Thursday, October 1, 2009

Great places to drink whisky ... Albannach, London

albannach whisky barOn Wednesday 30th September, we were lucky enough to be invited to the launch night of the newly refurbished Albannach restuarant and whisky bar in London. Albannach (pronounced al-ban-nack) translates as 'Scotsman' from the Gaelic language and the bar is located right on London's famous Trafalgar Square. It was originally opened in early 2005 and was a pioneer for delivering contemporary Scottish cuisine and an extensive whisky collection to a wider public in the capital. Albannach has won many awards and much acclaim for the quality of its food, spirits and service.

Now, Albannach has been refreshed and given a contemporary feel that sympathetically brings the 19th century bank building in which it is housed up to date. They boast an extremely well stocked bar (over 130 whiskies and numerous other spirits), a whisky sommelier to help choose the correct dram to go with your meal and meeting rooms/ conference facilities. At the event, we were able to sample Albannach's own range of whiskies. They have been selected especially for them with help from the Glasgow based independent bottling company Duncan Taylor & Co. Below are our basic tasting notes with some additional facts supplied by the informative Michelangelo from the Albannach bar.

albannach whiskies - speyside, islay and blendedAlbannach Blended 10 years old
This blended scotch is bottled at 40% ABV and will cost you £6.50 for a dram at the bar. The colour is golden with a light, fresh aromatic nose - there is vanilla, green fruit (think of pears and apples), toffee and a hint of grassiness (imagine dried grasses). The palate is sweet with a slight citrusy zing (think of lemon zest) added to the elements from the nose. It feels creamy and has a decent length of finish. This is a very enjoyable and easy drinking dram that is better than we expected of a 'house blend'. Very pleasant and easy drinking but would be great with a mixer or in a cocktail.

Albannach Speyside 14 years old
The Speyside distillery in question is Mortlach and it has been matured in American oak bourbon casks. We were interested to try this as bourbon cask matured Mortlach is rare, as the distillery is well known for its use of sherry casks. This is bottled at 46% ABV and will cost £7.50 for a dram. The colour is a straw-like gold and the nose is full of vanilla, coconut and warm spices (think of ginger and nutmeg). On the palate this is clean yet creamy and sweet. The vanilla, coconut and spice is there again as are some cereal grains and caramel. The balance is very good and the finish was surprisingly long, sweet and spicy (this spice was a bit more woody this time, like cinnamon). An excellent and interesting dram.

Albannach Islay 10 years old
The single malt used for this is from the famous Islay distillery of Bowmore. It is bottled at 46% ABV and a dram will cost £7.50 at the bar. The colour is a golden amber and the nose is rich and promising. There is some evidence of dried fruit (think of raisins and sultanas), caramel and earthy peat aromas (think of damp moss especially). On the palate, there is initial sweetness (that dried fruit again joined by some cereal grains and vanilla) and this turns smoky (imagine peaty earth) and slightly bitter (think of something like dark chocolate). It is rich yet feels refreshing and well balanced. The finish is long with a nice level of sweetness and a smokiness that is more bitter and reminiscent of an ashy bonfire than before. Excellent stuff - the whole range of the three whiskies are superb and worth trying if you are ever near Trafalgar Square.

albannach whisky barWe also had the opportunity to try a whisky cocktail that the bar team at Albannach had created. It is named 'Mosquito' and is a whisky based version of the famous Mojito cocktail. The 'Mosquito' contains a dram of Chival Regal 12 years old, fresh mint leaves, a dash of bitters, creme de peche (a peach liqueur), sugar syrup and peach juice, all poured over freshly crushed ice. This was very drinkable, with the sweetness balanced by the bitters and mint. This cocktail is definitely worth a try.

Albannach offers something different - quality food, an extensive whisky and drinks list ranging from £6 to £750 (Laphroaig 40 years old!) for a dram, knowledgeable staff, good service and pleasant surroundings in which to enjoy them all. It is a must for whisky fans to visit when in London and we had a great evening there. Their website is

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