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November Charity Tasting – huge success!

A quick update on our November charity tasting – it was a huge success. Many thanks to all who came.

In the end, we had about 35 whiskies on the table to taste, from single cask SMWS bottlings and distillery exclusive releases to hard to find treats and strange things from overseas.

All of the money from the tickets (after PayPal fees were taken off and a bit of cash from the coffers was kicked in to make it a round number) has gone out to our November charities of choice – a total of £600!

Continue reading November Charity Tasting – huge success!

Elise’s Summer Picnic – how to make your own

[Our August Whisky Squad session was a summer picnic. Here, Elise breaks down what we had and how to make it at home]

One of my favourite “genres” of food is the picnic. Whether it’s a last-minute Tesco supplies grab or a properly planned epic day out – I love a picnic. And I love whisky. See where I’m going with this?

What better way to draw the summer to a close than to pair some great whiskies with some classic picnic foods.

Pairing 1 – Watermelon, peach and feta salad with a Bulleit Rye Watermelon Smash

The pairing here is pretty obvious – watermelon all around!

Watermelon, peach and feta salad

Watermelon and feta make for a perfect summer salad – the sweet, light watermelon and the salty, crumbly feta lightly combined with a tiny bit of mint is a classic. Then I read this recipe adding fresh peaches. It’s easy, tasty and refreshing – and it travels pretty well if you fill a container quite full.

Find the recipe here.

When you’re picnicking you don’t want to lug around loads of kit, a really simple cocktail is the way to go. This one is dead simple, and incredibly refreshing.

Whisky Squad Watermelon Smash

  • 1.5oz Bulleit Rye
  • 3oz Watermelon mix (watermelon juice and blended watermelon)
  • Ice
  • Wedge of lime
  • Raspberries to garnish (if you feel fancy)

To make the watermelon mix – when making the salad, keep back at least a third of your watermelon. Carve out all of the pink part, and blend it into a mush (I use my Nutribullet). Use that to boost the watermelon-ness of the watermelon juice you buy.

Pairing 2 – Summer shredded chicken tacos and Longrow

This easy chicken taco recipe gives you a succulent pile of sweet, juicy and richly flavourful meat. This is a recipe that works better on it’s own, so to help it pair well with whisky, reduce the garlic way down  – I used just one clove. The sweetness in this dish comes from a balance of butter, orange juice and a little cilantro [coriander for all our non-colonial readers – Ed], with a few cheats including Worcestershire and, of all things, American yellow mustard. Cut small circles out of your favourite kind of tortilla rounds to serve.

Find the recipe here.

For a pairing, I wanted a sweet whisky that wouldn’t be at all cloying and would add an additional dimension to the chicken: I chose Longrow Peated. It’s really beautifully balanced with a sweet smokiness. On it’s own it also has something a bit minerally or medicinal about it – I think this is what gives it the structure to hold its own against the chicken.

Pairing 3 – Bodean’s Burnt Ends with Dalmore 15

Bodean’s. If you don’t know this excellent BBQ chain, do yourself a favour and go get acquainted. One of the first of London’s many BBQ joints, their burnt ends are  both famed and very tasty. There’s always room at a picnic for some kind of beefy barbecue, wet or dry, sweet or tangy. I prefer a slightly more robust BBQ and these burnt ends are just the thing. We had this rich, smokey, tender and luscious beef with its slightly sweet and tangy sauce with a little bit of classic potato salad on the side.

Try this recipe if you want to give it a go at home.

Bourbon and rye can pair really well with BBQ: bourbon’s sweetness can amplify the character of the BBQ sauce and a rye that’s not overly spiced can bring out the meatiness of a dish. But I’ve recently been loving the Dalmore 15 and expected that it would be incredible with a bit of beef, and it is. Dalmore 15 is an exceptional dram – balanced and sophisticated, its rich hints of ginger syrup and winter spices work in harmony with the BBQ sauce and the meat. It’s also got a dark, coffee-ish finish that is a classic math for beef.

I’ll be pairing it this winter with venison wellington, and coffee-crusted beef fillet.

Pairing 4 – Cheeses with Aberlour 16

Aberlour 16 is awesome. It’s fruity, spicy, sweet and rich all at once: a complex but balanced whisky. It’s also a creamy dram on the nose, with fruitiness immediately apparent and a nice nutty undertone. On the palate it offers a soft sweetness, fruit (plums and raisins) and a warming spice. Its finish is long – rich and honeyed to the end.

