BMC goes to Japan – Hibiki, Nikka, Miyagikyo, Hakushu

This month our Bombay Malt and Cigar gents moved in a different direction…. far far far away from Scotland to land on Japan.

After much grumbling and discussion of howJapanese whiskies price has shot through the roof, we settle down to give the drams a proper try.

And what did we sample?

  • Hibiki Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” NAS 43%
  • Nikka All Malt 40%
  • Miyagikyo NAS 45%
  • Hakushu “Distiller’s Reserve” NAS 43%

Which was followed by cigars (naturally!) home-made sushi, tempura, chicken teriyaki skewers, Thai curry and stewed peaches with much merriment joined by our partners too!

Read on in the coming days to see what we thought…

Interested in more whiskies from Japan and Taiwan? Check out the Asia section…

Or previous tastings of:

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Whisky Live 2017 – Amrut Kadhambam + Portonova

Just before heading out from Whisky Live Singapore 2017, I popped back to say “ciao!” to the folks at the Paul John booth… Right next to them was Amrut with the gents from the distillery, quite a refreshing contrast from the previous year.

And what did I briefly sample?

Amrut Kadhambam 50% 

  • Nose – Nice and fruity – apricots?
  • Palate – Spice, more fruit, woody, light tobacco
  • Finish – More of the lightly smokey spice

The USP for Kadhambam is that it is both peated and unpeated whisky matured in 3 different casks – Oloroso Sherry Butts, and Amrut’s Brandy and Rum casks.

Amrut Portonova 62.1%

  • Nose – Rich sherry berry like with a Port twist! Almost chocolaty
  • Palate – Dry spice, more dark fruits
  • Finish – Long, sweet, berry concentrate
  • Water – From my quick check, generous dollops of water is a must!

So there you have it! A short, sweet and surface level synopsis of two more Amrut whiskies.

And other Amrut‘s sampled over the years?
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Whisky Live 2017 – Benromach

Next up in the Whisky Live Singapore speed tasting was Benromach… Once again, missed a chance to speak with someone from the distillery but was still good to reconnect with the Benromach drams.

Benromach 5 year 40% 

  • Nose – Lightly organic, yoghurt, fruity
  • Palate – Very soft, a little spice
  • Finish – Sweet

It was like we were off to a good start! A nice appetizer style dram, whetting the appetite for more to come…

Benromach Organic (2010/2016) 43% 

  • Nose – Guess what? Yup – quite “organic”, fruits, farm fresh
  • Palate – So smooth, warm fruit, fresh, grows on you…
  • Finish – Cereals, spice

The cereals were light, fresh and balanced.

Benromach Peat Smoke (2007/2016) 46% 

  • Nose – What a lovely puff of smoke… not heavy at all
  • Palate – Happy peat
  • Finish – There but not forceful

More Benromach

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Whisky Live 2017 – Gordon + MacPhail’s Balmenach, Linkwood, Ardmore

Gordon & MacPhail never disappoints. And while it would have been nice to have someone from the team at WhiskyLive Singapore like in 2016, their whiskies spoke loud and clear. While just a sniff, swish and move on, it was still terrific to have a quick insight into a trio of lovely drams.

Balmenach (2008/2016) 46%

  • Nose – Grassy, perfumes, crisp apples
  • Palate – Straight forward, spice, fruity, simple yet quality.
  • Finish – Really nice spice finish

Linkwood 15 year 43%

  • Nose – Sherry, floral and fruity
  • Palate – Creamy, well rounded, smooth, accessible. Very smooth… a nice “lazy” dram
  • Finish – Such a delightful happy finish

Ardmore 1997 45% 

  • Nose – Vegetal, leafy tea, light pepper and smoke
  • Palate – Forest, sweet, while not complicated, has a nice easy drinkable quality.
  • Finish – Easy dram

A nice diversion… and a reminder Gordon & MacPhail delivers.

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Whisky Live’s Collectors Room – Caol Ila 1969 and Yamazaki 12 year

Whisky Live’s Collector’s Room was such a terrific experience at the Singapore 2016 event. I couldn’t wait to see what treasures would be available to purchase a small dram…

However it was quite the scaled back version… no delightful fully separate “Collector’s Room“. Instead it was a simple bar area with a row of whiskies on offer. Those we considered started at SGD80 a glass… we decided to try two and share… it was not an easy decision.

