Tuesday 31 December 2013

Martin's whisky predictions for 2014

For the final TimeforWhisky post for 2013, I've decided to make a few predictions for global whisky trends in 2014 (what makes me qualified to do that? Absolutely nothing! This is just for a bit of fun).

By putting this post up I could be setting myself up for ridicule, especially if we look back in 12 months and realise none of these have eventuated...but hey, I can handle that.

So without further ado, here are my 10 (5 serious, 5 sarcastic / not so serious) predictions for whisky trends in 2014:

  1. The rise and rise of NAS (Non-Age Statement) whiskies. As we touched on back in October, due to current worldwide demand for whisk(e)y, which was unexpected when a lot of the whisky we currently drink was being distilled, aged whisky stocks are starting to dwindle. NAS isn't a new thing, but with Macallan leading the way with a core series, and Glenfiddich following with a Global Travel Retail series, I think we'll start to see a lot more of this in 2014. I even think we could see a major blend move to NAS for at least one release in their core range.

    Will consumers take to it? Personally, I think so (having tasted the better The Macallan releases in the 1824 Series, I can confidently say NAS whiskies can still be fantastic drams. Just look at The Balvenie's TUN1401 and the prices it commands too).

  2. The rise of "New World" whiskies. Scotland, Ireland, USA. These are countries we expect to produce whisk(e)y. Australia, Taiwan, Sweden, New Zealand, India - these are (just a few of the many) countries that historically, we don't, but that we all now know make some fantastic whisky. I'm confident we'll see this trend continue, with new distilleries AND new countries making their mark on the global whisk(e)y scene.

    If I was to make a specific prediction, I'd say we'll see a rise in (quality, world-class) Indian whisky. India currently has 10+ distilleries, but only 2 producing world-class whisky that I'm aware of. 2014 could see a 3rd.

  3. Craft / quality Bourbon (and American whiskey in general) will grow in popularity in Australia. Australia is a nation that loves Bourbon, but typically mixes it with Coke. I think 2014 will start to see Bourbon being recognised by Australian drinkers as a quality sipping spirit, in much the same way Scotch has over the past few years. There's no shortage of great Bourbons available here - the general population just needs to realise that it doesn't always need to be mixed!

  4. Flavoured whiskies. I really hope I'm wrong with this one.

  5. Stronger whisky. I think we could see more and more "mainstream" whiskies moving up in ABV%, from 40 to 43%, 43 to 47%, with some moving even higher (not to SMWS-like levels, mind you).
Sarcastic / not so serious:
  1. An Australian whisky will win a global award, and we won't hear the end of it for months.
  2. The 2014 releases of Port Ellen and Pappy Van Winkle 23yo will cost an absurd amount, and will still sell out in minutes. My guess is £2,000 for Port Ellen, though £2,500 wouldn't surprise me.
  3. A new "world's most expensive / oldest" whisky will be released (and will probably taste like eating a chunk of wood).
  4. William Grant & Sons will release at least 3 new Global Travel Retail editions for 2014...and I'll try to buy them all.
  5. Jim Murray will make a controversial statement in 2014, everyone will talk about it, but deep down, no one will really care.
Let's see how this washes up in 12 months...

On a final note - however you're celebrating New Years, we hope you enjoy it (ideally with a dram in hand), and we'll see you in 2014! Thanks again for reading our ramblings throughout 2013, and hopefully you find it even more entertaining in 2014.


Monday 30 December 2013

Tasted #59: Dailuaine 1983 (#101drams)

One of the less specific whiskies on my #101drams charitable challenge list is number 20 - "Something distilled the year I was born". After reading through my list, fellow Aussie whisky blogger @whiskyledger (who runs the new but visually stunning blog "The Whisky Ledger") kindly sent me a sample he'd picked up a while back from Whisky Base in The Netherlands - a 1983 Dailuaine.

The Diageo-owned Speyside distillery of Dailuaine might not be well known to many (outside hardcore whisky fan circles), but there's a good chance most people have tried it before, seeing as it's a key malt used in a number of Johnnie Walker blends (only ~2% of the spirit produced makes its way into single malts, some of which finds its way into Gordon & MacPhail independent bottlings). So a whisky I've never tried, one distilled in the year I was born, AND a chance to knock off another #101drams whisky? Sounds like a winner to me.

Whisky Base samples come with a handy QR code, which told me everything about this particular whisky. Specifically, it was distilled on 23rd Feb 1983, bottled on 4/1/2012 (making it 28 years old), weighs in at 47.3% ABV, was aged in a hogshead and was part of a 265 bottle run.

Dailuaine 1983 (47.3% ABV, 28yo, Speyside Scotland, €85.00)
Colour: Dull golden.

Nose: Rich, caramel, floral notes, slightly dusty. A second nosing gives big, big wafts of apple pie (cue American Pie references...)

Palate: Creamy, rich, still with a hint of apple pie from the nose, but more so baked goods in general - pastries, croissants.

Finish: Slight burn at back of throat, floral and citrus notes to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. I wouldn't pay the asking price for a full bottle, but it's certainly cool to try a whisky that is so rarely seen in single malt guise...and even more so one that was distilled in the same year I was born!

Thanks again to @whiskyledger for the sample.


