Sunday, October 07, 2012

A night with Luc Timmermans

The title sounds a little misleading but a night at Auld Alliance with Luc Timmermans is really one of the most enriching experience I had. It's one of the best tastings I've been to and if you're a whisky aficionado, you'll love to get to know Luc. He has this terrible virus that he brings with him where ever he goes because he gets you in the mood to start drinking exceptional whisky and then build a whisky collection.

In fact, an introduction of Luc himself is a little extraordinary. He is not from a whisky-making family nor is he an owner of any distillery but he carved his name in the whisky world through humble beginnings and great passion for the "water of life". 

Born in Belgium in 1968, he used to have a software business but how he got himself into the whisky business is purely a lightning strike. He was on a holiday in the Southern part of England in 1998 where he has his first taste of single malt whisky in the form of Dalwhinnie 15 years old where the bartender introduced him to drink scotch instead of his usual Jack Daniels No 7.  After that, he bought his first bottle of single malt whisky which is also the Dalwhinnie 15yo and there's no turning back. By year 2000, he has over 100 bottles in his collection and the collection grew to 4000 bottles to date.

Not only he's one of the most famous whisky collector in the world, Luc is also a Glenfarclas expert. He is renowned for selecting fantastic casks of Glenfarclas 1968 to be bottled for him under his own Independent Bottling Brand, Thosop which is a combination of the names of his two children, Thomas and Sophie. His Thosop bottlings carry an iconic handwritten label which notes his experience with each of the whisky.

These are the whisky that we tasted that night that is personally selected by Luc himself.

There's no other place more suitable than Auld Alliance at Chijmes in Singapore. It's my favourite whisky bar whenever I need a dram in the republic. Not only it's the best whisky bar in Singapore with the most comprehensive selections of whisky, Emmanuel is also a close friend of Luc and before stopping over in Singapore, they were in Whisky Live Taipei to launch Highland Park 30yo bottled by Silver Seal exclusively for Auld Alliance. According to Luc, the Highland Park 30yo was one of the most impressive whisky at the show.

Emmanuel brimming with joy with this bottle.

Since this is a trip of leisure, I put up 2 nights at a budget hotel in Bugis. I was surprised how convenient it is to get around by staying near the Bugis Junction area. The trip from Changi airport to Bugis on MRT cost no more than S$3+ and it was a breeze! And at night, I could just walk to Chijmes from Bugis in 10-15 mins and I walked back at 3am without a glitch.

The whisky tasting took place in one of the two rooms at the bar which could easily accomodate a seating capacity of 30 people. The whisky glasses are already laid on the table with a paper mat labeled with the bottles that we would be trying. I was placed at the table where all of them are young men who appreciates whisky and most of them are from KL. In fact, I am the only lady in the whole room!

Tomintoul 1967 43yo 49.3% Bourbon Cask #5426 Thosop

We started with Tomintoul from Speyside which is 43 years old. There's only 112 bottles of this expression and its unchillfiltered, single cask, cask strength with no water added or colouring. In some cases and a probably a normal industry practice, spirit caramel are added into whisky to give it a nice golden colour. These bottles under Thosop are sold to France, Germany, Holland and Japan. From my tasting notes that I made that night, this one here has a slight peat, honeyed, peppery and has strong spicy tones.

Port Ellen 1982 - bottled 2010 56% Thosop
This cask yielded a mere 150 bottles. It's very precious since the distillery is already closed and there is only so much of Port Ellen you can find out there. Many were surprised that Port Ellen was the 2nd whisky that we would be tasting and therefore Luc did a little explanation why he put an Islay malt in the middle of the tasting and not at the end. "When doing a whisky tasting, one should have a big variation (in whisky taste profile) so that you'll stay as refreshed as possible for the next whisky".

A superb nose. Medium, clean and refined peat, vanilla notes, sweetness from the fruits and nectarine and has a little saltiness towards the finish. It's a full whisky, complex and well balanced. A bottle very worth collecting. Now, how much did I have in my bank account again? Hmm....

Glenfarclas 1968 bottled 2011 cask #697 47.5%
This Glenfarclas 1968 cask #697 was selected by Luc Timmermans where this cask was previously used by Pedro Domecq to mature manzanilla, which is the most peculiar type of sherry with a dry, briny and delicate profile. It has a great nose, fruity notes with nutmeg and a little minty taste. It's sweet and spicy at the same time. The finish is full, well balanced and has a salty edge. Impressive!

