If you’ve met Brumderland (and she does know most of Birmingham, so chances are, you have), she’s probably made you try many whiskies. The next natural step was for her to host a private tasting for the Coven. We took over the back room at The Anchor, and Vicky led us through a little tour of her liquor cabinet.
We started with Nikka Coffey Grain and a love story. Nikka was founded by Masataka Taketsuru, a Japanese man who learnt the Whisky craft in Scotland. Travelling there to study in 1918, the young Taketsuru met and fell in love with a Scottish girl named Rita. They married in 1920 and returned to Japan, where Taketsuru began Nikka in 1934. The two are almost legendary figures in Japan, and Taketsuru is considered the Father of Japanese Whisky. I like the cleanness of Japanese whiskys, and I found the Coffey Grain sweet and smooth. It ended up being my favourite of the evening.
We moved to a Scotch, in the form of Johnnie Walker Double Black. On the nose, this reminded me of a sherry, and the flavour was rich, with notes of vanilla and a little smoke.
Next, we tried Highland Park Viking Honour, which is a 12 year old single malt. This took the prize for fanciest looking bottle, but didn’t particular excite me with the taste. It’s fine, with a little sweetness, but a harder after-taste.
We paused for food at this point. The kitchen at The Anchor was recently taken over by Digbeth Market Kitchen. Their menu is a bargainous line-up of elevated bar snack classics (think chip butties, chicken wings and cheesy chips) and a menu of more unusual meals, which changes regularly. There’s plenty of options for gluten free types and veggies too.
We shared a dish of Homemade Hummus (£4) with pittas, carrots and celery for dunking (which I apparently didn’t photograph). The hummus packed a real garlic punch, and was delicious. I tried the Crispy Pork Belly (£7.95) which comes with pickled veg, greens and teriyaki rice noodles. The dish needed more teriyaki as the I found the noodles, while well cooked, lacked flavour. The pork however, was classic ramen style, and was salty and delicious with perfect stripes of fat. The pickled veg added zing, but I could have handled more. I think the dish as a whole needed some punchier flavours, but I suspect these were held back to appeal to a pub crowd. The more classic pub dishes that were ordered around the table, including Chicken Bites (£5), Chicken Wings (£5) and the Crispy Fried Tofu Club Sandwich (£6.50), were excellent, with incredible flavour.
Back to the whisky, we moved onto Glen Moray Port Wood Finish, which I will confess to remembering little about, besides the pinkish colour and how cheap looking I think the bottle design is. It had notes of spice, but wasn’t my favourite.
Next, we moved to Bourbon and tried Wild Turkey Rare Breed, which is barrel proof. I found this a little peaty for me, but a splash of water improved things immensely, toning it down to a point I could enjoy it. It’s a strong tasting whisky, and was quite divisive at the table.
Finally, we tried something a bit special; the Inchmoan Vintage 1992 Reserve. This single malt retails at around £250, and is the favourite of Vicky. For me, this was far too peaty and just tasted like TCP. Others more hardened to peat loved it though, so it’s clearly all about your individual taste.
We had a fab evening, learnt lots and drank even more. Thanks Vicky!