Whisky Review #87 – Geek Choc’s Blending Experiment #1

Macallan 12 YO x Kilchoman 2009 Vintage

Geek Choc loves to mix things up for fun, especially whisky! He was in the mood for some “mixology” yesterday (19 April), so he decided to mix a whisky that he likes (Macallan 12) with a whisky that he does not particularly like (Kilchoman 2009) and see what happened to the mixture. As I am not into such “mixology”, I stood aside to watch how the experiment went. Hehe!

Geek Choc’s Blending Experiment #1

These are the basis of the blending experiment.

  1. Macallan 12 Years Old – 10ml
  2. Kilchoman 2009 Vintage – 2.5ml
  3. Lots of swirling inside the Glencairn glass to introduce air into the blend

Results of the experiment:

Colour: We see an immediate change in colour after pouring the Kilchoman 2009 into the 10ml of Macallan 12 YO. The dark ruby colour of the Macallan turns pale, and the mixture becomes a dark gold colour immediately. The final colour after swirling remains as Dark Gold.

Nose: The characteristics of Kilchoman overpowers Macallan 12 YO in the first nose. We get slight peat with brine, pepper spice, hints of cherry and raisin sweetness. After airing for 5 to 10 minutes, the notes from Macallan 12 YO overthrew the ones from Kilchoman 2009 and emerged victoriously with muskiness, and the full sherry sweetness reappears!

After aeration of about 20 minutes, the mixture appears to settle, and interesting cereal notes surface, quite like Nestum in a tin, I must say!

Palate: The first sip reveals slight peppery spice with soft peat and seaside brine. Notes of sherry sweetness surface beautifully with the spice, peat and brine. It reduces the horrible chilli spice in Kilchoman and brings out the peat and brine in Kilchoman. The combination reminds us of BBQ bacon! Yummy! After 5 minutes, the peat disappears completely. Cherry liquorice and raisin sweetness replace the peat and turn the whisky slightly oaky. It appears that the Macallan 12 YO has once again exerted its power over Kilchoman 2009.

After aeration of 20 minutes, the sherry notes from Macallan 12 YO come to the forefront. Cereal notes quickly followed and finally, slight peat comes in the tail. The oak influence also increases. The peat reduces after aeration, which, we suppose, is a typical occurrence.

Finish: Long and quite dry. The peat lingers in the mouth before the sweetness of the sherried Macallan joins the fun. The finish ends with a nice oakiness that coats the mouth. The finish does not change with aeration.

Verdict/Balance: Wow! It is one hell of a dram! Simple but surprisingly balanced! We did not like the Kilchoman 2009 due to its extreme chilli spice, but the Macallan 12 YO brings out the peatiness of the Kilchoman and also reduces the spice drastically. At the same time, the primary flavours of the Macallan 12 YO remained more or less intact!

Score: 7/10

Comments:

Geek Choc: Haha! It was a fun experiment. I did not know how it would turn out but just wanted to try something with the Kilchoman 2009. Geek Flora suggested to mix it with something sherried, so I grabbed the only opened bottle of sherried whisky that sits on our shelf – the Macallan 12 YO. The experiment is a success I think. I will try more experiments in future!

Geek Flora: It was interesting to see how this turned out. We were toying with the idea, and then we decided just to do it! Haha! We will try more experiments soon! Stay tuned!

 

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Interview: Chris Martin, Wine and Spirits Education Trust

Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is a global educational institution providing quality education for the wine and spirits industry. Founded in 1969 as a charitable trust, WSET gains recognition and confidence from the global community through its commitment to quality education over the years.

History of WSET

Before 1969, the Wine and Spirit Association of Great Britain spearheaded the education initiatives in U.K. When WSET came into being in 1969 after getting the necessary funding from The Vintner’s Company, it took over the education initiatives. The founders came from the various cornerstones of the U.K wine and spirits trade. Representatives from each of the founding organisations still serve on their Board of Trustees today. The founding companies are:

  • The Vintner’s Company
  • The Wine and Spirits Association of Great Britain (WSA) – now the WSTA
  • Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW)
  • Worshipful Company of Distillers

WSET offered three qualifications for trade professionals when it first started in 1969. Educators delivered all the courses at their London-based office.

By 1977, WSET set its foot out into the global market. With demands coming in strong, the company launched its courses in the Republic of Ireland and Ontario, Canada. From then onwards, the founding fathers of WSET did not look back, opening more doors with each passing year. In 1991, France got the first WSET course in Europe, and a German-language course followed suit in Austria in 1993. The next step saw the Trust going into the USA in 1994 and Japan in 1997.

Accreditation by the U.K Government

In 2001, WSET gained official accreditation from the UK Government. The Trust renamed their qualifications in-line with the UK National Qualification Framework guidelines as well. From 2001 onwards, more qualifications become available as the Trust expands its professional certifications. They also launched a Global Campus in 2004. By 2007, the international students taking WSET qualification exceeded UK student for the first time. Moving with speed, the trust grows bigger, and by the time it celebrates its 45th anniversary, it has an annual student population of 50,000. Today, WSET offers nine qualifications in 73 countries, with a network of 600+ course providers and an international student population of over 75% of the total student body each year.

Chris Martin, International Development Advisor

We met Chris for the first time during ProWine Asia 2018 at the WSET booth on Tuesday. Both Geek Choc and I were happy to share our passion with Chris and “talk shop” with him for a while. After knowing that we are bloggers, Chris kindly agreed to a short interview with us to speak about his role in WSET and what the Trust offers.

