Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: 2014

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!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

A Karma Citra Christmas

For us, winter is definitely the best season for beers, as stouts, porters, and warming ales full of rich fruits and spice all come deliciously to the fore. Imagine our festive joy when our pals at Karma Citra decided that December's beery activities would be the perfect pairing of winter ales and Christmas fare (with compulsory Christmas jumpers of course).


The proceedings began with Sam Smith's Winter Welcome Ale. This brewery is often showcased at the start of Karma Citra's meet-ups, and it's clear to taste why - the beers are always well executed, prime examples of the style the tasting is themed around. Bottled at 6%, the Winter Welcome was easier to sup down than the ABV would suggest, with sweet clove and brown sugar flavours providing a lovely warm glow at the finish. A solid starter.

Next up was Blue Monkey's Bludolph (5%). Always fans of a pun, this Nottingham-based brewery is one that definitely appeals to us (their other festive offering is the excellently-named King Kong Merrily On High). This was a nice pale ale, but not particularly festive - a promising cranberry aroma didn't quite follow through to the taste, which was hoppy and light.

Laura's all time favourite beer, Titanic Plum Porter brought glad tidings of goodwill next. This 4.9% porter is just delicious, with a rich, warming and fruity flavour that reminded us of plum gingerbread and those little chocolate coated Lebkuchen biscuits.


Time to line our stomachs with a platter of Christmas treats... turkey, brie and cranberry sandwiches, proper stuffing, and pigs in blankets. A shot of homemade lemon vodka brought by some of our fellow beery friends was knocked back alongside this feast, which was a fiery yet sweet brilliant palate cleanser... Na zdrove!

Red Willow Baubleless followed, a 6% beer which blends their chocolate and imperial stouts, before being barrel aged for 6 months. Anyone that knows us will recognise that these are three components which all appeal to us immensely, and we were very pleased to have two of these safely stashed in the cupboard at home. The blend and ageing works really well in this producing a well balanced, tasty beverage which starts off sweet and ends on a drier note with a slight oilyness from the oak. Bloody lovely.

We finished on a seasonal Brewdog special, Mulled Dogma, which adds sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and Kraken rum to the already very tasty Scotch ale. Christmas isn't Christmas without a pan of something mulling on the stove and this was a really fitting end to a fantastically festive afternoon. Alongside this was served a hearty slab of Chocolate Orange cake and cream, which was a perfect accompaniment.


I think it's fair to say we headed home with a seasonal swing in our step, and we're really looking forward to seeing what the team come up with in 2015!


Cheers,

L&J

Friday, 19 December 2014

Advent whisky and vodka calendars: windows 13-18

Having reached the half way point, our intrepid journey through the world of fine spirits shows no sign of slowing down...

13th

Whisky

Paul John Edited, 46%
Colour: Dried Straw 
Nose: Aromatic - light peat, sugared mint leaves with a dried fruit and an edge of fresh strawberries.
Palate: Fruity on the tip of the tongue, a really smooth mouthfeel complemented by a bit of fresh red pepper
Finish: Oily star anise on the end, with a soft crunch of coffee bean to close and a deep tannin undercurrent.


Vodka
English Spirit Raspberry, 37.5%
A beautifully rose-tinted, light and fruity vodka, made with freshly picked raspberries. I'm not sure this was quite the season to be drinking this as the subtle flavours would be perfectly suited to a hot summer's day. Delicate and aromatic, a dram of this neat didn't quite stand up to my cosy evening in, so I added a dash of Chase elderflower liqueur, which created a smooth, rich and luxurious short.

14th

Whisky
Balvenie 12 Year, Single Barrel First Fill, 47.8%
Colour: Light straw
Nose: Alcohol initially, apple brandy followed by a sweet coffee.
Palate: Light spice with apple juice sweetness, all rounded off by a crisp woodiness.
Finish: A robust oakiness with a lavender honey flavour to follow up

Vodka
Vestal Pomorze 2013, 40%
I found this to have an overwhelming, slightly one-dimensional nose - earthy and a little petrol-esque. The palate was much lighter and more fragrant, but overpowered by the smell. This wasn't quite to my taste, however it would have been really interesting to have drunk this alongside the Kaszebe from earlier in the month to have a direct comparison of the effect of terroir... I could definitely notice a difference but couldn't quite work out what it was.

15th

Whisky
Rock Town Arkansas Bourbon, 46%
Colour: Stained Oak
Nose: Very fresh initially, strawberries seasoned with fresh ground pepper, with dusty wood and bibles.
Palate: To sum up the taste in a noun, I would have to say "church"... the oak is delightful and there's a pleasing underlying brown sugar sweetness.
Finish: Nutty, with more brown sugar in the undertone.

Vodka
Davna Czeri, 38%
This. Is. Phenomenal. A traditionally produced Polish cherry vodka which just absolutely sings of all things cherry. A nose of those cherry lip sweeties, with a slightly medicinal flavour like cherry cola or children's cough mixture (and I mean that in a good way). Little hints of spices including clove and cinnamon are hidden underneath, which makes the whole drink much more rounded. Despite the high ABV this was an easy sipper, more like a liqueur than a spirit. This was enjoyed neat alongside a little piece of dark-chocolate coated gingerbread. Hideously festive.

16th

Whisky
Tullamore D.E.W. 12 Year Old Special Reserve, 40%
Colour: Sanded oak
Nose: Light and fresh with a prickle of sweetness and a dash of spice smothered over dried fruit.
Palate: Light orange chocolatey flavours with honey and a smooth and creamy texture. The sherry element of the ageing process becomes really apparent all the way through.
Finish: A vanilla custard tickles the tongue with a bourbon chewiness at the very end.

Vodka
Chase Rhubarb, 40%
I really enjoyed this one. Old fashioned sweetie shop all round... gentle, deliciously enticing nose encompassing nougat and Love Hearts, with a flavour that was whole-heartedly those hard boiled rhubarb and custard sweets. Again, I drank this neat, but this would work brilliantly in a berry-based cocktail or in a bellini. Chase can quite simply do no wrong.

