Friday, 31 March 2017

Distillery Tour #7: Joadja Distillery (NSW, Australia)

Whilst I often try to fit some "whisky tourism" into my trips where possible (a distillery tour, bar or whisky show for example), I wasn't expecting to do so on a recent trip back to Australia, considering I was only there for 3 nights for a mate's wedding and to visit my folks in their new Southern Highlands home.

Turns out my parents had a different idea though, and had sneakily booked a tour of Joadja Distillery, in the historic town of Joadja (about 40 minutes from Bowral). The distillery wasn't open that day, but the lovely Valero and Elisa Jimenez (Directors, owners and operators of the Distillery and Joadja Heritage Tours) kindly agreed to open up and show us around.

Even if you're familiar with the Australian whisky scene, you may not have heard of Joadja before. That's because they haven't actually released a whisky yet - although they have produced whisky (and from what I tried, it was very nice indeed - more on that below).

The trip to Joadja takes you on ~10km of (relatively easy-going) dirt road, passing several ancient buildings hinting at the town's historic roots. Upon arrival at the distillery, Elisa and Valero (who also run non-whisky focused tours of the historic town) told us a little about the history of the area - founded in the 1870s as a shale mine and refinery, and staffed at the time by a large population of Scottish shale miners, who not only distilled shale oil, but also their own illegal spirit, or "sly grog", on the side.

So...historical significance - tick!

The Jimenez family (as the name might suggest) have Spanish heritage, with Elisa herself having a direct family connection back to Jerez, enabling them to source high quality ex-Sherry (Oloroso and PX) casks for maturing their whisky.

So, access to high quality sherry casks too - tick, tick!

It was these factors (coupled with some convincing from the Godfather of Australian Whisky Bill Lark) that convinced the family to establish the distillery in 2014, having purchased the site years earlier, seeking a change of lifestyle after running a backpacker's hostel in Sydney. 

It's interesting to note that there was actually a distillery in Joadja previously, on the same site, which had all the equipment but never produced a drop. Those stills however were removed, and made their way to New World Whisky Distillery (aka makers of Starward), whilst Valero and Elisa procured new equipment for their distillery.

Soon after arriving at the distillery we were greeted by an immense downpour - so heavy that we couldn't even hear Valero speak. When things quietened down, and we were taken on a tour of the town, the local spring (supplying all the water used in the distillation) was flowing. No concerns about water availability then!

The distillery uses an 800L spirit still, and produces a powerful but nuanced new make. Maturation occurs in the same location,  just a few metres away, mostly in 32L casks which previously held Oloroso or PX Sherry (the distillery also sells the sherry which came from the casks, and it's very tasty stuff).

As with most young Australian distilleries, Joadja are also producing and selling new make ("Outlaw"), Anis, and a Dry Gin, all of which are available now. Their whisky is not yet available, although Bottles #1 and #40 will be given away at the upcoming Brigadoon festival in Bundanoon - Bottle #1 to Scottish-Australian legend Jimmy Barnes, and #40 to be raffled off at the event. It's expected the whisky will be available for sale to the public this year.

I was fortunate enough to try a dram of the first cask (JW001), at a cask-strength 60.8% ABV, and whilst I've promised not to post detailed tasting notes (as what I tasted was still a 'work in progress'), I can confirm it was an impressive dram for only 2 years old, and reminded me very much of other Australian distilleries in their younger years - distilleries which have since gone on to produce world-class whiskies.

Certainly a distillery to keep an eye on.

Whilst the distillery is a bit of a trek from Sydney, it's one I can recommend making - make it a day trip and include a tour of the historic town too. You can't taste any of the whisky during the tour, but you can see the equipment up close, and try the sherry which seasoned the casks that are now maturing the whisky.

You can also see Kangaroos, and really, how many distilleries can lay claim to that!?

A huge thanks must go to Elisa and Valero for their immense hospitality during our visit, and for generously allowing us to taste their spirits. Personally I'm excited to see another NSW distillery producing high-quality spirit, and can't wait to see this distillery grow and no doubt go onto great things.


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Tasted #353: Bunnahabhain Rubha a' Mhail (Feis Ile 2015)

I had the opportunity to sample this special limited edition Bunnahabhain Rubha a'Mhail as part of a recent Bunnahabhain tasting hosted by whisknick.

