Reisetbauer 12 year old

Reisetbauer 12 Years Old

Score: 96/100

ABV: 48%

Origin: Austria

Price: €93-€123

Reisetbauer is a distillery in Austria that produces brandy and whisky. Nein that is not typo, I did say Austria! In 1995 Reisetbauer started distilling malt whisky that was designed to be (and is) distinctly Austrian. The barley used to make the wash is grown on the distillery owner’s four hectares of land and once the wash is distilled the new make spirit is matured in Chardonnay and Trockenbeerenauslese casks sourced exclusively from Austrian vineyards and used by Austrian winemakers Alois Kracher and Heinz Velich. Just in case you are wondering how on Earth to pronounce Trockenbeerenauslese, it is TROCK-en-BEHR-en-OWS-lay-zeh. Quite a mouthful, but as Austrian sounding as Schwarzenegger!  (that reminds me, happy birthday Arnie!)

Reisetbauer’s use of Austrian Chardonnay and Trockenbeerenauslese casks to mature their whisky is a breath of fresh air in an industry dominated by whisky aged in the bourbon casks, sherry casks or port casks. Wine casks are certainly becoming increasingly popular for ageing or finishing whisky, but the use of Trockenbeerenauslese casks by Reisetbauer is something particularly special. This is because Trockenbeerenauslese is a notoriously expensive dessert wine that is made from grapes that, once affected by a form of fungus known as “noble rot”, are individually selected and handpicked one by one. Shriveled and raisin-like from the “noble rot”, the grapes produce a wine with an intensely sweet and rich flavour.

In this review Malt Mileage tastes the Reisetbauer 12 year old.

The bouquet offers considerable depth and a rich herbal smokiness that immediately indicates that this whisky is very special and unique – the aroma of raspberries, cranberries, forest undergrowth, dry berry bushes, shiitake mushrooms, green olives, hazelnuts, water chestnuts, chocolate licorice bullets, pistachio baklava and sweet vanillas sit over the most curious savoury and sweet herbal notes that carry a whiff of astringent dryness.  On the palate the whisky is beautifully balanced with a tug of war breaking out between sweet and dry no doubt the result of the Trockenbeerenauslese casks, and then wisps of smoke drift over crumbling dried herbs and hard herbal candy, cranberries, red berry compote, hazelnuts, earthy snow pea shoots, anise, fennel, oyster sauce, Chinese mushrooms and chocolate.  On the finish the herbal notes remain with hints of cough syrup and drying prune notes at the top of the tongue.

Overall, the Reisetbauer 12 year old is an extraordinary whisky that is unmistakably Austrian. Being aged in Austrian Chardonnay and Trockenbeerenauslese casks this whisky is infused with aromas and flavours that will not be easily found in the vast majority of other whiskies on the market. Get the flavour profile of Scotch, Irish or even Japanese whisky out of your head. This is something very different, and yet intriguing and down right delicious! Its deep rich herbal smokiness with fascinating umami undertones is certainly something to be experienced. I’m already salivating for more.

Reisetbauer 12 year old is definitely a whisky to try before you die.

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Mackmyra brukswhisky

Mackmyra brukswhisky

Score: 95/100

ABV: 41.4%

Origin: Sweden

Price: $65 (Aus), £35.99 (UK)

Mackmyra is a whisky distillery located in Sweden. It is the brainchild of eight friends who, tucked away in a mountain lodge in the spring of 1998, wondered why there was no Swedish whisky in the vast ocean of whisky in the world. Mackmyra was born a year later in 1999 and the first drops of their Swedish whisky were distilled on 18 December 1999. Mackmyra now produce a range of interesting, refreshingly different and, I’ll admit, pretty darn exciting expressions that make use of Swedish oak (which is said to infuse whisky with a fiery spiciness) and a signature “Mackmyra smoke” (peat flavoured with fresh juniper twigs) to produce whisky that is not only distinctly Swedish but unmistakably Mackmyra.

