Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Tasted #316: The Macallan Edition No.2

Late last year we tasted The Macallan Edition No.1 and raved about the value it presented - a brilliant, bold, 48% Macallan for barely more than a 12yo Sherry Oak.

Fast forward a year, and it's back - this time as the 48.2% ABV "Edition No.2"

After last year's sell-out success @themacallanhk Edition No.1, Edition No.2 has just been launched, and I can say it's also a winner! - Continuing the theme of providing an unusually high level of detail, we know this Edition no.2 is made up of 52% butts, 21% hogsheads and 27% puncheons, and a mix of 1st/2nd fill and American / European oak. - Differing from Edition No.1 though, this edition is a collaboration with the brothers Roca, from the world famous restaurant @cellercanroca, who each selected one of the casks (along with Bob Dalgarno, @the_macallan Master Whisky Maker). - We got hints of ginger on the nose on this one, a reasonable amount of candied sweetness on the palate, and an overall level of sherried juiciness we don't often see on recent Macallans (but have certainly seen on Macallans from years ago). A return to the old style? Perhaps not entirely, but a worthy dram nonetheless.At only ~$750HKD, pretty good value too. No doubt it won't stick around long... - We'll have tasting notes up on TimeforWhisky.com very soon. Cheers! #MacallanCreates #MacallanHK #whisky #InstaWhisky #Instadram #WhiskyGram #RareWhisky #WhiskyTasting #WhiskyGeek #WhiskyBlogger #TimeforWhisky #DramFull #WhiskyHK #WhiskySYD #WhiskyFabric #WhiskyLover #威士忌 #ウイスキー #위스키 #WhiskyLife #WhiskyPorn #HongKongWhisky #TheMacallan #RareWhisky #EditionNo2 #RareMacallan #WhiskyLife #elcellerdecanroca
A photo posted by Martin - www.TimeforWhisky.com (@timeforwhisky) on


Keeping with the theme of the original release, Edition No.2 provides an unusually large amount of information on the cask make-up, which consists of 7 cask types from 4 Sherry bodegas  (Vasyma, Diego Martin, Jose Miguel Martin and Tevasa) - a mix of Butts, Puncheons and Hogsheads, American Oak and European Oak, and 1st and 2nd Fill.

Two casks were each picked by the brothers Roca (of the world famous restaurant El Celler de Can Roca), and the last, a 1st fill European Oak Sherry Butt, was selected by Bob Dalgarno, The Macallan's Master Whisky Maker.

Whilst not yet officially launching until late next week in Hong Kong (although available at most retailers and sure to sell out as quickly as No.1 did), Edrington were kind enough to send us two samples recently, so we could post up our thoughts...


The Macallan Edition No.2 (48.2% ABV, NAS, Highlands, Scotland, $780HKD / not yet available in UK or Australia)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Colour: Copper-amber.

Nose: Bright, fresh sherry. Cardamom. Spice. Cherries, orange juice, some apple. There's no doubt this is a sherried dram, but it's a fresher sherry. The flintiness evident on some Macallans is relatively subdued.

Palate: Relatively juicy, rather than drying. Is this a return to the days of old school Macs? Well let's not go too far, but there's definitely a slight hint of "old style Macallan" in there. Big berry notes, almonds, ginger, more apple and a touch of vanilla.

Finish: Long, with hints of ginger and a residual sweetness, with the slightest hint of oak spice at the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. Another  fantastic dram, and one that shows a slight, slight hint to the juiciness of some Macallans of old (like the brilliant 10yo Cask Strength) - which is a very good thing indeed! Complex and delicious, and most definitely not a one-dimensional "sherry bomb".

Cheers,
Martin.

Monday, 26 September 2016

This week in whisk(e)y #35 - The Last Drop Distillers acquired by Sazerac, Experimental Scotch blends from Johnnie Walker, Drambuie relaunch, Dan Murphy returns to Prahran home, Diageo partners with top HK bars

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...



The Sazerac Company acquires The Last Drop Distillers
Considering their scarcity, we've tasted more than our fair share of whiskies from The Last Drop Distillers over the past few years. Whilst each one has been a treat (who's going to say no to a 48-50 year old whisky?), the real treat comes from just how fantastic each whisky has been. 
The Last Drop Distillers are not a company who bottle whatever they can get their hands on - they make sure they only bottle whiskies of extremely high quality (not easy when your releases are in the 48-50yo range).


We've met Rebecca and Beanie before, and we've seen first hand how passionate they are about the business, which tells us that for them to sell up, it would only be to a company they truly mesh with - a good corporate fit.

