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Friday, 18 November 2011

A little bit of Jazz...

Isn't it great when someone completely misunderstands you, but the resulting conversation is far better for it?

Earlier this week, I was having lunch in London at a rather nice new steak restaurant with a fellow drinks writer, discussing what they had coming up and their plans for 2012. I have just received a copy of the new Cutty Sark book, which I was fortunate to contribute a chapter to and I was explaining about a new writing opportunity, which I was very excited about. I have become Food & Drink Editor for a tasty publication called The Mayfair Magazine, which focuses on working and living in the upper echelons of one of London's most famous postcodes. Of course, It is a relatively alien lifestyle to a South London oik like me, but it is fun to see sit and observe just how the other half live. And judging by the quality of the steak they seem to frequently enjoy, very well indeed.

All this talk of Mayfair Magazine, led my colleague to develop a slightly confused, coupled with an ever-so-slight twinge of mirth on their face. "Mayfair Magazine?" he exclaimed. "Wow - you dirty devil, you! last time I saw that mag was underneath my dad's bed, back in the 80's."
Now at this point, I was looking confused. Then it struck me (being a little slow) that there was of course a slightly less 'salubrious' publication with a similar name, which featured a very different kind of steak dinner, if you follow me. Part of me wanted to say that I had turned my back on drinks and gone into writing about soft porn, but I really couldn't keep a straight face. Needless to say, the rest of the dinner conversation descended into schoolboy humour, which seemed to amuse our waiter so much, that he accidentally dropped Bearnaise sauce all down my sleeve.

Mayfair Magazine... and Mayfair Magazine

So here I am, mistakenly writing for a 'Jazz' mag. It's the sort of thing I want to cheekily tell my father about, just to see if he knowingly raises an eyebrow, then rushes upstairs to see what he might have forgotten about under the bed.

Speaking of Jazz - music not porn, we ran a short preview a few months ago about the Islay Jazz Festival, this year sponsored by Lagavulin. By all accounts, the event was again a rip roaring success, with acts like Viktoria Tolstoy, Otis Grand and Mario Caribe drawing crowds of Jazzheads from all over the world to enjoy some funky time signatures and a few drams of peaty perfection.

One of the highlights for us was the fact that for the first time, Lagavulin had bottled an exclusive Jazz Festival bottling, which was only available during the event. There hasn't been a great deal of info about the bottling out there, but we were recently lucky enough to track a bottle down. So tonight, I sit comfortably on my sofa, the strains of Coltrane's 'Live At Birdland' in the background and an open bottle of Lagavulin Jazz Festival single cask in front of me. I suspect this may be a long evening.

Lagavulin - Single Cask - Especially bottled to celebrate the Islay Jazz Festival 2011 - Date Cask - 355 - filled 8/2/1993 -bottled 2011 - Bodega sherry cask - 55.4%

Nose: Huge hit of wood smoke, followed by classic Lagavulin carbolic soap notes, linseed oil, dark tobacco (cigar notes) bittersweet hard caramel, some nice sugary cereal notes (think brown sugar covered Crunchy Nut Cornflakes) and a deft hint of oak. Nothing drying, but bold and definitely full pelt, in-your -face Lagavulin. It has real similarities to the Distillery Only bottling, which Lagavulin released last year, as well as the 2007 Feis Ile single cask bottling but this is more complex and robust. Sensational stuff.

Palate: Here goes nothing... A huge palate, which is conquered first by the medicinal blast of peat, but then the subtlety of the 16yo comes to the fore- sweet malt, toffee notes, some woody, fireside notes and a hint hint of vanilla pod, dipped in Oloroso sherry. With water, it becomes sublime, the peat calming down, letting the sweet cereal take the driving seat, with some more gentle vanilla pipe tobacco and golden syrup.

Finish: Lengthy medicinal notes, backed with the return of the wood smoke and some oaky dryness.

Overall: A magnificent bottling indeed and as with the large majority of the Feis Ile limited releases, some terrific cask selection from Pinkie and the team at Lagavulin. At 12 years, this distillery bottles some of its finest whisky, at 16 years it becomes wonderfully refined and rounded and with an extra couple of years in the cask, it shows an even greater level of complexity. As our friend Louis Balfour would say.... 'Nice'....