The Macallan 12 year old Double Cask

It’s Father’s Day here in Australia on Sunday 3 September and The Macallan reckon their new 12 year old Double Cask expression would make the perfect gift for any Dad. So, what better way to validate that then putting it to the test with my very own Dad!


What Dad has to say

That’s a classy looking bottle! It’s got broad-shoulders and I like the colour and design on the box. It’s really eye-catching and the blue looks great with the gold accents on it. Very smart. What’s the ‘double cask’ thing mean?

What I have to say

Good question Dad! Not to be confused with the Macallan 12 year old Sherry Oak (or the 12 year old Fine Oak); the Double Cask is an entirely new expression that has only just recently hit Australian shores. The Double Cask gets its name from the fact that two different cask types are used in the maturation process; a mixture of both American Oak and European Oak casks, seasoned with sherry.

Keen Macallan fans might be aware that the 12 year old Sherry Oak expression from Macallan is also made up of a combination of American Oak and European Oak casks, so what’s the difference? The Double Cask reportedly has a higher proportion of American Oak in the mix, so along with the dried fruit sweetness from the sherry, I’m expecting to find some big honey and vanilla notes in there too. Only one way to find out!


Dad’s tasting notes

“This has got a nice soft brown sugar note to it, a nice sweet smell. It’s really pleasing and warm. It’s got a really smooth and silky taste to it as well, nice and warm with a hint of a spice to it, almost like cinnamon or an all spice fragrance to it. Really nice and easy drinking.”

And with that, Dad poured himself a second glass, No, seriously, he did..

“I tell you what, that second glass is really smooth and warming, it’s very much the kind of whisky that would make me want to go back for more.”

My tasting notes

Quite a rich nose with warming honey, oak and light spice. I get notes of poached or stewed fruits and nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts), with a dose of brown sugar and candied orange.

The palate is thin initially, but with a bit of a citrus burst. I get flavours of orange marmalade, vanilla custard and honey and runny toffee; fading to a slightly bitter finish of oak and light spice.


So if you’re still struggling with ideas for Dad (or if you just feel like spoiling yourself), keep an eye out for the Macallan 12 year old Double Cask which can be found on shelves now. A special thanks to The Macallan for the bottle pictured here. I’m pleased to say that it well and truly passed the Dad test.

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 1894

Wild Turkey are probably best known for their easily accessible and affordable bourbons, things like the classic Wild Turkey 101, their Rye and the Rare Breed expression. But every now and then they come along and surprise us with what can best be described as a premium release.

The great thing about their ‘premium’ releases though is that they’re not show-pony bottles of unobtainium; things that look good on a shelf, but that you’d never actually enjoy. Rather, they’re generally bourbons that carry the classic Wild Turkey profile, but give us something a little bit different to the core offerings. And the best part? They’re still accessible and affordable.

In recent years we’ve seen a few premium releases such as the Master’s Keep 17 year old (2015) and then last year’s Master’s Keep Decades release (hugely enjoyable – tasted here). At that point it became apparent that the ‘Master’s Keep’ was going to be an ongoing series, but that wasn’t always going to be the case. According to Eddie Russell, the Master’s Keep was never intended to be an ongoing release, but once they saw how nice the new bottle design had turned out, they knew they wanted to keep using it.

So ever since the Decades release last year, many bourbon fans have been patiently waiting to see what the next instalment would be in the Master’s Keep collection. Well, say hello to the new Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 1894.

The man himself, Mr Eddie Russell, made the trip all the way down here to Australia to launch the new Master’s Keep 1894 and I had the pleasure of being invited along to an intimate dinner at Chiswick to celebrate the occasion. If you ever thought Kentucky was south, trying coming all the way down here to Australia. It’s about as south as you’re going to get before you hit Antarctica, so I genuinely mean it when I say that it’s always a delight when distillers make the effort to come and visit us.

A delicious meal ensued whilst Eddie talked us through tastings of the two previous Master’s Keep releases, along with the new 1894.

What’s in a name

The previous Master’s Keep expressions were fairly self-explanatory in terms of their names corresponding to what was in the bottle. The Master’s Keep 17 year old was just that; some super old Wild Turkey that had been aged for 17 years (in brick warehouses) before being bottled. The Master’s Keep Decades was a nod to the fact that the whiskey inside was a blend of bourbon aged between 10 and 20 years. So when the Master’s Keep 1894 was announced, I struggled to make the connection.

