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:


WHY
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.

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

WHERE
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 mybottleshop.com.au. 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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Can Do Attitude – Hudson Whiskey

Hudson Whiskey
Monday 13th October 2014 the makers of Hudson Whiskey came to old Sydney town. Though you may not be fully aware of the brand yet (for Aussies that is), Hudson Whiskey acts like a beacon of light for what craft distillation is all about. Hand crafted in a true sense of the word there is something to be admired, not just in this whiskies profile, but in the men that have built it from the grass roots up.

Still making head roads into Australia Hudson Whiskey is an established brand throughout the United States of America. Proudly laying claim to being the first whiskey distillery in New York State since Prohibition, Ralph Erenzo distiller and co-founder of Hudson Whiskey pioneered the grounds for legislature changes in 2007 that have delivered the boom in craft distillation throughout the region. Now with William Grant & Sons partnering to the distillery the Hudson Whiskey brand is seeing venture far in excesses of what Ralph quotes “I never imagined it would be so big”.

Ralph Erenzo displaying the technique of opening a Hudson Whiskey bottle
I arrived early to an small industry tasting at the The Commons in Darlinghurst, Sydney with the intention of grabbing a few shots and maybe a quick word with the lads. Luckily I was granted extended access to sit down with both distiller and co-founder Ralph Erenzo and Brand Ambassador Tony Vanaria to discuss the distillery, the products, and talk shop on just what goes into making hand crafted whiskey. Being old friends from school both Ralph and Tony mesh together like Yin and Yang leaving virtually none of my questions unanswered. I got the feeling they wanted to engage in a conversation I am sure they have had a few thousand times but never get sick of. Ralph made a point about the fact that when he started Hudson Whiskey he had no idea what he was doing at all. After purchasing the land to establish a lodge for the local rock climbing community, Ralph was forced into a situation to change his business direction through local objections. As the property had an established operational gristmill on the grounds, Ralph decided to make whiskey as a new venture. This venture required a lot of learning. Learning not just in whiskey production but in political lobbying in order to get laws changed to make the idea profitable. Sound familiar? Did our own Bill Lark or Lark Distillery not have all the same problems.

Getting to grips with Hudson Whiskey in The Commons front bar
So of course you can’t talk whiskey unless you have the product in front of you and there was no better place to start than Hudson Whiskey’s Baby Bourbon. Only ever experiencing this bourbon in a whisky saturated environment (The Whisky Show) I was glad to be trying it out on it’s own for the with no outside influences. On pouring a dram the Baby Bourbon's colour literally exploded from the glass. I was truly mesmerised by it. While admiring the flame orange spectrum you could see the viscous nature of the whiskey just stick to the glass. Looking into the whisky resting in the glass light fragmented into a kaleidoscope of colours emphasising the oily nature of the liquid. Ralph commented that the colour is due to the variation in barrel sizes from 3 gallons and up giving the whisky an emphasised wood influence, while the texture is due to a method of only using paper filtration before bottling. With no one to tell Ralph how to make whisky, the petite 3 gallon barrels delivered one of many “happy accidents” that stuck. These barrels are still used in their flagship expression The Baby Bourbon to this day. Long live the Baby Bourbon!

While continuing our discussion Tony quickly dashed off to return with a healthy dram of the Hudson Manhattan Rye. Now this I had never had before. Sporting the same flame orange colour as the Baby Bourbon you would be hard pressed to tell the difference on colour alone until you received a whiff of the nose. Wow what a dram. Ralph noted this was his favourite of all the expressions and I can certainly see why. A 100% rye whiskey it holds grassy notes on the nose with a hint of light spice and maple wood sweetness. Genuinely unique as a rye goes and judging by the fact I had consumed the glass without evening knowing says there is something special going on.

The industry tasting
Before heading into The Commons front bar for the official tasting I had to queried Ralph on the bottle shape. I had mentioned there is a stigma in this country to bottle shapes and generally if a bottle does not look like something traditionally used in Scotland then there must be something wrong with it. Ralph was quick to tell me the shape is a design created by himself not just for presentation purposes but also to work effectively at the 375ml size. By choosing this size consumers are not committed to drinking an entire 750ml bottle (US standard size) and would be more confident in buying something smaller to try. Though the bottle still translates well at 500ml sizes he is yet to figure out a design to fit a 750ml. No matter to me as I personally find the bottle is an awesome pack and play size. While on the subject of bottles and not to miss an opportunity I had Ralph and Tony sign a bottle as a memento of the occasion. Tony was highly impressed saying “…this was only the second time anyone had asked him for a signature”. Well Tony I am sure there is many more to come.

