Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Tasted #500: Port Ellen 40yo 1979 "Prima & Ultima"

When I started this blog over 8 years ago, I didn't really know where it would lead, but it's fair to say I didn't expect that after all this time it would still be running with regular updates, spanning two countries and with two writers. I also didn't expect we'd ever see a 500th tasting post either, and yet here we are!

Over the years I've tried to keep the "100s" posts for special drams. #200 was a 60yo Glenfarclas#300 was a 65yo Macallan#400 was a 50yo OB Balvenie...and for this 500th post, I was fortunate enough to try a 40 Year Old Port Ellen from Diageo's recent "Prima & Ultima" range, which in some ways seems to have picked up the mantle from the Special Releases (themselves becoming a bit more accessible - no bad thing, mind you). 


You don't say no to a Port Ellen, and whilst they're not all deserving of the hype, this one bottled from a single refill European Oak Butt, and matured for 40 years from 1979-2019, certainly filled me with a lot of hope. Thankfully, my hope was justified.

Port Ellen 40yo 1979 "Prima & Ultima" (51.2% ABV, 40yo, OB, 1979-2019, Cask #6422, Islay)


Colour: Rich deep amber gold.

Nose: Lemons at first, then a grassy herbaceousness. A hint of mint? Subtle salty smoke, leading to seaweed and finally hints of an old cigar box.

Palate: The smoke comes through stronger on the palate - BBQ smoke, followed by orange wheels and an explosion of meatiness. Quite different to the much more subdued nose, this was chewy, viscous and "big". Dried fruits, chocolate, smoked seaweed all feature too.

Finish: Long, with sea salted peanuts, followed by charcuterie and a residual longing BBQ smoke at the end.

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

A humungous thanks to Kam of Dram Good Stuff for the taste of this. Whilst they don't currently have this bottle listed, they do have another OB 1979 40yo Port Ellen available if this one has whetted your appetite!


Friday, 13 November 2020

Macallan Edition No.6 Hong Kong Launch [Tasted #499]

The Macallan "Edition" series has become a pretty monumental one for the whisky collecting community. What started 6 years ago with a ~$700HKD release (which some instantly dismissed as just another NAS) has gone onto become a highly sought-after series, with Edition No.1 now fetching almost $13,000HKD at auction (more importantly though, it was a good whisky).

The events hosted by Edrington HK have been equally monumental too, in particular the Edition No.2 launch dinner at VEAEdition No.3 launch party with Roja Dove & Edition No.4 lunch to celebrate the new distillery (my luck ran out with Edition No.5 - I was out of town).

..and then just a few weeks ago, the party came to an end, with the launch of Edition No.6.

Celebrating the River Spey, which runs through the distillery estate and serves as the water source for all Macallan whisky, Edition No.6 was launched in HK at a series of lunches and dinners held at K11 Musea. Hosted by the ever-knowledgable Patricia Byott (Brand Ambassador for The Macallan HK and Macau), the aquatic-themed room saw diners at appropriately socially-distanced tables enjoy a 4 course meal paired with, for a change, three cocktails (all made with Edition No.6), followed by a neat serving of Edition No.6. 

With dishes including Scallop, Sea Bass and Crab, there was a clear theme to the event, which was further emphasised when the neat drams of Edition No.6 were handed out, and the curtains opened to reveal a fishing set up on the "banks" of Victoria Harbour.


As per tradition, The Macallan give a little more detail on the box for Edition No.6 than most of their core range, so we know that this release is comprised of a number of cask styles including:
  • American Oak Tevasa butts
  • Euopean Oak JMM hogsheads
  • European Oak Tevasa butts and hogsheads
  • European and American Oak refill butts; and
  • American Oak Vasyma butts
(Butts make up 74% of the whisky, hogsheads the other 26%)

Bottled at 48.6% ABV, the whisky retails for $1,103HKD and is available now. Whilst the exact outturn isn't known, with 393 casks in the vatting, this release seems to be a bit smaller than the previous releases, with the exception of Edition No.1 and perhaps No.2. If you're thinking of grabbing one, probably best to do so sooner rather than later.


The Macallan Edition No.6 (48.6% ABV, NAS, Speyside, $1,103HKD)


Colour: Caramel gold.

Nose: Ginger, orange, notes of oak, raisins and dark chocolate. So far, so good!

Palate: Rich creamy caramel, then spicy orange zest and vanilla cream. Toffee and cinnamon, then a bit more ginger.

Finish: Long, and "robustly sherried" - cigar box, earth-imbued oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Happily, a fantastic end to the series - on par with #1, which was probably my favourite of the series (though now they've all been released, I would like to do a side-by-side comparison of all of them!)


