It’s plum Jim, but not as we know it

Across the lake, through a gap in the hills the white peaks of the French Alps steals your attention from the misty beauty of Lake Geneva. Visit a European city and the guide tells you about cathedrals (we saw one this time), natural history museums, parks, memorials, bars, restaurants and other assorted tick boxes. As beautiful as they are, we’ve seen a lot of churches on our travels and might have to give them a miss on our next European trip.

While I might be done with the buildings we do have the religious devotees to thank for something I am interested in: the booze. Most places you visit will have, or had a local distilled aqua vitae  or fermented beverage made from whatever was available: barley, fruit, potatoes, whey, whatever. The earliest written records of Scotch date back to 1494, there references to Cognac dating back to the 3rd century, and this is where I bring you to the good bit of this holiday slideshow. Continue reading “It’s plum Jim, but not as we know it”

A cocktail with a twist, of bacon

Whatever the time of day, mood you’re in, of just simply on a whim, there’s probably a cocktail for every occasion.

Mixologists are always experimenting with their ingredients to come up with the next trend, and one of the more recent mode du jour is for spirits to be infused with animal fats such as bacon.

I’ve had bourbon infused with the flavoursome rasher which often leaves a distinctly smokey aftertaste. As well as an almost entirely carnivorous food menu, Meat Bar in Glasgow’s city centre goes a few steps further.

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Mackinlay’s in the 60’s

If you’ve had your ear even close to the whisky news grapevine you’ll know all about Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky, and the bottles discovered in the Antarctic in 2007.

A couple of years ago Whyte and Mackay (owners of the brand) recreated the contents of that bottle as a limited release replica. The end result was a pretty decent dram.

Recently I tasted an older version of Mackinlay’s, bottled in the 1960s.

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Sneak preview of the Whisky Lounge

Whisky and food pairing, well executed, is a match made in heaven – or in this case Scotch Malt Whisky Society Edinburgh.

At the Queen Street premises of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society we were introduced to stars of Scottish cuisine and whisky making with chef Mark Greenaway and Morrison Bowmore’s Master Blender Rachel Barrie.

Mark spoke first and briefly (straight from the kitchen in his whites and apron) about next month’s #EdinWhiskyFest where he and Rachel will be running a whisky and food masterclass, touching very briefly on the culinary wizardry we might expect. No sooner had he arrived, he was gone again back to his kitchen.

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Whisky and cigars in Shackleton’s Edinburgh home

shackleton-home-eventThe secret of a good tasting is that air of enchantment, the stories, the quirks, and the provenance.
I can’t think of a better location than Channings Hotel, the former Edinburgh home of Sir Ernest Shackleton for a tasting that includes Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, the whisky painstakingly recreated from samples of the bottles the explorer abandoned in the Antarctic, frozen in the ice for nearly 100 years.

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Good spirits make great cocktails

bond-no9The windows don’t cast a great deal natural light in here, but that’s okay, the gloom is comforting, especially if you’re hiding from the temperamental Edinburgh weather. If you hide yourself in a corner somewhere, you can almost imagine yourself in a 1930s speakeasy at the height of prohibition in the USA, but way more slick, and well, nothing like a speakeasy in fact.

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I love a good blind tasting…

cadenheads-whisky-shop-on-the-royal-mile-edinburgh-dyphp2My first proper tasting in Edinburgh at the Tolbooth Tavern on the Royal Mile, courtesy of Cadenhead.
“It’s not for whisky nazis” I’m reminded; it’s for open minded lovers of a good dram, where all are equal and (apart from maybe wrongly identifying a blind sample) there is no wrong answer. My kind of people.

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Scotch Whisky Experience morning master class

scotchwhiskyexperienceWhisky aficionados and amateurs alike, everybody loves a good master class. Even the most experienced and geeky of us sometimes find the geographical journey through Scotch a bit like the drive to work – it’s all a bit hazy, with no specific memory.
However, the master class at the Scotch Whisky Experience does it a bit differently.
They’re in the process of a refurbishing the shop with flavour and style rather than geography taking precedence as the main drive for the customer experience.

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