World Whisky Day at Checkers -20% off Single Malt Whiskies

Some news from Checkers, the retail giant:


Rare and exclusive Loch Lomond and Glen Scotia Whiskies launched in South Africa to celebrate World Whisky Day

Whisky is one of the fastest growing alcohol categories in the world, with the increased demand for premium whisky continuing to propel the global market. South African’s have in the last decade, cottoned on to this trend, with whisky now the leading spirit sold in the country and more and more consumers looking to try a dram and celebrate the water of life!

Enjoyed neat, with water, in a cocktail, or however you prefer to drink it, whisky is a stylish spirit that will be celebrated across the globe come World Whisky Day on 21 May 2016. In anticipation of this special day, The House of Fine Whisky at Checkers LiquorShop will be offering 20% off all single malt whiskies from Thursday 19 May to Sunday 21 May 2016.

In addition, two of the finest and rarest Scotch Whiskies from independent Scottish Distiller, the Loch Lomond Group called Loch Lomond and Glen Scotia are now exclusively available from The House of Fine Whisky at Checkers LiquorShop, for the first time in South Africa.

Launched during a Whisky and food pairing event held in Johannesburg, attendees were treated to an authentic Scottish experience hosted by Loch Lomond Master Distiller Bill White, as well as the culinary expertise of Chef Sasha Sonnenberg Simpson.

Nestled on the boundary between the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland, the Loch Lomond Distillery has a heritage that spans over 200 years, dating back to 1814. Today, some of the finest single malt expressions and quality whisky blends come from the Loch Lomond Group, each an excellent example of its region, history and style. The Loch Lomond Group also owns the Glen Scotia distillery in Campbeltown, once known as the “whisky capital of the world”. Founded in 1832, Glen Scotia has been distilling on the same site producing a distinctive Campbeltown style of single malt renowned for its sea spray and vanilla oak.

Bill White states proudly: “Our unique combination of 3 different styles of malt stills along with our Grain still, together with our on-site cooperage, repairing and re-charring approximately 10,000 barrels every year, ensures we produce some of the finest quality single malts, blends and single grain whiskies in the world.”

Now you don’t have to take his word for it, you can savour the spirit of some of Scotland’s finest whiskies, exclusively available from Checkers LiquorShop.

The range includes Loch Lomond’s Original Single Malt, Signature Deluxe Blend, Reserve and Single Grain as well as the Glen Scotia 15 Year Old Single Malt, Double Cask Single Malt, Victoriana Single Malt and the High Commissioner Blend whiskies, all available exclusively at Checkers LiquorShop.

For more information visit , or join the conversation on Twitter: @CheckersSA #CheckersWWD and #WorldWhiskyDay

Fact Sheet

Scotch whisky is by definition made in Scotland and can only be produced in Scotland. Whisky produced elsewhere cannot be called Scotch, as it is protected by an origin appellation, meaning that in order for the whisky to qualify the product must be distilled, matured and bottled in Scotland.

More about The House of Fine Whisky

The House of Fine Whisky at Checkers LiquorShop offers the finest range of local and international whiskies available at supermarket prices giving consumer’s unrivalled access to top brands.

The collection includes premium blends as well as single malt whisky sourced from Scotland, Ireland, America and South Africa – including local award winners Bain’s Mountain Whisky and Three Ships 5-Year-Old. Imported favourites include 10-year-old Talisker, Jameson, 16-year-old Lagavulin, the newly launched Loch Lomond and Glen Scotia ranges, as well as other premium offerings.

Tasting Notes:

