Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bruichladdich Rocks

My wife and I carpool to work, and on Friday evenings after one of those kind of weeks -- or, less often, on other evenings when I have "pub face" (an expression that says I need a drink) -- we have a choice of places on the way home to wash the taste of work out of our mouths. There's the barbecue place with a great bourbon selection but lousy parking, there's the Irish pub that's wonderful if you can get a seat at the bar and kind of so-so if you have to sit at a table, there's the craft beer taproom with a good selection (by my standards) and uncomfortable stools, there's the nice restaurant bar with an eclectic selection of whiskey, and plenty of other options if we're willing to go more than a mile out of our way.

Last night, we went to the nice restaurant bar. They have maybe a dozen bottles of whiskey, a selection more like what I'd have randomly picked up than a systematic program. Gentleman Jack, Old Forester, Bulleit (bourbon and rye), Connemara, Greenore, Monkey Shoulder, plus Jack Daniel's and probably one or both of the standard Glens. They had Knob Creek when I sat down, but the bottle was kicked before I left (and apparently irreplaceable that evening, to the disappointment of a fellow a few stools over).

I started with an Old Forester Old-Fashioned. They do the muddled orange and ice cream cherry version. Not my favorite, but legitimate.

My wife still had most of her martini left when I finished my Old-Fashioned, so I squinted across the bar at the whiskey bottles and... what was that squat bottle, next to the Monkey Shoulder (itself a bit gimmicky, but easy to recognize at 30 feet)? A Bruichladdich Rocks? I'll take one, neat.

Incidentally, it's not easy to order a Bruichladdich Rocks, neat, from a bartender who's never heard "Bruichladdich" pronounced out loud before. (At least not pronounced the way I pronounce it.) For my part, I'd never heard of Bruichladdich Rocks before, but I assume there are dozens of Bruichladdich expressions I've never heard of before.

It was served in a sturdy Old-Fashioned glass. I know, Glencairns are a superior choice for tasting whiskey, I use them all the time at home, but there's something to be said for drinking whiskey neat out of a sturdy Old-Fashioned glass. Even a whiskey you haven't tried before.

At any rate, I found a rocks glass to be just fine for nosing Bruichladdich Rocks. The first kick was iodine, but under that was a pleasant honey aroma, and after a little while I even imagined vanilla milkshake. It was a little prickly on the palate; the finish wasn't particularly long, and I thought a bit of licorice came in from nowhere.

My wife took a sniff, and picked up "medicinal" instantly. She'd seen a Scotch whisky flavor wheel the other week, which she thought was a brilliant idea, mostly because it reassured her that she wasn't nuts to smell all the weird smells she's smelled when I've handed her a glass and said, "Here, smell this."

I'm not a big fan of medicinal whiskey, but... well, I don't know whether it's actually growing on me or I'm just getting used to it. There's a theory discussed in Adam Rogers's book Proof that no human being outright likes the taste of alcohol, we just learn to associate it with pleasant experiences. I remember the first time I got "1915 medicine cabinet" from nosing a whiskey; my immediate reaction was "this can't be what anyone wants whiskey to smell like!" (I think it was a 30 y.o. SMWS bottle, so it was also an instant and unforgettable lesson that older ≠ better).

Whether or not I actually enjoy it, that medicinal scent is a strong cue that I'm drinking something more interesting than an Old Forester Old-Fashioned with a muddled cherry and orange slice. Drinking out of a nice bar glass also cues me that I'm allowed, from time to time as I nose and taste, to just drink the whiskey too. And eight bucks for a 2 ounce pour? That was just a nice unmuddled cherry on top.

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