Whisky Lady – March 2019

March was mostly in Mumbai with just a wee jaunt to Bangalore… a welcome change after earlier months zipping around to Germany, Dubai, US, Canada, Germany again…

As for tastings? All three Bombay based tasting groups were extra active – making up for a slower Feb! So read on and enjoy!

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar kicked off March with an Australian Starward Flight:

Our Whisky Ladies then carried on with Asian Delights featuring:

Our original group decided to explore ‘red’ cask finishes with:

Both our Whisky Ladies late February and Original club in March explored the 2018 Canadian Shelter Point editions:

Rounding up the month was an evening of Bourbon‘s with the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents:

In addition to our sampling sessions, I finally caught up on tasting notes from a remarkable evening early January 2019 in Dubai with a few “Dream Drams“:

Plus shared a “sneak peak” into a growing stash of German whiskies, thanks to my work trips to Munich.

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

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Shelter Point’s 2018 Whisky Quartet

I will admit to a certain bias… there is a good bit of Canadian pride at work when it comes to my experience with Shelter Point. However just because I think their single malt is the best to come out of Canada – sheer happiness in a bottle – doesn’t mean others do too.

Which is exactly I chose to do three rounds with this quartet which came courtesy of the lads over at Shelter Point – first with the Whisky Ladies then a couple weeks later with our original Mumbai tasting group and finally with a couple friends familiar with earlier editions from the distillery.

And what did we have an opportunity to try?

Shelter Point 2018 Quartet

The whiskies were complements of the Shelter Point distillery – shipped from BC to my folks in Manitoba then brought back to India on a recent trip to Canada in February 2019. We opened them in Mumbai late February 2019 with tastings that continued to late March 2019.

I was particularly thrilled to see the Artisanal Single Malt is now available in Manitoba for an exceedingly reasonable price of CND 67 (that’s less than US $50).

Just click on the links of the specific whiskies to read our collective tasting notes.

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Asian Delights – Nikka Whisky From the Barrel 54.1%

Our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai are no strangers to Nikka Whisky – or this particular dram From the Barrel. Our last tryst was in 2017 when we tasted From the Barrel side by side with Super Nikka.

However our evening exploring “Asian Delights” veered towards gentle uncomplicated whiskies which demanded a close with something having a bit more “Oomph!”

So out popped this beauty to round out our evening… here is what we thought…

Nikka From the Barrel 54.1%

  • Nose – Initially a bit musty, overripe fruit, had a spice kick, needed time to settle down… cloves, sweet vanilla, rum raisins, baked fruit – particularly apple and pear, increasingly fruity as it opened up more, then revealed some flowers, even a bit of talcum powder
  • Palate – Fruity, spice, bold, malty, yet missing something
  • Finish – Lingers
  • Water – Do add! Enhances the character, rounds it, lots of body, wood came forward on the palate, completes this whisky… out comes some marvellous marshmallows, very tasty on the palate even with a chasing dash of cinnamon sweetness

Overall most preferred it with water – enjoying how it brought a more accessible, enjoyable, balanced dram.

What is nice about such a compact 500 ml bottle is that we have enough left over to enjoy a dram or two but not much more. As the last few drops came home with me, it might just be time to enjoy a wee nip!

What the Nikka folks have to say:

From The Barrel is an extremely complex blended whisky bottled at 51.4% ABV. In order to deliver its richness and full flavors, the blended liquid goes into used barrels for another few months for “marriage” before it is bottled.

We enjoyed a few other whiskies in our Asian Delights evening:

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Asian Delights – Kavalan Classic 40%

The Whisky Ladies of Mumbai began our exploration of Kavalan Taiwanese whiskies in 2016, where we sampled an open bottle of the Concertmaster Port Cask Finish 40%… we then cranked it up several notches with the Solist Sherry cask S1001200358 57.8%. It was so memorable with its concentrated robust flavours that we decided to track down another bottle (this time from cask S090102020 57.1%) and share it in our “Ladies Choice” evening with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents.

Fast forward and we found ourselves in 2019 checking out the “Classic“… here is what we thought…

Kavalan Classic 40%

  • Nose – Spruce, pine, fresh balsa, sweet with a hint of nuts, very comforting on the nose, loads of fruit
  • Palate – Had some character, spice, nice and dry, tannic, after some time a sugar syrup
  • Finish – Finally a proper finish!

Sweet on the nose, spice on the palate… a good entry level to the brand, bottled in 2016. It was opened a few months earlier and you can see from the photo that after our tasting, there wasn’t much left! However we certainly felt we had a good enough impression of a lively tasty dram.

Talk turned to how nice it is to find value for money… This particular bottle was purchased in Germany, however can also be found at The Whisky Exchange for  £54.45.

For those curious to check out more Kavalan’s tasted over the years, pop over to the Asian whiskies page.

Here’s a few more whiskies we enjoyed in our Asian Delights:

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Asian Delights – Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky 45%

Much like the Akashi White Oak where we had twice sampled the Red Blend but not the Single Malt, we also tried the Nikka Coffey Grain twice but not the Malt version.

