Whisky Lady – July 2018

July brings monsoon rains, vacations and often a slightly slower pace of life… and yet this month still had a rather admirable set of whisky tasting experiences. And even though technically only 1 of our 3 Mumbai whisky tasting groups “officially” met, somehow gatherings over a dram still happened… read on…

Whisky Ladies Sukhinder Singh’s Cask Strength Trio from The Whisky Exchange in London:

Pedigree malts from around the world:

Our original group were introduced to a remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

I also finally got around to sharing tasting notes from an evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac always push the boundaries… The last three remarkable whiskies sampled were…

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

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TWE Cask Strength – Ledaig 12 year (2004) 58.1%

Last in our TWE Cask Strength evening was a Ledaig from Tobermoray‘s distillery on the isle of Mull. Ledaig, pronounced ‘Let-chick’, uses peated malted barley.

There are no official tasting notes available however this particular bottle was personally recommended by TWE’s owner Sukhinder Singh and an easy pick given how much I’ve enjoyed Ledaig’s sampled til date.

Ledaig 12 year (5 Feb 2004/29 Aug 2016) Cask 1030, 327 Bottles 58.1% (SMSW)

What did the ladies think?

  • Nose – We were immediately greeted with peat, then brine – making us imagine sea swept coasts, there was a wildness to it, stormy weather and bold character… even as it opened revealing marmite, fruit, apple pear, herbs and more with even a hint of heather, it retained a robust quality
  • Palate – One spoke of fresh oysters, another of steak tartare, the herbal quality on the nose followed through on the palate, there was also a lovely cinnamon spice with black pepper, yet all combined in a very smooth, balanced dram
  • Finish – Such a long finish, continuing to reward with peat and sweet spice with that slightly salty briney dimension too

If the Glen Moray was a bright spring morning, and the Arran a hot summers day, then the Ledaig was a wind lashing, rainy cool winter evening.

I’ve enjoyed Ledaig’s bold peaty character before yet this was clearly a top notch cask – remarkably silky smooth and clean with no harsh or brash qualities even at full cask strength. No need to add water but also lovely with too.

A 12-year-old Ledaig, the peated whisky from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, from The Single Malts Of Scotland. This was distilled in 2004 and bottled in August 2016 from a hogshead. I picked it up from The Whisky Exchange in London in June 2017, under the owner Sukhinder Singh’s guidance for GBP 64. It was opened from a fresh bottle in July 2017.

What else did we sample in our single cask, cask strength evening?

Each whisky sampled that evening was unique, quality and well worth sampling.

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TWE Cask Strength – Arran 14 year 55.5%

Next in our The Whisky Exchange Single Cask Strength evening was another Island whisky – this time from Arran distillery on the isle of Arran. This isn’t my 1st Arran sample and I’ve quite enjoyed what I’ve tried so far…. particularly both cask finishes – AmaronePort.

This particular bottle was personally recommended by TWE’s owner Sukhinder Singh for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai as an affordable whisky that is an excellent example of Arran’s style.

Arran 14 year (16 Dec 2000/7 Aug 2015) Barrel 2000/1106 Bottle 185 of 197 55.5% (TWE)

What did the ladies think?

  • Nose – We immediately noticed it has more “oomph!” than the Glen Moray, toasty, almost musty initially, then warm maple syrup, rum raisins, shifting into something pungent, an earthy yeasty quality, like wet fall leaves, some cinnamon and cloves, resin…
  • Palate – Wow! Cinnamon spice – both paprika and black pepper. There was no doubt this was a full on cask strength whisky.
  • Finish – Honey sweet, bourbon, spice, a bit unbalanced initially

There was initially a mixed reaction. Many of have had quite positive experiences with Arran so had high expectations which were not initially met.

But then as we discussed and debated, a funny thing happened. That whisky sitting in our glasses with a little patience began to open up. Making the doubters into converts who warmed up to the whisky as it warmed up to us, revealing apricots, chocolate, apple sauce, and an almost minty freshness.

Some added water whereas some did not. Which was a better option came down to personal preference with more leaning to without.

Bottom line is give this one time and it will reward you with a beautiful, fruity, balanced dram that is both rich, robust and complex. Well worth being just a bit patient.

