Monday 13 May 2019

Starward Red Manhattan, a modern Australian twist to an iconic whisky cocktail

We've written about the Starward exciting journey earlier this year with David Vitale's vision to make Starward the whisky of choice at every Australian's dinner table or at any occasion, just like wine or beer. This was one of the reasons why Starward released their first bottled cocktail, the Starward Old Fashioned twelve months ago. They had the vision to make it as easy as possible to liven up any occasion with bartender quality cocktails. The release was a success and resonated with many given the iconic stature of the Old Fashioned - a classic that has held its place as the perfect cocktail for over a century.

Building on the success of the first bottled cocktail release, Starward has now unveiled its second release of the bottled cocktail (series). The Starward Red Manhattan is a direct tribute to another iconic cocktail - the classic Manhattan cocktail. The creation of the second release is actually a result of a close partnership between Sacha La Forgia, Adelaide Hills Distiller and Sam Slaney, Starward’s Head Distiller. They have both spent quite a considerable amount of time since the start of the year trialling and experimenting with different recipes to re-create the Manhattan cocktail, albeit with an Australian twist.

The final recipe was very much a marriage of the original Starward whisky together with bespoke red wine vermouth and infused with native botanicals and Starward's own bitters. There is a red theme that permeates through this new creation – from the whisky maturing in red wine barrels to the red vermouth to the added cherry red garnish - and hence the "Red" Manhattan.

Sam Slaney, Starward’s Head Distiller, says, “It’s such an exciting time to be in the Australian craft spirits category – there is so much opportunity for creativity and to challenge tradition. Starward and Adelaide Hills Distillery are both innovative and award-winning local craft spirit producers that are passionate about creating distinctly Australian flavours. Starward whisky is uniquely matured in Australian red wine barrels and Adelaide Hills"

Adelaide Hills Distillery sources Australian native produce, from the roots, herbs, wormwood to the red wine from Adelaide Hills for its red vermouth. The Red Manhattan is very much a one-of-a-kind bottled cocktail that is bright, balanced and full of flavour.” Sacha La Forgia, Adelaide Hills Distillery founder, adds,

At Adelaide Hills Distillery, we produce small. Like a white wine, the recommendation is to store Red Manhattan chilled in the fridge. Serve as a 70ml pour in a coupe glass and garnished with a cherry or red grape."


With the inherent stability or instability of vermouth once exposed to air, Sam mentioned that once opened, the Red Manhattan should ideally be consumed within a month. Though mixed with the higher ABV of Starward Grain at 40% ABV - the vermouth is then stabilised.

We had the opportunity to compare both, a Red Manhattan that we skilfully created from scratch against the Starward Red Manhattan. For those at home, you can mix up your Starward-inspired Red Manhattan using:

  • 2 parts (~60ml) Starward Two Fold
  • 20ml vermouth
  • 2 Dashes Angostura bitters.
  • Garnish with a maraschino cherry

Comparing the two, the bottled Red Manhattan exhibited a lot more vermouth than the one I made. It could be that I mixed in a bit too much Two Fold into the mix though serve chilled - both are very delicious cocktails. Looking at the colour, you can simply guess which one was made by me and which one was poured from the Red Manhattan bottle.

Yes, the right cocktail was my amateur creation of the Red Manhattan.

The Starward Red Manhattan is now available from the Starward Website for $49. Serving the bottled cocktail simply required the bottle to be chilled and serve with either cherry or red grape.

With this second bottled cocktail release, David's vision is ever becoming a true reality to shape what and how we drink at the dinner table and for any occasion.


Thanks to Adrienne of Dialogue PR and Starward for having us at the launch event.

Tuesday 7 May 2019

Tasted #456: The Dalmore L'Anima 49yo (1 of 1 bottling)

When it comes to whisky (as with other things in life, I suppose) the words "rare" and "limited" get bandied about fairly often...and fair enough too. With no formal, legal or singularly accepted definition, "rarity" differs from person to person. Is an 18,000 bottle outturn of a new "limited edition" considered "rare"? For some - yes, for others - no. What about single cask bottlings? What about a fairly accessible whisky (say, Laphroaig 10yo or Macallan Sherry Oak 12yo) but from the 1980s?

What's your threshold for "rarity"?

One thing we can probably all agree on is that if a bottle is released as a single bottle - i.e. a "1 of 1", it rightly deserves the title of "rare".

Enter The Dalmore L'Anima Aged 49 Years - borne out of an encounter between The Dalmore's Master Distiller Richard Paterson, and Chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana (currently the "World's 50 Best" #1 restaurant). The single bottle produced is available only via Sotheby's Auction, with bidding currently at £65,000 and due to end 9th May at 10pm HKT and sold for £108,900. All proceeds from the sale will be donated to Bottura's charitable foundation "Food for Soul", which aims to reduce both food wastage and poverty.

The whisky, made from a marriage of 3 cask types (1st Fill ex-Bourbon barrels, 40yo PX casks from Gonzalez Byass and Vintage Port pipes from Graham's) was designed not so much to pair with food, but to reflect the shared passion, or soul ("L'Anima" in Italian) of both Paterson and Bottura. 

(That said, there were definitely a few characteristics on the nose and palate a few of us picked up which you could equate with Italian cooking...)

