Whisky Lady – September + October 2020

Suddenly everything changed! From a whisky famine to a feast. From being in the same place morning, noon and night to traipsing from one country to another, different homes, even a couple of Scottish distilleries, an exceptional evening with The Whisky Exchange’s Sukhinder Singh, four different evenings of minis…. wow!

Then to top off my travels… arriving back in Germany to literally go straight to Ziegler Distillery to spend a weekend with the fabulous Sharing Angels.

And that wasn’t all… it was also time to reach out to our desi connects in Europe to virtually launch our European chapter of the Whisky Ladies. What better excuse to crack open all the whiskies I’ve managed to acquire in Germany so far!

It will take a while to share all the tasting notes and insights… however here is a summary of what’s in store!

Scotland Highlights

London and Bath Tastings

Germany’s Willkommen with a weekend trip to Ziegler Distillery with a tasting tour of Aureum Whiskies together with the German Sharing Angels

And last but certainly not least, preparations for the European chapter of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai… and remembering our Whisky Ladies tasting at Paul John distillery.

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s semi-monthly summaries:

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Whisky Ladies of Europe – Bienvenue, स्वागत हे, Välkommen, Willkommen

Welcome to what will hopefully be a new series within this Whisky Lady blog! A much needed intro to a small Whisky Ladies of Europe group – an offshoot of our beloved and terribly missed Whisky Ladies of Mumbai. Each of us are currently living in parts of Europe, having both a malty and Mumbai connect. And given that we are scattered between Sweden, Germany, and a couple locations in France, the only recourse is to go virtual!

I offered to get things started by cracking open bottles I’d acquired since moving to Germany. With great care, 12 small sample bottles for each lady was poured, packed up and shipped. Alas one box didn’t make its destination in Paris, so a 2nd set was sent with a determination to explore together a hopefully good dram or two!

What did I think would make for a good starting point? Evenings exclusively featuring cask strength whiskies from independent bottlers…

  • North Star which we’d collectively enjoyed a quintet nearly two years ago with another Mumbai based group – including a most memorable reading of Iain’s imaginative tasting notes
  • Chorlton which I’d experienced with a different Mumbai group– falling in love both with the labels and the quality of Dave’s choices
  • The Warehouse Collection which I had sampled at The Village whisky event in Nurnberg just before the shut down…

My plan is to start with the Chorlton quintet to sample over two occasions.

  1. Miltonduff 11 years 62% 1st fill bourbon, 1 of 176 bottles (MD 11)
  2. Tomintoul 14 year 57.6% Sherry butt, undiluted, uncoloured, unchill filtered, 1 of 455 bottles (TM 14)
  3. Mackmyra 12 years 50.2% bourbon barrel, undiluted, uncoloured, unchill filtered, 1 of 278 bottles (MC 12)
  4. Mannochmore 12 year 58.7% bourbon barrel, distilled 10 Sept 2008, cask strength, natural colour, unchill filtered, 1 of 108 bottles (MN 12)
  5. Blair Athol 12 years 56.6% hogshead undiluted, uncoloured, unchill filtered, 1 of 268 bottles (BA 12)

Augmenting the 2nd Chorlton session with a whisky from a German independent bottler The Whisky Warehouse No 8 under their label The Warehouse Collection:

I closed with two sessions meandering through the North Star Spirits, of which the initial three – Royal Brackla, Fettercairn and Inchgower – I’d also sampled and shared earlier my personal tasting notes.

While not the same as tasting together in person, virtual tasting with the right companions is soooooo much better than no tasting!

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Dunkerton Drams – Starward Nova 41%

Australia deserves its reputation for fabulous wines and – yes – whisky! So why not combine? While Tasmania dominates, Starward prove you can be in Melbourne and deliver something worthy of attention with distinction – by consistently maturing their whisky in wine barrels.

