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Single Cask Cocktails with SMWS and Scotch Club

Single Cask Cocktails

Echoing the sold out success of the previous year's collaboration with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Shirt Bar's Scotch Club (read about our shenanigans here), we returned for another sell out session pairing three single cask, cask strength whiskies with three different cocktails made with the same whiskies.

This time however, in collaboration with Shirt Bar's talented bar manager Patrick, we came up with a different concept for the pairing. Inspired by the premise of matching food dishes with alcohol, we decided to do the same...but in the form of the cocktails! A liquid food pairing so to speak.

The proceedings was kept fairly informal with everyone getting a short introduction to each whisky by Matt Bailey, the national brand ambassador for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, before the matching cocktail was brought out in the following order:

Single Cask Cocktails trio

1. Cask 41.76 Sunshine in a Glass paired with Lemon Vanilla Sponge (a vanilla twist on the Vieux Carre cocktail)

2. Cask 35.144 Punch with a Punch paired with Black Forest Roulade (a cherry chocolate twist on the Rob Roy cocktail made with the addition of Cherry Heering and Mr Black coffee liqueur)

3. Cask 3.285 Fun on the Beach paired with Hot Salted Nuts (a salted old fashioned served up with burnt rosemary and side of duck fat maple spiced nuts to evoke the experience of walking along a pier on the beach)

Single Cask Cocktails Shirt Bar set up
Single Cask Cocktails full house
Single Cask Cocktails cocktail prep

Carrying on into the night, most stayed on for more drinks, with Shirt Bar offering 20% off all dark spirits for the evening. As always, it was a great way to experience a spirit in different ways and we like to think that the cocktails highlighted and accentuated different notes in the whisky. We have to say a big thank you to the society for letting us play around with some very expensive cask strength whiskies! And of course, to Shirt Bar for hosting a wonderfully convival evening.

More information on how you can get your hands on society whiskies available here

DIY Liqueur Masterclass

DIY Liqueur

For our first event of 2017, we thought we'd do something completely different and look at the underrated world of liqueurs. Liqueurs have long had a bit of a reputation for being sickly sweet and something your nanna would sip. Whilst by definition (in the European Union anyway), liqueurs have to have a minimum level of sugar added to them, we wanted to find out how different liqueurs stacked up and how easy it would be to DIY. 

Taking place at film noir bar The Long Goodbye in Darlinghurst, we gathered for a welcome drink that was a refreshing mix of blood orange and ginger shrub topped with soda before taking our seats for a masterclass on the world of liqueurs. Led by bar owner Flynn, who at the Long Goodbye specialises in making his own liqueurs, we were also joined by the "mad scientist professor" Mica, a chemist by profession who was on hand to explain some of the science behind the process.

Liqueur Tasting collection

Across the following hour we tried side by side three different home made liqueurs against their commercial counterparts

1. Representing the fruit category, we tried a passionfruit liqueur made three different ways against the commercially available De Kuyper passionfruit liqueur. The contrast between the housemade and the commercial versions were astounding, not least in the syrup levels of the latter compared to the former. It also bears noting that the De Kuyper itself is not a pure passionfruit but also has oranges and grapefruit in it, which may go some way to explain the more lurid colouring. As for the housemade passionfruit liqueur, we tasted a "traditional" infusion of passionfruit in neutral alcohol that had been left to infuse for some days, as well as one made in an ultrasonicator (more on that later) and one using a ISIS cream charger which produced a liqueur in 30 minutes. The room was divided as to whether the zestiness of passionfruit came through more in the ultrasonicator or the cream charger version  but there was unanimous agreement at least that the passionfruit came through a lot more in the homemade versions.

2. Representing the nut category, we tried a chestnut liqueur that Flynn had produced using the ultrasonicator against the commercially available Massenez version. Yet again, the room preferred the housemade version, for the more natural chestnut flavours that came across although the Massenez had a profile that was more akin to chestnut cream, which may work better depending on the application.

3. The third category was perhaps the most controversial as we tasted a spiced rum to represent the herbs and spices category. Whilst traditionally spiced rum would not be associated with the liqueur category, we thought we'd push the boundaries a little as most spiced rums have sugar added (although some like Cargo Cult rum do not), and the housemade version utilised an infusion method not unlike those used for liqueurs. We pitted the homemade version against the iconic Bundaberg, which produces a spiced rum that was more fizzy and sherbety on the nose than Flynn's version. Without it being a slight on the quality of either, the room preferred the housemade version, with the consensus being that the spices used (such as cinnamon and anise) came through better. That for us, probably highlighted the beauty of the DIY method, in that you could adjust and manipulate the version you want based on what spice you wanted to be more prominent.

