Friday, 31 July 2015

Tasted #198: Millstone French Oak 8yo (#101drams)

We're powering through the #101drams list at the moment. Next up, a whisky from a country we haven't yet featured in this blog - the Netherlands!

Millstone Whisky comes from the Zuidam Distillery, a family run distillery in operation for 40 years. I picked up a sample of their 8yo French Oak a while ago from Master of Malt, and finally got around to trying it recently...

Millstone French Oak 8yo (40% ABV, 8yo, Netherlands, No longer available)
Colour: Slightly dull orange.

Nose: Oranges, lime and lemon zest. Some grains, and freshly-cut grass.

Palate: Young, but not "hot". Loads of citrus. Light but flavoursome. Oat cakes, short bread, tangy but not overly sweet.

Finish: Medium length, with oats and a hint of salt.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Not bad.


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Tasted #197: Octomore Orpheus 2.2 (#101drams)

When I wrote my list of #101drams whiskies in very early 2013, I kind of shot myself in the foot with a few of them. They were relatively available at the time, but after procrastinating (or rather, getting through others on the list), some of them became very, very difficult to track down.

#24 Ardbeg Alligator, for example. I tried it soon after compiling the list, but didn't take very comprehensive notes, figuring I'd find it again relatively easily - ha! Luckily I did manage to find it at a bar in Tokyo this year (and finished the bottle!) so notes will be up soon.

#41 Balvenie TUN1401 (any release) also became significantly more expensive and hard to come by than when I wrote the list, but luckily I did manage to track down a dram at Melbourne's Whisky + Alement.

#7 though, Octomore Orpheus, was looking increasingly difficult to track down. With bottles going for $500AUD+, and any bar that previously stocked it long since sold out, I wondered if I'd ever get to try this one...

...and then, just a few months ago, came a very kind offer from @gr8whisky, who offered to send me a dram, noticing that it was still outstanding on my list. This was the second time something like this happened, and was a perfect example of #whiskyfabric in action in my opinion. Cheers Grant!

With the dram safely back in HK, I whipped out a Glencairn and got to tasting....

Bruichladdich Octomore "Orpheus" 2.2 (61% ABV, 5yo, Islay, Scotland, good luck finding a bottle these days)

Colour: Dirty, coppery brown.

Nose: At first, a big whack of peat, but then HUGE BBQ notes. It transported me straight into my fridge, where a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's was sitting. I don't usually get this specific with my tasting notes, but it was actually smack bang on the Sweet Vidalia Onion sauce, which I'd tried a few weeks earlier. With water it became a different whisky, and a lot more typical Islay notes - fishnets and iodine.

Palate: Lemon zest and more BBQ. Some cherries, smoked ribs with dry-rub. Drying and mouth-puckering. Water again amped up the peat and iodine, making it more of a typical Islay peat-monster (which it is, at 140ppm).

Finish: Long and smooth, with a fire at the very back of the throat.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. Unique, that's for sure. Not sure I loved it, but it was certainly different, and while it did have some of the characteristics I typically get from red wine-finished whiskies (drying, tannic), it had plenty that I don't typically get, too!


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Dramnation Whisky Appreciation Classes

The Sydney Hills District has seen a considerable growth over the past decade and the transformation of the area has seen a shift in consumer demand and taste and the gradual introduction of eatery / bar choices into the area to rival those in and around the Sydney CBD. The latest two great introductions to the Hills area are the Crooked Tailor restaurant and bar and Dramnation. Crooked Tailor has positioned itself as an alternative to all the pubs and bistros in the area. We will visit and preview Crooked Tailor in due time.

With the latter, as we briefly previewed in mid May and also on our Facebook page, Matt Wooler; a good friend of TimeforWhisky, fellow whisky blogger, whisky connoisseur and also custodian to the long standing Distant Thunder Whisky Club -- has recently established and launched Dramnation. Dramnation is a startup business that has been founded by Matt and aims to impart knowledge and introduce whisky appreciation for individuals through a series of intimate presentations, whisky tasting and sensory exploration. The ultimate aim of Dramnation is to instill a good level of valued information to allow for a confident, educated decision making process when selecting and purchasing whisky at retail liquor chains or other specialist stores.

