Thursday, 26 May 2016

Tasting the Michel Couvreur Whisky range in Hong Kong (Tasted #298 - 308)

A few weeks ago we were treated to a tasting of the core lineup of Michel Couvreur whiskies, thanks to Natural Food & Beverage HK who have exclusive distribution rights in HK. That's eleven whiskies in total.

"Michel Couvreur?" you might ask, and understandably so. Hardly a household name, nor a widely available product, Michel Couvreur whisky does however have an interesting backstory and history, and a varied and unique line-up of whiskies.

If you're thinking it must be a French whisky, you'd be half-right. Michel Couvreur whisky starts life as Scottish New Make Spirit, but is then sent to Burgundy in France, where it enters oak (typically ex-Sherry casks), and undergoes maturation in an underground cellar. What other whisky can lay claim to that sort of lifecycle!?

The brainchild of a wine man (can you guess his name?), the MC lineup is a comprehensive one, with eleven whiskies on tasting during our session and even more available from time to time. From smooth, light, young and elegant Highland-style whiskies to big, robust, older Macallan-esque sherried whiskies, the lineup has something for everyone. 

The range was described to us as "whisky for wine people" and one look at the bottles certainly suggests that to be the case - with labels more akin to a Burgundy Red, wax tops and corks, if it wasn't for the shape of the bottle you could be forgiven for thinking these were French wines at first glance.

We unfortunately didn't take detailed tasting notes on each, but have given brief thoughts below:

Michel Couvreur "The Unique" Blended Scotch, 4yo, 44%: Bready and smooth, with slight hints of Chardonnay (no, really) and pears. This had a short but pleasant finish. 88/100.

Michel Couvreur "Clearach" 3yo, 43%: Spirity at first, turning to red berries and caramel, with an overarching sweetness. A short finish ends with smooth caramel. 90/100.

Michel Couvreur "Intravaganza" Single Malt, 3yo, 50%: Rich toffee and coffee notes, leading to a short, mocha-like finish. 91/100.

Michel Couvreur "Overaged Malt Whisky" Blended Malt, 12yo, 43%: Obvious sweet PX influence - light in palate but with a rich nuttiness on the finish. 91/100.

Michel Couvreur "Overaged Malt Whisky" Blended Malt, 12yo, 53%: Similar to the 43% bottling, but with more Christmas cake notes (sherry-soaked raisins, glace cherries). 91/100.

Michel Couvreur "Pale Single-Single" Single Cask, Single Malt, 12yo, 45%: A nicely perfumed nose with an earthy palate, but perhaps a little too "light" overall. 89/100.

Michel Couvreur "2005 x 2015" Single Malt, 10yo, 47%: Lots of trademark sherry notes (raisins, brazil nuts, toffee, berries), with slight hints of sulphur on the palate. 90/100.

Michel Couvreur "Candid Malt Whisky" Blended Malt, 8-9yo, 49%: Nutty and earthy with a nice long warming finish. 90/100.

Michel Couvreur "Special Vatting" Blended Malt, 12yo, 45%: Slightly perfumed, but with a big sherry nose and palate taking the fore - almonds, dates and prunes. A lovely palate. 92/100.

Michel Couvreur "Blossoming" Single Malt, 14-15yo, 45%: Reminiscent of a sherried Balvenie - not from of the regular lineup, but the single casks we've been lucky enough to try at the distillery (or when Sam Simmons came to town). Fruity, nutty and just very, very well made. The star of the line-up. 93/100.

Michel Couvreur "Very Sherried" 27yo Single Cask Single Malt, 27yo, 48%: Dark caramel-copper in colour, this dram had notes of rich toffee, hints of blackberries, and an aged-Glenfarclas like palate (which for us means confectionary - Cola bottle lollies), some Bannoffee pie and a long, long sweet finish. 92/100.

We'd tried one or two Michel Couvreur whiskies in the past, but it was a pleasure to try the entire core range in one sitting, and really explore the differences in these unique whiskies. We also love the fact that out of 11 whiskies, there were 8 different ABVs! Clearly the people running Michel Couvreur these days bottle their whisky based on "what's right for the whisky", not an arbitrary number.

Michel Couvreur whiskies are available in Hong Kong through Natural Food & Beverage HK and the few linked above are available worldwide through Master of Malt. We'd like to thank Natural F&B for having us as a guest in their office and for sharing the range with us.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

World Whisky Day 2016 at Malt Whisky Bar

As the world celebrated World Whisky Day, and many in Hong Kong celebrated at Tiffany's New York Bar's event (which we heard was excellent but sadly couldn't attend), we were celebrating in a more low key manner, with a few friends and a few bottles at the excellent Malt Whisky Bar - one of our Top Whisky Bars in Hong Kong.

