What’s it like to drink liquid gold

Okay, it’s not actually molten gold because that would be dangerous. It’s actually whiskey. This spirit brand was named “liquid gold” because it holds the record for selling the most expensive bottle of whiskey in the world.

In 2013, The Dalmore sold its 1951 Constellation Vintage for $350,000 (P17.5M). That’s worth roughly about four condominium units or 17 cars or 87 engagement rings or a Ferrari or 50,000 tubs of ice cream or 35,000 boxes of pizza. A bit excessive, yes, but the Scottish whiskey brand is very proud of its tradition of making the world’s most pricey single malt whiskeys.

The Dalmore Constellation Collection
The Constellation Collection consists of 21 vintage whiskeys and is worth P18M.

Recently, the luxury whiskey opened its first flagship store in the Philippines at Uptown Parade in Bonifacio Global City. It houses some of the brand’s most expensive blends including The Dalmore 50, a 50-year-old scotch dedicated to its master distiller Richard Paterson. It’s worth P3.5M and it already has an owner. The store also houses the Constellation Collection a 21-piece set composed of vintage whiskeys including a 1992, 1980, and a vintage 1964. The collection costs a whopping P18M!

But how do The Dalmore make its single malt whiskey and what makes it so luxurious? Do they have stills made of pure gold? Do they use barrels made from 100-year-old trees? Do they transport barley on the backs of legendary unicorns?

Actually, the distillation process they employ is pretty much the same as other distillers but the similarities end there. First, they use fine quality barley that comes from one supplier. In fact The Dalmore got its name from the fields near the distillery. When founder Alexander Matheson discovered the location of the distillery in Cromarty Firth, the farmlands was so extensive and impressive he named the brand Dalmore which means “big meadow” in old Scots.

The water the distillery uses comes from a loch (lake) located in the highlands of Scotland. Loch Morie’s water comes from the melting ice of nearby mountains. According to resident whiskey expert of The Dalmore for Asia Adam Knox, the rugged terrain of the highlands is what gives their whiskey that distinct character.

The Dalmore 12
The Dalmore 12 is a versatile single malt that can be paired with all sorts of food and can also be used in cocktails.

“The very rugged terrain reflects the character of our whiskey. Compared to the lowlands with a flat landscape, the whiskey produced there has a more light-bodied character. Ours is robust and full-bodied, just like our landscape,” the British expert says.

The whiskey company also uses a flat top copper stills, which is extraordinary considering that most distilleries use swan neck stills or stills with elongated necks. Knox says that this also gives their whiskey a full-bodied character.

Now, when it comes to the casks, The Dalmore probably owns some of the best in the world. And unlike other distilleries that blend together spirit aged in different casks, the process it practices is the transfer method. This means that they first age the spirit in fine oak barrels for a number of years and transfers the spirit and finish the aging process into a different cask. Its finishing casks, the Spanish Matusalem Oloroso Sherry are 30-year-old casks from Spanish sherry house Gonzales Byass. The house exclusively gives the mature casks to The Dalmore.

“We are the only distillery permitted to source this cask so it can’t be replicated,” Knox explains.

The flagship store also carries the brand’s principal collection that includes its youngest whiskey, The Dalmore 12 (P3,200). This was the whiskey we were able to sample at the special dinner pairing. This whiskey has fruity notes like mandarin and a very smooth finish with hints of chocolate. According to Knox, The Dalmore 12 is the most versatile, which can be paired with food or be used in a cocktail.

We were also able to sample the King Alexander III (P11,800), which has a darker color with citrus and caramel notes and has a spicy finish of cinnamon and ginger.

