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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 😀

DFS Whisky Festival 2019: The 4th Edition

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

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

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

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

Whisky Festival Promotions

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

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

DFS Whisky Festival around the world:

1st May to 30th June:   

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

1st June to 31st July:  

  • Hawaii Honolulu International Airport
  • San Francisco International Airport

1st July 1 to 31st August:   

  • Abu Dhabi International Airport

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

New Bar Alert: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

Photo Credits: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

There are never enough new whisky bars in Singapore, despite our perceived “smallness” in size and population. The most recent whisky bar that we have been to is none other than The Exciseman. The whisky couple behind this bar are well-known figures in Singapore’s whisky industry, and they are known to carry quality whiskies.

The couple is Lewis Mitchell and Patricia Britton, the owners of Le Vigne Wine and Spirits. After running the shop successfully for 16 years, opening a whisky bar seems to be the next step in the natural progression of things.

WhiskyGeeks headed to The Exciseman to catch Lewis for a drink and a chat about his passion for whiskies and his vision for the bar.

The Exciseman

Photo Credit: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

If you think that The Exciseman is yet another “atas”, expensive and intimating whisky bar in Singapore, think again! The interior of the bar is warm and friendly, with a cosiness to it that invites you to melt into the beautiful armchairs and take a break from life itself.

The whisky selection is vast, with a menu that is bound to grow thicker as the bar matures. The quiet atmosphere, the warm lights, and the comfortable armchairs relax us as we waited for Lewis. The friendly bartender also made us some excellent Oolong tea, with the right temperature. 🙂

Inside the bar, there is a fireplace and a 140 years old piano! We were told that patrons who know how to play the piano are welcome to give it a go, but only after they ask for permission. Customers who wish to play the piano are also kindly requested to play only soft music and to treat the piano with care. After all, it is much older than all of us!

It is a Whisky Heaven

Photo Credits: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

Most of us know that Le Vigne is the importer for various whisky brands. The most famous is the Douglas Laing (DL) selection. The bar currently stocks many of DL’s collections, including the five popular blended whiskies in cannons! There are also premium whiskies such as the Xtra Old Particular that is sold by the dram. On top of their selection, The Exciseman is also looking at other brands of whiskies that are of excellent qualities. Once Lewis satisfies his strict selection process for each whisky, you will be able to get your hands on more whisky brands at The Exciseman.

Besides the great number of whiskies you can find, I think that The Exciseman satisfies my quest for peace. The whisky bar has on low music and invites its patrons to enjoy their whiskies in peace and quiet. If you do not wish to chat, Lewis and his team will leave you to enjoy your whisky privately.

In fact, the bar even states what it is not in their menu! By doing so, Lewis hopes that he can protect the peace of the bar and allow his customers to appreciate and enjoy their whiskies.

Photo Credit: WhiskyGeeks.sg

In a way, The Exciseman is a whisky heaven and a safe haven for those who wish to get some peace and quiet. Nonetheless, Lewis still encourages his patrons to chat softly amongst themselves and to ask questions about whiskies and spirits.

Charcoal-filtered Water

If you are one of those geeks like us, you may drink some of your whiskies with a few drops of water. At The Exciseman, you do not get the regular tap or distilled water. What you get is charcoal-filtered water. A clean, crisp water that does magic to your whiskies if you so fancy it to be.

However, what I really love is the tap! Just check it out!

Photo Credit: The Exciseman Whisky Bar

You can even fill water on your own, without asking them. Just go to the bar counter and operate the tap! Of course, if you prefer to be served, the team at The Exciseman will gladly serve you.

Lewis Mitchell – The Whisky Man

We have a little chat with Lewis while we were there at the bar and this was the result of our chat – an informal interview! We understood from Lewis that opening a whisky bar is the next progression he envisioned for Le Vigne. While the bar has an additional partner, Lewis is the man who oversees and runs the operation of the bar. When I asked him why he opens a whisky bar instead of a wine bar, he answered candidly, “Because I am a whisky man!”

Indeed, Lewis has his passion for whisky for a long time. He revealed that his love for the water of life started in his early days, and the love increases as he tried different whiskies. When he met Patricia, she was just the woman he needed to carry his passion forward into actions. When Lewis and Patricia started Le Vigne Wine and Spirits, both of them are professionals in their individual roles. Patricia is a wine lover and knows her wines; Lewis, the whisky man, knows his whisky!

Lewis is a straight-forward whisky drinker – he loves all kinds of whiskies. He judges whiskies not by the distillery, the brand, nor the age of the whisky. He ranks each whisky by the nose, palate, finish and balance. A good whisky needs not to be an old whisky; a good whisky can be young. The character of the whisky is vital in Lewis’ point of view. Without character, the whisky is boring.

