The Singleton Night Market
It was with a stroke of good fortune, courtesy of the lovely Miss Whisky, that I received tickets to The Singleton Night Market on the Southbank. The occasion was to showcase Singleton of Dufftown's two new whiskies, Sunray and Tailfire. Now, it is a known fact that it is just plain wrong to experience new whisky alone. So I grabbed a willing volunteer who was promptly joined by his wife, three's a party you know. Now events in London tend to be dictated by the weather, and May is a fickle month. By a stroke of luck, we had a glorious evening for tasting whisky. So Mr and Mrs Cow and I made our way to venue that had been erected on The Riverside Walkway. As we arrived, we were festooned with our red wristbands, the Night Market’s equivalent to Wonka’s Golden Ticket as it turned out. “What do we get with a red wristband?” we asked, “Everything” came the reply. We didn't wait around for further instructions. For our first stop, we made our way to meet the rather wonderful Colin Dunn, brand ambassador for The Singleton. Colin then took us through the subtleties of each of the new drams. As we did on the night, let's start with Tailfire.
Tailfire (or the one with the pinkish-red label) is a no-age statement single malt that is aged in European Oak Sherry barrels. Now, I've been “off” single malts for a while now, mainly due to a tendency towards the middle in terms of taste and releases in my opinion. Over the last few years I've gravitated towards the American distilleries, as there's been really exciting things coming out of Buffalo Trace, Few, Smooth Amber among others. The most recent Scottish whisky I've had is Caskstrength's 3D, a blend of Diageo’s “D” whiskies, Dailuaine, Dalwinnie and Dufftown (Singleton as it happens). So, diving into Tailfire was an experience. Colin, who Mrs Cow instantly fell for (he was dishing out scotch with a cheeky smile after all), talked us through what to look for in our first sip. Tailfire is terribly fruity, in a really pleasant way. On the nose you have apples and vanilla working towards hints of green fields. On the palate you are initially hit with a lovely berry hint, our group consensus was raspberries, working its way towards a very vanilla finish. The lingering taste is terribly fresh on the tongue and leaves you with a very spring feeling, which complimented the glorious weather perfectly. Mrs Cow named it her favourite, before we have tried Sunray... Northerners....
Next up was Sunray, the one I'd been looking forward to. As I've mentioned, I'm a bourbon fan, to put it mildly. Sunray is aged in Ex-Buffalo Trace American Oak bourbon barrels. This in itself will lead to a very different whisky to the one we had just tried. On the nose, I get hit with all my favourites, honey, apple, vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. The taste is very bourbony, which isn't a word but sums Sunray up. It still has that light taste that single malts carry, but this has all the hallmarks of the barrel, apple and honey. In fact, if Tailfire is spring, Sunray is autumn. I really enjoyed Sunray, not just due to the bourbon hints, but do the fact it stood out despite the bourbon hints. This may sound like a contradiction but given the strong Kentucky notes, it keeps its Speyside heart, which is to its credit. Comparing the two, and given that the two whiskies were designed to highlight their casks and get people talking, we certainly started a discussion. Pulling apart the merits of both before deciding that, like the seasons they bring to mind, they nod to each other and then stand apart. Their individuality is impressive.
Having tried the stars of the show, we headed to the meat. The Forza Win boys were running the BBQ pit with slow cooked pork that ended up in a flour bap and homemade pesto. It was stunning, so stunning we became regular customers over the course of the evening. About now, I clocked the incomparable Andrea Montague, formerly of Callooh Callay in Shoreditch and maker of the finest Martinez in the world (trust me, I've tried them all over the planet, her's wins, so far...), and now a brand ambassador for Diageo whiskies. Andrea was running a cocktail masterclass, that was fully booked up by then time we prised ourselves away from the pork. A bit of loitering with intent later, coupled with a bit of tardiness of one of those who signed up and we managed to squeeze the Cow in to the mix. Now this proved to be, for me personally, the highlight of the evening. In the 20 odd years I’ve know the Cow, the most domestic thing I’ve ever seen him do is make some tea, good tea mind, but tea is about it. I lived with him for a few months, does washing up count as domestic? Wait… I think his mum did the washing up… Anyway, Andrea was getting her wannabe mixers to whip up a Berry Jam Sour. Now mixing a drink is not domestic, it is a necessary life skill. The first step required separating an egg. I’ve waited for this for years, and as my Cow is good at just about everything he puts his mind too, the egg separation only took two attempts. Still, the first attempt was like watching Bambi on ice, for me, it was pure gold. Mixing, shaking and a fair attempt at pouring later, the Cow had made himself a decent whisky sour. All credit to the teacher.
Having watched a master in action, we moved onto the cocktails on offer, The Dufftown Rambler, a fresh whisky sour made with Sunray and a Fruity Scot, which reminds me of a story of a night in Manchester, but that, is for another time. The Fruity Scot was a Tailfire and lots of berries, really nice the both of them, recipes are below. Freshly lubricated, we headed over to Mark Hix’s Fishdogs. Imagine a fish finger sandwich; add fresh tartar sauce and mushy peas in a fresh roll. Got it? Hix’s was better. Given I have mixed feelings with Hix’s establishments (Chop House great, Mark’s Bar Soho, not so much) the Fishdog was glorious. Coupled to that there was some delicious chocolates from Cocomaya, a milk chocolate and dark chocolate truffle made with each of the whiskies. Then there were the marshmallows. There were two types made, rather surprisingly, with Tailfire and Sunray. The Marshmallowists had whipped up a batch of spring fruits marshmallows made with Tailfire and an apple and cinnamon one with Sunray. Needless to say, having meet one half of the ‘ists, Oonagh Simms, I’m totally smitten. I’m sorry Singleton, you plied me with your finest new whisky and I fell in love with the marshmallows. I’m a terrible guest… But my goodness, they are incredible. I was given a batch to take home and the plan was to share them with a mate at work who has a subscription to a mail order macaroon service. I eat his macaroons. Needless to say, not all the marshmallows made it but the ones that did make it, he concurred, were amazing. Oonagh, love your work. Truly.
No evening out is complete without cheese and Pong were on hand with a lovely welsh soft cheese and a delicious Manchego. The lady from Pong, who we wangled a cocktail for, stupidly asked the Cows and I if she opened some more, would we eat it. We did. And we bought some to take home. It was a great night out.
The goal of the evening was to get a buzz going about Tailfire and Sunray and in this The Singleton and Diageo did a great job. The venue was great, the food was superb, the cocktails terribly drinkable and the two new drams we both rather delightful. For someone who had lost a bit of faith in Single Malts of late, these are two impressive additions to the category (I hate the term "category" when talking about drinks, can't believe I just used it) and will be looking forward to trying them again.