Drinking on the job

I recently enjoyed one of the perks of free-lance writing, a media tasting. This is not to be confused with a media lunch, a media dinner or even a media trip. But actually all of these are related because they involve journalists, bloggers and other members of the media, and their hosts, who are likely representatives of brands that they hope the media guests will publicize.

At a warehouse in Southeast Portland that houses ADX, a wood- and metal-working studio that operates like a gym (members only), I met with a drinks magazine editor and a bunch of bloggers and spirits writers to sample Highland Park single malt scotch. The brand ambassador, Martin Daraz, had come all the way from Glasgow to share the attributes of this fine elixir.

Martin Daraz

Martin Daraz

I actually recognized his accent immediately and asked, “Are you a Glaswegian?” What I didn’t tell him is that most Portlanders, or anybody who watches The Simpsons, can easily recognize a Glaswegian accent, thanks to the barely intelligible cartoon character, Groundskeeper Willie. (Note: Martin spoke quite clearly  and was not at all unintelligible.)

First of all, we learned why we were in a woodworking studio. Although I had visions of trying out all the saws after the scotch tasting, we were served only water before our woodworking project, which simply entailed sanding wooden coasters bearing the brand logo, and then oiling them with mineral oil. Then we got to take home our coasters.

Once we finished that it was time for the tasting. We sampled the 12-year-old, the 15-year-old and the 18-year-old. Then, as a special treat, Martin brought out the 25-year-old for a final tasting.

I liked them all and frankly, I was already partial to single malt scotches that bear a more peaty, smoky taste. Highland Park is one of only two distilleries in the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland. The Arcadian peat found there is distinctive for the slightly sweet, smoky taste it imparts. Although the taste grew more refined with the older scotches, all were very smooth and caramely, with only a slight burn on the tongue. To accompany the tastes of Highland Park, we snacked on smoked almonds and pieces of chocolate from Vosges Chocolate of Chicago. A perfect pairing!

And, in the “I Love My Job” Department, a parting gift from Martin was a bottle of 15-year-old Highland Park single malt scotch. Fortunately for us, we all had wooden coasters to perch a wee dram upon.

Cheers! Or as they say in Scotland, Slainte!



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