Wednesday 26 November 2014

This week in whisk(e)y #14

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 so (including other interesting whisk(e)y news Steph & I think you might enjoy). So on with it then...

Glengoyne's award winning year and Australian launch of 35 year old

Earlier this year we attended the fantastic launch of the Glengoyne 25yo, and now the distillery has taken it one step further with the release of the extremely limited 35 year old, now available in Australia.

Limited to 500 decanters (of which 6 will be available in Australia), the whisky comes in hand-blown and engraved decanter with a gold and crystal stopper, housed in a solid oak box with a red leather interior (much of which seems to be a pre-requisite for any 30+ year old whisky these days.) No doubt, it's a fantastic looking package.

Bottled at 46.8% ABV, the official tasting notes for the whisky are as follows:
NOSE: A rich full nose with fantastic depth. The classic Glengoyne apple character is at its heart, with complementary notes of papaya, mango and coconut giving a beautiful scent that can only come with decades in oak. Aged leather, Victoria sponge, dried citrus peel, honeycomb and saffron all add to the complexity of this incising nose. 
PALATE: A great oily texture that instantly coats the mouth with a burst of fruit. A whisky to hold on the palate for a long time as it keeps developing, with dried fruit, floral notes and gentle spice becoming almost creamy after time.
FINISH: The tropical fruit intensity returns and lingers at the back of the throat while the whisky becomes slowlydrier, with liquorice, brown sugar and dark chocolate beautifully balanced. A whisky not to be rushed!
Glengoyne 35 Year old is available from Dan Murphys for $5,000AUD.

Also on the topic of Glengoyne, the distillery has had a pretty fantastic 2014, capping off the year with two new awards at the Scottish Field Whisky Challenge:
"The family owned distillery has won more top awards this year than ever before with the latest, a double win at the Scottish Field Whisky Challenge, to add to the trophy cabinet. 
Glengoyne 25 Year Old was awarded the Top Distillery Bottling and a silver medal in the Over £80 category. 
The Scottish Field Whisky Challenge is now in its fourteenth year and is a key event in the Scotch whisky trade calendar. The winners are chosen through blind tasting by respected industry judges meaning the whisky is chosen solely on its own merit. 
Commenting on the awards, Neil Boyd, Commercial Director of Malts for Ian Macleod Distillers who own Glengoyne said: “2014 has truly been an award-winning year for us at Glengoyne and with another set of awards to add to our already record number for this year, this really is a fantastic accolade for us. We are looking forward to next year and the successes we hope it will bring.” 
Glengoyne is owned by one of Scotland’s leading, independent, family-owned distillers, Ian Macleod Distillers. Glengoyne is handcrafted from the finest sherry casks within Glengoyne’s traditional dunnage warehouses. Unlike most other single malt whiskies, Glengoyne dries its malted barley using only warm air resulting in a subtle yet complex malt where all the delicate flavours are freely expressed."

anCnoc launches 18 year old
We've featured anCnoc a few times on this blog, and this time around it's the 18 year old - a new addition to the core lineup.

anCnoc's Assistant Brand Manager Stephanie Bridge explains:
“2014 has been anCnoc’s most ambitious year to date. We unveiled our new Peaty Collection in April, two new expressions for Global Travel Retail and our hugely popular 2000 Vintage. We are confident that our new anCnoc 18 Year Old will be extremely popular amongst single malt aficionados with its unique taste profile and striking packaging.”
Per the press release:
"anCnoc 18 Year Old was matured in top quality hand-selected American oak ex-bourbon and European oak ex-sherry casks. The combination of the two types of wood gives this mature expression of anCnoc an outstanding depth, complexity and balance of flavour. It's a single malt for the most discerning drinker. The whisky is bottled at 46% ABV, non-chill filtered and presented at its natural colour. Initially 6,000 bottles will be available in key markets worldwide. The recommended retail price is £70." 
No word yet on AU or HK availability, but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw this released in Australia in 2015, based on previous anCnoc releases.

Old Dunbar distillery launches Kickstarter campaign
A few weeks ago we brought word of SIA Scotch's successful Kickstarter campaign (tasting notes due shortly), and now a Kentucky-based Bourbon distillery startup is hoping for similar success on Kickstarter, with the launch of Old Dunbar.

At the time of writing, the campaign has 23 days remaining and a way to go to reach its $100,000US target. There are a number of different rewards for backing (from as little as $10USD) though we note that many of them don't include a bottle of the whisky (a $250USD pledge does allow a "fill your own bottle" experience though, and several include distillery tours).

