Monday, 27 July 2015

Birmingham Beer Bash 24th July 2015

Dee – Our first visit to the 2015 Birmingham Beer Bash took place on a dull grey wet afternoon in mid-July, at the Bond in Digbeth; the same venue that hosted the Whisky Birmingham event earlier in the year click here for details
The evening event started at 5.30pm and we arrived not long after.  The venue was already fairly busy, and once we had collected our souvenir glasses and event guides, we had a quick perusal of the beers on offer.  All attendees to the festival received a complimentary token with which to pay for their first drink.  Subsequent tokens were available for purchase from the bottle bar. The price of the beers varied from £1 to £2 in tokens with the majority being around £1.50.
I decided to take pot luck with my first choice, as Jay did, but everything from Beer #2 onwards in both our lists was chosen from the guide. As with the whisky festival, it should be noted that whilst this is quite a long list, the measures were mostly thirds of a pint.

Dee's choices

Beer #1:  American Brown
Brewery:  The Runaway Brewery
Tasting Notes said:  Seriously moreish Brown Ale with caramel sweetness balanced by big flavour hops.
Dee said:  Nice dark mahogany colour.  Hoppy aroma and taste, with a pleasant hint of coffee.  Nothing was too strong, making this a good first choice.

Beer #2:  Bohemian Hipster
Brewery:  Mad Dog Brewing Co.
Tasting Notes said:  The pale golden Bohemian Hipster Pilsner pours perfectly clear and throws a classic grassy and herbaceous nose. Wonderfully balanced, the Hipster is a dry, quenching and - frankly - hip lager which will down well with cool people during a hot summer.
Dee said:  I chose this one because I liked the name.  It had a copper colour but no distinctive aroma.  There was a slight hoppiness in the taste.  It was ok but I wouldn’t rush back for it.

Beer #3:  BBQ IPA
Brewery:  unknown (sorry, this wasn’t listed in the guide)
Tasting Notes said:  none available
Dee said:  This one had a very strange aroma which reminded me of cheese, but in a good way.  It had a strong hoppiness to it but without the smokiness that I was expecting.

Beer #4:  Breakfast Stout
Tasting Notes said:  The coffee lover’s consummate beer. Brewed with an abundance of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and two types of coffee, this stout has an intense fresh-roasted java nose topped with a frothy, cinnamon-colored head that goes forever.
Dee said:  A rich coffee flavour.  Not something I’d choose to drink at breakfast time, but it would go fabulously well with some strong dark chocolate cake or a chocolate brownie.  The more I drank it the more I liked it.

Beer #5:  Munich Dark
Brewery:  unknown (Another one not in the guide)
Tasting Notes said:  none available
Dee said:  Mahogany coloured.  Nice rich malty flavour with a caramel aftertaste.

Beer #6:  Pot Kettle Black South Pacific Porter
Brewery:  Yeastie Boys
Tasting Notes said:  Our flagship beer, and biggest seller, is one of the most celebrated beers to come out of New Zealand. Pot Kettle Black is still the only beer to have ever won two trophies in a single year at BrewNZ, and in 2012 was awarded the Champion Beer of Asia (potentially the biggest award a NZ beer has picked up in 30 years). PKB, as it has become affectionately known, is a juxtaposition of beer: fresh and hoppy, yet as black as night and malty rich. The black beer that has converted many a person who was formerly scared of black beer. Also called a "real foodie beer" by pretty much every chef we meet!
Dee said:  No discernable aroma but a dark, brooding and bitter taste.  I would enjoy this best on its own on a cold dark winter’s evening (much like the evening of the festival in fact).  A definite winner.

Beer #7:  Penny Black IPA
Brewery:  Thirst Class Ale
Tasting Notes said:  Black IPA with Sorachi Ace, Equinox and Columbus hops. Hop forward with roasted malt backbone
Dee said:  I bought a sample of this after sampling Jay’s.  It was a brand new arrival so was a bit on the lively side and needed to be allowed to settle before drinking.  There was a rich taste of coconut and a smooth, lush texture.  Absolutely worth the wait.

