Saturday, 27 August 2016

Tasted #310 - 312: Westland American Single Malt Whiskey (American Oak, Peated and Sherry Wood)

Mention "American Whiskey" to many people, and you're likely to get a response along the lines of "Oh, you mean Bourbon?" or maybe rye if they feel they know a thing or two. American single malt though, is a category that's still relatively unknown and even though there's a lot of it around (and has been for a while), is still seen as being in its relative infancy.

Enter Seattle's Westland Distillery. Drawing on the natural and high quality materials found in the USA's Pacific North West, the distillery produces a core range of three single malts, as well as a number of single cask expressions. Recently we were lucky enough to receive a sample of the three core expressions below, from Alba Whisky in Australia who will soon be distributing Westland:

At a minimum of 2 years old (26 months for the Sherry Wood) they're not old nor super complex, but nor are they trying to be. Aiming to showcase the rich barley of Washington state, the whiskies are designed to show what attention to detail, quality ingredients and intelligent maturation can produce.

Australia's Alba Whisky (known for distributing brands such as G&M, Amrut, Benromach, Wemyss and of course Westland) were kind enough to send us three samples recently (all the way to Hong Kong), to let us see what these whiskies were all about...

Westland American Oak American Single Malt Whiskey  (46% ABV, 2yo, Seattle, USA, Australian price TBC)
Colour: Honey gold.

Nose: Honey, caramel, BBQ'd pineapple. Very pleasant.

Palate: Smooth but rich. Toast, pork crackling, oranges drizzled with honey. Its 46% ABV feels spot on.

Finish: Short to medium length, with slight rubbery notes initially rounding out into bitter cocoa notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. Very drinkable, and quite impressive given the young age of both the whisky and the distillery.

Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey (46% ABV, 2yo, Seattle, USA, Australian price TBC)
Colour: Light honey gold.

Nose: Toffee and caramel, raisins and maple butter. Some sweet PX notes with red berries.

Palate: Crisp and clean, with brazil nuts, a slight meatiness, oak and continuing creamy maple butter.

Finish: Medium to long length, creamy, sweet, slightly drying.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  90/100.

Westland Sherry WOod American Single Malt Whiskey (46% ABV, 26 months old, Seattle, USA, Australian price TBC)

Colour: Light honey gold.

Nose: Initially gives sweet, meaty, citrusy peat notes. Think honey orange-glazed BBQ pork. The peat is noticeable, but subtle.

Palate: Peat smoke that's simultaenously earthy and sweet, and slightly peppery. It's unique, but very enjoyable. Burnt toast, BBQ'd pork and charcoal-roasted pineapple.

Finish: Medium length, slight earthy smoke with a residual sweetness to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Very enjoyable (especially the palate) and definitely my favourite of the three.

The range of Westland whiskies will soon be available from Alba Whisky in Australia. Thanks to Ian for the generous samples.


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Bar Review #21: J.Boroski Hong Kong

A month or so ago, a mate tagged me in a Facebook post highlighting a new cocktail bar in Hong Kong opening soon, called J.Boroski. Not being familiar with it, I did a little Googling which promptly turned up exactly one result, with no details whatsoever.

A little more Googling told me it was the HK outpost of a popular Bangkok bar by the same name, with both interiors designed by Aussie Ashley Sutton (of Iron Fairies Bangkok and Ophelia Hong Kong fame). Despite only opening a few years ago, the cocktails at the Bangkok bar were said to be world class, so obviously we were keen to see how the HK version stacked up.

So a few weeks ago I reached out to Joseph (the "J" in "J.Boroski") and made a reservation for Steph and I for a Saturday night. Finding the place was a challenge at first (the directions were something like "go down a little laneway, look for the graffiti, go down the hallway, through the door at the end, turn right" but we managed, and after confirming details with the host, were taken to our bar seats.

The first thing that strikes you is just how simultaneously exquisite and refined the space is. It's unique (how many other bars have their walls/ceiling adorned with life-size Rhino beetle tiles!?), but it works brilliantly when coupled with the warm wooden furnishings and comfortable suede chairs.

The other thing that struck us was how quiet it was. We arrived at 8:30pm on a Saturday and had the entire place to ourselves (literally) for almost 2 hours. Of course, I should mention that at that point, the bar hadn't even been in "soft opening" mode for a week, and still wasn't officially open. I returned a few weeks later on a Monday, and as expected it was much busier, with the bar seats all full by 10pm.

J.Boroski HK operates on an "invitation only" basis and whilst that might initially seem a bit wanky, it's purely to ensure there's space for guests so everyone can be looked after. It's a small, intimate space, and they want to ensure every customer gets the appropriate amount of attention. Invitations can be requested by e-mailing

One look at the backbar (an eclectic mix of American and Scottish whiskies, gins, rums, tequilas, Mezcals, and more infusions and home-made syrups than you can imagine) and you could tell this was a serious cocktail bar. You might reasonably expect they'd have a pretty incredible cocktail menu too, but you'd be wrong! The bar eschews menus in favour of the bartenders discussing flavours / preferences with customers, and creating a drink to suit.

