Asian Delights – Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky 45%

Much like the Akashi White Oak where we had twice sampled the Red Blend but not the Single Malt, we also tried the Nikka Coffey Grain twice but not the Malt version.

Our first blush of the Nikka Coffey Grain in 2016 made us think of piña colada… two years later when we tasted another bottle in an evening exclusively featuring grains, we still found it had a delightful desert like quality.

Both are make in Nikka’s Coffey still however the difference is that the grain is mostly made from corn whereas the malt from malted barley.

What did we think of the malted version?

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky 45%

  • Nose – Chocolaty cream, tiramisu, marzipan, toffee, like a sweet Amarula, a caramel Irish Baily’s, candied cherries, a cherry cough syrup, banana, cinnamon
  • Palate – Soft, flat, liner, thin body, cheery and cherry, smooth
  • Finish – Hardly there
  • Water – Spicier on the nose, cream and fruit

Overall it retained a sweet dessert quality yet was heavier and darker than we remembered the Grain one… nothing complex but still satisfying and most enjoyable in its way.

Here is what the folks over at Nikka have to say about their Coffey Malt:

Coffey Malt is made from 100% malted barley. However it is not categorized as “malt whisky” but as “grain whisky” since it is not distilled in a pot still. This unique production method results in extraordinary flavors and texture.

We enjoyed a few more whiskies in our Asian Delights evening:

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Asian Delights – White Oak Akashi Single Malt 40%

Akashi Japanese whisky is actually a part of the Eigashima distillery which has made sake and shochu since the late 1880s. From 1919, the “White Oak Whisky” distillery was making whisky of sorts… however from 1984, equipped with a new pot still based on Scottish designs, the distillery started to make “proper” whisky under the brand of Akashi. While it predominantly made blends, production of single malts – like this one – started in 2007.

And while it is known as Japanese whisky, the barley and malts are imported from Scotland. In keeping with Scottish whiskies, they are aged for a minimum of 3 years however with the warmer climate in Akashi, the Angels share is considerably more than in Scotland.

For a few years now, Akashi White Oak whiskies – both the blend and single malt – can be found in Mumbai Duty Free for a reasonable price. Largely linked to this accessibility and affordability, our Whisky Ladies first sampled the blend in late 2016. We enjoyed its simple “apple cider” quality so much that we tracked down a 2nd bottle to share with the gents in a “Ladies Choice” evening early 2017.

Knowing one small bottle alone would not be sufficient, I’d called for reinforcements – and got two – both another Red Blended and this Single Malt! Both Red were opened and polished off but this bottle was kept aside, patiently waiting for the right opportunity to opened with its contributor.

Finally in March 2019 the moment came…. and what did we think?

White Oak Akashi Single Malt 40%

  • Nose – Fruity and spicy, green apples, simple and sweet, evolved into a happy candy floss, shifting to cinnamon and vanilla cream
  • Palate – Mmmmm…. apple, a bit of wood, quite pleasant, a nice spice, uncomplicated yet had some character
  • Finish – Easy going, slightly bitter

An earlier experience from an open bottle left me with the impression of bubble gum… this time? “Grown up” bubble gum!

Here’s a few more whiskies we enjoyed in our Asian Delights evening:

And our earlier Akashi tasting experiences?

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Whisky Ladies Eastern Promise – Akashi, Nikka Coffey + From the Barrel, Kavalan

Over the years, we’ve had the occasional opportunity to revisit or explore a “sibling” of a particular whisky. This was very much the case in our March Whisky Ladies session where each whisky was a variation on a familiar theme… yet distinctly different too!

Whisky Ladies Asian Delights

Even when revisiting the same whisky, each experience is unique – what we discover from a fresh bottle differs from an open one, what we found in a different year, mood, context influences our experience…

That’s the fun of exploring whiskies together – we contrast and compare – both the whiskies and our individual impressions. When it is with terrific company and a lovely setting, what could be more enjoyable?

