Hazelwood 21 year 40%

From the Glen Grant & Sons stable, this blend came out a few years ago in travel retail with its glitz bottle, harkening to Art Deco heydays in select cities around the world.

We sampled it completely blind, with no clue what we were trying… Here is what we discovered…

Hazelwood 21 year 40%

  • Nose – Hay, malt, bit sharp, citrus, candy shop, coconut oil, husk, meethi (fenugreek leaves), horseradish, a bit of cinnamon, tobacco, a bit of nuts, wood, acetone, lots of honey
  • Palate – Sweet and spice, more of that horseradish, straight, honey water, no development on the palate, spice remains, thin with no body
  • Finish – Piquant finish, flat, some wood

While it may sound like a nice range of aromas, they all played within a fairly narrow band… overall it came across as quite “watery”… inoffensive and bland. We wondered if it could make a good mixer?

Before the reveal, one speculated it might be a blend. Turns out he was right! More precisely a blend of Kininvie, Girvan, and others…

Curious to know more? Why not check out what I found in an earlier tasting of the Hazelwood 21 year 40%.

What else did we try?

  • Dalmore King Alexander III 40%
  • Glenglassaugh Revival 46%

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Preference vs Price – Hazelwood, Dalmore, Glenglassaugh

Sometimes it is good to have a reminder that money doesn’t always mean you will encounter a marvellous malt! And that on our journey of discovering, hype doesn’t necessarily equate to a worthy exploration. This is one of the best reasons to taste blind – free from any preconceived notions or perceptions.

What did we try?

Alas I was late that eve, arriving just in time for the 3rd dram… which meant I began with the Hazelwood. Then continued in reverse order with the Dalmore, closing with the Glenglassaugh. Whereas my fellow malt explorers started with what was clearly the most robust (Glenglassaugh) then proceeded with lighter (Dalmore) and lightest (Hazelwood) profiles.

It was also an evening where we were reminded that price doesn’t necessarily mean quality – or at least our palate preference.

If we were rank by our blind-taste preferences we would have certainly put the cheapest first – the Glenglassaugh (approx $40), followed by the Dalmore (approx $200, but not worth that price!) and finally the Hazelwood (approx $100).

Curious if others have any different opinions?

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Irish Whiskies – Redbreast Lustau Edition 46%

We are no stranger to Midleton’s pot still Redbreast, however our host was determined to add a “twist” by tracking down a special edition – in this case one which features the influence of finishing in 1st fill Oloroso sherry butts for a year.

So what did we think?

Redbreast Lustau Edition 46%

  • Nose – A robust start then settled down, light greed wood, creamy, loads of dried prunes, brandy butter almond, sherry rich, even marshmallows, that old style home-made sweet syrupy orange cordial, very sweet, tobacco leaves, lemon barley squash, sugar cane citrus… then after sipping more of the woods and leaves came to the fore, still retaining a lovely sweet edge
  • Taste – Lots of fruits, wood and sweet tobacco
  • Finish – Spice that creeps up and gives a good wake-up, really quite good – long strong with a distinctive clove studded orange, in subsequent sips had a delightful lasting quality

It had a youthful ‘vigour’ about it, tempered by the sherry richness that made for a rather good counterpoint.

Even after setting aside and revisiting – this one remained interesting. Losing some of the extra saccharin sweetness replaced with nice fruity sweet spices, some oils, wet leaves with a solid sherry quality that remained.

The triple “prunes” quality paired fabulously well with cigars… which naturally meant the evening shifted to quaffing this dram above the others.

What do the folks behind Redbreast have to say?

The newest addition to the Redbreast family, Redbreast Sherry Finish Lustau Edition offers fans a new way to experience our signature sherry taste, thanks to an old friendship. Born of a unique collaboration between the Bodegas Lustau and the Midleton Distillery, Redbreast Sherry Finish Lustau Edition is initially matured in traditional bourbon and sherry casks for a period of 9-12 years. It is then finished for 1 additional year in first fill hand selected sherry butts that have been seasoned with the finest Oloroso sherry from the prestigious Bodegas Lustau in Jerez. We are confident Redbreast fans will enjoy this new angle on Redbreast’s beloved sherry character.

