As I’ve delved into the world of whiskey and scotch, my appetite for the two has increased, and my craving for the complexity of the spirit continues to grow and grow.

Upon first sip, I fell in love with Balvenie Doublewood.
The sweet caramelization upon my lips, with the smooth cherry-wood finish enticed me evermore and had my heart.

Then, as I began to learn and experience the whole wide world of the single malts and even some double dare delicious blends, I grew into the smoke – the peaty wonderfulness of Islay of Scotland.

The atrocious wet weather in Islay and some Lowland regions of the island made (and still does – this is an ancient art) it necessary for more and more peat to be hand shoveled into the fires, tossing the grains to dry. These muscular men involved in this job were called “monkey shoulders,” for the massive mounds of bulk they acquired on their “shoveling side.”

“The old Scots used peat to heat the pot stills. However, this doesn’t lead to the smoky flavour of the whisky. Does the water, which runs through peat moors, influence the smokiness of the whisky? The answer is a clear NO! Peaty water contains only a few ppm (parts per million) of peat particles, which colour the water brown but don’t contribute to the smoke flavour. Sure, the water is crucial for the quality of the whisky, but it doesn’t influence the smokiness. Only drying the damp malt over a peat-heated fire brings the smoke into the barley grain. The Highlands and Speyside regions provide us with some of the sweeter characteristics in the Macallan, Balvienie, and Glenfarclas single malts that are so popular and utterly beautiful.”

To top off my curiosity in the field of food and fine fermentations and distillations, I racked my brain for accompaniments to the best whiskeys in the business. This is not an an easy pairing, nor is it common. Most scotch and bourbon drinkers will sip and savor the complexity of the flavors, sans accouterments.

Being the foodie that I am, however, I simply had to challenge myself to create a perfect pairing – something to truly complement and contrast in all the right ways.

I purposely crafted the smoky tang and soothing comfort of pulled pork to sit alongside each sip.
I carefully selected the slightly smoky, subtle spice, and defining burst of butterscotch crumble with the dry Jack cheese.
I purposely crafted the smoky tang and soothing comfort of pulled pork to sit alongside each sip.
I sautéed and caramelized apples and onions with hickory salt for just the right amount of fanciful flavor.
I chose to pickle Brussels sprouts, simple for an interesting twist on the palate.
I couldn’t resist the sweet and salty perfect crunch of Hickory Smoked Candied Pecans, created entirely for this sipping soiree.

My Menu:

And with this spread, I have visions of sitting on the wrap around front porch, in the heat of the evening, slowly rocking back and forth, smoking a cigar – long beard and all – OR standing at the kitchen island among friends, sipping, savoring, and smiling (which is what really happened).

*Hickory Apple Onion Relish

2 Tbs. butter
1 small onion, diced
2 small Golden Delicious apples, cored and diced
1/2 tsp. Smoked Hickory Artisan Sea Salt

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the onion, apples, and salt and stir to coat the produce in the butter. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and smooth, about 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring and keep an eye on the relish, so as not to burn.

**Quick Pickled Brussels Sprouts

10 trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
10 black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 fresh bay leaf 

Cook the sprouts in a large pot of boiling water until bright green, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Bring 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup white vinegar, and 1 tsp. salt to a simmer over medium heat and cook until salt dissolves. Combine the peppercorns, mustard seeds, crushed red pepper, and 1 fresh bay leaf in a sterilized pint jar. Place Brussels sprouts in the jar and add the hot vinegar mixture. Cool to room temperature. Cover with lid, and chill 4 days or up to 2 weeks before serving. Store covered in refrigerator up to 1 month.

My very favorite scotches of note these days:

Glenmorangie 18 Year
Glenfarclas 17 Year
Lagavulin (super smoky – go for it, with a twist)
Balvenie Doublewood 21 Year

And for a tasting tip, try one drop of soda water on the tongue just before sipping – this will cut the burn of the alcohol and brilliantly enhance the phenomenal flavor and depth of distillation.

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