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

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

- 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.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Tasted #50: Master of Malt 50 year old (3rd edition) (#101drams)

Having just tried 80 years of whisky beforehand (40yo Master of Malt Speyside and 40yo 1969 The Glenrothes D/T Lonach), I figured why not continue with the age theme and try the 50yo I've had tempting me for the last month or so (plus making my 50th tasting post a 50year old whisky seemed fitting. Not sure it's a trend that can continue though...)

This also qualifies as the oldest whisky I've ever tried (to date).

Master of Malt 50yo (3rd Edition) (43% ABV, 50yo, Speyside Scotland, £34.77 for a dram)

Colour: Is this really 50yo!? Light golden, not "pale" like the 1969 The Glenrothes, but still very light for a whisky of this age.

Nose: When I think of long-aged whiskies, I think leather, oak, perhaps deep rich demarara sugar notes. On this? Pears - instantly. Stewed apples and some pineapple too. No oak, no leather. Reminded me of a Glen Moray Chardonnay 10yo!

Palate: Blind I'd pick this as a 12-15yo, based on both nose and palate. Light and vibrant, the pears shone through, with some slight oak notes showing at the back of the palate.

Finish: Medium to long, with those oak notes shining through a bit more. Smooth right to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Certainly a good whisky, and to be honest - about as good as I expected, but I wasn't expecting this to be a knock-my-socks-off, standout whisky, because let's face it, if it was, <mystery distillery> probably would have kept it for themselves right?

Just 130 years of age in 110mL...

 - Martin.

Tasted #49: Master of Malt 40yo (2nd edition) (#101drams)

As I've mentioned on the blog before, Master of Malt run a fantastic sample service called "Drinks by the Dram", with literally hundreds of drams available at very reasonable prices. They're based in the UK, and their shipping costs aren't too friendly unless you're buying a few full-size bottles too (or a LOT of samples), but it really is a great way to try a special dram without forking out hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for a bottle. From Southern Comfort to a 1958 Glenfarclas, if you're keen to try something, it's worth checking out. I've found generally the prices are much better than ordering similar whiskies at Australian bars (if you can even find the whisky at a bar).

I'd been keen to try their 50yo for a while (see tasting notes here), so figured I'd give the 40yo a go too (a ful bottle is $445AUD but the sample is only $22 or so). 

In the interests of being mysterious (and you know, probably protecting the original distillery's reputation and whatnot), Master of Malt don't mention the distillery from which the 40 and 50yo drams come, except to say they're Speyside single malts. I really don't know which distillery this came from, nor will I take a guess, though they do call it a single malt so it's not from a teaspooned* cask (so unlikely to be from Glenfiddich or The Balvenie, who are known to teapsoon the majority of casks they release externally).

On with the tasting then...

Master of Malt 40yo (2nd Edition) (43% ABV, 40yo, Speyside Scotland, £28.24 for a dram)

Colour: Rich copper - not overly dark, but not dissimilar to other 40yo whiskies around this strength.

Nose: As I was expecting/hoping for - complex, with the expected leather and oak notes, but also sesame seeds and fresh laundry! 

Palate: Lighter than the nose suggests. Slightest hints of smoke give way to tangy orange notes, and some residual oak (though not so oaky that I felt like I was chewing an oak stave).

Finish: Oaky and long, but with none of the complex notes I've had on other similarly-aged whiskies. Reminds me of a Glenfiddich 30yo.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. An enjoyable dram, but I wouldn't rush out and buy a bottle at $445AUD.

 - Martin.

* "Teaspooning" is when a small measure of one distillery's malt whisky is added to a cask of another, effectively making the whisky a blended (or vatted) malt, and no longer a "single malt". Typically done to protect the reputation of distilleries who are putting their casks out there on the market for blenders / independent bottlers. If anyone ever comes across a "Burnside" (Balvenie with a dash of Glenfiddich) or "Warhead" (the reverse), please let me know!

Tasted #48: The Glenrothes (Duncan Taylor Lonach) 1969 40yo

I figured I should make the last two "Tasted" posts in the #40s both 40yo whiskies...because hey, why not? This sample came to me from Cooper from the very stylish whisky blog (cheers mate!)

The Glenrothes (Duncan Taylor) 1969 Lonach 40yo (40.3% ABV, 40yo, Speyside Scotland)

Colour: Light, pale straw. Odd for such an old whisky.

Nose: Fresh flowers, grass, hints of hay. Not what you'd expect of something sitting in oak for 40 years.

Palate: Bigger and bolder than the nose - still with the hay/straw notes, but also boiled lollies. Still fresh, almost youthful, but as you might expect, incredibly smooth.

Finish: Short, I'd go so far as to say almost non-existant. I get that it's only 40.3% ABV, but the shortness of the finish still took me by surprise.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Smooth and enjoyable, but I've better whiskies, both younger and older.

On the right - the 40yo The Glenrothes.
On the left - a 7yo Heartwood whisky ("Release the Beast") from Tasmania!
 - Martin.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Distilleries of the United Kingdom - Part 3

Part 1 saw visits to Oban & Talisker, Part 2 took in Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet. For part 3 - Glen Moray, Abelour, Dalwhinnie, Glenfarclas and Jameson.


 - Martin.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Tasted #47: The Balvenie 14yo Cuban Selection

The Balvenie 14yo Cuban Selection (43% ABV, 14yo, Speyside Scotland)

Nose: Light, refreshing, with sweet, seabreeze (surely somewhat subliminal?) notes

Palate: Slight tang, but not the berry tang of a sherried Speysider. Sweet, but not overpowering. Well balanced.

