Last year I had the opportunity to go and have an introductory Whiskey tasting at the Bascule bar, at the Cape Grace. It was one of those unexpectedly joyful occasions when you discover something about yourself you didn’t really know – as it turns out, I’m a single malt Whiskey man. (Family and friends, please be advised to act accordingly around birthday times.)
You can read more about the first tasting here.
The Bascule bar a taste experience is the Bascule Bar’s intermediate Whiskey tasting. As with the first tasting, a “Taste Experience” focuses on how Whiskey is made but aims to give more succinct examples of the many complex characteristics that can be found in single malts. In other words, the Whiskeys are older, more delicious, and regrettably more expensive.
This adventure wouldn’t be as much fun if I didn’t invite the bud that invited me to the first tasting, Kevin -drummer extraordinaire, and donor of hair (all of which go to sick children. This accounts for the scarcity of “pate insulation”).
The tasting started with an American bourbon – Eagle Rare Bourbon.
Honestly, it’s very easy to become a snob when drinking whiskey and the Scottish counterparts from other side the pond can quickly be seen as “red-neck swill”. That is until you taste it. It is at that point you realise that your preconceived ideas of what and where a good whiskey is and comes from is shamefully inadequate. This Whiskey was the fruitiest of the bunch, with a sweet custardy taste, and to quote Kevin: “It smells like happiness!”
We moved onto the Bushmills (16 year old). I liked this one, it’s something I could see myself drinking regularly in the late evenings, sitting on my balcony, and typing out my award winning novel. Delusions of grandeur aside,this has a short smoky finish, with almost flavours of hay coming through, topped of with a ping of anis.
This tasting is meant to help inform on a deeper level, and on a deeper level I have found nothing exceptionally great to say about the Glen Kinchie (12 year old). Whiskey is a personal journey, maybe I’ll meet GK12 again and give it a hug, or maybe it’ll beat the crap out of me and leave me for dead. Who knows?
Next up was the Glen Dronach (15 year old). This sweet nectar is a happy place, filled with stone fruit and dates, and not in an “elderly pensioner wanting to be more regular” kind of way either. It’s matured in sherry casks and the flavour comes through so clearly it’s amazing, and unlike old age pensioners, will give you a firm punch at 46% alcohol.
Highland Park (18 years old), is wondrous and is the perfect whiskey if you’re ever by the sea, or conversely away from the sea and need a sea-sprayed memory. This sounds odd, but it’s slightly salty, and smoky, and if you close your eyes, you could be next to a bonfire on the beach somewhere – it’s remarkable. Really it is.
As you would have guessed it’s partnered with the smoked Snoek, which only confirms what we know in our mouths and hearts – that anyone that has ever loved the sea will love this Whiskey. (Note: writing this I almost forgot that I studied oceanography. I love the sea, and this whiskey is for me. It rhymes so it must be true!)
The evening was topped off with the Laphroaig (Quarter Cask).
Ladies and gentleman, I introduce you to the “Deep thought maker”. This sneaky whiskey is that friend you stay up till two in the morning talking about the state of your relationships, the state of the world, how you fit into that world, what it must look like to be in space looking down at humanity on the thin dry crust of a planet while being slung around a fiery ball of flame. Yes, with its understated label, and it’s plain green bottle, this whiskey is a maker of kings, revolutionaries, and warrior poets.
With incredibly smoky deliciousness somehow coupled with a strong medical TCP taste it somehow shows you its duality. To say that I like this whiskey would be a shattering understatement.
In conclusion, I seem to like Single Malt Whiskey a fair amount, and am so glad I had the opportunity to go do this tasting – the atmosphere is great, the people doing the tastings are some of the most passionate I have ever met (maybe good whiskey does that to people?). Plus they have the largest selection of Whiskey in the Southern Hemisphere, so there’s a pretty substantial chance you’ll be able to find something you’ll enjoy.
If you’re thinking of doing a tasting then give them a call + 27 (021) 410 7099
A special thanks to Bradley for taking us through these amazing Whiskies, and a huge thank you to the Cape Grace for opening their doors (and bottles) for us to come visit. You have made a friend for life.