Mackmyra Brukswhisky is made from whisky that is matured in bourbon casks, sherry casks and Swedish oak casks, and it is given a hint of juniper smoke with the addition of Mackmyra’s smoky variety of whisky. This certainly sounds very innovative and creative, because the vast majority of whisky tends to be matured in bourbon casks and/or sherry casks. Mackmyra appear to be pushing the boundaries in this case and creating a whisky that is truly distinctive by infusing it with flavours from Swedish oak and juniper smoke. I am getting thirty just thinking about it! 

The bouquet is fresh, light and crisp with intriguing notes that immediately astound – creamy vanilla, citrus, orange peel, manuka honey, fragrant flowers, pot pouri, sweet tree sap, warm baklava with nuts and honey, raspberry and milk bottle lollies, perfumed soaps, mild licorice, incense and hints of smoke. On the palate the whisky is extraordinarily balanced and offers notes of cooked pear, fresh orange, honey, hard lollies (Berwick cockles, licorice candy and minties come to mind), dark chocolate, fragrant wood, and all the while an underlying heat radiates rigid flecks of spice from the palate in the form of cinnamon,  star anise, fiery peppermint and fisherman’s friends. The finish is refreshing and warming with spices and the continuing burn of peppermint/fisherman’s friends, as undertones of sweet wine intermingle with raisin, apricot custard Danish pastry, oak notes and orange rind.  

Overall, Mackmyra Brukswhisky is a soft, crisp, fresh and super smooth whisky with superbly integrated yet complex flavours. Its flavours are superbly balanced and project a distinct style that is Mackmyra, which not only makes it extremely drinkable but a refreshing change for those looking to broaden their whisky horizons and explore not only Mackmyra’s distillate, Swedish oak or juniper smoke but also some masterful blending by the Mackmyra team led by Angela D’Orazio. She should also be pleased to know that my Dad, a beginner whisky drinker who does not much enjoy spirits neat, sipped a dram of Mackmyra Brukswhisky with delight while he made a big pot of pasta sauce – he said it is the first whisky he has enjoyed. My continuing efforts to convert yet another person into a whisky drinker may just have succeeded, thanks to Mackmyra! Tack så mycket.

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Bowmore Small Batch

 

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Score: 88/100

ABV: 40%

Origin: Islay, Scotland

Price: $79.99 (Aus), £36.95 (UK)

Bowmore has sat on the shore of the Loch Indaal on the Isle of Islay since 1779, and it is at this idyllic spot on the “Jewell of the Hebrides” that Bowmore has been plying its trade for about 235 years. One of its newest expressions is the Bowmore Small Batch, a No Age Statement whisky that is matured in first and second fill ex-bourbon casks. The idea, at least on paper, is to draw out vanillas, spices and some bourbon inspired flavours from the first fill cask (which has held whisky for the very first time, so its has lots of flavour to give the whisky) and combine with some softer flavours from the second fill cask (because this cask has been used already and therefore has less flavour to give the whisky the second time it is filled). Bowmore bring together whisky matured in both first and second fill ex-bourbon casks and marry them together to create the Bowmore Small Batch.

No Age Statement whiskies are often over-complicated by people who work in the industry. These whiskies do not disclose the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle, and therefore consumers do not know how many years the youngest whisky in the bottle spent maturing in casks. There may be many reasons for producing No Age Statement whiskies, but the most obvious reason is that the producer does not want consumers to know the age of the youngest whisky in a particular bottling – it may be 4 years old, 10 years old or 20 years old. The concern for producers, and rightly so in my opinion, is that people put too much stock into age statements and many assume that a whisky does get better with age. This is not always the case, and I have enjoyed very young whiskies while at the same time I have been very disappointed by single malts aged for 25, 30 or even 40 years. No Age Statements are not always about “hiding” information from consumers, but they can also be about protecting a brand by making sure consumers do not judge a whisky by its age statement only. Age statements are a delicate topic, but in my experience the reputable producers tend to produce No Age Statement whiskies that uphold the hard earned reputation of their brand – take Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Glenmorangie Signet or one of the best Ardbeg’s you could lay your hands on in the Corryvreckan.  Age statements may be too heavily relied upon and therefore a whisky with a small number on its bottle (“4 years old”, for example) may be unfairly overlooked in favour of an older whisky. Sometimes a consumer does want to know how long their particular pride and joy for that month spent laying in a cask, for that romantic moment of awe you get when sipping on an old whisky or maybe just for transparency and to know what their hard earned money buys them. Other times, a No Age Statement whisky may do just fine when all that matters is how the whisky tastes. Those times might just call for the Bowmore Small Batch.

