Friday 22 November 2019

Johnnie Walker Game of Thrones "A Song of Ice" and "A Song of Fire" (Tasted #471-472)

Diageo is continuing its Game of Thrones series with the release of two limited edition blends – Johnnie Walker "A Song of Ice" and Johnnie Walker "A Song of Fire". These two new releases are based on the overarching book series "A Song of Fire and Ice", of which Game of Thrones was part of.

A Song of Ice, containing malt whisky from Clynelish distillery, is described as having a ‘crisp, clean taste’ with a ‘green and grassy’ flavour and notes of ‘vanilla and tropical fruit’.

A Song of Fire containing peated malt whisky from Caol Ila distillery, is said to feature ‘subtle smoke tempered by a rich, rounded sweetness’, and is bottled at 40.8% abv

These releases follow the launch of "White Walker" by Johnnie Walker last year and Diageo's Game of Thrones Single Malt Collection earlier this year.  The latter was a series of eight limited edition single malts that represented the Great Houses plus the Night's Watch. Personally, there were some real highlights from the collection including the Lagavulin (Lannister), Oban (Night's Watch) and Dalwhinnie (Stark).

Now, the White Walker and the Single Malt Collection were launched in anticipation of the final season of Game of Thrones which aired in April 2019. However, both A Song of Ice and A Song of Fire have been released post the end of the final season. Whether this point to an upcoming Game of Thrones series, it hasn't been confirmed though there are rumours a prequel is in the works.

The bottle design have been inspired by the two great houses who face off in final season of the series - House of Stark (represented by the Direwolf) and House of Targaryen (inspired by Daenerys Targaryen aka Mother of Dragons). The sigil of both houses, a direwolf and a dragon were used on the bottle design.

Tasting notes aside, the bottles have been impeccably designed. A Song of Ice share the same colour and design as its White Walker release from last year. On the contrary, A Song Fire incorporates a bolder design featuring what looks like Drogon, one of Daenerys' dragons.

Tasting them side by side, is one tastier than another? They are both different and I personally, prefer the A Song of Ice over A Song of Fire though they may appeal to different taste buds.

Johnnie Walker "A Song of Ice" (40.2% ABV, NAS, Blend, Scotland, A$69.99)
Colour: Pale Straw

Nose: Herbaceous, fresh hay. There are some sweet treats from apple stew, stone fruits, vanilla and orange zest.

Palate: The palate is soft yet lightly spiced and has layers of flavours from oranges, vanilla, nutmeg and stone fruits. Although the palate is soft, it still packed quite a complex profile.

Finish: Short to medium, with warming spice and herbaceous notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100.

Johnnie Walker "A Song of Fire" (40.2% ABV, NAS, Blend, Scotland, A$69.99)
Colour: Flame Amber

Nose: Orange, vanilla and black pepper. Very soft and light on the nose. There's a small hint of peat.

Palate: Light and soft. There's tannic when you first taste it which is then followed by vanilla, black pepper spices and a hint of peat. You would think this is the one with the Clyenish malt but no, the primary malt is in fact, Caol Ila.

Finish: Short, with warming fading notes. The spices also disappear quickly .

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 85/100.

At $69.99 a bottle, these new blends are great for those looking to fill Santa's stockings ahead of Christmas. Both Johnnie Walker A Song of Ice and A Song of Fire are now available from liquor stores nationwide.


A big thanks to Diageo and Fuel Communication for providing samples for review.

Thursday 14 November 2019

The Singleton of Glen Ord 12yo Sherry Cask launch dinner [Tasted #470]

The Singleton doesn't get a lot of attention in Australia, but it certainly does in parts of Asia - in Taiwan especially (where we're told it's the #1 selling single malt brand), but more recently Hong Kong, where the brand and its three distilleries are rapidly gaining a large profile.

Those three distilleries are Dufftown, Glendullan and Glen Ord, and it's the latter which recently gave us a new release for the HK market - The Singleton of Glen Ord 12yo Sherry Cask, released just last month.

To celebrate the new whisky, The Singleton held an elaborate dinner at the St Regis Hong Kong's Astor Ballroom, with a menu by lauded Singaporean chef Justin Quek.

The dinner saw 5 Singleton whiskies paired with a variety of dishes, many of them surprisingly well-matched (particularly given how hit-and-miss whisky pairings can be).

What was more unusual however, was the non-food pairing. A booklet on our table told us that we'd be given an "interpretive dance recital", telling the story of the whisky, with three dancers each interpreting the "European Oak Sherry Casks", "American Oak Bourbon Casks" and the final "Sherry Casks" used for marrying the whiskies together.

I'm not sure I really "got" the interpretation of cask type in dance, but it was certainly a unique and interesting take on the whisky dinner format, which often follows the exact same formula time after time.

At the front of the elongated, twin-tabled room was a chef's station where Chef Quek talked the 120 or so guests through each dish, with a live feed being broadcast over screens throughout the venue (it was significantly less Owellian than it appears in the photo below, and actually a nice touch).

You can tell when a "whisky pairing" dinner has been thrown together, and that certainly wasn't the case here. It was clear much thought had gone into matching the whisky with each dish, such as the trio of starters (House cured salmon/Royal Oscietra Caviar, Light Smoked Hamachi Fillet/Konbu & Gillardeau Oyster Fritter/Spanish ham/Mushrooms) which Chef Quek explained were specifically chosen to match elements of the whisky - the Oysters to represent Speyside, the Hamachi to represent the subtle smoke in the whisky, and the salmon to represent...The Singleton's logo! Fair play.

Taste-wise, the combo worked well with the new 12yo Sherry Cask, as did Wok Fried Maine Lobster with The Singleton of Glen Ord 15yo, with the whisky adding a sweetness to the Lobster that worked very well.

As is often the case, the dessert pairing (Chocolate variations and Singleton Whisky Ice Cream, paired with The Singleton of Dufftown 25yo) worked a treat. It's not hard to get a dessert and whisky pairing right, but this one worked particularly well, with a creamy, fruity sensation coming out in the whisky that wasn't as prominent on its own. The Singleton infused ice cream was a nice touch as well.

Despite enjoying 15, 18, 21 and 25 year old expressions of The Singleton, it was the Sherry Cask 12yo we were all there to celebrate, and I thought it fitting to give it a proper tasting on its own, before the dinner.

The Singleton of Glen Ord 12yo Sherry Cask (40% ABV, 12yo, Highlands, Scotland, $548HKD)
Colour: Deep copper/amber with hints of red.

Nose: Candied brazil nuts, cherries, with hints of cloves and a slight berry-laden wood spice.

Palate: Initially light, but quickly settling into rich berry notes (raspberries, cranberries) then a dustry dry-rub spice. Cherries, fresh raspberries, caramel and and hints of oak are rounded out with a subtle underlying smoke.

Finish: Longer than you might expect, with hints of oak spice and pot pourri and dried raspberries.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  88/100. A solid dram. It's nice to see a new release carrying a decent age statement for a change too.

MHDHK and their PR partners PRime Asia don't do things by halves here in Hong Kong, and this dinner was no exception - a beautifully curated event to suit an evening of highly enjoyable whiskies.

Martin. attended this event as guests of MHDHK.