Monday 31 December 2018

Tasted #421: Karuizawa 1984 Single Cask #3692 28yo

As a final post for 2018, I thought it fitting to not only post my thoughts on a fantastic whisky, but one that's symbolic of the camaraderie and friendships that whisky can bring about.

See, in addition to this blog I spend a fair bit of time on both Instagram and Facebook, often talking about whisky. Through both platforms (and Twitter) I've made some amazing friendships with whisky lovers all over the world, with whom we regularly discuss and share samples of whiskies (when we can't meet in person for a few drams).

That's how I came to get a hold of a sample of this stunning 1984 Karuizawa single cask. @maltandbean (who writes, someone I'd come to know through a mutual interest in whisky, was in Hong Kong and we caught up at Club Qing (of course) for a few drams. I'd brought a sample to share, as had he....and it was this Karuizawa. @maltandbean, it turns out, is one of those rare people who not only buys some incredible whiskies, but actually opens them too. Applause all round. 👏🏼

Photo taken from The Whisky Exchange

Bottled at a not-insignificant 61.6% ABV in 2012 at 28 years old, there were 359 bottles produced from a single sherry butt.

Karuizawa 1984 single cask #3692 (61.6% ABV, 28yo, Japan, One of 359 bottles, no longer readily least not at a reasonable price sadly!)
Colour: Dark copper brown, with an orange tinge.

Nose: There's noticeable sulphur at first (it dissipates slightly over time), but there's also sweet BBQ'd pineapple rings, strawberries and cream, floral pot-pourri and more - leather, some oak, molasses, and some earthy notes. Incredibly complex, and extremely inviting. A few drops of water just amps everything up a notch. Simply an amazing nose.

Palate: Similar to the nose. Initially some burnt match heads, but then comes the sweetness - cookies and cream ice cream, strawberry shortbread and more pineapple (cooked). It doesn't feel 60%+ ABV, though a few drops of water does open things up even more. Absolutely delicious - the sort of whisky you just want to keep taking sips of. Truly one of the tastiest drams I've had this year.

Finish: Long, creamy, floral, and lingering. There's some vanilla cream spice that lasts for the longest time, and you wish it lasted even longer.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  93/100@maltandbean opened this to celebrate the birth of his daughter, and all I can say is it's an incredibly fitting whisky for such a momentous occasion. Not every Karuizawa is a good Karuizawa, but when they're good, wow, they're great. This one falls clearly into the latter camp.

A huge thanks to @maltandbean for this, and to all my whisky mates around the world for the drams, laughs, knowledge, samples and above all, friendship.

Hope you all have a fantastic 2019, and thanks for continuing to read our blog. We look forward to bringing you plenty more interesting stories in the new year - our 6th year!


Sunday 30 December 2018

Johnnie Walker Game of Thrones "White Walker" Hong Kong launch (Tasted #420)

A few weeks ago MHDHK launched Johnnie Walker "White Walker"  in Hong Kong, with an event held in a snow-filled space at "This Town Needs". The whisky, part of Diageo's Game of Thrones collaboration (joining the not-officially-coming-to-Hong-Kong GoT single malt series) is part of a global, limited release and despite what many have guessed, is not simply a re-labelled JW Black Label, but rather an entirely new whisky.

In keeping with the GoT theme, the blend uses whisky largely from the North of Scotland, and contains malts primarily from both Cardhu and Clynelish. Suggested to be served from the freezer, the bottle features the words "Winter is Here" on the side, which appear only when the bottle is chilled. A gimmick? Sure, but also, kinda cool...

After a few refreshing highballs (including a ginger one which paired very nicely with the JW), miniature Glencairns were handed around for a proper tasting of the "White Walker".

Johnnie Walker "White Walker" (41.7% ABV, NAS, Blend, Scotland, $438HKD / £28.19 ex-VAT)
Colour: Light yellow gold

Nose: Sweet and light. Noticeable ginger, orange, apple and vanilla.

