Chorlton – Blair Athol 12 years 56.6%

Next up in our Chorolton evening was another from the Diageo stable – Blair Athol. Over the years, there haven’t been as many Blair Athol experiences as one would expect… Just the Flora & Fauna official bottling 12 year 43%, and two from independent bottlers – Hunter Laing’s “Old Malt” collection 16 year (1997) 50% and Signatory’s 27 year (1988) 55.7%.

So what did we think of this one from Chorlton?

Blair Athol 12 years 56.6% 268 bottles

  • Nose – Chocolate, prunes, toffee, nutty, ginger bread, marmalade, marmite, pink peppercorn, berries, even a hint of apricot?
  • Palate – Delicious! Ginger snap, spice, toasted almonds, a nice oily fullness, fruity and well rounded, with that marmalade quality on the nose eventually coming through on the palate as well
  • Finish – Carries through the depth, character and sweetness

Amusingly we had quite a divergent opinion on this Blair Athol.

While two of us nattered on about its complexity, character and how with each sip, we enjoyed more and more. Our third lady got none of what we found – none.

A couple hours later? She came back with an exuberant – “I finally got it!!!”

What could account for the difference? Likely several factors – not the least of which is glassware. Usually when we taste together it is with glencairn glasses. In the past, I would bring to our tasting sessions in Mumbai. After my move to Germany, the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai invested in a couple sets which get passed from host to host so that consistency remains. We also were tuning in from our homes – from Scandinavia to Bretagne to Bavaria. Each likely having some lingering aromas of our every day indoor life.

What ever the reason – it was most amusing that, in the end, the Blair Athol came through!

What does David have to say?

A complex, earthy and waxy whisky this, in a very old-fashioned Highlands style. The nose has orange peel, malt extract, herbal pastilles and dark berry fruits. The palate has a long development that starts on honey and ginger beer, becomes more nutty, and ends with orange syrup, Blackjack sweets and a touch of salt. Blair Athol isn’t a big name, but this is a delicious and characterful whisky that rewards your attention.

I purchased this whisky directly from the Chorlton website for £62.50 plus shipping.

Here are the Chorlton‘s sampled with the Blair Athol:

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Chorlton – Mackmyra 12 years 50.2%

I don’t know why, but I struggled to prepare this post… My tasting notes from a virtual tasting evening with our European chapter of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai were weak. So it took sitting down for a solo tasting to tease out a bit more. If some of the impressions seem contradictory, this would be why!

First off – we are no strangers to Sweden’s Mackmyra distillery offerings.We’ve quite enjoyed a few over the years… and been disappointed too.

And now, without further ado… here is what we discovered!

Mackmyra 12 years 50.2% 278 bottles

  • Nose – Clean and fresh, cherry wood, sweet honey, one dimensional, caraway seed
  • Palate – Cork or wood, juniper?
  • Finish – Bitter cinnamon bark
  • Water – We had a bit of a debate on this – some thought it nicer with water, others thought it killed its character
  • Return – We set it aside and returned after some time… it opened up to reveal some lightly floral notes and balsam wood

Well this was a curious one… certainly not complex or flamboyant. Above all, it needed time to open up.

Did we like it? Let’s say there was a mixed response. In particular our Swedish lady was… underwhelmed by this Mackmyra.

And yet, when I came back to it a few weeks later, I found there was an inviting ‘freshness’ to its approach – clean, straight forward and quite pleasant. I found a subtle citrus fruitiness – more grapefruit than orange. With water, I also discovered tasty baked goods – more like lemon curd wickeltorte or poppyseed grapefruit gugelhupf.

It is distinctly different and while it wouldn’t be the 1st dram I would gravitate to relax and unwind, it was utterly delightful one evening when I came in from a brisk chilly walk. Clearly that is the right context for quite a cheerful dram.

What does David have to say?

My first foray into the world of whisky outside of Scotland is a rare chance to try a non-finished single cask from Sweden’s Mackmyra distillery.

The nose is super-clean and foresty (very Scandi!), with rye, caraway, lemon sponge and hints of apricot. The palate continues the theme with gingerbread, spiced cookies, juniper and a zingy orange/grapefruit fruitiness in the finish. Really interesting stuff, and a profile quite unlike any Scotch.

