Thursday 1 November 2018

The BenRiach Distillery Company x Ming Court Whisky Dinner (Tasted #402)

It's always nice when one of your favourite distilleries (GlenDronach) comes to town, especially when they're accompanied by their two sister distilleries (BenRiach & Glenglassaugh), and especially when they really get embedded into the local culture, as this video shows:

In addition to filming the video, Global Brand Ambassador (for all 3 brands) Stewart Buchanan was in Hong Kong to host a whisky dinner at Cordis Hotel's Ming Court restaurant, pairing 6 Cantonese courses with whiskies from the three distilleries:

Whisky pairings can be a lot of fun, especially when the chef puts in the effort to actually design and match dishes to the whiskies, not just finding complementary flavours, but actually enhancing notes in one with the other......which was absolutely the case with this menu. It was clear the time that Stewart and chef Li Yuet-Faat spent together was time well-spent.

Stewart started the night with a brief introduction to the three distilleries, explaining that whilst the three are relatively close geographically (GlenDronach and BenRiach being Speyside distilleries, Glenglassaugh sitting just outside in the Highlands), they all have unique surroundings (someone may have mentioned "terroir") and characteristics - from BenRiach's traditional Speyside profile, to GlenDronach's heavier, more sherried profile and Glenglassaugh's fruity, sweet spirit (largely due to the water having the highest mineral content of any distillery).

Kicking off with Glenglassaugh Evolution, Stewart explained that whilst it's currently a NAS (and has been since 2008), when it hits 10 years old it will carry a 10yo age statement. As the name suggests, it's evolved over time, and certainly this expression was markedly different to the one I first tried over 5 years ago back in 2013. Matured in ex-Tennessee barrels (guess which ones...), it shows sweet, stewed fruits on the nose, lots of ginger spice on the palate and a long sweet ginger finish. An excellent match for the Sautéed Fresh Lobster with Honey and Lemongrass, with the ginger notes in the whisky really lifting the honey notes in the dish.

Next was The BenRiach Heart of Speysidepaired with Braised White Asparagus and Sautéed Matsutake, Termite, Shimeji and Shitake Musrhoom with Chilli Sauce. It was the asparagus which stood out here - when combined with the whisky, there was an earthy-but-floral note sounds odd, but was very enjoyable.

Moving onto GlenDronach (referred to on the night as the "double espresso of single malt"), both the Original 12yo and Allardice 18yo were paired with Braised Port Rib in Homemade Royal Sauce. The Allardice 18yo was my favourite whisky of the two (unsurprising given its sole makeup of Oloroso, and my penchant for Oloroso-matured GlenDronach!) but the 12yo I thought was a better pairing, adding a sweetness to the already very rich "royal sauce".

Keeping with The GlenDronach theme, The GlenDronach Parliament 21yo was next, paired with
Braised Wagyu beef cheek with aged dried tangerine peel. The 21yo has always been one of the sweeter GlenDronachs (due to its mix of PX and Oloroso sherry casks) and the sweetness in the whisky really melded with the dried Tangerine Peel well, adding a sweetness to the latter and amplifying the flavours in both.

Back to BenRiach next, where The Benriach Curiositas 10yo was paired with Fried Rice with Cram Meat, Dried Shrimp paste, Ginger and Spring Onion. A pretty tasty dish on its own, the perfumed smoke in the Curiositas brought out wood smoke & BBQ notes which were very enjoyable.

There was one dish left at this point, but Stewart surprised (and delighted) guests by whipping out a single cask GlenDronach. Not just any single cask, mind you - a 1993 (said by GD fans to be a special year) Single Cask 24yo (Cask #55) - one of the highest regarded 1993 single casks! 

The GlenDronach Single Cask 1993 24yo Cask #55 (56.7% ABV, 24 Years Old, Speyside, Scotland, no longer available)
Colour: Bright red-brown copper
Nose: Big, sharp Oloroso notes. Sultanas, woodspice, polish. Cherries. Plums.
Palate: Rich, sweet leather. Ginger spice. Coffee beans and some sweet tobacco notes. With time herbal notes emerge, then more cherries, plums and red berries. Dark chocolate.
Finish: Long, sweet oak with a slightly herbal and slight raspberry note.
Rating (on Martin's very non-scientific scale): 93/100. A very high performing GDSC!

The sole remaining dish (Molten Whisky and Chocolate Custard Bun) was due to be paired with The BenRiach Heart of Speyside (as the bun was actually cooked with the whisky), however I found The Benriach Curiositas 10yo to be the best pairing, with the smoke doing wonders for the molten chocolate.

Stewart presents Chef Li with a signed bottle of Allardice 18yo
With bellies full of great whisky and equally good food, it was time to retire to head home...but not before another dram or two of that lovely cask #55!


Time for Whisky attended the dinner as a guest of Telford Wine & Spirits, distributors of BenRiach, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh in Hong Kong. A big thanks to the team (and Cordis Hong Kong) for a fantastic night.

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