Chris involves himself in the international business development within the company. His primary role is to identify new, potential schools in South-east Asia, Japan and Korea. He also supports and promotes WSET within these regions. Chris reveals that Singapore has in the top 20 ranking for the most number of schools available! Good to know, isn’t it?

Different levels of Qualifications

We understand from Chris that there are different levels of qualifications within the WSET framework. The levels range from Level 1 to Level 4. Level 1 and 2 are entry levels where individuals with little or no knowledge should attend to gain precious information about the topic of interest. It is also a good starting point for new entrants into the wine and spirits industry. Moving upwards, Level 3 and 4 are for decision-makers, owners and merchandisers. The qualifications in Level 3 and 4 are in-depth knowledge for these group of professionals and the length of the course increase dramatically as well. In fact, Level 4 is a graduate diploma course and lasts for two years!

After the graduate diploma, students can progress to a Master degree if there is an available one in their topic of interest. Currently, there is only a Master of Wine qualification, but who knows what will evolve in the future.

Chris also shared that there is an alumni where all students get to join and network with the global professionals in the wine and spirits industry.

Moving Forward with Quality Education

Chris revealed that there are more courses in the pipeline moving forward. Spirits lovers will be delighted to know that there are plans to launch Level 3 and 4 courses in the coming two years. I know I am excited! As for those of you who are only interested in whisky, check out the Whisky Ambassador course offered by their partner schools in Singapore!

Food & Hotel Asia 2018 + ProWine Asia 2018

 

The exciting. bi-yearly Food and Hotel Asia 2018 (FHA2018) and ProWine Asia 2018 (PWA2018) flashed past us last week. Held from Tuesday, 24 May to Friday 27 May 2018 at two locations – Singapore Expo and Suntec City, the event closed as a great success! Many exhibitors are going home happy with lots of information to digest while visitors to the event are now aware of the fantastic offers that the exhibitors can offer.

We were invited to both shows as part of the Press and enjoyed our time spent there. While there were some hiccups, such as not getting updated information on where to collect our passes and messing up the timing for specific interviews with esteemed guests, the rest of our time went well.

Tuesday, 24 May 2018

Geek Flora and Choc started our first day with a masterclass with Penderyn Distillery’s ambassador, Michael Wheeler in the afternoon.

Michael Wheeler – Brand Ambassador of Penderyn Distillery

Mike (as he calls himself) led us in the exploration of how casks will influence whisky during maturation. It was informational because Penderyn uses a different distillation method and a handful of different casks.

Penderyn Range (left to right) – Madeira, Sherrywood, Peated, Portwood

Their house style is ex-bourbon (using Buffalo Trace’s bourbon casks) before finishing in Madeira barriques. There are also sherry, port and peated expressions. After the masterclass, we head over to the Penderyn booth, where Mike and Dr Bianchi treated us to more excellent drams from the distillery.

There are two core ranges of whiskies from Penderyn Distillery, as well as cask strengths and their Iconic series. You can find out more about the whiskies here. If you must know, we think that the Sherrywood is quite similar to a cross between the Glendronach and the Macallan while the Portwood is comparable to Balvenie 12 Years Old.

Thursday, 26 May 2018

Geek Flora went back alone on Thursday. This time, she took time to explore Hall 7 to Hall 10 of Singapore Expo. Starting from Hall 7, she made her way around the exhibits to check out almost every one of the exhibitors there.

The entrance of Hall 7

The USA had an impressive number of booths at Hall 7, which prompted Flora to walk through the aisles. She struck gold very quickly there. Here’s her gold – American Bourbon and Rye from Golden, Colorado, United States.

State 38

State 38 Bourbon

 

Bourbon

 

Rye

Flora did not pass up the chance to try some bourbon and rye, and so, she got into action very quickly. The bourbon is made up of 60% corn, 10% rye, 10% wheat and 10% of heavily malted barley (read: charred). The result is a creamy bourbon with roasted coffee notes and dark chocolates. The rye is made up of 100% rye and boasts of sweet notes and slight dryness. It is not spicy, which makes it extra pleasant to drink. Both whiskies are perfect for chilling!

Just when Flora thought it was over, the exhibitor, Sean, brought something out from under the booth. The picture is below. Grasp! Impeach Vodka! Now, this is no ordinary vodka. The peach infusion is excellent, and it is quite possibly, the BEST flavoured vodka that Flora has ever tasted! There is also a story to the label. Study it carefully, and let Flora know what you think.

Impeach Vodka

After the exciting discovery, Flora continued her walk and saw many amazing sights. She got excited when she saw the below, but alas, it was Scottish mutton and beef – not whisky! 🙁

Singapore Online Whisky and Spirits Retailer

The next booth to get Flora excited was Instadrinks, an online retailer in Singapore with their boss based in Dubai. She got to work again, trying out their spirits.

Instadrinks

There are Indian blended whiskies and a Scotch grain whisky, but what impressed Flora was neither. An Indian brandy (VSOP) named Leopold II and a London Dry Gin infused with Lavender, named Old Cock Gin caught her attention instead.

Leopold II

 

Old Cock Gin

Just for the records, Flora wasn’t impressed with the name, but the LIQUID. The G&T that the bartender did for Flora with this particular London dry gin was fantastic!

More tastings ahead

Flora did more tastings after this, but they are mostly gins and vodka instead of whisky.