Moving inside we were treated to an inspiring talk by both Ralph and Tony about Hudson whiskey the brand. Laid out in front of us was the following Hudson Whiskey’s for tasting: Baby Bourbon; Manhattan Rye; Four Grain Bourbon; Single Malt. All very similar in colour the Single Malt was the one displaying any real noticeable variation to the others and even that was only slightly. I had noticed that all the whiskies are bottled at 46% ABV. Tony later mentioned currently all Hudson Whiskey is bottle at that percentage.

The Commons cellar bar and ambient mood
The Baby Bourbon is a 100% corn whiskey bottled at 46% ABV. Full flavoured it held distinctive notes of vanilla, corn and sweet grilled bacon. A very pleasant dram and all to easy to drink.

The Manhattan Rye is a 100% rye based whiskey bottled at 46% ABV. With an initial grassy scent and spice hit it is true to say with a bit of air this rye quickly displays sweet maple wood caramels.

The Four Grain Bourbon is a unique 4 grain combined mash featuring 60% corn, 25% rye, 10% wheat and 5% malted barley while being bottled at 46% ABV. I really loved this whisky as it was super smooth and balanced in all the right places. Extremely round in the mouth it was hard to pick any one flavour but instead I just wanted to sit back to appreciate the harmony that was going on in the mouth.

The Single Malt sports 100% malted barley bottled at 46% ABV. Very different to the Scottish cousins Ralph comment that it is the new american oak barrels and the char finish that is bringing something really unique to the table. I found it held notes of vanilla malt, green barley, paper dust, and a seafoodesque quality of shellfish, prawns and oysters.

Pouring of a cocktail and Mark Little starting the evenings proceedings
When the industry tasting was well and truly over I kicked back for a couple of hours dramming on with a Hudson Whiskey in hand while I waited for the evenings Hudson dinner to continue in The Commons cellar bar. An unexpected treat we enjoyed an excellent dinner of oven bagged salmon, fried chicken wings and Hudson Whiskey glazed american ribs. A 3 piece live band played in the corner while cocktails and whiskey were served amongst the guests. Ralph and Tony took heads of the table placement presiding of the feast while spinning a yarn to two. I wish I did not have to leave so early but family calls.

The crowd and various dishes served
An outstanding learning experience for myself. I need to say I cannot fault these whiskies as they really display exceptional qualities as unique as the characters who created them. I would be proud to have Hudson Whiskey on my shelf anytime. Soon to be retailed in Dan Murphy’s, it won’t be long before Hudson Whiskey becomes a game changer in American whisky appreciation in Australia. The more I think about it the more Ralph is spot on about that bottle size.

A special mention has to go out to Ralph and Tony for chatting with me like old friends. These are men of real gumption ruled by a passion displaying the can do attitude that any aspiring distiller should take to heart. A big thank you also goes out to William Grant & Sons for inviting me along as you are all too generous.

The Baron

Friday, October 3, 2014

Draped In Purple & Gold- Glenfiddich 26 Year Old ‘Excellence’

Glenfiddich 26 Year Old in all its glory
There is but a few whisky companies in this town (Sydney, Australia) that put on a launch event like William Grant & Sons. The recent launch of the Glenfiddich 26yo ‘Excellence’ was no exception to the rule. Revealed to the Australian public on the 23rd September 2014 the Glenfiddich put the word out to the Glenfiddich Explorers club mailing list for a chance to be one of the very limited invitees at the launch. With only 26 places available it was a first in first served basis making myself one of the lucky ones to respond fast enough (it s not often I win anything). Not long after personal invite also came my way so I quickly reshuffled and asked fellow D.T.W.C. member and father-in-law The Grey Bush if would he take my winning ticket and attend with me. Did I have to even ask…?

The Glenfiddich is classing this release a luxury expression. Aged at 26 years old this expression has been matured exclusively in American White Oak Bourbon casks, the first single malt from Glenfiddich to ever do so. Fetching a pretty penny of $590AU you will be expecting something special to appear from the bottle. Purple and gold announce this beauty from the package to glass and it surely is one of the more lushly presented Glenfiddich’s I have encountered.

