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Looking for Rare Whisky? Find them at Dom Whisky Online

Whisky is trending as THE drink of the generation and we know that some of you are probably looking for rare or hard to find bottles. Instead of bemoaning the whisky’s unattainability, perhaps you would like to check out Dom Whisky Online. We came across the website and their stunning range of whiskies quite by accident.

Who is Dom Whisky?

Dom Whisky is the brainchild of Mr Andrzej Kubiś, a whisky lover in Poland. Known as “House of Whisky”, the brand first started as a whisky bar in the northern Polish seaside town of Jastrzębia Góra in 2009. Fast forward to today, Dom Whisky now owns various bars and shops across Poland, and also has its online presence as Dom Whisky Online.

One of the Largest Whisky Bars

Dom Whisky is a likely candidate for the crown of the largest whisky bars in the world. Housing more than 2000 whiskies, it has both official bottlings and independent bottlings. In the eyes of Forbes writer, Felipe Schrieberg, the title of the largest whisky bar in the world goes to either Dom Whisky or Artisan restaurant in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Keeper of the Quaich

Andrzej is no noob to whisky. In 2018, he was inducted as “Keeper of the Quaich” for his contribution to the Scotch whisky industry. The recognition is a well-deserved proof of Andrzej’s work and his passion for Scotch whiskies.

Dom Whisky Online

Since international travels is still a dream for the future, let us focus on what Dom Whisky Online offers. Once you head over the link, you will want to click on the links at the top to go straight into the whisky selection. There is currently around 4000 whiskies listed, and some of them are pretty rare. For example, you will be able to find a few expressions of closed distilleries bottlings, such as Littlemill and Lochside, from the website.

The website has a lot of whiskies which may be “regular whiskies” in Singapore’s context, but if you spend some time to go through the website page by page, you may just find something that you are looking for. It’s a treasure trove for people who want to look for specific whiskies. If you have no time or patience to search through the website, drop Dom Whisky’s manager an email at mkubis@sklep-domwhisky.pl to ask for assistance.

International Shipping Available

Dom Whisky Online ships internationally through UPS. Do be sure to advise them of any specific instructions for shipping to your respective countries if there are any. At the moment, I think there may be difficulties shipping through the United States, but all other countries should be pretty easy with UPS.

Other kinds of spirits

Dom Whisky Online does not only serve up whisky. If you are a fan of other spirits, you’ll be just as pleased to browse through the website to see their offerings. Besides their national drink, Vodka, Dom Whisky also stocks calvados, cognacs, armagnacs, cachaca, grappa, to name a few. There are also pastis and pisco which are interesting.

Dom Whisky Online can be found here. We hope you will enjoy browsing the website as much as we do!

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    BenRiach’s New Range

    BenRiach has always been GlenDronach‘s shy sibling, but not anymore! Dr Rachel Barrie has shaken up the core range and BenRiach is getting more of the spotlight!

    BenRiach – The Chameleon Malt

    BenRiach is a distillery in Speyside, known for its experimental distillation and maturation ever since Billy Walker bought over the distillery in 2003. Why do I spell BenRiach with a capital R? It’s Billy Walker’s signature mark to capitalise a letter in the middle of the name, like GlenDronach or GlenAllachie. Pretty much like the late Stan Lee’s cameos in Marvel movies. Being one of the first few distilleries in Speyside to triple-distil their spirit shows how willing they are to break regional stereotypes and experiment! They even started distilling peated spirit since the 1970s!

    In some whisky circles, BenRiach single malts have been known as the ‘chameleon malt’. To clarify, this means that the spirit character adapts well to various casks and cask finishes. What is cask finishing? It is taking a matured whisky in a more gentle cask, usually American white oak casks and transferring the whisky to another cask to add a layer of flavours. And just how adventurous was Billy Walker with cask-finishes? Well, just for example, if you would look into the archives, BenRiach has gone into Madeira casks, Sauternes casks, dark rum, tawny port and wine casks! The spirit worked well, fitting into various casks of different flavours, like a chameleon changing colours based on its environment. However, some people find it difficult to pin down BenRiach’s signature spirit character.

