Monday, 20 June 2016

Dragon 8 Auctions Fine & Rare "Gamma" Wine / Whisky Auction wrap-up (June 2016)

Dragon 8 Auctions held their second ("Gamma") auction for 2016 last weekend, following their February whisky auction which we covered here. Held again at Grand Hyatt's Pool House, the auction this time included both fine and rare wine and whisky, with each making up around half of the lots.


There are several whisky auctions in Hong Kong and we can't get around to all of them, but Dragon 8's are ones we're always happy to cover. Sure the catering is fantastic (this time around there were Magnums of Champagne, a beautiful old Rioja and a selection of whiskies including The Macallan Rare Cask Black and Highland Park Sigurd, last time there was this 1938 Macallan), but it's more than the catering - Dragon 8's auctions are actually very enjoyable to watch, whether you're buying, selling, or considering either.


Again led by jovial founder Gil Lempert-Schwarz, the auction kicked off with the wine lots (which included some incredible wines, most of which we missed sadly) before moving onto the whisky - with Gil encouraging us to go and grab ourselves a dram and pair it with whatever we wanted from the buffet - "sushi, tomato, dessert, whatever!"

There are no "ordinary" lots at Dragon 8 Auctions, and this one was no exception, with several whiskies over 50 years old, two over 60 years old, several pages of vintage Macallan 18s and a whole section dedicated to The Macallan "Fine & Rare" series. Not to mention Silver Seal indies, a Bowmore Bicentenary 1964, a smattering of Hanyus and Karuizawas and the incredible new Macallan 65yo in Lalique, which we tasted recently.


To save you the suspense on that Macallan 65yo, despite only being released last month and retailing at $280,000HKD / $35,000USD, it sold for a whopping $480,000HKD (almost $62k USD)! One to watch, clearly.

Bidding in general was strong, with all but a few lots selling. Interestingly the Silver Seal indies didn't seem too popular, with a few being passed in, but other indies seemed to fair well, with a 62yo Glenlivet (1952 G&M "Private Collection") selling for $65,000HKD, and a 55yo Macallan (1950 G&M "Speymalt") selling for $26,000HKD (both prices pre-buyer's premium).


Other results included (all prices pre-buyer's premium):

  • 1964 Bowmore Bicentenary - $24,000HKD
  • 1954 Macallan 18yo (OB "Gold Label) - $40,000HKD
  • 1971 Macallan 18yo (OB "Gold Label) - $18,000HKD (sold to Gil himself!)
  • 1937 Macallan Fine & Rare 32yo - $190,000HKD
  • 1948 Macallan Fine & Rare 53yo - $170,000HKD
  • Hanyu Ichiro's Malt "The Joker" (colour) - $14,000HKD
  • Karuizawa 1975 Vintage Single Cask - $32,000HKD
  • Karuizawa 1971 Vintage Single Cask - $42,000HKD


There was clearly a trend for the older (by vintage) whiskies to be more popular, with strong bidding on the older Macallan 18s and Karuizawas (often between two bidders), but not as strong bidding on the younger vintages, with a few of the late-1980s and early 1990s Macallan 18s being passed-in. Still, every Hanyu and Karuizawa sold, either at or (in some cases) well above their estimate, indicating that whilst we might not be seeing the crazy prices of mid 2015, these are still highly sought-after whiskies. 


The auction also served as a prelude to an upcoming collaboration between Dragon 8 Auctions and famous Hong Kong actor Michael Wong - in the forum of a 35yo single cask The Glenlivet. We'll keep you posted about this one (hopefully along with some tasting notes) shortly.


Dragon 8 are firmly establishing themselves in the Hong Kong whisky auction market as the auction house to watch in our opinion, for both the variety and rarity of lots they present, and entertaining way in which they do so. We can't wait to see what future auctions bring.

Cheers,
Martin.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Tasted #302: Ardbeg 1973 15yo bottled by Sestante Imports (#101drams)

It's been far too long since I posted tasting notes for a #101drams charitable challenge, and while the tally currently sits at 69 whiskies, the actual number sits about 15 or so higher. The backlog of posts continues to grow unfortunately...

