Whisky Lady – February 2018

Time for the monthly round-up of malty adventures and more! February was a quieter month with just two whisky tasting sessions, providing an opportunity to share impressions from WhiskyLive Singapore.

Photo: Rashmi Dhawani

As the Whisky Ladies had joined the gents for a round of independent blends, we decided to have a completely random evening of “Contributor’s Choice” at the close of January:

This was followed by our original club being overwhelmed by the inventive packaging while being undwhelmed by the whisky:

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents are becoming rather regular in their sessions – no mean feat consider most members can be more easily be found loitering in London, Dubai, Munich, Singapore and various US and other airports. What did we explore? A Compass Box Quartet!

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What a remarkable trio! As I could not make it to the session, the samples reached home to enable us to compare our guest writer Nikkhil Shirodkar’s notes with the group with my independent impressions of our Kavalan Solist Cask Night:

I also kicked off the first batch of a series sharing fleeting impressions from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

Beyond the tasting group meetings, there was an impromptu gin evening with a few friends

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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Whisky Live with Stuart Harvey – AnCnoc 12, 18 and 24

At Whisky Live Singapore 2017, the AnCnoc booth was a welcome change… with someone who really knows what he is talking about!

Enter Stuart Harvey – master distiller and master blender for Inver House, Keeper of the Quaich and much more. We first met in Mumbai in July 2015 when he came to introduce then conduct a Master Class of BalblairOld Puteney and Speyburn.

At that time, AnCnoc was not part of their Indian line-up. Given its lighter, elegant Highland character, it is one of those whiskies where you can appreciate it needs to be available where a more nuanced profile is understood. For example, you would never want to shock an anCnoc with a bunch of ice and drown it with water. While not ideal, by contrast the Speyburn could hold up well even with such cavalier serving norms, thank you very much!

But I digress… on to the anCnoc… and fleeting impressions from a quick “speed tasting”…

anCnoc 12 year 40%

  • Nose – Light, bright, fruity and floral, drizzle of honey, sweet citrus sweet
  • Palate – Cereals, soft, subtle, gently complex
  • Finish – Fabulous light touch

The 12 year is a perfect sunny afternoon dram, exceedingly easy to drink. Matured in American oak with (did I get this right?) a Fino finish.

anCnoc 18 year 46%

  • Nose – Sherry sweet and spice, still fruity though now more dried fruit than juicy fresh fruit, floral, vanilla
  • Palate – Balanced, continuing with the fruity light pepper spice with a hint of citrus
  • Finish – Lovely warm spice
  • Water – Opens it up beautifully

A marriage of ex-Spanish sherry casks and American ex-bourbon, if the 12 year old is an afternoon dram, the 18 year slides into an early evening sipper.

anCnoc 24 year 46%

  • Nose – Intense character, shifting into Christmas cake territory, vanilla custard
  • Palate – Full force wood, warm spice
  • Finish – Take your time…

The 24 year is clearly a deeper, darker expression than the other two and well worth sampling. If the 18 year is an early evening companion, the 24 year is to pull out late when you just want a little that will go a long way… not rushing the experience.

I wouldn’t mind an opportunity to try it again properly instead of merely speed tasting!

Related experiences:

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Impromptu Gin Delights

So here we were… a couple of gal pals finding ourselves with a free evening. What to do? Why get together of course!

And what would accompany our merriment? Wine? Whisky? Or…. gin? Yes indeed we shifted to an impromptu  evening sampling and then settling down with a few gins…

We couldn’t decide which gin, so out came assorted bottles… and wee shot glasses to taste, compare and decide which would be our evening companion.

What all did was wander through?

