Suntory Hibiki Japanese Harmony – Devotion

I will keep trying to climb until I reach the top, even though no one knows where the top is.” The phrase is from the nonagenarian Jiro Ono, protagonist of a documentary I recently watched on Amazon: Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Jiro is the owner and chef of a restaurant that serves only sushi, called Sukiyasbashi Jiro. The space, with only ten seats, kept from 2007 to 2019 a three star rating by the Michelin Guide – the maximum award. In 2019 Sukiyasbashi Jiro lost its stars. But not by demerit. But because it became so famous that it does not accept reservations to the general public anymore.

The documentary, released in 2012, shows the chef’s crystalline devotion for his occupation. Jiro obsesses about the placement of the mats on his counter and points out where each customer should sit. Jiro massages each octopus for at least forty-five minutes, to make it more juicy. Jiro knows the exact story of each piece consumed in his establishment, and he watches his diners diligently – a longer blink of an eye may be a sign that something has changed. Jiro was born to make sushi. His success is almost a natural extension of him.

What’s up, Barack, is the fish-y tast-ey?

It is something that, in a way, could also be said of Suntory, Japan’s largest whisky producer. Its first label was launched in 1929. Today, its success is undeniable. The brand’s products are so desired that the more mature expressions even had to be discontinued. It could – the attention to detail, from the liquid to the packaging, is so meticulous that it even looks like that of an award-winning sushiman.

And after a long hiatus, two Suntory labels finally arrived in Brazil, to complete the portfolio with Roku Gin, Haku Vodka and The Chita. They are the single malt Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve – part of a future tasting of this Dog – and the Hibiki Japanese Harmony, blended whisky and the object of this article.

According to Suntory, Hibiki Japanese Harmony is considered the cornerstone of the Hibiki blending line, and carries the same base malts and grain whisky as the most mature expressions, Hibiki 17 and 21 years old. There are three. Yamazaki, responsible for a good part of the sweet and candied fruit notes of the blend; Hakushu, which brings a slight impression of smoke and iodine and The Chita, which brings sweetness and balance to the mix – “daishi” as the company itself defines.

The maturation takes part in five different types of barrels, from three different species of oak. The ex-bourbon American serves as a base – with sweetness and vanilla. The European oak previously used for sherry wine brings seasoning, as well as the rare Japanese oak, known as mizunara.

Hibiki Japanese Harmony shows how complex the creation of a blended whisky is, and the level of knowledge of its master blender, Shinji Fukuyo. Its components must be combined in order to bring harmony, drinkability, but, at the same time, personality. To paraphrase Jiro Ono “there is a balance between fish and rice. If it is not in perfect harmony, it will not be good ”. Attention should be paid to balance, in order to avoid that certain whisky does not stand out, but also to let part of the character of each one be noticed. This is actually the biggest challenge for every blender in the world.

Shinji Fukuyo, dreaming of sushi

But in the case of the Japanese, there is yet another setback. The raw material is incredibly scarce, because there is a huge demand for Japanese malts in the world. And the blend must have standardization, consistency – Hibikis Japanese Harmonies must always have the same sensory profile. Achieving this with limited resources is not a trivial job

There is an interesting symbology behind the bottle, too. The name Hibiki means “resonance” or “harmony”. It is as if Japanese Harmony were doubly harmonic. The bottle has twenty-four distinct faces, which symbolize twenty-four seasons of the traditional Japanese calendar.

Sensorially, Hibiki Japanese Harmony is a very balanced, fruity and floral whisky. There are citrus notes, as well as vanilla, cinnamon, black pepper and coconut. The flavor intensity is higher than the average of blended whiskies, but there is almost no aggressiveness. The texture is somewhat reminiscent of its counterpart, Haku Vodka. It is curious how the Hibiki Japanese Harmony is essentially a luxury blend, but it also sensorially appeals to the enthusiast because of its intensity.

In Brazil, a bottle of Hibiki Japanese Harmony costs approximately 700 reais. It is not cheap – but it is a price consistent with other luxury blends. Some of them, also without an age stated on the label.

Hibiki Japanese Harmony is, in a way, the most perfect summary of the Japanese technique and dedication in producing whiskies. Not even his magnificent single malts – with my dear Hakushu – are a better testament to his technique. Look, my dear Jiro, I’m not sure where the top is either – but Hibiki is close to him.


Type: No age statement blended whisky

Brand: Suntory

Region: N / A

ABV: 43%

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: citrus, vanilla. Cinnamon and coconut in the background.

Flavor: Honey, candied fruit, floral, vanilla. Persistent finish, with coconut, cinnamon and a little black pepper.

Where to find: Caledonia Whiskey & Co., in São Paulo, and other selected retailers.

Suntory Haku Vodka – On Distinct Experiences

A couple of years ago, I went with my father to a sophisticated Chinese restaurant and ordered an improbable dish. Shark fin soup. We went there just for that, in the most innocent curiosity. Shark fin soup is a typical Chinese dish, usually served only on very special occasions. Weddings, for example. It was invented in the Song dynasty, and is still seen today by much of the population of China as a symbol of prestige two pounds of fin can cost well over four hundred reais.

But the most curious thing, however, is not the stellar price of the delicacy. But something that, before the experiment, we didn’t know: shark fin has no taste at all. The texture is curious, kind of gelatinous and slippery. But the taste is totally neutral. It is the other ingredients of the dish – chicken broth, seafood and spices – that add flavor to it.

