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State 38 – Boutique Distillery from Golden, Colorado

Ask me which part of the USA I have been to, and the answer will be none. My globe-trotting adventures stopped in the United Kingdom, and I have yet to visit the USA. Frankly, the one thing that indeed puts me off from the USA is the long flight. Flying 12 hours to London had been an absolute nightmare to me and all the flight attendants onboard the particular A380 I was on, and trust me, flying to the USA was such a daunting thought that I have not yet considered a trip there – even with three connecting flights perhaps?

Nonetheless, I think I might be enticed to do that soon, what with my small victory in loving my first ever bourbon! Yay! If you know me well, I am not a bourbon lover. I cannot accept the sweetness that comes with corn distillation, even though I had come close to liking one from Westland Distillery.

Welcome to Golden

State 38 Distilling stays at one of the western states of the USA – Golden, Colorado. As Colorado is the 38th state to be recognised in the USA, the owner decided to name his distillery State 38 Distilling. Part of being patriotic, the owner also wants to associate his distillery with the land that it sits on.

Golden nestled between Denver and the Rocky Mountains and is well-known to be a gold rush town in the 19th century. Gold once flowed in its river, and the town is filled with rich history. It is also home to the Lookout Mountains and the Red Rocks Park.

History of State 38 Distilling

State 38 Distilling opened its doors in March 2013. The owner, Sean Smiley, hand-built all the distillery equipment by hand and also the old western style tasting room that you can find at the distillery. Sean comes from a long lineage of patriotic and loyal men and women, with roots all the way from Scotland.

Sean’s ancestor first crossed the continents from London to the USA in 1850. D.C. Loveday was a Londoner who went to the USA looking for more than just a job. The allure of entrepreneurship guided him forward as he settled in the small town of East Jordan, MI. Loveday became a legendary and honourable statesman in his life, and his independent character became the cornerstone for his descendant, Sean Smiley, owner of State 38 Distilling.

Sean’s great-grandfather, W.I. McKenzie served as a war crimes prosecutor during World War II and received letters from the FDR for his services. He drew strength from the Scottish blood flowing through his veins and ploughed on even in the face of ultimate challenges.

The man behind State 38 Distilling

Sean Smiley in his warehouse

The man behind State 38 is none other than Sean, the great-grandson of W.I McKenzie. He gained his passion for distilling at a young age. With the encouragement from his family, he built his first home still from various part found at the local hardware stores. After graduation, Sean worked in the oil and gas industry. From Global Sales Managing roles to Director of a small engineering company, Sean sees the world through the lens of the good, old oil and gas industry.

Five years ago, Sean decided to change his fate and his life. After ten years of home distilling, he believes that it is time to do something about it. Hence, Sean built his distillery by hand and opened its door in March 2013. With his roots firmly planted in the USA, he commits himself to use local ingredients to produce tasty spirits using his customised copper pot stills.

State 38’s raw ingredients

As we know, whisky is made from only three ingredients – barley, yeast and water. For bourbons, it is a little more complicated, but the main theory still holds. Producers made bourbons from three main ingredients too – grains, yeast and water. The only difference is that they are allowed to use different grains for their mash.

Sean wanted to create unique spirits when he decided to open a distillery. With his roots in Scotland, he was determined to make spirits that are reminiscent of Scotch but yet, wholly American. Therefore, he embarked on a journey to make his whiskeys special.

State 38 uses different grains for their bourbon. While the main ingredient is still corn, the distillery also uses 5% rye, 5% wheat and 20% heavily malted barley. The different grains help to create a unique flavour profile for the DC Loveday bourbon, differentiating it from the others.

Sean also made a peated whisky in which he imported 100% peat-smoked barley from Scotland. Using the barley from Scotland, he combines yeast and water from the melted snow on the Rocky Mountains to create a new and special whisky – one that is not found anywhere else in the world.

Distillation Methods in State 38

Sean’s handmade copper pot still

Distillation in State 38 follows a strict rule – all raw ingredients are processed onsite. The distillery buys local grains and hand milled them with a small roller mill. Once done, the grains mixed with approximately 500 gallons of fresh Rocky Mountain water in a mash tun. The mash is heated to convert the starch to sugar before turning the heat up to caramelised some of the sugars. The process helps to produce a creamy caramel, chocolatey and coffeey note to the finish spirit. They cool the mash after the caramelisation before transferring it to the fermentation tanks.

