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Latest Whisky & Spirits News

Yamazaki, Hakushu: Suntory Back In Stock

It’s probably the most repeated discussion in whisky circles of the past few years: the shortage of Japanese whisky stocks. At the front of that conversation is often the Suntory stable, their distilleries Yamazaki and Hakushu (and now Chita) producing some of the most in-demand single malts and Hibiki blends.

In terms of supply, 2018 is certainly not as dire as previous years have been, when we had regular six month breaks between drinks, but these items are still on allocation – we see them every few months now. (That is until certain expressions pack up for extended periods of time, like has happened to the Hibiki 17 this year).

Our latest allocation across the range arrived yesterday, so if you were one of the many people who’ve popped in recently in search of them – this is your notification that we are flush with Suntory stocks. For this morning, at least.

There's no fearmongering here, no need to panic buy – once we sell out these lines will be coming back in eventually (although maybe not Hakushu 12).

But, if you want them – they’re here now.

Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve

Yamazaki 12-Year-Old

Yamazaki 18-Year-Old

Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve

Hakushu 12-Year-Old

Hakushu 18-Year-Old

The Chita Single Grain

Hibiki Harmony


Posted: 19/07/2018
An Evening With NSW's Baker Williams Distillery

The latest in our ‘An Evening With’ series of local Australian distillers is something close to our heart and literally close to The Oak Barrel. Based in Mudgee, in our state’s gorgeous Central West Nathan Williams of the Baker Williams Distillery will be presenting whisky, gin, wildcards and more in an extensive, exhaustive tasting evening.

After successful appearances at our Sydney Craft Spirits Fair in the previous two year, the release of their very first whisky this year – The Lachlan – has prompted this masterclass dedicated to the distillery. Mudgee is renowned as a small-but-awarded wine region, with over 40 family-owned cellar door set ups. Hidden away behind one of them is a very special cellar door, home to the region’s only distillery.

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In their formative years Baker Williams – owned by wife-and-husband duo Helen Baker and Nathan Williams – took a scattergun approach to their products. Not allowing themselves to be boxed into a category, they’ve distilled whisky, gin, brandy, rum and vodka from the outset. From that they’ve also created a released a number of liqueurs which have gone from cellar door favourites to staples on our shelves here.

Welcoming Nathan into our tasting room here at The Oak Barrel, which he’s quite familiar with now, we’ll be going through the story behind the distillery, the successes and struggles of opening a small distillery in Australia and where they’re heading from here (hopefully there’ll be some barrel samples to explore that last idea).

Tickets are strictly limited and this will be one night only.

In the lead up to 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!

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What We’ll Be Drinking:

Baker Williams Lachlan Whisky Cask Strength
Baker Williams Lachlan Whisky 50%
Baker Williams Wildcard 50%
Baker Williams XLCR Gin
A selection of other Baker Williams products and cask samples

WHAT: An Evening With Baker Williams Distillery
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Wednesday 1 August, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $25 / Non-Members $35
TICKETS: [MEMBERS] [GUESTS]

 

Posted: 06/07/2018
Ardbeg Night: Archive and New Releases Tasting

An Islay classic, an Oak Barrel favourite and a distillery we haven’t featured on its own for way too long, we’d like to invite you to a very special night of Ardbeg this August at The Oak Barrel.

Digging into the archives, we’ll bring the smoke and stories from this Islay distillery dripping in history and innovation.

Given how prominent the Ardbeg brand is worldwide, it’s easy to forget just how new the current regime is. Following a few decades of uncertainty, Ardbeg – then under the ownership of Hiram Walker – closed in 1981. When the parent company was acquired by Allied, they decided to re-open the distillery and production resumed in 1989, right at the end of one of the most tumultuous decades in Scotch whisky history.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however, and Ardbeg was closed in 1996 and put on the market by Allied. The following year Glenmorangie picked up the distillery for £7 million. Although people assumed one of Scotland’s best-known distilleries knew what they were doing, that figure raised more than a few eyebrows as being well above what Glenmo’ should have paid. In 2018 and with plenty of hindsight, it’s considered one of the great bargains in whisky.

With a new approach and game plan, Glenmorangie went about turning Ardbeg into one of the great Islay staples of our time. The Committee global fan club was founded in 2000 and experimental releases appeared from the pre-acquisition stock. Some of those releases, like Uigeadail, are now staple expressions.

