Old Pulteney 21yr Old

Old Pulteney 21yr Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Today was marked by a rare pleasure, the chance to taste a range of whisky from a place called Wick in the far north of Scotland. Called the Maritime Malt, the marque is a big supporter of seaborne adventure and Sydneysiders will see their 70 foot clipper clear the heads and turn right for Hobart this Boxing Day. I’ll admit I hadn’t heard it mentioned much before today.

Jim Murray scored the Old Pulteney 97.5, a score that has never been exceed and only a handful of other crafted whisk(e)y has made the grade. Now, I’m not entirely sure you can fully trust the palate of a single individual, even one as experienced and indeed descriptive as Mr. Murray, but here he makes a fine point.

Anyway, the liquid.

In your glass you get an oddly darker whisky than the 30yr old from the same distillery. It is an excellent whisky to smell; complexity and fineness of flavour that will have even the most ebullient of whisky describers searching for a thesaurus and flavour map. All the Old Pulteney drams have a enchanting seaside flavour to them, a salty backbone that spice, sugar and malt cling to on a seemingly everlasting slide to a delightfully distant finish in this expression over all the others.

The 21 is rested in a Fino cask, and the dry nuttiness it lends takes this from a fine drop to a truly memorable one for me.

Often described as the most Northerly Distillery in the UK, Old Pulteney actually has lost this distinction with the restoration of distilling at the Wolfburn still in Thurso at the start of 2013. Thurso is only another 20km towards Father Christmas from the stills in Wick, but there’s not much of Scotland left for a leapfrog attempt.

Freed from their unique geographical burden, their still is a unicorn. It has both no head nor swan neck, a legacy from their initial delivery to the site many moons ago. The stills that were delivered to the site were too tall for the stillhouse, and obviously keen to get on with the making of some truly excellent whisky, the executive decision was taken to cut them down to size. The result is called by many a smugglers still, a throwback to the delightful history of whisky, freedom and sticking it to the ruling classes. They also use a 90 meter long set of pipes to cool the spirit, a practice left in the past by most, but you cannot argue with the result of a worm tub finish.

This is the perfect whisky to buy your dad or know-it-all best friends who insists their brand is the pinnacle.

Not cheap at $200 from Nicks, but worth every penny and you’ll get free delivery at that price. For those of you unwilling top trust this special liquid to the hands of Australia Post, you can also find a bottle at the Oak Barrel, World of Whisky, Camperdown Cellers on Parramatta Rd and Liquor on Oxford here in Sydney.


Bunnahabhain 12yr old.

Bunnahabhain 12yr oldThere’s one thing better than the completely awesome way this whisky spells its name, and that’s the way it tastes.

Nestled at the end of a long road in Islay, the Bunnahabhain Distillery has roots going back to 1881. Putting it in perspective, the Northern Territory was part of South Australia in 1881 and there were just 2.25 million people living in the lucky country.

An Islay providence makes some sippers turn up their nose. The heavily peated expressions from the southern shore: Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig tend to define the style. The whisky that comes from the mouth of the Margadale river is different. Delightfully brassy amber in colour, the peat is sweet in this one, with the restrained seaside smells Islay has made so famous. Nutty caramels and sultanas with vanilla. Sherry, cocoa and salt on the finish.

The 46.3% abv gives a bright mouth feel that will bring me back to it again. Tastes a lot like it has spent some time in a Sherry cask. Probably won’t charm the Islay purists, but I think it’s a fine way to finish the day (or start a new one)

$89.99 from Nicks. Delivered to your door anywhere in Australia, free if you’ve spent $200.


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me….

Premium-Ginvent-XLarge Premium-Whisky-Advent-XLarge

Check out this for a fantastic Christmas gift idea.

24 little bottles of joy to celebrate your way through to Christmas, or hold back and drink yourself agog in an avalanche of Christmas cheer.

As for what is in the box, the premium whisky is not defined but given what they have available you should expect it to be quite the bundle of joy.