The fermentation process is extra long at State 38. They use a specialised, proprietary yeast to convert the sugars to ethyl alcohol. The entire process takes 14 days per tank, which is extremely slow, even by Scottish standards. At the end of the fermentation period, clean, sweet alcohol materialises.

New Make running off the tap from the pot still

The wash then transfers to a 250-gallon copper still hand-built by Sean. They distilled the liquid twice, once to create a low wine and twice to get the heart at around 77.5% abv. Now, here’s where things differ. The completed white whiskey is cut to 62.5% abv using fresh Rocky Mountain water before getting barreled in brand new 52.8-gallon American oak barrels, charred to level 3. These barrels are independently staved, which makes them premium barrels to begin with.

After maturing for two years, the whiskey is cut down to bottling abv at 45% using the same Rocky Mountain fresh water before bottling.

Each small batch made at the distillery is labelled with bottle number clearly shown on the bottles.

Sean’s beliefs in Whiskey Making

Barrels maturing in the warehouse

We wanted to understand Sean’s beliefs in whiskey making, so we asked him how whiskey should be made. “I believe that whiskey should be made with great attention to details in all the processes and with respect for the time in maturation in barrels.” He also shared that he spent time studying and testing for the best methods to create the end products he wanted. The intention to caramelise sugar during the mashing process and the extra-long fermentation period are both results from his study.

Sean also shared that he created the Scottish Peat-Smoke Whisky to honour his roots in Scotland. He aimed to bring about an Islay-style whisky, but not overwhelming in smoke. Thus, he decided to go for a peaty whisky that falls somewhere between a Highland and Islay peated whisky.

With his innovative mind, Sean creates stunning whisk(e)ys expressions to rival the booming American whiskey companies. Being a boutique distillery, the small batches of whiskey made are often sold out quickly too!

State 38 Products

Products line up

State 38 products range from bourbon to rye to peaty whisky. The distillery also makes 100% organic agave tequila, vodka and gin. Each product carries the State 38 logo proudly. Currently, the products are slowly making their way out of Colorado and into other countries.

In Singapore and its South East Asia neighbours, the distillery is starting with the DC Loveday Bourbon and the WI McKenzie Peat-Smoke Whisky. It has plans to import its gin, vodka and tequila to Singapore in future.

Future of State 38

With its 5th anniversary celebration over, State 38 is expanding its production equipment, storage and bottling plant. The 5-year milestone is a testimony to its great-tasting spirits and Sean’s enduring dedication to creating only quality products. Sean is now looking at expansion into the Asian market, with Singapore as its first stop and the rest of South East Asia should follow soon after.

 

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Westland Distillery – Thoughtfully Made in America

I am never a big fan of American whiskey because I find bourbon too sweet and Tennessee whiskey just a little weird for my general tasting profile. However, I had the chance to taste two out of three Westland Distillery’s core range in two separate occasions and their malt-forward flavours and profile made me sit up and take notice.

A closer look at their bottles revealed the reason – Westland Distillery made single malt whiskey. That is to say, they use malt barley as their base for fermentation, not corn or rye or any other grains. It was an exciting discovery for me so I dug deeper into the distillery to find out more.

Lo and behold, there are more surprises! I found out that the Westland Distillery belongs to Remy Cointreau, the French company who also owns Bruichladdich Distillery. Apparently, Remy bought the American distillery in late 2016 after the sales of its whiskey soared in the same year.

So, what is the secret behind Westland? Let me share what I found so far.

The Founding of Westland Distillery

The founders, Matt Hofmann and Emerson Lamb started Westland Distillery in 2010. Bonded over their love for whiskey and their passion to create something different for America, the pair decided to produce American whiskey in a special way. Deciding to follow the Scots in the choice of their grains, Matt Hofmann and Emerson Lamb choose to use malt barley instead of the usual corn or rye.

The distillery moves to the current location in Seattle, Washington in 2012 by refurbishing an old crane factory in 18 months. The first Westland release was a 375ml bottle named “The Deacon Seat”.

