BEERserkers and fans of spirits, come on in! Discussion about beer, spirits, liquor - anything beverage non-wine related
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Last night the Toronto Wine Elitist Cabal ™ returned to Los Colibris, our favorite upscale Mexican restaurant in downtown Toronto, for a special event we call Whisky Night II. Two years ago when the restaurant first opened, we had a tasting menu that Mike Grammer organized paired with several whiskies which we all contributed. I decided to organize another whisky themed dinner mostly as an excuse to cracked open some spirits I’d needed a good excuse to indulge in. Board members Jay Shampur, Mike Grammer and myself were joined by our friends Lynn and Jon who drove in from Kitchener, Gunnar and his mother Mary.
Century 21 Reserve Canadian Rye Whisky -- Despite the rye in the title, this is in fact a 100% corn whisky made out west in Alberta, Canada. A clean straw gold color, this is all about rich creamy butterscotch and vanilla flavors and is insanely smooth. Jon's exact words were, look up smooth on Wikipedia and you'll find this. Only the Tomintoul matched it in this regard. An absolute steal at less than $50 CDN and any American Berserkers who can get a hold of a bottle absolutely should. This was the first taste for everyone at the table and they were astounded when I told them what the price was.
This was paired with a salmon ceviche. Fresh fatty salmon in lime juice dressing with green apple, avocado and green grapes. The fatty salmon and avocado matched superbly with the creamy rye and then all were undercut by the lime, apple and grape acidity. I’ve never had salmon in a ceviche before, usually only whitefish. This is easily one of the best ceviches I have ever had.
Last edited by Tran Bronstein on March 18th 2017, 1:27pm, edited 1 time in total.
Eagle Rare 17 YO Bourbon -- I've had this bottle for over two years now and it was a feature of our first Whisky Tasting Dinner. Unfortunately, it did not hold up well. It was the only spirit which I felt the need to add water to in order to turn it down. Turpentine dominates the nose and high heat and spice dominate the palate. You can taste some rye spice in there but any complexity and flavors are completely overwhelmed now. I really expected this to hold up better especially since I've stored it in excellent condition and the bottle was slightly over 2/3s full.
This was paired with a Panela cheese stuffed chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce with guacamole crema. This was a superb match with the Eagle Rare, as the spice matched the power of the heat and turpentine and tamed them. Then the cheese and crema brought out more of the sweetness and complexity of the bourbon. Honestly, this was a superb match and made me rethink of bourbon as more of a food drink than a sipper.
Koval Single Barrel Oat Whiskey -- This was a bonus whisky brought by Mike, an artisanal whiskey made entirely from oat with no age statement. As expected, this was much rawer and had a strong bite to it. Slight sweet oat flavor is definitely noticeable alongside some young oaky vanilla and caramel sweetness. This made the Eagle Rare 17 look much better on the palate. A little too gimmicky for my personal tastes without a lot of age on it. I was actually comparing this more to the Century Reserve 21 than the Eagle Rare though both easily outshone it.
Last edited by Tran Bronstein on March 18th 2017, 1:29pm, edited 2 times in total.
Tomintoul 21 YO Speyside Whisky -- This was the only non-cask finished Single Malt Scotch out of our trio which to me is a rarity in my young whisky experience, which shows just how prevalent cask finishes have become. A beautiful bright brown demarara sugar color. Odd to see a whisky without a colored cask influence. Extremely floral on the nose, the only other whisky I have ever had that matched in this regard is the Cardhu 12. This is offset by some nice cardamom spice that adds complexity to the nose.
On the palate, extremely smooth and creamy with gentle flavors of baked apples, malt, and light toffee. Honestly, this was the Scotch version of the Century Reserve 21 we started out with. They were like twin brothers from different mothers. I thought it was very telling that the other whiskies did not have the same smooth mouthfeel despite being the exact same age. Maybe an ill side effect of cask finishing? Regardless, this was an incredible Scotch. Tomintoul markets itself as "The Gentle Dram" and they have earned every bit of their nickname. Jay, lucky dog that he is, got to take home half the bottle as leftovers. I am going through serious seller’s regret over that one. -_-
This was paired with a fried shrimp covered in chipotle cream sauce served on top of a fried plantain with a tomatillo pico de gallo. Chef Elia made the right decision in paring down the spicy chipotle with a fatty shrimp, cream and plantain which blended perfectly with the creamy Tomintoul.
Dictador 20 Year Solera Rum -- This beautiful Colombian rum smells like opening a fresh bag of brown sugar. It's made from virgin sugar cane honey as most Latin rum is and I far recommend them over Carribean rums except for the El Dorado 21. Reddish-brown in the glass. On the palate, surprisingly light and floral brown sugar, butter and citrus flavors. Lynn described this as butter tart in a glass and that's a perfect description. This was also very smooth as well, almost matching the Century Reserve and Tomintoul in body. Fantastic rum.
