Vault Collection – Spice Tree 46%

Last in our original club’s “The Vault Collection” trio was a a Compass Box blend. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 3​: Compass Box Spice Tree 46% | Non-Chill Filtered & Natural Colour

  • Color: Pale Gold
  • Nose: Boiled confectionery, a little varnish, lemon citrus. Then very quickly a lot of cloves and nutmeg. Notes of walnuts, apples, orange rind and ginger follow. Almost perfumey.
  • Palate: Gorgeous mouthfeel. Lovely arrival with a bouquet of spices and vanilla. Warm bread pudding. Follows the nose very closely. Oily and waxy. Some old leather, pencil shavings and that ginger from the nose. I did get just a wee hint of smoke. Again, nicely balanced.
  • Finish: Medium with lingering spices. A perfect after dinner dram on a cold night.

The “reveal”…

We couldn’t place this one even though most of us have had it in the past. That’s the beauty of blind tastings. You think you know your whisky but blind tasting is such a leveller. The reveal surprised us. Compass Box Spice Tree. Enough and more has been said about Compass Box and Spice Tree in the past so I will not repeat myself but instead I urge you to pour yourself a dram and enjoy this expression. Sláinte!

Official notes:

Big, sweet aromas of clove, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. The palate is full, round and sweet, with the spice and vanilla complementing the core distillery characters and leaving a long finish.

The Vault Collection trio:

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Vault Collection – Benromach 10 year 43%

Next up in our original club’s “The Vault Collection” trio was a single malt from the Speyside region. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 2: Benromach 10yr 43%

  • Color: Gold
  • Nose: Red fruits, buiscuity and an immediate waft of gentle peat smoke. Lovely! With time honey ham, lightly smoked apples and sweet meats. Something immediately familiar about this one.
  • Palate: Lovely sweet sherry notes with the gentlest lick of peat. I’m a sucker for this style and balance. Nice mouthfeel despite the low abv. That irresistible sweet savoury note of a bacon and honey combo! Lots of complexity for a 10yr old and top class stuff. This is just a breath behind the Kilkerran 12 which is saying a lot. Now only if it were bottled at 46% and naturally presented!
  • With Water and 20 mins rest, lovely notes of coconut, roasted walnuts and gentle spice along with light bonfire smoke.
  • ​Finish: ​Long with smoke that just lingers along with sweet sherry fruits.

Our guessing game to reveal?

This was a class Scottish act and all of us were unanimous on that. There was a tossup between Benriach and Benromach. One member was bang on with Benromach and sure enough it was that. It just proves yet again that if the focus is on quality and if it is followed up with the right decisions in production (local barley, long fermentation times, top quality wood) then it’s very hard not to have a cracking dram on your hands. It is little or no surprise that the distillery is owned by Gordon & Macphail who in my opinion are the finest independent bottlers in Scotland. Keep up the good work!

Official notes:

  • Nose: Rich sherry with fruit & nut chocolate, delicate spice, green apples, malty biscuit and a touch of light peat smoke.
  • Palate: Juicy raspberries and brambles, sherry, creamy malt and a light peat

The Vault Collection trio:

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Vault Collection – Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish 46.2%

The Vault Fine Spirits has single handed expanded the range of whiskies and other spirits available in India – more specifically through our Duty Free. Which is exactly the theme of the session – exploring a trio from this collection.

First up in the “The Vault Collection” trio was a blind tasting of a whisky from Tasmania, Australia. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 1: Hellyers Road-Pinot Noir Finish 46.2% | Non Chill Filtered | NAS

  • Color: Gold
  • Nose: Dense sweet chocolate, sweet and lactic at the same time. Light varnish notes, burnt matches. Then starfruit citrus with curious notes of paan and nutmeg. Most unusual nose and certainly non-Scottish. Let’s see how the palate lives up
  • Palate: Intensely roasted coffee beans. It was literally like chewing on the beans. Then came the sweet fruity flavors of pears and overripe pineapples. That lactic, porridge flavor was back. With a little time, it got spicy with bitter tannic notes at the back of the throat. This seems young and confused. Bottled a tad too early?
  • With water and about 20 mins of rest it didn’t change much. On the palate, it was now a tad oily with some cold coffee but the bitterness continues.
  • Finish: Very dry and the tannic bitterness continues.

As usual it was time to guess. This was most definitely non-Scottish. One member nailed it down to Tasmanian. And there it was, Hellyers Road! A very challenging whisky certainly not for the novice. Would like to revisit it once it settles down in the bottle. But based on the first impression it was certainly not my kind of a dram.

Official notes:  

The nose is immediately drawn to crisp summer citrus, lemon and orange that obediently withdraws on the palate to manifest a sweet, gentle layer of pepper and spice – a persuasion of the red wine cameo. Burnt blackberry sauce lingers in the aftertaste foreclosing a treasured confusion of the senses.

