After nearly two years of being “mothballed” as the pandemic deprived us from organizing Whisky events, The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival just gave me the opportunity to be back on the whisky trail and host three events. Though organized on a smaller scale than the former editions, the SSWF attracted enthusiastic visitors, mostly British… and Germans, brave enough to challenge the travelling restrictions. Well done you!
A WHISKY DINNER AT THE DOWANS (ABERLOUR)
On Saturday 6th November, as “The Queen of the Still”, I hosted a wonderful whisky dinner with Ann Miller ,”The Dram Queen”, at the Dowans Hotel in Aberlour. As we said to the guests, you have two queens for the price of one !
Scallops, Caramelised Celeriac Mash, Toasted Almonds, Lemon Butter
Duncan Taylor Bottling: Linkwood 2009
Scottish Wild Mushroom Risotto
The Glenrothes 1995
Slow Cooked Beef Cheek, Black Pudding Dauphinoise, Crumb, Port Jus
Balvenie 21 Portwood
Baked Apple, Ginger Ice Cream, Nut Crumb
Berry Bros Bottling: Linkwood 2009
It was interesting to present two very different Linkwood. Though distilled and bottled on the same year, they were totally different. The bourbon cask matured one was paired with scallops and a celeriac mash – root vegetables are such a good match with whisky! – and dill to enhance the fresh aniseed note of the whisky.
Berry Bros & Rudd Linkwood was a batch of refill sherried hogsheads. It displayed luscious fruity and spicy notes which made it a perfect companion for the autumnal sweet, the baked apple and the ginger icecream pairing in a fusional way.
The Glenrothes 1995 evoked a walk in the undergrowth with earthy notes of bracken and mushrooms and a citrus profile. The wild mushroom risotto and its creamy texture played an harmonious duet with the whisky.
The main dish had this comforting character of a granny’s dish. The slow-cooked beef cheek in a rich port sauce was mouth melting and full of flavours as was the elegant Balvenie Portwood 21 Year Old. It was like a journey back in time.
To end this outstanding meal prepared by the chef of the Dowans Hotel, we were treated to a 28 Year Old Glenfarclas, presented by John Grant, the owner of the distillery himself. An amazing immersion in sherry !
A WHISKY LUNCH AT THE DRAM QUEEN’S TASTING ROOM
The day after, on Sunday 7th November, a “whisky lunch off the beaten track” invited 12 guests to gather in the cosy atmosphere of Ann Miller’s tasting room, The Dram Queen tasting room, at her farmhouse in Carron, Aberlour.
Same theme – a pairing whisky with food menu – but a different style for a three course menu. And this time, I was also in the kitchen !
Aperitif and Amuse Bouche
New spirit from Ballindalloch Distillery
Velouté of Roasted Butternut Squash and Coconut
Contains butternut squash, olive oil, coconut milk, cream, Espelette chili pepper, seasoning
Garnished with toasted flaked almonds and served with bread and butter
Balvenie Week of Peat 14yo, 48.3% abv
Comté and Mushroom Parcel served with a Salad and Walnuts
Contains Comté cheese, mushrooms, truffle oil, coriander, butter, filo pastry, seasoning
Garnished with walnuts and served with salad leaves
Aberlour Double Cask Matured 16yo, 40% abv
Poached Apple with a Whisky Fudge Sauce
Contains apples, honey, sugar, vanilla pods, cinnamon, cloves, lemon juice,
cream, eggs, butter, ground ginger, gingerbread
Glenallachie 12yo, 46% abv
Coffee or Tea
A surprise dram
That was quite a busy morning ! I wanted to give the guests the exceptional experience of tasting a new make served frozen like a vodka, with a smoked salmon canapé. Ballindalloch distillery is only three years old and has not bottled its malt yet. So tasting the new make was a real discovery. Very fruity with a sweet malty core and a good balance, it announces an excellent malt to come.
The velouté of butternut squash was very smooth and spiced up by a good pinch of Piment d’Espelette. The Balvenie Week of Peat revealed an incredible medicinal character, it could easily be confused with an Islay malt. The trick was to add a dash of whisky to the cream which gave the soup a delicious smoky note.
The mushroom and comté parcels were a perfect seasonal match with Aberlour 16 Year Old, the double maturation (sherry and bourbon) brought out rich fruity and spicy notes with an earthy touch.
To accompany the poached apple enriched by a gingerbread and fudge sauce, GlenAllachie 12 Year Old was the perfect choice. Hard to know which was which when combined on the palate.
The surprise dram took the guests on Islay shores with a dram of my private cask of Port Charlotte 15 Year Old.
This was quite a challenge to cook for twelve whisky enthusiasts when you are only a passionate cook and not a chef. But I thoroughly enjoyed the exercice and apparently the guests did too.
The three recipes were extracted from my cookery book, “à table, whisky from glass to plate”.
Now we are all looking forward to the spring edition of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.