Last night it was off to the lovely Staffordshire Moorlands village of Alton in the beautiful Churnet Valley a stones throw from the famous Alton Towers theme park. The recently reopened Bulls Head is now owned and managed by James and Gemma Miller, and it is a credit to them. There has clearly been a lot of effort not to mention expense put in to renovating and rejuvenating this old pub. There is an eclectic range of whisky, brandy and gin on the back bar, and many delicious craft beers from breweries such as Siren and Beavertown for the ale enthusiast.
We had decided to pair the whiskies with a little food so Gemma and the team prepared very generous platters of meats and cheeses.
It was great to see a few familiar faces including a few returning whisky fans who had been at a previous tasting I hosted up the road at the White Hart Inn a few months ago, and others who were fans and collectors of the old Queen of the Moorlands Single Malt Whiskies that we bottled years ago.
As always I was keen to show a range of drams from across Scotland, but as quite often happens, I couldn’t help being a little biased towards the Isle of Islay in my selection.
Whisky Tasting Set List
Aberlour 10 Year Old Highland (Speyside) single malt, Pernod Ricard 40% – On arrival guests were treated to an Aberlour as a palate teaser. This approachable Speysider is matured in both American and European oak, the sherry having a huge influence on the resulting character.
Old Pulteney 12 year old Highland (Wick) single malt, Inver House Distillers, 40% – Another very approachable dram from what was until recently the most northerly mainland distillery. Matured for 12 years in Bourbon casks near to the coast, this whisky definitely has maritime influence along with the vanilla, citrus fruits and developing nutty and chocolatey flavours.
Balmenach Connoisseurs Choice 2008 Speyside (Cromdale nr Grantown on Spey) single malt, Inver House Distillers but bottled by Gordon & Macphail, Elgin, 46% – Our first independently bottled whisky of the evening and slightly stronger than the previous two. This 8 year old expression was matured in refill sherry butts and Bourbon barrels with natural colour and no chill filtration. Loads of vanilla custard and apples on the nose and bananas, orange and chocolate on the palate.
Scallywag Speyside Blended Malt Scotch Whisky Speyside (A number of malt distilleries), Douglas Laing, 46% – Another independent bottling but this time a vatted malt whisky from various distilleries in Speyside. This was a firm favourite with our guests, this full bodied and sweet dram had all the hallmarks of sherry butt maturation with Christmas cake, toffee, and raisins being predominant.
Bunnahabhain 12 year old Islay single malt, Distell, 46.3% – Matured for a minimum of 12 years in the finest of Bourbon hogsheads and sherry butts in Victorian dunnage warehouses right by the Sound of Islay and taking on a huge maritime influence as well as presenting classic rich sweet sherry character, this dram has always been a firm favourite of mine and it didn’t disappoint this evening.
Caol Ila Distillers Edition Bottled 2015 Islay single malt, Diageo, 43% – Having been the Distillery Manager at Caol Ila for a number of years I often like to include a dram from the wonderful Caol Ila range. I decided to treat my guests to the Caol Ila Distillers Edition which has my initials on the label. This is one of my all time favourite whiskies. Matured in Bourbon hogsheads for 12 years then finished in moscatel sweet wine casks, this dram has all the acidic, citrusy, peaty flavours of the classic 12 year old but with an extra dimension of ripe oranges and rich sweetness. Perfect served with the smoke cheese on the platters.
As We Get It Islay Single Malt Islay, Ian MacLeod Distillers, 61.2% – The first time I tasted this wonderful Islay whisky I was absolutely blown away. I showed it at my masterclasses at the Islay Whisky Festival and all my guests there really enjoyed it. I had a little left so thought I’d show it at The Bulls Head. The provenance of this whisky is not declared, nor is the age. I would guess that the whisky is around 6 or 7 years old and from either Caol Ila or Bowmore. This dram is incredibly peaty and acidic with a wonderful parmo violet thing going on on the palate. Both bizarre and beautiful at the same time!
We are hoping to be back at The Bulls Head in the near future. There was talk of a special event for Burns Night so please watch this space!
Whisky Tasting Events
If you would like us to host a whisky tasting for your customers at your venue, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Send us an email via our contact page or call David on 07875 405 980
We hope to see you at one of our tasting events soon!