Whisky Lady – April

Everyday Asia

April brought another trip to Jakarta and Singapore – naturally fitting in a whisky flight too!

Plus two of our whisky groups met up and I revived my “mini” session too – with notes to follow in the coming months…

Whisky Ladies explore Master Distiller Rachel Barrie’s Bowmore Travel Trilogy:

Finally got around to sharing our February Original’s Undisclosed Distillery session with the BMC lads:

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Kavalan Solist Peaty Cask 54.8%

In fashion, there is a little something called the “show stopper” which closes all the prancing and posing with panache and much applause. In our NAS whisky night, there was no doubt this Kavalan Solist Peaty Cask was the hit of the night!

Over the years I’ve become a Kavalan convert. From a slightly disappointing start with the Concertmaster I picked up in Taipei to most recently a fantastic quick zip through their full core range at Whisky Live Singapore, there have been a few stunners along the way… particularly from the Solist Sherry Casks.

So when I spotted this Peaty Cask at Singapore airport, it simply had to be acquired and fit perfectly into our original club’s NAS themed evening. What makes it particularly interesting is the spirit isn’t peated… instead the peat comes from a cask that previously held a peaty Islay whisky, bringing a more subtle approach to peat dimension.

Kavalan Peaty Cask No R091214006A Bottle No 043/137 54.8%

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Citrus lemon spice, bitter almond, oranges, apricots, subtle curl of smoke or perhaps a whiff of leather, vanilla
  • Palate – Peat, chocolate, coffee, oily and well rounded, fruity, cinnamon
  • Finish – Fabulous! Long, lightly peated with a hint of ginger spice

The initial reaction was “Aaah… nice!” Then as we became more acquainted with it, “Oh! Really nice!” which then became “Very very good!” and overall degenerated into “Yummy!!!”

Overall our conclusion that while age plays a role, it is completely possible to have a complex, interesting and worthy dram when the whisky in question is one like this Kavalan.

Here’s what they have to say:

  • Nose – Rich in honey, toffee, bees wax and coconut. With water, more of the classic tropical fruit notes especially golden kiwi comes through. Very delicious and refreshing…
  • Palate – More toffee and butterscotch bring a peaty taste but rather subdued and more earthy than maritime. 
  • Finish – The finish is quite long with peppery notes of red chili. 

It is a perfectly balanced and quite complex – a beautiful whisky!

What else did we try in our NAS evening?

Other Kavalan’s explored include:

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The Arran Port Finish 50%

Funny how sometimes chance encounters lead to wonderful discoveries. I happened to meet a Scot who keeps criss-crossing between India, UK and other ports of call.

He ever so kindly offered (or did I weedle an offer?) to pick up something on his next trip to Edinburgh. He asked if there was anything specific I had in mind and rather than rattle of a series of well known options, suggested he take a peak at the list of whiskies tasted til date and surprise me!

That he did indeed… with my first Arran whisky from Lochranza in the Highlands.

This particularly bottle joined a special NAS evening with our original tasting group, sampled blind before the great reveal..

The Arran Port Finish 50%

  • Nose – Starts with tight dry berries, then rounds out into a bouquet of fruits, shifting from berries to summer orchard fruits then slipping into tangy citrus orange, finally settling into stewed fruits like plums with a drizzle of dark molasses, even a hint of toasted hazelnut, gives the impression of body just on the nose
  • Palate – After such a sweet nose, such an unexpected SPICE! With dried red sour plums or gooseberry. A nice oily element too.
  • Finish – Bitter spice finish, stays surprisingly long
  • Water – Adds a little something – much spicier in a good way that brings out a nice cinnamon spice

As we speculated what this whisky could be, we realized it didn’t neatly fit into standard categories. The colour had hints of ruby to the extent that one wondered if it was “suspect”…

With the reveal there was quite a bit of surprise – it was remarkably smooth for 50%, the port cask finish helped explained many of the different elements – including the colour which has nothing beyond the cask involved!

We even had a member quite familiar with Arran in our midst who hadn’t connected the style of the Port Finish with the standard age statement Arran’s or their peaty Machir Moor.

