Sunday, 28 February 2016

Dragon 8 Auctions "Fine & Rare" Whisky Auction wrap-up

Although never our intention when we started this site roughly 3 and a half years ago, we've recently started covering the whisky auction scene a little - first with Bonhams' August 2015 Hong Kong whisky auction, and more recently with their January 2016 auction (not to mention the odd update on UK auctions via our Facebook page). 

The former saw some incredibly high prices (especially for anything Japanese), whilst the latter saw prices for many lots cooling off a little (while the ultra, ultra rare bottlings still brought in lofty bids).

We were keen then to see how Dragon 8's inaugural Hong Kong Whisky auction would fair, held yesterday at the Grand Hyatt's stunning Pool House (also the venue for 2014's Highland Park "Freya" launch).


The format and approach taken by Dragon 8 was noticeably different to that of Bonham's (in our opinion, for the better). For a start, Dragon 8 clearly took a "quality over quantity" approach, with a smaller, but more focused high end selection of lots (approx 160 in total). Whisky auctions usually have one or two "highlight" lots, whereas this auction had several - four separate whole casks (The Macallan, Dalmore, Highland Park and Bowmore), an entire vertical of The Macallan 18yo from 1954 to 1985, The Macallan Lalique V 62yo, the 70yo 1940 Glenlivet "Generations" from Gordon & Macphail (AND the 75yo 1939 Mortlach under the same label), not to mention a several bottles from The Macallan Fine & Rare series.

Hanyu and Karuizawa also featured, but Scotch (especially Macallan) was the star. There were even a few interesting non-whisky lots, including a 58yo Long Pond rum, and a  30L bottle (Melchisedech) of Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades Champagne.


The other point of difference was the set up of the live auction - held in the more intimate surroundings of the Grand Hyatt Pool House, all guests were treated to a buffet lunch with a selection of Champagne, wine and truly fantastic drams on offer (including a few incredibly Rare Macallans, one dating back to 1938. We'll have tasting notes on that one up shortly). Dragon 8 founder Gil Lempert-Schwarz conducted the auction, and was vastly more entertaining than any other whisky auctioneer we've seen too.


So....how were the results? In summary, positive and realistic. There wasn't a huge amount of frenzied bidding, but almost every lot sold (unlike previous auctions in HK and UK where we've seen several lots passed in), and, as evidence that Dragon 8 had read the market well, most lots sold within, or very close to their estimate range.

The Macallan "Fine & Rare" bottlings performed very strongly, proving the demand for rare and aged Macallans is definitely still there. as did Springbanks, Bowmores, and the G&M "Generations" decanters to name a few.

Specific results of note were as follows (amounts exclude premiums):

Strong bids against realistic estimates.



One thing we would have liked to see done differently (though it's a minor point), is splitting up of some of the multi-bottle lots. There were a few lots we would have bidded on if they were single bottles (like Longmorn 83 and a few Macallan 18s), but the 6 bottle lot prices were more than we were happy to part with. Still, it's a testament to the seller (and Dragon 8's) savvy that they were easily snapped up.

Dragon 8 plan to hold several wine and whisky auctions throughout the year, and we're already looking forward to the next one.

Cheers,
Martin.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Hong Kong Whisky Festival 2016 review

Last Saturday saw the inaugural Hong Kong Whisky Festival take place at the InterContinental Grand Stanford in TST, with 600 whisky fans (and a handful of media) sampling drams, attending lunches/dinners/masterclasses, pairing cigars and food, and generally just enjoying the increasingly vibrant Hong Kong whisky scene.

The event, which offered attendees cheap entry with 2 dram tokens (and additional tokens available for purchase) differed to the model chosen by Hong Kong's original whisky festival, Malt Masters (which returns for its third year this coming Saturday and Sunday). It was clearly a popular model though, with all 600 tickets selling out in advance.



The event was organised primarily by the hotel itself, which of course meant the full array of facilities was at their disposal (and we have to say, used to brilliant effect). Despite there being 600+ people in attendance, the event never felt busy or crowded, and there was never a long wait at the booths, even the more popular ones. By using not only the function rooms, but also restaurants, suites, a large outdoor area and even the club lounge, the event felt spacious and well thought-out. 

Common areas between function rooms were also used as a thoroughfare for festival goers moving from booth to booth, and numerous chairs and tables meant there was always someone to relax over a dram or catch up with friends. For a first-year effort, there was an impressive amount of thought and foresight put into the planning.



