Friday, 21 November 2014

Òrach Slie & Glenfarclas 15

Another half and half post, this time featuring a beer I got sent in return for writing some recommendations for Nottingham pubs on the Harviestoun Blog.

Òrach Slie is the barrel-aged version of Harviestoun's 'Schiehallion' lager, the first Harviestoun beer I ever tried - many years ago. Not only that but it's aged in Glenfarclas whisky barrels, Glenfarclas being a distillery that happens to be one of my favourites. I went for the 15 year old to see if it made a good half-and-half pairing, since it was one of the ones out of Glenfarclas' core range that I'd not tried in the past.

The nose of the Òrach Slie is dominated by the malt, I didn't get much of the whisky/sherry notes to start with, but that malt nose was great, with a lovely spice to it. The nose on the Glenfarclas 15 was classic Glenfarclas, all you'd expect in terms of those big sherry notes; dried fruit, caramel and buttery toffee along with a marzipan sweetness.

On the palate the Òrach Slie is impeccably smooth, the whisky seeming to contribute more to the texture at first than the flavour.  It's initially light but with a weighty finish as the whisky influence comes through, giving it a luxurious sweetness. I suspect the casks weren't as heavily sherry-influenced as they were for the whisky. In this case the beer is embraced and caressed rather than given a hefty kick it often is with the big imperial stouts that are whisky barrel aged. It's different, and very pleasant.

The Glenfarclas 15 on the palate has lots of marzipan and burnt toffee flavours, then the finish reveals more juicy prunes and nutty, cashew notes. that contrast nicely with the relative lightness of the Òrach Slie, that's despite it being a 6% beer. I think as a pairing the Glenfarclas 10 might well have worked better, with it being that bit lighter, but the contrast was enjoyable.

The Òrach Slie is available from the Harviestoun web shop for £17.50 for a pack of three. There are some great Glenfarclas 15 year old (70cl bottle) packs around with a miniature of the 21 and the 25 for about £55 - a fantastic choice if you're looking for a Christmas whisky.

Lastly many thanks to the folks at Harviestoun for the beer - slàinte!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Brewdog 'Russian Doll'

This was a pack of experimental beers from BrewDog. The idea is that the beers share the basics recipe but the abv is ramped up as you go through the range, starting at 4%, going to 6, 8 then finishing on 10% with the barley wine.

From their website: 'The range of flavours and aromas present in Russian Doll come from the same malt bill, the same four hop varieties and identical water and yeast.'

Russian Doll Pale Ale: As you'd expect colour-wise. It had Punk's characteristic 'dusty' note and while the hops came through on the nose I didn't pick up so much on the palate. It was decent and refreshing but perhaps a bit too dry/lacking fruit.

Russian Doll IPA:This was a bit more orange in colour, quite a bit deeper. On the nose it wasn't massively different to the PA, but where the PA fell a bit short on the palate this one delivered, there was a alot more punch. The dryness was off-set with a burst of orange and tropical fruit. Altogether a much more rounded beer.

Russian Doll Double IPA: Similar to the IPA in appearance, much more pronounced on the nose, the hops were more overt and once I had a sip it really hit those grapefruit pithy notes I'd expect from a US-style IPA. I'm not usually a huge DIPA fan but this was great, the dry 'Russian Doll' character that runs through the first three of these beers sits nicely against the juicy mouth-watering fruit.

Russian Doll Barley Wine: This was very different to the first three. It was a lot darker, sweeter and viscous. There were liquorice and burnt toffee notes that I hadn't picked up from the previous three. Barley wine isn't something that I've drunk enough of to say if this is a particularly good example but I quite enjoyed it - although it's one I might have appreciated more in a third of a pint measure rather than a 33cl bottle!

All in all an interesting little experiment. Say what you like about BrewDog they're not afraid to go for the beer geek market (and long may that continue) but even putting that aside these were good beers without being ridiculously priced.

Bought straight from the BrewDog shop, starting at £10 for the pack.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Islay Ales & Bruichladdich

If you're going to go for a whisky and beer pairing what better than beer from the world's most renowned whisky island? Well as far as Islay's most famously distinctive offerings are concerned it doesn't really follow. Much as I love beer and whisky to accompany one another it doesn't necessarily follow that peaty whisky works - I find the peat overpowers beer so I usually enjoy a peaty dram as a stand alone (Bowmore Laimrig is the current peaty tipple of choice). So when I was wondering what to try and match my Islay Ales brace with Bruichladdich was the distillery I turned to; a distillery that offers a range of whiskies across the peating levels scale. I went for the 'Laddie Classic' Scottish Barley unpeated expression - one that I really enjoyed at a Bruichladdich tasting a while back.

First up was the 'Saligo Ale' which unfortunately was, I think, a bit past its best. It was still lively and smelled fine but there was a a sourness in the finish which didn't work on its own let alone with the honeyed sweetness of the whisky. The 'Single Malt' Ale was more like it; it was all about that malt, the yeast and hops taking a back seat to the point where it was almost like crunching malt in your teeth. There was a brief play on some peachy fruit on the palate and a chalky finish but it all came across as background accompaniment to that big maltiness which unfortunately renders it a little one-dimensional. As a pairing with the whisky I think the contrast was almost a bit too much; either the whisky was too sweet or the beer a bit too dry - nothing against either on their own but a bit too much of a clash to be as harmonious as some I've had in the past.

Perhaps not the most successful half and half pairing I've done, but since it seems that barrel-aged beers are popular at the moment I'll hopefully get to have a bit of a play around with more and set the record straight soon!

Both Islay Ales (Saligo at 4.8% & Single Malt Ale at 5%, both 50cl) came from Ales by Mail for £3.05 & £3.14 respectively. A quick google for the Bruichladdich and you can pick it up for less than £42, it's bottled at 50% abv.