Whisky... it's not just for breakfast

Whisky... it's not just for breakfast

In the matter of marketing, Michael Jackson proposes that Scotland take a lesson from Florida

Musings with Michael Jackson | 13 Jun 1999 | Issue 4 | By Michael Jackson

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When Florida's orange-growers felt that their juice was not selling sufficiently well, they launched an advertising campaign pointing out that ‘It's not just for breakfast’. American students responded with tee-shirts illustrated with a glass of beer and bearing the same slogan. Maybe we should do the same for whisky.It was after a night of excess as a 19-year-old in Edinburgh that I first sampled whisky at breakfast time. I had not been to bed, but I still think it counted as breakfast, since I vaguely recall scrambling some eggs for my drinking buddies. Drinking whisky with breakfast is one thing. Eating it is another. That happened on Islay. I had risen at five to climb a mountain (well, a very large hill). In my early 40s, I could still do that. As a matter of fact, I still can. The point of the climb was to photograph the sun rising behind the pagodas of Port Ellen. When I returned to my hotel, I was ready for a mountainous breakfast. The hotelier offered me eggs, bacon, black and white puddings and haggis. He inquired whether I would like anything with it. I knew he did not mean HP Sauce. He produced a bottle of a local malt and generously moistened the haggis. The peaty, seaweedy, flavours of the whisky aroused my appetite even farther, and cut scythingly into the fattiness of the meat. I spent the rest of the morning trying to walk off that feast, though I avoided any more mountains.A dish has to be robust to withstand Scotland's wine-of-the-country, whether as an accompaniment, a condiment or even an ingredient, but I have enjoyed some great successes in marrying the two. One of the first, in the early 1990s, was a formal dinner in a spectacular location, amid the sphinxes in the archaeological museum of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. It is at this university that anthropologist Professor Solomon Katz developed a theory that seems to suggest that civilisation began with drink. Katz argues that, when humans first gathered in organised societies, they did so in order to grow grain for alcohol. Inspired by this, it was decided to hold a series of dinners featuring the two grain-based drinks: beer and whisky.I was invited to collaborate on the menus. For the first whisky dinner we tried something classically simple. Our starter was smoked salmon marinated in salty Oban and garnished with seaweed. The accompanying whisky was the lightly piney Isle of Jura, served in a small sherry copita. There was also plenty of bottled water. Some guests chased down their whiskies with water, others splashed a drop or two into the copita. The main course was venison in a sauce made from a reduction of stock, the fruity Blair Athol and Perthshire raspberries. This was served with the spicy Royal Lochnagar.The dessert was a butterscotch flan, flavoured with honeyish Balvenie and served with sweetish, nutty, Macallan 18-year-old. The powerful flavours of the whiskies did not dominate the dishes. Nor did the guests drink so liberally as to fall face-down into the flan. There have been many such meals since, about which more another day. Right now, I am thinking about August, pondering my menu for the Glorious 12th. From a geographical viewpoint, Blair Athol or Royal Lochnagar again seem appropriate. Gastronomically, a marmaladey Dalmore or mustardy Clynelish? n
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