Monday, 9 November 2020

Tasted #498: Port Askaig 2001 Specially Bottled for Whiskies & More

One of the benefits, I imagine, of being an importer/distributor of some of the world's best-loved Independent Bottlings is that when you want to release a special bottling to celebrate an anniversary or similar, you have a few friends you can call on.

That's been particularly evident with HK-based Whiskies & More (Timeless & Tasty) who represent brands such as Asta Morris, Port Askaig, WM Cadenhead, Hidden Spirits, Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland, A.D. Rattray and Blackadder, and over the years have released special bottlings specifically for their anniversaries and HK whisky events (like this Glenlossie 10yo bottled for HK Whisky Festival).

With their 4th Anniversary just past, a special bottling was called for, and that call was answered in the form of this beautiful Port Askaig 2001, bottled after 17 years in a sherry butt at a respectable 53.4% ABV.

Many readers will probably know that a lot of Port Askaig (a brand under Elixir Distillers, part of The Whisky Exchange family) is actually Caol Ila...but not always. This represents the "other" side of Port Askaig..and I believe to be from the same distillery as the 45 Year Old (hint: like this release, their whisky is often unpeated. Further hint: Check the labels on this post...).

Whiskies & More were kind enough to send through a sample recently...and let's face it - you don't say no to a single cask 17yo Islay whisky fully matured in a sherry butt, right?

Port Askaig 2001 Specially Bottled for Whiskies & More (53.4% ABV, 17yo, Islay, $1,880HKD)


Colour: Deep copper orange.

Nose: Clean, sweet candied walnuts, glacé cherries, rasins and some leather. With a few drops of water, a but more nutty, a bit more perfumed.

Palate: Sweet, viscous and intense. Hints of mango and peach, then a nuttiness (almonds, walnuts), and slight hints of spice.

Finish: Long, very creamy with some sweet fruity spice lingering right to the end.

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


Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Highland Park Cask Strength - Hong Kong launch [Tasted #495 - 497]

It's been a "long time between drinks" when it comes to whisky events in HK (for obvious reasons, of course). With the COVID caseloads being relatively low for the past month or so however, it's been nice to see a new style of launch event able to emerge - smaller gatherings with appropriate social distancing. Wasting no time in this space was Edrington HK, who recently launched the new Highland Park Cask Strength with a series of small tastings held in a suite at Rosewood Hong Kong, overlooking Victoria Harbour.

Building on the success of the Single Cask series (of which there have been a few for Hong Kong), the new Cask Strength sees the whisky bottled without any dilution, and is set to be a part of the core lineup, albeit in various batches - this being Release 1.

Whisky maker Gordon Motion (whom we met back in August last year in Taipei) created the whisky from "predominantly sherry seasoned American oak casks of different ages" and judging by not just my notes, but those of others in the room, some of those casks must have had a reasonable amount of age. Highland Park are deliberately inviting whisky drinkers to "choose their strength" with this release, and with 63.3% ABV on tap, there's plenty of room for experimentation.

Our tasting was accompanied by some perfectly-matched canapés, along with the 12yo and 21yo for good measure...but really it was the Cask Strength everyone was most keen to try.

Highland Park Cask Strength Release 1 (63.3% ABV, NAS, Orkney, $625HKD, £54.75) 


Colour: Vibrant yellow gold.

Nose: Sweet at first (although as our ever-helpful host Ron Taylor taught us, you can't actually "smell" sweet) - boiled lollies, desiccated coconut, pears. No prickliness, despite the high ABV and what I'd wrongly assumed would be a relatively young age.

Palate: Big and mouth-coating as you'd expect - ginger, orange, then a slightly earthen smokiness emerges, but surprisingly approachable. "Big", but not "brash". I'd honestly have no hesitation giving this to a whisky newcomer! There's some toffee too. With a few drops of water, a meatiness appears, the smoke intensifies slightly, and there's citrus (orange) that becomes evident.

Finish: Follows the palate with incredible length.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. "Big", but not at all harsh - much more approachable, and much more mature than I'd expected. A very good dram, especially for $625HKD.

Highland Park 12 Year Old (40% ABV, 12yo, Orkney, $490HKD, £29.95) 


Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Floral spice, honey, wafts of earthy-smoke and candied ginger.

Palate: Vanilla, ginger spice, whole oranges and that same earthy smoke, but with floral hints.

Finish: Medium in length, with hints of caramel towards the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Still a solid dram, as it's always been over the years.

Highland Park 21 Year Old (2019 Edition) (46% ABV, 21yo, Orkney, $2,300HKD, £209.95) 


Colour: Orange-brown gold.

Nose: Paprika spice, gingerbread, sea-salted smoke.

Palate: Complex - sweet and savoury, with BBQ smoke, orange chocolate, salted caramel and dry rub.

Finish: Orange chocolate, coconut, medium to long in length.