  • Nose: Rich infusion of dark fruits, prunes, dates and figs with liquorice, marzipan, toasted oak and Redbreast spices.
  • Taste: Creamy pot still with Redbreast spices balanced with richness of sherry finish and contribution of fresh Spanish oak.
  • Finish: Endless. Sweetness and pot-still spices endure while oloroso sherry and Spanish oak have the last word.

As for cost, a most reasonable £48 at The Whisky Exchange – pas mal.

Here is what else we played with during our latest greatest Irish whiskey evening:

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Irish Whiskies – Green Spot Bordeaux 46%

The “Spot” whiskies come from Mitchell & Son with the Bordeaux finish a new variation of Green Spot.

Now I will admit upfront I’ve had some mixed experiences lately with wine finishes… and while I’m happy to settle down with a Green Spot in sociable evening, I feared this friendly green orchard fruits and honeyed dram may not take well to being finished up to two years in  Bordeaux barriques from Château Léoville Barton.

I’m exceedingly pleased to share my fears were groundless and, if anything, this was a favourite of our Irish evening!

So what did we discover?

Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton Bordeaux Finish 46%

  • Nose – From the bourbon we found vanilla and banana… then the sherry elements of dried fruits, nuts and prunes came to the fore… followed by the tannins, tart black cherries from the Bordeaux all with a lovely spice, pungent and almost a bit astringent… a few even caught a whiff of sulfur? As it settled in, a nice vanilla cake and custard with berries and a dash of sweet spices predominated
  • Taste – Dry, yet with sweetness. The 2nd sip revealed a clear influence of the wine, fruity, more of the sweet spices, overall pronounced most enjoyable
  • Finish – A lovely spice, juniper, sour cherries, long and easy

We found it was a mix of of the casks in which the pot still whiskey matured – bourbon, sherry and Bordeaux – and truly felt all three elements influenced the result, particularly in the aromas.

There was no doubt this was an easy one to return too, eminently friendly with enough going on to not get bored. The nose especially was delightful and kept its sweet honey and other elements quite nicely even after setting aside for some time.

What do the folks at Mitchell have to say?

Green Spot Château Léoville Barton has initially been matured in traditional sherry and bourbon casks, then finished in French oak wine casks from the renowned Château Léoville Barton, Bordeaux.

  • Nose – The French oak drives the initial aroma with crisp woodland notes added to the spicy Pot Still character. The wine seasoning brings a floral perfume and ripe berries to the archetypal orchard fruits.
  • Taste – The familiar mouth coating is a very satisfying balance of oak and spices. Some vanilla sweetness works in harmony with the dry orchard fruits and French oak, combining effortlessly with barley grains to complete the complexity.
  • Finish – For the finish, the rich French oak slowly fades leaving the wine & the spices of France & Ireland with the last word.

As for the price? We’d say for this quality, it is exceedingly reasonable at £58 if you find it, as this was,  at The Whisky Exchange in London.

Here is what else we explored during our latest greatest Irish whiskey evening:

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Irish Whiskies – Method and Madness 40%

I have to admit… I was rather curious about this one. It is fairly normal to find whiskies matured in bourbon and sherry casks, but Chestnut?

And what exactly is Method and Madness? The short answer is Midleton distillery. The longer one is this brand opens the doors to more experimentation. As they put it:

There will be trial, and error, and brilliant bottled breakthroughs that start with “What if?” Restless hearts making inspired spirits.

Now we love experimentation and can take a few ‘misses’ to discover those remarkable ‘hits’! So…. what did we discover?

