Through my adult life there’ve been a few things I’ve struggled to turn down. My most frequent failures to say no have been regarding golf and alcohol. So when Glenmorangie invited me to St Andrews this week for a round on The Fairmont’s Torrance course my response in the affirmative was pretty speedy.
After signing a three-year deal with the R&A, Glenmorangie was the “Official Whisky of the Open,” at Royal Lytham last summer. For this year’s Championship, the strapline has appropriately been changed to make it, “The Spirit of the Open.”
I think it’s fitting that a pair of Scotland’s premier exports should be allied in this way. Golf courses and whisky are two of this country’s greatest gifts to the world and the finest examples of both can still be found on our rugged coasts and in our rolling glens.
As part of their association with golf and the Open Championship, Glenmorangie has launched a campaign to find the top-18, most “Unnecessarily Well Made” golf courses in the world. In case your wondering, “Unnecessarily Well Made,” is how Glenmorangie describes its whisky.
Glenmorangie has created a panel of experts – Sir Nick Faldo, Tony Jacklin CBE, renowned course architect Robert Trent Jones Jnr and leading photographer David Cannon to create a shortlist of 50 tracks from those nominated by the public, (you can make a suggestion at glenmorangie.com/golf) The idea is to find courses that combine superb design, a grand heritage, an incredible setting and innovative techniques in construction and maintenance.
Jacklin, Trent Jones Jnr and Cannon were present at the St Andrews event to share their thoughts on the campaign, and on the game of golf in general. For those present it was a fantastic opportunity to meet and speak with some of the most knowledgeable men in golf, each giving a different perspective on the game.
David Cannon has photographed 100 Major Championships and 32 Opens. He was out on the course to chat with the groups as they came through the par-3 11th. I was given a shot of a camera with the biggest zoom lens he has attached. I couldn’t believe how heavy it was or how difficult to hold steady when trying to focus on an object (like a flag) some 190 yards distant. I gave it back pretty quickly before I broke it!
There’ll be more on Dave in the July issue of Golf Monthly. We’ll take a look at the man and some of his most famous photographs.
Robert Trent Jones Jnr played the first three holes of the Torrance Course with our group. He was an extremely accomplished player in his youth, representing the US at a junior level and, although he’s now in his mid-70s, his game remains impressive. He shared some of his wisdom on the techniques of course architecture and his thoughts on how the game has changed in recent years.
Again, look out in a forthcoming Golf Monthly for more on Trent Jones Jnr.
Tony Jacklin had made the journey to St Andrews from Florida and he played the par-3 5th with each of the groups. He’s one of the UK’s most respected players and golfing ambassadors, but he’s also highly informed on the processes behind malt whisky production. He’s thoroughly interesting to listen to on each topic.
It was a wonderfully clear day in St Andrews and the Torrance Course was in excellent shape for the time of year. I enjoyed a grand round with rugby and sports writer Kevin Ferrie and a nice German journalist called Thomas. I even managed to play the odd decent hole, (only two lost balls was a record so far in 2013!) So, I was feeling most satisfied as we shook hands on the 18th. That sense of satisfaction tottered towards elation, as we spied the wee Glenmorangie tent that had been set up behind the green and realised we were going to test the product.
Glenmorangie, founded in 1843, is one of Scotland’s premier malt whisky brands. Based in the Highland town of Tain, not far south of Dornoch, their whiskies are distilled in the tallest stills in Scotland and matured using pioneering maturation processes.
I’m a big fan of single malt and take great pleasure in trying to sample as many different examples from as many distilleries as possible. In recent years members of the group of pals I generally enjoy a wee dram with have attempted to gain one-upmanship by producing a more unusual tipple each time we meet. For that reason, it had been a little while since I’d tasted Glenmorangie. It would be considered “too mainstream,” I guess.
That’s a shame, and I’m going to change the pattern next time we get together, because I’d forgotten just how good Glenmorangie is. “The Original” was the first dram we sampled. It’s the 10-year-old malt and the backbone for all Glenmorangie products. It’s matured in ex-American bourbon casks from Missouri and is supremely smooth and creamy with an incredible complexity: Absolutely delicious, and rather moreish.
Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s head of distillation and whisky creation was just back from a tour of the US, but he battled through the jet-lag to give us an incredibly detailed and highly entertaining description of the aromas and flavours to be found in both “The Original” and the “Quinta Ruban.” The latter matured for 10 years in bourbon casks then “finished” for a further two years in ruby port pipes from Portugal.
It was rather difficult to tear myself away from the tasting tent, but the prospect of hearing more from the Glenmorangie ambassadors in the clubhouse was enough and so I headed in to spend a fascinating couple of hours chatting with Dave Cannon and Robert Trent Jones Jnr.
A great round in excellent company with views of a sun-kissed St Andrews, followed by fine whisky and a fascinating discussion with experts on the sport. Yup, one of my better days as a golf journalist. And the perfect way to finish it? Dinner in the R&A perhaps. Well I suppose my arm could be twisted…