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

I'll admit that going into the event, I expected the Cask Strength to be a little on the young, and possibly harsher side (especially given the 63.3% ABV), but it's not at all. Here's a rare cask strength whisky from a respected distillery which is available, good value, approachable, and delicious. That's a lot of boxes ticked in my opinion!

Highland Park Cask Strength is available now across UK and HK retailers.


Friday, 30 October 2020

Tasting The Last Drop Distillers 56 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky [Tasted #494]

The Last Drop is not a bottler who could be accused of rushing bottles to market. Since their inception, they've only released 18 spirits (and two Ports...including this one at a spritely 148 years old), all of them seriously old. I've been lucky enough to taste a few of their previous releases, including a 50yo Blend and 70yo Cognac, and they've all been fantastic.

That theme continued recently, when a sample of their latest Blended Scotch Whisky, a 56 Year Old (release XVI) landed on the doorstep at TimeforWhisky HQ - along with 7(!) samples of 1960s Glenrothes casks, to be covered in a future post.

Only four barrels make up the blend, containing over 60% malt content. After nearly 20 years in sherry butts, the casks saw a long "finish" in ex-Bourbon casks. Talk about doing things in reverse - a Bourbon "finish" which goes for longer than the initial maturation?!

It works, though. 

732 bottles were released (along with the customary 50mL sample bottles that accompany most Last Drop releases), at £3,750.

The Last Drop 56 Year Old Blended Scotch (47.2% ABV, 56yo, Scotch Blend, £3,750
Colour: Golden amber.

Nose: An initial fruity, floral bouquet (oranges, pears, raspberry, followed by pot pourri) gives way to hints of paprika, pineapple, and ultimately rich, deep cigar / cedar notes from an old cigar box. Fantastic.

Palate: Big and zesty, flamed orange peel first, then a slight meatiness followed by a vanilla sweetness. There's oak throughout, but it's muted. Honey-drizzled oat cakes round things out nicely.

Finish: Oak tannins start to emerge (but again, well-balanced) along with orange blossom water and a slightly spiced vanilla note at the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Not quite reaching the dizzying heights of the brand's 50 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky (tasted here, rated 95) which, still to this day, is the best blended Scotch I've tried, but excellent nonetheless. We're talking about blends that count few others as peers, here. Top stuff indeed.

That makes 3 blends we've tried from The Last Drop now - all of them absolutely stunning. With Colin Scott recently joining the company as Master Blender, we can't wait to see what the future holds...

...but actually, we know what the immediate future holds, as The Last Drop have just announced threw new limited editions:

  • Release no 19: The 1980 Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whiskey. 240 bottles worldwide, £3,500 ex-VAT
  • Release no 20: The 1976 “Overproof” Jamaica Rum. 183 bottles worldwide, £2,600 ex-VAT
  • Release no 21: The 1959 Vintage Grande Champagne Cognac. 21(!) bottles worldwide, POA.

Rebecca Jago, Managing Director of The Last Drop Distillers notes: “This is a very special autumn for us: it is an opportunity to showcase a trilogy of superb releases that demonstrate our unique cross category approach. We are particularly excited to present our first ever Rum: this is a spirit we have long hoped to find, but we have been disappointed until now. Each of these spirits is a small marvel of its kind, just waiting to be savoured by those seeking the truly remarkable."

An exciting time for the brand, and a no-doubt even more exciting future with Colin on-board.


Wednesday, 21 October 2020

A very personal experience with the new Rosebank 30 Year Old "Release 1" [Tasted #493]

The launch of a new 30yo Scotch whisky would generally be exciting enough on its own. An OB from a closed distillery, even more so. The launch of the new Rosebank 30 Year Old 1990 however was a particular special experience for me, as I was fortunate enough to be one of only 6 people around the world chosen to be part of the launch video, sharing the screen with noted spirits journalists such as Alice Lascelles (FT)Felipe Schrieberg (Forbes) and Mamoru Tsuchiya (Head of the Japan Whisky Research Centre).

Joining some of the world's most authoritative sources on whisky and spirits was pretty special, as was the whole experience of filming the video (eagle-eyed Hong Kong readers might recognise the setting as Tiffany's New York Bar, a favourite of mine), but the real treat was being able to taste the whisky months before the official release. The hard part, of course, was not being able to talk about it until today!

The first in a series of annual, limited releases, Rosebank 30 Year Old 1990 Vintage has been bottled un-chill filtered at 48.6% ABV, from casks laid down in 1990 (62% refill sherry butts, 38% refill Bourbon hogsheads) - just a few years before the distillery closed in 1993. These bottles will be marked "Release One", with each year seeing a new release leading up to the first "new" Rosebank spirit to run from the stills, now that Ian Macleod Distillers has taken over Rosebank and plan to re-open the distillery.

