When I sit down and write for this magazine I am aware that often it is from a Northern Hemisphere perspective, which right now is heating up and becoming Spring. So I hope you will forgive that bias and even keep hold of the magazines to refer back to when the articles sync with your part of the world.
As I say Mother Nature is warming things up here, and despite the grip of this world pandemic, now is the time to order up some good cuts of meat and fresh veg and head into the garden to fire up the barbecue.
I think there is something elemental about cooking over hot coals, smoking things using wood chips and slow roasting joints using time and airflow.
But I am not going to give you my favourite whisky and food combo this edition as I am going to leave it to Jodi Feuille, who dropped me a line to share with you her epicurean delights.
The new whiskey drinker, based in New Mexico, USA, said that with the change in how we do things due to the widespread virus, now was the time to start a whisky journey.
She added: “With school being cancelled, like so many others, we’ve been forced to stay home together and have been trying to slow down and enjoy this new chapter in our lives.
“After a long day of trying to be creative, stay productive, get some exercise and not pull my hair out with all the kids’ questions, in the evenings, I make it a point to pour myself a glass of whiskey, then head to my patio to watch the sunset reflect a stunning pink hue across the Sandia mountains. My new motto is keep calm and drink whiskey.”
She says that her current whiskey of choice is the new accelerated aged Taylor Garrett whiskey out of New Mexico, paired with seared steak followed by S’mores. I don’t think we really need to detail recipes for these classic and classy pairings.
Jodi adds that she feels she has a long way to go on her whiskey journey and has been enjoying getting suggestions from friends.
She continues: “So far, if I had a dream whiskey, I’d have to say it would be Whistlepig 15 Year Old rye. There’s just something special about that one.”
I think for Jodi and those setting off to explore flavour, whiskey, food and hopefully music, I would point you all in the direction of Miles Davis’ album In a Silent Way.
This is the point where the musical giant struck out in a different vein and essentially started fusion jazz.
It wasn’t just Davis himself changing direction, but it changed the face of jazz, and popular music too. A seminal moment for musicians everywhere, similar to that sublime moment where you fall in love with a whisky.
While I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is haunting, laidback and perfect for the unnerving quiet we are all experiencing just now.
Recorded in a three hour session in New York in February 1969, the album includes some mesmerising performances by musicians who went on to become household names themselves: on sax, Wayne Shorter, electric piano saw Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and (now educator and musician supreme) Herbie Hancock. The rhythm section was no less glittering in its talent, with the drums taken by Tony Williams, Davis enlisted two rising stars from the UK in the shape of guitarist John McLaughlin and bass player Dave Holland.
For me this is one of the album you have to hear, the perfect time would be with a decent wireless speaker, in the garden post barbecue, enjoying a plate of s’mores and wondering where things are going, just as most music critics did back in 1969.
For this edition we are going to head into the world of big global blends with Danny Dyer, the global ambassador for Grant’s Blended whisky.
Danny gets himself immersed in the cocktail culture of nations when he is travelling to preach the blended gospel.
He explains, “I spend a lot of my time in Latin America and Africa where there is a big energy and love for all things blended Scotch. It’s great to see how people around the world drink their whisky differently and how much love it garners from everyone across the globe.
“When I’m not talking to bartenders about Grant’s I am usually behind the bar making drinks which I love as I was a bartender for several years before this job. I also host parties and now more recently virtual training and tastings which is surprisingly fun.
“At my events I often get people who have never made cocktails so I ask them behind the bar to give them a go. This is always great fun for both me and them to show them how simple or sometimes difficult it can be and they leave knowing how to make a few classic cocktails.”
But I wanted to find out what the consummate professional made in the comfort of his own home; after the bags have been unpacked and the world’s dust shaken from his feet.
He explains, “For home mixing I love a stirred drink. If you want to show off and entertain by all means shake away those drinks but there is something nice about stirred drinks. My favourite cocktails happen to be stirred too so maybe that’s why I lean towards them. I also think stirring is just much easier than shaking at home. You can build the cocktail in a glass and then just use a teaspoon to stir away, so far more approachable for everyone.
