Vignettes – Moments in Whisky

Saint Kilian is happy…. A new star is born PART 2 by Ernst J. Scheiner, The Gateway to Distilleries

Continued from

 

In 2018, the Kilian barley distillate White Dog was voted the world’s best new make by the London World Whisky Awards.

What does the new Kilian Whisky taste like?

The first St. Kilian German Single Malt bottling was limited to 760 bottles only. It was quickly sold out. For the general whisky inauguration, the experienced master brewer Mario Rudolf designed a Signature Edition Series to be continued by future releases.

The Signature Edition One is an exciting and multi-layered blend of 2016 distilled Kilian whiskies, each of which matured for three years in first fill Bourbon barrels (37%), Martinique Rhum pre-lined American oak barrels (37%), Pedro Ximénez Sherry barrels (18%) and first-fill Bourbon Quarter Casks (3%) from the Garrison Brothers Distillery in Hye, Texas. A special aromatic kick was initiated by five percent of toasted juvenile chestnut barrels. These refined the blend, which was vatted in a large tank for two days only. The whisky integrated individual aromas of the respective barrels and lead to a very distinctive taste profile. The small 50 litre quarter casks enhanced the impression of maturity, the PX casks gave colour, sweetness, mildness and aromas of dark fruits, while the French chestnut wood made the Kilian whisky softer. The rum casks made it sweeter wheras Bourbon barrels had contributed some notes of caramel, vanilla, ripe pineapple and toffee.

At the IWSC 2019 this German Single Malt Whisky was awarded 94 points out of 100.

The blending of distillates from different barrels was skilfully carried out by master blender Mario Rudolf. The sensory complexity generated by the vatting is a result of a highly sophisticated wood management system implemented at Sankt Kilian distillery. Some test trials were necessary as there had been no experience or tradition for the newly distilled spirits at Sankt Kilian distillery.

The German St. Kilian single malt whisky is a real surprise. The Signature Edition One is pleasing with its pronounced fruitiness. A bouquet of aromas of ripe apples, pears and apricots flows continuously into the nose. Impressions of pineapple, vanilla, caramel and honey follow. Malty barley tones emerge and recall youthful freshness of the whisky. Soft sweetness of toffee and honey unfolds on the palate, which gradually leads to a spicy, slightly peppery, ginger-like notion. In the end notes of bitter chocolate and some nuttyness flair up. For its young age, the whisky causes a well-balanced mouthfeel. There are no alcoholic pungent effects in the nose. The alcohol is harmoniously integrated in its overall appearance. A caramel-like sweetness lingers on for a medium length of time, however, it ends abruptly. The highly fruity single malt appears surprisingly harmonious for its young age. St. Kilian‘s whisky has reached a high degree of harmony and balance. Conclusion: The Signature Edition One by Sankt Kilian is a successful and enriching newcomer among international whiskies. The birthday boy doesn’t have to shy away from any international comparison at all.

Release Signature Edition Three. The Peaty St. Kilian Version

The newly released peated version follows the high quality levels set up by its predecessors. The peated malt (54ppm) supplied by Pauls Malt in Glenesk near Aberdeen gave the German whisky some sort of Scottish character. Scottish peated malt and Frankonian non-peated malt of the Pilsner style were mixed to a cocktail of 38ppm and then double distilled in 2016. Only Bourbon casks created the flavour profile of St Kilian Three. The destillates matured in charred barrels of American white oak, in which Bourbon whiskeys had previously experienced their aromatic flavour profile for a few years.

The Signature Edition Three is a vatting of young Kilian whiskies all of them just over three years old. They matured in fifteen first-fill Bourbon casks from Brown-Forman Distilleries, including Jack Daniel Distillery in Tennessee (94%) and in three small 50 litre quarter casks from Garrison Brothers Distillery in Texas (6%). As a rule, two-stage distillation reduces the phenol value of the malt in the distillate approximately to around one third. This reduction is quite noticeable in the cuvée. An opulently intrusive, medicinal and iodine smoke does not dominate at all, but rather a discreet pure campfire-like smoke is flattering the nose charmingly and pleasantly.

Master Distiller Rudolf likes the quarters from the southern U.S.-Austin region “because they bring so much character to the spirit, especially vanilla, caramel and spicy accents”. It is a well known fact that spirits mature faster in smaller barrels than in larger ones. The oak tannins, however, give the spirits more intense notes of astringent spiciness. In the larger Jack Daniel Barrels, flames change the hemicellulose of the of the American White Oak into sugar compounds, which during a maturing process produce in the distillate notes of brown sugar, caramel, and almond. The staves of the Bourbon barrels from Tennessee had been charred extremely long by the coopers under large gas flames for about 45 seconds which resulted in a char 4. They are ussually called crocodile or alligator char because of a crocodile-like incrustation of the stave’s inner surface. The barrel charring in the Garrisson Quarters was quite similar. According to Rudolf they were of “Char3 to Char4”. The charcoal crust does not only produce a dark amber colour in the Kilian whiskies, but also makes for intense vanilla notes as well as spicy aromas.

