Monday 21 November 2016

Chivas Regal Ultis Sydney Launch (Tasted #329)

Walking into Palmer & Co, Merivale's renowned small bar tucked away in one of Sydney’s oldest lanes, one could easily mistake the bar for something more akin to the "House of Chivas Regal". Plastered across the room were Chivas Regal bottles, Chivas Regal mementos and five special Chivas stations. What was about to take place was the special launch of Chivas Regal Ultis, Chivas Regal’s first blended malt expression - though certainly not the first in the industry, with Johnnie Walker Green, Monkey Shoulder and various Compass Box expressions having already represented the segment for some time.

The launch celebration was rather special as not only was the occasion to celebrate the new Ultis expression, but also to celebrate Chris Evans (better known as Captain America) as the new Asia Pacific Ambassador for Chivas Regal, and Michael Klim as the Australian Chivas Regal Ambassador. Both Chris and Michael co-starred in Chivas Regal’s "Win the Right Way campaign" which launched in 2014 to help recognise and advocate for the power of shared success - or simply the message that real success is not measured by a one's wealth alone, but by how many lives one has enriched.

The name Ultis, derived from ‘Ultimate’ and ‘Fortis' (Latin for ‘strength’) was bestowed upon the new blended malt expression, which sees five Speyside malts from Chivas Brothers’ portfolio (Tormore, Longmorn, Strathisla, Allt A’Bhainne and Braeval) selected to form the whisky. The malts were specially selected by Chivas' blending team as a tribute to the work of the five generations of Masters Blenders that have worked on the Chivas brand and its distinct style since 1909. As Chris Evans highlighted on the day, Ultis is simply a "Whisky with people at its heart!”

What I truly loved at the launch were the five Chivas stations with each station representing the individual malts that help form Ultis, along with different sensory experiences that all related to the individual malt. The deliciously fruity and sweet Longmorn was well represented with pears, vanilla pods, honeycomb and milk chocolates whilst over at the Straithisla station we saw stone fruits and nuts visually describing the nutty nature of Chivas’ foundation malt.

Speaking to a few bloggers and Pernod Ricard representatives at the event, we discussed the on-going challenge that the whisky industry has with transparency. This is a topic that is at the heart of Compass Box's continued efforts to challenge the status quo by disclosing additional detail on the composition of their blended malts. The Ultis launch saw a move to do something similar by exposing the five individual malts and allowing an appreciation of the five individual malts in addition to the final blended expression. Although the percentage composition of the five malts was not disclosed, it is perhaps a step in the right direction. Having come onto my whisky journey only a few years ago, I am certainly an advocate for such transparency as it allows a deepening of my appreciation of the final expression.

Check out more photos from the launch event at our Facebook page.

Chivas Regal Ultis (40% ABV, NAS, Speyside, Scotland, AUD$198.90 / ~ AUD$265 for 1L Travel Retail, from December)
Ultis is a delicious and balanced blended malt and having tasted some of the individual malts at the launch, the final expression clearly reflects different characteristics from the contributing single malts. Time and place? A comfy lounge with few good mates celebrating a momentous occasion.

Deep, dark caramel.

The nose is beautiful and loaded with sweet and fruity notes. There are hints of apple, apricot, toffee fudge, vanilla, burnt orange and cinnamon.

Palate: The palate is soft and mellow to start before opening up notes of apple, toffee followed by warming burst of spices; cardamon, cloves and black pepper.

Finish: A warming medium sweet and velvety finish.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100.

Chivas Regal Ultis 700ml will be available from November through selected retailers and from December at Duty Free retailers in a Travellers' Exclusive 1 Litre bottling.

Hendy. would like to thank Pernod Ricard and Eva McKenzie of One Green Bean for the invite to the launch of the Chivas Regal Ultis.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Tasted #326 - 328: Three single cask GlenDronachs from Batch 11

Batch 14 of GlenDronach's excellent single cask releases may have just been released, but we're stepping back a little with this post - to January 2015's Batch 11. 

(For comparison, we'll have tasting notes on three of the recent Batch 14 releases - Oloroso Sherry Butt releases of course - in a few weeks. In particular, this 23yo, this 24yo and this 24yo.) 

These three whiskies came from a PX Sherry Puncheon (1990 Cask #1162), an Oloroso Sherry Puncheon (1995 Cask #4941) and my personal favourite - an Oloroso Sherry Butt (1994 Cask #54). Whilst I'd love to have full bottles of these, GlenDronach's single casks have been getting harder and harder to get a hold of lately, especially the official "Batch" releases from the distillery. I'm still managing to get a hold of a reasonable amount of "private" single casks - casks bottled for whisky shows, clubs, events etc.. (mostly from Taiwan and Japan), but the official "Batches" seem to sell out quicker and quicker every year.