Wednesday 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas and thanks from TimeforWhisky.com

Just a quick note from Steph and myself to say MERRY CHRISTMAS, and many thanks for your viewership over the past 14 or so months.

This site remains an absolute pleasure to run, and we've been blown away by the positive responses, and number of visitors we've had since starting it, particularly in the last 6-7 months.

Whatever you're doing and wherever you are this Christmas, we hope you have a wonderful Christmas and manage to enjoy some down time - ideally with a dram or two.

Merry Christmas!

Why limit the whisk(e)y to just under the tree?

 - Steph & Martin.

Monday 23 December 2013

Tasted #58: Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky

A few days ago we wrote about the Australian re-release of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky. As promised, here are the tasting notes...

Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky (47.3% ABV, NAS, Highlands Scotland, $199AUD)

Colour: Light, pale straw.

Nose: Toffee, very faint smoke notes. Rich, but notes of younger whiskies show through. Maple syrup notes come through too, after it sits for a while.

Palate: Light (given the ABV), with a slight citrus tang. Peat smoke at the back of the palate, with notes of boiled sweets. Water really accentuates the peat smoke (on the finish too).

Finish: Medium to long, peat smokey, with fresh grass / earthy lingering notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Certainly a very decent whisky, but the real value with this dram is the back story and the whole "package" (see previous post).

 - Martin.

Sunday 22 December 2013

PR #16: Jack Daniels Christmas online hub and Christmas Barrel Tree

Who doesn't love a good Christmas promotion? Especially one involving booze, and especially one that allows Aussies to enter, with some seriously good prizes up for grabs.

For Christmas this year, Jack Daniels have set up an online hub at www.jackdaniels.com/christmas which, apart from being a beautifully designed site (up for a number of design awards), lets you win a trip to the distillery (with 7 friends!) or one of 5 bottles of "Holiday Select" every day until Christmas.

Holiday Select, you ask?
For the past few years, JD have built a Christmas tree at the distillery in Tennessee, made of JD barrels (140 barrels stacked 8m high). The whiskey from those barrels makes its way into a limited annual release known as "Holiday Select". You can find it at Dan Murphy's for $129.99AUD, or try a dram at a number of good Australian bars listed here.

We'll put our own tasting notes up shortly, but here's what JD have to say about the whiskey:
"Limited edition Holiday Select releases an aroma of rich apple and blackberry tones countered with sweet, heavy oak notes. Apple and oak follow through in the taste, while stronger undercurrents of cinnamon and nutmeg linger warmly long after your sip has finished. "
Personally Steph and I thought this was one of the most impressive bottles of Jack we've seen - similar to the Single Barrel / Silver Select, but with even more impressive packaging and labelling. It would definitely make an impressive Christmas present for any whisk(e)y fan.

The online hub also gives viewers a tour of Jack's office, tips on how to cook / BBQ with Jack, share a Christmas eCard and as mentioned, win a trip to Lynchburg or one of 5 bottles of Holiday Select daily.

 - Martin.

Thursday 19 December 2013

PR #15: Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky Australian re-release

It seems there's barely a distillery or blender in existence these days who don't release a special/limited release in one form or another, often with an exciting or unusual back story. Whilst many of them are interesting, unusual, rare (and importantly - often great drams), it would be hard to find a whisky with a more fascinating back story than Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt.

Whisky fans may remember this one from last year - it enjoyed a brief but exciting release through Dan Murphy's in Australia, then seemed to disappear quickly. The good news is, it's back - just in time for Christmas.

Those unfamiliar may be wondering what makes this whisky so special. To explain, we need to step back 114 years...

Over 1907-1909, explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton led a team on the gruelling British Antarctic Expedition, which saw them fall just short of their goal by less than 100 miles. During the expedition, they stored several crates of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt under a hut at Cape Royds (hey, who wouldn't want a dram after hundreds of miles of Antarctic expedition) which were left behind upon their return.

Fast forward to February 2007, and a team from the NZ Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered the crates. After much negotiation, three of the bottles made their way to Scotland, for expert analysis and re-creation by Whyte & Mackay, led by Richard Paterson (aka "The Nose"). To quote Richard:
“There can’t be a better gift for those that love history, adventure or whisky. Shackleton himself chose this whisky to keep the morale of his brave colleagues in harsh, cold conditions."
"The bottles recovered from the bitter Antarctic ice were carefully thawed and meticulously analysed to ensure our recreation of Shackleton’s whisky perfectly resembled the original malt from 1907. The result is a shimmering light honey colour, with a soft, elegant and refined aroma. "
"Detailed nosing reveals delicate notes of crushed apple, pear and fresh pineapple with notes of oak shavings, smoke and hints of buttery vanilla, creamy caramel and nutmeg. The tasting reveals an enduring spirit that has plenty of impact on the palate; a tantalising array of flavours that is both harmonious and exhilarating.”
Drawing upon their immense library of whiskies and using scientific analysis of the original bottles' contents, Richard and the W&M team were able to determine the make-up of the original whisky (47.3%, sherry cask matured, lightly peated, likely from whisky made at Glen Mhor), and faithfully re-create it, for the benefit of Whisky fans everywhere. The result is Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt (Discovery Edition), a release of 50,000 bottles.