17th

Whisky
Nikka From The Barrel, 51.4%
Colour: Reddish Straw
Nose: Sweet sherry with a freshness, and a delicate floral splash that rounds off with oak.
Palate: A bold sweet spice coupled with deep raisin, and a hint of charred oak that underlines the richness.
Finish: A light cinnamon and a tickle of prickly spice, alongside a herbal note verging on rosemary which fills the nose.

Vodka
Stolichnaya Chocolat Kokonut, 37.5%
Liquid Bounty. Mmm. Rich, tropical aroma leads on to a flavour which starts off as fresh coconut and builds to a tasty chocolatey smoothness. As with the Ciroc coconut earlier in the month, I just had to White Russian this (and the Stoli just edged it). Well, it is Christmas...

18th

Whisky
Arran Batch 4, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 52%
Colour: Pale golden
Nose: A sweaty sailor clutching a dry sherry with a red wine smile.
Palate: Phenolic, herby and grassy with rounded mouth of a deep richness of more red wine.
Finish: a light delicate spice with a bold deliciousness verging on orange.

Vodka
Square One Basil, 40%
Made with four different types of fresh basil, this is one herbaceous little beverage. The nose is fresh and fragrant, with a hit of liquorice root which makes the smell oddly absinthe-esque and a touch medicinal. On the palate, fresh basil is balanced by a rich, smooth and spicy fruitiness. I added Peter Spanton Lemongrass tonic to this which allowed the more heady, perfumed notes of the vodka to come through, and a grinding of fresh black pepper to cut through the aromatics and add a crisp edge.

We'll be back next week with the final instalment (cracks out tiny violin).

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Advent whisky and vodka calendars: windows 7-12

And so our epic advent spirits quest continues...

7th December

Whisky
Glenfarclas 10, 40%
Colour: Straw gold
Nose: Sherry, with apples, raisins and hint of spice through the high-alcohol hit.
Palate: The drink begins smooth but builds to a sticky, burnt oak-y character with a sweet winter spice and a light fruit.
Finish: Stays around in the mouth for a long period of time with oak and spice and tickles with a light spice.

Vodka
Blackwoods Botanical Vodka, 40%
Primarily known for their gin, Blackwoods also distil this product using a range of local Shetland botanicals including meadow sweet and marsh marigold. My first impression upon opening the bottle was a huge hit of pure alcohol which was slightly off-putting and meant I wasn't expecting much complexity of flavour. However, it was clear from the first sip that I'd underestimated this spirit - delicately perfumed flavour with hints of parma violets and soft citrus including grapefruit, and really smooth in the mouth.

8th

Whisky
Dalmore 15, 40%
Colour: Ruby
Nose: BAMM, sherry right off the bat, with a nutty sweetness, like hazelnuts and sugared almonds.
Palate: Sherry continues with orange oil and a sticky sweetness, with a drier nut taste than compared to the nose. A great tickle of sticky ginger and a hint of seasonal spice follow.
Finish: A little prickle of Christmas, nuts and malt with sherry sweetness that ends out the drink.

Vodka
Square One Cucumber Vodka, 40%
I'll admit I wasn't overly looking forward to this one, as I couldn't really imagine how it would work - and I'm not generally the world's biggest cucumber fan. However, I was truly pleasantly surprised - the cucumber flavour was delicate, yet completely balanced out any alcohol rawness from the vodka, resulting in a refreshing and very quaffable little dram. I think this would work really well in a summer cocktail, and can imagine sipping on it alongside a chunk of watermelon. I'd anticipated adding tonic to this, but when it came down to it I didn't want to overwhelm the dainty flavour of the drink, so drank it neat with a squeeze of lime.

9th


Whisky

Auchentoshan Three Wood, 43%
Colour: Deep, rich bronze.
Nose: Complex - sherry prominent, bursting with dark fruits.
Palate: Fresher fruit with an almost liqueur-esque edge of cherries.
Finish: Nutty earthiness with a fresh cream finish and a pinch of spice. The sort of whisky you can chew over for hours.

Vodka
Konik's Tail, 40%
Thickly sweet and creamy, with a pleasing level of just-enough alcohol bite, this small batch spirit is the quintessential elegant vodka. It's rich and complex, with a perfumed edge that reminded me a little of parma violets. Definitely made for sipping, for me this almost compared to a good single malt whisky and I couldn't bear the thought of adding anything to it. Straight up, room temperature, delicious.

10th

Whisky
Glen Garioch 1797 Founders Reserve, 48%
Colour: Rose copper
Nose: Spiced sherry and cherry with a sprinkle of pepper for balance.
Palate: Buttery cherry brandy and oak, with star anise and cinnamon.
Finish: Sweet nuttiness with a light sherry character that sits in the mouth with a delicate spice, and a fresh dusting of ground nutmeg.

Vodka
Brennen & Brown Vodka with a hint of Cardamom & Plum, 38%
Definitely the most intriguing sounding vodka so far, I was really looking forward to this one. A huge waft of Christmas aroma hit me as soon as I opened the bottle, with cardamom prominent but alongside cloves, brown sugar, and fruity festive undertones. This all carried through into the taste - my favourite local bakery, Forge Bakehouse, make an amazing little pastry called a cardamom snurr, which I still haven't quite worked out if they're sweet or savoury - and this vodka provided the same sensation on the palate. I also thought this would have tasted phenomenal alongside a good chunk of Christmas cake. My favourite to date.

11th

Whisky
Glenfiddich 18, 40%
Colour: Golden copper
Nose: Raisins, apples and plums, with a lightly medicinal hint. A little like a used wallet. Caramel and mint also featured.
Palate: Heaps of tannin and dark chocolate, plus a hint of sweet mint, with a cranberry-like finish
Finish: Spice and light smoke with a fruity sweetness that stay on the palate for a long while.

Vodka
Faust Cranberry, 40%
This shocked me when I pulled it from my advent box of treats with it's vibrant scarlet hue. The scent and flavour was all-out cranberry, no surprises there... clean, smooth, slightly dry, and fruity. I turned this into a little martini, with sweet vermouth and orange bitters, which made a really tasty and (oddly) slightly medicinal cocktail. I enjoyed this, but it was the first one all advent that didn't deliver anything above expectations - does what it says on the bottle.