Firean Blended Scotch – Peated

Firean is a peated blended Scotch. Unique on its own, both Flora and Choc agreed that it was a fantastic drink on its own, on the rocks or in a cocktail (Choc tried this on Friday). It is balanced and approachable, so someone who is just going into peated whisky would like it.

Griffin Vodka and Half Crown Gin

The Griffin vodka is charcoal-filtered, so you can imagine just how easy and smooth it is. The liquid is elegant and soothes the throat with its oily and creamy mouthfeel. The Half Crown gins are one of the impressive spirits at this booth. The original gin has a heavy juniper taste, and the botanicals are fragrant. The Pink Grapefruit has a sweeter taste with the grapefruit flavours showing up early in the nose and palate. The Rhubarb and Ginger was a huge favourite for Flora. The sweet and slightly spicy taste of the gin infused amazingly well with the botanicals in the gin, making the nose and palate exceptionally well balanced.

Lapland Vodka

Lapland Vodka

Ever heard of Lapland vodka? Made with spring water all the way from Finland, you can find this vodka here in Singapore! Lapland vodka is a dangerous drink for the young ones though – it is strong and yet so easy to drink. Flora thinks that it is almost like drinking fresh spring water! If you prefer some flavoured vodka, check out the below picture. Flora’s favourite is the Espresso flavour. Chill the vodka, pour it in a glass, add cold chocolate milk, and you can have it for supper! It was excellent!

Lapland Flavoured Vodka

Flora managed to finish up Hall 6 before calling it a day. It was incredibly tiring to walk the halls, and with all the drinks she had, she was getting sleepy too.

Friday 27 April 2018

Flora started Friday early at 10.30 am with a Masterclass by Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). It was an introductory session to the world of whisk(e)y hosted by Lam Chi Mun, the Director at Diageo Bar Academy. Flora was glad to meet Chi Mun and have a chat with him. She also had a great time drinking some excellent whiskies from Diageo.

From Left: Oban 14, Singleton of Glen Ord 12, Johnnie Walker Blender Batch Bourbon, Bulleit Rye, Talisker 10 and Lagavulin 16.

If you do not know what WSET does, it is a wine and spirits school based in the U.K. They partner schools globally to provide proper and stringent education for the alcohol industry professionals so that we can all learn from the professionals in the bars. You can read more about them here.

Rounding up FHA2018 and PWA2018

Flora did not find any more whiskies or spirits for the rest of the day. She walked around the remaining halls, sampled lots of food, and drank some Taiwan beers. When Choc showed up in the afternoon, they tasted more food, before finally visiting the various booths one last time to wish the exhibitors well on their flights back home.

It was a meaningful three days at FHA2018 & PWA2018, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be part of it. We hope to visit FHA2020 again as Press, and hopefully, there will be even more whisky/whiskey exhibitors then!

 

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Whisky Review #86 – Edradour 2002 Single Cask

Picture of Bottle and Cask details – Courtesy of a friend

Edradour is a fascinating distillery as we have discovered in an earlier post. A friend had given me a pretty sample of an Edradour single cask some time ago, so I think this is the best time for me to drink and post some tasting notes. It is my first whisky from Edradour, and I am excited to get going!

So here are the details of the single cask.

Edradour 2002 13 Years Old
Distilled: 28/08/2002
Bottled: 01/10/2016
Cask No: 1412
Outturn: 700 bottles

Note: The liquid is 13 years old as stipulated by the regulations of SWA – the bottled date does not add up to 14 years in total.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dark Gold
ABV: 54.6%

Nose: Caramel and peppery spice surface almost immediately with some dark, ripe fruits in the background. After aeration of five minutes, intense dark chocolate notes triumph over the caramel and push the spice into the background. There are hints of raisins and cherries floating around, but the dark chocolate notes overwhelm the other notes most of the time. (16/20)

Palate: There is an initial bite of the spice, and then caramel leads the way in the mouth, with dark chocolate and raisins coming soon after. Warm peppery spice reappears in the back, coating the back of the mouth and the throat pleasantly. The mouthfeel is oily and creamy with faints hints of oak at the tail end of the palate. (17/20)

Finish: Long finish with an increase in oakiness from the palate. The sweetness of the raisins follows closely, and the creaminess of the whisky coats the mouth thoroughly. Some caramel notes appear shortly and linger long into the end of the finish. (17/20)

Body: It is a balanced dram with a sherried profile. Approachable and easy to drink, even at 54.6% abv, this single cask Edradour is an ideal whisky to introduce to drinkers who are exploring higher abv drams. (33/40)

Score: 83/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: This is not a bad whisky; in fact, I like it for its balance and the gentle sherry notes. However, it is slightly one-dimensional and not as challenging as expected. Mellow and approachable, I think this is perfect for whisky drinkers who are starting out on their journeys for a higher abv dram. 

Geek Choc: This is a typical sherry whisky but not a sherry bomb. The dark chocolate notes are memorable though. It is too easy to drink at 54.6%. The price point is another contender for the lower score. While it is not an expensive bottle, it is not the price of a “daily dram” too.  Nonetheless, it is a lovely whisky that I enjoyed! 

Disclaimer:

This sample is part of the last drops in the bottle. It might not be the exact reflection of the whisky but should be close enough. The bottle is probably opened for about 3-4 months.

