Events

Another Cadenhead Tasting with Mitch Graham

Mitch Graham of Cadenhead, screenshot from Zoom

When we get lucky, we get lucky! The Whisky Store invited WhiskyGeeks to another fabulous Cadenhead premium tasting. This time around, our host was Mitch Graham, the sales executive at Cadenhead. While we were slightly disappointed that the original presenter, Cameron McGeachy couldn’t host the event due to unforeseen circumstances, Mitch was a good sport to take up the role.

We shared extensively about the history of Cadenhead in a previous post, so let us move on to the important details – the whiskies!

The Whisky Line Up

Cadenhead has not failed to disappoint us so far, and this tasting was just as excellent. The line up was premium, with whiskies ranging from 8 years old to 36 years old. Bottled at cask strength, each of these whiskies offered up different flavours and profiles. We had the following:

Burnside (teaspoon Balvenie) 1991 27 Years Old, 43.5% abv
Benrinnes 2000 18 Years Old, 57.5% abv
Balbair 2011 8 Years Old, 57.8% abv
Creation (Rich, Fruity, Sherry) 1980 36 Years Old, 44.5% abv

Burnside 1991 27 Years Old

I have been raving about Burnside recently, especially if they are bourbon-matured expressions. James Cordiner, the ex Balvenie brand ambassador introduced me to them with his fabulous DCS range. We even bought some Balvenie 12 Years Old in single bourbon casks just to compare their profiles! You can guess that I was excited with this Burnside!

Well, Cadenhead and Burnside did not disappoint at all! The floral, fruity sweetness of the whisky hit my nose like a bouquet of fruits. The palate mellowed out from fruity to a slightly dry, floral note. It was so soft. At 27 years old, the whisky is aged to perfection. The lower abv also helps to take away the sting of alcohol, making it a perfect choice for everyone.

Benrinnes 2000 18 Years Old

Fans of Benrinnes love the fruity notes of the distillate and its strong, robust character that withstands both bourbon and sherry cask maturation. I may not be the biggest fan of Benrinnes, but I do own a couple of excellent 18 years old Benrinnes. I probably ought to add this particular one to my shelf. The nose was fantastic, full of ripe green fruits and some beautiful tobacco notes. I think some people may think it’s tea leaves, but yeah, you get the idea. The palate was oily and full, with a softness that suggests an older whisky.

Balbair 2011 8 Years Old

The youngest whisky of the lot and the strongest in terms of alcoholic strength is the Balbair 2011 8 Years Old. If you think that the flavours pale in comparison, then you are wrong. Balbair has a strong distillate, and it works very well in a bourbon cask. This particular Balbair stands out with its slightly engine oil nose, and its strong, oily palate. While it is not as mellow as the rest, it definitely more than make up for it in terms of flavours. Think of lemons, citrus and fruity notes, and you are getting the Balbair 2011.

Creation (Rich, Fruity, Sherry) 1980 36 Years Old

Cadenhead creates blends to showcase certain profiles to help its consumers determine specific flavours. The Creation series has various expressions, and I thought that this old sherried whisky was pretty awesome. There were some sulphuric notes at the beginning, but as the whisky opened up, the aromas of rich, dark fruits, tobacco and dark musty books surfaced. A typical sherry profile, with just the right amount of softness to it.

Cadenhead’s New Adventures with Original Collection

Fans of Cadenhead whiskies will be familiar with their various ranges. Besides the small batch range which we tasted, Cadenhead also has their cask strength Authentic Collection. The Authentic Collection is made up of single cask bottling which are, unfortunately, not available in Singapore. However, we have exciting news for you.

Cadenhead Original Collection

Template Image
Picture Source: Cadenhead Newsletter

We understood from Mitch, that a new range is emerging from Cadenhead. While he did not reveal too much during the event, we did found out about it through the Cadenhead Newsletter! The newest addition to Cadenhead’s extensive range is their Original Collection. The collection is a revival of the old, and delightfully bringing the Cadenhead folklore back to life.

“The Original Collection features a great range of Cadenhead’s whiskies, with each of the casks selected from our extensive warehouse stocks tested by our dedicated Cadenhead’s team.”

Cadenhead Newsletter

It appears that the Original Collection will not be single casks bottling. Each expression will be a marriage of several casks, so that there will always be enough stocks for interested parties to snap them up. Cadenhead also decides to bottle these beauties at 46% abv instead of cask strength to showcase how each whisky shines at that alcoholic strength. The deliberate choice of watering the expressions down is also a way to allow the Original Collection to have its own identity. We think it is a good option for newer drinkers to experience Cadenhead as well. It does open up a big, new adventure for most of us!

The Whisky Store

We understand that The Whisky Store will be importing these delicious malts, but their stocks are likely to arrive only sometime in early 2021. If you are keen to try them, do be patient and wait for the announcement!

In the meanwhile, do check out their online store for the various expressions that we tasted. They are all fabulous, and if you like any of these, you should grab them faster rather than slower. Oh, and if you prefer holding the bottles in your hands before purchasing, head down to Copper at Lanson Place. There is a small retail section there, and you can also get to taste more Cadenhead expression!

A Different Kind of Maltatives

Kalak Single Malt Vodka is…oh wait, what? Single malt vodka, you said?! Yup! We were really excited when Sarah from The WhiskyStore invited us to the tasting of Kalak single malt vodka, gin and whiskey! It was a collaboration from The WhiskyStore and The Other Room to showcase their newest products in town.

Introduction to Origin Spirits and its products

Patrick Shelley, the founder of Origin Spirits and Kalak Single Malt Vodka

Origin Spirits is the baby of Patrick Shelley (picture above). Founded in 2015, the company currently holds three different products – single malt vodka, gin and whiskey. Patrick previously worked for LVMH and loves his whiskies! However, he dislikes vodka because he couldn’t understand why people enjoy a drink that is tasteless! When Patrick started his own company, he decided to create a vodka that he likes to drink. He found his answer in local Irish barley and he swiftly set to work to develop a series of products made from malted barley.

Kalak Single Malt Vodka

Credit: kalakvodka.com/our-vodka/

Kalak is the phonetic spelling of the name of an Irish Celtic goddess. The name of the goddess is Cailleach and she is the Queen of Winter. Legends have it that she appears every winter to protect the animals from the harsh weather and when spring arrives, she turns into stone. She is the closest thing to Mother Nature that the Celts had; the embodiment of the darker, more powerful side of nature. Kalak takes her name as a reflection of Ireland’s terroir. The bottles hold Ireland, her weather and her people’s ancient knowledge in distillation.

Origin Spirits sources local Irish barley from the South East of Ireland as the farmers follow a strict chart of sustainability. The wort from the fermentation is distilled four times in a copper still to make sure that the vodka hits 96% abv as per the rules from the European Union. These are then watered down to 40% before bottling. The vodka is clean and smooth, with notes of butter cookies, salt and some fruitiness. It is definitely not the usual vodka that we see in the market!

PEATED Kalak Single Malt Vodka

Credit: kalakvodka.com/our-vodka/

What got us really excited, however, is the PEATED Kalak Single Malt Vodka. The peated version is technically a cask-aged vodka. Origin Spirits buys virgin American oak casks and charred them with peat fire to infuse the cask with smoke. The vodka is put into the casks for four months to allow the spirit to develop a delicious smokey flavour on top of the buttery character from its standard single malt vodka expression.

