Whisky Review #48 – Bunnahabhain 12 Years (Quaich Bar)

Bunnahabhain is a unique distillery located on the northeast tip of Islay. It is the only distillery on Islay that produces largely unpeated whisky. Due to the isolated location of Bunnahabhain, it earns a saying that goes like this: “You can take a trip to Islay, but it’s a journey to reach Bunnahabhain”. True to this saying, it is not easy to travel to Bunnahabhain as access is often limited to water passageway. The main road leading to the distillery was open only in 1993.

The object of this review is a Bunnahabhain 12 years old. Unlike the official bottling of the 12 years old, this one is from a single cask. It is also bottled at cask strength of 55.5% abv. This liquid matured for 12 full years in an ex-oloroso sherry cask before it was bottled for Quaich Bar. The single cask yields 332 bottles.

Let’s check out how it measures up!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Amber
ABV: 55.5%

Nose: The deep sherried notes wafts up to the nose immediately that translate into caramel quickly. Soft oak and some smoke appear after nosing it for a while. The sweetness of the liquid blends well with the slight smoke to create a pleasant nose. (18/20)

Palate: Sweet and slightly smoky with rich, dried cranberry with the first mouth. Caramel, chocolate and oaky richness appear shortly. Vanilla notes become pronounced at the end. (18/20)

Finish: Long finish with notes of vanilla and dried cranberry and a light pinch of salt. The salt is a little pleasant surprise as it seems to complete the whole experience of an Islay whisky. (18/20)

Body: Full-bodied sherry whisky with a balanced nose and palate. The slightly salted finish is also a great addition to make it a signature Islay whisky. (34/40)

Total Score: 88/100


Geek Choc: “This is a beautiful expression of the Bunnahabhain 12 years. Coming from a single ex-oloroso sherry cask, the flavours are pronounced. I am definitely buying more than 1 bottle of this whisky!”


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    Whisky Review #47 – Deanston 14 Years Old (Quaich Bar)

    Deanston has an interesting history. Established in 1785 as the Deanston Cotton Mill, it was responsible for employing 1500 people. A self-contained village formed as the mill flourished, with buildings that survived up to today. During the Napoleonic wars, the village even had its own currency called “Deanstons”.

    Deanston Cotton Mill closed in 1965 but it was not the end. A joint effort by James Finlay & Co, Brodie Hepburn & Co, and A.B (Sandy) Grant converted the mill into a distillery. Known as the Deanston Distillers Ltd, these guys instilled new life into the defunct cotton mill.

    Deanston distillery officially opened in January 1967 and started bottling in 1971. Deanston was largely used for blends at first. Invergordon Distillers purchased Deanston in 1972 and bottled its first single malt in 1974 bearing the name Deanston. In the years of low demand, Deanston was closed for 8 years from 1982 to 1990. It was bought by current owners Burn Stewart Distillers Limited (part of Distell Group Limited) in 1990 and production starts again.

    The object of this review is a special release by Deanston as an in-house bottle. This means that the bottle is available only at the distillery. The friendship between Quaich Bar Singapore and Distell translates into the availability of 200 bottles of this expression in Singapore.

    Let’s dive into the tasting notes now.

    Tasting Notes:

    Colour: Soft Gold
    ABV: 57.9%

    Nose: The nose is a pleasant surprise. At 57.9% abv, the expected nose is spice, but what wafts into the nose is light and fruity with a slight grassy note. Honeyed notes appear after a while, giving the nose a slight sweetness. Spice lingers pleasantly in the background. (17/20)

    Palate: Honeyed notes settled in the palate immediately with light, fruity notes of green apples. Gentle spice combines perfectly with the sweet honeyed notes to create an immensely pleasant palate. (18/20)

    Finish: Medium to long finish with green fruits and pleasant spice lingering in the mouth. (18/20)

    Body: Light and well-balanced whisky! It is a pleasant and easy to drink whisky even at its high abv. The appeal of the whisky is heightened by the contrast of high abv and gentle spice. Definitely a worthy dram! (34/40)

    Total Score: 87 / 100


    Geek Flora: “I love this expression. The brandy finish has given the whisky the unique character of being light and fruity despite the high abv. The fact that the spice is gentle and soft is also a big selling point for me. I am keeping at least 2 bottles of this, if not more.”


