Poetry Map of Scotland poem no. 16: Ben Rinnes

The angels’ share

A view from Ben Rinnes

An artist’s sky like blue-stained glass
stretched the length and breadth of Strathspey,
so even before the tasting at Glenfarclas
this was a fine spring day.

Then after appraising the ten-year-old malt,
the fifteen, the twenty-one, the fabulous thirty . . .
the snow-flecked patches on the higher hills
summoned me up towards the sky’s azure vault.

The Green Burn drains its snowmelt
plus a hint of peat off Ben Rinnes in the east,
begging to be mashed with barley and yeast
and magicked in oak casks by the hand of time.

The Ben’s bold peak on a day such as this
stands out from afar in all directions: Ben Wyvis,
Mount Keen, Cairngorm and Lochnagar –
I shall see all these hills from its pointed tor.

There’s a zest and tang in the crystal air.
A thin haze of peat, pine and malt over Speyside
ascends to heaven. Is this the angels’ share,
rising on countless larks’ wings, pride upon pride?

The angels’ share is whisky lost over years
by seepage, evaporation and distillers’ tears.
It’s the difference between what is yielded up
by the uncasked barrel and what once went into it.

The haze over Speyside isn’t any old haze:
it smokes from Glenlivet, Macallan, Tamdhu,
Chivas Regal, Tomintoul, Glenallachie, Cardhu,
Glenfiddich, Aberlour, Knockando (to mention a few).

Caperdonach, Ben Riach, Tormore and Longmorn,
Balvenie, Glen Moray and Mortlach: on and on.
This is a world-class distillation from any point of view,
a roll-call to tempt any angel’s discrimination.

Sitting by the trig point on Ben Rinnes
I survey all of the above and more,
inhaling an almost celestial panorama,
the air thick with larks and angels.

Gordon Jarvie

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