Sunday, August 28, 2011

Two Whiskies From Taiwan

It's been a while since we reviewed a whisky out of the stronghold of Scotland, but today, let's have a look at two whiskies from a distillery much closer to home. Unfortunately, these are nearly impossible to find, but you can get a dram or two in Singapore, if you are lucky.

The whisky in question is from Taiwan, and is starting to make some real waves in the whisky world with a string of stellar releases. The distillery of course is Kavalan, located in the town of Yi-lan, which is just a short drive away from Taipei. The parent company of Kavalan, the King Car group, was founded in 1956, but the first whisky from the distillery was only bottled in 2008, meaning the distillery was only probably set up during the new millennium. What has followed has been a success story that has well and truly announced Kavalan on the world whisky stage. Its accolades include top grades from Jim Murray's Whisky Bible in 2011 (95pts for the Fino Sherry expression), 5 silver awards in the 2010 Malt Maniacs Awards (including the 2010 Best Sherry Cask award for the Kavalan Solist (58.2%) in the Premium Category) and a Gold medal in the San Francisco Spirits Awards 2010. In essence, accolades like that vindicate Kavalan's rising prominence.

The two expressions on show today are the Kavalan Standard Single Malt expression, and the Kavalan Solist (58.6%). So let's have a look if these live up to the hype!

Name: Kavalan Single Malt Whisky
Distillery: Kavalan (Taiwan)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age Statement: Nil
Alc/Vol: 40%

This is the entry level Kavalan single malt, with no age statement. Let's see how it tastes...

Nose: Sweet aroma of raisins, fresh malts, clear and interesting vanilla and some raw nuttiness and sherry. Pleasant and clean (21)

Taste/Palate: Dark chocolate and creamy entry. Builds to a fruity mid section with bananas, apples and jambu! Hints of mango and malt as well. Ginger Candy and Pickled Ginger, salted peanuts and oak (22)

Finish: Barley plays main fiddle with loads of maltiness, with the sweet notes of fruits like mangosteen and mango. (21)

Overall: Great stuff, nicely balanced and definitely worth a try (21) 85/100

Found at: Fine Spirits at La Maison Du Whisky

Name: Kavalan Solist Single Malt Whisky Sherry Cask
Distillery: Kavalan (Taiwan)
Type: Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
Age Statement: Nil
Cask No: S060626038
Bottle No: 579/599
Alc/Vol: 58.6%

The second whisky, sadly is not available in Singapore, but SGwhisky was lucky enough to get a bottle from a mate in Taiwan. This one is the Kavalan Solist, not the same single cask bottling that won the accolades at the Malt Maniacs Awards, but let's see how this one goes.

Nose: (Without Water) Prunes (fresh and dried), vanilla, marzipan, dried nuts, strong red tea, grapes, dried apricots. A touch of rum (anejo rum) can be picked up too
(With Water) Far more nutty, hint of icing sugar, Iced Milo and condensed milk as well as dark chocolate (22) 

Taste/Palate: (Without Water) Notes of sweet and spice, dried prunes, extra sweet coffee, develops into sweet fruits, but overall very aggressive.
(With Water) With water the aggression really tones down, leaving the whisky to really showcase some lighter notes. Entry of rich espresso, more spice, with pepper, star anise, ginger, mixed with a syrupy sweetness, raisins and chocolate milk. Good stuff! (23)

Finish: Long lasting and very pleasant. Coffee, more dried fruits, warm orange ginger, loads of prune, and chocolate. (22)

Overall: A real winner in my opinion. Complex and pleasant. The only problem is that it is too aggressive without water, it could do with a bit of watering down, though the watering down did affect the richness of the nose (22) 89/100

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two Old Glens: Glen Keith 1965 and Glenugie 1977

It's been a while and this entry has been slightly overdue with the introduction of the Glen Keith 1965 as one of August's 1965 vintages. Pairing up with the 1965 Glen Keith is another old(ish) whisky from another closed distillery, Glenugie. So here's the low down on the two whiskies...

