Tuesday 30 September 2014

Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year old Launch in Sydney (Tasted #125)

The Australian launch of the specially crafted Glenfiddich Excellence 26 was matched with an intimate story of the journey of the casks from which this single malt was bottled. The story, captured through a series of 26 delicate images by the celebrated Scottish landscape photographer Simmon Butterworth, explains the life of the casks from their humble beginning to their final home in Scotland.

Held at the old, splendid and well preserved Elizabeth Bay House, the folks at William Grant & Sons Australia have not only allowed the elegance of its new expression to shine, but also allowed the intricate and fine details of the house be appreciated. Once a private house, the house is remarkably delicate and beautiful with sweeping staircases, lavish interiors and furnishings (the perfect setting for the launch of such a whisky). Over the years, the house  has been converted into a museum and is now open for public viewings throughout the year.

Matching the elegance of the house were a number equally elegant and more commonly appreciated expressions including the Glenfiddich 12yo, Glenfiddich 14yo (Rich Oak), Glenfiddich 15yo, Glenfiddich 18yo and the Glenfiddich 21yo. Also making an appearance on the night was the "And see my baby" cocktail - finalist cocktail from the Pioneers Cocktail Competition last year, also served at the 125 years of pioneering spirit dinner TimeforWhisky attended in 2013.

Following the warm embrace of the welcoming cocktails and canapes, we were ushered into the cellar for the second part of the night. Located below the house, the original sandstone cellar was delicately used to showcase the 26 photographs which visually narrated the voyage of the casks from Kentucky through to their resting place in Scotland. The American Oak was originally used to age bourbon whiskey for 3 years in Kentucky, before being transported, refreshed and used as basis for maturation of this single malt in Scotland.

James Buntin, the Glenfiddich / Balvenie Australian ambassador (and soon to be Balvenie ambassador in the UK) presented the star of the night, the 26 year old final result of the journey, the Glenfiddich Excellence 26. James described the Glenfiddich Excellence 26 as one of his favourite, with a particularly long, deep and complex finish - the underlying character that warrants the value of such malt.

A hug and a kiss of the bottle by James before we dove into the tasting. At first glance, the Glenfiddich Excellence 26 appears quite lighty coloured for its age. Then again, Glenfiddich does tend to control the colouring of its whisky across certain expressions (Martin: When you're the world's number 1 selling single malt, people expect you to be consistent!). On the nose, this expression is quite light and sweet though the fieriness soon arrives on the palate. As James hinted, the finish was incredibly long, peppery and lasted for quite some time.

Glenfiddich Excellence 26 (43% ABV, 26yo, Speyside, Scotland, $590AUD)
Nose: Light and golden
Nose: Gentle, sweet pudding, honey
Palate: Very light (for the age) at first, peppery, fiery then vanilla
Finish: Incredibly very long finish with lingering pepper
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

The launch of this new, beautiful 26 year old expression along with the exhibiting of the 26 remarkable photographs was astounding. The retail price of this expression is $590AUD, higher priced than other Glenfiddich expressions though suitably justified given its delicate craftmanship and final characters.

The Glenfiddich Excellence 26 is available in Australian stores from early October.

A big thanks to the William Grant & Sons Australia for what was another successful event.

- Hendy.

Friday 26 September 2014

The Naked Grouse "Less is More" Concert 2014 (Hong Kong)

Since Steph and I started this blog over two years ago, we've tasted some fantastic whisky, attended some brilliant events, and met some wonderful people.

We've also experienced whisky paired with amazing views, delicious dinners, rare cheese and even bespoke chocolate.

...but there's one pairing we haven't yet explored. In fact, one question we haven't yet answered:

Does blended whisky pair well with Korean A Cappella?

Turns out....it does.

I should explain. Edrington's The Naked Grouse is a blended whisky containing a good proportion of The Macallan and Highland Park, aged in first fill sherry barrels. It follows the "less is more" ethos, with pared-back packaging allowing the whisky to take focus.

