Whisky Butler’s October Box – Highland Park

It is October! 3 more months to the end of the year, peeps! Isn’t that the exciting time of the year where you begin to slow down the pace, smell more flowers and drink a few more drams of whisky? Well, we are! In this post, we are introducing the Whisky Butler’s October box – one that is truly amazing.

As you can guess, October is all about Highland Park. Everyone probably knows that Highland Park released the first expression of a three-part series Viking Legend recently. Named Highland Park Valkyrie, it has received wide recognition as an exceptional whisky in the whisky community around the world. Singapore might be a little late, but better late than never!

Another special dram in this box is the Highland Park Bicentenary 1977 Vintage. This 21 Years Old is an old bottling from Highland Park back in 1998 when they celebrated their bicentenary! 200 years of history went into this bottle, so, except the unexpected!

The October box also includes the core range of Highland Park whiskies – the 12 and 18 Years Old. Known for their delicious nose and palate, these whiskies have been delighting many for decades.

Here’s a little more information about October’s offer.

  1. Highland Park Bicentenary 1977 Vintage

    This legendary expression was exclusively bottled in 1998 to honour the celebration of Highland Park’s Bicentenary. The important milestone event was a historic event in the Orkney Islands as it also celebrated their Viking past. This 21 Years Old expression received many praises from the whisky community and was sold out almost instantly. Today, it is a discontinued whisky expression and not available for sale. Whisky Butler got a special privilege to offer a dram of this whisky to its members as a special celebration of their lovely collaboration with Highland Park.

  2. Highland Park Valkyrie

    This is the first expression out of a three-part series of the Viking Legends bottled by Highland Park. The Viking Legend series is a tribute to the Viking past and bravery of the Valkyries on the battlefields of old. The whisky has won the Chairman’s Trophy in the 2017 Ultimate Spirit Challenge, scoring an impressive 99 out of 100!

  3. Highland Park 18 Years Old

    Part of the core range of Highland Park’s offering, the 18 Years Old is nothing short of exceptional. Its intense balance of flavour has won the title of Best Spirit in the World in the Spirit Journal not once, but twice! The 18 Years Old owes its successful to Highland Park’s 5 traditional keystones in their production of whisky. It represents the distillery’s commitment to skilled craftsmanship and their proud, Viking heritage.

  4. Highland Park 12 Years Old

    The entry level to the core range of Highland Park’s offering is the 12 Years Old. It is considered the heart and soul of Highland Park as it is the most commonly drank whisky from their range of delicious offering. The perfect harmony of smoky peat, sweet heather honey and rich fruit cake makes the 12 Years Old a favourite among many whisky drinkers around the world.

Whisky Butler’s members can look forward to 4 great drams this October, but if you are not yet a member, don’t fret! Contact WhiskyGeeks at slainte@whiskygeeks.sg or PM us via our Facebook page @WhiskyGeeks for more information. Alternatively, head over to Whisky Butler and tell them that you have been sent by WhiskyGeeks. Either way will get you a mystery dram on the house as long as you pick up a subscription package from Whisky Butler!

Whisky Review #43 – Highland Park Bicentenary 1977

This.is.da.bomb! Exclusively bottled in 1998 as part of the celebration for Highland Park bicentenary year, this is a vintage 21 Years Old right from the warehouses of Highland Park. The historic milestone of a bicentenary year was not taken lightly so you can imagine the good stuff that goes into the bottles of the Highland Park Bicentenary 1977 Vintage!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Deep Gold
ABV: 40%

Nose: Maple syrup on an aromatic French toast greets the nose before old-style sherry notes waft in. Blackcurrant, peated heather and some sea salt chocolate bring it to a close. (18/20)

Palate: Honeyed peat, guava and dark chocolate open the palate with maple syrup lingering in the background. A touch of herbaceous cranberry tea can also be found in the back. (17/20)

Finish: The finish is long with floral and fruity notes. Lingering maple syrup can be found in the background, making it almost perfect for the sweet tooth. (18/20)

Body: A really well-balanced whisky well worth its price! Fully rounded with maple syrup and the right amount of peat to make it a perfect dram to be enjoyed with friends and family. (37/40)

Total Score: 90/100

Comments:

Geek Spice: “It is a privilege to get a dram of this whisky considering it is a discontinued expression from Highland Park. The balance is amazing and I know anyone who has a chance to taste this exquisite whisky will love it!”

