Leading into the close of 2013, the winter was just getting started when the Whiskey Gentlemen headed out to explore a bar with a tantalizingly playful moniker in Franklin Park, a stone’s throw from O’Hare Airport and Rosemont.
- Lagavulin 16 year
- Oban and Glenmorangie Signet – revisited
Winter’s arctic blasts were not yet on the Chicago doorstep when the Gents crossed the threshold into one of Franklin Park’s newest bars. Situated at 9743 Franklin Ave just two minutes’ walk from the town’s Metra station, HopScotch offers what its name implies: a selection of craft beers (hops) and a generously stocked menu of Scotch, among other choices of bourbon and whiskey. Beer fanatics will keep coming back for a rotating selection of 100 wonderfully unique brews, two dozen on tap at any time, not to mention a kitchen with an outstanding selection of better than average burgers, pasta and “sharables” – single or double servings of homemade appetizers.
We, however, were primarily in it for – you guessed it – the whiskey, and HopScotch did not disappoint. In fact, HopScotch may quite possibly become the Whiskey Gentlemen of Chicago’s new home bar and/or meeting place of choice. Its location is perfectly nestled between a number of access points (I-294, I-90, Mannheim, and a Metra stop just outside the door), and just down the road from Rosemont’s booming entertainment and shopping “district”. The friendly service, nice decor, casual fun atmosphere and plenty of televisions provide a convenient location for when the Gents wish to converge outside Chicago’s city limits. If the location alone weren’t reason enough, the fair prices and selection of whiskeys and Scotches certainly twisted our arms easily, putting this place solidly on the map!
Our visit provided us an opportunity to introduce Ruben, long-time friend of the Gents, to whiskey’s finer, subtler points. We take pride demonstrating that whiskey can (and often should) be enjoyed not as a mixer, but neat, or with just a couple drops of water. Joe took advantage of the chance to revisit rarer selections from previous outings, and also to introduce Johnny to Glenmorangie Signet, meanwhile Rick happily reinforced his palate with his favorites.
Lagavulin 16 year:
This might just replace my choice for a must-have, at-home Scotch (a spot currently held by Johnny Walker Double Black). The only thing holding me back is the price of this bottle (currently $79 at Binnys), while the 12 year is a bit more expensive yet ($89).
On the nose, it’s like sitting in front of a fireplace on a cold winter’s night. Just enough smoke enters the nose with whispers of caramel and “a not sure how to describe it except for” an aroma of warmth. [Ed. note: That quote is going down in our books for illustrating the nature of Scotch’s subtlest and most indescribable attributes.]
On the palate: this is what I consider an easy-drinking yet inspiring Scotch. It no wonder why it’s Ron Swanson’s choice Scotch (Parks and Recreation). There’s enough peat to let you know it’s there but not overpowering in any way. For example, I wouldn’t choose to drink Ardbeg before dinner due to the heavy peat, but I would have no issues with the Lagavulin in this aspect. Excellent start, peak, and finish, which caused me to fight to savor even my last drops when the barmaid attempted to take my glass thinking it was empty.
If money wasn’t an option, this would be my new go-to Scotch. I would put this in my top 3. I’m excited to try the 12 year to compare.
My excitement on this evening was not (just) in my own libations but to share with a friend the enjoyment of drinking Scotch. As an opener for Ruben, who has only known whiskey as a shooter, mixer or “sickener,” I requested Glenmorangie Original as a casual but respectable initial sample. I walked Ruben through Richard Paterson’s “hello, how are you” method of nosing the glass and provided tips for tasting. Ruben took his task seriously, and he finished the glass before I knew it. I ordered the next round and the waitress brought the requested Oban, a favorite from the Gent’s trip to The Duke of Perth. We discussed some of the differences between the two and both Scotches were well-received by Ruben. The Gents are pleased he plans to join us again!
For Johnny, I insisted he try Glenmorangie Signet, reflecting on my fond memories back at Binny’s tasting in Feb 2012. The delicious aromas and flavors of tiramisu, dark chocolate and rich liqueur created an experience I was eager to share. But as I watched Johnny take his initial sips, he appeared nonplussed about my enthusiasm as he sampled the Scotch. Something fell flat. I later ordered one for myself to gain insight and I had to agree – the bottle was new, but nevertheless the flavor didn’t deliver. I can’t blame the bar and I’m not sure I can blame the bottle. The other Gents and I recall such a robust and impressive flavor, and I don’t know what went awry causing me to be so disappointed the second time. I admitted that it wasn’t what I was hoping for out of the experience. I won’t give up on Glenmo’s top shelf label yet, but I’ll have to be more reserved on my recommendation of it.
Having been served our fill of food and drink, the Gents thanked the staff for helping us make the most out of our evening. The overall experience at HopScotch was definitively positive, and the Gents are pleased to have found this gem of a bar. We look forward to many more visits to HopScotch! Follow us on twitter or keep reading our blog for updates on when we plan to stop in again!