TimeforWhisky was kindly sent a bottle recently, and I have to say it's the most comprehensive and impressive "packages" I've seen for any whisky. I say "package" because it's more than just a bottle in an impressive box. As well as the authentic, untreated timber crate-like box, the package includes:

  • A comprehensive 26 page booklet detailing the story of the whisky
  • A plan of Shackleton's Hut
  • Maps and timelines of the original journey
  • A copy of a letter from Ernest Shackleton to his wife in 1908 
  • Photographs from the expedition
  • Diary extracts from the expedition
  • Quotes from Ernest Shackleton
  • A second colour booklet detailing the whisky's journey from ice to W&M, to store shelves; and
  • Of course, a 700mL bottle of the whisky itself.

The authenticity isn't just limited to the contents of the bottle either - the bottle itself is a recreation, with rippled, bubbled glass and an ancient label as the photo below shows (if it were any other whisky, you'd think they needed to get their Quality Control in order)!


A whisky this unique deserves its own "Tasted" post, which will be posted shortly. In summary though, this is a whisky with an incredible back story and it tastes quite impressive too. Definitely one to consider as a Christmas present for any whisky fans in your life (or a Christmas treat for yourself).

 - Martin.

Note: There is also a "Journey Edition" of this whisky, which I've yet to see in Australia, but hopefully it makes its way here soon (and not just because it's a #101drams whisky!

A big thanks to momentum2 and Whyte & Mackay for the sample bottle.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Botanic Australis Gin & launch party (Sydney)

I know, it's not whisky and it's not even a dark spirit, but Gin does seem to be the one (usually) unaged spirit that Whisky fans enjoy (I know I do). Even Master of Malt feature a "Ginvent" calendar alongside their hugely popular "Whiskey Advent Calendar", and let's face it, the spectrum of Gin can be pretty varied, just like whisk(e)y.

I guess what I'm saying is, it's not vodka.

As most of you would know, we aim to feature as much Australian content on this site as possible, and that's where the Mt Uncle Distillery comes in, and specifically their Botanic Australis gin.

Located in FNQ, Mt Uncle Distillery produce about as wide a variety of spirits as you can get. Vodka, rum, gin? Sure. Limoncello? Yep. Whiskey? Oh yes (hopefully to be featured on this site in the future). Did someone say Banana or Marshmallow Liqueur? (Probably not, but anyway, they produce those too).

A fortnight or so ago Nip of Courage (an Australian distributor also responsible for distributing Belgrove whisky) hosted a media gathering at Cremorne's Cotton Thief (part of a growing 'LoNoSho' small bar trend), with Mt Uncle Distiller Mark Watkins presenting his gin and talking through the botanicals and distillation process. Steph and I were invited to come along and try the gin along with a few cocktails.

Mark, who was genuinely passionate about distilling and making quality spirits, explained that not only are almost all the botanicals sourced from nearby the distillery, most are picked by the Mt Uncle team personally by hand (some home grown, some picked from the roadside)! Those botanicals, by the way include Juniper, Anise Myrtle, Cinnamon Myrtle, Lemon Myrtle, Finger Lime, River Mint, Peppermint Gum, Lemon Scented Gum, Wattle seed, Lilly Pilly, Riberry, Olida, Native Ginger, Bunya Nut and a "secret mystery native botanical" (there's always at least one..). With such unique Australian ingredients, we were pretty keen to taste it straight and see how it faired compared to the more established gins.

In a word...bloody well (ok, that's two words).

I've found some gins I love in a Martini, but wouldn't necessarily drink neat (say Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks), whereas others I could sip straight and neat (like Tanq Ten). Botanic Australis definitely fell into the latter category, but it was unlike any gin I'd tasted. The nose was initially all lemon and anise, but then some peppery notes came through. The palate showed the same, but also hints of mint and lime. The finish was long with slight notes of spice towards the end. Smooth right throughout too. The usual juniper notes were present, but it was the complexity of all the other flavours/scents that impressed me - a complex gin.

Knowing that a number of gins have their "signature' garnish (cucumber for Hendricks, capsicum for West Winds for example) I asked Mark what he recommended, and he said a citrus twist (the Martini we tried later, with a twist of lime, certainly backed this up).

After tasting the gin straight, we moved onto two cocktails, each made with Currong Comestibles shrubs (a non-alcoholic vinegar-based cordial) - one with Riberry and one with Rainforest Lime. Given the botanicals in the gin, both were perfect matches and made crisp and refreshing cocktails.

Botanic Australis has won International recognition for its packaging, which isn't surprising when looking at the bottle up close. Definitely one of the most impressive Australian bottle designs I've seen (up there with Starward).

Expect to see Botanic Australis appearing in Australian bottles hops shortly (in the meantime you can purchase it directly from the distillery). If you like your gin unique, versatile and Australian, this is one to seek out.

- Martin.

Steph & Martin from TimeforWhisky.com attended this event as media guests.

Friday 13 December 2013

Tasted #57: Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey

Despite the Teeling family having whiskey ties back to 1782, the Teeling Whiskey Company has only been around since 2013 - following Beam's purchase of the family's former distillery, Cooley, in 2011.

I read a lot about Teeling earlier this year, including some great reports, so when I saw it was available at Dan Murphy's, I figured I'd have my chance to do a write-up. The company kindly sent me a bottle to let me do just that.

