Thursday 31 December 2020

Dalmore "King Alexander III" [Tasted #509]

One last post for the sh*t of a year that's been 2020....

Whilst I've tried at least one incredible Dalmore in the past 18 or so months on this blog (sadly, a 1 of 1 bottle which sold for £108,000, leaving me zero chance of trying it again), it's been many years since I'd visited the core range - not since 2015, in fact, when Master Blender Richard Patterson came to town.

To change that, I was recently (and very kindly) sent an unprompted bottle of Dalmore King Alexander III, part of the distillery's core lineup which I'd originally tried back in 2015, and about which I'd said at the time:
"The Dalmore King Alexander III, as Richard explained, is finished in a whopping 6 different casks (Port, Madeira, Marsala, Cabernet Sauvignon, Small Batch Bourbon and Matuselm Oloroso) and is designed to give rich plummy characteristics. Despite not carrying an age statement, King Alexander III is typically 20 years old, at 40% "because that's how I wanted it" (Richard's words)"

It's always fun to revisit drams after several years, as both palates and whisky batches can change. So without further final dram for 2020.

Dalmore "King Alexander III" (40% ABV, NAS, Highlands, Scotland, $1,580HKD / £159.85 / $300AUD)
Colour: Bright red copper.

Nose: Earthy at first (damp grass, moss) giving rise to ripe strawberries and then floral, potpourri notes.

Palate: Very muted. Spiced initially, then vanilla bean, walnuts, some oak spice and slight tannins, Mandarin and grapefruit notes with an underlying damp moss earthiness...but it feels like the ABV could do with a decent increase - it really is a very subtle palate (some might say "smooth", one friend called it "watery"). Perhaps though, that's more a reflection on the number of cask-strength drams I've tried since 2015 - which would likely number in the thousands.

Finish: Medium to long in length, with spiced apple cider notes and residual oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 87/100. A nice pleasant dram and one I think would make a great introductory dram for someone just getting into whisky, or concerned about high-ABV spirits, as it's genuinely one of the subtlest drams I've had in recent memory. There's quite a lot going on in terms of different flavours, but for me, I think I prefer Dalmore when it's from one or two types of casks (say, ex-Port or ex-Sherry), rather than the "assemblage" we have here.

A big thanks to Telford HK for the bottle tasted here.


Wednesday 30 December 2020

Mortlach 16 and "Meats with the Beast" [Tasted #508]

Mortlach is a whisky that's seen a few different guises in recent years. Originally (and still) prized by blenders, and used as a key component in Johnnie Walker, the "2.81 distilled" whisky rose to prominence amongst whisky lovers in the 1990s via Diageo's Rare Malts and Flora & Fauna series - the latter showcasing a 16yo Mortlach which is still much loved (and increasingly sought after) today. 

Mortlach had always been considered a bold whisky for a Speysider (dubbed "The Beast of Dufftown" by Dave Broom for its robust, rich and meaty characteristic), but in a rare mis-step in 2014, attempts to market Mortlach as a luxury / up-market malt saw it bottled in 500mL format (in a range including a NAS) and promoted heavily in travel retail. Whisky lovers were quick to turn on the series, and it's fair to say it probably didn't enjoy the success that had been envisaged. The series was scrapped, and in 2018 a new series emerged, with a core range consisting of a 12, 16 (this bottle) and 20 year old - mercifully, back in 700mL / 750mL format.

Scarred a little from the 2014 series (and with only one bottle of F&F left), I hadn't tried much Mortlach of late, so it was a pleasant surprise when MHDHK kindly sent me a bottle of the latest 16yo ("Distiller's Dram"), out of the blue.

Sherried, but said to be less-so than the Flora & Fauna 16yo, I was keen to see how this held up, and if it could "stand on its own" - and perhaps even capture a new generation of whisky drinkers.

Mortlach 16 "Distiller's Dram" (43.4% ABV, 16yo, Speyside, Scotland, $790HKD / £74.85 / $132AUD)
Colour: Orange-brown gold.

