Whisky Lady – November Novelties

A very busy whisky November!

Everyday Asia

As quiet as this blog Everyday Asia’s been lately, my other blog Whisky Lady has been quintuply busy!

November brought incredible ‘novelty’ with a grand total of five (yup! That’s 1, 2, 3, 4.. 5!!) whisky sampling occasions exploring a wide range from the affordable and accessible to the impossibly rare with insane prices!

It was such a busy whisky tasting month that most reviews are currently in the status of *Notes forthcoming!

Hibiki Harmony, Aultmore 18, Glenburgie Hibiki Harmony, Aultmore 18, Glenburgie

Our regular monthly tasting session brought three very different whiskies:

  • Hibiki Harmony NAS 43 – Latest Suntory response to the craze for Japanese whisky!*
  • Aultmore 18 year 46% – Interesting… sense we hadn’t tried before*
  • Glenburgie 15 year 43% – Gordon & MacPhail do it again!*

20151112_105chichibu2009abunadh Glenfarclas 105, Chichibu 2009, A’bunadh

Our Whisky Ladies proved their mettle with two sessions….

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Scottish sampling suite in Singapore – Little Mill, BenRiach, Lochside, Laphroaig

I can’t wait to be back in Singapore this coming week!

My last trip there in June resulted in a remarkable whisky sampling evening at The Auld Alliance with eight different drams to our tasting adventures… A round the world tour and a remarkable Scottish suite…

The Auld Alliance

The Auld Alliance – All eight sampled!

A ‘sneak peak’ into what we sampled…

For the Scottish quartet we tried a remarkable line-up:

We also explored the world with:

I know how rare such an evening like this one was… however I’m hoping for another whisky adventure on Saturday night! Perhaps with some new whisky aficionados…?

If in Singapore, I do encourage you to explore the whisky collectors mecca at The Auld Alliance:

  • 9 Bras Basah Road, RendezVous Hotel, Gallery #02-02A, SINGAPORE 189559 
  • info@theauldalliance.sg Tel: +65 6337 2201

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Rare Japanese Whisky – Karuizawa 39 year 1973/2013 Cask No 1607 67.7%

I still cannot believe we sampled this near mythical dram. While I was intrigued but not blown away by the ‘entry level’ Asama, a mature Karuizawa whisky is valued in the $15,000 range?!

That is… if you can find it…

Image from Scotch Whisky Auction

Image from Scotch Whisky Auction

This vintage cask no 1607 release from Karuizawa was bottled exclusively for La Maison du Whisky at a cask strength of 67.7%. It was distilled in December 1973 and bottled July 2013, making it 39 years old, with only 138 bottles taken from the ex-sherry cask. To call it ‘rare’ is a bit of an understatement!

Here is what we found:

  • Colour – Deep rich burgandy
  • Nose – Like a fine cognac, hint of orange zest, grape, sugary honey
  • Palate – Fire, orange, chocolate
  • Finish – Cigar pipe tobacco soaked in cognac

The sample came courtesy of India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula and tasted together with the gorgeous quartet of grand dames – Glendronach 39 – 42 year whiskies.

My tasting notes simply do not do justice…. it is hard to put into words something that just wraps you up in so many layers of richness… It was a bit overwhelming to sample such mature, complex and yet still eminently enjoyable drams. Age doesn’t necessarily mean quality, but in this case it does!

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Glendronach Grand Dames – Age DOES matter!

Living in India, it requires significant effort to source unique whiskies from around the world. Though our ‘Duty Free’ options have improved considerably in the last few years and local distributors are stocking a wider range, typically what you can readily find is both relatively standard fare and insanely expensive for what you get.

So when a chance to sample a few drops of a quartet of gorgeous Glendronach grand dames came knocking? I would have been an utter fool to pass up!

Glendronach 42 year 1971 Cask 1246 (Master of Malt)

Glendronach 42 year 1971 Cask 1246 (Master of Malt)

Until this night, the oldest whisky sampled was the Glenfarclas 40 year… It was also a unique opportunity to explore the subtle variation between a single cask and a single year…

All were aged exclusively in Pedro Ximénez Sherry puncheons with three laid in the same year – 1971. We were extremely fortunate that our whisky host was able to acquire over several years such a remarkable series of whiskies. While primarily intended for the Taiwan market, this quartet made its way to India…

What did we try? Here goes..