    The baton is in good hands

    Dr Rachael Barrie, Master Blender and Keeper of the Quaich. Photo Credits to Brown-Forman and MaltWine Asia

    So, how has Dr Rachael Barrie changed the new range? In my opinion, I think that she played to the strengths of BenRiach’s chameleon character whilst addressing its confusing nature. That is to say, the new bottlings feature BenRiach matured in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in casks like Jamaican rum, Port, or Marsala and blends it with full-term matured Benriach to create unique flavour combinations. In my opinion, this is absolutely genius! It showcases BenRiach’s chameleon nature with cask finishes whilst securing a consistent house-style with ex-bourbon maturation. In addition, Brown-Forman, who owns several American Whiskey distilleries, is also providing BenRiach with quality ex-bourbon casks!

    The new packaging is ironically a call back to the packaging of BenRiach in the 1990s, when BenRiach was owned by Seagram’s.

    Photo Credits to Brown Forman, Malt Wine Asia, and WhiskyBase

    BenRiach The Original Ten

    Photo Credits to Brown Forman and Malt Wine Asia

    The Original Ten is a combination of peated and unpeated spirit. As a result, the blend produces a lightly smoky malt, which was what some Speyside whiskies were like in the past. Bottled at 43%, the label declares the casks used, namely, Bourbon casks, Sherry casks and Virgin casks. This is largely ex-bourbon dominant, so this bottling has a more fruit-forward character with a trace of smoke that becomes a little more distinct with time and a couple drops of water!

    Out of the four new releases, I really enjoy this the most! I was surprised by the blending expertise that ensured the balance between peated and unpeated Single Malt. It gave me flashbacks of the Arran Smuggler’s Series. Although, I would love to see a version of this at an abv of 46% or higher someday!

    BenRiach The Smoky Ten

    Photo Credits to Brown Forman and Malt Wine Asia

    The Smoky Ten is a revamp of the 10yo Curiositas, but a little funkier! This 10-year-old single malt features some peated BenRiach with a Jamaican rum cask finish, giving it more fruitiness! With the Virgin oak contributing more to the body, I would say that this would be a delightful daily dram for a peat lover!

    BenRiach The Twelve

    Photo Credits to Brown Forman and Malt Wine Asia

    I expected this unpeated 12yo to be pretty popular in the room for the media event, and it was. Being based on the previous sherried BenRiach 12yo bottlings, this now features a combination of full-term sherry matured single malt with some Port-cask finished stock. In my opinion, this brings about more of that bourbon-cask fruity house style. For any sherried malt lovers, this bottling would be something you might want to try!

    BenRiach The Smoky Twelve

    Photo Credits to Brown Forman and Malt Wine Asia

    This is a rather interesting entry, as it offers the BenRiach peated experience with a bit more European oak spice notes from the sherry and marsala casks. I like it that the core features casks from more unique fortified wines!

    Concluding Thoughts

    As a person who causally blends whiskies as a small party trick or for my own enjoyment, I can feel the expertise and mastery of the art Dr Rachel Barrie has put into this core range. And I know it’s out of her control, and I know Brown Forman does want to make BenRiach appealing for the mass market, but I do wish some of these entries were unchill-filtered so I could really get the full character of BenRiach. Maybe we need to start educating more whisky drinkers to understand the beauty of scotch mist!

    If you’re interested in the new bottlings or the old unchillfiltered bottlings, do check out MaltWineAsia with this link! They have both! There are some cask strength single cask BenRiachs under S$200 as well!
    Special thanks to MaltWineAsia, Brown Forman and Stewart Buchanan! Look out for the BenRiach distillery article next week!

