Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Johnnie Walker House at Sea on Dream Cruises

Bottle image supplied

We only have some preliminary info at this stage but there is to be a Johnnie Walker House at Sea. Luxury cruising and whisky what is there not to like?! Below is an initial PR release quoted:

"We have just announced over the weekend that our brand new cruise line Dream Cruises will be the first cruise line to have the exclusive Johnnie Walker House at sea."

Artist impression supplied
"Built around the theme of ‘whisky conversations’, the JOHHNIE WALKER HOUSE serves as an exclusive embassy for luxury Scotch whisky and is a place for consumers to discover the rich heritage of Scotch whisky."

Artist impression supplied
I asked for more details and effectively this 18 deck ship, Genting Dream, part of the Dream Cruises fleet, is not complete yet and still being fitted out.

Attached images is all that is currently available to get an idea of what this is all about. Be sure we will be keeping a close on the outcome.

The Baron
Information quoted in this post has been provided to us as an official media release by Star Cruises.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Before The Bottle Runs Dry - Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Old

Old Rip Van Winkle
Chasing the bourbon monkey is a fun little adventure for myself as more and more quality bourbons start to enter the Australian market. In only a few short years access to brands often reserved for an international trip can now be picked up through many chains and independent retailers.

You have all of course heard of the Pappy Van Winkle fever that grips the buyers market the moment there is a sniff of a few bottles coming into the country. People are buying on hype then reserving the bottles for resell later. Well Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery does make more than just the Pappy so if you truly want to try something from this distillery (now distilled at Buffalo Trace) shoot a bit lower for the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. But don’t shoot too low because you hip pocket will still be slugged a hefty $400AU for this bottle.

A friend brought this bottle over during one of several bbq and bourbon lunches we have had and kindly left the remnants for yours truly to sample and review. Bourbon for me? Nicholas you are too kind! I thought I better get this reviewed before the bottle runs dry.

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery / Buffalo Trace Distillery
Region: Kentucky, USA
ABV: 53.5%
Wood: New American Oak
Age: 10 years

Colour: Coal fire orange.

Nose is of course typical sweet bourbon with a good whack of a wood workshops, touches of aniseed, spearmint, semi dried dates, golden syrup and furniture polish. There is even elements of citrus and mango making it mildly tropical in nature.

Taste displays some real finely balance elements of older oak, maple and or golden syrup, fresh wood shavings and lifts with spearmint spice. Exceptionally smooth with little to no heat in the mouth as the tastes buds are saturated.

Finish is long and spicy heating in the chest with a obvious prickle under the tongue. It does not dry out too much but certainly enough to command a follow up sip shortly after as sugary maple syrup appears again.

Overall this whiskey steps left of the density of vanilla so many bourbons aim for. Wood refinement is clear in this beast but do not confuse that with being heavily oaked. I enjoy this whisky for what it is and have found it needs time to be appreciated. Sip it once or twice then let it rest before returning. Take note of the subtle characteristics and see how they change with the intake of breath. Take it gentle and treat it with respect.

Bourbons have very narrow profiles with the flavours weaved exceptionally close to each other. This is certainly one that has a nice level of craftsmanship to it. If I was to give a dram then a clean 6 out of 7 but I am now going to remove 1.5 points because I cannot though justify the price of $400AU here in Australia. No that pricing is just wrong and a cruel joke. So that is an offical 4.5 out of 7. Is that too cruel a score? No I don't think so because it is actually a really good whisky. I do like to remain grounded though and spending that kind of money on a whisky has impacts elsewhere in life some simply cannot afford. So if you are a keen bourbon hound, want to try something very well refined, have the dollars to spend, and maybe a few mates to share the appreciation with, then go for it.  Enjoy it. But if you are someone that buys on price believing that it equates to guaranteed satisfaction then maybe duck out and buy a dram at a bar first instead.

The Baron

Friday, July 15, 2016

Taking The Cut - Jim Beam Devil's Cut

Jim Beam Devil's Cut

So of course we all know of the Angels Share but Jim Beam have created their own Devil’s Cut.

Released a few years ago now Jim Beam Devil's Cut is a contribution to the Jim Beam stables by current master distiller Fred Noe. I have met Fred a couple of times now and he tells the story like this about the creation of the idea. When he was a lad first working at the distillery (around 13 years old), he would be charged with jumping in the truck and dropping off recently emptied barrels of Jim Beam. Fred was told that “there is still whiskey in those barrels” and was let in on the secret on how to extract the spirit trapped in the wood through the combination of adding water and letting sit in the summer heat. This method is know as "sweating the barrel".