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      Media Event: Quaich Bar launched Deanston 14 Years and Bunnahabhain 12 Years

      Quiach Bar and Distell invited WhiskyGeeks for a media launch of Quaich Bar’s Deanston 14 Years old and Bunnahabhain 12 Years old Single Cask on 4 October.

      Mr Steve Campbell, the retired Managing Director of Distell’s Asia Pacific invited us to taste 4 different whiskies. They were Deanston 12 years old, Deanston 14 years old (Quaich Bar’s special), Bunnahabhain 12 years old and Bunnahabhain 12 years old Single Cask (Quaich Bar’s special).

      Deanston 14 Years Old (Quaich Bar special)

      Deanston 14 years old matured in refill whisky casks for 9 years before it was finished in Spanish brandy butts for 5 years. As a Highland whisky, it is an easy dram to drink with pleasant honeyed notes even at a high abv of 57.9%. Deanston 14 years old is usually only available at the distillery. The first batch sold out quickly five years old. The current expression at Quaich Bar is the second batch. 1664 bottles are produced in this batch. 200 bottles are available at Quaich Bar with a bespoke label just for its 10th anniversary while the rest are available only at Deanston distillery. With a history such as this, it is no wonder that this bottle is definitely going to be precious to every whisky lover in Singapore.

      Bunnahabhain 12 Years Old Single Cask (Quaich Bar special)

      Bunnahabhain is an interesting distillery. Located in the northern part of Islay, it is the only distillery in the region to produce mostly unpeated whisky. The 12 years old Single Cask is bottled at cask strength of 55.5%. The expression matured in an ex-oloroso sherry cask for 12 years before getting bottled for Quaich Bar. The single cask yields only 332 bottles of this precious malt. The uniqueness of this liquid gold coupled with its status as the only Bunnahabhain bottled for Singapore makes it extra special.

      Quaich Bar X Distell

      Quaich Bar is Singapore’s first whisky bar and has won awards internationally. In the past 10 years, Distell and Quaich Bar has forged a strong friendship. Distell’s full malt profile is available at the bar. Deanston, Bunnahabhain, Tobermory, Ledaig, as well as South African whisky Three Ships and Bains Cape Mountain Whisky, are all part of the profile.

      Event: The Single Cask X Whisky Butler Masterclass

      WhiskyGeeks was invited to the event jointly organised by The Single Cask (TSC) and Whisky Butler on 30 September 2017. We have previously spoken about this masterclass and since we were invited, we are here to tell you more about what you have missed!

      Introducing Whisky Butler

      This event is possibly the last celebratory event for TSC’s 2nd anniversary and one which is endorsed by Whisky Butler. In case you are not familiar with Whisky Butler, it is a whisky subscription platform that allows members to try 4 different whiskies every month. You can see it as a kind of whisky flight that you can get at a bar, but at much lower cost. In addition, Whisky Butler will deliver the box to your doorstep to provide the ultimate convenience.

      The Single Cask X Whisky Butler Masterclass

      This event showcased 5 different spirits (we say spirits because one of them isn’t a whisky). They are
      1. Guyanan Diamond Rum 12 Years Old
      2. Balmenach 12 Years Old
      3. Tobermory 22 Years Old
      4. Glen Garioch 19 Years Old
      5. Bowmore 14 Years Old

      Each expression is bottled by TSC and all of them are from a single cask. You will find the tasting notes of all 5 spirits in the links provided above.

      Why Rum and Whiskies?

      Both sessions started very informally introducing TSC and Whisky Butler before Brendan, the bar manager and resident whisky expert of TSC, dived into the reason for including a rum in the selection. It is a fact that Singapore is growing rapidly in the alcohol industry. Look at all the bars that are popping up everywhere. People are learning to appreciate gin, brandy, cognac, rum and whisky. No matter whether they drink it neat, with ice, with soda, with water or with a mixer, these different spirits are gaining popularity in Singapore. The vibrant but relatively young community in Singapore makes it very important to have masterclasses like this to help beginners to better appreciate what they are drinking.

      We appreciated the way that Brendan ran both sessions – informal and interactive. He encouraged participants to share what they thought about the spirits and encouraged each attendee to describe what they find in each of the spirits served. In the first session, Brendan also spoke of the way to drink whisky after one participant asked.

