folklore series. Cailleach Beira was the presiding deity of the new expression. Beira, being the mother of Gods, has the power to raise even mountains. She also carves glens and fills lochs to the brim. Like the Selkie, Beira too has two different lives. When there is enough light in the sky she is carefree, harmless, and a bit lazy. But don't fall for it. Come winter, her brows wrinkle, her face hardens, she gets out for trouble. Beira unleashes her cold terror over the landscape until it is time for the summer King to wake up from his slumber to fight the woman.
Tasting the fiery whisky you'd see how excellently Laphroaig has caught Beira's temperaments in the bottle. The outstanding whisky is kept in a hogshead for 17 years before being re-packed in 2017 in a 1st fill Château Léoville-Las Cases Bordeaux Barrique.
Nuclelavee 31 year old
The first thing your eyes would fall in a place like the Orkney Islands, Scotland is the great ring or rings of standing stones that speak of life since the neolithic age. Long, cold and dark winters, the raging sea, and the angry winds that whip across the archipelago for the perfect ambience for the birth of nasty creatures that take refuge in the shades. The most terrible of these is Nuckelavee, a beast so foul that it doesn't even let eyewitness accounts survive. With the body of a horse, with skin flayed off exposing veins and blood-dripping (black in colour) muscles, it rides in with its head blazing a single red eye. The vapours that spew from its mouth could wilt crops and even leave livestock to sicken and die.
A single cask of 31-year-old whisky distilled at Highland Park distillery tries to capture the brooding darkness of Nuckelavee. The expression started off its life in a refill sherry cask and was then finished in Rivesalles fortified French wine hogshead. It is the blackness of whisky that first strikes your eye. Perhaps they wanted to capture the soul of Nuckelavee in the liquid.
Whisky aficionados all over the world are now waiting eagerly for the fifth and sixth expressions of the legendary folklore series. "And what rough beast," as Yeats asks in his famous poem, "its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"