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Dubai Dream Drams – SMWS “Harmonious Balance” 19 year 55.2%

We almost didn’t open this bottle… after sampling a quintet of “Dream Drams” in Dubai early 2019, we stopped to enjoy a delicious dinner, socialize with our better halves until someone somehow came to the conclusion that we simply had to open just one more bottle!

So out came this Laphroaig, bottled by the folks over at Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), fancifully dubbed “Harmonious Balance.” Matured for 19 years in refill ex-bourbon hogshead cask, this whisky truly turned out to be the “show stopper” of the night!

SMWS 29.229 “Harmonious balance” 19 year (13 May 1988) 55.2% (Laphroaig)

  • Nose – A floral perfume, hand spun candies, a hint of tobacco leaf peaking through  honey
  • Palate – A delicious spice, peat yet more nuanced and balanced than expected from a Laphroaig, think a mild sweet cigar not a brash bold bad boy, chased by a bit of sweet salted toffee
  • Finish – What an absolutely glorious finish! By far the longest, lingering and lovely finish of the evening… much after sipping, one could still enjoy the sweet peat and touch of spice with a chocolate minty freshness too

For many, this was the favourite of the evening… even those who purport to not care for peat were won over and we must admit it was aptly named “Harmonious balance” as all the elements came together in the most beautiful way.

When I compared our impressions with the full version of their tasting notes found online, there was a clear resonance in experience. Here is what the SMWS folks had to say

Imaging waking up, looking out the tent door pitched on the beach and seeing a glorious sunrise over the sea. We then made breakfast on a driftwood campfire by toasting bread and having it with salted butter and thick set honey. To taste, cigar smoke sweetness at the start, ashy with a hint of tar in the mid palate and a slightly herbal/peppermint finish – all in perfect balance and harmony. When we reluctantly added a drop of water the sun continued getting higher in the sky and the scent of fresh salty sea air made us feel ready for whatever the day had in store for us.

It was one of only 234 bottles produced from the cask, last seen online selling for approx EUR 200.

Our Dubai host put together a remarkable collection of “Dream Drams“:

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Dubai Dream Drams – Kilchoman Sherry Single Cask 59.5%

Started in 2005, Kilchoman was the first new distillery on Islay in nearly 125 years. More importantly, the distillery crafted a distinctive “Islay character” style that challenged assumptions that quality required age.

Recently in Mumbai, I had the pleasure of chatting with Kilchoman’s founder Anthony Willis in the Spirited Stories tent at The Vault Biennale, where he shared with pride their journey into the world of whisky making.

There will be more on that another time, for now let’s focus the whisky! This particular single cask release featured as the 5th whisky sampled early January 2019 in Dubai.

In keeping with our “unique” theme, this bottle was one of only 42 produced to be sold from the Kilchoman distillery shop. It is approximately 5 years of age and according to Whisky Base, last sold for EUR 161.

Here is what my tasting companions found…

Kilchoman Sherry (8 Nov 2007/22 Feb 2013) Cask 447/2007 59.5%

  • Nose: Wet wood, campfire, burnt sugar cane, cinnamon, black pepper
  • Palate: The peat from the fresh bottle was quite pronounced, edgy, taking time to settle down and reveal the sherry dimension
  • Finish: A sweet peat cinnamon
  • Water: Tamed it considerably but for some it still remained a bit brash and unbalanced

I could swear one of the guys called it an “utara” whisky… which in Hindi literally means “descend” or “bring down” but is also slang for what you drink the next morning to take the edge off a bad hangover… like “hair of the dog.”

For a few of my sampling companions, this was simply too powerful and peaty for their palate – which is perfectly fine as half the fun of tasting a range of whiskies is discovering your personal preferences. That said, moving to a fresh pour of a cask strength at nearly 60% after the Longmorn 25 year or Strathclyde 38 year was certainly a shift in approach!

For these gents, perhaps something like the rich fruity Kilchoman Sanaig 46% might have been a more natural progression in our sampling journey. For a strong expression like this, having the right setting, time to ease into its personality, slowing down and settling in, makes all the difference.

