When I talk about a smoky whisky, there are those who automatically pull a face. Their thoughts turn to something heavily peaty, they think of those TCP style notes that can be a bit of an acquired taste.
I mean, admittedly, I love them, but I also love the soft floral notes of a Glengoyne, or the spicy cinnamon notes of a good bourbon. I think of myself as a bit of a tart I guess – I like a little bit of everything.
So the Smokehead Feast raised a few eyebrows, particularly when we walked in, and were greeted by, well smoke. The food was being crafted by Dram and Smoke, and the smoke filled the air of Fairfield Social Club.
And no, that’s not some sort of BDSM rack for chickens, this was Dram and Smoke at work on our main course. More on that later.
We were not only greeted by the chickens and the smoke, but by venison doughnuts – soft tender meat surrounded by a charcoal doughnut, dusted with haggist and served with a little maple syrup. I’m of the opinion that if anyone wants to greet me thus in future, I am happy to accept, and in fact would encourage this as a generic form of greeting.
Tastebuds warmed up by both doughnut and a little whisky and ginger, we settled at our tables for the feast ahead. Each table had someone from the brand on it, to talk through both the dishes, and the whisky, which meant we had someone able to pour for us, talk us through the whisky, and answer any questions we might have.
Our starter took advantage of the saline notes in the whisky – those ozony seaweed notes that were played up in our matched cocktail. The smoked seadog featured a seaweed, rosemary and seasalt syrup, to match with our popcorn, bacon and corn chowder, with octopus skewers. The cocktails salty herbal flavours were balanced out by the sweetness of the corn, and the popcorn, the soft sweetness of the seafood, and the contrast with that crispy bacon.
Our main featured those chickens. Smoky but tender, they featured alongside a pickle juice spiked chimichurri (which was to die for and I need to try to recreate), roasted aubergine, and stuffed potato skins that had us all asking for me.
Special thanks need to go to our table host Iain, for deftly distributing our chicken evenly between the table particularly as being a short stack myself meant that I couldn’t quite reach the centre of the table (at least not without my boobs ending up in some form of food or drink).
And that would have been a shame – particularly as the drink we were served was so good. A shorter cocktail, featuring lime and sriracha, it might not have been to everyone’s taste, but for me was a great pairing with the chicken, providing a kick of spice to compliment the tender meat.
As the daylight disappeared, our dessert began to appear. First a chocolate candle – once lit, this took a few minutes to melt, providing the chocolate sauce to go with our hot apple pie, elderflower jelly and ice cream.
These were paired with a classic, a smoked old fashioned – the drink that got me into peaty whiskies in the first place.
Smoky whisky might not be for everyone, but Smokehead, for all it’s bravado, skulls and moody looks, is far more accessible than you think it is, and might just change your mind.
And if it doesn’t? Well all the more for me.