As with many new distilleries, the Kickstarter site mentions plans to produce gin and vodka, which makes a lot of sense to provide some cashflow as the whiskey matures.
"HENDERSON, KY USA – Jason Girard, the former executive chef at Buddy Guy’s Legends, is preparing to launch Old Dunbar Distillery in his grandmother’s birthplace of Henderson, Kentucky. Girard’s greatgrandfather, Colonel Felix E. Dunbar, lived his entire life in Henderson County. The Colonel was the county’s rural mail carrier (on horseback, wagon and eventually automobile) for more than 50 years and family legend has it that he delivered more than just the mail, during Prohibition... 
The startup distillery will launch a Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday, November 18 @ 7pm CST. The funds from the Kickstarter campaign will be used to purchase a handmade copper still and help pay for other costs (legal fees, licenses, etc.) involved in opening a craft distillery. The opening of Old Dunbar’s Downtown Henderson (distillery & tasting room) facility, is planned for September 2015. 
“We realize that it takes a long time to produce and age a true Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey,” Girard says. “We understand that the process is a labor of love. It takes several years of barrel aging to do it right. Our first priority is to make a memorable whiskey that is true to its heritage and worthy of the ‘top shelf.’”  
But it will take more than a family recipe and a few dollars to make Girard’s dream come true. “I want to create a legacy. Something my children, and their children, can participate in. A brand that will outlive me and a name, Old Dunbar, that will forever be synonymous with premium handcrafted Kentucky bourbon.” 
As an award winning chef, Girard understands the importance of using the best ingredients and plans to buy local, sustainably grown grain. And the chef-turned-distiller’spride in his Kentucky heritage is evident. 
“I used to visit Henderson, with my grandparents, as a child,” says Girard. “The family reunions, barbecues and burgoo (a community stew served at church picnics in western Kentucky) festivals are some of my favorite childhood memories. I love Henderson and I couldn’t imagine doing this anywhere else on earth. “The local economy has taken many hits, in recent years, while the craft spirits industry is booming. I believe that a destination distillery, in the heart of Downtown, could help get things turned back around.” 
Plans are in the works to purchase and renovate a 19th Century landmark, for the distillery and tasting room. Taking a page from the boutique Napa Valley wineries that Girard represented for several years, he’s also planning a second historic renovation that will house a Bed & Breakfast (for the brand’s loyal followers), along with the distiller’s residence, at the westernmost point on the famed Kentucky Bourbon Trail."
Note: As always, we can't and don't personally vouch for these projects, however this one seems to be run by a team with a lot of passion for Kentucky and Kentucky Bourbon, and we wish them the best of luck.

Suntory's recent award wins
It's been a big year for Suntory. After officially launching in Australia earlier this year, the distillery has gone on to win a host of awards, including being named the “Distiller of the Year” by the International Spirits Challenge (ISC) in July for the third year in a row and fourth time overall since 2010. Also presented in the ISC 2014 were nine gold awards for individual whiskies including Hibiki 21 Years Old, Hakushu Sherry Cask 2014 and Yamazaki 18 Years Old. We're also tipping them to be at the fore of what we predict will be a huge boom in Highball popularity in Australia this summer.

..and yes, there was that chap with long grey hair who said he liked the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 quite a lot, but as I've tried to point out previously on this site, I don't place a lot of importance or value on the opinion's of one single person. That's why, when it comes to awards in the whisk(e)y world (of which there are many), I prefer those which see spirits tasted by a panel of judges, blind.

Regardless, there's no doubt that Suntory's whisky portfolio is a fantastic one, and they produce some cracking whiskies that easily rival Scotland's best. Steph and I are visiting both Yamazaki and Hakushu for distillery tours in December, and can't wait.
"Commenting on the accolades, Yosuke Minato, GM of Trade Marketing & Corporate Planning at Suntory Australia, said: “Suntory Whisky is the most highly awarded house of Japanese whisky which is testament to the superb products produced by the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries. Suntory Whisky can be described as having a delicate and elegant flavour profile, and is synonymous with quality and sophistication. 
“Japanese whisky has also been very well-received in Australia and we’re experiencing significant ongoing demand from consumers looking for a refined, subtle yet complex whisky. Delicious when consumed neat or as a highball (with soda water), Suntory Whisky is also a fantastic accompaniment to food and pairs nicely with a broad range of cuisines in addition to Japanese,” added Yosuke."
The Suntory Whisky range currently available in Australian includes:
Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve                       RRP AU$80
Yamazaki 12 year old                                  RRP AU$110
Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve                         RRP AU$80
Hakushu 12 year old                                    RRP AU$110
Hibiki 12 year old                                        RRP AU$110
Hibiki 17 year old                                        RRP AU$150

Our tasting notes and thoughts on these whiskies can be found here.

