Ardbeg 10 Year

My dear wife has, this festive Yule-tide, furnished me with my first ever bottle of Ardbeg – a great moment in an Islay-lover's life.  And Maria wins 'best wife award'.

The insert carries a review of several Arbeg whiskies, including the one I received.  For the sake of art and good taste, I reproduce it here in full.


World Whisky of the Year (2008 Whisky Bible)



A burst of intense smoky fruit escapes into the atmosphere – peat infused with zesty lemon and lime, wrapped in waxy dark chocolate.

Bold menthol and black pepper slice through the sweet smoke followed by tarry ropes and graphite. As you dip your nose in further, savour the aroma of smoked fish and crispy bacon alongside green bell peppers, baked pineapple and pear juice.

Add water and breathe in the vortex of aromas rising from the glass. An oceanic minerality brings a breath of cool, briny seaspray on chalky cliffs. Waxed lemon and lime follows with coal tar soap, beeswax and herby pine woodlands. Toasted vanilla and sizzling cinnamon simmer in the background with warm hazelnut and almond toffee.


An explosion of crackling peat sets off millions of flavour explosions on the tongue: peat effervesces with tangy lemon and lime juice, black pepper pops with sizzling cinnamon-spiced toffee. This is followed by a wave of brine infused with smooth buttermilk, ripe bananas and currants. Smoke gradually wells up on the palate bringing a mouthful of warm creamy cappuccino and toasted marshmallows. As the taste lengthens and deepens, dry espresso, liquorice root and tarry smoke develop coating the palate with chewy peat oils.


The finish goes on and on – long and smoky with tarry espresso, aniseed, toasted almonds and traces of soft barley and fresh pear.

Ardbeg 10

The Eucatastrophe of Human History

To come to the end of a time of anxiety and fear!
To feel the cloud that hung over us lift and disperse
— the cloud that dulled the heart and made happiness no more than a memory!
This at least is one joy that must have been known by almost every living creature.

Here is a boy who was waiting to be punished.
But then, unexpectedly, he finds that his fault has been overlooked or forgiven
and at once the world reappears in brilliant colours, full of delightful prospects.

Here is a soldier who was waiting, with a heavy heart, to suffer and die in battle.
But suddenly the luck has changed.  There is news!
The war is over and everyone bursts out singing!  He will go home after all!

The sparrows in the plowland were crouching in terror of the kestrel.
But she has gone; and they fly pell-mell up the hedgerow,
frisking, chattering and perching where they will.

The bitter winter had all the country in its grip.
The hares on the down, stupid and torpid with cold, were resigned to sinking
further and further into the freezing heart of snow and silence.
But now — who would have dreamed it? — the thaw is trickling,
the great tit is ringing his bell from the top of a bare lime tree, the earth is scented;
and the hares bound and skip in the warm wind.

Watership Down, Richard Adams

, or 'the sudden joyous turn', is a term coined by JRR Tolkien to describe the wondrous moment in a story when, in the midst of darkness and despair, everything suddenly goes right; when, all-of-a-sudden, everyone realises: there will be a Happy Ending.

When the eucatastrophe strikes, in story or in nature, Tolkien (like Richard Adams) says it manifests itself in unplanned euphoric responses: 'a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears'.  Why?  Relief, thankfulness, hope.  But also because the eucatastrophe 'reflects a glory backwards' – because of the Happy Ending, all trials and sufferings previously endured receive a posthumous weight of meaning and purpose; where once there was only angst, now we see that none of it was in vain.  In this way, the sickness, pain, and plain inconvenience of pregnancy is overwhelmed by the eucatastrophe of birth.

The Gospels, Tolkien tells us, contain a fairy-story; an account of the greatest and most complete eucatastrophe conceivable: the one that came true.

This story has entered History and the primary world…
the Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history.

In this story, unlike all the others, not only is the 'turn' memorable and the response euphoric and emotional, but also the happy ending is perfect, since it not only involves the characters, but also the reader as well.  We are all invited into the true Happy Ending:  From sorrow and failure to Joy.

Joy beyond the walls of the world


What is the Future of the Church?

To me, people like Richard Rohr, Brennan Manning, and Tom Wright represent attitudes to following Jesus that are simple, humble, wise, and eye-openingly life-giving.  I respect them a lot.

So it's worth noticing their answers to the above question.


Richard Rohr:  The future is ecumenical; discovering the Pearl of Great Price in each Christian tradition.

Brennan Manning:  The future is little communities of mystics who have genuinely experienced Jesus.

Tom Wright:  The future is international; a truly global family, not a western hegemony.  Heart-soul-mind-strength, holistic, and post-postmodern.

And in many ways – I'm attempting not to sound too triumphalistic – this is exactly where Maria and I, and all sorts of other people we know, are at already, and have been for some time.  None of us has our hands on the steering wheel of the Church, and that frustrates us, but to believe that this is what God has been, is, and will be doing is very encouraging.