Here is what the folks at Kilchoman have to say in their tasting notes:

  • Colour: Rich golden
  • Nose: Nice, combines peat and sherry, typical Kilchoman cloves and cinnamon
  • Palate: Soft peaty aromas with overtones of sherry, slightly dry on the palate. A good example of Kilchoman in sherry wood.
  • Finish: Clean, long and rich

If you are curious about other Kilchoman tasting experiences, check out:

The other Dream drams generously shared by our Dubai host included:

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Dubai Dream Drams – Longmorn 25 year 46%

The Longmorn distillery has an interesting history – after building Glenlossie, John Duff founded Longmorn near Elgin in 1893, part of the Speyside region. He then went on to set-up nearby the BenRiach distillery too. What is also notable is Masataka Taketsuru, the man behind Nikka whiskies did a stint at Longmorn in 1920.

Today part of Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Holdings, it produces the official Longmorn 16 year bottle plus can be found in a collection of independent expressions like this one. The rest of Longmorn’s production lends a sweet, deeply fruity element to blends.

This 25 year old Longmorn graced our “Dubai Dream Drams” evening as the 4th whisky sampled…

Longmorn 25 year (1988/2014) Cask 14384 46% (Berry’s Bro)

  • Nose – What a nose! It immediately greeted us with ripe tropical fruits…. it really was sooooo fruity! Then shifted into an eggnog rich sweetness
  • Palate – While no doubt the fruits remained, they were joined by deeper notes – including speculation about a hint of peat, plus continuing our theme of the evening we also pronounced it “buttery”
  • Finish – Long, lovely

In truth, the scant scribbled notes I took that evening did not do justice to this whisky. It was truly quite superb in a class of its own. Sweet, substance and one to savour.

As for what they shared on the bottle?

The name Longmorn is said to derive from an old Scottish word meaning “place of the holy man”. Produced near Elgin, this malt whisky is high respected for its smooth, complex full character and heady bouquet.

The primary aromas give peach skins, tropical fruits and honey. There is some underlying grapefruit and pineapple to enliven the nose. The palate offers a creamy texture with abundant fruit and some white chocolate notes cut by a little spice.

As for other Longmorn encounters? Read on…

Here are are few more remarkable drams our Dubai host generously shared that evening:

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Dubai Dream Drams – Old Pulteney 17 year 46%

I fully admit to enjoying the occasional Old Pulteney…

Currently the Old Pulteney 21 year is my evening sipping dram at our wee “cabana” in the country… the perfume of the fresh air combines with the fragrant fruits, spice, dash of maritime salt of the whisky in the most relaxing way.

Whereas I recently finally finished the last drops of the Old Pulteney 12 year in Mumbai, having enjoyed its warm apple crumble yumminess.

And while I don’t have a bottle of the 17 year conveniently gracing my whisky cabinet, there is something about this particular expression that brings us back. I’ve had a few opportunities to sip and savour this expression over a few years:

Alas it is now archived and increasingly difficult to track down… so if you do come across it, do take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy!

Old Pulteney 17 year 46%

  • Nose – A beautiful bouquet of flowers, then cherries, a hint of salt, lemon cake
  • Palate – Smooth as silk, sweet, a little fresh tobacco leaf, some citrus
  • Finish – Lovely, light and lingering

What a delight to revisit…. and in such terrific company.

A few other drams our amazing Dubai host shared included:

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Dubai Dream Drams – SMWS “Busy buzzing bees” 38 years (1977) 49.6%

In our special “Dream Drams” evening in Dubai early 2019, we went from a lively and most enjoyable Irish whiskey to a completely different direction with a single grain.

And no ordinary grain, it was a Strathclyde bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) from 1977, matured for 38 years, producing only 72 bottles from a refill ex-bourbon cask…

And in their trademark way, it was creatively dubbed “Busy Buzzing Bees” by the SMWS folks.

What did our merry tasting group in Dubai have to say about it?