Organised by good friend Eddie Nara, the premise was simple - kick off with a cocktail (a delicious take on the Whisky Sour made by Bar Manager Tico and his fantastic team, with Chivas Regal Brothers' Blend and a real piece of barley as garnish), then move onto the drams...and speaking of drams, it was an international assortment (very fitting for "World" Whisky Day), with whiskies from Japan, Scotland, America, Australia and even a "Hong Kong whisky" (more on that one in a future post).

With whisky fanatics and newbies alike, it was a great few hours trying different drams and exploring the different profiles of each. Personal highlights included a 1995 Batch 11 GlenDronach single cask (18yo) ex-PX Puncheon and a 2011 Lagavulin Cask-strength....not to mention this:

With Feis Ile also kicking off, Eddie thought it fitting to crack out a special dram - his as-yet unopened bottle of Caol Ila Feis Ile 2013. Matured for 12 years in refill butts, hogsheads and barrels, it was then vatted and given a few extra months in more active hogsheads, before being given the finishing touches in European oak. A trademark Caol Ila in our books, but a lovely one at that, with slight hints of walnuts and a few obvious citrus notes.

All up, a brilliant way to spend World Whisky Day.


Trading one of our "" Glencairns with one of Eddie's Barrel Concepts glasses.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Whisky Show Sydney 2016 review (Tasted #294 - 297)

Annually, coinciding with World Whisky Day on 21 May, renowned Sydney whisky shop World of Whisky host one of the three whisky shows for Sydney - dubbed simply "The Whisky Show". We attended the Friday session which was rather good as the session hadn't been fully sold out and as such the crowd was quite manageable (although we did miss out on the four masterclasses which were to be held on the Saturday; the Kavalan, Laphroaig, Paul John and Bourbon masterclasses).

Hosted at the same location as the previous two years; the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport (see our 2014 write-up here), though not the most convenient of locations, was large enough to accommodate a diverse range of distilleries and/or their distributors. Upon arrival, all guests were provided with a nosing glass and a bag containing a bottle of water and few nibblies. There were also a couple of water fountains placed along the centre of the exhibition room to allow rinsing of glasses and re-hydration.

As with previous years, 2016's show was well represented with a large range of brands (big and small) and various related exhibitors. Standouts included:

Ardbeg, Balvenie, BenRiach, Big Peat, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Connemara, Dalmore, Glendalough, Glendronach, Glenfiddich, Glenglassaugh, Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Glenrothes, Jura, Kavalan, Kininvie, Laphroaig, Makers Mark, Old Pulteney, Paul John, Springbank, Starward, Tomatin, Uber Bar Tools, Writer's Tears

On the night, we observed that there was quite a mix between the line-ups across the different brands, some showcased an extensive range of their expressions whilst others showcased a select few:
  • Starward focused on their two classic expressions; the Solera and the wine cask edition - though when asked nicely, Brand Ambassador Paul Slater was happy to bring out the ever-secretive Project X from behind the counter
  • Springbank brought their limited release 17yo sherry wood expression into the mix, along with a Longrow and the Hazelburn 12yo
  • Kininvie made its first appearance following its launch late last year with the Kininvie 17 and 23. The lovely Laura Hay was on the stand with Kininvie friends
  • Similar to Kininvie, Paul John also made its first appearance, presenting five unique expressions from its portfolio (and a single cask which was presented to us from behind the counter)
  • Bruichladdich put on a strong showing with two Octomore expressions; the 7.1 and 7.3. Phillip Mack of Dram Full represented Bruichladdich
  • BenRiach was manned by our friend WhiskNick, and the line up included the 12yo sherry, 15yo sauternes, 16yo, 17yo Septendecim and the newly released (and one of our favourites from the night), Cask Strength Batch 1
  • Tomatin showcased their range including few highlights; 14yo Port Casks and the ghostly Cù Bòcan
  • The Glenrothes brought the Peated Cask Reserve which was released late last year, together with the 1992 Vintage and 2001 Vintage releases
  • Disappointingly, GlenDronach only showcased the 12yo and there were no signs of the older core lineup, cask strength, or any of their single cask releases
  • The hype around the Kavalan Solist Amontillado must have sent the expression straight to the shelves with no samples available, though it was available for purchase at the show
  • Kavalan though did have the most expressions available, with a whopping eight expressions, including the Solist range and the King Car expression; and
  • Douglas Laing held the Indie bottler fort, showcasing a number of bottles from the "Old Particular" series including a Ben Nevis 14yo and a Glengoyne 17yo.

