The Auld Alliance, Singapore

In terms of whisky, the absolute highlight of all Singapore “watering holes” was an evening spent at The Auld Alliance a few years ago.

I was joined by one of the original member of our Mumbai based whisky tasting club. Since his move to Singapore a few years ago, he’s been much missed.

We were taken on a tour of the remarkable collection by Arun who shared insights and tales about the remarkable collection – from ship wreck rescues to historically unique bottles – traversing the world of whiskies.

We returned post a delightful dinner to sit down and enjoy two custom created sample sets featuring four whiskies each:

Arun challenged us to go ‘hard core’ blind where we sipped from black glasses so could not even be influenced by the whisky colour.

It was a perfect evening and a complete treat!

Since then my whisky sampling companion and I have tried other places yet tip date, nothing tops that particular evening in June 2015.

You can find The Auld Alliance at:

  • 9 Bras Basah Road, RendezVous Hotel, Gallery #02-02A, SINGAPORE 189559 
  • info@theauldalliance.sg Tel: +65 6337 2201

The elusive Longmorn 16 year 48%

Once upon a time, a fabulous Mumbai based gal pal and I would alternate picking up a bottle of Longmorn 15 year then the 16 year as a reasonably affordable duty free dram. We certainly had a few good evenings spent over this whisky.

So it was only logical to consider acquiring a bottle to share with the Whisky Ladies. However… we COULD NOT track down a Longmorn 16 year. It had simply disappeared. All our various ‘whisky mules’ in far flung corners of the world also had no luck!

Until one rainy afternoon in Singapore I was on a quest for a fellow Mumbaiker for something else and found myself at Century Cellars. My eye spied a single Longmorn amidst a wide range of whiskies. The store manager admitted she had actually ordered it by mistake and it was the last bottle.

I immediately messaged my friend “You want?” (Knowing full well she was in the process of wrapping up life in India to move to Canada). And the answer after a few seconds consideration was “You bet!”

The thing is, when we pulled this out after the rather delicious Bowmore White Sands with the Whisky Ladies, it was simply too rough and I’m afraid it missed its mark.

So the bottle went home to my friend and I kept  a wee sample to revisit.

As the evening I pulled it out was unpleasantly warm, I first put my mini bottle in the freezer. Then poured a chilled dram and gave myself over to the experience… would it come close to the memories of amused conversations with my friend about life, the universe and everything?

 

Longmorn 16 year 48%

  • Nose – A bit woodsy, fresh spice  bourbon, as it opened but took on a lovely custard and lightly fruity minty quality
  • Palate – Initially comes on strong, with spice and an alcohol ‘oomph!’. Then starts to reveal light crisp fruits like apples and pears, cinnamon toast, alternating between sweet and a chewy bitterness almost edging on a hint of peat, some spice, it has substance, perhaps not entirely balanced but enough elements to make it interesting
  • Finish – Wood, a bit of bitter chocolate, dry…

Yes it initially comes across as a bit rough, but as you settle in giving it more time to open up, it becomes more and more enjoyable. I had enough in my sample to let it sit and found after 15 minutes or so it became much fruitier with oranges, capsicum, a curl of light leather and overall significantly more approachable.

And with a dash of water? Any roughness gone completely. Lots of fruits, even berries, from a dram that initially was a tad unbalanced, every element came together in harmony.

In short, if you rush it – you will completely miss what makes this actually more than just a decent dram. This is one to wait, give a bit of time… While there is nothing overly fancy, there is much more going on than at 1st appearance with the lovely chewy spicy fruity dimension that is most enjoyable.

Let’s be clear… this is the ‘old version’ not the ‘reinterpreted‘ version. From traditional brown to purple boxes… I was rather amused to walk into Singapore airport after feeling victorious in tracking down the elusive Longmorn 16 year to see its new avatar proudly displayed – with a steeper price tag!

And the memories? Yes… this whisky will always be associated with my friend who is now happily in the process of getting settled in Canada. So it was worth saying a final whisky farewell with the Longmorn 16 year!