This bourbon barrel was fully matured in an abandoned mine under the Swedish forest.

I purchased this whisky directly from the Chorlton website for £70 plus shipping.

Here is are the other two in this Chorlton trio:

As for other brushes with Mackmyra? There have been many! With nearly all sampled together with our Swedish Whisky Lady:

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Chorlton – Miltonduff 11 years 62%

We kicked off our virtual tasting evening with a Chorlton trio! First up was cask strength 11 year old from Miltonduff.

Miltonduff 11 years 62% 176 bottles

  • Nose – It started off as a refreshing melange of pears, apples, apricot… fruity, then came the toffee and nuts, shifting back to the apple with a clear calvados stamp! Apple strudel
  • Palate – Spicy! With an itchy warming… then it eased into quite a bit character. Chocolate gingerbread, even a bit of coconut, then almond paste
  • Finish – Slightly bitter

Let’s be honest… first whiff was ‘woah!’ as it was going from zero to serious alcohol strength without any easing into it! And first sip? Yeah… maybe starting with 62% was a bit much!

However both as we adjusted and the dram opened up more, it was clear there was much going on. We quite enjoyed the contrast  between the fruity nose and the rich palate.

For me, at least, this one demands generous water… only then does the full character come through!

  • Nose – Yum! First it revealed a lovely fresh green apple, then herbal. Then clearly shifted into baked apple pie, vanilla… and dare I say marshmallow?
  • Palate – Given I’m in the heart of “lebkuchen” land, I couldn’t help but think of Nuremburger gingerbread! It also had a bit of orange marmalade ,

So it turns out that the 1st whisky of our evening turned out to be the one we enjoyed the most. It had a certain ‘oomph’ and character that compelled us to come back!

What does David have to say?

A rollicking joint bottling with my friends at The Rare Malt in Hong Kong! The nose is big and bourbon-forward, with marmalade, custard cream biscuits and plum jam. Underneath that you’ll find more subtle hints of dried flowers, cocoa powder and anise. The palate is also bold and rich, with mocha, chewy gingerbread, nutmeg and fudge, balanced by some zingy fruits. Water is transformative and makes everything more citrussy, clean and herbal.

I purchased this whisky directly from the Chorlton website for £62.50 plus shipping.

Here is the other Chorlton‘s sampled with the Miltonduff:

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Whisky Ladies of Europe – Chorlton Trio

Soon after the announcement of the European chapter of our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai, our tasting sessions kicked off! It was a bit of a bumpy start as our Parisian Whisky Lady could only listen as her boxes took several weeks instead of days to reach!

Our journey began with an interesting array from independent bottlers… starting with this trio from Chorlton.

  1. Miltonduff 11 years 62.0% first fill bourbon 1 of 176 bottles (MD 11) – Great contrast between fruity nose and surprisingly rich palate
  2. Mackmyra 12 years 50.2% bourbon barrel, undiluted, uncoloured, unchill filtered, 1 of 278 bottles (MC 12) – Fresh, clean, cherry wood and honey
  3. Blair Athol 12 years 56.6% hogshead, undiluted, uncoloured, unchill filtered, 1 of 268 bottles (BA 12)

Truly, it was such a pleasure to taste whiskies again with a small group of women. A much needed moment of malty merriment!

From Chorlton’s L’Ancien Régime series, I was fortunate to try earlier in Mumbai:

  • Miltonduff 9 year 58.3% – Creamy desert with fruits, breakfast cereals… in short delicious!
  • Orkney 9 year 63.1% – Copper, minerals, salted caramel and smoke, all beautifully balanced
  • Ruadh Maor 8 year 62.5% (aka Glenturret) – Seasoned meats and fried snacks…. a chameleon quality that evolved differently in each glass

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North Star Series 8 – Glenturret 8 year 58.3%

The last North Star we sampled was from the Highlands – Glenturret to be precise.

I will admit when I selected this bottle, I was hugely influenced by how spectucular the LMdW Artist Glenturret 30 year was! This impression was further re-inforced by a positive experience with a port matured Glenturret 14 year mini.

When I first opened it went – woah!? This was no lucious peach confection. It was peat.  I paused… and then it clicked! I also had this style of Glenturret – better known as Ruadh Mhor – courtesy of a fabulous evening of Chorlton’s whiskies.