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

Whobertus Dry Gin 43% – Munich, Germany

  • This gin was a discovery from Munich. And I LOVE it!
  • There is something so pure, almost delicate or tender about it, beautiful and silky smooth. There is no distracting dimensions, just delightful!
  • Fresh thyme, coriander, light sweet citrus, juniper
  • This is no peppery gin, there is straightforward but lovely quality
  • While generally sweet gin isn’t my thing, this has just the right touch of sweet
  • My favourite way to enjoy? Ice.. that’s it, nothing else required

Caorunn’s Gin 41.8% revisited – Balmenach Distillery, Speyside, Scotland

Most of us were no stranger to Caorunn gin…

  • Light sprightly and delightful, fresh like springtime
  • Perfect with a few cubes of ice, splash of tonic and topped with a slice of apple

Sipsmith’s London Dry 41.6% – London, UK

Equally, for many Sipsimith is a ‘go to’ gin for G&Ts

  • Heavier than the Caorunn, shifting seasons from spring to summertime!
  • Classic London Dry style with citrus, juniper with a hint of spice

The Botanist Gin 46%  – Bruichladdich Distillery, Islay, Scotland

Bruichladdich is a fav whisky distillery yet its gin sales have soared in recent years.

  • Multi-layered, multilevelled, there is a lot going on with The Botanist from floral aromas to a slightly spicy finish
  • Berries, barks, seeds and peels, this is no light gin however it is full of flavours just begging to be sipped and enjoyed

Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin 47% – Black Forest Distillers, Schwarzwald, Germany

Monkey 47 has recently entered the Indian market with launch parties and more! From Germany’s black forest, it is named for its 47 botanicals and strength of 47%.

  • Complex, an intense range of aromas and flavours
  • There is a lot going on – more wood, spice and more than some of the other gins sampled, bursting with robust character
  • Those that reached for the Monkey 47 also tended towards tonic with either a slice of apple or twist of citrus

Siegfried Rheinland Dry Gin 41% -Rheinland Distillers, Germany

  • Lots of pink peppercorns – almost too much…
  • There is some ‘oomph’ here – bold juniper, light spice, ginger, bitter orange
  • It is also a bit bitter and while it can be had neat, we found the best to have is with lots of ice and a splash of tonic, with a citrus twist!
  • If I was to be honest, the Whobertus is just such a class act that having the Siegried next required a real switch in expectations

Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin 45.7% – Kyoto Distillery, Kyoto, Japan

Distinctly different, Ki No Bi is made from rice spirit with botanicals from Japan like yellow yuzu, hinoki, sangho pepper, bamboo leaf, gykouro tea.

  • We found it had more pepper and kick than some of the others, a strong ginger, pronounced citrus
  • The tea adds a different dimension as well
  • We found it worked best with tonic water and ice with a twist of lemon

It was a refreshing departure from our usual structured whisky tasting evenings. The range of botanicals used, profiles and personal preferences made the discussions animated and most enjoyable.

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Orkney Island’s God of Thunder “Thor” 16 year 52.1%

The last in our evenings explorations was actually the start of Highland Park’s Valhalla series with Thor, God of Thunder. Cue visions of Vikings, the sound of swords and shields clashing, wind whipping through wild hair as a longship gathers speed with crashing waves.  In keeping with the theme, it is packaged in a wooden frame styled after the prow of a viking longboat.

And the crazy thing? Clearly the Valhalla quartet (Thor, Loki, Freya, Odin) captured some collectors imagination. The Thor alone has auctioned for £490!

None of this we knew before we tried it, sampling blind to see what we thought of the whisky irrespective of origins.

Highland Park Thor 16 year 52.1%

  • Nose – Initially sharp, soap, then roasted pineapple, black liquorice, not so many layers yet something unique, teasingly uncommon, fruit, floral, talcum powder, one even suggest fahrenheit perfume! Then shifted into green pears, baked apple pie…. After the 1st sip, all the interesting elements disappeared, shifting into burnt sugar and walnut shells
  • Palate – Lovely on the palate, a tingly spice with pepper, sweet cloves, allspice, like a masala chai, just a hint of smoke, well finished with character yet surprisingly thin, like it is skirting on the surface, lacking depth, body and those critical mid-notes
  • Finish – Again a lovely finish with a hint of spice
  • Water – Really opens it up, adds the missing ‘mid’ level to the palate, tempers and rounds out the spice allowing the gentle smoke to join in harmony. With water the whisky now feels complete with a good mouthful, a bit of rubber and other elements joined which gave more depth to the ram. From our perspective, a bit of water is a “must add” for this whisky to truly reveal its character.