Helping me tick off #99 on the list, "A Scotch bottled in the 80s", is this stunning independently bottled Ardbeg, distilled in 1973, and bottled 15 years later (at a cask-strength 53.4%) by Sestante.

"Big deal", you might think - "an Indie Ardbeg from a Bourbon cask with a boring label..."

Ahh...but you see, this is no ordinary Indie. Whiskies from the Italian independent bottler Sestante are legendary, and even more so since they stopped releasing whiskies in the 1990s. This cask-strength bottling in particular seems to have caught the eye of whisky lovers over the years, as can be evidenced by its price tag whenever it does pop up (it was £995 on Master of Malt, when it was available, still sells for £1,500 at TWE, and in March Platinum Wines in Hong Kong were selling 3 bottles at $13,000HKD each). That's more than Sestante's 21yo Ardbeg from 1974, on the rare occasion it pops up for sale.

So not your average ex-Bourbon Ardbeg then...

The opportunity to taste this (from a recently-opened bottle) came up at Malt Masters Hong Kong 2016 recently, and it was an opportunity I wasn't about to miss...


Ardbeg 1973 15 Year Old, bottled by Sestante (54.3% ABV, 15yo, Islay, Scotland, £1,500 / $13,000HKD)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Wow...such tropical fruitness. Loads of pineapple, some rockmelon. Some oat cakes, and minimal, minimal peat. A little creamy honey. Some sweet stewed apples. Such incredible balance..all notes working well together and in perfect harmony. Time to dive in....

Palate: There's peat, but it's subtle. It's more about the fruitiness (still tropical - peaches, nectarines, and the pineapple and rockmelon from the nose), but drizzled with honey and a light dusting of icing sugar. It's sweet, but not cloying in any way. In its relatively short 15 years, this whisky has taken on some incredible characteristics from its (no doubt) bourbon cask maturation, and presented them all in perfect harmony. Stunning.

Finish: Medium to long. BBQ pork with grilled pineapple on top. Brilliant.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. The phrase "they don't make 'em like they used to" gets thrown around a lot, so I won't use it here, but suffice to say I've never tasted an Ardbeg like this before...

Cheers,
Martin.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Tokyo International Bar Show + Whisky Expo 2016 review

Call me a creature of habit, but a few weeks ago I did exactly the same thing I did last year, and flew to Tokyo for 36 hours to attend the 2016 Tokyo International Bar Show + Whisky Expo - aka "TIBS".


Why? A few reasons:
  • The whisky culture in Japan is just incredible. Not just Japanese whisky either - Japan's love of all whisky, especially Scotch and American, is endless. It shows in their expos (like TIBS and Whisky Live / Modern Malt Market, which we also attended last year), it shows in the special Scotch releases that no other market receives, it shows in their absolutely incredible whisky bar scene, and it shows in their own local whiskies too.
  • The cocktail / bar scene is equally as impressive - I'd go so far as to say the best in the world; and
  • The annual bottlings released at the show are always high quality, well-priced, varied and fun to bring home.

It helps too that Cathay have flights from Hong Kong that drop you into Tokyo at 6am on Saturday, allowing you to leave 6pm Sunday, all without taking a day off work.

..and so it was decided - I'd follow the same routine as last year and fly into Tokyo Saturday morning, have a quick shower and change at the hotel, then head to the show for a day of whisky....


As is tradition, the show kicked off with an introduction from the invited guests, who assembled on the main stage and included:
Following the brief introduction, and noticing the annual bottle queue had already snaked around the venue, I headed over to the Shinanoya stand to see what was on offer, and started my day with a dram of 20yo single cask 1995 GlenDronach from a PX Puncheon, bottled exclusively for Shinanoya. There are worse ways to start the day...


From there it was a short hop over to the always-popular Venture Whisky (aka Ichiro's Malt / Chichibu) stand. Unfortunately the annual Chichibu bottling (a 5 year old single cask ex-American Oak) wasn't available for tasting on the stand, but the core lineup bottles, along with a number of cask samples, were.


