Whisky Reviews

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.

Meeting the man behind a Kombu Whiskey: Origin Spirits

Earlier in August 2020, Whiskygeeks had a chat with Managing Director of Origin Spirits Patrick Shelley. Origin Spirits has in its portfolio the Ornabrak Single Malt Gin, Kalak Single Malt vodka and the Currach Kombu Irish Whiskey.

Currach Whiskey, Kalak Vodka and Ornabrak Gin
Portfolio of Origin Spirits. Source: Origin Spirits

How it Started

Back in 2010, Patrick was living in Russia, working for LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE) which owns Glenmorangie and Ardbeg distillery since 2004. And of course, in Mother Russia, the vodka culture is strong there. But the vodkas out in the market then was not to his taste. To get him through these times, he had drams of peated Scotches. *coughArdbegcough* This later inspired Patrick to want to design a vodka with personality, texture and flavour; a vodka he could enjoy! His love for peated Scotches later inspired the peat cask vodka!

With his time in LVMH, he gained much wisdom and experience which would help elevate Origin Spirits to where it is today. Patrick had three cornerstones in Origin Spirits:

  • Quality Product with its own unique personality.
  • Striking visual identity.
  • Compelling brand story.

What it became

Patrick works with West Cork distillers to create unique products that Origin Spirits offers. Patrick talks fondly about Director of West Cork Distillers, Dr John O’Connell, who holds not just one but two PhDs! Dr O’Connell saw some potential in Patrick’s ideas and was eager to help make Patrick’s ideas a reality!

Under LVMH, some of the brands Patrick used to work for had decades of history with tales abound. As a fresh new company, Patrick had instead created a story around the product, Kalak, weaving Irish folklore and gods with this beautiful spirit. You can read more about here!
Patrick wanted to use 100% Irish malted barley for several reasons. Even though malted barley cost around three times as much as other grains, Patrick wanted a quality product with personality. It also pays homage to the terroir of Irish local barley and a quality ingredient.

How it’s made

West Cork Distillers. Source: Origin Spirits

In West Cork distillers, malted barley is milled on site. This grist meets 63°C water in the mash tun and spends 2 hours mashing for sugar extraction. Heat exchangers then cool down the sugary liquid called wort to 27-29 °C. Distillers yeast is then added for inoculation. The fermentation lasts 96 hours, which is twice the amount of time as some Scotch whisky distilleries. This longer fermentation time allows for ester formation and lactic acid fermentation which produces fruitier and more complex flavours in the spirit. After 4 days of fermentation, the strong beer, or wash is at a whopping 11-12% abv.
The wash then goes into copper pot stills for distillation.. 3 times distilled for the whiskey, 4 times for the gin and 5 times for the vodka!

How it’s aged

The casks used for Origin Spirits are not used for maturation more than twice. So far, Origin Spirits are only using American White Oak for their cask maturation. The casks Origin Spirits uses comes from the Kelvin cooperage in Kentucky.

Virgin Oak cask charred with Kombu
Virgin Oak cask charred with Kombu. Source: Origin Spirits

Patrick stumbled on the idea of using seaweed to char the casks, which serves as a fuel source for the charring and imparts umami flavour to the oak. This marks Currach, the Kombu Irish Whisky, with the terroir of both the sea and land with Irish seaweed and barley. For Currach, Patrick prefers using virgin oak to bourbon casks as the bourbon flavours in the cask might interfere with the delicate umami flavours from the seaweed. Aged in ex-bourbon for 3-4 years then 3-month finish in virgin oak, as it maximises the kombu flavour, mellows the spirit and ensures the whiskey does not get too oaky.

What’s next for Origin Spirits

Kombu
Drying Kombu. Source: Origin Spirits

The kombu used for the charring for Currach is a type of brown seaweed, and Patrick intends to experiment with other kinds of seaweed, like with red seaweed and green seaweed. Currently, Origin Spirits are using American White Oak, either virgin or ex-bourbon oak. Patrick wanted a mellower oak influence to allow the spirit character to shine. But Patrick has a never say never attitude, so sherry fans, stay tuned!

Patrick is going to experiment a lot more with food pairing, but progress has been slower due to the pandemic. But in general, Japanese cuisines, and umami dishes like steak or mushrooms works well with Kalak and Currach. Patrick describes those spirits as gastronomical and I would have to agree!