Nose: A slight citric / orange "dustiness" at first, followed by some big barbecued meat notes then flamed orange peel

Palate: Sweeter than the nose suggests - sweet BBQ sauce, molasses, and barbecued ribs. The sherry notes are there, but they feel on the lighter side. There's also some sherbet and oak. It's not super complex, but it's tasty.

Finish: Medium to long in length, with spiced apple cider notes and residual oak.

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

So in conclusion, a different dram to the Flora & Fauna, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. Fairly priced (especially in this 750mL format) and definitely worth a look if you’re after an OB Speysider with a bit more “oomph”. 

To celebrate the Mortlach range, the distillery has teamed up with Grand Hyatt Steakhouse HK for a "#MeatswiththeBeast" promotion, whereby 3 special dishes have been chosen to match the core Mortlach range (12yo, 16yo, 20yo), as follows:
  • Mortlach 12-Year-Old (The Wee Witchie) x House smoked salmon
  • Mortlach 16-Year-Old (Distiller's Dram) x USDA Prime beef tenderloin
  • Mortlach 20-Year-Old (Cowie's Blue Seal) x Sticky date pudding
Per the press release:
"We are delighted to partner with Grand Hyatt Steakhouse. It is a perfect marriage between the finest meats and The Beast of Dufftown, complimenting each other on the rich flavour and characters. Customers can experience exceptional meaty and bold flavour from the brand's signature 2.81 distilling process." Said Ms Crystal Chan, Brand Manager of Diageo Brands.

"We are very proud of the Meats with the Beast menu, which is a co-creation between our culinary team and Mortlach Single Malt Scotch whiskies. It showcases our unrelenting pursuit of bold classic flavours and perfect execution. The resulting menu is simple, confident and sophisticated." Said Marc Benkoe, newly appointed Head Chef who will take the helm of the Grand Hyatt Steakhouse kitchen starting from December"

Whilst the restaurant is currently closed due to the COVID-19 situation, the promotion is expected to re-commence once the restaurant opens again. 

As a final side-note, big props to Diageo too for the sensible packaging. Check out the Instagram story grab below for a comparison with another whisky which arrived on the same day!


Tuesday 22 December 2020

Time for Whisky's Last Minute Christmas Whisky Gift Guide 2020

It's been a while, 5 years in fact, since we last did a "Last Minute Christmas Gift Guide". This year I've received so many questions about which whiskies people should buy as gifts for their family/friends/colleagues/other, I figured it was time for the next instalment.

Rather than base it on price range, I've stuck with the same formula as 2015's guide - 5 categories, 5 whiskies, but for 2020, with three new categories.

If you've left it to the last minute to grab the whisky lover(s) in your life a gift, hopefully this is of some help. 

Note: For this guide I've tried to keep the spirits to those that are relatively widely available - ideally in both HK and Australia, so for that reason you won't find esoteric single casks, indies, or other whiskies that you or I might typically enjoy outside OB ranges. This is a "last minute" gift guide, after all!

1) "The recipient is a whisky lover. I'm not, but I want to get them something that shows I did some research."

The whisky: GlenDronach 18 year old

Why: 5 years ago, we chose GlenDronach 15 for this category - a great dram. Since then, it's been discontinued and re-released, and whilst it's still a great dram, it's actually 15 years old now (as opposed to 5 years ago, when it was likely significantly older), and made up of both Oloroso and PX-matured whisky. Whilst that's no bad thing, the Oloroso-matured 18yo is, in my opinion, the sweet spot now, and in today's market is one of the few whiskies I'd still call incredible value. 

Prices are rising, but for now, it's one of the best "bang for your buck" whiskies out there.

Where and how much? $1,050HKD from Dram Good Stuff or £97.94 from Master of Malt. Seemingly out of stock across Australia, unfortunately.

Want to know more?: You can read all our previous thoughts and tasting notes on GlenDronach's whiskies here.

2) "I have no idea what they like. I want something safe and reliable."