Matt extended a spot for myself to partake in the series of whisky appreciation courses that ran over the course of four weeks. Hosted at the Castle Hill Bowling Club, the club allowed Dramnation ample space for the setup. Walking in through the lounge and onto the hall, the Dramnation space had been immaculately organised and presented. The collection of whisky wooden tasting boards and the colourful sensories have been elegantly placed across the long table and all the elements draw you in for a closer look. For those that have known Matt over the years, he is known for his attention to details and his innovative, thoughtful ideas. The Dramnation setup was all that and more. In the background was soft, pleasant jazz music that complemented the setup.

Along the table, there was a range of sensories from vanilla pods, buffalo grass (freshly sourced from the Hills district), almonds, prunes, dates, orange, butter, raisins, wood chips and few others. These sensories are later revealed by Matt as elements that can be explored by those around the table to allow a deeper appreciation of the whiskies being offered. Fingers food was also spaced along the table and included different types of cheese (which we will describe further later), crackers, mixed nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, pastries and a range of cured meat.


These sensories are passed around throughout the session so as to allow a closer appreciation of them. This one above is peat soil that helped connect us to the moss 'smoky' peat characteristic that is inherent in those Islay whiskies some of us love. In this case, this peat soil was introduced in the Class 2, prior to our tasting of the Old Pulteney 12 Years Old; generally known as an old maritime whisky and also the Laphroaig 10 Years Old.

I mentioned the different types of cheese on the table above. With the cheeses on the board, Matt explained that there are two types of cheese available on the board. The mozzarella cheese and the cheddar cheese. The mozzarella cheese had been described as a palate cleanser, a type of cheese that would help neutralise your palate following a tasting or snacking. The cheddar cheese, on the other hand, had been described as a palate exciter and one to have prior to tackling the next dram. Despite my initial scepticism on the matter, the two types of cheese worked to clean and amplify the sensories from the dram on offer. Kudos to Matt for sharing this tip and one for you to try at home.

Here the two types of cheese that were laid out next to the finger foods for sharing amongst those around the table - the cheddar slice on the left and the mozzarella block on the centre-left.

Once everyone arrived, we were all ushered onto our seats along the table and presented a tasting cheat sheet summarising the tasting notes of the drams being presented. In front of each person was the whisky tasting board with five to six drams on each board (depending on the class). The above board from the last class contained six drams; five of which are whiskies and the sixth on the board was a glass of oloroso sherry. The sherry was there to help introduce the class to the world of sherried whisky (.. mind you, the wonderful world of sherried whisky).

Throughout the four weeks, across four classes, a total of twenty drams were presented for tasting and this did not include all the mystery drams Matt introduced at the end of each class. Mystery drams are simply drams which can be purchased in advance from the Dramnation site and the details of the the mystery drams are only revealed at the end of each class. Each mystery dram is personally selected by Matt and is quite unique and differ to the twenty drams offered for tasting. A couple of notable mystery drams were the Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition and Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey.

The twenty drams that were presented throughout the four classes were unique, varied and showcased the different characteristics that are inherent in the whiskies from the different regions. What I liked about the twenty drams was that all twenty drams are widely available from retail bottle shops and that simply meant that if you enjoyed any of the drams, you can get a bottle from your favourite bottle shops straight after class.

A few highlights from the twenty drams include:

  • Glenfiddich 12 Years Old, a classic Speyside Scotch (the first whisky of them all and presented in the first class);
  • The Hakushu Distiller's Reserve Single Malt, an affordable Japanese malt from the Island of Honshu, Japan (a good introductory Japanese malt, as presented in the first class);
  • Lark Single Malt Classic Oak, the flagship malt from our local Tasmanian distiller, The Lark Distillery (presented in the first class);
  • Old Pulteney 12 Years Old, a buttery, floral, lightly smoked Highland malt and as described as the old maritime whisky (a dram from Class 2);
  • Strathisla 12 Years Old, a single malt that may not be well known though output from the distillery is mostly used for the Chivas Regal blends (a highlight from Class 3);
  • Ardbeg 10 Years Old, a classic Islay peaty whisky that embodies plenty of smoke, fresh wet moss and long sweet malts (this was the finishing dram of Class 3);
  • The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Years Old, a balanced, floral, sweet Speyside malt (pictured above, presented in Class 4);
  • Aberlour A'Bunadh Cask Strength, the twentieth dram, the final dram and a favourite of mine - big on the nose, rich and plentiful on the palate and super long. (A beautiful final dram, as presented in Class 4)

Throughout the four classes, Matt intimately described each dram (of the five drams in each class) and he would provide an overview of the dram prior to our tasting of each dram, detailing the profile of the whisk(e)y, the likely nose, palate and finish characteristics that you are likely to encounter and also relevant sensories on the table that you can relate the dram to.

