When your young and drinking stupid amounts on a weekend as you do in your late teens/early twenties you try all sorts of drinks, anything offered in a round sometimes. I remember being given some whiskey, it was an experience because the sheer smell of it made my throat tighten and any attempt to drink it would pretty much induce gagging, immediately. So i left whiskey alone, and if i wanted a short i'd plump for vodka.
That was 15+ years ago and I've never tried it since as far as i recall until recently. I'm a big fan of the written works of Scottish author Iain Banks and a few years ago he wrote a travelogue book 'Raw Spirit: In search of the perfect dram' detailing a tour of his homeland and all of its distillery's. I've picked it up and read a chapter here and there over the last couple of years, and his description of whiskey and its processes of being made is very interesting, and his adventures humorous. Also, i had been reading a few beer blogs who also chronicle whiskey tasting such as Billy's Booze Blog.
So last month when in the company of a couple of friends in the pub one of them ordered a single malt i asked if could try it, to see if over the years my palate had changed and could now taste and enjoy this noble drink. Detect the differences from Islay whiskeys and Highland ones, pick up the subtle flavors from the barrel ageing.
As soon as it hit my lips and nostrils its sheer rawness squeezed my larynx shut, and my friends thought they were about to be reaquainted with the Wadworth 6X and Bath Ales i had just put away.
Okay, experiment over.
So why mention it? Well the other day i opened a bottle from the Naylors Brewery from West Yorkshire.
'Bradford Lad' is described on the label as a 'Celebratory Strong Ale' at 7.2% abv, brewed like a barley wine.
In tasting it there was sweetness, toffee, raisins again, strong alcohol, and to me, an undertone of rawness that i thought was whiskey.
I checked the label and googled a bit, no mention that it was aged in barrels of any kind, but i thought it had a small burning power that lay in behind the light bitterness of the hops. This was accompanied by some pepper and orange. As i drank more, and done slowly and enjoyably i will add, the rawness settled. It was never in detriment to the beer i must say, a nice level of complexity.
More likely though its probably never been near a whiskey barrel, and lord knows what i was tasting!!
I did note that my bottle was at the end of its expiry date (march 2011) so i wonder how long it had been conditioning in the bottle? The label gives an undefined 'maturation period' and i dont know what the industry standard is for best before dates.