Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: review
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Bruichladdich Octomore 06.3 - Islay Barley

It's Feis Ile on Islay this week, and we are so near yet so far away... spending the week on the beautiful island of Arran. In honour of Bruichladdich day, however, we thought it was only right to bring something a little bit special with us. Behold! The first Octomore to be made with 100% Islay barley. Prestigious, unique, and definitely a big hitter.


Colour: Silken amber

Nose: Although peated to 268ppm (wowza) the nose on this is initially remarkably restrained on the smoke. It's undoubtedly prominent, but beautifully balanced by a sweetness akin to proper Scottish tablet ice cream on a buttery, digestive biscuit base, with a grating of dark chocolate atop. Sweet, spicy, and ever so alluring - you can still smell the malt floor that this was born on.

Palate: So THAT'S where all those sneaky little phenols are. The 64% ABV is apparent without overpowering the dram, still allowing a multitude of beautifully balanced flavours to pour forth. There's dark and citrus fruits (a light sparkle of cloudy lemonade, with a maraschino cherry garnish), oodles of gloriously fresh tobacco, and a good dollop of vanilla clotted cream. Finally, the malt comes through at the end with a cinnamon and toffee edge.

Finish: Warms you up right down to the soles of your feet. The peat lingers, but gently mellows as time progresses to leave behind a moreishly sweet glow. Cosy from your bonnet to your slippers.

Slainte,

J&L

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

El Cartel, Edinburgh

Somewhat hidden down the little alley of Thistle Street, Edinburgh, walking into El Cartel was like wandering into a Day of the Dead themed treasure trove. Recently re-opened after being closed due to fire in January, it's clear that the team are back with a bang... despite it's fairly small size, the restaurant was absolutely buzzing with a vibrant, festival-esque atmosphere.

We (Laura, and little sister Amy in this instance) sat down and perused the drinks menu... a whole booklet dedicated almost entirely to tequila, with a couple of pages for mezcal. We eventually settled on the frozen kiwi margaritas, and they were a real treat - fresh, just the right level of tartness, delicious and very unique.


The menu was reassuringly short and it was clear straight away that this is a place which takes pride on serving top quality stuff. The format was a little like ordering tapas - we were encouraged to choose a couple of small dishes to share along with some tacos, with the promise that we could just keep on calling for more until we were replete.


We went for the bombers - molten cheese middles, super creamy and full of spice, with a crunchy outer - served in a really tasty sauce which I think may have been something akin to chipotle mayo. We could both have eaten a truckload of the drunken beans, made with tequila, and the mini quesadillas stuffed with chorizo, sweet potato and more of that yummy soft cheese were piquant and full of flavour. Everything got a little bit smothered in El Cartel's signature hot sauce, too.


On to the tacos! Each order comprised two tacos, so we ordered two different kinds and shared. Amy's choice of steak was tender and perfectly griddled, a good hit of spice balanced with a generous slice of avocado.

Laura selected the duck tacos (quack-os?) which were gloriously flavourful and unlike anything I've ever tried before. Shredded duck was topped with salsa and pineapple before being scattered with sunflower seeds which added a good little crunch.


This is food which doesn't shy away. A wonderful meal all round, and to top it off, our bill came in an adorable little sugar skull. Arriba!

Laura

Monday, 4 May 2015

Whisky Review: SMWS 3.243

Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy

Feis Ile is undoubtedly one of the key events in any whisky lover's calendar, with thousands converging from around the world on the beautiful island of Islay to celebrate all things whisky. For the first time this year, the folks at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, already renowned for their unique bottlings of a huge variety of Islay drams, are plunging into the festival atmosphere with their very own Feis Ile release. Bottling 3.243, 'Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy' is a 17 year old peated Bowmore, aged in refill ex-sherry butts and bottled at 57.1%.


On the nose, the sherry cask is hugely prominent. Sweetness abounds, with festive dried fruits - raisins and figs - and just a hint of fresh raspberries. There's some gentle smokiness which doesn't overpower, just enough to give a real meatiness to the aroma. Reminiscent of a summer's BBQ, at that point of the day where the sun is just falling below the horizon, and the embers are all dying down.

The palate has a blast of spice, and a more intense meaty nature, but always balanced by that sumptuous sweetness - like dipping a chillied chorizo in a sherbet fountain. The combination of 'meat and sweet' is wonderful... tempted chuck a few chunks of smoked sausage in our Christmas cake this year with the aim of recreating it. As we continue to sip, a dark chocolate note starts to come through, with pink peppercorns that tingle on the lips.

The finish leaves behinds lashings of sea salt, with that unmistakeably Islay coastal brininess and a peaty nature which lingers on long after the last sip has been swallowed. Glorious.