The Glenfiddich 26 Year Old ‘Excellence’ launch was held at the one of Sydney’s prestigious living museums Elizabeth Bay House. Classed as “one of the most splendid private houses ever built in Australia” there is few other locations suited to launching one of Glenfiddich’s luxury expressions. On arrival we were greeted at the door by the late great and not so dead (more about that next time) brand ambassador James Buntin, before being ushered into an astonishingly lavish structure of truly epic proportions. In the few times I have been past this building I had no idea just how magnificent it was inside nor the fact it was even open to the pubic.

See My Baby and Gwens Garden
Quickly finding my feet and before too much of the crowd arrived I headed for the bar to quench my thirst only to discover this 26yo regal gent, draped in purple and gold, tucked into darkness on the left side of the bar. That’s not good enough for a photo I thought, so gingerly I shuffled the ‘Excellence’ to the other side of the bar to let some light shine through the contents. Of course the the ‘Excellence’ was not open but standing dutifully beside the bottle were 2 fine cocktails on offer which did not go untouched. ‘See My Baby’, a cola coloured cocktail contained a mixture of Glenfiddich 12yo, Pedro Ximenez, sugar syrup, plumb bitters and orange rind which left the palate with a sugary shock a little too rich for a evenings beginning. ‘Gwens Garden’ took on a much needed fresher appeal combining Glenfiddich 12yo, Creme de Cassis, Raspberries and Ginger Beer. The real winner of the two in my books.

Not before too long a 4 string quartet strung up to resound throughout the chamber while a variety of canapé’s made the rounds to fill a few holes. The exciting part at this point was that the room was at least 1/2 to 3/4 full of the Glenfiddich Explore’s winners. Everyone was just wandering around introducing themselves and chatting about how they managed to be invited and what excited them about such an event, bringing a very refreshing state of mind.

Simon Butterworth photos
Descending into the Elizabeth Bay House Cellars was where the real action was to take place. Lined throughout the cellar was a collection of photographs depicting the orchestrated creation of the Glenffidich 26yo ‘Excellence’ by celebrated photographer Simon Butterworth. 26 photos for 26 years from barrel to grain to whisky back to barrel again. The familiarity of the story portrayed may not be new to most but it is not often your able to appraise these visuals all in one place let alone be sipping the whisky they are celebrating at the same time.

Located in the rear of the cellars was the bar. Found it! Decked with all those things that define the Glenffidich family the bar was open to temp with: Glenfiddich 12yo; Glenfiddich Rich Oak, Glenfiddich 15yo, Glenfiddich 18yo, Glenfiddich 21yo. Open bars are always good, and the Glenfiddich Explore’s guests certainly were not shy of a dram but the hero of the night was of course the Glenfiddich 26yo ‘Excellence’. Watching the glasses being poured in the back room left us all wanting. Brand ambassador James Buntin made the introductions before glasses of the ‘Excellence’ made the rounds. It was indeed a crescendo worth waiting for. It is always hard to get notes down on a night like this and you really just want to be part of the action. As it may be sometime before I see another dram of this I made dash for the back stairs making haste to not miss a drop in my glass as pen hit paper.

The bar in the back cellar
Glenfiddich 26 Year Old ‘Excellence’
Distiller: Glenfiddich
Region /Location: Dufftown, Speyside, Scotland
Alcohol / ABV: 43%
Cask: 100% American White Oak Bourbon Casks

Nose: Extremely floral with strong scents of honeys, sweet fresh figs and mild citrus. Lashed to the back was spiced cereal notes of brown sugar glazed bread & butter pudding.

Taste: Clean on the initial draft that then proceeded to ignite fresh dry spices on the tip of the tounge and jowls. Medium oaks, some strapped leathers followed by the typical metallic tang of a bourbon cask but very much all in the background. Faint tails of liquorice begin to form that are not at all apparent on the nose.

Finish: Long, warming, and moving to a dry high heat in the throat.

Overall: A vibrant delivering and a powerful balance with neither too much oak and leathers that many whiskies of all makes at this age are known for. Really, really, really impressive. I was constantly referring to the Glenffidich 21yo and thinking 'huh?' with shocked suprise at just how alive the 26yo was in comparison.