And while we’ve explored their Apera (sherry style) Solera, a spirited experiment under 3 years (New World Project), even their 10th Anniversary special…. somehow missed trying this Nova expression from their core range! Time to rectify that gap in our collective whisky explorations…

Starward Nova 41%

  • Nose – Plum, red cherries, black and red raspberries, strawberries, red liquorice, grapes, red wine, sweet yet also tangy, dried mango powder (aamchor), sweet basil
  • Palate – Light tannins, soft, bitter, great round fruits, had a nice fruity ‘fullness’
  • Finish – Moist mouth-watering finish, cherry cough syrup

Perhaps it was just us, however we could really find the red wine element in the equation – something bold and full bodied like a shiraz or a cab? And while only 41%, this whisky had full flavours in abundance. A most enjoyable way to close our evening, watching the sunset over green rolling pastures in Somerset.

What do the folks at Starward have to say about their Nova?

  • Beginning / A fruity, double distilled single malt made with Australian barley and craft brewers’ yeast for extra flavour.
  • Middle / Lightly charred or steamed barrels sourced from Australian wineries making great shiraz, cabernets and pinot noirs. Often filled fresh when the barrel is still wet with wine. Matured in Melbourne’s wildly varied climate for three years.
  • End / Exceptional length thanks to the red wine barrels. Bright aromatic notes of red berries, orchard fruits, vanilla, caramel and soft oak spice.
  • Future / Smooth and complex when sipped neat. Shines in classic cocktails. Works exceptionally well with food.

And their tasting notes:

  • Nose / Like we took bright flavours of red berries and orchard fruit and coated them in soft oak spice
  • Palate / Imagine a rich red berry pudding covered in vanilla, caramel and spice.
  • Finish / Balanced and long. The sweetness fades and the delicious flavour goes on.

What did we try in our 2nd Dunkerton evening?

And here are a few earlier explorations of Starward:

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Dunkerton Drams – Lake Distillery Steel Bonnets

I was surprised to realize this is the 1st whisky from England that I’ve explored. While I’ve heard about The One series with Sherry, Port and Orange, never had a chance to try. However it turns out this particular expression is a deliberate blend of English and Scottish malt whiskies… so you could call this a transition from Scotland to England.

And what is with Steel Bonnets? These were the helmets worn when robing, raiding and riding… reminders of a time during the 13th to 17th century where the land between England and Scotland was a wild independent mix of kin over kingdom… neither British nor Scottish.

Started in 2011, Lakes Distillery calls home a 160-year-old Victorian farmstead on the north shore of Bassenthwaite Lake in England’s Lake District. There is a proud desi connect with Dhavall Gandhi its whisky master – financial analyst turned whisky scientist and artist.

Curious to discover more… we cracked open our sample and let the experience take us away…

Lakes Distillery Steel Bonnets 46.6%

  • Nose – Dried fruits, light sherry, woodsy even a bit ashy, stewed overripe fruits, wood shavings, manuka honey, sweetgrass smoke… after some time there was also some bitter chocoloate with nuts
  • Palate – Sweet peat, herbal, a nice oiliness underneath, lots of flavour and body, nice spice with substance with more of that sweet smoke
  • Finish – Finally a finish!

There was something so familiar about the aromas. My tasting companion dubbed it an “unblendy blend” as it was and wasn’t like a blend. Certainly one that needed a bit of time to breath and open up… on the palate it became even better after some time. Again with the finish, there was something so familiar. We never were quite able to place it, but certainly enjoyed the experience.

What do the folks at Lake Distillery have to say?

  • Nose: Notes of vanilla, sweet spice and woodsmoke
  • Palate: Creamy, slightly nutty and full-bodied. Vanilla, ginger, nutmeg and hints of dried fruit with a sweet layer of woodsmoke
  • Finish: Long and warming

Yup – we’d agree. And genuinely enjoyed this whisky… curious to explore more as and when opportunities arise.

What else did we try in our 2nd Dunkerton drams evening?

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Dunkerton Drams – Fettercairn 12 years 40%

These days we don’t often try official bottles. By choice I tend to gravitate towards something just a little more specialized that comes with… say… a single cask from an independent bottlers. However when first learning about a distillery, when there are official bottlings available, such offerings can say a lot about what the distillery is trying to achieve.

