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Whisky Night at Hard Rock Cafe Singapore

Whisky Line Up for the night

Most of us are familiar with Hard Rock Cafe, the hippy American rock cafe found almost everywhere in the world. However, most of us probably will not associate them with whiskies. Therefore, it was with surprise when we received an email from Hard Rock Cafe Singapore, requesting for WhiskyGeeks to assist them in a shout-out for a whisky tasting event happening on 15 May 2019. Of course, we helped, and the restaurant invited us to attend the tasting. The honour was all on us because we were the only media invited to the tasting.

Why Do a Whisky Tasting?

We understood that the whisky tasting was held to celebrate the upcoming World Whisky Day (18 May). Hard Rock Cafe Singapore (HRCS) invited Randall Tan, the brand advocate from Edrington Group, to host the tasting and he kindly agreed. The line up was also one of the first of its kind that Randall did – A cross-brand tasting of Macallan, Glenrothes, Highland Park and their blended malt, Naked Grouse. We got to say that it was indeed the first ever cross-brand tasting that we did with Edrington Group and Randall.

It was a treat, to say the least, to be able to taste four different brands in one single tasting event.

Randall Tan, the Brand Advocate

Randall Tan

Those of you who attended Macallan masterclasses would know Randall. We first got to know Randall many years back, when Macallan started the Toast the Macallan Masterclass series. It appeared that whisky is not only the water of life but also the fountain of youth. Randall doesn’t seem to have aged after ALL THESE YEARS! He still looks as youthful as always. Perhaps it was the lighting in the room?! Hahaha!

Anyway, it was good to see Randall again and listen to what he had to say. We thought the presentation was excellent because he shared much knowledge with the audience. From whisky making to distillation to maturation in casks, Randall offered up many nuggets of information to help the participants to learn more about whisky in general. Naturally, Randall also spoke about the different whiskies that we tasted, in more details.

Whiskies of the Night

There were six whiskies on the table, and we tasted them all before. They were not something new, but there was a certain appeal to go back to the basics at times to appreciate the whiskies that we used to drink when we started our whisky journey.

Naked Grouse, Blended Malt, 40% abv

The first whisky to start the night was the Naked Grouse. It is a blended malt now, with some of the best single malt whiskies that Edrington has ever produced being part of the blend. The whisky used to be a blended Scotch, and it was one of my favourite blends.

The new blended malt has Macallan, Highland Park, Glenrothes and Glenturret in it, and it is a parade of Edrington’s finest malt whiskies all in one. The individual whiskies are blended and then married in an oloroso sherry cask for six months as a finish before bottling. As a result, the sherry influence in the whisky is quite evident.

On the nose, we got Highland Park immediately. The honeyed notes, coupled with a waft of smoke before fading into the background. In a little moment, the influence of Macallan’s sherry notes came through. Glenrothes wafted in and out with its orange notes, and Glenturret was probably asleep as a base whisky. There were caramel, chocolate, cinnamon and hints of cherry.

The palate was mellow and pleasantly sweet. Caramel, milk chocolate, cherry soda were prominent, which probably were the Macallan and Glenrothes talking. There were also hints of oak and incense smoke which screamed Highland Park. I suppose the oaky bits could be the Glenturret. The finish was medium with some honey and oakiness to it.

Glenrothes 12 Years Old, Single Malt, 40% abv

Glenrothes is a brand that is often overshadowed by Macallan and Highland Park. Previously sold to the Chivas Brothers, the brand recently rejoined Edrington Group. The Group immediately did a rebranding for Glenrothes, and now the brand spots age-statements on their labels. In the past, they only showed the vintage, which confused some consumers.

Randall mentioned that there is no colouring added to the Glenrothes because the distillery works hard on their wood policy. We suppose it is an extension of Edrington Group as all the distilleries under their care take pride in their method of wood selection.

On the nose, sweet sherry, caramel and vanilla came through very quickly. As the whisky aired in the glass, we began to get hints of hay, citrus and oak. Slowly, the orange notes developed, and the combination of orange, sherry and vanilla made the nose extremely pleasant.