Origin Spirits has shown a lot of innovative products which excel in form and function. I am looking forward to their next release!

A guide to understand Mars Whisky

Mars Whisky!
Mars is one of the oldest whisky companies in Japan. Even though Mars started distilling in 1960 in Yamanashi, the buying and selling of whiskies date back to 1949! For a whisky company with 2 distilleries (Shinshu Distillery and Tsunuki Distillery ) and 3 maturation sites, it could be confusing sometimes! So with the help of Hombo Shuzo and Barworks, here’s a guide!

Note: The names of various locations are in colour because it can indicate which distillery or ageing site it is from, similar to Uigeadail or Inchmoan.

 

Distilleries

Shinshu Mars Distillery

The distillery is in Miyadamura, Nagano prefecture at the foot of Mt. Kiso Komagatake. Shinshu distillery started making whisky in 1985 and was mothballed from 1992 to 2011. Mars whisky uses both peated and unpeated concerto barley from CRISP maltings in the UK, with 4 different peating levels at 0ppm, 3.5 ppm, 20ppm and 50ppm. After milling the barley, the grist goes into a stainless-steel 8000L lauter mashtun, along with a stream of hot water to extract barley sugar. The sugary and clear liquid that the mashtun extracts is called the wort. The wort is cooled down and subsequently enters a 7000L washback with a combination of distiller’s yeast, ale yeast and slant yeast.

Washbacks in Shinshu Distillery. Photo courtesy of Hombo Shuzo Co. Mars Whisky.

In before 2016, the fermentation period was 3 days long, however, this fermentation period was increased to 4 days, so as to allow more flavours to develop. Shinshu has 5 cast iron washbacks and newer 3 Douglas fir wooden washbacks. After fermentation, this strong beer called wash at 7-8% alcohol by volume (abv) goes into a 6000L wash still for distillation. Both distilleries use indirect heating for their stills as it is energy efficient. The distillate is called low wines with an abv of 21-22% and is cooled in a shell & tube condenser before going into an 8000L spirit still for the second distillation.

The Pot Stills of Shinshu Distillery. Photo courtesy of Hombo Shuzo Co. Mars Whisky.

This distillate goes through a worm tub, which will contribute to the robustness of the spirit character! The new make strength is around 70% and diluted to 60% before filling.

Tsunuki Distillery

Tsunuki Distillery. Photo courtesy of Hombo Shuzo Co. Mars Whisky.

Mars Whisky’s second distillery started in 2016 and lies on the southwest side of Kagoshima called Tsunuki. Similarly to its sister distillery, Tsunuki Distillery uses both peated and unpeated concerto barley from CRISP maltings. The milled barley goes into a slightly smaller 5000L lauter stainless steel mashtun with hot water to produce a clear wort. This wort goes to one of 5 wash stainless steel washbacks in the distillery. The same yeast varieties and fermentation times are utilised, therefore, Tsunuki Distillery produces wash with a similar abv as its sister distillery.

 

Washbacks at Tsunuki Distillery. Photo courtesy of Hombo Shuzo Co. Mars Whisky.

The distillation is somewhat similar to Shinshu distillery, except that both stills in Tsunuki Distillery use a worm tub condenser. The new-make spirit has the same abv range, and similarly, Mars whisky keeps the filling strength consistent at 60% abv.

Pot Stills at Tsunuki Distillery. Photo courtesy of Hombo Shuzo Co. Mars Whisky.

 

Ageing Sites

Racked Warehouse in Tsunuki Distillery. Photo courtesy of Hombo Shuzo Co. Mars Whisky.

There are three ageing sites, two of which are onsite at the distilleries and a third ageing site at Yakushima! Having three ageing sites would mean that there are three different climates for ageing Mars whisky. Climate affects the rate of maturation and therefore, the annual whisky loss per year, or angel’s share. One could easily compare these rates by looking at Scotch, Taiwanese and Indian whisky distilleries. With three slightly different rates of maturation, there are many more possibilities in flavours for Mars whisky. Humidity is also significant for estimating the drop in abv of the ageing whisky over time. A higher humidity would mean a slower loss of water than ethyl alcohol, which could lead to a faster decrease in abv, and vice versa.