Here are some tasting notes for a few favourites of the night...

Springbank 17 Year Old Sherry Wood Whisky (52.3% ABV, 17yo, Campbeltown, Scotland, $290AUD)
A limited release from Springbank, fully matured in sherry oak casks and bottled at cask strength, this full bodied expression was quite enjoyable.

Colour: Rusted gold

Nose: The nose is filled with sweet cranberries, rich sticky date, moss and molasses.

Palate: The palate is clean and delightful with notes of berries, raisins and the sticky date from the earlier whiff. The palate is then slowly transformed with red chilli pepper and toffee notes.

Finish: Long with lingering peppermint spices.

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

BenRiach Cask Strength Batch 1 (52.3% ABV, 17yo, Campbeltown, Scotland, A$220 / £44.03)
The inaugural release of the Cask Strength series from BenRiach. This malty, creamy and delicate expression was one of our favourites of the night. Can't wait to see future Cask Strength releases from BenRiach.

Colour: Champagne

Nose: The nose is sweet, fruity and creamy, loads of  sweet burnt caramel and butterscotch, sticky date pudding.

Palate: Merry Christmas, though not in July. Oaky and spicy, where is that Christmas pudding? There are hints of cinnamon tart and cinnamon dusted creme brulee. The creamy mouthfeel is then followed by a lingering black pepper spice. 

Finish: Long, sweet and not too drying.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

Paul John Select Cask Classic (55.2% ABV, NAS, Goa, India, A$128 / £49.96)
A limited cask strength release from Paul John; the second Indian distiller to hit the Australian market after Amrut. This unpeated cask strength release had been aged for around 7 years in ex-bourbon barrels.

Colour: Gold with amber tinge

Nose: The nose has bourbon all over it. Almost smells like a good breakfast; fruity malty, oaty with notes of honey and sweet vanilla.

Palate: The malt continues on the palate; creamy, mellow and loads of honey with a layer of black pepper spices from the oak. The higher ABV balances the sweet, malty notes.

Finish: The finish is long and there remains a chewy oaky mouthfeel. A nice solid dram.

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

Paul John Single Barrel (58% ABV, NAS, Goa, India, not commercially available)
We were offered a sample of this Paul John Single Barrel following discussion of the general expression they had on offer. It is a preview of what is to come from Paul John, in the form of Single Barrel releases. This particular expression was aged in an ex-Jack Daniel's barrel for (presumably nine) years and bottled at cask strength. Overall, this was an excellent dram and we look forward to the official release of the expression.

Colour: Light amber

Nose: The nose is filled with loads sweet malt, honey and there's a strong hint of oak, almost resembling the smell of new wood lacquer.

Palate: The palate is deep, rich and presents a nice layer of vanilla tart. The tannic, citrus notes follow the sweetness and then there's some oak spice to finish. Similar to the Select Cask Classic, the higher alcohol ABV provides a layer complexity to this expression.

Finish: Long and lingering with plenty of oak and spice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

The Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve (40% ABV, NAS, Speyside, Scotland, $99.80NZD)
This newly released expression from The Glenrothes combines vatting from three vintage casks and finished in an Islay cask. This was a clean, elegant expression that packs a small hint of peat to balance. Interestingly the only online shop we could find selling it was based in NZ!

Colour: Pale straw

Nose: Malty, breakfast cereals; or rather breakfast whisky. There's no peat on the nose though the nose is fun with plenty of jolly lollies.

Palate: The palate is clean and very light, sweet molasses are evident and there is a gentle peat note that fades over time. A light layer of spice lingers.

Finish: Medium though there is a lingering malty sweetness.

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

As the clock hit eight o'clock, David Ligoff of World of Whisky rounded up the troops and called last drams. As we sign off, here are some more photos from the show:

The Sydney Whisky Show is on for this entire weekend. Whether you'll be at the show celebrating World Whisky Day or at home savouring your favourite dram, Happy #WorldWhiskyDay!


Saturday, 21 May 2016

The Glenlivet "Exclusive Whisky Party" (Hong Kong)

Pernod Ricard Hong Kong, in conjunction with the new Whisky Magazine Hong Kong & Macau (which you'll be hearing more about shortly) recently held an "Exclusive Whisky Party" at the recently-opened Seafood Room in Causeway Bay, with stunning views out over Hong Kong harbour.

Despite the name, the party was probably the busiest and most well-attended Hong Kong whisky Party we've attended (and we've been to plenty), with crowds filling almost every inch of Seafood Room's humungous 10,000 combined sq ft space. In one way though, the party was "exclusive", with guests being the first in Hong Kong to try the latest single cask offering - the 52.5% 16 year old "Bletherman". 

