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Drink Thu Apr 14 2011

Scotch, Scotch, Scotch

With WhiskeyFest here, I thought it would be appropriate to take advantage of the Johnnie Walker tasting that took place last week at the Resolution Digital Studios. As I have admitted before, I am just now getting back on the dark liquor train and have wanted to learn about scotch for a while, so the timing was perfect.

The event was really nicely put together. There was a small cocktail reception beforehand with food and drinks. Being that this was my first taste of scotch, I asked our guide, the wonderful Alex, what I should drink and she suggested Johnnie Walker Red Label scotch and ginger ale. Wow. What a great way to start the night. The scotch flavor was not nearly as strong as I thought it was going to be and for a beginner it was the perfect introduction into the presentation that was to come.

After about 30 minutes we transitioned into the presentation room. Three of the walls were lined with two screens each and there were three sections lined with four rows of benches each with three samples of Johnnie Walker. Basically -- there was a lot going on. We're seated and then the lights dim and we launch into a Wes Anderson film circa mid-1800s Scotland. For someone like myself that knows nothing about Johnnie Walker it was a cool video and beautifully shot. Check it out here.

Once we learned about Johnnie's ascent from grocer to whisky producer we started our tasting with the Black Label. Upon instruction from the Master of Whisky, Stephen Wilson, we stuck our nose in the little glass and took a big ole whiff of the scotch. People were shouting that they smelt pepper, and vanilla, and honey. I smelt none of this. I smelt Johnnie at Table.jpgwhisky. I guess my novice nose has a lot to learn. Our first sip was served neat. No ice, no water, just scotch. I thought it tasted like...scotch. For a first-timer it was a lot on its own. The first actual flavor I tasted was smoke. Apparently this comes from the type of wood that the 40 whiskies are aged in. Each whisky that is in Johnnie Walker Black Label must be aged for a minimum of 12 years. In fact the length that a whisky has been aged and the type of wood it's aged in is how we arrive at a blended scotch. Who knew?

After Black Label, we moved on to the Red Label, which we were told is a good scotch to mix with due to its more mild flavor and balance between spicy and vanilla. We had a choice of three mixers: water, ginger ale, and Orangina. Having already had the ginger ale, we went with Orangina. It was pretty awesome and definitely a game changer come brunch time.

We tried the Gold Label as well. The Gold Label was served chilled and was...nice. Honestly, it was fine, just not for me. It's definitely something for the end of the meal, as it's a little sweeter than the others.

Finally, after several tastings we had come to the apex, the Blue Label. Prior to attending this event, my friends who actually know scotch, told me this is the one to watch out for. After all the other labels, I thought -- how can this one be that different? Well, it is. It's like having that first sip of a really fine wine and you realize all this time you've been a fool. The Blue Label was the smoothest, silkiest, most divine scotch to hit our lips. There was a mild hint of smoke in the background, but unlike the other labels, I thought you could really taste the honey and vanilla in this blend. After all, it's retailed at $220 a bottle for a reason. This sip alone made the evening. Blue Label.jpg

While this event on the whole wasn't for scotch connoisseurs, it was great for someone like me just starting out on this scotch adventure. After the program, I asked a few people what their favorite scotch bars were in the city. Among them were RedHead Piano Bar and Delilah's. I live relative close to Delilah's so I went to investigate.

Delilah's is in the heart of Lincoln Park, but really feels like it should be in Wicker Park. Upon entering you can't help but notice the hundreds of bottles that line the back wall. Without hyperbole, they probably have every liquor you could think of. Feeling loyal, we ordered two Black Labels on the rocks and were serenaded by punk music all night. There are several TVs showing a variety of odd movies and even some burlesque shows from the '60s. If you want a scotch at a neighborhood place that won't break the bank -- this is your spot.

While I won't be attending the official WhiskeyFest, I will be having my own scotch/whiskey party any time I want with my new found knowledge. No longer the girl who only orders a vodka soda, I am now a lady who drinks scotch.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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