Thursday, 26 March 2015

Malt Masters Hong Kong 2015 & Charlie Maclean Masterclass

With Martin away in India (visiting Amrut Distilleries - detailed tour write-up soon), it was up to me to pick up the Glencairn and cover two back to back Hong Kong Whisky events. First up - Malt Masters Hong Kong 2015.


Hong Kong whisky enthusiasts (and those new to the whisky world) gathered at PMQ’s "the Qube" on Saturday 14th March to taste, explore and learn about all things whisky. Exhibitors present included many large and well-known brands such as Macallan, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, Glenrothes, Balvenie, Singleton, Arran, Old Pulteney and Jura. There were also a small number of independent bottlers (Berry’s from Berry Bros & Rudd, Hepburn, The First) and at least one new to the whisky world (Annandale - who aren't yet producing a "whisky", per se).  Although it was great to see so many Scotch whiskies, it would have been nice to see more world whiskies, particularly from other parts of Asia.


The food provided was plentiful with various tasty canapés to line stomachs, and it was great to see a few food exhibitors including Dutch Cheese, whisky ice-cream (!) and deli meats; however this attendee was there for the whisky!


The Charlie MacLean masterclass (pre-purchased as an add-on to the entry price) was informative for whisky beginners through to connoisseurs. Three drams were discussed and tasted (Singleton of Glenord 12 and 18 [created for the Asian market], alongside Talisker 10) and Charlie was eager to answer any simple or tricky questions from the group. Charlie discussed the colour and flavour development of whisky, the fermentation and maturation process and the purpose of different elements in the production-  copper and charcoal being purifiers at different stages of the process, the importance of water quality both during production and when tasting, and the importance of balancing distillery characteristics of whisky with the maturity characteristics. A few gems of knowledge were also thrown into the mix, such as why waxy new make became waxy in the Clynelish distillery (“gunk” in the receiving tank); Glem Ord has the longest fermentation time of all distilleries known to Charlie (more than 80 hours compared to the usual 60-ish hours, resulting in increased flavour complexity); and Diageo own 7 of the 14 distilleries that use wormtubs, which make for a lighter style of whisky.



Overall, the Malt Masters made for a great (and leisurely) afternoon for anyone interested in tasting and learning more about whisky. Great timing with the PMQ night markets held just downstairs for a quick snack on the way home too! There were a few kinks that need to be ironed out for future events (the ticketing process with long lines to enter, the lack of drinking water, and master classes starting and running late), but I am confident that this event will only get bigger and better in future years!

- Steph


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Distillery Tour #3: Kavalan Distillery (Taiwan) - Makers of the 2015 World's Best Single Malt Whisky

Third in our Distillery Tour series (don't worry we haven't forgotten about Yamazaki - it's due soon) is the Kavalan Distillery in Taiwan. Or should we say, the distillery responsible for the World's Best Single Malt Whisky 2015, as crowned by the World Whiskies Awards in London last week.

Just a few weeks before the Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Single Cask Strength picked up the coveted title, Steph and I were lucky enough to be treated to a private tour of the distillery (which was very lucky, considering the regular tours are in Mandarin, which neither of us speak).


Located in Yuanshan, a rural township in Yilan County (about 1hr 20m away from Taipei city), the Kavalan Distillery really is a sight to behold. Much like its parent, the King Car group, the distillery is absolutely massive, with everything done on a grand scale - the grounds, the warehouses, even the tasting room.

..but what really fascinated us, before all that, was Yilan County itself. Kilometer upon kilometer upon kilometer of flat, water-filled plots, some with shacks and run-down houses, some with modern mansions. Truly unlike anything we'd ever seen before (the photos below don't do it justice - but believe us when we say the landscape was like this for a good 30-40 minutes before we got to the distillery). Simply amazing.


Unfortunately Ian Chang (Master Distiller, who we met at The Whisky Show 2014 in Sydney) wasn't on site, but nevertheless we were given a very enjoyable tour by an enthusiastic tour guide who showed us the ins and outs of the distillery.


