Monday, 9 May 2022

Gordon & MacPhail "Mr George Legacy" (2nd Ed) 64yo 1957 Glen Grant [Tasted #567]

I've spoken plenty about the amazing Gordon & MacPhail bottlings I've been fortunate enough to try in recent years (most recently this one at a frankly-ridiculous 80 years old) but still to this day, the most enjoyable for me has been the 62yo 1956 "Mr George Centenary" (tasted here). 

I didn't realise at the time back in 2019, but "Mr George" releases were set to be an annual thing - followed up in 2020 by the 67yo 1953 "Mr George Legacy" Glen Grant (tasted here)....and now, by the third release in the series, the 2021-bottled 64yo 1957 "Mr George Legacy 2nd Edition" Glen Grant, released today.

Continuing to honour "Mr George" Urquhart ("the father, the originator, of the current success and appreciation of Scotch Malt whiskies"), the third release "pays tribute to his philosophy [with] a rich, complex single malt from Glen Grant Distillery with a subtle smokiness not found in more modern Speyside whiskies". A fitting choice, given Glen Grant was said to be one of Mr George's favourite distilleries.

G&M kindly sent me a sample of the new release, so let's dive in...

Gordon & MacPhail 1957 Glen Grant 64yo "Mr George Legacy" 2nd Edition (56.1% ABV, 64yo, Cask #3438, One of 298 bottles, Speyside, Price TBC)
Colour: Dark red Mahogany

Nose: An initial flinty note gives way to red berries, ginger, a BBQ meatiness and old leather, underlined by toasted oak.

Palate: Largely follows the nose, with a smoked cream note, more red berries, cherries, licorice allsorts, and an underlying mintiness. After time and some air, herbal notes of forrest soil and cigar box emerge.

Finish: Long, spiced mint, sultanas and cherries, with residual hints of walnut.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A more robust, meatier dram than the first two in my opinion. Closer to the previous "Legacy" than the "Centenary", but with some added slightly gunpowderish notes. Overall a fantastically complex and well-made dram - particularly given the lack of any over-oaked or "off" notes, despite being 64 years of age!
A huge thanks to G&M and WS for the sample.


Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Westward Cask Strength Launch [Tasted #566]

We've been following Westward since it first arrived in Australia in 2019 when we first tasted the original Westward Whiskey and also have had the chance to sit down with Westward's Lead Distiller, Miles Munroe. For those that have not come across Westward prior, Westward is a whiskey distillery that is based in Portland, Oregon. Known for its hipster and craft culture, it's no surprise to see a craft single malt whiskey borne out of Portland. Since it was first introduced in 2019, the Westward following has grown locally.

Fast forward to 2022 and we were given the opportunity to welcome the latest in the Westward Whiskey collection, namely, the Westward's Single Malt Whiskey Cask Strength. Thomas Mooney, Founder and CEO of Westward Whiskey noted:

“We’re thrilled to be expanding our flagship portfolio of whiskeys as we continually reimagine what single malts can be. We first introduced Cask Strength at the demand of our local Oregon fans, and since then there has been huge interest from whiskey lovers both locally and globally for quality high proof options, so we’re looking forward to having Australians be able to try our Cask Strength.”

Westward Cask Strength is the brand’s fourth permanent expression and follows the original Westward American Single Malt, Westward American Single Malt Stout Cask and the Westward American Single Malt Pinot Noir Cask. The cask strength expression draws from the original single malt distillation but it's bottled at barrel strength of 62.5% ABV (125 proof). At Time for Whisk[e]y, we are as much a big fan of cask strength as we are of all other lower ABV expressions. It is said that the cask strength expression accentuates the malted barley and the effect of the newly charred American Oak Barrels.

To celebrate the launch of the Westward Single Malt Whiskey Cask Strength, a dinner was held at the nel restaurant in Sydney. Hosted by Margo Jamieson of Westward Whiskey, the dinner paired a whiskey infused menu paired with the four Westward expressions.

The star of the night was the Westward Cask Strength which was paired with the main course but the other three Westward expressions were paired amicably to the entree and dessert including a highlight for me which was the sticky toffee whiskey pudding with butterscotch dessert that was accompanied by Westward Single Malt Pinot Noir Cask as well the [gilbert] pinot noir from Orange, NSW, Australia.

So what did we think about the star of the event, the Westward Single Malt Whiskey Cask Strength..

Westward American Single Malt Cask Strength (62.5%, Oregon, Seattle, United States of AmericaA$170) 

The Westward American Single Malt Whiskey Cask Strength is the highlight of the four Westward expressions. It has built on the original Westward Single Malt and amplifies many of the Westward flavours from sweet desserts to spices that bring out the best in Westward. This new expression is a clear winner for me.

reflects toasted almond, graham cracker, and black pepper aromas. Flavours include sesame, tobacco leaf and cacao, with a honeyed, deep fiery malt finish. 

