I knew next to nothing about scotch. Worse still, I didn’t care for it. So when Glenfiddich invited me to a scotch-and-food tasting as part of their Canadian tour, let’s just say they were not preaching to the converted, but to the curious, ah yes. Which explains why, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, I found myself climbing the front steps of Montreal’s very select Mount Stephen Club.
On the agenda, a three-service lunch with scotch pairings, a live demonstration of oak barrel assembly, and the very great pleasure of chatting with master distiller and brand ambassador Ian Millar. The things I learned…
• Glenfiddich is the only scotch still produced by a Scotch family—the Grants— since 1886.
• Single malt scotch is distilled by a single maker using malted barley only, otherwise it’s considered a blend like Scotland’s very popular Famous Grouse scotch (yes, I have been brushing up on the topic for this post).
• Most of Glenfiddich’s “young” scotch is aged in barrels made from 85% American oak and 15% European oak, since the latter adds so much complexity that it can overwhelm tastebuds, especially those of occasional scotch tipplers.
• Glenfiddich has scotch barrels dating back to 1925 but they are shy about their marketing intentions regarding this soon-to-be-century-old scotch.
• Collectors be warned, a special edition of “Snow Phoenix” scotch will soon be sold in Canada. This scotch comes from barrels buried in snow last year, as the roofs from a few Glenfiddich warehouses caved in due to a very snowy Scottish winter. (A bit of research revealed some positive early reviews from experts.)
I could go on about what else I learned, from the history of Sir George Stephen to the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Grant family’s motto, etc. etc., all of which held me spellbound during this wonderful lunch. I may be a bigger history than food buff.
From a foodie vantage point, let’s say that this lunch was an epiphany of sorts. I am not about to turn into a scotch drinker overnight, far from it. That said, I discovered that the silky fat from a good prosciutto (thank you to Macchi Inc. for the fine cold cuts), paired with an 18-year old Glenfiddich scotch, creates quite an interesting mouthfeel.
I also learned that I love, love, love whisky sauce with beef, kuddos to the Mount Stephen Club chef for that one.
Above all I was left speechless by the pairing of chocolate and scotch. As in, I must soon invite friends over to treat them to some chocolate mousse and good scotch—which means I will be buying my first bottle ever. So Glenfiddich, from someone who doesn’t even like chocolate desserts so much and scotch not at all, mission accomplished.
Did you know? The term scotch is reserved for whisky made in Scotland, otherwise it must be called whisky. Or rye whisky in Canada, although whisky produced here is not necessarily distilled from rye. American rye whisky on the other hand must be made mostly from rye. You’re confused? So am I.
Glenfiddich scotch is sold at SAQ, Quebec’s Liquor Board, at prices varying from $24 to $97 based on their age. Scotch afficionados also swear by Glenlivet, sold at prices between $62 and $155, but above all Macallan retailing from $60 to $880! François Chartier, one of Canada’s top sommeliers, also ranks 12-year-old Yamazaki scotch from Japan as his second favourite spirit in terms of the price/quality ratio.
Update: Although Ontario buys Glenfiddich scotch more than any other province, Quebec enjoys the lionshare of the best vintages. For Christmas, 30 bottles of 30-year Glenfiddich, 4 bottles of the 40-year vintage (of which only 200 will be shipped worldwide) and the only bottle of their 50 year old scotch available in Canada will be sold here. The price tag for that single 50-year bottle? $26,000!
* Source: Paul J. Coffin, Operations V.P., Clos des Vignes
In places that raelly know their scotch, they will also offer you little water on the side of your neat drink, so you can dilute it a wee bit (brings out some of the hidden aromatics). A good scotch place would never insult you by offering such a fine beverage on the rocks. You can ask, but they will give you a well deserved eyebrow. My mantra is that if it tastes so horrible that you need to super cool and massively dilute it to handle it don’t drink it! If you are too weak to handle the drink straight up don’t drink it!