Whisky Events

DFS Whisky Festival 2019: The 4th Edition

The DFS Whisky Festival is back, this time with their first-ever pop-up bar at Terminal 3. The beautiful pop-up bar features some new DFS whisky releases so that you can drink that travel anxiety away with the ambience of live jazz performances. If you are travelling anytime between 1st May to 10th June, you can visit the bar from 8 am to 12 midnight. The bar is located at T3 in the concourse space near Gucci and Burberry. Alternatively, you could just follow the sound of live jazz~

This pop-up bar is inspired by a whisky’s maturation journey in its cask. The oak used in the decor of the bar were ex-whisky staves to provide the bar with its aesthetics. The jazz is layered and sophisticated just like whisky, creating a comfortable ambience for any whisky drinker.

In the 4th Edition of the Whisky Festival features some very exciting whiskies and some surprisingly good drams! Some new releases include Glenmorangie 14-year-old Single Cask #1399, Chivas 21-year-old The Lost Blend, and Compass Box No Name No. 2! You can read some of my thoughts about the drams and tasting notes here!

The DFS Whisky Festival itself will last till 30th June, and brand ambassadors will be invited down to talk about their products! Travellers can get a complimentary whisky tasting as well!

Whisky Festival Promotions

There will also be festival exclusive promotions at T2’s Whiskey House Duplex, The T3 Raffles Long Bar and The Whiskey House at T4. During the festival, a minimum purchase of S$250 on any whisky from the Departure store will come with a branded Glencairn whisky nosing glass. As for the Arrival stores, from 8th May to 30th June, spend a minimum of S$140 per passport that includes any whisky product(s) to receive a pair of ferry tickets and city tour to Batam (worth S$70).

But the Festival isn’t just happening in Singapore, check out this information released by DFS Singapore:

DFS Whisky Festival around the world:

1st May to 30th June:   

  • Singapore Changi Airport
  • Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport
  • Ho Chi Minh Tan Son Nhat Airport
  • John F Kennedy International Airport
  • Tom Bradley International Terminal

1st June to 31st July:  

  • Hawaii Honolulu International Airport
  • San Francisco International Airport

1st July 1 to 31st August:   

  • Abu Dhabi International Airport

Travellers planning their vacation in May or June might want to allocate some extra time at the pop-up bar to savour that sweet liquid gold! Special thanks to DFS Singapore for the invite to this event 😀

Interview: An Hour with Jonathan Scott

Jonathan with the Smokehead Range

We have been fortunate to get support from Asiaeuro Singapore and Ian Macleod since we started the blog. We are grateful that the company has always looked after us. Last year, Glengoyne distillery and Jonathan had also gone out of their way to host our writer, Mr Hongfu Teo, when he visited the distillery.

This year, we are once again, grateful, to be invited to the Asiaeuro’s office for an exclusive interview with Jonathan when he popped by Singapore for a really short time. As we had mentioned our love for Islay and peaty whiskies the last time we met, we are invited to cover for their iconic Islay Single Malt whiskies – SMOKEHEAD!

Of Growing Up in Speyside and Tomatoes…

Jonathan Scott grew up at the edge of Speyside, and interestingly, his first memories for whisky is Glen Garioch. We spent some time talking about how to pronounce the distillery’s name, and finally, we agreed that it should be called “Glen Gary”! It helps the unschooled Asian tongue to pronounce the name and also makes it acceptable for the Scottish ears.

Jonathan shared that his childhood in Speyside revolved pretty much around tomatoes. The reason was simple – Scotland does not have the ideal climate to grow tasty tomatoes. Most of their tomatoes come from Spain. Therefore, tomatoes were a large part of his childhood. Nonetheless, tomatoes have had nothing to do with his passion for whisky…

Working in the Industry…

Jonathan works in the whisky industry for the past 15 years. His experiences are varied, and that was what makes things so exciting to him. Considering his many years of experience, we asked him the critical question – What are the differences for Glengoyne, Tamdhu and Smokehead when compared to others?

Glengoyne and Tamdhu Distilleries

Tamdhu 12 and 15 Years Old

Sherry. It is always the sherry wood cask that these distilleries use. Both brands have their reputation built around the excellent sherry oak casks that they use for maturation of their whiskies. They use both first-fill and refill sherry oak casks that can cost up to a £1000! Each sherry oak cask comes from Jerez, Spain, and it is not a readily available item due to the shrinking sherry industry and the inflation of prices for the sherry casks.

Besides the exclusive usage of sherry casks, Tamdhu (in Speyside) also sourced its water from underground springs. Unlike many other distilleries around the area, Tamdhu does not use water from the river Spey. This makes Tamdhu unique as I do believe that water plays a part in the production of whisky.

