Saturday 30 April 2016

Islay Adventure (Tasted: #282 - 285)

When an offer to sample four different Islay bottlings was put up on Dram Full Sydney by Nicholas of whisknick, I jumped at the offer. In the line up were four bottles that Nick brought back from his Scotland trip, including:
  1. Port Charlotte Valinch Heavily Peated - a DIY bottling that is available to visitors of the Bruichladdich distillery
  2. Laphroaig 10 Original Cask Strength - this is the one expressions I've heard mentioned quite a few times, positively
  3. Bowmore Hand-Filled - filled with 17yo Bowmore whisky aged in a Bordeaux wine cask; and
  4. Ardbeg Perpetuum Distillery Reserve - having had the regular Perpetuum release on Ardbeg Day, it was good to compare the two. 
The night itself was unassuming, being hosted at Tokyo Bird, the local yakitory / whisky bar in downtown Sydney. It was a night about the four whiskies and the good company of other Dram Full Sydney members.

Port Charlotte Valinch Heavily Peated ex-Oloroso Sherry Cask (63.2% ABV, 10yo, bottle 348/680, Islay, Scotland, not commercially available)
One should get rather excited when presented with a bottle of Port Charlotte, or Octomore or Bruichladdich for that matter. Over the years, under the helm of recently retired Jim McEwan (who we met back in 2014), different expressions from the three Bruichladdich lines continued to impress drammers. This Port Charlotte 'Valinch' ex-Oloroso expression was no different - though being a DIY bottling range, sadly, one must return to Islay for a refill. So with the malt heavily peated, yes, complex and enjoyable, certainly.

Colour: Gold

Nose: The nose is filled with jamon, yes, Spanish Iberico jamon and caramel ice cream. The sherry and oak carries through on the whiff.

Palate: The palate is nice and complex and cask strength big. There's the big douse of peat, cherries, strawberries followed by a briny note and black pepper spices that come out at the end. 

Finish: Extremely long, peppery with a hint of brine. There's a slight oak in there too.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

Bowmore 'Hand-Filled' - Bordeaux Cask (57.3% ABV, 17yo, Islay, Scotland, no longer commercially available)
I was excited to taste this special Bowmore and as with the Valinch, I knew that this might have been the only opportunity to taste this particular Bordeaux cask matured expression (unless of course, I make the trip to Islay). The use of a Bordeaux cask reflects the slightly different path this Bowmore takes when compared to its traditional lines. Similar to the recent release of the Mizunara Cask Finish last September (which Martin tasted here), it seems that Bowmore is in the midst of experimenting with different non-traditional casks over the past few years.

Colour: Almost cough syrupy; amber / red

Nose: The nose is sweet, vanilla, mascarpone and lemon cheesecake

Palate: The palate carries through the citrus 'tropical' note with plenty of lemon and lime on the first taste before becoming extremely peppery and mellowing out into a sweet cheesecake. I can't seem to pick up the light Bowmore peat, where has it disappeared to?! The age of this particular malt may shed some light on the whereabouts of the peat. The palate is exciting nevertheless.

Finish: Just like the PC Valinch, the finish on this is extremely long.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

Laphroaig 10 'Original Cask Strength' (56.3% ABV, 10yo, Batch 007, Islay, Scotland, $1,880HKD)
One of the favourites from Laphroaig's core range - a cask strength play of its highest selling, ever-classic, Laphroaig 10. This was my pick of the four expressions on the night.

Colour: Copper

There are loads of Laphroaig peat notes on the nose, just like its classic brethren, this Laphroaig stands out as a Laphroaig. The salty, maritime, damp forest woody notes are heavily present on the nose. Though what I also found on the nose were a subtle layer of sweet strawberry and tropical fruits.

Palate: The higher ABV hits you quite strongly, followed by the strong maritime notes from the nose that are mixed with the peppery spices. The heavy Laphroaig peat note comes at the end, as combined with a hint of malty vanilla.

Finish: Extremely long and the peat smoke, along with the residual spices linger for some time and more.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100.

Ardbeg Perpeetum - Distillery Reserve (49.2% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, no longer commercially available)
The Distillery Reserve of the Ardbeg Day release which saw a combination of bourbon and sherry cask-matured Ardbeg whiskies bottled at a slightly higher ABV of 49.2% (as opposed to the standard release ABV of 47.4%). As Martin confirmed with Dr Bill himself last year, the whisky in both bottlings is the same, with the exception of the higher ABV in the distillery reserve. 

Personally, between the two releases, I found the Distillery Reserve offers slightly more on the nose and on the palate. The longer finish also makes the Distillery Reserve that tad more enjoyable than the standard release.

