An awesome whisky, costing an astronomical R230,000-a-bottle graced my palate at a special luncheon at the Sandton Sun. The pricey Balvenie 50 is available at the Whisky Live Festival 2012.
One should recall a quote by Mark Twain who once said: "Too much of anything is bad, but too much of a good whisky is barely enough".
I don't know which whisky Twain would have been drinking when he uttered those words, but I can safely guess that whatever it was, it did not even remotely match the awesome one I tried.
At the invitation to join in drinking a 50-year-old Balvenie whisky, Twain would surely have felt his eyes popping.
Worse, he would have been overcome by a sinking feeling had he been told by a bartender at the Sandton Sun that a single tot of Balvenie 50 costs R40,000.
Of course, I stood in awe and curtsied in front of the bottle. And when the magical moment came to taste the malt at a luncheon at the Sandton Sun chef's table, my hand quivered.
Raising the glass, I took a long, contemplative sip before priming my senses: First the tip of my tongue, then I swirled the golden liquid around my mouth, massaged my palate with it, and, voila! - my eyes blinked a thousand times in a second.
Twain's quote sank in: a bit of an extraordinarily good thing is barely enough, especially when it is served as a miserly tot. Considering the rare privilege, it was an inappropriate cry from the heart to dare describe it as miserly.
With every sip of the half-a-century-old single malt my palate felt enriched by palpable layers of velvety smooth notes of honey and spiciness.
One had to be 50 years of age to appreciate the evolution this spirit had undergone and tease out of it the nuances it imparted on my palate.
It is an experience that can be likened - in human terms - to wisdom etched by time in someone that old.
To put the vintage in perspective, we tasted Balvenie Fifty's younger siblings - the 12-year-old, 15-year-old and 21-year-old.
Though these three vintages displayed corresponding depth, their collective taste profiles comparatively paled against the background of the 50-year-old. But the golden thread that ties the four vintages together is Balvenie's pedigree, a whisky positioned as a boutique malt.
The whisky marks the 50th anniversary of Balvenie's malt master, David Stewart, who made the whisky in 1962 and nurtured it until 2012.
With the whiskies, Sandton Sun executive chef Garth Shnier and group sommelier Miguel Chan lined up a delectable eight-course meal, which amply demonstrated whisky's compatibility with food.
An unmistakable lesson from the experience is that the wisdom of the old invariably predates youth.
The younger vintages were moderately robust, while the 50-year-old had poise, elegance and a polished finish.
Taste it yourself
These whiskies, with their pricey granddad, can be tasted at the Whisky Live Festival 2012, which takes place at the Durban International Convention Centre on 1 and 2 November. Johannesburg hosts the event at the Sandton Convention Centre from 7 to 9 November.
Wine and food events
RMB WineX, South Africa's premier wine show, is offering 1,000 wines from 200 cellars at an event being held at Cape Town's International Convention Centre on November 29 and 30.
The Stellenbosch wine and food show takes place at the luxurious Summer Place in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, on November 7. The cream of Stellenbosch's winemakers will be serving some of their best wines.
This event is a wine, art and music extravaganza which also features Michael Broughton of Terroir, Bertus Basson of Overture and George Jardine of Jordan Restaurant. Tickets cost R395.
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