My companion settled on:

Yamazaki 12 year (1996/2009) Cask No AX70012 Sherry Butt 60% (Whisky Live Japan 10 year anniversary edition)

  • Nose – Sherry explosion… one even said headache inducing
  • Palate – Almost overwhelming, woody, spice, all the dark fruits, black cherry, phenomenal
  • Finish – What a fabulous finish!
  • Water – Opens it up further, bringing balance

It was truly intense, dense, rich and almost on the edge of being too… everything! Remarkable, unforgettable and worth trying… once.

Whereas I leaned towards a certain sentimentality – a whisky from the same year I was born! It was a rare 1980s Caol Ila bottled by Gordon & MacPhail.

Caol Ila 16 year (1969) 40%

  • Nose – Peat, sour, overripe fruit, a bit of varnish, old and musty, then these darker qualities dissipated to be replace instead by vanilla, bananas, an almost briney quality that then became quite sweet
  • Palate – Spice, peat, sweet and much softer than anticipated from the nose
  • Finish – Long peat, sweet and spicy finish

We remarked on how very different it was from the Caol Ila style of today.

It was last seen on auction for approx £510.00.

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Compass Box Quartet! (suggestion morphs into voluntTOLD)

A certain word has entered our vocabulary – “Voluntold” – where one is rather enthusiastically volunteered for an activity or responsibility… accompanied by a fairly heavy undercurrent of being “told” to step up and “volunteer”….

Original credit goes to a dear friend from Winnipeg who “voluntold” her husband to be the official photographer at our wedding. Given he’s both a brilliant filmmaker and photographer, the results were spectacular, very welcome and the best possible gift!

Since then it has stuck.

And with some marvellous applications… including a recent innocent and offhand “suggestion” to a fellow whisky aficionado for an upcoming Bombay Malt & Cigar whisky session, which somehow slipped into a “voluntold” interpretation to acquire from La Maison du Whisky in Singapore.

And the results? A quite interesting quartet of Compass Box blends…

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet

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Compass Box – No Name 48.9%

Last in our Compass Box quartet was “No Name”…. in a black as sin bottle, a neck dripping in tar like wax… And what did we discover?

No Name 48.9%

  • Nose – Our immediate reaction? Who needs a cigar with a whisky like this! Smoke was in your face, campfires burning, sweet, charcoal, burnt leaf, acrid, tar…. yet still an underlying sweet
  • Palate – Sweet, almost too much sweet, more cigar, spice, bitter and dry, one even remarked “its like burnt plastic” chased by dark fruits
  • Finish – Bitter
  • Water – The verdict was out whether it helps or harms

This is no easy whisky. And for our resident sherry aficionado, it was the complete opposite of the kind of whisky he would chose. Even those who enjoy a good peaty dram found it a bit much. Clearly it is unique, and one cannot ignore it… but it is certainly not for everyone.

And what do the folks at Compass Box have to say?

For this our peatiest whisky yet, we have decided on No Name. The idea for this limited edition was sparked by the discovery of a parcel of casks of mature, heavy-peated single malt whisky from a well-known distillery located along Pier Road, in the Southeast of the island of Islay.

Even peatier than our whisky called ‘The Peat Monster’ – the staple peated Blended Malt Scotch Whisky in the Compass Box range – the resulting blend is massive in terms of the intensity and complexity of flavour; a whisky brimming with complex peatiness, but tempered with hints of fruit character and an underlying sweetness.

Flavour Descriptors A bonfire-like smokiness on the nose with a peatiness that is by turns tarry and medicinal with hints of autumn leaves. A powerful smokiness and peatiness follow, accented by hints of ripe cherries, plums and spice.

Recommendations This is a whisky for slow sipping either neat, with a splash of water or with an ice cube, which will reveal the layers of massive complexity this whisky offers as the whisky very slowly dilutes.

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet:

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Compass Box – Phenomenology 46%

Next in our Compass Box quartet explorations was a true conversation starter… every element had something different to deliver.

