Paul John Peated Select Cask NAS 55.5%

We recently sampled a quartet of Paul John  whiskies from Goa, India. Before cracking open the 4th whisky, we tried:

The Paul John Peated Select Cask uses peat imported from Scotland, is non-chill filtered and aged in American white-oak ex-bourbon barrels.

Paul John Select Cask Peated

Paul John Select Cask Peated (Whisky Lady)

The notes are from two sampling sessions. The 1st points are from when the bottle was initially opened, the balance from the 2nd tasting session.

Paul John Peated Select Cask 55.5%


  • Peaty, leather, while strong peat on first whiff morphs into smoked bacon, burnt mushrooms, medicinal hospital smell, burnt charcoal and finally after more time a sweetness like a betel leaf or mint
  • Hickory chips, peaty, smokey BBQ, roasted, toasted toffee, nutty whiff, lightly tropical. After letting it rest, even more fruit.


  • BACON as in serious we aren’t messing around BACON, very good, sweet at first like brown sugar then ashy
  • Heats the tongue then spreads across the palate, lots of crisp bacon, smells a lot peatier than it tastes, citrus of grapefruit, orange then slight bitterness of a chocolately orange
  • Veeerrrry smooth with the peat becoming subtler with each sip, softly curling around like a comforting blanket


  • Smoky finish
  • Heavy, dense, a little peppery hot
  • A bit harsh like a warm tingle of tiger balm
  • “It’s a slow burn to the finish”


  • Really opens up with a light splash!
  • However just a good with nothing added at all…

Overall comments 

  • “An uncommon sweet peaty dram”
  • “Interesting with some great elements but not quite as complex as I prefer”
  • “It reminds me of a Texas BBQ!”
  • “Remarkably smooth… the more you sip, the more you enjoy!”
Paul John Peated close-up

Paul John Peated close-up (Whisky Lady)

While there is peat, it is a light not heavy hand – teasing rather than clobbering you over the head. It is definitely the kind of whisky the grows on you more and more.

Interestingly some who initially voted Paul John Classic as their favourite over the course of the evening found themselves drawn back to the Peated. It even made a convert out of one who tends to prefers non-peated whiskies.

Here is what Paul John has to say about Peated:

Experience the many notes and shades of Goa here…

The Paul John Select Cask Peated gently astonishes the seriously indulgent. The swirl lightly whisks up narratives from the undulating landscapes of the windswept oceanfronts of Goa.

The smoke slowly blows forward and acts as a cushion to the many layers of crisp sugars, muscovado and demerrara. A hint of spice radiates from the hickory and Dominican-style cocoa.

That’s the Goa experience in a tipple.

There is clearly a distinctive quality to all four Paul John whiskies. Each has a kind of tropical ‘sunshine’ with a range of sweet to bitter to spicy and, for Edited and Peated, smokey elements.

It is refreshing they are from India and while all are quite enjoyable single malts, the Select Cask Classic and Peated are the ones appreciated the most.

A welcome newer voice in the world of whiskies and growing pride from India.

Paul John Quartet - compliments of Michael John

Paul John Quartet – Compliments of Michael John (Whisky Lady)

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Paul John Classic Select Cask 55.2%

For those joining in only now… the gift of a Paul John Quartet provided an opportunity to sample four whisky expressions from Goa. Of the quartet, the Paul John Classic was a clear favourite for many!

Paul John Select Cask Classic

Paul John Classic Select Cask 55.2% (Whisky Lady)

The Paul John Classic Select Cask is an unpeated single malt whisky matured in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled without chill-filtration at cask strength.

Paul John Classic Select Cask NAS 55.2%


  • Instant ‘very nice’, sense of this being more what we would expect in a whisky, lots of tropical fruits, fresh-cut grass. Not in the least peaty. A whiff of toasted coconut. As it breathed, gained a musky quality like a mens cologne. Then some basil, lemon and honey.
  • Cognac-like, almost zesty, very complex, cupcakes, grapes
  • “I’m expecting a really nice cognac but I’m sure it can’t be that tasty..” (quote from a serious cognac fan)


  • Strong, bitter, banana, coffee, pepper, honey and rasins, figs, more body and more viscous than Brilliance or Edited, a bit of allspice
  • Sugary sweet, marmalade, chocolatey caramel, banana, brown sugar, like caramelised Caribbean bananas with rum raisin sauce
  • A light fresh quality yet balanced and rich with enough going on to keep it interesting…
  • “Wow! Oh good god! It’s delicious! Even better than cognac!” (cognac fan quote – highest compliment he can give!)
  • “An almost tequila-like agave sweetness”


  • Nearly all remarked this was the first Paul John Single Malt sampled with a ‘serious’ finish that truly lingered
  • Some found it started slightly bitter then took on a minty mellowness
  • One simply remarked – “Time to do a happy dance!”


