Whisky Ladies European Tour – Teerenpeli, Danica, Kornog + Slyrs

In the wake of the Brexit vote, the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai decided to go on a European whisky tour featuring:

2016-06-28 European Tour

The Teerenpeli Finnish whisky was a recent acquisition from my trip to London – recommended by the folks over at the Whisky Exchange and a rather fine addition to our evening.

The Brauntstein Danica‘s was snagged as the only Danish whisky available at Copenhagen airport!

The Kornog from France has been eagerly awaited! Special request ordered by one of our whisky lady’s prompted by my curiosity after sampling a cask strength version.

A complete bonus on announcing June’s theme was the addition of a 4th European whisky from Bavaria, Germany. I mean, who else in Mumbai other than a “Whisky Lady” just so happens to have a bottle of Slyrs 51 sitting in their whisky cabinet??

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Winnipeg’s The Cabinet “Peat” evening

Some folks know that I originally hail from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada though long ago adopted Mumbai, Maharashtra, India as home.

During my June 2016 trip back to the ‘Peg, I had several whisky treats – not the least of which was a most enjoyable evening spent with the lads from “The Cabinet” – a venerable whisky tasting group based in Winnipeg.

During an earlier trip several years ago I had the distinct pleasure of joining a Cabinet session and was introduced to their constitution, traditions and lore. Since then these merry men (and yes they are ALL men!) have further evolved during their 9 odd years of gathering.

They update a chalk board that lists what currently resides inside “The Cabinet“,  which is unlocked precisely at the given hour and the session is called to order.

The Cabinet Whisky ListAs guest, I had the pick of the open bottles to whet our whistle before the real evening commenced. Purely as it is increasingly rare to come across a bottle, my eye spotted the Rosebank 21 year… What can I say? I’m a sucker for indulging in  discontinued distillery samples when the opportunity arises!

Post my selection, we had a decidedly peaty tour with the room scented with peaty smoke. Our host shared insights from his most recent Scottish whisky tour and even managed to acquire ‘peat pellets’ from Manitoba, wondering why oh why isn’t there a good peaty single malt made in Manitoba?

The Winnipeg “The Cabinet” evening featured:

The lads at The Cabinet maintain a most amusing blog and already have their post on the evening published! It is, quite simply, a ‘must read!’ and can be found here: “Peat”

Thank you again gentlemen and I look forward to our continued tasting adventures!

Whisky Cabinet

Fabled Winnipeg Whisky cabinet

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Laphroaig vs Laphroaig

It used to be when you thought ‘peat’ you thought of Islay and likely the mighty Laphroaig…. its thick, tar and rubber quality with seaweed, iodine which stands up to say ‘Hello Islay peat!’ This quality puts it firmly on the favoured ‘hit list’ of true die hard peat lovers.

Whisky lovers will also often share their whisky preference arch… often starting with easy drinkable blends, then graduating to ‘gateway’ commercial single malts and then somewhere along the way while exploring various single malts getting their mind and taste buds absolutely blown away by something completely peaty!

Some remain in their ‘peat phase’ for a long time… others evolve beyond that while still harbouring a special place in their whisky heart for the first peat punch that hit their palate.

After an early flirtation with Laphroaig, I moved on to others quite quickly. However I will never forget the ‘silver seal’ Laphroaig 16 (1987) that I sampled… it was distinctly different than what I’d come to expect with a soft, sweet, almost flowery quality with initially just a curl of smoke before revealing its peatiier nature.

So when I saw several newer Laphroaig’s were playing around with different elements was quite excited! Smartly, took advantage of samples available at the Singapore duty free which were promoting their new PX Cask thinking it may reveal some of that sweeter, lighter and almost teasing quality I found with the 1987. They were also freely offering the An Cuan Mor meaning ‘Big Ocean’ for its proximity to the ocean.

Short answer is I passed on the Laphroaigs and surprisingly (to me!) acquired without a pre-tasting a boxed set exploring the underlying single malt elements in Ballantine’s 17 year. The challenge with those split second airport decisions is you know you are not truly giving the whisky a proper chance so I was delighted the PX made a re-appearance in a recent tasting session.