The Ingredients in Westland Single Malt Whiskey

As we know, there are only three ingredients in single malt whisky when the Scots made them – barley, yeast and water. Westland Distillery follows this recipe closely, but with one exception. They use more than one type of barley for their mash. The distillery uses five different malted barley for their regular American Oak and Sherry Wood, and six different malted barley for their peated expression.

The five malts are:
– Pale Malt from Washington
– Munich Malt from Washington
– Extra Special Malt from Wisconsin
– Brown Malt from the UK
– Pale Chocolate Malt from the UK

The government and state park in America control much of the peat bogs and wetland in the country and distilleries find it extremely difficult to gain access to peat bogs. Westland is trying to persuade the government to allow them access to a peat bog that is a flavourful, herbaceous mix. For now, Westland is using peated malt from Bairds Maltings in Inverness, Scotland.

The Production Process

The distillery mills the barley on site using a roller mill before placing the milled barley into their stainless steel mash tun. Once the mash is completed, the wort moves along to the washbacks for fermentation. The yeast used is a Belgium brewers yeast that typically produces fruity beers! Fermentation takes four to six days, depending on the whiskey that they are making. Distillation takes place in two copper pot stills – a wash still and a spirit still.

The interesting part of their distillation comes from their copper pot still. It is a combination still where the shape of the still is rounded and yet, there is a column on top of the copper pot. The main idea of the column still is to remove impurities and make a clean spirit for maturation. For Westland Distillery, they remove the plates of the column still in their spirit still, which means there is no rectification or what we called column distillation done over in the spirit still.

Cask Maturation

Westland Distillery does not mature their whiskey on site, but at Hoquiam, Washington. That is roughly a two hours drive south of the distillery location. The location sits right smack on the Pacific Ocean, where the sea breezes create a coastal and humid environment. An environment such as this gives an angel share of about 2% all year around.

Westland only uses standard-sized casks and does not believe in small cask ageing. They have over 40 different cask types in their warehouse as of last year, and they range from sherry to port to ex-bourbon. Besides the regular wood, they also use Garryana oak, an endangered species of oak trees in the United States of America. Scientifically known as Quercus Garryanna, this tree used to grow rampantly from northern California to the British Columbia, but now, the growth area is only 5% of what it used to be. Westland is fighting to use this oak. Due to its endangered status, Westland Distillery is making a lot of efforts to ensure the continuity of the species. You can read more about their quest here.

The Core Range of Westland Distillery

Westland Distillery produces three expressions for their core range. The flagship style of the distillery is of course, the American Oak. It is a reflection of the distillery, where it is from and the values of those who made it. It is an approachable dram that is not only uniquely American, but only special in its choice of ingredients.

The peated malt expression is a varietion of their flagship style with an addition of peated malt imported from Scotland. The addition of the peated malt adds smokey flavours to the whiskey and that makes it flavourful.

The sherry wood expression is an experiment that has gone well for the distillery. Using only the finest PX and Oloroso sherry casks sourced from Tonelería del Sur in Montilla, Spain, Westland creates a beautiful sherry wood expression with their malt-focused spirit.

Should you try whiskey from Westland Distillery?

Well, I tried two of the core range and end up digging deeper into the distillery to find out more. If you are someone who do not fancy bourbons because they are so sweet, perhaps Westland whiskeys will be something to try. It is less cloying on the palate and in general, gives a very well-rounded tasting profile.

If you are a bourbon lover, try this and let me know what you think! I will love to know what a bourbon drinker thinks about the whiskies from Westland!

 

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Whisky Review #99 – Westland Peated Single Malt

This is the other American whiskey that we tried at the Secret Mermaid. It is Geek’s Choc’s choice as he does love his peat. It was also a safe choice as he had tried another expression from Westland previously at The Wall SG.

This expression is a Westland single malt peated whiskey. Being a non-chill-filtered whiskey adds creditability to it, and we thought that it was indeed a safe dram to order. Let’s see if we are right!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 46%

Nose: Sweet, ripe pears, bananas, peat smoke and a hint of cinnamon spice hit the nose immediately and remains constant throughout. It almost reminds us of a Scotch! It is charming to me, and I could nose it all day. However, it is one-dimensional and proves to be somewhat unexciting. (16/20)

Palate: Sweet pears and light banana notes are prominent as the liquid stays in the mouth. A whiff of smoke passes in the back of the throat as the liquid goes down, and disappears immediately once we swallow. Again, it remains us of a young and light, ex-bourbon matured Scotch. The bite of the spirit is not sharp, but evident in the palate. (16/20)