A different set of drams was curated for the four classes. The first class presented whiskies of the world, the second presented balanced whiskies, the third -- whiskies aged in different barrels and the fourth and final class presented an old (30 years old) and also four, beautiful, sherried whiskies.

In between tasting, Matt took the time to discuss various aspects of whisk(e)y from the basics of whisk(e)y distillation (from the mashing, fermentation, distillation, ageing to bottling); the different Scotch whisky regions of Scotland; the different barrel sizes to the notion of whisky colouring. The back of each of the tasting cheat sheet provided in each class also summarised facts and figures regarding these aspects.

To deviate from the usual discussion of whisky facts, in one of the classes, Matt introduced the good old 'Old Fashioned' cocktail to the class. What's more, each of us was also given the opportunity to curate our own spiced old fashioned (details below) using a Woodford Reserve bourbon as the base bourbon. The 'Old Fashioned' cocktail was given a slight kick with few spices including cinnamon stick and star anise thrown into the works. The resulting cocktail was simply delectable.

Also to break up the tasting rhythm, in the second class, we were given the opportunity to witness a demonstration on the colouration of whisky (though the demonstration used water) -- to demonstrate the same colouring process used to colour whiskies. The caramel colouring used on the day was the same caramel colouring used by a number of distilleries to colour their whiskies to alter their colour profile as some whisky markets tend to prefer darker colour whiskies as they imply a more premium expression. The demonstration highlighted an interesting side of whisky production and also highlighted the fact that most of us (including myself) could not successfully differentiate between a standard whisky and a glass of coloured water.

Overall, the Dramnation Whisky Appreciation Classes were fun, interactive, intimate and insightful. Matt's passion for whisky and in-depth knowledge of the subject matter was quite rightly evident and contributed to the overall experience and in my view, the overall great success of the classes.

Many thanks to Matt Wooler, whose whisky knowledge, creativity, humour and charm make the classes a truly memorable experience, especially for those of us that are keen to explore different whiskies and learn more about them.

If you would like to partake in these Dramnation Whisky Appreciation Classes or discuss similar style classes, you can visit the Dramnation site or contact Matt Wooler via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

This July, Dramnation will also be presenting A World Whisky Tour at the Castle Hill Bowls Club, Thursday 30th July at 7pm. A tasting of six whiskies from around the world covering regions from France, Australia, India, USA, Japan, & a lost distillery from New Zealand. Tickets are $30 for Club Members and $40 for Non-Club Members. Find out more here.

.. and before I sign off, here's the recipe for that good old 'Spiced Old Fashioned'


Spiced Old Fashioned

  • Tumbler
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons water
  • 1 ounce (30ml) Bourbon
  • 1 peel orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • ice
  1. Muddle sugar and water until blended.
  2. Pack with 2 cubes ice, add bourbon, bitters and mix.
  3. Add cinnamon, star anise, twist orange and garnish while giving one final stir.
  4. Enjoy.

Time for Whisky attended the Dramnation Whisky Appreciation Classes as a guest of Dramnation, with thanks to Matt Wooler.


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Tasted #196: Laphroaig PX Cask (#101drams)

Another day, another #101drams whisky. I've been sitting on this bottle for a while, purchased duty free somewhere or rather, and finally got around to tasting it when I was back in Sydney recently.

Laphroaig PX Cask (48% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, $100AUD (duty-free) / $768HKD)

Colour: Dull copper

Nose: Maritime smoke - more Bowmore than Laphroaig. There's a rich sweetness - ripe cherries, mixed into a Christmas cake, along with glacé cherries. It wasn't Christmas time when I tried this, but it may well have been...

