Thursday, 23 February 2017

Tasted #350: Bladnoch Samsara

Up until very recently, the majority of Bladnoch bottlings you'd see on shelves would be independent bottlings (from the likes of Gordon & Macphail, Duncan Taylor, Adelphi and SMWS amongst others), or older official bottlings, like this Diageo Rare Malts bottling.

That all changed in 2015 though, when Aussie businessman David Prior purchased Bladnoch Distillery, becoming the latest in a long line of owners over the distillery's nearly 200-year history.



After an initial launch of a NAS blended whisky ("Pure Scot"), the distillery has now released three single malts, all made available to the Australian market before anywhere else. Topping the range is the 25 year old Talia, followed by the 15 year old Adela, and finally the NAS Samsara.

Despite not carrying an age statement, distillery closure periods tell us the whisky in Samsara would have been distilled in at least 2008 (if not earlier), making it approximately 8 years old at minimum. The distillery has also taken the decision to bottle non-chill filtered, and at 46.7%. Two big ticks in my books.




There's no denying the bottle design (used for all 3 single malts) is stunning, with its thick glass base, weighty stopper and metallic label. It exudes quality and wouldn't look out of place next to a bottle of Hibiki (which is saying something).

...but ultimately, it's about the liquid inside. So...how's it fare?


Bladnoch 'Samsara' (46.7% ABV, NAS, Lowlands, Scotland, $129.99AUD)
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Colour: Pale yellow gold.

Nose: Youthful and expressive at first. Peaches and mango, with a touch of dryness, and some Posca pens (remember those?!)

Palate: Apricots and marmalade. Sweet tropical fruit juice poppers (wow this is really bringing back some primary school memories). Hints of drying oak, and some crayons. After a good 20 minutes in the glass, the palate became a lot rounder and more creamy (still sweet) - actually quite moreish.

Finish: Long, slightly oaky, with a residual (and enjoyable) sugary-spice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  88/100. A nice, smooth easy-sipping whisky - one which (after time) I came to really enjoy, and found myself going back to more and more.


TimeforWhisky.com would like to thank Bladnoch for the review bottle pictured here.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Glenmorangie Bacalta Sydney Launch (Tasted #349)

The Glenmorangie Private Edition collection has seen different and unique expressions over the years - all driven by Dr Bill Lumsden's insatiable desire and curiosity to discover new flavours and ways of doing things. There have been a many excellent creations in the collection, with each creation uniquely derived through variation in the distillation or maturation process; be it barley type (Tùsail), wood type (Ealanta), composition (Artein, Finealta), rare wood finish (Sonnalta, Companta) and re-creation of a childhood dream (Milsean). That's right, Milsean was last year's Private Edition release and one that saw Dr Bill Lumsden compared to the likes of Willy Wonka (in my view anyway) as he strived to recreate the experience of being in a lolly shop surrounded by all those jolly good sweet things.

2017 sees a new Private Edition bottling release from Glenmorangie. The Glenmorangie Bacalta drew its inspiration from the Mediterranean island of Madeira, commonly known for its Madeira wines. Bacalta (Gaelic for "baked") is a reference to the the maturation technique used for producing Madeira wine, where the barrelled wine is heat matured over a period of time to oxidise the wine and build up its flavour profile. The heat maturation process can take years and involves storing the barrels in the roof/attic of the vineyard where it can get quite toasty, especially in the Mediterranean.

See more from TimeforWhisky.com on Instagram

Dr Bill Lumsden and Brendan McCarron shared some details of the Bacalta journey at the launch, which was held at The Old Clare Hotel, with Dr Bill and Brendan joining us virtually via Google Hangout. Times have certainly changed when you can have simultaneous global launch events with the one and only Dr Bill at Glasgow. Us folks in Sydney were joined by the folks in Mumbai and Seoul and there were likely other sessions rolling in straight after us.

