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Kismet Whiskey Tasting and Hopgood’s Food Pairings

In keeping with my responsible drinking mantra of ‘drink less but drink better’ I have been enjoying the occasional quality whisky recently. Whisky has been my go-to spirit for many years and to make sure I don’t drink too much I keep a bottle in the cupboard that costs a couple of hundred dollars and it only comes out very occasionally, mainly because I can’t afford to drink these high quality spirits every day.

Rather than having a $40 bottle that would be too tempting to drink every night having a nice whisky occasionally makes it far more enjoyable.

One of my favourite whisky shops is Liquorland in New St where Gavin and his staff know their whisky and they help me choose a nice drop that suits my tastes.


Nick Widley sampling a fine whiskey with his winning cocktail as a side serving

Kismet Whisky & Cocktail Bar on Hardy St has more than 200 different Scotch whiskies to choose from and is the perfect place to taste a variety of different single malt and blended whiskies to work out what style you like before you invest in a premium bottle to enjoy at home.

To help consumers learn more about the many differences and delights whisky has to offer Kismet is hosting a whisky tasting where you can sample different drams paired with food from Hopgood’s.

Head chef Aaron Ballantyne had a tasting with Nick Widley so he could design foods that pair with each whisky,  Aaron said “it was a great tasting and I’m amazed at just how different each one was, I’ve had a lot of fun designing a shared plate menu to go with the whisky”.

This particular tasting will be at Kismet on Wednesday 22nd July and is to be hosted by Philip Spector, the brand ambassador for William Grants & Sons. It will focus on five whiskies from the Glenfiddich Experimental Range. This is a tasting event not to be missed but places are strictly limited to 40 people and each seat will cost you $90. Tickets can be arranged by emailing Nick

The ladder at Kismet is a feature as well as being highly functional

For this you get to taste some outstanding drams, get to learn more about why you like a particular whisky more than others, explore how food and whisky can be paired in a way each enhances the other and most of all, enjoy the warm comfort of the purpose designed whisky lounge that is Kismet.

If you miss out on a seat at the tasting Philip will be at Arden of the Tuesday evening where he will be behind the bar so you can ask him about whisky and on Thursday from about 5pm he will be at Mama Cod where you can grab a ticket for a ‘mad hatters’ tea party matched with a rather unusual Hendricks range of Gin and try a few more spirits from his portfolio. Tickets can be arranged by contacting

Published in the Nelson Mail 15.07.20 

And for something a little different the recipe this week is one of our favourites, roast duck legs are easy to prepare and super delicious. We use fennel and celery in this dish rather than onion because they work exceptionally well with oranges and duck.

Serve with crispy potatoes and a green of your choice

Roast Duck with Orange and Chilli

Serves 2

Time – preparation ½ hour, cooking time 1 ½ hours


  • 2 duck legs
  • 1 medium / large fennel bulb sliced or medium diced
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves sliced
  • 1 tblsp flour
  • 1 small orange washed and chopped into small pieces, skin on
  • 2 long red chillis
  • 500ml Orange juice


  1. Preheat oven to 200C
  2. Brown the duck legs in a frying pan, start with a cold pan and heat (medium temp) to render the fat and brown the skin. Approx. 12-15 minutes on skin side then brown other side for approx. 3 minutes
  3. Place 2 large chillis in a casserole dish – cast iron is best
  4. Place browned duck legs, skin side up, on top of chilis
  5. Pour off all but about 2 tblsp of the rendered duck fat
  6. Add garlic, fennel and celery to frying pan, sauté in the duck fat on medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes
  7. Sprinkle with the flour
  8. Sauté for approx. 3 more minutes
  9. Add 400ml of orange juice, reserve rest of juice to add later if needed
  10. Add salt & pepper to taste
  11. Bring to a simmer and add orange pieces
  12. Pour over the duck
  13. Put lid on casserole and cook for 1 hour
  14. Remove lid, check if more orange juice is needed
  15. Ensure duck is skin side up with no ingredients on top so the skin will crisp during final cooking time
  16. Leave lid off and return to oven for another ½ hour so the sauce reduces and duck crisps nicely
  17. Ideally serve with potatoes sautéed in duck fat and a green of your choice (beans etc)

Tip – try cooking the beans (or other greens) in chicken stock seasoned with salt & pepper and a slice of butter to add flavour and richness.

The recipe and photos of the process can be found here

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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