Dram Review: The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old

[40%・12 Years Old・Original Bottling・General Release]

Here in Australia, we are not privileged to receive official allocation of age-statement-Macallans; and there exists entire generations of drinkers who are not privy to its greatness.

I held a Macallan tasting with some of my friends a few months back and came away feeling in awe of Macallans of old; in comparison, the contemporary Macallans simply cannot live up to the same height as say, a standard 18 year old distilled in the mid-80s.

To Macallan’s credit, the Speyside distilley does appear to be aware of its perceived notoriety, and they have seemingly embarked on an odyssey to win back critics of late. Perhaps with the recent release of the Double Oak Twelve Years Old, the old guards will finally come home to the great sherry house.

The Double Oak has been exclusively matured in sherry casks, in both European and American oak, and it is positioned in between the Fine Oak and Sherry Oak series. No doubt some fans would welcome this void of bourbon cask influence.

Nose:

On the nose there is a lot of red berries from the get go, refined and pleasant with its velvety touch. Freshly cut pears and clean minerals, green apples and sultanas. It’s rounded and fairly balanced, the oak is very much underlying and non-provocative.

Palate & Finish:

Red velvet cake served alongside crushed sultanas flamed with liquor on the palate. A feast of pitted cherries and prunes with milk chocolate truffles hidden beneath. The spices have again been kept at bay, with just traces of milk chocolate vaguely remaining afterwards.

Thoughts:

This is not so much a case of Macallan again returning to form but rather it feels like Macallan has realigned its focus back to the basics: making a household dram that’s just more elegant, and more sophisticated…

No information as to whether the Double Cask will be made officially available here in Australia; but these bottles will undoubtfully find their ways to Australia, one way or another..

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Tomintoul Five Decades

Tasting Notes:

Tomintoul Five Decades

Style: Floral and Delicate

Nose:

Fragrant white flower and coconut cream on the nose. Vanilla with a sour-sweet scent of green mangoes. Sugar barley, citrus oil and vanilla sit on top of black peppercorns. Delicate fruitiness with a buttery texture.

Palate:

Floral perfume treads on the palate gently, subtle but remarkable… Also in comes a shred of bitterness. Delicate tropical fruits and vanilla pods are slowly transfigured into more floral side notes with inaudible sherry whispers. Spice brewing underneath. More gentle notes towards the end, rose water, vanilla drops and a touch of white pepper.

Finish:

Floral perfume stain, lightest blend of white flower and paw paw.

Thoughts:

A rather unique blend of floral and malt. Steady tropical fruits and vanilla core, as the perfume notes add a delicate touch to it. While it is said to have 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years old of whiskies in this, I can hardly see any wrinkles from old age nor spices from young spirits. Interesting dram.

[50% •  2015 • Original Bottling • Non Chill Filtered • Limited Edition •  5230 Bottles •  Vatting of 10 – 50 Years Old]

-Esmond

Photo credit: The Whisky Company

 

Dram Review: Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades

The brand new offering from the Wild Turkey Master’s Keep series has landed in Australia, just in time for the holiday season and I was generously given one to taste.

Wild Turkey Master Distiller Mr. Eddie Russell debuted the Master’s Keep series after joining the helm alongside his father, the legendary Mr. Jimmy Russell. I had the pleasure of meeting Jimmy and Eddie last year when they were touring Australia, it was then when Eddie brought along his first expression as the Master Distiller for Wild Turkey.

The first Master’s Keep was of course aged 17 years. The Decades, however, carries a label that states that the bourbon inside has been aged for a period of 10 to 20 years; and at 52%, it is a big jump from the 43.4% 17 year old.

At the first instance, there are notes of eucalyptus and forest pines on the nose; with time the more traditional notes of brown sugar and vanilla grain become more apparent. The bright fruity notes from the previous release has subsided in the current rendition, with the emphasis placed more on the gentle mahogany note, it certainly feels more mature despite the shedding of an impression age statement for bourbon. It takes on a heavier tone when it gets rested for a while longer, chopped tobacco and suede leather channeling the earthiness across the red apple sweetness beneath; with notes of Texas barbecue marinade and that vanilla sauce that goes with bread pudding contributing to that overall heaviness.

