Whisky Lady – December 2017

Everyday Asia

December brought yet another a trip to Germany with much merriment and mischief for this  Whisky Lady on my return!

All three groups had an opportunity to meet…

Normally our original group does not meet in December. However I used my powers of persuasion to pull together an ‘off the books’ evening to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. Our “O Canada” evening included:

Our Whisky Ladies embraced the season with an Après-ski theme featuring:

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Swiss Whisky – Langatun Old Bear (2010/2016) 62.8%

Our adventures in whiskies continued… with our first whisky from Switzerland.

Langatun distillery is located in Langenthal and while new to us is definitely not a new kid on the block… It can trace its lineage to 1857 when Jakob Baumberger founded a distillery on his father’s farm. Their granary harkens back to 1616. And they are no stranger to peat, playing around with its use for over a hundred years.

But what about the whisky??

Langatun Old Bear Cask Proof (May 2010/Feb 2016) 62.8% Peated Single Malt, Cask Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Non-coloured, Lot No L0116

  • Nose – Apricot, plum, sweet, wood smoke, quite Christmassy, plum cake (one even described as edible rotten fruit)
  • Palate – Complex… finally a truly complex dram! Layers upon layers upon layers, coating the palate beautifully with rich balance, lots of sweet spices of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, quite dry, caramel, treacle…. Yum!
  • Finish – Fabulous! Dark chocolate with cherry fruit, wonderful sweet spices settling on clove

Just as the Box Dalvve was a summer dram, the Langatun was clearly a winter whisky.

Here is what the folks in Switzerland have to say about their malt:

The “Old Bear” is a homage to Jakob Baumberger, who founded a distillery on his father’s farm in 1857, and who also took over a small brewery in 1860 in Langatun. The company logo of the brewery was in the coming decades the bear, the “Old Bear”.

The “Old Bear” is prepared in the same way as the “Old Deer”, but with slightly smoked barley malt, therefore the additional name «Smoky». Incense is carried out as in the case of meat or fish: during the drying of the germinated barley, the drying air smoke is added, the aromas of which are deposited on the barley malt and reach the finished product through the further processing steps. 

The “Old Bear” is stored in oak barrels, where Châteauneuf-du-Pape was previously cultivated, a very strong deep red wine. Its traces can be found in the “Old Bear”: an intense red-brown color, in the nose beautiful notes of wood and smoke, in the taste a typical malt component and in the finish subtle smoky flavor with a slightly vinous undertone.

Back in 2013, Jim Murray gave this whisky a remarkable 96 points for the 2008/2012 Lot No1201 described only as “Whisky for the gods…”

Stuart P over at Master of Malt has this to say for tasting notes:

  • Nose: Herbal and pine-cone freshness leaps from the glass, then richer aromas of vanilla custard and stewed red berries.
  • Palate: More custard notes on the palate, subtle smoke and black pepper, along with stewed fruit, cake spices and toasty oak.
  • Finish: Burnt sugar and cinnamon, with a hint of red berries.

Purchased at The Whisky Exchange for £69.55 and sampled from an unopened bottle in December 2017.

What else did we sample in our Après-ski evening:

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Swedish Whisky – Box Whisky Dálvve 46%

Yet again we have returned to Sweden, compliments of our Swedish Whisky Lady’s summer trip to the land of her birth.

She brought this Box Whisky with her… carefully kept aside for just this occasion! A special Après-ski evening with whiskies from France, Switzerland and Austria.

Box Whisky Dálvve 46%

  • Nose – One coined the phrase “It is Scandi floss!” for it light sweet candy floss like aroma, then behind the sweet peaked some peat, overall impression is fresh, minimalist, with some citrus grapefruit, cedar wood
  • Palate – Not complicated yet exceedingly enjoyable, in keeping with the aromas – minimalist, peat and lightly sweet
  • Finish – Starts off slightly bitter then warms up in a lovely way

This was definitely a ‘thumbs up’ dram with exclamations like “Sweden rocks!” and “Mmmmm… really rather nice.”

We found it very drinkable, one of those happy to be home whiskies that can work even in Mumbai’s warm weather. A bright summer dram.

Here’s what the folks over at The Whisky Exchange have to say:

Dálvve is a medium-peated whisky that has been aged for around five years in first-fill bourbon casks. This is a sweet and smoky whisky with notes of vanilla.

Here’s what else we sampled that evening:

It was purchased in Sweden in August 2017 and opened from a closed bottle in December 2017.

