Gourmet affair – Westin and whisky combine!

Once and awhile, I have the pleasure of joining special evenings… this was one such night!

TheWestin partnered with Nick Ord from Diageo‘s TheSingleton to host a private pairing of whisky and fine cuisine. It was very clear the chef and team spent considerable time and effort experimenting to find just the right combination (and perhaps imbibing along the way too!).

We were greeted by the poolside with a glass of Singleton, served as we wished. It was a hot muggy dark evening but the company was refreshing, the breeze delightful and the experience worth braving Bombay’s traffic to join!

Warning – my camera photos simply do not do justice… even still, you are liable to become rather envious of those lucky enough to be part of the evening.

With that caveat in mind, read on…

2016-05-22 Westin Whiskies Cards

Glenkinchie 12 year

  • Whisky – Aromatic, vanilla, cut flowers and creamy
  • Salad – Green and white asparagus, burrata with a quinoa chip
  • Pairing – An excellent starting combination, complimented well, whetted the appetite for more to come…

2016-05-14 Westin Asperagus

2016-05-22 Glenkinchie 10 year

Caol Ila 12 year

  • Whisky – Subdued, citrus fruitiness, a fresh and appetising nose, almond oil and after a while a pot pourri
  • Appetiser – Stuffed Kashmiri morels, mushroom puree
  • Pairing – Outstanding! Simply superb! Each on their own excellent but combined was easily one of the best pairings I’ve sampled so far. There was simply something about how the feta stuffed morel merged with the Caol Ila to bring out even more in each. Like taking something already fabulous and bring out something even more spectacular. It was that good.

2016-05-14 Westin Morel

2016-05-22 Caol Ila

Talisker 10 year

  • Whisky – Powerful peat-smoke with just a hint of the sea-water salt of fresh oysters, with a citrus sweetness
  • Option 1 – Panseared scallops, air dried prosciutto, cauliflower and truffle puree
  • Option 2 – Corn fed chicken smoked in clay oven, spiced yogurt, raw mango and pineapple chutney
  • Option 3 – Variation of the chicken dish with smoked paneer instead
  • Pairing – Folks raved about the scallops, spoke well of the chicken and my vegetarian fare was well balanced with the Talisker. Pleasant, worked well but not out of this world like the morel and Caol Ila.

Here Nick Ord from Singleton interjected that we should savour the Talisker 10 as stocks are running low – what is here today may be gone tomorrow.

2016-05-14 Westin Paneer

2016-05-22 Talisker 10 year

Lagavulin 16 year

  • Whisky – Intensely flavoured, peak smoke and a rich, deep sweetness
  • Option 1 – Australian lamb loin with madeira sauce, milanese risotto, truffle
  • Option 2 – Indian lamb shank with a signature ‘tear’ sauce and biryani
  • Options 3 – For vegetarians, broccoli on a mustard infused mash
  • Pairing – Though by all accounts the Australian lamb was excellent, however as a pairing it simply didn’t hit the high notes. In the case of the vegetarian version, the dish brought out spice in the Lagavulin instead of complimenting.  However, by contrast, the Indian lamb biryani was apparently spot on! It was yet another reminder, to not be afraid of bringing more desi flavours into the foreground with whiskies – particularly those with a bit more oomph!

2016-05-14 Westin Lamb

2016-05-22 Lagavulin 16

Singleton by Glen Ord 12 year

  • Whisky – Toasted nut, rich fruit and aromas
  • Desert – Delightful assortment of mignardises from fresh raspberry to a melting almond ganache to a crunchy ball bursting with flavours and more…
  • Pairing – Pure joy! After dutifully sampling a nibble of one with the Singleton, I gleefully abandoned all pretence of sticking to one whisky alone. A small bite of pure sin would tell me which whisky might work best… Fantastic way to close the evening!

2016-05-14 Westin Mignardises

2016-05-22 Singleton

While these single malts are all ‘standards’ – even familiar friends – it is always a pleasure to revisit… particularly with such carefully planned pairings.

TheWestin Mumbai team clearly put a lot of effort into playing around with possible options. Bravo to the organisers, TheWestin team and Nick!

2016-05-14 Westin Whiskies

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Caol Ila 12 vs Caol Ila 12

Not so long ago, we had an opportunity to enjoy a special bottling of Caol Ila 1997 from Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice range. Bottled in 2009, this made the delightful whisky a 12 year…

Which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to pull out my standard Caol Ila 12 year for a proper tasting for quite some time. If you can believe it, a bottle has been kicking around my whisky cabinet at the ready to join an impromptu party or sociable occasion for more than a year… seriously.

Much as I enjoy a good dram in convivial settings, when it comes to tasting notes, I prefer focusing on the whisky alone either in a very small group of fellow whisky aficionados or solo. And for whatever inexplicable reason, those moments haven’t turned attention to my neglected Caol Ila.

Until a few nights ago on my own and again last night at an insanely enjoyable inaugural ‘Whisky Ladies’ evening in Mumbai.

Caol Ila 12 year (Whisky Lady)

Caol Ila 12 year (Whisky Lady)

Caol Ila 12 year 43%

  • Colour – Bright cheerful yellow straw
  • Nose – Honey, lemon, vanilla, a curl of peat, pear, a little curd
  • Palate – Welcome to the embrace of our old pal peat! A little spice, some sea salt to accompany the smoke, there is subtle substance to the body, a little oil, simple enveloping you in whisky warmth
  • Finish – Yes it is there… smokey, peppery yet surprisingly soft too
  • Water – Can add a drop or two but not necessary

I find the Caol Ila 12 one of those absolutely dependable and under-rated Islay whiskies. It has that characteristic peaty element however without the dramatic boldness found in some Islays. While more subdued, it is also more balanced.

In short, it is one you can reach out for and simply enjoy.

And I realised anew why this whisky was one of my early staples… as in back in the day when I’d had little exposure to the world of whisky. Blame the Caol Ila among a few others for getting me hooked on to exploring more about this elixir of the gods.

I also can see why this whisky appeals to a desi palate… after all it is a key element in the ever popular Indian favourite Johnnie Walker Black Label. And if any of you remember that vatted malt Green Label? Yup! Once again – think Caol Ila.

As for the Gordon & MacPhail bottle that prompted my pulling out this Caol Ila for a revisit? Believe it or not I had a few wee drops squirrelled away just to compare.

Without a doubt the same family, however the Gordon & MacPhail Caol Ila 12 year is a more mellow, more complex, more nuanced single malt and takes everything I enjoy about Caol Ila and makes it more exquisitely etched… like bringing an appealing slightly blurry photo into rich focus.

Here’s what others say about the Caol Ila 12 year:

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