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Latest Whisky & Spirits News

New Berry Bros Whiskies Fresh Off The Boat

The long-awaited (amongst Oak Barrel staff and customers) next batch of Berrys’ Own whiskies are now in store!

Tasted at a very enjoyable masterclass earlier this year, there’s been a few delays that kept this collection of single cask single malts, single grains and rums from us. Originally due in January, they’ve now landed fresh off the boat.

Berrys’ Own is the independent bottling label of iconic spirit and wine merchants Berry Brothers & Rudd. These releases are highly sought after around the world and are brought into Australia in very limited quantities, although we are seeing slightly more coming in now.

Berry Brothers & Rudd has operated out of the same shop in London since 1698, making it Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant. The brand also holds warrants for both HM The Queen and HRH The Price Of Wales, to further cement their prestige. 

In this shipment we have single casks from Dailuaine, Bunnahabhain and North British, plus their 10-year-old Irish single malt Craoi Na Mona and a rum from the long-closed Caroni distillery.

 

Craoi Na Mona 10-Year-Old

A fresh and slightly smoky Irish single malt bottled for Berry Brothers & Rudd.

 

North British 1996 Single Grain

Sherry-cask matured single grain from one of Scotland’s biggest distilleries. Never seen outside of independent bottlers.

 

Dailuaine 2000 Single Cask

A house-favourite here and a distillery we feel is under-appreciated. Sherry cask matured with fresh citrus and Dailuaine’s oily malt.

 

Bunnahabhain 2005 Single Cask

A peated release from Islay’s normally-un-peated Bunnahabhain distillery.

 

Caroni 12-Year-Old Caribbean Rum

Often dubbed the ‘Port Ellen of rum distilleries’, stocks from the closed Trinidad distillery are highly sought after. Thick and sweet.


Posted: 19/04/2017
Laphroaig Whisky Masterclass: The Age Statements (Second Date Announced!)

It’s one of the most famous names in Scotch whisky and one of the most recognisable aromas in the whisky universe.

Due to unprecedented demand, we have added a second and final night for this massive tasting! See below for details!

This May The Oak Barrel will be hosting a Laphroaig masterclass, showcasing some of their oldest expressions currently on the market. Located on the famed Islay in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, the seaside distillery is renowned for its intense coastal and smoky aromas of bushfire, brine and iodine.

To host this evening we’re roping in renowned whisky charger and Beam Suntory’s national whisky guru Dan Woolley. He’s returning to The Oak Barrel in a blaze of peated whisky glory before he heads over to Laphroaig to work at the distillery at the personal invitation of distillery manager John Campbell.

As well as being a champion and regular visitor of Laphroaig, Woolley is one of Australia's best known and most recognisable whisky authorities. 

We’ll be going through the distillery’s five classic age statements, starting with the veritable 10-year-old. From there we move into the limited edition 15-year-old bottled for the 200th anniversary of the distillery and the now-discontinued 18-year-old (stocks of both we’ve been holding onto for this event). From there we move into the forceful maturity of the 25-year-old, which is valued around $700, and the sublime restrained complexity of the new 30-year-old, valued at $2,000.

On top of that some we’ll sample two of their peatiest ever expressions with the Quarter Cask and Lore, and there might even be a further surprise or two along the way.

Founded in 1815, Laphroaig is now the most famous peated whisky in the world and one of the very few distilleries left that has its own malting floors to produce a portion of its malted barley needs.

A little bit of Islay is coming to The Oak Barrel this May and seats on the ferry are very limited.

We’ll be trying:

Laphroaig 10-Year-Old
Laphroaig 15-Year-Old
(200th anniversary release)
Laphroaig 18-Year-Old
Laphroaig 25-Year-Old
Laphroaig 30-Year-Old

We’ll follow those five with two non-age whiskies; the one that started it all, Quarter Cask, and their most recent beast, Lore.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Laphroaig Lore

SECOND DATE ANNOUNCED:

WHAT: Laphroaig Whisky Masterclass With Dan Wooley
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Thursday 4 May, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $65 / Guest $75
TICKETS: SOLD OUT

FIRST DATE SOLD OUT:

WHAT: Laphroaig Whisky Masterclass With Dan Wooley
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Wednesday 3 May, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $65 / Guest $75
TICKETS: SOLD OUT

Tickets are not transferrable and non-refundable. Format of night subject to change without notice due to unforseen circumstances.


Posted: 07/04/2017
A Collection Of Smoky Whiskies

It may just be coincidence but more likely a reflection of our own drinking habits, but as the weather has taken a turn for the colder our ‘peated and smoky’ shelves have started to strain under the weight of new releases.