    Punjab Grill and Penderyn Dinner

    Within Marina Bay Sands Shoppes lies a unique fine dining Indian restaurant, Punjab Grill. The food using Traditional North Indian styles and flavours and reimagines them for a fine-dining experience. In collaboration with Spirits Castle, they are introducing a new 5-course whisky pairing dinner! 

     

    The dinner started with some fantastic papadum and a spherical rice-crispy to kick start the appetite. After that came a beautiful Starter paired with the first whisky!

    Starter:

    The sphere on of the left is a Chicken Minced Truffle Kofta Kebab, and pairs well with the Penderyn Myth! This contrast brings out the sweetness in the whisky and the savouriness of the chicken. On the right is Beet & Lotus Root patty stuffed with cheddar cheese; which looks like a dream veggie patty with its fantastic texture, crunch and deep red colour. But the patty works best with the spicy Orange Dijon Mustard Chutney and Black Lentils Korma Sauce.

     

    1st Entre:

    I appreciated how the Jumbo prawn was deshelled, as I am rather lazy myself. The prawn itself was humongous and incredibly juicy. That sweetness, along with the Tellicherry Pepper and the fragrant Coconut sauce works beautifully with the slightly smoky, coastal umami flavours of the Laphroaig Peated.

    Following this first entre was also a refreshing fruity Sorbet to cleanse the palate before the next meal. I like this concept as Indian cuisines are usually heavier and the sorbet provides the acidity so as to cut through the oils and hit the refresh button on my palate.

    2nd Entre

    Next came the second entre Tandoori Grilled Lamb Ribs with Palak Gucchi Mushroom Risotto-style Briyani. The Risotto contains Gucchi, a rare wild mushroom from the Himalayas. Along with the Palak base, the risotto was rich, creamy and flavourful. The lamb is intensely flavourful and has a nice char that adds to the texture!

    Similarly, the whisky alongside the lamb was just as bold in flavour. The Penderyn Sherrywood is robust, with notes of dried fruit, cinnamon and guava. This pairing juxtaposes beautifully with the flavours of grilled lamb and the savoury risotto, yet matches it in the intensity of flavour.

    For anyone who is not as keen on mutton, the 2nd Entre provides a second option of Pan-seared Cottage Cheese Tikka which is equally rich and flavourful. The different spices and textures made the dish stand up to the bold flavours and characteristics of the Penderyn Sherrywood.

    This dish came along with the restaurant’s incredible garlic naan and fantastic dippings.

    Dessert:

    Lastly, the dessert is a Cheesecake that incorporates the Penderyn Madeira. On the cake were slices of Galab Juman, another kind of Indian dessert. The cheesecake itself has the fruitiness and sweetness of Penderyn but does not have any alcohol bite! 

    The dinner overall is a very unique fine-dining experience – Traditional Indian recipes and flavours in a fine-dining venue paired with Welsh Single Malt. You will be hard-pressed to find a fine-dining combination more unique than this.

    If you are interested, you can call +65 6688 7395 to book this dinner!

    Many thanks to Spirits Castle and Punjab Grill for this experience! 😀

    Paul John – 6-row barley Whisky

    Whiskygeeks sat down for an extraordinary tasting with Yash, the brand ambassador for Paul John whisky! He’s a geek himself, graduating from the Harriet Watts brewing and distilling masters course, and I have learnt a lot!

    The Barley

    One of the unique things about Paul John is their use of 6-row barley for their core range whisky production. However, this is not bere barley from Orkney; this 6-row barley originated from the Himalayas and grows in India today. In contrast, most whisky producers use 2-row barley like Concerto or Optic strains. In Scotch, the most common 6-row barley used is Bere Barley that originates from Orkney. 

    While the 2-row barley has more sugar but fewer proteins and fats, it is the reverse for 6-row barley. As we would need sugar to ferment to alcohol, this means that the alcohol yield for 6-row barley is lower than 2-row barley. However, for 6-row barley, the higher content of barley fats and protein results in more flavour and complexity in its spirit character. 