12th

Whisky
Monkey Shoulder, 40%
I've heard a lot about this Dufftown blend but not previously had the opportunity to try it. Having recently found some excellent blended malts including Big Peat, I was looking forward to sampling this.
Colour: Vibrant copper
Nose: Toffee and orange, very light. Sherbet limes and Bucks Fizz.
Palate: Almost fizzy... more sherbet and a lemony citrus flavour, combined with honey. Very easy to drink.
Finish: Just the right amount of fieriness, mingled with icing sugar. A fine example of how good blends can be.

Vodka
42 Below Feijoa Vodka, 40%
Now I am always a fan of learning a new word, and feijoa was definitely a new one on me. Apparently it is a tree which produces fruits also known as "pineapple guavas". I have to say though I didn't think this smelt or tasted of either of those things - the aroma reminded me of antiseptic medicine and the flavour a little of mouthwash. Having said that I wouldn't say I disliked it... just very odd! After sampling a little bit of this I've saved the rest for a cocktail night - I can imagine it working well either just with soda water or lemonade, or with apple/pineapple juice for a more tropical flavour.

So there we have it, half way through!

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Advent Whisky and Vodka Calendars: windows 1-6

Following on from one of the best purchases of last year we have again bought a Drinks by the Dram advent calendar each. For Jim is the whisky calendar and for Laura a change from last year's gin selection to flavoured vodkas. 

1st December

Whisky
Haig Club, 40%
Colour: Light straw coloured grain whisky.
Nose: Prickling with sweet Szechuan peppercorn from the initial high alcohols, with almost cinnamon swirl sweetness later on as the drink opens up.
Palate: Sticky almost sourness of oak and bourbon with a mouth feel that is ever so slight, accompanied by vanilla custard on a baked banana.
Finish: Surprisingly short, with just a tickle of alcohol and a demerara sugar sweetness. The mouthfeel is a bit on the thin side, but with an interesting overall taste.
Marketed by David Beckham (an excellent marketing ploy), and showcased in a rather garish blue bottle, this whisky is definitely a talking point but the drinking experience overall is ultimately a little underwhelming. Interesting though, and would be a good way to introduce a non-whisky drinker to the world of whisky.

Vodka
Cold River Blueberry, 40%
Full of fresh blueberry scent that whacks you in the face as you open the bottle - this follows into the flavour as would be expected. This fruitiness is balanced on taste by a herbal note, which I couldn't quite work out (possibly sage?). Overall, this has quite a heavy, cloying flavour - but in a pleasant way. I kept it simple with just a lime wedge to accompany to get the full flavour from my dram, but this would work really well with lemonade or in a cocktail - I'd go for a julep with simple sugar syrup and a good sprig of mint.

2nd

Whisk(e)y
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey 46%
Colour: Sanded oak
Nose: Orchard apples and fruit with a tingle of warmth, with a light overall aroma.
Palate: Fruits and cinnamon and a hint of clove. An overall apple pie flavour rings through the drink.
Finish: Light herbal finish, almost lavender.


Vodka
Professor Cornelius Ampleforth's Besmoked Vodka, 40.2%
I've sampled this in a pub before as sheer curiosity made this absolutely irresistible, and I was really excited to open my little window and find this hiding in there. I was originally disbelieving that this would live up to it's name, but I will readily admit how wrong I was - it is just unbelievably smokey! To the extent that it tastes almost like a meat... a really good bacon to be more precise. Oddly, though, it's still a refreshing beverage, and the smoky nature mellows into sweetness on the finish. I chose to drink this neat which was powerful and delicious but if we'd had any tomato juice in I'd have gone straight for a Bloody Mary! This is the most intriguing vodka I've ever come across, which takes you on a journey from full-throttle fire to delicate embers.

3rd

Whisky
Evan Williams Single Barrel (2003 Vintage), 43.3%
Colour: Deep ruby
Nose: Cherries, apples and cinnamon, with hints of chocolate and a classic bourbon oakiness.
Palate: A sour apple freshness, accompanied by a delightful oaky flavour with a light plum wood char.
Finish: A short finish that prickles with a little black pepper, accompanied by a BBQ'd orchard fruits skewer.

Vodka
Chase Marmalade, 40%
A gorgeously bitter-sweet drink that more than meets with expectations, this has an intense marmaladey hit that's full of orange zest, with the vodka itself even having a light orangey hue.
The sweetness lingers for ages after polishing this off. My garnish of choice for today's dram would most definitely be a good twist of orange peel, and for a cocktail a glug of sparkling wine would allow this to really shine. Utterly lovely.

4th

Whisky
Jura 16 Year - Duirach's Own, 40%
I first had this on a sunny day at the Jura Hotel, the distillery tap (almost) a child's stone throw across the road from the picturesque stillhouse on the island, and an adult's stone throw from Islay.
Colour: A light ruby red
Nose: Biscuity, sweet sherry oak smell
Palate: The flavours move on to a bolder slice of Christmas cake with nutty marzipan and an oily, quite creamy coffee.
Finish: Like being sat by the fire warms your outside, this dram warms your inside with oak and dark chocolate. The oak barrels permeate all the way through all sensory aspects of the dram.


Vodka
Vestal Kaszebe, 40%
This vodka has been recommended to me on many an occasion but isn't one I've tried before. On the first sip I was somewhat baffled - it has quite a raw, earthy flavour that reminded me of potato peelings! Not unpleasant, just something totally different to any spirit I've tasted before. A splash of high quality tonic lifted the whole flavour to a delicate yet complex herbal delight.



5th 

Whisky
Bowmore 12 Year, 40%
Colour: Light copper
Nose: Salty earth notes, lemon sweetened with honey, and balanced overall with a light bourbon edge plus sweet peat.
Palate: A light peat that ripples with more honey sweet lemon, and a tickle of vanilla with a slight seaweedy underlying flavour.
Finish: There is a strong peat that hits all the way through the drink, with seaweed and warmth from the sweet oak, that keeps this delicious whisky hanging around in the mouth for a long time.

Festive Bison
Vodka
Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, 40%
This is one of the most popular Polish vodkas on the market, but not one I've had the pleasure of sampling before. Neat, the nose is sweet and full of dessert aromas, all marzipan and apple pie. The palate is more herbal in nature, with a hit of sweet hay. I made this into a little cocktail creation with the classic apple juice pairing. My version used cloudy apple juice, with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top for a festive edge - a perfect winter drink.


