Whisky & Wisdom Glenfarclas 'Edition 2' Single Cask

Whisky & Wisdom Glenfarclas Edition 2 Review

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Hello there. I’m back, for the meantime anyway, and the site is back, but let’s get back to business.

Whisky & Wisdom is the creation and curation of ideas on paper, or I should say on bits and bytes, of Andrew Derbidge. To describe what Andrew is to the whisky community in Australia in influence, inspiration, and creation in any sort of detail would only either miss something crucial or give a mere summary, so I won’t try to do that in this piece. But I will however say that while also being the Cellarmaster for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Australia, he’s also responsible for a number of whisky clubs that thrive today, and now his third Whisky & Wisdom independent bottling. Oh, and then he also finds time to fit in being a full-time structural engineer. There’s only so many hours in a day, except for one man… 

Those who know Andrew also know that Glenfarclas is the greatest distillery on earth, no contest. Glenfarclas is a Speyside whisky distillery in Ballindalloch, Scotland, that produces a whisky that has a ‘house style’ of being often rich, sherried, spicy, and full of complexity. They also boast a core range that has never strayed from age statements nor given in to trends or gimmicks, a family cask selection that is some of the oldest (and often still affordable) core-range offerings of any distillery on earth. There’s nothing not to love. Combine that pedigree with Andrew’s remarkably discerning palate, and you have his second ever single cask from the distillery bottled under his label, and it’s something to really celebrate.

Making comparisons between single casks of whisky can often seem fun, but is ultimately redundant. Every cask is unique, and then when you factor in all the other facets like time, place, company, mood, and what you ate that day, the experience is always evolving and it further punctuates how unique a single cask can be. I picked up my bottles (yes, plural!) earlier today when visiting Andrew and I cheekily asked him how he thought it compared to his first Glenfarclas cask, to which he replied that while it may not appear as dark in colour, nor be as big a ‘sherry bomb’, it’s a rich and complex cask. I think that last point is what I what to remark on most: after just cracking it open, it’s one of the most complex, intriguing, sherried whiskies I’ve ever had hands-down. After years of the SMWS expert tasting panel, and Andrew’s love of big, clean, sherried whiskies, he’s really picked a true winner. 

Each bottle comes in a lovely wooden ‘family casks’ box which while a surprise from the usual cardboard tube/box, it perhaps properly presents what would (a) be an excellent gift for a proper festive dram under the tree, and (b) a fitting sign that Andrew is truly a family member at Glenfarclas by now, and rightly so when he’s releasing single casks of this calibre. Now, some tasting notes if you go in for that sort of thing:

Neat, the nose is just a delight of stone fruit and super sticky wine. Ripe mango, strawberries, dusty dunnage floor, PX sherry, and Christmas pudding. On the palate the first sip is just a massive sherry wave that is clean as a whistle. Black cherry jam, dark toffee, waxy chestnuts, macadamia oil, and just the slightest hint of spearmint lollies with white sugar. Finish is long and hugely enjoyable. Something to enjoy in the company of friends or late at night after a big day.

The latest Whisky & Wisdom Glenfarclas Single Cask is available now from https://www.whiskyandwisdom.com/shop/ 

Made in Japan by Dramnation

When I first heard of Dramnation, my first reaction was “there’s no way you’d be able to attract a crowd in Castle Hill”. It wasn’t jab at Castle Hill, nor was it a jab at a business I hadn’t heard of yet, it was a misunderstanding of how far and wide the whisky scene had already become in Sydney!

Rewind just a couple of years, and ‘whisky tastings’ were the sole domain of big brands and re-purposed distillers wearing an ‘ambassador’ hat, and they weren’t in pubs very much. Now in 2016, bars and pubs are picking up their game, and thankfully whisky ‘tastings’ are more and more becoming whisky ‘experiences’. Dramnation is very much in that game for his region.

Dramnation is run by Matt Wooler as a series of tastings in the Hills district of Sydney, specifically in Castle Hill. Not content with whisky being a spirit that exists only in the city, he’s single-handedly bringing a new level of whisky experience to Castle Hill, and lucky for him the Pocket Group (responsible for the iconic Stitch bar in Sydney) have opened their latest bar called Crooked Tailor in Castle Hill! What are the odds?!

