“I encourage you to use your senses,” says Martine Nouet, renowned whisky taster.
“We’re going to have a sensory trip,” she adds, rubbing the top of her hand with whisky. “This way you get the cereal aspect not the alcohol, the way malted barley expresses itself.”
In Australia for the first time, Martine Nouet is one of the world’s top five whisky tasters. She has her own television series called “Whisky Chef” and she is a senior contributor and whisky judge for Whisky Magazine in the UK and was Editor of its sister publication in France. “La Reine de L’Alambic”, as she is also known, was born in Normandy and in recent years, she has made Islay her home. She has written food columns extensively for French newspapers, is author of a book on single malt whisky, Les Routes Des Malts and is a judge at the annual International Wine and Spirit competition in London.
Black Ray Espresso Cocktail with Nant Single Malt
Martine Nouet has designed a whisky dinners in collaboration with Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel Sydney Executive Chef, Jess Ong, the duo working together remotely in Islay and Sydney.
The whisky dinner featured six courses flavour-matched with whisky with Madame Nouet introducing each pairing.
“Take sip. Roll it in the mouth. Take a bite of the food then sip more whisky,” simple instructions that set the tone of the sensory journey.
Glen Grant 10 yo with Smoked Tasmanian Salmon, Ricotta and Herbs
The first pairing is with Glen Grant 10 yo from Speyside, an area considered to be the “mecca of whisky” with some 60 distilleries in 60 square kilometres. The single malt comes from the village of Rothes which has five distilleries. The whisky has a floral character on the nose, light and fruity, with a light colour that denotes its maturation in ex American bourbon oak.
Glen Grant 10 yo is paired with lightly smoked Tasmanian salmon, salt cured with ginger & lime pickled carrots and beetroots, virgin salmon caviar and a bouchée of ricotta, lemon zest and herbs, a pairing that plays with the balance between the sweet and sourness of the ricotta and the herbs.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel (Chilled) with seared scallops, bacon, corn puree, Jerusalem artichokes, Corella pear
The next pairing moves to Tennessee, USA with Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel (45% ABV). This Tennessee whiskey (not Bourbon) undergoes charcoal filtration which gives it a pure distillation. “Seafood is often served with chilled wine so why not whisky,” Nouet explains.
The cold spirit tones down the oaky character which go well with the delicate flavours of the seared scallops, and finish with the bacon reacting with the spiciness of the whiskey with licorice and aniseed notes. This is a complex pairing of the cold sensation on the tongue with the delicate texture of the scallop. An exquisite pairing.
Talisker Storm with Yellowfin Tuna Tartare
Back to Scotland, the sensory journey moves to the Isle of Skye with Talisker, the only distillery on the island. Dry sea air, sea spray smoke and seaweed contribute to the character of the whisky. Talisker Storm is paired with Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, seaweed and vegetable crust, wasabi oil, lime, micro herbs. The whisky has no age statement and has been selected for its maritime and smoky character which hits you immediately. Bonfire and burning seaweed are evident, a whisky that could be made into “perfume for Monsieur”.
On the palate, there is a pepperiness which is the distillery’s character and a sensation of saltiness with strong flavours. The saltiness and clean flavours of the fish with citrus coupled with the smokiness and iodine character of Talisker Storm make a perfect pairing.
Glengoyne 12 yo with Thirlmere Duck Breast
Moving inland and south to the Highlands with Glengoyne 12 yo, a distillery that is renowned for its slow distillation which gives oiliness to the whisky. Glengoyne 12 yo is darker in colour due to maturation in ex sherry casks which give toffee notes and dried fruit aromas. With an aged whisky, she recommends giving it one minute per year of age to fully appreciate it.
The whisky is paired with Thirlmere duck breast, winter truffle, smoked carrot puree and orange reduction. The duck is cooked with orange, which is “the bridge in the whisky” due to the sherry maturation which yields dried fruit aroma and flavour to the spirit.
Hellyers Rd 10 yo with Cheddar cheese platter
Moving half way around the world to Australia with Hellyers Rd 10 yo 46.2% ABV, the Tasmanian whisky matched with Pygengana Clothbound Cheddar cheese platter 18 month aged cheddar, ecles cake, fissele, quince jam and muscatel. The whisky is pale in colour, due to being matured in refill ex bourbon casks which impart vanilla notes and sweetness that are not as pronounced as first fill casks.
Trying it on the back of the hand, there are notes of ginger bread and fruit bread and the nose. It has a specific aroma of balsamic, pine needles, like waking in the forest. The whisky pairs well with 18 months old cheddar cheese and the accompanying quince jam and muscatels.
Nant Sherrywood with Chocolate Plate
A decadent dessert of dark bitter chocolate mousse, praline parfait, tuille, roasted almond crumble is perfectly paired with another Australian whisky, Nant Sherrywood 43% ABV. Aged in ex American bourbon oak, the whisky has pronounced spice, butterscotch and caramel with a subtle sweetness. Notes of crème brulee with cinnamon and nutmeg, it is reminiscent to Christmas pudding and has a medium to long finish.
Nant Distillery Cask Strength 6
The whisky dinner comes to an end with a special dram, Nant Distillery Cask Strength 63% ABV matured in ex bourbon barrels served with petits fours. Sweet, with treacle flavours, the initial alcoholic burn at the back of the palate leads onto a warm, long, lingering finish. Just as the whisky dinner lingers in memory.
Martine Nouet and Executive Chef Jess Ong
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