I’m watching Mad Men (I’m a huge fan). Roger Sterling has just walked into Don Draper’s office and Don has poured him the customary drink. Now, Roger is more of a vodka man, but Don, he’s a rye man. On his office bar, there is always a bottle of Canadian Club and whoever walks into his office drinks it. It’s a man’s world in 1960’s advertising, and whisky is the drink of men. Women on the show are always drinking wine or a vodka gimlet, but Peggy, when she lands her first account is offered a celebratory glass of rye. She’s now playing with the boys, so she has to learn to drink like them too.
Every time I watch Mad Men, I feel like I should have a glass in my hand: scotch, whisky, maybe a manhattan … because, aside from being a huge fan of the show, I’m also a fan of whisky (or whiskey in the US and Ireland) in all it’s incarnations. Like many other women, I’ve embraced the world of “Big Girl Drinks” as my friend, Rachelle, calls them. Now, I’m no expert, but I do know what and like. I know that “whisky” falls into five major categories: Scotch, Rye, Bourbon, American Whiskey, and Irish Whiskey.
A lot has been said about Scotch and we all know that there are blends vs. single malts. Scotch has been the belle of the ball for many years. Now, her sisters are having their own coming out parties and we’re taking it all in … every drop. Just so you’re up on your party conversation, here’s a little 411 on Scotch’s sisters.
Let’s start in our own back yard with Canadian Rye. While rye whiskey is also made in the United States, Canadian whisky is most commonly known as “Rye”. Rye is made from, well, rye and other grains, most commonly corn, and has a smooth taste. Personally, I find rye to be one of the drier and, therefore, lighter tasting of the various whiskeys. Canadian Club and Crown Royal have long been the royalty of the Canadian Rye scene, but I’ve found a new favourite in Forty Creek Whisky from the Kittling Ridge Distillery in Grimsby, Ontario. It’s an international award winner and has a great smooth, vanilla finish. Whether you’re new to rye, or a connoisseur, this one is definitely worth a try.
South of the 49th parallel, we have American Whiskeys which, in my opinion, tend to be sweeter and fuller bodied than rye. Now there is whiskey and then there is bourbon. Let’s keep these American cousins straight. Bourbon is made of at least 51% corn and, more importantly, is only made in Kentucky. Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniels, while charming fellows, are not bourbon. My friend, Lori, introduced me to bourbon a few years back by way of a bourbon manhattan. It was love at first sip. Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve are two of my favourites, but I will let you in on a little secret. One of the best bourbon’s I’ve tasted is not bourbon at all. It’s made from at least 51% corn and made in the bourbon style, but it comes from PEI. On a recent vacation, I tasted I.C. Shore Whiskey from Prince Edward Island Distillery. I would put it up against any true bourbon. In fact, in a blind taste test, I couldn’t tell the difference b/w the I.C. Shore and Maker’s. I rest my, er … tumbler.
Now being a gal of Irish descent, I would be remiss if I didn’t toss in some fresh ice and make room in my glass for Irish Whiskey. To me, Irish Whiskey falls somewhere in the middle of the whiskey taste spectrum. It can be smooth like a scotch or rye, but can also have a bit of sweetness. Most people are familiar with Bushmills and Jameson, but as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I have a different favourite: Red Breast. Red Breast was introduced to me by yet another female friend who shares my passion for fine whiskeys. It has the smoothness of a fine scotch and an amazing vanilla-toffee finish. It can stand up to the finest of scotch and, like a true Irish lass, will charm you every sip of the way. Admittedly, it’s my current favourite whiskey. In fact, I’ve been sipping on some as I write this blog. It’s a tough job …
On the rocks, with a splash of water, or neat, whisky is a universal drink. An education in whisky can be a fun and tasty undertaking. Just find the right woman and she’ll point you in the right direction.
Photos by Noelle Jenkinson
Noelle has dabbled in Mixology from an early age. Not surprisingly for an Irish lass, this Colleen has an inherent knowledge of cocktails. She is a graduate of The Jenkinson School of Bartending, where she and her siblings studied under the watchful eye of their father Noel. By the tender age of 12, both Noelle and her twin sister Lyndsay had mastered the art of making the perfect Manhattan. Over the years Noelle has expanded her repertoire and dedicated herself to honing her skills
We would like to salute Noelle (and her liver) for the sacrifices she has made during her studies. So we raise a glass, firmly make eye contact, and say, “Happiness Darling”.
Photo by Pierre Gautreau