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Whiskey Tasting at The Bookworm: A Q-and-A with Arthur Pottenger

Whiskey tasting

We’ve done gin, we’ve done Oregonian whiskey, we’ve done scotch, and now, on Sunday, June 12 at 6 pmThe Bookworm will do bourbon: come taste Benchmark, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, and 1792 Ridgemont Reserve for the low price of 160 RMB. (Space is limited, so reservation is required via anthony@beijingbookworm.com.)

Arthur PottengerTo get you prepared for the tasting, we’ve asked Arthur Pottenger (pictured right) of DXCEL, which distributes these four products, some questions about what to expect. Pottenger will present the whiskeys next Sunday, giving information and tasting notes.

How’d you get your job in the alcohol business, and has it been what you’ve expected?

It was just dumb luck. I started homebrewing beer in Tianjin, and tried to create a club for homebrewers. It never really panned out, but somebody from the WeChat group — seven months later — saw I was moving to Shanghai, and they needed a beer nerd so I went in for an interview. I knew next to nothing about bourbon when I joined, but my company has a great portfolio and that really encouraged me to learn more.

How should one approach a whiskey? There are often tasting notes, but do you have advice for those who might not know how to discern flavors?

Whiskey, and spirits in general, are meant to be very personal. There is no wrong way to approach it — unless it’s a handle and a liter of coke at a college frat party. The best way is just start trying different things. Never be afraid to ask your bartender for suggestions, because they are always happy to help guide you. There is also a wealth of information out there and many passionate people who are willing to share. One of the best resources I have run across is a book called the The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart. Once you know the basics, you know what flavors to expect and how to pick out the unique ones. Again, what you taste and I taste can be different.

How “whiskey experienced” does one need to be to participate in next Sunday’s tasting?

Noobies are welcomed. I actually encourage people who aren’t too experienced to come in, because they might fine something they really like. Whiskey vets are also are not going to want to miss this, because I know we will have somethings they really like.

We have four bourbons lined up. Do you have a favorite? (And what do you like about it?)

Well, that is a bit hard. I am a serious sucker for Eagle Rare; it has a perfect match between that easy drinking balance you look for but still has enough robust character to it that stands out above other sipping whiskeys. It’s a pretty perfect whiskey in my humble opinion, but Buffalo Trace is kind of our gold standard and just recently beat out all of the competition in a San Francisco blind taste test. If I feel like drinking a rye I tend to go for 1792.

For those signed up for the tasting, what can they expect?

A lot of people in China haven’t been exposed to bourbon, so I am going to go over the basics, the history and culture of it to help them differentiate it from other whiskeys of the world; it’s really a category of its own. I promise not to talk for too long so people can sit back and enjoy some good whiskey and conversation with their friends.

How can one buy these whiskeys in Beijing?

That is a good question. Plenty of bars in Beijing stock these items, but if you are talking about for home consumption… that will be something I’ll work on over the next year.

Any closing words?

Thanks for allowing us to do the event at your wonderful venue, and I hope a lot of people show up because I have some great stuff for you to try.

Reserve your spot for The Bookworm’s whiskey tasting on Sunday, June 12 at 6 pm by emailing anthony@beijingbookworm.com.

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