“The Stilton is exactly what you want to cut through the smoke. Even if you don’t like strong cheeses, this will be the best cheese you’ve ever tasted.”
Datto’s Chief Marketing Officer Matt Richards slid a glass over to me containing a thumbnail of amber liquid followed by a scent of smoke and ethanol. It was a Bunnahabhain Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky, aged 12 years and freshly uncorked at the Datto Boston office Whiskey Tasting on Friday April 27th, put on by Boston’s Forced Fun Committee. Richards was right: the stinky cheese was definitely stinky, but it was the best cheese I ever tasted after a swig of the vibrant whiskey.
While the office enjoys the trappings of a prototypical Boston Tech Startup in regards to beer fridges and a liquor room, the Whiskey Tasting was a special program that took advantage of local whiskey aficionado Matt Richards. Inspired by a Forced Fun Wine Tasting a year prior, the Friday afternoon Whiskey Tasting was more educational than inebriating.
“Scotch whiskey is just like beer, but without the hops. All the variety you appreciate in beer is possible with whiskey; it doesn’t have to be so intimidating.” For the relatively young office, whiskey comes in a shot glass during a night at the bar rather than a slower and appreciative experience that Richards explained. For Phil Drake, this hit the mark, “While the highlights were certainly tied to the tastes, the opportunity to learn about them was very cool and has piqued my interest to learn more.”
Local preferences had been illustrated by buying habits. The Datto Boston beer fridge regularly restocked niche beers from local breweries whereas the Datto Boston secret whiskey room was rarely supplied with its namesake. This microcosm echoed statewide drinking habits: Massachusetts has been fermenting as a popular beer scene with the explosion on breweries (grown from 50 in 2011 to 129 in 2017), whereas distilleries have grown at a lower pace (from 2 businesses in 2005 to 18 in 2015). Access to education on the iconic beverage had been in short supply until Richards mentioned that he runs whiskey tastings regularly.
The Boston Forced Fun committee, comprised of volunteers in the Datto Boston office, plans events throughout the year that celebrate Boston’s unique culture. Other events, such as the Boston Top Chef (where challengers had to make a dish using ingredients found in the communal kitchen), didn’t have as much class as the whiskey tasting.
“Knowing Datto people…we need a lot more cheese and bread,” said Suki Heng, Boston’s Office Administrator and unofficial Forced Fun leader. At Richards’ request, the whiskey tasting was supplemented by a whiskey-specific cheese plate from Formaggio Kitchen, a gourmet foods store in the Boston South End. Forced Fun picked up the tab on a few bottles while Richards supplied the majority of the fourteen different whiskeys available for tasting.
The investment clearly paid off. “The Whiskey event was awesome! Very cool to try new types of whiskey with some background on how they are made and geographic origins!” said Alex Gusha, one of the sales representatives. Brendan Guiry agreed and added, “I had an opportunity to speak with a few people I wouldn’t usually have a conversation with since I sit on the sales floor. I also found it extremely insightful. It was a fun group bonding experience where it seemed like everyone involved was truly interested in learning a little bit more about the delicious liquid we consume.” Even for experienced tasters like Evan Wilson, the tasting was a hit, “I’ve always fancied myself a whiskey guy and it was tremendously informative- and delicious.”