Monday 22 May 2023

Old Master Spirits 1978 Domaine de Papolle Bas Armagnac 44yo [Tasted #637]

It's getting to the point now where we could almost call these posts "Monthly #malternatives" (and I'm OK with that)! This month's comes once again from Melbourne-based bottlers Old Master Spirits, and like their "XXO" reviewed in March, is another Bas Armagnac - though this time it carries an age & vintage statement - being bottled from a 44yo single 1978 cask, ex Domaine de Papolle.

(You can read my thoughts on several of Old Master Spirits' previous releases here, including why I love what these guys do, and how their #malternatives are very much made for whisky lovers.)

Distilled from 100% Baco grapes, the spirit matured for 44 years under the watch of master distiller Bernard Piffard, who now manages the estate, vines and production along with his son Frederic Piffard.

Old Master Spirits' previously releases have all been high quality, but does this (their 8th) continue that trend? Let's dig in...

Old Master Spirits 1978 Domaine de Papolle Bas Armagnac 44yo (40.3% ABV, 44yo, Single Cask, France, One of 132 bottles, $249AUD)

Colour: Deep, dark rich mahogany.

Nose: Fresh and fruity at first, with cola chews & red jubes, turning into sherry-soaked apricots, raisons and some almond oil. With a little time in the glass, coffee grounds and a hint of furniture polish emerge.

Palate: Super balanced - there's oak, raisins, peach, vanilla chews and caramel all playing nicely together. Then some milk chocolate, cigar box and more of the almonds from the nose (though more of an almond nougat this time). Super drinkable and moreish.

Finish: Long, largely following the palate with some more oak towards the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100 (Martin). Complexity and approachability, in a delicious package. The guys have done it again.

Old Master Spirits' 1978 Domaine de Papolla Bas Armagnac 44yo goes on sale this Thursday (25th May 2023) at With only 132 500mL bottles (each selling for a very reasonable $249AUD), I can't see this one lasting too long on the virtual shelves...

Thanks Deni & David for the sample.


Friday 19 May 2023

Starward Stout Cask [Tasted #636]

Get ready to raise your glass, or rather your beer glass. Starward Whisky's latest creation combines the art of brewing and distilling. The expression, dubbed, Starward Stout Cask, is seek to combine flavours derived from whisky together with those flavours imparted by imperial stout beer. 

To create Starward Stout Cask, the Starward team have combined Starward's core whisky, from their renowned red wine and small format Apera barrels which is then aged for an additional 18 months in barrels from Brick Lane's highly acclaimed 'Trilogy of Fear' imperial stout series. The aging in the stout barrels is said to add bold and captivating flavours to Starward's tropical fruit and vanilla notes.

Sam Slaney, the Production Director at Starward, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, stating, 

"We love the change of seasons at Starward, and the colder weather means the perfect time for a stout! Brick Lane's amazing Trilogy of Fear series showcases complex dark malt and a rich texture, allowing our whisky to soak up all the robust flavor from these stout-soaked barrels. This limited release has been brewing for some time, and we couldn't be happier with the result."

Bottled at 52% ABV, Starward Stout Cask balances rich roasted characteristics with Starward's signature notes. With the flavours that have been imparted by the stout barrels, Starward Stout Cask is an ideal candidate as a boilermaker or just drunk neat. Starward have recommended pairing it with a barrel aged stout though it says it complements other craft beer equally as well.

Let's dive into the Stout Cask neat for now...

Starward Stout Cask (52% ABV, Melbourne, Australia, A$169)


A rather delicious and fun release from Starward combining Starward's traditional tropical fruit notes with a layer of malt and chocolate. The nose and palate are fun filled and quite enjoyable neat. Definitely a great input into a boilermaker.

Nose: Lots of tropical fruits, pineapples, lychees, passionfruit followed by a layer of vanilla, milk chocolate, maple syrup, and oat biscuits

Palate: The palate is equally fruity, with banana lollies and vanilla ice cream at first before some notes of  passionfruit and mangosteen that follow before light white pepper spices mixed with some milk chocolate to end

Finish: Oat biscuit and milk chocolate with a lingering white pepper spice

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100 (Hendy) 

Before its official launch, selected venues across Australia will offer Starward Stout Cask boilermakers starting from May 20th for a limited time. There's also the opportunity to grab the bottle through Starward's ballot system via their website. Ballot registration opens 10 May with the ballot drawn from 5 June.