We love bars that back themselves enough to "throw away" the menu, and it's done brilliantly at J.Boroski HK.

Feeling in the mood for something similar to a Negroni to kick things off, our bartender Nathan Tse (previously of Bitters & Sweets) suggested a variation made using a Thai gin. Slightly smoky, bitter and perfectly balanced, it hit the mark wonderfully - a theme that continued with every drink we tried.

On a later visit our group requested a mix of "Classics with twists" and "Classics" - from a smoked Manhattan-style drink with coffee-infused Bourbon, to a crisp, sharp classic daiquiri, every single drink was spot on. The team here might be new, but they're already matching the best Hong Kong has to offer.

Drink prices are on par with any other high-end cocktail bar in HK (expect cocktails to be around $150HKD, depending on base spirit) and considering the thought and effort that goes into each (not to mention the fantastic end result), and the personalised service, it's a fair proposition.

If you're a fan of cocktails, we highly recommend making a booking and getting yourself down to J.Boroski sooner rather than later. You won't be disappointed, and you'll probably be blown away.


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Glenlivet pairing dinner at Le Méridien Cyberport Hong Kong

Steph and I had barely been back in Hong Kong a few days (after a great trip to Sydney) when an invite arrived for a whisky dinner with The Glenlivet, to be held at Le Méridien Cyberport. It'd been a few years since the last Glenlivet dinner we attended, and although Steph had plans,  my fondness for The Glenlivet (and you know, eating..) meant I wasn't about to say no. So on a Friday night recently, myself and good mate Eddie Nara jumped in a cab and headed towards "Sou ma gong" (Cyberport).

Upon arrival we were greeted by Darren Hosie (Regional Mentoring Manager for Chivas Bros and good friend of TimeforWhisky) and handed a cocktail made with Chivas and...Dragonfruit?! Different, but it worked perfectly as a refreshing antidote to the heat outside.

Taking our seats shortly after, the hotel's GM gave a brief introduction and explained how the hotel has run successful wine dinners in the past, but was looking to expand into whisky, hence the five malts laid out in front of us.

With guests ranging from whisky novices to enthusiasts (and one CEO of an Australian distillery...) Darren gave a brief introduction into how to taste / appreciate whisky, before we jumped into the first dram - The Glenlivet 12 Excellence. We first tasted the Excellence earlier this year with Charlie Maclean, and enjoyed the sherry matured notes that aren't present in the regular 12yo (the "Excellence" is designed for Asian palates and distribution is limited to only certain countries in Asia).

With hints of chocolate, orange, paprika and cinnamon, it's noticeably different to the regular 12yo, and when paired with Parma ham and (vodka-infused) melon balls, proved a great way to kick things off.

You'll have to forgive the references to "wine servings"...
Next came Steamed Foie Gras with Banana Chutney paired with The Glenlivet Nadurra. Whilst not the most visually-appealing dish, it was spot on in terms of flavours, and matched better than I'd expected with a cask strength whisky like the Nadurra.

Gazpacho on a heavenly-cloudy peach malange was next, paired with The Glenlivet 18. Given the spiciness of the dish, at first I thought this might have paired better with the Nadurra....but that just goes to show you why I'm not a chef (or food pairing expert). This was a fantastic pairing, with the spiciness of the dish picking up the some of the cloves and asian spices in the 18yo, and adding an overall Demerara-like sweetness. 

Next came Roasted beef fillet topped with Hazelnut, seasonable vegetables and orange gravy, paired with The Glenlivet XXV (25yo). A subtle / nuanced dram with a simple dish like a well cooked piece of beef was a smart option, and again these two complimented each other well.

Desserts often provide an opportunity for great whisky pairings, and this was no exception, with Whisky chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream playing nicely off the sweeter, apple-like notes in the Limousin-aged The Glenlivet 15yo French Oak, even adding some hints of cinnamon that weren't obvious in either the dish or the whisky on their own.

In addition to the whisky and food pairings being a big success, the event also struck that perfect balance by being informative without going over guests' heads (or worse, putting them to sleep). With each course Darren gave a brief intro, explained a little about the whisky and thought process behind the pairing, and that was it. Guests seemed to appreciate the introduction, but also the chance to form their own thoughts on each pairing.

With the courses finished (and an extra dram or two of the XXV to wrap things up) it was time to call it a night. I'd have to say as the first Le Méridien Cyberport whisky pairing dinner it was a big success, and I look forward to seeing them run others in the future. Whilst I'd kindly been given a ticket courtesy of Pernod Ricard, at $888/head the dinner was great value - especially when you consider you'd almost pay that for a single dram of XXV in some Hong Kong bars! would like to thank Darren, Pernod Ricard HK and Le Méridien Cyberport for the invite.


