Mashtun and Meow

Friday, 30 January 2015

Whisky Review #5: Bowmore Darkest

Having visited Islay twice, most recently staying in Bowmore itself with a view of the distillery chimneys through our bedroom window, their whiskies are always going to have a special something about them for us. Darkest is absolutely no exception - bought just over a year ago as a Christmas present "for the house" having been one of our favourite drams from the 2013 Drinks by the Dram whisky advent calendar, purchased from Master of Malt - you can read our initial ponderings on this lovely drop here.

Aged for 15 years (with the final three of those being in Oloroso sherry casks) before being bottled at 43%, Bowmore Darkest is definitely a multi-layered dram. Because of this, it's also been one of our favourites to pair with food - it goes with cheese, dark chocolate, Christmas cake, and a splash even found it's way into some homemade smoked salmon pate.


Without further ado, here are our thoughts...

Colour: A richly sherried deep bronze.
Nose: Robust, with dried fruits bursting forth - dark cherries and plump raisins. A savouriness lurks in the background, but in the year we've had the bottle open the peaty nature of the aroma has faded a tad.
Palate: Loads going on here! The Oloroso cask provides a fruity yet woody sweetness, whilst balanced peatiness allows waves of sea salt and smoked fish to crash over the palate.
Finish: The combination of smoky and sweet continue to fight for attention in a long, lip-smacking finish.


Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Burns Night 2015

"There's a lot you can do with a haggis." This was to become the motif of the evening, as quoted on numerous occasions by our new friend Martin - true Scot, Robbie Burns fanatic and Master of Ceremonies for the night.


Regular visitors to the page will know that we tend to enjoy the whisky tastings held at the Broadfield, and for January they'd decided to do something a bit different. In celebration of Burns Night, a four course meal with traditional Scottish fayre (and whiskies to accompany of course) was on offer. We arrived to an absolutely packed dining room, with the sound of bagpipes blaring and a proper party atmosphere.

A poetry reading from Martin's well-thumbed, 40-year old collection of Burns' works, finished off setting the tone for the evening, before the food started to arrive. The first course was black and white pudding in blankets, rich and hearty with the bacon being a great addition.

The fish course was next, and our favourite dish of the night - the Broadfield's take on an Arbroath smokie, served atop a tattie scone with a perfectly poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.

At this point, Martin returned on top form to read "Address to the Haggis" whilst our main course was brought out... haggis, neeps and tatties, of course, with crispy fried leeks. To toast, we were presented with a dram of Auchentoshan Three Wood, which was powerful enough to stand up to the hearty flavours of the meat with just enough sweetness from the Pedro Ximinez casks to cut through for balance. Martin's monologue on the versatility of haggis provoked a healthy discussion amongst our table on just exactly what could be done with this little mountain of offal-y joy... haggis ice cream, anyone?!


Before pudding was brought out, Martin read out his own Address to the Lassies, as we raised a dram of Arran's Robert Burns Single Malt - light and fruity, with a sumptuous orchardy undertone. Dessert was a beautifully flaky Ecclefechan tart, stuffed full of sweet dried fruits, nuts and cherries, with a generous dollop of whisky cream to serve.

The night overall was an ideal warm-up to Burns Night itself, with top-quality traditional food and classic whiskies to accompany. We'll definitely be raising a few more drams tonight.

Cheers,

J&L

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Zuidam: Gin vs Genever

I've accumulated quite a few Drinks by the Dram samples over the past year or so, and upon sorting through the collection I found two little bottles from Dutch distillery Zuidam - a classic gin, and a rustic genever. I couldn't resist drinking the two alongside each other and having my own mini tasting evening. Here's what I made of the juniper-ridden little gems...


Dutch Courage  Dry Gin, 44.5%

More floral and zingy than the standard London dry gin, but still a familiar nose with hearty juniper at the core. Flavour starts sweet but develops into a rich, oily and almost savoury herbal palate. As I only had a sample bottle of this, I drank it straight up with no garnish, but a slice of grapefruit would work really well. The finish is long and a pleasing balance of bitter and sweet. Really good stuff.

5 year old Zeer Oude Genever,  38%

The ageing is definitely apparent on the nose, with a rounded vanilla oakiness softening the juniper edge along with a hint of fudge. The taste is more like a light whisky than a traditional gin to me... Beautifully smooth, with a fresh and gentle minty note coupled with caramel and a hint of liquorice root. A silky mouthfeel leads to a full, long finish. My first ever genever certainly won't be my last.

Cheers,

Laura

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Favourite Pubs: Ship and Mitre

Venturing away from our usual Sheffield haunts, a day trip to Liverpool brought us to The Ship and Mitre, an absolute gem of a pub.

