If you’re extremely lucky, One day you might. Glenfiddich 50yr old

Following on from the fantastic tasting of the Glenfiddich Rich Oak last week, I wanted to mention a bottle I was lucky enough to touch, if not taste.

The Glenfiddich 50yr old feels like it is worth the earth, from the weight of the handblown glass, down to the sterling silver labels and closure, complete with hallmarks from the jeweller who created them.

In terms of exclusivity, there will be one bottle allocated for sale in Australia, and I’ve heard there is only one for the entire US market as well. The bottles are sold at auction, 20% of the proceeds were donated to charity in the UK and the auction had a minimum bid of fifteen thousand pounds. So this is probably a bottle that will be out of reach to anyone with a mortgage. Specific details of the Australian auction process are expected to be announced shortly.

I think the words from the Glenfiddich website sum it up well.

Glenfiddich 50 Year Old is the darkest Glenfiddich whisky, with an astonishing taste. It has a well-balanced nose, with a pleasantly sweet woody aroma. This progresses to a smooth sweet fruity flavour.


This exquisite whisky has been drawn from two casks, both having spent the last 50 years maturing in the darkness and chill of Warehouse 8. Before bottling, David Stewart married them for six months in an American oak barrel to give the wondrous array of flavours and aromas an unrivalled harmony.

The colour of Glenfiddich 50 Year Old is golden amber.

The nose is beautifully harmonious with an uplifting, vibrant and complex aroma. Delicate floral notes (rose petals and violets) are intriguingly intertwined with green tobacco leaf and oak and just a faint hint of smoke.

The taste is initially very sweet with a zesty orange marmalade and vanilla toffee, which then cascades through a wonderful series of layers: aromatic herbs, floral and soft fruits, silky oak tannin and hints of gentle smoke.

The finish is exceptionally long with a touch of dry oak and the merest trace of peat.

There it is then. I hope you found these few words evocative enough to fuel you imagination and whet your appetite, as it’s probably as close as any of you’ll come to the finished product.

That said, if you’re lucky enough try it I’d love a first hand impression of what this nectarous liquid is truly like.


November is Tequila Month, Spirit

Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia

Jose Cuervo is probably responsible for more headaches and ill-advised one night stands that any brand producing alcohol around the globe. The popularity of their Joven mixto, Cuervo Especial, means the brand defines the category for many of the folks who stand on the side of the bar that has comfy seats and plush carpeting.

While the brands heritage is firmly in cheap mixto tequilas, filling more than one varsity paddling pool with a communal margarita I am sure, they have also been in the 100% agave business for some time as well.

Reserva de la Familia represents the pinnacle† of the Cuervo range. It is made with spirit distilled from only the best part of hand selected piña and then aged in French oak for between three and four years. That much alone would make this a quality product, but wait, there’s more. The extra añejo tequila is then blended with material from the Cuervo family reserve, some of it up to thirty years old. The result is a very smooth product, with some incredible complexity and sweetness from the rest and the old drops, but also retaining a hefty earthy oomph that all good tequila should display. I doesn’t need ice, salt, mixers or to be downed in one go. It might not be the best tequila available on this blue-green earth, and certainly some pine on about its hefty price tag but I’m extremely happy to have a tot each night when I head home, and with only 17,000 bottles being produced each year, the price is probably relative.

It was first produced in 1995, to commemorate 200 years since the Cuervo family received a Royal warrant from the King of Spain to produce tequila. Settlers‡ had only arrived in Australia 7 years earlier, to put that into perspective.

The Reserva de la Familia comes in a rather handsome box, which changes each year. You can see the history here, not sure why some years get two, or three different boxes while others get one, but I’m sure if I keep drinking the tequila I’ll be able to work it out. Mine is the striking orange one, but my all time favourite would have to be the tiger in the picture above. Each one is designed by a local artist too, which I reckon is a pretty nice touch.

The use of older, retained vintages (while not a solera aging system) and the use of local artisans certainly seems reminiscent of another brand ion Diageo portfolio, the famed Ron Zacapa. It seems like a massive call, but I reckon the stuff in the bottle stacks up.

These guys have it online in Australia for $195. That said, you can find it online for around $90 U.S. and as the Aussie dollar hit parity today, the $100 difference might buy a reasonable amount of shipping… Let me know if you find a U.S. retailer who ships to this market.