  • Glendronach 39 year 1972/2011 Cask#2033 54.7% (Taiwan exclusive)
  • Glendronach 40 year 1971/2011 Cask#1248 47.5% (Taiwan exclusive)
  • Glendronach 41 year 1971/2012 Cask#1247 48.9% (UK Batch #6 – 529 bottles)
  • Glendronach 42 year 1971/2013 Cask#1246 44.6% (UK Batch #8 – 432 bottles)

We started with the 39 year old, spent the most time distilling its character before moving on to each subsequent sample, contrasting, comparing and debating the similarities and nuanced differences.

Glendronach 39 year 1972/2011 Cask #2033 54.7%

  • Nose – Instant deep dark burnt sugar, dry fruits bursting with raisins, dates, prunes, figs… mellowed into a rum soaked plum Christmas cake, then a waft of musty old antique furniture polish, a rancio element, well oiled leather, a ‘brown’ sauce of demera reduction blending with laguna custard, cinnamon, cloves…
  • Palate – Sweet on the first sip then cigar smoke, green vegetables, the spices of cinnamon and cloves envelopes, rich, smooth, delicious chewy raisins
  • Finish – Dry, remnants of plum-cake, a beautiful bonfire, pipe tobacco
  • Water – Makes it much more creamy, burst of ripe sweetness, the nose becomes a bouquet of gorgeous dry fruits, a little bitter dry coconut… transformative!
  • Overall – We absolutely loved it! It is very robust, pulling in all the PX sherry elements with a certain panache and majesty

Glendronach 40 year 1971/2011 Cask #1248 47.5%

  • Nose – More approachable with all of the dry fruits like prunes, dates and figs still present and more yet restrained, more elegant, a whiff of temple agarbati, over time the prunes became the dominant dry fruit element
  • Palate – Similar to the 39 year yet sweeter, softer, gentler with more pronounced cinnamon, cloves and a hint of bitterness, a bit ‘woody’ with wet chalk, some copper, completely decadent
  • Finish – Drier than the 39 yet the finish holds even more
  • Water – Again, while initially reluctant to add, it simply rounds out all the gorgeous sherry elements
  • Overall – We found while clearly written by the same ‘author’, this ‘book’ had more refinement and grace than the 39 year

Glendronach 41 year 1971/2012 Cask #1247 48.9%

  • Nose – Same but… going deeper into the same profile
  • Palate – Of the four, this had the strongest ‘old leather’ quality, we compared it to a grandfather’s tobacco pouch, allspice added to the cinnamon and cloves, ripe dark cherries
  • Finish – Dry as the others yet also quite warm and beautiful, prunes in the finish as well not just the nose
  • Water – Yet again, not needed yet equally a few drops did enhance
  • Overall – Sampled after the 42 year, this was our last note to savour…

Glendronach 42 year 1971/2013 Cask #1246 44.6% 

  • Nose – Varnish, aged cheese, unmistakable prunes, sweet, men’s cologne, all that we found before concentrated with even more to uncover
  • Palate – Wild chokecherry jam with that bitterness from the skins, a tinge of black current jam, dry tobacco with the sense of it having been cured in cognac, the feel of being in a dark forest
  • Finish – The driest of the four with an ashy quality
  • Water – Adding a few drops was less transformative than we found with the 39 year yet still did help it open up beautifully
  • Overall – The most masculine of the four, it had a richness and complexity that simply cannot be matched by younger whiskies

It was such a privilege to sip, savour and enjoy such rich mouthfuls of whisky maturity. In this case, age truly does matter… and while some have argued these PX whiskies are so deeply enriched by sherry that one could save money by simply going straight to drinking sherry, that’s utter nonsense!

What I’ve found indulgent and decadent in the younger Glendronach whiskies is in full force here! No luxury spared… imagine being in a lush velvet boudoir with a crackling fire, your every whim fulfilled… and when your hand reaches out for a sip of something rich, robust yet refined… this is what you want!