Colour: Light brass

Nose: The nose is familiar to the standard release, with the added peanut brittle followed by hints of wet moss with hints of iodine, sea brine and oh, peat that comes through quite gently. I also noted a touch of wine gum as the peat settles.

Palate: The palate on the Distillery Reserve carries a slight sweeter overtone, I get cherries and berries. The touch of vanilla, blends with the sweet notes before opening up to the dark chocolate, brine and the light peat smoke. In comparison with the standard release, I quite like the Distillery Reserve release given the slightly altered and sweeter palate.

Finish: The finish is long, I feel that the finish continues on for some time (it might be due to the slightly higher ABV). Similar to the standard release, the finish is mouth-coating and sweet with light spices.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

The night took all of us on a journey through Islay and with all the unique bottles, it was certainly one hell of a night. Thanks to Nicholas for organising.

Hendy (Sydney)

Thursday 28 April 2016

The Singleton of Dufftown 21 & 25 year old Hong Kong launch (Tasted #278 - 281)

This evening MHDHK introduced two new expressions from The Singleton to Hong Kong - the Sherried 21yo, and the ex-Bourbon cask 25yo, both from the Diageo-owned Dufftown Distillery in (you guessed it) Dufftown, Speyside. Held at the stunning Paradis in Central, the event included a guided tasting of both the 12 and 18 year old (from the Highlands-based Glen Ord distillery), as well as the new releases.

First though were the cocktails, which saw The Singleton taking the place of spirits that are usually something other than whisky, such as the Singleton Espresso Martini (made with The Singleton of Glen Ord 12) and the mojito-esque Singleton Smash (made with The Singleton of Glen Ord 18). Our favourite though was the Singleton Carre, based (we suspect) on the Vieux Carré, swapping out the rye for single malt. A delicious twist, made even more so by the assortment of accompanying canapés.

It wasn't long before it was time to take our seats, and hear Marketing Director Drew Mills talk us through the tasting lineup, providing a little more insight into the whiskies we were about to taste. For example, we've known for a while that The Singleton is popular in Asia (particularly in travel retail), but didn't know that in Taiwan (widely known as being the most significant single malt market in Asia), The Singleton enjoys the position of #1 single malt. Of course, to be fair "The Singleton" is not a single distillery, but rather a brand which represents multiple distilleries' single malts. An impressive statistic nonetheless.

Drew explained that whilst the 12 and 18 effectively follow the same maturation (the latter simply for another 6 years), the 21 and 25 are matured in an entirely different fashion, with the 21 aged in ex-Sherry casks (style and bodega not specified), and the 25 aged in ex-Bourbon American Oak casks. We also learned that casks from The Dufftown Distillery are prized by Johnnie Walker blenders when producing Johnnie Walker Blue Label

..and with that background, it was time to taste!

The Singleton of Glen Ord 12yo (40% ABV, 12yo, Highlands, Scotland, $535HKD / $70AUD)
Colour: Orange gold.
Nose: Orange peel and milk chocolate. Smooth, creamy vanilla.
Palate: Slightly thin at first, but rounds out soon after. Candied almonds and orange zest, with a slight earthiness.
Finish: Short, earthy, with the faintest hint of smoke.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. An enjoyable, approachable everyday sipper.

The Singleton of Glen Ord 18yo (40% ABV, 18yo, Highlands, Scotland, $1,450HKD)
Colour: Copper gold.
Nose: Not dissimilar to the 12, but much sweeter, with much more confectionary.
Palate: Vanilla, strawberries and whipped cream. A fuller mouthfeel than the 12. Some candied orange peel.
Finish: Medium length with a little more smoke than the 12.Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. A nice step up from the 12, yet still very approachable.

The Singleton of Dufftown 21yo (43% ABV, 21yo, Speyside, Scotland, price TBC)
Colour: Yellow gold.
Nose: Prawn toast, honey ginger, mum's sherry-soaked Christmas compote (particularly those sherry-soaked peach slices. Yum.)
Palate: "Wow" was the first response. Fantastic. Sweet, rich, creamy, with a seemingly perfect ABV (and that's coming from someone who loves cask strength whiskies). Sesame, boiled lollies, some bortrytis semillon and loads of berries.
Finish: Long with a hint of smoke, fruit compote and lots of red berry fruits.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Very, very good.

The Singleton of Dufftown 25yo (43% ABV, 25yo, SpeysideScotland, price TBC)
Colour: Light orange gold
Nose: Smooth and round but with much more tropical fruit than the 21yo.
Palate: Much spicier, slightly hotter. LEss stewed fruits and more tropical fruits - lots of apples, pears, passionfruit and even a hint of pineapple.
Finish: Longest of the four.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A great dram but given the choice, I would (and did) have another 21!

