Friday 19 September 2014

Smoked Meats and Whisk(e)y at the Eastern Hotel (Sydney) (Tasted #117 - 124)

Please join me in welcoming Hendy to his first official post for the blog.  -Martin.

When I first heard of this event, I got curious as I'd never paired or even thought about pairing whisk(e)y with meat. Though when you think about it, it does make sense to pair a smokey charred meat dish with, perhaps a peaty, smokey whisky (and they don't come a whole lot more peaty than some of Bruichladdich's offerings).

The event was a collaboration between the South Trade and Eastern Hotel teams, and was a rather interesting night, as it introduced what is, in my view, the contrasting nature of different whiskies; low parts per million (ppm) to crazy phenol-laden mega-ppm, Islay to Kentucky, barley to grain, whisky to whiskey.

There were a total of eight whiskies from two distilleries being showcased on the night;
Four Scotch whiskies from the Bruichladdich distillery in the Islay region of Scotland:
  • Bruichladdich Laddie Classic
  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10yo
  • Bruichladdich Black Art 3
.. and four bourbon whiskies from the Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky, USA:
  • Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Eagle Rare 10yo
  • Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel
  • William Larue Weller Bourbon
The line up was great, though the ever famous Octomore was absent from the Bruichladdich range, having its peaty self represented on the night by its slightly less peaty brethren; the Port Charlotte Scottish Barley.

The night began quite nicely with the original Buffalo Trace bourbon, also once known as George Stagg. This original feature bourbon from the Buffalo Trace distillery was rather enjoyable, exhibiting sweet flavour notes including toffee and caramel - a good start to the night.

One interesting fact with this bourbon and the distillery from which it came - the name of the bourbon and the distillery have both been adapted from the group of buffaloes that would migrate through the Kentucky river close to the distillery, leaving their marking 'trace' or trail. 

The striking aqua Bruichladdich "Laddie Classic" followed the Buffalo Trace bourbon. Welcoming itself into the night as the first Scotch, this minimally peated whisky was quite balanced. A touch of iodine presented itself on the palate, and it was sweet on the nose and long on the finish. Johannes from South Trade explained the story behind the striking blue colour adorning this 'laddie. Supposedly, the aqua was based on the colour of Loch Indaal, a loch by the distillery. Jim McEwan (Master Distiller) would see the colour each time he gazed out the Bruichladdich distillery window. One does wonder whether the creation of the darker bottled Black Art or the Octomore were done, perhaps, late at night...

Throughout the night, different meat dishes were served including cold meat platters to begin, smokey and sweet BBQ NZ Greenstone Creek short ribs, slow cooked (read:18 hour) shredded Berkshire pork shoulder, and buffalo chicken wings (Ed: I'm getting hungry...). All the dishes were there to get our palates excited, whilst also being designed to complement the drams being served (the focus of the night was clearly on the whisky).

Johannes from South Trade  touched on some details of the Bruichladdich peating process that underpins Bruichladdich's famous super heavily peated Octomore, the less heavily peated Port Charlotte Scottish Barley and other peated range involves (for those unfamiliar with peated malts) the burning and layering of the aromatic peat compounds below the racks of barleys during the barley drying process. By placing below the layers of barleys the barley absorbs as much aromatic smoke from the peat compounds as possible, creating the peated whiskies we all know and love.

It was towards the end of the night, when the decadent slice of chocolate cake was served that I encountered my two favourites - the Elmer T Lee bourbon from Buffalo Trace and the Bruichladdich Black Art (3). Both of these whiskies are wonderfully creamy, rich and complex. The Elmer T Lee was able to carry the sweetness from the oak from the nose through to the palate and beyond. I did wonder whether I was devouring an ice cream from the glass - quite wonderful. 

The Black Art carried similar sweet notes. Being unpeated, the Black Art smelt not of peat, but of rum and raisin and honey. It was quite leathery on the palate, though this might relate to the older age of the (22yo) whisky - nevertheless beautiful. The finish, similar to the Elmer T Lee, excellent. The Black Art and the Elmer T Lee lasted well beyond the palate.

As with all good things, they must come to an end. The end of the night was capped off with a slice of a sweet decadent chocolate cake along with a dram of William Larue Weller bourbon. Both, I have to say, were intensely rich. The bourbon, big and long on the palate and the cake intensely rich and sweet.

So, after all the pairing, was I sold on the pairing between whisky and meat? Yes and no. I still prefer my dram nice and neat, perhaps a pairing with a cigar? Though the line up tonight was indeed very sweet, quite literally for a number of the drams.

Full tasting notes below...

Bruichladdich Laddie Classic (46% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, $87.90AUD)
Nose: Sweet honey, vanilla, slightly salty
Palate: The vanilla flows from the nose, then peppery spicy, salty, seaweed?
Finish: Vanilla cake, graciously long sweet vanilla finish
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon (40% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, $48.90AUD)
Nose: Toffee, caramel, very sweet
Palate: Very rich, smooth, caramel, toffee, there's a bit of toasty char in there
Finish: Peppery, long and smooth
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley (50% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, $95.99AUD)
Nose: Good dose of the aromatic peat, iodinish, medicinal, taint
Palate: Whack of peat, full bodied, peppery and spicy
Finish: Medium to long finish, spicy, and the peaty char lingers
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Eagle Rare 10yo (45% ABV, 10yo, Kentucky, USA, $69.99AUD)
Nose: Caramel, honey, sweet dessert wine
Palate: Peppery, vanilla, fruity, you can taste the maple wood
Finish: Quite a long and dry finish
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10yo (50% ABV, 10yo, Islay, Scotland, ~$77.57AUD)
Nose: Sweet vanilla mixed with char from the peat
Palate: Caramel, chocolate and peat smoke (surprisingly good balance of sweet and peat)
Finish: Smooth, medium finish, peppery note lingers
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel (45% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, $92.90AUD)
Nose: Vanilla
Palate: Sweet, honey, vanilla, almost like eating ice cream
Finish: Long, dry and sweet
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

Bruichladdich Black Art 3 (48.7% 22yo, Islay, Scotland, $279.99AUD)
Nose: Rum, raisin, perhaps honey
Palate: Vanilla, gun powder? quite leathery (might be from the age)
Finish: Very long and exquisite sweet, creamy finish, yum
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

William Larue Weller Bourbon (67.5% ABV, 12yo, Kentucky, USA, $345AUD)
Nose: Very rich, vanilla, sweet
Palate: Very big hit of peppery spices with a bit of char (almost need that dash of water)
Finish: Very, very long and sweet and rich finish
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 91/100.


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