Unfortunately we couldn't make the earlier tasting session, and were only able to try it from a tumbler so we don't have detailed tasting notes, but what we did taste we liked - an incredibly rich dram, sherried but not overly so, with a delicious vanilla creaminess. Limited to 570 bottles, we suspect quite a few were gone by the end of the night.

With so many guests, you'd hope there'd be enough to keep everyone entertained...and the organisers didn't disappoint, with cocktails, cigars, a rooftop band performance, food stations (including some fantastic Jamón, but surprisingly little seafood), a choice of The Glenlivet drams (12, 15, 18, Single Cask "Bletherman" and Guardian's Chapter, which we helped select way back in 2013) and a whisky and tea pairing station, not to mention a photo station (where guests could have their photo taken and receive it instantly via e-mail and a few minutes later in printed form).

The highlight though was the game table, where guests tasted whiskies and nosed scents, and used tokens to guess the whisky / flavour. Winners at the end of the night walked away with a bottle of Glenlivet 12 Excellence and the Guardian's Chapter.

With the whisky flowing and everyone seemingly having a great time, the only downside of the night was when reality struck and we realised we had work the next morning...

Oh well, one more "Bletherman" for the road... (when it's gone, it's gone, right?)


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Upcoming Event: World Whisky Day 2016 at Tiffany's New York Bar (Hong Kong)

World Whisky Day is coming up again this Saturday, and Tiffany's New York Bar at the InterContinental Grand Stanford (featured in our list of Top Hong Kong Whisky Bars) are going all out in conjunction with Pernod Ricard HK, with a 5 hour celebration of whisky, cigars and food. As a bit of a teaser, they were also kind enough to give us this box...

No strangers to holding brilliant whisky events (their inaugural Hong Kong Whisky Festival earlier this year was an absolute smash hit), Tiffany's are planning the event as a mini-festival, with the following highlights:

  • Over 100 whiskies from all over the world at $50 or $80HKD/glass
  • "Meet the ambassadors"
  • Cigar corner
  • Outdoor garden lounge
  • Jazz performance
  • Welcome drink on arrival (Glenlivet 12yo or Chivas Whisky cocktail)

Entry is $120HKD and includes the welcome drink and an engraved Glencairn glass. Full details can be found here.

We've seen the list of drams and there are definitely some winners in there - plenty of favourites as well as some unusual drams that many may not have tried (or even heard of) - Slyrs single malt, Mars Komagatake Rindo and Amorik to name a few. There's also a list of (higher-priced) special drams, inlcluding Arran Smuggler's Series Vol.1, Kavalan Amontillado Sherry Cask, and two Michel Couvreur whiskies (whose range we recently tasted and will write about shortly).

So...what was in the box? A selection of 5 of Tiffany's famous home-finished whiskies, which are finished right in the middle of the bar, in a number of oak casks they have on display. As I write this, I'm enjoying the "Speyside Shiraz Finish" and it's beautiful - smooth and rounded, with some citrus notes and some big red berries, with a lovely toffee finish. No harsh oak or overt tannins either, as you might get with extra cask-finishing. Try them at the bar, and hopefully they release these sample boxes for sale soon.


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Maker's Mark Old Fashioned Week 2016

To celebrate a longstanding favourite whiskey cocktail; the Old Fashioned, Maker's Mark recently launched the inaugural 'Old Fashioned' week at Earl's Juke Joint in Newtown. Running in parallel with Sydney Fashion Week, the inaugural Old Fashioned week is all about showcasing the unique, versatile and glamorous nature of the Old Fashioned cocktail.

We attended the Old Fashioned Week launch event tonight at Earl's Juke Joint where Luke Hanzlicek; Premium Spirits Ambassador for Beam Suntory kicked off the celebration with a demonstration of how to best craft an Old Fashioned. Not to anyone's surprise, the base bourbon used was Maker's Mark.

Running between 12-20th May, 12 bars across Sydney will be participating in the week-long celebration and each bar will showcase their own style of Old Fashioned. At Earl's, the cocktails being showcased included an Old Fashioned, Mr Maker's (Ginger Beer, Bitters, Orange and Mint), Whisky Sour and Whiskey Apple.

The Wild Rover will also host a True Maker's event on the 18th May; a collaboration between Maker's Mark and Simon Anderson (competitive surfer) and Anthony Lister (painter and installation artist).

The 12 participating bars will be The Commons, Earl's Juke Joint, Papa Gede's, Ramblin' Rascal Tavern, Riley St Garage, The Roosevelt, Shirt Bar, Soda Factory, Stitch Bar, The Village Inn, The Whisky Room and The Wild Rover.