  • A few found a few drops balanced it out and softened further
  • Most preferred it neat and found it delightfully smooth ‘as is’

Overall impressions:

There is a hot sunlight summery quality to Classic. It has the richer bourbon dimension, bursting with ripe juicy tropical fruits along with spicy elements yet there is something bright and fresh too. Perhaps it was influence of the Guyanese / Caribbean connect in our midst the 2nd tasting session or that we were sweltering in Mumbai’s humid summer heat, yet there was a sense this whisky has  lazy tropical sunshine down pat.

Particularly in the informal evening, it was the clear favourite with folks quite impressed. Most could not believe how smooth it was… particularly for a cask strength whisky. To have such a whisky be from India – let’s just say there was a swell of pride by extension for the country we call ‘home.’

When compared with India’s better known Single Malt producer Amrut and – more specifically the whiskies sampled in March with Jim Murray – there was a recognition that Paul John has something quite interesting going on. Certainly worth paying attention to – particularly the quality Classic has captured. The only pity is that Paul John whiskies are not yet available in Mumbai!

Paul John Classic

Paul John Classic (Whisky Lady)

And the Paul John tasting notes for Classic? Here goes…

Feel the tropical tastes of Goa from the first whiff and taste.

This is a masterfully crafted Indian Single Malt  Whisky, matured in selectively chosen cask profiles.

The barley shows early and with pride. A bourbon manic honey-liquorice mix makes for an attractive spine with toasted honeycomb arriving somewhere in the middle unexpectedly.

This is as tropical as it gets.

Paul John Classic label

Paul John Classic label (Whisky Lady)

Sampling quartet – all NAS:

Paul John Quartet

Paul John Quartet – Brilliance, Edited, Classic and Peated (Whisky Lady)

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Paul John Brilliance Single Malt NAS 46%

I was first introduced to a Paul John single malt in January 2015 with their mildly peated Edited. It was bought by one of our tasting club members on a trip to Goa. Our merry samplers were honestly surprised to discover it was a single malt from India and our overall impression was that it showed promise and made us curious for more.

Paul John Quartet - compliments of Michael John

Paul John Quartet – compliments of Michael John (Whisky Lady)

After my post on Edited, Michael John, master distiller for Paul John, reached out with a kind offer to send a few expressions for us to try. Naturally we were thrilled! It is rare to compare different expressions from the same distillery – then to have that be from India?! How could our desi hearts resist!

Fortunately I already had a trip to Goa planned so had visions of throwing into my bag a couple of small bottles… the reality was a wooden crate filled with a Paul John Quartet sufficient to fuel more than one tasting session!

Hence Paul John Single Malt ‘Brilliance’ was sipped on two occasions:

  • Monthly private single malt tasting group in an informal Paul John Evening with significant others
  • Sociable yet focused tasting with a few friends – for once notes were jotted down by someone other than myself (in far better penmanship!)

As I was the common thread, did my best to keep ‘mum’ to not influence others experience… you will see some overlap but also a few different perspectives too in the tasting notes.

Paul John Single Malt Brilliance NAS 46%


  • Paul John Brilliance

    Paul John Brilliance (Whisky Lady)

    Initial pour from newly opened bottle rewarded us with an immediate wash of jackfruit aromas which dissipated, strong ripe fruit, medicine capsule like b-complex, vanilla, faint nutmeg, overall quite sweet with a cognac-like quality. As it aired longer, had a sour curd element, tinge of leather beneath a lavender perfume. One even noted a punch of vinegar?

  • For the open bottle samplers – We found rich honeycomb, cinnamon, a hint of toasted almond, peppery notes, woody oak element, delayed accents of fruit – papaya and apricot, strong aroma of maple syrup after even more time…


  • Dry, light, slightly bitter initially then as it ‘sat’ longer, very karwa bitter, a hint of leather which then mellowed into a toffee sweetness
  • Bitterness, a touch of anise, quite ‘oaky’, retained a ‘kick’ even by the 3rd sip, a medicinal chewy quality, mild spice


  • Lots of contradictions in reactions here!
  • A few thought it quite limited
  • Some categorised it as medium with a bitter-sweet quality
  • Strong though rather “nondescript” finish
  • “It is like aacccchhh at the back of your throat”


  • Some thought it opened up better with water, softening the oak without detracting from the tropical fruit
  • Others preferred it neat

Overall comments

  • Had a pronounced sweet nose while the palate had an equally strong bitter taste. It was a contrasting combination – not necessarily bad – just a very yin-yang kind of experience
  • “Dispensary needs to mature a bit more”
  • Strong with a ‘raw’ quality, has a kick and a bit rough for the 1st whisky of the evening

It was interesting sampling with two very different groups. Our regular tasting team are old hands at even 61% cask strength whiskies, so the initial ‘punch’ didn’t deter us… however our palates are also spoilt by some pretty superior stuff so Brilliance didn’t quite make muster for all concerned.