The bottle provides succinct tasting notes of:

This single-bourbon-cask Arran whisky selected by The Whisky Exchange is loaded with aromas of pear drops, apple crumble and ripe peaches. The mouthfeel is full and rich, with brioche buns, a touch of lemon zest and manuka honey.

Rocky from the Whisky Exchange has this to say:

  • Nose: Complex nose with notes of spicy vanilla and cinnamon, coconut, honey and tropical mango and guava.
  • Palate: Warming and spicy at first with clove and black pepper prominent. Then the sweetness and the fruit start to come to the fore: honey, mango, pineapple and apricot.
  • Finish: Lightly sweet with honey and tropical fruit overtaken again by the spice.
  • Comment: Arran’s history began by bottling lots of single casks, and this is another example of a great one from the distillery. Classic Arran fruitiness, but with lots of spice – a complex and rewarding whisky.

This whisky was purchased at The Whisky Exchange in London in June 2017, under the owner Sukhinder Singh’s guidance for GBP 65. It was opened from a fresh bottle in July 2018.

What else did we sample in our Sukhinder Singh’s cask strength evening?

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TWE Cask Strength – Glen Moray 8 year 57.8%

To kick off our trio personally selected by The Whisky Exchange’s owner Sukhinder Singh for our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai as affordable, quality whiskies, each representative of their distillery’s style.

Glen Moray is not on most of our merry Mumbai malters top hits list… in part as they tend towards affordable NAS whiskies with finishes… It also isn’t so often you will come across a cask strength avatar either… so we were primed to dive in and discover!

And were rewarded by a rather marvellous most enjoyable malt.

Glen Moray 8 years 57.8% 251 Bottles

What did the ladies think?

  • Nose – Is that bubblegum? Loads of pear, even that hybrid apple snow pear, the perfume of flowers, vanilla, lavender, crisp and crunchy apples, then shifts into baked apple pie and ice cream
  • Palate – 1st sip at cask strength was fire and heat. The it shifted into cinnamon and chilli… with  water it was transformed into a yummy baked delight, pure desert
  • Finish – A delicious fresh fennel or pastise element, then lightly bitter with a citrus twist
  • Water – An absolute must for this dram. All the spice morphs into a very tasty, fruity, honeyed whisky, soft and gentle, smooth and inviting with just the right balance of fruit, flowers, a light touch of sweet spices

Overall we loved it. With water it took us to our “happy place”, nice and relaxing. Something to sit, sip, enjoy with friends or solo. An eminently approachable and enjoyable whisky.

Here is what Billy Abbott at The Whisky Exchange had to say:

  • Nose: Candied lemon peel and lemon jelly are backed up by biscuity grain, soft spice and vanilla cream.
  • Palate: Lemon zest, vanilla toffee and butterscotch to start, with citrus building on the tongue. Lemon sherbet sparkles before darker notes of chocolate and liquorice roll in, along with clove and dark spice notes.
  • Finish: Dark and spicy, slowly lifting to reveal dried lemon peel and freshly milled malt.
  • Comment: Youthful and zesty, with an excellent balance of spirit and cask character.

Did we agree? Overall yes. What we unanimously agreed is this was one fine dram, most enjoyable.

What else did we sample in our TWE cask strength evening?

  • Ledaig 12 year (5 Feb 2004/29 Aug 2016) Cask 1030, 327 Bottles 58.1% (SMSW)
  • Arran 14 year (16 Dec 2000/7 Aug 2015) Barrel 2000/1106 Bottle 185/197 55.5% (TWE)

This whisky was purchased at The Whisky Exchange in London in June 2017, under the owner Sukhinder Singh’s guidance for a mere GBP 46. It was opened from a fresh bottle on July 2018.

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Whisky Ladies TWE Cask Strength Night – Glen Moray, Arran, Ledaig

This was not our first evening devoted to high alcohol strength whiskies… Last time, our Diwali celebration featured Glenfarclas 105 60%, Chichibu 2009 63.1%, A’bunadh 35 (2011) 60.3% and we’ve certainly sampled other Cask Strength drams including our Bruichladdich peat progression session.