† Well, almost the pinnacle. Check out the 250 Aniversario site for a really top notch and impossible to find product. You will need to register for an invitation code…

‡ Settlers… Convicts if we are really being honest…


The John Walker

“This is our Supercar”

That’s the extent of the introduction I get to The John Walker, the lastest pinnacle of the Blue Label marques. I have Jonathan Driver, Global Brand Ambassador for Johnnie Walker Blue Label & the Higher Marques, as my host in tasting this, the newest and most rare of all blends to be run out under the striding man.

It’s somewhat rare to be spared an exhaustive history of the brand and a retelling of the manifesto that led a product to market. Driver seems supremely confident in the product he and the team have blended, and is happy to let it speak for itself.

The nose of this liquid gold is subtle, noticeably different to the Blue and it’s King George V expression. The notes say mature fruits, giving way to fresh citrus. I would say it has the scent of luxury; restrained, resplendent and full of rapture. The taste then, is a revelation. It has the soul of the Johnnie Walker Blue, but the addition of Speyside to frame it, with a mile long finish teased out by a pleasing note of peaty smoke. Words simply do not do the liquid justice, the heather, the shrill of the bagpipes, tradition, indulgence, delight; tantalisingly out of reach but tremendously evocative at the same time.

It turns out that Jonathan’s confidence is extremely well placed.

Driver’s supercar metaphor too, is an apt one. Supercars are a chance for those who live and breathe an industry to put forward the world as they see it around them, unencumbered by the rules of the game or the need for wide consumer appeal. When done right, these creations are unabashed objects of perfection and desire, done wrong they are little more than smoking hulks, wrapped around the nearest tree. This, I can assure you, is done right.

Expressions like this give a marque a chance to articulate new ideas, old inspirations in a risky and often high priced package. This is not the future of all whiskey and it never sets out to be. It is the labour of love for those who blend Scotch, and for those of you who evangalise the Singles but eschew the Blends, the liquid will come as something of a shock. Most blends are shrouded in mystery, an amalgamation of 50 individuals. You could describe it kind of like a massed choir, I suppose, the result is deep and intoxicating but if you close your eyes, it is kind of hard to pick out your brother in law, third from the left, fourth row from the back.

Johnnie Walker have around seven million casks in their reserves, so perhaps the most surprising aspect of this blend is its restraint. The whiskies come from only nine distilleriesand Jim Beveridge, the brand’s master distiller selects only the finest to marry into this special product. Some no longer distill the Scottish aqua vitae. Those named in the documents are Cambus, Glen Albyn, Mortlach & Dailuaine. Jonathan lets me in on the secret of third fill Talisker as well.

Named for the founder, each batch is is married in a hundred year old cask, much the same as the original John Walker would have done in his grocery, so many years ago. The barrel holds enough to fill 330 of the beautiful Baccarat crystal decanters you see above. Each batch will be different, and what a delightful job it would be to try and work out exactly how. The bottle is housed in a beautifully tooled case made from a single grain and everything about it, from the sliding closure, the tooled leather paneling and inset hinges are finished to a Rolls Royce standard. The restraint of the blend is reflected in that crystal, with the angled bevel and a tiny striding man on the bottom left panel the only traditional brandmarks that are visible.

If my words have convinced you, you’ll find The John Walker at the World of Whisky and Rockpool Bar & Grill here in Sydney, and at Spice Market and Left Bank in Melbourne. There are ten bottles allocated for the Australian marketplace, and one can be yours for A$4,500.

Sitting at home after the tasting, nursing a Talisker 10, the smoke reminds of the John Walker finish. My one exception to unabashed endorsement is that after The John Wlaker, all other Scotch will remind you of this one, and the gulf that lies between them. It’s not an easy thing to forget.


Ron Zacapa 30th Annivesary

The two most popular posts on my blog are for the Solera 23 and the Centenario XO from Ron Zacapa. Partly because of its contribution to my stats, but mostly because of it’s unbelievably smooth finish, the brand has become one of my firm favourites.

There will be some out there who say the rum is more liqueur than spirit. They will say the mass produced column stilled products of the Caribbean offer a truer interpretation of what rum should be. They might even be right.

