Joe and an Epic Bruichladdich tasting
An invite to a Bruichladdich tasting with matching food set in the supremely decadent surroundings of ‘The Place Hotel’ on York Place is not one that can ever be declined. The bar is a dazzling array of colour, solid black granite set underneath an intense display of Swarovski crystals strung around LED bars currently set on pink. This crystalline crapulence (a fancy word for over indulgence, Ed) is taken to the next level with the addition of wallpaper detailed with shapes made from the dust left over from the polishing process at Swarovski.
The key feature of the hotel bar’s finesse is noted Edinburgh bartender Alan Fisher, previously of the Point Hotel. Given free reign of the bar Alan has built up a superb gantry with a hefty focus on non-chill filtered single malts. With these tools and an unsurpassable knowledge at his disposal Alan is able to concoct some truly stellar beverages and proves this as he starts our night with a sublime Botanist Gin Sour.
From here we are escorted to the breakfast room which is still decadent but notably less gaudy in order to allow one to enjoy their morning crunchy nut cornflakes sans Swarovski glare. Bruichladdich rep Craig Johnstone, our Sherpa for this epicurean delight, introduces himself and gives some of the usual marketing banter but delivered in such a way that we all feel relaxed and don’t even realise we are being sold to. One of the key lines that I picked up on that set the tone for the evening is that ‘at Bruichladdich our only consistency is our inconsistency’.
Before starting on the menu I suppose I should open with the caveat that my nose and palate are my own and sometimes leftfield. If you don’t really agree with them, congratulations you do not have my nose or tongue and they are still part of my head, just where I like to keep them.
(Food, Whisky, Gin; it looks like heaven)
First on the menu: Islay Barley 2004, matched with Cream Cheese, Melba Toast, ‘Waldorf Salad’
Nose: quite hay heavy here with a touch of grass, at the back of the aroma there is something a bit umami like, perhaps beef or even duck
Palate: burnt maltiness, charcoal, eventually developing into the flavour of crispy chargrilled chicken skin fresh off the Barbie.
Finish: A nice lengthy finish that after a minute or so develops into something a bit chocolatey
Overall: This is a pretty complex whisky, but not one that causes a headache. Delightful straight up but a bit dull with water. The traceability of this range is pretty cool and individual batches can be traced right down to the field the barley was grown on.
Canape: The walnut of the waldorf salad is very well matched here, however the cream cheese threw me off a little, but the wee slice of apple saved the day by teasing even more of the hay into the mix.
From there we move onto the Laddie Ten year old, arguably the Bruichladdich house malt but still pleasantly complex.
Laddie Ten, matched with Oak Smoked Scottish Salmon, Horseradish Cream, Lemon, and Rye Bread
Nose: almost like a liqueur coffee, creamy, brown sugar, coffee, perhaps a little too fiery on the nose for its own good.
Palate: Nothing too complex on the palate, a pleasant twist of orange, a heap of smoke
Finish: A nice slow deep burn, a proper winter warmer.
Overall: Perfectly grand for an entry level Islay whisky, smokey with an enticing nose, perfectly quaffable.
Canape: This one is a very happy partnership indeed. Salmon is matched perfectly to the smokiness, the lemon a nice garnish, but the real winner here is the horseradish cream, I tip my cap to head chef Tony Harkess.
Sherry Edition 1992 – Pedro Ximenez Finish, matched with Carpaccio of Scotch Beef Fillet, Rocket, Parmesan, Black Pepper
Nose: well this is an interesting one on the nose, nice bit of white chocolate accompanied with an expected hit of white grapes
Palate: a very intriguing palate revealing something buttery, creamy, like a really class mashed tatties, nae lumps
Finish/overall: pleasant smooth finish making this a nice, familiar, welcoming malt
Canape: Unsurprisingly this was the canapé I was most excited for. Truly delicious, the beef carpaccio done to perfection, an excellent bit of food matching here as the pepperiness of the beef highlights the butteriness of the whisky. Like the best roast dinner ever.
Black Art 3.1 – 1989, matched with Dark Chocolate and ‘Omnia ab una’ Truffle
Nose: As Craig explains the term Omnia Ab Una is applied here as it is designed to be so complex as to offer something different for everybody. For me it’s a real rubik’s cube of a malt. Licorice combines with the odd florality of a citra hopped beer, with a wildcard note of furniture polish the stuff made with beeswax.
Palate: A touch of spice and a general oakiness dominate but there is something a bit more green about this. For me I got some onion, green pepper, and even at times a touch of wild garlic.
Finish/overall: This is such a challenging malt, its constantly evading definition. On the finish it develops into herbiness but then trots off back into chocolate and spice. A seriously cool whisky though that keeps on giving.
Canape: In all honest I thought the chocolate truffle was delicious but unfortunately not quite right for this whisky. Perhaps a white chocolate effort, or even a milk chocolate, it was just too dark. However the raspberry was well placed and brought balance to the experience.
Port Charlotte Multi Vintage, matched with a Smoked Blarliath & ; Shallot Croquette with Sauce Vierge
Nose: here I find the leftfield part of my palate shining through, although a couple of people nod in agreement with some of this. Vinegar, a touch of pork, chippy smoked sausage, and even knocking about at the bottom of the scent some tequila plata.
Palate: cherry, oak, a bit reminiscent of Brewdog’s ‘Sink the Bismarck!’, and carrying over from the nose my best pal, smoked sausage
Finish: Similar to the Pedro Ximenez it’s a nice clean finish, nothing too nasty lingering, very pleasant and familiar.
Canape: As somebody who doesn’t eat cheese I was afraid. I dove right in though and chucked the croquette in my mouth and was pleasantly surprised. The cheese suited the whisky very well and the shallots went delightfully, more good work from Chef Harkess.
After 5 malts and a gin cocktail one would think that was the end of the road. But no, Craig pulls an absolute beezer of a surprise out of his bag, the Octomore 5, claiming to be the peatiest ever produced at 167ppm.
Nose: boot polish, oil, petrol, salt, tar
Palate: ultimate peat, I’d say it was a touch too much if an interesting flavour of peppermint hadn’t intervened
Finish: This whisky never ended. I tell no word of a lie when I say I still tasted it on Saturday morning
This tasting was a truly grand experience, grand settings, grand whisky, and grand scran. All of this accompanied with Craig Johnstone’s superb patter and comforting presenting style created a very enjoyable night and I’m sure future guests of ‘The Place Hotel’ on these tasting nights will have a superb time in the experienced hands of Alan, Tony, and Craig.
Joe (Check out his blog here)
The Place, York Place
34 York Pl, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH1 3HU, UK