Aside from the general perks of working at one of Houston's best cocktail lounges, managers at Anvil Bar & Refuge get to take a fully funded booze-related trip to a destination of their choice in order to more deeply understand a spirit and its origins.
This year, Anvil assistant manager Jessey Qi and owner Bobby Heugel traversed across the U.K. and Ireland on an epic journey to visit some of the region's finest distilleries, 47 of them producers of the world's best Scotch.
"When I’m pouring you a Scotch, I can tell you what the distillery looks like," said Qi. "I can tell you how many people work there, how long they’ve worked there and how many sheep are grazing in their grass. I know where they’re sourcing their water, how they’re aging their barrels, where they’re getting the grain and where they’re sending it to age."
Hopping a plane to Scotland and tasting one’s way through the world of Scotch distilleries is a far-fetched but nonetheless real dream for many, which is why Qi decided to serve Houstonians a slice of the good life with a series of intimate tastings. Mother Nature came to the party as well, offering aptly rainy weather for a day of tasting Scotch.
More than 500 pounds of raw barley covered a segment of the raw floor to simulate the experience of tasting at a distillery. Five one-hour "lessons" were offered throughout the evening and guests were given one-on-one instruction from several of the bar’s staff including a demonstration of burning peat, used to dry barley in distilleries.
What does a six-hour Scotch-fest look like? Eater photographer Ellie Sharp caught the scene.