Scotch is generally not thought of as a ladies’ drink. And, admittedly, my forays into Scotch drinking have been sparse—a quick lesson under Charlie Seibert of Capische? and more in-depth studies on the topic of single-malt Scotches with Ron Taylor at Mama’s Fish House. So when I caught wind of the Scotch pairing dinner and cigar tasting at the Grand Wailea with the Glenlivet Brand ambassador Rick Edwards, I jumped at the chance to expand my horizons.
The Scottish have been distilling malted barley as long as they’ve been standing, and the Glenlivet distillery and brand was founded in 1824. Edwards explains the nuances: “What’s the difference between a Scotch and an Irish whiskey? A Scotch is distilled two times, while an Irish whiskey will have been distilled three times and they still can’t get it right. Ninety percent of the flavor in your Scotch comes from the wood barrels it’s aged in.”
The daunting task of pairing courses of food with jiggers of different Scotch fell to Chef Isaac Bancaco who defied laws of physics with with his ahi Wellington. The ahi remained rare despite being baked in a golden puff pastry. It was joined by a divine shiro miso sauce that flourished with Chinese mustard. The paired menu was graceful enough to appeal to the foodies while embracing the delicate honey, citrus, spicy and oaky flavors in the Scotches. The “peanut butter and jelly” foie gras and unagi wasn’t very reminiscent of its namesake, but delicious nonetheless. Unagi has a similar gooey and crisp consistency; both are subtly matched with fruity poha berry jam, mac nuts and mac nut butter.
The final course of roasted lamb persillade paired with a savory malasada and dusted with celery salt sounds daunting—but when you’re drinking Glenlivet aged 18 years in bourbon barrels, anything seems possible. While the lamb melted in your mouth, the persillade crust and spicy mole make palate headlines. The malasada texture was refined, almost like a popover, and the celery and sugar coating was fantastic.
The dessert course was unparalleled as the group took a short hike down to the pool where an amazing spread of treats prepared by pastry chef Natalie Wilkinson was waiting, along with champagne and 21- and 25-year-old Glenlivet Scotch and cigars from Sir Wilfred’s. I quickly got up to speed on how to puff a cigar—another traditional boys’ activity.
The Toast! series takes place each month at the Grand Wailea, featuring a revolving cast of industry experts. The next pairing is centered around Don Julio tequila on Friday, April 22 with tequila ambassador Kevin Vanegas. I’ll be there.