I am sure that on this New Year’s Eve there will be a sedate and dignified celebration at the Brandy Library, to which I was privileged to pay my first visit on Friday evening. There is a kind of hush in the air at the place, as if one were reading Plutarch rather than nosing spirits, although the lighting is dim for the former and ambiently appropriate for the latter. They do well with atmosphere, surrounding you with polished wooden shelves, attending you with most un-dowdy hostesses, and supplying you with copious reading lists of flights, cocktails and nibbles.

The bites catalogue is international, a Paris-New York Sandwich, consisting of French ham and cream cheese; Lambs in Blankets, Merguez sausages in place of hot dogs; and so on. But that is mere browsing. I decided to borrow a volume entitled “Smoked Out”, pictured above, the six chapters of which consisted of a smoky Scotch each. They were, from the top left, a Bowmore 12 Years, a Longrow CV, an Isle of Jura Prophecy, an Ardberg Corryvreckan, a Bunnahabhain 1997, and a mystery shot that I believe was a Claymore of some year and variety. Each was an absorbing and informative read.

I liked the Longrow CV the best; it was as though ash were settling and spreading out on my tongue; what would have been the worst cigarette in the world was in fact one of the best Scotches I have had. Part of the pleasure comes from the surprise of such a sensation coming from a clear amber liquid in the mouth; it resembles the wow factor of contemporary experimental cuisine, in which, for example, what looks like caviar turns out to be a colloid of melon. The others were good too: the Ardberg Corryvreckan like hard candy liquified, and the nutmeg burn of the Prophecy.

My friends and I sipped each other’s, and so I also tried a Highland malt with a salty aftertaste, and some rather interesting Swedish and Indian whiskeys. I’m not sure when the due date is for any of these, and have no idea what the fines will be, but I’m glad to finally have my Brandy Library card, and hoping it doesn’t expire.

For information on the Brandy Library, click here.

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