LAURINBURG —Guests literally got a taste of Scotland ahead of a weekend of Celtic culture and competition also known as Scotland County Highland Games.
On Friday, more than 50 people had the chance to sample top-shelf single-malt whiskies. The whisky tasting, in its fourth year, was held inside the Storytelling and Arts Center of the Southeast, where whisky, bottled water and accompanying light gourmet fare were served. Tickets to the sold out event went for $30. Proceeds will go to the Highland Games.
“It’s a good kick-off for the Highland Games,” said Chris Noga, who attended for his third year. “It teaches you the history of whiskey and it’s more than just drinking alcohol.”
This year’s the featured five single malts and food pairings were:
— Arran’s Robert Burns of the isle of Arran paired with goat cheese and mushroom on toast points
— Talisker’s 10-year-old the isle of Skye paired with smoked salmon
— Jura’s Superstition of the isle of Jura paired with Smoked Scallops and orange marmalade
— Highland Park’s Warrior Series of the isle of Orkney paired with salted toffee
— Ledaig 10-year-old the isle of Mull with our very own Jack’s family recipe for shortbread cookies.
“For the first four years, I bought every single whiskey and there was no one else sponsoring it but me,” said Jay Bowen, founder of the tasting. “All the whiskies that were tasted and all the food that was involved were my recommendations.”
Noren Sanford and William McIlwain to turns this year introducing the featured spirits.
“I believe as long as there is a Highland Games of Scotland County, there will be a Whiskey Tasting of Scotland County,” Sanford said. “One thing we’re trying to showcase is that you can make something out of nothing, because that’s what we’re often left to do here.”
Sanford said events like the Whiskey Tasting, brings the community together.
“Each one of these events is part of the economic development,” he said. “It has to be what attracts folks to take jobs here.”
Sanford hopes the tasting will grow by an additional 20 people next year. He also suggested charging $45 per ticket instead of $30 to provide greater support for the games.
The night also included giveaways such as bottles of Scotch.
“This is one of my favorite event,” McIlwain said. “It combines all of the elements of brotherhood, togetherness, good times and all of those things that makes you in favor of participating in this kind of thing.”
Friday night’s events also included a bagpipe concert with one of the world’s preeminent solo bagpipers at St. Andrews University. An eight-time winner of the Glenfiddich World Piping Championship, Willie McCallum, performed on Friday and will judge an Eastern United States Pipe Band Association premier competition for professional bagpipers on Sunday at 9 a.m. at St. Andrews University. Sunday’s competition is free to spectators.
The Scotland County Highland Games will open at 8 this morning the grounds of the John Blue House, offering everything from bagpiping and drumming competitions to heavy athletics and sheepdog demonstrations.
Last year’s games attracted more than 5,000.
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-506-3171.