Recently I was invited down to the Athenaeum, a fantastic boutique hotel in Mayfair, which has put a lot of time and effort into updating its whisky bar.
The bar has, incredibly, more than 270 whiskies and its own whisky sommelier in the form of Angelo Gobbi. It also does something call the Whisky Social, which brings together whisky lovers and someone from the industry to do a relaxed tasting.
On show the night I was there was Balvenie – Dr Andrew Forrester, the UK brand ambassador, was on hand to take tasters through four different whiskies: the DoubleWood 12-year old, the Single Barrel 15-year old, the PortWood 21-year old and finally, the Tun 1401, Batch 2.
It was a busy, buzzy night as guests arrived to the hotel and enjoyed a whisky sour to get things going. To add to the excitement, Dr Forrester made sure to introduce some extra technology into the mix, by playing the group’s first live distillery tasting in the background.
Each whisky was accompanied by a small dish which had been specially paired to match.
First up was the DoubleWood (a long-time favourite of mine) with a beautiful parsnip and almond soup, the flavours of which (creamy, nutty, rich) complemented the DoubleWood very well indeed.
We continued on to a seared scallop with the 15-year old and then moved through the range to a medallion of red deer and pumpkin puree with the PortWood.
But the real treat for me of the night was the chance to try the Tun 1401, Batch 2, which I had heard great things about. And, it didn’t disappoint. This special batch uses sherry and bourbon cask whiskies from the 1960s up to the 1980s – it was elegant, extremely smooth and downright delicious. One taster put it as: “A beautifully cut ruby,” while the Dr. compared it to an “elegant ballroom dancer”. No wonder the (just less than) 3000 bottles sold out so quickly!
The evening was full of laughter and discussion, and had a laid-back open feel that can sometimes be hard to come by at tastings. It lived up to its name of being “social” and allowed the attendees a chance to really quiz Dr Forrester about all his knowledge on whisky. It was informative, interesting and a great way to showcase some fantastic whisky from Balvenie.
In the end, it was a night of discoveries – a new whisky bar, a new whisky event and a chance to discover the incredible Tun 1401 Batch 2. Miss Whisky was merry indeed.
The next Whisky Social takes place at the Athenaeum on the 25th January (Burns Night) and will be hosted by David Frewin from Macallan. For more information, head here.