Credit: Starz
Credit: Starz

Neat Stuff 17: Scotch, war and sex: Aye, Outlander ticks a few boxes

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Ah, the magical stones of Craigh na Dun. Its time-travel romance premise is daft, but we’ve been known to enjoy a season or two of Outlander, not least because Scotch whisky plays a supporting role. Between 20th-century doctor Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Highland warrior-aristocrat Jamie (Sam Heughan), the Starz show also dishes out plenty of bawdiness to go with its visceral take on the 1745 Jacobite rebellion against England.

Drink and be free

Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander novels, recently hit the Scottish village of Fife, a location for the series. When in Edinburgh, the U.S. writer likes to retire to a hotel bar for a Lagavulin or a Highland Park, she tells the Scotsman’s Alison Campie.

Maybe Gabaldon can relate to literary giant Robert (Rabbie) Burns, whose poetry inspired a Season 3 episode title, “Freedom and Whisky.” As this fan site explains, whisky was an escape and a creative balm for the 18th-century Scottish nationalist. Sounds perfectly reasonable to us.

Credit: Skrewball Whiskey
Credit: Skrewball Whiskey

You might think this sounds nuts…

…but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey is the only such dram anywhere. The $25* creation of a California restaurateur couple has started strong, winning Best Flavored Whiskey at the 2018 New York World Wine & Spirits Competition.

Skrewball’s two sides mesh “seamlessly,” says Taylor Rock, drinks editor of The Daily Meal, who served it in glasses rimmed with smoked sea salt. “It’s comparable to Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey in the sense that it’s smooth, flavorful and moderately sweet,” Rock adds. “Skrewball is 70 proof, yet perfectly enjoyable neat, on the rocks with no mixer or as a shot.” Or screw all that and shake up one of her Peanut Butter and Jealous cocktails.

*All prices in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted

Credit: Old Forester Distilling Co.
Credit: Old Forester Distilling Co.

Palate cleanser: Why whiskey drinkers should stop and smell the candles

There’s no accounting for taste, but you can’t go wrong with an educated palate. Observer’s Helen Holmes gets some tips from Jackie Zykan, master taster for Louisville, Kentucky–based Old Forester Distilling Co., the oldest U.S. bourbon maker.

Zykan’s advice: to raise your game, build a memory bank of smells and tastes. “If you want to get better at picking things out, I’m going to say you need to smell every candle you come across.” As if Zykan doesn’t have enough on her palate, she plans to study under some master perfumers, who know their blending. That’s nothing to sniff at.

Odds and Sods Credit: Ray Lee
Odds and Sods
Credit: Ray Lee

An Odd whisky joint, but we like it just fine

Why doesn’t our neighborhood have its own distillery? Last week we stopped by Odd Society Spirits, a small-batch outfit on the ever-gentrifying east side of Vancouver. Out front of the stills is a retro-chic tasting room that gets its nod to the district’s industrial past just right.

Besides gin, vodka and other spirits, Odd Society recently dropped two new whiskies, both made with 100% British Columbia grain: Commodore Canadian Single Malt Whisky and Prospector Canadian Rye Whisky. There’s also a 2019 single malt cask program.

Up next: The Lumberjack?

At In Search of Elegance, Jason Hambrey gives both whiskies a thumbs up. “A rich, spicy, woody nose—cedar, oak, balsam—but loaded with baking spices, black tea, mixed grain porridge, brown sugar and more,” Hambrey observes of the 46% ABV Prospector rye (C$64), bottled last year after aging in charred American white oak. “The palate is rather pleasant, with loads more wood notes, tea notes, spice and dried fruit—with a very agreeable level of tannin. The finish is spicy and dense.” What he said.

Credit: Pernod Ricard
Credit: Pernod Ricard

Only the best: India raises the bar tab

Getting what you pay for just took on a whole new meaning. Bloomberg’s Ari Altstedter has been following India’s love affair with high-priced Scotch and other premium booze. In this traditionally abstemious country, the more expensive the better.

As Indians grow richer and develop a taste for imported liquor, they’re forgoing midrange bottles in favor of luxe brands like Pernod Ricard’s Imperial Blue, which blends Scotch malts with Indian grain spirits. By one estimate, the nation’s spirits market could be worth $41 billion in 2022.

Mind you, the subcontinent didn’t start imbibing yesterday. Indians have long made hooch from molasses, Altstedter reports. But after independence from the Britain in 1947, many followed Mahatma Gandhi’s teetotaling ways. A combination of dry states and sky-high liquor taxes have also helped keep alcohol consumption relatively low. Until now.

Women of taste

Female drinkers are getting in on the act—and not just the younger set. In Delhi, Mumbai and other big Indian cities, women 55-plus defy demographic trends by flocking to whiskey tastings, according to the Guardian. Talk about a senior moment.

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