• Stephanie Hinds

This Week in Toronto: Wild About Whisky

Basil Hayden's Kentucky Bourbon Whisky

Whisky events are taking place all over the world. The St. Andrew’s Society and McGill university are organizing their third annual Whisky Fete in Montreal and talks of specialized whisky bars are popping up in different demographics. Here in Toronto, we are celebrating the beverage too. Toronto has taken part in the newest whisky trend; pairing two of some people’s favourite things-whisky and food.

Eccles cakes (paired with Aaran Malt)

Gone are the days that whisky was just another reason to party. The alcoholic beverage has been making serious headway in becoming one of the most profitable spirits in the market. But the beverage is expected to reach its peak within the next few years. With the whisky industry making a whopping $3 billion in 2014, it is the spirit to beat.

Unlike wines and spirits typically known to pair well with food, whisky has yet to make itself known as a pairing beverage. Executive Chef at The Forth restaurant at 629 Danforth Ave. teamed up with beverage expert Emily Pearce to change that.

Oysters on the half shell (paired with Laphroaig)

The World of Whisky Lounge took place on Thursday and featured craft whiskies from North American Basil Hayden Bourbon and Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee whisky, Scottish Aaran Malt and Laphroaig Scotch and Canadian Lot No. 40 Rye. The food menu featured exotic and vibrant dishes of eccles cakes, tuna tartare, and grilled lamb to match each whisky set up at the sampling stations.

India's Amrut Single Malt Whisky

The event also featured a Japanese whisky, Nikka Taketsuru. The popularity of Japanese whisky has been growing tremendously. It’s even a topic of discussion and debate in the Wall Street Journal, about whether it’s better than scotch. And according to Chef Albertsen, it just might be.

“It’s my favourite,” he said of the Asian whisky.

Zach Albertsen, Executive Chef at The Forth

The event, an environment welcoming to experts and newbies alike, set out to change the attitude about whisky.

“It’s really approachable because there’s such a variety of categories. You can go from something that’s subtle and sweet to something that’s really strong, smoky, smooth, a bourbon or whisky,” Albertsen explained.

At the event was Mark Bylok, author of Amazon’s best-selling Whisky Cabinet. “I think it’s kind of the next natural step. People love their wine, they love their beer, they love their coffee. Whisky has a lot of that character and a lot of that flavor but it just takes a little while to appreciate,” he said about why whisky is on the rise.

Mark Bylok's "The Whisky Cabinet"

But that’s just part of the reason the beverage is becoming more appealing. The drink, typically associated with being a man’s drink is being consumed by more and more women.

Jamie Johnson, who runs whisky events strictly for women in Caledonia, says whisky culture is changing. “It’s a powerful drink. It’s always been associated with masculinity.”

Women of whisky events are helping to make the process of learning whisky culture less intimidating. “Its only women, one of the brand ambassadors from Glenfiddich hosts the evening and it’s just a nice atmosphere for women to ask questions,” Johnson said. “You feel better about asking questions and a little better about ordering it. It’s a lot like when you first learn about wine.”

Johnson’s point about women and whisky illustrates a larger one than just more women at the pre-dominantly male events.

“It’s a new conversation now,” Johnson said.

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