4,350 bottles are available, with a retail price of £1,600. As a fun way to engage buyers, Rosebank is also giving the first 200 people to scan the QR code on the neck collar of their Release One bottle the the opportunity to enjoy a dram of Release Two, and the chance to receive an early link to purchase Release Two before the general release. 

So...how does it taste?

Rosebank 30 Year Old "Release One" (48.6% ABV, 30yo, Lowlands, £1,600) 
Colour: Bright yellow gold.

Nose: Big, rich, and lively. Orchard fruits, green apple, slight hints of mango and peach (baked peach pie), almonds, vanilla, and nectarine.

Palate: The fruit really dominates - it's not tropical, more orchard, with peach, apricot, pear, and undertones of vanilla. My mum used to make a fruit compote for Christmas, with sherry-soaked pears, apricots, nectarines etc.. and this 100% took me back to those Christmases. Has some slight oak undertones, but very balanced.

Finish: Long, lingering orange peel and a slight hint of oak at the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Delicious. A whisky that really brought back some memories.

A huge thanks to Ian Macleod Distillers and Wire (and especially Vicky) for the chance to be part of this awesome launch.


Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Tasting the new Double Cask range at The Macallan Room Hong Kong [Tasted #490 - 492]

If you make your way to Level 5 of the incredible K11 Musea shopping centre, you might find a small piece of Speyside, in the form of the new "Macallan Room" - a permanent space next to Liquid Gold which serves as a showcase for the brand, and event space for product launches.

A relatively cosy space (ideal for holding COVID-compliant gatherings at the moment), the space boasts a marble bar overshadowed by a wall (or perhaps wave) of Macallan bottles, with rare Macallans lining most walls, including a Macallan 72yo Genesis Decanter, Exceptional Single Casks (available for purchase from Liquid Gold next door, albeit not at original retail pricing) and Fine & Rare releases

Outside the room sits a more temporary exhibit currently, hosting "The Macallan Extraordinary Wood Journey Exhibition", using photography from Steve McCurry to tell the story of oak (and subsequent casks) that make up the new Double Cask range.

Double Cask is a whisky we first met back in 2016, although at the time the range comprised a single 12yo expression. Fast forward to 2020 however, and the range has been expanded with the addition of both 15 and 18 year old expressions. Both still 100% sherry maturation, but (like the 12 year old), from a 50:50 mixture of American and European Oak sherry casks (the better-known "Sherry Oak" Macallan range uses European Oak exclusively).

As nice as the new Macallan Room was, we weren't there just to see the space, with Edrington kindly arranging a tasting of the new Double Cask Range - 12 Year Old, 15 Year Old and 18 Year Old, expertly led by The Macallan Brand Ambassador Patricia Byott.

The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask (40% ABV, 12yo, Speyside, Scotland, $500HKD$105AUD / £51.95)
Colour: Yellow-honey gold.

Nose: Vanilla, honey and dried orange peel. It's clearly from sherry, and has trademark Macallan notes, but (as I found back in 2016), a bit more fruity and less intense than the Sherry Oak 12yo.

Palate: Still more honey and vanilla, with some oak spice and ginger tea.

Finish: Medium in length with a warming ginger note.

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

The Macallan 15 Year Old Double Cask (43% ABV, 15yo, Speyside, Scotland, $1,150HKD / $199AUD / £90.95)
Colour: Maple gold.

Nose: The European Oak has started to work some of its magic here. There's still orange, but the honey has become toffee, and there are some sultana and demerara notes too.

Palate: From the same family as the 12yo, but with more wood spice and dried fruits - sultanas, sweet raisins and pot pourri.

Finish: Long, with lingering dried fruit mix and woodspice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. The "sweet spot" in the range, if you ask me.

The Macallan 18 Year Old Double Cask (43% ABV, 18yo, Speyside, Scotland, $2,200HKD / $499AUD / £249.95)
Colour: Copper gold.

Nose: Toffee and sultanas, but the orange has become grapefruit, and there's a noticeable Brazil nut quality coming through.

Palate: Less sweet than the 15, with more dried fruit mix, almonds and Brazil nutes, but also bitter dark chocolate (yum) and more grapefruit.

Finish: The longest of the three, with some oak tannins starting to show at the very end.

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

The Macallan Double Cask range is available in Hong Kong now (with pretty keen pricing from Dram Good Stuff I've noticed - certainly better than Watsons and the like). Those wanting to visit The Macallan Room or the exhibit can find the details below:

The Macallan Room
To immerse, discover and savour The Macallan 
Address: Shop 507, Level 5, K11 Musea, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsimshatsui
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday 10am – 10pm 
Contact No: (852) 5988 0777
Steven McCurry - The Macallan Extraordinary Wood Journey Exhibition
Address: Level 5, K11 Musea, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsimshatsui
Exhibition period: 22 September 2020 to 10 October 2020
Time: 10am – 10pm. 