The palate was gentle and light, with caramel, sherry, cinnamon, citrus orange and hints of oak. The sherry-seasoned European oak cask used for maturation was evident in this whisky, especially when the whisky had time to air in the glass. The finish was short, oaky and sweet.

Macallan 12 Years Old Triple Cask, Single Malt, 40% abv

Now, we came to the Macallan 12 Years Old trio. First up was the Triple Cask. The three casks used in this whisky are ex-Bourbon American White Oak, sherry-seasoned American Oak and sherry-seasoned European Oak. The Macallan new make is matured for 12 years in each of these casks before getting married in a neutral (or spent) casks for a few months before bottling.

The citrusy nose was accompanied by vanilla and coconut from the American oak. There were hints of pepper and oak. On the palate, it was very light and maybe a little flat. The flavours were rather weak, with some vanilla, citrus and pepper. The finish was almost non-existent, and the whisky disappeared way too quickly.

Macallan 12 Years Old Double Cask, Single Malt, 40% abv

The Macallan Double Cask was next. The casks used were sherry-seasoned European Oak and ex-Bourbon American White Oak. The Macallan new make is matured for 12 years in each of casks before getting married in neutral casks for a few months before bottling.

With the absence of the sherry American Oak, the influence of the sherry European Oak took over. The nose was full of toffee, burnt sugar, vanilla cream, raisin and bread crusts. There were also notes of cinnamon underneath. On the palate, toffee, cinnamon, and vanilla cream were prominent, with hints of raisins and pastry at the back. The influence of oak was also stronger.

Macallan 12 Years Old Sherry Cask, Single Malt, 40% abv

Macallan is famous because of this whisky. We can almost call it the flagship whisky of Macallan. The 12 years old sherry cask, however, is different from what we used to enjoy. The old Macallan 12 Sherry Cask used barrels that held aged sherry. As the world evolved, people move away from aged sherry, and the old type of sherry casks was also gone. What Macallan uses now are sherry barrels that are seasoned with oloroso sherry for 18 to 24 months. Compared to the old Macallan 12 sherry cask, the current batches of 12 years old are very different indeed.

On the nose, we got clean sherry, caramel, cinnamon, raisins, candied oranges, milk chocolate and clove. The old familiar muskiness surfaced after a while, but it was nothing like the old Macallan 12. The palate was full of caramel, cinnamon, cherry, raisins, chocolate, cloves and spices. The finish was long, sweet and dry.

We must say that the new Macallan 12 Years Old is still a pleasant drink. Even though whisky drinkers who love sherry bombs may no longer like it, the Macallan 12 Sherry cask still pack a punch for the beginners. We found it rather pleasant; perhaps we no longer like sherry bombs?

Highland Park 12 Years Old, Single Malt, 40% abv

Finally, we came to the last whisky – the Highland Park 12 Years Old. This whisky divided the opinion of Zico and me, mainly because he doesn’t mind the Highland Park while I dislike the light smoke. I always find the Highland Park too lightly smoked for me, as I much prefer stronger peated whisky such as Lagavulin 16 or the Octomores. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the whisky this time.

On the nose, the heather honey was so strong! We must thank our newly-joined writer, Hong Fu, for giving us a taste of heather honey when he came back from Scotland last year. Perhaps it was the heather honey that made me feel better about Highland Park. Besides the heather honey, the nose was full of sweet vanilla, cinnamon, hints of toffee, and very light smoke.

The palate was again, heather honey, combined with vanilla cream, hay, cinnamon, nuts, green fruits and light smoke. It was nice. I actually enjoyed the Highland Park 12 for the first time! It was quite surprising for me, to be honest. The finish was medium, sweet and oaky.

Food from HRCS

Once the tasting was done, HRCS treated all of us like Kings and Queens. They served some of their signature dishes in small bite-size portions for us to enjoy. The only exception was their Hard Rock Slider, which appeared to be just a junior-sized burger.