An enormous bar set right in the centre of the pub has 12 hand pumps serving some fantastic real ale, plus continental brews. Alongside this there's also a separate bar which stocks bottles, which are reasonably priced. This is not to be confused with The Ship in the Bottle - a separate bottle shop which partners the pub, situated just a few minutes walk away and also well worth a visit.

The pub itself has two main sections, the bright and bustling front area, and a rear section which is cosy and warming with a raised section along the back wall which is a lovely place to eat some of the tasty food from the tiny kitchen. Traditionally decorated throughout and with an art deco style upstairs room available for bookings for parties, this pub has a great selection of options for all occasions.

Across two visits we have sampled some fantastic ales and definitely found some new favourites, including: Titanic Captain Smiths, Ascot Penguin Porter, and Blackmere Rum Porter, which tasted exactly like a drinkable dark chocolate rum truffle.

As well as this, there's a great range of spirits available, including monthly special offers.

The kitchen of the pub is rather quaintly named The Galley. The food had been recommended to us, so we couldn't resist giving it a go. The burger menu in particular was appealing, with a huge variety and some unusual combinations on offer. All the burgers are homemade and come with fries, salad, and some of the best onion rings I've ever eaten. As well as the usual combinations you'd expect to see on a burger menu, there's also some excellent standout burgers on offer, from a 100% beef Thai option, fragrantly spiced and topped with a Thai slaw, to a chicken Katsu curry version and plenty more besides.

We were also lucky enough to be there on "Free Scouse" night - our first taste of this delicious, hearty, Liverpudlian speciality - missed the Sheffield Henderson's Relish touch though!

It also just so happened to be the Belgian beer festival - we appear to have timed this trip well. De Koninck and Blanche Bruxelles were both available on draught, alongside an enormous selection of bottled beer. The Blanche Bruxelles, a soft and floral wheat beer, was a particular treat.

This truly is a pub that ticks every box - marvellous beer, great food, and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. There is a great sense of community from the pub and all-round it is simply a great place to just sit and drink. Worth the train fare from Sheffield any day!

Cheers,

J&L

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Obligatory Drinks Roundup Post of 2014

Somewhat belatedly, we thought we'd do a quick review of our favourite tipples of last year, as we aim this month to sample new things through #tryanuary.

Whisky:
Dram
Jim - Bruichladdich Octomore 0.5 - an early test of the 'most peated whisky ever made' in a beautiful Chateau D'Yquem cask, this was drunk in warehouse one of the distillery, making this the most memorable whisky I've ever drunk (more about it can be found here).
Laura - Bruichladdich Duplex - sampled at the Broadfield's "Old and Rare" whisky tasting this was a private bottling of incredible interest. This Petrus cask aged dram encompassed flavours I've never experienced before or since in a whisky. 

Bottle
J - Bruichladdich CuvĂ©e 407 - a rich, chewy, intense whisky, aged for 21 years in Bourbon before being finished in Jerez Pedro Ximinez casks, it is a wonderful full mouthed dram, pleasingly sweet and spicy.
L - Aberlour 16 - put simply, this is just my kind of whisky, enjoyed again and again and never disappoints. Another sherry casked beauty which has a gorgeous Christmas-cakey stickiness to it.

You will see that these whiskies are predominantly from Bruichladdich, with wine and sherry casks featuring heavily - 2014 seems to have been the year that we have discovered our "type" when it comes to whisky! Which is not to say that variety has gone unappreciated - we've been lucky enough to sample a huge range of drams across the year. Honourable mentions to Yamazaki 18, Ardmore Traditional Cask and Sullivan's Cove French Oak.


Beer:
Bottle
J - Great Heck Yakima IPA - this is the only beer that I have bought more than two bottles of to drink this year, and is a wonderful example of how a heavily hopped beer can still have a bold malty mou feel, without the main flavour being just hops.
L - Siren Odyssey 001- another wine cask aged beverage for me! This was enjoyed at the Beer Central bottle share at the Bath Hotel. This was just a fantastic night all round and this luscious 12.4% imperial stout really topped it off. The wonderful Sean from Beer Central has written more about the night here - any Sheffield based readers would do well to keep their eyes peeled for the next one!

Cask
J - Blue Bee are easily one of the most improved breweries this year, with new owners and head brewer who have transformed them from producing middle of the road 'traditional' beers to a more robust lineup of excellent regular cask beers. Into The Abyss is the best of the bunch for me - a Black IPA, that retains the great malty features of a dark beer coupled with a light hoppy freshness. (Drank at The 3 Tuns)
L - Waen Brewery's Snowball is my most memorable beer of the year - a 7% chocolate and coconut stout with a smooth vanilla hit. All three flavours come through powerfully yet maintain tasty, tasty harmony. The highlight of Sheffield's CAMRA beer festival for me.

