Balblair distillery made it into the news recently for their change in packaging and labelling of their whiskies. Instead of vintages, the distillery decided to follow the conventional method of stating the age of the whisky on the bottle. It is a welcoming change for drinkers who are too lazy to count the years (like us)!
We wanted to see how things may change with the new packaging, and Lady Luck shines on us – SAMPLES! Our friend over at AsiaEuro kindly gave us some samples to try, and of course, we gladly took over. Who says no to whisky, right? Before we go into the tasting, let’s take a look at the history of the distillery.
History of Balblair Distillery
Balblair was founded in 1790 by John Ross in the Highlands of Scotland. As a Highland distillery, Balblair uses water from the Ault Dearg burn. Even though the distillery moved its location in 1895 when Charles C Doig rebuilt it, the water source remains unchanged to this day. It is important to note that water source for a distillery is crucial, and we applaud the efforts that Balblair takes to maintain the integrity of its water.
John ran Balblair from 1790 to 1824 singlehandedly as a striving business. Andrew Ross, his son, joined him at the distillery in 1824 and it remained in the Ross family for another 70 years. In 1894, Alexander Cowan took over the tenancy of Balblair distillery. The business remained as a small-scale distillery until 1948, when Robert Cumming bought it. Robert expanded the distillery and increased production and ran the bigger distillery until he retired in 1970.
By this time, Balblair is known as an excellent Highland single malt whisky producer, and it is no wonder that the distillery attracted buyers. When Robert Cumming retired, he sold Balblair to Hiram Walker. Finally, Walker sold it to Inver House Distillers Limited in 1996, where it remained till this day.
Whisky Production at Balblair
We do not get a lot of information on the actual whisky production methods at Balblair as the information is not available. Let’s move on to the tasting notes!
Our team was quite divided on our favourites after the tasting. Suffice to say, we enjoyed all three expressions, but the 15 Years Old did win the vote with a 2 out of 3. Have you tried these yet? What are your thoughts?
The team used a barley strain called Maris Otter for the mash. This malted barley used for the mash was especially unique, as it is a pale malt that Scottish distillers do not use. The mash then underwent fermentation, utilising a blend of 80% high gravity yeast and 20% ale yeast. Brewer Daryl Yeap noted that the high gravity yeast could survive a higher alcohol content and produce a high alcohol yield. He went to explain that the ale yeast contributed fruity flavours to the new-make. In crafting a truly Singaporean whisky, the fermentation was at a very local temperature of 30 degrees Celcius, which possible due to the thermotolerant yeast used. After 36 hours of primary fermentation, the wash sat for another 36 hours to allow unique and funky flavours to emerge.
This 2000L wash at 9.5% reached Brass Lion distillery for a double pot still distillation. Although Brass Lion’s hybrid consists of a pot still and a modern column still, the low wines did not get distilled in the column still. Instead, the low wines underwent distillation a second time through the same pot still. A strict numerical point did not determine the cut of the heart. Instead, Javin Chia analysed the new-make distillate in most of all the distillations and took the cut of the heart. This process bears a striking similarity to Chichibu’s method of nosing to determine the cut of the heart rather than a fixed numerical figure.
As this is Singapore’s first legally distilled Single Malt New-Make Spirit, the team faced many challenges. One challenge was getting Singapore customs to understand how whisky duties would work, taking into account the angel’s share. Executing a brew without hops presented the brewery with new challenges. The wee pot still had a volume of 150L, and approximately 130L can be distilled each time. After a gruelling 22 distillations done, Brass Lion obtained 180L of new-make spirit, which would go into a bourbon barrel.
The New-Make Spirit
Nose: The nose was generally malty, with notes of cereal biscuit aromas, butter, and peanut nuttiness.
Palate: The arrival gave notes of unripe green apples and cereal. The texture was buttery, and after a bit, lemon rind notes start to appear.
Finish: A lovely malty, and buttery finish
Unlike most new-make spirits that I have tried, this did not have strong notes of sour mash. Furthermore, the malty notes of the Maris Otter shone through. This very drinkable new-make is likely due to the commitment of Javin and the Brass Lion team to smell and analyse the distillate.
Whiskygeeks is very honoured to be invited to the barrel-filling and showcase of Singapore’s first legal Single Malt New-Make! I am confident that the spirit will evolve into something spectacular. Special thanks to Javin Chia and Brass Lion!
http://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/photo_2019-09-14_23-53-03-e1568476582661.jpg640900Hong Fu Teohttp://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/logo_WhiskyGeeks-300x138.pngHong Fu Teo2019-09-15 00:04:492019-09-15 00:10:40Singapore's first Single Malt!
The Royal Welsh Whiskies – Picture from Penderyn Distillery
Wales is not high on the whisky map. It is well-known as an industrial country with coal mines, and gold. Whisky was never one of their “virtues”. Many people did not even know where Wales is or that it exists.
Wales has a short whisky history. The current distilleries are Penderyn Distillery, located in the Brecon Beacons in Southern Wales, and Dà Mhìle Distillery in Western Wales. Penderyn is the only distillery exporting its Welsh whiskies outside of UK, to countries such as the United States, Germany, France and Singapore.
The History of Whisky in Wales
Unknown to many, Wales was home to a whisky distillery about one century ago. Known as Frongoch Distillery, its location was about two and a half miles from Bala on the way to Trawsfynydd. R. Lloyd Price, the owner of the Rhiwlas Estate and Robert Willis, a pretty unknown person, registered the Welsh Whisky Distillery Co in Frongoch, Bala, in 1889 and built the Frongoch Distillery.
