Saturday, 23 January 2010

Scotch Whisky night

In Italy there are lots of wine tasting courses from the very exclusive to the every day mundane in any Enoteca. There are also lots of cooking courses where you usually learn to make pasta and ravioli etc.... However in Rome we have Rachel Rennie, who took it upon herself to give courses on the finer points of Scotch. Rachel is from Glasgow and is knowledgeable in all things related to Scotch, she brings a real passion to her presentation. So as part of one of the many activities of the Canadian Club of Rome CCR, we had a course in Scotch tasting at our place for a small group of members. Now Will decided to go out since he really does not like Scotch and went to see the movie Avatar. I am not a great Scotch drinker myself and until now really did not know very much about it. Rachel called her course ''An Island Tour'', and selected scotches from Jura, the Orkneys, Islay and Skye. She first told us how Scotch is made from malted barley. The barley is soaked in water to begin the germination process and then dried slowly. This conditions the starch in the barley for conversion to sugar and then to alcohol. It is then aged in oak cask which have been once previously used for Sherry or Bourbon, this gives its distinctive style. For the last 200 years this has been the process but what of before that time, well people simply drank it straight from the still. Before the liquid is put into a cask, it has the transparent look of water and smells of perfume. Because sherry and bourbon casks are used this is how you get the pale or dark coloring of scotch.

When drinking scotch if you add a drop of water, it will release even more of the flavours, however if you pour scotch on ice then all the flavors are locked up.

She accompanies her discourse with songs and poetry by Poet Laureate, John Masefield (1878-1967), all very lovely and fun. We also had food to accompany the tasting, French bread to cleanse the palate, Deer paté with one scotch we tasted, hard white cheese with another, pickled herring and smoked trout for the others. Very interesting and shows how scotch goes with food. We also had shortbread, though sweet it blends very well.

In the end I really liked the Talisker from the Isle of Skye 10 years old, which has a smokey taste from the peat used in making it. I also liked the Laphroaig from Islay aged in small quarter bourbon cask.

I did not like the Old Pulteney 12 yrs from Wick, too strong a taste, I found it coarse, nor did I like Isle of Jura again too strong tasting.

On 25 January is Robert Burns birthday, so we celebrated the poet with this fine evening. Learned something and had a good drink. One last point, we also learned that you do not say, are they wearing kilts which is incorrect, but rather I am wearing the kilt or they are wearing the kilt.

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