Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Tasted #330: SMWS 127.44 (Bruichladdich - Port Charlotte)

One of the highlights from the Australian branch of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society this year was the resurrection of the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship back in July, as well as the Fèis Ile Society festival bottling that was served up at the after-party - 127.44: Cantina Mexicana (which I thought was superb at the time). Lo and behold, three months following, this special Society release was made available through all the Society partner bars and also through last month's Australian Outturn.

This year is the second year that SMWS have released a Feis Ile festival bottling, following the success it had with the first release last year. This year's release takes its spirit from Bruichladdich (specifically, their peated Port Charlotte expression denoted by the Society code 127).

The Port Charlotte spirit in Cantina Mexicana was distilled in August 2003 and matured for 12 years in a second fill oloroso sherry butt before being bottled at an astounding 65.9% ABV - resulting in one remarkable Port Charlotte expression.

SMWS 127.44 "Cantina Mexicana" Bruichladdich: Port Charlotte (65.9% ABV, 12yo, One of 588 bottles from a second filled sherry butt, Islay, Scotland, $299AUD)
A rather special Port Charlotte that is laden with rich maritime and spice notes. This release was a stunner and a truly special Feis Ile bottling from the Society.

Colour: Dark gold with amber tinge

Nose: The nose is rich and earthy, pleasant and powerful. It's filled with light bonfire smoke, dry grass on a Summer day and hints of Charcuterie served with dry raisins.

Palate: The palate is drying, filled with briny salt, sweet cinnamon bun, pineapple pizza and then you are hit with loads of habanero pepper spices. Loads of briny salt and spices on the palate, so much that it left a tingling and drying sensation.

Finish: The finish is exquisite and elegantly long with plenty of pepper spice that remained.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Tasting the Armorik range of French whisky with Le Baron Des Spirits

When starting this blog back in 2012, one of the goals was to try as many "world whiskies" as possible. At the time, I'd tried a few (Aussies, Japanese, Scotch/Irish/American of course), but wanted to expand my horizons as much as possible. Whilst it's probably fair to say I've managed to significantly expand those horizons (and now even have my own monthly magazine column on the topic of "New World Whiskies" in Malt & Spirits Magazine), the exploration never ends, and I'm always excited to try whiskies from previously undiscovered distilleries, or emerging whisky-producing nations.

(Sidenote: I love how in the world of whisky, many of the "new world" producers are actually "old world" wine producing regions - France, Italy, Germany etc...)

Enter Armorik whisky, from Warengheim Distillery in the north of Brittany, France. Whilst not a new distillery (having distilled their first whisky in 1983, and their first spirits in 1900),  their's was a distillery I'd only seen/tasted at the odd whisky show, but never really sat down and spent any time with. Hendy tried the Classic Single Malt at Dramnation's World Whisky Tour back in July this year, and so now it was my chance to get better acquainted...

On a trip back to Sydney a few months ago, the enterprising Jeremy from Le Baron Des Spirits was kind enough to take some time out and talk me through a tasting of the core range, on Sydney's foreshore. Drinking good whisky on a crisp, sunny winter's day with the beautiful Sydney harbour as your backdrop? There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Jeremy explained that he brought the brand to Australia 18 months earlier, and in that time made Australia the number 1 market for Armorik per capita. Not a bad effort! When you look at Jeremy's tireless efforts to market the brand in Australia (through tastings, whisky shows, social media and just generally being part of the 'whisky scene', not to mention his recent Australia-only special release), and then you consider that he's pretty much doing it himself (without the help of any PR firms), it's an impressive feat.

Back to the distillery though, Jeremy described Warengheim's 1983 move into whisky as a "do or die" move, and a big step up from their history of distilling whatever fruit they could acquire, via their mobile pot stills. Armorik itself was created in 1998, and whilst the distillery's output is still relatively small, it's made a big impact amongst whisky lovers in Australia in a short space of time.

Jeremy had brought 7 different drams for me to try, spanning the range of blends, "old" Armorik, "new" Armorik and even a Rye!

  • Breiz blended whisky 4yo (42% ABV)
  • Armorik Classic Single Malt 5yo (46% ABV)
  • Armorik Double Maturation 8yo (46% ABV)
  • Armorik Maître de Chai 8yo (46% ABV)
  • Armorik Millesime 2002 single cask #3260 13yo (55.5% ABV)
  • Armorik Dervenn 4yo (46% ABV)
  • Roof Rye Double Maturation 8yo (43% ABV)

Breiz blended whisky 4yo (42%), aged in virgin oak and containing 50% malt, this gave tropical passionfruit notes on the nose with a sweet and tropical palate. Not overly complex, but a smooth, enjoyable whisky.

