Saturday, April 16, 2016

Cereal Freshness – Teeling Revival 15 Years Old Irish Whiskey

Teeling  Revival 15yo Single Malt Whiskey
So here we are with something just starting to enter Australia, the Teeling 15yo Single Malt Irish Whiskey. I was sent this sample only very recently to get to grips with the expanding range coming out of Dublin’s newest distillery.

This release is sees the whisky aged for a minimum of 15 years exclusively in ex-Rum casks and bottled at 46% ABV with no chill filtration. It is not clear what rum barrels are being used but we could assume they may be sourced from the same region that the Teeling 21yo Silver Reserve and Teeling Small Batch also use.

Teeling 15yo Revival Single Malt
Distiller: Teeling Whiskey Company
Location / Region: Dublin, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
ABV: 46%
Wood: Matured in ex-Rum

The nose is fresh and somewhat brilliant displaying bright cereal malts. There is a sense of high spirit displayed at the edges which I would see some going for while others may look to have rounded out a little more. Still a 15yo with this vibrancy is cool. Maybe a bit of raspberry fruit or strawberries and pantry stored cinnamon creeps in. Just a bit but not too much. I can instantly attribute the rich cereal malt nose too that of the New Zealand Whisky Company's South Island 21yo when it comes to the nose.

The taste is instantly sharp and comments to reinforce just how youthful the whiskey still feels for its 15 years in oak. There is a marginal oiliness to the palate that continues to coat the entire mouth. Vanilla, cereal husk and dry malt saturate the flavours while again a spirit sharpness appears to spike all over subtly. There is a dominant sweetness mingling with some wood spice but not too many layers need to be explored as this whiskey focuses on just a few key elements.

The finish is long but not heavy as the oils linger in the mouth and a dryness lifts high in the back of the throat. Dry cold toast appears to close off the taste but still very bright in the finish.

Overall I have find this whisky to display a vibrancy typically displayed by Teeling with bright spirits a key note to Teeling. This may be coming form the ex-Rum casks used though for something exclusively aged in ex-Rum casks it certainly does not feel saturated by the rum effect. If I was to give a dram 5 1/2 out of 7 and makes for a easy to appreciate dram.

Teeling Revival 15 Years Old Single Malt Whiskey packaging
Like all the Teeling expressions it breaks the mould in what to expect of Irish whiskies of the last quarter of the 20th century. You do not have to be a genius to know at a minimum of 15 years old this is still stocks coming from the Cooley stills. When you take this into account it shows that with good choice of grain, mash, distillation and maturation some very different whiskies can come from just one roof.

Priced at $160AU it is getting up there in comparison to other 15yo whiskies in our local market though it is packaged rather well to be positioned as a premium product.

Thanks to Martin Lynch of Teeling for the sample and the opportunity to see yet another solid whisky from Dublin’s going whisky scene.

The Baron

D.T.W.C. was supplied a sample for review. All views and opinions are our own unless otherwise stated. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Obvious Pedigree – Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release

Ardbeg Dark Cove
Ardbeg Day 2016 is nearly upon us and what comes with Ardbeg Day is the limited edition Ardbeg Day bottlings. Once these bottlings were limited to purchasing on Islay during the Feis Ile, Islay Festival of Malt and Music to Ardbeg Committee Members. Now we see world wide release but also dual ABV releases. That is The Committee Release and the Ardbeg Day release. Why two releases? A general guess would say true Ardbegians still have an opportunity to taste something extra special made just for them, while the lower ABV public release is just that, a release for the public wanting some essence of the celebration.

Before going on, for anyone not a Ardbeg Committee Member and wanting to find out more of what this is and what Ardbeg Day is you can get more info in our previous post: Ardbeg Day becomes Ardbeg Night 2016. Also be sure to link over to Ardbeg.com and sign up as an Ardbeg Committee Member.

Right here, right now, we are tasting the Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release created for Ardbegian Committee Members only. We saw limited release of this bottling here in Australia and it was truly only available to Ardbeg Committee members. Any member that purchased a bottle is (was) to go into the ballot for attendance at Ardbeg Day celebrations on Saturday 28th May 2016. This years event has been renamed Ardbeg Night and goes with the theme behind Ardbeg Dark Cove.