Final remarks

St. Kilian is an attractive cuvée of young three-year-old peaty whiskies from various Bourbon cask types. Master Blender Mario Rudolf perfectly blends the aroma profile of the individual whiskies. He uses their respective flavour profiles and embellishes thereby the overall harmonious appearance of the final vatting. The whiskies from the smaller quarter casks make for a complex of aroma profile. The aromatic and tasty quality of The Kilian Signature Edition Three is very impressive. Although it is still a young whisky the overall appearance is well balanced and full of harmony. It seems as if the Kilian Spirits feel quite at home in Bourbon barrels and mature surprisingly fast in them. This effect is partly the result of the reflux condenser of the spirit still which makes for a rather clean and fruity new make without any harsh notes at all.

The new peaty St Kilan became a well-balanced and beautiful whisky, which builds up charming fruity and smoky tensions from the nose to the palate. This Kilian does not need to shy away from comparisons with Scottish or international representatives of the same kind. The particular balanced fine aromatic quality of peat smoke in combination with the prominent fresh and fruity notes is amazing and awesome. The filling strength of 50% abv strengthens and widens sustainably the aromatic backbone of the single malt. This St. Kilian Signature Edition Three will also be liked by connoiseurs who are not members of the peat-freak-fraction.

History to remember

Saint Kilian, the Irish missionary preacher and scholar came to the Lower Franconian region during the Hiberno-Scottish mission in the seventh century and is today venerated by Christians as the apostle of the Franks. Together with his companions Klonat and Totnan, the missionary Kilian was murdered in Würzburg. Today Saint Kilian is the patron saint of the city of Würzburg and of Franconia.

Contact: www.stkiliandistillers.com

Ernie Ernst J. Scheiner is the editor of The Gateway to Distilleries at www.whisky-distilleries.net

and publishes articles in the German whisky magazine The Highland Herold www.highland-herold.de and the trade magazine Kleinbrennerei www.kleinbrennerei.de.

Saint Kilian is happy…. A new star is born PART 1 by Ernst J. Scheiner, The Gateway to Distilleries

Saint Kilian is happy….

A new star is born 

Ernie – Ernst J. Scheiner, The Gateway to Distilleries at www.whisky-distilleries.net

Saint Kilian celebrated his birthday again. Distillery Manager Mario Rudolf and his team presented their first three-year-old single malt whisky which they had distilled in Rüdenau in Lower Franconia in May 2019. Hundreds of friends and retailers joined the big party.

They celebrated the inauguration of Sankt Kilian Signature Edition One. The brand new German single malt whisky appeared in shining amber colours in a specially designed bottle which interpreted the shape and proportions of its pot still where the spirit had been distilled. The elegant and much acclaimed designer bottle was filled with a young whisky at 45% abv in natural colour. The three year old Sankt Kilian German Single Malt was double-distilled from 100 % German malted barley. „The first edition is not chill-filtered in order to preserve its full aroma and taste for the connoisseurs,“ Mario Rudolf pointed out. The Frank was born in the nearby town of Amorbach, which has strong family-links with Queen Victoria’s mother Victoire of Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld.

“It is an incredibly good feeling standing here, three years after we filled the first cask with our whisky which is a result of experimenting with different types of casks and wood.” The newly born whisky was the achievement of a dedicated dynamic young team. Special distillation methods in a state of the art distillery of the finest quality led to spirits which matured in a great variety of different casks on site. Today Sankt Kilian is the largest whisky distillery in Germany and produces about 210 000 LPA.  Four Signature Editions have been released so far plus innumerous special casks bottlings.

The beginnings

The fancy idea had started in Ireland. The friendship between the investor and whisky collector Andreas Thümmler, who is also from the Lower Franconia, and the experienced Irish distiller and developer David F. Hynes formed the foundation of a groundbreaking cooperation. The former managing director of Cooley had been responsible for the brilliant development of world-renowned whiskeys like Tyrconnell, Connemara, Greenore or Kilbeggan. The oldest Irish working distillery Kilbeggan got the two whisky specialists together. Thümmler’s idea to build a Scottish type of distillery in the hills of his home village near the Main River Valley was a splendid one indeed. Today tourists are flocking in visiting the new attraction near the medieval trading centre of Miltenberg. The aromatic result of an oily, almost creamy fruity, apple and pear-scented spirit without pungent alcohols is also sweet and malty on the palate. Thümmler’s huge investment decision is rewarded by the high quality of the whisky and its positive reception by customers and critics. The distillery site was indeed the perfect choice. Since Roman times the area has been known for the exeptional quality of its water sources. A disused textile factory provided the ideal production and warehousing site.

A state-of-the-art distillery emerges

The Irishman David Hynes designed the structure and size of the pot stills, the lauter tun – 12,000 litres – and the four wooden fermenting vats – 10,800 litres each. The world-famous coppersmiths of Forsyths from Rothes in Speyside manufactured two copper stills each having a capacity of 6,000 litres. Coopers from Dufftown in Speyside set up the wooden fermenters according to traditional Scottish patterns. The pine wood came from the American state of Oregon at the Pacific coast. The system of a temperature-controlled fermentation of the wort is a reminiscence of Irish tradition. By installing large cooling plates inside the wooden washbacks the mashmen are able to ferment various kinds of beers for distillation. Pitching the yeast starts normally at 28 degrees Celsius. Fermentation ends usually after 65 hours. At weekends it is longer of course. Dried yeast from Lallemand is the standard. The beer with a concentration of 8% abv is very fruity and only double distilled into water and alcohol in onion-shaped stills.