      The Best Way to Drink Whisky according to Brendan

      The best way to drink whisky according to Brendan is this: “Take a sip of whisky, swirl it in your mouth to coat the sides before holding it in your mouth for a little while. Swallow it and hold your breath for 5 seconds before breathing out from your mouth”. We tried it, and guess what, we could literally feel the whisky leaving the mouth and smelling the finish! That’s one amazing way of drinking whisky! Nonetheless, there is no correct way to drink whisky, so, if you don’t agree with that, drink it the way you do, because whisky has to be enjoyable above all. In fact, what we do to get the finish is to move our lips repeatedly instead. That works too, by the way!

      The interactive sessions ran smoothly with active participation from all the “students” who attended. We could see the impact of the interaction – engagement was high and people were just so involved with tasting the spirits that they appeared to forget everything else. We enjoyed ourselves as well, with jokes along the way.

      Willing Buyers, Unwilling Seller

      Both sessions ended with participants gaining a greater understanding of what they were drinking. Some of them were so excited about the whiskies that they wanted to buy a bottle home! This was especially so for the last whisky – The Bowmore 14 Years Old – Cask 31931. Brendan had to disappoint everyone because he only has 3 bottles left in the bar and he is not selling them because he wants to keep it at the bar for communal drinking. If you like what you read from our tasting notes, head over to The Single Cask and try out the amazing Bowmore 14 Years Old – Cask 31931. Do remember to mention WhiskyGeeks to Brendan!

      If you are keen to join future masterclasses from The Single Cask, do like our Facebook page and stay tuned for the next one! There should be another one coming up soon!

      In the meanwhile, stay hydrated with whisky! Slàinte!


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        Whisky Review #46 – The Single Cask Bowmore 14 Years Old

        Bowmore, oh Bowmore…it has such an interesting history that we could wax lyrical about its 1960s to 1980s bottles. Although things changed in the 1990s for no apparent reason, we are guessing that it was due to some teething issues when Suntory took over the distillery. The merry news is that Bowmore bounced back to its heydeys in the 2000s and is once again, producing great whisky.

        This bottle of Bowmore 14 years old by The Single Cask (TSC) is distilled in 2001 and bottled in 2016. An interesting note about this bottle is the exclusivity. Only 90 bottles are realised from HALF of cask 31931 because the cask actually belonged to someone else (another independent bottler) and they refused to sell all of it to TSC. Well, TSC took whatever they can, and this is the result of their exceptional selection.

        Let’s jump to the review!

        Tasting Notes:

        Colour: Amber
        ABV: 50%

        Nose: The first nose is that of heavenly smoked bacon. Oh, that smell literally sends you tingles of happiness! White peppers and hints of sweet citrus follow after. A few minutes wait reveals some sea salt that blends so well with the smoked bacon. (18/20)

        Palate: The entry is made of smoky citrus – lemony, orangey taste. Slight hints of sea salt followed by white pepper. The smokiness brings along some form of savoury meat (think: smoked bacon) and the blend of salt, pepper and meat makes this a complex and flavourful drink. (18/20)

        Finish: The finish is long and full of pleasant peat and smoke. The peat is not overwhelming but instead, stays on the palate pleasantly just like a warm fire in winter. The smokiness lingers very long before it disappears altogether. (18/20)

        Body: This is an exceptional whisky with a good, complex body. The balance between the nose, palate and finish is exquisite and definitely not something that you will come across regularly. Compared to the official bottling (OB) of Bowmore, this is something that appears to outdo some of them. (37/40)

        Total Score: 91/100


        Geek Flora: “This whisky blew me away. Not a fan of peat and smoke, I was at first doubtful about the Bowmore. I was sold after the first nose of smoked bacon, and when the complexity of the whisky revealed itself, I was convinced that this is one of the best Bowmore I have ever drunk. Interestingly, many people shared my interest and the whisky has flown off the shelves at TSC. Only 3 bottles are left, and they are not for sale. If you are keen to get your hands on it, the Master of Malt still has one left, as of 02 October 2017. Do remember that it is from cask 31931.” 