  • Loch Lomond Single Grain is carefully matured using only the finest malted barley. Distilled in our coffey still, this single grain is smooth and sweet with added complexity not usually found in a single grain.
  • Loch Lomond Reserve – This unique premium blended Scotch whisky contains both malt and grain whisky distilled at the Loch Lomond distillery. Each barrel is selected for its character and maturity, then expertly blended to create a well-balanced whisky that delivers a perfectly smooth finish.
  • Loch Lomond Signature is a deluxe blended whisky containing the best Scotland has to offer- malt and grain whiskies and the purest water distilled at Loch Lomond and matured in the finest first fill oak casks. After a long and slow maturation, the whisky is then married and conditioned to the Distillers 100 cask Solera to create increased smoothness.
  • Loch Lomond Original Single Malt is carefully matured, before being married in the finest oak casks for the perfect harmony of flavour and aroma. The result is an elegant and full-bodied whisky with a smoothness making this exceptionally easy to drink. A single malt whisky with a distinctive background character, with a hint of smoke and peat.
  • Glen Scotia Double Cask is classic Campbeltown malt with a formidable pedigree. The whisky is finished in a combination of first fill bourbon barrels followed by time in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks to produce an outstanding malt whisky that provides the perfect balance of rich spicy fruits overlaid with the characteristic sea spray and vanilla oak finish of the house of Glen Scotia.
  • Glen Scotia 15 Year Old has been gently matured for a minimum of 15 years in the finest American oak barrels before bottling. The signature nose has hints of vanilla oak, interwoven with the subtle notes of sea spray and spicy aromatic fruits.
  • Glen Scotia Victoriana is hand selected from Glen Scotia’s reserve cellar by its master blender, replicating traditional Victorian values. Each cask is chosen for its rare character and exceptional maturity. Finished in deep charred oak, the result is an exceptionally smooth single malt whisky where aroma and flavour work in harmony. Bottled in the traditional way straight from the cask without filtration, its subtle wood and vanilla flavour is enhanced by a full bodied spicy fruit aroma and mildly smokey aftertaste.
  • High Commissioner is a blend selected from our finest grain and malt whiskies; High Commissioner has flavours of soft fruits, peach, pear and chewy caramel. Sweet and fruity with notes of malted barley, overlaid with a touch of peat. Well balanced and complex with a long smooth warming finish.

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Late last year I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Dr Kirstie McCallum. We drank whisky and talked whisky. Good times! Read about it here.

Kirstie has moved from her role as Global Ambassador and is now the lead blender for Scottish Leader.

With World Whisky Day tomorrow, have a look at the press release below and try the cocktail recipe. I think it will be a pretty good way to start the day!


Savour the seductively smooth, sweet, rich and smoky taste of the new Scottish Leader Signature this World Whisky Day, on May 21. And drink a toast to the new female lead blender for Scottish Leader:  the accomplished Dr Kirstie McCallum, an analytical chemist by training and one of the first women in Scotland to become a whisky maker.

Her appointment marks a new, collaborative approach to blending of Scottish Leader, explains SA marketing manager, Lucindi Branfield: “Spearheaded by Kirstie as lead blender, the team comprises 15 people, who now all contribute their specialist skills to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.  It’s an exciting breakaway from the more traditional, hierarchical approach to blending, and it’s an expression of Scottish Leader’s innovative, forward-thinking and progressive attitude, exemplified by the brand promise to offer new perspectives and richer possibilities.

“Collectively, the new team brings the equivalent of nearly 400 years’ experience. Their focus is on ensuring quality and consistency in Scottish Leader’s batch blending process.”

Previously the roving global brand ambassador for several award-winning Scotch whiskies, from the very select single malts such as Bunnahabhain, Tobermory and Ledaig, to blended whisky brands, Scottish Leader and Black Bottle, Dr McCallum has been active in the Scotch whisky industry for nearly 20 years.*

The sophisticated Scottish Leader Signature features a pronounced Scottish island malt influence for those Scotch lovers who enjoy a distinctively rich, complex and layered blended whisky with a signature hint of Hebridean smokiness.

Enjoy it neat – with or without ice – with a mixer such as ginger ale, or as part of a refreshing cocktail such as the following, one of lead blender Dr McCallum’s favourites:


Scottish Leader Signature, honey, apple and mint cocktail


8 mint leaves

37.5ml Scottish Leader Signature whisky

50ml cloudy apple juice

12.5ml honey or honey syrup

Dash of fresh lemon juice

Cubed ice



Place the mint leaves into a cocktail shaker. Pour the honey or honey syrup over the leaves. Using a muddle stick, stir to release the mint fragrances and flavours. Fill the shaker with cubed ice. Pour the Scottish Leader Signature whisky and apple juice over the mixture. Add a dash of fresh lemon juice. Close the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Fill a short glass with cubed ice and pour the mixture over the ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint.


To view Scottish Leader’s ‘new perspectives, richer possibilities’ global television commercial, click here:


Follow Scottish Leader on Facebook (, Twitter ( and Instagram (”


Glenmorangie Signet and dawn breaking in Sandton Square

Anything to do with Glenmorangie reminds me of Whisky Live in Sandton several years ago. In those days many international whisky people came to visit us in South Africa. After the show, the conversations with these vibrant visitors stretched into the early hours of the morning. Traditionally the last night ended in Sandton Square at the foot of Nelson Mandela’s statue, with the night changing into day.