Name: Glen Keith 1965 Gordon & Macphail Connoisseur's Choice
Distillery: Glen Keith (Speyside)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: Nil
Bottler: Gordon & Macphail
Alc/Vol: 40%

For those who aren't familiar with Glen Keith, it is one of the distilleries in the bustling Speyside region, located near the town of Keith where it gets its name from. Unfortunately for the distillery, it was mothballed by current owners Chivas Brothers/Pernod Ricard in 1999. This means there is still hope that the distillery may open again, but for now Glen Keith's whiskies will be ever dwindling. 

Nose: Beeswax (very very waxy), fresh honey, some warm cinnamon, salt and fresh fruit notes of apple and pear. Interesting, light and fresh (22)

Taste/Palate: Fresh with a hint of malt and cured meat. Then it becomes very oaky and dry with notes of bitterness. (20)

Finish: Intense notes of licorice build up, with a lingering bitterness and slight hints of the fruit coming up again on the finish. The bitterness is a bit too strong though (20)

Overall: A good dram to try out if one wants to know more of Glen Keith, though the bitterness is a bit too strong for me overall (20) 82/100

Found at: Auld Alliance

Now let's turn our attentions to an even more lesser known distillery, Glenugie

Name: Glenugie 33YO 
Distillery: Glenugie (Highlands)
Type: Single Cask Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 33YO
Bottle No: 105/577
Vintage: 20/12/1977
Bottler: Signatory Village
Alc/Vol: 58.1%

The distillery of Glenugie has made a name for itself as a hidden and little known gem in the whisky world. Closed in 1983, its history was littered with periods of closure and ownership changes. Nevertheless, the whisky that came out of this distillery has been lauded for its high quality. The quality of the whisky has even led Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun to name Glenugie as one of his highest ranked distilleries. This particular old Glenugie was distilled in 1977, during its last period of operation, and it was actually finished in Oloroso sherry casks for a whopping 84 months! That's a 7 year finishing period, which is extremely long. Let's see how this baby tastes

Nose: Really rich and full. Notes of red fruits, strong sweet English Breakfast Tea. Apple juice, caramel and chocolate and some even stronger black tea. Great stuff! (22)

Taste/Palate: Rich and Oily entry with notes of bitter cocoa on creamy chocolate like Royce chocolate. Mid palate it is extremely sweet with notes of chocolate mousse, red fruits and sweet cream. Lovely and pleasantly complex (23)

Finish: Long and extremely pleasant. Sweet and slight fruity with notes of apple rose tea and rose syrup. Great stuff! (22)

Overall: A great whisky that does prove that Glenugie is one worth sourcing out for. Quite strong though! (22) 89/100

Found at: Auld Alliance

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Whisky of the Month (August 2011): Bunnahabhain: Special Releases

For the continuation of this month's whisky of the month segment featuring Bunnahabhain, SGwhisky takes an interesting looking at this Islay distillery's Special Releases (and there have been quite a few!). Released from time to time, these whiskies may be extra aged, finished in special casks or just bottled to commemorate special occasions. For this segment though, SGwhisky will be highlighting 4 special expressions: the 16YO Manzanilla Finish, the 21YO Special Edition, the Bunnahabhain 30YO and the Bunnahabhain 35YO 125th Anniversary Edition. 

(Note: Photo credits to: Loch Fyne Whiskies, Nickolls and Perks, Whisky Intelligence)

Let's tackle these babies in order of age, starting with the 16YO Manzanilla finish

Name: Bunnahabhain 16YO Manzanilla Finish 
Distillery: Bunnahabhain (Islay)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 16YO
No. of Bottles: 3792
Alc/Vol: 53.2%

For those unfamiliar with sherries, manzanilla sherry is a type of sherry produced in Cadiz, in the South of Spain. Manzanilla actually means Camomile in Spanish, the sherry getting this name due to the herbal, floral notes the sherry has that resemble Camomile Tea. Let's see how this one goes!

