What better way to embrace the cold of winter than to enjoy a whisky dinner staring Highland Park Whisky. The pop-up dining event was held in the Royal Botanic Gardens and this whisky event and 3 course dinner is the perfect way to try Highland Park Whisky. Their highly acclaimed slightly peated Scottish whisky from the Orkney Islands and their cool bottlings pay homage to the Viking ancestry of the region, and with great insight provided by Highland Park brand ambassador, Mark Hickey, it is well worth the $95 to attend.
Palm House in the Royal Botannic Gardens is the perfect venue for this event, as it embodied the theme Wild Harmony, set in the backdrop of the wildness of the city nearby, but set within the natural harmonious surrounds of the gardens. The room felt like a movie set with a greenhouse vibe, such a spectacular set up, featuring an array of plants, live butterflies, and oak barrels around the space.
Find a bar at the entrance serving cocktails as you arrive and two long tables nicely set and the bar at the back of the room for the speakers to talk through the tasting of Highland Park whisky. The 12, 15 and 18 year old expressions were nicely matched with the three course meal and there was also a demonstration showing how to make home-made bitters.
Once everyone was seated we settled in for an evening of delights, starting with the house poached king prawns, served with smoked fennel puree, sorrel and nasturtium leaf. This was a delicious starter; the sweetness of the prawn meat and smokiness of the fennel harmoniously combining with the Highland Park 12 at 40% abv.
The whisky had a silky mouth feel, the flavours of subtle peat (smokey) whisky with sweet notes of vanilla, honey, citrus fruits provided by the America Oak, sherry casks. This is a good introduction to those looking to get acquainted with peated whisky.
The main was a rich red braised wagyu beef daube that melted in the mouth. Served with a porcine cream and onion petals that had some bite, fresh radish that added some freshness, and also served with a charcoal roll. This hearty dish needed a bold whisky the match the richness that was on the plate.
This whisky was the Highland Park 15 which comes in a cool ceramic bottle. This was a whisky that had the volume turned up, on both the flavour and the Abv 44%. Another Sherry cask whisky, but with a European Oak sheery cask providing a much different experience to the 12. This whisky was burnt caramel, toffee, honey with hints of lemon, pineapple and good hit of spice white pepper and cloves and that subtle smokiness in the background.
The dessert was a delicate honey poached pear, brown butter crumble with a creamy brown sugar parfait. This was paired with the highly acclaimed Highland Park 18. Again, very different to the previous whiskies. A harmonious whisky with a smooth creamy mouth feel, the whisky primarily aged in European Oak sherry casks, which have seasoned the whisky with balance of flavours including cinnamon, honey, raisins, a hint of dark cherry and dark chocolate and the smokiness barely existent.
We were also treated with a salted honey old fashioned, this one was made with the highland Park 12 and was a flavour sensation, with smokiness from the whisky amplified with a pinch of smoked sea salt, honey syrup which honours the honey Heather notes of the whisky and of course some bitters both orange bitters and Angostura bitters.
All in all, this really was a wonderful whisky and food pairing, and a great way to try the Highland Park Whisky.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Sydney NSW 2000