Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Event: Birmingham Whisky Club Tasting - New Releases with Pernod Ricard

Whisky is sometimes considered to be an acquired taste. Not for all, the golden dram is not for everyone. And yet, how many of us can truly say that we've tried and tasted some of the finest whiskies, enough to give an informed opinion?

I've always been pretty impartial to whisky, enjoying a taste when it's around but never actively seeking it.

However, my curiosity was sufficiently piqued when I was invited to attend the Birmingham Whisky Club's event, New Releases by Pernod Ricard.

Hosted in the upstairs room at The Wellington pub, I joined a mixed group of men and women, from different backgrounds and ages, to taste five whiskies; Scapa Glansa ABV 40%, Chivas Regal Extra ABV 40%, Chivas Regal Ultis Blended Malt ABV 40%, Longmorn 16 ABV 48% and The Glenlivet Peated Cask ABV 61.5%.

Presented by Lauren Mustard, the Chivas Regal Brand Ambassador, she talked us through the history of the brand, how each whisky was made, what kind of barrels were used in the process and also the characteristics of each whisky.

By no means a connoisseur, I learnt a lot from the whisky tasting. I also really enjoyed the pace, which was slow enough to allow everyone to taste, appreciate and also discuss each whisky whilst still keeping our interest.

The first whisky we tried, the Scapa Glansa, is matured in American barrels and available only in specialist retailers. From the Speyside area, this area is known as a centre for distilleries because whisky was easy to hide in the valley! Known as the smooth flowing one, this was fruity, floral and sweet.

Second along was the Chivas Regal Extra, a blended scotch of single malt and grain led whisky. This process was started by an American, Robert Stein, and refined by an Irishman, making it not too Scottish at all! The grain whisky is considered to be a canvas on which to paint the malt. This whisky is smooth, rich and harmonious, which is considered to be the house style of Chivas Regal.

Here, we learnt a lot about whisky barrels, about how casks can be used for up to 90 years after which all the oak colours and flavours will have been drawn out. Over time, a spirit line appears and this is how to tell how much longer the barrel is good for. Often, barrels are repurposed too and made into different shapes to hold different spirits.

Thirdly, we tried the Chivas Regal Ultis, another blended malt released in October 2016. This used five single malts, and Ultis means strength in Latin. With a floral element and a spicy element too, the blend honours five master blenders and uses five single malts from five Speyside distilleries. The names of the master blenders are even featured on the box, along with the Chivas Regal symbol which represents friendship and included Scottish symbols such as the lance.

The penultimate whisky we tried was the Longmorn, a single malt from Elgin created in 1893 by John Duff, a Victorian whisky personality. Matured for a minimum of three years, this was characterised by mellow caramel and toffee flavours which made it easy to drink. This was by far my favourite tipple of the evening. A helpful whisky connoisseur recommended I try the Glendronach 8 or 12 year old since I enjoyed this so much.

Lastly, the Glenlivet is a cask strength single malt, which is finished off in a peated cask. Typically, peated whiskies come from the islands, but not in this case.

Two hours later and I could safely say that I'm a little wiser on the ways of whisky, but by no means an expert! It was fascinating to learn a little more about the history and the making of whisky, as well as tasting the differences between each kind. What's the prescription? Another dram of whisky for me, there's still plenty to learn!

*With thanks to The Birmingham Whisky Club for the invitation

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