Where to start?
They are insane!
They think whisky is not about old people, scores out of 100, secret societies, tartan, marble fireplaces, snobbery, frowning upon adding anything to whisky, silver service, crystal tumblers, five stars, big cars…! But this is exactly what whisky is all about, right!?
For Duncan McRae and Nick Ravenhall whisky is about fun, flavour, vigour, innovation, youth, fusion, twist, accessibility, wit, humour, freedom, friendship, technology, affection, abstraction, distraction, construction, promotion…
They are actually insane. They have lost their marbles. Coo-coo.
They tried to convince me just how messed up they are at a dinner they kindly invited me to on Monday. And as you may have gathered from the introduction, they managed that just fine. Luckily for both sides, I am a weirdo of a similar caliber and among people who talk about distilling clove infused fermented orange juice in stainless steel pot stills, I am like a pig in the mud.
Some time ago these guys had an idea. They came across a photo of a bunch of guys sitting and enjoying their whisky outdoors and they thought: “this is what it’s all about for us!”. They dragged a group of friends up the Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and they drank their whisky. It was great but it wasn’t enough. They wanted to share the liberating experience of breaking up with all convention and they organised an event. They invited mixologists and flavour geeks and served whisky in the ways that would make SWA officials flip.
And now they are doing it again, only bigger, better, louder and crazier than the last time. Early November. A secret location. 400 people! The theme is “a touch of tweed”, you are also encouraged to sport facial hair (no matter your gender). I will be getting my pass asap and I recommend you do the same, it is one whisky event in Edinburgh you do not want to miss! www.whiskypicnic.org
But going back to Monday night, they didn’t just treat me to a dinner and a PR chat. That would be conventional. They laid our an 8-course whisky dinner comprising of traditional Scottish food with some outrageous twists put together by a talented young chef. A display of some of the finest cuisine this country has to offer and a show of ridiculously good whisky-food matching. My favourites were Scotch Pancakes, Auchentoshan creme fraiche, toffeed apples paired with Auchentoshan 1978 Bourbon cask and Seared Scottish Mackeral terrayaki; pickled vegetables and wasabi paired with Yamazaki Sherry Cask. You can have a look at the full menu below the press release. Coo-coo.
Zee Press Release (hear it from the horse’s mouth):
The Saint of St. Stephen Street in Stockbridge, Edinburgh was host to the most unusual dinner on Monday 5th October.
The eight course dinner, was designed and created to put an innovative twist on Scottish cuisine and match each dish with a dazzling array of fine and rare single malts generously supplied by the sponsors of the second annual Whisky Picnic, which will take place early in November at a secret location.
After the resounding success of the first Whisky Picnic which was held in 2008, it is anticipated that the event this year will be like no other seen within the whisky world. There are 400 places available this year for those who sign up early enough to get one.
The Whisky Picnic is an event that represents a movement with the sole aim of raising levels of passion, engagement and awareness of single malt whisky in a completely new, refreshing, unpretentious and above all fun way
The dream of the co-founders, Duncan McRae and Nick Ravenhall is to reclaim malt whisky as the number one spirit in Scotland by recapturing both the trade’s and the public’s fascination and imagination. They aim to achieve this by presenting whisky in a way that is not elitist and instead about enjoyment rather than analysis.
The picnic brings together a group of the best bartenders from across the UK who are each assigned a whisky brand to work with. Their task is to create a truly original cocktail which they will then showcase at the main event. It invites everyone to explore and enjoy a whisky tasting with a difference.
The event has also teamed up with 21st Century Kilts’ Howie Nicholsby, as his modern take on traditional Scottish dress very much encapsulates the same spirit that the Whisky Picnic is all about. In addition to this, the Whisky Picnic are also working to raise money for Movember, a charity that encourages growth of moustaches in November with the aim of raising awareness around mens health issues.
For further information or to sign up for an invitation, please visit: www.whiskypicnic.org.
• Seared Scottish Mackeral terrayaki; pickled vegetables and wasabi paired with Yamazaki Sherry Cask.
• Haggis and red currant crepe; deep fried leeks and Connemara whisky jus paired with Connemara Peated Sharry Cask.
• Stornoway Black Pudding and Chorizo frittata paired with Sheep Dip 18 Year Old ‘The Hebridean’.
• Platter of Abroath Smokies, oatmeal scones, samphire and chive butter sauce paired with Springbank.
• Spiced duck parcel, rosti potato and plum sauce paired with Mortlach 16 Year Old.
• Peppered venison, bubble and squeak polenta, thyme jus paired with Talisker 25 Year Old.
• Scotch Pancakes, Auchentoshan creme fraiche, toffeed apples paired with Auchentoshan 1978 Bourbon cask.
• Irish coffee mousse and Arran malt foam paired with Arran 1996.