Palate: Now we're looking more like a Laphroaig. Iodinic (is that a word? It is now..), medicinal peat with a meaty undertone. Not too sweet. Hints of...jamon? Would pair well with a well aged hard cheese, like a Parmigiano-Reggiano I think (note to self - try that pairing one day). Just the right amount of sweetness.

Finish: Long, peaty and medicinal. The sweet PX influence makes a final stand at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A very enjoyable dram - still very much a Laphroaig, but different enough to the rest of the range to pique my interest. At $100AUD for a litre (duty free), it's worth consideration.


Sunday, 12 July 2015

This week in whisk(e)y #20 - Teeling Whiskey, Boilermaker House, a new way to try Whisky in Australia, Ardbeg Space Aged Tour and The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve

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, Hendy & or I think you might enjoy). So on with it then...

Teeling Whiskey Distillery officially opens its doors
We've talked about Teeling Whiskey a bit on this site in the past, and found it to be extraordinarily good value, and a perfect example of a "new age" of Irish whiskey distillers (although the company is also selling aged expressions from a previous era of the distillery).

To firmly establish themselves as a distillery that's in it for the long haul, TWC have recently opened a brand new distillery - the first in the city of Dublin for 125 years.

Quoting the press release:

"The Teeling Whiskey Company (TWC) today officially opened its brand new distillery and visitor centre in The Liberties, Dublin. The €10 million distillery is the first in Dublin in over 125 years and the only fully operational distillery in the city at present.
As well as fully functioning distillery, there is a state-of-the-art visitor centre which will host whiskey tasting tours, a café, a bar, a private event space for hire and a gift shop. The visitor centre will officially start taking paying visitors from Saturday, 13th June and will be open from 9.30am - 5.30pm 7 days a week. 
Founded by Jack Teeling in 2012, TWC was set up to revive his family-old trademark of Irish whiskey and bring distilling back to Dublin, where Walter Teeling had a distillery on Marrowbone Lane in the 18th century.  The Teeling Whiskey Company is run by Jack together with his brother Stephen.
The opening of this new distillery means that TWC has complete control of all aspects of its whiskey production, from grain to bottle, so that it can truly lead the category in terms of innovation and build on the company’s ever growing reputation of producing some of the world’s best whiskeys. Most recently, Teeling Single Malt was named ‘World’s Best’ at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards and Teeing Small Batch was awarded ‘Best Blended Irish Whiskey’ at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Irish whiskey is currently experiencing a surge in popularity both at home and abroad and is the fastest growing spirits category in the world. According to an IWSR/Just drinks report*, Irish whiskey is expected to grow by +60% between 2014 and 2019 and it is estimated that 96m bottles of Irish whiskey will be sold globally by 2016.
Jack Teeling, founder and managing director of the Teeling Whiskey Company commented: “Today is a momentous day in the history of our company and something we have been working towards for the last three years. We are delighted to officially open our brand new distillery and bring back the tradition of distilling to Dublin.  We are also looking forward to opening our doors to our first official visitors this weekend and we’re confident that our distillery will become a must-visit destination for tourists to Dublin from all over the world."
For more on the Teeling Whiskey Company and its award winning Irish Whiskeys, visit"

Boilermaker House opens in Melbourne

We've always been big fans of Sydney's Eau de Vie bar, their sister bar in Melbourne, and in fact most of what Sven Almenning and his team have come up with over the years (including their partnership with Bakery Hill,  their pre-batched cocktails and their own Smoked Bacon Bourbon). So although we haven't been yet, we have no doubt that the latest venture, Boilermaker House in Melbourne's CBD, will be a huge success. With almost 700 whiskies, 12 craft beers on tap and good as well, how could it not be?

As the bar claims....

"Boilermaker House is a whisky and craft beer venue that serves up Eau de Vie standard cocktails, dinner until late and also boasts a meat and cheese bar, all of which are open to 3am every day. WIN!
We have close to 700 whiskies from all over the world on the back bar, 12 craft beers on tap, and another 30 odd in the fridge. And with over 40 varieties of cured meat & cheese, the combinations are endless.
We're open 7days from 5pm, and Thursday to Sunday you can also check us out for lunch from midday."
Boilermaker House is open now and can be found at 209 Lonsdale St, Melbourne. - a new way to try whisky in Australia