Pot stills under bond

German customs authorities require special modifications for this type of grain distillery. The spirit still is placed completely sealed behind framed glass walls. All screws of the metal frames and doors were even individually sealed by the officers. Free access to the pot still kettels is hermetically denied by a completely locked steel and sealed door. Stillmen are kept out totally, any access is fully denied. They are only allowed to open the doors in case of justified emergency. Only officials of the tax and revenue office have the legal right to break the seals for inspection. Nobody can trace any alcohol from the distilling line unless the seals will be taken off. Even the top flange of the lyne arm of the wash still is hermetically sealed. Well before distilling the distiller has to notify the very day and time to the regional revenue office. During the first months memebers of the revenue office controlled all distilling procedures. Officers have got the legal right of free access to any spot of the production premises and bonded warehouses at any time without prior appointment. They do control all steps of production and check the bonded warehouses.

When distilling Mario Rudolf and his colleagues are only able to control the aroma profil of the destillate after it has run through a completely sealed alcohol gauge meter. They may take only a very small sample at a special tap positioned just outside of the spirit safe which is also behind sealed glass frames. Any of these samples will also be taxed in the end. However, the Scottish-like pot still distillation system of St. Kilian has got a very special technical feature which reflects Irish distilling tradition: Hynes installed a dephlegmator or reflux condenser with spirial water pipes in the voluminous and slightly ascending lyne arm of the spirit still. Thus the stillman is able to control the particular temperature and amount of cooling water of the reflux condenser. By varying temperatures he might increase or decrease the reflux of the ascending heavy alcohol vapours back into the kettle. The distillate gets either purer or heavier during these monitored reflux phases. This versatile purification method of the destillates is resulting in a new make which is almost free of sulphurous aromas. Hynes: “We are approaching a two and a half times distillation and above, if you like.” A typical tripple Irish distillation has not been intended at Sankt Kilian Distillery so far. The graduate chemist from the University of Dublin had already installed a similar system at Cooley Distillery in Riverstown, Co Louth. There he fixed a serpent water pipe in the ascending lyne arm of the spirit still. Almost the same kind of purifying system was also implemented at the new Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk north of Dublin, where Hynes is one of the directors alongside Dr John Teeling.  At the former Harp Brewery he also modified the spirit stills. Hynes installed circular cooling pipes in the horizontal lyne arm. The reflux of heavy alcohols run directly through an additional copper pipe into the former brew kettle, where once brewers used to boil Harp Lager beer.

The result is a spirit full of fruity aromas

The Sankt Kilian new make reaches the spirit safe at an alcohol level of 70 to 75% abv. Like Scottish stillmen the Kilian Team recycles foreshots and feints within the low wines mixture. Although it is quite common by German distillers – mainly fruit distillers – not to rediststil the foreshots and feints. They only use the pure middle cut for maturation, the heads and tails are waste. In contrast to the Scottish Regulations, which only allow oak barrels for whisky maturation, the European Union legalizes the use of casks in Germany which are made of all kinds of wood. Rudolf matures his Kilian whisky in about 180 different small and large cask types of red and white wines such as Amarone or sweet wines like Sauternes or Tokay. In the onsite-bonded warehouses and in very unique former U.S. bunkers nearby you may spot casks which held Caribbean rum, Andalusian Pedro Ximénez, Oloroso, Moscatel, Bourbon, cider or beer etc. Juvenile casks may also shape the aroma profile of the Kilian whiskies. Mario Rudolf is very keen on experiments. Though the wood management is highly diversified. He even traced very old Sherry toneles from Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Pedro Ximénez seasoned casks from Montilla. He is now setting up long term relationships with bodegas and tonelerias in Montilla and Jerez. Like in Scotland, the new make is reduced to 63.5% abv before filling the casks. Since the start of production on Saint Patricks Day 2016, the spirits have been maturing in around 5000 barrels on the distillation site. Among them are now also distillates from beech-wood smoked Franconian malt and Scottish peated malt from Paul’s Malt in Glenesk, south of Aberdeen.

PART TWO WILL BE PUBLISHED ON APRIL 12th, 2020

Text and Photos remain Copyright The Gateway to Distilleries 2019

Vignettes in Whisky Trip to Taiwan – part 3/3 By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Trip to Taiwan – part 3/3

By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Apart from being a whisky blogger and vlogger, Mark Dermul from Belgium also works part time as whisky expert for the auction platform Catawiki. In that capacity he was recently sent – together with two colleagues – to Taiwan on a whisky business trip.

This is his report.

Part 3 of 3.

