It was no coincidence that an extravagant Tasting Dinner “Rediscovering the Balvenie: An Evening in the Woods” took place at Woods Restaurant, on polished wood tables, under a massive flowering tree. To say that the over 30 guests were thrilled to be there would be an understatement.
Jamie Johnson, the ebullient Brand Ambassador, introduced each selection with enthusiasm as we nosed and sipped and exclaimed at the beautifully mellow flavours and nuances. I figure that the kitchen had a lot of fun tasting and planning the dinner courses to match the character of each of the Balvenie selections.
The clever Mixologist has created luscious cocktails with the Balvenie Doublewood which we enjoyed pre-dinner, while meeting old friends, comparing notes and nibbling on elegant h’ordeuvres. Distracting us with early Holiday gifts, Norfolk Handmade stamped our initials on their handmade leather card cases and luggage tags, all courtesy of William Grant & Sons.
The allure of Balvenie’s Doublewood 12 is derived from its remarkable character from maturation in two different wood types, American Oak ex-bourbon barrels, and Spanish ex-Oloroso sherry casks, each lending different complexities to the Single Malt Scotch. Bottled at 40% ABV, The Balvenie Doublewood 12 is smooth and mellow with beautifully combined flavours of nutty sweetness, cinnamon spiciness, and a delicately proportioned layer of sherry. The single malt will lend its smooth, rich flavours to dinners or desserts alike, making for the perfect gift for you and that special someone on your list to enjoy together.
Now, comfortably seated, we’re presented with our first course, Heirloom Beet Salad comprised of roasted beets, goat cheese mousse, arugula and candied walnut citrus dressing, that paired in a clever manner with the creamy profile and smooth honeyed character of 14-year-old Balvenie, Caribbean Cask. This 14-year-old boasts a rich, creamier profile from its maturation in traditional oak whisky casks for 14 years before finishing in casks that previously held Caribbean rum. The resulting single malt is exceptional, with The Balvenie’s traditional smooth, honeyed character, married with notes of toffee and a hint of fruit with a warm, lingering finish that’ll make for a memorable dram each time it’s enjoyed.
Elk Ravioli, a delicious meaty surprise encased in light pasta ravioli, came lavished in a lush Balvenie French Oak 16-year-old tomato sauce, which I was happy to scoop up with a spoon. This vibrant 16-year-old single malt is finished in casks that previously held wine from French Charentes vineyards. Pineau de Charentes is a fortified wine crafted from un-fermented grape juice, to which a Cognac eau de vie is added and matured. Balanced light floral notes from lotus and geranium flowers dance between hints of fresh meadow grass and peeled apple skin. A zing from tangy lemon rind and grapefruit meets the delicate subtle sweetness of glazed fruits and spice from root ginger.
Our main course comes to us from renowned Haldimand County in the Niagara Peninsula. The County sits between two Great Lakes in a unique eco-zone in Canada, with more endangered and rare species in the Carolinian Forest than any other life zone in Canada. It is from farms in this area that Woods gets its New York Striploin. This very tasty steak is set on wedge frites of root vegetables, seasonal vegetables and gets a kick from Balvenie bone marrow jus. It is a perfect pairing. The Balvenie PortWood 21-Year-Old is a marriage of rare Balvenie aged 21 years in traditional oak casks and then finished in port pipes for four months. The taste is refined and remarkable in character, creamy and silky on the palate with fruit, honey, and spice notes. This coveted release has won an array of awards and is a true representation of the ultimate craftsmanship bottled with each Balvenie expression. This single malt was initially released in 1996 but has made a long-awaited re-release in Canada after a number of years on hiatus.
Dessert? Of course. Is there anything more Canadian than donuts? Woods serves the donut holes, cinnamon and sugar coated, set in a luxurious pool of Balvenie Chocolate Sauce. If our dinner ended right now, it would be quite splendid—and yet there is more. We are offered the magic of the Balvenie Twenty-Five. Launching in Canada for the first time, in a flawless whisky marriage, Malt Master David C. Stewart MBE brings together individual casks to craft an incredibly intricate and balanced expression, exemplifying the art and skill of Single Malt TUN marriages. A whisky of exceptional character and extraordinary depth, Twenty-Five hints at The Balvenie’s most sought-after flavours – bold vanilla oak, crystallized ginger, and sweet runny honey with layers of toasted marshmallows, fresh fruit terrine and cinnamon-infused apple tart.
After saying our good night and thank you to Brand Ambassador Jamie Johnson, Emma J.Herlihy of William Grant & Sons, Count Peter D. Mielzynski, Director of PMA, the agency for the brand, we are handed a large box, a take home gift. What could it be?
The gift, and a message from Ambassador Jamie Johnson is a plush white Frette terry robe, and a profound message. “Robe Time is about taking a moment to put on your robe, pour yourself a dram of The Balvenie and take a few minutes of time for yourself.” We’re on it, Jamie. We’re on it.
Sara Waxman, OOnt, is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.