So what made this session distinctive? This time our selection had a decidedly independent bent, all purchased through The Whisky Exchange in June 2017, personally recommended by Sukhinder Singh as affordable quality drams:

  • Glen Moray 8 year 57.8% 251 Bottles (SMSW)
  • Arran 14 year (16 Dec 2000/7 Aug 2015) Barrel 2000/1106 Bottle 185/197 55.5% (TWE)
  • Ledaig 12 year (5 Feb 2004/29 Aug 2016) Cask 1030, 327 Bottles 58.1% (SMSW)

What did the ladies think? Read on over the next few days…

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Kilkerran 8 year Cask Strength 56.2%

From thriving to languishing to a recent resurgence, the Campbeltown whisky “region” that technically lost its status according to the Scotch Whisky Society. Today Campbeltown has only two producers – Springbank Distillery with its ‘extra’ plant Glengyle and Glen Scotia. Some of the distilleries that closed with prohibition and depression became brands under the Springbank family – Glengyle, Hazelburn and Longrow.

What do the Springbank/Glengyle folks have to say about their Kilkerran brand? A fair bit on the bottle label:

Mitchell’s Glengyle Ltd. are very proud to be continuing and adding to the great Campbeltown Distilling tradition and the choice of name reflects that Kilkerran is derived from the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain’ which is the name of the original settlement where Sait Kieran had his religious cell and Campbeltown now stands. Kilkerran is thought to be a suitable name for a new Campbeltown Malt since it was unusual for the old Campbeltown distilleries to be called after a Glen, a custom more usually associated with the Speyside region.

A not to subtle dig at Glen Scotia?

But I digress… on to the most important matter at hand… what did we think of the Kilkerran 8 year seated cask strength whisky? Note… we sampled completely blind so the tasting notes are based purely on our thoughts and speculation before the “great reveal.”

Kilkerran 8 year Cask Strength 56.2%

  • Colour – I rather fancifully dubbed it “light sunshine”
  • Nose – Initially quite an oily peat, almost kerosene, sharp, a hospital dispensary, but then it began to mellow in the glass, revealing a fruity sweetness, some light seaweed and hint of brine, a bit of blue cheese or wet socks, shifting back to the peat with campfire embers, an earthy aroma, then more citrus sweet like a lemon tart and then betel nut
  • Palate – Fabulous! Peat perfectly balanced with sweet cinnamon and spice. Just a great balance between the three elements like a well cooked beautiful meal. Some chilli spices, more of that paan character too.
  • Finish – Sweet cinnamon
  • Water – This was a whisky that welcomes water and enables so much more to come to the fore…. Absolutely fabulous with water with a delicious creme caramel, milk chocolate, very creamy quality, like a salty caramel cheese cake, a bit perfume too

There was no doubt we loved it however a few remarked how the peat in the nose was initially so intense it took over the show. However after time to oxidate and the addition of water, everything clicked into perfect harmony. Particularly the balance on the palate was simply outstanding.

Our speculation turned to discussion the quality of peat – what was clear was this was no Islay yet most hesitated to guess beyond that. Overall we found it well constructed and clearly cask strength.

The reveal of Campbeltown and for most of us, only our second Kilkerran, was a cementing of a growing opinion that these folks clearly know what they are doing.

What else do we know? That it was distilled at Glengyle in Campbeltown, is non-chill filtered with no added colouring. We understand it is a 50 PPM.

This was their 1st release which is now sold out, so if you were curious about how much would this set you back…. will need to check out a different version of this whisky – currently retailing at Master of Malt for approx £49.96 – complete value for quality!

Here is our pedigree trio:

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Sullivans Cove 16 year 47.5%

Sullivans Cove shot from quiet quality in a special niche corner to global prominence a few years ago thanks to a few well deserved awards. Since then, tracking down a bottle is challenging… even more so to find one with an age statement.

Our merry Mumbai malters were earlier introduced to the Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask and not so long ago our Whisky Ladies went on a Trans Tasmanian Tour which included  Sullivans Cove Double Cask, yet these glimpses into what Tasmania has to offer and more specifically Sullivans Cove remain rare opportunities here in Mumbai.

