Delmonico Steakhouse was the ideal setting for an amazing meal paired with four amazing whiskies from Glenfiddich, one of the world’s most popular brands.
The April 2 event featured a four-course meal from chef de cuisine Ronnie Rainwater, paired with Glenfiddich’s 12-, 15-, 18- and 21-year old single malt whiskies. Prior to the event, guests sipped on cocktails made with Glenfiddich’s whiskey blend Monkey Shoulder—a term taken from the repetitive stress injuries distillery workers used to suffer while turning the barley with shovels, according to brand ambassador Mitch Bechard.
One of the evening’s real treats was the chance to hear—and have a dram with—Brian Kinsman, Glenfiddich’s master blender for nearly five years after taking over from whiskey legend David Stewart, who held the position there for 47 years.
Of course, for many whiskey fans, cigars are a huge part of the experience, and Alec Bradley representative Sam Phillips took the crowd through a short tutorial, in case anyone felt the need to light up. “We do a lot of work with Glenfiddich,” he said.
There’s something to be said about a whiskey company that’s still owned by the same family that created it. Glenfiddich is one of only four such companies in Scotland, created in 1887 by William Grant using second-hand stills and only 100 pounds. (Glenfiddich is owned by William Grant & Sons).
Both Bechard and Kinsman took turns talking lovingly about their company’s products. As Kinsman said, regardless of how long each whiskey has been in the barrel, “Glenfiddich should have a harmony to it. We want every variant to really belong to the family. We want that core flavor to work its way through every variant.”
First up was the Glenfiddich 12-year-old, paired with an appetizer of scallop crudo with petite greens, white asparagus, toasted hazelnuts and apple cider vinaigrette. The light vanilla-tinged fruitiness of the 12-year was a pleasant complement to the crunchy, salty nature of the dish.
Next was roasted quail with root vegetable “risotto” and currant jus lie, paired with Glenfiddich’s 15-year-old. This was distinctly spicier than the 12, and it perked up the tastebuds to fully savor the succulence of the quail. (By the way, plenty was said about the “risotto,” with its crunchy quality. Some found it confusing, others loved it. I fall on the latter side.)
Rainwater’s next dish was a big hit: salt-crusted tenderloin with braised chanterelle mushrooms, pine nut gremolata and natural reduction. It didn’t hurt that the dish got paired with Glenfiddich’s 18-year-old, Kinsman’s personal favorite of the four on display that night.
Kinsman’s description of the 18-year was incredibly accurate: If you were to take, say an apple, and make baked apples or apple pie, that was the transition from 12-year to 18-year. “All those fruity notes have been concentrated,” he said. “It’s like reducing a sauce, where you intensify those flavors.” The velvety smoothness of the tenderloin melted in the mouth, and the 18-year topped it with a perfect amount of spice.
Dessert was completely over the top—in the best way possible. In small jars, Rainwater placed spiced chocolate cake, caramel mousse parfait and butter toffee. Glenfiddich’s 21-year-old, which smelled like spun sugar, was the absolute perfect complement. I saw many nodding their heads in immediate approval.
As we sat awaiting food comas, Bechard regaled us with the story of where the word “dram” comes from—turns out it refers to a shot of whiskey distillery workers used to get three times a day as part of their pay. It was straight from the source and weighed in at 128 proof. According to Bechard, the practice continued well into the 1970s, “at which point the health department said, ‘What are you doing?’”
As I sat, satisfied and stuffed, the only response I could come up with was, “Treating their employees like family!” And for one night, I felt like part of the Glenfiddich clan. It was a good feeling.