The name 'Rubha a'Mhail' is taken from a local Islay tale of a ship that crashed into the rocks at Rubha A' Mhail with the skipper spending 11 days trying to free the ship (which still remains at the same place to this very day). The name and the story certainly make for a good dram.

The Bunnahabhain Rubha a'Mhail malt has been aged for 11 years in Spanish Manzanilla sherry butts and bottled for the Fèis íle 2015 Islay festival. I do have to say that this is another stellar Fèis íle bottling, just like the Port Charlotte SMWS 127.44 bottling I had reviewed earlier. The Manzanilla sherry butts have positively influenced the rich flavours of Bunnahabhain with its light Manzanilla salty and briny notes.

Bunnahabhain Rubha a' Mhail (57.4% ABV, 11yo, Islay, Scotland, One of 1200 bottles, £149.95 or directly at the distillery)
A lovely, rich and creamy bunny that is packed with flavours and a dram I would have to celebrate a momentous occasion.

Colour: Gold with amber tinge

Nose: The nose is rusty and nutty and mixed with burnt caramel, toasted banana bread. There are hints of stone fruits including plums and figs.

Palate: The palate is creamy, rich, filled with sweet and maritime notes with a mixture of rich caramel and brine (salted caramel). This is then followed by cinnamon spice with hints of stone fruits.

Finish: The finish is long, woody and creamy - delicious.

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


Friday, 24 March 2017

Tasted #352: Ardbeg 21 (2016 release)

If there's a trend present in recent distillery-bottled Ardbegs over the past few years, it would be that they're all on the (relative) younger side. Not "young", not "immature", not even "simple"....but when the oldest age-statement whisky in a core range is 10 years old, I think it's a fair comment. Of course, there are older Ardbegs (the distillery has bottled quite a few old single casks over the years, there are plenty of 21 year old independently-bottled Ardbegs, and there was even an OB 21 year old from years ago), but in recent years, if you wanted an OB age-statement Ardbeg, the 10 year old was it. it was all the more exciting then, when late last year Ardbeg announced an official bottling of a 21 year old, from a parcel of casks Moët Hennessy (LVMH) acquired with the distillery in the late '90s. You may remember we originally brought word of the new release back in September.

The whisky for this 2016 release was distilled in 1993 and 1994 and comes from ex-Bourbon casks, bottled at 46% ABV with no chill-filtering. It was available in Australia for $565AUD...for about 90 seconds, as it literally took that long for the 90 allocated bottles to sell out. 

Luckily, we got our hands on one, quickly brought it to HK, and immediately cracked it open.

Ardbeg 21 year Old 2016 release (46% ABV, 21yo, Islay, Scotland, $565AUD RRP but now sold out)
Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Tropical, like many older Islay bottlings, but perhaps not as full on as some Ardbegs from the '80s. Peach, peat and mango at first. Then blackberries, fresh laundry, sea air, and (with time) a slight earthiness.

Palate: Smooth and light initially. There's citrus tingle, and then comes the peat, wrapped in a chewy caramel layer, followed by some chocolate orange. There's some damp earth, and everything is in perfect harmony. A drop of water brings hints of mandarin and mint. A mixed bag, but one that brings everything together beautifully.

Finish: More like the modern-day Ardbegs we've come to know. Ashy BBQ peatsmoke, with a hint of citrus zest. A little oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  94/100. It would be easy for the distillery to produce an average release, and still sell out in a matter of minutes. But they haven't. They've produced a beautifully balanced, complex Ardbeg, with plenty of brand DNA, but enough differentiation to make it a unique whisky - and a beautiful one at that.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Tasted #351: Brora 30yo 6th release (distilled in 1977)

Most whisky fans would no doubt say that a trip to Singapore would not be complete without a visit to the well known and well regarded whisky bar, The Auld Alliance (which Martin reviewed back in 2013, in its old location). As luck would have it, I had planned a trip to the lion city with the family at the end of last year and it was then I finally had the chance to check it out. Let's just say that I was thoroughly impressed with the overall experience, from my own excitement at glistening through pages and pages of different (often rare) whiskies on offer, the bar setup and ambience as well as the generosity of knowledge of the bar staff.

