I love a big sausage…

…was the quote of the evening from the lovely Nicole, who I had the pleasure of accompanying to The Vaults for last weeks tasting.

Sausage, Beer and Whisky Tasting – 17 February 2015 – SMWS The Vault, Edinburgh

The full quote went something like…

“Chocolate and sausages are my two favourite foods and I love a big sausage.”

I must point out however that this was after a few beers and 4 whiskies and we were beginning to feel the effects of both just a little bit. We had just sampled Crombies Chocolate and Chilli sausages and that started the whole conversation going.

Hosted by society ambassador Ryan McCafferty, we were treated to 5 excellent whiskies, 3 beers (2 were very good, 1 not as good) and a selection of Crombies butchers sausages.  Each beer, whisky and sausage was paired together, each pairing selected especially to enhance the flavour profile of each.

So the ingredients for the evening…

The Beers The Sausages The Whisky
Vedett Extra White Honey Mustard 37.60 – Oranges, spices & London honey
Innis & Gunn Rum Finish Whisky Hog & Thyme 9.88 – A Heart Starter
Schlenkerla Smokebeer Innis & Gunn (main course) 4.202 – Salt & Pepper
Chocolate & Chilli 76.118 – We love whisky
127.42 – Peat Freak heaven

When you put all these ingredients together, you end up with…

The Pairings
Vedett Extra White & 37.60
Honey Mustard & 76.118
Whisky Hog & Thyme & 4.202
Innis & Gunn Rum Finish & Innis & Gunn (main course)
Chocolate & Chili & 9.88
Schlenkerla Smokebeer & 127.42

Rather than provide a full description of everything,  I’ll just run (briefly) through my 3 pairing highlights for the evening.

Pairing 1 – Vedett Extra White & 37.60

This pairing was the perfect introduction to the evening, a fantastic light and fruity Belgian Wheat beer paired with a sweet and spicy Speyside whisky.

I’ve kept my distance from Belgian beers for quite a while after years of drinking Leffe and Hoegaarden by the bucket load, (for me they are like rocket fuel). Whilst initially slightly hesitant about what could possibly happen, I was happy to spot the beer was only 4.7% (ABV).

I find some Belgian beers can be quite heavy to drink, maybe not as much as a stout or 80/-, but still quite heavy. So I was pleasantly surprised with the Vedett on the first taste. Whilst retaining all the flavour and character of some of the more well-known Belgian beers, a citrusy floral taste, it was much lighter and more like a light summer ale than the Belgian beers that I’d been used to.

The lightness and delicacy of the beer served only to open up the palate to an incredible first whisky.

I like Speyside whisky and have found a few absolute beauties in the last few months; this is most definitely one of them, a 29 year old, re-fill ex-bourbon hogshead from Cragganmore coming in at 52.4% (ABV).

The initial burst of spice really woke the palate before the sweetness came through. Two of us at the table likened it to lemon and orange Opal Fruits (Starbursts), that sweet, chewy mouth-watering flavour and texture that leaves you wanting more.

A perfect pairing to start off the evening and it has to be said a very difficult one to beat, especially with the whisky.

Pairing 3 – Whisky Hog & Thyme & 4.202

The second sample of Crombies sausage to try was one of my favourites. The hog and thyme on their own would be a fantastic combination, but add in a dash of SMWS whisky to the mix and you have an incredible taste profile.

Crombies produce an extensive range of specialist sausages and in my opinion this is one of the best. If it were to be served on a roll with some Dijon mustard, it would be absolute taste heaven.

That is until you add a 17 year old, 54.6% (ABV), single cask Highland Park.

I’m not the biggest fan of Highland Park; I’ve never found them that interesting. I prefer a smoky whisky from Islay. But this was just incredible!

Rather than try and explain it in my own words and make little to no sense, below is the society tasting notes for it (and they are very accurate, even the Dr Pepper according to Nicole):

We found ourselves in a garden shed on the Atlantic coast. The salty sea breeze impregnated everything – work bench, wooden shelves, compost, window flower boxes, used paint tins and in the corner an old leather couch where you can find rest whilst enjoying smoking a pipe. The taste neat had all that raggedness, oiliness and saltiness with the smooth finish of a sweet, well hoped Porter beer. Water added aromas of a camp stove with Earl Grey tea brewing and strawberry jam filled doughnuts, and in the taste mackerel pate on a salty cracker washed down with Dr Pepper.

A great pairing yet still not my favourite of the evening. This was an incredible whisky that has managed to convince me to try a few more from Highland Park.

Before I move onto my favourite pairing, I’m going to give an honourable mention to the 4th pairing of the night. Both the whisky and the sausage deserve a mention of their own.

The fourth whisky of the night was an incredible 29 year old refill ex-sherry butt from the Glen Grant distillery. Everything you’d expect from a nearly 30 year old sherry cask Speyside whisky.

The final sausage sample of the evening was the cause of the conversation that provided this week’s title. It was a chocolate and chilli sausage, and as it turns out, chocolate and sausage are two of my evenings companion’s most favourite foods. I got the impression chocolate may be the more favoured of the two, especially the large Easter egg variety, but it was definitely the comment about “the sausage” that appealed to my childish sense of humour.

Pairing 6 – Schlenkerla Smokebeer & 127.42

The final pairing of the evening was my favourite by some margin.

If you like heavily peated whisky and all things smoky, you won’t fail to enjoy this pairing. If, on the other hand, you prefer your whisky without any peatiness, this might not be for you.

Germany provides us with some of the best beers you can hope to drink. Islay gives us some of the best whisky you can hope to drink. When you pair two together that complement each other so brilliantly, it’s difficult to put into words exactly how good it actually is.

The beer was an incredible Bavarian Smokebeer, from the Schlenkerla brewery. I’ve never had a Smokebeer before, but I will be having one again.

Schlenkerla Smokebeer has a red ale look to it, maybe a bit darker, more a ruby brown with a creamy tan head. First nosing of this and you could almost swear there was an opened pack of Smokey Bacon Walkers crisps near buy, I kid you not. There is a light sweetness to the taste but the thing that really stands out is the incredible smoky flavours. I am a fan!

The final whisky was something very special. Aptly named, Peat Freak Heaven, this was to me perfection in a glass or as I tweeted at the time, the Holy Grail of whisky. 12 years old, 63.0% (ABV) and from the Port Charlotte distillery. I don’t really need to say any more. I honestly can’t do any justice to how good this was so all I will say is get yourself to The Vaults or Queen Street and try it.

I’ve attended a few tastings at SMWS over the last year and a half and of all those, this one is my favourite to date. The combination of beer, sausage and whisky, plus excellent company created a great evening.

Big thanks go to Ryan McCafferty (@RyanMcCaffterty) for being an excellent host and The Vaults (@smwsTheVaults) for providing a great venue.

Finally, a big thank you to Nicole, for organising everything, putting up with me once again and being excellent company for the evening.


23 February 2015