Noorman’s Kil, a Williamsburg grilled cheese joint and bar, prides itself on its massive collection of whiskey — the bottle count is currently at 326. The bartenders there help customers navigate this intimidating selection by holding free whiskey tastings every Wednesday and being ready to share everything they know about their favorite booze. So we asked one of them, Billy Deal, who’s also one of the restaurant’s owners, to talk whiskey shop with us.
So do you actually have 326 types of whiskey behind the bar right now?
Yes, and the count is always changing; we’re always adding and taking away bottles, because there are so many new products and distilleries on the market. Whiskey is on fire right now, so even older distilleries are coming out with new expressions, and we’re always trying to keep our finger on the pulse with that.
Have you served all of them yet?
At this point we have served at least one dram of every single whiskey we’ve got. We have one regular who’s working his way through our list. He’s on 200 something right now and is fan of Scotch.
Are your whiskeys from all over or is there a particular region that your list focuses on?
They’re from all over but the bulk of our list is single-malt Scotch and American whiskeys, mostly bourbon. But we have 30 or so Irish whiskeys, some Canadian whiskeys, and four or five Japanese whiskeys. We’re looking into getting one from Australia.
What are your whiskey cocktails like?
There are a lot of cocktail places out there and we primarily sell whiskey, so we’re not a huge cocktail bar, but we try to come up with thoughtful cocktails. And we can do any classic whiskey cocktail — we make a lot of Old-Fashioneds here. We also try to keep the price of our cocktails down.
Is there a cocktail you’re particularly excited about?
This cocktail hasn’t made the list yet, but we’re going to add it soon. It’s called Smoke on the Water. It has Glenlivet 12-year, Cointreau, a muddled sugar cube, and citrus bitters from Hella Bitter, a new company based in Williamsburg. You basically stir all that, pour it into a martini glass, and top it with Laphroaig 10-year, which creates this burnt-orange layer at the top of the cocktail. So, it has sweet and smoky flavors and is also pretty strong.
What whiskey would you recommend to a novice?
If they wanted to try Scotch, I would recommend the Balvenie DoubleWood, which is the opposite of a smoky Scotch. It’s a Speyside, and those Scotch whiskeys have a honey flavor and clean finish, so you’re not going to burn the back of your throat.
Would you serve it straight up or on the rocks?
Balvenie I would do straight up, although when I recommend it to people they often ask for a couple cubes of ice. It’s a matter of personal preference. Although, Andrew Weir, the East Coast ambassador for Balvenie, swears by the DoubleWood straight up; he thinks that water and even an ice cube just ruins it. And I agree with him, but still sometimes the flavor is a little too much if you’re not used to it. A couple of cubes will ease things up a little bit so you can still get what they’re going for, but not burn your face off.
Then what would be the next-level Scotch?
If the person liked the Balvenie, I would recommend a Lowland Scotch called Auchentoshan 3 Wood, which is aged in three different types of wood. It’s another one that’s not peaty and it has a nice leathery flavor to it. It’s a little more involved than the Balvenie and is really smooth and has a subtle honey flavor. That one I would recommend on the rocks because the ice blends the flavors and mellows everything out.
Are those the most popular types of Scotch you serve at the bar?
Our most popular single-malt Scotch is the Laphroaig 10, which is the most well-known in general but is also just a great Scotch. The Laphroaigs are known for being heavily peated, which means that when the barley is smoked with peat, the smoke really attaches itself to it — kind of like when you’re at a backyard barbecue and you go home and your clothes reek of smoke. That smoke is then transferred to the flavor profile of the Scotch.
If you could have any Scotch in the world no matter how expensive, what would it be?
Yamazaki 1984, and not because it’s the most expensive one we have at the bar. I had a quarter pour of it on opening day: The four owners decided to buy a shot and split it between us as a celebration. It was hands down the best whiskey I’ve ever had. It has so much body, it’s oily and well-balanced — just the best.