It’s an annual affair – this whisky pairing dinner organised by the Tai Thong Group. Every year a special whisky is highlighted and this year, it’s the Fiftysix Degrees. This unique name refers to the latitude of the Scottish Highlands where this fine whisky is distilled.
Launched in Malaysia earlier this year, Fiftysix Degrees is surprisingly an easy whisky to drink. I should know because I am not a regular whisky drinker and I found it very palatable. Well, it is a blended whisky, a combination of single malts and a single-grain whisky.
The whisky pairing dinner at Spring Garden Restaurant in the cosy location of Kota Permai Golf & Country Club kicked off with some pre-dinner canapés and aperitifs. Crispy Crab Dumplings and Deep-fried Pumpkin & Lotus Roots with Salted Eggs went well with the tangy limey whisky-laced aperitif.
Fiftysix Degrees is a “bespoke blend” – it’s distilled and blended in Scotland by Macleod Distillers and bottled in Malaysia by 56 Degrees Marketing Sdn Bhd. So you see, it is a “customised” blend made with the Asian palate in mind. It’s described as a smooth and rich new-age blend and I tend to agree with that especially when sipped in between the 3 Appetizers served that evening:
Lobster with fresh fruit salad with Italian Vanilla Dressing, Deep-fried Tofu Puffs with Scallops and Fish Roe and Softshell Crab with Roasted Sesame Sauce wrapped in Egg Rolls. For added tastes, these were topped with shredded coconut and fish roe.
Fiftysix Degrees’ balance of citrusy and light fresh fruity notes within the golden blend was a boon when paired with all those seafood elements. This easy-drinking whisky appeals to both whisky aficionados and novices (that’s me).
Marine flavours were again reflected in the Double-boiled Abalone and Dried Premium Seafood Soup served in a coconut. It’s a robust nutritious soup filled with all the goodness of the sea and taking a few sips of the Fiftysix Degrees on-the-rocks after the soup helped to clear the palate for the next dish.
Sliced chicken with fish paste and almonds served with a tart holding shredded chicken with mango and crunchy nuts doused with grapefruit sauce was next. I enjoyed the nicely fried thin golden skin of the chicken but the rest of the elements were quite lost in the mismatched serving.
Chefs at work
While I totally enjoyed the Estuary Dragon Grouper (“long tan”) and Mushrooms in Pumpkin Superior Broth, I felt there’s one too many soupy items in this menu. The seafood theme, while sweet and delicious, was repeated in almost all the dishes (except the fried rice, the last dish). It is as if the Fiftysix Degrees can only go well with seafood and that is really undermining the character of this bespoke whisky.
I would have liked to taste and experience how this whisky would fare with a meat dish, for example. Or perhaps have a dish that’s not deep-fried or boiled which were the dominant cooking methods for the dishes in this pairing. Chinese cooking is so versatile, after all.
Desserts to end the meal: Chilled Layered Jelly of Black Sesame, Mango & Fresh Milk, Mini Pumpkin Dumpling with Sweet Potatoes and Cheese, Sweet Corn Bun sprinkled with cocoa powder. My favourite was the jelly and we all marvelled at the bun which looked exactly like a mushroom!
What perked up the dinner was the excellent 3-member band – The Raw Notes which kept the diners entertained with their repertoire. Their singer-keyboardist, Chris was superb with his rendition of Cantonese hits.
This Whisky Pairing dinner was priced at RM1,888 nett for 10 pax and held at:
Spring Garden Restaurant
Kota Permai Golf & Country Club