Armorik Classic Single Malt 5yo (46%) had notes of paprika and dried mango, with both spice and caramel on the palate and a short to medium length finish.  A nice step up from the blend.

Armorik Double Maturation 8yo (46% ABV), which spent close to half its life in ex-Oloroso casks, showed notes of cigar smoke and Brazil nuts on the nose, and a much more rounded, complex palate than the Classic, with Bourbon sweetness balanced out with some fruit cake-like Sherry notes. A very enjoyable, sippable dram.

Armorik Maître de Chai 8yo (46% ABV), a vatting of two ex-Oloroso casks, and one of only 1,700 bottles worldwide, won "Best French Single Malt" at this year's World Whiskies Awards. With a light, fruity berry compote nose and berries mixed with cinnamon spice on the palate, it had a long, spice-led yet smooth finish.

Armorik Millesime 2002 single cask #3260 13yo (55.5% ABV) was the only single cask amongst the line-up, and also the most noticeably sherried, having undergone 9 years "finishing" in a 2nd fill ex-Oloroso cask. There was some matchheads and flint, along with a raspberry sweetness on the palate, and a long, sweet finish. Probably my equal favourite with the Dervenn.

Armorik Dervenn 4yo (46% ABV) was probably the most interesting release to me - not necessarily because of the whisky itself, but what it represents. Dervenn is the first release of the "new" Armorik - a new single malt spirit first distilled in 2012, developed by Jim Swan, and ultimately to form future Armoriks. This 4yo release (aged in virgin oak) showed floral notes on the nose, with passionfruit and papaya on the palate. At only 4yo, it was a testament to what good spirit and good wood can achieve.

Last up was the Roof Rye Double Maturation 8yo (43% ABV), the first French rye whisky, and a collaboration between a local bar owner and the distillery. The most interesting thing about this whisky is the maturation regime - which sees 6 years maturation take place at the distillery, before the whisky is transferred to Marseille where it undergoes a further 18-24 months (two summers) in heavily charred virgin oak casks, which are stored (two at a time) in small corrugated iron boxes - simulating the extreme heat you might experience under a corrugated roof. This one showed plenty of spice, but also leather, lemon and orange zest. Lovely stuff.

It was an absolute pleasure to try these whiskies, and to do so with Sydney harbour as our backdrop, whilst learning all about the distillery from Jeremy, was the icing on the cake. The Armorik range can be purchased in Australia from Le Baron Des Spirits, including a very limited 10yo ex-Sauternes cask bottled especially for Australia!

A big thanks must to to Jeremy and Le Baron Des Spirits for his hospitality, and a big apology must go out for the delay in getting this article up!


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Review: Whisky Advent Calendar 2016 by Drinks by the Dram

Back in September we wrote about Master of Malt's 2016 Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendars - still one of the more popular articles of the past few months by the looks of things!

Fast forward a few months, and Master of Malt were kind enough to send us a calendar to review - their "Whisky Advent Calendar".

There are 25 different calendars (covering everything from rum to Japanese whisky to insanely rare whiskies), but the one we received (selling for £124.96 ex-VAT) includes the following drams:
  • Glenfarclas 21 Year Old
  • The Lost Distilleries Blend
  • The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask or The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak
  • Kavalan Concertmaster - Port Cask Finish
  • Lagavulin 16 Year Old
  • Rock Oyster (Douglas Laing)
  • Wolfburn Single Malt
  • Oban Little Bay
  • Kilchoman Machir Bay
  • Fettercairn Fasque
  • Buffalo Trace
  • Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera
  • Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old
  • English Whisky Co. 5 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)
  • Highland Park 12 Year Old
  • Mackmyra Svensk Ek
  • The Half-Century Blend (50yo)
  • Evan Williams Extra Aged
  • Teeling Single Malt
  • Invergordon 25 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)
  • Old Perth Sherry Cask
  • Tomatin 14 Year Old Port Wood Finish
  • Dalmore 12 Year Old
  • Glengoyne 12 Year Old

A solid line-up of Scottish stalwarts (Macallan 12, Glenfarclas 21, Lagavulin 16 etc..) and some great world whiskies too (Mackmyra Svensk Ek, Teeling Single Malt, Kavalan Concertmaster etc..), but what really impressed us was the inclusion of a 50 year old blend - the Half-Century Blend which retails for £499 ex-VAT!

