What I learned drinking $1,200 Glenfiddich scotch whisky
There are many things you might expect to see at Gigi's Asian Bistro, but a kilted bagpiper is not one of them.
And yet that's who greeted the 50-plus guests who attended a private scotch tasting dinner sponsored by Glenfiddich Scotch Whisky and brand ambassador Freddy May, with guest chef Scott Tycer creating a pairing menu.
Why Gigi's? It turns out it's the only restaurant in the United States to stock every vintage of Glenfiddich single malt, from the 12-year to the ultra-rare 50-year bottle, of which there are only three in the country.
I like scotch enough, but I'm the kind of girl who drinks scotch on the rocks because it makes me feel like a badass (and helps me forget my problems), not because I know anything about it or have a developed liquor palate. With that in mind, I came ready to experiment and learn.
"I haven't had the privilege of tasting it, but I hear it's like an angel peeing down your throat," said Glenfiddich brand ambassador Freddy May
First lesson? It's pronounced GlenfiddICK, not GlenfiddITCH, and May would appreciate it if Americans could learn to say it properly. Later I learned that Roger Clemens, who was sitting at the next table with his wife, is a fan of both Lady Gaga and Trace Adkins, though his promise to do some Gaga karaoke never panned out.
From May I also learned that a couple drops of water is recommended in Scotland to take off some of the alcohol on smell and taste, changing the actual texture of the scotch and making it smoother. But I also talked to Teresa Merchant, who writes the blog Smoking Hot Cigar Chick and prefers to taste straight-up. She instead recommends holding a tasting glass near your chin and opening your mouth to pull away the alcohol fumes so you can better smell the bouquet.
The dinner progressed from a 21-year scotch to a 30-year — paired with exceptionally succulent veal sweetbreads by Tycer — on to a rougher, spicier 1978 vintage reserve, one of only 30 in the world. I thought the highlight of the evening would be the smooth 40-year-old Glenfiddich paired with Tycer's tournedos Rossini, but I was in for a surprise.
As the guests moved from the cherry blossom room back to the whiskey bar, indulging in either some macarons from Rebecca Masson or some cigars on the patio, owner Gigi Huang herself gathered the forms that each guest filled out as part of a raffle to win a glass of the 50-year-old Glenfiddich.
"I haven't had the privilege of tasting it, but I hear it's like an angel peeing down your throat," said May.
"It would be such a travesty if I won, because everyone here knows way more about scotch than me," I whispered to a friend as Gigi dug through the entries. So, of course, my name was the one called out.
As the bartender carefully poured me a shot, I posed for pictures with the bottle (which is so valuable that I was not allowed to hold it alone) and tried to keep it together when someone told me that the retail value of the scotch I was about to drink was $1,200.
Luckily, I did not have time to think about the things I could get for $1,200: A week in Italy, a new MacBook or the entirety of my Anthropologie wish list.
I took a sip, and it was a beautiful thing. I thought there couldn't be that much difference between the 40- and 50-year bottles, but nothing compared to how smooth this snifter was, yet without any syrupy tones. It had some lovely fruity notes, particularly apricot and a hint of cherry. I don't know about angels peeing, but this was an amazing scotch. I'd call it the best I ever had, but that's almost an insult.
I nursed my drink for as long as I could, but with the value of the contents of my stomach approaching two months' rent, I learned one more thing: Nothing makes you friends faster than sharing an impossibly expensive liquor.