I met up with Natasha, the Bar Manager on the night whom Martin had recommended to me and we chatted away on how the bar came about, the extensive range of whiskies and some of their unique independent bottlings. I won't dive in deeper about the bar, but you can read Martin's review from 2013 here, and he's also planning a detailed write-up of the new location soon (needless to say, it's even better).

I came across the Brora 30yo 6th Release during my chat with Natasha and she mentioned that the 1977 Brora was a special one given 1977 was the last year before Brora began using lightly peated malt, in 1978. Though one would still question the effect of time on the peat level irrespective of how peaty a whisky can be at the outset - I was curious to try this 6th release from Diageo.

Brora 30 year old 6th release

Brora 30yo 6th Release  1977/2007 (55.7% ABV, 30yo, Highland, Scotland, OB, bottle #2215/2858, no longer available but 2010's 30yo release is $1,999AUD)
A lovely, rich, creamy and complex whisky that is generous with every mouthful. Despite the age, this particular Brora is superbly balanced, you do get the dry woody notes though not without it being complemented with plethora of other sensories including peat, citrus and maritime notes.

Colour: Light gold.

Nose: The nose is 
pungent, earthy, ladened with scent of damp forest floor, perhaps reminiscent of raw peat in its origin, ripe banana and overlaid with a small note of metallic paint and heavy thick bonfire smoke.

Palate: The palate is rich, very rich, creamy and viscous. The palate is charred, woody and dry. Then there's the peat and citrus notes, loads of peat and citrus fruit notes before the maritime notes arrive, the salty, briny notes. After a while, the palate then slowly fizzled out with a subtle numbing (cardamon) spice.

Finish: The finish is long, dry, woody and well spiced.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 95/100.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Elysian Whisky Bar (Melbourne, Australia)

This article on The Elysian Whisky Bar isn't a bar review (though we have 21 of those and counting), for the simple fact that we haven't yet visited - the bar being in Melbourne, us being in Hong Kong and Sydney.

Having said that though, we don't need to visit to know this place is going to be fantastic. With Kelvin Low and Yao Wong at the helm (both ex-Whisky+Alement, another brilliant Melhourne whisky bar we reviewed here), a constantly-refreshed selection of incredible independent bottlings, great cocktails and the vibe/feel of a Japanese whisky bar, all in the heart of Fitzroy, it has all the makings of a gem of a bar (and the many reports we've heard since it's December opening have all confirmed - it's more than earned its stripes).

If that doesn't scream "awesome Japanese-style bar, we don't know what does!"
Kelvin and Yao have built up a "modest but eclectic" selection of whiskies, in a way that's only possible with indie bottlings. They've even got their own single cask Indie bottling coming out soon - a 19yo First Fill ex-Sherry Glenrothes, bottled for The Elysian along with 2 bars in Taiwan, a bar in China, and 2 bars in Japan (including the brilliant Mash Tun Tokyo, where owner Suzuki-San does not select bad casks!) Not bad for a 3 month old bar...

In their words, Kelvin and Yao
"want to bring the feel of the kind of cosy bar you would find in Japan and transport that feeling to Fitzroy…which we felt needed a whisky bar. Many of the great cocktail bars you visit in Japan would have a killer whisky selection and the whisky bars there would absolutely blow you away. We just wanted to bring a taste of that Japanese bar culture back here and maybe jog a bit of nostalgia in those that have been over there and experienced it.”
Having experienced Japan's brilliant whisky scene first hand on many occasions (including once with Kelvin and Yao, at Whisky Live Tokyo 2015), we know exactly what they mean.

Both Sydney and Melbourne continue to show an insatiable appetite for whisky tastings / masterclasses, and The Elysian have stepped up in that regard too, having already hosted a tasting with independent bottler Eiling Lim (whom we recently had the pleasure of meeting in Hong Kong), as well as a Kilkerran WIP tasting, and an upcoming Signatory Vintage tasting with The Whisky Company.

Whilst the focus is clearly on whisk(e)y, Kelvin and Yao haven't neglected the food (nor wine/beer/cocktail) side of things by any means:
"there are seasonal fruits and herbs focused cocktails, a tight wine list and a small constantly rotating beer list. The capacity of the bar is relatively small (about 35) but is specifically designed to enhance the personal interaction between patrons and the bartender. There is a small offering of snack items focusing on charcuterie and cheeses that will be on frequent rotation. We are also working with Chef Ryo Kitahara (of Assiette de Parti), a chef that Kelvin used to work with in his previous restaurant (Heirloom), for some bar snacks. Chef Ryo is providing us with some tasty Chicken Liver Parfaits, Home-made Pork Rillettes, and Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulders."

