Friday, 19 September 2014

Smoked Meats and Whisk(e)y at the Eastern Hotel (Sydney) (Tasted #117 - 124)

Please join me in welcoming Hendy to his first official post for the blog.  -Martin.

When I first heard of this event, I got curious as I'd never paired or even thought about pairing whisk(e)y with meat. Though when you think about it, it does make sense to pair a smokey charred meat dish with, perhaps a peaty, smokey whisky (and they don't come a whole lot more peaty than some of Bruichladdich's offerings).

The event was a collaboration between the South Trade and Eastern Hotel teams, and was a rather interesting night, as it introduced what is, in my view, the contrasting nature of different whiskies; low parts per million (ppm) to crazy phenol-laden mega-ppm, Islay to Kentucky, barley to grain, whisky to whiskey.

There were a total of eight whiskies from two distilleries being showcased on the night;
Four Scotch whiskies from the Bruichladdich distillery in the Islay region of Scotland:
  • Bruichladdich Laddie Classic
  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10yo
  • Bruichladdich Black Art 3
.. and four bourbon whiskies from the Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky, USA:
  • Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Eagle Rare 10yo
  • Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel
  • William Larue Weller Bourbon
The line up was great, though the ever famous Octomore was absent from the Bruichladdich range, having its peaty self represented on the night by its slightly less peaty brethren; the Port Charlotte Scottish Barley.

The night began quite nicely with the original Buffalo Trace bourbon, also once known as George Stagg. This original feature bourbon from the Buffalo Trace distillery was rather enjoyable, exhibiting sweet flavour notes including toffee and caramel - a good start to the night.

One interesting fact with this bourbon and the distillery from which it came - the name of the bourbon and the distillery have both been adapted from the group of buffaloes that would migrate through the Kentucky river close to the distillery, leaving their marking 'trace' or trail. 

The striking aqua Bruichladdich "Laddie Classic" followed the Buffalo Trace bourbon. Welcoming itself into the night as the first Scotch, this minimally peated whisky was quite balanced. A touch of iodine presented itself on the palate, and it was sweet on the nose and long on the finish. Johannes from South Trade explained the story behind the striking blue colour adorning this 'laddie. Supposedly, the aqua was based on the colour of Loch Indaal, a loch by the distillery. Jim McEwan (Master Distiller) would see the colour each time he gazed out the Bruichladdich distillery window. One does wonder whether the creation of the darker bottled Black Art or the Octomore were done, perhaps, late at night...

Throughout the night, different meat dishes were served including cold meat platters to begin, smokey and sweet BBQ NZ Greenstone Creek short ribs, slow cooked (read:18 hour) shredded Berkshire pork shoulder, and buffalo chicken wings (Ed: I'm getting hungry...). All the dishes were there to get our palates excited, whilst also being designed to complement the drams being served (the focus of the night was clearly on the whisky).

Johannes from South Trade  touched on some details of the Bruichladdich peating process that underpins Bruichladdich's famous super heavily peated Octomore, the less heavily peated Port Charlotte Scottish Barley and other peated range involves (for those unfamiliar with peated malts) the burning and layering of the aromatic peat compounds below the racks of barleys during the barley drying process. By placing below the layers of barleys the barley absorbs as much aromatic smoke from the peat compounds as possible, creating the peated whiskies we all know and love.

It was towards the end of the night, when the decadent slice of chocolate cake was served that I encountered my two favourites - the Elmer T Lee bourbon from Buffalo Trace and the Bruichladdich Black Art (3). Both of these whiskies are wonderfully creamy, rich and complex. The Elmer T Lee was able to carry the sweetness from the oak from the nose through to the palate and beyond. I did wonder whether I was devouring an ice cream from the glass - quite wonderful. 

The Black Art carried similar sweet notes. Being unpeated, the Black Art smelt not of peat, but of rum and raisin and honey. It was quite leathery on the palate, though this might relate to the older age of the (22yo) whisky - nevertheless beautiful. The finish, similar to the Elmer T Lee, excellent. The Black Art and the Elmer T Lee lasted well beyond the palate.

As with all good things, they must come to an end. The end of the night was capped off with a slice of a sweet decadent chocolate cake along with a dram of William Larue Weller bourbon. Both, I have to say, were intensely rich. The bourbon, big and long on the palate and the cake intensely rich and sweet.

So, after all the pairing, was I sold on the pairing between whisky and meat? Yes and no. I still prefer my dram nice and neat, perhaps a pairing with a cigar? Though the line up tonight was indeed very sweet, quite literally for a number of the drams.

Full tasting notes below...

Bruichladdich Laddie Classic (46% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, $87.90AUD)
Nose: Sweet honey, vanilla, slightly salty
Palate: The vanilla flows from the nose, then peppery spicy, salty, seaweed?
Finish: Vanilla cake, graciously long sweet vanilla finish
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon (40% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, $48.90AUD)
Nose: Toffee, caramel, very sweet
Palate: Very rich, smooth, caramel, toffee, there's a bit of toasty char in there
Finish: Peppery, long and smooth
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley (50% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, $95.99AUD)
Nose: Good dose of the aromatic peat, iodinish, medicinal, taint
Palate: Whack of peat, full bodied, peppery and spicy
Finish: Medium to long finish, spicy, and the peaty char lingers
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Eagle Rare 10yo (45% ABV, 10yo, Kentucky, USA, $69.99AUD)
Nose: Caramel, honey, sweet dessert wine
Palate: Peppery, vanilla, fruity, you can taste the maple wood
Finish: Quite a long and dry finish
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10yo (50% ABV, 10yo, Islay, Scotland, ~$77.57AUD)
Nose: Sweet vanilla mixed with char from the peat
Palate: Caramel, chocolate and peat smoke (surprisingly good balance of sweet and peat)
Finish: Smooth, medium finish, peppery note lingers
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel (45% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, $92.90AUD)
Nose: Vanilla
Palate: Sweet, honey, vanilla, almost like eating ice cream
Finish: Long, dry and sweet
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