Keg
J - Mikkeller Black is one of the most interesting keg beers I have drunk this year. When it was released, the 17.5% beer was the 'strongest beer in Scandinavia' and unlike other brews of a similar strength, the high ABV wasn't achieved through freeze distillation but through brewing acumen. (Drank at Brewdog Sheffield)
L - Hitachino Nest White Ale - another drink enjoyed at Brewdog Sheffield (where we've spent many a happy afternoon over the course of the year) this was also one of my favourite bottles of the year, with orangey flavour and a pleasing spiciness. As well as this, the bottle has a very cute owl on it - what's not to like?!

Pub
J - The Sheaf View - Consistently excellent and ever changing bar, with a great selection of not just ales but whiskies and other spirits too. This is my weekend haunt - as a friday evening drink the atmosphere is lively and friendly, and for a Saturday afternoon sandwich the pub is quiet and relaxed and often a completely different selection of beer can be found on the bar.
L - The Bath Hotel (see also our write-up here) - we've made many happy memories there over 2014, including nights with good friends winning the quiz and drinking too much Thornbridge Charlie Brown's peanut butter beer, and of course Sheff Brew Fest, one of our highlights of the year.


With multiple beer festivals (we NEED to go to IndyMan this year...), a gin distillery trip, a holiday to Arran and much more adventuring round Sheffield and beyond to do, 2015 is already gearing up to a be a good 'un.

Let us know your "golden beverages" of the year!

Cheers,

J&L

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Craft & Dough

New to the growing restaurant scene developing in Kelham Island (arguably Sheffield's most up and coming area) is Craft & Dough, a pizzeria and bar which is part of The Milestone Group, who own a variety of artisanal eateries in the Sheffield region. We've been meaning to go down since the opening last month, and had heard tons of hype, so couldn't wait to try it out.

We popped in for lunch on a Friday, and were instantly struck by how busy it was, with a mixture of families, couples, and professionals all tucking in. The atmosphere is cafe-esque, with the smell of fresh coffee and bread filling the room, and quite open, minimalist decor. The smaller fixtures and fittings add interesting touches, including light fittings made from crystal decanters which hint at the level of finesse available on the drinks menu. The open kitchen adds sociability to the venue and it was great to be able to watch the chef creating our pizzas while we waited.


A great selection of drinks are available - most apparent are the beers, of which around 50 are available, but there also looked to be a good variety of gins and whiskies - the emphasis here on world whisky with Macallan the only single malt Scotch on offer, which is a refreshing change to the usual selection.


We've decided to take part in the Tryanuary initiative this month (look up #tryanuary on twitter) and so went for beers we've not sampled before. From the extensive range we chose Big Ben Brown Ale, a 5.8% offering from Thwaites' Crafty Dan microbrewery, and Founders All Day IPA (4.7%). The Big Ben was crisp but malty, with very apparent flavours of crystal malt, whilst the Founders was just full to bursting with aromatic fruitiness, providing a really tasty passionfruit hit. Both were good choices which worked well with the food.

And so, on to the pizza. We went for a Tandoori (tandoori chicken, raita, chilli, mango salsa and Bombay mix) and a Crafty Cuts, with braised ox cheek, pepperoni, balsamic red onion, mozzarella, oregano, and parmesan. Both were scrumptious - generously portioned, with true care shown in the preparation of all the ingredients. Particularly noteworthy were the delicious red onions on the rich and sumptuous Crafty Cuts, with the balsamic glaze providing a real pop of flavour, and the Bombay mix on the Tandoori which is completely original and added a whole new dimension to the already full-of-flavour pizza. Laura ended up with mango and mint all over her face and could not have cared less. 


It was also great to see that the ingredients include fresh veg which is grown on their own site, Furnace Hill. Another little touch which just shows the attention to detail that the Milestone Group never cease to provide.

Overall, a fun place to go just for a drink, with something interesting available whatever your tipple, but an even better one to go to for dough. Good value, nice vibes, attentive service, and you'll leave with a full happy tum - can't say more than that.

Cheers,

L&J 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Advent whisky and vodka calendars: windows 19-24

Another adventurous advent reaches its boozy crescendo!

19th

Whisky
Timorous Beastie, 46.8%
Colour: Pale straw
Nose: Cereals with a sweetness of toffee, dry notes of sherry and strong sea breeze.
Palate: Sticky fruits and lightly spiced with a bold peat hit, with an essence of a mashtun in the form of toasted yeasty grain.
Finish: Winter spice that hangs around for ages all over the mouth and the peat stays up in the forefront.