With The Elysian joining Boilermaker HouseWhisky+Alement, the new Melbourne Whisky Room, Melbourne now has a range of fantastic whisky bars which all offer a slightly different take on whisky. Which one should you visit? That's easy - all of them.

The Elysian Whisky Bar is open Tuesday to Saturdays, 4:30pm to 1am, and is located at 113 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. See Facebook for more details and The Elysian website to subscribe to the newsletter. Phone: +61 3-9417 7441.


Thursday, 9 March 2017

Lalique Legacy Collection - Charity auction to feature one-off complete custom set of "Macallan in Lalique" decanters

Last year we were incredibly fortunate to attend the launch of (and taste) the "Macallan in Lalique" 65 year old - the sixth and final release in a series of six rare Macallans, aged from 50 to 65 years old and released in extremely limited numbers over 11 years (2005 - 2016).

At the time, we mentioned 2017 would see parent company Edrington auction off one complete set in Hong Kong, and that time has now come, with Sotheby's due to hold the charity auction on 2nd April 2017.

As you might expect, for a one-off set as rare as this, bidders will be bidding on more than just the 6 decanters. To quote the press release:
"...this special Legacy Collection is housed in a unique, bespoke cabinet in natural ebony created by Lalique, which will also hold six Macallan Fine and Rare miniatures; two from each of the 1937, 1938 and 1939 vintages (signifying the zenith of Lalique’s contribution in the French Art Deco period). 
This cabinet will feature six pairs of Lalique Macallan glasses, each serial numbered to commemorate this unique partnership.  To complete the collection, autographs of the masters behind the collection will be included inside the cabinet, and will allow for the buyer to have their own name engraved within it."
None of which changes the whisky of course, but if our own experience with the 65yo is anything to go by, these are already incredible whiskies in their own right. Not just old, but old and very good.

No word on which charity or charities are being supported here, but we'll try to find out. An estimate of HK$2,000,000 – HK$4,000,000 has been placed on the lot, which is obviously significant, but considering The Macallan's continuing dominance in the whisky auction / rare whisky market, not unexpected.


The auction takes place on Sunday, 2nd April 2017 at Hall 5, The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Expo Drive, Wanchai, Hong Kong.  For assistance in bidding at this auction, please contact Sotheby’s on +852-2822-8142


Thursday, 23 February 2017

Tasted #350: Bladnoch Samsara

Up until very recently, the majority of Bladnoch bottlings you'd see on shelves would be independent bottlings (from the likes of Gordon & Macphail, Duncan Taylor, Adelphi and SMWS amongst others), or older official bottlings, like this Diageo Rare Malts bottling.

That all changed in 2015 though, when Aussie businessman David Prior purchased Bladnoch Distillery, becoming the latest in a long line of owners over the distillery's nearly 200-year history.

After an initial launch of a NAS blended whisky ("Pure Scot"), the distillery has now released three single malts, all made available to the Australian market before anywhere else. Topping the range is the 25 year old Talia, followed by the 15 year old Adela, and finally the NAS Samsara.

Despite not carrying an age statement, distillery closure periods tell us the whisky in Samsara would have been distilled in at least 2008 (if not earlier), making it approximately 8 years old at minimum. The distillery has also taken the decision to bottle non-chill filtered, and at 46.7%. Two big ticks in my books.

There's no denying the bottle design (used for all 3 single malts) is stunning, with its thick glass base, weighty stopper and metallic label. It exudes quality and wouldn't look out of place next to a bottle of Hibiki (which is saying something).

...but ultimately, it's about the liquid inside.'s it fare?

Bladnoch 'Samsara' (46.7% ABV, NAS, Lowlands, Scotland, $129.99AUD)
Colour: Pale yellow gold.

Nose: Youthful and expressive at first. Peaches and mango, with a touch of dryness, and some Posca pens (remember those?!)