Friday, 19 August 2016

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Jack Daniel Distillery with Chris Fletcher

2016 is a special year for Jack Daniel's as it marks the 150th anniversary of the distillery. To help lead the birthday celebrations across Australia, Chris Fletcher; Jack Daniel's Assistant Master Distiller joined fellow Jack Daniel's fans and lovers alike to raise a toast to the milestone. Having travelled all the way from Lynchburg, Tennessee, Chris (the grandson of Frank Bobo; the distillery's fifth Master Distiller) shared stories that shaped the Jack Daniel's we all know and love today. This being Chris' first visit to Australia made all the celebrations even more special.

The birthday celebration in Sydney was part of a series of events that formed Chris' Australian tour and took place at Hotel Harry in Surry Hills where Chris led guests through a special tasting masterclass as well as through a series of clever and interactive theatrics that brought the Jack Daniel's stories to life.

The celebration kicked off with a masterclass that included a couple of Jack Daniel's new makes along with traditional Jack Daniel's expressions such as the Old No 7, Gentleman Jack and Single Barrel expressions. The new makes were put into the mix to showcase the concept of "charcoal mellowing" - a distinct process used by Jack Daniel's to transform their whiskey into the renowned Tennessee whiskey.

Charcoal mellowing was what Chris highlighted as a key differentiator between how a bourbon whiskey and a Tennessee whiskey (in the case of Jack) is made. The process of taking the new make off the still and into 10 feet of hard packed maple charcoal over a sixty day period is what removes the hard and harsh notes from the Jack Daniel's new make. We could easily compare and contrast the subtle differences between the pre and post-charcoal mellowed new make - the post charcoal-mellowed new make was a lot less viscous, oily and bitter.

As Chris continued with the masterclass, a man dressed in his pyjamas with a giant briefcase in one hand interrupted the session. He looked around the room, which by now was filled with puzzled faces, and with a spare glass of Old No 7 in one hand, started to share his story. He spoke of stories from the past, from when he was younger, from when he was a famous bootlegger in the 1920s. As he narrated his story, everyone eased, knowing that he was simply part of the celebration.

A short while after, he asked for all the guests in the room to follow him up the stairs. As we climbed the stairs, we could hear a voice from one of the rooms calling out "White coffee with one sugar, that's how I like it". In the room was the younger version of the bootlegger.

Entering the room, it felt like we 'd all been transported from 2016 through to the early 19th century, the era in which the young bootlegger grew up in. The young bootlegger explained that he was looking for an assistant to help him - as a master taster; a taster of the fine Tennessee whisky he was bootlegging. Everyone was asked to scour the different milk jars around the room - the first person to locate Jack Daniel's in one of the jars was to become his assistant. One of the guests; Tony from Brisbane successfully found the jar, not through nosing the jar but through deciphering the codes that were printed on the tags of the jars. Clever find.

Stuart Reeves of Brown Forman got into character as the bootlegger's partner and brought Tony to the side to teach him the old way that whisk(e)y cocktails were made. Stuart spoke to how an Old Fashioned was made in the 1920s. Fortunately, nothing since - sugar, whiskey and bitters still being the prominent ingredients for the old cocktail.

Following the short cocktail demo, guests were ushered by the old bootlegger into another room. Walking into the room, one could see a fine leather chair, crystal tumblers and suave settings. Oh, and there was also Frank Sinatra and his assistant. Frank was in the room, sitting comfortably on his lounge with a glass of whiskey on hand. The Frank Sinatra feature was to celebrate the recent Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select release.

Following a brief demonstration of how to pour a Jack Frank's way, Frank proceeded to sing to the room before our old bootlegger mate ushered us all into the final room.

The final room looked bright and raw. It was backstage with a rockstar duo. Jack Daniel's and Coke cocktails were lined up on the side and the rockstars spoke to the room, asking everyone for suggestions on their rock band name. Guests suggested various names from "The Bootleggers" to "Single Barrels" -- all fitting names.

We were all given a Jack Daniel's and Coke cocktail before heading downstairs for the final wrap up session.

Chris Fletcher recapped the memorable two hours and spoke to how he selected something special for Australia. He wanted to leave a memorable Jack with all the guests - a special Single Barrel Select selected by Chris from the distillery that is rich, bold and full of character -- attributes he believed represented Australia.

The 150th anniversary celebration of the Jack Daniel distillery in Sydney was phenomenal and innovative. The theatrics, setup and all the different elements brought alive the history of Jack Daniel's a history that traversed the prohibition era, Frank Sinatra's era and the era from which rock was born. 

All in all, the celebration was brilliantly put together and and with Chris Fletcher at the helm of the celebration, was certainly true to Jack's guiding belief that "Every day we make it, we'll make it the best we can." would like to thank Jack Daniel's and Celia Harding of The Sound Campaign for the invite to this fantastic event.


Saturday, 13 August 2016

This week in whisk(e)y #34 - New Australian SMWS partner bar, JW Rye Cask Finish, Sydney Indie Tasting showcase and Bar High Five comes to Hong Kong

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 Gresham becomes Queensland's first SMWS partner bar
Joining the ranks of some of our favourite Aussie bars, including Whisky & AlementEau de Vie and Shirt Bar, is Queensland's The Gresham, recently been announced as Queensland's first (and only) Scotch Malt Whisky Society partner bar.

