Editors Note: Today’s post is from Eric Strand, one of the semi-finalists who are applying to become a regular contributor to Bourbon & Banter. We hope you’ll read all of their posts and let us know what you think of each applicant by commenting below the post, sharing online or dropping us a note via email.
Whiskey pairings are nothing new, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find new and exciting ways to pair your whiskey. The best pairings bring out the essence of what’s in your glass, and better still, bring your experience to a new level. The perfect pairing is one that makes you pause and appreciate something new and unique, even in something you thought you knew so well.
Whiskey makers have been prepackaging some interesting pairings for as long as you and I have been drinking whiskey. Although they don’t call them pairings, they call them barrel finishes. One of the undisputed masters of this pairing is The Balvenie. For their release of the Caribbean Cask 14 scotch single malt, they have paired (trioed?) malted barely with “traditional oak casks,” (i.e. ex-bourbon) and rum casks. After 14 patient years in Certified Pre Owned Bourbon Casks (not an official term), the folks at The Balvenie allow their single malt to head to the islands—metaphorically speaking—with a short stint in Caribbean rum casks.
As mentioned above, successful pairings bring out the best in everyone. Caribbean Cask is a case in point. The rum influence is immediate. Cola and molasses are prominent on first sip. Cinnamon and dried citrus fill out the body with barley and oak offering up a crisp but dry finish. An exquisite pairing, but you can make it even better. After pouring yourself a dram of The Balvenie, but before drinking it! splash a thimbleful of rum into another glass. Take a small starter-sip of scotch to get yourself acclimated, swish it around, and then enjoy (don’t shoot) your pre-chaser of rum.
Now that you’re ready, dive into The Belvenie. With your palate newly acclimated to the warmer climes, the rum notes explode. Sugar plums will dance. If you’ve tried Caribbean Cask before, a whole new avenue of exploration will open up. If you’ve never dipped into this bottle before, you’re in for a treat!
The next time you approach a glass of whiskey, think of something to pair it with to accentuate one facet of its complexity. Something besides the obvious food or cigar. Maybe a sip of something, a scent of a flower, or . . .