Palate: Apricots and marmalade. Sweet tropical fruit juice poppers (wow this is really bringing back some primary school memories). Hints of drying oak, and some crayons. After a good 20 minutes in the glass, the palate became a lot rounder and more creamy (still sweet) - actually quite moreish.

Finish: Long, slightly oaky, with a residual (and enjoyable) sugary-spice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  88/100. A nice, smooth easy-sipping whisky - one which (after time) I came to really enjoy, and found myself going back to more and more. would like to thank Bladnoch for the review bottle pictured here.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Glenmorangie Bacalta Sydney Launch (Tasted #349)

The Glenmorangie Private Edition collection has seen different and unique expressions over the years - all driven by Dr Bill Lumsden's insatiable desire and curiosity to discover new flavours and ways of doing things. There have been a many excellent creations in the collection, with each creation uniquely derived through variation in the distillation or maturation process; be it barley type (Tùsail), wood type (Ealanta), composition (Artein, Finealta), rare wood finish (Sonnalta, Companta) and re-creation of a childhood dream (Milsean). That's right, Milsean was last year's Private Edition release and one that saw Dr Bill Lumsden compared to the likes of Willy Wonka (in my view anyway) as he strived to recreate the experience of being in a lolly shop surrounded by all those jolly good sweet things.

2017 sees a new Private Edition bottling release from Glenmorangie. The Glenmorangie Bacalta drew its inspiration from the Mediterranean island of Madeira, commonly known for its Madeira wines. Bacalta (Gaelic for "baked") is a reference to the the maturation technique used for producing Madeira wine, where the barrelled wine is heat matured over a period of time to oxidise the wine and build up its flavour profile. The heat maturation process can take years and involves storing the barrels in the roof/attic of the vineyard where it can get quite toasty, especially in the Mediterranean.

See more from on Instagram

Dr Bill Lumsden and Brendan McCarron shared some details of the Bacalta journey at the launch, which was held at The Old Clare Hotel, with Dr Bill and Brendan joining us virtually via Google Hangout. Times have certainly changed when you can have simultaneous global launch events with the one and only Dr Bill at Glasgow. Us folks in Sydney were joined by the folks in Mumbai and Seoul and there were likely other sessions rolling in straight after us.

The Bacalta journey started around seven to eight years ago when the first challenge was making a decision around what barrel structure would be used. The decision was made to go with a 250 litre American Oak hogshead barrel - a relatively small barrel size that can nicely influence any whisky through shorter wood contact time. Once Speyside Cooperage had managed to put together enough hogshead barrels, the subsequent challenge was in finding a Madeira wine producer that would "get in bed" with Dr Bill (in his words) - i.e. producer that would use and return his barrels for subsequent use.

It eventually happened and a Madeira wine producer agreed to season the hogsheads with its Malmsey Madeira wine, a rich and punchy Madeira wine, as compared with other types of Madeira wine. The barrels were then baked, emptied before being re-toasted and filled with Glenmorangie Original in preparation for Bacalta. Dr Bill described the extra maturation process as a rather delicate process that involved sampling the expression quarterly after the first eight months, until it was apparent to him and the team that the whisky had struck the right balance of flavours. The Bacalta is bottled at 46% ABV and is non chill-filtered.

This is certainly not the first time Madeira casks have been used for finishing, as we've seen both Kilchoman and Glenfiddich use Madeira casks for their Kilchoman Madeira Cask and Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Madeira Cask Finish expressions, both of which are well regarded.

The Glenmorangie Bacalta has been delicately planned, with everything from barrel structure to maturation process systematically thought out by Dr Bill and his team. So how does the Glenmorangie Bacalta stack up as a new joiner to the Glenmorangie Private Edition collection?

Glenmorangie "Bacalta" Private Edition (46% ABV, NAS, Highlands, Scotland, £78.95 / $154.99AUD / HK Pricing TBC)
Another stellar Private Edition creation that is enjoyable to drink for any occasion with its inherent sweet, floral and creamy notes.
Colour: Gold

Nose: Floral notes fill the initial nosing followed by notes of vanilla essence, honey, orange marmalade, sweet milk bread (few individuals around the table noted brioche), stone fruit and a hint of peppermint or menthol.

Palate: The palate is absolutely rich, velvety and divine, it is creamy with the notable Glenmorangie citrus notes coming through; orange peel, charred lemon followed by some vanilla stone fruit (fig) notes.