Which is what it seems they've found in Sazerac...
"The world’s most exclusive spirits brand, The Last Drop Distillers Limited, is today announcing its acquisition by Sazerac – one of the world’s top selling global spirits brands, and one of New Orleans’ oldest family-owned, privately-held companies. 
The investment that will be injected into the craft spirits brand through the acquisition will accelerate its ambitious growth plans whilst also allowing the existing Last Drop Distillers team to continue to run the business autonomously, with the small, personal operation remaining intact. The Sazerac Company portfolio includes a range of global spirits brands: this acquisition will allow the company to extend its portfolio into the super-premium, craft market as well as expand its European footprint. The Last Drop Distillers is a family-run company dedicated to discovering and bottling some of the most exclusive spirits in the world. Spirits pioneers James Espey and Tom Jago founded the company in 2008 after long and successful careers in the industry. Between them they created some of the world’s best-loved spirits brands, including Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Chivas Regal 18 Year Old, The Classic Malts, and, with Malibu and Baileys Irish Cream, two of the most original and successful new drinks categories in the world. Today, the company is run by their two daughters, Beanie Espey and Rebecca Jago.
Mark Brown, president and CEO of The Sazerac Company said: “We are very excited to be partnering with such industry legends as Tom and James.  Equally, we are looking forward to working alongside their daughters Rebecca and Beanie as well as the rest of The Last Drop Distillers team in bringing some of the rarest spirits available to the global consumer market.  As a family owned company we fully appreciate the value of a small, engaged and passionate team in a venture such as The Last Drop Distillers and look forward to continuing the excellent progress the business has made since its inception.” James Espey, Co-Founder and Chairman of The Last Drop Distillers said: “This acquisition marks the next stage of The Last Drop Distillers story that will see us take the brand into the next phase, while retaining and building on our core values of exclusivity, craft and excellence. The existing team of passionate and experienced spirits pioneers will continue to steer the direction of the brand, while the investment allows us to grow our international footprint and broaden our opportunities to search for the rarest spirits in the world.”
We wish TLD all the best under Sazerac, and we look forward to seeing many more releases to come (like their recent "100 Years of The Last Drop", which sees a miniature of their 50yo Double Matured and 50yo Blended Scotch Whisky packaged in a leather case with a pewter quaich - available through global stockists).


Introducing "Blender's Batch": A series of limited-edition, experimental Scotch blends from Johnnie Walker
It wasn't that long ago that we heard about the Johnnie Walker Rye Cask Finish (see TWIW #34) being available in Australia. Now a series of limited edition experimental Scotch blends, dubbed the Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch, are being released around the world.

The Blenders' Batch series will showcase different experimental Scotch blends with the first experimental release from the series being the Red Rye Finish; a blend bottled at 40% ABV which exclusively uses malt and grain whiskies from first fill ex-bourbon casks - a blend that is then finished for around six months in ex-rye whiskey casks.


Quoting the press release:
"Johnnie Walker®, the world’s No. 1 blended Scotch Whisky[1], is releasing a range of limited edition, experimental whiskies: Johnnie Walker® Blenders’ Batch.  
The Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch range lifts the lid on the skill and never-ending pursuit of flavour that drives the blending team, led by master blender Dr Jim Beveridge, a man whose personal journey making whisky began over 40 years ago.  
The ongoing flavour experiments that Beveridge and his team study are a crucial part of their work, focussing on developing and understanding alternative flavours including wine, coffee and chocolate.  
Jim Beveridge said: “At any one time, there are hundreds of experiments into flavour being carried out by our blenders which involve making adjustments to atmospheric conditions, the types of wood and grain used, cask finishes and other elements of whisky-making in the pursuit of exceptional new flavours.”  
The first release in the series, Johnnie Walker® Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish, is the result of experiments into the influence of bourbon and rye whiskey flavours on Scotch, inspired by the time Dr Beveridge spent blending bourbons and ryes in Kentucky in the 1990s.  
Jim Beveridge said: “For the first release, we wanted to focus on what happens when the intensely sweet flavours that can be found in bourbon and rye whiskies are brought together with the depth and subtlety of carefully crafted Scotch”.  
Available in limited quantities from September 2016 Johnnie Walker® Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish includes whisky from now-closed Port Dundas and has been created using an incredibly small number of malt and grain whiskies, exclusively drawn from first fill ex-bourbon casks. Following this, the whisky is finished up to six months in ex-rye casks for a perfect balance of intense sweetness, layered fresh fruit and spice. 
The Johnnie Walker® Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish will be available in the Australian on-trade from 15 September and off trade specialist stores from early October. The release of other whiskies in the series will be announced in the coming months."
We look forward to trying this soon, and will have our tasting notes up in October.


Drambuie celebrates relaunch
Drambuie, an elixir that's part of the William Grant & Sons portfolio is making a comeback with an official relaunch of the brand (last week in Sydney), and revival of the famous Rusty Nail serve. Unfortunately, we were not able to join in on the celebrations, though the night appeared to be a success, complete with fantastic cocktails and live jazz to 'jazz' up the iconic brand.

