One of the after-effects of an outstanding night out is that my highly refined art of procrastination takes over my weak will and shocking work ethic. There really is no contest. Sit down and write, or have a glass of something and contemplate what I am going to write. I am extremely good at contemplating. I can contemplate for days, weeks and months on end. So with a profound apology to the lovely Charlotte Spicer (she comes first) and Emil den Dulk from Liquidity, Paul La Cock from Aficionados, Neil Grant from Burrata and guest of honour John Glaser, founder of Compass Box, here is what I have been contemplating since October 2012, details sadly eroded due to old age and poor memory.
It takes courage, confidence and perhaps a bit of insanity to start a whisky company or a restaurant. It takes passion, knowledge and a loyal following to keep it going. And more courage. And more.
So it made sense to host The Compass Box Art of Blending evening and dinner with John Glaser, an innovator in the world of whisky at Burrata, one of the best restaurants in town, started just over a year ago by Neil Grant (ex Rust en Vrede with chef David Higgs). Why – because John & Neil share the same passion for quality and a belief that an outstanding product will generate a following. Much like Compass Box is a cult whisky producing limited releases, Burrata doesn’t turn tables three times a night, but is a place where one can spend an evening working through many courses complimented with wine served and selected with knowledge.
Again, the details of the evening are lost in the mists of time. I remember that the blending exercise was great fun with groups of enthusiastic whisky lovers producing their own blend from some exceptional single malts and grains. There was a heated competition and much laughter. And some pretty decent whiskies. And some that were…different. The food was superbly created and presented with mastery. Neil is the wine expert and has one of the best palates in South Africa. I don’t remember what we had, but remember the combinations were perfect and wines delicious.
The people – because that’s what an evening is really about – outstanding company. John shared his love of what he does, his careful selection of single barrels from exceptional distilleries, immense knowledge of wood and wood management and a nose that began in the wine industry. Paul, an actuary by profession, moved away from numbers and statistics to the qualities of the Glencairn Whisky Glass while Charlotte and Emil shared stories of their love of wine – Emil Snr produces the De Toren wines.
Compass Box has had a run in or two with the SWA, who may mean well but can be a bit misguided. A man with a good product and a love for what he does will carry on doing what he does best and there is not a bureaucrat around who can stop him. John produces whisky, properly.
Winter is here. It’s time for a glass of red and a dish or two of a Burrata creation, with Compass Box The Peat Monster as the nightcap.