“Whisky: Novice or Not”
By Brian K. Brecht
As we plan each adventure, two things have become clear.
First, in the GAC, we want to enjoy our experiences with a wider range of devotees. And second….. we really like whisky. It is in fact how we finish each of our adventures.
Tom and I found our fondness for whisky over time, and we’ve both settled on what we like and don’t like. So as whisky drinkers, we wanted to share our enthusiasm with our GAC friends. We realized we had some members that had some, little or even no exposure to whisky at all. And in discussing how to share our fondness without prejudicing your intended audience, it led us to the idea of hosting our own whisky tasting event.
In order to give our guests the full range of characteristics to the spirit, we took a broad approach, choosing to not steer toward just single malts or whiskies from a particular region. Our goal was to not bias the experience so instead of a deep dive into scotch, or jumping on the current Bourbon bandwagon, we’d start with comparing all the variations to better understand why one differs from another. In fact the deeper we went into the subject; we found things that even we weren’t familiar with. That peaked our interest.
The impetuous for the evening came from a similar conversation with newly indoctrinated GAC member Yves Metraux. After my discussion wit Yves we decided this was to be Whisky(ey)…… whether you were a novice, or not.
After some deliberation we settled on four specific variants, Scotch, Irish, Bourbon, and Rye. From there we picked two varieties of each. We hoped to find similarities in candidates, but also examples that might highlight the wide range between the two selections. Why we didn’t include Canadian Whiskey I’m really not sure, but it just didn’t seem to ring true for us. No offense Canada.
Interestingly enough, though we were planning for only those four types, as guests arrived we wound up with (what we called), the extra credit table. Here were brought other representations such as another high-end highland Scotch, a Tennessee whiskey, and a Japanese whiskey. So to give you the full picture, our menu was cast as follows:
The MaCallan (Speyside) – 10-year fine oak
Adberg (Islay) – 10-year-old single malt
Jameson – 12-Year-old 1780
Tullamore Dew – 12-year-old reserve
High West Double Rye
Stronachie (Highland) – 12 year Single Malt
Gentleman Jack – Tennessee Whiskey
The Hakushu – 12 year single malt Japanese whiskey
From here it was all about planning the event and how we wanted to present our spirits. One of the first things we realized was that food would be a priority. Laying out our eight to twelve whiskeys, we realized we’d need a solid base for it all to sit on. We did something of a potluck but steered the courses to savory full flavor choices such as Tri-Tip, marinade peppers and olives, a ranges of heavy cheese and a mixed green salad in balsamic dressing.
We wanted to showcase all the variants at their finest. Again not wanting to slant toward any of the various brands, we pulled highlights and tasting notes from a variety of sources, and rolled them into tasting cards of our own so that it might entice our guests to each selection. We wanted them to find all the positive tastes, characteristics, flavors and aromas each had to offer.
Finally the glasses. We had hopes of each guest leaving with a souvenir Glencairn tasting glass, but at $10+ a piece that just wasn’t going to happen. In the end it was really about first exposure, so at my local liquor store, I found a great prepackage tasting kit that included small rocks glasses, tasting note cards and even maps of the various whisky regions. Getting a little pre-made prep didn’t hurt the experience.
For the purpose of this article, we won’t delve into the specific tastings of each bottle. There are plenty of sites that one can dig into the characteristics and subtle hints in each small dram. The purpose here is to highlight the idea that you don’t have to drink beer, wine or any spirit in any certain way. Our event was to bring like-minded friends together and explore something we each had different exposures to. For us this would be no rules whisky. If you like ice, then put it over ice, like it neat, that’s fine too. A little water, no problem, for us it was really finding what our guests would like and why. Taste, color, and of course the experience were all, vital to how we enjoyed the spirit.
All of us had different experiences with the various whiskeys. For myself, I found I still love Irish whiskey, and I still can’t drink Rye. Others found that specific Scotch they either love or hated. And some, found whiskey wasn’t their thing at all. But by the end of the evening, it became clear there were three bottles that were everyone’s favorite. For our event the general winners were The MaCallan, The Gentleman Jack, and The Tullamore Dew.