Nantou Distillery (Omar whisky) visit!

Nantou distillery has been making Omar, a Taiwanese whisky, since 2008. The distillery tours there are quite like those of Scotland. The tour guide makes the experience more intimate, more personalised and less commercial. Nantou distillery’s willingness to experiment makes them unique, especially to whisky geeks like myself! I know many of you are more interested in the whisky; so I will leave the technical production details to later in the article!

Omar Whisky

Nantou winery makes different fruit wines and liqueurs which can be used to season casks for unique cask finishes. Omar whisky has released whisky finished in casks of Lychee Liqueur, Plum liqueur, Black-Queen Wine and Orange liqueur.

Batch 4 Lychee Liqueur Cask Finish

This Lychee liqueur finish has a balanced Lychee note that does not overpower the whisky. I enjoyed the tropical fruit notes of pineapple and mango alongside notes of pear drops!

Batch 1 Orange Liqueur Cask Finish

This dram is for the orange lover with notes of orange puree, orange zest, and orange flower water alongside some lovely notes of vanilla and honey from its prior maturation.

I am particularly fond of their bourbon cask strength, both peated and unpeated! But do not fret about the age statements. Due to a higher average temperature, maturation speeds are a lot faster than Scotland. A 3-year-old whisky at Nantou would taste similar to an 8 to 12-year-old whisky matured in Scotland. The 8-year-old cask strength is a special release; it feels like a 15-20-year-old scotch.

Omar 8yo 2009 Cask Strength

This 8yo is very soft and demure, giving notes of old oak, vanilla, pears and mandarin oranges!

Omar 3yo 2014 Peated Cask Strength

The 3-year-old peated cask strength displayed a high calibre of maturation, with the right balance of peat smoke. Water will draw out more smoke for people who love that note! This delicious yet affordable single cask would be good smoky daily dram!

Omar 10yo 2008 PX Sherry Cask

For sherry bomb lovers, this is an absolute sherry nuke or WMD! This is the result of 8 years in sherry hogshead before finishing in a PX cask for two years. This dram holds notes of Christmas cake, cinnamon, chocolate, plums and dried fruit!

Barley

TTL buys barley in bulk from multiple maltsters. Most of the unpeated barley is from maltsters in England, while most of the peated barley at 35ppm is from maltsters based in Scotland. The moisture content is also similar to specifications required in Scottish distilleries, around 4%.

Milling & Mashing

The barley is milled into grist with the standard ratio of 70% grist, 20% barley husk and 10% flour. Distilleries maintain specific ratios to assist in the filtration of wort and to prevent choking in the pipes. The grist is sent to a German semi-lauter mash tun with a charge of 120000L. Hot water is added three times; the first and second streams form the wort. The third stream, called the sparge, picks up the remaining sugars, but it is low in sugar. The sparge is not mixed with the first 2 streams, but to maximise sugar recovery. This is done by reusing the sparge for the first stream to be added to the next batch of grist.

Fermentation

The wort goes into one of the stainless steel washbacks to undergo fermentation, turning it into a strong beer called wash. In this stage, the yeast will start eating the sugar in the wort and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. For Omar whisky, this fermentation process takes an average of 72 hours using French distiller’s yeast. This is slightly longer than the 48 hours of fermentation in most modern Scottish distilleries. The wash from Omar is around 7-8% alcohol by volume (abv).

Distillation

Pot stills

The wash goes into one of 2 wash stills to be distilled into low wines. This distillation removes the barley solids leaving mostly ethanol, water and aromatic compounds. The low wines are pipped into the spirit still for its second distillation to reduce water content. Nantou Distillery currently has 2 Wash Stills and 2 Spirit Stills. One spirit still is different, as it, strangely enough, has a window. The stills are of varying sizes, one at 7000L, two at 5000L and the last one at 2000L.

Cut of the Heart

There are three components in the spirit still distillate. The head comes first at a high abv, followed by the heart, which is what goes into the barrels, and lastly comes the tail which has a lower abv. The cut of the heart affects the new make spirit and how the whisky tastes. If the cut starts at a higher abv, the new make spirit gets lighter, fruity notes, but also more undesirable flavours from the heads. If the cut ends too low, it gets heavier flavours but risk lowering the final abv.

The master distiller decides how to balance these two points. For Omar, the cut of the heart is somewhere between 73% and 64%. This means that the stillmen sends distillate above 73% (heads) and below 64% (tails) into a tank to be redistilled. The heart that is within the range will go into barrels for maturation. Due to Taiwan’s legislation, Nantou Distillery reduces the strength of their new make spirit to just below 60% abv before filling in casks.