Made in Japan was the name of this tasting with an obvious focus on Japanese whisky along with a discussion on its meteoric rise in popularity. The first thing you notice about Wooler’s set up is his incredible sense of presentation in front of each guest. The cheeses, marshmallows and sea salt chocolate is laid out in such a way you could almost mistake this for being a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Starting with The Hakushu Distillers Reserve, we were led through the lightness of the barley, the effect of peat, and even a sample of the Orion Japanese beer to taste that connection beer shares with whisky. Following this we tried the Chita grain. This was surprisingly good! My only real taste of Chita as a standalone grain whisky has been through the SMWS with their single cask, cask strength offerings. This however, at 43%, had a lovely sweetness and rich toasted grain taste. We then move onto the Hibiki Harmony, a relatively new no-age-statement offering to replace the Hibiki 12 (a move only actually confirmed last week). This discussion gave Wooler a chance to get on the soap box and really outline how Jim Murray’s influence has blown Japanese whisky out of the realm of logic and reality with people hoovering bottles of ANY Japanese whisky they can get their hands on.

Following a short break, we sampled the rather peppery Ichiro MWR (which gave me an opening to nerd out and shout out “Mizunara? Quercus Mongolica! Any Arborists here?”) and finishing with the always pleasing Nikka from the Barrel. Overall a very pleasing experience trying Japanese whiskies that aren’t unicorn bottles and presented in an fun and informal environment at Crooked Tailor. Well done!

Great Christmas whisky gifts that won't break the bank

Such is the life of a whisky ambassador and general whisky geek: every Friday and most Saturday night my phone lights up with at least a couple of phone calls or texts in the general gist of "I'm standing in bottle shop X and what should I buy?". My response always starts with a returning question of "What do you (or the person you're gifting it to) normally like to drink, and what's you're budget?".

This has put me on a bit of a trajectory to write this post, as Christmas is coming up, giving the gift of whisky is truly fantastic and warms the heart and palate of all who give and receive! So without further ado, I present the Wonder & Whisky picks for Christmas whisky that "won't break the bank" and "taste bloody nice".

1. Monkey Shoulder

It's been a big year. There's a lot of options for old and rare single casks, fascinating blends in crystal decanters, and all sorts of inflated prices on international whisky. Let's talk brass tacks here. Monkey Shoulder is a blended MALT, not a blended whisky per se. It's all malt. No grain filler. Those who've attended a Wonder & Whisky class will know what I'm talking about here! Made by William Grant & Sons, it's a truly cracking good budget blend from one of the last family-owned whisky companies in Scotland. A mix of Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, and Kininvie (who?) makes for a rather rich blend that makes a nice gift for under $50.

 

2. Teeling Small Batch

Those who've been to a Wonder & Whisky event in the last 8 months will have tasted this already as well. Already a modern classic changing the landscape of Irish whiskey forever, no longer are we relegated to 40% abv watery Irish schlock-horror when Teeling are involved! A rich and sumptuous whiskey that ticks all the boxes: 46% abv, non-chill filtered, natural colour, and a steal at around $53. Finished in rum casks and whilst officially an no-age-statement whiskey, the company declares that the oldest whisky in the vatting is 23 years old. Can be found pretty much exclusively in Dan Murphy's.

Image gracefully stolen from http://whiskyledger.com/

Image gracefully stolen from http://whiskyledger.com/

 

3. Russell's Reserve

I was really too busy to catch up with the 'Jimmy Russell' world tour in Australia recently, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying (and frequently pouring) Russell's Reserve 10yr. Bourbon is quite a polarising spirit and in the whisky spectrum certainly has it's detractors, mostly from people who started with something very cheap and was turned off whisky for 20 years. Yikes. Russell's Reserve 10 is essentially 10 year old Wild Turkey spirit if we're being picky. A great base spirit aged a bit longer and with casks hand-selected by Jimmy himself. A steal at $65 or so.

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4. Hakushu Distiller's Reserve

A newcomer to the whisky scene and no list of whisky gift ideas would be complete without a Japanese mention. Japanese whisky, in the past 9-12 months, has EXPLODED. Stocks are seriously thin, shelves and bars are empty, and most of the age statements have vanished. It's too popular for it's own good! That said, if you are on a budget and are looking for something Japanese, it's hard to pass up the Hakushu Distiller's Reserve. A light and fresh whisky with a slight hint of cucumber, smoke, green malt appears. About $80-90 most good retailers.

Image courtesy of Distant Thunder Whisky Club

Image courtesy of Distant Thunder Whisky Club

 

5. Starward Single Malt

Aussie whisky is smashing it. More and more distilleries, and more and more appearing in line-ups that we've hosted. None more so than Starward. The brainchild of David Vitale and based entirely in Melbourne, this is an accessible and affordable malt whisky which has notes of fresh barley, banana cake, roasted macadamia, peanut butter and creamy fortified wine! A true Christmas malt worth checking out that's not in a 500ml bottle for $300... Available most good retailers for $80-85.