To continue the celebration, a Drambuie-themed evening will be hosted every Thursday for 3 months at The Swinging Cat (44 King St, Sydney NSW) where everyone can join in to sample The Rusty Nail, along with a range of new Drambuie cocktails.


Here's the official press release, including the recipe for the famous 'Rusty Nail' serve.
"Drambuie, the infamous Scotch Whisky Liqueur, has announced an official relaunch of the brand including the introduction of a 3-month bar activation, ‘A Night with the Nail’, hosted each Thursday at The Swinging Cat located on King Street in Sydney’s CBD.
Launching on September 8, the activation will involve a recurring ‘Drambuie-themed’ evening to promote the revival of its most famous serve, The Rusty Nail, along with a range of new Drambuie cocktails. Bar-goers will be treated to an exclusive Drambuie experience and live jazz music as they enjoy the flavour and energy of the New Orleans inspired underground bar that is The Swinging Cat.
 
The Rusty Nail is a timeless whisky cocktail born in the infamous New York nightclubs of the early 60s and served at the renowned ‘21 Club’ frequented by Hemmingway, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and JFK 12. At a time when the legendary carousing of the Rat Pack came to prominence, the Rusty Nail was adopted by the scene, confirming the drink's iconic status and establishing its place in pop culture history. 
More recently, the cocktail was the drink of choice of Saul Goodman and featured in the very first episode of Netflix’s TV series Better Call Saul. 
With one part Drambuie, two parts Scotch Whisky and a lemon twist over ice, it’s a simple yet rewarding cocktail that sits alongside the Martini, Negroni and Old Fashioned as one of the classics of the cocktail world. Oozing timeless cool, each sip conjures up the image of those smoky lounges, iconic characters and the free-living optimism of the 1960s. 
Bar-goers will also be in the running to win a Rusty Nail Kit including a bottle of Drambuie, a bottle of Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky, a mixing spoon, ice mould and tumblers, by uploading a social pic of themselves enjoying a Rusty Nail with the hashtag #nightwiththenail. 
RUSTY NAIL™
  • 1 part Drambuie 
  • 2 parts Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky 
  • Build over ice in a rocks glass and stir.
  • Garnish with a lemon twist  
For more information visit: http://www.drambuie.com or http://www.williamgrant.com"

Dan Murphy’s returns to its spiritual home at 282 Chapel St, Prahran
Whilst this blog's focus is on whisky and whiskey, occasionally we also feature other related news from the industry, such as the news of the new Dan Murphy's original cellar in Prahran, Victoria. 


The cellar will house rare and superb wines and spirits -- including some old and rare whiskies; Pappy Van Winkles, Old Rip Van Winkles, Glenfarclas 60yo, Macallan M (tasted by Martin recently - notes up soon), Port Ellen 32yo and 35yo and the highly coveted Gordon & Macphail Mortlach 75yo bottling which we saw being sold through a Dragon 8 Auction in HK in February.

Some interesting stats have also been released to preview the extent and diversity of the cellar collection, with a mention of the 2015 Yamazaki Single Malt (we assume they're referring to the 2015 Limited Edition):


The press release is as follows:
"Australia’s leading drinks retailer is returning to its roots with the opening of Dan Murphy’s Cellar right where it all began in the 1950s in the iconic Prahran Arcade at 282 Chapel Street.

Originally built in 1890, it was here that Daniel Francis Murphy realised his dream of running his own wine and liquor store. Dan Murphy leased the building from the 1950s through to the 1980s and on 1 September 2016, the basement of the historic site will re-open once again as Dan Murphy’s Cellar.

True to Dan’s vision, the Cellar will be a destination retail experience housing the finest wines and spirits sourced from all over the world. 

The journey through Dan Murphy’s Cellar will be revelatory – like walking through one of the world’s best wine and whisky libraries.

At first glance customers will spot a rare 1959 Dom Perignon Oenothèque and Sullivans Cove Double Cask Whisky. To the left they’ll spot a collection of Para Liqueur Port dating back to 1885, and to the right a Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac.  Down at basement level a full set of Penfolds Grange is there to discover, as well as rare vintages such as the 1971 Penfolds Bin 333 and a 1983 Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Cellar is a beautiful and breathtaking space. The heritage listed building retains many of its original features including exposed brick walls, masonry piers, and some of the earliest surviving examples of prismatic pavement lights that give the basement level a touch of natural light.
September’s exclusive My Dan Murphy’s member events include:
  • Prestige Champagne: The fascinating world of Dom Perignon & Krug Champagnes
  • Louis Roederer Champagne Event
  • Meet the Maker': David Vitale from Starward Whisky 
  • 'Journey of Chandon' with winemaker Dan Buckle
For more information on Dan Murphy’s Cellar visit: http://www.danmurphyscellar.com.au/"
So if you are in Victoria and are passing through Prahran, drop by the Dan Murphy Cellar. Alternatively, you can also browse the selection online https://www.danmurphys.com.au/whisky/Category-whisky/Cellar%20Range-yes