Kavalan obtain their barley already malted from the UK, Sweden and Finland, and don't do any in-house malting (though if they wanted to, they'd certainly have enough room!) Producing 3 million barrels a year, with the average cask aged for 3-4 years, means you need some serious storage facilities. In addition to the incredible 5 story warehouse they currently have, at the time of our visit, the distillery were constructing another. Unsurprising really, given the popularity in recent years. Due to frequent earthquakes in the region, the casks are bound 4 at a time, to reduce the risk of them toppling over - particularly those racked towards the top.

As with many distilleries, casks are a mix of port pipes, sherry butts and bourbon barrels, with the type of cask identifiable by a unique code on the front (and of course, the shape / size). The 3 casks below, first filled in 2006, were the first Kavalan casks to be filled (when you think about it, to win the World's Best Single Malt is a pretty incredible achievement for a distillery that's only been producing for 9 years!


Interestingly, in addition to the regular spirit/wash stills producing the single malt that has made Kavalan famous, the distillery has recently installed a number of other, very different German stills, which are intended to produce gin and brandy. Watch this space.


The tour itself (which I should point out, is completely free) is, in a similar fashion to the Suntory Hakushu Distillery we tourd back in December, somewhat of a "standard" tour. You see the mashing, you see the fermentation, you see the distillation, you see the barrel houses, and then you go into the tasting room. It's enjoyable, and you do get to see a few close-ups (such as some sample grains, open casks, new make spirit / whisky at various stages of aging in different casks), but you're not going to try a single cask whisky straight from the barrel, or taste a new make with your hands. From the looks of it, the distillery simply gets too many visitors each year to offer any specialist tours. It's certainly a popular tourist destination.


Unlike the aforementioned Hakushu Distillery tour, the tasting at the end of the tour is of one whisky only - the Kavalan Classic Single Malt 40% (4yo). There are nosing bottles on each table to allow tasters to nose each Kavalan expression (including the award winning Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Single Cask Strength), but they aren't for tasting.

What the distillery shop offers, however, is 50mL sample bottles of every expression, along with a limited distillery-only peated 7yo expression (housed in a stunning presentation box, and available for a very reasonable ~$350HKD / $57AUD). If there are two things I really like to see in a distillery shop, it's a distillery-only expression that doesn't cost the earth, and a large range of samples. Tick, tick. Well done, Kavalan.


Was the tour worth doing? Yes, absolutely. While it might not be the most interactive of distillery tours you'll go on, you'll get to see whisky distillation / aging on a simply massive scale, in a country that just a few short years ago no-one would have thought could produce a decent whisky, let alone a world-beater.

A few tips if you do plan to visit:
  • As mentioned, the distillery is a decent drive from Taipei (it took us about 1h 20m in a taxi), and if you're not driving yourself, your options are pretty limited. Our hotel (the excellent W Taipei) arranged a taxi for us, who waited at the distillery and drove us back. If you're not driving, I'd suggest doing something similar.
  • If you are driving though, there's plenty of parking (of course it goes without saying - don't drink and drive, but this isn't like some Scottish distilleries where you'll be tasting 4-5 whiskies at the end).
  • Book ahead, and if you don't speak Mandarin, see if you can arrange an English tour.



With Ian Chang (Kavalan Master Distiller) the day after his 
"Best Single Malt 2015" win, in London.


Cheers,
Steph & Martin.

Tasted #167: Glenfiddich Age of Discovery "Dawin Edition" Red Wine cask 19yo

Considering this whisky is the first in my #101drams list, and I actually purchased this bottle around two years ago (and took these notes about 9 months ago), it's taken me way too long to get this post up (2 years and 2 months after tasting the Age of Discovery Bourbon Cask, in fact).

Oh well, better late than never...


Glenfiddich Age of Discovery "Dawin Edition" Red Wine cask (40% ABV, 19yo, Speyside, Scotland, $158AUD)

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Colour: Dark gold
Nose: Instantly recognisable as a 'fiddich. Pears (stewed this time), but slightly dusty and more earthy than other 'fiddichs. Sweet too - would have guessed there'd be some bourbon-matured stock in it if I'd nosed it blind.

