Douglas Laing’s Lowland Blend Epicurean 46.2%

Last in our Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regions blends was Epicurean from the Lowlands

Douglas Laing Epicurean 46.2%

  • Nose – Yheasty, butter caramel, slightly raw, herbal, sour peaches, basil, almonds, quite tangy with tamarind, puckering citrus, almond face oil, the peaches quality became increasingly pronounced from raw to steamed to canned peaches
  • Palate – Sweet almond paste, spice, cinnamon, bitter, burnt citrus
  • Finish – Quite nutty, light sweet and lingers, rubber, coffee
  • Water – Initially brought out honey then dissipated almost immediately

For many this was a favourite of the Douglas Laing trio… for others the salty quality of Rock Oyster was a welcome departure. What we can say is the Epicurean paired rather well with a cigar.

Here’s what they have to say:

Douglas Laing’s The Epicurean Lowland Malt Scotch Whisky tells the story of a 1930s Glasgow man, a real cheeky chappy who was ever the life and soul of the party, and a real connoisseur of fine food and drink. A dram we describe as “city born and bred”, The Epicurean is a blend of some of the finest Lowland Malts; a marriage of the best that the East and the West of Scotland have to offer. This small batch bottling is proudly without colouring or chill-filtration and bottled at 46.2% ABV.

Tasting notes:

  • Nose – In a tipple of our Small Batch “The Epicurean”, you can bet on a nose that is barley-rich, citric, floral and herbal.
  • Palate – The mouth-coatingly sweet palate displays crunched sugar, burnt citrus, mixed spices, thyme, peaches and hard candy…
  • Finish – All charmingly underpinned and enriched in the finish with more of that earlier herbal character, in a gristy style with almonds, cut grass and burnt sugar.

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

What were the whisky blends explored?

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Douglas Laing’s Island Blend Rock Oyster Cask Strength 57.4%

Our Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts explorations continued with the Island blend… this time from the Cask Strength edition.

Rock Oyster Cask Strength 57.4%

  • Nose – Had a similar yoghurt quality, yet with more character and oomph! than the Timorous Beastie, zest of lemon rind, barley, young, mild yet fruity – particularly melon, some smoked sweet bacon or other sweet meats, agave then quite a bit of brine
  • Palate – Nice spice, sweet, skirting on the surface, amazingly balanced, nothing harsh, a hint of pipe tobacco, honey, cherry bokum pickle, ginger, briney
  • Finish – Nice long finish, salted caramel, cinnamon, sawdust, for some too salty on the finish for many
  • Water – Opens up more, removes the edge, salty, adds a dash of cayenne, paprika, makes it smoother

There was a sense that this is from a similar ‘family’ as the Timorous Beastie however also had its unique variation, like siblings.

Many found Rock Oyster just like one would expect from the name, salty raw oysters, the feel of being on a boat, the distinctive pervasive smell of barnacles, a tidal pool of salty whisky.

At cask strength, it is also very deceptive, giving no hint of the power behind its smooth briney swish.

There was a clear divide between those who enjoy salty whiskies and those who do not care for this maritime style.

Here’s what they have to say:

Introducing Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster Cask Strength; the super-charged partner to the original Rock Oyster bottled at 57.4% ABV. Containing the finest Malt Whiskies from Scotland’s Whisky Islands, including those distilled on Islay, Arran, Orkney and Jura, this Limited Edition delivers a massive amplification of all those coastal qualities from the original Rock Oyster.

Tasting notes:

Anticipate a blast of sea air on the nose and a tempestuously oceanic storm on the palate. Rock Oyster Cask Strength delivers a big peat hit full of Islay phenols, iodine and coal dust, with a shake of pepper softening to a distinct honey sweetness from the Arran casks. The Isle of Jura brings waves of citrus and barley to the mix, and Orkney fetches up some salt from the deep.

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

What were the whisky blends explored?

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Douglas Laing’s Highland Blend Timorous Beastie 46.8%

With their inventive packaging, having a sense of whimsy, play and days of yore, the “Remarkable Regional Malts” series explores the five different regions of Scotland.

We began with Douglas Laing’s Highland blend …

Timorous Beastie 46.8%

  • Nose – Fruity, yoghurt, an agave-like quality, raw, barley mash, spice, light cream, caramel, baby puke, yeasty, honey sweet
  • Palate – Spice burn, a few remarked “tastes better than it smells”, quite peppery with more alcohol ‘beastie’ than timidity
  • Finish – Sharp, short, bitter

There was a mixed reaction to this one. The agave like aroma was akin to the “morning after an overindulgence of tequila”… Another found this was “something to be used for cleaning like solvent.” Yet another quipped “The rat is there on the label for a reason!”

