A new multi-category tasting experience incorporates one-of-a-kind liquids with laid-back learning. Imbibe's Millie Milliken sipped along
2020 has been the year of the virtual tasting. Rolling Social Events is included in the roster of online spirits companies to spring out of Covid-19, but with the names of Samantha Fish and Bruce Lerman (founders of Leeds Rum Festival, Leeds Gin Fair and general spirit oracles) behind it, I was keen to try one of their sold out Sip Alongs, which they began in June.
'People were missing the social side of their towns and cities,' said Lerman of the reasoning behind its inception, 'and we in the industry were missing our customers and the general hospitality vibe, so we created an interim event to bring us back together and celebrate the things we love – spirits and connecting people.'
While the initial idea was to engage with the wonderful people of Yorkshire, a nationwide audience soon grew.
'There are many reasons people don’t or can’t go to town: child-care, accessibility, and cost are just a few and we are reaching those people with this new initiative,' explained Fish. 'This totally fits our brand and we will continue taking a bit of the festival spirit into people’s homes whilst planning ahead for when our festivals can safely return to the city.'
I joined the World Whiskies Sip Along to be taken through six whiskies from Scotland, Taiwan, Japan, India and the USA. Here's what went down...
- Amrut Single Malt: This single malt is made at the Amrut distillery in Bangalore, India, around 3,000ft above sea level. Made using barley from the Himalayas, it's aged in new American oak and ex-bourbon barrels before bottling. On the nose, pronounced notes of cereal alongside almonds and apricots, while on the palate comes sweetness of vanilla, coconut and a creamy finish.
- Single Malts of Scotland Reserve Casks Linkwood 12yo: This glorious 12yo comes from Scotland's Speyside. On the nose, green apple, peach, cut grass and tarragon. On the palate, it's light in flavour (a welcome side effect of being aged in older Hogshead casks) with notes of earl grey and those green fruits coming through. Oily in texture.
- Nikka Miyagikyo: This number is a super complex liquid from the Nikka distillery in Miyagikyo, Japan. Based on the classic style of Scotch whiskies, this has been aged beautifully in Sherry casks. On the nose think tropical fruits, fresh florals and a touch of smoke. On the palate, it's malty and full of warm spices, with a hint of tobacco.
- Michter’s Rye: Aged in new, charred oak casks for 18-36 months, this American whiskey from Kentucky is the epitome of American rye. All those notes of nuttiness, caramel, banana and marshmallow are present.
- Port Askaig 8yo: Made up of a range of Islay whiskies, this 8yo is the smokiest of the sextet with other notes of fruit and florals coming through after the initial hit of smoke. On the palate, it is deliciously salty.
- Port Askaig 8y: Coming out of Taiwan, this whisky is aged in first-fill Oloroso Sherry casks which give it its beautifully honeyed and sweet nose (again coconut, vanilla, cinnamon), while the drinking is exceptionally smooth.
Ticket holders receive a link to the event, a very generous sample pack delivered free and the expertise of a brand ambassador/drinks professional to take them through their liquids.
For the World Whiskies Sip Along, Stef Holt of drinks agency Speciality Brands took myself and a virtual room full of whisky enthusiasts (of all levels), including someone celebrating their birthday, through each whisky.
She detailed the history of the distilleries, the production of the whiskies, a potted history of each style of whisky, gave us many fun facts (including the story of Nikka's funding father Masataka Taketsuru and his love of Scotland) and guided us through the liquids, all with the aid of maps and visuals of the landscapes and terroirs.
The combination of Fish's easy-going manner and introduction, with Holt's laid-back but personable presentation and encyclopaedic knowledge, made this one of the most informal-yet-invaluable tastings I've experienced in 2020. Detailed, but not too detailed, the content was digestible, and participants could be as involved or as pedestrian as they wished.
The best bit though, of course, was the selection of whiskies: beautifully curated by Fish, Lerman and Holt, the selection was standout. I'll be adding a few to my Christmas wishlist, for sure.
Want to get involved? Rolling Social's next event is the 'Christmas Cocktail Party with Duppy's Share rum, Ramsbury, Crystal Head and Ocho' on 18 December. Sign up here: rollingsocialevent.com.