Note: This is a discontinued whisky expression from Highland Park and is not available for sale in the primary whisky market. Our understanding is that Highland Park has given a special bottle to Whisky Butler for their collaboration on Whisky Butler’s October box. Anyone keen to try this can contact WhiskyGeeeks at slainte@whiskygeeks.sg to find out more.

Whisky Review #42 – Highland Park Valkyrie

Highland Park Valkyrie is a special edition NAS single malt whisky that enhances the smoky notes of typical Highland Park whiskies. In collaboration with renowned Danish designer Jim Lyngvild, Valkyrie is one of a three-part series of their Viking legend release. Inspired by the Orkney rich Viking history and myths surrounding the first islanders in Orkney, this expression is all about flavours of the Viking.

Valkyrie has more heathery peated malt added to its concoction as compared to the typical Highland Park expressions, delighting many peat heads globally. It also resulted in a richer flavour of honey sweetness on the palate as compared to the 12 Years Old, luring all the sweet tooth drinkers along for a ride. The maturation of Valkyrie is also interesting – a combination of first fill American oak sherry, Bourbon and Spanish oak sherry casks and a selection of refill cask!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 45.9%

Nose: Influence of the bourbon oak sherry cask is prominent with the vanilla oak at first waft. Honey with an earthy note slip in shortly after, with dried figs, hummus, and autumn leaves rounding up the nose with some floral notes. (17/20)

Palate: Sweet notes of heather, monk fruit, dried pears and orange blossoms mixed together to create a pleasant palate. A peaty grassiness comes along towards the end to complete the drink. (18/20)

Finish: The finish is medium but powerful. A barrelful of smoke from charred oak and honeycomb come on strongly before leaving a sweet, smoky ending. (18/20)

Body: While it is perhaps not as balanced as the 18 Years Old, this expression certainly stand out as a special edition. Still a worthy dram to get the party started with its sweet peatiness that delights peat heads and non-peat heads alike. (30/40)

Total Score: 83/100

Comments:

Geek Choc: “Well, I like the mixture of the rich honey sweetness and the peaty. The proportioned increase of both makes this whisky flavourful. I enjoyed it very much! I would buy a few bottles to enjoy at home!”

 

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Whisky Review #41 – Highland Park 18 Years Old

Highland Park 18 Years Old is something of a special mention. It was named the Best Spirit in the World in the Spirit Journal on 2 separate occasions and has delighted many with its intense balance of the flavours found in it. Highland Park believes that the 18 Years Old is exceptional because of the 5 traditional keystones in their production. Such perfection could only come from the 220 years of experience at Highland Park distillery.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Pale Gold
ABV: 43%

Nose: Caramel, green apples and lime custard tart come to mind with the first waft of this liquid. As it opens up, lemon peels and a tangy smokiness can also be found. The appeal comes from the well-crafted mix of sweet, sour and smoke that invites you to take a sip. (17/20)

Palate: Spice of nutmeg and peppercorn filled the palate before opening up to burnt cinnamon sugar with hints of vanilla crème. Gingersnaps and orange chocolate (yummy) filter in as it opens up to give the 18 Years Old more complexity than what was expected. (18/20)

Finish: The finish is medium long. Sweet and smoke come together to give a pleasant finish to this liquid. (17/20)

Body: The 18 Years Old is well-balanced. The complexity of sweet and sour, smoke and spice brings great joy when sipping this dram. It is indeed an award-winning expression! (33/40)

Total Score: 85/100

Comments:

“It fits my profile of what makes a perfect whisky. Which is to say it’s totally in harmony. There are no rough edges and everything is melded together brilliantly.” – F. Paul Pacult, Spirit Journal

Geek Spice: “The 18 Years Old certainly deserves the special mention considering how well-balanced it is. I would encourage whisky drinkers to get a bottle for their drinking pleasure!”

