From Jane Alonso. Her passion for food and spirits leads her on frequent excursions into Borderstan’s land of bars and restaurants. Email her at jane[AT]borderstan.com.
As some of you know by now, I have a passion for scotch, and I relish converting others to join me in that passion. But despite the fact that whiskey is growing in popularity around the globe and interest in the spirit has never been higher in the U.S., scotch continues to be shrouded in mystery for many people. They simply don’t know where to begin the process of accessing the drink and understanding the nuances of the craft.
If you are one of those people, an excellent place to start is the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society of America’s DC “Extravaganza” at the JW Marriott on October 30. The extravaganza is easily one of the best events of the year – for the price of one ticket ($150), you can taste samples from over 30 distilleries, representing nearly all of Scotlands’s major whiskey producers.
And it’s not the cheap stuff either – you will be able to try some truly fantastic whiskies you might never even knew existed. It’s a great way to compare and contrast different scotches to determine which ones you prefer – and distillery representatives are on hand to explain regional variations, production quirks, and tasting notes.
There is nothing like all-you-can-drink saturation for two hours to kick start your scotch know-how. And to help soak-up all that whiskey, there is a buffet dinner included in the ticket – in addition to premium imported cigars, raffle prizes, and other Scotch-oriented swag (tip: keep your souvenir “snifter” glass, as it makes a handy implement for drinking scotch on a regular basis at home).
To make the most out of the event, jot notes in your smartphone (or in a notebook) as you taste each whiskey. With so many samples to try (and so much whiskey in your bloodstream), you don’t want to find yourself forgetting which ones you liked the most after the event is over. Make sure you try a range of regions and characteristics. For a crash course in scotch before the event, check-out this handy website as a reference.
For those who aren’t novices, check-out the “Whisky Panel” that starts at 6 pm. It’s a one hour symposium prior to the major event that is composed of whiskey experts, where attendees submit questions to panel members about individual brands, whisky production and other topics relating to the “whisky world.”
The Scotch Malt Whiskey Extravaganza: The Details
- Where Am I Going: JW Marriott Hotel, 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
- When Am I Going: Tuesday, October 30, 2012, 7-9 pm.
- Paycheck Pain: $150 per person for Non-Society Members; $135 for Society Members.
- Dress Code: Business casual, jackets preferred; no denim or athletic attire allowed.
- What am I eating and drinking: A lot of scotch, and food to blunt the buzz.
From Jane Alonso. Her passion for food and spirits leads her on frequent excursions into Borderstan’s land of bars and restaurants. Email her at jane[AT]borderstan.com
Mark Twain once said: “Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.” That phrase could aptly describe the prolific selection of whiskey and bourbon at Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Adams Morgan – a temple to the malted barley spirits.
The walls of Jack Rose are stocked with more than 1,500 bottles of liquid gold, some of which reportedly come from the private collection of co-owner Bill Thomas (who also owns the two Bourbon bars in DC). One look up at the tall ladders that the bartenders use to reach the bottles on the highest shelves, and I knew I was in love with this bar. The décor alone is proof that Jack Rose gives whiskey its proper place to shine at the top of the drinking universe.
If you aren’t familiar with scotch, this is a good place to begin the journey. Jack Rose’s menu lists hundreds of options, grouped by the main regions of Scotland — Campletown, Islay, Islands, Highlands, Lowlands, and Speyside. Well-known brands like Macallan, Laphroig, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet are right there alongside less common ones such as Kilchoman (the newest distillery on the island of Islay) or Clynelish (a distillery on the southern northeast coast of Scotland between Inverness and Wick).
Even among the recognizable brands, you will find offering that are less familiar. You can order almost anything on the menu in a half-ounce, one ounce, or two-ounce pours, priced accordingly. This means you don’t have to break the bank to try some truly interesting scotches, all without committing to a full glass of something you may not like.
One disappointment, however, is that the menu isn’t completely reflective of what is in stock – of the five whiskies I requested one night, only two were available. Bummer, as I became excited about my initial choices as I culled them from the long menu. This was a frustrating problem I encountered all the time at the old Brickskeller (for those of you who are old enough to remember that Dupont Circle beer institution, it had a menu about as long as a textbook).
So instead of wasting too much time looking through the Jack Rose menu, I recommend engaging one of the knowledgeable bartenders right away for recommendations to determine what is truly available, as well as what may fit your particular mood that night. That approach yielded some fabulous finds, such as a BenRiach aged in a cask used to make Tokai desert wine in Hungary. The whiskey has a deliciously sweet finish that was totally unique.
I love scotch, and yet I didn’t even know a Tokai-aged whiskey existed before a night at Jack Rose. Even with its stocking issues, this bar can still teach a seasoned whiskey dog some new tricks.
- Where Am I Going: 2007 18th Street NW.
- When Am I Going: Sunday to Thursday 5 pm to 2 am; Friday to Saturday 5 pm to 3 am.
- Paycheck Pain: Scotch and bourbon prices vary depending on the market price and the amount of the pour.
- Say What? It’s loud and boisterous in this bar, no way around it.
- What You’ll Be Eating and Drinking: Hopefully –scotch and bourbon, but Jack Rose also has a full beer and cocktail list, and a bar and dinner menu to help sop up all that alcohol.