Komagatake Cellar (Shinshu Distillery)

A cask ageing onsite at Shinshu Distillery. Photo courtesy of Hombo Shuzo Co. Mars Whisky.

The surrounding temperature ranges from a subzero -15°C in the winter to over 30°C degrees in the summer, and an annual average temperature is around 12 degrees. The at an elevation of 798m, the humidity around the distillery is 65-67% and has an angel’s share around 3-4%.

Tsunuki Aging

Rows of PX casks in the warehouse at Tsunuki Distillery. Photo courtesy of Hombo Shuzo Co. Mars Whisky.

Kagoshima has warmer climates with an annual average temperature of 18°C, with a temperature range of -2°C in the winter to a blistering 36°C degrees in the summer. The humidity is slightly higher than its sister distillery at around 70-72%, with a higher angel’s share at approximately 5-7%.

Yakushima Cellar

The Mars Yakushima Aging Cellar is on an island bearing the same name. Yakushima Island is a world natural heritage site and located southwest of Kagoshima and still almost three times as wide as Singapore though. This dunnage warehouse stands near the coastline, so the ageing casks breathes in the coastal air. The temperature on the island ranges from 5°C to 35°C in with an average annual temperature of 19°C. With a higher humidity at 74-76%, the angel’s share is higher as well, at 7-9%.

The Casks

PX Cask. Photo courtesy of Hombo Shuzo Co. Mars Whisky.

The casks at Mars Whisky are used 4 to 6 times. The Yakushima Aging Cellar contains ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry casks. The two onsite racked warehouses at the distilleries contain other unique and exciting casks resting away. Other than Madeira casks, Port casks, and French oak wine casks, there are Mizunara oak casks, umeshu white oak casks, shochu white oak casks and even sakura casks!

Ex-Bourbon Casks. Photo courtesy of Hombo Shuzo Co. Mars Whisky.

Hopefully, this article has shed light on the different variations of Mars whisky.

If you’re interested in getting yourself a bottle of Mars, you can head to Barworks. In addition, there’s also a 33% discount on the Annual Limited Edition 2019 bottling of Komagatake (from Shinshu Distillery) which you can get here!

Mars Single Malt Komagatake Limited Edition 2019. Photo courtesy of Barworks.

 

Mars Single Malt Komagatake Limited Edition 2019

 

These are the tasting notes from the producers.

Nose: Ripe persimmon, apricot, and orange marmalade

Palate: Elegant and mellow taste like Chinese quince, melon and milk candy

Finish: Clean and comfortable aftertaste

 

 

 

Special thanks to Hombo Shuzo and Barworks, the official Mars whisky distributor in Singapore for the information and the photos!

Mizunara Matured Malternative

Back in December, Whiskygeeks was invited to an exclusive Cognac Park tasting. After trying some non-traditional Cognacs, I found an excellent malternative.

What is a malternative?

As enjoyable as whisky might be, having too much of a good thing could get boring or burn you out. It’s essential to give your palate a break sometimes, and a Malt Whisky Alternative, or Malternative, could give you such a change. 

Good whisky Malternatives should be quality spirits as well, and one such example is Cognac.

What is Cognac and how is it made

Cognac is an aged grape spirit from the region of Cognac in France under a specific set of rules called the AOC designation, dictating how it can be made. You can find the document (in French) here

White grapes will ferment for 2 to 3 weeks till it reaches 7-10% abv. Cognac distilleries use Charentais copper pot stills for double distillation in a similar fashion to Scotch single malt. In the first distillation, the white wine becomes Brouillis, equivalent to low wines in Single Malt distillation. The brouillis, at approximately 30%, undergoes a second distillation, also known as Bonne Chauffe. The distillates then split into heads, hearts and tails, just like whisky. Only the heart portion goes into French oak barrels for maturation. The distillery will not throw out heads and tails. Instead, they will add the head and tails back into the wine or brouillis for the next distillation. Both distillations require about 24 hours in total, so the Charentais pot stills are running 24/7 during distillation. 

The cognac “new-make spirit” or eau de vie goes into French Limousin oak casks for maturation. The angel’s share is around 3% on average, slightly higher than Scotland.

 

How is it different from Whisky?

