Category: Whisky

#HOTGV: On whisky with Sir Colin Hampden White

#HOTGV? What could this be? Why it’s a new drinks podcast, which, in long form, spells out Heard on the Grape Vine.

Heard on the Grape Vine, or #HOTGV

Heard on the Grape Vine will, I hope, be the audio version of Amateur Wine in that it seeks to both entertain and educate the amateur wine lover who wants to learn more. Although primarily focused on wine, it will also feature spirits and other drinks.

If you think you’ll already love it, subcribe here:

Amateur Wine » HOTGV Podcast
On whisky with Sir Colin Hampden White

Sir Colin Hampden White

For this first podcast, I was joined by Sir Colin Hampden White, the launch editor of Whisky Quarterly, to talk and taste whisky. Expect thoughts on chilling whisky in Kenya, lipped glassware, kosher whisky and more.

(You can find out more about the podcasting process at qinxie.co.uk)

Some notes of thanks

As well as Sir Colin Hampden White who participated in this first podcast, thanks are also due to Roland, who kindly loaned me a Roland R05 to make the recording, and Cardhu, who sent some special releases for us to taste.

The Podcast

So finally, without further ado, here’s the first podcast:

The whiskies

In case you were interested in finding out more about the small flight of Cardhu whiskies we tasted, here are some details below:

Cardhu Gold Reserve Cardhu Gold Reserve: ABV 40%, released late 2014, aged in toasted oak casks. RRP£35 available online from Amazon
 Cardhu Amber Rock Cardhu Amber Rock: ABV40%, released early 2014, aged in ex-bourbon toasted barrels. RRP£41, available online from Amazon
 Cardhu 21 Year Old Cardhu 21 year old: ABV 54.2%, special release in 2013, distilled in 1991, aged in ex-bourbon American oak casks. RRP£160, available from The Whisky Exchange

Tasting Talisker Port Ruighe in Skye

Tasting Talisker, Isle of Skye

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Isle of Skye in Scotland for the launch of Talisker Port Ruighe, the latest release from Talisker and a new permanent addition to the Scotch malt whisky’s portfolio.

The name, Port Ruighe, is a nod towards the Gaelic way of writing Portree, the location of the distillery on Skye, and the port casks that the whisky has been finished in. In essence, Talisker Port Ruighe is the Talisker 10 finished in casks that had previously contained port.

In the company of journalists from UK, France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Europe, we tasted both the Talisker Port Ruighe and Talisker Storm (another recent release).

While Talisker Storm is spicy, smoky and an obviously more potent version of Talisker 10, Talisker Port Ruighe was a softer, silkier and, for me, more elegant expression. The fruit is brought forward while the spice and peat is pulled back by the port cask finish which worked really rather well. It’s noticeably sweeter too but perhaps that doesn’t work so well for everyone.

We tried two other approaches to the whiskies – tasting with food and an blending exercise.

In the food session, we tried both Taliskers with food that picked out aspects of the whisky such as black pepper for the spice and strawberries for the fruit. While it highlighted what the blender, Maureen Robertson, had tried to achieve, it also helped to show how they might be paired to food, and desserts in particular.

In the second session, which is sadly not available to the public, we tried our own hand at blending. We were given three liquids (whiskies at various stages of ageing) which we had to blend by taste and by smell to try and achieve a mystery liquid. Let’s just say it’s significantly harder than it sounds and it already sounds pretty impossible.

The sessions and the trip itself was a great insight into how much of a skilled task blending whiskies is; it’s certainly hard not to be in awe by the end.

Read more about Skye and whisky on Culture Explorer

Read more about other cask finished options at Yahoo!

Here are a few snaps from Talisker:

Talisker had kindly hosted the trip to Skye.

Whisky and more at 69 Colebrooke Row

Pouring whiskyI was recently invited to sample some fine Scotch whiskies at 69 Colebrooke Row, where many a delightful cocktail had been consumed in the past. It’s the sort of bijou venue where there’s just enough light to cast a pleasing glow over everything, and everyone. And, if you know someone who knows someone, you can even take a tour in the lab upstairs where the possibilities are simply endless.

The whisky was a flight of seven single malts from Diageo‘s ever expanding portfolio. The comparative tasting was led by Dr. Nick Morgan, Scotch Knowledge and Heritage Director at Diageo, with the aim of exploring the subtle nuances between different flavour profiles – from delicate to smoky, and light to rich.

Dr Nick Morgan from DiageoWe started the tasting with the Glenkinchie 12 yo, the lightest and most delicate of the seven. Created at one of the few remaining Lowland distilleries, the Glenkinchie 12 yo is often served as an aperitif in France because of its lightness. It’s also quite malty and very easy to drink – a very good way to start off the flight.

The second whisky, while still light, was decidedly more smoky – the Dalwhinnie 15 yo. In sharp contrast to the Glenkinchie, the Dalwhinnie was created in one of the highest distilleries in Scotland. It is the only distillery allowed to use water from Lochan an Doire Uaine, part of what goes into creating its uniquely clean taste.

Whisky flavour mapThe next two, Cragganmore 12 yo and Oban 14 yo, were not too dissimilar. Both were fairly rich with fruity and honeyed notes. However, the Cragganmore 12 yo was perhaps a little more smoky with hints of sandalwood and cigars. The Oban 14 yo, on the other hand, had a distinctive brininess – a reflection of its seaside distillery location.

