When I told the folks at Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits I was there for the Balvenie scotch tasting, they didn’t believe me. I think it was the combined fact that I was 1 – a woman and 2 – actually knew what a single malt scotch was. (I blame my father for both of those things by the way.)
“I don’t meet too many women who are into scotch,” event artist Dave Walz told me. Well guess what bud, you just did.
Before Saturday, I had never heard of Balvenie — let alone Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits. So I killed two alcohol induced birds with one stone while taking up the offer to visit for a free tasting. The event’s menu included two of the store’s top-shelf single malts: 12 year Doublewood and 15 year single barrel.
Scotch tasting is a lot like wine tasting, according to licensed Balvenie tasting distributor Christian Beyer. That’s another tidbit I added to my lexicon of new ideas for the day. If you “breathe it in” (a la Ron Burgundy in Anchorman), you don’t get the full flavor. All you get is the smell of pure, unadulterated alcohol. Kudos to you if you’re into that, but I on the other hand am not the world’s biggest fan of having 46% alcohol shoved up my nostrils — even if it is for a tasting’s sake.
How do you weaken the burning sensation without hindering the experience? By separating your lips ever so slightly. Well — that and adding a “whisker of water” to “open up the flavor.”
“It’s not like you’re trying to find the secret ingredient,” Beyer informed all tasters. “It’s whatever you think it is.” He was right.
I couldn’t pinpoint an exact flavor for the life of me, but a whisker of water did help an array of otherwise unnoticed flavors rush over my taste buds while swishing the expensive, but ever so classy, single malt atop my tongue.
Balvenie hails from the sister distillery of Scotch classic, Glenfiddich.
If there’s anything I’ve learned by living in NW DC, it’s that prices at local liquor stores are jacked up due to their proximity to American University. Granted, I’m a recent graduate and am proud to say (in the words of my glorious orientation leader back in 2005), “Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle,” but I don’t want to pay an exorbitant “tax” on my favorite bottles just because a horde of barely legal frat boys with obvious fake ID’s happen to swindle store owners into allowing them to shop at their establishment.
From now on, I’m shopping at Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits. The location is not exactly ideal (it’s a 15-20 minute walk from the Friendship Heights metro depending on how fast you walk), but the prices and ambiance make it worth the trip. The store is at 5544 Connecticut Ave, NW, just 2 blocks from that quaint American 1950’s themed diner (that I’ve always wanted to go into but never have).
For one, staff members know what they’re talking about. They don’t speak broken English. And — gasp! — are even friendly! That mixed with prices that match what this eye is used to seeing at liquor stores anywhere else in DC makes it a definite winner in my book. The only downside being cramped quarters. Any sudden movements may result in a “break it, you buy it” scenario. So watch those elbows while perusing the aisles.
What was the best part of the tasting besides free scotch? Some NW bro approached the scotch stand. When asked his drink of choice, he responded by saying mostly beer but some times bourbon.
Then Beyer followed up, “What kind of bourbon son?”
“Umm … well … Jack Daniels,” he replied.
Beyer was quick to put him in his place without bruising his ego. “Well JD is sour mash, not bourbon, but that’s alright we’ll get you started with some of this here Balvenie.”
I’m sure he felt the sweet scotchy burn all the way down to the tasting cup’s last drop.
All photos by Rachel Levitin.