In whisky, producers use a wide variety of barley strains, but Cognac distilleries primarily use Ugni Blanc after the phylloxera mould crisis of the 1960s. The grape is disease resistant, high in acidity and low in sugar. Such properties make Ugni Blanc a suitable grape for making Cognac. Cognac Park uses approximately 60% Ugni Blanc for their Mizunara range. Imagine if the SWA proposed that rule to use barley varieties like Golden Promise, Triumph or Bere Barley. 

The Charentais stills for cognac distillation use must be direct-fire heating as well. Many Scottish distilleries, on the other hand, that have switched to steam coils.

Unlike Scotch and many other spirits, Cognac distillation, with accordance to the Cognac Appellation, can only occur around late November to March. 

 

What makes Cognac Park different?

Cognac Park is in the Borderies, the smallest growing cru in the region, just 4,000 hectares under vineyard cultivation. The soil in the Borderies is prized for its limestone and chalky properties. This terroir could be the reason why cognac from this region has characteristic floral notes of violet. Cognacs in the Borderies region also have a reputation of requiring a shorter maturation time for the same quality. The entire Cognac Mizunara collection are all Single Cru Cognacs meaning that the grapes used are exclusively from the Borderies region.

The Mizunara casks used for Cognac Park must be virgin casks; which means that it cannot have aged spirits before, similar to bourbon. The Mizunara cask finish also cannot extend beyond 12 months. Otherwise, the cask could lose its appellation, and the cask cannot be considered a Cognac anymore.

Tasting the Cognac

Now to the Cognac! The Cognac Park Mizunara matures in French oak for 4 years before a  6-month finish in virgin Mizunara casks. This NAS was one of my favourites before the I tasted Single Cask. With the 10-year-old Mizunara, it generally has more Cognac characters with a nice layer of Mizunara complexity. However, due to the longer 10-month finish in virgin Mizunara casks, the patient drinkers amongst us will be rewarded. Regardless, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys Cognac previously.

The vintage 2006 single cask was extraordinary, primarily due to its higher alcohol strength that allows the cognac’s complexity to shine. This single cask portrays many flavours similar to a youthful yet tender single cask whisky. The last Cigar Blend was mindblowing as well in terms of age and taste. The Cigar blend contains cognac ranging from 25 to 32 years old that has leather and tobacco flavours similar to sherried single malt in its mid-twenties or older!

Many thanks to Spirits Castle for the invite to this exclusive tasting. These bottles can be bought locally here! If you are interested in the tasting notes, I have left my opinion down below!

Cognac Park Mizunara Finish

Nose: Notes of raisins, dried fruits. Insense notes, a hint of black pepper and sandalwood. With water, notes of brioche started to appear. 

Palate: Orange peel, sandalwood, incense, herbal note, earthy notes. With water, oak spice and sandalwood.

Finish: Herbal note, vegetal notes, sandalwood, With water, cinnamon spice and black pepper.

 

Cognac Park 10yo Mizunara Finish

Nose: Soft nose, rich raisins, figs, red apples, black pepper, umami note, floral notes, milk chocolate. With water, cinnamon, star anise, brioche, oak and honey.

Palate: Floral note, orange peel, parfait armour, ripe red apple. With water, vanilla, cinnamon and toasted oak.

Finish: Incense note, black pepper spice, raisins and walnuts.

 

Cognac Park 9yo 2006 Single Cask Mizunara Finish

Nose: Green Pears, hints of orange, honey, herbal note, black pepper, vanilla, lemon zest. With water, more confectionary sweetness and green apples

Palate: sandalwood, vegetal note, earthy notes, umami notes, confectionery sweetness, With water: green apple, herbal sweets, minty cooling sweets

Finish: sandalwood, black pepper, incense note. Water: more minerality, raisins.

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! 😀

Whisky Review #105 – Glenmorangie Whiskies

The Exciseman Whisky Bar

There were so many Glenmorangie events recently that our heads were practically swimming with the whiskies from the distillery. Even though we shared two previous posts about Glenmorangie, we wanted to share a particular event hosted by The Exciseman Whisky Bar because we thought it was truly exceptional.

Brendon McCarron and The Exciseman Whisky Bar

With Brendon in town, it was an excellent chance to share some moments with the trade personnel in Singapore on a cosy Monday afternoon. Lewis and Patricia from The Exciseman Whisky Bar hosted an afternoon tasting session on 1 July 2019. It was a rare chance for Brendon to interact with more trade people in Singapore, and to give all of us a better understanding of what Glenmorangie is all about.