Nose: The nose is decadent and sweet with hints of marzipan, vanilla, and fresh-cut grass? caramel popcorn, strawberries and cream or rather a strawberry jam.

Palate: The palate balances the sweetness of a good cinnamon bun, vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch with spices, nutmeg and black pepper. There is dark chilli chocolate on the palate - perhaps the cask strength providing the lovely heat. 

Finish: The finish is long, with lingering spices and chocolate and vanilla remnants.

Rating: 92/100 

Thanks to Margo Jamieson of Westward Whiskey as well as Nicole Robertson from Agent 99 for having us as part of the Westward Single Malt Cask Strength launch.


Sunday, 27 March 2022

Old Master Spirits' 1970 51yo Maison Tribot Grande Champagne Cognac [Tasted #565]

I wrote back in August last year about new Australian independent bottler Old Master Spirits, founded by two whisky lovers focusing on bottling well-aged, unadulterated Cognac, highlighting smaller maisons and with a mission to:
"...find very old cognac exclusively for Australia, to bottle it in its raw form and save it from going to one of the big brand blenders such as Hennessy who would blend this with younger cognac, filter it, add wood flavouring and sugars and water it down to 40%"
At the time I tasted both their 63yo 1957 & 36yo 1984 Cognac and hugely enjoyed them both, so when co-founder Deni reached out and asked if I'd like to try their next release, a 51yo Grande Champagne Cognac from 1970, I wasn't about to say no...

The Cognac this time comes from Maison Tribot, in the heart of the Cognac region, Grande Champagne. Distilled in a traditional pot still by Fourth generation distiller Jean Michel Tribot, the spirit spent 51 years in French Oak in the maison's ancestral stone-walled cellar, and was the oldest stock from their cellar. 

With an ABV of 50.3%, no additives and full maturation in Oak (which might seem obvious, but this isn't the case for all old Cognac) this is clearly an "spirit enthusiast's" I was excited to dive into.

Old Master Spirits 1970 Grande Champagne Cognac Maison Tribot V.70 A.51 (50.3% ABV, 51yo, 1 of 120 (500mL) bottles, France, $365AUD (available early May 2022))
Colour: Rich firey amber.

Nose: Right up there's some instant fruitiness - mango, rockmelon and sweet orange, but there's also some menthol and mint, and after some time, the orange turns more to orange zest / marmalade. So far, so good!

Palate: Follows the nose well - but with more pineapple, papaya, rockmelon and peach. There's some gooey sweet caramel too, which plays in nicely with the fruitiness. Delicious.

Finish: Some black tea, but with none of the astringency you might expect after 51 years in oak. Slight oak hints, along with mango and barbecued pineapple.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Extremely well-balanced, and delicious as well. Another absolute winner from Old Master Spirits.

Maison Tribot (label inspiration)

Old Master Spirits 1970 Maison Tribot 51 year old Cognac will launch in the first week of May 2022 at RRP of $365 through Mailing list subscribers will have an opportunity for early access by subscribing at


Thursday, 10 March 2022

St Pat's Day Whiskies - Tullamore, The Whistler (PX I Love You), The Dubliner, Slane [Tasted: #562 - #564]

St Pat's Day on March 17 has always seen a global celebration of all things Irish and this year is no different. As we all emerge from our prolonged hibernation, we may be wondering what's the best way to celebrate St Pat's Day. Perhaps we might need to re-kindle ourselves with traditional Irish beverages  - Irish whiskies, beers or ciders.

Of the three, the choice is clear for us. Without a doubt, our pick would be Irish whiskies.

To showcase the goodness of Irish Whiskies ahead of St Pat's Day, we joined William Lavelle from the Irish Whiskey Association, Rosie Keane, the Irish Consul-General to Sydney and a number of Irish Whiskey Distillery Reps to explore four Irish Whiskies as part of the Discover (Irish) Whiskies campaign.

To kick off the session, we were (virtually) serenaded by Dan Elliott, an Irish singer-songwriter from Cork, Ireland who had managed to welcome us to the session. He did so rather well, given no whiskies had been drunk at that time and clearly not by Dan as it was pre-breakfast for him.

An interesting fact that was shared at the start of the session was the fact that Irish Whiskies are now growing significantly globally. It was also not lost to me that the session started with William sharing reminding us that Ireland is in fact where whiskey distilling first started and where whiskey got its name. Here we are in 2022 and Irish whiskies continue to be one of the world's fastest-growing categories with significant growth in both emerging markets such as Africa and other mature markets.