With the weather cooling, it's the perfect opportunity to drop by any of the venues above and sample different takes on the Old Fashioned cocktail.


Friday, 13 May 2016

Yamazaki "Limited Edition" 2016

There's already been one limited, highly sought-after 2016 Yamazaki this year (and we tasted it here), and now there's set to be another - the Yamazaki "Limited Edition" 2016 release.

Following in the footsteps of the 2014 and the 2015 Limited Editions (the former which is still not-terribly-difficult to find in Japan), this year's release is also an NAS, but sounds like it contains whisky from ex Sherry and Port cask(s), with some of the malt aged for over 20 years.

There are some more details here (if you can't read Japanese, you might need to make do with Google / Chrome auto-translation..). Unfortunately there's no information on how it will be made available yet (quite possibly via lottery like last year), but at 10,000yen, at least they're keeping it relatively accessible.

Let the hype commence!


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

"Now & Then" tasting with Charlie MacLean at the Hong Kong Whisky Festival 2016 (Tasted #288 - 293)

At the Hong Kong Whisky Festival back in February, we were incredibly fortunate to share a Balvenie lunch with Scotch whisky writer and industry legend Charlie MacLean. That wasn't our only whisky experience with Charlie, though. Straight after the lunch, we headed upstairs to one of the InterContinental Grand Stanford's function rooms (with sweeping views of Hong Kong Island across the harbour), for one of Charlie's famous "Now & Then" tastings.

"Now & Then" style tastings come in many forms, but usually involve examining whiskies of today against their counterparts from an era gone by. This tasting was no exception, with the focus on Speyside single malts, namely Glenlivet, Glen Grant and Cardhu. Specifically, these gems:

It's not often we get a chance to do such direct comparisons, but we've always found the opportunity to do so hugely enjoyable. This was no exception.

Charlie opened proceedings by explaining some of the background and history of each distillery, as well as some interesting insights that few would know (what Charlie doesn't know about Scotch whisky basically isn't worth knowing). Starting with Cardhu, Charlie talked of its "promotion" to a single malt product in 1968 (based on the success of William Grant & Son's Glenfiddich and others), and its subsequent yoyo-ing between being sold as a single malt and being reserved for blenders, before finally, its return as a single malt in 2006.

At that point we were all eager to dive into the first pair:

Cardhu 12 year old Highland Malt Scotch Whisky - 1970's (40% ABV, 12yo, Speyside, Scotland, £399)
Colour: Pale yellow gold
Nose: Hugely tropical (passionfruit, papaya, pineapple), with a hint of mustiness but also plenty of freshly cut grass. Sweaty socks. After 20 minutes, loads of creamy caramel.
Palate: Soft, musty, with a slight meatiness and sweet tropical vanilla notes.
Finish: Medium length, with vanilla sweetness to the very end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. I suspect age may have slightly impacted the nose and palate, but there was enough going on to give an idea of what it would have been like ~40 years ago.

Cardhu 12 year old - modern bottling (40% ABV, 12yo, Speyside, Scotland, $74.99AUD / $768HKD / £34.08)
Colour: Pale orange gold
Nose: Sweeter and with more caramel than the 70's bottling. There's still fruitiness, but berries and bananas this time.
Palate: Lighter, thinner, still very sweet, with a slight floral acidity and a touch of earthiness.
Finish: Longer than the 70's bottling, but a little less polished, with a little more alcohol burn.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. There were similarities between the two, but clear differences too (as you'd expect).

Next up was Glen Grant - a distillery whose standard OB releases of late I have to be honest, I haven't been hugely fond of. Charlie talked us through the distillery's strong Italian connection (which stretches further back than 2005's Gruppo Campari acquisition), it's position as number 1 single malt in the Italian market, and displayed his incredibly detailed knowledge with tidbits like the fact that in 1916 Glen Grant didn't add the alcohol proof to their labels.

Glen Grant 10 year old - 1970's (40% ABV, 10yo, Speyside, Scotland, £175)
Colour: Light yellow straw
Nose: Big tropical fruit bouquet - whole oranges, apricots, pears, peaches. A touch of candle wax too.
Palate: Waxy, meaty, with a slightly earthy smoke and hints of wet grass.
Finish: Medium, rich, smoky with a rich toffee finish at the very end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Glen Grant 10 year old - current bottling (40% ABV, 10yo, Speyside, Scotland, $61.99AUD / £29.89)
Colour: Pale straw
Nose: Strawberry cream and Iced Vovos. Hints of tropical fruit. Then some berries - Monte Carlo biscuits?
Palate: Thin, grainy and sugary-sweet. Not a whole lot to be impressed by.
Finish: Short, thin and bitter.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 86/100. Nice nose (initially), but a fairly disappointing palate and finish when compared to the 70's bottling.

