The Art of Drinking Post Dinner
My first exposure to post dinner drinking was almost 15 years back, when working for an Australian telecom company, I was in Sydney for my induction. Work started at 8 am & closed at 5 pm, something that we were not used to in India (leaving office when is the Sun is still up, was construed as not working enough J). After, “resting” for a while, I was picked up for dinner each day at 6.30 pm. A 3 course dinner experiencing the multi-faceted cuisine of Sydney, began at 7.00 pm and we were putting our Dessert down by 8.30 pm. The night began post that and ended at past midnight. No, we were not merely eating for 4 hours, in fact dinner finished in 90 mts & then the real action started. Each evening we settled at a new bar and enjoyed the true experience of going out! Trying our new lounges, drinks, styles & cocktails, I discovered Whisky as the most awesome post prandial pleasure!
The sight of the dark amber liquid in a thick-bottomed glass, a sparkling cube of ice, friends, music and some great conversations amongst heady laughter, can be an intoxicating experience. A experience that`s stayed back with me over the last decade and some more! The ritual has stayed the same through various cultures, countries & concoctions. Spirits and Rituals have evolved over time, but the true spirit and pleasure of drinking post dinner has remained the same. From Ardbeg Corryreckan in Scotland, to Glenmorangie Lasanta in France to The Glenlivet 18 YO in India, George T Stagg in New York, whisky has still beckoned me post dinner. The experience is far more gratifying, mood & ambience is more relaxed and spirits are far more appreciated.
Back home in India, the drinking ritual is mostly associated with pre-dinner & often times, dinner is only served post mid-night. Our drinking time can start as early as 7 pm and goes on till at times, well past midnight. Most of us drink before dinner, since traditionally we believe its “Drinks and Dinner” and dinner seems to spell “end of the party”. Most folks start leaving after dinner, never knew why, since post dinner can be a great experience and besides hosts are far more relaxed and can be far more engaging. I must admit, though, that some of the finest whiskies that I have enjoyed have been post dinner. Besides, it`s healthy to eat early and then settle down with a Digestif.
A digestif is an alcoholic beverage served after a meal, usually taken straight. Cognac, Armagnac, fruit brandies, Drambuie, Chartreuse, Grand Marnier, Irish Mist, Kahlua or limoncello, liquor cocktail, such as a Black Russian (Kahlua and vodka) or a Rusty Nail (Scotch and Drambuie), besides, fortified wines or sherry vermouth, aged port, and madeira. Various studies have also suggested that when food is eaten before drinking alcohol, it lines the stomach, aiding in alcohol absorption and reducing the same, including accelerating the elimination from the blood.
Drinking post dinner has only evolved recently, for a long time most Indians were not used to drinking post dinner. I attribute a few reasons to it, primarily the choice of post dinner drinks on offer, which was mostly thought of as Cognac. It has also been perceived that Cognac is the only drink you can have after dinner. Low availability and choice in Cognac, the high cost & the style of drinking Cognac were possible deterents to its adoption.
International visitors to India, also prefer to enjoy light aperitifs before dinner and prefer to enjoy, the heavy spirits post dinner. Whilst I am not taking a position on drinking pre or post dinner, I leave that as an individual decision, but I can assure you that post dinner drinking can be a truly a sublime affair. This is also not to encourage you to drink far more, the idea is to only suggest that here is another opportunity for you to savour some of the finest spirits in the world, enjoying and optimizing the moment!
Whisky has emerged as the most preferred choice as a spirit post dinner. Based on its depth, texture, age and complexity, besides the palate, whisky is the perfect romance post dinner! A generous dram, in a rock glass, with a narrow top, few drops of water, and a small sweet are great companions. Here are some great whiskies to enjoy post dinner.
1. Rosebank 25 YO – 61.4% ABV
In the traditional Lowland style, Rosebank was triple-distilled, and its smooth floral whisky was much in demand. Silent from 1862-64, Rosebank was extensively rebuilt and refurbished in 1864-65 when it took over the maltings and other outbuildings of an older distillery, Camelon, that were situated across the road. Apart from a brief hiatus in 1917-1919 it produced steadily until its closure in 1993.
