Category Archives: Spirits

Laphroaig Live Coming to Sydney

As any Whisky lover worth his (or her) salt would know, Laphroaig Live is coming to Sydney on Thursday 6th October.

For the uninitiated, Laphroaig Live is an event that has been put on by the Lophroaig Distillery each year since 2007 in various locations around the globe. Streamed live across the internet, it is an opportunity for Whisky lovers to watch (and possibly taste in simulcast with) Distillery Manager John Campbell and a panel of guests work their way through some great Laphroaig drams.

Laphroaig Live 2011 will be held on the foreshore of Sydney harbour in the Rocks district.  This is sure to set an amazing backdrop of the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the beautiful harbour in all it’s glory.

This years panel will include:

John Campbell – Distillery Manager

Robert Hicks – Master Blender

Rebecca Varidel, Author,

Lin Johnston, descendent of Alexander Johnston

Just announced is that television personality Simon Reeve will be hosting the evening as the tasting line-up is unveiled.

I imagine what most would like to know is what Whiskys will be rolled out for the event.  As I understand the list this year will be:

Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Laphroaig Triple Wood

Laphroaig Cáirdeas 30 Year Old

The star of the show will undoubtedly be the final bottle which John announced on twitter earlier in the month.

Laphroaig 10 year old – distilled in the 1950s- the last production by the Johnston family

I have setup a page to stream all the action live from so I am planning on linking to the live stream from so you will be able to come back to this site on Thursday 6th October at 8pm EST (GMT+11) to view all the action.

To add to the evening I am starting to hear that many of Sydney’s food and booze community will be at the event so it will be a great opportunity to see many of you all again in the flesh.

More information including voting on the BBQ for the evening can be found at the Laphroaig website.



Posted by on 29th September 2011 in General, Scotch Whisky


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Balvenie Double Wood 12 yo

Date: 21st August 2011

Alcohol: 43%

Volume: 1000mL

Price: $???

Manufactured: Speyside, Scotland (Highlands)

I know it’s childish but every time I see the name of this whisky I giggle like a school boy.  I mean, what sort of moron would name their whisky after some B grade porn movie.  In fact it may well be the sequel to a B grade porn movie. OK enough said ….

Balvenie is somewhat unique (as the bottle bumf informs me) it is one of the only remaining distilleries that grows and malts its own barley.  I am not sure if this makes a difference to the quality of the product but I like the idea that they have control of the whole process from seed to bottle.
So why double wood (hehehe), well the spirit spends time in both classic bourbon casks before being transferred to sherry casks for finish. The only other point to note is the bottle I purchased a few months back ‘duty free’ in Sydney is bottled at 43% alcohol.  Why this is unusual is that all the other reviews I have seen note that they are bottled at 40%.  I am nearly sure there will be a tax/ duty reason for this but does it make a flavour difference?  Don’t know, nor will I likely ever get an opportunity to compare.  Anyway, on with the notes.

Appearance (4/5)

The Whisky displays a bright burnished amber colour that makes you feel warm just looking at it.

Nose (4/5)

The nose on this dram is not intense but worth investigating.  The most notable aroma is the deep caramel with a subtle vanilla oak backbone.  Cutting through the warm caramel is a light citrus highlight. This Whisky is subtle in nose but still quite layered.

Flavour (4.5/5)

I could tell before the spirit hit my mouth that it was going to have the slightly oily mouth feel.  It was growing legs and trying to climb out of the tumbler while I was taking notes.  The first flavours to hit me were sultanas, caramel and sweet (burnt) toffee.  These warm flavours were highlighted by a spicy pepperiness that tingled the tongue.  At first I thought this was just the alcohol but I believe it is a real flavour note. Very enjoyable.

Finish (4/5)

If this was a wine (red) I would use the descriptor ‘ a little flabby’ to describe the finish.  It clearly spent time in sherry casks that gave it a porty/ sherry ending on the tongue.  The flabbiness comes from a slight out of balance nature of the sherry.  The positive of this is the real richness that comes from the fruity caramel flavours.  The length is also excellent and with a long lingering warmth from the alcohol.

Rating: (16.5/20)

Of late I have been all over the big peat monsters like Ardbeg and it has been a great change to try one of the Speyside whiskies like Balvenie.  Looking at this score I think it probably deserves another half point (at least).  Either way, don’t be put off.  If you like a smoother spirit with a little spice this one will be right up your alley.  Enjoy.