Monday, 14 September 2020

Tasted #489: Chief's Son The Tanist

When I received a note on a new release from the Chief’s Son distillery based in Mornington Peninsula; an area south-east of Melbourne - I jumped at the occasion. Partly due to the fact that I wanted to find out more about the distillery. Aptly named after the Scottish Gaelic expression of Mhic an Tòisich which means 'Son of the Chief,' the distillery was named after the surname of Chief's Son Distillery's founders Stuart and Naomi's McIntosh.

When Stuart and Naomi founded the distillery in 2013, they wanted to build on their story of chance, risk and passion and history, love and family. Stuart and Naomi have wanted to build on the honour that was awarded to their family 900 years ago for their ongoing loyalty to the Chiefs of Alba (Kings of Scotland). After three years of test bed success, the first commercial batch of single malt whisky was distilled at the current Somerville location.

The McIntosh are passionate about loyalty, the intergenerational, the meaning of their name and the passing of the love of whisky from generation to generation.

At the heart of their whisky making story is their single electric powered 4,000 litre copper open neck pot still. This pot still can be seen standing tall behind Stuart and Naomi in the photo above. Not only is having an electric powered still a unique arrangement, but their positioning of the lyne arm is also interesting. The lyne arm that connects the head of the still to the condensing system is downward facing. This generally results in less reflux and encourages carryover where more of the heavy oils flow down towards the condenser. A larger proportion of the oils, flavours and aromas flow into the final spirit, helping to create a heavier but more nutty spirit - creating their unique style.

Chief's Son uses a range of malt across their core range including peated malt, darker specialty malt (chocolate malt) in addition to the base distillers' malt. Their core range series include three different styles with the '900 Standard' imparting a mix between base and specialty malt (including a small percentage of peated malt), the ‘900 Pure Malt’ switches out the peat for darker specialty malt and their ‘900 Sweet Peat‘, leverages a higher percentage of their peated malt. Maturation of their whiskies is done through the use of ex-fortified wine French oak barrels.

But we are here for Chief's Son new release, the Tanist. Stuart and Naomi wanted to introduce the Tanist into their core range to create a whisky with a broad taste profile and at a reasonable price point. Stuart wanted a whisky that has a soft, approachable, big and balanced flavours. One that has less of the rich, robust characteristics of their core and specialty range. The Tanist is formed through the use of combination of whiskies that have been matured in both ex-fortified French oak barrels and American oak ex-bourbon barrels. The Tanist is a double wooded whisky that uses a mash bill composed of of their specialty pale malt and a bit of their peated malt. Bottled at 43% ABV and sold at $115, it is a rather attractive proposition for an Australian whisky.

So how does the Tanist fare:

Chief's Son The Tanist (43% ABV, NAS, Mornington Peninsula, Australia, A$115)

Colour: Amber/Copper

Nose: The nose is fragrant, floral and riddled with apple stew, a mix of toffee, vanilla, sweet honey, lemon custard and some burnt orange and cinnamon.

Palate: The palate is soft and floral. Orange cake and honey are quite prominent followed by a mix of spices; cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and toffee.

Finish: The finish is relatively long with caramelised toffee flavour and lots of tannins.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. This is a rather welcoming whisky that you can come back to as an everyday dram, it’s flavour packed yet does not hit you with any extremities. It does remind me of Starward’s Two Fold and their broad based flavour profile. I will do a comparison with their 900 Pure Malt and 900 Standard as well in a separate post to see if the Tanist does contrast from Chief’s Son punchier core range.

The Tanist is now available from the Chief’s Son Distillery door, online on their web store and through selected retailers.


Thanks to Chief's Son for providing the sample.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Black Tot Rum on Black Tot Day (Tasted #488)

It was a dark day for many on 31st July 1970, when 200 years of tradition came to an end as the last daily rum ration (or "daily tot") was handed out to British Royal Naval sailors. In time however, the day has grown to become a celebration of all things rum, and big things were planned this year, when 31st July 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of the day known as "Black Tot Day".

In Hong Kong, the day was to be celebrated in a big way with Timeless & Tasty (official distributors of Black Tot Rum) at the newly-opened Central rum bar The Daily Tot, but unfortunately a third wave of COVID-19 put an end to those plans. Luckily, Black Tot Rum had an alternative, in the form of an epic, non-stop 24 hour online rum festival, featuring rum ambassadors, independent bottlers, formal naval officers and even Sukhinder Singh

To prepare for the event, Timeless & Tasty offered this pack containing component rums from Barbados, Guyana & Jamaica, along with a sample of Black Tot Rum, a blended Caribbean rum from The Whisky Exchange.