    The Peat

    Paul John produces peated and unpeated whisky and brings in 2 kinds of Scottish peat. The barley is peated using Islay peat and Mainland peat to approximately 20-25ppm and 30-35ppm respectively. The Paul John Bold uses Islay peat while the Paul John Edited uses mainland peat. These two bottles make an interesting comparison between peat from 2 different regions as the whisky comes from the same pot stills.

    The Fermentation

    The fermentation process is approximately 70 hours in total, using a unique strain of yeast that performs well in Goa’s hot climate. The wash undergoes a 60-hour primary fermentation and sits in the washback for an additional 10 hours to develop flavour. During the warmer seasons, the fermentation is slightly faster, and during the colder seasons, more time is given for fermentation.

    Distillation

    The copper pot stills in Paul John distillery is not from Forsyths, but they were made locally in India! The still features an ascending lyne arm, which causes more reflux, allowing for a sweeter lightly distillate. 

    The Maturation

    The angel’s share in Goa is 8% per annum, which means that whisky ageing in Goa will lose 22% of its original volume in 3 years. However, as whisky matures faster in a warm climate, a 3-year-old whisky in India would taste like a 12 to 15-year-old Scotch! 

    For the past few years, Paul John has released mostly American white oak matured whisky primarily due to the law in India with importing casks. There is a new upcoming bottle that I cannot talk about at the time of writing this article, but let me say this – Christmas is coming early for sherried whisky drinkers! 😛

    Paul John’s main ageing facility is on the ground level with ventilation from the wind. The distillery also has an underground cellar with a slightly lower angel’s share. Yash told us that it’s a challenge to stay in the underground cellar as the alcohol vapours are thick and intoxicating!

    Challenge accepted!

    A Chat with Brendan McCarron from Glenmorangie

    Brendan McCarron, Head of Maturing Whisky Stocks at The Glenmorangie Company

    WhiskyGeeks is fortunate to get a chance to speak with Brendan McCarron, the Head of Maturing Whisky Stocks at the Glenmorangie Company, during our DFS event. As the heir apparent to whisky legend, Dr Bill Lumsen, Brendan has plenty to work on. He joins the company five years ago and started work with the whisky creation team alongside Dr Bill.

    Brendan’s Whisky History

    Brendan hails from Glasgow, Scotland. As a chemical engineering graduate, he started his career in the whisky industry in 2006 when he joined Diageo. After three years, Brendan began work as the distillery manager at Oban. Two years later, he left for “Peatland” – Islay, where he worked with Lagavulin, Caol Ila and of course, Port Ellen.

    Port Ellen is a malting facility where Brendan got to work with the maltsers on different requirements. Making smoky malted barley was probably one of his favourite thing to do! The smoky malted barley was also the reason that Brendan got to know Dr Bill Lumsen. After ten years of working as a distillery manager, Brendan decided to change his direction and joined The Glenmorangie Company as part of their whisky creation team.

    Brendan’s Unique Journey

    Brendan has a fantastic whisky journey from the day he joined the industry in 2006. He is probably one of the very few people in Scotland who has worked on all aspects of whisky making. From designing a brand-new distillery (building it!) to malting, distilling and maturing whisky, Brendan has done it all. These experiences at the various distilleries and malting houses have shaped Brendan’s knowledge and expertise along the way. Additionally, he also went out of his way to acquire theoretical knowledge through his pursuit of books, courses and degrees. All of these add to his practical experience and give him a well-rounded education in whisky making.

    Glenmorangie and its whiskies

    Glenmorangie Whiskies (Picture Credit: Glenmorangie.com)

    We had a short chat with Brendan on the different exciting whiskies that are coming shortly. We understood that there is a 25-year-old whisky released, but so far, we have yet to see it land in Singapore. It may be soon, but we do not know when.