 

Great retailers:

The follow-up question is always "Yeah sure but where do I get these great whiskies!?". Here is a starter list of where to source great whisky from local and national retail:

- Oak Barrel: http://oakbarrel.com.au/
- World of Whisky: http://worldofwhisky.com.au/
- Nick's Wine Merchants: http://nicks.com.au/
- Dan Murphy's: http://danmurphys.com.au/
- The Whisky Company: http://www.thewhiskycompany.com.au/

And of course, don't forget to scour your local. You'll never know what goodies you'll find. Merry Christmas from the team at Wonder & Whisky and best wishes,

MB & MH & RD

Laphroaig's John Campbell in Sydney

As their slogan goes, #opinionswelcome, and our opinion is that the arrival of Master Distiller and Distillery Manager John Campbell into Sydney is a tremendous thing. Just as tremendous is to have the brilliant surrounds of The Whisky Room at the Clock Hotel as the room to experience it in!

Arriving straight from a string of events in Brissie and Melbourne, John Campbell is a fairly soft-spoken, straight down the line guy who tells it like it is. None of the marketing sheen or fluffy stories often associated with single-distillery tastings, John's candid style and think Islay accent is as refreshing as the tasting.

The tasting started with a Laphroaig cocktail, some sort of mix between a Penicillin and a ginger-twist on a highball. That was nice, but the ginger was very strong and almost threw the tastebuds off. Following the opening drink was the Select Cask. Often dubbed 'Laphroaig Light' for it's less-peated profile, it's a great way to introduce people into peated whisky without that big 'bang' that is often associated. Interesting factoid was that they initially produced only 9,000 cases of the Select Cask for the world, except Australia bought them ALL, so they re-made it and also renamed it just 'Select' for the rest of the world. Same recipe, same taste, just a different name. Interestingly however, John stated that even at 40% ABV the Select Cask is non-chill filtered and natural colour. Will have to check this one up...

Following the Select, we had a procession of the 'house style' Laphroaig 10 Year Old, the re-introduced 15 which is radically different from the older 15 from 2008. Much funkier. Much more in the style of like the Bruichladdich Classic! Not overly surprising that there are similarities between Bruichladdich and newer Laphroaig expressions: they are geographical neighbors after all; a point that was accentuated by our friends over at The Whisky Ledger when asking about peat and phenol levels at Laphroaig.

The 18 year old drew some serious attention from the crowd with it's very 'selfish' nose and contemplative style. A perfect late-night dram at a respectable strength of 48% ABV. The finish on the 18 was also the most impressive by a long shot. Interesting factoid from John was that the 18 and the new 15 are essentially the same whisky at the moment as the 15 is actually 18 stock, but as people have this thing called "nostalgia", people really pined for the return of the 15yo, and being the 200th anniversary of (legal) distilling at Laphroaig, now seems as good as ever to bring it back.

The classic Quarter Cask is an all-time favourite of ours in tastings and events, so that was immediately recognizable, and the Triple Wood didn't really wow us at all, but still a worthy part of the Laphroaig lineup.

The final dram was the 25 year old. HOLY SMOKE this was great. Proper sugary oak, candied apple, musty oak, soft tannins, juicy smoke! You can really see why this kind of release commands more than $500 at the till these days. Great stuff, huge on the palate.

Following the formalities and the stunned silence of the room over the quality of the last few drams, The Whisky Room's own Daniel Molnar punched out some cracking cocktails for all to finish with.

There are a small number of tickets available to see John and taste all his marvellous Laphroaig at Grain Bar this Wednesday night.

A while between drams...

First up, we'd like to apologize for not being as active as we usually are on this blog. We have no real excuse, except we have really been flat out with tastings and events lately so everything goes so ridiculously fast.

Last weekend saw the Sydney Whisky Show hit town and amidst serving up more than 3,200 pours of whisky (yes, 3,200) over the space of two days, we also held a private tasting in Potts Point for a 30th Birthday:

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It doesn't end there. The show had us pouring Amrut, Benromach, Atholl Brose, and newcomer Nant whisky from Tasmania on the Alba Whisky stand:

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And then, almost as a 'grand finale' to it all, we had a Japanese whisky session on the Sunday with the lads from Sydney Whisky Guild (a private guild Matt co-founded about 2 years ago), and had some absolute gems on taste including rarities such as:

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That's it for now folks. We'll be back with more whisky blogging and general chatter soon. MOJO Round #4 is moments away from being announced, so keep your eyes peeled.

