Which would you like first – the good news or the bad?
The bad news – whisky
Let’s look at the bad news first. It’s to do with whisky. A week or so ago, on 19 March at the Waldorf Hotel in London the World’s Whiskies Awards were announced for 2015. Who won the prize of Best Single Malt Whisky? It didn’t come from Scotland – far (literally) from it. The winner, Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, came from the Taiwanese Kavalan distillery (part of the King Car group). This liquid gold has been matured in barrels which have contained both red and white wine and then been ‘retoasted’.
It’s incredible stuff, as you would expect.
“Lots of stewed fruits on the nose” one review describes it (I wouldn’t want to have to ask for a second one of those…)
“Water brings out custard creams….. Bourbon infused milk chocolate” informs another. Hmmm – not sure that chocolate taste is really selling it to me…
“walnut and hazelnut finish” chimes in a third…. ah… more encouraging.
It’s liquid gold in terms of cost as well as flavour, pushing the £100 for the bottle, so it’s probably just as well for me that it’s sold out pretty much everywhere.
What of the good news? It’s not that Scotland did get the consolation prize – the best single grain whisky which was won by the 18 year old Darkness! from the North British distillery. This apparently tastes of “a touch of table salt on orange peel. Orange bitters over well done flapjacks”. Of all food and wine descriptors those used for whisky are the most deliciously creative and outrageous. Go to Battle of the Titons for a couple of truly wonderful examples. To find out more about what exactly single grain whisky is, go here.
The good news – tea
No, the good news is about a different drink entirely. Just a week earlier, on 13 March, Dalreoch Estate Smoked White tea, grown in Amulree, Perthshire, won the Gold Award of the Salon du Thé in Paris.
Of course, we can guess where they got the idea of smoking it… and the descriptors are also similar… fruity… peachy…and nutty. The Wee Tea Company, which grows the tea, was set up three years ago by Jamie Russell and Derek Walker who were initially blenders. But they realised, however, that the Dalreoch Estate had the elevation…. and the essential Scottish mist described by tea sommelier Domini Hogg, our January specialist contributor, in her post on tea grown by the established competition in China.
We asked Domini for her opinion of the Scottish tea. She comments:
“The Chinese are now trying to insist that white tea by definition must come from China in the same way that the French have claimed protection for Champagne.
I love the air-tight caddy, although tea should not be kept in anything see-through.
This is a white peony tea – the difference between a white peony tea and a silver needle tea is that the silver needle only includes the hairy buds, whereas white peony also includes the young leaves (see image).
This tea has a definite smoky taste – you get more of the smokiness in the taste than the nose – and the smokiness is not so strong as to overpower the fresh juiciness of the white tea. Compared to other white peony teas the vegetable nature isn’t so strong – that may be the smokiness cutting through.
It’s a bit weak, but perhaps that’s because we didn’t filter the water, which here, in the south of England, has a high calcium content.
It goes excellently with these vanilla and cranberry biscuits. The soft, slightly sweet fruitiness of them helps to bring out the more savoury flavours of the tea.”
And the price tag? Another commonality – just pushing past the £100 for 50g. You can buy it online at The Wee Tea Company.