The HRCS Food Galore

The food did not disappoint; for it was part of the Hard Rock signature. The food paired relatively well with some of the whiskies too!

Sharing is Caring – Promotion at HRCS

The session came to an end around 9 pm, which I need to commend Hard Rock Cafe for keeping to the time. We hung around for a while, chatting with Randall, and the HRCS team. We also enjoyed another dram of Highland Park 12 Years Old. Haha…it was still amazing to me that I actually enjoyed it.

We learned from the HRCS team that they have promotions for most of the whiskies in the next few months.

Now to June – Macallan 12 Years Old Double Cask – $19/45ml or $225 for 1 bottle or $400 for 2 bottles

July to August – Glenrothes 12 Years Old – $17/45ml or $175 for 1 bottle or $320 for 2 bottles

September to October – Highland Park 12 Years Old – $17/45ml or $175 for 1 bottle or $320 for 2 bottles

These prices are affordable! Even if you are a seasoned whisky drinker, you may want to pop by to enjoy some basic drams when you are near HRCS. If you are starting out on your journey, why not pop by to try them? You may be surprised at how gentle a 40% whisky can be!

 

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Whisky Butler’s October Box – Highland Park

It is October! 3 more months to the end of the year, peeps! Isn’t that the exciting time of the year where you begin to slow down the pace, smell more flowers and drink a few more drams of whisky? Well, we are! In this post, we are introducing the Whisky Butler’s October box – one that is truly amazing.

As you can guess, October is all about Highland Park. Everyone probably knows that Highland Park released the first expression of a three-part series Viking Legend recently. Named Highland Park Valkyrie, it has received wide recognition as an exceptional whisky in the whisky community around the world. Singapore might be a little late, but better late than never!

Another special dram in this box is the Highland Park Bicentenary 1977 Vintage. This 21 Years Old is an old bottling from Highland Park back in 1998 when they celebrated their bicentenary! 200 years of history went into this bottle, so, except the unexpected!

The October box also includes the core range of Highland Park whiskies – the 12 and 18 Years Old. Known for their delicious nose and palate, these whiskies have been delighting many for decades.

Here’s a little more information about October’s offer.

  1. Highland Park Bicentenary 1977 Vintage

    This legendary expression was exclusively bottled in 1998 to honour the celebration of Highland Park’s Bicentenary. The important milestone event was a historic event in the Orkney Islands as it also celebrated their Viking past. This 21 Years Old expression received many praises from the whisky community and was sold out almost instantly. Today, it is a discontinued whisky expression and not available for sale. Whisky Butler got a special privilege to offer a dram of this whisky to its members as a special celebration of their lovely collaboration with Highland Park.

  2. Highland Park Valkyrie

    This is the first expression out of a three-part series of the Viking Legends bottled by Highland Park. The Viking Legend series is a tribute to the Viking past and bravery of the Valkyries on the battlefields of old. The whisky has won the Chairman’s Trophy in the 2017 Ultimate Spirit Challenge, scoring an impressive 99 out of 100!

  3. Highland Park 18 Years Old

    Part of the core range of Highland Park’s offering, the 18 Years Old is nothing short of exceptional. Its intense balance of flavour has won the title of Best Spirit in the World in the Spirit Journal not once, but twice! The 18 Years Old owes its successful to Highland Park’s 5 traditional keystones in their production of whisky. It represents the distillery’s commitment to skilled craftsmanship and their proud, Viking heritage.

  4. Highland Park 12 Years Old

    The entry level to the core range of Highland Park’s offering is the 12 Years Old. It is considered the heart and soul of Highland Park as it is the most commonly drank whisky from their range of delicious offering. The perfect harmony of smoky peat, sweet heather honey and rich fruit cake makes the 12 Years Old a favourite among many whisky drinkers around the world.

Whisky Butler’s members can look forward to 4 great drams this October, but if you are not yet a member, don’t fret! Contact WhiskyGeeks at slainte@whiskygeeks.sg or PM us via our Facebook page @WhiskyGeeks for more information. Alternatively, head over to Whisky Butler and tell them that you have been sent by WhiskyGeeks. Either way will get you a mystery dram on the house as long as you pick up a subscription package from Whisky Butler!

