Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Day After The Night Before... Greenwich Hospital Porter

Today I made the compulsory post-Christmas march into town armed only with my wallet and a sturdy leather bag. There was only one purpose to my mission – to raid the supermarkets of their discounted festive foodstuffs. A solitary day after Boxing Day and Marks & Spencer’s is transformed into an Aladdin’s Cave of smoked salmon, turkey crowns, duck pate, Stilton and knock-off Buck’s Fizz. With a suitably empty freezer you could live off Christmas food for another month for the price of a single week’s food shop; apart from the obvious drawbacks of turning your liver into Fois Gras, being riddled with gout and pushing your belly beyond the final stud on your belt and into extra-orbital space. This aside it is incredibly satisfying to know that the rich and delicious food you are stuffing in and around your mouth is a third of the price it was three days ago.

Whilst I was eyeing up half-price gammon joints and weighing up the cost against a juggernaut of a salmon terrine, my eyes fell upon an interesting specimen hidden amongst a confusion of Cava and pre-mixed Champagne cocktails. This specimen was a bottle of Greenwich Hospital Porter aged in Islay whisky barrels for four months. A London Porter from the guys at the Meantime Brewing Company is always a treat, but to have some whisky cask influence is always special. A few months ago I tried a glass of their epic Grog. This special release was a combination of eleven malts and one hop variety, aged in Islay whisky casks and bottled at a steamy strength. Aside from the fun of ordering a pint of Grog over the bar, the beer was sensational. So I was excited to try the Hospital Porter.

Greenwich Hospital Porter
6% - Aged in Islay whisky barrels – Brewed at the Meantime Brewery
Nose: Fairly oaky with rich malt notes and Brazil nuts, underneath is a faint suggestion of peat.
Palate: Light body with oak and charcoal notes with.
Finish: Apricot, dry malt and roast chestnuts.
Overall: Not the most spectacular porter I’ve tried but enjoyable nonetheless. There is a curious ashy quality and a fine nuttiness but I would have enjoyed more body and length.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas! (and a Dalmore Cigar Malt)

Merry Christmas from me and Mrs Peatreek!
Well it’s finally Christmas, marking the end of the busiest two weeks of my working life. So I was well in the need for some Compass Box Hedonism chased with a glass of Last Vatted Grain and some Port in front of the film epic that is Matilda to put me in the festive spirit. This morning Buck’s Fizz was the order of the day with a bottle of 2000 Chateau Lanessan with venison Christmas lunch. The drink will continue to flow with Blackwood’s 60% Gin, 2009 Meursault from Frederic Magnien, then Port and an angelic host of Christmas whiskies.

Choosing a whisky for Christmas is always a challenge but this year there is a clear winner. After years of scepticism of the Dalmore range I am finally discovering their grandiose charms. The 15 Year Old revealed a fantastic finish to me, the 18 Year Old a chocolate smothered palate and the King Alexander the most sensuous nose. However it is the latest release that has topped them all (and it contains no E150a!) this is the Dalmore Cigar Malt, the replacement to the Gran Reserva and an eye-opening dram.

Dalmore Cigar Malt
44% - No Age Statement – Distillery Bottled
Nose: Hoyo de Monterrey cedar cigar box notes with classic Dalmore toffee, rich red fruits, port, leather and a mustiness I associate with old attics.
Palate: Fairly light body with toast and tobacco spice notes.
Finish: Tobacco leaf, rich but with a soft sherried conclusion.
Overall: An aptly named whisky, apparently the ideal cigar pairing is with a Partagas Series P No. 2 although I’d argue a cigar of that calibre would overwhelm the lighter notes of this whisky, but then I don’t smoke, so the allure of cigars is somewhat lost on me. Merry Christmas everyone, Slainte!

Monday, 19 December 2011

My Lucky Day... Glenlivet 40 Year Old

There are some days at work that certainly pay off. Especially if you are offered a dram of forty year old whisky to brighten your day. Today I was as lucky when Joel and Neil from that there Cask-Strength blog rocked up with a bottle of forty year old single cask Glenlivet. I have always maintained a scepticism about old age whisky that although it can be excellent it does propagate the myth that whisky is exclusive to the privileged, when bottles such as the Longrow C.V. and Aberlour A'Bunadh scream otherwise. Politics aside, some forty plus whiskies are rather damn good, and the whisky I was being offered was thoroughly top notch. Cheers guys!