Nose: Vibrant and enjoyable nose. Notes of fruits like red apple and fragrant pear are matched with a light buttery note, hint of peat and pleasing saltiness. Hints of sweet white tea as well. Pleasant stuff! (22)

Taste/Palate: Big and full of flavour. Loads of peat (much more than the standard Bunnahabhains I have tried), and hints of Chinese herbal tea (notes of Ginseng, Luo Han Guo (which is a traditional Chinese herbal fruit called Siraitia grosvenorii)) hints of malt and honey as well (21)

Finish: Distinctly herbal again with more notes of Luo Han Guo and Pi Pa (commonly known as Loquats). Hints of strawberry Pastilles. (21) 

Overall: Interesting that it is so herbal. Maybe the idea of Manzanilla was playing on my mind but the herbs were distinctly oriental this time (21) 85/100

Found at: Quaich Bar

Let's move on to another interesting bottling, the Bunnahabhain 21YO

Name: Bunnahabhain 21YO
Distillery: Bunnahabhain (Islay)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 21YO
Vintage: 1986
No. of Bottles: 512
Alc/Vol: 46.7%

This bottling was apparently bottled for the Feis Ile, or Islay Festival of Malt and Music, in 2008. Interesting how Singapore got some of this stock! Due to its rarity, it is very highly priced, more than the standard 25YO expression. Let's see if this baby lives up to the hype

Nose: Fruity and sweet with notes of strawberry sweets, maraschino cherries, lemon drops and a hint of saltiness. Clean and pleasant but quite simple (20)

Taste/Palate: Smoky and semi sweet entry with notes of cocoa and oak, this develops into a very fruity mid palate with loads of strawberries. The smoke continues rolling on with a hint of red fruit tea. (21)

Finish: Long and pleasant ending with notes of sweet fruits like grapes and mango. Creamy notes of vanilla and whipped cream bring up a very nice and decently complex end (22)

Overall: Overall, it is a good whisky but not that flashy. A great ending though (21) 84/100

Found at: Quaich Bar

Now let's get into the really expensive and exclusive zone with the two long aged Bunnahabhains in the Special Editions segment.

Name: Bunnahabhain 30YO XXX 
Distillery: Bunnahabhain (Islay)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 30YO
Vintage: 1980
No. of Bottles: 357
Alc/Vol: 45.4%

Released in 2010 by the distillery, this special edition showcases the older and mature side of Bunnahabhain. Don't let your mind wonder with that very suggestive Triple X, it's just roman numerals!

Nose: Much more gentle than the 16YO and 21YO, with the predominant notes being fresh longan, fresh pear and smoke. A light hint of sherry and salt are present as well (21)

Taste/Palate: Initially very light and subtle, before the fruit comes in in force. Guava, unripe pear, preserved longans, pineapples, apples and a hint of mandarin. Some light peat comes in after that. Develops mid palate into notes of sweet Jasmine Green Tea. (22)

Finish: Pleasant sweetness with a very interesting light smokiness at the back. Orange juice, apples, and some white tea. Very pleasant and enjoyable (22)

Overall: A classy whisky that purrs rather than roars, perfect for a relaxing evening (21) 86/100

Found at: Quaich Bar

Last but not least, here is the Bunnahabhain 35YO, the oldest OB available for Bunnahabhain here in Singapore at the very least!

Name: Bunnahabhain 35YO 125th Anniversary
Distillery: Bunnahabhain (Islay)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 35YO
Vintage: 1971
No. of Bottles: 750
Alc/Vol: 44.9%

Released in 2006 to mark the 125th anniversary of Bunnahabhain distillery, this expression has garnered rave reviews from the whisky world, this should be good!

Nose: As this was my 4th whisky in a short span, I was afraid I would get much, but I was wrong. Lovely tropical notes of watermelon, ripe bananas, over-ripe mangos, Rock melon and vanilla. Notes of Condensed milk, Banoffee pie. Brilliant (23)

Taste/Palate: Oaky entry which develops into a rich fruitiness. Light smoke and tea accompany the initially oak, before the fruity notes take over with notes of pears, watermelon, light mango, oranges and banana cream. Light spices like ginger, and some vanilla. Very sophisticated (22)

Finish: Long and lingering just like the 30YO. Pears, sweet oranges, and bananas continue. Pleasant stuff! (22)

Overall: A great overall package which excels in all senses. Definitely worth a try, though it won't come cheap! (22) 89/100

Found at: Quaich Bar

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Speysiders (anCnoc and Mannochmore) + 1 Highlander

Today let's have a look at the distillery expressions of two lesser known Speyside distilleries which don't have much coverage here in Singapore. Nevertheless, their presence here is very much encouraging, and let's hope the brands keep on coming! The two brands are anCnoc (Knockdhu) and Diageo workhorse Mannochmore. Both expressions are 12YOs, so this should be an interesting head to head to see if the Speyside 'Style' is present in both.

