As lockdown continued we were sent lots more drinks samples to try at home, with another online whisky tasting among them. We also got to suck on some cocktail-infused, sugar-coated sweets – which were way better than we thought possible…
Glen Moray, Madeira Cask Project, 2006, 46.3%
We’ve been taking part in another Zoom whisky tasting, this time hosted by Glen Moray to introduce the world to the latest release from their Curiosity range, a whisky aged for 13 years in ex-Madeira casks.
Dr Kirstie McCallum, Glen Moray’s head of whisky creation, talked us through the dram, announcing it as “dessert in a bottle” and, more precisely, an aroma of “chocolate and poached pears.” We don’t always detect the same aromas and flavours as others when supping whisky – our senses all vary and, in a whisky, the comparisons are often very subtle – but in this instance, chocolate and poached pears very much chimed with us.
An initial sweetness to the flavour opened out into a delicious, syruppy textured whisky, with more pear and tannic oak in the frame. We’re also going to throw in a flavour that it reminded us of, but is almost certainly one few others will detect – bitter rowan berries, as used in our own booze experiments.
We’re enjoying these online tastings, particularly when there’s such a knowledgeable expert on hand to help us appreciate more about the whisky we’re drinking – and especially when it’s such a fine whisky as this release from Glen Moray.
Ardbeg Blaaack , 46%
One tasting we missed out on was for a new Ardbeg Limited Edition release to celebrate Ardbeg Day, but we were kindly sent a sample to experience its smoky charms in our own time. This whisky has spent time in New Zealand Pinot Noir casks, with the distillery highlighting a connection between its home and New Zealand both having a large sheep population by adding a ‘baaa’ to its name. Thankfully the whisky is much better than the pun.
It’s always enjoyable to open a new bottle of Ardbeg whisky, with the waft of sweet smoke beckoning you. A closer sniff also brought a cherry-like aroma, as you might find emanating from a glass of kirschwasser. Sipping the whisky reveals a sweet, hard toffee creaminess, giving it a degree of suckability, while the smoke turns to charred wood as the oak makes its mark and stretches out the finish. It’s a typically smoky Ardbeg beast and not at all harsh – we might say it’s perfectly well baaalanced but we’re much too sheepish for such puns.
Everyone knows that summer = BBQ and, as it’s been too scary to go down to the pub of an evening for risk of catching the lurgy, we’ve been busying ourselves instead by charring the bejesus out of vegetables and bits of meat on our respective back garden grills. The drink of choice for BBQs HAS to be beer – specifically a lager-style beer – straight from the fridge – and so to accompany our alfresco efforts, we’ve been guzzling a selection of new lagers from Camden Breweries small batch series, Arch 55. Our picks were:
Wilkin St NW5 White Pilsner 5.8%
A gluggable hefeweizen homage with the trad fruity flavours provided by a plethora of German hops. Good with sausages.
Mexican Lager 4.4%
Brewed with mexican yeast and Wakatu hops to give it a crisp, fruity twang. Roasted peppers proved to be the perfect pairing.
Yeast Lightening Brut IPL, 5.8%
A wonderfully fragrant, fruity lager with a super dry finish. Worked wonders bookending unmannerly mouthfuls of mushroom and halloumi kebab.
USA Hells Lager, 4.6%
Our favorite – a flavoursome, unfiltered helles-style lager which competently doused the fire of our underdone, overspiced buffalo wings. Yeehaw!
Get your Camden lagers HERE
…and a Camden Pale Ale
It’s not just lagers that Camden produces with aplomb, they also know how to knock out a fine pale ale. To coincide with the re-opening of pubs they’re brought out new 500ml cans of To The Pub, an American Pale Ale stuffed with five different hops. And what a fine brew it is too, slightly hazy, fresh and frothy with a touch of the tropics and a pinch of pine. Double dry hopped and effortlessly drinkable. The kind of pale ale that suits a large measure, such as a pint pot, served in a pub…
We’re reluctant to rush to the pub anytime soon so are thankful to Camden four sending us a four pack to review, giving us three more opportunities for home drinking to check that they’re all up to standard. Which, of course, they are…
Proceeds of sales go to supporting pubs, which you can read about at here
Symington Family Estates, Altano Douro White Wine, 12.5%
We very rarely feature wine pressed from grapes on this site (wine conjured from rhubarb, beetroot and pea pods is more our thing) but we were recently introduced to the Symington Family Estates portfolio of wines and were sent a bottle of their Altano Douro to review. To give it the best possible environment for tasting we gave it our prime time drinking slot – Friday after work – and it impressed as much as anything we’ve guzzled this year.
Coming from Portugal’s Douro Valley, the wine is made from a blend of Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho grapes – names we’re not too familiar with but are said to be well suited to the vineyard’s cooler Portuguese climate. Initially there’s a friendly floral aroma and a slight sweet tropical taste, but in the main it’s a citrussy sensation. Lemon and lime cut a dash with their acidic brightness, while some pithiness helps lend it a drying depth and flavour intensity that suits its creamy viscous feel. It is a wine that perfectly suited our tastes, being simultaneously full of flavour and easy to drink.
We may be more familiar with wines made from other fruits and vegetables but reckon these Portuguese grapes can give even our favourite ingredients a run for their money.
HUNWines SA Sauvignon Blanc 2019, 12.5%
No sooner are we reviewing one grape wine than three more arrive through the post, this time in the unfamiliar wine packaging of cans. And while we think the humble can should be perfectly suited to wine packaging, we’re not sure a wine brand called HUN, with pink livery, is quite aimed at the likes of us. So we gave the Pale Rosé to a more glamorous friend for a second opinion and kept the Sparkling Rosé and Sauvingon Blanc to ourselves.
The former left us unmoved – at just 5.5% it didn’t really pack much vinous goodness for us – but the Sauvignon Blanc was just as we would hope. It possessed lots of fresh, green grape aromas and a crisp acidity that finished with a grown-up dryness. It would be ideal as a summer wine-on-the-go and, at just £3 for a 250ml can, you can load up without worrying about carrying home half-emptied bottles.
As for the Pale Rosé, our glamorous friend was equally impressed. “Super, Darling” she purred…
Look out for a can in your local Tesco store
Smith & Sinclair, Whisky Club Alcoholic Cocktail Gummies, 5%
Over the years we’ve been sent a few sweets flavoured with cocktails. They tend not to be very good and rarely get finished before entering the food waste bin. Earlier this month we were sent a selection box of whisky cocktail sweets from Smith & Sinclair that sounded more promising and looked a bit more enticing than most. We were hopeful, but far from confident.
We no longer have any Smith & Sinclair cocktail sweets left. All gone. Gobbled in no time at all. Because they taste amazing. Sugar coated, soft jellied confection with a gently boozy burst of Old Fashioned or aromatic kick of Whiskey Sour. This is how to make cocktail sweets: real booze flavours, expertly combined with the finest sugary confection, and some actual booze to boot. Genuine sweet treats.