On one of those nights the conversation turned to wood management. Dr Bill Lumsden, now head of distilling and whisky creation at Glenmorangie, was one of six people sat round the table. Bill’s doctorate is in wood management. He spoke, we listened. It was one of those special whisky moments when the passion and dedication of whisky makers comes across as clear as the new-make spirit flowing off the still.

I enjoy using Glenmorangie, particularly the Original, in tastings. The distillery has the tallest stills in Scotland and the spirit is very light.  The distillery is known for its venture into different wood finishes and new expressions are eagerly awaited by the whisky loving public.

Some years ago they launched Signet, a beautifully packaged whisky with a deep, rich flavour and colour to match. The barley is heavily roasted – they call it “chocolate malt” – and whiskies from some of the older casks at the warehouses go into the blended malt whisky.  I remember the Global Brand Ambassador, Karen Fullerton, taking a few us through a tasting. The whisky is very special, a worthy addition to one’s whisky collection.

Have a look at this press release…and the bottle below.


Glenmorangie Signet represents the very essence of Glenmorangie. The award winning single malt is the culmination of the Distillery’s 170-year dedication to crafting unnecessarily well-made whisky.

It is informed by the mineral-rich water of Glenmorangie’s Tarlogie Springs; the local Cadboll barley, which adds a silky creaminess to the spirit; the 150-year-old oaks which make up the casks in which it is matured and the Distillery’s ancient provenance, signified by the ancient Pictish artwork of Glenmorangie’s homeland, the Hilton of Cadboll Stone. The first whisky to be created from high-roasted “chocolate” malt, and incorporating some of Glenmorangie’s oldest stocks, Glenmorangie Signet epitomises the Distillery’s reputation for combining innovation with tradition.

The spirit is a deep amber colour with aromas of chocolate, coffee and mint, layered with dark treacle, spice and fruits. Tastes of rich sweetness contrast with spices and bitter mocha, combined with baked apricots, orange peel and malt, which finish in tastes of fresh mint and lemon.

First released in 2008, Glenmorangie Signet has won a series of industry awards, including several Gold Outstanding and Best in Class awards from the International Wine and Spirits Competition, and Gold awards from the International Spirits Challenge and San Francisco World Spirits Competition.


Aroma: A strong Aruba espresso fused with a treacly plum pudding, rich with sherry, and candied orange peel.

Taste: A contrast of rich sweetness with an explosive crackle of sizzling spices and bitter mocha.

Finish: A fresh spring-like breeze of mint with a bright citrus lemony-green quality.”


Johnnie Walker Green – welcome back. And proof that whisky is for drinking.

Most of the whisky tastings I did in my early years of talking whisky involved the Johnnie Walker range of whiskies. When we did events, I chose to present from the Johnnie Green stand. Not Blue, not Black, but Green. Why? Because as much as I love Black, the Green gave me the opportunity to share the stories of several single malts – Talisker, Caol Ila, Linkwood & Cragganmore – the lead malts in the legendary 15 year old blended malt whisky. Also, because second to Black, it is my favourite of the range.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when Johnnie Green was discontinued. I understood the reasons – quite simply, there was not enough 15 year old whiskies around to keep the blend consistent. That’s the thing with whisky, it needs time in the barrel. Don’t rush the process. Prices of Green hit the roof and I heard of bottles going for close on R 2000. I heard of people buying what they could at R 1500 a bottle, for eventual resale.

Thankfully common sense prevailed (and there is enough 15 year old whisky) and Johnnie Green has returned – at a very fair price.  Whisky is for drinking, people. Invest if you want, but buy to drink.

Here is the official press release.

I’ll see you at the store;)



Johnnie Walker, the number one Scotch whisky in the world, is reintroducing its much-loved blended malt Scotch whisky because of popular demand.

Johnnie Walker Green Label is crafted from malt whiskies from classic distilleries across Scotland that have been matured for a minimum of 15 years. Since 2012 its sales had been restricted but Johnnie Walker said it was bringing the blend back into its range in South Africa as well as globally.