Diageo partners with top HK bars and restaurants at HK Wine & Dine Festival 2016
HK has its fair share of spirits, wine and food festivals each year, but the HK Wine & Dine Festival is always one of the better ones. Over the years we've seen more and more whisk(e)y representation at HK's "wine" festivals, and that looks set to continue this year, particularly with Diageo taking both The Singleton and Haig Club to the event in a big way, by pairing with well-known HK bars and restaurants...
"This year, The Singleton Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Haig Club Single Grain Scotch Whisky will be pairing up with top restaurants and bars over the four-day event with engaging and innovative mixology and gastronomy, inviting visitors to embark on a sensory tasting journey, including savoring the exceptional whiskies neat, paired with food and in cocktails.
A new addition to the event this year features Hong Kong inspired cocktails from emerging bartending talents of Angel’s Share, Fu Lu Shou, The Envoy and Stockton, celebrating Hong Kong’s most iconic and nostalgic flavours. Using The Singleton of Glen Ord 12 Year Old, The Singleton of Glen Ord 18 Year Old, Haig Club Single Grain Scotch Whisky and Zacapa 23 Rum as their base, the bartenders will represent the vibrant nightlife of the city through specially crafted cocktails, with culinary offerings from their respective kitchen teams to pair signature dishes.
Visitors can savour the creations and pairings throughout the Festival, at The Singleton booth located at Discovery Zone-E501 and E502 and Haig Club booth at Discovery Zone-E701 and E702."
Can't wait.

Until next time...

Cheers,
Martin & Hendy. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Lagavulin 200th Anniversary Celebration in Sydney (Tasted #314 - 315)

The "Islay Times" were plastered across the walls of The Wild Rover recently, with the main headline being 'Lagavulin 200th Anniversary' - marking the fact that two centuries have passed since a local farmer by the name of John Johnston first founded the first legal distillery back in 1816.

Celebrating the bicentenary anniversary of Diageo's Islay icon, Sydney's The Wild Rover was chosen as a place where guests came together to be transported to the shores of Lagavulin Bay in South of Islay (more of this in a bit).


It wasn't that long ago when Laphroaig too celebrated its 200th anniversary last year. Laphroaig did its fans some justice by re-releasing its historically beloved 15 Year Old for a limited time to help commemorate the special anniversary. In a similar fashion, Lagavulin has also released a special 8 Year Old bottling as a tribute to the success of the past two centuries. 

The 8yo was inspired by a visit to the distillery by Alfred Barnard in the 1880s. Alfred, a British brewing and distilling historian is said to have sampled an 8 Year Old malt during his visit and lauded the young malt as exceptional; a malt equally as impressive as some of the older Lagavulin expressions (which Alfred may not have sampled during his visit). Nowadays, those older expressions include the 12 Year Old (Cask Strength), the 16 Year Old (which was presented on the night) and the oldest Lagavulin ever released (excluding the recent run of 5 bottles of 40yo for the China market); a 37 Year Old.


The 200th anniversary celebration took place at the The Wild Rover's upstairs. Walking into the room, there were Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and headphones placed on all tables, a different sight to the more commonly sighted whisky glasses. Sean Baxter; Diageo Australia's National Ambassador for Johnnie Walker and The Classic Malts was the host for the night and being the passionate figure that he is, enthusiastically introduced guests into the room and explained the VR headsets.

The VR headsets, loaded with 360 degree videos showcasing aspects of the Lagavulin distillery transported all of us from our seat straight to to Lagavulin Bay where we were standing on the Distillery Pier. With the VR headset, the 360 degree video really allows you to look around by tilting your head in any directions where you can appreciate all the remarkable details of the surrounding bay.

The VR presentation transported guests from the idyllic pier straight into the inside of the defunct kiln before taking guests through the barley field, warehouse, stillhouse and to the final virtual tour site; the neat and elegant Dramming Room.

For those of you curious as to what these 360 degree videos are like, Diageo has published them on YouTube - see the first video below.


...and the others:

As Sean walked guests through the different scenes, scents taken from around the Distillery were sprayed around the room and evoked a sense that guests were actually present at the Lagavulin Distillery. The most interesting scents for me were the scent from the kiln and the musky scent of the warehouse. The combination of the sight, smell and sound of the VR presentation was astounding and really enabled guests to truly appreciate the Lagavulin Distillery.

Following the VR presentation, the Lagavulin 16 Year Old and the special anniversary Lagavulin 8 Year Old were presented for tasting.




