The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

Official launch, Sydney Australia

The Glenlivet – Australia’s best selling single malt – recently launched their newest expression in style at an intimate gathering held in a private penthouse in Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay. The Founder’s Reserve is a new, No Age Statement (NAS) single malt which has been introduced to replace the classic 12 year old expression as the entry point into The Glenlivet’s extensive core range.

The Glenlivet - Fireplace

The evening’s guests ascended to the penthouse in a mirrored elevator. The doors opening to reveal a lavish space filled with oversized art, the flicker of a fireplace and floor to ceiling glass offering up stunning views across Sydney harbour.

Glenlivet - fan

Around the corner, our private bartenders whipped up trays of ‘Founders Keepers’ cocktails. Think of them as The Glenlivet’s homage to the classic Tom Collins. Served tall, the recipe comprised of The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, peach liqueur, Lillet Blanc, apricot jam and lemon juice, topped with a splash of soda. They were refreshing and balanced and I can already see this recipe being featured a lot as the months get warmer.

The Glenlivet - Ice

DJ Alice Quiddington set the mood, whilst a duo of chefs appeared to work effortlessly in the penthouse’s stone-clad kitchen, serving up some amazing canapés throughout the evening. The likes of which included herb crusted ballotine of salmon with Avruga caviar, milk fed veal crudo, and quince star anise orange tart tartin.

Canapes

An hour in, Pernod Ricard’s Marketing Manager, Sladjan Maksimovic offered guests an official welcome before The Glenlivet’s brand ambassador, Ben Davidson, took centre stage. Ben walked us through a private tasting of the Founder’s Reserve, putting it into context by offering up historical overview of The Glenlivet brand.

So with a raise of the glass we toasted ‘sláinte mhaith’ (to good health) and welcomed The Founder’s Reserve into the fold.

Glass

The nose presented me with tart apples, tinned pears and sweet tropical fruits, on a bed of sweet vanilla pastry. I also got a hint of citrus and some wood-bark oak notes at the back. I found the palate creamy and juicy, offering up more of those tinned tropical fruits, toffee sweetness and vanilla, with hints of bitter pith and a fair amount of drying wood.

As the evening drew to a close, guests were invited to sample some of The Glenlivet’s finest.

The Glenlivet - lineup

I’ve been fortunate enough to taste many of the expressions in this lineup before, but there were two that had eluded me, the new Nadurra Oloroso (at 60.7% ABV) and the elder statesmen, the XXV.

Glenlivet Nadurra

Some have griped at the loss of the 16 year age statement found on the ex-bourbon cask expression, but age statement or no age statement, this new Nadurra Oloroso really is a fantastic whisky, especially when you consider the price point. A casual conversation with Ben and Sladjan revealed that fans of the cask strength Nadurra range can look forward to further one or two expressions in the near future, including one that really breaks with tradition – it’s going to be mildly peated!

The Glenlivet XXV

Finishing the evening with a dram of The Glenlivet XXV, I stepped out onto the penthouse’s terrace, surrounded by fellow whisky lovers and had a few good laughs whilst looking out at the rippling waters of Sydney Harbour as the moon sat full in the sky.

The Glenlivet XXV is a truly luxurious and decadent whisky and it was an absolute treat to sample it. You know what though? At that moment in time, it would have made no difference to me whether I had the new entry-level Founder’s Reserve, or the range-topping 25 year old in my glass, as after all, simply sharing a tasty dram in great company is what whisky is all about, isn’t it?

The Glenlivet

The new Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve is available in Australia now at a recommended retail price of $64.99. A sincere thanks goes to The Glenlivet for having me as your guest.

Eigashima Sakura

A quick glance at the label on this bottle confirms that this is a bit of an interesting one.

Eigashima Sakura

Distilled in July 2010, the Eigashima Sakura was matured in an ex-Shochu cask and a hogshead for a combined period of three years, before being finished is a red wine cask for a further one and half years before being bottled at 58% ABV.

I don’t know about you, but there are a few words on this label that I wasn’t immediately familiar with, namely the words Eigashima and Shochu. I have heard of both, but I must admit I had to hit the books (aka Google) and do a bit of research to really understand and appreciate this one.

