Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Highlander


I love scotch; I love the peat smoke, the sweet maltiness of the barley, and the raisin-like fug of sherry cask that you get from whisky of the northern Scottish Highlands. For me, a chilled scotch cocktail is a rival of any bourbon or rye Manhattan. But quality single malt scotch is super expensive right now. It's not something that you just want to throw into a mixed drink and slam quickly. That is why I went to some effort to create a scotch cocktail using local Virginia whiskey.

Scotch has a flavor that is hard to imitate with other ingredients. Blended scotch is particularly hard, but it is possible to knock off regional expressions of the Highland spirit. Highland whiskey is well rounded, with it's maltiness central to the flavor profile. Smoke is understated in most cases, but some distillers rely on used sherry casks to finish their whisky. In The Highlander, I bring together each of these flavor notes from three different ingredients: Virginia beer whiskey, smoked black tea leaves, and amontillado sherry.

First, a limited release of MurLarkey Brutality uses Octoberfest beer for its mash build. That means actual beer, hops and all, is distilled and aged for two years in oak. The whiskey is then proofed down with more beer, which gives Brutality its mellow malty flavor. Octoberfest lager is malty beer to begin with. That brings this Virginia whiskey closer to scotch than bourbon. German style hops linger in the finish, also imitating the style of Highland peat water. 

For smoke, I used a tsp. of lapsang souchong tea leaves steeped in whiskey. This black tea that is smoked on pine embers. When steeped in whiskey, it is not as smokey as it is if you steep it in hot water. This is further downplayed when used in small proportion in the cocktail, but it hints at smoke that the Brutality does not have in itself.

Finally I cut the corner of finishing in sherry by adding amontillado sherry in a small proportion. This also rounds out some of the beer notes of the Brutality and takes the flavor toward the fruitier style of Highland whiskey. 

  • 2 oz. MurLarkey Brutality Octoberfest whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. lapsang souchong infused whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. amontillado sherry

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

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