Phenomenology 46%

  • Nose – Did this whisky really start off with a faint whiff of eau du detergent?? Then apple juice, slightly sour… however the aromas were exceedingly shy… taking effort to tease out… A bit of talcum powder, then finally as it began to open up some light spice, coffee, vanilla custard, toffee
  • Palate – Holy toledo! What a contrast. An absolutely awesome whisky… so smooth on the tongue almost soft initially then explodes into spicy sweetness… fruity, cracked black pepper, all in a velvety coating with a puff of smoke
  • Finish – Deceptive… highly deceptive… as it is very long yet at a whisper not a roaring spice

There was no mistaking this is a complicated and contradictory whisky – a nose which is almost elusive in character initially. Then a palate that made an extraordinary arc from subtle and nuanced to needle sharp spice. Even the finish provoked a debate – some suggesting it was remarkable by its absence and equally strong opinions it was there if only one tuned in to its quiet frequency.

Well named and well constructed to be discordant yet harmonious too.

And what do the folks at Compass Box have to say?

We’d long been working on a blend of single malts that combines seemingly dissonant flavour profiles, but together creates something compelling. We landed on a recipe that elicited a surprising range of reactions and descriptions, each person taking away something different from the whisky.

Rather than try to settle on whose perceptions were ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, we were inspired by the phenomenological school of thought to consider how different people experience the same phenomenon.

Flavour Descriptors Aromas and flavours reminiscent of berry fruits, baked apples and hints of banana, with a delicate peaty-smokiness that follows and resonates in the long finish.

Recommendations This is an ideal whisky for sipping and contemplating on its own, or with a splash of water or an ice cube which will reveal subtle complexities.

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet:

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Compass Box – The Double Single 46%

Next up in our Compass Box quartet was The Double Single, named for it bringing together one single grain whisky (Girvan) and one single malt whisky (Glen Elgin)… with the idea that bringing them together elements beyond the sum of their parts.

And what did we think?

The Double Single 46%

  • Nose – Initial hit of varnish, has heft, sharp, then shifted into blood oranges, then green apples with a tartness, spice like paprika, cloves, cinnamon, marmalade sweetness, vanilla sponge cake, icing super, dancing around… after some time, took on a musty sweetness
  • Palate – “My god its complex!” Chilli flakes, sweet chilli spice, silky smooth, coats then spices flare gently, no question it is robust, complex with different elements playing counter point to each other
  • Finish – Very sweet with an interesting contrast to the palate

For one, on the nose it reminded of Mr Kipling’s “French Fancies”. And what a remarkable palate. It was without a doubt the preferred whisky to accompany a good cigar. In short, we loved it!

And what do the folks at Compass Box have to say?

Flavour Descriptors  In The Double Single we have combined single malt whisky from the Glen Elgin distillery and single grain whisky from the Girvan distillery. The elegantly complex, ethereal malt whisky character is balanced on a decadent cushion of rich, sweet, vanilla-tinged grain whisky character.

Recommendations The combination is a deeply satisfying yet versatile whisky, perfect served as a rich aperitif before a winter’s dinner, or as a rewarding post-prandial any time of year.

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet:

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Compass Box – Whisky de Table 40%

First up in our Compass Box quartet was a chilled bottle of Whisky de Table, blended for La Maison du Whisky to enjoy like a glass of wine with dinner. So what did we think?

Whisky de Table 40% for La Maison du Whisky

  • Nose – Bursting with fruity grains, sharp honey, citrus, bright, cheerful, dried limes and wild flowers
  • Palate – More weight than anticipated based on the nose, lightly herbal, a bit of smoke. 2nd sip was pure sugar, spice, very sippable…
  • Finish – Not much of a finish, just short and sweet
  • Ice – We skipped water and went straight to a few cubes of ice… which brought out green lime cordial, very sweet
  • After time… really started to shift into an orange oil essence, quite enjoyable

The initial impression taking a whiff even before pouring was “It’s a Sauvignon Blanc!” And on the first sip, it was an exclaim of “Very drinkable whisky.”

For some, the nose was more interesting than the palate. More than one remarked on how much it reminded them of sipping on a crisp bottle of white wine.

While not complex, chilled it is refreshing, enjoyable and far too easy to drink… exactly what one would want in a whisky with a light repast.

What more do we know about this whisky? It is a blend of Clyneslish, Caol Ila, Benrinnes and Linkwood, aged in American oak barrels from Buffalo Trace.

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet

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