Whereas the informal evening was a mix of novices and more experienced whisky sippers… Some found Brilliance a bit harsh needing time to adjust to the alcohol. However these same folks found the much stronger cask strength Paul John cousins Classic and Peated soooooo smooth! So perhaps it was all part of calibrating the palate.

Certainly for the price-point in India (Rs 2,100 / approx $30), it definitely scores way above the typical Indian blends in the same bracket. There is also a definite pride-point in enjoying a single malt from India – especially Goa which is a favourite destination.

Paul John Brilliance Bottle

Paul John Brilliance Bottle (Whisky Lady)

Just to close, here is Paul John description for Brilliance which we read out after our sampling. We didn’t call the bitter quality  ‘cocoa’ however that is one way to interpret it.

There is brilliance everywhere in Goa… colours, fragrances and tastes all exude myriad shades of sensual delights.

Brilliance is a non-chill-filtered non-peated Indian Single Malt Whisky that captures all this, sip after sip. It spoils you with the barley generating all kinds of juicy riches with the light Demerara sugars providing enjoyable companionship. Now sit back to the finish of a gorgeous cocoa, and spices that pamper your taste buds.

It doesn’t gather any more brilliance than this.

Paul John Brilliance 46% label

Paul John Brilliance 46% label (Whisky Lady)

The Paul John Quartet – all NAS:

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Paul John Edited Single Malt NAS 46% (2nd bottle)

It is very unusual for our single malt tasting team to try a whisky more than once within the space of a few months.

However that is exactly what happened with Paul John Edited from John Distilleries in Goa.

We managed to sample it on no less than three occasions:

  • Once ‘blind’ by our monthly single malt tasting group in January – 1st bottle
  • Again by our monthly tasting group in March – 2nd bottle
  • Informal evening with a few friends – 2nd bottle

The reason for trying so many times is we were treated to a Paul John quartet which featured:

It was a delightful treat to be able to compare four expressions from the same distillery. And while Edited kick-started the John Distilleries tasting journey, it truly was just the gate-opener to one of India’s single malt distilleries. There is something distinctly ‘different’ and while hitting ‘home runs’ quite yet, it sure seems that Paul John is on the right track…

Paul John Single Malt Edited 46%

Paul John Single Malt Edited 46%

So here goes yet more impressions – focused only on reactions to the 2nd bottle.

Paul John Single Malt Edited NAS 46%


  • Paul John Edited

    Paul John Edited

    Strong and peaty “Wow, good God!”

  • Sweet tropical fruits, a bit of liquorice, some spice
  • Roasted coconut, ripe bananas, jackfruit
  • A medicinal quality, some vanilla
  • After some time to breath a delicious custard apple


  • After the initial spice, becomes surprisingly soft, settles more gently on the palate, unlike Brilliance which some thought went “BOOM!”
  • Walnuts, turbo-charged oak, hint of cloves and apples
  • Bitter chocolate/coffee quality that mellows


  • Mild sweet finish, surprisingly minimal sense of peat
  • A kind of fizz like cola, leaving a light tingling sensation


  • Smooth, especially with water


  • Pouring “just a smidge” may be ineffective!
  • A good “banquet” serve where folks enjoy quantity

While peat has been added to Edited, it is with a light hand –  there but after the welcome more the impression of mild peat than prominence.

Overall those who sampled it originally in January confirmed it showed promise, however both Brilliance and Edited were completely eclipsed by their cask strength cousins Paul John Classic and Peated. It is with these that a ‘Paul John character’ starts to emerge.

Edited label

Edited label

Here is what John Paul says about Edited:

This is where you taste the sea off Goa.

This masterfully crafted Indian Single Malt Whisky brings to the fore a hint of peat, created from discretely chosen cask profiles to delight the ardent malt drinker. Grassy barley shows first, but then slowly makes way for their gentle peat notes. They dissolve into the palate and begins to build momentum and intensity.

Slow down now to a chocolate mint and mocha rush, as well as a sublime molasses note that overwhelms you with a sweet end.

Dreams are made of this.