Beer #8:  Uncle Zester   Dee’s beer of the Festival
Brewery:  Siren Craft Brew
Tasting Notes said:  What's a Braggot you ask? It's a beer brewed with both honey and malt. A beer / mead hybrid if you will. When we met Brad from B. Nektar Meadery at Copenhagen Beer Celebration in 2014 and tasted his meads we knew we had to get him over to brew with us. The result is an absolute zest fest.
Dee said:  Oh wow!  This was a taste sensation and a half.  Lemon sherbert with heaps and heaps of sugar followed by an aftertaste of slightly sour bubblegum.  Quite unlike anything I usually select when choosing beers but I really enjoyed it.  Definitely a feel good drink and a surprise winner for my beer of the festival.

Beer #9:  Smoked Farmhouse Porter
Tasting Notes said:  Big smoked porter made with farmhouse yeast for a bit of funk. Smokey, malty, smooth and delicious.
Dee said:  A good, rich warming brew.  Nice rich malty flavour up front with a lingering chocolatey aftertaste.

Jay’s Choices

Beer #1:  Ginspired
Brewery:  Magic Rock Brewing
Tasting Notes said:  An IPA brewed to be as refreshing on a summer's day as a gin and tonic. Brewed in collaboration with Siren Craft Brew.
Jay said:  Pale, dry, slightly floral.  Didn’t get any juniper though.  A nice summer beer which would have been perfect if we’d had nice summer weather.

Beer #2:  Dark Matter
Brewery:  Atom Beers
Tasting Notes said:  Toasty medium bodied Stout with a silky smooth mouthfeel with hint of dark chocolate.
Jay said:  Dark and Malty.  Roast – Coffee – Dark – Dry - Lush

Beer #3:  Almasty Salted Caramild
Brewery:  Almasty Brewing Co.
Tasting Notes said:  Ruby coloured mild; which starts sweet on the palette, then delivers a long dry slightly salted finish.
Jay said:  Didn’t get salty, didn’t get caramel, but did get a luscious session mild.

Beer #4:  Sleeping Lemons
Brewery:  Wild Beer Co.
Tasting Notes said:  L'hamd Maraked, the Morrocan for preserved lemons, literally translates as Sleeping Lemons. We have been preserving lemons in salt and lemon juice throughout the winter ready to brew this refreshing summer special
Jay said:  Took one sniff and thought “I’m not going to like this”.  A bit sherberty, then sour, then cider.  Considering I’m not keen on sour beers, this grew on me considerably, but then I am a bit of Wild Beer Co fan.  Glorious summer’s day drink.

Beer #5:  Fresh
Brewery:  Wild Beer Co.
Tasting Notes said:  Our pale ale, made with northern and southern hemisphere hops. Created with a passion for flavour and a lust for hops — this is a frisky, fragrant pale ale. Every six months we source some of the most interesting hops from the northern and southern hemispheres, which means two hop harvests and two excitingly different hop profiles. Given the unpredictability of each harvest, you’re guaranteed a punchy hop character alongside an appetising bitterness and a crisp dry finish that will send you back for more.
Jay said:  Hops Hops Hops!

Beer #6:  Penny Black IPA  Jay’s Beer of the Festival
Brewery:  Thirst Class Ale
Tasting Notes said:  None available
Jay said:  Sweet.  Interesting and worth checking back and back to see if there was still any left! My beer of the Festival this one.

Beer #7:  Chocolate Cherry Mild
Tasting Notes said:  Chocolate and Cherry Mild
Jay said:  Fruity but not sweet.

Beer #8:  Chevalier Non Barrel Aged
Brewery:  Cheshire Brewery
Tasting Notes said:  none available
Jay said:  This was offered for sale after a fringe event specialising in Chevalier-style beers.  It was cloudy in appearance and rich and full of flavour, with floral and spicy notes and a lingering sweetness.  At 6.8% ABV, it was dangerously drinkable.

Beer #9:  Uncertainty Principle IPA
Brewery:  Atom Beers
Tasting Notes said:  Take an IPA, give it some muscles with an extra jolt of abv, throw it through the 9 circles of hop hell and back with lots of ever changing hops. Then dry hop it, and again just to squeeze every last drop out of those lupulin filled cones! Always evolving, we give you the Uncertainty Principle.
Jay said:  Woo! Grapefruit.  Fruity and slightly astringent.  I liked it.

