Palate Primer—Whisk and Whisky

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, April 2019

Written by Gail G. Collins

Whiskey has always been in style, but it’s never been more popular than it is today. Alongside those, who’ve maintained a long term relationship with whiskey, millennials have been cultivating one for more than a decade. Craft cocktails have bolstered the trend. Over the past five years, the American Whiskey & Bourbon Distilleries industry reported 6.3% growth with revenue of $4B in 2018.  With so much grand sipping going on, here is quick primer on appreciating a tumbler sparkling with what in Gaelic translates as “water of life.”

First, the spelling—whisky or whiskey? The Irish and all, but two American distilleries, call it whiskey, while in Japan, Canada and elsewhere around the world, it is whisky. In your glass, it’s all the same. The best glassware for nosing and warming whiskey, if it is your preference, is tulip-styled. This concentrates the bouquet at the top of the glass, which unfolds in layers over an indulgent half hour. Adding ice or water is either frowned upon or praised for masking aromas or allowing them to blossom.

Now, examine the dram. A lighter color comes from American oak casks, and a darker hue is imparted via port or sherry casks. Swirl the glass. Legs on the side reveal higher alcohol and a full-bodied spirit, and thinner legs indicate lighter flavor. Cradle the glass to warm it and sniff again. Develop a relationship that can last a lifetime.

Whisk and Whisky, Flagstaff’s latest entry to the bourbon boom in August, is keen to sweep away any intimidation. “We offer whiskey flights to help guests determine their palate,” said Ryan Field of Plated Projects LLC. “From there, you can expand and build on your preferences.”

For example, the Kentucky Derby tour contains:  Buffalo Trace, Old Forrester, Woodford and Old Weller. Need further introductions? Rye Not? explores rye whiskey, Traditions travels the Scottish countryside (as I did garnering my initial education) and don’t forget Irish You Did! Better yet, choose a Passport and any four of 11 labels from around the world.

Need some entertainment? Order an ice ball for $3 ($1 goes to charity) and watch a frosty cube melt into a clear sphere to plop into your glass. Behind the C-shaped granite bar with dropped, tongue-in-groove ceiling, the whiskey is arranged by region with 200 evolving choices. Importantly, the cocktail assortment of glassware is ideal for the task at hand, adding a classy dimension.

Whisky Wednesday is the chance to indulge your heart’s desires with half-off pricing on one-ounce pours. “It’s an educational intro with a low investment,” said Brian Terpay. Or dip your toe with a blended whiskey cocktail. There are two on draft, a New Fashioned and a Manhattan.

As with other Plated Projects, partners Brian Terpay, Tim Pacatte and brothers Jared and Ryan Field built a comfortable place, where they might bring friends or family to eat, drink and enjoy. The airy, industrial, full bar and restaurant boasts glass walls with a Peaks view, yet invites. “This is a smaller spot than our other five projects in Flagstaff,” said Field, “with 85 seats inside and 45 outside.” Their location at Aspen Place at the Sawmill encourages mingling with other tenants via music and block parties in mild weather.

Chef Justin Martinez keeps the menu approachable with quality ingredients. “We take comfort food and replicate it in-house,” he said. “It’s the nostalgia of how food should taste.” With scratch sauces, homemade pickles, hand-cut fries and potatoes mashed to order, Martinez explained, “That is what separates us from others.” Unique offerings, like the buffaflower—crisped cauliflower with spicy buffalo sauce and gremolata—pique trendy taste buds, too.

Channel pub grub with BBQ poutine. Super crisp, skin-on fries are heaped with shredded pork, Tillamook cheddar and whiskey-laced sauce. Street tacos are equally popular. The el diablo sandwich begins as a breast brining in buttermilk before it’s fried. Airy batter offsets the kickstart heat of Fresno pepper coleslaw plus a pickle for a moist mouthful.

The Patagonia salmon is pretty and perfectly portioned. Chef said, “I know when it was caught, shipped and delivered.” A flaky, rosy wedge swims in a pool of blitzed butternut squash with roasted corn and caramelized onion relish, capped with a seasoned crust and verde drizzle. The sweet potato pie is generously deep dish and dense, topped with sweet cream and infused bourbon syrup, of course. The angel’s share at Whisk and Whisky goes to the guests.

“It’s become a place for young professionals to gather and connect, a girls night out or for couples,” said Terpay. “I love our guests—they are wonderful company.” NAMLM