War and Whisky Part 1: The one-man Ukrainian cooperage

Whiskygeeks had the incredible opportunity to witness the craftsmanship of an artisan cooper Mr Arpad Laslo. He specialises in creating barrels from local Ukrainian oak. This one-man cooperage in Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine, supplies casks to local wineries and a whisky distillery in L’viv. It was fascinating to learn about the meticulous process involved.

The wood

The oak used in the barrels is seasoned in bolts for approximately 1-2 years. This seasoning is vital in stave production as various species of fungi will break down lignin and other flavours. This will subsequently lead to a better flavour profile when maturing spirits.

Photo 1: Bolts and Logs of Ukrainian white oak seasoning in the Cooper’s backyard

Almost all the oak used is Ukrainian white oak, but the exact oak species is hard to determine. In Ukraine, the main species of are Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) and European Oak (Quercus robur). The occurrence of hybridisation between the two species further muddies the water regarding the determination of exactly what species it is. That said, folks usually lump Quercus robur and Quercus petraea together as European oak in the world of whisky.

Photo 2: Ukrainian White Oak Staves

The metal

The cooper utilises a collection of traditional tools, some of which are over a century old. These tools include axes, blades and other metal tools, to shape, carve and refine the wood. The old axe below has some Scandinavian origins.

Photo 3: An axe that is over a century old

In photo 4, the etched word ‘Wien” can be seen in the middle, giving away its Austrian origins. Coopers use this tool to shave the curved internal edge of the cask body such that the cask head can fit nicely into it. You can see this tool in action in photo 9!

Photo 4: An tool with Austrian origins

The cooper brings the staves together and uses metal bands to form a “skirt” shape, as seen in the photo below. However, in this state, the cooper cannot shape the staves or risk breaking them.

Photo 5: Staves made into a “skirt” held together by metal bands

The fire

Toasting or charring is necessary for cask making as this heat treatment leads to the caramelisation of some wood sugars and the creation of desirable flavours like vanillin. These congeners in the wood could contribute desirable flavours to the spirit later using maturation. In the photo below, Arpad is using spare pieces of oak to start a fire that becomes the heat source for the cask toasting process.

Photo 6: The toasting process (Photo Credits: Kateryna Panasiuk)

The water

During the toasting process, Arpad exposes the internal side of the cask to fire and occasional splashes of water. He usually uses less water for charring compared to toasting, so that the cask can reach higher temperatures in the former process.

Photo 7: Arpad adding water to the cask (Photo Credits: Kateryna Panasiuk)

This combination of water and heat makes the staves more malleable and easier to bend into shape without breaking. The gradual tightening of the ring around the staves slowly bends them into the desired shape. I had a go at it, where I turn a screw, and this would tighten the metal band on the bottom of the “skirt”.

Photo 8: The author having a go and shaping the cask

Once Arpad bends the cask into shape, he flips the cask for even toasting, ensuring optimal flavour development.

Photo 9: Arpad expertly shaves the toasted cask with the tool from Photo 4

Afterwards, the cooper meticulously shaves down the edges to fit the cask head and presents a beautifully crafted exterior. When the staves are in place, the cooper replaces these old placement rings with new shiny hoops.

Photo 10: Arpad branding his casks

Lastly, the cooper makes the final touch by stamping his signature on the cask with a heated metal stamp.

The Ukrainian terroir and wine

This talented individual not only runs a one-man cooperage but also grows, ferments and bottles their own homemade wine. After walking us through his coopering process, he treated us to a lovely traditional meal and wine.

Photo 11: A selection of wines made by Arpad, the Artisan cooper!

I am grateful for the opportunity to witness the artistry and passion that goes into creating these exceptional barrels. It was a true privilege to experience firsthand the skill and dedication of this artisan cooper.

Photo Credits for the first and eighth photos go to Kateryna Panasiuk, my friend, translator and host!

Slava Ukraini!
Heroyam Slava!

Further Reading

Conner, J. (2022) ‘Chapter 16 – Maturation’, in Whisky and Other Spirits. Third Edition. Elsevier Ltd, pp. 291–311. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-822076-4.00013-9

Prida, A. and Puech, J.-L. (2006) ‘Influence of Geographical Origin and Botanical Species on the Content of Extractives in American, French, and East European Oak Woods’, Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 54(21), pp. 8115–8126. doi:10.1021/jf0616098.

Beer conversations with John Pemberton

Whiskygeeks went to the Heart of Darkness taproom at Keong Saik Road to have a chat with Founder & CEO John Pemberton to talk about everything under the sun!
Heart of Darkness is a Vietnam based brewery that has taprooms all over Asia, and has landed in Singapore in 2019! As Singapore is opening up, I was first curious about their strategy for surviving COVID because the F&B scene underwent many hardships due to regulations.

Before COVID, John focused on their taprooms to sell craft beer and the B2B sale of kegs. However, in the last 2 years, when the pandemic hit the local F&B scene, Heart of Darkness moved towards canned beers for better distribution. This helps to maintain sales revenue rather than F&B B2B sales. This amongst other internal changes, John explains, helped Heart of Darkness ride through COVID.

