A Bite of the Big Apple
Last week, I had an opportunity to do some reconnaissance on the New York bar scene, which is often held up with London as the best in the world with San Francisco generally considered to be tightly nipping at their heels.
The occasion that brought me there was a special dinner and tasting of The Macallan scotch, specifically the release of a new bottling, a 55-year-old bottled in a special Lalique crystal decanter. The Macallan is universally considered to be among the finest whisky producers on earth, so you can see why they’re making such a big deal out of this. Only 420 decanters will be made available and the cost is $12,000. (What is it with these hyper-expensive bottles that cost as much as a 1967 Mustang?)
The 55 was, by the way, delicious and very interesting. It made no attempt to be “the greatest scotch in the world” but rather was something quite individual, fine and, well, old. Though it wasn’t dominated by wood as you might expect, its deep age and spice had sunk into a deep, sweet woodsyness, like a hike on a moss-covered trail amid tall firs in a cool northern forest around sundown. But ultimately, it’s a trophy for those who can afford to collect these sorts of things.
Anyway, the dinner took place at the restaurant Country, located in the Carlton Hotel. A fine place, it was quite ornate and regal in a burnished, clubby sort of way. We sat at a very, very long table, maybe 18 to a side.
The most pleasurable aspect of the evening for me, tasting wise, was the procession of Macallan scotches paired with various dishes leading up to the $12,000 finale. The menu consisted of The Macallan sherry oak 12 year old with the passed hors d’oeuvres, the Fine Oak 15 with a foie gras terrine, a 17-year-old Fine Oak with poached lobster and Fine Oak 21 with prime beef. Each scotch was offered in a different style glass in an attempt to enhance it, though there was an air of the experimental in this decision (see the photo of the glasses and the menu).
Did I have a favorite? Indeed, the white wine glass. It’s not the sexiest vessel for the whisky, but seemed to allow the scotch’s aroma its full testament—clear, clean and complex, it showed delicate notes of white flowers, honey, pear, smoke and some citrus on the finish. And which scotch was in that glass? The Macallan Fine Oak 17, my favorite of the night. It’s available at Bevmo for $99.99, not a bad price at all considering the quality of the dram.
Tomorrow: A little more about some fine New York cocktail bars and the way they compare to our own.