“My go-to is an Old Fashioned. I have loved this cocktail for so long and I think it really shows off the whisky inside. It’s such a simple but beautiful drink: sugar, bitters, orange and whisky. It’s also so easy to make and play around when it comes to your bitters and whisky. It’s a great sipping drink.”
The origin of the cocktail is claimed by the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. The club, founded in 1881, claims that the recipe was said to have been invented by a bartender in honour of Colonel James Pepper, a prominent Bourbon distiller, who brought it to the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. The rest, as they say, is shrouded in mystery and time.
How do i make it at home?
Danny’s instructions are straight forward and simple. You need Grant’s TripleWood, an orange, aromatic bitters and simple sugar syrup.
He adds: You take a rocks glass and fill it with ice. Then add 50ml (a healthy pour) into the glass along with a dash of simple syrup or a sprinkling of sugar. If you have a sweet tooth you can add more sugar. Then add two to three dashes of bitters and stir your drink in the glass. You want to stir for a good 20 seconds or longer so the ingredients mix well, the drink cools down and your sugar is fully dissolved.
“If you want to be fancy you can build this drink in a mixing glass or jar and then strain the drink into a rocks glass with a big chunk of ice depending on what you have at home. Finally the garnish is an orange peel. You want to take your orange peel and squeeze it over your glass, you’ll feel and see the oils coming from the peel. Rub the peel around the rim of the glass and then drop it in this gives a lovely orange notes and flavour to your cocktail. And there you have it, the Grant’s Old Fashioned, simple but so good.
“If you don’t have bitters at home there is another way to make a variation of this drink. Get a tall glass fill it with ice add your 50ml of Grant’s then top up with cola and add a wedge of orange. You probably think I am mad but cola has similar flavours as your Old Fashioned. Cola is made with sugar and spices. Once these are mixed together they then add soda to lengthen the drink into the tasty beverage we all know and love.”
From last issue’s relative tiddler in the cigar world, this time we are heading to something with definite reach and global standing, the Montecristo No.4.
This Monetcristo is probably the best known and most readily mentioned and appreciated brand of Cuban cigars in the world, coming in a close second to Cohiba. For me, the No.4 and its larger stablemate the No.2, are the benchmarks for the cigar world, such are their consistency and balance.
The Montecristo brand was created in 1935 by Alonso Menendez and Jose Manuel Garcia, who had just purchased the H. Upmann brand. The name, particularly if you are a classic literature fan, comes from a lovely story. When the cigar makers (or torcedores) are rolling cigars they have someone called a Lector who reads them the news, novels and other things. The legend has is that the Alexande Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo was such a big hit at the H. Upmann factories that the name stuck.
So what makes this little punchy stick so impressive? Well for a start the tobacco comes from Cuba’s home of some of the finest tobacco leaf, the Vuelta Abajo. This region is legendary for tobacco in the cigar world.
The leaves when they are ready are rolled into what’s called a petite corona. There is lots of technical language surrounding cigars and to be honest I figure you dear reader, might just want to know what’s good to smoke and why it’s good.
If I am wrong please drop me a line in the usual manner and let me know.
So this world-dominating cigar might be small, but it delivers a well balanced and feisty smoke. Each pull gives you great coffee and cocoa notes, and developing after about a quarter of its length, vanilla and caramel.
This is pretty much an all-rounder of a cigar, but as we are talking about dominating a market, I thought it would be perfect to put with a Johnnie Walker Black Label.
This blend was first established by grocer John Walker in the Scottish town of Kilmarnock. It is now the most widely distributed brand of blended Scotch whisky in the world, sold in almost every country.
Which means, if you travel with your cigars, you are going to find the same consistent sweet and smoky blend in whichever bar you settle into for a smoke and a dram.
The Old Fashioned