Whisky is cool? WTF? Part 1: Cocktails, Bramble and Glenmorangie

Quieter times…. 

Ok,  Lucas and I have been quiet for a bit. Many things have kept us away from writing. Family commitments, work and generally fermenting our creative juices for the many articles that are going to come your way in the next few months. Ok, and we have been lazy! Fine, we have been lazy. So sue us, but while you are considering a law suit, think: sometimes, you need to be lazy.

Whisky: Cool?!

What happened when we were quiet? Well Whisky suddenly became cool, that’s what happened. Wtf (what the fudge!).Not that I am ever inclined to pessimistic thought, but it occurs to me that my profession may be about to be extinct. I am, as I often admit, a whisky geek. Unashamedly. Now, when I drink whisky, I am going to be surrounded by cool attractive people and I will be sat in the corner muttering about distillation times and yeast types. Telling people: I was here before it became hip. Saying to the young ins (I’m 26 but I feel a damn sight older. And probably look a damn sight older), that they don’t know how lucky they are. I am not cool, and I never will be cool. I’d not want to start trying now!

 

jay-z-and-will-smith

(As cool as these guys? Maybe…)

Why do I say Whisky is cool. Well, many reasons. Suddenly cool cocktail barmen want whisky in their bars. They want a spirit with history, heritage, quality and flavour. The end of Vodka! Great! But still, I am not cool enough for these cocktail types. Or so I thought….

Bramble Bar

I love Bramble bar. Its superb. I think the atmosphere is top notch and I think the drinks are unbelievable. In-case you haven’t been there before, Bramble is one, if not the best cocktail bar in Edinburgh. On a quiet night, it is the ultimate date bar. On a busy night, it is the place to be seen. And you know what: it’s cool, but it’s geeky as well. If this is the way things are going: bars with knowledge of drinks, combinations, mixology and an almost Heston Blumenthal take on Cocktails, combined with an open minded attitude to using high quality ingredients and high quality spirits (including the apparently old mans drink: whisky), then I am going to be very happy. And I may be close to being cool!

The first time I was at Bramble, I was on a date. It was a quiet night and the service was attentive. The music was at the right level for conversation. The lighting was romantic . And the selection of drinks was sublime. I learnt more about one of my favourite Rums (El Dorado) that night, and Rums in general than I had in a long time. Then I got stuck into some rare unusual whisky in St Magdaline’s (Linlithgow’s extinct distillery). Overall: excellent date.

Glenmorangie Barrel aged cocktails

Bramble have teamed up with Glenmorangie to create a barrel aged cocktail using Glenmorangie 10. Barrel aged cocktails have provenance in the late 18 hundreds and early 19 hundreds. The concept is to take some high strength liqours, mix them together to make an interesting cocktail and then barrel them to add oakiness, vanilla and the other great wood sugars and tannins. It may improve the drink, it may not, but you have to admire (and envy!) the inventiveness and experimentation.
This requires the expertise of a team of cocktail mixologists (Tom, Jason and Mike) to create the right cocktail to be barrelled. The correct balance of flavour without being too overpowering, so to let the cocktail have a voice and to let the oak have a voice.

The Ingredients (Per bottle)

37ml of Glenmorangie 10

25ml of Nolly Prat vermouth

25ml of Byrhh (A mixture of red wine and quinine/tonic)

And the oak element…

That oak element requires the expertise of someone who knows the best oak barrel to age the cocktail in. This is complicated and to deal with this complicated part, in steps Dr Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie. He pointed out that because of the lower strength of alcohol, the cocktail would extract less flavour from the oak than standard whisky. Hence the use of 5 litre new oak casks to make a noticeable impact over a relatively short period of time (when we tried a sample, it was 3 weeks old)

To make the experiment more interesting, the Bramble folks have 4 barrels. 3 are new American White oak toasted to different levels and one is new French oak.

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The final part is the presentation. This is where the cocktail experts of Bramble show their final flourish. When you buy this cocktail, you are presented with a small bottle, almost like a 1930′s medical tonic or snake oil bottle. It’s wax sealed and a skull and crossbones adorns the wax. The description on the back describes Glenmorangie as “Highland Fire Water” which made me laugh. You are also handed an orange bitters spray and a twist of lemon. This is where the customer can play about with the cocktail and perfect it for their personal taste.

The Cocktail

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Tasting notes

Nose: Lemon, orange, cloves and cinnamon. Slight hints of vanilla, tannins and slightly winey.

Palate: Red Wine, orange. Almost like a mulled wine. The cask and the mixture almost combine to give it a syrupy thickness. I would actually have bought another shot of Glenmorangie and added half to this mixture. For my palate, I think this may have perfected it.

Overall: What an idea! The cocktail has layers of flavours, thickness, honey, vanilla, red wine. The story behind it and the different variables (how long it has been matured, what cask has been used, how liberally you use the orange bitters) mean that is something to be experienced and experimented with. I would definitely take another date there and have this, since there is so much to discuss around it.

As a concept, this combines passion for cocktails and drinks history, with a passion for Whisky. A winning mix in my view.

Now just need to find the right girl to take there…

Chris

(Thanks to the Bramble team and the Glenmorangie team.)

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