Tuesday 5 May 2015

This week in whisk(e)y #18

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...

JOHN WALKER & SONS Private Collection 2015 launch
Anyone who's been through a major airport in the past year (particularly in Asia), might have noticed a curious-looking deep Blue bottle of Johnnie (or rather, John) Walker - no, not the well known JW Blue, but the rarer "Private Collection", limited to 8,888 bottles.

Also limited to 8,888 bottles, is the new 2015 release, in an equally-striking deep red hue, designed to reflect the fruitier notes of this year's release.

Whilst there's limited information on the whisky that makes up the blend, we do know it's a blend of 29 "bespoke and experimental" casks, and weighs in at 46.8%. Charlie Maclean (who Steph met recently) also described the first (2014) release as "flawless" - high praise indeed.

More details from the Press Release as follows:
"(HONG KONG, 8 April 2015) - JOHN WALKER & SONS, the prestige range from Johnnie Walker®, has unveiled the JOHN WALKER & SONS Private Collection 2015 Edition. Showcasing the innovative craft and spirit of its creators, the blend of Rare Fruit Character by Master Blender Jim Beveridge, is the second release in a series of seven limited editions that are the ultimate collectibles, from the world’s leading Scotch Whisky house*.  
Declared as ‘flawless’ by renowned whisky writer Charles MacLean, the first JOHN WALKER & SONS Private Collection launched in 2014 brought together an exploration of the JOHN & WALKER & SONS signature smoky character from three celebrated regions of Scotland. The 2015 Edition - also a limited release with only 8,888 individually numbered decanters worldwide - reveals the fruit top notes of the JOHN WALKER & SONS house style. Great mastery of the art of blending is required to select and craft the 29 bespoke and experimental casks into a blend that has softness and allows the fruit flavours to shine, as well as being full-bodied with layers of complexity.  
Jim Beveridge, Master Blender, commented: “The 2015 Edition is an exceptionally smooth blend of mature whisky fruit expressions from the heart of Scotland. The wonderful lightness of fresh and exotic Speyside notes deepens into the warm, autumnal fruits of Highland malts, finishing with a lift from the spicy, West Highland fruit character.”  
Jim has selected several treasured casks from a study that began many years ago exploring the fascinating effects of wood on maturing whisky, which has over time created a richness and perfect harmony of flavours. These unique whiskies have been chosen both to complement and contribute to the fruit character of the 2015 edition, balancing the blend perfectly with a touch of dryness and sweetness.  
Guy Escolme, Global Brand Director, JOHNNIE WALKER, said: “The JOHN WALKER & SONS Private Collection is the epitome of our belief and expertise in blending. Rare flavour profiles, experimental casks and small batch blending, presented as limited releases in individually numbered decanters – these are unmissable, one-off editions for Scotch Whisky connoisseurs to build a collection of their own.” Turning his thoughts to the future, Jim Beveridge said: “The reaction to the 2014 Edition blend has been extremely rewarding and created much anticipation for the release of the 2015 Edition. Throughout the creation of this year’s blend, we have discovered more gems of casks along the way, and it is with great excitement that we begin work in earnest for 2016.”  
The JOHN WALKER & SONS Private Collection 2015 Edition (46.8% ABV) is presented in a deep red glass decanter with an angled cut to reflect the slanted label on the iconic JOHNNIE WALKER square bottle. Set in a cream box, the display is an elegant showcase of the story behind the Rare Fruit Character of this blend depicted from the outside."

Diageo World Class 2015 kicks off in Hong Kong
While this blog is first and foremost about whisky (and whiskey), let it never be said that we don't enjoy a good cocktail or two. Since our first Diageo World Class event in 2013 Steph and I have been huge fans of the competition (and let's face it, they show off the talents of some pretty amazing bartenders). Put simply, it pits the world's best bartenders against each other, using an array of high quality spirits from Diageo, with some of the most interesting themes and locations available.

So, it goes without saying we were thrilled to see World Class 2015 kicking off in HK recently, with a series of masterclasses hosted by the world's best bartenders (including one we sadly were unable to attend, featuring Matt Bax (of Der Raum fame), whose excellent "Bar Exuberante" Steph and I recently visited, and were hugely impressed at the dedication to the drinks and the venue in equal measures).

Whilst entries have now closed, we understand the judging takes place tomorrow (Tues 5th May), with the top 16 finalists to be anounced on the World Class HK Facebook page. To quote the press release:

