What could be better than feasting on world-class cuisine from some of the most celebrated culinary talents in the South? Doing it for a good cause with a glass of fine wine—or exquisite scotch—in hand. Since its inception in 2009, the glamorous Gourmet & Grapes event, held annually every February at the breathtaking Kiawah Island Golf Resort, has raised more than one million dollars for cancer research at the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina. New this year: they’re adding grains to the menu. The event will now include a bourbon-centric dinner with Pappy Van Winkle beverages as well as a scotch sampling with David Sardina of Edrington representing both Macallan and Highland Park. The scotch tasting, brought to you by The Local Palate, will be the smoothest way to tuck yourself in on Friday evening, taking place after the elegant “Epicurean Affair,” a black-tie dining experience.
Here, David Sardina offers us a few tips on how to prepare for a scotch tasting.
TLP: What should scotch skeptics and newcomers know before partaking in a tasting?
David Sardina [DS]: Scotch tastings can be for everyone! It is a spirit unlike others because it requires aging in oak casks for a minimum of 3 years and must be produced in Scotland. I have heard scotch is just beer that has died and gone to the heavens—and it does have a similar production process before it is distilled and made into a spirit, where it is then aged. I like that assessment; it makes what could be an otherwise intimidating category more approachable.
TLP: What should people look for when trying a scotch?
DS: Similar to wine, people should look for the color, clarity, mouth feel, finish, and flavor of Scotch Whiskey. Also similar to wine, when walked through a tasting, the flavor of the spirit shows a direct connection to the oak cask it was aged in. For example, if aged in an American Oak cask, flavors such as vanilla and honey will come through in the final product. If aged in European Oak, flavors of orange, chocolate, and even a sweet cake maybe present. With more than 150 flavor descriptors possible to be found in whiskey, the most important thing is that you find flavors you can recognize, enjoy, and look for again when trying other kinds.
TLP: How should scotch be consumed?
DS: I am a big believer that scotch should be consumed exactly how the person drinking it would like to enjoy it. When in a tasting setting, I always recommend to try it first neat, then with a few drops of water, and finally with an ice cube.