Until next time...

- Martin.

Monday 24 November 2014

Bar Review #12: Nocturne (Hong Kong)

When we first arrived in Hong Kong, we made the most of our first 10 or so days before starting work. We arranged bank accounts. We found an apartment. We sorted out credit cards....and we visited whisky bars! We already wrote up our review of Angels' Share back in August, and now it's Nocturne's turn.

We actually first visited Nocturne on our very first night in Hong Kong. Having dinner with some friends across the road at Chicha, we got onto the topic of whisky and the blog, and our friends mentioned a nearby whisky bar. Needless to say, it was our first stop after dinner.

(By the way no, we don't carry the camera around everywhere. We came back a week or so later for this review!)

Described as a "wine and whisky bar", Nocturne has a heavy focus on Japanese whisky (and as you might have guessed wine), with all the usual suspects, a few well-known but rarely seen Japanese whiskies, and some truly unique releases. Despite the Japanese focus, the bar still stocks an impressive range of Scottish whiskies (not to mention American and Taiwanese).

Speaking of the menu, Nocturne manages their ever-changing menu by way of 7" Galaxy tablets, just like a number of Japanese restaurants. It's an interesting concept for a bar, rarely seen, and works well (especially in negating the disappointment of ordering something only to find it not in stock).

Nocturne somehow manages to balance an industrial vibe with a warm and inviting atmosphere. Think lots of concrete, but with warm wood accents and dim lighting. It works very well, and clearly a lot of thought has been put into the design, which manages to make the most of a relatively small space.

While the backbar clearly shows their love of whisky, it's upstairs which proves their wine credentials - a well-stocked cellar taking up almost the entire floor plan. Worth a look, even just for a sniff (the room has that incredible winery / cellar door smell).

Considering the price some bars charge for good whisky in Hong Kong, and the previously-mentioned 100% spirits tax, the prices at Nocturne are fairly reasonable. A Yoichi 12yo or Talisker DE will set you back $150HKD (about $22AUD), while a Yamazaki Bourbon Barrel (one of Martin's all-time favourite whiskies) is $190HKD (around $28AUD). A Glenfarclas 30 runs $260HKD (~$38AUD), as does the Bruichladdich Black Art 1990 23yo. It's worth noting that pours are all 40mL too.

They also have some well-priced tasting sets, such as $360HKD ($53AUD) for 3 x 20mL pours of Hakushu 18, Hibiki 21 and Yamazaki 18, which would be a great first step for anyone looking to dip their toes into the world of Japanese whiskies.

Nocturne isn't the kind of place you go for a loud, long, boisterous night (Hong Kong has plenty of bars for that). It is however the kind of place you go with a few friends, to sit, chat, and enjoy some fine and unique whiskies, in a quiet, warm and inviting atmosphere. As the weather starts to cool down here in Hong Kong, I have no doubt Nocturne will continue to heat up.

Nocturne: 35 Peel St, Soho, Hong Kong. Mon-Sat 6pm - 1am. (+852) 2884 9566. Website.

Steph & Martin.

Monday 17 November 2014

The Balvenie Craft Bar Sydney & The Balvenie TUN 1509 (Tasted #143)

The Balvenie Craft Bar is back once again, this time in Sydney to celebrate fine Australian craftsmanship along with the well handcrafted single malt Scotch whisky we all love, The Balvenie.

Hosted in the spacious and elegant Zenith Interiors in the heart of Surry Hills, the exclusive Balvenie Craft Bar is only open for a limited time (literally - between today and Thursday 20 November 2014, between 4pm and 6pm) and will showcase workmanship from a host of craftspeople including Keith Marshall, bike maker of Kumo Cycles, Allan Tomkins, guitar maker and many others.


What's more, The Balvenie range is also being showcased along with all the fine products on point -- transforming the space into a Museum of Craft of sort. Tonight, we were graced with:
  • The Balvenie 12 YO DoubleWood;
  • The Balvenie 14 YO Caribbean Cask;
  • The Balvenie 17 YO DoubleWood; and
  • The Balvenie TUN 1509 (taking over from its older brethren, the TUN 1401 series)
The Balvenie TUN 1509 was a nice little surprise, having seen the clever packaging with its use of infographic (to visualise the level of spiciness, oakiness, delicacy and sweetness) a few months back -- tonight, we got to taste the first batch of the 1509.