There was an immense range of whiskies on offer, with a good selection of cheaper, 1 token drams right up to rare and bucket-list drams costing several tokens, like The Macallan Rare Cask "Black" (a dram we'd been seeking out for a while), several old 30-40 year old grain and malt IBs, and some lovely old Samarolis. The range really took a "something for everyone" approach, with:







Caskells (distributors of Glencairn Glassware and Hepburn's Choice whiskies in Asia) had a large presence, and were also responsible for bringing the one and only Charlie MacLean to Hong Kong for the festival - said by many to be the world's foremost authority on Scotch whisky. Charlie was at the festival to host a lunch and masterclass (both of which we were fortunate enough to attend), and a dinner for a handful of lucky attendees.



Lunch with Charlie was held in the private dining room of Mistral Italian restaurant, an intimate gathering with only 14 attendees and a selection of whiskies from The Balvenie not so much "paired", but served alongside each course, which were:
  • Smoked Salmon and Crab Salad (served with The Balvenie 12 Doublewood)
  • Spiced Mussel Soup (served with The Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask)
  • Roast Rib of Beef (quite possibly the largest we've ever seen), Roast Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables and Yorkshire Pudding (served with The Balvenie 17 Doublewood)
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Gateau (served with The Balvenie 21 Portwood)
  • Coffee, Tea & Petit Fors (served with The Balvenie 30)

Between introducing each whisky (and giving his own unique spin, plus some fascinating insights from his extensive experience in the industry), Charlie and us attendees basically just "chatted whisky" for 2 hours while enjoying the delicious courses. Pretty much a whisky lover's dream lunch, really.




Straight after the lunch, we headed into one of Charlie's famous "Now & Then" masterclasses, which gave a fascinating insight into three modern day single malts, and their counterparts from the 1970s. We'll have a detailed write-up on that class in a separate post shortly, but suffice to say it was an incredible and eye-opening experience.

As 5pm hit (with the festival feeling busy, but still very spacious), the outdoor "peat lounge" opened, giving guests an outdoor venue to sit, enjoy a dram and match peated whiskies to oysters, sea urchin and cigars.








As we left, the Festival was still heaving, with guests clearly having a great time. We didn't see any drunken behaviour, or people who'd "had their fill", which, considering how many whiskies were on offer (even excluding the "standard" whiskies), was quite impressive.

If there was one suggestion we'd make for next year's festival (and it's a minor suggestion), it would be to have a few more counters at the "Dram Shop". A victim of its own success, we suspect - the huge range and excellent prices meant the queue was at times 20-30 minutes long.


TimeforWhisky.com would like to thank InterContinental Grand Stanford for the media ticket and invitation to the lunch and masterclass with Charlie MacLean. A round of applause needs to go to John and James too (they know who they are), for putting on such a fantastic show - a first-year effort, no less.

Cheers,
Martin.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

This week in whisk(e)y #28 - Highland Park Ice Edition, Teeling St Patrick's Day celebrations and Australian launch of Revival 15yo, Dragon-8 to auction incredible Macallan collection in 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...


Highland Park Ice Edition
Spotted recently by eagle-eyed US patent-watchers, and just recently posted on Master of Malt's website, is the first of what seems to be a new series of Highland Park limited releases, picking up from where the "Valhalla Collection" left off, following its final release in the series - Odin (which recently launched in Hong Kong).

Photo credit: MasterofMalt.com

Keeping with the Norse theme (of course), the new series begins with the "Ice Edition", which apparently will also come in a cradle, like the Valhalla Collection's longboats, although this time shaped like a mountain.

Matured in primarily ex-Bourbon casks, the whisky is said to most closely resemble the Freya (which we saw launch in Hong Kong in 2014), with a light, fruity nose and hints of peat smoke on the palate.

At 53.9% ABV and 17yo, it sounds like one we're keen to get our hands on. Limited to 30,000 bottles apparently (no exact word on release dates or markets just yet, but watch this space).


St. Patrick's Day with Teeling Whiskey and the launch of "The Revival" 15yo in Australia
There's probably not much more to say about Teeling Whisky that we haven't already said (suffice to say, we're fans). In three years the range has grown to 46 countries, and the new limited edition "The Revival" 15yo Single Malt will soon be available in Australia.