Somewhat easier to get a hold of though are the 30mL sample drams Master of Malt sell via their "Drinks by the Dram" service...which is how I ended up tasting these...

GlenDronach Single Cask Batch 11 Cask #1162 1990 24 Year Old (52.9% ABV, 24yo, Single Malt from an ex-PX Sherry puncheon, Speyside, Scotland, was £104.96ex-VAT but no longer available)
Colour: Dark mocha-copper.

Nose: Initially a little hot. Candied peanuts, raisins, lots of chocolate, hints of tobacco leaves and even a little saltiness.

Palate: There's definitely some PX sweetness here. Plenty of rich, berry-sherry notes, but overlaid with a big sugary/confectionary-like sweetness hit. Cigars, sea air, salted caramel. Oak. Water tones down the sweetness and brings out some tobacco notes.

Finish: Long. Coffee grounds, with a salty astringency. At the very end there's a reasonable amount f tannins. Wither water, a little more earthy.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. A very good whisky, but not as well balanced (especially when it comes to the oak) as the others.

GlenDronach Single Cask Batch 11 Cask #54 1994 20 Year Old (56.6% ABV, 20yo, Single Malt from an ex-Oloroso Sherry butt, Speyside, Scotland, was £79.96ex-VAT but no longer available)
Colour: Treacle, maple syrup copper.

Nose: Toffee, demerara sugar, and a lot of spice - cloves. There's also a freshness, some nutmeg, and a lot of citrus oil - like a freshly expressed orange peel.

Palate: This is just all kinds of trademark GlenDronach - big rich juicy complex sherry. There's also hints of bacon, maple syrup, caramel, stewed berries and rich, warm cherry pie.

Finish: Long (LONG!), spicy-sweet, with a residual sweet treacle note that balances perfectly with hints of oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  94/100. Just a wonderful whisky.

GlenDronach Single Cask Batch 11 Cask #4941 1995 19 Year Old (57% ABV, 19yo, Single Malt from an ex-Oloroso Sherry puncheon, Speyside, Scotland, was £75.79ex-VAT but no longer available)
Colour: Dark amber-copper (or as some would say - "correct").

Nose: Earthy at first. Then varnish/furniture polish, leather, tobacco and Brazil nuts. Beautiful nose. With water it becomes a little more earthy, a little more dusty.

Palate: Initially citrus-sweet, then moving onto rich mocha caramel. Sweeter and spicier than the nose, with hardly any of the furniture polish / leather from the nose. Water does add a little bit of those characteristics though.

Finish: Long, citrus-y and warming. Slight tannic astringency, which vanishes after a few drops of water.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. A very nice whisky but I wish the palate was as good as the nose suggested.


Tuesday 8 November 2016

Tasted #324 - 325: Compass Box Three Year Old Deluxe & Spice Tree Extravaganza

The folks at Compass Box have been good to us this year - sending us samples of "This is Not a Luxury Whisky" and "Flaming Heart (15th Anniversary)" first, then "Enlightenment" and "The Circus", and now Three Year Old Deluxe and Spice Tree Extravaganza.

We've talked before about Compass Box's transparency campaign, and the Three Year Old Deluxe is a brilliant (and very cheeky) extension of that. See, yes, it's a 3 year old whisky (in that the youngest whisky in the bottle is 3yo), but it also only contains <1% of 3yo whisky. A little over 90% is "considerably older" whisky from the same distillery (which we presume to be Clynelish), and the remaining 9% is "peaty malt whisky distilled on the Isle of Skye (which we presume to be Talisker).

Nowhere do they say the age of the older malt, nor the Talisker, but it certainly noses and tastes considerably more complex than three years old...

Compass Box "Three Year Old Deluxe" (49.2% ABV, 3yo, Blended Malt, Scotland, £153.29ex / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Yellow-gold.

Nose: Apples, candle wax, sweet tea, oak and cherries.

Palate: Apples, toffee and caramel at first. A slight meatiness, then strawberry short cake. Stewed pears. A few drops of water adds more waxiness.

Finish: Medium length. Residual fruitiness from the palate, but with a slightly tannic oakiness at the very end. 

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. Excellent - not quite as good as "This is Not a Luxury Whisky", but close. Certainly the most complex 3yo whisky out there!

Compass Box "Spice Tree Extravaganza" (46% ABV, NAS, Blended Malt, Scotland, £76.62ex / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Maple-gold.

Nose: Clean, fresh sherry (Oloroso?) with a hint of smoke. Red apples and ginger.

Palate: Citrus at first - whole oranges. BBQ'd pineapple. Molasses, treacle, brown sugar. Blackberries. 

Finish: Medium to long in length, with hints of ginger and maple syrup.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. Another beautiful blended malt from Compass Box.