Whatever your feelings on the subject of what the best rum in the world is, Zacapa is undeniably very special. This is their most special product. It is Ron Zacapa Centenario 30 Anniversario. Identified by the blue label on the traditional glass bottle with the pecate relief that the XO come packaged in, and delivered in a velvet lined blue box with two custom commissioned Reidel crystal glasses, this bottle is so rare it’s almost a myth.

Most bottles give up a little history when you start down a path of research. Not so this one. Bottled in 1996, 30 years after the brand’s inception, the blue labeled bottle predates the blog powered liqoursphere that holds much of the worlds information of all aspects of things alcoholic. Jason told me it is actually 23 yr old Zacapa, as opposed to Solera aged Zacapa that contains rum as old as 23 years. It does lack a little of the Limousin that the XO carries, so it could potentially be the right answer.

One of the interesting little snippet I found in trying to find definitive answers on this bottle was a fella who’d talked to a company that analysed the Zacapa product and noticed a higher than expected percentage of heavy alcohols, usually present because of pot stilling. The guy also talked about the fine press sugar syrup standing a lower proof run in the still and carrying across more of the flavour (and sugar, presumably) which might be why it tastes a bit more liqueury.

Good luck finding one of these. I’d suggest a standing bar in Tokyo, or the Japanese end of eBay would probably be you best bet.


Mount Gay Tricentennial

A Rum of Rums from the Rum that created Rum. Only 3000 bottles of this, purportedly the finest of Caribbean spirits, were released to market in 2003, to commemorate the 300th Anniversary of the Barbadian brand.

Inside the bottle is a master blend of Rums from 1969, 1974 & 1976. Interestingly for a distillery that claims 300 years of history, these are the oldest stocks they have. Conveniently they can blame Piracy for any losses I suppose…

The rum itself is extremely fine. The Mount Gay standards of Vanilla, Coffee and Bananas are there, the slight nuttiness too. The scent is absolutely intoxicating and both it and the taste have a depth that is only matched by the finest aged spirits. Utterly and completely delicious.

As for purchasing one, they occasionally come up online, and I’d be happy for anyone to share a link in the comments. For Sydneysiders, there is a single bottle perched atop the shelf in Duty Free. Supply being what it is they’re asking $2,500 for it, a ten fold increase of the release price.

Is it worth it? Well price is always a subjective measure. As the existing bottles are drunk, supply diminishes. What is inside is the pinnacle of a distillery that has tremendous experience, a worthy addition to any celebration.


Gran Patrón Burdeos

This is the first of what promises to be a series of extremely fine, and extremely rare spirits from around the globe. To my brethren from the Southern hemisphere, you will unfortunately know the pain I feel most days when I read of finds and tastes from my friends in the US and Europe, that I’m not going to find here in Australia, daily basis or no.

To my friends up North, these might not be the boutique cottage productions you flaunt so readily in your recipes and posts but they are at least as rare, and in most cases prohibitively expensive. Hopefully a few you might not have heard of, certainly a few of these were new to me. It’s nice to finally get a score on the board.

Enough pontificating, let’s talk about the Gran Patrón Burdeos, in the gorgeous bottle above. Anyone remotely in touch with popular drinking culture will be familiar with the Patrón marque, whose rough finished bottles with the round cork stopper found a fast and faithful market with the celebrity set who’ve carried the brand around the globe. An even luckier few might have laid lips on Gran Patrón which exchanged glass for crystal, added a third distillation and added a couple of hundred bucks to the price tag.

The Burdeos has another couple of steps. First the twice distilled spirited is rested in barrels of American and French Oak for a period of at least a year. It is then distilled a third time and racked in Bordeaux barrels, Luxist seems to think they are from Chateau Margaux, which would justify the massive price jump, but I can’t find confirmation of that anywhere else. You’ll get the fine unleaded crystal bottle you see above, the bee crystal stopper and a specially designed corkscrew to get at the stuff to begin with.

The spirit itself is very fine, the sawdusty funk you expect from the 100% agave tequilas has mellowed with its marriage in oak and the Bordeaux treatment adds some sweetness, vanilla and dried fruits to the mix. It is very moorish and extremely palatable.

If you’re lucky enough to be offered a taste, you’d be a fool not to. I’ve never seen in on sale here in Australia, but the truly keen amongst you can buy a bottle here for US$699 plus the postage. You’ll get a nice black walnut box included in that price too.

If anyone was stuck on what to get me for Christmas, this would definitely tick all the boxes.