The Bacalta journey started around seven to eight years ago when the first challenge was making a decision around what barrel structure would be used. The decision was made to go with a 250 litre American Oak hogshead barrel - a relatively small barrel size that can nicely influence any whisky through shorter wood contact time. Once Speyside Cooperage had managed to put together enough hogshead barrels, the subsequent challenge was in finding a Madeira wine producer that would "get in bed" with Dr Bill (in his words) - i.e. producer that would use and return his barrels for subsequent use.

It eventually happened and a Madeira wine producer agreed to season the hogsheads with its Malmsey Madeira wine, a rich and punchy Madeira wine, as compared with other types of Madeira wine. The barrels were then baked, emptied before being re-toasted and filled with Glenmorangie Original in preparation for Bacalta. Dr Bill described the extra maturation process as a rather delicate process that involved sampling the expression quarterly after the first eight months, until it was apparent to him and the team that the whisky had struck the right balance of flavours. The Bacalta is bottled at 46% ABV and is non chill-filtered.

This is certainly not the first time Madeira casks have been used for finishing, as we've seen both Kilchoman and Glenfiddich use Madeira casks for their Kilchoman Madeira Cask and Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Madeira Cask Finish expressions, both of which are well regarded.

The Glenmorangie Bacalta has been delicately planned, with everything from barrel structure to maturation process systematically thought out by Dr Bill and his team. So how does the Glenmorangie Bacalta stack up as a new joiner to the Glenmorangie Private Edition collection?


Glenmorangie "Bacalta" Private Edition (46% ABV, NAS, Highlands, Scotland, £78.95, $AUD/HKD TBC)
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Another stellar Private Edition creation that is enjoyable to drink for any occasion with its inherent sweet, floral and creamy notes.
Colour: Gold

Nose: Floral notes fill the initial nosing followed by notes of vanilla essence, honey, orange marmalade, sweet milk bread (few individuals around the table noted brioche), stone fruit and a hint of peppermint or menthol.

Palate: The palate is absolutely rich, velvety and divine, it is creamy with the notable Glenmorangie citrus notes coming through; orange peel, charred lemon followed by some vanilla stone fruit (fig) notes.

Finish: The finish is quite fresh and cooling with the minty, menthol notes, there are hints of eucalyptus, peppermint and the finish does linger for a while with a spiced and peppery finish

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. The first Private Edition release I tasted was not too long ago with the Túsail, followed by last year's Milsean and I have to say year to year, Glenmorangie has gone from strength to strength. The Bacalta continues that trend, being as delicious as last year's Milsean (if not more so), and certainly on par with my favourite core range Glenmorangie, Quinta Ruban.


A special thanks to EVH and the Moët-Hennessy team for having us at the Bacalta launch event with virtual Dr Bill Lumsden in Sydney.

Cheers
Hendy

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Tasted #343 - 348: Diageo Special Releases 2016 - Port Ellen, Brora, and others (#101drams)

My recent trip to Singapore's invitation-only Johnnie Walker House was special not only because it was a really impressive space, but also because at the end of my tour came a tasting...and not just any tasting - a tasting of 5 of Diageo's rarest 2016 Special Releases, and a stunning NAS Clynelish from 2014's Special Releases.



Port Ellen 37yo 1978 16th Edition (Special Releases 2016) (55.2% ABV, 37yo, OB, Islay, Scotland, Bottle #590 of 2,490, £2,083.33 / HK & AU pricing not available)
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Colour: Vibrant yellow gold.

Nose: Perfumed. Light, elegant. No discernible peat. Leather, citrus and the slightest hints of lavender.

Palate: There's the peat smoke...but it's subtle, never imposing, never dominating. More barbecued meat smoke than coastal smoke. Lots of candied ginger, mint, mixed candied fruit peels and marmalade, and some herbacious seasoning. Think a smokey BBQ, sizzling a lovely rib eye, covered in rosemary and a sprinkling of paprika.

