Thursday, January 15, 2015

Closing 2014 - The Shirt Bar Frat Party

Shirt Bar end of year Frat Party 2014 - Adam & Louka
What is going on in Sydney with the whisky scene is truly epic and it is without question a golden era for the scene as a whole. Will it last who knows but right now lap it up. So what a day the 19th Dec was to be for us as we transitioned from one Christmas party to the next. Reluctantly leaving The Wild Rover Smoky Christmas in the southern steps of the Sydney (reluctantly because there was a lot of whisky), the Whisky Ledger and myself were committed to traveling onwards into the northern tip of city to attend the all time classic Shirt Bar end of year Frat Party.

For those regular readers, including D.T.W.C. members, you will note the Shirt Bar is all to often frequented by a few of us for whisky tastings. OK maybe also picking up the odd pocket square or lapel pin in a passing fancy. I like The Shirt Bar. I like it a lot. Ok so the whisky shelves are not weighted like some of the other bars but the choice is ripe, the beer is fresh and well priced, the shirts are smooth, the staff are fun, the digs is happening, and those cold cuts… oh my those cold cuts! If you have not attended even one Scotch Club Tasting Sessions (it is not always Scotch mid you) at the Shirt Bar it is about time you did.

YWatch & Whisky was on one side of the line and we, Whisky Ledger and myself, on the other. Any crossing was sorely frown on before ejection back into the street. No beer, a bag full of camera equipment, spitting rain, and memories of a party full of Laphroaig whisky we just vacated. It was not all that bad as a rocking band had setup right next to us and began to belt out some pretty sweet tunes. That line though. That infamous virtual line we could not cross while watching those brews being pulled by Adam. I will remember.
That virtual line we could not cross
es we could hear the party well before we arrived. Rounding the corner we were expecting a little delay as we had already had word the event was oversubscribed. To greet us at the virtual line was a bouncer who refused to show his face to the camera every time I whipped it around but still somehow had eyes in the back of his head.

Soon enough we were in and then things started to lock into place. Adam Hofbauer was dressed as a human keg and tapping Fat Yak into those obligatory red plastic cups we see on American TV shows, while Louka dished out free pizza as the staff near collapsing under the pressure of festive insanity.

The Shirt Bar as it was 30 sec after entry while Adam looks like he could do this all day long.
Decked out in stereotypical American paraphernalia the Shirt Bar was still open for business somehow! When else can you shop for a shirt or button hole pin and be server beer and pizza at the same time? Where tell me, where!

Slipping in and out of the store as the rain washed through, we sipped brews, and watched very poorly executed games of pingpong until Whisky Ledger did a Cuban cigar run. Yes he knew somewhere that could deliver on a night like this. Of note Watch & Whisky failed in a previous attempt but a quest is a quest and Whisky Ledger was determined. High fives all round. The whisky of choice was a Woodford Reserve Distillers Select matched to either the more subtle 1875 Romeo y Julieta or heavier Montecristo Yellow. The wind was blowing, the cigars were spluttering, Watch & Whisky was fretting about both, but the whisky was sweet, and the band played on.

Live band, cigars, and whisky
As the night rang to a close and the bar refused further orders we stepped back past that virtual line the bouncer had given up on hours before. It was a good night, it was a great night, so we thank the Shirt Bar for another fabulous event. Knowing the night was going to be wet I came prepared with a hip flask filled with the sweet fluid of Glenlivet 18yo. mmmmmm that ‘livet made the walk to the public transport well worth it.

Cheers Shirt Bar and see you again soon for another Scotch Club Tasting Session.

The Baron

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Thick, Rounded & Voluptuous – Maker's 46

Maker's 46
Summer is well and truly here and I have been holding onto this sucker for sometime now. I love my bourbons in the humid summer months. Clearly then I have been patiently waiting to crack the wax seal on my Maker’s 46, sit on the deck, and sip away though the Christmas break. This is my last Dramcember post as well with the new year now in full swing. The wait was well worth it.

At a glance this is much more sophisticated bottle than the more squat Maker’s Mark we are used to seeing. The wax seal noticeably heavier is almost draping like a velvet cloak down over the seal. The glass is thick, rounded, heavily based and voluptuous. Certainly being quite a looker as bottle styles go, it displays its booty gloriously. No paper label either, with rather with printing directly onto the glass and a wax logo floating towards the neck. I like it!

Reading the glass printed label you will be quick to notice the ABV is at 47%. Here in Australia it is often found the bourbons that grace our shelves are watered down variations of the US releases. Regularly reasoning sighted for this is that our taxes on liquor make imports overly expensive. Maker’s Mark is one of those such bourbons that see a cut in the ABV, down from 45% to 43% and now to 40%. I have been quoted twice now by Maker's Marks reps here in Australia (the last being in 2013), that Australia consumes sum 40%+ of the yearly quota the distillery produces. This level of consumption adds to the requirement to make it stretch a bit further globally. If you would like to try the original Maker’s Mark at 45% ABV head over to the online Aldi Liquor store to make a 1L purchase for $56.85AU.