Being somewhat impatient, we may just have the tasting notes for this one up early in December, rather than waiting until the 24th...until then, we're going to work our way through the calendar day by day, starting with a Balvenie 12 DoubleWood. Cheers!

A big thanks to Master of Malt for sending this calendar to review.


Monday, 21 November 2016

Chivas Regal Ultis Sydney Launch (Tasted #329)

Walking into Palmer & Co, Merivale's renowned small bar tucked away in one of Sydney’s oldest lanes, one could easily mistake the bar for something more akin to the "House of Chivas Regal". Plastered across the room were Chivas Regal bottles, Chivas Regal mementos and five special Chivas stations. What was about to take place was the special launch of Chivas Regal Ultis, Chivas Regal’s first blended malt expression - though certainly not the first in the industry, with Johnnie Walker Green, Monkey Shoulder and various Compass Box expressions having already represented the segment for some time.

The launch celebration was rather special as not only was the occasion to celebrate the new Ultis expression, but also to celebrate Chris Evans (better known as Captain America) as the new Asia Pacific Ambassador for Chivas Regal, and Michael Klim as the Australian Chivas Regal Ambassador. Both Chris and Michael co-starred in Chivas Regal’s "Win the Right Way campaign" which launched in 2014 to help recognise and advocate for the power of shared success - or simply the message that real success is not measured by a one's wealth alone, but by how many lives one has enriched.

The name Ultis, derived from ‘Ultimate’ and ‘Fortis' (Latin for ‘strength’) was bestowed upon the new blended malt expression, which sees five Speyside malts from Chivas Brothers’ portfolio (Tormore, Longmorn, Strathisla, Allt A’Bhainne and Braeval) selected to form the whisky. The malts were specially selected by Chivas' blending team as a tribute to the work of the five generations of Masters Blenders that have worked on the Chivas brand and its distinct style since 1909. As Chris Evans highlighted on the day, Ultis is simply a "Whisky with people at its heart!”

What I truly loved at the launch were the five Chivas stations with each station representing the individual malts that help form Ultis, along with different sensory experiences that all related to the individual malt. The deliciously fruity and sweet Longmorn was well represented with pears, vanilla pods, honeycomb and milk chocolates whilst over at the Straithisla station we saw stone fruits and nuts visually describing the nutty nature of Chivas’ foundation malt.

Speaking to a few bloggers and Pernod Ricard representatives at the event, we discussed the on-going challenge that the whisky industry has with transparency. This is a topic that is at the heart of Compass Box's continued efforts to challenge the status quo by disclosing additional detail on the composition of their blended malts. The Ultis launch saw a move to do something similar by exposing the five individual malts and allowing an appreciation of the five individual malts in addition to the final blended expression. Although the percentage composition of the five malts was not disclosed, it is perhaps a step in the right direction. Having come onto my whisky journey only a few years ago, I am certainly an advocate for such transparency as it allows a deepening of my appreciation of the final expression.

Check out more photos from the launch event at our Facebook page.

Chivas Regal Ultis (40% ABV, NAS, Speyside, Scotland, AUD$198.90 / ~ AUD$265 for 1L Travel Retail, from December)
Ultis is a delicious and balanced blended malt and having tasted some of the individual malts at the launch, the final expression clearly reflects different characteristics from the contributing single malts. Time and place? A comfy lounge with few good mates celebrating a momentous occasion.

Deep, dark caramel.

The nose is beautiful and loaded with sweet and fruity notes. There are hints of apple, apricot, toffee fudge, vanilla, burnt orange and cinnamon.

Palate: The palate is soft and mellow to start before opening up notes of apple, toffee followed by warming burst of spices; cardamon, cloves and black pepper.

Finish: A warming medium sweet and velvety finish.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100.

Chivas Regal Ultis 700ml will be available from November through selected retailers and from December at Duty Free retailers in a Travellers' Exclusive 1 Litre bottling.


TimeforWhisky.com would like to thank Pernod Ricard and Eva McKenzie of One Green Bean for the invite to the launch of the Chivas Regal Ultis.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Tasted #326 - 328: Three single cask GlenDronachs from Batch 11

Batch 14 of GlenDronach's excellent single cask releases may have just been released, but we're stepping back a little with this post - to January 2015's Batch 11. 

(For comparison, we'll have tasting notes on three of the recent Batch 14 releases - Oloroso Sherry Butt releases of course - in a few weeks. In particular, this 23yo, this 24yo and this 24yo.) 

