Saturday 7 September 2013

The Glenlivet "The Guardians' Chapter" tasting and launch at Tetsuya's

When it comes tastings and product launches, it seems Pernod Ricard don't do things by halves...

A month or so ago I received an invite for The Glenlivet "The Guardian's Chapter", an event to be held at Tetsuya's in Sydney (once considered one of the World's Top 50 Restaurants, and still very much one of the best restaurants in Sydney). You don't say no to an invite like that...

The event was held this past Tuesday, and Steph and I showed up (arriving by Über, which Pernod Ricard had kindly supplied) not entirely knowing what to expect. Some canapés and a tasting perhaps? We did know that we were there to taste (and vote on) three new expressions, only one of which would become the next global limited release of The Glenlivet. We also discovered that this was the first public release of these expressions anywhere in the world!

Stepping into Tetsuya's private upstairs dining room, it was clear this was going to be a special, intimate sit-down dinner, with a chance to try not only the new expressions, but the core Glenlivet range with a menu designed by Tetsuya Wakuda himself, matched to the whiskies with the expert advice of The Glenlivet's Australian Brand Ambassador Laura Hay. And on the topic of not doing things by halves, this wasn't just any dinner menu, but a 9 course degustation.

The Glenlivet Ginza was served on arrival, as guests mingled and we got to meet some of the friendly and passionate Pernod Ricard staff. After seats were taken, Laura and Tetsuya introduced the menu, explaining the process behind selecting the courses and matching The Glenlivet expressions. Steph and I had great company at our table, including Andrew and Laura from Pernod Ricard, and Simon Leong of Simon Food Favourites. Laura's stories of growing up in an around The Glenlivet distillery kept us well entertained throughout the night.

The next 3 or so hours involved working our way through the first 6 courses and matched whiskies, which included:

The Glenlivet 12 year old
Salad of the Sea
Notes: A match which brought out some real ginger and spice notes. 
The Glenlivet really added to the flavour of some of the Sashimi, especially the Kingfish.

The Glenlivet 18 year old
Foie Gras with Dried Fruits
Notes: I'm not usually a big fan of Foie Gras but this was fantastic. 
The dry fruits were completely amplified by the whisky - a great match.

The Glenlivet 15 year old French Oak Reserve
Ostrich with Dwarf Truffled Peach
Notes: Probably my favourite dish of the night. 
The Glenlivet & Truffles are clearly a perfect match. Strong sesame notes.

The Glenlivet 12 year old
Marinated Tasmanian Salmon with Miso, Orange, Garlic & Ginger
Notes: The best match of the night.
Interestingly, I got slight smoky notes, which complemented the sweet miso flavour brilliantly.

The Glenlivet 15 year old French Oak Reserve
Loin of Venison with Beetroot & Pomegranate
Notes: Again a match that brought out some real spicy notes.
The Glenlivet seemed to cut through the fruitiness of the pomegranate somewhat and the venison really lengthened the finish of the whisky.

The Glenlivet 18 year old
Cape Grim Beef Short Rib with Apple Eggplant & Fresh Green Peppercorns
Notes: I'm not usually a fan of peppercorns but they were muted here. 
Overall the dish matched the whisky quite well I thought.

At this point we could hardly believe 3 hours had already passed, but it had, and it was time to taste the whiskies we all came to taste. Tasting mats and whiskies were set up and voting cards handed out. Laura Hay got up to present the whiskies, and explained a bit more about concept, which involves three new expressions from The Glenlivet, selected by Master Distiller Alan Winchester and classified according to taste:

Revival - A regard and passion for past styles, reinterpreted with a contemporary twist.
Classic - The quality of timelessness and enduring excellence
Exotic - The quality of rich diversity and enigmatic depth

We learned the malts are being taken on a global tour, with votes to be tallied from a number of regions. The winning expression will be released as "The Guardians' Chapter", a non-chill filtered, NAS limited edition of only 2000 cases (globally), to be released in March 2014 (see the bottom of this article for details on how to get involved in a tasting session).

After being told this would be "the most important vote we make this week" (slightly tongue-in-cheek, given we have a Federal Election this Saturday), we put our voting caps on and got down to business. 

Revival (ex American and Sherry oak barrels, 48.5% ABV) - Light in colour, with a youthful and apricot nose. No youth on the palate though, with smooth, fruity and slightly sweet notes coming through. The finish is lengthy, with a real tropical fruit finish, and some almonds. A dash of water increased the tropical fruit notes on both the palate and finish. 91/100.

Classic (ex American and Sherry oak barrels, 48.5% ABV) - Darker than the Revival, and with much more complexity on the nose. Spice and Christmas Cake notes dominated the palate, with a hint of pineapple. I found a shorter finish on this one, even with a dash of water (which accentuated the palate). As the name suggests, this was the closest to the standard core range. 92/100.

Exotic (ex American and Sherry oak barrels, 48.5% ABV) - The darkest of the three (so fair to say it also has the most sherry cask influence). Incredible nose, with sweet dessert-like notes, but complex nutty and dried fruit notes too. Sherry notes on the palate, with shortbread, spongecake and vanilla macarons. A light, but complex and lengthy finishes rounds out what is an excellent whisky. The clear winner in my books. 93/100.

It seems I wasn't alone in my voting, as the Exotic won out (with 14 votes), from the Revival (12 votes) and Classic (13 votes). A close call, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of Australia (and the world) votes.

It was then time to finish the menu, with:

Lychee Granita with Strawberries & Coconut

The Glenlivet 18 year old
Chocolate Cake
My second favourite match of the night.
The whisky added complexity to an already very complex, rich and nutty dessert. Heaven.

Petit Fors

By this stage it was past midnight, but most attendees were able to stick around for a tasting of the 25 year old The Glenlivet XXV (the sacrifices we make right?) - or for those waiting for our Über rides, perhaps two (tasting notes to follow).

Overall an incredible night - one which would have required a lot of planning and passion to set up. A huge thanks to the Pernod Ricard Australia and Cav Con teams for the invite, and for the take-home gifts (The Glenlivet 18, Riedel whisky tumblers) which were icing on an already amazing cake.


For anyone wanting to try these whiskies, Australian tastings will be run in conjunction with Vintage Cellars, and are being held on the following dates:
  • 20th and 21st September - Sir Stamford Hotel, Sydney
  • 22nd and 23rd September - The Woolshed, Melbourne
  • 25th September - Port Office Hotel, Brisbane
  • 26th September - Sosta Argentinian Kitchen, Adelaide
  • 27th September- Grosvenor Hotel, Perth
  • 1st October- Char Restaurant, Darwin 
The iconic Tetsuya's in Sydney's CBD

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