For those of you who’ve been reading my blog a while, you’ll know that I’m no stranger to whisky. Ever since I met Vicky from Brumderland, she’s been introducing me to wonderful whiskies at every opportunity. Vicky put on a very special whisky tasting a couple of weeks ago for a select few friends come bloggers – Caramel Latte Kiss, Bite Your Brum & Hey It’s Fay and respective husbands – along with food from Digbeth Market Kitchen, at The Anchor Digbeth.
We took over one of the rooms at The Anchor so we had a cosy, private area just for us, and 7 different drams to try.
First up was Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky. I love Nikka, especially the story behind it which you can read in my blog about Whisky Women, and despite being a grain whisky which can get a bit of a bad rap, I really enjoyed this.
Like most Japanese whisky, this had a smooth, rounded flavour. A good start to the evening.
I gave it a solid 7/10.
Next we tried Johnnie Walker Double Black, which is a blended whisky, touted as a smokier interpretation of the classic Johnnie Walker black label.
Vicky talked us through the amazing skill that goes into creating a blended whisky like this, and how master blenders need to be able to consistently create the same flavour profile with different malts.
Personally I wouldn’t normally choose a blended whisky, but I really enjoyed the Double Black, the smokier, spicier profile was really enjoyable.
I gave this one a 7.5/10 as it just had the edge on the Nikka.
Our third dram was Highland Park 12, our first single malt of the evening. This was the Viking Honour edition, so the bottle is beautifully patterned.
In terms of flavour, I picked up on a floral, honey sweetness in this, which I’m told comes from the heather in the terroir where this is made.
This was also a 7/10 for me.
At the halfway mark, we stopped for food, courtesy of Digbeth Market Kitchen. The menu features light bites and bigger plates, with some crispy pub grub treats like chicken wings & club sandwiches, but also some Asian inspired dishes like crispy pork belly with pickled veg and noodles in teriyaki sauce, which I went for on the night.
The dish looked beautiful, but was a bit of a mixed bag. The flavour of the pork belly was gorgeous, and it was really tender, but wasn’t crispy. I didn’t mind that so much as the flavour was good, but unfortunately for others on the night the crispiness of the pork was a dealbreaker. Credit to Mike (chef) he prepared more pork belly for us, perfectly crisped, for us to try, and took on board the criticism with grace and humility.
Onto the other elements of the dish, I really enjoyed the pickled vegetables, which were sweet, sour and crunchy. The rice noodles were a little underseasoned for me, and could have done with drenching in more of the teriyaki sauce.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a good bowl of food, but knowing a bit about Mike and the way he cooks, I know this could be even better, with tonnes more flavour, heat and excitement. That said, bang a great stock in there and you’ve got a delicious ramen just as it is.
As for the other dishes, Fay’s crispy tofu club sandwich and Ian’s portion of ALL the chicken were both met with utter joy. I’m excited to see more of what Mike does and how he progresses the menu.
Onto the second half of our whisky tasting, we started part 2 with Glen Moray Port cask finish.
Now, I had real high hopes for this. I love Speyside whisky, and I love Port, so a Speyside whisky with a Port cask finish should have been right up my street. Unfortunately this wasn’t for me.
You could pick up on some of the sweetness from the Port cask, but there was really no body or finish on this for me. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was the only dram I didn’t finish.
Next we headed to the States with Wild Turkey Rare Breed bourbon, barrel proof at a whopping 56%.
Despite being eye-wateringly strong, this was surprisingly smooth, and had a really creamy flavour. Which gave Ian and I an idea…
We made a boilermaker with this and a pint of Surf – a seasonal beer on tap at The Anchor – and I kid you not, it tasted like Butterkist popcorn. The saltiness in the beer matched with the creaminess of the bourbon and ended up tasting like butter.
True to form whenever we all get together, the night descended into a certain level of chaos after discovering this. Although it was one of my more regrettable decisions of the night, this flavour combo was a winner for me.
Last on the list for our official tasting drams was a 25 year old Inchmoan Island Collection.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, this bottle cost over £200. This peated whisky from the Loch Lomond distillery is aged in bourbon casks for 25 years. I can’t always tell the difference between expensive and cheaper whiskies, but boy can you tell with this.
The flavour is complex and interesting. It’s smooth like the leather of a well-worn Chesterfield. Smoky like the lingering scent of an expensive cigar. Warm and sweet like your Nana. This was, quite simply, one of the best whiskys I’ve ever drank.
Our bonus dram of the evening was Jameson cask mates IPA edition. As an IPA drinker and craft beer addict, I had high hopes for this one. Sadly it wasn’t anywhere near as good as I wanted it to be.
I was hoping for a zesty flavour with a touch of bitterness, but it really didn’t come through for me. There was a hint of fruitiness, but nothing that I wouldn’t expect from an Irish whisky. Maybe I was biased because the Inchmoan before it was just so good, but it left me a bit deflated.
As always though, Vicky took us on a whisky journey, that stopped off at many countries, many price ranges and had a healthy dose of history involved. Tasting notes were delivered without pretension, with something for whisky novices and enthusiasts.
Her game of getting us to guess how much each bottle was worth showed that we were actually pretty on the money. The only one we struggled with was the Inchmoan, as we knew it was expensive, but not quite how expensive!
I hope this is something Vicky will consider doing again, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, even if I didn’t enjoy the hangover the next day…
All of my drams were supplied from the extensive whisky collection of Vicky & Dan, thank you SO much for sharing.
Aside from a welcome pint, other drinks & food were paid for by me. My opinions are, as always, my own, and I was under no obligation to provide a review of the whisky tasting, The Anchor or Digbeth Market Kitchen. I’m just nice like that…