I'll be honest here - in the past I was never a big fan of Irish Whiskey. Not sure why, I could just never get into it. That's been changing though, and I've since discovered some cracking Irish drams (Jameson 18yo and Red Breast 12yo spring to mind as some of the drams that changed my mind).

Teeling Small Batch is an interesting release. At under $49.99AUD, it's priced very competitively (especially considering the RRP in the UK works out to be closer to $60, and we typically pay a LOT more than converted UK RRP for whisk(e)y.) At under $50, in price terms it sits in Jameson, Johnny Black and Glenlivet 12yo territory, yet it differs from these whiskies in more ways than one:

  • 46% ABV
  • Non-chill filtered
  • "Small batch" (though no indication of what that really means)
  • Finished in Flor de Caña rum casks!
Not really your average, sub-$50 whiskey. Let's get into then shall we?

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey (46% ABV, NAS, Dublin Ireland, $50AUD)

Colour: Light and golden - at a guess I'd say no caramel colouring here.

Nose: Sweet, youthful but not harsh (I guessed around 6 years of age, but apparently it's closer to 4yo - I hear this spirit is still from Cooley, their old distillery). Vanilla notes tell me it could have been aged in ex-Bourbon barrels prior to the rum cask finishing.

Palate: Smooth and relatively light - I would have picked it for closer to 40-43%. Buttery. A second sip shows a richer and creamier palate. The sort of whiskey you could sip all night.

Finish: Short and sherbert-y.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. A very respectable dram, and one you could easily sip all night. Considering that $50AUD doesn't get you a whole lot of Whisk(e)y in Australia, this should be considered a bargain. Definitely one to try if you're fond of Irish whiskey.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Tasted #55 & #56: Old Pulteney 12yo and 17yo (#101drams)

Old Pulteney is a whisky that features a whopping 3 times on my #101drams Charitable Challenge, with the 17, 21 and 40 all listed. When I created the list I hadn't tried any Old Pulteneys - though it always had the image (in my mind) of a quality dram, slightly unusual and unique in location. Not dissimilar to Talisker I guess, though less prevalent.

When one of the guys from Inver House Distillers (who also do Balblair, Knockdhu, Speyburn and Balmenach) kindly got in touch, I asked if there was any chance of a sample or two. To say I was (pleasantly) surprised when, a week or so later, I received two full-size bottles in the post, would be an understatement! Here were two stunning bottles (the 12yo and 17yo) sent via Old Pulteney's Australian distributor, for me to try. Not a bad start to the week!

I always knew Old Pulteney had a history steeped in maritime tradition (being located on the East coast of Scotland), but didn't know it was also the most Northern distillery on the Scottish mainland (turns out I wasn't that far away from Wick when visiting Scotland in 2009). I also recently discovered that Old Pulteney actually put their maritime tradition into practice, by sponsoring a superyacht in the Clipper 2013-14 Round the World Yacht Race, which started in September this year in London.

The yacht must be moving at a pretty fast clip (ha) because this week they're already due to arrive in Australia (barely-related side note: I know a bloke who once sailed from London to Sydney with just his wife...but it took them 18 months. Perhaps if they were fuelled by Old Pulteney they'd have made it a bit quicker...)

So, now that you know Old Pulteney, what's it like as a whisky? Pretty fantastic, it turns out, and as unique as I'd expected/hoped for!

Not living near the ocean, I decided this was about the most
"maritime" setting I could create at home...

Old Pulteney 12 (40% ABV, 12yo, Wick Scotland, $75AUD)
Nose: Rich, sweet, honied notes with a bit of grass, lots of vanilla and a slight nuttiness
Palate: Lighter than the nose suggests, with the honey and vanilla characteristics coming through most prominently (as you'd expect from the ex-Bourbon barrels). A faint hint of sea air too.
Finish: Medium length, mostly honied and with some brief nuttiness at the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. A great "entry level" dram and a unique one at that. Usually when you get hints of sea air, you can expect a bit of smokiness too, but I didn't get any on this, just a host of other flavours. Very enjoyable.

Old Pulteney 17 (46% ABV, 17yo, Wick Scotland, $150AUD)
Nose: Same characteristics as the 12, but..lighter? Interestingly the colour was noticeably lighter too (though that's probably got something to do with the 12 having caramel colouring added). The lighter nose did strike me as being odd, given the higher ABV. A drop of water helps open it up.
Palate: Richer than the 12 - more like what I expected from a 46% whisky. More salty than the 12 (stands to reason - 5 years longer living near the sea) with some butter menthol and floral notes too. More earthy than the 12.
Finish: Medium to long, more butterscotch than anything (not a bad thing!)
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Enjoyable like the 12, but just a bit "more" of everything, with some new flavours thrown in for good measure. I'll definitely enjoy this!


Thursday 5 December 2013

Distillery Tour #1: New World Whisky Distillery | Purveyors of Starward (Victoria, Australia)

In what I hope becomes a more prominent category on this blog (especially after a planned trip to Scotland next year), here comes TimeforWhisky.com's first distillery tour write-up...

