Glenmorangie x Kingsleys

A grain to glass whisky dining experience

Scottish Highland distillery, Glenmorangie, have teamed up with one of Sydney’s prime waterfront restaurants, Kinsleys, to deliver a special four-course menu designed to be enjoyed with some of Glenmorangie’s finest drams. It sounds like the perfect winter treat and I recently had the pleasure of experiencing it for myself – here’s a preview of what you can expect.

Grain to Glass

Perched right on the edge of the harbour at Sydney’s iconic Finger Wharf in Woolloomooloo, Kingsley’s are probably best known as a premium steakhouse and seafood restaurant. But for the rest of June, they’re offering diners another winter-warmer option with their Grain to Glass menu, delivered in partnership with Glenmorangie single malt scotch whisky.

Glenmorangie and tonic

A refreshing Glenmorangie Original + Tonic was served on arrival, which was a perfect palate awakener for the first course which was soon to arrive. Can’t say I’ve ever tried whisky and tonic before, but the combination was eye-opening and I think I’ve found myself a new summer drink.

Glenmorangie Oysters

Freshly-shucked Sydney rock oysters were served along-side Glenmorangie’s Quinta Ruban; a whisky finished in port casks for two years, after ten years of initial maturation in ex-bourbon barrels.

Glenmorangie Risotto

Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or was the next dram we were invited to explore, alongside a pearl-barley risotto of spanner crab, lemon, charred radicchio and almond. Extra matured in sweet wine barriques from Sauternes, France, this dessert-like whisky has long been one of my favourites. The chewy barley-texture of the risotto and smoky char of the radicchio played nicely against the malty sweetness of Nectar d’Or.

Glenmorangie Venison

The third course was venison (cooked two-ways) and smoked kipfler potatos. Glenmorangie Lasanta – extra-matured in Oloroso and PX sherry casks – was the accompanying dram here and was another solid choice in my opinion. The sweetness, dried-fruit notes and spice from the sherry casks helped tie the dish together, playing off nicely against the fermented cherry jus and rich gamey character of the venison.

Glenmorangie Signet

The savoury elements were enjoyable, but I’m a bit of a sucker for dessert and the caramelised brioche, date ice cream, pedro ximenez and hazelnut brittle was a great combination. Very happy to report that it tasted as good as it sounds, and paired along-side Glenmorangie’s flagship Signet whisky, it was a fitting end to a decadent meal.

Glenmorangie

The Glenmorangie x Kingsleys Grain to Glass menu is available until 30 June for $130 per person. For full details, you can check the menu out here. Special thanks to both Glenmorangie & Kingsleys for the enjoyable evening.

Highlander Whisky Bar, Sydney

The iconic Sir Stamford, Circular Quay has brought a little bit of Scotland to Sydney

I’ve always loved the bar at the Sir Stamford hotel in Sydney’s Circular Quay. It’s grandiose, but without being stuffy. There’s polished oak, marble and old art at every turn, yet it’s clear that it’s not contrived, which is just one of the reasons I love this old glamorous space. So when I heard that it was to be given a rebirth as Sydney’s newest whisky bar, I was naturally very interested.

Highlander Whisky Bar Sir Stamford

The Highlander Whisky Bar opened its doors in the space the other week and it ticks all the right boxes for me. They’ve kept all of the elements mentioned above which make this such a great space, but have tastefully added a splash of tartan here and there. It’s the kind of place you can spend a few hours catching up with a friend, or share a nightcap after a great meal.

Highlander Whisky Bar

Sir Stamford partnered with David Ligoff, co-founder of Sydney’s World of Whisky and The Whisky Show series to help bring the concept to life with a curated selection of bottles that are sure to please everyone; from those starting to get into whisky, through to serious whisky fans looking for something a little out of the ordinary.

IMG_5708.jpg

For those looking for something a bit more than an after-work dram, a Whisky High Tea, complete with whisky-infused desserts and a matching whisky flight has recently hit the menu. They’ll also be offering a whisky of month, along with bi-monthly whisky masterclasses, each with a specific theme. 

bIsgjo8w

Check out the Highlander Whisky Bar on Facebook for all the latest info, or better yet, drop in for a dram next time you find yourself up that end of town.

Diageo Special Releases

It’s that time of year again where Diageo bring out the big guns and introduce the Australian market to the latest bottles from their Special Releases collection. If you’re not familiar with the Special Releases collection, it’s essentially the one time each year where Diageo take a good hard look at their entire portfolio of distilleries – both open distilleries and long-closed distilleries – and release a series of bottles to celebrate the diverse range of flavours found at each.

