In my quest to match whiskies to seasonal foods I set out to find 5 spring whiskies, spirits with lighter, brighter tastes but which still maintain the comforting warmth of spice. I was seeking partners for rhubarb and lamb, for kale and fennel, for pea shoots and the first outdoor asparagus. I was also seeking whiskies for the bright spring tastes of salad leaves and herbs, and these pictures were taken in the spring salad display glasshouse at West Dean Gardens nr Chichester.
Bright spring days inevitably lead to cold nights so I wanted complementary spirits, some bright but fully flavoured, and some with more spice and warming notes. I am delighted with my collection and hope that it will inspire you to try a different dram as your palette changes with the seasonal produce in your garden, greengrocer and kitchen.
I'll be reporting back on the favourites from the collection after the Chichester Whisky Women have done a comparative tasting in mid-March. So for now, here's a very brief intro to my essential Spring whisky collection to whet your palette.
My Benromach's Organic Speyside single malt whisky was 7 years old when bottled in 2015. It is matured in American oak and is sweet and rich, with the expected vanilla notes blending and seasoning cereal notes which surprised me in their intensity. Sometimes organic produce can be a little on the bland side, but not this whisky. Made with 100% Scottish organic barley it shouts provenance. This isn't just a nod to the organic sector, this is a whisky to be proud of. It's bright and fresh like this baby leaf mix.
Teeling Distillery style themselves as the Spirit of Dublin on their dark bottle, reminiscent of Guinness, the city's best known beverage. This non-age statement whiskey is very fruity, fresh and tropical with pronounced melon notes, a most unusual flavour in a spirit in my experience. It might sound odd but it works, with a more predictable whiskey warmth in the background. It's easy, characterful drinking, and the fruitiness would complement the hotter mustards of the salad mix edging over the shoulder of the bottle.
THE ONE blended British whisky from The Lakes Distillery has made it into my Spring Collection through its fresh, easy drink-ability with just a hint of warming smoke in the background. It is light yet rich in flavour and the smoke just adds to its versatility. I must get my smoker out and try THE ONE with some hot smoked lamb, and I think it will be perfect with rhubarb too. I always say that if I could only grow ONE herb it would be chervil - soft aniseed spice - as the supermarkets don't stock it. It's great with fish, eggs and in salads. Chervil is the perfect partner for THE ONE.
The Jura distillery claim that its Origin expression, a 10yo single malt and the first of the collection to boast an age statement, is light and delicate. Well so it is for an island whisky but I find it to be richer and fuller in flavour than the previous whiskies, and with just a hint of chilli and seaweed. That said, it is light enough to complement and season spring foods: I am waiting to try it with BBQ'd asparagus, and with roasted fennel dressed with balsamic. You will see the Jura edging towards the coriander in the glasshouse - it's just that little bit spicier than my other spring whiskies.
Highland Park's 12yo single malt whisky from Kirkwall in Orkney is one of the best loved whiskies of the world, internationally acknowledged as a truly easy-drinking malt. It is so well stitched together, so complete in its flavour, that it is hard to break down into tastes to explain to you. Suffice to say that it has a lightly peaty smokiness that suggests warm spring days and I can imagine it with salmon, langoustines, scallops, crab and lobsters: all the seafoods for which Orkney is renowned and all of them perfect with rocket, as internationally fashionable as Highland Park!
Which of these would you choose for your Spring Whisky? Check back to see if you agree with Chichester's Whisky Women in their selection, and I'll be telling you a little more about their favourites too after our March tasting.