Guest Writer: Hongfu’s take on Glengoyne’s Production

Glengoyne is a beautiful Highland Distillery with a warehouse just across the road in the lowlands. They have a long reputation of using quality casks and produces whiskies that are sweet, unpeated and sherried. It came as no surprise to me when M&S chose to feature a 14-year-old in their range! Glengoyne holds many special memories for me – Jonathan Scott conducted my first proper whisky tasting at The Single Cask @CHIJMES, and I had Glengoyne 21 year old as a gift on my 21stbirthday from a generous friend!

With the help of Zerlina from WhiskyGeeks and Jonathan Scott of Glengoyne Distillery, I got an exclusive tour to learn the production of this delicious golden nectar! As a way of saying thanks, I asked Zerlina if I could write an article for WhiskyGeeks to share my experience at Glengoyne, and so, here it is!

My Glengoyne Experience

Glengoyne is a mid-sized distillery producing approximately 1 million litres per year. Glengoyne has two water sources. It uses the water from Loch Carron for production and Blairgar Burn for heating and cooling. 100% of the malt used is the Concerto variety coming from Simpsons, a malting company just to the right of Edinburgh. That might change in the future as more distilleries start switching to the Laureate variety. Some other distilleries have allegedly had their highest yield in their wash during experiments, so this seems promising for the future of this barley variety!

The Production Process

Mashing

The mill crushes the malted barley to grist to break open the husk of the grain. The rollers of the mill grind barley to a standard ratio of approximately 20% Husk, 10% Flour, and 70% Grist. This ratio is vital to prevent clogs and blockages in the pipes. The grist mixed with water to form a mash, with a porridge consistency, which is similar to adding hot water to a bowl of oatmeal. A traditional rack style mash tun, which has rakes turning continuously, mixes the “porridge” mash. The hot water helps dissolve some of the soluble sugars and to start breaking down the starch in the barley into sweet soluble sugar. This process separates the sugars from most of the solids. Hot water is added three times at Glengoyne to extract almost all the sugars from the mash. Each stream of water is hotter than the previous one.

Glengoyne’s way

At Glengoyne, the first stream of water to mix with the grist is at 64oC, followed by a second stream of water at 78oC. The first and second streams break most of the starch in the grist into sugar.  The third and final water stream comes approximately between 88-90oC to take away any remaining sugar. The process strips almost all the sugar in the grist, much like how hot water dissolves more chocolate and much faster than cold water. The temperatures of the water streams gradually increase so as not to change the natural qualities of the malted barley.

Fermentation

The sugared water from the first and second streams is called wort. The distillery cools the wort to below 20oC before channelling it to the washbacks for fermentation. The temperature is crucial as yeast cannot survive in high heat. The sugary liquid from the third stream of water is called the sparge. Sparge is very hot and have low sugar content. The sparge isn’t wasted though; it is piped away to be used as the first stream for the next mash at 64oC. The remaining barley solids in the mash tun is called the draff, and though it has almost no sugar, it is high in proteins. The draff is sold to farmers as cattle feed. It builds a very strong relationship between Glengoyne and the farmers around the area. Draff also grows healthy cows and produces delicious Scottish beef!

Fermentation at Glengoyne

A 20kg bag of Pinnacle Distillers Dry Yeast (MG+) – Photo by Hongfu Teo

The distillery uses Douglas Fir Wooden Washbacks for fermentation. Douglas Fir trees have fewer branches with lesser weak points, making them strong and lasting as washbacks. Each washback can last a couple of decades.

Each mash pipes into one of six Douglas Fir Wooden Washbacks for a fermentation period of approximately 56 hours. The team adds MG+ Pinnicale Dry Yeast into the washback to start the fermentation process. The yeast will change the dissolved sugars in the wort into low strength alcohol. This fizzy beer-like liquid brewed in the washbacks is called wash, and when the team completes the fermentation, the wash has an alcoholic strength of approximately 8.5% abv.

Distillation

Glengoyne’s Stills (from left) – Wash Still and 2 Spirits Stills (Photo by Hongfu Teo)

This wash is then sent to the wash still, which is the bigger pot still with three windows on the left of the photo. The wash still takes away some of the water and all the solid particles. This is done by heating the liquid until it bubbles. The vapours rise to the top of the pot still and down the lyne arm, to a shell and tube condenser that turns the vapour into liquid. The distillate from the wash still, known as low wine, flows down the lyne arm at approximately 16L/min. This low wine has an abv of 24%. The low wines enter the tank called the low wine receiver.