Smokehead

The Smokehead Trio

The range of Smokehead is the most interesting to me. Despite the various expressions available in the global market for about 16 years, Smokehead remains mysterious in its ways. Ian Macleod works with multiple distilleries on Islay to buy their casks for the Smokehead range. Smokehead started with one expression – the classic Smokehead, and then move on to release other expressions, including the 18 years old and the Sherry Bomb. While there may not be a name put to each Smokehead expression, we probably could tell from the palate when we enjoy the whiskies.

The Interesting Portfolio of Ian Macleod

Jonathan shared an often overlooked characteristic of Ian Macleod’s current portfolio. They have a distillery in the three major regions of Scotland. Tamdhu in Speyside region, Glengoyne in the Highlands, Rosebank in the Lowlands and of course, Smokehead (as a brand) on Islay. Perhaps the next step for Ian Macleod after restoring Rosebank is to build a new distillery on Islay!

They also have two gin distilleries – The Edinburgh Gin Distillery based in the city and a larger distillery in Leith.

Rosebank Robbery and its Restoration

Diageo mothballed Rosebank Distillery in 1993, and the robbery took place over the Christmas of 2008/2009. The thieves stole all the original Rosebank copper stills, but they left the whisky alone! If we looked at the context of that period, we would realise that copper was probably more expensive then whisky! In some ways, that was lucky! Otherwise, we would not have any remaining Rosebank whisky now.

The restoration of the distillery is underway now. As all the stills were never recovered, Ian Macleod has to rebuild all the stills in its original form. That is taking up much of their time, but patience will pay off eventually. While Jonathan does not have an exact timeline for us right now, we can be assured that Rosebank distillery will rise from the ashes again soon!

New Releases from Ian Macleod

Smokehead Sherry Bomb

Smokehead Sherry Bomb

Exciting new releases from the three brands are coming to Singapore in June and July. First up, we have the brand new Smokehead expression – the Sherry Bomb. Strong peat, creamy vanilla, and some fruits came through on the nose. Oily, black smoke, peat and burnt banana filled the palate. The long finish has hints of sweet sherry and a tinge of saltiness to remind you of the origins of the whisky.

Besides the Sherry Bomb, you can still find the classic Smokehead, the 18 Years Old, and the High Voltage expressions in Singapore too.

Tamdhu 12 and 15 Years Old

Tamdhu launches the 12 and 15 Years Old whisky recently, and Singapore will be getting them soon. If you are a sherried whisky fan, these are to die for. Try them for yourself and let us know what you think.

Glengoyne The Legacy Chapter One

The Legacy is one of the newest NAS bottles from Glengoyne, and we understood that the expression would only come to Singapore sometime in July. Even though it is not yet in Singapore, we are positive that this bottle will be again an extraordinary expression. We have received a sampling portion and will soon be posting a review of the whisky. Stay tuned for it!

Where can you find these products in Singapore?

Some of our bars in Singapore are carrying the brands from Ian Macleod. One bar of special notice is The Wall at Tanjong Pagar. They have the most number of bottles from Ian Macleod, from Tamdhu to Glengoyne to Smokehead. In fact, the bar is stocking up with some of the new releases such as the Smokehead Sherry Bomb, Tamdhu 15 Years Old and Glengoyne Legacy. Smokehead Sherry Bomb is available now, while Tamdhu 15 and Glengoyne Legacy will arrive in July.

Besides our friends at The Wall, you can also find Tamdhu 10 and 12 Years Old at The Connoisseur Divan! There will be more places in future, so do keep an eye out for them! In the meanwhile, head over to the two bars to try these delectable whiskies!

 

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Rum & Whisky Pairing Dinner at Punjab Grill

WhiskyGeeks is excited to have been invited to a media tasting for the first Penderyn & Navy Island rum dinner, paired with authentic Indian cuisine. This tasting was a preview to the dinner open to attendees at the World Gourmet Summit 2019.

Punjab Grill

Finding a befitting restaurant for this dinner is crucial, as it must offer traditional authentic cuisine combined with flair, grandeur and elegance. That said, I would say that there is no place better than Punjab Grill, which has an atmosphere that was brimming with grandeur. The dishes are presented like works of art and its form allows its flavours to perform in perfect harmony on my palate.

Spirits Castle and INTERCO-MLE

Penderyn is a Welsh single malt, that has a sweet, fruity spirit character, with every drop unchill-filtered and natural colour. Penderyn is distributed in Singapore by Spirits Castle. The Navy Island rum is brought in by both Interco-MLE and Spirits Castle. Navy Island has its core range and also a Single Origin range called the 1731 Fine & Rare, highlighting terroir in rum. One bottle of rum each from the two series will be featured in the dinner.