Eigashima

We’ll start with Eigashima. You may not have heard of Eigashima, but you may have heard of another small Japanese distillery called Akashi. Well, in basic terms, they’re kind of one and the same.

Located just our of Kobe, Japan, Eigashima is the parent company that runs the White Oak Distillery, who produce whisky bottled under the Akashi brand. Interestingly, they only produce whisky for two to three months a year and with a team of just four people, they’re the smallest whisky distillery in Japan.

Eigashima Sakura

So if they’re only making whisky for a couple of months a year, what are they doing the rest of the time? Well that leads us to that second word I wasn’t overly familiar with..

Shochu

You see, Eigashima’s core business is producing two of Japan’s favourite distilled drinks, sake and shochu. Sake is essentially a brewed rice wine, but shochu is quite a bit different. It’s first brewed, then distilled and can be made from a variety of different ingredients including sweet potatoes, barley, buckwheat, rice, sweet corn or even brown sugar. After distillation it’s then matured for a relatively short time (compared to whisky), in either stainless steel tanks, clay pots or – you guessed it – wooden casks!

There’s a lot more to it and the history and production is quite fascinating, so feel free to check this out for further info.

Eigashima Sakura

Now that we know a bit more about Eigashima and Shochu, I’d say it’s time we taste. Kanpai!

Eigashima Sakura

When first poured, I’d say that the Sakura isn’t immediately recognizable as whisky. I get more of a plum wine and Slivovitz top note on a bed of raw white grain spirit and as it sounds – it’s not great. Air is its friend though. Fifteen minutes in the glass opens this dram right up to reveal a rich, thick nose of runny toffee, marmalade, balsamic reduction and heavily charred figs. I get a hint of potpourri, char and dark soy. It’s not sherried, it’s almost like an older complex Armagnac, but that grainy vodka-like spirit notes pokes it head through here and there.

On the palate it’s immediately oily giving rise to a burst of spirit heat which quickly fades to deliver sweet, chewy berry notes, brown sugar and a slight fizz. The residue is almost savory though, with a saline tang turning very dry and tannic on the finish with a slight bitter waxiness.

I would never pick this as a sub-five year old whisky and despite the young age and high proof, I have no desire to add water to this one. There’s so much going on which makes me think Eigashima have been very clever with their cask selection here. However, as is often case with heavy wine finishes, the drying bitter finish isn’t quite the crescendo I was looking for.

Eigashima Sakura

Having never tasted Shochu, I can’t really comment on the influence the shochu cask has had on this whisky. However, even before reading up on it, I did get a distinct white grain/potato spirit (almost vodka-like) note on the nose. I don’t know what type of shochu cask was used in the finishing (sweet potato, barely, brown sugar etc.), but this was a really interesting note, in a really interesting whisky.

The Balvenie Craft Bar, Sydney

And the Australian launch of the TUN 1509

The Balvenie train rolled into Sydney late last year when their pop-up craft bar came to town.

The idea behind the ‘craft bar’ concept is very much based on Balvenie’s own dedication to their craft, making whisky. Although they produce in the region of 5.6 million litres of spirit each year (making them one of the bigger distilleries in Scotland) there are still many craft elements to their production process. Such as traditionally floor malting a portion of the barley that goes into making their whisky and using their own on-site cooperage to craft the casks that will go on to hold Balvenie whilst it matures.

Balvenie Craft Bar Sydney

The whole craft element is a tradition and association that they’re pretty proud of, so it’s nice to see them using that devotion to help local artisans on the other side of the world get some recognition as well. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this concept in Australia either. In 2013 the bar was set up in one of Melbourne’s many lane-ways and seemed to prove quite popular.

The setting for this year’s craft bar was Zenith Interiors, a creative warehouse space in the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills. Entering the warehouse guests were greeted with a huge sand-box of barley (more on this later) whilst a smart trio of hosts served up some refreshing Balvenie cocktails.

Balvenie

There was also a craft bar, within the craft bar (inception style)

The Balvenie Craft Bar

The craftiness continued with these cool little Balvenie tasting boards, which neatly held a trio of glasses and allowed you to move around the space and check out the exhibits whilst enjoying a spot of whisky and some quality cheeses.

