Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: November 2014

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!



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!


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.