Ornabrak Gin

Credit: kalakvodka.com/our-vodka/

Origin Spirits uses the base spirits from its vodka production to create a floral and complex gin. The four-time distilled base spirit goes through a fifth distillation with five botanicals carefully sourced to emerge as Ornabrak Gin. The five botanticals are juniper berries, lemon peels, angelica roots, Douglas fir, and lemon verbena. The distilled gin is cut at 76% abv and watered down to 43% abv before bottling. The nose is full of citrus peels (think orange and lemon), hint of white pepper, gentle juniper notes and lavendar. The palate is smooth with citrus peels and lavender petals. The finish is full of orange and lavender. It is also drying which makes you want to have more.

Currach Atlantic Kombu Seaweed Cask Single Malt Whiskey

Source: https://www.thewhiskeytrail.ie/2020/03/25/currach-single-malt-irish-whiskey-review/

Currach single malt Irish whiskey is the one bottle from the entire offering that got us jumping up and down with impatience. The whiskey matures in ex-bourbon casks before getting a finish in a seaweed-infused cask for two to three months! How exotic is that!?

Family of Seaweed Harvesters in Action

When Patrick first decided to do a whiskey, he wanted to add a new element to his whiskey. As he looks into Ireland’s terroirs, he stumbled upon seaweed. The seaweeds that he uses grow in abundance around Ireland’s coasts and the family of harvesters whom he works with takes pride in their ability to keep the business sustainable through their hand-harvesting technics.

Charring of virgin American Oak Casks

Patrick experimented with seaweed and oak chips extensively before going to full production. What they do is to first cook and dry the seaweed to remove the natural “fishy smell”. The team uses 0.5kg of dried seaweed per virgin American oak cask. They lit a fire using the seaweed as a sort of fuel. Once the fire is stable, they closed the cask and then rolled it around to ensure the burning seaweed reaches every part. They repeated the process six times for each cask.

The nose is full of kombu dashi, sweetness, a hint of sea brine and nuts. Once it opens up, the fragrance of roasted black sesame seeds is undeniable. The palate is nutty, with some sea salt and a dash of kombu dashi. The light smoke couples with roasted black sesame seeds to produce a sweetness that is quite unlike any other whiskies. The finish is extremely long, with some ash and full-on black sesame seeds. It’s really lovely once the whiskey opens up, so be a little patient when trying it!

Cocktails from the Spirits

The session also started and ended with cocktails made from The Other Roof. We started with Espresso Smokatini, which is a cocktail made from espresso and PEATED Kalak Single Malt Vodka. It was superbly delicious! The creamy foam increased the enjoyment of the cocktail. Any coffee lover needs to try it!

The second cocktail is Zucien Gaudin, made with Ornabrak Gin. The addition of Campari made the cocktail rather bitter, so it wasn’t as enjoyable as the first one. However, anyone who is in love with Campari would definitely fall in love with this one!

Where to buy Origin Spirits’ products?

Source: The Whisky Store

As usual, you can find all the products (except the cocktails) retailing at The Whisky Store. Prices are reasonable so go ahead and buy them! Do tag WhiskyGeeks and The Whisky Store on social media when you crack the bottles open and have a go!

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The sun shines bright on Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond (Source)

Loch Lomond is the largest Scottish loch. It is a beautiful place with many exciting tourist attractions along the way. One could stop by the Loch to try and spot Nessie, followed by a lunch picnic if one is so inclined.

The team at WhiskyGeeks, however, was after the treasure to be found at Loch Lomond. The whiskies at Loch Lomond Distillery are not just one or two styles like many other distilleries. We attended an online tasting with the Master Distiller of Loch Lomond Group, Bill White and Whisky Blender, Ashley Smith to learn more.

The History of Loch Lomond

Before we dive into the whisky part, let us take a walk down memory lane to see how Loch Lomond and its distillery started.

If you are wondering why our title talks about the sun shining on Loch Lomond, it is a line from a traditional Scottish song “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”. Published in 1841 in Vocal Melodies of Scotland, the song referred to the Battle of Culloden Moor where the Scottish soldiers, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, was unsuccessful in their attempt to overthrow the King of England, George II.

The song tells the story of two soldiers who were imprisoned at Carlisle Castle. One of them would die while the other would go free. According to Celtic legend, if a Celt dies in a foreign land, his spirit would travel back home via “the low road”, which is the road for the soul. In the song, the soldier to be executed sang, “O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road”. The story is bittersweet, and you can learn more about the song from here.

The Loch Lomond Distillery

Loch Lomond distillery has its history seeped in the six Celtic clans that surround the loch. These clans include the Colquhoun, McFarlane, Galbraith, Macaulay, MacGregor, Menzies and Buchanan. The above map taken from the Loch Lomond distillery website showed how the clans surrounded the loch. We are not sure why or how Stewart and Cunningham come into the picture, though.

The Original Loch Lomond Distillery

If you looked at the map, you would see on the top, a mark named “Original Distillery”. This is the site where the first Loch Lomond distillery was built. The former Loch Lomond dated back to 1814, at the northern part of Loch Lomond near Tarbat. It is no longer there today, and nobody knew what happened or when it closed. Wikipedia said that it closed in 1817, but it is still unverified today.

The current Loch Lomond distillery opened in 1964. Built by the owners of the now-defunct Littlemill Distillery (the irony!), the distillery is now down south of Loch Lomond, in the village of Bowling. Malt production started in 1965 and continued to 1984 before the distillery was mothballed for three years. It restarted production after Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse bought the business in 1987. The owners then began grain distillation in 1993 and added two new malt stills in 1999. In 2014, the private equity group Exponent bought the distillery. After five years, Chinese Hillhouse Capital bought over the Loch Lomond Group in June 2019.

Production at Loch Lomond Distillery

Source: Tintin Comics: Tintin and the Picaros.

Loch Lomond is a whisky for the everyday drinker and the geeks! No wonder Captain Haddock from the TinTin series loved it! With eight styles of single malt distillation, single grain and various kinds of yeast used, this sounds like a Japanese whisky distillery in the heart of Scotland. With so many variables, let’s shed some light to get our heads around Loch Lomond whisky

Barley and Fermentation

Many Japanese whisky distilleries play around with various yeast types and distillation styles, like those from Mars or Suntory; and in that regard, Loch Lomond does something similar. Despite that, Loch Lomond only uses Scottish barley. Other than unpeated barley, the distillery takes in peated barley at 25ppm and 50ppm. The barley is peated by a maltster, but the peat used originates from Carnoustie.

Many other distilleries have fermentation times of 48-50 hours as that is enough to maximise alcohol yield, as seen in the graph below. However, Loch Lomond takes a whopping 92 hours for its fermentation! This longer fermentation encourages esterification and adds fruitier flavours.

Graph of Ester Conc and abv over time. Source: Loch Lomond Slides

Distillation

There are eight styles of single malt distillation and two styles of single grain. I know this is a lot to take in, but it is all summarised in the picture below from Loch Lomond’s twitter.