The Singleton of Dufftown 21yo and 25yo are now available at SOGO Causeway Bay B2/F Freshmart (price TBC). Until 31st May, anyone who purchases a bottle also receives a pair of Singleton Glencairn glasses. would like to thank MHDHK for the invite and for yet another brilliant Hong Kong launch event.


Wednesday 27 April 2016

Tasted #277: Nikka (Yoichi) "Woody & Vanillic"

At the height of the Japanese whisky craze last year, anything and everything Japanese seemed to fetch quite a pretty penny. Nevertheless, the old adage is that one should really enjoy the whisky and not to hoard it for resale. Though personally, I am of the opinion that the trend might slightly buck, given a number of softer than expected sales at the recent Bonham's auction that Martin attended recently.

Enough with the trend analysis though. Locally, I was at Tokyo Bird recently and Bar Manager Yoshi introduced me to a range of Yoichi 12 year old single malts that they had added to their collection last year. The range comprises three expressions;

  • 'Sherry & Sweet'
  • 'Woody & Vanillic'; and
  • 'Peaty & Salty'.

all imparting different notes. Though not rare and certainly not astronomically priced, the Nikka line up was thoroughly enjoyable and delicious. The 'Woody & Vanillic' was my favourite of the three with loads of vanilla, oak and strawberry with a lingering finish. It was delicious stuff.

The below shows all three expressions lined up though I can't seem to find the original shot so I am relaying my Instagram take of the shot.

Nikka Yoichi Woody & Vanillic (55% ABV, 12yo, Yoichi, Japan, $1,480HKD)
The nose and palate pack quite a bit of sophistication and I do like the big hit of vanilla though the 'woodiness' may not resonate with everyone. Quite a simple dram that you can enjoy any day of the week.

Colour: Amber

Nose: Exciting - there's loads of vanilla, 
banana, raisin and sweet candy.

Palate: Rich and chewy, the vanilla continues on the palate and you can also taste the oak (perhaps what led to the woody name). I also get a nice layer of sweet notes; sweet red frogs (candy), strawberry, pineapple. The palate then slowly fizzles and becomes peppery, black pepper.

Finish: Reasonably long though quite oaky and tannic.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Hendy (Sydney).

Friday 22 April 2016

This week in whisk(e)y #30 - World Whisky Day at Tokyo Bird, Exile Casks "The Trojan" and John Walker & Sons 2016 release

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, Hendy & or I think you might enjoy). So on with it then...

World Whisky Day at Tokyo Bird (Sydney)
As far as bars go, we love Tokyo Bird here, not just because we were mates with the team before it opened, but also because it's a genuinely cool, relaxed bar with a great vibe, an awesome selection of Japanese whisky, great yakitori, and well thought-out classes and events.

Following a sold-out night of whisky tasting on World Whisky Day in 2015, Tokyo Bird is extending the whisky celebrations for the entire week leading up to the big day, with whisky cocktails, tasting flights, and a Japanese whisky-matched dinner in collaboration with Melbourne’s Adam Liston, ex chef and owner of Northern Light Yakitori Bar.
“We’ve seen the explosion of interest in whisky first-hand here, especially Japanese whisky,” says Tokyo Bird owner and general manager Jason Ang. “Over the past 15 months that we’ve been open, connoisseurs and novices alike have enjoyed our 80+ varieties of Japanese whiskies – many of which are not available at other bars, even in Japan ­– while drinking us dry out of the likes of Yamazaki 12 and Hibiki 12 on several occasions!

“The enthusiasm for whisky is contagious. It’s great to see people introduce their partners and friends to whisky through their favourites on our menu, or through tasting flights or even whisky cocktails,” Jason adds. 

The bar will be running the following events for World Whisky Day (or perhaps that should be World Whisky "week"):

Available all week, Tokyo Bird bar manager Yoshi Onishi has concocted five whisky cocktails featuring a dram from each Japan, Scotland, Australia, Ireland and the US - to celebrate the world of whisky / whiskey / bourbon.
Available Monday 16 May - Saturday 21 May
Cocktails from $18 

Tokyo Bird is hosting an exclusive dinner in collaboration with Melbourne's Adam Liston (ex chef / owner of Northern Light Yakitori Bar). Indulge in five premium Japanese whiskies and five courses of modern Japanese cuisine in celebration of Japan's 'water of life'.
Tuesday 17 May; 6pm or 8.30pm sitting
$135 per person; bookings essential via
See whisky menu here (food menu to be announced late April)

From 1pm on World Whisky Day, choose from four whisky flights covering world or Japanese whiskies to taste your way through the glorious world of whiskies!
Saturday 21 May, from 1pm
Bookings available; email
Whisky flights from $38 (to be announced)

Exile Casks' First Release - "The Trojan"
Those who have been reading the whisky "blogosphere" for a while may be familiar with Joel Harrison & Neil Ridley - founders of who went on to become "whisky celebrities" through their writing, events, "A to Z" of whisky, blog and general fun attitude to the world of spirits. Since shuttering the caskstrength site, they've started up World's Best Spirits and recently launched their first whisky under the "Exile Casks" banner - a 25yo single cask Speysider at 57.1%, with a total outturn of 306 bottles (500mL).