Curious to try more Nordic whiskies? Check out the European whisky section with  Swedish whiskies:

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French Whisky? Michel Couvreur Special Vatting Malt Whisky 45%

Is this whisky Scottish? French? Belgian? Spanish???

Michel Couvreur is Belgium. He and his team do not make whisky. Instead they buy “clearach” (a high proof distillate) from Scottish distilleries, import it to Bouze-les-Beaune, Burgandy, France where they are matured in small sherry casks (Pedro Ximenez and Palomino) from the Andalusia region of Spain, that have been “impregnated” with 25 years aging via traditional soleras.

The result? A most peculiar dram indeed…

First off, before we get to the tasting notes, you see that red wax cover? It took us considerable effort to chip away to remove… to discover a cork that required a corkscrew to pop out… like a bottle of wine.

Michel Couvreur Special Vatting Malt Whisky 45% (Bottle No 0941)

  • Nose – It was like peat and red wine collided, the tight red berries, spicy, then the aromas practically vanished to return quite sweet almost sugary
  • Palate – Plum, very sweet, a spice hit then mellows, black cherries, luscious taking on a very sweet quality
  • Finish – Dry, bitter, spice

We gave it some time to see if the character shifted… to find it settled into a super sweet yet light on the nose and a slightly odd quality on the palate. It was frankly a confusing whisky, one to have a conversation and pause with… shifting from being like red wine to white wine. Many couldn’t make up their mind whether they actually liked it… however the general consensus was we didn’t dislike it.

Described as being made by blending 3 peaty single malts from Scotland, “raised up” with sherry oak cask and then bottled in French Burgandian caves. For us, the peat was only there at the very start and then practically disappeared.

This whisky was picked up by one of our Whisky Ladies during her many globe trotting jaunts and opened in December 2017.

What all did we sample in our Après-ski:

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Whisky Ladies Après-ski

With December, one often thinks of winter, skiing, coming in stomping off the snow, peeling off toque, scarf, mittens and many layers, settling down in front of a roaring fire to enjoy a drink, food, great company… all the while making merry.

Our Whisky Ladies decided to embrace a decidedly northern theme of “Aprèsski” with European whiskies where one can also enjoy winter sports, even though it remains a balmy 27’c in Mumbai.

We began our evening with mulled wine made by our Swedish host and lebkuchen smuggled in from a recent trip to Germany… then quickly shifted gears to a rather remarkable line-up with a few whiskies anchoring the session with full pours and a couple of small shared samples picked up by a Whisky Lady while backpacking around Austria!

Here is what we tried:

*While matured in France using European barrels, strictly speaking the new make spirit is from Scotland… with the  most annoyingly difficult wax on the cork which required a ‘proper’ corkscrew to pop open. How peculiar! As is the whisky too…

As for the others, just click on the links and read what we thought!

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BMC’s Bourbon – Jefferson’s, St George, Blanton’s, Stagg

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar (BMC) gents are definitely going beyond the borders of Scottish Single Malts… the latest in this flirting with other drams was an evening devoted to bourbon… with an American single malt whiskey thrown in for good measure!

So what did we sample?

You can also find more North American whiskies in the “US & Canada” page!

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“O Canada!” 150 years Whisky Celebration

Most folks know I’m Canadian… though I’ve called India home for more than a decade.

And with Canada celebrating its 150th anniversary, it seemed fitting to have an evening devoted purely to Canadian whiskies…. before it was the  end of 2017!

What made the final cut are two whiskies I’d tried before and two which were completely new to me!

Followed by a wee nip of Barrel of Sunshine Liqueur 30%, courtesy of our friend’s at Shelter Point.

So there we were, middle of December, Christmas lights twinkling, glasses clinking and merriment all around.

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Peat Unusual – Ailsa Bay 48.9%

1st up in our Peat Unusual session was Ailsa Bay…

This Lowlands distillery is part of the Girvain complex, owned by William Grant & Sons. Most of the output makes its way to blends however there was a recognition that a single malt expression should also make it to market.

What did our cigar chomping gents think?

Ailsa Bay 48.9%

  • Nose – Sweet and peat, raw bacon, honey cured ham, black pepper then cinnamon spice, smoked paprika, very sweet
  • Palate – Nice light spice, dry oaky candy, acrid smoke
  • Finish – Long bitter then turns sweet…. long
  • Water? Sweet toffee, butterscotch, no bacon and almost syrupy, even more sweet on the palate, still a bitter long finish

We set it aside to revisit… much more enjoyable however still more on the sweet side, not much variety, could even be described as ‘linear’ with a wintry quality.