Edradour – The Smallest Traditional Distillery in Scotland

Did you know that the smallest distillery in Scotland – Edradour – is near the original Lindores Abbey? Friar John Corr of Lindores Abbey paid duty for eight bolts of malt to make aqua vitae for King James IV in 1494. That is the oldest record of whisky, or aqua vitae, to date. In 1644, when Scotland increased higher duty on alcohol through the introduction of the Scottish Excise Act, Edradour operated illegally as one of the many of the other illicit stills around Scotland.

History of Edradour

The official records of Edradour started in 1825. Before that, we need to look at the history of whisky in Scotland. By 1823, the government of Scotland introduced the Excise Act which encouraged legal ownership through a reduction of duty paid on spirits. Because of the 1823 Excise Act, many distilleries took out licenses and began their history as official distilleries. Edradour is not different. In 1825, Edradour took its license and became a legal distillery through a local farmer cooperative. Alexander Forbes was the license holder. The farmers named the distillery Glenforres.

Expansion of Edradour

By 1834, the farmer cooperative wrote to the Duke of Atholl to request for new buildings for the distillery. As a result of the request, two of the representatives, James Scott and Duncan Stewart, became the official tenants of the distillery in 1837. They also renamed the distillery, Edradour, which means “the land between two rivers”.

As the distillery progressed, the farmers decided to start a formal cooperative. In 1841, John McGlashan and Co formed with eight members – Alexander Forbes, Duncan Stewart, James Scott, James Robertson, Alexander Stewart and William McIntosh. However, misfortune befell the cooperative and in 1853, James Reid, another local farmer, took over the distillery as James Reid and Company. Edradour struggled under James’ leadership and in 1884, the ownership of the distillery transferred to John McIntosh, the son of William McIntosh.

The McIntosh Legacy

Under John McIntosh’s leadership, the distillery began to grow. He rebuilt the distillery and rebranded the whisky. The rebuilding was a success and the distillery flourished. We can even see a surviving plan of the interior of the still house and the tun room today at Edradour.

As Edradour gained popularity, Alfred Barnard visited the distillery. Alfred Barnard, as you already know, wrote the most important book on whisky – The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom – in 1887. In the book, Barnard waxed lyrical about Edradour and described the distillery as “a few ancient buildings not unlike a farmstead”.

By 1907, the flourishing distillery saw the addition of one more person – Peter McIntosh, the nephew of John. Peter continued the McIntosh lineage at Edradour. However, as the years passed, Edradour needed a new partner to expand yet again. In 1911, Edradour took in John Stewart, a wine and spirit merchant as a partner to increase their scope and distribution. The distillery functioned through the First World War and emerged largely unscattered.

The Mafia Took Over

In 1933, William Whiteley purchased Edradour. Before the purchase, Whiteley bought the Edradour whisky for his flagship blends, “House of Lords” and “King’s Random”. He probably got tired of buying the whisky and decided to buy the distillery instead. Haha…

Whiteley retired in 1938, and his successor was none other than Irving Haim, an agent for Frank Costello. Costello was the feared Godfather of mafia fame in New York and headed one of the five families. While nothing changed the production at the distillery, the association with the mafia appeared to give Edradour a more attractive appeal. Edradour continued to produce whisky blends “House of Lords” and King’s Random” and grew in popularity even after the Second World War.

As the world moved along, modernity appeared in Edradour. In 1947, electricity replaced the water wheel and the distillery received consistent power from then onwards. It continued to produce blends until 1976, where Haim passed on.

The Beginning of Modernity and the Single Malt Era

After Haim’s death, the distillery was sold to an American/Australian business consortium for a brief six years before getting bought over by Pernod Ricard. Nonetheless, it managed to snag the Queen’s Award in 1980. Pernod Ricard expanded the distillery by adding a new visitor centre in Edradour in 1983.

Pernod also introduced a new Edradour Single Malt – the Edradour 10 Years Old. At the same time, the King’s Random blend was discontinued. Pernod used the bulk of the spirit for their house blend (Clan Campbell) and the House of Lords while reserving some for its single malt.

Edradour moved back into Scottish Hands

Signatory Vintage Ltd bought Edradour in 2002, effectively moving it back into Scottish hands after 26 years of foreign ownership. Andrew Symington, the founder of Signatory Vintage Ltd, is also a Keeper of the Quaich. Unfortunately for Symington, a flash flood in August damaged the distillery. It was lucky that the flood narrowly missed the still house!

Rebuilding took some time, but Symington soon had the distillery up and about again.

The New Era Begins

Andrew Symington expanded the whisky portfolio of Edradour. In 2003, he started distillation of a peated version of Edradour, named Ballechin. He also started major refurbishment of the old buildings. One of the first new builds was a new Tasting Bar at the distillery in 2006. He also moved the operations of Signatory Vintage to Edradour. Symington did not want to continue the Edradour’s tradition of bottling offsite, so he built a new bottling facility at the distillery in 2007. Edradour now bottles at the source, creating more appeal to whisky drinkers around the world. The expansion continued with the opening of the Caledonia Hall (for events) and a new dunnage warehouse (to mature Edradour and Ballechin whisky onsite) in 2010.

Edradour Whisky Range

Edradour has both peated and unpeated whiskies. The peated whisky range is Ballechin while the unpeated one is named after the distillery. The core range includes the 10-year-old and the 12-year-old single malt, as well as an 18-year-old single malt. Edradour also experiences with wine casks and released whisky matured in Port, Burgundy, Sauternes and Chardonnay casks.

We also spotted many independent bottlings of Edradour, so there is plenty to choose if you want to grab a bottle or two from Edradour distillery. We also did a review on an Edradour single cask. You can read it here.

