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Dow’s Port Tasting @

This is not your grandma’s port, well it is but it sure doesn’t seem like it! Gone are the short glasses of tepid port served in stuffy restaurants and on airplanes in first class. Instead serving port chilled in white wine glasses as you would with any other sweet wines is so much more refreshing. I never thought about port in that way until I tried the white port-tonic cocktail garnished with slices of lemon at the tasting session.

The presentation by Jorge Nunes, Dow’s Asia Representative was equally eye opening. The rational for serving port chilled is a simple one as Jorge suggests, it just gets too hot here in Hong Kong with room temperatures of 30 degrees C. The talk also gave me a better appreciation for port as a whisky drinker. The stopper you find on whisky bottles can be found on some port bottles as well. These bottles when opened can keep up to 2 months which is far shorter than whisky but an eternity for wine. The age statements are also similar to whisky although the differences between a 10 year old and 20 year old port is a little harder to distinguish when the wines have been chilled.

Another surprising thing was how appetising the ports were. After a few glasses I was wolfing down the pate and cheese. However, the best pairing was chocolate and Dow’s Nirvana Port which was specially concocted for chocolate lovers. I think I ate a plates worth of chocolate that night!

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The “iLounge” Journey Part 3 – Blair Atholl Distillery

For those that missed the previous instalments of iLounge Journey Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here.

After my encounter with the rain and the mud coming down the hill from Edradour I stumbled across the Blair Atholl Distillery which produces the signature malt of the Bell’s blend.  It was a welcome relief to be out of the cold rain and into the cozy reception of the distillery’s visitor center.  I spent the thirty minutes before the tour perusing their “How Whisky is Made” installation and wolfing down the sandwich I bought at the petrol station across the road.  All I needed now was a good dram to warm me up.


In contrast to Edradour, the Blair Atholl guide was a kilted young lad.  He was a very good guide as we had a much larger group yet he was clearly audible to everyone there.  The most impressionable part of the tour was smelling the difference between the peated and unpeated barley.  The smokey aroma and phenolic flavor was very memorable and is a good reference point for peatiness.

The glimpse of the multistory warehouse through the panoramic glass was especially dramatic as the barrels closest to us were well lit and the rest receded into a mysterious darkness.  At the end of the tour I got the chance to finally savour a gingery dram of whisky in the gift shop.  Now warmed up I headed back to the station to catch my train to Edinburgh.  While I would have loved to continue on to Speyside, Pitlochry was as far north as I got on this trip.


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James Suckling’s Great Wines of Italy Event

Attended the Great Wines of Italy event last week here in Hong Kong at the Shangri-La Hotel.  There were almost 100 wineries from Italy in attendance and many wine fans and those from the industry.  As much as I would have liked to try all the wines there, I was able to taste only so many in the two hours.  Having decided to proceed alphabetically these were some of the wines that I tasted at the event:

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My personal favorite was the Amarone which had a very distinctive sweet but not too sweet taste of raisins.  I can imagine it going well with all kinds of western and asian cuisines.  From the looks of it I think the event will help to boost the visibility of Italian wine in the long term which has always been under represented in the Hong Kong and China markets.  I’ve personally gained a new appreciation for Italian wines and certainly have added a lot more interesting places to visit in Italy now.


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Whisky in Okinawa

Part of our summer vacation this year was spent in Okinawa, Japan.  For those who haven’t been, Okinawa is like a cross between Hawaii and Japan albeit with a stronger Hawaii feel.  The people there are super nice and laid back and the service at hotels and restaurants is very good.  We stayed at Ritz Carleton Hotel which was very modern and had full amenities (including golf course) but does not have its own beach.

The Ritz Carleton has an awesome bar with a wide selection of whisky and  40-50 years old vintages which are kept in separate glass cases.  The first Whisky I had was the Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 Year Old.  As you can see I had it chill with a ball of ice which is the way I prefer  Japanese whisky.

Second up was the Valentino Zagatti’s Linkwood Distillery Aged 16 Years.  This one I had neat so that I could get a better sense of the mouth feel.  The Linkwood is velvety and oily coating your tongue in some nice spicy flavours.  The sherry notes were a little strong and over powering for my liking but definitely worth a try at least once.

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Impressions of Hong Kong Wine and Spirits Fair

There was a general consensus amongst the exhibitors that the traffic this year was less than in the years before.  However, this gave us a good opportunity to understand more in depth about the individual wineries and their products.

The highlights from the show were as follows (not in any order of importance):

  • Adega de Favaios – Having managed to try all the other port wines at the fair, Favaios are definitely one of the best.  Very easy to drink and full bodied with strong nose and great color.  I can easily have it through out a meal or to be savoured during some good after dinner conversation.  Thanks to Hugo and Manuela for their hospitality!
  • Qunita Vale D’Aldeia – Was able to get to know more about Portugese wine from Luis and Rui.  Their series of red wines were absolutely amazing coming from this relatively new winery comprised of originally 55 separate vineyards.  Located on a large hill gives the wine different grape characteristics from slight variations in altitude.  Will definitely visit this picturesque winery when I am in Portugal.
  • Doolhof Wine Estate – Their “Legend of the Labyrinth” was absolutely stunning especially the “Dark Lady” which had very strong chocolate / cocoa and spicy herb notes.  One of the best Pinotages I tasted at the fair and there were a lot of good ones at the South Africa pavilion.

Will definitely be back again next year and looking forward to keeping in touch with all our new friends in the meantime.

P.S. Found some really awesome olive oil as well:


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Over the summer holiday I had the good fortune to visit Munich for the first time.  What a wonderful and friendly city it is!  The highlight of the trip were of course the beer gardens and Augustiner in particular.  According to the locals Augustiner is their favorite brew and by the looks of it I would say so as well.

My wife and I had a delicious pigs’ knuckle lunch in the beer garden and enjoyed a glass or two of their awesome beer.  (Will dedicate a separate post to my tasting notes.)  As you can see the beer garden was packed full of people.  The other astounding thing was the size of the pretzels!  Eat your heart out Hermes Handbag!


My case of Augustiner Beers should be arriving sometime tomorrow <BIG GRIN>.  Cheers!

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Caol Ila 1996 Distiller’s Edition @ 001

Met up with a good friend for drinks the other night at 001 in Central Hong Kong.  It’s an amazing speak-easy tucked away in the middle of a wet market.  The entrance is unmarked with the exception of a brass door bell.  The place is known for its cocktails and grill cheeses but we were there for the single malts.

As usual we started out with the less pricey whiskys and at HKD 140 a dram the Caol Ila 1996 DE piqued my interest.  The other two flights were the Balvenie Portwood 21 and the Lagavulin 1994 Distiller’s Edition.  Both of them were pricier but the Caol Ila was the best.  Maybe it was the mood we were in that night but the Caol Ila was more well balanced than the others.  It also opened up more nicely with a drop of water or two.  In comparison the Lagavulin had too much kick and the Balvenie was too smooth.  The Caol Ila was very distinguished and easy to drink with a character of its own.



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