Palate: Big, sweet, citrus zest. Fills the mouth well for 40% ABV. Quickly changes to a drying, berry flavour, with mouth-puckering tannins

Finish: Dry! Relatively short. Tannic but smooth to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. I really enjoyed this. It starts off like a regular Glenfiddich, then takes a massive detour, while remaining just as enjoyable.


Cheers,
Martin.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Tasted #166: Elements of Islay AR 4 Ardbeg (#101drams)

First tasting notes from our visit to Campbelltoun Loch are thanks to the Elements of Islay series - specifically Ardbeg Release #4.

Having tried a few of Elements' full strength, NAS, small batch releases (sometimes from single casks, sometimes not), I was keen to try one of their Ardbeg expressions - so much so, that I put one on my #101drams challenge. So here we go...


Elements of Islay AR4 (58.1% ABV, NAS Islay, Scotland, no longer available)
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Colour: Vibrant coppery gold.
Nose: Subtle peat smoke and some raspberry notes. Fruity sweetness, but not overpowering.
Palate: Still subtle smoke. Campfire smoke mostly - mossy, earthy, grassy smoke. Some sweet shortbread notes towards the end.
Finish: Long, smooth and campfire-smoky.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. A nice dram but there are no real standout characteristics.


Cheers,
Martin.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Tasted #165: Johnnie Walker "The Royal Route" (#101drams)

The third, final, and most expensive release in Johnnie Walker's at-times controversial "Explorers' Club Collection" - "The Royal Route"* released after "Spice Road" and "The Gold Route", was unleashed on travel retail markets around the world in October 2013.

In my #101drams - a charitable challenge, I mentioned that I hoped to tick this one off after a May 2013 trip. Well, it took a little longer than that, but after countless trips I finally saw it for tasting at a duty-free shop in Japan's Narita Airport, in January 2015...


Johnnie Walker Explorer's Club Collection "The Royal Route" (40% ABV, NAS, Scotland, $159USD)
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Colour: Light gold.

Nose: Butterscotch and caramel. Some pineapple.

Palate: Grainy at first, with more pineapple (pineapple cakes more than fresh pineapple). Sweet toffee and caramel.

Finish: Short, sweet and smooth.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. A fine and fitting end to the collection, though unlikely to challenge a die-hard Single Malt fan.

Cheers,
Martin.

* Could have sworn I saw this called the "Royal Silk Route" prior to its release, so perhaps it had a name before being released. Either way, it's officially called "The Royal Route".

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

St Paddy's Day at CCWC - Jameson Masterclass (Tasted #165-170)

It's been awhile since my last post, the Christmas / New Year holiday and work having taken over. Nevertheless, a few exciting posts coming up and also some reflection from my recent travel (more on that soon).

Continuing from the last Jameson tasting at CCWC (Campbell Corner Whiskey Co-Operative) at The Wild Rover in May last year and also ahead of the St Pat's day celebration, it would be fitting to re-visit the iconic Irish whiskey that is Jameson with Pernod Ricard's Jameson Brand Ambassador Lexie O'Toole at The Wild Rover.



This being my first Jameson masterclass and having had limited encounters with Irish whiskies in the past,  I did look forward to the tasting. This iconic Irish whiskey, founded by John Jameson (a Scottish lad) in 1780 at the Middleton distillery differentiates itself from American and Scotch whiskies through its use of both malted and unmalted barley and through its triple-distilled production process. The result, a remarkably pleasant, creamy and spice laden (as derived from the unmalted barley) whiskey -- as presented through the six Jameson whiskies on the night:
  • Jameson Select Reserve (Small Batch)
  • Jameson Gold Reserve
  • Powers Gold Label
  • Redbreast 12yo Single Pot STill
  • Green Spot Single Pot Still
  • Jameson 18YO
So here we go...



Jameson Select Reserve Small Batch (40% ABV, NAS, Cork, Ireland, $69.99AUD)
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A mixture between the Irish pot still and a small batch of grain, deducing a sweet, rich expression from the distillation
Colour: Light copper
Nose: Smooth, sweet date and vanilla notes.
Palate: Light, spices, vanilla, nutty and where did that dark orange chocolate come from. Did I mention oily also
Finish: Medium, sweet and gentle spices
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. It's smooth, creamy and sweet -- reminds me of a bourbon.

