Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Aveux Gourmands

Our absolute favourite from Maison Benjamin Kuentz is their Aveux Gourmands – launched late 2020.

Aveux Gourmands 46% (Maison Benjamin Kuentz)

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Mmmm….. bubblegum, toffee, salty caramel, a nice nuttiness with roasted hazelnut, fudge… then all combining together in an indulgent salty caramel hazelnut chocolate fudge… as it opened up further came a caramelized banana, pineapple upside down cake, buttery brioche, strawberries and cherries
  • Palate – Buttery salty toffee, spice, fudge, more of that buttery brioche,
  • Finish – Nutty fudge, salted butter toast

Pure decadence! We loved this one! Aromas were yum! A melt in your mouth fudge on the palate, rewarding finish… In short it was luxury… like an indulgent incredibly high calorie desert that you just – must – have!

And what happened when we added water? Just dampened everything – it simply wasn’t the same. And who wants decadence diminished?

And with the glass we left ‘as is’? We let it rest for some time and returned to be rewarded by salty buttery toffee fudge desert in a glass! Who could resist?

Zero doubt this was our favourite of the evening!

What else do we know?

It is aged between in ex Sauternes Grand Cru barrels from Chateau Rayne Vigneau, Bretagne.

The team kindly provided us with further details… Please excuse the rough translation from French:

Gourmet, exotic, salty

Like a confession that you will remember at the tip of your tongue. This whisky is the admission of a small sin of taste. Gourmet on the nose with this mishmash of hazelnuts, honey and cooked fruits. The balance is even more succulent… the fullness of this single malt gently delivers its exotic bouquet. This is perfectly balanced by the salinity of a Breton brandy… making a delicacy that we never tire of. Simple pleasure, sweet complexity. Quiet.

Notes de dégustation

  • Nez – Gourmand, notes de noisettes, de miel et de fruits cuits
  • Bouche – Ample, ronde, saline, notes de noix de coco, d’ananas et de caramel au beurre salé
  • Finale – Amande et noisettes, notes de miel se dissipant sur l’équilibre salin final
  • Pairing suggestions – Gâteau praliné, beurre de cacahuète, carpaccio d’ananas et coco séchée, que de la gourmandise pour un moment d’exception.
It is available in Europe directly from Maison Benjamin Kuentz for EUR 52 for a 500ml bottle. I will confess, I snapped up two bottles – one for our lovely ladies back in India and another for a friend in Canada. Who knows when I will be able to bring either bottle to either country, but at least these bottles will be ready when travel becomes feasible.

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Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Fin de partie

The end of the party is often that time of the evening when most of the guests have gone, just a few remain… often the close friends who also pitch in for the clean-up before you settle down for a final dram, desultory conversation before finally bidding good night. Or at least this is what it (historically!) has been like for us!

So what does this “Fin de partie” from Maison Benjamin Kuentz bring to us?

Fin de partie 46% (Maison Benjamin Kuentz)

  • Colour – Soft gold
  • Nose – Raw cashews reminding us of Goan feni, which began to shift to maple bacon, cured meats, tropical fruits – particularly baked pineapple, then shifted again into floral sweetness, then into cloves, light red chilli oil, cherry chocolate
  • Palate – Initially confusing, intense, spice, cocoa, fruity, a hint of honey glazed ham
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice

For me, the cured meats kept returning however for others, it subsided as our tasting progressed. We really enjoyed how it had such a quixotic character – a little of this, a little of that… elements which contrasted and then combined.

We decided to see how it was with a bit of water…

  • Nose – More prunes and plums, fruitier, now a sherry influence was clearly discernable
  • Palate – Initially spicier, warming and then settled in to become quite rounded
  • Finish – Still has that cinnamon but now slightly bitter, peppery and smoky

Above all, this is one you should let linger… whether with water or without, it really came into its own the more time it spent in the glass.

What else do we know?

It is aged between 6 to 7 years in ex Cognac, Bourbon, Oloroso and PX  barrels, from Lorraine.

And what do they have to say?

Sharing greedy notes with a touch of pepper to make the evenings endless.