The bourbon delivers a hot spicy hit at first, but once those ginger, chilli and cinnamon ease off, there are many a sweet thing happening; baked red apple crumble and cinnamon scrolls, liquor soaked orange slices and poached  dark cherries.. flavours normally associated with a Russell bourbon have come back all of a sudden.

The juiciness of things though has been well injected with woody tannins from American oak casks that have been treated with a proper charring, and that seems to rope in the flavours to deliver a dry oaky finish, akin to a post-cigar mouthfeel. For fans of massive woodiness, this certainly delivers.

Thank you Wild Turkey Australia for sending me the wonderful Master’s Keep Decades as an early Christmas present, it is much appreciated! I can’t wait to make some special mint julep for friends over the holidays, just perfect for festivities under this scorching Australian summer

[52%・10 to 20 Years・Batch 0001・Limited Release]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish

The Story

Johnnie Walker is introducing a new range of limited edition, experimental whiskies: Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch.
 
The Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch range lifts the lid on the skill and never-ending pursuit of flavour that drives the blending team, led by master blender Dr Jim Beveridge. The ongoing flavour experiments that Beveridge and his team study are a crucial part of their work, focusing on developing and understanding alternative flavours including wine, coffee and chocolate. 
 

Jim Beveridge said: “At any one time, there are hundreds of experiments into flavour being carried out by our blenders which involve making adjustments to atmospheric conditions, the types of wood and grain used, cask finishes and other elements of whisky-making in the pursuit of exceptional new flavours.”

 

Delicious Food pairing with the Blender’s Batch at the launch night

 

Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish

The first to be released in the series, Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish, is the result of experiments into the influence of bourbon and rye whiskey flavours on Scotch, inspired by the time Dr Beveridge spent blending bourbons and ryes in Kentucky in the 1990s.

Jim Beveridge said “For the first release, we wanted to focus on what happens when the intensely sweet flavours that can be found in bourbon and rye whiskies are brought together with the depth and subtlety of carefully crafted Scotch”.

The Blender’s Batch is a blend of grain and malt whiskies, with the signature Grain influence is coming from Port Dundas – It is now a demolished distillery and no longer exist. The other core whisky in this blend is Cardhu. I heard Cardhu is the very first distillery that Alex Walker (the founder of Johnnie Walker) purchased back in 1890s, it connects back to the heritage as well, the Speyside whisky contributes solid fruity flavours in here.

The other major focus in this particular glass is the fact that the whisky is cask finished – the whiskies are blended together and allowed them to finish for 6 months in Rye Cask, this will gives extra intensity and spiciness.

The intriguing part of this creation is the style is very indifferent and obscure, instead of focusing on traditions, rye cask finishing is actually a difficult thing to do – the influence from the rye cask tend to dominate easily, and it is hard to balance that flavour.

By Jim Beveridge’s own experimentation, inspired by his visit to Kentucky in the 1990s, where he studied how whiskies are made there. Then it is Emma Walker, who is one of the twelve Johnnie Walkers Blenders, have put forward this project when she interacted with bartenders, understanding how bartenders have been working with Rye whiskies over the last three or four years, as there was an incredible explosion of the popularity of Rye whiskies . This experiment batch aims to represent this trend, and produce a whisky for bartenders to work with.

Blender’s Batch with cocktail, I am no expert but a subtle hint of rye influence can be tasted, nice!

My Musings

This Red Rye Finish is the first release of the Blender’s Batch series, so we can look forward to many of Jim and his team’s experimentation to come. What is coming up next in the series remains in the dark but from what we have here it will be an interesting development.
For me, I am all for experiments like Blender’s Batch series as I believe experimentation is the ultimate way to advance in the realm of whisky. Making them available to the consumer’s market is a great idea because I feel trying products like this will also expand our horizons of tasting as we get to try novel, different flavour combinations. I love the concept and I love it more after tasting it. Although I feel if the whisky can be released at a slightly higher strength (maybe it will be too spicy perhaps?), the flavours will stand out better. Probably the product is also aimed to be utilized in cocktails, which is a field I am not particularly familiar with.

Tasting Notes

Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish

Style: Sweet and Dry Spices

Nose:

Robust grain influence on the nose, featuring crème brulee running with a touch of acidity from dried mangoes. Spice upholding the vanilla and honey core. Faint hint of five spices and sweet corn at the rim of the aroma.

