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Sunday, 14 February 2010

Content On The Continent - Part 3

Feeling heiß, heiß, heiß....

Well, we've reached the penultimate part of the European malt mission, which so far has taken us from Brussels, through to Paris and now into Berlin (the last part concluding in Copenhagen).

It seems the weather has been shadowing us from a very snowbound London. Both Brussels and Paris were super chilly and now, as my taxi gingerly tiptoes a path from Tegel airport I wonder how Berlin has coped under 2 foot of serious snow.
"Well, we have ploughs...and we really know how to use them" says my driver. And he has a point. In the 3 weeks that Berlin has been struck by heavy weather, not one train, plane or road has been severely affected by delays. Well done chaps!!

After a quick spruce up and a chance to straighten my tie and wax the moustache, I head into the Hackesher Markt district of Berlin and to the Hotel Amano for some extremely good Ardbeg-based cocktails (a wonderful Blood & Sand and a sublime Manhattan, made under the watchful eye of head barman Philip.)

All this left one slightly pecklish so at the stroke of 2am, we visited a Berlin food establishment for a famous German delicacy- the CurryWurst.

Gentle Jesus. They rate the sauces from 1-5 on the spice scale. I plumped for No.3, which I assumed was a safe, but reasonably sportsmanlike attempt. I also elected to have a single drop of No. 5 on the side, should I be man (or foolish) enough to show off to my lovely German companion, Sabrina.

I can only describe the experience of the first mouthful to that of having your tongue repeatedly slashed by a red hot razor, covered in Cornish sea salt. Nothing would make it stop, so we retreated, literally red faced- down, but not out. A couple of very creamy, cooling White Russians back at the Amano seemed to be the perfect antidote to intensely hot food, so remember this if you're ever stuck in the same situation!

Anyway, to business. Even though my tongue had taken a pummelling the night before I was ready for a dram. After a very tasty (but slightly fecal looking) 'Healthy Nut Horn' for brunch, on the stroke of 12pm I arrived at the Berlin retailer Whisky & Cigars, in search of some truly Germanic whisky.

What I found was more than satisfactory....

Slyrs - Bavarian Single Malt Whisky - 2006 vintage - 43% - 70cl

Nose: Fresh gooseberries, newly polished tables (with Pledge?) green apple, desiccated coconut, soft muscovado sugar and strangely, the faintest whiff of old lobster pots! That's some array of aromas.

Palate: Creamy, sweet and rich, which is hugely impressive for a whisky of such tender years. Brandy sauce comes to mind on first taste. This is superbly drinkable. It has a light freshness combined with a lovely buttery indulgent side, very reminiscent of a younger Rosebank. There is definitely a youthful spirit in there, but it's packed with other goodies for the tongue to find. Superb.

Finish: Lavender, tinned pineapple notes and some creamy fudge stick to the palate for a surprisingly long time.

Overall: What a little corker. I came to this with absolutely no preconception and it has totally impressed. The fresh/vibrant but buttery characteristics will no doubt hook in the Lowland fanatics- so if you happen to see this, it is wholeheartedly worth buying.

Later that day after a hearty lunch I also tried a very small dram of another German treat- Blaue Maus 20yo, which was enormously impressive, with some lovely malty sweetness and a sublime length to the finish. I only wish I had a bigger measure to do a more informed review- anyone out there who could oblige??!

Berlin has a true sense of spirit. There is a refreshingly laid back and calming atmosphere here, almost the complete opposite to London or Paris. I can honestly say that this is reflected in the whiskies I tried- they taste unhurried, uncompromised and lovingly created.

With our time in this wonderfully friendly city running woefully short, I decided on a pre-flight beer with some newly found friends as a liquid send off. I'm not sure I chose wisely....

See you all in the final part of this mini whisky odyssey when we finish our travels in Copenhagen- more great cocktails, Schnapps and a bizarre surprise, which ended the trip with a sense of the deja vu....