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Murray makes Manitobans proud!

Speaking as a proud Manitoban gal, I’m always delighted when anything from my home province makes its mark positively beyond its borders.

However as a whisky explorer, I must admit Rye has never been my thing and the humble Crown Royal from my old backyard Gimli, Manitoba took a back seat long ago…

That said, I’ve begged family and friends to pretty please snag me an extremely reasonably priced bottle of the Northern Harvest Rye from the local Manitoba liquor store to be collected on my next trip to Canada… I’m always open to have my scepticism refuted! And happy to bring the novelty of Manitoban whiskey to Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Crown-Royal-Northern-Harvest-Rye

So what is all the fuss? Skipping merrily past many marvellous Scotch whiskies, Mr Murray has established a clear non-Scottish top 5 with:

  1. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (Canada) – £47  (Manitoba sells for only CND 32.99!!)
  2. Pikesville Straight Rye (USA) – £33
  3. Midleton Dair Ghaelach (Ireland) – £180
  4. William Larue Weller Bourbon (Bot.2014) (USA) – £65
  5. Suntory Yamazaki Mizunara (Bot.2014) (Japan) – £45

As for the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, here is what Mr Murray has to say along with his rating of 97.5/100:

Rye, that most eloquent of grains, not just turning up to charm and enthral but to also take us through a routine which reaches new heights of beauty and complexity. To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice.

And here are what the folks over at Crown Royal share:

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye combines the distinctive flavor of Canadian rye grain with the unmistakable smoothness of Crown Royal for a truly exceptional Canadian whisky.

  • Nose – Baking spices, cereal, light wood spices
  • Palate – Gentle oak note, rich butterscotch, spiced vanilla, develops into soft peppery notes
  • Finish – Smooth and creamy

So there you have it folks. As for this Manitoban? My father managed to ‘score’ a bottle from our local liquor store… which has wound its way back to Mumbai for an upcoming session with the Whisky Ladies.

I also had a chance to sample this whiskey:

Check out the other Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016 winners here!

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Whisky palate cleansers or palate pleasers?

With our original whisky tasting group, we are very strict about what can be served with our whiskies – just a few slices of cucumber and perhaps plain bread sticks or crackers – with plenty of water to rinse before we repeat our sampling process with the next whisky.

Palate Cleanser

However with our whisky ladies, we have a bit more fun with mixing and matching, blending sipping without accompaniment then experimenting with different delights like fruit, cheese and chocolate… perhaps a thali of chocolate delights?

goa-deserts

Both work – it just depends on whether your aim is an evening of the purest sampling or playing around with pairings.

Anyone have firm notions of what to accompany (or not) your whisky sipping adventures?

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Whisky Ladies Conquer a Cask Strength Diwali!!

We are no shy retiring missish lasses… no siree! Mumbai’s Whisky Ladies aren’t afraid to take on a trio of cask strength malts against the backdrop of India’s Festival of Lights – Diwali! After all, if firecrackers are bursting around us, why not have a few sherry bombs and whisky booms delighting our senses?

Last night we explored:

20151112_105,Chichibu2009,A'bunadh

And here is what we found…

Glenfarclas 105 NAS 60%

  • Colour – Burnished copper
  • Nose – Smells like Christmas! Very sherry-y, caramel, then vanilla notes as it opens up
  • Taste – Sweet, dark and smokey, honeyed prunes, raisins, nutty and chocolatey
  • Finish – Smooth yet also quite dry – especially with a few drops of pani (water)
  • Pairing – We just happened to have a few truffles on hand… so naturally started testing out pairings and pronounced it successful though “The kick comes back after a hit of chocolate truffles!”

Comments…

  • “It’s just like bad life choices… with caramel”
  • “Like cafe patron!”
  • “No sweet tooth here, just alcohol tooth!”
  • “Now it is simply a sherry wine bomb!”