Lagavulin 8 Year Old (48% ABV, 8yo, Islay, Scotland, $99AUD / HK official release TBC / £44.13)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Colour: Light orange copper (tinge of amber)

Nose: The nose is young and filled with iodine, smoked cured meat with a touch of lemon butter and hints of vanilla, pear and pineapple

Palate: The palate is fresh, creamy and the signature Lagavulin profile is there with the peat.  an Sipping more of it, I get sea salt, vanilla, peanut brittles with longing spices. 

Finish: Peaty and lingers for quite some time

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 90/100

--

Martin's "Lagavulin 8" Notes - originally posted in August

Colour: Light straw. Very pale.

Nose: Bacon, chorizo, and a hint of asparagus. Definitely youthful (even "young"), but not "too young" and not harsh in any way. An enjoyable nose that makes you want to dive in...

Palate: Instantly, it's a Laga. There's plenty of fresh peat, a little iodine, but overall it's smooth, and creamy.! There's a little in the way of sweet tropical notes (a little mango), but mostly for me it was about the meaty peat. Sweet glazed BBQ ribs. So far so good!

Finish: Long and peaty (a much sweeter, fresher peat smoke than the 16yo).

Rating (on Martin's very non-scientific scale): 91/100. At half the age of the ubiquitous 16yo, there was a chance that the casks Lagavulin chose for this would be too young, or too harsh (it's happened with more than one other Islay producers' new releases in recent years). Thankfully, that's not the case at all. It may be half the age, but it's full of flavour, character, and whilst it's not overly complex, it is smooth, refined and delicious. A definite winner, and one worth seeking out for any fan of Islay  (and a must for any fans of Lagavulin!


Lagavulin 16 Year Old (48% ABV, 16yo, Islay, Scotland, $102.90AUD / $860HKD / £41.48)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Colour: Light orange copper (tinge of amber)

Nose: The nose is intense and you can smell the rich peat smoke. Following, there are hints of seaweed, tropical fruits and vanilla

Palate: The palate screams Lagavulin with its rich and dense sweet peat, tropical sorbet, peat ash, pineapple and lemon. The spices appear last, just to keep the adventure going.

Finish: Long and lingering finish riddled with spices that are pleasantly warming 

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 91/100 (I actually like the Lagavulin 16 more than Lagavulin 8 as I believe the 16 is quite a robust and rich dram.)


It was definitely wonderful to have been part of the special bicentenary celebrations for Lagavulin and to be part of such a momentous milestone for the iconic Islay distillery. Here's to the next century Lagavulin!

Cheers,
Hendy

TimeforWhisky.com would like to thank Diageo and Lee Hall of Leo Burnett for the invite to this fantastic event.



Thursday, 15 September 2016

Ardbeg Twenty One coming soon

It was rumoured last year (along with the more recent Ardbeg Kelpie), and it seems it's finally been announced - Ardbeg are releasing an Official distillery release 21yo this month, and it's coming to Australia. It's been a long time since the last official Ardbeg 21yo, which was released all the way back in 2001.

90 bottles will make their way to Australia, to be sold for $565AUD. Considering the UK price of £310, that's a pretty fair price, with almost no "Australia tax".


Released exclusively for members of the Ardbeg Committee, the 46% bottling is said to come from Ardbeg's most perilous days, and celebrates the "dedicated few who kept the spirit alive" (it's hard to believe in the current environment that not too long ago, Ardbeg was facing an uncertain future, but that's how it was).

There's limited detail about the casks that make up the whisky, but the press release does tell us:
Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks at Ardbeg,said: “I selected the casks for this sumptuous, golden whisky as they combine thedistinctive, peppery smokiness of Ardbeg’s award-winning malt with soothing, butteryqualities."
Ardbeg Committee members in Australia can register their interest on 22nd September, with an e-mail to be sent on/around that day we believe.

Cheers,
Martin.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Whisky L! Shanghai 2016 review

I've said it before, but living in Hong Kong certainly has some advantages whisky-wise. One is obviously the local scene, which has grown immensely in the past two years and now boasts some great events, bars and publications, but the other is the proximity to several other (whisky-loving and/or producing) countries. 

Weekend trip to Japan for TIBS or  Whisky Live Tokyo? Sure why not. A visit to Kavalan in Taiwan? Sounds like a plan. Amrut Distillery Tour in India? Be silly not to, etc...

So when I heard Whisky L! Shanghai was happening last month, a quick check of flight schedules told me I could leave HKG in the morning, spend most of the day at the show, and return in the evening. Simple and easy (notoriously delayed Shanghai flights not withstanding)....and so a few weeks later, I was off to check out my first Mainland China whisky festival.