"This year’s programme will run from April to June, putting bartenders through two qualifying rounds before the top eight final takes place over the 8th and 9th of June. 
The first round of World Class is called ‘Fundamentals of Flavour’ and asks bartenders to create a drink that engages all of the senses.  Flavour comes from the engagement of all the senses: smell, sight, sound, touch and taste. Each element plays an important part in the creation of a beautifully crafted drink. Cocktails in this challenge must incorporate table service. The way it is served could be anything: a suitcase, a basket or even a gramophone. Bartenders must come up with a great concept, a great story and let their personality shine through.
It is open to any bartender over the legal drinking age working in a bar in Hong Kong or Macau. Entries are open from the 30th March until the 27th April. Bartenders can use any spirit from the DIAGEO RESERVE portfolio including: KETEL ONE VODKA, KETEL ONE CITROEN VODKA, CIROC VODKA, TANQUERAY GIN, TANQUERAY NO. TEN GIN, DON JULIO TEQUILA, THE SINGLETON OF GLEN ORD, TALISKER 10 YEAR OLD, JOHNNIE WALKER DOUBLE BLACK, JOHNNIE WALKER GOLD LABEL RESERVE, JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL, RON ZACAPA .
Sixteen bartenders will be chosen from the first round to produce a drink for the second round running from May 4 to May 18 titled: ‘Tea & Coffee’. Bartenders will be asked to create a drink using either of these two ingredients and submit the entry via video. From here the top eight will be chosen to compete in the Hong Kong final for the right be crowned Hong Kong’s best bartender.
The ultimate winner of the Hong Kong final will compete against 50 bartenders from around the world in Cape Town, South Africa, to be crowned DIAGEO RESERVE WORLD CLASS™ BARTENDER OF THE YEAR 2015."

Glenmorangie Tùsail launches in Australia
Joining the already diverse and fantastic lineup of existing Glenmorangie Private Editions this past April, the Tùsail differs slightly from previous releases in that the focus isn't so much on the cask or finishing, but on the barley - specifically, the previously near-distinct "Maris Otter" barley, which gives the whisky notes of nut toffee cinnamon and dates.

Whilst we don't have official tasting notes, Hendy did get to enjoy the new expression at a dinner with Bill Lumsdaine himself recently (writeup due any day now).

Tùsail retails for $165AUD and can be purchased through specialist whisky shops (think Oak Barrel, World of Whisky etc..) or online at the Moét Hennessy Collection.
"APRIL 2015, AUSTRALIA - A rare quality grain, that was saved by devotees for the future, is the inspiration behind Glenmorangie's latest limited edition. Glenmorangie Tùsail, the sixth release in the award-winning Private Edition collection, draws on the unique taste of Maris Otter barley, almost lost to the world but for the efforts of a few loyal proponents. Glenmorangie Tùsail will be available in specialist whisky shops and through Moët Hennessy Collection from 13 April 2015.
Every year since 2010, Glenmorangie has released a rare single malt crafted and designed to inspire and intrigue whisky connoisseurs and collectors. The latest release, Glenmorangie Tùsail, invites aficionados to explore a distinctive variety of barley's influence on Glenmorangie single malt.
Maris Otter winter barley was first commercially harvested 50 years ago. Its depth of flavour meant that it soon became a cornerstone of England's craft-brewing industry. But the demand for the barley variety began to fall as producers switched to varieties with greater efficiencies – and its characteristic taste was left in peril. Realising the danger, two British seed merchants formed a partnership, which would re-establish the grain's purity and save Maris Otter from being wiped out.
Their efforts soon attracted the attention of Glenmorangie's Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation, who is renowned for his commitment to unnecessarily well-made whiskies. 
Dr Bill Lumsden ordered a batch of the winter barley and arranged for it to be traditionally floor-malted for use in Glenmorangie Tùsail (Scots Gaelic for 'originary'). 
He explained: "When we heard the story of those determined to preserve such a flavoursome grain, their ethos – and the barley itself – seemed the perfect match for a Glenmorangie single malt. I knew its deep flavour profile would provide an intriguing contrast to Glenmorangie's more delicate house style, creating a whisky to enchant connoisseurs. The result pays homage to the Maris Otter variety, with rich, rustic flavours of nut toffee, sweet barley malt, ginger, cinnamon, molasses, and dates, complementing the more familiar Glenmorangie notes of peaches, oranges and smoked pears."

200 Opinions Wanted - Laphroaig asks for your opinion
Laphroaig have always approached advertising / media / customer engagement in a unique (and highly entertaining) manner (just look at Laphroaig Live for example), and now, to celebrate the distillery’s 200th year, Laphroaig is launching a global “200 Opinions Wanted” campaign to find the best opinions its drinkers can come up with.

Two hundred of the most unique opinions will be displayed as individual tiles on the distillery wall and 10 authors of the very best of them will be rewarded with a trip to Islay to attend “Laphroaig Live,” a global whisky event held at the historic Laphroaig Distillery for the first time in nine years.

All opinions entered at www.laphroaig.com/opinions from 20th April - 1st August 2015 will go in the running to win.

The Singleton of Glen Ord presents Master's Casks, aged 40 years
"The Singleton"as a brand wasn't huge in Australia when Steph and I left last year, but it's certainly a big deal in the broader Asian market, with a large presence in both travel and regular retail channels. Steph recently tried (and enjoyed) the 12yo The Singleton of Glen Ord, but it's the recently-released 40 year old which stands out, with only 999 bottles to be released (sadly neither of us could attend a recent tasting due to schedule conflicts, but we hear it was a very good whisky!)