That’s what we call one of those good problems here at the Oak Barrel, so here’s a collection of new and unusual whiskies that have more than a passing disposition towards smoke.

 

Spirits Shop’ Selection / Sansibar Islay Malt 2007 (Lagavulin)

Not disclosed, but this is a 2007 single cask, cask strength from Islay’s Lagavulin. Bottled for the Asian market in partnership with Germany’s Sansibar, quite rare.

 

Wilson & Morgan Islay House Single Malt

A young smoky whisky from Scotland’s Islay, from a secret distillery. Italian-based indie bottlers Wilson & Morgan are rarely seen in Aus. Solid value here.

 

Westland Distillery Peat Week Single Malt

An annual limited edition from America’s Westland distillery, bottled in celebration of their annual ‘Peat Week’ festival. Expect subtle, but forceful, swirling smoke from this. Only a handful in Aus.

 

Bowmore 12-Year-Old Straight From The Cask

A rich, aromatic Bowmore single cask matured in a re-fill sherry hogshead.

 

Caol Ila Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection

Very last bottles of this 2003 vintage, finished in Sassicaia casks. Fine, clean smoke with hints of sweetness.

 

Ledaig 9-Year-Old ‘Melbourne’ Single Cask

Putting to one side the fact this has Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station on the bottle (the ‘Sydney’ is a Ben Nevis), we are loving these young, dirty, powerful smoke bombs from the Isle Of Mull.

 

Kilchoman Sauternes Cask Single Malt

Pre-orders from our December tasting have now all been collected, there’s a couple left of this swirling sweet and smoky whisky that’s sold out all around the world.

 

Kilchoman Quarter Cask Strength

Same as above, but a more classic rich smoke from Islay’s ever-exciting young farm distillery.


Posted: 06/04/2017
Gelas Armagnac Masterclass With Baptiste Gelas

As one of our favourite (but often underappreciated) spirits right now, The Oak Barrel is pleased to announce an intimate Armagnac masterclass with Baptiste Gelas of the family house Maison Gelas.

Armagnac is distilled from grapes in the French region of the same name. A similar spirit to cognac, the lower altitude results in sandier soil for the vines and often an earthier, more complex spirit as a result.

Maison Gelas was founded in 1865 and has been family operated ever since. The company is currently managed by Philip Gelas, with Baptiste waiting in the wings and doing a lot of the day-to-day.

Maison Gelas describe themselves as having an ‘alternative’ approach to the historic spirit.

                             

Now a prominent beverage supplier and retailer in France, Maison Gelas takes a different approach to their single cask, cask strength Armagnac, with an almost whisky-like outlook of exotic cask maturations and finishes. Indeed, included in this masterclass will be two single cask expressions matured in ex-Australian wine barrels.

This is a very rare opportunity to get up close and personal (with questions, bottle signings or otherwise) with a man not only involved with Armagnac, but the wider French drinks industry.

Led by Baptiste himself, we’ll be going through the following expressions – which are some of their top shelf single casks.

Gelas Armagnac 10-Year-Old De Bortoli Noble One Single Cask 47.5%
Gelas Armagnac 16-Year-Old De Bortoli Black Noble Single Cask 50.2%
Gelas Armagnac 12-Year-Old Oloroso Sherry Single Cask
54%
Gelas Armagnac 18-Year-Old Port Single Cask 41.9%

We’ll also touch on some traditional Armagnac-based liqueurs:

Floc de Gascogne Rose Gelas Mistelle 17% (Armagnac with fresh red grape juice)
Floc de Gascogne Blanc Gelas Mistelle
17% (Armagnac with fresh white grape juice)
Gelas Liqueur Orange & Armagnac 35%

Places are strictly limited.

WHAT: Armagnac Masterclass with Baptiste Gelas
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Friday 28 April, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $25 / Guest $35
TICKETS: [BUY MEMBERS] [BUY GUEST]

Tickets are not transferrable and non-refundable. Format of night subject to change without notice due to unforseen circumstances.



Posted: 05/04/2017
Whisky As Table Wine? Meet ‘Whisky De Table’

We’ve always believed that whisky pairs well with food. For example, and with the fear of getting into a slinging match with the wine buyer here, I reckon that when you get it right whisky and cheese matchings can be more spectacular than cheese and wine ones.

But we’ve never really thought of whisky as table wine. That is, whisky’s always been something to consume before or after a big meal, not necessarily what you pass around the table as you pass around the salad ball.

That might be about to change. Enter ‘Whisky De Table’.

It is a three-year-old blended malt whisky crafted from a range of distilleries around Scotland. Fresh, oily and zippy it’s offered in a wine bottle and when it was presented at Whisky Live Paris, it was served chilled.