It does not look very good either.

And there was nothing wrong with us. It’s not that our tastebuds were faulty or something. Because there is jurisprudence on this. International chef Gordon Ramsay once made a quote about such a fin “It is really bizarre. Because it has no taste at all. It’s like glass noodles. The soup is delicious. But there could be anything there – chicken, duck, corn “. I have to agree, albeit a little disappointed about the taste of the dish. In a world where everything is ephemeral and we are occupied with empty experiences, eating shark fin broth can be doubly insignificant.

A distillate that has maintained a similar reputation for a long time is vodka. Dave Wondrich once said that “Vodka is the boneless, skinless chicken breast from the cocktail shop – everything has to do with the seasoning“. However, there are vodkas that challenge this concept. Some have very particular flavors, albeit delicate. This is the case, for example, of Haku Vodka, which has just landed in Brazil officially through Beam-Suntory.

The base of Haku Vodka is rice, which is fermented and distilled in stills, creating a kind of low-grain wine. Afterwards, this product is redistilled, both in stills and in distillation columns. Finally, the distillate is collected and filtered on bamboo charcoal, removing the heavier congeners, and making Haku even more delicate. It is a very meticulous process.

Haku Vodka’s production takes place under the same roof as Roku Gin. It is a distillery located in Kaigandori, Osaka, belonging to Suntory – very close to Yamazaki, where the wonderful homonymous sigle malt is produced. The space is also known as the “Suntory Liquor Atelier

The atelier

The name “Haku” has an interesting ambiguity. The word can mean either “white” – in reference to rice – or “bright”, a tribute to the ability to create the spirit. In fact, Suntory’s vodka production is not a current phenomenon. The company has been producing the distillate since 1956.

Sensorially, Haku Vodka is very delicate, with extremely well integrated alcohol. It is smoothly sweet, without any pepper. But in the opinion of this Dog – who may be delirious – the interesting thing is its texture. It is not as volatile as it appears. There is a weight, an oiliness, that curiously complements its pepperless smoothness – almost like the shark fin soup!

If you are looking for a vodka to work as a star in your cocktails, like in a Vesper Martini, or even something that will look strangely delicious if drunk pure, Haku Vodka is an excellent choice. Not all experiences need to have no meaning.


Type: Vodka
Brand: Suntory
Country / Region: Japan – N / A
ABV: 40%
Age: N / A

Tasting notes

Aroma: delicate, sugar, grains.
Flavor: sweet and delicate. There is almost no trace of spices. Relatively oily for a vodka.

Caledonian 33YO – Drops

If you like unusual whiskies, you may be interested in this small – but remarkable – bottle. The 33-year-old Caledonian The Boutique-y Whisky Company. There are a number of reasons that make it a certain unicorn in the world of Scotch Whisky.

The first is its sheer type. It is a single grain scotch whisky. Which, in itself, corresponds to an almost insignificant fraction of scotch whiskies. Single grains are produced in a single distillery, using whichever grains – and a small fraction of malted barley. They are usually distilled in Coffey Stills (a kind of column still). Although production is large, most grain whiskies are produced to integrate blends. They are only seldomnly bottled alone.

Another – and the main – reason is that the distillery – Caledonian – no longer exists. The Caledonian had long been the largest distillery in all of Scotland. However, due to a series of mergers and acquisitions, as well as an oversupply of grain whiskies on the market, the distillery closed its doors in 1988. Its interior was renovated and transformed into a housing complex. Its chimney, however – one of Scotland’s tallest Victorian towers – remains intact, and is considered a historic monument.

Caledonian Distillery

In fact, the label of this edition – bottled by the independent Boutique-y whiskies Company – makes an hommage to that chimney. According to the brand “Around the corner from Haymarket station in Edinburgh, you will find Distillery Lane and, next to some apartments, a huge chimney! That’s all that’s left of the Caledonian distillery now. Well, almost… a little bit of delicious grain whisky also survived! Climb to the top of the chimney and admire the view of the city to the Firth of Forth. But how dangerous (and naughty) that would be, we designed it for you. Be welcome.”

Since its silence, several independent bottlers have purchased barrels from Caledonian and have launched their own. As, for example, the object of this tasting: an edition of the Boutique-y Whisky Company, which yielded 144 bottles of 33-year-old Caledonian. The distillery’s only official launch, however, was in 2015. A monumental forty-year-old grain whisky, dubbed “The Cally”, and part of Diageo’s annual Special Releases for that year.

Sensorially, the Boutique-y Whisky Company 29-year-old Caledonian is rathes smooth and has a great influence of wood. There are notes of caramel, vanilla and coconut. In fact, a lot of coconut. It is a single grain that shows that grain whiskies can be exceptional and as complex as a good malt whisky. And a bonus – in addition to the wonderful whisky – there is a beautiful bottle. And a name we love (if you know what we mean), I don’t know why.


Type: Single grain scotch whiskey – 33 years

Distillery: Caledonian

Region: Lowlands

ABV: 50.3%

Test results:

Aroma: vanilla, coconut, yellow fruits.

Flavor: very light and fruity, with coconut, salted caramel and vanilla. Medium finish, sweet and fruity.

Murray McDavid – Clachan

A thousand and one uses. Tasteful energy. The real mayonnaise. Everyone uses or uses and abuses. All of the above phrases are famous brand slogans in Brazil. It is impossible not to think about Pão de Açúcar when someone says “happy people place”, even though I’ve felt miserable visiting the supermarket in more than one occasion.