The Rise and Fall of Frongoch Distillery
An Old Picture of Frongoch Distillery. Picture from BBC.
Frongoch was the perfect site for the distillery due to two crucial things – the pure, peaty water from the Tryweryn River, and the readily available transportation network via the nearby railway station and ports. The first Welsh distillery was a magnificent building in its heydays as it received fundings of £100,000 to build and run it. When it opened its doors in 1890, it was a beautiful place with a malthouse, kilns, peat store, offices and accommodation for its 30 workers. There was also a dedicated excise officer located on site.
Sadly, the distillery did not survive. The company went bankrupt in 1910 and Frongoch Distillery became an empty shell. The premise remained uninhabited until the outbreak of World War One in 1914. During the war, the distillery and its grounds became a prisoner of war camp for captured Germans and Irish.
In 1916, during the Easter Rising in Ireland, the English army detained some of the most prominent figures of the uprising at Frongoch. There were two camps on the premises, the North and South camps. The South Camp was in the old buildings of the distillery. The prisoners included Terence MacSweeney and Michael Collins. Frongoch Distillery in Wales remains a vital link in the history of Ireland even up to today. As a prison during the war, it held the best of Ireland’s revolutionaries for the freedom of Ireland.
The Whisky of Frongoch Distillery
It was said that full production at Frongoch would reach 150,000 gallons per annum when the distillery opened. The first Welsh whisky went to customers in 1891. All of them went to North Wales and the border counties. The owners changed their policy after the first batch, choosing to increase the years of maturation. This was a time before rules and regulations came into the whisky industry; such a move from the owners showed their passion and dedication to the craft of whisky-making.
Interestingly, the Welsh Whisky Company Co. received a royal warrant from the Queen on 26 July 1895. As a result, the prefix “Royal” could be used in front of the whisky. Hence, the Royal Welsh Whisky was born. Shortly after the receipt of the royal warrant, the market released the first Royal Welsh Whisky in the history of Wales.
Details about the flavours and taste of the whisky did not survive the years, unfortunately. Advertisements such as the above picture tell us that the distillery released the whisky as a five years old malt made from the finest malted barley, but there was nothing that spoke of its flavours or taste.
Based on the location of Frongoch, the ample peat available likely meant that the whisky was peated. It was also comparatively more expensive than the typical Scotch whiskies of the time. The old report of the Wine & Spirits Trade Record also pointed to the fact that the Royal Welsh Whisky might have been more similar in style to their Irish counterpart than Scotch in terms of their choice of using a “Pot Still” and selling the whisky both in bulk and in bottles. Sadly, there were no concrete details to find out more.
Fast forward to the modern era, and we have Penderyn Distillery as a successor. As the first Welsh distillery to export its whiskies outside of the United Kingdom, the distillery owns one of the original Royal Welsh Whisky bottle (picture at the top of the article). There are three other surviving bottles. One of them is a resident at Cardiff’s St Fagans National History Museum. The other two belong to private collectors who bought them in an auction at £7,300 and £7,200 respectively in 2016.
In 2019, Penderyn Distillery decided to honour the history of whisky-making in Wales with the release of their version of the Royal Welsh Whisky. It is part of Penderyn’s Icon of Wales series and released in March 2019 to celebrate St David’s Day. The new Royal Welsh Whisky sports a peated Portwood finish.
We wonder if the distillery opened the original bottle to try before deciding on the flavours, although it would be very much like drinking a historical relic. Nonetheless, we are excited to try the newly-minted “Royal Welsh Whisky” from Penderyn Distillery.
Royal Welsh Whisky from Penderyn Distillery
Nose: Guava, melons, pineapples surface with black pepper in the nose, with a very muted peat note at the back. With time, vanilla surfaces with soft peat.
Palate: Tropical fruits, muted peat and hints of smoke at the forefront. With time, vanilla cream, peat and smoke come together in a harmonious and beautiful expression.
Finish: Oaky with sweet fruits that develops into fruit peels. With time, the finish is long, and wisps of smoke come and go elegantly.
The Royal Welsh Whisky will benefit from patience and airing time. The dram evolves over time, with the characteristic of its Portwood finish disappearing after 30 minutes and the Peated finish comes full power. It is a beautiful dram that changes with time, giving you a surprise at every turn.
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http://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Old-Label_small.jpg750749Zerlina Zhuanghttp://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/logo_WhiskyGeeks-300x138.pngZerlina Zhuang2019-07-15 22:27:192019-07-15 22:27:19Frongoch Distillery - The Royal Welsh Whisky of Old
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!
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
http://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/IMG20190529115021-1-e1561172006657.jpg590795Hong Fu Teohttp://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/logo_WhiskyGeeks-300x138.pngHong Fu Teo2019-06-27 10:48:452019-06-27 11:09:29Nantou Distillery (Omar whisky) visit!
Glengoyne is a beautiful Highland Distillery with a warehouse just across the road in the lowlands. They have a long reputation of using quality casks and produces whiskies that are sweet, unpeated and sherried. It came as no surprise to me when M&S chose to feature a 14-year-old in their range! Glengoyne holds many special memories for me – Jonathan Scott conducted my first proper whisky tasting at The Single Cask @CHIJMES, and I had Glengoyne 21 year old as a gift on my 21stbirthday from a generous friend!
