The Wall Street Journal ran a story recently that was making its way around the internet regarding the novel idea of mixing whisky and tea. Author Will Lyons expresses his early skepticism, as he learned of the popularity of green tea and whisky in China through Paul Benjamin of Benjamin & Blum. Benjamin led him through a tasting session, demonstrating how the marriage of the two beverages was synergistic, softening some edges, while heightening aromatics.
(In case you are curious about the spelling of whiskey versus whisky, it seems that “whiskey” is preferred by American and Irish producers, while “whisky” is used by those producing the spirit in Canada, Scotland and Japan.)
Benjamin is not the only one in the tea world trying to spread the word of whisky. At WTE 2015, Kevin Gascoyne of Montreal’s Camellia Sinensis taught a class, “The Leaf and the Grain” which focused on pairing Scotch and tea. His favorite pairing is a First Flush Darjeeling with Talisker 10, according to Drew Kaplan in the blog Matters of Interest. He recommends a “sandwich method” of tasting. The taster sips the tea first. Then he should hold a sip of Scotch in his mouth and then take in more tea. He warns that tasting the Scotch first can numb the palate and flavor can be lost.
“Two drinks, one from leaf and one from grain, both boast a vast variety of flavour profiles that reflect the relationship between their artisanal process and environmental variables. Parallel worlds of terroir and technique,” explains Gascoyne. “In comparative tasting bringing these two worlds together creates a completely new arena. Tea’s heat and subtle delivery creates a smoother release of the whisky’s flavour points; Scotch showcases the quiet force and depth of the tea’s complexity. As the two profiles blend we experience unexpected fusions and contrasts, harmonic flavour bridges and aromatic synergies that enhance our understanding of the fascinating details of each drink.”