Monday, January 27, 2014

Caputo's Intro to Scotch Class

My wife surprised me with an evening at Caputo's Market and Deli for their inagural 15th and 15th introduction to scotch whisky class, and it was a great time.  The class is taught by Evan Ross, who has actually helped me out in the downtown Caputo's cheese cave more than once and is a master at pairings.  The format is to walk through a general overview of whisky, what makes Scotch unique and how to evaluate a dram.  Then, we tasted four whiskies - three scotches and a bourbon.

The thing that comes out most clearly in Evan's presentation of whisky is his passion for the subject.  Although he hasn't been in the game too long, I got a strong sense that he would be a lot of fun to dissect my favorite whiskies alongside.  I also appreciated the east coast demeanor that I don't get to experience too often in my new home of Salt Lake City.

We started out the tasting portion of the class with Basil Hayden's Bourbon.  I actually don't like this bourbon very much, but, as an extremely light and floral bourbon, it provides a nice segue into scotch if you're used to the harsher American whiskies.  The genius piece of this taste was the pairing to Frody Volgger's house made pastrami - which is the best deli meat I've ever tasted.  Do yourself a favor and stop by either location for a pound next time you feel like a sandwich.

Moving on, the first scotch on the list was a Bowmore Legend.  This one falls firmly into the bargain dram section of my cabinet, but it makes an excellent daily driver if you like a peated Islay malt and you're on a budget.  Probably the biggest critique I would offer of this class is evident in the above shot - it is near impossible for beginners to properly nose and experience whiskies out of an Ikea tumbler.  I would recommend that Caputo's invest in a proper set of Glencairn glasses, which would aid beginners in their journey much more than one might expect.  The Bowmore was paired with Caputo's own Taleggio and the match worked quite well.

The next whisky on the list was one of Evan's (and my) favorites.  If I had to pick one Scotch to drink for the next year, it would be Talisker's 10 year expression (assuming I was paying for my own supply).  To me, this dram has the perfect amount of peat and salinity to match the sweet notes, black pepper and lightly sherried finish.  Evan paired it with a blue Spanish cheese (Valderon) and the result was a totally enjoyable fistfight between two huge flavors.

We finished the night with the 12 year old expression from The Macallan.  The Macallan is the Rolls Royce of single malts, according to whisky godfather Michael Jackson, and the 12 year is perhaps the most representative expression of their malt.  Evan again worked some magic in pairing this sherry bomb with Fiore Sardo and a single origin honey.  Interestingly, I went home with a block of the Fiore Sardo and the miracle pairing really fell apart without the honey - which made me appreciate the nuance in Evan's pairings even more.

Overall I've had a few amazing experiences with Caputo's education classes and look forward to doing more.  Because there is not a whisky scene AT ALL in Salt Lake, I hope that this particular series introduces more people to the joys of whisky.  If that happens, I would also like to see some more advanced education opportunities - perhaps nudging participants to be a bit more participatory in sharing their tasting notes and opinions throughout the class.  As I said before, I would love to sit around and talk whisky with Evan as his passion for the subject is evident.  I would also love to see Caputo's bring in more experts who can take non-novices a bit deeper into discussion.

The verdict?  The whisky series at Caputo's is an excellent opportunity for beginners to familiarize with the various expressions of whiskey.  It is not aimed primarily at those who spend their evenings reading whiskey blogs and writing tasting notes, but that does not mean a more seasoned sipper would not have a perfectly enjoyable evening at one of these events.

Caputo's Market and Deli on 15th and 15th on Urbanspoon


  1. Hey Mark, been loving the reviews recently. Re the above, thought you might be interested in this:

    1. Thanks! Have you been to any of these? $65 is pricey but Jim certainly seems like a qualified teacher.