So what do you do when a distilleries core expressions are already of cult status? How can you improve when you are already at the top of you game? The reality is you can’t but what you can do is step sideways and try something new. This is what Ardbeg maker Dr Bill Lumsden has done. In the past couple of years I have heard many complaints about how the Committee Releases are not as closely reflective of the core range. as what they should be. Well I as why should they? If Ardbeg was to make a special release taste just like the 10yo then there would be moaning in the streets about it for being too close. It has to be a hard slog for a distillery already creating some of the most iconic drams to please everyone especially when Ardbeg 10yo is one hell of a bench mark. This year I think those critics, bemoaning the last couple of committee release ,are to be put in there place. Now you have it. Now you critics have that whisky that will make you wish this never whisky happened. Why? Because now you have another Ardbeg you will gauge all other Ardbegs against.

Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release
Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release
Distiller: Ardbeg
ABV: 55%
Location / Region: Islay, Scotland
Oak: Dark Sherry
Colour:  Toasted honey

Nose: Instantly recognisable as an Ardbeg. Waves of salt, brine, and earthy tannins. Layers of burnt coffee, sweet honey oak florals, toasted marshmallows, cut grass on its way to mulch, and fatty burnt bacon tips. This nose is saturating. SATURATING!

Taste: It took me a good 20min before I even bothered tasting. The nose was enough to stall the inevitable. But it must be done. Boom! Rich, oily, thick, and creamy. Dark stove top coffee, grilled red meats, salty mussel shells, beach drying kelp, drift wood, fat dripping onto charcoal fire with a lingering sweetness more akin to burnt sugar.

Finish: Long and coating. Real spice notes mingle with sweet sherry oaks. A dry salty fire builds on the tongue & cheeks while the coals smoulder in the chest. The oils remain in the mouth longer than I have experience in any other Ardbeg except maybe a independent Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling. As it trails on, elements of toasted Lebanese flat bread appear to soak up those meaty oily textures with crusted crunch. It will leave you salivating that is a guarantee.

Overall this whisky asserts itself as an Ardbeg should. It is a hungry whisky too, wanting to claw onto your gums and tear onto your flesh. It is rugged and rocky, displaying the obvious pedigree but has turned its keel to its own horizon.

Weldon Dr Bill Lumsden. Well done indeed!

The Baron

D.T.W.C. was supplied a sample for review. All views and opinions are our own unless otherwise stated. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Säntis Malt - Exploring Swiss Alpine Whisky

Säntis Malt Whisky
Whisky tourism is a thing. They even have awards for best visitors centres don't you know? Naturally you could always visit a distillery, experience the production, then taste the whisky in an afternoon. That's the common thing to do. Step it up and do a driving tour of Scotland while knocking on the door and walking the grounds of your favourite distilleries. yeah that is the next best thing to do. But are you ready to take it to the next level? No we are not talking about jumping out of a plane while sipping a single malt. How about considering a mountaineering high peaks while hiking well beaten tracks matched with whisky aged in ice caves tasted at a pub/lodge/bar along the way. Yes this can achieved and it is happening now in Switzerland with the Säntis Appenzell Whisky Trek.

New World Whisky is a term coined to encompass whisky production that sits outside the traditional triangle of Scotland, Ireland and the US. Switzerland, like many new world regions, is opening up to whisky and whisky tourism yet I cannot think of any other region doing quite like this.


Now I have to mention I have not done this tour myself. The fact is I have never been to Switzerland. I do have a friend though that comes from there, works there 6 months of the year and has the keys to some of these ice caves holding whisky. He has taken people to them and partaken in the sweet waters of life himself. I did not know he actually did this until the day I asked him about Säntis Malt Whisky and had he heard of it. The response was “Yes of course. I’ll bring some back for you next time I am in town”. Meanwhile I was sent these samples to review and I have to say they are certainly unique and rather impressive.

Säntis Malt Whisky is made by Brauerei Locher AG (Locher Brewery), a Swiss brewery/distillery, in Appenzell region which not too far from Zurich. Hailing from origins in 1886, certain laws were lifted in 1999 to allow distillation from grain to occur in Switzerland. By 2002 the distillery had released its first aged whisky and since then it has been happy days with a wealthy of accolades mounting in the decade since. They use high altitude barley grown in Switzerland which is attributed to being extremely robust due to the nature of the weather conditions it must endure. I am sure though that over 100 years of brewing experience has a good hand to play on just how this whisky created.



