Whisky-food pairings have always been particularly tricky because of the complexity of the spirit. Which was why, we thought that the people from William Grant and Sons were pretty audacious to host a dinner at National Kitchen by Violet Oon.
On one hand, you have Peranakan food, which is typically packed with a cacophony of distinct flavours. The spices and ingredients work together to deliver a multi-sensory experience.
On the other hand, you have blended whiskies from the House of Hazelwood. These whiskies comes in three age-statement expressions – 18, 21 and 25 years old – and like all good whiskies, they are engaging both on the nose and palate.
If the organisers paired the dishes and whiskies wrongly, the diner might have ended up getting clashing or overpowering flavours. Luckily, the evening turned out to be near perfect.
The Bakwan Kepiting, a chicken broth with chicken and crab meatballs as well as bamboo shoots, was paired with the 18YO. The whisky’s sweeter notes became more prominent after a sip of the soup. The lingering herbaceous note was pleasant and it helped to whet the appetite.
We also liked how the 18YO complented the Kueh Pie Tie, or thin pastry shells with shredded turnip. Again, sweet notes lingered in between bites, in a good way.
The restaurant’s famous satay was paired with the 21YO. Perhaps, because of the spicy peanut sauce, the whisky tasted a little bit like tonic water, or quinine. An arresting pairing, nevertheless.
What didn’t really work for us was the 25YO and the Daging Chabek Beef Cheek. We tasted quite a bit of burnt sugar in the sauce after the whisky. Conversely, we had a burst of vanilla in the whisky, followed by hot spice. Two words: sensory overload.
All in all, the dinner event was put together to re-emphasize the availability of The House of Hazelwood whiskies. Malt Master Brian Kinsman blended whiskies from Kininvie, Girvan and from the Grant family’s private collection to create these expressions. They can be found exclusively at travel retail and they are priced at S$101.20 for 18YO, S$151.80 for 21YO and S$261.90 for 25YO.
Interestingly, the House of Hazelwood was inspired by a lady called Janet Sheed Roberts. She is the granddaughter of company founder William Grant and she lived in the Hazelwood house. According to the press release, she is described as a whisky-loving adventurer who lived spontaneously. ‘Wee Janie’, as she was known in the family, epitomised the progressive era-defining attitude of women in the 1920s and 30s, a time when women gained the right to vote, among many other things. Janet was one of the first women in the world to receive a university master’s degree. She passed away at a grand old age of 110.
Janet would most certainly fit into a Peranakan household. She was intelligent, vivacious and a very important figure of the family.
In the spirit of leading women like Janet and Peranakan matriarchs, nothing pairs better with Nyonya food than with whiskies from The House of Hazelwood.