The stillmen have to ensure that the wash does not boil over the still and go down the lyne arm by monitoring the bubbles constantly. This is to ensure that the low wine does not have solid particles. The window on the still is usually the indicator that this still is a wash still.

A Second Distillation

The stillmen split the low wines between the two small onion-bulb Spirit Stills (in the picture above) to be distilled a second time. The second distillation increases the alcohol percentage of the final product. The pair of spirit stills is on the right of the photo above. The distillate comes out of the Spirit still in three stages: the Foreshots, the New-Make and the Feints (aka the Head, the Heart and the Tail).

The foreshots are cloudy and undesirable as it contains a lot of alcohol and lighter flavors. At approximately 75% abv, the distillate becomes clean and clear and smells sweet. This is the start of the “heart” or new make. The stillmen collect the distillate from this moment as the new make. Heavier flavours appear at approximately 65% and the stillmen direct the distillate to feints. The foreshots and feints are then channelled into the still again as there is still a significant amount of alcohol in them. The figures of 75-65% are approximate because temperature affects the reading. Stillmen usually use charts to ensure that the Glengoyne new make spirit is sweet and clean.

The Slowest Distillation

Glengoyne also has the slowest distillation from the Spirit Still at a volumetric flow rate of 5L/min. This slow distillation allows the liquid to have prolonged contact with the copper stills. This copper contact takes away sulfur compounds, which is another reason why the Glengoyne spirit character is so unique, and clean.

The New Make

Casks on display at Glengoyne (Photo by Hongfu Teo)

The new make is usually around 71% abv, and Glengoyne watered it down to 63.5% before filling it into a cask. Glengoyne has a 3-fill cask policy so after the third use; they stop using the cask. This policy ensures that every cask provides adequate maturation to the new make. The distillery shipped Oloroso sherry casks whole from Spain and seasoned them for at least two years. The process also strips the rougher tannins off the wood, giving the casks more Oloroso character! The casks give Glengoyne whiskies notes of raisins, dried fruit, nuttiness, chocolate, cinnamon and Christmas Cake! The sherry casks also provide all of Glengoyne single malt’s colour; the distillery does not use E150a caramel colouring!

An Extremely Educational and Enjoyable Journey

It was a lovely trip to the Glengoyne distillery and a one which I learnt a lot from. Thank you, Jonathan Scott, for the insightful tour! I am sure that I will be back again in future!

All this talk of Glengoyne is making me thirsty. Now, excuse me as I pour myself a dram of my favourite Glengoyne Core Range Bottling; the 21yo aged in 1stfill Oloroso cask… for 21 years!

Slainté!

 

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Here comes the Snake – Blackadder Arrives in Singapore

Blackadder is a popular independent bottler that many whisky lovers around the world is familiar with. As of 14 November 2018, Singapore has the honour of finally having a Blackadder distributor in Singapore! We were invited to a well-organised launch party by Jeremiah Kee, founder of Interco-mle. His company is the sole distributor for Blackadder in Singapore.

Here comes the Snake

The launch party was held at Laughing Juice, a well-crafted bar/event location at Orchard Boulevard. The decoration of the bar is classy, and it comes with a well-stocked bar too!

When I arrived at the bar, there were already lots of people mingling around the area. I was greeted by our host, Jeremiah, and then the whiskies stared at me in the face! Distracted by the whiskies, I believe I ignored a couple of friends who were waving at me. Hahaha…my apologies, my friends.

Up for grabs were some excellent Blackadder whiskies, including a Glen Ord (Singleton, anyone?) and a Loch Indaal (Bruichladdich!!). There were also two Japanese whiskies, one from the famed Chichibu distillery, and the other is an Eigashima. (Picture at the top)

Introduction to Blackadder

The event started officially with Jeremiah doing a short introduction to his company, Interco-mle and Blackadder. We understood that “Interco” means the International Code of Signals, and “MLE” simply means that “the patient has had too much alcohol”. Jeremiah obviously has the “mle” condition, considering his passion for whisky and Blackadder! It also revealed Jeremiah’s background – if you know it.