Thanks to Starward for providing us with a sample as well as the pairing imperial stout cask from Trilogy of Fear.

Monday 8 May 2023

Diageo Special Releases 2022 [Tasted #628 - 635]

It's that time of the year when Diageo unveils its annual Special Releases, albeit for us down under, it's a six-month delay from our northern hemisphere brethren.

Diageo has unveiled its annual Special Releases for 2022, which continue with the mythical theme similar to last year’s special releases. The 2022 series dubbed ‘Elusive Expressions’ sees Illustrator Ken Taylor back again, this time joined by a fellow visual artist, Kevin Tong. Ken Taylor was the Illustrator behind last year’s Fable theme illustrations.

While this year’s theme may be similar to last year’s, the lineup for the 2022 Special Releases is slightly different to last year’s. The 2022 Special Releases see Cameronbridge feature as part of the lineup as well as many familiar distilleries.

When the sample set arrived, Marto was in town and we decided that it would be heaps of fun to split the sample do a joint tasting and combine our notes. While there are some clear favourites amongst us, it was fun to compare the notes for the eight whiskies from the 2022 series. Though, from the entire series, there was one distillery that came out on top.

Here we go...

An interesting Cardhu 16yo, 56%, finished in Jamaican Rum casks. A$299

Martin: Pear, apple and hints of peach on the nose are complimented by a slight herbal note. On the palate, some subtle strawberries & cream notes along with hints of oak, following through to the long finish. 90.

Hendy: Tropical notes on the nose with some mango, and pineapple. Some hints of apples and stone fruits. The palate is soft and creamy, with loads more apples with some strawberries added. The spices appear gradually and slowly evolve into a nice milky chocolate finish. 91.

Oban 10yo, 57.1%, finished in ex-sherry and amontillado-seasoned casks. A$179.99

MartinA herbal grassiness and slight saline smoked note on the nose, followed by a fairly simple, slightly salted beef note with underlying red berry notes. A long and warming finish with residual oak to the end. 87.

Hendy: The nose is quite fruity, apples, berries and grapes. Spices kick on the palate followed by the apples, and pears. The palate evolves with some chocolate mixed with some berries and pepper. The finish is long and warming and similar to Marto's note, quite an oaky finish. 90.

An unusual 12yo Clynelish, 58.5% ABV, matured in refill American Oak, then finished in PX/Oloroso seasoned casks. A$350

Martin: Baked apple pie with vanilla on the nose. Things are a bit more robust on the palate, with more of the expected notes from a sherry finish - nuttiness, a robust toffee note, some red berries and a hint of red apple. A long finish, slightly drying at the end. 90.

Hendy: Stewed apples and vanilla custard flows through the nose. You can also smell a hint of apple turnovers. The palate is fulsome and viscous, with apples, and raisins coming through from the apple turnover. There are some peppermint spices that follow. The finish is nice and round with remnants of white pepper spice and a layer of chocolate. 90.

Singleton of Glen Ord
A 15yo The Singleton of Glen Ord, 54.2% ABV, aged in refill American and European Oak, then double matured in wine-seasoned casks. This was one of my highlights from the 2022 series. A$199

Martin: The rich, robust but fruity nose is a welcome departure from the rest of the range tasted so far. Raspberries and strawberries, and after time some green apple. On the palate, cranberries and raisins are coated in milk chocolate, leading to a long and consistent finish. 91.

Hendy: Nice and fruity, raspberries, oranges, and stone fruits. The palate is soft at first and the spices gradually build. The fruits have come out again, apples, raspberries and stoned fruits. The spices remain for some time, into a somewhat long finish with a nice milk chocolate undertone. 92.

A rich and fruity NAS Mortlach, 57.8% ABV, finished in Tawny Port, Red Muscat and Virgin Oak casks. A$425

Martin: Rich and expressive on the nose, I wouldn't call it 'meaty', but it's definitely 'robust'. A well-polished palate that suggests some age, set against the backdrop of spicy, drying red fruit notes on the palate, and long, lingering raspberry on the finish. 90.

Hendy: Rich and fruity, baked apple pie with apple bits, and some glazed cherries on a warm baked loaf cake. The palate is quite welcoming with rich spices, more of the stewed apples from the apple pie, some berries and salted caramel brittle. The nutmeg and pepper spices continue to build and gradually disappear leaving an oaky, berry finish. 91.