Don’t Judge a Whisky by its Age

Lewis encourages his customers to look beyond the age of the whiskies that he carries at the bar. It is not the age that matters, but what goes on behind the production that matters. The care of each production cycle is crucial for every whisky distillery. It includes the type of barley used, the time for fermentation, the distillation methods, the cask selections and finally, the taste profile of each whisky made. While it is true that some whiskies are better with age, it does not mean that every whisky is better when aged.

Lewis concluded with a call to everyone to try whiskies and other spirits with an open mind. When we do that, we discover new profiles, and who knows, we might just like it better than we thought!

Visit The Exciseman Whisky Bar

If all these chat about whiskies is making you thirsty, head over to The Exciseman Whisky Bar and check them out! The address is 8 Raffles Avenue, Esplanade Mall #02-27, Singapore 039802. If you go up the escalator from the mall side, make a U-turn, and walk all the way to the back to find the bar!

Remember to ask Lewis for a recommendation if you are lazy to go through his extensive menu, he is more than happy to do that for you! The Exciseman also offers beer and other spirits such as gin and grappa. Ask Lewis for your favourite drink!

 

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New Bar Alert – The Cooperage @ 42 Hong Kong Street

Picture from The Cooperage

We have many whisky-centric bars in Singapore. The vast choice creates a headache for the whisky lovers sometimes when they need to choose a bar to hang out with like-minded friends. As many whisky bars open, the need to be different becomes essential as each bar strives to build its clientele. We have recently come across one bar that brands itself rather uniquely from the rest, and we jump at the chance to have a chat with bar owner – Paul Tan.

The Cooperage Whisky Bar

One of the newest whisky bars in town, The Cooperage is a bespoke bar located at 42 Hong Kong Street. Paul and Ryan are the guys behind The Cooperage. We spoke to Paul for an exclusive interview with WhiskyGeeks.

Paul and Ryan often felt that whisky bars are intimating in terms of both environment and pricing. It puts beginners off whisky because the setting is not ideal for learning. The price of whisky is also steep in some instances, which makes beginners less inclined to try. Therefore, the duo set out to change that.

The Birth of The Cooperage

Paul and Ryan decided to open a bar that will encourage the general public to come and try a wide range of whisky at an affordable price. They also want to make whisky approachable through a friendly environment where patrons can speak comfortably to any of their servers and get to know more about whisky.

With the concept in mind, The Cooperage is a haven for the common man to start his whisky journey. On the menu, there are whiskies which are offered at friendly prices of $12, $15, $18 and $21. Each of these prices corresponds with a 12, 15, 18 and 21 years old whisky. We could even say that The Cooperage is the place where you bring a non-whisky drinker so that he or she can try a dram for as low as $12.

Whisky Flights that Paul recommends for the adventurous

For the more adventurous, there are various whisky flights available for order. One of the most popular whisky flights at the Cooperage is the Glendiffich Experimental Series. It features the Glenfiddich IPA, the Project XX and the creme of the crop, the Winter Storm. The Cooperage is the first bar to serve the Winter Storm by dram, and so far, this whisky flight has been very well-received.

The other two popular whisky flights are the Macallan Edition Series, featuring Edition No. 1, 2 and 3 as well as the whiskies around the world. The second flight includes the Tomintoul 12 years old, Iwai Mars Maltage Cosmo and the Limeburners Single Malt Port Cask. There are three more whisky flights available at the Cooperage, so if you want to know the whole range, you need to visit the bar!

The Vision for the Bar

In today’s business world, it is easy for an owner to lose the human touch in the F&B industry, especially when the establishment is bigger than what one can easily take care of. However, that is not a problem at the Cooperage, because Paul and Ryan believe in the human touch. Paul explained that having human contact in everything that a whisky bar does is vital as that creates engagement with the customers. If there is no engagement between the whisky bar and the customers, it is harder for the bar to help customers learn more about whisky.

“Some things just need to be traditional,” said Paul.

What is Different at The Cooperage?

Various elements are different at the Cooperage. First of all, the bar offers a “cage system” for its customers. A minimum spending within a month will open the door of a cage where you can put the bottles that you purchase at the bar safely without worry. Return to the bar for a dram or two, and the service crew will help you to retrieve your bottles. You can keep the bottles up to 6 months without charge!

Unlike a typical whisky bar, The Cooperage also offers a decent range of wines and beers to patrons who do not fancy a whisky. Nonetheless, the thing that impressed us the most is that The Cooperage serves excellent food! Now, how many whisky bars can you count that serves food? Besides The Wall SG, the Cooperage is the next one!

The Food at The Cooperage

You get an excellent selection of food at the bar. From canapes to cheese and cold cuts for a snack to a full meal of pasta, donburi and main courses, there is something for everyone.