The Dalmore 12 best paired with chocolate
The Dalmore 12 is best paired with chocolate, specifically, dark chocolate

So is it worth it? Personally speaking, I will not spend that insane amount of money on whiskey alone. The Dalmore, however, proves that it does not only produces the most expensive whiskeys, it also makes the best whiskeys in the world. One thing’s for sure, they make damn good single malt whiskeys.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

The Dalmore flagship store, Uptown Parade, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City

Cognac tasting with Martell

Like every ordinary Joe, I’m still confused with wine and spirit tasting. I just couldn’t find the “coffee notes” or “hint of plum.” Maybe because I’m not an expert or my palate isn’t sophisticated enough for detecting those subtle flavors. Truth be told, I’m not very well versed in this department.

Although I enjoy a glass of chardonnay or sauvignon blanc and an occasional whiskey rocks, I’m still relatively clueless about it all. But I do have my favorites, leaning towards white over red and I love sparkling wines like sweet Spanish Cava. And when it comes to whiskey, I’m only aware of like four brands, and two names for cognac.

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Martell Cordon Bleu

Cognac is a variety of brandy, which means it is also made with grapes. This spirit, however, is only produced in a specific region in France—Cognac. It is the only spirit named after the region where it comes from. It is a double distilled eau-de-vie (colorless brandy) aged in fine grain oak barrels.

One of the oldest Cognac houses in the region is Martell. Founded in 1715 by Jean Martell, it is one of, if not, the biggest cognac brand today. The brand is very popular in its home turf and in Asia, specifically in China.

Considering that Martell was first exported to the Philippines in 1894, cognac remains to be the lesser known spirit. Filipinos love their beer and brandy while whiskey is for special occasions. Then there’s vodka, gin, and rum, liquors that are perfect for cocktails.

According to Martell brand ambassador Pierre Boyer, the Philippines is an important market mainly because we like to drink and our economy is still performing very well. He also says that cognac consumption is shifting from the West to the East with China leading the way. Cognac is also big in Malaysia, where Pierre is based.

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Martell brand ambassador Pierre Boyer

Born in Cognac, France, Pierre says that drinking cognac in France is not what it is used to. “France is drinking less and less spirits. In France after a meal no one is going to have a glass of cognac, before it was the case during the generation of my grandparents. This culture doesn’t exist anymore. Young people are experimenting more on cocktails and lounge drinks,” he says.

Martell has a long history and its expertise in the cognac business is undeniable. It uses a fine process that results into an exquisite product. The brand has several blends but during the tasting, we were able to try the VSOP, Cordon Bleu, and XO.

Cognac is made of ugni blanc, a variety of grape that exclusively grows in the Cognac region. Martell looks for “style” when it comes to producing cognac. It has to have three important qualities—elegance, complexity, and balance.

VSOP is the youngest among the three blends. It’s a very smooth and mellow cognac and has subtle candied fruit notes. This particular blend is perfect for cocktails. Two of the most popular cognac cocktails are the cognac tonic and cognac ginger (cognac with ginger ale).

The Cordon Bleu is the most elegant because of its legendary reputation. When Edouard Martell created this blend in 1912, it single-handedly defined the “Martell style.” This blend with a deep golden copper color has fruity notes of plum and spicy notes of cinnamon. When paired with food, it is perfect with white meat and dark chocolate.

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This pan-seared sea bass is perfect with a glass of

XO on the other hand is the oldest among the three. It is very complex and has this distinct spicy lingering finish. It has a variety of aromas including almonds, black pepper, and pink berries.

For the uninitiated, Pierre suggests this if you want to discover the elegance of cognac: “To me the best thing when you are trying to discover cognac, to reveal all the aromas and the secret then you should drink it neat. But then if you’re coming back from a stressful day, and you would like it with a bit of ice, why not? When the cocktail culture started in the US and Europe, at the end of the 19th century, all of the famous cocktails were made with cognac. Whiskey sour for example would have not existed if not for brandy or cognac sour. Same goes with many cocktails that were created with brandy. In the end, it’s the way you like it.”

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Feast on colors this weekend

Two words: blue paella. What is blue paella? It’s actually regular paella, the only difference is in the color of the rice. Instead of the usual yellow hue (because of the saffron), the rice is bright blue, thanks to the blue pea flower.