The Distillery Moving Forward

We believe that under Andrew Symington and Signatory Vintage, Edradour can only go from glory to glory. Symington became the Master of the Quaich in 2012 and Des McCagherty, of Signatory Vintage and Edradour, became Keeper of the Quaich in 2013.

Interview: Dr Giancarlo Bianchi, Technical Director, Penderyn Distillery

Picture from Penderyn Distillery

Penderyn Distillery is a boutique whisky distillery located in Wales, in a small but historic village known as Penderyn. A group of friends conceived the idea of setting up the first whisky distillery in Wales in the late 1990s. The idea became a reality on 1 March 2004, in the presence of HRH Prince Charles.

Penderyn Distillery will be exhibiting its whiskies for the first time in Asia during the ProWine Asia 2018. The exhibition can be found at Expo Hall 10. ProWine Asia is held together with the Food & Hotel Asia 2018 which will span two locations at Singapore Expo and Suntec City Convention Hall. Both events will be held from 24 April to 27 April 2018. WhiskyGeeks gets to speak with Dr Giancarlo Bianchi, the Technical Director of Penderyn Distillery before the exhibition.

Penderyn Distillery and its unique single copper-pot still

Picture Credit: Penderyn Distillery

The distillery boasts of a few things which other distilleries do not have. One of their prized possessions is their single copper-pot stills. Penderyn produces whisky from the copper-pot still and yields a flavourful spirit of high strength and purity. Dr David Faraday, a descendant of the famous Victorian scientist, Michael Faraday, designed the copper-pot stills. The picture above shows the launch of the new copper-pot still in 2013.

The Special Distillation Method at Penderyn Distillery

Picture Credit: Penderyn Distillery

We spoke to Dr Giancarlo Bianchi on Penderyn’s distillation method and learned the intriguing technical process. We understood that the distillery uses steam to heat the copper-pot stills. Once the wash heats up, the vapours rise into the copper column above the still and move into a second column. The unique second column has perforated plates. Some of the vapours condense as it runs through the first plate while others continue the journey up to the next plate.

The process continues, with some vapours condensing and others moving higher up to the next plate along the copper column. Eventually, all the vapours condense and fall back through the still. As the spirit goes through the process, it becomes smoother, softer and more refined with each step. Finally, the spirit is drawn from the seventh plate in the still column and piped into their spirit safe at a staggering  92% abv! (Refer to above for a graphic depiction of the process)

The Difference between Welsh Distillation Methods versus Scotch and Japanese Method

We wondered aloud how different the distillate would be between Penderyn and the traditional Scotch and Japanese whiskies. Dr Bianchi happily picked up the question and explained the difference. “Most Scottish and Japanese distilleries use a conventional two or three-pot still system, but at Penderyn, our single copper-pot still allows us to produce an extremely clean, flavourful spirit that sets it apart from the Scotch and Japanese spirits,” Dr Bianchi said. “This magical process not only imbues our raw spirit with great complexity, depth and finesse but also removes many of the undesirable chemical compounds – something that conventional pot-still systems cannot achieve,” he continued. The clean spirit, we understood, help Penderyn distillery during cask ageing as the absence of undesirable compounds makes it easier to achieve the flavours that Penderyn’s whiskies are famous for.

The Range of Penderyn Whisky Available

Picture Credit: Penderyn Distillery

As the range of Penderyn whisky is relatively new to Asia, especially in Southeast Asia, we ask Dr Bianchi for recommendations. There are two core ranges of products from Penderyn Distillery. The Dragon Range comprises three expressions bottled at 41%. Their names are Legend, Myth and Celt. These are the brand’s light and fruity whiskies, which are perfect for beginners as well as whisky drinkers who like gentle and easy to drink whiskies.

The other range is the Gold Range (shown above) which includes four expressions bottled at 46%. The Gold Range comprises of the Madeira Finish (which is the house style of Penderyn), Sherrywood, Peated and Portwood. With the higher abv, the range is more suitable for whisky drinkers as well as the adventurous beginners who want to move ahead in their whisky journey.

Whisky Trends in 2018

Geek Flora is excited to pick Dr Bianchi’s brains regarding whisky trends in 2018, especially that of boutique whisky in non-whisky producing countries. Dr Bianchi explained that there is a long-standing trend in Europe for consumers to explore single malts outside of Scotland and Japan. Considering the numerous distilleries popping up in Germany, France and England, it is indeed heartening to know that consumers are now more open to whisky produced in other non-traditional whisky-producing countries. “For the younger generations, age statement and country of origin are not going to be the key criteria,” said Dr Bianchi, “Taste, and a true, honest brand identity generate interest instead.”

As for the market outside of Europe, Dr Bianchi admits that it is still somewhat an age-statement market that sticks to the traditional core producing regions of Scotland and Japan. However, he believes that with more chances to meet and encourage drinkers to try the whiskies from the “new world”, more people will eventually come to understand and appreciate the whiskies made outside of the core producing regions.

Non-age Statements (NAS) versus Age-Statements Whiskies

We cannot resist the age-old question (pun intended) of the NAS versus age-statement whiskies. We asked Dr Bianchi what he thought about the on-going debate within the whisky community. Dr Bianchi said, “We recognised early on, that while age is important, its absolute value is not linearly related to whisky quality.” He went on to explain that the distillate is the most important. With a clean distillate such as the one from Penderyn, the whisky does not need to mature for an extended time. Given such, Penderyn chooses to launch NAS whiskies and will continue to do so.

