2018-06-21 12:19:31date was

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  • Chivas Regal 18: A Conversation with Global Brand Ambassador Ken Lindsay


    There’s a common misconception amongst casual drinkers that suggest whisky is a drink that only the most ardent of spirits aficionados can enjoy; an acquired taste, if you will.

    For most whiskies that could well be true, but in Chivas Regal 18, drinkers have an incredibly versatile and eclectic blend that buries that misconception – something that Chivas Brothers international brand ambassador, Ken Lindsay, was keen to communicate during a recent visit to Cairo.

    Lindsay, a Scotsman whose job it is to travel the world in the name of Chivas Regal, had touched down in Cairo for a unique, one-of-a-kind event that not only celebrated Chivas Regal 18, but also paid tribute to what a truly versatile blend it is.

    Meeting him at one of the city’s best high-end bars and restaurants, Pier 88, Lindsay is exactly the kind of man you want carrying your name. Though in his late fifties, he has the enthusiasm of a man half his age – he’s a grand lover life in every sense of the word and has a luscious head of hair to boot.

    But that enthusiasm, that gusto, is no more apparent than in his appreciation of whisky.

    “They say distilling is a science,” he told me. “But I think it’s an art.”

    It’s a grand statement, but one that rings true with Chivas Regal 18.

    “Stone fruits lead, in a very attractive nose with peach being most dominant,” said an appraisal from the judges of the 2014 International Wine & Spirit Competition, at which Chivas 18 picked up the Blended Scotch Whisky Trophy. “Nutmeg, cinnamon and sherry follow. Wonderfully warming in the mouth. Rich in sherry characters with raisins and plum. Vanilla is prominent in long, well sustained finish.”

    “All that in one bottle?” I asked Lindsay. With a confident, almost cheeky, shrug of the shoulders, he told me that, on his travels, he’s seen Chivas 18 mixed with coconut in Brazil and with green tea in China.

    It’s this versatility that was to bring Lindsay and an exclusive list of 60 guests together at Pier 88 later that evening. In celebration of Chivas 18, acclaimed Michelin star chef, Giorgio Diana, had put together a mammoth, fitting 18-course menu, with each dish skilfully complimenting several notes of Chivas 18’s 85 flavours. It was shaping up to be a truly unique dining-and-drinking experience – a first of its kind in the Middle East and one that Lindsay took on in true Scottish style. But more on that later, because I had several questions – such as, since when do we pair whisky with food?

    “We’ve been experimenting for almost two years with whisky pairings,” he told me. “[Chef] Giorgio has done a fantastic job.”


     I chose to trust my new friend Ken (but not quite enough to think it would be ok to call him Kenny); I chose to believe that it made more sense in reality than it did on paper – Chef Giorgio, after all, does have a Michelin star. But I had more questions, like: while we can all appreciate the numeral link between Chivas 18 and the number of courses that awaited later in the evening, how many complex  dishes can ‘go’ with whisky? Pistachios and cashews are about as far as I go with mine.

    “Chivas is what you make it,” he said nonchalantly. “Chivas 18 in particular ticks all the boxes of what you need in a whisky blend – a balanced harmony of flavours!”

    For a second, I might have thought that Lindsay’s answer was a reflex action owed to his years on his dreamy job. But the man really likes his whisky; he really knows his Chivas; his answer is actually owed to the fact that he, again, is a grand lover of life – and that’s just how grand lovers of life live their lives. I planned to ask Ken to say that three times at course number 16 at the dinner.

    Once I realised that this guy was ‘for real’, as they say, I threw a generic stock question at him: what makes Chivas stand out? What makes it so special? He took a beat to think, squinted his eyes slightly and took in a deep breath.

    “Well, I think it comes down to three pillars for me,” he began. “First, it’s Chivas’ heritage and history. It goes back more than 200 years; back to Scotland. The second is that it’s just a great whisky. It’s sheer quality.”

    He leaned forward as if to prepare me for something more on pillar number two.

    “The Master Blender has been there for 43 years. He works with a team, of course, but he has been there more than half of his life – and that’s the key to consistency.”

    In referring back to the first pillar, he moved on to the third. “It’s the image of Chivas as a luxury name – but not one that’s out of reach. It can be, and is, enjoyed by everyone and anyone, anywhere.”

    As I thanked Lindsay for taking time out of what was a short trip to Egypt for what was more of a conversation than an interview, he promised a surprise later that evening. Like all proud Scotsman, he was to honour the occasion emblazoned in the Scottish Highlands’ livery – a kilt, with all the trimmings.

    ken lindsay insert(Photos courtesy of Chivas Regal)

    And he did so; to the jolly merriment of the men and to the inhibited curiosity of the ladies. But what of the 18-course masterclass of Chivas-baited dining?

    Miso-truffle macarons with soya caviar, Dijon cereal-crusted salmon fillet and orange-chocolate tagliatelle were just a few of the dishes Chef Giorgio rolled out. Pistachios and cashews just won’t do anymore.

    By Haisam Awad