Whisky Ladies Choice – Treating the BMC Gentlemen…

Last year, the gentlemen from the Bombay Malt & Cigar club took it upon themselves to treat the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai to an evening of Irish whiskies and cigars.

This year, it was our turn to return the favour.

We debated a range of different approaches and finally decided on a theme of “Ladies Choice.” And what pray tell did that mean to us?

We wanted to share with the gentlemen some of the most memorable whiskies we sampled together as a tasting group. They may not be the world’s best whiskies but they would be our “Choice” – ones that stood out in some kind of way.

We went about it in a democratic manner and voted, tallied up the responses to create a “short-list”, then began the efforts to source these whiskies.

Our approach was a bit flexible, in some cases we knew it would be impossible to source the EXACT same whisky. What worked was finding something from the same distillery or similar category.

The whiskies were literally sourced from around the world involving travel, friends of friends and even last minute acquisitions…

What made it into our final “Ladies Choice” list?

JapanAkashi Red Blended Whisky 40%

  • In truth we had several Japanese whiskies in mind however the Akashi was accessible and a refreshing departure from the expensive exclusive impossible to find Japanese single malts, so figured why not!
  • It also made for a perfect ‘appetizer’ whisky to get the evening going…

Sweden – Mackmyra Vinterdröm 46.1%

  • The most enjoyable peaty Mackmyra Svensk Rok 46.1% captured our attention with its clean, minimalist yet smoky qualities.
  • So when our Swedish whisky lady went on the hunt over Christmas for something distinctly different from the distillery, this limited edition “Caribbean love affair” avatar was her pick!

IndiaPaul John Single Cask #1844 60.5%

  • The Paul John Select Cask Peated Batch 1 “OMG bacon!” made many Whisky Ladies swoon for more during our Paul John evening… we definitely wanted to include a Goan single malt, preferably a Select Cask or Single Cask…
  • Thankfully Michael from Paul John distilleries was able to oblige our interest – literally hand delivering this single cask a mere two days before our evening!

France – Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC 46%

  • Kornog’s whisky from Bretagne will forever be known in our group for the comment “How did you go from being a perfect gentlemen to getting my bra off like that?” (WL on Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46%)
  • Alas the Trived 10 BC was no longer available so we took a gamble on the newer Pempved 14 BC

TaiwanKavalan Solist Sherry Cask S090102020 57.1%

  • There was no doubt a Kavalan was going to make the cut…
  • By a very wide margin, the Solist Sherry Cask topped the charts with the most votes from all our Whisky Ladies tasting experiences. So… it simply HAD to be our ‘showstopper’ of the evening!

Somehow not one Scottish whisky made it into the list. Not a single one. It wasn’t deliberate. It was simply how the votes panned out.

But that says something about how the whisky world is going…

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Whisky Ladies “Not your ordinary North American” whiskey – Shelter Point, Westland + AD Laws

Our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai are no strangers to North American whiskey… we’ve had other evenings checking out offerings from both Canada and the US.

What distinguished this evening is that we eschewed big brands to opt for newer  players…ad-laws

What did we try?


Other American themed evenings:

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Whisky Live Singapore – Port Askaig

Our saunter through Whisky Live Singapore continues with Port Askaig.

Port Askaig is a project from Sukhinder Singh’s Specialty Drinks, owner of The Whisky Exchange with brands like Single Malts of Scotland and Elements of Islay.


Port Askaig 100 Proof 57.1%

  • Nose clearly Islay, sweet soft aromas with peat, a bit of fruit and spice on the palate
  • Islay refill bourbon cask, aged for approx 7 years with 50,000 bottles
  • PS This whisky won Malt Maniacs 2016 “Thumbs Up Award


Port Askaig 16 year 45.5%

  • Initial impression is of stewed fruits, then soft peat, sweet coconut, overall sense is of approachability – and with a splash of water even more so
  • Brings together a marriage of 80% ex-bourbon and 20% Oloroso Sherry casks


Port Askaig 19 year 50.4%

  • Lots going on with this whisky with peaty leather, sweet, smoky, yet some citrus too
  • I knew immediately this was one I wanted to more than just ‘speed date‘ – a quick impression was not sufficient to form a proper opinion
  • Which is why the Port Askaig came home to Mumbai with me to join a theme evening of ‘undisclosed distlleries


PS Those in the know would know that most know Port Askaig is actually Caol Ila…

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East to West – Clynelish 15 year 54% (Gordon + MacPhail)

Our journey from East to West finished in the ‘motherland’ of malt – Scotland.