Archie Rose Visit

It's truly an understatement to say we're "excited" about a new distillery and bar opening in Sydney. The first new distillery in over 160+ years is on the cusp of opening it's doors to the public and Wonder & Whisky were lucky enough to be invited to the soft launch on Monday night for hospitality and specialist whisky crowd.

Archie Rose has started with a gin and white rye first and foremost, and while there was no intention to make a vodka initially, if you're already making a gin then it's very easy to make a vodka.

At first, as whisky nutters, we heard of a distillery opening and thought that it's nice that there's also a bar add-on. Upon visiting on Monday however, we were blown away at both how well-made everything is, but also at how wrong we were in thinking it was a distillery first and bar second. It truly feels like an even split with the bar being as important as the distillery, maybe even slightly more so. Bartenders are able to access pure distillate for cocktails, bottles of their first batch of rye, gin and vodka available without much fanfare or release dates. We have to be honest: this is hugely exciting on many levels, especially in a whisky world where more and more marketing guff and 'limited editions' clog the spectrum of releases. Instead, Archie Rose is the real deal and they've laid their cards out on the table from day one. No need for fanfare and applause: let the product and service speak for itself.

Cameron, Bar Manager for Archie Rose about to pour some Pappy

Cameron, Bar Manager for Archie Rose about to pour some Pappy

It'll be at least a couple of years until we see anything of the single malt variety, but you can be sure we'll be waiting with baited breath when it hits. In the meantime, you'd be doing yourself a huge favour by getting down to Archie just to sample the delights they have on the bar including what we tried: Pappy Van Winkle 15yr, 20yr, 23yr and the Rye.

Barrel #1 as signed by the crew at Archie Rose, and no, it's not for sale.

Barrel #1 as signed by the crew at Archie Rose, and no, it's not for sale.

Archie Rose formally opens it's doors to the public on March 18th. Visit Archie Rose online here: http://archierose.com.au/

Big weekend big malts

Tired feet, palate smashed, and almost nine more empty bottles of single malt! The after-effects of a wrapping up a huge weekend of tastings, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

The winning malts this weekend for our four sessions were easily the Kilchoman Distillery Machir Bay, the new Teeling Whiskey Company Single Grain, and as always the Aberlour A'Bunadh is a crowd favourite.

Until this Wednesday at the Mojo Whisky Club, have an awesome Sunday night :)

Smith's Angaston joins the ranks

There's a certain pride in presenting a world whisky flight to people when you get to include an Australian whisky. We've had some great feedback with Overeem and Lark Distillery in the past, and as of last week have tasted through two cases of STARWARD already, but for the next 2 weeks of tasting we're going to give this new release Smith's Angaston a try.

Made and matured for 14 years in Angaston South Australia, this is the result of charging some new spirit through an old still about to be de-commissioned back in 1997. By the time the year 2000 had arrived they laid down a small number of casks for this release that was bottled just last month. The barley comes from Tassie, malted at Coopers Brewery, and distilled at Yalumba in the hills above Angaston, Barossa Valley.

We can't wait to showcase this from today onwards, especially as we have some amazing public tastings coming up this month. Stay tuned here or get on our email list: http://eepurl.com/ZVnCj

Whisky at the Radisson!

Imagine having a full whisky degustation at one of the most stunning heritage meeting rooms in Sydney? Imagine no more! We held an amazing whisky masterclass just yesterday in the Warwick Fairfax suite at the Radisson Blu Hotel for ten guests, which was just an amazing experience.

A full world whisky flight exploring everything from cask samples, oak pieces, barley strains, matching cheeses with 8 x drams from Scotland, America, Australia, France, India, Japan, New Zealand then back to Islay.

Our world whisky flight is by far the most popular session and from photos like this you can see why! Get in touch today and book your private tasting session.

Fascinating History of Japanese Whisky

Japanese whisky, especially in the last 2 months, has been prominently placed in the spotlight after some well-deserved awards for their Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 among others. It's all well and good, but it's also nice to cast an eye back to where it all started. Thanks to a friend who alerted us to this historical look at Japanese whisky we've learned that it all started with a Scottish woman! Take a read:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-30682239

Ready for a huge 2015

2014 was, in many ways, a formative year for Wonder & Whisky. We learned a lot along the way, had many great tasting events, and started just last month the Mojo Whisky Club, as well as the formation of some really exciting developments coming into 2015.

Happy new year everyone and here's a sneak peek at some of the supplies for the first tastings of the year:

Lunchtime drams were had

Today we absolutely loved meeting all the patrons and vendors at the Mojo Market Day as we served up whisky all morning and afternoon. The highlights of the day were the Starward and the Ancnoc 16, but a few people really dug the Octomore, even at 11am...

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