Whisky Uncovered is a whisky tasting experience that, as the name implies, aims to uncover hidden gems within the wonderful world of whisky. Such gems can take form in rare or unheard of whisky bottles, as well as exceptional food pairings that reveal different and exciting flavour profiles.
This particular Whisky Uncovered event was called Out of Kilter. Its aim was to introduce whiskies from all over the world, excluding Scotland.
All up, we tried five drams of whisky each from different countries. There were also a few other alcoholic beverages interspersed throughout the event.
We were each served a cocktail on arrival. It was a unique take on the classic old fashioned cocktail, built from Buffalo Trace bourbon, honey water, bitters and a sprig of rosemary which all worked superbly together. Buffalo Trace has some nice toffee and vanilla characteristics which lent themselves well to the honey and bitters in the cocktail. The rosemary sprig gave a beautiful scent to the cocktail, though didn’t overpower its taste. In fact, it provided the drink with a savoury edge that rounded out its sweetness.
We were then ushered to a long table. The seating was tastefully prepared with six drams of spirits, an event guide and a small gift-sized package for each guest.
After a brief introduction, we were invited to open our gifts. They revealed an assemblage of bric-a-brac items including various noise-making implements that were used to great effect throughout the event. However what really captivated my attention was a nice nip of double wood whisky from New Zealand which I tried after the event.
This little nip of whisky had a rich golden colour. I discovered some strong accents of wood, orange citrus and apricot on the nose. Its taste included a subtle note of raisins with a wood finish that I really enjoyed.
Our focus was moved back to the six drams in front of us. Our tasting was about to begin and I was getting really excited to try every single one.
Pairing #1 Smoked Salmon, Woodside Chèvre, KIS ‘O’ Gin and Tonic
We started things off with a dram of Australian gin. Yes, you read correctly – a gin at a whisky event!
It was fantastic. It had a vibrant orange citrus scent that also made its way onto the palate. There was also a bit of a peppery profile on the finish that I enjoyed as well. I then made a gin and tonic out of the remaining dram. Though refreshing, I found I appreciated the spirit more in its straight form. This is truly the finest gin I’ve had to date.
We had two edible accompaniments with our gin – smoked salmon and cream cheese, and chervre cheese.
A classic canapé to kick off our food menu. The salmon was portioned well on each cracker and I loved how deliciously smooth and fresh it was. There was the right amount of slightly tart cream cheese to compliment the salmon without overpowering each bite. Bringing everything together with a citrus edge was a sprinkle of shaved lemon rind – we really enjoyed this small twist as it helped link the morsel back to the gin it was paired with.
We then moved on to a beautifully presented hunk of chèvre (goats) cheese, with edible flowers scattered on top. With a soft yet crumbly texture, the cheese was easy to spread on its accompanying biscuits. We noticed the chèvre had a touch of lemon alongside its creamy and grassy taste – all these flavours were bundled beautifully on top of a smokey and crunchy biscuit. After our first bite, we were hooked.
Pairing #2 Bluefin Tuna Sashimi, Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve
We then moved onto our first whisky. It was a Japanese variety, aged in Mizunara oak. It was accompanied by tuna sashimi which made for a serious pairing that set the bar high.
The whisky had a light, almost straw-like colouring and a vibrant vanilla scent that dominated the nose. The vanilla was certainly present in taste as well, and we also detected a bit of floral and wood in an overall refreshingly light dram. This was a fine whisky and I like that we tried it first as it set the tone for its successors really well.
The tuna sashimi continued the light and refreshing vibe set by the whisky and it’s saltiness cut through that light-fire feel at the back of my throat after a taste of the whisky.
Overall this pairing was geared toward finesse and subtly that allowed the more detailed flavour points to shine.
Pairing #3 Char Siu Pork, Kavalan Sherry Cask
Our second whisky was quite unique in regards to its origin; Taiwan. Taiwan’s climate is hot, making evaporation a big problem during the whisky ageing process (known as ‘the Angels Share’). For this distillery, this can be up to 14% evaporation a year!