This Speyside dram got things off to a rollicking start! Some missed the step of… “Perhaps you may wish to spit your 1st sip as going from 0% to 60% in the first swig can be a bit jarring. However our ladies were undaunted and found it became increasingly dangerous as this dram does go down rather well, easy to just keep sipping and sipping and sipping…

Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu 2009 French White Oak Cask #2357 63.1%

  • Colour – Golden straw
  • Nose – A little spicy, very sweet, light floral notes and yet can pack a punch or hit you between the eyes too!
  • Taste – Cayenne pepper, very summer-y and light, flirty, smooth yet confusing, bright and bubbly
  • Finish – Deceptive… there but much more subtle than the aroma and palate would indicate
  • Water – A couple drops of water rounds it out
  • Pairing – For some, the Chichibu and strawberries was a killer combination – who needs champagne if you have an effervescent whisky? For others, it was the brie cheese that did it. And the balance? Well… let’s just say there are a few of the opinion that chocolate goes with practically everything, doesn’t it?

Comments…

  • “From the wrong angle, just a sniff will get you!”
  • “While light and flirty, if you look at it the wrong way, it will kick you in the ass!”

This young Japanese single cask has many unique qualities and distinctly different from the straightforward Glenfarclas. It has a bright light element that completely belies its strength. Again – a dangerous combination!

Abelour A’bunadh Batch No 35 60.3%

  • Colour – A deep dark burgundy with ruby highlights
  • Nose – Cinnamon and cloves, gingerbread, honey, pronounced prunes, black cherries, Christmas cake, classic sherry-bomb
  • Taste – Apple cider, caramel, warm and smooth, very ‘Christmassy’, rum-soaked raisins, robust and bursting with character
  • Finish – Think curling up by a cosy warm fireplace…
  • Water – This one works straight yet also does a happy dance with drops or a dollop!
  • Pairing – Best with a sharp old cheddar, needs something that can hold its own with such brilliant flavours.

Comments…

  • “Beautiful things are happening in my nose! And its not what you are thinking!”
  • “This is one you notice every sip… and yes! It is probably getting you drunk…”

When the A’bunadh came out, there was literally a squeal of delight from one lady – as she would be re-uniting her taste buds with an old favourite. Talk turned to the slight shifts in flavour profiles between batches, fruitless efforts to track down certain batches from the 20s! Disbelief they are now into the 50s and a recommendation to simply ‘grab it’ if you see it!

What makes this Speyside stand out is its unabashed sherry quality. Rather than simply acquiring a sherry ‘finish,’ A’bunadh matures exclusively in Spanish Oloroso sherry butts, gaining a rich, robust and surprisingly well rounded profile.

Even better was the realisation that the price point for both Speysides remains reasonable (i.e. below $70) though the Japanese is near impossible to find at any price!

Our whisky ladies relished this cask strength trio – without a doubt a Diwali night to remember!

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Glenfarclas Mumbai special!

From time to time we merry whisky adventurer’s from Mumbai have special visitors. This session from our ‘archives’ was hosted at the Four Seasons with George S Grant of Glenfarclas family in 2011.

For those unfamiliar with this family owned distillery, the following story is a good place begin:

“My great-great grandfather, John Grant, born in 1805, purchased Glenfarclas Distillery for £511.19s on the 8th of June 1865. To this day, Glenfarclas Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky is distilled and matured at our family owned and run distillery, which thanks to the foresight of my forefathers remains independent. Creating a great malt whisky is a time-honoured process. Here in the heart of Speyside, my family has cherished the skills and traditions of fine malt whisky making, handing them down through six generations. We are proud to share our secrets with you”.  John L. S. Grant

We were fortunate to enjoy family tales, insights into whisky making and most importantly… tasting!

Our palates were teased by:

Glenfarclas 12 year 43%

A wonderfully well-rounded whisky and one well worth revisiting (plus without a scary price point!). Light gold colour, equally light nose and even palate. Slightly sweet and fruity with a soft finish. Pronounced a “fine daily sipping dram.”

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength 60%

Clearly a Grant family favourite. George regaled us with the tale of how this was his grandfather’s whisky of choice. With great affection, spoke of how he used to deliver a few bottles each Monday to his grandfather to imbibe and share… only to discover years later his father also did the same – just on Thursday! Wily coot or not, his grandfather certainly enjoyed his drams.