6th

Whisky
Spirit of Hven - Seven Stars No.2 Merak, 45%
Colour: Vibrant Copper
Nose: Black pepper and dark chocolate Toblerone giving honey nut sweetness,
Palate: A smooth chilli spiciness of black pepper that punches straight up front and with a light cinnamon heat that continues along the tongue.
Finish: The crisp heat continues for a lovely length of time, with a great hint of dark chocolate sweetness lingering on the palate.

Vodka
Ciroc Coconut, 37.5%
Originating from France, this grape-distilled vodka is a real twist on the sort of spirit I'm used to. The nose is packed full of sweet, sticky coconut accompanied by other tropical fruits including pineapple, meaning the aroma as a whole is rounded pina colada. Given time to breathe, a fresher scent that's more coconut water becomes apparent. The flavour is smooth, soft and sweet - just like a Bounty! After sampling this straight up, I just couldn't resist turning this into a White Russian cocktail with coffee liqueur, whole milk and a tiny squeeze of chocolate syrup. Mmm!

Cheers,

J&L

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Whisky Review #4: Glenrothes Select Reserve

I bought this whisky about a year ago from a chain supermarket for around £30 (there are often similar offers on, so worth keeping a look out). A no-age-statement dram bottled at 43% ABV, from a distillery with over 130 years of whisky production, this is marketed as a typical example of their signature style.

Colour: A light, straw-coloured dram.

Nose: The palate is of salty creme brûlée and an odd sweetness of strawberry bonbon, with hints of a light pepper heat. Given time to breathe, the pepper character grows to a prickle heat with slight clove.

Taste: Strong wafts of toffee and toasted coconut, coupled with sweet coffee. As the whisky opens up there's additional hints of sea spray, dry cereal, and custard. It's a smooth, fresh palate with a cheeky tickle of winter spice.

Finish: Vanilla and more sweet coffee present on the finish, which isn't a particularly long one flavour-wise, although the alcohol essence does provide a spice which lasts a good while in the mouth. The final note is a light, sweet barley end with just a little hint of sherry.

It's a decent all round whisky which has tempted me into trying the Glenrothes selection of vintages too. Definitely worth a try for the price tag.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Lakes Distillery

Set in a beautiful old barn that was once home to a Victorian model farm, a stones' throw from the River Derwent, at the northernmost tip of Lake Bassenthwaite lies the soon-to-be fully operational Lakes Distillery.

We were thrilled to be invited along to visit the distillery before the Grand Opening (pop 15th December in your diaries!) and even more delighted when we were greeted by "Is it too early for a whisky?" at 13.07 (you probably won't be surprised to read that a resounding "no" filled the room at this stage). The whisky in question, ahead of their own production, is the Lakes Distillery's blend, The One: a tasty, versatile, easy-drinking dram which worked just as well in the early afternoon as the evening (you can read our full review here). Whilst we sipped on our first taster, we got chatting to Katie Read - business development manager of the Lakes Distillery and the very epitome of a woman who loves her job, combining her passion for malt whisky with a drive to promote Cumbria in the very best way.


The building itself took Paul Currie, Founder and Managing Director, 9 months to find, due to the extremely strict regulations regarding new buildings in the Lake District. How
ever, this "impossible dream" has been achieved in spades - the distillery itself is stunning, and the use of original buildings gives it a feeling that it always been there, a natural fit to the surroundings. The abundant natural resources and the quality of the water source also ensure that the distillery remains at one with its environment.

Beautiful scenery surrounding the distillery
Whilst we listened to Paul share his insights about the distillery, we had an absolute feast of a buffet created by Michelin-starred chef Terry Laybourne, who will hold responsibility for the bistro once the distillery opens next month. Our lunch had the theme of a top-class autumnal English picnic - beef and horseradish sandwiches, and homemade pork pies, Scotch eggs and sausage rolls. The miniature puddings were beyond delicious - pistachio and raspberry macaroons which just melted in the mouth and were the perfect pairing for The Lakes Gin (review of this to follow), and a sumptuous chocolate caramel tart (which Laura ended up absolutely covered in - can't take her anywhere). We'll definitely be back in the future to sample the full menu, and this enterprise helps to ensure that the distillery's appeal will reach out beyond the spirit it produces.
Plans!
Once replete, we headed on over to the distillery building itself to take a look at where the magic will happen. Our tour was conducted by Master Distiller Chris Anderson - an Ileach! After a career spanning distilleries including Caol Ila and Aberfeldy, Chris has now come to take the helm at the Lakes Distillery. Chris is partnered by John Drake, distillery manager, who is passionate, super knowledgeable despite being relatively new to the whisky scene, and just generally an all-round top bloke. The whole whisky-making process takes part under the one roof, with the stainless steel mashtun and washbacks on one side, and the beautiful stills on the other. Traditional at heart, unusual touches adorn the workings of the distillery - our favourite was a little window on the stills, rather than the traditional copper door, meaning you'll be able to peek inside to have a look at just what exactly goes on in there!


As well as their gin, The Lakes Vodka production is due to begin in early December. Both these spirits will be produced in "Chemmy" - a rather cute still named after distillery ambassador and champion skier Chemmy Alcott.

Being situated outside of Scotland (although this will be the closest English distillery to the border), the Lakes Distillery won't be bound to the laws of "Scotch", and it seems they are going to use this very much to their advantage. One idea which really made us prick up our ears is the prospective concept of "Mad March", where each year this month will be spent doing something a little bit different - for example, as the distillery won't necessarily need to use oak casks, they are thinking about exciting possibilities including chestnut, birch and maple. In a world first, there's also the option to use a condenser made from copper and stainless steel, which is hoped will add more character to the final spirit. 

The Lakes Distillery is the perfect mix of old and new - it already feels full of tradition and heritage, yet with an industrial edge. This is mirrored by the whole ethos which we got from our trip: traditional ideas and knowledge make up the core values of the distillery, blended with experimental flair and innovation.

Watch this space!

Cheers,

J&L

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Advent Calendars 2014

They have arrived! Things of beauty, joy, and goodwill for all. Or for both of us at least.