With time running out and the small crowd eager to hear more about the whiskies in front of us, and their heritage, it was onto the final distillery of the day - The Glenlivet. Charlie being Charlie of course had a connection to the distillery - his first malt whisky tasting experience with with a school friend, whose dad just happened to own The Glenlivet Distillery at the time...

The Glenlivet 12 years old - 1970's (40% ABV, 12yo, Speyside, Scotland, £168)
Colour: Orange gold
Nose: Subtle ashy smoke (that was unexpected). BBQ-grilled pineapple, with a very slight mustiness.
Palate: A big robust oily mouthfeel gives way to smouldering smoke and BBQ'd meats. The nose implied this would be sweet, but it wasn't at all - instead rich smoked meats dominate.
Finish: Long, toasted oak, with as light earthiness.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Not quite what I'd expected, but enjoyable.

The Glenlivet 12 years old "Excellence" - current bottling (40% ABV, 12yo, Speyside, Scotland, $498HKD)
A more heavily sherried 12 year old release from The Glenlivet only available in four markets in Asia.
Colour: Yellow-orange gold.
Nose: Light, floral, fruity - peaches and pear slices.
Palate: Smooth but a little thin. The floral and fruity notes continue, with honey-drizzled pears and a touch of Brazil nuts.
Finish: Medium to long, with a sweet nuttiness - think sugar-coated almonds.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

To experience a masterclass like this, and compare 3 of today's single malts with their 40+ year old (and yet same-aged) counterparts was truly a fantastic experience. To do so with one of the absolute legends of the Scotch whisky industry was just incredible. To then have Charlie sit down and provide detailed notes on my own little single malt small cask maturation experiment was amazing, but more on that later....

Martin. would like to thank InterContinental Grand Stanford for the media ticket and invitation to the lunch and masterclass with Charlie MacLean. A round of applause needs to go to John and James too (they know who they are), for putting on such a fantastic show - a first-year effort, no less.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Whisky & Alement launch Japanese "Bar White Oak" pop-up in Melbourne

We've reviewed our fair share of bars on this blog, and have written about the best whisky bars in Hong Kong and best bars in Sydney before, but when it comes to whisky bars, depsite having visited some amazing ones all around the world, there's still one that ranks #1 in our books - Whisky & Alement, in Melbourne.

Is it the huge collection, the SMWS partnership, the convenient location, the great hours, and the awesome events? Sure, it's all of that, but most of all, for us, it's two things:

  • The awesome, awesome staff and owners (friendly, knowledgeable, just lovely, down to earth people); and
  • The variety of their collection. The owners and staff are true whisk(e)y fanatics, and it shows in their incredibly well thought-out selection. when we heard they were opening a pop-up bar focusing solely on Japanese whisky (dubbed "a 6 month Consumable Exhibition of Japanese Whisky"), we knew it was something to be excited about. Introducing, "Bar White Oak".

The full press release is below, but all you need to know is that there'll be ~150 Japanese whiskies, and it's open 7 days a week from 18 May, for 6 months, and you should get into it. Oh, and there's a Highball tap!
"Whisky and Alement owners, Julian White and Brooke Hayman have teamed up with Kelvin Low (formerly of Heirloom Restaurant) to create a pop-up bar that will serve Australia’s largest publicly available collection of Japanese whisky. The bar will serve up to 150 different Japanese whiskies including rare releases from the demolished Karuizawa distillery, unusual blends of the 1980’s and recent award winners such as the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 release.
Open 7 days from 18 May for a limited six-month period, Australia’s only bar solely dedicated to Japanese Whisky has been dubbed a “Consumable Exhibition” to honour the incredible history of Japanese whisky and how it came to carry the value and rarity of today. The bar will offer a rare chance to try Japanese whiskies of the late 20th Century at affordable prices before they become so rare and expensive that they’re reserved only for the cupboard’s of avid collectors.
To compliment Bar White Oak’s whisky selection, Whisky and Alement have built Australia’s first, permanent Whisky Highball tap (draught system) similar to those used in bars across Japan. A Highball is ordered as an “in the meantime” drink while everyone is looking at the menu, or to cleanse the palate between flavours as a refreshing, light alternative to beer.
Julian White and Kelvin Low will also be launching a series of Japanese Whisky Tastings during the six-month operation of Bar White Oak. Tastings planned include a Japanese Introductory Tasting, an Intermediate Japanese Tasting, and several different rare Japanese Whisky Tastings. White and Low both intend to add a light element to the events with a little Japanese humor. Dates are expected to be released in early May via the Whisky and Alement mailing list."

