The seven-whiskey lunch

I must admit, it was actually an eight-whiskey lunch, if you count the Irish coffee. And then there was red wine with the food. So it may seem shocking I can remember anything about my lunch with David Quinn, Bushmills Irish Whiskey's Master Distiller (now that's a title that will get you attention at cocktail parties). I credit the lively company. The rich Irish coffee (made with Bushmills, of course) was offered with appetizers, the wine with the lunch of steak, potatoes, and a cheesy Caesar. Once those plates were cleared, we got down to the real business. If you're one of those people who thinks whiskey is whiskey, you should try tasting seven kinds in succession. The difference between the Bushmills and the "unnamed American" was profound. Was it smokier, richer, more caramel, more sherry? How was the "mouthfeel"? (I love that word.) Even Bushmills and Jameson (curiously, made by the same company) taste wildly different side by side. Next came Black Bush, a premium blended whiskey ("what everyone in the office drinks," confessed a Bushmills' PR person). At this point I needed a break. During a recent game of Trivial Pursuit, I got the question "What's the best-selling spirit in the U.S.?" and was shocked to learn the answer: rum. So I put it to the gathered alcohol experts, and the question turns out to be a bit of a trick. In fact, more vodka is sold in the U.S. than anything else, but Bacardi Rum is the best-selling brand of any alcohol (there are lots of kinds of vodka, not so many of rum). But still, who knew there were that many rum-and-coke lovers? Other interesting alcohol facts emerged. The state with the second-highest consumption of distilled spirits (measured in 750 ml. bottles per 100 adults) in 2000 was Washington, D.C. (yes, I know it's not really a state). That might make sense since it's urban and dense, but how to explain the grand-prize winner, rural New Hampshire? You'd guess that Utah brought up the rear, but on paper it's West Virginia. Obviously they're still making plenty of unaccounted-for moonshine in those hills. Washington came in somewhere in the middle, though Washingtonians do drink a higher percentage of Irish whiskey than most states. At this point I went back to the 10-, 16-, and 21-year-old single malts, but sadly wasn't able to make terribly intelligent comments. I'd order them all again though.

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