So what makes Maker’s 46 so different form the standard release? Finishing. Yes even a bourbon can be finished and why not. In this case we see Maker’s 46 gently finished in barrels containing seared French Oak staves. The staves are inserted into the inner cavity of barrels previously seasoned with bourbon, then refilled with Maker’s Mark. The barrels are then warehoused and left to age for several months during the winter period. The introduction of French oak imparts a much bolder, spicier, complex flavour profile. It is assumed that with the ageing during the winter months the wood reacts in more subtle ways, leaving a lot of the earthy bitter tannins found in French Oak behind.

Thick wax seal, suspended logo, and printed glass
Maker’s 46
Distiller: Maker’s Mark
Region / Location: Kentucky, USA
Alcohol/ ABV: 47%
Finish: Toasted French Oak Stave Inserts

Colour: Rusty nails

Nose: Elements of the typical Maker’s Mark wheats are present but now only part of flavour facet. Rich vanilla oaks, touches of dried fruits and cranberries topped with hints of wet wood coals.

Taste: Bold (and I don’t use that term loosely). Rich oaky vanillas, dried apricots and dense spices. Marginally tacky with a light mouth chew.

Finish: Long and spicy that leaves a little coal fire in the chest while the sweetness lingers on the tongue.

Overall this is a great bourbon and an obvious step up from the standard release of Maker’s Mark. The spiciness and sweetness is clear and lingering well on after a sip. Don’t mistake the term spicy with which you get in a rye whisky either. The rich vanillas and caramels do need this added spice the french oak delivers. It is neither dry not bitter.

If I was to give a dram 5 3/4 out 7. The package as a whole is lovely though dragging it down is the price which is nearing $70AU a bottle. That is asking a lot unfortunately but we cannot do a lot about our alcohol taxing system. Counter the comment about price our local retailer runs out of stock on a very very very regular basis so its popularity is solid I am guessing. It is a sipping whisky and you will enjoy it.

I say go try it if you like your bourbons but would appreciate a twist and turn to a staple classic.

The Baron

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Smoky Christmas – The Wild Rover Meets Laphroaig

A Smoky Christmas
The Wild Rover has been building their own whisky scene for over a year now with their Campbell Corner Whisk(e)y Co-operative. Though I have only made the trek over to The Wild Rover twice before this afternoon (The Hills is a long way out) it was good to see their Christmas party contained whisky. Titled Laphroaig Smoky Christmas your would expect just that right?! In fact I think it only contained whisky thanks to the generous nature of Laphroaig, The Wild Rover, and the dramming hands of Dan “Fingers” Woolley.

Islay Oysters
Held in the upper bar of The Wild Rover, arrival was greeted with, well, whisky and Islay oysters. Before me was presented a nostalgic weights tray filed with fresh shucked oysters, rock salt, and eyedroppers filled with Laphroaig to lace the oyster at your own whisky level. Even though I arrived on time the joint was packed to the rafters. As a live Swamp Delta Blues Slide Guitar Duo set up in the far corner, Penicillin cocktails flowed and Islay oysters were slurped, but where was that crafty Dan “Fingers” Woolley and those pours of Laphroaig.

Laphroaig Eye Droppers
Nestled against the far wall past all the crowd, a cask head was set with a fine selection of Laphroaig 10yo, Laphroaig Select Cask, Laphroaig Quarter Cask (my favourite), and tucked inside the barrel the Laphroaig 25yo. BOOM BABY! Serving out the drams of course was the original rock'n'roller Dan. Simply you can’t get more dedicated to the water of life than a man with WHISKY tattooed across his fingers. Regardless if you choose to flee Dan’s prison breaker appeal (after a Laphroaig pour of course and saying thank you a lot) or see through the mighty exterior to cuddle the mighty bear (and there was a lot of cuddles being given out especially by the ladies), you will find his veins seep with the scent of whisky. Never miss an opportunity to query for insights and tips. The pours were heavy and the drams were fine and at that time there was no where else I wanted to be.

Penicillin Cocktails
Flighting the floor were all faces and names of industry individuals alike. Too many to mention and all old chums in some way or form. It was good everyone was comfortable with each other because if you weren't rubbing a bum or a check with the slightest movement you were not in room at all. I found a comfy spot next to the band and prompt remained rooted for a good duration of the afternoon.

The band cranked up with some pretty cool old school rock while the crowd literally pushed at the walls and whisky plashed the wooden floor like a heaving salt crusted man-of-war. Thunder cracked outside with the skies looming large. As time passed I knew I ‘had’ to attend the next Christmas party that evening. I was committed. Grabbing my trusty Whisky & Wingback’s partner in crime, Whisky Ledger, we departed reluctantly to head for other end of the city. A Frat Party was starting up at the famous, soon to be infamous Shirt Bar. That story is for next time.

Thanks to Laphroaig, Dan Woolley, and The Wild Rover for putting on a classic and all too generous spread. Sláinte.

The Baron.

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.