I wasted years not understanding what I am just beginning to discover. There is complexity, variety, richness, nuance, subtleties and depth in single malt whisky. I love it! When I decided I wanted to learn more, I called on the main man of whisky in Sydney, Franz Scheurer. Not that the night was only about the Scotch, as I popped along to the Springbank Whisky Dinner at Restaurant Balzac.
The dinner was hosted by Springbank Master Distiller, Peter Currie. The food for the night was matched to the whiskies by Franz Scheurer working with Chef Matthew Kemp in designing the menu. And to tell you the truth, it was the appeal in reading the menu that also first got me to pop along.
Springbank Distillery is unique. It is the oldest independent family owned distillery in Scotland. Founded in 1828 on the site of Archibald Mitchell’s illicit still, the Springbank Distillery is now in the hands of his great great grand son, Hedley G. Wright.
It was a great privilege and pleasure to join the table of Master Distiller Peter Currie, the host of the dinner, who was kind enough to patiently answer my questions and step through some very basic lessons with such a beginner as me.
Monday 18th October 2010
Cocktail on Arrival
The Raj’s Pleasure by Franz Scheurer
Killkerran WIP #2 6 Year Old 46% ABV
Hazelburn 12 Year Old 46% ABV
Kippers on Toast
Springbank 18 Year Old 46% ABV
Risotto of Morels, Broad Beans and Wild Rabbit
Springbank Claret 12 Year Old 54.4% ABV
Marron Tail with Chestnut Noodles and Sage Noisette
Longrow / Long Row Shiraz Hogshead Matured 8 Year Old 58/5% ABV
Tart Tatin, Raisin Ripple Ice Cream, Elderflower and Mulberry Jelly
What I really loved was that the whiskies were listed first on the menu, signally that the food was truly matched to the Scotch. I was really attracted to this venue, by the menu of the evening too, and interested to see what treatment would be given to some old fashioned favourites. These first two courses, were treated simply. The Welsh Rarebit was a robust start with the rustic nature of the dish highlighted by the serving board. As Franz Scheurer put it “We started with cheese on toast”. It was fancy cheese on toast though Franz.
These Kippers were delicious. I’m a kippers fan. And, these were the best I’ve tasted in Australia. Lightly cured and smoked and deliciously creamy. Now I know I should be telling you about the whiskies, but I’m a little embarrassed as I’m such a novice. I took copious notes on the night and I learnt a lot.
I learnt the difference between undistilled through to triple distilled, no peat to peated, but all the theory only enhanced what I learnt on the nose and in my mouth. By the end of the evening, I was really surprised at the fruits and spices I could determine just by smell, let alone by what I could uncover on the front and back of my palate. What surprised me even more was the breadth of variations that could come out of one distillery. All the whisky, 100% production at Springbank is distilled, matured and bottled at Campbelltown, Scotland.
So don’t laugh (please). One of my questions was about ice in whisky. A week or so before the dinner, I’d ordered a single malt whisky at a wine bar. The bartender insisted I put a cube of ice in it. Taking the opportunity, I asked the ‘experts’ and they said a definitive no. We did, however step through by nose and taste the differences of pouring the whisky straight, letting it sit for an hour, adding a drop (just a drop mind) of water and adding ice. The drop of water opens the florals the same way as if you let the whisky sit in the glass, or so I’m told.
The other point of discussion on the night, was a question from another table, about the choice of glass, and which glass is best. Even my table of experience did not agree on this totally. It was suggested that the best way to taste and learn though is to use the same glass.
For me the biggest surprise in my lesson was matching a dessert to a whisky. It worked. As did all the marriages of the night.
Now I’m ready for my next lesson …
141 Belmore Rd
Randwick NSW 2031
+61 (2) 9399 9660