Only during the March tasting did we read the Paul John descriptions after we sampled the whisky. They may not tell you much about the whisky but are amusingly descriptive of the feel the whisky is trying to evoke.

While I remain more curious about what else Paul John has in store, this is the only of the quartet to survive the tasting sessions so I will have the luxury of re-sampling it solo one of these days when the mood hits. That isn’t such a bad thing…

Paul John Quartet

Paul John Quartet

What others are saying about Paul John Edited:

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Glenmorangie Evening with Dr Bill Lumsden

After the disappointing Jim Murray Amrut experience, what a joy to join the Glenmorangie event in Delhi at the Oberoi with Dr Bill Lumsden – Director Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stock. Bill’s irreverent humour, insights and knowledge alone was a draw…. throw in a couple good drams, quality food and great company – we have a winner!

The evening had three parts:

  • Sociable ‘cocktails’ (aka Glenmorangie’s The Original 10 year) with canapé
  • Formal 4 course dinner paired with Glenmorangie’s 10 year, 18 year, 25 year and Signet expressions
  • Poolside free-pour party

Pre-dinner networking

Never doubt the lure of free booze in India and the growing popularity of single malts!

The ballroom foyer set the tone with a long Glenmorangie bar, ever-present waiters dropping generous drams of whisky into empty hands, rounds of hors d’oeuvre so we didn’t perish until the main event…

Desultory conversations, multiple introductions revealed a mixed crowd of folks from around India – mostly Mumbai, Delhi with a smattering from Bangalore and beyond. It was also a mélange of industry professionals, passionate whisky aficionados, journalists and ‘men about town’. Aside from women involved with the event, the female quotient was decidedly rare.

Glenmorangie evening at The Oberoi, Delhi

Glenmorangie evening at The Oberoi, Delhi

Dinning delight

From the warm glow of the Glenmorangie centrepeice to the ornamental trademark giraffe gift for each guest, someone somewhere had fussed over the details. And why a giraffe you ask? Glenmorangie has adopted a giraffe as their stills have long copper necks and stand the same height as a fully grown adult giraffe!

Warning… what follows may make you hungry!

Setting the stage for a Glenmorangie food and whisky pairing

Setting the stage for a Glenmorangie food and whisky pairing

1st Course with Glenmorangie 10 year

Introducing the Glenmorangie The Original 10 year, Bill shared that he is often asked “Which is your favourite Glenmorangie whisky?” To which he joked it is like being asked “Which do you prefer – your son or your daughter?” However he did admit the Original is the whisky he drinks most often – either neat or in a cocktail.

The Glenmorangie staple whisky was paired with:

  • Grilled Peruvian asparagus and warm goat cheese salad, roast baby beetroot in honey mustard dressing
  • Yellow fin tuna carpaccio ‘Nicoise’ citrus emulsion, egg, kalamata olive tapenade, french beans

I opted for the tuna and while the citrus and whisky wasn’t a completely successful combination, the olive gave the dish and whisky a nice ‘punch’.

st course with Glenmorangie 10 year 'The Original'

1st course with Glenmorangie 10 year ‘The Original’

2nd Course with Glenmorangie 18 year

Bill then introduced the 18 year as the ‘Big Brother’ of The Original. He shared that the whisky spends 15 years in American Oak then finishes for 3 years in Olorosso Sherry casks and called it his “Channel No 5 of malt whisky.”

The whisky had a delightful nose with fruit, raisins, sweet mint and walnuts, balanced palate with a superb finish. It was paired with Parmesan cheese tortelli Himalayan morel consommé saffron cream.

Perfection! A pairing that enhanced both in a delightful dance of flavours – the whisky heightened the parmesan and cream whereas the tortelli added a chocolate dimension to the whisky. In short – delicious!

2nd course with Glenmorangie 18 year

2nd course with Glenmorangie 18 year

3rd Course with Glenmorangie 25 year 

By this point in the evening, Bill simply had to intervene to prevent the waiters from providing ice. There was no way the Glenmorangie 25 year would be served on the rocks!

While he admitted he is always tinkering with the recipe, was delighted with the recognition the 25 year received in 2012. Bill also suggested this is one whisky to enjoy with a cigar.

To go with the Glenmorangie 25 year, there were three options:

  • Lobster – Braised Cochin lobster with country cream, forest mushrooms, wild rice and ‘Glenmorangie Signet’ infusion
  • Lamb – New Zealand lamb chops with gratin potatoes, artichoke cream, micro greens with Port wine sauce
  • Vegetarians – For the vegetarians, there was artichoke, pok choy and zucchini ‘fritto misto’ with a lemon and rosemary potato cream, bell pepper coulis.

