Whisky Live’s Collectors Room – Caol Ila 1969 and Yamazaki 12 year

Whisky Live’s Collector’s Room was such a terrific experience at the Singapore 2016 event. I couldn’t wait to see what treasures would be available to purchase a small dram…

However it was quite the scaled back version… no delightful fully separate “Collector’s Room“. Instead it was a simple bar area with a row of whiskies on offer. Those we considered started at SGD80 a glass… we decided to try two and share… it was not an easy decision.

My companion settled on:

Yamazaki 12 year (1996/2009) Cask No AX70012 Sherry Butt 60% (Whisky Live Japan 10 year anniversary edition)

  • Nose – Sherry explosion… one even said headache inducing
  • Palate – Almost overwhelming, woody, spice, all the dark fruits, black cherry, phenomenal
  • Finish – What a fabulous finish!
  • Water – Opens it up further, bringing balance

It was truly intense, dense, rich and almost on the edge of being too… everything! Remarkable, unforgettable and worth trying… once.

Whereas I leaned towards a certain sentimentality – a whisky from the same year I was born! It was a rare 1980s Caol Ila bottled by Gordon & MacPhail.

Caol Ila 16 year (1969) 40%

  • Nose – Peat, sour, overripe fruit, a bit of varnish, old and musty, then these darker qualities dissipated to be replace instead by vanilla, bananas, an almost briney quality that then became quite sweet
  • Palate – Spice, peat, sweet and much softer than anticipated from the nose
  • Finish – Long peat, sweet and spicy finish

We remarked on how very different it was from the Caol Ila style of today.

It was last seen on auction for approx £510.00.

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Whisky Live Singapore 2017

So here we are in February 2018… and I’m only now getting around to sharing observations from November 2017 Whisky Live Singapore….  Why the delay?

Because I found it really hard to put into words that after such a terrific experience at Whisky Live Singapore 2016, the 2017 edition simply wasn’t for me. Which seems exceedingly churlish to admit when the organizers were kind enough to extend a day pass.

However rather than dwell on disappointments, let me focus on the key benefit of attending any Whisky Live anywhere in the world – the whisky!

There definitely were highlights and I captured a few fleeting notes on my sniff, swish (and mostly spit) experiences… And before you gasp in dismay about not savouring and swallowing, I firmly adopt a “Survival Guide” approach to explore to the max and over-indulge to the min.

There is a price to such a “speed dating” method. Notes cannot be complete and lack in-depth insights. Instead, they are just quick surface impressions… like a teaser… merely giving a sense of what might come… if only…

So with that caveat in mind, welcome to explore Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Whisky Live Singapore’s Collector’s Room picks for 2017:

Tasting notes to follow in the coming months… so stay tuned!

And what did I walk away with? You may be surprised:

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Is Single Rum the new Single Malt?

Recently while in London, my friend and I were conversing with Sukhinder Singh, owner of Specialty Drinks and The Whisky Exchange about what is new and interesting in the world of spirits. Without hesitation, a discussion commenced on single rums and more specifically Luca Gargano – a remarkable figure who has brought rums from around the world from the category of something to mix with coke for a cuba libra to stand on par with exceptional whiskies.

Clearly, this was a sign to finally share insights from my experience at the 2016 Singapore Whisky Live Master Class with master of all things malt – Dave Broom and the unforgettable character – Luca Gargano.

Before us were four brown spirits and one bonus white spirit. The question was to discern which was whisky, which was rum, gaining appreciation into each. Before serving, the rums and whiskies were carefully watered to be the equivalent of 46% to bring parity in strength between each.

1. Habitation Velier Forsyths White (2005) 57.8% (watered to 46%)

Quite clearly rum… and yet clearly no ordinary one…

  • Nose – Pear, apples, bright then becoming more sour
  • Palate – Marvellous spice, fruits, a slight tin or metallic quality, lots of oils, quite soft yet sumptuous in its dancing elements
  • Finish – After the initial burn, leather and pineapple, over-ripe fruits

There was an appealing, genteel yet quirky quality to this rum. Dave Broom observed it has an “Elegant, wonderful fruit… “ with a “funky character.” As it aired, it revealed increasingly sour elements yet still sweet.

