Since there has been so much discussion about blogger blagging, we thought we would test the No Free Lunch Theorem by accepting Auchentoshan’s invitation to a dinner at a lovely french restaurant in south ken.
Two return tickets to London: £60
Couple of pints each in a London pub: £20
Jacket inexplicably lost in the restaurant: £50
Two singles to Colchester after we missed the last train home: £50
Cab from Colchester to Norwich £80
Auchentoshan dinner: Priceless!
Oh dear, bit of a fiasco at the end. It all started simply enough with train to london is a journey I make about 25 times a year. Dom turned up at the station with a grin and looking like a bookie as he clutched a bag full of whisky and cash. A few excellent drams on the way down (more on these later) was followed by a tube across London to South Kensington to the land of tourists and rich folk.
The event was held at Racine restaurant, which claims “Racine Restaurant is a return to a cook’s roots, it is the elusive neighbourhood restaurant you search for in Metropolitan French cities and so rarely find today” Well I dont know about you, but I was delighted my search was over, and when we opened the heavy curtain to gain access, the waiters certainly gave us a look reminiscent of French restaurants. Not sure how many Swedish chefs there are in France though…
Having been shuffled off into the back room, we were met DK, the kind lady who invited us to the event, and joined a group of about 20. An interesting mix of folk, combining trade and bloggers. Cask strength boys were there and I was happy to meet WTC member Billy Abbot who actually now works for the Whisky Exchange. Billy is (or was) a programmer who studied computer science, so we spoke geek for a while. Billy definitely has the same definition of smart casual as me …
The event started with a cocktail. A splendid way to start any event. The cocktail, created by Marcis from 69 Colebrooke Row was a Auchentoshan Three Wood liquorice whisky sour. 50 ml Auchentoshan, 25 ml lemon, 15 ml sugar syrup, 15 ml liquorice syrup (this was his own creation I think), bitters. Dry shake, then add ice and shake, serve with a straw.
I love a whisky sour and this was good, but you really need to be a fan of liquorice to like this. Since I regularly scoff whole packets of allsorts, this was a hit with me. Bar work has moved on since I were a lad, apparently they all have food science degrees these days. Auchentoshan are running a competition for cocktail barmen, chance to swap places with someone in the states for two weeks. Sounds a bit like work experience; the American barman may be disappointed with the tips. “you will be met by a panel of judges who will put you through a series of challenging mixology tasks”. Blimey, the mind boggles. To be fair, Marcis was himself not a huge fan of the term “mixologist”. I may scoff, but this growth in fancy cocktails, particularly whisky based ones, is a fantastic development. It seems London has some amazing bars these days (we went to one called Purl recently with Laphroaig and I hear there are many others). I only wish it would spread to us poor provincials. Still, there are at least nascient signs of improvement in cocktail provision even in Norwich. The Plough do an excellent Gin and Tonic, and the newly refitted Ten Bells are experimenting with creative uses of their superb whisky list (a whisky bar in Norwich! Hurrah). I fear it will be a while before we get a Rhubarb Gimlet though.
Anyway, I digress. This blog is about Auchentoshan. We then tasted the three wood. Three wood is dom’s favorite of their range. Its rich, fruity and sweet with lots of oak and sherry. It retails at around £35 and has twice nearly made it into one of our tastings: we considered it for both regions and wood. Didnt quite make the cut for either, but I’m sure we will find a tasting for it soon. The whiskies were described by Auchentoshan senior blender Jeremy Stephens (I wonder if blending is a subdivision of mixology? Surely it is a higher art form. We need a formal taxonomy of drinks makers!). Jeremy imparted plenty of interesting information, but since I didnt take notes and was drinking, it has all sadly left me. Hopefully someone more responsible will blog about it.
Our second whisky was the main event: a new limited edition 1999 Bordeaux Cask Matured Auchentoshan. Yes, thats cask matured, not finished: this has spend 11 years in a Chateaux Lagrange cask (in the St. Julien region of Bordeaux).
Now, neither Dom or I are big fans of wine finishes generally, but I’ve never had a whisky thats lived its whole life in a wine cask. Google tells me that Bowmore have also done a 16 year old wine cask matured expression (Is this a Suntory thing? Someone in the company a big fan of wine?), but even that apparently spent 6 years in bourbon cask and I cant find reference to anything else.
So its a very unusual and interesting expression. It is cask strength (58%) and of course rich in colour. It has a delicate nose, that opens up and for me was really nutty. Dom thought it a confusing nose, going in or out, something he finds commonly in wine expressions. One thing I generally dont like about wine finishes is they tend to be poorly integrated, but this whisky does not suffer this problem; it is much smoother and coherent than the majority of wine finishes I’ve tried. Not stunningly long or complex, but to be honest I liked it more than I thought I would. Overall I would say that its better than many a wine finish, and if you are a fan of the flavours wine brigs to whisky this will be right up your street. Its going to retail at £46.99, which seems very reasonable to me for such a limited and unusual release. Official notes:
“To the Eye: Autumn sunset
To the Nose: Citric sharp balanced by lingering creamy sweetness
To the Tongue: Vanilla with layered fruit and wood spices
To the End: A long, dry and lingering finish with some almond nuttiness at the end.”
The food and wine were excellent and the staff actually very nice, despite clearly being trained to act as French as possible. Dinner was a starter of smoked eel (lovely) with a main of roast lamb with a crab based sauce (interesting, but didnt quite work imo, crab too strong a flavour for the lamb).
After the dinner we had a sample of their 2011 Valinch, a cask strength no age statement Auchentoshan. Now I’m sorry to say that we had enjoyed the hospitality so much by this point that neither of us can remember much about this one, oh dear. I remember it being quite woody, and fairly pleasant. So we to cut a long blog short, we rushed off, missed our train and had an expensive and time consuming detour to Colchester on a train full of take that fans. They kindly gave us a goodie bag with samples of the 11 year old and the valinch, and a full bottle of … wine. We were not super happy on the Colchester train and had no cork screw, so our beautifully packaged samples were scoffed whilst we wedged ourselves tube style in the slow train. So soz, no more detailed tasting notes!