Posts Tagged With: Australia

The world has spoken in 2015…

…and it has said “Ho ta lah!” – or at least that’s the closest phonetic spelling I can find for the Taiwanese equivalent to cheers!

 

Yes, the World Whisky Awards for 2015 were held recently to determine the best whiskies in the world across a multitude of categories and they have awarded their top honour of “World’s Best Single Malt Whisky” to the Taiwanese distillers of Kavalan, for their Solist Vinho Barrique expression. And anything described as “bourbon-infused milk chocolate” would probably get my vote too. Its a single cask release, making it rare, and is bottled at cask strength, so its certainly not pulling any punches at 58.6% ABV, so keep an eye out in the auction rooms, because this stuff is nowhere to be seen on the shelves!

 

The full round-up of winners can be found here (http://www.worldwhiskiesawards.com/2015/all.html)  but here’s a list of the overall winners from each category:

 

Overall winners:

  • World’s best single malt: Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique (Taiwan)
  • World’s best grain whisky: Darkness! North British 18 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish (Scotland)
  • World’s best pot still whiskey: Redbreast Pot Still 15 Year Old (Ireland)
  • World’s best American whiskey: Thomas H Handy Sazerac Straight Rye (USA)
  • World’s best blend: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blended Whisky #1 (Scotland)
  • World’s best blended malt: Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 Year Old (Japan)
  • World’s best scotch blended malt: Wemyss Malts Velvet Fig (Scotland)
  • World’s best flavoured whisky: Master of Malt 40 Year Old Speyside Whisky Liqueur (Scotland)

 

International categories:

  • Best African blended whisky: Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish (South Africa)
  • Best African single malt: Three Ships Single Malt 10 Year Old (South Africa)
  • Best American single malt: Balcones Texas Single Malt (Texas)
  • Best Australian single malt: Sullivan’s Cove French Oak Cask Matured (Tasmania)
  • Best European single malt: Mackmyra Iskristall (Sweden)
  • Best Irish blended whiskey: Tullamore Dew Phoenix (Ireland)
  • Best Irish single malt: Teeling Single Malt (Ireland)
  • Best Japanese blended whisky: Suntory Hibiki 12 Year Old (Japan)
  • Best Japanese single malt: Suntory Yamazaki 18 Year Old (Japan)

 

Scottish categories:

  • Best Campbeltown single malt: Longrow 11 Year Old
  • Best Highland single malt: Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Year Old
  • Best Lowland single malt: Highland Harvest Single Malt Sauternes Wood
  • Best Islands single malt: Ledaig 10 Year Old
  • Best Islay single malt: Ardbeg Kildalton
  • Best Speyside single malt: Benriach 16 Year Old

 

This seems like another turning point in the story of world whiskies. Comparing this year’s result to last year’s 2014 winner – Sullivan’s Cove French Oak Cask, from Tasmania, Australia (which still won best Australian dram this year) – it seems that not only is the whisky world wide open, but it is thriving and excelling in its craft. That and French wine casks are going to be even more sought after in the coming years.

 

Some people may challenge the validity of these types of awards, but given that 2015 has seen whisky guru Jim Murray awarding his whisky of the year to Yamazaki’s 2013 Sherry Cask release and has previously awarded his ‘New Whisky of the Year’ to Kavalan, there seems to be a trend forming. For collectors this might be a call to start diversifying your purchases, whereas others may see this as a time to get behind the Scottish and Irish founders of the dram, but whichever your persuasion, you can’t deny that this is a good and vibrant time for whisky makers and appreciators worldwide.

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Venue Review – The Baxter Inn, Sydney

I was recently lucky enough to head down to Australia for a holiday and I had the opportunity to roam around Sydney’s central business district with a mate of mine who had emigrated down under some years ago. Regardless of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Botanic Gardens, the Blue Mountains or the endless number of beaches, he said that I had to visit The Baxter Inn, or simply “Baxter’s” to the locals. That’s some pretty stiff competition, right there.

As we walked through the bustling streets, my friend-turned-tour-guide warned me that it might appear that he was lost when trying to reach our destination because essentially it was to be found down a dingy alleyway, around the back of a building, and down a concrete stairwell, none of which had any lighting. Nice. He confessed to having learned to give this advance warning due to recently nearly petrifying an unsuspecting girl when taking her to the inn on a first date… And if I hadn’t known him for 20 years, I would have been rather uneasy too.

What awaited us behind the door at the bottom of this dank stairwell however was a thing of beauty. The Baxter Inn is an underground bar. More importantly, an underground whisky bar. In fact, it is a re-imagining of a 1920s Prohibition-era speakeasy and the whisky selection is vast. And I mean VAST. Like, more than 300 options vast.

Baxter Inn - Whisky Menu

Baxter Inn – Whisky Menu

The venue was already packed by 5.30pm, but comfortably so, and the light jazz soundtrack added to the fairy-light and candlelit atmosphere. Even the posters on the wall fit the theme perfectly. We made our way through the throng of punters to the centre of the bar and behind the counter stood a large menu, from floor to ceiling, detailing all of the different whiskies available. Either side of this gargantuan picklist towered a giant bank of whisky bottles, each of which had its own ladder so that the staff could reach the top shelves, like some sort of awesome whisky library. I was in heaven.