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Ben Nevis 19 year (1996/2016) Cask No 871 45.1%

After two teasing whisky flights of 20 ml each at The Single Cask in Singapore, it was time to have a full and proper dram.

To narrow the choices, I by-passed “smoky” or “sweet” to settle on “salty”… as a contrast to the mostly lighter drams we’d just sampled…

And the choice? A whisky from Ben Nevis distillery bottled by The Single Cask. This distillery joins the lot which were opened then closed and re-opened again – in Ben Nevis case – re-opened in 1991 under the new owners – Nikka.

Ben Nevis 19 year (09.07.1996/16.06.2016) Cask No 871 45.1% Bottle 6 of 68

  • Nose – Salty – not sea breeze but more leather with salty caramel, as it opened up took on a sour curd quality
  • Palate – More chewy, soft spice, character
  • Finish – Bit of smoke and spice, with a nice milk chocolate at the end

A few drops of water brought out the spice and a much longer finish with sweet cinnamon.

Apparently this whisky came from a leaky cask, hence why there were only 68 bottles.

What also makes this out of the ordinary for Ben Nevis is that it was matured in bourbon not sherry casks.

And the best part? It was paired in a truly spectacular fashion with a salty caramel chocolate – locally hand crafted and absolutely the perfect accompaniment!

My earlier whisky flight experiences can be found here:

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Miltonduff 21 year (1995/2016) 45.8%

Just like the Glentauchers, I first flirted with Miltonduff as part of a set of 17 year old Ballantine‘s blends ‘featuring’ variations that focused on exploring the component distilleries.

It was by far our favourite of that quartet and again this ‘lighter touch’ flight at The Single Cask in Singapore too!

Miltonduff 21 year (07.02.1995/22.02.2016) 45.8% Bottle 169

  • Nose – Lovely almond nutty quality, creamy nougat, then a light tobacco chew, a dash of spice and a slightly woodsy element
  • Palate – Much more substance than the other whiskies sampled in the flight – dark dry fruits, chocolate, toffee, well balanced
  • Finish – Yum! With a shifting character between sweet caramel to tobacco then chocolate… Fabulous!

What can I say? I really wish I had more than the mini pour! It was delicious – the kind of whisky that makes you want to sit back, relax and enjoy, slowly sipping and savouring. There is substance, well rounded and while not heavy, there is more than enough going on to keep you interested.

For my sampling companion, there was zero doubt this was the ONLY whisky of the quartet to his palate preferences.

Here’s what the folks over at The Single Cask have to say about this Miltonduff (SG$404.60):

Founded in 1824 and also currently owned and operated by Pernod Ricard, Miltoduff is one of the signature whiskies alongside Glentauchers which plays and important part in shaping the character of the Ballantine’s brand of blended Scotch whisky. The whisky from Miltonduff is also used in the Chivas Regal range.

  • Nose: The most mature of the four. Spicy, dark and woody. A very inviting nose redolent with toffee, glazed red fruit and a touch of cocoa. Charcoal and tannins, a tin of furniture wax.
  • Palate: Lots of thick caramel and red cherries. The dark and spicy theme continues. Rye bread, more char and deeply polished wood. Good mouthfeel.
  • Finish: Luxuriant and rich. Almost a light dessert in itself.

Would I agree? Most certainly!

Related posts:

Sampled as part of a whisky flight at The Single Cask together with:

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Glentauchers 18 years (1996/2014) 2 casks 46%

I first flirted with Glentauchers as part of a set of 17 year old Ballantine‘s blends ‘featuring’ variations that focused on exploring the component distilleries. While an interesting experiment, nothing substitutes for experiencing a whisky in its single malt avatar.

Given nearly all Glentauchers goes into blends – primarily Ballantine’s and Teachers – this isn’t so easy to accomplish.

So I was particularly pleased to have a chance to try a Carn Mor bottle at The Single Cask.