Balvenie Cheese Board

Speaking of exhibits, they were actually really visually interesting to inspect, ranging from the craft of traditional book binding, to tailoring, stone masonry, instrument making and more. These drums from Sleishman particularly piqued my interest. The way they’re made reminded me of the oak staves in a whisky cask. I’m not sure whether the association was intentional or not, but they oozed top quality craftsmanship.

Sleishman drums

The Balvenie had some of their craftsmanship on display as well, like this copper ‘dipping dog’ or ‘whisky theif’ (used to retrieve whisky samples) which was sitting atop one of their own oak casks.

Dipping dog whisky thief

By this point the Balvenie sample boards were looking a bit empty for some punters, so back to the bar to watch the bartenders exhibiting their craft.

Balvenie Old Fashioned

A take on the classic old fashioned this time ’round.

Balvenie Old Fashioned

Two measures of Balvenie 12 year old Double Wood, one measure of Pedro Ximenez Sherry, a dash of plum bitters and some simple syrup – all stirred down over ice.

Balvenie Old Fashioned

I’m not always the biggest fan of whisky cocktails (I often find cocktails in general to be too sweet for my personal tastes) but these were dangerously moreish and a big crowd pleaser!

The Balvenie TUN 1509

There was an extra perk of being invited along to the opening night of The Balvenie Craft Bar, and that was the official Australian launch of The Balvenie’s latest limited release, the TUN 1509.

The Balvenie Tun 1509

Keen single malt fans might be familiar with the ‘TUN’ moniker when it last appeared as the TUN 1401. Each iteration that came out quickly gained a cult following (and a collector price tag on the secondary market), with different batches destined for different markets around the world.

It was always very reasonably priced for what it was (a high proportion of the whisky in it was very well aged!), but after nine releases the range has been informally retired and replaced with the new TUN 1509 expression.

The term ‘TUN’ referent to a big oak vessel (almost like a giant cask) into which numerous casks can be emptied and left to marry and settle together before eventually being bottled. From what I’ve heard and read, TUN 1401 generally held in the region of 9 to 11 casks, whereas TUN 1509 can hold in excess of 42 casks, meaning more bottles for more fans.

Brand Ambassador, Richard Blanchard, gave a brief intro before the bottle was de-corked and waiters did the rounds with generous samples. I can’t say I’ll ever tire of the site of someone walking toward me with a tray like this.

The Balvenie TUN1509

TUN 1509 tasted

Tasting notes are always tough at events like this, but I managed to park myself on an Aeron desk chair (these creative people really know their seating!) and jot down the following.

The Balvenie Tun 1509

Nose

Fresh out of the bottle I found some rather unpleasant kerosene and metallic notes. Thankfully these dissipated and given some glass-time to open up the nose developed some nicely rounded notes of red apple skins, hints of spice, some honeycomb wax and old-style soft fudge. In the background; dusty library books and a hint of charred oak.

Palate

Initial entry onto the palate was quite light and delicate but it opened up swiftly to reveal a lot of those notes from the nose – waxy red apples, red stone fruit, dried fruit, honey and soft fudge.

Finish

Long and full of flavour with some spice and nicely balanced oak becoming more apparent as time went on.

The Balvenie TUN 1509 Batch No. 1 is available in Australia now (in very, very limited quantities) at a recommended retail price of AU$420.

Making my way out for the evening..

..it became very apparent that the barley pit had become something of a fun adult sand-box, with groups throwing handfuls of malt at each other and even making the barley equivalent of snow angels.

IMG_6160

And then one chap really figured out what it was intended for!

IMG_6182

One of the other great things about this whole set-up is that it wasn’t limited to a one-off launch evening. The craft bar was open for a four-day period, every evening and it was 100% free! I’m not sure whether they will be holding it again next year, but if you liked the sound of all this, head on over to The Balvenie website and sign up to their Warehouse 24 club to be the first to hear about all of the other events they’ve got going on, both in Australia and globally.

The Balvenie Tun 1509

New World Projects PX Cask

Exclusive to Baranows Lounge in Hawthorn, Melbourne

Well, well well, what do we have here? An Australian single cask whisky? I’ve seen that before. Bottled at full cask strength? I’ve also seen that. An Australian single cask, cask strength whisky, fully matured in an ex-pedro ximenez cask direct from Spain? Now that I haven’t come across.

