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Meeting the man behind a Kombu Whiskey: Origin Spirits

Earlier in August 2020, Whiskygeeks had a chat with Managing Director of Origin Spirits Patrick Shelley. Origin Spirits has in its portfolio the Ornabrak Single Malt Gin, Kalak Single Malt vodka and the Currach Kombu Irish Whiskey.

Currach Whiskey, Kalak Vodka and Ornabrak Gin
Portfolio of Origin Spirits. Source: Origin Spirits

How it Started

Back in 2010, Patrick was living in Russia, working for LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE) which owns Glenmorangie and Ardbeg distillery since 2004. And of course, in Mother Russia, the vodka culture is strong there. But the vodkas out in the market then was not to his taste. To get him through these times, he had drams of peated Scotches. *coughArdbegcough* This later inspired Patrick to want to design a vodka with personality, texture and flavour; a vodka he could enjoy! His love for peated Scotches later inspired the peat cask vodka!

With his time in LVMH, he gained much wisdom and experience which would help elevate Origin Spirits to where it is today. Patrick had three cornerstones in Origin Spirits:

  • Quality Product with its own unique personality.
  • Striking visual identity.
  • Compelling brand story.

What it became

Patrick works with West Cork distillers to create unique products that Origin Spirits offers. Patrick talks fondly about Director of West Cork Distillers, Dr John O’Connell, who holds not just one but two PhDs! Dr O’Connell saw some potential in Patrick’s ideas and was eager to help make Patrick’s ideas a reality!

Under LVMH, some of the brands Patrick used to work for had decades of history with tales abound. As a fresh new company, Patrick had instead created a story around the product, Kalak, weaving Irish folklore and gods with this beautiful spirit. You can read more about here!
Patrick wanted to use 100% Irish malted barley for several reasons. Even though malted barley cost around three times as much as other grains, Patrick wanted a quality product with personality. It also pays homage to the terroir of Irish local barley and a quality ingredient.

How it’s made

West Cork Distillers. Source: Origin Spirits

In West Cork distillers, malted barley is milled on site. This grist meets 63°C water in the mash tun and spends 2 hours mashing for sugar extraction. Heat exchangers then cool down the sugary liquid called wort to 27-29 °C. Distillers yeast is then added for inoculation. The fermentation lasts 96 hours, which is twice the amount of time as some Scotch whisky distilleries. This longer fermentation time allows for ester formation and lactic acid fermentation which produces fruitier and more complex flavours in the spirit. After 4 days of fermentation, the strong beer, or wash is at a whopping 11-12% abv.
The wash then goes into copper pot stills for distillation.. 3 times distilled for the whiskey, 4 times for the gin and 5 times for the vodka!

How it’s aged

The casks used for Origin Spirits are not used for maturation more than twice. So far, Origin Spirits are only using American White Oak for their cask maturation. The casks Origin Spirits uses comes from the Kelvin cooperage in Kentucky.

Virgin Oak cask charred with Kombu
Virgin Oak cask charred with Kombu. Source: Origin Spirits

Patrick stumbled on the idea of using seaweed to char the casks, which serves as a fuel source for the charring and imparts umami flavour to the oak. This marks Currach, the Kombu Irish Whisky, with the terroir of both the sea and land with Irish seaweed and barley. For Currach, Patrick prefers using virgin oak to bourbon casks as the bourbon flavours in the cask might interfere with the delicate umami flavours from the seaweed. Aged in ex-bourbon for 3-4 years then 3-month finish in virgin oak, as it maximises the kombu flavour, mellows the spirit and ensures the whiskey does not get too oaky.

What’s next for Origin Spirits

Kombu
Drying Kombu. Source: Origin Spirits

The kombu used for the charring for Currach is a type of brown seaweed, and Patrick intends to experiment with other kinds of seaweed, like with red seaweed and green seaweed. Currently, Origin Spirits are using American White Oak, either virgin or ex-bourbon oak. Patrick wanted a mellower oak influence to allow the spirit character to shine. But Patrick has a never say never attitude, so sherry fans, stay tuned!

Patrick is going to experiment a lot more with food pairing, but progress has been slower due to the pandemic. But in general, Japanese cuisines, and umami dishes like steak or mushrooms works well with Kalak and Currach. Patrick describes those spirits as gastronomical and I would have to agree!

Origin Spirits has shown a lot of innovative products which excel in form and function. I am looking forward to their next release!