TRADING HOURS from 18 May 2016
Sunday & Monday – 4.30pm to 11pm
Tuesday to Friday – 4.30pm to 12.30am
Saturday – 7pm to 12.30am

LOCATED inside Whisky and Alement at 270 Russell Street, Melbourne VIC 3000


Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Tasted #287: Teeling Whiskey 15 year old "The Revival"

Teeling Whiskey Co, which we've talked about once or twice (ahem) on this blog before, and which launched in Hong Kong earlier this year, recently launched their new 15yo "The Revival" in Australia. Ahead of a (hopefully) soon Hong Kong launch, we were lucky enough to be given an advance preview tasting (along with some always-appreciated Teeling swag). It was also our first time christening our new Glencairn glasses!

Teeling Whiskey Co 15 year old "The Revival" (46% ABV, 15 years old, Dublin, Ireland, $159.99AUD / £83.78)
Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Sweet, but not one-dimensionally so. Citrus sweetness. Confectionary sweetness. Umm..carrot juice? Lots of carrots! Corn bread. After a few more goes, some vegetal notes, coconut and even some lemon. Something for everyone!

Palate: Smooth and viscous, and incredibly rich. Sweet demerara sugar, mollases, with an underlying meatiness and hints of sesame and toasted oak. It's intense, but never overwhelming. Very well put together. A hint of sherbert bon-bon lollies, grapefruit flesh, and green papaya.

Finish: Long with a hunt of smoke, a decent amount of oak, chamomile tea and some vegetable juice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Certainly a mixed bag of flavours, but all up very enjoyable.

Martin. would like to thank Teeling Whiskey Co for the sample.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Tasted #286: Glenmorangie Milsean

As mentioned back in March, Glenmorangie's Milsean recently launched in Australia, and we're now pleased to say it's also launched in Hong Kong. MHDHK were kind enough to send us this lovely gift pack recently, so we could bring you our thoughts on the latest Private Edition.

As with some previous Private Editions (including 2015's Tùsail and 2014's Companta, but unlike 2013's 19 year old Ealanta) the Milsean carries no age statement. What it does carry, though, is Dr Bill's signature of experimentation - this time in the form of finishing in re-toasted Portuguese red wine casks, from Portugal's Duoro Valley. 

With all his experimentation, it wouldn't be inaccurate to consider Dr Bill the "Willy Wonka" of the whisky industry, and never has that been more evident than in this new release. Just look at the packaging for starters...

Clearly we were going to be in for a sweet treat with this one...

Glenmorangie "Milsean" Private Edition (46% ABV, NAS, Highlands, Scotland, $1,130HKD / $159.10AUD / £75.95)
Colour: Copper-tinged gold.

Nose: Sherbert, candied orange peel, jelly babies (red ones) and Redskins. Yep, it's sweet alright.

Palate: Fruity, spicy and sweet, all at once. Citrus fruits, hints of ginger and Szechuan, and loads of confectionary sweetness. It's unmistakably a Glenmorangie, but adds Asian spices, Saffron, candied ginger, raisins, nectarines and rum-soaked pears as time goes on. There's a fair bit going on, but the underlying theme is definitely "sweet".

Finish: Medium to long length, with a tongue-tickling sherbert-like end to what is a sweet and enjoyable experience.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. This one definitely sits in the "dessert whisky" category.

Martin. would like to thank MHDHK and Why Not? Asia PR for the Milsean gift package. Glenmorangie Milsean is available in Hong Kong at city’super, Rare and Fine Wine, Brix Wine Cellar and Lillion Wine, and currently purchasers will receive a complimentary 75g box of candies from Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe when buying a bottle.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Islay Adventure (Tasted: #282 - 285)

When an offer to sample four different Islay bottlings was put up on Dram Full Sydney by Nicholas of whisknick, I jumped at the offer. In the line up were four bottles that Nick brought back from his Scotland trip, including:
  1. Port Charlotte Valinch Heavily Peated - a DIY bottling that is available to visitors of the Bruichladdich distillery
  2. Laphroaig 10 Original Cask Strength - this is the one expressions I've heard mentioned quite a few times, positively
  3. Bowmore Hand-Filled - filled with 17yo Bowmore whisky aged in a Bordeaux wine cask; and
  4. Ardbeg Perpetuum Distillery Reserve - having had the regular Perpetuum release on Ardbeg Day, it was good to compare the two. 
The night itself was unassuming, being hosted at Tokyo Bird, the local yakitory / whisky bar in downtown Sydney. It was a night about the four whiskies and the good company of other Dram Full Sydney members.

