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Scotch Time

January 23, 2011

Thank you to everyone who took action based on Friday’s post. Honestly, I have no idea if any of our letters to the government will amount to a hill of beans, when it comes time for them to make a decision. But doing something feels better than idly sitting by and doing nothing.

I really do appreciate all of your support. Now just make sure to tell your friends, and have them help spread the word too.

Anyhow, now we can continue with our ongoing corruption education of Ellen Whitby. At first she was interested in some starter scotches, and I had some thoughts. Now she wants to know:

Is there a traditional time for drinking Scotch (before or after dinner, for example)? Or a traditional way to drink it (with or without a meal, with a cigar)?

And I am only too happy to share my thoughts on the matter.

There are hundreds of different bottlings of Scotch whisky. And their characters and flavor profiles vary dramatically. There has been a movement recently that has encouraged the notion of pairing Scotch with food. Frankly, I think that’s nuts.

I’m not so crazy about pairing wines with an ABV (alcohol by volume) of over 15% with food, and Scotch runs about three times that amount. It’s an overwhelming quantity of alcohol that I think only the heartiest food can even have a chance at withstanding. I could see a charred steak or perhaps charcoal grilled lamb working with a whisky. But I think there are better pairings for those foods.

I’m perfectly fine with the notion of a lighter bodied scotch, a scotch on the rocks, or even a scotch and soda as a pre-dinner aperitif. But generally, if I’m drinking a single malt scotch whisky, I am drinking something a bit heavier, and with some character. And I think those go best after a meal. Or maybe even at the end of an evening.

Naturally, there is a reason for this. Good Scotch has a lot of depth and complexity, and really should be savored. I like to find a nice comfortable chair, sit down with a glass, and just start smelling. If left to my own devices, I could probably sit and smell scotch for a quarter hour.

I also like to play little Scotch games in my mouth. But maybe this is TMI for right now.

Suffice it to say, I enjoy taking sips of whisky and spending time contemplating its flavors and the length of its finish. A whisky’s finish is the lingering impression it leaves on the tongue. The best ones can last a minute or more. Kind of like the last chord in A Day in the Life.

Speaking of corruption education, cigars can be literally quite magical when it comes to drinking whisky. Like wine and cheese, when they are paired well, each one tastes better than it would on their own. But it’s a lot easier to pair cigars with scotch.

Actually, it can even be a little dangerous.

The magic is how a cigar can make a whisky taste sweeter and cancel out the heat from the alcohol. What’s dangerous about this is that it can make the Scotch flow like water. And one must be careful with spirits.

One must be careful with cigars too. Cigars are not to be inhaled. Seriously. Don’t. They are not cigarettes. Do not confuse them as such. This prohibition has nothing to do with your health, as cigars are unhealthy even when they are smoked properly. Even by just holding the smoke in your mouth, you risk all kinds of nasty health problems. But if you inhale cigar smoke, it WILL MAKE YOU SICK. So don’t do it. Really.

That said, if you’ve never had a cigar with whisky, you really must try it. But I’d wait until spring, when you can enjoy it outside. Those cigars stink. And you’ll be tasting it for days to come.

As long as you don’t inhale, I promise it will be worth it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. AddiesDad permalink
    January 23, 2011 5:11 pm

    I typically lean towards blended Scotches over ice as a pre-dinner cocktail, since it never seems like I have the same time to linger over the Scotch and enjoy its nuances. I prefer to savor my single-malts after dinner, often with a single cube of ice. It’s fun to put Scotch into small snifters that really allow the aromas space to bloom and move.

    As far as Scotch/food pairings, I’ve been lucky enough to attend a masterful single-malt and food pairing dinner, and it was quite extraordinary. The spirit quantities were kept small enough as to not feel overwhelming in terms of booze, but generous enough to have the pre-food sip, the mid-bite sip, and the palate-cleanse sip. The chef in charge had done this several times, and really worked hard to create very compatible pairings. Unfortunately, this was several years ago and I’ve forgotten the finer details of the evening!

  2. Ellen Whitby permalink
    February 2, 2011 12:03 am

    It sounds like you need quiet time to contemplate and experience scotch. For me, that limits my window of opportunity to after my kids go to bed. Usually by then , I don’t have much brain power available for quiet pondering. I’ll give it a try, though, and let you know how it goes. I actually have a great bottle of Scotch just waiting for that window.

  3. Ellen Whitby permalink
    February 2, 2011 12:03 am

    PS There won’t be a cigar.

  4. maltnsmoke permalink
    February 9, 2011 2:06 am

    Dammit lad, finally a post that reminds of why I started following you in the first place.

    “There are hundreds of different bottlings of Scotch whisky”. Right and damn near each one has some redeeming quality. Tonight I am enjoying a twenty year old Speyside offering, the Glenrothes. It is smooth and a tad saltly, working well enough with the Colston Basset Stilton which I have selected for dessert. As far as I know, Glenrothes is not trendy, which is just another attribute to recommend it in my book.

    To Ellen Whitby:

    I truly appreciate the respect tinged with apprehension with which you are approaching you Scotch initiation. As with any fine spirit, tradition and ceremony will play a role in one’s appreciation of the drink. However, do not be held back waiting for the perfect moment to arrive, for it may never come. By all means, open and partake of that great bottle of scotch, secure in the knowledge that another bottle will be found, should that perfect moment ever come to pass. Perhaps we can work on the cigar thing in the future.

    Hopefully your friend,

    MaltnSmoke: a name not chosen lightly.

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