The Calgary Ardbeg TracTour Dinner – July 16, 2014


Time has really flown by this summer, and what an exciting summer its been! The Ardbeg TracTour made a pit stop in Calgary in early July, its only Canadian port-o-call. It was seen all over the city at events, including one here at KWM on July 11. Later the next week a very exclusive Ardbeg Dinner was held at the Shawnessy Barn, a historic relic of the 1920s, when Calgary was a smaller, quieter place. When it was built, Calgary was 15 kilometers away, today the barn is some 5km within the city’s limits. In the 1920s Shawnessy was rural agricultural land, making the barn a fitting place to host the TracTour and a curious whisky I’ll get to a little later.

Ruaraidh McIntyre, Arbeg’s ambassador to Canada, was on hand to guide us through a very special range of whiskies at an event put together with great care by Moet Hennessey’s local brand  ambassador Jordan Cameron. Participants were stylishly whisked from downtown by limousine to the venue where we were greeted with a welcome whisky and the roar of the TracTour.

An elabourate dinner  was put on for us by Nicole Gomes of Nicole Gourmet. Nicole finished 3rd in Top Chef Canada and its no wonder why. The food was superb, starting with a bite sized twist on pulled pork. The first course was the finest piece of salmon I’ve ever had. Lightly smoked and cured with coriander, it was served with fresh corn and maple-soy-butter.

After the salmon I had my first Rumbledethumps Croquette, a comfort food in Scotland, but an obscure delicacy on this side of the pond. It was made with Berkshire ham, Sylvan Star smoked gouda, organic potato and loving plopped in a parsnip puree.

By the third course many were filling up, but with such delicious and beautiful delights on the plate,  most of us stayed the course. Next up, personal wee Scottish Pies made with curried Driview Farm lamb and raisins, garnished with smoked apple relish and white onion puree.

No meal such as this would have been complete without desert, room or note, and on this fine evening it was a Peppered Pineapple Tart Tatin with cinnamon lemon creme fraiche. Nicole did a wonderful job on the menu and each of the whiskies was lovingly and successfully paired with a dram from the Kildalton coast. For the evening we sampled:

As if the sumptuous meal, wonderful whisky and roaring TracTour weren’t enough. Our hosts had one final treat in store for us. A bottle of Ardbeg Kildalton (2014) had been spirited across the Atlantic and the North American continent just for the evening’s tasting. The whisky, only available at the distillery (so kindly don’t request a bottle from me or the store), has been bottled at 46% without an age statement as a fundraiser for the North Highland Initiative.  The NHI tries to connect local farmers and businesses in the remote north and west of Scotland to help address some of the challenges faced by both. So it was certainly fitting that the site of an old farm was to host the whisky’s first tasting in Canada. The whisky has been matured in 1st Fill and Refill Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry casks. It is named for the iconic and historically significant Kildalton Cross (which dates from about 1200CE), located in an abandoned churchyard about 6 miles east of the distillery.

Ardbeg Kildalton 2014 - 46% – American & European Oak – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: Ardbeg light, somewhat reminiscent of the earlier Kildalton release; lots of soft chewy barley, ripe citrus, sugars and round creamy oak; some spicier elements develop with an earthy-ashy peat, and some more exotic fruits; some firm leather, wet tobacco leaf and chocolate; Palate: again a little lighter on the peat than you’d expect from Ardbeg, but it still has a presence, oily, a tad ashy and slightly tarry; a balance of honey and vanilla from the American oak and leather, licorice, dark fruits and chocolate from the European oak; the citrus notes are still there with some white fruits which hit the roof of your palate before the spirit even touches your lips; some melon emerges too with sea salt and smoke; overall it is sweet, malty and rich with slight peat; Finish: long, coating and creamy and sweet with fading spices, gentle peat and a clinging salty smoke. – Available Only From the Distillery!

A special thanks is due to Jordan Cameron and the rest of the Alberta Charton Hobbs/Moet Hennessey Team for making this event happen. Thanks are also due to Ruaraidh McIntyre for crossing the country to host the event. To all the participants who sacrificed an evening for excellent food, whisky and company. And last but not least to the chef and her team for creating such a wonderful meal!

And this just in, I’ve just gotten confirmation that the new 2014 Ardbeg Supernova is coming! $190-200 with a November ETA. Let us know if you’d like to be put on the waiting list for a bottle!

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