Drinking like the Scots: A mind-bending spirits pairing at a high-end Houstonrestaurant
When I’m sending my whiskey on back to the sea
Names will be shattered and glasses be filled
The girls will get frisky and do what they will
But the moment of finest reflection must be
When you’re sending your whiskey on back to the sea
Laphroaig ambassador Simon Brooking started off one of the most incredible pairings events with the whimsical toast above. Brooking then lit a brick-sized block of peat from Islay to convey the smoky aroma for which the distinctive Scotch is well known.
When you attend a Laphroaig pairings event at The Pass and Provisions, you’re bound to do more than sample a variety of high-end spirits — you have to get your hands dirty, too. Before sampling the single malt whisky, we shook the snifter, wet the palms of our hands, rubbed them together and inhaled. This method was a way to replicate the experience of the quality testing method at the actual distillery in Islay and to represent a wider function of the Scotch as a way to warm one’s hands during the islands’ harsh winters.
During our previous visits, we’ve often been encouraged to order the roasted yeast pasta, but being ignorant carnivores, we scoffed at the suggestion.
Brooking’s other notes included cutting the scent of alcohol by inhaling with our mouths open and tasting at the middle of our tongues to avoid the alcohol sensors at the tips of our tongues. This allows for a more authentic taste of the flavors rather than being overwhelmed by peat and alcohol.
As we were hypnotized by the smoke and the singing, beakers of barley were passed around and we were encouraged to chew on them in order to familiarize ourselves with the root of the malt whiskey flavor. Our palates wetted, we dove into the first course — Pass & Provision’s famous bread program. The cocoa nib rye and Dunbarton blue cheese plate soothed the initial campfire taste of the Laphroaig 10 Year.
The creme de violet and drop of violet oil in the McAlpin’s Treason #2 cocktail enhanced the violet mustard served with the bread.
Next up was a breakfast indulgence, a Scottish egg settled into a bowl of blood sausage surrounded by a salad dressed with buttermilk and white anchovy shavings. It was paired with “exploding” Scotch-infused orange juice and Celtic coffee topped with Laphroaig whipped cream. After our “post-modern” intermezzo cocktail made with the cask-strength iteration of our featured spirit, Swedish punch and cherry heering, guests dove into the main course.
During our previous visits, we’ve often been encouraged to order the roasted yeast pasta, but being ignorant carnivores, we scoffed at the suggestion. The smoky taste of the roasted yeast complemented the Laphroaig Cáirdeas. Matured for the second time in its final bottle, we were fortunate to try the limited edition of this 30-year-old scotch.
We were then treated to a seasonal apple cider and Madeira cocktail named Wattie Buchan, which of course, included more Laphroaig!
Although Scotch cocktails have a tendency to be overwhelmingly strong, the cocktails at this pairing were made with great restraint, and as a result, the flavors were subtle yet purposeful. Much like the food, cocktails at The Pass & Provisions are carefully thought out and masterfully presented.
Dessert did not disappoint, a log of lemon pound cake topped with an almost sculptural serving of Bay Laurel ice cream, which looked like popcorn but packed the perfect density and creaminess, capped off our meal with well-balanced sweetness. The Triple Wood with which it was paired was subtle enough to pick up on the citrus, grated spices and herbs without competing with the sweetness in the cake.
With the 200-year-old Scotch’s ambassador on hand to oversee the pairings, our tasting experience was as carefully crafted and well-balanced as each individual course. And what better representative than one who serenades with Scottish rhymes in between courses for the brand that claims to be “smoother than you were at 25”?