The new owners were still driven to showcase their own distillate and a series of releases – Very Young, Still Young and Almost There – culminated in 2008 with the release of a limited-edition cask strength ten-year-old Renaissance. It was the DNA of what became the classic 10-year-old, the whisky which has cultivated an army of cult fans and made the Ardbeg logo one of the most distinctive of all Scotch whiskies.

We’re pleased to confirm a very special Ardbeg tasting night as part of our Sydney Whisky Fair Masterclasses. Hosted by long-time Australian ambassador Garth Foster, we’ve dug into the Oak Barrel archives to put together a tasting with the Renaissance expression, some of the more recent Committee releases and the new Grooves and An Oa. The Oak Barrel’s Scott Fitzsimons will also dig out a very special single cask expression bottled by North Star for the night, an exceedingly rare example of an independent bottling allowed to carry the distillery name.

In the lead up to 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!

Strictly one night only.

What we’ll be tasting:

ardbeg-ob-watermark-1

Ardbeg An Oa 46.6%
Ardbeg 10-Year-Old 46%
Ardbeg Grooves 46%
Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release 55%
Ardbeg Kelpie Committee Release 51.7%
Ardbeg Renaissance 10-Year-Old 55.9%
North Star Ardbeg 12-Year-Old Single Cask 51.9%

WHAT: Ardbeg Night Tasting
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Wednesday 15 August, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $65 / Non-Members $75
TICKETS: SOLD OUT

SEE ALL WHISKY FAIR MASTERCLASSES HERE

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


Posted: 29/06/2018
Kilchoman Port, Red Wine and More

We don’t like to pick favourites, but if you had to push us for a favourite Islay distillery Kilchoman would be right up there. The smallest, the only family-owned and (currently) the newest distillery on the whisky producing island, we’ve enjoyed many a Kilchoman from the early seasonal releases to the now-staple expressions.

Part of the fun is their varied expressions and limited editions, that trickle their way into the country each year. We’ve just received allocations of four of their newest releases, which are now on the shelf. There’s a gorgeous 2009 vintage, a fun red wine cask, a matured Loch Gorm sherry cask and the return of the controversial Port cask.

Well managed peat smoke, lots of fruit. Check them out below:

Kilchoman 2009 Vintage 8-Year-Old

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2018 Release

Kilchoman Red Wine Cask

Kilchoman Port Cask (2018)

 


Posted: 27/06/2018
Ardbeg, Vega, Aultmore: New From North Star

North Star may be a relatively new kid on the whisky block, but this independent bottler is quickly becoming of our most beloved.

Based out of Glasgow, North Star is the project of Iain Croucher, an ex-bartender around Glasgow and the UK who graduated to the world of whisky brokerage.

From there North Star came to life in April 2016. It quickly, but quietly, began appearing on Australian shelves and we’re excited to announce that the anticipated 4th series of casks is now upon us.

Headlining is the gorgeous and incredible value 40-year-old Vega, that has probably sold out by the time you finish this sentence, plus a stunningly intense single cask from Ardbeg.

That’s not to diminish the beguiling undisclosed Islay single cask finished in a Bordeaux wine cask and one of the boldest Aultmores we’ve tried in recent history.

All available now in limited quantities, whilst the full archive of North Star expressions can be found here.

And just for luck, up top is Iain himself tearing up our Cellar Room during a fantastic session in March this year, as captured by May Lawrence. 

ARDBEG 12-YEAR-OLD

 

Spirit driven and very rare, an intense Ardbeg not necessarily for beginners.

AULTMORE 11-YEAR-OLD

 

Sweet and rich, caramels and oily wax.

ISLAY 10-YEAR-OLD

 

Finished in a red wine cask – peat reek and sweet fruits.

VEGA 40-YEAR-OLD

 

Where did he find casks to bottle such a gorgeous whisky at sub $400?


Posted: 13/06/2018
Creative Whisky Company Launch Tasting

It’s a brand new Sydney Whisky Fair season so it seems fitting to launch our first lead-in masterclass with an independent bottler brand new to the Australian masterclass.

