Whiskey School: Around the World in an Hour or So
When you walk into the foyer of the Flatiron Room, an upscale whiskey bar in Manhattan's Flatiron district, you are greeted by a concierge offering complimentary coat and bag check. And then you step through the heavy wooden doors, and it's like you've slipped into grown-up Narnia. Suddenly you're in a huge, softly-lit, cavernous yet intimate parlor, where rich wood and lush draperies embrace you.
Upstairs, there is a private room with a beautiful, 16' walnut table as its centerpiece. And at this table, candle-lit and laden with a variety of cheese and charcuterie, the Whiskey School holds classes.
I recently had the great pleasure of attending the Whiskey School's "Around the World in an Hour or So" tasting. Whiskey Sommelier Heather Greene prepared a selection of whiskies from India, Sweden, Tasmania, France, Japan, and Texas. The class was fast-paced and rich with information about the history of whiskey around the world. Including rudimentary information such as whiskey terminology, as well as delving into the minutiae of the effect of water molecules on aroma, this class offered something to whiskey students of all levels.
We started with Hakushu 12 year whisky from Japan. This softly peated whisky remained light due to its fruity palate. Sweden's Mackmyra whisky was next, with a fresh, citrusy flavor filled with mint and juniper. The class favorite came third: Brenne, an organic whisky from France, takes its raisin, banana, and orange tones from the cognac grapes growing next to fields where the barley is grown. Lark, from Tasmania, is a small batch whisky with a very long finish, richly flavored like roasted coffee and dark chocolate. Balcones, from Waco, Texas, appealed to the bourbon fans in our group. Though a single-malt barley whisky, its very long finish tasted of roasted nuts and caramel, and was indeed quite similar to the burnt sugar flavor more commonly found in bourbon, which is made mostly from corn. The first award-winning single malt whisky to originate outside of Scotland comes, surprisingly, from Banaglore, India. Amrut Fusion involves barley from the northern Punjab region and peated barley imported from Scotland. These two grains are distilled separately, and then combined, aged in old bourbon casks with sherry butts to yield a complex whisky with a giant, surprising peaty-vanilla flavor and a sweet, smoky finish.
The whiskies were thoughtfully chosen to offer a wide range of experiences, and Ms. Greene considered the burgeoning warmth of the season in her selections. These were not "sit around the fire" whiskies, but rather more "kick back on the porch and watch the sun go down" varieties. And that is really how the evening felt — approachable and friendly, though complex and rich.
Check the Flartiron Room calendar for information about upcoming classes. You'll want to attend them all.
Photos courtesy of the Flatiron Room. Read The Alcohol Professor's interview with Flatiron Room proprietor Tommy Tardie.