Game & Whiskey Pairings

As the ‘Omnivore’ in the name should suggest, I tend to have pretty varied interests. Of course, video games are the primary subject of this blog, I do occasionally talk about things like music, movies or coffee as well. Today, I’m trying something a little different…

In the last 5-7 years, I’ve gotten into different kinds of whiskies – scotch, bourbon, ryes, Irish whiskey, single malt, mixed, etc. There’s an incredible range when it comes to tasting notes, aging/distillation process, country of origin, and of course…price. One of my favorite ways to unwind after work or on the weekends is to pour up a glass of whiskey and then, kick back and savor while playing some games. You’ve probably come across different articles that recommend a specific wine to go along with a particular meal? Well, some time ago, for whatever reason, I started to match up specific games to a particular whiskey. I’ve selected five of my favorite games of the past few years and five of my favorite whiskies that I like to have in my regular rotation, to go with it.

…and with that, here’s the first batch of game & whiskey pairings that have been aged to imperfection in my drafts folder.

Red Dead Redemption 2/George Dickel No. 8

Genre: Open-world/sandbox, adventure

Tasting notes: “A mellow, approachable Tennessee whisky, selected for it’s smooth-sipping character. A balanced whisky with aromas of light caramel and wood. A warm vanilla finish with hints of maple and buttered corn.”

Let’s start with Red Dead Redemption 2. A rugged, Old West game like this lends itself to being matched up with a good whiskey and is the easiest to start with. George Dickel No. 8 felt like a natural pairing with RDR2 – a Tennessee whiskey that’s maybe a little rougher around the edges than some other straight bourbons, but it possesses plenty of character. The charcoal-filtering process(what defines a Tennessee whiskey) gives it an ever-so-slight “campfire” taste that, when combined with the buttery notes from the corn used in making bourbon, gives the taste of grilled corn on the cob. A nice whiskey to have next to you at the campfire or the saloon table.

….Lenny!!

God of War/Buffalo Trace

Genre: Third-person action-adventure, Hack ‘n slash

Tasting notes: “This deep amber whiskey has a complex aroma of vanilla, mint and molasses. Pleasantly sweet to the taste with notes of brown sugar and spice that give way to oak, toffee, dark fruit and anise. This whiskey finishes long and smooth with serious depth.”

God of War has been one of my favorite game series’ going all the way back to 2005. Any hesitation I had about the 2018 sequel/soft-reboot quickly subsided once I finally played the game. The story and worlds are larger-than-life,yet, nuanced with characteristically silky-smooth gameplay. Buffalo Trace straight bourbon is my pick for God of War – it’s buttery sweetness is the foundation to the subtle layers of oak and spice underneath. It’s my favorite all-around bourbon to accompany my pick for best all-around game of 2018.

Super Mario Odyssey/Jameson

Genre: Adventure/platformer , Golf, Kart Racing, RPG, Tennis, Puzzle, Fighting, Baseball, Party/mini-game(s)…

Tasting notes: “The perfect balance of spicy, nutty and vanilla notes with hints of sweet sherry and exceptional smoothness.”

Mario is as iconic of a video game character as you’ll find, so it made sense(to me, at least) that I’d pair it with a whiskey like Jameson. Over the years, we’ve seen Mario cross over into a variety of different genres – sports, kart racing, fighting, all while retaining the essence of what made Mario games so universally enjoyable . Similarly, Jameson has a level of versatility as it can be served neat, on the rocks, or in a number of cocktails(Irish Mules being a personal favorite). A classic for a classic.

Elden Ring/Ardbeg 10

Genre: Open-world RPG, Souls-like

Tasting notes:An explosion of crackling peat sets off millions of flavour explosions: peat effervesces with tangy lemon and lime juice, black pepper pops with sizzling cinnamon-spiced toffee. Then comes a wave of brine infused with smooth buttermilk, ripe bananas and currants. Smoke gradually wells up on the palate bringing a mouthful of warm creamy cappuccino and toasted marshmallows. As the taste lengthens and deepens, dry espresso, liquorice root and tarry smoke develop coating the palate with chewy peat oils.”

Elden Ring, or really any From Software game is not for everyone. Some may be put off by the punishing gameplay, the cryptic obscurity in which the worlds and story unfold, or the developer’s, uh…passionate fanbase. In a similar vein, Ardbeg 10 likely isn’t to everyone’s taste, but those that can get past it’s seemingly impenetrable wall(mist veil?) of smoke are treated to a satisfyingly complex array of tastes and aromas that linger with you afterwards. It’s about the only substance on Earth I know of that can use “tarry rope” as a positive description…and I love it.

Death Stranding/Laphroaig 10

Genre: Action-adventure, Open-world, Stranding

Tasting notes: “Huge smoke, seaweedy, ‘medicinal’. Surprising sweetness with hints of salt and layers of peatiness.”

