Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chasing The Dream - SIA Blended Scotch Whisky

Founder Carin Luna-Ostaseski and that unique SIA Scotch Whisky bottle
What makes someone want to create their own blend of whisky and how to approach such notion? Why now try crowdsourcing a start up whisky company and see how it goes! That is exactly what SIA Scotch Whisky did. When there is so many whiskies now in the market we have to assume there must be a driving force filled with a passion and ambition to make a go of it. So kudos to Carin of SIA (pronounced See-a, Gaelic for Six) for getting it right.

Carin Luna-Ostaseski, founder of SIA Scotch Whisky, pretty much chased the dream and funded the business through her Kickstarter campaign back in mid 2013. The target was to gain $39,000 USD to purchase enough whisky to fill 250 cases / 1500 bottles at 750ml each, order glass, etch, package and then distribute. Exceeding the target within 40 days, Carin managed to get the product off the ground and sell the first 1500 bottles. SIA is now in its 2nd run of 3500 bottles has the intention of a 3rd release of 5000 bottles soon. Unfortunately we are yet to see the product distributed and sold into Australia. If you want to discover the full story check out Carin’s story: How I Funded my Company with Kickstarter.

SIA is a self styled “superior blended Scotch Whisky” created to appeal to the modern consumers palate. Take it neat, iced, or in a cocktail the preference is yours. The bottle is elegant and well designed with a label displaying a lush feminine touch. Carin worked with with Douglas Laign and Co. Ltd. to created a Scotch whisky matured, blended and bottled in the mother country. The contents are a blend is a ratio of 40% malt to 60% while the region percentages range from 50% Speyside, 40% Highland, 10% Islay malts and grains. Bottled at 43% ABV and priced at $49.00 USD per 750ml bottle I can imagine, with how Australia’s tax work, we would easily see this bottling hit the $70+ AU mark if it ever makes its way here.

SIA Scotch Whisky
SIA Blended Scotch Whisky
Location / Region: Scotland
Alcohol / ABV: 43%
Blender: Douglas Laign and Co. Ltd.

Nose: Vibrant and fruity, vanillas, spice, maple wood, citrus, pears, green tomatoes then also  and a light mix of smoke and iodine thus giving it a mild maritime feel. There is a lot going on in the nose and the maritime effect is much more apparent after the initial sip. On a first pour though I find the whisky is locked up and a bit of air needs to be swilled through to open it up but it is not an uncommon effect to be seen.

Taste: At the beginning it is smooth to the lips which lets go to become a little mouth puckering. A spice tingle starts at the lips and moves all the way to the back of the tongue. Pears and green tomatoes again make an appearance but the fruitiness is more stewed with the vanillas maple woods before the drier smoke wafts through.

Finish: Long and drawing on the breath. Not necessarily hot as can be expected with a blend but certainly a fire is smouldering deep down as the palate dries out even more. The spice lingers in an enjoyable way.

Overall there is a lot of vibrancy in the scotch whisky blend as a whole and much more than I have found in others I have tasted recently. I find this blend quite reasonable as the palate remains excitable long after the last dram. I enjoyed it neat though I can see it working very well in a cocktail as it holds a complexity that won’t be moved to the background when mixed. Unfortunately my sample was only enough for 2 medium drams so I did not attempt making a cocktail out of it. I would love to see it make its way into Australia.

I have to pass thanks to Carin for sending me the sample and correspondence that has followed all the way from the US. This blend is a real challenger not only to the palate but against many mainstream blends on our shelves. Lets hope we see it soon.

The Baron

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Bit Of This & A Bit Of That – Label 5 Gold Heritage

Label 5 Gold Heritage
Label 5 is not the most common names that comes up in Australia when mentioning a Blended Scotch Whisky even though it is ranked in the top 10 sales of a blended whisky in the world. We have seen a rise in the brand over the last few years on shelves  locally but in asking around I have found still it can get a bit of a look over. The more common bottle you would be familiar with is the Label 5 Classic Black or the Label 5 12 Year Old. This bottling, Label 5 Gold Heritage, is yet to be seen on our shelves and is the brands most recent release. Graciously supplied to us for tasting by La-Martiniquaise, a French based group and the 2nd largest spirits company in France at this time.

If you recall La-Martiniquaise has come up before when we have reviewed launches and reviews of the Scotch Single Malt and distillery Glen Moray. La-Martiniquaise purchased Glen Moray back in 2008 from Glenmorangie, so it is no surprise when Glen Moray’s Distillery Manager Graham Coull’s name is attributed to the creation of Label 5 Gold Heritage. Graham also takes the title also as Master Blender of Label 5. I had the pleasure to speak in length with Graham Coull in August 2013 at the launch of the Glen Moray 25yo: A taste of things to come - Glen Moray 25yo Syndey Launch. Graham has been taking Glen Moray in a great direction so I recommend you keep a good eye on the brand over the coming years. If you have not tried it also I recommend delving in the Glen Moray 10yo Chardonnay Cask Matured to get a better idea of what is being offered by the distillery and the malt that makes up the bulk of the Label 5 blends.

