Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve 12yo and Peated Cask Reserve launch lunch - Hong Kong (Tasted #320 - 322)

Last week I was thrilled to be invited to lunch with Ronnie Cox (The Glenrothes' and Berry Bros & Rudd's Brand Heritage Director (Spirits), and Global Brand Ambassador for The Glenrothes), to celebrate the launch of both the Vintage Reserve 12 year old, an Asia-only release, and Peated Cask Reserve. It'd been almost two years since I last caught up with Ronnie in Hong Kong, so I was keen to hear him present these new expressions.

Held at Hong Kong's Lai Bun Fu, the lunch saw a small group of media enjoy an 8 course traditional Cantonese meal with a selection of The Glenrothes - served of course in those great little Glenrothes mini- Glencairn-esque glasses!

Ronnie opened proceedings in his usual trademark enthusiastic style, managing to relay all key facts about each whisky whilst making us all feel like we were catching up with a mate we hadn't seen in ages. Truly a great lunch companion. Soon though it was time to dive into the first course (there were eight, after all, and some of us did have to be productive later in the day!)

First on the menu was Steamed crab claw with chinese wine paired with The Glenrothes Select Reserve. A lighter whisky, with a little creaminess which I found worked well with the wine. None of the flavours dominated here and all worked together in harmony.

Moving along, the second course saw reliable old favourite The Glenrothes Vintage 2001 matched with Steamed Choi Sum with preserved vegetables, stir-fried Kale with shrimp paste. Described by Ronnie as a "conversational" whisky, I found it to be exactly that - an easy-going, enjoyable sipping whisky. It paired well with the dish (they all did) but I didn't find any particular standout highlights about the pairing (unlike some others).

The third (and fourth) dishes were the first to be paired with one of the new whiskies - The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve 12 Year Old. First Pan-fried minced pork and lotus root cake, with truffle seasoning and then Baked squid stuffed with glutinous rice

Despite carrying a (12 year old) age statement, Ronnie explained that the whisky is actually comprised of 12 different vintages, the oldest dating back to 1973 (the others being 1978, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003). Designed to show the "true character of The Glenrothes", I found it to be quite a decent whisky for the (relatively small) price tag in Hong Kong - $550HKD. Full tasting notes and pairing thoughts can be found below.

The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve 12 Year Old (40%ABV, 12yo, Speyside, Scotland, $550HKD)
An Asia-only release including whisky from casks dating back to 1973. 

Colour: Straw-gold

Nose: Fruity - lots of berries. Strawberries, raspberries. Some sweet, fragrant spice - like a middle Eastern spice souk, but toned down.

Palate: Following the nose, the palate showed more berries (strawberries most notably), touches of burnt sugar, and more spice, with a hint of oak.

Finish: Long and slightly tannic.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  91/100. Not mind-blowingly complex, but a lovely dram to sip and savour. 

With the truffle-seasoned course I found it emphasised the truffle quite a lot, without producing any conflicting flavours. With the baked squid (which on its own was a little bland), there was a new-found subtle sweetness which worked well.

Our fifth course, Braised sea cucumber stuffed with prawn mousse was paired with the oldest whisky served - the 24 year old The Glenrothes Vintage 1992 (note: link is to an older, 21 year old release). Our second "sea cucumber and whisky" pairing in a week! How did it fare? Very well, with the whisky adding a gentle creaminess to the dish, which seemed to be a theme with the seafood dishes served. Full tasting notes below.

The Glenrothes Vintage 1992 (44.3%ABV, 24yo, Speyside, Scotland, £132 - previous version)
Colour: Gold

Nose: Soapy! Creamy and floral too - lots of Jasmine.

Palate: Rich, creamy, mouthfilling. Lots of floral notes - Jasmine still, and some rose. Hints of red apples.

Finish: Long and creamy, with more red apple notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  93/100. Probably one of the best Glenrothes I've had in recent memory.

Sifu's crispy chicken with 5-flavoured condiments was up next, paired with the other star of the show, The Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve. Released to celebrate the discovery of a connection (way back in 1887) to Bunnahabhain, the whisky is actually 1992 vintage Glenrothes given a brief finish in casks that formerly held (unnamed) peated whisky from an Islay distillery.

Whilst it was a little hard to match the whisky with all five condiments, it did compliment the green tea salt nicely, strangely enough. We saved the rest of the whisky for a proper detailed assessment though...

The Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve (40%ABV, NAS, Speyside, Scotland, $715HKD)
Colour: Very light straw.

Nose: Tropical. Custard mixed with mango and peach. Slightly perfumed. Really no discernible peat.

Palate: Oh, there's the peat! It's obvious, but not in your face, and it blends well with the (still) tropical notes. There's orange now too. It's an ashy, BBQ style peat, rather than an iodine-esque, seaside peat.

Finish: Medium length, oranges, smoke and slight bitteness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  93/100. Also probably one of the best Glenrothes I've had in recent memory.