According to Matt Bailey, Brand Ambassador for SMWS (and good mate of TimeforWhisky):
“What we look for in a partner is those who have a proven dedication to serving their guests the best spirits in the world,” he said “It’s not just about stocking the world’s best whisky, it’s about the people serving that product having extensive knowledge and are passionate about single cast and cast strength Scotch Malt Whisky. 
Ryan Lane’s the manager there, his team and the owners of The Gresham all have a demonstrable track record of excellence in product choice and knowledge, not just in whisky but in all the beverages they stock and the way they serve them”.
One to check out if in Brisbane.

New Johnnie Walker "Rye Cask Finish" released in Australia
We heard about this one a while ago, and now the Johnnie Walker Rye Cask Finish is available in Australia. Whilst the "rye" in the name might throw a few people, this is still very much a blended Scotch whisky - just one finished in ex-rye whiskey casks. We love a good rye here so it'll be interesting to see what effect ex-rye casks have on a 10yo, Cardhu-heavy Johnnie Walker blend.

Somewhat bucking the NAS trend, this one's bottled with a clear (10 year old) age statement on the bottle, and also at a healthy 46% ABV (as opposed to many blends nowadays, bottled at 40 or 43%).

Quoting the press release:
"Rye Cask Finish is a Scotch whisky blend that showcases the best of Scottish blending and maturation expertise and has already picked up numerous international awards including gold at The International Spirits Challenge 2016 and silver at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
With Cardhu single malt at the heart of the blend, Johnnie Walker’s Master Blender Jim Beveridge used whiskies matured for at least ten years in first-fill American Oak casks. He finished the Scotch in ex-rye whisky casks, creating a complex new whisky with rich layers of flavour starting with creamy vanilla notes and transitioning to a more spicy finish.
Johnnie Walker Select Cask – Rye Cask Finish is the perfect gift for Father’s Day (available nationally) and has a recommended retail price of $70 (700ml)."
We'll hopefully have our own tasting notes posted in the near future.

"Indie Tasting" independent spirits showcase returns to Sydney
On Sunday 18th September, Sydney will see over 40 suppliers showcasing 120 boutique spirits at the annual "Indie Tasting", to be held at the always-fun Frankie's Pizza (I mean the "always fun" part. On a recent trip back to Sydney, I visited on a Tuesday night and what I saw was a scene I thought was long-dead in Sydney, thanks to the lockout laws...riotous good times.)

Not to be confused with Independent bottlings (aka "Indies" or "IBs") which often provide an alternative insight into a particular distillery, this event celebrates small, boutique, independent (I hesitate to use the word "craft") spirits.

Indie Tasting founder, David Spanton, shares, “These definitely aren’t your run-of-the-mill bottleshop offerings. Many haven’t even made it to the bottleshop or backbar yet. Thanks to a boom in the local distilling industry, home grown Aussie spirits are making a big appearance. This showcase is about helping small brands get more visibility in today’s competitive market. And Sydney is the perfect city to host such an event with its thriving small bar scene and passionate bartending professionals and drinkers.”

Brands on show will include Young Henry's (yes they do spirits now!), Poor Tom's, Applewood (their Red Okar is a pretty unique alternative to Campari), Adelaide Hills, Beenleigh, Husk Distillers, Hippocampus, Four Pillars, West Winds, Melbourne Moonshine and whisky distillery Whipper Snapper, not to mention six distilleries from North Carolina, including one producing a "blonde whisky" (?!), which sounds intriguing.

With tickets only $40 (pre-sale) or $50 (on the door), it sounds like a pretty bloody good way to spend a Sunday arvo.

Indie Tasting Sydney
Sunday, 18 September, 12pm – 5pm
Frankie’s Pizza, 50 Hunter St, Sydney, NSW 2000
Tickets: $40 online, $50 on door (pending availability).

Bar High Five (pop up) comes to Hong Kong
Earlier this year Hong Kong's Landmark Mandarin Oriental welcomed famed NYC bar Please Don't Tell (PDT) for a pop-up, taking over the small upstairs part of MO Bar ("The Shell") and turning it into an incredibly realistic replica of the original bar.

This September and October it's set to happen all over again, this time with Japan's Bar High Five - a Japanese cocktail institution and currently rated Asia's third best bar.

Ensuring the utmost authenticity, the bar will be presided over by founder Hidetsugu Ueno (winner of this year's International Bartender of the Year award at Tales of the Cocktail). We've met and exchanged a few e-mails with Ueno-San over the past few years (most recently during this year's Tokyo International Bar Show + Whisky Expo) and as well as being an absolute master of his craft, he's a really nice, genuine bloke.