The whisky: Balvenie 12yo DoubleWood

Why: 5 years later, The Balvenie (a Speyside favourite from William Grant & Sons) continues to be a fantastic entry-level dram, and still to this day, I've never met anyone who hasn't like it. The Balvenie produce elegant, handcrafted, enjoyable whiskies that at the same time are accessible and won't break the bank. 

Where and how much? $89.90AUD from Cambridge Cellars$550HKD from Dram Good Stuff or £39.95 from Master of Malt

Want to know more?: We've covered plenty of Balvenie stories and tasting notes in the past, but you can read our notes on the 12yo DoubleWood specifically here.


3) "I want to buy a whisky that shows I'm ahead of the curve."

The whisky: Archie Rose Rye Malt Whisky

Why: Australian whisky continues to rise in prominence (increasingly, globally so) and it's hard to not be excited by what Archie Rose are doing in Sydney. We first visited Archie Rose and spent a day making some whisky back in 2015, and whilst they didn't actually have any whisky released back then, they do now - two "core" releases in fact, Rye Malt and Single Malt.

Both are good (and very well-priced at $119AUD), but the Rye Malt we find especially interesting, as Rye whiskies typically aren't made using malted rye. It's also incredibly delicious and complex considering it's young age.

Where and how much? $119AUD. Whilst Archie Rose are sold out of both at the moment, options exist via The Whisky List. Sadly not yet available in HK.

Want to know more?: Read both Hendy and my tasting notes on the Rye Malt here.

4) "I want to get them something slightly left-field, but it still has to be a great whisky."

The whisky: Highland Park Cask Strength

Why: Buying your recipient a regular 12yo Highland Park would show you know good whisky, but played it safe (like the afore-mentioned Balvenie, "HP12" is a widely-loved dram). The Cask Strength shows you took a risk - although not much of one, as it's a delicious whisky, and very refined considering its 63.3% ABV.

Where and how much? $680HKD from King's Wine Cellar or £54.75 from Master of Malt (sold out at the moment)

Want to know more?: See here for our tasting notes.

5) "Money is no object and I want to show the recipient I really like/love/appreciate them by spending a whole stack of money on them."

The whisky: Diageo's "Prima & Ultima" full set

Why: If money is no object, why limit yourself to just one bottle? Diageo's "Prima & Ultima" set contains 8 bottles, ranging in age from 25 to 48 years old, including this 40yo whisky from the closed Port Ellen distillery. I was fortunate enough to taste the whole set recently and there are some great bottles in there...especially the Cragganmore, Caol Ila and Port Ellen.

Where and how much? $223,970 HKD for the full set of 8 bottles, available direct from MHDHK.

Want to know more?: See here for our tasting notes on the 40yo 1979 Port Ellen from the series - arguably the most sought after bottle of the eight.

6) "I want to get them a spirit...but they've got more whisky than they know what to do with. What's a good 'malternative'?"

The spirit: Black Tot Rum.

Why: Good rum is having something of a moment, with several whisky lovers starting to embrace the spirit, and real efforts being made to introduce more legitimacy and structure to the labelling and categorisation of rum. Black Tot is a well-priced blended rum with delicious notes which works equally well neat or in a cocktail.

Where and how much? $660HKD from Timeless & Tasty.

Want to know more?: See our thoughts here.

7) "I'm really not comfortable to buy a bottle of whisky out of fear they'll already have it, or won't enjoy it. What else can I get?"

The gift: Membership to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Why: Stronger than ever after 37 years, "the society" bottle single cask whisky and spirits from a range of distilleries, often showing a unique (and typically delicious) side to a distillery most won't have seen. More than that though, they host fantastic tastings and events, and have built a real (and very welcoming) community amongst whisky lovers and newbies alike.

Where and how much? $800HKD for HK Membership$120AUD for Australian membership.

Want to know more? We've covered plenty of SMWS events over the years - here.

8) "I just want to get them something FUN!"

Why: It's a whisky called "A Tale of Cake"! It's got a fun label, and it's actually very, very tasty.

