Craft is King
The mixology movement was in full force at the DISCUS event. Brands not known for being sippers were positioning themselves as craft-cocktail ingredients. This included Jägermeister.
I admittedly had to be talked into trying the Jägermeister cocktail, the German Tailored Mai Tai, by Jägermeister Brand Meister Willy Shine. And I stood corrected. The drink was smooth, light, herbal and well balanced. It made good use of the digestif.
“There’s a big push towards using digestifs in cocktails,” Shine explained. “Mixologists are getting away from anything overly sweet and looking to make things more balanced. And what better base for this than a digestif?”
He added that his cocktail was also a nod to the Tiki theme staying strong in 2016.
Extreme or Entry Level
As adventurous drinkers work their way through the whisky category, brands are launching different takes on favorite expressions.
Johnnie Walker Select Casks Rye Cask Finish ages in rye barrels. I found the transition from smooth scotch to spicy rye a bit bumpy. But I believed my pourer, Ryan Ross of Diageo, that the Rye Cask Finish makes for an interesting Old Fashioned.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2015 went in a different direction. Rather than reinvent, Laphroaig distillers returned to a 200-year-old recipe. Cairdeas 2015 had classic scotch flavors that put you in the mindset of sitting and sipping in the Scottish countryside.
Neither of those bottles is recommended for scotch first-timers. But drinkers have to start somewhere. DISCUS included several noteworthy entry-level whiskeys.
The Diageo table had the Oban 14 Year Old. Located on the western Scottish coast, between Islay and Highland, Oban Distillery with its 14 Year Old produces a whisky literally and figuratively in the middle of the two predominant scotch styles. Smoky and sweet, this is an ideal place to start with scotch.
As is the Laphroaig Select. Not to be confused with “select barrel” bottles — which are often super-premium, powerfully flavorful — the Select is a restrained Islay scotch. It’s meant for the first-time sipper, who from there can venture into spirits more complex.
Kyle Swartz is associate editor of Beverage Dynamics Magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org