Marketing Manager for the Reserve Portfolio at Diageo; Vongani Chinkanda said: “Johnnie Walker Green Label has always had a following and we have listened to our consumers and are responding to popular demand to reintroduce the blend and we’re thrilled to be able to respond to that. Johnnie Walker Green Label is an exceptional whisky which is a tribute to the craftsmanship of our blenders and their great skill in selecting and blending malt whiskies to deliver a rich, multi-dimensional and balanced flavour profile.”

Johnnie Walker Green Label is a blend of only malt whiskies, with no grain whisky content. It is crafted from a palette of Speyside, Highland, Lowland and Island malts, delivering all the character of a single malt whisky, but with a greater depth and wider flavour experience.

The unique flavour profile of Johnnie Walker Green Label is a result of the careful balancing of four key signature styles, represented by Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila.

Jim Beveridge, Johnnie Walker Master Blender, said: “The challenge of Johnnie Walker Green Label is to have a wide flavour spectrum from malts matured for at least 15 years in American and European Oak, ensuring that those flavours really complement each other and work in harmony to create a blend of great complexity which, at its heart, is true to the Johnnie Walker style of big and bold flavours with a signature smokiness.

“Crafting this blend is all about making the aromas more pronounced and vibrant, allowing us to shape a blend that has the depth of character which just isn’t possible from one malt whisky alone.”

Johnnie Walker Green Label has won a string of international awards including Double Gold and Best Blended Scotch at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in both 2006 and 2007.

Johnnie Walker Green Label will be available during May 2016 with a recommended retail price of R649. 95 for a bottle. Look out for it in stores from around 16 May.”

Cape Town Regional Finals – World Class Cocktail Competition

The cocktail culture in South Africa took off slowly but is now flying along like a jumbo jet. Occupying most of the first class cabin is Diageo, the global drinks giant. Their World Class Bartender of the Year competition incentivizes members of the bartending community to create cocktails from the Diageo Reserve range of spirits. There are prizes – travel, equipment, money – but from what I’ve seen the competitors do what they do for the love of cocktails and recognition from peers and industry legends.

Brent’s winning tribal brew, complete with fireplace.

On Monday night I attended the Cape Town regional finals of the World Class competition. It is a whole day affair with each of the 10 contestants having 2 opportunities to show off their skills and suffer through what must be an excruciatingly nerve-wracking time behind the bar. Bradley Jacobs, whisky pundit and genial face of the Diageo Reserve brands, hosted the evening. The judges included Chantelle Horne (who I dubbed the cocktail queen many years ago) and 2015 winner Dom De Lorenzo.

Travis Kuhn’s creation with freshly baked bread.

The venue was the newish bar in Cape Town, Outrage of Modesty. It is at 88 Shortmarket Street but don’t expect a sign, a number or a normal entrance. Follow the tatty stairs and flaking plaster on the walls to designer cocktail heaven. They do cutting edge cocktails – on steroids.

The “hero” or main spirit of the evening was Don Julio Tequila, part of the Diageo Reserve range of luxury spirits, which includes Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Gold Label Reserve, and Platinum Label Whisky, Ketel One and Ciroc Vodka, Zacapa Rum and Tanqueray No. Ten Gin.

Caitlin Hill – Miss Tanqueray Gin – doing her thing. 

I’ve been to a few of these competitions and learnt to check what I think I know about cocktails at the door, while I prepare my brain and palate to be blown away.0000K---Post-5

Those from the bartending community, a large family of wonderful people working crazy hours behind bars, who are selected for the competition, spend months experimenting. They infuse, foam, pour, shake, rattle, roll and stir all manner of herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, juices and spirits. They practice their art – because what they present to the judges are works or art.

I started noting the names and ingredients of the drinks the contestants made but gave up. Way too complicated for me and definitely not something I could attempt at home!

The finalists were:


3rd place went to Justin; Vlad came second and Brent won. Next stop is the national round, then the glitzy and glamourous global event. How much better can the drinks get? I don’t know. But each time I’ve thought things can’t really get much better, they do. It is a treat to sit on my side of the bar and enjoy what these passionate, dedicated and positively brilliant bartenders create.

Brent’s winning tribal brew, complete with fireplace.

I’ll end with a poem Brett recited at the end of his presentation – where he used burnt coconut husk to spice beer. Yes, it works!

By fires light

And the stars at night

The village elders spoke of the spirits true might

They spoke of the land

They spoke of the trees

They were many but now are few

They lamented this over the tribal brew.




