Coveting Chorlton… Delayed pleasures

We’ve been on a bit of a “Chorlton” journey… I’ve become a complete fan of David’s cask choices, his gorgeous labels and so over the last few years I’ve done my best to snag a nice set or two with plans of having a few special tastings.

Last week I was supposed to be enjoying these beauties… carefully collected as a special 60th birthday celebration which was postponed a few times as we struggled to organize a gathering across countries. Finally the night was planned in London, flights booked and the bottles ready and waiting to be opened! And then along came a rather unpleasant bout with COVID…. sigh… So whilst I missed the evening, considerable enjoyment was reported along these lines:

  • Glen Elgin 12 year 56.6%A lovely appetizer dram
  • Tormore 28 year 42.4% One of those rare remarkable whiskies
  • Bunnahabhain 18 year 53.4%Really stood out
  • Plus a bonus bottle purchased by our birthday boy – the Orkney 22 year 53.4% (aka Highland Park) which also made quite the impression!

Hopefully, in a few months, there will be an opportunity to get to London and quite possibly snag a wee sample to experience myself!

Thanks to shipments finally making it to Europe, I have these lovelies with me in Nuremberg;

  • From April 2022 releases: Mannochmore 13 year 59%Caol Ila 11 year 60.4%
  • From December 2021 releases: Staoisha 8 year 59.9% (aka Bunnahabhain)

Whereas I’m not sure when I will be united with these waiting for me in London or Paris:

  • From December 2021 releases: Ledaig 12 year 55.5%Speyside (Glenrothes) 13 year 64.6%
  • From the May 2022 releases: Faemussach 21 year 56%Teaninich 12 year 54.2%Benrinnes 14 year 55%

However I won’t be sampling these anytime soon! Not being very patient, I’m left with memories of previous tastings…

However rather than long for what I can’t try, here is a quick summary of those from Chorlton’s La Nouvelle Vague series I have had the pleasure of trying:

And from Chorlton‘s earlier L’Ancien Régime series:

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When anticipation and experience differ – Glenburgie 8 year 46%

You know when you are highly anticipating a treat? And then the experience falls short?

I’ve been partial to Glenburgie, appreciating the classic quality, the pears, yum! Like many distilleries making whisky primarily for blends, you can primarily find it from independent bottlers – particularly Gordon & Macphail.

So when I spotted this young Glenburgie in Edinburgh from Hunter Laing Hepburn’s Choice in August 2020, it was an easy decision to pick up this 200ml bottle – even if it was rather pricey. I wasn’t worried 8 years would be too young, reinforced by the most enjoyable TBWC 8 year! Then it sat quietly for a couple years.

Fast forward to May 2022 with visits from a few fellow whisky aficionados and it seemed the right moment. So out came this wee bottle, ready to be explored!

It took very little time to determine this was quite different from what I’d thought to find…

Glenburgie 8 year (2007) 46% (Hepburn’s Choice)

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Freshly opened it had an almost rubber element, almost like cod liver oil, sour, apple mash, young, hay or straw, cardamon….
  • Palate – Initially a bit rough… Then became a bit nutty – mostly hazelnuts, curious, waxy, a bit of a burn, but was growing on us

Not the elegant sophisticated Glenburgies I’ve come to expect… If anything, it reminded me a bit of Talisker…

Until we added water… what a difference!

At 46%, it was a bit harsh and imbalanced. Nothing like previous whiskies from Glenburgie. With water, I could finally find some elements I’d come to associate with the distillery, yet still quite different too.

  • Nose – Watermelon, cherries, raspberry, fruity, scones, honey
  • Palate – Don’t laugh – it reminds me a bit of creamed corn! Mellower and malty

I could see it working well with others but as a single cask on its own? Didn’t even come close to meeting expectations though with water was quite a decent dram.

So what about these earlier experiences with Glenburgie I keep mentioning? Well here are a few:

I still have 2 more Glenburgie bottles ready for another opportunity!