To celebrate, each year for the past three years the brand has hosted a "Less is More" event in Hong Kong, showcasing the whisky in a relaxed, 'Less is More' environment. What better accompaniment to such an event than an A Cappella band right? This year, it was Korean group MayTree.


Held at Hong Kong's The Fringe Club, the night started with canapés and The Naked Grouse served neat, on the rocks or with soda. Again, keeping to the 'Less is More' principle and letting the whisky be the focus. 

Not having tried this whisky before, I decided to go for neat. Not always a good move with cheaper blends, but I was pleasantly surprised. Whilst I didn't take detailed tasting notes (they wouldn't have been too accurate tasting from a tumbler anyway), it reminded me a lot of a younger Macallan. Definitely a big sherry influence, certainly very enjoyable on its own, and considering its $380HKD pricetag (around $55AUD), good value indeed.


After a few drams, a few more of those tasty canapés and bumping into fellow whisky friends (Hong Kong really is a small place), it was down to the basement for the concert.

...which, I have to say, was fantastic. We weren't really sure what to expect (this being our first Korean A Cappella gig and all...) but we really enjoyed it. The voices of all five members were amazing, but most impressive were the musical instruments they emulated. You'd honestly think you were listening to a live band, instruments and all, if you closed your eyes.

Don't take our work for it though - check out the clips below (unfortunately not the best sound recording, but impressive singing nonetheless).


After a lengthy enjoyable set and a few more drams (the frequency with which glasses were topped up was a sight to behold - needless to say no-one went thirsty) it was time to leave, finally being able to answer the question "Does blended whisky pair well with Korean A Cappella?" with an emphatic "yes"!

Steph & Martin.

Thursday 25 September 2014

PR #22: Ardbeg Supernova 2014 Australian release

Ardbeg...we've featured them once or twice (*cough*) on this blog, and gushed (jusifiably so) over their brilliantly-run events, their stunning releases and of course their absolutely fantastic whisky.

Moet Hennessy Australia, and their PR company EVH PR have a knack for knocking it out of the park when it comes to new Ardbeg releases in Australia, so when a familiar black bag arrived on the door step last week, I was understandably excited.

Could it be...a sample of the new (yet to be released) 2014 Supernova we've been hearing so much about?

It could indeed:

This new 2014 release celebrates a few things. Firstly, it sees the return of Ardbeg's "Supernova" after a four year absence (the original, released in 2009, was so popular with Committee members that it was brought back in 2010). Secondly, it coincides perfectly with the return of Ardbeg's ground-breaking space experiment launched in 2011.

After 1,045 days in space, that now-famous vial of Ardbeg sent into space in 2011 has returned, and is ready to be re-united with its "control sample" (an identical vial which has been housed at the distillery's No.3 Warehouse). Dr Bill Lumsden, along with a team of scientists in Houston, Texas will analyse the samples to determine the impact gravity has on whisky maturation. A white paper on the subject is due in 2015 and will no doubt prove very interesting reading.

The "one small step for man, one giant leap for whisky"-style comments will be inevitable, but the fact remains this is a pretty fascinating experiment, and one which could shed some new light on the maturation project. I for one can't wait.

Now, back to the 2014 Supernova, or "SN2014". Bottled at 55% (down from the respective 58.9% and 60.1% of "SN2009" and "SN2010"), the SN2014 is set to retain a similar level of peatiness to the previous releases, adding in citrus, smoke, peppermint and medicinal notes.

We'll of course be tasting it ourselves and giving you our personal notes (despite the frankly ridiculous prices these minis are fetching at the moment, we'll most definitely be opening and consuming it - as that's why it was sent to us), but that will be in mid October. As an added bonus though, we'll post up tasting notes on SN2009 too (which we found recently at a bar in Hong Kong).

The new 2014 Supernova will be released in December 2014 in Australia with an RRP of $240AUD. Sign up for notifications (and buy it) through the Moet Hennessy Collection.