As with most Irish whiskies, they are traditionally distilled three times. A distillation process designed to isolate and remove the esters and other impurities. Also, similar to the Scotch, all Irish whiskey is, by law, matured for at least three years, though there are now various methods used by distillers to mature their whiskies. The Whistler (PX I Love You), for example, is initially matured in ex-bourbon casks but finished in ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for 9 months. Compare this to Slane, where after distillation, Slane matures their whiskies in 3 different barrels - virgin oak, seasoned Tennessee whiskey and Oloroso sherry before being blended.

The four Irish whiskies that we explored in the Discover (Irish) Whiskies session were Tullamore D.E.W, The Whistler (PX I Love You), The Dubliner and Slane.

Tullamore D.E.W (The Original)

Tullamore D.E.W just broke 18 million bottles last year, this follows the return of distillation back home in 2014. A tripled distilled and triple blended (single malt, single grain, single pot still) whisky, the original Tullamore D.E.W (DEW) is very fresh, grassy and clean. The palate is light to medium bodied with hints of apple and citrus on the palate and finish. It is quite light and fresh, an outcome of the triple distillation.

The Dubliner Bourbon Cask (40%, Dublin, IrelandA$47.95) 

The Dubliner distillery was opened in 2018 and is led by ex-Bushmills Master Distiller Daryl McNally. Their whiskies include the original Dubliner 10-Year-Old single malt, Whiskey & Honeycomb liqueur and a couple of beer cask matured whiskies.

There were actually two Dubliners we explored; the Bourbon Cask and a Whiskey & Honeycomb liqueur. I will go into the Bourbon Cask. 

Nose: The nose is light and crisp, there are apple and pear notes.

Palate: The palate is quite peppery at first but slowly opens up to the vanilla, honey and caramel notes. 

Finish: The finish is full of tannin but there are remnants of honey that is left behind.

Rating: 89/100 

Slane (40%, Boyne Valley, IrelandA$54.95) 

Slane Distillery was established by the Conyngham family, a family that is famously connected to the Slane Castle, located by the river Boyne. Brown Forman took over the Slane Distillery project in 2015 before ramping up production in 2018. It initially became popular in America but is now found widely abroad. 

NoseThe nose is light, smooth and creamy. There are apple, cereal and grain notes.

PalateThe palate is elegant, composed. There is vanilla and fudge on the palate with some pistachio in between. There is some heat but it is very much restrained.

Finish: Light, enjoyable and invites you to take another sip.

Rating: 90/100 

The Whistler "PX I Love You Single Malt Irish Whiskey" (46%, Boyne Valley, IrelandA$89.99) 


The Whistler P.X. I Love You Single Malt was one of the highlights of the four whiskies in the session. 

The distillery name is aptly named after Peter Cooney, not so much Peter himself but the notion of the whistling antic that Peter would do at the distillery. Peter Cooney, the co-founder and export director of Boann - the company that owns The Whistler would walk around the distillery all day - whistling. 

This particular bottling that we explored is a single malt Irish whiskey that is initially matured in ex-bourbon casks before being finished in ex-PX sherry casks for 9 months. The PX sherry and the influence this fortified wine’s casks had on the single malt Irish whiskey was excellent. The finishing in PX casks has given this particular whiskey, a lot of sherry influence. 

NoseThe sherry-cask finishing comes immediately to the nose. Lots of sweet cranberries, dried fruit, currants, citrus and port-like nose.

PalateThe palate is less sweet than the nose yet still quite fruity. There are dates, cranberries, and lots of vanilla coating the mouth and there is nuttiness and citrus as it lingers on.

Finish: The finish is relatively long and leaves a good drying heat.

Rating: 92/100 

As part of the Discover (Irish) Whiskies campaign, there are a number of articles that have been published- all centred around Irish Whiskies including a food pairing guide and Irish whiskey cocktails recipes. You can find those articles and guides here, Irish Whiskey - Depth and Diversity:



Thanks to the Irish Whiskey Association for having us as part of this campaign.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Glenmorangie "Year of the Tiger" 23 Year Old [Tasted #561]

In my tasting notes for the Glenmorangie Truffle Oak 26 Year Old last year, I mentioned how certain Glenmorangie releases tend to fly under the radar - marketed to existing private clients on a more personalised level, rather than having them plastered all over social media and the blogs. When you're talking about releases of <1000 bottles (often for not-insignificant sums of money) it's a perfectly sensible approach.