Palate:
More grain signatures pumping onto the palate, rye influence starting to drift in. Creamy texture on forefront while spices darting in from behind. Pineapple notes in a mix of dried mangoes and papaya. Vanilla cream and honey drops, soft sweet corn brushes. A drying touch in the middle. Malt undertone is slowly unveiled towards the end while spice firing off to a light oak finish.

Finish:
Light oak, slightly drying, honey and creamy vanilla coating around nicely.

Thoughts:

Interesting whisky as I feel it aims to demonstrate the traits of rye, grain and malt whiskies at one go. The force of the grain and rye are pretty strong at times while the malt side a bit subdued, in the end they all have a part to play and this is unique to me. Sweet and creamy, nicely structured and I like how the spice is unleashed – such a nice glow. Decent, experimental dram.
 
[40%  2016 • Blended Malt • Batch #1 • Bottle Number: RR106013 • x]
Photo Credit to Leo Burnett Australia
-Esmond

Dram Review: AnCnoc 18 Years Old

[46.0%・18 Years Old・Bottled Circa. 2015-2016・Official Bottling・General Release]

Whisky shows seem to be a good litmus test these days to test out whether new products could cement their places in the market ( i.e. the BenRiach Cask Strength Batch 1).

At Whisky Live Singapore, I got to taste the AnCnoc 18 Years Old, the recently unveiled expression that would replace the dearly departed 16 Years old.

Nose:

On the nose it’s relatively clean sherry with stewed pears and just a touch of minerals, melted toffee with the spices having been balanced rather well here. It’s a very breathable set of appealing aromas indeed.

Palate & Finish:

Full of raisins and sultanas on the palate with a top coating of toffee and peanut sauce. The delivery is a tad flakey, with the oily acidity going up a notch towards the mid-palate. There’s just a hint of dried chilli that comes through.

The oak presents a calming vibe towards the finish but its presence is perhaps a tad too subdued, its subtleness though is paired well with a wee syrup-cured-dried-muscats note.

Thoughts:

In Australia, AnCnoc is traditionally underrated and this one may fly under the radar as well, despite being a solid release in my opinion. The departure of the 16 Years Old has made everyone realise just how much the staple dram means to them; this should make those fans even more vocal about their appreciation towards AnCnoc.

Nicholas

Whisky Review: Glenfiddich ‘Project XX’

Tasting Notes:

Glenfiddich Experimental Series 02 ‘Project XX’

Style: Sweet and Spicy

Nose:

Almost a winey texture on the nose, clean thread of autumn apples feeding through the scent. Generous caramel-cereal crust shatters to reveal orange candy, fruity liquorice lurking within. A quick of honey and black pepper spice dusting over.

Palate:

Deeper, initial touch of black liquorice and tropical gummies. Fragrant apple crumbles and overripe fruits simmering with vanilla cream and chilli flakes. Malt syrup dripping and finishes with a sweet creamy mocha touch.

Finish:

Coffee mate with sweet cranberries and candied pears. Subtle but enduring apples last very long to finish.

Thoughts:

A sweet Glenfiddich which is tuned up by decent spice (finally!). Rich and louder flavours closely arranged to each other. Relatively fuzzy and soft textured comparing to its counterparts. Sherry influence is somewhat more evident but it feels there are more than that going on. Quite good. I must also add the packaging is spectacular!

[47% • 2016 • Original Bottling • No Age Statement • Non Chill Filtered • General Release]

-Esmond

 

Dram Review: SMWS 96.1 The GlenDronach

[54.9%・20 Years Old・Distilled in 1971・Bottled in 1991・SMWS Bottling・Single Cask Release]

When I saw Mr. Yeo having this 20 year old Society GlenDronach the other night, I told myself this would have to be one of the drams I must sample during my stay in Singapore; and to my fellow sherry heads, here’s my one line summarythis really is as good as it gets.

Nose:

Almost immediately, the old school sherry notes render your senses captive. Any form of resistance to doubt the greatness of the dram is futile. Old mahogany with a gorgeous aroma from freshly brewed red tea. Rich in flavours but it’s not over the top with the mellowing incense note. A brush of aged balsamic giving the dram a wee acidity followed by that unique cheese note from a spectacular Oloroso; with some wine tannins and a faint whiff of wood smoke in the background. Pure excellence.