    The exciting part of the chat is, of course, the single cask #1399, that we tasted during the DFS tie-up event that we did on 22 June 2019. It is part of their latest project to launch exclusive single casks for specific countries. Making its debut as a travel retail exclusive bottle is naturally the best way for a brand to market a rare single cask bottling in Singapore considering the sheer volume of people passing through our airport!

    Glenmorangie’s Affairs with Wood

    Wood has always been the talk for Glenmorangie. We know that they used exceptional “designer” oak casks for some of their limited edition whiskies. We asked Brendan about these casks.

    The creative team at the distillery involves itself in the creation of the oak casks from the start. Their research led them to the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, USA, where they found slow-growing wood that suits the spirit of Glenmorangie. To bring the effects of the slow-growth wood further, the team discovered the trees in the Mark Twain National Forest, where the oak trees grow slowly and develop the porous nature that the Glenmorangie team needs for its whiskies.

    The Making of Artisan American White Oak Casks

    An Oak Cask (Photo Credit: Glenmorangie.com)

    The entire process of making these oak casks started with the identification of specific trees within the Mark Twain National Forest. These trees are cut and then air-dried for two years for maximum effects. Air-drying not only reduces astringency and improves the wood’s permeability; it also enhances the soft and rich flavours of the Glenmorangie whiskies.

    These tight-grained but porous wood are then made into casks. The casks will be heavily toasted and then lighted charred for the distillery’s needs. The cooperage then fills bourbon whisky in the casks for precisely four years. It is like clockwork. Once four years is up, the casks are ready for shipment to the Scottish Highlands. The whole process takes six years to complete. Such dedication to oak casks is impressive, and we salute the team for going through with this process.

    Designer Wood Casks for Limited Edition Whiskies

    Some of the designer wood casks hold the core range of the whiskies from Glenmorangie; others hold limited edition whiskies. One of the famous limited edition is the Glenmorangie Astar. Our team got the chance to taste the Astar at another event held at The Exciseman on 1st July, where Brendan gave a presentation to both trade and consumer alike. We will speak of that another time.

    Due to the higher porosity of the cask, the whisky soaks better into the wood, extracting flavours that the distillery is after. The distillery also uses these designer casks only twice for maturation purposes. Brendan explained that the casks are no longer suitable after two uses, and they usually sell the majority of these casks. Some get left behind for experiments, and a small number of them go to Ardbeg.

    Are Flat-Packing Barrels still a Cost-Saving Practise?

    We asked Brendan some essential financial questions as well, that affects production. In the past, some distilleries broke up the ex-bourbon barrels they bought and flat pack them before shipping to Scotland. Once the vessel landed, the distilleries brought the staves to a cooperage and rebuilt the casks. The practice affected the quality of the casks, and the whiskies matured in such casks become a debatable topic.

    According to Brendan, this practice is hardly used in Scotland’s distilleries today. The discovery that they do not save cost by doing so was one of the significant factors. However, the debate on the practice that MAY have affected production was probably the main factor that led to the abolishment.

    The abolishment, unfortunately, led to a reduction of hogshead as most hogsheads are rebuilt from standard barrels. While this is a loss to the whisky industry, we must remember that cost is always a factor for end-consumers because higher cost equates to higher prices!

    The Truth about Virgin Oak Casks

    Some distilleries are making use of virgin oak casks to mature some of their whiskies. We even know of new distilleries that make use of virgin oak maturation to reduce the number of years needed to produce delicious whisky. Glenmorangie uses virgin oak casks as well, and we wanted to know what Brendan thinks about them. He thinks, that virgin oak casks may prove to be too strong an influence on Glenmorangie’s new make spirits. The virgin oak casks may hide the fruity notes of Glenmorangie and make it “un-Glenmorangie”. Brendan prefers to do finishes with virgin oak casks instead.

    It is of interest to know that Glenmorangie does a lot of wood finishes to bring flavours to their whiskies. For example, the distillery finished the Lasanta in Oloroso and PX sherry cask, the Quinta Ruban in Ruby Port Pipes and the Nectar D’òr in Sauternes casks.