Finish: It has a medium finish with lots of oak and subtle sweetness on the side. (15/20)

Body: It could be more balanced if the finish does not disappoint. However, the finish is lacking, and this dram becomes one-dimensional and straightforward. Gentle on the nose and palate, it is a good starting dram or an introduction to peat for a non-peat drinker. I also find it too much like a Scotch, even though it is an American whiskey. So, while I would like to give it a higher score, I hold back because I think it can be better in its category as an American whiskey.  (31/40)

Total Score: 78/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I like this whiskey! It is almost Scotch-like, and it has the usual flavours that I like in my peaty whisky. However, I need to remain myself that it is an American whiskey – a category that is supposed to give more sweetness, more flavours. This is a very mellow dram. I am torn between giving it a higher score and the score I eventually gave because I think that while bourbon drinkers who love the strong flavours will find this interesting, it will not be a dram they will return to very often. On the other hand, Scotch drinkers will like this but still will return to Scotch.”

Geek Choc: “It is a whiskey that I don’t mind drinking at all. Too much like a Scotch, but it can be a refreshing change especially if the cost for a bottle is lower than a typical Scotch. However, just like what Flora said, I would eventually still return to my favourite Scotch.” 

 

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Whisky Review #98 – Belgian Dark Strong Style

I am not an American whiskey fan generally due to my aversion to things that tasted too sweet. The unfortunate fact remains that American whiskey, as a group, is often too sweet for me and my tolerance to it is probably just a half pour at a bar. Nonetheless, there are some whiskeys which are delicious to me; State 38’s bourbon and rye, for example, as well as famous Maker’s Mark!

I always wanted to try other whiskeys because I have friends who love bourbon and encourage me to try them beyond the usual. So Geek Choc and I had some crazy ideas last week and decided to pay a visit to an American bar in search of crafted bourbons. We walked into The Secret Mermaid, and after getting seated at the bar, we were offered a cocktail menu. It took some time and lots of efforts to attract the staff at the bar before we got the proper whiskey menu. As there were no recommendations forthcoming even though I mentioned it was our first time, we ordered something that sounds interesting.

One of the whiskeys we ordered is this – Belgian Dark Strong Style. Crafted by the Chicago Distilling Company, it is a single malt whiskey! To be honest, I went with some expectations. I was hoping to be convinced. Was I convinced?

Let’s find out!

Tasting notes:

Colour: Dark Amber
ABV: 45%

Nose: Strong notes of dried preserved plums come head on right from the start, with sandalwood following right behind. There are some orange notes and burnt sugar in the back. It defines itself as an American whiskey right away, and there is no doubt that I am possibly not going to like the palate very much. Objectively though, the nose is exciting and it does make me want to taste it. (17/20)

Palate: Sandalwood, burnt sugar, and cloves combined to give an awkward taste to the palate at first, but then oakiness comes forth with a touch of dried preserved plums as the liquid went down the throat. I would say that, objectively, the palate is strange but not unpleasant for those who like bourbons. I like how the dried preserved plums surface at the back of the throat and soothe out the bite from the cloves. (15/20)

Finish: The finish is relatively short in terms of flavours in the palate. Some saltiness at the back of the throat and a tiny burst of sweetness before everything ends prematurely. However, the warmth of the liquid lingers in the throat for quite a while, giving us a pleasant warmth. (16/20)

Body: To be fair, it is a balanced dram. I think that as a bourbon, it has outdone some of the others which I had tried. Maybe it will taste better (to me) on the rocks. The sweetness is not overpowering but I still find the notes too strange for my liking. However, the saltiness of the dram adds a touch of surprise in an otherwise simple dram. For that, I must give it credit! (33/40)

Total Score: 81/100

Disclaimer: I think I may be biased here, but it is my honest opinion. I do welcome those who had tried this to give their thoughts about it on our Facebook post!

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I failed to like this, even though I tried very hard. The style is too different and while I find myself falling in love with Welsh whisky, English whisky and even Nordic whisky, I cannot bring myself to like American whiskey too much. Thankfully, there are still some which I can enjoy, like State 38’s DC Loveday Bourbon and Maker’s Mark!