Big thanks to @compassboxwhiskyco for these samples recently. Every Compass Box we've tried so far has been great (and there's been quite a few of them) and these are no exception. - Gotta say...loving the cheekiness of this "3 year old" - a little dig at the current stoush with the SWA no doubt. With Less than 1% of (what we presume is) Clynelish 3yo, and 90% of significantly older malt from the same distillery, whilst it's technically a 3yo, it obviously doesn't drink like one. At ~£200 retail too, it's not priced like one either! A lovely complex blended malt though. - They must be busy at Compass Box HQ, with all these fantastic (and varied) whiskies coming out....but keep up the great work we say! -- #whisky #InstaWhisky #Instadram #WhiskyGram #RareWhisky #WhiskyTasting #WhiskyGeek #WhiskyBlogger #TimeforWhisky #DramFull #WhiskyHK #WhiskySYD #WhiskyFabric #WhiskyLover #Whiskey #威士忌 #ウイスキー #위스키 #WhiskyLife #WhiskyPorn #HongKongWhisky #WhiskySamples #CompassBoxWhisky #CompassBox #BlendedMalt #YoungWhisky #OldWhisky
A photo posted by Martin - (@timeforwhisky) on

Another big thanks to Compass Box for the samples!


Monday 7 November 2016

Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch "Red Rye Finish" Australian Launch (Tasted #323)

Following the recent launch of the Johnnie Walker Select Casks - Rye Cask Finish in Australia, Johnnie Walker has officially launched another limited edition experimental expression -  Red Rye Finish. Forming part of a series of limited edition experimental Scotch blends dubbed the "Blenders' Batch", the Red Rye has now been released into various markets including Australia.

Bottled at 40% ABV, the Red Rye Finish contrasts with the Select Casks Rye Cask Finish which is bottled at a higher ABV of 46%. The Red Rye blend exclusively uses malt and grain whiskies from first-fill ex-bourbon casks, with an emphasis on the use Cardhu malt to embed the soft and earthy notes Cardhu is known for. The blend is then finished for around six months in ex-rye whiskey casks, a particularly challenging task for Master Blender Jim Beveridge and his team given rye notes can often take over the final product.

Having spoken to Sean Baxter, the Diageo Malt Ambassador at the launch, we suspect that only a small number of distinct malt whiskies had been used to create this particular blend; we guessed around six different whiskies - a far cry from other Johnnie Walker mainstream blends which can marry up to 40 different whiskies.

The Red Rye has been uniquely positioned for use in cocktails, allowing an infusion of both classic malt and rye whiskies in the one expression. In fact, Red Rye has been pitched as a good substitute to replace American bourbon whiskies in classic cocktails such as the Manhattan or the New Yorker. Neat, the Red Rye Finish is a rather soft and subtle blend with the subtlety of rye spices on the nose and palate. Read on for my full take on the blend below.

The focus on rye by Jim and his team of blenders has been said to follow the increasing trend globally of rye and bourbon whiskies appreciation. From a mixologist's perspective, Red Rye, Select Rye and the upcoming Johnnie Walker experimental blends provide another dimension for them to work with. 

At the launch, four Red Rye based cocktails were showcased on the night with a mix of classics and new;
  • Rye-talian; Red Rye, Cascara Campari, blood orange, potato maple made in-house by Bouche on Bridge;
  • Rye and Dry; Red Rye, Capi ginger ale, basil
  • New Yorker; Red Rye, lemon, grenadine
  • Red Rye Manhattan; Red Rye, Dolin rouge, bitters
Crafted by Matt Linklater, Lead Bartender of newly established bar eatery Bouche on Bridge (ex Bulletin Place) and Sean Baxter, the four cocktails played with variations of classic ingredients together with the Red Rye and were served with matching canapés such as the oyster, blood orange and granita shown below. My pick of the four was the New Yorker which I thought was a refreshing take of the classic with a subtle rye note throughout.

Johnnie Walker Blenders Batch - Red Rye Finish (40% ABV, NAS, Scotland, A$48.90)
A soft, delicate blend that can please most palates with an added subtle complexity from the rye finish. Used as part of a cocktail, this particular blend can provide a subtle infusion of both classic malt and rye whiskies.

Colour: Faded gold

Nose: The nose is filled with 
rye characters, creamy vanilla, butterscotch, burnt orange, toasted wood chips. Tropical fruits or rather, pineapple followed closely with a peppery mint notes that carried through.

Palate: The palate is soft, delicate, light, buttery with hints of creamy strawberry and cream, followed by peppery spices

Finish: The finish is medium with a lingering minty note on the palate

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

Hendy would like to thank Diageo and Liz of Leo Burnett for the invite to the launch of the Blenders' Batch - Red Rye Finish.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Glenmorangie "Sensory Pairing" lunch with Dr Bill Lumsden - Hong Kong

It's been a pretty great month of whisky events this month, and in particular, whisky lunches. Barely a few days after The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve 12yo & Peated Cask launch lunch, I was off to the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for a "Sensory Tasting" lunch with none other than Dr Bill Lumsden - the man responsible for pretty much every Ardbeg and Glenmorangie you've ever tried. 