Line Up

Starter: Chef Special Amuse Bouche of the Day with the Navy Habanero Mule

It was a savoury dish to start, which took me by surprise, especially because of how pink it was. The various textures of the dish were so different, from the foam to the base and the cream. The Navy Habanero Mule is based on the dark and stormy cocktail with a few changes. It features the Navy Island 40% rum, Hanebo Chilli Monin syrup and a special ginger powder provided from Punjab Grill themselves. The rum itself is less sweet but has more personality than most commercial rums. The cocktail maintains the rum’s unique spirit character, whilst balancing any sweet or citrusy tones from the Hanebo Chilli Monin syrup, with an added dimension of flavour from Punjab Grill’s Chilli powder.

Appetiser

Tandoor Grilled Barramundi Fish Tikka in Mustard Oil & Duck Seekh Kebab, Kashmiri Rogan Glaze

This dish was a delightful savoury dish. While the Seekh Kebab with the Rogan Glaze provided more herbal and heavier meaty notes, the tender fish coated in a peppery mustard exterior was lighter and mildly spiced.

Paired with this appetizer was the Penderyn Celt, which aged in ex-Laphroaig casks.

This imparts a light but distinct smoky peat-smoke note to the sweetness of the Penderyn single malt. Penderyn’s house style was intended to be sweet and unpeated; however, the Laphroaig cask was bought and filled due to an accident which turned out to be an unintended success with how delicious it is.

This was an outstanding pairing! Due to the Islay touch, the smokiness of the Celt complemented the coastal savoury fish and the Seekh Kebab. The sweetness from Penderyn’s spirit character juxtaposed the savoury spice dish. For me, it was of both a contrasting and complementary pairing. For people who might notice the smoke then the sweetness, the nature of this pairing would change as the whisky changes for you.

Entrée:

Lentils & Dry Berry Pancake, Masala Prawns & Lobster Bharta sprinkled with lime leaf powder, garnished with Masala Beluga Caviar

The entrée had a very different texture compared to the appetizer. The pancake was soft and chewy, serves as a platform for the mildly spiced shellfish bharta and caviar.

The Penderyn Legend 41% pairs delightfully with this entrée. This single malt initially goes through ex-bourbon casks maturation and ends its journey in a fruity Madeira cask. This finish goes well with the sweetness of the spirit character.

The intense umami and savoury dish met its match with the Legend (no pun intended), which provided strong sweet fruit flavours to combat the entrée’s daunting flavour. This pairing was a contrasting pairing, somewhat like the clashing of the titans, but in an enjoyable way. The pairing intensified the honey and citrus notes of the whisky as well.

 

Main:

36-hour Lamb Chop Marinated with Herbs & Spices, clay oven grilled, served with Lakhnavi brown onion gravy

The lamb was a beautiful shank, the gravy sauce was mildly spiced and had some mutton flavours to it. The meat itself is soft, tender, and melts in my mouth.

The Whisky paired to the main is the Penderyn Myth which underwent maturation in ex-bourbon casks prior to a Red Wine cask finish. Bottled at 41%, this is a dram with notes of cinnamon spice and red berries, coupled with citrus zest, vanilla and confectionary sweetness from its ex-bourbon maturation. The spice of the dram blended well with the spices of the dish, whilst the sweetness of the Myth juxtaposed the main dish.

For seafood lovers, there is also another option for mains of having Tava Grilled Chilli crushed Jumbo Tiger Prawns, served with Chettinad & Coconut Smooth Gravy, paired with Penderyn Sherrywood.

Dessert: Punjab Grill Special Dessert Platter

The platter consisted of a pineapple cheesecake, lychee, caramel ice cream dusted with delicious crumble, and a warm mildly sweet paste decorated in a blueberry sauce of sorts. A dish just as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate. The dessert is paired to the Cuban 5yo rum which is a Spanish style “Rhum” using column distillation. Regionality dictates that only Cuban molasses and sugarcane should be used, giving some providence to its terroir. The initial taste of the rum was fresh and zesty with notes of honey. However, this pairing brought out a different dimension to the Cuban rum. The sweetness of the dessert was able to accentuate an earthy note in the rum which I did not notice in the rum before I had the dessert. This pairing was a truly transformative experience.

How do I get to attend the dinner?

The dinner will be available at the World Gourmet Summit 2019, with a vegetarian option. It will cost 128++ without whisky pairing and 178 ++ with whisky and rum pairing. With the 5 drinks, I think it’s worth getting the latter! You can reserve your seats at this link! Grab your seats now!

