Whisky Lady – July 2017

Everyday Asia

July was supposed to be a slow month… During monsoon, things can grind nearly to a halt in Mumbai under a deluge of rain. And with only two clubs scheduled to meet, it seemed not much would be happening.

So a few friends and I decided to invite Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac to Mumbai. Which triggered going from a light month to become chock full of Whisky Lady tastings in Mumbai! Easily my busiest month this year – possibly ever…

It also just so happened to be the month, I celebrated Whisky Lady in India’s 500th post!! Woo hoo!!!

So join me in a synopsis of July 2017’s whisky adventures…

The Whisky Ladies Compass Box Quintet featured:

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Westland Trio – Peated, American Oak, Sherry Wood

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar club try to meet every month or two… however sometimes busy schedules get in the way and derail our best intentions.

For example, our February session was postponed to May (Undisclosed Distillery Drams). Our June session could only happen early July (Scotch Malt Whisky Society Quartet)… and  yet amazingly, we were able to hold our original July session as planned!

What was in store for us?

Our whisky and cigar curator for the evening put careful thought into our evening… tracking down a trio of Westland whiskies… carefully obscuring the bottles even the caps! All so we could have a fully blind tasting experience.

He also chose an order to deliberately trip us up a little:

Be patient for tasting notes as will catch-up in the coming weeks or so!

In the meantime, do check out our other brushes with Westland?

And his cigar pairing choice? A Gurkha Founder’s Reserve 12 year…

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Krishna Collection – Enjoying a few drams with a Malt Maniac

India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula is a rather fine fellow to dram with… So when we thought July would be a slow whisky month, a few of us decided it would be an absolutely brilliant idea to see if Krishna would be free for a short visit to Mumbai. Lucky us – he was!

And he didn’t come empty-handed… Nope. He brought along an assortment of miniatures that we had the pleasure of enjoying a wee nip… quick glimpses all concentrated in a brief but memorable one hour of discovery.

What did we sample?

Links to more detailed tasting notes are provided above. Some were truly quite an eye-opener, so be sure to check out what we discovered!

Other evenings with Krishna Nakula include:

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Speed Tasting Whisky

One fine monsoon weekend, a few folks decided to get together for a lighthearted whisky activity.

Keshav Prakash, of The Vault Fine Spirits, took complete charge and decided we would play a whisky game in 3 parts:

  1. Individual rating
  2. Discussion with comparisons and speculating
  3. Reveal and revisit

In front of us were 5 drams, pre-poured and covered. The rules were simple:

  • Label our rating sheets with our initials and corresponding whisky letter “A… B… C…” as per our table mat
  • Sample each whisky then rate out of 5 on its nose, palate, finish and overall character & complexity
  • Individual activity only – strictly no speaking, comparing impressions or ratings
  • 15 minutes only start to finish then pencils down! Just like in an exam…
  • Beyond that no rules – could get up and walk around, write down more than just the score, whatever worked to achieve a complete rating within the allotted time!

The clock started, the covers came off and the whisky speed dating began…

Part 1 – Speed tasting and rating 

Now… I must confess… I could not rate without documenting my impressions. Long ago I made a conscious decision to not numerically ‘rate’ whisky. So I have never ‘trained’ myself or had the ‘discipline’ of putting hard numbers next to the different elements.

So I pulled out my handy whisky tasting notebook and busily began to scribble random thoughts. That helped sharpen focus and give me enough to then make a split second assessment of each.

Part 2 – Comparing, discussing and guessing

The first question was – are all of these whiskies? Yes.

Then whether some were bourbon, most thought two were ryes… With our votes on which could possibly be which.

Talk turned to some of the different characters – one reminded of cognac cask matured whiskies. Another had peat. We took a stab at guessing some were not Scottish…

Then we shared our individual top rated dram with the overall “winner” the 4th whisky (D) as it had the most character with both sherry and peaty elements.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

Part 3 – Revealing…

This is where the real fun began… three were Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible winners, one was an Irish grain and the winner? A house blend made by accident more than design!