Monday 22 September 2014

The Whisky Library - Hong Kong Whisky shop

When Steph and I moved to Hong Kong back in July, I dropped into one of my favourite shops The Armoury (in Landmark Men) in the first few days for a look around, and picked up a free magazine advertising some of the local shops. My eyes were instantly drawn to a feature on one called "The Whisky Library", in the very same building.

So next visit to Landmark Men I walked around, and around, and around, and couldn't find the shop anywhere. I asked in The Armoury who gave a vague response, and I eventually worked out (from the shop's Twitter account) that they'd closed for Summer, and were re-opening in another shopfront in the same building.

Fast forward to September and we dropped by after work one day (having seen the construction of the shop underway over the previous weeks), and managed to pick the opening day. Timing!

A quick chat to Marlon, the store's manager / whisky specialist, and it was clear this was a bloke who knew his whisky (somewhat a rarity in Hong Kong, it seems). We agreed to meet up for a dram and a longer chat the next week, when I brought the camera along and decided to snap a few photos.

The selection, whilst not huge (though certainly not small, and definitely the best we've seen in Hong Kong), is a well-curated mix of both Original and Independent Bottlings (some definitely on the rarer side), with a few Douglas Laing & Co staples (Big Peat, Scallywag) and Kilchomans as the core products.

Marlon explained the shop isn't just about "shifting bottles" and they only stock whiskies they've personally tasted and approved. Walking around with a dram of 22yo Littlemill in my hand (and later a G&T made with the excellent Bar Hill Gin), I took a look around the store and noticed some pretty impressive bottlings, including a number of Samaroli whiskies and rums (Samaroli being an Independent Bottler that I'd always heard good things about, but that we never heard much of in Australia). Other interesting independent bottlings included:
  • 22yo Ardbeg (Hunter Laing & Co "Old & Rare")
  • 21yo Ardbeg from 1992 (Hunter Laing & Co "Old Malt Cask")
  • 31yo Caol Ila (Hunter Laing & Co "Old Malt Cask")
  • 23yo "Dunyvaig" from Silver Seal ("Dunyvaig" being the name used to mask the real distillery, which may or may not be a distillery which is closest to Dunyvaig castle...)
  • 30yo Port Ellen (Douglas Laing & Co "Executive Decision")
  • 40yo Glen Grant from 1973 (Samaroli)

All of which were impressive, but it was the Original Bottlings that I was most impressed by, including:
  • 40yo Ardbeg OB from 1965 (one of only 261 bottles)
  • 35yo Talisker
  • Ardbeg Lord of the Isles
  • Glenfarclas 1971 Family Casks (bottled for Independent Bottlers Silver Seal, but still an OB)
  • ..and some very old Macallans!

Not bad for day 1! The prices of those latter bottlings were, as expected, up there, though considering Hong Kong's 100% tax on anything over 30% ABV, the prices in general were reasonable, especially considering the rarity and quality of a number of the bottlings. The "core" range of Kilchoman, Big Peat, Scallywag and Double Barrel etc... were all the price you'd expect in Hong Kong (and there was even a 4.5L Jeroboam of Big Peat, if you just can't get enough of the stuff!)

After sufficiently touring the store, Marlon took me to visit their smaller, more private store a few blocks away ("The Gentlemans' Library") which houses an equally good selection and is conveniently located right next door to a fantastic cigar lounge. Match made in heaven? I think so.

Anyone looking for a unique, rare or just downright good quality bottle of Whisky in Hong Kong could do well to drop by The Whisky Library and pay Marlon a visit.


Friday 19 September 2014

Smoked Meats and Whisk(e)y at the Eastern Hotel (Sydney) (Tasted #117 - 124)

Please join me in welcoming Hendy to his first official post for the blog.  -Martin.

When I first heard of this event, I got curious as I'd never paired or even thought about pairing whisk(e)y with meat. Though when you think about it, it does make sense to pair a smokey charred meat dish with, perhaps a peaty, smokey whisky (and they don't come a whole lot more peaty than some of Bruichladdich's offerings).