Various guests and a four piece
A heckle here and a tipple there the William Grant & Sons and Weber Shandwick teams made all the guests exceptionally welcome. Even as the crowds thinned, "fly you fools" we kicked on for sometime after as the Glenfiddich 26 Year Old ‘Excellence’ raised its head not once but twice more. William Grant & Sons / Glenfiddich have become increasing consumer friendly of late (who said they weren't) by reaching out to the Glenfiddich Explore’s community and putting on these exceptional spreads. It is not just press getting in on the fun anymore. If your not a members of the Glenfiddich Explorers and would like to become involved in events like these I suggest you signup pronto.

Thanks to again William Grant & Sons and Weber Shandwick, it was a swell time.

The Baron

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bar Week At Parkside - Dram Club

Dram Club presenters 
Yesterday afternoon, 28th September 2014, I attended the Bar Week At Psrkside Dram Club special tasting. As I am yet to attend a regular Dram Club sitting (this post is not one about one of those), I will keep this short-ish. Sydney Bar week has started. With many events registered to be taking part in the annual Sydney phenomenon, this tasting I attended was one of them.

So what is Dram Club? Currently hosted at the Bat and Ball Hotel in Surry Hills and founded by Yvette Myhill and Scott Fitzsimons, Dram Club is a chilled out, relaxed, highly informal method of tasting and chatting about whisky. As Scott says “I want to run these (tastings) the way I would like whisky tastings to be”. I have to say add me to the list as this is also how I always wanted them to be too. What always makes a good whisky tasting to me is being able to have a drink and a bite prior, take in the tasting to its fullest, then not be shuffled out the door as it locks behind you but instead continue on and kick back with another beer or dram as you see fit talking' the whisky talk with new found mates.

Accompanied by Jonathan from the Whiskyledger.com (was he the wingman or was I…?) we caught a pub lunch and a dram of Heartwood Malt Whisky before heading out back to settle in for proceedings. Having meet the charming Scott earlier at lunch we were then greeted at the door by the lovely Yvette to check us in, while an ice cold Suntory Hakushu Highball was to magically appear in my hand. From that point on is was all whisky.

Hakushu Highballs, The Macallan, The Glenlivet
Rather than just Yvette and Scott presenting the tastings (as they usually do from my understanding), through the afternoon brand ambassadors of the respective whiskies on show were invited along instead. Moving form table to table in 15 min intervals (the new whisky speed dating) the ambassadors guided, nosed, and tasted with us while inviting discussion about the whisky represented at that moment. Not all whiskies were to everyones liking but that is what these tastings are all about. On tasting we experienced 1 + 5 + 1 whisky products: Suntory Hakushu Distillers Edition Highball (Jonathan and I had been just having extended discussions about this over lunch); Auchentoshan Three Wood; The Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo; Starward (standard release) + Starward Red Wine barrel trial blend; Macallan 12yo Fine Oak; Blackadder Raw Cask Smoking Islay (freaking unreal).

Auchentoshan, Starward, Blackadder
To say the least it was an awesome experience and something I had been looking forward to for sometime. Location was a hike for myself but for many living closer to the city you have to do this at least once. I will certainly be returning to find out more about the regular Dram Club tastings. If you want to check it out yourself find them either on their facebook page or www.dramclub.com.au.

Cheers Yvette and Scott it was great to meet you (though I know we have crossed paths many times prior). See you soon.

The Baron

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reaching 50 Years - The Glenlivet & The Winchester Collection

The Winchester collection. Official image from The Glenlivet website.
The Glenlivet release The Winchester Collection, claiming the title of the first collection of 50yo whiskies. Collection would assume many to come considering they have only released one expression so far, Vintage 1964, of 100 bottles. At that limited release that is going to fetch a pretty penny in anyones books. The official line from The Glenlivet website is as follows:
The inaugural release, Vintage 1964, was created from an American Hogshead oak cask laid down to mature by Captain Bill Smith-Grant, the last distilling descendant of The Glenlivet’s founder, George Smith, on the 24th of April 1964. It was soon after singled out as a cask of exceptional promise and has been tended to under the watchful eye of no fewer than seven Master Distillers and is the result of their unrivalled knowledge, unwavering care and unfaltering craft.
Very little else is currently available on what is to come but I am sure we will be hearing more about it soon enough. Don't expect a sample anytime soon as 100 bottles is not going to go very far at all. The Glenlivet do make great whiskies and occasionally some failures but just the shear fact they have reached a 50yo is something special indeed.

