The Whisky Tasting Club

What I enjoyed this week

Cutty Sark Tam O’Shanter 25 year old  46.5%

There are several blends I rate highly, but only Johnnie Walker and maybe Ballantine’s can match Cutty Sark across the whole age range. I’ve long been a champion of its whiskies, and particularly the older expressions. So I was delighted to hear that Edrington was to revamp the selection and give it proper promotional support. I wasn’t involved in the promotional book to support the brand late last year – ho, hum- but delighted to now throw my tuppence worth in to the cauldron (educated folks – see what i did there?). I’m particularly delighted that The Whisky Shop is going to give the brand an extensive push in to 2012. Here, then, is a new Cutty Sark expression. It’s called Tam O’Shanter and if you’re not aware Cutty Sark  was central to the Burns poem Tam O’Shanter, and from there Britain’s most famous tea clipper took its name. Fittingly the original ship, gutted by fire and lovingly restored at huge cost, was brought back to some of its former glories today, and will be back in full sight in Greenwich London. for the Olympics. As an aside, we’ve got tickets for the Equestrian show jumping in Greenwich Park, so there’s another link. Anyway, I digress. The new whisky isn’t cheap – it costs £199 and comes in stunning packaging with a beautifully produced themed booklet, rich with photos. And it’s a limited edition. But is the whisky any good? Frankly, it’s absolutely stunning. I know how spoiled this is going to sound, but I’ve got a little bored with old whisky tasting of polished wood, venerable sherry, intense astringent spices, deep rich orange and marmalade. Very, very nice I know, but much of a muchness. But this is something else. It starts off  with the sharp blood orange and grapefruit notes and some jabbing pepper, then a touch of apple core and hazelnut, but then it softens, with some peach, dark chocolate, bitter coffee and chili in the mix and it just melts away, like a witch in the night… Totally, absolutely drinkable.

Bombay Brasserie and Quilon


Having told someone that I had only missed one meeting without pre warning in 30 years, and by incredible coincidence that was with Cutty Sark’s Jason Craig because he had a mobile number for me that was two years out of date, I managed to turn up at Soho Spice for a meeting this week only to find there is no Soho Spice. It is shut. I was meant to be at Bombay Brasserie, so after hastily rearranging the appointment I met Michelin starred chef Sriram at the fabulous Quilon in St James. I did a public and media launch here and I love the place, but today it is a building site. It’s being completely refurbished and it’s set to reopen in a few weeks. I really like Sriram. He is a wonderful chef, a great communicator, and a sharply intelligent man but without a single air of arrogance or superiority. Very much my sort of person – determined to pursue quality but not through exclusivity or pretentiousness. He has a Michelin starred restaurant but he offers a great beer and whisky list – and none of it at inflated p[rices. Sriram told me that the lighting system alone for the new-look Quilon cost £70,000, and he has asked one of India’s top musicians (and a friend of his) to compose an original soundtrack for the new restaurant. Meanwhile he feels that the offering of the Bombay brasserie needs… erm…spicing up, so he’s keen to revamp the whisky list. I’m delighted to announce, then, that I’ll be working  with him on this and hosting a whisky dinner at Bombay Brasserie in May, possibly as a book launch for 1001 Whiskies. Incidentally, the publishers have been in touch to say that it’s looking superb…

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