Special thanks to Zerlina of Spirits Castle for the invitation, this was an absolutely remarkable experience!

 

Weekend Rendezvous with Penderyn Single Malts

We had an awesome weekend with Michael Wheeler, Global Brand Ambassador of Welsh Single Malt, Penderyn in early March. As Wales celebrates St David’s Day on 1 March of every year, Penderyn importer, Spirits Castle Pte Ltd, decided to bring the celebration to Singapore with a couple of whisky tastings amongst other activities.

Pre-Celebration Drinks

The celebration started at The Providore, Downtown Gallery, where Michael held an impromptu lunchtime tasting of two best-selling whiskies in Singapore, the Sherrywood and Rich Oak.

Set up at The Providore, Downtown Gallery

While most people were not keen to start drinking at noon, more interested drinkers came at around 1 pm. Michael had a good time speaking with them about Welsh whiskies, and some of them walked away feeling that they have found gold! He also spoke with two seasoned drinkers who thought that the Sherrywood was quite similar to some of their favourite Scotch whiskies!

Whisky Pairing Dinner @ Conrad Centennial Singapore

WhiskyGeeks invited ourselves to the whisky pairing dinner at Conrad Centennial Singapore on 1 March 2019 because we had to (wink!) and of course, we were glad that we went! The event was a collaboration between Conrad and Spirits Castle with Conrad doing most of the job. When we arrived, we saw the team at The Lobby Lounge busy working on the set up for the evening. What impressed us though, was that their General Manager was helping out as well! We seldom see a GM who is so hands-on and respected the man who is so willing to serve.

The completed set up

First…the Dragons

The Dragon Range (from left to right): Legend, Myth, Celt

The whisky dinner started with a series of canapés and the Dragon Range from Penderyn. The Dragon on each bottle represents Wales and what it stands for. The dragon is, of course, the one gracing the flag of Wales. Michael spoke about the range and intrigued audiences with tales of dragons and myths.

Michael and his audiences

The Legend was the first whisky we tried. Matured in a bourbon cask before having a finish in Madeira casks, this whisky is light and fruity, with a hint of oakiness. The Myth is sweeter, with a rounded balance of fruits and candy because it is a bourbon-matured whisky that is finished in red wine casks. The Celt is the most interesting, with light peaty smoke and sweet ripe fruits. Michael explained that this whisky was finished in ex-Islay casks! All the whiskies in the Dragon range are bottled at 41% abv.

The Golden Dinner

The food prepared by Conrad’s Chef

The actual dinner pairing worked with Penderyn Gold Range – a series of 5 different whiskies bottled at 46% abv. Chef Mandar worked extensively to come up with each pairing, and all of them were fantastic!

Conrad’s Penderyn Pairing Dinner

Our favourite was the Pork Belly with Sherrywood as the pairing worked so well! The tender pork belly infused with coffee enhanced the flavours of Penderyn Sherrywood, while the whisky helped to remove the sweetness of the sauce perfectly. We also like the dessert, because the chocolate cake was divine! It was so good that we almost forgot about the whisky!

Michael speaking about the whiskies

Michael talked about the whiskies at every course, and he regaled tales of the distillery’s history and blunders in a humourous manner. He told us about Penderyn Peated – a mistake that turned out to become a popular whisky in the core range! It was said that the person-in-charge of buying casks for the distillery made a terrible blunder and purchased a batch of casks that were once holding peated whisky on Islay. When the distillery discovered the mistake, it was too late, and they had to release the whisky as a “one-off” experiment because they cannot just throw away good whisky. It turned out that people love the whisky so much that they begged the distillery to continue the production, and so today, it is part of the core range.

The Final Frontier

We ended the dinner with a special cocktail, one which the bartender at The Lobby Lounge did for the event. It was a Manhattan but done using the Penderyn Celt. Sweet and smoky, the cocktail was the perfect drink to end a lovely evening at Conrad Centennial Singapore.

A Whisky Journey to Wales at Wala Wala

Wala Wala’s Bartender with Penderyn

2 March 2019 was equally exciting because Penderyn did a tasting at Wala Wala, Singapore’s iconic bar at Holland Village! We understood that Penderyn distillery (and Spirits Castle) is absolutely delighted with Wala Wala’s support of their whiskies.

Wala Wala Cafe Bar is a place that most of the 80s and 90s kids know fondly. It is THE place to hang out, and some of us did more than hang out there – we slept on the floor, drunk, of course! The event was a collaboration between Wala Wala and Spirits Castle. Again, Wala Wala was the one who did all the job of setting up!