Powers Gold Label (43% ABV, NAS, Cork, Ireland$79.99AUD)
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Just released late last year, this whiskey is notably sitted between the Select and Gold reserve
Colour: Rich and golden copper
Nose: Sweet date, honey, vanilla, tobacco?
Palate: Loads of spices, heavy on the caramel
Finish: Long prolonged spices
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100


Jameson Gold Reserve (40% ABV, NAS, Cork, Ireland$84.99AUD)
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They say this whiskey receives its sweetness from the wood, American Oak and its mixture of different potstills
Colour: Dark copper
Nose: honey and vanilla notes 
Palate: Sweet vanilla, cinnamon, iodine (where did this come from)
Finish: Longer than the Select Reserve and sweet lingering finish.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100 (the same as what Martin scored) 

Redbreast 12yo (40% ABV, 12yo, Cork, Ireland$99.99AUD)
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A traditional style single pot still whiskey, aged for 12 years and heavily influenced by the sherry cask

Colour: Light, golden, did someone say red hue?
Nose: honey and vanilla notes (seems to be a common denominator)
Palate: Light, raisin, hint of sherry, dried fruits (apricot?)
Finish: Short and sweet.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.


Green Spot Single Pot Still (40% ABV, NAS, Cork, Ireland$99.99AUD)
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Aged mostly in second fill Bourbon barrels, with some aged in ex-Sherry barrels.
Colour: Light copper
Nose: Clove, cinnamon
Palate: Apple, cinnamon (now that's a combination), sweet date
Finish: Short with a sweet date finish
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100 (never got those salmon notes)

Jameson 18 YO (40% ABV, NAS, Cork, Ireland$135AUD)
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Distilled a couple of times before being sent away in Oloroso casks
Colour: Golden
Nose: Honey, vanilla, orange
Palate: Dried fruit, sweet date, spices, iodine, hint of sherry
Finish: Medium and sweet
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100


Well, what can I say, my first Jameson masterclass and it was rather enjoyable. The tasting notes tend to be quite consistent between expressions though I did love the Select reserve slightly more than the other expressions. I wasn't sure if all the hints of iodine were from the naturally salty oloroso sherry, the sherry style casks used to mature many of the expressions.

The masterclass was fun and enjoyable and with Lexie, having spent some time in Belgium as an ambassador, also shared few interesting insights between these Irish whiskey expressions and the more classic trappist ;)

Whatever you do, wherever you are, Happy St. Paddy's Day!!

Cheers,
Hendy





Thursday, 12 March 2015

Tasted #164: Teeling Whiskey Single Grain Irish Whiskey

Way back over 100 tastes ago, we discussed Teeling's Small Batch Irish Whiskey, and really enjoyed the value for money it provided, as well as its points of difference (46% ABV, non chill-filtered, Rum cask-aged, Irish) in a market increasingly filled with 40% ABV chill-filtered Scotch whiskies.

Fast forward to 2015 and the chaps at Teeling Whiskey Company (who are rapidly increasing their presence in Australia) kindly sent me a sample of the newly Australian-released Teeling Whiskey Single Grain Irish Whiskey (as well as a spiffy Teeling tweed cap, and another sample which I'll keep hush hush for now, but will be hitting Australian shelves later this year...).

Continuing with the unique cask aging, Teeling have completely aged this whiskey in Californian Cabernet Sauvignon wine casks. Having tried many a wine cask aged whisk(e)y before, and generally enjoyed their unique nature, I was very keen to try this, especially since hearing it won the "World's Best Grain" at the World Whiskies Awards last year.

The whole Teeling range is only available at Dan Murphy's in Australia (no word on Hong Kong availability yet), and this particular bottle sells for a very reasonable $59.95.

Teeling Whiskey Single Grain Irish Whiskey (46% ABV, NAS, Dublin Ireland, $59.95)
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Colour: Vibrant coppery gold.

