Oxford literary festival offers spirits as well as prose

Christ Church House Malt.

Christ Church House Malt.

First published in Columnists and Opinion
Last updated
The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Wine columnist. Please contact me on 01865 425266 or follow me on Twitter: @sauvignonblonde

"Isn't anythin' Ah got whiskey won't cure." – William Faulkner

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald had his gin. Truman Capote craved his Screwdrivers. Ernest Hemingway all but invented the Mojito and without William Faulkner’s relation to “whiskey,” the Kentucky Derby wouldn’t be what it is today. With all this affiliation between authors and their drink, it is no wonder the Oxford Literary Festival has several thirst-quenching master classes.

Last year I had the chance to attend Andy Hamilton’s session, “Booze for Free.” Suddenly I wanted to purchase a freezer and spend hours wandering hedgerows searching for suitable fruit to make homemade hooch. His 50-chili vodka caused grown men to swoon, but the concept of creating a delicate elderflower wine with “found” ingredients is enticing.

 

The session not to miss this year is the malt whisky tasting lead by John Harris, Sunday, 17 March at 4PM in Christ Church Hall. 

John is offering five Scotch malt samples from different regions and distilleries. He is hoping to show the diversity of the whisky due to their different maturation process. You will get to taste how each Whisky reacts to different flavours from ginger to haggis-flavoured crisps. That has got to be worth the ticket just to try! 

 

The highlight of the afternoon is the chance to taste Christ Church’s own “House Malt.”  John purchased the cask for his college when he was on holiday in Islay in 2001. Most colleges purchase their wine en primeur; he was visiting a distillery that had just reopened when the opportunity to purchase the cask arose. He said, “It hadn’t occurred to me that we could also do it similarly for another product.”

“It has a wonderful ten year life in a warehouse beside Loch Indaal.  For eight of those years it was in a Sherry hogshead, absorbing rich fruitiness as well as sea salt from the atmosphere, which adds a hint of citrus.  Then, because of a very fortuitous leak in the sherry cask it was transferred to a Madeira cask for two more years, giving it a warm, and uniquely characterful finish.”

“It is 43%. It is quite a powerful whisky.” John continues, “It is heavily peated, so it is quite punchy, but the Madeira cask has taken the edge off of it.”

It is now bottled up and ready to drink. 

 

Tickets cost £17 and can be purchased http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events-2013/sunday-17/malt-whisky-tasting.

For more Oxford drink insights you can follow me on twitter @SauvignonBlonde

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