  • 14 year (2004/2019) 43% (G&MP Discovery)
  • 21 year 43% (G&M)

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Additionally, there are two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Compass Box Orchard House 46%

I will admit this was an impulse purchase! I was picking up something else and my eye spotted this new expression from Compass Box. So I took a deeper look and went – yup! Sounds like this just might be a blend up my alley!

I had notions of sweetness and light, a burst of orchard fruits… reflecting in the glass what was inspired by the bottle…. and?

Compass Box Orchard House 46%

  • Nose – Fresh pineapple, tobacco leaf, almond paste, much shyer than expected, bit of candle wax… after more time a hint of vanilla
  • Palate – Tobacco and tea, malt and spice, ginger and biscuits, smoke alongside fruit
  • Finish – An echo of the palate, white pepper

Well, this isn’t just sweetness and light… there is more at play here. I was anticipating something much fruitier, juicy, and full… however there is something ‘rougher’ and a bit ‘tougher’ involved. Perhaps it is the influence of that tiny bit of Caol Ila (read more below) or something else… Once I set aside the preconceived idea of a frothy fruity dessert-like concoction, I could settle down to experience it for what it is.

Reading through the blend elements, the different dimensions play their role.

What do the folks at Compass Box have to say?

Fruit-forward & spirit-driven

What is more universally delicious than ripe fruit? Even the greatest chefs have been known to serve a simple dish of strawberries or a single, perfect peach as a dessert.

Orchard House gathers together some of the fruitiest malts Scotland has to offer, including whiskies from the Linkwood and Clynelish distilleries; what’s more, we have sourced many of these whiskies as new spirit and laid them down in our own oak casks. This, our monument to fresh fruitiness in Scotch whisky, has been many years in the making.

As for the official tasting notes, Compass Box share this:

  • Aromas of apple and pear dominate, with hints of pineapple, lemon and lime zest, and Earl Grey tea.
  • Take a sip and note the malty and gingery flavours. These are soon joined by honey, wild strawberries and vanilla shortbread.

What more do we know?

The good folks at Compass Box revealed what they can with these insights into the blending composition:

  • 39% – The Linkwood Distillery Single Malt, First Fill Bourbon Barrel – Apple Blossom, Vanilla
  • 29% – The Clynelish Distillery Single Malt, First Fill Bourbon Barrel – Apple, Wax, Honey
  • 20% – The Benrinnes Distillery Single Malt, First Fill Bourbon Barrel Single Malt – Fudge, Apples, Malt
  • 8% – Distillery near the town of Aberlour, Single Malt, Revatted Oloroso Sherry-Seasoned Butt – Red Apple, Sultana, Malt
  • 2% – Highland Malt Blend, Custom French Oak Barrel – Heavy Toast Blended Malt – Chocolate, Cinnamon, Ginger
  • 2% – The Caol Ila Distillery Single Malt, First Fill Bourbon Barrel – Smoke, Almond, Vanilla

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Additionally, there are two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Canadian Connect – Two Brewers

Founded in 2015, our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai were only temporarily disrupted by international exits and COVID. And while I’ve missed many a session since moving to Germany, some kind ladies set aside samples so I’m able to partially follow their whisky adventures.

That’s what I love best about this remarkable group of women – we each come with different backgrounds, passions and persuasions yet combine together over good drams and bad, committed to discovering and uncovering what the world of whisky has to offer!

This brings me to the 2nd part of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai’s March 2022 session which had a decidedly Canadian theme, courtesy of a fellow Canadian’s trip back in late 2021. Our 1st half featured:

These experiments were followed by two whiskies from the Yukon – which til this experience I had no clue was even producing whisky! Two Brewer‘s Innovative and Peated completed our quartet of experimental Canadian spirits.

1st up was Two Brewers Innovative Release No 27 46%

  • Colour – Bright copper
  • Nose – It started with peculiar almost soapy quality, then quickly shifted into a very malty aroma, chased by a nutty edge, astringent then resinous
  • Palate – Hmm… more of that nutty element – very strong, joined by a sharp spice, heavy like a dark chewy stout
  • Finish – Not much… a bit bitter and beery

So I must confess, this sample was in a small plastic bottle, meant to be transferred to a glass bottle. But then I got back to Germany and, well… didn’t. This probably means what I tried isn’t exactly representative of the dram straight from the bottle.

