Upon arriving at Harbour 60, Rod and I were given a very surprising whisky cocktail comprised of Famous Grouse blended scotch, ginger ale, simple syrup and lime juice. We were given this cocktail by Marc Laverdiere, the Edrington Group’s Canadian ambassador of the Highland Park and The MacAllan single malt whisky brands. He is a well dressed guy with a Quebecois accent and a genuine charm. You can tell instantly that this man loves his job.
“Wait, wait” Marc insists, “it needs more” and he tops up our drinks with the needed additional whisky. “Not bad for a summer day, eh?” he quips. It really was better than I was expecting. Harbour 60′s ever gracious Manager, Virginia Adams, introduces us to Marc as guys who know and love scotch. He smiles at us and I can tell we are going to get along. I ask him what is the single malt that is in the Famous Grouse (also owned by the Edrington Group). “Glenturret” he replies. Hmm. Rod and I ponder whether we have owned or tasted a Glenturret. I think so, but am not sure. Other guests are being served Marc’s cocktail, and as with us, he heads over to make sure the mix is right. As he does this, I pull out my iPhone and log into this site to check our collection for a Glenturret. As I do this, Marc comes up behind me and looking over my shoulder he asks ‘You have all those?”. I am scrolling through the list and there it is: Glenturret 17 Black Adder Bottling. If memory serves me, we (the LSS) bought this for Rod’s birthday a few years back. Rod and I explain the origins of the Leslieville Scotch Society, and how by buying as a group as well as individually, we have owned about 170 single malts and have about 140 bottles currently open. He gets a twinkle in his eye and I think we move up a few steps in his esteem. Rod and I take our seats and scan our evening’s taste – trip. There they are, all neatly poured and waiting for the right food pairings, 5 beautiful drams: The MacAllan 15 Fine Oak, The Highland Park 15, The Highland Park 18, The MacAllan 18 Sherry Oak, and to finish, the transplendant Highland Park 25. We finish our cocktails as the rest of the guests are seated and I know we are in for a treat. Marc addresses the room and as he speaks, you know it is his personal experience talking, not some shpeel he has given a hundred times. “We will start with The MacAllan 15 year old” he smiles. He gives a rather good background on the steps The MacAllan takes to impart their whisky with the woods that finish it. This includes making and exporting their own casks to Spain where they are first filled with Oloroso Sherry for a few years, before being filled with the young whisky that will steal that character many years later and, in the case of the fine oak, is then moved into American Bourbon casks. The MacAllan 15 was paired sublimely with Foie Gras Profiteroles with Quince Cream. Harbour 60′s chef absolutely nailed this. The subtle flavours in the whisky were perfectly enhanced by these tasty little nibbles. Next up, we had the Highland Park 15. This may have been Rod’s favourite. It has all these wonderful fruity things going on, peach cobbler, clove, dried apples. The Highland Park 15 was paired with a Prawn Bisque with Walnut Cream. As soon as I tasted the bisque the entire character of the whisky changed to cereals and Premium Plus crackers with old Chedder. I was a little surprised how drastic this was. While the food pairing with The MacAllan 15 had worked so well, this one kind of obliterated what I had been enjoying in the Scotch. To each his own. Next up, what more than a few, including F. Paul Pacult’s spirit journal, determined to be the “Best Spirit In The World”, The Highland Park 18. This was paired amazingly with what must have been a 15 oz, perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth, baseball of beef, Grade A Masterpiece. Honestly, if you have never been to Harbour 60, you probably have never had a steak this good. At one point I actually poured a bit of my Highland Park 18 on to my plate to dip steak in. There aren’t proper words for how good this was. Do you remember that scene from “When Harry Met Sally”? As I glanced around me, there were some serious food and drink people trying hard not to scream “This is so F***ing Good!”. OK, OK. Deep breath. With each new course, Marc would stand before us and speak of his passion and speak about our next whisky, almost apologizing for interrupting our meals, and yet happy to be taking us on this journey. A few times he motioned towards us when talking of others who love and study whisky and that felt pretty cool. As he got up the last time, he spoke of the respect and love of the men who had made this Highland Park 25; men who had nurtured it and cared for it, knowing full well they would no longer be working at Highland Park when it was finally bottled. He spoke of special occasions, and how market studies had shown that the average whisky buyer has 6 bottles at home, ( he full on smiled at Rod and I here) and how they usually have one special one, something kept on a back shelf, brought out to be shared when it meant something to do so. He told of how he had enjoyed a Highland Park 25 with 7 or 8 friends in the middle of some ruins in the middle of the night on Orkney in the pouring rain, and how one sip took him back to that place. As we drank this most amazing of drams, I sat and looked around this beautiful dining room and wondered how in the world I ever got to be so lucky.
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