Of course, something as crazy as this could only come from John Glaser’s Compass Box.

One of the foremost blenders of Scotch whisky, Glaser has been pushing the boundaries of blended Scotch whisky – in terms of both flavour profile and what the Scotch Whisky Association deem legal.

For example, one of Glaser’s original creations – Spice Tree – was made by inserting staves of fresh oak into the barrel. Deemed an illegal, Glaser experimented and reintroduced the whisky years later with the same spicy oak influence obtained by butting ultra-charred heads on existing barrels.

More recently, he’s instigated a push for transparency between consumers and distillers after again coming in the crosshairs of the SWA. This time it was regarding the law that distillers are only allowed to reveal the age of the youngest whisky in their releases and not the ages of anything else. (This may seem crazy, but is designed to stop people adding a drop of 60-year-old whisky into a vat of 5-year-old whisky and running their marketing based around the former.)

Tit-for-tat aside, what we know is that Compass Box’s creations are fascinating, delicious and, most importantly, fun.

Which brings us back to Whisky De Table, which we can some up in some dot points:

- Whisky De Table is made up of single malt whiskies from Clynelish, Linkwood, Benrinnes and Caol Ila.

- All of those are great distilleries, with spirit perfectly suited for blending.

- It’s fresh and oily, with honey and tropical fruits.

- It’s not to be taken too seriously.

- Best enjoyed with friends.

- Can be served chilled.

- We don’t have a lot of it.

GRAB ONE HERE

Also available from the Compass Box tale of creations is the very limited ‘This Is Not A Luxury Whisky’. Never officially released in Australia, it’s rich, complex, slightly smoky and dare we say… luxurious?


Posted: 30/03/2017
For The Love Of Irish Pot Still Whiskies

St Patricks Day may be done for another year, but the good news is that we’ve got a whole year to drink fantastic Irish whiskey.

Once a powerful of world distilling, a number of factors reduced the number of Irish distilleries from almost 100 to just three (at one point just two) in the 20th century. Thankfully, Irish whiskies are on the charge and there’s a plethora of up-and-coming distilleries set to emerge over the next few years.

Today, though, I’d like to talk about a historic style of whiskey unique to Ireland – Irish Pot Still Whiskey.

The name ‘Single Pot Still’ doesn’t actually refer to the copper pot stills used for distillation, but rather the grain make up. Uniquely, Irish Pot Still whiskies use both malted and unmarlted barley in the wash. The unmalted (or ‘green’) proportion, with its husks and all, adds a richness and a spiciness to the end whiskey. It's a distinctive character, attributed only to Irish whiskies made in the style.

Not only is it unique to Ireland, it is only the Middleton distillery in County Cork that has pot still expressions on the market. As one of the ‘big three’ Irish houses (Bushmills and Cooley being the other two) its various brands including Redbreast, Green Spot and the eponymous Middleton are world-renowned for the approach.

Although the exact starting point of this Pot Still style is unknown, it's widely understood and accepted to have been a reaction to English taxes. As authorities imposed greater financial constraints on malted barley in the 18th century it appears that Irish distillers began using unmalted barley as an ingenious way around the problem.

A proportion of malted barley would always have to be used to kick off fermentation, but then the ‘green’ unmalted barley was added to the mash (tax free!) once the process had started.

With a couple of rarer expressions just landed in store, we’ve highlighted a few of our favourite expression of Single Pot Still from Midleton. Limited quantities across the board.

Click on a name for more info!

Green Spot Leoville-Barton

Branded as the first pot still whisky ever finished in Bordeaux wine casks. Carries the classic spice and cereal notes of a pot still (particularly on the well-lengthens finish), but with more fruit and citrus up front.    

   

Green Spot

A classic Irish pot still and a whisky responsible for helping push the style back into the mainstream. Creamy with gentle oak and spices.

Redbreast 12-Year-Old

The most famous of pot still whiskies, bold with complex spices but still managing to remain smooth and clean.

Redbreast 12-Year-Old Cask Strength

Rarely seen in Australia (unfortunately), this does pretty much what it says in the label – takes the boldness of the standard 12 and dials up the intensity. Considered a pinnacle for many who enjoy the concentration of the style.

Redbreast 15-Year-Old

More mocha and chocolatey notes on the 15, which is not Only older. It a slightly different approach than the 12. Thicker, syrupy, more mature.

Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy Release

Released in honour of a departing master distiller, this premium pot still takes the spiciness of the grain and somehow makes it very elegant. 