However as we were sampling blind, we had no clue! We were still savouring the remarkable Puni Alba and remarking on how impressed we were with the Paul John Bold, when our host brought out a 4th whisky. Naughty man… we normally try to stick to three but… couldn’t resist!

Clynelish 15 year (2001/2016) 54% (G&MP)

Here is what we found:

  • clynelish-2001Nose – So rich! Bursting with sherry berry sweetness – such welcome aromas. Soaked rum and raisins, Christmas cake, promises body and age, slightly musty hints, more plum pudding, orange zest…
  • Palate – 1st sip? Puzzlement… while clearly high in alcohol strength, it had a very light body, bitter green wood, spicy, almost too dry, lots of HOT peppers that were a contrast with the clear sherry nose. As it opened up more, revealed chocolate and a hint of coffee beans
  • Finish – Hot chilli – the red ‘mirchi’ type
  • Water – A few drops brought out bitter gourd and the sherry sweetness became slightly bitter. Then it settled down and with a more generous dollop became a bit more balanced between the different elements

After tremendous promise on the nose, we were challenged by the palate. In part this may have been shifting from standard whisky strengths to cask strength and the sherry experimentation.The hot pepper and bitterness was such a contrast to the initial aroma which teased us into thinking we were in for a full rich traditional sherry dram.

As speculation commenced, there was a sense an effort to move in the direction of GlenDronach or Benromach yet operating with different variables – be it the new make spirit or casks.

And the reveal… Clynelish? Never would have guessed.

What a different kind of Clynelish – clearly no “micro-greens, perfume, delicate sweet spice” or “sun-dried flowers among the sand dunes.”

Which just goes to show the power of different cask maturation on a whisky – in this case Gordon & MacPhail brought together two sherry refill casks – No 307849 & 307850.

Here is what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say about this Clynelish:


  • Aroma – Rich Sherry aromas combine with green apple, kiwi, and orange followed by charred oak and subtle clove notes.
  • Taste – Sweet and spicy on the tongue with orange peel, green apple, and ripe banana flavours complemented by a chocolate praline edge.


  • Aroma – Soft vanilla notes mingle with water melon, plum, and cherry aromas. Which combine with toasted malt and cocoa powder notes.
  • Taste – Creamy and sweet with raspberry, banana, and orange flavours enhanced by charred oak and delicate peppermint influence.

For us, sherry is always a fine finish to an evening and while this one puzzled us a bit, it brought to a close a most satisfactory evening from East to West.

Other whiskies sampled in our East to West evening included:

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Italian whisky? Puni Alba Marsala + Islay 43% – Oh My!

The Whisky Ladies of Mumbai are well on the path of exploring European whiskies… having tried drams from Finland (Teerenpeli), Denmark (Danica), France (Kornog), Germany (Slyrs), Sweden (Mackmyra & Spirit of Hven)… all unique and different from standard Scottish fare.

Whereas our original tasting group, with five years of monthly merry malt sampling complete, have only scratched the surface when it comes to whiskies from Europe. In 2013 The Belgian Owl and Dutch All Rye made less than stellar appearances and in 2014, the Czech Hammer Head received a rather firm ‘thumbs down’.

We were due a tryst with European whiskies. Yet after the disappointing drams, anything offered had to 1st pass the ‘taste test’.

When given an ‘assignment’ to find something ‘different’ by our host for his January 2017 session, my 1st thought was Europe and the 2nd thought was that it simply had to be tried before buying – no leaving the experiment to chance!

