Sitting in Taylor Fladgate's tasting room in the City of Oporto, Portugal, anticipation began to build. The empty tasting glasses arrayed in front of me awaited their purpose. After sampling a selection of Taylor Fladgate's 20, 30 and 40 year old Tawny Ports, the moment had arrived: a sampling of Scion. What is Scion?
Hidden near the Corgo tributary in the Douro River Valley in Portugal lay two oaken treasure casks of dark amber gold. In 1855, two casks (or "Pipes") of Tawny Port were laid in a cellar, untouched and unopened until 2010, when they were acquired by the prestigious Taylor, Fladgate, & Yeatman port wine house. This delight was named Scion.
Three glasses later, and I can hardly find the words to do justice to this 155 year old nectar. Remember, most of the vines in Europe were killed off by the Phylloxera infestation in the late 19th century, so this find gave a unique window into a taste and experience that can never be recreated.
When "tasting" a Port, the first step begins with letting the aroma envelope your nose before taking a sip. With Scion my nose was tantalized by hints of molasses, caramelized sugar, fruits, alcohol, and black pepper.
With the first sip, the tongue is caressed with echoes of tart, dried cherries, and an acidity that cuts through the alcohol of the sweet tawny port. Hints of fig and molasses add to the dense flavors that encapsulate the tongue and bring a delight to the senses.
As an avid drinker of tawny ports, I am accustomed to the subtle changes between 20, 30, and 40 year old Tawnies. Normally with each passing decade, the Tawny Port becomes lighter and more complex, yet subtle. I expected this 155 year old Tawny to be absolutely angelic and ephemeral. Instead, Scion became more rich, more dense, and more velvety smooth. It is as if time took a different direction with this amber golden gift to the senses.
The last stage in the "tasting" of a Tawny Port is examining its "finish". After swallowing the first sip of Scion, the taste remains strong for many minutes, allowing second life of a liquid already gone. The second, third, and fourth sips brought hints of dark rich caramel and coffee, as well as dark chocolate and dried figs.
Though richer and smoother and slightly less liquidy than most tawnies, it certainly was not viscous or cloying or syrupy. When all the flavors and aromas and hints came together, all I can say is that I have never tasted its like. When the glass was empty, the smell lingered for days afterwards. Over the next few days I would lift the glass to my nose and catch echoes of the magical moments I had shared with this partner that came and went so quickly in my life.
I have never been able to consume the past in this way, and likely never will again. Like all the best moments in our lives, the ones that shine like stars but are transitory are the ones that mean the most.