Singapore and Stouts

I got into craft beer with a Russian Imperial Stout, so I have a soft spot for stouts and other dark brews. John remarked that Singapore has an unusual thirst for the dark stuff. He almost could not believe his team when they told John that Singapore needed more kegs of dark beers! I also asked John about his collaboration with Teeling he did for St. Patrick’s Day 2022. The Ghost is Barrel-Aged Stout that aged in whiskey casks from Teeling, at a whopping 12% abv! John spoke about how open Teeling distillery is to collaboration and sent them barrels, and even sherry butts! So the Ghost will not be the last cask-aged beer from Heart of Darkness anytime soon!

The Ghost: Barrel-aged stout, a collaboration between Heart of Darkness and Teeling Whisky

Recently, they released Eloquent Phantom Imperial Stout, which is oak conditioned using oak chips. Sure, oak chips get a bad reputation; but many distinguished winemakers use them and keep it hush like a family secret in Encanto. Speaking as someone who has played with oak chips for fun and party tricks, I reckon oak chips offer better control. Especially in this tropical climate.
So please put away the prejudice and try this dark beer if you see it!

Nuggets of Philosophy in running a brewery

John Pemberton emphasises that he wants to make a beer people would come back again for. His team strays away from one-and-done, night-ender beers that may be majestic but could destroy the palate after a pint.
Heart of Darkness wants to break away from the snobbishness and pretentiousness they see in other areas of craft beer. They want to be innovative, break the norms and try unconventional beers. This could be in terms of flavour like the Cucumber Pilsner and Pomelo IPA; or in terms of method in beers such as the Phantom using oak chips. John also gives his brew team a good measure of creative control. He usually doesn’t veto a decision on a brew unless he knows it’s a brew that is going to sell.

When it comes to his taprooms, John tells us that he does not care about the 1 and 2-star reviews, stating that they weren’t going to like it anyway. He is more concerned about the 3- 4 star reviews. John remarks that this represents people who want to enjoy what Heart of Darkness has to offer, but there are a couple of pointers holding them back. It is much easier to find constructive feedback in 3 and 4-star reviews to better improve his taprooms. And honestly, this way of thinking could also be useful for many of us.

The man himself

I was surprised to learn that John was a vegetarian growing up as well and that he still is. So vegetarians, rest assured that there will be some fantastic dishes/tapas on the menu to pair with their craft beer. John has also spent quite a lot of time in Hong Kong and China, and his Mandarin is definitely better than mine.

John Pemberton with everyone else there, including Enya and Panda!

I would like to thank John Pemberton for his time out of his busy schedule, the Heart of Darkness team at Keong Saik Road and Mikki for the invite!

The Balvenie Presents The Makers Project

Credits: The Balvenie

The Balvenie has been coming up with a lot of interesting events recently. While we choose not to cover some of these events as other media outlets are doing so, we feel the need to cover this particular event. We have always been keen to bring art and whisky together, and The Balvenie has done it once again! The Makers Project features six different Southeast Asia artists and one artist from the United Kingdom as they use their art to represent The Balvenie with its core “Five Rare Crafts”.

What To Expect

The seven artists made use of various mediums to create their interpretations of “The Heart of their Countries” using The Balvenie as part of their art work. It’s a unique way for art creation and we look forward to seeing the exhibition at the ArtScience Museum. Happening from 26 November to 5 December 2021, you will get to see artistic installations of The Balvenie’s Five Rare Crafts plus the art exhibitions of the seven artists. Each ticket will also entitle you to two drams of The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Years Old, and The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Years Old at the Gallery.

How to buy Tickets

Tickets are at $28/pax and you can get your tickets securely at The exhibition takes around 45 minutes to get around and you get to choose the day and time that you would like to visit when you book your tickets. Importantly, this is an 18+ only event, so please do not bring your children along as they may not be able to gain entry to the exhibition. Remember to claim your drams after the exhibition too!

Promo Code

The Balvenie has kindly extended a promotion code to our readers too! For the first 100 readers, key in WHISKYGEEKS8OFF to get $8 off your ticket price when you book! The place to enter the promo code can be overlooked easily, so remember to look out for the words “enter promo code” at the top left corner after you enter the number of tickets you need. There are only 100 discount tickets, so grab them quick if you want to see the exhibition! We will be going, so do say hi at the exhibition if you happen to see us there!

Like what you have just read?

    Join as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!


    A chat with Jérôme Tessendier

    Ever wondered what it’s like to be an owner and Master Blender of a Cognac distillery? Whiskygeeks got to interview the CEO and Master Blender of Distillerie Tessendier et Fils (Tessendier & Sons Distillery) that makes Cognac Park! Cognac Park is from a smaller sub-region of Cognac called the Borderies, and known for their Mizunara matured Cognac. His reply has also been edited for clarity. Let’s dive straight into the interview!

    Jérôme Tessendier, CEO and Master Blended of Distillerie Tessendier et Fils Source
    For people who aren’t familiar with Cognac Park, could you introduce yourself and how you started Cognac Park with Mr Dominic Park back in 1993?