Loch Lomond Spirit Styles. Source: https://twitter.com/LochLomondMalts/status/1115922419271729152

The straight-neck stills are a bit confusing. The High Strength refers to the higher average strength of distillate due to the increased reflux from a cooling ring (see: partial condenser), and Low Strength refers to the lower average strength of distillate when the cooling ring is not used. With the added reflux for their High Strength distillation, the stillmen increases the heating of the straight neck pot still to keep the distillate flow rate, and hence the duration of distillation, constant.

Now let’s talk drams! 😀 (Note: I will be giving my commentary rather than just tasting notes)

Single Grain

Single Grain. Photo Credits: whiskystore.com.sg

Single Grain. Photo Credits: whiskystore.com.sg

Unlike almost all other scotch single grains, the mash bill is comprised of 100% Malted Barley. The spirit runs off a continuous still at 85% rather than 94%, which means that more cogeners will be present in the spirit, giving more body and flavour than almost all other Scottish single grains.

Inchmurrin 12yo

Inchmurrin 12

Inchmurrin 12yo. Photo Credits: whiskystore.com.sg

Entirely from Straight Neck Stills with reflux, this unpeated Whisky is very fruity. In my opinion, I found it to be especially orange-y. There will also be a Single Cask 10yo released exclusively for Whisky Journey 2020!

Sneak Peak of Inchmurrin Single Cask. Photo Credits: Loch Lomond and Whisky Journey

Loch Lomond 12yo

Loch Lomond 12

Loch Lomond 12yo. Photo Credits: whiskystore.com.sg

As seen in the helpful photo summary, Loch Lomond 12 Official Bottling is a blend of unpeated and medium peated Whisky. According to Ashley Smith, whisky blender at Loch Lomond, about 15% of this bottling is medium peated Whisky! This recipe gives this single malt a wonderfully complex blend of fruitiness and peat.

Loch Lomond 18yo

Loch Lomond 18

Loch Lomond 18yo. Photo Credits: whiskystore.com.sg

This OB is a rather dignified 18yo single malt! Although the fruitiness and peat were not as prominent as the 12yo, the musky and waxy notes take the lead. If you enjoy the waxy notes in Clynelish, you will enjoy this too!

Inchmoan

Inchmoan

Inchmoan 12yo. Photo Credits: whiskystore.com.sg

As mentioned in the summarised table of spirit styles, Inchmoan is a blend of 50ppm distillates from both the swan-neck pot still and the straight-neck pot still. Despite that, the dram was a lot more balanced than expected, with fruity notes along with loud notes of minerality, earthiness and smoke!

Miscellaneous Nomenclature

Other than the names you would see in the core range, you may see other names pop up in old bottlings or independent bottlings like Glen Douglas, Old Rhosdhu, Craiglodge, Croftengea and Inchfad. The first two of those names being unpeated, and the last 3 being peated variants.

Inchfad and Croftengea are heavily peated (50ppm), while Craiglodge is lightly peated (25ppm).  The ‘Old Rhosdhu’ name used to refer to a style of single malt distilled at Loch Lomond up to the year 2000. Today Rhosdhu is used internally to refer to the single grain distilled from 100% malted barley.

Where to find Loch Lomond Whiskies

The WhiskyStore is the official distributor of the Loch Lomond whiskies. You can check out their online store to see the expression on sale!

The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond

If you are thinking of visiting once the pandemic tones down, do remember that the distillery does not accept visitors. You will have to try and contact them via email to check if you can visit. Otherwise, take a trip down to Loch Lomond and enjoy the beauty of the place.

 

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Glen Scotia Geek Fest

We were excited to be part of the Glen Scotia Virtual Tasting hosted by The WhiskyStore. The distillery is part of the triplets in Campbeltown, but its smaller size often gets overshadowed by its neighbours. The team at WhiskyGeeks has been following Glen Scotia for some time now, as we find its liquids really palatable and beautifully matured.

It was, therefore, with great anticipation, when we joined the Zoom tasting on Tuesday, 14 July at 8 pm. Follow our journey as we partake in one of the greatest virtual geek fests with Glen Scotia!

First, an Introduction of the Speakers

We had two speakers that evening. The first speaker was Mr Bill White, the master distiller for the Loch Lomond Group. Yes, Glen Scotia belongs to the Loch Lomond Group. Bill comes with years of experiences, with 22 years working in William Grant and Sons. He eventually became their Group Operations Director before he decided to join Loch Lomond Group as their master distiller around 2015.

The second speaker is Ms Ashley Smith, the master blender at Loch Lomond Group. Ashley has eight years old experience working in the whisky industry, but she has only joined the company for about ten months. Her work revolves around whisky blending (of course!) and she has her hands full with the single casks programme as well as ensuring that the core ranges from both Glen Scotia and Loch Lomond are consistent.

Short History of Campbeltown

The year was 1597, and an act of Parliament established Lochhead. Settlers flocked to the sea-side town, and by 1607, various traders and settlers were setting up businesses in the town. The Kintyre peninsula (where Lochhead was) had plenty of local ingredients for distilling, and soon, industrious settlers built illicit stills to make whisky. It wasn’t until the mid-19 century that the town became Campbeltown, named after the local lairds, the Campbells!

Campbeltown quickly became the whisky capital, with 21 known illicit stills in the town and 10 in the surrounding countryside by 1795. There were probably more than 50 illegal distilleries in total by the 19 century. The Victorian Era was booming with economic activities, and there was a growing market for whisky both at home and in the USA. Cargo ships meant to carry whiskies to the USA would call at Glasgow and sail down the Clyde, called in at Campbeltown as their last port call before taking the journey to the USA. Therefore, the town proliferated to become the “whisky capital of the world”.

History of Glen Scotia

As the town prospered, the Dean of Guild James Stewart and Provost John Galbraith came together to build Scotia Distillery in 1832. In three short years, the distillery grew and thrived alongside the remaining 29 distilleries in Campbeltown. Disaster strike in 1923 when the Drumlemble Colliery closed, ending the era of cheap, local fuel in the town. Coupled with the Great Depression and the Prohibition in the USA, the distilleries in Campbeltown suffered tremendous losses. In a short nine years, only three distilleries remained in Campbeltown. Scotia was one of them.

Owners of Scotia Distillery

The survival of Scotia distillery depended on its owners. James and John managed the distillery until 1895. It became one of the founding members of West Highland Malt Distilleries in 1919, with five other Campbeltown distilleries in an attempt to share costs and prevent closure. The project failed, and Scotia was left standing alone. In 1924, Duncan MacCallum purchased Scotia but closed to close in 1928. When he reopened the distillery in 1930, he met with an unfortunate scam in which he lost his savings and committed suicide. The Bloch Bros brought over Scotia and added the word “Glen” to its name. Glen Scotia was born.

The Happening after the 1930s

The Bloch Bros saved Glen Scotia. They retained ownership of the distillery until 1954. That year, Canadian giant, Hiram Walker bought the distillery estate but quickly sold it to A.Gillies & Co – a blender in 12 months. The distillery changed hands again and became part of Amalgamated Distilled Products Ltd (ADP) which owned Barton Brands (including Loch Lomond). Glen Scotia started reconstruction works towards the end of the 1970s, but unfortunately, it closed between 1984 and 1989. During the closure, Gibson International bought over ADP’s distilling assets. Glen Scotia reopened in 1990 under new leadership. In 1994, Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd bought over Glen Scotia and promptly mothballed in. It returned to full production only in 1999 under the Loch Lomond Distillers Group.