"But this is a whisky blog, Martin!" you may be thinking, and you'd be right....but I've never been averse to the odd "malternative" brown spirit being featured occasionally, especially when that brown spirit is rum. Personally, I find rum a delicious spirit, fascinatingly varied, and a category which (thanks to efforts like The Whisky Exchange's focus on categorisation) will likely start to gain the legitimacy and respect already commanded by other categories (e.g. whisky) in the years to come.

The aforementioned pack from Timeless & Tasty was a great way to delve into some rum geekery and explore the different styles and regions which make up the category, especially when enjoyed alongside the following online session (as part of the 24 hour online celebration), conveniently held at 7pm HKT!

with Global Rum Ambassadors - Miguel Smith (Mount Gay), Christelle Harris (Hampden Estate), Daniyel Jones (Angostura), & Benjamin Boothe (Tamosi)

The hour-long session involved an overview of  Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica (from where the rums within Black Tot originated), insights into what makes their spirit production / style unique, thoughts on the future of rum, and for those lucky enough to have the corresponding sample pack, a tasting!

My favourite of the components was Barbados, followed by one of the Guyanan rums (not a surprise given I usually love El Dorado rum, which comes from Guyana), but it was the final Blended product itself I was most excited to try....

Black Tot Finest Caribbean Rum (46.2% ABV, NAS, Blended rum, $660HKD)
Colour: Copper gold

Nose: Grilled pineapple, acetone and glazed honey on the BBQ. There's a meatiness, and a slight hint hint of petrol (in a good way - in the way it really "works" on say a Caroni), along with some vanilla

Palate: Lots of grilled pineapple, BBQ smoke, banana fritters, sweet caramel, dried mango pieces, stewed apples, spice and dried ginger.

Finish: Toasted honey-coated banana toast, coated in icing sugar.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. I'll admit I was sceptical when I read how tropical the official notes are, but it's true - there are some great tropical flavours in here. I mean, don't expect a 1964 Bowmore, and it's still a rum, but it's a delicious, fruity one.

A big thanks to Timeless & Tasty for the sample pack, and The Whisky Exchange for putting on a fantastic online event and giving those of us in various states of lockdown the ability to still enjoy a delicious spirit and learn something in the process!

From now until 30th September, everyone who buys a bottle of Black Tot Rum from gets the chance to find a Rum Ration Card in their tube, giving them a variety of Black Tot prizes. I'm not sure exactly what the prizes are, but I found one with the bottle I bought (and submitted it for a prize), so I'll let everyone know via Instagram stories once it arrives!


Monday, 31 August 2020

Tasted #486 - 487: 1980s Bowmore showdown - 15yo vs 30yo

You wouldn't know it by reading through my "Tasted" posts (as I'm about 400 posts behind...), but I'm a huge Bowmore fan, and have been for a while now. Not just because of the few crazy-rare and delicious examples I've been lucky enough to try (like this), but in general, it's a distillery whose character I (usually) love. IBs mostly, but I don't mind a lot of the OBs either.

I recently had these two bottles open at the same time, and felt they warranted a post. One, an older bottling of Bowmore 15yo Mariner (bottled c.2002), the other, an IB 30yo single cask bottled by Single Cask Nation. On the surface then, they might seem quite different:
  • IB vs OB
  • 30yo vs 15yo
  • Single cask vs vatting
  • Natural colour vs (likely) coloured
  • Bottled 2019 vs bottled c.2002.
...but if you work back from the ages, you realise both are late 1980s spirit - the 30yo distilled in 1989, the 15yo likely around 1987 (both are also within 1.1% ABV of each other). Given the late 1980s was a pretty notorious area for Bowmore (when the spirit was often described as overly perfumed or soapy), I couldn't resist trying them side-by-side.

Bowmore "Mariner" 15yo bottled c.2002 (43% ABV, 15yo, OB, Islay, Scotland)
Colour: Copper-brown gold.

Nose: Musty, earthy, with perfumed peat smoke. Noticeable notes of nutty sherry, and some oak / cigar boxes after some time.

Palate: Follows the nose, with continuing subtle (yet perfumed) peat smoke, then a good whack of lavender, spice, and pot pourri. Reasonably full-bodied for 43%, but you're not going to mistake it for a cask-strength banger. 

Finish: Oak with some residual lavender spice. Medium in length.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. Definitely showing some of those perfume notes evident on many Bowmores of the era, but with some other notes too, still an enjoyable dram.

Bowmore 1989 Single Cask ex-Bourbon 30yo bottled by Single Cask Nation (44.1% ABV, 30yo, IB single cask, Islay, Scotland)
Colour: Golden amber-yellow.

Nose: It bursts with tropical pineapple, mango and papaya, and even a little passionfruit (now we're talking!) with less obvious floral and perfume notes. With time there comes lavender (subtle), vanilla and a little rancio. Interestingly, after the bottle was less than half full for a few months, the tropical notes seemed to step back a bit, and the perfume / floral notes came to the fore.

