Guest Blog Post by Matan Gutwaks
I’m going to start my post about a whisky tasting by talking about food.
The event I attended was catered by Gemstone Caterers- an exquisite posse lead by NYC’s very own Kosher Culinary Cowboy, Chef Ari White.
Chef White never disappoints. Evoking his inner Texan, his first station provided a choice of either a slow cooked pulled brisket or pulled chicken sandwich in an intensely flavorful and smoky BBQ sauce. Remember that, because it’s going to come into play later.
He followed the sandwiches with an array of sushi and herrings (which is a way straight to my heart) as well as salmon done three ways- classic smoked lox, gravlaks (which is an herb cured lox), and (my personal favorite) pastrami cured lox.
White never disappoints, and the food alone would have made a lovely night out. The real purpose, though, was an educational and, if I may, an intoxicating tasting.
I consider myself a man of expensive tastes. I enjoy a few of the more expensive hobbies: luxurious food, great wine, and quality cigars are notable here. Generally speaking, though, my familiarity with alcohol stopped at wine. I knew that I preferred bourbon (and who doesn’t like tequila), but in the broader world of whisky (or whisky, depending on the location) I’m still an amateur.
So when I embarked on the First Annual Scotch and Whisky Tasting put on by Single Cask Nation, I was shown a whole new sphere of pretentiousness with which I could wet my palate.
There were more whiskies than you probably care to hear about (all of which were great), so I’ll just mention the ones I thought most noteworthy.
Glenrothes Select Reserve, is a blend that represents the flavors The Glenrothes are known for. It’s full and slightly spicy with hints of vanilla; it made me think it was a liquid cloud. If that helps at all. The rep that Glenrothes had there explained that this is their “house style”- they intend, through blending different casks of different years, to yield a flavor that encompasses what their distillery is known for.
Koval, a company based out of Chicago, impressed me with its Lion’s Pride- organic whisky in five varieties that are all distilled from different grains (wheat, spelt, oat, millet, and rye, respectively). Each tastier than the last, all delicious.
I took a liking to Angel’s Envy – a Kentucky Straight Bourbon – which, though unique, reminded me of Woodford Reserve. It turns out Angel’s Envy was started by Woodford’s former master distiller after he retired.
Finally, the guys that organized the event – Joshua, Jason, and Seth from Single Cask Nation, the Jewish Whisky company – rolled out their products.
We started with the Arran 12, which was quite nice – pungent with a nice spiciness. We moved on to the Benriach 17- a single malt scotch whisky, matured in a single cask that previously head bourbon, whose pronounced smokiness reminded me of a BLT from my rebellious days. Smoky, sweet, crisp, and refreshing. I thought this was a really fantastic way to introduce peatiness to a beginner. It does not overwhelm you with it, but it definitely gives you enough to know you want more.
Just so you know, they have more.
For those that can handle a ton of smoke there’s the Kilchoman 4. They’d love this intensely peaty dram. It’s floral and strong; it tasted like the liquefied smoke of a barbequed flower. An amazing way to cap off the palate for the evening.
This, by the way, is a great callback to the menu from earlier in the evening, and one of the reasons why White did such an amazing job pairing dishes to the tasting. His smoked and cured meats were just strong enough to prepare you for the intensity of what was coming.
I walked out, a bit more tipsy than I would like to admit, genuinely excited to experiment and enjoy all the bourbons, scotches, ryes and whiskies we tried (and of course, many more that we hadn’t) , but more than anything thankful to the guys that set this event up. Because after all, what good is a combination cigar/flask if I don’t have something great to put in it?
Special thanks to John Flemming for editing this post.