Fin de Partie marks the end of the day and celebrates the beginning of happy gatherings. The ones one wouldn’t want to end. This generous single Malt, intense and elegant explodes gourmet flavours. Its nose intrigues with a wood bouquet, chocolate, dried fruits and a touch of pastry with custard notes. Prunes, spices and pepper finish make this Lorraine whisky a little less disciplined than it first appears.

Notes de dégustation

  • Nez – Complexe et intrigant, bonne rondeur Fleuri, fruité (fruits cuits), pâtissier Epicé et boisé
  • Bouche – Epais, gourmand, belle sucrosité Epicé, fruité, cacaoté
  • Finale – Fruits secs, écorce d’orange Epicée et poivrée, céréales torréfiées
  • Pairing suggestions – Les chocolats de chez Carré Victoire ou le Jambon Bellota 5j de la Maison Barthouil

Our sample was purchased from Paris and dispatched to each home. Currently a 500ml bottle sells directly from Maison Benjamin Kuentz for Eur 59.

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Maison Benjamin Kuentz – (D’un) Verre Printanier

We began our explorations with (D’un) Verre Printanier... having every indication of being the lightest of our Maison Benjamin Kuentz trio with its glass of springtime.

(D’un) Verre printanier 46% (Maison Benjamin Kuentz)

  • Colour – Light honey
  • Nose – Well hello pear! Followed by fresh cut grass, light hay, a nice fruity floral vibe… notes of bergamot, then cereals, shifting from pear to white nectarine, rounding things out with white and green peppercorn
  • Palate – Hmm… more of the cereals – think barley, a bit bitter even
  • Finish – There but…

If this whisky had a ‘colour’ it would be a fresh verdant green! Truly quite ‘spring-like’, comes across as young and fresh.

We were tempted to skip adding water as it is already 46%, but thought, why not try? And thank goodness we did. Wow!

  • Nose – Lots of pear returns, dripping with honey, and the floral? Think dew on honeysuckle. Vanilla custard, marshmallows
  • Palate – Delicious! Yes there is a bright pepper yet also toffee
  • Finish – Sweet pepper

Without water, it came across as a bit ‘young’ or ‘raw’… with a splash of water, the cereals  disappeared into the background, allowing the sweet fruity floral elements to really shine.

Overall we found this whisky fresh and fun. A brilliant way to whet the appetite for more!

What else do we know?

It is aged between 5 to 7 years in ex Cognac and ex Bourbon barrels from Lorraine.

And what do they have to say?

A sunny, fresh, supple and surprising whisky.

(D’un) Verre Printanier will surprise you with its lightness and freshness. Such as nature when it rises, this Single Malt from the Mirabelle plum country will awake you to new fragrances and colors. It distinguishes itself with a well-defined taste between rough flavour and fragrance but keeps its secrecy that will keep you on tenterhooks. The dominant feature is fruity with subtle notes of white fruits and fresh cereal with a spicy finish and a nice softness. An open air olfactory promenade off the beaten track.

Tasting notes (rough translation)

  • Nose – White flowers, orchard fruits (pear in particular). Notes of cereals and fresh herbs, slightly spicy 
  • Palate – Crunchy attack, very supple. Fruity (pear again, but also notes of yellow fruits, such as plums), vegetal
  • Finish – Malty, slightly spicy, airy, which whets the appetite. Maintained tension, which makes you want to come back
  • Pairing suggestions – Baltic salmon from Barthouil or oysters from n°3 de la Maison Legris

Original notes de dégustation

  • Nez – Fleurs blanches, fruits du verger (la poire en particulier) Notes de Céréales et d’herbes fraîches, légèrement épicé
  • Bouche – Attaque croquante, toute en souplesse. Fruité (poire encore, mais aussi des notes de fruits jaunes, comme la mirabelle), végétal
  • Finale – Maltée, légèrement épicée, aérienne, qui ouvre l’appétit Une tension maintenue, qui donne envie d’y revenir
  • Pairing suggestions – Saumon baltique de chez Barthouil ou les huîtres n°3 de la Maison Legris

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Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Introduction

Late 2020 we kicked off a series of virtual sessions fuelled initially by my acquisition of some bottles from North Star and Chorlton. As brilliant as these were, we were hungry for new experiences. Given one of lovely ladies relocated from Mumbai to Paris, it seemed only natural to want to explore more from France.