Name: anCnoc 12YO
Distillery: anCnoc (or Knockdhu) (Speyside)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 12YO
Alc/Vol: 40%

The distillery of anCnoc or Knockdhu is located in Huntly, Aberdeenshire near the East side of Speyside. As one would notice by now, it goes by the name of Knockdhu. The reason for the change was to avoid confusion with another Whisky Distillery in Scotland, Knockando, also a Speyside distillery. Under the ownership of Inver House, anCnoc saw a re-branding in 2003, so this is the new look whisky coming out of the distillery since the ownership change. Let's see how it fares.

Nose: Pleasant nose with a very classic honey and spice notes. Honey, ginger orange spiciness, apples and some lemon. Little hints of vanilla, malt and eucalyptus as well. Pretty straightforward though (20)

Taste/Palate: Extremely woody and with bitter and burnt notes on the palate. Burnt nuts, dark roasted malt (like those used in Stout), burnt sugars. Hints of ginger, dried bark, honey, hibiscus flowers and some beer. Overly burnt for me sadly (18)

Finish: Slight licorice, more beer notes as well and a hint of fresh barley. Not too long lasting in my opinion. (18)

Overall: It is pleasant on the nose but I think the roasted notes are a tad too overpowering on the palate. Overall, the whisky is quite straightforward as a dram (19) 75/100

Found at: Drinks Fellas

Name: Mannochmore Flora and Fauna 12YO
Distillery: Mannochmore (Speyside)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 12YO
Alc/Vol: 43%

The distillery of Mannochmore is one of Diageo's workhorse distilleries, with most of its whisky production going to the drink behemoth's blends. Interestingly enough, it is also the distillery responsible for what is popularly known as the worst whisky ever produced, Loch Dhu Black Whisky. Its black colour and offensive profile has led Johannes Van Den Heuvel, the leader of the Malt Maniacs, to name it 'Aqua Crematoria'. Thankfully this 12YO Flora and Fauna expression, which was released by Diageo to showcase the 'house style' of its many workhorse distilleries, is very much different in style.

Nose: Malty, fruity and honied. Fresh barley water, fresh green pears, fragrant pears and apricots. A hint of raisins and grapes. Light, fruity and overall very pleasant! (21)

Taste/Palate: Notes of pear continue on entry with (interestingly) a light hint of peat. Oak and light creamy nuttiness as well. It continues with notes of malt and a touch of honey. (20)

Finish: Malty at the end with rich barley sugars and some oak. A pretty simple finish (19)

Overall: All in all this is a very drinkable and pleasant whisky. Nothing too exciting, but this is one that will go down easily when drank amongst friends or on a hot day. (20) 81/100

Found at: Auld Alliance, Quaich Bar

Last but not least, let's add in a bonus! Glengoyne is a distillery whose whiskies I've always wanted to try. Fiercely proud of their traditions like air drying their malted barley (meaning no peat at all!) and using the famous but notoriously low-yielding Golden Promise barley, this distillery should promise much... I hope!

Name: Glengoyne 17YO
Distillery: Glengoyne (Highlands)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 17YO
Alc/Vol: 43%

Glengoyne distillery is an interesting distillery due in part to its locality. Located very near Glasgow (which is home to the Lowland distillery Auchentoshan), it is nevertheless classified as a Highland distillery, so their style should maybe be a mix of both? I'm skeptical about classifying all Highland malts under one style, so I'll rather try this with no pre-conceived notions of what it should taste like.

