May has been a fantastic month for the whisky enthusiast in Sheffield.
The beginning of the month saw Abbeydale Rd bookshop and cafe The Rude Shipyard host an excellent return to their Drams and Drinking Songs evening. The second instalment featured rowdy, rousing performances from James Cannon and the Sinners as well as some open-mic slots too. It’s a very social evening with the emphasis on drinking and making merry. Whisky being shared with friends rather than studiously examined. It’s refreshing to see a night organised this way. Although there may be a lack of information, there certainly wasn’t a lack of quality. The whiskies, advised and supplied by local independents the Dram Shop, included: Irish Single Pot Still Redbreast 12 Year Old, St. George’s Chapter 9, a peated English 3 year old, a Welsh Penderyn Single Malt Madeira Finish and a 16 year old Scottish Speyside from Dailuaine. Your £15 ticket got you a dram of each of them or you could just turn up on the night and pay for whichever whiskies you fancied. There were a few others that came out on the night, including the limited Ardbeg Alligator and a Cask Strength Edradour from 1997. The photo also shows a sneaky Isle of Arran and a naught Dalwhinnie in the mix too. There was beer and cider to wash all that down and a mountain of very tasty Guinness cake.
It may be a little way out of Sheffield but it would be rude not to include Bakewell’s ever reliable Wee Dram whisky shop. They hold regular tasting evenings which are always a joy to go to. This month’s was held at the Devonshire Arms Hotel in Baslow and was presided over by Alistair Mutch from Tomatin Distillery who presented a range of expressions from Highland favourite Tomatin. Tomatin is located just south of Inverness and makes a particular fine, rich, mellow whisky. Attendees were able to sample nine different whiskies this evening – this was a record number for a Wee Dram tasting – and so for £23 a ticket plus a light buffet represented great value. There were three blends, Big T, Antiquary 12 and Antiquary 21 (which they sneaked in at the end) plus the Tomatin range from 12, 15, 15 Tempranillo Finish, 18, 21 and a 30 year old. You can read Adrian and Allison’s account of the evening on their Wee Dram blog.
“Whisky Galore” was jubilant titling of the Showroom Cafe‘s whisky night on Saturday 26th May. Showcasing Whyte and Mackay brands Jura and Dalmore matched alongside a 4 course meal from the Cafe. It’s always interesting to see food and whisky matching as this used to be the domain of the wine industry but there’s bags of flavour in whisky that can cope with some foods that wine can struggle with. The first course was a Jura 10 served alongside “Devon crab and spinach butter, coriander salad and rapeseed oil”. Next up Dalmore 15 to go with “Chicken Liver and almond terrine with tangerine jelly and glazed segments. Plus a seeded Chicken winglet with red pepper jam and tempura asparagus”. For the Dalmore 18 the kitchen created a “classic Beef Wellington, spinach, pancake, mushrooms, handmade puff pastry with classic duchess potatoes baked with cauli puree”. And finally the Dalmore King Alexander III was paired up with “Organic honey and chocolate orange mousse, chocolate orange soil, mint leaf, organic honey Mascarpone and coffee truffle”. It would have been interesting to see how well all those flavour combinations worked. The Dalmore King Alexander III, for example, is matured in a giddying array of different casks including French wine casks, Madeira drums, Port pipes, Kentucky Bourbon barrels and Marsala barrels so it’s a big statement whisky and would have hopefully emphasised the orange and honey flavours of the last course. By all accounts it was a highly successful night and the Showroom hope to repeat it sometime in the future.
The Blake Hotel have been running regular monthly tasting events since the pub was reopened 18 months ago. Owned by the same group who have the Sheaf View in Heeley, the Blake is similarly a real ale pub with a large and impressive whisky collection that features firm favourites as well as some particularly unique, rare and obscure whisky from all over the world.
This month’s tasting theme was Irish Whiskey (with the extra “e”) and was held over two days (Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th) due to the demand for places. The night was hosted by their barman, Jeff, who talked freely about Irish whiskey, it’s history, how it’s made and the differences between styles and types. There were five drams on offer, showing four different categories of Irish whiskey, from three different distilleries. First up a very rare grain whiskey from Cooley called Greenore 18. Only 4000 bottles available and unlikely to be seen again once it’s sold out. Next a Single Pot Still – Greenspot – in it’s new packaging. Single Pot Still is a category that is uniquely Irish, being malted from both malted and unmalted barley. Those that had had the old bottling before noted that the new style was different. The new, spicier and drier, losing the mouth-coating oiliness of the old bottle. Third was Jamesons Select Reserve – a blend of pot still and grain. Both Jamesons and Greenspot are made at Middleton distillery. Fourth, a single malt from Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland, the 16 year old which is finished in a Port Cask. This seemed to split the room in a love or hate way. Finally another single malt, from Cooley again, the Connemara Turf Mor. Like the Greenore a very limited edition, this one is an experimental batch they made from a highly peated malt (at 58ppm more peat than Ardbeg at 50ppm). Fantastic value for only £10 and lots of digestible information for both beginner and connoisseur.
Tuesday also saw the Broadfield on Abbeydale Road run their “Angels Share” tasting, hosted by their whisky curator. The Broadfield has a fantastic selection of single malts, almost one from every working distillery. This tasting also included food that had been made using whisky. A different, but also innovative spin on the whisky tasting process. They included Aultmore Strawberries and Cream, a Fettercairn mojito and Laphroaig cured Salmon. Six samples on offer included a Bowmore 15, Jura Superstition, Japanese Yamazaki 12, the Fettercairn Fior, a Glen Garioch Cask Strength and an independent bottling by Chieftans.
Finally there was also a tasting at the Rising Sun on Tuesday too. We’ve yet to receive any information about it yet but we’ll add it to this post as soon as we do.
In the meantime, keep up to date by looking up tasting events across Sheffield on our facebook page: whiskysheffield