As the whisky was aged in a sherry cask, it was dark golden in colour and had a honey-sweet scent. The honey notes transferred to taste well, and I also detected some nutty flavours which gave it a little extra character. I noticed it had a bit of a thick, sticky consistency that lingered in my throat.
The food pairing was char siu pork atop a bowl of rice. The pork slices were tender and marinated in a sweet and smokey sauce which complimented the honey notes and sticky ‘feel’ of the whisky nicely.
What I really liked about this combination was that a really unique whisky was paired with a classic Chinese crowd favourite.
Pairing #4 Malabar Beef Fry, Paul John Classic Select Cask
Now it was India’s turn to delight us. Our whisky was a punchy 55% Paul John, paired with a slow-cooked beef fry.
This was a strong whisky. Matured in ex-bourbon barrels, it had a very deep and bold colouring.
After getting past its strength, we could detect a bit of fruit on the nose. It’s sweet and spice-like taste profile had to be respected as Paul John made itself known to every crevice of my mouth. It had a lingering sweet and fresh finish despite its imposing alcohol content.
The whisky wasn’t the only thing with a kick! The spicy beef fry it was paired with was slow-cooked for 14 hours, allowing the chilli to really diffuse into the meat. The beef was so tender it simply fell apart as you put it on your spoon. It was a fantastic fry I wouldn’t think twice on ordering it at a restaurant.
What I enjoyed most about this pairing was how focused it was on giving you a good smack in the mouth.
Pairing #5 – Whisky Uncovered’s Famous BLT, Corralejo Reposado
We were then guided into an intermission of sorts, where a round of tequila made its way through the room. Intriguingly it was matched with lime and bacon to create Whisky Uncovered’s unique ‘BLT’ experience. First we were told to bite into the lemon, which was fermented. This reduced the fruit’s sharp sourness and made it a bit sweeter in my opinion. Then, it was time to throw back that shot of tequila – the tequila went down smoothly, lending some noticeable vanilla and citrus flavours. I found myself really enjoying it! Finally, it was bacon time. The bacon provided a subtle relief from the tequila burn without completely quenching it. Covered in maple syrup and cooked to a beautiful crisp, it ended the pairing on a sweet and smokey note.
Pairing #6 An Irish Afternoon Tea, Redbreast 12 year-old
Moving us toward dessert was a Redbreast 12 year-old, a nicely balanced Irish whisky that had some sweeter flavours like honey and caramel. It was noticeably more mellow compared to the Paul John and tequila rounds that preceded it, making it feel a bit more suited to a dessert.
The dram was paired with a home-made fruit cake that we instantly fell in love with. It was incredibly fluffy, moist and packed with fruit and we discovered both whisky and tea were used in the recipe. Some slices of Wensleydale cheese sat next to the cake, and we were encouraged to try them together. It added a nice savoury and salty element to each mouthful.
All the elements of this pairing worked so well together. I could picture enjoying it in front of a fire during an Irish winter.
Pairing #7 Selection of Eclairs, Armorik Dervenn
Our final pairing of the event hailed from France and was highly decadent. We were told there were only 60 bottles of the French whisky Armorik Dervenn in Australia. Naturally, we were extremely excited to see how it tasted.
It had a light colour with some fragrant notes of chocolate and vanilla that I also found in its taste. Armorik Dervenn also had an edge of caramel to its finish, so we could see why it was paired with dessert. Our excitement was warranted – this was an amazing whisky that I hope to encounter again!
The accompanying eclairs came in two flavours – vanilla and salted caramel, which was a great excuse to have two! I found they both complimented the whisky nicely as their dominant flavours were also present in the whisky flavour profile. The pastry was soft and the encased cream was deliciously fresh.
I had such a memorable experience at Whisky Uncovered and discovered some outstanding whiskies! I’ll be keeping a keen eye out for these events in the future.