Yes you can tour the brewery/distillery for the single location experience but we are here to also discover more about just how you can hike the Alps of Switzerland to get those elusive drams on the Appenzeller Whisky Trek. On a self walked tour or professional guided tour (car or bus also but who wants to do that) you can literally hit up 27 cask keepers/mountain inns over several days, tasting your way across a small corner of the Swiss Alps. Each location holds barrels of various whisky distilled by Brauerei Locher AG that is let to age in each locations unique high altitude conditions.  Many of the barrels the whisky is being aged in is ex-beer casks from the brewery while other see finishes in port, sherry and wine. The Brewery claim some of the oldest beer casks in the world, still in use at 120 years+ in age. These whiskies are for tasting at each location and the housing of the barrels is also available for viewing with some only on special request. Not only are these whiskies for tasting but can be bottled at 100ml volume for taking away with you.

For more details specifically about touring the brewery is is advisable to visit the Brauquöll Appenzell visitors centre or for more details on locality the My Switzerland Brauquöll Appenzell page. If you are looking at the alpine tour either self guided or professionally then ducking over to the Appenzell Whisky Trek page on My Switzerland is your best shot as you will find a lot of other information required for traveling in Switzerland.


We are not going to walk away from this post without actually tasting some of these whiskies either. We were lucky enough to have been supplied a handful of whiskies personally carried back to Australia as none are for distribution here in Australia. Since taking stock of these samples I now also have some sample bottles from specific mountain inns handed to me by my friend in Switzerland (I will leave those whiskies for tasting another time). There is the official bottlings of each whisky given edition names Säntis, Sigel, Dreifaltigkeit, Himmelberg, Marwees, while the inn bottles whiskies are classified as Alpstein and hand labeled.

Even before tasting while just lining up the pours there is distinct difference in colour between all the whiskies. I cannot say if any are coloured or not, but coming from beer casks I can assume we are talking all natural colours. The lightest of all the whiskies was in fact the Cask Keepers 100ml bottling. A quick nosing displayed character in each unique enough to be announced on their own merits.

Säntis Malt Swiss Highlander - Old Oak Beer Casks
Säntis Malt Swiss Highlander - Old Oak Beer Casks
Location/Region: Appenzeller, Switzerland
Edition: Säntis
ABV: 40%
Cask: Old Oak Beer

Nose: Fruity woody apples with vanilla hidden behind fresh furniture polish. Extremely assertive, light phenolic charcoal notes and but also layers complexity.

Taste: There is a distinct oil nature as it moves over the month. Spicy, phenol and woody.

Finish: Long and spicy with a really dry woody element building in the mouth very typical of oaked beers.

Overall: The nose is and old school whisky 101 with the wood spice being all in the forefront. I am more excited by the nose than was initially expecting because I have not smelt a whisky like this in a long one time. Taste will not be to everyones likes especially if you are not used to heavy wood elements. Certainly interesting but not the first whisky I should have started on now I have tasted them all. It is also a bit stretched and more ABV would have been appreciated as the oil texture hints clearly at something far more complex coming from the barrel.

Säntis Malt Swiss Highlander - Small Oak Beer Casks
Säntis Malt Swiss Highlander - Small Oak Beer Casks
Location/Region: Appenzeller, Switzerland
Edition: Sigel
ABV: 40%
Cask: Small Oak Beer Casks

Nose: Woody vanilla and maple syrup with wafts of red rose florals and mild citrus oranges. Really impressive nose.

Taste: Lightly slipping across the tongue fruity orange vanilla emerges while fresh spicy wood notes linger in the background.

Finish: Moderate but not lasting. A spice citrus tingle builds in the throat and what I would now classify as the tell tale Säntis Malt wood emerging again to linger.

Overall: The nose reminds me instantly of American Bourbon. The vanilla oak is clear and lush. The whisky though is light and the nose displays far more complexity than the taste. I think again the ABV needs to be considerably higher to pull out those sticky notes the nose has hinted at.

Säntis Malt Swiss Highlander - Cask Strength Peated Old Oak Beer Casks
Säntis Malt Swiss Highlander - Cask Strength Peated Old Oak Beer Casks
Location/Region: Appenzeller, Switzerland
Edition: Dreifaltigkeit
ABV: 52%
Cask: Old Oak Beer Casks

Nose: Oily preserved herrings and smoked BBQ sauce. Levels of preserved peat smoke that is not over powering against the constant vanilla oak. This nose is making me hungry.

