“That David Stewart is a couthy chap” concluded Kevin Ritchie, deputy editor of The Star after listening to the former master blender of Balvenie on a conference call from Cannes where David is attending a duty free conference. The subject of the call was to set the scene for a tasting of Balvenie 50 year old single barrel single malt, one bottle out of 88 being offered for sale at R230,000 – a R50,000 discount to the UK price of £20,000. There were two, but one has already been sold to a struggler.
Whisky is not at all like wine, as the complexion of the wonks (below) assembled at the Sandton Sun this morning, confirms. But then a 50 year old bottle is no big thing in wine or cognac circles. Heck, we were necking 70+ year old Chateau Libertas earlier this year while KWV seems to have unlimited supplies of fortified wine from the 1930s at their disposal.
As couthy Dave admitted “back in the 1960s no one foresaw the demand for aged spirit.” Heck, the first single malt only appeared a decade later – at the same distillery, coincidentally, Glenfiddich. So the current boom in aged whiskies will likely be short lived as the canny Scots are frantically laying down vats of the stuff for future release. Just how little old Scotch there is can be seen from the exponential price scale: R550 for a 12 year old; R880 for 15 yo; R1,500 for 21yo; R4,350 for 30 yo; R30,000 for 40 and a whopping R230,000 for 50.
The whisky itself was well, couthy, in a word, with delicate flavours of burnt orange and cinnamon and a wonderfully creamy palate with citrus after taste. But the complete turn up for the books was the blow-out chef’s table put together by Garth Schnier in the cavernous kitchens of the Sandton Sun with sommelier Miguel Chan in attendance. A United Nations of talent, here is Cherry Pin from Bangkok showing off her scallop starter.
No Cape Town attitude here. Humility, brilliant flavours and a team of enthusiastic young chefs delivering the goods. Below is Chesley’s Springbok with everything on the plate a sustainable ingredient.