The distillery closed in 1962 and then re-opened, remaining completely independent.

2. Balvenie 12 year Single Cask No 12742 47.8%

Whereas the 2nd sample was clearly whisky, yet had some qualities in common with the rum just tasted.

  • Nose – More sweet soft apples, an almost candy floss sweetness, floral, gentle honey, thinned bannana
  • Palate – Spiced yet soft, a kind of juicy fruity character, lots of creme caramel
  • Finish – Clean, soft and sweet

The overall pronouncement? One heard the exclaim – this is a “disgracefully drinkable dram!” And an excellent example of Balvanie character from a single ex-bourbon barrel, released in 2013.

3. Edradour 10 year (2006) 46%

Again, distinctly Scottish whisky yet with character…

  • Nose – Initially had a clear sherry stamp. As it opened, much more sour than the earlier two. Dried fruits, light “new shows” leather
  • Palate – Very smooth with a spice body, rich, powerful and slightly oily,
  • Finish – Sweet spices like cinnamon, all spice, shifts into liquorice, becoming dry, sweet, spice

Quite a beautiful sweet spice whisky and again falls into the category of “terribly drinkable.”

4. Hampden 2010 HLCF 68.5% (watered to 46%)

No doubt this was rum, of an exceptional character.

  • Nose – Darker sugars, spiced caramel, pineapple, egg nog… a symphony of aromas
  • Palate – Such flavours! So multilayered with spice, toffee, cream, roasted nuts, an almost malty quality
  • Finish – Delicious…

As we sipped and appreciated this remarkable single rum, Luca described with graphic imagines the conditions under which this rum is produced. He shared how they still use 18th century methods, in wooden vats, open with flies, horrible breadfruit, bacteria, in an environment that creates something “beautiful” with “fermentation that is magical.”

5. Clairin Vaval 58.1% (watered to 46%)

This last rum is quite distinctive and memorable. I could immediately place it as the Haitian rhum auricle, 1st sampled back in 2015 at La Maison du Whisky.

  • Nose – Very organic like new make spirit
  • Palate – Overripe fruit, tropical and distinctly different. Like sunshine in a bottle. Light sweet spices, a hint of vanilla, then warms into fruits, berries and even a hint of nuts.
  • Finish – Sugarcane, long and sweet

Luca spoke of history of sugar, from Java in 1770s to Haiti, no hybrid sugar cane, transported by donkeys, fermented and distilled in small pot still, then the evolution of multi-cultivation sugar cane.

Dave added his thoughts about the role of artisanal small stills “in conditions that make you humble“… full of “heart, as good, as clean terroir as one can get.”

In comparing the impact of tropical temperatures in which rum is typically produced vs whiskies in Scotland, Luca explained the correlation between evaporation and remaining spirit… pointing out how in just 6 years, spirits aged in tropical climates have only 610 ml remaining, comparing it with 25 years in Scotland with 600 ml.

In speaking about “Pure Single Rum” vs “Pure single Malt”, Luca shared his emphasis on transparency, giving information on the label, educating producers, retailers and bartenders, rather than pushing for imposition of regulatory rules… demonstrating a passion to bring unique, quality rums to the world.

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Whisky Live Singapore – Balvenie

I’m nearing the end of my Whisky Live Singaporespeed dates‘… I made zero attempt to get to all booths, instead I wandered, meandered, stopping where fancy struck. In a few cases, I planned to return but didn’t yet there was no regret… all that means is more to explore at the next one!

Next up is a wee nip of Balvenie…


I will admit to skipping over the 12 year and Caribbean Cask 14 year to go straight to the Doublewood 17 year.

2016-11-12-balvenie-17-yrThe DoubleWood 17 Year Old has a lovely honey vanilla nose, crisp orchard fruit, spicy,  toffee… in short lip smacking good!