The Vault Collection trio:

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“Trans Tasman Tour” Crazy Uncle Monsoon 43%

It was inspired by a crazy 90 year old uncle, saved for 2 years to share with the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai and finally opened one fine evening…

Whipersnapper’s Crazy Uncle Moonshine Barrel Aged 43%, Bottle 1/15

Truth be told, there were no tasting notes taken… instead we passed around this mad moonshine and shared tales of the crazy uncles in our lives. Some stories terribly amusing, others humbling and touching… all testament to the cantankerous and curiously compellingly kind mad men who make an impact.

So what else made it into our “Trans Tasman” explorations?

Curious about more? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Sullivans Cove Double Cask 40%

After some experimental whiskies from Australia and New Zealand, it was time to turn to one we had high hopes would satisfy our craving for something a bit more complex and perhaps even a bit more classic…

Based in Tasmania, Sullivans Cove is one of the distilleries that put Australian whiskies on the world map. And with good reason.

Tasmania’s Sullivans Cove Double Cask (2008/2015) 40%

  • Nose – Fruity, spice, finally a “proper” whisky, a bit of Amarula creaminess, some ripe bananas, forest greens, mud and moss, nice and earthy, then flowers
  • Palate – Comes together beautifully, some coriander, full and well rounded, some raisins, accessible yet satisfying
  • Finish – The icing on the cake, fabulous light yet has substance morphing into cherry, dark chocolate, cinnamon

There is a certain elegance to this whisky. It is both classic and modern. What we also remarked is that though only 40%, this was a proper full whisky that left nothing out.

We sampled the DC080 which is a combination of a French Oak Australian Port Cask and American Oak Bourbon Cask, using barrels HH0203, HH0206, HH0272, HH0408, HH0437 with the youngest from 22/08/2000, Bottled 13/07/2015. We sampled Bottle 1,458 of 1,556, freshly opened that evening.

Here is what the Sullivans Cove have to say about their Double Cask, appreciating there is variation between editions:

  • Nose – Vanilla, soft malt and orchard fruits
  • Palate – Honey, boiled lollies and buttered scones
  • Finish – Mild spices and soft oak with lingering creamy sweetness

So what else made it into our “Trans Tasman” explorations?

Curious about more? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Willowbank Doublewood 10 Year 40%

Next up on our Trans Tasman tour is another Kiwi whisky from the closed Willowbank distillery – this time a 10 year old matured in “double wood” in other words two different sets of casks – bottled by the New Zealand Malt Whisky Co. Ltd.

Our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai sampled it one fine March evening… and here is what we thought…

New Zealand Willowbank Doublewood 10 year Blended Whisky 40%

  • Nose – Salty caramel popcorn, candy toffee, heavy vanilla, cotton candy, cognac, salt water taffy, shifted to grapes and raisins, then into perfume nose and quite beautiful
  • Palate – Almost wine-like in the region of prosecco, then a bit mineral, shifts back to toffee coffee like a coffee liquor or an instant coffee, then almonds
  • Finish – Strangely, there was an almost red vermouth quality

We found this much more enjoyable than the 22 year old and, dare I say it, the Hellyers Road Pinot Noire.

The colour was exceptional – a bright red that clearly showed off its time spent finishing in ex red wine casks.

What more do we know?

This whisky is a  blend of 70% malt and 30% grain, spent 6 years maturing in Bourbon casks before spending 4 years finishing in French oak barrels which previously held red wine. It was distilled at the closed Willowbank distillery in Dunedin on the South Island, then was released by The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

So what else made it into our Kiwi and Taz explorations?

Curious about more “Trans Tasman” drams? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Willowbank 22 year (1989) 52.8%

The Wilson’s Dunedin or Willowbank Distillery was established by the Baker family in 1974 on the South Island of New Zealand. It had the remarkable distinction of being the most southerly distillery in the world and produced the Milford and Lammerlaw Whisky brands. It closed in 1997 with The New Zealand Whisky Company owning the remaining stock, stored in a seaside warehouse in Oamaru.

Thanks to a purchase in the UK, the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai had the pleasure of trying not one but two bottles. We began with the older one – the 22 year cask strength whisky.

New Zealand’s Willowbank 22 year (1989/2012) Barrel No 58, Bottle No 25, 52.8%

  • Nose – Surprisingly fresh, doesn’t feel like 22 year, mint, herbs, one even mentioned lettuce leaves! Then lemon balm, garden fresh, cucumber, yet chased with something a bit piquant
  • Palate – Very smooth, spices, pencils, Bull’s eye candy, a bit khkatta, some tannins
  • Finish – Mint candy yet has a burn too
  • Water – Nutty water, fruit and spice, some bitter fruits, nuts, some chokecherry or aamla Indian gooseberry

I don’t think anyone knew what to expect with this whisky. And I don’t think we quite knew even when having it. We certainly didn’t anticipate a 22 year old to be quite so “young” seeming…

Water certainly made a difference. For some, the found it much better with water. Another mentioned it reminded them of Malvani fish curry. Not what one would normally associate with whisky!

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Hellyers Road Pinot Noir 46.2%

Our Whisky Ladies evening exploring drams from Australia and New Zealand kicked off with a jaunt to Tasmania’s Hellyers Road. For those curious to know more about the distillery, check out their story or take a tour with my favourite Tassie Whisky Wafflers with their trip to Hellyers Road.

