The Dawn of New Drams

Text Ellfian Rahim

Alcohol industry executives say millennials are comfortable migrating between all three alcohol categories – wine, spirits and beer – and are less loyal to individual brands. In the 1990s, people were looking for nice logos and snappy taglines to help persuade them towards a particular type of tipple. Then, there was a search for authenticity, which is why craft brewing is booming these days.

Now, perhaps new age drinkers are looking forward to some fresh, new stories to be told at the bar? Well then, here’s a couple…

Recently, Paus Craft Beer Bar on Taman Tun Dr Ismail’s Persiaran Zaaba in KL hosted a bit of a bar revolution: The arrival of France’s Darroze Armagnac, who makes a distinctive type of brandy in Southwestern France, and also Twenty Third Street Distillery – with its selection of new Down Under happy hour favourites. Both these independent liquor houses find their way to Malaysia courtesy of Cave & Cellar Sdn Bhd, an alcoholic beverage importer and distributor in Malaysia.

For the Darroze family, Armagnac has been in their history for four generations. Marc Darroze, the present owner of Darroze Armagnac, was on hand to introduce Darroze Armagnac and brought everyone through the tasting of six different types of Armagnac with passion. This included its Les Grand Assemblage range of 8, 12 and 20 years vintage bottles; followed by The Unique Collection of 2004 Domaine de Couzard-Lassalle à Mauléon d’Armagnac, 1999 Domaine de Rieston à Perquie and 1988 Domaine de Lagoue à Hontanx.

Of course, the alco-geeks amongst us should know that Cognac and Armagnac are both French brandies made from white wine grapes. Unsurprisingly, Cognac is made in Cognac and Armagnac is made in Armagnac, in France’s Gascony region. “But Cognac typically uses the Ugni Blanc grape, while Armagnac uses three additional grape varieties: Folle blanche, Colombard, and Baco Blanc,” revealed Marc Darroze.

“Then, Cognac goes through two rounds of distillation in pot stills (a type of distillation apparatus used to distill alcoholic spirits), while Armagnac only goes through just one round. You see the more you distill a spirit, the more you strip it of flavour. That’s why vodka is subtler in flavour than whisky… because it has gone through much more distillation and filtration!

“So, if an Armagnac has a strong character, an energy, it’s well matured without too much oaky character (from the casks used to age the Armagnac). We keep the character of grapes from 35 different estates, that’s aged in more than 65 different vintages. This is why when you taste an Armagnac from us, you can say you like it or don’t like it. It’s something that always gives you a feeling in your body, it’s always about creating a reaction in someone,” said Darroze.

Meanwhile, Twenty Third Street Distillery is certainly benefitting from the upswing in spirits appreciation that’s been spearheaded by Australia’s small ‘craft’ distilleries.

Shaun Pattinson is the global brand ambassador for them and he had this to say about his brand: “Brandy will be our distillery’s focus, and we have the slogan ‘Not Your Nanna’s Brandy’ wryly challenging every new drinker’s antipathy towards distillers offering aged grape spirits! Oh yes and we also have a tasty gin and a quirky ‘hybrid whisk(e)y’ which blends single malt Scotch whisky with American Bourbon for the brave ones out there!”

But what on earth is this ‘Hybrid Whisk(e)y’ business then, Shaun? “Well, Hybrid Whisk(e)y is a creation by head distiller Graham Buller at our distillery. He’s taken traditional Scotch with five years of barrel ageing and combined it with Bourbon that has two years of barrel ageing, the final blend then goes back into bourbon barrels for finishing.”

Situated at Renmark in Riverland, in South Australia, about three hours northeast of Adelaide, products from the distillery have created quite a delightful stir amongst the Aussie bar faithful in recent months and looks like its star mix-up of American Bourbon and Scotch whisky is set to gain a lot of attention in our neck of the woods too.

And trust Pattinson to sum things up quite nicely for Twenty Third Street Distillery: “Sure, the non-traditional combination of Scotch and Bourbon will give purist whisky aficionados a case of the vapours, but for the rest of us, it offers an interesting and refreshing excuse to roll out the tumblers and have a very interesting few rounds, indeed!”