These three whiskies came from a PX Sherry Puncheon (1990 Cask #1162), an Oloroso Sherry Puncheon (1995 Cask #4941) and my personal favourite - an Oloroso Sherry Butt (1994 Cask #54). Whilst I'd love to have full bottles of these, GlenDronach's single casks have been getting harder and harder to get a hold of lately, especially the official "Batch" releases from the distillery. I'm still managing to get a hold of a reasonable amount of "private" single casks - casks bottled for whisky shows, clubs, events etc.. (mostly from Taiwan and Japan), but the official "Batches" seem to sell out quicker and quicker every year.

Somewhat easier to get a hold of though are the 30mL sample drams Master of Malt sell via their "Drinks by the Dram" service...which is how I ended up tasting these...

GlenDronach Single Cask Batch 11 Cask #1162 1990 24 Year Old (52.9% ABV, 24yo, Single Malt from an ex-PX Sherry puncheon, Speyside, Scotland, was £104.96ex-VAT but no longer available)
Colour: Dark mocha-copper.

Nose: Initially a little hot. Candied peanuts, raisins, lots of chocolate, hints of tobacco leaves and even a little saltiness.

Palate: There's definitely some PX sweetness here. Plenty of rich, berry-sherry notes, but overlaid with a big sugary/confectionary-like sweetness hit. Cigars, sea air, salted caramel. Oak. Water tones down the sweetness and brings out some tobacco notes.

Finish: Long. Coffee grounds, with a salty astringency. At the very end there's a reasonable amount f tannins. Wither water, a little more earthy.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. A very good whisky, but not as well balanced (especially when it comes to the oak) as the others.

GlenDronach Single Cask Batch 11 Cask #54 1994 20 Year Old (56.6% ABV, 20yo, Single Malt from an ex-Oloroso Sherry butt, Speyside, Scotland, was £79.96ex-VAT but no longer available)
Colour: Treacle, maple syrup copper.

Nose: Toffee, demerara sugar, and a lot of spice - cloves. There's also a freshness, some nutmeg, and a lot of citrus oil - like a freshly expressed orange peel.

Palate: This is just all kinds of trademark GlenDronach - big rich juicy complex sherry. There's also hints of bacon, maple syrup, caramel, stewed berries and rich, warm cherry pie.

Finish: Long (LONG!), spicy-sweet, with a residual sweet treacle note that balances perfectly with hints of oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  94/100. Just a wonderful whisky.

GlenDronach Single Cask Batch 11 Cask #4941 1995 19 Year Old (57% ABV, 19yo, Single Malt from an ex-Oloroso Sherry puncheon, Speyside, Scotland, was £75.79ex-VAT but no longer available)
Colour: Dark amber-copper (or as some would say - "correct").

Nose: Earthy at first. Then varnish/furniture polish, leather, tobacco and Brazil nuts. Beautiful nose. With water it becomes a little more earthy, a little more dusty.

Palate: Initially citrus-sweet, then moving onto rich mocha caramel. Sweeter and spicier than the nose, with hardly any of the furniture polish / leather from the nose. Water does add a little bit of those characteristics though.

Finish: Long, citrus-y and warming. Slight tannic astringency, which vanishes after a few drops of water.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. A very nice whisky but I wish the palate was as good as the nose suggested.


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Tasted #324 - 325: Compass Box Three Year Old Deluxe & Spice Tree Extravaganza

The folks at Compass Box have been good to us this year - sending us samples of "This is Not a Luxury Whisky" and "Flaming Heart (15th Anniversary)" first, then "Enlightenment" and "The Circus", and now Three Year Old Deluxe and Spice Tree Extravaganza.

We've talked before about Compass Box's transparency campaign, and the Three Year Old Deluxe is a brilliant (and very cheeky) extension of that. See, yes, it's a 3 year old whisky (in that the youngest whisky in the bottle is 3yo), but it also only contains <1% of 3yo whisky. A little over 90% is "considerably older" whisky from the same distillery (which we presume to be Clynelish), and the remaining 9% is "peaty malt whisky distilled on the Isle of Skye (which we presume to be Talisker).

Nowhere do they say the age of the older malt, nor the Talisker, but it certainly noses and tastes considerably more complex than three years old...

Compass Box "Three Year Old Deluxe" (49.2% ABV, 3yo, Blended Malt, Scotland, £153.29ex / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Yellow-gold.

Nose: Apples, candle wax, sweet tea, oak and cherries.