Robin Tucek and John Lamond founded Blackadder in 1995 and named the company after the historic Scottish figure Bishop John Blackadder. The company’s bottlings are mostly single casks and are neither chill-filtered or coloured. To drive the point of the natural state of the whisky, the company bottles their whiskies in clear bottles to ensure that customers can see the whisky clearly during their purchase.

The different ranges of Blackadder

Blackadder bottlings have standard ranges such as the “Limited Edition” and the “Auld Edinburgh”. It also offers the “Raw Cask” series from 2000, which showcase whiskies that are bottled directly from the cask. The bottling does not filter the whisky in any way, which results in some sediments in the whiskies such as fragments of wood.

For Singapore, Jeremiah imported many of the “Raw Casks” series as they are premium and suitable for our market here. We tasted two of these “Raw Casks” bottling – a Glen Ord 2004 13 Years Old, bottled for Hong Kong Whiskies More and a Bruichladdich (Loch Indaal) 2007 10 Years Old. While the Glen Ord reminded me of a Singleton whisky, it has more flavours and gives a better punch than the regular Singleton that we get in the market. The Bruichladdich, on the other hand, is excellent. There is a bite to the palate at first, but once the whisky opened up, the distillate shines through beautifully. A nose of cereal and hay romances me before the palate of sweetness engulfs the tongue in a tug of war. The finish is long and dry, lingering long after the whisky is gone.

Japanese Whiskies

As we are all aware of, Japanese whiskies have become the holy grail of whiskies these days. It is, therefore, an impressive feat for an independent bottler to get his hands on Japanese casks. This is what Robin did – Blackadder bottles Japanese whiskies! We tried two different whiskies – an Ichiro’s Malt at five years old from the Chichibu distillery and an Eigashima at three years old. Both are typical Japanese with notes of floral and sweet fruits. Personally, I prefer the Eigashima over the Ichiro’s Malt, but tastes are subjective!

Black Snake and Red Snake

In addition to the various single cask offering, Blackadder has a range of “Black Snake” and “Red Snake”. These whiskies use a Solera system, where aged single malts are placed into a sherry or bourbon cask for further ageing. When the whiskies are deemed ready, Blackadder draws two-thirds of the whisky out from the cask for bottling, while the cask is filled once again with more single malts. There will always be “older” whiskies in the cask, which allows for a balance of flavours and complexity.

We can liken the Solera system to how our hawkers do our braised duck gravy! The pot will always have some “original” gravy left behind, and our hawker uncle or auntie just keep on topping up the liquid. The new flavours of the gravy are stewed together with the flavours of the previous, making the gravy ultra yummy! The rich flavours of the braised duck gravy are similar to the rich flavours that you will get from the Black Snake and Red Snake.

The way to determine the sherry or bourbon cask is through the name. Black Snake is from the sherry cask while Red Snake is from the bourbon cask.

Cheese and Chocolate

Accompanying Blackadder whiskies were two vendors who are well-recognised for their excellent products. The Cheese Ark is a craft cheese shop which has gained its reputation as the purveyor of fine cheese. Lemuel Chocolate is the provider of fine, craft chocolate from bean to bar. Ronald is the chocolate maker behind Lemuel, and he is a passionate man who is in love with his craft!

I tried all of Lemuel’s chocolate on offer (because I am a chocolate monster as well as a whisky monster), and they are delicious stuff. It is almost like drinking whisky; the chocolate have finishes! My favourite is the India bar, which is herbal when I first eat it and then turn sweet after I chew it. They paired well with the whiskies too! I think we will probably hear more about Ronald and his chocolates soon!

A lovely evening through and through

It was a lovely evening with Blackadder, The Cheese Ark, Lemuel and of course, the Laughing Juice! Before I end the post, let me share future events from Interco-mle and Blackadder.

30 Nov – Laughing Hour @ The Laughing Juice (free-flow drinks and food for a reasonable price!!)

Dec 2018 – First monthly tasting of Blackadder (date is not firmed yet, so follow Interco-mle on Facebook and Instagram!)

Thank you, Jeremiah, for hosting such a beautiful launch, and we looked forward to more of your tastings!

