I suspect this is entirely too late to be of any use to anyone, but it was awesome, so it seems like the sort of thing one ought to mention…

In early November I was extremely fortunate to be invited to a whisky tasting dinner at the exceptional and renowned Quilon restaurant in Buckingham Gate.  The purpose was threefold – to sample some of the delightful progressive west-coast Indian menu creations by Chef Sriram Aylur (and find out just what sort of tucker attracts a Michelin star), to sample a brace of 4 absolutely stunning and unusual whiskies, and to be led through those whiskies by renowned whisky author,  journalist, and former editor of Whisky MagazineDominic Roskrow – whilst at the same time benefitting from his considerable experience and expertise in the business, and to find out a bit about his newly published book, The World’s Best Whiskies.

After a nice relaxing cocktail christened “The Bonnie Blush” (mixed from lemon juice, crème de muire, champagne, blackcurrent jam and Johnnie Walker Black Label) we relaxed in for a culinary trip to Oz (the land with the wizard and munchkins and stuff, not the big dry continent that I’m from) which brought colour, vibrancy and exoticness into our lives for a couple of hours.  Exoticness doesn’t look right.  I think it should be “exoticicity”, or something.  But it isn’t.  Anyway.

The first whisky off the blocks was, appropriately, an Amrut double-cask.  If there was ever any doubt about the pedigree of whisky from India, Amrut have proven conclusively that if you do something properly to can achieve spectacular results.  Amalgamating tradition and innovation, Amrut use both barley imported to India from Scotland, and also grown locally in Bangalore, to manufacture their spirit.  Not an old whisky by traditional standards (with the oldest in the bottle being 7 years old), the heat and humidity in India mean that whiskies mature at a different rate to those in Scotland, which Amrut have used to their advantage.  I found the Double Cask to be a nice spritely and sweet smelling drop with spice and vanilla notes, and an excellent way to awaken the palate, with a very pleasant short and slightly salty finish.

We segued into the next whisky – a 17 year old Macallan independently bottled under the Glenkeir Treasures label – which continued the lightness and hints of salt on the nose, but with water added took on a much creamier scent.  By contrast the flavour was unexpectedly fruity, with kiwifruit and cactus making an appearance, and a lengthy finish.

Whiskey number 3 (which you can probably tell differs from the others by virtue of the fact I’ve rigorously stuck to my personal specifications for spelling) was a Hancock’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon, which my notes describe as “All the characteristics of a bourbon but without the imminent threat of violence”.  Continuing in the developing fruity theme, flavours of pears and caramel were released from this gem from Kentucky.

With reverent tones Dominic poured us our 4th and final dram of the evening, the 1982 Karuizawa 10yo from The Whisky Exchange – a privilege in a glass, and exemplifying all the reasons why people get into single malt whisky, revealing fascinating elements of matches and mushrooms in the vapour, delivering rich burnt sugar flavours amid wood, and leaving with a long, gentle but firm finish.

In actual fact there was no reason it had to be the final whisky of the night, as Quilon boasts an impressive whisky list of a further 50 options – however having only been to The Whisky Show a couple of days beforehand my liver was screaming for a rest.

Following the whisky tasting we were treated to a 3 course selection from the incredible menu –  the starters pictured above were a journey through flavour country, at once rich yet subtle, and each a culinary explosion.  Though a self-confessed chicken enthusiast I had to concede that the fish was nothing short of amazing.  If I had to criticise anything about the shared main courses, a selection of curries & meat dishes, it’s that the portions were sensibly sized, rather than the excessive heap one wishes one had when presented with this sort of amazingness.  The spiced icecream selection we finished up with was perfect, unusual and interesting.

As my colleague Billy – who, if I’m honest, wrote a far better review of the evening –  and I were among the remaining stragglers we had a good chance to chat with Dominic and the Chef Sriram (who took great delight in joining us in a snifter of the Karuizawa).

Tickets for the dinner on February 1st are available from the restaurant for £59.50 per person, and represent excellent value.  If you’re a fan of taste exploration this is a tremendous opportunity.

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