The Whisky Line-Up

The Glenmorangie Whisky Line-Up

WhiskyGeeks has spoken extensively about Glenmorangie and Brendon, so we will not repeat them. What we want to share here are the reviews of the various expressions that we tasted at The Exciseman Whisky Bar. It was a unique tasting because we paired whisky with the wine that the whisky was finished in.

Lasanta 12 Years Old x Pedro Ximenes (PX) Sherry

Lasanta 12 Years Old

The first whisky on the list is Lasanta 12 Years Old. Its name means warmth. We understood from Brendon that the whisky matures for ten years in ex-bourbon casks before finishing in both Oloroso and PX sherry casks. 75% of Oloroso sherry and 25% of PX sherry gives a result of “clean sherry” influence. For the pairing, a PX sherry was used.

Lasanta 12 Years Old

Nose: The first nose was that of cinnamon spice, sweet raisins, toffee and chocolate. With some time, vanilla and honey surfaced. It also becomes relatively oaky.
Palate: We tasted cinnamon, caramel, raisins and hints of chocolate. There was also a pleasant warmth. It was a light and easy dram. With time, sweet vanilla, honey, coconuts and white pepper came out to play.
Finish: The finish was medium, with dark chocolate, hints of cocoa powder, raisins and honey. It was also oaky and dry.

PX Sherry

Nose: It was full of dark raisins (reminded me of Ligo brand), plums and sweet stewed fruits. I could nose this all day!
Palate: Full of raisins, stewed and candied fruits, there was also some honey that I could get on the palate. It was a delicious dram even though I find it a tad too sweet for my liking.
Finish: Long and sweet with raisins and stewed fruits lingering on forever.

Conclusion: I may like the sherry more than the whisky with this pairing. The nose and palate of the sherry bring back beautiful memories of snacking on raisins in my childhood! This is a perfect example of memories helping us to like a particular drink more than others!

Quinta Ruban x Ruby Port

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 Years Old

The Quinta Ruban is a port cask finished whisky bottled at 46%. The whisky matures in ex-bourbon casks for ten years and finishes in ruby port casks for two years.

Quinta Ruban 12 Years Old

Nose: There was vanilla, honey, musky caramel, hints of oranges and spice in this one. The sweetness was more muted than the Lasanta 12 YO, but there appeared to be more complexity in the whisky.
Palate: Yes, the complexity continues in the palate. I got the vanilla, honey, cinnamon spice with hints of oranges. There were also dark chocolate and oak to it. The level of maturation and finish in the whisky was more exciting than the Lasanta 12 Years Old.
Finish: The finish is long and oaky, with the slight bitterness of very dark chocolate.

Ruby Port

Nose: The nose was full of chocolate, light raisins and fragrance of grapes
Palate: Extremely sweet with heavy chocolate notes and the fruitiness of grapes.
Finish: Soft and short, there isn’t much of a finish here.

Conclusion: The whisky is the winner over there. The spirit character of Glenmorangie is evident in the Quinta Ruban 12 Years Old. The level of maturation is also excellent with both the bourbon and port influence showing clearly.

Nectar D’òr 12 Years Old x Sauternes

Glenmorangie Nectar D’òr

The Nectar D’òr is a 12 Years Old whisky bottled at 46% too. The whisky matures for ten years in ex-bourbon barrels and finishes for two years in Sauternes casks.

Nectar D’òr 12 Years Old

Nose: Initial nose gave green fruits such as apples and pears. It then developed into melons, honeysuckle, vanilla and hints of white pepper. With some water, I got oranges, lemon zest and a more substantial sense of white pepper.
Palate: There was light fruitiness of melons and apples, but the white pepper were prominent. With water, the orange peels and lemon zest showed themselves alongside white pepper. The overall was spicy, but lingering sweetness hid below.
Finish: Long, oaky and tannic. Water reduced some tannins, but it remained oaky. The fruits were subtle.

Sauternes Wine

Nose: There were light raisins, Qoo white grapes juice and hints of melon and apples.
Palate: I got plenty of sweet Qoo white grapes juice and raisins. It was also tannic.
Finish: The medium finish was oaky and tannic.

