Scotch, it’s not just for breakfast anymore

28 Feb

For most of my adult life scotch was one of those drinks (like gin) that I never much cared for. That is until sometime in 2004 when the brother of a girlfriend pressed me on why I didn’t like scotch. I mentioned a couple of brands I remember tasting. He scoffs at “blended single malt scotch” and then poured me some twelve year old single malt, The Balviene. On my way home I picked up a bottle.

The same girlfriend’s grandmother was quite a character and shortly thereafter we visited her in her Central Park West apartment and then on to favorite restaurant with the rest of the family Shun Lee. They knew her by sight and seconds after arriving she had a glass of Dewars in her hand. She was delighted to find that I liked it too. We got along quite well. She was a fun old lady and the next Christmas I got a Dewars gift set and my girlfriend (her granddaughter) got a gift pack of scented soaps from Duane Reed. She was pissed. But I digress.

On my next visit home I confessed my newly found taste for good single malt whiskey. Dad produced a bottle of Old Pultney and I fell in love.

I don’t drink a lot of the stuff. Good Scotch is not cheap and, frankly, I am not a big drinker. So I only have a couple of bottles. But I always felt that it would be nice to try some others and learn a little about good scotch.

As luck would have it a local restaurant chain does whiskey tastings. Only problem is that it is inconveniently at their south Austin location, Opal Devine’s, Penn Field.

I subscribed to their email newsletter and anxiously await an announcement of one at the Opal Devine’s near me. It never happens. So I reply to the newsletter and ask about one at the Marina location (nowhere near the water, it’s the owner’s daughter’s name). I find that they don’t do whiskey tastings there due to the smaller size of the room. I exchange a few more emails and I convince them to at least consider having one at Marina.

Months go by and I have all but given up on it ever coming to a Location Near Me.

But then the February 2009 newsletter hits my inbox. They are having one at Marina: Woo Hoo! Looking a little further I note that admission is $40.00. A bit pricer than I had remembered. But wanting to avoid not putting my money where my mouth is, I sign up.

The evening arrives and I and about twenty other people find ourselves escorted to their private room at the rear of the restaurant. We find several plates of fruit, cheese and crackers. And several tables set up with an astonishing amount of glassware on each. I find myself some cheesy comestibles, a seat and notice that the six glasses at each place setting are sitting on a sheet of paper.


Scott's Selection tasting menu from Opal Devine's

Scott’s Selection tasting menu from Opal Devine’s

I googled up some links in case you are curious.

The Speyside
Glen Mhor
Royal Brackla
Coal Ila


Unfortunately all of the glasses are empty.
Fortunately that condition does not last long.



Once everyone is seated, waiters circulate pouring a shot into each glass and our host begins talking about each of the whiskies. Some of what is said is a bit over my head (and some inaudible. Note to the management, the restaurant is noisy. a small PA system would help) but all interesting. Fortunately one of the guys sitting near me (Jack) seems to be a bit of an aficionado and explains a bit about what is being told us. I am not going to attempt to relay that information here. If you have to know it’ll cost you forty bucks.

Most of what we are served, I am told, are from distilleries that are no longer producing. Almost all of what we are served is cask strength and as such is, ahem…, a bit stronger than I am used to. All of them are quite drinkable but Jack shows me a trick. Dip your straw in your water glass, put your thumb on the top and dispense a bit into the scotch. We tried this on a couple of samples and the flavor really opened up. If you try this don’t use tap water, the chlorine and fluoride in most tap water will ruin the scotch.

Since Jack has attended a few of these he was on a first name basis with many of the people there and we got a little of the leftovers, thanks Jack! He also speculated on the average cost of the bottles. Our host corrected him. If you click on the links above some provide pricing info. Interestingly the whiskies we sampled ranged from about $80 a bottle to over $300. The most I ever paid for a bottle is about $40.00.

So you could say that the $40 cost was indeed worth it. Not only because I got to sample some pretty pricey scotch whiskey but also for the overall experience. It was a lot of fun. The people were great and I learned a lot. Not the least of which was that I don’t know crap about whiskey and that my favorite of the night (The Speyside) I might actually be able to almost afford.

If you have ever considered going to the Whiskey tasting nights at Opal Devines I have one bit of advice, “go.”


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