Palate: Vanilla, more apple and ginger, with some oaky vanillin. I'm always sceptical of any spirit that suggests being served from the freezer (given extreme cold is known to "dull" flavours, you have to wonder what they're trying to hide), but that doesn't seem to be the case here - this is a whisky that genuinely changes when chilled, becoming significantly more syrupy, with noticably more ginger.

Finish: Short to medium, with warming ginger spice notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 84/100. Certainly very sippable on its own (especially on a hot day, from the freezer) but very refreshing in a ginger highball, as it was served on arrival.

Thanks to MHDHK for the invitation to the event, and the chance to try this fun new release.


Saturday 29 December 2018

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" 1954 64yo Glenlivet and 1968 50yo Caol Ila (Tasted #418 - #419)

It's fair to say Hendy and myself have tried a fair few special drams this year, including a number of old and very old whiskies. Whilst we all know that older doesn't always equal better, there's something undeniably special about drinking a single malt (or even a grain, blend or other distilled spirit) aged for 40, 50, or 60 years, or more.

With the end of the year just around the corner, it was probably reasonable to expect that my "old whisky" quota had been used up, when low and behold the following package landed on the doorstep of TimeforWhisky HQ, courtesy of the lovely folk at Gordon & Macphail...

Containing not only the oldest ever commercially bottled Caol Ila (at 50 years old, distilled in 1968 making it very much "old style" Caol Ila), a sample of Glenlivet was included too - at a whopping 64 years old (1 year shy off the oldest whisky I've ever tasted). 

Considering the previous two months had also seen sample deliveries of a pair of 57yo Longmorns,  a 33yo Glenrothes and a 43yo Inverleven, you'd forgive me for feeling a little spoiled by G&M lately. Suffice to say, I wasted no time diving straight into 114 years worth of whisky...

First cab off the rank was the 1968 50 Year Old Caol Ila, distilled well before the distillery's expansion (completed in 1974), considered by many to be the point at which Caol Ila spirit became significantly lighter. Whilst I wouldn't usually start with an Islay, after 50 years it's a fair bet the majority of the "in your face" peat smoke will have dissipated, as was the case here. Bottled at a healthy 52.5% from a refill sherry hogshead (cask #4021901), this Caol Ila was aged from 21 March 1968 to 8th July 2018 and produced only 199 bottles.

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" from Caol Ila Distillery 1968 (52.5% ABV, 50yo, Islay, Scotland, £7,500)
Colour: Light orange gold.

Nose: Orange rind and lemon zest. Dig a little deeper and there's some citrus-menthol smoke. Lots of fruit - green apples, pineapple, guava. After time licorice allsorts appear, followed by the burnt pastry crust on a lemon tart.

Palate: Full-bodied and "big". Orange zest at first, coated in allspice. Vanilla ice cream, orange chocolate, cranberry syrup and baked apple pie.

Finish: (Very) long, with hints of sweet citrus smoke and confectionary - lemon drops and gummy bears.

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

The 1954 64yo Glenlivet naturally came next, bottled at 41% from a single refill sherry butt (#1412) with an outturn of 222 bottles. Distilled on 15 April 1954, it was bottled on 27 April 2018.

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" from Glenlivet Distillery (41% ABV, 64yo, Speyside, Scotland, £9.950)
Colour: Yellow golden sunset.

Nose: Well-aged sherry (on the drier, Fino / Manzanilla end of the spectrum). Lots of apple and a noticeable amount of grassiness. Rich creamy vanilla, soft oak, and a certain candle-like waxiness.

Palate: Well, that was unexpected. First some earthy smoke, with a distinct herbal note (herbal Strepsils actually). Then some berries - blueberry, raspberry and then sweeter strawberry notes coming to the fore, all with an undertone of aged leather. There's Manuka honey too, and some slight hints of matchheads, but the leather notes remain throughout. There's milk chocolate too, but it's subtle. Certainly the most fascinating Glenlivet I've ever come across.

Finish: A slight meatiness, more leather, mature honey and some oak. 

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Extremely balanced for a 64yo whisky, with the oak kept in line very nicely.