Overall we thought not a bad start but not one we would run out to grab another bottle immediately.

So  what do we know?

Alisa Bay is purported to find balance between sweet and peat… which they strictly adhere  to 21 PPM for the peat then also measure the ‘sweet’ side too with their SPPM – at a level of 11 SPPM. They also use a ‘micro maturation’ process with the new make spirit filled into Hudson Baby Bourbon casks (25-100 Litres vs standard barrels with unto 200 Litres) for 6-9 months for an ‘intense rapid maturation’ then transferred to a mix of virgin and 1st fill American oak casks.

And Alisa Bay’s  tasting notes?

  • Nose: FRESH WOOD SMOKE WITH NOTES OF SMOULDERING DAMP HEATHER AND AN EXTINGUISHED BONFIRE. FOLLOWING THE SMOKE IS A WAVE OF OAKY SWEETNESS AND HOT BUTTERED TOAST WITH AN INTRIGUING HINT OF CARAMELISED APPLE.
  • Taste: AN IMMEDIATE PUNCH OF PEAT IS QUICKLY BALANCED BY A BURST OF VANILLA OAKINESS. THE FLAVOUR MEANDERS BETWEEN SMOKE, FRUIT, CREAMY TOFFEE AND BACK AGAIN. WITH EVERY SIP THE COMPLEXITY OF THE WHISKY DEEPENS AS LAYER UPON LAYER OF FLAVOUR IS REVEALED.
  • Finish: AN INTRIGUING BALANCE OF OAKY SWEETNESS AND PEATY DRYNESS.

Would we agree? Mostly… however complex? Not what we found.

While I can’t definitively confirm, I suspect this particular bottle made its way to us via The Whisky Exchange where it can be purchased for approx £55.55.

Our “peat unusual” whiskies….

  • Ledaig “Very Cloudy” Vintage 2008 40% (Signatory)
  • Loch Lomond Peated 46%
  • BenRiach 25 year “Authenticus” Peated 46%

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BMC Peat Unusual – Alisa Bay, Ledaig “Very Cloudy”, Loch Lomond Peated, BenRiach 25 Peated

It is finally slipping into “winter” (by Indian standards), with the pollution smog haze rarely lifting, and somehow the weather and climatic conditions seem to be influencing whisky preferences… to peat. And no ordinary peat… an exploration of a few whiskies one would not normally have on the top peat picks list from regions not immediately associated with peat. Because why should our familiar friends over in Islay corner the market when other options exist?

As this was a BMC session, we had no pretence of hiding the bottles… instead merrily dove in to our discoveries eyes wide-open!

Our “peat unusual” whiskies….

Our host shared that it began with the BenRiach 25 year peated… and morphed from there… each selected to be peat with a twist. For example, you don’t typically find BenRiach whiskies peated… Then it continued with Loch Lomond – again not normally peated. So why Ledaig you may ask? By their “nature” Ledaig is Tobermoray’s peaty whiskies. Yes indeed. However the “Very Cloudy” Vintage 2008 is known to have a lighter dusting of peat rather than full force peat. And Alisa Bay? Not only is it newer to market as a single malt, it breaks with typical Lowland convention to combine peat with sweet…

Read on over the coming days to see what we found…

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A’bunadh Batch #52 (2015) 60.5%

During our December sampling session, one of our fellow tasters brought along an Abelour A’bunadh. It is remarkable to  realize they are on to batches in the 50s… and soon to hit 60! I still have fond memories of their sherry bombs of the 20s…

But  on to this one… what did we think?

Abelour A’bunadh Aberlour A’bunadh Batch No 52 (NAS 2015) 60.5%

  • Nose – As expected – a complete sherry bomb, lots of chewy black cherries, Christmas cake, dark dried fruits, almost rum like
  • Taste – Christmas cake, a drizzle of caramel, warm and smooth, apply cider, raisins, prunes, robust and bursting with character, a little ginger, creamy and very berry Christmassy
  • Finish – Sweet spice with more of those dark cherries
  • Water – As always, opens up with a generous dollop of water

Worked for us and met every expectation for a Christmas sherry bomb dram!

And what about other Aberlour experiences?

And other drams sampled in our chilled out evening?

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