We began to speculate and debate…

  • We could tell this clearly wasn’t a ‘green’ young whisky though not very old either – hence guesses in the 16 year range were thrown about.
  • We also thought it began in an ex-bourbon cask the had a sherry finish thing going on…
  • From a strength perspective, we thought perhaps 46 – 48%

What mattered most is some really like it – finding it the kind of whisky that welcomes you home after a long journey. There was some debate whether the nose or palate was the best part.

With the reveal, we discovered we were spot on with the age, off with the strength and hard to tell for the casks as the details are not disclosed.

However the real surprise? The price. £490/$685. Yikes! There is nothing about this whisky that pushes it into that territory. For our original group, this must be one of the most expensive bottles shared.

And yet this is what clever packaging, keeping an edition “limited’ (i.e. 23,000), released in 2012 followed by others to create a quartet, managed to accomplish – transporting a rather nice whisky into the ridiculous range.

Are we glad we tried it? Absolutely! However for our merry Mumbai malt aficionados, our explorations and adventures will continue… in a more affordable vein!

What else did we try in our explorations (and distraction with packaging)?

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Sailing to the Isle of Mull – Tobermory 15 year 46.3%

After an expedition with Shackleton, our blind tasting sailed off in a different direction…. This time to the Isle of Mull with Tobermory…. Here is what we found…


Tobermory 15 years 46.3%

  • Colour – Dark gold or copper
  • Nose – Copper, spice, sulfur, chawanprash, herbal spice, salty brine, peanuts, leather couch, round, polished yet piquant, seems like it may be thick and oily, almost like marmite… After sipping became quite honey sweet
  • Palate – Sweet, then spice like a brushfire, hard to pinpoint the cask influence – almost like muscatel, dry, a delicious honey sweet, velvety, silky toffee with a decent mouthfeel
  • Finish – Bit of spice, bitter end…
  • Water – Spices go way up, looses the mouthfeel, just don’t

Not complex, just sweet, no depth, a single track character however the more you sip, the more it grows on you. Truly – it was one where you found your hand unconsciously reaching back for more… We also struggled to assess the cask – it seems like it was bourbon with a sherry finish or something else.

And with the reveal?

Aha! From the Isle of Mull, Tobermory is a distillery we’ve inadequately explored and tended towards the peaty Ledaig variant. It seems it was matured in Gonzalez Byass Oloroso sherry casks, however wasn’t clear if this was for a finish alone or not.

Here is what they have to say:

  • Nose:  A lovely sherried nose with notes of figs, orange marmalade, hints of leather and a touch of smoke.
  • Palate:  Medium to full bodied.  Rich sherry fruit cake, milk chocolate, creamy toffee, light oak, a hint of white pepper creating a lovely spicy tang.
  • Finish:  Softly spicy, tingling with a nutty note, a hint of salt, lingering then gently fades.

After the exuberant packaging of the Shackleton, the photo and card with the Tobermory seemed tame. The wooden carrier, with a carving of the Isle of Mull was a nice touch.

What all did we try in our explorers evening?

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Going on an expedition! Shackleton’s Journey 47.3%

The whiskies of yore are extremely rare, however whisky recreations (particularly when backed with a good story) are making a come-back!

Shackleton was inspired by 3 crates of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt discovered in Antartica in 2007 from an 1907 expedition with Ernest Shackleton, brought to fortify his ‘Nimrod’ expedition. Richard Paterson, Master Blender of White & Mackay (owners of the Mackinlay brand), re-created this whisky based on analysis of the previous preserved bottles from the originals.

There are now three editions – ‘Discover’ and  ‘Journey’ both at 47.3% and a newer 40% version for mass market. The initial editions used Orkney peat in the malting, matured in American white oak sherry casks with a blend of malts from Glen Mhor and Dalmore distilleries with others from Speyside and beyond.

Our original group sampled the Journey version completely blind before the reveal.

