A very regal affair

[caption id="attachment_214518" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Three Chivas whiskies were paired with. main picture, pork belly with sweet potato and coconut puree, fillet with leek and potato mash, right, and lightly smoked salmon with crispy ham[/caption]

Louise Liebenberg discovers how to pair classy Chivas with food.

Food and wine pairings have, for many, become somewhat old hat, especially since we’ve seen more unusual pairing exercises such as chocolate and wine become commonplace in recent years. Yours truly went to a gin and food pairing a few years ago and, likewise, whisky pairings have been around for a while.

I do enjoy a good whisky to take the edge off a long day, though if I’m honest it’s not something I’d immediately imagine in a pairing context.

That is, until I met Chivas Regal’s own very regal brand ambassador, Abongile Kolisi, who presented one of these events in partnership with Bocadillos on First in Walmer last week.

The sassy young woman from rural Centane, near East London, has shattered stereotypes when it comes to the world of luxury whiskies. Based in Johannesburg, she is SA’s only female brand ambassador for Chivas and her high-flying job sees her flitting all over the country and beyond with dizzying frequency.

The former Clarendon Girls’ High schoolgirl has worked in the luxury liquor industry for nearly a decade, and joined Chivas Regal a year ago. “It’s a dream job, yes, but also very hard work,” she said, adding that her Chivas journey began with months of intense training in Scotland and London to learn every aspect of the age-old brand. Today part of the Pernod Ricard group, Chivas Regal is one of the world’s top-selling blended scotch whiskies and can trace its origins back to 1801.

We tasted the 12-year-old, the Extra and the 18-year-old, with “Boca” boss Lauren van Deventer and chef Candy Watson coming up with some inspired pairings.

The 12-year-old was matched with pork belly on a sweet-potato and coconut purée as it was felt that the pork, roasted with fennel and paprika, would pick up the sweet honey notes of the 12. “The sweet-potato and coconut highlights the ripe apple tasting note,” Lauren said. I’d swear she was right.

The Extra was paired with beautiful fillet served on braised leek and potato mash, accompanied with a pear jus. It was suggested the jus would enhance the pear notes of the Extra, while the buttery flavours of the mash and fillet would heighten its subtle caramel notes.

The Chivas 18 was paired with Norwegian salmon topped with crispy bits of Parma ham, as the feeling was that this whisky’s deep intensity would be amplified by the saltiness of the ham and light smokiness of the fish. I am not entirely convinced my palate is sufficiently honed as yet for these complex pairings, but it certainly was a sensory – and fun – experience all round!