Here at Short Order, we're big fans of booze, and we're even bigger fans of free, so we were naturally enticed to attend House of Walker, whiskey tastings being offered by Johnnie Walker through Saturday. At last night's tasting at Ice Palace Film Studios, we learned, among other things, that there is someone in this world whose actual job title is Master of Whiskey.
We discovered we've been grinding away all these years at respectable jobs when in actuality we could have used our sizable drinking experience (part of a well-rounded college education) to score a gig talking about whiskey to a crowd of half-tipsy revelers who offer fascinating tasting notes (Stephen Wilson, Master of Whiskey: "What does this whiskey taste like?" Person in the crowd: "Pineapple!" Other person in the crowd: "Whiskey!")
We also learned that we knew absolutely nothing about whiskey. Here we thought we were cool because we constantly scoffed at the idea of ordering a cosmopolitan or anything generally attached to the label "girly," opting instead for drinks that reminded us of crotchety old men reading books and smoking out of pipes pretentiously, i.e.: whiskey on the rocks.
But it turns out we've been butchering the art of drinking and probably making Johnnie himself turn in his grave every time we drown the wrong kind in ginger ale. Sitting on long couches before low tables that featured samples from Johnnie Walker's portfolio alongside mixers, ice, and water, we were informed about the proper way to consume each type of blend. Wilson explained, for example, that red label is made with spicy, smoky malts and works best as a cocktail base. We were also given droppers so that we could taste a whiskey before and after the addition of a few drops of water. It really does change the nose and character completely.
The crowning moment of the night, and the one everyone around us seemed most excited about, was a sampling of the blue label, an individually numbered line that usually retails for $220 and up. It was smooth with a soft and mellow body (hints of sherry, honey, and vanilla). But to be honest, we preferred the everyman's black label -- $34 -- that was dry and smoky.
The night featured a fair amount of marketing via videos, calls to Twitter and Facebook, etc. (as is expected at these types of events) but it was balanced by a genuinely informative but laidback discussion, which made it feel worthwhile beyond the free drinks. Okay, maybe it was more like 85 percent free drinks, 15 percent interesting discussion as the motivating factors. Still, though, it was fun.
Before the tasting, there was a cocktail reception that included appetizers such as croquettes, pastries, and cheese. Some advice: if you attend House of Walker: Get there right on time, because the reception lasts only about 20 minutes before you're seated.
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Oh, and we asked the Master of Whiskey which label he prefers and he said, without hesitation: "black label." Of course, we got him to also admit beer is pretty awesome. "It's kind of a like a watered down whiskey," he said. Again, we concurred. Maybe we really should consider a career change...
There are five more House of Walker tastings Friday through Saturday at Ice Palace Studios (59 NW 14th St., Miami). Invitations to make a reservation are sent via "The Striding Man Society" at johnniewalker.com. Complimentary valet parking is offered.