"With BAR HIGH FIVE founder and master bartender, Mr Hidetsugu Ueno, heading the cocktail-making team, the pop-up will open in MO Bar’s upstairs private room, The Shell, between 1 September until 31 October 2016. The Shell will be transformed into a jewel-box venue reminiscent of Mr Ueno’s glamorous Ginza institution.
Guests are invited to join an Instagram photo contest to win a two-night stay for two people at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo and visit the original BAR HIGH FIVE in the city’s Ginza district.
Mr Ueno and his team of award-winning mixologists, Ms Kaori Kurakami and Ms Yuriko Naganuma, will present 14 specially crafted cocktails at the pop-up. Since starting his career in 1992, Mr Ueno has won many awards and consistently been a finalist at the world’s leading cocktail contests.
The pop-up will shine a light on the idiosyncratic art of Japanese bartending, celebrating Mr Ueno’s legendary theatrical approach, which includes meticulously carving giant blocks of ice into intricate diamonds, a spectacle guests find as enjoyable as the crafted and often playful cocktails he makes.
To complete this exclusive experience, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong’s Culinary Director, Richard Ekkebus, will present a bespoke menu of gastronomic treats, including charcuterie of Ibérico Bellota Ham and the finest Iberian specialities by Bellota Bellota."

It's fair to say we're a little bit excited about this one. Stay tuned for a review and plenty of photos of the transformation in early September.

Until next time...


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Michael Wong "MW35" 35yo Single Cask Glenlivet launch (Tasted #309)

We've written about Dragon 8 Auctions a few times recently, though usually about the auctions themselves or the incredible bottles they've featured. In 6 short months they've certainly established their whisky credentials here in Hong Kong.

Not one to rest on their laurels though, Dragon 8 have recently released their own whisky, in collaboration with HK actor/singer/pilot/celebrity Michael Wong. Not just any whisky, mind you - a 35yo single cask Glenlivet, well and truly from the days when the distillery was still using Golden Promise barley.

Bottled by Signatory at 49.8% ABV, it spent its life maturing in a single sherry hogshead, and comes presented in an engraved decanter along with two engraved Glencairn glasses, all secured in an impressive display case and limited to 228 bottles.

..which is all very nice, but what I wanted to know was - what was the whisky like?

Luckily Steph and I were able to answer that question recently, when Dragon 8 and Michael Wong held a launch party at Gaia Ristorante in Sheung Wan.

Never one to do things by halves, Dragon 8 ensured the party was every bit a "party", with magnums of Champagne, excellent food, a band, a few tunes belted out by Michael, and even a trio of Brazilian dancers to ensure guests continued to party well into the night.

...and of course there was plenty of the "MW35" to go around:

35yo Single Cask "MW35" The Glenlivet (49.8% ABV, 35yo, 1 of 228 bottles, Speyside, Scotland, $24,888HKD)
Colour: Dark copper brown.

Nose: On first nosing there's no doubt this is every bit a sherried dram. Fruitcake, raisins, sherry-soaked prunes, it's all there. There's a hint of sulphur, but it's very minor and doesn't detract from the enjoyment at all. It's also, however, floral, fruity, with some hints of vegetation. The sort of unique combination of notes that usually only come with an extremely long time in oak.

Palate: Clean sherry - no discernible sulphur. Creamy, fruity (raisins, sultanas, cherries) with hints of caramel chews. It's drying, but not in a bad way, and whilst there's a slight tannic mouthfeel, it works well. The oak is there, but only to let you know that it spent a good 35 years getting to know this whisky (it doesn't dominate the whisky). It opens up nicely with a few drops of water too, with the sherry fruity notes exploding onto the palate.

Finish: Long and slightly tannic, with a lingering rich fruity sherry mouthfeel that makes you want to go back for a second dram and sit on it longer the second time (which we did...)

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. A nice, clean, lovely-drinking sherried whisky - a whisky that strikes the balance between being able to be appreciated by whisky fans, whilst also being enjoyed by whisky novices (there were plenty of both on the night). The rarity obviously makes it a special occasion dram, but for those occasions its well up to the task.


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Tasted #308: Lagavulin 8 year old

Tonight Hendy was lucky enough to attend the Sydney Lagavulin 200th Anniversary celebrations at Surry Hills' The Wild Rover (review here). Whilst Hendy will post a write-up from the night shortly, I (being back in HK and therefore unable to attend) decided to acquaint myself the the Lagavulin everyone's been keen to try - the new Lagavulin 8 year old

I (like many I suspect) was keen to answer one burning question - at half the age, how's it stack up against the much-loved 16yo?

Lagavulin 8 year old (48% ABV, 8yo, Islay, Scotland, Australian price TBC / HK release TBC£44.13)

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 my 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!

Martin. would like to thank Diageo and Leo Burnett for this bottle of Lagavulin 8. We suspect it won't last long!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Tasted #307: Springbank Single Cask 20yo bottled exclusively for Tokyo International Bar Show 2016

Back in June we mentioned that the Tokyo International Bar Show (which I reviewed here) included a number of interesting bottles this year, from both Scotland and Japan. One of those was this Springbank - a 20 year old single cask, bottled exclusively for the show, from a "Fresh Sherry" cask. One of 492 bottles, it was distilled in May 1995, bottled in April 2016, and weighs in at 52.1% ABV.

You might think (as I did at first) that a single cask 20yo ex-sherried Springer might be somewhat I was pretty surprised when I saw it at the show. The colour was much lighter than expected - perhaps a 3rd/4th fill, or from an ex-Fino cask, or both?