Those who have been reading this blog for a while now might be familiar with the New World Whisky Distillery. Back in March I sat down for a coffee with CEO David Vitale and a week or so later posted my tasting notes on their Starward Australian Single Malt Whisky. In short: a very impressive sub-3yr old whisky distilled and aged in an old maintenance hangar at Essendon Airport, and every part a "new world" whisky.


David made the offer then for me to tour the distillery any time I was in Melbourne. Despite being in Melbourne almost monthly since, it wasn't until a few weeks ago I actually had time to drop in for a visit. A very last minute phone call was made and David kindly said he'd be happy to show me around the next day.

After a safety introduction and donning of the obligatory hi-vis vest, the tour was underway. A very personal tour I might add, as it was just David, Ian (Distillery Production Manager) and myself. The setup reminded me of some of the Australian breweries I've visited - industrial but very clean and organised. Barrels took up a significant proportion of the (massive) floorspace, with the distillery itself taking a comparatively small corner. There was still plenty of space remaining and given the increasing popularity of Starward, I wouldn't be surprised if they start to fill it up soon.

We started with the tasting malted barley (always good to eat before drinking, right?) which is brought into the distillery already malted. Then onto the mashtun, and the stainless steel washbacks. Ian let me sample the wash, which (at close to 7% ABV) had a sour but smooth taste and reminded me of probably the most unusual beer I've ever tried - the Red Duck Gruiter.

Over to the wash and spirit stills,  where the liquid comes off at around 24% ABV and 71.5% ABV respectively. Cuts from the spirit still are made manually, and (having only toured distilleries in the UK before), I was a little surprised to see the "spirit safe" being completely open (in the UK, customs mandates the use of a spirit safe to secure the new make output). I was even invited to taste the new make right then and there as it came off the still. It's not every day you get to do that! It was surprisingly smooth and robust.

From here it was over to the barrels, most of which are palletised and stored upright to provide better wood extraction and more favourable evaporation. David talked me through the various barrels in use - including the usual ex-sherry (apera) and bourbon casks, as well as a few other varieties. It was pretty clear from the discussion that the guys place a huge emphasis on wood, which isn't surprising given the temperature variation that occurs in the region, and the resulting contact the spirit has with the wood.

David then took me over to the in-distillery "Tiki Bar", where he talked me through their sensory program - something the distillery considers hugely important to ensuring consistency and quality in the final product. Without going into too much detail, the sensory program involves blind tasting from a sample of barrels (at a cut-down 20% ABV), against a reference whisky (Famous Grouse), and noting characteristics, qualities, and whether whiskies are acceptable, unacceptable or "single cask quality". Note: the distillery doesn't currently bottle any single cask releases commercially, but based on what I tried, I hope they do in the future!

 Standing at the bar, David ran me through a sample sensory program, starting with new make and running through an example of single cask whiskies from 50L, 100L and 200L casks.

New make: Pears and freshly-cut grass on the nose. Pears with as slight nuttiness on the palate (no bubblegum or bananas here!). Medium-length, nutty finish. Smooth throughout.

50L cask sample: Rich, creamy with a sherry backbone. This tasted WAY beyond its years, and had the most amazing, rich sherried nose. I want a bottle from this exact cask! This was a seriously enjoyable and impressive whisky.

100L cask sample: Lighter than the 50L cask sample, with a fresh, citrus palate and a smooth, medium-length finish.

200L cask sample: Seemed younger and "hotter" than the previous samples - long finish though, and with similar characteristics to 100L in terms of palate.

After the tasting it was time to let David get home, and time for me to catch my flight back to Sydney. I hope David and the team consider running the occasional tour every now and then (perhaps similar to James Squire Brewery at Camperdown, who open once or twice a year for tours) as it was interesting, enjoyable and not something that's usually very accessible for those living in major cities in Australia.

A huge thanks to David and Ian for giving up their time, answering my many questions and showing me their setup in minute detail. I said this would be a distillery to watch earlier this year, and I stand by that. This whisky is already excellent and will only get better as time goes on.


Thursday 28 November 2013

Tasted #54: Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary 1987 Vintage

Back in October I posted about the fantastic dinner William Grant & Sons Australia put on to celebrate the 125th Anniversary Vintage. That was a pretty detailed post, but the Cliff's Notes are: 286 bottles worldwide, 9 in Australia, cask strength, $1,250AUD, incredible.

I didn't post tasting notes back then because the article was getting a bit lengthy, and because the whisky was so damn good it deserved its own tasting post. So now here it is.

Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Vintage (55.2% ABV, 25yo, Speyside Scotland, $1,250AUD)
Colour: Rich and dark copper. It's obviously been busy during its 25 years soaking up oak.

Nose: Maple syrup. Rich, syrupy (like an aged sipping rum), creamy, but also with hints of fresh grass, just to keep it interesting.

Palate: Big (it is 55.2% afterall) but smooth, and with so much happening all at once - spice, leather, toffee, even a bit of a citrus tang. Super complex.

Finish: Long, rich, slight plum notes, a hint of port. Did I say long?

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 98/100 (of the 54 whiskies I've tasted for this blog so far, equal only to the Glenfiddich 40yo). I love a whisky that has a lot going on - to me, that's complexity. A real mix of flavours and smells, often ones that don't necessarily complement each other. Like leather and citrus, nuts and fresh grass. To me, that's the mark of a good whisky, and this has it in spades.