The bouquet is fresh, light and crisp with notes of citrus accompanying soft waves of peat, an ocean breeze, caramel, pot pouri, scented candle, honey, Ferrero rocher, sour gummy bears, sour green apple, and very mild hints of vanilla with plenty of honey. On the palate the whisky is soft and slightly oily with an enjoyable mouth-feel, offering notes of vanilla, raisin, peat, damp wood with wood spice, lime and sea salt, with a more fresh vegetal cut grass melding with the peat from mid-palate and into the finish. On the finish the peat and sea salt fade, though not entirely, remaining beneath fresh watery vegetal notes and hints of vanilla, bourbon, lime in cola and honey.

Overall, Bowmore Small Batch is a very enjoyable single malt whisky that, despite erring on the young side, is a refreshing and relatively complex dram. It is a great value whisky that is clean, fresh, smooth, relatively light and easy drinking, and particularly drinkable on ice. At its price, I have no complaints though I still prefer the Bowmore Enigma 12 year old and Bowmore 18 year old for their added complexity, depth, richness and age.

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Whisky Live Melbourne 2014

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Whisky Live is a whisky festival where people can taste a selection of different whiskies at the ticketed price of $99. The venue for Whisky Live Melbourne 2014 was the St Kilda Town Hall, where about 100 whiskies sat waiting for a horde of thirsty whisky drinkers no doubt keen to get their moneys worth. This year, I attended Whisky Live Melbourne on Friday 18 July 2014 and tasted (a little too many of) the whiskies on offer.

On my first glance at all the whiskies on offer for tasting my feeling of excitement quickly faded. While vast, the selection of whiskies on offer was predictable and mostly reflected what is available at Dan Murphy’s (which is certainly good but hardly pushes the boundaries). An “Old and Rare” bar was available offering for sale measures of, you guessed it, old and rare whisky (a concept I struggled to understand particularly because it cost $99 to get into the venue in the first place and, last I checked, most bars don’t have a $99 door charge). There was also a Duty Free section featuring various Travel Retail whiskies and an interesting stall set up by the bar Whisky & Alement, but hardly anything to prompt curiosity and excite the senses in any significant way. That said there were notable brands missing – Laphroaig, Sullivan’s Cove, Nant, Ardbeg, Macallan, and Glenmorangie weren’t there, and despite NZ Whisky Co being listed on the Whisky Live Melbourne website not a single Kiwi whisky passed my lips that night.

I swooped on expressions that I had not tasted for a while or those with which I was not intimately familiar. The selection of whiskies on offer – despite being so predictable – was vast and included some expensive expressions available for tasting, including the delectable Glenlivet XXV. I only got a chance to taste these expressions properly towards the end of the evening, because by that stage the venue was less crowded and I was able to finally get my whisky glass noticed! There was also plenty of food available to match with whiskies or to help clear the palate, though the best of it was very quick to vanish.

Overall, Whisky Live Melbourne was a fun way to spend Friday night.  For those who are relatively new to the whisky world Whisky Live seems like an exciting event that provides a great opportunity to explore different whiskies available on the Australian market. For the whisky enthusiast already familiar with Whisky Live, that $99 may be better spent at a specialist whisky bar buying nips of whatever poison tickles your fancy.

