Whisky Lady – October 2017

Everyday Asia

October was the 1st month that I juggled a new full-time ‘regular’ job that immediately plunged me into a demanding yet incredibly interesting project. And yet, what is a Whisky Lady to do but keep up with tastings too!

Thankfully it was a ‘slow’ month with only the Whisky Ladies and Original club’s having full tasting sessions. To keep things interesting, there were also were a few minis sessions too!

Our Whisky Ladies celebrated Diwali in all our finery and accompanied the festivities with Asia focused whiskies:

Rye (Photo: Nikkhil Shirodkar)

Whereas our original club had a remarkable rye focused evening:

  • Cody Road Rye (Iowa)
  • Cascadia Rye (Português Port Barrels) 43.5% (Washington)
  • High West Whiskey Double Rye…

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“Super Nikka Whisky”

After spending time exploring the Nikka “From the Barrel” at our Whisky Ladies “Diwali Drams” evening, we compared it with a revival of an earlier incarnation of their standard “Super Nikka Whisky”.

What did our Whisky Ladies think?

Super Nikka Revival Whisky 43% (Limited Edition for Europe, 2015)

  • Nose – Candy floss, that Hallowe’en candy corn of brightly coloured kernels of yellow, orange and white tips, caramel nuttiness, a sweet almond paste, cola that has gone flat, then from somewhere an unlit charcoal, slightly musty, a hint of chocolate? A dash of pine?
  • Palate – Deceptively sweet, well rounded, light smoke to counter balance the sweet, was there a hint of sea salt too? Regardless of the different elements, they all merged together harmoniously
  • Finish – Lovely finish, cinnamon sweet though a bit abrupt – here then gone.
  • Water – Interestingly, this is the one we tried with water… it nicely reduces the sweetness, adds a dash of spice like a spice guava, making it overall even more enjoyable

And what do the folks over at Nikka have to say about Super Nikka?

One of Nikka’s classic brands, the Super Nikka was introduced to the market in 1962. Its luxuriant aroma, gentle hints of peat and scent of vanilla and chocolate are all in harmony, and its flavor is smooth, rounded and well-balanced.

Believe it or not, a fellow whisky aficionado in Mumbai has one of the original’s from the 1960s… I’m sensing we just may need to track down one of the ‘new’ avatars and do a comparison one of these days…

And the results of our “head to head”?

The Nikka Super Whisky was the most popular – for its sociable character in keeping with the mood of the evening. And yet there is no doubt the “From the Barrel” is a fine dram that demands attention.

And yes… I was caught blathering on about context being everything in choice… whisky preferences for me, at least, are highly mood, setting and company dependent. What I love in one context I may not care for in another and vis-a-versa. But that is another tale for another day…

The “Super Nikka” we sampled had recently been opened and tasted at our October 2017 Mumbai session, last seen on Master of Malt for $55 (sold out).

Whiskies sampled in our Diwali Drams evening included:

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Nikka’s “From the Barrel”

Last in the Whisky Ladies “Diwali Drams” evening was a “head to head” comparison between two Nikka blends – their cask strength “From the Barrel” and a revival of an earlier incarnation of their standard “Super Nikka Whisky”.

Most would know that Nikka, the company, uses “Nikka” as the brand name for their range of whisky blends which are either:

Both our whiskies fall into the “blend” category… What did our Whisky Ladies think?

Nikka From the Barrel 51.4%

  • Nose – Coconut, like sweet honey nectar, fruits like pears, a bit of acetone, then coriander (or cilantro or… there was a debate on the different varieties!). After a sip, the nose gained some oil and nuts, then shifted into marshmallow and candied nuts.
  • Palate – We found it was like melted caramel, dense and buttery like a maple butter tart, some sweet raisins too… quite thick on the palate
  • Finish – Last and last and lasts.

Some absolutely loved it! Appreciating how it is bursting with character, a complex drink, one where a little goes a long way.

Words like “Fabulous!” and “Mmmm” could be heard. The finish in particular was described as a “Fabulous, fantastic finish!” And exclaims of how well it could pair with certain food too.

And yet for some, this was almost too much… in its sweet aromas, its dense concentration of flavours and long finish.

What do the folks at Nikka have to say about “From the Barrel”?