Run over three days, I visited on the middle day (an incredibly hot Saturday), the first open to the public. My first thought after arriving at the show was "this is a BIG whisky festival!" Set throughout several function spaces at Le Royal Meridien Shanghai, there were a lot of exhibitors.

My second thought was "this is not your usual whisky fair." No, there were no tables here, but rather huge stands with some serious production effort. Just look at Moët Hennessy's Glenmorangie stand, complete with life-size giraffe model...



As you might imagine, there was a decent-sized language barrier at some booths (entirely to be expected considering I don't speak Mandarin!) but no such barriers at Michter's, where I spotted good mates of TimeforWhisky Matt and John (from the distillery) and Eddie (of general HK Whisky fame).


Having tried the 25yo Bourbon a few months earlier with Matt and Eddie, it was great to be able to try the 25yo Rye and 20yo Bourbon - both incredibly rare in Asia (and anywhere, really). Not a bad way to kick start the show at all. Both were lovely whiskies, and without any of the harsh over-oaked tannins you might expect on such old American whiskies. I even noticed hints of Banoffee Pie on the palate of the 20yo Bourbon, and some unusual (but enjoyable) marshmallow sweetness on the 25yo Rye!



Diageo had an (expectedly) large stand, with standard several bottles from the Classic Malts range on tasting. There was also a Special Releases tasting (with Charlie Maclean!) but I arrived just too late to grab any masterclass tickets unfortunately.



Dalmore was up next, showcasing the 12, 18, and the "more is better" King Alexander III.



Pours throughout the show were generous, and whilst I BYO'd my own Glencairn for the photos, the tasting glasses provided were very cool pieces of kit. I can't find them online, but think of them as a Glencairn without the base. I'll be using it again.

The local Glenfarclas distributor had an incredible line-up of Family Casks dating back to 1954, and whilst they obviously weren't on tasting, there was an enjoyable 1998 Family Cask which showcased a lighter, less sherried Glenfarclas style.



Dewars (Bacardi) had a large stand, showcasing standard bottlings from "The Last Great Malts" range, including Aultmore, Craigellachie, The Deveron and Royal Brackla, not to mention an in-house leather worker who was...working with leather, I guess.



Never one to give up the opportunity to drink GlenDronach, I dropped by their stand for a dram of 21yo Parliament, and a chat with their always-affable brand ambassador Stewart Buchanan. A sizeable BenRiach and Glenglassaugh range was also on tasting (though sadly the 15yo 'dronach Revival was only for display).




Right next door was the Gordon & Macphail / Benromach stand, where I had the chance to revisit the Benromach range (after a 3 year break) over a long chat with G&M's Richard Urquhart. I'm not quite sure why I left it 3 years between drinks - every single dram was beautiful (more so than I remember) and I'd now rate their 10 and 15yo up there with some of the best 10-15yo Speysiders around. I was fortunate to have another opportunity to revisit the range, and the incredible 1974 41yo a few days later in Hong Kong too, which only increased my appreciation of the range.





With my flight time approaching, it was time for a quick dram and chat with Ian Chang of Kavalan, who was also kind enough to try my 2L ex-port mini barrel HK aged Archie Rose, while I enjoyed his port-matured whisky (his was better, obvs). Ian correctly identified the "whisky" as "young with an ABV in the high 60s", but was surprised when I told him it was only 4 months old (he'd picked 2 years, albeit from a larger cask).




On my way out the door, the Jameson / Midleton stand caught my eye, and I have to say, I'm glad it did. I was lucky enough to try a dram of the Dair Ghaelac, finished in virgin Irish Oak, and it was absolutely the highlight dram of the show. With some earthy smoke, cinnamon, red berries and some vanilla, it was a truly fantastic whisky.



..and with that, it was time to head back to the airport and fly home to Hong Kong, having a spent a whopping 9 hours in China. Would I return next year? Absolutely - the show was a seriously well-produced event, with a great range of exhibitors each showing a great range of drams. If I spoke Mandarin, I'm sure I'd enjoy it even more.

TimeforWhisky.com attended as a media guest of Whisky L! Shanghai (thanks Stephen).

Cheers,
Martin.


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Whisky Advent Calendars by Drinks by the Dram return for 2016

Last year around this time we brought word of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendars. What started off 5 years ago as a one-off calendar (which I badly wanted at the time, and still do) had grown into a whole range, including a £999 "Old & Rare" calendar.

The range has clearly been well-received over the years, as it's back again for 2016, with a whopping 25 calendars, including the "Very Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar" for the princely sum of £9,999.95 (side note: if you live outside the UK, it's only £8333.29)!

The full range can be found here, but you might be curious as to what sort of samples you can find in an (almost) £10,000 calendar.

...unfortunately, Drinks by the Dram haven't yet published the full list of drams, but one look at the press shot (below) tells us we can expect Glenfiddich 40yo (which we tasted all the way back in 2012, funnily enough on Christmas Eve) and Port Ellen 5th Release, which should tell us something about the level of drams. Apparently one of the drams is from a full bottle worth £19,000.

