Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Lagavulin 30 Year Old "Cask of Distinction" Single Cask #5403 [Tasted #581]

A month or so ago, I got word that House Welley Bar in Hong Kong (see our review here) had a pretty special bottle about to be released. I didn't get any clues as to what it was, but with bottles like a 23yo Cask of Distinction Lagavulin & a 100+ year old Cognac to their name already (or those of their founders'), I figured it would be something pretty special.

Turns out, it was...

Yep, they'd gone and bottled (along with their friends from Wu Dram Clan, HK Whisky Fellows & Kirsch Whisky) a single cask of 30 Year Old Lagavulin.

Not just any single cask of 30 Year Old Lagavulin, mind you, a Diageo Cask of Distinction Single Cask.

For those unfamiliar with the "CoD" program, you can find a little more detail here on our write-up of another excellent HK-exclusive CoD (a 35yo Clynelish). Suffice to say, these are truly rare and excellent casks, and I don't believe we've seen a 30yo Lagavulin bottled yet (a few 1991 Lagavulin casks have been bottled, but at 25-28 years old).

Diageo's CoD terminology means a "Select Cask" is a cask that underwent secondary maturation (e.g. a finish, or a vatting of casks - bottled from a single cask, but not matured entirely in that single cask) whereas "Single Cask" (what we have here) denotes the whisky maturing its entire life in a single cask - in this case, a 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Butt (interestingly, seasoned with both PX and Oloroso). 

Distilled on 4th November 1991, the whisky was bottled at 44.3% on 6th Jan 2022, yielding 318 bottles.

The whisky was released when I was in hotel quarantine, but as soon as I was free, I made a bee line for House Welley Bar. Conventional wisdom might suggest you don't start your night with a peated, sherried dram...but for this dram, the rules went out the window...

Lagavulin "Cask of Distinction" 30 Year Old Cask #5403, bottled for Hong Kong Whisky Fellows, Welley, Christoph Kirsch, Sebastien Jaeger & Boris Borissov (44.3% ABV, 30yo, Cask #5403, One of 318 bottles, Islay, Scotland, $900HKD/15mL @ House Welley Bar, Hong Kong)

Colour: Coffee copper.

Nose: Immediately intoxicating. Which is more prominent? The beautiful clean sherry (which has sweet PX hints and dryer Oloroso hints), or the subtle peat? Sometimes one, sometimes the other. There are whole oranges alongside barbecued bacon fat. It's so obviously a Lagavulin, but the most elegant and clean Laga you've ever nosed. One of those noses you just want to sit on forever. After about 15 minutes, I started getting notes of really elegant old sherry casks - dunnage warehouses and a slightly earthy mushroom note. I'm talking about notes I generally only find on recently-released, but old sherried G&M drams (whiskies in the 60-80 year old age bracket) - not "old bottle effect", but "they don't make casks like that anymore" effect.

Palate: Follows the nose, with the bacon fat, mushroom notes following through, alongside some Crème Caramel, raspberry pie (with a flamed crust), leather, citrus and always the contrasting sherry and peat notes complimenting each other beautifully. After time, there are some sweeter icing sugar on a raspberry muffin notes coming through.

Finish: Medium in length, with just a hint of oak tannins, alongside raspberries, residual campfire smoke. After some time, the sweetness of the smoke increases.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. That's a high score, but this is a deserving whisky. Just sublime. Likely to spoil you for every Lagavulin you'll drink in the future (but still...worth it).


Congratulations to Hong Kong Whisky Fellows, House Welley Bar, Christoph Kirsch, Sebastien Jaeger & Boris Borissov for bottling such a stunning CoD, and for actually ensuring bottles are opened and enjoyed by as many whisky lovers as possible (I was at the bar less than a week after the announcement, and this was already the second bottle).

For those in Hong Kong, I can highly recommend dropping into House Welley Bar to try a dram. For those in Europe, I hope some of the other bottles get opened shortly!


Monday, 25 July 2022

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection 1949 from Milton Distillery 72 Year Old [Tasted #580]

My admiration of Gordon & MacPhail has been well documented on this blog - not just for the quality and variety of independently bottled whisky they release, but for their respect for Scotch Whisky, stemming from their 125 years as an integral part of the industry, across four generations.

Part of that respect includes ensuring the utmost historical accuracy, exemplified by their latest release, the 72 year old "Private Collection 1949 from Milton Distillery".

"Milton Distillery" you say? Confused? I was too...

Strathisla may be known as the most picturesque distillery in Scotland, but it turns out it was only officially named Strathisla in 1951 - prior to that, it was (you guessed it) Milton distillery. So whilst G&M could have called this Strathisla (known for their high-quality, well-aged malts), they chose to keep things accurate and use the name under which the whisky was distilled - Milton.