The 25 year has such a full-bodied robust whisky bursting with character that it required entrees with equal personality and pizzazz.

I tried the lobster and found myself wondering if cracked black-pepper would have enhanced the combination. From others around me, clearly the lamb was a complimentary pairing. While a vegetarian was just happy it wasn’t a typical pasta, not sure the pairing scored top marks.

3rd course with Glenmorangie 18 year

3rd course with Glenmorangie 25 year

4th Course with Glenmorangie Signet

For the last course, Bill reversed his ‘no ice’ stance and encouraged sampling the Signet chilled. The waiters enthusiastically defaulted to serving in this way.

Desert was a slow cooked Valhrona chocolate torte with a mocha sand, raspberry coulis and a side of minted vanilla ice cream. Signet had a liqueur like quality, like tiramisu, cinnamon, cloves, creamy like sweet butter, smooth with a chocolate coffee. As a combination – the minted ice cream was a refreshing contrast to the rich coffee smoothness of the Signet with the mocha sand adding a deeper note to the torte and whisky both. There was more than one moan of sheer unadulterated delight.

4th course with Glenmorangie Signet

4th course with Glenmorangie Signet

Post-dinner impressions

Informal polls on whisky preferences had surprising results. In most cases, gentlemen preferred the 10 or 18 year. One could argue that palates were pre-tuned to the 10 year as it was available in generous pours during the ‘cocktail’ hour. Additionally, the 18 year pairing was simply superb – one of the best I have sampled til date.

Whereas for me, it was a toss-up between the coffee complexity of the Signet and the depth and personality of the 25 year. The benefit of the poolside party was an opportunity to try both on their own and, more importantly for the Signet, without ice!

However, even with the chance to sample further, it is not the optimal way to form an understanding of a whisky’s character. Rather than ‘tasting notes’, I gained instead the memory of a thoroughly enjoyable evening, where the company and conversations were engaging with a rare opportunity to meet the innovator behind Glenmorangie and Ardbeg creations.

Glenmorangie Signet on ice

Glenmorangie Signet on ice

Though each whisky was appreciated… I wish I could have snagged the open 25 year and Signet for solo sampling or a quiet tasting evening at home with a very small set of friends to focus primarily on the whisky. I’m also partial to sipping from Glencairn or tulip glasses and not the Glenmorangie rounded tumblers.

However, if the goal of the evening was to whet the appetite for further interest in trying again – clearly they succeeded!

PS I was fortunate to interview Dr Bill Lumsden one-on-one for Man’s World magazine… stay tuned for more!

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Whisky Archives – Penderyn Sherrywood, Madeira and Peated with Oban 14

As both our formal March and April monthly tasting sessions were cancelled, I started to poke around my ‘Whisky Archives’.

I stumbled upon old scribbled notes from when we tried three expressions from the same distillery (Penderyn) and closed with an Oban. I believe it was a 2011 tasting and there were no photos either so have relied on alternate sources (duly acknowledged). I found the tasting notes frustratingly ‘sparse’ – clearly drafted before I took the mantle of ‘chronicler’ seriously!

Welcome to Wales Wysgi

Little did we know we were about to be introduced to ‘wysgi’ from Wales!

Penderyn is found in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons. It has the distinction of being the only whisky distillery in Wales, launched in 2000 after the Welsh whisky industry was shut down in 1894. Penderyn whiskies are typically first aged in bourbon barrels – predominantly Buffalo Trace – and then finished in Madeira or other casks.

As always, our tasting was ‘blind’ followed by the reveal…

Penderyn Sherrywood NAS 46%

  • Nose – Jackfruit, perfumy, sweetness and light, honey, after a bit a hint of zesty lemon
  • Palate – Starts well, lovely on the palate however not much body, lighter than we were in the mood for…
  • Finish – Slightly spicy then softens
  • Thoughts – Ladylike and almost… well… bland…
Penderyn Sherrywood (XX)

Penderyn Sherrywood (

Penderyn Madeira NAS 46%

  • Nose – Varnish, bit of caramel, lots of flowery perfumed notes and quite sweet, fruity with banana and melons?
  • Palate – Some body, a little bolder, woody, more character than the Sherrywood
  • Finish – Short, bit of fruit yet also bitter
Penderyn Madeira (xx)

Penderyn Madeira (

Penderyn Peated NAS 46%

  • Nose – Smelly socks, vanilla, sweet, hint of leather, citrus – quite a contrast to the earlier expressions
  • Palate – Charcoal, wood oil, again the citrusy element, peppercorns
  • Finish – Peppery but doesn’t stick around long or morph into anything further
  • Thoughts – Had the stamp of a bourbon cask with peat? Interesting but not something that really grabs you.
Penderyn Peated (

Penderyn Peated (

We then shifted gear to a whisky perhaps double the age (or more!?) of the Penderyn expressions to the highlands with Oban.