Finish: Long, sweet, honey-BBQ smoked.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. All-in, a very nice dram (and a #101drams dram too!) but not as memorable as the 12th Edition I tried a few years ago (the notes for which I just realised I never published). I did however find a few similar notes on the "Elements of Islay" PE5, which I gave the same score.




Brora 38yo 1977 (Special Releases 2016) (48.6% ABV, 38yo, OB, Highlands, Scotland, Bottle #1,507 of 2,984, £1,208.33 / HK & AU pricing not available)
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Colour: Orange gold.

Nose: Whole oranges. Citrus oil and lemon zest. Smooth, faint smoke.

Palate: Oak, earthy smoke, more citrus (a little lemon rind and orange peel now). Some stewed pears and apricots. There's a waxiness to the mouthfeel, and everything is in such perfect balance. Expertly made whisky, without a doubt.

Finish: Long, smooth caramel notes turning to more citrus (back to whole oranges, some grapefruit slices). Hints of pot pourri at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. Stunning.




Cambus 40yo (Special Releases 2016) (52.7% ABV, 40yo, OB, Lowlands, Scotland, Bottle #1,231 of 1,812, £737.83 / HK & AU pricing not available)
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Colour: Golden sunset.

Nose: Grape!? Yes, lots. Wine gums, slightly acidic. You could tell me this was a Cognac, and I'd believe you.

Palate: More grape, only this time, it's Grape Hubba Bubba Bubblegum! There's a delightful freshness here - fresh laundry especially, but it's mostly about those vibrant grape characteristics, they really dominate, and it's wonderfully refreshing.

Finish: Medium in length, more wine gums and a perfumed lavender-like sweetness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 95/100. This is an odd whisky, there's no doubt about it. It's so left-field, that even after spending a good 10 minutes with it blind, I wouldn't necessarily have pegged it as a whisky. But it's also beautiful. I'm always looking to be "surprised" when it comes to whisky, and this has plenty of surprised up its sleeve. Complement that with a wonderful nose and palate, and its earned its 95.



Linkwood 37yo 1978 (Special Releases 2016) (50.3% ABV, 37yo, OB, Speyside, Scotland, Bottle #1,378 of 6,114, £500 / HK & AU pricing not available)
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Colour: Orange gold.

Nose: Muted at first, before some vanilla and sponge cake notes come through, along with some Chardonnay-like notes and tropical fruit salad.

Palate: Sweet and tropical. Pawpaw and pineapple dominant fruit salad, glacé cherries, apricot jam and a fair whack of vanilla overseeing it all.

Finish: Medium to long, carrying similar notes from the palate right through to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Another well-made, enjoyable dram, not dissimilar to other well-made, well-aged Speysiders.



Clynelish Select Reserve (Special Releases 2014) (54.9% ABV, 37yo, OB, Highlands, Scotland, Bottle #2,877 of 2,946, £412.50 / HK & AU pricing not available)
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Colour: Vibrant Gold.

Nose: Waxy, butterscotch-drizzled oranges.

Palate: Spiced oranges, cloves, with an overarching caramel, mouthfilling waxy smoothness. Just absolutely delicious. Water brought about a bit more spice, and a little more oak. I'd guess there's some fairly old Clynelish in here.

Finish: Long, smooth, toffee-like with residual hints of warming spice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. Just a brilliantly made whisy, even if it is a £400+ NAS.



Mannochmore 25yo 1990 (Special Releases 2016) (53.4% ABV, 25yo, OB, Speyside, Scotland, Bottle #2,424 of 3,954, £208.33 / HK & AU pricing not available)
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Colour: Deep amber gold.

Nose: Rich caramel, sherry-soaked raisins, red berries (Acai? Some Strawberries too) and milk chocolate.

Palate: Every bit a sherried Speysider - and a clean one at that. Smooth, soft Christmas pudding, Christmas spices and some mince pies. Brazil nuts and a hint of well-aged leather.

