I love whisky gatherings. That’s what brought me back to New York last week for the annual Whisky Jewbilee NYC, organized by the Jewish Whisky Co. The Jewbilee is a glatt-kosher catered, premium-whisky event. It is catered by Ari White, the executive chef of Gemstone Caterers and the pit boss of the Wandering Que Texas-style, glatt-kosher barbecue.
Beyond the great food, attendees got to taste more than 250 whiskies and distilled spirits from Scotland, America, Canada, England, Japan, Ireland, India, Australia and Taiwan. While not every attendee in the 450-person crowd was Jewish, most were.
The Connecticut-based Jewish Whisky Co. is an independent bottler of single-cask whiskies under its Single Cask Nation, or SCN, label. I have never had a bad SCN whisky, and they often get access to single casks from distilleries that many of the larger independent bottlers don’t get, and even get permission to include the name of those distilleries on their label.
The reasoning behind the special access is straightforward. First, the Jewish Whisky Co. guys are decent guys who are — I’m routinely told by industry folks — a pleasure to partner with. Second, the Jewish niche is one that whisky producers are eager to reach. For its part, the Jewish Whisky Company strives to ensure that only exceptional whiskies are selected and bottled under the SCN label. So SCN is quite rightly perceived as a prestige label. It is a win-win for all concerned.
In its early days, SCN was a national membership-based group, patterned after the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. One paid to join the SCN to have the privilege of purchasing SCN-labeled single cask whiskies. These days membership is free and Single Cask Nation has a line of whiskies that are available in retail shops, not just through its website. SCN is still mostly a virtual community of whisky lovers, though members in Chicago and Seattle, as well as New York, also have a Jewbilee in their town.
In New York last week there also seemed to be a healthy minority of folks from out of town, too. I came across a few whisky lovers from Northern Virginia among the Catoctin Creeks, Laphroaigs and Yoichis.
Here’s my favorite whisky from the Jewbilee:
Balblair, Vintage 2005, Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky: One of the few distilleries to bottle by vintage rather than age, this roughly 12-year-old whisky was matured exclusively in an ex-bourbon cask and is wonderfully aromatic with oaky vanilla, sweet and rich chocolate-like malted barley, a touch of tart baking apples and hints of smoke.
The oily, weighty palate gives way to citrus — first blossoms, then peel, and then fruit, including zesty blood oranges and Meyer lemons. The toffee and charred oak spice are not far behind, with lots of vanilla to hold it all together. The finish is dry, spicy, fresh and floral. It’s at its best and fullest served neat. L’chaim!
Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].