Shackleton 47.3% – Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, The Journey edition

  • Colour – A bright yellow gold straw
  • Nose – Fruity, organic, citrus, a sense that it might be a bit oily, banana, as the pronounced alcohol started to settle down revealed a more earthy side, dairy curds, dry hay, has quite a farm-like quality, a bit of khatta meetha (sour & sweet), tamarind, kept changing and evolving, shifted to cut grass, vegetal, copper, hint of smoke, autumn leaves, garden flowers, light spice, sesame oil, tropical fruits, light honey, even marmalade
  • Palate – Sweet yet with a bitter green element too – like meethi or cereal, a little spice and sweet, while came across as young it was without being harsh or raw, fresh tumeric, dry, even a bit of sulfur?
  • Finish – A long, bitter finish with more of that tumeric

This whisky had quite a volatile character. After the first sip, the nose was dramatically dampened down, the diversity gone, and the aromas and palate aligned. Some found it bitter quality pleasant, others a bit too much. While not complex on the palate… it began with character then became flat with the nose slipping into wet mud.

Then we added water... what a difference that made! The bitterness left, replaced by a much sweeter, balanced dram, a gentle smoke weaved its way around. Often water initially brings out spice – in this case not at all – instead it just brought all the elements together.

As our discussions continued, it aired further as we debated whether this was Scottish at all… could it be European? A blend? The aromas shifted to a medicine cabinet, iodine and adhesive bandaids chased by b-complex pills.

While we concluded it may not be a “repeat” drink, it certainly sparked a lot of conversation and was good way to start our evening.

With the reveal, we were distracted by all the paraphernalia that came with the whisky… The packaging was cleverly designed to bring history to the consumer of the reconstruction – a straw covered bottle, a slim envelop bursting with photographs, copies of old letters, a negative strip, map, booklet outlining the tale…

The Journey edition is described to be the “elegant and refined” avatar:

With the launch of the Shackleton Epic Expedition, and continued correspondence with Shackleton’s grand-daughter Alexandra and the Antarctic Heritage Trust, Richard Paterson was inspired to create a second edition of the Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt – The JOURNEY.

The Epic Expedition will attempt to replicate Shackleton’s “Double”: his journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia, a distance of 800 miles over sea and ice. This will be done with the same kinds of equipment used in the 1916 expedition, including the Alexandra Shackleton, a replica of the 23ft open lifeboat used on the original voyage.

The Journey Edition of Mackinlay’s takes the same base of single malts used to create the original Discovery Edition and, still inspired by the original recipe, builds on them to create a noticeably different dram – a more elegant and refined interpretation.

What all did we try in our explorer’s evening of “It’s all about the packaging”?

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Explorers – Shackleton, Tobermory, Highland Park Thor

One of the reasons we love tasting blind is we can explore a whisky without being influenced by previous experience with the distillery or marketing paraphernalia. For our February 2018 session, this came in handy… as the theme of the evening ending up being the whisky packaging!

What all did we try?

Did I mention the marketing? Just wait to see the booklets, photos, special boxes and more!

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Kavalan Solist Cask Trio – Sherry

After the Kavalan Solist Brandy and Port casks, we finished our trio with the familiar Sherry cask.

Except this is the thing about all Kavalan Solist whiskies, each is a unique cask which means there is also something to discover about the elements specific to that particular cask – be it from 2008, 2009 and even two from (20102010).

So which one did we try? A cask from June 2009….

Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask S0906080388 Bottle 098/522 57.8%

Nikkhil’s tasting notes

  • Color: Dark Varnish
  • Nose: Now that’s what you call a Sherry monster! A blast of prunes, orange oil, espresso, chocolate. Whiff of pencil shavings, tobacco, leather, old furniture. Stunning!
  • Palate: Thick like treacle. Gorgeous mouthfeel, if only silk was edible! Follows the nose note to note. It was Christmas all over again. Drams like these should not be dissected. They are simply too complex for words. Hence I’m going to stop. Just sit back and enjoy this masterpiece.
  • With Water: All the gorgeousness gets amplified.
  • Finish: Long and warming. Like a conversation with an old friend.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