Finish: Long and full of vanilla-laden spices.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.




A huge thanks must again go to Diageo and Ketchum for their fantastic hospitality during my visit.

Cheers,
Martin.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Tasted #341 - 342: Longmorn 16yo (2016 release) and Scapa Glansa

Two new single malts have launched in Hong Kong recently - Longmorn's new 16yo and Scapa's new NAS "Glansa". The latter I found a truly fascinating whisky which I want to tell you all about, but first the Longmorn...


It's fair to say that between Longmorn's distillery bottlings (like their previous 16yo) and their independent bottlings, the distillery has gathered quite a loyal fan base over the years. So understandably, some of those fans were a little put out when the new range was announced last year, and the price of the new 16yo jumped from ~£80 to ~£150 ($189USD / $1,580HKD).

The new 16yo was joined by an NAS (£45 rrp) and a 23yo ($1,087USD rrp), all of which featured new packaging and a re-positioning to show off the "luxury" side of the brand. Comparisons with Mortlach were inevitably made.


To be fair, the new 16yo and 23yo are both non chill-filtered, bottled at a higher-than-usual 48% (as was the old 16yo), and the new packaging is indeed very nice - the leatherette base in particular is a unique touch.

Ultimately though, it all comes down to taste and value for me. Forget what the old version cost, forget what other whiskies cost - simply put, is it a good whisky, and is it worth the asking price? Only one way to find out...


Longmorn 16yo (2016 release) (48% ABV, 16yo, Speyside, Scotland, $1,580HKD / AU pricing not available)
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Colour: Bright sunny gold.

Nose: Apricots and raisins. Slightly floral, vanilla, pears. With some air comes a perfumed sweetness, and some creme brûlée.

Palate: Rich, zesty and buttery. Much sweeter than the nose hints at. Apple Tarte Tatin, and lots of pear. There are noticeable sherry notes, and they're all clean - no sulphur here!

Finish: Quite long, fruity and sweet. Hints of fruit tingles towards the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. A well-made, smooth and elegant speyside dram, without a doubt. There are a lot of characteristic Speyside notes here, and the cask selection has clearly been well thought out. For me though, for $1,580HKD / $189USD , I'm looking for something a little more. Maybe that's just my years of drinking weird and wonderful cask strength / single cask whiskies talking. This is a good whisky, and the asking price is not unreasonable. Note: Aussie fans of the previous 16yo can still find it at Dan Murphys for $113AUD.


Now, onto the Scapa Glansa - Scapa's first foray into peated whiskies. The Glansa new make spirit itself wasn't peated, rather the whisky has been finished in casks that previously held peated whisky (similar to expressions released by Balvenie and many others in the past).

It's not being pitched as a high-end malt in the same way Longmorn is, but it costs a very reasonable $598HKD / £40.95 rrp. I say "very reasonable", because I really loved this whisky! Sure, it's not the most complex malt in the world, and I'd like it to be at a higher strength than 40%, but for me, it has these notes that are eminently reminiscent of old bottles of Bowmore (to a small degree) like this beautiful 15yo bottled in the 1980s).


That might seem like a weird thing to say, but I've revisited it several times now, and I still get these slightly perfumed, earthy, "funky" subtle notes of smoke that I find very prominent on older Bowmore bottles...and that I really enjoy! I wonder if the peated casks used for finishing came from Bowmore...?


Scapa "The Orcadian" Glansa (40% ABV, NAS, Orkney, Scotland, $598HKD / £37.46 / AU pricing not available)
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Colour: Toffee gold.

Nose: Earthy funk, with a hint of perfume. JUST like an old school Bowmore (for me, that's a very, very good thing)! Sour gummy worms, earthy burnt toffee and a little tropical fruit.