The Actual Event

Michael led the group gathered at Wala Wala on a journey to Wales, where he waxed lyrical about the country and the beautiful places that surround Penderyn Distillery.

Mike with the attentive audiences

The focus at Wala Wala was the five Gold Range expressions, but participants were greeted with a cocktail done with the Myth! The crowd at Wala was curious about Welsh whiskies, with many of them hearing about Penderyn for the first time. Therefore, many questions flew at Michael, who happily answered them all.

He also showed them some interesting elements of the distillation method at Penderyn and explained why the whisky tasted so different from the others.

Studying the elements of distillation

Interaction with our resident WhiskyGeeks

Michael also had a chance to speak with our guest writer of WhiskyGeeks – Hongfu aka Panda. He was delighted to find someone who loves whisky so much that questions came nonstop! It was enjoyable to see them interact with each other and to know that WhiskyGeeks will always have someone to fall back on should we fail to deliver in future! Hahaha!!

Michael with our resident whisky geeks

All of us enjoyed ourselves at Wala Wala, and we are awed by the generosity of the owner – Stanley when platters upon platters of food came from the kitchen after the presentation was over. It was an endless parade of food, and needless to say, we were all stuffed by the time the event ended. So many questions, so much food…Whisky flow aplenty as well, and out of the five, Sherrywood naturally came out tops, again!

We had an enjoyable time, and appreciated the efforts that Wala Wala had put in to make the event so fun!

Till the next time…

The weekend rendezvous with Penderyn was excellent, and we hope to do it again! Conrad’s dinner pairing was a luxurious, one of a kind event and Wala Wala’s laidback environment was a complete opposite to it. Both events left deep memories of the place, the whisky and the food. We can’t wait to do this again! Till the next time, folks!!

 

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Introducing Old Pulteney – The Maritime Malt

The Old Pulteney New Range

The Old Pulteney is not a new distillery; neither are its single malts strangers to everyone. However, the old range of 17 and 21 have disappeared in the market, and a shiny new range has taken over. It consists of the good, old 12 Years Old, a new NAS called Huddart, a 15 Years Old and an 18 Years Old.

How did these new expressions measure up? We found out in a recent media launch with Mr Malcolm Waring, the Distillery Manager of Old Pulteney.

Introducing Mr Malcolm Waring

Credit: David Parry

Malcolm Waring is the distillery manager at Old Pulteney for the past 12 years. He is the perfect choice for the job because of his many talents. Raised in Wick, Scotland, Malcolm started as a boat-builder, but his destiny was determined otherwise. He joined the Pulteney team in 1990 and worked his way through all areas of the distillery – maturation warehouses, the mash room and the stills. He learned the craft of making fine single malt whisky and his skills in the job made him brewing manager, and later on assistant distillery manager. In 2000, he moved to Knockdhu as the manager for six years before returning to Wick, and Old Pulteney as the distillery manager.

The New Collection

Old Pulteney 12 Years Old

The classic 12 Years Old is an old favourite among many, with its sweet vanilla and citrus notes. The tinge of salt from the sea is subtle but noticeable, so it is definitely one of the Maritime Malts.

Price: SGD $135

Old Pulteney Huddart

Old Pulteney Huddart

The Huddart celebrates the birthplace of Old Pulteney – Wick, Scotland. Known for its excellent fishing spot, many fishermen came to Wick during the fishing season in the past. As a result, the town grew to what it is today. Huddart is a peated malt, but not like the ones that we are used to from Islay. Huddart is matured in American ex-bourbon casks and finished in ex-peated casks. The whisky is mellow and brimming with wood smoke, honey, and bacon. Vanilla cream, crisp green apples and burnt toffee come in after a while. Sitting the whisky for about 30 minutes brings out the musky, soil-like notes of peat.

Price: SGD $160

Old Pulteney 15 Years Old

The 15 Years Old is a new expression that replaces the old 17 Years Old. As far as replacements go, I think the 15 Years Old tops it all. The intensity of the flavours found in the 15 Years Old is excellent, with green apples, citrus orange, honey, vanilla cream and the hint of white tea flowers. The use of sherry casks in the maturation process also brings out rich, dried fruits and milk chocolate. The finish is long and oaky. This dram is appealing and the balance exquisite. I find myself liking this very much.

Price: SGD $180

Old Pulteney 18 Years Old

The last expression in the series is the 18 Years Old. The distillery matured this expression in ex-bourbon American oak cask and Spanish sherry butts. As a result, the flavour profile of this whisky is balanced. Earthly sweetness with some spicy greets the nose, but the palate is soft and mellow. The caramel sweetness of the dram reminds one of sweet dried red berries and raisins. It is a balanced dram but perhaps will appeal best to the sweet tooths.