Update: The full list is now available, and wow.... (links are to our tasting notes)
Glenfarclas 60 Year Old, Ladyburn 40 Year Old 1974 (cask 74), Private Cask Collection (William Grant & Sons), Karuizawa 48 Year Old 1964 (cask 3603), Balvenie 46 Year Old 1968 (cask 7293), The Balvenie DCS Compendium Chapter One, Yamazaki Age Unknown, Keizo Saji, The Last Drop 50 Year Old Double Matured, Port Ellen 25 Year Old 1979 - 5th Release (2005 Special Release), The John Walker, Port Askaig 45 Year Old, Glenfiddich 40 Year Old Limited Edition, The Balvenie 40 Year Old, The Macallan M, Highland Park 40 Year Old, The Golden Age Blend, Teeling 33 Year Old, Glengoyne 35 Year Old, Auchentoshan 44 Year Old 1966, The Half-Century Blend, The Macallan 42 Year Old 1969 (cask 6860) - The Rarest of the Rare Collection (Duncan Taylor), Pappy Van Winkle's 23 Year Old Family Reserve, Karuizawa 1984 Cask 4021 - Koi, The Glenrothes 1969 (cask 11485), The Dalmore Constellation 1981 - 30 Year Old, Tomatin 1971 44 Year Old.
Does the value of the 24 samples add up to £10k? Quite possibly not. Will people who buy it care? Pretty sure they won't!

To quote the full press release:
"For the fifth year running, the range of Drinks by the Dram Advent Calendars has returned. The selection once again features classics like Whisky, Ginvent and Rum, while exciting new additions include calendars dedicated to Scotch, American, Irish and Japanese whiskies along with calendars full of Glenfarclas Single Malt, independent whisky bottlings from That Boutique-y Whisky Company and Origin Single Estate Gins made with juniper sourced from specific regions all around the world.
The Whisky Advent Calendar was launched in 2012, and has since become a tradition among whisky enthusiasts, letting them count down to Christmas and explore the world’s best whiskies. Each handmade, wax-sealed dram allows whisky fans to sample a new expression, tasting everything from single grain and bourbon to rare Scotch worth up to £600 a bottle.
2016 marks the debut of the Drinks by the Dram Very Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar (RRP £9,999.95), developing on the concept introduced by the Old & Rare Advent Calendar launched in 2015. Each calendar is a bespoke wooden box built by hand by cabinet-maker Simon Jewell Designs in Kent, and is available in a walnut or macassar ebony finish. Within every calendar sit 24 individually numbered 30ml drams of some of the world’s most sought-after whiskies, including expressions from long-closed distilleries, a 60 year old single malt and a whisky worth up to £19,000 a bottle.
Drinks by the Dram’s 2016 Advent Calendar range also includes calendars filled with single cask whiskies, mezcal, gin and more. The full range of calendars (listed below) will be available later this month. 
 
Very Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar
Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar
Premium Whisky Advent Calendar Craft
Premium Whisky Advent Calendar Red
Whisky Advent Calendar Craft
Whisky Advent Calendar Red
Glenfarclas Whisky Advent Calendar
That Boutique-y Whisky Company's Advent Calendar
Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar
Japanese Whisky Advent Calendar
Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar
American Whiskey Advent Calendar
Bourbon Advent Calendar
Irish Whiskey Advent Calendar
Cognac Advent Calendar
Armagnac Advent Calendar
Rum Advent Calendar
Mezcal Advent Calendar
Tequila Advent Calendar
Absinthe Advent Calendar
Ginvent Calendar
Gin Advent Calendar
Vodka Advent Calendar
Origin Single Estate Gin Advent Calendar
Naga Chilli Vodka Escalation Advent Calendar"
On the slightly more affordable end of the spectrum, the "Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar" appears to include Glenfiddich 18 (tasted here), Talisker Skye and "The Half Century Blend", for £149, whilst the "Old & Rare" (still £999) looks to include Balvenie 30 (tasted here), Glenfarclas 40 (tasted here) and Glenfiddich Excellence 26.

Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendars are available for pre-order here now.

Cheers,
Martin.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Benromach 1974 41yo Media lunch in Hong Kong (Tasted #313)

We were recently incredibly fortunate to be invited to an intimate lunch in Hong Kong to celebrate the release of the 41 year old 1974 Benromach, recently released in extremely limited numbers.


Special guest / host for the lunch was Richard Urquhart of Gordon & Macphail / Benromach. Richard's business card might refer to him as "Export Regional Sales Manager", but as a member of the 4th generation of the Urquhart family (who founded Gordon & Macphail over 120 years ago), you'd be hard-pressed to find a better brand ambassador. A man more passionate about a whisky brand you'll likely not find - unsurprising when said brand is ingrained in your family's heritage.