Ultrasonicator

Perhaps the most exciting demonstration from the afternoon, was the usage of an ultrasonicator, a machine that is also used as optical cleaners at optometrists! The principle of it is not unlike a sous vide machine, in that the alcohol and spices/fruit/herb/nuts are placed in a bag and then placed in the machine. But instead of it being slow cooked, the machine basically uses intense vibrations over a concentrated period of time (which could be something like 30 minutes) to produce the final version. It certainly gave new meaning to the phrase "shake the 'ell out of your liquid"!

Tasting mat and platter
Spiced Rum cocktail

Capping off, we all enjoyed a cocktail made with spiced rum that was topped with a flaming passionfruit - a great way to wind down the session! Many thanks to Flynn and Mica as well as the Long Goodbye bar staff for accommodating us!

 

Meet the Maker - Redlands Distillery

Meet the Maker Redlands Distillery

For those in the know Redlands Distillery has been quietly building up a name for itself as one to watch on the Tasmanian whisky distilling scene from the time it started operations in 2012. Since moving to its current home in Dysart House in Kempton (about 40 minutes out of Hobart) in 2015, the distillery has gone from strength to strength; having recently planted its first barley crop since the move, Redlands is soon to resume its status as Australia's only paddock to bottle single malt whisky distillery. Whisky enthusiasts often lament how difficult it is to lay their hands on Redlands' whisky releases, such is its limited availability that you can only taste and buy them at the cellar door. So we thought, if Mohammed can't get to the mountain, we'll bring the mountain aka the Redlands cellar door to Mohammed! Luckily for us, head distiller Dean Jackson and brand ambassador Robbie Gilligan happened to be doing a rare trip up to Sydney so on a balmy Tuesday evening in October at Kingston Public Bar and Kitchen in Newtown, we hosted a full house of enthuasiasts who were all there to drink, chat and discover the story behind Redlands.

To kick things off, guests were treated to a welcome drink on arrival, a refreshing take on the whisky and soda but this one made with Redlands apple schnapps, topped with ginger ale and garnished with a slice of the very apple that sits in each schnapps jar. Unlike most garnishes and as one member put it, that apple slice would have had enough potent spirit in it to make up a standard drink on its own!

Cocktail in hand, it was time to settle into the Chesterfield couches out the back of the bar and make like we were in the front room of Dysart House. As a surprise, Robbie brought along a sample of Redlands' malt spirit for everyone to try, before we moved on to sample the apple schnapps, the Paddock to Bottle whisky (aged in tokay barrels), the Old Stables whisky and the limited edition XO Brandy, all served up with a side of historical information on the casks and distillery itself as well as some practical tips from Dean on how they decide when the whisky is good enough to bottle. The highlight in the lineup for most was the whiskies, with people being pleasantly surprised to find out the Old Stables was bottled at Redlands from Sullivans Cove stock, more precisely barrel HH545, which is a close sister cask to Sullivans Cove's World Whisky Award winning HH525 barrel. Given the unicorn status of the latter, the Old Stables was a unique opportunity for many to sample a whisky bearing similar characteristics to its sibling world beater (minus the price tag!). Despite the pedigree of the Old Stables and such is the diversity of our palates, some drinkers preferred Redlands' very own paddock to bottle tokay matured whisky which for one member, had more subtle complexity on the palate. 

To accompany the tasting, Kingston Public served up platters of cold meats and cheeses, but not just any cheese; bar owner Gigi had specially procured cheeses from Grandvewe in Tasmania, which some readers may recognise as also being home to Hartshorn vodka that was itself featured in our vodka evening some months back. We thought it particularly fitting to feature Tasmanian cheeses as the Redlands cellar door and cafe is a big supporter of local produce, featuring goodies from around the local area where they can.

To finish, we had a sample of the lavender malt, made by infusing Redlands' own new make spirit with lavender grown in their garden - whilst there's a touch of sugar added, it isn't as sickly sweet as some liqueurs and the lavender comes through subtly and not quite as potpourri heavy as one might expect. We normally cap things off with a cocktail but for this one, we decided to do something different and make an edible cocktail. Inspired by a conversation we had on our Tassie visit with our cellar door guide Vanessa who mentioned that a customer had used it to bake lavender scones, we turned our minds to coming up with a cocktail that you could eat and drink at the same time! In this, we also took inspiration from one of our cocktail friends from across the globe, one cocktail Instagrammer by the name of @thefermentedalaskan who had created a cocktail cupcake based on the classic gin cocktail the Aviation.

