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The Whisky Belle

Feeling lucky

This January, I received a few tempting invitations, which would see me venturing out after the festivities. I’m now features editor for a new luxurious magazine called Whisky Quarterly and you’ll be able to read the full version of Timberyard and Restaurant Mark Greenaway online in a few weeks. I wanted to pay due respect to the chefs that work in these kitchens, as the dishes that were presented were some of the best I’ve eaten in a while. How lucky was that?

My first outing was to Timberyard, courtesy of Georgie Bell, who has been keeping me informed about development at Mortlach for the last few months. I remember visits to the original yard to collect wood for various projects that my father would be working on at home. As a surgeon, he was skilled at mending people, as well as things. The space has retained its rustic feel, and was full on a cold Tuesday night in January, so felt snug. A tasting of the new make from the distillery, was followed by the matured spirit which is exceedingly good. The ensuing four courses that made their way to me were both artful and studded with flavour. A triumph.

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The second equally enticing invitation was to celebrate the opening of The Balvenie Room at Restaurant Mark Greenaway. The space is a den-like haven creating the perfect showcase for Mark and his ingenious dishes, and we delighted in them. James Buntin, in the Balvenie camp, looked after us generously with a few delicious drams. It was one of those evenings that could have stretched into the wee hours except that we all had flights to catch the next day.

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Mine was longer than the others, as I was flying to British Columbia, for the annual Victoria Whisky Festival as an ambassador for The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. The festival was celebrating its tenth year, drawing whisky lovers from near and far to enjoy whisky. This year it raised $25,000 for local charities, who will benefit in a very different way to the show goers. This year the Thursday night opened with Alwynne Quilt, aka Miss Whisky, who had impressed her all female audience so much from last year with her chocolate pairing evening that a second round was demanded with men included! Friday night saw a succession of masterclasses, for which the audiences sleep out to ensure they get their tickets. Kelly and Rob Carpenter who run the SMWS branch in Canada, and I had carefully poured over the whisky lists to choose the bottlings for the various classes over the weekend. One of my classes involved active participation with attendees having to nose their whisky blind and build a visual tasting note from a table laden with props. One for those with a sweet tooth! The festival concluded with The Distillers Dinner which was a feast of beautiful whiskies paired with a five course dinner prepared by the team at the Hotel Grand Pacific. My highlights were a Glendronach 1993, with velvet like sherry richness and a Society bottling of 117.5, beautifully described as ‘Smouldering, brooding and alluring’.

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My final evening was spent in Calgary at the Brasserie Kensington, where our Society members were told to expect Burns, the alternative. The welcome drink was a hard choice, would you choose the bottling of bourbon, B3.1, ‘A little box of treasures’ or 39.95, ‘Caressing, warm and friendly’?  Our main course was Brasserie-style lamb ‘crepinette’ with pomme puree and five spice mash, paired with 76.93, ‘Magic from the wee witchie’ and was stunning. For those of you who know your Society numbers, you’ll see I came a full circle. So seven events in eight days, pretty lucky I think.

Annabel

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