The dish is made by Chef Jaja Andal and will be served at the “Feast of Colors” this weekend at Restaurant Verbena of Discovery Country Suites in Tagaytay. Along with other chefs, including the Nancy Reyes-Lumen, created a special menu inspired by the colors of Tagaytay. And it’s also a celebration of the art of Filipino home cooking.

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Nancy Reyes-Lumen’s Rodrigo’s Roast

The special weekend lunch is actually inspired by the recent charity dinner of Chef Sau del Rosario, who was also inspired by colors.

“We thought of doing colors because of Tagaytay. Tagaytay is fresh, young, colorful, lots of fresh produce, salad greens, and flowers. We were inspired by chef Sau when he did a menu on colors. It is a celebration of the different colors of food,” says Chef Nancy.

Aside from chefs Nancy and Jaja, Discovery chefs, including Food and Beverage director of The Discovery Leisure Inc. Anthony Raymond and Discovery Country Suites resident manager Rhea Sycip shared their recipes for the special lunch buffet, which will happen on Aug. 13 and 14.

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Chef Rhea Sycip’s Avocado Sponge Cake

Besides the paella, Chef Jaja is also in charge of the appetizers, which will include the talangka pâté (representing color orange) and vegetable salad with edible flowers. Chef Nancy, on the other hand, will feature the ham-like Rodrigo’s Roast, a recipe from her The Adobo Book, which will represent the color brown. She will also include the beef mechado paprika, an incredibly tender dish that uses overripe tomatoes and is cooked for hours. The mechado will represent the color red.

SB chefs (from left) Jaja Andal, Rhea Sycip, Anthony Raymond, and Nancy Reyes-Lumen
From left: Chefs Jaja Andal, Rhea Sycip, Anthony Raymond, and Nancy Reyes-Lumen

Discovery chefs will serve two types of duck adobo including adobong Batangas that uses fresh turmeric and coconut milk, which will represent the color yellow. There will also be other multi-colored dishes including seafood bicol express, crispy whole lapu-lapu, among others.

For the desserts, it’s pastry chef Rhea Sycip who is in charge of baking the sweet endings including the green avocado sponge cake, the white langka quezo de bola cheesecake, and the purple ube chiffon cake.

The Feast of Colors lunch weekend is available on August 13 and 14 from 11:00am to 3:00pm, at P1,200 nett. / Discovery Country Suites, 300 Calamba Road, San Jose, Tagaytay City /+632 529 817 / reservations@dcs.discovery.com.ph / visit http://www.discoverycountrysuites.com / Facebook/DiscoveryCountrySuites

New York steak of mind

When it was announced last year that Woflgang Zwiener will open his restaurant here, a lot of foodies and steak lovers (like me) got really excited. Imagine, one of the best rated steakhouses in the US will bring its famous beef here.

So last week, when I got a text from my editor that Woflgang’s Steakhouse is hosting an exclusive preview dinner for the media, I didn’t even think twice and accepted the assignment. The invitation was short notice because the organizers informed everybody on the day of the event, which was the night before the big launch. I had another event that day, also a restaurant, so I tried my best to restrain myself from eating too much.

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Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

Arriving at the Newport Mall at Resorts Word Manila, I was not able to immediately locate the restaurant. It is situated on the second floor of the mall, at The Plaza. After a few minutes, I was able to spot the steakhouse that was still covered and boarded up, which explains why it was difficult to find. The hostesses of the restaurant were the only ones outside, welcoming guests. “Where should I enter?” I asked one of them. She led me to a door on the wooden wall (covered in tarpaulin) that hides the steakhouse’s facade.

There were still construction men working on the restaurant but it was already 90 percent done. I was greeted by Marvin Agustin of SumoSam Group, the one responsible for bringing the steakhouse here. Peter Zwiener, son of Woflgang was also there to greet the guests. The setup was pretty simple, tables formed a u-shape and were fully dressed for a dinner party—white tablecloths, silver cutlery, wine glasses, and fine china.