Straight forward and without pretence, this is a solid, full flavoured woody whisky has just the right fruit and peatiness for balance. Remarkably smooth with a strong finish. Like many cask strength whiskys, it opened up superbly with a dash of water.

Glenfarclas 21 year 43%

At first, it was… not as strong an offering as anticipated. However once we truly cleared our palates of its powerful cask strength cousin, the 21 year came into its own. One member tasted a touch of kokum, another spoke of almonds with a hint of nimbu  (lime) tartness. The smokiness and spice were welcome.

Glenfarclas 40 year 46%

One has to wonder why the best is always left to last? While we appreciate the practice of a ‘show stopper’ in fashion shows, after a few drams, it is a wee bit challenging to truly appreciate something quite so fine as the 40 year. It was indeed special with a dark gold colour, nose of nuts and raisins, rich chocolaty caramel flavour and the most divine finish that lingers and leaves one wanting more!

Though our private club is fiercely independent and remains staunchly unaffiliated with any particular brand, it was a delightful evening and a distinct pleasure to imbibe in such convivial a setting.

Anyone have a Glenfarclas favourite?

Sampling Glenfarclas in Hong Kong

Sampling Glenfarclas in Hong Kong

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Ardbeg Corryvreckan 57.1%

There are times when you crave full-on peat. Over the years, we’ve explored many whiskies with varying levels of peat.

And in the peat department? Ardbeg always delivers.

Ardbeg Corryvecken

Ardbeg – Corryvreckan 57.1%

  • Colour – Deep ruby colour
  • Nose – “Good evening madame, we’d like to present peat, peat and oh… more peat!”
  • Palate – Sweet sour peat chewy, a bit of licorice
  • Finish – Kick ass finish, don’t let the peat fool you – the glorious sweetness remains
  • Water – Adding a dash of water brings out the sweet and spicy element, however most preferred this powerful whisky neat!

Our verdict? “Oh baby, bring it on!” (that means we liked it!)

Here’s what the Ardbeg folks have to say about their Corrycreckan:

This unique and highly peaty whisky is named after the Gulf of Corryvreckan (from the Gaelic Coire Bhreacain meaning “cauldron of the speckled seas” or “cauldron of the plaid”), which is a powerful vortex tide that empties into the sea.

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Glen Garioch 1797 Founder’s Reserve 48%

The Highlands are home to a few favourite whiskies from BalblairDalwhinnieEdradourGlendronachGlenmorangieOban…  however, I must admit, Glen Garioch was one Highland whisky we missed.

So it was a treat when it popped up as part of a tasting session together with Ardbeg Corryvrecken and Jura Superstition.

2014-02-20-Ardbeg,GlenGarioch,Jura

Here’s what we found…

Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve 48% 

  • Colour – Pale straw
  • Nose – Floral bouquet, medicinal, moss, blue cheese, fungal element, sea scent, tamarind
  • Palate – Smooth, fresh pudina (mint), spice, pepper, bold, hint of citrus, delightfully complex
  • Finish – Lingers, spice, complexity remains
  • Water – Adding a dash of water doesn’t kill but equally did not enhance, however it did make the wet forest scent even more pronounced.

A clear favourite! The variation found in the nose followed through in the taste and finish. A very fine dram indeed!

If this is what the whisky makers were up to in 1797, then it is a mighty fine recipe and well worth being reincarnated in the ‘Founders Reserve’. Without hesitation, our merry malt tasters concluded it is one we hope to repeat, stock, savour and enjoy!

Glen Garioch 1797 Founders Reserve

As you can gather, back in 1797 in the Highlands of Aberdeen, Glen Garioch distillery opened its doors. This no age statement whisky takes its inspiration from those early days and is part of their staple offerings.

Here’s what the Glen Garioch folks have to say about the 1797 Founder’s Reserve:

  • Nose – Warm amber in appearance, sweet vanilla and subtle spice combine with fruitier green apple and grapefruits on the nose.
  • Palate – Butter cream and vanilla pave the way to fruity green apple skin and citrus cleanliness, leading to an elegant and subtle finish.

Read more about the distillery’s history here.

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