    Factors that Affects the Choices of Cask Finishes

    Brendan explained that they do not know all the elements of influences when the creative team chooses the cask finishes. They know for a fact that the spirit of Glenmorangie works well with Port and Sauternes casks finishes. Unfortunately, they do not know the reaction to all the casks in the world. Therefore, it is much of a trial and error for the team when they are choosing the cask finishes. By selecting items of interest which the team thinks would work with the spirit, they came up with various experiments of different finishing casks. The availability of the casks is also crucial, as they need enough casks to complete a new finishing experiment.

    Brendan mentioned that the team also takes the opportunity when it comes knocking. If their suppliers offer casks which they have not tried before, they may take a few of the casks to create new experiments. Some experiments will succeed while others may not. Part of the fun is finding out if it works. For those of you who are curious, the casks that don’t work are not thrown away! The team reracks the “unworkable” casks into sherry or ex-bourbon casks to “reset” them. Usually, the age of the whisky will also help to rectify any issues that the team finds.

    Brendan Wants YOU to Know This!

    Brendan, the whisky expert

    We thought that we have enough technical talk, so we asked Brendan what the one thing that he would like the whisky community to know is. The answer is not surprising. Brendan wants everyone to know that a single malt whisky comes from a SINGLE whisky distillery. It is one of the most misunderstood terms in the whisky industry. Many whisky drinkers confused single malt whisky and single cask whisky. Brendan shares his frustrations at how he always get that same question – “How is the whisky still a single malt whisky when you blend all these casks to create it?”

    To set the record straight, Brendan shares that a single malt whisky can be a “blend” of 15 casks from the SAME distillery. As long as the whisky is made from malted barley and is not blended with whisky from another distillery, it is a single malt whisky.

    What You Can Do If You Want to Work for a Whisky Distillery

    Most of our younger folks here would probably be keen to work for a whisky distillery. We ask Brendan what we need to do if we want to work for a distillery. Here is his advice.

    Get a science-related degree if you want to be on the distilling team. Chemical engineering or chemistry is a good start. Otherwise, biochemistry is helpful too. There are, however, many ways to get involved. You can still work in the industry even if you have a business degree. You can join the distillery in sales or marketing with it. Nonetheless, you will still need the passion and love for whisky before you can comfortably stay in the industry.

    Do not despair if you do not have any of those. Brendan said that having experience is equally vital if you are not Scottish and want to work in Scotland. He started in pharmaceutical and the knowledge he gained there translated into his next job with Diageo. Working in a brewery also helps because that involves two stages of the whisky distillation. Ultimately, the potential candidate needs to be open and adaptable. When you combine the passion for whisky and your openness to adapt, you will be able to make headway into the career that you want. Start with a job that you can do and learn from there. You will never know where that will take you!

     

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      Nantou Distillery (Omar whisky) visit!

      Nantou distillery has been making Omar, a Taiwanese whisky, since 2008. The distillery tours there are quite like those of Scotland. The tour guide makes the experience more intimate, more personalised and less commercial. Nantou distillery’s willingness to experiment makes them unique, especially to whisky geeks like myself! I know many of you are more interested in the whisky; so I will leave the technical production details to later in the article!

      Omar Whisky

      Nantou winery makes different fruit wines and liqueurs which can be used to season casks for unique cask finishes. Omar whisky has released whisky finished in casks of Lychee Liqueur, Plum liqueur, Black-Queen Wine and Orange liqueur.

      Batch 4 Lychee Liqueur Cask Finish

      This Lychee liqueur finish has a balanced Lychee note that does not overpower the whisky. I enjoyed the tropical fruit notes of pineapple and mango alongside notes of pear drops!

      Batch 1 Orange Liqueur Cask Finish

      This dram is for the orange lover with notes of orange puree, orange zest, and orange flower water alongside some lovely notes of vanilla and honey from its prior maturation.

