Friday, April 8, 2011

Review: The Connoisseur Emporium: Hidden Gems in a Hidden Gem

The Need to Knows:

Name: The Connoisseur Emporium
Address: 8A Marina Boulevard, #B2-66 Marina Bay Link Mall S(018984)
Tel: 6634-2268
Opening Hours: 10am-10pm (Mon-Fri), 11am-7pm (Sat-Sun)

It's great seeing how the whisky industry in Singapore is growing with many a good bar springing up, providing a huge range of whisky to suit all tastes and preferences. Retail outlets, however, are slightly lesser in number, but offer up some real gems for those seeking to start a collection or to just prefer to have their drams in the comfort of their own homes This article highlights The Connoisseur Emporium, a retail shop in the recently opened Marina Bay Link Mall, which sells a very interesting selection of Independent Bottling, Single Cask whisky from Scotland.

Opened in early December 2010, The Connoisseur Emporium is the retail arm of the established Connoisseur Divan at UE Square, but it sells a totally different set of products compared to the Divan when it comes to whisky. The bulk of the Emporium's 60 odd whiskies are Independently bottled Single Cask whiskies, which are sourced directly from Scotland.

In the earlier review on Lark Distillery, I briefly introduced Single Cask whiskies as a batch of whiskies that came from the same cask hence having the unique characteristics of each barrel. Independent bottlings, on the other hand, are unique in a very different way. Independent bottlings are mostly whiskies that have been purchased by companies/individuals, either directly from the distillery or from brokers, whilst it is still in the barrel. The company/individual that buys these barrels are then at the liberty to bottle the whisky as and when they feel it is ready to be bottled. The desired result, hence, is a limited released whisky from distilleries that is of a high quality and is also a unique product. Famous examples of independent bottlers would be Gordon & Macphail and Douglas Laing.

The independent bottlings at The Connoisseur Emporium, though, come from 2 other reputable Independent bottlers, Duncan Taylor, as well as Spirit of Scotland. Boasting a healthy range of cask strength, non-chill filtered and non-coloured whiskies, this place has arguably the largest set of special independent bottlings on sale in Singapore for retail. The Duncan Taylor range itself contains two ranges of Rare Whiskies, with old bottlings from the demolished Mosstowie and Caperdonich distilleries, whilst the other NC2 range (which stands for Non-chill filtered and Non-Coloured), contains slightly younger whiskies from established distilleries like Ben Nevis and Bowmore. The Spirit of Scotland Bottlings has a good range of vintages from distilleries like Caol Ila and Macallan, including a very special bottling from Macallan to celebrate the opening of the Connoisseur Emporium. There will be a short review on that whisky and a few more later on in this post.

On top of their wide range of Independent bottlings, The Connoisseur Emporium also boasts a comprehensive selection of the Glenfarclas range of Single Malt whiskies, which includes the standard expressions and the Family casks series of vintages from the 1950s to the 1990s. Of particular mention is the critically acclaimed Glenfarclas 40, which was given the Gold Award in its category by the Malt Maniacs in 2010. In addition to the whisky range, The Connoisseur Emporium also sells a selection of Edmundo Dantes Rum and some Cuban beer and coffee, so for those who want to get some of these, this is one place to go to as well!

One great thing about the Connoisseur Emporium, though, is its dedication towards not just being a retail destination, but a place that aids the education of those finding their way in the world of whisky. I had the good fortune of speaking to the two people that helm The Connoisseur Emporium, Heru its Business Executive, and Jon its Sales Executive, and both stressed that as a retail shop, their commitment is to helping their customers enjoy and understanding the whiskies they sell. This involves allowing them to try samples of the different whiskies, as well as conducting whisky tasting sessions for small groups, which take them not just through a special selection of whisky, but an in depth look at how the whole process of whisky from start to finish affects the whisky (for more details on the tastings please contact The Connoisseur Emporium as the sessions are small and one has to pay a fee for it)

Heru also gave me the chance to sample some of the more popular and sought after whiskies in The Connoisseur Emporium, so let's have a look:

Name: Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare Mosstowie 33 Years
Distillery: Mosstowie (Removed)
Region: Speyside
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 33 Years
Vintage: Cask 5817, Bottle 45/198, Bottled Nov 2008)
Alc/Vol: 47.7%

The Mosstowie distillery, as highlighted by Malt Madness, is essentially not a distillery on its own, but refers to two stills that distilled these whiskies in the Miltonduff Distillery from 1964-1981. These whiskies, hence, would be considered pretty hard to find, and that is probably why it finds itself in Duncan Taylor's Rarest of the Rare collection. This was perhaps one of the best ways to start a day of samples, as it was a quite brilliant whisky.