The SMWS Tasting Panel recommended drinking this whisky 'between dances at a Spanish barbeque party' - whilst we didn't quite have the music available for our own flamenco masterclass, we couldn't resist spending Bank Holiday Monday cracking out the BBQ. Our salsa verde lamb shoulder was a great accompaniment to this hearty dram - especially the somewhat more chargrilled pieces!

'Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy' will be available for members and non-members alike to get their hands on at the SMWS Feis Ile Open Day, 22nd May 2015, at Islay House. Well worth a visit if you're lucky enough to be attending the festival.

Slainte,

J&L


Thanks to SMWS for the sample!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Mr Flavour Review

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that we love both eating out, and cooking up a bit of a storm at home. Sitting neatly in between the two, Mr Flavour is a brand new Sheffield business, which aims to deliver restaurant style meals to your door - an interesting and original concept which we were certainly curious to try.

We were invited to try out the service before the launch, and were presented with the pressed shoulder of lamb with rosemary crushed potatoes, confit garlic and aubergine puree, sauteed courgettes and grape chutney. Lamb jus and a herb crust were also included for extra special "cheffy" touches. The ingredients arrived in a simple paper bag, with everything pre-prepped ready to be heated. Each food item was labelled (with allergen information and use-by dates clearly displayed) and an easy to follow instruction sheet was also included.


Oven ready 
All that was really required was cooking the lamb (which we chose to pan fry quickly before popping it in the oven, as recommended on the instruction sheet for an extra layer of flavour - this also made the kitchen smell glorious), frying the courgettes until tender, and heating up the other ingredients, "boil in the bag" style. There was nothing that hadn't been thought of, and the whole process took just twenty minutes, so this service would be perfect as an after-work treat at the end of a busy day and is much more special than a takeaway.

Plating the meal up was fun, with tips provided on how to make the dish look as though it'd come from a restaurant kitchen... not a skill we've quite mastered (don't think we have the crockery for it!), but it still looked pretty enticing by the time everything was on the plate.

And so, on to the eating! Each ingredient was carefully thought through, meaning that everything worked perfectly together and tasted fantastic. The balance of flavours was excellent, and the instructions resulted in well-cooked lamb which fell apart as soon as the fork got anywhere near it, exactly how we like it. What was especially pleasing for us is that the components we enjoyed the most were those which we wouldn't think to make ourselves at home - the confit garlic and aubergine puree was full of flavour and the grape chutney added a deliciously tangy burst of freshness. The portion sizes were generous but manageable - just right. The only disadvantage was that we had to do our own washing up (although even this was considerably less than if we'd cooked a meal such as this from scratch!).


We did notice from the first week's menu that there doesn't seem to be a vegetarian main meal openly available at the moment, although this is certainly the sort of thing that can be developed as the business grows. However, it's definitely worth getting in touch with Mr Flavour himself, who is on hand to answer any questions (by email, at mrflavour.sheffield@gmail.com, or on twitter), and is also happy to make a whole host of bespoke orders provided they're pre-ordered, including fresh pasta and pastry dough, to make your own favourite dishes that much easier to prepare. Taking it one step further, you can even order a dinner party menu with key ingredients of your choice - a great idea for less confident cooks, or just so you can sit back and spend more time with your guests.

Overall, cooking this dish was straightforward and fun to make. The end result was definitely a meal we'd have been pleased to have eaten at a restaurant (and very good value), and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend the service to others (delivery is currently available across S7, S8, S10, S11, S17 and S18).

Cheers,

L&J

The ingredients for the meal were all provided free-of-charge for review purposes, opinions all our own

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Buxton Brewery: Battle Horse

Buxton have fast become one of our go-to breweries, with every beer of theirs which we've sampled being creative, original and oh-so-tasty (here's looking at you, Wyoming Sheep Ranch). We thought that for our first blog post reviewing a single beer, they'd be a great place to turn, and we found something a bit special to shout about...

Buxton Brewery's 100th brew since moving to their current brew kit is Battle Horse: a bold Double Black IPA bottled at 10.5%. First things first, it looks ace - Buxton's branding is contemporary, clean and eye-catching, and the beer itself is a pure, deep black.

Battle Cat Horse
The nose sings of pine and oak, almost as if aged, but at the same time it is vibrant and fresh with oodles of dark berries.
The malt bill, containing prominent roasted malts, is bold and chocolatey, bringing a dry roasted coffee body. With tropical passion fruit lying in wait underneath all that richness, despite the high ABV it is beautifully soft and deceptively easy to drink. This shows how the imperial-style malty notes in the beer are balanced by the more classical IPA characteristics: the variety of hops in the brew give a great oiliness and body whilst also providing a very fresh, almost floral character throughout the drink. So complex, but it all comes together with absolute panache and completely fills the head with chewy, extravagant goodness.

This landmark brew from this wonderful Derbyshire brewery is truly something to behold - I highly recommend keeping an eye out for it.

Cheers,

Jim

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

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 Cuvée 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

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.