Bring Irish Class (and Luck) to the Campfire

On this fine St. Patrick's Day, Associate Editor Shannon Davis explains why whiskey is the perfect backpacking drink.

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I don’t know what stocks or investment strategies you’re into, but my financial advice for today, St. Patty’s day, is to buy. Buy, baby, buy!*

This is no knee-jerk, off-the-cuff type of deal either—I have inside information. Today, the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange will be rung by Colum Egan, master distiller at the Bushmills distillery in northern Ireland. But wait…are those crickets I hear chirping? Today stands to be a fantastic day: Don’t you believe in the luck of the Irish?

I do.

This belief was heavily bolstered last week when Bushmills sent a Town Car to the BACKPACKER offices to shuttle me to a five-course dinner at the smartly swank Beatrice & Woodsley in Denver. Word was there would be a whiskey pairing with each course, and that Colum would talk about how each of the whiskeys was made and give us insights on the tasting notes for each blend. How’s that for luck?

From the Jorstad Creek oyster on the half-shell (paired with Bushmills Original, AKA “White Bush”) to the whole squab roasted in alfalfa (served with a 16 year old single malt) to the wood-grilled red deer loin with lamb’s kidney sausage, parsnip, carrots, and black currant/sage reduction (paired with 21 year old single malt), I learned a lot. First, I learned that squab is pigeon. And, despite the fact that it’s a pigeon, it’s not too bad (tastes like, yeah, chicken—tiny chicken). Second, I was reminded that food is more than fuel. Sure, I can get by on bars, bagels, and ramen, but a potato crusted diver scallop now and then (paired with Black Bush) is good for the mind and soul. Naturally, I also learned a lot about whiskey.

Here are four tips that apply to our dirt-caked, backwoods mentality:

• Whiskey is perfect for backpacking.

I already knew this, and you probably did too. But Colum confirms: “It’s a very durable drink that can travel and keep its flavors well. Just don’t keep it outside of your pack roasting in the sun all day or something like that. I had a bottle from 1882, and it tastes as lovely as any whiskey today.”

• Add a little water.

Swirl some whiskey around a glass, and you will see oils trailing down the bottom of the cup. “Add water, about ten percent of whatever amount of Bushmills you’re drinkin’. This breaks the surface tension of the oil and releases more notes to your nose.” I imagine the same logic would hold true with Wild Turkey, not that you’d want more of its unique notes up in your grill.

• Pack for the occasion.

You can pair whiskey for the occasion too, not just the food. “Bring Black Bush if you want to get people talkin’. I don’t know what it is, but it really gets a conversation goin’,” says Colum, “Bring the 10 year old as a sippin’ whiskey—It’s malty and chocolatey and pairs well with virtually any food. But for special occasions—birthdays or anniversaries—pack a 16 or 21 year old. Aging takes out harsher notes and leaves sweeter flavors like honey and almond.”

• Prepare a good toast.

Here are two you can steal from Colum (whose favorite spot to drink whiskey is Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway. At dawn.):

“There are tall ships and long ships and ships that sail the sea. But the best ships are friendships, and my they forever be.”

“To our wives and our girlfriends…. May they never meet.”

…And here’s a new one from me: “May these drinkin’ tips bring luck to your next trip, and may the stocks you bought skyrocket so high, you’ll send me a little bit.”

—Shannon Davis

*Ponzi schemes notwithstanding.

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