Baranows Emporium: Elements of Islay Whisky Tasting at the Shirt Bar

Stepping into the Shirt Bar on a Wednesday night might have had you believe that the small bar/retail shop had turned into a laboratory. Rows of beakers and lab apparatus were laid out at the bar for the Elements of Islay whisky tasting hosted by Ben Baranow of Baranows Emporium.

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting
Elements of Islay Whisky Tasting at the Shirt Bar

“The Experiment” cocktail was served on arrival to prepare the palate for a journey into the peated single malt whiskies. 45ml of Elements of Islay Bn2 + 15 ml of Pedro Ximenez sherry + 2 dashes of Angostura bitters stirred over ice, strained into a beaker and finished with orange peel was the formula that yielded a smoky, warming drink with a citrus note. The sherry cut through the peatness of the whisky, bringing out a little sweetness yet allowing the flavours of the whisky come through.

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting
The Experiment cocktail

Baranows Emporium

The Baranow story began in 1948 when Ben Baranow’s grandfather started a tobacco store. In 1978, his father, Wal Baranow, joined the business and introduced cigars. Ben came on board in 1999 and in 2004, they sold the store and moved to Hawthorne where they set up a cigar lounge with over 400 whiskies at the bar. In 2010, they obtained the Australian rights for Ron Diplomatico rum, then added the Elements of Islay range, Black Tot rum and the soon to be released Tapatio tequila.

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting
Ben Baranow

Elements of Islay

The Elements of Islay range has been available in Australia for about 18 months. The single malt whiskies are packaged in medicinal shaped bottles called “Pharmacy”. The symbol on the label (eg Lp3) denotes where the whisky comes from (eg Laphroaig) and the number (eg 3) refers to the batch number. The label also bears a signature with blends approved by a whisky industry expert.

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting

Elements of Islay are independent bottling where they purchase barrels of whisky from a distillery and bottle it under their brand. The whiskies are non-chill filtered, which means the proteins and oils are not removed therefore the flavours aren’t stripped away from the whisky. The whiskies are bottled at cask strength and bear no age statement which allows the bottlers to create a whisky based on a flavour profile instead of an age statement.

Bunnahabhain Single Islay Malt whisky and Elements of Islay Bn2

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting

The first tasting is a comparative one with Bunnahabhain 12 yo Single Islay Malt whisky (40% ABV) and Elements of Islay Bn2 (46% ABV). Bunnahabhain distillery are known to supply blended whisky eg Famous Grouse and have the lowest peated content in Islay (< 2 parts per million), making it a gentle introduction to the Islay type of whisky.

The first whisky is darker in colour, which can denote either an older dram or one that has been aged in sherry casks. On the nose, the Bunnahabhain has a soft peat, sweet with honey and citrus notes. Bn2 has a lot more peat, iodine and saltiness, with almost medicinal qualities in the flavour. It has an oilier mouthfeel while the first is thinner and dissipates faster. Bn2 turns a little cloudy when you add a few drops of water, a characteristic of a non-chill filtered whisky.

Elements of Islay Br2

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting

Element of Islay Br2 (49.3% ABV) comes from Bruichladdich and also makes a good introduction to Islay single malts due to its low levels of peat (4-5 parts per million). On the nose, it has very little peat as expected with some notes of green apples. On the palate, it’s a little creamy and buttery with the peat coming through at the end with a short finish.

Elements of Islay Pe5

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting

Elements of Islay Pe5 comes Port Ellen distillery which was closed in 1982. The site has since been turned into a malting facility for Diageo who use it in some blends, including Johnnie Walker King George V. Pe5 has 57.9% ABV, 25 parts per million of peat and is unique in the range that it is made up of a single cask of whisky. The batches vary in this element, with Pe3 being is aged in a single bourbon cask while the Pe5 is aged in a single sherry cask.

On the nose, there is a lot of brown sugar and spice. On the palate, the sherry influence imparts a stewed fruit/Christmas cake character. There is a distinct creaminess to it, a little chocolate coupled with good smoke and a long lingering finish. Pe5 is a sipping whisky and a luxurious dram to be savoured in special company.

Some photographs of the event below:

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting
Patrick preparing the Experiment Cocktail

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting
Adam Hofbauer (Shirt Bar) with the final touches on the cocktail

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting
Whisky tasting at the Shirt Bar

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting
L-R: Dan Woolley (Whisky Ambassador), Ben Baranow

Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting
Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay Tasting
Cheese and charcuterie platter, mini pies

The Baranows Emporium range of Elements of Islay includes more whiskies such as the CI1 and CI2 (Caol Ila), Lp3 (Laphroaig) which will be featured in the review of the Whisky Show.

The Shirt Bar holds regular whisky tasting events which often include a cocktail on arrival, the whiskies followed by canapés.

The Baranows Emporium Elements of Islay tasting session was held on Wednesday July 18 2012.

Shirt Bar is featured in Sydney’s top whisky bars.

Baranows Emporium

Shirt Bar
7 Sussex Lane
Between 275 Kent St & Sussex St
Sydney NSW 2000

Gourmantic attended the tasting as media guests.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.