Maturation

Cask Management

Nantou distillery receives the sherry and bourbon casks whole so that the cask maintains its inherent quality. Nantou distillery uses ex-bourbon casks up to 3 times. As for Sherry casks, there is no fixed numerical limit. Craftsmen will keep utilising the sherry cask until they deem it to be too exhausted to provide flavour. According to the tour guide, the sherry casks usually provides stronger flavours in Nantou’s climate, therefore using refill would give a more balanced dram.

 

3rd and 4th fill Bourbon casks are usually used for seasoning with wines or liqueurs. This is extraordinarily creative, because a 3rd or 4th fill cask may not provide as much cask influence, but they can act as a sponge to soak up the previous liquid. This means that such a seasoned cask would deliver the flavours of the previous content without over-oaking the product. These seasoned casks are used for the various Omar whisky finishes.

Warehouse

Most of Nantou distillery’s warehouses are racked for easy access to the individual cask. Amongst the racked warehouses, Nantou distillery also has a specially designed warehouse with space for future tasting events. This warehouse has an architecture heavily influenced by the sherry bodegas in Spain. The casks stacked up to three high and is a mimic of the solera system in a sherry bodega. Though the ceiling is lower, the arcs near the ceiling are similar to Bodegas in Spain. As a comparison, these are some pictures of the bodegas I visited in Jerez de la Frontera. On the left is Bodega Diez Merito, on the right is Bodega Fundador.

 

Distillery Expansion

Omar is looking to expand its production capacity by adding 3 more pairs of wash and spirit stills! The distillery is also undergoing renovation to accommodate larger tour crowds. In addition, Omar is continuing to experiment with new and different finishes! It is an exciting time ahead for Omar whisky and Nantou distillery is a must go on your Taiwan trip!

 

Special thanks to Nantou Distillery, Chairman Chung, and Ben for this enjoyable experience!

WhiskyGeeks x DFS Glenmorangie Event

Photo Credits: DFS

As a blog, WhiskyGeeks has come a long way since we first started two years ago. We started our Facebook page in May-June 2017 and made the first post in July 2017. Since then, we had garnered interest from readers all around the world. The team at WhiskyGeeks humbly thank everyone for the support! Without our readers, we would not have gone this far.

In celebration of our second anniversary, WhiskyGeeks approached DFS Singapore to collaborate on a one-off whisky tasting in conjunction with the Whisky Festival at Changi Airport. We are honoured that DFS responded positively, and we had a great time hosting a small batch of our members at Changi Airport Terminal 2 on 22 June 2019.

The Glenmorangie Event

Brendan McCarron

We are fortunate to have Brendan McCarron, the head of maturing whisky stocks at Glenmorangie, with us during the event. Brendan is a talented guy who has experience working in both malting halls and distilleries. He is, currently, under the tutorage of Dr Bill Lumsden, and likely, will be the next Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation and Maturing Whisky Stocks after Dr Bill retires.

Travel Retail Bottles

As the event is a collaboration with DFS, we focus on the various Travel Retail bottles available for Glenmorangie. We tasted three expressions. There is a bourbon-matured 19 years old, the chocolate malt Signet and a 14 years old single cask. Each of them houses different flavours.

Photo Credit: DFS

Glenmorangie 19 Years Old – Exclusive Travel Retail

The 19 years old is a 100% bourbon-matured whisky. On the nose, we get vanilla, flowers, pine resin, unripe strawberries and some vegetal notes. Adding some water to the whisky brings out fragrant sandalwood, old books, with hints of cherries, lemon zest and confectionary sweetness. We get citrus and mango on the palate, with honey and the vegetal note lingering. With water, we get some musk and earthiness. The lemon zest also surfaces with confectionary sweetness. The finish is of medium length with honey, musk and lemon zest.

Glenmorangie Signet

The Signet is a familiar bottle in the Glenmorangie family. The signet on the bottle gives Glenmorangie its identity. Therefore, this bottle is of special meaning to the distillery. The malt in the Signet is done slightly differently when compared to the rest of the range. By roasting and burning some of the malt used in the Signet, it gives rise to what Brendon calls, “the chocolate malt”. The distillation team mixes traditional malt and the chocolate malt to create the highly delicious Signet.

The nose is full of roasted coffee bean, cold brew, mocha latte, and dark chocolate, with some cinnamon and dried fruits. The mouthfeel is rich, with cold brew, vanilla, marzipan and dark chocolate, each giving complexity to the dram. The finish is a combination of cinnamon, vanilla and dark chocolate.

