Original Club – Springbank 10 year 46%

Representing Campbeltown, our host selected this classic Springbank 10 year as part of our tasting trio.

We sampled it blind following and were completely taken aback – it wasn’t at all like what we have come to expect from Springbank. Read on and discover why…

Springbank 10 year 46%

  • Nose – Jackfruit, cream, old fruit, was there a hint of smoke or peat? Mandarin orange, marshmallow, then solvent? Huh? Which shifted into paan or betel leaf, vanilla, very sweet, grass
  • Palate – Surprisingly soft, orange marmalade, then peat, sweet and even more peat and sweet
  • Finish – There but not much, sweet lemon rind

This one didn’t quite sit right with us… there was a flat tone, one even called it insipid? We certainly thought it had a lower alcohol content than the one before… and we were stumped, we simply couldn’t place it.

The reveal was a shocker. Several of us – myself included – are quite fond of Campbeltown whiskies with this Springbank 10 year a standard.

How then did it not have any of the elements we normally expect? Where was the pear, yummy rich nutty oak, vanilla, pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, a sweet dry yet satisfying finish??

And that’s where we realised without a doubt the impact of the tasting order. Starting off with the powerful peaty Caol Ila, the more delicate Springbank wasn’t able to reveal its true character. Setting them all aside and then coming back after the Scapa made such a difference.

What else did we explore?

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Original Club – Jura 11 year 58.6%

Our host had a clear theme in mind – to feature different Islands around Scotland. We’ve not explored many whiskies from the Isle of Jura – just Superstition and Turas-Mara. We sampled this whisky blind, without any inkling of what we were trying.

Distiller’s Art with Jura 11 year (2006/2018) 58.6%, Refill Hogshead, bottle 229 of 270

  • Colour – Quite light straw
  • Nose – Sour kumquat, drunken fruit, solvent, volatile, rose petals, country liquor, limoncello, lalima rose, vitamin B complex, santosh sandalwood, unusual and atypical
  • Palate – Tangy, spice and sweet, a narrow palate profile, not evolving, no 2nd or tertiary flavour, peculiar and odd
  • Finish – Burn slightly bitter
  • Water – Made the sweetness very prominent, much more spice, prickly on the mouth and palate

This was a puzzle – it initially came off as almost not like a whisky at all! One speculated it may even be a grain? We overall concluded it likely was not Scottish, maybe one of these experimental whiskies… quite curious.

With the reveal we were surprised. Not at all what we had expected. Which just goes to show that it is good to explore without brand bias or pre-conceived notions.

What else did we explore?

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Original Club – Caol Ila 8 year 59.2%

Our original tasting club in Mumbai has a tradition of sampling blind. We also try to explore something new – which sometimes leads to amazing new discoveries and sometimes disappointments.

What this means is trying familiar distilleries but in new avatars. In this case, we explored an old favourite Caol Ila from Hunter Laing’s newer Distiller’s Art bottling line of Single Casks. Then to add an even further special twist, these particular bottles were picked up from a particular store at cask strength.

Caol Ila 8 year (2009 / 2018) 59.2%, Sherry Hogshead, Bottle 173 of 180

  • Nose – Varnish, sharp, astringent, light banana, honey and caramel, vanilla, overall quite young
  • Palate – A bit harsh, raw, salty, spice kick, very piquant, hint of bitter coffee, chocolate
  • Finish – A warm burn, jaggery, spice, salty butter lingers… long and tingling

We suspected it was likely an ex-bourbon cask and definitely was high alcohol with an ‘in your face’ quality. Powerful and unbalanced… so we added water – a generous dollop. What a difference water made!

  • On the nose, it brightened it up, revealing lemon, floral honey.
  • Then on the palate, rounded it out, smoothing it into buttery leather, old wood and had much more depth
  • Suddenly it had an insane long finish!

While there were clear hints of peat before adding water, there were just too many forward elements competing for attention. With the water, it was truly a different dram.

What else did we explore?

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Original Club – Caol Ila, Jura, Springbank, Scapa

In September, I’d planned to be off on a Scottish whisky tour… however the visa powers that be had other ideas and I found myself cancelling that trip and remaining grounded in Mumbai.

The silver lining was being able to join one more whisky tasting session with our original Mumbai group.

What did we explore?

Our host decided the order by age and yet after we finished the tasting, we thought how a reverse order may have brought out the elements of each whisky more fully.

Which led to the alternate whisky our host had originally thought to include – the Scapa 40% instead of Springbank 10 which is normally a favourite.

It was an interesting evening and one I was delighted to be able to join.

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The last dram standing…

Years ago I cracked open my old whisky cabinet with intent to share and empty “dram dregs” with our newly formed Mumbai whisky club and friends. It was a most enjoyable evening and while we didn’t polish off all the bottles, we certainly made a dent!