Gordon & MacPhail's relationship with Strathisla/Milton goes back more than a century, and in 1949 (19th May, to be precise), being well familiar with the distillery's liquid, they filled a first-fill Sherry puncheon (made to G&M's specifications), intended for long-term maturation.

"Long-term" was certainly what they got, as the whisky wasn't bottled until 6th January 2022, 72 years later, yielding 180 bottles at 48.6% ABV.

Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection 1949 from Milton Distillery" 72yo (48.6% ABV, 72yo, Cask #383, One of 180 bottles, Speyside, £TBC)

Colour: Deep orange gold.

Nose: Subtle aged sherry, seville oranges, well-aged cigars, with a slight herbal grassiness. After time, some spiced butterscotch becomes noticeable.

Palate: Initial subtle oak tannins quickly give way to overripe oranges, cigar box notes and cut grass. Stewed fruits (pear and apricot predominantly) show, along with apple pie with a hint of spiced honey. 

Finish: Long (no surprises there!) with the spiced honey continuing to the end, alongside the slightest hint of smoke (more of a BBQ meat smoke).

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Another sublime whisky from G&M which defies conventional thinking about whisky and "optimum age". Yes, these casks were built to "go the distance", but to find such nuanced drams at over 70 years old, and without any overt oak influence, continues to impress me.


Friday, 1 July 2022

Togouchi & Sakurao "core range" Single Malt Japanese Whisky releases [Tasted #578 - 579]

Almost 12 months ago, we took a look on the current state of the Japanese whisky market, including tasting a number of new releases from an exciting wave of newer Japanese distilleries producing proper (i.e. distilled-in-Japan) Japanese whisky. 

One of those whiskies was Sakurao's 1st Release Cask Strength, which was particularly interesting as it marked the first whisky from Sakurao Distillery (formerly Chugoku Jozo) to be distilled in Japan. Previously, they'd been producing Togouchi whisky - aged in Japan, but distilled in Scotland / Canada. I mentioned that the distillery had (somewhat confusingly) also released a new, Japanese-distilled Togouchi, but at the time it was for the domestic market only.

Fast forward to 2022, and Sakurao Distillery have now released their "core range", regular line-up of both Sakurao & Togouchi - both now available in Hong Kong.

Whilst distilled at the same distillery, Togouchi is aged for more than 3 years in a disused railway tunnel in the forest (Hiroshima mountains) , in ex-Bourbon barrels. Sakurao, on the other hand, is aged in Sakurao, seto Island Sea, in 4 different cask types (ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry, American Oak & Mizunara).

First releases (especially when single casks) are always fun, but they're not always representative of the distillery's ambitions, or intentions for a core product, so I was excited to dive in and see what these approachable (43%) core/regular releases had in store...

Sakurao Single Malt Japanese Whisky (43% ABV, at least 3yo, Sakurao Japan, $1,100HKD available from AFTrade)
Colour: Golden straw.

Nose: Honeycomb, ginger tea and orange cake

Palate: Honey toast, BBQ-singed oranges, and peach tea, followed by a little vanilla and woodsmoke.

Finish: Long, with vanilla shortbread notes followed by fresh peaches.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. A solid showing for a first core release - and a very solid competitor to other new distillery releases around this price point. 

Togouchi Single Malt Japanese Whisky (43% ABV, at least 3yo, Sakurao Japan, $1,100HKD available from AFTrade)
Colour: Pale straw.

Nose: Green bananas, banana chews and minty peas.

Palate: More banana chews, intertwined with notes of rockmelon & vanilla ice cream.

Finish: Medium in length, with a fresh apple crispness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. Another solid showing. This is one of those whiskies where you say "you know what? Yeah, it's on the younger side, but it's just super drinkable and tasty." A worthwhile pickup for anyone who wants to see what the future of Japanese whisky could look like.

As with previous (and no doubt future) Sakurao Distillery releases, AFTrade (who provided these bottles for review) are distributing and selling these in Hong Kong. Well worth a look.


Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Ardbeg Day 2022 - Ardbeg Ardcore [Tasted #577]

If there's annual whisky event we never fail to cover on TimeforWhisky, it's ArdbegDay! The annual event sees Ardbeg Committee members over the world celebrate all things Ardbeg, whilst enjoying one of Dr Bill Lumsden's latest creations created specifically for the celebration.

This year the creation is "Ardcore", a punked-up take on Ardbeg (harkening back to the 1970's alleged "hotbed of anti-establishmentarianism" in Islay), described as "like biting on a spiky ball". Not exactly a tasting note which immediately makes me want to dive in, but I'll admit I was intrigued.