Most impressive drams tasted on the night:

  • Glenlivet XXV
  • Bowmore 18 year old
  • Glengoyne Cask Strength Batch 001
  • Jameson Signature Reserve
  • Jura Prophecy

Most disappointing drams tasted on the night: 

  • Glen Moray 25 year old
  • Hellyer’s Road 12 year old
  • Johnnie Walker The Royal Route

Doug van Tienen from Whisky Live Spits the Dummy and tries to bully Malt Mileage 

Several days after publishing my review of Whisky Live Melbourne 2014, Malt Mileage received a very rude and aggressive e-mail from Doug van Tienen which appears as though it wanted to scare and bully me into changing my review. It threatened to ban me from Whisky Live and take “further action”, all for writing an honest and accurate review of Whisky Live Melbourne 2014. Good try Doug, but that childish behaviour won’t fly with me. Here is the e-mail, and my responses. Yet another fun encounter with a BULLY. We all know what to do with bullies, don’t we?

Dear Doug, 

Malt Mileage response:
 
I refer to your e-mail dated 23 July 2014. I will respond to each of your allegations in turn (in bold and in blue), each of which reflect the lack of care you have shown in reading my review of Whisky Live Melbourne. You have clearly either misread it, or you are just very upset that I did not much like your event. This however does not excuse the tenor of your e-mail, which is very impolite and aggressive. I struggled to believe it was really from you, but your official e-mail address confirms your identity.  
 
I am appalled by your rude e-mail and your threats in response to my honest and accurate review, particularly given that you have no causes of action and your threats are purely in response to my honest and accurate review of Whisky Live Melbourne. Frankly, this calls into question your integrity because it appears as though you want me to change my review for no good reason and just because you do not like it. As I will explain below, there were no errors or inaccuracies in my review. I demand an apology immediately. 

Doug: 
 
1. NZ whisky where at whisky live Melbourne
 
Malt Mileage response:
 
“Was”, you mean? My review clearly states that “not a single Kiwi whisky passed my lips that night.” I did not say they were not at the event. If NZ Whisky Co was there, I did not see them and a NZ Whisky Co whisky did not pass my lips – a much regrettable situation, given the superb NZ Whisky Co 21 year old. Perhaps this could be because – in my opinion – you tried to pack in too many people into the venue and the stall may have been obscured by the back of peoples heads? How, might I ask, is this inaccurate? 

Doug:
 
2. Many expressions were new.
 
Malt Mileage response:
 
Great, and how does this concern me? Many were still predictable and quite readily available, and as an Australian who likes to visit bottle shops regularly I would have loved to see Whisky Live push the boundaries a little more than it did.  

Doug:
 
3. The $99 included dinner which you failed to mention was added to the event.
 
Malt Mileage response:
 
No, my review clearly states “There was also plenty of food available to match with whiskies or to help clear the palate” and I even included a picture of the dinner in my review just in case people were curious about the sludge you were serving. Yes, I think it was sludge. Don’t hurt me. 

Doug:
 
4. Brands that you stated were missing are all in Dan’s or do not have enough stock in the country to exhibit. Most of these brands were not missed by consumers.
 
Malt Mileage response:
 
I do not understand this fourth point. Just because they are available at the shops does this mean anything to me as a person who paid $99 to get into your event? I disagree that Laphroag, Sullivan’s Cove or The Macallan was not missed by consumers. Macallan, for instance, is among the best selling of single malts in the world (I am unsure of rank in 2014). Not enough stock in the country to exhibit? Are you being serious? Doug:
 
Your blog is factually incorrect yet again
 
Malt Mileage response:
 
Yet again? how so?Doug:
 
I ask you to correct the artical or I will BAN you form ever attending another WHISKY LIVE.
 
Malt Mileage response:
 
There is nothing to correct, as everything is accurate. You cannot ban me from Whisky Live for writing an honest and factually correct review, can you? 

Doug:
 
GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT !!!!!!!
 
Malt Mileage response:
 
I did. You clearly did not read my review, at least carefully. Doug:
 
PS an Apology to the NZ whisky Company is due I will forward this to the directors to ask if they would like to take further action.
 
Malt Mileage response:
 
I see no reason to make an apology as there is nothing to apologise about in my view. If it is about my regret that a Kiwi whisky did not pass my lips that night, I struggle to see how this has anything to do with them and the blame falls squarely on you as the organiser of the event – too many heads, you see. In any case, to my friends at NZ Whisky Co, keep up the great work! (would you forward that to the directors, too?) 
 
