- Mark Lee
- Vine and Table's beverage manager, Denis Lynch. Photo by
With an expert staff and a copious selection of spirits, Carmel's Vine and Table market has long been one of Indy's go-to authorities on all things alcoholic. The specialty store hosts a variety of educational tasting events each year, but the crown jewel is surely their annual Whisky and Spirits Expo, which returns to Indianapolis this Friday.
Held at the scenic Montage at Allison Pointe, the event will feature over 250 varieties of specialty spirits for sampling, accompanied by educational forums with liquor experts from around the globe. This year's event places particular focus on single malts and blends of whisky from Scotland, Ireland and the states.
You don't have to be a connoisseur to enjoy the Expo; the evening's activities are aimed at advancing the palette of both novice and aficionado. Visiting specialists will present three master classes on the intricacies of whisky tasting and production. Two of the speakers, distilling experts Simon Coughlin and Andrew Hogan, will travel from Scotland to discuss their methods. They'll be joined by Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris, among others.
Behind the night's festivities is organizer Denis Lynch, Vine and Table's beverage manager.
"I hope people will garner a true appreciation for the distiller and their craft method," Lynch says. "I also hope that they will broaden their palates, try products they wouldn't normally, and gain an appreciation for flavors."
As far as tasting goes, the Cork, Ireland-born Lynch says that the nose always knows.
"People need to understand that much of our ability to taste comes from our sense of smell, so people should take the time to nose the spirit before tasting it," Lynch says.
Maximum exposure is also key. "People need to taste many different types of spirits, compare and contrast them, and use those experiences to determine what they like."
Among the crafters featured at the Expo is Jeffrey Topping of Cincinnati, Ohio, who's earned attention for his Wild Scotsman line of whiskies. Since traveling to Scotland's Bladnoch Distillery in 2002, he's been bottling a unique mix of scotch whiskies.
To craft his blends, Topping samples casks from independent single malt distilleries throughout Scotland before choosing his favorites to mix, creating what's known as a vatted or blended malt scotch. His selections feature whiskies that might otherwise not be sold in the United States.
"Blending whisky can be like mixing paint," Topping says. "You know yellow and blue make green - well, sometimes flavor profiles interact with each other in the same way."
Topping's awards include a gold medal at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Awards for his Black Label blended malt scotch.
"Keep an open mind, don't evaluate a brand based on its name," he says. "What separates a good scotch from a great scotch at the end of the day is how it's made."