Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar recently invited Vancouver Slop for a Father's Day dinner and scotch tasting event. We were all escorted to their private back room and served a four course meal paired with a few of The Macallan and Highland Park single malt scotches. The first two courses were wisely played to Blue Water Cafe's strengths: seafood. The first course was a varied array of amuse-bouches, including a Kushi oyster soaked in a spiced tamarind jus, a California Roll made with real crab and Tuna Tartar. The second course was amazing. They served us one of the most perfectly cooked pieces of fish I have ever tasted. The sable fish melted in your mouth with every bite and the flavours of its marinade were infused into every morsel. They served it on a small bed of pasta, which was a nice touch. The third course was duck, which, when done right, is one of my favourite types of meat. Sadly, their duck was a bit disappointing. It had a gamey flavour to it that was hard on the palette. On the upside of that course, the side was a piece of charred B.C. endive that was immaculate. This is a great example of why you should always try and order according to a restaurant's specialties. When in Rome. The desert looked delicious, but I couldn't eat it. This whole dairy allergy thing is beginning to become wearisome to me. The meal ended off nicely with some very pretty petit fours and coffees for everyone.

The best thing about the event was the scotch tutorial we received at the start of each course. The dinner was hosted by the brand ambassador for The Macallan and Highland Park, Mr. J. Wheelock, who gave us an excellent introduction to each of the scotches before their course pairings. We were given a tasting of some triple casked whiskies which had an astonishing depth of flavour. There were a few peaty whiskies involved as well, though I learned that as a fan of peaty whiskies, I am in the minority. The information was interesting as he incorporated historical facts with an explanation of what goes into whisky production, isolating what processes give rise to certain flavours and colours. After this dinner I feel confident that I might be able to impress a scotch aficionado or two. 

Some interesting things I learned about single malt scotch during the dinner:
  1. The colour of a whisky does not indicate its quality.
  2. The colour of a whisky is dictated by the type of cask it is aged in. 
  3. Scotch Whisky is mostly aged in American Oak casks, after they've been used to cask American bourbon just once, as well as Spanish Oak casks that were once used to cask sherry. Darker, amber coloured whiskies have been casked in sherry casks.
  4. American bourbon is defined by a light honey colour, due to the fact that each new batch of whiskey must be casked in a brand new oak cask. American legislation forbids producers to re-use the casks in an attempt to standardize and ensure levels of quality.
  5. These once used casks are then sold to Scotland, where they are used to make single and triple casked whiskies. 
  6. 60-80% of a whisky's flavour profile is from the cask. 
And to add context to that last point, Wikipedia informed me that like re-casking in sherry casks, many whisky companies like to "finish" the flavour by re-casking a fully aged whiskey again in a cask that has housed the aging of another type of alcohol, such as port, Madeira, rum or wine.

I thought the dinner was really successful, and apart from the lamb, the food and the service were great and as a nerd, I really appreciated that we were being educated on the whiskies that were being paired with the food. It allowed us to appreciate the depth of each whisky and the time and the care it takes to achieve such a complicated symphony of flavour. Maybe next time the Maitre d' at Blue Water Cafe can do the same for their food.