Just touched down on our shores, in very limited quantities, we’ve secured a range of drams from the Creative Whisky Company which we’ll be cracking and sharing with you at The Oak Barrel Wednesday 11 July. As part of the night we’ll be sampling single casks from Laphroaig, Ardmore, Glen Keith, Dailuaine (pictured top) and an undisclosed Orkney distillery (we’ll let you guess). On top of that, we might (read: will) throw in some surprises along the way.

Although new to Australia, the Creative Whisky Company has been around since 2005. The project of David Stirk, he founded the business as the global brand ambassador for Highland Park job seemed out of reach. In the proceeding decade-and-a-bit Stirk has established himself as a renowned whisky expert, advisor and author.

We’ll be opening the range of whiskies here in Australia, which will be launched for The Oak Barrel on the night (we’ll only have a handful of each to sell).

In the lead up to 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!

This Creative Whisky Company tasting will be hosted by importer Wonderland Drinks’ Scott Farrow and The Oak Barrel’s Dailuaine enthusiast Scott Fitzsimons.

Image only a guide, newer expressions have landed in Australia.

On pour:

Ardmore 18-Year-Old ex-rum cask, 56.4%
Laphroaig 12-Year-Old refill hogshead, 56.2%
Dailuaine 10-Year-Old sherry cask, 55.6%
Glen Keith 23-Year-Old ex-bourbon cask, 52.8%
Orkney 15-Year-Old refill sherry hogshead, 56.7%

Plus one or two more surprises from the Creative Whisky stable on the night.

WHAT: Creative Whisky Company Launch Tasting
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Wednesday 11 July, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $45 / Non-Members $55
TICKETS: SOLD OUT


Posted: 13/06/2018
Octomore 8 Series - In Store Now!

 

Octomore: it’s is a word that brings warmth to hearts of smoky whisky lovers, and fear into that of those who can’t stand the peat.

Fresh off the boat are the long-awaited 8 series releases and in store now – the core 8.1 Scottish barley expression and the experimental, limited release virgin oak matured 8.4 expression.

SEE OUR OCTOMORES HERE

The most heavily peated whisky in all of Scotland, Octomore is produced by the Bruichladdich distillery in Islay. The majority of whisky from the distillery appears under its distillery’s own name, and they are unpeated. Being a proud Islay house, however, they’ve got plenty of time for smoke as well, those whiskies released as Port Charlotte and Octomore (approximately 20 percent each of the overall production).

Port Charlotte is a heavily peated whisky and at 40PPM (phenolic parts per million, a measure of peat influence at the malting stage) is one of the smokiest whiskies Islay produces. It’s nothing, however, to what emerges under the ultra-peated Octomore brand.

Named after a farm above Port Charlotte (which is where the other name comes from), there was a separate distillery on Octomore, but it is believed to have closed around the 1850s – not a lot left then. This experimental, powerful label of whiskies is homage to those early whisky makers, who would have been cutting their own barley and peat from their land.

The latest releases, brand new in Australia are:

OCTOMORE 8.1

8.1 weighs in at 167 ppm and is a journey in smoke, tar and balancing soft sweetness.

OCTOMORE 8.4

8.4 weighs in at 170 ppm and showcases slightly softer smoke, more leather, lemon zest and barbecue.

8.4 is – in particular – a limited edition release, with a small amount available in Australia.

But Where’s 8.3?

Currently we have Octomore 8.1 and 8.4 available in store. We had a very small allocation of 8.3, but it sold within hours of it going on the shelf this week. We’re are expecting another (equally as small) allocation in about three months, so if you want to be on that waitlist, please email scott@oakbarrel.com.au. We might need to draw names, depending on how many bottles we can get in the future. If lucky, we’ll get in touch, and may ask for payment up front, as that will give us a bit of ammo in terms of committed numbers when we fight for an allocation!


Posted: 30/05/2018
Snowy Day Sake Favourites

With winter just around the corner and a noticeable temperature drop it’s time to crack open our favourite sakes for the season. Here’s some of our favourites, to be drunk warm or room temp, the type of bottles we love to have in the Japanese snow.

Asahikiku Junmai Daichi

Meaning earthy, the Daichi is delightfully smooth with a soft, mellow vanilla malt flavour with the texture becoming more creamy when warmed.

Wakatsuru Koshu 20-Year-Old

A full flavoured, 20-year-old saké with a savoury, robust texture and a meaty caramel flavour.

