Scotch-A-Palooza

It is extremely difficult to describe the size and scale, the overwhelming experience, the monstronsity that was the Single Malt Scotch and Whisky Extravaganza.  The few hours – where over 100 single malt varieties from no less than 48 brands were generously poured - were nothing short of heaven.  Coupled with dinner and a pair of cigars, this was certainly a special Wednesday evening.  Although difficult to describe, I shall do my best.

The extravaganza is put on by The Single Malt Scotch Whisky Society, a private club with the goal of promoting “the appreciation and discerning consumption of the finest whisky in the world.”  An excellent goal if I have ever heard one.  The Society’s extravaganza tours the U.S. each year, stopping in a dozen cities, including D.C.

While I probably enjoy single malts a bit more than most, I am by no means an expert.  And with such a variety available to taste, I entered the extravaganza determined to spend some quality time with brands I’ve not tried before.  Over the course of the evening I was able to enjoy dram after dram of Aberfeldy, Aberlour, Ardbeg, Auchentoshan, The Balvenie, The Dalmore, Dewar’s, The Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Isle of Jura, Knappogue Castle, Laphroaig, Oban, The Macallan, and Talisker.  In addition to this multitude of brands, each table presented several expressions of their product, aged 10 to 21 years.  And it was here, tasting the individual bottle expressions presented by a specific brand, where I discovered new favorites such as Aberlour and The Glenrothes.

It was indeed a decadent evening.  And following such copious amounts of scotch, a cigar would best conclude the evening.  Thankfully those too had been supplied by our hosts; a short two block walk later and I was sitting in a soft leather chair, slowly drawing my cigar, enjoying the warmth in my chest.  And considering what bottle to purchase next.

Published in: on November 29, 2010 at 2:26 pm  Comments (1)  
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Most Blessed, Most Thankful

I am surprised by a number of items I’ve read this week before Thanksgiving.  Several reputable publications that focus on drinking appear to have lost their spirit of thankfulness this year.  Many authors and bloggers seem to feel a sense of “it’s all been said before” concerning the topic of Thanksgiving drinking.  Many times I saw words like trite, recycled, and repetition being thrown about.

Many of these lamentations concern the preference – or rather, appropriateness – of serving red or white wine to your Thanksgiving dinner guests.  While a completely valid question, my surprise lies with the unexpectedly trite and negative tone; writers appear at wit’s end attempting to contemplate an answer this question.

Perhaps my disagreement with this tone lies with this blog itself – it is still new and this is my first Thanksgiving to write about.  And perhaps it’s because I don’t have a strong preference for either red or white wine.  But the question remains regarding those previous articles – can these feelings of exhaustion be avoided year after year?  Will my words remain fresh and thankful one, two, or three years from now, when attempting to produce a novel thought about this holiday’s drink?

Simply put, yes.  I will remain thankful for a simple reason: because I am blessed – with family, friends, fine drink, and this forum to express my thoughts.  Furthermore, I am blessed by the innumerable kind words of friends and colleagues who have read and appreciate my words.

Happy Thanksgiving, readers.  I am truly thankful for your kindness, inspiration, friendship, and camaraderie.  You have made my meager hobby so much more enjoyable.  You have emptied many glasses with me; I look forward to emptying many more.

Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm  Comments (2)  
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Afternoon in the Park

Fall is my favorite season, and in Washington DC, my favorite time of year.  The weather finally cools and leaves are underfoot, crackling and crunching with each step.  Unfortunately this season is all too brief, as the duration between hot, humid summer and frozen winter lasts about only a month until the weather turns its back to autumn.

Enjoying drinks outside in the fading evening dusk is therefore a short-lived pleasure; with November comes late afternoon darkness and uncooperatively cold temperatures.  A cold beer taken outdoors is uncomfortable in November, when the mercury falls and metal patio furniture is bitterly unforgiving.  Thankfully this was not yet the case when I was invited to have lunch and drinks with a friend a short while ago.