DiageoSpecialReleases2018

These bottles aim to showcase distilleries and flavour profiles that you’re unlikely to find in their core range products that are found on the shelves of retailers on a daily basis. Many of these are one off releases; bottles you’re not going to see again in this shape, form or vintage.

In its 18th year, we again see some familiar expressions like the Lagavulin 12 year old and an ‘unpeated’ Caol Ila (significant, given all of the standard releases from this Islay distilleries are quite smoky little numbers!) But there are also a number of other interesting bottles in Special Releases collection this time. Some that are interesting because they’re old and rare, and others because they’re young and unusual.

IMG_5543.jpg

Thanks to a generous invitation, I recently had the chance to taste six of the ten released this year in Australia. 

The Singleton of Glen Ord 14 year old

Up first was The Singleton of Glen Ord 14 year old. Ordinarily, whisky from Glen Ord distillery, or whisky bottled under the Singleton label hasn’t generally been a source of excitement for me. This promised to be a little bit different though, given it had been through a five-wood maturation and cask marriage regime and was bottled at 57.9%.

Rich notes of waxy honeycomb, mushy baked apples, zest and sweetness on both the nose and the palate, with a spicy sweet, yet minty dryness on the finish. I was too quick to judge this one. While not super complex, it was really enjoyable and dare I say it – quaffable!

IMG_5557.jpg

Inchgower 27 year old

You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Inchgower, as it has always been a significant component of blended whisky, including Bells and Johnnie Walker and is seldom seen as a single malt. Apparently less than 1% of production is bottled as a single malt, so this is an interesting addition to the lineup this year.

After the sweetness of the Glen Ord, I found the Inchgower to be quite dry and tight on the nose. It’s quite savoury, with some mossie salty earth notes, damp, coastal, spicy hessian sacks and leather. The palate was also savoury, but with some tropical fruit notes lurking in the background among quite a lot of drying spice. I can count the number of Inchgowers I’ve tasted on one hand, so I’m not sure what the ‘typical’ profile is. Something I’d quite like to explore further.

IMG_5571.jpg

Pittyvaich 28 year old

Like the Inchgower, you’d also be forgiven if you’ve never come across Pittyvaich before. Built in 1974, it was one of the youngest Speyside distilleries (most were built a good century or more earlier), but it was short-lived, closing in 1993.

On the nose it was quite waxy, with some flinty gingerbread notes, firm stone fruit in the background and a touch of coconut. The palate delivered notes of honey, rich spice, caramel, coconut and some of those tropical fruit notes in the background again (papaya, and green mango).

Oban 21 year old

In contrast to the previous two, the one probably doesn’t need much in the way of an introduction. Despite the small size of this western highlands distillery, Oban seems to be a gateway single malt for so many people. The Oban 14 year old was one of the very first single malts I ever purchased, but that’s pretty much where the core range ends in terms of Oban with an age statement on it. So I was quite looking forward to this one.

Matured in European oak butts, this has a great deep nose with notes of honey, stone fruit and creme brûlée, intertwined with coastal notes of sea-salt, minerals and damp rock. The palate had a nice connection with waxy honeycomb, creamy rich saline custard, caramelised sugars and ashy char. I really enjoyed this.

IMG_5591.jpg

Cladach

Cladach – Gaelic for coastline or shoreline – is a blended malt that runs with the coastal theme by including whisky only from Diageo’s six ‘coastal’ distilleries; Inchgower, Clynelish, Talisker, Oban, Caol Ila and Lagavulin.

I loved the nose on this, initially getting notes of wood-fired custard, sweet salty spice, zest and smoke, all delivered in a rich, fatty buttery way. The palate completely caught my by surprise though, delivering a big peaty whack, with a tangy saline youthfulness and loads of maritime notes.

Caol Ila 35 year old

It’s impossible to not get excited at the prospect of tasting a 35 year old Islay whisky. In previous years, the ‘old Islay’ whisky featured in the annual Special Releases collection was always from the now-closed (but soon to be re-opened) Port Ellen distillery. With stocks ever-dwindling and prices soaring, it seems as though Diageo are holding onto what they’ve got and will be releasing them via other avenues. That’s not bad news though, as this year it has opened the door for this well-aged example from Caol Ila.

I’ve had the pleasure of trying a few 30+ year old Caol Ilas and they’ve all been stunning. This bottle was no exceptions, offering a mature nose, notes of pine resin, waxy apples, freshly malted barely, distant peat, aniseed and brine. The palate was oily and rich, delivering waxy fruit, stone fruit, saline, spicy sugared nuts and an aromatic menthol eucalypt notes.