The standard whisky is choc full of non standard whiskies;  Yamazaki 12 Year Old, Grants 25 Year Old, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Mackmyra Brukswhisky, Bowmore 15 Year Old, Scapa 16 Year Old, Glencadam 21 Year Old, Blue Hanger 9th Release, Tomintoul 14 Year Old, Dalmore 18 Year Old, Auchentoshan Three Wood, Chivas Regal 18 Year Old, Yellow Spot 12 Year Old, Talisker Port Ruighe, Nikka Whisky From The Barrel, Balcones Texas Single Malt, Glen Garioch 12 Year Old, Johnnie Walker Platinum, Balvenie 17 Year Old Doublewood, Smooth Ambler 7 Year Old Bourbon, Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition, Balvenie Carribean Cask, The Glenlivet Nadurra and Glenfarclas 40 Year Old.

The craft gin packs in many you won’t have tried on these Australain shores; Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin, Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin, Saffron Gin, Herno Gin, Greenhook Ginsmiths Dry Gin, Two Birds London Dry Gin, Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Cask-Aged Gin Navy-Strength, Dr. J’s Dry Cambridgeshire Gin, City of London Dry Gin, Bathtub Gin, Langtons No.1 Gin, Cream Gin, Blackdown Sussex Dry Gin, Tarquin’s Handcrafted Cornish Gin, St. George Dry Rye Gin, Cold River Gin, Monkey 47 Dry Gin, FEW American Gin, Geranium London Dry Gin, Dorothy Parker – American Gin, Death’s Door Gin, Filliers Dry Gin 28, Sipsmith London Dry Gin and Breuckelen Glorious Gin

The standard gin box should ensure your mother’s ruin; Colonel Fox’s London Dry Gin, Tanqueray No. Ten, Sloane’s Dry Gin, Gin Mare, Perry’s Tot – Navy Strength Gin, Sacred Gin, Hendrick’s Gin, St. George Terroir Gin, Langley’s No.8 Distilled London Gin, Origin – Arezzo, Italy, Whitley Neill Handcrafted Dry Gin, Boxer Gin, Martin Miller’s, Citadelle Gin, Pinkster Gin, Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Darnley’s View Gin, No.3 Gin, Warner Edwards Harrington Dry Gin, Junipero Gin, Dodd’s Gin (The London Distillery Company), Spirit of Hven Organic Gin, Zuidam Dutch Courage, Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Old Tom Gin,

Buy one for yourself at Masters of Malt. The premium whisky will set you back $421, the craft gin $185, the standard whisky $253 and the standard gin $168


Kilchoman Machir Bay

Machir-Bay-2013I’ve been meaning to write about this since it crossed my desk a couple weeks back.

I’ve been quite taken with the liquid, and as I’ve dug a little deeper, the story behind it is great too.

Kilchoman is a young distillery, built in 2005 by an established single cask bottler, Anthony Wills.

His idea was to take whisky back to its roots in Scottish farmhouses and by opening the first new distillery on Islay for 124 years, he’s done just that. Rockside Farm grows around 30% of the distillery’s grain, which is malted, peat dried and mashed on the property. The remaining grain comes from the maltings in Port Ellen, making this a truly 100% Islay expression.

Machir Bay is their standard bottling, and exists as a 2012 and 2013 vintage. The idea being to pick up fans and allow them to see the change in the spirit as it, along with the distillery itself gets older.

Aged for 4 or 5 years in ex-Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whisky, with the 4 year old barrels being finished for a month in Oloroso butts from Miguel Martin in Jerez. The whole process, from field to bottle, takes place at the farm which gives the liquid a delightful sense of place.

They’ve a touch over 3,000 cask maturing as we speak, and a annual production of 100,000 litres leaves them languishing near the bottom of the table in terms of output in today’s whisky world.

What you get is a delightfully smooth golden liquid that flows from the bottle like there is a hole in the bottom. There’s smoke on the nose, but it is more restrained than many of it’s island bretheren.

The peat is balanced with floral notes too. In your mouth there’s sweetness, spice and smoke, finishing out over a fair distance.

If it tastes this good as a 4-5 year old, I am looking forward to tasting it at 10, 12 and beyond.

