Whisky and steak being 2 of my favourite things, I was looking forward to an evening of an American-inspired menu, washed down with rare and old bourbons. JW Steakhouse at Grosvenor House has one of the most comprehensive bourbon selections in London, and ran a series of nights celebrating all things southern states and beyond, hosted by bourbon blogger Tom Fischer.
Upon arrival, we’re taken to the bourbon bar where a Pikesville Rye Manhattan is waiting for us, along with our fellow diners. The mixture of whisky and sweet vermouth making for an excellent aperitif, but a pretty potent start to the evening so slow sipping required.
After introductions, we move into the private dining area of the restaurant where 3 drams are lined up on the table waiting for us to sample.
First up is Four Roses 125th Anniversary – Big flavours, with sweetness of berries and fruit, dark sugar, spice and heat coming through from the cask-strength whisky. An excellent start to the drams.
Whilst we sip the first drink, soft and warm freshly baked parker house rolls are brought out, alongside a selection of rock oysters for the table.
Next up is a Whistle Pig 12 Years Madeira Finish. An outstanding bourbon, smooth on the palate with red fruit flavours and the Madeira finish giving a dark, amber colour. The main course arrives between whiskies, a set American menu paying homage to Kentucky, Tennessee and all the southern states where barbeque is king.
The mixture of meats is the star of the show, with honey bourbon-glazed baby chicken, USDA fillet of beef Oscar Style and Barbecued baby back ribs. The beef is on the rare side of medium-rare, just how I like it.
An array of sides to complement the meat includes creamed spinach, sweet potato mash with a marshmallow crust, mac ‘n’ cheese and JW fries. This is comfort food at its best, guilty pleasures that you know you shouldn’t eat too often, but go together with the bourbon we’re quaffing.
To help wash down the mains, the next dram is Hudson Maple Cask Rye. An interesting bourbon, oak and spice making up the initial flavours and the sweetness of the maple syrup coming through.
Two bourbons left to drink, but considering the giant plate of desserts that’s just been placed on the table, we’re going to be here for some time. A trio of desserts to work through. Being a chocolate fiend I start there, deliciously indulgent dark chocolate ganache. Second is Betties pudding with bourbon sauce, a bread and butter pudding incarnation. Almost fit to burst, but the signature JW Cheesecake remains and can’t be left uneaten.
Luckily, we have the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Sazerac 2013 to help digest the monster desserts. From the first mouthful, this is my favourite dram of the evening. Mellow with vanilla sweetness, complex and a long finish – this is a really special bourbon.
Finally, to finish the evening, a special treat – E.H. Taylor Tornado Edition, a surviving bottle from a warehouse damaged by tornado in 2006. While the roof and walls were repaired, the barrels that survived were exposed to the Kentucky climate which gave them a unique flavour as the sun and elements they experienced created rich flavours. It’s a gorgeous dram – wood, vanilla and spice on the nose, sweet on the palate with hints of fruits and honey.
An outstanding evening of southern hospitality – the Sazerac 2013 and Tornado Edition being the bourbons of choice for me.
Diet time now, but I’ll definitely be visiting the bar again soon for an Old Fashioned.
Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London, W1K 7TN