Finish: The finish is quite fresh and cooling with the minty, menthol notes, there are hints of eucalyptus, peppermint and the finish does linger for a while with a spiced and peppery finish

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. The first Private Edition release I tasted was not too long ago with the Túsail, followed by last year's Milsean and I have to say year to year, Glenmorangie has gone from strength to strength. The Bacalta continues that trend, being as delicious as last year's Milsean (if not more so), and certainly on par with my favourite core range Glenmorangie, Quinta Ruban.

A special thanks to EVH and the Moët-Hennessy team for having us at the Bacalta launch event with virtual Dr Bill Lumsden in Sydney.


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Tasted #343 - 348: Diageo Special Releases 2016 - Port Ellen, Brora, and others (#101drams)

My recent trip to Singapore's invitation-only Johnnie Walker House was special not only because it was a really impressive space, but also because at the end of my tour came a tasting...and not just any tasting - a tasting of 5 of Diageo's rarest 2016 Special Releases, and a stunning NAS Clynelish from 2014's Special Releases.

Port Ellen 37yo 1978 16th Edition (Special Releases 2016) (55.2% ABV, 37yo, OB, Islay, Scotland, Bottle #590 of 2,490, £2,083.33 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Vibrant yellow gold.

Nose: Perfumed. Light, elegant. No discernible peat. Leather, citrus and the slightest hints of lavender.

Palate: There's the peat smoke...but it's subtle, never imposing, never dominating. More barbecued meat smoke than coastal smoke. Lots of candied ginger, mint, mixed candied fruit peels and marmalade, and some herbacious seasoning. Think a smokey BBQ, sizzling a lovely rib eye, covered in rosemary and a sprinkling of paprika.

Finish: Long, sweet, honey-BBQ smoked.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. All-in, a very nice dram (and a #101drams dram too!) but not as memorable as the 12th Edition I tried a few years ago (the notes for which I just realised I never published). I did however find a few similar notes on the "Elements of Islay" PE5, which I gave the same score.

Brora 38yo 1977 (Special Releases 2016) (48.6% ABV, 38yo, OB, Highlands, Scotland, Bottle #1,507 of 2,984, £1,208.33 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Orange gold.

Nose: Whole oranges. Citrus oil and lemon zest. Smooth, faint smoke.

Palate: Oak, earthy smoke, more citrus (a little lemon rind and orange peel now). Some stewed pears and apricots. There's a waxiness to the mouthfeel, and everything is in such perfect balance. Expertly made whisky, without a doubt.

Finish: Long, smooth caramel notes turning to more citrus (back to whole oranges, some grapefruit slices). Hints of pot pourri at the very end.

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

Cambus 40yo (Special Releases 2016) (52.7% ABV, 40yo, OB, Lowlands, Scotland, Bottle #1,231 of 1,812, £737.83 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Golden sunset.

Nose: Grape!? Yes, lots. Wine gums, slightly acidic. You could tell me this was a Cognac, and I'd believe you.

Palate: More grape, only this time, it's Grape Hubba Bubba Bubblegum! There's a delightful freshness here - fresh laundry especially, but it's mostly about those vibrant grape characteristics, they really dominate, and it's wonderfully refreshing.

Finish: Medium in length, more wine gums and a perfumed lavender-like sweetness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 95/100. This is an odd whisky, there's no doubt about it. It's so left-field, that even after spending a good 10 minutes with it blind, I wouldn't necessarily have pegged it as a whisky. But it's also beautiful. I'm always looking to be "surprised" when it comes to whisky, and this has plenty of surprised up its sleeve. Complement that with a wonderful nose and palate, and its earned its 95.

Linkwood 37yo 1978 (Special Releases 2016) (50.3% ABV, 37yo, OB, Speyside, Scotland, Bottle #1,378 of 6,114, £500 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Orange gold.

Nose: Muted at first, before some vanilla and sponge cake notes come through, along with some Chardonnay-like notes and tropical fruit salad.

Palate: Sweet and tropical. Pawpaw and pineapple dominant fruit salad, glacé cherries, apricot jam and a fair whack of vanilla overseeing it all.

Finish: Medium to long, carrying similar notes from the palate right through to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Another well-made, enjoyable dram, not dissimilar to other well-made, well-aged Speysiders.