What a surprise and what a treat!

Click on the links above to ready my hastily scribbled notes compared with Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible or official tasting notes, where applicable.

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Dream Drams – Mortlach 1976, Lochside 1981, Mosstowie 1979, Aultmore 2007

There are tasting experiences that collectively push the bar to a completely different level.

On this particular monsoon evening in Mumbai with Malt Maniac’s Krishna Nakula, none were standard distillery drams. All but one would qualify as ‘adult‘ whiskies, representative of an older style… From Gordon & MacPhail‘s rare old collection  of closed distilleries to Signatory Vintage‘s mature cask strength set to a unique Master of Malt single cask series, these were no ordinary single malts.

These were the drams that dreams are made of… prompting a few of us wonder… are we truly worthy?

What did we sample?

You will simply need to be patient over the coming weeks as I catch up with all the marvellous malts enjoyed. Trust me… it will be worth the wait.

And a HUUUUGE thank you to our host, whisky contributors who made such an exceptional evening possible! You know who you are.

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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Peat Monster 46%

At last! Our final Whisky Ladies Compass Box Quintet whisky of the evening!

We started with Spice Tree Extravaganza, then the lightly peated Great King Street Experimental Batch, shifted gears completely to the blended grain Hedonism before being bowled over by the majestic Flaming Heart!

No easy feat to follow, Peat Monster boldly entered the fray!

Compass Box Peat Monster 46%

  • Nose “Did I just singe my eyelashes?” Punchy, pepper, much spicer than the Flaming Heart, malty sweet embers, coffee
  • Palate – Sweet, campfires burning, spicy yet not harsh, smoky, malty, lightly fruity
  • Finish – Smoky embers, cinnamon sweet spice
  • Water – This was the 1st dram of the night where a few drops of water really helped open it up, dampening the fires, bringing out a wider range in the spice elements, black liquorice, basil and more… a kaleidoscope of flavours to the back of the mouth and throat

After the gorgeous complexity of Flaming Heart, Peat Monster was a return to a dramatic dram that gets right to the point. Nothing fundamentally wrong with that – in fact at times that is exactly what you are in the mood for! No nonsense, this is what it is and enjoy!

For some, previous memories of Peat Monster was of a well-balanced, rich peaty dram that didn’t demand a single drop of water. Yet this one did. With a few drops transforming it, achieving the accessibility and drinkability we remembered. Interesting…

Here’s what the folks at Compass Box have to say:

You will find a spectrum of seaside and medicinal peatiness, along with kipper-like smokiness, all surrounding a core of fruity malt whisky character. THE PEAT MONSTER is a whisky for those who love intensity, flavour and freshness, balance and drinkability. A whisky for those who appreciate the blending of seemingly dissonant elements to create something sublime.

For the whisky geeks, I’ve included Compass Box’s info graphic, outlining the break-up between Laphroaig, Ledaig, Caol Ila, Ardmore with a 1% dash of Highland malt (Clynelish, Teaninich, Duilaine) with a warning that with each batch variation will occur.

Our Compass Box evening included:

Psst… this wasn’t my first brush with Peat Monster… you can read more about my earlier experience here.

This whisky was purchased by one of our Whisky Ladies and sampled from an unopened bottle in July 2017. It is also available in India through The Vault Fine Spirits.

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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Flaming Heart 48.9%

Our Whisky Ladies Compass Box evening moved on to Flaming Heart with a “smouldering, spicy, complex” profile from whisky aged in new French Oak blended with peaty Islay single malt.

What did the ladies find? In short – wow!

