As we rush to the end of the year, I feel like PR companies and event planners are taking it up a notch. I have been to one excellent event after the next and am happy in my amazement and enjoyment of people’s creativity and ability to give their best when everyone is seemingly losing steam this time of the year. But by far, one of the most excellent events I have been privileged to attend this year was #WhiskyJourney, a sensorial journey of discovery.
This “captivating journey” of five iconic whisky brands would be a night to remember! Five incredible whiskies: Three Ships, Bain’s, Bunnahabhain, Scottish Leader and Block Bottle. Each whisky would be featured in its own room, with its own food pairing, specially chosen for the flavour profile of the whisky being featured. A bell would sound when the time came to move to the next room. I was already mad about the idea!
Before the official proceedings started, we spent time leisuring on the balcony, watching another glorious Jozi sunset while a jazz band played in the background, sipping on cocktails made from the featured whiskies. I was too excited and anxious to get started, though, and hovered around our first room, Number 2. Little did I know what awaited me on the other side.
And finally, it was time to get cracking. I was first through the door and the room was enveloped in a smoky haze. It seemed our first whisky would be peaty and smoky. And that it was. Our first taste would be Bunnahabhain, but not their usual non-peaty whiskies. No, we would be tasting the Toiteach, not even available in SA at the moment. Ask your friends to pick some up in duty free (a hint I received from someone the next day at Whisky Live).
“Distinct from that of other Bunnahabhain single malts famous for their welcoming taste, Toiteach (meaning smoky in Scots Gaelic), is a delicious, peaty whisky.
This bottling offers the connoisseur an opportunity to try something truly unique. The liquid has been masterfully distilled and quietly matured at the distillery, never for a moment leaving Islay during this process.”
This was paired with a plate of smoky flavours, from smoked oyster to smoked salmon. Best of all, we got to hear all about Bunnahabhain from the famous Pierre Meintjies himself, sporting a kilt in the Bunnahabhain traditional colours and pattern. Despite a lot of amazing rooms that followed, our first room, Room 2, remained my favourite throughout the evening.
Soon the bell sounded and we were off to Room 3 to meet famous Master Distiller Andy Watts and learn all about Three Ships Whisky, a brand that has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Here we tasted the Special Release Bourbon Cask Finish Whisky, which was paired with a spicy bunny chow.
“Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish is the first ever 100% South African blended whisky, with both the malt and grain whiskies being distilled and matured at the James Sedgwick Distillery. Rich and golden in colour, it offers a hint of a bourbon taste profile. After its initial three-year maturation period, the blended whisky is placed in first fill American Bourbon Casks for a further six-month marrying period.”
The gong sounded far too soon and we had been so enraptured by Andy’s talk that we had all but forgotten to eat. But without much ado, it was onward and we were off to Room 4 to visit with one my personal favourites, Black Bottle. Being a youthful brand, the room was decorated in steam punk vibes and flashing video and light, with casual nachos and dips as the food pairing. A definite winning blend for me, I love Black Bottle cocktails especially.
“A singular dram that stands up, demands attention and delivers huge chewy mouthfuls of flavour that cannot be ignored. Never reserved for faint praise, it’s adored by the critics, loved across the land and inspires the kind of passionate devotion that can last a lifetime.
Capturing the very essence of Islay in an artful marriage of all seven of the island’s classic malts alongside some of the finest grain available, this is a blend to savour. Every sip is a celebration, every glass an occasion, every mouthful is smooth, full-bodied and uncompromising.”
There was no hint of stopping though as we were soon ushered to our second last room, to visit with Scottish Leader. Their room was exceptionally well decorated and I was impressed with the way the whisky had been presented. It’s one of my favourite “looks” from the evening, and married well with their #NewPerspective branding. Here, there was no sign of food at first, and I (always wondering about the food) searched around, not noticing a chest of tiny drawers on the other side of the room. Voila! We soon found out we need only open a little drawer to find some delectable crostinis. Here we got to taste their Signature Blended Scotch Whisky.
“Launched in 2015, Scottish Leader Signature is a special and sophisticated blend, with added Scottish island malts to create a distinctively rich and complex whisky with a signature hint of Hebridean smokiness.
Colour: Deep copper gold. Nose: Rich and fruity with a distinctive peaty aroma, balanced oak with hints of toffee, leather and chocolate. Taste: Mouth-filling, creamy and rich, spicy pepper and zesty orange peel with heather honey and a tangy, smoky texture. Finish: Incredibly long, rich and spicy with a silky smokiness.”
Last but certainly not least, we went to get cosy with Bain’s, another home-grown whisky. Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, launched in 2009, is already raking in the awards and no wonder, as the Master Distiller behind it is none other than Andy Watts! The only whisky in the world to be made from SA maize and uniquely double matured at the James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington. This was paired with fitting corn-inspired flavours such as a corn dog with real boerewors inside.
“Inspired by the Cape Mountains and its natural beauty, Bain’s Single Grain Whisky is the first of its kind in South Africa. It pays tribute to the man, Andrew Geddes Bain, who built the Bainskloof Pass that connects the town of Wellington, where our distillery is located, to the interior of the country back in 1853.
Bain’s Single Grain Whisky is a double matured whisky produced from 100% South African Yellow Maize, you may call this corn. First mature it in specially selected first-fill bourbon casks for a period of three years, then transferred to a second set of first-fill bourbon casks for a further 18 to 30 months to extract a full rich flavor like no other.”
One helluva stunning event, I couldn’t have been more impressed with the inventiveness and the execution. Well done to the team behind this one! I hope to be included in many more events of a similar calibre.