Tuesday 26 November 2013

Whisky interview #1: Sam Simmons - The Balvenie's global brand ambassador (aka Dr Whisky)

As mentioned a few weeks ago, Steph and I were fortunate enough to attend a brilliantly fun dinner with Dr Sam Simmons (aka Dr Whisky), The Balvenie's global brand ambassador.

Despite a jam-packed schedule (and no doubt some horrible jetlag), Sam, a genuinely nice bloke, was kind enough to sit down for an interview, and answer some further follow-up questions via e-mail.
(Please excuse the seedy Mo on the left - solely there for the month of Movember)
Favourite part of your (short) visit in Sydney?
I wish I could have stayed longer as I had a great, if incredibly busy, time and barely scratched the surface of this great city. Memorable moment was playing AC/DC pinball with a slice of pizza and a Monkey Shoulder and ginger ale at Frankie's.
You've had a variety of whisky roles, but was an ambassadorial role always the plan/aspiration?
I had no idea such a job existed (talking about whisky for a living? SERIOUSLY?) so when a few opportunities presented themselves in 2008 I was a good mix of excited and terrified. Everyone who gets into whisky becomes an ambassador and I suppose I have been an ambassador from the beginning: sharing drams with folks, reading about the stuff, telling others about some new great whisky I tried or distillery I visited, hosting tastings, etc. Do something love (or something you'd do anyway) and you'll never work a day in your life, right?
In your experience are there any differences in how whisky drinkers differ in how they enjoy their whisky between UK, Canada and Australia?
Ah, the empire, the pink parts of the map. In Canada, most provinces strictly control the sale of alcohol and in Australia taxation keeps malt out of reach for many, so there is a parallel there in that there is an unfortunate economic barrier for most discerning drinkers. In Scotland, it was easy to experiment and try new whiskies, all my favourite pubs would have a malt of the week or malt of the month for about £2 so it was easily accessible and actually consumed by the patrons of the bar male/female/old/young, not just the tweeded elderly men. In all three of these countries there is a respect for Scotch whisky, often by some connection through family ties to Scotland, but we've been fortunate in these countries to have whisky for decades. Because of this there are plenty of inherited stereotypes, rules and myths but the blooming local malt distilling movements are, I think, shaking these shackles off and allowing whisky to be enjoyed by whoever, however and wherever we damn well please.

If you had to pick one whisky for the rest of your life, what would it be? (Doublewood 12?)
DoubleWood 12yo has always been a favourite, in any mood, long before I worked with the distillery. The whiskies I tend to empty (and replace) at home include DoubleWood, Johnnie Walker Black, Lagavulin 16, Aberlour A'bunadh and Compass Box Spice Tree.

What's one whisky that has really surprised you - either in a good way or bad?
Bain's from South Africa. Grain whisky that is as clean and fresh as it is complex and balanced. Lovely stuff. While in Oz, I really liked Starward (Victoria, Aus) and Overeem Port cask (Old Hobart's Distillery, Tasmania) and didn't necessarily expect to.
Lastly what's one whisky trend you think will take off / continue to grow in 2014? (Eg more cask strength bottlings, more NAS whiskies, more independent bottlers, something else entirely?)
NAS is just finding its legs and I think we'll see more next year before whisky companies can really assess whether the whisky consumer will continue to buy whiskies without age statements.

The independent bottler has a tough future, I think, so while I don't think we'll see a boom in more bottlers, distilleries will become more experimental in their releases to satisfy this thirst. So while The Balvenie is still the only distillery that has a core range of single casks, I think we'll see more and more proprietary limited or single cask offerings.
I think "new world" whiskies have great momentum right now, and you could really sense that when I was in Australia. Bars stocked local whisky and a lot of the stuff I tried was actually very good. I don't think it can replace Scotch whisky in the throats of the world but there is plenty of room for the new and unusual dram from down under, the great white north, the land of the rising sun, or Vikingland on the bars of the whisky enthusiast.

Another huge thanks to Sam for giving up his time to answer our questions, and entertain us during his time in Australia. Sláinte!

 - Martin.

Friday 22 November 2013

This Week in Whisk(e)y #3

We get a fair few interesting press releases 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. So on with it then...

Old Hobart Distillery release Overeem Bourbon Cask
Old Hobart Distillery, producers of the hugely popular Overeem whiskies, have released their long-awaited Bourbon cask finish (to join their Port and Sherry cask range).

The first release will see only 170 bottles released, with bottle #1 put up for auction (link to e-mail bid here). Bottles #2 - #75 will be available in a limited gift pack with two Overeem Glencairn glasses for $220AUD. The remainder will be sold in a cannister for $200AUD. All are 700mL and 43% ABV (no word yet on a cask strength release). We're hoping to have tasting notes up shortly. Orders can be made by contacting Jane Overeem at info@oldhobartdistillery.com.

Eau de Vie releases small batch cocktails

We mentioned pre-batched cocktails the other week (here) and now the legendary Eau de Vie bars have joined in, releasing their first two small batch bottled cocktails - The "Cold Drip Negroni" and salted "Coconut & Rum Banana Old Fashioned". The former is based on the "Cup o' Camilio" which is a personal favourite on the current Eau de Vie menu.