Nose: Waxy, sweet; plenty of forward oak, sweet orange, some butterscotch, fudge, spices (clove). Big, powerful alcoholic prickle. Rye bread, some wine-like characteristics. Floral notes eventually fight their way through, along with gingered melon. With water, becomes more biscuity and develops honey notes.
Palate: Big oak surge, then the alcohol – oily with immense hot pepper and spice (clove, chilli seeds). Very full and oily. As the initial alcohol burn dies away, amazing polished malt comes through to spar with the spices. Delicious.
Finish: Lovely unctuous malt continues to envelop the tastebuds. The length is phenomenal. The clove and cracked black peppercorns have the last word.
2. Bruichladdich 21 YO
This release is to celebrate a rare consignment of supreme oloroso sherry butts in Bruichladich’s warehouses which are truly exceptional.
From the same cask pedigree as Blacker Still but one year older, this opulent 21 year old Bruichladdich scales new heights and regrettably is unlikely to be repeated for quite some time due to the scarcity of good quality oloroso sherry butts. This is a rare and exceptional signature Bruichladdich spirit.
Oloroso sherry butts used to be widely available but are becoming increasingly difficult to find now as sherry sales and production continues to decline. Ironically as the availability of sherry casks declines Bruichladdich is starting to use French wine casks in which to mature its whiskies; in fact it was the prolonged wars with France in the 19th century when British traders couldn’t source French casks that British merchants developed trading routes with Spain and other countries in Europe, which itself developed demand for sherry in the UK as an alternative to wine, and it was these butts which the scotch whisky industry used in the absence of French wine casks. The combination of the rich oloroso sherry influence and full term maturation in Islay’s marine climate creates Bruichladdich’s richest full bodied whisky to date.
Orange, apricot, fig, marsala, plum, raisin, date, hazelnut, Brazil nut, pecan, dark chocolate.
Rare stocks – will be available for between one to two years dependent on demand.
“The whisky has acquired full term maturation for 21 years in rare, supreme quality Oloroso sherry butts. Packaged in an elegant and sophisticated gun-metal grey metallic tin and screen printed bottle. The longest flavour finish of any Bruichladdich released to date. Natural whisky – colouring-free. Non chill-filtered for more depth and length of flavour. Uniquely Islay bottled at 46% alc./vol.with Islay’s legendary spring water.”
3. Talisker Distillery Edition
Talisker – Sheer Brilliance, clean marriage of peat and rich sweetness. There’s near perfection in the bitter-sweet harmony which is such an enthralling feature of this truly classic whisky, as its crisp peat softens, not to peppery, rich and rewarding.
The Whisky colour is Chestnut Brown. Take a deep breath and inhale the clean and legendary whisky. The Nose is quite sharp and well focused, clean and subtly sweet with a full body and a great start, it open to toasty and roasting notes, with dryness though with luscious, slightly oily sweetness. Deep cocoa notes, magnificent vanilla and lingering, earthy peat. Enormously chewable and from beginning to last exemplary in balance between sweet and dry, with sweetness always having the slight edge.
Each CLASSIC MALT Distillers Edition is double-matured in a different sherrywood – here, Amoroso.
4. Ardbeg Uigeadail. – 54.2%
Follow your nose on Islay, to discover a true masterpiece. Heading south of Islay, after crossing the Legendary Laphroaig & Lagavulin, one discovers the hidden gem of Ardbeg.E To truly feel the true spirit of Ardbeg, one need to visit, feel and understand the Distillery. Look out into the sea standing next to the white-washed walls; lasing waves surging onto the rocks behind you; raw beauty of nature the smell of malt and sea spray all around you. Breathe it in. This is pure Islay. Ardbeg – The Ultimate Islay Malt. A whisky of exceptional complexity and depth. A whisky that is worshipped around the world. A whisky that has attracted a cult following that continues to grow year on year.
“No whisky on earth can do in the glass, or to a man’s heart or soul,
The undiluted nose is deep and rounded chocolate caramels and barley sugar combine with dates, raisins and smooth sherry notes. Later, you find leather and linseed oil. With water the sweetness gives way to malted honeycomb, with flowering currants emerging through the smoky sweetness of a well-fired fruit pudding.