Taste: Oh my this is meaty and smoky in the mouth. Real smoky! Yes the smoked hearings with the oil is slippery to sip and saturates all corners of the mouth. These oil elements are lasting but there is vanilla, oak, and malt all taking part in the dance as well as background wood.

Finish: Finish is extended with the smoke elements lingering. A wood spice build while the mouthfeel continues to be oily and sweet.

Overall: The nose is yet again layered and complex but with a saturation of oily fishy smoke. The association I have for it against my homemade Woodford Reserve BBQ sauce is astounding. Cask strength is certainly required for some amazing textural development so required in the previous drams.

Swiss Highlander - Cask Strength Old Oak Beer Casks 
Swiss Highlander - Cask Strength Old Oak Beer Casks
Location/Region: Appenzeller, Switzerland
Edition: Brauquoll
ABV: 50.5%
Finish: Dolc-Mendoza (Spanish sweet red wine)
Cask Keep: CN

Nose: Bright rich vanilla and freshly emptied wet wine oak barrels (this must be the finish). The vanilla and grapes/black currants are so saturated I find it had to discover anything else. There is notes of cabernet and shiraz grapes being tomato vine and dark spice fruit but it is still largely overpowered by the extreme vanilla. Some reminiscent elements slowly pick up of furniture polish and spicy wood similar to the Säntis edition.

Taste: Wow this is rich to taste. Lots of residual sugars offering a high black current juice mouthfeel. Vanilla is prevalent with those grapes notes lingering in the back. Again the oils slick the mouth while oak and spice begin to appear.

Finish: Long, sweet and spicy. Dry oaks will slowly make way for the  black black currant spice remnants.

Overall: The nose has to be appreciated over a longer period of time. Keep nosing and as your senses become accustomed then the heavy vanilla and black current curtains part for more interesting profiles. This is a saturated whisky that is displaying very unique characteristics in the cask strength.

Säntis Cream Swiss Highlander - Säntis Malt & Meadow Cream
Säntis Cream Swiss Highlander - Säntis Malt & Meadow Cream
Location/Region: Appenzeller, Switzerland
Edition: Marwees
ABV: 18%
Cask: NA

Nose: Chocolate and cream preserved by high whisky alcohols popping out are some more interesting notes of buttered bacon and popcorn.

Taste: Rich and creamy with really strong coffee notes. Have you ever had cans of coffee from Japanese vending machines that feel sickly sweet? This is just like that and I would be mistaken for thinking this is not actually one of those.

Finish: Sweet and thick. Red berries appear unexpectedly on the palate finishing off very well indeed.

Overall: Though it initially smells like any other whisky cream given time there is more complexity to be had. I am not a big cream drinker but a class of this would go down well at the end of the night.


In concluding this has been an interesting tasting experience. There is some real impressive things going on here and the variation in flavours even on just 4 whiskies plus a cream leave me to think how varied the 27 inns and their holdings of whisky must be.

Thanks to Three Wise Bees and My Switzerland for hand delivering the samples

The Baron.

D.T.W.C. was supplied a sample for review by Three Wise Bees on behalf of My Switzerland. All views and opinions are our own unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ardbeg Day becomes Ardbeg Night 2016


Ardbeg Day, Dark Cove - image via offical Ardbeg website
Yes Ardbeg Night (Day) is back and things are changing up a little for this year in Australia.

As previous years Ardbeg Day is something unto itself. Originally created out of the Ardbeg Open day for Feis Ile, Islay Festival of Malt and Music, Ardbeg Day had become a world encompassing event celebrated simultaneously in major cities around the world. Sydney was no exception with each year this celebration gradually growing bigger and bigger in popularity. Last year’s event was by far the biggest for Sydney as Ardbeg celebrated its 200 year anniversary.

Things were different though for Ardbeg Day 2015 and a sense of Ardbegians coming together felt less  together. I was surprised at how many people I met on the day that admitted to never tasting Ardbeg which was a real curiosity to myself. Ardbeg Day and you have never tasted Ardbeg... what?! Often I would hear Ardbeg being pronounced “Ard-Berg” and it certainly felt a far less sense of reuniting with long lost old chums than as previous years experiences. Since that day last year I have hoped to see a return to the Ardbegians unite culture and maybe 2016 will be just that.