With the help of Zerlina from WhiskyGeeks and Jonathan Scott of Glengoyne Distillery, I got an exclusive tour to learn the production of this delicious golden nectar! As a way of saying thanks, I asked Zerlina if I could write an article for WhiskyGeeks to share my experience at Glengoyne, and so, here it is!
My Glengoyne Experience
Glengoyne is a mid-sized distillery producing approximately 1 million litres per year. Glengoyne has two water sources. It uses the water from Loch Carron for production and Blairgar Burn for heating and cooling. 100% of the malt used is the Concerto variety coming from Simpsons, a malting company just to the right of Edinburgh. That might change in the future as more distilleries start switching to the Laureate variety. Some other distilleries have allegedly had their highest yield in their wash during experiments, so this seems promising for the future of this barley variety!
The Production Process
The mill crushes the malted barley to grist to break open the husk of the grain. The rollers of the mill grind barley to a standard ratio of approximately 20% Husk, 10% Flour, and 70% Grist. This ratio is vital to prevent clogs and blockages in the pipes. The grist mixed with water to form a mash, with a porridge consistency, which is similar to adding hot water to a bowl of oatmeal. A traditional rack style mash tun, which has rakes turning continuously, mixes the “porridge” mash. The hot water helps dissolve some of the soluble sugars and to start breaking down the starch in the barley into sweet soluble sugar. This process separates the sugars from most of the solids. Hot water is added three times at Glengoyne to extract almost all the sugars from the mash. Each stream of water is hotter than the previous one.
At Glengoyne, the first stream of water to mix with the grist is at 64oC, followed by a second stream of water at 78oC. The first and second streams break most of the starch in the grist into sugar. The third and final water stream comes approximately between 88-90oC to take away any remaining sugar. The process strips almost all the sugar in the grist, much like how hot water dissolves more chocolate and much faster than cold water. The temperatures of the water streams gradually increase so as not to change the natural qualities of the malted barley.
The sugared water from the first and second streams is called wort. The distillery cools the wort to below 20oC before channelling it to the washbacks for fermentation. The temperature is crucial as yeast cannot survive in high heat. The sugary liquid from the third stream of water is called the sparge. Sparge is very hot and have low sugar content. The sparge isn’t wasted though; it is piped away to be used as the first stream for the next mash at 64oC. The remaining barley solids in the mash tun is called the draff, and though it has almost no sugar, it is high in proteins. The draff is sold to farmers as cattle feed. It builds a very strong relationship between Glengoyne and the farmers around the area. Draff also grows healthy cows and produces delicious Scottish beef!
Fermentation at Glengoyne
A 20kg bag of Pinnacle Distillers Dry Yeast (MG+) – Photo by Hongfu Teo
The distillery uses Douglas Fir Wooden Washbacks for fermentation. Douglas Fir trees have fewer branches with lesser weak points, making them strong and lasting as washbacks. Each washback can last a couple of decades.
Each mash pipes into one of six Douglas Fir Wooden Washbacks for a fermentation period of approximately 56 hours. The team adds MG+ Pinnicale Dry Yeast into the washback to start the fermentation process. The yeast will change the dissolved sugars in the wort into low strength alcohol. This fizzy beer-like liquid brewed in the washbacks is called wash, and when the team completes the fermentation, the wash has an alcoholic strength of approximately 8.5% abv.
Glengoyne’s Stills (from left) – Wash Still and 2 Spirits Stills (Photo by Hongfu Teo)
This wash is then sent to the wash still, which is the bigger pot still with three windows on the left of the photo. The wash still takes away some of the water and all the solid particles. This is done by heating the liquid until it bubbles. The vapours rise to the top of the pot still and down the lyne arm, to a shell and tube condenser that turns the vapour into liquid. The distillate from the wash still, known as low wine, flows down the lyne arm at approximately 16L/min. This low wine has an abv of 24%. The low wines enter the tank called the low wine receiver.
The stillmen have to ensure that the wash does not boil over the still and go down the lyne arm by monitoring the bubbles constantly. This is to ensure that the low wine does not have solid particles. The window on the still is usually the indicator that this still is a wash still.
A Second Distillation
The stillmen split the low wines between the two small onion-bulb Spirit Stills (in the picture above) to be distilled a second time. The second distillation increases the alcohol percentage of the final product. The pair of spirit stills is on the right of the photo above. The distillate comes out of the Spirit still in three stages: the Foreshots, the New-Make and the Feints (aka the Head, the Heart and the Tail).
The foreshots are cloudy and undesirable as it contains a lot of alcohol and lighter flavors. At approximately 75% abv, the distillate becomes clean and clear and smells sweet. This is the start of the “heart” or new make. The stillmen collect the distillate from this moment as the new make. Heavier flavours appear at approximately 65% and the stillmen direct the distillate to feints. The foreshots and feints are then channelled into the still again as there is still a significant amount of alcohol in them. The figures of 75-65% are approximate because temperature affects the reading. Stillmen usually use charts to ensure that the Glengoyne new make spirit is sweet and clean.
The Slowest Distillation
Glengoyne also has the slowest distillation from the Spirit Still at a volumetric flow rate of 5L/min. This slow distillation allows the liquid to have prolonged contact with the copper stills. This copper contact takes away sulfur compounds, which is another reason why the Glengoyne spirit character is so unique, and clean.