What an experience. A big thanks again to Gordon & Macphail for the samples.


Monday 24 December 2018

Highland Park Single Cask Exclusive for Hong Kong and Valknut launch in Hong Kong (Tasted #416 - 417)

Continuing a busy year for Edrington HK, two new Highland Park releases have recently been launched in Hong Kong, both celebrated recently at Tai Kwun's new The Chinese Library restaurant.

The first, Valknut, is the next release to emerge from the partnership with Danish designer Jim Lyngvild (first seen in 2017 with the launch of Valkyrie). Using a small portion of Orkney-grown barley ("Tartan barley"), it was matured in ex-Sherry American oak casks, carries no age statement and is bottled at 46.8% ABV, retailing for $550HKD.

The second, a significantly more limited and special bottling, is an exclusive Hong Kong single cask (officially known as the "HKexcl" bottling), bottled by the distillery under the "Single Cask Series". Many of you will no doubt be familiar with the series, which has seen a number of OB single casks (generally around 12-16 years old) bottled for travel retail, certain markets/countries, whisky bars, and even the distillery itself (which if you ask me, was one of the best).

The "HKexcl" isn't actually the first, or even second single cask OB Highland Park to be bottled for Hong Kong, but it is the first to be available in regular retail (the first two were bottled for travel retail - one for DFS, the other for Duty Zero). Limited to 523 bottles and aged for 15 years, it was bottled from a 2002 1st Fill American Oak sherry butt (#2123) at 58.3% ABV, retailing for $1,960HKD.

To celebrate the launch, Edrington hosted a media lunch pairing the new expressions with a 5 course Cantonese lunch, with each whisky introduced by the ever-knowledgable Patricia, Edrington's Hong Kong brand ambassador.

The lunch brought back fond memories of my trip to Highland Park (part of our Scotland trip to celebrate the launch of the new Macallan distillery earlier this year), particularly enjoying a dram of HP18 atop the Cliffs of Yesnaby in Orkney - easily my most memorable dram of the year.

Whilst I unfortunately couldn't stay for the whole lunch, I did manage to spend some time with both releases and note down my thoughts...

Highland Park Valknut (46.8% ABV, NAS, Orkney, Scotland, $550HKD / £47.95)
Colour: Orange-brown gold.

Nose: Vanilla orange spice, then some earthy, dusty smoke. There's a nuttiness to the nose, and a noticeable amount more smoke than the Valkyrie.

Palate: Lots of pears and applewood smoke, then some citrus (oranges), vanilla pods and subtle white pepper notes. Grilled pineapple rounds things out.

Finish: Long and slightly tannic smoke, with spicy orange notes to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  89/100. A different and equally enjoyable dram to the Valkyrie.

Highland Park Single Cask Series "HKexcl" Bottled Exclusively for Hong Kong (58.3% ABV, 15yo, Orkney, Scotland, $2,500HKD from Dram Good Stuff)
Colour: Copper brown.

Nose: A HUGE iniital hit of coconut, sandalwood and pencil shavings. OK, yes this comes from a 1st-fill butt, but wow, you could be mistaken for thinking it was made of Mizunara! Really lovely. A few drops of water tones things down a bit but doesn't really change or amplify the characteristics drastically.

Palate: Big and spicy. There's sandalwood and some tropical fruits in the background, with pineapple, oranges, cloves and pencil shavings most dominant. A few drops of water doesn't really change things here either - despite the high ABV, I'd say it doesn't really need any water.

Finish: Mostly citrus, with toasted coconut and noticeable toasted oak notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  90/100. There's a noticeable amount of oak here, but when that oak brings things like coconut and sandalwood, I'm not complaining! A very unique, delicious and enjoyable HP.

Big thanks as always to the amazing team at Edrington HK for the invitation to celebrate the launch of these two whiskies.


