Diageo Philippines’ #lovescotch Whisky Dinner Event at Vask
In part of the celebration for World Whisky Day, Diageo launched the global #LoveScotch campaign here in the Philippines with an exclusive whisky dinner for select guests. It’s always a privilege to participate in tasting events and this particular one got me deeply excited. Not only will I have the chance to sample new product, I get to meet Mr. Ewan Gunn, Global Whisky Master and also a contingent of old and new friends in the industry.
Well tonight’s event took place at the Vask Tapas Room in BGC, a very modern and classy upscale restaurant boasting of a mouthwatering menu with amazing views. This restaurant which is located at the 5th floor of the Clipp Center at 11th Ave in BGC, is attracting a lot of food & drink enthusiasts. The head chef is none other than Chef Jose Luis Gonzales who has worked at the top restaurants in the world — El Celler de Can Roca, Mugaritz, and Arzak. After coming to Asia he worked at Sofitel and Shangri-La Boracay. However, his determination to to establish a Basque restaurant in Manila paved way for the opening of VASK.
A quick glance of the dinner menu and I knew that I was in for a treat. Whisky dinners are still unique to me as I usually prefer to eat before I drink or vice versa. Very seldom do I drink alcohol with a meal unless it’s beer. This doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy pairings, I’m not accustomed to it but I am always open to explore beyond my bias.
Every whisky has its own taste, however, pairing it with specific foods bring out flavors in both that you won’t typically find. There are a variety of different pairings out there and it is hard for anyone to know which pairing to make without experiencing it yourself. Whisky dinners are ones during which specific pairings have been made. Each point of the meal will have different whisky sampling with it. These educational dinners can be great because pairings aren’t just made with the course of the meal. There are also some professionals chefs which will come up with custom whisky pairings dependent on the bottle selection.
Anyway, as much as I would like to describe the food, I’m not much qualified to do so, so I’ll just do a review on the whiskies that were featured during the dinner -The Pittyvaich 25, Clynelish FL, Lagavulin 12, and Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition. A very interesting lineup to say the least.
The Pittyvaich distillery was well known for producing malt whisky blends that the locals enjoyed. It was built next to the Dufftown distillery in Speyside and constructed in 1974, making it one of the youngest distilleries in the area. It wasn’t until 1975 that the distiller opened and started to sell whiskies but the distillery unexpectedly closed in 1993 and there are many different theories behind why. The most logical and popular one is that the overall demand for whisky was not what it is currently at today. Experts in the field say that whisky demand was only a quarter of what it is today which is much significantly less than today’s growing demand.
Currently there are still some rare bottlings that survive today from Pittyvaich. The oldest of these bottlings was released back in 2006 and tt was a 30 years old released by Signatory Vintage. Other bottlings exist such as the Pittyvaich 25 which is what we get to try today. Sampling a bottle from a closed distillery is always a momentous affair, one that not many are entitled to. For me, I didn’t know what to expect other than I am indulging in a part of history.
Nestled in the coastal town of Brora in Sutherland lies the Clynelish distillery. This wonderful distillery is almost two hundred years old and was originally established to take away business from smugglers in the area. The distillery was bought out in 1896 by James Ainslie and Heilborn who were whisky blenders at the time and they were looking to expand their business contiguously so they eventually built a new Clynelish distillery across the street from the original. For a while the old distillery was still in use but eventually it closed as production transferred over to the newer location.
The Clynelish distillery is currently still in operation under the guidance of Diaego but this time the old buildings have reopened and are being operated alongside the new Clynelish distillery. There are over 100 different bottlings that have been produced and many of those bottlings are still readily available.
As we tried the Clynelish FL, immediately off the nose you could tell that this was special. I’m already a huge fan of cask strength bottles because water plays a bigger role to balance and I always like the initial challenge of high ABV. One word that would describe this whisky is “explosion” because my first sip bombarded me with a burstful of wonderful flavors.
Lagavulin 12 & Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition
Amid the Lagavulin Bay sits Lagavulin distillery, a peathead’s sanctuary with over 250 years of historic whisky craftsmanship. Legend says that the distillery was in operation in in 1742, but illicitly as distilleries were not allowed to operate at the time. So officially, the distillery opened in 1816. While other smaller distilleries operated on the site throughout the year but none of them as notable as Lagavulin distillery.
In 1962 the distillery rebuilt the stills around the facility, combining some of the smaller, closed facilities with their main one. At the same time they also built in automated controls to help increase productivity. The whisky from Lagavulin still has a famous peat-smoke favor which is notable because some whisky producers lose their taste when they go from hand controlled to automated.
We tried two different bottlings from Lagavulin, the Lagavulin 12 and the Lagavulin’s distiller edition. Both of these whiskies had their own tastes and I definitely enjoyed having taste them alongside the other. The 12 is the younger brother of the classic 16 and interestingly a more potent cask strength version which I like. The distiller edition is the complete opposite, very sweet, mellow and yet retains it’s peaty finish.
Around the world there are wonderful whisky tastes that have yet to earn the notoriety that they deserve. There are endless brands that us whisky enthusiasts have yet to try. Our goal within the Whisky Society of Manila community is to share our experience amongst each other and also encourage new comers and old to join in on the fun. Stay tuned for our next tasting, you never know what we have lined up.
Special thanks again to Lori from Diageo for the invite and also the rest of the Diageo Philippines team for arranging such a pleasant and awe-inspiring event. Also to the kind and merciful people from Vask – I apologize for the broken pot.