Whisky Bars

Doing business in Taiwan is mired in cultural do’s and don’ts. Luckily, the Taiwanese people are very open, honest, welcoming and forgiving, so we did not worry too much. But a lot of business starts with a meal, continues in a bar and is concluded with some karaoke, it seems. We had lots of fun. Allow me to point out a few bars of interest that we visited.

Backyard Jr is a lovely little whisky bar (little to be taken with a grain of salt for their range is eye-watering) in the famous Breeze Center near the famous Taipei 101 shopping center.

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I unfortunately did not note the name of the karaoke bar, but we were treated to Balvenie 21 Year Old and the Taiwan exclusive Macallan Aera. Very nice.

The aforementioned whisky bar in the Hotel Kuva Chateau is a must-visit if you are in Taoyuan. Their whisky list of over 2.000 open bottles is very well organized. Every bottle has a code, to help the bartender locate it in the bar that comprises some four walls.

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In Taichung, you have a grand view of the city from the Lounge One bar on the 29th floor of one of the modern skyscrapers that dot the city skyline. A life band of jazz musicians entertains while you sip your favorite malt or bourbon. I had a Glen Ord 18 and Bunna XXV.

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Apart from these whisky bars, where we enjoyed a few great sips, the best drams were had while visiting some collectors (who by now have become friends). While they will not be named for privacy reasons, I can say I’ve had some of my most amazing whisky’s in their den. A shortlist, if you’ll allow me:

  • Macallan 25yo (b 1980s)
  • Springbank 1966 (b 1997)
  • Macallan 14yo Moon Import (b 1980s)
  • Rosebank 1967 Signatory (b 1998)
  • JJ&S Liqueur Dublin Whisky (b 1960s)
  • Glen Scotia 8 Year Old (b 1950s)
  • Port Ellen 14 Year Old 1979 Wilson & Morgan (b 1993)
  • Caol Ila 15 Year Old The Manager’s Dram (b 1990)
  • Lagavulin 13 Year Old 1979 Wilson & Morgan (b 1993)
  • Laphroaig 10 Year Old Bonfantimport (b 1970s)
  • Talisker 1955 Gordon & Macphail (b 1992)

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Nuff said…

Sightseeing

All this beautiful liquid would almost make you forget that Taiwan is also a beautiful country in its own right with many sights to see.

People who know me, know that I am not one to be dumbfounded easily. But when visiting the monuments and temples in Taiwan, I have to admit, I was truly humbled. Not just by the buildings, but also by what they signify, the people who pray in them and were very inviting, the fantastic gardens and parks.

I was impressed with the Shing Tien Kong Temple (Five Saviours), the Dalongdong Baoan Temple and mostly with the Confucius Temple. The Square of Democracy with the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is just stunning. Goosebumps, anyone?

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Tapei is a bustling city that captivates, especially at night (it is a city that never sleeps), while Taichung was more open, less busy and thus actually – to me – more enjoyable. But one thing is for sure… I am definitely in love with Taiwan and its people and hope to one day return here.

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After a week – that truly seemed much shorter – in Tawain, I can honestly say that we did good business, made plenty of new friends, had the best food ever, drank liquid history and to top it all off, I was able to pick up two new bottles of Auchentoshan at the airport. Ha! This trip was perfect.

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I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Mr Wang and his staff, Mr Hsien, Mr Lin, Ms Lin, Mr C and all the staff at both the Landis, Tempus and Kuva hotels for their gracious generosity and hospitality. You have made this trip one that will be long remembered. Xièxiè!

I also wish to thank my colleagues at Catawiki for the opportunity to travel to Taiwan.

Last but not least I would like to thank my better half Sofie, who continues to support me in all my crazy whisky and other adventures. Thank you, sweetheart.

May the Malt be with you!

The 1st part was published on February 17th and the 2nd and February 24th.

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Vignettes in Whisky Trip to Taiwan – part 2/3 By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Trip to Taiwan – part 2/3

By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Apart from being a whisky blogger and vlogger, Mark Dermul from Belgium also works part time as whisky expert for the auction platform Catawiki. In that capacity he was recently sent – together with two colleagues – to Taiwan on a whisky business trip.

This is his report.

Part 2 of 3.

The Kuva Spirits Collection

Taoyuan, a city south of Taipei, is the home of the five star Hotel Kuva Chateau. It’s claim to fame among whisky aficionados is their spirits collection (which as it happens consists about 95% of whisky bottles). If you’ve ever been to the Whisky Experience in Scotland and witnessed that fine collection of bottles, wait until you see this!

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I’m not sure words can do this collection justice, but neither can photos. You have to be there and see it for yourself. I perused this collection for about an hour, taking hundreds of photos, while being discreetly shadowed by a security guard who kept smiling benignly and was very politely making sure I did not try to pry open any of the highly secured glass cabinets.

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Every Scottish distillery is represented and every high end bottle showcased. Macallan 40, Talisker 40, Black, White & Gold Bowmore, Auchentoshan 1965, Springbank 50, the list goes on… There were also hundreds of independent releases – even a few released by people I know personally. Funny.

And if you are wondering where all that Japanese whisky with age statement went, look no further. I kid you not, there were no less than 6 shelves filled with Yamazaki 12 and Hakushu 12 and the likes. Amazing display around the faux still in the center of the… shop? Museum?