Effectively the method on how Jim Beam now extracts the whiskey from the wood is not much different though details are scarce. A couple of litres of water is added to the barrel, sealed, and then let sit in the hot temperatures. Over the course of a few days the liquid from the wood seeps back into the belly of the barrel. The final liquid is around 6 litres of so of including the original 2 litres of water initially added. This whiskey, clearly heavily oaked, is then blended with 6 year old bourbon to find the right balance of flavour that has become the signature profile of Devil’s Cut.  Proportionally speaking there is not a lot of Devil's Cut actually going into this bourbon but I think is enough to tell the difference. Either way it makes great story and a great bourbon.

Jim Beam Devil’s Cut
Distillery: Jim Beam Distillery
Region: Kentucky, USA
ABV: 45%
Wood: New American Oak
Age: NAS, 6 years minimum

Nose: Herbal with a hot oak spice and a typical sweet bourbon corn body. The richness is profound but I find an older oak like distraction edging in constantly.

Taste: Quite smooth working well as a sipping whisky. The hot oaks from the nose appear very quickly while drying cocoa elements slip in. Though I am sure it is partly to do with the higher ABV I am sure but there is something different in how this whiskey performs with the taste buds as I find the sweet grain spirit dryness much more obvious.

Finish: Long and rich but also dry and high in the throat. Not too much warmth in the chest while it gets woody and herbal in the mouth the longer it lingers. Leave it a bit longer and dark chocolate starts to become very obvious.

Overall it is a great whiskey but its middle ground leaves me a bit wanting overall. Because the flavour is there I also expect to get that Kentucky chew happening which seems to just not be seen. Essentially the bags were packed and the ride has departed without the passenger. I am sure, if I was not a big fan of the small batch bourbons from JimBeam, then this would suffice rather well.

If you are familiar with the more premium Knob Creek and Bookers families then this falls somewhere between Jim Beam White and those. Priced well at aorund $43AU I would be more inclined to buy this over the Jim Beam White as you get considerable higher ABV at 43% and profile. If I was to give a dram 4.75 out of 7. I just want more I just want more that chew.

The Baron

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Touring Australia - Chris Fletcher of Jack Daniel's

Image from offical A Journey through 150 Years of Craft & Cocktail Culture registration site.

It’s Jack Daniel Distillery’s 150 year anniversary and Chris Fletcher is coming to Australia on his first tour. We maybe in the land down under but based on Australian sales it is almost Jack Daniel’s second home so what better place for Chris to come on his tour.

Born and bred in Lynchburg, Chris Fletcher has grown up a local lad and is now Assistant Master Distiller for Jack Daniel Distillery. Jack Daniel’s is in Chris’s blood with his grand father, Frank Bobo, having been the 5th in the line of Master Distillers. Like all distillers Chris is passionate about the whiskies he makes so when you get a chance to pick the brain and share a dram with someone like him you should not have to be asked twice.

Chris will be touring Australia in through July and August hosting a series of master classes to both the public and drinks industry. Titled ‘A Journey through 150 Years of Craft & Cocktail Culture’ these master classes will be educating about the distillery's signature whiskies and history while getting to experience the “signature cocktails from iconic eras”.

To set the mood of what this tour is about we will quote:
“For this one-of-a-kind tour like no other, prepare to step back in time to 1920s prohibition, encounter the suave style of Frank Sinatra before embracing the thrilling times of 70s, 80s and 90s rock ‘n’ roll. Culturally so much has changed all the while Jack has been making his famous whiskey in one way, in one place for 150 years.”

Cities to be visited will be Sydney, Perth and Brisbane. The locations for these public events are to remain a secret until closer to the date but you can be rest assured, like all things Jack, it will be as sweet as the liquor itself.

Direct listing information can be found below or by going directly to


Date: Thursday 28th July
Times: 6.30pm – 8.00pm, 8.00pm – 9.30pm
Address: Secret Sydney CBD location
Cost: Free

Date: Friday 29th July
Times: 6.30pm – 8.00pm, 7.15pm – 8.45pm, 8.00pm – 9.30pm
Address: Secret Sydney CBD location
Cost: Free


Date: Wednesday 3rd August
Times: 6.30pm – 8.00pm, 7.15pm – 8.45pm, 8.00pm – 9.30pm
Address: Secret Perth CBD Location
Cost: Free


Date: Friday 5th August
Times: 6.30pm – 8.00pm, 7.15pm – 8.45pm, 8.00pm – 9.30pm
Address: Secret Brisbane CBD Location
Cost: Free

Get on and register at one of the events and be part of the 150 year anniversary celebration of such an iconic distillery.

