We’ve all been there. Sitting in a restaurant after an epic meal, dreaming of the perfect 3 course meal we have just indulged in, perfectly matched with wine chosen by our extremely passionate and knowledgable sommelier.
We would love something to round off the experience and the best sommeliers have occasionally wowed me with something out of this world, whether an unusual sherry, spirit made from dates or an incredible eau de vie. Yet when I ask for a Whisky list, I’m presented with a list of single malts I can buy anywhere and at ridiculous prices and end up ordering a double espresso.
(The spelling of the Whiskies is worth another post entirely…)
These experiences got me thinking:
Why are Whisky lists overlooked?; Why has nobody questioned the fact that after we see a Whisky list we generally ask for a coffee?; Why does a place with hundreds of wines, some of which are exclusive to them, have such difficulty in compiling an interesting list of drams?
Well, these top 5 tips may help…
1. Compile a list of the must have distilleries and then source an unusual expression.
“Glenfiddich sir? Yes, we have managed to source their 125th anniversary expression, would you like to try a glass?”
You can always keep the staple expressions in the back for any customer set in their ways.
2. Learn about Whisky flavour profiles and ask the consumer what they normally drink.
“What is your favoured tipple madam?… Lagavulin? Well if you love a peaty Whisky, we stock the peatiest in the world. Wonderfully balanced Octomore from Bruichladdich on Islay…”
Knowing the basic flavour of a Whisky is just as easy as knowing your wine. It just takes a bit of practice.
3. Hand sell. Don’t ask if I’d like a coffee until you have suggested a digestif or two…
“How was your dessert? Can we interest you in a digestif? We currently have a distillery only bottle of Glenkinchie in the back or a cracking example of Springbank from a Calvados cask…”
I’m more likely to take a recommendation than peruse a long list, and an unusual recommendation will make me WANT to see the rest of the list. It may even lead to a second dram!
4. Ask the brands and distributors for info. Most will be happy to send in someone to take your staff through a crash course in malts in return for a listing or two, even if the listing involves extra leg work for them. They won’t expect huge orders, and remember a bottle of Whisky carried higher profit than a case of vodka. A focused push on the bottle from your staff will mean you can sell through it faster than a case of vodka too.
5. Despite number 4, don’t rely on their product lists. Source from websites, auctions an local shops. It may mean extra legwork, but an exclusive means you can price accordingly. I’d rather see a list of 5 Whiskies I can’t buy by the glass anywhere else than a list of 40 I can pick up in Waitrose. Plus, 5 is easier to learn than 40 and also easier to justify expanding!
So there you are. 5 simple steps which will hopefully allow the fine dining sector to jump on the Whisky boom happening at the moment as well as allow us Whisky drinking foodies to round off our evening in a more exciting way. And then we can have a coffee…
The top 5 drams I’d love to see after a Michelin Star dinner:
1. Bruichladdich Bere Barley - Ultimately traceable to a single field, 7650 bottled worldwide and a wonderful flavour.
2. Balvenie Tun 1401 - the ultimate in single malt marriage. Words annoy describe.
3. Ardbeg Blasda - think you know Ardbeg? Think again. Every part of this malt was designed to showcase a new side to this monster!
4. Springbank Rundlets and Kilderkins - small casks have brought a sweeter side to this coastal darling.
5. Octomore 5.1 - the peatiest Whisky in the Universe, yet balanced and refined. Unexpectedly awesome!
@whiskycraig is available for training and also more than happy to field any questions on the above, should you find it of interest.