“NAS whiskies are perhaps fashionable, but they do not mean lesser quality. They allow small, craft distilleries to carefully select their limited stocks flexibly to maximise quality without getting tied to a specific age,” Dr Bianchi continued. Dr Bianchi believes that NAS and age statements both work well in the global community as they appeal to different groups of drinkers. As long as NAS whisky producers continue to communicate and put forth good quality whiskies, everyone, even those who are against NAS whiskies now, will come to appreciate the care that goes into each bottle.

Challenging Scotland and Japan

As more whisky distilleries popped up around the world, we are interested to find out if these boutique distilleries are a threat to Scotland and Japan, the traditional whisky-making regions. When we put the question to Dr Bianchi, he laughed and said, “The whisky market worldwide is growing, and there is still room for everyone.”

We have to acknowledge that Dr Bianchi was right.  The small distilleries are far from challenging the established giants in both Scotland and Japan as their capabilities are nowhere near the big ones in either region. Nonetheless, they are threatening age-old production techniques and forcing the traditional producers to rethink both their production techniques and their marketing methods.

The Future of Whisky

Finally, we asked Dr Bianchi what his views are for the future of whisky. He made an important point – whisky is around for a long time, but it is essential that whisky producers continue to innovate. Variety is vital in a market where consumers are always looking for something new. Such trends are beneficial to smaller producers like Penderyn because consumers are more willing to try new varieties from boutique whisky distilleries.

While it is still a question mark on whisky’s future, one thing is sure. Producers will strive to make good whisky to intrigue the world and convert more drinkers in time to come.

Moving Forward

WhiskyGeeks will be attending ProWine Asia 2018 to provide more updates to all our readers! Stay tuned for more!

 

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Whisky Review #85 – Rosebank 20 Years Old (Zenith Italia)

Rosebank generated a lot of buzzes recently with the news of its revival as well as the upcoming release of its new bottling. Since we have yet to hear news of the new release, we are satisfying our craving for its beautiful liquid from the old stocks! What we have here is a sample of a Rosebank 20 Years Old distilled in the 1970s by the Zenith Italia S.A.S Import. We bought this sample at TMA Vol. 1 and have only recently tried this.

Let’s look at the review now.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 57%

Nose: Sharp cinnamon and nutmeg spices lead the way before green apples and pears surface. After two minutes of airing, it turns grassy (like a sweet meadow) and melon sweetness appears! Wow! (18/20)

Palate: Cinnamon spice leads the way again but nutmeg is nowhere to be found. It has an oily mouthfeel and light green fruits appear on the palate. The melon sweetness that we got in the nose appears for a brief while and disappears too quickly. There is also a slight alcohol burn down the throat that lasted almost a minute. After airing for a while, the oak influence comes in and the side of the tongue gets some bitterness. The sweetness returns after that to create a sweet taste in the middle of the tongue, but the fruitiness does not reappear. It is a little disappointing as the palate does not deliver what the nose promises. (15/20)

Finish: The finish is relatively long with the sweetness lingering briefly. Oak influence rushes in to overwhelm the sweetness soon after, making the long finish astringent and slightly bitter. (16/20)

Body: It is a relatively balanced dram but not impressive to wow. A one-dimensional dram with a disappointing palate and a beautiful nose. (31/40)

Total Score: 80/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “Well, I am greatly disappointed with the palate and finish. The nose promises such wonderful things but the palate and finish fall flat on it. It would be an impressive dram if the palate and finish follow through.”

Geek Choc: “Sigh, I had high hopes for this dram because the nose was pure bliss but I was disappointed with the palate. I wondered if we had aired it too long after purchasing the dram. We wouldn’t know it unless we tried this again from a full bottle, I suppose.” 

 

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Interview: The Guys Behind The Malt Affair

 

We shared the upcoming TMA Vol. 2 with everyone previously and now let us tell you more about The Malt Affair (TMA) and the guys behind the screen. TMA is an online marketplace which allows you to both buy and sell whiskies. It is also hoped to foster a community where whisky lovers can get to know one another and share a dram privately should they wish to do so. The guys behind TMA has one vision – to provide a platform where anyone can share fine whiskies with strangers, acquaintances, and friends alike. Such a community and marketplace is essential for Singapore’s growing whisky drinkers, and WhiskyGeeks decided to talk to the “headmaster” of TMA – Lucas.

The Story behind The Malt Affair

TMA is the first online whisky marketplace in Singapore, and it is natural that we are curious about how it all started. Geek Flora visited Lucas’ boutique at Downtown Gallery, and lo and behold, it is NOT a whisky shop, but a men’s shoe boutique! Geek Flora was puzzled and thought that perhaps, she had gone to the wrong place! Haha…it was only when she saw Lucas inside the shop that she convinced herself that she did not knock on the wrong door!

Flora soon found out that the shoe business is the primary business for Lucas and Jacky. “Jacky and I have been childhood friends since the age of five. Being neighbours we attended the same school and practically grew up together,”  said Lucas. Both of them started the shoe business five years ago, and the company grew with each passing year. Jacky is an avid whisky drinker and suggested that they serve whisky to their clients in the boutique. It has been five years since Lucas started his whisky journey alongside Jacky, and they have never looked back.