Then we graduated on to a heavily smoky Talisker 10 yo. It’s almost overpowering until you mellow it out with a drop or two of water, which I know some will be horrified at but it really does help to bring out the flavours. In this whisky you would expect to find that rich sweetness of dried fruit as well as a slight pepperiness.

The last two we sampled were both from Lagavulin, the 16 yo and the Distiller’s Edition. Created on the Isle of Islay from heavily peated barley and mineral water, both are smoky and complex due to the prolonged distillation process. The 16 yo was very rounded with a profile that reminded me of sweet smoked paprika. I imagine it would make a very good BBQ rub, that is, if you’re not too precious about using sipping whisky in cooking. The Distiller’s Edition, while still smoky, was a lot more mellow having been aged in Pedro Ximinez casks as well as the American Oak casks.

Lagavulin liquorice whisky sourThat concludes the flight of whiskies but the evening doesn’t stop there. We also tried the Lagavulin 16 yo with a selection of blue cheeses – Gorgonzola Piccante, Roquefort and Valdeón; and the Distiller’s Edition with chocolates from Paul A Young – 64% Dominican Republic, Sea Salted Caramel truffle and Port and Stilton truffle. I must say I wasn’t a big fan of the blue cheeses but the chocolates, especially the Sea Salted Caramel, were absolutely divine.

And as it was 69 Colebrooke Row, it wouldn’t be right to end the evening without a couple of cocktails. The Sterling Soda was the Lagavulin 16 yo shaken with lemon juice, barley water and vanilla cream soda then served in a tall Collins glass. The Lagavulin Liquorice Whisky Sour was the Lagavulin 16 yo shaken with lemon juice and liquorice syrup served in a coupette. Paul A Young has also created a special Lagavulin Liquorice Whisky Sour chocolate, with a gorgeous shimmery finish, to accompany the drink. And a very fine match it was too.

That just leaves enough room for one last cocktail before my long journey home, a rhubarb and hibiscus Bellini that got me savouring for hours. I suppose that explains why I am always the last to leave – the savouring.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

Haggis and whisky tasting at Boisdale

Boisdale of Belgravia is at 15 Eccleston Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9LX www.boisdale.co.uk

Ahead of Burn’s night on the 25th of January, I was invited to a lunch time blind tasting of haggis and malt whisky at Boisdale of Belgravia.

Andy Rose at Boisdale

Boisdale is, for some, synonymous with Scottish food. The owner, Ranald Macdonald, is a Scotsman whose family’s roots can be traced back to the 14th century. His father, also Ranald Macdonald, is the 24th Chief and Captain of Clanranald – a branch of one of the biggest clans in Scotland. With these strong Scottish ties, it’s only natural that the restaurant takes an air of, well, Scottishness. That bit is obvious as soon as you enter the restaurant and see the tartan chairs.

Tartan aside, the restaurant is eccentric to say the least. Every wall is filled with something framed – be it painting, drawing or photograph. Each room also embodies some quirky characteristic. And there’s certainly plenty of character to choose from, with the Macdonald Bar, a courtyard garden, a back bar, the Auld restaurant, the Jacobite room and a cigar terrace. Perhaps that’s why it’s also the perfect venue for events such as live jazz, cigar nights and whisky tastings, which Boisdale runs regularly.

Haggis at Boisdale

The haggis and whisky tasting is one such event. On this occasion, the attendees were a mix of members (the restaurant has its own member’s club), their guests and regular diners of the restaurant. The restaurant’s head chef, Andy Rose, presided over the tastings and introduced the haggis. We also enjoyed a recitation of “An Address To A Haggis” by a descendant of Robert Burns.

We each had a sample of six whiskies and six haggises to taste. The idea was that we would taste them all in turn and pick our favourite haggis, whisky and haggis/whisky combination. In practice however, the events were a little more lively. That is not to say, of course, that people didn’t take it seriously. On the contrary, some took it very seriously in fact and tried to guess the whisky according to its defining characteristics. But others were simply content to taste some fine whiskies with some delicious haggises. And when you gather a room full of strangers over drink and food, things, inevitably, takes on an air of “Come Dine With Me”.

But back to the haggis and whisky.

Whisky at Boisdale

It was my very first taste of haggis and I have to say, I rather liked it. Each haggis had a very distinctive taste and texture, with its own unique blend of spices. My favourite was from Mogerleys of Dumfries for its slightly more meaty flavour. We also tried Crombie’s of Edinburgh, Macsweens, Ramsay of Carluke, Findlay’s of Portobello and Boisdale’s own, specially created by Andy Rose.

On the whisky front, we had Johnnie Walker Black Label 12y.o., The Macallan 10y.o., Talisker 10y.o., Glenfiddich 12y.o., Glenmorangie The Original 10y.o. and The Glenlivet 12y.o. Of these, the Glenfiddich 12y.o. came up tops for me although both of my neighbours had different ideas. Such is the nature of personal taste.

After that jolly lunch, some retired to the bar for more drinks, others stayed for more haggis and conversation. And if you’re me, you would have gone out searching for coffee to try and counter the inevitable intoxication.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

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