Where and how much? $1050HKD from Dram Good Stuff, $169.99AUD from Nick's.

Want to know more? Check out my recent tasting notes here.

Cheers and Merry Christmas,

Sunday 20 December 2020

Glenmorangie's "A Tale of Cake" [Tasted #508]

For several years, Glenmorangie released an annual "Private Edition" - a fun, interesting release which didn't break the bank and you could (most likely) get your hands on. We talked about why this was a good thing for whisky last year when "Allta" was released, and prior to that we covered most of the Private Editions over the years - including 2013's Ealanta, 2014's Companta, 2015's Tùsail, 2016's Milsean, 2017's Bacalta and 2018's Spios.

Whilst the "Private Edition" series ended last year with Allta, you could argue its spirit lives on in "A Tale of Cake" - 2020's Limited Release Glenmorangie. As with several of the Private Editions, "A Tale of Cake" is the work of mastermind Dr Bill Lumsden (Glenmorangie's Director of Whisky Creation), and involved standard bourbon-matured 10yo Glenmorangie Original being finished in a new / interesting / unique type of cask - in this case, Hungarian Tokaji casks, formerly holding the sweet dessert wine hailing from the Tokaj region of Hungary. For Aussie readers unfamiliar with Tokaji wines, they're made using grapes infected with Noble rot fungus (Botrytis cinerea), not dissimilar to the Hunter Valley's Botrytis Semillon dessert wines.

As you might imagine, these are pretty sweet wines, and so you can expect the casks would impart a similar profile to the whisky (although Glenmorangie don't specify for how long the whisky was finished this time).

Let's dive in an see then shall we?

Glenmorangie "A Tale of Cake" (46% ABV, OB, NAS, Highlands, Scotland, $1050HKD$169.99AUD)
Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Sweet* - sherbet, gummy bears, lots of orchard fruits, maple syrup, vanilla and tinned peaches.

Palate: Initially sweet with a slight minerality, and strawberry shortbread, peach tart and a hint of nuttiness. After time a bit of oak shines through.

Finish: Long and nutty, with some residual oak at the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. I was worried this would be too sweet for my palate, but I needn't have. It's sweet, sure, but there's plenty of other notes going on, and plenty to enjoy. I'd say on the whole, a bit less sweet than 2016's Milsean.
*Yes I know, technically you can't "smell sweet"...

So, another winner from Glenmorangie. Great on its own, but also worth trying in this cocktail ("Caketail") developed in partnership with bartender Jeremy Le Blanche:

The Cake Old Fashioned
  • 50 ml Glenmorangie A Tale of Cake
  • 7.5 ml coconut water
  • 7.5 ml pineapple syrup [no details on how to make this, but Google has some suggestions]
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1 pinch black pepper
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a rocks glass over block/  cubed ice.
Garnish with a twist of orange zest and a walnut.

Thanks to MHDHK who, in the interests of full disclosure, provided this bottle for review.


Wednesday 16 December 2020

A bounty of single cask 1960s and 1970s Glenrothes from The Last Drop Distillers [Tasted #501 - 507]

As mentioned in my recent post on The Last Drop Distillers' 56yo Blended Whisky, there were a few more samples included in the package along with the blend...and by "a few" I mean 7 individual cask samples of 1968, 1969 and 1970 Glenrothes!

Ordinarily I'd be happy to dive into all of them myself, but I'd been treated to some particularly nice whiskies from Kam at Dram Good Stuff lately, including our 500th whisky tasted on, so I thought I'd share the love a bit.

Bottled in 2018 (1968), 2019 (1969) and 2020 (1970), the whiskies were all (give or take) 50 years old, and in the case of the 1969 and 1970, were from casks filled on the same day. It's not often you get to try whiskies filled on the same day and matured side-by-side for ~50 years!

Detailed tasting notes were included (some from Charlie Maclean, some from a bloke in a hat...), which made for interesting reading, but really, we were keen to taste for ourselves, so wasting no time, Kam and I got stuck in...