Balvenie Tun 1509 (47.1% ABV, NAS, Speyside, Scotland, $420AUD)
Colour: Gold
Nose: Plenty of bourbon in this batch with the unmissable oakiness, vanilla, salted caramel. Rich
Palate: Warm, silky and rich, raisins, butterscotch and loads of spices
Finish: Long, hint of toffee, old oak, slightly leathery
Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 91/100. My first Tun and quite an exciting one this was.

The TUN 1509 outrun is fairly limited with just 200 bottles globally and around 60 bottles allocated to Australia (notwithstanding the three bottles emptied tonight). Nevertheless, if you do get your hands on one, this is a particularly exciting release -- given a mix of around 6:1 ex bourbon / sherry casks selected by David Stewart (35 ex bourbon to 7 ex-sherry) with the output giving out plenty of surprises.

For tickets to this exclusive Balvenie Craft Bar event, please visit the Balvenie Facebook page or visit to register.

- Hendy.

Friday 14 November 2014

Highland Park "Freya" and "Dark Origins" Launch in Hong Kong (Tasted #141-142: Highland Park Freya & Highland Park 30yo)

Remember how we said earlier this week that The Edrington Group in HK don't do things by halves?

Imagine hold a launch event to celebrate two new expressions of Highland Park - Freya and Dark Origins, only to find the Freya hasn't actually arrived in time, and is still "on the water".

What do you do? Apologise and serve everyone an extra dram of Dark Origins?

Not if you're Edrington. If you're Edrington, you substitute. Not just with any expression. With something rare, expensive and very, very limited. Something like this:

Yep, in place of the Freya, Edrington served a generous dram of the >$6,000HKD Highland Park 30yo. Impressive! But more on that in a moment...

We were at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong's Pool House as guests of Edrington to celebrate the launch of the aforementioned Freya and Dark Origins in Hong Kong. It was probably the first day since we arrived that the weather could be described as "a bit chilly", so a perfect night to taste a few whiskies.

On arrival we were served a Highland Park 12 neat, with the option to have it smoke-infused if we chose. Why not? Over to the bar then, where the bartenders had custom made Highland Park glass "tubes" with Smoking Guns attached (sidenote: if you like experimenting with food or cocktails, get one of these. We have one and they're brilliant). I'm not sure what type of woodchips were used in the smoking guns, but they added an intense, almost tobacco-like smokiness to the whisky. Intense, but very enjoyable, and a unique way to kick off the night. Update: Ron later e-mailed me to let me know the fuel was actually genuine Highland Park peat! Very cool.

After spotting a few friendly faces and enjoying some brilliant canapés (brilliant canapés are a staple feature of HK whisky events it seems), Ron Taylor (who we first met in September) took to the stage to introduce the Dark Origins, which had been passed around in special Highland Park tasting glasses.

One thing we've noticed about Hong Kong whisky tastings is that a lot of people attending really don't seem to respect the host and listen to the presentation or the guided tasting notes. A pity really, as Ron is a great host and certainly knows his whisky. Nonetheless, Ron presented some history of Highland Park, explained the Norse connection to Orkney, showed a brief video on the Dark Origins, then led us into a tasting.

Highland Park "Dark Origins" (46.8% ABV, NAS, Orkney, Scotland, $948HKD)
Colour: Copper
Nose: Big sherry influence. Dried raisins, cranberries, toffee. 70% dark chocolate.
Palate: Warming and rich. Slightly salty, trademark hints of smoke. Water introduced much more smoke and oak.
Finish: Long, smoky (smokier than the nose or palate), with deep rich red berry notes.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. I'd been excited to try this one for a while (actually in truth we tried it a week earlier at another tasting - which we'll blog about shortly). Definitely an enjoyable whisky for those who love their heavily sherried drams, but want something that's a change from the usual The Macallan that everyone orders in Hong Kong.

After we all had time to contemplate and enjoy the Dark Origins, it was time to move onto the 30 year old:

Highland Park 30 (48.1% ABV, 30yo, Orkney, Scotland, $6,180HKD)
Colour: Dark, rich copper.
Nose: One of the best noses I've noticed on a whisky in a while! So rich, so complex. Cherries, leather, even some varnish. Hints of maple syrup. Lots going on and it's all fantastic.
Palate: Rich and "chewy". This is a dram you can take some time with. Some oak but in perfect balance with everything else. Spice. Perhaps some cloves? Maple syrup too, with some slightly fruity (red berry) notes at the end.
Finish: Spicy, with some hints of honey. Medium length.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. The nose is by far the standout feature, but everything here is fantastic. A really enjoyable, "treat" whisky.

