Let’s Scotch This Idea…

ELV went scotch drinking the other night. Which is pretty extraordinary since he’s a bourbon drinker.

But the invitation by an Official Friend Of ELV (whose name shall remain confidential, but whose initials are: Larry Springberg) was too enticing to pass up: Five courses at Smith & Wollensky steakhouse matched with five different Johnnie Walker scotches. That’s five healthy belts of whisky to accompany (and supposedly compliment) the food.

“Hummm, ” ELV thought to himself, “This might make for the worst marriage since Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Mermam.” “But if it’s every bit the food and beverage Armageddon we think it will be, it’ll give us something to write about.”

So faster than you can say: “Dry-aged rib eye,” we were in.

And we were right.

As the courses started coming — nice appetizer pizzas, mighty rare duck, good rib eye spoiled by an excessively salty, character-free sauce, “artisanal” cheese plate with less than top-shelf cheeses (save for the Grafton Vermont cheddar), and a “tartan coupe” of really, really good praline ice cream and nougat that atoned for many of the meal’s sins — we were consistently floored by the ineptitude of whatever marketing genius thought 80 proof scotch would somehow enhance the taste of savory food.

We’re not even sure they go this far in Scotland, where, if we’re not mistaken, scotch is considered the ultimate pre- or post-prandial libation — something to kickstart your appetite or leave you with a warming glow at the end of an evening.

Our staff guessed they are trying anything to move product these days, and when you now have multiple lines of the same beverage, you have to think of innumerable (and absurd) ways to try to promote them.

But pairing them with food shouldn’t be one of them.

For the record (and from a guy who has always found the smoky, peat-mossy taste of scotch to be a turn-off — until you get to the brandy-like qualities of aged single-malts), the Johnnie Walker Black seemed to have the most power, depth and creaminess of any of the five bottles. If you’re really into these things, here is a quick primer on the different blends — although we find some of the tasting notes comical. “Mint?” “Mustard seed?” “Rose petals?” In scotch? Ridiculous.

It’s enough to drive us straight to shot of Maker’s.

4 thoughts on “Let’s Scotch This Idea…

  1. Johnny Walker? no no no (well, maybe the blue label)

    Its all about the Macallan or Van Winkle!

  2. There is something that seems to be missing here – where is the water? Scotch can be a terrific pairing with food, but there is a dilution required if that is the purpose. A good aged steak may not require much (perhaps none at all with a 15 or 18 Macallan; but a splash or two for something with more peat), but we were stunned by a recent evening of pairing sushi to Japanese malts; they did dilutions in the 2:1 to 2.5:1 range, some of that via ice, and some of the combinations were sublime. Think of a briny Islay single malt used the same way and it can be a wonderful compliment. There is a temptation now to take a bottle of Nikka over to Raku, and let them design around it some evening. The folks that put the event at S&W together may have actually hurt their cause, instead of helping it.

  3. Wine pairings? Absolutely.

    Beer pairings? Of course.

    Scotch pairings… HUH??!!

    Who would think pairing 80 proof Scotch with all this food would enhance the tastes of the dishes? IMHO this is ridiculous and you’re probably right that this is part of some last desperate attempt to boost sales of overstocked liquor.

  4. IMO Scotch doesn’t go well with anything. I’ve only tried it neat so maybe I am missing something with this dilution thing. Anything that would get rid of that funky, funky , and I mean funky taste is worth trying now that I have a bottle on the shelf. Howbeit, my 8 bottles of various bourbons sitting there don’t require anything! Long live bourbon which certainly does pair well !!

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