4.326 Roast Sea Bass

Cycle 4 – Item 326

27 (Wed) November 2013

Roast Sea Bass


at Conrad Seoul

-Yeouido, Yeongdeungpo, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with MtG et al.

The Glenlivet is a single malt Scotch whisky.  Founded in 1824, right after the Excise Act of 1823 allowed for the establishment of legal distilleries in Scotland, the first to get a license in Glenlivet. Accordingly, the corporate slogan is: “The single malt that started it all.”  Famously, the distillery won the exclusive right to use “The Glenlivet” as its trade name, though other distilleries retain the right to use “Glenlivet” (sans “The”) as a geographic appellation.  Located in the renowned region of Speyside.  Now owned by conglomerate Pernod Ricard.  Currently the top-selling single malt in the US, second worldwide (after Glenfiddich).

It’s one of my two all-time favorites (along with Springbank).  At The Auld Alliance in Singapore, where I could only taste so much within time/budgetary constraints, I took the opportunity to try an early 1970s bottling – totally different than the contemporary stuff.  I almost always get at least 1 bottle at the duty free shop on any given trip abroad.  Usually the 12-year-old, because it’s cheap, but also because I enjoy its effortless elegance.  I often refer to The Glenlivet as “my daily sipping Scotch,” and it would be, if more widely available and more affordably priced in Korea.

The Guardians’ Chapter is a marketing campaign launched earlier this year by the distillery.  In a series of tasting events hosted across the world, members of the official fan club -“The Guardians” – as well as select members of the general public, have been invited to sample three experimental expressions – CLASSIC, REVIVAL, EXOTIC – and vote on their favorite.  The expression garnering the most votes will be bottled into a limited edition released sometime next year.

MtG knows somebody who knows somebody who got him an invitation.  I was happy to be his plus one.

The venue was a penthouse suite at Conrad Seoul.

“The Glenlivet Cooler,” an aperitif consisting of The Glenlivet 12 “Excellence” (a slightly richer expression developed for the Asian market) + ginger ale – and yes, they did acknowledge that serving a cocktail before a tasting probably wasn’t such a great idea.

A promotional affair to be sure, the evening started off with a slide show about The Glenlivet’s history, philosophy, FAQs, etc.  Courtesy of Ian Logan, bona fide Scotsman, global brand ambassador dispatched by HQ.

Next, taking each expression in turn, the participants were asked to describe any discernible flavors/aromas from the sample.  A picture chart with a variety of typical flavors/aromas was provided as a guideline.  After suggestions from the participants, a slide revealed the Master Distiller’s own tasting impressions.

I’ve always suspected myself as having a sensitive palate, but I had no idea how much so until this evening.  For each sample, I could clearly identify the expression’s general motif and then detect specific markers.  CLASSIC: round, sweet butteriness, like vanilla, caramel, nougat – exactly.  REVIVAL: delicate, fresh fruit, like pear, apple – exactly.  EXOTIC: spicy, cooked/dried fruit, like fruitcake, marmalade, raisins – exactly.  As if I were working off a crib sheet.

Over a decade ago, when I was living in California and obsessed with wine, I’d made a concerted effort to build a sense memory.  Tastings at organized wine events, samplings directly at wineries in and around Napa and Sonoma, and of course sloshings at home and in restaurants/bars, I was recording mental notes.  After awhile, comparing my personal impressions to professional reviews, I began to recognize that, say, the whiff of X in a wine equates metaphorically to “chocolatey” in enological parlance, or Y means “peppery,” or Z means “fruity/leathery” or whatever. The self-training must’ve stuck.

Ultimately, I went with REVIVAL because it seemed to embody best what I love about The Glenlivet, why I drink it more than any other malt; then again, I can see why an out-of-character expression may be more preferable for a limited edition.

As for the food, I wasn’t very impressed.  Despite the hoity-toity descriptions on the menu and the 1st-year culinary school platings, some incorporating actual whisky from The Glenlivet, the dishes ended up tasting/looking like items from a business-class in-flight meal.  I would’ve expected more from The Conrad, especially for an event like this.

On the way home, I couldn’t stop gushing, especially about my tasting skills.  While MtG dismissed the excitement as obnoxious braggadocio, I was genuinely grateful the long-standing confidence in my gustatory/olfactory faculties had finally been confirmed, the same way that I’ll react when I get my Mensa card.

Anyway, I had a blast.  One of the greatest booze-related experiences ever.  Thanks, MtG!

(See also BOOZE)



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