Bonus bottle of festive Big Peat too!
We've gone for whisky and vodka this year, with gin, tequila, rum and cognac calendars also available from the lovely chaps over at Master of Malt.

You can view last year's round ups here, here, here and here - and since polishing off our Christmas Eve dram we've been waiting for pre-advent to roll back around. We'd heartily recommend them to anyone still trying to decide whether to invest in one... Yes, it's a fair dollop of cash, but the contents work out to be great value for money and we found absolute delight in things we wouldn't be able to afford full bottles of. A proper treat every day, and just the perfect way to warm yourself up for Christmas.

Bring on December 1st!

Cheers,

L&J

Friday, 7 November 2014

Great Balls of Fire: Whisky Tasting at the Broadfield

Is there anything as good as a drink and a curry? Well, we don't think so, and neither did the night's host - and when it comes to whisky tastings Ed (@whiskycurator) is an ace MC.

So for this event, the five whiskies and accompanying snacks were all selected with a bit of a kick in mind, whether it be from the spice of the food or the strength of the whisky. And so with a slight warning from Ed that we may need to "fight through the small pain barrier to enjoy the flavours beneath" we launched straight into the first cask strength whisky.

Benrinnes 16 Year Signatory Release (51.2%) is a beautiful sherry hogshead finished dram from a distillery that almost exclusively produces whisky for blends such as J&B. Opening with an aroma of grass and toffee with orchard fruit, the sweetness gave way to a punch of savoury heat on the palate, with a salty character tucked in there too. With a little drop of water, the initial sweetness really popped out as the whisky opened up to a wonderful almost fresh finish. This whisky overall demonstrates the finesse we've discovered in all of the Signatory bottlings we've been lucky enough to try.

Food pairing: Tarka Dhal and poppadoms

The second and strongest whisky of the evening at 60% came in the form of an award winning dram from Glenfarclas: Their 105 Cask Strength is highly regarded for its excellent value - priced at around £40. If the first whisky was a slap in the face this is outright hockey brawl... a heat that builds from the initial spark and continually grows for around 5-7 seconds. When the fire dies down a great molasses stickiness is left behind. Also on the palate we found sweet dark fruit, layered with a complex mixed spice. A splash of water again added great depth and enhanced the sherry character of the whisky.

Food pairing: Harissa straws

The third whisky came courtesy of a lesser known distillery - Dailuaine 15 Year - bottled by the fantastic folks at Master of Malt. Dailuaine again produce the majority of their whisky for blends (almost exclusively Johnny Walker). This use of whisky for blends means there is often far less money spent on the acquisition of casks, as in the long run it is less important than those producing single malt releases. So this bottling is somewhat of a rarity, and a frankly incredible find on the part of the guys over at Master of Malt, to happen upon this barrel in the right warehouse at the right time before it could be shipped off to what would have been a sorrowful end for this excellent cask. The 55.7% sherry-finished dram oozed with maple syrup and nutty earthiness in a far more smooth fashion than the previous few, with a gentle stickiness that allowed the spirit to glide down as you swallow. There was a lovely hint of lightly smoked sweet cured bacon, accompanied by an oily, rich finish.

Food: Goats and Chilli Arancini

After a short break, we returned to sample the Bowmore 10 Year Tempest Batch 3 - the only peated offering of the evening. This was a truly lovely, rounded whisky that did not solely punch of peat. The nose of tobacco sweetness prickled with a sweet, smoky, dried beef jerky that gave way into a burnt lavender. The palate held the classic Bowmore smoke and saltiness, with the expected savoury notes coupled with a fruity undertone of dried pineapple and fresh passion fruit that lingered with just a tickle of black pepper.

Food: Prawn tempura with soy and ginger dressing


Balcones Texas #1, the first single malt whisky to be made in Texas, rounded off the evening. This is also the first yard aged whisky, which happens to be as simple as it sounds. The crowd sourced tasting note for the initial nose got it bang on - the smell of opening a tin of Quality Street: heady notes of chocolate, toffee and light floral notes combined with an oddly appetising metallic character. The whisky had a silky, lightly oiled mouth feel, with a toasty malt sweetness and elements of overripe fruits. The finish left behind a soft sugar note with a great depth from the fresh American oak cask. Completely unique.

Food: Chilli jam (with a hint of Pedro Ximenez) and crispbreads


Another firecracker of an evening (see what we did there) was had by all - we'll be back in two short weeks for whisky and desserts!

Cheers,

J & L

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Whisky Review #3: Bunnahabhain 8 Year


We procured this bottle from the wonderful Lincoln Whisky Shop, a delightful shop a mere stones' throw from the castle... true purveyors of an excellent range of whisky, from all the proverbial corners of the world, as well as a vast selection of other spirits and wines.

We were tempted into buying the Gordon & MacPhail 8 Year Old Bunnahabhain, a highly peated whisky, after a wee nip of the delightful nectar from behind the counter. This struck us instantly as a surprising variation from Bunnahabhain's generally more un-characteristically Islay lesser-peated standard releases.

The scents on the nose are a cocktail of sweet apples and seaweed, coupled with an oaky tinge, that develops beautifully on the palate to a delicate, burnt tickly sweetness. Strong notes of more seaweed and sea salt come through the orchard toffee-ness to produce an interestingly varied, rounded flavour. There is a prickly warmth from the young(ish) spirit and a good level of peat heat that stays in the mouth and throat, giving a long, intense finish.

Overall, for the price this whisky is great "bang for your buck". I paid around £30 and it was definitely worth all of its meagre price tag. Bunnahabhain isn't usually one of our favourite malts, but this MacPhail bottling was a pleasing exception.

Slainte,

Jim

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Milestone Cookery School

The Milestone, for those who don't know, is one of Sheffield's greatest restaurants, serving high end food made from locally sourced seasonal produce, with a sincere passion (verging towards reverence) shown towards the ingredients. They run a variety of regular masterclasses, from day courses in pastry or pasta, to "A Pig in a Day", and half day courses in bread, Indian street food and the course I went on, all about sausage, bacon and black pudding. The cookery school experiences can be given as gifts in the form of vouchers bought from the restaurant or online here and this is how I found myself counting down the days to the visit.