Teeling’s Asia-Pacific Brand Ambassador and Dublin native, Martin Lynch, has helped Teeling grow to become available in Australia at Dan Murphy’s, independent liquor stores and, since 2015, bars too, including some of the country’s top cocktail establishments.
“As an Irishman and whiskey enthusiast, it really is a dream job to be representing such a unique Dublin brand here in Australia. The Teeling brothers have been working extremely hard and we have already won some brilliant awards. Since launching, it’s been great to see the fantastic response to the whiskey from Australian consumers and trade,” says Martin."
Teeling are celebrating St Patrick’s Day (Thursday 17 March) in Australia this year with a decadent event in Melbourne, kicking off celebrations early at the St Patrick’s Day Eve Party at Bar 1806 in Melbourne on 16 March. For those keen to join in the celebrations (and perhaps see what makes Teeling so good), see teh details below:

St Patrick’s Day Eve Party
When: Wednesday, 16th March 7pm
Where: Bar 1806, 169 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
What: An evening of Teeling Whiskey with cocktails on arrival, Irish inspired canapes, and a tasting of five Teeling whiskies including a new limited edition
Tickets: $40AUD
Booking: online via http://www.1806.com.au/activity/st-patricks-day/ call 03 9663 7722, or stop by the bar to pick up your tickets.



Dragon-8 Auctions to auction incredible collection of The Macallan in Hong Kong this weekend
The Hong Kong whisky auction scene is certainly popular the moment, with a number of high profile auction houses (led by Bonhams, whose latest auction we recently attended) and equally high profile lots (like the $900k+ HKD 52yo Karuizawa during "peak Karuizawa" last year).

A relative newcomer to the scene, Dragon-8 are no exception, with their upcoming auction (this Saturday 27th February) featuring a few lots that are rarely (if ever) seen. For example:

  • A full vintage set of The Macallan
  • A full set of The Macallan Lalique decanters
  • An entire cask of The Macallan (and Highland Park, and Dalmore, and Bowmore)
  • There's even a 30L bottle (that's a Melchisedech) of Armand de Brignac - Ace of Spades Champagne should anyone feel like celebrating after winning a sought after lot...

We met a few of the staff (and Founder Gil Lempert-Schwarz) at the Hong Kong Whisky Festival on the weekend, and had a chat about some of the upcoming lots, which also include the likes of rare Laphroaigs, a 50yo OB Highland Park, both the 70yo (Glenlivet) and 75yo (Mortlach) decanters from Gordon & Macphail, a few rare Ardbegs and a smattering of Karuizawas.

With some lots continue their meteoric rise, and other lots seemingly "cooling off" from the mid last year, this should be an interesting one to watch. One thing's for sure - those Macallan lots will be popular!

The Dragon 8 Auction will take place at The Pool House on the 11th floor of The Grand Hyatt in Wan Chai on Saturday, February 27th, 2016, beginning at 11 am. To reserve a place, attendees can fill out a registration form at www.dragon-8.com



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

Cheers, 
Martin.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Teeling Whiskey launches in Hong Kong

A wonderful thing happened in Hong Kong in late 2015 - something sure to excite many whisky (or more appropriately, whiskey) drinkers. Teeling Whiskey found a distributor, in Summergate Fine Wines & Spirits, making the core range officially available in Hong Kong.

We've written on many occasions about our love of Teeling Whiskey, which stems from a handful of reasons:

  • It's interesting - such unique cask finishes and maturation techniques are not often seen in such an accessible lineup of whiskies
  • It's excellent value - especially when you consider even the cheapest releases are NCF and bottled at 46% ABV.
  • It's brought excitement to Irish Whiskey as a category (and, it seems, kicked off something of an Irish Whiskey revival)
  • ...and most importantly, it's just really good whisky. From the very drinkable "Small Batch" to the brilliant 21yo, and 21-23yo single casks bottled for the Japanese market (do yourself a favour and try one if you ever get the chance - we've tried a few and they've all been incredible).
We shared a few bottles (kindly provided by Teeling in Australia) with a group of Hong Kong whisky fans over the past 12 months, and reports were all very positive, so we're excited to see it now readily available throughout Hong Kong.

To celebrate the launch, Teeling's Asia Pacific brand ambassador Martin Lynch visited Hong Kong, for a lunch (held at one of our favourite bars - The Envoy) followed by a tasting with the Consul General of Ireland to Hong Kong & Macau - the very hospitable Peter Ryan.


