Entering the massive purpose-built dome in Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club felt like entering a portal into the wonderful world of whisky. Chivas Regal Malaysia launched a three-day pop-up in this incredible space to show guests how “blended is better in life and in scotch”. Chivas blended mixology, sports — with the help of a collaboration with Manchester United Football club — and an incredible meal for this event.
The hall leading to the main dome was transformed from an old-school bar with wood finishing into a showcase of retro Chivas ads, and at the end of it was a room with Strathisla Distillery barrels — one even had a seat inside it, offering the perfect photo opportunity. The dome itself felt like a party room, with dazzling lights colouring the ceiling. After a few drams of Chivas Regal 12, we were invited to indulge in a sumptuous menu paired with creative cocktails, followed by a chance to make our very own blended whisky.
Gastronomy and Cocktail Symphony
The meal, developed by Beta KL’s chef Raymond Tham, was organised into five flavour profiles: citrus, floral, fruity, smoky and creamy (each make up Chivas’ house style flavour). To capture all the senses, the meal was complemented with projection mapping on the table, setting the stage for each course. Anticipating the paired cocktails and the promise of performances, we were raring to go.
The first course — citrus — came in the form of a whole orange, on a bed of dry ice that was activated with a small pitcher of water. Inside the orange were marbled salmon and little orbs of caviar filled with Chivas Mizunara. The citrusy sauce was served in a syringe, adding to the experimental feel of the dish. The orange flavour was made fresh with slices of jicama. What made this dish memorable were the different textures, from the bites of caviar to the tender salmon and crunchy jicama. The cocktail pairing was the Chivas Pandan Sour, concocted with whisky, pandan syrup, lime, egg white and bitters. This drink had the perfect balance of flavours, without the pandan being overpowering.
The floral course was served with green projections akin to the mossy floor of a forest and complete with palm-sized ladybugs flitting around. The dish is a trio — winged beans, banana blossom and torch ginger flower; crispy prawn over a lavender cullen skink with ikura (salmon caviar); and compressed watermelon with osmanthus cream. I could easily have eaten many more helpings of the first canapé, which was a spicy and fresh mouthful. The prawn was perfectly crispy and went well with the foamy cullen skink, but the watermelon overpowered the floral cream, so all you tasted was the fruit itself. This course was served with Kiss from a Rose, created with Chivas, Lillet, rose water and bitters.
The fruity course is, visually, a work of art. This dish includes foie gras torchon with vintage 2015 cranberries; duck rillette croquette with a prune compote; and apple jelly, Chivas XV raisins, kohlrabi and kale. The creaminess of the foie gras is cut by the wine-like cranberries, and the croquette is warm and crispy with delicious peranakan spices. Although the apple jelly felt more like dessert, it had a satisfying crunchy texture. The paired cocktail, Apeche Mode, is a fruity mix of Chivas, Lillet, peach purée and soda.
My favourite was the smoky course, which really delved into local flavour profiles. The lamb loin with smoked garlic purée and bak kut teh jus was earthy and delicious, with crispy tofu skin reminiscent of youtiao (Chinese cruller). The chicken is coated in charcoal with a sweet relish, and the aubergine with smoked fermented black beans was a perfect bite. The paired cocktail, CCC (Chivas, Cola, Charcoal), enhanced the smokiness of the dish with its own elements of Chivas, smoked cola syrup and activated charcoal lime foam.
The dessert course (creamy) was a milk chocolate wood log with pickled cucumber moss and lemon snow. Served with this rich dessert was the creamy and decadent Blizzard — a cocktail concocted with Chivas, orange bitters, coconut cream and vanilla, and garnished with nutmeg. As we indulged in dessert, we were treated to a violin performance accompanied by dancers, presenting renditions of familiar hits such as Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. This was followed by daring bartending acrobatics, where the performer juggled bottles that were lit on the ends and never once dropped them.
The whisky masterclass, which followed the multi-sensory gastronomic experience, was led by the Chivas’ brand ambassador for Malaysia, Jasper Epsom. In front of each guest was a tasting mat that included a beaker, stirrer, five single malts that each had a key flavour profile of the Chivas blend (citrus, fruity, floral, smoky and creamy), and an empty 100ml bottle for our own blend. With pipettes and beakers around, it felt a lot like a chemistry class.
Epsom talked us through Chivas’ history, and we got to taste each single malt, identifying the rich peatiness of smoky, the herbal and oaky characteristics of floral, the sweet freshness of citrus, the caramel and sherry notes of fruity and the lush, nutty flavour of creamy.
Making your own blend is instinctual, as you rely on your own preferences to guide you. My own blend comprised a mostly citrus base, with fruity, smoky, floral and creamy hints to balance the taste. Although this fun activity made blending seem easy, imagining the quantities that highly skilled blenders would have to work with was mind-boggling. And there is also the difficulty of having to come up with identical flavour profiles for each batch. After all the winning whisky of the day, I was happy to take home my little potion, personalised with my name on the bottle.
This article first appeared on Feb 17, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.