After some more whisky banter, a few more canapés, meeting a few new friendly faces and another dram of the Dark Origins, it was time to call it a night. 

The Hong Kong whisky scene is looking more and more exciting by the day. Can't wait to see what's in store for the future.

A huge thanks to Edrington HK and Lee Wolter PR for the invite to what was a great night.

Steph & Martin.

Monday 10 November 2014

The Glenrothes 1969 Extraordinary Cask Launch in Hong Kong, with Ronnie Cox (Tasted #138 - 140)

Last Friday saw the Hong Kong launch of The Glenrothes Extraordinary Cask 1969, a release of only 133 bottles worldwide, retailing for $49,900HKD.

Never ones to do things by halves, The Edrington Group invited The Glenrothes' and Berry Bros & Rudd's Brand Heritage Director (Spirits), Ronnie Cox, to Hong Kong to launch the incredibly limited whisky.

Ronnie, who we had the pleasure of spending a very enjoyable hour with earlier in the day (interview to follow) was a wealth of whisky knowledge, having come from "at least" 7 generations in the whisky industry in one form or another. Ronnie's extensive knowledge of The Glenrothes, and experience in the whisky industry all over the world made him the perfect host for the evening.

Held at The Marriott's Flint Grill & Bar, the event was an intimate affair with a handful of media present. A dram of The Glenrothes Select Reserve was served on arrival (in those instantly recognisable mini Glencairns that The Glenrothes are so well known for) and soon after Ronnie took the floor to walk us through a tasting and explain a bit more of the history behind The Glenrothes, Berry Bros & Rudd, and the 1969 Extraordinary Cask release.

As mentioned on this blog before, The Glenrothes are one of the few distilleries (and indeed the pioneering distillery) to use vintages in place of age statements for a lot of their whiskies. In addition to the more readily available vintages like the 2001, 1998 and 1995 (which are single vintage but not single cask), The Glenrothes also very occasionally release a single cask bottling, only when a cask is found to be of such "extraordinary" quality that it is justified (only 21 times in total in the distillery's history). Interestingly, this 1969 single cask release (which joins 2013's 1970 single cask, and will be joined by a 1968 release in 2015) came from a parcel of casks which were originally purchased by a New York collector Abe Rosenberg, which then ended up in the hands of Independent Bottler Duncan Taylor, before being purchased back by the distillery.

(This I found particularly interesting, as we've previously tasted a 1969 The Glenrothes on this site before...from none other than Duncan Taylor! On hearing the connection, I was even more keen to try the official 1969 release.)

The spirit from cask #11485 (a refill hogshead) was distilled on July 10th 1969 and bottled in late 2013, making it 44 years old. Yielding just 133 bottles, the whisky has been bottled at a cask strength of 42.9% ABV. Interestingly, the hand-blown decanters (hand-made of crystal in Portugal, and winning the "World's Best Design in World Whisky Award 2013") can vary in size by up to 2cl, meaning some of the 133 bottles in fact contain slightly more than the standard 700mL.

Ronnie entertained the crowd with some more of his worldwide whisky experiences (including a comment on the state of the Russian whisky market, which is such that if they wanted to sell all 133 bottles there, they could probably do it in a single day!) then took us through a tasting of three releases:

The Glenrothes Vintage 2001 (43% ABV, 2001 Vintage, 11yo, Speyside, Scotland, $428HKD)
Colour: Light gold
Nose: Nutty, some coconut and milk chocolate, with trademark ex-bourbon cask vanilla notes.
Palate: Berries, vanilla cream, some cinnamon and a lot of caramel fudge.
Finish: Medium length, with milk chocolate and caramel fudge shining through the most.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. A very enjoyable, easy sipping whisky, though the nose and palate shine above the finish.

The Glenrothes Vintage 1995 (43% ABV, 1995 Vintage, 16yo, Speyside, Scotland, $788HKD)
Colour: Bright, deep gold.
Nose: "Fruit and oak" - red berries, cherries, mixed in with a hint of oak. A slight hint of coconut too.
Palate: Lots of spice! Cinnamon, nutmeg. Not as sweet as the 2001. Some grapefruit, and a hint of butterscotch.
Finish: Medium to long. Oaky, and very spicy. Always smooth though, from beginning to end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100.