Anyway, colour is but one way to assess a whisky...the important thing of course is how is noses and tastes. To that end, this bottle made its way from Japan back to HK, then onto Australia where it was cracked open with a few good mates. It then made its way back to HK, where I've finally had the time to sit down and give it a proper assessment...

Springbank Single Cask 20 year old (52.1% ABV, 20yo, Campbeltown, Scotland, ¥29,000 (no longer available))
Colour: Light yellow gold.

Nose: Rubbery at first, with some stone fruits (peaches, nectarines). There's a bit of brine / saltiness, and some hints of sweet jam.

Palate: Rich and bold up-front. The brine follows through onto the palate, quickly followed by big jammy donut notes. Like a sweet, sugary glazed donut filled with raspberry jam filling. Not really any discernible peat, but there's a bit of earthiness / vegetation towards the end.

Finish: Long and earthy, whilst retaining some of the jammy sweetness from the palate.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A delicious, though unusual whisky. Certainly not the sherry bomb I'd expected, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. A fine example of a brilliantly made, though slightly left-field Campbeltown whisky.


Thursday, 4 August 2016

Tasted #306: Bowmore Bicentenary 1979

Steph and I recently returned from a few weeks in Sydney, where we had a great time relaxing, catching up with friends and family, and enjoying some reprieve from the worst of Hong Kong's humidity. The trip also gave me the opportunity to revisit a number of whiskies we still have stored in Sydney, and rather than do so alone, I decided to hold a little BBQ with a few close whisky mates (who just happen to represent the majority of the Aussie whisky blogging community too, including Hendy).

In addition to the whiskies I'd put out, everyone brought a bottle or two, including good mate @whiskysec from, who brought a half-size bottle of Johnnie Walker Black (sans label)

...only inside, there was no Johnnie Walker.

Now here's a rarity - @bowmoredistillery Bicentenary, bottled in 1979 from casks dating back to 1950! - Said by many (well respected whisky fans) to be one of the finest whiskies they've ever tried, it was an incredible privilege to be able to taste this - a privilege made possible by the very generous @whiskysec! - There's a 15yo version, but this is the NAS, which contains whiskies up to 29 years old, all from first fill sherry barrels. It was amazing to try a Bowmore that was distilled (in part) as early as 66 years ago, and was bottled 37 years ago. It certainly wasn't like today's Bowmores! - Tropical and medicinal at first, it evolved over time to introduce perfumed, floral notes with a strong earthy, mossy, and even diesel-like character. I think what blew us all away was how much it changed over an hour or so too. There were even hints of tennis balls after a while! - A whisky we won't soon forget. Notes up on the blog already! - #whisky #singlemalt #scotch #Bowmore #RareWhisky #OldWhisky #instawhisky #VintageWhisky #instadram #whiskygram #WhiskyHK #timeforwhisky #HKlifestyle #威士忌 #ウイスキー #위스키 #whiskylife #Islay #slainte #whiskyblogger #whiskylover #whiskygeek #whiskyporn #bowmorewhisky #IslayWhisky #Glencairn #SydneyWhiskyBloggers #bucketlistdram
A photo posted by Martin - (@timeforwhisky) on

Yep, he'd kindly brought along a Bowmore Bicentenary! Bottled in 1979, this was the NAS release (as opposed to the 15yo), and has been proclaimed by many whisky fans to be one of the best whiskies they've ever tasted. Comprised of casks dating back to as early as 1950, and bottled in 1979, it fetches a pretty penny these days, with Master of Malt selling it for ~£1,400 (when they had stock), TWE selling it for £2,250, and a bottle at the recent Hong Kong Dragon8 auction selling for $24,000HKD!

So not a daily dram then....but did it live up to the hype?

Bowmore "Bicentenary" 1979 (43% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, £2,250)
Colour: Copper brown. 

Nose: Medicinal at first, with hints of rubber gloves (and later tennis balls). Slight tropical notes - especially passionfruit. Some perfume. With time, the perfume increased in intensity, before an earthiness took over, with hints of diesel(!)

Palate: Perfumed, floral, yet very mineraly, earthy, mossy. Slight notes of leather and a fair hint of cigar smoke. More diesel.

Finish: Medium length, with a hint of sherbert, then more damp earth to see things out.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Just so different...and yet so good! A really fantastic dram, and one that you can sit on for over an hour, just to see how markedly different it becomes. A bucket list dram without a doubt.


Friday, 29 July 2016

Dramnation: World Whisky Tour

As you may know, we're a big supporter of local whisk(e)y figures that continue to inspire and educate people on the industry and its whiskies. Earlier this month, our friend Matt Wooler, founder of Dramnation hosted their first inner city tasting at Pocket Bar in downtown Sydney. Continuing from the first World Whisky Tour tasting series in May which was held at Crooked Tailor, Castle Hill , the second series of the tour expanded the tasting collection to also include whiskies from Brittany, France and Arkansas, USA.

As we'd written last year, Dramnation was founded with the aim of imparting knowledge and introducing whisky appreciation for individuals, and it's great to see them continuing that mission.