Food & Hotel Asia 2018 + ProWine Asia 2018

 

The exciting. bi-yearly Food and Hotel Asia 2018 (FHA2018) and ProWine Asia 2018 (PWA2018) flashed past us last week. Held from Tuesday, 24 May to Friday 27 May 2018 at two locations – Singapore Expo and Suntec City, the event closed as a great success! Many exhibitors are going home happy with lots of information to digest while visitors to the event are now aware of the fantastic offers that the exhibitors can offer.

We were invited to both shows as part of the Press and enjoyed our time spent there. While there were some hiccups, such as not getting updated information on where to collect our passes and messing up the timing for specific interviews with esteemed guests, the rest of our time went well.

Tuesday, 24 May 2018

Geek Flora and Choc started our first day with a masterclass with Penderyn Distillery’s ambassador, Michael Wheeler in the afternoon.

Michael Wheeler – Brand Ambassador of Penderyn Distillery

Mike (as he calls himself) led us in the exploration of how casks will influence whisky during maturation. It was informational because Penderyn uses a different distillation method and a handful of different casks.

Penderyn Range (left to right) – Madeira, Sherrywood, Peated, Portwood

Their house style is ex-bourbon (using Buffalo Trace’s bourbon casks) before finishing in Madeira barriques. There are also sherry, port and peated expressions. After the masterclass, we head over to the Penderyn booth, where Mike and Dr Bianchi treated us to more excellent drams from the distillery.

There are two core ranges of whiskies from Penderyn Distillery, as well as cask strengths and their Iconic series. You can find out more about the whiskies here. If you must know, we think that the Sherrywood is quite similar to a cross between the Glendronach and the Macallan while the Portwood is comparable to Balvenie 12 Years Old.

Thursday, 26 May 2018

Geek Flora went back alone on Thursday. This time, she took time to explore Hall 7 to Hall 10 of Singapore Expo. Starting from Hall 7, she made her way around the exhibits to check out almost every one of the exhibitors there.

The entrance of Hall 7

The USA had an impressive number of booths at Hall 7, which prompted Flora to walk through the aisles. She struck gold very quickly there. Here’s her gold – American Bourbon and Rye from Golden, Colorado, United States.

State 38

State 38 Bourbon

 

Bourbon

 

Rye

Flora did not pass up the chance to try some bourbon and rye, and so, she got into action very quickly. The bourbon is made up of 60% corn, 10% rye, 10% wheat and 10% of heavily malted barley (read: charred). The result is a creamy bourbon with roasted coffee notes and dark chocolates. The rye is made up of 100% rye and boasts of sweet notes and slight dryness. It is not spicy, which makes it extra pleasant to drink. Both whiskies are perfect for chilling!

Just when Flora thought it was over, the exhibitor, Sean, brought something out from under the booth. The picture is below. Grasp! Impeach Vodka! Now, this is no ordinary vodka. The peach infusion is excellent, and it is quite possibly, the BEST flavoured vodka that Flora has ever tasted! There is also a story to the label. Study it carefully, and let Flora know what you think.

Impeach Vodka

After the exciting discovery, Flora continued her walk and saw many amazing sights. She got excited when she saw the below, but alas, it was Scottish mutton and beef – not whisky! 🙁

Singapore Online Whisky and Spirits Retailer

The next booth to get Flora excited was Instadrinks, an online retailer in Singapore with their boss based in Dubai. She got to work again, trying out their spirits.

Instadrinks

There are Indian blended whiskies and a Scotch grain whisky, but what impressed Flora was neither. An Indian brandy (VSOP) named Leopold II and a London Dry Gin infused with Lavender, named Old Cock Gin caught her attention instead.

Leopold II

 

Old Cock Gin

Just for the records, Flora wasn’t impressed with the name, but the LIQUID. The G&T that the bartender did for Flora with this particular London dry gin was fantastic!

More tastings ahead

Flora did more tastings after this, but they are mostly gins and vodka instead of whisky.

Firean Blended Scotch – Peated

Firean is a peated blended Scotch. Unique on its own, both Flora and Choc agreed that it was a fantastic drink on its own, on the rocks or in a cocktail (Choc tried this on Friday). It is balanced and approachable, so someone who is just going into peated whisky would like it.

