Tuesday 26 August 2014

Tasted #116: Black Bottle (#101drams)

When I started the #101dram Charitable Challenge in February 2013, I included a mix of rare, common, unusual, cheap, expensive, blended and single malt whiskies (and one or two white dogs as well). One that made its way onto the list, by virtue of being three of those things (unusual, blended, and cheap), was Black Bottle.

At the time, it was a blended whisky containing almost every Islay malt currently in existence. I'm told it's now no longer Islay-focused (an indication of the rising price / scarcity of aged Islay whisky perhaps?) Whatever the case, this post is about the older, Islay-focused blend, which comes in the still-style bottle.

At the time, it was about $44AUD from Vintage Cellars (seems they still stock it, for $52 now), so it was pretty easy to take a punt on a whole bottle (I figured worst-case scenario, I'd use it for cocktails like smokey Blood & sands).

Turns out, it's not half-bad on its own.

Black Bottle (40% ABV, NAS, Scotland, $51.99AUD).
Colour: Light honied gold.

Nose: Young and spirity, the peat smoke is there, but it's not huge like you might expect.

Palate: More peat smoke than the nose, but also potato bake and some residual honey notes which were very welcome. A quick look at the glass, and the complete lack of legs, suggests this isn't terribly old, nor high in ABV (it does feel a little thin on the palate, but it is only 40% ABV).

Finish: More peat smoke still, short and hot, with some asparagus notes and a slight hint of those sweet honey notes from the palate.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. Not likely to set the world on fire, but for the price, it certainly punches above its weight (how many decent Islay whiskies can you find in Australia, readily available, for ~$50AUD)? ...and hey, if you don't love it, it makes a mean smokey Blood & Sand.


Wednesday 20 August 2014

This Week in Whisk(e)y #11

As you might know if you read this blog regularly, we get a fair few interesting press releases and news articles here at TimeforWhisky, and usually try to feature them with our own spin, experiences or comments. Sometimes though, they come thick and fast, and we just don't have time to do them all justice.

So we've decided to take a leaf out of some other excellent whisky blogs, and feature a "PR roundup" every now and then - basically a wrap-up of relevant press releases we've received in the previous week (or other interesting whisk(e)y news Steph & I think you might enjoy). So on with it then...

Lark Distillery wins national business award
Not all these news items are about new whiskies (or furoshikis - see below)....sometimes they're about celebrating the great work small independent distillers have done. Especially when one of those distillers is effectively the "founding father"of Whisky in Australia. I'm talking of course about Bill Lark, of Lark Distillery who was awarded the Small Business Award at the 2014 Telstra Business Awards in Melbourne earlier this month.

Will Irving, Group Managing Director of Telstra Business and Telstra Business Awards Ambassador, said:
“Lark Distillery is a trail blazer that initiated the development of the Australian whisky industry and has now matured into a premium player on the international whisky stage.
Lark Distillery is the quintessential small family business success story. Starting with no plant, no finance and no customers, and needing to get the law changed to even start their business, Bill and Lyn Lark have been pivotal in founding whisky distilling in Australia. 
Their focus on high quality ingredients, authentic production methods, product innovation and the overall customer experience, has put Australian Whisky on the map as an internationally recognised success.”
Well deserved accolades indeed.

Suntory Whisky and Akira Isogawa celebrate the Art of Giving
Back in May we blogged about the excellent Launch of Suntory Whisky in Australia event at Sydney's Art Gallery of NSW. Good fortune found me standing next to the very friendly Akira Isogawa (renowned international fashion designer), who as we mentioned in the article, mentioned he was collaborating with Suntory on limited release packaging/scarves - details of which are now available.

To quote the press release:
Suntory Whisky has partnered with renowned Japanese-Australian designer Akira Isogawa to celebrate the Art of Giving. The multi-award winning distillery has worked with Akira to create a limited edition traditional scarf used to wrap gifts, known in Japan as “furoshiki”, which was designed exclusively for the Suntory Whisky Australian range.
Having recently expanded its luxury offering in the Australian market, Suntory Whisky is launching this exclusive collaboration in time for Father’s Day and the Christmas season. The Japanese distiller celebrates the Art of Giving each year; a concept that centres on acknowledging the joy found in offering gifts to loved ones and the power of a thoughtfully chosen gift.
“The partnership between Suntory Whisky and Akira was a natural marriage; one of Australia’s best designers coming together with the leading Japanese whisky. We are aiming to celebrate quality craftsmanship and the importance of honouring those you love with a truly unique item,” said Suntory Australia managing director, Ian Atherton. 
“With our extended range of Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki whiskies now available in Australia, we see the luxury range as the perfect gift for those who appreciate fine spirits and the limited edition furoshiki as a beautiful finishing touch.” 
Like origami, furoshiki is considered an integral part of Japanese culture. For 2000 years, the furoshiki served as a special pouch to hold personal items. Today, the ancient custom has become fashionable in Japan as a beautiful eco-friendly, lasting wrapping for gifts.  
Just 300 of the ‘Akira for Suntory Whisky’ furoshiki have been produced. The limited edition scarves will be available in selected specialty retailers around Australia from August 2014 ahead of Father’s Day on Sunday 9 September. The furoshiki will be available as a gift with purchase to wrap one of the hero whiskies – Yamazaki 12 years old, Hakushu 12 years old or Hibiki 17 years old."
As if you needed an excuse to enjoy Yamazaki, Hakushu or Hibiki, but if you're looking for a unique Father's day gift, this could be one to consider. The furoshiki will be exclusively available as a gift with purchase in the following retailers from now:

