So... The song goes, One Bourbon, One Scotch, and one Beer... However, I ended up yesterday being invited to a Scotch tasting hosted by Johnnie Walker and had some time to kill and ended up at one of my favorite places to get a beer.
Regional Food and Drink in Washington DC is owned and run by the same people who manage the Brickskeller. The Brickskeller's claim to fame is that it is noted for selling the most bottled beers of any place In North America. It is a well known place for anybody to go imbibe.
I saddled up in to one of my favorite spots to try something new and got what I like to call the best seat in the house.
Pictured to my left is my imbibing on a Corsendonk Brown Ale. I dig Corsendonk but I am not so much into Brown Ales, this one was not really much of an exception either, not much body but it did have some nutty characteristics and some hoppy-"ness".
However, when always partaking of the giant wall of beer, it's like being a kid in the candy store. Except that it is a candy store for adults.
Next on the list was to go for a Double IPA from another favorite brewery of mine. I like Bell's brewery which is located in Kalamazoo Michigan. They make a seasonal wheat ale called Oberon that I really enjoy. I am starting to discover that I seem to get kicks out of wheat ales. That being said the next thing on the list to taste was another seasonal release from them that I hadn't heard called The Oracle.
This is a "west coast style Double India Pale Ale" as the Bell's website mentions. This was quite enjoyable but probably not as enjoyable as I may have wanted. They mention it is aggressively bitter and that is an understatement on the finish. It is VERY bitter on the finish, but still has a great front end with hops and tastes of fancy. That bitterness though just drys you out like crazy. It was as if the beer was playing tricks on me, you drank it's good body and flavor quenching your thirst, then as you finished you'd dry up quick on bitterness and be extremely thirsty again. You repeat this process enough times and you can see where this is going...
Things had to get turned around quick... we needed to change the game up, and truly playing spin the bottle put me to my next selection.
I asked the bartender..
"I'll have the Abita Pecan Ale"
"Hang on let me check... Wow we still have this in stock I thought we were out of it."
I was given the bottle with much delight, poured and then read the contents. Abita is a Louisiana brewery and the Pecan Ale is made with Louisiana pecans that have been "toasted to perfection". According to their website, the pecans they use make it something really special, because most beers with a nutty flavor or aroma aren’t made with real nuts. The natural oils from the Louisiana pecans give the ale a light pecan finish and aroma.
So what's the verdict. Chock full of win, or more so, chock full of friggin nut FEST! There still is smell of beer here but it so wonderfully aromatized with these pecan nuts that it just makes you want to have pie. It isn't bitter, it isn't heavy, it isn't weak, it's earth without being dirty, it's just flat out fucking awesome.
I realized that I almost forgot the purpose of my evening tonight and the focus was not to be on beer but Scotch. It was hard to walk away, The menu list for October is quite extensive, but after meeting up with friends for dinner it was time for our next engagement.
I was asked if I'd wanted to go to a Scotch tasting by a friend and knowing me how could I turn that offer down, knowing my love to imbibe. Now if you have read my blog and know my enjoyment of Bourbon whiskey, then you know I am a fan of whiskey. But here's the thing. I don't drink Scotch, I don't particularly even care for it. I appreciate it, but don't drink it. For cocktails Scotch isn't very common, sure there are some such as the Rob Roy which is basically a Manhattan substitute (same ingredients just different whiskey), but it's not much of a mainstream consumers choice for cocktail afficionados.
But if you are probably going to start learning about Scotch and just want to get your feet wet well it seems like they would be the first brand you'd think of. Upon our arrival it became apparent though of the mood, theme, and purpose of the event. It was essential a setup (not any ambush so much) but more of what I would call a marketing junket, than a serious tasting. That's OK... there's nothing wrong with that.
You see, the idea is for JW to get people to drink their product, so what better idea than to give them some free drinks, and give them some history and a starter know how tasting? Why Not! heck throw in some well produced video and you're set.
We were taken to a room to have some simple drinks first. They did offer a Scotch and Ginger, and Old Fashioned (yes you guessed it a real bastardized one), and of course Black label which you could have how you wanted it (on the rocks for our hero's preference of course).
Afterwords we all were introduced to Stephen Wilson who was in his element. Surrounded by lighted tables showing off our drink selection, and several well placed video screens, he introduced all 5 of the products for tasting, and got people to give their comments.
I have to admit this was done real well, there was Cola and Ginger ale for mixing, a pitcher of water, and more importantly (not pictured) all 5 glasses for tasting the Scotches including droppers to cut the whiskey (whisky) with water.
While Stephen gave his story about the products, he was flanked and surrounded by about 6 huge screens and a booming stereo system as videos played. The most impressive being the first one showing actor Robert Carlyle talking about the history of the product in a 6 minute uncut stylish walk through the highlands.
It became very clear to me as I started entering the world of liquor advertising and marketing that the large companies have one thing all in common... they are stupidly rich and have lots of money....
In all honesty though, this wasn't suppose to be a serious tasting, the room was filled mostly with younger adults who probably don't know much about spirits and spend most of their time drinking in nightclubs where the activities of what you consume are well... secondary..
But for those who wanted to get their feet wet and understand what Scotch is, this was probably the perfect event. Our host while encouraging everyone to participate, even told people to get on Facebook and Twitter about the event.
After all this is about promotion and getting people to drink their product. There really was no pressure, particularly if you've had a few drinks.. The reality is though this event is no doubt to get people to start drinking Scotch.. and specifically JW's Scotch.
You see.. Whiskey (in my opinion as a whiskey fan), has an image problem. Whiskey and in particular Scotch... some consider it "an old fart drink". Scotch is what your old Dad or more likely, your CRUSTY grandfather who always sat in the corner of the room not talking to anyone drank. I'll admit it that's the connotation I have as well, but that doesn't stop me from drinking whiskey (or whisky) to appreciate it. As I have gotten a little older I like the texture, aromas and feel of Bourbon tremendously, Scotch to me is too "grainy", too "harsh and dry" most of the time, although I will admit their longer aged products were quite good but don't have the same appeal to me as Bourbon. I don't care about image, it's what's in the glass that counts, young people though... think differently and marketers are trying to jump on this.
Bourbon probably has the same marketing problem, but since it comes from Kentucky primarily and is associated with the past of America's illegal moon-shining, and its country roots.. some might consider it "hick" or "unsophisticated".
So there in lies the problem for distillers, how do you get people to drink your product?
Well if you're JW you may not want to shove a 20yr malt in front of someone and teach them about the bouquet for 10 minutes. You may however want to put up a hip actor from Trainspotting and give them a few free drinks with a smile. That's how I would do it, and sometimes it's a good thing to be a guinea pig once in a while. To make the evening complete, I finished at home with one Bourbon... just so I can say I gave George Thorogood his due.