How would you describe what you do?
I would describe myself as an A&R rep for craft spirits. The company that I work for, Martin Scott has an eclectic selection of artisanal spirits. They allow me to find, cultivate and sell different kinds of products to restaurants, bars and stores in addition to educating our sales force, customers and consumers.
How did you get your start in spirits?
I started in spirits by learning from the ground up at a wine and spirits shop in Brooklyn. I took a deep interest in whisk(e)y, received certificates from the International Wine Center and became the spirits buyer at several retailers.
If you could only choose one: What is more important, the craft in making a good spirit, or the taste in the end result?
I look at spirits the same way we approach food, if you start with good ingredients and practices, the results will usually taste great.
You've traveled to research whisky and scotch, can you tell us common misconceptions about them?
There are several common misconceptions: Bourbon has to come from Kentucky; older and more expensive is better; all Scotch is smokey.
Can a good scotch be young? Or does it always have to be aged at least a decade?
Scotch, by law, has to be aged for at least 3 years in used oak barrels. 40% of flavor comes from production and 60% comes from the wood it's stored in. I find that a majority of Scotches become over-oaked when aged too long. The younger Scotches are brighter and can be somewhat less balanced, but there are exceptions to every rule! Some of my favorite Scotches are aged under 6 years; Octomore and Kilchoman for example. We're seeing more of a trend in major brands coming out with Scotches that don't have an age statement.
What are some of the things you look for in a good whisky/scotch?
I always look for balance, texture and finish in a good whisk(e)y. I always think of tasting spirits the same way one would describe an orchestra. There are so many flavors that you can pick up, I analyze where they fall on my palate. My favorite way to smell Scotch is by rubbing it on my hands/wrists, rubbing the alcohol left and picking up what scents are left on my skin. I haven't worn proper perfume in 9 years!
Tell us about your Orient Watch, The Curator.
The watch I picked has a very simple and classic design that I can wear with any casual or fancy outfit. It also makes for a good conversation starter when trying to make people feel at ease when trying a new spirit. I love that it has a power reserve so I know when to move more.
What is something the public would never guess about you?
That I am fairly shy.
Where's the most beautiful place you've ever been?
If you could go anywhere, any time past/future/present - where would you go and why?<
I would want to explore more of the UK. There is so much alcohol history and culture to explore there. England was so deep in gin during the 19th century, they had to pass 5 laws to get people to stop drinking so much. When beer sales were decreasing, they built fancy Beer Palaces to get the British to drink more ale again. Because of the battle for more beer sales, Gin Palaces were opened that were even fancier. I would love to see them in person. Then I would travel to Northern Ireland to learn about Bushmill's Irish Whiskey. Of course there's a ferry in the summer that heads over to Scotland which would be my final destination. I have only seen a glimpse of the distilleries there and can't wait to head back over and visit more of the Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands and Islands.
Spirits and wine expert Elana Effrat is a Brooklyn resident who works for Martin Scott. She recently spoke on a panel about Women in Whisky, in Chelsea, New York. You can follow her on Twitter @theboozemuse and on Instagram @theboozemuse!