Deconstructing Bain’s Whisky at 12 Apostles Hotel with Andy Watts. Whisky Blog South Africa


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A spectacular sunset over the Atlantic ocean greeted members of the drinks media lucky enough to crack the nod for a whisky event with a difference – an evening deconstructing Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, led by Andy Watts, the man who makes it. The venue was the classy 12 Apostles Hotel, home to a bar with a great view and staff who understand proper service.


0047 MQDeconstructing a whisky usually involves tasting different components, separately, and working out how the components combine in the end product. We used to do this often with blended whiskies, tasting the grain and a few signature malt components, then the finished product. I’ve done this often with malts, and done properly can help people understand the complex flavours of whisky. Of course, it’s a lot of fun as well. Whisky lovers have fun while learning – part of the perks of whisky fascination.

0055 MQ-2Deconstructing a single malt or single grain, as we did with Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky is a different exercise. We start with the new make spirit, the liquid as it comes out of the still, clear as water without any of the rich colours aging in oak barrels provides. There are a few malt distilleries that have taken to selling their new make – cash flow is vital for a new distillery – but I can’t see the global liquor giant Distell, owners of James Sedgwick Distillery, home of Bain’s, doing this at the moment. And that is a pity, because the new make is good enough to enjoy on its own. It may be the starting point of an award winning whisky, but I’d like to see some of it bottled and sold. It is that good.

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We moved on to spirits that can be called whisky, having matured for three years in oak. The two whiskies we enjoyed, aged in first fill and third fill casks, showed the influence of oak in a positive way and gave a hint as to what an extra two or so years can do. The penultimate whisky was the standard Bain’s that we know and love, a nose of citrus, cream, lemon meringue pie, a soft, rounded palate of home made warm apple pie and a finish moving back to the citrus notes.

0012 MQThe final whisky was a grain, aged for many years, the last couple in a rare cask. It took me back about 15 years when a whisky writer from Scotland introduced me to aged grain. It was a 35 odd year old Invergordon. Unlike anything I’d had before, it opened my mind up to how good aged grain whisky could be. Now, this “work-in-progress” from Andy is one of over 60 projects that the team is working on. If the whisky I had gets released in its present form it will win many awards and be responsible for much joy in the whisky world. More than 14 years old, it has the smoothness and complexity of a spirit aged for 30, 40 years. Of course it was the star of the show, but until it is released and in what form, as a single grain, as part of a blend, maybe after another year or so in oak, I’m quite happy to sit back and enjoy my normal Bain’s, sitting home in Cape Town, celebrating Freedom Day!

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Will Kool and The Gang come to Cape Town for a whisky celebration? Whisky Live SA Three Ships SA – Whisky Blog South Africa

You’re going to be seeing a lot about the new Whisky Live CELEBRATION! Yes, think about a celebration and you’ll think about the West Indies cricket team last night (I assure you the party will go on for a long time!), and if you are a certain vintage, you’ll remember the classic Kool and The Gang song from around 1980.  Imagine seeing them live on stage, with a whisky in your hand. We can only hope. But while we daydream, we dream about whisky!

Let’s kick off the news with something local – a new expression from the James Sedgwick Distillery. Here is the most recent press release.


Whisky enthusiasts are in for a treat at this years’ Whisky Live Celebration held from 14 to 16 April at The Lookout on the V&A Waterfront, where they will have the privilege of a sneak-preview tasting of the Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt to be launched later this year.

In addition consumers can taste the Three Ships 5 Year Old Premium Select, named World’s Best Blended Whisky at the 2012 World Whisky Awards, and the Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish, awarded double gold at the 2014 San Francisco Spirits Competition.

Andy Watts, master distiller of the pioneering Three Ships range of whiskies, will share the extraordinary journey of these locally produced whiskies and how they have earned many firsts for the South African whisky industry – the first single malt, the first blend of South African and Scotch whiskies, a 100% locally blended whisky and the first South African whisky to take the title as the World’s Best Blended Whisky.

The whiskies are crafted at The James Sedgwick’s Distillery in the picturesque Boland town of Wellington. The distillery was established in 1886 and over the past two decades underwent several upgrades which transformed it into a state-of-the-art distillery, the only one in Africa.

Tickets cost R170 each at or, or R190 at the door. All ticket prices include a complimentary tasting glass, a 500ml bottle of Valpré Spring Water and 15 tasting vouchers.”

Email for more information