50yo whiskies are still in there infancy as no one really planned (when you talk with distillers) on ageing whisky that long back in the early 60's. A few years ago when I was talking with David Stuart and Sam Simons from The Balvenie at the Celebrating David Stuart's 50 Years event, and then again  last year with Sam was out in Aus, it was clear that getting a whisky to 50 years was a near impossible task. Prime factors of over oaking, wood rot, and evaporation all work against ageing whisky that long. Looking to now and back to the 80's wood selection has become increasingly important in order to aim at ageing whiskies longer while amplifying flavours. My personal view is that in the next 15 years to 20 years a 50yo whisky will be much more common and at much more respectable prices while 70yo whiskies start to make more regular appearances.

To quote a comment by Sam Simons "In time it becomes increasing harder to drink a whisky that is older than you are". That being the case I have 10 years in order to try this as I am not seeing many 40yo whiskies coming my way.

The Baron

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

Christmas at cask strength - Christmas Big Peat

50ml of Christmas Big Peat that is one hell of a whisky
It as been a week of big whiskies for me so it is not surprising I am writing again about another cask strength whisky. You all know about the vatted malt from Douglas Laign, Big Peat whisky? I hope so. Well once a year the vatting masters deliver the Christmas Big Peat 2014 cask strength bottling. Yet to be released into Australia I was fortunate enough to be sent a 50ml sample (after some comments online about why we were not getting it) by the lads at Douglas Laign to try. If you want to know more about the standard release of Big Peat check my other post on the subject: Genie In A Bottle - Big Peat.

Christmas Big Peat is the same whisky as its standard release's cousin just at a smacking cask strength punch. The vatting as usual features 4 great Islay single malts in one bottle: Ardbeg; Bowmore; Coal Ila; Port Ellen.

Christmas Big Peat 2014
Blender: Douglas Laign & Co Ltd
Location / Region: Islay, Scotland
Alcohol /ABV: 55.7%
Other: Blended (Vatted) Malt

Colour: blonde wheat and I swear it is even lighter in colour than the standard release I currently have.

Nose: Amplified phenolic oils and salts as it almost sticks to the nose.  Seaweed with ashy peat smoke all in the forefront laced with rich creamy toffees lingering in the shallows. For a cask strength there is no burn in the nose at all. After the first sip sandal wood and oiled leather appear.

Taste: Lip puckering as a spicy prickle immediately takes hold. Oily and tongue coating but at the same time delivering an earthy tannin dryness of carbons or coals in the checks to upper palate. Creamy vanillas are still present from the nose but the spice sticks hard and on a second sip the creamy sweet notes are more emphasised. It is a very feisty dram indeed.

Finish: Smouldering coals delivering a long warming sensation to the chest. Spice prickle does perpetuate on the lips as does the dryness that slowly envelopes the entire mouth cavity.

Overall: The nose is super excitable and I could go on nosing all night long. A real highlight. There is a strange balance between the sweetness and phenols but the spice is very high. The eventual tannin dryness that builds makes for a higher that normal salivation that just emphasises the ash content over and over. The high spice may put some off as it is no where near as present in the standard Big Peat release but then that is why you buy something like this anyway.

Official packaging of Christmas Big Peat from 2013
If I was to give a dram it would be a solid 6 out of 7. A good bit of fun and only being able to get it once a year makes it a trip worth taking. To add some texture and quench that salivation, I found myself drawn to cutting some sharp vintage cheddar cheese (one with a good amount of crunchy tyrosine is recommended) which went exceptionally well with the whisky. As I drammed and dreamed my imagination settled on thinking about an old style whalers oilskin jacket lashed with salts and barnacles chopped up by galing sea spray.

So if your in the market for a purchase just look out for the label. The packaging is significantly different from the regular release that you are not going to make any mistake what you are buying. Keep an eye out for a white label sporting the byline ‘A Real Cracker’ with the Big Peat character taking a salty phenolic smack across the chops. You won’t be disappointed if you a Big Peat freak like myself.but be prepared for an even bigger hit than usual.

Thank you Douglas Laing and Big Peat for you sample. It was very much appreciated though it won't hold me over until hopefully a release into Australia in 2015.

The Baron

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