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Our host had announced our arrival and none other than the assistant to the president of the hotel, took it upon himself to invite us to the whisky bar of the hotel. Well, with a whisky menu the size of a telephone book, it was hard to make a selection. Over 2.000 open bottles! After a couple of local Omar Single Casks, he opened up his very last bottle of Yamazaki 12 Year Old Pure Malt (as it was called when bottled in the late 1980s). Liquid history.

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For those interested: the Kuva Hotel hosts Taiwan’s largest whisky festival in August.

For a whisky lover, a visit to the Kuva hotel is truly unforgettable.

High End Whisky Shops

It’s no secret that Taiwan has a whisky community that is hardly rivaled anywhere in the world. Taipei, the capital in the north of this beautiful country – has quite a few whisky shops. I could not resist visiting them and what I saw there was often pretty impressive.

In the heart of the city, we visited Whisky112. The shelves were stacked with very high-end limited bottlings. The whole range of Port Ellen, Chichibu, Black Bowmore, … you name it, they most likely have it. And while I was salivating over some bottles, trying to decide whether I should take one of them home, the credit card said no…

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On the other side of town, in the suburbs of Taipei, we visited the shop One Whisky World. Again we were dumbfounded with what was on offer. While this shop had many more standard releases, they also had many Taiwan exclusives and special releases. The owner, Mrs Lin, was about to select a cask of GlenDronach and invited us to try the three cask samples she had received. One was a GlenDronach oloroso cask, the other two were Pedro Ximenez. The oloroso was clearly the more complex, the two PX were much more accessible.

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I explained to Mrs Lin as follows: ‘The PX I would share with friends, the oloroso I would keep for myself.’ She nodded her understanding, but I secretly hope – and think – that she will bottle all three.

While it was running close to midnight, our host suddenly got a call. A befriended couple was about to open a new whisky shop the very next day and wondered if we might be interested in a sneak peek. Do bears shit in the woods (excuse my French)? Off we went.

Upon arrival, we noticed that the shop did not yet have a billboard with the shop’s name on the store front. And the people inside were still very busy with filling up the shelves. Wait? What?! The bottles there were putting on the shelves were flabbergasting. The shop will specialize (or by the time you read this: specializes) in Macallan, Karuizawa, Yamazki and Chichibu. I tried (and failed miserably) not to drool.

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The next whisky shop we visited was in Taichung, a 45-minute ride on the high speed rail train. It was right next to a lobster restaurant where we were treated to a meal that was beyond delicious. Truth be told, every meal that I had in Taiwan was outstanding. Take out Chinese in my neck of the woods will never taste good again, I fear.

This whisky shop was rather ‘normal’ if you know what I mean. Mostly the standard releases that you find in Europe as well, but upholstered with many Taiwan exclusives, especially from Johnnie Walker and Glenlivet.

The whisky shop we visited after lunch – which was also the last whisky shop we visited – however, was again one that offered bottlings that would make your eyes pop out. The funny thing is, that the Spirits Salon’s storefront was so non-descript that you’d be forgiven for driving by without a second glance. How weird, considering what is on their shelves.

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Recent bottlings? Hardly any. Old and rare bottlings galore! Almost all Rare Malts, lots of black labeled dumpy bottlings from Cadenhead, a whole range of old Connoisseurs Choice releases by Gordon & Macphail with those old and ugly brown labels. And what about that Karuizawa 28 Year Old 1984 for ANA Intercontinental? I doubled checked my insurance before handling the bottle, for the price tag was 6.000 euros. Boy, oh, boy… if it were not for another appointment with a Catawiki seller, we’d probably still be there.

The 1st part was published on February 17th and the final part 3 will be published on March 3rd.

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Vignettes in Whisky Trip to Taiwan – part 1/3 By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Vignettes in Whisky

Trip to Taiwan – part 1/3

By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Apart from being a whisky blogger and vlogger, Mark Dermul from Belgium also works part time as whisky expert for the auction platform Catawiki. In that capacity he was recently sent – together with two colleagues – to Taiwan on a whisky business trip.

This is his report.

Part 1 of 3.

It goes without saying that one does not visit Taiwan without visiting the Kavalan Distillery in Yilan. It was, in fact, our first order of business.

Kavalan Distillery

Our tour was rather early, so our group was relatively small. The typical load of tourists had yet to arrive. It’s important to realize that Kavalan is visited by some 1 million (!) visitors per year. That’s a tenfold what Glendiffich – Scotland’s most popular destination in terms of whisky tourism – get per year. Hence their visitor center, shop and tasting room – or Spirits Castle as it is aptly named – is the size of a sports arena.

We were first presented with a 15 minute corporate video in the convention center, allowing us to discover that the King Car Group does so much more than just whisky. Milk products, Mr Brown Coffee, shrips, orchids, bio products, bug sprays, Buckskin beer… The list goes on. Factories can be found in Taiwan, but also in China and Vietnam.

