Saturday, December 17, 2016

London 2016 Highlights: The Whisky

London 2016 Travel Highlight Blog
February 26 - March 9, 2016
Blog #3: The Whisky

It feels a bit odd to make one of these highlight blog posts about alcohol, but I was quite lucky to come across a Glemorangie Pop-up in London during this past visit. Read on.

Firstly, a quick aside/shout-out to other random tipples during this trip.

At the local pub with Michal and some work peeps
When your non-sugared iced tea is just too healthy?

The main event: Glenmorangie House London
Last year when I was in London, I missed the Glenmorangie pop up bar by a few weeks and was super sad to miss it -- given that Glenmorangie is my favourite whisky as is glorious. I figured it was a one-time-only thing and boy was I wrong!

Wandering by one evening on our way to try silly Nando's, I saw THIS:

Turns out, YEAH, the Glenmorangie House London pop-up bar was back, still temporary, and kinda under-stated. Hadn't seen advertising or email blasts about it (yeah, I'm on their mailing list, obv.) It was just... there. In all its glory. It was also closed. So a quick Google and Michal discovered they were open most evenings. YEP.

On the second last night of the trip, I managed to carve out some time in the evening to go and IT. WAS. MAGNIFICENT.

You walked in to displays of bottles including the Pride 1981 (not in my price range!) and the ridiculously cool/kinda ridiculous 300 GBP sunglasses made from the wood from Glenmmorangie whisky casks. Hilarious and amazing. If they weren't $450 I would buy these so hard.

What a fun and amazing setup. The bartender was super cool and came over to ask me how I found out about the place. I told him we were just strolling by and how excited and unexpected it was. He said that was really the point -- they didn't want it to get overrun, it was rather for the Glenmorangie obsessive (connoisseur?) like myself who is a "true fan" and wants to learn as much as possible about their process and try some unusual cocktails made with Glenmorangie specifically. Really cool marketing thing, and also, I love this place :)

I asked the bartender to recommend a couple of the cocktails and he told me he'd happily write me the recipe for one of the less complicated drinks, and I should rather try the more complicated ones that would be impossible to replicated on my own (eg. he had aged his own tea bitters for one of them!)

I tried the Smoke and Mirrors which was super amazing, and the he recommended I try the Sweet Sixteen as well ("Chamomile Bitters aged in a barrel for 16 weeks"!!) These were both life-alteringly awesome. I would never have said "Oh sure, pour some of my Lasanta or Quinta Ruban into a cocktail, I have plenty!" but this was pretty eye-opening. Most often it seems a waste to use such nice Scotch for anything other than sipping with no ice from a Norlan glass (uh oh, Whisky snob alert!!!).. but this was truly fantastic. I was surprised how well it mixed with all these other crazy flavours. Both of these options were tea + Glenmorangie which is SO Britishy and also SO Jutan-style. This was legendary.

I was fawning over the menu and couldn't stop talking about the place and so the bartender kindly let me keep a menu and one of the Glenmorangie menu holders on the table, as well as writing me out a recipe for one of the simpler cocktails. So wicked.

I then headed to the back tasting room which had more of a "whisky process" discussion and free tasting happening. This was super super cool as well to geek out about the Glenmorangie process. Incredibly, they had some stuff not-for-sale that we were able to taste and compare. They gave us a sample of Glenmorangie 10 from a first-fill cask and then also a Glenmorangie 10 from a second-fill cask. That is so unusual to get to try them both and there was a surprising difference between the two. Quite a range. The dude there said that Glenmorangie 10 is a combination of first and second-fill. It was crazy to get to try both, separately, as that never exists outside of the distillery. So, so, so, sooooo great. I was pondering asking how much a pour of the Pride 1981 was, but since it wasn't even on the menu I figured the bottle was mostly there for decoration :) Plus by then I'd had my "fill" as it were! What an amazing experience. After spending about 2.5 hours geeking out about whisky, I bid adieu to all the nice people the Glenmorangie House London and headed off to go meet my epic wife who said, "Hey, we may as well go to Dishoom again"?!?!!! And so continued the most awesome of evenings.

Whisky Shops
Again it was fun to go visit the shops in London as the selection is pretty unbelievable. I didn't come back with a lot this year, just a few mostly taster-sized to try a few new things that are harder to try in the US without having to go for a whole bottle.

Royal Mile is right around the corner from ILM London which is pretty sweet, though I wasn't as impressed with them as I was originally in their shop in Edinburgh. They have a decent selection, but there's a lot here I can get back at home. One thing they do carry that is amazing is Edinburgh Gin's Elderflower Gin, which is a glorious combo and perfect with just sparking water added.

The real crown jewel of London's whisky shops thusfar is a place called The Vintage House. I was here last visit and went to their secret-staircase whisky lounge called SoHo Whisky Club, which was really epic. But this time, just a short wander through the shop and drooling over very old Highland Park bottles and that one elusive Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX that I can't believe they have and maybe someday I will get to taste.

The best shelf in The Vintage House.
Just a small selection this time to take home. Another Edinburgh Gin Elderflower Gin for Michal, a selection of Tomatin, Edradour, and BenRiach. It was nice to try them in this size as it's just a taste, but gives you a good feel of whether that's a whisky you really like or not. It turns out I was not really into the Tomatin even though that Cu Bocan was nice in Edinburgh last year (that's why I got a medium size of the Cu Bocan). The BenRiach was not amazing either, I wasn't super into it. The Edradour was excellent though, as our friend and whisky expert Lee would most certainly agree.

Another great trip to London and man, that Glenmorangie House was awesome.

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