The host of our 5th session decided to get creative and reached out to Mangali at Maison Benjamin Kuentz to purchase a trio for tasting. Very kindly, these samples were instead sent to us only with the cost of shipping.

As for what we thought? We were so impressed in December that we requested an opportunity to re-taste with the folks from Maison Benjamin Kuentz, curious to have all our questions answered!

Here is our intro to the core trio from Maison Benjamin Kuentz

What we discovered is a philosophy, a clear vision behind the approach which goes beyond selecting an interest cask, instead to evoking a certain thought for aroma and flavour profile, then experimenting until a recipe achieves that result.

Anything we speculated was overshadowed by the experience. Particularly the Aveux Gourmands was pure indulgence in a glass….

Enabling more bottles of limited liquid, Maison uses 500ml bottles – with prices ranging from EUR 52 to 75. I purchased a bottle of Aveux Gourmands for Mumbai and it was the 1st whisky I sipped and enjoyed in the new year – from my quarantine hotel room overlooking the Arabian sea…

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Wemyss Summer Breeze – Linkwood 20 year 46%

It was several years waiting to try this beauty! I knew it would be a delight… and was exactly right. So right that it was enjoyed at a couple farewells with such joy that only a lone dram remained… waiting until this fine evening in 2021…

Linkwood 20 year (1995/2015) Summer Breeze Cask #20877 (Wemyss) 46%

  • Nose – Initially greets with crisp green apples, joined by sweet cheese and a sprinkle of sweet spices, some ginger, more apple… perhaps a hint of sweet basil? Lovely fragrant vanilla
  • Palate – Has more substance than the nose would indicate… reminded me of honey banana oats or a soft oat and raisin cookie, with more of that lovely ginger, apple cider
  • Finish – Warm drizzle of honey with a nice spice chaser

It is like wandering through an orchard full of apple blossoms on a warm summers day,,,  Wemyss have rather aptly named this whisky “Summer Breeze’.

Here is what they have to say on the bottle label:

A delicate, fresh, fragrant Hogshead to take you to a summer’s day.

Would I concur? Yes indeed.

This is one of those whiskies you simply enjoy… no fuss, no complications, just happiness. Which is why you will simply have to forgive the limited tasting notes… and permit me to going back to enjoy my last sip!

I picked up this bottle in 2017 at Le Clos, Dubai for AED 380 (approx EUR 85). There were 374 bottles produced.

What other Linkwood‘s have we sampled?

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Germany’s Stork Single Malt 43%

There I was in Neumark in der Oberpfalz, having spent a wonderful day exploring… from Schloss Rosenburg, Ruine Rabenstein, Burg Prunn, Wellenburger Kloster to the Danube… True it was cold and snowy. True, everything was shut, so we could only tromp around the outside… but it was still such an invigorating distraction after weeks of being shut in.

That’s one of the remarkable things about the area I now live in Germany – castles and fortresses, ruins and monuments… oh my! There is so much history and such variety in relatively close proximity.

So too is the whisky industry… there are apparently now over 200 whisky distilleries in Germany. Without the guidelines / limitations of the Scottish Whisky Association, quite a bit of experimentation takes place…. often in quite small / micro distilleries.

And on that particular evening in Nuemark, I was introduced to one such new player – Stork Club Whisky from Spreewood Distillers, 60 KM south of Berlin.

So what’s their story? Steffen Lohr, Bastian Heuser and Sebastian Brack apparently were on a road trip in 2015 to buy a barrel of whisky… and found themselves inspired to take over Spreewood Distillers. Dedicated to Rye Whiskey, focusing on small batch, triple cask aged – ex bourbon, ex sherry and ex white wine – using two distillates – malted and unmalted Rye, primarily from the Brandenburg region.

What did we find from this distillery primarily dedicated to Rye?

Stork Single Malt 43%

  • Nose – Chestnut, a bit of varnish then settled down, becoming sweeter and sweeter,  fruitier, beeswax, honey, almond, a bit of green grapes – the white wine cask influence perhaps?
  • Palate – Fresh, fruity, surprisingly creamy, a dash of cinnamon spice… it was a very ‘drinkable dram’ with no harsh notes

We found it was a terrific ‘sipping whisky’…. friendly and easy going yet had enough character that you knew it would also make a great cocktail base.