Palate: Apples, toffee and caramel at first. A slight meatiness, then strawberry short cake. Stewed pears. A few drops of water adds more waxiness.

Finish: Medium length. Residual fruitiness from the palate, but with a slightly tannic oakiness at the very end. 

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. Excellent - not quite as good as "This is Not a Luxury Whisky", but close. Certainly the most complex 3yo whisky out there!

Compass Box "Spice Tree Extravaganza" (46% ABV, NAS, Blended Malt, Scotland, £76.62ex / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Maple-gold.

Nose: Clean, fresh sherry (Oloroso?) with a hint of smoke. Red apples and ginger.

Palate: Citrus at first - whole oranges. BBQ'd pineapple. Molasses, treacle, brown sugar. Blackberries. 

Finish: Medium to long in length, with hints of ginger and maple syrup.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. Another beautiful blended malt from Compass Box.

Big thanks to @compassboxwhiskyco for these samples recently. Every Compass Box we've tried so far has been great (and there's been quite a few of them) and these are no exception. - Gotta say...loving the cheekiness of this "3 year old" - a little dig at the current stoush with the SWA no doubt. With Less than 1% of (what we presume is) Clynelish 3yo, and 90% of significantly older malt from the same distillery, whilst it's technically a 3yo, it obviously doesn't drink like one. At ~£200 retail too, it's not priced like one either! A lovely complex blended malt though. - They must be busy at Compass Box HQ, with all these fantastic (and varied) whiskies coming out....but keep up the great work we say! -- #whisky #InstaWhisky #Instadram #WhiskyGram #RareWhisky #WhiskyTasting #WhiskyGeek #WhiskyBlogger #TimeforWhisky #DramFull #WhiskyHK #WhiskySYD #WhiskyFabric #WhiskyLover #Whiskey #威士忌 #ウイスキー #위스키 #WhiskyLife #WhiskyPorn #HongKongWhisky #WhiskySamples #CompassBoxWhisky #CompassBox #BlendedMalt #YoungWhisky #OldWhisky
A photo posted by Martin - www.TimeforWhisky.com (@timeforwhisky) on

Another big thanks to Compass Box for the samples!


Monday, 7 November 2016

Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch "Red Rye Finish" Australian Launch (Tasted #323)

Following the recent launch of the Johnnie Walker Select Casks - Rye Cask Finish in Australia, Johnnie Walker has officially launched another limited edition experimental expression -  Red Rye Finish. Forming part of a series of limited edition experimental Scotch blends dubbed the "Blenders' Batch", the Red Rye has now been released into various markets including Australia.

Bottled at 40% ABV, the Red Rye Finish contrasts with the Select Casks Rye Cask Finish which is bottled at a higher ABV of 46%. The Red Rye blend exclusively uses malt and grain whiskies from first-fill ex-bourbon casks, with an emphasis on the use Cardhu malt to embed the soft and earthy notes Cardhu is known for. The blend is then finished for around six months in ex-rye whiskey casks, a particularly challenging task for Master Blender Jim Beveridge and his team given rye notes can often take over the final product.

Having spoken to Sean Baxter, the Diageo Malt Ambassador at the launch, we suspect that only a small number of distinct malt whiskies had been used to create this particular blend; we guessed around six different whiskies - a far cry from other Johnnie Walker mainstream blends which can marry up to 40 different whiskies.

The Red Rye has been uniquely positioned for use in cocktails, allowing an infusion of both classic malt and rye whiskies in the one expression. In fact, Red Rye has been pitched as a good substitute to replace American bourbon whiskies in classic cocktails such as the Manhattan or the New Yorker. Neat, the Red Rye Finish is a rather soft and subtle blend with the subtlety of rye spices on the nose and palate. Read on for my full take on the blend below.

The focus on rye by Jim and his team of blenders has been said to follow the increasing trend globally of rye and bourbon whiskies appreciation. From a mixologist's perspective, Red Rye, Select Rye and the upcoming Johnnie Walker experimental blends provide another dimension for them to work with. 

At the launch, four Red Rye based cocktails were showcased on the night with a mix of classics and new;
  • Rye-talian; Red Rye, Cascara Campari, blood orange, potato maple made in-house by Bouche on Bridge;
  • Rye and Dry; Red Rye, Capi ginger ale, basil
  • New Yorker; Red Rye, lemon, grenadine
  • Red Rye Manhattan; Red Rye, Dolin rouge, bitters
Crafted by Matt Linklater, Lead Bartender of newly established bar eatery Bouche on Bridge (ex Bulletin Place) and Sean Baxter, the four cocktails played with variations of classic ingredients together with the Red Rye and were served with matching canapés such as the oyster, blood orange and granita shown below. My pick of the four was the New Yorker which I thought was a refreshing take of the classic with a subtle rye note throughout.

