Tuesday 11 June 2019

Tasted #457: Ardbeg Drum (46%)

We've been covering Ardbeg Day on this blog for a while now - back to 2013 in fact, and attending even further back. The annual celebration, held at the distillery during Fèis Ìle and throughout the world at Ardbeg Embassies and elsewhere, sees Ardbeg release a limited edition whisky around a central theme - from mythical sea creatures to soccer, to the future and even whisky's illicit history of smuggling.

2019's Fèis was no different, with Ardbeg celebrating Islay's rich history of carnivals with "Drum". Released in both regular and Committee Release guises, the whisky is said to be "imbued with the influence of carnival spirit, rum" and sees ex-bourbon spirit "rested awhile" in ex-rum casks from the Americas.

With official tasting notes proclaiming the whisky to show tropical notes of banana and pineapple, I'm sure I'm not the only whisky fan whose ears pricked up at the thought of a modern fruity, tropical Ardbeg.)

(For those who haven't had the pleasure of old Islay whiskies from the 1960s/1970s/1980s, like this 1973 15yo Ardbeg or this beautiful 1964 Bowmore, they're often hugely tropical, highly sought after, and sadly with price tags to match nowadays.)

Now, I wasn't expecting this new NAS release to evoke the glory of those old Islay whiskies, but I'll admit my curiosity was still piqued, and when MHDHK kindly sent me a bottle to review, I wasted no time jumping straight in...

Ardbeg "Drum" (Ardbeg Day 2019 Release) (46% ABV, NAS, Islay, Scotland, $163.50AUD, HK pricing TBC)
Colour: Light straw.

Nose: Unmistakenly Ardbeg at first - on the younger side. The banana notes are there, along with big briny / salty smoke, some lemon and hints of pine. 

Palate: Still youthful, but less so. Creamy and mouthfillying, the banana is still there but has become flambéed, joined by mandarin, milk chocolate drops, and vanilla essence. Quite tasty and more rounded and complex than the nose suggests.

Finish: Sweet, fruity smoke. Medium to long in length. Settling into an ever-so-slightly tannic finish.

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

These days it can be tough to produce a limited release in enough quantity to satisfy whisky lovers' demands around the world, whilst still ensuring a sufficiently different and enjoyable whisky. We again applaud Ardbeg for having done so.


Friday 7 June 2019

Bar Review #23: Highlander Bar (Stamford Hotel, Sydney)

For Scotch Malt Whisky Society members who frequent the Royal Automobile Club of Australia, they might be familiar with a quaint cosy bar right next door at Sir Stamford, Circular Quay.

Earlier this month, the bar has re-launched itself as the Highlander Whisky Bar, complete with a refreshed set of world whiskies as well as whisky centric offerings, which include Whisky High Tea - who wouldn't love a good dram as an alternative to champagne. Highlander Bar will also feature "Whisky of the Month" as well as host bi-monthly Whisky masterclasses.

Sir Stamford at Circular Quay has already established itself as the home of great whisky events, from hosting annual whisky shows to regular Whisky & Cheese tastings. Our Highlander Bar will offer a unique platform to build on these events with dedicated offerings to guests and locals who share a love of fine whisky,” said General Manager, Sir Stamford at Circular Quay, Jacky Cheung.

We attended the media launch which showed the bar in different limelight and provided an opportunity to preview the refreshed bar as well as the refreshed cocktail offerings. On normal evenings, the Highlander Bar actually offered a more cosy, relaxed and warm ambience.

As part of the re-launch, the Bar Menu has been updated, with the help of David Ligoff of Alchemist Events, to include an extensive set of world whiskies - everything from your classic Glenmorangie 10yo, Glenfiddich 12yo to Chichibu Chibidaru IPA Cask, Lark Classic Cask and more.

David Ligoff is the co-founder of World of Whisky and owner of Alchemist Events which runs The Whisky Show across Australia as well as other similar events. Sir Stamford partnered with David to refresh the menu and the bottle selections.

“I’m very pleased to be working with the Highlander Bar and bringing some rare offerings to the table.  The perception is often that these whiskies will be very expensive, but this is not the case. Our research team has created a portfolio of unique whiskies, many of which have never been seen before in Australia,” said David.

The Whisky High Tea which is a bespoke twist on the hotel’s famous high tea offerings, with a selection of savoury items mixed with whisky infused treats including Jack Daniels Apple Mouse Slice, Jim Beam Bourbon Crème Brulee Tart and Johnnie Walker Caramel Square, and paired with a Chivas Regal whisky flight. The High Tea is served from 11 am - 4 pm,  Monday to Sunday, and costs $79.

The Whisky of the Month pays homage in the centre of the bar and served with tasting notes. The whisky is said to be unique from month to month with an example being the limited-edition single cask bottling of a 20-year-old Ben Nevis, the Highlander Inn.

Highlander Bar will also host bi-monthly Whisky Masterclasses with themed tastings such as ‘Malts in the Movies’ class which highlight the product placement of malt whiskies in classic movies,  a ‘How Whisky Made the Mob’ class, exploring how organised crime and prohibition defined the whisky we drink today. And as a classic set, the ‘Whisky Old Enough to Order Itself’ class will celebrate all 18-year-old whiskies.

The Whisky Masterclasses will vary in cost, depending on the theme and range from $80 to $130 per person. Duration will be around 90 minutes, with five to six whiskies presented.

The Highlander Bar is open now, for both reservations and walk-ins , Reservations can be placed either online or by telephone at 02 9252 4600 or email BarReservations@SSCQ.Stamford.com.au.

Thanks to Blue Planet PR for having us at the event.