Posted: 23/03/2017
New Hazelburn Barolo Wine Cask Whisky

Our love of Campbeltown whiskies here at The Oak Barrel is no secret (Campbeltown, Scotland, that is).

So far 2017 is succeeding in fuelling our addiction, first with the arrival of the Kilkerran 12 and now the Hazelburn Barolo Cask limited edition.

The most prominent distillery in Campbeltown, a famous whisky region which suffered from poor quality and neglect in the mid-20th century, is Springbank. Within Springbank there are three brands – the mildly-peated, two-and-a-bit times distilled Springbank, the heavily peated double-distilled Longrow and the unpeated, triple-distilled Hazelburn.

Released late last year in Scotland, the Hazelburn Barolo cask finish has now arrived in Australia.

So why are we excited about it?

Barolo is a big, bold Italian red wine – a real icon of their industry. Casks are rarely seen in whisky maturation but a number of years ago Springbank managed to get their hands on a batch and released a Gaja Barolo cask-matured Longrow. It was outstanding and is now only seen in auction houses around the world.

But the distillery wasn’t finished with Barolo casks and we’ve subsequently seen Springbank expressions (as an official release and then a Springbank Society single cask) and a Kilkerran Barolo single cask from their sister Glengyle distillery (released 2016’s Dram Fest event in New Zealand).

As these casks have rattled around the warehouse, they’ve giving something new to each style and expression.

Being triple distilled, the light, oily Hazelburn spirit is a magnet for cask influence and the sweet fruits and peppery notes of the cask are being felt on this release, of which there are/were 10,800 bottles worldwide.

The first six years was spent in first-fill ex-bourbon, the final three in the Barolo casks.

Naturally this is un-chill filtered and without added colouring.

Quite limited in Australia, we’re snapping up a few of these for our own personal consumption and reckon you’d be well advised to do the same.

We’ve also got a tiny bit left of the fantastic Hazelburn Rundlets & Kilderkins release, which is going to be remembered as a fantastic expression when it disappears. 

Currently owned by the fifth generation of the Mitchell family, Springbank are one of the very few distilleries to malt their own barley and the only distillery of their size that carriers out the entire whisky-producing process on site.


Posted: 16/03/2017
New Whiskies For March

It's been a fantastically busy start to the year – some cracking new releases and we've pretty much been having a masterclass every week (two more in this month to go!). It's meant we haven't been able to showcase everything we would have liked to in the newsletter, so here's a selection of the wonderful and weird on the shelves at the moment.

 

GLENMORANGIE BACALTA

Glenmorangie Bacalta is the latest expression in the highland distillery’s Private Edition series. Whisky legend Dr Bill Lumsden (the man charged with crafting modern Glenmorangie and Ardbeg) has opted for a Madeira cask influence this time. Sweet, rich, syrupy and limited.

 

SANSIBAR MACDUFF

Not often we see a Macduff grace the shelves (the distillery releases its single malt under the Deveron brand) but thanks to German bottler Sansibar here we are. A relatively young single cask, cask strength expression - it's delightfully floral and forgiving. Something we really got into to get away from big cask driven whiskies in search of spirit complexity. (We’ll be trying a few Sansibar whiskies at a masterclass later this month, details here.)

 

GLENDRONACH 2003 FOR SANSIBAR

The German bottler have also got a GlenDronach single cask up their sleeve. This 2003 vintage 12-year-old was matured in an ex-PX Sherry cask. Quite different, but a good side-by-side companion, to our own GlenDronach single cask which is the same age and vintage but matured in an ex-Oloroso cask.

 

GLENDRONACH 14-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN OAK

We also have one of the distillery’s limited edition cask finishes on the shelf at the moment – a very small amount of GlenDronach’s 14-year-old Virgin Oak finish has crept into Australia. A very different beast to their sherry cask expressions.

 

SMWS '30.16'

Never usually available via retail, we're lucky enough a sole bottle of a single cask from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society available. A distant museum release from Glenrothes, it carries the ‘old label’ of the famous global whisky group. Now that they've announced plans for a label update this year, this is now the ‘old, old label’.

 

MACALLAN 12 FINE OAK

There may be moves and shakes in the Macallan offering in Australia moving forward (hint) but as it stands age statement expressions are pretty hard to come by. A controversial favourite of years past thanks to its use of ex-bourbon casks in the mix, we've locked down a handful of Macallan 12 Fine Oak bottles from the US market. Bonus 750ml bottles as well.

 HEARTWOOD: THE BEAGLE 4 / WE ARE TWISTED COUSINS

Two new releases from veritable Tasmanian bottler Heartwood have landed – Tim Duckett’s vatted creation The Beagle 4 and Lark cask creation We Are Twisted Cousins. Both of these releases sold out on the pre-order, but Tim very kindly managed to save a couple of bottles for us. It's been amazing how quickly the demand for his releases has exploded in the past 12 months. Don't expect these to last the day.