Johnnie Walker Blenders Batch - Red Rye Finish (40% ABV, NAS, Scotland, A$48.90)
A soft, delicate blend that can please most palates with an added subtle complexity from the rye finish. Used as part of a cocktail, this particular blend can provide a subtle infusion of both classic malt and rye whiskies.

Colour: Faded gold

Nose: The nose is filled with 
rye characters, creamy vanilla, butterscotch, burnt orange, toasted wood chips. Tropical fruits or rather, pineapple followed closely with a peppery mint notes that carried through.

Palate: The palate is soft, delicate, light, buttery with hints of creamy strawberry and cream, followed by peppery spices

Finish: The finish is medium with a lingering minty note on the palate

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


TimeforWhisky.com would like to thank Diageo and Liz of Leo Burnett for the invite to the launch of the Blenders' Batch - Red Rye Finish.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Glenmorangie "Sensory Pairing" lunch with Dr Bill Lumsden - Hong Kong

It's been a pretty great month of whisky events this month, and in particular, whisky lunches. Barely a few days after The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve 12yo & Peated Cask launch lunch, I was off to the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for a "Sensory Tasting" lunch with none other than Dr Bill Lumsden - the man responsible for pretty much every Ardbeg and Glenmorangie you've ever tried. 

Having had a riotously good time at lunch with Dr Bill just over a year ago, I was looking forward to what he had in store for us again...and maybe to see if he could give any hints about any upcoming releases (which he did)!

Hong Kong had turned on a suitably Scottish day for Dr Bill (one of the wettest in a while), but no matter - there was whisky to be drunk and senses to be played with! Hong Kong's resident whisky expert / good bloke Eddie Nara was co-host for the lunch, and kicked off proceedings not by asking us to pick up our Glencairns, but by asking us to put on the blindfold that was in front of each of us.

Ok then...?

With eyes promptly obscured, the mysterious black boxes in front of each of us were opened, and we were instructed to (carefully) grab a Glencairn, and nose it, one at a time. The intention behind this sensory nosing experience was to see who could discern the (relatively common) items in the glasses based on nose alone.

After a thorough nosing, we removed the blindfolds which revealed Orange peel, peach pieces, vanilla pods and honey, which Dr Bill then introduced as all the flavours in Glenmorangie Original (10yo) - the base of the cocktail we'd just enjoyed.

A quick peek at the menu revealed the drams that were to feature for the rest of the lunch:

Our previous lunch with Dr Bill didn't feature Lasanta, so we'd never heard the tale of how and why the recipe changed a few years back. To simplify - extensive feedback (largely from Asia where it was highly popular) suggested that it could be a bit sweeter, and so Bill modified the recipe to include more PX-matured stock. Bill explained such feedback came from interactions with customers, like one he had with a bloke in a Guangzhou nightclub, who said he loved Glenmorangie but it gave him a terrible hangover. When asked how much he was drinking, the man responded - 2 bottles a night....

Bill was asked why the whisky is only finished in Sherry, and doesn't undergo full maturation in ex-Sherry casks. He explained that attempts to do so have resulted in the delicate Glenmorangie characteristic being lost, and so Bourbon maturation with a sherry finish is seen as the best of both worlds.

Paired with Langoustine tartar, superior oscietra Caviar, cauliflower panna cotta, hazelnut crumbles and micro herb leaves (a fussy-sounding, though delicious dish) the Lasanta paired well, especially with the hazelnuts. In fact, that's a combination I think I'll have to revisit...

Next was Glenmorangie "Extremely Rare" 18yo. Dr Bill has a well-documented love-hate relationship with old whisky, and regularly mentions his preference for younger (not "young") whisky. Nonetheless, the distillery does produce a limited amount of 18 and 25 year old each year (although the latter is going through a slight identity change next year, and will be released with a vintage each year).  Aged in American white oak (ex-Bourbon) casks, and finished for three years in Sherry casks, the 18yo requires careful cask selection to ensure that age hasn't dulled or lost the trademark Glenmorangie characteristics.

Paired with Tuscany porcini mushroom soup, french pigeon roulade and lack truffle whipped cream, the two were an excellent match - both delicate, neither overpowering the other.

