Matchmaking has long been a skill that mankind has sought to perfect. But pairing a tasting of a Scotch whisky with a cult following with arguably Toronto's most venerated steakhouse may just be the pinnacle of such quests to occur in Toronto this year.
Combining rich ambiance, a knowledgeable and personable group, fantastic food and drink, and some excellent news, LVMH and DDB served to raise the bar for tasting events very early this whisky season.
Arriving out of blustery conditions the likes of which are known only to Torontonians
who frequent the Bay Street corridor, your thirsty Scotchblog crew arrived to be greeted with an Ardbeg 10 Caesar which, despite what can only be considered natural trepidation, delivered an experience reminiscent of a smoked tomato BLT in a glass. Delightful, refreshing, and such a departure from the conventional concept of the Canadian cure-all for going too long the night before, that I can only hope to see this potable provided elsewhere in the near future.
After this opening salvo, we were settled in for a brief pre-meal flight of a triumvirate of offerings from Islay's reigning magistrate of peat, expertly guided by Ardbeg's Global Ambassador David Blackmore. First up was the 10 year old expression with its flurry of citrus, bacon, vanilla, toffee, spice, and of course smoke and peat. This is when David delivered the news that we poor Ontario peated whisky fanatics have been longing to hear: The Ardbeg 10 year old expression is to become a permanent fixture in the LCBO's Vintages selection, at long last making the Sultan of smoky Scotch whisky available on a regular basis.
This was promptly followed up with the Oloroso sherry casked Uigeadail (pronounced oog-eh-dahl according to the colloquialism of the night, and for those
baffled by Gaelic) which I can only describe in this truncated setting as an explosive coal-fired creme brule with hints of raisin and salt. I can see this perhaps being a gateway Ardbeg for those that often turn up their nose at the more powerfully peated provisions, yet do enjoy a smoky whisky. That said, I shall save the more in depth exploration of this expression for a proper review.
The final piece of the trifecta was the Corryvreckan and its spicy, oaky nose giving way to caramel, vanilla, and eventually something reminiscent of a Cohiba cheesecake, if such an anomaly could ever exist. It should be noted that Scott described the mouthfeel as carrying "a bite like a well aged cheddar" which is certainly a propos given the fact that it weighs in North of 57% ABV.
From here the evening transferred its focus from whisky to food, allowing Harbour Sixty to deliver that which it does best: glorious food that somehow manages to overshadow the opulence of its surroundings. The appetizer I opted for was a simply stunning combination of beef carpaccio and parmesan, while the majority opted for bacon wrapped scallops. But there was no dissention when it came to the main: a perfectly prepared-to-order ribeye the size of a small textbook, drizzled with a sauce created with a seductive reduction of the Ardbeg 10.
After softly weeping to myself upon completing an act of gluttony that would inspire shame in most, but for yours truly was nothing
beyond a longing for more, it was on to dessert which arrived on a communal tray for some, and in a glass for others. We hearty Scotchbloggers opted for the latter of course, returning en masse to the Uigeadail as there is little argument as to which expression from Ardbeg best fits the dessert mould.
In the end, it was a brilliant night for a bombastic whisky which is finally set to become available to Ontario on a regular basis, with this fantastic news aptly delivered in a perfectly plush setting. I would like to extend my thanks to fellow table-mates Tamsen from Vie Magazine and Ted from Tidings Magazine for their excellently convivial company which kept the atmosphere as lively as anyone could hope, and to all who made this event such a success.