Continuing 2021's trend, Hong Kong again held an actual event this year, and whilst recent events haven't quite been on the scale of 2014's epic Sydney tasting for "Auriverdes", it was fantastic to again be able to celebrate Ardbeg in person with other Committee members.

Held at Wan Chai's TMK (a suitable venue if ever there was one), Committee members came together to taste a lineup led by local brand ambassador Leo Jockovic, including:
...preceded by a Wee Beastie Highball, and paired with a menu of TMK's delicious sushi.

I love getting the opportunity to taste an entire range side by side - particularly as it gives me the opportunity to see how bottlings (and/or my own taste) have evolved. For example while Uigeadail has always been a favourite, during this taste I had the Corry slightly ahead in terms of score.

Of course, it was the Ardcore I was most interested in though, so on that note...

Adbeg "Ardcore" (Ardeg Day 2022) (46% ABV, NAS, Islay, $2198HKD in a pack with Wee Beastie$235AUD£87.46)
Colour: Pale, light straw.

Nose: Citrus-infused peat, then a slight bittersweet choc note. Grapefruit, followed by some oak.

Palate: Sweet toffee initially, followed by some dark chocolate. There's an underlying herbal note I also got on the 10 (almost a slight grassiness), but it's subtle - the sweeter notes dominate.

Finish: Smoked herbal lonzenges with wafts of BBQ smoke.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. Not quite what I was expecting (for me, not exactly "biting on a spiky ball", but a relatively straight-forward, enjoyable dram. Given the choice though, I'd choose the Ten.

Think this sort of event is something you'd want to take part in? This year Ardbeg held many events like this, with Ardbeg Committee members getting the opportunity to attend. Make sure you sign up here for your chance next time around.


Thanks to MHDHK for the invitation, and the bottle reviewed here.

Monday, 6 June 2022

Diageo Special Releases 2021 [Tasted #569 - 576]

Just like Christmas, the eagerly anticipated Diageo Special Releases Collection has arrived in Australia. Though it should be said that we do get things six months later than our Northern Hemisphere friends. The 2021 Diageo Special Releases Collection 2021 dubbed 'Legends Untold' features similar malt set to last year's collection and no, there's no sign of any ghost distillery malts such as Port Ellen or Brora. Those rare malts are now part of the Rare & Exceptional Collection.

The Diageo 2021 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection feature:

  • The darkly robust and rich Mortlach 13yo from the Speyside Dufftown distillery
  • A briny, bold fire-breathing sea monster of malt with smoky undertones in the Talisker 8yo
  • A rare Highland expression of the Royal Lochnagar with a nimble springtime freshness
  • Two unique and enchanting expressions of the Lagavulin, ‘The King of Islay’: A fiercely intense, yet perfectly balanced sweet and salty 12yo and, 
  • The ultimate jewel in the set, a 26yo, finished in first-fill PX/Oloroso casks

I couldn't make the event that Diageo put together in Sydney but they did send the collection. I must say, when I received the package, I was blown away by the overall design and details. 

This year's collection takes inspiration from the fable world and is represented by the brilliant pop-culture designs by Digital Illustrator Ken Taylor. His striking signature style and interpretation of the mythical creatures take cues from his portfolio of pop culture artwork. The designs incorporate ancient fables and mythical creatures that are linked to Scotland's heartland. The 2021 ‘Legends Untold’ collection like all the previous Special Releases collections is there to represent the diversity of Diageo's malt portfolio.

Master Blender Dr Craig Wilson selected each of the whiskies and he commented:

“We have delved into the core characteristics of several classic distilleries for the ‘Legends Untold’ collection. Taking inspiration from this year’s mythical creatures, we have revealed new depths of flavour and embraced the essence of each whisky’s unique profile, unveiling the legend it brings to life. The 2021 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection is just the very beginning of the story.”

What's also unique this year is the use of the QR code that is found on the bottle. On the sample kit, the QR code was printed on the box that also told the tale of the legends. Diageo is using the QR code to give people the ability to dive deeper into each of the releases and promises a multi-sensory experience as well as details behind the cask-strength Single Malts’ tale. All from the comfort of people's homes.

Mortlach 13yo (55.9%, Speyside, Scotland, A$243) 


Nose: Light, freshly cut grass, vanilla granolas, there's some orange marmalade, lemon and honey lozenges.

Palate: Creamy, floral, vanilla, there's some tannin, quite tarty followed by some sweet ginger heat.

Finish: Long remnants of tannin, chalky and the spices remain for a while. 

Rating: 91/100 

Lagavulin 12yo - The Lion's Fire (56.5%, Islay, Scotland, A$234) 


Nose: Iodine, sea salt with lemon zest. It's pleasant despite the slightly peaty, briny influence. There's a hint of vanilla and chocolate.