The guide provided a list of the beers which were going to be available over the 3 days of the festival, but not all beers were on at every session which meant we didn’t get to try some of the ales that we’d had our eye on but on the other hand, as the guide didn’t include some late additions, we also got to try some ales that we wouldn’t normally have chosen either.
There was a food court hosting several local caterers, all of whom we wanted to sample food from.  We took the vegetarian option and chose a mixed platter from Becky’s Bhajis which consisted of Onion Bhajis, Mumbai butties which were basically deep fried potato and vegetable sandwiches, some chilli chutney and a couple of dips: cucumber raita and a tomatoey-tamarindy sauce.  It was very enjoyable and worth exploring further when we finally make it to Digbeth Dining Club.
As with the whisky festival, the venue was well laid out to allow for drinks to be obtained and enjoyed in one of the seating areas, which were all under cover from the rain.  The layout also made for a friendlier event than those we have attended previously, and we struck up a couple of conversations with fellow attendees, sharing tips for favourite tipples and also sharing recommendations for good breweries.  I learned about the Mosaic Beer from the Golden Triangle Brewery this way.  We also found out about the Founders KBS stout, aged in whisky casks and a whopping 11.2% ABV which sounds worth a try.
Part of the commentary in the event guide talked about the small, inclusive nature of the event and the organisation certainly delivered on that score, as I mentioned in the paragraphs above.
In conclusion, both of us had a great time and appreciated the atmosphere and organisation as well as the variety of beers, and we look forward to hearing news of future events.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #18 – Ras El Hanout

Watercress and Chickpea Soup with Rose Water and Ras El Hanout
Dee – The recipe showcasing January 2014‘s featured ingredient, Ras El Hanout, was chosen for me as it was the only one to feature it.  It also happened to be another soup, making this the third in a row.  The Watercress and Chickpea Soup with Rose Water and Ras El Hanout on page 132 sounded like a real challenge to the palate, and I don’t mind admitting that both Jay and me were nervous about trying it out.  It was the inclusion of rose water that did it.  How could this work in a green soup?  To be fair, the commentary accompanying the recipe did say that it could be omitted but in the end our curiosity got the better of us and we decided to include it.
Ras El Hanout, the blend of sweet and savoury spices, originated in Morocco and translates as ‘Chief of the Shop’ or ‘Shopkeeper’s Choice’ and as with most spice blends, has almost limitless variations.  The version I used contained dried rose petals, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nigella seeds, cayenne pepper, allspice, lavender, mace, nutmeg and cloves.  The spice blend found its way to Jerusalem via Jews from North Africa, and recipes may also have been passed down through families who lived in the city’s old Moroccan Quarter.
This recipe was very simple to prepare; Perhaps the simplest of the three soups, but was filled with very interesting flavours.
The Ras El Hanout was used in the first stage of the recipe, where it was included in a coating for the carrots and chickpeas which were to form a garnish for the finished soup, but Jay commented that these would also make a nice snack on their own
The main body of the soup was formed by watercress, spinach, onion, ginger, stock and more chickpeas.  These ingredients were all stirred together until the leaves had wilted, and then blitzed to form a beautiful rich green coloured soup.  The rose water was then added at the last minute before the garnish was added.  Yoghurt was listed as an optional extra but we were happy with the soup as it was.
As far as taste was concerned, our fears about the rose water proved to be unfounded.  It was certainly in evidence but didn’t swamp the other flavours, and was complimented by the sweeter spices in the Ras El hanout.  This sweetness was balanced out by the peppery taste of the watercress.  The chickpeas served to temper the predominant tastes while also thickening the soup a little.
Of the three soups we’ve made recently, the Burnt Aubergine and Maftoul soup in part #16 had a home cooked feel, while the Pistachio soup in part #17 was a luxurious, ‘restauranty’ dish.  This one I think was somewhere between the two.  It was a soup made from chickpeas, watercress and spinach, all inexpensive ingredients, but was then embellished with exotic rose water and a complex spice blend.
I liked it more than Jay did.  The Ras El Hanout certainly made its presence felt, and I’m glad that we tried it with the rose water.  As with the Pistachio soup, this would make a nice starter to a North African themed meal.  Perhaps with the tomato and onion couscous on page 129 to follow (click here for further details), and the clementine and almond syrup cake on page 294 to finish.
This is the second time I’ve devised menus now.  Maybe I should keep a list of them somewhere.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)

Monday, 20 July 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #17 – Pistachio