And then Neil Strachan, Regional Brand Ambassador SouthEast Asia intervened with this secret little beauty…


Balvenie (1994/17 Nov 2015) 56.1% Cask No 4013

This was a dram savoured and enjoyed without scribbles… just because sometimes one just needs to stop and experience.


Other Balvenie’s sampled include:

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Lost Distillery 2 – Jericho, Gersten, Lossit, Auchnagie

Whisky Live Singapore 2016 featured many a fine dram! Plus discovering new experiments in the world of whisky.

The Lost Distillery Company set out to create “modern interpretations of lost whisky legends.” My 1st sampling set began with the lightest style profile from the “Classic Range” with Auchnagie, Towiemore then Stratheden, gradually gaining momentum towards more robust profiles.

I continued my explorations with three more whisky distillery recreations of days gone by from the Classic range (all bottled at 43%) then closed on one from their Archivist range (bottled at 46%)…


Jericho Distillery (1824-1913) Classic 43%

  • Nose – Sherry bomb! All those Christmas plum cake elements with an overlay of sweet perfume
  • Palate – Full sherry, lots of rum raisins
  • Finish – Dry sherry


Gerston Distillery (1796-1882 & 1886-1914) Classic 43%

  • Nose – Briny spice, maritime character, windswept freshness
  • Palate – Toffee, rum caramel, edge of peat
  • Finish – Carries on with smokey elements

I don’t know why, but this whisky reminded me of Kolkata – India’s early British colonial capital. It was a nice surprise… Do also check out the Whisky Lassie review.


Lossit Distillery (1817-1867) Classic 43%

  • Nose – Lots of smokey peat, salt more than sweet peat, softer bacon, pear drop
  • Palate – A contrast with a softer more delicate creamy profile, hint of pepper
  • Finish – Mellowed out completely

What a contrast – quite pronounced peat on the nose, yet was much more soft and creamy on the palate then a mild finish…


Just when I thought my sampling as over… out came another Auchnagie at 46% from batch 2/11, bottle no 709, part of their “Archivist” range.

  • Nose – Soft fruits and spice with a slightly tart citrus twist
  • Palate – Then rich, sweet, round full body… in short, delicious!

I sampled seven Lost Distillery whiskies, all ‘speed dating‘ sampling rather than a ‘proper’ sessions, however still gave a sense of quite distinctive styles. Enough to conclude these folks are certainly expanding the horizons of what is possible. The passion and enthusiasm of the team was palpable and I was delighted to have a chance of making their passing acquaintance and wish them well!

Other Lost Distillery whiskies sampled at Whisky Live Singapore include:

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Whisky Live Singapore – Ladies Room

Believe it or not, Whisky Live Singapore had a room exclusively for women.

Though the thinking behind it seemed slightly sexist. “Come ladies for a little pampering – get your mani/pedi done, facial, massage while your man does the manly thing drinking whisky.” (an imagined not real quote!)

In truth, there were quite a few women at Whisky Live Singapore – however some were the Dictator domanatrixes with gravity defying black high heels, attempting to be ‘eye candy’ brand ambassadors. Vaguely insulting much?

That shared, it actually was nice to have a quiet refuge to relax for a bit. Apparently later at night it became a bit wild as a place for those who over-indulged to pass out for a bit, however when I wandered in, it was a secluded refuge for a little whisky ‘down-time’ before rejoining the fray.


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Whisky Live Singapore – Port Askaig

Our saunter through Whisky Live Singapore continues with Port Askaig.

Port Askaig is a project from Sukhinder Singh’s Specialty Drinks, owner of The Whisky Exchange with brands like Single Malts of Scotland and Elements of Islay.