Nose: Rich, with citrus and blueberry notes up front, and some confectionary sweetness following. Very enjoyable - one of those whiskies you hope doesn't then let you down with a thin, anaemic palate...

Palate: ....and it doesn't! Big and rich at first, with lots of spice and some berry notes carrying through. It quickly becomes very drying (a feature we've found with almost all red wine cask-aged whiskies we've tried), with some residual sweetness at the end. More-ish.

Finish: Drying and tannic, and enjoyable, with subtle hints of spice, but far too short.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Another winner from Teeling. Grain whisky may not yet be in the mainstream (though David Beckham is doing his best to change that), but I think this Teeling Single Grain will have a good chance of putting it there (and I'd happily drink it over Haig Club!)



Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Bar Review #14: Campbelltoun Loch (Tokyo, Japan)

A few weeks ago we posted up the first bar review from our recent Japan trip, namely Zoetrope in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and talked about their incredible and well-priced range of Japanese whisky.

Well, what Zoetrope is to Japanese whisky, Campbelltoun Loch is to Scottish whisky.

Also located in Tokyo, Campbelltoun Loch re-defined my image of a "small bar". We all know Sydney has some great "small" bars, but they're palaces, mansions even, compared to Campbelltoun Loch. I'd almost bet there are a lot of Sydney bars with stockrooms larger Campbelltoun Loch. 

See for yourself (my back was against the front door taking this picture):


But size is hardly an indicator of a quality bar, and Campbelltoun Loch have done their best to fill every single inch of the bar with quality whisky - the overwhelming majority of it Scottish, with a good mixture of both Original and Independent bottlings.

While there may only be room for 8 patrons, the staff (that'd be Nakamura Nobuyuki, the sole guy behind the bar in the photo above), clearly passionate about Scotch whisky, makes sure everyone feels welcome, regardless of which of their 300+ open bottles they choose to dram from.


The atmosphere was jovial but refined, with subtle jazz tunes filling the room and a mostly older (but very friendly) crowd. A brief look at the shelf confirms that whilst Nakamura may have been running Campbelltoun Loch for "only" 16 years, his collection of whisky goes well beyond that...


As with a lot of the Japanese whisky bars we visited, there's no menu and with such a variety (and my not terribly good eyesight), it was hard to see everything that was on offer. Prices were reasonable, with a dram of Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel (the new Sherry one) selling for about $90HKD/$15AUD, and as with almost all the bars we visited, half-drams were available (have I made it clear yet that Japan really is whisky lovers heaven? Because It is...)

There's a reasonable amount of world whiskies, including a single Sullivans Cove (from Australia) and Teeling 21 (from Ireland), but Scotch is clearly the focus.


Campbelltoun Loch can be a little tricky to find (though the address details and photo below should help), but it's absolutely worth the trouble. Whisky fans could do worse than a few drams at the Park Hotel's SMWS Society bar (review up soon), followed by a few nightcaps here. Or vice versa.


Campbelltoun Loch, Tokyo
Address: 1-6-8 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku
Nearest station: Yurakucho or Hibiya (exit A4)

Cheers.
Martin.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Tasted #159 - #163: Ichiro's Malt Cards Series (Hanyu) Ace of Diamonds, Yamazaki Mizunara 2014, Miyagikyo 1987, Hanyu from the last year of production...and more!

A few weeks ago we posted a review of the fantastic Zoetrope bar in Tokyo, Japan, as part of a trip Steph and I recently took to Japan. As with every bar we visited, we tasted some amazing, rare, unusual (and generally, insanely cheap) whiskies.

Here are the five we tasted at Zoetrope (who conveniently are happy to serve most drams by the half-dram), including not just any Ichiro's Malt "Cards" bottling, but an Ace! Sadly (but unsurprisingly) they'd run out of their Colour Joker stocks...

Ichiro's Malt (Hanyu) "Cards" series Ace of Diamonds (56.4% ABV, 21yo, Bottle #407 of 527, Cask 9023, Hanyu, Japan, no longer available)
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Distilled in 1986, bottled in 2008. Two casks: Hogshead & Cream Sherry Butt
Colour: Dark red-copper.
Nose: Rich, Sherried, sweet, raspberries, some almond.
Palate: Leather, oak, spice, big spice. A little sweetness - bubblegum, wine gums, and some apricots.
Finish: Drying and tannic. After a fantastic nose and palate, the finish lets it down slightly...but only slightly.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Despite the slight disappointment on the finish, still a fantastic whisky.



