by Deirdre Goggins
As Austin becomes a modern day trend setter with new arrivals daily, we are gaining in the global gastronomical scene to complement our outstanding live music venues. Beer, tea and tequila has been a standard; however the tide is turning with the gaining interest in good whiskey.
Many are learning that whiskey is no longer chugged and followed by a beer chaser, but it is savored, enjoyed and experienced. Like wine, you simply do not drink it; you taste it by aerating for legs, view the color from the grapes and sip slowly to live the flavors of the oak then how you encounter the varied flavors from fruit to pepper. Before you gently hand-wash your favorite wine glass to store on the shelf, use it to experience a good whiskey, scotch, bourbon or rye.
Use your wine tasting skills to follow the whiskey’s legs down the sides of the glass after aerating – the slower and farther apart, the better the whiskey. View the color to see how the ex-bourbon or sherry barrels enhance the drink. You will note golden hues from bourbon and a reddish color from sherry casks. Next sip slowly and bring the whiskey to the back of your tongue, swallow and draw in a breath of air. Instantly you will experience the fire of Maker’s Mark Bourbon 46, the Mediterranean dates, figs and a bit of toffee from the smooth Canadian Club, the Irish peat and smoke of Kilbeggan and the strong, non-apologetic, no excuse jagged dance of Scotland’s Laphroaig.
On February 17th, at Josephine House, a branch of Jeffries on East Waterston Avenue, Beam Suntory offered a few scotch and whiskey followers An Evening of Women and Whiskey. Four women from different countries brought forth their whiskey or bourbon to showcase and expand the conversation of how women have always been a part of the whiskey business. This is not a recent occurrence of breaking the glass ceiling: Women have been long acknowledged as expert whiskey makers, including those who made homebrews to avoid the high taxes placed on bottled whiskey in the last 150 years.
The tasting was well rounded to share the how and why behind each brand. Canadian Club had its start in Detroit, Michigan in a 1854 grocery store and moved across the river to Windsor, Canada when dry counties where popping up prior to prohibition locking in. The Canadian Club whiskey was a staple of gentlemen’s clubs of the 19th century and was imported back to the United States by Al Capone. Canadian Club offers a whiskey to those who are looking for smooth and purity in taste, away from the strong drink. CC imports ex-sherry casks from Spain to age its whiskey to give the unique experience of Mediterranean fruit of dates, figs and a hint of toffee. Their product line includes whiskeys aged from 6 to 30 years that are enjoyed around the world. Tish Harcus, Brand Ambassador for Canadian Club shared with us the Japanese method of enjoying their whiskey of 2-2-2. Two ounce pour, two ice cubes then wait two minutes to taste. I gave it a go and will practice the method from now on.
Kilbeggan, the oldest license distillery offers an Irish whiskey with production dates back to 1757 while having a 180 year pot still in production. Their whiskey is made from the pure, clean Irish waters with malted barley & grain. When whiskey is distilled three times, it does lose favor. The Kilbeggan product is double distilled to have smoothness while maintaining taste. Kilbeggan uses ex-bourbon casks to allow their whiskey to sleep in an original warehouse that dates back to 1757. You will experience sweet corn, spice and vanilla from the bourdon barrels. Stella Lacken, Brand Ambassador shared the rich history of the four families that have owned Kilbeggan and how important it was to the current owner John Teeling to revive the historic distilleries of Ireland. Kilbeggan offerings also include a small batch 15 year old whiskey and a 100% malted barley.
Victoria MacRae-Samuels, a chemist from Seattle arrived in Kentucky several years ago to continue research for another bourbon house prior to moving over to Maker’s Mark. She shared the importance of the Samuels working as a team. In 1958, Bill set out to make better bourbon and used red winter wheat instead of rye with corn and malted barley. Margie Samuels marketed the bourbon in the square bottle with the red wax seal and was a part of the laying out the Maker’s Mark campus. Their products including Maker’s Mark 46, a smooth bourbon enhanced with vanilla and caramel from the French Oak cooperage. However, you do taste the fire of rich bourbon that lingers just long enough to say, “Damn, that’s good.”
It is not every day, you experience a beverage that is proud to stay it is a ‘slap in the face perfect’ experience. Laphroaig whiskey is a no excuse strong Scotch whiskey that has kept its tradition thru Royal visits and the centuries. The start is lost in the fog but can be found somewhere around 1815 when the tax collector came calling. What is interesting, the Irish were making whiskey on the isle of Islay and passed on methods of making whiskey to the Scottish. Vicky Stevens, Global Brand Ambassador led the group in learning to taste whiskey properly and encouraged the group to get the right bell shaped glass for home. In carrying on the Whiskey and Women event, Vicky shared how Bessie Williamson, a grad of Glasgow University in 1932 arrived at the distillery for a summer job and never left. Ian Hunter, then owner of Laphroaig willed the distillery to Williamson to continue the tradition. Williamson love of Laphroaig expanded to the island where she opened the distillery for the locals for dances and gatherings. Bessie truly embraced the success of the whiskey and its blue peat smoke that brought forth a product unlike any other.
If it is fermenting or distilling, aging or sleeping, wine or whiskey – the artisanship is always the difference of an outstanding experience. Take the opportunity and try Canadian Club, Killbeggan, Maker’s Mark and the slap in the face experience of Laphroaig.