What do they have to say?

Two Brewers captures the core of beers malt character builders; a dense and complex spirit with distinctive character barrel aging, tempting and engaging.

TASTING NOTES:
Deep malt aromas rise as misty wafts, quelling the taunting spirit. The cereal weight is evident, rich as buckwheat honey, nuts and nougat engage the palate. Oak and smoke, remnants from peated barrels, brace the continuing composition, absorbing for the attentive listener.

And what about their Peated Release No 22 43%?

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – Surprisingly light at first, sweet, malty, smoky-sweet grass, then malt chocolate
  • Palate – The peat comes through more here, however, there is a soapy malty element too, spice
  • Finish – Dry and dusty with a curl of smoke

To be honest, I paused a moment to speculate – there was a distinctly different quality that I couldn’t quite pin down. Not remarkable, but not half bad.

What more do we know? Not much as tasting notes are about other Releases… Which is part of the charm of the Two Brewers – experiment with every release…

So there you have it! A quartet from Canada… starting with two hybrids and ending in a duo from the Yukon.

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Whisky/Gin Crossovers – Endeavour Gin and Forager Botanical Whisky

In the world of spirits, there are some curious cross-overs…. whisky with beer finish or beery whisky come to mind, however to the best of my knowledge, these two whiskied gin and gin botanical infused whisky hybrids – Endeavor and Forager – from Canada were our first brush in such combinations.

So…. did they work?

Endeavour Gin “Old Tom” Barrel Aged 45%

From The Liberty Distillery on Vancouver’s Granville Island, I was surprised to learn there is a German connection – via their copper pot stills.

Typically one doesn’t do tasting notes in quite the same way with gin… however here goes:

  • Nose – Mmmm… oh now that is a lovely enticing gin aroma – subtle juniper and a really nice interplay with the oak, refreshing…. teasing with fresh mint, citrus peel and coriander
  • Palate – Yum! The berries and botanicals really come forward together with a peppery spice, oak and a curiously compelling perfume, piquant yet sweet and savoury all at once – a surprisingly delicious combination

This is one dangerously drinkable gin that has quite a happy ‘nod’ to whisky with the cask influence. Some ‘hybrids’ simply don’t stand up, whereas this one works!

I couldn’t resist the temptation and simply had to try it with some chunks of ice and a splash of soda – delightful!

What more do we know?

Endeavour Old Tom Gin begins with our 100% organic BC triple-distilled wheat spirit. (10) traditional botanicals are slowly infused during re-distillation in our single copper pot still. The gin is then further macerated with a blend of (5) additional local and traditional botanicals before resting in 220-litre French Oak barrels for several months, to slowly gain character, complexity and colour.

What do they have to say about the gin itself?

Endeavour Old Tom is a taste of history based on records dating back to the 1850’s. It is a full-flavoured, full-bodied, mahogany-coloured gin with a rich, intense nose. On the palate there is a pronounced spicy fruitcake character with notes of juniper, mint, orange blossom and mulberry, all intertwined with the oak to produce a mouth filling assortment of enticing flavours. The finish is long, powerful, spicy and compelling. Liberty’s Old Tom will delight adventurous gin enthusiasts; Old Tom is the gin for Whiskey Lovers.


The Forager 40%

In another hybrid cross-over, we have a botanical whisky…. how did it compare with the whisky barrel-aged gin?

  • Nose – A peculiar almost perfume-like sweetness, I also get subtle notes of spruce and a hint of tea together with Juniper, sage and something else I couldn’t quite place… a curious varnish, vanilla
  • Palate – More pine, a bit salty.. whisky but not entirely whisky…
  • Finish – Nothing much, a prickly spice

Overall… not nearly so successful as the gin, I’m afraid.

What do the folks at Forty Creek have to say?

The Forager is the world’s first botanical Canadian whisky. Foraged from the Canadian wilderness, searching far and wide to respectfully and responsibly hand pick the finest natural botanicals to steep into world-class whisky. A lighter style whisky with intricate, interwoven flavours and Ultra-silky texture.

And their tasting notes?