    I’m Jérôme Tessendier, born and grew up in Cognac; a pure “production” from Cognac! I have been working in the family business since 1992 and my passion is to create beautiful blends of Cognac. I met Dominic Park in 1993, he had already purchased small batches of cognac from a middle man and wanted to meet the distillery and the makers behind it. We were the source and after our first meeting, the chemistry was instant. Our goals aligned and we decided to cooperate. I created his first range of cognac from VS to XO Grande Champagne.

    Growing up in a family of Cognac producers must have been really unique, what are some memories you have with Cognac growing up as a child?

    I didn’t realise that this is a unique position because I was used to it. One of my first memories was hearing my parents talk over dinner about their day of distillation, then was this very particular smell in the distillery, this special atmosphere while it was cold outside and warm in the distillery.

    Do you remember the first time you tried Cognac?

    When I was 14, I played tennis tournaments, and some prizes would be miniature bottles of Cognac. So my best friend and I were in our room. And I brought some orange juice and mixed it with Cognac. So we did it in increments with 90% orange juice and 10% cognac, then 80% orange juice and 20% Cognac, until we were drinking Cognac neat. I felt ill the next day.

    What does a typical day consist of as the CEO and master blender of Cognac Park?

    The mornings start mostly with the questions and problems of production. Then start the tastings: approvals of blends, quality before bottling or shipping. Afterwards comes creating primarily blends with trial and error. The afternoon and evening are reserved for management, commercial and other company-related tasks.

    How has COVID impacted the Cognac Industry and how is it coping with in this new COVID era?

    During the first lockdown, of course, it has impacted because a part of employees couldn’t come to work. But after several weeks it returned to a tough but stable situation. Now we see that people still buy cognac in liquors stores instead of bars and restaurant as they are closed.

    Is the practice of petites eaux (the practice of reducing Cognac with Cognac diluted with water rather than pure water) done in Cognac Park? If so, what advantages does it give?

    The “faibles” or “petites eaux” is a practice that helps to reduce the alcohol content. It has to be done very carefully. On the one hand, it helps to give some roundness. On the other hand, it might reduce the aftertaste and make the blend a little flat. Therefore, it’s a practice that has to be done with a lot of care.

    Could you talk about chill filtration in Cognac in general, and the extent of chill-filtration in Cognac Park (Distillerie Tessendier et Fils)?

    Chill filtration became standard practice to ensure the long-term stability and clear appearance of the Cognac. The process chills the cognac at -5°C for 4 to 5 days before filtering. (With temperatures around -3°C at the exit of the filter). But of course, chill-filtering reduces the aromas of the Cognac. The key is to have a stable cognac before filtration, then the lightest one the after. We decided, first to control the stability of the cognacs before making a decision on whether chill-filtration is necessary. And for some of our cognacs, we prioritise the aromas by not chill filtrating, like the Mizunara range.

    What are the defining qualities of eau-de-vie that deem the cask ready to transfer into Mizunara casks?

    Cognac has to be delicate, straight, with depth, and very pure. It has to achieve a level of maturity before being over-oxidised to let the flavour profile of mizunara “wrap” the eaux de vie. That is the general philosophy.

    Mizunara casks are known to be very leaky. Do the makers at Cognac Park find it to be true? If so, how do you deal with this leaky problem?

    It was ok. Only one cask so far had this issue but it was on the top of the barrel so we didn’t face any lost of cognac, fortunately!

    Casks of Cognac. Source: Distillerie Tessendier et Fils
    In Chichibu, they used a hybrid cask with American White Oak staves and Mizunara heads. This achieves the best of both worlds: Flavour from the Mizunara, whilst reducing the leakage. Is there any possibility of a hybrid cask of Limousin oak and Mizunara oak?

    Our current practice is not to get a hybrid cask but to have a double maturation or a finishing. The using a hybrid cask is still being researched now but we are not ready to announce anything… yet.

    Post Interview Commentary

    This was a really enlightening interview. I also appreciated how transparent Jérôme was with chill-filtration and when it is necessary and when it is not. I was particularly interested in the practice of faibles or petites eaux because it’s such a foreign concept to me as a whisky drinker. He later explained in a zoom tasting that the staves of the mizunara casks he orders are much thicker, which explains why the Mizunara casks at Distillerie Tessendier et Fils are so sturdy and less prone to leaks!

    We would like to thank Jérôme Tessendier for taking time out of his busy schedule to enlighten us about what goes on behind the scenes at Distillerie Tessendier et Fils and Distillerie Tessendier et Fils for the photos!

    Ladyburn 1966 Edition One – Whisky from a Bygone Era

    Full collection of Ladyburn 1966 Edition One

    William Grants & Sons did exceedingly well in showcasing creativity and the excellent whiskies they own. The latest drop from the company is an exciting project that involves a “lost gem”. Ladyburn 1966 Edition One is the first in a series of rare whisky collection from WG&S. In collaboration with famous photographer, David Bailey, the limited edition collection will be sold through the distiller’s direct-to-consumer sales channels.