Taka Junmai Daiginjo

Highest grade sake with spice and grain notes that develop to a comforting, complex drink when warm. Think light creaminess with a balancing spice.

LATEST SAKE ARRIVALS


Posted: 30/05/2018
Black Gate's 620s: NSW's Biggest Single Malt?

 

It’s here, and it might be the biggest single malt whisky from New South Wales in recent memory!

he 620s expression from country New South Wales distillery, Black Gate, launched over the weekend at for World Whisky Day, it’s just landed in store, ready to go.

The follow on from their famed 520s expression, which is now being swapped for well above its original retail price, the 620s is once again a vatting of 20-litre-casks. This time there’s six in the mix.

Distilled March 2016 and bottled May 2018, this has been bottled at pure cask strength – which is a staggering 71.1%. Just 184 bottles in the run, The Oak Barrel has managed to secure a generous – but still modest – allocation.

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Tasting Notes By The Oak Barrel:

Nose: Hard to not approach something this strong with a bit of hesitation (the sample bottle also has “not for the faint of heart” written on it), but we needn’t have worried. This nose is exceptional. Rich toffee, Wether’s Originals, crystallised golden syrup, cloves. Spices change with water, a bit of cut grass, nettle, hint of spearmint. With time and air and it just becomes so soft on the nose, it really is a star for us.

Palate: A bit of a jump at the start, settles into tongue-coating caramels. Sweeter with water, more vanilla.

Finish: Medium length, with golden syrup on pancakes (there’s vanillas, there’s concentrated sugar, butterscotch…) Dash of water extends the length as the alcohol calms down, but brings out those soft, cake batter-vanillas.

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Located in Mendooran, not far from Dubbo in New South Wales' Greater West, Black Gate have earned themselves cult status amongst drinkers with their single malt and rum expressions.

Often single cask, Genise and Brian Hollingworth (pictured top) are now working full time at the distillery, which is allowing them to lay down more casks than that's well up on the original three-or-so a year they were managing. While stock levels are still extremely tight, we are beginning to see a slightly more regular releases, which bodes well for the future.

The small town of about 300 people has a unique climate for whisky and wide temperature variations ensure lots of interaction between the whisky and the cask.

That intensity is matched by Black Gate's heavy spirits which is achieved by late spirits cuts. The inspiration comes from the Hollingworth's penchant for big, smoky Scottish whiskies and Black Gate's releases have so far been on the heavier side of the Australian whisky spectrum.

Just prior to the 620s we had a rum cask expression, port cask expressions new rums and more. We’ve also got an Aussie whisky tasting coming up soon – a few tickets left!

See the full Black Gate availability here!


Posted: 24/05/2018
Treasured Distilleries In New Adelphi Single Casks

 

Every now and again you come across a whisky distillery that’s considered a “whisky drinkers’ distillery”. In real terms, that’s a fancy way of saying “here’s a whisky that the industry loves, but doesn’t really have a lot of traction as a single malt for the wider audiences.”

That could be for a number of reasons. Big blends might rely on that stock to bulk out their money-spinners, the style might date back to decades past which makes it unsustainable moving forward or it could just be something like being a little bit too weird! Either way, some of these distilleries have produced some of the finest whiskies we’ve ever had grace the shelves and we’re delighted to welcome a couple of them back in a new batch of single cask whiskies from the ever-brilliant Adelphi.

CLYNELISH 1996 20-YEAR-OLD

 

Everything you want from an older Clynelish (pictured top). The honey, the wax, the feeling that there’s something new around every corner.

ARDMORE 1996 21-YEAR-OLD

 

Lucky enough to see this as an entry level single malt officially now, but Adelphi helped build the cult status of these older, peated highlands beauties. This comes from a period where they were still direct-firing their stills.

BUNANHABHAIN 2005 12-YEAR-OLD

 

There’s a lot of love for the official Bunnas these days and a proliferation of independent releases from the sleeping Islay giant. Taste, not age, is what we’re looking for though and this is excellent. A big sherry cask that’s young enough to hold the distillery’s maritime style.

GLEN ELGIN 1978 30-YEAR-OLD

 

Release as part of the archive series, just 32 bottles globally of this re-issue. An overlooked Diageo work horse distillery that fetches big prices in the Special Releases outturns. Distilled 40 years ago. Whisky from a different era.


Posted: 15/05/2018