Moving on we best look a little closer at the Label 5 Gold Heritage. There is is no question the name signifies an approach into the higher echelons of the premium blend market. The bottle is tall and angular with thick glass and an embossed crest. On opening a plastic pourer is fitted much like what we see in other premium blends. On any Dan Murphy’s shelf you will find Label 5 commonly shelved higher than most lower grade whisky blends. I can speculate when the Label 5 Gold Heritage makes it to Australia it will be sitting directly next to the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve. Dan Murphy’s, as I understand it, is the exclusive importer of Label 5 and Glen Moray through the Woolworth’s import brand Pinnacle Liquor Group.

Other details available on the Label 5 site claim there is anything up to and over 20yo malt whiskies being blended into the mix of this product. That sounds great but the reality is that this happens all the time for many many blends and malts but it is certainly nice to know. We can also assume being a NAS (No Age Statement) that some very young whiskies also make it into the mix. Again not a big issue but certainly something to consider.

Label 5 Gold Heritage
Distiller & Blender: Label 5 / La-Martiniquaise
Location / Region: Scotland
Alcohol/ ABV: 40%

Nose: Thick, rich and sweet with a side of egg sandwiches. A bit leathery and no doubt I am getting some smokiness. Grains are prevelant and sweet while a heavy hit of alcohol burn will sting if you nose too closely or vigourously. After the fist sip though the nose burn subsides in a much more festive fruity character.

Taste: Light, fruity(ish) and exceptionally smooth at first. It easily goes down but the sweetness falls into the central back pallet before a typical blend burn seeps down the throat. A bit smokey like tabbaco smoke, a bit of citrus, a bit of spice, and a bit of wood creep. It gets watery fast and the flavour is one dimensional which is unfortunate. Not embracing to the senses, this whisky has been clearly designed this way to simply be sipped easily.

Finish: Hot at first and a bit of mousey woods develops in the palate.

Overall: I have to say not challenging and malt drinkers will be hard pressed to approve. Blend drinkers on the other hand wanting to move slightly up the ladder would appreciate what it is offering as the typical grain burn and intense sweetness is mellowed by the malts blended.

This is a blend offering smoothness over character. It is a bit of a fence sitter. If I was to give a dram 3 1/2 out of 7. It does not fall into the category of our clubs flavour profile appreciation and I fear neither that of any malt drinkers. As I said though a dedicated blend drinker would probably enjoy this.

Thank you to La-Martiniquaise for the opportunity to examine and review the Label 5 Gold Heritage. I have reserved the bottle contents for presentation at our next clubs meeting to get further input.

The Baron

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sharing a Dram – John Quinn & Tullamore D.E.W

Tullamore D.E.W & John Quinn
Ireland is a country where its people are know for their love of whisk(e)y. Yet its has always amazed me that you could count the number of the countries distilleries on one hand. Add one more to that handful. On the 27th June 2014, I had the opportunity to interview John Quinn Global, Brand Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W. At the time we spoke word was the brand was to have its own new distillery due to open in the coming months. That is BIG news in the Irish distilling front yet we have heard nearly no chatter about it locally. Many things will come of this equaling assumed changes in flavour profile (in time as production fully shifts from the current location, New Midleton Distillery), more new unique or experimental expressions, and a significant ramp up in production to name but a few. A curious fact many may not realise is that the site of most of Tullamore D.E.W’s current production, the New Midleton Distillery, is owed by Pernod Ricard, while the brand Tullamore D.E.W is owed by William Grant & Son’s.

An overloaded table of whisky and the nostalgia of the location.
What is exciting about recognising Tullamore D.E.W’s new distillery is what else is going on with the Irish whisk(e)y scene. In this ever expanding whisk(e)y bubble the positive side is that it is allowing distillery after new distillery to either reopen, be reinvented, or appear out of seamless thin air. Not a week goes past when we are no hearing of a new distillery somewhere in the world opening. It is a good thing. But what also comes of it is styles and brands somewhat veiled by their own historical presence on store shelves starting to change things up a little. The true players that have been in it for the long haul start to creep back into our interests expression by expression. Irish whisk(e)y used to be big. Real big. Bigger than scotch before the United states era of Prohibition and it would seem it is making a come back again now. OK so you should know this already. Yet, for all these Irish brands arriving on Australian shelves, many do not realise they are all coming from 1 of 4 distilleries and have a long history of production. Note that several Irish distilleries are on the rise but many have yet to be able to significantly age their spirt to be called whisk(e)y. Exciting times to come.