Nose: Full of honey, pear drops and vanilla. Extremely pleasant and rich. These are accompanied with hints of saltiness, oak and the artificial sweetness found in sweets. (21)

Taste/Palate: The fruity, oaky and honied notes continue on the palate with hints of banana, Manuka honey and marmalade. Loads of warm spice like ginger and licorice. Extremely pleasant. (21)

Finish: Creamy and malty with hints of very light white bread, barley and Chinese Malt Candy (麦芽糖 for those who know what this sweet is!) I also get a hint of a light flour candy I ate as a child! Interesting. It's not powerful but it is certainly pleasant (22)

Overall:  I really did enjoy this whisky, it's pleasant and is very enjoyable. Definitely worth a try I must say (21) 85/100

Found at: Auld Alliance

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Independent Bowmore (On National Day!)

So yes, on National Day last week SGwhisky took some time off those bottles to catch up on another hobby, photography. It was Rag Day for the National University of Singapore, and it was always good to have a chance to grab some nice shots. This year it was at the Promontory, near the Marina Bay Financial Centre, so it's central locality meant one thing... Proximity to whisky establishments! So after quite a bit of shooting, which yielded nice pictures like the one above, where better to go than to the establishment nearest to Marina Bay itself, The Connoisseur Emporium for a taste of an interesting Bowmore.

Name: Duncan Taylor Rare Auld Series Bowmore 26YO
Distillery: Bowmore (Islay)
Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Type: Single Cask Single Malt Scotch
Cask No: 85073 (166 Bottles)
Vintage: 10/1982
Age Statement: 26YO
Alc/Vol: 51.3%

This independent Bowmore from Duncan Taylor was one that Heru, the Manager of The Connoisseur Emporium, has been raving about. Bottled at a healthy strength of 51.3% and an older age than most of the official Bowmores today, it should be a really interesting dram.

Nose: Great complex nose. Creamy and fruity with notes of Strawberries and cream, peach jam, icing sugar and a hint of peat. Notes of Strawberry cream cake as well. If one nitpicks, one can say that it is pretty much mainly sweet notes but this is overall a very pleasant and enjoyable nose. (23)

Taste/Palate: Very rich and sweet with notes of simple syrup, honey and caster sugar. Notes of raspberries and bananas bring up a very fruity note too with hints of oakiness and cream as well. (22)

Finish: Oaky, drying and overall rather graceful with a syrupy sweetness lingering. Despite this, it is slightly underwhelming. (21)

Overall: The balance of the whisky in general suffers due to the slightly underwhelming finish but the nose and the palate are really good and enjoyable. I would recommend this! (22) 88/100

Found at: The Connoisseur Emporium

Monday, August 15, 2011

Strathisla 1965 LMDW Exclusive

Oh boy I love it when I see such a line on bottles in Singapore, it fills me with pride:) And now that we are in August, why not share some 1965 joy! Trying a special Strathisla bottled for Singapore's market by Gordon & Macphail is about one of the best things to do for the month of August, and this was what SGwhisky was lucky enough to get to do courtesy of the good people at Fine Spirits At La Maison Du Whisky, who is the retailer behind this bottling. A very old Strathisla cask which was bottled just shy of its 46th birthday, let us see how this compares to other big old sherry expressions...

Name: Strathisla 1965/2011 (Bottled for La Maison Du Whisky, Singapore Exclusive)
Distillery: Strathisla (Speyside)
Type: Single Cask Single Malt Scotch
Vintage: 1965 (09/12/65)
Cask No: 3473
Age Statement: Not on bottle but 45YO
Alc/Vol: 48%

This whisky was a real beauty in general to me. Very complex on the palate, and very pleasant in general. This is a good whisky!

Nose: Really fruity, red apples, stewed plums, peaches, nectarines coated in honey, sweet chocolate. Some time in the glass reveals some notes of citrus, unripe fruit, burnt sugar (22)

Taste/Palate: Mild sweet entry builds up to a mid palate crescendo of pear, apple and more vibrant fresh fruit notes like berries. Some spice, dusted sugar before mellowing down to some stewed fruit (23)

Finish: Sugary with notes of dusted icing sugar and burnt sugar. Hints of fruit still remain, but in general, just very pleasant and long lasting. (22)

Overall: A nice whisky in general, very pleasant and appealing, definitely worth a try! (23) 90/100

Found at: La Maison Du Whisky

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Whisky of the Month (August 2011): Bunnahabhain: Old Series