So when I managed to free up the Friday evening before flying off to Nuremberg for the big move to Germany, the BEST way to enjoy was to invite a little assistance to “save” a few bottles from oxidation further in Mumbai’s far from ideal storage conditions.

Everything that was open came out of the whisky cabinet without exception!

Tasting stations were setup with:

  • Ex-bourbon
  • Sherry
  • Japanese
  • Experimental & International
  • Peat
  • Secret stash

The ex-bourbon‘s proved a popular starting point so several were polished off and only a few remained:

In the Japenese corner we had:

  • Hakushu 18 year – The last drops of a favourite whisky that I suspect was open for nearly 10 years (yes you read that correctly)…
  • Chita 12 year – From over 4 years ago, it remained exquisitely perfumed, such a delight and quite different than the Chita NAS found these days
  • Ichiro’s Houou-uhi – A mythical “Pheonix”… these final drops did not disappoint and reminded me just how exceptional this blend of discontinued Kawasaki and Hanyu malts truly was!
  • Remarkably we still had a bit of the Nikka From the Barrel remaining…

And in our peat section?

While we certainly did not complete our mission of polishing off ALL, we did a very respectable job of making a serious dent with a focus on those quite low with just a few drams.

All told, we emptied 11 bottles.

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Method and Madness Pot Still Chestnut 46%

The last in our Method and Madness evening was a revisit of their Pot Still Chestnut Finish. We first tried it a few months ago so when we decided on the tasting order, thought to close with this one.

Method and Madness Pot Still Chestnut Finish 46%

  • Colour – Dark gold
  • Nose – When first poured had that damp cloth aroma, then shifted into sweet pink bubble gum, very sweet candy, jammy, a bit dusty with a dash of cinnamon
  • Palate – Fruity, more of that sweet berry jam, a bit oily
  • Finish – Finally a finish!

Overall we were surprised with how enjoyable we found it as hadn’t been terribly impressed in our initial experience. We were happy to be pleasantly surprised – particularly as it was a good one to sip while puffing on a cigar.

What did the folks over at Midleton have to say?

Single Pot Still whiskey aged in chestnut casks, a combination of what we’ve always done in Midleton and what we’ve never tried before. It’s not often we stray from the traditional oak, but one sip suggests it was well worth the deviation.

  • Nose – Red liquorice laces, fresh rosemary and mint, grated root ginger
  • Taste – Sweet fruit and spice, cinnamon toast, ripe banana
  • Finish – Aromatic green tea, dissipating fruit and spice, rich wood farewell

This bottle was purchased in London at the Whisky Exchange, currently available for £62.75 and opened in November 2019.

What else did we try in our Method and Madness evening?

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Method and Madness Pot Still Hungarian Oak 46%

Midleton Distillery in Ireland has an experimental line called Method and Madness. They play around with a base of grain, single malt or pot still whiskey, typically matured in ex-bourbon barrels then finished in another barrel. In this case it was a pot still whisky finished in oak from Hungary.

What did we discover?

Method and Madness Pot Still Hungarian Oak Finish 46%

  • Colour – Yellow straw
  • Nose – First whiff and it came across as quite distinctive – varnish but not your typical old wood polish or young sharp varnish – instead something else. Honeycomb, wood shavings, vegetal oils… shifting into ripe banana mash then fried banana chips. After the 1st sip
  • Palate – A nice spice, sweet liquorice, sweet and smooth
  • Finish – Practically absent, just warm
  • Water – Suddenly what made this whiskey interesting was just gone! The aromas simply faded into nearly nothing. On the palate it softened the flavour but… so what?

No question this came across as being on the young side but the aromas were interesting, had the best mouthfeel of the Method and Madness series so far however the finish was warm but not much more. Overall we decided this was a pleasant but innocuous whiskey.

We set it aside to revisit and guess what? It regained a bit of its character and did rather well paired with a cigar. Just goes to show how it important it is to try different things to see what works best for a particular dram.

What did the folks over at Midleton have to say?

The quest for uncommon casks led us to the Carpathian Mountains of Hungary and the rich volcanic soils that give rise to Quercus Petraea, Virgin Hungarian Oak and Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – a curious combination, with a very special outcome.

This Limited Edition release is a ‘World- First’ for Irish Whiskey; a Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey aged in Bourbon Barrels and finished in Virgin Hungarian Oak.

  • Nose – Treacle toffee, toasted coconut, campfire ashes
  • Taste – Silky smooth richness, bittersweet liquorice, dry woodland notes
  • Finish – Dissipating spice, toasted oak, mountain mist

This bottle was purchased in London at the Whisky Exchange, currently available for £80.95 and opened in November 2019.

What else did we try in our Method and Madness evening?

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Method and Madness Single Malt 46%

Our Irish Method and Madness quartet explored the core trio plus on limited edition. We began with the Single Grain and moved on to this Single Malt.