Which is where my August 2016 trip to Singapore came in handy with an opportunity to ‘speed date’ a trio of Puni whiskies at – where else – La Maison du Whisky.

Even I wasn’t sure before trying. Italian whisky? Really?! When there is such marvellous Italian wine, it begs the question… whisky?

Our original group sampled this completely blind – having no clue what they were trying…

Puni Alba 3 year Batch #2 (2015) 43%


  • Nose – How unique – we needed to ‘tease’ out the different elements. At once sweet and sour, mild antiseptic, hint of tropical fruits, some nutmeg, coconut? There was something truly completely different about this one… sweet, dry yet teasingly
  • Palate – Wow! Starts off so smooth then there is a remarkable dry chilly that sneaks up from behind and ‘whoosh!’ envelops completely. One found cooked drumsticks, another lots of tannins, yet another found chocolate
  • Finish – An, unbelievably long finish and so surprising, it extends from the dry chilly to a long drawn out light cigar like finish
  • Water – Needed? No. Nice? Yes and remarkably did not dent the fabulous finish, simply enabled the mild peat quality to surface more

What a different whisky with its ability to have a deceptively soft ‘front’ then delicious spice that sneaks up from ‘behind’. Without a doubt, it had the most remarkable long finish of all whiskies sampled that evening.

As we speculated, it was very clear this was not Scottish and quite untraditional in its approach. The dry sweetness, soft smooth front then spice from behind, the shy peat that slowly unfurled, the exceptionally long finish… This was a whisky that didn’t neatly fit into clear categories.

Our host pulled out the bottle. Italy?

Putting it mildly, we were collectively ‘maha’ (greatly) impressed. From the design of the bottle to the quality of its contents.

Let us be very clear, Puni is out to change any pre-conceived notions that Italians aren’t up to the challenge of producing whisky! The Puni distillery began operations in 2012 and is located in the Italian alps, taking its name from the nearby Puni river. They use locally grown rye, pot stills and began with three core expressions:

  • Nova – American & European white oak casks
  • Alba – Marsala wine and Islay casks
  • Nero – Pinot nero casks

Here is what they have to say about their Alba:

ALBA – the Italian word for dawn, as well as the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland – is matured for three years in the finest Marsala casks from Sicilly and finished in handselected casks from the Isle of Islay. ALBA is a harmonious combination of the rich & fruity flavours of Italy and the distinctive smoky character of the Scottish island.

Flavour : dark fruit | peat | cloves

The interplay between maturation in Marsala casks and ex-Islay peated whisky casks shows such experimentation can bring about quite wonderful results!

Puni Italian Trio

Other whiskies sampled our East to West evening included:

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Paul John Bold 46% – Bold is back and even better!

After the Japanese Hakushu, our journey from East to West brought us to our own shores… India.

Our original Mumbai based tasting group is no stranger to Goa’s answer to world whisky – Paul John. We found promise in PJ’s Edited back in January 2015, then had a highly sociable evening exploring a Paul John whisky flight in March 2015.

Since then, I’ve sampled various bottles and batches – including with our Whisky Ladies –  yet not with our ‘original’ tasting group and our strict ‘blind tasting’ approach.

Til January 2017… When our host thought it was high time to bring out Bold Batch #4 (Sept 2016) 43%.

Here is what we found:

  • paul-john-boldNose – Immediate ‘Hello peat, how nice you could drop by!’ Think leather saddles or high quality soft leather shoes, wet rice, fermented barley, old wood, sweet soap, new rubber sole shoes, citrus spice and everything nice!
  • Palate – Honey spice and such a contrast to the nose. The bold peat aromas became a very soft, mild peat on the palate with a beautiful mouthfeel. There is a light spice that just settles in for an enjoyable evening… overall it is exceedingly smooth
  • Finish – A nice curl of spices
  • Water – Becomes sooooo sweet, the leather is still there but takes on a more luxurious quality, a hint of bacon peaks out (mmmm…. bacon!)