One thing I love about Akuto-San (and his wonderful brand ambassador, Yumi-San) is that no matter how popular their small distillery has become, they still go to the trouble of bringing along a few rare / unique / interesting / cask sample bottles (often accompanied by a "Bottle 1 of 2" label). TIBS 2016 was no different, with samples from four casks, all bottled in May 2016:
  • French Oak ex-Wine Cask (1st fill), distilled in 2011 and bottled at 61.4% ABV. My favourite, with a deliciously earthy, tannic (but not bitter) palate and a lovely nose of berries.
  • American Oak Bourbon Barrel (1st fill), distilled in 2010 and bottled at 60.6% ABV
  • Virgin American Oak "Chibidaru" (literally "small") quarter cask, distilled in 2010 and bottled at 61.9% ABV.
  • American Oak Bourbon Cask (1st fill), containing peated spirit distilled in 2012, also bottled at 61.9% ABV
All were fantastic, and showed incredible variety considering the new make in 3 of them was identical, and they'd only had between 3 and 6 years' maturation. A true testament to Akuto-san's skill.


With Ardbeg Day / Night just around the corner, Ardbeg were offering attendees cocktails, drams of the core lineup, and the chance to win tickets to the Tokyo event. 

The stand also featured Shortie (Ardbeg's famous Jack Russell mascot), but unlike the toy Shorties of 2013, or the real Shorties of 2014, this was a taxidermied Jack Russell, which was more than a little creepy....



Moving next door and keeping with the Islay theme, it was onto Lagavulin, who were showcasing the new 200th Anniversary 8 year old, available once visitors "Liked" the Lagavulin Facebook page. Having tried it a few weeks earlier, I didn't partake (though it is a good dram - notes up shortly).

The stand also offered visitors the chance to have their photo taken "inside" a 3D glass of whisky, which worked well when the photographer got the angle right... (as not evidenced here):



A few short steps away was the Scotch Malt Whisky Society stand, which had an impressive selection of over 20 bottles. While all required at least a few tokens (sold at ¥1000 for a book of 5, and required to sample the rarer whiskies on offer), the prices were very reasonable and they were offering generous member discounts.


I took the opportunity to try a young Rocktown Bourbon (B3.2 "Ooey-gooey Cinnamon Bun") which friends back in Australia had raved about - and with good cause. It was a brilliant dram, very reminiscent of a big fruity jam donut. Delicious.

As you can probably tell from the photos above and below, I brought my own Glencairn glass to Tokyo. Extreme? Perhaps, but Japanese whisky shows tend to be notorious for not offering proper glassware, as was the case again this year with most drams being poured into tiny little ~30mL plastic cups.

I get the hassle involved with having to provide thousands of glasses (and either collect them at the end, or build them into the price of the ticket), but small plastic cups are not really conducive to properly tasting / assessing quality whisky. It's literally my only complaint about the otherwise brilliant Japanese whisky expo scene, and it's a minor one.


Kavalan had a large range on offer, but the prices to taste most of them were (in my opinion) unreasonable, especially for the recent award-winning Amontillado cask, which ran about $25AUD / $145HKD for a small taste.


As the giants of the Japanese whisky industry, Nikka and Suntory had large stands, but (understandably) with no standout products, and only the basic NAS single malts on offer. As distributors of Edrington and William Grant & Sons products in Japan, Suntory were also offering pours of The Macallan and Glenfiddich, including Macallan Rare Cask and Glenfiddich 21.




Mars were offering their "Wine Cask Finish" Komagatake (which, like the aforementioned Chichibu, balanced the deep berry notes without being overly tannic or bitter), although on later reflection I realised we'd never heard of this particular release, as it's neither the blended "Wine Cask Finish" that was released in 2014, nor the 10yo single malt "Wine Cask Finish" that was released in a short squat bottle. Google was little help, so we're still not sure exactly when this one was released!


Smaller distilleries were well-represented too, including Chicago's Koval (which we first tasted back in 2014) and Finland's Kyrö Distillery Company, who were offering their gin (tasty) and rye (young but showing promise). 



Independent bottlers were also well-represented, and continued to showcase the level of quality we've come to expect from indie bottlings made available to the Japanese market.