This balance of tastes makes Aberlour 16 a great pairing for cheeses – lots and lots of cheeses. We got ours from Neal’s Yard Dairy, which may be my absolutely favourite shop in London. It’s a cornucopia of dairy goodness, with some of the most stunning cheese I’ve ever had.

We tried three with this dram:

  • Innes Log is an ash-coated slightly firm goats cheese with grassy, savoury flavor that was an interesting balance with the brightness of the whisky.
  • Bermondsey Hard Pressed is a local cheese in a gruyere style: a hard, nutty and sweet round made in London. It’s got a fizziness to it that I adore, and the whisky brings out its alpine nature.
  • Montgomery Cheddar was the third and my favourite pairing. A very fruity Cheddar – perfect.

Pairing 5 – Peach and Bourbon hand pies (aka pasties) with Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye

There are no words to describe how lovely a rye and peach pairing can taste. Just trust me: go make this one for yourself.

I used Blanton’s Bourbon in the pies because I had it to hand, but almost any bourbon will do. Also, while you can make the pastry by hand, it’s so much easier to hit your local Tesco and buy two boxes of ready-made sweet crust pastry.

You can get the recipe here.

For extra decadence I used smoked sugar from Smoky Brae to dust the tops of the hand pies and it was delicious.

Pairing 6 – Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve with a deconstructed Bounty Bar
(AKA brown-sugar-and-coconut-glazed hot milk cake with dark chocolate)

Russell’s Reserve is a proper bourbon – a big ol’ southern mouthful of swagger and sass. With notes of oak, toffee, cocoa and dark vanilla, it pulls no punches.

I’d been thinking for a while about bourbon and coconut, and what kinds of chocolate bars would make the best pairings. One thing led to another and ‘tah dah’ – the deconstructed Bounty Bar bourbon pairing.

The cake is very rich and supports the dark vanilla and toffee notes of the bourbon without becoming too sweet together. Instead, I think they balance each other out. The dark chocolate grounds the bourbon and reveals the influence of the oak and deep char on the barrels.

This recipe is an old family favourite, with a few extras:

For the cake:

  • 2 eggs well beaten
  • 1 cup white sugar (granulated for you folks over here)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp butter
  • ½ cup milk

Beat the eggs and add the sugar to them. In a bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and then add it slowly to the egg and sugar mixture. In a small pan, heat the butter and milk together until really hot, but not boiling – just starting to be a little bit bubbly is okay – add it to the cake batter and mix.
Bake in a 325ºF/160ºC oven for 20-25 minutes or until done (that’s when a toothpick stuck into the centre comes out clean).

For the topping:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 cup shredded or desiccated coconut

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter, add 3 tablespoons of milk and 1 cup of shredded or dessicated coconut (long shredded is better but anything works), and stir together.

Spread the topping on the cake when it’s cooked but while still in the pan, leaving about a cm or so around the edges. Put back into the hot oven and watch carefully as the topping spreads a bit and melts all together – it should take about 5 minutes or so.

Serve with a healthy dollop of clotted cream and a shard of the best dark chocolate you’ve got. Fortunately, I had some excellent and appropriate chocolate from a recent US trip: Raaka Bourbon Cask Aged Virgin Cocoa.

Bon appetit!

Raasay and Borders – It’ll be ready soon…

When almost the first thing that comes out of a whisky tasting host’s mouth is ‘We haven’t built a distillery yet but we hope to start making whisky soon’, then you know you’re in for something a little different. That’s what happened at our second June Squad session – ‘It’ll be ready soon’, with Chris Hoban from R&B Distillers.

Continue reading Raasay and Borders – It’ll be ready soon…

Agave Squad!

While the name may suggest otherwise, Whisky Squad isn’t only about whisky. Granted, we do drink a lot of the stuff, but we also like to occasionally slip off piste and look at what other beverages the world has to offer.

Continue reading Agave Squad!

Whisky Squad for June!

Time has passed a bit faster than expected this month, so we’re a little late getting June’s sessions on sale – never fear, they’ll soon be here…

Tickets go on sale on Tuesday 24 June at 1pm

Your choices for June are:

Whisky Squad #130 – Around the world, around the world

World Map Dark

You asked, so you will receive – an evening of whisky from around the world.