Google wasn’t a whole lot of help, but thankfully Eddie filled in the blanks with a bit of a back-story behind the significance of 1894. It was in that year that the oldest rickhouse at Wild Turkey was constructed, now simply known as Rickhouse A. Fast forward nearly 100 years to the year 1981. A spritely 21 year old Eddie Russell has just started his first job at the distillery in the summer as a General Helper (yes, that was his official title!), pocketing the princely sum of $6.58 an hour.

He’s been there for a full week now and on his second Friday of work, he noticed a group of guys knocking off around 3.30pm and heading into one of the rickhouses. The invite him along and it’s here that he gets his first taste of whiskey straight from the barrel. That warehouse was Rickhouse A. To this day, Eddie claims it was the best bourbon he’s ever tasted and so he decided to dedicate this release to that memorable moment. You may have guessed it already, but all of the whiskey in the new Master’s Keep 1894 has been hand-selected by Eddie Russell, exclusively from Rickhouse A.

The nitty gritty from the man himself

I had the chance to sit down and ask Eddie a bit more about the 1894 and whether there was a specific profile he was searching for when he put it together. He happily tells me “I knew there was a parcel of 2003 vintage barrels in Rickhouse A that had this amazing fruit profile – full of pears and apple spice – so when I was asked to create the 1894, I knew I wanted to use these”. These barrels were around 13 years old and were eventually paired with a parcel of barrels from 2005 and 2011. So for those who like to know the nitty gritty, the new Master’s Keep 1894 can be described as a vatting of 13, 11 and 6 year old bourbons.

Master’s Keep 1894 Review

Bottled at 45% ABV (90 Proof) the nose is very much the way Eddie describes it – fruity! I got notes of honey, slightly underripe banana, stewed rhubarb, dried pears and apples. These notes were balanced nicely with lashings of caramel, spice and vanilla.  The palate is quite thin, but delivers more of those fruit notes, almost like a fruity banana/ apply split with sweet creamy vanilla ice cream, soft rye (baking) spice, runny caramel and whipped cream.

Now, depending on where you’re reading this from, there’s some good news and some bad news. If you’re reading this from Australia, the good news is that 10,000 bottles of the new Master’s Keep 1894 have just landed in the country and should start hitting shelves soon, so keep an eye out for them!

If you’re reading this from somewhere other than Australia, the bad news (for you) is that the new Master’s Keep 1894 is exclusively for the Australian market. Fear not though! A fourth installment of the Master’s Keep series will be released next year (yes, this one will reach other markets), along with another special project that Eddie is working on with actor – and Wild Turkey Ambassador – Matthew McConaughey.

An experience like this is not one I’ll forget anytime soon, so a sincere thanks goes out to Wild Turkey Australia for the generous invitation and to Mr Eddie Russell himself for making the effort to come all the way down here.

Auchentoshan & Ale

I’ve heard of drinking beer and whisky as a boilermaker combo, but beer ‘in’ whisky? Apparently it is a thing and the folks at Auchentoshan are big fans. So much so that they recently hooked me up with the essential ingredients to make their signature cocktail, the Auchentoshan & Ale. I actually tried this very cocktail at the distillery a little over a month ago and really enjoyed it, so let’s break it down.


Start by adding two teaspoons of sugar to a cocktail shaker. If straight sugar isn’t your thing, try making up a batch of sweet honey-syrup (that’s what they used at the distillery and it worked a treat!) Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and stir.


Add 30ml of your favourite Auchentoshan (I used the American Oak expression), top with ice and shake away.


Strain into a chilled mule mug topped with fresh ice.


Top with your favourite ale.


Finally, garnish with a lemon twist or wedge, sit back and enjoy.



Bar White Oak

by Whisky + Alement

If you happen to follow me on Instagram (@whiskyledger), you may have noticed that I recently visited Japan. My trip was an incredible experience for a number of reasons, but right up there at the top of that list would have to be the incredible whisky bars. We simply don’t anything quite like them in Australia.

Bar White Oak 1

Well, if there is one bar here that comes terribly close, without a shadow of a doubt, it would have to be Melbourne’s Whisky + Alement. These guys just do everything right in my opinion. From the bar you can comfortably perch yourself at, to the knowledgeable and friendly bartenders to the ever-changing back bar of over 600 bottles. For a genuine whisky-lover, this place just nails it. As if there weren’t enough reasons to love them already, they’ve just gone ahead and given us another one. Bar White Oak.