GlenDronachBenRiach & Glenglassaugh were also well-represented, as was their recent new parent company Brown Forman. In addition to the core GlenDronach line-up, a 1995 single cask and the latest cask strength, there was also a bottle of GlenDronach new make - a rare opportunity to taste the raw product that, 18-20 years later, becomes one of my favourite sherried whiskies. With lots of oats and breakfast cereal, it was smooth, flavoursome and very drinkable. I suspect this was a recent batch of new make, and not the pre-2004 spirit from coal-fired stills.




BenRiach's new Cask Strength Batch 1 was also a treat - I'd heard good things before and they were all true. Lots of tropical fruit and gummy bears for me.


After all that whisky, it was time for a cocktail to reset the palate, and who better to share one with than bartending legend Gary (Gaz) Regan? Gary hosted a small masterclass focusing on a few of his creations from years gone by. including one odd creation involving chilli powder (which was interesting, but two sips was enough...)


With the cocktail class over, it was back to the drams, a quick visit to Bacardi's "pop up speakeasy" (a cool idea for a 2 day bar expo, but one we're reliably informed was already done by Hendrick's several years ago), and then time to call it a day and head back to the hotel for a quick freshen up before heading off to my favourite whisky bar in Tokyo - The Mash Tun in Meguro, where I tried this ridiculous 1979 single cask ex-Mizunara Yamazaki, and a 43yo Longmorn (amongst others).




Day 2 saw me arrive early enough to lock in a bottle of the annual Chichibu, as well as a 20 year old Springbank single cask bottled just for the show. There was a ~16yo Karuizawa too, but at ¥145,000, it was a lot more than I was happy to spend (and others too it seems - as there were still some left long after many of the other bottles had sold out).

Whilst not for sale, there was also a hand-filled Bowmore on tasting which was delightful, and a great way to kick start the day. We'll have full tasting notes for ChichibuSpringbank and Bowmore up in a separate post shortly.





My second masterclass of the show was with Christine Logan (aka "Lady of the Isles") - an Islay native, expert, and former Bowmore employee of over 25 years. Christine's class focused on pairing Islay produce with Islay whiskies, and whilst the first two whiskies themselves were pretty standard (Laphy Select and Bowmore Small Batch, from memory), the final was something much more special. One nose and I knew it was something I'd enjoy very, very much...

...and it turns out I was right - it was one of my all time favourite whiskies, the 1989 Bowmore Port Cask! Every single time I've tried this whisky, I've absolutely loved it, and this was no exception.


With my flight back to Hong Kong looming, there was just enough time to drop by the Chichibu / Venture Whisky stand a second time for another dram, grab an obligatory photo with Akuto-San, and then plan my exit.


...but not before I was convinced to make a brief stop at the Hendrick's stand for a de-constructed gin tasting. I've always said gin is the whisky drinker's white spirit, and the chance to do a tasting of all the components that make up one of my favourite gins (including a full-proof example at 70% ABV) was too good to pass up. Big props to Hendrick's for using real glassware at their booth too - both for tasting and cocktails.


So after nearly 36 hours on the ground in Tokyo, that was it - another Tokyo International Bar Show done and dusted. It's hard to say if there was more or less whisky present compared to 2015 (possibly a bit less), but the quality was high, the variety was great, and the people, as always, awesome.

Would I recommend the show? Absolutely. Will I return next year? Probably!

Until next time Japan, Kanpai!


Cheers,
Martin.

TimeforWhisky.com would again like to thank Ueno-San (of the excellent Bar High Five, which we finally visited on this trip) for the press pass and kind hospitality at the show.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Tasted #301: William Grant & Sons "Rare Cask Reserves" Araid 21yo...and your chance to win a bottle!

Everyone knows Glenfiddich, the world's best-selling single malt (or second best when The Glenlivet takes over - it's always close), and many know The Balvenie, Grants, Monkey Shoulder and Tullamore D.E.W. Plenty of you would know Kininvie and Girvan too.

...but did you know William Grant & Sons (responsible for the aforementioned whiskies, bar Glenlivet) also produce a series of blends which they typically release in travel retail (aka Duty Free) markets only? 