Left: Salmon with spicy Mentaiko sauce topped with Ikura donburi, Top right: Black Angus Tomahawk, Bottom Right: Spicy Prawn and Scallop Aglio Olio

We had a try of the Salmon with spicy Mentaiko sauce topped with Ikura donburi, and it was simply excellent. The experienced chef cooked the salmon to perfection, and the ikura enhances the flavour in all the right amount. We also heard that the Truffle Black Angus Beef with Foie Gras donburi is fantastic and hence, we will be going back to try that soon! At $22 a bowl, it is an absolute steal!

As foodies ourselves, we had to ask for all the top sellers and here is a list of them! (You are welcome!)

Top Selling Canapes:

  • Lobster Bisque
  • Duck Rillettes
  • Honey-glazed Chicken Lollipop

Top Selling Donburi:

  • Truffle Black Angus Beef with Foie Gras

Top Selling Pasta:

  • Spicy Prawn and Scallop Aglio Olio

Top Selling Main Course:

  • Duck Confit
  • Black Angus Tomahawk (Serves at least four pax; requires reservation)

The Cooperage welcomes children to dine with their parents and is a family-friendly bar. One thing to note is that the whisky bar does not have baby chairs, so young children who need baby chair may pose a slight challenge.

What to Drink at The Cooperage as a Beginner?

We asked Paul what he would recommend to a complete beginner who steps into his bar, asking for a whisky to try. He thought about it seriously, and finally, he said, “well, I would suggest three expressions for this person to choose from. These choices are based on taste and price. First, a Glendronach 12 Years Old because it is approachable and sherried (sweet). Next, it would be a Dalmore 15 Years Old, which is fruity and easy to drink. Finally, for someone who likes heavy flavours, I would recommend the Balvenie 14 Years Old Carribean Rum Cask.”

Sounds about right, don’t you think so?

Plans for the future

We always ask this question to all our whisky bar owners, and we popped the same question to Paul – what are his plans for the future?

Paul has quite a plan, in our humble opinion! His intention of opening the bar is to encourage more people to try whisky and hence, his first long-term plan is definitely to get more people to start trying whisky. He hopes to build a reputation where everyone knows that they can seek an approachable and affordable dram to drink at The Cooperage.

Paul also hopes to make whisky more accessible to the general public so that everyone can drink without hurting their pockets. He wants to eliminate the idea that whisky bars are only for the rich and famous, which I believe that some bars in Singapore are doing the same.

Paul also plans to expand their range of whiskies as they move along. The ideal plan is to change their range once every quarter so that there is always something new for their clients to try.

Events and Whisky Tasting

As an advocate to approachable whisky, The Cooperage is also looking into hosting events and whisky tasting for the general public. Such activities promote education as well as engagement for the general public, making whiskies less intimating. For October, the bar currently has two events coming up.

  1. Introduction to Welsh Single Malt Whisky – Penderyn. This event is a tied up with the distributor of Penderyn whisky in Singapore and will be held on 6 October 2018 from 7 pm onwards. The event will showcase three expressions of Penderyn single malt whisky, namely Penderyn Madeira Finish, Penderyn Sherrywood and Penderyn Portwood.
  2. 100 Years Dalmore Tasting. This event will be hosted by the global ambassador of Dalmore and will feature the 25 years old, 30 years old and 45 years old expressions. It will be held on 19 October from 7 pm onwards.

If you are free on either or both days, why not check out these events? A new whisky experience with Welsh whisky Penderyn is likely to open up yet another horizon while the 100 years Dalmore offers you luxury on an entirely different level!

 

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New Whisky Bar – Tipple and Dram

 

Have you heard from Tipple and Dram Bar? Located at 24 Ann Siang Road, the appearance is that of a wine bar when you first walk into the bright and cheery place with rows upon rows of wine. However, if you go down the stairs to the basement, you walk into a completely different place. Tipple and Dram Bar hides its whisky bar from view, which gave it an air of secrecy and a sense of cosiness when you sip a dram there.

Visiting the “Underground Whisky Bar”

Once you step off the staircase and around the corner, there is a big table with armchairs just inviting you to lounge in them with a Glencairn glass in hand. Continue to walk in, and you will find another table and armchairs to your right, and the bar right in front of you!

Behind the bar, there is yet another table and armchairs just waiting for whisky lovers. If you are not in a big group, the best place to sit is, of course, at the bar. You get a full view of the bottles, and you can just pick the bottles that you want by looking instead of using the menu!

Whisky Selection at Tipple and Dram

Tipple and Dram Bar has a wide selection of special official distillery bottling on offer by the dram. Think of special releases like the Laphroaig Cairdeas (meant only for Friends of Laphroaig) and Bowmore Islay Festival bottling (the bar has an entire range from 2014 to 2017). There are also a series of Cadenhead bottlings to whet the appetite of those who prefer independent bottling.

Geek Choc had a couple of drams from Islay – a Bowmore Islay Festival 2014 and the Laphroaig Brodir. I had an Edradour Fairy Place and a Cadenhead Bladnoch. Our friend, Fab, who went along with us despite a tiring day, comforted himself with a Cadenhead Cragganmore. While we did not get to try a lot of whisky due to time, the drams we had were excellent.