It took about 3 full minutes to drive from the convention center to the distillery grounds – it is a vast project to say the least – where our guide was already waiting for us. All the steps of the whisky production were explained in detail. The guide’s English was very good, which was a good thing as my Chinese is limited to hello and thank you. She very patiently took us through the distillery, stopping in the mash room, distillery rooms (plural, there are three of them!) and warehouse.

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After the expansion of 2018, Kavalan now has 2 distilleries in fact, plant A and plant B. It is one of the big players in the world. The still houses contain both classic pot stills by Forsyths of Scotland and German Holzstein column stills used for both grain whisky and the new Kavalan gin (coming to Europe in 2019). The production capacity is now a whopping 9 million liters per annum.

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Funny detail: the distillery is adorned with information boards with the production explained in both Chinese and English (you can do a tour by yourself as well, even with audio guide), but not all the photos were from the Kavalan distillery. I discovered quite a few photos that were taken at my favorite Lowlander Auchentoshan. Serendipity!

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Once past the mash tuns, washbacks and still, we were able to take a look in the warehouse where the casks are actually maturing upright! Maturation is done on a mix of bourbon, sherry, port, rum, wine and brandy casks. As far as sherry goes, the casks previously contained PX, Oloroso, Manzanilla, Amontillado and Fino. Surely you have seen them, for they are released in the popular and award-winning Solist range.

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Our guide goes on to proudly explain that Kavalan whisky is now available in over 200 countries and their malts have amassed over 200 rewards. That is quite a feat for a distillery that has only been around since 2005.

But when all is said and done, I found the tour to be rather short. It took less than 45 minutes before we were invited to the obligatory stop in the shop. I took the opportunity to purchase the Distillery Reserve – limited releases of about 300 bottles of 30cl only available at the distillery. This time around, it was a Kavalan Peaty Cask and a Kavalan Rum Cask.

While the rest of the group seemed ready to get back into their cars, I certainly was not. I still wanted to do something extra…. You’ve guessed it: shooting one of my whisky ramblings for Youtube.

After this whisky adventure, it was high time for a hearty lunch in the heart of the city.

Part 2 will be published on February 24th and the final part 3 will be published on March 3rd.

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Vignettes ‘Moments in Whisky’ Trip to Islay by Mark Dermul– Part 4 of 4 – Scotch Whisky News

Trip to Islay – Part 4 of 4

by Mark Dermul

We had concluded our distillery visits on Islay – all 8 of them, obviously – and drove to Port Askaig to be ferried back to the mainland. And while there is not much to see at Port Askaig, the ferry’s arrival is a sight to behold, especially when the sun is out, the sky is a cobalt blue and your backdrop is the Isle of Jura with its three peaks known s the Paps.

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As wild as the sea was during our trip from Kennacraig to Islay, the return leg was the exact opposite. The sea was like a mirror. Once we left the coast of Islay and the captain turned the bow of the ship towards the open sea, we were treated to a wonderful show by bottlenose dolphins, puffs and seagulls. But halfway through the crossing, a big mist made it almost impossible to see anything and it was like sailing into a grey wall. A bit spooky, to be honest.

An added bonus, though, was the fact that the Scottish flag on the bow was being replaced. Being in the right place at the right time, I rescued the flag from being dumped in the bin and becoming a lovely souvenir or our trip to Islay.

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Once back in Kennacraig, we were again marveling at the beautiful scenery driving all the way back to Glasgow. Via Tarbert to Inveraray to the north and then back south along Loch Lomond. There is ample opportunity to stop along the way to make some stunning photos.

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Back in Glasgow, we needed to take the plane back to Holland for the drive back home in Belgium, but… one more stop was scheduled. After all… I am the Toshan Man. I cannot possibly travel through Glasgow and not visit my home away from home: Auchentoshan distillery.

It’s true, I have visited this distillery quite a few times now. But when the opportunity arose to visit the distillery before official opening hours and get a historically themed tour from Stevie, this was something we could not possibly pass upon. Ah, it’s always good to visit the distillery of your favorite malt.

What better way to finish our Scottish adventure, eh?

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This trip to Islay was one I will not easily forget. And it’s not just for the whisky distilleries that it is worth a visit. Islay is beautiful in its own right and well worth traveling to. I for one will certainly return.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my better half Sofie and my friends Niek & Ilse for joining me on this memorable trip. But also all the staff at the Harbour Inn who took such good care of us during our stay at their wonderful hotel in Bowmore. Last but not least I would like to offer a big thank you to all the distillery staff and tour guides who tirelessly and good naturedly allowed us to ask questions, make fun, do crazy stuff (not for publication), taste and enjoy and made this trip a dream come true.

God save the Queen… of the Hebrides!

May the Malt be with you! *The previous articles were published on October 15th, 22nd, & 29th).

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Vignettes ‘Moments in Whisky’ Trip to Islay by Mark Dermul – Part 3 of 4 – Scotch Whisky News

Trip to Islay – Part 3 of 4

by Mark Dermul

The early bird catches the worm… well, we certainly were early birds when we arrived at the northernmost distillery on the island: Bunnahabhain. The distillery was already in operation – the smoke from the stillhouse was clearly visible against the cloudless blue sky – but the visitor center staff had yet to arrive.

