Last night, the Verandah Deck on the Queen Mary was the location of a marvelous nightcap as guests enjoyed an exquisite Partagas cigar and a vintage glass of The MacCallan Scotch as the final course of Thursday’s Peerless Spirits Scotch Dinner. Kieron Elliot, West Coast Brand Ambassador for The MacCallan Distillery, described the final glass to me as “Cask Strength, an exclusive available only from BevMo, a very very nice cask strength. The great thing about cask strength is that it is literally unadulterated as it comes out of the cask and absolutely nothing else. It is wonderful, a privilege to taste a Scotch in it’s natural state. It is 100 per cent as it comes out of the sherry cask and you’ve got this ‘sherry explosion’ in your mouth. Obviously, it’s a high alcohol percentage, so you need to be careful with it. I encourage people to try it with a bit of water to open up the flavors. It’s an incredible experience”.
Guests described the end of the evening as “as beautiful as an evening in July”, “What’s not to like? A great cigar, some fantastic Scotch and a delicious dinner” and “Great Scotch, good cigars and a beautiful view on a gorgeous night”. Indeed, the first event in the Queen Mary’s 2014 Barrel Series set a high bar for the upcoming dinners in the Queen Mary’s premiere dinner event. The Queen Mary, built in the shipyards of the town of Clydebank, Scotland, in 1936, was the ideal location for this tasting of the most revered of spirits named after the Queen Mary’s home country.
The evening started off with hors d’oeuvres of shrimp, smoked duck, air-cured beef and deviled eggs to accompany glasses of champagne. The Queen’s Salon, the venue of choice for the Barrel Series, was decked out in it’s usual finery befitting what was once the most exclusive 1st Class Lounge on the Seven Seas, hosting kings, presidents, duchesses, movie stars and captains of industry. Kieron Elliot hosted the tasting, giving insight into Scotch tasting, the background of MacCallan and Highland Park Distilleries in Scotland and highlights of what to expect and look for in each glass of Single Malt Scotch that was paired with the upcoming dinner course.
For the first course, a MacCallan 12 Year Single Malt Scotch was paired with a smoked salmon plate designed by Chef Todd Henderson, Executive Chef of the Queen Mary. A fine Scottish salmon had been cured in the accompanying Scotch and than slowly smoked. Many guests remarked that it was absolutely the best smoked salmon they had ever had. The thin-sliced salmon had that fresh-from-the-sea look, with a delicate taste that did not overpower the salmon but instead added delicate notes of vanilla and Scotch to the flavor.
The second course paired a delightfully grilled lamb chop with the Highland Park 15 Year Single Malt.The most interesting part of the course was the Tepary Bean Nage, a small Southwestern bean that Chef Todd paired with the chops. Many at the tables compared the bean preparation to a toothsome risotto, with a cloying flavor that everyone loved. The third course highlighted Highland Park’s 18 Year Single Malt Scotch. Venison, one of the favored meats of Scotland, was used to make a Venison Osso Bucco Shank and then topped with a delicious sauce utilizing the Highland Park 18 Year Single Malt. Completing the presentation was a Gremoulada of Lemon Zest and Pine Nuts.
Kieron talked about the airport on Orkney Island where Highland Park is located, claiming that “the winds are over 100 miles per hour 80 days of the year, and 80 miles an hour another 100 days of the year”. As he talked about the distillery that is the farthest north of any in the world, he told about the beauty of the windswept island and the Scottish gentlemen who work in the high latitudes distilling the precious elixir. He also talked about the area around The MacCallan Distillery, advising anyone who visited the area to “Look for a man named ‘Willie the ghillie’, the chief gamekeeper of the River Spey who not only knows more about the area’s fish around than any man in the world, but is a real character and has a great sense of humor. He can keep telling stories about the lore of the area and the fishing all day. And it is worth spending a day with him for that!”.
For the final, dessert course, a trio of desserts was presented, ensuring that everyone would have to compare what their favorite choice. The Cappuccino Praline with Salted Caramel and the Mascarpone Gelati had a lot of fans with the rich, chocolate tones of the desserts. Others, however preferred the Chef’s take on the Cranachan, a traditional Scottish dessert that Chef Todd described as “toasted oats, touched by a bit of Scotch, whipped cream that has also been infused with the Scotch and fresh strawberries, topped off by some more of the toasted oats”. This was a light, fresh dessert packed with flavor, although Chef Todd used the Scotch in a way that added the aroma and accented notes of the Scotch to the dessert rather than overpowering the senses with alcohol. The final Scotch, a MacCallan 15 Year Single Malt, played well with the desserts.
Afterwards, Twain Schreiber, Director of Food and Beverage for the Queen Mary, invited guests up to the Verandah Deck for Cigars and Scotch overlooking the beautiful Long Beach skyline. Guests socialized, with many remarking that they were excited about upcoming Barrel Series events such as the Mount Gay Rum Tasting Dinner and the Herradura Tequila Tasting Dinner. Tim and Lana of Partagas Cigars happily lit one of three choices of cigars including the Benji Menendez Master Series for the guests, who then enjoyed it with The MacCallan Cask Strength Scotch that Kieron poured for everyone. “Slainte Mhrath”, he said, as people crowded around him to talk about their favorite MacCallan Scotch. The Cask Strength had a bite to it, but the flavors of vanilla and even a touch of burnt smoke were there and an excellent way to end my evening.
The Queen Mary’s 2014 Barrel Series Dinners will continue on May 22 with the Mount Gary Rum Barrel Tasting Dinner on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Tickets are available through the Queen Mary’s website or by calling (877) 437-2934.
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Highway
Long Beach, CA 90802