Palate: There's the smoke, bonfire smoke. The brine from the nose follows on the palate. There is lemon zest and seaweed. Simple pleasure, very Lagavulin.

Finish: Long, the smoke and lemon citrus notes lingers, as well as the brine note.

Rating: 94/100 

The Singleton of Glendullan 19yo - The Siren’s Song (54.6%, Speyside, Scotland, A$252)


Nose: The nose is fruity, with apples and licorice and currant

Palate: The palate is smooth, with peppermint, fresh mint, a hint of fresh malt, popping candies, sour cherries and quite herbaceous

Finish: The finish is sweet, light, 

Rating: 91/100 

Oban 12yo - The Tale of Twin Foxes (56.2%, Highlands, Scotland, A$189) 


Nose: The nose is herbaceous, sweet maple syrup, grassy, toffee apple, green apple, 

Palate: The palate is rich, elegant, and lightly spiced, oranges, warhead sour lollies, spices, and nutmeg hit the back of the palate

Finish: The finish is long zesty and salty (in a delicious way)

Rating: 94/100 

Cardhu 14yo - The Scarlet Blossoms of Black Rock (55.5%, Speyside, Scotland, A$216) 


Nose: Deliciously sweet, berries, strawberries and cream, plenty of dessert, icing sugar, caramelised apply to candy, vanilla and coconut shavings

Palate: The palate follows the nose, the sweet strawberries and cream, there are some fruit tingles, raspberry candy, slight sourness, popping candy perhaps?! but it's sweet through and through.

Finish: The popping and buzz from the popping candy remain along with the berry notes. Delicious.

Rating: 93/100 

Talisker 8yo — The Rogue Seafury (59.7%, Islay, Scotland, A$162) 


Nose: There's the Talisker, bold smoke with loads of unashamed peats. It's briny, there are sea salt remnants, and you can smell the ocean.

Palate: The bold peat and smoke follow through to the nose. It's charred and it hits you big time. There's some vanilla amongst the brine and ash.

Finish: Long, the smoke lingers for a while and there are some spices, peppery. The finish is also chalky with lots of tannins left behind. It's a delicious Talisker.

Rating: 92/100

Royal Lochnagar 16yo — The Spring Stallion (57.5%, Highland, Scotland, A$360) 


Nose: Fresh and fruity, honey, vanilla custard, subtle notes of mandarin.

Palate: Very surprising and different to the subtle notes. Creamy, orange and lemon zest, popping candy or is it orange juice. There are spices that develop gently, black pepper mixed with a drizzle of lemon.

Finish: Long with a chalky finish, the spices fizzle out first before leaving a sweet fruity finish.

Rating: 93/100

Lagavulin 26yo — The Lion's Jewel (44.2%, Islay, Scotland, A$2,971) 


The grandeur of the lot, the Lagavulin 26yo - dubbed the Lion's Jewel. The King of Islay guarded a gem of precious worth that has been won through decades of fire and ferocity. As the legends have it, this was truly a nice drop.

Nose: The smoke and ash hit you, in a nice way. There are raisins and stone fruits, and some berries. There is also some sweetness, honey glazed smoked ham?! 

Palate: Sweet at first but the smoke continues on the palate and continues to grow. There are ash notes that are mixed with dried fruits, and raisins. The smoke is followed by some spices, black pepper and oak spice. Overall, very creamy and complex.

Finish: Long, the peat lingers and the bonfire is still alive, you are yearning for more of that smoke. A beautiful Lagavulin rendition.

Rating: 95/100


Thank you to Diageo and Example for sending us the Diageo Special Releases 2021 Collection kit for us to spend some time with.

Friday, 3 June 2022

Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection 1952 from Glen Grant Distillery Platinum Jubilee Edition" 70yo [Tasted #568]

It's been less than a month since I wrote about this 64yo 1957 "Mr George Legacy" 2nd Edition Glen Grant, and if that was the oldest whisky I was to try this year, I'd consider it a pretty good year....but the fine people at Gordon & MacPhail had other plans, and were kind enough to send a sample of something even more special, commemorating an event that most of us will likely never again experience in our lifetimes.

I'm talking about the Queen's Platinum (70th) Jubilee, and the Gordon & MacPhail "Platinum Jubilee Edition" 70yo 1952 Glen Grant, bottled for the occasion. Not the oldest whisky we've tried on the site, but impressively, the equal second.

Bottled on the 6th February (the same date as Her Majesty's accession to the throne) after maturing for 7 decades in a first fill Sherry butt, the whisky serves as a fitting tribute to Her Majesty, having served the same amount of time on the throne.