With John's arrival an intimate dinner staged in the Potting Shed's Lock In room at The Grounds of Alexandria. This is an outstanding location and I highly recommend you make the trip over for a lunch of dinner. On arrival I was amazed at the table setting. It was seriously near to over flow with whisky glasses prepped for tippling. Not 5, not 6, but 8 glasses filled our tasting mats so this was no simple tasting. While enjoying a cocktail named 'The Moondance', I had the opportunity to take in our full surroundings. In the low light deathly shadows were cast across the glassware, as souls of dead animals peered down on us from mounted locations on walls worn brick Vintage brink n brac laced the surrounding tables and cabinets lined with old bottles filled with god knows what (it certainly was not drinkable) gave a sense of historical nostalgia.

John is a easy going lad and you got this sense from the moment he shook your hand. Clearly a confident excitable speaker John began the evening by announcing that this was not to be a sales sales pitch in anyway. Simply speaking he wanted the evening to be a night to discuss and enjoy whisk(e)y surrounded with those of equal mind.

Many whiskies on our mats were in fact samples drawn directly straight from the casks for the evenings enjoyment.

1. Tullamore D.E.W Original 40% ABV: citrus and pineapples with vanilla woods.

2. 71% ABV grain: grapes, molasses and corn. Delivered a real punch.

3. 61% ABV Malt: Generated a intense profile of raspberries and boiled sweets.

4. Pot Still 60% ABV: Intense butterscotch overtones followed by cream, and chocolate. If there was ever a whisky to counter Baileys Irish Cream this would be it.

5. Make your own: I added blended about 60% malt, 20% grain and 20% Pot Still. A really unpleasant attempt at blending. Never use these ratios!

6. Tullamore D.E.W 10yo 40% ABV: Fruit Punch and leather.

7. Tullamore D.E.W 12yo Special Reserve 55% ABV: Smooth silky caramel creams.

8. Tullamore D.E.W Phoenix 55% ABV: Dark chocolate and nuts, rasins, toffee creams, vanilla oaks.

Through the tasting we were served a wide selection of entree sized meals ranging from quail breast to scollops to a rich black pudding. Towards the end John asked us to make up our own blend using the cask drawn whiskies provided. My blend was downright disgusting but delivered a fun exercise in appreciation of the whisky blending craft.

Look a punching bag... John starting taking a few swings at it.
After forcing John to take a few swings at the punching bag we than had a quiet seat to chat. In speaking with John I had queried him specifically on boutique to small batch distilleries in Ireland. John had said there was literally none to mention at the time. Maybe the current distilleries just do such a good job there is no incentive for smaller operations to set up shop. Who knows but it is a curious fact micro distilleries do not yet have a place (yet). Also a fun fact and something to be laughed upon is that John had spent a good deal of time in Australia through the 80's and was the man responsible for introducing the West Coast Cooler. Yes that cooler wine our parents stocked the party fridges with. I thought he was joking at first but the way he had said it was so sincere. “Your probably too young to remember but I was responsible for West Coast Cooler. It was very successful in the 80’s…”. I almost fell off my chair with laughter and promptly told him it was a big hit with my mother and that it is starting to make a come back again in Australia with new branding. John also made comment about how I kept calling the whisky and distillery 'Tully' instead of Tullamore D.E.W. I had to say it is just what we do here in Australia and it is more an endearing term more than anything else.

It was truly a great night and thank you William Grant & Son’s, Weber Shandwick, and of course John Quinn for sharing a dram. Hopefully we will see John back in Australia again soon and he won't be leaving it another 20+ years to return.

The Baron

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

Jacks Back For Christmas 2014 - Engrave a Bottle of Gentleman Jack

Engrave a Bottle of Gentleman Jack
So Christmas is coming and whisky gifts need to be given. Brown Forman and Jack Daniels Distillery is offering the Engrave A Bottle Of Gentleman Jack for Christmas 2014 to Australian Residence.

The engraving service is now operating and will be available up until December 17, 2014. A total of 3 lines of text at 18 characters per line is available to generate your message. It is simple and it is fast to do.

To place your order and Engrave a Bottle of Gentleman Jack head over to the official web page to purchase online. Bottles are available in 700ml only at RRP $64.99 compete with engraving.

Full details, contact enquiries and updates can all be found over at the Gentleman Jack facebook page.

The Baron

Information quoted in this post has been provided to us as an official media release by FRANK PR - Australia on behalf of Brown Forman Australia.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Going Vertical - Glengoyne

Glengoyne plus the boys Philip and Daniel 
Tuesday night 11th November gave us a unique look into the distillery that is Glengoyne. This vertical tasting was put on by Dan Murphy’s Double Bay and if you have not heard about Dan Murphy's acceleration in the world of whisky then you living under a very cold dark rock. This evenings tasting was one of the first full focus whisky tastings being trailed by one of Australia's largest discount liquor chains.More of these will be seen as part of the new My Dan Murphy's loyalty program. Held on the upper floor of the The Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel, Bourke St Woolloomooloo, our tables were set with a host of Glengoyne whiskies rarely seen in one sitting.

