Whiskey Dinner at Percy Street Barbecue

Last night I had a chance to attend an American Whiskey Dinner at Percy Street Barbecue here in Philadelphia. I had heard great reviews about this relatively new restaurant, and the whiskey dinner featured five courses paired with five different whiskeys so what better time to try it for myself! It even featured some very entertaining and educational commentary by whiskey and beer writer Lew Bryson.

The food at the dinner was awesome, but unfortunately it is not on Percy Street's everyday menu. Their regular menu does feature a wide variety of barbecued meats and down-home sides, and their bar was well stocked with a variety of whiskeys so I don't think I'd be disappointed in a visit on any 'ol night.

On the subject of the food, the country ham trio that started off the dinner was amazing. I grew up on country ham down in Kentucky, but we never sliced it prosciutto thin like they did at this dinner, which really brings out the taste and prevents you from filling up to quickly. We also tended to fry it in a skillet, which is delicious but hides a lot of the meat's natural flavors. If you've never paired country ham with bourbon go do it now...you back? It was great right?

Since this was a whiskey dinner I'll give you my two cents on the whiskeys and whiskey-based cocktails they served. First up was a "Kentucky Tea" cocktail made with 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon, served alongside the country ham flight. If you've been reading this blog you might remember that I really like 1792 Ridgemont Reserve. Well it was good here again, but I think such a nice bourbon was a bit wasted in the Kentucky Tea where it's watered down and iced-up quite a bit. The drink did make a lot of sense for cleansing the palate after those super salty hams though, and was a nice way to ease into the long procession of whiskeys to come.

Next up was a sweet potato soup served with bits of smoked pork (AWESOME!). This was paired with Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, one of the early craft whiskeys to come on the scene several years ago and now available even in Pennsylvania. Stranahan's is a bit of a hybrid whiskey. It's all malt like Scotch, but aged in new, charred oak barrels like bourbon. This gives it a nice blend of malty sweetness and depth alongside some more powerful woody tastes like vanilla and charcoal. For a young whiskey this one is about as good as they come which is probably why it has achieved such rapid and widespread success from such humble beginnings.

The third course was smoked trout served alongside a glass of Four Roses Yellow Label with one big ice cube - probably my favorite way to enjoy a glass of bourbon. I reviewed this whiskey a while back, and it remains on my list of 'best buy' bourbons for its high quality at an affordable price. Lew Bryson termed it his "5 O'Clock Bourbon" for everyday drinking, and apparently it's on sale right now in the Pennsylvania state stores, so now's the time to stock up.

The main dish was a quail stuffed with cornbread, sausage, and Brussels sprouts paired with a Rittenhouse Rye Manhattan. Percy Street makes their Manhattans with Campari instead of the more standard sweet vermouth, so that contributed some unique herbal flavors to this drink. The Rittenhouse Rye delivered the expected punch of a strong rye whiskey, with plenty of spiciness and bite. When I've had Rittenhouse straight I've always thought it was a bit harsh, but it played well with the Campari to make a solid sipper. I've been on a bit of a Manhattan kick lately, and while I prefer the sweeter vibe that sweet vermouth brings to the drink, this was a fun twist on the standard.

The final course was interesting - grits for dessert - but it worked well. The grits were served with caramel, vanilla ice cream, and peanuts and ended up tasting like an old-time candy store in porridge form when you got it all in one bite. The final whiskey of the night was Rowan's Creek Bourbon, and I think they did save the best for last. I can't remember ever having Rowan's Creek before, but I can assure you I'll try to have it again. It was a very well-balanced, rich, and flavorful bourbon. It tasted plenty old with lots of sweet flavors and color from the barrel. It also had some nutty flavors in it and a nice warm bite going down.

Keep an eye out for future events like this. I expect to see more of them as Philadelphia's whiskey-drinking scene matures.