Bruichladdich Black Art 3 (48.7% 22yo, Islay, Scotland, $279.99AUD)
Nose: Rum, raisin, perhaps honey
Palate: Vanilla, gun powder? quite leathery (might be from the age)
Finish: Very long and exquisite sweet, creamy finish, yum
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

William Larue Weller Bourbon (67.5% ABV, 12yo, Kentucky, USA, $345AUD)
Nose: Very rich, vanilla, sweet
Palate: Very big hit of peppery spices with a bit of char (almost need that dash of water)
Finish: Very, very long and sweet and rich finish
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 91/100.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

This week in whisk(e)y #12

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

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

Cutter joins the anCnoc Peaty Collection
Back in April we mentioned the new AnCnoc "Peaty Collection", and it seems the trio now have a fourth joining their ranks - "Cutter".

"On the 1st of September a new expression has been added to the acclaimed Peaty Collection. Cutter is the fourth in the series and the peatiest one so far. While Rutter, Flaughter and Tushkar had phenol contents ranging from 11 to 15 parts per million (ppm), their new sibling boasts a very high phenol content of 20.5 ppm, putting it in line with some of the most intensely smoky whiskies on the market. It is worth noting that the level of peating is measured on the finished whisky rather than the malt or the new make spirit, giving a more reliable description of the actual perceived level of peatiness. What's more, the phenol content is highlighted on the packaging to help whisky lovers make more informed decisions. 
Cutter is matured in ex-bourbon casks made from American oak. It is bottled at 46% ABV and non chill-filtered. Like all Peaty Collection expressions it is presented at its natural colour, a light shade reminiscent of lemon juice. The aroma is unmistakably peaty with oily smoke followed by a sharper, more medicinal note and a piercing ray of fruit and spice. On the palate it gains even more smoky intensity with ashy overtones, a slight apple-core bitterness and a spicy vanilla heart. This is a richly phenolic whisky for the seasoned peat-lovers or those looking to shine light on their dark side of flavour and experience the full force of a truly peaty dram. 
Cutter will be available from the 1st September in key international markets, such as the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and France to name but a few."

Cutter will sell for an RRP of $85AUD in Australia. No word yet on its release in Hong Kong.

Celebrate Jack Daniel’s birthday with “The Bar that Jack Built”
If you've been around the whisk(e)y scene for a few years (heck, if you've ever stepped foot into a bar pub that sells Jack in September), you'll probably have heard of "Jacktember", the month-long celebration of Jack Daniel's birthday.

Jacktember this year involves an ambitious new project in “The Bar That Jack Built” – the world’s first crowd-sourced bar built entirely "from the love of Jack Daniel’s", by fans.
"The campaign is being run through social media and kicks off with a recruitment shout-out to all Jack Daniel’s Facebook friends in NSW where the bar will be installed. They are being asked to donate materials, time, expertise and ideas in reward for Jack Daniel’s product and merchandise.  The more they give, the more they get with the biggest contributors getting tickets to the big birthday bash on the 27th of September.   
From the carpenters, electricians and designers who put the bar together, to the artists and musicians who perform on the night, every person’s involvement will come from a love of Jack Daniel’s.  Especially since everyone that participates will be rewarded with Jack Daniel’s product. 
Nora-Kate O’Connell, Brand Manager, Jack Daniel’s added, “We are asking friends of Jack to participate in the creation of a very special moment in Jack Daniel’s illustrious history. We are looking for people who can help us bring the bar to life and celebrate the inspiration that Jack has given people across Australia over the years. Here’s to raising a Jack to Jack this September.”
Having attended many a Jack Daniel's party previously, as well as one of their previous pop-up bars, I can assure you this will be one hell of a party and bar. Find out more information from this video on the Facebook page:  

Oak Barrel Michter’s Masterclass with Matt Magliocco
Funny timing this one. Since the move into Asia, we've been slowly re-building the basics we had at home, but sadly had to leave behind (thankfully in safe hands). Steph and I used up our measly 1L/person duty free allowance on a few Aussie whiskies, and so the basics like Rye, Bourbon, Gin etc... we needed to re-buy over here.

When looking at Ryes, I stumbled across Michter's, which I'd seen a lot of from reading various US mags, but never tried. As I couldn't find my beloved Bulleit 95, I took a punt and picked up a bottle of the single barrel rye. Tasty stuff.

Then just a week later, I hear that Michter's is officially launching in Australia, with a masterclass held at (where else?) Oak Barrel, led by Matt Magliocco from the distillery, walking guests through a lineup of:

  • Michter’s American whisky
  • Michter's Single Barrel rye
  • Michter’s Small batch Bourbon
  • Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey
  • Michter’s 10 Year Old Bourbon
  • Michter’s 10 year Old Rye

...for $10? Get outta here.

I'd love to try the 10yo and Small Batch Bourbon, but alas I can't, so you should all go and enjoy a dram (or 6 in fact) for me...