The events introduced a group of Hong Kongers (including a few Irish ex-pats) to the core lineup - the Small Batch (tasting notes here), Single Grain (tasting notes here) and Single Malt (tasting notes here). At $380HKD, $630HKD and $750HKD respectively (retail prices), the range is very competitively priced (especially when you consider Hong Kong's 100% tax).

At the Consulate General event, Martin talked us through Teeling's history, philosophy, and took us on a a guided tasting, while Peter explained the importance of Irish Whiskey as a category, and introduced us to the new Irish Whiskey Society of Hong Kong.



Afterwards, we all enjoyed a few more drams, nibbled on some excellent Irish produce (cheese, beef, salmon and "Tayto" crisps), and enjoyed a few craft Irish beers, while the braver amongst us sampled the corn and malt-based, unaged, 61.5% ABV "Poitin" (not yet available in Hong Kong). For what you could almost consider to be akin to an unaged, high-proof Bourbon, it was quite smooth and enjoyable.

We're glad to see Teeling has officially made its way to Hong Kong, and can't wait to see what other releases Summergate have in store for us.

Cheers,
Martin.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Tasted #259: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (aka "that" Jim Murray Whisky)

As a rule, I've never put much value in whisky scores given by a single whisky reviewer (yes I'm aware of the irony - bear with me). These days some people seem to place far too much emphasis on what one person thinks of a whisky, rather than developing their own opinion.

Where such scores are useful is in comparing one dram to another based on the preferences of that reviewer. For example - I love Starward whiskies, I love heavily sherried GlenDronach whiskies, and I also love the delicate yet complex nature of Glenfiddich. If you do too, then you might get some value, or insight from my whisky scores - they might resonate with you, and if I score a whisky, say 94, then there's a chance you might like that whisky a lot too.

If my preferences don't resonate with you, then that's fine too - everyone's palate is different, and if you sit in that camp, maybe you shouldn't place so much importance on the scores I give (but feel free to keep reading our reviews anyway)!

As well as representing the opinion of only one man (admittedly one with extensive experience), Jim Murray and his preferences have been proven on many occasions to differ to mine. For example, he referred to the (old) Laphroaig 15yo as a "hugely disappointing, lacklustre dram" and "woefully short on complexity". I disagreed.

So...when Jim recently voted a ~$30USD Canadian Rye as his world whisky of the year, I was pretty sure I wouldn't consider it my whisky of the year. Don't get me wrong, I love a good rye, I just struggled to see how a mass-produced, readily available cheap rye blend could really compete with some of the amazing whiskies we'd tried on this blog over the past 12 months.

Luckily, the legends at Malt Whisky Bar in Sheung Wan (Hong Kong) got their hands on a bottle, and were happy to share a taste with me recently, so I could reliably form my own opinion...


Crown Royal "Northern Harvest" Rye (45% ABV, NAS, Blended Rye, Canada, $32.99CAD)
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Colour: Light gold.

Nose: Tropical fruit - passionfruit, papaya, and loads of candied ginger. 

Palate: Ginger - both fresh and candied. Pineapple, passionfruit, lots of floral notes. Slight peppery notes but they're very much in the background rather than the dominant feature. To be fair, there's quite a bit going on here, and it's all enjoyable.

Finish: Long, drying and slightly bitter (bitter oranges / orange peel).

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. OK, it's a good Rye. A very good rye even, quite complex, and for ~$33CAD, it's excellent value. When compared to whiskies like thisthis and this however, it doesn't make it to the top of my list I'm afraid...

Cheers,
Martin.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Tasted #258: New World Projects Port Double Cask #1

Reminiscing about the spectacular Sydney whisky season last year, I remembered "Dramtacular" (aka dram spectacular), an event you may have seen the photos of over on our Facebook page.

David Vitale, founder of Starward Whisky / New World Whisky Distillery and friend of TimeForWhisky.com, along with Gee David, Brand Ambassador of Bruichladdich and Martin Lynch, Australasian Ambassador for Teeling Whisky co-hosted the Dramtacular event and presented key expressions from their portfolio, including the Teeling Single Grain and Small Batch expressions (see our post here for two other exciting Teelings released last year).

Right after the tasting session, I caught up with David (of Starward) and Jeremy (of the Whisky Room) about the Starward core expressions and their New World Projects range. It was then they mentioned the New World Projects Double Cask Release #1, which Jeremy had recently added to the Whisky Room collection.