Compass Box Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary Limited Edition (July 2015) 48.9%

  • Nose – Greeted by sweet smoke, surprisingly light and fresh, candied peat, leafy, a bit dusty almost musty, black pepper and also green capsicum, intense without being too much so. As it aired more, revealed vanilla, sea salt and seaweed, mossy, gaining in richness and aromas, even a faintly metallic quality. As even more time passed, it revealed further dimensions from star anise to dried fruits and tight berries to an almost herbal quality…
  • Palate – Rich, very unique, oily, heavy, peppery cinnamon or perhaps even a red chilli dark chocolate, gorgeous rich fruits, bitter, toasty, later even leather joined the flavours, an exceedingly tasty dram with a marvellous rich mouthfeel
  • Finish – Woody, dry, fruit spice, feels like it doesn’t end…

One of our ladies nailed it “I’ve been transported!” For her it was straight to Scotland. For others, it was a walk along a beach with the spray and scent of seaweed. Or striding alone along a wind swept cliff. Or coming home to an old leather chair, settling in with a dusty library of beloved books.

This is a ‘weighty whisky’ of substance. A big whisky. With lots of smoke and gorgeous complexity. So much personality and character.

Talk turned to whether it could be described as “Wuthering Heights” like until another quipped “No… this is Game of Thrones” for its complexity, its depth and range… its different personalities… its distinct stages with Acts 1, 2 and 3. This whisky is the stuff of the Iron Islands, sex and dragons.

Here is what the folks over at Compass Box have to say about their 15th Anniversary edition:

First released in 2006, Flaming Heart was the first whisky to combine the rich, complex spice of Scotch aged in new French oak with the evocative peat-fired smoke of Islay malt. It created a genre-defying style that was smouldering, spicy, complex – and so popular that we’ve re-released it four more times in the years that followed.

A unique interplay between spice, sweet and smoke characteristics. Sweet fruits and wood-smoke on the nose. Fat and full-bodied on the palate with a spicy sweetness and a brooding complexity that is rich, sweet and addictively decadent.

And for the whisky geeks, here is their infographic on its composition:

Our Compass Box evening included:

This whisky was purchased at Le Clos at Dubai International Airport for AED 375 and sampled from an unopened bottle in July 2017. 

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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Hedonism 43%

At our Whisky Ladies Compass Box evening shifted gears completely… Having just sampled Spice Tree Extravaganza and the lightly peaty Great King Street Experimental Batch, we realized before launching into the decidedly peaty Flaming Heart and Peat Monster, it might be a good idea to recalibrate our palates with the unique Hedonism.

Compass Box Hedonism 43%

  • Nose – Exquisite! Subtle, nuanced, fresh oranges, exceedingly fresh and fragrant
  • Palate – Piña colada with that mix of coconut cream and pineapple, sweet light spice, silky smooth, vanilla custard
  • Finish – Starts with a great finish then “Oh you are gone, but was nice while it lasted!”

There was an immediate flashback to the Nikka Coffey Grain with its coconut, pinneapple, yet obviously a much more nuanced variant… for some it was absolutely delicious and for others, just not their style. Which seems to be the case with grain whiskies.

It was a complete departure from the earlier drams and an excellent example of the range of unique blends Compass Box produces.

Here’s what the folks at Compass Box have to say:

The inspiration behind our whisky HEDONISM is just that – pleasure, enjoyment, a celebration of that ideal marriage between distilled spirit and high quality oak maturation. The aromas and flavours hint of vanilla, caramel, a delicate fruitiness, accented by flashes of coconut in the finish. This is a whisky that will appeal to both the ardent whisky enthusiast and newcomers to whisky alike.

Our Compass Box evening included:

Psst… this wasn’t my first rodeo with Hedonism… you can read more about my earlier experiences here. I was delighted to sample a more recent incarnation.

This whisky was purchased by one of our Whisky Ladies and sampled from an open, nearly full bottle in July 2017.

