Bring out notes in your whisky over a meal

A chocolate roll fused with Chivas Regal 18 YO at Five Senses Restaurant. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

There is something about whisky that just does not get old.

Aged is usually a good thing for most fine whiskies, the longer it stays in the cask, the finer and more accentuated the flavour of the notes that harmoniously make up the whisky.

As such, the essence is to understand the individual notes and create culinary masterpieces around the drink to pay homage to the flavours.

Blended Scotch whisky makers Chivas added to the range of whiskies available in the Kenyan and African market with the Chivas Regal XV, aged for 15 years.

Chivas brothers started off running a grocery store that would a few odd years later give birth whisky business. In 1909, the brothers launched the first luxury whisky—aged for 25 years—in New York. It disappeared during the great prohibition (whisky ban).When the ban was lifted, Chivas returned to the market with a 12-year old blend. Fast forward to a nearly century later, the whisky company is making inroad into the Kenyan market to quench the growing thirst for fine liquor.

This was to target the rapidly growing category of blended Scotch whiskies, which, in data from IWSR, had a compounded annual growth rate of 8.5 per cent between 2016 and 2017. This is a double digit growth between 2013 and 2017 of 19.3 per cent per cent.

As part of the introduction of the new blend into the Kenyan market, Pernod Ricard, owners of the brand, paired the Chivas Regal range with varied dishes from Five Senses restaurant, a showcase of the meshing between Whisky and food.

The deviation from the norm of the drink usually taken as a pre-dinner drink or night cap is part of the versatility that traditional distilleries have been showcasing as tastes evolve.

The first course, dubbed as Mushroom Three ways is just as its name suggests, mushrooms prepared three ways—royal of button mushroom, mushroom duxel and a mushroom mousse. This course is paired with a Chivas Regal 12–year-old.

Chef Kim Kiarie of Five Senses incorporates the drink in the preparation, after nosing and tasting the drink to see how the ingredients in the dish pair.

The second course of Torched Mackerel on a base of almonds is paired with a Chivas Regal Extra.

“What's extra... Extra sherry cask matured whisky. Deeper colour for the blend. It has a rich nose with notes of dark fruits and hint of vanilla and almond,” says Tristan Campbell, Chivas international brand ambassador.

To capture the notes, Chef Kim incorporates almond puree, almonds and pears in the dish. The oiliness and richness of the fish is a perfect pairing for the Chivas Regal Extra.

The next course which is the main course is bacon wrapped pork fillet, a caramel glaze with new potatoes paired with the Chivas Regal XV. The accents of the dish include vanilla corn and spinach puree. The vanilla corn puree complementing the notes of vanilla in the drink.

The final course, a chocolate roll made of chocolate sponge, Chivas regal infused chocolate ice cream is paired with the Chivas Regal 18-year-old.

The drink, a favourite for Tristan is a complex blend of 85 flavours in each blend. It was first created in 1997 with notes of dark chocolate and raisins.

“It’s Christmas cake in a glass,” says Tristan, explaining that the blend makes best for an after dinner dram and also pairs well with chocolate desserts.

The delicate balance between the drink and meal is one that must be observed. For instance, pairing the Chivas Regal XV with the chocolate desert bring out the “rough” edges of the whisky, making it a hard swallow.

It is the nosing and the tasting notes that dictate what pairings work well for food and what pairing will be a fail.

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