Thursday, February 23, 2012

Single Malt Education

What I know about scotch couldn't fill a jigger.

Conveniently, I'd been invited to a Balvenie tasting at Balliceaux, providing an opportunity to up my scotch savvy and broaden my horizons.

I'll cut to the chase and say that i am still a tequila person at heart (quality tequila, that is).

The soiree began with one of Elby award winner Sean Repoza's craft cocktails, this one made of Glenfiddich, Hendrick's gin, black pepper-infused pineapple, ginger and lemon.

For a non-mixed drink drinker, I found the concoction delightful with its pepper and pear notes.  That pear, I was told, was the Glenfiddich.

Our charming host, Nicholas, a Scot who works for Balvenie somewhere between selling and marketing, took his time teaching us to nose, taste and rub Scotch on our body parts.

"Feel free not to drink everything that's poured for you," he said shrugging. "As a Scotchman, that breaks my heart though."

My friend Frank, also a Scotchman (although currently residing in London), has echoed that sentiment on many an evening we were out.

"Scotch drinkers are promiscuous," Nicholas explained, referring to their drinking and not sexual habits. "They're the Tiger Woods of the whiskey world."

The Doublewood 2-year had a sweet, vanilla nose with traces of floral, but Nicholas warned us not to go too fast.

"It's like a first date," he cautioned. "Don't go in with the lips."

Forewarned is forearmed. He also told us to save our nose hairs by not going all the way into the glass.

His lecture was extensive, explaining the growing, the fermenting, the blending; it was the sheer length of time that he stressed as key.

"There's nothing to do in northern Scotland but make whiskey and rut like rabbits."

Well that explains having decades with nothing better to do than to make Scotch.

Next came the Single Barrel 15 year old, but the non-Scotch drinkers still hadn't been won over.

Leave it to the 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask which picked up the flavors of the rum that had previously been in them to make fans of nearly everyone in the room, even Sean.

Talk of rum led to talk of the islands and that led to reggae and next thing we knew, Nicholas was singing, "Drammin'. We're drammin'," to great hilarity.

The Portwood 21 Year Old required special treatment; we were told not to smell it.

We were instructed to put our hand over the glass, shake it and get Scotch on our palm.

Next he wanted us to rub our hands together, cup them and inhale.

"That's what our distillery smells like," he said with a grin.

Heavenly. It was, as he said, spectacular.

More precisely, it was refined, like the big brother who went off to boarding school and came back polished.

The finish was long and nutty with a hint of honey.

Because it would be silly to give Americans Scotch and not feed them, we enjoyed all kinds of apps along the way.

Butterfish was layered over a deconstructed egg salad with capers on a chip. Pistachio guacamole crostini had oyster mushrooms atop them.  Pulled pork and slaw came with a side of barley. Vanilla sorbet wore a crown of bacon.

House-cured bacon, that is.

In his wonderful accent, Nicholas told jokes, stories, family lore (Balvenie being one of two non-corporate owned Scotch distilleries) and swore like a, well, Scotchman.

And then the lesson was over and it was on to Ipanema for the Blood Brothers to spin vintage 60s music for a lively crowd.

Because there were two other free shows within a short walk, the crowd changed all night as people came and went from show to show.

The friend and I left Scotland for Italy and some Analissa Primitivo as Jamie and Duane proceeded to play an outstanding mix of pop and soul from the swinging sixties.

Besides the amazing music they pull out, the best thing about these two is how much fun they're always having as they play this stuff.

Second best would probably be seeing Jamie dance, as anyone who ever saw Baby Help Me Forget can attest.

For me, the best thing is finding a seat on the bench and having a terrific view of everything that's going on and everyone who's passing by.

That included musicians, DJs, and restaurant types.

I impressed the hell out of a couple of Scotch drinkers by letting them smell my palm.

They say it's important not to go in with the lips.

Never let it be said that you can't teach an old tequila drinker new tricks.

And now I can just about fill a jigger with my Scotch knowledge.

1 comment:

  1. What can one say about this blog? Except that it is the most incredible diary of erudite activities in Richmond (or just about any city) you're likely to come across.

    Karen, it seems, is out every evening (and lunchtime, too) visiting restaurants, clubs, museums and theatres.