One Of a Kind Scotch Tastings At the Chaminade
The Chaminade is well-known for its Sunday Champagne Brunches and sunset-filled dinners overlooking the Monterey Bay, but now it can add one of a kind tasting events to its list of attractions. Take, for example, last Friday's "Classic Malts" Scotch Whiskey Tasting and Education Seminar with Stephen Beal, one of the world's fifteen Masters of Whiskey. As a whiskey novice, I was a little apprehensive about attending what I presumed a guy-centric event, but the first person I met was whiskey aficionado Paulette Ruelli who brought along her husband, Bobby, and her Aunt Pam and Uncle Ray, a charming Scottish couple from Carmel. Before the presentation began, Ruelli gave me a quick rundown of what she liked including some descriptive lingo she thought I should know- heavy, peaty, and smokey to name a few.
Next to put me at ease was Beal himself who announced, "If you came with the idea that Scotch is not for you, I'm here to fix that." As Senior Master Of Whiskey for Diageo Spirits,he takes his job seriously to help people overcome the intimidation factor of whiskey's "acquired taste." Between history lessons, humorous stories, and slideshow pictures of beautiful landscapes and distilleries, Beal took us on a journey through Scotland, one single malt whiskey at a time. Each table was set with a plate showcasing anassortment of taste pairings- chocolate, candied ginger, lavender salt- to bring out the nuances of flavor in each whiskey.
The first whiskey presented was from Dalwhinnie located in the Highlands of Scotland. My first sip smelled like alcohol and burned going down my throat. Uh-oh, I thought. But Beal instructed us to use straws to transfer some water into our whiskey glasses and take a second taste. Suddenly, I could smell and taste the whiskey's true flavors- hints of sweet fruit, subtle notes of heather. The water acted as a catalyst to unleash the aromas and sweetness, making the second taste an entirely different experience that I could appreciate and savor. The Dalwhinnie was a huge contrast to our fifth and sixth tastings which came from the Islands of Skye and had more of a smokey, peaty flavor very reminiscent of a driftwood bonfire and chipotle chili, respectively.
Some fun facts I learned from Beal's presentation:
- Whiskey comes from the Gaelic word meaning "water of life."
- Whiskey became what it is today, not on purpose, but by necessary means of storage. Because oak barrels affect composition and taste, Spanish Oak produces a reddish, caramel color, whereas White Oak results in a pale honey hue.
- Whiskey, like wine, always reflects the region it was made in.
- The French drink the most Scotch Whiskey per capita in the world, followed by the Japanese, and then the Americans.
And my favorite:
- Beal has tried an estimated 20,000 whiskies in the past ten years! I know I heard more than one guy think out loud, "Where can I get that job?"
If you missed this sold-out tasting event, don't worry. The Chaminade is planning on hosting similar events throughout the year, such as a Don Julio Tequila Tasting on April 19th. Also, keep your eye out for future themes including cigar rolling, beer and brats, rum, and possibly another whiskey tasting with Stephen Beal that explores the differences between whiskies from around the world.
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