Glenmorangie 25yo was the third serve, and whilst the paired dish (Char-grilled US beef sirloin, roasted pumpkin and potato puree, chanterelle mushrooms, turnip, beetroot and Lasanta & mustard seed jus) was delicious, the focus here I have to admit was on the whisky by itself. Always a lovely dram, and a skillful mix of ex-Bourbon, ex-Oloroso and ex-Burgundy cask matured stock.

As we mentioned last timeGlenmorangie 25yo was never intended to be a permanent part of the line up, but it has been since the early 2000s, and for that we should be thankful. It'll be interesting to see how (or if) the new Vintage 25yo changes, when the first release appears next year.

Glenmorangie Signet is often paired with dessert, and this lunch was no exception. Interestingly, the menu described it as a blend of Glenmorangie from "15 - 30 years", whereas last year we learned it contained up to 45 year old Glenmorangie. Dr Bill did say that each batch differs from the last, so I guess it's not surprising that some of those aged stocks would be either depleted, or saved for something even more special.

No matter though - it was still just as good as always, and again, the highlight dram. Paired with Jivara milk chocolate, passionfruit mousse with crispy praline and praline sauce, it was another skillful combination, although to be honest, I'd be happy with a nice big glass of Signet alone as dessert!

It's always a fun time when Dr Bill is in town, and this lunch was no exception. I loved the little sensory twist at the start, and the food and whisky pairings were all spot on. If it wasn't for the 90% humidity and 26degC temperature to match the rain, we could have almost imagined we were enjoying our drams in Scotland...

TimeforWhisky.com would like to thank MHDHK and WhyNotAsia for the invite to a wonderful lunch.


Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve 12yo and Peated Cask Reserve launch lunch - Hong Kong (Tasted #320 - 322)

Last week I was thrilled to be invited to lunch with Ronnie Cox (The Glenrothes' and Berry Bros & Rudd's Brand Heritage Director (Spirits), and Global Brand Ambassador for The Glenrothes), to celebrate the launch of both the Vintage Reserve 12 year old, an Asia-only release, and Peated Cask Reserve. It'd been almost two years since I last caught up with Ronnie in Hong Kong, so I was keen to hear him present these new expressions.

Held at Hong Kong's Lai Bun Fu, the lunch saw a small group of media enjoy an 8 course traditional Cantonese meal with a selection of The Glenrothes - served of course in those great little Glenrothes mini- Glencairn-esque glasses!

Ronnie opened proceedings in his usual trademark enthusiastic style, managing to relay all key facts about each whisky whilst making us all feel like we were catching up with a mate we hadn't seen in ages. Truly a great lunch companion. Soon though it was time to dive into the first course (there were eight, after all, and some of us did have to be productive later in the day!)

First on the menu was Steamed crab claw with chinese wine paired with The Glenrothes Select Reserve. A lighter whisky, with a little creaminess which I found worked well with the wine. None of the flavours dominated here and all worked together in harmony.

Moving along, the second course saw reliable old favourite The Glenrothes Vintage 2001 matched with Steamed Choi Sum with preserved vegetables, stir-fried Kale with shrimp paste. Described by Ronnie as a "conversational" whisky, I found it to be exactly that - an easy-going, enjoyable sipping whisky. It paired well with the dish (they all did) but I didn't find any particular standout highlights about the pairing (unlike some others).

The third (and fourth) dishes were the first to be paired with one of the new whiskies - The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve 12 Year Old. First Pan-fried minced pork and lotus root cake, with truffle seasoning and then Baked squid stuffed with glutinous rice

Despite carrying a (12 year old) age statement, Ronnie explained that the whisky is actually comprised of 12 different vintages, the oldest dating back to 1973 (the others being 1978, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003). Designed to show the "true character of The Glenrothes", I found it to be quite a decent whisky for the (relatively small) price tag in Hong Kong - $550HKD. Full tasting notes and pairing thoughts can be found below.

The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve 12 Year Old (40%ABV, 12yo, Speyside, Scotland, $550HKD)
An Asia-only release including whisky from casks dating back to 1973. 

Colour: Straw-gold

Nose: Fruity - lots of berries. Strawberries, raspberries. Some sweet, fragrant spice - like a middle Eastern spice souk, but toned down.

Palate: Following the nose, the palate showed more berries (strawberries most notably), touches of burnt sugar, and more spice, with a hint of oak.

Finish: Long and slightly tannic.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  91/100. Not mind-blowingly complex, but a lovely dram to sip and savour. 

