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DFS Whisky Festival 2019 Special Releases

For 4th Edition of the DFS Whisky Festival, DFS Changi has its first pop-up bar in T3! If you are travelling anytime between 1st May to 10th June, the bar is opened from 8am to 12 midnight so be sure to check it out! Travellers can expect to enjoy their whisky with live jazz performances. You can find out more about the event here! The DFS Whisky Festival brings about some new releases as well! And I got to try some of these exciting drams, here are some of my opinions on it!

 

Glenmorangie 14 year old 2004 (#1399)

This single cask Glenmorangie is a Changi exclusive! It spent the first 10 years in ‘slow-growth’ American White Oak, and then spent the next 4 years partying in an oloroso sherry cask!

Nose:  The smell is initially sweet but reserved. Vanilla, Confectionary sweetness, unripe strawberries, notes of milk chocolate With water: Strong notes of milk chocolate, lemon zest and green apples with that sweet Glenmorangie spirit character

Palate: Citrus notes on arrival with vanilla. The dram had good texture, bringing hints of cinnamon spice, vegetal note and whiff of chocolate With water: Initially a burst of lemon zest, then stronger cinnamon notes, more chocolate-y this time round, alongside honey and vanilla, hints of dried fruits and figs.

Finish: Citrus, brioche and vanilla notes still lingers on With water: It’s much sweeter, with a stronger cinnamon spice

 

Chivas 21 year old The Lost Blend

This is a rather “rare and ghostly” version of the Chivas 21yo, but with an age statement! This Chivas 21 Royal Salute blend features some silent distilleries in the mix! Of the information I could get, there were two malt distilleries and one grain distillery: Imperial (mothballed in 1998), Caperdonich (closed in 2002), and Dumbarton (shut down in 2002). Although I didn’t have as many flavour notes to write about for this dram, I really enjoy the luxuriously high calibre of maturation. This is the best Chivas blend I have had! If only it was at cask strength……

Nose:  The smell is full of musk, leather, old books, and slightly waxy notes. Some hints of citrus gets through, with time it is more old and elegant oak

Palate: Musk somewhat reminiscent of the “old bottle effect”, earthy notes, mineral notes, scent of stone walls from a dunnage warehouse, old libraries! <3

Finish: Leather, old books, and limestone.The finish is surprisingly long and musky!

 

Compass Box No Name No. 2

One of my favourite blending companies coming with a strong blend! As usual, Compass Box has been very transparent with his recipe. This blend is made of:

75.5% Caol Ila matured in refill sherry butts

13.5% Clynelish matured in rejuvenated white oakhogsheads

10.5% Talisker matured in rejuvenated white oak hogsheads

The remaining 0.5% is a vat of 3 highland single malts finished in French oak barrels! This dram is a peaty beast initially, but the Clynelish sweetness slowly emerges with time.

 

Nose:  A strong initial peatsmoke, like a tight and warm embrace! bonfires, lemon zest, earthy vegetal notes, hints of yuzu. With water: more of that honey and vanilla appears and fruity sweetness and more citrus fragrances.

Palate: A strong arrival of peat smoke, smoky, earthy, BBQ grilled meat and honey sweetness With water: more vegetal note, and hints of apples, With time, plums, unripe strawberries, green apples

Finish: Earthy, and long lingering peatsmoke finish With water: The smoke stays, but lingers alongside sweet fruity notes, and waxy candle notes!

Jura 20 year old One and All

FIVE cask types! 5!!! 2 more cask types and I would be telling you the different casks types to the tune of Mambo No. 5! That is the work of none other than Jura’s Master Blender Richard Patterson. This dram has in it a bit of ex-bourbon, sherry oak, Pinot Noir barriques, Sparkling Cabernet Franc casks, and Cabernet Sauvignon casks. This Jura bottled at 51% works well. Due to its age and calibre of maturation, some people could not tell that it was peated!