The New Make
Casks on display at Glengoyne (Photo by Hongfu Teo)
The new make is usually around 71% abv, and Glengoyne watered it down to 63.5% before filling it into a cask. Glengoyne has a 3-fill cask policy so after the third use; they stop using the cask. This policy ensures that every cask provides adequate maturation to the new make. The distillery shipped Oloroso sherry casks whole from Spain and seasoned them for at least two years. The process also strips the rougher tannins off the wood, giving the casks more Oloroso character! The casks give Glengoyne whiskies notes of raisins, dried fruit, nuttiness, chocolate, cinnamon and Christmas Cake! The sherry casks also provide all of Glengoyne single malt’s colour; the distillery does not use E150a caramel colouring!
An Extremely Educational and Enjoyable Journey
It was a lovely trip to the Glengoyne distillery and a one which I learnt a lot from. Thank you, Jonathan Scott, for the insightful tour! I am sure that I will be back again in future!
All this talk of Glengoyne is making me thirsty. Now, excuse me as I pour myself a dram of my favourite Glengoyne Core Range Bottling; the 21yo aged in 1stfill Oloroso cask… for 21 years!
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http://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Glengoyne-Stills.jpg552800Zerlina Zhuanghttp://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/logo_WhiskyGeeks-300x138.pngZerlina Zhuang2018-11-22 12:35:452018-11-22 12:35:45Guest Writer: Hongfu's take on Glengoyne's Production
The reputation of single grain whiskies is unlike that of single malt whiskies. Many drinkers tend to regard single grain whiskies as inferior, which makes it harder for these distilleries and their parent companies to showcase and bottle them the way that single malt whiskies. Invariantly, distillers used most of the grain whiskies for blended Scotch as they are first and foremost, intended as such.
The Story of Haig and Stein Families
Cameronbridge distillery has intimate links to the Haig and Stein families in its history. The afore-mentioned families were two of the most remarkable distilling families in whisky history. The first record of a Haig distilling whisky was in 1655 when the church confronted Robert Haig, an excellent distiller, for distilling on the Sabbath. The story followed that his great-great-grandson, John Haig, married Margaret Stein in 1751. The Stein family had two distilleries in Kilbagie and Kennetpans.
Four of John and Margaret’s sons became distillers. They opened plants in central Scotland and Ireland. Their eldest son, John, founded Cameronbridge distillery in 1824.
The Cameronbridge distillery is the largest grain distillery in Scotland. It appeared to be the oldest too. Of course, it was not Cameronbridge in its previous life. Under the control of John Haig, it was Haig distillery in 1824 when it opened its doors.
When John built his distillery, there was rapid growth in whisky production as new methods of making whisky became available. The location of Cameronbridge was in between the Lowlands and Eastern Highland, and the limitations of law and technology hampered John for a short period.
When things changed for the better in 1829, John quickly installed patented Stein stills which his cousin, Robert Stein had invented. With the Stein stills, things looked promising for Haig distillery. Shortly after John introduced these stills, Irish engineer Aeneas Coffey improved the Stein stills and invented the patented Coffey still. John quickly jumped onboard, installing one Coffey still.
When Alfred Barnard, the famous whisky author, visited the Haig distillery in the 1880s, he noted that the distillery had two Stein, two Coffey and a pot still. Today, the Coffey design is the main instrument of use at Cameronbridge distillery.
Evolving Haig Distillery into Cameronbridge Distillery
41 years after John Haig opened the distillery, he joined an alliance with five other grain distillers and formed the Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in 1877. The company controlled 75% of Scotland’s grain capacity, which allowed it to dominate and eventually monopolised the supply. They also gain the competitive advantage to fix prices in the industry. As we are all aware, DCL was the predecessor of today’s Diageo. Cameronbridge continued to produce both grain and malt whiskies using their pot and column stills until 1929, before switching to exclusive grain whisky production.
After the switch, Cameronbridge proposed as a grain whisky producer. The distillery constructed a column still house with two new column stills in the 1960s. The third still came from the old Carsebridge distillery in Alloa in 1983, after DCL closed it down.
Cameronbridge expanded a few times between 1989 and 2000. It becomes the sole wholly-owned grain plant of Diageo after the closure of Port Dundas in 2010. The expansion also increased the portfolio of spirits produced at Cameronbridge as it takes on the production of Gordon’s and Tanqueray gin as well as Smirnoff vodka. The latest expansion was in 2007. Finally, in 2014, it also became the provider for Haig Club.
Cameronbridge Single Grain Whisky
Similar to most single grain whisky distilleries, Cameronbridge does not have many bottlings. However, it is the only one of all the grain distilleries to have its brand – Cameron Brig. In Singapore, we also have independent bottlers who offers Cameronbridge grain whisky under their label. Cadenhead is the most notable independent bottler to offer high-aged Cameronbridge single grain whisky to end-consumers.