The Production Process

Glen Scotia produces both peated and unpeated whisky. The team dedicated six weeks per year to producing peated whisky. What I find interesting is that the distillery does two different styles of peated whisky. One is a mildly-peated whisky at 25ppm while the other is a heavily-peated whisky at 50ppm.

Milling

Source: Glen Scotia Presentation Slides

Glen Scotia sourced and used only Scottish malted barley from the east of Scotland. The grain undergoes milling in the Bobby Mill owned by Glen Scotia (See Ardbeg Distillery for more Bobby Mill description).

Mashing

Source: Glen Scotia Presentation Slides

The mash tun is a relic at the distillery. Made of cast iron, it dated back to the Victorian era and held the history of the distillery within its pits. The mash tun uses a rack and pinion system (shown in the second picture above). The team uses four streams of water for wort extraction. The first two streams, with a temperature between 64 and 76 degrees Celsius, enable the collection of wort. The third and fourth streams, added at 85 degrees Celsius, allowing the collection of sparge. The process takes about eights hours to complete, and the distillery does ten mashes per week. The distillery’s water source is Crosshill Loch, providing them with fresh, clean, soft water.

The team cools the wort to around 17-18 degrees Celsius before pumping it into the washback for fermentation. The reason is to prevent the temperature from killing the active yeast.

Fermentation

Source: Glen Scotia Presentation Slides

The fermentation at Glen Scotia is long, with each cycle lasting more 92 hours on average. The long hours creates what is known as a “second fermentation” where fruity esters are developed to give the wash a fruity flavour. The distillery uses commercial distiller yeast as it is best suited for them to create the fruity wash.

Source: Glen Scotia Presentation Slides

Look at the graph above. You will notice that after 48 hours, there is no longer alcohol production, but the ester concentration keeps going up. This is the reason why long fermentation produces fruity wash, which, in turn, will create a fruity spirit. The alcohol percentage of the wash is around 8-9% abv.

We understand that Glen Scotia has both internal and external washbacks. For the outer washbacks, they have cooling jackets on them to maintain the temperature at an ideal level.

Distillation

Source: Glen Scotia Presentation Slides

Glen Scotia owns a pair of stills and has a production capacity of 500,000 litres to 600,000 litres. They produced 535,000 litres of spirits in 2019. The distillery also installed a new spirit still in June 2020, making them look unique.

The wash still takes in the wash at 8-9% abv. After the first distillation, the low wines stands at around 25% abv. The spirit still then takes in the low wines and increase the alcohol percentage to about 74% abv. The foreshots or head is between 74% – 71% abv, while the heart runs from 71% to around 63% abv. The feints are below 63% abv.

The average alcohol percentage of the new spirit is 69% abv, and the distillation team will add water to lower the abv to 63.5% abv before transferring it to the casks for maturation.

Maturation

Source: Glen Scotia Presentation Slides

Glen Scotia has three kinds of warehouses – dunnage at the Visitor Centre (around 150 casks), palletised and racked warehouses (for the rest of their casks). The different environment provided by the warehouse help Glen Scotia to achieve the differences in their whiskies, which work well for the brand. Currently, the distillery has about 12,000 casks onsite. Typically, the distillery fills 99.9% of their new spirits into first-fill ex-bourbon casks. We also understand from Bill that the oldest cask currently still maturing on site is over 45 years old! We were excited as Glen Scotia recently release a 45 years old bottling, which means there is a chance that they will release something older in future!

Whiskies we Tasted

Source: The WhiskyStore

The WhiskyStore selected four whiskies for the session. My personal favourites are the 15 Years Old and the 25 Years Old, both of which showcased different styles. Every expression has its fans, but the 25 Years Old was the ultimate winner.

Double Cask

The Glen Scotia Double Cask is a non-age statement expression that is matured in ex-bourbon casks and finished 6 to 12 months in Pedro Ximenez casks. Bottled at 46% abv, it is gentle and easy to drink. The sweetness of the PX casks complements the bourbon maturation beautifully.

15 Years Old

One of my personal favourites is the 15 years old expression. Matured fully in ex-bourbon American oak casks, the whisky is fruity with cedarwood and hints of pine trees. The sweet, fruity palate coupled with some dryness in the finish keeps me going for more.

18 Years Old

The 18 years old expression is a favourite for many participants. Matured 17 years in refill ex-bourbon casks and finished one year in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks, the whisky is flavourful with a complexity of both bourbon and sherry influences.

25 Years Old

Finally, the 25 years old expression is the crowd favourite! Matured fully in ex-bourbon American casks and then married in first-fill bourbon casks for the extra flavours, the 25 years old Glen Scotia is full-on fruity with tropical fruits such as pineapples, guava and hints of mangoes. It also developed vanilla, coconut and pine wood. The finish is not as dry as the 15 Years Old expression, but it continues to beckon me with its long finish.

Where to Buy

The WhiskyStore is the official distributor of Glen Scotia in Singapore, and you can easily find all the above expression at their online store. If you are not ready to commit a bottle, you can still try the tasting sets available.

What to Expect Next Week

The Loch Lomond Powerhouse – Bill and Ashley – will be back next week with a Loch Lomond presentation! They promised that it would be another geekfest, one that is better than we had with Glen Scotia. If you enjoyed our post, don’t forget to head over to the Whisky Store to purchase your Loch Lomond Tasting Set and join us next week!

 

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A Jolly Cadenhead Tasting

A seasoned drinker who loves his or her cask strength whiskies would have heard of Cadenhead whiskies. As Scotland’s oldest Independent Bottler, Cadenhead is the master when it comes to bottling spirits young and old. WhiskyGeeks is grateful to Sarah Thallon, the whisky guru at The WhiskyStore for inviting us to a Highland tasting of four Cadenhead whiskies recently.

The History of Cadenhead

William Cadenhead Limited, Wine and Spirits Merchants, as it is officially known, has a long history. The firm celebrated its 175th Anniversary in 2017, so you know that it is likely older than your great-grandfather!

Source: WhiskyStore Presentation

George Duncan founded the company in 1842 and established the firm in Netherkirkgate in Aberdeen. His brother-in-law, William Cadenhead, joined him about ten years later. In 1858, Willam Cadenhead acquired the business and changed the company name. Interestingly, nothing much was known about George Duncan, even though he was the founder. William Cadenhead, on the other hand, was famous not only as a vintner and distillery agent. He was also a renowned local poet in his time.

The Second Generation

William Cadenhead passed away on the morning of Sunday, 11 December 1904. His nephew, Robert W. Duthie, succeeded him in the business. Robert grew the business beyond what his uncle could have imagined, creating what the present-day Cadenhead company is famous for – Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Demarara Rum. He actively marketed the company, creating the slogan, “By Test the Best”. Robert also developed Cadenhead’s brands of whiskies, the blends Putachieside and Heilanman.

The Sudden Death of Robert Duthie

In the depths of depression in 1931, the financial health of the company deteriorated. Things got worse when Robert was killed in a freak accident while on his way to see his bank manager. He left the company in the hands of his two sisters. Unfortunately, the sisters had no clue about running the business. Determined to keep the Cadenhead family name, the sisters put Miss Ann Oliver, a long-term employee in charge.