Here’s what else the Arran team have to say about this whisky:

After initially maturing in traditional oak casks for approximately 8 years, the Arran Single Malt in this bottling was finished in the highest quality Port wine casks from an artisan producer of this iconic Portuguese fortified wine. Our Master Distiller, James MacTaggart, has carefully monitored this period of secondary maturation to ensure the perfect balance is struck between the Port casks and the intrinsic sweet-fruity character of The Arran Malt. The end result is a Single Malt full of charm, complexity and quality and an extremely popular part of our range.

  • Colour: Deep Bronze
  • Nose: Vanilla spice and ripe citrus running into dried fruits and nuttiness. With a splash of water more depth of mandarin citrus with fudge and honeyed notes
  • Palate: Layered fruits and spice combine, with cinnamon baked apple wrestling with raisin and plum pudding. The dram opens out to reveal warming barley and a hint of sweet pear
  • Finish: A classic Single Malt with punch that dances on the palate. The trademark Arran barley-sweetness shines through the layers of complexity

What else did we try in our NAS evening?

Pssst – In Mumbai, you can get Arran 14, 18 & Machir Moor in India through The Vault.

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Oban Little Bay 43%

One of the things we appreciate most about our original whisky tasting group is our approach of sampling blind. It frees us from preconceived notions – including previous experience with a particular whisky or distillery.

Which enabled all of us to take a fresh look at Oban and explore their NAS expression Little Bay.

Oban Little Bay 43%

  • Nose – Panchgani honey… which then slipped away as other elements like cereal or biscuits, citrus, quite appealing on the nose though a bit rough, cherry, a light hint of rose, the skin of raw mango, a bouquet of fruit and flowers. After sipping, dry coconut, walnuts, a bit musty
  • Palate – Bitter spice, a hint of peat, dry, a lather of lemon soap, wet rice before grinding for dosas, became increasingly bitter
  • Finish – Short, a bit of spice at the front

As we considered the whisky, it was clear the nose was its strongest point, followed by the taste yet the finish was the most disappointing element.

Most amusing, one of our members admitted has has this whisky at home, enjoyed recently though not with the focused attention of our sessions. For many, the Oban 14 year is familiar friend yet we didn’t make the connect with Little Bay.

Oban Little Bay is matured in refill American oak hogsheads, European oak Sherry casks and refill casks with new ends then “married” in small oak casks.

Overall what did we think? Our conclusion was this would be great as a party whisky – reasonably priced, appealing nose, easy to drink. While its no Oban 14, its not something you would be embarrassed to share on a sociable evening.

What do the Diageo folks have to say about Oban Little Bay?

  • Nose – Oily, waxy and nutty, balanced by ripe orchard fruits. Notes of almond fruit cake on denser Christmas pudding, with cereal and orange behind.
  • Palate – The comforting chewiness of rich fruit-bread, hints of orange zest and clove, growing drier, still minty, with crisp green apple.
  • Finish – In a word, long. Quite syrupy at first, then drying, with elegant coating tannins rich in dark chocolate character.

What else did we try in our NAS evening?

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Another French whisky? Guillon Banyuls 43%

Once upon a time if you spoke of whisky from France, folks might look at you with a rather puzzled expression. Whisky? France? Surely you mean the other W – Wine, right?

Fast forward and there are an increasing number of contenders vying for a place in the world of whisky… including from France. And with France the 2nd largest consumer of whisky after the UK and before the US, no wonder French distilleries are popping up and getting into the act.

This Guillon spirit was our 1st in a quartet of NAS whiskies with our original Bombay Whisky tasting group – sampled completely blind.

Guillon Banyuls (2015) 43%

  • Nose – Some chocolate cherry, almost a rum quality, fresh lemon then vanilla, light banana fruits, a ginger oil, then shifted into some cereals with a hint of sweet spice
  • Palate – Mirchy pepper hot with raisins, young, no body and oddly flat
  • Finish – Short – just alcohol warmth with a bitter
  • Water – Doesn’t enhance – if anything makes it a bit dry

It initially reminded us of a bourbon – not with the typical brash banana caramel but instead a softer, fresher approach.

With the reveal and the decanter styled bottle, we started joking about whether we were having perfume or whisky or something else entirely?

While new to us, Guillon Distillery has been producing spirits since 1997. Owner Thierry Guillon has been aging spirits in oak barrels from French vineyards of the AOC regions of Champagne, Banyuls and Sauternes.