    Who was Ladyburn?

    Well, we assure you that no ladies were harmed in the process! Just kidding! Ladyburn was a single malt distillery that sat in the Girvan grain distillery estate from 1966 to 1975. It operated for only 9 years sadly. It was one of the most technologically advanced single malt distilleries during its time but did not survive. WG&S closed the distillery in 1975 and moved its stills to Balvenie and Glenfiddich distilleries. The only trace left of Ladyburn is the maturing casks at Girvan. The remaining casks became rare family stocks in the various warehouses where they sleep.

    Demand for Ultra-Rare Whiskies on the Rise

    The Grant family is aware that the demand for ultra rare whiskies are rising, particularly in Asia. As more and more people expressed their interest in old and rare expressions, the family realised that they, too, could offer hidden gems such as the Ladyburn 1966 to keen collectors. Therefore, with the aim to share the ultra-rare whiskies that they own, they began to work on the collection which you now see.

    Discussion between Jonathan Driver & Anna Brady, Art Market Editor

    During the virtual launch that WhiskyGeeks attended, the discussion surrounded the beauty of pairing art with whisky. They are an excellent pairing, especially when we pair unseen art done by a famous artist with rare, exceptional whisky. The result is a collection that private clients hunting for a great value preposition will be willing to shell out for.

    More about Ladyburn 1966 Edition One

    The Ladyburn 1966 Edition One is limited to 210 bottles. It is a celebration of cultural and social change of the decade. WG&S collaborated with iconic photographer, David Bailey, to showcase a rarely seen side of his work. Each label of the collection depicts a scene of 1960s London’s East End. Bailey featured a London cityscape that has undergone extensive changes that no longer exists today in these photographs. It is also a piece of work that Bailey did before he hit global fame.

    How does the Collection works?

    There will be 10 full Collections available, with 11 bottles per collection. These will be available only though private appointments. After the initial offering, single bottles will be released from March 2021. Each collection features 11 label designs, all hand-signed by David Bailey. 10 label designs are in black and white images while the last one is an exclusive colour image. The coloured image is available only as part of the 10 Collections of 11 bottles each. Every bottle is hand-numbered.

    The Whisky Itself…

    Ladyburn 1966 Edition One is a 54 years old whisky matured in a single sherry butt. The whisky offers dry fruit sweetness, spicy notes and intense oak tannins. The high age also results in a darker and richer whisky in terms of colour. Brian Kinsman, the current Master Blender and Malt Master shared his tasting notes during the launch. In case you are wondering, we did not taste the whisky even though it would be a privilege if we do!

    The distiller responsible for the distillation was Hamish Robertson (WG&S’s 4th Master Distiller). The person who chose the single cask is, of course, Brian Kinsman as he is the one who has overseen its slow maturation process.

    A note about WG&S’ private sales division

    Jonathan Driver is the Managing Director for the division. We understood that less than 200 rare casks remain in the custodianship of the Grant family.

    Beyond Ladyburn, WG&S obviously have other rare stocks. The private sales division offers clients a curated portfolio. There are exceptionally rare expressions and customisation. Its products and services include private cask bottlings, rare and collectable whiskies and limited edition collections. Private clients also have privileged access (upon request) to the distilleries at Dufftown, the warehouses and historic family homes.

    How to purchase

    Anyone who is keen to find out more about the Ladyburn 1966 Edition One Collection can contact James Ting at for prices and all related questions to shipping and delivery.

    Like what you have just read?

      Join as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!


      Monkey Shoulder & The New Rules of Mixing

      Photo Credits: Team @ WG&S

      Monkey Shoulder is well known for its fun-loving, free-spirited style. In time with the festive season in Singapore, the cheeky brand has unveiled a new campaign! Coined “The New Rules of Mixing”, the campaign strives to remind patrons to MIND the strict rules for Covid-19 while out at the bars. Irresponsible drinking behaviours have been in the limelight, and Monkey Shoulder hopes to discourage them through this campaign.

      The New Rules of Mixing

      As part of the new campaign, Monkey Shoulder releases a series of punny rules on both digital and physical sites to remind patrons to “play by the rules”. Rules such as “One Last Pour then Out the Door” and “Five is the magic number for mixing” remind everyone to be responsible while out partying. Monkey Shoulder also hopes to support its bar partners by encouraging consumers to be mindful.

      Photo Credits: WG&S

      Rewarding Good Behaviours (Read: Free Goodies)!

      Monkey Shoulder is not just all talk though. To walk the talk, the brand is rewarding selected consumers with a Monkey Shoulder Swag Kit at their partner bars. Selected patrons on their best behaviours will get the Swag Kit for keeps. The kit includes 1-for-1 cocktail tokens, a branded mask chain and sticker set! The campaign starts on 21 December and will run until end of the year. Consumers can also look out for the playful creatives at bus shelters for laughs!

      For those who prefers to stay home with their loved ones, look out for the Ginger Monkey cocktail, available on the 1887 Bar on GrabMart. You can also scan the QR code on the WG&S flagship store on Lazmall for more cocktail recipes.