Pistachio Soup
Dee – I’m a big fan of the beautiful green colour and subtle, nutty taste of pistachio, so was pleased to find that they were the November 2013's featured ingredient.
There were several recipes to choose from, both sweet and savoury, but it was the soup on page 138 that I decided to try out.  I was extremely curious as to how pistachios would fare in a savoury soup, and of course what the finished soup would taste like.
The first point to note when preparing this recipe was the time needed to shell and peel the pistachios.  With a 200g unshelled weight required, I sat down about three hours before starting the cooking to get them all done.  I think Jay would have skipped the peeling process (I would have! - Jay) but I wanted to go for a more colourful presentation so carried on with it while Jay got on with making the soup base.
The soup was simple to prepare.  Firstly, shallots, ginger and leek were sweated in the pan before stock was added, followed by most of the pistachios.  This mixture was them blitzed to make the soup, which was then given a citrus kick from some orange and lemon juice.  Yoghurt, a few more whole pistachios and a drizzle of saffron water provided the final garnish.
Appearance-wise the colour of the soup was a lot less vivid than I was expecting.  Taste-wise it was as rich as the recipe commentary stated, and our idea of serving it as a starter proved to be a sound one.
The burnt aubergine soup we made in Tasting Jerusalem #16 had a very hearty, homely feel but this one was rich and elegant, with more of a fine dining feel to it.  We served it in our nice glass bowls to add to the effect.
The combination of pistachio and saffron reminded me of Persian cuisine, and the commentary accompanying the recipe confirmed that its origins lay with the Iranian Jewish community.
The price of the pistachios and saffron, together with the lengthy preparation time made this soup more of an occasional luxury rather than something we’d make regularly, but it made a great starter and I imagine would be a great prelude to one of the other Persian inspired dishes such as the Lamb-Stuffed Quince with Pomegranate and Coriander.  I might even be tempted to finish off in style with a helping of Cardamom Rice Pudding with Pistachios and Rose Water…or would that be overdoing it?

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)

Friday, 17 July 2015

An Evening of Food, Music and Gin from Majorca

Dee – We were inspired to put together this menu of food, drink and music by Jay’s parents, who had bought us a bottle of gin back from Majorca where they had been recently on a holiday.  They had also bought us a book of Majorcan recipes while on a previous visit, so we thought it might be nice to combine the two into a themed evening.  We’re a bit far from the sea but at least it’s summer here so we’re part way there.
I’ve never been to Majorca myself so what follows is my attempts to approximate what an evening watching the sun set over the Mediterranean might be like.

Main Course:  Coca de Trempo
This is one of our favourite recipes from the Majorcan recipe book mentioned above.  It’s basically a base of wheat bread topped with peppers, tomatoes, onions and olive oil.  I’ve seen it referred to as ‘Spanish Pizza’ but it is quite distinct in that the bread base is rectangular rather than circular and the topping is of chopped vegetables rather than a sauce.  It is also best enjoyed at room temperature rather than straight from the oven.  There are some shared qualities though;  both are simple dishes, with bread and tomatoes at their heart.
It’s great as a lunch or sliced up for picnics or parties, both of which we’ve done in the past, but this was the first time we’d enjoyed it as an evening meal.  It went down nicely with a simple side salad and a glass of crisp, fruity white wine.  We looked for a Majorcan wine to keep in with the theme, but discovered that it was near-impossible to obtain away from the island itself.  A shame, but the wine we went for instead was fine.

Dessert:  Cottage Cheese Tart
On the evening that we made this dessert, I read an entry from a blog based in the United States, covering the decline in use of cottage cheese in favour of yoghurt. click here for details To be honest it was something that had passed me by but as soon as I read the article, I realised that yes, cottage cheese has been overtaken by yoghurt over here as well.  The whys and wherefores are beyond the remit of this article but the success of this recipe can certainly be used to re-assert the profile of cottage cheese in home cooking.
The Cottage Cheese Tart, known in Majorca as ‘Greixonera de Brossat’, is a super sweet baked dessert, resembling a cross between a baked cheesecake and a soufflĂ© in both appearance and taste, though with a lighter texture than both.  Traditionally, it is baked in a Greixonera, which is an earthenware casserole type dish, but we made miniature versions in tapas dishes, as shown in the picture.
The finished dish was light in texture, which was mostly due to the egg whites which were whisked into peaks prior to baking.  The cottage cheese brought texture more than flavour to the dish.  Aside from the sweetness from the sugar, there were also hints of citrus from the orange juice that was added to the raw mixture and the lemon zest that was used as a garnish.