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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Great King Street Experimental Batch 43%

Our Whisky Ladies Compass Box evening kicked off with Spice Tree Extravaganza followed by Great King Street – Experimental Batch. A few of us were familiar with the Artist’s Blend and Glasgow variants, yet all were new to this one…

Compass Box Great King Street Experimental Batch TR-06 (03 Sept 2013) 43% Bottle 1534 of 3815, 500 ml

  • Nose – Light smoke, very sweet, honey, vanilla custard, as it opened a hint of mosambi peel or its fragrant zest
  • Palate – Smooth, fabulous mouth feel, quite unctuous, not heavy, instead almost gentle yet full flavoured, delicately balanced between sweet, light spice and smoke with descriptions like “mouth-watering” and “lip smacking”
  • Finish – Spice and smoke curling and swirling about for a long time, closing with peppers and a faint almost bitter citrus peel

This was a terrific start to our evening, with a whisky that is quite accessible, one to sit, savour and enjoy, becoming sweeter and smoother with each sip.

We discussed how it falls between the flavour profile of Artist’s Blend and Glasgow Blend, veering more towards the Artist end of the spectrum. For one, the standard Artist’s Blend remains a favourite, for others this one simply hit its mark and was a lovely start to our Compass Box evening!

Here is what the Compass Box folks have to say about this whisky:

“Complex, smoky and aromatic with notes of seaweed, mint, salt spray and an underlying dried fruit sweetness.” 

This 500ml bottle was purchased at Le Clos at Dubai International Airport in June 2017 for AED 115, sampled from an unopened bottle in July 2017.

Our Compass Box evening included:

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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Spice Tree Extravaganza 46%

Our Whisky Ladies Compass Box evening kicked off with Spice Tree Extravaganza. Issued on the tenth anniversary of the original Spice Tree bottling being banned, the blend:

“draws its inspiration from The Spice Tree but reinterprets it through the use of older components and a significant portion of sherry-cask aged malt whisky. The Spice Tree’s trademark spice character is retained but set within a richer, more elegant frame with a new depth of flavour and complexity.”

And what did the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai think?

Compass Box Spice Tree Extravaganza 46% (Bottled Aug 2016)

  • Nose – Vanilla, sweet spices, rich and almost rum-like, very sweet, dried apricots, stewed spiced apple or an apple crumble with lots of cinnamon
  • Palate – Spiced cider or wine with cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cloves, with all the hallmarks of Thanksgiving – a little pumpkin pie, light roasted nuts, slightly bitter, yet also buttery too with a great mouthfeel
  • Finish – Nice long flavourful finish, chased by delicious spices

Initially harsh for some, however this was the 1st dram of the evening, and one we readily settled into. Once past the 1st sip, it had the most amazing warm spice burn that actually became more not less pronounced over time – remarkable!

We found it quite balanced for a ‘spicy’ whisky, with the most beautiful aromas… ‘festive’ in its character and one decidedly for a cooler evening. And yet, with all its sweet spices swirly about, it was much more autumn than Christmas in character – the sherry dimensions not overly pronounced, an accent not pushing to the fore… In keeping with a more mature sherry malt than brash young sherry bomb.

In short, it was a rather marvellous malt to commence our Compass Box explorations…

Here is what the Compass Box folks have to say about Extravaganza:

Decadent and playful on the nose, you will find notes of sherry wine, dark berries and the fragrant sweetness of traditional sweet shops.

On the palate there is juicy red fruit, a dark brown sugar richness, the trademark Spice Tree ginger and clove spice character and an endlessly long, spicy, substantial finish.

Recommendations This is an excessive, rich, dare we say extravagant whisky. The perfect drink with which to mark one of our more infamous anniversaries. Drink it any way you like – there are no rules that can’t be broken.

For more information, check out Compass Box’s info graphic on this whisky:

Our Compass Box evening included:

Psst… this wasn’t my first tryst with Compass Box’s Spice Tree… you can read more about my earlier experience here with its standard avatar.

This whisky was bought from Singapore Changi Airport Duty Free for SGD179 and sampled from an unopened bottle in July 2017.

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