Celebrating Australia’s newest Keepers of the Quaich

Keepers of the what now? No, it’s not that flying broomstick game from Harry Potter. A Quaich (pronounced something like ‘quake’) is a two-handled shallow drinking vessel of Scottish origin.


They’re slightly medieval in appearance and have been used for centuries by Scottish Clans to offer a welcoming drink (often whisky) at Clan gatherings and occasions. As a result, the Quaich has rightly become synonymous with the enjoyment and conviviality of Scotch whisky.

Australia’s newest Keepers

Founded in 1988, The Keepers of the Quaich isn’t the kind of society you can just decide to join. Being invited to become a keeper is an honour bestowed on those who have made an outstanding commitment and contribution to the Scotch whisky industry, so it’s a pretty big deal. A few weeks ago, the society held it latest inductee ceremony at Blair Castle in Scotland where, amongst others, two Australians were inducted, Mr Ben Davidson and Mr Sven Almening.


So, when such an honour is bestowed on two locals with an impressive background in the drinks industry, what are you to do? Throw a pretty sweet party of course! Sven kindly offered up his flagship bar, Eau De Vie, as the venue whilst Ben brought the goods from the Pernod Ricard stable of whiskies. Even before I walked through the doors, I knew I’d be in for a rather enjoyable Monday night.

Ben Davidson


Ben earned his stripes in the drinks world as a bartender in LA back in the early 90s, before a career with the illustrious Rockpool Group that began on his return to Australia in 1997. That seems to have paved the way for a successful career with Pernod Ricard (going strong for over 10 years now), where he’s their longest serving ambassador. Having delivered thousands of training and tasting sessions, covering brands like The Glenlivet, Aberlour and Chivas Regal there’s no denying his commitment and that his contribution to the Scotch whisky industry has been considerable.

Sven Almenning


A lot of Sydneysiders have probably know of Sven in his capacity as the head of the Speakeasy Group; the company behind some of the country’s most iconic cocktail and whisky bars like Eau De Vie, The Roosevelt and Boilermaker House. But there’s actually a lot more to his whisky background – a side that many wouldn’t know about.


Prior to his Speakeasy days, Sven used to own and run a company called Behind Bars where he did a lot of work with whisky, particularly with Diageo and their Johnnie Walker and Classic Malts portfolio. He was instrumental in helping launch both Johnnie Walker Gold and Platinum labels into the Australian market and has done a lot of work on the Johnnie Walker brand over the past decade. He was involved in creating, managing and implementing tasting and training programs for both consumers and the bar industry with these initiatives reaching thousands of consumers and bartenders. No doubt furthering their understanding and appreciation of Scotch whisky.


In exchanging emails with Sven, I asked him what drew him to Scotch whisky in the first place and his open and candid response really resonated with me. “I think what has lured me into whisky – in addition to the fact I love its taste – is its amazing history, and the immense opportunity for exploration, and continuing education. I also love how whisky can transform a rubbish day to a great day. Or a good moment to a memorable moment”. Now isn’t that the truth!


The night was indeed a memorable one. As we took a seat, both Ben and Sven recounted their journey to Scotland and all of the side stories that came along with it. It almost felt as though we sitting comfy in a friend’s lounge room, sipping fine whisky and hearing about an epic holiday. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves on the drinks front, for this particular evening – and this post – really was all about the people in my opinion and recognizing they’re achievement.


How one first gets on the radar of the Keepers of the Quaich is something I’ll never know. However, if anyone from the Keepers Society does happen to read this, I suggest you keep a very close eye on Australia and the people contributing great things to the appreciation of Scotch whisky here. Because along with Ben and Sven, I believe we have some very worthy candidates on our shores (Andrew, Brooke and Jules – I’m pointing at you for starters).


For me personally, it was a privilege to be able to celebrate the achievements of these two local whisky legends, so I’d like to extend a special thanks to Pernod Ricard for the invitation and to Sven and the team at Eau De Vie for hosting us. If only more Mondays were like this.


For an extended photo set from the evening, head on over to The Whisky Ledger’s new Facebook page and give us a like whilst you’re at it!

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.


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.


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.

The Glenlivet 12 year old

12 years old, 40% ABV, American and European Oak, Speyside, Scotland

When I was putting together my Christmas whisky tasting kits, I wanted to start everyone off with a really approachable, classic single malt – to provide them with something of a base line I suppose.

