Thursday 4 February 2016

Malt Masters HK 2016 preview and tasting (Tasted #253 - 255)

The Malt Masters Hong Kong Whisky festival, as we mentioned back in December, is returning to Hong Kong in a few short weeks, to be held at Conrad Hong Kong on 27th and 28th February. To give give us a taste of what to expect, Malt Masters recently invited media to a private preview and tasting, held in one of the Conrad rooms that will host the festival.

Malt Masters are veterans of the HK whisky scene, having hosted their first festival 3 years ago, and a hugely successful festival in 2015 (which Steph covered here). The Malt Masters connection to the whisky industry goes back much further though, with the father of founder (and good friend of Time for Whisky) Ian McKerrow having previously run the show at Glenmorangie!

Ian opened the preview with an overview of the festival, focusing on the global mix of malts being represented at the festival this year (a theme to continue in our tasting shortly after). In addition to a number of iconic Scottish malts, the festival will feature American, Irish, Welsh, Swedish, Japanese and possibly even Indian whisky brands - both large players and boutique/craft distilleries alike.

Ian also explained that former Macallan and Dalmore Master Distiller David Robertson will be presenting in the VIP room (which will also feature the launch of the 27yo "Prometheus" Speyside single malt and tasting of a 1987 16yo Laphroaig, as well as an impressive lineup of rare and very, very old malts available for purchase by the dram). Pairing will also be a big focus of the festival this year, with cigar, cheese and food pairings all on offer (the latter courtesy of Scotch Broth Events).

Of course it wouldn't be a festival without masterclasses, and there are a number on offer over the two days, including:
  • An introductory class on the language and art of whisky drinking
  • Advice on building a whisky collection
  • Ichiro's Malt Whisky; and
  • The aforementioned pairing classes.

To preview the masterclass format, and introduce us to a few of the brands being represented, Malt Masters' brand ambassador and Head of Whisky Education Josh Tate took us through a tasting of:

Penderyn Madeira Finish (46% ABV, NAS, Single Malt, Wales,  $89.99AUD / £37.28)
Colour: Light orange-gold.
Nose: Sweet and floral. Taffy, sherbert - lots of sweet sugary confectionary.
Palate: Youthful but not harsh. Slight chalky rubberiness at first, moving into tropical fruits - passionfriut, bananas, peaches. Some grape, white wine (Chardonnay?) style notes.
Finish: Medium length. Slightest burn at the very end, with hints of sherbert.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. 

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 (43% ABV, 17yo, Blended Malt, Japan,  $1,168HKD$399AUD / £94.95)
Colour: Gold.
Nose: Spice, pears, and some crème brûlée.
Palate: Lots of saltiness - quite surprising really as it's not a characteristic we usually get on the Yoichi or Miyagikyo (being the two single malts in this blend) - at least the ones we've tried. Some smoked herring, sea air and then just more salt. It's not offputting, just very, very...salty. 
Finish: Medium length, with the saltiness continuing through to the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.  Enjoyable, and slightly odd.

The Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso Cask Strength (60.7% ABV, NAS, Single Malt, Speyside, Scotland, $880HKD / $99.99AUD / £45.46)
Colour: Dark orange-copper.
Nose: Big fruitcake notes, as you might expect, but also sweeter notes of cake icing.
Palate: A little closed up initially (understandable considering the 60%+ ABV). Rich, quite a bit of oak, with cherries and a slight nuttiness. With some water there's a lot of spice, and the nuttiness (Brazil nuts now) gets turned up significantly.
Finish: Medium length, slightly tannic, and spicy to the end after a few drops of water.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. I tried the non cask-strength version and found it didn't really blow me away. I was hoping this would - but it didn't. An enjoyable dram, no doubt, but I'd happily take an A'bunadh or even a GlenDronach 15 over it, if looking for a heavily sherried whisky.

In addition to the festival booths and master classes, Malt Masters HK will feature Dream Drams (all attendees will get one token), a branded Glencairn, unlimited tastings, a charity raffle, dining discounts and discounted whisky sales. With all of that, we have no doubt this year's festival will be a big success.

Tickets are available now for $800HKD (day ticket), with masterclasses at an extra $200HKD, and VIP room tickets an additional $400HKD. Tickets can be purchased here for Sat 27th Feb, and here for Sun 28th Feb.

Hope to see you there!


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