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Experience Scotland’s national drink in a whole new way on a whisky safari with Ghillie Basan

Experience Scotland's national drink in a whole new way on a whisky safari with Ghillie Basan
A whisky safari with Ghillie Basan.

There are some places you visit that you know as soon as you arrive that you’ll never forget.

Highland food and drink writer, Ghillie Basan’s home is one of those places.

Located a mile or so up a rocky stone track, her home, near Tomnavoulin at the Braes of Glenlivet, boasts the most incredible panoramic view of valleys and rolling hills.

I’m at her house because the cook book author is hosting a whisky safari with Benriach Distillery that I’ve been invited along on.

Her home is immaculate and very Instagram worthy. There’s every colour of plate, pot and pan, and she’s got the most impressive kitchen I’ve had the pleasure of learning in.

Inside Ghillie Basan’s home at the island in the kitchen.

Whisky safari with Ghillie Basan

I’m driving, so I politely decline the welcome dram, albeit I do give the Benriach 12-year-old a good nose. The sweet, floral notes of the Speyside distillery is almost too tempting.

I have joined a small party of other writers and journalists who, too, are mesmerised by the scene.

This hands-on experience sees us work as a team, and individually, to create a delicious board of nine different items.

Ghillie leading the workshop.

I’m slightly distracted by Ghillie’s gorgeous black lab who I’ve spied in the corner. He disappears for a while but I eventually get a snuggle with him later.

We watch and follow Ghillie’s lead, taking care not to over season or mix up any of the ingredients that are sprawled across the wooden island in the centre of her kitchen.

Majority of the produce we’re working with today has either been foraged by Ghillie or is very local.

Making the food

First up we fix up a Scottish salmon number served on a garlic mustard leaf. To go with this we make a green juniper dip which is incredibly sharp but toned down with a squeeze or two of lemon.

The thick salmon is what impresses me the most, and I dig into the tub of slices to find the biggest one.

Making the green juniper dip.

A young rowan leaf (note young as they do have cyanide in them), is then added to our individual slate boards as a palate cleanser. Ghillie tells us it has a slight marzipan taste to it.

We then sit small pieces of smoked pheasant breast and scoop up some blackcurrants that are the by-product from a gin that Ghillie has been making, The juiciness of them is sweetly complemented well by the maple syrup and cinnamon that has been dusted on top. This paired nicely with Benriach’s 25-year-old.

Ghillie showing guests how to make the items.

Our second palate cleanser, poached rhubarb, is then added.

We then prep apricots that have been in rose syrup and we add a delicious, creamy filling. And again, more cinnamon. Although some crushed roasted hazelnuts also get a look in this time around.

Some sorrel leaves are then introduced as a palate cleanser. This was to be enjoyed before the orange and cheese snacks we still had to make. For anyone who hasn’t had sorrel leaves before think Granny Smith apples.

The slate board in progress.

Orange slices were then topped with dried slices of date and preserved lemon to be finished off with a sticky, sweet pomegranate molasses. As for the cheese? I somehow managed to drown my stilton slice with half of a pear which had been poached in saffron and cinnamon, and then topped with preserved lemon.

Lunch with a view

Seeing as it was a gorgeous day Ghillie invited us to enjoy our fare on her porch outside. This is about the time her pooch also decided to show up again. Coincidence? I think not.

Ghillie had also prepared two hot dishes for us to try so as we nibbled away at the cold food, she worked on those in the kitchen inside.

Benriach whisky.

The view was breathtaking and while the conversation between us all was certainly flowing, we’d drift off into silence to appreciate the chirping birds and subtle winds.

The third whisky, Benriach’s Smoke Season, was to be enjoyed with the lamb haggis balls Ghillie was now presenting us with.

Drams poured, the mustard seeds and smoked paprika they had been showered in added to the peppery richness of the ball. The lamb was incredibly soft and it melted in my mouth.

The lamb haggis balls.

I carefully dipped the end of my tongue into the whisky and could tell instantly how well the sweet smokiness of it would pair so well.

Smoked aubergine was also rustled up in a cheese sauce which was to die for. Rich, creamy and smooth, this was the cheese sauce of all cheese sauces.

The bread we’d been given was quickly nabbed up by everyone to get every last morsel of the cheese out of the bowl.

Smoked aubergine.

What a way this was to get to sample and experience whisky and food together.

To end this feast with a view, we were invited to Ghillie’s snug where teas, coffees and a delicious chocolate and pistachio log were served, alongside whisky number four – Benriach 1993.

Ghillie Basan’s passion for travel, Scottish produce and nature is perfectly wrapped up into one in an experience like this and showcasing Scotland’s national drink in such a unique, creative way most certainly has to be applauded.

Chocolate and pistachio log.

Information

For more information on Benriach visit benriachdistillery.com

And to find out more about Ghillie’s cookery workshops and experiences visit ghilliebasan.com


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