Price: SGD $215

Whisky & Food Pairing

Whisky & Food Pairing

We had an excellent lunch prepared by Chef Jeremy from Restaurant Jag (more about it below). The menu was meant to pair with the whiskies that we were tasting.

  1. Cheese Platter with Old Pulteney 12 Years Old
  2. Scallops & Capucine with Old Pulteney Huddart
  3. Risotto with Lightly Grilled Squid with Old Pulteney 15 Years Old
  4. Venison & Parsnip with Old Pulteney 18 Years Old
  5. Smoked Dark Chocolate & Truffle with Old Pulteney 18 Years Old (goes well with Huddart too!)

It was evident that each course was prepared with much care and love for both the food and the patron. I enjoyed the risotto and venison especially, due to the excellent pairing it did for the whiskies. Nothing quite prepared me for the dessert though; I probably had not eaten such fantastic ice cream in my life. The smoked dark chocolate ice cream was silky, and it worked so well with both the 18 Years Old and the Huddart!

Venue

The venue of the media launch was Restaurant Jag, a bespoke French restaurant helmed by Chef Jeremy and owner Anant. The cosy restaurant nestled among the many shophouses along Duxton Road, and it is easy to miss it if you are not looking out for it. The establishment takes up two floors, with the main restaurant on the ground level and an intimate bar on the second floor. It is a beautiful place and one which you should visit if you are looking for an excellent place to chill and relax.

Address: 76 Duxton Road, Singapore 089535
Reservation Number: 3138 8477

 

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The Glendronach Revival 15 Years Old is Back!

The Glendronach Core Range and Single Cask

Glendronach is a well-known single malt that most of us love. The sherried notes in each of their expressions are a signature to their passion and expertise in their knowledge of using sherry casks; not just any sherry casks though, but excellent and well-made sherry casks.

I was invited to the Glendronach Revival 2018 launch at the Saint Louise House some days ago, and here are some of the highlights.

The Glendronach Revival Event

The Glendronach Revival 2018

As we know, the Glendronach Revival had been one of their most popular expression, and it was met with such an uproar of injustice when the distillery first announced its discontinuation due to stock constraints. Therefore, you probably could imagine the joy of most attendees at the event. The new Revival is still a 15-year-old expression but made slightly differently. While the old Revival aged exclusively in Oloroso casks, the new one aged in a combination of Oloroso and PX Sherry casks. Everyone was excited to try the new Revival to see if it lives up to its name, but there was another distraction – the 1993 single cask bottled for Asia.

The Revival 2018 did not disappoint, but what wowed me was the single cask bottled for Asia. Distilled in 1993, it is a 24-year-old whisky that deserved its reputation. Try it, I’ll say, and you may want to bring a bottle home. The Glendronach Revival is retailing at $299 and the single cask at $1099. You can find them at The Grande Whisky Collection.

Exclusive Chat with Dr Rachel Barrie

Dr Rachel Barrie

Glendronach’s Master Distiller, Dr Rachel Barrie, hosted the event. As you can imagine, it was not every day that we get to meet a Master Distiller of a well-loved distillery. I jumped at the chance of getting an exclusive interview with Rachel when the opportunity presented itself.

We had a good chat about some important things. As a professional, Rachel had worked with many distilleries before she joins Brown Forman as the Master Distiller. Her career is somewhat unique because most master distillers work with only one distillery in their entire career, but Rachel has proved to be different. Working with various distilleries gave Rachel an experience that other master distillers may not get, and that experience has helped her to gain a reputation in the malt whisky industry.

The Greatest Takeaway from Rachel’s Varied Experience

I was curious to know the most significant takeaway from Rachel’s experiences in the various distilleries before joining Glendronach. She told me that Glendronach is an “old-style” traditional distillery, making single malt whisky in the same way for centuries. It is different from some of the more modern distilleries that she had worked with, and the greatest takeaway for her is that in Glendronach, she is not just the Master Distiller; she is the guardian of tradition and the highest quality. She protects the best from the past and ensures that they only use the best and most authentic ingredients to make the world’s most complex single malt.

Gender is Irrelevant in the Industry

Rachel is one of the rare ladies in the whisky industry to hold her position as a master distiller. I asked if gender is an issue in her job. Her robust answer to that was a resounding NO! She said that making malt whisky is a passion. It does not matter whether a man or a woman is doing it. What is important is the teamwork and collaboration that happens inside the distillery. When everyone, both men and women, is committed to what they do best, the team achieves the desired result.

