I've been experimenting with reasons to drink Irish Whiskey.
To be honest, though my palette is refining and I tend to lean hard toward whiskey nowadays, some versions lack a certain sense of depth.
Now, a lot of that comes down to the overall quality of a mash. The process through which a liquor is cultivated DOES make a difference; something I am beginning to alight myself with. Whereas before I would just pull a spiced something from the rack and pair it with soda, my inner alchemist has been seeking to fill in the gaps of knowledge left barren by years of self-imposed sobriety; a strict avoidance of the ever-expanding world of imbibement.
To be clear, I was never a drinking snob. Anyone that has been reading this for awhile understands my plight; I lack a gall bladder and I have GERD. Controlled by medication and mitigated by consistent exercise and weight training, I have to be careful about what I put in my body. So beer? That's six hours of pain and discomfort for a pretty low payoff. For a long time, I would avoid all alcohol, believing that to be my life, and the few instances where I was pushed toward (what I now understood to be) Bourbon, didn't help. The burn became everything I associated hard liquor with, which was also wrong.
So, when I hit up Irish Whiskey, there is a strange memory lapse.
First, there's a short circuit in my brain. It smells like a weaker bourbon.
Second, the taste hits like water with a numbing agent. The spice is light; not what I expected.
Third, and this might just be me, ...there isn't a lot of flavor. It takes like water and burning.
And it is this process that I think reveals the quality of the mash. There MUST be subtle nuances barrel to barrel and bottle to bottle, otherwise, why would anyone drink this dirty water?
This is about the time when the comment section explodes, so I'll give you a little more context to my thought process.
A Shot In The Dark With A Sexton
I don't have a lot of experience.
For all of my skill in pairing and mixing, I'm still pretty green. And factoring in my above statements of avoiding liquor like the plague, this is all COMPLETELY new to me...and wholly fascinating. My questions and thoughts here come from a place of genuine curiosity as I stumble into literally NEW experiences.
As I curate the necessary ingredients for an authentic Singapore Sling (see the previous week), I am always struck dumb in awe at the stacked shelves of beautiful bottles and shades of amber. Liquor is quite a business, and tons of people pour their lives into its creation and sale. It is a study of love and care and flavor, and I am so thankful for the past two years that have ignited my passion for it.
There is so much more to learn.
And I learn best through experimentation!
I have made it a habit during my supply runs to pick up something curious for myself. Might be a long-neglected, dusty bottle or that coveted 100-proof monstrosity, but this time my eye was drawn to a small, dapper glass barrel.
Aha! Who is this dapper skeleton man in fine gentlemen's wear and a prestigious top hat? Some dread carriage driver from beyond, summoned by the necromancy of necessity, to serve the shadow lords and ladies resting at the edges of civilization? Or am I the poor seduced schmuck lulled into thine carriage by nifty bronze lettering and a stellar presentation?
Spoiler alert. It's the latter.
This is the barrel that prompted the questions above. A quarter shot and a sip was...not pleasant.
Now, I don't tend to drink any liquor straight. Maybe I should start, a la Skyrim, to gain the working knowledge of the subtleties elevated in the malt alone. But it's hard to escape the disconnect of smelling rubbing alcohol, and then drinking it without dilution.
The first thing that hits is a burn on my tongue. The spice is IMMEDIATE, and unfortunately, there isn't much else happening. I've had Irish Mist before, and even that has a bit more earth to it after the burn. Maybe this is why I prefer a honey additive to this kind of whiskey, at least for now. Still, I am thankful for the information; it's all feedback.
A Whiskey For Mixing
Now. I paid for this bottle, and I'm not some savage that'll dump it out. If I can't enjoy it straight, it goes in the "for mixing" pile.
So what goes well with Irish Whiskey?
Short answer: most things that go well with any whiskey.
If you are mixing whiskey, you are seeking to both elevate and muddle the gentle bite and varying levels of burning associated with the striated liquor. This will bring me to a recipe I had earlier abandoned because of my distaste for Bourbon early on in this career.
1.5 oz Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey
1/2 oz Orgeat
4 Dashes Angostura Bitters
3 oz Ginger Ale
Pour into a glass with ice and swirl with a bar spoon.
Old Fashioneds tend toward using sugar cubes, and variations swing with club soda. Wanting to swing toward sweet and interesting pulls me toward the Orgeat and Ginger to do both.
+ Earthy with a sweet finish.
+ Tingle pulses through.
+ Burn at the front, but muddled
+ Sweetness at the end prepares another sip.
It's that last note that sells this for me. When I uncork the Sexton and smell it, there's an earthiness to it that got lost when I drank it straight. Even agitating it with ice begins to coax those notes out, and this mix, though sweeter than what others will be used to, continues to cultivate that overall idea.
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Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
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