We heard that HNWS is bottling a 34 years old Cameronbridge single grain whisky for its 13th anniversary. While we do not have many details yet, we are told that it is going to be one hell of a dram! We are eagerly waiting for our sample to arrive in the mail so that we can try it asap. We’ll update once we get it! 🙂
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http://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Cameronbridge-Distillery-Coloured.jpg566800Zerlina Zhuanghttp://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/logo_WhiskyGeeks-300x138.pngZerlina Zhuang2018-10-13 23:41:152018-10-13 23:41:15CameronBridge - A Grain Whisky Distillery in Scotland
Ask me which part of the USA I have been to, and the answer will be none. My globe-trotting adventures stopped in the United Kingdom, and I have yet to visit the USA. Frankly, the one thing that indeed puts me off from the USA is the long flight. Flying 12 hours to London had been an absolute nightmare to me and all the flight attendants onboard the particular A380 I was on, and trust me, flying to the USA was such a daunting thought that I have not yet considered a trip there – even with three connecting flights perhaps?
Nonetheless, I think I might be enticed to do that soon, what with my small victory in loving my first ever bourbon! Yay! If you know me well, I am not a bourbon lover. I cannot accept the sweetness that comes with corn distillation, even though I had come close to liking one from Westland Distillery.
Welcome to Golden
State 38 Distilling stays at one of the western states of the USA – Golden, Colorado. As Colorado is the 38th state to be recognised in the USA, the owner decided to name his distillery State 38 Distilling. Part of being patriotic, the owner also wants to associate his distillery with the land that it sits on.
Golden nestled between Denver and the Rocky Mountains and is well-known to be a gold rush town in the 19th century. Gold once flowed in its river, and the town is filled with rich history. It is also home to the Lookout Mountains and the Red Rocks Park.
History of State 38 Distilling
State 38 Distilling opened its doors in March 2013. The owner, Sean Smiley, hand-built all the distillery equipment by hand and also the old western style tasting room that you can find at the distillery. Sean comes from a long lineage of patriotic and loyal men and women, with roots all the way from Scotland.
Sean’s ancestor first crossed the continents from London to the USA in 1850. D.C. Loveday was a Londoner who went to the USA looking for more than just a job. The allure of entrepreneurship guided him forward as he settled in the small town of East Jordan, MI. Loveday became a legendary and honourable statesman in his life, and his independent character became the cornerstone for his descendant, Sean Smiley, owner of State 38 Distilling.
Sean’s great-grandfather, W.I. McKenzie served as a war crimes prosecutor during World War II and received letters from the FDR for his services. He drew strength from the Scottish blood flowing through his veins and ploughed on even in the face of ultimate challenges.
The man behind State 38 Distilling
Sean Smiley in his warehouse
The man behind State 38 is none other than Sean, the great-grandson of W.I McKenzie. He gained his passion for distilling at a young age. With the encouragement from his family, he built his first home still from various part found at the local hardware stores. After graduation, Sean worked in the oil and gas industry. From Global Sales Managing roles to Director of a small engineering company, Sean sees the world through the lens of the good, old oil and gas industry.
Five years ago, Sean decided to change his fate and his life. After ten years of home distilling, he believes that it is time to do something about it. Hence, Sean built his distillery by hand and opened its door in March 2013. With his roots firmly planted in the USA, he commits himself to use local ingredients to produce tasty spirits using his customised copper pot stills.
State 38’s raw ingredients
As we know, whisky is made from only three ingredients – barley, yeast and water. For bourbons, it is a little more complicated, but the main theory still holds. Producers made bourbons from three main ingredients too – grains, yeast and water. The only difference is that they are allowed to use different grains for their mash.
Sean wanted to create unique spirits when he decided to open a distillery. With his roots in Scotland, he was determined to make spirits that are reminiscent of Scotch but yet, wholly American. Therefore, he embarked on a journey to make his whiskeys special.
State 38 uses different grains for their bourbon. While the main ingredient is still corn, the distillery also uses 5% rye, 5% wheat and 20% heavily malted barley. The different grains help to create a unique flavour profile for the DC Loveday bourbon, differentiating it from the others.
Sean also made a peated whisky in which he imported 100% peat-smoked barley from Scotland. Using the barley from Scotland, he combines yeast and water from the melted snow on the Rocky Mountains to create a new and special whisky – one that is not found anywhere else in the world.
Distillation Methods in State 38
Sean’s handmade copper pot still
Distillation in State 38 follows a strict rule – all raw ingredients are processed onsite. The distillery buys local grains and hand milled them with a small roller mill. Once done, the grains mixed with approximately 500 gallons of fresh Rocky Mountain water in a mash tun. The mash is heated to convert the starch to sugar before turning the heat up to caramelised some of the sugars. The process helps to produce a creamy caramel, chocolatey and coffeey note to the finish spirit. They cool the mash after the caramelisation before transferring it to the fermentation tanks.
The fermentation process is extra long at State 38. They use a specialised, proprietary yeast to convert the sugars to ethyl alcohol. The entire process takes 14 days per tank, which is extremely slow, even by Scottish standards. At the end of the fermentation period, clean, sweet alcohol materialises.
New Make running off the tap from the pot still
The wash then transfers to a 250-gallon copper still hand-built by Sean. They distilled the liquid twice, once to create a low wine and twice to get the heart at around 77.5% abv. Now, here’s where things differ. The completed white whiskey is cut to 62.5% abv using fresh Rocky Mountain water before getting barreled in brand new 52.8-gallon American oak barrels, charred to level 3. These barrels are independently staved, which makes them premium barrels to begin with.
After maturing for two years, the whiskey is cut down to bottling abv at 45% using the same Rocky Mountain fresh water before bottling.
Each small batch made at the distillery is labelled with bottle number clearly shown on the bottles.