The event was a collaboration between the South Trade and Eastern Hotel teams, and was a rather interesting night, as it introduced what is, in my view, the contrasting nature of different whiskies; low parts per million (ppm) to crazy phenol-laden mega-ppm, Islay to Kentucky, barley to grain, whisky to whiskey.

There were a total of eight whiskies from two distilleries being showcased on the night;
Four Scotch whiskies from the Bruichladdich distillery in the Islay region of Scotland:
  • Bruichladdich Laddie Classic
  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10yo
  • Bruichladdich Black Art 3
.. and four bourbon whiskies from the Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky, USA:
  • Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • Eagle Rare 10yo
  • Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel
  • William Larue Weller Bourbon
The line up was great, though the ever famous Octomore was absent from the Bruichladdich range, having its peaty self represented on the night by its slightly less peaty brethren; the Port Charlotte Scottish Barley.

The night began quite nicely with the original Buffalo Trace bourbon, also once known as George Stagg. This original feature bourbon from the Buffalo Trace distillery was rather enjoyable, exhibiting sweet flavour notes including toffee and caramel - a good start to the night.

One interesting fact with this bourbon and the distillery from which it came - the name of the bourbon and the distillery have both been adapted from the group of buffaloes that would migrate through the Kentucky river close to the distillery, leaving their marking 'trace' or trail. 

The striking aqua Bruichladdich "Laddie Classic" followed the Buffalo Trace bourbon. Welcoming itself into the night as the first Scotch, this minimally peated whisky was quite balanced. A touch of iodine presented itself on the palate, and it was sweet on the nose and long on the finish. Johannes from South Trade explained the story behind the striking blue colour adorning this 'laddie. Supposedly, the aqua was based on the colour of Loch Indaal, a loch by the distillery. Jim McEwan (Master Distiller) would see the colour each time he gazed out the Bruichladdich distillery window. One does wonder whether the creation of the darker bottled Black Art or the Octomore were done, perhaps, late at night...

Throughout the night, different meat dishes were served including cold meat platters to begin, smokey and sweet BBQ NZ Greenstone Creek short ribs, slow cooked (read:18 hour) shredded Berkshire pork shoulder, and buffalo chicken wings (Ed: I'm getting hungry...). All the dishes were there to get our palates excited, whilst also being designed to complement the drams being served (the focus of the night was clearly on the whisky).

Johannes from South Trade  touched on some details of the Bruichladdich peating process that underpins Bruichladdich's famous super heavily peated Octomore, the less heavily peated Port Charlotte Scottish Barley and other peated range involves (for those unfamiliar with peated malts) the burning and layering of the aromatic peat compounds below the racks of barleys during the barley drying process. By placing below the layers of barleys the barley absorbs as much aromatic smoke from the peat compounds as possible, creating the peated whiskies we all know and love.

It was towards the end of the night, when the decadent slice of chocolate cake was served that I encountered my two favourites - the Elmer T Lee bourbon from Buffalo Trace and the Bruichladdich Black Art (3). Both of these whiskies are wonderfully creamy, rich and complex. The Elmer T Lee was able to carry the sweetness from the oak from the nose through to the palate and beyond. I did wonder whether I was devouring an ice cream from the glass - quite wonderful. 

The Black Art carried similar sweet notes. Being unpeated, the Black Art smelt not of peat, but of rum and raisin and honey. It was quite leathery on the palate, though this might relate to the older age of the (22yo) whisky - nevertheless beautiful. The finish, similar to the Elmer T Lee, excellent. The Black Art and the Elmer T Lee lasted well beyond the palate.

As with all good things, they must come to an end. The end of the night was capped off with a slice of a sweet decadent chocolate cake along with a dram of William Larue Weller bourbon. Both, I have to say, were intensely rich. The bourbon, big and long on the palate and the cake intensely rich and sweet.