Glenmorangie 2004 14 Years Old Single Cask (Cask #1399)

The 14 Years Old Single Cask is quite similar to the 19 Years Old. The difference is in the alcohol percentage and the fact that it is a single cask. In terms of prices, it is also much higher. On the nose, we get vanilla, confectionary sweetness, unripe strawberries and milk chocolate. When we added water, the dram becomes sweeter. The milk chocolate is more prominent, and there are hints of lemon zest and green apples. The palate is full of citrus, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate and some vegetal notes. Water brings out the lemon zest found in the nose, as well as honey and a slight spicer palate. The finish has lemon zest, vanilla, honey and the cinnamon spice.

The Whisky House @ Changi Airport Terminal 2

After the event, the DFS team kindly opened up the Whisky House to our members to do more tastings. WhiskyGeeks is thankful for the generosity. It was a privilege for us to get access to the Whisky House after the event! Our members got to try many more whiskies, such as the Ardbeg 23 Years Old and the Octomores 7.2 and 8.2! One of our members even tried the Octomore 8.2 for the first time in her life, and enjoyed her first peated whisky!

The Ardbeg 23 Years Old

We like the Ardbeg 23 Years Old. The whisky has the right amount of smoke, peat, and sweetness to delight most of us peatheads. It is also one of the easiest to drink Ardbeg so far. We know that it would be harder to try this dram if DFS did not open up the Whisky House for us during the event as we would need to fly out of the country to get a taste. 🙂

For anyone who will be flying in or out of Singapore, do drop by the DFS counters at the various terminals for some tasting. The current range available will not disappoint!

We believe that most of you know that there is an ongoing promotion at DFS until 30 June 2019 in conjunction with the Whisky Festival. Travellers who spend above SGD$200 will receive a complimentary Glencairn glass at the departure hall. For those arriving in Singapore, spending $140 and above will guarantee you a pair of ferry tickets to Batam coupled with a city tour.

A Welcoming Host

Photo Credit: DFS

We want to add a note here, especially to thank the team at DFS. Our members enjoyed themselves during the event and told us that DFS was a fantastic host. We had plenty to eat and drink during the event. With delectable pairings such as artisan cheese, fruits, and nuts, to a variety of tarts and brownies to choose from, the DFS team fed us well in terms of food and drinks.

WhiskyGeeks is very grateful to the team for taking care of such a big group and giving us enough time to enjoy our whiskies.

A Fantastic Experience

From right to left: Brendan, Zerlina and Zicong

It was an awesome experience for most of us to get a chance to visit the transit area at Changi Airport without an air ticket. The experience was significantly upgraded with Brendan McCarron hosting us for the tasting of the three Glenmorangie expressions. It wasn’t easy to arrange the trip, but it was all worth it when we saw how happy our members were.

We hope to collaborate with DFS again in future, and once again, we want to give our heartiest thanks to the DFS team! You guys rock!

One Last Thing

Before we go, we want to mention that we did an exclusive interview with Brendan during the event. We are in the progress of writing it up and plans to release it sometime in July. Watch out for it, for Brendan did speak about the different casks the distillery uses, and also have advice for budding young whisky enthusiasts on “how to enter the whisky industry”. That means, “how to land a job in a whisky distillery”. Stay tuned!

 

Like what you have just read?

Join WhiskyGeeks.sg as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!





[recaptcha]

Let’s Talk about Memories and Whisky

Whisky and Memories

Most of us may find that specific flavours in our whiskies remind us of certain events or occasions in our lives. These memories can be good or bad. Sometimes, drinking a particular whisky helps us to remember the good times we had with our friends; while another whisky can bring up bad memories that we would rather forget.

Why do we have such feelings?

I am no scientist, and wouldn’t be able to go into the scientific notions of why our brains make us feel this way. However, I would like to offer my layman ideas about this.

Our Memories

Our memories are a part of us. It is possibly the one function of our brain that keeps us sane most of the time. The art of remembering is essential to our daily lives and in fact, necessary for our survival.

While a significant part of our memory is crucial to our survival as it helps us to avoid danger, a smaller portion of our mind helps us experience life moments. We remember our wedding day; the day our child is born; our graduation day. These memories can be pleasant or unpleasant, dependent on our feelings toward the individual events.

The same goes for food and flavours. Things get more complex. Say, for example, you remember that you were eating a chicken pie when your child is born. The association of chicken pie and happy moment (child is born) will give you a fuzzy, comfortable feeling whenever you smell or eat a chicken pie. The link is unconscious to you.