Nikka Single Cask Malt Whisky (Miyagikyo) 1987 (62% ABV, 17yo, Bottle #4, Cask #89698, Sendai, Japan, no longer available)
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Distilled in November 1987, bottled in August 2005.
Colour: Intensely dark
Nose: Plums and port.
Palate: Lots of juicy plum notes. Lets you know it's packing 62% ABV, but that's not to say it's harsh. Hot yes, but not harsh. Water really brings out sweet toffee notes.
Finish: Drying, tannic, medium length. Lots of oak. Water lengthens the finish (unsurprising given the ABV).
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Better with a few drops of water.



Yamazaki Mizunara 2014 (48% ABV, NAS, 1 of 1,600 bottles, Yamazaki, Japan, ¥25,000)
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Colour: Bright orange
Nose: Spiced, chilli, vanilla and coconut. Lots of coconut (a feature of all Mizunara-matured whiskies we nosed during the trip).
Palate: Spicy, possibly one of the spiciest whiskies I've tried. Peppers and chilli.
Finish: Cayenne pepper, turning into pure coconut. Very long.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. I probably wouldn't drop the asking price on a bottle (though even if I wanted to, I'm sure all 1,600 are now spoken for, but an enjoyable and very unusual whisky nonetheless.



Ichiro's Malt (Chichibu) Zoetrope Banzai 8th anniversary bottling (62% ABV, 4yo, bottle #25 of 79, cask #609, Chichibu, Japan, not for sale)
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Distilled Nov in 2009, bottled in June 2014 to celebrate the bar's 8th anniversary.
Colour: Orange sunset
Nose: Play dough (it's clearly young) but very smooth. Pineapple too.
Palate: Meaty. Some plastic, crayons. But rich tropical fruits too. Very, very good.
Finish: The only disappointing part. Medium length, tannic and slightly sour.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Bloody good whisky, let down only slightly by a finish that reminds you that this is still very young, and has some less than favourable notes that haven't quite left it yet.


Ichiro's Malt (Hanyu) Shot Bar Zoetrope 3rd anniversary bottling (60.7% ABV, 9yo, bottle #158 of 263, cask #9800, Chichibu, Japan, not for sale)
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Distilled in 2000, the last year of Hanyu's production. Partially matured in a rum cask and bottled in 2009 to celebrate Zoetrope's 3rd anniversary (how many bars can say they have two whiskies bottled specifically for them? Zoetrope actually have 3...)
Colour: Orange sunset
Nose: Bacon. Bacon. Some more bacon, and then, for a change, bacon. So much bacon. A few drops of water brought about some smoke too. Smoky bacon. Yes please!
Palate: Intense bacon-ness. Water brings about even more bacon, but also adds smoked BBQ flavours and dried fruits - apples and sultanas.
Finish: Long and hot. Some smoke, quite a bit of vanilla sweetness.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Not my favourite of the night, but still a fantastic whisky (especially if you like bacon. Mmm, bacon...)


If you ever get the chance, visit this bar.

Cheers,
Martin.

Monday, 23 February 2015

This week in whisk(e)y #17

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 so (including other interesting whisk(e)y news Steph & I think you might enjoy). So on with it then...


Ardbeg Day 2015 announced
If you only read one of these news bits, read this one. Ardbeg Day 2015 has been announced, to be held on 30th May 2015. Mark the date in your calendar, and if you lve in Sydney (and probably Melbourne), then you'll most definitely want to keep the date completely free.

Why? Because Ardbeg Day is usually one of, if not the best whisky event of the year in Australia (no word yet on if there'll be a Hong Kong one in 2015, but we hope so).

2013 was fantastic2014 possibly even betterDo you want to be the person who misses out on 2015?

(Trust me, you don't.)