The last two dishes (Lai Bun Fu special fried rice with lobster, abalone with scallop truffle oil and Double-boiled snow fungus and lotus seed) were not paired with any whiskies, but were a fitting end to the meal, which turned out to be a great way to explore a range of The Glenrothes whiskies, including the new Vintage Reserve 12 Year Old and Peated Cask Reserve. Both are available in Hong Kong now.

The same whisky-pairing menu is also now available at Lai Bun Fu, until 1st December, at a price of $980HKD/head. Further details can be found on their Facebook page would like to thank Edrington Hong Kong, Signature Communications, Berry Bros & Rudd and of course Ronnie Cox himself for a wonderful lunch.


Saturday, 22 October 2016

Tasted #319: Johnnie Walker "Select Casks" Rye Cask Finish

Bucking the NAS movement, a limited edition 10 year old Johnnie Walker "Rye Cask Finish" was released in Australia in August 2016 as part of Jim Beveridge's recent take on experimental blends. Jim's "Blenders Batch" series is also being released this month - though we'll post separately on that particular series.

The Rye Cask Finish takes its name not from the fact that it is a rye whisky, but rather a blended Scotch whisky that has been finished in ex-rye whiskey casks for six months. Being Cardhu-heavy, the Rye Cask Finish shares some of the soft and earthy notes of Cardhu malt whisky. Bottled at a higher than average 46% ABV, the Rye Cask Finish packs a punch above the rest and offers an enjoyable notes throughout.

Johnny Walker Select Casks - Rye Cask Finish (46% ABV, 10yo, Scotland, $68.99)
I have to say, this would have to be one of my preferred Johnnie Walkers - a delicious concoction of bittersweet notes that delivers a level of complexity from the nose to the palate to the finish. An enjoyable dram for any night of the week (especially at the current price point).

Colour: Chinese tea.

Nose: The nose is fresh and crisp. It is laden with molasses, sweet orange syrup, peppermint tea, creamy vanilla and toasted wood chips.

Palate: The palate is fruity and sweet with a bitter undertone. Creamy vanilla mashed with orange and pineapple juice and then lapped with some bitter melon. The spices that follow are subtle yet lingering and drying. The palate is nice, balanced and complex.

Finish: The finish is long and drying. There's a big trace of the bitterness that's left on the palate as the notes dry up.

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


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Ardbeg An Oa - new addition to the core Ardbeg range?

Back in August 2015, we brought word that Ardbeg were playing around with Russian Oak, and suggested that this would likely be a future Ardbeg Day release. Fast forward 12 months, to August this year, when we brought word of the following label, which appeared on the US TTB site and seemed to back up the theory:

Well, we've just recently attended lunch with...someone who would know, and we can confirm that Ardbeg Kelpie is indeed the Ardbeg Day 2017 release.

What's more though, we also learned that a new, fourth core Ardbeg expression is going to be introduced (joining 10yo, Corryvreckan and Uigeadail), and that it will be called "Ardbeg An Oa".

We have scant little detail on what "An Oa" (which appears to take its name from a peninsula in Islay) will be, or when it will be released, but we certainly can't wait to find out. With the 10yo bringing a balance of sweetness and peat, "Corry" cranking everything up a notch, and "Oogie" bringing the sherry influence, which way will Moët Hennessy go with "An Oa"? Will it carry an age statement? Will it be finished in some exotic casks (probably not too exotic if it's to become a core expression)? Will it follow Lagavulin and be on the younger side, ala their 8 year old?

Time will tell, but unless you heard about it on a German whisky forum, or you found this UK Intellectual Property Office page, you probably heard about it here first!


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Macallan Edition No.2 Hong Kong launch dinner (Tasted #318)

Late last week TimeforWhisky was lucky enough to be invited to the Hong Kong launch of The Macallan Edition No.2 - the latest limited edition from the distillery, which we first tried a few weeks ago. Taking over the entirety of VEA's intimate 30th floor restaurant, the event saw media and industry guests invited to taste the Edition No.2, along with 5 other Macallans paired with a custom tasting menu. VEA's tasting menus are amazing enough on their own (if they don't get at least one Michelin star next round, there's something wrong...) but to have it paired with 6 drams from The Macallan (not to mention two cocktails)? 

I didn't need to be asked twice...

After being handed a welcome cocktail upon arrival (a dangerously drinkable whisky sour riff with passionfruit and bee pollen), I spotted Stephen Mack of AWSEC who I learnt was our host for the evening. Stephen and I had worked at the "Toast The Macallan" event a few months earlier - he as host, me as a guest speaker (talking about whisky blogging), so it was great to see we'd be in good hands for the night.

Taking our seats soon after, we surveyed the menu and saw what looked like a great and varied line up of Macallans - the three 12s (Sherry Oak, Fine Oak and Double Cask), The Whisky Maker's Selection (a since-discontinued Travel Retail edition), and both Edition No.1 and No.2. I was especially excited about being able to compare Editions No.1 and 2 together, to see if my memory was correct - to see if I really preferred No.1 to No.2.