On their own, the notes sound bizarre, but the layers, depth and integration of flavour made this something very special in my mind.

IMG_5594.jpg

Diageo Special Releases collection – available now 

The full Diageo Special Release collection consists of the following bottles, available in Australia now:

  • Caol Ila ‘unpeated’ 15 year old – $179.99
  • Caol Ila 35 year old – $1,249.99
  • Carsebridge 48 year old (grain whisky) – $1,349.99
  • Cladach (coastal blend) – $249.99
  • Inchgower 27 year old – $499.99
  • Lagavulin 12 year old – $179.99
  • Oban 21 year old – $824.99
  • Pittyvaich 28 year old – $499.99
  • The Singleton of Glen Ord 14 year old – $179.99
  • Talisker 8 year old  – $129.99

Thanks as always to Diageo Australia for the invite and the opportunity to taste these special releases.

Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare Port Ellen

Yes, it really does have Port Ellen in it.

The Johnnie Walker ‘Blue Label’ moniker is synonymous with luxury and rarity, so it’s fitting that when Diageo decided to blend together some of their rarest whisky stocks, they would release it as an extension of the Blue Label range. But that’s pretty much where the lineage to the ‘common’ Blue Label ends, as this new release from the striding man is almost in a league of its own.

Johnnie Walker Port Ellen

The new release I’m talking about is the Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare Port Ellen and I was fortunate enough to attend a special preview tasting last week held at one of Sydney’s finest diners, Bennelong, at the Opera House.

The story of Ghost and Rare

The ‘Ghost and Rare’ element of the name comes from the malt and grain whiskies used in this blend, specifically those from the closed distilleries of Caresbridge and Calendonian (both grain distilleries), along with the fabled golden child of Islay, Port Ellen distillery.

Port Ellen’s history dates back nearly 200 years to the 1820s when it was founded on the south coast of Islay, the little island we now know as home to Scotland’s peated (or ‘smoky’) malt whiskies. It produced whisky for over 100 years before being sold to DCL, who we now know as Diageo, the parent company of the famous Johnnie Walker brand. After only a few years of ownership, Port Ellen was temporarily closed for some 37 years, before it was eventually brought back to life in 1967. The resurrection would be short-lived though, as the whisky glut of the 1980s hit hard. Diageo – owners of Port Ellen, Lagavulin and Caol Ila – had a tough decision to make, and in 1983 Port Ellen was closed for good. In the decades that have passed since, the ever ageing (and dwindling) stocks of this lost Islay distillery have become some of the most sought after single malts in the world. So when you see a Johnnie Walker release with the name ‘Port Ellen’ on the bottle, it’s the kind of thing that piques your interest.

Tasting notes

The other thing to note is this; with Port Ellen and Caresbridge closing in 1983 and Caledonian closing in 1988, you have some seriously well-aged whisky in this blend. Aside from those three Ghost and Rare distilleries, malts from Mortlach Dailuaine, Cragganmore, Blair Athol and Oban also make an appearance, so this should be interesting.

On the nose I found it quite tropical, with some overripe, almost effervescent stone fruit. Behind that though were some interesting heaving notes; workshop grease, wet rocks and a salty maritime note.

The palate had a strong link to the nose with much of the above, along with a touch of citrus and a classy, tropical maritime peat note.

img_5164

Is the Port Ellen really evident?

Normally I would be a bit skeptical and wonder whether my mind was playing tricks on me. I know it has Port Ellen in it. It even says so on the bottle. So am I just convincing myself I can taste the influence on that rare malt? That would certainly be plausible, but I don’t think that’s the case with this one.

Here’s an interesting thing about this release. The absence of a certain detail makes this just as interesting as the inclusion of detail (top marks to Diageo for telling us what’s in the bottle!). The peat influence in most Johnnie Walker expressions comes from a healthy dose of Caol Ila, but a quick glance at the bottle confirms that Caol Ila is indeed absent from this release. In actual fact, the only whisky in this bottle with any kind of discernible peat and maritime note is the Port Ellen. So while we don’t know exactly how much Port Ellen is in there, it’s enough to let you know it’s there!

Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare

So as I asked last time – a clever marketing move? Of course it is! But it’s so much more than that. It’s genuinely tasty whisky, with some genuinely old and rare liquid in it and it’s been put together in a very clever way. To think of this as a standard bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label with a splash of Port Ellen is missing the point.

The Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare Port Ellen is now available from major stores with an RRP of AU$480

 

 

The Last Drop Distillers

Tasting some seriously old liquid from the ‘rare spirit hunters’

Just prior to Christmas I was invited along to something that promised to be rather special. But I didn’t realise quite how special it would end up being until I arrived and scoped-out the rarities on the table. But more on that in just a few moments.

IMG_4953.jpg

The event was held to welcome The Last Drop Distillers to Australia, and their extremely limited range of very old, very premium (and rather pricey) beverages to Australia. You’re entirely forgiven if you haven’t heard of The Last Drop Distillers, as their whiskies aren’t exactly the kind of thing you’ll find on supermarket shelves. They greeted the world back in 2008; the brainchild of two pioneers of the spirits industry – James Espey OBE and (the late) Tom Jago – and their ethos was simple. They were going to source and bottle the world’s finest, rarest and most exclusive spirits. Ten years later, they’ve risen to the challenge and continue to only offer liquid that they firmly believe to be unique, delicious and extremely limited in nature.

The Last Drop in Australia

We were very fortunate to have Rebecca Jago, Managing Director and daughter of the late Tom Jago in Sydney to share the above, and some of her personal stories, while taking us through the following extraordinary line-up.

IMG_4951.jpg

First on our list was a 1971 Blended Scotch Whisky, that had an interesting back-story to it. This particular whisky was originally blended in 1983 as a premium 12 year old whisky for the American market, but after a portion was bottled, the remainder made its way back into 11 ex-Oloroso sherry butts where it sat un-touched for a further nine years. A small volume was again bottled at the age of 21 years, but for some reason a further parcel was held back; this time filled into nine ex-American Oak barrels. Another 24 years passed before the now dwindling parcel of whisky was discovered by The Last Drop, who then bottled it at 45 years old.

On the nose and palate this was completely convincing. A rich, flavourful blend that showed layers of complexity, no doubt brought about through a combination of great spirit, age and the complex cask treatment it had been through over the previous 45 years. Two minor issues with this one – 1) me consuming it with too much gusto, and 2) not having more in my glass to savour!

IMG_4966.jpg

Two very Glenrothes

If the blended whisky wasn’t special enough, we were also treated to two 1968 vintage Glenrothes, which form part of trilogy which The Last Drop will be releasing over three consecutive years. Approaching whisky of this age, I’m always quite skeptical as not all whisky can withstand 50 years in an oak cask and it doesn’t always end well. I’ve been very fortunate to try a number of whiskies aged between 40-60 years and there are only a handful that I’d genuinely want to drink again and again. These two fall into that category.

IMG_4965.jpg

The nose and palate were well and truly still alive with notes of earthen floor dunnage warehouses, old oak, and overripe tropical fruit, fleshy stone fruit, marmalade, liquorice straps, apple skins and baking spice. They both shared an awful lot in common and were an absolute treat to try.

The Centenario Port Duo

As dessert was served, Rebecca introduced us to something a little bit different, two Tawny Ports which represent The Last Drop’s first foray into fortified wine. The two bottles of port are presented as a set and hail from the Douro valley in Portugal.

IMG_4946.jpg

Why the two bottles? Well, to provide their lucky owners with the chance to indulge in what has to be a once in a lifetime kind of experience. One of the bottles is a 1970 vintage, which in itself is a mighty special thing. However, the other pre-dates it by 100 years and is an 1870 vintage. Yes, 1870, allowing you to taste the effect of 100 additional years of ageing. Having had the privilege to try both, side-by-side, I can confirm it’s a mighty special thing indeed.

The 1970 is still vibrant and full of bright fruit notes, honey, sticky plums, berries and the perfect amount of acidity. The 1870 vintage is almost like a reduced, caramelised version of its younger sibling. The viscosity is unreal; it’s syrupy, incredibly rich and is like a glass of liquid flame raisins.

If you’re in the market..

Apart from needing to taste exceptional, all releases that come out from The Last Drop have to have pedigree and flawless provenance and authenticity. Such is their criteria that since 2008, just 12 ‘last drops’ have been released, encompassing some incredibly rare Scotch whiskies (such as this 1967 Glen Garioch I tried a few years back), along with some very rare cognacs.

IMG_4993.jpg

The trio shown above will all be available through Dan Murphy’s here in Australia, starting at $5,000 RRP for the 1971 blend. Expect to see some further interesting releases from The Last Drop in 2019, possibly even including a super premium Bourbon!