Almost all slogans carry a common message. They are positive and cheerful, and convey values ​​such as authenticity or trust. Almost all, because there are a few really weird ones out there. For example, that of the independent bottler Murray McDavid. Their slogan, in Gaelic, is clachan a choin.

Before I tell you what clachan a choin means, let me talk a little bit about Murray McDavid. Its headquarters are currently the Coleburn distillery in the Scottish region of Speyside. It is one of Scotland’s most prolific independent bottlers. In case you don’t know, independent bottlers are companies that visit and choose barrels from different distilleries – which do not belong to it – and produce their own line of whiskies. Sometimes very limited editions. Others, not so much.

I can only admire a brand that has a dog as a logo.

The success of an independent bottler lies largely in its creativity. In its capacity to produce improbable editions, which maintains the character of a certain distillery, but which are sufficiently distinct from those produced by it. An independent bottler must produce something new, but with tools that are already there and were not created by it. It must think differently. Be rebellious and defiant. And there it is.

Clachan a Choin means “canine scrotum”. Or, in a translation perhaps coarse, but more faithful, “the dog’s bollocks”. A phrase that, let’s face it, does not need many explanations to convey a sense of rebellion. That Murray McDavid represents very well. Whether with its more exclusive lines (which carry the Murray McDavid brand), or with its more accessible products, from ACEO Spirits.

I had the opportunity to taste some of these creations due to the visit of Murray McDavid’s ambassador to Brazil. Who, incredibly, is a Brazilian. João Pedro Medeiros. During the trip, the representative will perform tastings in Recife, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In Rio, the event – in partnership with Whisky Rio – will take place on March 13, at Bota Restaurante. In São Paulo, the tasting will be at Caledonia Whisky & Co. – which, incidentally, belongs to us.

Among the whiskies tasted, I selected four that – within my weird logic – represent Murray McDavid’s spirit (pun intended) well. The first is a single grain scotch whisky produced by Girvan. By it’s nature, it would already be quite different – there are not many single grains out there. But this also has a very special maturation. It is finished in barrels that previously contained wood wine. Due to the thin body, the maturation is very evident. It is a light, pleasant, sweet and fruity whisky.

Coleburn Distillery

The second is Half and Half, a blended of undisclosed malts from Speyside and Lowlands. Maturation took place mainly in American oak barrels. However, after blending, the whisky is transferred to barrels of Spanish sherry wine for completion. Sensorially, it is a more conventional whisky – sweet and with a slight flavor of prune, coming from the finish.

The third is Mulben Moor, a single malt from a distillery – allegedly – not disclosed, but which we know is Auchroisk. Maturation took place in barrels of ex-American oak bourbon, and European oak of ex-Madeira wine. It is a curiously citrusy single malt, reminiscent of lemon peel. It is more intense than the previous ones. The finish is long, fruity and spicy.

The ultimate is Peatside, a blended peated malt. It is a limited edition, with only 848 bottles worldwide. Matured in American oak barrels, and then transferred to two port wine barrels, it is a very smoky whisky, with notes of fruit in syrup and black pepper. Alcohol content is 50%.

If you want to know more about Murray McDavid and the independent bottlers, follow the Bottled Dog in the coming weeks! We will cover the event in São Paulo and interview the ambassador. Here,the place of happy people – tasteful energetic people.

The Glenlivet Code – Preconceptions

My dearest to me at the drugstore. Aren’t you going to buy the Q-tips? Of course I will, look here. But these are not Q-Tips. I looked puzzled. They are not Q-Tips, they are generic cotton swabs, are they as good as the originals? I exhaled of dissatisfaction. Look, these are sticks with cotton on the end, I think my ear is not very discriminatory regarding the brand of things that I put in it.

It may seem like a silly discussion, but it is not. Branding a product directly influences how we perceive it. Nielsen, a company that specializes in studying consumer behavior, recently made a very interesting discovery. Six out of approximately ten consumers prefer to buy known brands products simply because they inspire confidence. It makes sense – most of the time we humans seek safety. This security, represented by something that is already familiar to us. We already know what to expect.

But it’s not just brands. When we know something, we create a concept around it. A concept we use as a basis of comparison for other things of the same nature. Before we experiment something new, we access this concept library and create a, well, pre-conception about it. For example, when someone tells me that some whisky has been amtured in ex-sherry, I will automatically imagine something fruity and spicy. Which is not true sometimes. But I think it is, because my brain is conditioned to always look for the same result, after having experienced a plethora of former-sherry-matured whiskies that had that flavour profile.

Aren’t we all lab rats, after all?

Knowing this, Glenlivet – one of Scotland’s three largest distilleries – decided to do a rather unorthodox experiment. The Glenlivet Code, which has recently arrived in Brazil.

It is a single malt that has no packaging information about its age, neither the barrels used in the maturation process. The only information is the alcohol content of 48%. The idea is that the consumer is not led to feel a certain aroma or flavor because he knows the composition of the barrels used in the expression. In other words, it invites consumers to taste, reflect, and produce their own tasting notes, without prejudice or preconceptions.

