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.
Meat cocktails. Included in their swine inspired twist on popular concoctions is a Meatojito, using aged rum infused with pork ribs and a pork rib garnish; and the Suckling Sour, a take on a whisky sour with bacon infused bourbon and a crispy bacon decoration perched on the rim of the glass.
This time I went for the Suckling Sour, which was a very well made cocktail with just a subtle hint of smokiness in the bourbon, of course eating the apple and bacon garnishes was a no brainer.
You should try one of these at least once, they really do work, however we’ll have to wait to see if the novelty wears off.
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.
The nose was very soft, if a bit faded by age. It smelled like cold coffee in a damp dunnage warehouse, slightly sulphurous, cinnamon and a distant whiff of christmas pudding.
The palate felt like it had flattened with age, a dusty chocolate orange, a tiny hint of creamy caramel, and sea spray on a concrete dock.
Overall, interesting but not really one for drinking, although a win on the curiosity stakes.
Whisky and food pairing, well executed, is a match made in heaven – or in this case SMWS 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.
Rachel then took the floor and led us through a tasting of the some of the Morrison Bowmore range with a food pairing – Auchentoshan Three Wood with 70% dark chocolate, Glen Garioch 12 year old with Comté cheese, and Bowmore 12 year old with smoked salmon.
These were what you might call classic pairings, but Rachel insisted that at the Whisky Lounge in April that the pairings would be a real eye-opener – there was mention of grass, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was served turf and all.
If you haven’t had whisky and cheese before give it a go, I’m especially fond of a sharp creamy blue cheese with a pungent Islay, seriously, do it…
The Society’s own chef put together a few pairing combinations which were really excellent, hardly surprising given the booze cupboard at the kitchen’s disposal.
What we had:
- “Dappled smoke, meringues and macaroons” (Cask No. 4.173) with smoked haddock tartare on rye toast
- “Rabbit in soured cream sauce” (Cask No. 41.56) with Ballontine of rabbit with compressed apple and celery radish
“Tantalisingly sweet and savoury” (Cask No. 78.40) with Rare venison loin with beetroot, creme fraiche and prune compote
- “Rite of passage” (Cask No. 127.31) with Strathdon Blue & leek fritter with walnuts
- “Sumptuous breakfast dram” (Cask No. 35.86) with Treacle ginger orange fudge with whisky soaked raisins
Exciting drams and excellent food, you’ve got a near perfect evening right there.
More info about The Whisky Lounge.
The 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.
I’d been invited by Jenny Lovatt, the Community Manager of social networking and review site Yelp.
The setting was beautiful and intimate, and there was a menu of canapés designed as a tribute to the food Shackleton’s expedition provisions. Refreshing salmon “cooked” in citrus juice, spicy mock turtle soup, the Carpaccio of venison was lovely, but the Stornoway black pudding bon bons were tremendous!
Graham Rushworth, the Premium Brands Manager for Whyte & Mackay led us on a tasting through the company’s single malt portfolio – Isle of Jura, Fettercairn, and The Dalmore.
First we were in the Western Isles for Jura 16 years. Rich and woody, amber in colour this was a good start to proceedings, with a touch of chestnut and vanilla. The finish was drying with mineral notes like a salty beach pebble on a warm day.
Next up it was over to the east coast near Dundee for Fettercairn Fior (Fior means “pure” in Gaelic). A vatted malt with whiskies aged between five and fifteen years. With well balanced fruit salad, creamy cappuccino, custard and a touch of orange peel. The finish was like salty milk chocolate. I’d love this as a session dram. Yum!
Now the exciting bit, Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, affectionately known as The Shackleton. A blend of 24 whiskies, some of which no longer exist, only 50,000 bottles of this were produced making it really quite special. As it’s getting closer to impossible to get any of it now, when you get a chance to try it you grab it.
At 47.3% it has a bit of a kick, but once you get over the shock it has a rich fruity nose with dusty old books, wild flowers and crushed grass.
Finally the piece de resistance of the evening, from Alness north of Inverness, we had The Dalmore Cigar Malt in the Garden with a Cuban cigar. The Master Distiller Richard Paterson worked with cigar importer Hunters & Frankau to marry together the perfect match of whisky with cigar.
The Dalmore is well known for its creamy chocolate and rich zesty orange marmalade notes, but as the final maturation of this was in cabernet sauvignon barrels it imparted soft red fruit into the palate. Mixed with the cigar smoke the balance of flavours were brilliant.
Overall, it was a fantastic evening from start to finish. Beautiful food, great whisky, and as always, wonderful company.
The 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.
I’m in my favourite Edinburgh cocktail bar, Bond No.9.
There are plenty of tables, but I prefer to sit at the bar, particularly when it’s quiet so I can pick the encyclopaedic cocktail brains of the friendly staff that are insanely enthusiastic about their art; that’s what it is, art.
More importantly, they love what they do (at least, if they don’t it’s well hidden), and there’s an intrinsic talent for ingredients – booze geek paradise. These guys really know their stuff, and every time I order they prove it – I’ve never had a bad concoction yet.
I started with a Whisky Sour, one of my favourite drinks, and it was an eye opener when the whisky used was Auchentoshan Three Wood. A rich and slightly sweet single malt.
It was damn near perfect. Sharp and creamy, with the richness of the whisky happily lounging in the foreground.
I wasn’t sure what to have next so I simply asked for something similar.
What I got was a Maple Old Fashioned. This could possibly be my new favourite cocktail.
Buffalo Trace bourbon, maple syrup, orange bitters, a spot of cherry juice, and just to be different, apple juice.
Weighty sweet apple, rich spice and rich orange stab from the bitters. It really works.
When you get to the bottom of the glass the syrup has settled slightly giving you a lovely texture to the last mouthful, kind of like a prize. A seriously tremendawsome cocktail. Yes, I had to make up a word, so sue me.
“Something similar please…”
Blood & Sand – this will put an instant smile on your face especially with the perfect use of Auchentoshan Three Wood and Lagavulin 16 year old.
Sweet cherry at first followed by acidic orange juice and a sweetening but not overpowering hug from the peaty whisky.
You can smell the Lagavulin at the start but it’s beautifully mellow and a stunning after taste like the earth of a freshly watered flowerbed with a slight sour touch throughout.
Another excellent cocktail.
I’d highly recommend any of these, or in fact all three.
Well, I woke up this morning… Yes, it sounds like the start of a morose blues tune, but in fact it’s World Whisky Day.
27th March 2012 (exactly 70 years since the birth of whisky writer Michael Jackson) has been spreading across the world as the date for a celebration of all things malty.
As I was saying, I woke up this morning with a need to celebrate this special day, so figured, how better to do it than in the heart of Edinburgh on top of Arthur’s Seat?
Packed with a Glenburgie 10 year old I scuttled up the hill on what is probably a record breaking beautiful day for this time of year. I hope you like it (the review, not the weather)…
My 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.
Whisky 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.
In my glass, and in my imagination, I’m back over to the Isle of Jura; it’s getting dark and a blast of icy wind howls across the landscape.
Like I say, I’m only imagining it, and with a dram of Jura 1976 ‘Feith A’ Chaorainn’ I can’t imagine even the worst that Mother Nature can throw at me would be even slightly annoying.