Want to be a whisky connoisseur?

Looking for something different to do in Canberra? If you want to learn more about wine or spirits then this might be just the thing for you. Last month I was invited to attend the Glenmorangie Single Malt Masterclass at Ainslie Cellars. I couldn’t make it because I already committed to attend the State of Origin event at GIO Stadium. Funnily enough I sat next to Rhys who ran the Masterclass at the Hyatt Canberra Veuve Clicquot Truffle Degustation Dinner the night after.

I haven’t always been a fan of whisky but over the years it has grown on me. Especially after trying Sulivans Cove Double Cask a few years ago. We also purchased a nice bottle when we were in Japan earlier this year. Now I’m partial to a nip or two of whisky every so often. I was really looking forward to the event and learning more about whisky so it was a shame I couldn’t attend.

Luckily for us the team at Ainslie Cellars have been kind enough to give us an insight into the night so we know what we missed out on….

On Wednesday 22n June, Whisky lovers were educated and satiated at a Glenmorangie Single Malt Masterclass at Ainslie Cellars. Representative Rhys Napthali was on hand to guide us on a journey through 6 different Glenmorangie Whiskies – the final of which was recently awarded ‘Whisky of the Year’ at the 2016 International Whisky Challenge.

The night began with a brief history of the Distillery, which was founded in 1843. At the heart of Glenmorangie’s tradition is the idea of purity. Glenmorangie boasts the tallest Copper Stills in Scotland – 5.14 metres. This added height means that only the lightest, purest vapours are used to produce even the most basic of Glenmorangie Whiskies. Glenmorangie’s most prized asset however, is its water source –The Talorgie Springs. The Spring contains rain water which has been filtered through layers of limestone and sandstone over hundreds of years. It is this process which imparts a unique ‘hard’ water quality. Believed to be the purest water in Scotland, it is unique to Glenmorangie, and tightly guarded! Master Distiller Dr. Bill Lumsden also believes in sourcing only the best American Oak to age their Whiskies. Dr. Bill and his team travel to the US to select which trees will go into their barrels. The barrels are first used to age Bourbon – this provides the perfect seasoning to mature Whisky, according to Dr. Bill.

The first Whisky of the night was ‘The Original’. Rhys recommended we “release the serpent” – Whisky talk for the addition of water (just a touch).  This whisky was delicately golden in colour, and had aromas of vanilla, citrus and stone-fruit. The vanilla and citrus carried through on the palate, with a burst of fruit and honey to finish.  It’s easy to see why this Whisky is so popular – not at all peaty like its Islay counterparts. ‘The Original’ has been aged for 10 years, and was to be the foundation of the tasting – all of the remaining Whiskies use ‘The Original’ as their base.

The second Whisky was ‘Lasanta’. This whisky had been aged in ex Sherry Barrels – in particular Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez Sherries. Lasanta is Gaelic for warmth – and warmth it did provide! Darker in colour than ‘The Original’, it had definitely taken on some of the rich aromas from the Pedro Ximenez – raisins, spices and home-made honeycomb. The palate revealed more complex notes of sherry, walnuts and Terry’s Chocolate Orange. This was a crowd favourite!

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The third Whisky in the line-up was ‘Quinta Ruban’. The name references the Ruby Port producers from where the barrels are sourced for this Whisky. ‘The Original’ base is placed into ex-Port barrels and aged for a further 2 years. This imparts a beautiful colour on the whisky – flecks of rose petal, over a sea of gold.  The nose tells a more dramatic story – nutmeg, white pepper and citrus. Upon ‘releasing the serpent’, the palate revealed rich, sweet notes of Turkish Delight and choc mint. Delicious!

The fourth Whisky of the night, was the ‘Nectar D’Or’. This Whisky is transferred into old Sauternes casks. Sauternes – in the region of Bordeaux, France – is famous for its sweet, ‘dessert’ wines. The beautiful, golden colour from the wines has transferred seamlessly into the Whisky. Heady aromas of marmalade, ginger and brulee seduced us all. We couldn’t wait to taste… and it didn’t disappoint! Initial flavours of honey, toffee and ginger gave way to vanilla, marzipan mouth-watering lemon curd. This Whisky truly blew us all away!

The penultimate Whisky of the night was the ‘Milsean’ – Milsean being Gaelic for ‘sweet things’.  Dr. Bill wanted to recreate the feeling of being in a sweet-shop as a child. This uniquely packaged whisky was matured in ex-wine barrels. With a little moisture from the wines still remaining, these barrels were toasted; the resulting sugar crystals giving this Whisky its unique ‘candy-like’ characteristic. The aromas were striking with honey, vanilla and sugar cane. The palate was undeniably sweet and candy-like followed by brown sugar, plums and cherries; there certainly was a lot going on here!

And finally, ‘Signet’ – The International Whisky Challenge’s ‘Whisky of the Year’. Arguably the most roguish example in the line-up, ‘Signet’ starts with Glenmorangie’s oldest whisky. This is blended with a unique spirit of cocoa, barley and malt. It was a project of passion for Dr. Bill who is a lover of coffee, and the flavour profile was definitely consistent with that too – aromas of coffee, hazelnut and lemon zest awoke the senses. The rich fudge -like, bitter cocoa flavours blew us away – this was definitely a winter Whisky; perfect for enjoying in front of the fire on a cold, Canberra night. Not for the faint hearted!

Ainslie Cellars’ Glenmorangie Master Class was enjoyed by everyone. The class aimed to educate attendees about whisky and Rhys was fantastic. Attendees learnt about the huge role that the choice of oak has on the finished product. All of these whiskies were essentially the same base – aged for 10 years in American White Oak – then transferred into different barrels, all of which impart different characteristics.

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If you want to learn about spirits or wine then come along to an Ainslie Cellars’ Master Class. Check out the Ainslie Cellars website or Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out when the next tasting or Masterclass is being held.