The Baron

Information quoted in this post has been provided to us as an official media release by the Sound Campaign on behalf of Jack Daniel’s. This article originally appeared on Dramantion an affiliate website to DTWC.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Raspberry And Cream - The Chita Single Grain

The Chita Single Grain

So it is not often we explore a Single Grain here on DTWC but in all fairness, here in Australia, single grain whiskies are not all that common. Often relegated to the stalls of blending stock, single grains don't get a look in at the best of times. Things are changing in the world of whisky (as we all know) and for some time now Suntory has been releasing The Chita Single Grain to both the local and international markets.

The Chita Single Grain comes from Suntory’s grain distillery Chita located in Aichi Prefecture in central Honshu Island Japan. Generally not open to the public this distillery is a powerhouse of grain production for Suntory. As far as I am aware this expression is the only single grain whisky released by Suntory with the remainder of production going into blends.

The Chita Single Grain is effectively released as a spirit for making the now famous highballs of Japan. Highball = Whisky, soda, ice and maybe a sprig of mint or a citrus twist served is a tall glass. In saying that the release of the Suntory Yamazaki Distillers Reserve and the Hakushu Distillers Reserve  (see offical coverage of the Australian release here) were also said to be designed for the highball but reality is they are all perfectly good whiskies appreciated neat. It is a testament to Suntoy’s quality in production that can allow for such versatility in all these particular spirits. I picked up this bottle on a recent trip to Japan for around $45AU. Purchasing here in Australia is a far different situation with prices now soaring over $200 a bottle simply due to the popularity that Japanese whisky has at the moment.

Single Gain as a term effectively means any grain coming from a single distillery. Often a single gain will be primarily made up of corn either as 100% with an added enzyme during mashing, or a combination of corn and barley. Reality is though, single grain can be made of any quantities of grain including malted barley. Mike Miyamoto, global brand ambassador to Suntory, told me that the primary components of The Chita is corn with a small percentage of malted barley. He also said it is not a whisky currently on the cards for continued global release but that is not to say it may not happen in the future. He went on to say the popularity of Japanese whisky caught Suntory totally off guard with production for many years to come already allocated so they simply do not have stocks to spare for a continued release. If you like the Suntory Hibiki expressions then you will already be familiar with The Chita Single Grain as it is the backbone of these expressions.

The Chita Single Grain
Distillery: Chita Distillery, Suntory
Region: Aichi Prefecture, Honshu, Japan
ABV: 43%
Wood: New American Oak & Ex-Bourbon
Age: NAS

A nose of super sweet vanilla & raspberry ice-cream prevails even after the first dram. It is somewhat spirity but clearly a very pure product. Vanilla just continues to go on and on and on.

To taste you get youthful excited across the tongue before juicy custard apple textures appear. Not long after a rum like high sweetness rises in the mouth.

The finish becomes warm, tingly & sweet with a high heat building in the cheeks, top of the throat that is followed by a dry sugary coating throughout.

Overall it is a well made whisky but probably not for those that like their whiskies to be of that Scotch pedigree. You will note I have made no mention of wood influence simply because it is hard to find on its own. What do I find so interesting about this whisky is it is youthful and sweet like eating vanilla pods in a bowl of cream and raspberries. It has a place but not for all. If I was to give a dram then a 5 out of 7. It is a great whisky to try but not at the $200+ AU price mark many are now asking for in the local market. If it was more inline with Japanese pricing then it is a cracker of a dram.

The Baron

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Ben & Sven Show - Sydney’s Keepers of a Quaich

Sven Almenning and Ben Davidson
The 2nd of May 2016 brought to us a celebration of two very recent members to the highly respected Keepers of the Quaich. Enter the Ben Davidson and Sven Almenning show. It is one thing to know this leads on a personal and business level but it is another to be one of the few invited to quite simply celebrate their admission into the Keepers. Ben Davidson is currently the National Brand Ambassador for Pernod Ricard Australia and has just completed his 10 years long service with the company. Pernod Ricard though multinational and multifaceted they are notable in the whisky world for brands such as Chivas Regal, Ballantines, Jameson, Royal Salute, The Glenlivet, Aberlour, Longmorn, Scapa, Strathisla. Sven Almenning is founder of the Speak Easy Group which has notable bars of influence from Sydney through to Melbourne. This celebratory gathering was held at Eau De Vie, part of the Speak Easy Group’s Sydney bars. Eau De Vie presents as dark, mysterious yet warm and comforting establishment combined with amazing cocktails, exquisite bar theatre and a backbar that would make many a whisky appreciator cry.