Glenlivet 40 Year Old Atlantic
41.6% - 40 Years Old - Distillery Bottled 16/09/2005 - Sherry Cask
Nose: Ginger provides a warm welcome coupled with tropical fruits notably pineapple and dried mango. With time a herbacious nature reveals itself with rosemary, mint, anise and a drop of pine resin.
Palate: A fantastical burst of spice; cardamon, ginger, cloves and vanilla mingling like spice merchants on the taste buds.
Finish: Menthol, oak, cream and spiced cake dough entwine in an excellently long finish.
Overall: So incredibly fresh. Unlike any forty year old I've tried before yet with a complexity that hammers home its venerable age. This is a masterclass in old age whisky.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Peatreek Whisky Mince Pies

Ready to go in the oven.
Despite being snowed under at work, like a Glenfiddich Cask in 2010, I have found time to embark on a little experiment. My theory was that whisky is an ideal accompaniment to any Christmas cuisine, then I hypothesised that mince pies may be an excellent example of this. Mincemeat has brandy or rum stirred through it so why not whisky?

The base of my mincemeat was Bramley apples, medium cider and soft dark brown sugar. Then enhanced with some lemon zest and juice, almonds, raisins, currents, and a spice combination. Once this had stewed and cooled I stirred through a generous dose of whisky. The choice of whisky was a no-brainer, only the Compass Box Spice Tree would do. Its cardamon, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon flavour profile would perfectly harmonise with the mincemeat.

The first lesson I learnt was that although the mincemeat tasted fantastic (I apologise for the vanity, but it really did), it didn't taste overly whiskyfied. Maybe the Spice Tree complimented the mincemeat too well? So my next move was to make whisky butter. Now I make rum butter (one part butter, one part light brown sugar, a little Nutmeg and complete saturation with rum) to go with Frei Kirk. Frei Kirk is a Scottish Christmas pudding from a recipe passed down through my Dad's side of the family. The recipe is a secret so I am forbidden to divulge it here, although please feel free to drop by my flat on Christmas day for a taste. So my plan was to substitute the rum for the Spice Tree and by jingo did it work. I separated the lids from the (cooked) mince pies and spread the whisky butter over the mincemeat before replacing the lid. What I was left with was a mince pie with a distinct whisky flavour that didn't overpower the mincemeat but added more depth and warmth to a Christmas staple.

I am now thinking of stirring whisky through the pastry instead of water, maybe some Bowmore Tempest (Batch 3), who knows?

Peatreek Whisky Mince Pies & Butter
ABV Unknown - No Age Statement - Baked at Peatreek HQ
Nose: Pastry
Palate: Stewed apple, spice, sweet butter and Scotch Blended Malt Whisky.
Finish: Moreish!
Overall: The start of further whisky-food-combinations.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Stormy Weather - Springbank Cask Strength

There's been a fair amount of tempestuous weather recently with 100mph winds, cold spells and lashings of rain. It seems that after a mild autumn, winter has finally launched its icy claws upon us. Personally I love stormy weather because, like being on a mountain, it reminds us of the raw power of nature. That we are sitting on a small rock in an angry universe with the odds stacked against us. Plus there's nothing like being stuck inside whilst the elements batter the walls like a Viking berserker on amphetamine.

I was going to suggest a warm and satisfying whisky to drink whilst the weather kicks off like a two-year old on E150a, but then I decided to review a whisky that is as stormy as the weather. This whisky is the Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength, a whisky with more teeth than the Jabberwocky and the ferocity of the European perception of David Cameron.

Springbank Cask Strength
58.5% - 12 Years Old - Distillery Bottling
Nose: A rusty old tug boat leaking engine oil and spewing smoke, pulling into a busy harbour of maritime aromas. With water some of those grapey Springbank notes appear.
Palate: The calm eye of the storm with heather, herbs and caramel.
Finish: Thick heavy smoke, positively industrial. Massive and long (ahem).
Overall: This whisky is a storm of industrial aromas, it harks back to Cambeltown's glory days and the Industrial Revolution. Part of me thinks I shouldn't like it but I'd be lying if I said so. Beware, this whisky takes no prisoners.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

One To Calm The Nerves... Caol Ila 18 Year Old

There was a panic in my girlfriend's eyes like I had never seen before, I could understand her manic frustration perfectly. We had been pounding the cold dark streets of the Isle of the Dogs on a desperate mission to find a most important temporal artefact. As we muscled our way into every shop we passed, we tore down the aisles not hesitating to put back the items we had thrown off the shelves in our frantic search. As each shop became a venue of disappointment, as the shadows grew longer and as the wind became more piercing, we began to take on the hunched dribbling shapes of incensed maniacs. Our search was becoming a forlorn hope, a quest without its Holy Grail, a maze without an exit. Then, without warning, a beam of light struck us, and as we shielded our eyes from its brilliance we could just make out a name... Tesco. Inside this humble bazaar we would find our goal amongst its trinkets and delectables. Here we found our salvation. Here we found the last available Advent Calenders on the Isle of the Dogs on the third of December. Three days into the month and every calender this side of Poplar had sold out. We were left with a Mars calender for myself and a Pixar Cars 2 calender for Ellen (she's never seen the film). We could return home clinging to our wares exhausted, happy - adventurous.

