Monday, 23 April 2012

Whiskey Trail - The Liquorists, Manchester Northern Quarter

Mark Twain is famed for saying, "...too much of good whiskey is barely enough," and last week's Whiskey Tour, with bar consultants/boozy tour guides/general bon vivants The Liquorists, really lived up to Mark Twain's (and my) expectations - there was whiskey galore; plus plenty of good food and good chat thrown in for very good measure.

The concept of a Whiskey Trail is to sample some very good whiskey (note the 'e' you pedants, we're referring to non-Scotch here), taste it in a long drink and learn about the spirit - bit like non-geeky school trip for adults.

We started the night at Socio-Rehab; the old stomping ground of our guide Tom, who's one half of The Liquorists partnership. Gathered round in a booth with eight other strangers, I felt like a bit of a ninny, however Tom's warmth and boundless enthusiasm relaxed everyone immediately and we got off to a flying start with the American bourbon that is Woodford Reserve; sweet, salty caramel flavours with big hints of vanilla shining through. To highlight the versatility of the drink we were also served a Classic, apparently as drunk by those people on Mad Men all the time (how did they cope?), and a dark chocolate florentine. Perfect.

Classics and florentines at SocioRehab

From here we decamped to Trof NQ and their brand new bourbon bar - we scampered round our reserved table like excited primary-schoolers - our little faces all tuned in to Tom's captivating spiel about the Jim Beam and infamous mint julep in front of us - part history, part folklore, part innuendo, part tasting notes. To compliment we had a spoon of jelly and almonds, went down a treat I can tell you.

Mint julep - totally Hunter S Thompson

We formed a now less than orderly crocodile and popped in to the dark and moody Apotheca a few doors up; this time to the wonderful sight of two large drams, not just one! And we can say drams this time as one of them was the wonderful Auchentoshan - a smooth and delicate Scotch single malt; the only triple distilled malt in Scotland - see I was still listening, even if by this time I had a lovely warm feeling and things were getting a little hazy. This was contrasted against the fruity, slightly sweeter Yamazaki from Japan, which was one of my favourites from the trail.

By now we were all chatting amiably, no longer strangers, but partners on this unique guided discovery - good thing as we had the longest walk (all of two minutes) to Noho on Stevenson Square - to relax in some comfy sofas; just what we needed after four drams and three cocktails. Out came a Jameson, well we couldn't have trail without having a drink from the country that invented whiskey could we? Hmmm...they may have invented it, but I do think the Scots refined it (that's a debate for another post). Here we ate caramel and cheese popcorn, sounds gross but is surprisingly moreish.

This made the Jameson's taste nice! Basil, clove syrup and pepper cocktail at Noho

And for our last treat? A chow down at the Northern Quarter's now infamous secret meat den for plenty of alcohol absorbing, juicy, meaty, delicious (I could go on) burgers and addictive chicken wings - plus lots of Jack Daniels and cocktails that I think included root beer and cherries (yes 'I think,' I had to go by the photos I took and my twitter updates for this one). Good job Almost Famous had opened up especially for us as by this time we were all on the merry side.

End of the night, dirty beefy love mmmm.....

A tour through the whiskies of the world is something that may sound a little dry (no pun intended); obsessive booze geeks trailing around in chinos discussing tasting notes and cask weights, blah, bah, blah. Tom is obsessive, but in a very good way. His passion, interest and obvious knowledge shine through - coupled with an boundless friendliness and a true eagerness to actually know what you think about each drink, he makes the trail a very enjoyable and unforgettable experience.

Please don't fear that this is an overly boozy lads night out - it's not. The Liquorists have obviously gone to great pains to ensure the whole set-up is run as professional and smoothly as possible. Our tables were always reserved, the drinks were always ready and there were plenty of snacks and water to dilute the booze they were feeding us. For between £30-£40 it's a cheap night out, especially as we got through five whiskies, four cocktails and more food than I could fit in my gob (that's a lot, by the way).

Tom and his interesting spiel

The Whiskey Trail is on for the next five weeks so snap up your tickets here - you'll be gutted if you miss out, it really is that ace. Don't fear if it's already booked up; those sauce sessionistas will be back with a gin trail, and a vodka trail, and... well watch this space.

Want a bespoke party (they indeed will do these for 'a good deal'), or got some questions for Tom or his business partner Jody? Then head over to: or Twitter

Ps I was given the ticket to this trail for free, however I was under no obligation to write good things - Tom's enthusiasm for the drinks, his interest in us and just how jolly nice he was, plus the actual fabness of the trail means I think this definitely deserves a thumbs up.