I first became familiar with Benromach back in 2013 at a tasting in Sydney, so it was nice to revisit the whiskies (and a few new ones) and see if / how my perception had changed, and also to visit a few new releases. To do so over a fantastic 8 course banquet at Dynasty Restaurant at the Harbourview Hotel was the icing on the cake.


Richard introduced us to the distillery (which Gordon & Macphail purchased in 1993 and reopened in 1998) with a quick video, then gave us a deeper insight into what it's like to be part of such a prolific whisky family. Interesting note: no special treatment for family members - Richard began life at Benromach sweeping the floors!


Lunch kicked off with Benromach 10yo which, I have to be honest, I remember being good, but not this good! An absolutely wonderful "entry level" Speysider - with plenty of sherry influence whilst still maintaining the light and elegant notes you expect from a Speyside whisky. Crème brûlée, citrus, and even a little ginger were the dominant notes. Matured 80% in ex-Bourbon and 20% in ex-Sherry, the whisky is later finished in a 1st fill ex-Oloroso cask. It works wonderfully, and matched well with our first dish too - Bread candy rolled with scallop and mango, barbecued pork, salty ox-tongue with black pepper.


Next was Benromach 15yo, which has the same make-up as the 10yo, but enjoys a 5 year finish in those Oloroso casks. With a more prominent sherry influence, this was a beautifully rounded dram with a creaminess which complimented the Baked crab shell stuffed with crab meat and onion nicely, but was in no way a one-dimensional sherry bomb. A very elegant dram.



Our next whisky was from Benromach's "Wood Finish" range - the Hermitage, distilled in 2005, matured in 1st fill ex-Bourbon barrels, finished for 2 years in French wine casks from Northern Rhône, and bottled at 45%. The wine influence was noticeable here, with an earthy, flinty, almost dusty note along with a vanilla creaminess no doubt imparted by the 1st fill bourbon barrels. Another lovely whisky, which we really enjoyed with Sautéed diced wagyu beef tenderloin with asparagus.


That was supposed to be it for the "regular" line up, however Howard of Fine Vintage Hong Kong (Benromach's distributor here) had brought along his own bottle of Benromach Sassicaia, and was kind enough to share it with us. As his favourite in the line-up, Howard joked that he regularly carries a bottle around (hey, that's an idea we can get behind).

It's a tough call between the 15yo and the Sassicaia, so I'll call it even - both are wonderful drams. With a pinkish yellow gold hue and notes of berries, lemon, vanilla cream and key lime pie on the nose and palate, the wine finish became most noticeable on the finish, which was slightly earthy and vegetive. A complex and delicious whisky, very enjoyable with Baked fresh lobster in supreme sauce with e-fu noodles.



...all of which led us to the main event - our very special tasting of the Benromach 1974. With only 3 bottles in Hong Kong (available for $25,000HKD each from Fine Vintage HK), we didn't crack open the one in front of us, but rather tasted from a sample bottle Richard had brought along.

When asked "why 41 years old? Why bottle it this year?" Richard simply said that they felt the whisky was ready, and it met the profile they were looking for. Good answer! Too often we see whiskies released at 40, 50+ years when really, they probably would have been much better 5-10 years earlier. It sounded like that wouldn't be the case here, but I was about to find out for sure...


Benromach 1974 (49.1% ABV, 41yo, Speyside, Scotland, Cask #1583, One of 452 bottles, $25,000HKD£1,000 / AU pricing not available)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Colour: Orange copper.

Nose: Furniture polish, neenish tarts, leather, sweet caramel chews, blackcurrant, orange spice. With more time, a little smoke and just the slightest hint of oak, but overall, quite fresh and very complex.

Palate: Initially quite sweet, settling into notes of super clean sherry. No sulphur here! Vanilla cream drizzled with Oloroso sherry. Hints of creamed honey. Dark chocolate. After time, a slightly earthy, peppery smoke.

Finish: Long, sweet and slightly smoky (earthy / vegetive smoke). Slight tannins at the very end, and a lingering sweetness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  94/100. Complex and beautiful - two characteristics that, when brought together well, produce an utterly fantastic whisky in my opinion.


It was fantastic to sample the 1974 41yo, but it was also great to revisit some of the core lineup too, and to do so with a member of the G&M legacy. I've always enjoyed Benromach, but enjoyed it even more this time around. I'd go so far as to say the 10yo would be one of the best value Speysiders around that age on the market, and the 1974 - well, if you have $25k HKD you're thinking of spending on whisky, it would be a good way to spend it.

Cheers,
Martin.

TimeforWhisky.com would like to thank Richard and GHCAsia for a fantastic lunch and tasting.