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Latest Whisky & Spirits News

Old and Young: New From North Star

 

There’s a brand new series of expressions from Glasgow-based indie bottler North Star (run by Iain Croucher, above) freshly landed in Australia, and there are some absolute stunners in the bunch.

The second edition of the Vega blended malt series is a gorgeous 41-year-old, which is amazing value at sub-$400 for members. There’s also batch one of the Spica blend, which at $99 for members is a no-brainer to try a 20-year-old whisky. If you haven’t had anything that old previously, this is a great opportunity to do so.

The 4-year-old Campbeltown is also a ripper!

Vega 41-Year-Old

$425 or $382.50 for members

Incredibly well blended old whisky – all the old notes you want with plenty of richness.

Spica 20-Year-Old

$110 or $99 for members

Approachable, delicious blend at a beautiful price considering the age. Croucher’s done it again!

Campbeltown 4-Year-Old

$135 or $121.50 for members

A naked example of the Campbeltown style, Young and fiery and lots of fun.

Macduff 11-Year-Old

$175 or $157.50 for members

A mixture of sweet malt, cut flowers and the smell of rain on hot road.

Glentauchers 11-Year-Old

$185 or $166.50 for members

PX finish gives a soft, fruity roundness.

Caol Ila 12-Year-Old

$215 or $193.50 for members

Dusty, citrusy single cask with some of the best tasting notes of the year.

PX Fortified Wine

$79 or $71.10 for members

It’s back! Join the revolution and #drinkmoresherry.

 


Posted: 25/09/2018
Highland Park and Harviestoun: Whisky and Beer Night

The hint might be in the name, but here at The Oak Barrel we’re partial to a bit of cask influence. With the latest arrival of beers from Scotland’s Harviestoun we thought it fitting to match them up with the Highland Park whiskies their barrels held previously.

Located in Clackmannanshire, Harviestoun was founded in 1983 and is an established and respected name in the global craft beer community. Their Ola Dubh range are some of the most celebrated whisky barrel aged beers in the world, regularly topping out scores on beer aggregator websites. It’s a series of Imperial Porters aged in barrels which were previously used for Highland Park 12, 16, and 18-Year-Old single malts respectively.

Similarly, Highland Park has long demanded devotion from whisky drinkers – ever since it was founded in 1798. Located on Orkney, an archipelago off the north coast of the Scottish mainland, the distillery has long paid tribute to the region’s Viking history. Settled in either the eighth or ninth century, it became part of Scotland again until 1472, and recently bottlings have celebrated that history.

It is one of the last distilleries to malt a portion of its own barley and the 30 percent that is done onsite has been peated with local barley. The windswept, tree-less island is covered in heather and provides a unique, sweet smoke to their expressions.

Of the course of this October evening, the floral, fragrant malt and smoke of their expressions with by paired with the jet-black intensity of the beers as The Oak Barrel’s beer and whisky experts take you through the intricacies and history of the drinks.

Stock is limited, so spaces are limited. One night only.

What we’ll be trying:

Whisky:

Highland Park 12-Year-Old
Highland Park 18-Year-Old
Highland Park Valkyrie
And something special from the archive

Beer:

Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 16
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 18

WHAT: Highland Park & Harviestoun Whisky & Beer Matching
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney
WHEN: Wednesday 17 October, doors open 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $60 / Guest $70
TICKETS: [MEMBERS] [GUEST]


Posted: 24/09/2018
It's Time We Talked About Armagnac

The historic French brandy is often overshadowed by its northern sister Cognac, but it is one of the true jewels in the crown of world spirits. We’ve recently got our hands on a range of bottlings from producers and bottlers across the region and right now have an excellent selection in store and online.

Armagnac comes from the region of the same name in Gascony, south-west France. Being near the border, the region is close to sea level and has generally has more chalky, clay soil. There are three regions, Bas Armagnac, Tenareze and Haut Armagnac, though most of the product we see in Australia is from Bas Armagnac – which is considered the premier region.

SEARCH ARMAGNACS HERE

The spirit is distilled from a range of grapes, but ugni blanc, colombard, baco 22A and folle blanche are the predominate varietals. They are distilled through an alembic still, which were often mobile and moved from farm-to-farm during a vintage. Unlike Cognac, which is double distilled, Armagnac spirit is only run through the semi-continuous alembics once, leading to (along with the location and grape varietals) a more powerful, full bodied and often complex spirit.