 

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Doing your part for the ocean with a Whisky Auction

I think it was a good cause when the Whisky Auction approached me to write an article about an upcoming charity auction that they are hosting on their esteemed auction site. It is a sister company of The Whisky Exchange, and the bottles that are going on auction will make you sit just a little taller in your chair.

Judging by what the line-up looks like at the moment, whisky lovers and collectors alike will go crazy at an auction like this. Dangerous I know, but with a good cause.

The Brief about the Charity Auction

The special auction that Whisky Auction is hosting will give all the proceeds to their chosen charities to actively combat the damage done to the oceans. One of the prominent charities that the auction is supporting is US-based NGO, Plastic Oceans. The money donated will be used to expand global awareness, with a plan to reach another billion people by 2020. The project includes developing films and contents to educate, inspire and foster change.

What kind of bottles can you expect?

An auction of this magnitude cannot showcase anything but what many perceived to be the best. There are many 1 out of 1 bottle that will be going on offer. Currently, some of these bottles include:

Port Ellen 38 Years Old
Dalmore 45 Year Old
Bowmore 43 Year Old
Ardbeg 37 Year Old
The Balvenie 1973 Vintage Cask
Glenfarclas 1967
Brora 35 Year Old
Macallan 50 Years Old Millennium Decanter

There is also a crown jewel in this auction – a Karuizawa 50 Years Old that was given 94 points by WhiskyFun. Legendary and beautiful to behold, such a bottle do not come by easily. I trust that the bid for this bottle will be more than just fierce, but hey, if you have the dough, why not? It is a 50 Years Old Karuizawa! The packaging is lovely too, just see below!

How not to love the Japanese when they can do such excellent packaging for an equally fantastic liquid?

You can check out the pictures of the other bottles below.

I remember seeing that bottle of Glenlivet in last year’s Whisky Live – it was a significant sum of money…one that I cannot afford at the moment. Hahaha…

As for this Nikka, it is a Yoichi single cask. From what I know, this is yummy stuff…

There are other spirits too

If you are not that into Scotch and Japanese whiskies, you will be pleased to know that there are also rare bourbons and rums in this auction. The OFC 1990 is something special and let’s not even talk about the rare Caroni Magnum that will be on offer!

How do you bid?

Like many other auction sites, you will need to register for an account before you can bid. There is a fee of 5 GBP during registration to make sure that you are sincerely interested in the auctions. It is a one-time fee, and once your account is set up, you are ready to go!

The special auction starts on 18 November and ends on 27 November 2018. However, if you are already a user of this auction site, I doubt you will need to register again. However, just try clicking the “register now” button on this site to make double sure that you can participate when the time comes around!

Good luck and happy bidding!

 

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The More We Get Together…The Happier We’ll Be

Singapore has a large number of whisky bars for its relatively small surface area, and each whisky bar offers its patrons a different atmosphere, excellent whiskies and fantastic customer service. Even restaurants are also jumping onto the bandwagon! Before I unofficially join the industry as a blogger, I often thought that the competition is too stiff. How can the bars survive when they are serving the same, small group of whisky lovers in Singapore?

Well, to the uninitiated, that appears to be a tough question to answer. The bars in Singapore are come up with the perfect solution though – instead of “fighting one another”, they choose to work together (hence my blog post title). All these collaborations have come to one remarkable result for four of our bars and restaurants – a joint bottling.

The Whisky Project

Friends and media gathered at New Ubin Seafood Restaurant at Chijmes on 22 October to witness and taste the joint bottling by Quaich Bar, The Swan Song, The Writing Club and New Ubin Seafood. It is a Cadenhead Linkwood-Glenlivet 28 Years Old. The evening, however, was not just a tasting. It was a gathering of friends, and for all of us, it was the friendship that got all of us together in the first place.

We understood that there was never an intention for a bottling that boasts either old age or a popular distillery. The focus of the four bars and restaurant was the taste of the whisky. However, from all the cask samples that the group tried, a Linkwood stood out. It was the obvious choice, for the 28 years old Linkwood-Glenlivet from a sherry butt performs better in every single way.