Clynelish Select Reserve (Special Releases 2014) (54.9% ABV, 37yo, OB, Highlands, Scotland, Bottle #2,877 of 2,946, £412.50 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Vibrant Gold.

Nose: Waxy, butterscotch-drizzled oranges.

Palate: Spiced oranges, cloves, with an overarching caramel, mouthfilling waxy smoothness. Just absolutely delicious. Water brought about a bit more spice, and a little more oak. I'd guess there's some fairly old Clynelish in here.

Finish: Long, smooth, toffee-like with residual hints of warming spice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. Just a brilliantly made whisy, even if it is a £400+ NAS.

Mannochmore 25yo 1990 (Special Releases 2016) (53.4% ABV, 25yo, OB, Speyside, Scotland, Bottle #2,424 of 3,954, £208.33 / HK & AU pricing not available)
Colour: Deep amber gold.

Nose: Rich caramel, sherry-soaked raisins, red berries (Acai? Some Strawberries too) and milk chocolate.

Palate: Every bit a sherried Speysider - and a clean one at that. Smooth, soft Christmas pudding, Christmas spices and some mince pies. Brazil nuts and a hint of well-aged leather.

Finish: Long and full of vanilla-laden spices.

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

A huge thanks must again go to Diageo and Ketchum for their fantastic hospitality during my visit.


Thursday, 2 February 2017

Tasted #341 - 342: Longmorn 16yo (2016 release) and Scapa Glansa

Two new single malts have launched in Hong Kong recently - Longmorn's new 16yo and Scapa's new NAS "Glansa". The latter I found a truly fascinating whisky which I want to tell you all about, but first the Longmorn...

It's fair to say that between Longmorn's distillery bottlings (like their previous 16yo) and their independent bottlings, the distillery has gathered quite a loyal fan base over the years. So understandably, some of those fans were a little put out when the new range was announced last year, and the price of the new 16yo jumped from ~£80 to ~£150 ($189USD / $1,580HKD).

The new 16yo was joined by an NAS (£45 rrp) and a 23yo ($1,087USD rrp), all of which featured new packaging and a re-positioning to show off the "luxury" side of the brand. Comparisons with Mortlach were inevitably made.

To be fair, the new 16yo and 23yo are both non chill-filtered, bottled at a higher-than-usual 48% (as was the old 16yo), and the new packaging is indeed very nice - the leatherette base in particular is a unique touch.

Ultimately though, it all comes down to taste and value for me. Forget what the old version cost, forget what other whiskies cost - simply put, is it a good whisky, and is it worth the asking price? Only one way to find out...

Longmorn 16yo (2016 release) (48% ABV, 16yo, Speyside, Scotland, $1,580HKD / AU pricing not available)
Colour: Bright sunny gold.

Nose: Apricots and raisins. Slightly floral, vanilla, pears. With some air comes a perfumed sweetness, and some creme brûlée.

Palate: Rich, zesty and buttery. Much sweeter than the nose hints at. Apple Tarte Tatin, and lots of pear. There are noticeable sherry notes, and they're all clean - no sulphur here!

Finish: Quite long, fruity and sweet. Hints of fruit tingles towards the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. A well-made, smooth and elegant speyside dram, without a doubt. There are a lot of characteristic Speyside notes here, and the cask selection has clearly been well thought out. For me though, for $1,580HKD / $189USD , I'm looking for something a little more. Maybe that's just my years of drinking weird and wonderful cask strength / single cask whiskies talking. This is a good whisky, and the asking price is not unreasonable. Note: Aussie fans of the previous 16yo can still find it at Dan Murphys for $113AUD.

Now, onto the Scapa Glansa - Scapa's first foray into peated whiskies. The Glansa new make spirit itself wasn't peated, rather the whisky has been finished in casks that previously held peated whisky (similar to expressions released by Balvenie and many others in the past).

It's not being pitched as a high-end malt in the same way Longmorn is, but it costs a very reasonable $598HKD / £40.95 rrp. I say "very reasonable", because I really loved this whisky! Sure, it's not the most complex malt in the world, and I'd like it to be at a higher strength than 40%, but for me, it has these notes that are eminently reminiscent of old bottles of Bowmore (to a small degree) like this beautiful 15yo bottled in the 1980s).