Saturday 15 December 2018

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" 1974 Glenrothes and 1985 Inverleven (Tasted #414 - 415)

Hot on the heels of their recent launch of an intriguing pair of 57 year old Longmorns (tasted here), Gordon & Macphail have released another two well-aged whiskies, again under the "Private Collection" label but with a stunning new bottle design. "Private Collection" is the range reserved for exceptional and unique whiskies personally selected by members of the Urquhart family, and that clearly applies to these two whiskies - a 1974 Glenrothes, and a 1985 Inverleven.
(It's not often a bottle design comes along that you'd call "Hibiki-level stunning"...but if you ask me, that's what we have here!)

The Glenrothes, bottled from a single refill Sherry puncheon (cask #18440) yielding 276 bottles, has an ABV of 49.5% and retails for £1,250. The Inverleven, bottled from a refill bourbon barrel (cask #562) yielded a comparatively smaller 130 bottles, and was bottled at 57.4% retailing for £1,000.

G&M were kind enough to send me a sample so I could share my thoughts on these two...and the packaging of the samples was almost as impressive as the bottles themselves! 

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" from Inverleven Distillery 1985 (57.4% ABV, 33yo, Lowlands, Scotland, £1,000)
Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Spirity at first, and slightly hot, but with a fair whack of fruitiness - banana chew lollies, pineapple, and lime and rockmelon. There's some saltwater taffy, banana chew lollies, vanilla essence and baked lime pie.

Palate: Following the nose - the banana and vanilla notes carry through, followed by some tropical notes (rockmelon and lime), toasted banana chips, all underscored by a rich vanilla sweetness. A drop or two of water brings the banana chips to the fore.

Finish: Flambéd banana, toffee, warm melted caramel.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. A highly enjoyable dram that benefits from a few drops of water.

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" from Glenrothes Distillery 1974 (49.5% ABV, 43yo, Speyside, Scotland, £1,250)
Colour: Brown-gold.

Nose: Dusty, mature oranges at first, but dig in and there are rich raspberry notes, stewed fruits (prunes, apricots), dark chocolate, and some Sultana Bran. After some time in the glass, subtle oak and aged old furniture (polish, leather) notes come through.

Palate: Subtle, refined, clean sherry. A dusting of cinnamon, orange cream, hazelnuts and dried apricots. Christmas cake notes are present, but in the background. Well-balanced.

Finish: Long and warming, with cherry-orange notes turning into sweet toffee at the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. It's always a joy when a sherried dram like this lives for 40+ years in oak and doesn't get overpowered with oak, spice or too much of any one characteristic.

A big thanks to G&M for the samples of these fantastic whiskies.


Thursday 13 December 2018

Tasted: Glenfarclas "Whisky & Wisdom" Edition 2 (Tasted #413)

It has roughly been two years since Andrew Derbidge blessed the whisky community with his own Glenfarclas bottling, dubbed "Whisky & Wisdom." - the name of Andrew's whisky resource site.

For those who do not know Andrew Derbidge, Andrew is a prominent figure in the whisky industry, both locally and abroad. Andrew's passion for whisky and especially his infectious love for Glenfarclas have been known by many for quite a long time. His incredible palate has allowed him to differentiate and appreciate the multitude of different whiskies over the years and have coveted him his special role as the Cellarmaster of the Australian branch of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This is partly why, during his visit to Glenfarclas last year, that he pored through a series of butts and hogsheads at the distillery's warehouses and found the "second" perfect cask that Andrew felt exhibited what a good sherry-matured malt should be.

The first release was a relatively young 9yo first fill ex-sherry Glenfarclas and t was very well regarded. Personally, I savoured through and through until the last drop. It was a rather bittersweet moment when I poured my last dram out of that bottle. Needless to say, you can imagine my excitement when I saw Andrew's note on his second Glenfarclas pick - dubbed the Whisky & Wisdom Edition 2.

Distilled in July 2008, Cask 1270 stood head and shoulders above the rest and one that got Andrew's attention, so much that he proceeded to bottle the cask (the cask yielded 319 bottles). At 59.8% ABV, the second edition of this bottling contains Glenfarclas whisky that has been aged in 1st fill, European oak, ex-oloroso hogshead for 10 years. This second edition bottling has been exclusively released entirely into the Australian market, all 319 bottles!

So how does it rate, Andrew was kind enough to send me a sample ahead of the full bottling arriving.

Glenfarclas 2008 "Whisky & Wisdom Edition 2" (59.8% ABV, 10yo, Speyside, Scotland, $220AUD)
A classic sherry matured malt that brings you all the goodness from the ex-sherry hogshead and as well as notes that are simply fitting for this joyous Christmas season. The whisky is rich, complex and multi-layered and one that you can sit on for some time to let the whisky continue to develop its flavours and aromas.

Colour: Maple syrup

Nose: The nose is rich and filled with rum and raisin ice cream, caramelised figs, dried sultanas, prunes and a stream of rich, buttered panettone.

Palate: The palate is juicy and started with sweet and sour candies, fruits; fresh berries and pomegranates before they are followed by a mixture of speculaas (the Dutch cinnamon cookie), cloves and caramel glaze.

Finish: The finish is very long, with oak notes, lingering sweet cinnamon and a continue whiff of

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 94/100.

The whisky is now available to consumers directly through the new online shop page at, RRP is $220.


Sunday 2 December 2018

The Glenrothes "Soleo Collection" Launches in Hong Kong (Tasted: #410 - #412)

The Glenrothes have always been slightly unusual in the world of Scottish single malts, in that for a long time they largely used vintage statements (1995, 2001 etc..) instead of the more traditional age statements (12yo, 18yo etc..) for their core range.

No more it seems (at least for the core lineup), as the new "Soleo Collection" has been released comprising a 10yo, 12yo, 18yo, 25yo and NAS. Edrington HK recently launched the collection in Hong Kong, with a party held at The Upper House, hosted by Edrington HK & Macau's Whisky Ambassador Patricia.

The event gave guests a great chance to try the full range (bar the 25) alongside The Upper House's trademark delicious canapés, and even gave everyone the opportunity to get a little crafty (see below).

I spent a good amount of time with the 12, 18 and Whisky Makers' Cut (NAS) to see how they stacked up against the previous range. Thoughts below...

The Glenrothes 12 Years Old (40% ABV, 12yo, Speyside, Scotland, $489HKD / £40.84 ex-VAT)
Colour: Light gold amber.
Nose: Perfumed sweetness at first, settling into a slight earthiness.
Palate: Sweet citrus zest - lemon rind mostly. Caramel chews, vanilla and cinnamon.
Finish: Long with a slightly spiced / pepper sweetness.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

The Glenrothes 18 Years Old (43% ABV, 18yo, Speyside, Scotland, $1,129HKD / £99.79 ex-VAT)
Colour: Orange amber-gold.
Nose: Sweet and slightly herbaceous. More oak than the 12. Some nutmeg.
Palate: More complexity than the 12 (as you might expect/hope). It's still sweet, with vanilla and and caramel toffee, but now there's some ginger and slight hints of flint / sulphur.
Finish: Long, toffee-spice.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

The Glenrothes Whisky Maker's Cut (48.8% ABV, NAS, Speyside, Scotland, $620HKD / £50.95 ex-VAT)
Colour: Golden-copper.
Nose: Sweet and meaty, with hints of oak. Some candied walnuts and glacé cherries.
Palate: Spiced nut mix. Leather, tobacco and (flamed) orange peel.
Finish: Spiced oranges.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Thanks to Edrington for the invitation to another great event, and the chance to try the new Glenrothes range.


Thursday 29 November 2018

Whiskies & More, Timeless & Tasty and 3 delicious single casks from Laphroaig, Glentauchers and Ardmore (Tasted #407 - #409)

Whisky fans in Hong Kong would find it hard not to notice the proliferation of new whisky shops these days - it seems like every week there's a new one, opened by a passionate whisky lover (or group of whisky lovers), and on the whole it's a great thing for the whisky scene.

