Last week, DBS & I had a rather surreal, but impressive experience featuring Bowmore Darkest 15 Year Old Whisky. The “theatrical” evening was set in an atmospheric Victorian house in London, and started out in a dark, grey and very sparsely populated lounge (and when I say “sparsely populated”, I’m talking minimalist-Dickensian). As we crunched on canapes, sipped our whisky cocktails and mingled, conversation was naturally sparked by the candlelit mantlepiece, creaky floorboards and intriguing array of items being pinned to our collars (see below).
We quickly discovered that the shadow-filled house, filled as it was with an intense character of its own, was also full of a number of additional characters. First of all, we were introduced to the owner of the house, who treated us to a little background on the story behind Bowmore. Before we knew it, DBS & I were divided – off on our own adventures for the evening, each set in a different room.
The first that I found myself in, with fifteen or so others, had a roaring fire and a lovely Scottish chap who told us a story involving headless fiends and bottles of whisky being smashed; it was all very sad, but nowhere near as odd as DBS’s experience in the same room…
As I made my way up the steep, uneven stairs, I lightly pondered on how much whisky I trusted myself to sip whilst knowing that I would still have to get myself back down them in one piece! Fortunately for me, the contents of the second room left no question about whether or not a sample was in order; one step into the room and the overwhelmingly rich scent of dark chocolate hit me. But, as amazing as that smell was, it was nothing compared to the exquisite drink being handed round in cute teacups: this was the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted in my life.
On top of this, we were given a Bowmore Darkest bonbon – each, I’m told, containing a shot’s worth of whisky – to stir into it. I struggle to find the words to describe just how delicious this was; rich and creamy (in texture only, as it was dairy-free), but retaining that wonderfully intense cocoa flavour, the drink worked remarkably well with the whisky, which added a lovely, dark, fruity note, like raisins or fruit cake.
The wonderful creator of both the drink and the bonbons was chocolatier Paul Young, who taught us all about how best to enjoy whisky in our chocolate (the key being to add it cold, as part of a ganache, to avoid burning off the alcohol). He was also very patient whilst we all expressed, repeatedly, how good the hot chocolate was. I have no doubt that DBS & I will be making our way to one of his shops before too long to see what other wonders he’s created.
Everyone in my group – somewhat reluctantly – then made our way to our third room, where we found “Mrs. Fig”: a little old lady who sat in bed, talked about cats (specifically Smokey, the distillery cat), and collected keys on red ribbons, which had at some point been given to members of our group in previous rooms. I don’t recall exactly what the keys were all about, but the character of Mrs. Fig and Smokey the Cat definitely added to the surreal, Dickensian feel of the evening.
This room was my favourite. When DBS first told me that this event was due to involve whisky, chocolate and a kind of planetarium experience, he knew that I’d be excited; three of my favourite things!
This room was at the very top of the house, up some almost ladder-like stairs. Here, we were treated to an excellent and inspiring talk by Gary Fildes from the Kielder Observatory near the Scotland/England border.
Gary talked enthusiastically about the observatory and astronomy, impressing us with some stunning photographs of the night sky that literally made everyone gasp as we sat, cross-legged, with a straightforward glass of Bowmore Darkest. Despite the fact that the naked eye can’t see as much as the Hubble Space Telescope, by the end of Gary’s talk, I have no doubt that a majority of his audience was longing for a night of stargazing with good friends and a bottle of whisky, even if they’d never considered it before!
The spirit behind it all
I somewhat reluctantly followed everyone away from the astronomy attic and down into the basement, where Bowmore’s Brand Ambassador, Gordon Dundas, took us through a tasting of the spirit of the evening: Bowmore Darkest 15 Year Old, along with some Bowmore 12 Year Old, for comparison.
Needless to say, I was so wrapped up in the evening’s events that I forgot to take any detailed tasting notes, but the 12 Year Old immediately took me back to our Bowmore tasting on the coast back in January (this has some more in-depth tasting notes). Smooth and with incredibly well-balanced flavours, the 12 Year Old contrasted with the richness of the evening, with its savoury wood notes and a hint of peat on the finish. The 15 Year Old (Darkest) was much sweeter and heavier, with hints of raisins, almond and darker wood notes.
The evening concluded with singing along to traditional tunes and enjoying a final glass of Bowmore. Although bizarre and very theatrical, I found that the event nonetheless managed to capture a very real and genuine enthusiasm for an excellent whisky. I highly recommend both the event (if they’re running any more, or anything similar) and Bowmore, for which my fondness has deepened even further.