      I am particularly fond of their bourbon cask strength, both peated and unpeated! But do not fret about the age statements. Due to a higher average temperature, maturation speeds are a lot faster than Scotland. A 3-year-old whisky at Nantou would taste similar to an 8 to 12-year-old whisky matured in Scotland. The 8-year-old cask strength is a special release; it feels like a 15-20-year-old scotch.

      Omar 8yo 2009 Cask Strength

      This 8yo is very soft and demure, giving notes of old oak, vanilla, pears and mandarin oranges!

      Omar 3yo 2014 Peated Cask Strength

      The 3-year-old peated cask strength displayed a high calibre of maturation, with the right balance of peat smoke. Water will draw out more smoke for people who love that note! This delicious yet affordable single cask would be good smoky daily dram!

      Omar 10yo 2008 PX Sherry Cask

      For sherry bomb lovers, this is an absolute sherry nuke or WMD! This is the result of 8 years in sherry hogshead before finishing in a PX cask for two years. This dram holds notes of Christmas cake, cinnamon, chocolate, plums and dried fruit!

      Barley

      TTL buys barley in bulk from multiple maltsters. Most of the unpeated barley is from maltsters in England, while most of the peated barley at 35ppm is from maltsters based in Scotland. The moisture content is also similar to specifications required in Scottish distilleries, around 4%.

      Milling & Mashing

      The barley is milled into grist with the standard ratio of 70% grist, 20% barley husk and 10% flour. Distilleries maintain specific ratios to assist in the filtration of wort and to prevent choking in the pipes. The grist is sent to a German semi-lauter mash tun with a charge of 120000L. Hot water is added three times; the first and second streams form the wort. The third stream, called the sparge, picks up the remaining sugars, but it is low in sugar. The sparge is not mixed with the first 2 streams, but to maximise sugar recovery. This is done by reusing the sparge for the first stream to be added to the next batch of grist.

      Fermentation

      The wort goes into one of the stainless steel washbacks to undergo fermentation, turning it into a strong beer called wash. In this stage, the yeast will start eating the sugar in the wort and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. For Omar whisky, this fermentation process takes an average of 72 hours using French distiller’s yeast. This is slightly longer than the 48 hours of fermentation in most modern Scottish distilleries. The wash from Omar is around 7-8% alcohol by volume (abv).

      Distillation

      Pot stills

      The wash goes into one of 2 wash stills to be distilled into low wines. This distillation removes the barley solids leaving mostly ethanol, water and aromatic compounds. The low wines are pipped into the spirit still for its second distillation to reduce water content. Nantou Distillery currently has 2 Wash Stills and 2 Spirit Stills. One spirit still is different, as it, strangely enough, has a window. The stills are of varying sizes, one at 7000L, two at 5000L and the last one at 2000L.

      Cut of the Heart

      There are three components in the spirit still distillate. The head comes first at a high abv, followed by the heart, which is what goes into the barrels, and lastly comes the tail which has a lower abv. The cut of the heart affects the new make spirit and how the whisky tastes. If the cut starts at a higher abv, the new make spirit gets lighter, fruity notes, but also more undesirable flavours from the heads. If the cut ends too low, it gets heavier flavours but risk lowering the final abv.

      The master distiller decides how to balance these two points. For Omar, the cut of the heart is somewhere between 73% and 64%. This means that the stillmen sends distillate above 73% (heads) and below 64% (tails) into a tank to be redistilled. The heart that is within the range will go into barrels for maturation. Due to Taiwan’s legislation, Nantou Distillery reduces the strength of their new make spirit to just below 60% abv before filling in casks.

      Maturation

      Cask Management

      Nantou distillery receives the sherry and bourbon casks whole so that the cask maintains its inherent quality. Nantou distillery uses ex-bourbon casks up to 3 times. As for Sherry casks, there is no fixed numerical limit. Craftsmen will keep utilising the sherry cask until they deem it to be too exhausted to provide flavour. According to the tour guide, the sherry casks usually provides stronger flavours in Nantou’s climate, therefore using refill would give a more balanced dram.