Method and Madness Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey 40%

  • Nose – Sherry, varnish, nuts, bananas, red liquorice, a bit dusty, fruit, truth be told there was something a bit peculiar… almost headache inducing… which sounds awful yet wasn’t
  • Taste – Flat, thin body, a bit salty and a bit sour, green tea?
  • Finish – We began to think of particularly Indian flavours – chaat, churan and amchoor… with their distinctive tart sourness, dash of unripe mango fruit

This lead to amusing speculation that it could pair well with pani puri... or even make drunken version of it!

But did we like it? While it wasn’t a smashing success, it wasn’t a total disaster either.

And the revisit after sampling all other Irish whiskies that eve? Just reconfirmed our perception that it it has a distinctive sour chaat dimension

Let’s just say while interesting to try, we didn’t think it the best choice to pair with cigars.

What do the folks at Method & Madness have to say?

Single Pot Still whiskey aged in chestnut casks, a combination of what we’ve always done in Midleton and what we’ve never tried before. It’s not often we stray from the traditional oak, but one sip suggests it was well worth the deviation.

  • Nose – Red liquorice laces, fresh rosemary and mint, grated root ginger
  • Taste – Sweet fruit and spice, cinnamon toast, ripe banana
  • Finish – Aromatic green tea, dissipating fruit and spice, rich wood farewell

We read the tasting notes and could agree with red liquorice laces, herbs and definitely the green tea but not so much the balance. And guess those producing the tasting notes aren’t familiar with our desi flavours!

And the price point? At The Whisky Exchange, expect something around £65.

Here is what else we played with during our latest greatest Irish whiskey evening:

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Irish Whiskies – Dingle Triple Distilled 46.5%

By now its a known factor of Irish whiskies that while new brands may have sprouted up all over, the “juice” is likely from Cooleys (aka Tyrconnell, Kilbeggan, Greenore, Connemara), Bushmills or Midleton (aka Jameson and all its variants). And while many have the desire to start their own distillery, until they have the wherewithal to do so, buy and bottle.

The story is a bit different with Dingle. In this case, the distillery makes their own pot still whiskey – with this their 3rd batch. They also make a quintuple distilled vodka and a London Dry style gin with mostly Kerry county ingredients – a smart way to start earning from their distillery while waiting for the whiskey.

Dingle Triple Distilled Batch 3 46.5%, Bottle 12686

  • Nose – A spike of grapes, compost, quite vegetal, old banana, nuts, dry wood, leaves, then the sweetness started to creep in with boiled sweets, lemon zest, vanilla, even a sweet dusty powder…
  • Taste – For one taster it was an immediate “yummy!” For others, it was innocuous, flat, a bit of tart lemon then sweet… by the 2nd sip, no sweet –> straight to bitter and sour
  • Finish – This was an odd one… the finish began bitter with a light burn, then sour, even a bit of rancid walnut, wood… and overall what we would describe as “khatta!

In the aromas, initially the port influence was almost impossible to discern. However as it opened up, it became more apparent. Yet the palate didn’t reward… and the finish? Let’s just say if bitter and sour is your thing, then this one is for you… but for most of us? Nope, didn’t quite hit the mark.

So it was set aside to see if it gained any other elements or shifted after being open for an hour.

And what did we find? Not very different, still quite sour… just not happening for most of us. Gotta be honest, we had hoped for something more.

But like all things whisk(e)y, exploring and experimenting has its amazing rewards and a few disappointments too.

It could be said that Dingle was the first to open a new independent distillery in Ireland after 200 years… it definitely is not the last. Where Dingle is today could transform over the years… these are exceedingly early days given the first distillate was laid only in 2012 and the one we tried was the 3rd batch. So let’s see!

What do the folks at Dingle have to say?

Created by the marriage of meticulously selected casks, both Bourbon and Port, this single malt Irish whiskey is a small piece of history, unique and rare. Batch No. 3 is a limited release of 13,000 bottles at 46.5% and 500 bottles at Cask Strength. It is a marriage of Bourbon and Port casks.