The cocktails are made by Eau de Vie bartenders and come in 120mL, ranging from 1.6-1.8 standard (Australian) drinks each. It's pretty clear the guys have cut no corners in bringing these to market - with quality labels, design and excellent attention to detail (like the Eau de Vie logos on the caps). Of course it goes without saying the liquid inside is top-notch.

Eau de Vie were kind enough to send us a sample of each recently, and we can assure you they're as good as they sound. While the cocktails are currently only available via the bars (both Sydney and Melbourne), there are plans to release them (and others) in bottleshops, hopefully in the near future. We'd love to see a bottled version of the "Honey Buttered Old Fashioned"(with butter fat-washed Elijah Craig 12yo Bourbon) personally!

Old Pulteney releases 1990 vintage
Old Pulteney is a whisky that features on our #101drams (3 times in fact), that we haven't managed to tick off yet. It seems there'll be another Old Pulteney to try now, with the recent release of the 1990 vintage (was 1990 really 23 years ago? Wow...)
"Old Pulteney 1990 Vintage is a mature and full-flavoured addition to the portfolio. It's bursting with the coastal maritime character, the depth and the complexity found in other expressions, while offering an interesting twist which is sure to excite and delight single malt drinkers around the world. The 1990 Vintage was matured in both American ex-bourbon casks and Spanish ex- sherry casks which were previously used for ageing heavily peated malt. This residual peatiness has added an unexpected dimension and allowed the whisky to develop an exquisitely rich and exciting taste profile.
Old Pulteney 1990 Vintage is bottled at 46% ABV. The whisky has not been chill-filtered and is presented at its beautiful natural colour. It's a strictly limited offering, only 900 cases of this unique spirit will be made available world-wide from November 2013. The recommended retail price in the UK is £120 [no word yet on Australian pricing or release dates]."

Starward Whisky - Meet the makers

Starward Whisky is one we've featured a few times on this site, and we're genuinely big fans of what the guys at New World Whisky Distillery are doing (we were also very kindly treated to a personal tour of the distillery a few weeks ago - write-up to be posted soon).

If you're keen to learn more about Starward, meet the makers and try some special Starward whiskies not released to the public, NWWD are hosting a series of events in Melbourne throughout Nov/Dec, as follows:
"The team at Starward partnered with Australian Wine and Food at the Rialto Towers last week to showcase Starward Whisky which proved to be very enjoyable couple of days. 
Therefore we have decided to spread the Starward word further and will be in a number of venues  throughout November and December in the Melbourne CBD. We will be offering visitors a taste of our third release of Starward, along with some special treats from the bond store.
Also available will be Degustation Dinner and Whisky Master Class Packages - an ideal gift for Christmas.
Come say hi to our Founder & CEO David Vitale who'll be at the stall - every visitor goes into the draw to win a hand signed bottle of Starward. Our first event will be Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th of November in the  foyer of the Ernest & Young Building, 8 Exhibition Street, Melbourne from 12am - 6pm. However if you cant make that then pop by at a later date! Our stall will be in the foyer of the Melbourne venues below from 12pm-6pm:
  • Thursday 28th & Friday 29th at St James, 555 Bourke Street
  • Tuesday 3rd & Wednesday 4th at Freshwater Place, Southbank 
  • Thursday 5th & Friday 6th at 452 Flinders Street
  • Tuesday 10th at 120 Collins Street
  • Thursday 12th & Friday 13th at 530 Collins Street
  • Tuesday 17th & Wednesday 18th at 367 Collins Street
  • Thursday 19th at Melbourne Central Tower, 360 Elizabeth Street"

 - Martin.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Tasted #51, #52 & #53: The Macallan 1824 Series (Amber, Sienna & Ruby)

Third time tasting these, but first time actually taking proper notes (the first was a quick taste at The Oak Barrel Whisky Fair, the second at the 1824 Series launch party where by the third dram the hunger pangs were kicking in...)

So, thoughts? In a nutshell - an impressive range, and one that addresses a few of my concerns with previous (age statement) releases of The Macallan.

(For more information on the Series in Australia, see here).

The Macallan 1824 Series Amber (40% ABV, NAS, Speyside Scotland, $105AUD)
Colour: The lightest of the three - true to it's name, a light, vibrant "Amber".
Nose: Alcohol esthers up first - there are clearly some younger whiskies in the mix here. Slightly earthyy notes, a bit of smoke. A standard, young The Macallan to me.
Palate: Light and fresh (i.e. needs a slightly higher ABV for my liking), pleasant, smoke is gone, slight Apple notes, with some notes of hazelnuts coming in later on. Nothing really stands out, but nice enough overall.
Finish: Initial rich but quickly thins out. Short to medium.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100

The Macallan 1824 Series Sienna (43% ABV, NAS, Speyside Scotland, $160AUD)
Colour: Darker than the Amber but only just.
Nose: Not obviously sherried at all - rich, luxurious, leather and oak notes, with a hint of matchheads/flint. In all honesty the first whisky I thought of was Glenfiddich 40yo. Not saying it's as good, but the nose had similarities. Fantastic, in a word.
Palate: All the notes from the nose carry through, flinty, rich, leathery, and with a slight sherbert tang.
Finish: Very smooth, with the leather and flint notes carrying through to the end. A well-balanced dram overall.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100