We also see a lot more vintages from Armagnac than other spirits, with the dates on each bottle referring to the harvest year. Grapes are distilled no more than weeks after they are picked, however so you can assume that vintages were distilled in the same year as they were harvested.

Perhaps most importantly, Armagnac is providing excellent value at the moment. While Cognac is exported all around the world and other aged spirits like whisky have been under huge demand this past decade, Armagnac has flown under the radar. Which means there is plenty of stock on older vintages available and scarcity hasn’t flung the prices north.

We are starting to see pricing creep up in recent shipments, so this exceptional won’t last forever, but right now is a great time to be drinking Armagnac.

While there’s a wide range of Armagnacs in store right now, we’ve chosen a few examples to highlight.

Come De Lamaestre Bas Armagnac 1967

An incredible opportunity to taste a more than 50-year-old spirit, and this has plenty to say. We’ve long-admired this vintage for retaining its sweet freshness. The nose is almost grassy and the palate has excellent structure. There’s evidence of the age on the finish, with a slight tannin. One to contemplate a long day with.

Castarede Bas Armagnac 1987

A classic vintage from a historic producer, which is the oldest house still in business. A powerful, fresh expression with a fruit-driven nose. Crazy to remember that this was farmed and distilled so long ago.

Darroze 2004 Domaine de Couzard-Lassalle Bas Armagnac

Marc Darroze is perhaps the greatest bottled of Armagnac in France right now. He offers the most diversity of any one house. Barrels are selected based on flavour from across the region and they are bottled at natural cask strength. No water or colouring is added. Some of the older vintages are absolute show-stoppers, but we were bowled over by this 2004 that arrived recently. Distilled exclusively from folle blanche grapes,  this is a unique expression of ground spices, nutmeg and vanillas. It’s quite young by Armagnac standards, but it’s taken on a huge amount of flavour in the 13 years.

Tariquet Le Legendaire Bas Armagnac

We’ve focused on vintages for our range, but this is just so tasty that we had to break our own rule. Approximately 15 years old this is a rich, complex expression that highlights everything we love about the brandy. Tariquet are also known to use a high percentage of folle blanche, which was almost wiped out by phylloxera in 1893 but is still considered one of the king grapes for Armagnac.

 


Posted: 19/09/2018
Laphroaig Whisky Tasting With Dan Woolley

We will welcome Australia’s resident Laphroaig fanatic and lost son of Islay Dan Woolley back to The Oak Barrel for our annual night of peated whisky indulgence with the famous distillery.

Founded in 1815, Laphroaig is one of the most famous peated whiskies 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.

It’s a distillery that we can sometimes take for granted in an industry currently full of new, shiny things – so we think it’s important to remind ourselves of why we fell in love in the first place.

In fact, we’re going to send everyone away with a bottle of the ten-year-old included in your ticket price.

On the night, you’ll also be able to design your own custom label, personalised to your opinion of what Laphroaig is to you.

We’ll be doing it all in the trademark Oak Barrel style of having a lot of fun and not taking things too seriously, while pouring some very serious whiskies indeed as we delve into the distillery’s premium expressions.

What We’ll Be Tasting:

Laphroaig 10-Year-Old
Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Laphroaig Triple Wood
Laphroaig Lore
Laphroaig 25-Year-Old

Plus something special from the archives or vault

WHAT: Laphroaig Opinions Welcome With Dan Woolley
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney
WHEN: Wednesday 26 September, doors open 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $120 / Guest $130 (includes a bottle of 10-Year-Old to take home on the night)
TICKETS: [MEMBERS] [GUEST]


Posted: 06/09/2018
American Whiskey Tasting With Sam Snead

We’re cracking out the bourbons this September in a tasting night dedicated to American whiskey.

We’ll be welcoming renowned American whiskey guru and friend Sam Snead into the Oak Barrel during his whirlwind Sydney visit. Originally, from Montana Snead is now ubiquitous in the New Zealand whisk(e)y scene, having set up his House Of Whiskey in Auckland.

Snead is a special guest at the inaugural Whiskey! The Show event, which is happening Saturday 22 September at the Sir Stamford in Circular Quay. Whiskey! The Show is an event dedicated to American whiskey styles – bourbons, ryes and everything else.

With Snead in town on Friday, we thought it would be rude not to put on a night for him, so we’ll be doing just that Friday 21 September.

We’ll be pouring a range of American whiskeys that are not normally seen in Australia – or if they are, very rarely. Going across bourbon, rye and wheat styles, most of these will be brought over by Sam himself.