Geek Choc: “I think I like this. While I agree with Flora’s review of the whiskey, I think this is an interesting dram and one which brings a different feel to my usual whisky choices. While it will not be my first choice of whisky, I do not mind having it now and then.” 

 

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Date Night with Jack Daniel at Asia’s Number One Bar

Canon JD No. 7 with tasting glasses

Geek Flora and Choc were invited to a tasting session of Jack Daniels on 6 May 2018 at Manhattan Bar. It was an awesome evening because tasting a famous Tennessee at Asia’s Number One Bar can never go wrong. Besides, the assistant Head Distiller, Mr Chris Fletcher, was in town and we knew that he would answer all our geeky questions.

We reached Manhattan Bar around 7 pm, and the reception ushered us into a private room next to the main bar floor on the right. What we saw was absolute class and luxury as the tall glasses laid in their full glory with the gold nectar within them. The room smelled of whiskey (of course), and we got a little more excited.

Introducing Jack Daniel as a person

In case you do not know, Jack Daniel was indeed a real person. Nobody truly knows Jack’s birthdate, but official records from the distillery stated the 1850s. He was the youngest of 13 children and was very young when his mother died. His father remarried but unfortunately killed shortly after that in the Civil War. Jack did not get along with his stepmother, and hence, he ran away from home at a young age. Jack ended up in Lynchburg, Tennessee where a local lay preacher and moonshine distiller named Dan Call took him in.

Jack began his career as an apprentice distiller with Call and his Master Distiller, Nathan Green. In 1875, Jack received an inheritance from his father’s estate and founded Jack Daniel Distillery with Call. However, Jack took over the distillery shortly afterwards as Call decided to answer his true calling as a preacher.

Jack Daniel Distillery

Jack soon expanded the distillery in 1884 by purchasing the surrounding land. He was getting recognition from the public, and the whiskey gained popularity in the 1880s. The distillery began to bottle their liquid in square bottles in 1897 to convey a sense of fairness and integrity. In 1904, Jack Daniel won a gold medal at the St Louis World’s Fair, and the distillery experienced a surge in demand. However, things looked bad at home with Prohibition oncoming.

Jack gave the distillery to two of his nephews in 1907 due to failing health and died in 1911 due to blood poisoning. One of them became the next owner for 40 years while the other sold his share early. Prohibition laws passed in Tennessee in 1910 and the distillery halted its production in Lynchburg. Two other sites in St Louis, Missouri and Birmingham, Alabama started distilling but failed to produce quality liquid. In 1920, the United States of America passed nationwide prohibition laws, stopping further distillation from taking place.

Despite it all, Lemuel “Lem” Motlow held his uncle’s legacy through the Prohibition and was the front mover in repealing the Tennessee state-prohibition law in 1938. After that, things ran smoothly until 1942, where the U.S government banned production due to World War 2. After the war, Motlow resumed Jack Daniel in 1947. Sadly, he died in the same year and left the distillery to his children.

Jack Daniel distillery began its modern era in 1956 when Brown-Forman bought the distillery from the Motlow family.

The Making of a Tennessee Whiskey

Did you know the difference between a bourbon and a Tennessee? To confuse you a little, a Tennessee can be bourbon, but bourbon can never be a Tennessee. Why!?

The definition of bourbon defines it as a liquid made anywhere in the U.S with at least 51% corn and matured in a brand new charred oak cask. The alcohol content of the new make must also be 80% or lower. A Tennessee is a bourbon produced in Tennessee and treated with maple charcoal before maturing in a brand new charred oak cask. The process, called charcoal mellowing, makes all the difference between a Tennessee and a bourbon.

Charcoal mellowing helps to maintain the flavour consistency and soften the whiskey to make it less harsh. Hence, a Tennessee whiskey is always easier to drink than a typical bourbon.

The Making of a Jack Daniel Tennessee Whiskey

Jack Daniel distillery sources its water from an underground cave spring. The grain percentage is 80% corn, 12% malted barley and 8% rye. The distillery milled the corn and cooked it with hot water to turn it into grist before adding the rye. After that, they allow the mixture to cool before adding the malted barley to the mash. The fermentation team then pumps the mash into the fermentation tanks and add yeast. When fermentation completes, the alcohol abv is around 12%.

