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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Do You Want Ice With That?

Yesterday we came across a brilliantly amusing tale of discovery, which was almost too good to be true. Whisky, trapped in the abyss of time, waiting to be discovered and tasted! Sounds like the back of Joel's cabinet, where he keeps all the good stuff for himself.... ;-)

Apparently, 2 cases of whisky dating back to Sir Earnest Shackleton's failed polar expedition in 1909 have been discovered, encased in a thick layer of ice, where they have rested silently, untouched for 100 years.
Scientists at the site of the abandoned expedition are now using special drilling equipment to reach the whisky - originally bottled by MacKinlay and Co.

Chaps, clearly in need of a good warming dram.

Whyte & Mackay, who own the old branding for MacKinlay and Co. have asked for a sample of the 100-year-old scotch for a series of tests that could decide whether to relaunch the now-defunct Scotch.

Al Fastier, one of the scientists (and perhaps a tacit whisky drinker) said
"It's better to imagine it than to taste it," he said. "That way it keeps its mystery."
But W&M's Richard Paterson, has responded saying that the Shackleton expedition's whisky could still be drinkable and taste exactly as it did 100 years ago- surely a mouthwatering proposition.....?

"I really hope we can get some back here" said Paterson,
"It's been laying there lonely and neglected. It should come back to Scotland where it was born"

All this got me thinking. Personally, I don't usually drink whisky with ice, unless it's part of a highball or Japanese styled Mizuwari, but I thought some kind of experiment was clearly in order.

Donning my warmest furs and fighting the frost bite and howling South London winds, I meticulously planned an expedition of my own. After hooking up my faithful companion Bobby, (aka 'The Great Catsby') to the sled (he'll do almost anything for a mackerel dinner) we began the long tortuous journey across the Penge Tundra to the great freezing unknown- the shed at the back of Caskstrength Towers.
There, we have a chest freezer set up just in case we'd ever need to carry out a series of important tests. (and to store fish fingers, peas, out of date chicken breasts etc. )

My plan was to freeze 3 whiskies and see what the result was on opening. Would they retain the subtle flavours they contained when drunk at room temperature or would they fall apart and be totally underwhelming, when super-chilled?

Lets find out... Brrrrrrrr:

My first choice was easy:

Johnnie Walker Gold Label- Centenary Edition
. I must confess that I had once chilled a small sample of this and it was pretty good.

Frozen, it offers a very refreshing palate, with hints of smoke, but lots more of the green apple notes coming though. The mouthfeel is thick and oily. It seems to separate out a lot from the malt content and the grain, with the malt taking more of a back seat.
Whilst I would usually enjoy this great blend as an room temperature aperitif to a meal, it is certainly revealing and worth chilling down a sample to try.

Second up: Yamazaki 12 Year Old

As part of a Mizuwari with lots of chilled mineral water and ice, this is hard to beat as a superb long summer drink. As a super-chilled freeze experiment, it fares unbelievably well!! The toffee notes are more pronounced, the apple fresher and a very revealing and aromatic hit of licorice really coming through, which isnt as noticeable at room temperature.
Certainly worth sticking a bottle of this in the freezer for some skinny shots over Christmas time. Furry thumbs up!!

Finally: Talisker 10 Year Old

With its warming smoky restorative properties, there are only a few drams to rival this as your best friend in a lonely gale blown log cabin on a remote Scottish Island. But chilled??
A definite fruitiness takes precedence over the smoke- artificial strawberry, fizzy sour apple sweets, followed by a big malty slap around the chops. The peat is there, but it's certainly restrained. This works in a way, but it does take on a certain bitter characteristic - I can only surmise that perhaps the addition of some quality chocolate ice cream would potentially help bring your palate to a new level of enjoyment!!

The scene on opening the frozen whisky?

Just as Shackleton proved, it is clearly worth taking whisky to the frozen extremes and one wonders just how the MacKinlay and Co. bottles will fare. But I can't help thinking back to the classic John Carpenter film 'The Thing' and the consequences of tinkering with things buried deep under the ice. Just be careful with those bottles Richard!!