Whisky & Cognac for the 2019 Lunar New Year: Year of the PigBy Stephanie Moreno
February 5th rings in the Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year. According to the Chinese zodiac calendar, 2019 marks the Year of the Pig, the last in the twelve year cycle. The pig or boar is an auspicious animal representing generosity, wealth, happiness, and fortune. This annual celebration is marked with fireworks and wishes of good fortune, but instead of just one night of festivities, the Lunar New Year lasts for 15 days ending on February 20th. There will be festivals, parades and feasts to attend, not just in China but in areas throughout the world.
One thing to note is that this time of year is also the season of giving in China. Red envelopes filled with cash are most common for parents and grandparents to give to children. Meanwhile, fruit, tea and candy are also appropriate and often wrapped with red and gold colored paper or foil. And of course, we can’t forget alcohol. Spirits such as baijiu (bye-joe), a Chinese white spirit, are typical, but so are whiskies and brandies, particularly cognacs. As a result, many whisky and cognac producers have responded with limited edition bottlings to celebrate the occasion which we’ve gathered for you to see. In addition, we’re also including a couple special whiskies perfect to celebrate the Year of the Pig.
Naturally, this scotch blend is a special one to note this year. Originally created in 1977, this 5-year-old blended whisky was light-heartedly named because it’s as “smooth as a pig’s nose”. This whisky is produced with a high percentage (40%) of malt whiskies, principally from the Speyside. Smaller portions of Lowland and Islay malts provide balance and add to both the soft side and the deeper complexities of this blended whisky. This blend is available globally and will only set you back around $30.
Released in fall 2018, this is the fifth release in the Boss Hog series from Vermont-based Whistlepig, named after a beloved pig: Mauve. Aged 13 years, this straight rye whiskey finished its maturation in calvados casks in honor of Mauve’s love of apples. The bottle is topped with a handcrafted Danforth pewter stopper in the shape of Mauve ascending to heaven.
Suntory first began to introduce special bottlings for the Lunar New Year in 1982. The Japanese whisky brand releases celebratory bottlings for both Suntory Royal Whisky and Suntory Old Whisky. The Year of the Boar bottling for Suntory Royal is shaped as a pig and is decorated with pine, bamboo and plum flower patterns—all auspicious symbols. The 600ml bottling is ¥9500 (~$85) and available in Japan and select online retailers.
Every year Johnnie Walker releases a new limited edition Blue Label expression that celebrates the Chinese New Year. For 2019’s Year of the Pig, English illustrator Chrissy Lau designed a label that was influenced by her Chinese heritage. Inside the bottling is the classic Blue Label Scotch whisky blend of rare and exclusive malt and grain whiskies.
Royal Salute 21 Year was a homage by Chivas Regal to the then-newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. At 21 years, it is also the youngest in the Royal Salute lineup. Why 21 years old you might ask? The 21 is an important designation as it refers to the 21-gun-salute, for generations a form of honor and respect to sovereigns and dignitaries. This global travel retail bottling for the Year of the Pig is presented in a red box with an intricate design as well as a sapphire bottling with gold flecks.
Douglas Laing Rings in the Lunar New Year with a Trio of Exclusive Bottlings
Bunnahabhain 2007 11 Year Old Particular (Douglas Laing)
Glengoyne 2007 11 Year Old Particular (Douglas Laing)
Craigellachie 1995 23 Year XOP (Douglas Laing)
Douglas Laing, the independent scotch bottler, is ringing in the Year of the Pig with three single malt single cask bottlings. One of them is a 23-year-old Xtra Old Particular from Craigellachie, and the other two are 11-year-old Old Particular bottlings from Bunnahabhain and Glengoyne respectively.
The vintage years chosen for each bottling were all distilled in the Year of the Pig, according to the Chinese zodiac. Additionally, the packaging for each of these commemorative bottlings depicts a decorative golden pig, bringing good fortune and celebrating the arrival of the New Year. The whiskies are to be sold as a set of three in Taiwan, priced at NT$19,999 (US$650). The XOP bottlings will also be available individually in China and Hong Kong.
Douglas Laing Lunar New Year Bottlings / Photo Credit: Douglas Laing
Hennessy enlisted Shanghai-based artist Guangyu Zhang to create artwork this year for the packaging of both its VSOP Privilege and XO Year of the Pig bottlings. This cognac bottling is said to have been created in 1817 after the then-Prince Regent of the UK and later King George IV requested a VSOP from Hennessy be created. This is a blend of up to 60 eaux de vie aged up to 15 years.
This classic tear-dropped bottle of cognac is presented in a special gold tin stamped with a mosaic-style pattern. The cognac itself is made with eaux de vie sourced from the Grande Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois regions. It is blended and aged at the Chateau de Cognac cellars, first established in 1795 by Baron Otard. This special Lunar New Year gift packaging for the Baron Otard XO Gold is available beginning January 2019 in global travel retail locations including Delhi, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Seoul, Shanghai and Beijing.