By far, the #1 whisky sampling evening I’ve experienced til date was at The Auld Alliance in Singapore.
My fellow whisky adventurer and I began our evening with a stop at The Auld Alliance thinking we would have a wee dram there before carrying on to dinner and exploring another whisky spot.
Then we met Arun and were treated to a detailed tour of the remarkable collection, full of fascinating trivia, rare bottles and such a clear passion for the water of life it was almost overwhelming! Worthy of another post however I could never do justice to the experience.
We went to our dinner but were determined to return to settle down for a proper tasting. Return we did and chose from the sampling menu the ‘World’ and ‘Scottish cask’ options. Arun then offered to curate a custom experience for us, along our chosen lines, completely blind. As in dark glass can’t even glean a clue from the colour blind.
How could we say no?
It was such a treat to sample four such distinctive and unique global whiskies.
1st Irish – Bushmills Single Barrel 1975 49.1%
Cask No 164, Bottle No 153, Part of the 365 single barrel millennium series
- Nose – Spirity, coconut, raw, citrus lemon, not smooth instead a sharp woody scent
- Taste – Indeed has a kick – wow! Sharp spice, bitter, no body – simply collapses
- Finish – Dies like that – snap!
- Impression – A sharp ‘Zap!’ kinda whisky that tingles… something to jolt you awake rather than woo your heart
This was an ‘in your face’ kinda whisky. It had a raw quality – not watered down, natural strength. A dash of water did open it a bit and while it was a terrific ‘kick-off’, just whetted the appetite for further sampling adventures…
2nd American – Beam’s Choice 8 year, 1980 (58.7%?)
- Nose – Sweet flowery fragrance, clean, pure
- Taste – Bourbon – no doubt! Sour raw mango, curd, raisins, smooth like a good rum
- Finish – What finish? It was like it was knocked out for the count and simply couldn’t recover
- Impression – There was zero doubt this was a bourbon. What we also noted was after the initial sip, when we went back to the nose post sampling other drams, the delightful flowery fragrance had disappeared.
While we knew it was a bourbon, we were both surprised it was Jim Beam as there was a different quality than one finds in the current incarnation. For one, it was matured for 8 years instead of the typical 5 years found today. For another, it had such contrasting elements between the nose and palate.
3rd French – Kornog NAS 2013, bottled for The Auld Alliance 58.7%
- Nose – Smooth flowers, garden greens, nail polish or varnish, very sweet – almost too sweet, smells light, bright and fresh… just couldn’t get beyond the sweet
- Taste – PEAT as in serious peat, horses kick kinda peat, with bitter tamarind, super sour yet also rich and creamy – may sound like a contradiction yet it works
- Finish – Smoooooth, warm, beautiful and simply delightful
- Impression – Has a distinctly different character. Superb. We speculated that it may be cask strength
Of all the world whiskies sampled, this one stood out as being in a completely different league. I resolved to explore more from this distillery to learn that it is difficult to track down both the unpeated Glann ar Mor or peated Kornog whiskies and is likely to become even more challenging as the distillery just announced it will be closing in August 2015. What?! No!! Say it isn’t so!
PS – Since this post (June 2015), it now has a slightly extended lease on life… however tracking down bottles from this distillery remains challenging!
4th Japanese – Yamazaki Sherry Cask 1998 61%
Cask # CU70067, Bottled in 2011, Bottle #429
- Nose – Like a candy store, bursting with sherry soaked sweeties, fresh, young, powder of flour
- Taste – A fizzy spice, with some ginger, dried fruits, bursting with raisins, citrus zest and a sense of being rather well-manicured, utterly delicious and… well… dare I say ‘nice’
- Finish – It warms up, more sweet spice, licorice, long and juicy
- Impression – There is a youthful exuberance about this whisky. The closest of the lot to something identifiably Scottish which meant to us it must be Japanese!
There is a lot going on with this whisky and what made it special was the interplay of many different elements. What is also remarkable is that it is so utterly smooth you would never guess it to be 61%. We had absolutely no temptation to add even a drop of water.
While a complete treat, I would prefer to come back to it when the focus is on this whisky alone. As one amongst eight, it was simply over shadowed by the distinctive quality of the Kornag and the remarkable Lochside 1981. However without a doubt, one to be savoured and enjoyed and I do hope to have another opportunity sample it.
I would encourage you to not miss The Auld Alliance if in Singapore… you can find it at:
- 9 Bras Basah Road, RendezVous Hotel, Gallery #02-02A, SINGAPORE 189559
- firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +65 6337 2201