Sean’s beliefs in Whiskey Making
Barrels maturing in the warehouse
We wanted to understand Sean’s beliefs in whiskey making, so we asked him how whiskey should be made. “I believe that whiskey should be made with great attention to details in all the processes and with respect for the time in maturation in barrels.” He also shared that he spent time studying and testing for the best methods to create the end products he wanted. The intention to caramelise sugar during the mashing process and the extra-long fermentation period are both results from his study.
Sean also shared that he created the Scottish Peat-Smoke Whisky to honour his roots in Scotland. He aimed to bring about an Islay-style whisky, but not overwhelming in smoke. Thus, he decided to go for a peaty whisky that falls somewhere between a Highland and Islay peated whisky.
With his innovative mind, Sean creates stunning whisk(e)ys expressions to rival the booming American whiskey companies. Being a boutique distillery, the small batches of whiskey made are often sold out quickly too!
State 38 Products
Products line up
State 38 products range from bourbon to rye to peaty whisky. The distillery also makes 100% organic agave tequila, vodka and gin. Each product carries the State 38 logo proudly. Currently, the products are slowly making their way out of Colorado and into other countries.
In Singapore and its South East Asia neighbours, the distillery is starting with the DC Loveday Bourbon and the WI McKenzie Peat-Smoke Whisky. It has plans to import its gin, vodka and tequila to Singapore in future.
Future of State 38
With its 5th anniversary celebration over, State 38 is expanding its production equipment, storage and bottling plant. The 5-year milestone is a testimony to its great-tasting spirits and Sean’s enduring dedication to creating only quality products. Sean is now looking at expansion into the Asian market, with Singapore as its first stop and the rest of South East Asia should follow soon after.
I am never a big fan of American whiskey because I find bourbon too sweet and Tennessee whiskey just a little weird for my general tasting profile. However, I had the chance to taste two out of three Westland Distillery’s core range in two separate occasions and their malt-forward flavours and profile made me sit up and take notice.
A closer look at their bottles revealed the reason – Westland Distillery made single malt whiskey. That is to say, they use malt barley as their base for fermentation, not corn or rye or any other grains. It was an exciting discovery for me so I dug deeper into the distillery to find out more.
Lo and behold, there are more surprises! I found out that the Westland Distillery belongs to Remy Cointreau, the French company who also owns Bruichladdich Distillery. Apparently, Remy bought the American distillery in late 2016 after the sales of its whiskey soared in the same year.
So, what is the secret behind Westland? Let me share what I found so far.
The Founding of Westland Distillery
The founders, Matt Hofmann and Emerson Lamb started Westland Distillery in 2010. Bonded over their love for whiskey and their passion to create something different for America, the pair decided to produce American whiskey in a special way. Deciding to follow the Scots in the choice of their grains, Matt Hofmann and Emerson Lamb choose to use malt barley instead of the usual corn or rye.
The distillery moves to the current location in Seattle, Washington in 2012 by refurbishing an old crane factory in 18 months. The first Westland release was a 375ml bottle named “The Deacon Seat”.
The Ingredients in Westland Single Malt Whiskey
As we know, there are only three ingredients in single malt whisky when the Scots made them – barley, yeast and water. Westland Distillery follows this recipe closely, but with one exception. They use more than one type of barley for their mash. The distillery uses five different malted barley for their regular American Oak and Sherry Wood, and six different malted barley for their peated expression.
The five malts are: – Pale Malt from Washington – Munich Malt from Washington – Extra Special Malt from Wisconsin – Brown Malt from the UK – Pale Chocolate Malt from the UK
The government and state park in America control much of the peat bogs and wetland in the country and distilleries find it extremely difficult to gain access to peat bogs. Westland is trying to persuade the government to allow them access to a peat bog that is a flavourful, herbaceous mix. For now, Westland is using peated malt from Bairds Maltings in Inverness, Scotland.
The Production Process
The distillery mills the barley on site using a roller mill before placing the milled barley into their stainless steel mash tun. Once the mash is completed, the wort moves along to the washbacks for fermentation. The yeast used is a Belgium brewers yeast that typically produces fruity beers! Fermentation takes four to six days, depending on the whiskey that they are making. Distillation takes place in two copper pot stills – a wash still and a spirit still.
The interesting part of their distillation comes from their copper pot still. It is a combination still where the shape of the still is rounded and yet, there is a column on top of the copper pot. The main idea of the column still is to remove impurities and make a clean spirit for maturation. For Westland Distillery, they remove the plates of the column still in their spirit still, which means there is no rectification or what we called column distillation done over in the spirit still.
Westland Distillery does not mature their whiskey on site, but at Hoquiam, Washington. That is roughly a two hours drive south of the distillery location. The location sits right smack on the Pacific Ocean, where the sea breezes create a coastal and humid environment. An environment such as this gives an angel share of about 2% all year around.
Westland only uses standard-sized casks and does not believe in small cask ageing. They have over 40 different cask types in their warehouse as of last year, and they range from sherry to port to ex-bourbon. Besides the regular wood, they also use Garryana oak, an endangered species of oak trees in the United States of America. Scientifically known as Quercus Garryanna, this tree used to grow rampantly from northern California to the British Columbia, but now, the growth area is only 5% of what it used to be. Westland is fighting to use this oak. Due to its endangered status, Westland Distillery is making a lot of efforts to ensure the continuity of the species. You can read more about their quest here.