Palate: More perfume and less fruit than the nose, but still with noticeable fruit - mango, guava, lime and banana, followed by a little pot pouri. A little lemon, bubblegum, lavender and some oak round things out.

Finish: Floral, with hints of lavender again, herbal lozenges, and slight oak at the very end. Medium to long in length.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. This won't be everyone's cup of tea (indeed, it wasn't), but I dug it, quite a bit. Especially those early-stage tropical notes on the nose. Yum.


Monday, 13 July 2020

Tasted #485: M&H Classic Single Malt

Temperate and warmer climate have provided whiskies distillers with significant advantages and also hurdles for the distillation and maturation of their whiskies. Distilleries from India, Taiwan as well as Australia have had embraced better extraction of wood flavours and accelerated maturation. One year in these regions can often be the equivalent of five Scottish years. At the same time, the variation in temperature and humidity can also yield a highly variable yet exciting whisky as distilleries imprint their unique environmental and geographical influence.

M&H Distillery is one of those world distillers that are facing similar challenges and are embracing it. Founded in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, M&H Distillery is Israel's first whisky distillery and Tel Aviv's only whisky distillery. M&H is short for Milk & Honey, the name that is referred for the land of Israel. 

Israel is very hot and humid. The temperate climate in Israel sees temperatures swinging between 10 to 30 degrees (c) and this has resulted in faster maturation of their whiskies whilst also giving their fair share to the angel. M&H has also experimented with different maturation methods with one such experiment that saw them bring their whiskies to the Dead Sea region, the lowest point on earth, where they are currently aging on the roof of a hotel. They mentioned that the Negev desert might be the next stop - the extreme dryness of the region and its effect on the whisky maturation will be interesting to observe.

Founded by six entrepreneurs in 2012, M&H is currently led by co-founder Gal Kalkshtein and CEO Eitan Artie. Since established in 2012, their operations have had the blessings of the late whisky legend, Dr Jim Swan who had advised them on how they can emphasize and focus on quality and innovation. M&H fills approximately 800 barrels a year or approximately 170,000 litres of new make spirit. Whilst it may seem small when compared to the big Scottish single malt distillers that produce millions of litres per annum, M&H have established their prominence in recent years, both within Europe and abroad. In their pipeline are a sherry cask finish which will be released later this year, followed by a lightly peated M&H whisky, a single malt with a red wine cask finish as well as a potential release involving pomegranate wine cask. These culminations were as a result of M&H's accumulation of unique casks over time.  

Alba Whisky, the Australian Distributor for M&H Whisky sent us a sample of the M&H Classic Single Malt Whisky which was released locally in Australia last month. The three-year-old M&H Classic Single Malt Whisky was matured in the ex-bourbon and red-wine STR casks, giving it a light and balanced character, with notes of vanilla, light oak, alongside a light black pepper spiciness. For those wondering what STR is. STR is short for Shaved, Toasted and Recharred. The term is used to describe red wine casks that have their individual staves shaved, reassembled, toasted and then re-charred. The lighter and more balanced nature of the whisky can be attributed from the use of these STR casks. Kichoman and Kavalan are the other distilleries that have used the STR process to condition their casks before using them to finish their whiskies.

M&H Classic (46% ABV, NAS, Tel Aviv, Israel, A$120)

Colour: Light copper

Nose: The nose is light, fragrant, floral and fruity (apples and figs) yet slightly musky and sweet. There's a good mixture of honey, vanilla and apple juice. A small remnant of oak comes through followed by cereal grain and nutmeg spice. 

Palate: The palate is soft and gentle, which is then followed with a subtle spiciness, nutmeg and cloves. There's a layer of fruitiness; apples and oranges and a bit of honey drizzled on top. You can taste the vanillin amongst the fruits and spices. The STR treatment of the red wine casks has led to a much lighter profile on the end whisky from the wine casks.

Finish: The finish is moderately long, ladened with oak and spices that remain for some time.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. As a classic single malt that has survived the test of a warmer climate in Israel, this is a relatively balanced dram. The oak and spices can overshadow the lighter floral and fruity notes though do provide a different dimension to the dram. It would be interesting to see if additional maturation time or the use of different casks can bring in other notes that can balance out the oak and spices. Perhaps we might see completely different characters in their upcoming sherry cask or peated whiskies. Until then, this is another interesting world whisky that you check out.


Thanks to Alexandra from Xhibition and Alba Whisky for providing the sample.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Tasted #484: Westward Oregon Stout Cask

The phenomenon of "farm to table, grain to glass" has been around for some time and with the rise of craft distillation - consumers are embracing the movement more and more. Westward, a Portland Distiller has dabbled in the craft distillation practice over the past few years. Born out of a region known for its craft culture, Westward has been one of the proponents of craft American single malts over the past year. 

