Thursday, 28 January 2010

A touch of smoke...

I spent burns night hosting a beer dinner at the Cross Keys, it was a wonderful evening helped along by some real quality food courtesy of the Cross Keys kitchen team headed up by Brett Barnes and some excellent drinks in particular the malt whisky and tutored tasting provided by Jamie Nicholson.

The thing that particularly stuck me was Laphroaig.

I'm a late convert to whisky, it took me some time and persistence to come around to the particular nuances of malt. I often find that many of the great tastes in life require the period of acquisition. I don't believe anyone who, when first tasted, truly enjoyed such delights as oysters, beer, wine or whisky. Understanding that great tastes need a little dedication pleases me somewhat.

So rather splendidly I had a bottle of Laphroaig at home which was given to me some time ago and I'm having a blast on it. Laphroaig is somewhat odd, TCP + smoke but soft too and suggesting fruit which on further examination is a bit like that slightly dusty element to mango. It's odd but fantastic, the length and depth is remarkable and the finish, that dry, smoky, salty heather is truly excellent.

Smoke is something quite amazing in a drink, it really strikes a chord with me; misspent youth burning things in my back garden you see. As the man of the house (my parents divorced when I was young and I lived with my Mum for 75% of the time) I was in charge of many of the garden clearing duties and thus got to burn loads of stuff. This was ace and a major attraction for my friends. Also being born on the 4th of November bonfires are part and parcel of my make up. The smokiness in drinks gets right into you.. literally. Just like being consumed by clouds of the stuff whilst ruining neighbors wash days or indeed accidentally setting fire to a skip and having to call the fire brigade.

In terms of beers that perfect that smoky flavour Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen is surely one of the best, it has that beechwood depth and full nasal smokiness that none other seems to have. Goeller Rauchbier is also excellent but is more subtle which is nice as there's a honey character too and a refreshing nature.
Smoke I'd also put in a similar category as extreme hoppiness and sourness, these tastes for me act as a proprietary, resetting the pallet ready for the more subtle flavours hidden later on in the profile. This is something that I'm rather interested in and I'll come back to it at some point soon.

The Cross Keys

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