Nose:  Cherries, cherry stones, soft hints of smoke like a extinguished campfire in the morning, eucalyptus, coastal notes. With water: The european oak shows as whiffs of roasted coffee, almonds and cinnamon come into play

Palate: A balanced cinnamon arrival with musky and earthy notes. Cherries, lemon zest, old oak and old books. With water: The chocolate becomes more apparent

Finish: The strong cherry note lingers with hints of cinnamon and musky earthiness.

 

Royal Brackla 20 year old 1998 Exceptional Cask

This mahogany beauty spent 9 years in an American white oak cask before spending 11 years in a Tuscany (Italian Red Wine) cask! Luckily, this is bottled at a higher strength of 50.6% to showcase its complexity. This for me was definitely more oak focused from the start but with water, the personality started to shine through!

Nose:  Treacle, chocolate, mellow cinnamon notes, walnuts, followed by notes of raisins, dried prunes With water: Floral notes appear, like a desert flower in the rain! This is soon followed by spicy cinnamon, strawberries and cranberries!

Palate: Cinnamon arrival with this savoury note, coffee note, dark chocolate bitters With water: A bit more sweetness and the flavours are a bit more balanced

Finish: Cinnamon chocolate and coffee finish With water: The dark chocolate note got more intense!

A 1L version of the Port Charlotte 10 year old is also available, so if you fancy a bigger PC10, you can get the upsized version at DFS!

Hope you get to visit the bar! Slainté!

Special thanks to DFS Singapore for the invite to the media launch 😀

The Rise and Fall of Rosebank Distillery

Rosebank is as mystical as a unicorn for some of us, perhaps a holy grail of sorts. It nestled along the banks of Forth and Clyde canal between Edinburgh and Glasgow, in the town of Camelon. As a closed distillery, its reputation grew as whisky lovers recognised the excellent liquid that the distillery once produced. There was, therefore, a lot of rejoicing, when Ian McLeod Distillers announced the intention of reopening Rosebank Distillery in October 2017. The esteemed company purchased the site from the Scottish Canals and the trademarks from Diageo with the full intention of rebuilding this once majestic Lowland distillery.

The Humble Beginnings of Rosebank Distillery

Historical records pointed to a distillery in Falkirk that existed as far back as 1798. Founded by the Stark brothers, this first distillery was the forefather to the currently mothballed Rosebank distillery. In 1817, a man named James Robertson opened another distillery nearby and called it Rosebank. The exact location was unclear, but it could be the same site as the current one. Unfortunately, the early Rosebank distillery closed permanently in 1819.

In 1827, John Stark (one of the Stark brothers) opened a distillery on the west bank of the Forth and Clyde canal and named it Camelon Distillery (after the town). He took charge of the distillery until his death in 1836. The distillery then passed to Thomas Gunn and his father. After four years, in 1840, a man named James Rankine approached the Gunns to lease or purchase the Camelon distillery malting grounds (on the east side of the canal). The deal went through, and Rankine set up a new distillery under the Rosebank name.

The Rise of Rosebank

The new Rosebank proliferated and expanded in 1845. Rankine also brought out the Gunns when Camelon distillery went bankrupt in 1861. He demolished the old distillery and left only the malting floors on the west side of the canal. By 1864, Rankine rebuilt the distillery, creating Rosebank as a distillery set across two sites on each side of the Forth and Clyde canal with a swing bridge to link them.

In 1886, Alfred Barnard visited the distillery, describing it as a distillery “set across two sites”. The former Camelon distillery’s malting floors on the west side of the canal produced the malt before transferring it to the distillery on the east side with the help of the swing bridge. Barnard also noted that Rosebank distillery had storage of 500,000 gallons of whisky in their warehouse.

By 1894, the Rosebank Distillery Ltd came into existence as further evidence of its success. It was also one of the many companies that amalgamated to form the Scottish Malt Distillers. The group later became part of DCL.

The Steady Fall of Rosebank

Rosebank was a premier Lowland whisky, but United Distillers decided to mothball the distillery in 1993. The company said that the distillery was no longer commercially viable as it needed a £2m upgrade to comply with the European standards of the time. Hence, the distillery closed with many historical features of whisky production within.