Our host very kindly pulled out the standard Laphroaig 10 year to compare. In a quick nip had the impression of:

  • Nose – Tar and rubber sweet
  • Palate – Distinctly Laphroaig sweet peat with that edge of seaweed iodine
  • Finish – More sweet peat
  • Water – Are you kidding? Nooooo!

That was when I realized how spoilt we’ve become in recent years with cask strength whiskies… And if not cask strength, then tending towards higher strength rather than the standard entry level whisky at 40%. Far from the ‘in your face’ peat I remembered, the 10 year seemed a tad weak though clearly peated.

When sampled next to the PX, suddenly discovered in the PX that I had earlier missed… by contrast it has a much sweeter quality and could clearly discern the sherry stamp.


And what do the folks over at Laphroaig have to say about their PX?

  • COLOUR: Antique Gold
  • NOSE: From the bottle there is a nice sherry aroma of sweet sultanas and raisins with a hint of sweet liquorice and only the slightest tang of peat. Adding a little water brings out the marzipan and almond aroma with a counterpoint of creamy nuts and lots of ripe fruits but again there’s only the slightest tang of peat smoke.
  • BODY: An intense and profound deepness
  • PALATE: Without water a massive explosion of peat fills the mouth with huge amounts of oakiness only just moderated by the sweeter heavy sherry flavour. Adding a touch of water only slightly moderates the massive peat reek which very slowly fades and just allows a little of the sweeter sherried flavours to come through although there is always that burst of peat smoke that dries the mouth.
  • FINISH: Concentrated peat and thick sherried oak with a deep dryness

What did we think in our initial tasting? Read related posts here:

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Getting distracted in a Winnipeg Liquor Mart…

It started off innocently enough… “Let’s go pick up a few things for tomorrow’s open house!”

My sister and her partner kindly host a gathering when I’m back in my hometown of Winnipeg. This time her partner suggested we head over to the local “LC” (Liquor Commission) and grocery store to stock up on a few drinkables and edibles for the celebration.

Cue wide-eyed kid in a candy store dazed expression… because the array of wines, beer and other liquid libations available in your regular old liquor store in Winnipeg far outdo your local Mumbai “wine shop”. They also have multiple tasting corners to try before you buy – I’m a HUUUGE fan of this concept!

First I was introduced to a “Growler Bar” where you re-fill your empty growler (1.89 L) or howler (946 ml) with beers on tap. Naturally everything is available to sip before you commit.

Growler Bar (Photo: http://www.liquormarts.ca/retail-marketing/growler-images)

Growler Bar (Photo: Liquor Marts)

Then I was distracted by the whisky section and a helpful lass who shared tales of her adventures with craft distilleries in BC… which turned from various whiskies to other offerings…

Fort Richmond Liquor Mart

Followed by further digression to another sampling counter where I revisited the delightful Caorunn gin. Which lead in turn to an exploration of:

  • Dillon’s Unfiltered Gin 22 40% (Batch 18) from Ontario – remarkably nuanced with 22 botanicals weaving together to awaken your senses with a teasing perfume
  • Spain’s Gin Mare 42.7% with its Mediterranean flavours of olives, rosemary, thyme, basil and mandarin is bolder and shouts out to be transformed into a wicked martini

Dillon's + Gin Mare

Apparently my father’s quest to obtain Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye was remembered! “Hey you are the one that lives in India and writes about whisky, aren’t you?”

Rather than hoard bottles, when Northern Harvest Rye initially flew off the shelves after Jim Murray catapulted it to his global top spot, Canadian liquor stores were re-stocked with the remaining 200 cases at the same price… with free samples being generously shared so the public could enjoy. How utterly Canadian, eh?

While we were decidedly delayed in completing our simple shopping list, what fun to while away some time with friendly knowledgable staff while sampling a few interesting wares not readily accessible in Mumbai!

Any local liquor store that you enjoy visiting?

