This evening I was lucky enough to participate in another @TheWhiskyWire organised tweet tasting held in celebration of 'The Craftsmen's Dinner", an online series hosted by Michel Roux Jr which seeks to recognise and celebrate modern day artisans. This is the second instalment of the Balvenie's Craftsmen's Dinner where we paired three Balvenie single malts with honey, cheese and chocolate.
The whiskies and food were delivered a couple of days before the tasting as is normally the case, however the size of the parcel was something of a surprise! and the actual presentation of the wares was pretty special it has to be said... I'd been sent a wicker basket containing three good sized samples from Balvenie (specifically, their 12 year old Doublewood, 14 year old Caribbean cask and the 17 year old Doublewood), a pot of honey from Bermondsey Bees, a bar of dark chocolate from Pump Street Bakery and a wedge of cheese from Wildes Cheese.
On the night we firstly sampled the whiskies in the usual manner associated with a tweet tasting, before then trying the food along with the drink... the recommendation being to coat our mouths with whisky, try the food, then try another sample of the whisky to see how the textures and flavours of the food compliment or change the dram.
We started with the 12 year old Doublewood, which was paired with the honey, then we moved on to the 14 year old Caribbean cask paired with the cheese, before finishing with the 17 year old Doublewood and chocolate. Here are my thoughts on the drams & food pairings:
A really inviting nose with hints of pineapple, dusty wood shavings, orange zest and a bit of clove. With time it opens up to give more orange notes and warm honey sweetness.
Lovely soft vanilla and apricot notes swimming in thick honey… tempered by a little dry oakiness though
Not the longest finish, but what there is is sweet and satisfying with creamy banana foam
When paired with the honey
More of the sweet sherry notes become evident, and the thickness of the honey adds to the overall body of the whisky and elongates the sweet finish. Overall very sweet as you'd expect, but not sickly sweet. The honey itself is quite floral and has a slight tartness on the finish.
Wave after wave of tropical fruits... coconut, passion fruit, pineapple. Also a touch of chocolate orange & citrus zest.
Peach crumble & vanilla custard initially, then more sharper tropical notes like mango & kiwi develop. I didn't get as much of the rum raisin quality that I was expecting, or that others picked up on.
Sharpness develops (lime) before the dram dries to a nice oaky finish and there is some sea salt too… a really interesting (and dangerously easy drinking!) dram
When paired with the cheese
The cheese itself (called 'Roland') has actually been washed in Balvenie. Initially I found the paring to be quite strange as the cheese has a strong musty flavour that is a real contrast to the sweet, tropical notes of the whisky. However eventually as the flavours meld, you get a really pineapply finish on the whisky. I was unsure to begin with but it grew on me with every taste.
This has a bit of an oily, waxy furniture polish note but with a big sherry kick. More intense than the others but the overall tropical sweetness remains.
Coffee grounds were mentioned which you get a little at the end, but as more time goes on the more it softens and the sweeter it becomes.
It's like the 12 but more defined and smoother. Vanilla toffee, ripe peach and a little green apple too
Hints of spice come in on the finish, with a little chilli kick.
When paired with the chocolate
You get waves of salted caramel, followed by moist tobacco notes… on the finish you get lingering milky coffee notes which are lovely. It's a really good pairing! The chocolate is an 80% Finca Tres Marias Honduran dark chocolate which on its own is quite bitter yet it retains a salted caramel finish.
I think my favourite whisky of the night was the 14 year old Caribbean cask, but there wasn't much to call between the three. Of the pairings, I found the cheese to be the most intriguing, the honey to be very satisfying and the chocolate to be the most enjoyable.