An Evening With Glenfiddich
Although the weather wasn’t great, the dark, driech night framed Edinburgh Castle wonderfully with the subtle lighting and bustle of the city below.
This event was hosted by Jamie Milne (@GlenfiddichJM) and Marcin Miller (@MarcinMiller), and we could not think of two more attentive, charming, knowledgeable hosts. Jamie is the UK Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich, Marcin is the founder and former editor of Whisky Magazine, now Managing Director in Europe for Number One Drinks. Conversation flowed easily as did the laughs.
Stewart and I visited the Scottish Malt Whisky Society (@SMWSQueenStreet) first, and shared a dram and thoroughly enjoyable chat with the wonderfully witty and incredibly knowledgeable Annabelle Meikle (@thewhiskybelle), before walking the short distance to Chaophraya.
Somewhat unusually, Jamie had decided to pair Glenfiddich with Thai food, an interesting combination that worked wonderfully well, in spite of some initial scepticism.
On arrival we were presented with a very simple “cocktail” of Glenfiddich 12yo, served simply over plenty of ice with a slice of frozen pear. Jamie explained that as the 12yo contains plenty of pear notes, serving the frozen pear releases and enhances those notes as it starts to come up to room temperature, ensuring that every mouthful differs from the last, enhancing subtle nuances with each sip.
After much, very enjoyable mingling and discussion, we took our seats at the table in anticipation of the culinary delights still to come.
We were treated to an Aperitif of the very special, limited edition Glenfiddich 29yo Spirit of a Nation.
To say this is an amazing dram, is really an injustice, but let’s start with the heart warming and noble back story to this dram and how it came to be as recounted and presented enthusiastically by Jamie.
The Story Behind “The Spirit Of A Nation”
Glenfiddich decided to sponsor the Charity “Walking With The Wounded” (@supportthewalk), and in December 2013 four brave servicemen and women braved -35 degree temperature and 100mph crosswinds in a 335km race to the South Pole, Glenfiddich were so inspired by their bravery and courage they decided to release a special 29yo limited edition single malt in their honour.
This whisky had spent 29 years slumbering in a sherry butt before being placed into a bourbon cask for an extra three months, this cask was hand selected by Glenfiddich themselves and was then sent, with various members of the Walking With The Wounded team and a team from Glenfiddich, around the country collecting messages of good luck. Glenfiddich hosted special events where people could come to learn more about the challenge and the team, and of course the whisky itself, before leaving their own message of good luck. Many signatures were gathered from all walks of life, stars of the music world, the whisky world, the military and members of the public, all with the common aim of raising as much awareness and good wishes as possible.
The first bottle, out of a batch of 200 (for retail), was taken by the team to the South Pole and signed by every member of the team, including Prince Harry, this bottle will then be auctioned in order to raise funds for the charity. Each bottle (aside from that sold at auction) will be sold for £1000 per bottle with all proceeds donated to the Charity.
Tasting “The Spirit of A Nation”
As mentioned previously this whisky has spent 29 years in a sherry butt and then unusually it was transferred into the specially selected bourbon cask for a further three months. Bottled at 48.8% ABV as Glenfiddich knew that the Walking With The Wounded Team would take a bottle, not only to sign and auction, but also one to keep them warm along the way. A single cask limited edition of just 200 bottles retail. It was agreed on the night that there is only one other whisky that has ever been matured in this way, there are many whiskies on the market that start life in a bourbon cask and are then transferred into a sherry butt but not the other way around. Having tried this whisky I can’t think why this is!
This whisky had amazing deep, rich, almost decedent copper tones that have been greedily absorbed from the wonderful combination of both the sherry and bourbon casks.
The sweetness from the sherry influence is first to assault the senses, a gentle, warm, comforting sweetness, reminiscent of warm bedtime milk and childhood slumbers, a slight malted note. Lovely fresh notes of apples and grainy, sandy pears warmed by a gentle summer’s breeze and an almost tangible beeswax edge. Then the tropical notes march in, pineapples, papaya and the slightly sour notes of mango announce themselves, before being ensconced in bananas en flambe. Next in walks Christmas, plums, cherries, sultana’s all wrapped up in all spice and cinnamon with a little black pepper and black treacle.