A very small gathering of whisky lovers and media was fortunate enough to taste the liquid tonight - obviously not from the bottle being auctioned, but from a sample bottle (decanted into The Dalmore decanter seen above). It's fair to say my usual "booze free Monday" tradition was promptly abandoned this week...

With a healthy pour of the 41.5% dram poured (and a second serve, should we wish) I wasted no time diving in nose-first (which is how I spent the next 15 minutes, before taking a sip - such was the complexity and changing nature of the nose).

The Dalmore L'Anima Aged 49 Years (41.5% ABV, 49yo, Highlands, One of 1 bottle, Auction)
Colour: Deep orange-brown copper.

Nose: Very expressive, right from the outset. Whole oranges, creme brûlée, dark chocolate. But also milk chocolate, mint, charred oak. After some time raspberry notes emerge, along with hints of some of the characteristics of my favourite Italian Amari - artichoke, rhubarb, cardamom and menthol.

Palate: The first thing that hits you is the creaminess. Now I'm not going to say it's a "parmigiano reggiano" creaminess, but it's definitely not the sweet, vanilla ice cream creaminess you find in some whiskies, and I won't lie - given the context, it did remind me of a creamy cheese-laden pasta. Herbal notes follow - mint primarily, followed by spiced oranges, some paprika. Towards the end of the palate you get some hints of drying tannins (no doubt the Port pipes at play), but it's very pleasant and integrates well with everything else. More herbal Amaro notes emerge over time - with menthol and orange peel especially showing.

Finish: Long, creamy and intense. The Port pipes really shine here, bringing a drying (but not too oaky) close.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  93/100. Truthfully, I was expecting to enjoy the experience of this one, but I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the whisky. I'm happy to say it was absolutely fantastic - with huge complexity (something I look for, especially in a whisky of this age), no "off" notes, no signs the whisky had been in the cask too long, and with flavours that work together in perfect harmony.

A fellow taster mentioned it would be a great whisky to match with food (in general), and I'd have to agree. Hopefully the winning bidder opens the bottle and finds out.

Online bidding on The Dalmore L'Anima Aged 49 Years is open now until 9th May (10pm HKT) - see here for details and to place a bid. The L'Anima auction ended with a winning bid of £108,900. The winning bidder also gets a dinner for two at Osteria Francescana, and speaking from experience, it's a dinner they won't forget!

A big thanks to Josh and The Dalmore / Whyte & Mackay for this incredible experience tonight.


Sunday 5 May 2019

Tasted #455: Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection" 1981 from Coleburn Distillery

We've been fortunate to feature and try some fantastic recent Gordon & Macphail releases on the blog over the past few months, from a sublime 50yo "old style" Caol Ila to an impressive 1975 Glenrothes right through to the oldest whisky we've ever tasted.

With the exception of a 1985 Inverleven however, all the whiskies tasted were from operational distilleries. Of course, G&M being G&M, they no doubt have a plethora of casks from closed distilleries, and have recently bottled one in the form of this 1981 Coleburn, bottled at 38 years old under their "Private Collection" range, which showcases greatly-aged whiskies from celebrated, little-known or closed distilleries, hand-selected by members of the owning Urquhart family.

Laid down on 11th March 1981 (just four years before the distillery was mothballed in 1985), the whisky was matured in a refill sherry Hogshead for 38 years in G&M's warehouse in Elgin, before bottling on 14th March 2019, still at a healthy 55.9% ABV. It goes without saying that that beautiful mahogany hue above is all-natural - no doubt a product of 38 years in good wood.

I have to be honest, Coleburn is a distillery that I either hadn't tried before, or hadn't remembered trying, so I was pretty excited to learn G&M were generously sending me a sample. As a single malt primarily used for blending (there was only one Official Bottling ever released - part of Diageo's Rare Malts series) it's not one you see very often - certainly less often than the other "big name" closed distilleries like Port Ellen & Brora, who have had a steady stream of IBs (and even OBs) released in recent years.

So, the distillery ticks the "rarity" box and the whisky sounds great on paper...but how does it fare in a tasting? Read on...

Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection" 1981 from Coleburn Distillery (55.9% ABV, 38yo, Cask #476, Speyside, One of 101 bottles, £1,250)
Colour: Fiery amber mahogany.

Nose: Clean, rich, fruity sherry. Red berries, hazelnuts, dried apricot, eventually evolving into as subtle underlying earthy smokiness.
With water: Similar, with slightly more nuttiness evident, as well as caramel & roasted coffee grounds. After 20 minutes, sweet toffee notes came to the fore.

Palate: Initially drying, then satisfyingly becoming juicier, with spiced orange, cloves, then gingerbread and dark roasted coffee beans. Oak? Sure, but perfectly balanced and not at all overpowering.
With water: A touch more oak and the coffee beans become coffee grounds. Some cherry notes emerge and the spiced orange remains. With or without water, it's delicious.

Finish: Long, orange and gingerbread notes. It really does linger with hints of distant earthy smoke barely perceptible.
With water: Equally long and enjoyable, with more noticeable sweetness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  94/100. I'm being a bit stricter with my "high scores" this year, but in my view this deserves it. A wonderfully complex and delicious dram, with none of the negative characteristics that can often betray a dram of this age. Well done, G&M.

The Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection" 1981 from Coleburn Distillery 38yo is available for purchase worldwide, with a UK RRP of £1,250. With 101 bottles, it's unlikely to last too long though.