Which made it all the more interesting to discover, sampling completely blind this beauty…

Sullivans Cove 16 year (05 Dec 2000/22 Feb 2016) Barrel No HH0561 47.5% Bottle No 74 of 120, Non-chill filtered, American oak ex-bourbon cask

  • Colour – Dark gold
  • Nose – Sharp, distinctive, came across as high alcohol initially, then opened into a tropical fruit paradise, some biscuit, compost and wet earth, moss, it then rapidly dissipated closing up… with a few deep sniffs could discern rubber, cashew feni… quite tricky on the nose as it was on the one hand a bit sharp and on the other hand shy… After the 1st sip revealed pears, dry copra, beyond the coconut, the tropical fruits really came to the fore, quite lively… After quite some time and a revisit, there was paan betel nut too!
  • Palate – Barley water and really rather sweet, then the spice grows, not harsh but surprisingly forceful, chew and get cinnamon. It had this most amazingly deceptive quality of seeming mellow and yet take a good swish and breath in to find SPICE!  Yet equally take a small slow sip and it was like honey water with just a dash of pepper,  so so smooth
  • Finish – A funny sort of finish… An immediate ‘flash’ then just holds you gently for quite some time
  • Water – Most were not tempted. Those that did found it took the sharp and spice mellowing it to modest and nice.

While initially the nose gave a sense of alcohol strength, the palate clearly put this into perspective with a determination it must be below 48%. There were many aspects of this whisky that were ‘tricky’ – in a very interesting way. It also was one that demanded time and attention. Sit back, relax and enjoy the dialectic.

With some whiskies, we find the flavour profiles are fairly universal – accessible to practically anyone in the world. In cases like this Sullivans Cove, we found many qualities that fit perfectly with the palate of Indian fruits, spices, country liquor and deserts. Which made it all the more meaningful and memorable to enjoy in India.

What else do we know about this Tasmanian dram? Here is what they say…

To create this exceptional Single Malt Whisky our distiller has selected the highest quality local ingredients and American Oak ex-Bourbon casks. The award winning result is elegant and creamy exhibiting sweet malt, vanilla and citrus notes with a lingering finish. Taste our splendid isolation, indulge your senses.

Our host admitted this bottle set him back a pretty penny. I do believe something like $400 was mentioned, in large part as a rather hefty “Angel’s Share” made the remaining liquid all the more precious.

What did we try in our “pedigree” evening?

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Midleton Barry Crocket Legacy 16 year 46%

In the world of Irish whiskies there may be brands a-plenty yet there are relatively few full functioning distilleries that have been around for decades. This is because back in the 1970s the Irish Distillers company decided to close most of their distilleries and create the Jameson Midleton Distillery with its ability to produce a range of styles using its 4 pot stills, 7 column stills for grain, malt and as combined together blends. It was opened in 1975 and since then brings to the world JamesonRedbreast, Powers, Tullamore Dew, Paddy, Green Spot, Yellow Spot and yes Midleton.

While initially stock from the old Midleton Distillery was used in the Midleton Very Rare  in the mid-1980s, today it is purely whiskey from the current Jameson Midleton Distillery… and more and more what is being released are pot still expressions like this one.

So then who is Barry Crocket? He is their Master Distiller Emeritus … Son of Midleton’s them master distiller, he joined the distillery in 1981 and continued for nearly 50 years…  from when the Irish whiskey industry was struggling to clearly making its mark around the world. And today? He is establishing an archive in the house where he was born on Midleton’s distilling history.

For us, it was a complete mystery… sampled blind with no idea what we were trying…  Here is what we found…

Midleton Barry Crocket Legacy 16 year No 10205 46% American Bourbon seasoned and unseasoned, triple distilled, non chill filtered. MSPR’16 L623631258

  • Colour – Bright yellow
  • Nose – Initially quite fruity, caramel, vanilla, lots of apricots, apple sauce, then shifted into dark chocolate, a bit sour then citrus tang, green apples, lots of honey. Then revealed wood, cumin, caraway seeds, melon seeds… then orange citrus candies.. Then all the intense colours and notes were gone…. After time, perfumes emerged, like scented rubber, then sweet banana synthetic candies, then pine… talcum powder vs sweetened egg yolk… finally fresh tobacco leaf
  • Palate – Honey spice and simply delicious, more of those apples, pears, sweet with white and black pepper, wood, sesame oil and light tobacco, over time it became creamier
  • Finish – There but… completely deceptive. Initially a few remarked there wasn’t much but then… hold it… definitely 100% there… subtle, lightly bitter and gently fruity, long, very long
  • Water – Add and some found it opened up, bringing more body, spice and perfume. Some preferred with water. Some preferred it au naturel.

What a remarkable nose – it kept going through different quite dramatically different shifts.