In the words of Alan Winchester, Glenlivet Master Distiller “With the Glenlivet Code, we had the unique opportunity to create a whisky that had never been created before, using new barrels and techniques to push the boundaries of what people expect from The Glenlivet. This year’s limited edition is a maze of flavors that will test your senses, and we are excited to invite consumers around the world to accept the challenge of decoding their mysteries. ”

To make the experience more interactive, Glenlivet has launched a hotsite. There, the connoisseur is invited to crack the code for that single malt. Or, in other words, compare their tasting notes test scores with Alan Winchester’s, through a a multiple-choice test. In the end, the site gives you a percentage of how many answers you got “right“.

The Glenlivet Code was released in March 2018, and is the third expression of a series of mysterious Glenlivet Malts. The first was Alpha in 2013, followed by Cipher in 2016. The idea of ​​these editions is excellent. They allow the savvy consumer to ask himself what he likes about the taste of a whisky, and how old and what that drink is. And, as a result, also reflect on what makes a good whisky. After all, is age important? The composition of the barrels?

A few months after launch – and before Code had a chance to land in our country – Glenlivet unveiled its full tasting notes, as well as barrel composition. However, to avoid spoilers, I will not explain them here. But I will simply say that its maturation process uses a very unusual kind of barrel. If you want to know, just go to the Glenlivet website.

As soon as I had the chance to put my paws in a bottle, I figured I would soon make the test. After all, I’m not the type to shy away from an ethylic challenge. However, before, I decided to taste it without worrying about the notes, to acclimate myself. And I was very impressed. It’s a whisky with extremely well-integrated alcohol, and a fruity and spicy flavor – no spoilers here – somewhat unusual for the Glenlivet. Whatever is in that matte black bottle is excellent, and deserves to be tasted with care.

I must say that I was both proud and frustrated with my test. The website makes you choose between different notes, but at certain stages I found myself divided: I felt two notes, and I should choose only one. Again, no spoilers here. Maybe my canine smell is not tuned. Or perhaps it is just that – to show that different people have different perceptions based on their olfactory memory.

Alan laughing at the result of my test.

In Brazil, a bottle of Glenlivet Code costs on average R $ 700,00 (seven hundred reais). It’s a price comparable to another favourite, the Glenlivet 18 – which suggests that there is a good deal of well-matured whiskies in the mysterious release. This impression is also reflected in the taste.

If you can’t stand a mystery, or if you’re passionate about Glenlivet malts, try the Glenlivet Code. By the way, try the Glenlivet code even if you don’t like the distillery. After all, the idea is precisely to abandon preconceived concepts.

Or, rather, not all flexible rods are the same.


Type: Single Malt (NAS)

Distillery: Glenlivet

Region: Speyside

ABV: 48%

Test results:



With water: ?

Royal Salute Snow Polo Edition

Pigeon race. If you asked me which of the English royal family’s favorite sports, I would never say pigeon racing. But according to Vogue magazine, the activity has been appreciated by british royalty since 1886, when King Leopold II of Belgium presented them with some of these (not so) gallant and swift birds. What intrigues me is that such an interest is considered a sport. After all, the only one who makes any effort is the pigeon.

But the English royal family also practices other sports, say, less sedentary. Such as Rugby, played by Princes William and Harry; and snow skiing, Charles’s favorite. But perhaps the most essentially royal game – the one that most encapsulates the sophistication of the world’s most beloved nobles – is horse polo. Again, according to Vogue, Philip, Charles, William and Harry practiced the sport. They love horse polo so much that even little George has one of those funny little mallets.

So it is only natural that a British-royalty inspired whisky brand such as Royal Salute, that shares with such royalty values ​​such as sophistication and elegance, pay tribute to the beloved royal pastime. Hence the Polo Collection – a series of commemorative limited editions from the brand, inspired by horse polo. Including the Royal Salute Snow Polo Edition, which has just arrived in Brazil.

The Royal Salute Beach Polo and Polo Edition, Expressions of the Royal Salute Polo Collection

The Royal Salute Snow Polo Edition is a type of whisky which is totally new to our market – and very rare even in Scotland. It is a blended grain scotch whisky, produced only from grain whiskies, in column stills. But quite special grain whiskies. Following the tradition of Royal Salute, the Polo Edition has 21 years of minimum maturation. It was created by Sandy Hyslop, director of blending at Chivas Regal – who, incidentally, has already been interviewed by this Bottled Dog.

Royal Salute’s Snow Polo edition is the third expression of the Polo Collection, a range of limited edition whiskies that celebrate the sophisticated equestrian game. The first was the (simply) Polo Edition, a sweet and fruity blended scotch – and the second, the smoky, maritime Beach Polo.

For Brazil, the launch of the Royal Salute 21 Snow Polo Edition could not have happened in a better place. In a horse polo match organized at Fazenda Boa Bista, in the countryside of São Paulo, with the participation of the brand ambassador and polo player, Malcolm Borwick. During the event, the whisky was served in drinks, pure and with ice, and in cocktails.

In Borwick’s words “When we started developing the third edition, we looked at the snow polo. There are two or three places where you can play polo in the snow all over the world. (…) But if we were to pick just one, it would have to be St. Moritz – they’ve been playing polo there for over thirty years. We (Royal Salute) have participated in the last five years. So we thought ‘why not do something that reflects our participation in the event and create something different?’ That’s when we came up with the idea of ​​creating a blended grain whisky with 21 years of age. ”

Malcolm toasting with Barnabas Fillion, perfumer and ambassador of Royal Salute, during the event.