After all that stress it was time for a whisky and what better whisky to settle back and crack three windows of Mars chocolate with than a Caol Ila 18 year old?

Caol Ila 18 Year Old
43% - Distillery Bottling
Nose: Gusty Highland sea shore with smoking ship's beams cut with kiwi and passion fruit and a splash of cream. Finished with a wallop of peat.
Palate: Sizeable peat influence with a light but sea salty body powdered with white pepper.
Finish: Peat and pepper with parma violets and some herbal action, good length.
Overall: A well made peated whisky, if a little uninspiring. Tasty but not eye-opening.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Growing Up... Kilchoman 100% Islay

I came to a strange realisation recently that I had crossed 'the line'. I was entering the grey and dangerous world of adulthood, I was growing up. Computer games hold little charm, I find certain comedy routines to be tired and unoriginal, and I struggle to see the point of Quentin Tarantino. Then I thought about it, was I becoming more and more immature? I can't deny that I enjoy animated kids films, the Incredibles and Toy Story are undeniably movie greats, and I did spontaneously buy a Lego set when walking around Canary Wharf the other day. Then it dawned on me, growing up isn't about rejecting the spontaneity and vibrancy of youth and it isn't about becoming entrenched, reactionary and right-wing. It is the selection of the best of both worlds through the well polished lens of experience (i.e. Lego is fun, Tarantino is overrated). We make decisions based on our experiences to maximise our overall pleasure (apologies for the Utilitarianism), ergo growing up should be about maximising pleasure... probably.

When thinking about growing up. It dawned on me that I used to almost exclusively drink heavily peated whiskies but more and more I shy away from them. Although I still enjoy peaty beasts I rarely seek them out. Today I tried a peated whisky that was so satisfyingly peaty that it brought me back to those early years drinking Islay whiskies as if they were an antidote to the Lowland and Speyside whiskies I was trying to get my head round. The whisky was the latest release from the guys at Kilchoman, the 100% Islay bottling. The concept being that the whisky is entirely produced on the Island from the barley to the bottling, and it demonstrates excellent interaction with the peat. This is a whisky that, like me, is growing up.

Kilchoman 100% Islay
50% - No Age Statement
Nose: Mounds of hay smoke, soft and warming with gentle iodine notes. Underneath there is the suggestion of mascerated red fruit and a hint of citrus.
Palate: Warm smoky charcoal, a grassy quality I associate with Kilchoman and a meaty mouth-coatingly oily texture.
Finish: Slow but builds into a campfire in your stomach with autumnal fruits following.
Overall: Exceptional balance, there is plenty of Islay peat here. It is a central flavour but it doesn't exceed its limits at any point. Another example of how great this distillery is and how brilliant it will continue to be.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Rediscovering The Classics: Talisker 10 Year Old

Some readers of this blog may have noticed that there haven't been many posts this week. Unfortunately I have been taken sick. Drinking, and even the thought of drinking, has been far from my mind. My greatest affliction is an unwillingness to seek help, I come from the school of thought that insists all illness is just a sniffle and people should just 'man-up' and get on with life. The extremity of this became apparent to my girlfriend when I took a fortnight to go to the doctor's when I went down with a rather nasty case of tonsillitis. It wasn't until I realised my tonsils had turned black and were leaking pus did I surrender and took my 'cold' to the doctor. The most horrid part of any illness is the point at which you can't face a drink. Whisky may cure a cold but stomach infections, tonsillitis and chicken pox lay outside of its glorious remit. So having not tried anything new this week I thought I'd talk about the single malt that started it all...

I've drunk whisky for quite a long time, beginning with Drambuie before progressing to Famous Grouse. However the first single malt I tried was the almighty Talisker 10 Year Old. One of my Dad's favourites, it was an introduction to a whole new level of whisky drinking. For years Talisker was my absolute favourite to the extent that my friend Rob and I took a day to train and bus hop to Skye then hike nine miles to the nearest pub for a Talisker 18 Year Old. Talisker was my earliest benchmark for judging whisky. It has a ferocity coupled with flavours that for me define whisky. Although I now appreciate many different whiskies for their different complexities I still have a soft spot for my old favourite. Here's to Talisker!

Talisker 10 Year Old
45.8% - Distillery Bottling
Nose: That trademark black and white pepper with kippers, melon and apple following, closed with ashy coal smoke.
Palate: The smoke continues straight on to the palate with a vanilla sweetness and peaty pepper.
Finish: Malty, long and spicy with waves of gentle smoke.
Overall: A classic malt indeed, excellent with haggis, perfect all year round. I find it pleasing that no matter how many whiskies I try, I still enjoy a good Talisker. Slainte.