Food at Tipple and Dram

We cannot have this post without talking about the bar food available. We ordered a “Half Half Platter”, which consisted of some hams and cheese.

These were some of the best hams and cheeses I had, especially the cheeses! The French Brie was my favourite as it was incredibly creamy with a super soft and smooth texture. I like the spicy salami as well. The spiciness is well-balanced and pairs well with whisky.

Then, there is the complimentary bread bowl. Flora loves French pastries so you can imagine her excitement at the sight of the bread bowl! Hahaha…The bread complimented the cheese beautifully!

 

What We Hope to See in Future

Tipple and Dram is a very new bar with barely just two months in operation. There is room for improvement definitely, such as leaving the whisky bottle with the customer for a short while so that we can take a picture. It is unfortunate that we only managed one picture of the whisky bottles, but seeing that it is our first time at the bar, we did not wish to encroach on their policies of not having bottles at the bar too.

The selection is broad but not extensive. There is also room for improvement on this one, but the current collection is enough to please a whisky drinker who loves to try the special releases from official distillery bottlings. We understand from the bar manager, Chris, that more will come shortly. They are also working hard to make the whisky bar a haven for everyone to relax and enjoy a dram!

We look forward to seeing whisky flights and more whisky selections at Tipple and Dram. For now, we encourage you to visit them and see the place and the fantastic offer of special distillery bottling that they have available by the glass.

Nordic Passion: Box, The High Coast Distillery

Many of us have not heard of Box Distillery in Singapore. Hailing from Northern Sweden, it is a distillery that showcases the Nordic passion for whisky like no others. The distillery changed its name from Box to High Coast Distillery on 30 June 2018. The decision came about as a practical solution to a complaint filed by Scottish brand Compass Box.

“The name changes links our distillery more closely with the High Coast region and the fabulous place that we live and work in.” Said High Coast distillery CEO Thomas Larsson, in an interview with ScotchWhisky.com. It makes sense for the distillery to create a stronger tie to the land with its name.

Early History of High Coast Distillery

If you wonder why the owners christened the distillery as Box initially, you need to go back to its roots. The site of the High Coast distillery is sitting beside the Ångerman River in Ådalen. It is about 100km north of Sundsvall in Northern Sweden. This area was the heart of the Nordic forestry industry in the past, with sawmills and other timber-related businesses lining the banks of the river. One of these buildings was Box AB, a wooden box production company.

A terrible fire broke out in 1890 and burnt the factory, warehouse and workers’ accommodation to the ground. Unfortunately, the owners could not rebuild Box factory, and by 1912, the building became a wood-fired power station. The power station provided electricity to a nearby timber floating station until 1924. The owners then turned the building into a storage area until timber floating operation ceased in the early 1980s.

The Building of a Dream

The building fell into ruin after the early 1980s. A new lease of life began for the building in 1991, when current distillery owner, Mats de Vahl, took over the old power station. He renovated and transformed the station into an art gallery. The building changes its course again when Mat and his brother Per, visited Scotland. Impressed with the distilleries that they saw, Mat and Per decided to build their passion for whisky into a distillery. After several years of intense planning, the distillery opened in December 2010, and the first barrels were filled before Christmas Eve.

What is Special about High Coast Distillery?

The environment is a unique part about High Coast distillery. Nestled in a remote, rugged landscape with icy-cold water, the dense forest, open areas and clean air contribute to the production of the whisky. The distillery experiments high variation in temperature due to its geographical location and it helps the maturing spirits to attain its flavours through the active interaction with the cask faster. In such an ideal situation, whisky from the High Coast distillery does not need an extended maturation period.

The water that the distillery uses is also a point in contention. High Coast uses water from Bålsjön, a spring-fed lake as it is clean and soft – a perfect combination. Additionally, the distillery filters the water through sand and carbon filters to remove any last bits of impurity.

High Coast’s Production Methods

Mats and Per de Vahl know what they want to achieve right from the start. They want a full-bodied and malty new make, so they make use of pilsner malt. They also take careful consideration to ensure that the wort is clear during the mashing process. A clear wort brings a fruity flavour and hence, they are particular about it. During fermentation, they use only French distillery yeast to bring forth more fruitiness. The fermentation period is also longer to allow production of acids, aldehydes and alcohol sugars for a beautiful, fruity and well-balanced whisky.

Distillation is the most vital part of the production. Careful to take in the fruitiest esters that come off early from distillation, the first cut of their unpeated distillate is around 13 minutes. The second cut of 67% is also earlier than other distilleries to ensure a clean and light whisky. For their peated version, they take the first and second cut 30 minutes longer than the unpeated version.

What is Available at the Distillery?