“Snow polo is probably the epitome of a luxury sport. You take the horses up the mountain to play polo on a frozen lake at 2500 meters. It is an extremely ambitious thing to do. And Royal Salute is a luxury product. It is created for enthusiasts who appreciate the difference. It reflects (the sophistication) of St. Moritz in both flavor and bottle, ”continues the ambassador. Incidentally, the alcohol content of 46.5% is a reference to the latitude of St. Moritz.

Sensorially, Royal Salute 21 Snow Polo Edition is a delicate and floral whisky that brings notes of coconut, vanilla, caramel and citrus fruits. With a little water, it becomes more floral, and the coconut note intensifies. Though his heart has not been revealed, this Dog’s educated guess is that it is Strathclyde – a grain whisky distillery belonging to Pernod Ricard. Or, perhaps, the precious and silent Dumbarton.

There are several reasons to buy and try the Royal Salute Snow Polo Edition. You may be curious about the taste of excellent blended grain, so rare in the world of whisky. Or, perhaps, look for a delicate, floral and sweet yet very complex blend. Or maybe be in love with the equestrian pole. Or finally, you might just like the royal family and look for a bottle that celebrates your favorite sports. In this case, Snow Polo Edition will be your best choice, after all, the pigeon race doesn’t have the same appeal.

Oh, and if you drink, don’t ride. But if you don’t ride, try it!


Type: Blended grain whisky

Brand: Royal Salute

Region: N / A

ABV: 46.5%

Tasting notes:

Aroma: Sweet, with honey and vanilla.

Palate: Sweet, honey, coconut, vanilla. Delicate, with a medium finish that brings vanilla, ripe fruits and coconut.

  Availability: Brazilian Stores (Price to be defined)

Arran Machrie Moor – Smoky Dog

Having been born at a time that predated the indiscriminate use of the internet, I saw my childhood plagued by many very excruciating doubts. For example, one which puzzled me every time I had breakfast: who was the guy pictured in the Quaker outmeal box? And another question even more distressing, but of the same nature: who was the nice old man of the KFC logo?

If I could reseach such things online, it would be easy. I would know that the distinguished gentleman of fried chicken is Colonel Sanders, an important character in American history. And that that the Quaker oatmeal man is actually nobody. He was invented, pictured to represent the values ​​of honesty, integrity, purity and strength – all of which are important to the Quakers. All this knowledge would be at my fingertips, if only a quick search on the Internet was enough. But no. I had to wait for the democratization of technology to assuage my inquiring distress.

And if this is Mercury, where’s the winged helmet?

Recently I found myself once again curious about packing something. This time a whisky. The Machrie Moor, peated expression of Arran distillery, located on the island of the same name. Its label depicts a curious dog, chained to a rock that is pictured in the back of the bottle. A beautiful image, but, at first, a little disconnected. After all, what would be the relationship between a dog and a smoked whisky? But this time, thanks to the technological advance, my curiosity was quickly quenched.

Before moving on and answering the question, though, let me talk a little about whisky. Arran Machrie Moor is a NAS single malt, bottled at 46% ABV. Its aroma is clearly smoky, maritime and somewhat medicinal. The taste is smoky and citrus, with a long and smoky finish. It’s a dangerously nice whisky. If not on the leash of moderation, you could easily drink half a bottle in one night.

Machrie Moor is an annual special edition. The bottle for this post is batch no. 8, 2017. It is one of 18,300 bottles produced that year. This is important. Although the smoking level remained the same, there were certain changes in the composition of the newer batches, which were better received by the market than the older ones.

Arran is a fairly young distillery. It was founded in 1995 by Harold Currie, a former director of Chivas Regal. But despite its youth, it has a large portfolio. There are, for example, single malts with age statement, such as 10, 14 and 18 years. And also some NAS, like Lochranza and Quarter Cask. There is also a line with special finishes, in sherry, port and sauternes wine barrels. And there are, of course, the smoked ones – of which Machrie Moor is part.

Harold (source:

By the way, let’s talk about the name. Machrie Moor was named after a peat bog – located on the west coast of the Isle of Arran. There are some circles of Celtic stones, dating from the Bronze Age (the famous standing stones). One of these circles is called Fingal’s Cauldron Seat, where one of the stones has a small orifice in it. According to Arran folklore, it was on this perforated stone that the giant Fingal chained his mythological dog Bran while enjoying a nutritious meal in the center of the circle.

And there it is. The dog on the Machrie Moor’s label is Bran. A hunting dog belonging to the mythology of the Celtic people. According to his own myth, Bran was a dog raised from the womb of a human, and so inherited the intelligence (which is missing today) of our species. His quick thinking and hunting ability only matched his loyalty to Fingal.

So if you want a smoky and extremely drinkable citrus whiskey, you don’t have to worry for years without a definite answer. Nor wait for a new technology – or an old one – to give you the answer. You can now go offline now. Arran Machrie Moor is your whiskey.


Type: Single Malt (NAS)

Distillery: Arran

Region: Higlands (Islands)

ABV: 46%

Tasting notes:

Aroma: smoke, citrus fruits.

Palate: Discreetly fruity with pineapple. Predominantly smoked and slightly salty.

