Whisky Lady – April fools?

Everyday Asia

Those who live in India know that after holi, the temperature rises and the real summer begins! Which means in April, you’d be a fool to not seek solace with fans or the occasional A/C and liquid libations tends towards beer o’clock than whisky.

However call me an April fool, but this Whisky Lady had another active month with:

As for our whisky clubs? Oh we had a full month too!

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1st was our Bombay Malt & Cigar (BMC) with a revisit of my Signatory session featuring: BMC revisits the Signatory session

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Whisky Ladies visit the Far East – Kavalan + Nikka

Our whisky ladies tend to travel – both for business and pleasure.

This is a huge bonus when you are a whisky fan based in Mumbai as our local offerings are relatively limited.

When one member was stopping at Singapore airport on her return from a conference, she asked for suggestions and ably rose to the assignment to acquire a whisky from Taiwan.

Another runs her own travel adventure company plus her spouse shares her passion for exploring whiskies. Compliments of their procurement prowess, we already sampled the yin yang contradictory character of Nikka Blended Whisky. So when a theme of ‘anything but Scottish whisky’ morphed into the ‘Far East’…. naturally she had a whisky from Japan to share!

We began our evening with an experiment… our host infused grapefruit and rosemary with a local gin to create a highly refreshing aperitif – delightful!

Kavalana Concertmaster, Solist + Nikka Coffey Grain

Kavalan Concertmaster, Solist + Nikka Coffey Grain

We then moved on to our main focus where we contrasted and compared:

From the shores of Taiwan and Japan, we hit mainland China to try a country liquor that was much more fun to puzzle out how to open than taste! It was, in short, undrinkable.

Finally closed our evening with a thimble of JD Tennessee Honey liqueur to go with our chocolate pizza – yum!

It was a delightful change to explore whiskies beyond Scotland for an evening and a reminder that there is a very good reason Kavalan attracts attention for its Solist range.

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Kilchoman Trilogy – Bourbon Single Cask 60.5%

The Kilchoman Trilogy from La Maison du Whisky celebrates the impact of maturing in different casks on the whisky – Bourbon, PX and sherry.

As usual, we tasted blind. However, as it was a trilogy, our host kept the identity of all three whiskies secret until after we sampled the last. First up for our tasting pleasure was the bourbon cask…

Kilchoman Bourbon cask

Kilchoman Bourbon cask

Kilchoman Bourbon Single Cask Trilogy 60.5% (LMDW) 

Single Cask #260 (6.5.2010/31.8.2015) Bottle 194 /267

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – When first poured, an unmistakable peat which then settled down to reveal sweet fruit, meat like glazed ham and pineapple, a bit vegetal. The smoke softened in a heavy not sharp way, a little sweet medical camphor, almost detol like, then the freshness of green capsicum, a deeper earthy element. Finally after much airing, a sweet basil and mint emerged with sacred ash on the surface and cinnamon candy peaking beneath… when revisited much later, the nose was spicy sweet with sour curd
  • Palate – Sweet, tingly, peat yet a different smoke that your typical Islay, initially sharp it then mellowed without losing its strength and character, a little ‘life buoy soap’ and ‘big red’ cinnamon chewing gum, pepper spice on the lips, tending towards a Punjabi style ’tikka
  • Finish – Warm and spicy
  • Water – Some thought it was ‘dying’ for water, others not. Those that added found it brought out a bitter chocolate quality, a nice spice to savour. Finally after opening up over time, yeasty baked bread and bacon notes came out!

While clearly cask strength, it was a bit thin and hadn’t yet gathered the oils from the wood, so had the sense of possibly being younger.

As we discussed the possible mood or setting to best enjoy this dram, comments were:

  • Too complex for a bar, more like a special date with someone to test if s/he can appreciate such a whisky. “If you don’t get this whisky, you don’t make the cut for a next date!”
  • Or a more contemplative evening solo, as there is an oddly meditative quality more reminiscent of a temple than night on the town.