SMWS G10.10 “Busy buzzing bees” 38 years (23 Nov 1977) 49.6%

  • Nose – It greeted us with fresh pepper, then mellowed in vanilla, nougat, eucalyptus, emerging a distinctive farm-like quality, cedar wood, light lavender
  • Palate – Honey and caramel, a few found it “buttery”, delightfully sweet
  • Finish – Bitter almond
  • Water – Beautiful and silky

How rare it is to have a grain whisky that has matured nearly 40 years… we were honoured to have such an opportunity.

What did the SMWS folks have to say about this whisky?

A light, sweet and floral aroma greeted the Panel. Sugar dusted fruit flavoured bonbons and candy corn were mentioned before a picture full of promise emerged; sitting in the garden sipping on a Lemon Drop Martini and listening to the bees buzzing in the laurel hedge.

The taste had honey-roasted peaches with lavender ice cream whilst the overall impression was one of an almost perfect balance between delicate, perfumed sweetness and dry wood spice.

A drop of water and a plate of seafood pasta in a creamy marinara sauce and a glass of chilled, slightly mineralic, Riesling Auslese was being served.

DRINKING TIP: Perfect to replace a dessert wine

For those curious to try, it is still showing as available through the SMWS for £278.40.

Here are a few more whiskies we sampled in our Dubai Dream Drams evening:

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Dubai Dream Drams – Midleton, Strathclyde, Old Pulteney, Longmorn, Kilchoman, Laphroaig

We brought 2019 New Year in Dubai… after seeing the fireworks on the Marina, the fountains and lights show on Burj Khalifa, a special evening of whiskies was organized. And what an evening it was!

Our amazing host put together with great enthusiasm a remarkable collection of drams:

  • Midleton Very Rare (2011) No 042585 L121731255 40% – You won’t find this vintage outside of auctions, however do keep an eye out for the annual edition!
  • SMWS G10.10 “Busy buzzing bees” 38 years (23 Nov 1977) 49.6% – With only 72 bottles in existence, this Strathclyde was one of a kind!
  • Old Pulteney 17 year 46%Once part of the standard collection, it has now been archived and increasingly challenging to find… catch it where and when you can
  • Longmorn 25 year (1988/2014) Cask 14384 46% (Berry’s Bro) – Incredibly fruity, a remarkable Longmorn indeed…
  • Kilchoman Sherry (2007/2013) Cask 447/2007 59.5% – A singular peaty single cask, once available at the distillery with only 42 bottles produced
  • SMWS 29.229 “Harmonious balance” 19 year (13 May 1998) 55.2% – We nearly didn’t try this Laphroaig, but wow! So glad we did!

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Bavarian Bounty – Slyrs, SILD, Aureum, Finch

Normally you would only hear about a whisky from me AFTER it has been tasted. However  with my recent jaunts to Munich, I’ve gathered a few German whiskies yet confess I know very little about the industry there…

What surprised me most in this recent Munich visit was just how many German brands putting out “single malts”. Even more remarkable to learn there are approx 23 distilleries producing some variation of “whisky”… No wonder I saw distilleries like “Stork”, St Kilian, Höhler, Hammerschmiede with The Glen Els as just a few vying for space with Slyrs.

So decided to do a little “Pre-Cursor” post to explore a bit more about the whiskies I did pick up… call it an appetizer before the tastings to come…

Slyrs is the best known Bavarian single malt. While the first whisky was distilled using stills from the traditional Lantenhammer distillery in 1999, by 2007 Slyrs whisky had a new home at a newly erected distillery in Neuhaus. From there I have sitting in my cupboard 3 whiskies:

What else did I pick up?

  • From Ziegler distillery, I picked the “basic” Aureum Single Malt 43% rather than their experiments maturing in Chestnut barrels, guitar wood in barrels, ex plum brandy or cognac barrels.
  • And from Finch, their Finch Classic 40% which is matured for 5-6 years in ex Bourbon then  wine casks.

We’ve had quite a few European whiskies over the years, here are a few German ones we’ve managed to sample:

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