So, after all the pairing, was I sold on the pairing between whisky and meat? Yes and no. I still prefer my dram nice and neat, perhaps a pairing with a cigar? Though the line up tonight was indeed very sweet, quite literally for a number of the drams.

Full tasting notes below...

Bruichladdich Laddie Classic (46% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, $87.90AUD)
Nose: Sweet honey, vanilla, slightly salty
Palate: The vanilla flows from the nose, then peppery spicy, salty, seaweed?
Finish: Vanilla cake, graciously long sweet vanilla finish
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon (40% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, $48.90AUD)
Nose: Toffee, caramel, very sweet
Palate: Very rich, smooth, caramel, toffee, there's a bit of toasty char in there
Finish: Peppery, long and smooth
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley (50% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, $95.99AUD)
Nose: Good dose of the aromatic peat, iodinish, medicinal, taint
Palate: Whack of peat, full bodied, peppery and spicy
Finish: Medium to long finish, spicy, and the peaty char lingers
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Eagle Rare 10yo (45% ABV, 10yo, Kentucky, USA, $69.99AUD)
Nose: Caramel, honey, sweet dessert wine
Palate: Peppery, vanilla, fruity, you can taste the maple wood
Finish: Quite a long and dry finish
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10yo (50% ABV, 10yo, Islay, Scotland, ~$77.57AUD)
Nose: Sweet vanilla mixed with char from the peat
Palate: Caramel, chocolate and peat smoke (surprisingly good balance of sweet and peat)
Finish: Smooth, medium finish, peppery note lingers
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel (45% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, $92.90AUD)
Nose: Vanilla
Palate: Sweet, honey, vanilla, almost like eating ice cream
Finish: Long, dry and sweet
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

Bruichladdich Black Art 3 (48.7% 22yo, Islay, Scotland, $279.99AUD)
Nose: Rum, raisin, perhaps honey
Palate: Vanilla, gun powder? quite leathery (might be from the age)
Finish: Very long and exquisite sweet, creamy finish, yum
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

William Larue Weller Bourbon (67.5% ABV, 12yo, Kentucky, USA, $345AUD)
Nose: Very rich, vanilla, sweet
Palate: Very big hit of peppery spices with a bit of char (almost need that dash of water)
Finish: Very, very long and sweet and rich finish
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 91/100.


Thursday 18 September 2014

This week in whisk(e)y #12

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...

Cutter joins the anCnoc Peaty Collection
Back in April we mentioned the new AnCnoc "Peaty Collection", and it seems the trio now have a fourth joining their ranks - "Cutter".

"On the 1st of September a new expression has been added to the acclaimed Peaty Collection. Cutter is the fourth in the series and the peatiest one so far. While Rutter, Flaughter and Tushkar had phenol contents ranging from 11 to 15 parts per million (ppm), their new sibling boasts a very high phenol content of 20.5 ppm, putting it in line with some of the most intensely smoky whiskies on the market. It is worth noting that the level of peating is measured on the finished whisky rather than the malt or the new make spirit, giving a more reliable description of the actual perceived level of peatiness. What's more, the phenol content is highlighted on the packaging to help whisky lovers make more informed decisions. 
Cutter is matured in ex-bourbon casks made from American oak. It is bottled at 46% ABV and non chill-filtered. Like all Peaty Collection expressions it is presented at its natural colour, a light shade reminiscent of lemon juice. The aroma is unmistakably peaty with oily smoke followed by a sharper, more medicinal note and a piercing ray of fruit and spice. On the palate it gains even more smoky intensity with ashy overtones, a slight apple-core bitterness and a spicy vanilla heart. This is a richly phenolic whisky for the seasoned peat-lovers or those looking to shine light on their dark side of flavour and experience the full force of a truly peaty dram. 
Cutter will be available from the 1st September in key international markets, such as the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and France to name but a few."

Cutter will sell for an RRP of $85AUD in Australia. No word yet on its release in Hong Kong.