We were invited by Matt to join the tour and to celebrate their inaugural inner city tasting. As with all Dramnation tasting events, guests were welcomed with a cocktail. This event saw the classic Whiskey Smash cocktail back in action (based on the Old Forrester Bourbon), which proved to be quite a refreshing opener to the night. The second series of the tour revisited a number of highlights from the first tasting, and there were whiskies from different regions of the world too, including:
  • The Hakushu Distiller's Reserve (Japan)
  • Armorik Classic Single Malt (France)
  • Kavalan Port Cask Finish (Taiwan)
  • Starward Solera (Australia)
  • SMWS B3.2 Ooey-Gooey Cinnamon Bun (US)
  • Paul John Edited Single Malt (India)
The line-up included one very special bottle from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) - B3.2 or so cheekily titled 'Ooey-gooey cinnamon bun' - a bourbon whiskey from the Rocktown Distillery in Arkansas, USA. The 2 in the B3.2 denoting that this was a second Society release from the Rocktown Distillery. The inclusion of a Society bottle added to the eccentricity of the line-up and helped ensure guests were treated to an extensive range of profiles of the different world regions.

What has always stood out for me at each Dramnation event is the immaculate setup and the superb attention to detail on the setup. As much as you can touch and feel (and taste) the whiskies -- you can equally explore different sensory experiences that are scattered across the tasting tables. Bottles filled with barley, rye and corn -- showcasing the mix for bourbon whiskies, cinnamon sticks, licorice and chocolate are just few of the items that are presented for guests to appreciate. Mozzarella and cheddar cheeses were also made available on each table with the notion being that the different cheeses can invoke or cleanse one's palate. The mozzarella cheese was what Matt described as a palate cleanser, a type of cheese that help to neutralise your palate. The cheddar cheese complements the tasting, by being a palate exciter, a good cheese to have before each dram.

The night itself was co-presented between Matt, Matt Bailey of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Jeremy Daunay, founder of Le Baron des Spirits who was there to represent Armorik (a distillery we'll soon be featuring in detail in an upcoming post).

Jeremy opened the night with the Armorik Classic Single Malt; a clean and light malt from Brittany, France. Armorik, being a recent addition to the local market certainly pleased the crowd and will be one whisky to watch over the next year. It wasn't that long ago that Jeremy presented the Armorik series at The Wild Rover and I recalled truly enjoying the different expressions.

Each host spoke to the different whiskies, outlining the differing factors that make up the individuality of each, and how the extent of maturation in the different regions varies. Perhaps the adage that age is just a number rings true in certain circumstances. This was certainly true for Kavalan, Starward and the Society B3.2 (Rocktown Bourbon) where they have all been matured for 3 years or less and yet their punchy profile certainly did not disappoint.

Full tasting notes on all the whiskies presented on the night were provided to all the guests and have also been published on the Dramnation site here.

The inaugural Dramnation tasting at Pocket Bar was a success and it was fun, insightful and introduced people to the whiskies from the different regions. The night even saw a beer into the mix with the Gage Road ESB being introduced to complement a couple of the whiskies.

Keen to check out the next Dramnation event? Dramnation have published the dates for their next events through to October. Taking a similar themed approach to whisky appreciation, the upcoming events will focus on different aspects of whisky distilling and whisky appreciation. For more details or to book on the following events, visit the Dramnation site. Specific upcoming dates are:
  • 30/07 - Wine Cask Whiskies Session 1, 2016 at Crooked Tailor, Castle Hill
  • 20/08 - Smoke Stacks Session 1, 2016 at Crooked Tailor, Castle Hill
  • 22/10 - Southern BBQ Boilermarkers at Crooked Tailor, Castle Hill attended the Dramnation World Whisky Tour Tasting Class as a guest of Dramnation, with thanks to Matt Wooler.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

This week in whisk(e)y #33 - Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship 2016, Jack Daniel's 150th Anniversary & A Time Travelling Drinking Experience

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...

Winner of the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship Announced
The Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship was held last week at the fun-filled Madame Tussauds in Sydney. We joined in on the fun where eight whiskies were laid bare for a blind tasting followed by a riotous, celebratory night. 

We'll post our coverage on the event shortly, though in the meantime, the following press release highlighted the three winners of this year's Championship. All we can say is that it was tough.
1st Place: Adrian Callus
2nd Place: Bill Bannear
3rd Place: Graham London
On Saturday 23rd July 2016, whisky enthusiasts from all over Australia gathered in Sydney to compete in (or spectate at) the nation’s biggest whisky competition at the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship, hosted by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This year saw twice as many competitors than ever before, all vying for a place on the podium where only one can take home

1st Prize: Being crowned the Malt Whisky Champion of Australia!

With everyone seated, competitors had 30 minutes to assess eight whiskies in a blind-tasting format. Each competitor was provided with a list of nine possible whiskies – the eight on the table, plus one red herring. The task was to correctly identify which whisky was which.