Glenfarclas 1968 bottled 2010 cask #702 & #5240 49.7%
This is also another cask specially selected by Luc himself for the Thosop bottling. He wanted this bottle to be special and has worked very hard to get the official Glenfarclas bottling combined with his iconic handwritten labels for this expression. He bottles only 6 casks a year to ensure hat the quality remains high enough with all his bottles scoring a minimum of 89 points and above. 

The nose was of tangerine, mint and toffee. On the palate, you can taste it richness of fruits, the dusty oak characters, some mint and spices that interwined so well together. Towards the finish, there's some cigar, cloves and nutmeg. A velvety whisky that has been aged really well.

And the mysterious bottle that was a gift from Luc for the tasting that night is none other than the Glenfarclas 1968 Single Cask Bottle Private Selection No.1 cask #689 which produce only 152 bottles. The nose has a faint black tea and ginger bouquet. This is a very well balanced whisky with floral and notes, caramel, apricots and a creamy texture. Balanced finish and a whisky with a wow factor.

Emmanuel, Me & Luc Timmermans

Now, if you wonder why Luc is obsessed with the year 1968, that's because that's his birth year. When he turned 40 on 26th Feb four years ago, he had invited 26 friends to share 26 bottles of 1698 whisky to celebrate his birthday! You can read all about his passion towards the 1968 Glenfarclas and how it started here. He's now working on his Last Tribute where he will be holding a special dinner for his final Glenfarclas 1968 cask which will only yield 175 bottles. I'm saving up for that dinner in Singapore next year!

It was such a wonderful night sharing whisky and stories with people I've never met and some familiar faces who I've seen some time ago at the bar. We drank on even after the tasting is over and it was such an enriching experience to just listen to others about their views and takes on these whisky. At the same time, the blues started playing through the speakers and everyone is so into Albert King! And that very night, not only I learnt how to appreciate these whisky, I found out about men and their toolkits! That's another story for another day.

Luc recommended me to try this Caol Ila 12 years by Bulloch Lade & Co. Ltd and I thought to myself, "well, it's just another Caol Ila" and boy I was so wrong! This is a wonderful old bottling of Caol Ila in the 80's which is 12yo 43% bottled for Zenith Italia and it has been discontinued now, making this a precious collection. It's special because this one here has tastes of olives and sea salt. The finish is really long with a wave of saltiness and malt. It's currently auctioning for €500 a bottle. *faints

Arun, Emmanuel, me, Luc, Ben from The Singapore Whisky Blog & Galen.

We had such a fun night that I also didn't realise that I was at the bar from 8pm to 3am!!! And by the time I got back to my room, I was starving and then ended up having a Nissin cup noodle before jumping to bed. I was really glad to make a trip down to catch up with Luc as we both has previously exchange comments on Facebook and he had also sent me some delicious samples of the 1968 Glenfarclas a few months ago. This is the best whisky tasting I've attended so far! Cheers...

 The Auld Alliance 
 CHIJMES, 30 Victoria Street, #01-08 S(187996)
Tel: +65 6337-2201
Opening Hours: Mon-Thurs: 5pm-1am, Fri-Sat: 5pm-2am


Sean said...

wow, it's so cool to be able to share your passion for whiskey with someone who's so incredibly passionate. as you know, i still haven't learned to appreciate whiskey (since i'm stuck with wine and cocktails, heh), but i enjoy reading your words and thoughts on whiskey =)

eiling lim said...

Sean: yeap. it was a very good session and it doesn't feel like an uptight tasting session in a fine-dining restaurant. You'll learn to enjoy whisky I'm sure.

suituapui said...

The rose among the thorns... Looking as stunning as ever!

eiling lim said...

STP: Thanks! So sweet of you...

Michael Cheang said...


Huai Bin said...

This is amazing, rare stuff!

Alas, I've only tasted a couple of independent bottlings of single malt whisky.

I agree, the best thing about it is there's no consistent house/expression style, despite being from the same distillery of the same year, due to it being purchased as cask by cask it's bottling from a single cask.

I love your review, I can only sit back and read with envy, this is an amazing opportunity! I'll have loved to taste some of those.

Great to hear you enjoyed yourself Eiling! :)

eiling lim said...

Michael: haha...

Huai Bin: I agree with you totally on the difference of the taste of each cask since all these are single cask whisky. I'm just lucky to have friends who are willing to share these wonderful drinks with me. Likewise, I am envy of all the other events you went to! haha

singapore beer said...

This is good info dear.. Interesting one ...
Thanks man for sharing..

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Eiling said...

Stecy: No worries. Thanks for reading.

missyblurkit said...

All those bottles....OMG!

not many whiskey folks around except for you and a few more that i know.

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