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Our treat for being so early was a stunning view of the distillery in the early morning mist. And another advantage of being there before 9 am was the fact that we got the earliest tour and were the only visitors at that moment. That made this wonderful tour extra special. And without trying to sound too blasé, I do consider myself quite knowledgeable about whisky, but I did learn something new today. Bunna takes its cut – like most distilleries – until the alcohol has gone down to around 63%, but for their peated runs they keep collecting further until 59%. I had never heard that before.

After a couple of drams – well, eight if I’m being totally honest actually – we drove south towards Caol Ila. Along the way, we came across the building site of the soon-to-open 9th distillery on Islay: Ardnahoe.

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Construction was well underway. This distillery is being built by Hunter Laing & Co, the independent bottler that was founded a few years back by Stuart Laing, after he left the company Douglas Laing which he ran with his brother Fred. As a sidenote: Hunter Laing is also the owner of the land that Jean & Martine Donnay wanted to buy to build their Gartbreck distillery along Loch Indaal. But apparently they did not agree on the price and Gartbreck is now off the map.

Our next stop brought us to the last distillery we still had to visit: Caol Ila. This huge distillery – the largest on Islay in volume – was unable to offer tours at the moment of our visit as one of the spirit stills was being replaced. A serious setback in my opinion, as Caol Ila is my personal favorite from Islay and I was really looking forward to the classic view of the still with the the Paps of Jura in the background. It was not going to happen.

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But our host – a Brit from Southampton who had lost his heart to Caol Ila – more than made up for it with a special tasting in the shop. We got to try the Caol Ila Distillers Edition (my wife’s preferred dram), the Coal Ila Distillery Exclusive Bottling for 2017 (with some red wine cask matured Caol Ila in the mix, a first for the distillery) and both the 17 Year Old and brand new 18 Year Old Unpeated Style. I put my credit card to good use and will enjoy those back home while reminiscing about this wonderful trip.

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With a heavy heart, we set course for Port Askaig, where soon a ferry would arrive to pick us up and returns us to the mainland.

to be concluded… (the final article will be published November 5th).

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Vignettes ‘Moments in Whisky’ Trip to Islay by Mark Dermul – Part 2 of 4

Trip to Islay – Part 2 of 4

by Mark Dermul

I think it is fair to say that Port Ellen is legendary. The releases of this closed distillery command high prices. And let’s be honest: the whisky is good! So when we left Ardbeg for Kilnoughton Bay, we could not possible pass by this factory. For that is what it is nowadays. The Port Ellen Maltings provide peated barley to almost all distilleries on Islay (except Kilchoman). The Maltings are not open to the public, but you can walk freely among the warehouses. Seeing the type of padlocks on the doors, I think it is a fair bet that quite a few casks are still on site.

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The finish off the day, we drove to the Mull of Oa to take the long hike up the American Monument. It has to be said: it is a dramatic sight with the waves crashing into the rocky coast, but a storm was brewing and we could hardly stay on our feet. A must-see!

When driving back to Bowmore – we were staying at the wonderful Harbour Inn, highly recommended! – we stopped at Gartbreck, but no sign of the doomed project was to be found.

Our next day brought us all the way to the northwest of Islay, where we visited the Kilnave burial site and the Ardnave Point. To our surprise, the vegetation was quite different from the south of the island which we had seen the day before.

Driving back inland, past Loch Gorm, we found our first distillery of the day: Kilchoman.

This farm distillery, founded in 2005 and therefore currently the youngest distillery on Islay, offered a great tour with some lovely drams afterwards. Everything at Kilchoman is at a smaller scale, except the passion with which they produce the liquid nectar.

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But changes are afoot at Kilchoman. They recently acquired the farm and are in the process of building a much bigger kiln and stillhouse where a barn used to be. For their 100% Islay release, they use barley grown on their own fields surrounding the distillery.

Driving further south we arrived at Bruichladdich. We had not booked a tour and it appeared it was already fully booked. But the lovely tour guide gave us a big smile and said ‘We’ll make it work!’

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And what a wonderful tour indeed. Our guide explained – and allowed us to taste – the different barley used for all three malts produced here: Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore. The mash tun – the biggest in the Scottish industry – is bigger than your average swimming pool! Impressive to say the least.

It was also nice to ‘meet’ Ugly Betty, the Lomond Still used to create the popular The Botanist gin. And back at the visitor center, it was a feast to bottle our own 16 years old Port Charlotte from the distillery cask.

Speaking of Port Charlotte… just a few minutes south of Bruichladdich you can visit this lovely village of the same name, where Bruichladdich currently uses some old warehouses. And you can still clearly see some remnants of the old Lochindaal Distillery. This old warehouse turned into a Youth Center is a nice example.

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We continued on south to the Rhinns of Islay. No distilleries there, but a beautiful village – Portnahaven – where we enjoyed watching the wildlife in the bay. Otters, seals, puffins… Wonderful.

to be continued… (Part 3 will be published October 29th).