Ann Oliver was not the most prudent of business operators. She refused to keep up with times and ran the business in her style. It continued to prosper for a while, but by the early 1960s, William Cadenhead Limited was in trouble. Eventually, the Trustee persuaded Ann to retire and sell the business. At the times of sales, the warehouse and office were full from cellar to ceiling with stocks. The family engaged Christie’s, the famous auction house to help with the sales.

A Six-figure Surplus

Source: WhiskyStore Presentation

The sale of stocks from William Cadenhead took place on 3rd and 4th of October 1972 and went down in history as the largest sale of wine and spirits in Great Britain to that date. The catalogue ran 167 pages. The result was a six-figure surplus over the liabilities of the company.

After the stocks were liquidated, J&A Mitchell & Co Ltd bought the goodwill, premises, etc. of William Cadenhead Limited. The owners of Springbank Distillery purchased the firm with the expectation of receiving glass bottles, which was in shortage. However, what Mr Hedley Wright, the owner of J&A Mitchell, received was a company with a good reputation and future wealth. Nobody knew what happened to those glass bottles that he was after.

The Beginning of the Modern Era

J&A Mitchell moved William Cadenhead Limited from Aberdeen to Campbeltown after the purchase. It marked the start of the modern era for Cadenhead. J&A adapted the business for modern times but kept the traditional way of choosing what whiskies to bottle. Cadenhead gets a new motto: “We bottle when our spirits are remarkable, not marketable.” This is purely the reason why we see such vast differences from Cadenhead bottlings. J&A also bottles all their spirits in Campbeltown.

The Highland Whiskies

Source: Sarah Thallon

I am getting thirsty from all that history, so let’s dive into the four whiskies that we tasted. Sarah selected four young and frisky whiskies for us to try, and I was pretty excited to try both the Deanston and Fettercairn as I am a fan of those distilleries. All four whiskies have their attractive characteristics, but my personal choice is Fettercairn. I had tried young Fettercairns that were terrible, but I know that Cadenhead is likely not to disappoint. I was right! The Fettercairn 11 Years Old is terrific!

How to Understand the Labels

Cadenhead makes distinctive labels that are simple to understand. The square bottles have two types of labels – the black and the gold. Black labels mean that the whisky is small-batch, consisting of two or three casks blended to one. It is cask strength and non-chill-filtered. Gold labels indicate that the whisky comes from a single cask, cask strength and non-chill-filtered.

There are also tall, round bottles that we may find elsewhere that are named “Authentic Collections”. The labels are green with gold stamping. Whiskies in that collection are also from single casks, cask strength and non-chill-filtered.

Ranking of the Whiskies

Everyone’s palate is different, and hence our preferences are also different. What I like may not be what you like, and vice versa. The ranking for the whiskies during the Zoom tasting was pretty varied, with many people voting for the Pulteney and Deanston. I think that the highest vote probably went to the Pulteney, which interestingly, received my lowest vote. Hahaha…

My ranking is Fettercairn –> Deanston –> Ord –> Pulteney. I assumed that there is bias on my part, but the Fettercairn was really on point for me. The balance between spice, floral, fruity, wood and the overall mouthfeel was fantastic. The Deanston was good too, oily texture and fruity all the way. Add in some water and the spice will also tone down!

How to Buy the Whiskies

Source: The Whisky Store

If you are interested to buy some of these awesome whiskies, head over to The Whisky Store to see what they have in store! All Cadenhead bottles are priced at wholesale prices so grab whatever you like and check out!

One more thing. If you are keen to join Sarah and her team for a tasting, check out the newest tasting happening next Tuesday, 14th July at 8 pm! The featured distillery is Glen Scotia from Campbeltown and a very special guest will be speaking from the distillery itself! Find out more here.

 

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Introducing the 1887 Virtual Bar

Credits: WGS Singapore

Life took an unexpected turn at the beginning of 2020, and our lives changed 360 degrees when Covid-19 surfaced and killed more than half a million people worldwide. Many of us have stopped work, or at least started working from home as countries move to curb the spread of the virus. Many lives were changed, especially those in the food and beverage industry. However, out of all that negative vibes, hope rises as people band together to create a new way to drink and socialise. A virtual bar, or a virtual tasting, is fast becoming the newest trend to hit the world as the alcohol industry strives to continue serving its customers through the next viable means.

1887 Virtual Bar

William Grant & Sons, our friendly family-owned distiller, is no different. With the global situation getting worse, the company decided to do their part to help local bars to survive by opening a virtual bar to serve drinks, live from your home bar. The virtual bar is codenamed 1887 Virtual Bar to commemorate the year that WGS opened. The platform features weekly guest shifts hosting some of your favourite bartenders in Singapore together with brand ambassadors, Charmaine Thio and Brett Bayly of Hendrick’s Gin and Glenfiddich respectively.

Kick-off Guest Shift

The first session of the 1887 Virtual Bar started with Sam Wong, the head bartender at Shin Gi Tai, via Zoom on 9 April 2020. We logged in using the link given, and we found our hosts waiting for us. Charmaine Thio, brand ambassador of Hendrick’s Gin and Brett Bayly, brand ambassador of Glenfiddich, were already online together with the head bartender of Shin Gi Tai, Sam Wong. To kick start the session, Charmaine introduced 1887 Virtual Bar and what they hoped to achieve. She encouraged participants to ask questions via the chat function found in the Zoom sessions and to interact as much as possible through the limited functions available.

The virtual bar also sells cocktail vouchers, which participants can buy to support the bar. These vouchers can be redeemed at a later date at Shin Gi Tai when the Covid-19 situation in Singapore eases.

Cocktails on Show

  1. The Dragon’s Daughter

Sam Wong is a familiar face for many of us. For the first session, Sam created four different cocktails for the audience, based pretty much on what Shin Gi Tai is well-known for. Charmaine had the chance to request for the first cocktail (because ladies first!) and she asked for something light and refreshing. Sam took up the challenge easily, creating what he called, “The Dragon’s Daughter”.

You can check out the ingredient in the picture below.

From the screen, it looked like an orange/pink drink and being a virtual session, not a lot of garnishes went into it. Nonetheless, it looked delicious, and I would highly recommend that you try this the next time you are at Shin Gi Tai!

    2. Coffee so Stronk

After encountering the Dragon’s Daughter, Brett felt the need to have something solid to keep his nerves strong! So, he requested for a whisky-based cocktail. Sam, in response, created a cocktail that is not only whisky-based but also involved caffeine. Coffee so Stronk uses Nanyang infused coffee as part of its ingredients and it looked like a stiff drink! It is perfect after a hard day’s work.

Here are the ingredients.

You may not have the Nanyang Coffee infused Fernet at home, and it is probably too troublesome for you to make it at home. So, head over to Shin Gi Tai after the Circuit Breaker eases off to have a taste of this cocktail!

   3. Highball

Everyone loves a highball on a hot day! That was what Sam recommended after the first two cocktails. He said that the weather is terrible nowadays and a highball can help to bring down the temperature! After all, nobody wants to have a high temperature now too! Hahaha!

