Saturday 13 August 2016

This week in whisk(e)y #34 - New Australian SMWS partner bar, JW Rye Cask Finish, Sydney Indie Tasting showcase and Bar High Five comes to Hong Kong

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...

The Gresham becomes Queensland's first SMWS partner bar
Joining the ranks of some of our favourite Aussie bars, including Whisky & AlementEau de Vie and Shirt Bar, is Queensland's The Gresham, recently been announced as Queensland's first (and only) Scotch Malt Whisky Society partner bar.

According to Matt Bailey, Brand Ambassador for SMWS (and good mate of TimeforWhisky):
“What we look for in a partner is those who have a proven dedication to serving their guests the best spirits in the world,” he said “It’s not just about stocking the world’s best whisky, it’s about the people serving that product having extensive knowledge and are passionate about single cast and cast strength Scotch Malt Whisky. 
Ryan Lane’s the manager there, his team and the owners of The Gresham all have a demonstrable track record of excellence in product choice and knowledge, not just in whisky but in all the beverages they stock and the way they serve them”.
One to check out if in Brisbane.

New Johnnie Walker "Rye Cask Finish" released in Australia
We heard about this one a while ago, and now the Johnnie Walker Rye Cask Finish is available in Australia. Whilst the "rye" in the name might throw a few people, this is still very much a blended Scotch whisky - just one finished in ex-rye whiskey casks. We love a good rye here so it'll be interesting to see what effect ex-rye casks have on a 10yo, Cardhu-heavy Johnnie Walker blend.

Somewhat bucking the NAS trend, this one's bottled with a clear (10 year old) age statement on the bottle, and also at a healthy 46% ABV (as opposed to many blends nowadays, bottled at 40 or 43%).

Quoting the press release:
"Rye Cask Finish is a Scotch whisky blend that showcases the best of Scottish blending and maturation expertise and has already picked up numerous international awards including gold at The International Spirits Challenge 2016 and silver at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
With Cardhu single malt at the heart of the blend, Johnnie Walker’s Master Blender Jim Beveridge used whiskies matured for at least ten years in first-fill American Oak casks. He finished the Scotch in ex-rye whisky casks, creating a complex new whisky with rich layers of flavour starting with creamy vanilla notes and transitioning to a more spicy finish.
Johnnie Walker Select Cask – Rye Cask Finish is the perfect gift for Father’s Day (available nationally) and has a recommended retail price of $70 (700ml)."
We'll hopefully have our own tasting notes posted in the near future.

"Indie Tasting" independent spirits showcase returns to Sydney
On Sunday 18th September, Sydney will see over 40 suppliers showcasing 120 boutique spirits at the annual "Indie Tasting", to be held at the always-fun Frankie's Pizza (I mean the "always fun" part. On a recent trip back to Sydney, I visited on a Tuesday night and what I saw was a scene I thought was long-dead in Sydney, thanks to the lockout laws...riotous good times.)

Not to be confused with Independent bottlings (aka "Indies" or "IBs") which often provide an alternative insight into a particular distillery, this event celebrates small, boutique, independent (I hesitate to use the word "craft") spirits.

Indie Tasting founder, David Spanton, shares, “These definitely aren’t your run-of-the-mill bottleshop offerings. Many haven’t even made it to the bottleshop or backbar yet. Thanks to a boom in the local distilling industry, home grown Aussie spirits are making a big appearance. This showcase is about helping small brands get more visibility in today’s competitive market. And Sydney is the perfect city to host such an event with its thriving small bar scene and passionate bartending professionals and drinkers.”

Brands on show will include Young Henry's (yes they do spirits now!), Poor Tom's, Applewood (their Red Okar is a pretty unique alternative to Campari), Adelaide Hills, Beenleigh, Husk Distillers, Hippocampus, Four Pillars, West Winds, Melbourne Moonshine and whisky distillery Whipper Snapper, not to mention six distilleries from North Carolina, including one producing a "blonde whisky" (?!), which sounds intriguing.

With tickets only $40 (pre-sale) or $50 (on the door), it sounds like a pretty bloody good way to spend a Sunday arvo.

Indie Tasting Sydney
Sunday, 18 September, 12pm – 5pm
Frankie’s Pizza, 50 Hunter St, Sydney, NSW 2000
Tickets: $40 online, $50 on door (pending availability).

Bar High Five (pop up) comes to Hong Kong
Earlier this year Hong Kong's Landmark Mandarin Oriental welcomed famed NYC bar Please Don't Tell (PDT) for a pop-up, taking over the small upstairs part of MO Bar ("The Shell") and turning it into an incredibly realistic replica of the original bar.

This September and October it's set to happen all over again, this time with Japan's Bar High Five - a Japanese cocktail institution and currently rated Asia's third best bar.

Ensuring the utmost authenticity, the bar will be presided over by founder Hidetsugu Ueno (winner of this year's International Bartender of the Year award at Tales of the Cocktail). We've met and exchanged a few e-mails with Ueno-San over the past few years (most recently during this year's Tokyo International Bar Show + Whisky Expo) and as well as being an absolute master of his craft, he's a really nice, genuine bloke.

"With BAR HIGH FIVE founder and master bartender, Mr Hidetsugu Ueno, heading the cocktail-making team, the pop-up will open in MO Bar’s upstairs private room, The Shell, between 1 September until 31 October 2016. The Shell will be transformed into a jewel-box venue reminiscent of Mr Ueno’s glamorous Ginza institution.
Guests are invited to join an Instagram photo contest to win a two-night stay for two people at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo and visit the original BAR HIGH FIVE in the city’s Ginza district.
Mr Ueno and his team of award-winning mixologists, Ms Kaori Kurakami and Ms Yuriko Naganuma, will present 14 specially crafted cocktails at the pop-up. Since starting his career in 1992, Mr Ueno has won many awards and consistently been a finalist at the world’s leading cocktail contests.
The pop-up will shine a light on the idiosyncratic art of Japanese bartending, celebrating Mr Ueno’s legendary theatrical approach, which includes meticulously carving giant blocks of ice into intricate diamonds, a spectacle guests find as enjoyable as the crafted and often playful cocktails he makes.
To complete this exclusive experience, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong’s Culinary Director, Richard Ekkebus, will present a bespoke menu of gastronomic treats, including charcuterie of Ibérico Bellota Ham and the finest Iberian specialities by Bellota Bellota."

It's fair to say we're a little bit excited about this one. Stay tuned for a review and plenty of photos of the transformation in early September.

Until next time...


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