There is a little island off the west coast of Scotland, called Islay. There is a much larger island off the east coast of Africa, called Madagascar. In whisky circles, Islay is renowned for producing whiskies with a smoky aroma, the result of peat being used in the production process. Madagascar, well, is quite beautiful and is doesn’t produce any whisky. What it does is provide a place for nature lovers and adventurers to explore. What’s all this got to do with whisky, you may ask? The occasion was the launch of a Three Ships competition where the winner gets the opportunity to kayak around Madagascar with Riaan Manser and Andy Watts.
Who are these two? Riaan is an adventurer who sat on a rock in Newlands Forest. He swapped the rock and corporate life for a bicycle seat and cycled around Africa. Yes, in simple terms he hopped on his bicycle and starting in Cape Town cycled around Africa along the coast back to Cape Town. He has also gone around one of the islands off Madagascar by kayak, so his been there, done that and now wants to take you with him. Andy is the man who makes Three Ships whisky, we know of many awards, including best blended whisky in the world and in his former life, was pretty handy with a cricket bat.
The venue for the launch was upstairs at Truth Coffee in Buitenkant Street Cape Town. The Distell team took over the top section of the venue, installed a superb chef, and invited an assortment of foodies, bloggers and whisky folk to attend the launch. The theme was Madagascar and on arrival guests were treated to a whisky cocktail made with Three Ships and vanilla. Riaan entertained us with stories of his cycle around Africa, his trip to New York via the whole of the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, he decided to hop in a rowing boat and row from Cape Town to New York with his girlfriend. Andy told us some of the stories about Three Ships, the next release of the 10 year old Single Malt (watch this space) and the care and dedication that goes into the spirit while the chef, who doubles up as a stand up comedian explained how he brought the flavours of Madagascar into the meal. Here’s where things got quite weird, if they hadn’t got weird before. One of the quirks about Madagascar cuisine is that as it is a very poor country, they use absolutely everything including, it seems, the burnt rice at the bottom of the pot. To this they add water and there is a soup called burnt rice soup. It’s not something that us living here at the tip of Africa would be used to. Thankfully the menu for the day was more extensive and much more palatable, one of the more successful whisky pairings I’ve attended. Kudos to Johnny Hamman, who achieved fame through Kokkedoor, and can quite easily embark on a second career as a stand up comedian if he ever needs to!
Andy took us through the whiskies for each course, perfectly paired, my favourite combination being the Three Ships bourbon cask finish with the dessert. Here’s a bit of inside info: the bourbon cask with anything that involves honey, cream or ice cream is superb. It is one of the best whiskies to enjoy with dessert.
The newest release of the ten-year-old single malt is expected round about November this year. I had a sneak preview of that expression when it was featured at a private tasting in Johannesburg last year. It’s a whisky that is going to make the rest of the whisky making and drinking world sit up and take notice as it is unlike any of the previous releases and something with a flavour that seasoned whisky drinkers will enjoy.
Photos to follow…