There is a universe where I am not a dentist, I am a purveyor of whisky. There is another where I am a photographer. Technically, there are an infinite number where I am a dentist, another infinite amount where I am a drinks seller and a further limitless total where I am a photographer. There are unlimited more where I do jobs I don’t want, or have never heard of. And then there are the further imponderable universes where I simply do not exist.
At least, this is all true if you subscribe to the many-worlds-interpretation, also known as the Everett Interpretation. Without getting too bogged down in both the full categorisation of infinite and an explanation of universal wavefunction and its theoretical collapse (see Schrodinger’s Cat et al), every decision we make at every moment spawns parallel worlds where all other possible decisions are lived out. Add to these conscious decision; add every non-conscious decision; add every physical collision, atomic and sub-atomic reaction, going on now, from the beginning of time and until forever; there are infinite universes that exist, with every possible permutation of life as we know and life as we don’t know.
Douglas Adams created a concept in his work The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a trilogy in five parts: the infinite probability drive. As an idea for travelling through the universe, another universe could be selected where you already were where you wanted to be, rather than where you had been before, all other things being equal. The other aspect of the many-worlds interpretation is the concept of block-time, also known as eternalism. If time is viewed as a landscape, for example, the view of Islay from Jura, even when one can’t see it, one knows it is there. Time can be viewed similarly, in that what happened last Wednesday will always stay there, one present being no more important than any other and as such, all time is equal. These two concepts, as pointed out by John Lloyd give some solace to atheists at times of change or loss – there will always exist an infinite number of worlds where what was, still is.
And so we come to whisky. The Macallan is part of my journey to educate myself on the omnipresent whiskies, the core range of malts, of which I have already admitted to knowing little, out of a snobbish desire to avoid cliché. They were known for a very long time for being the tradition sherry bomb, the full blown, 100% sherry aged whisky. Then in 2004, they changed their mind and started selling their “fine oak” range – entirely aged in bourbon casks. From my point of view, the comparison between the two, an identical spirit aged as similarly as possible, except for the choice of wood, provides a perfect example of what this choice, this decision can mean for a whisky.
Macallan 10 Year Old Sherry Oak
Nose: chocolate eclairs, honey, classic sherry notes of dried fruits, slight hints of candied orange peel
Body: warming and smooth
Palate: molasses, sherry spices, warm smoke
Finish: wood and spices, molasses and treacle.
Macallan 10 Year Old Fine Oak
Colour: warm straw
Nose: cereal, vanilla, very slight hint of orange peel
Body: spicier and peppery
Palate: wood smoke, pepper, honey
Finish: wood, honey, golden syrup and vanilla.
It seems to me that these are almost a summer and a a winter variation on the same flavours. The difference between them is not vast in the overall scheme of whiskies, but for variations between one distillery, at the same age, the difference is enlightening and wonderful. The spicy, clean, peppery edge of the fine oak makes it an ideal summer tipple, especially when compared to the warm, sweet, comforting flavours of the sherry oak, an ideal winter warmer. There are the same notes in both – a slight orange on the nose, and that classic speyside honey on the palate, but the differences that come purely from the wood influence really set them apart.