While not horrifically bad, it was a bit like having peppery tequila.

Here’s what they have to say:

Douglas Laing’s Timorous Beastie, immortalised in Robert Burns’ famous Scots poem “To a Mouse”, was a timid, little field mouse. Echoing our national bard’s wit, ours is most certainly not for the fainthearted! This non coloured, non-chill-filtered Small Batch bottling is a marriage of appropriately aged and selected Highland Malts – including, amongst others, those distilled at Glen Garioch, Dalmore and Glengoyne distilleries.

Tasting notes:

  • Nose – Overridingly sweet on the nose, then warming to floral, light barley & spicy honeyed tones.
  • Palate – The palate opens in a spicy style – fructiferous, mellow, with sugary vanilla.
  • Finish – The finish is at first subtle, but runs to a sweet character that carries an oaky quality plus a late meringue style.

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

What were the other whisky blends explored?

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Whisky Ladies + Gents explore blends – Timorous Beastie, Rock Oyster, Epicurean, Sansibar Spicily Sweet

A few years ago two of our Mumbai based whisky clubs decided to combine for a sociable evening each year:

So what did 2018 bring? Blends… yes you read that right… blends.

But not your ordinary run-of-the-mill blends, this session featured a Scottish trio from Douglas Laing and a lone Sansibar blend.

Which whisky blends did we explore?

Tasting notes coming soon….

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

Until then, here are a few other blend sessions:

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Kreuzritter Elixirium Digestivum 30%

With all my recent travels with two jaunts in two months to Europe for work, it isn’t a surprise that I managed to get a little distracted in Munich by a speciality liquor store and a much more affordable section in a supermarket with its rather civilized wine bar too.

And while Germany does make whisky, that isn’t really its forte. Instead Germany is known for its beer, wine, schnapps, kirsch and herbal liqueurs, known broadly as Kräuterliköre.

The most well-known is Jägermeister followed by Underberg and Kuemmerling.

Enter Kreuzritter Elixirium Digestivum… From a company formed in 2004 in Mühlen, Vechta a doctor, a nutritionist and a spirits expert with an idea to create unusual recipes for a premium herbal liqueurs and aquavitae market.

And while this blog remained firmly devoted to whisky tasting adventures, it isn’t a bad thing to get side-tracked every once and a while… so I found myself picking up a mini to try.

However warning – no elaborate tasting notes were made… just a few observations while giving over to a post meal sipping experience….

Kreuzritter 30%

I had anticipated it to be more bitter like the lip puckering yet fabulous Underberg, however the Kruezritter Elixirium Digestivum was much sweeter, less cloves and more herbal. It was also much lighter than expected, went down easily and was overall quite tasty though a tad too sweet for my palate preference… However I particularly enjoyed it on ice and looked down at my empty glass to realize it was gone too soon!

Here is what the folks responsible for Kreuzritter have to say:

KREUZRITTER is a fine and tasty digestive. His secret is rooted in 11 secret herbs which are responsible for the pleasent and light-spicy taste and smell. In addition, the KREUZRITTER contains 47 other extracts that are well known in herbalism. But the decisive factor is not only the sheer number of extracts contained, but also their selection and arrangement. The 58 extracts unite themselve in the KREUZRITTER with 30 % vol. Alcohol and a pleasant sweetness to a savory Elixir of the highest quality. The ingredients are selected from the best sources and are aranged together with a lot of passion and knowledge.

Hmm… even they don’t provide much specifics on the the actual tasting experience either!

PS Kreuzritter means ‘crusader’ in Germany with some disturbing crackpots using variations of the word as twitter handles…. just makes one sigh…

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“O Canada!” Barrel of Sunshine Liqueur 30%

During my last trip to Canada, the kind folks from Shelter Point not only sent a bottle of their rather enjoyable single malt…. they also sent along this gem too.

However I was in a quandary… how to bring back when I was already over my allowance with the Shelter Point Single Malt, G&W and No 99 Red Cask?

Galloping to the rescue was a dear friend, more like a brother… who is also originally from Winnipeg… who’s mother just happened to be coming to Mumbai before the close of 2017. Shameless about getting interesting drams into India, she was asked… my folks dropped off this with a few other small goodies from Canada and this bottle made its way to Mumbai, India in time for our “O Canada!” celebration of Canadian whiskies.