Quite frankly I am appalled by your e-mail. I am absolutely dumbfounded that a person holding out to be a representative of Whisky Live would write such a rude, aggressive and unprofessional e-mail which clearly shows an intolerance for honest reviews. You won’t be scaring me into changing anything. 
 
Yours faithfully, 
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Bowmore “Enigma” 12 year old

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Score: 94/100

ABV: 40%

Origin: Islay, Scotland

Price: $80-$90 (Aus)

Bowmore has sat on the shore of the Loch Indaal on the Isle of Islay since 1779, and it is at this idyllic spot on the “Jewell of the Hebrides” that Bowmore has been plying its trade for about 235 years. Bowmore make no secret of the fact that its whisky is usually intended to have two main characteristics. The first characteristic is the smell and taste of the salty sea which is said to be infused into the spirit as the oak barrels sit maturing by the bashing waves of the Atlantic ocean. The second characteristic, and by far the most difficult to achieve in my view, is a balance that showcases all the components of this classic coastal Scotch working in synchronization without any particular component dominating – the peat, barley, alcohol, oak, and salty sea must work together to create a flavour profile that is unmistakably Bowmore at first whiff and first taste. Bowmore has produced many expressions and some hit the mark while others, at least in my opinion, do not. When making this Bowmore Enigma I think the folks at Bowmore have come incredibly close to striking the elusive bulls-eye for that highly sought-after “balance” for which Bowmore prides itself. The Enigma emits the taste of the sea with integrated flavours that are so impeccably balanced that the whisky itself is dangerously “more-ish” and makes me want to throw away the cork and melt into a Chesterfield with a cigar lit and puff away into the early hours with good company a remote control firmly affixed to my hand.

Bowmore 12 year old “Enigma” is a single malt Scotch whisky with a higher proportion of sherry matured whisky than the standard Bowmore 12 year old. This makes the Bowmore Enigma a richer, sweeter and more complex dram than the standard Bowmore 12 year old bottling. This richness, sweetness and complexity also seems to play an integral part in counteracting the peat and sea salt more successfully than in the standard Bowmore 12 year old bottling – amazing what a bit more sherry influenced whisky can do!

The bouquet offers soft vanillas and layers of honey that sit behind the soft wafts of peat that intermingle with chocolate fudge, caramel and the most curious (and mouthwatering) aroma of hoisin sauce and Peking duck. On the palate the sherry wood becomes more noticeable and it wrestles with the peat and brine that immediately hits the taste buds – sherry, dried cranberries, dark chocolate and mild vanillas counteract the peat and brine, through which shines moderating rays of lemon zest, mandarin peel, honey and fresh persimmon that soften the burn of spices. The finish offers sea salt and an intensifying peaty smokiness that leaves the aftertaste of a salty seaweed laden Japanese miso with something sweet, red, sticky and delicious beaming through.

Bowmore Enigma is now in my liquor cabinet as my “go to” dram when I want an easy drinking Islay malt with great balance – a beautiful whisky. At its price, it is a Travel Retail whisky I would not hesitate buying when rushing through an international terminal or arriving home after a long flight.

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Palazzo Versace

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Palazzo Versace is a resort located in the Gold Coast, Australia. Over the weekend I had the opportunity to stay at the Palazzo Versace and immerse myself in what it had to offer, from its opulent ambiance and lavish rooms to its delectable food all savoured with the most exquisite Versace designed tableware. This review captures my impressions of the Palazzo Versace, including my thoughts on its accommodation, bars, dining, facilities, service and value.

Accommodation & Ambiance – 10/10

On first entering the Palazzo Versace, it is clear that it has been painstakingly designed to create a luxurious Italianesque feel. The lobby is made of marble and features complex mosaics that include the Versace pattern and famous Medusa. The décor of the lobby is also carefully selected and everything works very well together, such that it feels like an experience just sitting in the lobby! Often I would just sit and admire the attention to detail in the marble floor, ceiling, chandelier and furniture.

