Tonight I was at Hy’s steakhouse for a very unique experience, hosted by and featuring Bowmore Single Malt Scotch.
They promised an unforgettable evening of sensory exploration, where bringing flavours and melodies together would showcase Bowmore’s commitment to composition. This was inspired by their latest collaboration with virtuoso composer Hania Rani.
Throughout this night guests would “discover how Hania’s compositions and Bowmore’s expressive single malt are both skillfully blended to create harmony which genuinely thrills the senses and enriches the soul”, as taken from the event invite.
Our individual evenings began with a black car service pick up. Where drivers were sent to retrieve us from our homes and bring us to a four course meal at Hy’s Steakhouse, downtown.
There, we were lead to a private room where we were greeted with welcome cocktail, followed by an elevated paired dinner and guided tasting led by Bowmore Brand Ambassador James Neil.
And after dinner, as a group, we travelled via party bus to UBC’s Chan Centre for Performing Arts for my first neo-classic concert: Hania Rani’s live show on December 2nd, 2023.
Starting at Hy’s we were indeed treated to a welcome cocktail. This is the Bowmore 12 Year Old Fashion prepared with Heather honey syrup, New Orleans bitters, angostura bitters, and a brandy cherry plus orange wheel for garnish. The cocktail was more sweet than tangy, accompanied by a thick viscosity from honey.
As we sip and chatted we learned that the featured artist of the night actually composed one of the pieces she will be preforming on Islay, at the bowmore distillery. The story goes that Hania Rani was having writers block, but her time at the second oldest distillery in all of Scotland, and the oldest on Islay helped to motivate. Her time spent connecting with nature on the island inspired her to complete “The Boat”.
Hania Rani herself has said, “Nature is central to my inspiration and being on Islay really amplified my own sense of natural connection. There is something about Bowmore because it comes from Islay, rooted in the land shaped by nature, which perfectly represents The Boat. Listening to the song, you are transported to another place as you forget about the passage of time and become immersed in the moment”. Not only did we enjoy her music at dinner via speaker, but to relive it live, after, was a treat.
We followed with a few more Bowmore 12 Old Fashions before opting for a change of pace with a Bowmore 12 Whisky Sour featuring the same spirit and the same honey for sweetness, topped with an egg while foam.
This was accompanied by a tray of amuse bouche smalls bites. A vegan roasted zucchini carpaccio with watermelon radish, pickle, red onion, preserved lemon, feta, fresh mint, and toasted pine nuts. This was a light and fresh start to help open up the appetite, but nothing substantial.
Having already had it in a few cocktails, it was nice to enjoy the Bowmore 12 Year Old as is. Our host James advised us to round the whisky over, swirling gently to avoid over airing. He described this as an ocean side scotch that would pair well with ocean foods. In that, he was correct, the briny salty nature of the scallop was highlighted, paralleling the herbaceous and medicinal notes of the 12 Year Old. A very different whisky from all the brown butter caramel varieties out there.
As mentioned this was paired with our first course of Seared Sea Scallop with Green pea puree, Northern Divine organic sturgeon caviar, lemon and crème fraiche. This was simply divine, but also a tease. You only had the one to taste, but needed another to truly enjoy and appreciate the buttery firm scallop and the umami of the caviar.
The second course was just as sumptuous. Foie Gras Torchon with Bartlett pear and pomegranate on toasted brioche. Another one bitter, I took in two. One to be able to taste, then two to enjoy, as I explained above. This you wanted to have linger in your mouth with its dense creaminess. Here, the saturated umami flavour was tempered by the sweet seeds of the brightening pomegranate.
This was paired with the Bowmore 15 Year Old, a fan favourite. It uses the same barrels as the 12 Year Old: American oak in ex-bourbon and European oak in a Sherry Cask. The difference is in the additional years spent in the Sherry cask, honing its dark red fruit notes. The result, a fuller bodied whisky with an edge of smoke and an after note of citrus.
The Main Course was a Whisky-Maple Glazed Canadian Prime Filet, served with a side of Lyonnaise potatoes and charred asparagus.
This was satisfyingly simple, a classic that I expected no less of from Hy’s. Their grilling over a large flame, kisses the steak with such a full bodied char. You really get to enjoy the meat and how well it pulled apart at its grain. The filet was well highlighted by the butter loaded potatoes and delicately crisp asparagus accompaniments.
Our main’s spirit pairing was the Bowmore 18 Year Old. This is where Bowmore starts to really showcase itself as a well-aged and mature whisky. The additional 3 years adds more complex notes and even more influence from the Sherry cask. This, along with all of Bowmore’s other vintages are kept safe in the oldest whisky maturation vaults in the world. Stored below sea level, set at different air pressure changes, to garner 4 distinct eco micro climates in one warehouse. The result is a unique caramelization with the flavour of onion and apricot on the nose and a sweeter pineapple, mango, and papaya tropical finish.
This was chased with a very generous serving of Lemon Sorbet palate cleanser. Its intense tartness helped to transition into our sugary dessert course.
This was a classic apple tart: Pomme Tarte Tartin topped with vanilla bean ice cream. Homey, comforting, and exactly as expected.
This was naturally paired well with Bowmore 25 Year Old and it’s caramel and candy baked notes.
As dinner broke, our group was given a sneak peek of Bowmore’s new packaging for the 12, 15, and 18 Year Old; that should be on shelves this time next year. A departure from white and a transition into a grey charcoal to black palette, which is more synonymous with their luxury appeal. The bottle was described as having a textured neck to simulate waves with a golden sea serpent logo to illustrate its ultra premium luxury take.
And having the 29 Year Old in the room and not being able to taste it was too cruel of a tease. Thankfully James was kind enough to give us a taster from the $4,300 limited release bottle.
It comes in a speciality hour glass shaped suede case that includes a timer. The ask is that you use it to allow yourself the time to nose and take in the spirit before you. To slowly sip and enjoy, savouring this one victory and this one moment in your week. (Much like what Hanai described in her quote above: “forget about the passage of time and become immersed in the moment”.
The flavour of the 29 Year was like no other, candy sweetness from this bold age statement, coupled with spice from a deeper maturation. You get so much depth and evolving flavours sip to sip.
From here, with a favourable flavour on our lips, we gathered onto our party bus to head to our next destination at UBC. The bus was outfitted with massaging recliners and a television screen which we would use to play Taylor Swift music videos.
Once at the Chan Centre we grabbed two glasses of wine and some snacks at the concession, before ascending to our box seats, perched above the auditorium.
This vantage point gave us a Birdseye view as well as amazing acoustics. Because truthfully, there wasn’t much to see on stage but there is so much to take in around it sensorily.
Hania Rani plays across three different pianos, accompanied by a cellist. Most of her music is soulful, melodies that entrance and entangle you. A few tracks had melodic lyrics, that you couldn’t quite make out, yet perked your ears, and garnered your full attention.
It was just a shame that we couldn’t sip on some Bowmore to have the full experience, especially when she played “The Boat”. I have never been to such a concert before, and I will never forget the experience of my first neo-classical live show. What an amazing way to enjoy a legacy whisky in such a unique way.
Hy’s Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar
637 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC V6C 2G3