And now… to shift from what the tasting group had to say to the separate sampling session…

Carissa’s tasting notes:

  • Nose – More restrained than the 2nd dram, yet clearly has a solid sherry quality, dry, tight fruits
  • Palate – Rich, velvety quality, coffee, chocolate, complex, almost evaporates in the mouth, gorgeous and completely delicious, silky smooth and refined
  • Finish – Not just long, simply remarkable

The colour alone gives it away – deep dark maple syrup. Had all the hallmarks of a mature whisky – the way a sherry cask matured dram should be. “We are not worthy.” Exceptional.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

And the reveal?? Kavalan Sherry… not old at all, just the beneficiary of an accelerated maturation in the warm climate of Taiwan.

The folks at Kavalan have this to say about their Sherry Cask:

Matured in Spanish top quality oloroso sherry casks in special editions, Kavalan Solist Sherry is bottled at the distillery, without any colouring or chill-filtration. It is a naturally smooth and rich whisky with a complex character. It is clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit, nuttiness and spices with some marzipan and vanilla touches to it as well.

  • Color – Dark and mouth-watering raisin
  • Nose – Clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit, nuttiness and spices with some marzipan and vanilla touches to it as well.
  • Palate – Rich, oily and full with pleasant dried fruit and spices that linger on in the mouth plus a hint of fine coffee.
  • Tasting – We suggest drinking Kavalan Solist Oloroso Sherry Cask neat.

Our Kavalan Cask Trio covered:

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Kavalan Solist Cask Trio – Port

Next up in our trio of Kavalan Solist cask explorations was a single malt matured in Port casks. While sherry casks is a standard, there are few examples of whiskies matured in port casks – however most are ‘finished’ rather than maturing the full time in an ex port cask. So, when tasting completely blind as we did for this whisky, we can be forgiven for not immediately recognizing it as a port cask rather than sherry.

And what was discovered in our two separate tastings?

Kavalan Solist Port Cask 0090728014A Bottle 188/205 58.6%

Nikkhil’s tasting notes with group:

  • Color: Dark Burgundy
  • Nose: Red fruits. Something immediately grassy about this one. Mildly citrus as in orange oil. A tad shy. After airing it a bit a lovely chocolate note appeared with more dark red fruits. A tiny hint of Sulphur but in a good way. Very interesting indeed.
  • Palate: Lovely creamy mouthfeel with beautiful notes of melons, currants, allspice. Some mellow ash, old furniture/bookshelves. Plums, raisins and star anise. Bitter tannic notes appear. Leather chairs and licorice. Very busy indeed and kept evolving. Super stuff.
  • With Water and a little rest that lovely chocolate note from the nose is brought to the forefront along with some toffee/coffee and roasted walnuts.
  • ​Finish: ​Long with spices, tobacco and slightly bitter tannins.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

Carissa’s tasting notes:

  • Nose – Mmmm… old wood, fruity – dark and dried, star anise, dry and dusty, prunes peaking behind… really growing, shifts into chocolate, complex, opens up more and more with rum raisins, seemed like a restrained sherry not the full on Christmas cake… just stunning, rich fruit
  • Palate – Super turbo star anise, polished old wood, full on spice, dry, deep flavours, as complex on the palate as the nose, sooo lovely, dried fruits, prunes, plums
  • Finish – Long, strong and beautiful

There is a concentrated quality to this dram. After setting it aside for a bit, revisited and found the nose had shifted into a bright citrus, palate retained the gorgeous spice and with a few drops of water opens up even more.

It gave the sense of being nearly Sherry… so when the reveal showed it wasn’t sherry at all but instead its cousin port, it all fell into place!

Photo: Keshav Prakash

The folks at Kavalan have this to say about their Port Cask:

Port is a Portuguese fortified wine that is robust and sweet with a fuller and richer body. It is therefore usually served as a dessert wine or digestif. Kavalan Solist Port Cask is fully matured in Portuguese Port barriques under the subtropical climate to create the multiple fruity flavours such as plum, blueberry, blackberry and strawberry just to name a few, with chocolate as the main background note.

