CHENNAI: You would neither have idli dipped in tea nor would you have biscuit dipped in sambhar. Maybe you do, it’s a choice. For every sip of any drink, is a spoon of the right food that suits your palette. Talking about alcohol, it’s one thing to chug but it’s an entirely different experience to take it in slow, swirl it in your mouth for 15 seconds, wait for the flavours to empower your tastebuds and understand how it feels.
It was a Thursday evening at The Flying Elephant, Park Hyatt where a group of curious minds learnt to smell, taste and pair three brands of whisky with different Mediterranean grills under the supervision of whisky connoisseur Sandeep Arora.
Before the first glass of Dalwhinnie, Highland single malt scotch whisky arrived, Sandeep walked us through the necessity of the experience. “Decades ago, I brought the concept of pairing into the country for the purpose of appreciation, responsible drinking and lifestyle. The relationship between the two components unveils gently with drops of water, a couple of ice cubes. It’s a harmony and you need to find what works for you.”
Did that mean we had to figure out the pairing ourselves? Most certainly! It wasn’t as difficult as we thought it to be. Let’s take you through our experience at the table.
Dalwhinnie, 15 years old: First was colour. It was a rich thick golden. A small swirl, and the rings it formed were visible. Second was the smell. When you swirl, the glass with the top closed and take it to your nostril, the intensity of the pungent flavours hits your senses making you cringe. But swirl and sniff it while moving it round a couple of inches away from your nostrils, you can smell it. (Yes, almost similar to wine tasting) Everyone could smell different things. For this reporter, it was green apple and pepper. Taste was the third. One small sip and rolling it round your mouth was all that was needed for the fierce peppery taste to hit. An ice cube in, the oils settle and the taste was just right. Some liked the intensity and preferred to drink it straight. Fourth, the pairing. A variety of Mediterranean starters were placed in front of us. White bread, pita bread with other starters and a salad. Salad and Dalwhinnie worked well.
The second whisky brought to the table was Talisker, single malt scotch whisky, 10 years old. After the sight and smell came the taste. More stringent. There was chicken, corn and the other breads. But you know what worked for the reporter? Mangoes! Heavenly, not overpowering but dominating enough to make your palette want more. Surprisingly, mango worked for everyone unlike the first round of pairing.
Making things fun — well, more fun — Sandeep poured some Talisker on the reporter’s palms and asked her to rub it together. How does it feel? Like a hand sanitiser. How does it smell? Pretty nice again like a sanitiser but 15 minutes later, the smell was horrible.
The last bottle made an appearance — Lagavulin, islay single malt scotch whisky, aged 16 years. The flavours were stringent and smoky. No more green apple, flowery scent or the smell of wood. Pairing? Well, we couldn’t get enough of the mangoes!
Next time you walk into a bar, ask for your whiskey with its brand, age and palette. It will certainly change your perspective on what makes you high...the chugging or the romance between the drink and food.
You need to soak in the flavours and make sure they don’t over power each other. It’s a harmony and you need to find what works for you — Sandeep Arora, whisky connoisseur