Ardbeg Day 2016 sees the event still cloaked in curiosity as to what is offered but it has been announced that the Sydney event is to be renamed Ardbeg Night. Not only that but there is harder criteria to fulfil in order to have the potential to attend the event. That is correct… potential to attend the event. Ardbeg Night (Day) Sydney 2016 is to be balloted tickets and ONLY accessible by Ardbeg Committee Members. Are you a Committee Member yet? If you want in on the action, following are the 3 primary criteria that must be fulfilled if you want to go into the ballot:

1. Register as an Ardbeg Committee Member or be an existing Committee Member.
2. Purchase a bottle of the limited released Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release online and include your Committee Member code + password at the time of purchase.
3. Purchases must be completed by 17th April with ballot announcements on the 20th April.

If you are an Ardbeg fan and not a Committee Member then you can register here at Ardbeg.com now. Be sure to do this before purchasing a bottle. Bottles of the Dark Cove Committee release can be purchased here at Moet Hennessy online shopping website with a limit of 2 bottles per Committee member. This Committee release is bottled at a higher 55% ABV. Any Adbeg fan will know the higher the proof the better an Ardbeg it is. Authority says this Committee release is in short supply so jump in quick. Full terms and conditions for the competition can be viewed here.


Always with a good theme this years Ardbeg Committee Release bottling titled Dark Cove looks to “pay homage to the shadowy past of Ardbeg’s coastline” and it is also the theme clearly to suit Ardbeg Night. Smuggling, illicit whisky trade, dodging excise officers and fast ships to traverse the Scottish coastline all link into the Dark Cove concept for Ardbeg Night (Day) for 2016."

Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release 

Official tasting notes released for Ardbeg Dark Cove are as follows. I, as of yet, have not tasted Dark Cove but will be soon enough. What you should consider in reading these following notes is that they are created to profile the 46.5% ABV please and not the 55% ABV Committee Release. I cannot confirm or deny how accurate they are:

“Ardbeg Dark Cove is a limited edition Ardbeg available as a celebration of Ardbeg Day. Ardbeg Dark Cove is non-chill filtered and bottled at 46.5% ABV. Its nose is at first meaty, earthy and spicy, with bold notes of dark chocolate emerging against orange, treacle toffee, coffee and oak, a smoky background and a mysterious floral note. The mouthfeel is almost tart, with raisins, dates, ginger and pepper spice surge and waves of smouldering charcoal, wood polish and creosote notes, leading to cured smoked ham and squid ink noodles. The finish is long, spicy and rich with notes of toffee, coffee and tar.”

For those that miss the ballot, and I am guessing there is going to be a lot of us, Ardbeg Day will still be held in the offical Ardbeg Embassy’s around Australia. These embassies are:

Melbourne
Whisky and Alement, 270 Russell Street Melbourne
The Killburn, 348 Burwood Road Hawthorn
1806, 169 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

Sydney
World of Whisky, g12/2 Knox Street, Double Bay
Stitch Bar , 61 York Street, Sydney

Brisbane
The Gresham, 308 Queen Street, Brisbane

Perth
Helvetica, 101 St Georges Tce, Perth

Good luck with your chance in the ballot and I very much hope to be involved in Ardbeg Night or Day to fly the Arbegian flag so many of us carry.

The Baron

Information quoted in this post has been provided to us as an official media release by EVHPR on behalf of Ardbeg / Moet Hennessy

Thursday, March 3, 2016



It has been a few years since we last saw this event but the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship is back for 2016!

Managed and hosted by Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) Australia, this event sets competitors noses and palates on a 100m dash to learn and discern 8 whiskies from various distilleries. Supplied with a list of 10 distilleries only 8 can be matched and all have to be correct to be the winner. Unlike previous years the list IS NOT pre-released so tasters have no idea what is to be tasted to screw with the academics (they way it always should have been). These whiskies tasted in the comp are not to be SMWS bottlings.

To be held on Saturday 23rd July 2016 at  Madame Tussauds Darling Harbour, Sydney this event can be attended as a competitor or as a spectator. Included in the evening is the whisky comp, a Glenfiddich Craft Bar, a whisky party, sensory bar, Society Single Cask bar and as has been described much more.

Prizes for the top 3 tasters is:

1st Prize

2 x return airfares to Tokyo, Japan including 3 x nights accommodation at the Park Hotel Tokyo. The Park Hotel Tokyo is host to Tokyo's SMWS bar The Society (which we review only last year). Drinking amazing whisky at an amazing location in an amazing town. What is not to love.