Whiskies & More however are a little different. Part shop, part distributor, part whisky events coordinator, W&M and their online shop, Timeless & Tasty are run by passionate whisky lover Hil, someone for whom I have massive respect, having come from the same industry I work in (not whisky - this is just a hobby for me) and switching it up to run a successful business in whisky.

Not only that, but Whiskies & More  also arrange some of the most epic whisky tastings in Hong Kong (like when they brought the guys from WM Cadenhead out for a tasting of 6 whiskies, straight from the still maturing casks, including 3 closed distilleries!)

The list of brands Whiskies & More distributes includes a number of hugely-respected independent bottlers (Asta Morris, AD Rattray, Elements of Islay, WM Cadenhead, Blackadder), well-loved OBs (Arran, High Coast, others) and even my favourite Cognac Vallein Tercinier (aka the cognac for malt lovers). The fact that Whiskies & More so regularly bring out guests from these brands for regular masterclasses in HK (like Bert from Asta Morris) is a testament to the relationships Hil has built in a short space of time.

To try out some of the range, Hil recently gave me a few samples from three of W&M's brands, all of relatively young ages, and all proof that "age is but a number":

Asta Morris Glentauchers 2009-2017 (52.5% ABV, 8yo, Speyside, Scotland, 1 of 90 bottles, $995HKD)
Colour: Orange-brown gold.

Nose: Spirity and fruity at first, with some varnish and sultanas, and a slight peppery note. After a few drops of water, some Vegemite and barbecued meat.

Palate: Rich and sweetly sherried - more sultanas, a nuttyness, pear notes and some red fruits.

Finish: Long, with some light tannins, sugar-coated sultanas, dried apricots and pears.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. A simple yet surprisingly moreish dram.

The Single Malts of Scotland Aird Mhor (Ardmore) 2009-2018 (59.4% ABV, 8yo, Highlands, Scotland, 1 of 123 bottles $850HKD)
Colour: Straw

Nose: Spiced fruit, cinnamon eggnog. Hints of peppery smoke.

Palate: Similar to the nose, with more cinnamon and more pronounced peat smoke, followed by some flamed orange peel, cardamom and Christmas cake.

Finish: Long, with smoky-sweet stone fruits at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 87/100. From an ex-Laphy barrel, I learned afterwards!

AD Rattray Williamson (Laphroaig) 2011-2017 (61.3% ABV, 6yo, Islay, Scotland, 1 of 96 bottles $850HKD)
Colour: Light straw.

Nose: Big campfire peat smoke with some stone fruit notes, and slightly medicinal notes (but not an "iodine bomb").

Palate: Hugely mouth-coating. Spicy peat, meaty, oily, some tobacco and leather, then some toasted bread, apricot jam and some barbecue smoke.

Finish: Medium to long in length, sweet with caramel notes and just a hint of smoke.

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

With Christmas around the corner,  W&M's shop Timeless & Tasty would be worth a look for anyone looking to buy a whisky present (it can be for yourself - we won't tell), as would the above three whiskies.


Thursday 15 November 2018

"The Macallan Table" - launch dinner at Felix

As we've experienced more than a few times over the yearsThe Macallan are no strangers to food and whisky pairing, having hosted a number of fantastic lunches and dinners in both Australia and Hong Kong. Their recent partnership with Michelin-starred Felix at the Peninsula extends this beyond a single one-off dinner, offering guests the chance to book "The Macallan Table" over a series of nights and taste four Macallans paired with dishes from chef Juan Gomez, Felix's new (and very talented) chef.

We were invited along to the launch recently, hosted by The Macallan's lovely brand ambassador Patricia and featuring two new drams (The Macallan Edition No.4, which we first tasted here and Rare Cask 2018 Edition Batch No.1) and two old favourites (The Macallan Double Cask 12yo and Classic Cut).

Kicking off with a cocktail (the Glenrothes Highball was especially refreshing), it was hard not to soak up the view from The Peninsula's enviable position overlooking Victoria Harbour and out to Hong Kong Island.

