A few weeks ago I was invited to a whiskey tasting. I am definitely not a whiskey connoisseur but I know many people are very enthusiastic about the spirit so I thought this would be my opportunity to learn something about an unfamiliar drink. And I took Drew with me; because he’s in the ‘very enthusiastic about whiskey’ camp.
The launch of Kininvie Whiskey from the Scottish Highlands was held at Magazin, a private club in Sydney’s Darlinghurst that opened just over a year ago. Being a private club, there is no street signage to let you know you’ve arrived at your destination; just a nondescript grey door on the footpath of William Street.
Entering through the grey door, you descend a flight of stairs and this entrance to the club reminded me of walking into Marie’s Crisis in New York. Magazin is dark and once my eyes adjusted I was able to see little cafe tables in the centre of the fairly intimate space with booths lining the walls. The great thing about the booths is that there are drawers underneath the seat so you can store your hand bag – love that idea!
Like the Soho Clubs that are now in major cities around the world, Magazin is a member’s only club that’s known for being absolutely discreet and therefore photography is strictly banned. Magazin is a club where actors, celebrities, politicians and private individuals can relax and enjoy a drink knowing their every move isn’t being captured and splattered across social media.
Kininvie is owned by William Grant & Sons, a privately owned family company in the Scottish Highlands. William Grant founded the company in 1887 and today it owns brands such as Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, Grant’s, Hendrick’s gin, Sailor Jerry spiced rum and Drambuie Liquor.
The Kininvie distillery was opened in 1990 by Janet Roberts who was the last remaining granddaughter of William Grant. It’s known as a reclusive whiskey because for years it wasn’t available to the public, and has been exclusively enjoyed by the family and friends of the owners. In 2013 the Kininvie 23-year old Batch No.1 launched exclusively in Taiwan, then Batch No.2 was launched in the UK, the USA and mainland Europe in 2014. Both batches were sold out completely on launching.
Batch No.3 is now being launched in Australia. It’s sold in 350ml bottles that retail for $210.00 and each bottle displays the year of distillation, the batch number and the individual bottle number. The whiskey has an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 42.6% so I don’t think you’re meant to drink the entire bottle in one sitting.
The bottles have been carefully designed and have beautiful, discreet and minimalist packaging.
Drew and I sat in a booth and were given a welcome drink. It was an Old Fashioned, that cocktail the ad-men were always drinking on Mad-Men. It was made with Monkey Shoulder Whiskey, chocolate and served over ice. You could definitely smell chocolate so when I tasted it I was expecting there to be some sweetness but there wasn’t, it was whiskey with chocolate aromas.
Taking us through the tastings was Laura Hay, a whiskey specialist for William Grant & Sons. Laura was born in the Scottish Highlands and grew up very close to the Grant & Sons distilleries.
We were invited to try a couple of whiskeys that aren’t actually available on the market. The first was a Kininvie 1999 Bourbon Cask. It was very light in colour with honey tones.
The second was a Kininvie 1990 Sherry Cask that was notably darker in colour; a lot more rosy. Laura said when you smell whiskey you can pick up a variety of scents; I did think I could smell rich fruit cake and, if a bit extravagant, a nip or two of this would be excellent in a Christmas cake.
We then tried the 17-year old Kininvie that Laura asked us to smell and she said she could smell lemon meringue pie. I couldn’t smell any pies but apparently the aromas you get from smelling whiskey are quite individual. I did think I could smell citrus but unfortunately, with a head-cold and a blocked nose, picking up subtle aromas wasn’t easy.
The last whiskey of the evening was the 23-year old Kininvie, the whiskey that’s just been launched in Australia. There is a rich vanilla oakiness from the 23 years of maturation that gives an amazing depth of flavour and sweetness.
It was an excellent, fun and informative tasting that I thoroughly enjoyed however, at the end of the day when I’m looking for a drink to enjoy, I’m probably still more likely to reach for a glass of wine. I do appreciate however, that there are a lot of people who not only love but are very enthusiastic about whiskey. My husband is one of them and of all the events he’s come to as my wing-man, this was by far his favourite. He found the Kininvie whiskeys to be very special indeed and hopes that in his Christmas stocking, he’ll find a 350ml bottle of the 23-year old single malt whiskey.
Kininvie Whiskey is available at all good whiskey retailers for $210/bottle.