The Challenge of Glendronach

Rachel worked with many distilleries in different roles, but I was curious about her challenges as the master distiller of Glendronach. When I put the question across to her, she paused and then smiled. Rachel’s biggest challenge at Glendronach is the selection of casks. She said that Glendronach has a deep and complex character which changes with the seasons. It also matured differently in the various casks left in different warehouses. The robust and fruity spirit of Glendronach created an abundance of intriguing layers when she left them in different casks. Therefore, her challenge at Glendronach is the selection of casks as each one is different from the other. In her words, Rachel said, “The challenge is the opportunity”.

A Day in the Life of a Master Distiller

All of us are interested to know the life of a Master Distiller, so I asked Rachel what her day looks like. She said that there is no typical day because she works on different things each day. She works with all three distilleries under Brown Forman – Glendronach, Benriach and Glenglassaugh, but she spends most of her time with Glendronach.

Rachel revealed that she spent most of her mornings nosing cask samples to make decisions for vatting of casks. Her day varies between selecting casks for individual bottling, writing tasting notes, and composing the next vatting of the Glendronach core range. She also needs to give her attention to new expressions as well as deciding on the cask fillings.

Some Advice for the Women in the Whisky Industry?

I also asked Rachel for her advice to women who hope to work in the whisky industry – regardless of role. Her reply does give hopes to many, I believe. She said, “Work hard and stay focused on the serious job of making whisky. Learn something new every day, stay curious, be courageous and seize every opportunity to be creative. If you keep trying, stay focused and have a positive attitude, opportunities will come your way.”

So, if you hope to be a master distiller one day – continue to work hard and learn! You never know!

 

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Launch of Bruichladdich Black Art 6.1

Photo Credits: WhiskyGeeks.sg

Bruichladdich has an excellent series of whiskies named Black Art. Starting from Black Art 1.1, the series is as mysterious as the dark arts (hence the name)! As we go through the series, we arrived at Black Art 6.1 – the second Black Art series that new head distiller, Adam created.

There was a Masterclass for the Black Art 6.1 during Whisky Live, where participants get to drink the whisky before anyone else does! However, the real media launch of this mysterious dram happened on 21 Nov 2018, at Jigger and Pony.

Media Launch of Black Art 6.1

Photo Credit: WhiskyGeeks.sg

It was a grand tasting at Jigger and Pony considering how lovely the bar is. Bruichladdich has a small set up near the bar for about 15 pax, and we can all sit comfortably with our drams. The bottles were set up at the bar area (see above), and we even get a delicious dram of Classic Laddie before we start! Well, they offered a highball, but Chloe poured me a large dram of Classic Laddie after she knew that I had a long day ahead and did not want to mix my drinks!

A Tasting of Black Arts

We had the chance to revisit Black Art 4.1 and 5.1 during the session, and of course, we had to compare between the three. Black Art 6.1 is artfully created by Adam to be different from his previous rendition of Black Art 5.1. In my humble opinion, I think that Black Art 6.1 is more similar to the 4.1. The 4.1, of course, was created by Jim Mcewan, Bruichladdich’s previous head distiller.

As usual, Chloe waxed lyrical about Bruichladdich and what the distillery has achieved so far. She knew that most of us probably could repeat what she said since we have been to various media launch, and hence, gave us something new to be excited about besides the whiskies.

Photo Credit: WhiskyGeeks.sg

Chloe revealed that Bruichladdich is building new warehouses, and it is currently the most significant construction on Islay! If you are heading that way, remember to visit Bruichladdich Distillery!

Review of the Black Art 6.1

Photo Credits: WhiskyGeeks.sg

Nose: The initial nose is full of mellow toffee, honey, vanilla, cereal, nuts and chocolates, coming in layers by layers. There is a hint of spice hiding behind the sweet nose.

Palate: I get toffee, nuts, chocolates and honey with my first sip. The oily mouthfeel is silky and makes the whisky very approachable. The second sip gets me all the above, in deeper concentration. It also brings out a gentle ginger spice that I did not get on the first sip. Delicious!!

Finish: 6.1 has a long and floral finish, with nuts and gentle ginger spice along the back of the throat.

Compared to the 5.1, Black Art 6.1 is richer and has strong flavours. I prefer this to the 5.1 as I like the richer notes to it. There may be hints of sherry notes as well, but too faint to catch it properly.

It is yet another great whisky from Bruichladdich, so grab your bottle before it is gone!! I understand from Chloe that it is retailing at all major stores in Singapore, so ask, or regret forever!