Tickets are limited and we’re certainly restricted to one night only.

What we’ll be trying:

Breckenridge Distillers High Proof Blend 52.5%
Bernheim Original 7-Year-Old Small Batch Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey 45%
Black Maple Hill Oregon Straight Rye Whiskey 47.5%
Maker's Mark Private Select Rob Samuels Bourbon 55.9%
Woodford Reserve Master Collection Barrel Proof 65.25%

WHAT: American Whiskey Tasting With Sam Snead
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney
WHEN: Friday 21 September, doors open 6pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $30 / Guest $40
TICKETS: [MEMBERS] [GUEST]


Posted: 05/09/2018
Foursquare Rum Tasting With Legend Richard Seale

It’s starting to feel like we’re on the cusp of something when it comes to rum.

For years this historic spirit has threatened to burst into hearts, minds and mouths of spirit drinkers across Australia, and it’s starting to feel like it might just happen.

How fitting, then, that we’re jubilant to announce that Richard Seale, a living icon of the rum world, will be stopping by The Oak Barrel on a whirlwind Australian tour this September. Seale, the owner, CEO and Master Distiller at the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados will be visiting Monday w7 September.

Foursquare is one of the island’s oldest and most prestigious distilleries. Home to the labels Doorly’s and Foursquare, these are today produced by Seale – a fourth generation producer on an island where rum has been made for nearly 400 years.

Not only is Foursquare steeped in tradition, but Seale is also been the force to make the distillery one of the world’s most progressive. Moving towards transparency in rum, both from a production and location sense, he’s collaborations with companies like Velier have produced outstanding, and highly sought-after products.

Indeed, it’s this new transparency and knowledge release that is starting to make it feel like premium rum’s time is just about to come.

As Richard takes us through his distillery, the past, present and future, we’ll sample a range of rums produced at the distillery under their various labels. They’ll be Foursquare, Doorly’s and more (with one or two surprises to be confirmed closer to the date).

One night only at The Oak Barrel while he’s here for Sydney Bar Week, so this is a rare chance to ingest some serious rum experience and flavours.

WHAT: Foursquare Tasting With Richard Seale
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney
WHEN: Monday 17 September, doors open 6pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $30 / Guest $40
TICKETS: SOLD OUT!


Posted: 09/08/2018
GlenDronach Single Casks and Grandeur!

Batch 16 of GlenDronach’s famed single casks have arrived in store – and as usual they are available in very limited quantities.

A selection of casks chosen from the distillery’s warehouse, there are expressions ranging from 12-to-27-years-old. Some of the most sought-after sherry casks whiskies released each year, these are getting rarer as the pre-1996 stocks dwindle.

Now under the watchful eye of Master Blender Rachel Barrie, we’re also had Grandeur Batch 9 land in store. The peak of GlenDronach’s range, this is the first Grnadeur created by Rachel Barrie, chosen from a selection of sherry casks 24-years and older.

List of expressions below, or click here to scroll through them all.

GlenDronach Grandeur Batch 9

GlenDronach Single Cask 1990 27-Year-Old #7003

GlenDronach Single Cask 1990 27-Year-Old #7902

GlenDronach Single Cask 1992 25-Year-Old

GlenDronach Single Cask 1993 24-Year-Old

GlenDronach Single Cask 1995 22-Year-Old

GlenDronach Single Cask 2002 15-Year-Old

GlenDronach Single Cask 2005 12-Year-Old

 


Posted: 08/08/2018
GlenDronach Single Cask Tasting

Six GlenDronach single casks on tasting at The Oak Barrel Tuesday 21 August.

They are the key details and we don’t have to put too much work into this, it’s a tasting that will really sell itself.

Sherry cask whiskies, once taken for granted, have become one of the enduring questions of Scotch whisky. With demand far outstripping supply, distilleries all over Scotland – and the world – have had to look beyond the styles they made their name on because there simply aren’t enough top quality sherry casks.

How precious, then, is GlenDronach. A highland distillery on the eastern edge of Speyside, their heavy, muscular new make screams for sherry casks and the resulting whisky is some of the most celebrated in the style.

GlenDronach has long been a favourite of Oak Barrel staff and customer, their core range regularly appears in our highest selling lists each year. The single casks, however, have always been the stars – their old-worldy style of clean, sweet fruits and broad structure chased down by whisky lovers globally.

