NYC friends: an All-American Whiskey and Cheese pairing event

Though I haven’t yet seen the new film about Abraham Lincoln, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what Lincoln might drink.

That’s because I have the joyful task of procuring whiskeys for an upcoming event in honor of President’s Day:  A President’s Day Toast to American Whiskey and American Cheese! This event, to be held on Monday, February 11, is produced by the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, an organization of which I’m proud to be a member, and will be hosted at The Flatiron Room,  a new “whiskey and spirits parlor.”

Heather Greene, an outspoken advocate of women and whiskey, will be talking about the hooch; cheese expert Diana Pittet will be explaining the cheeses.

A few seats are still available — but this is a limited-seating event, and truly, they won’t last long. So if you’re interested in attending, I suggest booking sooner rather than later. (And yes, boys are allowed!)

I don’t want to spoil the surprise by telling you exactly what will be poured — but I can tell you this:  we’re doing four whiskey pours, paired with four cheeses, all of American provenance. There might be a fifth “bonus” pour (shhhh). But here’s a little hint as to what’s going in the glasses:

A delectable single barrel bourbon that retails for $400 to $500 per bottle. (if that’s not worth the price of admission, I don’t know what is!)

One of the few American-made single malts around. And this is a special one:  smoky like an Islay Scotch, and just snagged a prestigious award for best artisan whiskey! I was pleasantly surprised that the distillers were willing to part with a bottle for our event – this will soon be a tough whiskey to get.

My new favorite bottled-in-bond rye whiskey for my new favorite cocktail, the Final Ward.

A locally-made bourbon finished in sherry casks. Think caramel mixed with dried peaches and plums. It’s delicious, trust me, and there’s a great story behind the bottle too.

That’s all I’m going to say about this event. Snag a ticket while you can.

5 things I’ve learned about…International Whiskey

The March 2011 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine is out, and it includes (among other things) my review column on International Whiskey.  You can pick up a copy at the newsstand, or view it in digital format on Zinio.  Here’s what I learned:

1.  It’s a big, big, big, big world out there. American, Canadian, Irish, Welsh, French, and Japanese whiskies all made their way to my doorstep.  (I should probably explain that “International Whiskey” is shorthand for all whiskey except Bourbon, Rye, and Scotch. Why exclude those categories?  Bourbon and Rye were covered recently; Scotch will be covered in depth later this year. And yes, despite that exclusion, there was still a TON left to cover!)

2.  Whiskey spans so many styles —  single malt, blended, peated, cask-finished – ages, mash bills (the blend of grains used to make the spirit), and colors, from crystal clear to deep nut-brown.

3.  Different can be good. One of my favorites was an Irish Whiskey, light (in color and feel), and had tropical fruit notes, like a Sauvignon Blanc, beneath a light veil of smoke (Slieve Foy 18 year-old). Another favorite – polar opposite – was an American regional, quite dark and rich, and had a creamy mouthfeel that put me in mind of the head on a root beer float (Stranahan’s). And both were delicious.

4.  It’s an amazing testament that so many countries have opted to distill whiskey. Originally, whiskey was brewed in countries that lacked the warm climate for producing fermented drinks made from grapes. However, this is no longer an iron-clad rule. In fact, some distillers in California and other states now produce brandies and whiskies in the same facility.

5.  Whiskey is perhaps the trickiest base ingredient to use in cocktails. Maybe that’s why many purists opt to drink whiskey straight.

If you have a favorite whiskey, or whiskey-based cocktail, I’d love to hear more about it, please leave a comment!