Conclusion: I did not like the Nectar D’òr as much as the other two. Perhaps it might be due to the peppery spice and tannins from the Sauternes cask. As you can imagine, I did not like the Sauternes wine very much too.

Astar 2017

Astar 2017

Finally, we had the Astar, which was made using the designer American White Oak Casks that we spoke of during Brendon’s interview. The Astar is fully matured in designer first fill bourbon casks and bottled at 52.5%. It is also a non-age statement whisky.

Astar 2017

Nose: We get coconuts, vanilla, melons, honey, salted caramel, and hints of white pepper. With time, citrus lemon zest appeared alongside the other aromas.
Palate: Plenty of vanilla, lemon and honey in the palate with the higher alcohol percentage showing up as white peppers. There were also hints of coconuts. With time, the coconuts and lemon zest became more prominent.
Finish: The medium finish is full of honey, pepper and oak. With time, the finish lengthened and became sweeter.

There was no bourbon for us to pair with the Astar, as we were all quite high by then. Pairing wine and whisky is no easy feat, and we applauded The Exciseman Whisky Bar for doing so. Brendon also did a fantastic job through the guided tasting, and we learned more about the different wines as we go along.

Conclusion: I think I like the Astar 2017 best among the four. It has the complexity that my tongue was looking for, with the bourbon-matured whisky showing significant wood influence. This was my first time tasting a whisky that was fully matured in the Glenmorangie designer casks, and I must say that I am impressed.

Tasting the Glenmorangie Whiskies at The Exciseman Whisky Bar

If you are keen to try the whiskies from Glenmorangie, look no further than the Exciseman Whisky Bar. They have a wide spread of Glenmorangie to choose from at reasonable prices. We present to you a short list of what you can expect.

  1. Lasanta 12 Years Old @$15 (30ml) or @$22 (60ml)
  2. Quinta Ruban 12 Years Old @$16 (30ml) or @$24 (60ml)
  3. Nectar D’òr 12 Years Old @$18 (30ml) or @$27 (60ml)
  4. Astar 2017 @$20 (30ml) or @$30 (60ml)
  5. Signet @$32 (30ml) or @$48 (60ml)

Full bottles are also available if you are keen to bring them home or open them at the bar to share among friends.

 

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    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. 🙂 

    Whisky Review #103 – Tamdhu 15 Years Old (OB)

    Tamdhu 12 and 15 Years Old

    The last whisky review I did on WhiskyGeeks was a long time ago; 7 months ago, to be exact. There wasn’t a lot of time for me to sit around to relax and enjoy during these 7 months, so there wasn’t a point to do a review. I finally get some time today and worked myself into the mood to enjoy something nice.

    I would like to change the scoring for our reviews from this post onwards – we will no longer score the whiskies based on a 20/20/20/40 system for the nose/palate/finish/balance. Instead, we will follow the standards by most whiskies review sites to use the 25/25/25/25 scoring system. I hope the change would make our scoring fairer.

    Tamdhu 15 Years Old

    I was given a sample of the Tamdhu 15 Years Old when I did the exclusive interview with Jonathan Scott. The Tamdhu 15 years old is the new kid on the block for their core range and the Asiaeuro team had graciously shared a sample with me. Here are my thoughts on it.

    Tasting Notes:

    Colour: Amber
    ABV: 46%

    Nose: Oranges waft to the nose but cloves and cinnamon quickly replaced the sweet oranges. As I put aside the spices, I get sweet toffee, plums and some musky earth. (20/25)

    Palate: Oily mouthfeel; sweet toffee envelops the mouth before the cloves work their way to give a spicy punch to the palate. Black pepper replaces the cloves after that. As the spices settle down, sweet toffee returns and bring along oranges, plums and honey to the palate. (23/25)

    Finish: Long finish; the oranges linger for a short while before the cloves come back with a vengeance. Black pepper burns down the throat, giving an unexpected warmth. Finally, the finish turns dry and tannic, giving away to oakiness that lasts for a long time. (22/25)

    Body: The Tamdhu 15 Years Old is a relatively complex dram that whisky lovers can enjoy for a long while. The spiciness of the dram may put some people off, but it does benefits from some airing or water. Once the whisky opens up, the sweetness of oranges, plums and honey takes the dram to another level. (23/25)

    Total Score: 88/100

    Comments:

    Zerlina: I enjoyed this dram. On the surface, it looks like a simple whisky at 46% but the complexity of the dram is quite impressive. This is probably not so suitable for someone who just starts the whisky journey, but for someone who has been drinking whisky for a while, this will prove to be an enjoyable dram. 