The Glenrothes 1969 Extraordinary Cask (42.9% ABV, 1969 Vintage, 44yo, Speyside, Scotland, $49,900HKD)
To set the scene for this tasting, and to re-iterate the incredible age this whisky is carrying, Ronnie stood up and mentioned The Moonlanding, The first Concord flight, Led Zeppelin's first album and the end of The Beatles. All events that took place in the same year this whisky was distilled. Incredible.
Colour: Slightly difficult to get a good gauge as we were given a fairly small dram (understandably!) but light orange - somewhat lighter than expected, even if it was from a refill Bourbon cask (it did spend 44 years in there don't forget)
Nose: Big coconut notes, vanilla, and lots of tropical fruits. Jelly babies, pineapple. I also got the slightest hint of smoke, but not peat.
Palate: Rich and mouthfilling. Plenty of pineapple from the nose, but coconut and vanilla too. It's not every day a dram transports you to a tropical island, but that's what this whisky did for me.
Finish: Long and lingering (in stark contrast to the other 1969 The Glenrothes we've tried). Spice, vanilla cream, and SPC tropical fruit tubs (ah, those take me back!)
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Delicious, liquid history.

With the tasting over, it was time for a few of Flint Grill & Bar delicious canapés before heading home for the weekend, with the knowledge that we probably won't try a whisky that rare, unique or old for a long, long time.


The full Press Release can be found below.

Press Release - The Glenrothes Extraordinary Cask Collection Vintage 1969 
(7 November 2014) The Glenrothes, the award-winning Speyside Single Malt Whisky will hold an exclusive press reception at Flint, JW Marriot on 7 Nov 2014.  The session, hosted by Mr Ronnie Cox, Brands Heritage Director of Berry Brothers and Rudd Spirits, presents two distinctive expressions of The Glenrothes Vintage Whiskies, including 2001 and 1995, in addition to a sleek preview of The Extraordinary Cask Collection 1969 to members of the press.  An exceptionally rare and unique breed of its own, The Glenrothes Vintage 1969 is a limited release kept to only 133 bottles on a global scale.Clinching the title World’s Best Design in World Whisky Awards 2013, The Extraordinary Cask 1969 is the definitive single malt whisky being impeccable for its wood policy, quality, and bottle design. 
The distillery lies on a tributary of the river Spey in the Highlands of Scotland.  Speyside is universally acknowledged as the heartland of single malt whisky distillation.  The rigorous process of its making and assessment in the single malt makes every drop of The Glenrothes of incredible depth, balance and flavour. 
The shape of the instantly recognisable Glenrothes bottle has been enhanced further in its Extraordinary Cask Collection Vintage 1969 by using hand-blown lead crystal, for the single cask decanter but in a manner that is in keeping with the elegance of the whisky and the heritage of the Glenrothes.  The essential shape has been retained but is now multi-faceted – heavy crystal at the base elevates the bottle and frames the whisky within. 
Each decanter has been individually created by a master craftsman at Atlantis Crystal in Alcobaca, Portugal, using the purest form of crystal, distinguished by its great resonance, transparency, luminosity and weight.  The team at creative agency Brandhouse, designed the decanter to retain the look of the iconic Glenrothes bottle shape while taking inspiration from the world of perfume to add an extra air of decadence. 
A plaque made of polished brass is applied to just the front facet: engraved with the year of distillation and the bottle number to ensure the uniqueness and authenticity of each individual decanter.  Brass has also been used for the hand-engraved collar on the neck of the decanter, supplied by Charles Stott, the renowned Edinburgh-based Scottish Silversmiths. 
The tasting notes label that comes foremost to every whisky enthusiast and aficionados – in this instance of The Extraordinary Cask 1969 has been positioned around the neck of the decanter to leave the body perfectly unadulterated. The label is hand-signed by the Malt Master, Gordon Motion, and numbered and dated thus ensuring each bottle is identifiable and unique.
The outer case is made of fine, hand-crafted leather, reminiscent of luxury travel luggage. Each bottle comes with its own oak plinth, made from solid Scottish oak, for display purposes and a book co-written by seven leading whisky writers each contributing a chapter about The Glenrothes, its history and the whisky.  As with the making of single malt Scotch whisky, the materials used in the packaging of The Glenrothes Single Cask are kept to a minimum – only crystal glass, brass, leather and oak have been used. 
About The Glenrothes Single Cask 1969 
The hallmarks of The Glenrothes are quality and purity, evident in the beautifully-balanced, elegant and well-mannered single malt with peerless texture, perfectly expressed by this single cask bottling.  The spirit was distilled on July 10th 1969. Cask #11485, a refill hogshead, yielded just 133 bottles at a natural strength of 42.9% alcohol by volume. 
[Official] Tasting notes:
Appearance: Clear and bright with rich golden hues. 
Bouquet: Grassy with herbal tea and verbena.  Yoghurt and mint giving way to ginger honey cake. 
Palate: Very expressive and intensely fluid; beautifully balanced liquorice and barley sugar with the texture of raw silk.  
Finish: Mouth−watering lemon, lime and coriander. Indonesian pepper and yuzu; Citrus notes are emphasised by the judicious addition of water. 
For more information, please visit

