There are things on our to do list that never materialise for one reason or another. Since its inception we’ve always meant to reach out and attend the Edinburgh Fringe At the Illusionist’s table show set in the private dining Hunter Room at the Malt Society on Queen Street.
Recently we finally ticked the box and sat down for a banquet with 10 other strangers hosted by the illusionist Scott Smith. A ticket price of £59 grants you a bespoke event menu and 2 whiskies from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Whisky Rover is all about the dram so I won’t go too much into the actual illusions themselves but needless to say it was a fascinating and stimulating evening.
Food just like whisky has the power to cross dividies and break down barriers. For this evening Scott wanted us to utilise the 2 whiskies to transcend these obstacles thereby revealing dreams and facts to complete strangers. Scott would then swiftly leave us when the food was being served and this would instigate strangers conversing just how was it possible to replicate the numbers and images he had plucked from our consciousness.
Wonderfully co-ordinated, we were lead on a journey of revelation and new horizons finely assisted by the menu created by James Freeman and whiskies from Islay and Speyside. From a fish mousseline to duck with picked cherries and a chocolate pave with rose water sorbet. The quality of the cuisine more than justified the £59 admission. Walking downhill towards Queen Street we did debate how much visitors would be paying for substandard Italian or mass produced dinners along George and Hanover Street in comparison?
It was needless to say a glorious evening despite the rain and choatic ScotRail service. For now let us dissect the two whiskies on offer, which were enhanced by the candlelight setting and the aromas from the main course sauce that was slowly warmed by tealight pictured below. For my purposes I’m doing these in reverse order as 41.60 was served after dessert with 53.225 delivering its smoky trademark shortly prior to the main course. Seeing how much these whiskies cost per bottle it backs up just what fantastic value this event represents. For wine lovers you can also order by the glass or a bottle off the ground floor restaurant menu.
41.60 Fun to Chase
Distilled: 28 September 1988
Age: 25 years old
Strength: 49.6% vol
Outturn: 276 bottles
Price: £96 a bottle and still available at the time of writing
Colour: a noble rot wine
Nose: a sweet tint to this dram with a metallic edge. Coconut snowballs, crushed white grapes and washed sea shells combine with flint initially. These aspects bring back memories of talcum powder as a kid – does anyone use that today? It perhaps explains the dryness I’m experiencing on the nose and white pepper. Water brings out the delights of sherbet and lemon meringue pie.
Taste: very drinkable without water but beyond the presence of vanilla and custard creams its a little threadbare. With water more of those natural oils come out to play; buzzing around the palate. An earthy element underpins the experience with a touch of mint tea and home made butterscotch sweeties.
53.225 Comfortably Smoky
Distillery: Caol Ila
Distilled: 29 January 1992
Age: 23 years old
Strength: 53.1% vol
Outturn: 254 bottles
Price: exclusive to the August packages
Colour: an autumn sunset
Nose: well we’re on a Saturday morning, right after an enjoyable evening with a few drams. Feeling a little rough, but standing proudly over a griddle pan with smoked backed bacon caramelising and filling the air with its distinctive aroma. A big clump of thyme sitting in a sticky barbecue sauce with a splash of Worcestershire. I’m also reminded of entering the coal bunker as a kid when visiting my grandparents.
Taste: a big hearty Sunday dinner dram without question. The roast beef and caramelised onions are right here and the golden fatty crunch of roasted potatoes; each with its own smoky essence. A sprinkling of an Oxo cube and very well seasoned with black pepper and salt. With water more of the sticky honey and onion chutney comes through. A really bold in-your-face Caol Ila but beneath the exterior it drops away and any finish soon passes by.
Given the chance I wouldn’t buy either of these drams but I’m more than pleased to have experienced them as an added bonus. The Caol Ila went well with duck complete with pickled beetroot and cherry whilst the Dailuaine was a thought provoking dram to end a wonderful evening. The whole experience was memorable and the lasting impression won’t be either of these drams but just how Scott captivated his guests with a series of amazing illusions. 2016 and hopefully a new show cannot come soon enough in the Whisky Rover household.