 

 

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Whisky Review #40 – Highland Park 12 Years Old

 

Highland Park needs no introduction. It is a popular brand globally and has won the hearts of many whisky lovers with their variety of whisky. For many years, the Highland Park 12 Years Old has delighted the nose and palate of many with its perfect harmony of aromatic smoky peat, sweet heather honey and rich fruit cake.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Light Amber
ABV: 40%

Nose: The first sniff brings you heather-honey sweetness and smoky peat. The perfect mix of sweetness and smoke builds up an anticipation for the palate, inviting you to take a sip to wet the lips. As the nose opens up, orange squash and spiced yellow raisins come into the picture to build up the heather-honeyed peat, giving it more complexity. Hay and hints of nutmeg and cardamom come last to create a complete nose. (16/20)

Palate: A sip of this gold nectar brings a well-balanced smoky sweetness that delivers the full promise from the nose. Burnt grass with orange squash hits the palate before maltiness comes rushing in. Hints of honeyed raisins come after to round off the palate with the complexity from the nose. This is definitely good stuff from an ABV of 40%. (16/20)

Finish: The finish is medium long, which is interesting considering the low ABV. The lingering sweet and malty smokiness add to the appeal of this expression. (16/20)

Body: Highland Park 12 Years Old is a well-balanced expression with a good mix of sweet and smoke. Definitely a delicious dram and an easy drink. (30/40)

Total Score: 78/100

Comments:

Geek Spice: The 12 Years Old is an easy drink which can be taken as an after-dinner drink. The lower ABV also adds to its appeal as an after-dinner drink. 

 

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Explore the Viking Souls of Highland Park

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Highland Park Distillery is located in Kirkwall, Orkney. Known as the most northern whisky distillery in Scotland, its history is shrouded in mystery as to who the actual founder was.

Orkney, the Land of the Vikings

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Historically, a succession of Viking Earls ruled Orkney from 800AD to 1468. The group of 70 islands swept into the embrace of the Vikings in the early 9th century and remained so until 1468. King Christian I of Norway and Denmark gifted the islands to Scotland as part of Princess Margaret’s dowry for her marriage to James III, King of Scotland in 1468. While it ended the Viking’s rule over Orkney, the roots of the Vikings continue to influence the people till today. The Vikings who had settled on the islands become part of the Orcadians. The descendants of the Vikings are proud of their heritage, and live to bring glory and honour to their Viking roots.

History of Highland Park Distillery

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

In official records, a priest by the name of Magnus Eunson first distilled whisky on the site of Highland Park Distillery in the 1790s. He was a respectable member of the Orcadian society as well as a priest. He ran an illicit whisky trader at night and legends had it that he hid the whisky under the pulpit in his church. When excise men eventually caught up with him in 1798, charges against him were dropped mysteriously after a short time. Eunson escaped justice.

David Robertson officially founded Highland Park Distillery in 1798. He bought the High Park estate and built Highland Park Distillery. After running the distillery for a few years, he sold it to a syndicate in 1816. Interestingly, the syndicate included Eunson’s arresting officer, John Robertson and another former exciseman, Robert Pringle. The syndicate built up the distillery in 1818 and the current premises dated back to those eras.

William Stuart (who owns Miltonduff) bought Highland Park Distillery in the 1870s. It finally stabilised under his care and in 1885, James Grant (previously the manager of Glenlivet) joined Stuart as his business partner. Grant took full control of the distillery in 1895 who proceeded to expand the distillery and built up a great relationship with Robertson & Baxter (R&B).

