Whiskey – the Irish liquid

Yup, not many know that the exquisite spirit of whiskey was actually something that originated in Ireland. But the Irish are used to being screwed, so Scotland’s whiskey is now more well-known around the world.

Initially distillation was used by boring early humans to make perfumes, but they soon graduated to produce better stuff, thanks to ancient Celts whose monks brought the tech back to Ireland to produce uisgebeatha (water of life).

Not a bird..

Not a bird..

The first Irish record of drinking waay too much whiskey is that of a chieftain in 1405 “taking a surfeit of aqua vitae” at Christmas. Yea, understandable. He OD-ed and died.

Till today, it’s the first written record of the existence of whiskey. Haha. Solid.

Anyway Kieran Crowe is a very-much alive Irishman who’s the brand ambassador of Jameson Irish Whiskey whom i met recently for a chat.

The Irish

The Irish

So what’s different about Irisch (i just made that up) vs say, Scotch? ”Well Scotch tends to be smokier. Irish whiskies are typically triple-distilled, makes it a little smoother. Also when we malt our barley, we don’t use peat to smoke ’em; we use heated air. That would be the main difference,” he says.

Cieran pretending to make a cocktail

Kieran pretending to make a cocktail

Irisch was bigger than Scotch for a very long time in fact. But a series of unfortunate events saw Scotch take over the number one position. “But over the last 25 years, Irish whiskey has gotten bigger and bigger, lead by Jameson.”

The unfortunate events include the Irish War of Independence and subsequent trade war with Britain which denied it access to Commonwealth markets.

Kieran says the worldwide revival began in a Brooklyn dive bar called Bushwick Country Club (not a country club), with affordable drinks and friendly staff. The bartenders there invented a shooter called the Pickleback. A shot of Jameson is chased by a shot of pickle brine. Gotta try it.

Owner John fixing a Pickleback

Owner John fixing a Pickleback

US is the largest market for Jameson, which takes half of their 5 million annual cases. Interestingly, 12 more distilleries are opening in Ireland over the next five years.

The second best-selling Irisch in the world is Bushmills, followed by Tullamore Dew. “Keep an eye out for Red Breast.” is his tip.

That's the delicious Scarlette O'Jameson, a cocktail with raspberries available at Locker & Loft

That’s the delicious Scarlette O’Jameson, a cocktail with among others raspberries, available at Locker & Loft only

How do the Irish drink Irisch? “Over rocks, with a little water. The younger ones drink it with ginger ale and lime.”  Ale & lime? That’s how i usually take rum!

I kinda enjoy Jameson Original. A good whiskey to be taken on it’s own, at anytime, and versatile in cocktails as well. It’s matured in a combo of ex-Bourbon barrels as well as Sherry casks.

Kieran leads a toast after the tasting session

Kieran leads a toast after the tasting session

Kieran also took a bunch of folk thru a whisky tasting, which went down at restaurant & cocktail bar Locker & Loft. Followed by shots of Jameson, like true Irish.

He however messed up big time and said ”Cheers”, but soon corrected himself – “Sláinte!!”

 

Brain damage: 7.5 / 10

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Benromach, a Speyside special

Speyside single malts like Glenlivet tend to be my favourites. Typically, they possess light, sweetish characteristics. Lunchtime whiskies. The older ones and those aged in sherry casks however are richer and more pronounced.
Benromach is a tiny distillery from this region, which was once closed for a long time. Then it reopened in 1998. Nothing is automated at Benromach. It’s 100% hand-made single malts.

All the action in this 'house'

All the action in this ‘house’

It’s the second smallest whisky distillery in Scotland. It’s such a small distillery that only a handful of guys run it.

Stills... mmmm..

Stills….  mmmm….  full of goodness

Speyside whiskies of past had small elements of smokiness in them. This feature is said to be the classic pre-1960s Speyside character.

Before the mid 1960s, these distilleries malted their own barley. Hidden away in remote glens, they’d top up their fires with cuts of local peat when coal was running low. These slices were enough to impart a touch of smoke in the region’s whisky.

Hmmm. I didn’t know that. I have always assumed Speyside whiskies traditionally have a light and non-smoky profile.
However, the ‘Speyside smoke’ ain’t nowhere like the Islay one (in your face). The smokiness is very light, and not very noticeable.

Ace

Ace

Met up with the Juliette Buchan of Benromach for an introductory session.