Putting it all together resulted in the "Taking Tea with Lavinia Grey" - consisting of an Earl Grey and Tasmanian wildflower honey cupcake base, Four Pillars barrel aged gin and Redlands lavender malt frosting topped with a chocolate teacup. Each guest was also presented with a vial containing the Lavinia Grey liquid cocktail, itself a twist on the classic Bees Knees cocktail and made with Four Pillars barrel aged gin, a special SCC blend of 58 Gin (read about how we came up with this gin here), Redlands lavender malt and the same Tasmanian wildflower honey syrup. The cocktail was poured into the chocolate teacup and drunk from it directly before the whole thing could be eaten. We'd like to think that as the cake and cocktail was being consumed, guests were transported to the courtyard of Redlands and could imagine themselves taking tea in the surrounds of the imposing structure of Dysart House!

A special thanks has to go to SCC member May Lawrence, whose baking skills helped the cupcake base come alive, and to Matt Wooler of Dramnation who took many of the photos seen here. And of course, to Kingston Public and not least to both Dean and Robbie from Redlands for making the night what it was! 

If you are thinking of visiting the distillery, we can highly recommend it! Read what we thought here

Whisky Manipulations - Hot & Cold

Whisky Manipulations Hot & Cold

As part of our Hot & Cold series, we joined forces with whisky educators Dramnation one sunny Saturday afternoon to tackle that golden barley spirit and showcase how it could be manipulated in a number of hot and cold cocktails. Featuring the range of whiskies from New World Whisky Distillery in Victoria (makers of the award winning Starward expression), we welcomed a full house of enthusiasts with a palate cleansing mocktail (consisting of a home made pineapple shrub with cucumber and lengthened with Fever Tree soda) before we got down to serious business, which is drinking whisky!

Reproduced with kind permission of Dramnation

Reproduced with kind permission of Dramnation

Whisky Manipulations Tasting table
Whisky Manipulations guests

We promised attendees that we would have a mystery nip to start and so we did! A colourless liquid, this one divided the room, with most guessing it to be new make (i.e. the spirit that comes off the still before it is put into barrels to be aged) and one guessing it to be gin. The answer, both! It was in fact, a genever style gin that was produced under the New World Projects experimental arm of the distillery. Widely acknowledged as the predecessor to gin, genever is a protected "appellation" (i.e. it can only be called genever if produced in a certain geographic region that includes Netherlands and Belgium) and is a blended malt spirit (similar to new make) and botanical distillates including juniper. Unlike gin however, it does not have to taste predominantly of juniper and various styles of genever calls for varying levels of malt spirit. the NWP Korenwijn (literally Dutch for corn wine) uses at least 51% malt spirit hence the similarities to new make. 

Starward

Moving right on and led by Matt from Dramnation, we then tasted three different expressions of the NWW distillery's range - the Starward Single Malt aged in apera (or Australian sherry to you and me) barrels, the Starward Wine Cask aged in Australian red wine barrels and the New World Projects limited release for Vintage Cellars that had been aged in Spanish PX sherry barrels. Alongside each, Pocket bar manager Daniel Molnar demonstrated the making of three specially designed cocktail to highlight the whisky itself. The first one was aptly titled Apera Champera, which was created as a playful riff on the whisky highball but presented to look like champagne. Consisting of the Starward single malt, Becherovka liqueur and topped with Fever Tree ginger ale, this was refreshing with the spicy notes of the whisky highlighted by the liqueur. 

Whisky Cocktail station
Reproduced with kind permission of Dramnation

Reproduced with kind permission of Dramnation

Bobby Burns PX

For the second cocktail, we went back to classics with the Bobby Burns PX, using the NWP PX release with Dom Benedictine, Oscar 697 vermouth rosso and a dash of bitters - wonderfully balanced with some chocolate notes brought out by the liqueurs used, we absolutely loved this when we first tried it and still do! But the star of the show had to be the hot cocktail....with a fire show by Pocket's bar manager Daniel Molnar to top things off. Flaming the Starward Wine Cask to pour into a heated chocolate mix to produce the Wonka Wine, this was an adult version of the hot chocolate but brought up to date in modern times with a dehydrated raspberry rim garnish.

Wonka Wine demo
Wonka's Wine

Closing things off, one lucky guest also won a copy of Diffords Guide to Cocktails Edition 11, an encyclopaedic tome of over 3000 cocktails - but as we say, you can never have too many cocktails!

Diffords Guide

A huge thanks to all who attended and Pocket Bar for a great afternoon. Special thanks have to go to New World Whisky Distillery and Southtrade International (distributors for Starward, Becherovka and FeverTree in Australia) for their generous support, without which the event would not have been such a success.