In 1937, Highland Distillers (who had shares in R&B) took over Highland Park Distillery. Highland Distillers was the owners until the turn of the century, where they became the object of take-over. Edrington Group acquired Highland Distillers and Highland Park was taken into the folds of the Edrington Group. Since then, Edrington Group makes efforts to uphold Highland Park Distillery as a distinctive whisky maker. Today, Highland Park is the only Island distillery in the Edrington Group profile.

Highland Park Whisky-Making Process

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Highland Park builds its whisky-making process on 5 keystones of production. They are proud of their traditions because no other distilleries use all five keystones.

Keystone 1: Aromatic Peat

Highland Park recognises the importance of peat in their whisky-making process. They obtained their peat from Hobbister Moor, located 7 miles from the distillery. Hobbister Moor has no trees, as Orkney does not have a conducive environment. As a result, the 9,000 years old peat used by Highland Park is rich in heather.

Keystone 2: Hand Turned Floor Malting

Hand-turning the malt by hand is a labour intensive method that many distilleries no longer employ. At Highland Park, they take pride to hand turn their malt because they believe in the traditional process when producing the distinctive aromatic smokiness of their whiskies. Highland Park turns their barley by hand every 8 hours, 7 days a week. The turning maintains a constant airflow and the right amount of moisture to fully absorb the intense smoke from the peat.

Keystone 3: Sherry Oak Casks

Highland Park is obsessed with their casks. The staves are cut from American and European oaks before shipping to Jerez in Southern Spain. These staves are made into casks and filled with Oloroso sherry. After a minimum of 2 years maturation, these casks are emptied and shipped back to Orkney. Highland Park uses these casks to fill their whiskies for maturation.

Keystone 4: Cool Maturation

Highland Park is in a perfect location for whisky maturation. Orkney has a temperate temperature, reaching highs of 16°C in summer and lows of around 2°C in winter. Therefore, the maturation of their whiskies takes place in a long, cool and evenly paced environment.

Keystone 5: Cask Harmonisation

Cask harmonisation is crucial in creating a balanced whisky. Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion, makes sure that every release of Highland Park has the chance to rest in their vatting tun for at least a month before bottling. The time allows the newly married spirit to harmonise into a balanced whisky.

Highland Park Whisky Collection

Picture Credit: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Highland Park has a wide range of whiskies to suit every palate. Below is a list of their current expressions that are still available from the distillery.

Aged Whisky Expressions:

10 Years Old – Viking Scars (New Packaging)
12 Years Old – Viking Honour (New Packaging)
18 Years Old – Viking Pride (New Packaging)
25 Years Old
30 Years Old
40 Years Old

Special Releases and Limited Editions

Magnus
Dragon Legend
Valkyrie
Rebus30 10 Year Old
Svein
Einar
Harald
Sigurd
Ragnvald
Thorfinn
King Christian 1
Ice Edition 17 Year Old
Fire Edition 15 Year Old

Highland Park Today

Highland Park continues to be the driving force in Orkney as they commit to keep the Viking’s proud heritage. In the regular business sense, Highland Park is also a forerunner as Edrington Group focuses on making it more famous.

The Good Old Fettercairn Distillery

The Fettercairn Distillery (Picture Credits: www.panoramio.com)

Fettercairn distillery is situated in the Grampian foothills in the Howe of Mearns. Fettercairn means “the foot of the mountain” in Gaelic and reflects the ideal location for a whisky distillery. Natural ingredients are aplenty for the distillery – ice-clear Grampian mountain spring water and barley growing from the fertile soil surrounding the distillery allows this distillery to create stunning whiskies from its stills and barrels.

History of Fettercairn Distillery

The history of Fettercairn is as complex as most of the distilleries found in the region. Alexander Ramsay, the owner of the Fasque estate, founded Fettercairn in 1825 by converting a corn mill into the distillery. He lost his wealth in a few short years and sold everything to Sir John Gladstone. His son was the four-time British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. The distillery remained with the Gladstone family until 1923 and was mainly run by tenants. Thereafter, the distillery was almost mothballed by new owners Ross & Coulter (1923-1927) and James Mann (1927-1939) before it was sold to Associated Scottish Distillers (ASD), the Scotch arm of National Distillers of America in 1939.