Whisky Review #43 – Highland Park Bicentenary 1977

This.is.da.bomb! Exclusively bottled in 1998 as part of the celebration for Highland Park bicentenary year, this is a vintage 21 Years Old right from the warehouses of Highland Park. The historic milestone of a bicentenary year was not taken lightly so you can imagine the good stuff that goes into the bottles of the Highland Park Bicentenary 1977 Vintage!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Deep Gold
ABV: 40%

Nose: Maple syrup on an aromatic French toast greets the nose before old-style sherry notes waft in. Blackcurrant, peated heather and some sea salt chocolate bring it to a close. (18/20)

Palate: Honeyed peat, guava and dark chocolate open the palate with maple syrup lingering in the background. A touch of herbaceous cranberry tea can also be found in the back. (17/20)

Finish: The finish is long with floral and fruity notes. Lingering maple syrup can be found in the background, making it almost perfect for the sweet tooth. (18/20)

Body: A really well-balanced whisky well worth its price! Fully rounded with maple syrup and the right amount of peat to make it a perfect dram to be enjoyed with friends and family. (37/40)

Total Score: 90/100

Comments:

Geek Spice: “It is a privilege to get a dram of this whisky considering it is a discontinued expression from Highland Park. The balance is amazing and I know anyone who has a chance to taste this exquisite whisky will love it!”

Note: This is a discontinued whisky expression from Highland Park and is not available for sale in the primary whisky market. Our understanding is that Highland Park has given a special bottle to Whisky Butler for their collaboration on Whisky Butler’s October box. Anyone keen to try this can contact WhiskyGeeeks at slainte@whiskygeeks.sg to find out more.

Whisky Review #42 – Highland Park Valkyrie

Highland Park Valkyrie is a special edition NAS single malt whisky that enhances the smoky notes of typical Highland Park whiskies. In collaboration with renowned Danish designer Jim Lyngvild, Valkyrie is one of a three-part series of their Viking legend release. Inspired by the Orkney rich Viking history and myths surrounding the first islanders in Orkney, this expression is all about flavours of the Viking.

Valkyrie has more heathery peated malt added to its concoction as compared to the typical Highland Park expressions, delighting many peat heads globally. It also resulted in a richer flavour of honey sweetness on the palate as compared to the 12 Years Old, luring all the sweet tooth drinkers along for a ride. The maturation of Valkyrie is also interesting – a combination of first fill American oak sherry, Bourbon and Spanish oak sherry casks and a selection of refill cask!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 45.9%

Nose: Influence of the bourbon oak sherry cask is prominent with the vanilla oak at first waft. Honey with an earthy note slip in shortly after, with dried figs, hummus, and autumn leaves rounding up the nose with some floral notes. (17/20)

Palate: Sweet notes of heather, monk fruit, dried pears and orange blossoms mixed together to create a pleasant palate. A peaty grassiness comes along towards the end to complete the drink. (18/20)

Finish: The finish is medium but powerful. A barrelful of smoke from charred oak and honeycomb come on strongly before leaving a sweet, smoky ending. (18/20)

Body: While it is perhaps not as balanced as the 18 Years Old, this expression certainly stand out as a special edition. Still a worthy dram to get the party started with its sweet peatiness that delights peat heads and non-peat heads alike. (30/40)

Total Score: 83/100

Comments:

Geek Choc: “Well, I like the mixture of the rich honey sweetness and the peaty. The proportioned increase of both makes this whisky flavourful. I enjoyed it very much! I would buy a few bottles to enjoy at home!”