This is a blend of multiple types of malt and grain that Nikka reserves. Nikka From the Barrel was created to deliver full flavors and richness of whisky “from barrels” which only blenders can sniff and taste. As the whisky contains so many characteristic components at a higher alcohol of 51.4%, it is essential to let the liquid “marriage” in used casks for 3-6 months for it to stabilize and harmonize. The concept of the unique short squared bottle is “a small lump of whisky”, which perfectly visualizes the rich and strong taste of the whisky inside.

PS – There may be added colour i.e. caramel.

So then how did it stack up against the “Super Nikka”? Read on soon….

The Nikka “From the Barrel” is a 50 cl bottle, sometimes found in duty free for around $50-75 and was opened during our session.

Whiskies sampled in our Diwali Drams evening included:

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“Happy Whiskies” Bhutan’s K5 vs Misty Peak

Next in the Whisky LadiesDiwali Drams” evening was a trip to a remarkable land – Bhutan where one of our intrepid whisky ladies recently traveled. She brought back for our sampling explorations two whisky blends – K5 and Misty Peaks.

We’ll admit it took a bit of time to re-calibrate our palates and expectations to blends of blends, watered down to 40%. However let’s be honest, we’ve all had our fair share of Indian blends and once we shifted gears from the Hakushu single malt to desi whiskies, found elements to commend.

K5 is is blended and bottled by Gelephu Distillery – part of the Bhutanese Army Welfare Project, of which some of the funds from sales go to help veterans of their armed services.

Here is what they have to say about Bhutan and the reason this blend is called “K5”:

The Kingdom of Bhutan is known for its peaceful, harmonious way of life. So it’s no surprise that these qualities – balance, beauty – are equally present in the nation’s preeminent whisky. Blended and bottled by hand in the foothills of the Himalayas, K5 Himalayan Whisky is a special blend created in honor of the coronation of the 5th King of Bhutan’s ascension to the throne. 

They go on to explain the blend uses:

  • 8 and 12 years old blended malt Scotch whiskies mixed with
  • Triple distilled grain spirits, made from the Bhutan’s organic rice and corn grains, then
  • Diluted with natural Himalayan virgin spring water

A few further details can be found on K5’s Spirit of Bhutan website.

And what did the ladies think?

K5 Himalayan Whisky 40%

  • Nose – 1st whiff came across as a bit sharp, then turned quite nondescript, if a tad too sweet… As we recalibrate expectations to a  A light dash of sherry sweet spice, some toffee
  • Palate – Caramelised sugar sweet syrup, perhaps the tiniest whiff of malt or peat?
  • Finish – Simply smooth

Overall we found it light, like an appetizer whisky… the kind that prompts a “happy face” reaction.

Compared with other Indian blends in a similar or higher price range, it had no harshness and instead a quite amiable quality. Talk turned to cocktails – those with a light touch on other flavours to allow K5 to skip along in harmony – or perhaps a whisky caprioska.

Don’t expect a high faluting fancy blend here, just something easy to quaff and approachable.

We then moved on to the next Bhutanese offering…

Like K5, Misty Peak is blended and bottled by Gelephu Distillery. Outside of Bhutan, Misty Peak can be tracked down in Singapore through Bhutan Premium Liquor. What do they say about it?

The Misty Peak Whisky was produced in the year 2015. This bottle was produced to reflect the pristine character of the timeless Majestic Mountains of Bhutan.

Misty Peak is made of selected blend of 8 years old and 12 years old blended Scotch malt whisky. It is then admixed in with a carefully selected Scotch grain whisky. Just like the K5, it is the infused with the natural spring Himalayan waters for that delicate finish. This blend gives the whisky its unique characteristics of different spices and hints of honey with light touch of pettiness that ends off with a sweet lingering bite to the palate.

And what did the Whisky Ladies find?

Misty Peak 40%

  • Nose – Caramel spice
  • Palate – Light oil and very watery
  • Finish – The best quality – a tingly spice finish, a bit bitter… almost like a light swish of mouthwash

Overall we found it went straight from nose to finish, the taste on the palate there but nondescript. And yet, we still thought it would stand up better in cocktails than K5.

As we compared the two, most began to veer towards preference to the K5 over the Misty Peak. And yet both were easy to drink, with no harshness, quite mild.

Talk turned to the “happiness quotient” found in Bhutan and how it was admirably expressed in both whiskies.