Distilled on 26th January 1952, and bottled 70 years later at a cask strength 52.3% ABV, the "Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection 1952 from Glen Grant Distillery" sees just 256 bottles released worldwide, with a recommended retail price of £20,000, available from Gordon & MacPhail's own online shop in the UK, and no doubt Master of Malt for International buyers in due course. No word yet on Hong Kong or Australian pricing.

In support of the Queen’s ‘green canopy’ initiative and building on the successful 2021 partnership with Scottish charity Trees for Life we mentioned here, Gordon & MacPhail is donating a further £20,000 from the proceeds of the release.

So having well and truly established the whisky's suitability for such a momentous occasion, let's find out how it tastes...

Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection 1952 from Glen Grant Distillery Platinum Jubilee Edition" 70yo (52.3% ABV, 70yo, Cask #381, One of 256 bottles, Speyside, £20,000)
Colour: Mahogany gold.

Nose: Fresh leather, waxed apples and juicy sultanas, followed by orange marmalade. Give it time (as you must always with such an old and complex whisky), and herbal notes (mint predominantly) and cigars emerge.

Palate: Hugely rich and mouthfilling, there are initial wisps of smoke, followed by dark chocolate, then milk chocolate, cigar humidor, oranges (orange cakes actually), then slight hints of mint. After time, notes of blackcurrant emerge. It's not an in-your face sherry bomb, it's more of a subtle, complex, evolving sherried dram. Impressive, hugely impressive.

Finish: Long and minty, with lingering grapefruit hints and minimal oaky notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Not quite the same intensity of sherry in the 64yo 1957 "Mr George Legacy" 2nd Edition, more of a subtle, intricate dram giving layers of different notes as time goes on. A fitting tribute to Her Majesty if ever there was one.


Monday, 9 May 2022

Gordon & MacPhail "Mr George Legacy" (2nd Ed) 64yo 1957 Glen Grant [Tasted #567]

I've spoken plenty about the amazing Gordon & MacPhail bottlings I've been fortunate enough to try in recent years (most recently this one at a frankly-ridiculous 80 years old) but still to this day, the most enjoyable for me has been the 62yo 1956 "Mr George Centenary" (tasted here). 

I didn't realise at the time back in 2019, but "Mr George" releases were set to be an annual thing - followed up in 2020 by the 67yo 1953 "Mr George Legacy" Glen Grant (tasted here)....and now, by the third release in the series, the 2021-bottled 64yo 1957 "Mr George Legacy 2nd Edition" Glen Grant, released today.

Continuing to honour "Mr George" Urquhart ("the father, the originator, of the current success and appreciation of Scotch Malt whiskies"), the third release "pays tribute to his philosophy [with] a rich, complex single malt from Glen Grant Distillery with a subtle smokiness not found in more modern Speyside whiskies". A fitting choice, given Glen Grant was said to be one of Mr George's favourite distilleries.

G&M kindly sent me a sample of the new release, so let's dive in...

Gordon & MacPhail 1957 Glen Grant 64yo "Mr George Legacy" 2nd Edition (56.1% ABV, 64yo, Cask #3438, One of 298 bottles, Speyside, Price TBC)
Colour: Dark red Mahogany

Nose: An initial flinty note gives way to red berries, ginger, a BBQ meatiness and old leather, underlined by toasted oak.

Palate: Largely follows the nose, with a smoked cream note, more red berries, cherries, licorice allsorts, and an underlying mintiness. After time and some air, herbal notes of forrest soil and cigar box emerge.

Finish: Long, spiced mint, sultanas and cherries, with residual hints of walnut.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A more robust, meatier dram than the first two in my opinion. Closer to the previous "Legacy" than the "Centenary", but with some added slightly gunpowderish notes. Overall a fantastically complex and well-made dram - particularly given the lack of any over-oaked or "off" notes, despite being 64 years of age!
A huge thanks to G&M and WS for the sample.


Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Westward Cask Strength Launch [Tasted #566]

We've been following Westward since it first arrived in Australia in 2019 when we first tasted the original Westward Whiskey and also have had the chance to sit down with Westward's Lead Distiller, Miles Munroe. For those that have not come across Westward prior, Westward is a whiskey distillery that is based in Portland, Oregon. Known for its hipster and craft culture, it's no surprise to see a craft single malt whiskey borne out of Portland. Since it was first introduced in 2019, the Westward following has grown locally.

Fast forward to 2022 and we were given the opportunity to welcome the latest in the Westward Whiskey collection, namely, the Westward's Single Malt Whiskey Cask Strength. Thomas Mooney, Founder and CEO of Westward Whiskey noted:

“We’re thrilled to be expanding our flagship portfolio of whiskeys as we continually reimagine what single malts can be. We first introduced Cask Strength at the demand of our local Oregon fans, and since then there has been huge interest from whiskey lovers both locally and globally for quality high proof options, so we’re looking forward to having Australians be able to try our Cask Strength.”