Oban 14 year 43%

  • Nose – Spicy, fruity, orange peel
  • Palate – Spice, nutmeg
  • Finish – Lingers… finally!

Quote: “Early evening drink”

The last time I had the Oban 14 year I did not prepare any tasting notes. It was in Singapore late 2014 when I enjoyed an absolutely delightful evening at home with a gal pal. Nothing could have been a better dram for our mood, mad conversations, laughter and sheer joy in catching up after ages. It was indeed an early evening which grew into a later evening and the Oban kept us company all along.

Oban 14 year (Whisky Exchange)

Oban 14 year (Whisky Exchange)

Overall impression

When I look back on the scribbles, they seem a bit uncharitable. At the time, we were spoilt with a series of beautifully aged and balanced Scottish whiskies and were just starting to poke our nose and palate around newer entrants.

Contradictorily while our ability to discern nuances has increased, as a group we have also grown more adventuresome and open to the range of whisky styles. We no longer expect a whisky should be robust and instead delight in the more exquisite delicate notes too just as much as we embrace the peaty or sherry monsters out there.

We can now also put better into perspective more youthful whiskies and go through a re-calibration of ‘young, shows promise’ vs ‘erhm just doesn’t cut it for us’.

I’m also a massive fan of giving a whisky multiple tasting opportunities. Once is simply not enough. It would be interesting to revisit the Penderyn expressions to see what we would discover today. And I know the Oban is a favourite of a few.

If you would like to check out some ‘real’ tasting notes for the Penderyn expressions, check out:

As for the Oban:


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Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength NAS 60%

Let there be no mistake – cask strength whiskies can pack a wallop! And this one is no exception.

Originally sampled as part of a Glenfarclas evening held in November 2011, I later purchased a bottle which made its rounds in various social evenings.

Clearly a Grant family favourite, George Grant (Glenfarclas Brand Ambassador & 6th generation Grant) regaled us with the tale of how it was his grandfather’s whisky of choice. With great affection, he spoke of delivering each Monday a few bottles as a weekly ‘quota’ to his grandfather to imbibe and share… only to discover years later his father did the same – just on Thursday! Wily coot or not, his grandfather certainly enjoyed his whisky with his mates – apparently without any namby pamby watering down.

Glenfarclas 105 (Whisky Lady)

Glenfarclas 105 (Whisky Lady)

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength NAS 60%

  • Colour – Dark amber
  • Nose – Remember that wallop? You get it right in the nose… then dry sherry notes, apples, raisins, honey, fruitcake. As it airs further, medicinal elements become increasingly pronounced.
  • Palate – Without pretence, this is a solid, strong, full flavoured woody whisky balancing fruit and peat. A bit of burnt toast. Medicinal – think cherry cough syrup!
  • Finish – Forceful. Again that medicinal quality with an unmistakable element of sulphur.
  • Add water – Like many cask strength whiskies, it opens up with water. Just a drop or two can add a harsh zing to this aggressive whisky. It opens up better with a small ‘dollop’ or ‘dash’ than ‘drop’.
  • Overall – The quintessential sherry bomb with attitude.
Glenfarclas 105 up close (Whisky Lady)

Glenfarclas 105 close-up (Whisky Lady)

Here is the thing though… if I compare the various cask strength whiskies in my cabinet currently, the Glenfarclas 105 is clearly the most straight-forward no-nonsense Speyside dram of the lot.

It is one you won’t worry about leaving in the back of your whisky cabinet. When you pull it out again, you may find it has mellowed a tad from when 1st opened – which isn’t a bad thing!

It is reasonably priced and so far – what you see is what you get without surprises.

Me…? I rather appreciate a good surprise or two and a little nuance peaking out beyond the boldness… even in my cask strength whiskies.

If you will forgive the gender bias, I’m tempted characterise Glenfarclas 105 as a “drinking man’s” whisky – the kind to knock back a few pegs with mates on a chilly eve, the kind when in the mood for a straight-up in-your-face whisky without fuss, the kind to toast tall tales and come back for more.

I have a funny feeling this is exactly how George’s grandfather enjoyed his 105!

Related post:

What others say:

Japanese tasting session – take 2!

