Wednesday 29 April 2020

Tasted #480-481: Two new Hong Kong "exclusive" bottlings

There's been no shortage of Hong Kong exclusive whisky releases over the years - whether it be for bars (such as Club QingGinger (RIP) or Tiffany's New York Bar), shops (e.g. Dram Good StuffCaskells or Timeless & Tasty) or exclusives direct from the distilleries themselves (like this single cask Highland Park), HK whisky lovers are well looked after.

...and it's not hard to see why. We're a market of passionate, curious and knowledgable whisky enthusiasts, lovers of single casks and IBs....and who doesn't love an exclusive bottling? Personally, bottles like these make up a decent chunk of my annual purchases, and I love taking them on visits back to Australia, to share a whisky that I can be pretty confident most of my mates won't have yet tried.

We're in challenging times at the moment, but that hasn't stopped two shops recently releasing their own HK releases - both from Scotland, but otherwise two very different drams...


The first, a Blackadder "Black Snake" release comes courtesy of official importers / distributors Timeless & Tasty (aka Whiskies & More). The Black Snake series is effectively their take on a solera system, involving a vatting of casks finished in a sherry butt. I could explain it, but figure it's best left to the experts... 
"Black Snake is produced from a Vatting of casks finished in a Single Sherry Butt. It starts its life in first-fill ex-Bourbon casks. We then put three of them into new Oloroso or PX Sherry butts and leave for around a year for further maturation before bottling two thirds of the cask. We call these “Vats” as they are a kind of mini Solera. 
After each bottling we add two more ex-Bourbon casks, always of the same whisky, and leave for around a year before again bottling two thirds of the Vat. All future bottlings from each vatting of Black Snake will therefore contain some spirit that was in previous expressions from the Sherry Butt.
From time to time the Sherry Butt is renewed. Each edition bottling of Black Snake is called “Venom”, as in the poison from a snake’s bite. A touch of Blackadder humour! The first bottling from each Vat is called “First Venom”, the second bottling is called “Second Venom” and so on."
Bottled NAS and NCF from an undisclosed Scottish distillery @ 59%, there were 126 bottles of this release, known as the "Vat No. 6 Fourth Venom" release.

Blackadder Black Snake "Vat No.6 Fourth Venom" (59% ABV, NAS, Scotland, one of 126 bottles, $980HKD)
Colour: Orange-gold brown.

Nose: Orange blossom and rosewater. Quite (pleasantly) perfumed. Doesn't nose at all like 59% - very refined and elegant. Sweet pot pourri. After some time, there's a little earthy smoke and some flint / meatiness to the spirit.

Palate: Oranges, then a little more meatiness, some oak, burnt orange peel, figs and dark chocolate.

Finish: A long, earthy smoke gives way to a final orange-chocolate note.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. I don't know how old this is, but (despite the high ABV) it's elegant, juicy, and not at all overpowered by overly-active oak, or too spirit-forward. A well-balanced whisky that happens to be delicious as well!

The second bottling, a single cask 2007 12 Year Old Caol Ila was bottled by The Single Cask as a joint bottling between Hong Kong's Malt Whisky Hong Kong shop and HNWS Taiwan (OK, so technically not a HK exclusive...but we'll allow it).

Bottled NCF at 56.1% in 2019 from a single hogshead, there were 293 bottles released in total. I've often enjoyed these 10-12yo single cask ex-Bourbon Caol Ilas (here's another excellent HK release) so was keen to take this one for a spin.

The Single Cask Caol Ila 2007-2019 12yo bottled for Malt Whisky HK & HNSW (56.1% ABV, 12yo, Cask #307332, Islay, Scotland, one of 293 bottles, $1,199HKD)
Colour: Lemony straw.

Nose: Trademark lemon. Buttery vanilla, sweet citrus / lemon smoke.

Palate: Follows the nose initially - juicy lemon, vanilla and citrus-laden smoke, then some spiced lemon, green apple, white peach and maritime peat. Freshly-baked lemon pie crust, with a little sea salt.

Finish: Long, slightly salty with a residual maritime peat that lingers long after.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. There's just something about some of these single cask, pre-teen Caol Ilas...they're super delicious and versatile, and this is no exception.

Both bottles are available now, but (given the limited outturns) are unlikely to last long. Prices and links to purchase can be found above.


Thanks to Timeless & Tasty and Malt Whisky Hong Kong for the samples.