Smoke in the Water | Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Smoke in the Water

Ah, another day, another whisky tasting. This was our second StarmoreBoss experience, and not only was it focused around our favourite peaty whiskies (hence the "Smoke in the Water" title), but it just so happened to be hosted in our lovely local, The Sheaf View. Hideously convenient!

The five whiskies selected for the occasion were all from Scotland, but not all from quite the areas you might expect. Proceedings were presided over by the super knowledgeable and all round top bloke Jeff, as was our previous StarmoreBoss tasting (which you can read all about here), and followed the format of sampling the whiskies to get a good unbiased opinion before discovering what kind of a dram was in your glass.

1. We started the evening with whiffs of apples, pears, and a fresh piny palate. This whisky held quite a sweet smoke and was not overly peaty but still had that familiar warmth. As expected of the first dram of the night, this was the lightest of the bunch which made it not as popular with the peat purists in the room (although saying that, it's whopping 50% abv packed a punch!) This was revealed to be (somewhat unusually) a Speyside whisky - Old Ballantruan 'The Peated Malt' from Tomintoul distillery. It had a very long lingering finish given the strength, which took us nicely on to the next dram of the night.

2. We could tell straight away that this dram had a higher ppm rating but less abv than the first, as it felt harsher on the nose but smoother on the palate. Key flavours we pulled out were raw rolling tobacco, and brambles, and the taste continually opened up as you drank it. This had quite a short finish but the lingering notes reminded us both of the sea. This whisky turned out to be the Islay Ileach Peaty which had been the final whisky chosen at the previous StarmoreBoss tasting, so it was particularly interesting to have it under a different context as a more entry-level flavour. We were actually on Islay this time two years ago on our honeymoon, so we had a nice little reminisce over our dram.
Best enjoyed in an Islay garden!
3. Ah here it is, that unmistakeable seaweedy aroma! As well as this there was a fruitier smell of raisins, a bit Christmas Pudding-esque. The flavour was of burnt honey which tingled on the lips, and was surprisingly sweet to say this is a whisky which is peated to 50ppm. This dram came from the Campeltown distillery of Springbank - Longrow Heavily Peated. Springbank has a great story and every task involved in the production of their whisky is done at the distillery itself. We'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys Islay whiskies but is looking for something a little lighter. 

4. In a nutshell, this one smelled like leather and tasted like a firework. Spiced rich undertones were complemented by fruitier top notes and a long warming finish. This was the Benromach Peat Smoke, which was the peatiest of the night at 67ppm (and not something you usually get from a Speyside distillery). Benromach has produced some fantastic whiskies (their Sassicaia Wood Finish being Laura's all-time favourite), and this definitely met with our expectations. 

5. Ridiculously smoky! Our final dram had a nose like an antique piece of furniture and a taste like sipping on a BBQ. The hickory flavour was very woody and with a surprisingly short finish. We guessed straight away that this originated from Islay, and we were correct, this being the Caol Isla 1999 Connoisseurs Choice, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. The overwhelming smokiness meant that this was most definitely a worthy way to end the night.

All the whiskies we sampled were reasonably priced to buy by the bottle, so the event was ideal for anyone looking for a new favourite. Coupled with a few very nice hoppy beers and one of the Sheaf's famous pork pies, I think it's fair to say it was a great evening, and we headed home humming along to Deep Purple.


Laura and Jim 

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