Murman met C2 and I outside in front of the Dills Tavern. He took a long draw from his cigar and beamed with pride over the night’s event that he had planned for us. I went inside as he talked with C2 by the car and filled him in on some of the details of the evening.
Like countless weary travelers over the last two hundred years I unlatch the cold cast iron box-lock of the solid wood front door with a chunky click. Pushing the door, I feel its weight as it opens. Walking in through the door it’s dark in this unlit front hallway. I was expecting to be met with a warmth common to walking into any building in the 21st century, there is none. It’s as cold in the front hallway as it was outside; maybe colder for the darkness and solid stone walls draining any radiating heat I might have swept in with me from the heated car.
Moving through the darkness I’m trying to strain my eyes which are not yet adjusted from the overcast late afternoon light outside. I manage to find my way through the doorway from the front hall into the next room. I pass by a man in the haze; he’s dressed in a kilt. We exchanged brief hellos as he is following after Murman. Like a ghost of the house dressed in 18th century garb, the man in the kilt paid no more attention to me than would any tavern patron passing another stranger in these halls. I turned to watch him disappear through the doorway. Out of sight, I hear his footsteps pause at the front door and the sound of the cast iron box-lock echo off the stone walls in the hall as the door opens and closes.
This next room is only slightly illuminated with a glow from the fireplace on the adjacent wall. Cast iron pots simmer in front of the small flame and whatever food is being prepared in them smells great.
I find the next door into the tavern’s taproom, a small tabled room for eating and drinking. I’m shocked by the level of smoke in this room. The window with its glass panes rippled from the years filter in the grey light from the dim sky and adds to the haze and surrealistic atmosphere as I scan the room. The fire is crackling with hot flame and coals and there are a few candles adding some tone to the grey hue as my eyes are finally adjusted. It’s my nose that cues me into the fact that it’s Murman’s fragrant cigar, not the fire or the candles, which has this room thick with smoky ambiance.
The warmth of the fire draws me over and I hold my hands outstretched to it. How often have my exact footsteps been echoed through centuries from the front street to this tavern’s taproom fire, seeing and smelling and hearing those very same kinds of things on the way?
I was mesmerized by my first 90 seconds in the Dills Tavern. I have visited plenty of living history exhibits before. I love history and I live in a great area to experience it. I’ve even been privileged to be a special guest at some great historical sites and museums before. But I have never walked back in time like this as I wander through the Dills Tavern.
Murman enters the room and offers me a dram to start off the evening’s exploration of whiskey; Glenkinchie. I sip the Lowland Scotch and slowly turn, examining every detail in this historic place. The whisky is sweet and floral with fruit and cereal. It seems even more intricate and delicate in contrast to these rustic conditions that I am experiencing.
In our modern times of the 21st century when we are constantly blasted with sensory-overload it can sometimes be difficult to appreciate all of the quiet and subtle nuances in a whiskey. Reduce your conditions down to a stone house with open fire and suddenly the flavors in the glass seem to be a work of magic.
I continue to take it all in. On the other side of the room are the whiskeys of the evening, lined up, presumably in the order we are to indulge. In all Zulu Whisky Club events there is a theme in the whiskey; a thread that ties the whiskeys to the event or to the evening or to each other. There is always a method to the madness.
I scan for the method in this lineup, I see none. It starts on the left with the Lowland I have in my glass. The far right ends with an American Rye. There is chaos in between. There needs to be a flow to the order of whiskeys at a tasting. The whiskeys need to build on each other, support the next glass to come and at the same time complement the glass just finished. Could it be that Murman got so involved in coordinating this truly awesome historic location that he fell short on the spirit compilation?
I take another sip. The food in the cast iron pots smells wonderful and I’m starving! The log burning on the fire rolls forward and the flame doubles in size. I can hear the voices of the rest of my Zulu Whisky brothers coming in from the street. Someone is starting to play bagpipes. This is going to be a great night!
To be Continued…