Posted by on 23rd August 2011 in Scotch Whisky


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The Ultimate Dry Martini

Date: 7th August 2011

I’ve got to say up front that I am not a cocktail kinda guy, never have been.  Growing up in rural NSW a cocktail was considered to be something like a bourbon and coke and came out of a UDL can (I see some of you nodding out there).  So I’ve moved on since these days? … well kinda.  Still the idea of putting fruit (lemon) in my beer makes me want to punch someone and start talking about motor racing but some things have changed.

I was once served up a dry martini and it was one of those aha moments.  I got it; strong on the booze, complex flavours and a thousand variants in a simple dry drink.  The Engineer in me decided that I needed to find the ‘Ultimate Dry Martini’.  A man of experimentation, I have tried dozens of combinations and this is the outcome of those years of sacrifice and tireless work. wink.

This is The Ultimate Dry Martini and I believe the Ultimate Mixed Drink. Enjoy.


2 parts Bombay Safire Gin (chilled)

1 part Grey Goose Vodka (chilled)

0.5 part Noilly Prat Vermouth

Generous fresh lemon twist

Secret Ingredient (see below)

All liquid ingredients poured shaken into an ice filled skaker.  Shake like there is no tomorrow for 10-20 seconds and pour into a chilled glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist or two.

Tasting Notes

With a drink like this (and most others in fact), the temperature of consumption has a dramatic effect on the flavours experienced.  I believe that you can always let a drink warm up if it is too cold but chilling it back down is always difficult.  I like to consume these just as the ice is starting to melt off the side of the glass and there certainly shouldn’t be any ice shards left in the drink itself.

Up front you get the unmistakable botanicals of the Bombay Safire Gin.  This gin has quality aromatics that you don’t find in all premium gins charging well beyond this price tag.  I have probably tried half a dozen different gins and this is a classic. A traditional dry martini is all gin but I found that by adding 1 part Grey Goose vodka added a different character that quite honestly I cannot explain.  Try both and you will get it.

Noilly Pratt is what makes the dry martini ‘dry’.  Don’t skimp and buy the Martini brand as the sweet nose (yes I know ironic) you get from Noilly is just down right better.  If the lemon you use for the twist is ‘off the tree fresh’ you will get a lot more fragrant citrus oils in the glass and the entire kitchen for that matter.

So the secret ingredient.  I once read that the secret ingredient to a great martini is water and it is absolutely true.  The real tip is how you get the water.  For me, I fill the shaker with ice, add the ingredients and shake the hell out of it for 10 to 20 seconds.  This will displace ice/ water into the drink slightly reducing the strength of the alcohol.  I see this a little like adding water to whisky to let the flavours and aromas out.  This is why a shaken martini IS better than one stirred.  The shaken martini has added water that improves the whole drink.

Acceptable Variants

The above is in my mind the ultimate but other variants you could consider at a pinch.

  1. 2 parts vodka to 1 part gin.  Although a completely different drink, worth a try when the BS stocks are running low.
  2. A lemon twist can be replaced with a couple of pimento stuffed olives.  Get some decent olives from the deli not that muck from a bottle.

Posted by on 7th August 2011 in Gin, Vodka


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Laphroaig Quarter Cask Whisky

Date: 4th April 2011

Alcohol: 48%

Volume: 700mL

Price: $??? (mine was a gift :-))

Manufactured: Islay, Scotland

I gotta admit straight up, I don’t think I have come across an Islay whisky I don’t enjoy so you might need to take what I say with a grain of salt.  That being said of all the whisky’s that I normally have on rotation, you can pretty much guarantee that there will be a bottle of Lophoaig 10 year with the foil broken in the cupboard.  I love the stuff.  It is a great balance of peat and caramel that I think is right up there in bang for buck.  So when I unexpected received a bottle of Quarter Cask from the in-laws when they visited from ol’ blighty I thought ‘bring it on’.

BTW: That reminds me I should put up a review for Lophroaig 10YO.

From my detailed research (reading the back of the bottle), I understand that the name comes from the fact that the spirit spends some time in oak before being transfered to quarter casks that give it its sweetness.  I’m convinced.

Appearance (4/5)

Golden amber in colour.

Nose (5/5)

Sweet creme caramel with a lovely balance of peatiness.  This glass is over 2 feet away and I can clearly smell that beautiful peat.

Flavour (4.5/5)

Coating, slightly oily mouthfeel. There is an unmistakable campfire peatiness that won’t let you forget it’s Islay. Burnt caramel an dark malt are the stand out flavours.

Finish (4.5/5)

This dram has a warmth that sticks to the top of your mouth. It starts out in a powerful way and slowly develops into sweet raisons and dried fruit.  This one isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Rating: (17.5/20)


Posted by on 4th April 2011 in Scotch Whisky, Spirits


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