Whisky virgins at my fingertips, raindrops falling on my head.

Springbank Whisky at The Devon Valley Hotel

I had an urge. A need. A want. A desire. Wait – don’t get ahead of yourself and relegate this article to the same place you threw your copy of 50 Shades.  You threw it away, didn’t you?  I’m talking about whisky and the countryside.  A city boy sometimes needs the sanity that only a night away from bright lights can provide.

The Devon Valley Hotel in Stellenbosch has a long history in the whisky “society” of the Western Cape.  Many years ago, way became popular, former owner David Nathan-Maister hosted whisky tastings and food and whisky pairings. Next-door neighbour and wine and spirit guru Dave Hughes (one of the guys that has forgotten more than most people will ever know) used to slip an aged rum in to the array of malts he was presenting for a blind tasting and wait for the reaction from the unwitting audience.

When one of my favourite whisky presenters, Charlotte Spicer of Liquidity, mentioned she was hosting a Springbank whisky dinner at the Devon Valley hotel, I jumped at the chance to revisit Devon Valley.  Dinner, whisky, the next day visiting a winery or two is what my city batteries needed.

The rain was bucketing down when I checked in to one of the hotel’s newer rooms.  With the fireplace roaring, a glass of SylvanVale Rose, from the hotel’s vineyards at my side, I had a nap, a nap that only city people understand, a nap that signals the start of a weekend away.

Pre-dinner drinks were in the bar, where hotel owner Craig Seaman has accumulated some gems, a Royal Lochnagar Distiller’s Edition being just one. Several other hard to find expressions make the bar at the Devon Valley Hotel an ideal place to enjoy a whisky journey. A whisky journey is something that few of my dinner companions had experienced.  Around me were three whisky virgins – 2 members of the press and my date. They’d never attended a whisky tasting and between them, in their entire lives, had but one glass of whisky. Ask most whisky lovers what they enjoy most and you may find that we love to share. We love to spread the love and who better to share with than novices to the wonderful world of whisky.   The better the whisky, the better the surroundings, the better the journey.  Devon Valley Hotel and Springbank Whisky is a pretty impressive start.

Charlotte took command of the elegant dining area and took us through the whisky for the first course while chef Markus Schwemberger shared his thought process behind the pairings.  The menu is here:Whisky Menu springbankyou can see that the journey was well planned.

The whiskies were exceptional. I confess to a partiality to the Springbank 15. To me it is the best of the range, 10, 12, 15 and 18. The 18 is ideal for a late night dram, it worked perfectly with the cheese platter, but the 15 is something I could enjoy anytime, any day.  The 12 Cask Strength with dessert came in a close second.

After dinner it was back to the bar for another gem. To whet your appetite and draw you back to the Devon Valley Hotel, there is a Springbank 12 Calvados finish. 6 years in refill bourbon, 6 years in fresh Calvados casks. Spectacular.

We headed along the pathway to our room. The air was empty. No pollution, no noise, just the feel of raindrops gently falling.

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