Finish: Long and delicious. Sweet, syrupy, excellent. It's rare that I prefer a whisky's finish over its nose or palate, but that's the case here.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Better than Glenfiddich 21yo (also finished in rum casks)? I think so.

 - Martin.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Bar review #9: Papa Gedes Bar (Sydney)

In another win for the Sydney Bar scene, Papa Gedes Bar opened tonight, adding another fantastic, friendly small bar to Sydney's laneways, with a touch of voodoo. Inspired by it's namesake (the "Voodoo Spirit of Lust & Humour, Mascot of Good Times"), the bar pulls off the voodoo theme well, without going overboard or straying into the domain of kitsch.

Found at the end of a laneway/driveway at 346-348 Kent St (just past Since I Left You), the venue was previously a garage - which would explain the lengthy fit-out time, which the team chronicled in minute detail via their awesome Twitter feed (@PapaGedesbar) - we just hope they keep up the tweets now that they're up and running.

Steph and I checked it out during the soft launch last Saturday and were impressed. You don't usually expect soft launches to be perfect, and you can forgive the odd mistake, average drink, or niggle...but there was no need. The team had everything running like clockwork, the cocktail menu was fantastic, and (whilst not huge) covered a broad range of drinks - something for everyone. The team of 3 (Lara, Mick and Josh) were all on-hand taking orders, mixing drinks and making sure everyone was having a good time. Clearly a bar team who care.

Favourite drinks were the Remedy No.1 (Bourbon, Creme Brûlée, tea syrup and port) followed by the Psychopomp (Cognac, maple syrup, lemon and egg white). Despite being in soft launch mode when we visited, it was clear the owners (whose experience spans Red Lantern, ivy Pool Club, Grandmas and Wild Rover) have spent a lot of time on the details - from the glassware, wallpaper, decorations, lighting and (most impressively) the sound system, which pumped out an eclectic but awesome mix of tunes. Oh, and the church pews mixed in with comfy couches? Great touch.

The spirits selection is well thought out, with whiskies ranging from Macallan, Red Breast and Laprhoaig, to Bookers, Bakers and the ubiquitous JW Blue. The wine list seemed to have a French focus, although we did notice an Argentinian Malbec from Exclusive Vines, who we're big fans of. Feel like channelling a New Orleans vibe? Plenty of Absinthe for that.

Papa Gedes isn't a big bar (licenced for 60), but it seems like a bar with a lot of heart, and will no doubt win favour with Sydney's small bar crowd, without any spells needing to be cast. We'll certainly be back.

Papa Gedes Bar can be found at 346-348 Kent St Sydney, and opens from Monday-Saturday, 5pm to midnight.

 - Martin.

Sunday 3 November 2013

The Macallan 1824 Series Australian launch event

(By Steph)

I’ve recently reconsidered my take on Monday nights. When you think of Monday, what do you think of? Monday blues? Although I do love what I do for work, it’s always a little disheartening knowing that you have 5 full days to push through before you have 2 blissful days of weekend. The solution? Spend your Monday night at the Australian launch of The Macallan 1824 series! It turns the Monday blues into Monday excitement, particularly when the spectacular location of such a launch is the stunning Blu Bar on Level 36 at Sydney’s Shangri-La hotel. Who can argue with fine whiskies matched with this view?

The night started with a bang in the form of a cocktail inspired by the flavours and aroma of The Macallan 1824 Amber expression. Created using Crème de Gingembre, homemade vanilla syrup, grapefruit bitters and lime, it was a delightfully refreshing cocktail, and the freeze-dried apple garnish made a delicious talking-point.  Cheryl Tang, Brand Ambassador for The Macallan in Australia provided the 100 or so guests with a brief introduction to the brand and expressions (as a few guests joked beforehand, it was almost guaranteed we'd hear the phrase "Rolls Royce of whiskey", and we weren't disappointed), and as always, it was a pleasure to listen to Andrew Derbridge, Director and Cellarmaster of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Australia talk us through each expression.

I’ll admit, Martin and I had tried the 3 expressions (Amber (40%), Sienna (43%) and Ruby (43%)) at The Oak Barrel’s Whisky Fair in September, and Martin recently posted an article about the Australian release, including some background on the growing NAS (No Age Statement) trend, so we had an idea of what to expect. NAS, sherried, luxurious and reflective of the colours of each expression. My favourite expression would have to be Sienna, however I'd also give the Ruby a sideways glance. All expressions were aged in sherry oak casks with natural colours and flavours (i.e. no added caramel). Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for sherry-aged whisky so the three expressions received my tick of approval. Martin also enjoyed the range more than previous Macallans, and found the Sienna his favourite too.

We were told that the canapés (created by Altitude Head Chef, Matthew McCool) were tasty and a great match for the whiskies, however sadly we'll have to go on this anecdotal evidence, as only one of the savoury canapés ended up making it around to our group (even though we were in a prominent part of the small room). Talking to other guests it seemed a significant number of us missed out on most of the food. Mind you, the chocolate truffle infused with Ruby, which we were able to try, was a delicious end to the night. 

Whilst the location and whiskies were both fantastic (and a great match for each other), it did seem like a number of guests really didn't care for anything except free cocktails and whisky, and consistently talked over the presentation of the whiskies by Andrew (who did an excellent job, considering the crowd, and read the audience well).

For an event that served (generous amounts of) alcohol and ran from 6:30-8:30pm, a little more food wouldn’t have gone astray. Most guests appeared to drizzle out as soon as the last expression was tried, perhaps to satisfy their growling stomachs. But overall, well done to Beam, CCA, Exposure PR and The Macallan for choosing such a stunning location and for curing my Monday blues. A fitting launch for what is sure to be a popular series in Australia.

- Steph.

(Martin will post detailed tasting notes on the series shortly).