Daily Archives: 30 May 2011

Bell’s Special Reserve at Hemingway’s Bistro

It’s strikingly appropriate that this post is about Bell’s Special Reserve, for which we’ve just launched a Father’s Day promotion (see the The Return of WHISKYdotcoza), and also a bit of an homage to my dad and his favourite restaurant.

My dad is an unpretentious man.  He certainly can and does appreciate fine things, but I think that he reserves his greatest enjoyment for genuine, down-to-earth, simple pleasures.  When he finds something that he likes he embraces it enthusiastically, be it a wine, a restaurant or a rugby team.  This passion is most evident in his support of the Sharks.  He came to this country not knowing much about rugby and having played only a solitary game (the how and why were lost on a child’s ears), but it struck a chord with him, and today he ranks amongst the most ardent fans in the province, one of those with a pedigree dating back to the old B-Division days.  He takes the same approach when it comes to restaurants.  We’re a family that enjoys our food and we’ve celebrated many wonderful family occasions over a meal at a restaurant.  When the first of the Keg restaurants, the Keg & Thistle, opened in Durban, he was one of the most steadfast patrons; some 5 long, loooong years had to pass before we dined out anywhere else, such was his loyalty.

Today, and for some time now, the Keg’s place in my dad’s heart has been taken by Hemingway’s, a substantial step up (I was going to say “in my opinion” but it’s indisputable so take it as fact).  Hemingway’s is located in the lower Glenwood area of Durban, in a charming Victorian style house that’s been renovated and converted into a restaurant.  Half the tables are on a terrace out front, alfresco always being a useful format in the east coast sauna, and the other half inside.  It’s small enough to feel intimate, but large enough to feel vibey, so suited to just about any dining event I can imagine.  I’ve obviously had many meals at Hemingways – this much should be clear by now – but recently I sampled their new menu for the first time.  It offers a wider selection than the previous, and the medium-rare fillet with blue cheese sauce that I selected was fantastic.  I also finished off a few of my companions’ dinners – I’m nothing if not true to my dustbin nature – so I achieved a fairly broad familiarity with menu and I honestly couldn’t fault a thing.  The service is excellent too.  My dad engages with restaurant staff in very dad-like fashion, but these guys seem to get him.

Victorian? Passable knowledge of whisky. Dangerous knowledge of architecture.

Onto the bar.  So far there’ve been words but too few of them on whisky.  The usual suspects were front and centre – but I was pleasantly surprised to see a few older representatives of the Glenfiddich family also in attendance.  I let my eyes linger on the 15yo Solera, but good as it is I know it well so I wanted to give something else a try.  I decided on Bell’s Special Reserve.  Blended malts are a hugely underrated style of whisky, and as a result relatively uncommon.  It’s little known by the whisky drinking everyman that a single malt, the “pure” style of whisky, is in fact blended – different casks of different wood from different years can typically be used.  So there’s not much by way of conceptual superiority of single over blended malts.  A single malt is representative of a singular place and style, in a way that a blended malt can never be, but a blended malt can call upon a variety of malts and the blender’s skill, and thereby draw from a virtually limitless flavour palette to create something that might be just right for you, for me, for a particular occasion.

Bell's Special Reserve

My occasion was an after dinner dram with my dad.    We savoured the first sweet, then peppery-spicy flavour, and reflected on a great meal, and a great moment in time spent together.  If I had to analyse it more closely I’d say that this whisky could use a bit more time in its casks.  I feel much the same about the Grouse blended malt.  But then again if that was the case we wouldn’t be able to pick up these 100% malt gems for under R200 a bottle.  There’s an extrinsic component to our perception of flavour, I guess that’s why such things as marketing and branding exist.  In this case the Bell’s Special Reserve was the perfect complement to a much enjoyed father-son occasion.

The return of WHISKYdotcoza

Since going live we’ve had some technical glitches that required us to take the site off-line.  We had always anticipated certain teething issues, but had been hoping to resolve these without interrupting operations.  The difficulties we encountered were primarily to do with our credit card platform, and as much as we’d like to be giving whisky away to for free (hey we’re all part of the great whisky brotherhood), we had heard somewhere that in business it’s a fairly important to get paid, hence the more dramatic measures.  If you’ve been trying to access the site in the past week, a big thanks for your patience and for bearing with us.  I guarantee you that it will have been worth it.

The return to live status was also delayed because we were adding a special feature to the site – a Father’s Day offer courtesy of Bell’s.  The guys at Bell’s have kindly allowed us to extend the offer to readers of Words on Whisky, and to the fledgling customer base of WHISKYdotcoza.  The promotion is specific to Bell’s Special Reserve, the blended malt in the Bell’s portfolio, which I recently had the opportunity to taste (the report is here), and it includes a set of custom engraved tumblers and delivery to anywhere in SA, both gratis.  If you’re keen to partake simply click here and follow the instructions given.  I’d also like to encourage you to visit the Bell’s website and join the Bell’s Fraternity of Connoisseurs so that their team can keep you informed about future offers and events.

Bell's Father's Day promotion at WHISKYdotcoza

Please try the site and let us know your thoughts about it.  We are committed to becoming the country’s premier whisky e-tailer, and we’re very serious about what potential customers think and feel about it.  We can’t promise to implement all the feedback, but we will read and consider each and every single suggestion.

So, as we face a brave new week, may the dram be with you.