Westward Cask Strength is the brand’s fourth permanent expression and follows the original Westward American Single Malt, Westward American Single Malt Stout Cask and the Westward American Single Malt Pinot Noir Cask. The cask strength expression draws from the original single malt distillation but it's bottled at barrel strength of 62.5% ABV (125 proof). At Time for Whisk[e]y, we are as much a big fan of cask strength as we are of all other lower ABV expressions. It is said that the cask strength expression accentuates the malted barley and the effect of the newly charred American Oak Barrels.

To celebrate the launch of the Westward Single Malt Whiskey Cask Strength, a dinner was held at the nel restaurant in Sydney. Hosted by Margo Jamieson of Westward Whiskey, the dinner paired a whiskey infused menu paired with the four Westward expressions.

The star of the night was the Westward Cask Strength which was paired with the main course but the other three Westward expressions were paired amicably to the entree and dessert including a highlight for me which was the sticky toffee whiskey pudding with butterscotch dessert that was accompanied by Westward Single Malt Pinot Noir Cask as well the [gilbert] pinot noir from Orange, NSW, Australia.

So what did we think about the star of the event, the Westward Single Malt Whiskey Cask Strength..

Westward American Single Malt Cask Strength (62.5%, Oregon, Seattle, United States of AmericaA$170) 

The Westward American Single Malt Whiskey Cask Strength is the highlight of the four Westward expressions. It has built on the original Westward Single Malt and amplifies many of the Westward flavours from sweet desserts to spices that bring out the best in Westward. This new expression is a clear winner for me.

reflects toasted almond, graham cracker, and black pepper aromas. Flavours include sesame, tobacco leaf and cacao, with a honeyed, deep fiery malt finish. 

Nose: The nose is decadent and sweet with hints of marzipan, vanilla, and fresh-cut grass? caramel popcorn, strawberries and cream or rather a strawberry jam.

Palate: The palate balances the sweetness of a good cinnamon bun, vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch with spices, nutmeg and black pepper. There is dark chilli chocolate on the palate - perhaps the cask strength providing the lovely heat. 

Finish: The finish is long, with lingering spices and chocolate and vanilla remnants.

Rating: 92/100 

Thanks to Margo Jamieson of Westward Whiskey as well as Nicole Robertson from Agent 99 for having us as part of the Westward Single Malt Cask Strength launch.


Sunday, 27 March 2022

Old Master Spirits' 1970 51yo Maison Tribot Grande Champagne Cognac [Tasted #565]

I wrote back in August last year about new Australian independent bottler Old Master Spirits, founded by two whisky lovers focusing on bottling well-aged, unadulterated Cognac, highlighting smaller maisons and with a mission to:
"...find very old cognac exclusively for Australia, to bottle it in its raw form and save it from going to one of the big brand blenders such as Hennessy who would blend this with younger cognac, filter it, add wood flavouring and sugars and water it down to 40%"
At the time I tasted both their 63yo 1957 & 36yo 1984 Cognac and hugely enjoyed them both, so when co-founder Deni reached out and asked if I'd like to try their next release, a 51yo Grande Champagne Cognac from 1970, I wasn't about to say no...

The Cognac this time comes from Maison Tribot, in the heart of the Cognac region, Grande Champagne. Distilled in a traditional pot still by Fourth generation distiller Jean Michel Tribot, the spirit spent 51 years in French Oak in the maison's ancestral stone-walled cellar, and was the oldest stock from their cellar. 

With an ABV of 50.3%, no additives and full maturation in Oak (which might seem obvious, but this isn't the case for all old Cognac) this is clearly an "spirit enthusiast's" Cognac...one I was excited to dive into.

Old Master Spirits 1970 Grande Champagne Cognac Maison Tribot V.70 A.51 (50.3% ABV, 51yo, 1 of 120 (500mL) bottles, France, $365AUD (available early May 2022))
Colour: Rich firey amber.

Nose: Right up there's some instant fruitiness - mango, rockmelon and sweet orange, but there's also some menthol and mint, and after some time, the orange turns more to orange zest / marmalade. So far, so good!

Palate: Follows the nose well - but with more pineapple, papaya, rockmelon and peach. There's some gooey sweet caramel too, which plays in nicely with the fruitiness. Delicious.

Finish: Some black tea, but with none of the astringency you might expect after 51 years in oak. Slight oak hints, along with mango and barbecued pineapple.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Extremely well-balanced, and delicious as well. Another absolute winner from Old Master Spirits.