Port Charlotte Valinch Heavily Peated ex-Oloroso Sherry Cask (63.2% ABV, 10yo, bottle 348/680, Islay, Scotland, not commercially available)
One should get rather excited when presented with a bottle of Port Charlotte, or Octomore or Bruichladdich for that matter. Over the years, under the helm of recently retired Jim McEwan (who we met back in 2014), different expressions from the three Bruichladdich lines continued to impress drammers. This Port Charlotte 'Valinch' ex-Oloroso expression was no different - though being a DIY bottling range, sadly, one must return to Islay for a refill. So with the malt heavily peated, yes, complex and enjoyable, certainly.

Colour: Gold

Nose: The nose is filled with jamon, yes, Spanish Iberico jamon and caramel ice cream. The sherry and oak carries through on the whiff.

Palate: The palate is nice and complex and cask strength big. There's the big douse of peat, cherries, strawberries followed by a briny note and black pepper spices that come out at the end. 

Finish: Extremely long, peppery with a hint of brine. There's a slight oak in there too.

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

Bowmore 'Hand-Filled' - Bordeaux Cask (57.3% ABV, 17yo, Islay, Scotland, no longer commercially available)
I was excited to taste this special Bowmore and as with the Valinch, I knew that this might have been the only opportunity to taste this particular Bordeaux cask matured expression (unless of course, I make the trip to Islay). The use of a Bordeaux cask reflects the slightly different path this Bowmore takes when compared to its traditional lines. Similar to the recent release of the Mizunara Cask Finish last September (which Martin tasted here), it seems that Bowmore is in the midst of experimenting with different non-traditional casks over the past few years.

Colour: Almost cough syrupy; amber / red

Nose: The nose is sweet, vanilla, mascarpone and lemon cheesecake

Palate: The palate carries through the citrus 'tropical' note with plenty of lemon and lime on the first taste before becoming extremely peppery and mellowing out into a sweet cheesecake. I can't seem to pick up the light Bowmore peat, where has it disappeared to?! The age of this particular malt may shed some light on the whereabouts of the peat. The palate is exciting nevertheless.

Finish: Just like the PC Valinch, the finish on this is extremely long.

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

Laphroaig 10 'Original Cask Strength' (56.3% ABV, 10yo, Batch 007, Islay, Scotland, $1,880HKD)
One of the favourites from Laphroaig's core range - a cask strength play of its highest selling, ever-classic, Laphroaig 10. This was my pick of the four expressions on the night.

Colour: Copper

There are loads of Laphroaig peat notes on the nose, just like its classic brethren, this Laphroaig stands out as a Laphroaig. The salty, maritime, damp forest woody notes are heavily present on the nose. Though what I also found on the nose were a subtle layer of sweet strawberry and tropical fruits.

Palate: The higher ABV hits you quite strongly, followed by the strong maritime notes from the nose that are mixed with the peppery spices. The heavy Laphroaig peat note comes at the end, as combined with a hint of malty vanilla.

Finish: Extremely long and the peat smoke, along with the residual spices linger for some time and more.

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

Ardbeg Perpeetum - Distillery Reserve (49.2% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, no longer commercially available)
The Distillery Reserve of the Ardbeg Day release which saw a combination of bourbon and sherry cask-matured Ardbeg whiskies bottled at a slightly higher ABV of 49.2% (as opposed to the standard release ABV of 47.4%). As Martin confirmed with Dr Bill himself last year, the whisky in both bottlings is the same, with the exception of the higher ABV in the distillery reserve. 

Personally, between the two releases, I found the Distillery Reserve offers slightly more on the nose and on the palate. The longer finish also makes the Distillery Reserve that tad more enjoyable than the standard release.

Colour: Light brass

Nose: The nose is familiar to the standard release, with the added peanut brittle followed by hints of wet moss with hints of iodine, sea brine and oh, peat that comes through quite gently. I also noted a touch of wine gum as the peat settles.

Palate: The palate on the Distillery Reserve carries a slight sweeter overtone, I get cherries and berries. The touch of vanilla, blends with the sweet notes before opening up to the dark chocolate, brine and the light peat smoke. In comparison with the standard release, I quite like the Distillery Reserve release given the slightly altered and sweeter palate.

Finish: The finish is long, I feel that the finish continues on for some time (it might be due to the slightly higher ABV). Similar to the standard release, the finish is mouth-coating and sweet with light spices.

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

The night took all of us on a journey through Islay and with all the unique bottles, it was certainly one hell of a night. Thanks to Nicholas for organising.

Hendy (Sydney)