Palazzo Versace to host Chivas Regal Dinner
We've attended our fair share of whisk(e)y dinners over the past few years, and without fail they've always been a whole lot of fun. Sometimes the whisky matches brilliantly, sometimes not so much, but they're always fun-filled events, full of great food, great whiskies and plenty of banter.

So we have no doubt that the upcoming Chivas Regal Tasting Dinner at Palazzo Versace on October 20th will be the same. Hosted by Ben Davidson, National Spirits Ambassador for Chivas Regal (who's a fun fixture at most Chivas events in Australia), the night involves a four course dinner matched to:

...for $99.

$99 for a four course meal in Palazzo Versace's Vie Bar, with four whiskies (one of which you'd probably pay close to $50 for a nip in some bars), hosted by one of Pernod's most knowledgeable whisky folk.... sounds like a great night to us.

Date: Monday 20th October 2014
Price: $99 per person a four course dinner with Chivas Regal
Time: From 6.00pm
Venue: Vie Bar + Restaurant, Palazzo Versace - Sea World Drive, Main Beach, QLD Australia

To book, complete the booking form, or or call Nicole Blunt on (07) 5509 8000

- Martin.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Macallan Fine Oak Tasting at The Angel's Share (Hong Kong) (Tasted #117 - 120)

With the recent expansion of this site into Asia, Steph and I have been hoping to get back into regular whisky tastings like we used to in Sydney (where, between Shirt BarOak BarrelSMWS and the various one-off tastings and product launches, we typically averaged 3-5 each month).

So when an invitation arrived from the MD of Tastings Group (responsible for the excellent Quinary and Angel's Share bars, amongst others) to attend a tasting of the Macallan Fine Oak range, we weren't about to say no. I'd tried most of the range before (and really enjoyed the 21yo previously), but tastes change and I've found myself getting far more into the Sherry Oak series than I had been previously, so I was keen to re-visit the Fine Oak range too. I was also interested to try the Fine Oak 25yo - at around $8,500HKD / or well over $1,000AUD, it's not the sort of dram you get to try every day!

Held at Angel's Share in Hong Kong's Central district, the event was hosted by Edrington (owners of The Macallan) and presented by Rob Taylor, Wine and Spirits Educator, whisky oracle and passionate Scot. Arriving early, we were greeted with a Macallan 12 Fine Oak, a pack of interesting facts and figures on the Macallan Fine Oak range, and a nice Macallan cardholder gift. In front of us sat the main event though - a line up we were eager to disect:
  • Macallan 15yo Fine Oak
  • Macallan 17yo Fine Oak
  • Macallan 21yo Fine Oak
  • Macallan 25yo Fine Oak

It can be hard to gauge the audience for these types of events. Does the host run through the basics of what makes whisky whisky, or do they get into the intimate details of wood programs, cut points and the impact of environmental factors on maturation? Too much of one and you risk boring the more knowledgeable in the audience. Too much of the other and you risk alienating those looking to learn more about whisky. Ron however got the balance spot on - reading the audience and providing just the right mix of technical geekery and beginner information so we were all kept engaged.

Ron, having conducted tastings all over the world, also explained the differences he's seen in preferences in different countries (e.g. in Italy, he finds they prefer on average younger whiskies, around the 8yo range). This was all in general terms of course, but it was interesting to see how different cultures embrace whisky.

After a comment about The Macallan being the "Rolls Royce" of the whisky world (pretty much a pre-requisite for any Macallan tasting, right?) Ron took a measure of the 12yo in his palm, rubbed his hands together until the liquid had evaporated, took a big sniff, and encouraged us to do the same. I'd experienced this before, and it was a great way to nose the elements that make up the whisky (and take an educated guess at the casks it was matured in). Ron would later have us do this with every whisky, including the 25yo!

Ron also talked a bit about the state of the whisky investment scene, and the crazy prices being paid on the auction circuit for select bottles, like $4.9m HKD (approx $690,000AUD) for a 6L Macallan M decanter (who said NAS whisky wasn't popular?! ;-))

Whilst no-one knows where the market is headed, some (myself included) opined that it may be reaching the apex, or may have indeed already passed it. Certainly at the auction Steph and I attended recently in Hong Kong (write-up to follow), there were a lot of collectible bottles passed-in, not even reaching their reserve (not the Karuizawas though, but that's for another post...)

At the end of the day though, we were there to taste whisky, so on with the tasting notes (the 12yo was served in a tumbler, and I was a bit thirsty when it arrived, so no tasting notes on that one...)

The Macallan Fine Oak 15yo (43% ABV, 15yo, Speyside, Scotland, $780HKD / difficult to find in Australia these days)
Colour: Bright, sun-kissed orange.
Nose: Vanilla, rich full-cream milk, after time some pepper and slightly earthy notes, and a hint of orange zest.
Palate: More orange - this time not just zest, some cinnamon and hints of cashews. Trailmix perhaps?
Finish: More trailmix, earthiness, slight maltiness. Medium length.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Better than I remember (tastes do change)!

The Macallan Fine Oak 17yo (43% ABV, 17yo, Speyside, Scotland, $1,080HKD / difficult to find in Australia these days)
Colour: Copper-orange.
Nose: More spice than the 12yo - cinnamon, and some pepper.
Palate: Very smooth, rich, but also chewy. Citrus, slightest hint of sulphur. Oats, scotch finger biscuits.
Finish: Long! Some orange peel, slight bitterness at the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100.