And then Mr. Woflgang arrived. Dressed in a blue suit, white shirt, a red tie, and a wide smile, he welcomed each guest to his restaurant.

After all the guests arrived, we started dinner. I was pretty excited but who wouldn’t be anyway? We would get to try dry-aged (for an average of 28 days) USDA Prime beef steak, cooked the Woflgang’s way.

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Rib Eye Steak

For starters, we had the Wofgang’s Salad, Beverly Hills Chopped Salad, Canadian Bacon slabs (I mean, b-a-c-o-n s-l-a-b-s), and the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail. The shrimp was indeed, jumbo and was served on ice and with the special cocktail sauce. I love shrimp so, I’m pretty partial about this. So good. All of these appetizers paired with a cool glass of French white wine.

After having all the shrimp and bacon I want, in comes the stars of the show. Served on huge platters, he big cuts of steak—rib eye, porterhouse, and prime rib—were cooked medium rare. Perfect crusting on the outside and perfect pink center. The steaks were perfectly seasoned and in every bite, you could taste the difference of the aged beef. For Wolfgang and Peter, they like their steaks rare and even black and blue. Personally, I prefer my steak medium rare to medium.

“As you understand the quality of the beef you are eating, you’ll understand why you want it a little a bit less cooked so you could get the true flavor and appreciate what the beef tastes like,” Peter says.

The steaks were perfectly paired with a glass of red and three sides were also served alongside the beautifully cooked meat, Creamed Spinach, German Potatoes, and Sauteed Mushrooms.

We finished the dinner with slices of pecan pie and New York’s Junior’s Cheesecake, the most famous cheesecake in New York. I’m telling you, this cheesecake is popular for a reason.

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Junior’s Cheesecake

The steakhouse is not all hype like most international brands coming into the country. It promises quality good food. After all, each branch ages its own meat, all USDA Prime beef, by the way. It has full control of its process from the aging to the preparation. This is expected from a restaurant that knows its steak. Mr. Wolfgang, who worked for the legendary Peter Luger’s in New York for more than 40 years prior to putting up his own steakhouse, definitely knows what he is doing.

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is located at the second floor of Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila. For inquiries +63920 8219247 / +63995 610-361; wolfgangssteakhouseph@gmail.com; www.facebook.com/WolfgangsSteakhousePH/

Pedro sans Miguel

I remember drinking my first beer, it was in high school and I didn’t really like it. My first taste of alcohol was actually gin, which I surprisingly liked more than the frothy, golden liquid variety.

But after learning to love the delicious nectar of the stressed, sad, and happy people, a week is not complete without a cold one. But for years, I’ve only known one brand (you already know what brand I’m talking about). Let’s be honest, they have a monopoly of the beer market. I, along with most Filipinos got used to their offerings but not until in recent years.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with other brands, especially the European kind. I love Belgian beers and one of my favorites is Hoegaarden. It has a different flavor and has this cloudy golden color. Totally different from what I am used to.

Enter, local craft beers. If the Europeans can do it, why can’t we, right? Well, thanks to some beer-loving Filipinos because more and more local craft beers are filling supermarket shelves. A group of friends—Nadine and husband Jaime Fanlo, Jill Borja, and Rochee de Leon—decided to brew their own beer. They love beer, so, what the heck, they made their own.

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Pedro craft beers (from left) Elementary, English Ale; Endless Summer Wheat Ale; and Procrastination Pale Ale

From brewing beer in the garage to building a full-pledged brewery in San Pedro, Laguna, Pedro Brewcrafters, Inc. stared rolling out their Pedro brand of beer September of last year. They started with 40 bars and restaurants in Metro Manila and just recently, the team announced that their beer is now available at Family Mart.