After a brief introduction by Stephen, and VEA's trademark-delicious "snacks" (the most incredible of which was the smoked quail eggs), it was time for the first course - Smoked Salmon, Egplant, Black garlic, burnt ash. Paired with the three aforementioned 12 year olds, I found them all to match well, but the best match for me was the Double Cask 12 with the quail eggs - something about the smokiness and the honey yet slightly fruity nature of the Double Cask just worked.

Next was grilled Japanese Peach, Wakamomo baby peach, tomato, and sea urchin, matched with The Macallan Whisky Maker's Selection, a previous travel retail extension of the Fine Oak range. Whilst this was another well planned pairing, I have to admit it was the whisky itself I was focusing on here, as it was a Macallan I hadn't yet had the pleasure of trying. I ended up spending a fair bit of time with this one...

Note: This one's not to be confused with the "Whisky Maker's Edition", which is still on travel retail shelves today.

The Macallan "Whisky Maker's Selection" (42.8% ABV, NAS, Speyside, Scotland, No longer available)
Colour: Light orange copper.

Nose: Fruity and creamy, like a fruit compote, but predominantly fruity. In fact on first nosing, I might have thought this a cognac! Plenty of grapes.

Palate: A lot more spice than the nose would suggest, but still with that lovely fresh fruitiness - grapes and red apples. There's a "hint of flint" (sulphur, call it what you will) but not as much on some of the more sherried Macs of today. Creamy caramel rounds out a lovely, moreish palate. 

Finish: Long, fruit and spicy.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  93/100. This was simultaneously elegant and powerful, and the most enjoyable "Fine Oak" Macallan I've had in some time.

The next course, Crispy sea cucumber, langoustine, snap peas and young ginger was paired with Edition No.1 (first tasted here), whilst the subsequent course, Egg, truffle, parmesan and caviar was paired with an Edition No.2-based cocktail, with Elderflower shrub, Cocchi Americano and Orange Bitters. The latter was one of the best Scotch-based cocktails I'd had in recent memory, with everything I love about bitter, bracing, spirit-forward cocktails, but tempered with a delicate, not-overtly-sweet fruitiness which just worked perfectly.

At this point though, noticing that the next course (Goose earl grey smoked, cherry, taro and "Lo Sui") was paired with Edition No.2 served neat, I jumped ahead and did the comparison I'd wanted to make for a few weeks - Edition No.1 and No.2, side by side.

I was a huge fan of Edition No.1 last year, and still am, but I have to say Edition No.2 was the clear winner here - it's fresher, dare-I-say slightly old school Macallan-like notes, with hints of apple and ginger and fresh sherry overshadowed the Edition No.1 and its bolder, more obviously sherried profile.

Our last dish, Stones and Pebbles, vanilla, burnt milk, apple toffee tasted as good as it was visually stunning (see below). Enjoyed with another Edition No.2 (this time with an ice ball), it was a lovely end to the night.

There's no question that Edrington Hong Kong know how to host a fantastic whisky launch, but they'd outdone themselves with this one - a literal feast for the eyes, nose and mouth from beginning to end.

Edition No.2 is available in Hong Kong now, for around $700-$800HKD.


TimeforWhisky would like to thank Edrington HK to the invite to what was a fantastic dinner.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Tasted #317: McHenry William First Release

At a recent Aussie Whisky masterclass at Sydney's Oak Barrel (OB), Scott Fitzsimons, OB's Whisky Specialist brought a special addition. Cloaked in a black cloth at the start of the night, it was later revealed as McHenry Whisky from the William McHenry Distillery, from Port Arthur, Tasmania. 

McHenry is the southernmost distillery in the world, contrasting with Highland Park in Orkney Scotland, being the most northernmost. On the bottle, McHenry also claims to have its own pure spring water source as basis for its distillation - though let's not get into a discussion on quality of water underpinning a good dram. Led by Master Distiller Bill McHenry, the distillery produces various gins, vodka and single malt whiskies.

This was the first time I had heard of the distillery and was simply excited to sample the first release edition. 

McHenry William First Release (55% ABV, NAS, Port Arthur, Australia, $280AUD)
A single Malt Whisky release from another distillery in Tasmania. This first release is quite enjoyable, simple and not overly complex. It would definitely suit as an everyday dram though the steep price point may be a deterrent for many.

Colour: Amber gold.

Nose: The nose is laden with honey, peppery spices, gun powder and a hint of Chinese herbal medicine. There's also a great deal of oaky aroma on the nose.

Palate: The palate is fruity and sweet at first, with pineapple and citrus notes being the prevalent notes. The palate is slightly oaky, chalky and is consistent with the oak note from the nose. The chalkiness is similar to that found on a Clynelish.

Finish: The finish is malty and leaves your palate with quite a bit of tannin. Drying.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100.