In February 2015, I shared tasting notes of four delightful Japanese whiskies:
After the 1st session, I had an opportunity to ‘revisit’ with one member (who missed the original tasting) together with his partner (who joined the original tasting) and two new folks.
It was worth doing a 2nd time and this is certainly my preferred practice:
  • Sample with a fresh bottle.
  • Revisit the same bottle after some time – perhaps a slightly different setting – either with new company or solo.
Four key observations from this revisit:
  • Timing is everything! Just as we found in the original session the Taketsuru Pure Malt absolutely needs time to breath, the Chita should be quickly savoured as the complexity settles into a singular note after an hour.
  • Size does matter! We sampled exactly the same whisky in exactly the same Glencairn glass yet there was a dramatic difference whether we were nosing a few drops versus a proper dram. With a small quantity, two of us delightedly exclaiming about discovering prominent overripe banana notes with the Chita whereas those with a fuller glass were puzzled as there was no hint of banana initially. So we exchanged and found the difference in nose remarkable!
  • Open, shut and open again – Cracking open a fresh bottle is a very different experience than one that has had time to evapourate… The Taketsuru Pure Malt was initially a massive disappointment not just due to the order and minimal time to breath but also as it was just opened. Even the 1st whiff poured the second night was far more interesting. Similarly the lemon we originally found in the newly opened Chita and Ichiro’s Malt 46.5% (possibly Houou-uhi) were completely absent the second time.
  • When you get the order right, it is just right! We were much better able to appreciate the Taketsuru Pure Malt when it followed the Chita rather than the robust Chichibu. We then tried the Ichiro’s mystery malt (possibly Houou-uhi) before closing with the Chichibu French Oak cask. Muuuuuuuch smarter!
Our Japanese collection revisited!

Our Japanese collection revisited!

Many of the original tasting notes rang true, however there were a few notable differences which I’ve shared below.
  • Nose – Champion pungency vs overripe bananas… as it opened up, perfumed eraser and fresh cut wood. We completely lost the lemony element found in the 1st tasting.
  • Taste – Harsh then mellows, described by one as a very ‘technical’ whisky rather than ‘easy drinking’ whisky, superb body, honey water, hint of mint, muddle of clove, cinnamon and saffron
  • Finish – Shifted from short yet happy to spicy with a dash of bitter, sits well
  • Final observation – While the delightful perfume remained and this is still quite a unique whisky, it does not stand the test of time… the more it aired, the more the ranges of notes reduced to a single perfume. Not sure I would want to leave this on the shelf for long!
  • Nose – Smelly socks, figs, apricots that opened further into a meaty aroma, then over-burnt sugar
  • Taste – Meaty, spice, dried kopra, well balanced spice, like a pullao with kala eleichi, yet subtle too
  • Finish – Sooooo dry  initially, subtle and long
  • Final observation – The musky quality we originally observed is very much there as is its dryness. It really is a different beast with time to breathe. It also remained throughout the evening a whisky that could hold its own.
  • Nose – Vanilla, honey, flower, coconut, cognac yet none of the earlier lemon or nori
  • Taste – Gorgeous oaky flavour, Ghana bitter dark chocolate, cognac quality remained
  • Finish – Mature, lingers… really quite fabulous
  • Final observation – Phenomenal how the palate is as good as the nose, brilliantly balanced
  • Nose – Star anise, gentle, soft pulpy fruit, refreshing sea breeze, fig, hint of sourness… one member actually stepped out to independently to determine his key impression and settled on ginger. The moment he said it, there was a collective ‘Ah yes! That’s it!’
  • Taste – Magnificent, mixed peppercorns of red, pink, white and green, intelligent, complex, remained deliciously ‘chewy’
  • Finish – Long and strong
  • Add water – Fruit gum, ginger honey and spice
  • Final observation – The new tasters were as stunned as we were in the original tasting about the alcohol strength. It also gives the impression of being much older than 5 years.
This experiment re-inforced my appreciation of the ‘life cycle’ of a whisky bottle. It also was most enjoyable to revisit four such interesting whiskies with excellent company on both occasions.

Quarterly favourites – how to pick?

Whisky Lady is actually a spin-off of my blog Everyday Adventures in Asia –  created as I recognised my interests have two rather distinct audiences.

  • Those that enjoy a good dram or two! (or was that three?)
  • And those interested in the adventures of a crazy Canadian who calls India home and traipses around Asia

However I still impose share on Everyday Asia a monthly round-up of Whisky Lady’s adventures. This quarter featured:

Whisky Lady

Whisky Lady

In my round-up, I try to pinpoint which was my favourite for the month. And I struggle. What I realised is I can’t pick ‘one’ as I like different whiskies for different reasons in different settings.