  • Color – Deep ruby
  • Nose – The rich fruity and nutty flavours combined and enhanced by orange and citrus notes that can be enjoyed together with gentle and elegant wood spices of our American oakiness.
  • Palate – Satisfying fruitiness blended with quality chocolate aromas that melt delicately on your palate. A wonderful and long lasting after taste for your unique sampling pleasure.
  • Tasting – We suggest drinking Kavalan Solist Port Cask neat. It is also perfect with desserts.

Our Kavalan Cask Trio covered:

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Kavalan Solist Cask Trio – Brandy

What a remarkable opportunity – a trio of cask strength whiskies from the same new make spirit – each matured in a different cask.

First up from Kavalan was the Brandy Cask… Sampled initially by our regular tasting group completely blind with notes by Nikkhil then a sample sent to me… also sampled with no clue about the whisky.

Kavalan Solist Brandy Cask AO90709055 Bottle 052/281 55.6%

Nikkhil’s notes:

  • Color: Dark Amber
  • Nose: Initial hit of spirit vapors. Then overripe bananas, hint of honey, kafir lime citrus. Green apples, damp mud, sawdust. Some leather notes now along with beeswax. Overall there wasn’t a lot of weight on the nose suggesting a younger whisky.
  • Palate: Oh my god can somebody please dial the fire brigade! My nostrils are singed and throat scorched. The fire quickly spread around the group. I’ve never had a whisky that hot and raw. Once the fire was doused by glugging lots of water I nervously got back to tasting.  Young and rather thin on the palate and the heat was still simmering! Very little mouthfeel. Volatile. Bitter tannis and spirit driven. A very muted development. I think this one was bottled too early.
  • With water (and it could take a lot) and about 30mins of rest it transformed completely. That acrid heat was gone and the mouthfeel returned. Now there were tropical fruits, pineapple, some hints of mango, lychee and even coconut. On the palate it was now oily with some faint tobacco and star anise. It was also distinctly briny and the bitterness continued.
  • Finish: Very dry and the tannic bitterness continued with hints of licorice.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

Carissa’s tasting notes:

  • Nose – Woah! Varnish… sharp, astringent then started to settle down… light banana, honey, vanilla, shifting into caramel
  • Palate – Harsh, raw, salty, spice, quite a kick initially, very piquant, bit bitter, then a hint of coffee and chocolate
  • Finish – Warm burn, jaggery, lingers… with more of that spice, salty and bitter, long and tingly

Overall had a sense of being young as in very young, possibly ex-Bourbon cask. A bit “in your face” and seemed to have a high alcohol strength so… decided to try again with a generous splash of water…

  • Nose – Brightens it up, lemon, floral and more honey
  • Palate – Rounds it out, still bitter and reveals even a light leather, old wood and much more depth
  • Finish – Intense

While still young, with water much more approachable. Wait longer and it reveals even more.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What do the folks at Kavalan have to say about their Brandy Cask?

Part of the Kavalan Solist series, matured in the hand-selected and top-quality brandy cask which is then individually and meticulously selected by the master blender with his skill to create uniquely fruity flavors and distinct characteristics for your sampling pleasure. This cask strength single cask malt whisky is non chill-filtered with natural colour to retain the fullest flavours.

  • Color – Seductive midnight amber
  • Nose – Irresistible peach, passion fruit, strawberry and mango fragrances with delicious vanilla, toffee, spices and honey mingling in the background.
  • Palate – Oily, round and smooth with complex and long finish that ends with a taste of sweet lychee.
  • Tasting – We suggest drinking Kavalan Solist Brandy Cask neat.

Would we agree? For this particular cask, a healthy dollop of water and time to open up makes all the difference. Neat? No. Dillute and give it time… Yes.

Curious how we associated the Brandy with Bourbon cask – now knowing what we were sipping, it would be interesting to try it again side-by-side with the Solist bourbon cask.

Our Kavalan Cask Trio covered:

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