Solid Air Malt

The Story of Solid Air Malt

Solid Air MaltbI moved to Scotland in the year 2000. At the time my favourite malt whisky was 21 year old Springbank and all things Springbank were alright with me. One of the bottles I bought included an offer to invest in a cask of Springbank. I decided to see if my best friend Andy Miller would be interested in sharing the purchase. Andy and I are friends from school and best man at each other’s wedding etc. Taking account of cost and quantity, we signed up for a 50 Litre (11 gallon) first fill Oloroso sherry cask. The cask was actually filled in May 2001.

Our plan was to see it mature for at least 15 years if not 16, which would coincide with our 60th birthday year and we could then have it bottled for our respective retirements.

In early January 2009, I received a call from the distillery saying that due to the small cask size, an increased rate of evaporation had occurred. The alcohol level (ABV = alcohol by volume) was at 43%. One of the rules for Scotch whisky is that it is only Scotch whisky if it has a minimum alcohol of 40%. The strong recommendation, which we accepted was to bottle the malt as soon as possible. To allow Springbank to do the bottling they needed a label including a name.

Andy and I share a lot of common interests including music. We started exploring titles based on some of our musical interests and kicking about other information to print on the label. Once we’d cleaned up the options we realised that we did not have a good and acceptable name for our malt.

Then the news came through that John Martyn had died. I got in contact with Andy and said what about Solid Air Malt? It captures one of John’s best known pieces of music and in its way it hints at the loss of our whisky spirit through evaporation.

We agreed and came up with:-

“Nigel & Andy’s Solid Air Malt
09-07 02 21 03 57-52”
(09 = year of bottling, 07 02 = 7th Feb = Andy’s birthday, 21 03 = 21st March = Nigel’s birthday, 57 = 1957 = year of our birth, 52 = number of bottles) plus details of the whisky i.e. cask type, alcohol on distillation, bottling details and final alcohol in bottle.

Solid Air MaltaAs a point of interest, approximately 30% of the initial volume was lost to evaporation. We each took 26 bottles and being generous souls have given a number of bottles away to friends and family for special birthday’s or occasions.

The whisky is a deep mahogany colour, reflecting the rapid absorption of colour from the cask into the whisky. The whisky has a rich, sweet, moist wood nose with specific notes of a moist fruit cake (sultanas, currants and sherry). The palate delivers good intensity of dried fruit, fruit cake, sweet wood notes which last long on the palate. The alcohol is initially warm but it calms as the other rich flavours take hold.

How many bottles have we got left? Andy has 12 and I have 14. We are enjoying working our way through them and of course it brings back many memories of the times that we saw John play live. When John played the Newcastle Opera House in 2004, post his lower left leg amputation, which was an absolutely stunning gig, he got some unwarranted heckling and responded by singing, ‘in every bunch of roses, there is always one prick!”; a great riposte.

We last saw John play at Newcastle City Hall in October 2008, when he toured Grace and Danger.

Nigel Rutherford