Realising I didn’t seem to have anything that met the criteria that well, I tracked down this little 200ml (20cl) bottle of The Glenlivet 12 year old. There happened to be a couple drams worth left after I’d put the kits together, so I thought I’d review it!

Glenlivet 12

Despite being a mini version, the bottle and label design holds true to the 700ml version of the 12 year old – just in miniature form.

Glenlivet 12 notes

Just like the tasting notes found on the back of the 18 year old I reviewed a little earlier, there are some notes on the back of this mini box for the 12 year old. Again, I’m not sure I completely agree with all of them, but they are a nice touch and fun to compare to.

Did you  know…

In my review of the 18 year old, I mentioned that I was looking into the origins of The Glenlivet’s thistle motif. I reached out to some people that work at the distillery’s visitors centre and asked them about the origin of the thistle logo and it turns out that they’re not entirely sure why it’s there either! All I can tell you is that it appeared in the 1970’s and has been there ever since.

It does seem to be a common theme among many business names and logos in Moray (where the distillery is located), so perhaps there’s some connection there?


I got a big hit of green apples – but in an apple cider kind of way. Quite drying, with some citrus and a light sweetness.  The more I nosed this, the more I kept thinking that it reminded me of a sauvignon blanc – it’s a very delicate nose. When left to sit in the glass, the nose does sweeten up a bit and those crisp dry cider notes fall away a bit.


Quite thin feeling in the mouth, with sweet and citrusy notes immediately apparent. These were followed by some hints of vanilla and a bit of spicy bitterness – almost like citrus fruit pith.


Quite short, but also quite a pleasant finish. As the finish fades, I got some stronger vanilla notes (which were nice) and some oaky bitter spice at the front of the tongue, right towards the end.


This expression is matured in a mixture of cask types, including American and European Oak. It’s fairly one dimensional and not overly complex in flavour, but like all Glenlivet’s I’ve tasted, it’s a good quality, reliable whisky. A really pleasant, light, pre-dinner dram.

The Glenlivet 18 year old

18 years old, 43% ABV, American & European Oak, Speyside, Scotland 

One of the first single malts I ever owned was The Glenlivet 18 year old. A few years back I had family travelling through London and they knew I had a thing for whisky. They kindly picked up a bottle for me, opting for something they’d heard of, so I was pretty chuffed when this arrived.

Glenlivet 18

One thing you note when you pick up this bottle is how solid it is. The box is made of sturdy matte-finished card and the bottle of heavy glass – complete with a thick base reminiscent of a quality whisky tumbler.

Glenlivet 18 box

The rear of the box has a few paragraphs on the founding history of The Glenlivet (not shown), along with these tasting notes. I’m not sure I agree with all of the notes, but they’re a nice touch and it’s fun to have something to compare against.

Glenlivet thistle

The Glenlivet thistle motif (I’m pretty sure it’s a thistle) can be found in numerous places on the bottle and packaging. I’ve contacted The Glenlivet to try and find out its significance, but nothing to report just yet.

Did you know… 

To protect their stocks from the risk of fire, The Glenlivet store their maturing casks – they currently have over 65,000 – in a number of different locations all over Scotland.


Quite a soft nose with hints of apples, pears and really muted sherry notes. There are some floral notes hidden in there and traces of spice. I also get an intriguing sourness, almost like a sour apple candy or maybe apple cider vinegar.

After a good 15 to 20 minutes in the glass the nose shows some mildly sweet notes to go along with the sourness (reminds me of a Fino sherry).


Starts with an oily, tongue coating mouth feel of soft fruit sweetness which gives way to some spice. I got some bitter nutty notes in the background, almost like citrus peel and almonds. Quite a nice balance between sweet, sour and spice.


A mid length finish with some throat warmth, lingering creamy mouth feel (from the American Oak I suspect) and a drying oak bitterness with hints of spice.


After I received this bottle I went on to buy other things and so it remained unopened for quite a while. Looking back on it, that was probably a good thing as I don’t know I would have fully appreciated it straight away.

Despite the liquid amber-ish colour which suggests a noticeable sherry influence, I found The Glenlivet 18 year old to be a rather light and delicate whisky, with a surprisingly complex nose.