Maison Tribot (label inspiration)

Old Master Spirits 1970 Maison Tribot 51 year old Cognac will launch in the first week of May 2022 at RRP of $365 through oldmasterspirits.com.au. Mailing list subscribers will have an opportunity for early access by subscribing at https://www.oldmasterspirits.com.au/#signup


Thursday, 10 March 2022

St Pat's Day Whiskies - Tullamore, The Whistler (PX I Love You), The Dubliner, Slane [Tasted: #562 - #564]

St Pat's Day on March 17 has always seen a global celebration of all things Irish and this year is no different. As we all emerge from our prolonged hibernation, we may be wondering what's the best way to celebrate St Pat's Day. Perhaps we might need to re-kindle ourselves with traditional Irish beverages  - Irish whiskies, beers or ciders.

Of the three, the choice is clear for us. Without a doubt, our pick would be Irish whiskies.

To showcase the goodness of Irish Whiskies ahead of St Pat's Day, we joined William Lavelle from the Irish Whiskey Association, Rosie Keane, the Irish Consul-General to Sydney and a number of Irish Whiskey Distillery Reps to explore four Irish Whiskies as part of the Discover (Irish) Whiskies campaign.

To kick off the session, we were (virtually) serenaded by Dan Elliott, an Irish singer-songwriter from Cork, Ireland who had managed to welcome us to the session. He did so rather well, given no whiskies had been drunk at that time and clearly not by Dan as it was pre-breakfast for him.

An interesting fact that was shared at the start of the session was the fact that Irish Whiskies are now growing significantly globally. It was also not lost to me that the session started with William sharing reminding us that Ireland is in fact where whiskey distilling first started and where whiskey got its name. Here we are in 2022 and Irish whiskies continue to be one of the world's fastest-growing categories with significant growth in both emerging markets such as Africa and other mature markets.

As with most Irish whiskies, they are traditionally distilled three times. A distillation process designed to isolate and remove the esters and other impurities. Also, similar to the Scotch, all Irish whiskey is, by law, matured for at least three years, though there are now various methods used by distillers to mature their whiskies. The Whistler (PX I Love You), for example, is initially matured in ex-bourbon casks but finished in ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for 9 months. Compare this to Slane, where after distillation, Slane matures their whiskies in 3 different barrels - virgin oak, seasoned Tennessee whiskey and Oloroso sherry before being blended.

The four Irish whiskies that we explored in the Discover (Irish) Whiskies session were Tullamore D.E.W, The Whistler (PX I Love You), The Dubliner and Slane.

Tullamore D.E.W (The Original)

Tullamore D.E.W just broke 18 million bottles last year, this follows the return of distillation back home in 2014. A tripled distilled and triple blended (single malt, single grain, single pot still) whisky, the original Tullamore D.E.W (DEW) is very fresh, grassy and clean. The palate is light to medium bodied with hints of apple and citrus on the palate and finish. It is quite light and fresh, an outcome of the triple distillation.

The Dubliner Bourbon Cask (40%, Dublin, IrelandA$47.95) 

The Dubliner distillery was opened in 2018 and is led by ex-Bushmills Master Distiller Daryl McNally. Their whiskies include the original Dubliner 10-Year-Old single malt, Whiskey & Honeycomb liqueur and a couple of beer cask matured whiskies.

There were actually two Dubliners we explored; the Bourbon Cask and a Whiskey & Honeycomb liqueur. I will go into the Bourbon Cask. 

Nose: The nose is light and crisp, there are apple and pear notes.

Palate: The palate is quite peppery at first but slowly opens up to the vanilla, honey and caramel notes. 

Finish: The finish is full of tannin but there are remnants of honey that is left behind.

Rating: 89/100 

Slane (40%, Boyne Valley, IrelandA$54.95) 

Slane Distillery was established by the Conyngham family, a family that is famously connected to the Slane Castle, located by the river Boyne. Brown Forman took over the Slane Distillery project in 2015 before ramping up production in 2018. It initially became popular in America but is now found widely abroad. 

NoseThe nose is light, smooth and creamy. There are apple, cereal and grain notes.

PalateThe palate is elegant, composed. There is vanilla and fudge on the palate with some pistachio in between. There is some heat but it is very much restrained.

Finish: Light, enjoyable and invites you to take another sip.

Rating: 90/100 

The Whistler "PX I Love You Single Malt Irish Whiskey" (46%, Boyne Valley, IrelandA$89.99) 


The Whistler P.X. I Love You Single Malt was one of the highlights of the four whiskies in the session. 

The distillery name is aptly named after Peter Cooney, not so much Peter himself but the notion of the whistling antic that Peter would do at the distillery. Peter Cooney, the co-founder and export director of Boann - the company that owns The Whistler would walk around the distillery all day - whistling. 