ASD closed in 1954 and the distillery was sold to a private owner – Mr Tom Scott Sutherland. Finally, in 1971, it was bought by Tomintoul-Glenlivet and both distilleries joined the Whyte & Mackay umbrella in 1973. It remains with the company since.

The Emblems of Fettercairn Distillery

The emblems of Fettercairn (Picture Credits: www.tripadvisor.com)

Some emblems of Scotch whisky distilleries have a history behind them, and Fettercarin’s is no exception. The unicorn in the Fettercairn logo is part of Alexander Ramsay’s clan crest. The unicorn represents purity and strength and is also a symbol of Scotland since the reign of King Robert III.

The huge, red sandstone archway that stands at the entrance to Fettercairn is another symbol. It was built to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1861.

Whiskies from Fettercairn

Fettercairn has an interesting whisky range. It mainly contributes to Whyte & Mackey’s blends but is also bottled as a single malt. The Fettercairn label gains some popularity since 2009 when more efforts are put into single malt bottling. Currently, the Fettercairn Fasque and the Fettercairn Fior are available as official bottlings.

The distillery also has older bottles such as the Fettercairn 875 which was produced in the 1970s for the Italian market. Such bottles are rare and hard to come by in present day.

Fettercairn Distillery Today

Fettercairn continues to be one of the many distilleries that contribute most of its whisky into blends. While we believe that the fate of the distillery may continue as such, there is a chance that more of its whiskies may make its way into single malt bottling in the future.

Whisky Review #39: Quaich Bar Exclusive – Springbank 17 Years Old

We have previously reported the 10th anniversary of Quaich Bar Singapore and their exclusive range of whiskies. We went down to the bar last week to have a try of their Springbank 17 Years Old whisky! As this expression is the most exclusive among the range with only 114 bottles available, Whiskygeeks feels that we have to try this before it is all gone!

This precious expression is part of a cask taken from the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown. Specially bottled for Quaich Bar Singapore, this expression cannot be found elsewhere. An interesting note about the liquid in this bottle is the fact that the original cask did not belong to the distillery but was sold to a private collector. Quaich Bar’s owner, Mr Khoon Hui, persuaded the cask owner to sell him part of the cask while the rest goes to the private collector. If you think just a little deeper, this bottle is the same liquid that is now housed in crystal decanters and displayed in a big mansion!

So what do we think about this? Let’s check out the tasting notes!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Amber
ABV: 49.2%

Nose: Reasonably strong maple syrup and caramel waft up the nose before hints of vanilla come through. Oakiness remains in the background for a while before coming through strongly afterwards. It feels like going to a furniture warehouse sales where you can smell lots of new wood.  (16/20)

Palate: Maple syrup mouthfeel with quite a bit of oil. Strong wood spice hits you in the face before fading into the background where it stays. Vanilla and caramel sweetness come through the spiciness to coat the palate and reduce the spice in the palate. The spice lingers in the throat. (18/20)

Finish: Long, dry finish with woodiness or hay and hints of sweet caramel. The long finish also creates bits of tannin at the end. (17/20)

Body: Highly balanced whisky with sweet maple syrup, caramel and vanilla. The wood spice seems unpleasant at first but develops after some time into a pleasant warm mouthfeel.  (33/40)

Total Score: 84/100 

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I think this is an interesting Springbank that is slightly different from the core range. The heavy wood influence is evident in this well-balanced expression. Worth a try if you have not tried it!”

 

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A Relatively Short History on Allt-A-Bhainne

The Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery (Picture Credits: www.whisky.com)

The Allt-a-Bhainne distillery produces the whisky for the Chivas Brothers blend and currently belonged to the Chivas Brothers. It has a relatively short and undisturbed history but having been mothballed once, it is an interesting distillery to explore.