United Distillers sold off the warehouses on the west banks of the canals, and the new owners redeveloped it by 1988. In 2002, Diageo sold the distillery buildings and contents to British Waterways while the malting floors become a housing development. 2008 saw some hope for Rosebank’s revival as the new owners made plans to reopen Rosebank in Falkirk with its original equipment. Unfortunately, during the Christmas and New Year period of 2008/2009, metal thieves stole the original Rosebank stills, together with all the other material. Efforts of recovery were in vain.

The Planned Revival of Rosebank

The plans of revival continued despite the stolen equipment, culminating in the approval of the Scottish Government. News of setting the new building near the early distillery of 1798, near Laurieston, abound. Rumours float around with the hopes of the new distillery releasing its whisky under the Rosebank name, but Diageo, who owns the trademark denied it. In the meanwhile, it continued to release limited bottles of the original Rosebank whisky.

Finally, in October 2017, Lan MacLeod Distillers bought the Rosebank trademark from Diageo, purchase the land from the Scottish Canals and confirms the re-building of the Rosebank Distillery. The new distillery will produce the whisky in its old style, with equipment modelling after its original stills.

The Rosebank Whisky

Flora and Choc do not profess to drink many of the Rosebank whisky, but we have tried a few. Geek Choc loves Rosebank, and he believes that the new distillery will do well if it models the old style. Geek Flora agrees that Rosebank is a premium malt on its own, but she doesn’t like it as much as she loves Littlemill.

We did a couple of reviews of Rosebank earlier this week. The first one is an official bottling by Diageo – a 21-year-old whisky under the Roses series. The second is an independent bottling by Blackadder – a 14 years old cask strength Rosebank. Both have their merits, with Geek Flora liking the official bottling better and Geek Choc liking the independent bottling more.

The Future of Rosebank

We hope that the new Rosebank will be as successful as the old. With Ian MacLeod Distillers, we expect the distillery to flourish and grow under their able hands.

 

Whisky Review #85 – Rosebank 20 Years Old (Zenith Italia)

Rosebank generated a lot of buzzes recently with the news of its revival as well as the upcoming release of its new bottling. Since we have yet to hear news of the new release, we are satisfying our craving for its beautiful liquid from the old stocks! What we have here is a sample of a Rosebank 20 Years Old distilled in the 1970s by the Zenith Italia S.A.S Import. We bought this sample at TMA Vol. 1 and have only recently tried this.

Let’s look at the review now.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 57%

Nose: Sharp cinnamon and nutmeg spices lead the way before green apples and pears surface. After two minutes of airing, it turns grassy (like a sweet meadow) and melon sweetness appears! Wow! (18/20)

Palate: Cinnamon spice leads the way again but nutmeg is nowhere to be found. It has an oily mouthfeel and light green fruits appear on the palate. The melon sweetness that we got in the nose appears for a brief while and disappears too quickly. There is also a slight alcohol burn down the throat that lasted almost a minute. After airing for a while, the oak influence comes in and the side of the tongue gets some bitterness. The sweetness returns after that to create a sweet taste in the middle of the tongue, but the fruitiness does not reappear. It is a little disappointing as the palate does not deliver what the nose promises. (15/20)

Finish: The finish is relatively long with the sweetness lingering briefly. Oak influence rushes in to overwhelm the sweetness soon after, making the long finish astringent and slightly bitter. (16/20)

Body: It is a relatively balanced dram but not impressive to wow. A one-dimensional dram with a disappointing palate and a beautiful nose. (31/40)

Total Score: 80/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “Well, I am greatly disappointed with the palate and finish. The nose promises such wonderful things but the palate and finish fall flat on it. It would be an impressive dram if the palate and finish follow through.”

Geek Choc: “Sigh, I had high hopes for this dram because the nose was pure bliss but I was disappointed with the palate. I wondered if we had aired it too long after purchasing the dram. We wouldn’t know it unless we tried this again from a full bottle, I suppose.” 