This year’s line up of whiskies featured an incredibly difficult lineup of Speyside malts that were similar in style, and it took some pretty experienced and knowledgeable palates to discern them apart. Three competitors tied for first place and it took no less than two rounds of taste-offs to determine the placegetters, with Adrian Callus clinching the win.

As a reward for his efforts and claiming first place, Adrian was crowned the Malt Whisky Champion of Australia and won a trip for two to Tokyo, which includes two night’s accommodation at the Park

Hotel, and an incredible whisky tasting experience at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’ bar, located in the Park Hotel.

With the competition part of the evening over, the party began! Four varied and unique single cask bottlings from the SMWS were featured at the Society Bar on the night, including the yet-to-be-released Feis Ile Cask 127.44. Glenfiddich, a long-time generous supporter of the SMWS, again set up their Glenfiddich cocktail bar where competitors and spectators could indulge in their incredible cocktails, as well as Glenfiddich’s premium offerings of their 15yo, 18yo, and 21yo Gran

Reserva expressions. In the rotunda was Sydney Cocktail Club’s Sensory Bar, an adventure through the tastes and sensory aspects of great spirits, and then of course the incredible beers straight from the tap of Gage Roads Brewing Co. Thanks are also due to The Oak Barrel in Sydney for their generous support of 3rd prize, and Vintec for their support of the event."
Congrats to all winners, and everyone who took part!

Jack Daniel's Presents: Australia's First Time Travelling Whiskey Experience & A Worldwide Barrel Scavenger Hunt
We've shared a number of special Jack Daniel moments in the past, including the various Jacktember celebrations and being part of The Bar That Jack Built
This time, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Jack Daniel Distillery, Assistant Master Distiller, Chris Fletcher is visiting Australia and will host a number of events an masterclass.

150 years of cocktails
Quoting the press release:
"Jack Daniel’s is set to make an impact in Australia as part of the global celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Assistant Master Distiller Chris Fletcher will be visiting Australia for the first time to share his incredible knowledge of whiskey making as he hosts time travelling whiskey experiences across the country.

Throughout July and August, connoisseurs in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth will be taken on ‘A Journey through 150 Years of Craft & Cocktail Culture’, enabling them to sample the sights, sounds and signature cocktails from iconic eras in Jack’s history at secret locations in each city.

For this one-of-a-kind tour like no other, prepare to step back in time to 1920s prohibition, encounter the suave style of Frank Sinatra before embracing the thrilling times of 70s, 80s and 90s rock ‘n’ roll. Culturally so much has changed all the while Jack has been making his famous whiskey in one way, in one place for 150 years.

The milestone certainly calls for a celebration and at each event guests will also be able to raise a toast to the 150th anniversary with a celebratory cocktail designed by Chris Fletcher. The evening’s complimentary entertainment will further include a whiskey tasting masterclass led by Chris, where attendees will be able to put their sensory skills to the test to discover what it takes to be a Jack Daniel’s Master Taster, one of the most important and respected jobs at the distillery.

As Assistant Master Distiller, Chris Fletcher uses his extensive knowledge of the whiskey making process to lovingly craft the world’s best-loved whiskey according to Jack’s time honoured recipe.  Since 1866, Jack Daniel’s has been made in Lynchburg, Tennessee and it’s Fletcher’s job to ensure that the dedication to making great whiskey remains true to Mr. Jack’s motto of “Every day we make it, we’ll make it the best we can.”

Chris Fletcher, Assistant Master Distiller, Jack Daniel’s comments:
“I’m excited to be heading to Australia to bring an authentic taste of Southern hospitality Down Under as I tell a few stories about the place I call home. My knowledge of whiskey was passed down first-hand by my grandfather, retired fifth Master Distiller Frank Bobo, I’m honoured to now be following in his footsteps under the guidance of Jeff Arnett, the seventh Master Distiller since 1866, and thrilled to be a part of the global 150th anniversary celebrations.”

Chris is not the only Lynchburg original coming to our fair shores, as the festivities continue throughout Australia with a global scavenger hunt featuring real barrels from the distillery. Uniting friends of Jack across the world, the Barrel Hunt will visit more than 50 countries in 90 days giving whiskey fans the chance to win money-can’t-buy prizes to commemorate the 150th anniversary. Select barrels will also include VIP tickets, travel and accommodation to the worldwide celebration taking place at the Lynchburg distillery this October. Clues as to the whereabouts of the 10 whiskey barrels hidden across the country will be revealed on the Jack Daniel’s Australia Facebook page.

“The barrel is key to crafting Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey as it accounts for 100 percent of its colour and 70 to 80 percent of its flavour,” said Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett. “It’s an important part of our process that’s remained unchanged for 150 years, and that tradition will continue to live on in every barrel we make and each drop of our whiskey. As the only major distilling company that makes our own barrels, the Barrel Hunt celebrates the distillery’s history and gives fans a chance to own a barrel and be forever tied to Jack Daniel’s.”

To find out more about Jack Daniel’s and the Jack Daniel Distillery’s 150th anniversary visit"
We will post our coverage of the celebration shortly.

Until next time...

Martin & Hendy.