Palate: Floral and perfumed, with nectarines, apples and peaches. There are herbal notes, and a slight brininess. Put together those notes might not sound too appealing, but they come together brilliantly. I just wanted to keep going back for more. If I have only one complaint about the palate, it does feel a little thin - I'd love to see this at 46%.

Finish: Short to Medium in length, with a subtle, earthy, vegetative (not coastal) smoke.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. Just a really, really lovely drinkable dram. It can be a little "thin" on the palate, and it's not super complex, but I'll happily drink this on a regular basis (and in fact, I have been).


A big thanks must go to Pernod Ricard HK and Mazarine for providing the bottles for review.

Cheers,
Martin.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

A visit to Diageo's Johnnie Walker House Singapore

A few weeks before my recent trip to Singapore, Diageo were kind enough to invite me to "Johnnie Walker House", to experience something which, until that point, I'd only seen glimpses of via Instagram.

Unlike the Jonnie Walker Houses in Mumbai, Taipei and select other airports, Johnnie Walker House Singapore is a private affair - open by invitation only, and designed for Diageo's private clients.



Located within Diageo's Singapore offices, the House is a tastefully decorated suite overlooking the historic trading port of Boat Quay (where the very first Johnnie Walker bottles would have arrived in Singapore in the 1800s), providing a nice link back to the earliest days of the brand. A large-format coffee table book ("bible" may be more apt) also provides insights into the brand's history in Singapore, whilst a video conferencing link allows customers to get real-time insights into the operation of some of Diageo's distilleries today.

Diageo's Private Clients team use the House to demonstrate their higher end, often more bespoke offerings, including personal cask ownership and signature blends. Basically, this isn't where you go to pick up a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue...



Upon entering the House, you're greeted by a large flavour map, mapping out Diageo's 39 malt distilleries (28 operating, 11 closed) in terms of profile. You may not agree with the all the placements, but you'll have to take it up with Dave Broom, as he mapped each distillery.



Against the far wall sits a showcase of Diageo's more exclusive products, including high-end Johnnie Walker blends (think the ~$48k USD McLaren Mercedes Edition and $200k USD Diamond Jubilee), followed by an overview of JW's "Signature Blend" program, allowing customers to determine their preferred flavour profile via a series of tastings, which Master Blender Dr Jim Beveridge then interprets into a custom JW Blend, drawing on the 8 million+ casks at his disposal.



Further along sat a curious bottle of Port Ellen (below) - clearly not part of the annual "Special Releases". I learnt that this was a bottling from Diageo's "Casks of Distinction" program - an incredibly limited program through which customers can purchase an entire cask from select distilleries, and choose to either bottle it, or continue ageing it (in Diageo's bonded warehouses) for bottling at a later date. 

The casks and distilleries available vary over time, but do occasionally include closed distilleries like Port Ellen and Rosebank, alongside operational distilleries like Lagavulin.


To have your own, private cask of Port Ellen and Rosebank bottled with your name would be pretty special...and the packaging certainly seems to befit the exclusivity, with bottles packaged in wooden 6 bottle crates, accompanied by a chest containing crystal glassware.


Having thoroughly toured the House and learnt all about Diageo's most exclusive offerings, there was only one thing left to do....taste!


I'll save the tasting notes for another post, but suffice to say, tasting 6 "Special Releases" bottlings (including 2016's 37yo Port Ellen and 38yo Brora, as well as a delightfully unique 40yo Cambus) was a pretty fantastic way to end a wonderfully detailed insight into the world of Diageo's bespoke offerings.



A huge thanks must go to Diageo and Ketchum for their hospitality during my visit (and of course, for the generous tasting).

Cheers,
Martin.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Edinburgh Whisky Academy: Accredited, in-depth Scotch Whisky education courses

Readers from Hong Kong may well be familiar with Malt Masters, founded by Ian McKerrow and responsible for Hong Kong's very first whisky show (not to mention being one of the first HK organisations to really promote and grow whisky appreciation in the SAR).

