Whisky is one of those special spirits that manages to distill the essence of a place into a bottle. Meaning “water of life,” whisky is made from fermented grain mash. Different grains are used for different varieties and typical unifying characteristics of the different classes and types are the fermentation of grains, distillation, and aging in wooden barrels.
If you think the introduction paragraph is all the info you need in order to look like a whisky bof, think again. You might even assume that you know it all but once you’ve attend an in-depth tutored whisky tasting at the Bascule Bar, you will soon realise that you don’t know much about this fascinating product after all.
Except for George Novitskas. Here we have a guy who knows everything there is to know about whisky and more. Best part, George has the credentials to proof it.
On a recent visit to the Bascule Bar, we got to know George and the fleet of whiskies they stock a little better. ”A Taste of Whisky”, is the first out of three in-depth tutored whisky tasting, designed especially for those whose passion for whisky drives them to learn more about the spirit.
The introductory tasting entailed a line-up of 6 world class whiskies, each paired with a set of phenomenal canape-style snacks to complement the various taste profiles.
First-up, an American Bourbon from Kentucky, called Buffalo Trace. It displayed sweet and buttery flavours, similar to it bourbon counterpart, Jack Daniels. The Buffalo Trace expressed flavours of vanilla, toasted oak and coconut (or sun-tan lotion).
Up next we had an Irish whiskey produced by the world’s oldest distillery, Bushmills. This triple distilled 10 year old whiskey was aged in American oak and finished off in Sherry barrels. It displayed ripe fruit flavours like banana.
Straight from Edinburgh came the Glenkinchie 12 Year Old. It was quite bold on the nose but short-lived on the palate. A dash of water brought out cinnamon flavours, which reminded me of my childhood and a sweetie called fire-balls.
Another Glen made it’s way into the line-up in the form of Glenmorangie. It’s interesting to note that any whisky starting with a ”Glen” comes from the Speyside region in Scotland. Some more interesting facts – perfume peddlers Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (the LVMH group) took over the company and its three distilleries in 2004, and a limited edition of 18 year Old Glenmorangie was sold to an South African buyer for R32 000. Unfortunately we had to make due with the 12 Year Old, which showed some butterscotch and fudge flavours. It was nevertheless my favourite out of the fleet.
Highland Park is the most northerly whisky distillery in Scotland and are one of the few distilleries to malt its own barley, using locally cut peat from Hobbister Moor. The Highland Park 12 Year Old paired so well with the smoked salmon canapes, it was unreal!
Last but not least was the Laphroaig Quarter Cask Single Malt peated Whisky from Islay. These guys have a Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales, making it the “official supplier” of single malt to the British monarchy, and what’s good enough for royalty is good enough for me!
So there you have only a drop of the whisky knowledge I’ve gained at my very first tutored tasting. The beginner’s whisky tasting experience (Taste of Whisky ) costs R175 for six single malt whiskies and food pairings. For those who believe they are pretty clued up there’s the Taste Experience priced at R220 or the Sommelier’s Choice (R500) where you have the opportunity to taste some seriously rare and older malts.
Bookings are essential for any of the whisky tasting experiences and you can contact +27 21 410 7082 to book your one-on-one session with South Africa’s walking whisky encyclopedia, George Novitskas.
Here’s more snap-shots of our Taste of Whisky tasting at the Bascule Bar, Cape Town.