Posted on 17/06/2016 by Mistercocktail

Foodpairing with spirits is becoming an increasingly relevant topic in top gastronomy. We all know the strong link between wine and food, but spirits are working their way to the chef’s table as well. A few years ago I helped set up the bar in &Samhoud Places, a 2* restaurant in Amsterdam. More than a few times I acted as spirit sommelier for the guests in the restaurant to advice them on which whisky, cognac or even gin they should have with a course. It is also great to see how much the gastronomic scene has helped launch the Gin & Tonic into orbit. In the newest season of Chef’s Table of Netflix, Mexican chef Enrqiue Olvera visits mezcal distillers in Oaxaca and explains how he pairs this distillate with his dishes. We also see this development in Whisky and it came to no surprise that The Glenlivet has set up such a collaboration in The Netherlands with with of the best chefs, François Geurds.

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François has been around: he worked at Parkheuvel when it received as its 3rd Michelinstar for the very first time in The Netherlands. After that he worked at Duck & Waffle, which was called World’s Best Restaurant in 2005. In 2009 he opened his own restaurant, which earned the first Michelin star just 9 months after opening and in 2013 he received a second star. In 2014 he opened FG Labs in Rotterdam, where he can experiment with flavours as much as he likes to further develop his ideas. And where he welcomed us to present a special 6-course foodpairing with The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve. We were first served the FG cocktail in his lab, a complex preparation with cubed ginger and flambé rosemary & laurel served in a cocktailcoupe with dry ice, with a mixture added of orange juice, ginger ale and Founder’s Reserve and garnished with grapefruit-, lemon- and imezest. It was a very pleasant cocktail, but impossible to create at home. For that I would recommend the following:

Prepare your whisky by 2 thumbnail slices of fresh ginger, an orange-, lime- and grapefruitpeel and shortly whisky-flambéed rosemary in your bottle of Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve. Let this steep for an hour or 4, strain and mix with chilled orange juice and Fever-Tree ginger ale. It’s best served in a longdrink with icecubes. Serve with an orange zest.

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We were taken back to the FG Labs restaurant for a culinary fest that included tuna tartar with a vinaigrette of The Glenlivet (above and below) with yuzu, grape, crunchy brioche and pear. Ambassador Wim de Ridder explained us in the meantime about the history of The Glenlivet that started in 1824, only a year after a new law was passed to legalize the production of whisky. It was the first distillery to apply for a permit, making it the first official one in Scotland, even though there are many older distilleries (Royal Brackla 1812, Ardbeg and Laphroaig from 1815). Due to the recent developments in global demand for single malt whisky, The Glenlivet has abandoned their 12 year old as flagship and introduced the Founder’s Reserve, a blend of single malt whisky’s without age statement. Many other big producers have made the same move and technically there is nothing wrong with this as it’s still the same skill that is needed from the Master Blender. I would only applaud it when these brands would state on the label which whisky’s were used to create that specific blend. This would bring back the justification for the price, as, in my opinion, age is the one thing that can indicate the value of a whisky. This can’t be done by the name and packaging alone and with the freedom to use younger whisky’s instead of 12 years and up for a single malt prices should be going down instead of up. All in all, this whisky is a very nice addition to the range, accessible, yet interesting for experienced whisky drinkers. The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve is now Whisky of the Month at Gall.nl so available for a very interesting price!

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It was remarkable how well the whisky paired with each dish, as it has many fruity and sweeter notes. “Dishes need to surpise and even challenge you, something that is also achieved by the creators of Scottish single malt whisky. In both my restaurants I try to push boundaries. In this collaboration with The Glenlivet we try to alter traditional thoughts on drinking whisky, like only drinking it at the end of a good meal.” Each of the preparations has an element of whisky in it, so we could have a sip of the Founder’s Reserve to bring out new flavours in both the dish and the whisky. In his laboratory he has deconstructed the whisky to create new combinations adn experiences.

Another preparation we were served was Gurnard with cocquile, artichoke, broth of kelp, cresson and chicken (pictured below) which was the highlight of the meal for me, but the whole experience was a highlight in itself. And did I mention the Whisky au Beurre with aspergus and Josélito he perpared for us? Truly divine!

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The idea of foodpairing is great and starting at this ambitious level is good as you can really see the amount of thought that actually goes into developing new dishes and analysing ingredients. However, it is important that more accessible ways of preparing food with whisky are presented as well as not everyone has rotavaps and other professional equipment at home.

There will come a time when pairing food and spirits will be (almost) as normal as it now is with wine and sommeliers will cross over to the more heavy side of alcohol to expand their knowledge. On a broader note, whisky is making a comeback in cocktails which we also saw demonstrated at the FG Labs. François demonstrated that you can make a great cocktail with single malt whisky as many bartenders have done as well. I have been serving classic cocktails at the Whisky Festival The Hague for the past 3 editions and I did encounter a lot of raised eyebrows, until I could convince them of the great concoctions that can be created with whisky, both single malt and blended scotch. Expect to see more creations based on whisky in a cocktailbar near you very soon, even though it will remain confined to the high-end bars in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

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