Talisker 11-Year-Old, 55.1% ABV, matured in first-fill ex-bourbon, refill, and wine-seasoned casks. A$199

Martin: Youthful saline smoke on the nose, leading to slightly herbal salted beef notes with a slight medicinal salinity. The palate follows the nose, with the herbal, grassy, saline smoke notes. The finish is long but a little thin, leading to residual dry smoke notes. 88.

Hendy: Quite briney and full of sud, dry seaweed amongst bonfire smoke. There are some subtle herbal notes as well on the nose. The palate is sweet but quite simple. There is some apple and cinnamon with very light nutmeg spice. The finish is slightly herbaceous and oaky but does linger for a while. 89.

A 12yo Lagavulin, 57.3% ABV, matured in virgin oak casks and our smokiest reserves. A$229.99

Martin: A classic and thankfully, this one doesn't disappoint. Whilst the nose is lighter than you might expect (albeit with classic Lagavulin DNA still showing through). On the palate, things come to life, with briney Islay peat and complex chocolate orange amidst seaspray-soaked ropes. A long and smoked citrus finish rounds things out. 91.

Hendy: Earthy and Briny. The nose reeks of sea brine and salted fish. There are remnants of bonfire smoke by the beach. The palate is quite distinct to the nose, the sweetness of toffee green apple comes through with some milk chocolate. There is also some mulchy earth with black pepper spices and oak notes. The finish is quite tarry, there is an earthy oaky undertone but overall, the sweetness of the milk chocolate remains. 91.

For the first time ever, Cameronbridge 26yo single grain whisky, 56.2%ABV, finished in refill American oak. A$599.99

Martin: Citrus tea notes on the nose give way to a more drying, but rich palate with notes of stone fruits (pear, apple, peach) and drying oak. I found the finish reasonably short, with those stone fruit notes carrying through to the end. 88.

Hendy: Sweet milk chocolate, some nougat and toffee apple on the nose. The palate is equally as creamy, milky - milk chocolate. Some Ribena juice gradually follows followed with mint spices and shortbread. The finish is minty and oaky and the milky notes continue for some while. 90.

Hendy (and Marto)

Thank you to Diageo and Example for sending us the Diageo Special Releases 2022 Collection kit for us to spend some time with.

Wednesday 3 May 2023

Gordon & MacPhail "Mr George Legacy" (3rd Ed) 63yo 1959 Glen Grant [Tasted #627]

Looking back over recent years, Gordon & MacPhail have released some pretty incredible drams, many of which I've been fortunate enough to taste. One series that's always stood out for me though is the "Mr George" range.

First introduced in 2019 with the "Mr George Centenary Edition" Glen Grant 62yo 1956  (tasted here in 2019), G&M then switched to "Mr George Legacy" naming, first with the "Mr George Legacy" (1st Ed) Glen Grant 67yo 1953 (tasted here in 2021), then the "Mr George Legacy" (2nd Ed) Glen Grant 64yo 1957 (tasted here in 2022), and now finally the third release - "Mr George Legacy" (3rd Ed) Glen Grant 63yo 1959".

Named after Mr George Urquhart (second generation of the Gordon & MacPhail family) the series celebrates Mr George's instrumental role in the success and popularity of single malt whisky (he created the Connoisseurs Choice range, way back in 1968 - focusing on single malts when the world was still focused on blends. It's still an incredibly popular range of whiskies today).

Gordon & MacPhail were kind enough to send me a sample of the new release, which was distilled at Glen Grant Distillery on 15th Oct 1959, and bottled 63 years later on 2nd Nov 2022 at a very-respectable 56.5% ABV. The First-fill Sherry butt gave up only 368 bottles, which sells for £6,499 (HKD pricing not yet available). So let's dive in...

Gordon & MacPhail "Mr George Legacy" (3rd Ed) Glen Grant 63yo 1959 (56.5% ABV, 63yo, Single Cask, Speyside, Scotland, One of 368 bottles, £6,499)

Colour: Golden-amber sunset

Nose: Mandarin, followed by a slight peppery earthiness, whole oranges, confectioners sugar and a slight dusting of oak, with a touch of nuttiness.

Palate: Initially citrus - whole oranges and mandarin, followed by mint, soothing earl grey tea, some cocoa and slight notes of mature oak after time.

Finish: Long, with cinnamon sugar, cocoa and residual hints of mature oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100 (Martin). I'm always impressed with how well the oak is balanced in these releases, after such long maturation. I know casks were different back then, but still, for a whisky to spend 63 years in oak and still have so much complexity and balance, is no easy task.