In vino veritas, part XVII: The wines of Scotland

… Also known as Scotch!

Now that we are well into the holiday season, instead of talking about wine, I deemed it fitting to discuss this popular gift-giving elixir. Seeing as how scotch is in vogue — along with other whiskey varieties like rye and bourbon — knowing how to stock your bar appropriately can lead to greatly bolstered sales. Here are a few considerations to mull over after you pop the top on any brown liquor holiday presents you receive.

1. Typical and atypical

Just as how every wine list should have at least a few bottles of familiar grapes like merlot and chardonnay, your whiskey menu should likewise contain several commonplace brands so neophytes aren’t intimidated. Once you have this down pat, branch away from Johnny Walker and Glenfiddich by stocking some of the more niche and obscure brands to appease genuine scotch aficionados.

2. Full frontal

When done right, an array of well-lit whiskey bottles along a multi-level shelving unit will make for a very grand display. You want your scotches out in the open to impress all, generate curiosity and visually entice purchases.

3. Mixology

It’s all too easy to pigeonhole scotch as a standalone or ice-only affair. Recalling two of my favorites — a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned — whiskey blending would seem to be a task for bourbon or rye. Now, however, creative bartenders all over the world have debunked these stereotypes, using scotch as a main or ancillary ingredient for some rather tasty cocktails.

4. The right atmosphere

Scotch drinking is a classy affair, so make sure everything about your ambiance helps set the mood. Think wood furnishings, fireplaces, plush leather seats, felt-top divans and a suitable music playlist.

5. Pairings

Give people a scotch nudge by printing whiskey pairings on the menu right beside each wine recommendation. This will subliminally compel patrons to consider scotch as a meal lubricant rather than getting your servers to do all the heavy lifting. You might even put a scotch tasting on the menu aligned with a party-sized sample plate of appetizers.

6. Scotch tasting

Instead of relegating this to the bottom line of text on your dinner menu, why not host an event dedicated entirely to this beverage? The main objective of such an event would go far beyond a simple tasting, though; it is direct advertising for your bar and your restaurant (if you have food crafted from your in-house menu). Furthermore, you could merge this with a manager’s reception, allowing guests to develop a face-to-face connection with your hotel executive team and greatly enhance rapport.

7. Tell a story

Not all scotch distilleries are built along the same river valley in the upper reaches of Scotland. For starters, is the scotch blended or single malt? Next, consider that there are five producing regions: Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay — each with its own techniques, variations and distinct geography. Moreover, each distillery has its own vibrant history. These are all factors that contribute to the smooth, salty, smoky, peaty taste of the liquor and definitely are worth conveying to your patrons.