Our hosts for the evening, Daniel Millhouse and Philip Mack, proceeded to take us on a small tour of what is Glengoyne Distillery before digging straight in to the 6 whiskies on tasting: 10 Year Old; 12 Year Old; 15 Year Old; Cask Strength; 18 Year Old; 21 Year Old. In amongst our tasting a wide selection of finger foods were to hit the tables quelling our appetites and in some cases emphasising flavour profiles.

Out of all we had tasted I did have a particular interest in the Glengoyne Cask Strength. Served mid way through the tasting I had thought "no way this is going to kill my palate", as is what generally happens in such situations. Instead the Cask Strength actually only confirmed just how light and tuned Glengoyne whisky is. At 58.7% ABV the Cask Strength should have been saturating my taste buds and giving me a high spice burn that would lingering for an eternity (or at least that is what I expected). Instead is sat very comfortably with strong cereal notes and caramalised baked bananas. Think warm banana bread with a lick of melted butter. Then of course we had the 18yo delivering a powerful sherry influence. The sweetness was very well balanced against a spicy oak while also tapering into some salty shellfish aspects. I figured at that point something was up with my palate until later some oysters were laid out and a quick sniff of the fresh oysters confirmed my thoughts. Not to ignore a good oyster I nabbed a refill on the 18yo and promptly downed a good portion of the plate discovering that a fresh oyster created an intense creaminess in the 18yo that filled in the gap between the sweet sherries and oak spices. Delicious!

Those fine foods served amongst the evenings tastings
A feature of the nights discussion was about Glengoyne’s slow spirit run where they reduce the boil temperature of the still in order to output the new make spirit at 5 litres per minute. 3 litters was too little and 7 litters was found to be way too much while 5 was right in the goldilocks zone. At this rate the spirit maintains a high copper contact to delivery the finer higher fruit and cereal notes the whiskies are known for. The first time I heard about slow distillation was in fact on a recent trip to Tasmania. Casey Overeem of Old Hobart Distillery and producers Overeem Whisky had comment on how he would cut his spirit run with a good amount of water to slow the distillation process down in order to only take the finer spirits while maximising copper contact. Quite often a larger distillery needs to boil much faster and harder to maintain high volume output, so a good way to counter this is to have high necks on the stills such as what would be seen at Glenmorangie distillery. The finer the new make is the less it has to work with the wood so in turn much lighter subtle flavours are emphasised. It is a fascinating thing to examine how distilleries deal with extracting the most out of the barley.

For me0 I have always found Glengoyne as a fine spirit with very delicate nuances easily lost when tasting against other much more full bodied whiskies. In the past I have only every had a Glengoyne at times when other whiskies have been tasted, such as at The Whisky Show, or at locations like Dan Murphy’s when I may have been tasting wine prior. In either circumstance the outcome was not entirely pleasant or the delicate nature of the whisky was completely lost making it almost taste like water. Having been able to do a tasting like this really has emphasised to me this is a whisky to be truly appreciated on its own with good company and light foods.

You may also notice that I have spoken about Dan Murphy’s and Glengoyne together. Dan Murphy’s is at this time the primary purveyor of Glengoyne in Australia importing via the Pinnacle Liquor Group and distributing via Dan Murphy’s stores (all facets of the greater Woolworths Limited). You may be able to pick up Glengoyne at other resellers though to access the full range day in day out hit up your local Dan Murphy’s. Let us also not ignore pricing as Dan Murphy’s is delivering some exceptional markers for a whisky of this quality. Glengoyne 10yo starts at $69.99, Cask Strength at $98.99 (very good value), 18yo at $148.99, through to the 21yo at $221.90.

Thanks to Glengoyne, Dan Murphy’s Double Bay, and of course Daniel and Phillip for a great night.

The Baron

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

She’s Salty, Sweet & Sour - Glenmorangie Taghta

The Glenmorangie Taghta
Let us try and keep this a short post for a short event that launches a big whisky. 27th October 2014 saw the launch of the Glenmorangie Taghta, a whisky born out of the Glenmorangie Cask Masters. The Cask Masters is Glenmorangie’s delving into the experiment of crowd sourced opinion on what whisky they were to next release. From cask to whisky profile, then from name to packaging, every step in the process was released and voted on by anyone that had signed up to be part of the Glenmorangie Cask Masters.