Looking back on the Fettercairn’s I’ve tried til date…. One from North Star featuring a cask strength 12 year old from 2019 and another from That Boutique-y Whisky Company with a 21 Year from 2018) 48.6%, I can be forgiven for a little curiosity about what the distillery choses to put out as an “official bottling.”

This one came as part of the 2019 Drinks by the Drams Whisky Advent Calendar… and I’m reasonably sure it is the official Fettercairn 12 year 40%. So what did we find?

Fettercairn 12 years 40%

  • Nose – Lemon varnish, bananas, cereals, cappuccino, lemon mirange, floral and a bit woodsy
  • Palate – Soft on the tongue, a gentle curl of peat, bitter herbs, feels a bit peppery, not a lot of depth
  • Finish – Bitter tobacco and dry

My tasting companion and I had tried the 21 year old together and enjoyed the ‘oomph’ and character we found. This one? A bit of a disappointment.. nothing was wrong and it isn’t a bit dram, I had just hoped for a bit more ‘je ne sai quoi’!

What else do we know? Only that it was aged in American oak ex-bourbon casks…

And the official tasting notes?

  • COLOUR – Sunlight and amber honey
  • TASTE – Vanilla and pear, with soft spices
  • FINISH – Refreshing nectarine and tropical fruit, with subtle roasted coffee, clove, and ginger. A memorable finish of sultanas and black toffee

So there you have it.

What else did we try that evening in Dunkerton?

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Dunkerton Drams – Nikka Days 40%

We wanted to mix things up our second evening, so our selection reflected a wee jaunt around the world from Japan to England to Australia to Scotland.

We decided to kick things off in the far east with a dram from Nikka. What do we know about Nikka Days? Just that it is a blend of Miyagikyo and Yoichi with grain… and not much more.

Nikka Days 40%

  • Nose – Honey, pickled seaweed in a Bento box, tobacco leaf, subtly fruity floral, sour dough, pastry, bit of apple and pear, apple pie then hint of citrus
  • Palate – Straight forward, light spice with a bit of smoke, warming… back to apple pie
  • Finish – Minimal

A clear appetizer dram… a nice way to get thing started with a curl of smoke to add a little something more. No complexity or nuance, just a relatively light bright beginning… a way to whet the appetite.

While not listed on the Nikka website, TWE share the producer tasting notes….

  • Nose: Apples, pears and strawberry liquorice. Perfumed notes of daiginjo sake and white melon. Grainy flavours develop, with freshly crushed barley and malting floor sweetness floating out of the glass. White chocolate and a sprinkling of lemon zest sit at the back.
  • Palate: Creamy and soft, with grapes and apples on top of toffee and candied lemon. Delicate white chocolate notes are joined by darker liquorice hints and a tiny touch of barrel char smokiness. Right at the back is a bowl of apples, freshly peeled and sliced.
  • Finish: Lemon zest and buttery biscuits. Barley sugar sweetness to leave grain and spice.

Delicate and fragrant at first, with more weight hiding behind. A great all-rounder with enough complexity to sip and enough oomph to shine in a mixed drink.

Reading the notes long after we sampled, I could certainly see some alignment with what we found. However complexity and oomph? Not so much…. But overall a nice starter!

Just to give a feel for pricing, I checked it out on Master of Malt – at the time of writing, it is  available for GBP 39. That’s exceedingly affordable these days for quite a drinkable blend!

What else did we try in our 2nd Dunkerton evening?

And other Nikka experiences? There’s been a few…

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Dunkerton Drams – Nikka, Fettercairn, Lakes, Starward

One of the highlights this fall was a weekend in Dunkerton, Somerset, which also included a most enjoyable meander through some minis from the 2019 Master of Malt Advent Calendar.

We wanted to mix things up our second evening, so our selection reflected a wee jaunt around the world from Japan to England to Australia to Scotland.