This is one example (a 26yo blend from closed distilleries), and this bottle we've tasted here is another - a 21yo blended Scotch, bottled on 19/4/2015 and limited to 3,400 bottles. Whilst the distilleries (grain and malt) aren't mentioned, we can probably assume there may be some GlenfiddichThe Balvenie and/or Kininvie in there, and most likely some Girvan grain whisky too. There wouldn't be any Ailsa Bay as the distillery doesn't currently have any 21yo whisky yet.


We've recently collaborated with DFS Hong Kong, who are giving away one bottle of this whisky in Hong Kong via our Instagram pageYou can find the link to the competition here (entry is open to HK residents aged 18 years or older only), but we wouldn't be involved in promoting a competition for a whisky we didn't like...so what did we think? Read on...


William Grant & Sons "Rare Cask Reserves" Araid 21yo blended Scotch whisky (43% ABV, 21yo, bottle #973 of 3,400, blend, Scotland, $1,290HKD)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Colour: Honey with a (very) slight pinkish hue.

Nose: The sherry influence hits you straight away - very pronounced. Flint / matchheads initially, then damp earth, cola bottles and whole oranges.

Palate: The sherry influence continues - earthy with a slight hint of sulphur, but also strawberries and hints of port. There's oak (but not too much), cherries, and even some grapefruit zest. Overall it's incredibly smooth (we wouldn't mind a little more ABV, but it doesn't feel "thin" at all). Caramel creaminess rounds out the palate.

Finish: Short to medium (longer would be better), with a slight earthy smoke that stays to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. A very enjoyable blend, and one that sherry heads will enjoy, but not exclusively - there's something here for everyone.



Entry in the competition (run by DFS) must be via the @TimeforWhisky Instagram, and will be open until 19th June.

Cheers,
Martin.

Monday, 6 June 2016

This week in whisk(e)y #31 - Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championships return, Dragon8's next HK Whisky Auction, Auchentoshan American Oak and Glenfiddich 'Artists in Residence' returns to Australia

As you might know if you read this blog regularly, we get a fair few interesting press releases and news articles here at TimeforWhisky, and usually try to feature them with our own spin, experiences or comments. Sometimes though, they come thick and fast, and we just don't have time to do them all justice.

So we've decided to take a leaf out of some other excellent whisky blogs, and feature a "PR roundup" every now and then - basically a wrap-up of relevant press releases we've received in the previous week or so (including other interesting whisk(e)y news Steph, Hendy & or I think you might enjoy). So on with it then...


Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championships return
In 2013 we had a ticket to the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship, then couldn't attend at the last minute due to an interstate trip. We vowed to one day right that wrong...

Fast forward to 2016, and the next championship was announced, to be held on 23rd July - incredibly, coinciding with our trip back to Australia (well, after we changed our flights...)


So what is the AMWTC? In a nutshell it's a tasting competition, open to all, hosted by the Australian Scotch Malt Whisky Society, with a focus on fun. Whilst there are prizes, and those who take it very, very seriously, the focus is on having a good time - evidenced by the fact that not only can you buy tickets to enter the championship, you also buy tickets to spectate, while you enjoy all food and drinks from the Glenfiddich Bar, single cask SMWS drams from the SMWS bar, and sensory cocktails from our good friends at Sydney Cocktail Club.

Having spoken to previous attendees, we're told it's an incredibly fun night (for entrants and spectators alike), and a good challenge for budding whisky fans The competition involves 8 well-known and commercially available drams, and a list of 9 from which entrants have to select their 8 (i.e. one is a red herring).

Prizes this year are as follows:

1st: 2 x return airfares to Tokyo, Japan, where the 2016 Champion and friend can stay at and sample from the SMWS Bar at the Park Hotel, Tokyo
2nd: Cask Strength Survival Kit with a rare single cask Japanese single malt encased along with "all the tools you’ll need to go on your wild Society adventure"
3rd: Generously donated by The Oak Barrel on Elizabeth St as a $500 voucher to help you stock up on your single malts, wine, and beer.

