A few months back (!), I had chance to spend an evening with Birmingham Whisky Club and the wonderful Colin Hampden-White, whisky writer extraordinaire. We were to taste a wonderful selection of Stilnovisti whiskies and learn about Whisky Quarterly magazine at the Upper Room of The Wellington.
Stilnovisti is the oldest alternative investments company in Central and Eastern Europe, and manages investments for private and corporate clients in Poland and abroad,
focusing on assets such as wine, whisky and art. Their whisky portfolio is not usually released to the public so tonight was a special treat to dip into this elusive collection.
Colin gave a remarkable talk on his own career, starting off with becoming a photographer for The Scotsman in 2001, moving to the Times, FT and Conde Nast and then moving onto having his fine art photography in galleries by 2008.
His other passion, whisky, led to the creation of Whisky Quarterly magazine. Perhaps the most exclusive Whisky magazine in the world, available only through subscription. Rather than just whisky reviews, it concentrates on stories of the people who run distilleries and who work within the field, covering the heritage of the whisky and the lifestyle that surrounds it. Previous issues are made available 2 quarters behind for free on their website!
Back to the beverages, we tried 4 whiskies from the Stilnovisti Private Reserve:
- Mortlach 4th fill sherry hogshead (315 bottles) 58% – this was a very young and very pale whisky, and given as an example given of how bottling a young whisky may not be the best idea. It was a touch on the harsh side and felt very ‘raw’
- Aultmore 2008 6yr old 1st fill sherry butt (534 bottles) 64% – our second taster was a much more rounded and balanced drink, which shows the alcohol content is not the only factor when it comes to taste.
- Ledaig 2005 8yr old 2nd fill (280 bottles) 58% – this was my personal favourite of the night. From Tobermory distillery, this was their peated expression. I’m a huge fan of peaty whisky and this was no exception, smoky and floral it was a superb dram.
- Rage Whisky [Peatside] – 4yr old Bourbon / Madeira casks (490 bottles) 63% – the final taster for the night, this was a very nice drop with a well rounded flavour.It was a different experience to the others but was my second favourite from the evening.
Stilnovisti is now on its third bottling and is a large investor in especially new make whisky, with over 10,000 casks purchased in the previous few years. It was a fascinating chance to see some whiskies which you’d never see again in the wild, presented with wit and charm and genuine love by Colin.
English wine has had a bad rap in the past few years. Though English sparkling wine has started to gain popularity, there is now a wide range of reds whites, roses and dessert wines for all occasions.
After wandering through the main hall with a wide range of wines on display.and making a few purchases, we popped outside to have a snack from the amazing team at Peel & Stone:
We picked up Aunt Sally’s picnic box, with cheddar, honey and mustard roasted ham, pork and apricot sausage roll, pickles, sauerkraut, beer chutney and a hunk of sourdough (which we were greedy and grabbed some New York Deli and Raisin multigrain too).
Wifey loved the sausage roll, the apricot adding a sweetness to the meaty filling inside a light pastry. My favourite bit was the bread, we loved it so much we bought a sourdough and a New York Deli to take home after being advised it freezes and keeps really well.
Back to the wine and we were lucky enough to snaffle the last two tickets to the Gusborne Sparkling Wine Masterclass hosted by Laura Rhys.
Based in a small village in Kent and starting with a 20 hectare plot (expanded to 40, and a second vineyard in West Sussex) and growing a variety of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, classic champagne grapes. These three are used across their range of wines. They first planted in 2004 and released their first wines in 2010 to critical acclaim.
We sampled 4 of their selection:
- Brut Cuvee – A classic blend of 40%+ Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and the remainder Pinot Meuiner. It was rich and velvety with a complex nose.
- Blanc de Blanc – Made from 100% Chardonnay and pressed in a champagne press to give the grapes a gentle squeezing. The wine is aged for a minimum of thirty six months on lees and three months on cork with two fermentations to get the best out of the grapes. This was much softer and fruitier than the first with a clean citrusy palate.
- Blanc de Noirs- This was a blend of 80%+ Pinot Noir with the remainder Pinot Meuiner – This one was a stunner, with a strong acidity, really making the Pinot Noir shine
- The final taster was their award winning English Rosé, which had beaten our the Bollinger Rosé at a blind taste. Made from 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay and Pinot Meuiner, it was an astounding little beverage and one of the best examples of a sparkling Rosé I’ve tasted
It was a very fun and informative talk from Laura and it made us appreciate how good English Sparkling Wine can be.
Feeling lifted by the wines, we had another wander around the producers there and even got to taste a non-sparking Gusborne White and Red.
It was a thrilling introduction to the world of English wine and mine and Wifey’s english wine knowledge was expanded immensley by our visit.
Birmingham Whisky Club runs regular Whisky events throughout the year and discounted for members, you can find their website here, and regular updates on twitter at TheWhiskyMiss and WhiskyMsJnr
The Food and Drink Events Company also run a variety of events throughout the year which you can find out more on their website and Twitter.