      List of Participating Bars

      • Al Capone’s Scape
      • Al Capone’s Sportsman
      • Barbary Coast
      • Bar on Chulia
      • Chug Chug Tanjong Pagar
      • Cuscaden Patio Bar
      • Employee’s Only
      • Fat Prince
      • Jekyll & Hyde
      • Lad & Dad
      • Le Coq
      • Mazzo Restaurant & Bar
      • Meatsmith Telok Ayer
      • Moonstone Bar
      • Redtail
      • Sarnies Telok Ayer
      • Savanh
      • Southbridge Hotel Restaurant & Whisky Bar
      • Warehouse Bar Clarke Quay
      • WTF @ Ann Siang

      Remember to put on your best behaviours at these bars and see if you get to bring home the Monkey Shoulder Swag Kit!

      Like what you have just read?

        Join as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!


        The Balvenie x Royal Selangor Mash-Up : Luxury in a Box

        Photo Credits: Team @ WG&S

        Luxury in Scotch whisky is common these days. The most recent collaboration is the team-up between The Balvenie and Royal Selangor. What I did not expect, however, was the sheer prestige it entailed until I attended the media event for the unboxing of the product.

        Shared Passion and Time-Honoured Craftmanship

        Photo Credits: Team @ WG&S

        The collaboration between The Balvenie and Royal Selangor is a tribute to their shared passion and respect for craftsmanship. The result of their teamwork is a collector’s box that is 100% handmade. The box holds precious liquids from The Balvenie expressions, 30 years old and upwards.

        The collector’s box is made of high-grade walnut wood encased in handcrafted pewter. The Royal Selangor’s signature dimple design on the box reflects the skill and precision of the craftsman. The dimple design requires a hammering technique that needs years to master and takes up to six days to complete!

        Reflection of Luxury

        The media event revealed the deep-seated beliefs shared by The Balvenie and Royal Selangor. The attention to details on the participation kit of the event was on point. As the event was held at 6pm local time, The Balvenie also provided us an “atas” dinner made up of a dozen of things. There was also a full bottle of the delicious Balvenie 12 Years Old Doublewood and its accompanying pewter-based tumbler. On top of these goodies, there was a notebook, a cheese board, a leather bookmark and a wee table lamp that opens like a book. All in all, the kit was too generous!

        Our team got to enjoy the food and whisky while learning more about The Balvenie and Royal Selangor collaboration.

        Getting your hands on The Balvenie’s Collectors’ Box

        Now, the important information that you need to know is HOW to buy the collector’s box. We understood that there are only fifteen such boxes available in Singapore and Malaysia. The box houses three bottles of The Balvenie’s signature bottles, 30 years old and upwards. Buyers can choose their bottles, of course! Each box needs to attain a minimum purchase value of £41,800.

        The Balvenie Gift Packs

        We understood that there are also special releases of The Balvenie 12, 14, and 17 Years Old with this collaboration. The gift packs comes with a delicious single malt and a wondrous gift of a pewter-based tumbler.

        Each tumbler comes with a solid pewter base and looks amazing no matter how you hold it. These packs are available for a limited time from TODAY (21 December) onwards on the WGS flagship store on LazMall. If you are looking for a last minute gift for a loved one, you gotta check them out.

        More about The Balvenie & Royal Selangor

        The Balvenie differentiates themselves by their commitment to craftsmanship. It brings invaluable skill, knowledge, experience and passion to every stage of the process. They are the only distillery in the Scottish Highlands that maintains the Five Rare Crafts of whisky making since 1892. In today’s world of automation, it sets The Balvenie apart.

        Royal Selangor is the world’s foremost name in high quality pewter, founded in 1885. The brand is synonymous with innovative design and expertly honed craftsmanship. Devoted to their craft, Royal Selangor was founded by Yong Koon, a pewter smith and since 1979, has been conferred by the Sultan of Selangor with the warrant of ‘Royal Pewterer’. 

        Like what you have just read?

          Join as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!


          Dram on, Dràm Mòr

          The first big tasting of Dràm Mòr in Singapore and their second ever release of bottles in Autumn of 2020! Dràm Mòr is an Independent Bottler in Scotland that is owned by a husband-wife duo, Kenny and Viktorija.
          Many of the bottles in this second release were finished in fortified wine or wine casks for 4 months! This decision for a short duration finish was not unfounded as well! Kenny sought the advice of Whisky legend Jim McEwan and told Kenny to watch closely over 1st fill wine casks. This is most likely due to the spicy notes the active wine cask might impart on the whisky if it aged any longer.

          Glen Garioch 8yo 2011 (Cask #2697) 55%
          Glen Garioch 8yo 2011 (Cask #2697)
          Glen Garioch 8yo 2011 (Cask #2697)

          We started the night with a full-term refill bourbon. There was a time I used to find full-term bourbon maturation like from Cadenhead to be boring. What a fool I was #cringe. What I know now is that a light bourbon maturation can allow the spirit character to develop and shine through!