...but it does mean that those of us in the whisky blogosphere often don't get to experience them...except when we do! I was fortunate enough to try the Truffle Oak last year (it was incredible), and recently was equally lucky to try Glenmorangie's next limited release - "Year of the Tiger" 23yo. 

Distilled in 1998 (also Year of the Tiger), and aged in a “marriage of Bourbon and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks”, only 888 bottles were released at 46%. The (natural) colour looked pretty inviting, and with its PX credentials I was expecting a fairly sweet dram...but was I right? Let's find out...

Glenmorangie "Year of the Tiger" 23 Year Old (46% ABV, 23yo, Highlands, Scotland)

Colour: Burnished copper.

Nose: Rich demerara sugar and oranges - specifically flamed orange peel. Vietnamese coffee, toffee and hints of sweet spice.

Palate: Big PX hit initially - sweet and zesty, and hugely rich. There's maple, an earthy sweetness (think rich toffee fudge with streaks of dark chocolate throughout), super viscous, gooey caramel, nutty but still with that orange zest throughout.

Finish: Long, gooey caramel and residual sweet spices.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. A delicious Glenmo, but for my palate, not up there with Truffle Oak.


Friday, 4 February 2022

Tasted #560: Spiritus' 1983 Jean-Luc Pasquet Petite-Champagne 38yo Cognac

We don't feature a lot of Cognac on the site (what with being "Time for Whisky" and all..) but on the odd occasion we do, it's usually something pretty special - single caskindependently-bottled, etc... 

So upon hearing about Spiritus, a new Hong Kong-based independent bottler of Cognac, it's fair to say my interest was piqued - doubly so as the people behind Spiritus are known and well-respected members of the local whisky community.

Spiritus' first release saw them bottle a single cask Petite Champagne Cognac from Jean-Luc Pasquet, distilled in 1983 and bottled in Sept 2021 at 38 years old. Single cask Cognac from Jean-Luc Pasquet seems to be popular amongst whisky lovers, with Old Master Spirits (in Australia) and Wu Dram Clan (in Europe) also bottling casks I've written about recently. I enjoyed all of those, so was keen to see how this 1983 fared (especially being a birth vintage for me)!

Spiritus Jean Luc Pasquet Petite Champagne Cognac 1983-2021 (50.7% ABV, 38yo, France, $1,580HKD)
Colour: Deep orange copper.

Nose: Super fruity - peach, stewed pears, kiwi and strawberry. Some furniture polish, followed by freshly ground coffee and puff pastry (I mean, "croissants" would just seem too obvious right?)

Palate: Follows the nose but adds plums and white grapes, leather, and some oak but balanced nicely. Milk chocolate and a slight savoury note round things out.

Finish: Medium in length, with some residual tropical notes and earl grey tea towards the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. A fantastic first bottling!

A big thanks to Spiritus for the sample. If this is a taste of things to come, we can't wait to see what the future holds (and we shouldn't have to wait too long, as the next release has already been announced - this time a 1971 50yo Grand Champagne Cognac).


Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Mars Tsunuki Peated [Tasted #559]

Rounding out our look at just what Japanese whisky is these days, we come to the final whisky (for now) - Mars Tsunuki Peated. Mars is by no means a new entry into the world of Japanese whisky, but Tsunuki is,  having only started distilling in 2016.

Located in Kagoshima (on the site of a previous ageing warehouse), Tsunuki distillery was designed to provide some variety in the Mars whisky portfolio - a fact we first learned from the president of Mars (Kazuto Hombo) himself when he visited HK a few years ago.

So, we're talking about a ~3yo whisky (distilled 2016-2017, bottled 2020), said to be peated to between 20-50ppm. I enjoyed the first Tsunuki ("The First"), so was keen to see how it takes to a bit of peat...let's go:

Mars Tsunuki Peated Single Malt Japanese Whisky (52% ABV, 3yo, Kagoshima, Japan, $2,200HKD)
Colour: Bright yellow gold.

Nose: Initial campfire smoke, then waves of yellow and green fruit (peach, pear, green apples, rockmelon). Not tropical, but a distinct fruitiness - something I've found on a lot of these younger Mars releases, from both Shinshu and Tsunuki distilleries.

Palate: Less obviously peated, though there is some background smoke. Melon, peach, earthy subtly-smoked honey, and then (interestingly) some BBQ-smoked salmon!

Finish: Long, with notes of oak, slight smoke and a slight tannic note towards the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Not overly complex, but tasty and very drinkable.

Thanks again to AF Trade for the review bottles / samples, and for bringing all these proper Japanese whiskies into HK!


Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Akkeshi Kanro & Boshu Single Malt Japanese Whisky (& Usui blended whisky) [Tasted #556 - 558]

After a bit of a pause, we're continuing our look at what Japanese whisky is today, this time with a trio of releases from Akkeshi - namely the "Kanro" & "Boshu" single malts, and "Usui" blended whisky.

These releases (sold and distributed in Hong Kong by AFTrade) are numbers 1, 2 and 3 in what will eventually be a 24 bottle series, known as the "24-season series", representing the 24 divisions of the solar year. 

Construction of the Hokkaido-based Akkeshi began in 2015, with distillation starting from October 2016. With stills by Forsyths (5,000L wash still, 3,600L spirit still) and the use of Mizunara casks, the distillery fuses the best of Scotland and Japan to, in their words"create a whisky similar to Islay malts" - a departure from the typically lighter, unpeated Japanese whiskies we see today.

Following in the footsteps of some other new distilleries, Akkeshi released a few pre-whisky spirit bottlings to give people a taste of what was to come, under the "Foundations" range. I remember back in the day (when travel was possible) spotting and trying some of these at bars all over Japan - at 200mL and ~¥3,300 each, they were a cheap and accessible way to get an insight into the distillery's future whiskies.

Their first single malt whisky ("Sarorunkamuy") arrived in February 2020, and the series above followed. Let's dive in...

Akkeshi "Kanro" Single Malt Japanese Whisky (55% ABV, NAS, Hokkaido, Japan, no longer available)
Colour: Yellow golden sunset.

Nose: Slight cereal note, with citrus spice, subtle smoke, and big notes of paprika and sandalwood. Slight salinity.

Palate: There's obvious peat, but a lighter, sweeter, fruitier variety. Hints of strawberry and orange, sea salt air, strawberries & cream, and a little of that cereal from the nose.

Finish: Long, light peat and slight new oak notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Akkeshi "Boshu" Single Malt Japanese Whisky (55% ABV, NAS, Hokkaido, Japan, no longer available)
Colour: Light yellow gold.

Nose: Citrus, lemon peel, blueberry, chocolate strawberries and a slight salinity.

Palate: Soft, subtle floral wooded smoke. Oak, coconut and campfire notes.

Finish: Dark chocolate, slight oak bitterness, citrus peel.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Akkeshi "Usui" Blended Japanese Whisky (48% ABV, NAS, Hokkaido, Japan, no longer available)
Colour: Golden amber.

Nose: Burnt toast, cereal grains, milk chocolate powder.

Palate: Sweet and floral, with notable sandalwood, orange peel and hints of fresh oak. Sweet and robust, with caramel chews after some time.

Finish: Long, soft oak with a slight pepper spice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100.

Thanks to AFTrade for the samples of these whiskies. Whilst they're now all sold out, subsequent releases in the series are now available.


Monday, 27 December 2021

"Secret Speyside" launch dinner (Hong Kong) [Tasted #552 - 555]

Things have been a little quiet(er) on the Pernod Ricard whisky front in Hong Kong over the past few years, which is a shame as there had been some great releases and even better events from 2015-2018. Thankfully, that all seems to be over now, with an increasing focus on the HK market - a point punctuated by the recent local launch of the "Secret Speyside" range, a "carefully curated selection of 18–30-year-old whiskies from Speyside’s rarest distilleries: the vanished Caperdonich distillery, the pioneering Longmorn distillery, the landmark Glen Keith distillery and the remote Braes of Glenlivet distillery".

To celebrate the series' launch in Hong Kong, an intimate dinner was held at the recently-opened Ami / Woodear restaurant & bar in Landmark (who, sidenote, this blog was very happy to be able to convince to offer their amazing whisky selection by the half-dram recently). Hosted by Zachary Yu, the dinner paired Ami's modern French cuisine with four whiskies from the new range:

Aside from Longmorn, I'd only tasted the other distilleries as Indie Bottlings, so was keen to see how they fared as OBs (and doing so alongside four courses of Ami Executive Chef's Nicholas Boutin "fine bistronomie" cuisine was certainly a nice way to do it).

Zachary introduced the range, explaining it as a 15 bottle collection in total (each individually numbered and bottled at ABVs ranging from 43% to cask strength, with most in the 48% range), covering the four distilleries to show different sides of Scotland's Speyside region - from the Glen Keith's balanced sweet fruitiness, to the Longmorn's smooth toffee creaminess, to the Caperdonich's complex peat smoke.

With the whiskies introduced (and welcome Longmorn 18 Highballs consumed), it was time to dive in and try each whisky...

Secret Speyside Longmorn 18 Year Old (48% ABV, 18 Years Old, Speyside Scotland, $1,280HKD, £70.38 )
Nose: Fresh orchard fruit, most notably peaches.