There are many different activities that you can do at the High Coast Distillery. If you want to know more about the distillery and what they do, take the distillery guided tour for a chance to see it for yourself. The distillery also host a whisky festival on the last Saturday of June every year, where visitors get to sample their products and other liquids from the nearby regions.

There is also the Box Whisky Academy, where visitors stay one week at the distillery and works together with the team. You can learn the craft and knowledge of whisky-making through the different processes and of course, get to taste the whisky from the warehouse!

Finally, you can also become a cask owner by buying a cask from the High Coast Distillery. Known as 39.25 Box Ankare, visitors are welcome to choose a barrel and to buy it as their own. The cask will continue to mature in the warehouse, and you can visit the distillery anytime to try the liquid. To find out more about cask ownership, email the distillery at caskownerservice@boxwhisky.se.

Private Bottling of Box Whisky

To finish up the article, we would like to share that HNWS Taiwan brought a cask of Box Whisky. Bottled at 62% abv, this 5.5 years old whisky is from a 40 litres cask. Fruity and feisty, the liquid is perfect for almost any occasions. 😀

 

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What does it mean to “open up” your whisky?

Seasoned drinkers often like to use the phrase, “open up”, to express their challenges in getting the subtle nuances of the whiskies they drink. What exactly does “open up” means? To explain this in layman’s terms, it merely refers to the patience that a drinker needs to have when drinking whisky, especially older expressions. A whisky deserves to sit in the glass for a while to allow it to reveal the secrets it is hiding inside. The aeration of older whisky is similar to that of old vintage wines. By allowing air to interact with the liquid, a drinker enables the complexities to surface.

Aeration of Whisky

Let’s explore deeper into this idea that whisky needs aeration. Some seasoned drinkers believe that old whiskies slumber long enough in the cask and should be drunk straight away from the moment the liquid hits the glass. These drinkers feel that a 30-year old whisky should not get aired because it has been aired for 30 years in the cask anyway.

However, other drinkers are more patient with their whiskies. They sip and wait while allowing air to interact with the whisky in the glass. Jim McEwan, the legendary master distiller, said, “I advocate letting a whisky sit for one minute for every year of its age. It’s a bit like wine; it needs to breathe. Give it time to open up. You don’t need to let it sit the whole time without touching it, take wee sips along the way, and you’ll notice the difference. It can be quite dramatic.”

Jim went on to say that he had a fantastic time with a Glenfarclas 50-year-old, which surprised him so much with the evolution of its flavours and profile, that he scored it 110/100. “It was so good. I kept coming back to it, and it kept coming back to me, it was incredible,” he said. “Enjoy it, savour it, and you’ll be rewarded.”

Adding Water to Whisky

Adding water is another way to help the whisky to give up its flavours to you. It accelerates the process as the water dilutes the alcohol percentage and dissipates the fumes to help you get to the characters. Nonetheless, it is probably sacrilegious to add lots of water to an old whisky instead of allowing it to sit out in the glass. You are likely to lose the core flavours of the whisky if too much water gets into the glass. “By adding water carelessly, you’re not being clever enough, you’re not thinking about what you’re doing,” Jim said.

Yes, we agreed. Due to our curiosity, we had, on occasions, added copious amount of water into our whiskies (of course, they are not old; they are not our favourites) to see how water changes the profile of the whisky. In some whiskies, the water dilutes the flavours to the extent that only the bad aromas linger (think extreme chilli spice and baby vomit). In others, the water dilutes all the characteristics.

The trick to adding water is a drop at a time. Adding a drop of water to the whisky and allowing it to sit for a minute or two before nosing it again will help you to get the aromas. The water dissipates the alcohol fumes and encourages the underlying flavours to surface.

The Science Behind “Opening Up” the Whisky

To fully understand how to “open up” a whisky, we seek to understand the science behind it. It appears that science supports both approaches discussed above.

An article from Unfiltered, the undisputed whisky magazine from SMWS, refers to Paul Hughes, assistant professor of distilling practice at Oregon State University in the USA. He explains that the main difference between the two approaches is time. The patience of allowing the whisky to open up through aeration uses time as the main component to “unbound” the molecules in the liquid. It results “opening up” the aromas of the whisky gently and naturally. Conversely, adding water to the whisky dilute the alcohol contents in the liquid, “unbound” the molecules quickly and forces the underlying aromas to surface quickly.

“There is good scientific evidence to suggest that compounds clustered when extracted from wood, so they seem to add structure to whisky. A more aged whisky, at least regarding the mass of extractives, might reasonably open more slowly, with wood extractives glueing the clusters together,” said AP Paul Hughes. “The gentle evaporation of alcohol after pouring is preferable to the ‘forced breakdown’ of ethanol clusters by adding water. However, waiting for a 40-year-old whisky to open up might test the patience, so maybe some natural evaporation with a little water would be a good compromise.”

