Published on March 5th, 2013 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Feel the force of nature
The chance to combine beer, whisky and chocolate was one that Alastair Gilmour could simply not turn down.
Visiting Harviestoun Brewery in Alva, Clackmannanshire, recently was somehow like a Good Cop Bad Cop sequence. We were made to feel so welcome it was like being softened up for something yet to come, perhaps along the lines of “sorry folks, the tour’s cancelled and we’ve got no beer left”.
Then you’re presented with a lunch of lamb and black pudding casserole with leeks, garlic and a hint of rosemary, so that’s not it. You’re invited to take part in a Highland Park whisky tasting, before being asked to compare and contrast varying expressions of Ola Dubh porter (8.0% abv) with sublime, artisanal, small-batch chocolate. It quickly becomes clear that this particular drama is actually Good Cop Fantastic Cop.
Ola Dubh – pronounced “ola-doo” and Gaelic for “black oil” – is a development of Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil porter (6.0% abv), a fabulous, roasted, liquorice-tinged black toffee combination. The silky-smooth body unveils dark cherries, molasses, espresso coffee and chocolate in an intricate balancing act.
Head brewer Stuart Cail – once of Vaux in Sunderland – and his colleagues have been taking mouthfeel and flavour further up the scale by experimenting with maturing the well-balanced and pleasantly bitter beer in Highland Park oak casks that previously contained varying ages of whisky, from 12, 16 and 18 years old. Add chocolate and here are the day’s results:
Good Cop 1
Ola Dubh 12 presents a range of complex aromas and flavours influenced by incarceration in American oak casks first sent to Jerez to mature sherry in then sent to Orkney for a 12-year detention at Highland Park. It comes across mildly sweet and slightly smoky with a moderate roast.
Good Cop 2
Edinburgh Chocolate Tree Ecuador Milk is made with native Arriba cacao from Ecuador – a floral chocolate with a clean, sweet and full fat milk palate. For the technically-minded, it consists of 50% cocoa beans, milk and coconut palm sugar.
Excellent Cop 1
Ola Dubh 16 is mellow, mellow, mellow. It has softened out, picking up characteristics from the whisky cask and despite its mellow roundness it reveals wonderful toasted flavours with a backdrop of dried fruits to such an extent that it’s an all-year Christmas cake.
Excellent Cop 2
Edinburgh Chocolate Tree Peru 68% Criollo is a lightly flavoured, dark chocolate made from white Peruvian cacao. This could be described as buttermint and damp wood, or is that too fanciful? Made with cacao, cocoa butter and cane sugar.
Fantastic Cop 1
Ola Dubh 18. Hints of whisky and sherry appear with some subtle oak before complex roastedness and deep fruit flavours combine in a rush of sensations.
Fantastic Cop 2
Edinburgh Chocolate Tree Madagascar 75%. This bar is delicately crafted to balance the natural sweetness of the chocolate with highly fruity notes. We’re getting sensational swirls of contrasting bitter cocao to vibrant fruit cake.
We managed to sneak a few samples of Highland Park’s various expressions – and lordy lordy, the 18-year-old is as close to whisky perfection as it comes. The nose is a characteristic toffee sweetness and an almond nuttiness verging on marzipan. It’s a perfectly balanced single malt with a toffee sweetness and a mouthwateringly smoky finish.
In thanks, we genuflect in the general direction of Orkney and bend the knee specifically in front of whoever put this golden beauty together. Good Cop, you are now a Superintendent.