The Macallan Fine Oak 21yo (43% ABV, 21yo, Speyside, Scotland, $2,700HKD / difficult to find in Australia these days)
Colour: Copper-orange.
Nose: Despite the appearance, this is clearly not the 17yo! Wine gums, dried apples and pears.
Palate: Creamy, big mouthfeel, dark chocolate, still the dried apples and pears from the nose.
Finish: Long and nutty, still with fruity notes but more apricots than the apples and pears of the nose and palate.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A very different dram, and very enjoyable.

The Macallan Fine Oak 25yo (43% ABV, 25yo, Speyside, Scotland, $8,500HKD / difficult to find in Australia these days)
Colour: Rich, dark copper.
Nose: Subdued, with definitely more sherry influence than the previous three.
Palate: Big at first, but quickly becoming subdued with creamy vanilla (not the sherry the nose suggested), and the faintest hints of smoke.
Finish: Lingering (though extremely faint) hints of smoke (not peat), dried apples, pears and prunes.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

After another dram of the 21yo (my pick for the night) and a chat with Ron and the guys and girls from Edrington, it was time to head home (or rather, to the Indian restaurant one floor down) having enjoyed our first (of many) Hong Kong whisky tastings.

A big thanks to Tastings Group and Angel's Share for the invite.

Steph doing as you do with 25yo Macallan...


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

PR #21: New Chivas Regal "Extra"

It seems the folks at Pernod Ricard really love Australia. First they launched The Guardians' Chapter in Sydney before anywhere else in the world, and now the Australian market will be the first in the world to receive the new Chivas Regal Extra - the first new (non-travel) retail release in almost 10 years, set to launch on 22nd September 2014.

(The Chivas Brothers Blend, which features on our #101drams Charitable Challenge, was released in 2012, but remains a travel retail exclusive.)

Colin Scott, Master Blender at Chivas Regal:
"This is our first new expression in almost 10 years. Chivas Regal Extra is an exceptional blend of specially selected Whiskies built on a rich foundation of Malts that have been matured in a higher proportion of sherry casks. This process delivers a profound depth of flavor and a Whisky that showcases the character of this unique blend, taking it to a whole new level.’’ 

The release is a NAS whisky (which doesn't matter in the slightest as long as the liquid is good!), and we love the sound of the "higher proportion of sherry casks". Sounds like this one will be a bolder, richer Chivas, with the tasting notes describing it as having:
"...additional layers of subtle spice. Fruity and sweet on the nose, its enchanting aroma of ripe pears and melon, creamy toffee and milk chocolate, balanced with cinnamon and a hint of ginger is crafted to truly excite the senses. The resulting taste is an alluring combination of sweet ripe pears in syrup and vanilla caramel, well balanced with the subtle warmth of cinnamon sweets and almonds in the background. "

While I'm mostly a single malt fan, I do appreciate a good blend, and in its category I've always considered Chivas 12 (and 18 for that matter) to be good blends.  Chivas Regal Extra is designed to sit between the 12 and 18, and will retail for $73AUD (no word yet on Hong Kong availability or pricing).

To celebrate the release, throughout September 2014, 18 venues have partnered with Chivas Regal for a national on premise sampling campaign. Consumers can visit one of the bars and simply purchase a Chivas drink, whether it be served neat, on the rocks, or mixed in a cocktail, request “something extra” and receive a complimentary sample of Chivas Regal Extra.

Venues include:
  • NSW – Palmer & Co, Grain, The Barbershop, Eau de Vie, Coal & Cedar (Newcastle), The Roadhouse (Byron Bay)
  • VIC – Eau de Vie, Cookie, The Toff in Town, Whisky & Alement
  • QLD – Cobbler Bar, Gresham, The Bowery
  • SA – The Botanic, Collin’s Bar
  • WA – Bar Lafayette, The Classroom
  • ACT – Molly’s
We'll post tasting notes once we manage to sample it.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Tasted #116: Black Bottle (#101drams)

When I started the #101dram Charitable Challenge in February 2013, I included a mix of rare, common, unusual, cheap, expensive, blended and single malt whiskies (and one or two white dogs as well). One that made its way onto the list, by virtue of being three of those things (unusual, blended, and cheap), was Black Bottle.

At the time, it was a blended whisky containing almost every Islay malt currently in existence. I'm told it's now no longer Islay-focused (an indication of the rising price / scarcity of aged Islay whisky perhaps?) Whatever the case, this post is about the older, Islay-focused blend, which comes in the still-style bottle.

At the time, it was about $44AUD from Vintage Cellars (seems they still stock it, for $52 now), so it was pretty easy to take a punt on a whole bottle (I figured worst-case scenario, I' use it for cocktails like smokey Blood & sands).

Turns out, it's not half-bad on its own.

Black Bottle (40% ABV, NAS, Scotland, $51.99AUD).
Colour: Light honied gold.

Nose: Young and spirity, the peat smoke is there, but it's not huge like you might expect.

Palate: More peat smoke than the nose, but also potato bake and some residual honey notes which were very welcome. A quick look at the glass, and the complete lack of legs, suggests this isn't terribly old, nor high in ABV (it does feel a little thin on the palate, but it is only 40% ABV).

Finish: More peat smoke still, short and hot, with some asparagus notes and a slight hint of those sweet honey notes from the palate.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. Not likely to set the world on fire, but for the price, it certainly punches above its weight (how many decent Islay whiskies can you find in Australia, readily available, for ~$50AUD)? ...and hey, if you don't love it, it makes a mean smokey Blood & Sand.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

This Week in Whisk(e)y #11

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

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

Lark Distillery wins national business award
Not all these news items are about new whiskies (or furoshikis - see below)....sometimes they're about celebrating the great work small independent distillers have done. Especially when one of those distillers is effectively the "founding father"of Whisky in Australia. I'm talking of course about Bill Lark, of Lark Distillery who was awarded the Small Business Award at the 2014 Telstra Business Awards in Melbourne earlier this month.

