Hotscotch History

//Hotscotch History

Hotscotch History

The Society prides itself on innovation, on experimentation, on pushing the flavour boundaries. It hasn’t worked all the time…

Your resident Society history nerd here on a Friday morning with one of my favourite SMWS experiments. Everyone is probably aware of this in some form, but not everyone will have heard the tale of the legendary MD’s Folly…

Sometime in 2001, the then managing director, Richard Gordon, had the idea of finishing several casks of whisky in ex-Tabasco casks which had been used to ferment and age Tabasco Sauce. The making of this iconic sauce actually has strong parallels with the whisky making process. The tabasco peppers are ripened and then mashed with a bit of salt from the mines under Avery Island from where the sauce hails. The mashed peppers are then packed into wooden barrels and topped with more salt, before being left to ferment for up to 3 years.

So Mr Gordon may be forgiven for thinking it might marry well, or least make a little history along the way. The final result produced a liquid that definitely had a malt whisky character but with an arguably overpowering heat. The Society, believing this would be a bridge too far for members (and almost certainly for the SWA) decided it would be a better food pairing condiment, and it was bottled as “a demonically fiery cooking spirit for the impetuously experimental chef.’”

To launch the weird and wonderful trial in mid-2002, a dinner was held by the Society with all dishes featuring the Hotscotch Sauce (and paired with more approachable Society drams) and attendees received a booklet of these same inventive recipes. Several additional recipes appeared in subsequent publications such as the Bottling List (precursor to Outturn) but, once supplies were depleted, the whisky was never attempted again.

Richard Gordon was quoted at the time as saying “we were expecting a ‘warm glow’, but after a month what we got would be best described as ‘pure heat’, with what looked like vinegar settled on the top”. Shows that finishing is an art, and should be monitored carefully, imagine what a year would have created. I for one am grateful for constant innovation.

Five years later, James Freeman, the executive chef of The Dining Room at 28 Queen Street, incorporated a touch of spice into several dishes using Hotscotch, and there are a couple of bottles floating around that are asking for a modern twist. With whisky pairings very much in vogue, there are many exciting possibilities.

I promised I’d invite John McCheyne to dinner sometime soon (which has sadly been delayed by recent international events). Franz Scheurer, I might need your help…

Written by Alex Moores, VIC State Manager, SMWS Australia

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