Vodka
Breckenridge, 40%
Created at the world's highest distillery in Colorado, this is a clean, crisp and refreshing vodka, which I found a really good combination of traditionally flavoured but with a quirky slightly medicinal twist of pine and a hint of floral perfume. Interestingly, this is made from snowmelt water, and you can almost taste the icy environment! Another thing I've discovered this month whilst tasting such an array of top-quality vodkas is the importance of choosing the right tonic - I paired this with my new favourite, Peter Spanton No. 1, which brought forth more sweetness from the Breckenridge.

20th

Whisky
Girvan Grain Patent Still: No. 4 Apps, 42%
Colour: Pale sand
Nose: Fresh and grassy with hints of apple.
Palate: Refreshing lemon oiliness with light oak and a hint of chocolate for balance.
Finish: Very light - not quite enough oomph for my liking, but a gentle peppering with a smooth fruity finish.

Vodka
Finlandia Grapefruit, 37.5%
This was a revisiting of an old favourite... one of the first quality spirits I ever treated myself to a bottle of! I still find this absolutely delicious, with vibrant aroma and flavour of grapefruit - sweet and zingy on the nose and with a more robust almost bitterness on the taste. The addition of Peter Spanton tonic (again) made this sing.

21st

Whisky
Mortlach Rare Old, 43.4%
Colour: Vibrant toffee
Nose: All things Christmas... nuts, fruits, and a dry spiciness with an oddly fresh minty hit.
Palate: Sweet and sherried stickiness with hazelnuts, and a strange savoury hit of wood in the background.
Finish: Long, with festive spice and a dry oaky edge.

Vodka
42 Below Manuka Honey, 40%
Such an intense honey aroma on this one... amazingly creamy and sweet scent. It's fresher on the palate with an alcohol tang. I turned this into a twist on a Toblerone cocktail, with Baileys, coffee liqueur and milk. Impressively the heady honey on the nose was in no way diminished by adding other ingredients to it, and it softened the flavour wonderfully. The top cocktail all advent.


22nd

Whisky
Mackinlay's Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt, The Journey, 47.3%
Colour: Light straw
Nose: Fresh orchard fruits with a twinge of tropical sourness that cuts through, leaving a light spice.
Palate: Raisins and sticky honey, plus a tickle of spice with milky coffee and dark chocolate.
Finish: A little crunch of spice, rounded wood together and an oily orange peel character. A lingering full mouth nature of dark coffee.

Vodka
Pinky, 40%
A stunning little vodka, with a lovely rose hue and the scent of strawberries. Clean and more herbal in the flavour but still with a great fresh fruity, berry nature that doesn't overpower.This worked really well with a good splash of elderflower tonic and would definitely enhance a whole array of fruit juice based cocktails - I can imagine this tasting fantastic with cranberry or pink grapefruit juice. A very elegant drink.

23rd

Whisky
Macallan Amber: 1824 Series, 40%
Colour: Unsurprisingly, it's amber.
Nose: Tons of citrus, with fresh lemon and orange zest. Dried nuts feature in the background.
Palate: Delicate, with spice and dried fruits, predominantly raisins. A perfect breakfast dram.
Finish: Cinnamon and chocolate come through on a short but tasty finish.

Vodka
Aviy Pear, Strawberry and Mint, 37.5%
Seriously sweet-smelling... the pear and strawberry both come out strongly on the nose, with the mint more difficult to detect. Smells and tastes just like those candy necklaces you can get! The mint isn't particularly apparent in the flavour either but helps to balance the drink and provides a drier edge to the finish. Really interesting.

24th - the final dram

Whisky
Lost Distilleries Blend, batch 6, 49.3%
Colour: Delicate spun gold
Nose: Fresh fruit, cider apples and light black pepper. Overall, swaddled just like the baby Jesus but in delicate peat, as opposed to a manger. Massive depth to explore... almost salty but with sweetness, like a piece of salted caramel fudge. Given time, the black pepper returns with a hint of pomegranate.
Palate: Chocolatey, fruity, with oodles more peat and a wave of the seaside. An orange oiliness fills the mouth with elements of leather, tannins and fresh tobacco, that become spicy as the flavour develops.
Finish: Nuts and demerara sugar, a salty finish and a majestic peated element which closes the show with multiple encores.

Vodka
Bainbridge Organic Vanilla, 40%
Tons of sweet vanilla, toffee bonbons and creme brulee fill the nose. This didn't quite all come through on the flavour neat, but it made an EXCELLENT rich, creamy and flavoursome White Russian. Well, I couldn't have ended Vodka Advent any other way!