Palate: Citrus zest and slightly earthy stone fruits. Orange cake topped with orange rind. A lesson in citrus - and lovely for it.

Finish: Long, oaked and sweet.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Paired with Chutoro tuna, egg & heirlom tomato brought out some sweeter notes in the whisky - quite a good pairing overall.

Secret Speyside Glen Keith 21 Year Old (43% ABV, 21 Years Old, Speyside Scotland, $1,480HKD£133.33 )
Nose: Vibrant pear & apple notes (green apples). Fresh, slightly floral. After time, an almond florentine nuttiness emerges to replace the fruitiness.

Palate: Quite complex - the apple notes have become richer, red apples, there's a slight saline note and noticeable viscosity. After time, aged pineapple rings emerge.

Finish: Long, smoked apple tart, with a cashew & almond nuttiness towards the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. With Langoustine, seaweed & duck foie gras the whisky's tropical/pineapple notes were ramped up, and chocolate orange notes emerged.


Secret Speyside Caperdonich 21 Year Old Peated (48% ABV, 21 Years Old, Speyside Scotland, $2,838HKD£200)

Nose: Noticeable fruity peat smoke. Smoked cherry pie. With time, strong notes of pineapple juice (just like I drank as a kid). 

Palate: Initially a meaty smoke, then cherry, strawberry notes emerge but the smoke remains underneath. Some orange rind comes out towards the end.

Finish: Long, berry smoke. 

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Wagyu beef cheeks, apple & sea urchin sauce complemented this nicely, with neither whisky nor dish significantly changing the other.

Secret Speyside Caperdonich 25 Year Old Peated (53% ABV, 25 Years Old, Speyside Scotland, $5,898HKD£404.17)
Nose: Beautifully floral, fragrant, subtle fruit smoke. With water, slight salinity.

Palate: The peat smoke is more noticeable than on the nose, but still soft and subtle. Apple, pear & peach comes through, and with water, some grape notes.

Finish: Long, savoury with subtle residual smoke. With water, the peat smoke is a little stronger.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. All up, an incredibly elegant dram. Whilst it paired well with the Guinea fowl & octopus dish, this is a dram to enjoy on its own, with/without a few drops of water as you prefer.


It's wonderful to see Pernod Ricard's single malts "back" in a big way in Hong Kong, and we can't wait to try the rest of the "Secret Speyside" range. If these four are anything to go by, there's a great deal of variety (and deliciousness) to enjoy - which is pretty great considering they're all from the same ubiquitous region of Scotland.

A big thanks to Pernod Richard Hong Kong, Asian Vibe & AMI/Woodear for the invitation & wonderful dinner.


Thursday, 18 November 2021

Benriach New Range [Tasted: #545 - #551]

Benriach has had a long history. It started off as Longmorn's sister plant in 1898 (four years following the establishment of Longmorn). Founded by the entrepreneurial John Duff, the Speyside distillery was then known as Longmorn No 2. Benriach's initial fate was fairly short-lived when it closed in 1900 and it wasn't until 65 years later that it began to distil whisky again. In the intervening years, Longmorn went through various cycles and though it officially bottled as a single malt, those releases were never as startling as Longmorn or Glen Grant.

In 2003, Benriach was once again mothballed. This time by Pernod Ricard and at the time, it looked like Benriach had jinxed its fate once again. However, this time was different, Benriach was bought in 2004 by a South African consortium, led by former Burn Stewart managing director, Billy Walker. Walker and his team launched a series of different malts including rich, heavily peated whiskies. Over the subsequent years, Walker grew Benriach into one of the most fascinating distilleries in Scotland which led Benriach to be known for carrying complex, spicy, and rather exciting quality on the palate.

Thanks to a long-standing tradition of distilling three styles of whisky; classic unpeated, Highland peated and triple distilled, together with an eclectic selection of casks from around the world, Benriach has been known to be able to explore different flavour possibilities of single malt.

This tradition continues today, under the guidance of Master Blender, Rachel Barrie and Rachel has been instrumental with Benriach's latest portfolio of single malts. The new portfolio of single malts and the new look is inspired by the distillery’s creative heritage and presents a rather diverse, versatile, fruit-laden style and a range of spectrum of whisky flavours that Benriach is known for.

On the new range, Benriach Master Blender, Dr Rachel Barrie said:

“The new range perfectly marries tradition and innovation that is central to Benriach’s story. Inspired by the 1994 bottling of the Original Ten, with its fruit-laden complexity and smooth, rounded taste, the new range re-imagines the 1898 origins of Benriach, brought to life in the 21st century through fusing distilling styles with extraordinary casks.