The Last Drop 1968 Glenrothes (cask #13504) (51.2% ABV, 49yo, IB, 1968-2018, 1 of 168 bottles, Speyside, Scotland)

Tasted by Martin
Colour: Golden amber.
Nose: Fruity and floral, after time, hints of paprika, pineapple and pot pourri. Old cigar box and interestingly, raspberry coulis!
Palate: Big and zesty - flamed orange peel, followed by an almost BBQ meatiness. Oak shows, but doesn't dominate.
Finish: Long oak tannins emerge, coated in orange wafts of smoke.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

The Last Drop 1968 Glenrothes (cask #13508) (50.2% ABV, 49yo, IB, 1968-2018, 1 of 141 bottles, Speyside, Scotland)
Tasted by Kam

Nose: Very complex, light sweet smoke infused herbs, lovely minerality .. more sweet smoke with faint floral notes, almond oil, hints of mint (beeswax in the glass when empty )
Palate: Full mouthfeel - spicy and grassy simultaneously, slight bitter tobacco towards the end
Finish: Medium length.
Rating: 92/100.


The Last Drop 1969 Glenrothes (cask #16207) (47.1% ABV, IB, 1969-2019, 1 of 141 bottles, Speyside, Scotland)

Tasted by Martin
Colour: Orange sunset.
Nose: Green apple, kiwifruit, banana leaves, rockmelon, overripe bananas, with a hint of sandalwood and honey after time.
Palate: More muted than 1968 #13504, but with more sherry and oak. Rich treacle, old wood, lacquer, cherry, with a chewier, oily, viscous mouthfeel. A hint of mint rounds things out.
Finish: Mint and basil, old oak, leather. Medium in length.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

The Last Drop 1969 Glenrothes (cask #16203) (46.3% ABV, 49yo, IB, 1969-2019, 1 of 130 bottles, Speyside, Scotland)
Tasted by Kam

Nose: Vibrant with lots of fruit; banana, honeydew melon … grassy herbaceousness, citrus (lime) and hints of raspberry… faint charred oak, cedar chips and almond oil
Palate: Gentle mouthfeel that instantly dries the cheeks, mild spices, nuttiness and honey
Finish: Long but muted.


The Last Drop 1970 Glenrothes (cask #10586) (45.3% ABV, IB, 1970-2020, 1 of 103 bottles, Speyside, Scotland)

Tasted by Martin
Colour: Yellow gold.
Nose: Spiced fruit - spiced apple tart, kiwifruit with lemon drizzle. A little heat.
Palate: Banana chews, menthol drops, toffee chews. Slightly "thinner" than the others, with notes of apple, pear and kiwifruit.
Finish: Medium to long length, retaining the previous fruitiness - kiwifruit and nectarines. Old oak cask notes towards the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

The Last Drop 1970 Glenrothes (cask #10588) (44.1% ABV, IB, 1970-2020, 1 of 87 bottles, Speyside, Scotland)

Tasted by Martin
Colour: Yellow gold
Nose: Furniture polish, cigar box, sweet vanilla, then rich, creamy chocolate ice cream.
Palate: Spicy, slightly earthy smoke, grassy, with caramel fudge richness coming through after time. Oily, sandalwood hints and chocolate-coated caramel (Fantails). Residual oak notes.
Finish: Medium to long, with sweet toffee fudge, tobacco, mint and grass.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Complex - quite a mixed bag, but it works, well.

The Last Drop 1970 Glenrothes (cask #10589) (45.0% ABV, IB, 1970-2020, 1 of 96 bottles, Speyside, Scotland)
Tasted by Kam

Nose: Open freshness with summer fruits; guava, peaches .. lots of coconut, shea butter hand cream, hint of sea air.
Palate: Explosive with tastes matching up perfectly with the aromatic notes… warming and full mouthfeel, hints of peaches, almond oil.. mild bitterness at the very end…
Finish: Long and luxurious.

It's not easy to try whiskies this old and rare these days, but to taste so many casks (in some cases filled on the same day) side by side was a real treat - a huge thanks to The Last Drop Distillers!