Details will be posted here when available:
http://www.ardbeg.com/ardbeg/ardbeg-day-2015



New World Whisky Distillery Tours and Tastings

You may know New World Whisky Distillery from their Starward Australian single malt whisky, their brilliant single cask and one-off bottlings, or from our private tour back in Dec 2013. Either way, they're an incredibly exciting young (though now well-established) distillery doing some incredibly exciting things (ginger beer cask-finished whisky anyone), who don't seem to be slowing down the pace any time soon.

Since our tour, they've added a bar, and a series of formal tours/tastings, which can be found on their events page. While they've just run a whole bunch of tours throughout early Feb, they have an open day coming up on 28th February which is sure to be a cracker.

Do yourself a favour if you haven't, and get into this exciting distillery (literally, if you're in Melbourne and are free this coming Saturday).



The Glenrothes to release Vintage 1968 Exceptional Cask in Australia
It wasn't that long ago that we attended the Hong Kong launch of the 1969 Exceptional Cask, and now the 1968 vintage has been announced in Australia (previously only being available at Singapore duty free).

For those who like the geekier details:
"The Glenrothes Extraordinary Single Cask 1968 has been bottled from the contents of Cask #13507 – a second-fill hogshead cask, filled on 19th November 1968. It has yielded just 145 bottles at a natural strength of 41.9% ABV. The hallmarks of The Glenrothes are quality and purity, evident in the beautifully-balanced, elegant and well-mannered single malt with peerless texture, perfectly expressed by this single cask bottling. This expression is unchill filtered and, like all Glenrothes’ bottlings, of completely natural colour."
The Glenrothes Extraordinary Single Cask 1968 #13507 will be available in Australia from March 2015. Prices will start at "$10,000AUD and upwards" per bottle.



Highland Park "Odin" has arrived
Back in November we attended the Hong Kong launch of the Highland Park "Freya", and the next in the series has now been announced - none other than "Odin", joining "Freya", "Thor" and "Loki" to complete the Valhalla collection.

Odin weighs in at 55.8% ABV and, judging from the comments online, has been very well received.

No word on a HK release just yet, but we'll be sure to look into it and update this post with any details.



anCnoc 1975 Vintage released
Another new anCnoc release - this time a very well-aged 1975 release, bottled in 2014 (making it 38 or 39 years old in my books, depending on distillation/bottling dates).

To quote the press release:
"On February 1st 2015 anCnoc Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky will unveil its latest creation – anCnoc 1975 Vintage. Bottled late in 2014 this is the oldest expression ever released from Knockdhu Distillery and promises to be the ultimate treat for anCnoc fans and the most discerning whisky drinkers around the world.
The whisky comes from only three American oak and Spanish oak ex-sherry casks laid down in 1975. The release consists of 1590 bottles. The whisky comes in its most natural form, it has not been chill-filtered or coloured and is presented at the cask strength of 44.2% ABV.
The recommended retail price is £300. anCnoc 1975 Vintage will be available in several key markets around the world including the UK, USA, Russia and Canada.
In-keeping with anCnoc's ethos of 'Modern Tradition', the 1975 Vintage is presented in a simple, striking bottle and encased in an elegant black tube.
anCnoc Assistant Brand Manager Stephanie Bridge sheds light on where the new Vintage fits within anCnoc's recent string of acclaimed releases.
“The last 12 months have been a very ambitious and a very successful time for anCnoc. We unveiled the limited Peaty Collection to a global audience and launched two travel retail expressions as well as our popular 18 Year Old. The 1975 has been anticipated for a number of years, it’s distinctively anCnoc, a fantastic whisky and a superb addition to any whisky collection.""


Visit the world with LABEL 5 fans
In another example of whisky companies seeking to engage their audience in new and exciting ways (e.g. The Glenlivet's The Guardian's Chapter and Maker's Mark's ongoing excellent Ambassador program) LABEL 5 (which we tried back in November) recently asked their fans to film a 5 second video of their city, for inclusion in a "round the world" compilation produced by LABEL 5.

The compilation has now been completed, and can be found at: http://youtu.be/TNXhGn9QXZg


Cheers, 
- Martin.