Last year I sat down with Miles Munroe, Westward Head Distiller who told us that Westward, like others, are continuing to explore various distillation techniques and have been given the freedom and flexibility through which they can do this in. Miles indicated that Westward was developing a partnership with Deschutes, an Oregon brewery to come up with stout cask finished bottlings. Miles would send a couple of hundred of recently empty barrels to Deschutes where they would use them to age their stock and they'll send back again for use by Westward. At that time, the Westward Stout Cask Finish concept was still in its infancy and very much confined to the states. That has now changed with the recent arrival of the Oregon Stout Cask in Australia. 

The Oregon Stout Cask is a collaboration between Westward and various local Portland breweries and as far as beer breweries go, you can't go past Portland. Known as one of the world's greatest beer city - Portland has more breweries than any other places. Miles also started his career as a brewer, having studied Brewing Science and Engineering and has worked at a few craft breweries early in his career. It is, therefore, no surprise that Westward has headed down this path early in their journey, to marry both whiskey and beer.   

Stout, made from heavily roasted barley, carries rich notes of toffee, coffee and chocolate. The use of ex-stout casks for the maturation of malt whiskey I find imparts interesting notes on the final product. Jameson tried this with their Caskmates Stout Finish in 2016 which I thought was good with notes of cocoa and coffee.

For Westward, the Oregon Stout Cask starts with their classic double pot-stilled American single malt, that is aged for a period of time in bourbon barrels before being finished in ex-stout casks for approximately a year.

The Oregon Stout Cask is likely to be an indication of what we might see from Westward in the coming years. Portland is located in the Willamette Valley, a place known for its Pinot Noir and so I  do see the potential partnership between Westward and the wineries in the region. Wine and whisky is certainly not a new concept and does present a good marriage - look at Starward. If anything, it will provide Westward with another point of differentiation rather than using the more traditional sherry or port casks, they can experiment with the marriage of their single malt and local wine barrels.

Westward Oregon Stout Cask

Westward Oregon Stout Cask (45% ABV, NAS, Portland, Oregon, A$169)

Colour: Rich golden caramel

Nose: The nose is fragrant. I get a sweet cinnamon bun, nutmeg spice, orange zest from orange peels, a hint of vanilla, cereal note, marzipan cherry cake

Palate: The palate is pleasant and soft at first, like biting into a warm cinnamon bun with glazed sugar. The cinnamon and star anise spices come through. There is that creamy milk chocolate, could this be a blessing from the ex-stout casks. The mouthfeel grows over time, becoming quite luscious and a tad salty. The stout profile comes back again at the end.

Finish: The finish is relatively long with loads of coffee and chocolate profiles. There are fresh orange slices, malt, caramel and chocolate. A lovely finish.

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


Thanks to Agent 99 PR for providing the sample.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Tasted #483: Glenlossie 10yo bottled for Hong Kong Whisky Festival 2020 (Single Malts of Scotland)

With whisky festivals being cancelled (or moving online) the world over due to COVID-19, and a particular dearth of Feis Ile bottles this year (notable exception: The Scotch Malt Whisky Society), it's nice to see some festival-only bottlings still being released, even without their corresponding festival.

One such bottling is this 10yo Glenlossie, bottled for the 2020 Hong Kong Whisky Festival (currently postponed to 11th Oct), which is available to purchase now. Distilled on 2nd July 2009, and bottled on 9th Jan 2020 from a Bourbon hoggie, there are 120 bottles and all are, naturally, non-chill filtered and with natural colour.

Bottled by Elixir Distillers under their "Single Malts of Scotland" range, the bottle carries pedigree, but Glenlossie isn't exactly a blue-chip distillery, and 10yo isn't exactly "well aged" in Scotch whisky terms....so some might wonder just how good could a bottle like this be?

Very, very good, it seems.

Glenlossie 10yo bottled for Hong Kong Whisky Festival 2020 (SMoS) (59.2% ABV, 10yo, 1 of 120 bottles, Speyside Scotland, $988HKD)
Colour: Bright gold.

Nose: Coconut, but not the "huge whack of fresh young oak" variety, more of a subtle, fruity tropical variety. Then there's pot pourri, marmalade, and some very creamy vanilla pie. After time comes some grapefruit and oranges, and a subtle underlying note of old books. You don't expect a nose this complex on a 10yo Scotch, ordinarily.

Palate: Creamy and slightly tropical, with hints of mango, lemon and subtle passionfruit, underscored by vanilla cream and baked pineapple tarts.

Finish: Long, tropical and coconutty, with a waxy texture keeping things going long after the liquid is gone.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Truly, this is an excellent dram and one whose flavour and complexity I would peg at closer to 15-18yo than 10yo. At under $1,000HKD, look past the label and just buy one. I did.