Glentauchers 18 years (1996/2014) 2 casks 46% 443 bottles

  • Nose – Cereals with lightly toasted seeds, apple sauce, quite sweet with a hint of very faint jasmine
  • Palate – This is where more character reveals itself, almost reminded me of a lemon barley squash, gentle malt, sweet and fruity, with a hint of toasted nuts and something else elusive I couldn’t quite catch!
  • Finish – Retrained and gentile, quite lovely

Overall it is exceedingly easy to drink, smooth, approachable, entirely civilized though not terribly distinctive… In short quite ‘likeable’ and one for folks enjoy a lightly fruity whisky. Though restrained, the finish was truly quite enjoyable… nuanced yet very much present.

Here is what The Single Cask folks have to say about this Glentauchers (SG$198.80):

This is a sweet easy, fruity Speysider! 

  • Nose has sugar, sweets, overripe apples and maybe whiffs of flowers.
  • Taste is sweet and green apples, lemon drops, sweet barley, tinned pineapples, maple syrup.
  • Finish is nice, with a little more caramel

Reading their description after sampling the whisky, I would overall quite agree!

Related posts:

This whisky was sampled as part of a whisky flight at The Single Cask together with:

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Glen Moray 21 year (1991/2013) Cask 9980 46%

Next up in our ‘lighter touch‘ quartet from a whisky flight at The Single Cask in Singapore is Glen Moray.

This Speyside distillery has been a bit of a ‘2nd cousin’ to the more prominent Glenmorangie distillery when owned by Macdonald & Muir and even with Martiniquaise, it is primarily used for the French company’s blends such as Label 5 and Glen Turner. Glen Moray single malts from the distillery have tended to be quite affordable, earlier with age statements of 10 (finished in Chardonnay cask), 12 and 16 years, more recently replaced by their Elgin collections:

  • Elgin Classic‘ line of NAS first fill ex-bourbon, peated then sherry, port and chardonnay cask finish
  • Elgin Heritage‘ age statements with 12, 15 & 18 year
  • Elgin Reserve‘ featuring only a 25 year Port pipe finish whisky

So to find a 21 year is an anomaly… in this case from from Douglas of Dramlanrig collection of single cask bottlings from Hunter Laing, endorsed by the Duke of Buccleuch himself. Bearing the image of the Douglas family seat – Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway. While initially available only through The Whisky Shop, you can now find Douglas bottles in other places as well..

Glen Moray 21 year (Oct 1991/Aug 2013) Cask 9980 46% 159 bottles (Douglas)

  • Nose – Cereals, light honey drizzle, all the usual light bright single malt notes
  • Palate – Spice then sweet with a nice interplay between the two, as it opens up becomes more and more creamy
  • Finish – More of a dry burn, nothing spectacular

The palate is the strongest dimension whereas the  finish is the least interesting element. In truth, we were challenged to tease out many specifics… It was just a classic middle of the road malt that neither stood out as particularly unusual yet had nothing ‘wrong’ either.

In truth, the limited aromas was consistent for all but the Miltonduff… which I later suspect had more to do with sitting directly underneath an A/C vent sharing a small 20 ml pour than the whiskies themselves. Particularly with the Gloen Moray, I’ll openly admit to struggling to discern much beyond a cursory impression.

And what do the folks at The Single Cask have to say about this one? Just this

Douglas of Dramlanrig is inspired by the rolling hills and green forests in the estate of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensferry, Douglas of Drumlanrig is a collection of single cask bottlings personally endorsed and approved by the Duke himself. (SG$294.00)

This whisky was sampled as part of a whisky flight at The Single Cask together with:

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Deanston 15 years (1997/2013) Cask No 1958 45.8%

There are some whiskies that if you simply sniff, swish and move on, you may not catch what makes them enjoyable. This Deanston is one of those which initially had quite an unassuming character, yet if you didn’t give it a proper chance, would miss out on a rather companionable dram… it also just so happened to kick of our 2nd Whisky flight with a “lighter touch” at Singapore’s The Single Cask.