The Macallan 1824 Series Ruby (43% ABV, NAS, Speyside Scotland, $220AUD)
Colour: The darkest of the three, also presumably the oldest.
Nose: If the Sienna isn't obviously sherried, then this obviously is. BIG sherry/berry influence. Strawberries and raspberres in particular. Reminds me of a Glenfarclas 30yo.
Palate: Big rich syrupy mouth feel, smooth, berry notes continue throughout.
Finish: Initially, interestingly, tropical fruits. But then a slightly smoky, sherried, dry finish. Long.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100

So there you have it - finally tasted, properly. Thankfully, consistent with my previous samplings of the lineup, the Sienna remains my favourite (as it seems to for plenty of other whisky bloggers too, it seems).

 - Martin.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Whisky + Alement are looking for a new Bar Manager (Melbourne)

Firstly - no this site hasn't turned into a recruitment site. I'm posting this in the hope that we're able to connect a passionate whisky person with a role at an equally passionate Australian whisky institution.

I know this site has a big readership amongst the Aussie bar community (which frankly Steph and I think is awesome, because it's a bloody great community), so figured why not put that to good use?

Whisky + Alement in Melbourne (who we reviewed here), formerly Chez Regine, are looking for a new Bar Manager from January 2014, as their current bar manager is moving on (a big loss IMO - Ev was great). Given the specialist nature of the bar (holding 500+ whiskies, being an official SMWS bar and hosting regular Whisky School classes), they're obviously looking for someone who has a passion for whisky (not necessarily extensive knowledge - just the passion and a willingness to learn).

Further details are below, but if you work in the industry, are passionate about whisky and are looking for a Bar Manager role, this could be worth looking into.
Full Time Bar Manager Position Vacant at Whisky and Alement beginning Dec/JanApplicants can contact Bar Owner Brooke Hayman directly at brooke@whiskyandale.com.au

- Martin.

Friday 15 November 2013

An Evening with The Balvenie Global Brand Ambassador Sam Simmons (Chiswick restaurant)

So it turns out, you can be the global brand ambassador for one of Scotland's most well-known, respected, traditional hand-crafted Speyside distilleries, know everything there is to know about whisky, and still be hilarious.

Really. Bloody. Hilarious.

Ladies and gentleman - Dr Sam Simmons (aka Dr Whisky):

Sam recently visited Australia to spread the good word of The Balvenie, and hosted a dinner at Woollahra's Chiswick restaurant. With their hands-on and home-grown approach to produce at Chiswick, the restaurant was a perfect fit for a dinner celebrating a distillery like The Balvenie.

In a departure from the typical whisky dinner (not that we don't love them!) with regimented courses and specifically matched whiskies, the night was much more casual with share plates, wine, cocktails, banter, jokes, and even some ad-hoc karaoke. Oh, and this stunning lineup:

  • The Balvenie 12yo DoubleWood
  • The Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel (still one of my top 3 favourite whiskies, ever)
  • The Balvenie 17yo DoubleWood
  • The Balvenie 21yo PortWood
  • The Balvenie 30yo
  • The Balvenie 1973 Single Cask

The crowd of 30 or so all had a rocking good time, sharing dishes such as Kingfish cevicheFish & prawn tagine with saffron cous cous, and a dessert of Balvenie chocolate mousse with honeycomb, hazelnuts and orange (the highlight of the night - luckily we each got our own serving. No sharing here)!

Attendees were a mix of whisky bloggers (all three of us Sydney-based bloggers), bar industry famous faces, food writers, lifestyle bloggers, and Cinnamon Lee who'd created a hip flask in the shape of a dipping dog for the upcoming The Balvenie Craft Bar in Melbourne (that's it below). Holding 120mL, it's yours for a cool $790 (to be fair, it was pretty cool).  Steph and I may have held a mock relay race with it...

(...and no, we'd never met anyone called Cinnamon before either! Cool name.)

Sam stood up to present throughout the night, saying a few words about each dram, drawing on his extensive experience in the world of whisky, and generally revving up the crowd with a bit of banter with the other William Grant & Sons guys. It was a fun night and no-one took themselves too seriously. The food, whisky, presentations and general banter were all perfectly matched. 

It was also pretty obvious that Sam is one of those rare brand ambassadors who not only knows pretty much everything there is to know about whisky, but can also read his audience incredibly well. The next night, when Steph and I attended the SMWS night with Sam, he was just as entertaining, but tweaked his presentation style slightly to match the older, more "enthusiast" crowd.

So....that 1973 The Balvenie? I'll cover tasting notes in a future post, but basically a few weeks before his trip, Sam asked David Stewart (The Balvenie's malt master for over 50 years) to pull "something special" from the warehouse. David obliged, pulling bottles from two separate casks, both laid to rest in 1973.

So yes, the last dram of the night was a 40yo The Balvenie, cask-strength, pulled from a single cask by David Stewart himself just a few weeks earlier. Very cool.

Another huge thanks to William Grant & Sons Australia and Weber Shandwick for putting on another absolutely flawless night.

 - Martin.

Just sharing a 40yo The Balvenie with Dr Whisky. No biggy.