New South Wales:
- Oak Barrel; www.oakbarrel.com.au
- World of Whisky; www.worldofwhisky.com.au

- Cru Bar + Cellar; www.crubar.com

- Nick’s Wine Merchants; www.nicks.com.au
- The Wigs Cellar; www.thewigscellar.com.au
- Sea Breeze Cellars; (03) 5987 0877

South Australia:
- Fassina Liquor Merchants; www.fassina.com.au
- Parafield Airport Liquor Store; www.palsliquor.com.au

Johnnie Walker Blue Label presents "The Gentleman's Wager"
OK, so this one didn't exactly "come to us" as a press release, but it is very cool, in a "that's completely unrealistic, but damn I wish that was me" way. Watch below:

- Martin.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Bar Review #11: Angel's Share (Hong Kong)

With the blog now having a joint focus on Hong Kong, a city famed for it's bars and nightlife, it would be remiss of us to not cover off the city's whisk(e)y bars (of which there are many*). A few weeks ago we wrote about about Quinary, a fantastic cocktail bar in the heart of Hong Kong, and now it's time to cover their whisky-focused sister venue Angel's Share, a short stroll away. Angel's Share came recommended to Steph and I personally by Bill Lark of Lark Distillery a few months earlier, so we knew it had to be good.

With a name like Angel's Share, you're probably thinking they might serve a dram or two...and you'd be right. Not limiting the selection solely to bottles of whisky however, the bar proudly displays their own full-size 210L cask of whisky, from which they serve drams using a stunning glass valinch. At the time of our visit, it was full of 1995 single cask The Glenlivet NCF at 49% ABV (guess what Martin ordered first up...)

If Quinary is located in the heart of Hong Kong's Central district, then Angel's Share is really located in the heart, located on Hollywood Rd, a stone's throw from the Mid-Levels Escalator. Thankfully though, it's a world apart from the many touristy / ex-pat bars in the area, almost like a second floor refuge, with enough whisky to last a lifetime.

I've always found it interesting that bars can boast 100+ whiskies, and when you look at the menu, you realise you've either:
  • Tried them all; or
  • Tried all the ones you want to try.
Thankfully that's not the case here, as Angel's Share boast a number of rare and unique whiskies, along with the usual favourites. In addition to the aforementioned The Glenlivet 1995 17yo ($180HKD, approx $25AUD), and the former single cask Highland Park 1997 14yo (which used to reside in a cask but now lives in glass due to dwindling supplies), the menu includes gems such as the port pipe finished Bowmore Voyage ($290HKD, approx $40AUD), 21yo Douglas Laing's OMC Rosebank 1990 ($280HKD, approx $39AUD), 12yo Douglas Laing's Provenance Craigellechie 1999 ($118HKD, approx $16AUD) and three bottlings from Ichiro's Malt "card series".

If those are a little extravagant, the menu has plenty of classics like Glenfarclas 105 cask strength ($118HKD, approx $16AUD), Balvenie 12 DoubleWood, Bowmore 12 and Laphroaig 10 (all $98HKD, approx $13.50AUD). Not bad considering Hong Kong's 100% tax on spirits.

The bar is a generous size for Hong Kong, with plenty of seating available both at the bar and in cosy booths overlooking Hollywood Rd. Staff and management were all very welcoming and friendly, and it seems like the sort of bar who regularly update their whisky selection, as we spotted a the recently-released Highland Park Freya on the bar.

For those who prefer their whisky mixed, the bar also offers plenty in the way of whisk(e)y cocktails, including some very interesting, tasty and uniquely Asian "Signature Old Fashioneds", like "Rittenhouse 100 proof rye sweetened with a refreshing touch of yuzu" and "Chinese dried logan infused Rittenhouse 100 proof rye, Okinawa black sugar replacing the traditional sugar cube". 

Angel's Share would be a great place to bring a group for drinks before or after dinner (or even during - they also serve food), but equally it's the sort of place you could drop in with your partner, or even solo. Welcoming, inviting, comfortable, and with a great whisky selection. We're sold! 

 - Steph & Martin.

*and many more reviews to follow.