A number of my posts have featured drinking ….. with friends, our escapades, and our journey on the whisky path. There always seems to be another bottle as yet untasted and poking at our curiosity. And just when we are bored with what we own or have tasted, someone purchases an unexpected treasure for us all to taste and share. Our personal reach with other like minded whisky fans moves us along the path with nooks and crannies filled with, to blatantly quote my book, “tastings, tales and temptations.” The gift of whisky pleasure surrounded by friends. How lucky we are.
The outgrowth of one such trail has led to a one-of-a-kind whisky tasting experience open to all within traveling distance to Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Olde Mouldy, a weekly pop-up bar, is the brainchild of my drinking buddy Nate. I have asked him to write a piece highlighting his journey for my blog this week.
Hello, dear reader, my name is Nate. Like many people, I expect, my friendship with Linda and the nascence of my whisky journey coincided quite closely. Imagine that. I’ve brainstormed a great long list of possible topics for a post on which to write for this blog, but ultimately decided that you, dear reader, are a mystery to me. I have no idea what you want, what you would find useful, where you are in your own whisky journey. So, in the grand spirit of Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations, I thought I’d share a bit about my own journey, in the hopes that you might parse some helpful tidbits for yours.
My interest in whisky didn’t supersede my interest in other spirits until I met a very pretty girl who was a bourbon devotee when I was twenty years old. How surprising, Nate. Finding her adherence to brown spirits incredibly charming, I set about googling “what’s a good bourbon” hoping I might impress her. Oy. Anyway, these were the days when a typical bourbon shelf in a liquor store in New England only had up to a dozen different options and it would still be a couple years until I was ready to the plonk down the $90 for that bottle of Pappy van Winkle 15 year old I’d been eyeing on the shelf. Ho ho ho, heady times. So that’s when I started looking up whisky reviews online, combing through the archives of Drink Hacker, discovering the Whisky Advocate Blog, and turning to Yelp to find out which liquor stores in Boston had the most serious bourbon selection. That was eight years ago and I while the list of blogs I follow obsessively has changed, I still read a bunch of ‘em every single day.
The store to which I was pointed by Yelp was one named Federal Wines and Spirits. At the time, I didn’t have much of a preference for bourbon or Scotch or any other type of whisky, but had done a bit of research on bourbon as the Scotch world seemed impenetrably huge to me. On my first visit there was a family of four standing at the counter, telling the store’s whisky expert a tale of their grandmother who emigrated from (or had some other connection to, I forget exactly) the Orkney isles and had a special connection to the Scapa distillery there. Whisky expert Joe was out of Scapa, but asked the family if they were interested in tasting a splash from neighboring distillery Highland Park. They accepted and Joe, having never seen me before but with a bottle of single-cask Highland Park in hand, looked over at me, me hanging back waiting patiently for the family to finish, and asked: You drinkin’?
I was! (It’s maybe worth mentioning that I’d turned 21 by this point). And from the moment that whisky touched my lips I knew: screw bourbon, Scotch is for real. One year later, I met Linda at a Scotch tasting in the basement of that very store; seven months after that, I got a job working for Joe, walking deliveries around the Financial District of Boston.
Having a mentor who is that knowledgeable, who has a collection so vast, and who is so immeasurably generous, makes for an education more thorough and expedient than one could ever hope for. Working at the finest Scotch shop in the city (a liquor store which was awarded the honor of best whisky bar in Boston by Whisky Magazine) also introduces one to a number of similarly knowledgeable, generous collectors, who wind up being great friends as well (Linda very much among them).
So what is one to do, then, with the knowledge one has amassed? How is one to give back to the community which has been so generous? My answer was to approach a couple friends in the restaurant industry and strike a deal. One evening a week, I take over a private dining-room above a restaurant and turn it into a high-end whisk(e)y bar. Now, I don’t, myself, go to whisky bars much, because quite frankly when you stock your apartment with the sort of Scotch that I do, ain’t no bar in a small city can hope to compete. But to start your own — with a tightly curated but constantly rotating selection of the very best bottles you can amass — that’s pretty cool. And so it is that I’ve begun the next step in my journey, acting as educator, curator, and bartender, with the help of my girlfriend, Tania, who’s been with me for most of this journey and who has been and continues to be essential to the opening and operation of this little tryst we call The Olde Mouldy.