Price: BRL 351,00 at the official importer,

Interview with Mathieu Deslandes – Royal Salute Marketing Director

The superfluous is an extremely necessary thing,” Voltaire once wrote. I, the author of a blog about one of the world’s most superfluous articles – whisky – have to modestly agree with Voltaire’s apparent paradox. Whisky is an unnecessary need- like sports cars, designer clothes, and that fancy kitchen tap, which has a coiled spring. My God, how I want a tap like that!

There is an irremediable desire in the superfluous. After all, it is in our nature to crave what we have not yet achieved. Or rather, aim for a variation that we consider better than what we already have. A normal tap is not an object of desire. One of those sophisticated though, is, even if both serve the same purpose. From Voltaire, I turn to Chanel, who said that “luxury is the necessity that arises when the necessary has already been satisfied”.

In the world of whisky, this is absolutely clear. The vast majority of brands seek to convey some value linked to luxury. Sophistication. Elegance. Exclusivity. But few do it with such mastery as Royal Salute. Starting with the age statement of their entry level expression. As they call themselves, by referring to the minimum age of twenty-one, “Royal Salute begins where the rest end.”

Currently, the man responsible for enchanting people with all the magic of Royal Salute is Mathieu Deslandes, marketing director for Royal Salute. And I had the incredible opportunity to interview him during his trip to South Korea – where two new expressions of the brand’s permanent portfolio were launched.

The lasting impression is that Mathieu Deslandes is not just a brand director. But Royal Salute in flesh and bone. Sophisticated but at the same time humorous and kind, the director explained about the motivation behind portfolio diversification as well as the specifics of the luxury market:

Tell me a little about the new portfolio. Why diversify the range?

In fact, we are appealing to the whisky lover, on Royal Salute. When you go to this level of quality, it is not by accident, but because you love whisky, and want to experience something more.

And, during the last twenty years, there has been much more choices of whiskies, especially led by single malts, with very diverse propositions. So, it seems to me that, if we want to stand for luxury whisky, we cannot be only one. We have to offer our consumers the opportunity to try something different, to discover.

And I think what is fascinating with the work we did, with Sandy Hyslop, the master blender, is how much we can differenciate the taste of it just by the choice of casks, the choice of liquid you use. You’ll see tonight how much diversity we can get, still being a 21-year old whisky.

The reason we chose 21 years old is that it is part of the DNA. When the brand was created, it was created as 21. And 21 is a reference to the Twenty One Gun Salute. So, it is not an age by accident. It is an age with a strong meaning. And that is why celebrating such age is so important to our storytelling.

And why a blended malt? And what’s special about Lost Blend?

Everything is a blend for us. In Royal Salute we belive in blends. It is not that blends are better than single malts, or single malts are better than blends.

There’s a reference we often use. Malts are solo players in music. And blend is like an orchestra. You can have a good solo player or a bad solo player. You can have a good or a bad orchestra.

But us, as a brand, we have been created as a blend, so we remain true to this. ( It is true that the malt profile of taste is something that has been developing a lot. It is something that is stronger in terms of personality, less smooth. So it was interesting to play in that field with something that is more diverse to the consumer.

Malts Blend

For the Lost Blend, there is a lot of whisky coming from Caperdonich, a distillery that has been closed, which has a peated profile of taste, so you will find this profile of taste more strong in this one.

Royal Salute had one of the most gorgeous packages in the whole whisky world. Why change? And why is the packaging so important? Does it affect consumer experience, in your opinion?

I think that the package affects the consumer experience. It is the first thing you see before you drink it. You see a bottle, you see a box. So, it is a way to communicate what you want to express about the brand. But it has to be consistent. It has to have consistency of what you drink and what you see.

And the second aspect, is important because at that price point, there are many people making gifts of Royal Salute. And, as we know, when you make a gift, the packaging is important as well. So, what we find interesting about this evolution was to use the packaging more as a storytelling.

We chose to work with Kristjana Williams, the artist behind the illustrations, to express the story of a royal menagerie. Which was happening in the tower of London – a place where all the animals the kings and queens received as a present were kept. It is a true story, with lions, elephants. It is what we wanted to portray on the illustration, of our storytelling. In a creative and artistic way, because the luxury consumer today expects this audacity and creativity

New design by Kristjana Williams

Storytelling right?

That is why we found a good combination between the outside of the box, which is more conservative, more serious. But because we different, using the inside of a box to use the storytelling.

From all the possible places, why South Korea?

Asia, globally, when it comes to prestige whiskies, is an important market. Also, because Korea specifically, if you combine what we sell in the domestic market with what we sell in duty free – because a lot of korean customers buy in duty-free – make Korea the number 1 nationality of people buying Royal Salute.

To be honest, we made a small scale event, one in New York and another in London, because when it comes to luxury, there are no boundaries. Luxury is global. So, we needed to make sure we were making a reference in the US, and another in Europe.

Is there any difference between the luxury market and the standard market? And what do you think about luxury whisky market in South America and Brazil?

What is different about luxury is that there is no compromise. There is no compromise in quality, and no compromise in anything you do, because there is an expectation of something being exceptional when you buy luxury.

So, in the mindset, I try to compare to other luxury brands which are not spirits, than comparing to other brands which are whisky that are not luxury. What is important to us is to have a mindset of luxury. And the mindset of luxury is to be exceptional in everything we do – the whisky, the packagin, the experience, the communication. Everyhing has to be exceptional.

Talking about Brazil – in all markets of the world, there is a space for people who are looking for luxury. Brazil is a big market for whisky. People know about whisky. What is important is that we develop a culture about luxury whisky. Maybe it is already there for champagne. Probably less for whisky.