Our first blush of the Nikka Coffey Grain in 2016 made us think of piña colada… two years later when we tasted another bottle in an evening exclusively featuring grains, we still found it had a delightful desert like quality.

Both are make in Nikka’s Coffey still however the difference is that the grain is mostly made from corn whereas the malt from malted barley.

What did we think of the malted version?

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky 45%

  • Nose – Chocolaty cream, tiramisu, marzipan, toffee, like a sweet Amarula, a caramel Irish Baily’s, candied cherries, a cherry cough syrup, banana, cinnamon
  • Palate – Soft, flat, linear, thin body, cheery and cherry, smooth
  • Finish – Hardly there
  • Water – Spicier on the nose, cream and fruit

Overall it retained a sweet dessert quality yet was heavier and darker than we remembered the Grain one… nothing complex but still satisfying and most enjoyable in its way.

Here is what the folks over at Nikka have to say about their Coffey Malt:

Coffey Malt is made from 100% malted barley. However it is not categorized as “malt whisky” but as “grain whisky” since it is not distilled in a pot still. This unique production method results in extraordinary flavors and texture.

We enjoyed a few more whiskies in our Asian Delights evening:

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Asian Delights – White Oak Akashi Single Malt 40%

Akashi Japanese whisky is actually a part of the Eigashima distillery which has made sake and shochu since the late 1880s. From 1919, the “White Oak Whisky” distillery was making whisky of sorts… however from 1984, equipped with a new pot still based on Scottish designs, the distillery started to make “proper” whisky under the brand of Akashi. While it predominantly made blends, production of single malts – like this one – started in 2007.

And while it is known as Japanese whisky, the barley and malts are imported from Scotland. In keeping with Scottish whiskies, they are aged for a minimum of 3 years however with the warmer climate in Akashi, the Angels share is considerably more than in Scotland.

For a few years now, Akashi White Oak whiskies – both the blend and single malt – can be found in Mumbai Duty Free for a reasonable price. Largely linked to this accessibility and affordability, our Whisky Ladies first sampled the blend in late 2016. We enjoyed its simple “apple cider” quality so much that we tracked down a 2nd bottle to share with the gents in a “Ladies Choice” evening early 2017.

Knowing one small bottle alone would not be sufficient, I’d called for reinforcements – and got two – both another Red Blended and this Single Malt! Both Red were opened and polished off but this bottle was kept aside, patiently waiting for the right opportunity to opened with its contributor.

Finally in March 2019 the moment came…. and what did we think?

White Oak Akashi Single Malt 40%

  • Nose – Fruity and spicy, green apples, simple and sweet, evolved into a happy candy floss, shifting to cinnamon and vanilla cream
  • Palate – Mmmmm…. apple, a bit of wood, quite pleasant, a nice spice, uncomplicated yet had some character
  • Finish – Easy going, slightly bitter

An earlier experience from an open bottle left me with the impression of bubble gum… this time? “Grown up” bubble gum!

Here’s a few more whiskies we enjoyed in our Asian Delights evening:

And our earlier Akashi tasting experiences?

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Whisky Ladies Eastern Promise – Akashi, Nikka Coffey + From the Barrel, Kavalan

Over the years, we’ve had the occasional opportunity to revisit or explore a “sibling” of a particular whisky. This was very much the case in our March Whisky Ladies session where each whisky was a variation on a familiar theme… yet distinctly different too!

Whisky Ladies Asian Delights

Even when revisiting the same whisky, each experience is unique – what we discover from a fresh bottle differs from an open one, what we found in a different year, mood, context influences our experience…

That’s the fun of exploring whiskies together – we contrast and compare – both the whiskies and our individual impressions. When it is with terrific company and a lovely setting, what could be more enjoyable?

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Dubai Dream Drams – SMWS “Harmonious Balance” 19 year 55.2%

We almost didn’t open this bottle… after sampling a quintet of “Dream Drams” in Dubai early 2019, we stopped to enjoy a delicious dinner, socialize with our better halves until someone somehow came to the conclusion that we simply had to open just one more bottle!

So out came this Laphroaig, bottled by the folks over at Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), fancifully dubbed “Harmonious Balance.” Matured for 19 years in refill ex-bourbon hogshead cask, this whisky truly turned out to be the “show stopper” of the night!

SMWS 29.229 “Harmonious balance” 19 year (13 May 1988) 55.2% (Laphroaig)

  • Nose – A floral perfume, hand spun candies, a hint of tobacco leaf peaking through  honey
  • Palate – A delicious spice, peat yet more nuanced and balanced than expected from a Laphroaig, think a mild sweet cigar not a brash bold bad boy, chased by a bit of sweet salted toffee
  • Finish – What an absolutely glorious finish! By far the longest, lingering and lovely finish of the evening… much after sipping, one could still enjoy the sweet peat and touch of spice with a chocolate minty freshness too

For many, this was the favourite of the evening… even those who purport to not care for peat were won over and we must admit it was aptly named “Harmonious balance” as all the elements came together in the most beautiful way.