       

      3rd and 4th fill Bourbon casks are usually used for seasoning with wines or liqueurs. This is extraordinarily creative, because a 3rd or 4th fill cask may not provide as much cask influence, but they can act as a sponge to soak up the previous liquid. This means that such a seasoned cask would deliver the flavours of the previous content without over-oaking the product. These seasoned casks are used for the various Omar whisky finishes.

      Warehouse

      Most of Nantou distillery’s warehouses are racked for easy access to the individual cask. Amongst the racked warehouses, Nantou distillery also has a specially designed warehouse with space for future tasting events. This warehouse has an architecture heavily influenced by the sherry bodegas in Spain. The casks stacked up to three high and is a mimic of the solera system in a sherry bodega. Though the ceiling is lower, the arcs near the ceiling are similar to Bodegas in Spain. As a comparison, these are some pictures of the bodegas I visited in Jerez de la Frontera. On the left is Bodega Diez Merito, on the right is Bodega Fundador.

       

      Distillery Expansion

      Omar is looking to expand its production capacity by adding 3 more pairs of wash and spirit stills! The distillery is also undergoing renovation to accommodate larger tour crowds. In addition, Omar is continuing to experiment with new and different finishes! It is an exciting time ahead for Omar whisky and Nantou distillery is a must go on your Taiwan trip!

       

      Special thanks to Nantou Distillery, Chairman Chung, and Ben for this enjoyable experience!

      Whisky Review #104 – Cragganmore 1989 27 Years

      Cragganmore 1989 27 Years Old

      Our recent visit to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, was pretty much a whisky trip. We landed ourselves in The Drunken Master Whisky Bar on the first night to enjoy some respite from the long day of travelling.

      Cragganmore 1989 27 Years Old

      There are only 60 bottles for this label. Bottled at 50.9% abv from a hogshead, this bottle of Cragganmore 27 Years Old is the brainchild of Kuo Yi Liang, the bartender of The Drunken Master Whisky Bar. He is a dear friend of the owner, Li Chunfeng, and also a friend of WhiskyGeeks. The bottle is labelled as Kuo’s Choice and showed a scene of summer on the label. There was another bottle in the series – a Glen Moray – but it was sadly sold out.

      I was lucky to get the last few pours from the bottle and man; I wasn’t wrong in choosing to have this as my first dram!

      Tasting Notes:

      Colour: Light Golden

      Nose: Sweet mango and melons dominated the nose at the start before the strength of the whisky wafted in as white peppers. Mild oakiness surfaced after resting the whisky for more than 15 minutes, giving the whisky more complexities. (20/25)

      Palate: It had an oily texture, with white pepper leading the way. It soon gave way to mango pudding, melons, guava and a hint of oakiness. The oiliness made the whisky approachable, and the sweetness of the dram helps to balance out the spice from the white peppers. (22/25)

      Finish: The long finish lingered in the mouth with fruity sweetness and gentle oak. The dryness of the dram allows the sweet fruits to leave a lasting effect. (21/25)

      Body: It is a balanced dram! The sweetness of the whisky is pleasant and complements the oiliness perfectly. The oakiness is also in the right proportion to give a slight “old whisky effect”. (22/25)

      Total Score: 85/100

      Comments:

      Zerlina: I like the fruitiness of the dram. It is also richer than the usual Cragganmore OB with that oiliness found in the palate. At 27 years old, the oakiness is gentle and does not overpower the character of the whisky. I think it is a well-chosen cask. However, I did not give a higher score because I feel that it is not as sophisticated as what I would expect of a 27 years old whisky. It is, nonetheless, just my opinion. If you have a chance to try this, you should try it to see how it works for you. 🙂 

      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 that 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 8 am 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 sophisticated 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 T3 Raffles Long Bar 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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