A pretty incredible line-up of prizes - though sadly (for myself at least), there doesn't appear to be a wooden spoon prize. We'll just have to make do with all the SMWS drams and cocktails at the afterparty...


Dragon8 Auctions Hong Kong next auction - Saturday 11th June
Dragon8's last Hong Kong auction, which we attended back in February, was quite a spectacle, with a number of rare lots going under the hummer - not just whiskies, but whole casks.
Their next auction, being held this Saturday, 11th June looks set to be no different. Whilst wine is also featuring (including some incredible lots like full cases of DRC Romanée-Conti), it's the whisky we're most interested in, and it's no less impressive than last time around, with a selection of rare Japanese malts (Hanyu, Karuizawa), a large selection of Fine & Rare The Macallans, and most impressively, a world first - The Macallan 65yo in Lalique, which we tasted earlier this week.

Commenting on the origin of some of the lots, Dragon 8 Founder Gil Lempert-Schwarz:
Sourcing for this auction has come from several varied and distinct collections, including a major West Coast collection from the United States, a top private Hong Kong based collector and a variety of Dragon 8 friends and supporters. “As our name has become more well-known and trusted, several different consigners are coming forward,” says Lempert-Schwarz. Two that really pleased all involved were the reps of this U.S. based collection who contacted us with a selection of beautifully stored wines and the Hong Kong based collector who has a lot more than what we’ll be presenting on this day. Look forward to what else we’ll bring on the block from this major consignor."
We'll be attending and bringing you the usual updates - always interesting to chart how rare whiskies are trending at auction, and they don't get much rarer than the whiskies Dragon8 auction.

Auction details:
Saturday, June 11th, 2016 - 12 Noon (HKT)
Lunch/Wine & Whisky Served
12:30pm Auction
The Pool House, 11/F, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

Further details and registration details can be found at www.dragon-8.com



Glenfiddich to host second 'Artists in Residence' competition
Last year Hendy wrote about Glenfiddich's first "Artists in Residence" competition in Australia, and the distillery has just announced that the competition will continue for a second year in 2016.
Submissions for the 2016 Glenfiddich Artists in Residence Prize are now officially open as William Grant & Sons brings the coveted art competition to Australia for a second time to celebrate the Glenfiddich commitment to the arts, and the communities it serves.

Celebrating its fifteenth year globally, the program offers the winning artists a residency prize valued at $21,000, where they work and live for a period of three months (between April and October 2017) at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Scotland.

The contest is an open call to all Australian artists who are welcome to use any art medium. These include, but are not limited to print, photography, animation, performance and installation. During the residency, the winning artist will create work taking inspiration from the distinctive location, history, heritage, people and craftsmanship of the distillery.

An exhibition of the five finalist's work, along with a Glenfiddich pop-up bar, will take place at No Vacancy Gallery located at QV Melbourne from the 8th to the 13th of November. 

Guests attending the Glenfiddich pop-bar at No Vacancy Gallery can join the Glenfiddich Explorers Program and vote for their favourite piece of art. The Program is accessible to all whisky enthusiasts and offers numerous benefits at Glenfiddich hosted events. By voting, Glenfiddich Explorers will go into the running to win a collection of whiskies from the Glenfiddich range."
For more information to enter visit https://www.glenfiddich.com/au/latest/2016-australia-artists-in-residence



Auchentoshan "Distilled Different" campaign calls on Australian bar teams to get creative
Auchentoshan American Oak recently launched in the Australian market, coinciding with a new Beam Suntory campaign combining mixology and photography in a bid to discover Australia’s “Distilled Different” bar team.

(Auchentoshan, of course, being the only Scotch whisky distilled three times, which definitely qualifies it as being "distilled different" in our books).

To quote the press release
“Twelve finalist bar teams will then be chosen and paired with an up and coming Australian photographer, scouted by art talent agency Art Pharmacy Consulting, who will create a body of work that captures the personality and essence of each team. The finalist teams’ images and cocktails will be displayed in exhibitions nationally where consumers and media alike will be invited to taste the differently distilled concoctions while enjoying the photographic showcase.
One team will officially be named the Auchentoshan Distilled Different Bar Team of the Year and along with their partnering photographer, win a trip to Glasgow, Scotland to discover more about the home of the Scotch whisky."
Competition dates:
Open – 1st May 2016
Close – 30th June 2016
Winner announced – 16th September 2016
Exhibitions will take place between August and September 2016.