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Sometimes you need a treat! Zacapa 23 rum 40%

Our Whisky Ladies in Mumbai are a merry lot and so if one of our members has a birthday, that naturally demands a small celebration… and cake… chocolate of course!

While our host made from scratch this luscious number… adorned with flowers for a fanciful flourish.

2016-05-17 Birthday Cake

Our birthday lass decided we needed a treat…Zacapa 23 Sistema Solera.

2016-05-17 Zacapa 23 rum

Now there are rums and then there are rums!

From Guatemala, it is called ‘solera’ for the system used to blend the rum. No simple affair here, it is matured in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks… Unlike whisky where the age depicted is the youngest found, for rum it is the oldest. Hence Zacapa 23 does indeed contain SOME 23 year old rum, however is known to be a range from 6 to 23 year.

Here’s what they say about the Zacapa 23:

  • Keynote – Wonderfully intricate with honeyed butterscotch, spiced oak and raisined fruit, showcasing the complexity of the sistema solera ageing process.
  • Appearance – Light mahogany, with the tones of long barrel ageing at the rim and long, slow legs clinging to the glass.
  • Nose – A soft start which develops complexity in the glass; sweet aromas of caramel, vanilla, cacao and butterscotch, combining with layers of flavour indicative of the different barrels in the solera process; sherried notes of caramelised, roasted brazil nuts and toasted hazelnut, and the characteristic rounded toffeed banana and dried pineapple of ex-American whiskey casks.
  • Palate – Wonderfully complex, generous and full-bodied, with a sweet honeyed viscosity atypical of an aged spirit; a great depth of raisined fruit and apricot preserves, building to an intense heart of savoury oak, nutmeg, leather and tobacco with notes of coffee and delicately sweet vanilla, balanced with a spicy touch of cinnamon and ginger on the pleasantly astringent finish; truly a rum for the discerning palate.

We didn’t even pretend to make tasting notes, simply enjoyed its sweet chocolatey, slightly smoky molasses nutty delights.

Here’s what else we sampled that evening Whisky Ladies Like Labels:

Related posts Beyond Whisky:

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Road trip anyone?

An exciting development with my Canadian trip is an opportunity to go on a whisky distillery tour.

After a year of writing about whisky many folks are surprised to learn that I’m a distillery tour ‘virgin’. Yup!


I received confirmation the tour is set up and they shared a wee list of ‘guidelines’… which sounded vaguely familiar to Inver House’s global marketing head Karen Walker’s fashion advice to Mumbai’s Whisky Ladies!

  • Close-toed shoes
  • No skirts
  • No large pieces of jewelry
  • Please bring your ID
  • No photos are allowed on the tour

As for where we are going?

Let’s just say I’m proud to share that my first tour will be in my home province of Manitoba, Canada… and delighted to be hopping in the car for a little road trip from Winnipeg…

Gimli (Photo: Clarina Taylor)

Gimli (Photo: Clarina Taylor)

Those who haven’t figured it out yet don’t know their whisk(e)y!

PS Photos all courtesy of a dear friend living in Gimli – Thanks Clarina!

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Unchartered Territory – Inchgower 13 year 46%

Next upon our evening of ‘Unchartered Territory‘, our host further eased up slightly from both peat and strength to introduce a new distillery – Inchgower.

The folks over at Diageo share that Inchgower was:

Moved and renamed, rescued and preserved, Inchgower became more than just a distillery for its founders and his loyal workers. It was an idea – a reaction to increasing land prices, and a commitment to Single Malt Scotch Whisky – and one of the only distilleries to inspire a poem.

As usual, we sampled blind then revealed the whisky…

Inchgower 13 yearInchgower 13 year 46% (Gordon & MacPhail)

  • Nose – Think canvas and paint, smoky perfume, chemistry lab, Parle biscuit, plastic
  • Palate – Soft and smooth, light spice, mellow, very nice, very likable with a good heart, sweet spices, something challenging to define but quite lovely
  • Finish – Short finish but engaging
  • Water – Not needed

What a treat! It was unfamiliar yet friendly. One of those whiskies that has enough going on to be interesting yet still be quite amiable.