“We all started basically just loving beer. We love to drink beer and we really appreciated beer and as we explored the different kinds of beer, we loved the fact that craft beer provided such a versatile range of flavors. The possibilities are really endless,” said Nadine during the brand’s official launch last month at The Belle and Dragon bar in Makati City.

The brand has three beer styles: Endless Summer Wheat Ale; Elementary, English Ale; and Procrastination Pale Ale. “Our wheat ale is perfect for the warm weather, it’s very refreshing, it’s fruity, it’s light, it’s very easy to appreciate. The pale ale is the most bitter of the three kinds, it’s got an herbal and floral aroma. It’s very aromatic. The English Ale is roast-y, it’s darker in color and it’s got coffee and caramel notes,” Nadine explained.

They also did the extra mile by really studying the proper way to brew. They consulted with Singaporean brewer Ernest Ng and Jaime went through a certification from the American Brewers Guild in the US. He’s the only Filipino certified by the organization. They made sure that they know every science behind brewing so they can consistently make their delicious concoction.

Aside from plans of going nationwide and eventually global, ultimately, the brand aims to educate beer-loving Filipinos that there are options out there and that beer could have unique and bold flavors.

“Our goal is really to educate the market aside from just producing beer, we want to explain to people that it is something different and they should not be afraid or intimidated to try it,” Nadine said.

Check out the brand here.

Dreaming of cooler days

The country’s weathermen promised us cooler days. They said a stronger northeast monsoon is coming down from Siberia, China, and Japan. But today, the sun is out and burning up the concrete jungle that is Metro Manila.

Facebook sent me a notification, reminding me of a memory from last year. It was a photo of me in the garage with some relatives. I was wearing a hoodie. I was cold, apparently. I remember that January day, the breeze was cool especially during the early morning and nighttime. I had to wear another layer of clothing to keep warm.

This year’s January is hot, almost-like-summer hot. I’m guessing many Filipinos are cooling down at malls and cooler rural areas. Tagatay must be packed!

One sure thing that can cool me down is a cone or rather pint, wait, half a gallon of good ‘ol ice cream. At this point, I don’t care about the calories because in this heat, I will burn those anyway.

I am dreaming about ice cream right now—creamy vanilla bean, salted caramel, ooh wait, how about dark chocolate. Hmmmm. Oh, sweet, sweet nectar from the sugar gods.

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The Make Your Own Magnum bar at Magnum Manila, SM Mall of Asia

So, here I am, thinking of biting into a bar of chocolate covered ice cream. Because two weeks ago, I was assigned to attend the launch of Magnum Manila Pleasure Store at SM Mall of Asia. After it closed down its doors July of last year, it reopened as a dessert-only store. The previous restaurant carried other food items and not just ice cream alone. Now, the store is just focusing on its world-famous Make Your Own Magnum bar. This D-I-Y goodness lets you create your own signature Magnum bar.

Don’t look for sprinkles here because the toppings are far from ordinary. There are a total of 18 toppings like sea salt, grape Nerds candy, crushed pistachio nuts, freeze dried raspberries, potato chips, dried mangoes, and even dried chili flakes (for the adventurous). The newest addition is the mini pastillas.

I made two bars (I’m sorry for being a gluton) one I chose vanilla ice cream dipped in Belgian dark chocolate coating then topped with almonds, caramel crushed balls, Parmesan popcorn, and white chocolate drizzle. So good. The other one was chocolate ice cream covered in Belgian milk chocolate and topped with dried mango bits, grated quezo de bola, pastillas bits, and dark chocolate drizzle. Good but I like my first creation better. I wish I have a tub of that Parmesan popcorn. I love popcorn.

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Toppings galore

Tip, mix savory toppings with sweeter coating while the chili goes amazing with dark chocolate.

So before it gets even hotter because summer days are almost here, cool down first. Best cool-me-down snack.

You can read my Manila Bulletin article here.

Magnum Manila is located at the second floor, main wing of SM Mall of Asia (across Uniqlo). www.magnum.com.ph/magnummanilamoa/index.php