Having been lucky enough to attend a few Scotch tastings over the years, I‘m always pleased to find that the whisky speaks for itself and doesn’t need much in the way of explanation. However, when you mix a superb single malt Scotch whisky with an authentic, and dare I say charming, representative from the whisky’s home of origin, the tasting experience crests into a realm of total sensory delight. I can smell, taste, see, and hear Scotland.
The Scotch dinner, featuring Glenfiddich and Balvenie, was held at our favorite restaurant, Next Wood Fired Bistro (Next). We have attended several of these themed dinners at Next since they opened a few years ago and each event has been spectacular. The dinners are usually inspired by a particular wine or spirit and include a four course meal. The experience is further enhanced by a representative of the featured wine or spirit, who teaches the guests all about what they are drinking as they enjoy the various courses and drink pairings.
David, our native Scotsman and whisky representative for the evening, thoroughly entertained us with the historical accounts of the Glenfiddich’s founder, William Grant and general whisky facts. I’m always fascinated by the meaning of names. Glenfiddich means “valley of the deer” in Gaelic and on every label is proud depiction of a stag. As much as I enjoyed learning about the history of Glenfiddich, I was more than ready to get personally acquainted with the mellifluous amber whisky that sat in front of me.
The guests attempted to denote a serious attitude as we all prepared ourselves to taste our first dram of whisky. But that serious tone didn’t last for very long, since we acknowledged David’s questions with giggles and laughs of “Oh aye!”
As we began to relax, visiting with other whisky enthusiasts, our first course arrived. A beautiful plate of House-Smoked Salmon was accompanied by a dram of Glenfiddich “Original”. The “Original” is a replica of the 1963 single malt or straight malt that changed the whisky world. Glenfiddich was the first distillery to sell straight malt to international markets. Let’s take a moment here to thank Glenfiddich for that brilliant concept.
I found the “Original” to be light with a taste of fruit and sherry. Having set the bar high, it was difficult to be open-minded after that point as far as topping the dram of “Original”, but I did my best.
As we progressed into the evening, David explained why some whiskies have more of the peaty properties or smoky flavors than others. The Glenfiddich distillery does not use peat, which is why I prefer it over others (most of the time). He also quickly explained the difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky. Basically, the Irish have to distill their whiskies three times to get them “right”, while the Scots being much more talented only have to distill their whiskies twice. To be expected, the Irish have their own version of this tale as well.
The second course was a savory Braised Veal topped with brown butter pancetta and a parsley puree, over a bed of a porcini, pear, and barley risotto. This course was served with Glenfiddich 26. Feeling completely swept away by the glorious decadence at that point; it is difficult to keep my mental notes of the dinner in check. Glenfiddich 26 is matured in an American oak bourbon cask, giving it a very distinct and robust flavor that was quite different from the “Original”.
As we were served the next course, David presented an overview of Balvenie, which is also owned by W. Grant & Sons. Interestingly enough, Balvenie is the last remaining distillery that uses the traditional malting floor and grows their own barley. I’ll definitely be adding Balvenie to my next Scotland whisky distillery tour list.
A Roasted Loin of Venison with Yukon potatoes dipped in a blue cheese fondue and a raspberry Merlot demi sauce was beautifully presented. The flavors were distinct and simply delicious. This course was paired with Balvenie 14, which is aged in an oak cask before being transferred to a rum cask from the Caribbean. It was lighter in color, tasting of honey with layers of fruit.
Dessert was a delight with the right amount of sweetness to finish a wonderful dinner. An apple rose made with puff pastry and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream was surrounded by a whisky infused caramel sauce spilling out of a shot glass. Great presentation! Our last dram of the evening was Balvenie 15. Very unique single sherry cask yields a deep rich color and as David described, had the flavor of Christmas cake or fruit cake. I could detect dried fruit and a burnt sugar spicy flavor.
Looking forward to the next “event” however I do fancy the whisky tastings a wee bit more.
Oh aye! Cheers!