Friday, February 24, 2017

Homegrown Drams

This month's sheet.
Despite the best efforts of Storm Doris, club members gathered upstairs at the Briton's Protection for a night of 'homegrown' drams curated by Tom. The theme was that each whisky relies on locally-sourced ingredients as far as possible, and we certainly ended up trying a real range of drinks from different corners of the whisky world.

P&M 7yo.
We began in, of all unlikely places, Corsica. Perhaps best known as the birthplace of Napoleon, it's now also the home of P&M Whisky. A joint venture between the Pietra brewery and spirits maker Domaine Mavela, P&M has been producing whisky since 2004. We tried the 7yo single malt at 42%, which is made using not only local water and barley, but also old Corsican white wine casks for maturation.

This has a remarkable colour and smells more like brandy than whisky, with a real sweetness about it. But on the palate, the taste is much more dry and biscuity, and arguably this doesn't quite live up to the promise of the nose. A nice start to the evening nevertheless, though.

TBWC Slyrs 3yo.
It was on to Germany next. Or, to be more precise, Bavaria. Much better known for beer, sausages and, well, beer, the region is also the location of the Slyrs distillery. We got our hands on a 3yo expression bottled at 52.5% by That Boutiquey Whisky Company. In fact, it was bottle number 691 out of 691, although there are apparently others still available if you look in the right places (ours cost £65 including delivery).

Everything's local again for this one, except the American oak barrels. And as an extra treat, the malt is dried using the same method as Bamberg's famous smoked rauchbier. It's lovely on the nose, and smells a bit like pear drops. You certainly know you've drunk it too, and someone commented that it "sticks to the sides on the way down". In a good way, of course.

Gold Cock 20yo.
Next, we moved further east to try Czech whisky Gold Cock. If you've never heard of it, then you're not alone. Perhaps the owner, local brandy producer Jelinek, might consider a rebrand to help break the international market.

This is a 20yo at 49.2%, and a still-reasonable-despite-the-international-delivery £62. The oak is Czech, and the barley is from Moravia, so again it's got some impressively local credentials. But the drink itself is a bit of a mixed bag. With some spice on the nose, there's an overwhelming taste of salt and especially black pepper. Distinctive, although some were hoping for a bit more from a whisky of that age.

Tekton 4yo.
After the half-time interval, we resumed with a trip to mainland France. After Armorik of Brittany sauntered off with victory in our Six Nations special this time last year, the club has been well disposed to French whisky. But this time we were going to virtually the other end of the country, for a taste of Tekton whisky from the Alps.

A 4yo single cask at 52%, this has a nose you might charitably describe as "organic". Less charitable comments included "it smells like a pet shop". The palate also got a general thumbs down, reminding club members of cod liver oil, tins of sardines and a forest.

Ichiro's Malt MWR.
As someone put it: "I'm a little bit undecided. Actually, I'm quite decided." This is a special anniversary bottling at £129. It's fair to say nobody is rushing straight out to get one.

We've had a fair amount of Japanese whisky at the club over the years, not least at the recent Nikka tasting. But dram number five took us further south in the Land of the Rising Sun, to the Chichibu distillery and Ichiro's Malt.

This is named for its creator Ichiro Akuto, who wants to create whisky that is as Japanese as possible (a common critique of existing Japanese whiskies is that they are very Scottish in style), and this particular dram is the Mizunara Wood Reserve, the Japanese oak well-known for being both distinctively flavourful and extremely expensive. Sure enough it smells beautiful, and it has a very pleasant soft taste on the palate. But the club consensus was that, for £100ish, this 46% probably isn't worth the asking price.

Mackmyra Svensk Ek.
The night finished closer to home with a visit to Mackmyra of Sweden. Specifically, the Svensk Ek no age statement dram. This is a distillery which again goes to some lengths to make sure it keeps things as local as possible, even using oak originally planted in the 19th century to make ships for the Swedish navy.

This particular oak is said to give the whisky a bit of spice, and we certainly picked that up on the finish in particular. There are some other subtle flavours on show and, at £45 for a 46% whisky, it's good value, too.

The dram of the night voting went the way of... number two! The 3yo TBWC Slyrs from Bavaria picked up 11 votes. Probably the greatest cultural moment for Germany since Nena was top of the charts with 99 Red Balloons.

Thanks to everyone for coming to another successful tasting, and in particular to both the Briton's Protection for being gracious hosts once again, and to Tom for his excellent research and presentation of a series of fascinating and unusual drinks!

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