When the day finally dawned, I arrived a little nervously clutching my golden ticket, to be greeted with a coffee and some pastries in the dining room downstairs, which is cosy and inviting for all occasions. After the full group of seven arrived, we made our way upstairs to what is usually another space for eating, which had been converted for the occasion into an makeshift cooking space with a single gas stove ring and a big knife each.


The Cooking

We started the proceedings by preparing the black pudding. This began its life as a tray of powdered blood and half a bottle of cider, to which we added lightly fried onions and some nutmeg, before passing it to Richard (our host for the day) to put in the kitchen's oven.

We moved on to the delectable bacon cure: a simple blend of equal parts sea salt and brown sugar, with the aromatic mixture of nutmeg and thyme to add a varied sweetness and a herby meatiness. Richard prepared the full pork belly joint for us, demonstrating an array of butchery techniques, leaving the short rib behind to provide us each with a tender fatty portion of meat ready to be cured.

As we placed the bacon to one side, word came from the kitchen that the black puddings were done, and they were brought forth, still in the steaming bain marie. As we were presented with the warm blood pudding, the next event was prepped. An exercise in plating up food, using the Milestone's very own burnt onion sauce, horseradish crackling and divine miniature apple jellies. I can't quite believe I managed to produce such a pretty plate of food!

The final activity was sausage making, an awkward skill for the clumsy set of hands I came with, but in the end a very worthwhile technique to know. We started by mixing to ground pork, a small amount of lightly fried onion with a great selection of fresh herbs, such as thyme and parsley as well as an ingredient that I had only heard in hushed whispers around whisky tastings... Smoke powder. This definitely lived up to my dreams - a seemingly magical white powder that filled the whole room with a smell of open fire. Once all the ingredients had been mixed and squeezed to the bottom of a piping bag we were ready for rolling.

The skin of these sausage was to be crepinette (known less exotically as caul fat). Rather than using the lower intestine, this French method of wrapping meat in bladder lining quickly became obvious as an easier method, than the filling of traditional sausage. Once piped as a strip onto the crepinette, all that was needed was a tight roll once and the outer would stick to itself. Once we had our sausages portioned, we cooked a few up and were presented with a hearty dollop of the restaurant's mash and their frankly delicious gravy.

Being able to leave with a bacon on the cure, a still warm black pudding and a fistful of sausages just meant I was hankering to cook it all.


The Eating 

What better way to eat a smashing homemade sausage than with Yorkshire puddings, roasted sweet potatoes, and lashings of tarragon gravy. The perfect Sunday tea.









Chicken, bacon and black pudding empanadas, and black pudding huevos rancheros.


The traditional English breakfast, remastered with a healthy dose of homemade bacon, some free range eggs and a pinch of chilli.


I'll definitely be making the bacon again, and would feel confident with the sausages and black pudding too once I'd paid a visit to a good butcher to acquire the right ingredients. All in all, the experience was a great day which taught me an array of new skills. Highly recommended.

Cheers,

Jim

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Toasted Sandwiches: Brewdog Sheffield

Everyone knows that sandwiches are the perfect hearty pub snack - one step up from the humble pork pie, but without needing to resort to a knife and fork. Sheffield's Brewdog have just announced a new toastie menu to accompany their range of hot Pieminister pies (you do get cutlery with this option!), and we were invited along to give them a try. On the night, Jim was stricken with an evil bug, so it was a solo Mrs Mashtun mission this time - it's a hard life!

The menu labels itself as "toasted sandwiches", but there were no flimsy triangles of disappointment here, oh no. Every sandwich is made on fresh ciabatta bread from Seven Hills Bakery, and stuffed full of tasty treats with an emphasis placed on quality local ingredients. They're also very reasonably priced, at between £4.50 and £6 for a filling sandwich with a couple of little accroutements on the side.

We were first treated to "The Big Italian" - a generous portion of Milano salami from the lovely folks at Porter Brook Deli, with goat's cheese, mozzarella, and little semi-dried tomatoes which gave a beautiful burst of Mediterranean freshness. I was covered in it after the first bite, so it's fair to say this was a little on the messy side, but cheese and meat on your face is an excellent way to get to know each other. A good sandwich for bonding. It came paired with Brewdog's Libertine Black IPA, and the citrussy, spicy nature of the beer cut through the richness of the sandwich really well.


On the side, we also got a little dish of Salty Dog steak flavour crisps, and a pot of the most adorable mini gherkins I've ever seen in my life. I'm an absolute cornichon whore and predictably I loved them.

The second toasted sandwich turned out to be my favourite. Cheese, cheese, and cheese, all melted onto the crusty bread to form a hefty portion of molten scrumptiousness. The cheeses in question were more mozzarella and goat's cheese, with a great tangy cheddar alongside. What made this one a cut above for me was that the whole piece of ciabatta is doused in Henderson's Relish (for those unawares, a Yorkshire and better version of Worcestershire sauce) before the cheese is melted onto it. After eating this, I don't think I ever want to eat a sandwich again that hasn't been treated to a Henderson's dip. A Weihenstephaner Hefeweisse was selected to go with this and the creamy freshness of the beer cut through the cheese at the same time as complementing it. The little accompaniment here was the world's longest sweet pickled chilli, which was delicious and another component of the meal which ended up coating my chin.


Up next was a Brewdog twist on the classic ham, cheese and pickle - the twist being that the pickle had beer in it! The menu advertises Punk IPA pickle, but on the night we were given 5am Saint chutney, to go with the beer we were drinking (5am Saint itself!). The sharp cheddar and frankly awesome chutney were both great ingredients but it was the thick cut ham from Trearly Farm in Wales (but again acquired from Porter Brook Deli) which made this sandwich stand out - just lovely. This would be a perfect lazy lunch.

The veggie option was also delicious - griddled aubergine and courgette, marinated in garlic oil, with an olive tapenade and some more of those lovely semi-dried tomatoes. Admittedly not the option I'd have originally picked as an out-an-out lover of meat, but definitely one I'd consider in the future although I think I'd choose to add on some goat's cheese (75p supplement). To go with this we were treated to the single-hopped Citra version of Brewdog's IPA is Dead, which provided a refreshing balance to the slightly salty sandwich.