Yup, a highball is easy to make. As long as you have some whisky and soda, you can easily make your own highball! A note on Glenfiddich 15 years old though. This is one of the easiest whisky to drink and its sweet character makes it a great conversation starter. In case you are wondering, a highball is a Japanese concept of drinking whisky on a hot day. It is a simple mixing of whisky and soda (in the portion you want – most people do 30-70). You prepare a tall glass, put in ice, and you pour first the whisky into the glass, and then top the glass up with soda. Stir the mix with a spoon and you are done! If you want more flavours, add in a slice of lemon after squeezing some zest into it.

You may think that you wouldn’t want to order a highball in a bar, but trust me, it is really the best drink to have on a hot day!

   4. SGT Negroni

Next up, Sam introduced Shin Gi Tai for those who have never been there. If you have never been there, you should try to go after the Circuit Breaker ends and bars reopen. Shin Gi Tai is a cosy, intimate bar in Telok Ayer with no menu! Yes, no menu! What the bar tries to achieve is to tailor a personalised service and cocktail for each patron. Tell the bartender what you fancy in terms of flavours, and watch them shake it up for you!

Shin Gi Tai, however, has its favourites. SGT Negroni is one of them. Made using only three ingredients, the Negroni is a classic favourite at the bar.

Sam showed us how simple it is to make the Negroni but I can assure you that I am not going to know how to make it so I am better off heading to Shin Gi Tai when the virus goes away!

The Conclusion

The session concluded with a call for participants to ask questions. Sam took a few questions from the audience and he showed how experienced he is when someone asked for a low-calorie cocktail. I will not spoil the mystery here, so be sure to go to Shin Gi Tai to ask him! Finally, the hosts reminded everyone that we can support our bars through our kind purchases of vouchers to help them survive this tough period. Due to the time limit, the Zoom session ended with a final call to tune in again next week!

Some Thoughts about 1887 Virtual Bar

Well, it was a good session and I do encourage all of you to join in the next one (details below). However, I think the session could be more interactive. It would make the sessions more fun and resembles a real bar. Nonetheless, these are challenging times and we have to make do with what we have! Please support the 1887 Virtual bar and stir up your own cocktail at home!

Details of the Virtual Bar Sessions:

You can find out more about the guest shifts and participating bars at the below link:

  1. https://www.instagram.com/1887virtualbar/

 

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Queen and Mangosteen with Penderyn!

Whiskygeeks was invited to a Penderyn whisky dinner at Queen and Mangosteen!

 

The whisky dinner started with a refreshing cranberry cocktail. The tartness works with the sweetness from the Penderyn Legend, and that creates a balanced and refreshing cocktail. Served together with the cocktail were Haggis Scotch eggs. For those who haven’t tried Scotch eggs, they are eggs coated with meat, breaded and deep-fried. In this dish, the meat used was Haggis. 

Penderyn Madeira with Tuna Tartare

In the dish was a beautiful combination of tuna sashimi and creamy avocado, topped with shrimp roe. The base was laden with umami flavours from a miso-based sauce and tomatoes. The seafood flavour from the tuna and roe compliments the umami miso paste. This savoury starter enhances the light and sweet character of the Penderyn Madeira.

Penderyn Sherrywood with Rack of Lamb

The lamb dish looked exquisite, very much like the towers of KL. This lamb was also unlike any lamb I have tried before.

The cross-section of the lamb not only looked like steak, but it tastes like steak as well. Even a Welsh gentleman sitting adjacent who disliked lamb loved the dish. The garlic enhanced the lamb rack as well, while the mashed potato brought some balance to the main course. The Penderyn Sherrywood had the body and flavour to compliment this beautiful full-flavoured dish!

Penderyn Portwood Chocolate Hazelnut Praline

The plating of the dessert was beautiful, showcasing a variety of colours, flavours and textures. This was a dessert that could indeed follow up the extraordinary main course! When my spoon carved into the pyramid-shaped praline, the spoonful took the right amount of caramel sauce with it and complimented the hazelnut cream and chocolate! The fresh fruit and yoghurt ice cream gave the acidity to refresh the palate before going for more chocolate!
With such a variety of sweet treats, the Penderyn Portwood, with its flavours of guava and bananas, pairs well to this fantastic dessert!

 

The dinner at Queen and Mangosteen was truly amazing, and made even better with Penderyn whisky! Many thanks to Spirits Castle for the invite!

 

Paul John – 6-row barley Whisky

Whiskygeeks sat down for an extraordinary tasting with Yash, the brand ambassador for Paul John whisky! He’s a geek himself, graduating from the Harriet Watts brewing and distilling masters course, and I have learnt a lot!

The Barley

One of the unique things about Paul John is their use of 6-row barley for their core range whisky production. However, this is not bere barley from Orkney; this 6-row barley originated from the Himalayas and grows in India today. In contrast, most whisky producers use 2-row barley like Concerto or Optic strains. In Scotch, the most common 6-row barley used is Bere Barley that originates from Orkney. 

While the 2-row barley has more sugar but fewer proteins and fats, it is the reverse for 6-row barley. As we would need sugar to ferment to alcohol, this means that the alcohol yield for 6-row barley is lower than 2-row barley. However, for 6-row barley, the higher content of barley fats and protein results in more flavour and complexity in its spirit character. 

The Peat

Paul John produces peated and unpeated whisky and brings in 2 kinds of Scottish peat. The barley is peated using Islay peat and Mainland peat to approximately 20-25ppm and 30-35ppm respectively. The Paul John Bold uses Islay peat while the Paul John Edited uses mainland peat. These two bottles make an interesting comparison between peat from 2 different regions as the whisky comes from the same pot stills.

The Fermentation

The fermentation process is approximately 70 hours in total, using a unique strain of yeast that performs well in Goa’s hot climate. The wash undergoes a 60-hour primary fermentation and sits in the washback for an additional 10 hours to develop flavour. During the warmer seasons, the fermentation is slightly faster, and during the colder seasons, more time is given for fermentation.

Distillation

The copper pot stills in Paul John distillery is not from Forsyths, but they were made locally in India! The still features an ascending lyne arm, which causes more reflux, allowing for a sweeter lightly distillate. 

The Maturation

The angel’s share in Goa is 8% per annum, which means that whisky ageing in Goa will lose 22% of its original volume in 3 years. However, as whisky matures faster in a warm climate, a 3-year-old whisky in India would taste like a 12 to 15-year-old Scotch! 

For the past few years, Paul John has released mostly American white oak matured whisky primarily due to the law in India with importing casks. There is a new upcoming bottle that I cannot talk about at the time of writing this article, but let me say this – Christmas is coming early for sherried whisky drinkers! 😛

Paul John’s main ageing facility is on the ground level with ventilation from the wind. The distillery also has an underground cellar with a slightly lower angel’s share. Yash told us that it’s a challenge to stay in the underground cellar as the alcohol vapours are thick and intoxicating!

Challenge accepted!

Guest Post – Whisky Live Paris Part 2

Editor’s Note: This is the second guest post completed by Ezra Toh, who is our newest correspondent on the other side of the world.  WhiskyGeeks is going global, indeed!

Written by: Ezra Toh

Whisky Live Paris scheduled a day, especially for the trade personnel to network over whiskies. It is an excellent opportunity for trade people to mingle with the brand advocates and understand the brands more. This year, it happened one day after the actual Whisky Live weekend.