Whilst we're not affiliated with this business, nor do we have any commercial interests in the Australian (or HK) whisky scene whatsoever, we do appreciate new or different approaches to whisky appreciation, and one such recent example from Australia is, who are offering subscription-based taster packs to open Aussies to new and interesting whisky expressions they otherwise might not get to try.
In Steve (the founder's) own words:
The Whisky Order is a whisky sample subscription box that sends out 4-5 unique samples each month. Each month is themed (e.g.; world whisk(e)y, peaty monsters, sherry bomb) and a range of whisky is chosen to give each subscriber an overview of the taste spectrum.
I get a nice tasting mat made each month and try to include as much as possible in the little parcels of whisky goodness. For example last month I worked with Mornington Peninsula chocolates to do a taste paring with some nice chocolates that were included for each subscriber. is the address and they ship Australia-wide.

Ardbeg Space Aged Tour
The Ardbeg team have done it again in pushing the innovation boundaries. A slightly different twist this time around with the preview of a space-aged whisky. Supposedly, after NASA heard about Ardbeg's Supernova, they sent a note to Ardbeg to see if aging whisky in space is an idea worth exploring.

So why send a whisky to space? Apparently to study the effects of maturation in zero gravity.. and also to celebrate the fact that Ardbeg can! David White, 
International Director of Ardbeg & Glenmorangie explained that the maturation experiment also allowed the study of zero-gravity on whisky terpenes. Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stocks, who led the research explains:
“Ardbeg is known for taking risks in its development of some of the most coveted whiskies in the world, so it is fitting that it is the first Distillery ever to go into space. We are now close to finding answers to something previously unknown which is truly exciting. We hope to shine new light on the effect of gravity on the maturation process and are very excited to bring the Ardbeg Space Aged Tour to Australia, as one of only ten countries around the world”
The vial of Ardbeg has made its way to space from Kazakhstan, aboard the International Space Station (ISS) from 2011 through to 12th September 2014, spending roughly 3 years in zero-gravity orbit.

Quite a young whisky indeed spending with only a mere three years in zero-gravity maturation though this youngster will be one of the most (if not the most) expensive Ardbeg at €10,000 just for the vial (and that's only for the starting bid for the auction of this space aged vial).

This vial, along with its unique, floating ‘zero-gravity’ display case will be exhibited at Dan Murphy’s, Double Bay NSW through to 16th July 2015. 

The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve
The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve has arrived in Australia and will set to replace the ever-popular and classic Glenlivet 12yo.
Hendy was fortunate enough to attend the launch of this new expression and he will be posting up his thoughts on the Founder's Reserve in the next few weeks. Until then, here's a bit of info on the new expression:
The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve launched in Australia on 1 July 2015, and will become the new, permanent benchmark expression in the brand’s core range.  It has been created as the ultimate tribute to founder George Smith’s original vision to craft the definitive, smooth single malt whisky. The announcement has come in the wake of an unparalleled year of growth for the brand, with new expressions and continued innovation underpinning its success. According to Anne Martin, Marketing Director for Pernod Ricard Australia, “Founder’s Reserve brings to life the heart and soul of The Glenlivet. We are very proud to introduce this new expression during what has been an incredible twelve months for the brand, which will enable us to meet increased demand for super-premium spirits with something unique to offer. The Glenlivet has the largest share of the Australian Single Malt Market, at 26 per cent*.” With Founder’s Reserve, The Glenlivet house style is skilfully complemented with a creaminess and sweetness from the addition of First Fill American oak casks, resulting in a malt of exceptional smoothness; the very quality for which George Smith’s The Glenlivet was widely admired and appreciated in his day. 
The introduction of Founder’s Reserve follows on from the recent historic release of The Glenlivet Winchester Collection, the world’s first collection of 50 Year Old single malt Scotch whiskies. Launched in Australia in October 2014, the collection is anticipated to become one of the most sought after and priceless whisky collections in the world and epitomises the brand’s commitment to innovation in crafted Scotch whisky. 
This newly launched Glenlivet Founder's Resrve will be available in Australia starting from this month, for A$64.99.

Until next time...

Martin & Hendy. 

Friday, 3 July 2015

Tasted #195: Four Roses Single Barrel 100 Proof (#101drams)

Time to get stuck back into the #101drams list, and why not kick things off after a few months' break with something American?