    Zico: I am working on a cocktail at the moment – and hence will not be able to give an unbiased comment. Hahaha!

     

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      DFS Whisky Festival 2019 Special Releases

      For 4th Edition of the DFS Whisky Festival, DFS Changi has its first pop-up bar in T3! If you are travelling anytime between 1st May to 10th June, the bar is opened from 8am to 12 midnight so be sure to check it out! Travellers can expect to enjoy their whisky with live jazz performances. You can find out more about the event here! The DFS Whisky Festival brings about some new releases as well! And I got to try some of these exciting drams, here are some of my opinions on it!

       

      Glenmorangie 14 year old 2004 (#1399)

      This single cask Glenmorangie is a Changi exclusive! It spent the first 10 years in ‘slow-growth’ American White Oak, and then spent the next 4 years partying in an oloroso sherry cask!

      Nose:  The smell is initially sweet but reserved. Vanilla, Confectionary sweetness, unripe strawberries, notes of milk chocolate With water: Strong notes of milk chocolate, lemon zest and green apples with that sweet Glenmorangie spirit character

      Palate: Citrus notes on arrival with vanilla. The dram had good texture, bringing hints of cinnamon spice, vegetal note and whiff of chocolate With water: Initially a burst of lemon zest, then stronger cinnamon notes, more chocolate-y this time round, alongside honey and vanilla, hints of dried fruits and figs.

      Finish: Citrus, brioche and vanilla notes still lingers on With water: It’s much sweeter, with a stronger cinnamon spice

       

      Chivas 21 year old The Lost Blend

      This is a rather “rare and ghostly” version of the Chivas 21yo, but with an age statement! This Chivas 21 Royal Salute blend features some silent distilleries in the mix! Of the information I could get, there were two malt distilleries and one grain distillery: Imperial (mothballed in 1998), Caperdonich (closed in 2002), and Dumbarton (shut down in 2002). Although I didn’t have as many flavour notes to write about for this dram, I really enjoy the luxuriously high calibre of maturation. This is the best Chivas blend I have had! If only it was at cask strength……

      Nose:  The smell is full of musk, leather, old books, and slightly waxy notes. Some hints of citrus gets through, with time it is more old and elegant oak

      Palate: Musk somewhat reminiscent of the “old bottle effect”, earthy notes, mineral notes, scent of stone walls from a dunnage warehouse, old libraries! <3

      Finish: Leather, old books, and limestone.The finish is surprisingly long and musky!

       

      Compass Box No Name No. 2

      One of my favourite blending companies coming with a strong blend! As usual, Compass Box has been very transparent with his recipe. This blend is made of:

      75.5% Caol Ila matured in refill sherry butts

      13.5% Clynelish matured in rejuvenated white oakhogsheads

      10.5% Talisker matured in rejuvenated white oak hogsheads

      The remaining 0.5% is a vat of 3 highland single malts finished in French oak barrels! This dram is a peaty beast initially, but the Clynelish sweetness slowly emerges with time.

       

      Nose:  A strong initial peatsmoke, like a tight and warm embrace! bonfires, lemon zest, earthy vegetal notes, hints of yuzu. With water: more of that honey and vanilla appears and fruity sweetness and more citrus fragrances.

      Palate: A strong arrival of peat smoke, smoky, earthy, BBQ grilled meat and honey sweetness With water: more vegetal note, and hints of apples, With time, plums, unripe strawberries, green apples

      Finish: Earthy, and long lingering peatsmoke finish With water: The smoke stays, but lingers alongside sweet fruity notes, and waxy candle notes!

      Jura 20 year old One and All

      FIVE cask types! 5!!! 2 more cask types and I would be telling you the different casks types to the tune of Mambo No. 5! That is the work of none other than Jura’s Master Blender Richard Patterson. This dram has in it a bit of ex-bourbon, sherry oak, Pinot Noir barriques, Sparkling Cabernet Franc casks, and Cabernet Sauvignon casks. This Jura bottled at 51% works well. Due to its age and calibre of maturation, some people could not tell that it was peated!