Monday 7th October (Trade Day)

Whisky Live Paris 2019 reserved the longest day for professionals in the industry. There was open access to the VIP section and all areas of the exhibition. Masterclasses were also jam-packed throughout the day. Having visited most of the whisky stands on the main exhibition floor on Sunday, we headed for the VIP section straightaway. We were floored by the selection of whiskies from various independent bottlers, including but not limited to LMDW artist series, Spirit Shop Selection, Hidden Spirits and Sansibar.

From Left to Right (Clockwise) – LMDW Booth, Artist Bunnahabhain 40 YO, LMDW 20 Rue D’Anjou Range, Clynelish 1995 by LMDW

VIP Section

The selection available was mind-boggling. We started our day with a Bunnahabhain 40 Years Old from LMDW Artist Range and from there, we moved on to the rest of the Artist Range. We also had the good fortune to taste the various LMDW 20 Rue D’Anjou bottles. A special mention must go to the Clynelish 1995 as it was excellent with full-on waxiness and well-balanced sherry influence from the refill cask.

Asian Whisky was King

We soon found ourselves at the Asian whiskies section. The booth was swarming with eager whisky enthusiasts who were like kids in a candy store, except that they were all grown men. Most of them, including us, were waiting to try the various Chichibu and Kavalan expressions. However, the Yoichi and Miyagikyo 2019 Single Casks were the stars of the show. Besides their rarity, the price tag of 2750 euros made them the “must-try”.

We managed to taste the two rare bottles as we were right there when the bartender brought out the bottles. That moment became chaotic almost immediately, as everyone jostled their glasses through to get a sample. Bottled for the 50th anniversary of Miyagikyo Distillery, many whisky lovers around the world criticised the two bottles for their massive price tags. As Non-Age Statement (NAS) whiskies, people do have a view that these whiskies must be cheaper. Nonetheless, both whiskies made it to our top picks (see below). The Miyagikyo was woody with a right balance of dark fruit flavours and a hint of muskiness while the Yoichi had a buttery sweetness with lingering soft peat.

Other Impressive Drams

Besides the various Asian whisky, we discovered other gems in the VIP section. The 18-year-old Laphroaig bottled by Signatory Vintage for LMDW was surprising as the medicinal character of Laphroaig was not the first thing that surfaced. Instead, the Laphroaig was salty, gentle and subtle, with the leather notes kicking in only towards the end. It remained me of a much older Laphroaig in general, which was interesting. Meanwhile, the Caroni and Hampden bottles at the Velier booth were also extremely popular.

Taiwanese – Spirits Shop Selection

Spirit Shop Selection is an independent bottler from Taiwan. They work closely with LMDW and move many of their bottles through Paris. There is a huge following in France for their bottles. At the booth, we learnt that they typically chose casks suited to the Taiwanese palate. It explained why most of their casks leaned towards the sweeter side – Taiwanese tend to have a sweet tooth!

There was an incredibly sweet and pleasant Caroni 21 1997 available for sampling which did not have that bitterness in the finish. The Ben Nevis 22 years was excellent as well with the funky distillery character at the forefront. There was a Karuizawa under the table as well, but few have gotten the opportunity even to see the bottle, let alone taste it. We, of course, did not get to try it.

Italian – Hidden Spirits

After trying out Taiwanese independent bottles, we move on to Hidden Spirits, an Italian independent bottler.

To our knowledge, Hidden Spirits was the only independent bottler who brought out a Mortlach for tasting, and it was a cracker. This 17-year old whisky sits a full term in a first-fill bourbon cask. It was then finished for three months in a sherry cask which contained a peated Ben Nevis. Chock-full of leather, sulphur, funk and mild peat, in our opinion, this was such an underrated bottle given the hype around other bottles.

It was a pity that we couldn’t try every whisky offered at the VIP section. Nonetheless, we went through at least 90% of them. Every booth had unique offerings, and the VIP ticket is worth the extra 60-65 euros! We will highly recommend you to get it if you plan on going next year.

Whisky Picks in the VIP Section (in no particular order)

  1. Ben Nevis 22 1996 56.2% for Spirit Shop Selection
  2. Caroni 21 1997 63.8% for Spirit Shop Selection
  3. Chichibu 2012 Cask 2058 Refill Hanyu Cask for LMDW
  4. Clynelish 24 Years 1995 Cask 2158 for LMDW
  5. Hampden 7 Years 62.8% for Whisky Live Paris 2019
  6. Hampden 9 Years 69.2% for LMDW
  7. Laphroaig 18 2001 Signatory Vintage 59.3% for LMDW
  8. Ledaig 10 2007 Artist Series 60.8%
  9. Miyagikyo 2019 Limited Edition 48%
  10. Mortlach 17 55.5% Cask MR219 for Hidden Spirits (First Fill Bourbon and 3 Months in Ex Sherry Peated Ben Nevis Cask)
  11. Westport 12 Valinch And Mallet 51.8%
  12. Yoichi 2019 Limited Edition 48%

Mars Masterclass

Information on Mars Distillery

We were lucky to get seats at the Mars masterclass led by the Distillery Director Hajime Kunai. The class was a showcase of three single casks (ages 3-4 years old) matured in different regions in Japan, each with different climates. The locations were Shinshu, Tsunuki and Yakushima.

The differences demonstrated the effect that the maturation environment had on almost identical whiskies. The Yakushima maturation is a peated expression at 20ppm and stood out as you could tell the difference of an island-style maturation practically immediately. It closely resembled the style of Highland Park with the saltiness in the finish. The class perhaps showcase the evidence of terroir most significantly. It is worth a side by side if you ever get a chance to do so.

The line up was –

  1. Shinshu – Single Cask #3320 3 Years Old, 61% abv, bottled for LMDW
  2. Tsunuki – Single Cask #5185 3 Years Old, 60% abv, bottled for LMDW
  3. Yakushima – Single Cask #2037 3 Years Old, 60% abv, bottled for LMDW

Compass Box Tasting

John Glaser, the founder of Compass Box, raised a few eyebrows when he founded the company. His determination in detailing all the whiskies and ages that went into each of his blends is at the heart of an increasing drive for transparency in the whisky industry today. Interestingly, this drive is also supported by Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay. John talked about each whisky in detail, explaining the recipe for each blend and stating the exact ages with the type of casks used.

The line-up consisted –

  1. Hedonism – Grain
  2. Balblair – Myths and Legends 1
  3. Glen Elgin – Myths and Legends 2
  4. Undisclosed Orkney, Glen Elgin, Caol Ila – Myths and Legends 3
  5. Affinity – Whisky and Calvados blend

The tasting started with the first-ever Compass Box creation – Hedonism – which not only provided nostalgic value but was a fantastic blend to boot. The lineup culminated in the Myths and Legends 2 and 3 which were driven by a robust Glen Elgin distillate, giving lovely rhubarb and Turkish delight notes. The Affinity is supposedly the first-ever calvados and whisky blend, making for an enjoyable last dram.

Before we go…

Group Photo with John Glaser

We had a fantastic experience at Whisky Live Paris 2019 and would return. The draw was the opportunity to meet fellow whisky lovers from all over the world and share our opinions over fantastic whiskies. The views of the whiskies were formulated based on what the writer and his companions felt were the most exciting and impactful. Writing detailed tasting notes was not practical, given the short amount of time. We also tasted 30-40 whiskies in 1 day (possibly more), hence we will not blame anyone for questioning our sanity and palate conditions and consequently, our top picks for the show. Whisky is subjective, after all.