2nd Prize

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society 'Cask Strength Survival Kit' which contains: 1 x very special bottle of single cask Japanese whisky from the society (not pictured), 1 x Spiegelau tasting tulip, 1 x Society tasting booklet, 1 x compass, 1 x pipette, 2 x bottles of Uisge Source Scottish water all packaged in a deluxe custom-fitting Pelican case to for your own 'cask strength adventure', and one year's complimentary membership to the SMWS Australia.

3rd Prize

The Oak Barrel $500 Voucher. Now we all know where and what the Oak Barrel does and this this voucher will get you some pretty whiskies for those dollars.

Options for tickets are:

- Competitor EARLY BIRD TICKET (very limited seats at this low early rate)
- Competitor Ticket AMWTC 2016
- Full Table Competitor Booking: 10 x seats for the price of 9! Book as a group and save!
- Whisky Cocktail Party Ticket EARLY BIRD (very limited spaces at this rate)
- Whisky Cocktail Party Ticket

Will we see you there? I know I have a ticket as a competitor already.

The Baron

This is a non-sponsord announcement. For any further details please defer to the AMWTC website. DTWC images have been used on the AMWTC website for The Society Bar.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Year Of The Monkey - Monkey Shoulder Popup in Sydney

Image from City Of Sydney Website
Loving the options for whisky in Sydney these days.

William Grant & Sons has setup a small bar pop up in Sydney every day from 5pm to 10pm show casing Monkey Shoulder cocktails. This pop up is in celebration of the Chinese new year and the year of the monkey.

Started on Saturday 6th February it will continue until Sunday 21st February. Admission is free and will be spread over 2 location at Martin Place to World Square. Check the site for more details at the City Of Sydney website.

When: Every day, 5pm to 10pm. Saturday 6 February to Sunday 21 February 2016
Where: 6 - 14 February, Martin Place, Sydney then  15 - 21 February, World Square, Sydney
Cost: Free

Monkey Shoulder is what is called Blended Malt. This means only Single Malt Scotch whiskies have been used to create this bottled spirit. The distillery single malts that go into making Monkey Shoulder are all William Grant and Sons distilleries and all direct neighbours to each other. These distilleries are: Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, Kininvie.

Running events like these are not cheap so be sure to show your appreciation and at the same time find out more about the 3 iconic brands that go into making up this blended malt.

The Baron

This is a non-sponsord announcement. Details were gathered from the City Of Sydney website. For any further details please defer to the City Of City website.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Ardbeg Day 2016 Announced

Save the date for Ardbeg Day 2016
Ardbeg Day 2016 has been announced for Saturday, May 28th. This is a day not to be missed. Ardbeg Committee members from around the world will converge on selected location in capital cities to celebrate all things Ardbeg.

If you are a committee member watch your email for the eventual notification to register. Spaces are always limited at these events so be quick and be the first. Each event is themed and never the same as previous. Also included is a special committee release whisky in celebration of the day.

For non-committees members it is easy to simply jump over to the Ardbeg Website and register.

Are you an Ardbeg Committee Member yet?

The Baron

This is a non-sponsord announcement. For any further details please defer to the Ardbeg website.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Suntory Whisky have announced the release of the infamous Yamazaki Sherry Cask into the Australian market. This is the whisky form the family line that is seen as turbo boosting the Japanese whisky fever through late 2014 into 2015 when Jim Murray awarded the 2013 release World Whisky Of The Year (according to him of course). At that point Japanese whisky was already getting a lot of interest but not so much as once the media took hold of this announcement. Effectively it killed general access to most Suntory stocks which is a real pity in my books but it is what happens in all markets.

Unfortunately that release in 2013 was a limited run and in fact it did not see world release let alone release even in Japan. Specific targets were Europe only at that time. None-the-less Japanese Whisky fever hit hard and people were just buying whatever. I saw it first hand January 2015 in Narita airport. It was insane to say the least.

Now a new 2016 version has been released into Australia and priced at $450 AU. You will be guaranteed for a short time this releases price will rise almost immediately. If you are a collector aiming to resell this is a good thing but it should not be anything like the 2013 release pricing now sees.