 

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Here comes the Snake – Blackadder Arrives in Singapore

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

Here comes the Snake

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

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

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

Introduction to Blackadder

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

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

The different ranges of Blackadder

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

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

Japanese Whiskies

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

Black Snake and Red Snake

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

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

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

Cheese and Chocolate

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

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

A lovely evening through and through

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

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

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

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

 

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Doing your part for the ocean with a Whisky Auction

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

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

The Brief about the Charity Auction

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

What kind of bottles can you expect?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are other spirits too

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

How do you bid?

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

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

Good luck and happy bidding!

 

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Whisky Event: Whisky Fair Takao 2018

The time of the year has come again for numerous whisky events to happen together, one after another. Previously, we wrote about Whisky Live Singapore 2018, and now, allow us to remind you about Whisky Fair Takao 2018.

For those of you who had followed us since last year, you would know that Whisky Fair Takao started the previous year in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. We had an enjoyable 2-days event last year, and we are heading back there again this year.

When is it happening?

Whisky Fair Takao 2018 is taking place on 1st and 2nd December 2018. The venue remains the same at 85 Sky Tower, but this year, the organiser has expanded on the fairgrounds. The fair will shift upwards to level 75 (it was held at level 74 last year), and a concurrent bartender fair will take over level 74 to showcase cocktails made by talented bartenders.

What can you expect?

The show this year is going to be bigger than ever. You can expect to see independent bottlers, whisky/spirits importers, retailers, private collectors and of course, the local distilleries, Nantou Winery and Kalavan Distillery. As for the whisky, you are going to have a tough time deciding what to drink as there will be a wide selection from official bottlings to independent bottlings of your favourite distilleries. There are also rare vintage bottles for you to try, such as Karuizawa, Port Ellen, Littlemill and more.

Masterclasses

Similar to last year’s offering, Whisky Fair Takao 2018 is offering a range of masterclasses to every participant. One of the most notable masterclasses is the one hosted by Tsuyoshi Kitakaji-san of Shinanoya, Japan. It will showcase six different lost distilleries whiskies, of which one is a Hanyu. The whiskies are all high-aged and rare. The other two masterclasses that we are interested in are The Mash Tun Tokyo Anniversary Bottling hosted by Toru Suzuki-san and The Shizuoka Distillery hosted by Taiko Nakamura-san.

Tickets go on sale on 15 October 2018 at noon, Taiwan time (aka Singapore time), and do note that you will need to first purchase tickets to the Whisky Fair before you can buy tickets for the masterclasses. You can find more information on the other masterclasses here.

Annual Bottlings

If you followed our blog, you probably would have seen our spoils from last year’s Whisky Fair Takao – a Littlemill 1988 bottle that only has 60 bottles worldwide. Bottled for Whisky Fair Takao, it was the creme of the crop for us. Similarly, there will be annual bottlings for 2018.

After the success last year, the organiser has decided to expand on the range of annual bottlings on offer. You can expect the following limited release bottles to be grabbed from the fair over the two days.

  1. The Whisky Agency Speyside Region 1976 41 Years Old, 46.6%, Sherry Butt – NTD $13,800
  2. Wemyss Malt Bowmore 1990 28 Years old, abv unknown, Hogshead – NTD $10,800
  3. Cadenhead Linkwood 1989 26 Years Old, 51.4%, Sherry Cask – NTD $8000
  4. Duncan Taylor Highland Park 2003 14 Years Old, abv unknown, Octave cask (2 similar bottles) – NTD $4000 each

It appears that the Speyside 1976 is worth taking a look, but we must admit that all five bottles are exciting. For us, we would be looking at the Speyside 1976 (of course!) and the 2 Highland Park in Octave casks. Interestingly, they also happened to be the highest and lowest in prices.

How does the Fair works?

For the uninitiated, the fair is not a free flow event. You pay a small amount to get into the show (NTD $450). In return, you can a branded whisky glass, a lanyard, dining vouchers for the hotel, and a miniature whisky sample. You will need to purchase “coupons” in exchange for the drams that you want to try.

The coupons will be in points form. Each point is worth NTD$50, and they come in both 1 point and 5 points. The drams will be priced in the points system, and you work out the maths on your own before paying for the drams.

They also allow you to bring your sample bottles to “tabao”, as there is no way to drink 30 drams in two days unless you are trying too hard. Therefore, go slow, enjoy and pack the most expensive whiskies that you want to savour back home!

Should you go to Whisky Fair Takao 2018?

If you have enough vacation days to spare, or you think you can fly in and out of Taiwan over the weekend, why not head over to take a look? More than a couple of us are going to Whisky Fair Takao 2018, so there will be a tiny “WhiskyGeeks contingent”. Given the amazing things that we had last year, it would be worth your time to go if you have a chance!

 

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