The new Benriach range is for those open to new possibilities, building on a wealth of experience and tradition. I invite the drinker to join me on this creative journey, as we explore the rich rewards of Single Malt whisky.” 

The core range is made up of four different expressions from a three cask maturation process

  • Benriach "The Original Ten"
  • Benriach "The Twelve"
  • Benriach "The Smoky Ten"
  • Benriach "The Smoky Twelve"

"In the new Original Ten, a more richly flavoured, rounded malt character might be discerned, whilst The Twelve balances richly sherried malt with added layers of fruit complexity, reaching a pinnacle at twelve years old.

The new Smoky Ten and Smoky Twelve explore the sweet smokiness of Benriach, enriched through innovative combinations of rum, virgin oak and marsala casks interwoven with more traditional bourbon and sherry." Barrie says

In addition to the core range, there are also three premium releases and two travel retail releases:
  • Benriach "Twenty One"
  • Benriach "Twenty Five"
  • Benriach "The Thirty"
  • Benriach "Quarter Cask" (Travel Retail)
  • Benriach "Smoky Quarter Cask" (Travel Retail - note the change from peated to smoky)

In addition to Benriach The Original Ten, the Core Range will feature a new recipe for Benriach’s richly sherried twelve-year-old whisky, including port and bourbon casks combined to add to the complexity. The sweet smoky whisky distilled in the distillery’s smoke season also features in the new Smoky Ten and Smoky Twelve Year Old expressions.

The premium set sees the Twenty One, Twenty Five and Thirty Year Old Single Malts that have been put together through a diverse selection of oak casks (four different casks in fact) to provide additional layouts of complexity and richness.

The new range offers something for everyone, in particular with the core range where there are two different takes of the 10yo and 12yo that offer both, classic Speyside style malts or a smoky variant. I particularly enjoyed both the Twelve expressions and found both to be rich, creamy and quite intriguing on both the nose and the palate. The premium range, with its four cask style, provide a very unique profile. Rachel Barrie has created a very balanced yet intriguing set of whiskies, in particular across the older age profiles.

The new range; the 10yo, 10yo Smoky and 12yo will roll out this month. The 12yo Smoky will be released after Christmas time. The premium range; the 21yo, 25yo and 30yo will not land on our shores until 2022.

Benriach "The Original Ten" (43%, Speyside, Scotland, A$85) 

Nose: The nose is rather fruity, there is apple, vanilla, sweet bread, maple syrup, sticky honey. It is quite fragrant and rich.

Palate: The palate is ladened with caramelised burnt sugar, nutmeg, nectarine or citrus, there are oranges and dry, peppery spices. There is a hint of smoke.

Finish: The finish is long and there is a level of soot and smoke

Rating: 91/100 

Benriach "The Smoky Ten" 10yo (46% ABV, 10 Year Old, Speyside, ScotlandA$95) 

Nose: The nose has apple, peat smoke, golden maple syrup covered pancake, pineapple, crumpet, honey. It is also quite creamy on the nose.

Palate: The palate follows the nose, it is creamy, viscous and smooth. There is sweet honey and the smoke is now weaning though it is still pleasant. There is caramel and some ginger spice.

Finish: The finish is long, there is the smoky campfire

Rating: 91/100 

Benriach "The Twelve" Triple Cask (46% ABV, 12 Year Old, Speyside, Scotland, A$97) 

Nose: The nose is filled with forest fruit, oak spices. It's peppery though balanced with some sweetness from raspberries and wild berries

Palate: The palate is rich, mouth-coating followed by some citrus and a mix of spiced elements; pepper, nutmeg, cherries

Finish: The finish is dry with some spices that remain

Rating: 93/100 

Benriach "The Smoky Twelve" (46% ABV, 12 Year Old, Speyside, Scotland, $TBC - available post Christmas 2021) 

Nose: The nose is filled with apple, vanilla waffles followed by a subtle bonfire smoke and cherries

Palate: The palate is creamy, viscous, round and mouthful. It's a very rich mouthfeel, almost like tasting chocolate. There is moreish smoke, some cocoa and burnt orange

Finish: The smoke gently disappears into pepper and spices

Rating: 93/100 

Benriach "The Twenty One" (46% ABV, 21-Year-Old, Speyside, Scotland$TBC - available in 2022) 

At twenty-one years old, Benriach takes on an elegant character, elevated by long maturation, four cask types and a combination of Benriach's unpeated and peated styles. The characters of aged bourbon, sherry, virgin oak and red wine casks intertwine to present a range of flavours.