Bar White Oak 5

Bar White Oak

Owners Brooke and Jules and one of their bartenders, Kelvin, were avid Japanese whisky fans well before Japanese whisky became the cool kid on the block. Between them, this love of Japanese whisky has led them to curate one of the most impressive collections you’re ever likely to see. Given the craziness over all things Japanese whisky at the moment they could no doubt flip these bottles at auction for an eye-watering price, but that’s what separates whisky collectors or speculators from people like Brooke, Jules and Kelvin.

Bar White Oak 2

They bought these bottles with the sole intention of drinking them and have decided that now’s the right time to pop the corks. On top of that, they want whisky fans to join in on the experience as well. Enter; Bar White Oak – a consumable exhibition – inside Whisky + Alement.

Bar White Oak 4

Filling the tiny space in the front window of the bar, the Bar White Oak pop-up is a dark corner of awesomeness. The timber archway draws you into the large phone-booth sized nook, lined on both sides with around 150 different Japanese whiskies – the vast majority of which you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the country. There’s everything from old blends to entry level drams and a considerable range of true hero bottles like single cask Yamazakis, Karuizawas. You’ll also find award winners like the Yamazaki Sherry Cask. Pretty much every Japanese distillery is represented, including ones you’ve probably never heard of. Everything’s available by the full or half pour and everything is there to be opened, and more importantly, enjoyed.

Bar White Oak 7

SMWS member’s preview

Whisky + Alement also happens to be an official partner bar of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) and through this partnership, SMWS members were offered and exclusive preview of Bar White Oak the other night. Two exclusive Japanese drams were poured on arrival; a rare cask strength Ichiro’s blend and an SMWS single sherry cask Miyagikyo. They were matched with some excellent sushi, great conversation and the chance to be the first soul to crack open any of the Japanese whiskies on the back bar. Yes, this was a Japanese whisky fan’s dream come true!

Bar White Oak 6

What you need to know

Bar White Oak is now officially open and will run for six months. The bar will feature a rotation of Japanese whisky, with approximately 150 different Japanese bottles on the bar at all times. That’s more than any other bar in the country. Heck, even the best-stocked whisky bars in Japan don’t have that much Japanese whisky on offer. Seriously!

Bar White Oak
270 Russell Street, Melbourne VIC

Sunday & Monday – 4.30pm to 11pm
Tuesday to Friday – 4.30pm to 12.30am
Saturday – 7.00pm to 12.30am

Bar White Oak 3

A special thanks goes to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Whisky + Alement for the invitation to the preview night. I guarantee you’ll be seeing me again at Bar White Oak.

Paul John Whisky

Indian single malt whisky

If you played a little word association game with the average person and asked ‘what’s the first country you think of when you hear the word whisky?, I’d say there’s a really good chance most people would say Scotland. Some might hit you with Ireland or the United States. Heck, Japan is probably high up on that list these days too! But I don’t think you’d get too many people saying ‘India’.

Paul John Whisky 4

Don’t for one second think that’s because India isn’t a whisky-drinking nation though. It’s quite the opposite actually. According to these statistics, India is actually the biggest whisky-drinking nation on earth! To satisfy that demand they have over 40 whisky-producing distilleries around the country, but only two of those (as far as I’m aware) produce whisky specifically for the export market. The first, and perhaps the more well-known, is Amrut and the second – the feature of this post – is Paul John.

Paul John and John Distilleries

The brand Paul John comes out of John Distilleries’ single malt distillery located in Goa. The facility uses two Indian-made copper pot stills to produce in the region of 3,000 litres of spirit daily (1.1 million litres a year). This makes them similar in scale to a distillery like Ardbeg, who also have a single set of stills and a similar annual production capacity.

Not only does Paul John use Indian-made copper pot stills, but they also use a varietal of Himalayan 6-row Indian barely in the production of their spirit. This gives them a lower alcoholic yield, but Master distiller Michael John is of the belief that it helps give the whisky more characteristics of its country of origin. Casks are filled at 55% ABV (compared to standard Scottish filling of 63.5% ABV) before being matured in one of two warehouses.

Paul John Whisky 7

India’s hot and often humid climate makes whisky mature much faster than it would in Europe or the United States, with Paul John’s annual evaporation (‘The Angel’s Share’) being around 8% per year (compared to Scotland where it’s closer to 2%). As a result, their whiskies are often bottled anywhere between four and seven years of maturation. Paul John isn’t a brand you encounter too often here in Australia, so when they recently contacted me and offered a samples of their full core range I was more than eager to give it a try.

I’ll keep my notes brief, picking out some similarities and differences to try and form a better understanding of Paul John’s single malt profile and how the expressions compare against one another. One thing to note from the get-go is that all of their whisky is 100% natural colour and non-chill filtered.