Our room was the Deluxe Suite which is a large 60m2 suite with two rooms, a bedroom with bathroom and shower and a lounge room with mini bar, a desk, dining table, lounge, mini-bar and another toilet. The room was immaculate and always extremely clean.

The Palazzo Versace had pools and access to an indoor spa area with heated pool, sauna, steam room and tea – perfect for the colder months.

Drinking – 8.5/10

Palazzo Versace has two bars, but I found myself mostly at the Le Jardin bar in the lobby. The opulent marble lobby came to life in the evenings with the rhythmic sound of a live jazz band, and as soon as the sun went down suddenly the Palazzo Versace transformed into something out of Casablanca. The whiff of whisky and the unlit Cuban cigar sitting in my front pocket was accompanied by a beautifully played double bass guitar as Greta’s smile beamed at me in the dimmed light – a magical moment in a Versace designed heaven.

Le Jardin Bar offers a wide variety of drinks and cocktails, but it proudly puts gin at the centre of its drinks menu. Palazzo Versace welcomes its guests to try its “Gin Palace”, which provides a variety of gin and gin based cocktails. Malt Mileage was lucky enough to be taken through the menu by Mixologist Tim Glasson, an extremely knowledgeable bar manager whose passion for gin is reflected in the quality and creativity of his cocktails. The first cocktail tasted was the 1798 Gin Cocktail which is a mix of Gordon’s gin, ginger syrup and orange bitters which are aged for two weeks in a five litre American oak uncharred barrel. The second cocktail tasted was the 1877 U.G.L.Y.G.F (“gin fizz”) which was made up of Beefeater 24 gin, fresh mandarin, lemonade and thyme and created for the Leukemia Foundation’s bartender of the year competition in August 2013. The third cocktail tasted was the Dunna-tell-her which was made up of Sipsmith gin, citrus, rose water, crème de violette, lavender bitters, cream and egg white.

The 1798 Gin Cocktail was an elegant cocktail with a simple but beautifully balanced entry of citrus and heavy orange with developing complex flavours on the finish. The 1877 U.G.L.Y.G.F (“gin fizz”) was light and fresh with an initial citrus burst that made it a tart temptress, ingeniously balanced by sugar on the rim of the glass. The Dunna-tell-her was our least favourite of the evening, a very sweet entry fuses with a drying nip of alcohol that leads into a floral and distinctly herbaceous finish that left me wondering whether there was simply too much going on in this confusing cocktail. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Also at Le Jardin bar I had the opportunity to indulge in whisky, cognac, rum and tequila to celebrate my birthday (and all served in the most stylish Versace glassware!). This included the Hennessy Paradis a brandy from Cognac in France ($45 per glass), Chivas Regal 25 year old a blended whisky from Scotland ($40 per glass), Olmeco Reposado a tequila from the Highlands region($11 per glass), and St James Ambre Rhum Agricole from Martinique ($12 per glass). Palazzo Versace also very kindly dug up a rum out of its reserves which was not on the menu and let me try it, the Les Heritiers Crassous de Medeuil Rhum J.M from Martinique (price unknown, compliments of Palazzo Versace). To top it all off, I enjoyed a Romeo y Julieta No 1 with a Hennessy Paradis and called it a night.

Dining – 9/10

Palazzo Versace offers a la carte dining, buffer dining and a degustation. We had the opportunity to try the degustation at Vanitas restaurant (a lovely birthday gift from Greta) and the buffet breakfast and seafood buffet at Il Barocco restaurant.

Vanitas Restaurant

The degustation at Vanitas restaurant was so enjoyable and the evening with Greta flowed with so much laughter that I got caught in the moment. The pre-dinner cocktails from Le Jardin bar and champagne during dinner made for a boozy fun filled degustation, the intricate details of which allude me now apart from the fact that the food was superb and enjoyed with stunning Versace tableware, the conversation and laughter flowed along with the food and we left with big smiles on our faces. Luckily, I did remember to take pictures of some courses.