 

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A Brief History of Littlemill Distillery

Littlemill Distillery was one of the mysterious distilleries in Scotland in which we do not have a clear idea of its founding year. Rumours have it that George Buchanan of Glasgow founded the distillery after he took over the Auchentorlie Estate in the 1950s. George built Littlemill Distillery together with the houses that he constructed for the excise officers on site. If the dates were right, Littlemill Distillery was the oldest distillery in Scotland.

History of Littlemill Distillery

The history of Littlemill Distillery is long and adventurous. It all started with George Buchanan in 1772 (so it seems). The distillery then went through a period of rapid instability between 1817 to 1857 where it changed hands multiple times. Below is a short timeline of how it happened:

1817 – Matthew Clark & Co. bought Littlemill Distillery

1823 – Jane Macgregor became the licensee of Littlemill after the Custom and Excise Act of 1823

1840 – Hector Henderson took over the distillery (He also founded Caol Ila Distillery)

1875 – William Hay bought the distillery.

Littlemill saw new stability after the Hay family took over the reins. The distillery was rebuilt, expanded and improved by the family. They remained in charge until 1913, when neighbouring grain producer, Yoker Distillery Co. bought Littlemill. With the Hay family gone, the distillery fell into a period of instability again. Blenders, Charles Mackinlay, as well as J&G Thompson, were owners of Littlemill before selling it to the first of its American owners.

The succession of American Ownership

In 1931, Duncan Thomas, the first of Littlemill’s American owners, bought the distillery. Duncan ran the distillery under his company “Littlemill Distillery Co.”. He stopped the triple distillation that was (and still are) popular in the Lowlands and changed the direction of the distillery for a double distillation. He changed malting methods by installing a Saladin box with two ventilation towers and a single kiln. Duncan also introduced innovative hybrid stills with aluminium-coated bodies and rectifying columns to gain better control of his distillation. The changes allowed the distillery to produce three different whiskies – Littlemill (light and unpeated), Dunglas (unpeated full-bodied) and Dumbuck (heavily peated).

Barton Brands (based in Chicago) became a shareholder in Littlemill Distillery in 1959. The injected funds from Barton allowed the building of Loch Lomond Distillery in 1965 and eased the supply problem. By 1971, Barton Brands bought out Duncan Thomas’ share, and Littlemill Distillery went along in the deal.

Mothballed

Littlemill Distillery continued to produce three different whiskies until 1984 when Barton Brands was bought over by Argyll Group. The new owners mothballed the distillery. Argyll then sold the distillery to Gibson International (Barton’s Scottish arm) in 1989. Littlemill reopened and operated until 1992 when Gibson International went bankrupt and mothballed the distillery. In 1994, the banks liquidated Gibson International, and Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd bought Littlemill Distillery. However, they did not reopen Littlemill. As the owners also bought Loch Lomond Distillery in 1986, they removed the stills from Littlemill and moved them to Loch Lomond.

Shutter for life

After the new owners emptied Littlemill Distillery, they briefly contemplated running the distillery as a museum. However, they dropped the idea and shuttered the distillery for life in 1996. The owners sold it to a developer in 2004. Unfortunately, the emptied distillery caught fire shortly afterwards. Nothing was left on site when they finally put out the fire.

A housing development now sits on the site of what was once Littlemill Distillery.

Littlemill Whiskies

The distillery may be gone, but the whiskies are still floating in the market. There are both official bottlings, and independent bottlings for Littlemill and some of these bottles are going at high asking prices. Prevailing prices for an independent bottling of Littlemill can be as high as SGD$500-$600. While it does not cost as much as a Port Ellen, it is still a hefty sum to pay!

It is a pity that Barton Brands discontinued both Dunglas and Dumbuck in 1972, so whatever is left now are the bottlings for Littlemill, the distillery’s namesake. If you ever spot a Dunglas or a Dumbuck bottle in an auction, do check the authenicity before bidding!

Whisky Review #77 – Rosebank 20 Years Old (Silver Seal)

Rosebank…the distillery that is resurrecting in the near future. Most of us who have tasted the exquisite liquid from this distillery are likely to remember it for a long time to come. That sweet, floral oaky taste stays for a long time and remains etched in our memories.