Auchentoshan American Oak is available in Australia now and retailed for $59.90AUD. We'll have tasting notes (and maybe even an idea or two for a suitable cocktail) on the site in the coming month.


Thats all for this week. Until next time...

Cheers, 
Martin.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Tasted #300: The Macallan 65yo in Lalique - The "Peerless Spirit"

Whilst it doesn't happen every time, we try to reserve the major milestone "Tasted" posts on this site for serious whiskies - rare, unique and often incredibly old whiskies.

Our 40th post covered Glenfarclas 40yo, our 50th post the Master of Malt 50yo Speyside whisky, and our 200th post covered the Master of Malt 60yo Speyside whisky(Unfortunately we didn't follow the trend with this 1938 Macallan or this 1959 Macallan, which came in at #265 and #264 respectively...)  

So with us hitting "Tasted" #300 just as we celebrated the launch of the new The Macallan 65 years old in Lalique - "The Peerless Spirit" decanter, it was a no-brainer. We posted a detailed account of the media lunch yesterday, so this post focuses on our tasting notes.

It's not often you taste whisky from a €200 glass, and even less often when the whisky inside that glass is worth significantly more - especially when there's only 10mL in the glass! Such is the case though when you're tasting a whisky that retails for £23,000 / $35,000USD...



Fancy tasting glass aside, it's the whisky we're here to focus on, so let's get on with it...

The Macallan 65 years old in Lalique - "The Peerless Spirit" (46.3% ABV, 65yo, Highlands, Scotland, £23,000 / $35,000USD)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Colour: Honey walnut-brown

Nose: Lots of woodsmoke - a very interesting trait. Not "oak" as you may get find in other older whiskies, nor peat smoke. More of a forresty type note, with some hints of pine. There's also ginger, spice and even a slight hint of juniper. A lot of variety, and not the sort of notes you might expect from a whisky that was distilled in 1950 and bottled in 2015! A beautiful nose, and one I kept coming back to over the next 20 minutes.

Palate: More woodsmoke, jube confectionary, and a big whack of cloves. There's smoke, but not peat smoke. There's also, somewhat surprisingly, citrus notes - most notably grapefruit zest. The pine notes from the nose continue through.

Finish: Incredibly long, with none of the oaky, astringent tannins we've had on some other older whiskies. There's plenty of that woodsmoke again, and waves of typical sherry notes (dark chocolate, walnuts, almonds) interspersed with lighter, more floral and tropical notes of grapefruit and orange peel. 

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 95/100. We're not afraid to call out if we think an incredibly-aged whisky isn't brilliant, but in this case, we don't need to. This whisky IS brilliant. We've tried 40, 50, 58 and 60 year old whiskies in the past, and occasionally found them over-oaked. Yes, it's an incredible feat for a whisky to make it to such an age, but in the past we've thought some of them would have been better off bottled 5 or 10 years earlier. That's not the case with this whisky. This whisky feels spot-on - like it's taken a long, long leisurely stroll to get to it's pinnacle, but finally, after 65 years, it made it.


The Peerless Spirit’ decanter will retail for £23,000 / $35,000USD, and is limited to 450 bottles. It will be available in Hong Kong from this month.

Additionally, in January 2017 Edrington Hong Kong will put up a complete set of The Macallan in Lalique decanters, with all proceeds to be donated to charity (50% to HK-based charities and 50% to other Asia-based charities). We're told the set will be housed in a bespoke, yet-to-be created Lalique crystal cabinet, with additional items not available with the individual bottlings. We're also told the cabinet will contain a "secret drawer" with hidden whiskies! Have your chequebooks ready...


TimeforWhisky.com would again like to thank Edrington Hong Kong for a truly fantastic and one of a kind event, to celebrate the launch of this incredible whisky.

Cheers,
Martin.