It was so beautiful outside that we decided to sip and savour outdoors, looking out at the Dunkerton Parish Church. What an enchanting view, great company and interesting drams to discover!

What did we try?

What a terrific weekend get away with huge thanks to our fabulous hosts for welcoming us into their lovely home. And even more – such terrific tasting adventures – call it icing on a delicious cake!

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Swaggering in a flouncy dress – Longmorn 10 year 48.3%

Longmorn is one of those distilleries that sometimes gets missed and often over-shadowed by its more prominent neighbour BenRiach. And yet after a particular birthday in Singapore, Longmorn will always be one of the very few distilleries I’ve sampled from my ‘birth year’ – 1969!

As for this particular dram – it came from That Boutique-y Whisky Company. One of the things I get a kick out of from this bottler are their labels and the stories these graphic-novel style images tell:

Back in 1894, the Longmorn distillery was founded in Speyside. Four years later, the founder John Duff founded a second distillery a couple hundred metres from Longmorn, called Longmorn 2: Electric Boogaloo (maybe not that last part, but it was called Longmorn 2 until it became BenRiach). The two distilleries worked together, and eventually had a private railroad built between them to transport barley, peat and other sundries. In fact, if you visit Longmorn today, you’ll find a steam engine in the distillery – a sneak peek of which you can see on our Longmorn label.

For us, as interesting as the story around the distillery is… it is the stuff in the glass that matters most! So what did we find?

Longmorn 10 year Batch 3, 48.3% (TBWC) 1793 bottles (available in 2019)

  • Nose – Toffee, salty, creamy… a lip smacking creme caramel, fruity, apple strudel, carrot cake, freshly baked bread, bit floral too
  • Palate – Unexpectedly lively – fruits come to the fore with more apple, pear and even some berries then the white and black pepper spice kicks up in a delicious interplay
  • Finish – Peppery with a tangy citrus zing that mellows into honey

There was much more oomph and character on the palate than anticipated from the aromas. We found of all sampled that evening, this one had the most ‘swagger’ and ‘spunk.’ And yet was still dressed up in a pretty flouncy dress with all the fruit, floral and baked goods… just strutting about with dock martins!

Here are tasting notes from the chaps over at Master of Malt:

  • Nose: Sponge cake with honey and strawberry jam initially, then a bit of floral barley and toasted oats. A hint of orchard fruit and wood spice underneath.
  • Palate: Baking spice, toffee and dark fruits, with some minty herbal notes, orange zest and drying oak.
  • Finish: Black pepper heat develops alongside white grapes and shortbread.

Would I agree? Pretty much jibes with what we found… Our mini came as part of the Master of Malt 2019 Advent Calendar and was tasted one fine weekend in Dunkerton, Somerset. A full bottle would set you back around GBP 77.

What else did we try that summery evening?

As for other brushes with Longmorn? Just check these out….

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An aptly named Mackmyra Äppleblom

I goofed up a bit here… after the delightful Brenne, I intended to continue with the Mackmyra Äppleblom. But mixed up my minis and we cracked open and started tasting the Vintergold instead – oops!

Why I wanted to follow the Cognac finished Brenne with the Calvados finished Äppleblom was an expectation of sweet progression before getting into the curious combination of PX and Swedish Mulled Wine finishes with the Vinterglöd.

However my tasting companion and I were able to ‘roll with it’… here is what we found…

Mackmyra Äppelblom 46.1%

  • Nose – Lots of white orchard fruits, joyous pears, apples, delicate, toffee, vanilla cream, tangy citrus edge, wood shavings, banana nuts, fruity, apple blossoms
  • Palate – Started a bit softly then the flavours blossomed all around the palate, quite fruity yet also a bit peppery, then a touch of tobacco leaf?
  • Finish – Nicely lingers, anise, orchard fruit

We found the nose much bigger than the palate on this one… when sampled after the Vinterglöd… but when we set aside and returned to resample in the intended tasting order – wow! This one really had a delightful sprightly character that nicely built on the Brenne aperatif.