 

 LARK SINGLE CASK LD240

Staying in Tasmania, some of the last stocks of one of the best Lark releases we've ever tasted have landed – this 9 year old bourbon cask is one of he distillery’s oldest ever releases and just so perfectly balanced. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come in Australian whisky.

Finally, a few have been snapped up already – so if you haven't come in to check out our Karuizawa collection, make sure you do soon. These works of art won't be hanging around forever and are only going to become rarer.


Posted: 09/03/2017
Whisky Agency and Sansibar: Indie Bottlers Masterclass

We love the weird and the wonderful here at The Oak Barrel and so whisky releases from independent bottlers – that is, casks acquired from distilleries and bottled by external companies – are right up our alley.

The indie bottling scene is booming now, not only offering whiskies that are sensational, obscure, rare, fascinating – or all of the above – but also great value for money.

Excitingly, two of Europe’s top bottlers have reached our shores, having not previously been available, with Germany’s The Whisky Agency and Sansibar arriving in a small but impressive fashion.

Sansibar is a famous restaurant/bar located on Sylt Island, between the German and Danish coasts. A retreat of worldwide acclaim, they bottle a range of Scotch whiskies and the odd rum for their in-house pouring. Every so often a handful of the releases escapes to the wider market. 

The Whisky Agency is a slightly more traditional set-up. Founded by German whisky enthusiasts, they source bottles from all over Scotland, put amazing labels on them and send them around the world (finally, Australia’s included in that!).

We’ll be trying three expressions from Sansibar and three from The Whisky Agency in the upcoming tasting, including two expressions bottled exclusively for Australia. The Oak Barrel’s Scott Fitzsimons will be joined by importer Casa De Vino’s Jose Dymenstein for the evening.

All six whiskies are cask strength. They include expressions from The Isle Of Mull’s heavily peated Ledaig, the rarely-seen Macduff an undisclosed Islay beast and cult favourite Ben Nevis. The bottles are valued at $200 and above each, approximately.

The line-up for the night boasts:

Sansibar Speyside Finest
Sansibar Glentauchers
Sansibar Macduff
The Whisky Agency Ledaig 9-Year-Old
The Whisky Agency Ben Nevis 17-Year-Old
The Whisky Agency "The Unknown" Islay 8 Year Old (collaboration with The Nectar)

WHAT: Whisky Masterclass With Whisky Agency & Sansibar
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Wednesday 29 March, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $45 / Guest $55
TICKETS: SOLD OUT

Whiskies subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. Tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable.


Posted: 06/03/2017
Blind Whisky Masterclass With Indian Legend Mr Paul John

 

We’re big fans of Indian whisky here at The Oak Barrel. Our regional neighbour makes a lot of whisky (the world’s highest selling whisky comes from India) but in recent years they’ve tried their hands at distilling world class single malts.

We’ve been pretty blown away by the results, so far, including the expressions coming from Goa’s Paul John distillery. So much so that we secured the first ever single cask bottled for Australia exclusively for The Oak Barrel.

It’s with much excitement then that we announce the man behind the brand, Mr Paul John himself, will be joining us for a very special masterclass this March.

John Distilleries Limited was founded by Chairman Paul John in 1992. Their flagship expression is Original Choice Whisky, a domestic market release that moves more than a staggering 10 million cases (of 12) a year.

One of Indian’s leading spirit companies, in 2006 they decided to expand into premium single malt whisky production, modelled on the Scottish canon.

Aimed at the export markets, the same quality controls that you see in the Scottish whisky industry are applied at all stages of production. This is whilst the team maintains a distinctly ‘new world’ approach – getting the best product they can as efficiently as they can.

A hotter, more humid climate can see up to 13 percent of a casks volume evaporate to the angel’s share each year, they use Himalayan six-row barley (rather than the Scottish two-row), they are extremely particular about their barrel selection.

Last year we welcomed head distiller Michael John (no relation) into The Oak Barrel’s tasting room and this year we will welcome his boss – Paul John – himself for a very special tasting.

We’ll line up some Paul John single malts alongside other whiskies from around the world and try them all blind – a true test of how they compare.

WHAT: Paul John Whisky Masterclass With Paul John
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Wednesday 15 March, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $25 / Guest $35
TICKETS: SOLD OUT

Tickets are not transferrable and non-refundable. Format of night subject to change without notice due to unforseen circumstances.

 

 


Posted: 28/02/2017