Saturday, November 5, 2011

Whisky galore; whisky amore...

Two very different worlds collided recently with a rather splendid outcome. I was extolling the (many) virtues of my gastronomic adventures with Julianna to a long-time mountain biking acquaintance when I happened to mention our mutual love of whisky. 'You should come to one of my whisky group's meetings then' announced Adam, and the seed was sown...
Jump forward several weeks and I found myself bound for Brighton on a packed commuter train as driving to a whisky tasting evening is perhaps inadvisable. Julianna unfortunately had another engagement (hence my guest slot here) so I was on my own and on a mission!
Malt 'n' Copper meet once a month a stone's throw from the railway station and always have an interesting and unusual selection of malts to try. My inaugural visit was no exception with its Islay focussed choices: A Laphroaig 12 Bourbon Hogshead refill and a Bowmore 20 Bourbon Barrel refill from the Scottish Malt Whisky Society provided exclusivity as neither is still available to buy, which together with an Ardbeg Alligator, a Bunnahabhain 1997 and a Kilchoman Spring 2011 promised a peaty, smoky evening's tasting with around 25 like-minded souls.
First up was the Bowmore and very tentatively I dipped my nose in and sniffed... Whisky! Hmmn, maybe this was going to take some acclimatisation. Resisting the temptation to abandon my olfactory inexperience and start swigging I inhaled once again and much more deeply revealing something more than just boozy vapours – pineapple fruitiness and dolly-mixture no less!
And so the beast was released and as the sipping began the inhibitions tumbled and the waxing lyrical started in earnest. My journey next took me from the oily, Marmitey (yes really!) Bunnahabhain, via the incredibly good Kilchoman, which as a very young marriage of a three and a four year-old was utterly stunning, to the limited release Laphroaig. I cut my single malt teeth on the regular Laphroaig and this version, although very different in character, did not disappoint; sweet, slightly medicinal and honeyed with a big peat smokiness.
So finally, somewhat squiffy, it was time for the Ardbeg Alligator. Ardbeg is the most heavily peated malt, so the limited release Alligator, matured for 13 years in heavily charred barrels was going to have some bite! Seaweed, slight notes of aniseed (yes I was tipsy, wasn't I..) and another big peat smoke style rounded off the evening perfectly.
Oh, and for the record, try saying ' Bunnahabhain' after 5 whiskys... Jon

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