When people talk about pairing alcohol with food, what comes to mind are usually wine and fine dining, all thoughtfully and delicately-plated.
Enter whisky distillery The Balvenie, which has partnered with six restaurants in Singapore to pair their whiskies with specially crafted dishes. We were invited to Tippling Club, the fourth out of six restaurants to present their dishes for The Balvenie. For a limited time only, two culinary creations along with a curated degustation menu are available at Tippling Club until 1 December 2021.
Here's what to expect.
The Black Arrow, made with The Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood, paired with snacks
Ryan Clift's first culinary creation for The Balvenie is an array of five snacks to go with The Black Arrow, a stirred cocktail made using The Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood, white truffle, Palo Cortado sherry, popcorn syrup, orange blossom water, and champagne.
It's a deceptively light start to the meal, with hints of spice among the fruity bubbles, courtesy of The Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood with its spicy and sweet note. The cocktail goes incredibly well with the sublime Parker House roll smoked with the same peat as The Balvenie, imparting an intense but altogether pleasant aroma to the warm bread. Further elevated by butter, it was such an impressive introduction to the meal that really, all I want is Tippling Club's peat-smoked Parker House roll with butter for breakfast forever.
The rest of the snacks are as follow: Cured ocean trout, nori cracker, yuzu avocado, is a combination that looks like land, but tastes like the ocean in a satisfyingly crunchy bite; Potato, tobiko, black truffle crème fraîche took inspiration from a CNY favourite snack, the kuih loyang (honeycomb cookie) and tied it together into a neat umami-laden treat; Milk and caviar was as functional as the name is and finally, the Chilled tomato gelée with the sweetest and most perfect little tomatoes, was the perfect palate cleanser to prepare us for the entrees.
The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Years, paired with three entrees
With the three entrees, The Balvenie also brought out bigger guns – The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Years is a well-rounded whisky with toffee, fruit and vanilla notes. From the whisky, you can tell that the entrees are going to be heavier on the palate.
Firstly, the Peruvian-inspired ceviche of amaebi, corn milk, finger lime was an appetite-whetting course peppered with sweetness from the amaebi, corn and caramelised sugar. Even so, it was just a tad bit sour for my liking, but I can appreciate the presence of the not-often-seen finger lime.
The Kagoshima sweet potato terrine, confit bacalao and engawa was absolutely divine. I did not know cod and flatfish could be paired and taken to that level. With the sweet potato terrine, the dish is perfection with a capital Chef's Kiss.
Lastly, the foie gras cheesecake, yamanashi peach, earl grey, and lemon verbena, which was not an actual dessert, got me slightly confused at the order in which it appeared. It was undoubtedly a decadent end to the entrees, but not one I felt gelled in with this line-up, even though it was good on its own.
The Balvenie Doublewood 12 years, paired with 2 main course
Not about to take away anything from the main courses, the focus moved away from the whisky at this point. There were two dishes to enthuse over. Firstly, the roast monkfish, parsley root, milk skin and wild mushroom was my favourite dish of the entire night. Even though it looked boring and unassuming, every bite was a beautiful meld of milk, greens, protein. How did Clift do that? It was so good!
It was followed by the dry-aged pigeon, brassica, hoisin xo and myoga, which reminded me of charsiew. But, good caramelised, super soft, fat-less charsiew, y'know? I was still blown away by the monkfish, but table partners were impressed by this dish.
The Balvenie 14 Years Week of Peat, paired with desserts
After the satisfying main courses came the unexpected star of the meal. One of the creations specially made with The Balvenie 14 Years Week of Peat in mind, the whisky is served neat beside the Caramelised White Chocolate, saleted almond, and fennel confiture.
First, let's look at why this whisky is so special. For only one week each year, The Balvenie distillery in the Scottish highlands creates peated whisky using Speyside peat, introducing fragrant smoke notes to the classic The Balvenie flavour profile. Due to the location of the distillery, the peat imparts a gentler sweet smoke and lighter floral notes to the whisky, with butterscotch honey on the nose. The taste is velvety and smooth, balanced by citrus flavours, oaky vanilla and blossom honey. The finish is gentle smoke with a lingering fruity and creamy sweetness.
This bottle is something I wished I had tasted during my first introduction to peaty/smokey whisky. Unfortunately, I had the Laphroaig when I was not ready to appreciate it, and I don't think I've ever recovered from that.
This brings us back to the dessert, because of course the whisky's complementary vanilla note went well with the liquid malt-infused ganache, smoked marshmallow and toasted almond milk ice cream. And that confiture of wild fennel infused with anise and dill blossom? Pure genius.
Still got space? For a sweet ending, enjoy the Musk melon a la Japanese slipper and New York Sour followed by a sweet trio of spiced pear tart, chocolate and cream tarts.
Priced at S$385++ per pax, it's not the usual alcohol pairing meal you might be used to, but it's worth shelling out for a special date night, especially for someone who appreciates good whiskies and incredible food.
Reserve a table online or call the restaurant at +65 6475 2217.