This release from New World Whisky Distillery (NWWD) combines malt from two different tawny barrels - the first being a refill barrel, the second being a first-fill barrel. Being a fan of the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban port finished malt, this was a particularly exciting release and one which I expected to (and did) thoroughly enjoy.



New World Projects Double Cask Release #1 (48.6% ABV, NAS, bottle #318 of 666 bottles, Victoria, Australia, $130AUD)
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Another exciting release from NWWD that makes use of traditional tawny barrels. This release actually takes the malt from two different barrels and marry them together (as compared to previous releases where malt are taken from one barrel then into another). The result? A fun and delicious whisky that you can have on a beautiful spring day, or as a post-lunch dram. 

Colour: Light with a tinge of orange hue


Nose: The nose is filled with citrus, pineapple, loads of vanilla, almond shortbread and vanilla cheesecake. Delicious and enticing.


Palate: The palate begins with a layer of caramel that gradually develops into citrus and honey notes.

Finish: Long and fulfilling with a gentle ginger spice finish that over time dries out into a vanilla note.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.


Cheers,
Hendy

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Tasted #257: Arran 15yo Single Sherry Cask (bottled for Mizunara The Library, Hong Kong)

There's no denying that Mizunara: The Library in Hong Kong (featured in our list of Top Hong Kong Whisky Bars) is a serious whisky bar. Just look at the evidence:
  • Enviable collection of malts from around the world - check
  • Award-winning bartender with an encyclopaedic knowledge of whisky - check
  • Drams available by the half (and sometimes even one-third) pour - check
  • Friendly staff who are always up for a chat about anything whisky related - check.
..and following in the footsteps of many a great whisky bar, Mizunara can now also boast their own private whisky bottling - a 15 year old Arran bottled from a single sherry hogshead (the exact type of sherry we're not quite sure).


The blokes at Mizunara were kind enough to invite me down for a dram recently, and I can honestly say they've picked a bloody good cask. Bottled on 8th August 2015 at 52.9% ABV, the cask follows the trend of a number of Arrans we've tried in recent years, in that they've all been high quality whiskies. To be honest, years ago we weren't big fans of Arran, but they seem to have significantly improved since then, and we haven't yet tasted a single cask release that we haven't really enjoyed.

The Mizunara team tried three samples (all from sherry hogsheads), before settling on cask 2000/273, which produced 302 bottles. Our full tasting notes are below, and it's available by the dram at the bar now.


The Arran Malt "Private Cask" Specially bottled for Mizunara: The Library (52.9% ABV, 15yo, Isle of Arran, Scotland, available by the dram at Mizunara: The Library Hong Kong)
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Nose: Classic sherry notes - lots of sultanas, stone fruits, Christmas cake, but also some lighter, fruitier notes - tropical fruits, especially rockmelon.

Palate: Loads of sultanas, ripe cherries, some walnuts. Very smooth, and with no spice or unwanted "bite". Very "juicy", and with loads of malt character. Water really increases the sweetness, as well as the malt, which really comes to the fore.

Finish: Long and luscious. Malt, oats, cherries.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A deliciously sherried single cask whisky from a distillery who have been churning out some cracking whiskies in recent years.



Cheers,
Martin.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Hong Kong Whisky Festival 2016 preview

Last week we covered the Malt Masters 2016 Whisky Festival preview - the first of Hong Kong's whisky festivals, being held on 27th and 28th February. As if that wasn't enough excitement for Hong Kong whisky drinkers, a week earlier on Sat 20th February, the Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong are hosting their inaugural Hong Kong Whisky Festival (HKWF).

(No strangers to the whisky scene, Intercontinental Grand Stanford is home to Tiffany's New York Whisky Bar, one of our all time favourite whisky bars in HK, and the venue for many past events we've covered including our Starward masterclass and a Balvenie masterclass with David Stewart. Helmed by two good friends of TimeforWhisky - John Drummond and James Leung, both serious whisky lovers, attendees to this festival will no doubt be in good hands.)

The HKWF also held a preview recently, and while we couldn't be there in person, we've included a few photos below to give you an idea of what to expect.


The event will follow a slightly different format to Malt Masters' (which offers unlimited tastings included in the $600HKD ticket price), whereby tastings will be based on tokens, able to be purchased for $25HKD each. As a result entry will only be $220HKD, which includes two tokens and a tasting glass. Masterclasses, like Malt Masters, are a very reasonable $200 each.

