Up on the Alaska Highway, in the bright boîte called Tonimoes, attached to the SKKY Hotel, a quiet ritual takes place every Tuesday. Informally known as Scotch night, the weekly event “honour[s] the bounty of Scotland with the frugality of a Scot,” according to the Tonimoes website. In other words, you can get a really good single malt Scotch whisky for $2 a shot.
This is not a rowdy affair; there are usually two or three tables of locals engaged in quiet chat and a couple of travelers at the bar. The TV is on but not loudly, and you can order a plate of nachos and other entrées. But the real point is the collection of single malts, plus a few blends, representing large tracts of Scotland and bits of Ireland too. This is a great place to learn what you like in a single malt without springing for a bottle.
The custom started in Inuvik in 1996 when Tonimoes owner Greg Sim bought a bar and discovered a shelf full of Scotch bottles thickly covered in dust; it was “dead inventory” he needed to move. His cook suggested a Scotch tasting night, and soon the original bottles had disappeared and the inventory, alive and kicking, had grown to 35 brands. Scotch night was hopping.
The tradition lives on in Inuvik, though at a different bar (Shivers, in the MacKenzie Delta Hotel) and last September Sim and his partner Matthew Vanlankveld brought it to Whitehorse. In May, the partners will bring Scotch night downtown too, when they open in the Edgewater hotel with a restaurant upstairs and a quiet club downstairs.
Whitehorse’s generalized envy of Dawson has long included the Scotch run: that intrepid dash up the Dempster to Inuvik for a supply of relatively inexpensive single malts. Single malts are cheaper in NWT than in Yukon due to a mark-up system based on percentage of alcohol-to-volume in a bottle rather than its wholesale price.
Confused? Ask Sim to explain it to you. Well, envy is dead. Dawson eat your heart out. Sim reveals his favourite single malts are the peaty versions produced in the Islay region, especially those aged in bourbon barrels — Laphroaig, for example, which happens to be my favourite as well. I prefer it with a splash of water, but occasionally in a cocktail too.
Here’s one that celebrates the peatiness of the single malt in a small, affordable dose, added to a couple shots of blended whisky.
I’m a staunch advocate of combining booze with food for health and sobriety’s sake, but it can be tricky to figure out what to eat with whisky; to my palate, nachos don’t really cut it. Try homemade oatcakes and a sharp, crumbly cheddar instead.
1 cup (250 mL) rolled oats
½ cup (125 mL) quick oats or Bob’s Red Mill Organic Scottish Oatmeal
1 cup (250 mL) all purpose flour
3 Tbsp. (45 mL) brown sugar
½ tsp. (5 mL) baking soda
½ tsp. (5 mL) salt
½ cup (125 mL) butter
¼ cup cream, more if needed
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) Mix dry ingredients together, cut or pulse the butter in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and add the cream until the mixtures holds together.
Dump mixture onto a piece of waxed paper, and with a floured rolling pin, roll out to a thickness of ⅛ to ¼ inch (3–6 mm) and cut with a three-inch round pastry cutter.
Bake for 15–18 minutes, or until cakes are lightly browned.
Cool on a rack and store in cookie tins; these will keep for months.
Makes about 20 oatcakes.