Sweet, chewy and oily with a silky mouthfeel. The flavour is initially sweet, revealing fruit cake and treacle. This is followed by smoked barbecued or honey-roast food with the slightest hint of olives.Again long, both sweet and dry with honey, treacle and a trace of lint. ARDBEG IS A BOLD, CHALLENGING
5. The Glenlivet 25 YO
“Its hard to over emphasise how important Glenlivet was not long ago, not just as a whisky but as a defining standard, even as a region” – Iain Banks, Raw Spirit 2003
It all starts in the early 1800’s high up in the Scottish Highlands in a remote area, perfect for distilling whisky…an area called Glenlivet. Its location, at over 900 feet above sea level, ensures fresh temperatures all year round, offering perfect conditions for maturing 12 year old, and older, single malts. – Resulting in the definitive single malt taste
Colour: Rich amber with ripe gold hues
Nose: Intense, deep, creamy. The sherry shows itself with luscious fruity and spicy notes. Enticing scents of exotic wood
Palate: Silky and caressing. Sweet at first then releasing a full bunch of spices: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg. Developing dark chocolate and orange peel flavours
Finish: Dry, spicy. Keeps teasing the tastebuds all the way through and comes back on a sweeter,fruity note
6. OCTOMORE – Redemption – 100% Bourbon Cask – 64.5% Alc
Colour – Saffron – gilded gold
This is how whisky was made on Islay maybe a century ago!!
The Body is strong, virile and challenging. An alpha plus spirit, untamed and irresistible, but hey sometimes it’s good to take a ‘walk on the wild side’.
The aromas burst from the glass on a floodtide of Atlantic sea squalls, Sea drenched sail cloth, light iodine, peat moor fires, bog myrtle and bracken. Once this tempest has passed, the aromas of hawthorn and rowan emerge quickly followed by sweet oak drizzled with vanilla, lemon oil and cinnamon. The slow distillation has imparted smoothness in the texture that helps to calm the storm for a while until the next wave crashes onto the palate bringing all the warnings given by the olfactor system. The Islay character detonates on the tongue unbridled, unrestrained so batten down the hatches. This youngster encapsulates the very essence of Islay. As you savour this full blown peaty youngster you will discover that in the eye of the storm a soft fruit sophistication that offers sweetness and complexity giving a feeling of self indulgence and gratification that you have survived the perfect storm. This first general release of Octomore is the redemption of a single malt that never had the opportunity to shine in the galaxy of Islay’s stars many years ago but will now blaze a trail like a meteorite with its impressive 131ppm peating level . It’s a breath of new life in a world of spin.
Pairing Whiskies with Desserts
Chocolate and whisky is a heavenly pairing – they are a delight to match and a pleasure to enjoy, deep and aromatic, rich and well …..richer. It is generally believed that the older and more complex the whisky, the darker and richer the chocolate should be. A very simple but effective pairing is to use very good quality dark chocolate. It needs to have a high percentage of cocoa solids to achieve a lovely pairing and a lingering finish. Deserts using white chocolate are effective. The use of cracked pepper and sharp berry fruits will prevent the dish from becoming overwhelmingly sweet.
The Glenlivet is one whisky, which opens an array of possibilities in its “Spirit Match “. A younger single malt, especially if it has been matured in bourbon casks, like The Glenlivet 12 Year Old, is delicious when enjoyed with a good quality milk chocolate. The Glenlivet Nàdurra’s indulgent creamy texture is brought to the fore with white or praline chocolate. The complexity of The Glenlivet 18 Year Old is highlighted when paired with an orangette (candied orange coated with dark chocolate).”White chocolate and deep vanilla, caramelised ginger and baked pineapple, baked nuts and honeycomb.
In general terms, whisky is perennially linked with chocolate, and given the much more extensive/gourmet range of chocolates available today, below is a brief suggestion of chocolate combinations.
There are endless desserts that will work well with robust, complex and sherry cask whiskies. Fruits such as mango, melon, pineapple and citrus fruits will work beautifully with vanilla, honey and gentle nutty flavours. A hint of mint will help to lift the flavours. The tasting notes can be inspiring and guide well.