Will Irving, Group Managing Director of Telstra Business and Telstra Business Awards Ambassador, said:
“Lark Distillery is a trail blazer that initiated the development of the Australian whisky industry and has now matured into a premium player on the international whisky stage.
Lark Distillery is the quintessential small family business success story. Starting with no plant, no finance and no customers, and needing to get the law changed to even start their business, Bill and Lyn Lark have been pivotal in founding whisky distilling in Australia. 
Their focus on high quality ingredients, authentic production methods, product innovation and the overall customer experience, has put Australian Whisky on the map as an internationally recognised success.”
Well deserved accolades indeed.

Suntory Whisky and Akira Isogawa celebrate the Art of Giving
Back in May we blogged about the excellent Launch of Suntory Whisky in Australia event at Sydney's Art Gallery of NSW. Good fortune found me standing next to the very friendly Akira Isogawa (renowned international fashion designer), who as we mentioned in the article, mentioned he was collaborating with Suntory on limited release packaging/scarves - details of which are now available.

To quote the press release:
Suntory Whisky has partnered with renowned Japanese-Australian designer Akira Isogawa to celebrate the Art of Giving. The multi-award winning distillery has worked with Akira to create a limited edition traditional scarf used to wrap gifts, known in Japan as “furoshiki”, which was designed exclusively for the Suntory Whisky Australian range.
Having recently expanded its luxury offering in the Australian market, Suntory Whisky is launching this exclusive collaboration in time for Father’s Day and the Christmas season. The Japanese distiller celebrates the Art of Giving each year; a concept that centres on acknowledging the joy found in offering gifts to loved ones and the power of a thoughtfully chosen gift.
“The partnership between Suntory Whisky and Akira was a natural marriage; one of Australia’s best designers coming together with the leading Japanese whisky. We are aiming to celebrate quality craftsmanship and the importance of honouring those you love with a truly unique item,” said Suntory Australia managing director, Ian Atherton. 
“With our extended range of Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki whiskies now available in Australia, we see the luxury range as the perfect gift for those who appreciate fine spirits and the limited edition furoshiki as a beautiful finishing touch.” 
Like origami, furoshiki is considered an integral part of Japanese culture. For 2000 years, the furoshiki served as a special pouch to hold personal items. Today, the ancient custom has become fashionable in Japan as a beautiful eco-friendly, lasting wrapping for gifts.  
Just 300 of the ‘Akira for Suntory Whisky’ furoshiki have been produced. The limited edition scarves will be available in selected specialty retailers around Australia from August 2014 ahead of Father’s Day on Sunday 9 September. The furoshiki will be available as a gift with purchase to wrap one of the hero whiskies – Yamazaki 12 years old, Hakushu 12 years old or Hibiki 17 years old."
As if you needed an excuse to enjoy Yamazaki, Hakushu or Hibiki, but if you're looking for a unique Father's day gift, this could be one to consider. The furoshiki will be exclusively available as a gift with purchase in the following retailers from now:

New South Wales:
- Oak Barrel;
- World of Whisky;

- Cru Bar + Cellar;

- Nick’s Wine Merchants;
- The Wigs Cellar;
- Sea Breeze Cellars; (03) 5987 0877

South Australia:
- Fassina Liquor Merchants;
- Parafield Airport Liquor Store;

Johnnie Walker Blue Label presents "The Gentleman's Wager"
OK, so this one didn't exactly "come to us" as a press release, but it is very cool, in a "that's completely unrealistic, but damn I wish that was me" way. Watch below:

- Martin.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Bar Review #11: Angel's Share (Hong Kong)

With the blog now having a joint focus on Hong Kong, a city famed for it's bars and nightlife, it would be remiss of us to not cover off the city's whisk(e)y bars (of which there are many*). A few weeks ago we wrote about about Quinary, a fantastic cocktail bar in the heart of Hong Kong, and now it's time to cover their whisky-focused sister venue Angel's Share, a short stroll away. Angel's Share came recommended to Steph and I personally by Bill Lark of Lark Distillery a few months earlier, so we knew it had to be good.

With a name like Angel's Share, you're probably thinking they might serve a dram or two...and you'd be right. Not limiting the selection solely to bottles of whisky however, the bar proudly displays their own full-size 210L cask of whisky, from which they serve drams using a stunning glass valinch. At the time of our visit, it was full of 1995 single cask The Glenlivet NCF at 49% ABV (guess what Martin ordered first up...)

If Quinary is located in the heart of Hong Kong's Central district, then Angel's Share is really located in the heart, located on Hollywood Rd, a stone's throw from the Mid-Levels Escalator. Thankfully though, it's a world apart from the many touristy / ex-pat bars in the area, almost like a second floor refuge, with enough whisky to last a lifetime.

I've always found it interesting that bars can boast 100+ whiskies, and when you look at the menu, you realise you've either:
  • Tried them all; or
  • Tried all the ones you want to try.
Thankfully that's not the case here, as Angel's Share boast a number of rare and unique whiskies, along with the usual favourites. In addition to the aforementioned The Glenlivet 1995 17yo ($180HKD, approx $25AUD), and the former single cask Highland Park 1997 14yo (which used to reside in a cask but now lives in glass due to dwindling supplies), the menu includes gems such as the port pipe finished Bowmore Voyage ($290HKD, approx $40AUD), 21yo Douglas Laing's OMC Rosebank 1990 ($280HKD, approx $39AUD), 12yo Douglas Laing's Provenance Craigellechie 1999 ($118HKD, approx $16AUD) and three bottlings from Ichiro's Malt "card series".

