Cask strength

DD and I are both slammed by work this week, so we were feeling a bit weary as we walked through Hyde Park to the Australian launch of Westward Whiskey Cask Strength last night.

When we said yes to the event in early March we hadn’t anticipated the workload that mid March would bring.

There is too much work and not enough sleep.

I bought us some Nurofen to pop when we arrived at the event #middleageddating

But we were enticed by the proposition of sipping American whiskey while eating dinner at the famed nel. Restaurant on the edge of Surry Hills.

nel. is in the headlines at the moment because its eponymous chef, Nelly Robinson, is creating a bespoke 11-course degustation menu incorporating KFC ingredients, which will be served over three nights at a secret location in Sydney in April.

Around 20,000 people have already put their names on the waitlist to try and win a spot at the table at the event. The concept has scored global headlines, with US talk show host Jimmy Fallon referencing the it in his monologue last week, saying “most fine-dining meals don’t come with a spork.”

The menu will include chicken wings cooked over a bed of charcoal with a gravy candle that melts and you dip your potato bun in. There will also be a dessert made from the brand’s famous fries.

None of that was on the menu last night, but it’s an indication of how creatively the chef rolls.

The delicious tipple being highlighted last night was launched in the US last year and won a double gold award at the 2021 San Francisco Spirits Competition.

Cask-strength whiskey is bottled from the barrel, completely unadulterated (meaning it hasn’t been diluted with water) and is generally between 60 to 65 percent ABV. Whiskey usually has an ABV in forties.

The owner of the distillery talked to us via Zoom – at around 2am his time – and explained that with cask strength whiskies are booming because they give more intensity of flavour.

I would love to visit the distillery one day to sip it in person, as it’s in Portland, Oregon. That’s a picture of the mountains nearby in the main shot. Portland sounds like such a fun place, with its foodie scene, craft breweries and gorgeous location in the shadow of dramatic mountain ranges.

As for the event last night, it took place in a groovy underground cellar. We kicked off with the most delicious Old Fashioned I’ve ever tasted, made with a fig syrup.

Nelly created a menu that included parmesan and tomato marshmallows, lamb ribs, snapper tartare marinated in whiskey with yellow tomato gazpacho, whiskey pepper marinated beef with macadamia and calvo nero and sticky toffee whiskey pudding with butterscotch.

It was all very yummy. And the Westward team were lovely, plus I knew a few people in the room, so there was lots of chitter chat, ranging from Stoli rebranding due to the Russian invasion to the shock of Ash Barty retiring.

We tried four Westward Whiskies over the course of the evening, but the Cask Strength was DD’s favourite, so he was very excited when we were given a bottle to take home.

And boy were were glad to get home, although it took DD an extra 30 minutes to finally arrive at his front door.

Yawn. Another hectic day begins!

Song of the day: Wham “Wake me up before you go go”

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