You never quite get around to doing the touristy things in the place where you live, do you? When I suggested an evening cruise on the Chichester Canal for our September tasting - Whisky with Water - I was delighted that so many Chichester Whisky Women said that this was something that they really wanted to do! Twenty two of us climbed aboard - and climbed safely off - the Richmond barge for a journey with the herons and moorhens, tasting whiskies from watery places around the world. We tasted Glengoyne 15yo single malt, a Scottish Highland whisky: Suntory Old Whisky, a blend from Japan: Paul John Edited single malt whisky from Goa in India: Mackmyra single malt whisky from Sweden: and The One blended whisky from the Lakes Distillery in the English Lake District.
We always start off with a one course supper to line our tummies and enjoyed a chicken casserole with lots of autumn veg and tomatoes cooked by Nik, and delicious sourdough breads from The Hungry Guest bakery. We tied up for a short time at Hunston to admire the wonderful view of Chichester Cathedral immortalised by JMW Turner - which also allowed time to pour - then set off into the sunset to taste the whiskies with a spiced cracked wheat salad, a pickled herring salad with ginger and Stratta’s Purple shiso vinegar, a butternut squash paté and a damson mousse made with Muldoon whisky liqueur.
How does a Whisky Women tasting work? Well, I introduce the whiskies giving everyone a sheet of very basic notes about each of the spirits which they can jot down their own thoughts on too. We nose and sip them together and I suggest which of the tasters each whisky might work with best. Then we add a little water and the discussions start! Everyone enjoys comparing notes on with or without water? and the favourite matches to the seasonal food tasters.
There were a couple of aficionados with us on this trip who had tried some Japanese whiskies before, but I think the notion of Indian and Swedish whiskies was new to everyone. Does where you are and the ambient temperature affect how a whisky shows? I am sure it does as the Paul John did not show well on this evening and was not voted as anyone’s favourite. This was a surprise as I always think of their whiskies as quite Speyside-ish, but the Edited has a touch more of the nose of an Islay whisky about it (it was a great favourite at a whisky supper the other night, indoors with a lamb biryani). I have usually tasted their expressions in warm rooms before and thoroughly enjoyed them, not on the water on an autumn evening. However, as with any judging it is the product at that moment that is critical, not how you remember it or want it to be!
The Mackmyra has a much sweeter nose than any of the other whiskies from the evening. I found hints of coconut in it and a real complexity of flavour. It was a big hit with the herring salad, part Scandi and part Japanese, and the butternut squash paté. I felt that those who voted the Mackmyra their favourite would be heading off to make a purchase. The Suntory Old Whisky was a great way of introducing Chichester’s Whisky Women to Japanese whiskies. A blend, it had a sweetish nose but was full of dry spice with ginger predominating. Whisky Women found the spice and liked the whisky which went well with the cracked wheat and the herrings.
We are a group of mature women but I hope we are not too predictable! However, the out and out favourites on the night were split between the Glengoyne 15yo and The ONE. The latter was new to everyone and it showed well, being easy on the nose and palette and complementing all the foods. The elegance of the Glengoyne, with a complex flavour profile, vanilla notes and a fruity depth of flavour certainly appealed and it also matched well with all the dishes. Everything got the thumbs up with the damson and Muldoon mousse, and you can read more about the liqueur here.
Whisky Women is always a fun evening and everyone feels very able to express their own thoughts about each of the whiskies without too much leadership - or male influence! The tasters are also very much enjoyed and I think Chichester’s Whisky Women might soon be floating the idea of whisky dinner or supper parties to their loved ones! Chichester restaurateurs - we might be knocking on your doors very soon!