Speaking of which, there will be 10 masterclasses during the day, covering everything from The Balvenie to Abelour, Old Pulteney to Akashi, and many more. There's also a special masterclass with Charlie Maclean, who's returning to HK for the event (lunch and dinner pairings with Charlie are also being offered).


With 57 brands represented (covering whisky from Scotland, Japan, Taiwan, France, Australia, Germany, Sweden and India), food booths, a special "peat pavilion", a discounted "dram shop" and a Scottish piper, we're sure this inaugural festival will be a fantastic one.

Which of course begs the question....which of the two festivals should you attend?

That's an easy one...

BOTH!

Cheers,
Martin.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Tasted #256: The Last Drop Distillers 50 Year Old ‘Double Matured’ Blended Scotch

It was only a few months ago that we tried the 48yo blended Scotch whisky from The Last Drop Distillers and found it to be one of the best blends we'd tasted in a long time.

Fast forward to January and, as promised, we've now tried the next blended whisky release from The Last Drop - a 50 year old "Double Matured" blended Scotch, released this month in Hong Kong.


As we mentioned back in January, this whisky is particularly interesting as it was initially released as a 30yo blended whisky (in Taiwan in the mid 1990s), then re-racked into a sherry hogshead for a further 20 years, matured in the Scottish lowlands. After all those years, it's still managed to retain a strength of 51.8% ABV.

To introduce us to the whisky, and explain a little bit more about The Last Drop philosophy, Beanie Espey and Rebecca Jago (daughters of founders James Espey and Tom Jago) held an intimate tasting at Hong Kong's Angel's Share bar (which we reviewed back in 2014 here). The pair, who now have significant roles in running The Last Drop, talked us through a brief history of the company and their family's roles in the whisky and broader spirits industry. Collectively, their fathers were responsible for Johnnie Walker Blue (nee Oldest), Chivas Regal 18, the Diageo Classic Malts range, Malibu, Baileys Irish Cream (it was invented in Rebecca's family kitchen) and the Keepers of the Quaich program.

Impressive.

Beanie and Rebecca also gave us an interesting insight into the whisky we were about to taste. It turns out those 20 additional years, which were spent in a first fill Oloroso cask, weren't initially intended - the cask was, like so many, simply forgotten when the blender left the company. Whilst coy on some of the details, we were told that the blend contains 82 whiskies from all regions (including whisky from closed distilleries like Dallas Dhu), and was aged for 30 years in a Bourbon barrel before the aforementioned 20 years of "finishing" in Oloroso.

I'd been nosing the glass throughout the presentation, but it was at this point I decided it was time to dive in....


The Last Drop 50 Year Old "Double Matured" Blended Scotch Whisky (51.8% ABV, 50yo, Blend, Scotland, $36,888HKD, £3000)
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Colour: Deep dark copper (distinctly different to the vibrant bright gold of the 48yo!)

Nose: Fresh tropical fruit initially - papaya, guava, passionfruit. Then Leather. There's oak, for sure, but it's in perfect balance. Cola, sugary coke bottle lollies, sweet confectionary. 

Palate: Spice. Passionfruit and pineapple. Coke bottle lollies again (hmm is there some Glenfarclas in this?). The oak is still in perfect balance, and the whisky feels like it could have many years still to go. A few drops of water amps up the sherry (adding mocha / milk chocolate notes, and some leather), and tones down the fruitier notes. There's the tiniest hint of smoke too.

Finish: Long, with milk chocolate, coffee and leather. 

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 95/100. Just incredible. I love a well-aged ex-Bourbon whisky, for the big tropical fruit notes, and I love a well-aged, heavily sherried whisky for the "Christmas cake" notes. This has both. In spades. A stunning achievement and yet still such a vibrant whisky. It's only February but I suspect this will be one of the highlight tastings of the year for us.


Approximately 40-50 bottles of the 50 year old "Double Matured" blended Scotch will be making their way to Hong Kong, priced at $36,888HKD. Pricing outside HK isn't yet known, but Master of Malt have been known to stock previous releases (and still stock the 48 year old). Update: It's now available from Master of Malt for £3,000.

TimeforWhisky would like to thank Beanie, Rebecca, The Last Drop Distillers  and Quintessentially & Co for inviting us to taste this amazing whisky.

Cheers,
Martin.

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)
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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)
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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)
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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!

Cheers,
Martin.