If possible, whiskey is best enjoyed on a cool evening, near a roaring fire, with rich food and good company. It just so happens that the Scottish Arms' (6-10 S. Sarah Street; 314-535-0551) has contrived just such a scenario.
Its monthly "Whisky After Dark" is a way for the classic Central West End pub to display St. Louis' most impressive whiskey collection and also introduce new whiskies. The icing on the cake, though, is the hidden back patio, complete with a fireplace, pergola and surrounded by brick walls covered in ivy. You couldn't ask for much better of a setting, which is why Gut Check was on hand to sample the wares.
Upon arrival you'll find a tasting glass with a rolled-up menu next to it, upon which is the night's carefully orchestrated tastings - the corresponding description of each sample is really helpful for amateurs like us. Each gathering at the Scottish Arms brings together five samples of top-notch whiskey with a local food vendor or restaurant. This month features Salume Beddu, maker of artisan Italian and European cured meats. It was a perfect match.
It's important to note that along with general bonhomie, the tasting is also instructive. The staff at Scottish Arms is incredibly knowledgeable and likewise, incredibly affable and willing to share without a drop of condescension. General manager Michael Cline is especially skilled at helping those unfamiliar with scotch. He simply asks, "What do you like, and why?" So if you're a bourbon drinker, he'll pour a sip of Glendronach next to a pour of bourbon and have you taste both -- you'll find the similarities and be well on your way. Joining Cline is bar manager Chris Lynch who uses his encyclopedic knowledge to describe each pour. He even drops tidbits like how a snowstorm and collapsed roof affected a particular scotch.
Highlights from the night were abundant, but one of our favorites was the Amrut Fusion paired with peat-smoked pork ribs. The Amrut is an Indian single-malt whiskey from aged in white oak barrels with both a sugary, vanilla sweetness and smoky finish, which went pretty amazingly with the pork ribs.
The Bowmore 15 year is one of Cline's favorites.
"It's a great food-paring whiskey," he says, noting the peppery spice that brings out fatty meats, like, you know, the peat-smoked fiamma waiting for us.
We could go on and on, but it's probably best to stop living vicariously through us and go attend a Whisky After Dark"\ for yourself. The next opportunity will be Thursday, November 7, with the Wine Merchant's amazing cheese selection. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at the bar -- check out more details at their website here.
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