It's not every day that one gets to sit down with royalty and discuss the finer points of the effects of barrel aging, distillation and the effects of climatic localisation on whisky. It's also not every day that one gets to visit the regal Rambagh Palace, one of the great hotels of the world, unless you work there of course. I managed to achieve both of these memorable events on the same autumnal evening as the sun set over the royal town of Jaipur.
The evening began as the fires were lit, the noble peacocks retired to their roosts for the night and the guests, including 5 members of the royal family of Jaipur, gathered at the Emperors Lounge for pre dinner drinks and jovial conversation.
Rambagh Palace's passionate Executive Chef Ashish Kumar Roy had prepared a wondrous 5 course menu to which I paired 3 Scotch single malts from Speyside and the Highlands.
First up was an appetizer of asparagus, buffalo mozzarella and balsamic onions which was served with a 12 year old bottling of the best kept secret in Speyside, Cragganmore. Built by the legendary distiller John Smith in 1869, it is now known as the ‘distillers distillery' owing in part to the unique square topped stills and extra slow condensing in traditional worm tubs which lead to Cragganmore being dubbed the most complex single malt in Scotland and definitive example of the Speyside style.
For the main course one of my very favourite single malt Scotch's,Dalwhinnie was served in a fine crystal wine glass to capture the delicate aroma's of this highland ambrosia. The Dalwhinnie distillery, situated in the coldest inhabited place in the UK, produces a deliciously soft and sweet whisky with a huge aroma and strong, assertive finish. I had the preparation of grilled polenta cake with tomato & basil croûte which complemented the sweet softness of the Dalwhinnie.
As laughter filled the air and drowned out the incessant horns from the cities taxis and rickshaws, the waiters, in their traditional Rajasthani uniforms, served dessert. An espresso and amaretto based tiramisu along with Clynelish, the back bone malt for Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve. This coastal highland whisky is filled with honeyed sweetness that is clean, fresh and fruity with an undertone of peaty smokiness which makes for a perfect dram to end the evening.
As dinner was cleared, coffee was served and everyone's favourite whisky was refreshed and inquisitive questions flowed across the tables I reflected on an evening at a very special venue that will live with me for the rest of my life.
Tim Etherington-Judge is the Reserve Brand Ambassador for Diageo India.