Ian comes from a family steeped in Scotch Whisky tradition (his family started Mackinlay's Whisky in the 1800s, and his dad ran Glenmorangie for a time), and clearly that tradition has extended beyond the males in the family, as Ian's sister, Kirsty McKerrow (former Nordic brand ambassador for for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg) has recently opened the Edinburgh Whisky Academy, a Scottish Qualifications Authority-accredited centre dedicated to in-depth Scotch Whisky education.


From a personal perspective, I have to say I've been (very pleasantly) surprised at just how much interest there is in formal whisky education since moving to Hong Kong in 2014. I regularly meet people at whisky events who proudly proclaim they've undertaken a formal qualification (most commonly the Whisky Ambassador course, run here in HK by good mate Eddie Nara) and when you ask what it is they do in the whisky industry, their response is usually something along the lines of "Oh, I'm an artist / banker / chef / writer / whatever - I just really love whisky!"

Clearly the demand for formal whisky education is there, a fact Kristy has obviously noted too, who in September last year launched the two day "Diploma in Single Malt Whisky", which is (in Kristy's words):
“written and delivered by independent industry experts...compact and in-depth and will provide a true and factual grounding for whisky knowledge“

Set in the beautiful Arniston House (just outside of Glasgow), the two day course is led by Vic Cameron, a 23 year veteran of distillation with Diageo and regular whisky educator, and covers 7 modules:

    1. The Historical Development of Distillation & Whisky
    2. The Business of Whisky
    3. The Raw Materials & Their Preparation
    4. The Batch Distillation Process 
    5. The Maturation Process 
    6. World Single Malt Whiskies
    7. Sensory Aspects of Single Malt Whisky
    The Academy also offers a 1 day course in whisky tasting, and plans to offer a diploma in blended whisky too.


    Far from just being a classroom exercise, the Single Malt Diploma includes a visit to nearby Glenkinchie for hands-on education, and the upcoming January course (28-29th January) will include a guest appearance by Charlie MacLean (who we can safely say, from personal experience, will make it a course to remember)!

    Whilst we're acutely aware that there is no one single diploma or accreditation in the whisky world, nor even one that is seen (universally across the industry) as "the" accreditation, like say, WSET in the world of wine and broader spirits, we believe that a good accreditation/diploma needs a few key ingredients - knowledgable instructors, real experiences and in-depth content. Whilst none of us have actually personally attended an EWA course, they do seem to have those three elements in spades, and feedback from attendees backs that up.

    The next Single Malt Diploma is being held on 28-29th January and pricing and booking information is available here: http://www.edinburghwhiskyacademy.com/prices-booking/

    Cheers,
    Martin.

    Saturday, 14 January 2017

    Tasted #340: Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whisky 100 Proof

    Moving onto something a little bit simpler for a change - Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whisky (Bottled in Bond). I actually bought this for cocktails (I've always enjoyed it in a Manhattan, Sazerac etc.. and find the 50% ABV holds up well), but it's a highly regarded rye on its own, so thought I'd spend some time with it neat, and post up my thoughts.



    Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whisky100 Proof (50% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, ~$350HKD / £29.99 / $82.99AUD)
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    Colour: Copper-brown.

    Nose: Treacle, maple syrup, lots of vanilla pods and some peppercorn.

    Palate: Smooth, slightly viscous, spicy (pepper and cinnamon). There's orange rind and cinnamon sticks, with a dusting of icing sugar and a fair amount of oak. Simply, but tasty.

    Finish: Medium to long in length, peppery.

    Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  88/100. No-one's suggesting this is an earth-shatteringly complex whisky - it's not. It's a simple rye done very well. All the flavours you want in a rye are there, with a bold, solid backbone. The ABV feels spot on and it serves well as a neat dram, or a great base for a booze-forward cocktail.


    Cheers,
    Martin.

