imageOn Thursday evening I attended the launch of hand-crafted Beluga Noble Russian vodka at the noble Nobu at the One & Only Cape Town. The Russian Consul-General in Cape Town described Beluga as ‘the best and the most popular‘ vodka in Russia!

The event was hosted by Nadya and Rowan Leibbrandt, who head imageup the local branch of Truman & Orange, a London-based company distributing top brands such as Beluga vodka, Malfi Italian gin, and Innis & Gunn beer from Scotland, unique in being aged in barrels! Rowan told me that the company has a long history, having been the marriage of two beverage entrepreneurs, Mr Truman being a beer specialist, and Mr Orange a gin aficionado. The Truman & Orange company is a year old, and Rowan and Nadya were based in London before, as well as in Russia, where Nadya and Rowan met.  Rowan and Nadya moved to Cape Town in December, to head up the marketing of the Truman and Orange brands in our country.

Nadya Surikova is Russian, and told me that Beluga is the leading vodka brand in Russia, but it has never been marketed outside the country. She shared that they chose Nobu as the launch venue, being a connection between East and West, and sharing a culinary tradition, sushi being very big in Russia.

imageI was invited to the event by Sue-Ann Allen, MasterChef SA Season 1 runner-up, and presenter on Hashtag Radio. She is working with Truman & Orange in promoting Beluga vodka on the radio station. I sat next to Consultant Chef Justin Whitehead, and Chefs Pete Goffe-Wood (Kitchen Cowboys), Christo Pretorius of the Twelve Apostles (with his Deputy MD Gavin Ferreira), and One&Only Cape Town ambassador Aubrey Ngcungama were some of the other guests.

Rowan explained that one of the dishes would be paired with black caviar, a delicacy and the most expensive food ingredient in the world. The Beluga logo on the packaging is that of the Beluga sturgeon, a fresh fish caught mainly in the Caspian Sea. Black caviar is the roe (eggs) in the sturgeon. Caviar and vodka is the ultimate match, Rowan added, saying that it is only eaten on very special occasions.

We were welcomed with a Beluga cocktail, the Beluga Lavender Greyhound, containing a lavender stem, agave syrup, lime, and grapefruit juice.

The Russian Consul-General in Cape Town, Roman Ambarov, announced that Beluga Noble Russian vodka now officially has arrived in Cape Town. He explained that vodka is never drunk just for pleasure. They drink fine South African wines for that, he explained. ‘In drinking vodka there are always emotions – good or bad – to be shared, thoughts to be discussed and a kind of philosophy to be worked out‘. He told us that Russian vodka would be drunk ice-cold, giving one warmth immediately, ‘and a comfortable feeling in the aftertaste‘. He said that the same is true of Russians, who can be seen by foreigners to be ice-cold people. Once one has taken a closer look, shared some good emotions, one starts to become friends. In the ‘aftertaste‘ you get real friendship, warmth, and support. Vodka is drunk mainly in shots, and a toast is proposed before each drink, saluting one’s health and prosperity. It would always be drunk with good food, and always in the company of good friends. Mr Ambarov wished Nadya and Rowan success for the brand launch in our country.

The mixologist Devin Cross, who had paired the dishes with his Beluga cocktails, told us that Russian vodka has bigger character, being big on the palate, and having a sweetness. Beluga comes from the 200-year old Mariinsky distillery in Siberia, and its vodkas have a resting period after distilling. Every 5-star establishment in Russia stocks Beluga vodka. Each bottle is adorned with a hand-fitted Beluga fish. Its character is created through a gentle natural fermentation of malt spirit. Ingredient infusions are blended with water of the highest purity. The first distillate is washed through quartz sand, then triple-filtered through graphite columns, and then slowly percolated through quartz sand again. The batch then is left to rest for one to three months, to give the vodka ‘luxurious softness‘.

Our starter was a Nobu signature dish, a Baby spinach salad, imagepaired with an oyster Beluga Vodka shooter. Then followed a Yuzu (a citrus fruit plant originating from East Asia) sorbet as a palate cleanser.

imageA pepper-crusted sea bass with Vanilla miso was paired with a Gomascio cocktail, a caraway seed, cucumber, and Beluga vodka cocktail.

Very good was the oven-roasted pork imagebelly with apple and Teriyake sauce, which was paired with a Beluga Rodionoff Sour, made with caraway seed, apple, lemon, honey water, and Beluga vodka, with a slice of rye bread placed on the edge of the glass.

imageA slow-cooked beef fillet with a delicious Beluga mushroom crème sauce was paired with a Beluga Fini Martini.

The pièce de résistance was the black caviar and Crème fraîche, which was paired with Beluga Gold Line, the premium vodka imagein the Beluga range, which has rested for three months and which costs R2500 per bottle. It is wax-enclosed. We were impressed with the brand support for Beluga, all glassware having a band with the Beluga logo. The board on which this course was presented, was also Beluga branded.

I was impressed that One & Only Cape Town Marketing Executive Ashleigh Fleming came to say hello, having seen my Tweets about the event.

We apologize for the poor quality of the photographs, due to the very dark interior of the venue.

Truman & Orange, Cape Town. Cell 076 091 5588. www.trumanandorange.com Twitter: @BelugaVodkaSA

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog  Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter: @WhaleCottage  Facebook:  click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein