Saturday 17 February 2018

Tasted #384: GlenDronach Single Cask 1995 19yo Cask #4941

Over the last few years I've been building up a bit of a collection of GlenDronachs, in particular their single casks. Personally I find it a fantastic distillery, making brilliantly-sherried whiskies at a very reasonable price (although prices have been rising lately).

This one is from their 11th batch of single casks (they're just about to release Batch 16), and was one of the first "GDSCs" I bought. It started my love of ex-Oloroso GlenDronachs, and I've been buying them up ever since...

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

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

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

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

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. A very nice whisky but if the palate matched the nose, it would be absolutely incredible.


Friday 9 February 2018

Bar Review #22: Please Don't Tell (PDT) Hong Kong opens...for good

If an article about PDT opening in Hong Kong on this site sounds familiar, that's because we wrote that very article two years ago. That was a temporary pop-up though, and as impressive as it was (and it really was), after a few months it was gone....until now.

Clearly buoyed by the popularity of 2016's pop-up bar, New York's world famous "PDT" (aka Please Don't Tell) has returned to Hong Kong, filling the same space (the mezzanine above MO Bar in Landmark Mandarin Oriental), in a much more permanent fashion. We attended the media launch last week, which gave us a good chance to explore the new space, sample the new cocktails and try the new menus (fear not, it's still hotdog-heavy).

The entrance is (of course) via a phone booth (hint: Press 1) and the space, whilst small, has large booths for 5 groups, and counter seating for 8. The drinks menu features 15 drinks (our preview night menu had 8), and again includes a number which have been given a Hong Kong / Asian twist, including:
  • Big Fan, a refreshing shandy served with Cabeza tequila, lime juice, pink peppercorn, guava and Moonzen Fuijan radler
  • Safari, combining ELephant Gin, Italicus Rosolio, Kabosu, Shiso and East Imperial Burma Tonic
  • Umbrella, a refreshing aperitif combining Blandy's Rainwater Madeira, Tio Peppe Fino Sherry (YES!) and Kamm & Sons British Aperitif.
  • Bad Hunter, a John Collins prepared with Chivas blended Scotch whisky, Fernet Hunter, lemon juice, dragon eye and Moët Brut Imperial Champagne
  • Milky Tea Punch, a rich flip composed of Ron Zacapa Centenario rum, Hennessy V.S.O.P. cognac, Rickshaw tea, condensed milk, Tayouran egg and Angostura bitters; and
  • Pear of Peres, a short, sharp cocktail with Rye, Cocchi, Genepi, Pear Brandy and Ango bitters.

The food menu echoes that of the pop-up (and the original in New York), with hot dogs including the Honkie Dog (fried pork dog with sakura shrimp and XO mayo) and Kimchi Dog from the New York menu (bacon-wrapped, deep-fried pork dog with Kimchi). Tater tots are back, and the Takoyaki Tots are a must - deliciously snakcable!

Drinks-wise, the Safari was a great way to kick things off (think of it as a slightly more complex G&T), followed by an Umbrella, which was a perfect aperitif. Bad Hunter was refreshing and complex (and a great use of "Fernet Hunter", which seems to be popping up everywhere in HK), and Pear of Peres was the perfect nightcap - short, brown and bitter, just the way we like 'em!

Industry legend / PDT owner Jim Meehan was mixing the drinks all night, and providing great chat too - giving some helpful suggestions / insights regarding a few recent vintage spirits bottled I'd acquired.

The whisky selection is good, with a selection of Japanese, Scottish, Irish and American whiskies, but really, you're here for the cocktails, and they're fantastic.

PDT Hong Kong is open now, for both reservations and walk-ins (although we suspect the latter will be difficult at first), Reservations can be placed one week in advance for parties of up to 6 people by telephone at +852 2132 0110 or email to



Monday 5 February 2018

Glenmorangie "Spios" - 9th Private Edition launch in Hong Kong and Sydney (Tasted #383)

As a whisky fan, there are a few regular events each year you tend to look forward to. Moët Hennessy are particularly good at organising these - perhaps the most obvious (and fun) example being Ardbeg Day, but another (with slightly less shenanigans) being the annual launch of Glenmorangie's "Private Edition" releases.

We've covered a few of these over the years - 2013's Ealanta, 2014's Companta, 2015's Tusail, 2016's Milsean and 2017's Bacalta, so it was a pleasure to learn that not only would we be celebrating the launch of 2018's "Spios", Hendy and I would be doing so together, remotely, via video conferencing!

Moët Hennessy had cleverly arranged for the launch event to be held simultaneously in Hong Kong, Sydney, Seoul and Singapore, with each location video conferenced in with Dr Bill Lumsden and Brendan McCarron for a simultaneous live tasting.

All four locations were treated to the same lineup of drams - Glenmorangie OriginalNectar D'Or, and finally the new Private Edition - Spios. Whilst none of us had tried the latter, the name ("Spicy" in gaelic) gave us some clues as to what to expect.

After Dr Bill leading us through the Original (describing it as the whisky he "interferes with the least"), and Brendan taking us through the Nectar D'Or, it was time to learn about Spios.

Bill took us back to the 1990s, when he first learned about Rye whisky (then significantly less popular and attainable than it is now) from the legendary whisky writer Michael Jackson. After visiting North American distilleries and trying their ryes, he loved the spicy notes that the extra rye in the mashbill imparted, and years later, sought to procure some ex-rye casks.

He was successful, and 10 years ago (which should give us an idea as to the age of this NAS release) laid down some casks that had previously held 95% rye, with Glenmorangie single malt spirit. That's right - no finishing here, just a full 10 (ish) years in ex-rye!

(Whilst Bill nor Brendan would be drawn on which distillery the casks came from, subsequent discussion online suggests it could only have been MGP of Indiana).

With the backstory explained, there was only one thing left to do - taste it! It was at this point that I was thankful I'd kept some of the Original in my glass. Here we had two Glenmorangie single malts, both having spent ~10 years in American Oak - one in ex-bourbon, and one in ex-rye. This is the sort of comparison us whisky geeks love...

Glenmorangie Spios (46% ABV, NAS, Highlands, Scotland, $1,100HKD, Australian price/availability TBC. Available in HK from 26th February.)
Colour: Straw with a slight pinkish-gold hue.

Nose: There's no doubt it's a Glenmorangie - there's some honey, and some underlying floral hints, but take away all the sweet vanulla you get on the nose of the Original, and replace it with spice! Also grass, mint, toffee, cherry, and after some time, caramel chews.

Palate: Gentle cinnamon / clove spice - it's there and it's dominant, but its not overpowering, and it's working nicely with the toffee and some sweeter ginger notes that start to come through. There's even a tiny hint of black pepper.

Finish: Long, with lingering earthy sweet smoke and more of that toffee.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. Very good, and fun and fascinating to compare side by side with the Original. "Same same, but very different" sums it up best - it's definitely an ex-American Oak Glenmo, but with plenty of unique characteristics not found on the Original. Delicious.

After the Spios, Bill and Brendan took questions from each city (that's me spying on the good people of the Sydney whisky scene, below), and whilst Bill wasn't giving anything away about future Private Editions, he did confirm that "anything you can think of, I probably am trying it" and the 10th Private Edition will be "extremely innovative".

We can't wait!

Thanks to Moët Hennessy in both Sydney and Hong Kong for the dual-invitation to this innovative and enjoyable event!