Did we appreciate this whisky? Certainly. It was hard not to be captivated by the different elements. This isn’t a friendly neighbourhood whisky. It is a bit more intellectual and requires you to pay attention to understand it.

So what do the folks over at La Maison du Whisky have to say (translated from French) about this Kilchoman whisky?

Particularly sunny, this version aged in bourbon casks perfectly encapsulates the precise and balanced style so characteristic of Kilchoman single malts. While the notes of peat and smoke are omnipresent, they leave their mark with great elegance while setting the tone for things to come. This thoroughly subtle influence enables the whisky to gain in olfactory and gustatory power that is both nuanced and perfectly mastered. A work of art!

Profile: Peat and smoke coated in lemony scents. It becomes increasingly voluptuous (rice pudding, tangerine jam).

Not sure I would describe it as ‘voluptuous’ but it certainly was a good way to kick off our tasting session!

Next up in our Kilchoman Trilogy evening:

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Signatory session take two with cigars!

Quick before oxidation did too much damage, I wanted to share with the BMC lads a sampling from my earlier Signatory session.

However as whisky gremlins (aka friends and I) got into the Edradour and the Bunnahabhain too, it was clear augmentation would be needed to have sufficient for my sipping companions as we puffed on our cigars, post initial tasting. With this group, tasting is not the end, merely the selection process to settle down to savour a further dram or two with a cigar, some nibbles and convivial conversation.

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So what did I do? First began with what our merry malt men had to say about the whiskies…

We kicked off with the Speyside – Glenburgie 18 year (13 June 1995 / 20 Feb 2014) Cask No 6451, 391 bottles 46%.

  • Nose – Flowers, perfume, summer meadow
  • Palate – Surprisingly robust
  • Finish – Spice
  • Water – Adds ‘wood’ brought out vanilla and moss
  • Overall – Light bright and sprightly

Then followed up with the Islay – Bunnahabhain 26 years (6 June 1988 / 7 Aug 2014) Cask No 1874, 175 bottles 48.6%.

  • Nose – Varnish, lots of esters, pineapple, a flick of mint?
  • Palate – Smooth, a bit oily, tart granny apples…
  • Finish – Sits… very dry, black pepper
  • Water – Spicier, less acidic, brings out the peppers and even a medicinal quality on the nose. Then was that gasoline??
  • Overall – One commented the whisky made his lips numb! Certainly not a favourite (and yet the bottle was empty by the end of the evening… Oh the sacrifices these gentlemen will make!)

Closing our Signatory trio in the Highland‘s with the Edradour 10 year (2 Nov 2004/26 Mar 2015) Cask No 406, Bottle 440 46%

  • Nose – Very chocolaty, vanilla, prunes, fig newton, varnish, rum raisin
  • Palate – Very smooth, little pepper, lime?
  • Finish – Not long but rather pleasant
  • Water – Softens, mellows it out and makes it even sweeter
  • Overall – The kind of whisky to sip in a comfy chair, very palatable, well balanced and well rounded

Having tried all three before, I found the Edradour stood up best after being opened. Alas the Glenburgie had clearly lost some of its earlier nuances. And the Bunnahabhain? Let’s just say it is not one to sit in a bottle. The most expensive of the trio was also the most disappointing.

But what to sip with our cigars?

One already has clear sherry preferences. For him, he likes his whiskies robust and full of flavour. Aberlour just so happens to be a personal favourite, so it was only natural to introduce him to the gorgeous A’bunadh Batch 35.

For another, we earlier spoke of enjoying a good Irish dram – when in the mood for something a little simpler and sociable. He’d sampled Tyrconnel before – even has a bottle at home – however had yet to try the Madeira finish.

Now, another member knows his stuff and nothing less than a complex, nuanced and very special dram will do! I knew what remained in my whisky cabinet would not meet such standards. Closest was a few remaining rare Japanese whiskies yet only a single dram left – clearly insufficient to support a good cigar. So the Signatory trio would simply have to do.

And the last? I still haven’t pegged his preference beyond a desire to try something ‘different’. So added an unpeated Paul John Classic into the mix.

My experience pairing with the cigar? I initially thought the Edradour with its rich sherry notes would pair best with my robusto. Imagine my surprise to discover the delicate Glenburgie held its own.

Slainthe!

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Kilchoman Trilogy – Sherry, PX and Bourbon

Patience is a virtue… and I’ve been rather impatient!

Back in December 2015 I picked this Kilchoman Trilogy up for another member of our Whisky tasting group… And I have been waiting, waiting, waiting ever since to sample!!

Kilchoman Trilogy

It was made teasingly even more excruciating when one of the trilogy (Sherry) made an appearance at last month’s fabulous peat and smoke pairing experience.

All three bottles are a La Maison du Whisky world exclusive and were picked up from their Singapore store.

As usual, we tasted blind. As I was the ‘purveyor’ of these cask strength lovelies from Singapore, I knew overall what I was ‘in’ for, however only our host knew which expression we tasted.

Naturally our host didn’t do something so simple as merely share the whiskies for our sampling pleasure…. Nope! He planned a marvellous 6 course meal at the home of a Mumbai culinary celebrity and sommelier!

What whiskies made up this Kilchoman Trilogy?

Plus a post with drool worthy descriptions of our delectable pairing delights!

We’ve had the pleasure of sampling a few other Kilchomans….

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Rocky Mountain Breckenridge Special Release 43%

The final whisky in our American trilogy was from Colorado…

Aged 2 years in charred new American oak barrels. Its key claim to fame is that it uses water from “snow melted from the rocky mountains.”

As always with our original Mumbai tasting group, we sampled blind, then revealed the whisky. Here is what we found…

Breckenridge

Rocky Mountain Breckenridge Special Release 43%

  • Nose – Reassuringly bourbon banana sweet mellow raisins, fruity
  • Taste – The closest to being Scottish in taste, a bit chewy sweet, a very good whisky but was slightly tricky to describe and nothing specific jumped out at us
  • Finish – Light spicy finish
Best quote of the evening:

“Feel like cowboys / gals in leather chaps riding off to the sunset just like in those old Westerns. Yeehaw!”

What do the folks over at Breckenridge have to say?

Deep honey-amber hue with warm, pronounced aromas of under-ripe banana and brown sugar, with spicy notes of white pepper and toasted sesame. Light body with warm texture and long sweet oak, vanilla finish with a touch of bitterness to balance. Reminiscent of a slice of toasted rye bread with honey drizzled on it.

We mash, ferment and distill a lot of Bourbon in house. Our Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys also consists of Barrels selected from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana chosen for their unique qualities, heritage, and ability to marry in our blend, always made from a high-rye mash bill.

Rough Rider, Breckenridge, Russel's Reserve
And that folks, concludes our American tour from the tasting archives!

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Rough Rider ‘Bull Moose’ Three Barrel Rye 45%

Next up in our American tour was a surprise from New York – bottled by Long Island Spirits.

This rye is matured for only one year and made from a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, matured in three barrels – new American oak, straight bourbon cask, then finished in casks used to age Pine Barrens Single Malt Whiskey. The ‘Bull Moose’ name comes from the nickname of Roosevelt’s Progressive Party, formed in 1912. True Americana!

As usual we sampled blind then revealed the whisky. Here is what we found…

Rough Rider
Rough Rider ‘Bull Moose’ Three Barrel Rye 45% cask select 1

  • Colour – Deeper amber than the Russell’s Reserve
  • Nose – Lemon soapy scented bubble bath, fresh sawdust
  • TasteRuafza (sweet rose syrup), sweet on the tongue while harsh at the back, wine notes with a chardonnay brightness or gewürztraminer sweetness, smooth
  • Finish – Very surface level, slightly sour
Observations:
  • One thought had slightly synthetic flavour
  • Another suggested would be best drunk at a brunch, paired with a lemon tart
  • For a one-year old baccha (child),  not bad… but not qualifying for favourites category

Here’s what the folks over at the WineBow group have to say about their Three Barrel Rye:

Crisp with a fruity sweetness on the nose followed by spice, caramel, vanilla and blackberry on the palate with a long, warm, toasty, velvety finish.

Sampled together with:

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Russels Reserve 10 year 45%

Our monthly whisky sessions tend to have a theme. As our host curates the evening, planning and sourcing is completely his or her domain – we never know what we are in for!

However… there are some clues… for example, one of our club members used to travel to the US for work. So… no surprise that his session had a decidedly American twang with two Bourbons and a Rye!

We toured three different states – Kentucky, New York and Colorado.

First up from Kentucky was the Russel’s Reserve!

Russel's Reserve

Small batch Kentucky straight bourbon matured in ‘alligator-charred’ virgin American oak casks.

  • Colour – Bright amber (don’t let the pic fool you!)
  • Nose – Banana caramel desert, vanilla, spirity with a slightly peaty element, agarbati smoke, curry leaves with a faint hint of fresh mint sprigs
  • Taste – Bitter kerela, baby puke sour, dry and oaky
  • Finish – Still bitter
  • Water – BLAND, tamed the sharpness but added nothing new

Conclusion – A nice, easy drinking whisky. And we all enjoy a bit of that from time to time!

Here’s what the folks over at Wild Turkey have to say:

Master distillers and premier whiskey makers Jimmy and Eddie Russell have brought nearly 100 years of combined experience to artfully crafting Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon. Bottled at 90 proof, this hand selected small batch bourbon has a rich, caramel and vanilla taste and a uniquely smooth finish.

Up next:

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Compass Box Blends…

My partner will sometimes introduce me as a ‘Single Malt Snob’… he does so with great affection and humour, knowing I’m far from snobbish in life but am particular about my whiskies.

It does highlight a perception that an old single malt MUST be good whereas a blended whisky MUST be rubbish.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

While there are some absolutely stunning single malts… there are equally some rather good blends.

And the folks over at Compass Box are out to prove you should pay attention to well crafted blended whiskies. They keep surprising whisky watchers with their creative approach and beautiful marriage of art and science.

They also set in motion a movement for transparency after being told to stop disclosing the component whiskies that go into their blends.

They aren’t demanding others mandatorily disclose what goes into that whisky you love so much… they are simply asking for the right to share with consumers what goes what they create.

Hard to argue with such an approach but they have a fight on their hands… read more here.

Compass Box Juveniles sampled at La Maison du Whisky (Whisky Lady)

Juveniles sampled at La Maison du Whisky (Whisky Lady)

Living in India means either sampling these blends outside of the country or depending on a whisky club member to source and bring into the country…

Through both approaches, have enjoyed til date seven Compass Box blends:

Compass Box Trilogy

Anyone have a favourite Compass Box blend? Or another blended whisky?

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Whisky and Jazz… what a brilliant match!

There is something to be said for combining a good drink with good music. And when that combination happens to be a seriously good whisky and solid jazz? Hard to beat!

Often our whisky tasting sessions are accompanied by jazz music… curated and compiled by one of our members who once upon a time used to organise a large memorable jazz festival in Mumbai.

WhiskyJazzTime

As my partner prepares for his upcoming show Bombay Jazz, I started to think about the different range of jazz styles, their mood and what whisky just might make a good match!

And when sax is being played live in your living room, it is hard to not think of reaching out for a whisky….

If you happen to be in Mumbai April 14 & 15, 2016 and are curious to see a play about India’s jazz scene of yore with its influence on Bollywood music, check out StageSmith’s “Bombay Jazz at Prithvi Theatre 7 PM & 9 PM – Tickets.

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