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Tasted #137: LABEL 5 Gold Heritage

Last week we mentioned LABEL 5's new "Gold Heritage" blend, currently available in the US and soon to be released in Australia and China. Blended by the affable Graham Coull, (also of Glen Moray, and who we met last year), the whisky is NAS, but made up of malts up to 20 years old, and described as having fruit, spice, vanilla oak and subtle smoke. No word on the specific malts or cask types that went into the blend, but with that description we could guess it may have both ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry matured stock.

La martiniquaise were kind enough to send us a bottle so we could give our own thoughts. So, on with them then...

LABEL 5 "Gold Heritage" (40% ABV, NAS, Blend, Scotland, $40USD (China / Australia pricing TBC))
Colour: Orange gold.

Nose: Orange zest, paprika. Sweet but not overpoweringly so - there's Bourbon matured stock in here I'd guess, but not exclusively. Some grapefruit notes, but mostly orange (zest). A surprisingly good nose.

Palate: Oranges, but whole this time. Rich thick vanilla ice cream. Toffee apples. Very smooth, not a hint of burn (as I often say with 40% ABV whiskies, it could do with a touch more ABV, but the ABV doesn't let it down like some other whiskies). No peat smoke that I could discern.

Finish: Grains, cinnamon, slight hint of pepper. Smooth to the end. Still no peat or smoke. Medium length.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. I'll admit I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I'm not about to switch away from my single malts, but for a $40 USD blend (so possibly around $60-$70 AUD) it's definitely worth a look in if you're on the lookout for a smooth (but not bland) blend.


Monday 3 November 2014

Glenfiddich Tasting with Ian Millar in Hong Kong (Tasted #131 - 136)

Spend a bit of time reading this blog, and you'll realise I'm a bit of a Glenfiddich fan. Whilst I don't still have the collection I once did (it's tucked safely away in storage back in Sydney), I still enjoy a Glenfiddich every now and then, and it'll always hold a special place as the dram that got me into whisky in the first place.

So it goes without saying, that when Steph and I were offered two spots at a private Glenfiddich tasting to be held the following week, led by none other than Ian Millar (Glenfiddich's global brand ambassador), I was more than a little excited.

Turns out, Ian was in Hong Kong for a very brief visit to judge the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Competition, and had just enough time to host a few tastings, including this one - held for Oxford and Cambridge University Alumni. Now Oxford nor Cambridge Alumni I am not, but after telling a friend of a friend about this blog over a friend's birthday lunch, she mentioned the upcoming tasting and said there may be a free place, and would I be interested? 

So on a Tuesday Steph and I made our way to LKL Private Club in Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong (a club that seems to be so private, it doesn't exist on "Facebook Places") where we were greeted with a glass of English sparkling wine (which was surprisingly good), before a brief discussion with Ian. After not too long, and with the club at full capacity, it was time to begin the tasting.

Given the audience were not all whisky aficionados or industry types, I wasn't expecting anything other than the standard 12-15-18yo lineup (which would have been fine with me - I was just happy to meet and experience a tasting led by Ian). My interest was piqued though, when (in addition to the 21 and 30yo), I spotted this bottle with scant detail but a tell-tale label:

..but more on that later.  Ian took the stage and talked us through a little of his lengthy career in the whisky industry, which included time at Blair Athol, Mortlach, Dalwhinnie, The Balvenie and Glenfiddich to name just a few. Before getting into the tasting, Ian explained that one problem with tasting whisky in the tropics is not so much the heat, but the air-conditioning! True enough, when we picked up the Glencairns, they were icy, and the whisky inside wasn't exactly what you'd call "room temperature" either, so a little rubbing and cupping of the glass was in order before each tasting (just the glass this time, no rubbing of the whisky itself).

Ian also left us a few pearls of wisdom about the distillation and production of Glenfiddich, including some humorous ("New Make - it's great after the first pint") and some interesting (the 18 can contain malts as old as 28yo, with up to 38yo whisky going into the 30). Ian also told us about the oldest whisky he ever tried (a 1923 Balvenie, which was "atrocious") and mentioned an upcoming Glenfiddich release in the next 18 months that's so good, there's "no other way of putting it - you will shit in your pants".