Dinner itself was a four course affair, starting with House smoked Salmon loin, green asparagus, camembert, butter lettuce and celeriac, paired with The Macallan Double Cask 12yo, which played really nicely with the Camembert (and of course smoked salmon and a nice honeyed whisky like Double Cask is always a good pairing).

Slow roasted Pigeon breast with mushroom sauce and grilled seasonabl vegetables was paired with The Macallan Edition No.4, with the pigeon's smokiness and the whisky's sweetness bouncing off each other nicely, back and forth.

In between courses, Patricia introduced chef Gomez, whose Spanish heritage not only showed in the dishes (especially the one we were about to eat), but also served as a perfect complement to The Macallan, with its history of sherry casks and strong ties to bodegas in Spain.

Dried aged Tenderloin "Rubia Gallega", piquillo parmeniter, soufflé poteato, brocolini and Madeira wine was next, paired with the new Rare Cask 2018 Edition Batch No.1). Beef and whisky is often a sensible pairing, and this one was particularly good, with the whisky's dried fruit notes bringing out some particularly fruity notes in the dish - presumably from the Madeira sauce.

The Macallan Classic Cut was served on its own next - and actually at 58% made a great digestif, a great way to break up the dishes and prepare us for the dessert - Raspberry Coconut, fresh thing coconut crunch with raspberry mousse and sorbet. The whisky had strong ginger and nutmeg notes - very different to the 10yo Cask Strength of days gone by, but good in its own right.

A big thanks must go to Edrington and The Peninsula for hosting another successful and expertly-paired whisky dinner. Whilst "The Macallan Table" pairing dinners have ended for 2018, Felix has a Macallan Jazz night on 16th November.


Monday 12 November 2018

Tasted #405 - 406: 1973 42yo Longmorn and 1976 37yo Mortlach (bottled by Gordon & MacPhail)

Whilst trying the Gordon & Macphail 1961 "Private Collection" Longmorn twin casks a few weeks ago was a pretty special experience, they weren't the only drams we tried on the night. As a prelude to the two, we were treated to another well-aged Longmorn (a 1973, bottled in 2015) and a 1976 Mortlach (bottled in 2013).

Both enjoyable drams in their own right, I felt they deserved their own post...

Gordon & Macphail "Distillery Label" 1976 Mortlach (bottled 2013) (43% ABV, 37yo, Speyside, Scotland, no longer available)
Colour: Honey gold.

Nose: Sweet raisins, clean and sharp. Cherries and treacle. Peach, then other stone fruits - pear, apricot. Some oak but nothing overpowering.

Palate: Rich and fruity - stewed pears, peach pie, apricot purée. Fruit compote with sherry-soaked apple rings and pear halves (just like mum used to make at Christmas).

Finish: Long, surprisingly spirity with some oak at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. A lovely dram and an interesting twist on the usual Mortlach meatiness, but the finish didn't quite live up to the rest.

Gordon & Macphail "Distillery Label" 1973 Longmorn (bottled 2015) (43% ABV, 42yo, Speyside, Scotland, no longer available)
Colour: Orange gold.

Nose: Cinnamon and dried apple rings. Caramel chews. Slightly dusty / earthy notes.

Palate: Slightly thin at first, then notes of spiced mince pie, apple pie, and caramel emerge. Raisings and ginger too.

Finish: Long, cinnamon spiced with hints of ginger and raisins.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100.


Sunday 11 November 2018

Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Twin Casks - Longmorn 1961 Casks #508 and #512 (Tasted #403 - 404)

A lot of great tasting invitations pass across the desks of TimeforWhisky, but it's not every day those invitations involve trying a pair of 57 year old whiskies (filled into two different casks on the same day, way back in 1961) costing £30,000, in the presence of the two brothers who selected them.

This one did, though. I'm talking of course about Gordon & Macphail's new Private Collection 1961 Longmorn twin casks, released recently as a set of two decanters, both distilled on 2nd Feb 1961, both bottled 57 years later on 2nd Feb 2018, in a release of only 97 sets globally.