And the reveal? A whisky none of us had sampled before and, no surprise, another excellent offering from Gordon & MacPhail. Matured in sherry hogshead, the bottle notes share describe it as:

The whisky has delicate Sherry influence with fresh pineapple and peach aromas. The palate is mouth warming with ripe banana and orange flavours. The finish is creamy with a milk chocolate edge.

For our host, it was unchartered territory to reverse the standard adage of lower strength to higher strength whisky… or begin with a whisky with lower peat levels then build up.

His logic was that he anticipated the Inchgower to be quite unique and wanted to leave the best for last. This was definitely a case of having the showstopper at the end!

So what was our conclusion by the end of the evening?

  • #1 most interesting
  • #3 most drinkable
  • #2 left behind

What were the whiskies we sampled in our ‘Unchartered Territory‘ evening?

  1. Island – Talisker 57′ North NAS 57%
  2. Islay – Laphroaig PX Cask NAS 48%
  3. Speyside – Inchgower 13 year 46% (G&MP)

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Unchartered Territory – Laphroaig PX 48%

Next upon our evening of ‘Unchartered Territory‘, our host eased up slightly from the peat and strength after the Talisker 57’ North 57%.

The Laphroaig PX Cask began its maturation in ex-bourbon barrels, then quarter casks before being finished in European oak Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry casks.

As usual, we sampled blind before revealing the whisky…

Laphroaig PX CaskLaphroaig PX Cask 48%

  • Nose – Peat, compost, cheese, very earthy, vegetal, some thought cheese sweet, that distinctive smell that comes from soaking clothes in lye soap, camphor, weeds in the river, black seaweed, fish tank, marshy but not salty, and a reminder that the peat is very much there
  • Palate – Spicy, bitter, quite mellow, subtle dry saunf? Quite musty, bitter with sweet, soft almost chocolatey
  • Finish – There with bitter sweet softness then stops
  • Water – Don’t… do yourself a favour and don’t even try

As we sampled, we found ourselves reaching for cucumbers – finding the whisky went well with the slightly bitter refreshing cucumber slices we keep on hand as a palate cleanser between whiskies.

And the reveal? Had the sense of it being closer to 43% than 48% and once we learned it was Laphroaig, it went ‘click’ as clearly part of the Laphroaig family.

Our host shared that he picked it up at the World of Whisky in London, largely motivated by it being a 200 anniversary…

Overall what did we think? Nothing wrong, yet nothing hugely right. Particularly after the Talisker, this one just did not stand out. It also surprised us as being a PX cask as we found few of the elements normally associated with the softer sweeter PX sherry PX cask matured whiskies.

I remember sampling it at Singapore duty free with the staff quite hopeful it would peak my interest, yet I resisted. Just as we found, my impression was that it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t outstandingly good either and certainly not exceptional enough to make the ‘cut’ for a precious purchase to bring back to Bombay.

What other whiskies did we sample in our ‘Unchartered Territory‘ evening?

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Unchartered Territory – Talisker 57° North 57%

Whisky sampling convention tends to lean towards starting a tasting evening with the softer, gentler whiskies and closing with the powerful peat monsters and higher strength or more mature whiskies. We’ve certainly played around with a few approaches and tend to more or less follow such an approach with more focus on a progression in flavour profile from more delicate and light whiskies to more forceful and robust whiskies rather than strictly age or strength.

For our May session, our host decided to go completely against such notions to explore ‘Unchartered Territory‘ with the boldest and strongest dram first, then ease up on the strength and profile as the evening progressed.

As usual, we sampled blind then revealed… and where did we begin?

Talisker 57' North

Talisker 57° North 57%

  • Nose – Peat, ocean spray, vanilla, sardines on saltines, dry hay, sweet barley, hint of sweet port wine
  • Palate – Almost overwhelming, strong, spicy, dry kopra, turmeric bitter dry on the palate, chilly spice, pungent, sukha mirchi, a bit oily
  • Finish – Warm burn, dry
  • Water – Demands a few drops, really works wot water once let it settled down brings out cinnamon or more dry kopra…  brings out a few more elements

Our reaction was “I’m awake now!!”