Their journey took them to many places and as their interest grew and palates matured, so did their whisky collection. In mid-2017, they identified various gaps in the local whisky scene – there was a genuine lack of an outlet for private collectors to resell their whiskies in Asia and Singapore in particular. Simultaneously, the lack of a strong community in today’s fragmented whisky market all further affirmed their belief that they must do something.

The Birth of The Malt Affair

Jacky’s current neighbour, Kris, is also a whisky fanatic. Through their regular whisky sessions together at the shoe boutique, they met like-minded individuals who shared their passion and love for whisky. It was then the idea of The Malt Affair materialised. As the trio explored the plan, the possibility of doing the business began to take shape. A fourth partner, Colin, was co-opted as a technology officer, joined in the party and one thing led to another. In August 2017, The Malt Affair was born.

TMA Vol. 1

Right after launching TMA, the self-professed maltheads decided to introduce themselves to the whisky community through an event that they firmly believed in. That was the birth of TMA Vol. 1 – a wholly-independent whisky event featuring a carefully curated selection of whiskies. They held the event in November 2017. As new players in the market, TMA received much support from the local community, including online sellers and private collectors, who graciously offered their bottles of rare and modern whiskies to be exhibited and sold at TMA Vol. 1. The event was a success! Both seasoned whisky drinkers and beginners enjoyed their time spent at the event, and the positive vibes from everyone encourage the team at TMA.

TMA Vol. 2

With the success of TMA Vol. 1, the team behind it began to craft the next event. The guys wanted TMA events to be a companion to whisky drinkers so that the journey is less daunting. Therefore, they decided that a half-yearly event is excellent as a yearly event may be too far apart for people to remember and use as a reference point in their journey.  With that thought, the trio began planning for TMA Vol. 2. This event will happen in May 2018 – if you need more information, read our article on this upcoming event! We promise that you will not be disappointed.

Building a Whisky Community

Lucas, Jacky, Kris and Colin have a similar mission as WhiskyGeeks, and that is to create a community of whisky lovers, particularly in Singapore. Singapore may be a small country, but many of us are whisky drinkers. Lucas shared that they found many whisky lovers through running their boutique in the shoe industry, and realised that these whisky drinkers and collectors do not know one another. It is a pity that so many of us drink and love whisky, but there isn’t a community among us. Taking a reference point from Europe, Lucas shared that he hopes that slowly but surely, Singapore and the rest of Asia can build a whisky community that is as closed-knitted as the one we find in Europe today.

While we may not have many whisky experts in Singapore, we have many in the industry who know much about whisky. In Lucas’ viewpoint,  this group of knowledgeable people is the key to building a closely knitted whisky community. As long as these people are approachable and willing to share, a community can be formed. The fragmentation of whisky lovers is not due to just one factor, but a combination of many Khoon Hui, the bar owner of Quaich Bar Singapore, as well as Brendan, the co-founder of The Single Cask, both expressed thoughts akin to Lucas’ belief of a fragmented whisky community too.

TMA is, therefore, looking to build a community that can share ideas, thoughts and drams with one another, both on a big scale and a smaller, private scale among friends. It will, hopefully, decrease the fragmentation and bring whisky lovers together as one.

The Future of TMA

We spoke extensively about the future and what TMA can achieve as a community. As TMA Vol. 2 is coming up, our conversation steered into the future events of TMA. Lucas shared that they started TMA Vol. 1 with the intention of hosting 100 attendees, and 120 people turned up. Lucas had to reject some others as the venue was unable to take them all. With their experience with Vol. 1, the team sourced for a bigger place to accommodate a larger crowd. They hope that it will give more people a chance to attend the event and find a wide range of lovely drams to drink at the event and also to bring home for later enjoyment.

Flora asked if Lucas hopes to one day, run a more significant event like the whisky fair she attended in Kaohsiung last year, and Lucas replied that yes, of course. If TMA grows steadily, they will eventually do that. “However, I want to ensure that we never lose sight of the spirit and purpose of the event – which is to be THE forum in Singapore for learning and sharing great whisky, not for profit. To this extent, we have taken firm measures to ensure that the pricing of the whisky exhibited by collectors at Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 is fair and not opportunistic. Should TMA grow bigger, I will endeavour to ensure this remains the case.”

We are sure that it will happen! Lucas, Jacky and Kris have their hearts in the right place.

Excited about TMA Vol. 2?

Now that you know more about The Malt Affair and the team behind it, feel free to check out their website and the facebook page of their upcoming TMA Vol. 2! We hope that our article about the event and this interview have gotten you excited and raring to attend. Geek Flora and Geek Choc are heading to TMA Vol. 2, so if you spot us at the event, do come on over to say hi!

 

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Whisky Event: The Malt Affair’s TMA Vol. 2

Have you heard that The Malt Affair’s TMA Vol. 2 is coming up in early May? If you have not, please listen up! The upcoming event is a bi-annual whisky event where whisky lovers gather in one place to enjoy whiskies by the dram. This exciting experience is a follow-up to last year’s successful TMA Vol. 1, where offers of rare and old whiskies sent whisky lovers into a frenzy. Not to be pushed around, impressive modern bottles also strutted their stuff in TMA Vol. 1.

WhiskyGeeks attended TMA Vol. 1 held last year during November, and they impressed us with more than a couple of great whiskies. Some of the selections that we love were the Laphroaig 10-year-old Bonfanti Import (short label), the Rosebank 20-year-old Zenith Import, the Port Ellen 1982 Malts of Scotland, and the Miyagikyo 18-year-old Whisky Live Tokyo 2010.