Conclusion

It is still debatable whether you should drink your whisky immediately, allow it to air or to add water to it. There is no right or wrong way. It is ultimately, your preference. We had experiences where a whisky gives up its flaws after aeration instead of giving up its subtle aromas. It deteriorates so quickly that we had to pour it down the sink.

We conclude that whisky is dynamic and that only through experiments can you indeed discover the precious aromas of a particular dram.

Rum and Casks – The Importance of Rum in Whisky

What is it with rums, anyway? Whisky drinkers may or may not like rums for its sweet notes. However, rums are popular amongst many, and it is understandably so. Whisky makers are also increasingly using rum casks to age whisky to capitalise on the sweet notes that rums are famous for.

What is Rum?

Rum is made from either sugarcane juice or sugarcane by-products such as molasses through a process of fermentation, distillation and ageing in oak barrels. The method of making rums is similar to whisky; the difference is in the ingredients. Most of the world’s most famous rums are from the Caribbeans and Latin America. However, there are many other countries which produce rums, such as Japan, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

Rums have different grades. Typically, there are three grades of rums, light (white) rums, dark rums and spiced rums. They are consumed or used in different ways depending on the style that they are made. For example, dark rums are usually consumed on the rocks, or neat, or in a cocktail. Light rums are commonly only used in cocktails, but in modern times, some premium light rums are also drunk on the rocks.

Rum has connections in the maritime industry as it was used as a form of medicine in the past for the armies as well as the pirates.

Rum Grades

While there are typically three grades to categorise rums, the grades and variations in describing rum dependents largely on the location of its origins. These are some of the most frequently used terms to describe rums.

  • Dark Rums: These are identified by their colour, usually in brown, black or dark red. Made from caramelised sugar or molasses, they are generally aged longer in heavily charred oak barrels. The production methods give these rums stronger flavours of molasses or caramel together with a hint of spice. They provide the strong characteristics of rum in cocktails and are also used for cooking. Most dark rums come from Jamaica, Haiti and Martinique.
  • Gold Rums: Also known as “amber rums”, these are medium-bodied rums. They do not age as long as dark rums but still retains the strong flavours of an aged rum. It is midway between dark rums and light rums.
  • Light Rums: Also referred to as “silver” or “white” rums, they have very little flavours besides some sweetness. Light rums are sometimes filtered after ageing to remove their colouring. The milder tastes of light rum are perfect for cocktails, even though their lighter colour and flavours are not used in rum-based drinks. Most of the light rums come from Puerto Rico.
  • Spiced Rums: Spiced rums are processed rums with spices and sometimes caramel. Most spiced rums are processed gold rums. The more affordable brands could be made of white rums with the addition of caramel and spices. Some of the spices used in these rums are rosemary, aniseed, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and cardamon.

Other Types of Rum Categories

There are also other varieties of rums that are lesser known, such as the flavoured rums and premium rums.

Flavoured rums are fruits-infused liquid and generally less than 40% abv. They are used for flavouring in cocktails and sometimes, drunk on their own.

Premium rums are a class above the rest of the rum categories. Similarly to premium whiskies, boutique brands craft them with more flavours and characters. They are generally consumed neat or on the rocks.

Rum’s Production Methods

The production methods differ widely in the rum industry. The traditional styles of a particular locale determine the production method. Nonetheless, rum is made through a similar process as whisky. Rum producers also ferment the basic ingredients – molasses or sugar cane juice using yeast and water before distillation and ageing.

Molasses, the by-product of sugar cane, is the most common ingredient used to make rum. Some producers use sugar cane juice, notably from the French-speaking islands in the Caribbean. A rum’s quality is highly dependent on the quality and the variety of the sugar cane used. In turn, the quality of sugar cane is dependent on the soil and climate it grows in. Therefore, it is usual for rums to differ widely in quality in different places of origins.

Fermentation

Molasses (or sugar cane juice), yeast and water are the three ingredients for fermentation to take place. There is variation in the yeast used as well. Some producers use wild yeast, but most of them use a particular strain of yeast to ensure a consistent taste and stable fermentation time. The yeast used is essential as it will determine the final flavour and aroma profile. Lighter rums use quick yeast while the more flavourful ones tend to use yeast that is slower.

Distillation

There is no standard distillation method. Some producers who make small batch rums use pot stills while most producers use column stills for distillation. The only difference between pot stills and column stills distillation is that pot stills create fuller flavoured rums.

Ageing and Blending

Interestingly, most rum-making countries require producers to age their new-make rums for at least one year. The ageing is done in a charred, ex-bourbon oak barrel or a stainless steel tank. The ageing process gives rum its colour. It becomes dark when aged in an oak cask and remains colourless if aged in stainless steel tanks.

Due to the warm climates in most rum-making countries, rum matures much faster than whisky. The angels’ share of rum is also higher. It goes up to as much as 10% in tropical countries!