Overall this is the kind of whisky we enjoy. It seemed to be using good quality casks, and while peat was very much present, it was quite a different from a typical Islay ‘in your face’ or ‘retro smoke’ peat quality. Instead we found the peat much more rounded and smooth. In short it was a most enjoyable dram – one you could quite sociably sip with friends.

As we began to speculate, it was clearly not a traditional Islay… and our host dropped a hint that it received Jim Murray’s 2016 “Liquid Gold” rating of 95.5 (Batch #1). While we often do not agree with Mr Murray, in this case our delight in the dram was aligned.

And the reveal… Paul John Bold?!? Wow!

In short – Paul John Bold is just getting better and better! And mighty impressive – particularly for the price point and availability in India.

Just to put into perspective – Bold is available for only INR 2,800 (approx $40). These days we are hard pressed to find such an enjoyable whisky below $100 and that too – only outside of India – vying against a precious import ‘quota’ of 2 Litres per person.

We sampled Bold’s Batch #4 and while my Batch #1 is long gone… before draining its last drop, it had become a favourite “home dram.”

So bravo Paul John on the Bold front!

Other whiskies sampled that evening included:

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Has the Japanese whisky ‘bubble’ burst? Hakushu 43%

Once upon a time, the Hakushu 18 year was a favourite – an excellent example of exquisite balance with complexity and a touch of smoke to make it interesting. Then the price rose to ridiculous levels and availability went from challenging to near impossible.

With our original group, we taste blind, so our experience is influenced only by our reactions not any other element… hence we had no clue we were about to experience a Hakushu NAS avatar picked up in Japan.

Here is what we found:

  • hakushuNose – Quite vibrant, fresh, clean, light citrusy lemon, lots of perfumes, tropical fruits, very sweet… as it opened started to take on a musky quality, then quite woodsy – particularly pine – like walking through a temperate forest, coriander seeds… a bit mossy
  • Palate – As the 1st whisky of the evening, the initial sip was bitter, then became sugar sweet, light and dry, cereals, with a nice gentle spice, dry currents, slight resin, while it lacked body, it sat nicely mid palate
  • Finish – Short and sweet with a hint of nuts
  • Water – While not needed, helped open it up slightly to reveal dry coconut, and the slightly nutty element shifted to nutty biscuits

Overall we found this an exceedingly ‘friendly’ whisky, absolutely no harshness, very smooth. Light, uncomplicated, enjoyable in its way.

Speculation ran against it being Scottish and Japan was mentioned but it didn’t quite fit the profile of familiar offerings. We found it quite ‘youthful’ and possibly matured in white oak barrels.

And the reveal… Hakushu?!? Where was the light dancing peat? The complexity?

Conversations turned to aged Hakushu vs its current re-incarnation… disappointment over the NAS Chita vs the beautiful Chita 12 year, Yoichi‘s of yore not coming close to their NAS avatar

Has the Japanese whisky ‘bubble’ burst? Has the price surpassed quality? While still ‘well constructed’ where is the ‘soul’ that tipped the whisky from being ordinary to extraordinary?


Just to compare, what do the folks over at Suntory have to say about this Hakushu?

Fresh with citric notes.

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Nose – Peppermint, melon, cucumber
  • Palate – Yuzu, grapefruit, lemon thyme
  • Finish – Refreshing, subtle smoke

Can’t argue with most except the smoke… clearly it was too subtle for us!

Other whiskies sampled that evening include:

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East to West – Hakushu, PJ Bold, Puni Alba + Clynelish

I love the forethought and creativity that goes into some of our whisky tasting sessions…

Our January 2017 host’s theme was a journey from East to West… following a geographic progression from Japan to India to Italy and finally Scotland.


It was a fabulously curated collection that shifted in styles and threw in surprises too! Each was sampled completely blind before the reveal.

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Whisky Live Singapore – Old Pulteney

A highlight from 2016 was attending the Old Pulteney Masterclass at Whisky Live Singapore.

Andy Hannah, Global Brands Development Manager of International Beverages, took us on a journey… providing my 1st sip of their new make spirit and an opportunity to revisit the 12, 17 and 21 year side-by-side.