That might seem like a weird thing to say, but I've revisited it several times now, and I still get these slightly perfumed, earthy, "funky" subtle notes of smoke that I find very prominent on older Bowmore bottles...and that I really enjoy! I wonder if the peated casks used for finishing came from Bowmore...?

Scapa "The Orcadian" Glansa (40% ABV, NAS, Orkney, Scotland, $598HKD / £37.46 / AU pricing not available)
Colour: Toffee gold.

Nose: Earthy funk, with a hint of perfume. JUST like an old school Bowmore (for me, that's a very, very good thing)! Sour gummy worms, earthy burnt toffee and a little tropical fruit.

Palate: Floral and perfumed, with nectarines, apples and peaches. There are herbal notes, and a slight brininess. Put together those notes might not sound too appealing, but they come together brilliantly. I just wanted to keep going back for more. If I have only one complaint about the palate, it does feel a little thin - I'd love to see this at 46%.

Finish: Short to Medium in length, with a subtle, earthy, vegetative (not coastal) smoke.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. Just a really, really lovely drinkable dram. It can be a little "thin" on the palate, and it's not super complex, but I'll happily drink this on a regular basis (and in fact, I have been).

A big thanks must go to Pernod Ricard HK and Mazarine for providing the bottles for review.


Thursday, 26 January 2017

A visit to Diageo's Johnnie Walker House Singapore

A few weeks before my recent trip to Singapore, Diageo were kind enough to invite me to "Johnnie Walker House", to experience something which, until that point, I'd only seen glimpses of via Instagram.

Unlike the Jonnie Walker Houses in Mumbai, Taipei and select other airports, Johnnie Walker House Singapore is a private affair - open by invitation only, and designed for Diageo's private clients.

Located within Diageo's Singapore offices, the House is a tastefully decorated suite overlooking the historic trading port of Boat Quay (where the very first Johnnie Walker bottles would have arrived in Singapore in the 1800s), providing a nice link back to the earliest days of the brand. A large-format coffee table book ("bible" may be more apt) also provides insights into the brand's history in Singapore, whilst a video conferencing link allows customers to get real-time insights into the operation of some of Diageo's distilleries today.

Diageo's Private Clients team use the House to demonstrate their higher end, often more bespoke offerings, including personal cask ownership and signature blends. Basically, this isn't where you go to pick up a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue...

Upon entering the House, you're greeted by a large flavour map, mapping out Diageo's 39 malt distilleries (28 operating, 11 closed) in terms of profile. You may not agree with the all the placements, but you'll have to take it up with Dave Broom, as he mapped each distillery.

Against the far wall sits a showcase of Diageo's more exclusive products, including high-end Johnnie Walker blends (think the ~$48k USD McLaren Mercedes Edition and $200k USD Diamond Jubilee), followed by an overview of JW's "Signature Blend" program, allowing customers to determine their preferred flavour profile via a series of tastings, which Master Blender Dr Jim Beveridge then interprets into a custom JW Blend, drawing on the 8 million+ casks at his disposal.

Further along sat a curious bottle of Port Ellen (below) - clearly not part of the annual "Special Releases". I learnt that this was a bottling from Diageo's "Casks of Distinction" program - an incredibly limited program through which customers can purchase an entire cask from select distilleries, and choose to either bottle it, or continue ageing it (in Diageo's bonded warehouses) for bottling at a later date. 

The casks and distilleries available vary over time, but do occasionally include closed distilleries like Port Ellen and Rosebank, alongside operational distilleries like Lagavulin.

To have your own, private cask of Port Ellen and Rosebank bottled with your name would be pretty special...and the packaging certainly seems to befit the exclusivity, with bottles packaged in wooden 6 bottle crates, accompanied by a chest containing crystal glassware.

Having thoroughly toured the House and learnt all about Diageo's most exclusive offerings, there was only one thing left to do....taste!

I'll save the tasting notes for another post, but suffice to say, tasting 6 "Special Releases" bottlings (including 2016's 37yo Port Ellen and 38yo Brora, as well as a delightfully unique 40yo Cambus) was a pretty fantastic way to end a wonderfully detailed insight into the world of Diageo's bespoke offerings.

A huge thanks must go to Diageo and Ketchum for their hospitality during my visit (and of course, for the generous tasting).