He-Man and Skeletor. Shearer and Sheringham. Hall and Oates. Pie and mash. Some things are just meant to be paired together. I have long been a fan of pairing whisky with cheese, whether that be at a dedicated tasting, or totally shitfaced, trying to apply some much needed fat/carb damage limitation, after a night of heavy drinking. So, when our great friends at the Birmingham Whisky Club announced that they had organised a whisky and cheese tasting, at The Plough in Harborne, with Glenfarclas (one of our favourite distilleries), Tom and I decided that we’d be crazy not to go along, on an otherwise drab and dreary pre-World Whisky Day Wednesday.
In recent months, my palate has changed. I’ll admit, this came as quite a shock to me. If you’d have told me a year or two ago that I’d have this unquenchable thirst for sherried whisky, I’d have thought you were a fool. I was so peated, I was probably about 200 ppm. So, when my better half suggested that we go back to Edinburgh in the Easter holidays, the place where our romance began, I made the less romantic suggestion of her driving me around Speyside for a couple of days, while I drank copious amounts of whisky. Luckily, she said yes! Continue reading Rob B’s Speyside Spectacular
Wherever my whisky life takes me, over land or sea or foam, the Midlands Whisky Festival will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only is it the first whisky festival I ever attended and the place where so much of my whisky education has taken place, but it also holds so many memories of good times and adventures with my friends. This year’s spring offering was arguably the best one yet, for many reasons, but mainly for a host of stunning drams at every turn. Below are my ten highlights, a list which took a lot of whittling down:
Whisky Birmingham: the first big whisky event in my calendar this year. Despite drinking whisky for a few years now, last year was my first time at Whisky Birmingham. Not only did I love it enough to return this year (despite being “hungover as fuck”, as Tomasz reminded me on Saturday), but it also convinced my to join The Birmingham Whisky Club and take whisky a lot more seriously. Needless to say, I had another great time this year. So, obligatory waffle over; here are my top ten highlights of this year’s festival: Continue reading Rob B’s 10 to 1 – Whisky Birmingham
When I first drank whisky as a teenager, it was Jack Daniels and Coke, with ice. After a while, I was told that I should never put mixers with whisky, so I ditched the Coke. A while later, I was told that I shouldn’t drink Jack Daniel’s because it’s rubbish; I should drink single malts. I was advised to try Highland Park or Talisker because the best single malts tasted like smoke, so I bought a bottle of each to try. Impressed, I carried on drinking them, until I was told that I shouldn’t drink them with ice because you should never drink whisky with ice in it. However, a touch of water was OK because that’s what the experts did.
However we look at our whisky drinking journey, we have all been ‘advised’ or ‘told’ what is best and how we should drink. Well, what if these people, as most people do, were talking shit? What if it’s OK to use ice? What if not all great whiskies taste of smoke? What if Jack Daniel’s isn’t…Too far. But, you get the point.
A few months ago, I attended a whisky tasting with Balvenie. The host for the night, the extremely knowledgeable and entertaining James Buntin, explained that you could completely change the smell and taste of the whisky with just two drops of water. This was a revelation to me. I tried whisky with and without the two drops and, on more than one occasion, for better and for worse, the taste and smell of the whisky change. Sometimes drastically.
Since then, particularly with cask strength whisky, I’ve nosed and tasted whisky without water to begin with, then with my now customary ‘two drops’. I know that I have witnessed changes and I’d be happy to argue this with anyone. As an active member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, I’m also accustomed to seeing tasting notes that are written with and without water. I don’t know if an established, well respected organisation and an extremely experienced brand ambassador would suggest water if there was nothing in it.
Then, I read this:
An incredibly interesting article, this provided me with lots of scientific insight, some interesting suggestions for tasting whisky (a ‘tasting whiskies in different glasses’ post is on the horizon) and some really interesting views on the whole ‘two drops’ thing. Nevertheless, what the article did more than anything was highlight to me what I’ve grown to understand the more I’ve drunk whisky and the more I’ve read and researched tasting: if someone tells you to use two drops, that your retronasal finish is most important, or that you shouldn’t use a mixer, just drink and enjoy the whisky because that’s what it was made for.
Allow me to set the scene: Whisky Birmingham, March 2016. Tom and I are at the Springbank stand and we’re treated to an ‘under the counter’ dram, brought by our man for lucky people like us. He went on to explain that this was a new release from the distillery called Local Barley – a 16 year old, retailing at around £90. Blown away was an understatement. Shortbread and fudge, with a hint of smoke. Stunning. “But don’t expect to be able to buy one. Not for under £120.” This was only weeks after the release. Good luck finding one for under £160 now. Yet, I regularly talk to people who have never tried it, despite the 9000 bottle release. Fast-forward to February 2017. Springbank issue this statement:
I’ve tried for two days to source a bottle. What’s the betting I can buy one on an auction site next month for £150?
I know there’s nothing wrong with making money and people are free to do whatever they please with their own purchases. Just give a little thought to the whisky drinkers. The ones who want to buy a drink, to err…drink??