It was with some interest that I read the invitation Rushina had sent me. The text mentioned Dalmore, and I knew only two pieces of trivia about Dalmore. One was its owner - via Whyte and Mackay our very own Vijay Mallya – and second that someone had purchased in Singapore Duty Free a Dalmore worth about rupees one crore – apparently the most expensive regular whisky in the world. To those who want to do the math, its about one lakh rupees a small sip.
My hopes of coming anywhere near that bottle were understandably slim, but Dalmore makes other stuff worth drinking too. The twelve, the gran reserva and the fifteen were promised but the invitation promised still more - a food and whisky pairing that combined the talents of Mallya's minions with Jamavar's Chef Surender Mohan.
While wine-food pairings are a dime a dozen, this was the first time I was about to try a whisky-food pairing that did not involve a dive bar. Whisky is hardly a stranger to food; the enduring popularity of the chicken tikka derives from its ability to make cheap whisky better. This one was different – Dalmore hardly requires help going down, and Jamawar seemed quite capable on its own as well.
We started with the Dalmore 15; this, in my opinion, is of the finest scotches in the world (in my price range, of course). Mellow, sophisticated, lots of flavours and aromas jumping in and out as you hold it in your mouth, its a pleasure to drink in slow, measured sips over evening conversations. Served in champagne flutes to enhance the nose, it was paired with a jumbo prawn baked in cheese, lamb seekh kababs and tandoori broccoli. The Dalmore 12 returned to regular tumblers, paired with the main courses of fish alleppey, badami chicken korma, bharwan gucchi and paneer pasanda. Biriyani and dal also floated in and out. The final whisky – the Gran Reserva – was paired with the pista kulfi dessert.
The food was outstanding. The tandoori broccoli was to die for, the biriyani wonderful and the bharwan gucchi worth the wait. The whiskys were equally good – the Twelve was nice, the Gran Reserva sweet and complex, the Fifteen I have already been fulsome over. Though both were robust flavours and aromas the selection was good; they did well not to clash with each other.
The big question is, however – what did it add? A great cheese lifts a wine to greater heights, and the right wine does the same for the cheese. Here, however, the pairing was more pleasant company than dance partner. I still find whisky a wonderful standalone drink. Call me a purist but I firmly believe the incredible complexity of the Fifteen or the Gran Reserva should be savoured without distractions.
Don't read books while listening to Bach…