I first heard about Four Roses when reading the recipe for a Benton's Old Fashioned at PDT New York, and after trying it in the cocktail, wanted to try the various Four Roses releases on their own. It's a pretty ubiquitous Bourbon in the states, but not as common in Australia, and even less so in Hong Kong.

This is their single barrel 100 proof release, tasted by way of a sample bottle from Master of Malt.

Four Roses Single Barrel 100 Proof (50% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, $110AUD)
Colour: Orange gold

Nose: Marmalade, creamed honey with a huge backbone of spice.

Palate: Buttery, but surprisingly light for it's 50% ABV (100 proof). 100 proof isn't huge (not when compared with the likes of some SMWS releases or a Heartwood), but this drank more like a light 40% ABV whisky. At first anyway. With a bit of air it opened up, and big spicy notes (I guessed a high rye content, and Google later told me this Bourbon has one of the highest rye contents of any Bourbon on the market, at 35%). Butter menthols and Werther's Originals round out a tasty, if only slightly lacking palate.

Finish: Oak and a slight bitterness, with toffee notes through to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Very sippable, though I expected slightly more "oomph", and a bit more complexity on the palate.


Friday, 26 June 2015

The Balvenie Craft Fair & Winter Picnic

The (now annual) Balvenie Craft Fair has come early this year. For this year's Craft Fair, The Balvenie has partnered with one of the most elegant and majestic Victorian city arcades in Sydney, The Strand Arcade. The partnering has revealed an interesting parallel between the two great icons. Both The Balvenie (distillery) and The Strand Arcade were founded in 1891 and were both completed in 1892. Coincidence, I certainly believe so.

Titled "The Balvenie Craft Fair & Winter Picnic", this year's craft fair will not only showcase the classic Balvenie whisky core expressions with different artisan craft products (similar to last year's craft fair) but also artisan food products from the resident stores at the Strand Arcade. The food products that are being showcased over the next few days include olive oil (by Pendolino), mulled wine (by Gewürzhaus) to the freshly roasted cashews (by The Nut Shop).


With The Balvenie (William Grant & Sons - WG&S) being the sponsor, the brand will open up a Balvenie 'pop-up' bar in front of the Strand Hatters, near the George Street entrance of the arcade and also host a series of The Balvenie masterclasses throughout the next three days (Friday 26 June through to Sunday 28 June) every hour, by the hour.

The bar and the masterclasses will be hosted by the awesome duo whisky specialists from WG&S, Laura Hay and Richard Blanchard. Richard, being the bar/cocktail specialist, will most likely man The Balvenie pop-up bar, serving up sample of the Balvenie 12 YO DoubleWood to those passing through The Strand Arcade whilst Laura, with the masterclasses, will be educating individuals on the history of The Balvenie and the artisan pairing with The Balvenie classic core expressions, including:
  • The Balvenie 12 YO DoubleWood;
  • The Balvenie 14 YO Caribbean Cask; and
  • The Balvenie 17 YO DoubleWood

I have had the opportunity to preview The Balvenie Craft Fair & Winter Picnic as well as The Balvenie Masterclass tonight and I have to say that both, the craft fair and the masterclass, showcased what the Strand Arcade has to offer from an artisan craft and food perspective and also The Balvenie core expressions, which we all love here at Time for Whisky. 

I for one, have been visiting Gumption, a resident artisan coffee store at the Strand Arcade over the years. Gumption have consistently delivered excellent coffee using beans from Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville and at the fair, Gumption will host a bean bar to provide people with the opportunity to sample their different coffee expressions.

The Balvenie Masterclass being previewed tonight was hosted by the lovely Laura Hay, WG&S Whisky Specialist. Laura was given the opportunity to pair up the Balvenie 12YO, 14YO (Caribbean Cask) and the 17YO with the different artisan food products from a number of stores at The Strand, food products that complemented the three Balvenie expressions nicely.

To symbolise and celebrate the craft fair, Laura also spoke about the little ant figurine she is holding in the photo above. Named after the Master Coppersmith at the Balvenie Distillery, Denis McBain, the ant figurine represented the crafty nature of ants and Denis had been chosen given his creative, refined and talented skill in maintaining the giant copper pot stills for over fifty years at The Balvenie distillery.