Well before the inception of The Cask Maters back in 2013, Glenmorangie’s Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation Dr Bill Lumsden, undertook the journey of establishing a new whisky to be chosen by the people for the the people. The basis of this experiment takes Glenmorangie Original (a favourite if mine) to be then finished in casks for an undisclosed amount of time in order to develop the unique profile. This process is much like what Glenmorangie already does for its base expressions: Lasanta; Quinta Ruban; Nectar D’or. The casks chosen for this experiment was a Grand Cru Burgundy cask, Grand Cru Bordeaux cask, and a Spanish Manzanilla Sherry cask.

The No Money No Honey and Begbies Breakfast
Manzanilla is a white sherry made around the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain. The word ‘Manzanilla’ means chamomile in Spanish, a flavour openly displayed in Manzanilla sherry. The sherry also has a salty brine texture to it believed to be attributed to the terroir of the region. If Manzanilla casks is sounding familiar to you, recall last years Ardbeg Day 2013 release was Ardbog which was also extra matured in Manzanilla casks. Ardbog had some very distinctive salt, brine, and herbal tea notes much like what Taghta displays. Considering Dr Bill Lumsden also overseas Ardbeg’s profiling we can assume he liked what he saw and ensured a Manzanilla cask was to be part of the Taghta selection process.

Garth presenting to the audience giant nipple and all
The name 'Taghta' (pronounced tuh-tah) translates from Gaelic to ‘The Chosen’. It is a fitting name considering the process of development but was it the perfect name. The other two names up for consideration was 'Salainn' (pronounced Sahl-ing) meaning Sea Salt, and 'Coileanta' (pronounced Coh-lahn-tah) meaning Mastery. On tasting the whisky I have to lay my vote on Salainn because the salt influence is through the roof.

At the Glenmorangie Taghta Sydney launch we were greeted at the door by Glenmorangie brand ambassador Garth Foster. Garth was to usher us in to partake in a fine selection of canapé’s washed down with two Glenmorangie based cocktails titled 'Begbies Breakfast' and 'No Money No Honey'. Both being well developed cocktails the Begbies Breakfast was a dense party to be having in the mouth prior to a tasting, but the chocolate coated cherry garnish made for a good palate breaker. The event though was over in about 1.5hrs but reality is that is all that was needed to really get to grips with the Taghta.

Glenmorangie Taghta 
Distiller: Glenmorangie
Location/Region: Tain, Scotland
Type: Highland Single Malt
Alcohol/ABV: 46%
Age: Minimum 10years with a finshing period undisclosed
Finish: Spanish Manzanilla Sherry Cask

Colour: Ripe apple flesh with a bit of brown making it earthy in the light.

Nose: Honey comb or butterscotch (I can’t decide), salted chocolate, white pepper, cranberry and dry herb notes. Extremely full in the nose, after a first sip camomile really does come to the forefront as does a sour cranberry edge and much more fruity raisins.

Taste: Really big! Hot and salty with elements of wine grapes and herbal tea. Viscous in nature it retains a lot of the buttery elements typical in a Glenmorangie Original but the intensity degrees above the mark. At first prickling on the lips by adding just a dash of water the spice evens out delivering leather, dark chocolate, butterscotch and raisins while the salts are retained be it slightly mellowed.

Finish: Salty, sweet and sour all at once. The heat lingers in the throat and the tingle puckers the lips. A large chew also develops in the palate typical of sherry influence as does cinnamon spices.

Overall: A ball tearer of a whisky that at first seems over weighed with the salts but easily pulls back with that dash of water. I am not one to add water to whisky but in this case it needs it just to calm the tides.

If I was to give a dram a fitting 6 out of 7 will do. Not to everyones tastes it is challenging, engaging, and assertive making it something excitable to enjoy. Be prepared for a big salt hit though. I dare say even Laphroaig does not manage this salt level. I would be tempted though to put the salt levels though in the region of a Old Pulteney. So if you enjoy a maritime dram tho one might just go down a treat.

Priced at $174 AU the Glenmorangie Taghta is limited to purchasing online only through the Moet-Hennessy Collection store which means you will not be discovering this baby on a shelf near you anytime soon.

Thanks you to Moet-Hennessy, Glenmorangie, EVH PR for the invite and of course to Garth for a drawn sample used for this isolated tasting.

The Baron

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

The Balvenie Craft Bar & Launch of Tun 1509

The Balvenie Craft Bar
Last year we saw Sam Simons of The Balvenie come out to Australia and run a series of tastings. Part of that trip also included the opening of a pop-up bar called The Balvenie Craft Bar in Melbourne. This year we see a return of the The Balvenie Craft Bar with it being held in Sydney. Not to stop there but as part of the 4 day event we will also see The Balvenie launch its newest expression Tun 1509 into Australia. Below is the official extract on the bar and event:

The pop-up bar will transform into a Museum of Craft where visitors will be able to admire the expert handy work of twelve different craftspeople displaying various skills in a shared public space. Visitors will also enjoy listening to music from handmade instruments while sipping on the rich and luxuriously smooth Balvenie range.