Celebrate Jack Daniel’s birthday with “The Bar that Jack Built”
If you've been around the whisk(e)y scene for a few years (heck, if you've ever stepped foot into a bar pub that sells Jack in September), you'll probably have heard of "Jacktember", the month-long celebration of Jack Daniel's birthday.

Jacktember this year involves an ambitious new project in “The Bar That Jack Built” – the world’s first crowd-sourced bar built entirely "from the love of Jack Daniel’s", by fans.
"The campaign is being run through social media and kicks off with a recruitment shout-out to all Jack Daniel’s Facebook friends in NSW where the bar will be installed. They are being asked to donate materials, time, expertise and ideas in reward for Jack Daniel’s product and merchandise.  The more they give, the more they get with the biggest contributors getting tickets to the big birthday bash on the 27th of September.   
From the carpenters, electricians and designers who put the bar together, to the artists and musicians who perform on the night, every person’s involvement will come from a love of Jack Daniel’s.  Especially since everyone that participates will be rewarded with Jack Daniel’s product. 
Nora-Kate O’Connell, Brand Manager, Jack Daniel’s added, “We are asking friends of Jack to participate in the creation of a very special moment in Jack Daniel’s illustrious history. We are looking for people who can help us bring the bar to life and celebrate the inspiration that Jack has given people across Australia over the years. Here’s to raising a Jack to Jack this September.”
Having attended many a Jack Daniel's party previously, as well as one of their previous pop-up bars, I can assure you this will be one hell of a party and bar. Find out more information from this video on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=832815786753077  

Oak Barrel Michter’s Masterclass with Matt Magliocco
Funny timing this one. Since the move into Asia, we've been slowly re-building the basics we had at home, but sadly had to leave behind (thankfully in safe hands). Steph and I used up our measly 1L/person duty free allowance on a few Aussie whiskies, and so the basics like Rye, Bourbon, Gin etc... we needed to re-buy over here.

When looking at Ryes, I stumbled across Michter's, which I'd seen a lot of from reading various US mags, but never tried. As I couldn't find my beloved Bulleit 95, I took a punt and picked up a bottle of the single barrel rye. Tasty stuff.

Then just a week later, I hear that Michter's is officially launching in Australia, with a masterclass held at (where else?) Oak Barrel, led by Matt Magliocco from the distillery, walking guests through a lineup of:

  • Michter’s American whisky
  • Michter's Single Barrel rye
  • Michter’s Small batch Bourbon
  • Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey
  • Michter’s 10 Year Old Bourbon
  • Michter’s 10 year Old Rye

...for $10? Get outta here.

I'd love to try the 10yo and Small Batch Bourbon, but alas I can't, so you should all go and enjoy a dram (or 6 in fact) for me...

Palazzo Versace to host Chivas Regal Dinner
We've attended our fair share of whisk(e)y dinners over the past few years, and without fail they've always been a whole lot of fun. Sometimes the whisky matches brilliantly, sometimes not so much, but they're always fun-filled events, full of great food, great whiskies and plenty of banter.

So we have no doubt that the upcoming Chivas Regal Tasting Dinner at Palazzo Versace on October 20th will be the same. Hosted by Ben Davidson, National Spirits Ambassador for Chivas Regal (who's a fun fixture at most Chivas events in Australia), the night involves a four course dinner matched to:

...for $99.

$99 for a four course meal in Palazzo Versace's Vie Bar, with four whiskies (one of which you'd probably pay close to $50 for a nip in some bars), hosted by one of Pernod's most knowledgeable whisky folk.... sounds like a great night to us.

Date: Monday 20th October 2014
Price: $99 per person a four course dinner with Chivas Regal
Time: From 6.00pm
Venue: Vie Bar + Restaurant, Palazzo Versace - Sea World Drive, Main Beach, QLD Australia

To book, complete the booking form, or emailrsvp@palazzoversace.com.au or call Nicole Blunt on (07) 5509 8000


- Martin.