The 2012 won a pile of awards, and the 2013 is getting better reviews, so expect to see it pick up medals to match it’s gorgeous colour as the year rolls on.

$144 from the World of Whisky in Sydney.

There is also a 10,000 bottle special edition called Loch Gorm that delivers a more smoky and medicinal side to this fledgling brand. Definitely one to look out for.

Awards, Spirit, Sydney

Dram it! Whisky will flow on the streets of Sydney.

You could be a lover of whisky, or just wanting to learn a little more about the Scottish spirit, or maybe you’ve realised that it takes more than a little of Obama’s tailoring style to pull off a convincing Don Draper.

Regardless of which bucket you sit in, the 2012 Whisky Show is the place to scratch the itch that a dram or to in your past delivers. 17 exhibitors, 150 whiskies, $50 gets you in and 10 tasting vouchers. Delicious.

For tickets and more info, I’d suggest a visit here.


Johnnie Walker Platinum Label

The Johnnie Walker family has a new member and it comes in a pretty attractive bottle.

Platinum Label sandwiches in between the Gold Reserve and Blue Label. You’ll know this because the heights of the bottles tell the story, should you be lucky enough to have a set on your shelf.

It has been developed to connect with the emerging palates of Asia and give them a new option, and probably take a tilt at the Chivas led legacy in many of those Eastern locales. They’ve used the heritage of the Johnnie Walker Private Blends, a practice of small batch blends for special customers and venues as a jumping off point as well, and you can see the presence on the neck and badge, and taste it in the blend as well.

You’ll get plenty of citrus, in a liquid that lends itself to experimentation and cocktails. It’s pretty heavy on Speyside in the blend, so if you’ve felt some love there before this one is probably worth checking out.

The profile can come off a little flat as it nestles in a glass on its own. Add a splash of water and you’ll be rewarded with a more open whiskey and somewhat surprisingly, a lift in the presence of the trademark Walker smoke and a pleasant salted caramel.

It’s well worth picking up if you’re looking for an easy drinking, exceptionally crafted whisky that you can roll into any time of the day or night.

While it might be a few more days that you’ll have to wait to find a bottle in the wild. $85 will get you one in SYD duty free, should you be lucky enough to be departing this fair isle. RRP outside of duty free will be around $129



Thomson 10 Year Old

One of the most pleasurable little finds of my summer holiday in New Zealand was an unexpected gem of a whisky, with a striking label and an even more striking taste.

Thomson info seems a touch light on the ground, but the general gist seems to be that these guys are curators of forgotten whisky stocks. The first three releases (there is a 11 and a 17 year old, in addition to the 10 above) are all from a now defunct distillery that closed its doors in 1999.

The Willowbank Distillery produced Lammerlaw & Milford back in the day, with the still being claimed as the most southerly in existence. While the distillery was in Dunedin, the barrels were allegedly aged in Oamaru, slightly to the north, in a habourside aging facility.

“Milford is a quality new world whisky almost indistinguishable in style from Scottish single malt.” Robin Laing, WHISKY magazine, high praise indeed.

Willowbank had a reputation for producing Lowland style malts, and that creamy elegance is certainly present in the 10 year old bottling of Thomson. Where it departs the lowlands however, and what makes it a little bit of a unique standout in my book, is the strength of the peat and the salty lick imparted from its aging by the sea. It’s as though someone on Jura decided to knock off Dalwhinnie.

To describe it as a knock off definitely sells it short, this is a very well put together malt, bottled and presented beautifully. I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing more from the label, and I pray there are many more forgotten treasures hiding in casks around New Zealand.

The Whisky Shop in New Zealand sells this handsome threesome and looks to be open to shipping around the world, It’s priced at NZ$90.90 which, given the current exchange rate, is a absolute bargain. Lucky Aucklanders will be able to try a dram at the Golden Dawn, or at D.O.C on K road.


Glenfarclas 1978 Family Cask

It is a rare and special thing to experience something from the time of your birth. Newspapers, music and, for the younger among you, television and video evoke a very special sentiment. It is an even rarer thing to be able to consume something from that time with such a finality as drinking a dram. When it is gone, it is gone forever.