Monday 17 to Thursday 20 November, 2014 between 4pm and 6pm each day.

Zenith Interiors, Lansdowne street entrance, corner of Lansdowne street and Marlborough street, Surry Hills

Free tickets will be made available at the Eventbrite website. Register here for tickets to this exclusive Balvenie Craft Bar event in Sydney.

Now you all should know by my previous posts that The Balvenie is of course part of the William Grant & Son’s group and these guys don’t do anything i half measures. This is surely not something to miss so giddy up and get registered.

The Baron

Information quoted in this post has been provided to us as an official media release by Weber Shandwick on behalf of The Balvenie and William Grant & Son's.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Asking For Extra – Chivas Extra

Chivas Extra and Colin Scott Master Blender
There are some brands that spark more interest above others when it comes to something new. Chivas Brothers is one such brand commanding such interest. With one bottle of Chivas being opened every second somewhere in the world it is no surprise that the announcement of Chivas Extra topped out as one the the biggest hits we have seen in the last 2 months. It seems everyone likes to know about what Chivas is up to.

With a launch of Chivas Extra looming, Chivas Brothers Master Blender, Colin Scott was out in Australia to promote its release. Not just any release, be it the global release. I had the opportunity to attend a afternoons tasting, Thursday the 9th of October 2014, with Colin Scott at Sydney's legendary bar Eau De Vie Sydney. Colin, a tall man in his senior years, holds himself as proud custodian to the Chivas Regal family. Since becoming Master Blender in 1989, Colin oversees a hand full of blenders in the continuous production of Chivas to meet world demands. Clearly passionate about his job, Collin mentions though these days he is doing more and more PR touring world wide but he still gets his hands dirty in the blending rooms so to speak. In 1997 Collin developed the iconic Chivas Regal 18yo and then in 2007 topped it by developing the aclaimed Chivas Regal 25yo. Collin had commented that on average between 30 to 50 types of whisky at any one time go into batting a blended expression. He continued on to say the technique of blending requires a keen nose to continually tweak the blend as you never ever know what barrels are coming in from all over Scotland so sometimes it is more of this and less of that. He noted of course the importance Strathisla plays in the Chivas blends but said it is only one of many whiskies overall.

Dr Phil and the Silver Fox Fizz
On arrival I had to figure just where exactly Eau Di Vie was as Sydney bars currently still have this terrible habit of just not giving specifics on how to find them. What once past as unique now qualifies for just downright annoying. So after asking several shops that literally were next door I received answers along the lines of “not sure but we have heard of it” to “I think it is across the road and down the road”. Once finally figuring out where it was I walked in to discover many faces had already arrived sipping cocktails, running interviews, and have a jolly old time. hhhmmm if only I had not wasted 20min trying to find the bar and how did all these people get in the door without me seeing? Trade secrets I guess.

Manning the bar was Dr Phil, champion of the newly detached sibling business come alchemists workshop Eau De Vie Apothecary (at the time closed off as I entered but certainly something I made use of later in the afternoon). Dr Phil was working up a light and refreshing Silver Fox Fizz followed by a more palate saturating Gentleman’s Agreement. Made on a Chivas Extra base the Silver Fox Fizz was a great cleansing starter delivering a lemon sherbet punch laced with lime and sugar.

Another Silver Fox Fizz? Don't mind if I do... and what's this? A Sunset Boulevardier. 
The Gentleman's Agreement on the other hand tended to be a bit on the heavy side. A blending amongst other ingredients was Chivas Extra, vermouth, mescal, pineapple and ginger ale. Complex but too saturated prior to a tasting for my preference with the ginger giving a uninvited heat.

A very fine indulgence of canapés of oysters, salmon, duck liver, and blue cheese made the rounds also to compliment the cocktails. I was very fond of the oysters but then when am I not? They went down very well with a couple more Silver Fox Fizz's. During the tasting the oysters made another appearance and complimented the Chivas Extra extremely well. Later on we also saw the appearance of a Sunset Boulevardier tipping the hat to the classic Rob Roy.

Canapé's, cocktails, sliders and more
Introducing the night was Pernod Ricard brand ambassador’s Ben Davidson followed by the ever bubbly Chivas Brothers Brand Ambassador Laura Hay. Both charming people, it was great to have a chat and find out more about what they thought about the new release. Last time I had seen Ben was at the Chivas and QT collaboration launch back in early February 2014: Chivas and a Hair Cut - Chivas Brothers meets QT Sydney. Ben holds a voice you should listen to at least once in your lifetime and be sure your holding a gin martini or glass of whisky while your doing it.

