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.