The Balvenie 12YO DoubleWood had been paired with a couple of candied macadamia nuts from The Nut Shop. The candied macadamia nuts added a layer of caramelisation and vanilla to the palate of the 12YO and transformed the pairing into a beautiful creme brûlée on the finish -- it was an interesting pairing to the 12YO. Laura had also elaborated on the history of the Nut Shop, having been open for more than 75 years, the Nut Shop is one of the oldest store at the Strand Arcade and had previously prepared and roasted various nuts on-site, though the preparation and roasting have now been moved to Waterloo in the East. Below is a photo of Daniel, the grandson of the founder of the Nut Shop with his son and daughter at the pop-up version of the Nut Shop.

Laura then described how she had paired the Balvenie 14YO Caribbean Cask with a slice of creme brûlée from the Sweet Infinity patisserie at The Strand and having experienced the creme brûlée note from the last tasting, it made the transition from the 12YO to the 14YO quite nice. The pairing of the creme brûlée with the 14YO Caribbean Cask had managed to bring out the rum notes and also a hint of cinnamon. The 14YO on its own, is quite remarkable and the creme brûlée simply elevated the notes on the palate.

The last pairing in the masterclass was the pairing of the excellent Balvenie 17YO DoubleWood with the equally excellent Haigh's chocolate (52% cocoa) frog. Why the frog you ask? Haigh’s Chocolates have supported a number of research projects to protect Australia’s endangered frog species and their fragile environment and as such, represented Haigh's value. The 52% cocoa was chosen by Laura as Laura felt that the chocolate balanced well with the 17YO which, on its own, is quite an elegant Balvenie expression with lots of toffee and vanilla notes to complement the chocolate.  


The Balvenie Craft Fair & Winter Picnic festival is definitely worth checking out over the next three days (see the festival hours here) and The Balvenie Masterclass will also be running throughout the festival hours, and can be booked via Eventbrite (tickets are $15 per person and proceeds will be donated to the charity Soldier On).

- Hendy.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Distilery Tour #5: Archie Rose Distilling Company (Sydney, Australia) (Tasted #193-194)

If you fancy yourself a fan of whisky, especially "world whisky", you'll no doubt know that Australian whisky has been exploding in popularity of late (and with good reason - for the most part, it's bloody good stuff).

Despite the fact that many people automatically associate "Australian whisky" with "Tasmanian whisky", there are a number of quality whiskies (or soon-to-be whiskies) being produced in other states, including Victoria (New World Whisky DistilleryBakery Hill), Western Australia (Great Southern Distilling Co) and now right in the heart of Sydney, New South Wales, with the recent opening of Archie Rose Distilling Co.

When I first heard about Archie Rose, I've got to admit I was more than a little excited. A new whisky distillery, right in my home city of Sydney, with Dave Withers (formerly of The Oak Barrel and one of the most knowledgable whisky folk I know) at the helm of production? How could we Sydney whisky fans not be excited?!

The excitement grew when I started seeing pictures and hearing more about the distillery, including the amazing bar, the tours, and the spirits being produced.

Fast forward to Easter time, when Steph and I were back in Sydney and the aforementioned Dave was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to give us an in-depth tour and tasting of the spirits being produced. It was my fourth distillery tour in 5 months, across 3 different countries (none of them Scotland, although that's happening next month)...and easily the one I was most looking forward to.

Archie Rose is located in Rosebery, in the same former industrial complex as Kitchen by Mike and Black Star Pastry. The impressive space is conveniently split into two by a walkway - on one side, the production and cask storage, on the other, the (hugely impressive) bar, designed by the same team behind The Grounds of Alexandria (where we attended the Tullamore D.E.W tasting last year).

We (wisely) started our tour on the production side, where Dave talked us through a number of interesting points about the distillery, including:
  • The two different maltings currently used - malted barley and malted rye
  • The equipment - including the hopper which takes a 600kg mash, is hand spun and is a "pain" when working the rye
  • The mash tun and stills, created by Peter Bailly of Tasmania (who also produced Old Hobart Distillery's stills)
  • The Italian-made fermenters, with water jacketing to control temperature
  • The two main stills (the steam-heated wash still - the largest in Australia at 3,600L, and the spirit still at 1,700L),
  • The smaller (300L) gin still - a modified Carter-head still through which 14 botanicals impart the gin's flavour, including Lemon myrtle, blood lime, juniper, angelia root, ginger and orange.
  • The use of "Loch Rosebery" water - aka Sydney town water (although Sydney town water that's been twice carbon-filtered and passed through a UV filter, mind you.)