Can't wait. But for now, it was time to work our way through the whiskies in front of us, starting as so many Speyside tastings do, with the 12yo.

Glenfiddich 12yo (40% ABV, 12yo, Speyside, Scotland, $368HKD)
A mixture of 85% American Oak and 15% European oak matured whiskies.
Colour: Golden sunset
Nose: Pears and vanilla ice cream
Palate: Some chocolate (milk, not dark), pears, apples and a hint of cinnamon.
Finish: Medium length, sweet, with residual cinnamon spice.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Still a solid, reliable, fantastic whisky. No wonder it's the world's number 1 selling single malt.

Glenfiddich 15yo Solera (40% ABV, 15yo, Speyside, Scotland, $598HKD)
Next up the 15yo Solera, which I was lucky enough to try direct from the (Solera) source in 2009.
Colour: Golden sunset
Nose: Pears again, but more creamy. Still sweet vanilla notes you'd expect from a Bourbon matured whisky,
Palate: More chocolate, more spice than the 12yo. More rounded, more "chewy", more full. Still a hint of Glenfiddich's signature apples and pears.
Finish: Medium to long, more cinnamon spice and less sweetness than the 12yo.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100.

Glenfiddich 18yo (40% ABV, 18yo, Speyside, Scotland, $898HKD)
Old faithful. Originally tasted way back as #3 on this blog, albeit in 43% guise. Contains 20% European Oak matured stock - up from the 12yo's 15%.
Colour: Vibrant gold orange.
Nose: Sweeter than the 15, with more chocolate, but bitter, dark chocolate this time.
Palate: Creamy, rich, lots of dark chocolate, but also some (minor) earthy characteristics I don't usually associate with Glenfiddich. Smooth, and just fantastic.
Finish: Medium length, with notes of dark, 70% chocolate.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. The same rating I gave it almost two years ago - how about that!? Consistent whisky, that's for sure, even with a lower ABV now.

Glenfiddich 21yo (40% ABV, 21yo, Speyside, Scotland, $1,888HKD)
I'd heard word a at a previous tasting that the 21yo wasn't able to be sold in the US due to its ties with Cuba, and the name "Havana Reserve". Ian explained that the naming issue was actually due to a perceived conflict with Pernod Ricard's "Havana Club", and that the US sales restrictions were actually intentional - they knew it couldn't be sold in the US from the outset, and went ahead anyway. Apparently the French market loved it! 
The 21yo sees three rums put into Glenfiddich's own casks for 6 months, then the 21yo finished for four months (tasted every week...because they can). 
Colour: Orange copper.
Nose: Toffee, demerara sugar.
Palate: Sweet, sugary, rich. Smooth, very smooth. Almost too much so. I'd love to try this at around 46-50% ABV. Some maple syrup.
Finish: Long, syrupy.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

Glenfiddich 30yo (40% ABV, 30yo, Speyside, Scotland, $4,900HKD)
30% European oak, 70% American oak.
Colour: Deep dark copper.
Nose: Strong notes of toffee and chocolate. A hint of pear, but it's subdued and almost non-existant.
Palate: Dark bitter chocolate, hints of sherry matured whisky showing through. Red berries, tobacco, even some leather. A real complex mixed bag - which I love.
Finish: Long, leather, cranberries and dried fruits.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

Glenfiddich Private Vintage 1972  single cask 33yo (51.9% ABV, 33yo, Speyside, Scotland, no longer available)
Ah, we're in for a treat with this one. A single sherry cask put down in 1972 and bottled in 2005 for the Taiwanese market. How would it compare with my 32yo Private Vintage bottle first tasted way back in 2012?
Colour: Light gold. Perhaps not from a first-fill sherry barrel then?
Nose: Toffee, banana chips. Smooth and not a hint of alcohol burn, considering it's ~52% ABV.
Palate: Full, rich mouthfeel. Toffee, chocolate, leather. ABV spot on for my tastes - enough to let you know it's not 40%, but not too much that it overpowers the various notes.
Finish: Medium to long. Some saffron, slightly earthy. Overall rich, fantastic and unmistakably Glenfiddich.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. Yep, that good.

After another dram of the 18yo and a good long chat Ian (who was extremely personable, a trait it seems many of the William Grant & Sons ambassadors share, including Sam Simmons and James Buntin), it was time to call it a night, happy to see that one of my favourite distilleries is still producing whisky that's just as enjoyable as I remember it.