  • Aromas – Bright citrus and light toffee, pine needles and straw
  • Flavour – Lively white pepper, flares of sandalwood and pine evolve on the palate
  • Finish – Great minerality, herbs and baking spices dominate the finish with diminishing acidity

Both interesting hybrid’s from Canada, with one clearly

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Whisky Lady – March + April 2022

March slipped into April with a wonderful yet HOT journey home to Mumbai, India… then return to a warming Deutschland, where miserable grey rain shifted into welcome sunshine.

This India trip came at a time when many COVID restrictions were lifted and events starting again. What this meant was an opportunity to meet renowned Indian master distiller Surrinder Kumar who was the talent behind Amrut’s journey to global fame and India’s own Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula.

It kicked off with a tasting evening at home with the lads behind SMAC India and Krishna exploring a remarkable range:

Then was followed by the launch of a new Indian Single Malt – Indri.

Talisker, Kilchoman, Stauning

Next up was a curious trio of Rum, Tequila and Mezcal finishes from London’s Whisky Exchange with:

And finally, the ladies joined me in (re)exploring St Kilian Signature Edition:

Whilst April was a busy tasting month for me, March was largely devoted to catching up on prior tastings from my previous trip to India! You would think nothing happens in Europe – which is far from the case as I missed not one not two but three events in Deutschland whilst holidaying in India.

Early 2022, our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents held a fun-filled evening of one of my favorite distilleries – Lochranza – with a quartet of Arran expressions exploring cask finishes:

I also brought back to Deutschland samples kindly set aside from the Whisky Ladies December 2021 session which featured:

And finally, I shared another remarkable whisky tasting from last year’s Paris trip to Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Inouïe Mélodie!

Curious to know more? Check out a few more monthly summaries:

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Single Malts of India’s Neidhal 46%

Independent bottlers can be a great way to explore dimensions of distilleries that don’t necessarily follow their original bottling approach – those singular gems that stand out with the bottler. We’ve become huge fans of some terrific indie bottlers out of the UK and Europe however India? And some go a few steps further – buying the new make or younger whisky, taking on the responsibility for maturing the spirit.

Enter “Single Malts of India” by Amrut… maturing and bottling an undisclosed ‘coastal’ whisky… touted by Amrut’s head distiller Ashok Chokalingam as “the first independent bottling in India.

Let’s explore…

“Neidhal” Peated Indian Single Malt (18 Sep 2021) Batch 1, 46%

  • Nose – Hello peat! Loads of iodine… shifting to campfire and charcoal, heavy vegetal, smoked meats, salted black old fashioned licorice, becoming sweeter and sweeter the longer it remains in the glass
  • Palate – Quite salty, toast with buttery salted caramel or perhaps even coconut kaya toast, clear peat stamp with pepper too
  • Finish – Ash… and yet surprisingly light given the robust peat on the palate… fading  into a hint of hickory smoke
  • Water – Didn’t try

One of our tasting companions called this a “dirty” peat – heavy medicinal peat.

We all concluded this was clearly a ‘winter’ dram… something one would better enjoy coming in from the bracing cold. Whereas our sweltering April Mumbai heat didn’t quite match its personality.

Single Malts of India “Neidhal” Peated Indian Single Malt was matured and bottled by Amrut Distilleries, available only in Bangalore, retailing for INR 5,900.

What do the folks behind this bottle have to say?

Neidhal, presented by Amrut, is a single malt Eponymously sourced from a Neidhal or coastal region and exhibits traits that uniquely spring from the locale – notes of tropical fruits, vanilla, punctuated by soft phenols and above all sea salt on the nose. On the palate, it is fruit cocktail and mesmerising phenols with a touch of iodine. The middle ground is an essay in chewability and a finish that is phenolic with a touch of sweet vanilla.

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Chorlton’s Orkney 22 year (1999/2022) 53.4%

These days trying to acquire one of the beautiful bottles from Chorlton‘s  La Nouvelle Vague series requires lightning speed! If you miss the email for even an hour you very well may be out of luck!