          For this Glen Garioch, I’m glad it did! I get the herbal orange peel that I associated with the Official Bottlings of Glen Garioch, but with so much more characteristics! There’s a toasted cereal note, peaches, a hint of salinity, with a mouthfeel you can chew on! It’s a lovely anytime kind of dram!

          Aberlour 7yo 2012 (#F800914) 54%
          Aberlour 7yo 2012 (Dràm Mòr)
          Aberlour 7yo 2012 (Dràm Mòr)

          This Aberlour spent 7 and a half years in refill bourbon with a 4 month dry Madeira finish. The Aberlour A’bunadh series inspired Dràm Mòr to do a young cask strength Aberlour! This decision for a short finish was an excellent one. In 4 months, the influence of the wine is clearly much stronger, with only a touch of spice from the oak. This works well because the strawberry jam preserve notes of the Aberlour spirit character works with the dry cranberry notes, pepper and raspberries, along with the honey and floral notes from the prior bourbon maturation.

          Glenrothes 9yo 2011 (#2850)
          Glenrothes 9yo 2011 (#2850)
          Glenrothes 9yo 2011 (#2850)

          One of two Glenrothes in this Autumn release, this spent 8 years and 8 months in refill bourbon, before finishing in Spanish Red Wine casks for 4 months. This was a beautiful balance between the influence of the red wine and the European oak. Even the folks at Glenrothes distillery gave Kenny the stamp of approval!
          In my personal opinion and preference, this dram probably needs some time to open up. Initial top notes of gunpowder which will fade away with time, so if you love your sulphur notes, you might not want to wait. This Glenrothes offers notes of honey, a whiff of chocolate, with oranges, red berries, figs and nuttiness!

          Glenrothes 9yo 2011 (#2851)
          Glenrothes 9yo 2011 (#2851)
          Glenrothes 9yo 2011 (#2851)

          This Glenrothes spent 8 years and 8 months in refill bourbon, before finishing in Moscatel Wine casks for 4 months. If it feels like Déjà vu, that’s because both Glenrothes are sister casks! Moscatel Wine casks are not as popular in whisky, but this is a damn good example! People who know me know that I do not particularly enjoy the spirit character of Glenrothes, but this dram is probably the first young Glenrothes that I have thoroughly enjoyed!
          This dram offers golden pears, with honey and vanilla sweetness coming from the bourbon maturation. Moreover, the wine cask influence is very nuanced, with hints of toasted nuts, tart apples and a whiff of Nutella! One of the participants in the tasting even got Jasmine flowers! This is definitely a beautiful dessert dram.

          Tomintoul 15yo 2005 (#32)
          Tomintoul 15yo 2005 (#32)
          Tomintoul 15yo 2005 (#32)

          This gentle dram spent 15 years and 4 months in a rather shy refill sherry butt, and 4 months in a 1st fill Sauternes Wine Cask! These 15 years in the refill sherry butt gave a gentle maturation, and most importantly, it cultivated the gentle spirit character of the Tomintoul. Distilleries Director of Angus Dundee, Robert Flemming, who oversees Tomintoul and Glencadam, loved this dram when he asked Kenny for a sample of this! If the people who make this whisky liked it, then you know Dràm Mòr did Tomintoul right!
          This gentle dram offer notes of sugary sweetness, freshly cut grass in spring, pears, white raisins, tart apples and pears, notes of a buttery pie crust and hints of salinity.

          In this Autumn release, Dràm Mòr shows that flavourful whisky doesn’t necessarily need to be peated, or heavily sherried or old. I also do enjoy their stance on not chill filtering and not adding colour! If you wish to purchase these bottles, do give Spirits Castle a visit, and if you wish to find out more about Dràm Mòr and their latest December 2020 Christmas release, check it out here!

          Singapore Distillery Gin Launch!

          Early October 2020 saw the launch of Singapore Distillery’s Gin range and Whiskygeeks sat down with head distiller Ashwin for a chat about the distillery, the gin and future plans!

          It’s a bold and risky move for a launch amidst the COVID phase 2 in Singapore. That said, I am glad there are more players in the local spirits scene in Singapore! I mean, I know this is Whiskygeeks; but hey, a malternative once in a while is great. Bruichladdich started making gin for a reason too! 😉

          The Six

          It was astonishing to see a full range of 6 gins launched in one sitting. And much like popular Kpop groups, there is something for everyone! Off to the gins!

          Singa Gin
          Singa Gin

          The flagship, Singa Gin is a London Dry style gin. And right there, I see the visible confusion on some of your faces. A Singaporean London Dry Gin? Is that distilled in London or Singapore?
          The full legal definition can be found here at Annex I, Category 22. But the crux or TLDR of it is that it is a style of gin, not restricted by location.

          The Sing Gin comprises of 13 botanicals, which includes Grains of Paradise from Africa, Malaysian Sarawak Pepper and Ceylon Cinnamon from Sri Lanka!

          Personally, I found it of a medium Juniper strength, earthy, sweet, with a mild but noticeable note of Angelica root and an overall balanced flavour when drunk neat!