"[Hong Kong, 6th March 2015] The Singleton of Glen Ord is proud to release a rare master piece - Master’s Casks Aged 40 Years, the oldest and rarest single malt the distillery has bottled in over 170 years. The Limited Edition, with only 999 bottles available for sale worldwide, perfectly showcases the best of classic Glen Ord character, with a fresh and light taste as a result of four decades spent in specially selected casks aged over generations.  
Forty years ago, the distillers of Glen Ord wrote the future of flavour when they selected ten American and European oak casks to house the liquid. Today, with 37 years’ experience, Malt Master Maureen Robinson has completed the work of her visionary predecessors, by meticulously tasting and crafting various combinations of casks that have resulted in the ultimate balance of flavor and freshness.  
The Singleton of Glen Ord Master’s Casks Aged 40 Years is a sophisticated, beautifully structured single malt with a deep amber hue featuring ginger lights. The fresh fragrance of the liquid has a rich perfumed and fruity aroma with delicate, sweet fruity notes of orange and honey followed by undertones of elegant dark chocolate truffles and hints of white pepper, smoke and liquorice. The finishing has subtle nuances of the European oak casks and dried orange peel, as well as figs, hazelnuts and smoky coffee grounds or plain dark chocolate. The limited edition liquid is perfect served neat, or with a little water to unlock the flavours.  
The release of Master’s Casks Aged 40 Years is our way to pay tribute to the art of cask crafting and selection at Glen Ord.” Commented Drew Mills, Marketing Director of Diageo Brands. “While age is very important, the excellence of whisky is not just about how old it is, it’s about marrying together a number of factors including taste, flavour and age to create the perfect balance of fine liquid,” he said.  
To celebrate the legacy, creativity and passion of the visionaries who distilled this whisky four decades ago, each bottle of the Limited Edition is housed in a stunning wooden case that showcases the rare beauty of the whisky. When the casing is opened, the deep shining amber liquid will be unveiled, symbolizing the whisky resting in its oak cask. The wooden stopper, made from original Glen Ord casks, is a nod to the craftsmanship that goes into each drop of liquid.  
The perfect balance achieved from using the combination of American bourbon and European sherry oak casks resonates in The Singleton of Glen Ord 18 and 12 year editions that have also come from the rich heritage of Glen Ord distilleries. Capturing the best of Glen Ord character, these fine single malt whiskies echo the freshness and lightness of their rich and smooth 40 year old counterpart."

Berry Bros & Rudd's Exceptional Casks come to Australia
Berry Bros & Rudd, Independent Bottler of the year in 2010 and 2010 (and no stranger to this blog) have been known on the odd occasion to release their own "Exceptional" bottlings, from distilleries differing every year. This year, Australia gets two such "Exceptional" releases - a 50yo North British single grain bottling, and a 1972 Glenlivet. Pretty exceptional if you ask us...
"Berry Bros. & Rudd Spirits is proud to announce the inaugural releases from the new exclusive series of bottlings, the Exceptional Casks Collection. 
Each expression in the distinguished range demonstrates the very highest of quality, with only truly exceptional casks making it into this rare selection. 
Doug McIvor, Spirits Buyer for Berry Bros. & Rudd states; “Our philosophy when choosing casks for the collection is to provide unparalleled quality; we take immense pride in this. This extraordinary and very limited range will showcase some of the most remarkable expressions we have released to-date.”Each Exceptional Cask has a story to tell, whether the spirit comes from a closed distillery, reveals a distinct flavour characteristic or has been matured in a particular barrel. 
Four exemplary bottlings have been chosen to launch the Exceptional Casks Collection, of which the Australian market will see two. Starting with a rare 50 Year Old North British, Single Grain whisky taken from two remaining sister casks on their 50th birthday, December 18th 2012. Bottled at 58.9% ABV, there are 472 bottles available globally and only 6 bottles coming to Australia at a retail price of $950.00+Secondly, a Single Cask of 1972 Glenlivet Single Malt, a hallowed vintage for those in the know, has been specially selected. The cask displays remarkable characters after maturing for 41 years. There are only 170 bottles of Cask #1072, at 53.2% ABV available globally with only 6 bottles coming to Australia at a retail price of $1,230.00+ 
The Exceptional Casks Collection will be available in Australia through Samuel Smith & Son from mid-March 2015 and adds to the range of single cask, single malt whiskies, Blue Hanger Blended Malt and rums from the Berry’s Own collection already in the country."

"Ladies who Whisky" at Hullett House
Hullett House in TST (Hong Kong), who recently received their certification as the first Whisky Ambassador-certified venue in Asia, have just launched a program called "Ladies who Whisky" (a review of the launch to be posted by Steph shortly).

Focusing on ladies new to the world of whisky, the classes (run weekly throughout May and into June) cover topics such as:
  • Whisky and Aroma
  • Whisky and Oysters
  • Whisky and Flowers
  • Whisky and Chocolate
  • Whisky and Cocktails
  • etc...
See below for a full list of classes:


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