Saturday, February 14, 2015

An epic night off - Ludo Ducrocq and William Grant & Sons

Upstairs at The Wild Rover, Surry Hills.
On the 10th February 2015, I was invited to share an evening with  Ludo Ducrocq - Global Ambassador / Head of Brand Ambassador Advocacy for William Grant & Sons. Also at the table to equally share in the experience was Andrew Derbidge (Whisky & Wisdom and SMWS), and our local William Grants & Sons crew, Mark Little, Laura Hay, and Richard Blanchard.

The first time I met Ludo was back in 2012. Ludo here in Australia for a series of Grants line releases into the country. This first meeting started with a well structured tasting of the Grants family range that then proceeded to the official launch of the Grants 12yo. From back then I was extremely impressed with Ludo's passion for Grants whisky that only emphasised a remarkable event with an amazing setup to make the mouth water. If you would like to read more about that event jump over to Grant's 12yo Sydney Launch & Grant's Masterclass after this article. Unfortunately if you have a soft spot for the Grants 12yo then you should certainly start stocking up on it now as Ludo mentioned it has ceased production due to stock issues.

A Joe Davola in the making.
The initial meet and greet was the top floor bar at The Wild Rover set over in steps of Sydney city Surry Hills. The Wild Rover entertains the Speakeasy notion of plain package frontage then a saloon style bar on entry. It is one of those bars where everyone turns for a gander as the door swings open while the bar staff are quick to welcome and ask for your poison. Though I am well out from the city, I have been to The Wild Rover many a time now and find I cannot pass the front bar without at least wording a cold beer or a cocktail. Considering my early arrival this visit was no exception. I promptly had to order a cold brew from the tap plus a cocktail on the side. The cocktail was a Joe Davola consisting of Redbreast 12yo, smoked maple syrup and black walnut bitters served over a micro iceberg. mmmmm mmmm hot damn it was good! For those more local be sure to check out or get involved in the monthly whisky tasting events at The Wild Rover, Campbell Corner Whisk(e)y Co-operative.

So Ludo and Laura strolled in and we proceed upstairs to start the conversation while we waited the arrival of the other guests. Not realising at the time how intimate things were to be, the entire top floor was to be ours and ours alone. I was greatly appreciative on discovery as it meant time for one on one discussions. Ludo was quick to basically say lets just have some fun as it was his night off from work. Pulling out of his bag were 4 very speacial vials of hand drawn whisky from various William Grant & Sons stocks. If Ludo’s sense of a night off is this, I am all over it and inspired to do the same!

This is what Ludo cals a night off from work.
On the table we saw: Grants Nordic Oak; Kininvie 1996; Girvin Single Grain 21yo; Lady Burn 1973 41yo. I took some brief notes as follows:

Grants Nordic Oak - A blended whisky at 40% ABV and around 3 to 5 years. It displayed peaches and peanuts with a classic oak spice finish. Really well layered for a youngster with a perfumed nose, high palate sweetness that balanced against dry oak spices. Some interesting smokey textures came out a little later also. It seemed the longer the conversations went on the more often I returned to explore the mouth feel over and over again. Unfortunately you won’t be getting this in Australia as it is only available in the Nordic domestic markets. As them name suggest it is finished in Nordic, handpicked oak.

Kininvie 1996 17yo Batch 1  - Rich on the nose it was all warm butterscotch and hot house flowers for me. Tasting delivered elements of sour cherries, fruit salad, and crusty pork knuckle fats. At 42.6% ABV the finish still ended up evening out with a extended dryness a bit like a subtle warm wind. I was getting hungry sipping this and kept thinking about what I was to eat later in the night. You will note Kininvie is the 3rd great distillery that makes up the William Grant & Sons Speyside trifecta. The Kininvie single malt is rarely seen as a single malt due its prime purpose of blending into the Grants Whisky expressions, and the more recent Monkey Shoulder triple malt.

Girvan Patent Still Single Grain 21yo - A nose of dried straw and floral vanilla. Again in the palate lots of dry straw and vanillas but not as intense as the nose. True to form, in my experience with Single Grains, is that the a grain softens over time tending towards an even flattening out. The layers of flavour is like a stack of wafer thin paper where you have to peal them back one by one to discover what is in between. Situated in South Ayrshire, Scotland, Grivan Distillery is recognised as the worlds second largest grain distillery.

Ladyburn 1973 #3174 (bottled 2009) - Possibly the most evoking of the 4 whiskies this lass drew a lot of talk and attention from the get go. As we bantered descriptors t was unanimous a nose of flat cherry cola was prevalent. Tasting a peppiness of creaming soda exploded then rounded out with red roses and subtle leathers. Andrew had the most apt of descriptors that could classify the entire whisky into a piece of Hubba Bubba chewing gum. Perfect. The Ladyburn distillery, originally forming an extension to the Girvan distillery, is long gone and ceased operation in 1975 before demolition in 1976. William Grant & Sons still retain some stocks but as you will note they are getting old.

Interesting facts that pop up in discussion was, as noted earlier, that the Grants 12yo is now passing due to stock issues. Also of topic was the conversation about that fact the Scottish law states that any whisky sporting the term Single Grain must in fact have 10% malted barley in the mix. The Malted Barely delivers the enzyme catalyst for gains to start fermentation. Without it additional enzymes must be added which which laws do not allow to happen.

Dinner over the Harbour and that Ladyburn
Later that evening we proceed for a continued dinner at Cafe Sydney where discussions quickly turned from whisky into anything other than that. Ludo spoke often of family and the importance it plays against his roll and travel in William Grant & Sons while Mark revealed his in obsessions with really small dumplings. Of course we carried on eventually ordering later than expected. For myself, with those whiskies still in memory, I had to team up a delicious cool Moreton Bay Bug in thought of the Ladyburn, then dashed it against the rocks with a fatty crusty pork belly just to satisfy the craving from the Kininvie. Last views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House (depending on which side of the table you sat) our final dram for the night as we a Glenfiddich 17yo (or was it the 18yo? I must get the checked). A fitting end to a fantastic night.

William Grant & Sons is not just a business but, for all intensive purposes, they are a world wide family. I have said it many times but it is important to reiterate they clearly recognise their audience as part of this extended family. It is certainly what I felt on this night more so than ever. Many thanks to everyone on the epic night off work and for such a generous opportunity.

It is important to realise that the people that make up this world of whisky are as human as you and I. These are the times real faces are put to the industry.

Tha Baron