Enjoying Whisky

If you own a Glencairn glass, check out the graphics on the box, teaching you how to enjoy whisky. The graphics show you how to use your senses to look, smell and taste the whisky. Such simple acts come to us naturally, even though the first time may be tough. We learn how to enjoy and appreciate whisky over time using our senses.

Our brains recognise and remember the different flavours of whisky. As we progress in our whisky journey, we begin to link the different whisky flavours to the food and drinks that we know.

Linking Memories and Whisky Flavours

At some point in our whisky journey, our adaptive minds will begin to connect our life experiences (memories) with the different flavours that we detect in our whiskies. It is the start of our new adventures of linking memories to the whiskies that we enjoyed. Some whisky flavours will give us a warm, comfortable feeling because the association is with a pleasant experience or memory that we had. Others will have us cringing because the smell or taste of it reminds us of an unpleasant association with another memory.

Perhaps it is vital for us to understand the feelings that certain flavours generate to allow us to avoid stereotyping specific whiskies as something that we will never enjoy. I used to dislike Laphroaig tremendously as the flavours of the whisky remind me of a certain garbage smell that I hate as a child. As I grow in my whisky journey, I began to understand the link between my life experiences and my choice of whisky. With that understanding, I began to let go of my biases and try more Laphroaigs that was offered to me. While I still dislike many of the Laphroaigs that I tried, I discovered that I could accept some of them.

Growing in your Whisky Journey

All of us grow in our whisky journeys as we move along in life. It is common for us to discover that our taste buds change with time. Such changes lead us to favour and disfavour certain whisky profiles. However, it does not mean that you will not toggle back and fro from the various flavours that you enjoy. At the moment in my journey, I toggle between peat and bourbon-matured whiskies, which is a far cry from my previous enjoyment of heavily sherried whiskies. I am not in a hurry to throw out my sherried whiskies though, because who knows when I will begin to enjoy them again.

 

Like what you have just read?

Join WhiskyGeeks.sg as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!





[recaptcha]

Whisky Review #104 – Cragganmore 1989 27 Years

Cragganmore 1989 27 Years Old

Our recent visit to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, was pretty much a whisky trip. We landed ourselves in The Drunken Master Whisky Bar on the first night to enjoy some respite from the long day of travelling.

Cragganmore 1989 27 Years Old

There are only 60 bottles for this label. Bottled at 50.9% abv from a hogshead, this bottle of Cragganmore 27 Years Old is the brainchild of Kuo Yi Liang, the bartender of The Drunken Master Whisky Bar. He is a dear friend of the owner, Li Chunfeng, and also a friend of WhiskyGeeks. The bottle is labelled as Kuo’s Choice and showed a scene of summer on the label. There was another bottle in the series – a Glen Moray – but it was sadly sold out.

I was lucky to get the last few pours from the bottle and man; I wasn’t wrong in choosing to have this as my first dram!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Light Golden

Nose: Sweet mango and melons dominated the nose at the start before the strength of the whisky wafted in as white peppers. Mild oakiness surfaced after resting the whisky for more than 15 minutes, giving the whisky more complexities. (20/25)

Palate: It had an oily texture, with white pepper leading the way. It soon gave way to mango pudding, melons, guava and a hint of oakiness. The oiliness made the whisky approachable, and the sweetness of the dram helps to balance out the spice from the white peppers. (22/25)

Finish: The long finish lingered in the mouth with fruity sweetness and gentle oak. The dryness of the dram allows the sweet fruits to leave a lasting effect. (21/25)

Body: It is a balanced dram! The sweetness of the whisky is pleasant and complements the oiliness perfectly. The oakiness is also in the right proportion to give a slight “old whisky effect”. (22/25)

Total Score: 85/100

Comments:

Zerlina: I like the fruitiness of the dram. It is also richer than the usual Cragganmore OB with that oiliness found in the palate. At 27 years old, the oakiness is gentle and does not overpower the character of the whisky. I think it is a well-chosen cask. However, I did not give a higher score because I feel that it is not as sophisticated as what I would expect of a 27 years old whisky. It is, nonetheless, just my opinion. If you have a chance to try this, you should try it to see how it works for you. 🙂 

A Chat with Chris Morris, Master Distiller for Woodford Reserve

Chris Morris – Master Distiller, Woodford Reserve

The world of bourbon whiskey can be daunting if you do not know what you are drinking. The different expressions under one brand can be mind-boggling, and the struggle gets tougher when you face the various brands available. It is, therefore, a privilege to speak with Chris Morris, one of the most experienced Master Distiller under the Brown-Forman umbrella. Chris is the Master Distiller for Woodford Reserve, a whiskey that proves its mettle with its flavours.

