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Friday 26 November 2010

The Bitterest sometimes the tastiest

What a week it's been so far. Not one to remember on many counts, that's for sure.

At Caskstrengh, Bobby, my faithful companion and wonderful cat was hit by a car.
Whilst the accident wasn't fatal, it shook me to my core and made me realise just how we have a natural instinct to protect the ones we dearly love, animals included.
Time will heal him, along with love, cuddles and lots of roast chicken dinners.

I am also in need of some healing too after such a shock to the system and it's times like these that I think back to the days gone by when there was a preparation for everything. Cure-All tonics, embrocations and tinctures to rid the body of Alopecia to Varicella-Zoster (Chickenpox...alright smart-arse...try finding an ailment beginning with Z...!)

Many of you may not know that cocktail bitters, those mysteriously pungent and aromatic potions in tiny bottles actually hark back to some of the original recipes used in these slightly misleading elixirs. Angostura Bitters, one of the most famous throughout history, was formally a recipe of Dr Siegert's tonic, used by the quack to treat pain in some of his patients. Whether they worked is a mystery, but people bought into them, big time.

There were so many false claims as to healthy properties and also erroneous ingredients - some, which actually did more harm than good. These included Snake Root, a fairly common bittering agent, which can cause renal failure and the frankly hilarious, Cocaine Toothdrops (a modern day marketing execs dream, in more ways than one)

Today the bitters market is becoming big business again. Some major, yet artisianal players are making waves with their formulations, some harking back to the yesteryear, ala Dr Adam Elmegirab's Boker's Bitters and our wonderfully affable German friends - The Bitter Truth, who make a sensational range of exciting new flavours, as well as variations on traditional recipes.

We also welcome the great Master Of Malt to the bitters arena- who... being... erm... Masters Of Malt, have decided to go a step further, by producing some very specially formulated bitters, married and matured for extra depth and richness in a little cask which previously held a 38 year old Glen Grant. Their premise is that the whisky aged bitters will add a perfect compliment of spiciness and aromatic zing to whisk(e)y based cocktails, such as a Manhattan, Rob Roy, Old Fashioned or Sour.

Ever ready and eager to try some out, a small but perfectly formed bottle arrived yesterday and being that the weekend has finally arrived and my soul is in some serious need of a restorative, I put them to the test...

Master Of Malt - Cask Aged Whisky Bitters - 1st Edition. 46.2%
'Contains Fruits, spices, 8 year old bourbon, overproof dark rum and vodka, matured in a cask which previously contained a 38 year old Glen Grant'

Nose: Oh my, what a heady elixir. Huge vanilla notes take the lead, followed by cardamon, cloves, cinnamon bark, zesty orange and warming spices.

Palate: A small drop on the tongue reveals, pepper, more cloves and cardamon, rich tobacco notes, dried fruits and a hint of aromatic, like star anise or licorice root.

Finish: The cloves linger and i'm left with a tingling sensation, akin to eating a really good, aged christmas pudding and smoking a Don Ramos Epicure no. 19 (a big ring gauged Honduran cigar, perfect for festive post-prandial relaxing)

I have just used this in my first Manhattan of the evening, using this, my favourite recipe:

50ml Pikesville White Label Straight Rye Whiskey
20ml Capano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
10ml Noilly Prat dry vermouth
5ml of Maraschino liqueur

3-4 dashes of MOM Cask-Aged Whisky bitters.

Stirred over ice in a boston shaker glass and served in a chilled coupette glass, with a twist of orange zest (expressed) and a Griottine marinated cherry as a garnish.

Words can only describe how this drink lifts the senses, explores the soul and comes out triumphantly shouting 'YOU ROCK!!'

I feel lighter, the weight of the world seemingly less crushing. I know what you're thinking, 'yeah right... all this from a Manhattan and some funky bitters'. Well try it. As a combination of flavours, this drink raises my spirits. Let it do the same for you. The bitters add another dimension, call it the 'seasoning'. Hats off Master Of Malt.

I shall wrap this post up now, before I try a whisky sour, the recipe of which you can read here.

As a postscript, Bobby has started eating and drinking again, seems a little less in pain and I would like to take the opportunity to ask each and every one of you to raise whatever glass you have in your hand this evening and say a few kind words for him. I know he would appreciate it, and so would I.

Thank you.