To celebrate the DVD and Blu-Ray release of HBO’s thrilling action drama, Quarry, we were recently invited to an intimate evening of bourbon tasting.
In Quarry, Max Conway (Logan Marshall-Green – Prometheus, The Invitation), is a disillusioned Vietnam War veteran who returns home to Memphis in 1972, only to be rejected by his loved ones and demonised by the public. After being approached by a mysterious man known only as The Broker, he is drawn into a network of killing and corruption that spans the length of the Mississippi River.
As well as an awesome blues soundtrack, there is a heck of a lot of bourbon consumed throughout the series – and that was what we were here to do – drink learn about a heck of a lot of bourbon.
Milroy’s of Soho is on Greek Street, five big strides from Soho Square. Established in 1964, it’s a specialist whisky bar and shop up top, with a secret downstairs speakeasy called The Vault.
Next to a glass cabinet storing a hundred grand’s worth of whisky, is a Scooby-Doo bookcase that houses a secret door. We “ooh” excitedly as it swings open and reveals an entrance to a candle-lit staircase. “Ooh”-ing more, we head down to a proper wood-and-leather, low-ceilinged, dim, dangerous and delightful speakeasy.
Picking our way between little lamp lit tables we pull up a pew on a squashy sofa and proceed to lubricate ourselves with a couple of Quarry themed cocktails. “What’s in them?” you may ask but our drink dispensing damsel didn’t know, so we thanked her and clinked our glasses anyway as she left with a:“Pleasure, treasure.” There was certainly whisky in it. And it was yellow. And it was really nice.
Once The Vault was full, Milroy’s current owner and whisky expert, Simo stepped up to begin our aural and oral tour through the intricacies of fire water. These tasting talks are an opportunity to bask in knowledge and love for booze and you can do them for a few different tipples, but we were here to share in his passion for bourbon.
Simo took us through the history of whisky, as well as the different types and varying distilling processes, and if that sounds like it could be a bit dry: it weren’t. Simo’s enthusiasm is infectious and, aided by the odd cameo from his dog Chester, and a constant flow of fine nectars to enjoy, we learned the different factors that can affect flavour, what the advantages and disadvantages are of drinking with different shapes of glass, and are regularly asked to offer tasting notes of our own.
A particularly lively sample led me to exclaim that it was: “Like being punched in the back of the neck with an apple”, which meant nothing but: “Cor, that was strong and tastes a bit apple-y”, but there were no wrong answers. There are 200 odd different tasting notes to whisky and the best in the world can identify just over twenty, with the “normal” drinker being able to detect three to six.
One of the most valuable lessons Simo shared was that it doesn’t matter how much it costs – what matters is if you like it. Apparently out of two of his favourites, one costs forty quid a bottle; the other fifteen hundred. A grand and a half may be beyond most of us, but, with our new found appreciation for bourbon we may get one in next time we’re at the bar – at least now we’ll know what we’re talking about.
HBO’s Quarry is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.