The range of whiskies available went from the standard blends and entry-level single malts of most of the scotch distilleries up to very rare expressions, including Glenfarclas 40, Highland Park 40 and Yamazaki 2013 Sherry Cask release (Jim Murray’s Whisky of the Year for 2015) – just a pinch at AUD$300, $260 and $200 respectively per measure. World whiskies were well represented with ample choice of American whiskies and bourbons, Japanese whiskies, a spread of European representatives, and a handful of the more local Australian (particularly Tasmanian) varietals.

Baxter Inn - Bank 1 of 2

Baxter Inn – Bank 1 of 2

And the staff know their stuff. Their knowledge and recommendations based on your own favourites/experiences were spot on. Their expertise didn’t stop at whiskies either for that matter as they had an impressive list of cocktails available and a decent selection of beers stocked too, particularly Aussie craft beers.

Being bit of a peathead and avoiding any of my standard tipples when faced with such an array of liquors, I opted for a Port Askaig 12 year old, which is a delicious dram and not one of the easiest Islay spirits to find anywhere, let alone on the other side of the planet to where it comes from! I savoured both the dram and the experience before having to move on to our evening’s entertainment, but given half the chance, I’d still be there now and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone – fans of whisky or otherwise, no worries.

 

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Whisky: Scotch Independence?

As we approach 18th Sept 2014, the debate rages on throughout Scotland and the UK about whether or not the Scots should vote for Scottish independence. For whisky drinkers, this mirrors one question that has often considered too: do I stick to just scotch whisky or not?

scottish flag

Whisky: Scotch Independence?

The answer is that only you can really decide. But! It would not be right (almost rude, in fact) to rule out other whiskies without trying them first, so here’s a potted geographical tour of the big names that the non-scotch world has to offer:

Jameson's - Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey

Jameson’s – Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey


Bushmills 10 Year Old - Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Bushmills 10 Year Old – Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is known to have a long and vibrant history, similar to the Scots. In fact it seems that no trip to the Eire capital, Dublin, is complete without a trip to the Jameson’s distillery (or the Guinness factory for that matter). Jameson’s is a regular favourite amongst most pubs and bars and, due to its kudos and mass production, is now readily available in most shops and supermarkets and stands proud as the flagship Irish dram. Similarly, Bushmills from Northern Ireland is increasingly adorning the shelves and optics of local public houses and offer a triple distilled blend and a 10 year old single malt as their entry level drams, which could prove to be your tipple of choice. Bushmills also lays claim to be being the oldest Irish whiskey with its history hailing back to 1608!

Across the pond, the US is renowned for its sipping whiskey and bourbons. The big marketing powerhouses of Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam are always competing heavily against one another for your money (e.g. Jim Beam’s recent claim of making history with Mila Kunis battles with the annual claim of September as Jack Daniel’s birth-month) and both have their strengths and weaknesses, but always get the job done with their charcoal-rich hearty measures, whether neat or with a mixer. North of the US border, you have the Canadians, who are more known for their rye whiskies (i.e. made with rye rather than malt) and most famous is the self-titled Canadian Club whiskey, which packs a unique punch, and can be delicious on its own or with a mixer (usually with its Canadian comrade Canada Dry ginger ale).

Yamazaki - Distiller's Reserve

Yamazaki – Distiller’s Reserve

Moving across the Pacific to Japan, you come back to predominantly premier single malts, and there is none bigger than the Yamazaki, within the Suntory whisky family. The Yamazaki is certainly harder to find in pubs here in the UK and you generally have to seek it out in some of the more upmarket bars, mainly due to the price and prestige that the brand associates. That said, it is still a fine dram and their staple Yamazaki 10 is a good place as any to start exploring whether or not Japanese whisky is for you. In 2014 they have also released their “Distiller’s Reserve” within their core range which cleverly demonstrates their use of different casks (including their signature Misanura oak), and has been made widely available via supermarket deals within the UK.

Further south, Australia’s mark on the whisky world is gaining considerable pace, including the 2014 World Whisky Award winning dram hailing from Tasmania, courtesy of Sullivan’s Cove.

Travelling from east to west, we come across India’s largest offering to the industry via the Amrut company whose expressions come very highly rated by whisky guru, Jim Murray. (As too are the John Distilleries expressions from Goa, India). Amrut have progressively built up a varied back catalogue of whiskies including peated and unpeated versions of their product and even a fusion of the two, with their core range demonstrating a great spectrum of complex and rich drams.

English Whisky Company - Fine Single Malt

English Whisky Company

Traversing back into Europe, the last two decades or so has seen an explosion in different countries making their names known within the whisky community, with Sweden’s Mackmyra, Holland’s Zuidam, Denmark’s Stauning and France’s Warengham distilleries representing their respective nation’s biggest fare. To the casual drinker however, the largest problem with these (relative) newcomers though is that they are scarcely available in public within the UK and often need to be bought especially from merchants or at whisky-specialist bars.

Coming back full circle into the UK then, the last 10-20 years has also seen a similar emergence of new players in the market with Penderyn offering celtic magic via their single malt from Wales, as well as the eponymous English Whisky Company and Adnams single malts, both based in Norfolk, getting their patriotic labels on the shelves. What this goes to show is that whilst it may have all started in Scotland, the variety and choice of whiskies available is getting larger and larger and whether you become a scotch purist or a multinational dabbler, the whisky world is your oyster. M

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