Learn more and book tickets >

Whisky Squad #131 – R&B Distillers: it’ll be ready soon

R&B Distillers

Some people decided to build a distillery. R&B Distillers is going to build two…

Learn more and book tickets >

April – a month of birthdays and nice whisky

This April, Whisky Squad turns six, and we’ll be celebrating with a laid back month of great whisky and fierce rivalry:

Whisky Squad #126 – The Sixth Birthday Session

6th BirthdayThree Whisky Squad organisers, two whiskies each and a blind tasting to decided which is best – it’s our sixth birthday session.

Come along and help us decide which Squadlateer knows the Squad’s tastes the best…

More details and bookings >

Whisky Squad #127 – Nice Whisky

Nice WhiskyFor this session, we’re stripping things back to basics, and are simply having an evening of nice whisky.

We’ll have six drams, all chosen due to them being tasty. No frills and lots of good whisky.

More details and bookings >

Tickets go on sale on Friday 18 March at 1pm. You can find our booking rules here.

March Whisky Squad sessions on sale on Friday 19 February at 1pm

Our March email has gone out to the mailing list, but for those of you who like websites, here’s what’s coming:

Whisky Squad #124 – Billy’s birthday bash

Billy HaarSquad minion Billy has yet another birthday rapidly approaching – it’s almost as if they happen every year. He’ll have a selection of some drams to share in honour of the occasion, with a variety of tasty treats old and new.

More details and bookings >

Whisky Squad #125 – It’s all gone green

shamrocksThis year, our regular second March Whisky Squad session falls upon 17 March, St Patrick’s Day itself. That sounds like the perfect excuse for an Irish Whiskey tasting, and minions Billy and Elise have selected some suitable bottlings for us to try.

More details and bookings >

Tickets go on sale on Friday 19 February at 1pm. You can find a our booking rules here.

Exclusive Offer: 20% off whisky at The Grey Horse, Kingston

Here’s something for Whisky Squadders in South West London, or for those who are willing to travel for excellent whisky, BBQ and music (that’s everyone, right?): Sam Daffin and Leigh White, the two men that were behind such great London whisky establishments as The Wargrave Arms and The Britannia, have joined forces in Kingston-Upon-Thames, re-opening and re-invigorating The Grey Horse pub.

They have combined the live music and comedy that made the pub famous with excellent BBQ food, a great list of craft beers and a bottle of whisky from every Scotch distillery they can get their hands on – Joel has been there and gives the pub an enthusiastic two thumbs up.

If you want to check it out for yourself, make sure you show this coupon to the staff at the bar to receive 20% off the price of any whisky you order during the month of February!

The only cure for an arctic blast – Whisky Squad!

Finally the weather is turning cold and we can use the temperature as an excuse to drink some whisky.

Our February Whisky Squad sessions go on sale on Thursday 14 January at 3pm, and here’s the line-up:

Whisky Squad #122 – Springtime in Italy
4 February 2016, The Ship

Join Whisky.Auction showrunner and genuine Italian Enrico Gaddoni for an evening of Scotch whisky that has escaped to Italy, only to be dragged back to the UK for our delectation.

More details and booking >

Whisky Squad #123 – Milroy’s: The Return
16 February 2016, Milroy’s of Soho

Iconic whisky shop Milroy’s of Soho has been reborn – no longer ‘just’ a whisky shop, it now has a pair of bars and even more great whisky than ever before. We’ll be taking the place over for an evening to try some of their tasty drams.

More details and booking >

New year, new Whisky Squad sessions!

That’s a wrap on 2015! What a great year it has been, with our Fifth Birthday celebrations being just the tip of the iceberg. If you would like to catch up on what went down this year and get a sneak peak at what’s to come in 2016, check out our Year In Review blog.

If you can’t wait to get stuck in to January’s whisky tastings, here is what we have planned for you:

Whisky Squad #120 – Elise’s Transatlantic Showdown

Little known fact: Elise Craft, our resident Canadian, was actually born in Scotland on Burns Night. Och aye! It might be a couple of weeks early, but we’ll celebrate both Elise and Rabbie’s birthday with a selection of drams from either side of The Pond.

More details and bookings >


Whisky Squad #121 – The Brown Spectrum Vol.5 – Bigger, Better, Browner!

Only some things stand the test of time. In 2011, our social media streams were clogged with photos of people laying on their stomachs and Rob Whitehead hosted his first January Berry Brothers & Rudd Whisky Squad session. Fortunately for us, planking is a distant bad memory while Rob is returning for a fifth consecutive January bringing with him another swag of Berry’s impressive single cask single malts.

More details and bookings >

Tickets for both sessions go on sale on Tuesday 22nd December at 3pm.

Have a great Christmas and New Year and we hope to see you in January!