For those that do not know of the Keepers of the Quaich, it is a community of like minded dedicated individuals that go above and beyond in the sponsorship of whisky the world over. To be a Keeper of the Quaich you must effectively live and breath whisky. It is not just a title but more so a blood tie if you will. You cannot apply to be a Keeper either as you must be nominated by an existing member and then be selected for admission. Admissions are held each in Scotland at ceremony & dinner at Blair Castle. But why try explaining anymore where a quite for the Keepers site will tell all:
“The Keepers of the Quaich is an exclusive and international society that recognises those that have shown outstanding commitment to the Scotch Whisky industry. Founded by the leading distillers, it is by its very nature, the beating heart of the industry. In establishing the Keepers of the Quaich, the industry pooled its influential resources to build a powerful society working together and united.
Keepers of the Quaich are dedicated and passionate people around the world who are proud to be part of a select society and who are dedicated to achieving greater appreciation of our magnificent spirit – Scotch Whisky.”

So what is a Quaich? A Quaich is a wide shallow double dandled drinking bowl. This bowl can be  not much larger than a goblet to something the size of serving platter. Highly impractical from an whisky appreciators point of view, the double handle is seen by the Keepers as a sign of respect and trust. Though not bound to the region some historical documentation claims a quaich was made popular in Scotland around the 17th to 18th centuries. Other documentation links its beginnings many hundreds of years earlier. The notion is by drinking from the bowl your hands are indisposed stifling your chances of drawing your sword and shanking your fellow drinker. How true this is can be seen as a point of contention but true or not this is how the story was told and I am not in a position to doubt any of it.

Arriving at the door of Eau De Vie we were greeted by Ben and Sven dressed in their official Keepers dress attire only very recently acquired. As the room opened we were to discover only around 30 or so friends, guests and fellow Keepers to attend a very intimate evening. Before the lads indulged us in a tale of how they were invited to become Keepers including antics on the the trip to Scotland for admittance, we enjoyed a selection of cocktails, canapés, whiskies and classy Eau De Vie bar theatre. Following the presentation including a tasting of various Pernod Ricard whiskies we settled in for a few more whiskies and cocktails as well as some wild tales and rather hilarious photoshoots that we did not have time for earlier on.

Even though this was a very private experience I still feel it is one of those whisky stories to be shared to the wider community. I very much feel this honour bestowed on both Ben and Sven is well deserved and a perfect way of acknowledging their involvement past, present and into the future.

Sven Almenning (left), myself with a pot of cured meat (centre) and Ben Davidson (right)
We have featured many photos but for a complete view of how the night played out be sure to checkout  our Facebook album.

Sláinte to the boys! Well done and I am sure we will be seeing another party in 10 years when you both ascend to becoming Masters.

The Baron

D.T.W.C. was invited as a guest this event. All views and opinions are our own unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rich and Oaky - Glenfiddich Rich Oak 14 Year Old

Glenfiddich Rich Oak
Glenfiddich is a powerhouse brand backed by the family owned William Grant & Sons. Nestled next to its sister distillery The Balvenie, the Glenfiddich is a typical Speyside one could say but displaying very different characteristics to the sibling distillery.

When talking about the Glenfiddich profile as a general rule of thumb, then it is pears, apples, and warming cinnamon spice. The Rich Oak still hold true to what make a Glenfiddich a Glenfiddich but through careful wood management we are presented with a newer approach.

It is also of note that there is no large print age statement on the label. With the explosion of whisky the world over and a strategic move away from age statements, we can only expect Glenfiddich will also play some part in the adoption of these policies. But is this a NAS (No Age Statement) whisky? Right now the answer to that is no. In much finer print you will find that this whisky is a 14 year old at minimum in traditional ex-bourbon before being finished in both New American and New Spanish oak. This finishing period is only an approximate 12 weeks but the results are considerable. This finishing delivers a richer darker boldness unseen in the flagship Glenfiddich 12 year old.

Glenfiddich Rich Oak
Distiller: Glenfiddich
Region: Speyside, Scotland
ABV: 40%
Wood: Ex-bourbon finished in New American Oak and New Spanish Oak

A nose of graceful rich fruits then warm apple cinnamon pie, spicy oak, sweet woody vanilla.

The taste is brown sugar, warm dark spicy fruit rounded out by nutty wood textures, vanillas and stewed fruits.

The finish long and rich with spicy vanilla oak and lingering warm sherry notes. A metallic copper tang springs in the palate as a spirit high rises in the chest completing with dry cocoa on the palate.

Overall this is a whisky showing its heritage with a twist on the new oaks. I very much enjoy how the sharper fruitier spices of what is seen in the 12 year old has been rounded out. The cocoa elements at the end are enjoyable yet subtle. If I was to give a dram then a 5 3/4 out of 7.

This whisky would work extremely well for someone wanting dark fruit elements without the dense sweetness that sherry casks deliver. Here you can have the best of both worlds.

The Baron

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 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.