The First Rule of Drinking Whiskey

by Justin D'Olier on May 26, 2011 | Comments Off on The First Rule of Drinking Whiskey |

According to Master of Whiskey Tom Turner, the first rule of drinking whiskey is “drink it however you like”. There is no second rule, but, if there was, it should definitely be “DRINK IT HOWEVER YOU LIKE”.

The Wine Pixie and I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Turner on Monday at a whiskey seminar at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, organized by the USBG, and his strong convictions about enjoying whiskey in a style and manner that pleases you struck a chord with me. Drink with Aloha is dedicated to helping people cut through the confusing corporate chaos of mass marketing and discover drinks that excite, amaze and, occasionally, even get them laid. Mr. Turner lives, eats, sleeps, sweats, talks and, most importantly, drinks this message every day. After an hour with him, you’re ready to buy a plot of land in Scotland, put on a kilt, learn to play the bag pipes, eat a lukewarm bowl of stewed sheep intestines and start distilling scotch. (Well, all but the intestines part. Ever Mr. Turner can’t make haggis sound appealing).

During the seminar, Mr. Turner gave an overview of proper whiskey tasting technique and walked us through a flight of four scotches, ranging from smooth and sweet to pungent and smokey, paired with a variety of pants-wettingly delicious food from Wolfgang’s. More importantly, he introduced us to whiskey culture, which seems to center around drinking, socializing, not being an asshole, and preventing your friends from making the mistake of drinking vodka.

Here are my most important takeaways from the evening:

– Adding water to whiskey is completely acceptable behavior for every type of scotch. In the words of Mr. Turner, “If you don’t like a whiskey, keep adding water until it tastes good”.

– The Scottish refer to adding water to scotch as “releasing the serpent”. Even still, if you meet a Scottish guy who asks if you want to release the serpent, you should probably make sure he’s serving you scotch.

– When you taste whiskey – or any spirits for that matter – swirl the glass in front of you and breath in through your nose and mouth at the same time, which allows you to smell the different flavors in the drink and prevents the alcohol fumes from making you feel like you lit a match in your sinuses.

– Peat moss does not look like moss, it looks like a log. The moss hardens underground and is extracted in giants bricks that look more like firewood than a leafy fern. Total mind bomb.

– My new favorite beverage pairing is a “pint and a halfer”, a pint of beer and a shot of whiskey. You alternate sips of beer and whiskey: the beer coats your mouth, cutting and softening the whiskey much in the same way adding water would. Any pairing that substitutes beer for water gets an official Drink with Aloha seal of approval.

I tried the technique as soon as I got home with a Heineken and The Singleton of Glendullan and it was a revelation, but Mr. Turner made the following pairing suggestions that will probably reduce a grown man to tears

  • Guiness (or an IPA) and Bushmills
  • Porter and Talisker (or Lagavulin)

Tasting notes:

Scotch #1: The Singleton of Glendullan
Pairing: Wolfgang’s Salad

Singleton is smooth and sweet with strong tobacco flavor often mistaken for smoke. It paired surprisingly well with a house salad covered in Canadian bacon chunks, highlighting the sweetness of the tomatoes and accentuating the salty rich bacon.

Scotch #2: Cardhu Single Malt
Pairing: Wolfgang’s Sirloin Sliders

Cardhu is the primary scotch of Johnny Walker and the reason is abundantly clear upon first sip. It is initially hot  with intense floral and honey notes, but the burn quickly vanishes making way for the delicious spicy flavors. I needed a change of drawers after pairing it with the unfathomably tender Wolfgang’s sirloin slider.

Scotch #3: Oban 14 Year
Scotch #4: Talisker 10 Year
Pairing: Porterhouse appetiser

Oban (pronounced “Oben”, like “Oben the bottle already!”) is renowned for it’s balance. It has a smooth caramel flavor, a hint of spice, a touch of sweetness, and a rich peaty finish that wraps the flavor in a brown paper package tied up with string. It was excellent on its own and strong enough to compliment the juicy porterhouse.

Talisker is strong, peaty, and pungent with a smoky nose that smells uncannily like band-aids (in the best way possible, I assure you). The smell originates from the strong iodine content of peat moss used to flavor this bold beautiful scotch. Adding water highlights the smoky flavor in an interesting way. The scotch meshed beautifully with the roasted exterior of the porterhouse, dancing a forbidden smoky tango on my taste buds.

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