When I scored this bottle in Feb 2022, I suspected it would be many months, perhaps even years before I would find the right opportunity to open it! First was getting it from London to Mumbai – which happened in March 2022. Then I needed to join from Nurnberg to Mumbai – also happened by April 2022. And most importantly, finding the right occasion? And that’s when India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula mentioned he would be in town, together with two founders of SMAC India. I also knew once opened, an additional tasting session could follow where this could be shared as a “bonus”! Including the very person who kindly let me use his London address and brought the bottle to India!

So what did we think?

Orkney 22 year (9 June 1999 – February  2022) bourbon hogshead 53.4% (311 bottles)

  • Nose – Subtle and mellow at first, salt spray from the seashore, lovely herbal notes, then started to reveal butterscotch and gingerbread, fruit strudel – perhaps apricot? Then pears and melons, then tart slightly sour stewed apples. Then sweet varnish.  A nice earthy element kept the desert qualities in check – sweet but not overly so!
  • Palate – Wonderful! Buttery brandy. Salted old-fashioned black licorice, a hint of tobacco. Such a fabulous mouthfeel – tempts you to just keep rolling it around, enjoying its marvelous viscosity, a marvelous mix – from herbal to lightly fruity to smoke and pepper – all beautifully balanced and creamy
  • Finish – Rewarding, dry, bitter cinnamon bark, more of that enchanting herbal element… only complaint is that it dissipates too quickly leaving only a faint impression
  • Water – Necessary? No however also lovely with! Makes it sweeter, black peppercorn pops out, cloves and still nice and buttery

Take your time with this one… the more time you give it, the more it gives you! I was so happy to revisit it a few days later in a leisurely long evening over excellent cheese, fresh bread, and conversation.

Simply put – what an utterly lovely dram. If you blind tasted it, I strongly suspect Highland Park would NOT be the obvious option.

What did David have to say in his email?

Also available is a new 22-year-old Orkney. H*ghl*nd P*rk produces a consistently excellent distillate, but I always think these late-1990s vintages have a special something about them.

So, the nose starts on soft notes of lemony wax, honey and orange, with a wee clean herbal backing (eucalyptus, spearmint, lime leaves) and then really opens up the longer it breathes. There’s something fruity and lightly medicinal happening (think cherry lozenges), banana Nesquik powder (my secret shame), sea air and a thin thread of bonfire smoke. Adding water is transformative: tangerine Altoids, spearmint chews, angelica, sea water and heather.

The palate is rich, resinous and honeyed in texture. I get malt extract, lemons & limes & salt, plus a peppery peatiness that almost has a gentle Talisker feel. I also find seafood with salty-buttered brown bread, herbal liqueur and cough syrup. The finish is really long, with dried herbs, sweet citrus, and lingering smoke. Water again opens things up in a herbal direction: crushed mint leaves, lemon tea, pine needles and salty orangey honey.

This bourbon hogshead produced 311 bottles at 53.4% for £135 plus tax and courier charges.

Here are more from La Nouvelle Vague series:

  • Mannochmore 12 year 58.7% – A delicious fruit basket!
  • Orkney 15 year 57.1%Absolutely gorgeous dram
  • Croftnegea 13 year 53.9%Enchanting!
  • Ledaig 12 year 55.5%, Speyside (Glenrothes) 13 year 64.6% – Waiting in Paris
  • Glen Elgin 12 year (21 April 2009 / summer 2021) refill hogshead 56.6%,  Tormore 28 year (16 Nov 1992 / summer 2021)refill hogshead 42.4%, Bunnahabhain 18 year (28 Feb 2002 / Dec 2021) sherry butt 53.4% – Waiting in London

Here are the Chorltons we’ve sampled from the L’Ancien Régime series:

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Blends of yore – Hedges + Butler 21 year 43%

Without a doubt, this blend made our evening “remarkable“! It also prompted our meeting as I had brought it back from Germany where Krishna Nakula – India’s Malt Maniac – had bought it at an auction nearly two years earlier. As he just so happened to be in Mumbai for an event, we naturally had to catch up for a dram or two! Very generously, he chose to open this particular piece of history… Lucky us!

So what did we think?