These whiskies were purchased in Bhutan and sampled from recently opened bottles in October 2017, Mumbai.

Whiskies sampled in our Diwali Drams evening included:

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Diwali Drams – Hakushu NAS 43%

First up in the Whisky LadiesDiwali Drams” evening was the once elusive Hakushu… part of Suntory’s trio of distilleries:

Of the Suntory stable of whiskies, the Hakushu 18 year was an early favourite of mine… however as the price tag rose and availability plummeted, my attentions wandered in other directions. Since then Hakushu launched this NAS and one can sometimes also find the Hakushu 12 year – including at another Diwali party in Mumbai!

But on to the Whisky Ladies experience…

Hakushu NAS 40% – Distiller’s Reserve

  • Nose – Apples, pears, peach schnapps, honey, very refreshing with a ‘happy whisky’ character, settled into a delicious apple sauce, then basil, then shifted to caramel apple
  • Palate – Light peat, fennel and aniseed, again that cooked apple with a dash of cinnamon, toasted pine nuts, light tingle of citrus orange peel. Interestingly, all the fresh green fruits dancing on the nose initially could not be discerned on the palate… as it opened up further, the green apple just kept returning, with a hint of green tea
  • Finish – Light yet long finish, with a peak of pepper becoming sweetly spicy at the end

To be honest, there was a mix of responses… Some found it eminently drinkable but a bit “flat”… Some enjoyed the apple and light peat whereas for others… Let’s just say that they remained a bit indifferent. 

However, even those who were initially not terribly impressed, found that as they kept sipping, it somehow subtly wooed one over, one sip at a time.

Overall we concluded it has a nice interplay between hint of peat, lovely freshness on the nose and very light on the palate. Nothing to challenge you, but nothing to distress you either. Quite the opposite, it is quite a decent dram if you set aside any expectations in line with its exquisite age-statement avatars of old.

Those who are curious to compare tasting experiences, another Mumbai tasting group sampled the Hakushu NAS 43% in January 2017 as the start of an “East to West” themed evening.

This whisky was purchased from Frankfurt airport for around £45, tasted from a closed bottle in October 2017, Mumbai.

Whiskies sampled in our Diwali Drams evening included:

PS – By the end of the evening a Yamazaki also entered the fray… so in truth, we had three sets of “competitions” going… with a tremendous range of preferences – as it should be!

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Whisky Ladies Diwali Drams from Japan + Bhutan

Gathering bedecked in their colourful finery, the Whisky Ladies came together to enjoy some interesting Diwali Drams… specifically from Japan and Bhutan.

And while we didn’t gamble at cards, we did pit together different whiskies to see which prevailed!

What all did we sample as part of our Diwali celebrations?

Whisky Ladies Drams (Photo: Nikoulina Berg)

Just click on the whisky links above to read more about what we discovered…

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A Salty Peaty Persuasion – Wemyss Peat Chimney 12 year 40%

First up in our mini malts session was a blend from Wemyss.

While I’ve seen all sorts of compelling reviews on whiskies from the independent bottler Wemyss, this was my first foray into their offerings. It was a complete impulse buy in London at The Whisky Exchange, and one I do not regret.

Wemyss Peat Chimney 12 year 40%

Wemyss Peat Chimney 12 yearHere’s what we found:

  • Nose – Such a briney peat greeted us. dry with vanilla, salty with a decidedly maritime twist, seaweed, salty caramel, light chocolate.
  • Palate – Mild, organic mulchy peat, great starter whisky with such an easy to sip kind of peat
  • Finish – Warm peat, seaweed salt, sea mist

Overall, it was one of the saltiest peat whisky I’ve tried. We joked that it was like standing on a wind swept cliff in Scotland, breathing in the salty maritime sea air.

What was interesting was we returned back after some time and the peaty salt had shifted to such sweetness with burnt caramel.

It is reputed to be a vatting of 16 different whiskies with a “hefty slug” of 12 year old Islay malt.

Here’s what the Wemyss folks have to say:

Peat Chimney uses an Islay signature malt to give top notes of sweet smoke, salt and peat.

We sampled from a closed miniature in October 2017… a full bottle would set you back around $60.

And what else did we sample in our merry mini malts evening?

