Scotch and smoke

Larry Jimerson is a Boston-based barbecue aficionado who is equally as passionate about his whiskies and the SMWS. Unfiltered caught up with the ‘king of the Q’ to find out more about his whisky journey and how to pair a single malt with something deliciously smoky

Butterscotch candy was the catalyst that opened up the flavour of whisky for me. I was all of 23 years old and making a quick visit to the store, where there happened to be a promotion for Glenlivet 12-year-old single malt. I was in a hurry and Scotch wasn’t something that was ever on my mind. But this person said if I tried this single malt it would change my opinion forever.

To help me along, she gave me a piece of butterscotch candy and instructed me to put it on one side of my mouth, suck it but not bite it. I agreed, and went about my business, doing exactly what she said.

Upon returning she asked: “Are you ready to change your view?” Removing the candy, I sipped the whisky and wow! I bought two bottles and never looked back. That was all of 40 years ago, and I’m still learning about whisky.


Sometimes this is all you need to help open up the palate. It was something I learned when I started on my wine journey in Palm Springs, California. While working with my older brother, I learned the finer points on all things wine, fine food, beer and spirits. Working in my brother's restaurant, taste was everything. If you’re going to cook food, he would say: “You’d better damn well know what it tastes like, smells like, and the same with wine. Know the names, know the grapes, all the varietals, a wine region’s good years and bad, what wines pair well with what food.” The list can go on and on.

The thing about opening up your taste buds on wine and whisky is that once you’ve trained your palate one of the first things you do is start your collection. You collect daily drinking, long-term drinking, reds, whites and special occasion wine.

It’s the exact same with whisky. I now have a great collection of Scotch from across various regions, some smoky and peated and some sweet such as those matured in sherry or cognac casks.

And yes, I must include my growing collection from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Plus, as an added bonus, their members’ magazine Unfiltered informs me of places I need to visit, like the [partner bar] WhiskyBrother Bar in Johannesburg in South Africa.

Like wine collecting, whisky hunting is all about the fun, searching out bottlings in out-of-the-way stores, or on my travels outside the United States. In 1998 on a visit to Switzerland I stopped at a market in Zurich and picked up a whisky taken right from the barrel, decanted, bottled and labelled with a batch number. I kept it for 10 years and opened it the day I turned 50.


The past year has been rough due to the pandemic, having to close my newest restaurant that was built around the love of the ‘Cue’. The concept behind the second location of Larry J’s BBQ Café in Boston was all about the pairing of bourbon and Scotch with BBQ. I had plans for distillery representatives to come and speak about the ‘art of the drink’.

But on a brighter note, I have found that most if not all Scotches that have been matured in bourbon, sherry, or port casks pair well with smoked meats – the smoky meat and the fruitiness of the Scotch is a delightful pairing.

My most recent SMWS bottling was Cask No. 93.140: Bacon on a bonfire, an exclusive bottling for members in the US from the Oily & Coastal flavour profile. The first sip when it hits the palate explodes with heat, caramel and liquorice, and then settles down to something to love for life.

An ice-ball takes it to another place, which is good as we move into warmer temperatures. Burnt ends or candied bacon would be ideal with this whisky. On a fall evening sitting around the fire, you wouldn’t want to go back inside.

Find out more about Larry Jimerson’s BBQ Café at