The Core Range of Westland Distillery
Westland Distillery produces three expressions for their core range. The flagship style of the distillery is of course, the American Oak. It is a reflection of the distillery, where it is from and the values of those who made it. It is an approachable dram that is not only uniquely American, but only special in its choice of ingredients.
The peated malt expression is a varietion of their flagship style with an addition of peated malt imported from Scotland. The addition of the peated malt adds smokey flavours to the whiskey and that makes it flavourful.
The sherry wood expression is an experiment that has gone well for the distillery. Using only the finest PX and Oloroso sherry casks sourced from Tonelería del Sur in Montilla, Spain, Westland creates a beautiful sherry wood expression with their malt-focused spirit.
Should you try whiskey from Westland Distillery?
Well, I tried two of the core range and end up digging deeper into the distillery to find out more. If you are someone who do not fancy bourbons because they are so sweet, perhaps Westland whiskeys will be something to try. It is less cloying on the palate and in general, gives a very well-rounded tasting profile.
If you are a bourbon lover, try this and let me know what you think! I will love to know what a bourbon drinker thinks about the whiskies from Westland!
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http://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Westland-Distillery_small-.jpg493800Zerlina Zhuanghttp://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/logo_WhiskyGeeks-300x138.pngZerlina Zhuang2018-08-13 00:09:382018-08-13 00:09:38Westland Distillery - Thoughtfully Made in America
We interview Dr Giancarlo Bianchi, Technical Director of Penderyn Distillery previously, where we spoke briefly about Penderyn Distillery. It is now time for us to formally introduce the Penderyn Distillery to our readers since their products are coming to Singapore shortly.
The Birth of Penderyn
Wales, England had lost the art of distillation for over a century since it stopped in 1894. The people of Wales need to have a distillery to call their own, their pride. In the late 1990s, a group of friends met at a pub in a small Welsh valley town for a catch-up session over drinks. As the night progressed, the talk turned serious, and this group of friends began to conceive the idea of building the first whisky distillery in Wales. It would be a Welsh distillery that creates “a whisky as pure and precious as Welsh gold” and one which the people of Wales will be proud of.
The group of friends already have a location in mind – the historic village of Penderyn on the southern tip of the Brecon Beacons. The site is perfect because it has its supply of fresh, natural spring water. They knew that it is the ideal place for a distillery. What’s more, this resourceful group of friends also have access to a unique copper single-pot still designed by Dr David Faraday. He is a relative of the famous 19th-century scientist Michael Faraday.
With the resources and plans ready in hand, the group of friends began the construction of Penderyn Distillery and established the home of the Welsh’s liquid gold on 1 March 2004 in the presence of HRH Prince Charles.
Penderyn’s Unique Copper Still
How is Welsh’s liquid gold made? Well, remember we spoke about Penderyn’s unique copper single-pot still designed by Dr David Faraday? It is this very still that makes gold for Penderyn.
Penderyn distillery has a pair of copper single-pot stills called the Faraday Stills. The stills are designed by Dr David Faraday, who is a relative of the famous Victorian scientist, Michael Faraday. The single-pot still produces a clean and flavourful spirit of extraordinary strength that becomes Penderyn’s signature style of whisky.
The Distillation Process
The distillery charges malted barley wash into their copper stills every morning. The still is heated with hot steam. As the liquid reaches boiling point, the vapour rises into a copper column above the still. The column has seven perforated plates, and the vapour condenses on the first plate before falling back into the still. The process continues, with the vapour that condenses on the first plate becoming purer and rising to the second plate before condensing. This delicate process continues until the vapour reaches the 7th plate, where it condenses and is collected into a glass spirit safe, drop by drop.
The entire process helps to purify the final spirit and imbues it with great complexity, depth, and body. The copper still also removes many undesirable chemical compounds. The magical process creates a clean spirit of extraordinary strength. The new make at Penderyn arrives at the spirits safe at a staggering strength of 92% abv, one of the industry highest.
Wood and Cask
The new make from Penderyn needs a home after they are born. Penderyn takes great care to ensure every drop of liquid has a quality home to rest in. The distillery’s house style comes from the use of two kinds of casks. The primary residence of the new make is an excellent hand-selected bourbon barrel that comes from either Buffalo Trace or Evan Williams Distillery. Both of them make some of the finest bourbons in the world. That makes their ex-bourbon casks perfect as the first home for Penderyn’s whisky.
Penderyn uses Portuguese barriques that held a rich Madeira wine to finish their house-style whisky. The rich Madeira casks imparted subtlety and complexity to the whisky. They also use other types of casks to create a range of products to suit everyone’s palate. The distillery uses Scottish peated casks, Portugal port wood barrels and Spanish dry oloroso sherry casks.
Penderyn’s Range of Whisky
Penderyn has a large range of whisky available for every whisky drinker. At a glance, there are three ranges of whisky on offer as well as other spirits such as gin and vodka.
First up, there is the Dragon range. It showcases the pride of Wales as the red dragon is the national flag. Under the Dragon range, you can find Legend, Myth and Celt. Legend mirrors the house-style of Penderyn’s signature malt, with ex-bourbon and Madeira finish. Myth is matured in ex-bourbon and ex-red wine casks. Celt is the lightly peated version of Penderyn’s single malt.