Distillation then begins in the 100% copper stills. The 40ft tall column still brings the vapours into a short still with copper plates heated by steam. The system separates the alcohol and then distil it a second time before cooling off into new make. The liquid then passes through 3m of charcoal made on-site for the charcoal mellowing process. The entire process takes about two to three days. After that, it becomes Tennessee whiskey at 70% abv.

Jack Daniel’s Barrels

As you know, all American whiskey needs maturation in brand-new charred American oak. Jack Daniel is no difference. Their Tennessee whiskey sleeps in brand-new charred American oak casks for at least four years and mostly less than eight years. There is no additional colouring. Maturation in Tennessee is different from Scotland – they need hot summers. Hot summers mean maturation is likely to conclude in five to six years while cooler summers will result in a slightly longer maturation.

Jack Daniel resells all their barrels after using as they are not allowed to use it for the second time. About 25% of all ex-bourbon barrels in the world are Jack Daniel’s!

Jack Daniel’s Cooperage

Jack Daniel also owns two cooperages and have a patent barrel-making process. They buy oak trees, cut them up and build their barrels from scratch. The newly-made barrels are toasted for 17 minutes at 260 degrees Celsius to get the creamy vanilla and caramel into the wood before getting charred for 25 seconds. The cooperages make about 2,000 barrels every day.

The Tasting of Jack Daniel’s Range

The beautiful glasses for Geek Flora

After reading so much about Jack Daniel, it is time for us to take you on the tasting journey for the night. We had a total of six expressions. They are Gentleman Jack, JD Single Barrel, JD No. 7, JD Gold No. 27, JD American Straight Rye, and JD Sinatra Select. Chris Fletcher, the assistant Head Distiller (pictured below) waxed lyrical about the distillery and its whiskey-making methods, which delighted us (and resulted in the long explanation above)!

Mr Chris Fletcher, Assistant Head Distiller at JD

It is now time to delve into the various JD and see how they are.

Gentleman Jack

As the name suggests, this whiskey is a complete gentleman. Soft-spoken and gentle, the nose is full of melons, pears and bananas with just a hint of oak. The palate is creamy, fruity and soft. Elegant indeed. The finish is too short, but Chris mentioned that the distillery makes it this way as it is an entry whiskey for those who just started learning about whiskey.

JD Single Barrel

A little note about the single barrel: the distillery chooses their single barrels only from the top floor of specific warehouses within the distillery. As they build their warehouses on sites of different heights, the top floor of each warehouse differs from the other. As Jack Daniel depends on the weather for maturation, location of each warehouse plays a big part. The highest floor of each warehouse naturally gets the most heat and hence, considered as one of the best.

The JD Single Barrel is a colossal sugar babe. The nose boasts of molasses, vanilla, melons and Juicy Banana chewing gums. The palate is sweet with molasses, vanilla, melons and spice. It is oily and less creamy than Gentleman Jack. Hints of Juicy Banana chewing gums reappears behind the spice. The finish is medium with oak and ripe banana sweetness. Hints of sweet sandalwood appear with the second sip.

JD No. 7

JD No. 7 is well-known in this part of the world, and almost everyone had a JD No. 7 before. The nose is full of molasses, melon and light vanilla. The palate is creamy with vanilla and spice. We get hints of banana sweetness at the end. The finish is too short, with faint banana sweetness and a bit of oak.

JD Gold No. 27

The JD Gold No. 27 is an unusual expression. It matures four years in oak before transferring to a maple barrel for six months to a year. The nose boasts of bananas, vanilla and maple syrup. The palate is exceptionally creamy, with molasses, banana, maple and spice at the back of the palate. The finish is medium, creamy and slightly spicy.

JD American Straight Rye

The JD rye is a new expression launched in September 2017 that consists of 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley. The nose is full of banana cream, light spice and sweet sandalwood. The palate brings the sandalwood to the front, with banana cream, earthen spice and light mint at the back of the palate. The finish is short and spicy.

JD Sinatra Select

JD Sinatra Select

Finally, the JD Sinatra Select is an expression made to commemorate Sinatra’s 100 Years. He loved Jack Daniels and would promote the brand blatantly even though they never paid him a single cent for advertising. Therefore, this expression celebrates the man who loved his JD.