Gin:  11
Distiller:  Ca'n Vidalet
Tasting Notes said:  The first gin of Majorca.  11 stands for the number of Mediterranean botanics from which our gin was distilled. Elegant and pure, with a subtle bouquet of floral and citrus notes, which fully unfold on the palate. Whether with tonic, as a martini or "on the rocks" -11 (Onze) Dry Gin gives your cocktail an unmistakable aroma.
Dee said:  Definitely one of the sweeter gins.  The initial aroma and taste was of aniseed rather than juniper, followed by orange and cinnamon.  After trying out a couple of garnishes which didn’t work, I decided that this was a gin best enjoyed on its own.
Jay said:  I added tonic and orange and lemon slices to soften the aniseed flavour.

Music:  Ximbomba Atomica
While searching for some Majorcan music to accompany our meal, I found the web site of a traditional folk group called Ximbomba Atomica. click here to visit their web site  They are named after the Ximbomba Mallorquina, which is a small drum held in one hand and played with a single stick.
Their music is quite distinctive and consists of guitar, bass, drums, viola and several older instruments including a recorder, the aforementioned ximbomba which was played alongside a small piccolo, and what looked like bagpipes.  The music was complex, tuneful and quite fast paced.
I couldn’t find an album of their own, though they do appear on a couple of compilations, and there are a few videos of them performing live which can be accessed from their web site.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #16 – Aubergine

Burnt Aubergine and Maftoul Soup
Dee – We were on safe ground with July 2015’s featured ingredient, Aubergine (Eggplant), as it features in several recipes in the book, and there is an entire chapter dedicated to it in Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty’ book.
It’s one of the main ingredients in Sabih, a personal favourite, and it was tempting to use this recipe, but I have it earmarked for a future entry so decided to select one of the others instead.
After careful consideration, I chose the Burnt Aubergine and Mograbieh Soup on page 141.  It’s been a while since I last made a soup, and this one features aubergines prepared in two different ways, making it very much the star of the dish so I felt it fitted the bill nicely.
The mention of ‘burnt’ in the title might cause some concern, but it refers to the burning of the outer skin, which is then peeled away and discarded, leaving the inside flesh cooked to a soft consistency with a smoky, creamy taste.
This recipe takes a while to complete, and has quite a long list of ingredients which are prepared at different stages before being combined near the end of cooking.  The initial burning of the aubergine skins can take a while and does need some careful attention to make sure they don’t dry out.  However, the time spent certainly pays off.
For this recipe I used three ‘standard’ sized aubergines as the small ones specified in the recipe weren’t available.  Two and a half went through the initial burning stage while I chopped up the remaining half and pan fried it ready for the final garnish.
I wasn’t able to find any Mograbieh, but luckily I had some Maftoul which I used instead, hence the renamed recipe title.  There isn’t a lot of difference between the two ingredients;  both are variants of couscous, Maftoul is Palestinian and slightly smaller than Mograbieh which is Lebanese.
Almost as soon as I started making this soup I felt confident that it would turn out well.  The first stage required onions to be softened and flavoured with cumin, followed by tomato puree, chopped tomato, garlic, sugar and seasonings.  Once this had spent some time simmering, the scooped-out aubergine flesh was added and the whole lot blitzed to a fairly thick soup.  Most of the maftoul and chopped up aubergine was then stirred in, with the remainder being sprinkled on top of the soup along with some shredded basil just before serving.
Both the taste and texture of the soup were fantastic.  The principal flavours were the earthiness of the aubergine, tanginess of the tomato, and spiciness of the cumin, while the maftoul served to thicken it.  It lost its characteristic nutty flavour but added a pleasingly chewy texture to the soup.
It was an ideal lunch and would certainly appeal to anyone who is a fan of thick soups that spoons can stand up in.  The specified four portion serving was spot on, but I think next time I make it I will up-scale the quantities and freeze some.  It’s that good.
There will be another soup for the next Tasting Jerusalem entry, but it will be very different to this one.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)

