Nose the Whiskey, Taste the Food

Our man attends the Ballantyne Scotch Whisky Society
By Jim Leggett
North Carolina's history with whisky reflects Bible Belt peculiarities rampant as ever, fiery self- righteous preachers condemning all drinkers to hell - paramount hypocrisy from a country founded on whiskey. Ah well, illegal Moonshine flowed then, same as now, wild as Niagara's eternal falls.

Preachers get the boot

Night time, Banner Elk, 1891 -Visiting Methodist Elder Rev. R. M. Hoyle and an associate are snoring in the bedroom of a village home where two teenage boys were accustomed to sleep. Sneaking in by moonlight the teens carried whiskey in their stomachs, and in a bottle. Assuming the sleepers were pals they yanked back the covers, whaling Elder Hoyle in the face with a pillow, yelling “Get up; we’ve got some dammed good whiskey.” Upon which the preacher cried “Persons with whiskey on their breath (are) the scum of Hell and the rottenness of damnation.”

In revenge the boys filled water guns with whiskey, ambushing the preacher at the church door - “Spraying him as thoroughly as an apple tree is sprayed for San Jose scale” wrote contemporary author/historian Shepherd M. Dugger in The War Trails of the Blue Ridge (1932)

“After we sprayed the old elder he walked down the aisle smelling so strong with whiskey that they all thought he was drunk.” Isaac Banner laughed. “When the old Elder was vampin’ and sinderin’ about Hell and destruction at Banner Elk, and how rambunctious he was, he leaned over and said to Jim Whitehead; “Drunk as Hell, ain’t he?”

At this the Methodists fled yon sinful village Rev. Hoyle spewing ‘If God was going to burn up the world; He would use Banner Elk for kindling wood!’

I like Banner Elk - Charlotte too, which again welcomes whisky lovers.

Scotch and...?

The Ballantyne Scotch Whisky Society meets monthly in the refined Gallery Bar of Charlotte’s Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge in Charlotte, North Carolina, a member of The Luxury Collection by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and a Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond recognised hotel.

A resort-style hotel, The Ballantyne boasts a spa, salon, indoor pools, seasonal outdoor pool, tennis, fitness, championship PGA golf course, golf lessons by Dana Rader Golf School. Then there’s Four Star Dining at the Gallery Restaurant. However it was their innovative Scotch Whisky Society we’d come to savour, where bespoke drams are paired with tasty tidbits prepared by inspired chefs. The idea was conceived by F&B Assistant Manager Heather Lapper, “I moved to Charlotte from Los Angeles four years ago. The Scotch culture I had been a part of in LA did not exist here, so I decided to form a club at the Ballantyne”.

Five people, all men except for Heather, attended the initial meeting. 250 whisky aficionados grace today’s email list. I joined 25 to 30 attendees on hand to explore the nuances of Scotch whiskies matched to foods produced by Ballantyne’s chef culinary creations.
“We enjoy starting with beverage and building food with or against as a pairing. This is very challenging and fun. After all we do love to sample all Scotches.”
Ballantyne Hotel Chefs

“First we nose the spirit to determine what aromatics of food would complement or enhance the spirit. Then we taste the spirit and decide what first comes to mind that would complement or contrast as you taste the food - and the spirit - at once.”
Kelly Morrow and David Moore

Be confident in what you taste. When pairing food with spirits it is important to know what you taste with each chew, noticing all taste sensations, texture and consistency of the palate during this process.

Start by taking notes on aromatics, flavours, and tones of the spirit. Then decide what food you would like to have with which. Don’t forget to include cold preparations and desserts which also pair well with most spirits.

Chef suggestions

Glenmorangie Signet

Tropical citrus and chocolate, butterscotch
“We choose foie gras to pair with Glenmorangie because of its creamy silk smooth texture, added Scotch poached pear for assisting flavour. Lucky leaf gardens micro mustard greens - for a good bit of pepper bite and fight the butterscotch coating of the tongue, for a nice crisp finish.

Glenlivet 21 Year Old Archive

Burnt sugar, caramel
For the Glenlivet; “We selected pepper crusted Carpaccio stuffed with arugula greens. Added shaved Goat Lady dairy smoked goat cheese, compliments the smokiness in the spirit, for a hint of acidity to assist with the finish.

Lagavulin 16 Year Old

Medicinal, herbal, grassy
“We settled upon venison, its full flavour complimenting Lagavulin, adding baby carrot and turnips for their earthiness. Vegetables were finished with local honey to round out the final flavour.” In tribute to Southern ways, sinful bread pudding was served with a dram of Junior Johnson’s Apple Pie Moonshine.