      Nose:  Cherries, cherry stones, soft hints of smoke like a extinguished campfire in the morning, eucalyptus, coastal notes. With water: The european oak shows as whiffs of roasted coffee, almonds and cinnamon come into play

      Palate: A balanced cinnamon arrival with musky and earthy notes. Cherries, lemon zest, old oak and old books. With water: The chocolate becomes more apparent

      Finish: The strong cherry note lingers with hints of cinnamon and musky earthiness.

       

      Royal Brackla 20 year old 1998 Exceptional Cask

      This mahogany beauty spent 9 years in an American white oak cask before spending 11 years in a Tuscany (Italian Red Wine) cask! Luckily, this is bottled at a higher strength of 50.6% to showcase its complexity. This for me was definitely more oak focused from the start but with water, the personality started to shine through!

      Nose:  Treacle, chocolate, mellow cinnamon notes, walnuts, followed by notes of raisins, dried prunes With water: Floral notes appear, like a desert flower in the rain! This is soon followed by spicy cinnamon, strawberries and cranberries!

      Palate: Cinnamon arrival with this savoury note, coffee note, dark chocolate bitters With water: A bit more sweetness and the flavours are a bit more balanced

      Finish: Cinnamon chocolate and coffee finish With water: The dark chocolate note got more intense!

      A 1L version of the Port Charlotte 10 year old is also available, so if you fancy a bigger PC10, you can get the upsized version at DFS!

      Hope you get to visit the bar! Slainté!

      Special thanks to DFS Singapore for the invite to the media launch 😀

      Whisky Review #102 – Austria Single Malt Keckeis

      If you have yet to hear about Austria single malt whisky, this is a post that you can spend some time on. Flora and Choc visited our friend, Daisuke-san, at his bar La Terre recently and discovered this gem of a whisky. The uniqueness of the malt excited Flora almost immediately and the good price point at the bar added the appeal. So, we ordered a dram of this to see where it will take us.

      Unfortunately, my friend Google has not been very helpful in helping me understand this distillery well, as there is hardly any information available online! Whatever I can find are mostly in German, and I can’t read the language. 🙁

      Keckeis single malt comes from a distillery named Harald Keckeis. Located in Rankweil, Austria, it produces whisky, gin and beer. They should have about three expressions, with the core range named Keckeis Single Malt, and two distillery bottlings with cask names Forever No. 1, and Forever No. 2. Well, that’s all about it that I can understand. Hahaha!

      Anyway, let’s get on with the review. The bottle I had is a single cask distillery bottling. The cask name is Forever No. 2. It is kinda weird to call a bottle “forever no. 2”, but I suppose it could be an issue with translation?

      Tasting Notes:

      Colour: Rich Gold
      ABV: 42%

      Nose: Intense cherry and flowers mixed with a slight Nippon paint note hiding behind. Interestingly, the paint note does not make the nose bad, but on the contrary, it is pleasant and inviting. Slight spice lingers in the background, but it wafts in and out, never overpowering the sweetness that goes on and on. There is a fruitiness to it as well, almost like baked apples. Overall, it has a fantastic nose. (18/20)

      Palate: Thick and rich palate, almost syrupy. Baked apples, boiled sweets and cherries coat the palate nicely. There is a pleasant warmth too; nothing sharp. As I swallow the whisky, I taste sweet cherry jelly and an amazing burst of cherry fruitiness! Wow! (18/20)

      Finish: Long and sweet finish with a superb cherry sweetness and slight astringent note. The sweetness lingers all the way to the end. (17/20)

      Body: This is an interesting whisky, especially when it is not a traditional Scotch. I am very excited to try and it does not disappoint. Wow! Considering that it is only 42% abv, the delivery is nothing short of fantastic. Nonetheless, it is a simple whisky without too much complexity. I believe the distillery will do well moving forward and I look forward to trying more of what this distillery can offer in the future. (35/40)

      Total Score: 88/100

      Comments:

      Geek Flora: I am happy with this whisky. Simple and easy to drink with an excellent delivery of uniqueness. I would look forward to other expressions in the future. 

      Geek Choc: Flora decided to try this whisky before I could say that I wanted a dram, so we shared the dram instead. It was purely for a trial, but we were glad that we did try. Excellent dram to conclude our night at La Terre!

       

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