New make spirit 69%

  • Nose – Very organic, meaty, vegetative, light sulfur, walnut, leather, clean and robust
  • Palate – An initial sting, then rich, quite remarkable how fruity it was on the palate
  • Finish – Oily, lasts and lasts

Very forward, bursting with character.


Old Pulteney 12 year 40%

  • Nose – A suggestion of salt, sugared nuts, vegetative, returned to find a splash of sweet spices
  • Palate – Easy, light citrus, honey sweet, floral, smooth
  • Finish – Short, snappy finish

Andy called this their everyday “all round dram” – easy to see why with such an approachable whisky. He also noted that if you are in the US expect to find it at 43% vs the balance of the world bottled at 40%.

2016-11-13-old-pulteney-17Old Pulteney 17 year 46%

  • Nose – Delightful citrus, tropical, peaches, guava, toffee
  • Palate – Full and chewy style, more substance, soaked rains, lots of pears, More complexity, full mouth feel, more pronounced and intense, apricots, lots going on
  • Finish – Dry and spicy
  • Water – Can open up but don’t drown! (my personal preference is without water)

Andy described the 17 year as the “brother – forthright with lots to say” noting it is matured in oloroso sherry with a different style than the 12 or even 21 year Old Pulteney.

Old Pulteney 21 year 46% 

  • Nose – Soft, light, fresh fruits – particularly apple, pear, warm
  • Palate – Coats the tongue beautifully, creamy spice yet soft. Wonderful, elegant, creamy mouthfeel with a hint of smoke
  • Finish – Dry finish
  • Water – Again can add but… really… why mess with a good thing?

Andy described the 21 year as the “refined, elegant sister.” Some comments around the table noted that it is far too easy to drink and hence quite dangerous!

Andy also shared this was the 2012 Jim Murray Whisky Bible world whisky of the year, with the influence of sherry, yet in a different direction than the 17 year.


Discussion then turned to queries about the Lighthouse range – Dunnet HeadNoss Head, Duncansby Head. Andy shared while all are NAS, they typically are 8-10 years.

Then queries about what makes the 89 Vintage so special? Andy called it a “happy accident” as it was matured in a cask that previously held Islay whisky so there was a soft peat touch.

When asked if there are likely to be more single casks released – he confirmed quite likely as and when something interesting is found.

Overall it was a mighty fine way to experience Old Pulteney with their affable knowledgable global brand manager.

Old Pulteney

PS – I was fortunate to be a guest at Whisky Live Singapore, courtesy of InterBev

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Penderyn Madeira 46%

It has been several years since I sampled a Penderyn… We simply don’t often come across a Welsh whisky in Mumbai, India.

After deciding on a trio of miniatures – Glencadam 15Auchroisk and Glen Keith – my sampling companion pulled out an open bottle of Penderyn Madeira. Seemed a perfect chance to revisit!


Penderyn Madeira NAS 46%

What did we find?

  • Nose – Initially lots of wood varnish then tropical fruits – particularly bananas almost like the synthetic banana flavouring, demerara sugar, quite a sharp quality too
  • Palate – First quaff was a bit peculiar, old musty wooden cupboard, medicinal, forced wine… but then it began to mellow and shift into custard, granny candies,
  • Finish – First impression was quite tart then sweetened – cranberries shifting into vanilla flavouring

This was one of those whiskies that took some time to get used to… Our 1st  thought was “you can have a conversation about this whisky” but that didn’t necessarily translate into enthusiastic appreciation.

Yet at some point that shifted – about the time the nose took on a distinctive “banana cream pie” we found ourselves rather enjoying it. Funny how that happens sometimes…

For kicks, I pulled out my tasting notes from more than four years ago… sampled as a trio of Penderyn Sherrywood, Madeira, Peated

  • 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

As for the Pendryn official tasting notes? Here is what they have to say:

  • Nose – It has a classic freshness with aromas of cream toffee, rich fruit and raisins.
  • Palate… is crisp and finely rounded, with the sweetness to balance an appetising dryness.
  • Finish – Notes of tropical fruit, raisins and vanilla persist in the finish.

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