An evening of hooch

October 19, 2002
San Francisco Gift Center

What could be more fun that walking into an event center, being handed a wine glass and directed toward 3 floors full of some of the best spirits around? Not much. The Spirits of Scotland event hosted by Angel’s Share was a gathering of the top names in alcohol: Glen Morangie, Balvanie, Broadbent, and local Anchor Distilling to name a few. And to add to the wonderfulness of the event, the Royal Stewart Tartan Pipes and Drums began the event and then played another set 1/2 way through the evening.

The first stop was the food floor. I bee-lined for the AsiaSFtable. Apparently, I’ve never been, the restaurant is quite the hip party place. Nevertheless, the dish they were serving here was simple and delicious–no strobe lights or pleather at this table. Soba noodles with asparagus, portabellos, sesame, green onions and just a light dash of white truffle oil; not enough oil to overwhelm the other flavors but just enough to give it the wonderful smell of truffles and a slight aftertaste of earthy-goodness.

The buffet hosted by the Diablo Valley College Hotel and Restaurant Management Program was a bit disappointing. It was very meat and cream-heavy and the one shining dish, cured salmon, was either cured with smoked alcohol or, most likely, it was actually smoked salmon which was a disappointment (and a shock to the taste buds to say the least!). In addition to the prepared food on the 2nd floor, there was a cooking demonstration in the “Whiskey Kitchen” on the first floor. Top chefs from around San Francisco were showing off and sharing their whiskey cooking techniques and recipes. Pictured to the right is the start of a barbecued chicken sauce.

The Spirits Forums were really what I was interested in at this event. I get to hear the “secrets” of some of the trade…Why smoke the wood? George Washington made Rye Whiskey? And then get samples of the finished and unfinished product of the distillery to boot.

The first session I went to was a presentation by Fritz Maytag from Anchor Distilling or Old Potrero whiskey. Anchor Beer is one of the best brews coming out of the bay area. A few years ago we picked up this bottle of gin made by these beer people: Junipero Gin…wow! It’s not just gin it’s the whole juniper bush in a bottle. Next we find this bottle of cask strength whiskey. It’s intense. Anchor hid their distillery from the public while they were trying to perfect what they were really going for. They didn’t want their competition to catch on (Brewery or Distillery competition). They make two whiskeys: the 18th century whiskey is made in toasted barrels and the 19th century whiskey is made in charred barrels, both made using a Pot Still (pictured on the left). Given that I’m not a big whiskey drinker, the cask-strength spirit, even watered down, is too much for me but I tried it. The toasted-barrel, 18th century whiskey was actually tasty. It had a burnt lemon (really burnt) flavor that I could appreciate…in small quantities :). I’m still partial to their gin and drank plenty of it that night!

The next session was hosted by Bartholomew Broadbent of Broadbent Selections. We arrived late, I tried to subtly join the group but the only seats were in the very front, I almost spilled a woman’s port and two men had to move out of their seats in order for me to get to my seat…so much for being subtle. But the embarrassment was worth it. There were 5 ports being poured: Quinta do Crasto, Broadbent 1994 Vintage Port, Ferreira Vintage, Ferreira 20yr Tawny, and Broadbent Madeira. The Quinta do Crasto has potential but is much to young to be drunk now. It was fully of vanilla and should develop into a beautiful port in a few years. Broadbent Vintage was fruits (cherries and vanilla also) but I’m partial to the caramel ports. The Ferreira Vintage was quite tasty. It’s a true, 9th generation port and full of cinnamon and spice. I’ll come back to the 20 year. The 1995 Broadbent Madeira was nice, very grapy, white grape juice actually, and would be great with a fruit dessert. But, oh, the 20 year Tawny…oh my…It was full of caramel and honey and creamy yummy goodness. It’s a blend of 15-40 year old wines and a lovely caramel color to match it’s rich candy flavor. I was in love. The price isn’t bad for a good 20 year port either, $59.99 from Beverages & more.

All in all, we had a great time, met some great people and drank some phenomenal hooch!