Whilst the distillery of origin is unknown, the story is that the cask was found in a distillery other than the one in which it was distilled (hence the "Trojan" name). All you need to know though, is it's a 25 year old single cask Speysider, for £65, about which Dave Broom said:
"You’d be a fool not to buy it for quality and for price"
and Serge Valentin (of said:
"Excellently modern. Well done."
We're a little surprised that, given the excellent pricepoint and good reviews, there are still bottles available (we ordered ours on release day), but there you go. You get pick one up here (worldwide shipping is available). We'll have tasting notes up once ours arrives.

John Walker & Sons Private Collection - 2016 Edition
Another year, another exquisitely presented John Walker & Sons "Private Collection" - the 2016 edition this time. Following on from 2015's red-hued release, and 2014's blue release comes this honey-coloured release, again limited to 8,888 bottles.

Of course, it's the liquid that counts though, and this year's interestingly makes significant note of the grain whiskies within, even listing the distilleries. We're not sure if this is to become a trend with these releases, but we like it.

To quote the press release:
This is the most complex edition to date in its making, blended with whiskies drawn from over 100 casks due to the many subtle variations required in flavour styles and effects, and the precious little remaining after the lost ‘Angels’ Share’ from years of maturation.

The blenders had the luxury of selecting, one by one, rare casks of Single Grain Scotch Whisky, including from five Johnnie Walker distilleries (four now silent and therefore irreplaceable – Caledonian, Cambus, Carsebridge and Port Dundas). These were gathered into two styles - woody, vanilla fudge notes, and sweeter, estery, honey notes – and laid down in casks for several months of marrying to ensure seamless integration of flavours and smoothness in the final blend.

Grain whiskies, as well as having soft, delicate, honey, heady or estery characters expressive of each distillery and the cask in which each whisky has matured, are also vital in revealing the wealth of malt whisky flavours.

In the 2016 Edition, they are set exquisitely against unique casks of a Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Jim’s treasured experimental stock. Aged in American oak with specially chosen cask ends, the result is a wonderfully subtle distillery character. Mature and intense, yet restrained, it highlights the effects of the grain whiskies in the blend gloriously.

After marrying individually, the three components were blended to 43.0% ABV to reveal the myriad delicate aromas and flavours." 

The 2016 Private Collection release is available in Hong Kong (from selected retail stores) and in Australia (from Dan Murphy's), for $977AUD.

Thats all for this week. Until next time...


Saturday 16 April 2016

Tasted #276: Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016


We've certainly heard a lot of it since the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 Edition was announced (see our initial post from January here). One bloke says he likes the 2013 version, and the world goes nuts over the follow-up release. 

Limited to 5,000 bottles (1,500 for Japan, 3,500 for the rest of the world), we've seen retailers charging huge markups and bottles being auctioned for 5, even 10 times the recommended retail price (which was £200, $300USD and $450AUD...if you were lucky enough to find one at retail).

So, with all this hype, we wanted to try it and make a call for ourselves. If the 2013 was so great, and this is basically the same juice with an additional 3 years of maturation (which we learned from Mike Miyamoto recently), perhaps it really is that amazing? Perhaps the hype is justified...?

Let's find out...

Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 Edition (48% ABV, NAS, Japan, £200 / $450AUD / $300USD)
Colour: Deep, deep brown-red-copper. Incredibly dark. Almost black. Easily one of the darkest whiskies we've ever tasted.

Nose: Trademark heavily-sherried Yamazaki (we've tried a few, like these onesthese ones, these ones and especially this one) - coffee, mocha, roasted brazil nuts, sherry-soaked raisins. Huge, juicy, full of cherries. Absolutely beautiful nose - one of the best in a while. A few drops of water brings a freshness and a creaminess that wasn't there without. So far so good!

Palate: Drying, tannic, and oaky. Too oaky!? There's Ribena, dark chocolate, dates, sultanas. With some water - milk chocolate. There's a bit going on here, but there's an underlying theme of "oak" I just can't shake. I haven't tried the 2013, but if this is the 2013 with 3 extra years...perhaps it didn't need them? Hate to say it, but whilst it is enjoyable, it does feel a little over-oaked.

Finish: Long, tannic, and quite bitter - hints of Campari!

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. It was an absolute pleasure to get our hands on a bottle and taste this, and it's a quintessential Japanese sherry bomb...but we just can't help but feel it's had a little too long in oak. Mind you, that nose - wow, stunning.