The final step in rum-making is to blend the rums for consistent flavours before bottling. Parts of this blending process include filtering light rums to remove the colour taken from oak casks and adding caramel to adjust the hue of dark rums.

Rum and Whisky

It appears that rum and whisky have nothing in common when you first started reading, but it turns out that they have a lot in common. While the production methods differ, the general idea of fermentation, distillation, ageing and vatting (blending in the case of rum) is similar. In a modern world where traditional sherry casks are getting more expensive, it is no surprise that whisky makers are turning to other alternatives such as port casks, rum casks and wine casks for whisky maturation.

Rum casks infused a sweet overtone to the whisky and gave a robust body to it. We enjoyed some rum cask-finished whiskies, like the Glenfiddich 21 years old.  If you love rums as much as you love whisky, be sure to give them equal attention as whisky makers who use rum cask for their ageing depend on you to drink more rum!

 

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Whisky Event – Bruichladdich Old vs New

From left: SMOS 1992, SV 1990, X4+3, Islay Barley 2010

Here’s a new whisky event that Geek Flora and Choc went to in less than a week! Bruichladdich Old vs New event happened at The Single Cask on 9 May 2018. Hosted by both bar manager Brendan and Bruichladdich APAC Brand Ambassador Chloe Wood, it was an awesome evening filled with history and amazing whiskies.

The Lineup

The lineup on 9 May was a stellar one. The liquids came from different eras of the Bruichladdich distillery. We had a Signatory Vintage 1990 Bruichladdich, 26 Years Old, a Single Malt of Scotland 1992 Bruichladdich, 23 Years Old, the X4+3 and the Islay Barley 2010 from the distillery itself. The oldest whiskies came from independent bottlers as Bruichladdich was in a less than desirable situation in the 1990s when it still belonged to Invergordon. If you followed our article about the distillery, you would know that Bruichladdich closed in 1994 and did not reopen until 2001.

The X4+3 was a unique expression as it was quadruple-distilled and aged for only three years (hence the name X4+3)! It came from the era of Mark Reynier and Jim McEwan, the legendary distiller. It is almost impossible to find a bottle now, so if you manage to find one, BUY IT! The Islay Barley 2010 is, of course, one of their newer expressions when the distillery came under the guidance of their current master distiller – Adam Hannett.

The Event Proper

The event started not with the whiskies, but with pizzas and garlic bread, compliments from the good folks at The Single Cask and Bruichladdich. After they fed us, the event started with Brendan and Chloe up on “stage”.

Brendan and Chloe up on “Stage”

They explained that they originally wanted to start the tasting session with the old vintages, but changed their minds. They were starting with the youngest one! The reason was simple – we are likely to taste the difference better when we did the young to the old. So, that’s precisely what we did!

Islay Barley 2010 (50% abv)

The Islay Barley is slightly different from the regular Scottish Barley as it has a salty tint to it. We would like to think that it is due to the Islay barley used. While the typical sweetness of a Bruichladdich is prominent, there is this unique coastal salt, and toasty cereal notes to it. The spice is also sharper than the regular Scottish Barley. Overall, it is a lovely dram that you can enjoy any time of the day.

X4+3 (63.5% abv)

X4+3 is exceptional. That is Geek Flora talking, by the way. The sweetness of the whisky is so distinctively pears, green apples and melons! This is one whisky for the sweet tooths! The palate has hints of coastal salt and lemons coupled with light tangy spice at the tip of the tongue. Even though this is only aged for three years, the creaminess and oiliness of the whisky are remarkable. We supposed it has something to do with it being quadruple-distilled.

SMOS 1992, 23 Years Old (55.4% abv)

The SMOS 1992 was one of the crowd’s favourite that night. As it was from the Invergordon era, the distillate differed slightly from the modern ones. There was this pine note within the whisky, which kind of differentiate it as a whisky made for blends (we think). The nose was fresh with pine, melon and lime. The palate presented a bouquet of flowers, with oak, light melon and hints of lime. Warm spice lingered in the middle and back of the tongue. Unfortunately, the finish was short with pine-oak and floral notes. It was also dry. Again, the finish showcased a whisky that was perfect for blending, but not so great perhaps, as a single malt due to a rather short finish at such a high abv.

Signatory Vintage 1990, 26 Years Old (53.4% abv)

As for the Signatory Vintage 1990, it was a little different because it was a sherry-cask matured whisky. However, it appeared to be slightly lacking as it did not showcase typical sherry notes. The nose was promising, with cherry, hints of cranberries (some say baby vomit), green apples and some savoury salted meats. The palate was warm spice, red fruits and hints of salt. While the finish is long, salty and dry, it did not give a high satisfaction. Were our expectations too high? We are not so sure.

After Party at The Single Cask

We stayed way longer than we planned to (as usual). Initially, it was to savour and finish our drams, especially the X4+3 and the SMOS 1992. As the crowd left and the bar quietened, it became a great place for conversation. We had a chat with Chloe and a fellow Laddie fan, Fiona, and spoke about Laddie t-shirts! Haha! So, we decided to take this photo below.