SGwhisky's Whisky of the Month (August 2011): Bunnahabhain

In the euphoria of National Day week, SGwhisky will be starting our three part series of the August segment of the whisky of the month by highlighting what is now the 'Old' Range of Bunnahabhain whiskies. Earlier this year, Burn Stewart, owners of Bunnahabhain, unveiled a revamp to their brands, and that included Bunnahabhain. The revamp of the brands involved are largely bottled now at a healthier 46% abv, but at the moment, the older expressions (bottled at around 40-43%) are still widely available in the Singapore market. So for those trying these older bottlings of Bunnahabhain, here is the low down of their core range!

Name: Bunnahabhain 12YO
Distillery: Bunnahabhain (Islay)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 12YO
Alc/Vol: 40%

Kicking off this segment is the standard 12YO bottling from the distillery. A salty and fruity Islay with little or no peat, this is a good way to introduce one to the world of Bunnahabahin.

Nose: Salty and fruity with notes of buttered crust, raisins, malt and a faint nuttiness. Intriguing and pleasant (21)

Taste/Palate: Oaky yet very vibrant and fruity. Notes of wine, plums and raisins with the teasing salt that is indicative of Bunnahabhain apparent too. Interesting (22)

Finish: Slightly short, fruity with citrus and lemon drop. Some malty notes too. (20)

Overall: Not a bad dram, lacks an oomph though. (20) 83/100

Found at: Auld Alliance, La Maison Du Whisky, Quaich Bar

Name: Bunnahabhain 18YO
Distillery: Bunnahabhain (Islay)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 18YO
Alc/Vol: 43%

One of the most popular expressions of Bunnahabhain in Singapore, the 18YO is slightly stronger and also richer in flavour. Definitely worth a try!

Nose: Much more refined and rich, with the saltiness still around, but mixed with more sweetness, loads of winey notes and a pleasant winey sweetness. Some faint floral notes with gum drops, raisins again and vanilla (21)

Taste/Palate: Sweet and spicy entry with loads of oak. Butter, more plums now moving towards fermented plums, like ume (plum wine). Mid palate has notes of cinnamon, and light baked nuts (22)

Finish: Winey and rich, notes of sweet port, pronounced spice (white pepper), vanilla flavored sugar (21)

Overall: A more complete dram than the 12YO, rich and nicely balanced (21) 85/100

Found at: Auld Alliance, Quaich Bar, La Maison Du Whisky

Name: Bunnahabhain 25YO
Distillery: Bunnahabhain (Islay)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 25YO
Alc/Vol: 43%

The older aged Bunnahabhain is far more pricey and comes in a nice smart wooden box. Let's see how this one goes.

Name: Very winey and sweet. Less saltiness, more fruity notes along the lines of preserved plums, cooked apples, grapes, some floral honey and barley. A bit too sweet though. (21)

Taste/Palate: Very spicy and buttery. Sweet notes of barley sugar and some light cream. But there is an overwhelming stale river fish note. Like stale water... That note just does not go away for me... (19)

Finish: A slightly more roasted nuttiness, buttered nuts, malt and a hint of smokiness (21)

Overall: Some depth, very interesting, but the off note hampers it immensely (21) 82/100

Found at: Quaich Bar

Name: Bunnahabhain Toiteach
Distillery: Bunnahabhain (Islay)
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: Nil
Alc/Vol: 46%

The stronger Toiteach is Bunnahabhain's no age statement peated expression. As Bunnahabhain's core range is lightly peated, this would be interesting. How does this one taste!

Nose: Salty and smoky, some barley notes. An interesting grapefruit note tries hard to tie everything together, though it is still pretty fragmented on the nose (20)

Taste/Palate: Seaweed dominates, with notes of brine and maltiness. Develops with some sweetness of barley and licorice. Overall, still seaweed dominates. (21)

Finish: Pretty one dimensional with loads of seaweed again but this time there is a strong note of malty sweetness accompanied by an interesting hint of apple juice. (20)

Overall: Not a bad dram really, but in some ways a tad simple. Drinkable though! (20) 81/100

Found at: Quaich Bar