Sunday, 17 June 2012

World Record Whisky Tasting

2 Great Men
3 Great Whiskies
8 Whisky Shops
24 hours and 683 miles
I was there....well for the Oxford session anyway

Not long ago, Dominic Roskrow of The Whisky Shop and John Glaser from Compass Box Whisky Company decided that it would be a good idea to mark the arrival of three Compass Box whiskies in The Whisky Shop branches, to hold eight different whisky tastings, in eight different Whisky Shops, from Inverness to Brighton. Madness? It must have seemed a good idea at the time! 
On Friday 15th June 2012 the world record event was to begin.

I had just booked that Friday off of work when I found out about this crazy event, and thought, if I get up early on the Friday, get my chores done, I should easily make it for the six o'clock session in the Oxford branch of The Whisky Shop which seemed like the nearest event to my house at fifty miles door to door.

Each of the whisky tastings were with a trio of award winning core expressions from the Compass Box Whisky Company, Great King Street, The Spice Tree and The Peat Monster. Each whisky tasting event at each Whisky Shop had a different theme to it too, but the same three whiskies were used throughout and in an attempt to set a whisky tasting world record and raise money for charity along the way, the whole tour happened in just one day.

It all started with a one-minute-past-midnight tasting at The Whisky Shop in Inverness and finished in Brighton with a grand finale at 11.30pm

At Inverness there was a classic tasting session and grand departure. By 0430 they were in Edinburgh with the history of blended whisky and the rise of the Highball. Making it to Newcastle for 0830, breakfast pairings was on the agenda; Haggis and Spice Tree, Kippers with Peat Monster. Great King Street and cornflakes? (I made that last one up, but might try it next weekend) 

In York at 1130, and the art of blending was explained, and onto Birmingham for 1530; Oak, the magical ingredient was the order of the session. The Oxford session started at 1800, before moving onto London for 2100 and whisky cocktails and there was something special to finish at Brighton at 2330 

Chris Maybin and two regulars outside the Oxford Whisky Shop in Turl Street
The Oxford tasting was due to start at 1800 and the order of the session was food and whisky matching. I got to Oxford in good time, found somewhere close to park (it really isn't easy to park in Oxford!) and strolled into town to find The Whisky Shop which was tucked in the middle of the historic section, and halfway down Turl Street.

Chris Maybin, Commercial Director, from Compass Box Whisky was already there, and along with Oxford Whisky Shop Manager, Peter Hack, were preparing the shop for the tasting. Telephone calls from the travelling party were reporting that due to traffic (Friday afternoon rush hour from Birmingham to Oxford) they might be a little late. The shop was starting to fill with enthusiastic regulars, wanting to be part of this event, and even the sun was shining, which was surprising with the weather forecasts predicted for the weekend.

It was only a little after six when John and Dominic arrived, and after very brief introductions (they were on a mission) the tasting session got underway.

John Glasser in full flow, Great King Street The Artist's Blend with Dominic Roskrow listening intently
First up was Great King Street, The Artist's Blend which had been paired with vintage cheddar cheese. John explained the history of Great King Street and the importance of blended whisky, and why he decided to start blending his own. Someone told me a while back, to think of a single malt as a solo instrument and a blended whisky as a band or orchestra. I tried The Artists Blend at the London Whisky Fest in April, but the food pairing with vintage cheddar cheese brought a whole new dimension to it. It quickly became a luxurious vanilla ice-cream, just delicious!

Moving swiftly on and Salmon was the food pairing for The Peat Monster. This was my favourite Compass Box Whisky at the London Whisky Fest so was really looking forward to tasting this again and it worked beautifully with some superb quality pepper-crusted salmon.

For our final dram, The Spice Tree had been paired with a rich fruit cake, however while nosing the dram John explained a little of the history of the Spice Tree whisky and the experiments with the wood they had initially undertaken. Both the fruit cake and Spice Tree whisky were delicious and went well together, although John thought that this would have been better matched with a rich Jamaican ginger cake. I'm looking to try that very soon!

The three whiskies, Smoked Salmon and Fruit Cake

With the tasting session over, John and Dominic were quickly bundled into their car and were rushed off to London. They made the final two events in time, and hopefully made it into the Guinness book for Records for the event, but if it didn't happen, it didn't really matter, some 200 people attended the events nationwide, each shop raised money for their local charities, and a lot of people when away with an education in Compass Box Whisky.

As I was driving I was unable to fully partake in the tasting, however I was allowed to take my drams home in sample bottles before the main bottles were drained by the rest of the tasters. So now I can get my own vintage cheddar cheese, smoked salmon and Jamaican ginger cake and hold my own food pairing at home. I always have smoked salmon in the fridge, have just bought some vintage cheddar this afternoon, so just the ginger cake to get tomorrow then!

All participants were also handed a limited edition T-Shirt to commemorate the event, unfortunately they were obviously designed for younger more svelte whisky drinkers, as only mediums were available - I haven't been a medium for 35 years! So it was promptly 'blagged' by my youngest daughter when I got home. She's modelling it for me here!
The front of the limited edition t-shirt.....
and the back of the limited edition t-shirt

No comments: