Whisky Lady – March Maltiness

Everyday Asia

As March heated up in Mumbai, Whisky Lady sampling also kept pace…

All three tasting groups had some real gems and discoveries! I also finished the Canadian samples, brushed off posts from the archives and shared an article published in MansWorld (yes I do write for others from time to time).

It also marked two milestones – over 2,000 followers and nearly 200 posts!

Dalmore Smokehead Myckmyra

1st up was the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai with a sweetly smokey session covering:

KilchomanPeat

2nd was our original club with a remarkable exploration of Kilchoman with food…. mmmmmm good! (Notes coming in April… good things come to those that wait!)

  • Machir Bay 46%

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French whisky – Armorik Classic 46%

There was one more whisky I sampled at La Maison du Whisky in Singapore last June that missed getting into the original line-up. And I just recently stumbled across my notes…

Like the now mythical Kornog, this other French whisky Armorik was one I hoped to easily acquire and re-sample at leisure. It was one on a list of possible bottles to pick up in our trip through London – eminently more affordable than Singapore.

Alas that was not the case so here goes my quick impressions from a wee dram…

Armorik Classic NAS 46% – A single malt whisky from Breton just bursting with sweet currents, cereal and toasted nutty bread. On the palate gorgeous light fruits, cereals and spices. Finish is a light sprightly spice dance. In short – simple, spicy and delicious.

Amorik Classic (Whisky Lady)

Armorik Classic (Whisky Lady)

Armorik is produced at the Warenghem distillery in Lannion in north Brittany and is a marriage of sherry and bourbon cask whiskies of various ages.

Official tasting notes:

  • Nose: Rich and elegant with touches of nuts (hazelnut) and toasted bread.
  • Palate: A fruity attack that gradually reveals its complexity, with notes of dried fruits and cereals, highlighted by spices.
  • Finish: Long-lasting spicy and sea breeze notes.

Here’s what others have to say:

Related posts:

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Hunt for Glann Ar Mor’s Kornog

Since June 2015, I’ve spread feelers to track down something more from the Glann Ar Mor distillery

Heck I have a friend who works for a global company with their headquarters in Paris. Surely she could find there when on a business trip?

Or another that has a chateau in France, how difficult would it be to locate on a jaunt between there and India?

Numerous other friends who travel back and forth between Europe and Asia…

How difficult could it be to track down just one more bottle?

Well… it is…

Partly this challenge stems from questions around its continued existence. Earlier in 2015, the distillery announced it would close in August 2015. What?! No!! Say it isn’t so! With the rules on what does / does not qualify as a whisky from Bretagne, the distillery gained an extended lease on life.. however finding their whiskies? Remains elusive!

Kornog (Whisky Lady)

Kornog (Whisky Lady)

I originally tried their peated expression – Kornog – in June 2015 as part of a remarkable evening sampling 8 distinctive whiskies at The Auld Alliance.

Here is what we found:

Kornog 2013 58.7% bottled for The Auld Alliance 

  • Nose – Smooth flowers, garden greens, nail polish or varnish, very sweet – almost too sweet, smells light, bright and fresh… just couldn’t get beyond the sweet
  • Taste – PEAT as in serious peat, horses kick kinda peat, with bitter tamarind, super sour yet also rich and creamy – may sound like a contradiction yet it works
  • Finish – Smoooooth, warm, beautiful and simply delightful
  • Impression – Has a distinctly different character. Superb. We speculated that it may be cask strength

Here is what they have to say about their Peated Single Malt from Breton:

“Born from fire, raised by the wind.”

Traditional pot-still distillation without chill-filtration or caramel colouring. Peated at about 35/40 PPM, it is matured in first fill “barrique” of ex Sauternes wine and first fill bourbon barrels.

Of all the world whiskies sampled, the Kornog stood out as memorable. I resolved to explore more from this distillery.

Why mention any of this at all?

Because one of our whisky ladies has acquired a bottle! Not sure yet when we will have an opportunity to try… or even how hers will compare with its cask strength cousin… however looking forward to sampling in due course!

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Aberlour 16 year (1995/2011) Cask No 2303 57.2%

I will admit to having a weakness for a sherry bomb or two. While not my ‘everyday dram’, when in the mood for something robust and very berry good, nothing beats it.

Aberlour‘s A’bunadh is a particularly good example of a full cask strength sherry bomb that remains in the affordable category.

No surprise then that this 1st fill sherry cask Aberlour was a hit!

Last in our special “filled by hand” distillery trio, it was quite the whisky.

Hand filled Abelour 16 year

Hand filled Abelour 16 year

Aberlour 16 year (10 June 1995 / 6 Sept 2011) Cask No 2303 (1st fill sherry), Bottle No 180, 57.2%

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Gorgeous sherry! Figs, plums, juicy dark fruit, nuts, christmas cake, chocolate, dates, orange peel, vanilla
  • Palate – Woodsy dry edge, bit bitter, light balsa then softened to settle into a balanced sweet, bursting with raisins
  • Finish – Rich plums
  • Water – Not necessary but doesn’t hurt. The little extra spice adds something, rounds it out further and opens up to reveal ginger

Overall – a very palatable, rich, sherry bomb that goes down beautifully well.

While thoroughly enjoyable, when it came time to chose my preferred dram to accompany my panatela cigar, I will admit reaching for the Glenmorangie as the Aberlour was fabulous to sample but almost too much ‘Christmas’ for the March heat in Mumbai.

Also part of our remarkable Cask Strength hand-filled whiskies evening:

Other Abelour’s sampled previously:

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Glenfiddich 15 year Batch 15 (2012) 55%

After the remarkable Glenmorangie, next up in our exceptional evening of hand-filled cask strength whiskies was this Glenfiddich 15 year.

Glenfiddich is one of the classic single malts… a standard most have encountered and consumed at some point. Our host is particularly partial to the 15 year, hence this was his choice when selecting a whisky to hand fill at their distillery in Dufftown.

Glenfiddich 15 year

Glenfiddich 15 year (19 April 2012) Batch No 15, Bottle No 11/15, 55%

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Honey, light fruit, black pepper, a little spice, wood, musty, floral, dash of vanilla
  • Palate – Plum, cherry sour, spice, warm, wood, sawdust, light sherry
  • Finish – Tart sour cherry that sweetens out
  • Water – Absolutely add it! Takes the acidity out and smoothes it.

This cask strength whisky is known as the “Distillery Edition” and we anticipated it to be “more” with greater complexity and character than the standard 15 year. It has been a long time since I had a Glenfiddich 15 year, so couldn’t add much to the debate on how they differ… however indeed felt privileged to sample a dram straight from the distillery.

The Glenfiddich tastings notes for this whisky:

  • Colour – Rich and golden
  • Nose – A complex aroma with sweet, fruity notes and delicate vanilla oakness. Addition of a little water releases a beautiful combination of heathery spiciness and rich fruit cake.
  • Taste – Silky smooth and warming when tasted at full strength. With the addition of water it produces intriguing layers of spice, sherry oak, marzipan, dark chocolate and ginger.
  • Finish – Long lasting with a lingering vanilla sweetness.

Also part of our cask strength hand-filled whisky evening:

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A very different Glenmorangie 10 year (1995/2006) Cask No 13038 59.3%

Known as the ‘Speakeasy’ bottle, this particular Glenmorangie 10 year can only be purchased at the distillery in the ‘Speakeasy’ room which revives the alleged early practice of the workers setting aside casks of the finest malt for their own consumption, hidden from the prying eyes of the ‘Guagers’.

In this case, our host hand-filled this bottle nearly a decade ago at the distillery!

Let me repeat that… yes our host waited nearly 10 years to open this special cask strength Glenmorangie.

They say patience is a virtue. And no way could I ever have been so virtuous to hold on for ten years…

Lucky us, we merely had to enjoy… and enjoy we did!

Speakeasy Glenmorangie 10 year

Speakeasy Glenmorangie 10 year

Glenmorangie 10 year (1995 / 9 Nov 2006) Cask No 13038, Bottle No 45, 59.3%

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Sherry! Citrus, honey, light cereals, vanilla, fresh yet toasted, a dash of perfume, more and more cinnamon. As it opened further out peeked banana cream and much more!
  • Palate – A gorgeous kick of character, lovely cinnamon, puff of smoke, a little oak, sawdust, kept shifting between sweet and spice and all things nice
  • Finish – Initially faint yet as the whisky opened further became a light sprightly spice then as it further evolved a long spicy cinnamon
  • Water – Not recommended. Dampened the complexity without bringing any significant advantage. Best had neat – all it needs is a little time to soften and settle into a very approachable yet sophisticated character.

What was particularly fabulous about this Glenmorangie is the shifts in character. It was like a book that slowly flipped to a new page, revealing something more as the evening unfolded.

While it started with a kick, it mellowed out completely, nice, smooth and well-rounded. The finish was another interesting element… at first light it grew into a very long beautiful finish.

It was my choice of the evening.

Glenmorangie Speakeasy

Another whisky afficianado shared:

On the 8th May, 2007 I bottled my own at the Glenmorangie Distillery. The cask No. 13038 which was filled in 1995. My bottle No. was 157 and and strength was 59.3%. 

I decided to keep it for a special occasion which was this week-end 30/9/12. Without doubt the best whiskey I have ever tasted and hope some day I can bottle another one.

Next up:

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Bombay Malt + Cigar – Bragging rights!

The latest edition of Mumbai based whisky sampling adventures has (un)officially been dubbed the BMC aka Bombay Malt & Cigar club (play on the ubiquitous Bombay Municipal Corporation)… and it is insane the levels these gents achieve.

Our 1st session featured ‘Adult’ whiskies… all 21 years or older.

Our 2nd session featured cask strength whiskies each personally filled by our host during various visits to Scotland between 2006 to 2011.

Are you kidding me?! How on earth are us mere mortals to top that???

Our host duly wins bragging rights for offering us three such unique whiskies.

What did we sample?

What on earth will top this for our next session?

Hand filled whisky

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Smokehead “The Rock Edition” – style over substance?

We get it. Its a gimmick. But gimmicks do get attention.

Sure its brash, testosterone fuelled and meant to be fun. But is it any good?

Smokehead

Smokehead “The Rock Edition” NAS 44.2%

So what did the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai think?

  • Nose: Smoked bacon, beef jerky, gorging on Montreal smoked meat (think Schwartz Deli!), pastrami on rye, hickory, popped out back for a summer BBQ, if you dig deep a hint of honey sweetness, ashtray
  • Palate: Pungent, peaty “not as bad as it smells” 
  • Finish: I’m sorry… was there a finish? It was like all the punch just suddenly fizzled out. Nada.
  • Water: Some thought 6 drops ‘salvaged’ it… yes there was a debate on the exact number of drops required! Consensus was six drops smoothes out the dram without overly dampening the smokey spirit. As one put it, can now taste the whisky and “I no longer feel like I’ve just smoked a pack of cigarettes!”

This Smokehead certainly sparked a lot of commentary…

  • Whisky to get trashed to…
  • College guys, sitting around playing cards, smoking and getting drunk
  • All bravado and no brains

Let’s be very clear, a number of our whisky ladies have no patience for wimpy whiskies. Peat scores high on their preferred elements in a good dram. However this one was all over the top flash without the substance.

There were several comments along the lines of it being a brash guy coming on really strong but in reality a limp noodle. Ahem… You get the picture.

When compared with other openly peat pushing drams like Compass Box’s Peat Monster or Bruichladdich’s Octomore, regret to say this Smokehead is outclassed. Now… it could be the Rock Edition specifically as it is meant to be no frills, just straight-on rock thrills. A couple lasses had sampled a different Smokehead and recalled more character and less clobber over the head with an ashtray experience.

So what more do we know about Smokehead?

  • Do they disclose the Islay distillery? Nope! All we know is its part of Ian McLeod distillers….
  • Do they use colouring? Yup!
  • What else? Not a whole heck of a lot.

What did the Ian Weir, Marketing Director for McLeod have to say when launching this edition?

 “The new limited edition presentation not only celebrates Smokehead’s close affinity to rock music, but reaffirms the brand’s unique position within the Single Malt category. Smokehead is vigorous and unapologetic about its big and intense peaty flavours. Like rock and roll, people must accept it for what it is or not at all. The brand is an enthusiastic supporter of rock music and we have some exciting plans underway to take this even further in 2012.”

And their official tasting notes?

Nose: Heavy smoke and peat.   Amazing richness.   Lemon, fresh ginger, plum jam.   Salty and spicy.
Body: Like a cannonball – hits the palate at once with cocoa, peat and some honey sweetness then explodes with peppery spice and more earthy peat.   Spreads to all the areas of your mouth with more peat and light sweetness.
Finish: Even more peat, spice, mandarin – then dries up.   When you think it’s all over the peat comes back to hit you again.
Impression A rollercoaster of peat and spice with some delicate sweetness.

Well… did we accept it ‘as is’? Meh… Not gonna run out and buy another bottle. However for a sociable drinking evening, makes for a great conversation piece!

Other whiskies sampled before the Smokehead included:

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Embracing the Dalmore 15 year 40%

What a terrific start to our March Whisky Ladies evening!

We dove straight into the Dalmore 15 year… with its robust sherry character and distinctive 12 pointed Royal Stag emblem.

Dalmore 15 year

  • Nose – Ooh sherry! Raisins, figs, plum cake, caramel, coconut, fruity like sweet oranges, burst of prunes… With those sweet spices of cinnamon… Did we say sherry? Please let’s say it yet again!
  • Taste – Very even, smooth and sweet, raisins, spicy coconut, a quality like Amarula, a bit syrupy, faintest puff of smoke
  • Finish – Nice linger, warm spice, all Christmasy nice!
  • With water? Please don’t. Not needed at all. But if you do, just a few drops brings out the oaky element quite strongly

Overall it was greeted with happy moans of pleasure and comments like :

  • “It is like nector!”
  • “I’ve found my ‘happy’ spot!”

In short, it was a perfect way to kick-off the evening. Hit all the ‘tick’ boxes for a warm, comfy, sherry dram… certainly going an several notches above merely being ‘pleasant’.

Such a whisky begs to be the start of a relaxed evening, curled up at home, nibbling on cheese and crackers while listening to good music, perhaps with friends or perhaps alone.

What do the distillery folks have to say about their whisky?

This delicate and approachable vintage is initially matured for 12 years in American white oak ex-bourbon casks. The character of The Dalmore 15 is achieved by then splitting the whisky equally between three different sherry woods; Amoroso, Apostoles and Matusalem oloroso for a further three years. The spirit is finally married together in an upstanding sherry butt, allowing the flavours to infuse.

  • Aroma: Orange marmalade, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Palate: Mandarin, vanilla, ginger.
  • Finish: Christmas spice and oak.

Do we agree? Yes

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Straight from Sweden – Mackmyra Svensk Rök 46.1%

I’ve been impatiently waiting to sample this beauty since December. I knew one of our Whisky Ladies made the trek back to Sweden with the intention of picking up something interesting. I also knew her personal preferences lean towards peat so was secretly hoping for this very bottle to make its way back to Mumbai.

I remember sampling the Mackmyra Brukwhisky at La Maison du Whisky – while I quite enjoyed its fresh youthful dance and loved what the folks at Mackmyra are doing, was looking for something with a bit more complexity and depth for an upcoming tasting session.

However I remained curious to try more and have avidly been reading Whisky Saga‘s adventures with Nordic whiskies – Sweden specifically.

To say I was delighted to sample their Swedish Smoke avatar is putting it rather mildly.

Mackmyra Svensk Rok

Mackmyra Svensk Rök 46.1%

  • Nose – Juniper, a perfumy smoke, light, honey, quite herbaceous, woodsy, sweet in a way that is almost florals but not quite, cut grass, coriander, a minty freshness that softens into vanilla
  • Palate – Smoke and spice and everything nice! Warm not sweet. A delightful ‘tingle’ that wakes you up.
  • Finish – Has an oaky smokey linger
  • Water – 2 drops rounds the smoke, 3 drops dampens to much! (Precise distinction!)

Talk turned to where this whisky would best be sampled? Consensus was after a vigorous ski, relaxing in a chalet where the whisky warms and perks up at the same time.

This is not an ‘easy’ whisky and is certainly distinctive. There is something quite appealing about how it has a clean ‘minimalist’ quality with no pretence.

Personally I also find a 50cl bottle just right. Enough to amply share in a tasting session with a dram left to enjoy at home later. If I could only find 4 such bottles on international trips, could bring in more variety within the 2 L import limit to India!

Here is what the Mackmyra folks have to say about their Svensk Rök:

In Sweden we have used juniper to season our food for generations. Now you can enjoy the timeless flavor in a golden form. The aroma is slightly smoky and spicy, with a much smokier flavor and peaty juniper notes. Together, the flavors unites in a quite unique Swedish flavor.

Swedish Smoke is the only smoky single malt whisky made on Swedish ingredients only.

  • Nose: The nose is slightly smoky and spicy with aromas of peat, juniper, vanilla, caramel, citrus, pears and raisins. Spicy oak notes such as toasted bread and anise.
  • Taste: Smokier than the nose with smoky, peaty, juniper notes. Dry, oaky aromas found with light tobacco leaves and herbs. A slight saltiness with minerals, anise and green fruits.

Mackmyra Svensk Rok Label

Other whiskies sampled that evening were:

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