My early introduction to whisky was inconsequential. Those first tastings of mid-range blended Scotch whiskies did not really impress.
Then I discovered Ardbeg. This is the whisky that made me fall in love – with whisky that is. And yes, I do love whisky. So I was beside myself with excitement not only for the chance to meet Dr Bill Lumsden company’s head of distilling and whisky creation, when he was in Sydney recently, but also to have lunch with him at Sailors Club.
I don’t know if it was bad form or not, but when cocktails were offered on arrival, I asked for my whisky neat to start. Somehow it didn’t seem right to dilute my love affair. I wear my heart on my sleeve and wanted to show it. Mind you, I did follow up with a cocktail. And also found a new use for the whisky apart from drinking it – cocktail or not.
As a purist, I like my oysters freshly shucked, unwashed and tasting of the sea. The addition of a drop or two of Ardbeg to the fresh oyster, was however an ephiphany. It is an incredible combination that I implore you to try – at least once.
Then we sat for three courses designed by Sailors Club Executive Chef Steve Skelly.
Seared Scallop with Salt-Baked Beetroot & Caramelised Apple Reduction
Slow Roasted Kurobuta Pork Shoulder, Smoked Eggplant Puree & Grilled Leeks
The Sailors Club Tiramisu
Although Sailors Club has magnificent views, Dr Bill Lumsden decided the overcast day was much better whisky drinking weather. Indeed.
And after the three courses we were asked to declare our favourite whisky. The vote went to Ardbeg Uigeadail; there were some fans at the table. My applause however went to the more robust Ardbeg Corryvreckan. Dr Bill described it as a more confronting whisky. And I’m not sure if it was a compliment or not (though he said it with his endearing smile) when he said that choice suited me. Am I confronting? I wonder. It was an excellent match with the resonating smoke of the eggplant and the fatty unctuousness of the tender pork. So, it was also my favourite of the whisky and food matches.
Not that I didn’t adore both the Ardbeg Uigeadail and Ardbeg Galileo whiskies. I did. Yet although I liked the dessert when it stood alone, I didn’t agree that the icy temperature of the dish worked with the Galileo.
We didn’t end with dessert. There was still more to come.
The special prize in sharing a bottle of the divine Ardbeg 1977; the golden heavenly nectar. Which was made all the more special with the tales that we were told, including how a bottle was given away to a charity auction by Dr Bill’s wife while he was travelling. We laughed and laughed. Not only was it a beautiful lunch on a perfectly ordained overcast day, but we truly enjoyed excellent company and conversation to lift our whiskies even higher.
If only more days could be just as special. Living the life!