Friday, 23 January 2009

A Bottle and Friend

There is a small but vibrant whisky subculture in my office. A group of people who share a love of whisky, particularly Scottish whisky, get together now and again, and there are often impromptu tastings down the corridor on a Friday evening. Ingo has an amazing collection, as I saw when I visited his house for a BBQ last summer, and he makes regular trips to visit the distillaries of Scotland, while Albert, my boss, has a reputation for having a collection of the finest whiskies, and these make guest appearances at Ingo's nights.

Last night was one such night as Ingo hosted a Burns night, today being the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. Ingo went the full hog (or sheep, literally) and got his neighbour, a farmer/butcher, to help him make haggis. So, it was with great excitement that I and a select few popped over to Ingo's little house in the countryside for this years Burns night.

After a starter of fresh, uncooked salmon soaked in Laphroaig, which I am ashamed to say I didn't partake in as I'm just not a fish eater, the star of the show was brought out and carved up and served with neeps and tatties. Although I don't think I'd ever eat a sheep's heart, liver or lungs seperately, together with oats and spices in a stomach, they seem to work pretty well. A bit more moist than the last haggis I had in Edinburgh eight years ago, the Scholling haggis was pretty damn good!

Following haggis the table was cleared for a card game, doppelkopf (the Dullen variant I have just now read). I know I'm not the best card player in the world, but German card games always seem to go over my head with complex rules that throw the order of cards and suits into disarray. I won't even go near my wife's favourite card game, skat, as it just bamboozles me. I was content to watch the others play and sip my beer and whisky.

Speaking of which, Ingo had a mixed crate of beers he brought back from a Christmas visit to family in Bavaria, and I dipped in between bottles of my own Glacial Amber which seemed to go down well with the others (I must get them to give me honest tasting notes). First up was the Landsknecht Bier from the Fürst Wallerstein Brauhaus. I liked the label, but wasn't expecting something so dark out of it. Held up to the light is shows itself as a deep chestnut brown. The main feature of this beer seemed to be its softness, tempered with a touch of tart acidity. It's clean and fresh with a slow build up of roasted flavours, all with a chocolate and soft caramel undertone. Very nice.

This was followed later with a Kellerbier from Aktienbrauerei Kaugbeuren and another from Mönchshof . I have a soft spot for the Mönchshof beers, but the Kellerbier wasn't going down too well. In fairness it had stiff competition in the form of Bowmore Mariner and Bowmore Darkest, two 15 year old single malt whiskies from Islay with the latter having been aged in sherry casks. Very stong oak and vanilla aromas, smooth, rich and a touch spicey on the tongue. At the start of the evening we were treated to some Bladnoch 15 year old non chill filtered whiskey from a special Chrismas 2008 filling. Not available in the shops apparently, Ingo simply phoned and got his. Oh, and the last whisky was a Glenfarclas 21 year old single malt. There were others, but I cannot do them justice.

At one point in the night a quick home video by Ingo and his son was shown, from one of their whisky tours. Essentially like an interview with the head distiller at Bladnoch, I think, this was really interesting even from a brewing perspective as he talked about the differences in Spanish and American oak, and how the more porous nature of the American casks meant that they retained and hence imparted more flavours and colours from the original liquids stored therein. He also mentioned the effects of yeast, something he said wasn't discussed very often. He was a bit cut from a tasting I think, so he was rambling, and I was a bit cut too, so I'll have to ask for a copy.

Special thanks to Reinhard who drove me and Albert to and from the party. I don't know how he managed to resist the tasty drops on the table!

I'll have to start organising a local St. Patrick's Day parade...


Bionic Laura said...

Sounds like a very entertaining evening out.
I'd love to get a taste of some different whisky without having to pay for a whole bottle of something I might not like. I know very little about whiskey and so wouldn't know if it was good or not.

Barry M said...

Laura, I rely completely on my colleagues for whisky knowledge. I certainly wouldn't go taking random tasting in a pub as it'd clean me out. While I like tasting stuff, I can't really call myself a whisky drinker. And my head today proves the point :D

So, to help cure it, I'm brewing an alt today! Although I will also take some more paracetemol...

Oh, and there was alot less poetry and song than I was led to expect last night, but that's probably a good thing as I find Burns' poetry difficult :D

Bionic Laura said...

It's nice to have some people who know their stuff to guide your whisky tasting.

Cool hope the alt goes well. The weather seems to be right for it.

I think anyone who isn't Scottish finds Burns' poetry difficult :-)

Anonymous said...

Your description of a Burns night on "Scholling" is so nice to read that I think that just now a Bladnoch whisky is flowing down my throat ...
As I had the honour of partcipating in Ingo's event in former times I can understand very good that the evening was enjoyable very much. However, I hope that I will be part of it the next time and - apart from haggis and whisky - I would be interested in a self-brewed Irish beer!