Macallan Terra 42.8% with a Sherry “Seasoning” of Spanish + American Oak…

Our host for the evening had a clear plan – explore different dimensions of sherry influences. He started our evening with one that had a subtle yet unmistakable sherry element… with a twist!

We sampled it blind then the whisky was revealed. Here is what we discovered…

Macallan Terra 42.8%

  • Colour – Dark burnished copper
  • Nose – Spice fruit, lemon, raisins, sour plums, figs, quite sharp with some lactone acidity, wood… then it started to mellow, the dry fruits remained as did the sweetness… After even more time, the nose held a distinctive prune and plum element that also had a gentle sweet lemon curd too, perhaps even some cake-like elements too
  • Palate – First sip was full of honey, caramelized sugars with no burn initially then from behind the spice came out – direct, full of red pepper spice. It was oaky, dry, with a khatta meetha (sour sweet) quality, medium body….
  • Finish – No mistaking the sherry element on the finish yet it also retained that lovely spice tail, long, slightly bitter too
  • Water – Some tried, some did not. For this who did, water initially kicked up the spice then mellowed it

We spent a long time speculating about this one before our host revealed the bottle.

There was something familiar – the nose clearly had a sherry influence, and yet on the palate we thought of the spice from a French oak cask or at least a European one. Talk turned to the French Oak Chichibu and discussions of how much more expensive European oak is over American… and then Japanese Mizunara oak even more so!

In terms of palate profile, it most closely reminded us of Compass Box’s Spice Tree yet the aromas clearly meant there was a sherry dimension at work too. What was interesting is the nose made us expect something quite different from we discovered on the palate – less complex than anticipated yet the sweet then spice really grew on all of us.

In terms of age, many of thought it may be young, still playing around with its different elements, yet was well crafted. Above all, we appreciated the quality and balance of this whisky.

And the reveal?

Unbelievable!  A Macallan?

Even more so, a careful interpretation of the wood wording helped clarify what we had puzzled over in our speculations…

The whisky was aged in first fill sherry “seasoned” American and Spanish oak casks – with “seasoned” being the key element. Somehow the Macallan team managed to ‘crack’ having sherry in the casks just long enough to bring a lovely sherry touch to the nose yet not so long that it impacted the new oak quality on the palate.

We were impressed and concluded this was one classy whisky where the quality of wood and care in approach produced a rather enjoyable dram – one that harkened back to the days when one could count on Macallan producing a mighty fine malt.

And what do the folks over at Macallan have to say?

A complex, yet balanced single malt, with a distinctive character of toffee, sweet dried fruit and rich wood spices.

  • Colour – Sunset Orange
  • Nose – Dried fruits are tempered by lemon zest, toffee and light ginger. Aged oak rises.
  • Palate – Sweet dried fruits, subtle tones of ripening apple. Heavy and fresh on the palate.
  • Finish – Medium length. Dried fruit and wood spices.

Terra was released late 2017 for travel retail, part of The Macallan’s Quest Collection. In this case, the aim was to explore the balance between the spice of first-fill oak with the sherry influence of sweet dried fruit. Clearly we found this quest a success!

And while it is duty-free, that doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. Master of Malt had it listed as $171… before it sold out!

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

  • Macallan Terra 42.8% – “Seasoned” 1st fill American and European Oak Cask
  • Glenmorangie The Tayne 43% – “Finished” in Amontillado Spanish Sherry
  • Glen Deveron 20 year 40% – Matured in “Sherry Oak”

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Sherry Expressions – Seasoned, Finished or Matured…

Sherry’s influence on single malts is significant. At one of the spectrum could be a full on sherry “bomb” matured for years exclusively in first re-fill casks and at the other a mere hint with a “touch” of sherry finish for a mere month.

Our host for the evening cleverly selected from duty-free three different variants of Sherry expressions. Each explored a different approach to bringing a sherry influence to the whisky.

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

  • Macallan Terra 42.8% – 1st fill American and European casks, “seasoned” with Sherry
  • Glenmorangie The Tayne 43% – A Fino Amontillado Spanish Sherry “finish”
  • Glen Deveron 20 year 40% – Matured in “Sherry Oak”

Read on over the next few days for insights into our impressions, speculations and interpretation of what the distillery shares about the way in which the sherry element influenced each single malt.

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The Vault Fine Spirits trio at KODE

Sometimes you have an opportunity to re-discover familiar drams in a completely different setting familiar friends…

That is exactly what happened one fine evening many months ago in Mumbai at KODE with Keshav Prakash featuring a trio from The Vault Fine Spirits Collection.

We began with a distinctly light then shifted gears completely to peat and closed with a sherry sweet. No serious tasting notes as this was purely an evening to quaff and enjoy with others who appreciate a good dram.