Finally, WhiskyGeeks would like to thank La Maison du Whisky Paris for our invitation to Whisky Live Paris’ trade day. It included an entire day’s access to all areas, including the VIP section. Thank you for the great opportunity!

*Read Part 1 of Whisky Live Paris here.

 

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Guest Post – Whisky Live Paris 2019 Part 1

Editor’s Note: WhiskyGeeks has truly gone global with the help of our friends. Ezra Toh, a Singaporean who is currently studying in Edinburgh, agreed to represent WhiskyGeeks in Whisky Live Paris 2019. We are proud to have Ezra onboard with WhiskyGeeks to cover events happening in the other part of the world.

 

Ezra Toh (Guest Writer) and his friends pictured together with Serge and Dave Broom

Written by Ezra Toh
with input from 3 other whisky enthusiasts: Andreas Tassinari, Andrew Reid and Javin Chia
.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, France was the second-largest market by export value in 2018 (£442.1m). It edges out Singapore and beaten only by the US’ whopping £1,039.5m total. Hence it is no surprise that Whisky Live Paris is Europe’s largest whisky show and it not only attracts the French but international visitors too. This year saw a shift in venue to La Villette to accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors. With over 151 whiskies, rum and spirit booths, an additional 27 stands in the cocktail street and a host of masterclasses, the show was poised to impress.

Check out the queue!

Sunday 6 October 2019 – Whisky Live Paris

La Maison du Whisky Shop

The day started at 12.30 pm as visitors stormed the La Maison Boutique to grab the Chichibu Paris Edition 2019 and the Hampden Single Cask 7 years bottled for Whisky Live Paris. Visitors grabbed them in a matter of minutes! We were lucky to be able to get in the action at the shop to buy the bottles that we were after!

Below are some pictures of the various exclusive bottles available.

Whisky Live Paris Exclusive Bottles

After the stress of buying bottles among the crazed crowd, it was time for us to get to the fun part. With the promise of delicious whisky, we were looking forward to tasting them. In whisky shows, trying everything was impossible and blasphemous acts of pouring away and spitting out whisky was the norm to last the entire duration of the show.

Checking out the various Distilleries at WLP

Various booths at WhiskyLive Paris

Many distilleries took the chance to showcase their newest releases at Whisky Live. Some notable ones included the revamped Arran Range, Compass Box Myths and Legends 1, 2 and 3. We also found Glenfiddich Grand Cru, Kilchoman Vintage 2010 9 Years, Macallan Edition 5 and Ardbeg 19 Traigh Bhan. Some distilleries also pulled off the stops to ensure that their booth stood out. Some used attractive displays; others covered stalls with curtains to create an ambience. Yet others chose to showcase chocolate pairings.  Eager enthusiasts swamped several brands throughout the day (i.e. Macallan, Kavalan, all the Islay distilleries, Blanton’s, Velier).

Kavalan Masterclass

Kavalan’s Master Blender – Ian Chang

We attended Kavalan Master Blender Ian Chang’s Masterclass to start our day. Dr Jim Swan was Ian’s mentor and the man who was instrumental in the conception of Kavalan. He explained the exciting process behind Kavalan’s maturation process of first creating a heated and high humidity environment to intensify the colour. Next, the distillery would open the warehouse windows in the winter months to cool the interior and allow for wood aromas to infuse into the whisky.

Ian came across as an exceptionally down to earth and unpretentious man during his presentation. He even went as far as to say that the 11-year oloroso sherry single cask for LMDW was a bit over-oaked and that he should have taken the whisky out earlier. He was right. You won’t usually see master distillers or blenders throwing shade on their whisky, but this honest opinion was incredibly refreshing to see and is a testament to the distillery’s efforts to always strive for quality.

The Whisky Line-up

The Whisky Line-up at Kavalan Masterclass

 

The line up for the Masterclass was interestingly made up of single casks bottled for LMDW.

  1. Single Cask French Wine Cask 59.4% 
  2. Oloroso Sherry Cask Strength 58.6%
  3. Single Cask Peaty Cask R071126052

It is interesting to taste various casks from Kavalan to see how these casks impact and influence the spirits of Kavalan. Having the chance to meet Ian Chang was memorable too!

Serge Valentin and Dave Broom Picks of Whisky Live Paris 2019

Serge Valentin (left) and Dave Broom (right)

It was an incredible opportunity to interact with what some would term the ‘stockbrokers’ of the whisky industry. Both Serge Valentin and Dave Broom reviewed whiskies using online platforms.  Due to their heavyweight reputation in the industry, their scores for bottles are taken quite seriously, affecting the re-sale value or collectability. Technically, these scores should not define any whiskies for the whisky drinkers because tasting whisky is subjective. Nonetheless, the ratings are often, unfortunately, used by many to resell their bottles at much higher prices.

We thought it was terrific that LMDW invited both Serge and Dave to present their picks for Whisky Live Paris 2019. The mood was lighthearted on stage, with Dave jokingly saying that his choices were better than Serge. We found the tasting fun and fair as all attendees tasted the whiskies blind. We were also encouraged to guess the country of production, regions and distilleries through our blind tastings.

The Line-Up

We tasted six bottles blind. Serge picked three expressions while Dave chose the other three. The three bottles by Serge were Highland Park 10, Ben Nevis 10 and Chichibu Pairs Edition 2019. Dave decided on Arran Sherry Cask (new release), Saint James Distillery Cuvee L’Essentiel 43% and Worthy Park 12 Years Old 2006 to 2018.

Blind tastings are always fun because you get a lot of different answers to the same question. For example, some attendees thought that Ben Nevis 10 was a Springbank due to its funky note. However, our friend, Javin Chia, is a Ben Nevis superfan and immediately identified it as Ben Nevis. His training as the distiller of Singapore’s first-ever whisky certainly did help too!

Chichibu Paris 2019 tasted almost Clynelish-like with waxiness lurking in the background. It has the fruitiness that we found in some modern Clynelish bottles, and it was a surprise to many that it was a Chichibu! Overall, the crowd had a balanced opinion of all the whisky. The Arran Sherry Cask, however, stood out for many, and it received slightly more votes than the others.

Closing for the Day

We enjoyed the day with all the whisky flowing freely for us. To conclude our day, we presented to you our picks for the day. Kindly note that they are in no particular order of merit.

  1. Benriach 12
  2. Years 2007 Cask 3242 for LMDW
  3. Blanton’s 2019 64% for LMDW
  4. Chichibu Paris Edition 2019
  5. Compass Box Myths and Legends 2, 3
  6. Kavalan Single Cask French Wine Cask 59.4% for LMDW
  7. Kavalan Single Cask Peaty Cask R071126052 for LMDW
  8. Last Caroni 23 Years 1996 61.9%
  9. Loch Lomond Organic 17 Years
  10. Monymusk 1995 Villa Paradisetto 24 Years Tropical Aged 67%
  11. Port Askaig 10th Anniversary
  12. Speyburn Single Cask 12 Years 52.5% for LMDW

Continue to read Part 2 – Trade Day of Whisky Live Paris here.

 

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