          Singapore Distillery Coconut Pandan Gin
          Coconut Pandan Gin

          This fun yet amazing Coconut Pandan Gin would excite any South-East Asian Gin drinker! The Pandan and Coconut flesh vapour infused, along with background botanicals of orange and other spices.
          Not gonna lie, the smell took me by surprise. It smells like coconut cream or milk that is thiccc (with 3 Cs), but I was staring into a colourless liquid!

          The palate was where the Pandan flavour took the spotlight, but in the finish, the coconut cuts in again for one more encore.

          Although it might be a bit sacrilegious, I mixed this gin with two other gins, Stolen Roses and Lime Garden. The result was absolutely divine!

          Singapore Distillery Stolen Roses
          Stolen Roses Gin

          A gin, red as roses. But still at 42.5%! This expression is sweetened in the Old Tom style of gin. And before you ask yourself that question, no, it is superior to any rose syrup or rose liqueur. Fight me. There’s more depth to the rose flavours in this gin, with hints of juniper and citrus zest in the background. It would make a killer Valentine’s Day G&T or a Martini!

          Mixed in with the Coconut Pandan Gin, it became a lovely Bundung concoction. Luckily, Head Distiller Ashwin did not take offence to this.

          Singapore Distillery Singapore Sling
          Singapore Sling Gin

          This is not based on popular Singapore Sling with a bajillion ingredients, but it was inspired by the Straits Sling, the alleged predecessor of the Singapore Sling as we know today. Records show a Straits Sling recipe that predates the supposed invention of the Singapore Sling, which comprises of gin, cherry brandy, Bénédictine D.O.M., lime and some bitters.
          To achieve those flavours, cherries, angelica root, and limes serve to represent the cocktail’s ingredients, alongside some pineapples and oranges to give the gin more vibrancy.

          This gin is pretty stunning when drunk neat, would probably do wonders in a Negroni or a Martini!

          Singapore Distillery Kyuri Gin
          Kyuri (きゅうり) Gin

          きゅうり or Kyuri is Japanese for cucumber! In this gin, Japanese cucumbers are left to macerate or soak in Neutral Grain Spirit NGS) for a full day before distilling. In addition, more cucumbers and sakura flowers are placed in gin baskets for vapour infusion.

          Kyuri gin is pretty much Hendrick’s Japanese cousin, and I found it very refreshing and floral, along with hints of lemon zesty and juniper earthiness. This would definitely make a lovely summer G&T!

          Lime Garden Gin

          The name of this gin is perfect – distilled with 3 different varieties of South-East Asian limes: Calamansi, Key Limes, and Kaffir Lime. The limes are placed in the distillation stills and the vapour baskets to double down on their flavour and to extract their essential oils.

          I was especially impressed by the distinct almost Lavender-like floral notes from the Kaffir lime. Might I add, (before I get punched by Gin connoisseurs), that the addition of the Coconut Pandan gin results in something reminiscent of Thai cuisine. You gotta try it to know it!

          The technical titbits

          The alcohol from gin usually comes from commercial available neutral grain spirit (NGS). Ashwin uses NGS from France, as he believes that to be the softest and best for his gins!

          42 and a half?

          The keen-eyed amongst you might have noticed that all their gins are bottled at 42.5%. Now, why is that?
          Head Distiller Ashwin determined that this abv helps the gin maximise flavour and accessibility. More a slightly higher abv generally means a higher propensity to hold more flavour. But then again, nobody would be in the mood for high strength spirits all the time. With these two factors playing tug of war, Ashwin found the sweet spot that is high enough to capture the botanicals and yet soft enough abv for most drinkers to access the gin’s plethora of flavours.

          The Stills

          The stills at Singapore Distillery. Source

          When I first saw a photo of the distillery set up, I thought it was crazy! According to Ashwin, that picture shows ONE set up. The NGS and botanicals go in the Pot Still through a gin basket, and 2 column stills, then another gin basket before reaching the condenser.

          Chill filtration at Singapore Distillery

          Singapore Distillery does not chill filter their gins, and yet the gins do not go cloudy in the bottle. How did they do it? According to Ashwin, by controlling the various aspects of distillation, he is able to adjust the distillate such that it maximizes flavour and yet doesn’t cause noticeable clouding when diluted!
          What’s the difference you might ask? It’s that the gin still retains flavour components that wouldn’t cause cloudiness but would have been taken away by chill-filtration!
          I can tell you as a Chemical Engineering degree holder that this is a painstakingly tedious feat! Kudos to Ashwin for his skill, patience and persistence

          Future Plans

          Ashwin plans to try his hand at vodka next, and a navy strength version of one of the gins we have talked about 😉 I am absolutely excited to taste what this distillery does next!

          Many thanks to Singapore Distillery and Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall for organising the industry launch and special thanks to Head Distiller Ashwin for sitting down with us to talk about his vision and All bottle photo credits go to Singapore Distillery.