If those are a little extravagant, the menu has plenty of classics like Glenfarclas 105 cask strength ($118HKD, approx $16AUD), Balvenie 12 DoubleWood, Bowmore 12 and Laphroaig 10 (all $98HKD, approx $13.50AUD). Not bad considering Hong Kong's 100% tax on spirits.

The bar is a generous size for Hong Kong, with plenty of seating available both at the bar and in cosy booths overlooking Hollywood Rd. Staff and management were all very welcoming and friendly, and it seems like the sort of bar who regularly update their whisky selection, as we spotted a the recently-released Highland Park Freya on the bar.

For those who prefer their whisky mixed, the bar also offers plenty in the way of whisk(e)y cocktails, including some very interesting, tasty and uniquely Asian "Signature Old Fashioneds", like "Rittenhouse 100 proof rye sweetened with a refreshing touch of yuzu" and "Chinese dried logan infused Rittenhouse 100 proof rye, Okinawa black sugar replacing the traditional sugar cube". 

Angel's Share would be a great place to bring a group for drinks before or after dinner (or even during - they also serve food), but equally it's the sort of place you could drop in with your partner, or even solo. Welcoming, inviting, comfortable, and with a great whisky selection. We're sold! 

 - Steph & Martin.

*and many more reviews to follow.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

This Week in Whisk(e)y #10

As you might know if you read this blog regularly, we get a fair few interesting press releases and news articles here at TimeforWhisky, and usually try to feature them with our own spin, experiences or comments. Sometimes though, they come thick and fast, and we just don't have time to do them all justice. Sometimes we also hear of newsworthy items that don't necessarily come via a press release, but that we think you'll want to know regardless...

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

Oak Barrel Whisky Fair 2014 - tickets running out
In our opinion, this is the best whisky show in Australia. Held on 13th September, The Oak Barrel are again throwing open their doors to offer an afternoon of drams, many of which you'll likely never see at another Australian whisky show. So what's on offer? As well as many of the usual suspects, you can expect:
  • An exclusive single cask bottling of Glenfarclas, hand selected by George Grant
  • An exclusive  Sullivans Cove, finished in a 20L port cask
  • Ground breaking International and Australian micro distilleries including Koval, Belgrove, Mount Uncle and William McHenry
  • Fantastic array of Independent bottlings including Adelphi, Gordon & MacPhail and Berry Brothers & Rudd
Tickets (now limited to members only due to overwhelming demand) can be found here:

Old Pulteney Clipper Comemorative Bottling
We've tasted (and enjoyed) a few Old Pulteneys on the site before, and also referred to the Clipper Race in which Old Pulteney play a large part.

Some quick background:

"Old Pulteney – The Maritime Malt – celebrates the completion of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2014 by the crew of brave men and women on board a yacht named after the iconic Single Malt Scotch Whisky. The race started eleven months ago and saw the Old Pulteney rose of winds carried proudly to France, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Singapore, China, United States of America, Panama, Jamaica, Northern Ireland, The Netherlands and back to the starting point in London, UK."

So that's the race, but what of the whisky?
"To mark the occasion Old Pulteney will release a special commemorative bottling of its whisky. Old Pulteney Clipper will be made available in July 2014 at select retailers world-wide. The limited release will feature a Clipper Round the World Yacht Race -themed packaging and the whisky itself will be a classic expression of Old Pulteney, matured in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The whisky will be presented at its natural colour, non chill-filtered and at a premium strength of 46% ABV. Only 2,700 cases of this rare bottling will ever be released and the recommended retail price in the UK is £50. 
The appearance of the whisky is that of polished gold. On the nose the sweetness of dried fruits and crispiness of green apples is accompanied by notes of fresh vanilla and white chocolate. On the palate waves of honey and orange zest, a rounded oaky structure and an unmistakable coastal note set this fresh and elegant Old Pulteney apart. The finish is smooth and long-lasting."
No word on Australia releases or pricing, but a NCF, 46% ABV limited release for 50gbp isn't value at all (and it looks pretty impressive too). One to look out for perhaps if travelling through the UK.

island2island whiskies perform at Scotch Whisky Masters
On the topic of Old Pulteney, island2island, who distribute Old Pulteney (and other) brands in Australia have had an impressive run at the 2014 Scotch Whisky Masters, winning 6 awards across 5 categories, including "Master" award for Deanston Highland Single Malt 12yo and "Gold" for Ledaig Single Malt 10yo (which, from personal experience is a great drop) and Bunnahabhain 25yo (which whilst I haven't yet had the pleasure, I'm sure is also a great drop!)

Sullivans Cove Whisky Dinner in Sydney
No doubt still riding high from their amazing success of late, Tasmania's Tasmania Distillery are holding a special whisky dinner at Hilton Sydney's Glass Brasserie on Tuesday the 5th of August. Starting at 6:30pm, a 5-course degustation dinner will be served, hosted by Bert Cason, who will be flying up from the distillery in Tasmania especially for the event:
"The dinner features 5 courses, matched with Sullivans Cove's whiskies and single malt liqueurs, including the world's best single malt, Sullivans Cove French Oak. Tickets are 140pp. Please contact Therese Grasa"

- Martin.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Bar review #10: The Quinary (Hong Kong)

As mentioned a few days ago, Steph and I recently moved to Hong Kong. Having a solid 10 days off before starting work not only let us sort out all the fun admin stuff (IDs, bank accounts, etc, yawn) but also afforded us plenty of time for sight-seeing, and equally importantly, bar and restaurant exploring!