Death Stranding is a polarizing game. It can be an emotional masterpiece to one person, but a boring, pretentious AAA title to another. While I completely understand where those in the latter category are coming from, I absolutely loved Death Stranding and Hideo Kojima’s idiosyncratic blend of over-the-top cinematic style AND utter weirdness. Enter Laphroaig, another Islay scotch that is famous(infamous?) for it’s distinctive taste and aroma. As with Death Stranding, I understand why it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but personally love the way all the different notes and flavors are intertwined, making something so almost-indescribably weird. “Like drinking a glass of sea water while next to a campfire on the beach” may be my favorite description of my favorite whisk(e)y…weirdly enough. Both Laphroaig and Death Stranding are a perfect pairing…as well as prime examples of taste being completely subjective.

If you enjoyed this, I also recommend checking out McKenna Talks About Games’ series of blog posts pairing a different wine with each Zelda game. Do you have any particular beverages, distilled or not, that you like to have on hand while gaming? Cheers! and thanks for reading!

Hunter’s Journal Pt. 1 – Returning To Yharnam

Having recently finished(and platinumed) Elden Ring, I found myself wondering what to play next. Having come off three big open-world games(Cyberpunk 2077, Horizon: Forbidden West and Elden Ring) back-to-back-to-back, my initial instinct was to play something a little more linear and concise, perhaps something warm and cozy, like Kirby and the Forgotten World or the new LEGO Star Wars game. However, coming off Elden Ring I was still firmly on a From Software kick, so…long story short, I started another playthrough of Bloodborne. A couple hours after embarking on another journey through Yharnam, I had the idea* of documenting my way through the game as installments, for which I concluded ‘Hunter’s Journal’ was the only suitable title.

* ‘Had the idea’ = I remembered reading through fellow blogger(and far more experienced FromSoft player) Meghan from MeghanPlaysGames’ series of ‘Dark Souls Diaries’ posts and thought it sounded like an interesting idea(thanks, btw).

My newest playthrough through Bloodborne began the same as any other: studying the character creator screen before going “uhh….I dunno” and acting on my indecisive laziness by giving my character the moniker of ‘Dude’ along with a few other half-assed aesthetic decisions. I decided I wanted to deviate slightly from my default choice of “Neanderthal STR build” and focus on something of a Skill/Arcane type.

Feeling back at home?

Two things I realized within the first few minutes of playing Bloodborne again: 1) The overall vibe and atmosphere of the game is fantastic – ominous, Victorian-gothic horror. 2) Despite having played the game as long as I have, I’m still not completely sure what the hell is going on when it comes to setting up the story. I have a (very)basic understanding of Yharnam’s history and relation to places such as Cainhurst or Byrgenwerth, but there’s still plenty to piece together. One of the things I’ve learned to love about Bloodborne is the layers of history and lore throughout the game. I guess more…Insight may be required, right? <Applause sign begins flickering>

My youthful, milquetoast hunter, Dude woke up in Iosefka’s Clinic before proceeding to throw a flurry of punches at the large canine beast guarding the front door. Their valiant efforts proved futile as a mere slash from the beast sent the game to From Software’s now familiar calling card – the “You Died” screen. This was followed by “waking” in the Hunter’s Dream where I received my choice of starting melee and ranged weapons; I chose the Threaded Cane this time around as I have the least experience with it and wanted something that would scale well with Skill stats.

I spent the next few minutes getting re-acclimated to the world and enemies around me. Having come straight from Elden Ring made this incredibly easy, though it was hard not to see how Bloodborne is definitely starting to look it’s age, most notably in frame rate(my biggest gripe with the game even back then). I made a few trips around the neighborhood and the game still feels familiar enough that I didn’t have too much trouble clearing out the entire “bonfire welcoming party” and nearly everything else in the area before heading for the Cleric Beast, who was felled in a single attempt as I danced around the giant beast slashing away with my cane-whip. Dude’s off to a good start…

Once I received my unit of Insight from defeating the Cleric Beast I was able to head back to the Hunter’s Dream where The Doll had come to life and will now allow the wary hunter to level up in exchange for blood echoes collected along the way. I made a few additional trips ‘round the neighborhood to collect more blood echoes as well as additional blood vials, before returning to level up a couple times. After leveling my character up to around 160 and across 130 or so hours in Elden Ring, I feel like I finally understand the weapon/attribute scaling works…

Now that I’d completed what is effectively the tutorial on Bloodborne, it was time to make my way across the boulder-trap bridge and face off against the first major hurdle of the game – Father Gascoigne. I made my way to the cemetery where I watched the the tense cutscene which thrusts you straight into the battle with “Papa G’”. My absolute favorite of the many elements in From Software games is how the games amplify the boss fights with such drama by either cutscene intro, harrowing battle music…or both. Father Gascoigne can be a difficult boss fight and is typically considered an early litmus test for the challenges you’ll face in the latter areas of the game. Despite Dude’s best efforts and utilizing the music box obtained shortly before, I was unable to best the beastly priest. I think I’m still slightly under-leveled for Gascoigne, partly due to opting for a skill build rather than my usually Monster Hunter “big, stronk weapon” build, which means I’ll likely make a few trips through Central Yharnam farming some blood echoes/vials while I smack some fools upside the head with my cane(pretty damn awesome). It was at this time(2am), I decided I should probably call it a night and get some sleep. I am, however, already looking forward to that rematch with Father Gascoigne…

Farewell, good hunter. May you find your worth in the waking world…