This was paired with what was far and away the best dish of the night, a plantain gnocchi with grilled octopus and roasted cocoa nibs. This was a serious 4 star accomplishment and we gave Chef Elia and Sous-Chef Lily their props for this one. She informed us that she steamed the plantain instead of traditionally boiling or frying them so they wouldn’t be too heavy for the pasta. Seriously, a 2017 dish of the year contender. The picture really doesn’t do it justice.
The Balvenie 21 YO Portwood Speyside Whisky – This has been to date far and away my favorite 21 YO whisky of all time but I must admit I am reconsidering after the Tomintoul. Bright reddish brown in the glass, with a perfumey Port nose. On the palate, sweet barley and oak mix with candy cinnamon hearts and a touch of red fruit. Much more enjoyable than a Sherry cask finished whisky but, like the Lismore below, this evening the candied mouthfeel and taste somewhat annoyed me next to the purer Tomintoul. However, it was much less prevalent than that of the Lismore which helped elevate this. I acquired this two years ago and it has now more than doubled in price to $478 CDN which is absolutely outrageous considering you can get other quality fine 21 YO Scotch for less than $200 CDN.
This was paired with a beer-battered escoviche fish taco topped with a medley of pickled red cabbage, carrot and cauliflower shreds and served with avocado crema, lime crema and habanero pepper sauce on the side. The heat from the dish nicely cut down the sweetness of the Balvenie.
Last edited by Tran Bronstein on March 18th 2017, 1:30pm, edited 1 time in total.
Lismore 21 YO Speyside Whisky – This whisky is a source of great Internet speculation as nobody truly knows where Lismore sourced it from. Many feel it is either a Glenfarclas or Glenrothes 21 YO but that is mere speculation. I have had both before and in truth it tastes like neither. This had a reddish brown color and some Sherry notes on the nose so there’s definitely some cask finishing. This starts off with sweet barley, oak, and a touch of candied cherry fruit and then HUGE amounts of black pepper spice take over on the finish and never let go. They are so strong, in fact, that I began to second-guess whether or not it was actually peated until Mike assured me that it wasn’t. Extremely unique in this regard. However, the cask finish worked slightly against it by giving a bit of a candied mouthfeel and flavor to the whisky compared to the gentler and much purer Tomintoul. The Balvenie Portwood also had it but it was much more pronounced in this bottle. Jay also got the leftovers of this one and if you pushed me to be honest, I’d be a bit hard-pressed to say I missed it.
This was paired with a seafood picadillo stuffed puff pastry shell which included clams, mussels, shrimp, octopus and squid. The Lismore was a decent but not a great match with this and thus the pairing failed to stand out over the others. The whisky was not elevated the same way the Eagle Rare was by its dish.
With the main courses over, we were served an intermezze of guava sorbet decked out with a chocolate cookie crumble. This was paired with the G.E. Massenez Framboise Sauvage Eau de Vie from Alsace. As you might expect, an extremely clean and fresh crystal clear spirit loaded with freshly macerated wild raspberry flavor. I love Alsacian eau de vies and I think they are very underrated high-quality affordable spirits that get little to no attention because Scotch, bourbon and Cognac get all the love.
The pairing itself really didn’t work, though, because the raspberry warmth was clashing with the cold, sweet and highly acidic guava. The flavors were fighting each other and this was truly the only pairing that didn’t work the entire night. The eau de vie ironically went much better with the chocolate cookie crumble decoration than it did with the guava sorbet which was supposed to be the main player. Jay and I talked to Chefs Elia and Lily and it was really interesting to see the difference in palates as they told us that they were so happy with the pairing they were high-fiving each other and eating it themselves on the side. Keep in mind that they both are experienced chefs with international experience.
Michel Huard 30 YO Calvados -- This is the only bottle that made me reconsider the entire proposition of the evening and wondering why I was sharing anything with the people surrounding me. Seriously, this is one freakin’ amazing Calvados. Huge freshly baked apple pie flavors on the nose. On the palate, freshly baked juicy apple flavors mix with spicy oak and extremely well-integrated heat. This was just absolutely fantastic. Really is on another level and could convert Scotch worshippers to Calvados aficionados.
This was served with Chef Elia’s fusion idea of a classic apple fritter. A fresh cinnamon sugar churro was topped with spiced chocolate ice cream and a caramel Calvados sauce, of course made with the rest of the sample I had previously given her.
Cardenal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva Carta Real Brandy de Jerez -- This 30 year old Solera brandy is richly endowed with mellow oak and sweet Pedro Ximenez which give it a lot of raisin, caramel and toffee flavors with a slight bit of citrus to it. Good accompaniment to the Calvados and gave a sweeter contrast to the churro apple fritter.