As it is not my habit to numerically ‘score’ whiskies, I have no easy number to help ‘rank’ the month’s samples either. After all, while a nice neat number seems authoritative, there are experts out there who have perfected ‘scoring’ whiskies. Who am I to add to their numbers!?

A number also doesn’t convey how taste is a very personal thing. My palate and yours may be quite different – which is why I enjoy sampling both alone and with others. Why descriptions can help you discern what might interest you or not. Some read ‘dirty socks’ and go eewww! Others know that’s just one of many elements you can find in a whisky.

A number also doesn’t recognise that some drams are great for a particular mood but don’t quite match a different setting or company. Some are like elegant ladies and must be treated accordingly. Others grab you by your (ahem!) nether regions with a rollicking good ride!

That said, I have contemplated keeping in mind a few simple factors when sampling whiskies. Something that could help hone a list of ‘favourites’ based on vague criteria or descriptive triggers to remind me “Ah… that’s why I liked it!”  or not!

A few factors for consideration include:

  • Mood: What kind of setting could I envision sipping? Quiet evening curled up at home? Clinking sociable glasses with some colleagues? A bad-ass party of mad men n women? In short – what kind of mood does the whisky put me into? Or mood would it compliment?
  • Mode: Neat, drop of water, or (gasp!) with ice or mixed. Could it work in an exotic cocktail? Or one that absolutely under no circumstances should be messed with – neat n only neat! Or is it a whisky I wouldn’t cringe serving at a party and watching folks liberally dump in ice cubes and drown in soda?
  • Money: Would I buy it (again)? Is it value for money, rare commodity or rubbish for the price-tag? After all, you can’t really expect the same quality of a $20 whisky as you would from a $200 one!
  • Mmmm….. This is an indefinable quality. You just know it when you find it! I favour more complex whiskies with nuanced elements. Ones with great body, balance, finish with a little something ‘extra’ going on… Yet how many decent drinkable drams actually achieve (or come close) to this elusive quality?

I may not always assess a whisky referring to some of these considerations – particularly ‘Money’ as we source individually for our tasting sessions. While I could use a UK online store as an indicator – it often bears little relation to the kind of prices we incur in markets closer to our home in Mumbai, India so may not be of significant benefit to others.

However ‘Mood’ and ‘Mode’ may make a regular appearance and it might be fun to have quarterly ‘top picks’ based on ‘Mood’ and ‘Mmmm…’ Perhaps a topic for our next monthly tasting session to discuss!

Curious what others think. Those with tasting groups, do you ‘score’ or ‘rank’ whiskies? Or have a rudimentary way to categorise whiskies? Other ideas?

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GlenDronach 18 year Allardice 46%

Sometimes you just want a little indulgence! And why not?

A few months ago we sampled the GlenDronach 21 year Parliament… it was sherry berry desert in a bottle without being cloyingly sweet.

So naturally when given a chance to sample the GlenDronach 18 year Allardice, who could resist?

GlenDronach 18 year (Whisky Lady)

GlenDronach Allardice 18 year (Whisky Lady)

GlenDronach 18 year Allardice 46%

  • Colour – Bright copper
  • Nose – Fudge, berries, bread pudding with sherry soaked raisins… oh my!
  • Taste – Stewed fruits, then dries out into a woody allspice and nutmeg, after a bit more found a curl of chocolate smoke… above all, it is clearly unmistakably sherry!!
  • Finish – Complex and long… delicious yet a bit dry

Much like the GlenDronach Parliament, it is bursting with sherry character. However did it fully meet the ‘indulgent’ desire? Hmm…

Either I’ve become a rather picky lady over the years or… this was an example where there were absolutely delightful elements, completely on the right track in so many ways yet didn’t quite whisk me away to that divine whisky heaven! Nearly but not quite!

Don’t get me wrong – this is an excellent whisky and, in fairness, it was sampled as a ‘after thought’ so did not have exclusive attention. Which is exactly why I prefer to try a whisky more than once in different settings to confirm impressions.

I would certainly try it again – ideally next to the 21 year Parliament. My memory of the Parliament is that if you want something a bit indulgent? That’s your whisky from the GlenDronach stable!

GlenDronach up close (Whisky Lady)

GlenDronach Allardice up close (Whisky Lady)

A bit more info:

  • “Allardice” is apparently named after James Allardes (referred to as Allardice) who led the investors that founded GlenDronach distillery in 1826
  • It was the second distillery to apply for a license to produce whisky in Scotland under the Excise Act of 1823
  • One of their ‘hallmarks’ is to mature their whiskies only in sherry casks. (yeah I mentioned that before with the 21 but it bears repeating!)

What others say:

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