Overall we were convinced this was simply one well crafted whisky. It had a fruity floral no fooling around quality. What fun!

What do they have to say about Barry Crocket Legacy?

  • Nose – Elegant aroma of vanilla and toasted oak completed by succulent green berries, pears and green sweet pepper
  • Taste – Light pepper carries onto citrus, limes and mandarine orange sweetness. A hint of cinnamon with vanilla and oak revelasyears spent in American oak
  • Finish – The full spectrum of flavours that lasts well into th finish slowly fading to expose the clean American oak foundation

You can still find this whisky from retailers like The Whisky Exchange for approx £150

What trio did we have a tryst with in our Untraditional Pedigree Malts eve?

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Pedigree Malts – Midleton, Sullivans Cove, Kilkerran

There is no doubt that the world of whisky has changed and will continue to change. What has emerged are a few players that are truly “pedigree” even if their origins are not your typical Scottish… Brands that are being recognized for their consistent calibre…

We were treated to such a trio on a fine monsoon swept evening in Mumbai… Each was sampled completely blind with the reveal done only after all three were given our full and careful consideration.

What did we try in our Pedigree Malts?

While none of these are the “traditional” pedigree vintage whiskies, each has a dedication to quality that shines through.

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A Phenomenon Revisited – Compass Box Phenomenology 46%

Compass Box’s Phenomenology is one of those whiskies that is both phenomenal and a phenomenon. I have yet to encounter a whisky that provokes such a range of reactions – with highly individual perceptions.

I first had it with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents back in February 2018. Where our host very generously asked if I would like to take the bottle home to share with others. Would I?? Oh yes indeed!

And the perfect evening presented itself in June 2018 with the Whisky Ladies. We were a lovely small group and after our Highland Hijinks trio, our evening didn’t seem quite finished…

Enter Phenomenology…

And what a remarkable experience it was. Just to give a feel for the contrasting responses, I’ve deliberately kept them separated by speaker for the nose… read, discover and see if this possibly could be the same whisky!

Just a sampling of the aromas different ladies found are noted below:

  • Floral, lots of jasmine, honeysuckle, perfume
  • Almond, like Amaretto, shrewsbury biscuits
  • Citrus, salt, melon or more precisely cantaloupe, a licorice saunf and surprisingly sharp
  • Almond, dum biryani
  • Salted caramel, toffee, rhubarb, orange rind, musk, tobacco leaf
  • A kaleidoscope of aromas, fresh green apples, french vanilla, pure dessert, icing sugar powder, blue cheese, toasted rice, yoghurt

As for the rest, our combined experience was:

  • Palate – A light hint of peat, great “teeth”, whiff of skunk, cedar plank with salmon, sage, had a great mouthfeel, light spice
  • Finish – Citrus and floral, mild spice, black cardamom

To say we loved it was an understatement. It was complex, challenging, sparked conversation. And not only did we each find largely quite different aspects, even individual women found multiple elements too… this was no one-dimensional dram. No siree!

Above all – how could such contrasting characters emerge from the same whisky?

Here is where the folks at Compass Box excel, they share their secrets, telling the world exactly what goes into the bottle so one can attempt to dissect, deconstruct, discover and above all learn and be inspired…

What is fascinating is the bulk of this blend comes from Glenlossie – a distillery I’ve yet to try as a single malt and has no specific official bottles outside of Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range. Yet its been around since 1876 quietly producing whisky for blends.

And what does it add to Phenomenology?

  • 72% total liquid volume with a malt whisky matured in re-charred hogshead
  • And what does it add in terms of its flavour profile? Fresh, Fruity, Apples
Next up? Tamdhu with 24.5% matured in first fill bourbon cask adding Caramel, Oak, Spice. In this case, one I’ve tried but long ago and not at a time when I took any tasting notes, which means I have no particularly memory.
And the last 3? A split between rather familiar distilleries:
  • Highland Park with 2% matured in re-charred hogshead bringing burnt butter, bonfires, tar
  • Talisker with 1% matured in refill butt adding salty, coastal, brine dimensions
  • Caol Ila with a mere 0.5% matured in a hogshead throwing marshmallow, vanilla and sweet smoke into the equation
With this knowledge, do we understand more? Perhaps. And yet the proof is in the pudding so to speak… the way in which the whiskies were blended in such a masterful way to produce something unique and quixotic. And well worth revisiting.
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