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Vignettes ‘Moments in Whisky’ Trip to Islay by Mark Dermul – Part 1 of 4 – Scotch Whisky News

Trip to Islay – Part 1 of 4

by Mark Dermul

End of September 2017 my wife Sofie and two friends (Niek & Ilse) joined me for trip to Islay, that mythical whisky island on the west coast of Scotland. It will be a trip long remembered. Therefor, I gladly share it with you.

Now… planning a trip to Islay is one thing. Actually getting there is quite something else. It took a drive from Ghent (Belgium) to Amsterdam airport, a flight to Glasgow, a two-and-a-half hour drive through scenic Scotland to the Kennacraig ferry port and a one-hour trip by boat to reach the Queen of the Hebrides. But so worth it…

During our first night in Glasgow, we visited the well-known pub The Bon Accord where we treated ourselves to some lovely malts, such as the Port Ellen 7th Release and the Ardbeg 30 years old. Just to get in the mood, you know?

When we arrived the next day, our first distillery visit was to the oldest distillery on the island: Bowmore.

While we were very well received and got a private tour (as we arrived just in time for the final tour), we were somewhat disappointed with the fact that we were not allowed to film inside the distillery. We had to make do with photos. Which we did.

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Having said that/, we were treated to a very informative tour and got a lovely Bowmore 17 Year Old 1999 Warehousemen’s Selection in the visitor center afterward.

The next day, after visiting the historical site of the Kildalton Cross, we spent half a day visiting the three distilleries on the south shore: Laphroaig, Lagavulin & Ardbeg.

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The Laphroaig tour, that lasted a little over an hour, ended with four lovely drams. We even got a peak at HRH Prince Charles’ cask from 1978. No touching, though! It was well protected behind bars.

The Lagavulin distillery – again no photos allowed, unfortunately – lies hidden in a dramatic bay. The wind was fierce and the sea wild, adding to the impressive scenery. But we were welcomed to warm up in the visitor center with a few drams, including the Feis Ile 2017 and Jazz 2016 editions. The cold soon left our bones.

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But so much whisky while it was not even lunchtime! So we walked over to the Old Kiln Café at the Ardbeg distillery where we had a lovely meal and tried the new Ardbeg Kelpie and Arbeg An Oa.

Ardbeg has quite a bit of a cult following and it shows. There has clearly been a lot of money invested in the distillery grounds and the visitor center. Everything had a museum quality to it. But all was spic and span. No cobwebs here… and to us, it was lovely, but just a tad too… artificial? Maybe that’s not the right word, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

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After lunch, we travelled back to Kilnaugthon bay. We wanted to check out what was left of the legendary Port Ellen distillery, that has been closed to 1983.

to be continued… (Part 2 will be published October 22nd)

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The Balvenie Rare Craft Event in NYC’s Chelsea Market – Scotch Whisky News

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The Balvenie Rare Craft Event in NYC’s Chelsea Market ran from 17 November 2014 through 22 November 2014, and gave place not only to rare and unique handmade pieces from artisans from all over the United States, but it also allowed ticket holders to sample  Balvenie whiskys while admiring the crafts. The collection curator was Indy racer Dario Franchitti, and the event itself was hosted by Balvenie Brand Ambassador David Laird, from Glasgow. My husband John and I attended on the final day, 22 November, and wanted to share some highlights with the other angels!

In all there were twenty-one crafts showcased, ranging from cars to clothing, but by far our favorite was a set of intricately decorated bagpipes made from Balvenie whisky barrels! These pipes were crafted by Roderick “Roddy” MacLellan, a Scot who emigrated to the U.S. in 1980 and who now lives in North Carolina. Some other favorites were: an Indy Car Parts Table by Julian R. Halpern of Steelhead Studio, a shuffleboard table by Todd McClure of McClure Tables, a guitar by Scott Baxendale of Baxendale Guitars, and a Sea Board (surfboard) by Mike Lavecchia of Grain Surfboards. The heart of the exhibit was a Morgan +8 Roadster, hand-assembled and crafted with extensive Balvenie branding. Wish we were allowed to sit in it!

While browsing, guests could sample Balvenie 12 Year Doublewood and 14 Year Caribbean Cask, but we were lucky enough to get into the Master Tasting later in the day. David Laird hosted and it was a rare treat. We sampled the 12 and 17 Year Doublewood, the 14 Year Caribbean Cask, 12 Year Single Barrel, and 21 Year Portwood! Lucky us, we got to take home Rare Craft branded Glencairn glasses and a Balvenie branded water dropper!

An amazing day, but your angels weren’t done yet. David invited us to the VIP after party, where we sampled more of the Balvenie range; the details are a little fuzzy at this point! A heartfelt welcome from David and live music started off the night, and NYC’s famous Meatball Shop catered the party. Unfortunately, we had to leave before the 25 Year Single Barrel was opened; we had to catch the last train home.

Maybe next year!

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Marcie and John sent this to angels recently, we apologise for the late report!

http://angelswhiskyclub.com/awc/maarcie&john.asp

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We do suggest other angels do the same, want to become an angel? It’s free, just email us at members@angelswhiskyclub.com

 

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