If the winter months are lasting too long, Youngs Pub and Geronimo Inns have come to your rescue with the Whisky Tide. Until March, you can attend various events in and around London with a focus on whisky blending, tasting and food pairing. We were invited to the Captain’s Table at the Oyster Shed for a demonstration of a Whisky Tide event.
The Japanese have a long tradition of whisky making and treat it as an art form. The two Japanese whiskies to taste were the Hakashu single malt and the blended Hibiki. The Hakashu is light golden and smells of nature: grassy, and delicate.
We were encouraged to pair the whisky with some sushi and suddenly some sweet notes come through. The Hibiki is served from a beautiful bottle representing the twenty-four lunar months of the year, and is a darker gold with a sweetness not unlike chocolate. Yet the welcome drink with soda and orange peel is gorgeously refreshing. We also get treated to a Japanese ice carving demonstration. A slab is carved sawn from a massive block deoxidised ice, and made into a cube, the size of your palm. While the cube is picked at with a fork-like tool, we are told that the shape matters in dilution prevention: an ice ball is created, turning a glass of whisky into an art- piece.
We move to two American favourites: Jim Beam and Makers Mark. Bourbon whiskies need to be matured in brand new oak barrels for at least two years. When four years is reached, the label Straight Bourbon is used. Corn makes the bourbon a little sweeter and the drink is often seen as the introduction to whisky, but the two drink (try them neat!) paired with ribs and pulled pork slider, also have a hint of spice and warmth.
The evening ends with a triple treat: Highland Park 12yo, Laphroaigh 10yo and the Macallan Gold. The Highland Park is a crowd pleaser, an easy whisky with a deep honey smell but smoky sweet tickle to keep it interesting. Pairing with this tipple: a haggis, needs ’n’ tatties canapé – of course. We learn that years a whisky has matured is often overrated: time takes away the raw burning taste and mellows the drink with the flavours of the cask but leaving it too long means that the batch will taste of wood.
No year indication on the Macallan Gold then and although a favourite of mine, it can be a little uneventful… until you pair it with ginger flavoured chocolate apparently. The sweet and warm notes start to zing and the glass comes to life! The Laphroaigh to finish and an acquired taste: heavy, peaty smokey, with a whiff of TCP. This beast is paired with strong cheese, hard mature or blue, and the flavours take on a new dimensions – I am shocked into finishing my glass. Seeing my face, a table guest nods knowingly: “It gets better and better, ’til you drink the whole bottle…”
No such thing is necessary (enjoy responsibly, kids!) as the evening has been all-round entertaining, with surprise food pairings and interesting factoids. Well recommended to both whisky noobs and experts: ride the Whisky tide for a solid night out this winter.