The most successful dinners are those in which the food is kept simple. Simple food does not mean
dumbing down the culinary experience. One of the most difficult things when organising a whisky dinner is
getting the restaurant or hotel to understand the concept of simplicity in this context. Chefs have a tendency
to over-elaborate. They are sometimes not easy people to work with, and gettingthem to buy into the
concept with its essentially simple food is not an easy exercise. They need diplomatic management.
_ It makes sense to start the dinner with lighter whiskies, building up progressively to a crescendo that
almost always means the killer combination of Lagavulin with a strong blue cheese.
_ Serving champagne during the half hour before dinner as your guests arrive isprobably the best way
to begin the evening, and makes the point that we are really reversing the order of standard practice.
_ Thereafter, the choice of glass throughout dinner should reflect the progression of different whiskies
served with the five courses. Typically this means a champagne flute with the first course, a white wine
glass with the second, a red wine glass with the main course, asmall dessert wine glass with the pudding
and a brandy balloon or large red wine glass for the Lagavulin served with cheese at the end of the meal.
_ Whichever head waiter or sommelier who will be responsible for the service of the whiskies needs to have
a number of things clearly spelt out. A measure of whisky is between 25 and 30ml – the size of a shot glass.
For each course of the meal,only one serving of the matching whisky should be offered.
_ Bottled still water should be on the table at all times for people to help themselves both to dilute whiskies
to taste and also to sip from a large water glass as liked. We recommend a bottle between every two people
and these should be replenished as required.
_ Dilution is a key to the success of every dinner. It is usuallysuggested that people take a tiny sip of the
undiluted malt before eating, diluting to taste thereafter. It is always worth making the point that dilution
opens the whisky up in terms of its complex aroma while taking away any harshness of the neat spirit, which
can in any case be overwhelming when drinking it with food, and particularly with delicate dishes. It is equally
important to point outthat over-dilution results in whisky flavoured water, not in any way desirable.
_ The point should be made in the introductory remarks that nobody should feel pressured into finishing
every glass. However it is equally true that although five measures of spirits sounds like a lot of drink, it may
amount to less alcohol taken during the evening than when drinking wine served aggressively by awaiter.
_ After a brief introduction by the host, it is a good idea to have somebody who can give a short introduction
to each of the dishes and who can explain why they are being served with the selected malts. This need not be
more than two or three minutes before each course. The whisky to accompany each course should be poured
during the brief introductions to each course. A criticalexception is made for Dalwhinnie served with the
dessert course. Particular emphasis must be placed on the importance of freezing the Dalwhinnie which will
be served with pudding for at least 48 hours before the dinner. Glasses should also be frozen. This is the one
moment during the dinner when the food is brought to the table first and the whisky only at the last moment
to ensure that it comesin an absolutely perfect chilled state.
_ In the West we are all used to eating dinner as a succession of courses with a developing pattern of
savoury flavours and textures. Formally one starts with soup, then fish, then a meat course followed by a sweet
dessert with cheese to conclude. The number of courses has reduced over the years and few people now want
to eat more than three dishes...
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