Palate & Finish:

Sticky and spicy beyond expectation even for a sherry bomb. The Oloroso influence acts like a dynamite here, powerful and explosive, bursting with flavours that takes the palate on an exhilarating drag race in a turbo-charged ride where everything starts happening after a split moment of anticipation, resulting in mind-blowing explosiveness. Christmas cakes and maraschino cherries with an old European wordiness that acts as fuel to give the dram another surge in vibrant flavours; notes of ginseng and berries intermixed with just a touch of premium soy sauce.

The finishing however merely adds a fragrant touch and there is a feeling of incompleteness.

Thoughts:

It’s really a shame that there’s a minor let down but the finish is perhaps a victim of the nose and palate being near perfect.

Still the dram really is a revelation, it cannot be a more stark departure from GlenDronachs distilled in early 1990s, some of them can come across as being slightly dirty. To pay the highest compliment possible, this is old school Macallan on steroids.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Speyside Single Malt 1977 Bottled for the Auld Alliance

[46.2%・2015・38 Years Old・Independent Bottling・Limited Release]

Although this whisky is labelled as an undisclosed malt, one does not need to read the Auld Alliance menu to have a pretty good idea of when it came from.. it’s not a Macallan..

Nose:

The dram is quite mute to start off, but it is on the right track with that polished wood note from an antique piece coming through. Soft fruits like nashi pears are subtlety conveyed and as time passes the nose does fare better with the old sherry musk opening up. First impression on the dram can be quite deceiving as the nose becomes rather impressive over a period of time, more of those chocolate truffles and prunes on show.

Palate & Finish:

Attractive poached fruits on the palate before the heavier tone of woodiness comes through. Perhaps a knock on the dram as the wood does weight down on the rather fresh sherry. Milk chocolate and simple syrup with quite a generous splash of spices and nutmeg, trailing off is a brush of subtle yet alluring rose petal jam.

A classy finish with the presence of Turkish delight being held in place, it’s rather tender indeed..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: The Glenrothes 1991 (Bottled in 2012)

Style: Sweet and Spicy

Nose:

Stewed fruits simmering with a nice blend of vanilla malt. Ginger spice rolls in slowly, rising from the glass at a relaxed pace. Fresh, clear cut and grassy balm running on the nose. A soft mutter of caramel paste contributes a bit of creamy texture to the scent.

Palate:

Big mouthful of sherry notes to start off the palate. Red grapes pressing lightly with some sweet almonds on the side. Light, but dialled down to a medium-low tone, which welcomes some solid support from the ginger backbone to keep it zippy. The spices reach the heights with sharp and refreshing touches, and also providing some sizzling scorched undertones. Sherry juice meets the malt at the back, topped up with a touch of cream. A sweet ending.

Finish:

Light chocolate and dates singing with distant dried fruit notes. Soft finish.

Thoughts:

Other than it is a rather sherry-ladened whisky, I am quite surprised and impressed how much the spices department does most of the heavy lifting. Playing all parts from bass level to high notes, amplifies the red fruit sweetness and supporting the structure. Probably a bit over-reliant on the spices if you ask me. While I haven’t tried a lot of whiskies, but this type of arrangement is rather rare to me. Interesting, I guess.

[Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[43% • 2012 • Original Bottling • Limited Release • 21 Years Old • Quick Impression • t-]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Overeem Cask Strength Port Cask Matured OHD-092

[60%・NAS・Original Bottling]

The nose is intoxicating with a wave of musky fragrance. Chocolate with a faint toasted peanut butter note. The dark port influence interacts well with the oak to give the dram some weight. Not an overly complex nose at first but things are as they should be. The aromas grow even thicker in time, ginger and cinnamon grounded with a lace of incense smoke, and just a hint of sweet popcorn note in the background.

Sweet and sticky on the palate as one would expect from a 1st-filled-port-matured-Australian-cask-strength whisky, that saucy balsamic reduction is dripped all over the strawberry preserves, served on a dark rye toast. A hearty burn that gives way to traces of mint and chocolate.

The dram grows dryer and more malty in the finish. Glazed walnuts and cinnamon dust.

This is deeply satisfying for those in the big-thick-Australian-port-cask cult. No wonder the distillery has gathered such a following, especially when it comes to this particular expression; this is exactly what one wants. If this were a powder form narcotic, it would be purer than anything you could get off the streets.

☆ [Recommended]

P.S: thank you Mr. Lawrence for giving me a spin of this bottle!

-Nicholas