Peter Ranscombe raises a glass to Glengoyne’s Fringe show and food pairings at Contini’s Cannonball restaurant.
“SLOW” isn’t a word you’d normally associate with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
During August, 56,796 performers will stage 3,548 shows in 317 venues across Scotland’s capital city, from the biggest theatres all the way through to the tiniest church halls, coming together to form the largest arts festival in the world.
The streets are full, the pace is frenetic and God help anyone who just wants to get from A to B without having two-dozen leaflets thrust into their hands.
So, it was something of a surprise to find out that Scotch whisky distiller Glengoyne has chosen to stage a Fringe show entitled “Unhurried”.
As the crowd shuffles past on the Royal Mile, guests descend the stairs to the Glengoyne Room, the private dining venue in the basement below Victor and Carina Contini’s Cannonball restaurant and bar (venue 169), just a stone’s throw from the castle.
And, before too long, the audience finds out why “unhurried” is a word closely-associated with this particular single malt.
The new-make spirit emerges from the still at Glengoyne at just five litres per minute, around a third of the speed measured at other distilleries.
Tour guide Gordon Dallas – a Fringe veteran, comedy writer and former BBC broadcaster – explains that the slow production process may be inefficient, but it produces a richer and sweeter whisky, which retains more of the fresh green apple flavours of the raw spirit.
Those green apple flavours were definitely on show in the 10-Year-Old Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Whisky – the first of three tasting samples included in the show – with the apple joined by cereal and lemon on the nose, before leading into sweeter caramel, honey and brown sugar on the palate.
Cannonball paired the 10-tear-old whisky with a deep-fried black pudding bon-bon from Findlay’s of Portobello, which emphasised the green apple flavours even more.
In contrast, the 18-Year-Old Glengoyne offered a much-more complex nose featuring red apple, brown sugar, orange, caramel, vanilla and honey, with the sweeter brown sugar, caramel and vanilla flavours shining through on the palate too.
The alcohol was much better integrated on the 18 year old, still leaving a warming finish but with far less heat in the foreground.
The older whisky was matched to a Clava brie cheese on a rustic oatcake; for me, the brie was lost a wee bit against the whisky, although it did accentuate the brown sugar flavours.
Blending the old with the new
Dallas has not only put together a great whisky tasting event but also a great Fringe show in its own right.
The performance’s narrative follows the history of the distillery, explaining why such a slow production process was adopted.
Instead of concentrating on dates, facts and figures, Dallas focuses on the people who played roles in the distillery’s history,
Pictures of the distillery and the characters involved in its story are projected onto two of the walls, with clouds and later the “angels” stealing their “angels’ share” are cast onto the ceiling, creating a really immersive experience.
There are some nice touches, like the hands projected onto the face of a grandfather clock running backwards.
Each character’s face is projected onto the wall as they tell their story – but Dallas also dresses up as Cochran Cartwright, the distillery’s first manager, and delivers an energetic and engaging performance.
The show has a very relaxed feel, with guests staying at the end to chat with Dallas and nurse their final drams – a Cask Strength Glengoyne at 59.1% alcohol by volume (ABV), which was full of dark chocolate, marmalade and heavy vanilla aromas and flavours, with really hot alcohol notes as would be expected from a cask-strength malt.
I felt the whisky’s flavours were lost against the chocolate truffle with which it was paired, with the mouth-coating chocolate emphasising the heat of the Scotch.
Going back and trying the chocolate truffle with the 10 year old highlighted those green apple flavours again and made for a more refreshing match for me.
Unhurried – Glengoyne Whisky’s Inefficient Tradition runs until 26 August at the Cannonball restaurant, with tickets priced £20 each. Find out more at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/unhurried-glengoyne-whisky-s-inefficient-tradition