Having had a riotously good time at lunch with Dr Bill just over a year ago, I was looking forward to what he had in store for us again...and maybe to see if he could give any hints about any upcoming releases (which he did)!

Hong Kong had turned on a suitably Scottish day for Dr Bill (one of the wettest in a while), but no matter - there was whisky to be drunk and senses to be played with! Hong Kong's resident whisky expert / good bloke Eddie Nara was co-host for the lunch, and kicked off proceedings not by asking us to pick up our Glencairns, but by asking us to put on the blindfold that was in front of each of us.

Ok then...?

With eyes promptly obscured, the mysterious black boxes in front of each of us were opened, and we were instructed to (carefully) grab a Glencairn, and nose it, one at a time. The intention behind this sensory nosing experience was to see who could discern the (relatively common) items in the glasses based on nose alone.

After a thorough nosing, we removed the blindfolds which revealed Orange peel, peach pieces, vanilla pods and honey, which Dr Bill then introduced as all the flavours in Glenmorangie Original (10yo) - the base of the cocktail we'd just enjoyed.

A quick peek at the menu revealed the drams that were to feature for the rest of the lunch:

Our previous lunch with Dr Bill didn't feature Lasanta, so we'd never heard the tale of how and why the recipe changed a few years back. To simplify - extensive feedback (largely from Asia where it was highly popular) suggested that it could be a bit sweeter, and so Bill modified the recipe to include more PX-matured stock. Bill explained such feedback came from interactions with customers, like one he had with a bloke in a Guangzhou nightclub, who said he loved Glenmorangie but it gave him a terrible hangover. When asked how much he was drinking, the man responded - 2 bottles a night....

Bill was asked why the whisky is only finished in Sherry, and doesn't undergo full maturation in ex-Sherry casks. He explained that attempts to do so have resulted in the delicate Glenmorangie characteristic being lost, and so Bourbon maturation with a sherry finish is seen as the best of both worlds.

Paired with Langoustine tartar, superior oscietra Caviar, cauliflower panna cotta, hazelnut crumbles and micro herb leaves (a fussy-sounding, though delicious dish) the Lasanta paired well, especially with the hazelnuts. In fact, that's a combination I think I'll have to revisit...

Next was Glenmorangie "Extremely Rare" 18yo. Dr Bill has a well-documented love-hate relationship with old whisky, and regularly mentions his preference for younger (not "young") whisky. Nonetheless, the distillery does produce a limited amount of 18 and 25 year old each year (although the latter is going through a slight identity change next year, and will be released with a vintage each year).  Aged in American white oak (ex-Bourbon) casks, and finished for three years in Sherry casks, the 18yo requires careful cask selection to ensure that age hasn't dulled or lost the trademark Glenmorangie characteristics.

Paired with Tuscany porcini mushroom soup, french pigeon roulade and lack truffle whipped cream, the two were an excellent match - both delicate, neither overpowering the other.

Glenmorangie 25yo was the third serve, and whilst the paired dish (Char-grilled US beef sirloin, roasted pumpkin and potato puree, chanterelle mushrooms, turnip, beetroot and Lasanta & mustard seed jus) was delicious, the focus here I have to admit was on the whisky by itself. Always a lovely dram, and a skillful mix of ex-Bourbon, ex-Oloroso and ex-Burgundy cask matured stock.

As we mentioned last timeGlenmorangie 25yo was never intended to be a permanent part of the line up, but it has been since the early 2000s, and for that we should be thankful. It'll be interesting to see how (or if) the new Vintage 25yo changes, when the first release appears next year.

Glenmorangie Signet is often paired with dessert, and this lunch was no exception. Interestingly, the menu described it as a blend of Glenmorangie from "15 - 30 years", whereas last year we learned it contained up to 45 year old Glenmorangie. Dr Bill did say that each batch differs from the last, so I guess it's not surprising that some of those aged stocks would be either depleted, or saved for something even more special.

No matter though - it was still just as good as always, and again, the highlight dram. Paired with Jivara milk chocolate, passionfruit mousse with crispy praline and praline sauce, it was another skillful combination, although to be honest, I'd be happy with a nice big glass of Signet alone as dessert!

It's always a fun time when Dr Bill is in town, and this lunch was no exception. I loved the little sensory twist at the start, and the food and whisky pairings were all spot on. If it wasn't for the 90% humidity and 26degC temperature to match the rain, we could have almost imagined we were enjoying our drams in Scotland... would like to thank MHDHK and WhyNotAsia for the invite to a wonderful lunch.