One of the bars that was high on my list of places to visit was Quinary, in the heart of Hong Kong's SOHO district. While Hong Kong has some incredible bars catering to all tastes and budgets, in the past cocktails have often taken a back seat to whisky and wine. Quinary's addition to the HK bar scene in 2012 was an attempt to bring quality, unique cocktails to appreciative audiences, with an added air of molecular inventiveness.

I knew we had to find a worthy replacement for our beloved Sydney cocktail bars (like Eau de Vie and Bulletin Place - relaxing bars with a focus on quality spirits, cocktails, creativity and banter), and had high hopes this could be it. We certainly weren't disappointed...

Arriving on a Monday night we found the bar lively but certainly not too busy. We found ourselves two seats at the bar (our preferred spot at any bar!) and started looking through the menu when Samuel, the bar's manager came over to say a friendly hello and talk us through the concept behind the bar. Samuel explained that Quinary is part of the Tastings Group, whose previous bars include a whisky bar called Angel's Share (review to follow, of course!) and a wine bar called Tastings. They've also recently added a fourth, gin-focused bar called Ori-Gin (which is also now high on our list of places to visit).

While the menu boasted a number of interesting cocktails, for me it was hard to go past the "Cinema Set" a short, sharp mix of caramel popcorn-infused rye whiskey, a dash of cola syrup, bitters, with an orange peel garnish, served alongside a small side of popcorn. Perfectly balanced, it could serve well as a cocktail to kick off the night (as it did for me) or to end the night (as it no doubt will on a future visit!)

Steph went for the bar's signature "Earl Grey Martini", with vodka, elderflower syrup, apple juice, Cointreau, lemon & lime and earl grey caviar pearls (fun to see being made right in front of us). A playful cocktail with a mix of foam, liquid and solid edible "pearls".

In a city with 100% tax on spirits (yes, feel my pain fellow Aussies. We also left 95% of our whisk(e)y collection in Australia due to customs limits!) the prices were quite reasonable and were about what you'd expect for a quality establishment making cocktails such as these. Most were in the $120-$150HKD ($17-$20AUD) range, which is no different to similar bars in Sydney/Melbourne.

So, we've found our "go to" cocktail bar, but what about a whisky bar? Stay to follow this week.

 - Martin.

Sunday, 13 July 2014 expands into Asia!

As some of our Twitter followers may have noticed, we've been posting a few tweets from Hong Kong over the last week. The reason for that is, life outside of whisky blogging (i.e. our day to day jobs) has given Steph and I the opportunity to move to Hong Kong, and we've taken that opportunity. Permanently!

That doesn't mean TimeforWhisky is going anywhere mind you. Quite the opposite. As well as continuing to cover Australian events, bars, releases, news and tasting notes (more on that below), we're now going to start covering the same in Hong Kong (and broader Asia) too.

When we started this blog (just under) 2 years ago, it was as a hobby to take our love of whisky, and share it with a broader audience. Fast forward two years and we feel we've done that, and built up a great following in the process. Just as importantly though, we've met a fantastic group of people (bloggers, brand ambassadors, hospo folk, PR peeps and whisky fans in general) and have made some great mates. While we're sad to leave this "behind" (I use that term loosely - between Twitter, Facebook and e-mail the whisky community is always connected!) we're excited to grow the same in Asia, which as many of you would know is an incredibly fast-growing region for whisky consumption and (more importantly) appreciation.

So, where does that leave the Australian side of the blog? Enter Hendy - passionate about whisky, already a part-time blogger, and very handy with a camera. Here's Hendy brief self-intro:

"Hendy is a late bloomer in the whisky and whisk(e)y world. Upon being served a dram of Aberlour A'bunadh (still a favourite) in 2009, he hasn't looked back. A risk-averse technologist by day and whisk(e)y lover by night, he now enjoys everything whisk(e)y. From the peaty, medicinal Laphroaig to the everyday all rounder Dalwhinnie, he has learnt to appreciate the spectrum. Over the past few years, he has progressively enjoyed different whisk(e)y varieties from abroad as well as locally and is now all too excited about all things whisk(e)y."

So, expect the same Australian coverage, tasting notes, events and posts that you're used to - just expect them to also now come from Asia too! Steph and I have only been here for a week and have already scoped out a few great whisky bars (including one with an amazing selection of Japanese whiskies and another with their own full-sized cask of Glenlivet(!) - reviews to follow soon, so I think we (and by extension, readers of this blog) are in for a whisky adventure!

Until then, Sláinte.

- Steph & Martin.
One of the very few bottles we brought with us
due to the 1L per person Customs limit.
Australia represent!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tullamore D.E.W tasting at The Potting Shed with John Quinn, Global Brand Ambassador (Tasted #109 - #115)

The event, held at the brilliant Grounds of Alexandria (in the intimate "Lock-in" bar within the recently opened Potting Shed) saw a small number of Irish whiskey fans, whisk(e)y bloggers, PR and lifestyle bloggers gather to deconstruct the various elements of Tullamore D.E.W, and hear more about the whiskey, and its new distillery due to start production in September. 

