The Quaich Bar Signature Reserve Collection Part 1

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The Whisky Store and The Quaich Bar

In 2005, Joyce and Khoon Hui established a whisky kiosk in Tanglin Mall called The Whisky Store. Such was the venture’s success, they opened Singapore’s first whisky bar the following year. Now, more than 15 years later, the Quaich Bar is thriving, with a second premises at South Beach Avenue.

This year, The Whisky Store and Quaich Bar have launched a new Collectors Club that aims to make exceptional whisky more available. Club members will be able to buy new and exclusive bottlings individually or as a set of 6 or 12. A three-tier pricing structure makes it beneficial to purchase the whisky earlier. The longer you wait, the more you’ll pay.

To launch this new Signature Reserve Collection, the Quaich Bar has worked with Scotch whisky industry veteran, Frank McHardy. With a long and esteemed career, taking in stints at Tamnavulin, Bushmills and Bruichladdich, McHardy is perhaps best known for his time at Springbank and his work overseeing the rebirth of Glengyle distillery.

Frank has selected 12 unique casks from a variety of Scotch distilleries. Below I’ve provided tasting notes and some thoughts on the first three bottlings. Three more will follow in Part 2 of this review.

For more on the Quaich Bar, Singapore visit here

For more on the Whisky Store, Singapore visit here

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Aberfeldy

Aberfeldy distillery was established by John and Tommy Dewar in 1896. It produces a Highland single malt often used in Dewar’s Blended Scotch whisky.

Official bottlings are of a decent standard whilst independent bottlings are infrequent but not unheard of.

Distilled 2005 and bottled 2021 at 55.3%.

Smell: Grist and barley flour. Vanilla. Freshly baked bread. Floral honey. A touch of citrus peel. Marmalade. Baking spices. Sawdust.

Taste: Toffee. Butterscotch – Werther’s Originals. Pepper. Honey. Orange. Barley sugar. Cinnamon. A splash of water settled the peppery spice a little and improved the balance of the dram. Some apple and biscuit notes coming through, as well.

Thoughts: A demonstration of the art of keeping things simple. In short, it’s been left alone to do its thing for a decent amount of time. The result is a mature, rounded malt that displays perfect harmony between spirit, cask and time.

It’s got a lovely weight on the palate, something I don’t recall noticing in any previous Aberfeldy bottling. Particularly after the addition of water, it developed a rather luxurious mouth feel with that lovely buttery quality emerging over time. In terms of flavour profile there’s nothing unusual or unique going on but in the quality of its execution, the dram stands above regular, every day offerings.

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Braeval

Once known as Braes of Glenlivet, Braeval changed its name to avoid any confusion with its famous neighbour. Single malt bottlings are rare, even among independent bottlers with the vast majority of the distillery’s spirit being used for blended Scotch.

Distilled in 1997, this single malt was aged for 24 years before bottling at 49.5%.

Smell: Quite fruity. Pineapple and white grapes. Marmalade and honey. Also a bit of coconut and almonds. Malt and baking spices. Cinnamon.

Taste: Pineapple. Mango. Orange. Caramel. Ginger biscuits. Black pepper. Subtle oaky finish. Water brought out some chocolate and sultana.

Thoughts: Another whisky that steers clear of overpowering oak. Again, it’s all about balance. Neither spirit nor cask dominate but the dram shows its age in subtle ways. There’s an undercurrent of oak that lingers well into the finish that hints at the whisky’s two decades but in other ways it’s remarkably fresh, having developed some vibrant tropical notes along the way. That fruity character only seemed to intensify the longer the whisky sat in my glass. 49.5% is a nice drinking strength, too. You can add a bit of water to open things up but you don’t need to drown it to save your scorched taste buds.

Another fine dram. Upon first impression I thought it inferior to the Aberfeldy but that opinion has changed. After all, it took 24 years to make this whisky. The least I could do was give it some time before making up my mind. After about 15 minutes it felt like the flavours had concentrated, becoming more intense and ultimately, more satisfying.

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Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain is the most northerly distillery on the isle of Islay. Unlike many of the island’s distilleries, it mostly produces unpeated single malt, though peated versions are available.

Aged for 12 years, this single cask was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2021 at 67.1%.

Smell: 67.1% is a rather incredible strength but it shows surprising restraint on the nose. Make no mistake, you can tell it’s strong but it doesn’t quite strip away the nostril hairs the way you expect it to. Lots of sherry influence in the form of dried fruits, cherry, walnut, leather and dark chocolate. Dark caramel. Maple syrup.

Taste: This whisky might go easy on the nostrils where its massive strength is concerned but it makes up for it on the palate. Your tongue feels every bit of that 67.1% on first encounter. Second time around, however, you get all the lovely sherry coming through. Chocolate raisins. Gingerbread. More spicy heat. With a splash of water there’s some cherry, some coffee beans and tobacco leaves.

Thoughts: It’s rather ferocious at first but with a bit of water this sherry-bomb Bunnahabhain becomes something of a loveable rogue. I don’t think it could possibly be any more different from the two previous drams. Where the Aberfeldy and Braeval were all about balance and harmony, this monster is about taking things to the extreme. Admittedly, it takes a while to get past that fire but when you do there’s a luxurious sipper of incredible depth to be savoured. Pick of the bunch for me. No question.

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