But it is our responsibility to connect to the right influencer, the bartender, restaurant, consumer, press, magazine, whatever, to talk about royal salute, because probably the issue about Royal Salute is not its quality, but the fact that it is not known. So our first mission in many countries in the world is making sure Royal Salute is known. But in a very different way you would do with a more affordable whisky. What does matter is not the number of people you reach, but the quality of the way you reach them and the experience.

We are nto taling about doing something for the short term. But something game changing, and long term. And that requires time.

Arran Port Cask Finish – Obssession

It may seem obvious what I am going to say next, coming from a monothematic blog like this. But I have a few small obsessions. And it’s not whisky, because whisky is such a big obsession that the Khan once found a bottle of whisky in the bathroom cabinet next to the mouthwash, because there was nowhere else to put it at home.

No. They are small, almost imperceptible obsessions, but they overwhelm me completely when awaken. One is the number of underwear I put in my suitcase for travel. It has to be about three a day at the very least. I know one or two is enough, but something deep down, inside me, me always says, “hey man, put some more. Ten for two days days won’t do“.

Another is mustard. I love mustard. I can’t go to the supermarket without buying at least one little bottle of mustard, even though I don’t need it. If one day in an angelic supermarket I would have to choose between the best mustard of the universe and everlasting life, I would pick the mustard. I would instantly die clinging to it.

One of the many versions of heaven.

And there is an even more serious situation when a small obsession meets a big one. Whiskies. Port wine. Whiskies aged in port wine barrels. I am unable to see one and resist. And I always love them. Laphroaig Brodir, Kilchoman Port Cask, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, Bowmore Vintner’s Trilogy 27 years old. And the newcomer to Brazil, Arran Port Cask Finish.

Arran Port Cask Finish is just what its name implies. A single malt matured for approximately eight years in ex-bourbon American oak barrels, and finished in European oak barrels that once held port wine. Arran does not disclose exactly the time of the finish, nor the type of port wine used.

Arran Port Cask Finish, like all Arran, is unchill-filtered, and its color – a strikingly beautiful ruby ​​color – is natural. No E150 here. And its alcohol strength is quite generous too- 50%. Despite its strength, it is not an agressive malt – despite a certain underlying peppery flavor.

In fact, there’s something I should note. While doing my homework for this post, I noticed that many sources suggested tasting Arran Port Cask Finish by adding some water. According to such sources, the high alcohol content hid its most discreet flavors. Although I agree with the practice,my humble opinion is that Arran Port Cask Finish offers a very complex sensory experience even in its natural alcoholic strength. Adding water will reduce the peppery finish, but it will not make it more complex.

Arran is a fairly young distillery. It was founded in 1995, and their first single malt was released in 1998. Since then, the portfolio has expanded incredibly. Currently, there are more than ten expressions. There are whiskies of a certain age – 10, 14, 18 years. And also some NAS, like Lochranza Reserve. There is also a peated range – Machrie Moor – and one with special finishes, of which Port Cask Finish, launched in 2010, is part.

Young Ewan McGregor also loves Arran

If you – like me – can’t resist a whisky finished in port wine barrels, or if you’re looking for a sweet, fruity but very distinctive personality malt, I recommend trying Arran Port Cask Finish. Or rather not. On second thought, don’t even try Arran Port Cask Finish. Better not risk it – you will create a new obsession.


Type: No Age Statement Single Malt (NAS)

Distillery: Arran

Region: Higlands (Islands)

ABV: 50%

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: Very fruity. Red fruits. Fig, vanilla.

Palate: Fruity and very intense. Red fruits, sugar syrup. Very spicy, especially at the finish. Long and intense.

With water: Water makes the whisky less spicy, and intensifies the fruity finish.

Interview with Sandy Hyslop – Royal Salute Master Blender

Last Saturday I went to pick up my daughter at a children’s party. When she got into the car, I noticed that she was radiant. More than usual. And when inquired of the reason of such enthusiasm, she replied “The party theme was Star Wars, and I met Leia. When I grow up, I want to be just like her“.

I didn’t quite understand if she wanted to be a princess, control the Force, fall in love with a scoundrel or be kidnapped by a giant slime with a sickly lust for females of other species. But deep down I understood the reason for her happiness. Leia was an absolute idol of my little one.

It would be as if one day a car enthusiast bumped (ops!) into Sir Stirling Moss. Or a movie buff could talk to Jean-Luc “Cinemá” Godard. Or a fine art fan to Jackson Pollock. Or, finally, a whisky enthusiast like me had the opportunity to interview a great master blender. As, say, Sandy Hyslop – Chivas’ director of blending and responsible for creating the Royal Salute new range.

And that’s exactly what happened, thanks to an incredible invitation from Royal Salute. During my recent trip to South Korea, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Sandy, who was extremely friendly. The master blender told us about the restructuring of the brand’s permanent portfolio, his career as a master blender and some of his interests outside the whisky world. The conversation is reproduced below.

1.Your job is probably the most coveted by every whisky enthusiast. What does it take to become a master blender? And how is it?

Its absolutely fabulous being a master blender for royal salute. It’s a huge honour for me being responsible for such a prestigious whisky with such fabulous history and lineage.