Hedges & Butler Royal Scotch Whisky 21 year (1950/60s – 1970/80s) 43%

  • Nose – Rich and robust, think German cherry liqueur or a single rum, dark fruits – particularly plums, earthy and bursting with character, buttery milk chocolate with a heavy fruit liqueur
  • Palate – It has a velvety silky smoothness, well rounded and balanced, waxy with some mineral and tobacco, luscious juicy fruits and berries, a hint of spice and wood at the back, chased by bitters
  • Finish – Long and lingering with a hint of sweet spices

Superb and simply delicious! This blend provided clear evidence that they don’t make them like they used to! Very different – incredibly complex, rich, rewarding… a big full whisky. The nose and palate are outstanding… and very memorable. Lucky, lucky us to have an opportunity to try something like this!

It is hard to find too much in the way of exact details however based on the label and auctions, it is likely from the 1960s / bottled in the 1980s. The auction price was around EUR 88 however with taxes and shipping, came to EUR 105. I thought it quite reasonable, however Krishna shared such bottles earlier were selling for significantly less. As more and more people are now discovering that these mere ‘blends’ are in fact hidden treasures from a time when the BEST malt went into a blend, the price is also rising.

Hedges & Butler (aka H&B) is a brand of blends part of the Ian McLeod group. They trace their history as a wine and spirits producer back to 1667, relocating in 1819 to Regent Street, supplying the coronation banquet of King George IV with wine, port, and champagne. Their relationship with whisky began in the 1830s with blended Scotch whiskies – gaining their 1st of several “Royal Warrants” by King George IV, followed by Queen Victoria, then eleven different Monarch’s.

Fast forward to the 1960s, H&B was acquired by The Bass Charrington Group, then from 1998 the brand name has been owned by Ian Macleod Distillers.

Today you can still find H&B with a no age statement and 12-year version.

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Getting started with Arran Lochranza Reserve 43%

There we were – one hot sweaty April evening in Mumbai – about to kick off a tasting with a random yet remarkable range of whiskies. Just like with fine dining, it helps to have an “amuse-bouche” to whet the appetite, so we needed a whisky to ease into our evening.

I considered a few options before settling on the Arran no age statement – Lochranza Reserve. Launched in 2014, it was intended to be part of the core range as the ‘entry’ dram replacing the Arran Original, easily accessible – in terms of flavour profile, price, and availability in travel retail. Today in 2022? It has joined the Limited Edition section with just a few bottles remaining… though if purchased in the UK it is still quite reasonable – at a mere £25.

So what did we think?

Arran Lochranza Reserve 43%  

  • Nose – Hmmm… after a slightly musty start, becomes a clean, classic whisky with green apples, dry leaves and toasted oats, dry desiccated coconut, citrus, a hint of honey… also a herbal element – rosemary or thyme? Or a touch of cardamon?
  • Palate – A light spice, slightly salty and initially a bit astringent, it then shifted into more of that citrus joined by crunchy tart green apples, oak, and a dash of cream, nicely coats your tongue
  • Finish – Pink peppercorns, slightly bitter, chased by bourbon vanilla
  • Water – One would think with such a low ABV there is no need… however a splash of cool water brings out the orchard fruits and citrus after the initial spice hit settles down

Whilst the nose had a honey sweetness on the palate it deepened into a creamy caramel toffee and milk chocolate, smooth and straightforward. We weren’t expecting anything complex, however, I will admit that I had anticipated something a bit lighter. Even still, this hit the spot as a teaser of tastings to come!

What do the folks at Arran have to say about their Lochranza Reserve?

Our Lochranza Reserve is back for a short time only as the very last bottles of this edition.

This light, fresh and fruity Single Malt is bottled at 43% and is delicious on its own, with a splash of water or a bit of ice.  It is the perfect Single Malt for mixing and is a marriage of both Sherry and Bourbon matured casks.

Official distillery tasting notes:

  • Nose – Vanilla and lemon
  • Palate – Fresh Island notes. A touch of salt and sweetness
  • Finish – Citrus. Vanilla. Salty.

What else have we tried from Arran? Rather a lot as this distillery has become a clear favourite with a few of us:

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