With the truffle-seasoned course I found it emphasised the truffle quite a lot, without producing any conflicting flavours. With the baked squid (which on its own was a little bland), there was a new-found subtle sweetness which worked well.

Our fifth course, Braised sea cucumber stuffed with prawn mousse was paired with the oldest whisky served - the 24 year old The Glenrothes Vintage 1992 (note: link is to an older, 21 year old release). Our second "sea cucumber and whisky" pairing in a week! How did it fare? Very well, with the whisky adding a gentle creaminess to the dish, which seemed to be a theme with the seafood dishes served. Full tasting notes below.

The Glenrothes Vintage 1992 (44.3%ABV, 24yo, Speyside, Scotland, £132 - previous version)
Colour: Gold

Nose: Soapy! Creamy and floral too - lots of Jasmine.

Palate: Rich, creamy, mouthfilling. Lots of floral notes - Jasmine still, and some rose. Hints of red apples.

Finish: Long and creamy, with more red apple notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  93/100. Probably one of the best Glenrothes I've had in recent memory.

Sifu's crispy chicken with 5-flavoured condiments was up next, paired with the other star of the show, The Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve. Released to celebrate the discovery of a connection (way back in 1887) to Bunnahabhain, the whisky is actually 1992 vintage Glenrothes given a brief finish in casks that formerly held (unnamed) peated whisky from an Islay distillery.

Whilst it was a little hard to match the whisky with all five condiments, it did compliment the green tea salt nicely, strangely enough. We saved the rest of the whisky for a proper detailed assessment though...

The Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve (40%ABV, NAS, Speyside, Scotland, $715HKD)
Colour: Very light straw.

Nose: Tropical. Custard mixed with mango and peach. Slightly perfumed. Really no discernible peat.

Palate: Oh, there's the peat! It's obvious, but not in your face, and it blends well with the (still) tropical notes. There's orange now too. It's an ashy, BBQ style peat, rather than an iodine-esque, seaside peat.

Finish: Medium length, oranges, smoke and slight bitteness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  93/100. Also probably one of the best Glenrothes I've had in recent memory.

The last two dishes (Lai Bun Fu special fried rice with lobster, abalone with scallop truffle oil and Double-boiled snow fungus and lotus seed) were not paired with any whiskies, but were a fitting end to the meal, which turned out to be a great way to explore a range of The Glenrothes whiskies, including the new Vintage Reserve 12 Year Old and Peated Cask Reserve. Both are available in Hong Kong now.

The same whisky-pairing menu is also now available at Lai Bun Fu, until 1st December, at a price of $980HKD/head. Further details can be found on their Facebook page

TimeforWhisky.com would like to thank Edrington Hong Kong, Signature Communications, Berry Bros & Rudd and of course Ronnie Cox himself for a wonderful lunch.


Saturday, 22 October 2016

Tasted #319: Johnnie Walker "Select Casks" Rye Cask Finish

Bucking the NAS movement, a limited edition 10 year old Johnnie Walker "Rye Cask Finish" was released in Australia in August 2016 as part of Jim Beveridge's recent take on experimental blends. Jim's "Blenders Batch" series is also being released this month - though we'll post separately on that particular series.

The Rye Cask Finish takes its name not from the fact that it is a rye whisky, but rather a blended Scotch whisky that has been finished in ex-rye whiskey casks for six months. Being Cardhu-heavy, the Rye Cask Finish shares some of the soft and earthy notes of Cardhu malt whisky. Bottled at a higher than average 46% ABV, the Rye Cask Finish packs a punch above the rest and offers an enjoyable notes throughout.

Johnny Walker Select Casks - Rye Cask Finish (46% ABV, 10yo, Scotland, $68.99)
I have to say, this would have to be one of my preferred Johnnie Walkers - a delicious concoction of bittersweet notes that delivers a level of complexity from the nose to the palate to the finish. An enjoyable dram for any night of the week (especially at the current price point).

Colour: Chinese tea.

Nose: The nose is fresh and crisp. It is laden with molasses, sweet orange syrup, peppermint tea, creamy vanilla and toasted wood chips.

Palate: The palate is fruity and sweet with a bitter undertone. Creamy vanilla mashed with orange and pineapple juice and then lapped with some bitter melon. The spices that follow are subtle yet lingering and drying. The palate is nice, balanced and complex.

Finish: The finish is long and drying. There's a big trace of the bitterness that's left on the palate as the notes dry up.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.