Nose: Very smooth and pleasant with honied and fruity characteristics that are synonymous with Speyside. Hints of candied apple and orange, fresh honey, bubblegum. Hints of toffee too (23)

Taste/Palate: Sweet, oily and full bodied. Rich fruity sweetness with hints of candied apples carrying on on the palate, along with the creamy toffee with the amazing influence of the wood coming into play as well. (23)

Finish: Estery and candied sweetness bring up the rear with an interesting hint of tropical fruit like mangoes and pineapples. Hints of warm spices like cinnamon too (23)

Balance: Lovely grace poise and balance, a charming and sophisticated whisky that is definitely worth trying (23) 92/100

Name: The Wealth of a Nation Single Cask Macallan Single Malt (Bottled for The Connoisseur Emporium)
Distillery: The Macallan
Region: Speyside/Highland
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: Nil
Vintage: Cask 09/001A, 1989 Vintage
Alc/Vol: 51.7%

A young-ish Macallan that was bottled exclusively to mark the opening of The Connoisseur Emporium, this Macallan is very different from the classic, sherried Macallans of old as it is aged in American Oak, but is decently good in its own right.

Nose: Charred wood with vanilla cocoa. With water the nose opens up with more fruity notes of cherry and a nice citrus aroma. (22)

Taste/Palate: Full of citrusy notes of lemon and orange, light vanilla notes with a thick creaminess that is ever present, even with water (22)

Finish: Rich orange and light liquorice fades to give an interesting note of mineral stones and grape. (22)

Overall a pleasant dram, but it is a little bit rough around the edges that prevent it from being a real winner. (23) 89/100

Name: Duncan Taylor NC2 Range Single Malt Scotch: Bowmore Distillery
Distillery: Bowmore
Region: Islay
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 11 Years
Vintage: Bottled 2009
Alc/Vol: 46.0%

The Bowmore 11 Years Old from the Duncan Taylor NC2 range is a very unique whisky. As highlighted, the entire NC2 range is named as such as it is both non-chill filtered and non-coloured, meaning the whisky is in no way adulterated and changed by any process, leaving a natural colour and full flavour. More importantly though, this is a Bowmore with a larger sherry influence, which gives it another layer of taste and depth of character to the classic Bowmore flavours of citrus and sweet smoke.

Nose: The Bowmore sweet smoke and citrus is complemented perfectly with the influence of cocoa and wood spice, with neither overstepping its boundary. Balanced and rich (23.5)

Rich and smokey with notes of honey baked ham, a strong hint of pepper, with the citrus and sweetness coming up the rear. The Sherry influence is far lighter on the palate than on the nose (22)
Finish: The finish is smokey with the pleasant sweetness of honey baked and applewood ham (23)
Balance: The nose is quite brilliant and so is the finish, but the lack of Sherry influence on the palate is a slight let down. (22) 90.5/100

Name: The Glenfarclas 40
Distillery: Glenfarclas
Region: Highland
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age Statement: 40 Years
Alc/Vol: 46.0%

This last one was the last whisky we tried for the day, and is quite possibly one of the most well-received whiskies around the world amongst enthusiasts and critics alike. A 40 year old whisky designed for drinking (as mentioned by The Whisky Exchange), the Glenfarclas 40 is a real masterpiece of balance and flavour, and it certainly left me, my buddy and Heru speechless.

Nose: An amazingly alluring rich and full nose. Sweet fruitcake, dark chocolate, brandy-soaked fruits, demerara sugar with a hint of black coffee. (24)

Taste/Palate: Rich and oily yet not at all intrusive, staying very smooth throughout. Sherry influences come out through the flavours of the wood, complimented by rich fruits and a chocolatey note (24)

The chocolate and fruit notes bring up the rear with rich milk and dark chocolate, juicy apples and currents and candied orange. The mouthfeel is very pleasant and coats the mouth. (24)

To my mind, one of the best I've tasted. This is textbook brilliance on how balanced and flavourful a whisky can be (24) 96/100

So for those looking for a nice unique dram for your house or to give to someone as a gift, The Connoisseur Emporium is a place where one can find some exclusive whiskies which would be a real pleaser. This place is indeed a hidden gem with contains many hidden gems! Many thanks to Heru and Jon for the lovely experience and their help.

Good For: Rare whiskies, Independent bottlings

1 comment:

  1. Awesome place to visit and more importantly awesome blogpost of information thanks for sharing man..

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