[SEE THE NEWEST SINGLE CASKS HERE]

Originally built in 1826, GlenDronach spent its life as a distillery for blenders malt. Passed through hands, it was surplus to Teachers’ requirement in 1996 and subsequently closed. Re-opened in 2002, it passed to Pernod Ricard in 2005 before Billy Walker’s team – then building up BenRiach’s single malt profile – took it over.

What Walker and team found in those warehouses was truly spectacular and the GlenDronach story didn’t stay a secret for long. The growth in demand for GlenDronach globally has been astounding and perhaps is as evident in Australia as anywhere else. When once The Oak Barrel could pick and choose how many bottles we nabbed, things have been on strict allocations for years.

Indeed, it’s been over three years since we focused in on GlenDronach at a tasting, but we’re pleased to be able to step back into the room to celebrate all things GlenDronach. (Read: we have more than one bottle of everything this time!)

It’s a fascinating time to look at the distillery as well, those pre-1996 casks are getting fewer and the post 2005 distillate (the year they ripped up the coal-fired for the stills) is starting to come online.

With Aussie brand ambassador Thalita Alves we’ll be coming along for the ride, join us as we open six amazing, sherried single casks whiskies.

In the lead up to the sold-out Sydney Whisky Fair 2018 The Oak Barrel will be hosting a number of ‘Fair Masterclasses’. These will provide an opportunity to get up close and personal with brands and distilleries, with plenty of time to mull over drams and ask plenty of questions. We run them as satellite events so you’re not drawn away from the tables during the main event and so you have plenty of time with each whisky without the allure of other shiny things!

What We’ll Be Tasting:

GlenDronach 2005 12-Year-Old Single Cask
GlenDronach 2002 15-Year-Old Single Cask
GlenDronach 1995 22-Year-Old Single Cask
GlenDronach 1993 24-Year-Old Single Cask
GlenDronach 1992 25-Year-Old Single Cask
GlenDronach 1990 27-Year-Old Single Cask

WHAT: GlenDronach Single Cask Tasting
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Tuesday 21 August, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $85 / Non-Members $95
TICKETS: SOLD OUT


Posted: 07/08/2018
Australian Distillers Dinner 2018

 

We are pleased, excited and getting thirsty to confirm the details for this year’s annual Australian Distillers Dinner.

One of our most anticipated nights of the year, the Dinner will once again be happening on the eve of Sydney Whisky Fair – this year Thursday 23 August. An intimate, sit-down event with whisky producers from all over the country, we’ll welcome some new faces to the dinner in 2018.

Each distiller will be bringing something special with them, that may or may not be released and certainly not something widely available. We’ll intersperse the drams with a multi-course meal, themed around whisky.

One big change for this year is the location. In order to have a little bit more space and let a couple more people in, we’ve moved out of The Oak Barrel Cellar Room. Instead we’ll be on a rooftop just near Central station, enjoying the sun set as we chat about whisky.

The address is Level 3, 1-9 Buckingham Street Surry Hills, 30 seconds walk from Central Station (Devonshire St tunnel exit).

Joining us in 2018, for the first time at a Dinner, will be Peter Bignell from Belgrove Distillery. One of Australia’s most innovative distillers, Tasmania’s Belgrove is also one of the world’s greenest. Growing his own rye and grains and running his distillery of bio-fuel, Peter is a wealth of knowledge and stories (as we know from his previous visits). Now one of the elder statesmen of Australia’s young whisky scene, we are very proud to confirm Peter for 2018.

We’re also chuffed to welcome Gareth and Angela Andrews from South Australia’s Fleurieu Distillery for their very first visit to Sydney as whisky distillers (in fact, it’s their first visit back to Sydney for any reason in decades). They quietly released their first whisky last year and as the word – and booze – has spread the accolades have quickly followed. Already multi award winners, the couple of bottles we’ve sampled at tasting nights at The Oak Barrel have been fantastically received so we’re excited to welcome them to town.

As usual, the Distillers Dinner is a mix of established and emerging distillers – we’ll try whisky and some progress reports from distilleries well on their way. This year’s newcomer is close to home – the Craft Works Distillery in Capertee. Craig ‘Crafty’ Field is one of the newest whisky distillers in Australia and also one of the most passionate. With an infectious enthusiasm for the juice, he’ll be digging through his barrels to find something tasty for us to try.