This particularly spirit was matured in Banyuls wine casks – a French dessert wine similar in style to Port.

But is it whisky? Turns out… it is not. After I originally shared this post, a wee twitter flurry commenced which clarified this is a ‘malt spirit’ rather than whisky… as Franck Debernardi   pointed out “They use white alcohol mixed with malt extracts/flavors and sugar. They were forbidden to sell their spirit as whisky.” 

What this meant was during our evening of sampling, we were under a misconception. Where talk had turned to French whiskies… Given the range of wine casks in France, it is entirely logical that French whiskies play around with maturing in wine casks. Our Whisky Ladies recently sampled a whisky from Alsace (AWA) matured in ex Pinot Noir cask and another (Brenne) in ex Cognac casks. But was this particular liquid in that category? Apparently not!

What else did we try in our NAS evening?

French whiskies sampled over the last year or so include:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Exploring NAS whiskies – Guillon, Oban, Arran + Kavalan

Sure folks still bemoan the days where “No Age Statement” whiskies were few and far between in the world of single malts, however NAS whiskies are here to stay! And frankly, some of them are rather good.

So it was rather apt that one of our retired whisky club members for his birthday (of years we shall not say!) turned to a quartet of NAS whiskies… which turned out not to all be whiskies… as there is a new avatar of ‘malt spirit’ which joins the fray.

Guess which one of our 4 bottles wasn’t a whisky after all?

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Bowmore Travel Trilogy – 17 year White Sands 43%

Last in our Bowmore travel trilogy was the 17 year “White Sands.”

I’d picked this bottle up in Singapore duty free back when it was 1st launched. It was one of my “speed date” sample that lead to a clear “buy” decision! And since then I’ve been patiently waiting to open the bottle with our Whisky Ladies.

Bowmore 17 year White Sands 43%

  • Nose – Rich vanilla, citrus orange, honey almonds, very floral, raspberry treacle, light peat smoke, chocolate coffee then cotton candy
  • Palate – Spices, light creamy toffee, cloves, quite a delicious curl of peat, nice and chewy without being heavy, smooth as silk
  • Finish – A long lingering sweet spice with a bitter cinnamon tail

And what did the Whisky Ladies really think?? We LOVED it!

We found it was one of those whiskies that says – “Pull up a nice comfy chair, curl up and pay attention to me. Trust me, you absolutely will not regret!”

There is something quite sophisticated about this whisky. One mentioned ballgowns and tuxedos about to take a twirl on the dance floor…. that spins into a seduction!

For others it was just nice to settle down with an amiable whisky with multiple dimensions. The nose especially has such a lovely range of aromas, it is delicious to sip and savour, with a surprisingly long finish. In short – ticks the right boxes!

Here is what the Bowmore folks have to say about this whisky:

“Inspired by Islay’s pristine white beaches.”

Islay’s coast line boasts seven miles of pristine white beaches and has been the inspiration for White Sands. Matured for seventeen long years, this is Bowmore Master Distiller’s personal favourite. Matured in the finest ex Bourbon casks, the treacle toffee and ripe exotic fruits bound together by warm peat smoke.

  • Nose: Light peat smoke, rich treacle toffee and ripe exotic fruits
  • Taste: Creamy toffee and malty sweetness, together with a delicious warm smokiness
  • Finish: The incredibly smooth, warm and comforting finish

In this case, we would agree with the tasting notes… and of the three whiskies, there was zero doubt which was our favourite! In terms of the three, Black Rock is the most readily available. While not a bad whisky, it unfortunately is outclassed by the other two. Gold Reef may be slightly more challenging to find. And White Sands? Excellent value for a beautifully balanced whisky with enough character to keep you well engaged! It is certainly one to recommend to those who enjoy their whisky with a bit of smoky sweetness.

So while it was long after the initial launch, it was still fun to explore the Bowmore ‘travel trilogy‘:

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Bowmore Travel Trilogy – Gold Reef 43%

Next up in our Bowmore travel trilogy was another NAS – Gold Reef.