Now I’m not normally a sweet liqueur kind of person… however one can always make an exception! And it seemed fitting to have a little treat with our desert after sampling our whiskies, quaffing our meal… to relax a bit longer…

So what did we think?

Barrell of Sunshine Liqueur 30%

  • Nose – Christmas in a bottle! Chock full of warm marmalade, sweet spices, curling maple candy
  • Palate – Sweet yet not cloyingly so, lovely to slowly sip
  • Finish – A light lovely dancing sweet spice remains

In short, we loved it! Overall there is a whimsical, lyrical quality to this liqueur. And it is an absolutely perfect sipping accompaniment to a rich chocolaty desert or Christmas pudding.

For those unfamiliar, Shelter Point makes artisanal spirits on the west coast of Canada… more specifically near Oyster River on Vancouver Island.  They either grow their own barley or source from other local farmers, passionate about creating quality something authentically local.

Here is what the folks over at Shelter Point have to say:

Perhaps if you saw the sunlight dance on the ocean waves near our farm, you’d wonder too: if you could bottle sunshine, what would it taste like? We thought about it and were determined to find out. Our answer: Sunshine Liqueur. Created in 2016, Sunshine is a small-batch, specialty blend of Canadian spirits and pure Canadian maple syrup coupled with a selection of natural extracts bursting with flavour. We call our signature blend, Orange Spice Maple.

Tasting Notes

Orange Spice Maple: This rich, copper liqueur combines the aromas of fresh oranges, sweet vanilla mandarin and honey maple. Its palate is smooth and sweet, with zesty citrus undertones and a warm finish.

What else did we have in our “O Canada” 150th Celebration?

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“O Canada!” Shelter Point Single Malt

I’m utterly shameless when it comes to Shelter Point. I thoroughly enjoyed their 1st Batch – finding it exactly right for an easy drinking yet interesting dram. Remarkable patience was clearly taken to not jump the gun, putting it out when it was actually ready to be consumed, unlike many new distilleries who pump out product before it is truly ready.

Having shared the 1st bottle with the Whisky Ladies, it was time to give the folks in our original club a try… one member had even sampled it in Amsterdam and was thrilled to revisit.

So what did we think?

Shelter Point Single Malt 46%

  • Nose – Initially a bit of curdled milk, slightly medicinal, then shifted into  green apple – like a crisp Granny Smith apple, fresh cut grass, then began to mellow into a hazelnut creamer, almost buttery like, one even found it had a Viognier white wine quality – fruity and complex…. exceedingly inviting and approachable
  • Palate – Classic smooth single malt, chocolate, enough spice to make it interesting, malty, a bit bitter but in a good way, had great balance
  • Finish – Stays… subtle yet goes on and on and on

Finally a proper single malt!! We sighed in pleasure… delighted to be in our whisky ‘happy place’ with such a beautiful dram.

Their tagline “Sunshine and sea air: unofficial ingredients in every bottle” has a rather apt homespun charm about it. We don’t disagree.

For those interested in the ‘facts’ here’s what the folks over at Shelter Point have to say:

  • Still: Custom-designed copper still
  • Base: Two-row barley (That’s it. Nothing else.)
  • Distillation: Small-batch, 2x distilled and non-chilled filtered
  • Alcohol Content: Bottled at 46% Alc.Vol
  • Bottle Size: 750ml
  • Packaging: Classic Tennessee-style bottle features Vinolok glass closure and original engraving of Shelter Point Farm created by renowned illustrator Steve Noble

This bottle was provided courtesy of the distillery… sent from British Columbia to my folks in Manitoba as it still isn’t available in that province yet. It is presumably from their 2nd batch as their 1st ran out last year! All I can say is – I’m a fan. Period.

I’ve also been keenly watching some of their cask strength experiments and looking forward to another opportunity to try what they next create!

If you happen to be in BC and happen to be lucky enough to locate a bottle – grab it and enjoy it.

What else did we have in our “O Canada” 150th Celebration?

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“O Canada!” Wayne Gretzky No 99 Red Cask 40%

“The Great One”

That’s what I grew up hearing Canada’s Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky being called.

Since retirement, he went into creating a wine estate and has now branched into whisky. Yes whisky.

When I first saw a bottle, thought “It can’t be any good.”

I’ll be honest… I had rather… ahem… modest expectations. Particularly after Sula’s rather unimpressive experiment with shifting from making wine to whisky with Eclipse.

However the Canadian nostalgic pride won me over and it made it into the quartet imported to India to share with friends as part of a wee celebration of Canada’s 150 years!

So what did we think?