Overall found it quite challenging, a surprise, definitely not a whisky to be taken lightly. No warm fuzzy familiar dram here.

That said, the reveal was a surprise. It has been some time since we gave Talisker a chance and a change to try one at 57%.

The Talisker folks launched this whisky to celebrate Talisker being 57’ degree for latitude and attitude with strength made by the sea. In keeping with many recent releases, it has no age statement. Described on the bottle as a

“pure expression of Talisker from American Oak refill casks… Sweet to start, it explodes with smoke and volcanic pepper. Stunning with strong blue cheese such as Stilton.”

Here’s what others have to say about the Talisker 57° North:

What other whiskies did we sample in our ‘Unchartered Territory‘ evening?

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Lovely labels – Smoky Goat 40%

Initially described to me as Diageo’s answer to the fabulous Monkey Shoulder, Smoky Goat is part of Diageo’s Whiskey Union project to create “weird and wonderful whiskies.

The first two products are being tested in Germany and Austria are Smoky Goat, described as ‘smoky sweet,’ and Boxing Hares, a spirit drink made from Scotch whisky infused with hops.

They say the name Smoky Goat comes from the tough yet playful wild goats that roam Islay’s most rugged and remote lands.

Our Whisky Ladies host picked up the bottle in Vienna as part of an evening unabashedly celebrating “I like the label!” We were naturally all curious to see what it would reveal!

2016-05-17 Smoky Goat

  • Nose – Hello?! Did we just accidentally stumble into a campfire? Think of matches being struck in quick succession with the acrid sulfer edge. Once we pushed past this, found hints of caramel and sweet incense
  • Palate – Silence. I swear not a single comment or sensible observation other than it clearly not appealing. After being immersed in a bonfire, we expected something. Anything. Honestly don’t recall one specific comment.
  • Finish – A sting of bitter oak, not much else
  • Water – Mellowed it down to bring out a little sugar to top the smoke

One remarked “This whisky is like your mother is scolding you – behave or else you are going to get a spanking!”

We struggled with this one. Perhaps it is because it followed the delightful surprise of Australia’s Starward, but this one just didn’t strike a chord with us at all.

First off, this is no Monkey Shoulder! William Grant’s vatted malt of Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie is an example where the sum becomes more than its parts. It is a well balanced affordable whisky that hits all the ‘tick’ boxes for an enjoyable dram.

The other strange thing is that on the peat scale, it isn’t off the charts. It is simply that there’s not enough other good stuff going on beyond the campfire burn to  capture attention or even things out.

While a step ahead of the ashtray Smokehead’s Rock edition, it doesn’t come close to the remarkably balanced Compass Box Peat Monster or even spitting distance of the killer (in a good way) Bruichladdich Octomore.

In fairness, it is intended to be an experiment. And the great thing about pushing the boundaries is such innovation can lead to something truly remarkable. In this case? Nah… but heck, why not keep trying!

Here is what Whiskey Union folks have to say about Smoky Goat:

Smoky Goat is a Blended Scotch artfully combining Whisky of three styles; Sweet Grain, Highland Malt creating the body and character of the blend, and Islay whisky providing the Smoke.

Craig Wallace the man who made Smoky Goat had a passion to make the smokiest of blends yet unusually to balance this smoke with an irresistible sweetness. His passion paid off, as Smoky Goat was awarded the Best Whiskey Innovation 2015* and Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2016.

The flavour is sweet and soulful, full bodied with honey vanilla and toffee brought together in a BBQ smoky blend. Best served as “Goat on the rocks”, the ice slowly unleashing the smoky flavour.

You won’t find many reviews out there yet, mostly marketing spins, except Whisky.com’s Horst Lenin vlog – spot on.

Other whiskies sampled in our ‘I like the label!‘ session:

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