Other Vault whiskies normally found at KODE include:

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Scottish Grains Recap

According to our friends over at Malt Madness, today in Scotland, there are only 6 full fledged grain distilleries:

  • Cameronbridge – the oldest & largest grain whisky distillery now best known for Haig
  • Girvan – a grain distillery built in 1963 by W. Grant & Sons that has recently released a few age statements
  • Invergordon from Whyte & Mackay can primarily be found only in Independent bottles
  • North British the second largest Scotch grain distillery
  • Starlaw – opened in 2010 and owned by La Martiniquaise
  • Strathclyde – owned by the Pernod Ricard conglomerate with a few independent bottles out there

Yet this should soon be changing… with new distilleries opening such as R+B who put out  advance indicators of the style they plan to emulate… including a grain with their Borders Single Grain 51.7%.

Of these, our whisky tasting groups of Mumbai have managed to get their hands on:

  • Cameronbridge with their Haig Club 40% accessible, innocuous and frankly forgettable grain
  • Invergordon 28 year 56.5% from Douglas Laing – Think muted varnish, vanilla, salty sea water with roasted peanuts
  • Cambus Single Grain 24 year (1991/2015) Cask 55891 51.9% from Signatory Vintage – An absolutely delightful delicious and alas discontinued dram
  • Girvan 8 years (2006/2014) 46% from Berrys’ – Starts with a hit of pure alcohol then sweet bananas, some vanilla from the oak wood, lemon drop sweetness peeped out… all the elements were very subtle with the overall scent of light varnish
  • Girvan 28 years 42% – From a bio-chemistry set to sweet fruits, pudding, tasting like honey water, eclair and a caramel rum ball
  • Strathclyde 25 year (1990/2016) 51.1% from Douglas Laing – A remarkable nose that kept evolving – all elements nuanced yet distinctive. Whereas on the palate, it was came across as innocuous, something to accompany with little remarkable on its own.

Still to try something from North British and Starlaw… However not such a bad start to exploring this category of whisky!

Curious about even more grains? Check out this Grain’s page dedicated to just grain – in all its various from Scotland to Japan to North America and Europe!

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Sipsmith’s Sloe Gin Martini

Every once and a while folks move on to different lands, leaving behind a gift or two. In this case, it was a bottle of Sipsmith Sloe gin…

For those not familiar with sloe gin, what makes it distinctive is soaking blackthorn ‘sloe’ drupes and sugar in gin, bringing both colour and flavour to the gin.

sipsmith-soe-gin

I met up with this friend recently in Singapore and so on my return, decided to enjoy a summery Sunday (yes – it is still hot here in Mumbai!) cocktail.

Here is what I made…

Sipsmith’s Sloe Gin Martini

  • 2 generous drams of Sloe Gin
  • 1/4 dram of Vermouth
  • Few dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Shake or stir over ice until cold
  • Garnish with an orange peel
  • Serve in a chilled martini glass

If you want it even lighter, add a splash of sparkling water or soda…

This particular Sipsmith Sloe Gin is from 2013 and has a juicy sweet plummy flavour which becomes more refreshing chilled and diluted with ice.

Other cocktail adventures include:

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Cleveland Underground Apple Bourbon Whiskey Sour

Ah… there are times when a chilled whisky sour just hits the spot! Which is exactly why our bourbon evening closed with a non-traditional take on this whiskey cocktail standard.

This isn’t quite what we tried but pretty close…

Underground Whiskey Sour
  • 1 ½ oz Underground Bourbon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 drunken cherry
  • Chickpea froth
DIRECTIONS
  1. In an old fashioned glass, add Underground Bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar
  2. Shake with ice and strain into chilled tulip glass
  3. Add the froth
  4. Garnish with a cherry

Often it is made with frothed egg white… in our case we had a less traditional “vegetarian” version made with the froth from boiling chickpeas – which works surprisingly well.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Cleveland Underground AP Bourbon Whiskey 45%

One of the great things about our Mumbai whisky tasting groups is their adventuresome bent. When opportunity arises to grab something distinctly different, we do!

This was one such experiment from Cleveland Underground closed our bourbon evening.

We sampled it blind and here is what we found…

Cleveland Underground AP Bourbon Whiskey finished with Apple Wood Batch 3 Bottle 1638 90 Proof 45%

  • Colour – We just had to observe this was bright almost reddish with jewel tones
  • Nose – Fresh mash, medicine capsule, wet oats, uncooked porridge, atta flour for making chapatis, sour dough yeast
  • Palate – Frankly a bit weird, tricky on the palate, very untypical, some unboiled peanuts or groundnuts, quite curious
  • Finish – Bitter end

To be honest, we weren’t terribly impressed. There was something rather peculiar about this one which was certainly different but not necessarily in a good way.

With the reveal it was shared this bourbon has taken an experimental approach to maturation – starting with wood barrels, the whisky matures this way for approx 6 months. Then it is transferred to stainless steel tanks where the wood staves from the barrels are added then alternate pressure cycles and temperate to accelerate the maturation process.

