The Glen Moray Mastery

Glen Moray celebrates its 120th anniversary this year and to mark the occasion they’ve released something pretty special. But I’ll get to that in just a sec.

My experience with Glen Moray

I was first introduced to Glen Moray in a slightly unconventional way after tasting their whisky bottled as a single cask for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS). On paper, the whisky I tried sounded fairly pedestrian. It was from a refill bourbon cask and was mid-teens in age, but the spirit quality that came through on that particular cask really caught my attention. SMWS have gone on to release some pretty stellar casks from Glen Moray and I’ve bought many of them (especially those toasted oak releases).

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Trying big, punchy single casks is all well and good, but it dawned on me a little while ago that I haven’t really tasted that many of Glen Moray’s original bottlings, the ones you can easily find on the shelf at your favourite bottle shop. That’s been on my to do list for a little while now and thankfully I recently had the chance when Master Distiller, Graham Coull made the trek to Sydney to launch his latest creation.

Mastery launch time

I was generously invited to a long-lunch one Friday, held at The Roosevelt in Potts Point to taste through not only the core range, but also the range-topping, limited release known simply as the ‘Mastery’.

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On arrival we were treated to the flare that’s synonymous with The Roosevelt, enjoying a nitrogen Glen Moray ‘Triple Wood’ cocktail, garnished with a thistle and served alongside a moreish haggis oatcake. That would have done me just fine, but moving through to the dining space we were in for a treat as a five course meal followed, each dish paired with a whisky from the core range, including whiskies from the Classic range, along with their age-stated siblings.

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I didn’t take detailed notes on each, but it was great to be able to taste them all back-to-back and be able to form some general observations. I genuinely like the spirit character of Glen Moray and feel as though it lends itself well to ex-bourbon cask maturation. The young Glen Moray Elgin Classic was spritely and fresh, whilst the older age stated expressions like the 12 and 15 year old definitely showed more maturity and depth.

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The Chardonnay cask is really quite interesting, bringing an earthy oakiness to what’s normally quite a light fresh spirit, whilst the port cask finish is entirely moreish (to me, anyway). Graham let us in on some interesting info on this one, informing us that it starts life as a five year old ex-bourbon matured Glen Moray before being finished in a port pipe for a whole year. Why a year? Well, in Graham’s words “If you’re finishing something, you should always give it a full summer as that’s when the real wood interaction happens”. A super drinkable dram that comes in at only $50 a bottle! I’m struggling to think of another whisky at that price point with that level of flavour.

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Graham also let slip that there are a few other finishes being added to the Classic range in the near future, include whisky finished in Cab Sav, Rum and Sauternes casks, so keep an eye out for those!

The Glen Moray Mastery

Back to the main subject of this post though, Glen Moray’s 120th anniversary and the new Mastery! The whisky can best be described as a multi-vintage single malt, which combines Glen Moray distilled in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Graham wanted to include some of the oldest stocks in the warehouse when putting this together, so 20% of the make-up includes ex-Port cask whisky distilled in 1988, whilst 80% of the whisky in the Mastery was distilled in 1994 or earlier. The heart of the whisky was finished in Madeira casks and to really lift the sweetness even further Graham also blended in some ex-sherry casks from the 1990s. That’s about as much as I can tell you, as Graham insists on keeping the final recipe of The Mastery a closely guarded secret!

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On the nose it’s completely different to any other Glen Moray I’ve tried. It’s rich and deep, with notes of beeswax, dried fruits and chocolate. It’s jammy, with raisins, apricots, toasted nuts and even something a touch smoky, like dried tea leaves or coal ash. Super inviting stuff and a dram you could nose for hours.

On the palate it’s thick and oily, with a chewy sweetness of dried fruit and dark jammy flavours. There’s a touch of spice, some dark chocolate and oak, but not in an overwhelming way. The port casks used in this really shine through nicely.

It’s a properly tasty whisky, but then again, you’d hope it would be considering it comes in at a cool $1,400 a bottle. Just eight of the individually numbered decanters will be arriving in Australia, so if you’d like to get your hands on The Mastery, get in touch with your nearest Dan Murphy’s flagship store.

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A special thank you to the truly down to earth Graham Coull and his lovely wife Faye for making the trip down here to present this great experience. I look forward to seeing you both again, hopefully at Glen Moray next time.