Monday, 6 July 2015

Stoke-on Trent Whisky Festival – Jubilee Hall, Stoke, 4th July 2015

Dee - The first Stoke on Trent Whisky Festival was held on Saturday 4th July 2015, in the Jubilee Hall in Stoke Town Centre.  It was to be our second whisky festival, the first being the Whisky Birmingham event back in March (click here for details).  The Birmingham event took place on a lovely sunny day andthat would be repeated this time, the difference being that there would be no outdoor area in which to enjoy it.
The venue was a single large room in the Jubilee Hall, with a smaller foyer where the retailer was located.  When we arrived, the festival was already in full swing and was busy, though not uncomfortably so.  We were greeted on arrival and handed our event guide, pen, bottle of water and very nice commemorative glass.
After an initial peruse of the stalls, we sat ourselves down in the foyer area, which would be our base for the duration of the event.  As more people arrived, the temperature inside the main hall inevitably increased, so we were glad of the cooler spot that we had found.
Even with the festival’s size, there were still over 70 whiskies to try, together with liqueurs and a few vodkas and gins.  We were never going to get round to sampling all of them, but we had a fairly good go.
I’ve written our selections up in the order that we sampled them, with links to each distillery, in the same way as I did for the Birmingham event.  Also as before, the comprehensive tasting notes can be accessed via the web site links.  Please note that all of these were snifters, rather than full measures, honest.

Dee’s Choices

Whisky No1:  Bowmore 12 Year Old
Distillery:  Bowmore
Dee said:  Lovely rich gold colour and distinctive peaty aroma.  Sharp and slightly sweet initial taste, leading to a warm and lingering finish.

Whisky No2:  Ben Romach Peat Smoke
Distillery:  Ben Romach
Dee said:  Quite light in colour, with a definite smoky aroma.  An initially earthy taste gave way to an unexpected pleasant sweetness.  The strong smokiness returned for the finish.  A very interesting experience.

Whisky No3:  Laphroaig Triple Wood
Distillery:  Laphroaig
Dee said:  Mid gold in colour but with a less pronounced aroma that the other Laphroaigs that I have sampled.  Slightly sweet initially but a little too subtle overall for my taste.

Whisky No4:  Connemara Peated
Distillery:  Kilbeggan/Cooley
Dee said:  Smoky yet smooth, elegant aroma.  A nice balance of sweet and earthy flavours.  A very pleasant drink.

At this point, I decided that it might be nice to try some unpeated whiskies, to experience some new tastes and add in a bit more variety.

Whisky No5:  Arran Sauterne Finish
Distillery:  Arran Whisky Distillery
Dee said:  Mid gold in colour, with a big hit of alcohol and sweet berries.  Very smooth in texture, and a light, fruity aroma that was nice to take in before each sip.

Whisky No6:  Kilkerran Work in Progress 7: Sherry Wood
Distillery:  Glengyle
Dee said:  Jay passed me this to finish, in exchange for what was left of my Arran Sauterne.  It was my first taste of Campbelltown whisky, and had a smoky, peaty aroma, though less pronounced than the Islay malts.  Jay had added a little water to it which smoothed the taste and released the flavour of the sherry casks.  I didn’t have any problems finishing this.  I liked it.

Whisky No7:  Springbank 10 Year Old
Distillery:  Springbank
Dee said:  This one seemed to be a popular choice as the next person in the queue to me asked for it too.  Another Campbelltown whisky, this one was peated again, and had a strong, rich and earthy taste.  It had a nice warming feel to it and I could imagine myself enjoying it while relaxing late in the evening.

Whisky No8:  Old Pulteney 21 Year Old
Distillery:  Old Pulteney
Dee said:  A strong, grainy aroma and taste which became slightly sweeter as it lingered.  Deliciously complex.

Whisky No9:  Ileach Peaty  Dee’s Whisky of the Festival
Distillery:  *secret distillery*
Dee said:  Back to the peated whiskies, and this one, distilled at an undisclosed location somewhere on Islay (or is it?), had a very strong aroma, leading to a rich, woody and almost buttery taste that gained a slight sweetness as it lingered.  Seriously good.

Whisky No10:  Longrow Peated
Distillery:  Springbank
Dee said:  I was back with the Campbelltown whiskies for my final tasting of the event.  This one had a pleasant mix of sweetness and peatiness which made for a carefully crafted complex drink.  Very good quality.