    Tuesday, 10 January 2017

    Tasted #337 - 339: GlenDronach 12yo (distilled in 1963), Macallan 7 year old (1990s bottling) & Balblair 1983 30yo

    Over the many hours spent at Whisky Live Singapore recently, I tried more drams than I could possibly take detailed notes for (at least, subjectively so), but before the palate fatigue set in, I took a few notes on the following interesting bottles.


    GlenDronach 12yo distilled in 1963, bottled in 1975 (43% ABV, 12yo, OB, Speyside, Scotland)
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    Colour: Light yellow-gold.

    Nose: So fruity! Passionfruit, peaches. Quite sweet and very perfumed. Lovely, but completely unlike the sherried GlenDronachs of today.

    Palate: Following the nose - oranges and peaches, lots more passionfruit. Incredibly smooth and easy drinking, without feeling weak on the ABV front. No spice, no sherry, just a beautiful, fruity ex-Bourbon (I'm assuming) bouquet. It's not complex, it's not "layered", but it's tasty.

    Finish: Medium to long in length, sweet, simple.

    Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  91/100. No one would call this a complex whisky, but I'd wager most people would call it a delicious one. Fun too, because it's such a departure from the usual Sherried GlenDronachs we see today.



    The Macallan 7yo (40% ABV, 7yo, OB, Speyside, Scotland)
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    A sherried 7yo Macallan bottled in the 1990s for Italian importer Giovinetti & Figli.

    Colour: Amber-orange gold

    Nose: Fresh laundry. Hints of sherry. Young.

    Palate: Not a whole lot going on. Some caramel chews, toffee. A little spice. Some furniture polish.

    Finish: Short and funky, with a residual earthiness and some mouth-drying tannins.

    Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  85/100. Drinkable, just not all that impressive.



    Balblair 1983 (46% ABV, 30yo, OB, Highlands, Scotland, £179.16)
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    Colour: Orange gold.

    Nose: Candied ginger and whole oranges. Vanilla, oak and toffee.

    Palate: A textural mouthfeel, with plenty of citrus (whole oranges, grapefruit) and salt-water taffee. Some butterscotch (Butter Menthols actually) and a little oak to balance things out, but not too much. Some dark chocolate rounds things out.

    Finish: Long, whole orange slices.

    Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. Glad I got to try this, as I have a bottle stashed away that hasn't yet been opened. I'm not unhappy about the purchase. It's not hugely complex, and the tasting notes might read like many other well-aged ex-Bourbon whiskies, but it's an enjoyable dram and one that definitely hasn't taken on too much oak in its 30 years.




    Cheers,
    Martin.

    Monday, 9 January 2017

    Whisky Live Singapore 2016 review

    We've attended a few Whisky Live events over the years - Tokyo, London and Sydney twice, but had never attended the Singaporean event, despite having heard good things. When a bit of good fortune put me in Singapore for a conference in the days following Whisky Live, it was a no-brainer to arrive a bit earlier and spend a day at the show.


    After an absolute debacle trying to buy a ticket (without going into too much detail, there was no eTicket / mTicket option, and no option to pick up the tickets at the venue - although the organisers arranged the latter for me after my tickets never arrived at the hotel), I turned up to Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island, ready for a day of whisky.

    I'd opted for a 1 day VIP ticket ($173SGD), which gave access to the "VIP Tasting Room" as well as the main floor. I've attended a lot of whisky shows over the past 5 or so years, and whilst I still really enjoy them (probably the social aspect more than the whisky these days!), the whiskies on offer at most shows can be a bit "same same". Sure, sometimes (often) there's something special under the table, and don't get me wrong, the people at these shows absolutely make them worth attending, but sometimes you're just looking for something a bit more unusual/unique on the whisky front - something beyond the usual 12/15/18/NAS lineup. 