The lunch – a “pig out” on ribs prepared by nearly a dozen city restaurants to benefit a regional hospital – was held in a small park nestled in a quiet suburban neighborhood.  The setting was an excellent change in scenery from my usual locales; the intermittently-performed live music, the background sound of conversations, and the noise of children playing was all delightfully soothing.

More importantly, the event provided a fleeting opportunity to drink outdoors before winter sets it.  So beers were poured and refilled to wash down the pounds of pork and potato salad.  Rays of early afternoon sunshine cascaded down past the few remaining leaves, warming our faces while we drank.

Although lasting for only a few hours, I took full advantage of this favored weather by eating fantastic food and drinking frosty Dutch beer in this wooded park hiding in Washington’s suburbs.  And I’ll focus on that day’s memory throughout the next several months, when darkness and cold forces us indoors to enjoy a beverage or two.

Published in: on November 20, 2010 at 1:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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What’s in a Name?

Terminology is usually not too important when it comes to drinking.  Most of us who enjoy this hobby are not too picky about most things drinking-related.  Sometimes words are unnecessary; pointing and nodding have been known to get the job done – especially when overseas.

This question of the importance of words also applies to those pouring the drinks – the bartender.  This title has been used and accepted over many, many years.  Yet recently I read an article specifying gender to the title: bartender for male; bartendress for female. 

To some, the feminization of this traditional title could be construed as negative.  However, I encourage the distinction; the word is sultry and seductive, giving the impression and allure of feminine wile and wit.  When picturing the word, the bartender (or barman for the truly traditional) is a gentleman in a shirt and tie, apron neatly tucked and shirtsleeves rolled.  Yet a bartendress is altogether different: engaging and mysterious, simultaneously commanding liquor bottles and gentlemen’s attention.

Although opinionated, I am no expert.  So I contacted Derek Brown, another DC local who’s considered “a leading voice in the emerging cocktail renaissance” and co-owner of The Passenger, coincidentally a favorite local cocktail bar.  Derek asserts the gender-neutral bartender works best, as other terms such as mixologist, bar chef, and mixicologist, are overly controversial.

Regardless of what you believe (or envision) a bartendress or barman to mean, the best practice is to learn the first name of the man or woman pouring your drink.  Exchange pleasantries when pulling up a barstool or simply smile and say hello.  Chances are you’ll receive the same in return and perhaps after a few visits, even make a new friend.

Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 12:12 am  Comments (1)  
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The Boss Recommends

Learning to work for a new supervisor is always an interesting and challenging experience, requiring some subtlety and finesse.  Many times expectations are confused and personality traits misunderstood; common ground is sought by both manager and employee alike.  When commonalities are discovered, they are valuable items benefitting both personal and professional relationships.

Luckily for me, scotch proved to be the common factor between labor and management.  Fate certainly smiled on me; this time, in the form of Aberlour 12 year.

I only recently became familiar with Aberlour’s A’bunadh expression at a single malt tasting, having no knowledge of the brand’s other varieties.  The 12 year, I was informed, was a favored selection for “everyday drinking.”  And, my boss added before departing my work area, “it’s very reasonably priced.”

His words presented an interesting consideration.  Although admittedly not a connoisseur, the boss’s advice was an excellent opportunity to build rapport.  But should I risk taking his recommendation and possibly purchasing a bottle of dreck?  Coincidentally I had recently finished a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood, which meant a replacement was necessary to fill its void.  As often stated, I am always looking to try new spirits – especially scotch.

So after work I procured a bottle; later that evening a glass was poured.  First neat, then with one cube of ice, the Aberlour presented a complex oaky and dark taste, no doubt from the whisky’s time residing in both oak and sherry casks.

It was, surprisingly, an excellent alternative to my ordinary choice of everyday scotch, the Glenlivet 12 year.  Not surprisingly perhaps, was the first question the boss asked the following day: whether I enjoyed my purchase.

Published in: on November 12, 2010 at 11:39 pm  Comments Off  
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