What a wonderful way to cap off a year at work, sitting on my balcony, overlooking Sydney, nursing a dram of Glenfarclas 1978, the third release of the family cask.

Glenfarclas is a Speyside malt, from a town called Ballindalloch. Purchased by John Grant in 1865, the truly independent distiller is still run by his descendants.

The distillery has been putting down hogshead barrels since 1952, with some years having a second release too. These family casks provide a wandering record of the seasons in the Speyside, and their effect on the whisky that’s made there.

The whisky itself is light on the nose, like many Speyside examples. I think it smells nutty like rye grass when it’s cut, sweet and fresh. The Glenfarclas site does a much finer job with their prosaic description:

For a refill cask, this whisky has a lovely copper colour.

A light fragrant nose of earthy notes mixed with fresh dew on a summer day.

It’s definitely a summery whisky with fresh herbs and fresh grass cuttings coming through. Quite floral.

The finish is elegant and surprisingly long. Just when you think you have lost the flavour, it reappears again. A great whisky that’s probably preferable before, rather than after, dinner.

As I enjoy it in Sydney’s sunny heat, the summery references feel right on the money. The taste is boozy toffee apples and perhaps due to its proximity, Christmas.

The finish is indeed, Epic. Spicy grass and lemon pepper. The 57.60% carries the taste a long way back, the caramel carries on too…

At a couple of hundred quid, it is for most, a fairly decent investment. If it isn’t buy a few and really check things out. You can buy it here, and they’ll also do you a dram to enjoy for a more achievable 12.25, of those slightly weakened Pounds Sterling.

There’s something very special about drinking fine old spirit.

Whisky, like most spirit at their origin and in their native tongue, was called by a name made up from a set of words that carried the meaning – Water of Life.

Over long periods many things change, but life perseveres in the most vibrant and touching ways.

Merry Christmas.

Again, this was one of the samples the team at Master of Malt sent me. Their twitter is also worth a follow.


A cheeky Scotch

I thought this ad appropriate for this, the first of June. You see twas this very day in 1495, did King James the fourth of Scotland commission the Friar Jon Cor to produce aqua vitae VIII bolls of malt.

This record, in the Exchequer Rolls 1494-1495, on page 487 that is the first mention in print of that most Scottish of beverages, the malted Scotch.

While some might say the order asks for aqua vitae and not whisky, they would soon be vanquished by a short entomological journey from the monks Latin through the French, Eau de Vie and on to the English, Water of Life, the name most distillates are ascribed through the depths of history.

So what, i hear you chortle, but our journey’s destination lies North of the border and in James native branch of Gaelic, where Water of Life translates to Uisge Beatha. Uisge is only a slurred introduction away from our well known name of whisky.

Time for a wee dram methinks.

Bar, Cocktail, Sydney



22 Challis Ave, Potts Point.

+61 2 9326 9000

Google Map.

Stashed away out the back of Lotus‘ restaurant on Challis Ave in Potts Point, this micro bar punches well above its size. Part of Sydney’s flash as Merivale Group, while the clientele is often fruitier than the cocktails, Lotus manages class without the pretension of the shinier, larger and altogether more wanky Ivy. But I digress.

There are two seats up close to the bar, if I am not sitting in them, pull up a pew, talk, drink and enjoy some of the highest quality hosting in the City. The bar manager, Peter*, is genuine czech class, mixing up ultra tasty libations for an adoring bar.

I started with a Corpse Reviver 22, which is actually a Corpse Reviver No.2, but despite the faux pas on the name, the drink was immaculate. As close to perfect as I have ever tasted.

Bohemia was a champagne cocktail of excellence; le mercier absinthe, shaken with a hint of fresh lemon and sugar, topped with domaine chandon and caramelised star anise.

I followed these up with a cocktail from the front section. I can’t recall it’s name but it was Tain something, cherries muddled with Glenmorangie. Stunning, deep, velvety, delicious. I’ll be back to find out the name later in the week.

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