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The Literary Dram

A Spirit in one hand, a Book in the other

The Whisky:  DYCPure Malt

http://www.dyc.es

The Book:  Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar 

The heat of summer invites a light sipping whisky and a page-turning murder mystery. Both Spanish, both enlivening the siesta.

The Whisky

Pale amber yellow in the glass. Light aromatics with herbal notes, pleasantly fresh. A measured touch of vanilla and spice on the palate, with a malty sweetness. Mellow but flavourful. Goes down smoothly. Perfect for the plot of a summer’s day. (40% abv, no age statement)

Destilerías y Crianza del Whisky (DYC) was the brainchild of young Spanish entrepreneur, Nicomedes Garcia Gómez, in 1959. A distillery was constructed in Palazeuelos de Eresma, northwest of Madrid, near Segovia, and by 1963 it brought the very first Spanish whisky to market. In the 1980s DYC was producing an extraordinary 20 million litres per year. With its low-priced alternative to Scottish and Irish brands, it had successfully drawn a great number of Spaniards away from the long-standing preference for brandy. Coca-Cola was very pleased. And eventually so was Bean Suntory, DYC’s current owner.

DYC

DYC Pure Malt is a step up from the basic bottlings, for which a mixer is usually a given. Production of this blended single malt began in 2007 and all takes place in house. It is made using top quality Spanish barley in the traditional malting process, together with pure mountain spring water from Peñalara. Aging follows in American oak. It is an excellent product, and for the price easily outshines the imported competition.

The Book

This is the second crime novel by Domingo Villar to be set in Galicia, in north-west Spain, and featuring Inspector Leo Caldas. The even-tempered, reclusive Caldas is offset by his partner Rafael Estévez, who is as likely to use his fists as ask questions.

And there are a lot of questions to ask. In the village of Panxón, the body of a young fisherman, Juan Castelo, has washed up on shore, his hands bound together by an odd green plastic tie. The villagers think it suicide, Caldas believes otherwise. What about the head wound? Why was Castelo alone in his boat on a Sunday, not normally a fishing day? And is there any connection to his surviving a boating accident several years earlier when the skipper of that boat drowned? What about the woman who had gone missing at that same time?

Caldas is relentless in his efforts to uncover the truth. But concrete evidence is hard to find, blind alleys numerous. Gradually the pieces do start to fit together. It is old-fashioned, stick-to-it police work, the reader connecting the dots in step with the good inspector, hoping Estévez doesn’t screw up the investigation in the meantime.

The inspector’s police job overshadows his personal life — a recently ended love affair, a dying uncle, a father for whom he never finds enough time. Life at the moment is finding the murderer, though the story has its touches of humour, and there are the on-going charms of the Galician landscape, its food and wine.

Kudos to Domingo Villar, born in Vigo where much of the book takes place, for choosing Galicia as the setting for the series. I’ve just spent a week there. It’s a welcome alternative to the heat and intensity of Madrid and Barcelona. A great place to sit in the town square, drink café con leche and get lost in a good book. I came to appreciate, not only the inspector’s tenacity, but also his love of the simple Galician mixed salad made from fresh ingredients, with a glass of good albariño in the other hand. (Never forgetting the DYC of course.)

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