This particular bottling that we explored is a single malt Irish whiskey that is initially matured in ex-bourbon casks before being finished in ex-PX sherry casks for 9 months. The PX sherry and the influence this fortified wine’s casks had on the single malt Irish whiskey was excellent. The finishing in PX casks has given this particular whiskey, a lot of sherry influence. 

NoseThe sherry-cask finishing comes immediately to the nose. Lots of sweet cranberries, dried fruit, currants, citrus and port-like nose.

PalateThe palate is less sweet than the nose yet still quite fruity. There are dates, cranberries, and lots of vanilla coating the mouth and there is nuttiness and citrus as it lingers on.

Finish: The finish is relatively long and leaves a good drying heat.

Rating: 92/100 

As part of the Discover (Irish) Whiskies campaign, there are a number of articles that have been published- all centred around Irish Whiskies including a food pairing guide and Irish whiskey cocktails recipes. You can find those articles and guides here, Irish Whiskey - Depth and Diversity: https://www.ibec.ie/drinksireland/irish-whiskey/campaigns/depth-and-diversity



Thanks to the Irish Whiskey Association for having us as part of this campaign.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Glenmorangie "Year of the Tiger" 23 Year Old [Tasted #561]

In my tasting notes for the Glenmorangie Truffle Oak 26 Year Old last year, I mentioned how certain Glenmorangie releases tend to fly under the radar - marketed to existing private clients on a more personalised level, rather than having them plastered all over social media and the blogs. When you're talking about releases of <1000 bottles (often for not-insignificant sums of money) it's a perfectly sensible approach.

...but it does mean that those of us in the whisky blogosphere often don't get to experience them...except when we do! I was fortunate enough to try the Truffle Oak last year (it was incredible), and recently was equally lucky to try Glenmorangie's next limited release - "Year of the Tiger" 23yo. 

Distilled in 1998 (also Year of the Tiger), and aged in a “marriage of Bourbon and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks”, only 888 bottles were released at 46%. The (natural) colour looked pretty inviting, and with its PX credentials I was expecting a fairly sweet dram...but was I right? Let's find out...

Glenmorangie "Year of the Tiger" 23 Year Old (46% ABV, 23yo, Highlands, Scotland)

Colour: Burnished copper.

Nose: Rich demerara sugar and oranges - specifically flamed orange peel. Vietnamese coffee, toffee and hints of sweet spice.

Palate: Big PX hit initially - sweet and zesty, and hugely rich. There's maple, an earthy sweetness (think rich toffee fudge with streaks of dark chocolate throughout), super viscous, gooey caramel, nutty but still with that orange zest throughout.

Finish: Long, gooey caramel and residual sweet spices.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. A delicious Glenmo, but for my palate, not up there with Truffle Oak.


Friday, 4 February 2022

Tasted #560: Spiritus' 1983 Jean-Luc Pasquet Petite-Champagne 38yo Cognac

We don't feature a lot of Cognac on the site (what with being "Time for Whisky" and all..) but on the odd occasion we do, it's usually something pretty special - single caskindependently-bottled, etc... 

So upon hearing about Spiritus, a new Hong Kong-based independent bottler of Cognac, it's fair to say my interest was piqued - doubly so as the people behind Spiritus are known and well-respected members of the local whisky community.

Spiritus' first release saw them bottle a single cask Petite Champagne Cognac from Jean-Luc Pasquet, distilled in 1983 and bottled in Sept 2021 at 38 years old. Single cask Cognac from Jean-Luc Pasquet seems to be popular amongst whisky lovers, with Old Master Spirits (in Australia) and Wu Dram Clan (in Europe) also bottling casks I've written about recently. I enjoyed all of those, so was keen to see how this 1983 fared (especially being a birth vintage for me)!

Spiritus Jean Luc Pasquet Petite Champagne Cognac 1983-2021 (50.7% ABV, 38yo, France, $1,580HKD)
Colour: Deep orange copper.

Nose: Super fruity - peach, stewed pears, kiwi and strawberry. Some furniture polish, followed by freshly ground coffee and puff pastry (I mean, "croissants" would just seem too obvious right?)

Palate: Follows the nose but adds plums and white grapes, leather, and some oak but balanced nicely. Milk chocolate and a slight savoury note round things out.

Finish: Medium in length, with some residual tropical notes and earl grey tea towards the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. A fantastic first bottling!

A big thanks to Spiritus for the sample. If this is a taste of things to come, we can't wait to see what the future holds (and we shouldn't have to wait too long, as the next release has already been announced - this time a 1971 50yo Grand Champagne Cognac).