Monday, February 11, 2013

BITE 2013 Festival - Glenfiddich whisky dinner

We recently had the pleasure of attending an event at the inaugural BITE Festival and it was a first for us at Whisky For Everyone.  The event was a five course dinner sponsored by one of our favourite distilleries, Glenfiddich.  Each course of the dinner was created to be matched with an expression from Glenfiddich's award winning single malt range.  In the past we have attended events that have dabbled in food and whisky matching, but never have we attended a full dinner with a menu designed around the whiskies on offer.

The BITE 2013 Festival took place in the heart of the Gloucestershire countryside in Chipping Campden.  The village dates back to the Middle Ages and was built around the wool trade.  It is famous for its yellow Cotswold stone buildings (pictured, left) and is very busy during the Summer months as tourists travel through the Cotswolds and on to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.  However, it was largely deserted on the afternoon of our late January visit and the fresh country air was a shock to our city lungs.

The Cotswold House Hotel was the base for BITE 2013 Festival. BITE stands for Bespoke International Taste Extravaganza. The Festival featured a week of events hosted by food and wine writers, Michelin starred chefs and TV cooks.  To celebrate the Festival, the hotel had a surprise for us and the other guests upon arrival - the floor of the foyer was covered in real turf with flowers growing around the edges and a fake sheep standing guard at the bottom of the impressive staircase (pictured, left).

As the main event, our dinner was prepared by the award winning chef Mat Follas and the whiskies were introduced by Jamie Milne, the UK Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich (pictured, left).  The line up of the world's biggest selling single malt whiskies included the 12, 15 and 18 years old expressions, plus the 19 years old Age of Discovery and a special sample from 1977 that had been drawn from a cask especially for the event.  After a welcoming glass of Champagne and a couple of introductory speeches, we were into the tasty part ...

We had the benefit of getting two matches with each whisky due to Karen's vegetarianism and Matt's 'carnivorism'.  The first course (pictured, above) was paired with the classic Glenfiddich 12 years old, the biggest selling single malt Scotch whisky in the world.  Karen was served cauliflower, spiced carrot and coriander soup topped with Cotswold Gold rapeseed oil, while Matt was treated to braised pig cheeks complete with crackling and a sweet potato and miso mash.  The Glenfiddich 12 years old worked well with both dishes, as the soft fruitiness picked up on the freshness and creaminess in the soup and accentuated the saltiness in the pork.

For the second course we were in for a real treat as the food was to be matched with a rare cask sample of Glenfiddich laid down to mature in 1977.  If bottled, the price of this could range from anything between £500-£2,500 depending on the cask.  This got us quite excited, although the non-whisky diners amongst us needed more convincing.  A gentle sip seemed to be the nudge they needed. The Glenfiddich 1977 was drawn at 49.1% ABV and exhibited a tantalising array of a aromas and flavours - almond, caramel, papaya, orange, pineapple, vanilla, peach, drying wood spice and a hint of tobacco smoke.  A fantastic dram on its own, but what about with the food?

The second course saw Karen served a fantastic leek and Jerusalem artichoke dish with a truffle jus (pictured, above left), while Matt got an inventive dish of smoked mussels on top of a sea chard gratin.  In hindsight, both of us agreed that these were the highlight dishes of the event and they complimented the whisky selected surprisingly well.  The rich, expressive flavours of the Glenfiddich 1977 brought out the earthiness of the Jerusalem artichoke and truffle, and the smokiness and saltiness of the mussels.  The mussels also highlighted a tangy fruitiness (especially peach) and sweetness in the whisky.

Onto the 'main' course, which was matched with Glenfiddich 18 years old.  Karen was to get a grilled vegetable medley, including aubergine, baby red peppers and artichoke, with goats cheese and kale (pictured, above left).  Matt was served venison with smoked potato mash, beetroot and kale.  Both dishes were accompanied by a teaspoon of beetroot jelly.  The dark dried fruits and wood spices in the whisky exaggerated the rich gamey and smoky flavours in the venison and worked much better than with the vegetarian option, where it clashed with the sharp goats cheese in particular.

The fourth course saw local goats cheese presented on a slice of pear with a syrup infused with Glenfiddich 12 years old (pictured, above).  No whisky was presented with this course, but we decided to do our own bit of freestyle matching - both of us thought that the 1977 cask sample would work well but the tartness and creaminess of the cheese created a problem.  The undoubted winner was the match with Glenfiddich 12 years old, which was not too much of a surprise as it was the whisky used in the syrup.  The crisp green fruits, vanilla and honey notes present in the whisky really worked superbly to accentuate the freshness of the pear and tartness of the cheese.

The dessert was a 'deconstructed' (read - spread around the plate) rhubarb and ginger crumble with burnt white chocolate and cardamom ice cream (pictured, above).  This was paired with the Glenfiddich 15 years old Solera, one of our favourite whiskies.  The combination was one of the best of the night - the fruity sweetness and woody spiciness of the whisky complimented the tangy, sharp rhubarb and earthy, warming ginger very well.  The cardamon ice cream also managed to create a  warming and spicy finish on the palate that matched the length and depth of the whisky. The evening was rounded off with a 'nightcap' dram of the Glenfiddich 19 years old Age of Discovery (pictured, below), which offered a refreshing, sugary and palate cleansing finish to events.

So, what is our verdict?  Having never sampled whisky as part of a formal dining experience in this way, it has certainly opened our eyes to the possibility.  Whisky and food matching is such a hot topic at the moment that it cannot and should not be ignored.  With this dinner Glenfiddich and Mat Follas took it to a different level by matching such a wide range of courses, and in a wonderfully social environment provided us, and our fellow diners alike, with the enjoyment of discovering these whiskies in a whole new light.

Some of the combinations that we tried were worked very well, particularly the 1977 vintage with the second course and our own experiment with the Glenfiddich 12 years old and the goats cheese.  It also had to be said that some of the combinations did not work so well in our view.  For us the main achievement of the evening was that a largely non-whisky loving crowd were introduced to the idea that you could accompany single malts with different courses of a meal and all seemed to learn something, embrace the concept and enjoy it.

For information about the festival, plus reports, videos and interviews of some of the events, please visit the BITE website.  For more information about Glenfiddich, then check out our Distillery Visit blog post from last year or visit their website at

1 comment:

navin harish said...

If my information is right, whisky was first brewed when the crop of grapes failed and there was nothing with which wine could be made. If whisky was a perfectly good substitute for drinking then, I don't see why it can be the perfect accompaniment for a meal now.