This particular bottle was acquired on my partner‘s trip to Beirut, Lebanon on behalf of our host – a fellow theatre actor. Since last year we have impatiently waited for an opportunity to bring our trilogy together…

And what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Bowmore Gold Reef 43%

  • Nose – Treacle, apple, summery caramel, toasted coconut, marzipan, with tropical fruits. As it opened, particularly after sipping, a delicious maple syrup joined some peat with sweet vanilla and hint of spice
  • Palate – Peat, citrus, heat, bitter chocolate, a bit of dry wood
  • Finish – The heat opens up revealing honey sweet, cinnamon then after a few more sips settles into a bitter finish

We found it very inviting on the nose, the palate was such a contrast – in a good way. The finish remains.

Here is what the Bowmore folks have to say about this whisky:

“Inspired By The Sun’s Reflection On Islay’s Coral Seabed.”

Further out to sea and deep beneath the waves lies Gold Reef. Named for the way the glow of the sun’s rays reflect off the coral seabed, this same old catches the eye inside every bottle of Gold Reef. Predominately matured in 1st fill ex-bourbon casks, it rewards with notes of smooth vanilla, citrus fruits and sea salt.

  • Nose: Vanilla, coconut milk, delicious baked peach, oranges and lemons
  • Taste: Tangy peat, pineapple, juicy mango and kiwi fruit tempered by sea salt and olive oil
  • Finish: The long, honeyed, zesty finish

Not so sure about the kiwi fruit or olive oil but certainly the balance is more or less what we found!

Our Bowmore ‘travel trilogy‘ evening included:

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Bowmore Travel Trilogy – Black Rock 40% Revisited

1st in our Bowmore travel trilogy was an NAS whisky we sampled a few months earlier – Black Rock.

The original bottle helped inspire the Bowmore Travel Trilogy theme… as one of our ladies happened to acquire it at the same time I picked up the White Sands. However when another whisky lady picked up the very same one, it gave us an opportunity to try it in one of our “Contributor’s Choice” evenings a little earlier and revisit it side-by-side with two other Bowmores – what fun!

Bowmore Black Rock 40%

And what did the Whisky Ladies think the 2nd time around?

  • Nose – Smoked fruit, dried prunes, sun-dried currents and cranberries, burnt orange, roasted almond, a puff of smoke
  • Palate – Sweet spice, smooth peat, bit of cloves, that hint of smoke carried through
  • Finish – Cinnamon sweet, there but barely

Overall a simple straight forward whisky. We found the nose more exciting than the palate. Easy to drink though some found it a little sweet.

How did this contrast with our earlier tasting experience?

  • Nose – Initially sour curd, warm and wintry, intense and then closed, light peat, then strong sour cherry, raisins spice toasted nuts
  • Palate – Well… clearly into 40% territory here… however once we got past the ‘watered down’ dimension enjoyed the smoky, cherry and other tight dried berries, sweet dry spices
  • Finish – Much fainter than expected – just a touch of sweetness, smoke and spice

Here is what the Bowmore folks have to say about this whisky:

“Inspired by the Black Rock of Islay.”
  • Nose – Smoke infused with raisins, pepper, warm cocoa beans and burnt orange
  • Taste – Rich sherry and peat smoke followed by blackcurrant treacle toffee and cinnamon spice
  • Finish – Beautifully balanced peat smoke and sea salt

Our Bowmore ‘travel trilogy’ evening included:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Bowmore Travel Trilogy – Black Rock, Gold Reef, White Sands

As Whisky Ladies, we enjoy celebrating the contributions of whisky women to the industry.

Rachel Barrie has a career that started with the Glenmorangie team, gaining experience to become a whisky creator and master blender for The Glenmorangie, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Moet Hennessy (LVMH) before joining Morrison Bowmore Distillers, Beam Suntory in 2011. As Master Blender, she described “Islay is my escape. There’s part of me that’s a free spirit and very elemental.”

As Whisky Ladies, we thought it rather apt to have a session featuring whiskies where a professional Whisky woman was involved!

So we set about early 2016 to collectively acquire a ‘travel trilogy’ from Bowmore with:

For once, it was surprisingly easy to buy… the trick turned out to be finding an evening when all three ladies who purchased the bottles were `free on the same night!

This finally happened in April 2017… by which time Rachel Barrie had changed jobs and joined BenRiach and Glendronach Distillery Company as Whisky Maker.

Didn’t matter to us – we toasted her in spirit anyways!

Other Bowmore‘s tasted over the years include:

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