Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Presenting… World Whiskies (with Mark Thomson)

You may already have heard of Dramatic Whiskies. Or at least Drinking Classes; an initiative that has taken the UK by storm with small gin masterclasses in London now happening on a regular basis across 20 cities and expanding to cover whisky, tequila, rum and even aperitivos.

However Mark Thomson is now using his experience of the industry and making a bid for independence, running classes to his own speciality – whisky – and on a smaller scale. Why? To ensure that the person taking you through the class is a top class expert in their field. And this is what I was invited to, on World Whisky Day, so no Scotch here but all international offerings.

The event took place in the back room of Match – revamped and now led by the inimitable Andy Mil – and was a comfortable fit for about 30 people. Mark - jeans, t-shirt, brogues and stubble in case you are wondering if this is your tweed clad brand ambassador of yore, it’s not – started off with an extremely potted but enjoyable history of alcohol starting with the middle Eastern origins of the word which funnily enough I had never considered. We whizzed through the development in Scotland (and Ireland) of distilled spirits and then quickly cracked onto a smell (only!) of new make spirit, a bit of peat and a bit of cask to play with and an explanation of the process itself. The audience was mainly men – shame – and although the level of expertise was mixed Mark pitched this information in a fun easy-to-absorb manner.

So… world whisky #1

Ichiro’s “The Floor Malted” from Chichibu, Japan
3 years old and 50.5% at first it was just “different” though it was difficult to say why, development in the glass  led to pear and floral notes. Nice, not my favourite even after everything else was tasted

#2 Bain’s Cape Mountain from Wellington South Africa
5 years old and 43% this stunner asserted my love for grains. It was toffee flavoured, some cinnamon, oily and reminded me more of Irish that Scottish whisky, developed Christmas cake and brandy butter.

#3 Paul John “Brilliance” from Goa, India
3 ½ years old and 46%, this was the first UK consumer tasting and was quite European with sherry salty notes, will only be released in UK for now to develop "serious image"… interesting

#4 St Georges Chapter 11 from Norfolk, England
3 years old and 46%, this just feels wrong; South Africa – fine. England – bad form! The best I can say, despite prejudice, is  that this did not really impress. The exression was lightly peated, a little sweet, but no one asked for a second taste…

#5 Balcones Baby Blue from Wako Texas
Butter popcorn, sweet but also remains fruity. Really liked this too but been advised to look for the even better Brimstone so will report back!

#6 Limeburners Cask M98 from Albany South Australia
60% at cask and only 123 bottles IN THE WORLD. This was thick with lots of prunes and raisins but for the price against the day’s other winners (Bains, Balcones) it didn’t convince.

Thanks to Mark (and his assistant Rihana) for letting me taste such a diverse range of whiskies and opening up the world's offerings beyond Scotland. If you are interested in learning more visit