A few weeks ago in private whisky club in HK's Central, I found myself chatting to members of the Gordon & Macphail owning family (and twin brothers) Richard and Stuart Urquhart about these two incredible whiskies, hearing some great stories from the family's history, and then tasting them (alongside a 1973 Longmorn and a 1976 Mortlach, as if these two weren't special enough!)

The brothers explained that the casks (filled by their grandfather in 1961) were an experiment to determine "nature versus nurture" in a whisky context. Both were filled with the same spirit and matured side by side for their entire 57 years - one a European Oak cask, the other American Oak (both first fill Sherry Hogsheads).

57 years after their filling, the brothers each selected the cask that best represented themselves. Richard (elder by a few minutes) selected the cask filled first (#508, European Oak), a stronger and more robust whisky, whereas Stuart's cask (#512, American Oak) is a spicier, drier cask said to reflect Stuart's drier sense of humour.

(Of course, inevitable "stronger vs weaker" jokes were bandied back and forth between the brothers too..)

I've met Richard a few times over the years, and always respected his passion for whisky, and respect for the family's history. Stuart was no different, and it was fantastic to hear stories of their forefathers' foresight in laying down casks like these - all of which are owned by G&M from the day they're filled (the family doesn't buy pre-matured casks).

Of course, it's one thing to hear stories about rare whiskies like these, but another thing entirely to taste them. So on that note...

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" 1961 Longmorn Twin Casks - Cask #512 American Oak (40.8% ABV, 57yo, Speyside, Scotland, Cask #512, 1 of 97 bottles, £30,000 sold as a pair (UK), HK pricing available on request from Fine Vintage)
Colour: Rich brown treacle.

Nose: Delicate, but with lots going on. Floral notes of potpourri, some varnish and saw dust. Then some vegetal notes. Fruit - dried apricots and prunes at first, then some tropical mango and guava. Lots of flamed orange peel, then some sweeter notes emerge - candied almonds and marzipan.

Palate: Sweet initially, with some slightly bitter herbal tannins, giving way to pineapple, raisins, and more oranges (whole and peel). There's some milk chocolate, slight hints of earthy smoke, at time some rum-soaked banana, and lemon notes. Many different notes, but integrated very well.

Finish: Long, tropical, with orange peel and dark (not milk anymore) chocolate most predominantly. The bitterness lingers (in a nice way) - not overly different to a bitter orange liqueur like say Campari.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. An absolutely stunning nose, followed by a delicious and complex palate and long lingering finish.

Gordon & Macphail "Private Collection" 1961 Longmorn Twin Casks - Cask #508 European Oak (45% ABV, 57yo, Speyside, Scotland, Cask #508, 1 of 97 bottles, £30,000 sold as a pair (UK), HK pricing available on request from Fine Vintage)
Colour: Deep coffee-copper with red tinges.

Nose: World's apart from the American Oak. Big, bold, sherried. Nutty, cherries, some allspice. Huge milk chocolate notes, Vietnamese coffee, lots of rum and raisin. Varnish and oak, but sweet, not dry or bitter.

Palate: Huge! The tannins are noticeable, but the sherry notes are super clean. Hazelnuts and orange peel (fresh, not flamed), lots of raisin and strong black espresso notes. Rum n Raisin. At times I'm reminded of some of my favourite Italian herbal digestifs - Averna (the barrel-aged variety only available in Italy), Cynar etc..

Finish: Long, warming, creamy and oaked. Hints of dark orange chocolate at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Definitely the more robust of the two, and whilst the oak shows, it doesn't overpower the whisky too much, and allows all the other notes (and wow, there are a lot) to shine through.

57 years is a long time for any whisky to spend in a cask - especially in a first fill sherry cask. These whiskies could have so easily been overpowered by oaky tannins, or some of the less pleasant notes that appear on some sherry casks (sulphur, etc) and yet, they didn't. They remained clean, complex, delicious, and each incredibly unique.

Fine Vintage in Hong Kong have an (understandably very limited) number of these sets available for purchase, should anyone be interested.

Thanks to Richard, Stuart and Howard for the invitation to this fantastic tasting.