The whole raison d’etre of Cleveland Underground whiskies is to push the boundaries. Their bourbon’s include whiskies finished not only with Apple, but also Sugar Maple Wood,  Black Cherry Wood, Honey Locust Wood, and Hickory Wood.

And while it is terrific to experiment, not all experiments are successful with all audiences. With our tasting group, this particular approach didn’t hit the mark in Mumbai.

What do the Cleveland folks have to say about their Apple Wood?

Light and airy body. A tender sweetness with notes of baking spice backstopped by an almost tart finish.

Hmm… don’t think we would agree but still wish the Cleveland Underground team well for their endeavours to do something different.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Talisker 18 year 45.8%

Last in our random session of Scottish drams, was an opportunity to revisit this Island whisky from Talisker – nicely matured to 18 years.

Here is what our Whisky Ladies found..

Talisker 18 year 45.8%

  • Nose – Seaside peat, sweet, salty, reminded a few of Douglas Laing‘s Rock Oyster, fried fish with lemon and tarter sauce, maple bacon with hickory smoke, lots of bacon, sea salt and iodine
  • Palate – Started by dancing along the surface of the palate, very sweet, cinnamon gum, cinnamon hearts, lovely sweet
  • Finish – Peaty with light cinnamon finish

Overall we found it was a fall whisky, think apple pie and autumn leaves.

Here is what the folks over at Talisker had to say:

Nose:

  • Rich and fruity – Victoria plums, greengages, perhaps dried orange peel – with some butterscotch or rum toffee and a thread of smoke behind. The smoke soon advances into the foreground and the toffee note is joined by a light mintiness. 
  • With water, appropriately, maritime characteristics emerge – dry boat varnish, edible seaweed. Still sweet; now with notes of iodine and the smokiness of an un-struck match.

Taste:

  • In brief… Sweetness and power, with less smoke and chilli than younger expressions.
  • In a sentence… Unmistakably Talisker; mild-mannered and sweet to begin with, then more assertive, warming and smoky.

Here is what else we tried in our Whisky Ladies evening:

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The Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask 43%

Gotta love how whisky becomes a world traveller. This particular Balvenie started its life in Scotland with the usual approach but then was finished in ex-rum barrels from the Caribbean. Then made its way to Taiwan where it was purchased for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai, India.

What did we think? Read on!

Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask 43% (from Taiwan)

  • Nose – Lemon curd, caramel very spring-like, no question there was a rum influence, loads of rum raisins, dry fruits, nuts, chocolate, cloves, quite pronounced honeyed rum, after sipping and some time, it settled into something almost floral
  • Palate – Not as pushy on the palate as it is on the nose, toffee, mellow, then became a bit sour, then a lot more spice
  • Finish – Very sweet, ripe plums
  • Water – Don’t…. reduces it to flavoured water

Overall it was pronounced enjoyable. And while clearly part of the ‘standard stable’, the rum finish is a nice touch.

Here is what the folks at The Balvenie have to say:

  • NOSE Rich, sweet and creamy toffee on the nose combines with fresh fruit notes
  • TASTE Rounded with vanilla and sweet oak notes, with a fruity character that develops with time
  • FINISH Soft and lingering

Our core focus was a trio with a wee ‘appetizer’ blend:

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That Boutique-y Whisky Company Glentauchers 20 year for LMdW

That Boutique-y Whisky Company has crafted trade-mark labels and fine contents. One of our Mumbai Whisky Ladies picked this particularly bottle up some time ago and we’ve been patiently waiting for th right opportunity.

On the label you can see Thierry Bénitah (La Maison du Whisky CEO and son of its founder, Georges Bénitah) in the 1980s, surrounded by classic whisky bottlings and wearing a particularly snappy turtleneck…

Glentauchers 20 year (Boutique-y Whisky Company) Batch 4, 46.9% bottled for La Maison du Whisky with 327 bottles

  • Nose – Hazelnut cream, wood, almond, also some ripe fruits, maple syrup, oodles and oodles of butterscotch, a bit of menthol, green almond
  • Palate – A real tingle and oomph! A bit bitter, some sweet spice, caramel fudge and nougut, with a bit of tart sour sauce, berries
  • Finish – Spice like white pepper

Some loved this one. Others found the blend so approachable that following with this single malt was a bit of a jolt.

As this whisky came out some time ago, you won’t find it on the “That Boutique-Y Whisky Company” website, however can track down some tasting notes at The Master of Malt:

  • Nose: Fresh and floral with hints of violet and honey. Stewed berries with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Butterscotch.
  • Palate: Roasted chestnuts and black pepper. Apricot jam, quince and a whisper of cinnamon.
  • Finish: Sodabread with salted butter, floral malt once again, cumin and dried raspberries.

Our core focus was a trio with a wee ‘appetizer’ blend:

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