Yet this was no ordinary Hellyers Road offering. Nope! This whisky was with a wine twist… Red wine finishes are popping up all over the place these days… and let’s be honest, it has been a mixed experience…

So what did we think of it?

Hellyers Road Pinot Noir 46.2%

  • Nose – Dusty musty distinctly different, a bit of plasticine, one called it summery, juicy berries, very sweet, shifted into peanut brittle or chikki, vanilla, some flowers, metallic, kept changing  from creamy to fragrant to buttery to something else entirely
  • Palate – The initial reaction from some was that it was really yummy, caramel, so much better than the aroma… but then wait… it took on a bitter (almost rancid) walnut, coffee, chai masala, rich
  • Finish – Iron, nutty, long lightly spicy finish
  • Water – Don’t, please don’t…. I do believe “skunk” was mentioned
  • Revisit – After setting it aside for some time, it was revisited and revealed a distinctive bitter burnt orange

It was a bit of a puzzle, with many contradictory elements. A slightly cheeky comment was that it went from a summer day at the fair to an entirely different “play” in an S&M  dungeon.

Bottom line, it really is “alive” – certainly not a whisky to reach out for when you just want to relax and unwind. But perhaps one when you wish to challenge a guest, keeping them guessing at what exactly they are sipping.

Putting this theory to the test, I later shared with India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula the Hellyers Road Pinot Noire side-by-side with the No 99 Red Cask. His vote? The Canadian blend – though also a bit different and not for everyone, called it “not off” with the wine finish working with the rye spice. Whereas the Pinot? Nope. Didn’t care for it considering it a bit “weird” though did note its interesting “toffee coffee” quality. So in the contest between two ex-British colonies – the Canadian blend beat the Tasmanian experiment.

And yet – that is half the fun with whisky. Not all experiments work for everyone but if you didn’t try, you wouldn’t know!

What do the folks over at Hellyers Road have to say?

Our Original Single Malt Whisky, aged in American Oak (ex-bourbon) finished in French Oak (ex-pinot noir) to provide a tantalising point of difference for single malt lovers. Imaginative and unique, this delightful spirit evokes all the complexities of a Tasmanian rainforest. Judged a Global Whisky Master and one of the World’s Ten Best Value Whiskies in 2015 (United Kingdom).

  • The nose is immediately drawn to crisp summer citrus, lemon and orange that obediently withdraws on the palate to manifest a sweet, gentle layer of pepper and spice – a persuasion of the red wine cameo.
  • Burnt blackberry sauce lingers in the aftertaste foreclosing a treasured confusion of the senses.

PS Those curious about pricing, this whisky was purchased in Indian duty free for Rs 9,750 (approx USD 150).

So what else made it into our Kiwi and Taz explorations?

Curious about more “Trans Tasman” drams? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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Bowmore “BBQ Mango Salsa” 1989 46%

Every once and a while a Whisky Lady treats herself or is treated to a special whisky… and is generous enough to share it with all of the Whisky Ladies. That was exactly the case for this particular 27 year old Bowmore bottled by Wemyss.

Bowmore “BBQ Mango Salsa” 27 year (1989/2016) 46% (Wymess) Bottle 234/234

  • Nose – Random tropical fruit, nose gets sweeter and sweeter, then out comes a true barbecue delight
  • Palate – Smokey, balanced, surprisingly light and very tasty
  • Finish – Long, subtle, light spice, brown sugar and vanilla

Yes there is grilled pineapple and rich barbecue sweet flavours. It is indeed aptly named. And a most enjoyable whisky.

Here is what the Wemyss folks have to say about this dram:

“This hogshead serves up charcoal smoked mackerel with a mango salsa side.”

Curious about other Bowmore’s sampled? Here are a few…

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Whisky Ladies “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand & Tasmania with a nod to Crazy Uncles!

The Whisky Ladies adventures continue… this time waaaaay down under with drams from  Tasmania and New Zealand.

Often with our Whisky Ladies sessions, there is a particular bottle which “anchors” an idea and we build a theme around it. In this case, over two years ago our host picked up from Australia Whippersnapper’s Crazy Uncle Moonshine. She then stumbled across in the UK a pair of New Zealand whiskies from a closed distillery… and thus a Kiwi plus Australian dram discovery in Mumbai theme was born!

And while we technically had 3 bottles, our core focus is whisky, so when we learned another Whisky Lady had been hanging on to a celebrated Sullivans Cove from Tasmania, it naturally had to join the mix! And I had a “back-up” Hellyers Road Pinot Noire…. just in case it was needed…which proved be handy as traffic conditions on that particular evening were atrocious!

So what specifically made it into our “Trans Tasman Tour” explorations?

We closed with regaling each other with personal tales of our crazy uncles toasting to their quirks, maddening qualities that sit side by side with remarkable generosity and sparks of brilliance… with the spirit that kick started the evening idea in the 1st place:

Those who successfully navigated Bombay traffic to reach on time were rewarded with a birthday bonus:

It was indeed a memorable malty evening of fabulous fellowship over a different dram or two or three or four or more! 

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