A burst of blue/black fruits on the nose forms a tart almost jam like sweetness on the palate with some subtle notes of citrus peels, the liquid coats the mouth like warm honey, mixed berries and marmalade linger on the tongue.

As for what would it set you back? Well, if you picked it up at The Whisky Exchange like this one was, you could be looking at £75.

Here is what else we played with during our latest greatest Irish whiskey & cigars  evening:

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Irish Whiskies – Dingle, Green Spot, Method and Madness, Redbreast

Feels like we’ve come full circle – back to another Irish whiskey evening. Our host was determined to select ones you do not normally come across!

So what did we have the pleasure of trying?

  • Dingle Triple Distilled Batch 3, 46.5% from the 1st new independent Irish distillery in 200 years
  • Method and Madness Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey 40%, matured in ex-Bourbon, Sherry and Chestnut, part of Midleton distillery’s new experimental line
  • Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton Bordeaux Finish 46%, after being aged  in bourbon and olorosso sherry casks, from Mitchel & Sons, also part of the Irish Distillers (Midleton Distillery) family
  • Redbreast Lustau Edition 46% Finished in first-fill oloroso sherry butts for a year, also part of the Midleton distillery product range

And why do I say “full circle”? Because this was not the 1st Irish Whiskey themed evening with these gents… rewind the clock to 2016 where we explored with the Whisky Ladies – Bushmills 10 year16 year21 yearSteamship + Connemara.

In that case, all but one came from the Bushmills “stable”… whereas this evening there was a distinct Irish Distillers aka Midleton Distillery bent, best known for Jameson whiskies.

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Port Finish – Amrut Port Pipe Peated 48%

India is making its mark with Amrut and Paul John single malts… so when we were planning an evening exploring different finishes and the Amrut Port Pipe Peated became available, well… we simply had to give it a whirl!

Amrut Port Pipe Peated 48%

  • Nose – Well hello peat, smoking pipe, sea salt, apricots, a richness, then as it opened up more, became spicier, smoked meats, some cognac and even sweet candies, apples, give it even more time and there was a whiff of mocha coffee chocolate
  • Palate – Spice and peat and sweet combine, heavy and creamy on the tongue, balanced
  • Finish – After the 1st sip, the finish was a bit bitter, then a few sips in, the finish was nice long, lazy peat, with sweetness and salt, just hanging around

We thought it a good ‘all rounder.’ Overall… there was something quite ‘desi‘ about this one. We even speculated about tasting besan – the chickpea flour used to make pakoras. Whereas another suggested kebabs picking up on the hint of smoked meats dimension. Yet another called it a solid 4 course meal. Hmm…. were we starting to get hungry?

It was apt though – this is a whisky of substance. What was curious was how the port element was subtle, whereas the peat was predominant.

Certainly this is a whisky you would be proud to call Indian.

Zoe and Amrut

And what do the combined Amrut and The Vault folks have to say?

This a single cask release made with a combination of 3 YO Virgin Oak & Ex-Bourbon matured malts that are further aged in the very rare 30 YO Port Pipe cask from Portugal, for another 2.5 years. Whisky aged for 5.5 years in tropical climate like Bangalore, which is 3000 ft. above sea level brings the flavour to its apex profile. The peated malt, imported from Scotland, uses Aberdeenshire peat that delivers well rounded peat notes with only a hint of iodine on the nose and palate.

  • Nose: First up is butterscotch wrapped in delicious gentle peat with growing sweetness of honey, and raisins. Thick oak tannins and hints of cinnamon flavoured dark chocolate.
  • Palate: The peat has come to life with all the creaminess from raisins and honey. Lots of citrus and tropical fruits. Cinnamon and chocolate in the background.
  • Finish: Ever so long and mouth coating. Peat, citrus and sweetness lingers on with massive salivation and little dryness.

You won’t find this whisky easily…. only 100 bottles were released for sale in Mumbai – launched as part of The Vault Biennale, held in Mumbai February 2019. And if you managed to snag one of those bottles? It would cost you Rs 7,000 / approx $100.