The new make spirit comes off the stills at 70% ABV, and is described as robust due to the short, squat stills and narrow necks. Dave (who it has to be said, has a fantastic palate / nose) describes the foreshots as having notes of "permanent markets", the hearts as "honey" and the tails as "lamb fat". Very distinctive then!

Interestingly, the (white) rye currently being sold isn't exactly the same new make as goes into the barrels for aging - it's a spirit made specifically to be enjoyed unaged, by ensuring a lower temperature towards the end of fermentation. For the spirit that is aged though, Archie Rose vat 4-5 barrels' worth at a time, and use virgin oak for the rye (and a future bourbon release), and Buffalo Trace barrels (re-charred in Tasmania) for others.

Steph and I were fortunate enough to taste Archie Rose's Rye that had been aged for a whole 1 day. Whilst not a whisky, and only at 27% ABV, it was an interesting insight into what the future might hold...

Archie Rose 1 day old Rye (27% ABV, 1 day old, Sydney, Australia)
Colour: More than you'd think for one day old (I guess the virgin oak helps). Pale straw.
Nose: Banoffee pie with thick rich caramel.
Palate: More Banoffee pie / banana notes. Sweet.
Finish: Short as you might expect, with some toffee and caramel notes at the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Not overly complex (c'mon, it's a new born and only 27% ABV), but incredibly smooth, absolutely no harshness whatsoever, and with the potential to turn into a robust, complex and fantastic whisky. If it's this good after 1 day, I can't wait to try it with a few years under its belt.

Dave went on to explain that, under current legislation in New South Wales, a distiller can't apply for a licence until the entire operation is pretty much ready to go. Building acquired and equipment purchased and installed. That's a pretty significant outlay for someone to make with no guarantee of a licence! Luckily, there were no such concerns with Archie Rose. For what it's worth, in our opinion a destination like this can only be a good thing for Sydney - not just to put NSW back on the "Aussie Whisky" map, but from a City of Sydney tourism perspective too.

Archie Rose run tours where they open the distillery to the public, allow visitors to see the production and even taste some of the product, during and after production. At $10AUD (tour) or $20 (tour + tasting), it's pretty good value. Details here.

With our tour over, it was onto the bar....

...and what a stunning bar it was. With a copper bar and booths that look like large wooden mashtuns, the spirits theme clearly runs right throughout the venue (and just in case you forgot where you where, there are barrels stacked 4 high and 12 wide right above said booths).

With a large education / function space upstairs, expert mixologists mixing cocktails from 12pm to 10pm 7 days/week, and an incredible spirits selection (don't fancy an Archie Rose white rye, gin or vodka? How does a Pappy van Winkle 23 grab you? Or a Smith's Angaston 14yo?), the bar is the sort of venue you could happily call your local (and from what we saw, it seems many already are).

Given we were inside a distillery though, it would have been rude not to try the line-up (Vodka, Gin and White Rye). All were smooth, very sippable and impeccably made, but this is a whisky blog after all, and so we'll focus on the White Rye here.

Archie Rose White Rye (40% ABV, unaged, Sydney, Australia)
Colour: As naked (clear) as the day it was born.
Nose: White chocolate.
Palate: Rich, thick, chewy. Chocolate and hazelnuts, with some meatiness. Robust and complex for an unaged spirit.
Finish: Some slight vegetal notes (asparagus?!), more hazelnuts and a short to medium length.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. There are new makes I can't stand, and others I could happily sip neat. This definitely falls into the latter category.

If you're a whisky fan living in Sydney (and even if you're not a whisky fan), we highly recommend dropping by Archie Rose at least for a drink, if not for a tour. Judging by the number of (non-whisky fanatic) friends I've seen having a great time here on Facebook, Archie Rose are onto an absolute winner here, and we can't wait to see what goodies they produce in the coming years.

All the best fellas.

Time for Whisky would like to thank Archie Rose (and especially Dave Withers) for taking the time to give us an in-depth tour and tasting.