The House of Suntory

Yamazaki, Hakushu & Hibiki with Mike Miyamoto

Hello 2016! After a somewhat lengthy hiatus over summer (or winter, for my northern hemisphere friends), we’re back in business. And what better way to kick-off the new year than with a House of Suntory event held at Sydney’s Grain Bar.

House of Suntory

Suntory’s Global Brand Ambassador – Mike Miyamoto – happened to be in town, so we were all in for an extra treat. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mike on a few occasions now and never tire of hearing him speak about all things Suntory. He’s reserved and softly spoken, but so full of knowledge and information that there’s always something new to learn; just one of the many aspects I love about his tastings.

Hakushu

The ever-refreshing Hibiki highballs (whisky, ice and soda water, served tall) were offered on arrival, whilst guests mingled over a selection of canapés before taking their seats for an intimate walk-through of the range.

Whisky tasting

First up this evening was the Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve, their entry level expression. On the nose I found it to have a ripe berry sweetness, hints of cedar boxes, rose water and spicy fragrant oak. The palate was somewhat true to the nose, being dry, tannic and oaky but with a background of sweet stone-fruit and berries.

It’s sibling, the Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve was up next and what a polar opposite it is. Immediately fresh on the nose, green pine needles, ripe pears, light and delicate. It’s super clean, crisp and dry on the palate with stone-fruit notes, vanilla and a touch of dry smoke up the back.

Tasting

An age stated version in the form of the Hakushu 12 year old followed. It carries a similar profile to the Distiller’s Reserve, but with less of those crisp notes and quite a bit more depth. Sweet green tea, hints of bubble-gum and fresh mint were present, with some melon notes, oak and more dry smoke on the palate.

The Hibiki Japanese Harmony expression was up next; a blend of more than 12 different malt and grain whiskies produced by Suntory at their Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita facilities. On the topic of blending – this is one particular aspect about Suntory that I always find fascinating. I just mentioned that Suntory only have their three distilleries – Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita (their grain distillery) – to select from. So how does Hibiki contain more than 12 different malt and grain whiskies when they only have three distilleries? I’m glad you asked!

See, all three distilleries have pretty incredible setups. Yamazaki has seven different types of still all under the one roof. They have two completely different types of washback and mature in five different cask types and sizes. So if we do some simple maths (7 x 2 x 5), theoretically Yamazaki alone can produce 70 different styles of whisky. Hakushu and Chita have similar setups as well, so between the three distilleries Suntory have well over 100 different malt and grain whiskies to play with when it comes time to blend. And they know how to blend!

I found the Hibiki Japanese Harmony had a sweet depth to it, sweet grains, creamy vanilla custard with peaches and raspberry – both on the nose and on the palate. It’s like your grandmother’s trifle in a glass. The Hibiki 17 year old followed and whilst the lineage was evident, it’s so much more complex. It’s less grain-forward with more of a stone-fruit sweetness on the nose. Sweet, chewy and comforting on the palate with toffee, caramelised sugars and more stone fruit. Pretty darn great I have to say.

Mike Miyamoto

When Grain Bar aren’t hosting a whisky event, they’re firmly positioning themselves as one of Sydney’s go-to venues for whisky fans, with a pretty serious back-bar of more than 200 whiskies. I’m told that a further shipment of some 40-odd bottles has recently arrived, so if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, be sure to check-in over the coming months.

Yamazaki Sherry Cask

For those with a bit of cash to splash, the fabled 2016 Yamazaki Sherry Cask was also available by the dram on the night, with plenty of guests seizing the opportunity to try this whisky unicorn. Whilst I didn’t try it on the night, the comments from those who did were unanimous. Everyone seemed to love it. The bottle pictured here was opened fresh on the night, but a mere four days later a few images surfaced on Instagram and this thing was nearly drained. So if you’re contemplating going there to try it, get your skates on!

Cocktails

We rounded out the evening with a Lost in Translation cocktail (Hibiki Japanese Harmony, Crème Yvette and Punt e Mes), that reminded me of a sweeter, richer Sazerac and some vanilla and green tea cronuts (made in-house). Dessert is served!

Cocktail

Having the chance to hear from the distillers and ambassadors of these whisky powerhouses always gives me a new sense of appreciation of what’s in the bottle, so a sincere thanks goes out to both Beam Suntory Australia and Icon International for the generous invitation.