 

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Whisky Review #41 – Highland Park 18 Years Old

Highland Park 18 Years Old is something of a special mention. It was named the Best Spirit in the World in the Spirit Journal on 2 separate occasions and has delighted many with its intense balance of the flavours found in it. Highland Park believes that the 18 Years Old is exceptional because of the 5 traditional keystones in their production. Such perfection could only come from the 220 years of experience at Highland Park distillery.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Pale Gold
ABV: 43%

Nose: Caramel, green apples and lime custard tart come to mind with the first waft of this liquid. As it opens up, lemon peels and a tangy smokiness can also be found. The appeal comes from the well-crafted mix of sweet, sour and smoke that invites you to take a sip. (17/20)

Palate: Spice of nutmeg and peppercorn filled the palate before opening up to burnt cinnamon sugar with hints of vanilla crème. Gingersnaps and orange chocolate (yummy) filter in as it opens up to give the 18 Years Old more complexity than what was expected. (18/20)

Finish: The finish is medium long. Sweet and smoke come together to give a pleasant finish to this liquid. (17/20)

Body: The 18 Years Old is well-balanced. The complexity of sweet and sour, smoke and spice brings great joy when sipping this dram. It is indeed an award-winning expression! (33/40)

Total Score: 85/100

Comments:

“It fits my profile of what makes a perfect whisky. Which is to say it’s totally in harmony. There are no rough edges and everything is melded together brilliantly.” – F. Paul Pacult, Spirit Journal

Geek Spice: “The 18 Years Old certainly deserves the special mention considering how well-balanced it is. I would encourage whisky drinkers to get a bottle for their drinking pleasure!”

 

 

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Whisky Review #40 – Highland Park 12 Years Old

 

Highland Park needs no introduction. It is a popular brand globally and has won the hearts of many whisky lovers with their variety of whisky. For many years, the Highland Park 12 Years Old has delighted the nose and palate of many with its perfect harmony of aromatic smoky peat, sweet heather honey and rich fruit cake.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Light Amber
ABV: 40%

Nose: The first sniff brings you heather-honey sweetness and smoky peat. The perfect mix of sweetness and smoke builds up an anticipation for the palate, inviting you to take a sip to wet the lips. As the nose opens up, orange squash and spiced yellow raisins come into the picture to build up the heather-honeyed peat, giving it more complexity. Hay and hints of nutmeg and cardamom come last to create a complete nose. (16/20)

Palate: A sip of this gold nectar brings a well-balanced smoky sweetness that delivers the full promise from the nose. Burnt grass with orange squash hits the palate before maltiness comes rushing in. Hints of honeyed raisins come after to round off the palate with the complexity from the nose. This is definitely good stuff from an ABV of 40%. (16/20)

Finish: The finish is medium long, which is interesting considering the low ABV. The lingering sweet and malty smokiness add to the appeal of this expression. (16/20)

Body: Highland Park 12 Years Old is a well-balanced expression with a good mix of sweet and smoke. Definitely a delicious dram and an easy drink. (30/40)

Total Score: 78/100

Comments:

Geek Spice: The 12 Years Old is an easy drink which can be taken as an after-dinner drink. The lower ABV also adds to its appeal as an after-dinner drink. 

 

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Explore the Viking Souls of Highland Park

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Highland Park Distillery is located in Kirkwall, Orkney. Known as the most northern whisky distillery in Scotland, its history is shrouded in mystery as to who the actual founder was.

Orkney, the Land of the Vikings

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Historically, a succession of Viking Earls ruled Orkney from 800AD to 1468. The group of 70 islands swept into the embrace of the Vikings in the early 9th century and remained so until 1468. King Christian I of Norway and Denmark gifted the islands to Scotland as part of Princess Margaret’s dowry for her marriage to James III, King of Scotland in 1468. While it ended the Viking’s rule over Orkney, the roots of the Vikings continue to influence the people till today. The Vikings who had settled on the islands become part of the Orcadians. The descendants of the Vikings are proud of their heritage, and live to bring glory and honour to their Viking roots.

History of Highland Park Distillery

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

In official records, a priest by the name of Magnus Eunson first distilled whisky on the site of Highland Park Distillery in the 1790s. He was a respectable member of the Orcadian society as well as a priest. He ran an illicit whisky trader at night and legends had it that he hid the whisky under the pulpit in his church. When excise men eventually caught up with him in 1798, charges against him were dropped mysteriously after a short time. Eunson escaped justice.