Wayne Gretzky No 99 Red Cask 40%

  • Nose – Fresh, a bit shy, woodsy, vanilla, faint chocolate, sweet wild flowers, a sugary dusting like on cake, camomile tea
  • Palate – Very pronounced camomile tea, with an echo of a dry red wine… as you roll it about your mouth, the tannins are even more apparent and a fruity citrus orange flavour then emerges
  • Finish – Sweet then bitter then actually a bit spicy

To be honest, we couldn’t quite make up our minds about this one. There is something a bit peculiar about it. Definitely different. Not bad but not something you would go “Oh gosh I wish I had more of that!” However it is unique and it isn’t a disaster so am glad it made its way from Canada to India.

It was revisited and again, once you adjusted to its slightly different character, it makes a reasonable sociable companion to the evening… almost distracting as it doesn’t quite ‘fit’ the standard whisky categories…. and every sip or two it reminds you of this.

Here is what the folks at Ontario’s LCBO have to say:

A remarkable blend produced from locally sourced grains and finished in red wine casks from the winery which impart a pale amber colour. Expect a smooth and refined flavour profile that includes notes of marzipan, light citrus, vanilla, oak and spice; the finish is long, warming and balanced.

It was released October 13, 2016, made in Ontario, Canada by Andrew Peller Limited with a style described as “Medium & Fruity.”  It is a blend of rye, malty rye and corn with the current  stock from an unspecified Ontario distillery, with plans to distill their own blend coming in the future.

The folks over at the the wine estate and distillery recommend serving No 99 Red Cask in a cocktail – the Great Old Fashioned and Top Shelf look like a rather apt combination!

I bought this at the 55 Bloor Street LCBO at Ron’s recommendation for CND $39.95. And at that exceedingly reasonable price point (by our standards this side of the globe), it fits the bill for pulling off something ‘different’ at an affordability you are happy to experiment! So not bad at all folks.

What else did we have in our “O Canada” 150th Celebration?

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“O Canada!” Gooderham + Worts Four Grains Canadian Whisky 44.4%

When I was in Toronto in September 2017, I happened to pass by the old Gooderham  + Worts distillery from 1837, right in old downtown Toronto. While the original facility is no longer operational, Corby’s distillery has picked up the mantle to produce the blended whisky under the guidance of master blender Dr. Don Livermore.

Naturally that meant a bottle had to make its way back to India for an all Canadian whisky evening.

So what did we think?

Gooderham + Worts Four Grains Canadian Whisky 44.4% 

  • Nose – Quite closed, muted, powder, lemon, grains, dry dusty cereals
  • Palate – Sweet then bitter, oddly ‘flat’
  • Finish – Bitter
  • Water – Made it quite palatable, very sweet and revealed cinnamon candy

Hmm… we tried… we really tried… but this whisky just wasn’t talking to us.

What did I do? Offered it at a social occasion and it was a complete hit. Add a splash of chilled water, ice and voila! It was such a favourite I barely snatched it away before the last drop was drained…

So the verdict is? A good blend for social occasions.

What else did we have in our “O Canada” 150th Celebration?

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“O Canada!” Crown Royal Canadian Harvest Rye 45%

When Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye sky rocketed from obscurity to celebrity hood… it was hard to believe my home province of Manitoba produced a dram that flew off the shelves around the world.

While rumour had it the original idea was to have it be a ‘one time thing’ (though high volume), given its popularity it didn’t take long for Crown Royal to pump out more.

And this particular bottle? While I can’t guarantee its from the same batch that led to it becoming the World’s Best Whisky of 2016, it certainly is from around that time and purchased in Manitoba…

So what did we think?

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 45%

  • Nose – Fresh honey, lightly roasted spices, a zest of lemon, tobacco, caramel, fresh polished furniture, pineapple (with a debate on whether it is more like tinned pineapple than baked or honey glaze roasted), candied orange, very sweet, beneath it all a bit of white chocolate
  • Palate – Initial swig was very rye, some wood, spice, a bit tingly, then started to take on other qualities like Japanese pickled ginger, it was clearly young but not the least bit harsh, and while a bit bitter, this simply gave it some character
  • Finish – Bitter cereal finish, then sweet
  • Water – Just made it even smoother, not needed but can certainly continue to hold its own with a splash

We hadn’t thought we would find this whisky so interesting – yet every minute the aromas shifted. We all found it most enjoyable… even those who tried Northern Harvest Rye previously were pleasantly surprised.

And as a start to our evening? A perfect pick!

Pst My father picked this up in Winnipeg for under $40.

What else did we have in our “O Canada” 150th Celebration?

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