We had some friends over for a whiskey dinner last night. Two couples, friends of ours, came over to have some drinks and dinner, and learn something about this wonderful booze. I ran around getting goodies at the local farmers' market and grocery store, the kids and I cleaned the house, and when Cathy got home, she made up a delicious salad from the bounty of lettuce we got from our CSA last Saturday. I had just showered and dressed when the guests arrived, and offered them a drink; two of them (and myself) started with rye presbyterians (generous pour of Pikesville Rye in a lowball glass full of ice, top with ginger ale, add slice of fresh lemon).
We set out smoked salmon with capers and onions, olives and cornichons with wheat crackers, and two nice cheese plates one couple had brought (which included the delicious fig preserves that have been showing up around here lately), and got started. I poured samples of Powers Irish whiskey and passed them around, and explained what a blended whiskey was, then explained how Midleton makes their whiskey (that David Quinn interview is coming, I promise).
To back that up, I then poured Jameson 18 Year Old, a balanced beauty that is simply one of my favorite whiskeys of any type. To my delight, Doug picked it up right away: "There's something different here, some note towards the end that's really nice." That's the potstilled Irish, with the lovely floral notes, and the 18's got plenty of it. I was going to get the Redbreast out and expand on that, but...it was almost 8:00 and I hadn't even started the pork chops yet.
We moved on to bourbon. I poured a little tot of white dog for folks to pass around and sip, then poured Jim Beam, the standard white label bottling. While folks were tasting, I got the pork chops going on the grill -- fresh-cut, 1" thick, brushed with olive oil, coarse salt, fresh-cracked pepper, and some Penzey's Pork Chop Seasoning, on medium flame. Just as they were done, I offered up a prayer to Booker Noe and doused them with Basil Hayden: flames shot up as I slammed down the cover, held it for five seconds, then pulled the whiskey-scented chops off the fire.
We served the chops with a couple mustards; sweet potatoes whipped with bourbon (more Basil Hayden's), brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spices; and the three-lettuce salad Cathy'd made, alongside Jim Beam Black, the 8 year old version that I think is one of the best deals out there. The chops were delicious, and Eileen liked the sweet potatoes so much we let her take the leftovers home.
I'd planned to serve Elijah Craig 12 Year Old during clean-up, but it was getting late and we hadn't even got to Scotch whisky yet. So we all jumped in, cleared the table and stuffed the dishwasher full for a quick run, and put the leftovers in the fridge. Eileen set out the very nice assortment of locally-made chocolates she'd bought, we brought the cheeses back for another appearance, and I poured The Glenlivet 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve, a very nice, soft and malty whisky with added wood/spice complexity.
That got some oohs and ahhs, and went well with the chocolates. But the surprise hit of the night was a bottle of Ardbeg 17 Year Old that Cathy agreed to pour -- that one is her bottle, and unfortunately no longer available, so hats off to my generous wife. Peat filled the air as I opened the bottle and poured, and people smiled and eyebrows raised. "Now," I said... "Try that with the chocolate." I wish I'd thought to pop out some straight-up 70% cacao dark, because that's the kind of thing that really sings with a peaty whisky, but the truffles were plenty good enough. Dark chocolate and peaty whisky works really well, surprisingly well.
A great conclusion to a good night of whiskey, and we all agreed we should do it again. I'm looking forward to that, and I'm already thinking about new choices...