Curious about other Amrut experiences?

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Port Finish – Tomatin 14 year Port Wood 46%

From the Highland, we sampled Tomatin’s 14 year Port Wood finish 46%. In 2014, Tomatin added it to their core range, noting that it starts in Bourbon barrels before spending a year being finished in Port pipes.

So what did we think?

Tomatin 14 year Port Wood finish 46%

  • Nose – Initially lots of wine, grapes, some spice, even black salt from a chaat masala, dried herbs, old shoes
  • Palate – Grape cool aide with spice, yoghurt, a bit thin
  • Finish – Bizarre tannins
  • Water – A bit softer, yet gained an odd metallic quality

Sometimes when you taste with others, one thought leads to another and another. In this case, we spiralled from the above observations into uproarious laughter. Why?

Well… we started off remarking how the aroma reminded us of a cheap bar… more specifically the morning after with the stench of spilt cheap red wine and tequila. The reaction was so strong from a few that there was considerable trepidation to even taste.

And then?

Let’s just say it considerable devolved into talk of baby puke (not uncommon with whiskies) and even less polite observations… back to that bar with the unmistakable aroma of those who over indulged and could not contain there… er… you get the picture.

So we read what the folks at Tomatin have to say? Could we discover some of the notes they share?

The Tomatin 14 Year Old is soft, smooth and sweet, benefiting from its time spent in Tawny Port casks which previously held port for around 50 years.

Rich but balanced aromas of red berries, sweet honey and rich toffee develop into aspects of light fruits and nuts on the palate and an abiding finish of smooth fruit salad.

Sorry? Rich? Fruit salad?! And that’s when we devolved into laughter… when someone mentioned maybe if it was fruit that… er… again… you get the picture.

So I set it aside to see if it improved with a bit… it happens sometimes.

And?

Nope! Not for us. If anything was a bit queer. Sigh…

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve? A few we enjoyed much much more!

And that is the terrific thing about experiments – some hits, some misses and more!

If you picked it up from Master of Malt in the UK, this Tomatin would set you back approx $60. However like most whiskies, prices vary massively depending on where you purchase it and understand this particular bottle cost nearly double that! Yikes!

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Madeira Finish – Penderyn Madeira 46% a favourite!

Our Whisky Ladies explored an evening of finishes… moving from Speyside to Wales to explore the affect of Madeira on whisky… Here is what we discovered…

Penderyn Madeira 46%

  • Nose – When freshly opened had a bright sharpness, metallic, then shifted into a perfume – rose and other flowers, then fruity, then the wood came to the fore followed by a nice nuttiness of chestnuts, shifting further to a chewy gummy bear, from candy to creme brûlée
  • Palate – Fruits and spice, some tannins, with a lovely slow progression, an nice understated but interesting character, some dates, toffee and cream
  • Finish – Cotton candy, then toffee and a hint of vanilla

We really enjoyed this one! One of the few times it was absolutely a unanimous “thumbs up!” We found it very drinkable, feminine, with enough going on to keep us engaged.

I set it aside and revisited after sampling all unusual finishes of the evening. What did I find? An initial whiff of sweet varnish, then a lovely candied toffee, vanilla… simply yum!

This is another you can find at some duty free or, if you picked it up from the Whisky Exchange in the UK, it would set you back approx £40.

Penderyn Official Website

And what do the folks at Pendryn have to say?

This whisky is the original Penderyn ‘house style’, aged in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in ex-Madeira wine casks to bring out its full gold character. It is bottled at 46% abv.

Official Tasting Notes:
  • Nose: A classic freshness with aromas of cream toffee, rich fruit and raisins.
  • Palate: Crisp and finely rounded, with the sweetness to balance an appetising dryness.
  • Finish: Notes of tropical fruit, raisins and vanilla persist.
  • Balance: Oaky vanilla tones/dry sweetness

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve?

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