          Another Cadenhead Tasting with Mitch Graham

          Mitch Graham of Cadenhead, screenshot from Zoom

          When we get lucky, we get lucky! The Whisky Store invited WhiskyGeeks to another fabulous Cadenhead premium tasting. This time around, our host was Mitch Graham, the sales executive at Cadenhead. While we were slightly disappointed that the original presenter, Cameron McGeachy couldn’t host the event due to unforeseen circumstances, Mitch was a good sport to take up the role.

          We shared extensively about the history of Cadenhead in a previous post, so let us move on to the important details – the whiskies!

          The Whisky Line Up

          Cadenhead has not failed to disappoint us so far, and this tasting was just as excellent. The line up was premium, with whiskies ranging from 8 years old to 36 years old. Bottled at cask strength, each of these whiskies offered up different flavours and profiles. We had the following:

          Burnside (teaspoon Balvenie) 1991 27 Years Old, 43.5% abv
          Benrinnes 2000 18 Years Old, 57.5% abv
          Balbair 2011 8 Years Old, 57.8% abv
          Creation (Rich, Fruity, Sherry) 1980 36 Years Old, 44.5% abv

          Burnside 1991 27 Years Old

          I have been raving about Burnside recently, especially if they are bourbon-matured expressions. James Cordiner, the ex Balvenie brand ambassador introduced me to them with his fabulous DCS range. We even bought some Balvenie 12 Years Old in single bourbon casks just to compare their profiles! You can guess that I was excited with this Burnside!

          Well, Cadenhead and Burnside did not disappoint at all! The floral, fruity sweetness of the whisky hit my nose like a bouquet of fruits. The palate mellowed out from fruity to a slightly dry, floral note. It was so soft. At 27 years old, the whisky is aged to perfection. The lower abv also helps to take away the sting of alcohol, making it a perfect choice for everyone.

          Benrinnes 2000 18 Years Old

          Fans of Benrinnes love the fruity notes of the distillate and its strong, robust character that withstands both bourbon and sherry cask maturation. I may not be the biggest fan of Benrinnes, but I do own a couple of excellent 18 years old Benrinnes. I probably ought to add this particular one to my shelf. The nose was fantastic, full of ripe green fruits and some beautiful tobacco notes. I think some people may think it’s tea leaves, but yeah, you get the idea. The palate was oily and full, with a softness that suggests an older whisky.

          Balbair 2011 8 Years Old

          The youngest whisky of the lot and the strongest in terms of alcoholic strength is the Balbair 2011 8 Years Old. If you think that the flavours pale in comparison, then you are wrong. Balbair has a strong distillate, and it works very well in a bourbon cask. This particular Balbair stands out with its slightly engine oil nose, and its strong, oily palate. While it is not as mellow as the rest, it definitely more than make up for it in terms of flavours. Think of lemons, citrus and fruity notes, and you are getting the Balbair 2011.

          Creation (Rich, Fruity, Sherry) 1980 36 Years Old

          Cadenhead creates blends to showcase certain profiles to help its consumers determine specific flavours. The Creation series has various expressions, and I thought that this old sherried whisky was pretty awesome. There were some sulphuric notes at the beginning, but as the whisky opened up, the aromas of rich, dark fruits, tobacco and dark musty books surfaced. A typical sherry profile, with just the right amount of softness to it.

          Cadenhead’s New Adventures with Original Collection

          Fans of Cadenhead whiskies will be familiar with their various ranges. Besides the small batch range which we tasted, Cadenhead also has their cask strength Authentic Collection. The Authentic Collection is made up of single cask bottling which are, unfortunately, not available in Singapore. However, we have exciting news for you.

          Cadenhead Original Collection

          Template Image
          Picture Source: Cadenhead Newsletter

          We understood from Mitch, that a new range is emerging from Cadenhead. While he did not reveal too much during the event, we did found out about it through the Cadenhead Newsletter! The newest addition to Cadenhead’s extensive range is their Original Collection. The collection is a revival of the old, and delightfully bringing the Cadenhead folklore back to life.

          “The Original Collection features a great range of Cadenhead’s whiskies, with each of the casks selected from our extensive warehouse stocks tested by our dedicated Cadenhead’s team.”

          Cadenhead Newsletter

          It appears that the Original Collection will not be single casks bottling. Each expression will be a marriage of several casks, so that there will always be enough stocks for interested parties to snap them up. Cadenhead also decides to bottle these beauties at 46% abv instead of cask strength to showcase how each whisky shines at that alcoholic strength. The deliberate choice of watering the expressions down is also a way to allow the Original Collection to have its own identity. We think it is a good option for newer drinkers to experience Cadenhead as well. It does open up a big, new adventure for most of us!

          The Whisky Store

          We understand that The Whisky Store will be importing these delicious malts, but their stocks are likely to arrive only sometime in early 2021. If you are keen to try them, do be patient and wait for the announcement!

          In the meanwhile, do check out their online store for the various expressions that we tasted. They are all fabulous, and if you like any of these, you should grab them faster rather than slower. Oh, and if you prefer holding the bottles in your hands before purchasing, head down to Copper at Lanson Place. There is a small retail section there, and you can also get to taste more Cadenhead expression!