As some readers may have seen a few weeks ago (especially those on Twitter), we recently advertised a competition (run by and in conjunction with Tullamore D.E.W) to win two tickets to an afternoon of tasting with Tullamore D.E.W's global brand ambassador, John Quinn.

I have to say the "Lock-in" was one of the most photogenic venues I've had the pleasure of attending. Perfectly suited to an event like this, and with stunning whisky/spirits paraphernalia at every turn. If you ever get the chance to attend and event here, do (or just go for a drink when it's open to the public). Small and intimate, but a stunning venue.

All the photographing made for thirsty work though (as it often does...) and refreshments were never far away - starting with a "Moondance" cocktail (by Pasan Wijesena of Newtown's Earl's Juke Joint), a blend of Tullamore D.E.W whiskey, Green and Yellow Chartreuse, St Germain Elderflower liquer, fresh lemon juice and peach bitters. Tasty and refreshing - perfect for a mild winter day.

After cocktails were drunk and photos were taken, it was time to get down to the business of Irish whiskey tasting, and we only needed to glance at the tasting mat to realise we had just a few to get through (7 to be exact...). John, a genuinely nice, affable bloke, started by giving us a history of the distillery (named with a unique combination of the town it was first built in and the founder's initials - Mr Daniel E. Williams), his own history within it (including 40+ years within the broader Irish whiskey industry), and took us right up to the current ownership by William Grant & Sons and plans for the new distillery (for which John has a clear passion).

John also explained the various components that make up Tullamore D.E.W (being of course a blend), and then we tucked into a tasting of each:

Tullamore D.E.W Original (40% ABV, NAS, Ireland, $44AUD)
Triple-distilled (like a lot, but not all Irish whiskey), with a makeup of 60-70% grain (corn).
Nose: Light, fruity - apples, with some spice.
Palate: Still light, toasty, almonds and apples.
Finish: Short, nutty (those almonds from the palate), with a final hint of spice at the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Tullamore D.E.W Grain component - Middleton Distillery (71% ABV, ~4yo, Cork, Ireland, not available for sale)
Colour: Light straw - Chardonnay.
Nose: Grapes and Ribena (cue instant memories of drinking this stuff as a kid!)
Palate: Spirity, still grapes, almost with a hint of Raki. Some molasses.
Finish: Long, boiled lollies and more molasses. Reminded me of an O.P rum, though not Bundy!
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 86/100.

Tullamore D.E.W Malt component - Old Bushmills Distillery (61% ABV, ~5.5yo, County Antrim, Ireland, not available for sale)
Colour: Dull golden
Nose: Tropical fruits, Juicyfruit, peaches.
Palate: Reminded me instantly of a Balvenie 12yo, but more malty and a bit harsher.
Finish: Long and malty, sweet vanilla. Tannic at the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100.

Tullamore D.E.W Pot Still component - Middleton Distillery (~60% ABV, NAS, Cork, Ireland, not available for sale)
Distilled from a mashbill mixture of both malted and unmalted ("green") barley.
Colour: Light honey.
Nose: Spirity but also creamy.
Palate: Big (felt bigger in ABV than the previous two), spirity and creamy. Whipped cream and custard.
Finish: Long, with cinnamon spice at the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 87/100. This seemed to be a crowd favourite but I much preferred the malt component.

Tullamore D.E.W 10yo Single Malt (40% ABV, 10yo, Ireland, approx $84AUD)
Double-distilled at the Cooley distillery and finished in four different types of casks (old bourbon, dry Oloroso sherry, port and madeira) after spending 8.5 years in ex-Bourbon casks.
Colour: Deep orange copper
Nose: Tropical fruits, pineapple and white peaches.
Palate: Light, still tropical fruits, but primarily overripe bananas.
Finish: Medium to long, sultanas and Christmas pudding (very little of the tropical notes on the nose and palate)!
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100.

Tullamore D.E.W 12yo Special Reserve (40% ABV, 12yo, Ireland, $67AUD)
Comprising 55% pot-still whiskey.
Colour: Dull gold.
Nose: Creamy, fruity.
Palate: Fruit compote - stewed fruits (apples, apricots) covered in cream. Some honey, spice and hazelnuts too.
Finish: Medium to long, nutty.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Tullamore D.E.W Phoenix (55% ABV, NAS (<10yo), Ireland, approx $67AUD)
Named after a hot air balloon disaster which saw a third of Tullamore destroyed in 1785, and the subsequent rebuilding (both physically and spiritually) of the town, including the building of the distillery itself in 1829.
Colour: Dark copper (the pot still component is finished in ex-Sherry casks)
Nose: Christmas pudding.
Palate: Cherries, Christmas pudding, raisins, berries.
Finish: Long, creamy. Dark chocolate.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

With all that whiskey on tasting, it was only responsible for food to be served, and the event didn't disappoint, with matched canapés for each course, including seared scallops, slow-roasted quail breast (a great match with the 12yo, probably due to the Tullamore and balsamic dressing!), beef Duxcelle and bread & butter pudding.

William Grant & Sons have run these deconstructed tastings in Sydney before (focusing on Glenfiddich), and it's not hard to see why. They're unique, interesting, and give people a fascinating insight into the various components that actually go into making the whiskies they drink. I personally would love to see more brands running these types of tastings.

A big thanks is due to Tullamore D.E.W/William Grant & Sons, and Weber Shandwick for another fantastic event.

 - Martin.

PS: If you do pay a visit to the Grounds, make sure you drop in on "Fluffy" to say hi!