Taking our seats Colin began by introducing not just himself but also the brand that is Chivas Brothers. He spoke about his time working within the company and how being a Master Blender now has him traveling the world promoting a brand he has helped create and maintain. Colin likes to always water his whisky down by 50% as this is the method required for nosing and testing when blending. Though this watering down is a requirement when on the job, he says any other time this is how he likes to have his whiskies anyway. By reducing the whisky down that far the alcohol is effectively neutralised from the senses allowing the finer elements of the whisky to shine through. Colin also mentioned about how he also tends to leave a whisky for a good 20min after adding so much water so that the whisky returns back to room temperature, another important fact when nosing and tasting during the blending process.

The animated Colin Scott and baratone tenor Ben Davidson 
Laid out in front of us during collins presentation was a fine selection of Chivas Brothers expressions to taste: Chivas Regal 12yo; Chivas Extra; Chivas Regal 18yo. Chivas Extra has been positioned as the middle man between the 12yo and 18yo. Knowing this don't think for a second that Chivas Extra is aged somewhere between the two nor is its completely characteristically similar. Though the Chivas Extra is a NAS (No Age Statement) and priced similar to the 18yo, it is its own beast in many ways delivering a clear alternative for those wanting something extra. Sherry barrels feature strongly within the Chivas Extra if you have not guessed it from the red packaging. While sherry finishes may be a catch phrase at the moment for many distillers, the development of chivas Extra has been going on since the early to mid 2000’s.

Chivas Extra
Distiller/ Blender: Chivas Brothers
Location / Region: Scotland
Alcohol / ABV: 40%

Nose: Sweet sherry creams, butter, floral fruits and nut chocolate with dry wood notes.

Taste: Creamy on the first sip a fresh ripe fruitiness appears that is complimented by spicy ginger tannins that give a prickle on the lips and tongue. Soon the palate becomes much more saturated and a cinnamon sticky date pudding effect develops

Finish: Long, drying and spicy but not too hot. Floral notes with ripe fruits do also tend to return to the palate.

Overall: The dryness will put anyone off that is hard set on how they like their Chivas Regal but then, as I said earlier, this is its own beast to contend with. The sherry is not overpowering nor is the wood and all the hallmarks are there of a Chivas but just with something extra to deliver intriguing uniqueness. If I was to give a dram 5 3/4 out of 7. It is good value, well rounded and sure to impress anyone wanting to diverge from the traditional Chivas routes. When someone ask do you feel like a Chivas Regal why not ask for something extra and ask for a Chivas Extra.

Colin signing that bottle. Why do they all have awesome signatures?
Following the presentation while everyone retired to the bar I hung back to grab something extra. I have tried to make a habit of having these unique people involved in the whisky production to get a bottle signed as a memento of the occasion. It would seem I was not the only one with this intent and though I had my own bottle marker in hand the Cav Con girls quickly drew their own weapons and it was a signaturefest for Collin all afternoon.

Thanks to Colin Scott, Chivas Brothers, and Cav Con for the opportunity to sit down and listen to such an influential individual to one of the worlds biggest blended whisky brands.

The Baron

Monday, October 20, 2014

Simply delicious – The Smoked Bacon Bourbon

The Smoked Bacon Bourbon
Smoked Bacon Bourbon... have you heard of people doing it? Does the idea make you cringe or salivate? Recently I had the opportunity to taste a dram of The Smoked Bacon Bourbon. Created by The Experimental Spirits Co. this company is the brain child of Sven Almenning owner and manager of Eau De Vie Sydney, Eau De Vie Melbourne,  The Roosevelt Bar & Diner, and Eau De Vie Apothecary Sydney.

Unique to this infused whiskey is the fact it was a crowd funded project via the online Pozible service. Achieving the target of $25,000 AU the project was successfully funded and delivered to critical acclaim amongst the local whisky community. Prior to utilising the crowd funding service Sven and Dr Phil (who can be found behind the bar at Eau De Vie Apothecary Sydney) did the experimental ground work first prior to releases so they already knew it was going to work.

I have seen some disgusting experiments in bacon infused bourbon and though the concept sounds reasonable the filtration process as well as managing the levels of bacon infusion is like playing tennis with 2 hands tied behind you back. Typical results with bacon infusion is poor filtration delivering a greasy cloudy liquid followed by rancidity due to bacterial growth on the semi-filtered bacon fat. I am glad to say the Smoked Bacon Bourbon experiment has been an amazing success.

Though I did here murmurs of the the crowd funding project through fellow drammers, I did not look into it nor fund the project (though now I wish I did). It was not until I was at the Chivas Extra launch at Eau De Vie Sydney that speaking with a fellow blogger did I realised I was in the right spot to be tasting a dram served by the hand of the creators.

This is extremely small batch infusion at it’s finest. Though Dr Phil would not disclose the Bourbon whiskey being used, the smoked bacon is sourced locally Sydney side from Black Forest Smokehouse in Marrickville.