Caramel and nuts, apricots and pistachios, chocolate and raisin, dates and sultanas…the list is endless. For spicy whiskies, one can introduce creamy vanilla in the form of ice cream or pannacotta to balance the spiciness. In these expressions the vanilla notes are denser than the Original so caramel, chocolate and toffee flavours will also work well. Introducing bitter citrus flavours will act to enhance the ripe orange flavours and the pairing of these flavours with dried fruits will also work well.
Other Deserts also work well, though I am not sure if Indian desserts are best paired, since at times sweet is too sweet and milk based sweets do not get well.
Delicate Glenmorangie Lasanta infused pannacotta with Seville orange syrup
“The tantalising smoothness of the pannacotta contrasts with the sharp spiciness of the orange syrup. The deep orange notes in the Glenmorangie Lasanta (or 18 yo) are laced throughout the dish. A subtle and fresh dessert.” David Graham, Head Chef, Glenmorangie House.
Served with Glenmorangie 18 years old Chocolate marquise laced with citrus zest.
“The luscious smoothness of the chocolate marquise is freshened and sharpened with the citrus tang. A reviving burst of flavour, with a creamy texture, which fits perfectly with the mature depth of flavour offered by the Glenmorangie 18 years old David Graham, Head Chef, Glenmorangie House.
Way to Whisky
Identify the key aromas in the whisky and plan the core flavour in the Dessert
The length of the finish & after taste of the Whisky needs to be matched with Texture and mouth feel of the Dessert.
Consider creating ‘mouthfuls’ that combine two different types of sweetness e.g a semi soft cheese served on a teaspoon with a drizzle of chestnut honey.
Pairings of sweet and savoury flavours will also work well with the Whisky, requiring the work of a skilled chef. Some of the dishes have been successfully paired with sweet side dishes ie. vanilla saffron rice.
There are endless desserts that will work well with whisky. Fruits such as mango, melon, pineapple and citrus fruits will work beautifully with vanilla, honey and gentle nutty flavours.
Highland whiskies offer a wealth of potential for nuts. Caramel and nuts, apricots and pistachios, chocolate and walnuts, dates and sultanas…the list is endless.
Keep in mind the spiciness of the whisky on the tongue. Be inspired to introduce creamy vanilla in the form of ice cream or pannacotta to balance the spiciness.
Introducing bitter citrus flavours will act to enhance the ripe orange flavours in any whisky and the pairing of these flavours with dried fruits will also work well.
Some Islay whiskies are well matched with soft cheese, bitter chocolates and crème brulee
A hint of mint will help to lift the flavours.
The tasting notes should inspire you!
1. The Glenlivet XXV Glenfiddich 30 YO with Creamed Rice & Toffee Bananas
Nose : Soft round fruity oakiness with hints of dried spices combined with subtle oloroso sherry aromas
Palate: Intense raisin and fruity flavours finishing with a balanced dry oakiness.
2. The Dalmore 12 YO with Lavender Pannacotta & Honey toffee cinnamon, spiced
Rich, deep, golden mahogany
Firm, positive and elegant
The immediate impact from our aged Matusalem oloroso sherry buts gently caresses this noble spirit with its unique style
Citrus fruits and crushed almonds with subtle hints of marzipan and chocolate, rise to the occasion
The impact on the palate is intense,but as the warmth of the tongue helps. To release these special attributes of citrus, sherry and exotic spices, this Classic spirit surpasses all expectations.
3. The Balvenie 30 YO with Orange Cream Tarts and Chocolate dust
Nose: Sweet fruit and Oloroso sherry notes, layered with honey and vanilla.
Taste: A smooth and mellow single malt of beautifully combined flavours – nutty sweetness, cinnamon spiciness and a delicately proportioned layer of sherry – with a long and warming finish.
4. Laphroaig 18 YO with Smoked Cheese Platter & grapes
Colour: Rich, deep gold
Nose: Powerful, smoke and earthy aromas, seaweed, salt laden air
Body: Full bodied
Taste: Massive peat smoke, huge flavour, complex, seashore salt, fading sweetness at the finish
Finish: Long & savoury
5. Dalwhinnie 15 YO with Steamed Walnut Pudding
Nose: Crisp, dry aromatic with heather and peat
Taste: Heather, vanilla and honey sweetness. Smoky, peaty finish