The Benromach 10 Years (43%) is a mix of aged whiskies with 80% from bourbon barrels, 20% from Sherry hogshead. Final year is spent in first-fill Oloroso casks. Its beautiful taste of sherry, fruit and vanilla gives way to a light pop of smoke, coming after that pleasant sweetness that Speysides are so sought for.

Loved it. This is Benromach’s flagship expression.
We also tried the 10 Year Old 100 proof (50% abv). Just as interesting, only stronger.

The teen

The teen

The longer maturation of the 15 Year Old (43%) softens its smokiness to hints of charred smoke, while developing the wood-imbued character of honey, vanilla and fruit. Very pleasant, but richer.
As a treat, we had some Benromach 35 Year Old (43%). This exquisite dram is a lot more complex after chillin for more than three decades in oak. It’s a sophisticated, delicate dram, with the right balance between fruity freshness and oaky maturity.

Classy

Classy

This tiny family-run distillery by the town of Forres produces some astounding stuff. Will plan to serve it at Locker & Loft, especially the 10.

 

Brain damage: 8/10

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Glenlivet releases Founder’s Reserve

The Glenlivet launched a permanent expression to the brand’s core range, Founder’s Reserve. The cool party was held at Leonardo’s in Bangsar’s Jln Bangkung.

Come 'ere!

Come ‘ere!     —

The Founder’s Reserve is simply put, a pleasanter or easier variation of the 12. It’s got  sweetness, with a round, balanced flavour, and delicate aromas of citrus fruit.

I’ve always liked the 12, and was disappointed to hear that it’s being discontinued, from most markets. However Malaysia is fortunate as the 12 will go on over here.

Lionel Lau intro-ing the new product

Lionel Lau intro-ing the new product     —

Boasting the classic fruity flavours of The Glenlivet, this expression is the brand’s tribute to its founder George Smith’s original vision to craft the definitive smooth single malt whisky.

It uses distilling methods used in 1824 (when the brand began), in unique, wide lantern-shaped copper stills created by Smith himself almost 200 years ago. Each bottle comes from about 100 different casks. Amazing.

launch-of-the-glenlivet-founders-reserve-15Master Distiller Alan Winchester has complemented the fruitiness of the Founder’s Reserve with the creaminess and sweetness from the addition of First Fill American oak casks. The result is a well-balanced and smooth whisky.

Lionel leading a yam seng..

Lionel leading a yam seng…     —

It’s a NAS (no age statement whisky) meaning it does not state the age of the whiskies that are in the bottle.

launch-of-the-glenlivet-founders-reserve-7

It won a Gold Medal at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2016, as well as a Gold Medal at The Spirits Masters 2015.

Interestingly, the Founder’s Reserve is priced in parity with the 12, which means you should be able to get it at the same price at selected bars where it’s carried.

Give it a shot.

launch-of-the-glenlivet-founders-reserve-6

Yea, there was haggis too! Was a no-brainer   —

Brain damage: 8.5/10

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Auchentoshan shows up

Auchentoshan Single Malt Whiskey (ock-en-tosh-en) is one that has a low profile over here, which is unfortunate, coz i enjoy it. However, it carried out what was probably its first event recently, at BSC in Bangsar (WIP).

A bar popped-up

A bar popped-up

This is a single malt that originates from the Lowlands, and is one of only three remaining malt distilleries in the Lowland whisky region of Scotland. The distillery rests at the foot of the Old Kilpatrick hills overlooking the river Clyde, which runs through the heart of Glasgow in the West of Scotland.

The third still

The third still

Auchentoshan is the only Scotch whisky that is triple-distilled. What this does is that it removes more impurities for a cleaner result. It has an effect obviously, making it probably the smoothest, most delicate tasting single malt scotch whisky around.

auc

The most well-known expressions are the 12, the Three Wood and the 18.

At the event, guests had the opportunity to have some fun – making cocktails! There was a pop-up cocktail bar with all the ingredients, tools and recipes needed to make several types of drinks.

 

Taste profiles for cocktails

Taste profiles for cocktails

The one i enjoyed the most involved the Three Wood (which is aged in three types of wood), called What the Kueh!? It also consists of gula melaka, pandan reduction, and bitters, plus a scoop of passion fruit. Delicious.

Auchentoshan’s signature smooth, delicate taste is something you can expect from their products.  It’s range of whiskies are available at several bars including Locker & Loft.

The session they had was a fun, interactive event; now if only they’d be more active with this brand…

 

Brain damage: 7.5/10

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