To become a master blender, you need to have a good sense of smell, you need to be passionate about scotch whisky. You need to understand a blender works at the whole spectrum of the whisky making process. A lot of people think a blender is making new whiskies, working with matured 21-year old whiskies. But I’m working from the day the whisky is distilled. When the whisky is made new, we have distillery managers in our distilleries, but it is me that is responsible for the quality of what they make.

Sandy working

And I split my week, I work two days from Speyside and three days from Glasgow, so, I move about managing the whisky making process at both ends. I’m responsible for the quality, but also for the casks we purchase as well. So there is an overlying quality to be met over the whole process.

Tell me a little about the recent releases, and what the consumers should expect from each blend. Would you reveal the core malts for each of these outstanding creations?

Absolutely, I can give you information. This is personally really exciting for me to be able to introduce two new expressions from Royal Salute under my tenure as a master blender. Because it is not often that there are new permanent releases added to the Royal Salute Family of Whiskies.

Obviously, we are intending to continue with the classic signature Royal Salute, wich has that rich, velvety, fruity flavours. WHich is just amazing, it’s super creamy and smooth.

We are going to add to that the Malts Blend, which is really exciting for me, because I think for people that drink malt whisky, this is going to be something special, because it is very complex. We are using a range of different malt whiskies. We are using more than 21 individual single malts whiskies in the malts blends. It’s complex. Every single cask is being nosed, and in the end you have somthing that is elevated in fruitiness. It’s like peaches and syrup. It’s really sweet. Just like those old fashioned boiled sweets, on a jar. And it has a little spiciness as well. It’s really luxurious. Lots of flavour, really concentrated.

Lost Blend

The lost blend is interesting as well. Because I wanted all three expressions to be very different. With the classic royal salute, then I wanted something concentrated in rich and fruitiness, and then the lost blend, I wanted to have some nuttiness and spiciness but I wanted it also smoky. We are using some distilleries that are no longer in existence mixed with other distilleries. So, it has some very rare whiskies in the mix of the blend. There are things such as Imperial distillery, Caperdonich Distillery, Dumbarton Green amongst many others in the Lost Blend.

That’s why it is called the lost blend?

That’s why. Because it has some distilleries that are silent, no longer in existence, malts that are really hard to find.

So, but I also wanted it to have some traditional feel to it. I wanted it to have some smokiness, but also I used some more traditional wood, some hogsheads and butts rather than the American oak barrels, that’s why it has that wonderful sort of hazelnut flavour in there as well.

Whereas the Malts Blend uses more of that American oak. It has Strathisla distillery in the blend, also Longmorn, some real classics, but obviously, being a malt, it has dialled up that fruitiness. Absolutely fantastic if you want to mix it. We are going to have it in a cocktail tonight. It is amazing, it will be without a doubt, the most luxurious cocktail you will ever have.

Just a whisky geek curiosity. Does Chivas have any peated whisky of their own?

We do. Alt-a-Bhainne. We peat Alt-a-Bhainne. But we also exchange with our competitors every year. In Scotland we don’t like to buy, we don’t like to spend money. So we swap to get extra flavours. For me, it’s like buying extra ingredients into the portfolio. And we bring them as new whiskies, we never buy them matured. We buy them new, and put them in our own casks, and manage the flavour from day one. So we have complete control from the start. It makes the end result much easier.

Luxury blends tend to get some fire from whisky geeks, especially those who appreciate single malts more than blends. What is your opinion about such prejudice?

I think single malts – if you like a particular type of flavour, you will love single malts, and you will be drawn to that flavour all the time. But I think something as a Royal Salute Malts Blend is far more complex than a single malt. It’s going to be much more multidimensional, have so much more layers of flavour when you drink that whisky. It won’t be only one blast of a particular flavour. You’ll get sweetness, a little bit of citrus, and the level of finish you will get – when the whisky starts to disappear on the palate – is much longer. A little bit of smoky there as well.

It’s about balance, complexity, and smoothness as well, you can reach a great level of smoothness bringing all these different malts together.

NAS is a trend in whisky industry. However, Royal Salute remained faithful to the 21-minimum age. Do you foresee this in the future?

Absolutely. It’s the benchmark of Royal Salute. If we were to make something wasn’t 21 years old – which we haven’t today – it would have to be something pretty special. It would be something of a really exotic cask

I think our consumers understand the quality. 21 years ago we laid down the stock, and committed to making it. It’s the only whisky in the world that has been continuously available at 21 years old since 1953. No other whisky can give you that benchmark.

And there are some whiskies out there that are very well thought of, but any of them is guaranteed that every single drop of whisky there is 21 years old. And that’s minimum. This year I’m using whiskies from 21 up to 25 in the blend.

So, there is a mixture of ages in that blend, but every single drop is over 21 years of age.

Last, a more personal question. I’ve seen your Instagram. So, Nissan Cubes and watches. Any other passions/hobbies?

Oh, I really love the shape (of the Nissan Cubes), i think they are really funky. In Japan I saw a lot of them, and I just had to have one. So that one came from Tokyo. It has blue wheels. My wife is not so keen on the blue wheels. She says to me “the car is ok, but does it have to have blue wheels?”

My father had his own antiques business, so, collecting antiques and old things are really in the blood. I have lots of collections of things. I have fountain pens, I’m a hoarder. And I drive my wife crazy bringing things in that I have purchased in my travels. Sometimes I sneak into the garage first, and after a few days I work it into the house.

That is a good strategy!

It is, it works!