Smoked Bacon Bourbon
Batch: The Experimental Bottle (Dr Phil said it was a pre-release bottling)
Creator: The Experimental Spirits Co.
Alcohol/ABV: 40%

Colour: Amber

Nose: Brown sugar, glazed salted bacon, rich vanilla oaks, preserved fruits, and a bit of lemon thyme.

Taste: Mouth coating and full bodied delivering ripe bacon fat, baked apples glazed with sweet brown sugar, salted pork and tell tale vanilla oaks of any bourbon.

Finish: Medium in length the saturated syrupy sugars do tend to overtake everything else as the palate becomes marginally tacky.

Overall: A very enjoyable dram the overall working a an excellent aperitif if your getting in the mood for a a pork roast or some cheeky slow cooked ribs. Many may find the sugar syrup and ripe fats extreme but if you like bacon and like bourbon you’ll be a over this. Only a mild cloudiness is found in the liquid while the fat infusion coming off the bacon just sticks to the glass developing legs from top to bottom.

If I was to give a dram 6 out of 7 and well worth the purchase at $80.00 a bottle. If you are looking to purchase it can be found at A simply delicious whiskey infusion. I was excited to try it and still excited to grab get out there and grab a bottle or 2.

The Baron

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Can't Get Enough - The Hakushu Single Malt Distillers Reserve

Suntory Hakushu Single Malt Distillers Reserve
Earlier this year I was introduced to two new lines of Suntory Whisky entering our country: The Hakushu Single Malt Distillers Reserve and The Yamazaki Single Malt Distillers Reserve. For the first time these expressions were being launched outside of Japan. Though I was very aware of these expressions elder 12yo siblings, when tasting these for the first time at the official Suntory Australian Launch, I was really blown off my feet with what these NAS releases had to offer. To find out more about the Suntory launch have a read of Bringing The Swagger Back - Suntory Launches Into Australia.

Yes I like Suntory Whisky that is pretty clear while I currently have a shelf full of various Suntory Whisky expressions. With the few warm days now coming through, and fellow blogger The Whisky Ledger and I in continually discussion about Suntory Highballs, it was well and truly time I opened The Hakushu Single Malt Distillers Reserve.

Bearing the same name, Hakushu Distillery lays in foothills of Mount Kaikomagatake Yamanashi Prefecture on the main island of Honshu Japan. Questing to be one of the highest distilleries in the world it was built relatively recently in 1973 with an expansion later in 1981. Though the term Southern Alps is used to describe the distilleries location it is almost parallel with Tokyo in a westerly line and easily reached within 2hrs train or drive from the capital. The Hakushu Distillery details the surrounding thick green forests (approximately six thousand varieties of plants), granite filtered ground water, coal fired stills, bamboo charcoal filtration, and carefully selected barrels as the defining elements that make this distilleries whiskies so different to its elder sibling the Yamazaki Distillery further down the coast in Osaka.

The Hakushu Single Malt Distillers Reserve
Distiller: Suntory Whisky
Region / Location: Island of Honshu, Southern Alps, Japan
Alcohol/ABV: 43%

Colour: Dry wheat with a edge of green tea leave. Interestingly though leave it in the glass for 5 min and you will find it clouds up.

Nose: Grassy, sweet creamy caramels, mint, melon, pine forest with fresh rain fall.

Taste: Full bodied yet soft and delicate delivering rich caramel, fresh picked peppermint with a fruity melon ripeness. Shortly after some citrus zest and mint spice expands across the middle of the tongue and upper palate. Taste and nose are very in-sync.

Finish: Curiously long the heat builds in the throat and the mint to citrus spice bubbles on the tongue and back of the throat.

Overall: Full bodied yet with light with fresh overtones through out. I was amazed the first time I had it and already half a bottle is gone in less than 24hrs. OK so I have been highballing it but that is a post for tomorrow.

If I was to give a dram a solid 6 out of 7. Suntory make some stella whiskies and The Hakushu Single Malt Distillers Reserve is great value at $79 AU. I actually prefer the versatility of these NAS expressions over the The Hakushu 12yo and The Yamazaki 12yo. When you want to impress your friends with a world whisky choice but need a bit of magic then this is a great starting point.

When choosing to venture into the world of Japanese whisky keep in mind Suntory expressions in particular aspire for deliver balance and harmony over everything else. Though this is a single malt, Suntory do not use just a single style barrel to achieve the profile but will be vatting several barrels styles from the single distillery in order to find the balance. That really is no different to anywhere else you may say. In my experience I have seen all to often dedicated Scotch Single Malt drinkers delving in a Japanese whisky display a curious sense of shock and surprise at first. This I feel is not only due to the harmony of the whiskies balance but also the fact it gets hard to define one unique flavour characteristic that many Scotch distilleries do aim for and what they (the drinker) expects to see.

Try The Hakushu Single Malt Distillers Reserve as I believe you will be extremely impressed. Right now I can't get enough of it. Enjoy.

The Baron