Based on this experience, I would be curious to try more Calvados influenced whiskies. And would say this ‘apple bloom’ is rather aptly named!

How much would it set you back? EUR 60.

What do the folks at Mackmyra have to say?

Mackmyra Äppelblom is an elegant single malt that was distilled in Mackmyra Bruk. Finally, the whiskey was stored in oak barrels, which were previously saturated with Calvados from Christian Drouin.

Its spicy balance is made up of the light apple tones in the Mackmyra distillate, the stronger and rounder apple aromas of the Calvados and a generous amount that the barrel contributes. The result is a whiskey with a hint of apple and a hint of ripe pears, citrus fruits, almond caramel and cedarwood.

  • Nose: Fruity, light floral aroma, gentle tones from bourbon and new American oak barrels with a little vanilla. Rounded off with caramel, oak and cedar, along with some toasted bread. Complemented by fruity nuances of apples, pears and lemons. 
  • Taste: Fruity, spicy aromas of apples, ripe pears and citrus fruits. A hint of vanilla, to which cedarwood, anise, white pepper and ginger are added. An impression of caramel-laden vanilla rounds off this slightly oily textured whiskey. 
  • Finish: Fruity and spicy notes emerge, accompanied by a hint of oak and soft apples.  

What else did we try in our Dunkerton Drams evening?

These were all part of a 2019 Master of Malt Advent Calendar.

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A Christmas ode with Swedish Mulled Wine – Mackmyra Vinterglöd

I will admit to having a mixed response to some more experimental wine maturation combinations. Not all are a smashing success, in my humble opinion. However how are unique gems discovered without someone taking a crazy idea or playing around? So I entered into this particular tasting with an open mind. Thinking of how much I enjoy the tart tasty mulled crabapple and red wine of my Canadian youth and have adapted to the sweeter avatar I find here in Germany.

Intended to come after the Mackmyra Äppleblom, the Mackmyra Vinterglöd is uniquely finished in a combination of PX and Swedish Mulled Wine casks.

Mackmyra Vinterglöd 46.1%

  • Nose – Initially a whiff of agave, then spicy cinnamon, light Christmasy notes dancing about, then sour plum, Chinese sour cherry, a touch of pine or balsam fir, then some chocolate – yum! More Christmas oranges and cloves, ginger snap cookies
  • Palate – Ginger, sour cherries… the Christmas orange and cloves on the aromas followed through beautifully on the palate, caramelized ginger peel
  • Finish – Dry spice kick, a bit bitter, sweet leather and licorice, cinnamon spice,

Distinctive and even more so when we returned after some time. Really quite interesting… it reminded me of orange bitters, herbaceous and deliciously sweet… like a Ricola swiss herbal lozenge.

What do the folks at Mackmyra have to say?

Mackmyra Vinterglöd (winter glow) is…inspired by the Swedish winter tradition of drinking mulled wine during the colder months of the year.

Vinterglöd carries notes of orange, candied fruit and almond, together with oak and a ginger-like spiciness. The aromatic profile of the whisky comes from its aging in casks that previously held Swedish mulled wine and Pedro Ximénez Sherry.

Vinterglöd is a collaboration with Saturnus Glögg.

  • NOSE – Spicy with berries, fruits and light oily notes. Toasted notes of vanilla, oak and caramel fudge. A light warm and oaky spiciness with a hint of tar and mineralities. Sweet notes of raisin, marzipan, citrus and pear drop. Blackcurrant notes of older whisky are found together with spicy and herbal notes of aniseed, ginger and tobacco leaves.
  • TASTE – Spicy with a nice balance between fruits, berries, oils and oak. Blackcurrant, pear fudge and grapefruit. Pleasant spicy oak with hints of tar and tobacco leaves. The texture has a light oiliness.
  • AFTERTASTE – Oily and spicy with berries and a light dryness towards the end.

What else did we try in our Dunkerton Drams evening?

These were all part of a 2019 Master of Malt Advent Calendar.

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