When House of Hazelwood Whisky Meets Singapore’s National Treasure, Violet Oon
We are here, I think, to talk about the gorgeous décor that galvanises the electrifying atmosphere in the dining room. Then the appearance of a tanned, crisped Ngoh Hiong steers my attention in a different, more ambrosial course. Redolent of five-spice powder, the luscious roll reveals shatteringly thin crisp crust that gives way to the wet crunch of water chestnuts and juicy prawns. The Kuay Pie Tee is exactly like the one you had at the famous popiah at Joo Chiat except incomparably better and sexier. Take a swig of the House of Hazelwood 18-Year-Old, it’s an elegant and soft spirit that panders to the newbies. The combination reminds me of star crossed lovers, the vanilla and soft oak notes emphasising the complex spice notes in the dish without overpowering it.
With a resounding clinking of glass, we were called to attention by Master Blender Brian Kinsman, who crafts each exquisite Hazelwood House expression using Girvan grain and Kininvie malt whiskies. His genial warmth and distinguished presence are complementary to the fun and daring spirit of the Hazelwood family luminary Janet Sheed Roberts.
The story goes that Janet, born in remote Scotland in 1901 was one of the few women in her time to have bucked the norms and defied gender roles to leave behind an impressive legacy and history. In the 1920s and 30s, she went to Glasgow then Edinburgh, where she became one of the first women to receive a university master’s degree. Her rich and vibrant life extended to her long-term residence in the Hazelwood House, a house located close to the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown in the wilds of Scotland. It was in that house that her grandfather, William Grant, first ignited her passion for whisky, which later developed into a lifelong thirst for knowledge and adventure. Janet Sheed Roberts lived a fascinatingly bewitching life until the ripe old age of 110, travelling extensively and sharing generously—always with a whisky in hand. It’s no surprise that this charismatic and inspirational woman went on to inspire five generations of Scotland’s finest private distillers, including its founding father, William Grant.
Gracing our dinner tables that night was a trio of House of Hazelwood’s exquisite expressions, blended by Master Blender Brian Kinsman. Each blended to perfection, elucidating tales of wanderlust and adventures embarked upon by Janet herself. The bottles themselves with ribs etched out into its sides glisten under the reflection of the hanging chandeliers. Inspired by the art deco movement, our liquid muses for the night fit like a glove into the restaurant’s outfit.
The restaurant at the National Gallery is stunning, decked in gilded dark wood and dripping with romanticism of the colonial period. Leather and brass are occasionally featured, with potted palms and Peranakan tiles eliciting a hunger for the island’s traditional cuisine.
In this case, Violet Oon, dubbed to be Singapore’s national treasure and her team did not disappoint. The Bakwan Kepiting Tea Pot Soup is beautifully dished out with a sizeable quenelle of Crab and Chicken Dumpling drenched by Chicken Broth. It’s as transcendent as it looks. A neat dram of the 18-year-old, inspired by the classic elegance of Paris, dominates the nose with a familiar, vibrant vanilla sweetness. Delicate oak from Portuguese oak ageing adds complexity. Just smell it—toffee and caramelised apples—and you know all you need to know.
The lowbrow Kuay Pie Tee rose to the occasion, tasting remarkably like the richer, fatter cousin to the regular hawker versions. That we must attribute to the mix of bamboo shoots and turnip being poached in prawn bisque and fitted into a homemade “Top Hat” Cup. Not taking the ‘easy way out’ has a heavy impact on both the final product and its accompanying price tag at the National Kitchen.
Make a detour and revel in the sultry beauty of Mumbai with the House of Hazelwood 21-year-old. Spicier and more robust, first whiff is an assault on the senses, akin to traversing a spice market in the heat of summer. Dried fruits, cinnamon and other woody spices dominate, the touch of leather and molasses hardly discernible till a touch of water is added. Best enjoyed with the flame-grilled Satay. The accompanying ground peanut sauce bound with fresh pineapple puree surreptitiously adding a tangy finesse to the conglomeration of juicy meat and charred slithers of fat.
All the while, conversations at the table had evolved to a somewhat clamorous state. The trio of liquid libations on display, egging on discussions about travel journals and spirited escapades. Only with the arrival of the main course did us, the diners pause with bated breaths in anticipation. The Daging Chabek Beef Cheek soaked in a rich spicy tamarind gula melaka gravy and coconut sees no need for a knife. Incredibly rich and divine, the House of Hazelwood 25-Year-Old, inspired by the classic elegance of Shanghai, was tailor-made to be its co-conspirator. Rolling out huge hits of roasted barley on the nose, the rare blend hits home with exotic flavours of citrus and orange blossom laced with soft folds of caramel lingering in the background. It is majestic and very overwhelming. I wanted more.
I surrendered to gluttony at desserts. More whisky? Yes, please. In a naughty manoeuvre, I tipped some of the 25-year-old into the remaining shot glass of gula melaka and banana sauce and swirled. The infamous parting shot, they call it. The trio of desserts doles out sweet euphoria. Not to be missed is the Kueh Dah Dah, moist in the centre with grated coconut judiciously infused with gula melaka syrup and coconut milk. Showstoppers in all respects, you’ll want to find room for dessert.
The House of Hazelwood is launched exclusively in Global Travel Retail and available at Singapore Changi Airport.