Official reports from Suntory state this release is a blend of over 100 sherry cask aged Yamazaki Malts. Suntory select their own casks, char to a specified level, to then be filled with Spanish Oloroso for 3 years. After this initial seasoning period the casks are filled with Yamazaki malt for continued maturation. Details are sketching in regards to if it is already aged Yamazaki malt or new make spirit. My guess is probably both.


Following is the official details of the whisky. I have not tasted it so I cannot confirm or deny their suggested descriptors.

YAMAZAKI Sherry Cask 2016
Single malt whisky
Price: AU $450
ABV: 48% 96 proof

Tasting Notes:
Deep richness, mellowness and complexity of flavors.
Color: dark brown
Nose: raisin, sun-dried tomato, clove, cocoa
Taste: deep, rich, sweet and sour, chocolate with hazelnuts
Finish: long, bittersweet, sour

Suntory have been using and making sherried whiskies since almost the beginning of the distillery. Blends of both the Yamazaki and Hakushu whiskies in all their various facets go into making the equally famous Hibiki blends. On speaking with Mike Miyamoto during his various lists to Australia, he certainly said that some of the Yamazaki sherry casks do go into the Hibiki blends, or at least traditionally into the age statement blends.

Available at specialist Australian retailers as of Feb 2016 so if you are keen on a purchase get in now. Personally it would be great to taste as I am a big Suntory appreciator but we cannot have all things in life.

The Baron

Information quoted in this post has been provided to us as an official media release by Icon International on behalf of Beam Suntory.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Keeps Getting Better - Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014

Kilchoman Machir Bay
Only a few days ago we reviewed the Kilchoman Original Cask Strength by Kilchoman Distillery on Islay, Scotland. There is no denying it was a cracker dram but it would only be fare to follow that review up with the distilleries flagship expression Machir Bay.

Kilchoman is currently still the youngest of the Islay distilleries. With a new distillery comes new approaches and one of Kilchoman’s marketing directives has always been paddock to bottle where ever possible. Supporting the local farmers in growing Islay strains of barley means a boost to the islands economy but also the development of the island whisky terroir. Though we are not reviewing it here the 100% Islay release by Kilchoman is as the name suggest 100% made in ideally at every step. That is growing, malting, fermenting, distilling, ageing, and bottling.

The Machir Bay Single Malt was originally launched back in 2012. It carries a no age statement though indications from the distillery is that the whiskies it is built from are 5 to 6 years old. Kilchoman do not put an emphasis on age statements but opt for vintage or named expressions. Since 2012 I have seen a steady progress in flavour as the product rounds out. really it has just been getting better and better. Matured in both sherry and bourbon casks this whisky also supports a medium eating level of 20ppm to 25ppm. My original assumption was that Machir Bay would not remain the constant as it felt overly young and fruity on the first release. Now I question my logic of that assumption. Not only due to arm chair ignorance on my part but also once someone says “this is our core expression”, we naturally assume it will never change. It has changed (at least to my perceptive point of view) and it is progressing at an appreciative level.

Before reviewing I want to just bring some attention to presentation. Just look at the bottles Kilchoman are utilising. Classy, strong, bold, including an embossed badge for that regal element. The cork is wood capped and solid while the bottle shape squats the carter pf gravity lower giving a better chance of rebounding from a knock. I have always loved these bottles Kilchoman well before I began to appreciated the whisky. Not to stop there though as Kilchoman deliver just as much attention in the structural solid packing of the cardboard cartons. Full colour printing, embossing and foiling make presentation distinguished in the shelf.

Kilchoman Machir Bay, Single Malt
Distiller: Kilchoman Distillery
Region: Islay, Scotland
ABV: 46%
Wood: Ex-Bourbon & Ex-Oloroso Sherry Butts
PPM: 20 - 25
Vintage: 2014

Nose: Smoky fresh tropical fruits, with typical Kilchoman pineapple & ash.

Taste: Vibrant with large vanillas, fruit tending to caramelised pineapple. There is the obvious peat smoke nip but it is not to intense balancing against those fresher pineapple notes.

Finish: Long & lingering with sweet fruits and an intense pineapple sweetness.

Overall you will note I have spoken about pineapple in every aspect. This is certainly a signature characteristic that originally was extremely underpinned in the early days now tending towards caramelised wood fired pineapple. This has become a solid dram embodying the excitability of young peated whiskies. The ABV is not too low as a nice sticky oil is still retained in the liquid. If I was to give a dram 5.75 out of 7. The price does get hard to justify but the quality is obviously refined.

