Tuesday 2 October 2018

The Balvenie Dinner at Hong Kong Parkview with David Stewart and Kelsey McKechnie

One of the benefits of being a whisky lover in HK (as I've mentioned a few times) is the steady stream of international whisky personalities who pass through. William Grant & Sons are no exception, with a visit by Glenfiddich Global Band Ambassador Ian Millar in 2014, The Balvenie Malt Master David Stewart in 2015 and former global brand ambassador (and the funniest man in whisky) Sam Simmons in 2016.

Fast forward to 2018, and The Balvenie Malt Master David Stewart again came to town (for one night only), this time with Kelsey McKechnie who had only just been announced as new apprentice Malt Master weeks earlier.

The pair had come to Hong Kong for a Balvenie pairing dinner, held at Hong Kong Parkview's Ming Yuen restaurant, in conjunction with Parkview's brilliant whisky bar and Telford Wine & Spirits.

For a select few media, the event actually kicked off a little earlier in the evening, with a tasting of The Balvenie 40yo kindly sponsored by the Parkview's brilliant Parkview Whisky Bar. I'll save the tasting notes for a separate post (suffice to say, it was a special dram indeed), along with an even older Balvenie post I've been saving...

Kicking off with a rich complex cocktail made with The Balvenie 12 Doublewood, sherry and coffee, as guest arrived we chatted with David and Kelsey, and collectively wondered if they'd make their flights the next day, given the impending typhoon (subsequently the strongest in HK's history).

Admiring the drams laid out, it was clear we were in for a good night, with the following on the menu:

After taking our seats, David gave a brief introduction, reflecting on his incredible 56 years (and counting) with William Grant & Sons, and talking us through the DoubleWood's 25 year history, starting with the first bottling in 1983 (coincidentally, recently marked by a limited-release 25yo DoubleWood). David, known for his pioneering ways in the field of cask finishing ("ACEing" in some circles), explained the first four whiskies were finished (Sherry, Rum, Sherry, Port), whereas the 30 is a marriage of 1st fill American Oak casks, refill American Oak casks and 1st fill European Oak casks.

Kicking off with Chilled Fresh Abalone (which is actually kind of clever, because Abalone itself doesn't have a lot of flavour, but soaks up other flavours), and then Double Boiled Shi Hu with Sea Conch & Pigeon (soup), both with The Balvenie 12 Doublewood, and then Kurobuta Pork Roll with Teriyaki Sauce, paired with The Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask, it was clear the new chef has taken Ming Yuen in a much more interesting and modern direction (presentation-wise), whilst keeping the flavours traditional and delicious. Steph and I had eaten there only once before (it's typically only open to Parkview residents), but this was much, much better than I'd remembered.

Kelsey presented the The Balvenie 17 DoubleWood next, paired with Pan-fried Cod with Passionfruit Jus with each bringing out (or rather, amping up) the sweetness in the other.

It seemed like almost every attendee had brought at least one bottle of their of Balvenie to ask David / Kelsey to sign (I was no exception), and in between courses queues started to form. There were a number of rare and interesting bottles (DoubleWoods from the 80s, TUN 1858s etc..) but none more so than this bottle, brought by Kam from Dram Good Stuff...

Not on tasting, obviously!
(We also learnt that the DCS5 collection is likely to have a 1962 release with an even older age statement - 56 or 57yo!)

Whilst Dessert and whisky pairings are an "easier" match to make, this one was particularly good, with Mango Pudding with Rose Jelly paired with The Balvenie 21 PortWood Finish. David explained the casks for the 21 come from Speyside Cooperage, supplied from Portugal (exact provenance unknown), with about 100 casks used each year and the whisky undergoing a 4 month finish.

The 30yoI figured was deserving of tasting on its own, and will post tasting notes in a separate post shortly. I'd tried the Thirty before and always found it fantastic, but this (more recent) release even more so - a sentiment echoed by friends and others online too, who all agreed it was a great whisky which seems to have recently gotten even better. A truly beautiful dram.

As the dinner wrapped up, those of us who stuck around availed ourselves of a second (and umm, third) dram of our favourites, before heading home with a bottle of DoubleWood 17yo for our troubles. 

A wonderful night spent with great company.


Time for Whisky attended the dinner as a guest of Telford and Hong Kong Parkview, and would like to say a massive thanks to all involved. It should be noted that the price of this dinner also included a bottle of The Balvenie 17 DoubleWood.

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