Griffin Vodka and Half Crown Gin

The Griffin vodka is charcoal-filtered, so you can imagine just how easy and smooth it is. The liquid is elegant and soothes the throat with its oily and creamy mouthfeel. The Half Crown gins are one of the impressive spirits at this booth. The original gin has a heavy juniper taste, and the botanicals are fragrant. The Pink Grapefruit has a sweeter taste with the grapefruit flavours showing up early in the nose and palate. The Rhubarb and Ginger was a huge favourite for Flora. The sweet and slightly spicy taste of the gin infused amazingly well with the botanicals in the gin, making the nose and palate exceptionally well balanced.

Lapland Vodka

Lapland Vodka

Ever heard of Lapland vodka? Made with spring water all the way from Finland, you can find this vodka here in Singapore! Lapland vodka is a dangerous drink for the young ones though – it is strong and yet so easy to drink. Flora thinks that it is almost like drinking fresh spring water! If you prefer some flavoured vodka, check out the below picture. Flora’s favourite is the Espresso flavour. Chill the vodka, pour it in a glass, add cold chocolate milk, and you can have it for supper! It was excellent!

Lapland Flavoured Vodka

Flora managed to finish up Hall 6 before calling it a day. It was incredibly tiring to walk the halls, and with all the drinks she had, she was getting sleepy too.

Friday 27 April 2018

Flora started Friday early at 10.30 am with a Masterclass by Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). It was an introductory session to the world of whisk(e)y hosted by Lam Chi Mun, the Director at Diageo Bar Academy. Flora was glad to meet Chi Mun and have a chat with him. She also had a great time drinking some excellent whiskies from Diageo.

From Left: Oban 14, Singleton of Glen Ord 12, Johnnie Walker Blender Batch Bourbon, Bulleit Rye, Talisker 10 and Lagavulin 16.

If you do not know what WSET does, it is a wine and spirits school based in the U.K. They partner schools globally to provide proper and stringent education for the alcohol industry professionals so that we can all learn from the professionals in the bars. You can read more about them here.

Rounding up FHA2018 and PWA2018

Flora did not find any more whiskies or spirits for the rest of the day. She walked around the remaining halls, sampled lots of food, and drank some Taiwan beers. When Choc showed up in the afternoon, they tasted more food, before finally visiting the various booths one last time to wish the exhibitors well on their flights back home.

It was a meaningful three days at FHA2018 & PWA2018, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be part of it. We hope to visit FHA2020 again as Press, and hopefully, there will be even more whisky/whiskey exhibitors then!

 

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Have you heard of the Barber Shop?

Picture Credits: WhiskyGeeks

Have you heard of the Barber Shop? For those working in the downtown area, we are sure that you heard and knew about the Barber Shop. We are apologetic to say that we did not know about the Barber Shop until whiskyman, Fab Arm, invited us for a tour!

What is Barber Shop?

Barber Shop opened in the latter part of 2012 with the aim of serving only quality food and drinks. It attracted the working crowd with its fantastic service, good food and better drinks. Now that you know it is not a real barbershop for you to get a haircut, let’s explore its story in more details.

Barber Shop is part of the Timbre Group, a home-grown company that has been serving its multitudes of customers for the past 12 years. As an outlet that aims to please, Barber Shop serves up a menu of quality whiskies, rums, vodka, gin and cocktails. Behind the bar is a team of dedicated bartenders who know their products straight from the heart.

What can you expect?

Barber Shop is a low-key bar with extraordinary offerings. As a bar which supports local musicians, you can find live music from local bands every day of the week. These groups are handpicked by the owners and offer great music to go along with the food and drinks. Besides that, there are also good conversations to be had, so feel free to ask the knowledgeable team about anything from the menu!

Special Wednesdays

On every Wednesday, the Lindy Hop Dancers from Timbre Music Academy above Barber Shop will grace the dance floor together with Raw Earth as they performed together. From what we know, the joint-performance has been the highlight every week!

Raw Earth is a blues, rock and soul band from Singapore and they will charm you with music that is both old-school and full of flavour. The band strives to retain the soul and groove into their music to add the soulful of music into their performance! You can find more information about them here.

Moving Forward

Timbre and Fab have plans for Barber Shop in 2018, and it is progressing well. While we will not reveal what these projects are for the moment, we urge you to keep an eye out for them. They are exciting for all drinkers and music lovers. So, stay tuned for more!

Location: The Art House
Address: 1 Old Parliament Lane #01-03 (next to Timbre @ The Arts House), Singapore 179429

 

 

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