Every Brewdog bar differs in kitchen facilities and this is reflected in their menus. The Sheffield team are proof that a lot can be done with just a single grill and a pie oven. The whole group was really impressed with the sandwiches on offer, and the fact that every ingredient has been clearly thought out and carefully sourced. These are toasties done proper, Sheffield style!

Cheers,

Laura

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Barley to Bake: Laphroaig and Coffee Cake

It's no secret that I love both baking and whisky. Until recently, for some utterly unknown reason I had never combined the two. However, when my fellow Islay-loving, whisky-drinking, baker extraordinaire friend Sarah of the Starbake Sisters posted an absolutely mouth-watering image of a Laphroaig coffee cake, I just HAD to pester her for the recipe! Sarah has been kind enough to share this, along with a little bit about why she loves the extraordinary Isle of Islay. Having made this cake myself I can absolutely attest to the recipe, and the result is delicious.

May I present...

A malt whisky cake inspired by the Queen of the Hebrides


"Islay: first discovered by the Starbuck family in Spring 2004, ever since that Easter holiday we all have a place in our hearts for this Hebridean island.  Its breath taking scenery and quaint, welcoming villages make it hard not to want to revisit… So we did just that, several times over the years.

Nestled between the expansive beaches and tumbling hills you will find Islay’s 8 malt whisky distilleries dotted over the island, and I can proudly claim to have visited them all. The huge quantities of peat that the island is built on make for remarkably distinctive flavours in the whiskies and yet each distillery has been boasting different tastes, smokiness and sweetness for hundreds of years.

I love food. It’s primarily this fact that sparks my interest and enjoyment of cooking and baking. I find little more satisfying than preparing nice food for family and friends, and seeing them (hopefully) enjoy it!  So it seemed a natural progression with my family’s long awaited return to Islay this summer to incorporate Islay malts into a new recipe. Not wanting to waste quality malt by being too extreme with my creativity, I decided to first come up with a cake recipe to use it in. 

Choosing a sponge flavour wasn’t too challenging. I felt a plain sponge wouldn’t quite enhance the whisky’s aromas, chocolate would have proved too sweet. I had also considered ginger, as my sister had tried out in Islay with Bruichladdich, but I didn’t want anything quite as strong to overpower the whisky, as I wanted the malt to be the main feature. Coffee cake struck me as the most appropriate.  
Now to choose a malt.  I went for Laphroaig 10 year old.  It’s a well-known whisky, with fantastic earthy peat flavours and sweet smokiness that I felt would be effective alongside a coffee cake recipe.  You could of course use your own favourite malt/blend, though I’m yet to experiment using other whiskies with other sponge flavours.

The trick with this recipe is not to add the whisky before baking. The characteristic flavours mentioned above get lost in the baking process.  So, still not willing to waste good malt, I used a trick I had seen in Primrose Bakery book when making mojito cakes with my little sister. They suggest making a syrup with rum, sugar and lime juice, and brushing it onto the still warm sponge fresh out of the oven. This method worked perfectly with just caster sugar and Laphroaig as well. Any syrup left over from the sponge I then added to the golden icing sugar buttercream.  This addition was even more effective and maintains the sweet, distinctly Laphroaig, smoky flavour throughout.


I was delighted with the results and even more delighted to hear my dear friend, Mrs Mashtun, wanted to try it too. I hope she and Mr Mashtun have enjoyed it as much as I and my family and friends have. 

Sláinte!"

Ingredients

Cake: 
150g caster sugar
150g butter
150g self raising flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, beaten
1tbsp hot (not boiling) water
1tbsp instant coffee

Syrup: 
4tbsp whisky to 2tbsp caster sugar

Buttercream: 
225g golden icing sugar
100g butter
About 1-2 tsp of the whisky syrup

Preheat the oven to 160, and line and grease 2 sandwich tins.

To make the cake, beat the sugar and butter together before gradually adding the eggs. Add the sifted flour and baking powder and fold in. Next, dissolve the coffee in hot water and add to the mixture.
Divide into tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. 

Whilst the cake is baking, warm up the whisky and sugar slowly over a low-mid heat until all the sugar has dissolved, and allow to cool a touch.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool enough to remove it from the tins, and cool on a wire rack. While the sponge is still warm, brush the tops with the whisky syrup (leaving a splash for the buttercream).

Beat the icing sugar and butter together to make the buttercream. When combined, add the remaining whisky syrup, and apply to the sponges once they are cooled.

A little Mashtun holiday photo!
And finally, for any cake fans lucky enough to be dwelling in Edinburgh, you can find the work of cake decorating genius Starbake Sister #2, Emily, at Banco.

Enjoy!

Laura xx

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Peddler: Street Food Market

It's been one of those weekends that's just made us realise how lucky we are living in such a fantastic city. There's always something new and exciting going on, and on the food scene this week, the first Peddler street food night market took place.

The event was held in a car park in a generally fairly desolate part of the City Centre, which sounded a bit odd, but the industrial style atmosphere worked really well and plenty of people had wandered down on the Saturday afternoon when we visited. Unsurprising really as there were live bands on throughout the day and the smell of all the delicious street food was wafting around the vicinity. Very inviting and well publicised.


Sheffield favourites Percy and Lily's and Nether Edge Pizza were among the treats on offer, alongside cocktails and coffees from Tamper and beers served from a quirky converted horse trailer, now The Hop Box. It was great to see traders from other cities make the trip too, so we deliberately went for choices we wouldn't ordinarily see on our streets.

Piggie Smalls hot dogs got instant points for their puns. Double smoked, pretty darn huge gourmet hot dogs served with a side order of pig-based wisecracks. Jim plumped for the Amy Swinehouse, which was topped with pulled pork (slow cooked for twelve hours) and a tangy yet sweet BBQ sauce. Top marks for crackling, too.


Mei Mei's Street Cart, hailing from London but currently based in Manchester, took Laura's fancy, with the Beijing classic Jian Bing on the menu. Not something we'd ever even heard of before, this was sort of a cross between a crepe and a Chinese omelette. I went for the fried chicken option, which was stuffed full of spring onions and coriander, beer pickled carrots (which we're seriously tempted to try to recreate ourselves), hoisin and chilli sauce, hot crispy chicken and a wonton cracker. It was vibrant, fresh, different, and really, really tasty. After eating the Jian Bing we went back for their sweet potato chilli fries, served with sriracha mayo. Just scrummy. Overall worth a trip to Manchester!


