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Trying to sum up a year in a few sentences always feels a bit awkward, and if I’m honest, a bit self-indulgent. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been dragging my feet this time round! The habit didn’t have illustrious origins, and is still not much more than an attempt to store away lessons learnt, in the hope that they might not need to be relearnt too painfully or often! It also does me good to look back over the highlights reel as an aid to keeping perspective and cultivating a resilient sort of gratitude… Though I do so this time in acute awareness that while I found 2016 to be passable company, it was a right jerk to a whole lot of people, who will be most pleased to have made it over the line. I was mildly disappointed that the replay of my own year was a little lacking in amplitude or achievement, but then perhaps that’s the take home message. Ordinary years have their place, to rebuild after extraordinarily bad ones and prepare for extraordinarily good ones. So to all those who crawled the last few metres of the finisher’s chute last week, I hope 2017 brings an end to the plagues and misfortunes of this year, and shows up instead with plenty of fantastic days to go round, an adventurous road ahead, and unexpected loveliness. I hope you also have a few nice bits of salvage that are worth celebrating. Jx

1. One favourite film: The BFG. Just beautiful.

2. Two favourite books: ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society’ by Mary Ann Shaffer, and ‘Heroic Australian Women in War’ by Susanna de Vries.

3. Three favourite tunes (none of which were written in 2016): ‘Benedictus’ by 2Cellos, ‘Calm and Crystal Clear’ by Miss Higgins, and ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Disturbed.

4. Favourite wardrobe addition: The loveliest pair of Duckfeet Fyns that ever was!

5. Best meal: Madame Hanoi, Adelaide. Outstanding company. Outstanding meal.

6. Best drink: Sullivan’s Cove American Cask. Breathtaking.

7. Best piece of advice: ‘Don’t rush. There are more opportunities ahead of you than you can even consider now.’

8. Favourite view: Newcastle Harbour from Stockton Bridge. I will miss it dearly.

9. Favourite addition to my happy home: The various precious gifts that send me on my way with a beautiful, diverse and most sufficient collection of teas.

10. Plan for the New Year: Work hard. Read widely. Take risks. Make time for kindness. Carefully expand scotch collection, in consultation with friends near and far.


Despite my abiding love of single malt, and my perpetual search for the perfect drop, I have never written tasting notes before. It’s a bit too daunting for me, and I think it’s probably a task best reserved for finer connoisseurs and better writers than I am. What can I say about the product of such long and careful labour over all the perfect ingredients? I’m no expert, I only know that my favourite distilleries take some local grain and a steady, fresh water source and turn out a good barley mash. Also they choose a collection of oak barrels, seasoned to their preference for this or that edition. And then years of some miraculous process turns out the Nectar of Heaven. All of this only seems to work if you also have the right altitude and temperature, an imposing span of wilderness and a very great deal of patience, in the manner expected of fine Scotch. One of the things I love most about whisky is the sense of perspective that naturally emerges from drinking it. There is nothing like realising that the dram you are enjoying has been in the making for more than a decade to help shake off a tough week, or to remind you not to celebrate success too quickly. Another reason why it is hard to sum up the savouring experience!

All of that said, I was recently surprised (and thrilled!) to receive an absolutely beautiful Tasmanian Highland Single Cask from some extremely generous people. The Nant Pinot Noir Wood is just glorious, and deserves an attempt (however inadequate) at a few brief words. As it happens, attempting these notes has coincided over the last fortnight or so with spending much more time on home cooking, which has been lovely, though I’m not sure how much my tasting vocabulary has improved as a result!


The colour is magical. A lovely strawberry blonde in the bottle, but drink from silver instead of glass and it turns to warm and soft gold like late afternoon sun… Not too bright, but gentle, with a very subtle blush, which I guess is thanks to the Pinot in the timber.


Inviting, and with a lot happening at once. A rich, woody foundation with notes of pine and maple syrup, blanketed under a comforting layer of almond nougat. A very pleasant first impression!


Structured, from a quite a crisp, spicy opening… I’m sure this is not official notespeak, but orange and pistachio ‘tingle’ beautifully at the front of the mouth before melting nicely into hot cinnamon and honey across the palate, with just a hint of apple and raisin as it hits the throat. Water opens star anise, ice opens a hint of brown sugar.


Like afternoon tea hour in a country kitchen… A mouthful of baked pear, vanilla and fresh cream.  A toasty, buttery finish.  It doesn’t linger for very long, though you wish it would. The second dram just sort of pours itself. Somehow entices you to stay a while longer, without being too obvious.


It is clear from the outset that this is a true Highland… Not big or bold or peaty, but not as light or grassy either. It’s subtle, complex, and generous. I expected quite a sweet scotch from the nose, but was pleasantly surprised at the clear and balanced palate, and delighted by the irresistible finish. This is not a scotch for keeping warm by a campfire, or for sipping solo over a book in the library. It’s a verandah scotch, suited to good company and a good view. In the words of the great Jim Murray on Nant Distillery: ‘Something majestic is going on here.’ I’m quite looking forward to the visit I will have to make when this bottle runs out!

Nant PNW.jpg

Quote of the Week

“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”

Khaled Hosseini - The Kite Runner


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