Talk turned to quintessential “Lufthansa cocktails” famous in the 50s and 60s… pre-mixed and bottled yet served with a certain panache and style. Speculation that this Stork whisky     would be terrific in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan… perhaps someone should suggest this to the folks behind reviving these cocktails?

What do the gents behind The Stork have to say about their Single Malt?

  • Flavour Profile: Fresh Hay, Honey, Tropical Fruits
  • Cask: Ex-Bourbon, Ex-Sherry, Ex-White Wine Cask
  • Occassion: One for every evening
  • Raw Ingredient: Barley malt
  • Beer Accompaniment: Pilsner, Wheat Beer, Pale Beer

Now outside of Germany or perhaps parts of the US fond of a “boilermaker”, listing a ‘beer accompaniment’ for a whisky may frankly seem a little strange. But in a land known for its beer and more recently whisky, why not?

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Whisky Lady – Farewell 2020

What a year… one none of us would like to repeat.

Late 2019 when I made the big move to Europe, it was under the assumption that I would regularly shuttle back and forth between my home in Mumbai, India and my new home in Nürnberg, Germany. As my husband adores Europe, has even toured Germany extensively, it was reasonable to think he would come as often as his hectic filming and performance schedule permits.

Sure we were struggling a bit on the visa front, but that would get sorted soon enough and the years being a cross-continent commuting couple would fly by! Or so we thought…

The year began optimistically… we celebrated quietly with friends in the country and I was so proud of achieving 1,000 blog posts! However what I didn’t share was shortly afterwards, how sick both I and my mother-in-law were… she was in ICU for weeks (thankfully recovered!) and I somehow managed to get (I thought) well enough to keep my scheduled flight back to Germany.

January’s posts were nearly all written during my December break. February mostly sharing past experiences. Then there were months of silence. Why?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that wasn’t a mere nasty flu that knocked me out in India, getting “better” but then radically worse in Germany – bronchitis which became pneumonia which so badly impacted my lungs that I needed to go on steroids and, for the first time in my life, used an inhaler…? Then even once I could get out of bed, still took so incredibly long to fully recover… even after months, I barely had the energy to get through the work week to find my weekends disappeared into a blur of exhausted nothingness.

By now, unless you’ve been completely disconnected from all media, it is pretty clear what this all meant.

As the months progressed and COVID changed all our lives completely… it became increasingly obvious that all attempts for me to return to India was proving impossible and equally, my husband was unable to get a visa to come to Germany. By summer, we needed an alternate plan. Enter late August a Bollywood film… they chartered an entire plane and sequestered actors and crew in a Glasgow hotel for months… recreating Delhi, Lahore and Dubai airports in Scotland! Ah… the magic of cinema!

After his 2 week quarantine, I was able to join my husband… To be in Scotland for the 1st time after years of exploring whiskies was a dream come true! However naturally nearly all distilleries were shut… only a few had recently re-opened their shops and even fewer had limited pre-booked tastings. No official tours were permitted. Still, I managed to pop over to Glengoyne for their “malt master” experience and we took a memorable day trip to Isle of Arran to spend a little time at Lochranza and Lagg distillery.

Even better was our next few weeks in the UK with an unforgettable “honeymoon” courtesy of dear friends – both in their lovely London home and their Georgian manor just outside of Bath. Full credit to my malty companion for rekindling the love of exploring drams… together we enjoyed an exceptional evening with The Whisky Exchange’s Sukindher Singh and four delightful sessions of minis:

This malty merriment continued in Germany as I went straight from Frankfurt airport to Ziegler distillery with the German Sharing Angels. Something that now seems almost impossible but true! I haven’t yet shared this experience… think of it like ‘hoarding’ to bring out in the leanest months…

Determined to not lose momentum, a trio of Whisky Ladies of Mumbai found ourselves in Europe, so we decided to launch of our European chapter. We’ve successfully held five virtual sessions already!

Spurred by this, I audaciously ordered a German based bottler’s whisky advent calendar – Vita Dulcis. Unbelievably I managed in December to get through all 24 miniatures – though it must seem like I’ve been ‘spamming’ all who follow this blog – apologies for that!