There is also the Gold range, which is made up of Maderia, Port wood, Sherry wood and Peat. Every expression is matured in ex-bourbon cask before getting a finish in their respective casks.
Besides the above seven expressions, Penderyn also has limited edition releases named Icons of Wales which showcase either a person, milestone or event from Welsh history with international significance. So far, the distillery launched five expressions with number six coming along in the near future.
What will be Available in Singapore?
We understand that Penderyn whisky will be launched in Singapore in October 2018 with seven expressions from the Dragon and Gold range. The dates are not confirmed, but we will be releasing them as soon as we know. Stay tuned for more!
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http://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Penderyn_Distillery_Building.jpg267800Zerlina Zhuanghttp://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/logo_WhiskyGeeks-300x138.pngZerlina Zhuang2018-08-03 22:44:552018-08-03 22:44:55The Liquid Gold of Wales - Penderyn Distillery
Many of us have not heard of Box Distillery in Singapore. Hailing from Northern Sweden, it is a distillery that showcases the Nordic passion for whisky like no others. The distillery changed its name from Box to High Coast Distillery on 30 June 2018. The decision came about as a practical solution to a complaint filed by Scottish brand Compass Box.
“The name changes links our distillery more closely with the High Coast region and the fabulous place that we live and work in.” Said High Coast distillery CEO Thomas Larsson, in an interview with ScotchWhisky.com. It makes sense for the distillery to create a stronger tie to the land with its name.
Early History of High Coast Distillery
If you wonder why the owners christened the distillery as Box initially, you need to go back to its roots. The site of the High Coast distillery is sitting beside the Ångerman River in Ådalen. It is about 100km north of Sundsvall in Northern Sweden. This area was the heart of the Nordic forestry industry in the past, with sawmills and other timber-related businesses lining the banks of the river. One of these buildings was Box AB, a wooden box production company.
A terrible fire broke out in 1890 and burnt the factory, warehouse and workers’ accommodation to the ground. Unfortunately, the owners could not rebuild Box factory, and by 1912, the building became a wood-fired power station. The power station provided electricity to a nearby timber floating station until 1924. The owners then turned the building into a storage area until timber floating operation ceased in the early 1980s.
The Building of a Dream
The building fell into ruin after the early 1980s. A new lease of life began for the building in 1991, when current distillery owner, Mats de Vahl, took over the old power station. He renovated and transformed the station into an art gallery. The building changes its course again when Mat and his brother Per, visited Scotland. Impressed with the distilleries that they saw, Mat and Per decided to build their passion for whisky into a distillery. After several years of intense planning, the distillery opened in December 2010, and the first barrels were filled before Christmas Eve.
What is Special about High Coast Distillery?
The environment is a unique part about High Coast distillery. Nestled in a remote, rugged landscape with icy-cold water, the dense forest, open areas and clean air contribute to the production of the whisky. The distillery experiments high variation in temperature due to its geographical location and it helps the maturing spirits to attain its flavours through the active interaction with the cask faster. In such an ideal situation, whisky from the High Coast distillery does not need an extended maturation period.
The water that the distillery uses is also a point in contention. High Coast uses water from Bålsjön, a spring-fed lake as it is clean and soft – a perfect combination. Additionally, the distillery filters the water through sand and carbon filters to remove any last bits of impurity.
High Coast’s Production Methods
Mats and Per de Vahl know what they want to achieve right from the start. They want a full-bodied and malty new make, so they make use of pilsner malt. They also take careful consideration to ensure that the wort is clear during the mashing process. A clear wort brings a fruity flavour and hence, they are particular about it. During fermentation, they use only French distillery yeast to bring forth more fruitiness. The fermentation period is also longer to allow production of acids, aldehydes and alcohol sugars for a beautiful, fruity and well-balanced whisky.
Distillation is the most vital part of the production. Careful to take in the fruitiest esters that come off early from distillation, the first cut of their unpeated distillate is around 13 minutes. The second cut of 67% is also earlier than other distilleries to ensure a clean and light whisky. For their peated version, they take the first and second cut 30 minutes longer than the unpeated version.
What is Available at the Distillery?
There are many different activities that you can do at the High Coast Distillery. If you want to know more about the distillery and what they do, take the distillery guided tour for a chance to see it for yourself. The distillery also host a whisky festival on the last Saturday of June every year, where visitors get to sample their products and other liquids from the nearby regions.
There is also the Box Whisky Academy, where visitors stay one week at the distillery and works together with the team. You can learn the craft and knowledge of whisky-making through the different processes and of course, get to taste the whisky from the warehouse!
Finally, you can also become a cask owner by buying a cask from the High Coast Distillery. Known as 39.25 Box Ankare, visitors are welcome to choose a barrel and to buy it as their own. The cask will continue to mature in the warehouse, and you can visit the distillery anytime to try the liquid. To find out more about cask ownership, email the distillery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Private Bottling of Box Whisky
To finish up the article, we would like to share that HNWS Taiwan brought a cask of Box Whisky. Bottled at 62% abv, this 5.5 years old whisky is from a 40 litres cask. Fruity and feisty, the liquid is perfect for almost any occasions. 😀
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http://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Box-Distillery-Picture.jpg408800Zerlina Zhuanghttp://www.whiskygeeks.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/logo_WhiskyGeeks-300x138.pngZerlina Zhuang2018-07-30 00:15:462018-07-30 00:15:46Nordic Passion: Box, The High Coast Distillery