Nose: The nose is filled with sour citrus, some fresh pine forest. Then there are gummi bear lollies, fruit, and berry fruits

Palate: There is more of those berries, citrus notes, some cocoa, peppery spice and rose water. The palate has a subtle smoke

Finish: There is a subtle smoke that remains

Rating: 93/100 

Benriach "The Twenty Five" (46% ABV, 25-Year-Old, Speyside, Scotland$TBC - available in 2022) 

A rich single malt, interwoven with mellow smoke and curation of oak. After twenty-five years, it is then enhanced by four cask maturation in sherry, bourbon, virgin oak and Madeira wine casks. An appealing dram for sherry lovers

Nose: smoked apricot, dark cherry chocolate, hazelnut toffee and a mixture of dark fruits, raisins and currants. 

Palate: baked fruit, toasted oak spice, orange and cinnamon spice, finishing with rich caramelised smoke. The peppery spice builds up from then on.

Finish: Long, oaky, the cinnamon and spices continue to linger for some time

Rating: 93/100 

Benriach "The Thirty" (46% ABV, 30-Year-Old, Speyside, Scotland$TBC - available in 2022) 

The final malt in the premium portfolio. This expression continues the four cask maturation tradition in sherry, bourbon, virgin oak and port casks. The final product offers a deep aromatic complexity in flavour. 

Nose: The nose is buttery, filled with vanilla, honey, citrus and dark fruits; plum, figs and raisins. Cinnamon doughnut anyone? There is nuttiness that follows with subtle smoke.

Palate: The buttery, honey prevails, so too is the cinnamon doughnut. There are more raisin notes, followed by orange, citrus that followed. Some intense spices start to build at the end.

Finish: The finish is subtle, long and sweet and leaves an oaky, smoke that remains for a while.

Rating: 93/100


Thanks to Brown Forman for providing us with samples from the new portfolio.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

The Macallan Harmony Collection "Rich Cacao" [Tasted #544]

The Macallan Hong Kong launched the first release in "The Harmony Collection" today, a new annual series filling the hole left by the "Edition" series, which came to an end with last year's Edition No.6.

The first release, "Rich Cacao", celebrates chocolate and sustainability through a collaboration with Jordi Roca, of famed Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca. The Roca brothers have been collaborating with The Macallan for several years now (long-time readers might remember our El Celler de Can Roca dinner in the grounds of The Macallan estate for the launch of the new distillery in 2018)), but this is the first major/global release of a whisky produced in collaboration with family.

The story goes that:

"The Macallan Whisky Maker Polly Logan embarked on a unique journey to Girona, Spain, where she immersed herself in the world of chocolate, exploring the chocolate-making process and uncovering the distinctive flavour profiles at Casa Cacao.

Polly worked with Jordi Roca, owner of the famed chocolate boutique and hotel, Casa Cacao and the youngest of the acclaimed Roca brothers. As part of the exploration, she also spent time with master chocolatier of Casa Cacao, Damien Allsop."
..and that on return to the distillery, Polly sought out both American and European oak Sherry casks displaying the most chocolate-like characteristics.

The packaging and labelling also presents a new direction for the distillery, with a much bigger focus on sustainability. The box is 100% recyclable, and both the box and labels are made from a mixture of fibres including cacao shell.

To celebrate the launch, The Macallan held a series of tastings at The Macallan Room in K11 Musea, paired with a local honey-infused chocolate from Vero Chocolates along with a cocoa-dusted orange wheel.

Both these pairings brought out varied and delicious notes in the whisky, but I was most interested to see how the whisky fared on its own, and to see just how chocolatey it really was..

The Macallan "The Harmony Collection" Rich Cacao (44% ABV, NAS, Speyside Scotland, $1,800HKD)
Colour: Amber gold.

Nose: Sweet ginger at first, then honey. There's that trademark sherried-Macallan note (I call it a slightly "flinty" note, but I wouldn't call it sulphur here) and some apricot after time.

Palate: Initially, a lot more ginger and spice than I expected. Cinnamon, orange, fruity spices and more ginger. Honey, sure, but not much chocolate (at first). After some time, dark chocolate and chocolate orange notes emerged, true to its name. 

Finish: Medium to long in length, with spiced honey and some cinnamon to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. A well-constructed Macallan, true to the notes listed on the box (cinnamon, dark chocolate, honey, dates, vanilla). To my palate, there was more ginger, honey and cinnamon than chocolate, but you could definitely taste the chocolate after time. I'm looking forward to seeing where this series goes with future releases (though with a starting point almost double the Macallan Edition 6, hopefully not too further in terms of price)! No word on the total number of bottles released.

The Macallan "The Harmony Collection" Rich Cacao is available from 22nd Nov for $1,800HKD. The pop-up experience at K11 Musea (5/F) runs until mid December.