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Friday, 3 May 2013

The Caped Crusader. Bains Cape Mountain Whisky

AGGGHHHH! My lower lumbar region!!

Ain't life a funny one. A little while back, I was lifting a rather heavy speaker cabinet up several flights of stairs, without paying any attention to the proper way to carry things, as sported here in this instructional video. Of course, I ended up buggering up my back, which took a few months to get better.  I was told by a back specialist that it would probably never be 100% again and only this week the swine decided to give way again. Alas, it meant that agonisingly, I had to cancel my attendance at the Spirit of Speyside festival this weekend, which was deeply upsetting.  

But despite not being able to move about without the use of a sturdy malacca cane, today I am smiling. Why? Not because of the codeine tablets (which I must wholeheartedly advise NEVER to mix with alcohol) but because here in London, it is the sunniest weather I have seen all year.  

Blissful azure blue skies are predicted all weekend and that can only mean one thing.  

Outdoor sunshine drinking.  

My usual exploits would be with an array of different gins, a highball made from Japanese whisky or perhaps even a few glasses of little light and floral Scapa/Rosebank with a barbecue.  But this year, such is our enthusiasm for world whiskies, I've plumped for what is turning out to be one of the standout spirits of the year round here: Bains Cape Mountain Whisky.  

Bains Cape is one of the many high flying masterpieces from South African distiller James Sedgwick.  Under the watchful eye of distillery master Andy Watts, James Sedgwick have crept up on the whisky world, tapped it on the shoulder and whilst it looks the other way, snuck past, poured a dram of something sensational and left everyone in absolute wonderment.  

For several years running their Three Ships brand has won aplenty at the World Whisky Awards (where Joel and I are judges) and recently, Bains Cape has picked up the coveted Best Grain Whisky in the World award.  

As we suggested back at the turn of the new year in our predictions, the rise of South African whisky is rather timely. Not only is the nation one of the largest and most hearty consumers of whisky in the world, but James Sedgwick is now ripe for export and their range of whiskies represents the changing ways in which the consumer enjoys the spirit.  

Bains Cape Mountain Whisky (named after Andrew Geddes Bain, who pioneered the awe-inspiring Bainskloof Pass) is a grain whisky with all the zest-filled glory you would expect it to be. Column distilled, then matured in first fill American Oak, the whisky is ultimately bottled at five years old.  It's young, vibrant and fresh, leading me to seek out its very own serve. 

With something as robust in flavour as a Yamazaki or Nikka From The Barrel perfectly suiting a highball, I wanted to find a serve that flatters the sweet grain note in Bains Cape and extenuates the delicate vanilla custard note.   

A white wine glass full of ice is my first port of call.  Next up, 40ml of Bains Cape and then a thin slice of expressed lemon zest.  Look for the most chubby lemon you can find (ok, I did splash out here on a nice Amalfi one from foodie mecca, Borough Market) give the whole thing a stir and you have quite frankly THE drink of the summer.  As the Bains Cape dilutes, it sweetens, mixing effortlessly with the zest.  It's simple, but gloriously refreshing.  There's still enough of a bite to give you a thrill along the way and anyone who enjoys a gin and tonic will be falling over themselves to thank you for introducing this to them.  Couple this with one of Theo Randall's Amalfi lemon tarts and you have a perfect appetiser for an impending sun-drenched weekend.  

Bains Cape Mountain Whisky -  43% - 75cl

Nose: Classic grain freshness, with an explosion of citrus zest, vanilla pods, burnt caramel and marzipan/sugar coated almonds. With water, it becomes sweeter, with some white flower notes and a touch of fresh nectarine. Stunningly sunny. 

Palate: A hint of bite and then we're into a mouth coating wash of sweet vanilla, coconut milk, candied fruit and lemon zest.  It's surprisingly rich and has a huge bourbon influence. 

Finish: Short, with sweetened tea notes, vanilla shortbread and marzipan. 

Overall: I'm going to stake a big claim on this one... This could well prove to be the whisky of the year in our eyes, at least the summer. That much is a given.