We last had Archie Rose’s Dave Withers – himself an Oak Barrel graduate – at the Distillers Dinner in 2016, when we tried some amazing six-month old peated stock. As the Rosebery distillery edges closer to its first whisky release, we’ll check back in with our most local of distilleries. A lot has happened in those 24 months (they’re building a whole second distillery!) so plenty to talk celebrate on the Archie Rose front.

Photos from 2017 by May Lawrence

We’re also happy to announce that we’ve managed to reduce the ticket price for this year’s event considerably (about $50), compared to 2016 and ‘17.

MENU

Canapes

Heirloom tomato, grape, salted yolks, bruschetta

Prosciutto, gorgonzola mousse, balsamic fig, almond shortbread

Entree

Whiskey cured ocean trout nutmeg cream, foraged greens

Smoked duck breast, beetroot, raspberry and blood plum

Sides: Oven roasted seasonal vegetables and fennel, winter leaves, almonds, apricot

Main

Cowra lamb rump glazed carrots, freekeh, peas clotted buttermilk

Dessert

Grown up pecan pie vanilla ice cream, chocolate butterscotch sauce

Coffee and whiskey fudges

THE VENUE

Level 3, 1-9 Buckingham Street Surry Hills. It is half a block from Central Station, at the Devonshire St exit. There is a bit of Light Rail construction work around, so please bear that in mind if you’re getting dropped off.

Doors from 6pm, upon arrival head up the elevator to level three. Welcome drinks on arrival and we’ll sit down to start proceedings at 6.30pm.

DISTILLERS

Peter Bignell (Belgrove)
Gareth & Angela Andrews (Fleurieu)
Dave Withers (Archie Rose)
Craig Field (Craft Works)

More to be confirmed.

In the lead up to the sold-out Sydney Whisky Fair 2018 The Oak Barrel will be hosting a number of ‘Fair Masterclasses’. These will provide an opportunity to get up close and personal with brands and distilleries, with plenty of time to mull over drams and ask plenty of questions. We run them as satellite events so you’re not drawn away from the tables during the main event and so you have plenty of time with each whisky without the allure of other shiny things!

WHAT: Australian Distillers Dinner 2018
WHERE: AEONA, Level 3, 1-9 Buckingham Street Surry Hills
WHEN:
 Thursday 23 August, doors open 6pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $150 / Non-Members $170
TICKETS: SOLD OUT

Please advise at the checkout 'Special Request' section if you have any dietary requirements.

Menu and guests subject to change due to availability and/or unforeseen circumstances.


Posted: 07/08/2018
Archie Rose Six Malt New Make: A Taste Of The Future

Archie Rose’s Six Malt New Make is the latest limited release from the Sydney distillery, as they edge closer to their first whisky release.

Located just ten minutes from the Sydney CBD in Rosebery, Archie Rose is one of the country's leading urban distilleries. With an early focus on single malt and rye whiskies, the distillery has release a range of other spirits – including a virgin cane spirit, white rye, gins and a vodka.

The Six Malt New Make is the base of their single malt spirit moving forward. Instead of going into barrel, this has been collected off the still and bottled at 50%.

The six malt recipe was formulated by Archie Rose distiller Dave Withers, who’s looked to challenge the norms surround whisky production. While flavour was the dominating factor, much of the thought around this make up came from the idea that if they’re not making whisky in Scotland, why should they follow exactly how they do it?

Instead a local distillery should be playing to the strengths and to their environment, which is exactly what this new make has done.

Their mash bill comprises of caramel malt, roasted malt, local peated malt, local amber malt and local pale malt.

In the Oak Barrel’s opinion, this is quite a muscular, robust new make, which stands at odds with a lot of other Australian distilleries who have searched for sweetness. Its earthy, with hints of mocha notes. Certainly unique and certainly Australian.

Just 3,000 bottles of this release were produced, the rest of the spirit sitting in barrels well on its way to whisky.

Rumours of Archie Rose’s first whisky release have started to gather steam amongst the industry and bars across Sydney, and they recently had their first win in the category. A work-in-progress barrel sample of their rye whisky won a gold medal in the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London’s whisky category. Indeed, it was the only Australian ‘whisky’ entered to do so.

Having been lucky enough to sample a couple of near-ready and ready barrel samples from the team at Archie Rose, The Oak Barrel can hardly say it’s surprised.

This small allocation of this Six Malt New Make is likely all The Oak Barrel will be receiving, so don’t delay on this piece of Sydney whisky history.

 


Posted: 01/08/2018