The bottle for review today is a 20-year-old expression from the Silver Seal Company. Part of the Sestante Collection, it is a single barrel with an outturn of 298 bottles. The distillery distilled the liquid in 1990 and Silver Seal bottled it in 2011.

Let’s check out the notes!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Honey Gold
ABV: 56.7%

Nose: Perfume, sweet, floral perfume wafts up the nose before sweet honey, musky oak and fresh tropical fruits rush in. A pleasant aroma of freshly cut flowers remains in the background even as warm spice creeps in. (18/20)

Palate: Hmm! Sweet raw honey, fresh fruits and flowers float the palate with the first sip. Warm spice appears with the second sip at the back of the throat, but the floral sweetness remains, bringing an enjoyable experience of a high abv whisky. (18/20)

Finish: It has only a medium finish, but the impact is impressive! The sweetness of the honey and fresh fruits lingers till the end while the spice completely disappears. (17/20)

Body: Oh boy! What a balanced dram! The floral sweetness follows through from nose to palate to finish, while the spice does a disappearing act in the finish! It is truly a pleasant dram to drink! (37/40)

Total Score: 90/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “When I first tried this, I thought to myself, “Wow, did I just drink some perfume?” It was an interesting experience with the floral sweetness that remained me of a DKNY perfume that I used to like! It is a beautiful and balanced dram indeed, but I do wish that the price can be a little less steep!”

Geek Choc: “Wow! Just wow! I love Rosebank! That perfumey sweetness is perfect for me! I love everything about this whisky, except the price that I had to pay for it! Hahaha!” 

 

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Whisky Review #76 – Littlemill 24 Years Old (Fighting Fish)

 

Littlemill is a lesser-known distillery found in between the Lowlands and the Highlands. Regarded as a Lowland distillery, Littlemill produced a single malt that is light and floral. It closed down in 1996 and burned to a crisp in 2004. The site is now a block of apartments.

We will speak more of Littlemill as a distillery soon, but for now, let’s look at the subject for this whisky review.

The Fighting Fish series is from Germany, independently bottled by Jack Wiebers. The expression is distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2014, making it a 24-year-old whisky. Matured in a bourbon cask, it is not chill-filtered and has no colouring added. The final outturn was 172 bottles.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Bright Amber
ABV: 52.3%

Nose: Sweet molasses, honeyed sweetness, red berries and hints of tropical fruits fills the nose before light vanilla comes into the picture. Spice lingers in the background and forms a pleasant expectation of this expression. It is different from other Littlemill expressions that I had tried before. It has an attractive nose! (17/20)

Palate: The oily mouthfeel gives robustness to the palate before sweet vanilla engulfs the palate. Molasses and tropical fruits rush in after the vanilla dissipates. Warm spice hangs in the background to remind me of the high abv in this dram. Again, it is different from other Littlemill expressions but certainly one of the interesting ones. (17/20)

Finish: The medium to long finish of this dram is pleasurable with light spice lingering at the back of the throat. Sweet molasses and creamy vanilla last all the way to the end, marking this dram as a superb balanced one! (18/20)

Body: There is a fantastic balance for this Littlemill. The nose, palate and finish are consistent, and while it does not exhibit the typical grassiness of Littlemill whisky too much, the sweetness of this dram puts it in the “interesting” category indeed. (36/40)

Total Score: 88/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I love Littlemill ever since I had my first dram and I was never disappointed. While I do not like the sweetness of this Littlemill, I got to say that the superb balance did not disappoint. The nose, palate and finish were perfect, so there is nothing to complain about. The expression did not score more than 88 points mainly because I find it a little unlike a typical Littlemill, which I had grown to like. So perhaps, you can say that my scoring is just a little biased!”

Geek Choc: “I find Littlemill to be too light and floral for my liking, but this expression hits the spot very well. The sweetness of the whisky makes it more special than a typical Littlemill expression. I score it much higher than Geek Flora, hence, that 88 points!”

 

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