Whiskey lovers and science geeks don’t necessarily share a lot in common. However, both will be excited at the thought of Black Bottle whiskey’s taste experiment, which took place at the Science & Industry speakeasy this week.
Black Bottle has created the first-ever whiskey mind-reading machine, which they promise will discover “what makes you and your senses tick.” Sounding interesting? Sounding far-fetched? Well, we took a trip down to the Northern Quarter to find out if this was the whiskey world’s answer to Derren Brown…
Before we get into that, special kudos must go to Science & Industry for creating the perfect atmosphere for mind-reading magic to take place. Science & Industry radiates speakeasy charm and intimacy, a million miles away from the bustling streets outside. It’s not pretentious either: you can order burgers and chips from downstairs to enjoy while sipping their exquisite cocktails.
We sampled a range of off-menu bites, the stand-outs being the creamy and golden Mac n’ Cheese bites and the Pulled Pork slider which was packed with mouth-wateringly tender meat. If you’re after a slightly more boujee drinks night or a meal out, this is the place for you.
Back to the whiskey. Whilst I enjoy the odd Bell’s at Spoons, I wouldn’t say I’m a natural connoisseur. If there’s one thing this evening taught me it’s that when something’s quality, you can really taste it.
We sampled a number of Black Bottle cocktails, the first being a peach iced tea concoction. A refreshing start to the evening, it felt like a real subversion of a stereotypically heavy whiskey drink.
We followed with a Smoked Flat White which used the Black Bottle Smoke & Dagger expression. This drink felt like a close relative of an Expresso Martini, giving that coffee hit whilst maintaining a smooth and silky body. The expression itself was gorgeously smoky and had the salt-flecked aftertaste as if licking a littoral cave wall. Smoke & Dagger was also 46.3% (needless to say, we suffered the next morning).
We followed this with the La Muerte Negra which translates to ‘the black death’, so we were well prepared for a heavy hit of whiskey here (or worse!). Instead, we were surprised by the tropical infusion, sweet and pineapple flavoured. The whiskey used Black Bottle’s Andean Oak, the first to be matured in Columbian Andean oak casks, giving it a spiced, nutty taste that is immediately distinctive.
Then it was time to have our minds read, to reveal our ultimate whiskey cocktail. Putting on a headpiece that looked like a claw machine grabber, I entered the booth to watch a short video which featured exploding oranges, dripping caramel and a riot of colour and sound. The headpiece monitored my subconscious reactions, in order to tell me which images tickled my senses the most.
My results revealed an almost obsessive level of engagement with stonefruit, followed by pings of citrus and tropical. This gave me the Perfect Black Manhattan cocktail, which was made up of ten year-old Black Bottle, sweet vermouth and cherry brandy.
Despite my apparent fascination with stonefruit, cherries do not usually rank high for me. However, the cocktail was sweet and delicious, suggesting that the mind reader might know my preferences more than I do. My friend’s results gave her the Smoked Flat White, one of her least favourite cocktails: I was very happy to drink hers instead!
The question has to be asked whether any of this is more accurate than a simple stab in the dark at a cocktail menu, but the experience itself was well worth it. If you’re looking for a new whiskey to take cocktails to the next level, Black Bottle’s blended scotch whiskey really does provide a range of flavourful and exciting options.