Deanston 15 years (1997/2013) Cask No 1958 45.8%

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – A nice honey sweetness, light touch of flowers, vanilla and a ‘green’ grass fresh quality
  • Palate – Initially the impression is of citrus sweetness, then with a bit of cheekiness, it starts to reveal much more character with a bit of light spice, raspberries and vanilla wood
  • Finish – Short, simple and slightly sweet

Overall it is simply a lovely easy drinking whisky. Not complicated, not a show-stopper but one you wouldn’t mind coming back to…

Even when revisited after sampling the other whiskies, there was something simply ‘comfortable’ and ‘comforting’ about this one… and I found myself coming back to it for a final sniff, sip and sigh of happiness.

And here is what the folks over at the Single Cask have to say:

  • Nose: This is a very natural whisky that is added to, but not burdened, by wood influence. We have just enough vanilla pod and bruleed banana that complements the spirit’s masses of estery green fruit. It is on the whole light and exuberant, showing the freshness of green apple peels but is also anchored by malt notes and linseed oil.
  • Palate: The wood has more to say here, with a growing hot spiciness and black pepper. But look past that and find tart berries, pollen and – surprise – lots of lilies.
  • Finish: Vanilla and more charred spiciness linger on.

I certainly didn’t catch any oil or lillies but overall wouldn’t disagree… except for the finish lingering… not in what we experienced but you can also see there wasn’t much left in the bottle! Particularly with lighter whiskies, I find oxidation can be a factor in shifting some elements.

Other Deanston sampling experiences:

This Deanston was sampled as part of a whisky flight at The Single Cask together with:

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La Maison du Whisky Singapore Renewed!

Above all, I’m a fan of being able to sip and consider before purchasing… there truly is no comparison between educated “guessing” and trying a tiny taste before making the decision to buy (or not).

It also counts having knowledgable sociable staff who can steer you in an interesting direction…

Which is exactly why there is hardly a single trip to Singapore that doesn’t include a stop by La Maison du Whisky.

And this time? A chance to check out the recent renovations which opened the space up, spruced up the floor to ceiling whisky shelves, added some ladders and a brilliant very well stocked bar.

The challenge in keeping our whisky clubs in Mumbai well-stocked is we’ve now sampled quite a respectable range of whiskies… just check out the “list” or “tasting sessions” and it becomes blindingly obvious we’ve gone beyond the most obvious fare.

What was on the sampling agenda this time?

  • Compass Box with their new “Whisky de Table” – A great concept to bring affordable easy drinking whisky to be enjoyed with dinner
  • Elements of Islay series – Bringing distinction to exploring the components of Islay distilleries in their ‘pharmacy’ bottles
  • Assorted Japanese options – Always nice to expand these horizon! Particularly if slightly more affordable and lesser known…
  • Something from Tasmania – Already hooked with the Hellyers RoadStarward and Sullivans Cove... why not add another to the list?

What made it back to Bombay? All will be revealed in the coming months!

La Maison du Whisky is located at 80 Mohamed Sultan Road, #01-10 The Pier, Singapore
 Tel: 6733 0059

Some posts inspired by whiskies sampled at LMdW:

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Lost Distillery 1 – Auchnagie, Stratheden, Towiemore

Whisky Live Singapore 2016 had such a dizzying array of whisky options I knew from the start I would survive only by sniffing, swishing and spitting… and by not getting to every single booth.

One that was intriguing was a venture by Lost Distillery Company to recover ‘lost distillery’ styles. Is this the authentic original whisky produced under the distillery name? Certainly not. However is it an archivists equivalent to recreating lost legends? Yes indeed, with meticulous attention to detail. My old academic historian avatar was keen to know more..

2016-11-13-lost-distillery

I sampled seven whiskies in two different sets… While I have shared my tasting notes below, keep in mind this was ‘speed dating‘ style sampling rather than sitting down for a ‘proper’ session… hence more a hint of impressions rather than full consideration of the whisky characters.

Ewan Henderson, Global Brand Ambassador, began the 1st set with the Classic Selection – going from lightest style profile gradually building towards the more robust whiskies.

