Single malts, seaplanes and luxury luncheons…
Over the years I have attended hundreds of wine tastings and shows, but an event that indulges my love for whisky is a rare and special treat. When I received the invitation to attend an all-expenses paid luncheon facilitated by world renowned malt master, David Stewart, I realised the true meaning of Christmas in July! I am always aware of my moral obligation to break down stereotypes and introduce more women to the wondrous world of whisky, so as one of only three invitees from Western Australia, and the only woman, I was keen to learn everything I could. It was all over in two days, but the experience was timeless and I feel truly honoured to have attended.
After arriving to a cold and dark Sydney I was delighted to find crisp, clear weather in the morning – perfect for the seaplane journey from Rose Bay to Jonah’s luxurious Restaurant and Boutique Hotel at Whale Beach. Jonah’s is certainly an “oasis of tranquillity” and provided the perfect atmosphere for an amazing afternoon with David Stewart.
David hails from Dufftown, Scotland and is the longest serving malt master in the world. He has been making whisky at William Grant and Sons since 1962 and dedicates his time to their renowned Balvenie Distillery. David is well known for being the pioneer of two-cask maturation, a process that involves ‘finishing’ the whisky in a different cask, thus altering its flavour and adding depth.
Throughout our four course luncheon, David expertly paired four Balvenie scotch whiskies with the delightful dishes served by Jonah’s.
Balvenie 12-year-old DoubleWood – Matured in traditional oak casks before being finished in sherry casks. Easy to drink scotch with an approachable personality. Sweet and fruity; a great choice for those just beginning their whisky journey.
Balvenie 14-year-old Caribbean Cask – My personal favourite! Matured in traditional oak casks and finished in casks that previously held Caribbean rum. An alluring single malt with a sweet and spicy soul. Fruity, orange peel flavours (reminds me of homemade, crumbly, gingernut biscuits).
Balvenie 17-year-old DoubleWood – More savoury, spicy complexity then the 12-year-old, but in my opinion, not significantly better. Rich, Deep and strong, with a fullness of flavour suited to the more experienced whisky enthusiast.
Balvenie 21-year-old PortWood – David Stewarts favourite. Finished in port casks, a precious blend of fruity, raisin flavours and smooth honeyed dryness.
After the luncheon we were led to the alfresco area where we sat overlooking the ocean and absorbing the sublime tranquillity. To add perfection to perfection, we were then treated to some rare bottlings, and an informal presentation by David. It is wonderful to listen to David; For someone so highly respected in the whisky world, his natural understated manner was somewhat humbling and reminded me of the Latin proverb “Still waters run deep”.
The following afternoon, I boarded the plane to Perth with a reaffirmed love and commitment to single malts. Although whisky has exploded its way to popularity, with reputable distilleries popping up across the globe, there are still many that have not ventured into single malts – perhaps deterred by the long-held perception that single malt whisky is strong and masculine. Sure, there are strong whiskies, and I wouldn’t recommend the 21-year-old PortWood to the novice, but the 14-year-old Carribean Cask is worth experimenting with, as is the 12-year-old DoubleWood. The Balvenie scotch whisky ranges from sweet and fruity to savoury and spicy; a spectrum of flavours to suit every palate. Add a dash of water to open up the aromas and you may just find a new love!
I am always happy to be the match-maker, so please feel free to drop into LaVigna where I can introduce you to one of the intriguing personalities of Balvenie. And if you really want to do whisky in style, LaVigna will soon stock a limited number of handmade Denver & Liely Whisky Glasses; the unique shape of which is a perfect compromise between whisky sniffer and classic tumbler. You could have Father’s Day all wrapped up – but ladies, I am sure the men in your lives would love to share the moment with you, so you may need two!