At the end of the evening, chefs Elia and Lily visited us and we gave them an ovation and gifted them with a box of macarons, a jar of artisanal candies, and chocolate truffles. We then invited the floor staff in to give them our thanks and a gift of the same to share amongst themselves.
The TWEC ™ would like to thank the kitchen and floor staff of Los Colibris for a beautiful and fun evening with amazing food and conversation. We will return sometime in the future for another Scotch themed night and a Cognac/Brandy themed night as well.
It was another amazing night and thank you so much, Tran, for providing almost all the alcoholic contributions. My own notes as follows:
Century 21 yr Reserve Canadian Corn Whisky
Almost apple pie. Extraordinarily smooth--really quite delicious. Toffee and goes down so nice. with salmon ceviche with grapes, shaved apples and some herbs, much more butterscotch. Livens it up a bit too--may be the lime juice interacting with the corn whisky. Some of the others have a different reaction, more crispness and activity. Very fascinating to see the spectrum of palates. for $50, I think I need to get some of this.
Eagle Rare 17 Yr Bourbon
Some smoke, almost this date/red fruit thing. Walnut note with water added. Strong taste. Pasille adobo sauce covers a chipotle chili with panella cheese and avocado crema. Just intensifies everything about the Eagle Rare. The Century does *not* like this dish. Don't listen to demented Tran about "the best dish of the night". THIS was the best. The dish itself was truly revelicious. Truly. I used a finger to clean off the bowl and did---not---care.
Koval Oat Whisky
This was my contribution off a recent LCBO release, purely out of interest. More muted nose, havs some flavour and balance on its own but gets clashy with the food. It's interesting without being dynamic.
Tomintoul 21 Year Single Malt
Some mustard seed maybe. Although not casked, it does have for me a kind of port nose. 40%, it's light on its feet, very polished with some heather and sweet vanilla base. I had to skip the shrimp dish so can't give you a food and whisky comparative here.
El Picador 20 Year Colombian Rum
42% probably my shocker of the night. Bits of smoke and some buttertart, good catch from Lynn. My goodness. That is *quite* good. More buttertart and I've never tasted a rum with anywhere near this level of freshness and vivacity. No syrup, no brown sugar. A fine rum. With the gnocchi, brought out more sweet fruitiness. A nice match.
Balvenie 21 year Port Wood Single Malt
Quite sweet nose. Chocolatey. Sweet again, very smooth, hint of absinthe aftertaste, has strength. This has always been for me the top of the class for the Balvenie line, though it's been some years since I've sampled it. The fish taco (battered cod) with lime crema, guacamole crema, habanero, carrot, jalapeno cabbage and cauliflower top all serve to glorify the Balvenie, unlocks a lot of florals for me with a bit of backbite. Also warms it up a bit. And this dish is fine with the rum also.
Lismore 21 year Single malt
Comparative to a whisky negociant, a secret still. The guesses among the cognoscenti (not us) are Glenfarclas or Glen Mhor. 43%. Pears maybe? toffee? strong with strong pepper finish to counter the sweet. Interesting. Doesn't speak of Macallan or Glenfarclas to me. The dish was puffed pastry with seafood picadillo, clams, mussels, crab, shrimp, octopus and squid in, I think, a chipotle cream. Couldn't taste much of this dish, again the shellfish...
G.E. Massenez Framboise eau de vie
40%. Raspberry and kind of cream cheese. Yup, Lynn says "Schnapps" and indeed it is, with raspberry and other berry fruit. Paired with guava sorbet with chocolate, fine on its own, very unhappy with the eau de vie, just too many flavours en bataille.
Michel Huard 30 year Calvados Le Pertyer
A real treat, intense nose, pure apple strudel. intense too, like distilled champagne in a way with hay, apple. The apple fritter with calvados and caramel sauce and spiced chocolate ice cream makes the Calvados stricter but not lacking in character. A great way to almost end this evening.
Cardenal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva Carta Real Brandy de Jerez
I didn't take formal notes on this but this was quite smooth, if not with any outstanding aspect to it.
My extreme compliments too go out to Chef Elia, Chef Lili and their team, not only for the execution but for the adventurous spirit (yes, pun intended) to go after an idea like this with us and try it.
Thank you Tran for organizing a wonderful evening of food and spirits, and to Chefs Elia and Lily for amazing food. My favourite dish of the evening was the Plantain Gnocchi, which was a revelation. With the grilled octopus and the rum, it was divine. The other dish which particularly stood out for me was the stuffed pepper in the Adobe sauce paired with the Eagle Rare. This also worked extremely well. The Calvados was lovely. For the record, I believe that I could be very easily converted to a devotee of Calvados .
Thank you to Tran and TWEC for inviting Jon and I to join you.
8 posts • Page 1 of 1