What did we think?

Method and Madness Single Malt French Limousin Oak Finish 46%

  • Colour – Bright light gold
  • Nose – Honey mash, oats, vanilla, young varnish. After the 1st sip, unripened bananas, raw sawdust, oatmeal porridge with honey
  • Palate – Started a bit bitter with peach pits, linseed oil
  • Finish – The odd bitter oil continued in the finish

The aromas were quite straight forward with little variation – nothing wrong with it but overall unremarkable. Our impression was of a young uncomplex dram. While not particularly ‘friendly’, there was no harshness found in some immature malts.

We set it aside and continued tasting the other Method and Madness whiskies. When we revisited, it had settled in quite nicely and revealed a nice honey quality, a bit of spice, holding its own. Not bad after all then!

What did the folks over at Midleton have to say?

Single Malt whiskey laid down in Midleton in 2002 finished in a French Limousin Oak. A first for us, resulting in light perfume notes giving way to dry barley and ice cream cone wafer.

  • Nose – Freshly shelled peanut, cereal malt aroma
  • Taste – Cracked cinnamon stick, ice cream cone wafer
  • Finish – Fragrant bon bons, a hint of toasted barley 

Would I agree with their tasting notes? Definitely about the cereal but not so much the balance.

We opened this in November 2019 from a bottle purchased in London at the Whisky Exchange. You can still find it for approx £70.

What else did we explore in our Method and Madness evening?

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Method and Madness Single Grain 46%

First up in our Irish Method and Madness quartet was a single grain, matured in ex-bourbon barrels then finished in virgin Spanish oak.

What did we think?

Method and Madness Single Grain Virigin Spanish Oak Finish 46%

  • Colour – Straw
  • Nose – We immediately thought of veggie bhajia, a deep fried desi savoury snack made with besan (chickpea flour)! Behind the vegetable oil, we found some honey, a hint of floral fragrance, with a herbal bitterness. After the 1st sip, the vegetal quality gave way to a nutty vanilla toffee aroma.. shifting into balsa wood or fresh pine
  • Palate – First impression was banana with sharp spice, then it calmed down revealing a bitter ajwain element. A few sips in and the wood increasingly came to the forefront with a bit of vanilla pudding or honey depending on the sip
  • Finish – Soft feeling, coats with warmth but nothing very specifically discernible, more like a shadow of the woody palate than anything distinctive, yet the impression remained
  • Water – Some added water and one thought it completely transformed the grain. Certainly it smoothed and rounded it out more, the spice remained but was tempered and not so honeyed

Overall we found there was more character than expected in a grain. The wood certainly came through and could very well be the influence of the time spent in virgin Spanish oak casks.

And the revisit? Nope! Not to our taste. Let’s just say there was a funky sour quality that was thankfully completely missing in our original tasting.

What did the folks over at Midleton have to say?

This release asked the question: What if we take a step away from the familiar with a Single Grain whiskey aged in Virgin Spanish Oak. Without giving too much away, the two made very good partners, with a taste of gentle wood spice playing off the natural sweetness of the grain.

  • Nose – New pencil shavings, light rose petal, fresh rain on pine
  • Taste – Warm toasted oak, fresh peeled grapefruit, zesty wood spices
  • Finish – Sweet cereal, clove spiciness, fresh mint

Would we agree? We certainly found the woodsy quality, floral hint and spice, however we certainly didn’t find the grapefruit on the palate though perhaps our interpretation was bitter with out the citrus element. Overall we were glad to have a chance to try but this wouldn’t be one we would run out and buy again.

This bottle was purchased in London at the Whisky Exchange, currently available for £43.75 and opened in November 2019.

What else did we try in our Method and Madness evening?

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In Mumbai for a Method and Madness Quartet

What joy! I’m back in India for a week and two of my fabulous whisky tasting groups were able to arrange sessions to coincide with my dates – yeah!

The Bombay Malt & Cigar gents turned their gaze back to the green isles for more from Midleton Distillery. We are no strangers to Irish whiskies! There is even a full section on this blog dedicated to our Irish explorations.

Just a few months ago, the gents and I had a wee waltz with Irish drams featuring Dingle, Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton Bordeaux, Redbreast Lustau Edition and yes – Method and Madness’s core Chestnut finished Single Pot Still 46%.

So we had an inkling of what to expect but also began with an open mind and palates!

For those not familiar, Method and Madness is Midleton Distillery’s experiments with various styles and finishes. Our evening focused on their core range plus one limited edition finished with Hungarian Oak.

Method and Madness

We followed the quartet with a wee glass experiment – using my recently imported Copita and Norlan glasses supplemented by our hosts Riedel to contrast with our standard Glencairn tasting glass. For now I’ve decided to keep these glasses in India and perhaps acquire in time another set in Germany.

We then turned to our cigars to round out a most enjoyable evening.

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