We are lucky enough to also be seeing Machir Bay enter the retail chain Dan Murphy’s which gives far wider access to the Aussie market. This has only come about I believe in 2015. Pricing is high at $109AU a bottle and it will be hard slog to get it over the line when so many other distilleries are pushing quality whiskies at below the $90AU mark. This price comes down to production and Kilchoman don’t make tremendous amounts of whisky. If you want to keep a look out for some of the more rare releases like the Original Cask Strength, Single Cask, Port or Madeira matured releases then check your local specialist like Oak Barrel or World Of Whisky here in Sydney.

The Baron

South Island 21 Years Old

South Island 21 Years Old
When it comes to New Zealand whisky distilleries they are few and far between (at this time). If the explosion of micro distilleries in Australia and the world is anything to go by then in short order New Zealand will be smashing out distilleries all too soon. Right now there is a handful of distilleries either producing small batch whisky or intending to produce whisky but I believe no dedicated distillery just making whisky. I would love to get my hands on some other spirit coming out of NZ but, for now here in Australia we are generally limited to what has been released by The New Zealand Whisky Company. At this point we might just compress New Zealand Whisky Company to NZWC from here on end as is a bit long to keep repeating.

NZWC don’t produce whisky through distillation or at least now yet. Initially a collective of investors led by Greg Ramsa purchased a sum of 443 mothballed casks of whisky produced at the closed Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin. Willowbank was purchased by Seagrams and in 1997 the distillery was closed with the stills and most of the spirit auctioned off. These few mothballed barrels existing were relocated and stored in Oamaru. Taking these barrels NZWC moved to get the ageing stock onto the markets as quick as possible repackaging as The New Zealand Whisky Collection. We saw a few of these whiskies hit the Dan Murphy’s shelves back in 2010 and to be quite frank I, as have several club members, have been scared ever since. No really the whiskies we tasted were outright paint stripper. They burnt, they were musty, and they felt wrong and there was little to gauge in anticipation of what the other casks were to give. I would like to give more details specifically on what products they were but, chances are they are no longer on offer and, if I got the name wrong now by matching it to something still being sold I would damage what may well be a great product currently on the shelf. I did write to the distillery several times to gain more insight and to give my feedback as I was receiving a lot of media from them directly at the time but alas they never ever responded.

Yes, even after those scarring experiences, I am happy to say things have changed for the better. Yes NZWC has been winning awards but I care very little for what value these awards give. I want to try these whiskies and know for myself where it sits.

In mid 2014 I was at the Lark Cellar Door bar. My guide for the day encouraged me try The South Island 21 Years Old Single Malt by NZWC after some discussions about past experiences. With trepidation I asked may I nose the whisky before I purchased a dram. To my surprise it was warm, rounded, with notes of cereal and butter. Wow what had changed? What was going on to display this as something so different. My advisor had made a few comments about NZWC getting some help in refining and blending casks better, how to pick them and when to release. Can I validate this? No. Regardless it was a spotlight bulb moment. This was really good!

South Island 21yo Single Malt
Distillery: Willowbank (deceased)
Distilled: Dunedin, New Zealand
Matured: Oamaru, New Zealand
Released by: The New Zealand Whisky Company
ABV: 40%
Wood: Ex-Bourbon American Oak

Colour: Drying wheat (The colour is goes where there is just a little green in the stalk)

Nose: Rich buttery malt biscuits, gentle light smoke, caramelised cereals, brown sugar, with delicate grassy textures with some cardboard boxes.

Taste: Malt biscuits, cereals, fruity and nutty, classic light aged american oak vanillas, marginal metallic banding and a slight dryness.

Finish: Medium dry with mellow stored furniture. Spices begin to tickle the front of the tongue shortly after.

Overall a great dram and a solid representation of what Willowbank was, could have been, but never will be thanks to the destructive winds of business. If I was to give a dram then a nice 5.5 out of 7 is deserved. At $99.99AU this was a good buy but I fear it may not be seen again as stocks of course are horribly limited. I wager any Scottish Speyside released at this quality and age would be hitting the $250Au mark easy if if you are keen for a dram then be on the mark now to get it.

It would be wrong to class this as a definitive example of New Zealand whisky but it is certainly a snapshot of a era past that could have continuing to this day had fortunes past differently. Well done New Zealand Whisky Company and thanks for redeeming my expectations against those earlier experiences.

The Baron