  • Big Peat 46% (Douglas Laing)
  • Longrow 46%
  • BenRiach Quarter Cask 46%
  • Ledaig 10 year 46.3%

And here’s more malt miniatures from my The Whisky Exchange:

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Whisky sampling vs drinking

“Are you tasting whisky every day??” or “You must drink A LOT of whisky!!!”

Yes… that’s what I hear when folks learn I enjoy exploring whiskies. Or see my regular posts.

With the implication that my drinking must be high in quantity, frequency and perhaps even to excess.

And yet, here is the thing.

Believe it or not, I do quite the opposite.

A little goes a long way. I’ve been known in social occasions to skip the alcohol on offer as it simply didn’t appeal…

And that makes some people uncomfortable.

Because there is a quiet little secret in social circles and the alcohol industry… alcoholism. There. I’ve said it out loud.

Tasting whisky in moderation is quite different than regularly drinking too much.

There is a very good reason I openly shared my Whisky Live Survival Guide mantra of “sniff, swish, savour and spit.” If it was changed to “sniff, swish, savour and swallow” I would have been waving and weaving my way through the stalls, missing the best stuff and paying the price the next day. Not my thing and definitely not worth it.

And while my posts may be relatively frequent, the reality is they are typically based on around 2-3 tasting sessions a month where we sample 3-5 whiskies, sometimes supplemented with a minis evening or a one-off tasting.

And when we have a tasting session, it tends to be smaller pours, in a structured setting, where sampling can stretch over a few hours… liberally offset with water and food.

That’s it. Really. Generally you won’t find me sipping a whisky otherwise.

I think it’s terrific if you enjoy a dram or two! And even more so if you are as passionate as I am about exploring the world of whisky… Just please be kind to yourself and those around you – drink responsibly.

‘Nuff said.

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

Brush with Bourbon – Elmer T Lee 45%

Last in our trio of bourbon’s at 1602 Dundas was a dram from Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky who produce Blanton’s, W. L. Weller, E. H. Taylor and Buffalo Trace among others. Elmer T Lee is named after their Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon 45%

Image: LCBO

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Sweet mash, fruity cinnamon spice, over ripe fruits
  • Palate – Grape, raisins, bitter dry oaky, spicy
  • Finish – Slow bitter finish

Elmer T Lee has the clear and unmistakable stamp of Kentucky Bourbon character – lots of fruit, spice, bold and impossible to ignore.

While we split a 30 ml shot, a 750 ml bottle can be purchased at a Toronto LCBO for CND 54.95. Here what they have to say…

LCBO’s Tasting & Serving Notes

Complex and addictive. Scents of cinnamon, hazelnuts, and dried fruit precede big flavors: cinnamon spice, raisinated and plummy, like Madeira or Sherry. Long finish, with a bit of a bite. Score – 97. (Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast, Sept. 2010).

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

Other forays into American whiskies from Buffalo Trace:

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Brush with Bourbon – Basil Hayden’s 40%

Next in our brush with Bourbon informal flight at 1602 Dundas was a bourbon from the Jim Beam stable – part of their small batch bourbons such as Knob Creek. Styled after the mash created by its namesake Basil Hayden, it uses double the rye of a standard Kentucky bourbons.

Image: Beam Suntory

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon 40%

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Resin, herbal, oats, cereals, sweet, honey, woody, treacle
  • Palate – Initial ‘yeowch’, then acclimatized to it, revealing some spices
  • Finish – There but..

What is fabulous about the world of whisky is the range of styles – something for everyone! However I’ve learned that my palate preferences veer away from both bourbon and rye… Which meant this whisky had a double strike against it as it both is very clearly a bourbon with a higher rye quotient.

What I enjoyed most was the nose – I could keep sniffing it and finding more elements. For me, the kick would be a brilliant dimension in certain cocktails – one where the interesting elements in the nose are given full room to shine with the rye spiciness and character on the palate punching up the drink.

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

The recipe for this classic Bourbon dates back to 1796. Amber in colour; on the nose are notes of dried apricot, caramel, custard, green peppercorn and hay; on the palate it is medium-bodied and warming, with flavours of white pepper, burnt sugar, dried white flowers and vanilla that finishes with a lingering herbal spice.

This bottle was released in February 26, 2015, made in Kentucky, USA by Beam Global Spirits and Wines with a style described as medium & spicy.

While we split a 30 ml shot, it can be purchased at Toronto LCBO for CND $53.95.

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

Other forays into American whiskies from the Beam Suntory family:

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