A slice of chorizo sausage hangs gracefully from the cocktail glass. But, it's the ingredients within that really set this drink apart. The spice of the chorizo sausage melds perfectly with the smoky kick of the malt whisky, fresh horseradish, veal jus and Clamato in one of Sabor Divino’s signature cocktails. The drink, inspired by chef Shawn Hicks and prepared by Nick Tooke, is very popular according to co-owner Christian Mena, especially with the ladies.
Jamie MacKenzie, regional manager of North America for Morrison Bowmore Distillers, isn’t surprised. He says the popular Sabor Divino cocktail is a prime example of the shift he’s seen over the past several years in the way people drink whisky. The tendency to look at whisky as strictly an old boy’s drink is out-of-date. He's seen cocktails of all kinds being mixed, including fruity blends of citrus, ginger beer and whisky.
It’s MacKenzie’s second time travelling from Scotland to attend the Edmonton Whisky Festival, which was held Wednesday night at Sutton Place Hotel. MacKenzie grew up in Scotland, where whisky, known in Gaelic as “usquebaugh” or “water of life” has been produced since the late 1400s. And as a regional manager, he oversees the operations of three distilleries — Bowmore, Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch.
Casks of whisky at Bowmore distillery.
According to MacKenzie, whisky consumers are now younger than in previous years — and there is more diversity. “Historically, whisky has been seen as a man’s domain. And it’s not the case. Today, a lot of ladies are showing an interest.” At the Whisky Festival, the percentage of men was still high, probably around 80 per cent, but, MacKenzie says, he can see the change happening slowly.
Julie Ward, a national wine and spirit representative with Saverio Schiralli Agencies Limited agrees and is planning on organizing an event in Edmonton dedicated to women who are interested in learning more about the beverage. Through her work, she's had a chance to travel to Scotland to experience whisky production first-hand and she's passionate about sharing her knowledge.
In August, she went to the tiny island of Islay, which is home to 3,000 people and eight distilleries — Bowmore being the oldest. One of the first things she noticed was the huge amount of peat moss; even the road leading to Bowmore distillery was built on the peat, making for a "cushiony" ride, according to Ward.
The island of Islay is home to 3,000 people and eight distilleries — Bowmore being the oldest.
Islay's abundance of peat could be one of the reasons the small island is home to so many distilleries; after all, peat moss is often used in traditional Scottish whisky production. Ward had a chance to shovel loads of peat for burning underneath malted barley to stop its germination, a process that's been used for hundreds of years on the island.
And while in Scotland, Ward drank a white Bowmore, the Ferrari of whiskies, a single malt scotch that's been around longer than she has. Cashing in at $6,000 a bottle, the liquor has spent 43 years aging in bourbon casks.
Ward says the fruity notes of the Bowmore were unbelievable. And while the complex flavours gave her a thrill, she thoroughly enjoys whisky of all kinds and is excited that now more people are starting to see the appeal.
"Sometimes people seem a bit intimidated by talking about whiskies. It's not about showing off your knowledge, it's about enjoying the taste," says MacKenzie.