Sugar plums dusted in icing sugar dance on the tongue before the gentle spice and slight chilli tingle appear. The apples that promised to be so prevalent on the nose have all but disappeared, although they gently kiss the roof of your mouth, but are lost somewhat to the wonderful pear notes. In a nanosecond the richer, heavier flavours make themselves known, a hint of warm, polished leather and sawdust add a wonderful dimension. As the finish lingers on, there are wonderful tertiary notes of powdered milk, musty autumn leaves and Pontefract Cakes. A viscous, sticky dram that (thankfully) is almost never ending.
Green apples, highly polished with wax, then split open to release the orchard flavours that mix with tropical notes from a classic desert island. Hints of coconut shell and small chocolate drops then follow before the slight spice finishes the nosing sensation.
Spicy with chocolate sauce dripped over a freshly juiced pineapple, more spice on the tongue and an explosion of tropical goodness. Slight hint of orange juice and black peppers with a chilli kick. An extraordinary finish leaves you wanting more.
The rest of the evening was equally special and the food to whisky pairings were quite phenomenal and pretty much spot on.
The First Course consisted of a Glenfiddich 12yo served with mini tartlets filled with a blend of steamed and flaked cod and coley, flavoured with lemongrass, lime leaf and honey. The tartlets were the perfect choice, the lemongrass worked so well with the wonderful apple and pear notes contained within the Glenfiddich 12yo enhancing and drawing forth the delicate fruit flavours, and the strong honey flavours contained within the fish draws out the warm butterscotch notes further contained within the 12yo.
The Second Course consisted of a Glenfiddich 14yo Rich Oak paired with a crispy duck salad containing duck strips tossed with cucumber, shallots, spring onions, celery and pomegranate in a roasted chilli and lime dressing. The Rich Oak is the perfect choice due to its initial spiciness, followed by lashings of creamy vanilla, the deep aromatic notes from the whisky worked extremely well with the roasted chilli dressing. The lime zest of the dressing helped bring out some deeper flavours encased in the whisky, especially the nuttiness that the Rich Oak 14yo is famous for. The chilli dressing however was extremely potent and could have perhaps been toned down slightly to allow the whisky more of a starring role.
The Third Course
The Third Course saw the Glenfiddich 18yo paired with a melt in the mouth delicious steak with a hot and tangy chilli dip on the side and drizzled with a black pepper sauce. The richness of the steak is beautifully married with the soft yet robust, rich oak flavours of the whisky. The warming spices contained within the 18yo stood hand in hand with the tangy chilli dip. The depth of the meat propelled the finish of the 18yo on and on.
The final pairing of the night, brought together the Glenfiddich 15yo and poached pears with white wine and sherry, served with ice cream and meringue (and for some unfathomable reasons canned “squirty cream”). Without a doubt the lovely warm pears contained within this dish were coupled with ginger, and this picks out the spicy, ginger notes, from the 15yo, the sherry in the pears only serves to enhance the sweet notes within the 15yo and allows the rich toffee to come to the fore.
More about the evening
Jamie told us a hilarious anecdote regarding the almost nonappearance of the “Spirit of A Nation” that night and although we’ll save his blushes, if you are lucky enough to meet Jamie then ask him to regale you with it, you can say we sent you.
Jamie’s decision to put the “star” dram at the start of the night, was in our opinion, spot on. It really gave us the time to focus on the whisky and to really taste and appreciate not only the whisky itself but also the fantastic story behind it.
We had a real moment of reflection and allowed us the time to appreciate just how courageous not only the team that took part in the race to the Pole, but servicemen and woman the world over.
It’s hard to describe just how wonderful the evening was and just how much of an honour it was to attend this evening. The company was just as fantastic as the food and of course the whisky.
It’s great to finally see these events happening here in Scotland, this is after all, the home of whisky and Glenfiddich should be commended for providing a wonderful night in the heart of Scotland, showcasing some truly fantastic single malts and for championing and supporting both financially and publically such a worthy Charity with no interference of any politics involved.
We would like, once again to the take the opportunity to thank both Jamie Milne and Marcin Miller once again for their wonderful hosting skills and for the kind invite.
To find out more about the evening’s events take a look on Twitter using #FiddichAndFood.