Johnnie Walker

John Walker & Sons XR 21 Mastery Gala Dinner (Penang) 2018


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John Walker & Sons XR 21 returned for its annual Mastery with a gala dinner on 31 October 2018 showcasing the best Malaysian cuisine and ancestry, coupled with the exceptional flavours and craft of the blended Scotch whisky. Held in Penang for the second year running (last year, the XR 21 Mastery was also held in Penang at the Khoo Kongsi), the XR 21 Mastery continued to be an appreciation of the rich Penang heritage and cuisine, which is an embodiment of Malaysia’s identity.

The third edition of the XR 21 Mastery took place at the acclaimed Colonial Penang Museum which is nestled in the leafy corner of Pulau Tikus. Rated as one of the Top 10 Museums in Malaysia by Trip Advisor, the museum is home to some of the oldest artworks in the country, some over 100 years old, standing testament to the over-pouring history which the state has painted for itself.

Embarking on a journey of gastronomical delight within the grounds of the museum, guests were treated to some of Penang’s best cuisines over a 7-course dinner, handcrafted by Penang’s most-loved street food legacy holders and reputable chefs to showcase authentic Chinese heritage and craft. With skills that were passed down from their ancestors, these street food vendors who have been serving the local community in Penang for decades, delighted the taste buds of many at the XR 21 Mastery with their most sought after savoury delights, plated to perfection by renowned chefs.

Each dish, from appetizer to main course and finally dessert, were meticulously handmade to exude rich flavours, just as the John Walker & Sons XR 21, which itself is crafted through an extremely rare three-stage blending method reserved for its most exclusive whiskies. Paired alongside these dishes, the intriguing layers of intensity in the whisky blend that are both surprising and delightful were surfaced, creating an enchanting experience on the palate.

Alongside the great dishes which were created from a time-honoured process, guests were immersed in a night of rich history with artifacts such as handmade sculptures, balinese wood and paintings from the 19th and 20th century. The Western art pieces in the museum brought in by Chinese trade merchants back in the 18th to 20th centuries, enabled guests to engage in the vibrant stories of yesteryear, accompanied by the exceptionally rich and smooth craft of John Walker & Sons XR 21.

Created to honour Alexander Walker II’s knighthood from King George V for his services to the nation, John Walker & Sons XR 21 was inspired by Sir Alexander’s own handwritten notes and blended from the Johnnie Walker reserve of rare whiskies, all of which have been matured for a full 21 years. This rare three-step process brought about notes of sweet honey and tempered spices, cloaked in warming smoke. Citrus zest, ripened tropical fruits and caramel swirl within hints of tobacco and raisins were prominent alongside the courses for the night, resulting in a long, smooth and complex finish where a myriad of flavours played out over a subtle tapestry of peatiness.


John Walker & Sons returned for its annual XR 21 Mastery, paying tribute to the rich history and culture passed down by previous generations. In a dome built around 20 Scottish iron pillars in the courtyard of the Colonial Penang Museum, the exclusive XR 21 Mastery celebrated the abundant heritage which Penang has claimed for itself, while taking guests on a gastronomic journey with local Penang street food, crafted to perfection by renowned chefs and paired with the exceptionally rich and smooth craft of John Walker & Sons XR 21

The exterior of Colonial Penang Museum, venue for this year’s exclusive XR 21 Mastery. The iconic Johnnie Walker Striding Man is seen holding the Malaysian flag, in tribute to the country’s history and heritage value.
Prior to the XR 21 Mastery dinner, guests were invited to step into the Colonial Penang Museum to discover one-of-a-kind artifacts dating as old as the 18th century, and learn more about the over-pouring heritage of Malaysia’s northern state, Penang. Rare art pieces and furnitures, some of which over 100 years old, were brought into Malaysia by Chinese trade merchants during the colonial era. These antiques, which stand testament to time, are living proof that Malaysia’s history is unlike any other.

Continuing the journey of discovery with a gastronomical twist, XR 21 Mastery saw the presentation of the most authentic Penang cuisine, prepared by the best local street food vendors and crafted to perfection by esteemed chefs.
First off, Pasembur canapes made of cucumber, jicama, tofu and deep fried fritters were served alongside Loh Bak canapes, which originates from Hokkien and Teochew style cuisine.
Meticulously paired with John Walker & Sons XR 21, the seven-course dinner continued with a Pegaga Salad starter, where its ingredients were harvested from the southwest region of Penang Island, Balik Pulau, well-known as the state’s agricultural hub.
Guests were then treated to a myriad of flavours with the pairing of John Walker & Sons XR 21 and a Wild Boar stew, which was concocted upon ten different types of herbs and roots used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years.
Unique to Penang, the first main course of the XR 21 Mastery was none other than the infamous Penang white curry mee, which possesses a lighter broth than the curry laksa usually found in Kuala Lumpur. Boasting an abundance of ingredients such as locally caught seafood, mints and coconut milk, the white curry mee brought about a titillating experience to the palate.
Second main course of XR 21 Mastery saw Malaysia’s signature dish, Nasi Lemak served with a modern twist – pea flower coconut rice plated with a side of Penang pork sambal, acar and other staple condiments – a masterful presentation by culinary experts, Chef Andus Yeap, Managing Director and owner of HH+ by Haven Harbour and Chef Mark Ng, Co-founder of Simply Enak.
Ending the course on a sweet note, exquisite traditional Malay and Chinese kuih such as kuih bengka, kuih lapis, pulut tai tai, kuih talam and Oolong Jasmine tea jelly were brought to the table. These Malaysian favourite snacks are usually enjoyed during breakfast and at traditional ceremonies and festivities.
That evening, Brand Ambassador for Diageo Malaysia, Jeremy Lee also introduced guests to a limited edition blend, The 28 Year Old Midnight Blend. Crafted from the finest whisky casks of Johnnie Walker’s Private Collection, only 3,888 bottles were produced by Master Blender, Jim Beveridge. The 28 Year Old Midnight Blend exudes flavours which are in perfect harmony with notes of rich fruits, butterscotch and cream.

Serenading guests for the night at the XR 21 Mastery, Malaysian rising singer Ke Xin, kept guests entertained with her rendition of classic Chinese and English hits, including oldies and modern day favourites. Hails from Penang, Ke Xin competed in The Voice China back in 2017, where she emerged in the top 16 group.


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Photos courtesy of Johnnie Walker Malaysia (Moet Hennessy Diageo Malaysia).


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