2016-11-13-lost-distillery-auchnagie

Auchnagie Distillery (1812-1911) 43%

  • Nose – Lots of cereals, organic, citrus tending more towards grapefruit than orange, light floral
  • Palate – Very smooth & soft, sweet and fruity
  • Finish – Longer than expected, bit spicy – pepper?

The Lost Distillery gent shared there were a number of owners over the years and called this a “Highland masquerading as a Lowland” whisky.

2016-11-13-lost-distillery-stratheden

Strathden Distillery (1829-1926) 43%

  • Nose – Immediate sense of minerals, salty rock, briney, citrus spice
  • Palate – Orchard fruits, chocolate, slightly heavy, was there sweet peat and perhaps a dash sherry too??
  • Finish – Dry, slightly bitter

2016-11-13-lost-distillery-towiemore

Towiemore Distillery (1898-1931) 43?%

  • Nose – Apple crumble, sherry, vanilla, light almonds
  • Palate – Classic speyside
  • Finish – Quite light, hint of spice

It was indeed an intriguing start and proved these folks aren’t just doing some weird gimmicky scheme but sincerely attempting to craft interesting drams. Who am I to say if they are accurate representations of their previous avatars? Yet worth checking out more!

I’ve not included a synopsis of their stories – just click the link on the whisky name to find out more! Makes for a good read.

Coming up next, more Lost Distillery whiskies:

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“The Whisky Guessing Game” at The Single Cask, Singapore

Having an opportunity to ‘try something different‘ seems to be the hallmark of most whisky aficionados journey. What better way than through bottlers not disclosing the distillery… here follows the tasting notes and speculation from an anonymous Islay whisky flight experienced at The Single Cask in Singapore.

Cask Islay 46%

  • Nose – Citrus smoke, sweet brine
  • Palate – Ash, peat, oily, sense of being a bit sticky, doesn’t travel well
  • Finish – Bitter… makes you want water!

Cask Islay is a small batch release from A.D. Rattray and you can read what they have to say here.

Islay Storm 40%

  • Nose – Softer than the Cask Islay, fresh grass, fruity apples, cereals, barley oat porridge, followed by a nice sweetness
  • Palate – While it didn’t have much body, there was a fresh green dimension and actually quite interesting, warming into vanilla custard with smoke, sweet peat, sea salt, eminently enjoyable
  • Finish – Very nice finish, surprisingly long

The folks behind this bottle is The Vantage Malt Whisky Company and you can read what they have to say about Islay Storm here.

Dun Bheagan Islay 43%

  • Nose – Briney citrus, tannins
  • Palate – Bit of spice, some body, the peat was actually quite balanced
  • Finish – Sweet spice with cinnamon

IanMacLeod Distillers created the Dun Bheagan collection to feature a range of single casks.

Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%

  • Nose – Tar, asphalt, leather, grass, flowers, quite sweet yet also oddly quite shy and mute
  • Palate – Sharp leather, warm balanced evolution
  • Finish – Sweet spice liquor

It may sounds like a contradiction but it was oddly muted and shy – can’t help but suspect the bottle was open too long with oxidation taking its toll.

Again, the folks behind this marvellous dram are The Vantage Malt Whisky Company, with more details about their Finlaggan range available here.

All were interesting. All would be quite affordable in the UK and not pocket destroying in Singapore. I kept coming back to the Islay Storm, whereas my companion was particularly partial to the Finlaggan.

And our guesses?

  • Cask Islay 46% Our guess? Caol Ila
  • Islay Storm 40%? Zero doubt it was Kilchoman… by a mile! And interesting to try at 40%. Sipping it also sparked my companion’s memories of his 1st visit to the distillery
  • Dun Bheagan Islay 43% Most likely a Lagavulin
  • Finlaggan Cask Strength 58% Probably a Laphroaig

If anyone can prove or disprove any of our speculations – would love to hear!

So there we have it… a wee whisky flight and a most enjoyable evening in Singapore.

The Single Cask is located at 01-25 Chijmes Caldwell House, 30 Victoria Street, Singapore 187996 / info@thesinglecask.sg / +65 6837 0953.

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