History of Allt-a-Bhainne distillery

Seagram built this lesser-known distillery in 1975. The Canadian drinks company also owned Chivas Brothers back then. The company built Allt-a-Bhainne to cater to the rising demand for blended whiskies such as the Chivas Brothers and other popular blends owned by Seagram.

During the economic downturn, Seagrams ran into problems and sold off its assets to other drinks company, primarily Diageo and Pernod Ricard. Pernod Ricard took over Allt-a-Bhainne and Chivas Brothers in 2001. They promptly inaugurate the distillery into the Chivas Brothers brand. The distillery mothballed in 2003 for some unknown reasons but reopened in 2005 by the Chivas Brothers to produce whisky for its blends.

Uniqueness of the Distillery

Working on Distillation in Allt-a-Bhainne Distillery (Picture Credit: www.scotchwhisky.com)

Allt-a-Bhainne distillery stands out as an oddball in Speyside mainly because of its modernistic design among the rest of the fanciful distilleries. It is located in the Fiddich Glen, near to Dufftown. The name meant “milk on the burn (steam)” in Gaelic.

The distillery’s design is extremely functional in order for it to be run with minimal staff. All its equipment is located in a single large room with the mash tun at one end and four stills at the other end. The distillery currently produces 4 million litres of pure alcohol per year for the blend production of Chivas Brothers.

It has no official single malt bottling as it is mainly a workhorse for the Chivas Brothers blend. Nonetheless, you can find single malt independent bottlings that carried the Allt-a-Bhainne name such as the one we tried from Gordon and Macphail.

The Distillery Today

Allt-a-Bhainne distillery remains as a workhorse for Chivas Brothers and its liquid goes into Chivas Regal, Passport and 100 Pipers. Due to its nature as a small, productive distillery, it is not open to the public and has no visitor centre since it is not looking at expanding its name and produce to the world.

 

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Exciting New Event: The Single Cask x Whisky Butler Tasting Session

The Single Cask Singapore (TSC) and Whisky Butler are collaborating once again to showcase exquisite spirits! This exciting event is, of course, hosted by our friendly neighbour – TSC and is happening on 30 September 2017!

What Can You Expect?

You will be taken on an exciting journey through 4 regions in Scotland before taking a flight to South America in this tasting session. TSC sourced and hand-picked every expression from a single barrel, so, each of them promised to be full of characters and flavours. Imagine the treat you will be in for!

What Should You Look Forward to?

You can look forward to taste the following whiskies:

  1. Highlands – TSC Glen Garioch 1995 (19 Years Old)
  2. Speyside – TSC Balmenach 2003 (12 Years Old)
  3. Islands – TSC Tobermory 1994 (22 Years Old)
  4. Islay – TSC Bowmore 2001 (14 Years Old)
  5. South America – TSC Diamond Rum 2004 (12 Years Old)

The Important Dates and Times:

When: 30 September 2017, Saturday
Where: The Single Cask, 30 Victoria Street, CHIJMES, #01-25
Time: First Session: 4pm to 6pm; Second Session: 7pm to 9pm

Tickets can be bought from TSC Website or Whisky Butler! Alternatively, you can try your luck by doing a walk-in. We encourage you to buy your tickets first to avoid disappointment!

How to Get to The Single Cask

We know that some patrons find it difficult to locate The Single Cask within CHIJMES. To help everyone find this cosy bar easily, we have come up with the directions below.

  1. From Carlton Hotel: Cross the road and locate the entrance to CHIJMES. Walk down the stairs, turn right and you will be at the door of TSC.
  2. From City Hall MRT: Locate Brotzeit and cross the road from there to CHIJMES. Once you reach CHIJMES, walk straight pass Toast Box and go all the way to the end. TSC will be right there.
  3. By Taxi/Grab/Uber: At the entrance of CHIJMES (near the church), walk straight from Caldwell House and turn left (follow the pavement). You will see Gyu Kaku at the end. TSC is just opposite the restaurant.