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          Whisky Review #45 – The Single Cask Glen Garioch 19 Years Old

          This bottle of Glen Garioch is the most potent whisky ever bottled at The Single Cask (TSC)! Distilled in 1995, it was bottled 19 years later in 2014 at an ABV of 62.7%! Shocking! It is called the “Iron Fist in a velvet glove” because of the intense kick of the alcohol.

          John and Alexander Manson founded Glen Garioch in 1797. It survived all these years, through the two world wars, economic regression and went through all the hardships even when others failed. It is the oldest distillery in Scotland. Beam Suntory is the current owner of Glen Garioch.

          Let’s go into the review proper.

          Tasting Notes:

          Colour: Bright Gold
          ABV: 62.7%

          Nose: The first nose is nothing but alcohol as the abv of 62.7% gets in the way. After a few minutes, the nose reveals some tropical fruitiness that smells like apricots. Crème brûlée hovers in the background for a short while before the spice comes kicking back in from the background. More time is needed to discover some oakiness and bits of lemons. (17/20)

          Palate: The spice from the high ABV hits the palate in full battle gear, knocking the senses out. Citrus notes of lemon come in after the spice finishes the attack. Notes of crème brûlée fade in and out with raw honey coming in towards the end. After a few minutes of aeration, the spice recedes into the background. The citrus becomes more pronounced and the raw honey is full on the palate. Hints of apricots linger in the background. (18/20)

          Finish: The finish is medium to long with honey spice and vanilla ice cream at the end. (16/20)

          Body: This expression is well-balanced even with the high abv. Although it is on the spicy side, it is understandable considering the high alcohol content. The citrus and honey are perfectly well mixed on both the palate and finish. (33/40)

          Total Score: 84/100


          Geek Choc: “The intense alcohol on the nose initially puts me off, but the palate and finish save the day. When taken together, this is a well-balanced whisky even in all its intensity. You will need some patience with this and I suggest that you do not put any water into it. Water opens up the spice and overshadows the rest of the flavours in the whisky.”


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            Whisky Review #44 – The Single Cask Balmenach 12 Years Old

            Balmenach Distillery is not a well-known one considering its links to the blending houses. In the 1800s, the distillery was one of the many illicit distilleries in Scotland. James McGregor founded the Balmenach Distillery officially in 1824 after he obtained a license. The McGregor family sold the distillery in 1992 and it was mothballed in 1993 by its new owners. Inver House Distillers bought the distillery in 1998 and the first distillate of Balmenach was produced in March 1998. The distillery provides blending houses with whisky and hardly ever bottle their own single malt. However, rumours have it that we might see something from Balmenach in 2018. The distillery also produces the popular Caorunn Gin on its premises.

            Balmenach distillery uses worm tubs for distillation, which makes their whisky sulphuric. Worm tubs make use of 100m long copper coiling submerge in water for distillate to pass through. While copper usually “purify” the sulphur in the distillate, worm tubs make it harder for the copper to perform “their duties” as they have to clean the water too. That results in a new spirit that still contains sulphur.

            Let’s move on to the review now.

            Tasting Notes:

            Colour: Deep Gold
            ABV: 50%

            Nose: Hmm…the first nose reminds me of Juicy Fruits – the popular chewing gum flavour from Wrigley’s. Sweet bananas, cherry liquorice and cotton candy blend together to create a pleasant nose. Hints of savoury meats (roast pork) and spices linger in the background. (18/20)

            Palate: The entry is full of butterscotch and banana, but the spice that is promised in the nose is also on the forefront. The blend of sweet and spice makes a good balance on the palate, making it a relatively easy drink even at 50% abv. (17/20)

            Finish: A long finish that is spicy with some sulphuric notes. The sulphur becomes extremely distinguished if water is taken when the whisky is still lingering in the mouth. (17/20)

            Body: A superb well-balanced expression that impresses me with its quality mix of sweet and spice. The palate delivers what the nose promises and the finish does not disappoint. (35/40)

            Total Score: 87/100


            Geek Flora: “This whisky brings me back to my childhood where I chewed on Juicy Fruits gums for hours even after the flavours were gone. Putting my sentiments aside, I think this whisky is a great dram as it makes a good balance on the nose, palate and finish. If you are thinking of buying your next whisky bottle, do consider this one!”


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