When I compared our impressions with the full version of their tasting notes found online, there was a clear resonance in experience. Here is what the SMWS folks had to say

Imaging waking up, looking out the tent door pitched on the beach and seeing a glorious sunrise over the sea. We then made breakfast on a driftwood campfire by toasting bread and having it with salted butter and thick set honey. To taste, cigar smoke sweetness at the start, ashy with a hint of tar in the mid palate and a slightly herbal/peppermint finish – all in perfect balance and harmony. When we reluctantly added a drop of water the sun continued getting higher in the sky and the scent of fresh salty sea air made us feel ready for whatever the day had in store for us.

It was one of only 234 bottles produced from the cask, last seen online selling for approx EUR 200.

Our Dubai host put together a remarkable collection of “Dream Drams“:

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Dubai Dream Drams – Kilchoman Sherry Single Cask 59.5%

Started in 2005, Kilchoman was the first new distillery on Islay in nearly 125 years. More importantly, the distillery crafted a distinctive “Islay character” style that challenged assumptions that quality required age.

Recently in Mumbai, I had the pleasure of chatting with Kilchoman’s founder Anthony Willis in the Spirited Stories tent at The Vault Biennale, where he shared with pride their journey into the world of whisky making.

There will be more on that another time, for now let’s focus the whisky! This particular single cask release featured as the 5th whisky sampled early January 2019 in Dubai.

In keeping with our “unique” theme, this bottle was one of only 42 produced to be sold from the Kilchoman distillery shop. It is approximately 5 years of age and according to Whisky Base, last sold for EUR 161.

Here is what my tasting companions found…

Kilchoman Sherry (8 Nov 2007/22 Feb 2013) Cask 447/2007 59.5%

  • Nose: Wet wood, campfire, burnt sugar cane, cinnamon, black pepper
  • Palate: The peat from the fresh bottle was quite pronounced, edgy, taking time to settle down and reveal the sherry dimension
  • Finish: A sweet peat cinnamon
  • Water: Tamed it considerably but for some it still remained a bit brash and unbalanced

I could swear one of the guys called it an “utara” whisky… which in Hindi literally means “descend” or “bring down” but is also slang for what you drink the next morning to take the edge off a bad hangover… like “hair of the dog.”

For a few of my sampling companions, this was simply too powerful and peaty for their palate – which is perfectly fine as half the fun of tasting a range of whiskies is discovering your personal preferences. That said, moving to a fresh pour of a cask strength at nearly 60% after the Longmorn 25 year or Strathclyde 38 year was certainly a shift in approach!

For these gents, perhaps something like the rich fruity Kilchoman Sanaig 46% might have been a more natural progression in our sampling journey. For a strong expression like this, having the right setting, time to ease into its personality, slowing down and settling in, makes all the difference.

Here is what the folks at Kilchoman have to say in their tasting notes:

  • Colour: Rich golden
  • Nose: Nice, combines peat and sherry, typical Kilchoman cloves and cinnamon
  • Palate: Soft peaty aromas with overtones of sherry, slightly dry on the palate. A good example of Kilchoman in sherry wood.
  • Finish: Clean, long and rich

If you are curious about other Kilchoman tasting experiences, check out:

The other Dream drams generously shared by our Dubai host included:

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Dubai Dream Drams – Longmorn 25 year 46%

The Longmorn distillery has an interesting history – after building Glenlossie, John Duff founded Longmorn near Elgin in 1893, part of the Speyside region. He then went on to set-up nearby the BenRiach distillery too. What is also notable is Masataka Taketsuru, the man behind Nikka whiskies did a stint at Longmorn in 1920.

Today part of Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Holdings, it produces the official Longmorn 16 year bottle plus can be found in a collection of independent expressions like this one. The rest of Longmorn’s production lends a sweet, deeply fruity element to blends.

This 25 year old Longmorn graced our “Dubai Dream Drams” evening as the 4th whisky sampled…

Longmorn 25 year (1988/2014) Cask 14384 46% (Berry’s Bro)

  • Nose – What a nose! It immediately greeted us with ripe tropical fruits…. it really was sooooo fruity! Then shifted into an eggnog rich sweetness
  • Palate – While no doubt the fruits remained, they were joined by deeper notes – including speculation about a hint of peat, plus continuing our theme of the evening we also pronounced it “buttery”
  • Finish – Long, lovely

In truth, the scant scribbled notes I took that evening did not do justice to this whisky. It was truly quite superb in a class of its own. Sweet, substance and one to savour.

As for what they shared on the bottle?

The name Longmorn is said to derive from an old Scottish word meaning “place of the holy man”. Produced near Elgin, this malt whisky is high respected for its smooth, complex full character and heady bouquet.

The primary aromas give peach skins, tropical fruits and honey. There is some underlying grapefruit and pineapple to enliven the nose. The palate offers a creamy texture with abundant fruit and some white chocolate notes cut by a little spice.

As for other Longmorn encounters? Read on…

Here are are few more remarkable drams our Dubai host generously shared that evening:

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