Chatting with Chris Morris

We were unfortunate to miss the event hosted by Chris during his visit to Singapore a couple of weeks ago, but he was still kind enough to agree to an email interview with us.

Chris Morris’ Background

Chris is the seventh Master Distiller at Brown Forman since the company began in 1870. Woodford Reserve, of course, is a brand under Brown Forman. Chris grew up in Louisville in a Bourbon family. Chris is one of the three generations in his family to work in the Bourbon industry. His father worked at Brown Forman before him. As a kid, Chris watched his mother enjoyed a glass of Old Forester while preparing dinner and played at the Old Forester Distillery whenever his dad brought him in during the weekends. These particular interactions with the Bourbon industry gave Chris a lasting impact, and he naturally went into the industry when he came of age.

First Foray into the Bourbon World

Chris started his career as a trainee in the grain receiving lab and the sensory lab of Old Forester in 1976. His job included setting up barrel samples for the Master Distiller to taste besides running tests for the grains received. While the job sounded simple, it is essential because of the ingredients for the whiskey must be checked before the production team could use them. We asked Chris if much has changed since his time, considering the improvements in technology. Interestingly, he said that nothing much has changed except minor adjustments to improve the processes.

Moving on from Brown Forman

Chris moved on from Brown Forman after 12 years and joined Glenmore Distilleries Company in 1988. He then joined United Distillers when the firm acquired Glenmore in 1991. Chris gained experiences from these positions and became better at what he did. After nine years, he returned to the fold at Brown Forman.

Becoming the Chosen One

His return proved to be the perfect timing. With his experiences, Chris was the forerunner as a candidate for the position of a trainee of the Master Distiller. He became the first Brown Forman Master Distiller designee to receive a formal training program. The course includes both academic and work experience requirements. It wasn’t the easiest course to train under, but it provides all the essential skills for a Master Distiller to become an expert in his role.

Chris mentioned that the program had been expanded to include a few additions that reflect the changes in the industry. This is the template for all future Master Distillers for Brown Forman. The current Assistant Master Distiller, Elizabeth McCall, is following the course.

Understanding the Bourbon Tree

Recently, there were debates about the Bourbon Tree, and what it meant for the Bourbon industry. We asked Chris for his opinions. “The Bourbon Tree is very interesting because it contains [several] inaccuracies that only an industry insider would recognize. It is also very simplistic in its portrayal of the diversity of Bourbon flavour development.” Chris said. He encouraged Bourbon lovers to research how the various brands crafted their bourbons, and judge the whiskey by its flavours, not its category.

Understanding the Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve

Chris showed his passion for the Woodford Reserve when we began to ask questions about the bourbon. We came to understand that the bourbon is unique amongst the various brands because of its focus to flavours. The approach allows the brand to showcase flavour development and presentation that may not be possible in other brands. Woodford Reserve also created the Five Sources of Flavour production process philosophy to bring a balanced presentation of the Five Areas of Bourbon Flavours. This is why Chris is so proud of what Woodford Reserve has achieved so far.

The Different Expressions of Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve has various expressions and families within its portfolio. Every expression brings a different flavour to the palate. Each bottle creates a unique experience for the bourbon lover. The expressions exist to showcase the different characteristics of bourbon, and are designed to be unbalanced on purpose. The Distillers Select range provides distinctive flavours for the drinker, and the bottles are probably not for someone who is looking for a balanced dram.

For the drinker who is looking for a balanced dram to enjoy, look out for the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It is the most balanced of all Bourbons and will provide hours of pleasure for the Bourbon lover.

If you are interested in wood finishes, check out the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. This expression explores the flavours of barrel finishing and provides an insight into how wood influences changes the liquid. Finally, for the curious and open-minded, the Masters Collection and Distillery Series showcase unique flavour presentation through modern whiskey innovation.

The Future of Bourbon

We asked Chris for his opinions on the future of Bourbon. His simple reasoning resonances with our understanding of the current market sentiments. He said, “The future of any consumer product category is hard to predict. But based on a value system that places great store on extreme age claims, I don’t see Bourbon reaching the price levels of the select Malts and Cognac.”

The fact remains that whisky drinkers placed much emphasis on age statements – perhaps too much. However, just as Chris said, the future is hard to predict. It may come a day where the market matures far enough to focus on flavours more than age statements. We see much improvements and acceptance of younger whiskies now, so maybe that day is not that far away after all.

 

Like what you have just read?

Join WhiskyGeeks.sg as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!





[recaptcha]