David Robertson officially founded Highland Park Distillery in 1798. He bought the High Park estate and built Highland Park Distillery. After running the distillery for a few years, he sold it to a syndicate in 1816. Interestingly, the syndicate included Eunson’s arresting officer, John Robertson and another former exciseman, Robert Pringle. The syndicate built up the distillery in 1818 and the current premises dated back to those eras.

William Stuart (who owns Miltonduff) bought Highland Park Distillery in the 1870s. It finally stabilised under his care and in 1885, James Grant (previously the manager of Glenlivet) joined Stuart as his business partner. Grant took full control of the distillery in 1895 who proceeded to expand the distillery and built up a great relationship with Robertson & Baxter (R&B).

In 1937, Highland Distillers (who had shares in R&B) took over Highland Park Distillery. Highland Distillers was the owners until the turn of the century, where they became the object of take-over. Edrington Group acquired Highland Distillers and Highland Park was taken into the folds of the Edrington Group. Since then, Edrington Group makes efforts to uphold Highland Park Distillery as a distinctive whisky maker. Today, Highland Park is the only Island distillery in the Edrington Group profile.

Highland Park Whisky-Making Process

Picture Credits: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Highland Park builds its whisky-making process on 5 keystones of production. They are proud of their traditions because no other distilleries use all five keystones.

Keystone 1: Aromatic Peat

Highland Park recognises the importance of peat in their whisky-making process. They obtained their peat from Hobbister Moor, located 7 miles from the distillery. Hobbister Moor has no trees, as Orkney does not have a conducive environment. As a result, the 9,000 years old peat used by Highland Park is rich in heather.

Keystone 2: Hand Turned Floor Malting

Hand-turning the malt by hand is a labour intensive method that many distilleries no longer employ. At Highland Park, they take pride to hand turn their malt because they believe in the traditional process when producing the distinctive aromatic smokiness of their whiskies. Highland Park turns their barley by hand every 8 hours, 7 days a week. The turning maintains a constant airflow and the right amount of moisture to fully absorb the intense smoke from the peat.

Keystone 3: Sherry Oak Casks

Highland Park is obsessed with their casks. The staves are cut from American and European oaks before shipping to Jerez in Southern Spain. These staves are made into casks and filled with Oloroso sherry. After a minimum of 2 years maturation, these casks are emptied and shipped back to Orkney. Highland Park uses these casks to fill their whiskies for maturation.

Keystone 4: Cool Maturation

Highland Park is in a perfect location for whisky maturation. Orkney has a temperate temperature, reaching highs of 16°C in summer and lows of around 2°C in winter. Therefore, the maturation of their whiskies takes place in a long, cool and evenly paced environment.

Keystone 5: Cask Harmonisation

Cask harmonisation is crucial in creating a balanced whisky. Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion, makes sure that every release of Highland Park has the chance to rest in their vatting tun for at least a month before bottling. The time allows the newly married spirit to harmonise into a balanced whisky.

Highland Park Whisky Collection

Picture Credit: www.highlandparkwhisky.com

Highland Park has a wide range of whiskies to suit every palate. Below is a list of their current expressions that are still available from the distillery.

Aged Whisky Expressions:

10 Years Old – Viking Scars (New Packaging)
12 Years Old – Viking Honour (New Packaging)
18 Years Old – Viking Pride (New Packaging)
25 Years Old
30 Years Old
40 Years Old

Special Releases and Limited Editions

Magnus
Dragon Legend
Valkyrie
Rebus30 10 Year Old
Svein
Einar
Harald
Sigurd
Ragnvald
Thorfinn
King Christian 1
Ice Edition 17 Year Old
Fire Edition 15 Year Old

Highland Park Today

Highland Park continues to be the driving force in Orkney as they commit to keep the Viking’s proud heritage. In the regular business sense, Highland Park is also a forerunner as Edrington Group focuses on making it more famous.