Friday 15 November 2013

An Evening with The Balvenie Global Brand Ambassador Sam Simmons (Chiswick restaurant)

So it turns out, you can be the global brand ambassador for one of Scotland's most well-known, respected, traditional hand-crafted Speyside distilleries, know everything there is to know about whisky, and still be hilarious.

Really. Bloody. Hilarious.

Ladies and gentleman - Dr Sam Simmons (aka Dr Whisky):

Sam recently visited Australia to spread the good word of The Balvenie, and hosted a dinner at Woollahra's Chiswick restaurant. With their hands-on and home-grown approach to produce at Chiswick, the restaurant was a perfect fit for a dinner celebrating a distillery like The Balvenie.

In a departure from the typical whisky dinner (not that we don't love them!) with regimented courses and specifically matched whiskies, the night was much more casual with share plates, wine, cocktails, banter, jokes, and even some ad-hoc karaoke. Oh, and this stunning lineup:

  • The Balvenie 12yo DoubleWood
  • The Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel (still one of my top 3 favourite whiskies, ever)
  • The Balvenie 17yo DoubleWood
  • The Balvenie 21yo PortWood
  • The Balvenie 30yo
  • The Balvenie 1973 Single Cask

The crowd of 30 or so all had a rocking good time, sharing dishes such as Kingfish cevicheFish & prawn tagine with saffron cous cous, and a dessert of Balvenie chocolate mousse with honeycomb, hazelnuts and orange (the highlight of the night - luckily we each got our own serving. No sharing here)!

Attendees were a mix of whisky bloggers (all three of us Sydney-based bloggers), bar industry famous faces, food writers, lifestyle bloggers, and Cinnamon Lee who'd created a hip flask in the shape of a dipping dog for the upcoming The Balvenie Craft Bar in Melbourne (that's it below). Holding 120mL, it's yours for a cool $790 (to be fair, it was pretty cool).  Steph and I may have held a mock relay race with it...

(...and no, we'd never met anyone called Cinnamon before either! Cool name.)

Sam stood up to present throughout the night, saying a few words about each dram, drawing on his extensive experience in the world of whisky, and generally revving up the crowd with a bit of banter with the other William Grant & Sons guys. It was a fun night and no-one took themselves too seriously. The food, whisky, presentations and general banter were all perfectly matched. 

It was also pretty obvious that Sam is one of those rare brand ambassadors who not only knows pretty much everything there is to know about whisky, but can also read his audience incredibly well. The next night, when Steph and I attended the SMWS night with Sam, he was just as entertaining, but tweaked his presentation style slightly to match the older, more "enthusiast" crowd.

So....that 1973 The Balvenie? I'll cover tasting notes in a future post, but basically a few weeks before his trip, Sam asked David Stewart (The Balvenie's malt master for over 50 years) to pull "something special" from the warehouse. David obliged, pulling bottles from two separate casks, both laid to rest in 1973.

So yes, the last dram of the night was a 40yo The Balvenie, cask-strength, pulled from a single cask by David Stewart himself just a few weeks earlier. Very cool.

Another huge thanks to William Grant & Sons Australia and Weber Shandwick for putting on another absolutely flawless night.

 - Martin.

Just sharing a 40yo The Balvenie with Dr Whisky. No biggy.

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