Il Barocco Restaurant

Much more sober than on my birthday dinner, we also tried the seafood buffet and Il Barocco Restaurant. It was delightful – fresh oysters, oysters Kilpatrick, bugs, crab, the best pork belly I have had in a long time and delicious mini desserts were the most popular items of the evening for us, and all washed down by sparkling wine.

The breakfast buffet was also very good with everything you would expect of a five star hotel’s breakfast.

Service – 9/10

The service was excellent during out stay, very attentive and polite. There were some minor issues in terms of staff not listening properly to orders (for instance I received drinks on ice when I asked for them to be “neat”) but all mistakes were quickly rectified.

Value – 6/10

Palazzo Versace is an expensive place to stay, and eat. The drinks at Le Jardin were reasonably priced in my opinion, but the cost of the food was high (particularly the pool menu).

Overall – 8.5/10  

Palazzo Versace is a luxurious place to have a getaway filled with opulence and service of the highest order, but be prepared to pay for it. It is a place where the accommodation, food, drinks, service, ambiance and facilities all combine to create a hotel is that fully deserving of a star rating that should exceed five. I suppose that comes with a price, and understandably so. Until we meet again.

Palazzo Versace is now the scene of a beautiful collection of memories.

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Hine Homage

Hine homageScore: 87/100

ABV: 40%

Origin: Cognac, France (aged in the UK)

Price: $120

Hine Homage is a blend of “early landing cognacs” from three vintages – 1984, 1986 and 1987 – that were distilled from fermented grapes grown in the Grande Champagne region of Cognac, known as the best place to grow grapes for cognac due to its chalky soil. In an interesting twist, these vintages were matured in the United Kingdom together with some extra old cognacs that had already been aged in Hine’s warehouse in Jarnac, France.

An “early landed cognac” is a cognac that reaches British shores before it is two years old and is then aged. They have an interesting character that is different to their cousins that are aged in Cognac, France. The cold temperature in England means that the cognac absorbs the oak flavours differently than in France. The cold of England may tighten the oak pores and cause the alcohol to drop without much evapouration, which in turn means that cognac aged in England may not soak up the colours and flavours of oak barrels (and the cellars) as much as cognac aged in France. “Early landed cognac” tends to offer more crisp fresh fruit and grape but less wood influence than cognac of similar age matured in France. This one, for instance, offers crisp clean fruit but without the cheesy truffle notes commonly associated with “rancio” (a characteristic often seen in Cognac aged for at least 10 years). That pronounced fruitiness means that the aromas and flavours of the grape and particular vintage years can be explored.

The vintages – 1984, 1986 and 1987 – are important. Cognac is basically distilled wine, so the character of the wine is concentrated. If a year is particularly hot, then the grapes will be too ripe and this will result with cognac that is flat and lazy. The bad news is that 1984 and 1987 are recognised as poor years for brandy, so it is believed that grapes grown in 1984 and 1987 tend to produce cognacs lacking in depth and complexity.* That leaves 1986, and this may explain why Hine decided to make this a blend – the vintages may work better that way.

They do.

The bouquet offers orange, lemon peel, saffron, acidic white grape and hints of licorice. It is essentially what you would expect of an “early landed cognac” – lots of fruit, citrus, grape and some waves of oak but nothing compared to cognacs of the same age matured in France. This cognac is fresh and crisp, but somewhat lazy with only occasional surges of sprightly citrus. On the palate the entry is unspectacular, but then at mid-palate some magic happens – denser orange extract, licorice, burnt peel, chocolate and fruit emerge, fading into a finish that retains orange slices dusted with cocoa but introduces Sambuca and earthy undertones of mushroom.

Overall, Hine Homage is a crisp, fresh and fruity cognac with – as expected from cognac aged in the UK – less oak influence than most cognac aged in France and of a similar age.  It is somewhat of a slothful cognac on the nose and the entry, but then at mid-palate it tries its darnedest to redeem itself – a slow starter that gets there in the end. Hine Homage is a great example of an “early landed cognac” that is sure to please people who enjoy soft, fruity cognacs with some bite at mid-palate. I sure did, whatever they might say about vintages!

Buy up big, “early landed cognacs” will be illegal from 2020!

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