TMA Vol. 2

So, when we know that TMA Vol 2 is coming up, we are ready for yet another challenge of old and rare whiskies! To prove that we are going to this event, here’s a picture of the tickets that we bought!

 

What to Expect at TMA Vol. 2

The news is out that there is a rare Springbank 12-year-old (Black Label) bottled by Cadenhead and a Macallan 1958 (gasps!) Campbell Hope & Kings 1970s White Metal Cap representing Campbeltown and Speyside respectively. There are also a couple of excellent Laphroiags and a Caol Ila 18-year-old by Sestante Import representing Islay. To top things off, there are a few bottles of old Karuizawas and the Hanyu Card Series waiting for you too!

For the less initiated whisky fans, do not be intimated! If you are not ready to drink these old whiskies yet (trust me, they are like self-poisons), you can find more accessible drams such as the Balvenie Single Barrel 15-year-old and a Bruichladdich ‘The Laddie Ten’ Second Edition. If you are feeling just a little adventurous, why not try an affordable closed distillery whisky – Littlemill? On offer at TMA Vol. 2 are three expressions for your picking. Personally, I love the expression bottled by The Perfect Dram!

You can find the list of drams here.

How to Buy your Tickets?

If you have yet to buy tickets for the event, head over to Peatix and grab yours now. Early bird tickets are now sold out, so grab the standard tickets at $30 each before they are gone too! Each ticket gives you entry to TMA Vol. 2 and also includes a Glencairn tasting glass, a 2cl (20ml) glass sample container and a $10 Downtown Gallery voucher! Do note that you can bring additional sample bottles if you are looking to buy some whiskies home instead of drinking them all at the event.

We hope to see you there at The Malt Affair’s TMA Vol. 2! If you happen to see us Geeks at the event, pop over to say hi!

 

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What You Should Know About Sherry

Many whisky lovers give thanks to the sherry producers when they sip a sherry-matured whisky. However, how many of us know what sherry is and how many types of sherry there are in the market? Learning about sherry is fascinating, and that’s why we are here to give a brief introduction to sherry and the types of sherry in the market.

What is Sherry?

Sherry is a fortified wine produced in three areas of Spain’s ‘sherry region’. Located in the province of Andalucia, the three regions are Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. These three regions form a sort of a triangle on the map, with Sanlúcar de Barrameda on the top western part, Jerez de la Frontera in the central and El Puerto de Santa María at the southern part. The soil around these areas are chalk or limestone based, and provide the perfect climate for growing grapes are suitable for making sherry.

Did you know that the word “sherry” came from the British trying to pronounce Jerez and failed to do so?

Sherry producers use three types of grapes to make the delicious fortified wine, namely Palomino grape, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel. Palomino is the primary source, and interestingly, this grape variety is highly unknown in other parts of the world. However, it is a crucial grape variety to the making of sherry. Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel are typically sweeter in nature and are different from Palomino. The sherry types they produce are vastly different from the ones made from the Palomino.

Sherry Types

There are many sherry types but here are the main ones:

  1. Fino
  2. Manzanilla
  3. Amontillado
  4. Oloroso
  5. Pedro Ximenez
  6. Moscatel

Producers use different methods to make the different kinds of sherry, and it is no surprise that each of them has a different taste!

Sherry Styles

There are two basic styles of sherry – dry and sweet.

Dry Sherry

Within the dry category, there are two ways of ageing the fortified white wine, which is what sherry is!

The first way is through the use of flor (pronounce as ‘floor’). Flor is a type of yeast that forms a thin layer (about 2 cm thick) on top of the sherry wine as it begins to age. It prevents the wine from oxidation so that the sherry is aged without the aid of oxygen. Flor yeast is quickly killed by high alcohol content, however, so flor-aged sherry does not have an abv above 15%. Flor-aged sherry produces the “Fino” and “Manzanilla” sherries.

The second method is non-flor-ageing, which means that oxidation happens during the ageing process. The wines produced by this method are higher in abv, as they are not limited to the 15% alcohol content. Hence, sherry types made using the oxidation method are stronger in both flavours and alcohol content. Non-flor-ageing sherry produces the “Amontillado” and “Oloroso” sherries.

Sweet Sherry

Sweet sherry typically means the addition of sugar. However, producers differentiated them between “naturally sweet” or “artificially sweet”.

Naturally-sweet sherry typically means using the sweeter variety of grapes such as Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel instead of Palomino grapes to make the sherry. The production for this type of sherry is slightly different as the grapes are harvested much later and dried in the sun to extract more sugar before being pressed. They are called Vino dulce natural in Spanish.

Artificially sweetened sherry is usually a blend of dry sherry with sweet wines or grape syrup. For example, dry sherry made from Palomino grapes are mixed with Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel to create a blend of sweet sherry. Alternatively, producers add arrope, a highly concentrated syrup made of grape juice to the dry sherry to make it sweet. This type of sherry is called Vino generoso de Licar.

The importance of Sherry casks in the Whisky Industry

We know the importance of sherry casks in the whisky industry. We need them to mature our favourite whiskies, which is why learning about sherry is essential. If we appreciate sherry and learn to drink the wine, we may help to boost demand and encourage the sherry producers to increase production. That will, in turn, produce more sherry casks for our beloved whisky to mature in! See, it is a win-win situation for all!

So, my dear readers, buy some sherries and share it with your whisky-loving friends! After all, we need to do our part to help whisky producers lower the cost of sherry casks so that they can pass the savings to us!

What do you think?

 

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