Baranows PX 1

Being the sucker that I am for whiskies with a heavy sherry influence, I knew this thing had my name written all over it.

New World Whisky Distillery 

If you’re reading this from Australia, you may have heard of these guys before. Or if you haven’t, perhaps you’re aware of their more mainstream whisky brand, Starward whisky. If you’re reading this from overseas, both names are likely to be completely foreign to you (though I’m sure that will change in the near future).

Founded in 2004, New World Whisky Distillery is the brainchild of former IT (e-learning) businessman, Mr David Vitale. Fast forward six years and it’s probably safe to say that Starward Whisky is one of the most affordable, approachable and accessible Australian single malts available in our local market today.

Whilst the brand Starward is reserved for their readily available offerings, David fully appreciates the fact that whisky geeks get all excited about limited release, cask strength bottlings. For that reason, he gave his employees the green light to setup New World Projects.

Think of New World Projects as an experimental department of the New World Whisky Distillery. They’ve released a number of single cask bottlings over the last 12 months or so, including some pretty interesting combinations. Think: a red wine cask with virgin oak lids. Or perhaps a ginger beer cask-finished whisky, where the cask was seasoned with ginger beer they brewed themselves.

The whisky: Baranows Selection #2 

So when I heard about their latest offering – this New World Projects PX cask, bottled exclusively for Baranows Lounge in Melbourne – I knew I had to try it.

Baranows PX 2

In case you thought the colour in the first picture was influenced by the background, here’s another, directly under a desk lamp. This is a serious Darth Vader whisky! Yes, it’s all natural colour as well.

One of the other great things I love about New World Whisky Distillery is that their Distillery Manager, Ian Thorn, keeps immaculate records on everything they produce as well. A short email exchange yielded some great info on this cask.

  • Single cask 110304-06-446 was a 50 litre re-coopered ex-pedro ximenez cask sourced from Montilla (Córdoba) CP in Spain
  • It was filled with new make spirit on 4 March 2011 at 55.7% ABV
  • It was emptied and bottled on 1 September 2014 at cask strength of 59.3% ABV (yes, in our climate water evaporates quicker than alcohol, leading to higher ABVs)
  • The cask lost a huge 26.5% of its contents over that three and a half year maturation period, meaning just 44 bottles of this whisky remained.

So in pictures and on paper, there’s little doubt that this thing looks and sounds pretty special, but as always, the proof is in the pudding.

Baranows PX Glass

Nose

After a short while in the glass, this is nothing but rich and desserty. Did I mention it’s rich? Crème brulee, complete with vanilla notes, caramel and a hint of that banana estery note that I often associate with Starward whisky. Sweet caramelized figs, prunes, brown sugar and some cinnamon. The nose on this is big, young and spritely – nothing closed or dusty about this, as you can sometimes find with older, full-term sherry matured whisky.

There is some alcohol (after all, it’s 59%), but it’s not as fierce on the nose as you might expect from something this young. I could seriously spend half an hour nosing this one. A true after dinner dram.

Palate

On first sip I got an instant burst of salivation – no avoiding the alcohol here, but it’s not unpleasant. It’s viscous, thick and full on the palate. There’s an initial burst of sweetness, but it’s a fair bit drier on the palate than you’d expect from the nose. More of that classic PX cask comes out now, with dried red fruits and those classic Christmas cake flavours (raisins, prunes, spice and a slight bitter nuttiness).

Baranows PX tears and legs

Putting the glass back down I couldn’t help but stare at it – check out those fat lingering legs! (that sounds really weird, doesn’t it?)

Finish

Really quite long and warming on the finish. It remains sweet throughout the mouth with lingering warmth, but minimal spice. I found a fairly strong vanilla note rolling in after a few seconds as well. Give it some time and there’s some bitter oak towards the end – call it pencil shavings or dusty, high cacao dark chocolate if you will.

With such an enticing nose and clean tasting palate, to me, this comes across as a really clean sherry cask. I didn’t come across any off-putting notes of rubber or sulphur what-so-ever.

When, where and how much?

The remaining bottles (and there aren’t many of them!) are available now, exclusively through Baranow’s Lounge in Melbourne at an RRP of AU$299. See here for more information.

The bottle reviewed was purchased by The Whisky Ledger.