Jay’s choices

Whisky No1:  Auchentoshan American Oak
Distillery:  Auchentoshan
Jay said:  Lots of Vanilla.  Quite sweet.  A great start.

Whisky No2:  Spice Tree
Distillery:  Compass Box Whisky
Jay said:  I’d been wanting to try this since missing out on it at the Brum event.  Felt warm and spicy but couldn’t place the spices themselves.

Whisky No3:  Fireball
Distillery:  Buffalo Trace Distillery
Jay said:  More of a liqueur than a spirit.  Tasted like whisky mixed with cinnamon.  Fiery, slightly medicinal and ultra-sweet.

Whisky No4:  Tullibardine Sauternes Cask Finish
Distillery:  Tullibardine
Jay said:  Didn’t get a heap of sweetness from this, which was what I was expecting.  Taste and texture were softened with a little water.  Nice but wasn’t blown away by it.

Whisky No5:  Kilkerran Work in Progress 7: Sherry Wood
Distillery:  Glengyle
Jay said:  A bit peaty.  Not for me, sorry.  I passed it to Dee.

Whisky No6:  Arran Sauterne Finish  Jay’s Whisky of the Festival
Distillery:  Arran Whisky Distillery
Jay said:  This was what I exchanged my Kilkerran with Dee for.  Loved this.  Overtook the American Oak as my favourite so far…

Whisky No7:  Auchentoshan Three Wood
Distillery:  Auchentoshan
Jay said:  My love affair with Auchentoshan continues.  Got a lot of honey up-front, but it didn’t linger.

Whisky No8:  Paul John Brilliance
Distillery:  Paul John
Jay said:  Fruity aroma.  Full of flavour at the first taste but not one to linger.  A good single malt though.

‘Whisky’ No9:  Warner Edwards Rhubarb Gin
Distillery:  Warner Edwards
Jay said:  I know it’s gin, not whisky, but I got distracted.  It was gorgeous.  Not too sweet.  Like being smacked round the face with a stick of rhubarb.

Whisky No10:  Arran Amarone
Distillery:  Arran Whisky Distillery
Jay said:  It was pink.  Aroma sent tingles up my nose.  Big strawberry flavour at first but mellowed out to reveal a vanilla-ish smoothness.

That concludes our selections for the first Stoke Whisky Festival.  Since starting work on this blog entry, I have found out that plans for a second event are already underway, which is great news, as both Jay and me enjoyed it very much.
With it being a first event, there were inevitably a few challenges.  Firstly, the water supplies were running low about half way through the event.  No doubt the temperatures had a hand in this, but luckily the organisers managed to sort out a fresh supply, I think from a nearby supermarket.  We also found the nibbles and food to be in short supply.  Maybe for next time an on-site caterer would be a welcome addition.  Lastly a bit more seating would have been good as the middle of the room was fairly empty with the areas round the stalls a little crowded.  There were plenty of chairs at the back of the hall, and probably enough room for a few tables down the middle where people could sit and enjoy their drinks.
Despite this, the event was certainly a success, and we only heard good feedback from where we were based.
The smaller size of the event allowed for more opportunities to talk with the exhibitors and fellow attendees, one of whom had seen a booklet on peated whiskies that I had picked up, and recommended the Smokehead Whisky (click here for details) to me
The retailers were doing a brisk trade but remained friendly.  They had with them a stock of a number of the whiskies on offer at the festival, but unfortunately not my whisky of the festival, the Isleach Peaty.  In lieu of this, I chose a bottle of Springbank Ten Year old, which I was more than happy with.  Jay was luckier and bought a bottle of Arran Sauterne finish.

Although the festival was over, our whisky adventure had one final stage.
The day after the festival we were heading home, and stopped off at the Trentham Estate to have a look round.  We called in at the Whisky shop there, and I straight away began scouring the shelves for the elusive Ileach Peaty.  Sadly it continued to elude me, but I picked up a small selction of Bowmore single malts, including the 12 Year Old, which I was very fond of.  I was assured that if I liked the 12 Year Old I would get on fine with the others, so I am going to save them for a tasting session in the future.

It’s 8.50pm as I finish typing this, so I think it’s now time to pour myself a glass of that Springbank 10 Year Old.

Reviewed by Dee, 6th July 2015