Peddler is set to be a monthly event, and we look forward to seeing this grow and hopefully have even more traders at the next one.

Cheers,

J&L

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Favourite Pubs: The Bath Hotel

There are few things we want from a great pub... namely some great cask beer, bar snacks, comfortable surroundings and the opportunity to finish the night on a "Big Drink". For us the Bath Hotel has all of this in spades.

With six cask beers on draught and two ciders served the same way, the first box is certainly ticked and with a couple of keg fonts available too there is always something for everyone. This pub is under the umbrella of brewery stalwarts Thornbridge, although at the Bath the bar manager Edd entertains a larger selection of beer than most of their other pubs around Sheffield. As there are three guest ales to accompany the 3 Thornbridge casks, the range of beers is always excellent with something new to try.

On the snacking front there is a great array of salted crunchiness including the usual nuts, pretzels, and crisps, but more importantly there are fresh sausage rolls - served warm and prepared onsite to Edd's own recipe and by his fair hands. Tick number two.

The two rooms of the Bath are separated by the bar, with both traditionally decorated, warmly upholstered and lit by large windows. The smaller of the two is quiet and cosy and catered to by a small serving hatch, with the larger being the host of the tap room. The pub itself is tucked away just behind West Street, and is a friendly haven away from the hubbub of the city centre.

The fourth and final tick is certainly a big one, both in terms of drink and tick. The Bath Hotel often has one of its fonts dedicated to a higher strength beer, that is the perfect end to a night. Our favourite example of this is the Arbor Goo Goo G'Joob (try saying that after you've had a couple) - a 12% Maple Imperial Stout and an absolute stonker of a beer. In addition, there is a small but varied and interesting whisky selection that consists of single malts and higher end blends.

The Bath Hotel also plays host to a variety of events, and we're both incredibly excited about their upcoming festival Sheffbrewfest - an independent beer festival which is the brainchild of some of the most passionate people on the Sheffield beer scene. The brewery line up is just ridiculously promising - we spent a good while mulling over which of our favourite breweries aren't actually going to be there (there weren't any). Sheffbrewfest takes place from the 2nd to the 5th of October and there's a rumour that the Mashtuns will be making an appearance behind the bar...

Cheers,

J&L

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Lakes Distillery: The One

Newly making footprints on the whisky scene, The Lakes Distillery has released its statement of intent. The One is a blend of whiskies sourced from around the British Isles, and seems an ingenious way to get people talking about the distillery whilst the building work is still being completed. Here's what we thought...

Nose: Fresh and fruity, initially the nose is almost cider-esque - quite a surprise! This deepens over time with wood and cereal scents coming through and a gentle hint of ginger and cinnamon spice. Right in the background is a tiny hint of olive brininess.

Palate: Sweet, syrupy and smooth. Crisp tannins, almost like a good white wine. Toffee hits the back of the tongue which balances the whole dram nicely. Great easy-drinking whisky, with continually developing complexities.

Finish: The spiciness from the palate lasts really well - a lovely little lingerer that doesn't overpower. A reminder that blends shouldn't be overlooked! Laura slurped her glass clean.

We're also intrigued by the idea of the Founder's Club, whereby members are sent bottles of the first whisky to be produced at the distillery every year as it matures. Proper whisky history in the making!

With gin and vodka set to be produced too (The Lakes Gin is set to be launched this weekend at the Taste Cumbria Food Festival), it's clear that the Lakes Distillery is gearing up for massive things and we will definitely be following their progress.

Cheers,

J&L

Thanks to Ash at the Lakes Distillery for the sample!

Islay 2014: Ardbeg

It's no secret that we absolutely bloody love Ardbeg's whiskies. After a great morning at Lagavulin, we meandered the 1.1 miles along the coast to this site of whisky pilgrimage.
Conveniently arriving just as it approached lunch time, we ate at Ardbeg's acclaimed Old Kiln Cafe, a dining area situated on what was once the malting floor of the distillery. There's oodles of local produce on the menu, and Mrs M's haggis and red onion marmalade jacket potato was definitely a highlight. A delicious Ardbeg Uigedail accompanied the meal (unsurprisingly) very well.

Before our tour, we had a couple of hours to spare in the glorious sunshine with a few drams. The scenery on Islay as a whole is stunning and nowhere more so than along the south coast. I think a few photos might speak for themselves here...


It was then time to head back inside for the tour to begin. Our guide, Gillian, firstly ran us through a brief history of the distillery. Plenty of photos of historical owners the MacDougall family adorn the walls of the old malt house, and we were able to explore areas of the distillery which are now no longer in use including the old wooden malt bins. This introductory element to the tour was really interesting and something a bit different to the other distilleries we've visited.

We were somewhat surprised to find out that Ardbeg is the second smallest distillery on Islay after Kilchoman (having been the largest in the late 1800s), given the prominence and reputation of the distillery. This definitely shows how having a big company behind them (Ardbeg has been owned by LVMH since 2004), with excellent marketing strategies, has worked to their advantage, but by visiting Ardbeg you definitely get behind the corporate sheen and it's clear that the traditional heart of the distillery is still beating strong.

Ardbeg takes advantage of the service provided by the maltings at Port Ellen, so our tour entered the production stage at the mill. 4.5 tons of the peatiest malt on the island (55ppm) is run through the Boby mill before reaching the mashtun. After the nine-hour mashing process is complete, the wort is piped through to the washbacks. The Tun Room is one of my favourite rooms of any distillery, with a rich, warm, beery scent, and they always seem to have an amazing view!

A leisurely wander through the magical stillhouse later, we visited the filling store to witness a few casks being brought back to life by the Ardbeg new make. A huge 80% of their total output goes into single malts, and Ardbeg uses the "marriage" system (not something we were previously familiar with) to create their core range, whereby the whisky contained within 2 casks is mixed together rather than being moved into another cask for finishing.  Of course, no tour would be complete without a dram, and Corryvreckan was today's whisky of choice... definitely in Mrs M's top 5 of all time!

Slainte,

J&L