Laddie fans united with our Laddie Ambassador!

It was such a beautiful picture, isn’t it! Chloe and Brendan had on the Bruichladdich Polo Tee, while Geek Flora and Choc had our Unicorn Bruichladdich and Octomore Tee. Fiona was wearing her 2017 Feis Ile tee! We love this so much that we named it the “Laddie fans united with our Laddie Ambassador” picture!

A Laddie Cocktail

Islay Barley 2010 Whisky Sour

Just as we were about to leave, Brendan said, “How about an Islay Barley Whisky Sour?” We just had to stay for that because Brendan made terrific cocktails! Most of you who know Flora personally know that she is not a cocktail person, but she took two big sips from this glass that she shared with Chloe. It was the perfect answer to how yummy this whisky sour was. Stunningly balanced between the sweetness and the alcohol, this whisky sour is probably something that you will keep wanting to come back for.

After emptying the glass, it was time to head home. So we bid goodbye to Brendan and Chloe and made our way back. It was an excellent evening to be sure. If you have never been to a Bruichladdich event, come to the next one. We promise that you will not be disappointed.

 

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Interview: Chris Martin, Wine and Spirits Education Trust

Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is a global educational institution providing quality education for the wine and spirits industry. Founded in 1969 as a charitable trust, WSET gains recognition and confidence from the global community through its commitment to quality education over the years.

History of WSET

Before 1969, the Wine and Spirit Association of Great Britain spearheaded the education initiatives in U.K. When WSET came into being in 1969 after getting the necessary funding from The Vintner’s Company, it took over the education initiatives. The founders came from the various cornerstones of the U.K wine and spirits trade. Representatives from each of the founding organisations still serve on their Board of Trustees today. The founding companies are:

  • The Vintner’s Company
  • The Wine and Spirits Association of Great Britain (WSA) – now the WSTA
  • Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW)
  • Worshipful Company of Distillers

WSET offered three qualifications for trade professionals when it first started in 1969. Educators delivered all the courses at their London-based office.

By 1977, WSET set its foot out into the global market. With demands coming in strong, the company launched its courses in the Republic of Ireland and Ontario, Canada. From then onwards, the founding fathers of WSET did not look back, opening more doors with each passing year. In 1991, France got the first WSET course in Europe, and a German-language course followed suit in Austria in 1993. The next step saw the Trust going into the USA in 1994 and Japan in 1997.

Accreditation by the U.K Government

In 2001, WSET gained official accreditation from the UK Government. The Trust renamed their qualifications in-line with the UK National Qualification Framework guidelines as well. From 2001 onwards, more qualifications become available as the Trust expands its professional certifications. They also launched a Global Campus in 2004. By 2007, the international students taking WSET qualification exceeded UK student for the first time. Moving with speed, the trust grows bigger, and by the time it celebrates its 45th anniversary, it has an annual student population of 50,000. Today, WSET offers nine qualifications in 73 countries, with a network of 600+ course providers and an international student population of over 75% of the total student body each year.

Chris Martin, International Development Advisor

We met Chris for the first time during ProWine Asia 2018 at the WSET booth on Tuesday. Both Geek Choc and I were happy to share our passion with Chris and “talk shop” with him for a while. After knowing that we are bloggers, Chris kindly agreed to a short interview with us to speak about his role in WSET and what the Trust offers.

Chris involves himself in the international business development within the company. His primary role is to identify new, potential schools in South-east Asia, Japan and Korea. He also supports and promotes WSET within these regions. Chris reveals that Singapore has in the top 20 ranking for the most number of schools available! Good to know, isn’t it?

Different levels of Qualifications

We understand from Chris that there are different levels of qualifications within the WSET framework. The levels range from Level 1 to Level 4. Level 1 and 2 are entry levels where individuals with little or no knowledge should attend to gain precious information about the topic of interest. It is also a good starting point for new entrants into the wine and spirits industry. Moving upwards, Level 3 and 4 are for decision-makers, owners and merchandisers. The qualifications in Level 3 and 4 are in-depth knowledge for these group of professionals and the length of the course increase dramatically as well. In fact, Level 4 is a graduate diploma course and lasts for two years!

After the graduate diploma, students can progress to a Master degree if there is an available one in their topic of interest. Currently, there is only a Master of Wine qualification, but who knows what will evolve in the future.

Chris also shared that there is an alumni where all students get to join and network with the global professionals in the wine and spirits industry.

Moving Forward with Quality Education

Chris revealed that there are more courses in the pipeline moving forward. Spirits lovers will be delighted to know that there are plans to launch Level 3 and 4 courses in the coming two years. I know I am excited! As for those of you who are only interested in whisky, check out the Whisky Ambassador course offered by their partner schools in Singapore!