The Evening with Cadenhead

The Food

Now, before I delve into the tasting, I wanted to make a statement about the food that New Ubin Seafood served to us on that beautiful evening. I think that warranted more than a mention because it was just amazing.

I missed out an excellent dish in the pictures (because all of us delve into the food before we remember that we forget to feed our phones…). That excellent dish was SMOKED PORK CURRY. Possibly the best curry I have ever eaten. The other dish worth mentioning was the cup you see on the right. Inside contained half-boiled eggs and Foie Gras. No, it is not wrong, and yes, it is the best way of eating foie gras – Singapore style.

The Linkwood-Glenlivet 28 Years Old

I believe that many of my media friends have already made their reviews about the Linkwood-Glenlivet 28 Years Old, and I do not wish to add on to more formal reports. What I want to do instead, is to encourage everyone to go to one of these four places – Quaich Bar, The Swan Song, The Writing Club and New Ubin Seafood – and TRY THE WHISKY. It is worth your time, efforts and the usage of your liver. If you have not tried it, you must try it. To all my overseas readers, if you travel to Singapore, go to these bars, and try it!

To give everyone an idea of the whisky, let me say this – it is a sherry bomb that gives you a nose that is full of plums, dark raisins, chocolate and hints of espresso. The palate is sweet and creamy, with slightly roasted notes of coffee. Plums and raisins are prominent with some dryness towards the end, reminding me of tannins. The finish is long, sweet and slightly tannic.

Ok, that is all I will say about the whisky – you must try the whisky so that you are not missing out on the good stuff, and since you are going to try the whisky, why not try the food at New Ubin Seafood too?

The Guy behind the Gathering of Friends for the Tasting

Right, it is not the best picture I have, but this is candid, and therefore, nice. The handsome chap that you see in this picture is familiar to everyone, of course! He is none other than Matthew Fergusson-Stewart, the Chief Marketing Officier at The Whisky Store. While you may know Matthew from his previous life as the brand ambassador for Glenfiddich single malt, he has since moved on to this new role with The Whisky Store.

A tiny interview

WhiskyGeeks did a short interview with Matthew before the tasting, and we asked him some rather personal questions, like why did he move on from being an ambassador when he was doing the job so well. Matthew’s answer was heartwarming. He shared his reasons candidly, saying that he would like to spend more time at home with his wife and children and that being an ambassador means lots of travelling and lesser time at home. He also passed the remark that it can be tiring as a brand ambassador.

As the Chief Marketing Officier, Matthew also gets to work with more brands as he is in charge of all the brands under The Whisky Store. With a much bigger portfolio, Matthew can grow in his journey as a whisky man. The role is also attractive because Matthew still gets to host tasting events (such as the one we went to) and yet get to do a job that is more or less flexible to let him spend more time at home.

Going back to his roots in Marketing

Matthew also shared that his first passion is marketing. He studied marketing as a student and loved every bit of what he did. While he chose to become an ambassador for quite some years, he decided to return to his roots in marketing with this new role that he takes up with The Whisky Store. Building marketing and brand plans come a little harder now, but it is coming altogether pretty quickly for Matthew! From now till the end of the year, Matthew shares that his focus is on his brand plans so that things get going in 2019. It was a lot of work when he started work, but now as things settled down, Matthew began to formulate what he wants to do next year as the CMO of The Whisky Store too.

I understand that his first and foremost target is to understand all his brands and get them in order. Once done, he will begin to develop each brand further. Matthew promises more tasting sessions, and also a better distribution plan for all the 27 brands that he looks after. There is also the bar side of things, which Matthew is looking into creating more synergies with. All in all, it seems like a hectic year ahead!

I am looking forward to Matthew’s work and believe that he would bring each brand to greater heights.

Future Joint Bottling?

Frankly, we do not know if the bars and restaurant gathered for this joint bottling will do yet another project, but it is with the hope that they may consider doing it yet again to benefit the rest of us whisky lovers! It was a lovely evening spent with friends who matter. Coupled that with amazing drams, and nothing else can be better than that!

Quaich Bar is the oldest whisky bar in Singapore, and we pretty much owe our whisky growth in Singapore to Khoon Hui, Joyce and their team at the bar. With Matthew joining the team at The Whisky Store, we can be sure that exciting times lie ahead of us as we move into 2019!

 

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