In a temple dedicated to the goodness of the grape, a different kind of worship was taking place. In a move that sounds almost sacrilegious to oenophiles, wine bar Oenotheque in Millenia Walk was hosting a priest of a different stripe – Scotsman Ian McWilliam of Glenfarclas was in town to wax lyrical about wonders of the water of life, a distilled alcoholic beverage made from malted barley.
Whisky – from the Gaelic word uisce or uisge – only came about after the discovery of the distillation process around 1st century AD, making it a far younger cousin of wine, already a common staple in Europe during the Classical Greek period. But that newer denomination has plenty of converts today – and many present in McWilliam’s congregation are serious devotees.
McWilliam proceeds to share the history of Glenfarclas (“Valley of the Green Grass”), that small independent distillery still owned by the same family since 1865. The Grants of Glenfarclas – no relation to the better known William Grant & Sons who make Balvenie and Glenfiddich whiskies, amongst others – make single malt Scotch whisky in the traditional Speyside style (they are after all, located near the A95 highway that runs alongside River Spey). McWilliam himself lives right next to the distillery.
But sermons are food for the soul; the body craves actual sustenance. Deliverance soon comes in the form of whisky and food pairings – a four-course meal meant to accentuate the particular accents and highlights of each specific vintage. The ten year-old Glenfarclas, for example, sat court with beef tartare, its sherry sweetness and slight smokiness adding a different dimension to the raw-esque appetizer. The very highly-regarded 15 year-old, on the other hand, arrived with a strongly flavoured Soupe De Poisson (above) to match its full-bodied and slightly peated goodness. A sou-vided and roasted lamb loin followed, its delicateness exposed by the alcoholic rage and spiciness of the cask strength Glenfarclas 105 that had to be muted with a splash of water. The entourage finally ended the dessert of a warm chocolate tart with its 21 year-old Glenfarclas consort.
No sight of the 30 or 40 year-old, but like all good sermons something must be withheld to keep the congregation coming back.
I’m ready for my next communion.