Paul John Brilliance 46% ABV

The entry level expression in their range. Brilliance is made with un-peated spirit and is aged in ex-Bourbon American Oak casks for around 4 years.

Quite soft on the nose with some sweet vanilla and malty biscuit notes. There’s a hint of citrus, orange pith and oak. It’s chewy and oily on the palate and quite close to the nose – more citrus, zesty notes, spice and oak. It’s like a quality, soft Speyside whisky.

Paul John Whisky 6

Paul John Edited 46% ABV

Edited is also matured in ex-Bourbon American Oak casks for around 4 years, however it contains around 15-20% of peated spirit in the vatting. To get peated spirit, Paul John import peat from Scotland and then peat their preferred 6-row Indian barley themselves.

Very soft again on the nose, almost muted in a way. There’s a definite hint of peat that presents itself in a salty, damp hay smoke kind of way. It’s there, but it’s also fairly subtle and integrated. I still get the same malty biscuit and citrus notes from the Brilliance as well.

On the palate the peat is quite pronounced upfront with a salty saline tang, that great chewy mouthfeel. There’s toffee, maybe even salted caramels and that bitter citrus pith note again.

Paul John Classic Select Casks 55.2% ABV

A non-peated cask strength offering. A fuller, deeper and richer nose compared with the Brilliance, really showcasing the oily rich spirit profile. I got deep creamy vanilla, sweet malty cake notes and a hint of orange.

It’s bright and punchy upfront on the palate with a great sweet, oily, malty mouthfeel. Hot cinnamon and cedar-wood spice upfront gives way to sweet chewy vanilla, some honey notes, summer fruit salad. There’s more malt, oak and spice on the finish.

There’s a definitely lineage to the Brilliance in this one – with a similar general profile – but everything is cranked up to 11 and there seems to be more going on in the Classic Select Cask, probably due in part to the higher alcohol level.

Paul John Whisky 8

Paul John Bold 46% ABV 

The ‘Bold’ expression takes us into full peated territory and a single small whiff confirms that. It’s quite deep and bold on the nose with sweet herbal peat notes. It’s quite vegetal though, like a highland peated whisky, with a salty saline tang.

It’s vegetal and peaty on the palate (though not smoky) with that saline tang from the nose, but it also manages to incorporate some sweet notes. It finishes with a big wave of lingering peat that dries out your tongue, leaving behind a slightly bitter oaky woodiness.

Paul John Peated 55.5% ABV

As the name suggests, this takes us into peated territory again, but this time at cask strength. It somehow seems more restrained on the nose, with a nice balance of peat, berry/sherry sweetness and that herbal salty peat note.

Loads of tangy, salty peat upfront on the palate, a hint of crisp drying smoke, vanilla, charred peaches and brown sugar sweetness. The higher ABV carries the peat notes through to a long satisfying finish.

Paul John Whisky 3a

Some overall thoughts

I was really impressed by the whole Paul John range. Not that I expected it to not be good, but I think in the back of my mind I didn’t expect it to taste anywhere near as mature and balanced as it does. None of these five expressions gave off any hint of their youth. The decision to bottle at 46% ABV and above with no chill filtering is a smart move in my opinion, with the full range having a fantastic oily, chewy mouthfeel that carries loads of flavour across the palate. Whilst some of the expressions are slightly restrained in their flavour profile, they were all nicely balanced and tasted like high quality, well-made whisky to me. If I had to pick a favourite out of the five, I think I’d go for the ‘Peated’ expression at cask strength. It had a lot going on in every sip and is genuinely great whisky.

Paul John Whisky 5

Paul John also kindly included a full-size bottle for me to photograph (pictured throughout this post). I’m a sucker for packaging and presentation and I have to say, the presentation is rather smart! An embossed card box with a magnetic closure opens to reveal a nice clean, modern bottle. The fonts/script used throughout are fresh and clean, the main branding is screen-printed and there’s a nice little swing tag including a booklet on all the basics you need to know about Paul John’s full range.

Paul John Whisky in Sydney 

Mr Madhu Kanna, General Manager – Exports, from Paul John will be in Australia for the Whisky Live whisky show on 8th and 9th April 2016 so if you’ve got yourself a ticket, I encourage you to drop by their stand and try some Paul John whiskies for yourself!

Paul John Whisky 1

Thanks goes to Paul John for the generous whisky samples. I’m looking forward to seeing your brand develop further and tasting whatever you bring out next!