    ...and that's where the VIP Tasting Room came in. Singapore's Whisky Live is run by La Maison du Whisky, and as anyone who's come across LmdW knows, they bottle and sell a lot of very special whisky, rum, cognac etc......and a huge number of them were on offer in the VIP Tasting Room. From 43 year old Speysiders to single cask Kavalans, to limited edition Blantons to a whole lot of tasty Indies, to 30yo OB Speysiders and...well I'll let the photos do the talking...





      






    Certainly not your average whisky show drams, and generous pours were being served (all included in the ticket price). The room never felt busy, and there was always a friendly face or two to chat to.

    Next door though was something even more special - the "Collectors' Room", housing much, much rarer whisky that LmdW had managed to get their hands on - from rare single cask Japanese whiskies (Yamazakis, Karuizawas) to old, old bottles of Laphroaig, Bowmore, Macallan and others. Whilst prices weren't "cheap" (especially not for those who have visited Japanese whisky bars with similar collections), they were for the most part reasonable, considering the rarity of the whiskies.

    1 token was $10SGD.




    Dave Broom was also floating around (having just presented a masterclass on two 1965 Karuizawas!) and being the top bloke he is, was more than happy for a chat and a dram.


    By this time I'd been at the show for about 2 hours and hadn't yet ventured onto the main floor. When I finally did, I got there just in time for a "Dram Full Yum Seng", led by Glenfiddich's Regional Asia Pacific Brand Ambassador Matthew, and a few of his Brand Ambassador colleagues from Pernod Ricard and Edrington.


    Not quite sure what to expect from my first 'Yum Seng", it basically involved yelling "Dram Full" for as long as we possibly could, and then shooting the whiskies on offer (Glenfiddich 21yo, Macallan Rare Cask, amongst others). Not quite the "pacing myself" I'd planned, but a huge amount of fun, and a great welcome to the main floor. There's a video of it here.



    The main floor had the usual complement of brands - with Macallan, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Aberlour, Glenrothes, Glenlivet and others representing Scotch, and Kavalan, Paul John, Teeling and others representing "world whiskies". There were of course a few special pours available if you asked nicely (some I can talk about, some I can't!) and a few fun experiences, like Glenfiddich's virtual reality tour (actually quite good!), Monkey Shoulder cocktails, Arberlour/Glenlivet music pairing, and Balvenie's free customised whisky tasting journals.






    There were also a few indies on tasting from Singapore and Seoul's B28 bar:




    ..and a good selection of masterclasses, priced quite cheaply in most cases (except for the Karuizawa 1965 masterclass which was almost $600SGD/ticket).


    When all the whisky became a bit much and the palate fatigue started to set in, there was a large F&B area outside, and VIP ticket holders were entitled to two servings of food and a cocktail from each of the pop up bars (host by some of the world's best cocktail bars - Bar Trench, 28 Hong Kong Street, Gibson and Jigger & Pony to name a few). A refreshing break (as were the Monkey 47 gin laybacks on offer)!


    As the sun started to set (had it really been 6 hours already!?) I headed back to the VIP Tasting Room to try a few more drams (including some fascinating rums) and enjoy whisky banter well into the night with whisky friends old and new.







    So, overall impressions of Whisky Live Singapore?
    • Fantastic range of whiskies
    • Brilliant collector's room
    • Good value tickets (when you consider the food, cocktails, and all the VIP drams)
    • Great venue layout (great space and really well utilised - it never felt too busy)
    • Great personalities.

    My only complaints would be the ticketing process (which I understand is a limitation of the ticketing company more than LmdW / Whisky Live), and the fact that I had to leave all the samples I'd brought at the front counter, which made it a pain to do the sample swaps I'd arranged beforehand (this might've been a "responsible service of alcohol" type situation, but whisky sample swaps are pretty common at shows like this, and I've never had an issue at shows anywhere else in the world).

    On the whole though, an absolutely brilliant event, and one I'd definitely return for (only next time, I'll buy a 2 day ticket).

    Cheers,
    Martin.