Port Askaig 100 Proof 57.1%

  • Nose clearly Islay, sweet soft aromas with peat, a bit of fruit and spice on the palate
  • Islay refill bourbon cask, aged for approx 7 years with 50,000 bottles
  • PS This whisky won Malt Maniacs 2016 “Thumbs Up Award


Port Askaig 16 year 45.5%

  • Initial impression is of stewed fruits, then soft peat, sweet coconut, overall sense is of approachability – and with a splash of water even more so
  • Brings together a marriage of 80% ex-bourbon and 20% Oloroso Sherry casks


Port Askaig 19 year 50.4%

  • Lots going on with this whisky with peaty leather, sweet, smoky, yet some citrus too
  • I knew immediately this was one I wanted to more than just ‘speed date‘ – a quick impression was not sufficient to form a proper opinion
  • Which is why the Port Askaig came home to Mumbai with me to join a theme evening of ‘undisclosed distlleries


PS Those in the know would know that most know Port Askaig is actually Caol Ila…

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The mighty Karuizawa 12 year (1999/2011) 58.9%

Another highlight at Whisky Live Singapore‘s Collector’s Room was the increasingly rare Japanese discontinued distillery – Karuizawa.


Karuizawa 1999 12 year 58.9%

Bottled 24 Oct 2011, Single Cask #867 with 204 bottles

What did I find?

  • Nose – Lots of dark fruits, dusty
  • Palate – Spice, gorgeous complex character
  • Finish – Long yet quite subtle, lots of figs, dry and bitter

The challenge with dark, rich, intense whiskies is they can become a little too overpowering. This was not the case here… it held back from overwhelming. While it had a lovely nose, it was the taste and finish that really stood out.

While I doubt I will have a chance to try something like this again, am glad I had this opportunity.

Other rare Japanese whiskies sampled:

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Royal Bruichladdich 15 year for Prince Charles + Lady Diana

Every once and a while, one comes across a whisky that is a piece of history. Crafted to commemorate a special occasion.

Next up from the Collector’s Room at Whisky Live Singapore 2016 was one such whisky.

Bottled in a white ceramic decanter at cask strength, Bruichladdich 1965 was released in 1981 to celebrate the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles & Lady Di.


Bruichladdich 15 year (1965/1981) 52%

Royal Wedding H.R.H. Prince Charles, Sherry cask, 900 bottles

  • Nose – Beautiful sherry, restrained, elegant, light perfume
  • Palate – Soft, elegant spice with light peat depths
  • Finish – An absolutely divine finish with a hint of anise

It reminded me of an operatic aria – with achingly beautiful high notes from the 1st soprano which were then joined by rich contralto harmonies and then tenor counter point.

This whisky last retailed for approximately $500… with a warning that it should be carefully weighed before purchasing as some decanters experienced severe evaporation over the years.

I will confess, I hadn’t originally planned to try this whisky. But was persuaded by the lass from La Maison du Whisky… and am so glad I was steered its way. This is one of those unique drams that is completely memorable – a complete original.

Following this stunning whisky, I was given a nip of the Bruichladdich 10 year Samaroli 58% from the 1970s. While not bad, it was somehow lacking ‘soul’.

Other whiskies sampled in the Collector’s Room included:

PS This whisky came compliments of my Whisky Live Singapore traveling companion – you know who you are and you know how much I appreciated experiencing these discoveries together!

Other Bruichladdich’s sampled over the years include:

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On a Linkwood roll…. Whisky Live’s Linkwood 25 year 40%

Next up from the special Collector’s Room at Whisky Live Singapore 2016 was a whisky selected so that my sampling companion could try an older Linkwood from Gordon & MacPhail.

I was quite impressed with the Linkwood 25 year from Gordon & MacPhail and less so by a Linkwood 24 year from Signatory.


Alas, the La Maison du Whisky ‘Rarities Tasting Book Edition 2016’ did not feature this Linkwood and my separate scribbles went missing with all my subsequent travels.

Given the black and white label and the strength of only 40%, my guess is this may be from the 1980s. However that is pure speculation on my part.

So rather than tasting notes, details on the rare whisky imbibed, this is merely a testament to my chronicling follies. All that remains is a photograph and fuzzy recollection that this Linkwood did not disappoint.

2016-11-12-collectors-quartetOther whiskies sampled in the Collector’s Room included:

PS This whisky came compliments of my Whisky Live Singapore traveling companion – you know who you are and you know how much I appreciated experiencing these discoveries together!

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