The nose is oaky, oily with vanilla in the background. The banana scent that is so distinctive JD is weaker too. The palate reveals dry oak, vanilla, bananas and hints of sandalwood. There is some spice also. The finish is medium, with sweet vanilla and oak. It gets slightly dry at the end.

A Wonderful Night Indeed

Chris signing the barrel after pouring in the bottles of Gentleman Jack

The tasting session ended with Chris pouring in a few bottles of Gentleman Jack into a barrel at Manhattan Bar to barrel age the whiskey further. As it is part of Manhattan’s barrel-aged program, we may have the chance to try the liquid after the maturation! We shall wait in anticipation.

We certainly enjoyed ourselves that evening and got to know Jack Daniel better as a brand and as a whiskey. We are apparently amazed by the different expressions and have since changed our minds about JD. Just like our friend, Brendan from The Single Cask, said, “So many years of prejudice against Jack Daniels, and it was washed away all in one night.” We feel the same way too!

 

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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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Whiskey Review #75 – Tennessee 2003 (JD)

American Whiskey is a class of its own with Bourbon, Tennessee and Rye playing the most significant share. While we have shared some American whiskey previously, we were not a big fan of it due to the overwhelming sweetness that we tend to get from corn distillate. However, we tried this bottle of Tennessee recently, and it was so good that we were taken aback! Is that even Tennessee?! It tasted like a sherry-matured Scotch!

Brief History of the bottle

The Tennessee we have here is an independent bottling by The Whisky Agency (TWA) for Kaohsiung, Taiwan. It was a joint-bottling by four different bars – The Drunken Master Whisky Bar (TDM), Inn Bistro, Goodness Bistro and Bar Diary. Each bar owner has tasted and agreed to bottle this whiskey for their bars. We got this from TDM, and it proved to be a right thing to do!

What is Tennessee?

Tennessee whiskey is different from Bourbons due to a particular step within the whiskey making process. While both liquid comes from at least 51% corn, Tennessee whiskey goes through an additional phase before the whiskey makes it to the barrel for maturation. Tennessee makers steep or filter the new whiskey in charcoal chips.

All Tennessee whiskey makers make their whiskey slightly differently. This particular bottle comes from Jack Daniel’s (JD), so the method is as follows:

  • Soak Sugar Maple Wood in 140 proof Jack Daniel’s
  • Set the wood on fire and reduced it to charcoal
  • Ground the charcoal to bean-sized pellets
  • Pour new whiskey through the pellets and placed into barrels.

Distilled in 2003, TWA bottled this JD in 2017. It is labelled as a 13-year-old as it did not spend the full 14th year before bottling. In a technical sense, you can think of this bottle as a 13.5-year-old.

Now that you have a better understanding of this bottle, let’s deep dive into the tasting notes!

Tasting Notes

Colour: Burnt Gold/Amber
ABV: 50.7%

Nose: Sweet caramel hits immediately with light spice hiding in the background. On the second sniff, we detect some sweet cream, almost like an ice-cream soda from F&N. Hints of preserved red dates and orange peels appear after a few minutes, enhancing the sweet nose to the next level. (19/20)

Palate: Sweet sherry and caramel come rushing in before a sharp spice punches the palate and disappears as quickly as it appears. As we hold the liquid in the mouth, sweet fruitiness of red dates and cherries coats the palate beautifully. The spice hits again as we swallow, creating a warm and pleasant burn down the throat. Then, a surprise happens! A burst of cranberry juice coats the whole mouth, bringing the berry sweetness to a grand ending! (19/20)

Finish: It has a relatively short finish with sweet red fruits, warm spice and a hint of cranberry juice. (17/20)

Body: Oh my, what a beautiful dram! The superb nose and palate are presented so exceptionally, and the sweetness is not overwhelming. An untypical Tennessee for sure and one that we will want to keep drinking. Although we are slightly disappointed with the shorter than expected finish, it was good till the end! (37/40)

Total Score: 92/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: This is the BEST Tennessee that I have ever tried so far! It gives me such a warm and happy feeling inside after drinking it! I will be sorry when we finish this bottle, but this is one whisky that is worth sharing!

Geek Choc: This has to be the most impressive whiskey I have ever tried. My attempts at American whiskey were few as I find them far too sweet for my liking. This Tennessee, however, hits me in all the right places! 

 

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