What next? As I write, I still don’t know if I will be able to get on a plane home to India. Our original plans for Dubai with family were dashed. Then the new strain from the UK wrecked havoc on my effort to get to Mumbai for Christmas… Just as finally one impediment has been solved – my Indian visa – the ability to actually use it is proving challenging.

However I remain ever optimistic and am thankful for all that we have – a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and sufficient means to indulge in the occasional dram or two. This is far more fortunate than many in the world today… So wishing you and yours a significantly better 2021!

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s 2020 semi-monthly summaries:

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Vita Dulcis 24 – Sweden’s Mackmyra 5 year Rök 46.3%

Unbelievable but true! I have managed to taste all 24 minis within one month. Something I have never imagined I would accomplish. Now… admittedly, I wasn’t tasting every day. Nor was I even completing each mini. Instead I grouped them in trios and quartets, settling into  a sniff, swish and consideration… mostly on weekends. Curious to know more? You can read about all of the minis here.

As for my penultimate dram? Fittingly, it closed on Europe with a single cask of a Swedish peaty Mackmyra, bottled specifically for Vita Dulcis.

Sweden – Mackmyra 5 year Rök Oloroso Cask Finish 46.3% Exclusive single cask bottling for Vita Dulcis

  • Nose – A bit dusty, then smokey, a dash of honey, fresh and woodsy, a dash of caramel, cinnamon, then shifted into maple chased by vanilla, cured meats
  • Palate – OK now we have peat, delicious, peaking behind was fruits, then baked goods
  • Finish – Bitter sweetness, cinnamon, nicely lingers…

I must say, the more I sipped, the more I enjoyed it. Even after finishing the last drop, came back to my empty glass just to enjoy the aromas. A nice way to wind things up…

As a single cask, I wasn’t able to find specific tasting notes, however I checked out my previously experience with Svensk Rök 46.1%. I’d agree it is certainly in the same vein.

You may also find other encounters with Mackmyra of interest:

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Vita Dulcis 23 – Ireland’s Connemara Peated 40%

Over the years, Connemara just keeps popping up in various forums… including here with a guest post in 2016 and again later that year. However it has been a few years since I’ve sat down and given proper consideration to this lightly peated Irish dram.

Ireland – Connemara Original Peated 40%

  • Nose – Briney, sweet cereals, hint of smoke
  • Palate – Well… that’s a kick! Sweet, light peat with a cinnamon edge
  • Finish – That briney quality comes back

OK… I remember Connemara as being quite a light touch with peat. And it is true – this isn’t heavily peated. However it has much more kick than I remembered. Could it be there has been a shift in peat levels? A little more PPM earlier, then a few years with less and then back to a heavier hand? Or just mood and environment linked.. either way, this was certainly a sharper peat than I remembered on previous brushes.

Distillery official tasting notes?

An aroma of sweet barley with wafts of peaty smoke, kippers and well baked apple crumble. Tastes of lightly honey sweet, subdued clean rather than sooty smoke with peaty vegetal notes, sweet barley water, light spice and vanilla oak.

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Vita Dulcis 22 – Ireland’s The Quiet Man “An Culchists” 12 years 46%

Back in 2018, I met Michael Morris of The Quiet Man on his 1st trip to Mumbai, India. It was a relatively low key gathering that enabled a few different discussions on the Irish whisky industry and a chance to sample their 8 year old – naturally not yet their spirit but with whiskies blended in a style they hope to achieve..

So I was curious to see how their journey has progressed – with this wee mini in my Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar.

Ireland – The Quiet Man “An Culchists” 12 years 46%

  • Nose – Initially a bit sharp, then honey, custard, baked goods – like butter brioche or fresh hot from the oven sour dough
  • Palate – A kick of chilli spice, then citrus, followed by chocolate orange like those Terry Christmas chocolates, a bit of cracked black pepper, wood
  • Finish – Honey

Overall it is pleasant, nothing particularly outstanding. What will be more interesting to explore is once they have their own spirit out in the world.

What more do we know? To be honest, the Quiet Man website wasn’t working for me beyond their landing page, so I couldn’t see if they provided any official tasting notes for this expression. I did find on a German website that it is ex-bourbon, though naturally the distillery is not disclosed.

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