In the past, most Glenturret would go into Famous Grouse. You might come across the occasional independent bottles, however in 2018 it was sold to Glenturret Holding – a joint venture between Lalique Group and Swiss entrepreneur Hansjörg Wyss, from 2020 a new range of official bottling are now available.

I went back to filling up our sample bottles to send to Whisky ladies in Europe.

What about the Glenturret Distillery

Glenturret 8 year (Dec 2010 / Mar 2019) Refill Hogshead 58.3% (North Star 008), 1 of 330 bottles. Price Price with shipping/tax £65.49

  • Colour – Golden hay
  • Nose – Well hello peat! Barbecue pringles, salted cashew nuts, cured meats, burnt bacon drizzled in maple syrup, a bit of charcoal wood chips.
  • Palate – Mmmmm maple bacon… baked apples, chocolate… a nice ‘grown up’ complex sweet peat, oily, think caramelized onions and apple sauce with a nice light spice
  • Finish – Long… a subtle smoked bacon tail with a lingering sweetness
  • Water – Initially it seemed to dampen it too much, losing the lovely balance between spice, sweet and peat… however it did add another citrusy element – grapefruit.

While the aromas swirled about with cured smoked meats, the peat was more nuanced on the palate… a kind of civilized rounded peat. Just the kind of maple bacon that is hard to resist!

Talk turned to peat. One of our whisky ladies has a clear peat preference. Whereas I have to admit,  I have veered away from peat of the last few years. Until now. And I realized it is clearly linked to environment. Living in India in perpetual summer is entirely different than a chilly Germany in November! Whereas this kind of sweet smokey dram is perfection on a cold miserable rainy day.

And what does Ian have to say?

  • Nose – Sweet & salted monkey nuts
  • Palate – Fine virginia tobacco
  • Finish – Medicinal, lemon and burnt orange

What else was part of my North Star latest score?

As for other Glenturret experiences? By far the most outstanding was the LMdW, however the Chorlton was also a worthy whisky!

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North Star Series 8 – Auchroisk 13 year 51.2%

Next up in our meander through a few North Stars‘ is a cask strength dram from Auchroisk Distillery.

While we tasted blind, with the reveal, our ex-Diageo lady shared how once upon a time it was bottled as Singleton as it was felt Auchroisk (Oth-rusk) would be too difficult to pronounce. This was back in the mid-1980s which also happened to be an early example of finishing as their approach was to decant a 10 year old ex-Bourbon matured whisky into ex-Sherry casks for a further 2 years, before this became a hallmark technique of Glenmorangie.

Was it successful? As a single malt brand, not entirely. And by 2001, bottling under this label stopped with the name changed back to Auchroisk with release of a ‘Flora & Fauna’ official bottling. Followed later in 2008 with release of “The Singleton of Auchroisk.”

In the meantime, the name Singleton was revived as the Diageo ‘brand’ –  The Singleton – which has three distinctly different avatars (and distilleries) depending on the market –  The Singleton of Glen Ord for Asia (fruity), followed by Glendullan for North America (touted as smooth and approachable), and Dufftown for Europe (nutty marmalade).

Confused much?

Auchroisk 13 year (Feb 2006 / June 2019) Oloroso Sherry Hogshead 51.2% (North Star 008)

  • Nose – Wow! Fresh bubblegum, apples – quite a summery greeting. Flower, all sorts of jams, Victoria sponge cake, strawberries and cream, pavlova, marshmallows, cantaloupe… shifting into a touch of port or prunes or something in the darker sherry aromas, perhaps even a hint of sweet tobacco leaf? As it continued to open, just became more and more fabulous in the shifting range of fruity baked deserts with a touch of sweet spices
  • Palate – What a contrast! We hadn’t expected such character – spice, licorice, cheese rinds greeted us with the first sip. By the 2nd sip, the sherry influence was clear. Lots of blackberries, strawberries. Creamy, coating the palate.
  • Finish – Relatively short but satisfying.
  • Water – Definitely has an impact. On the aromas, adding water brought back the floral quality, added mandarin oranges. On the palate it was initially spicier – a lot spicier – with cinnamon, allspice. As it settled down, we thought of old fashioned Christmas oranges with cloves, with a nice dollop of vanilla infused cream!

Overall we were impressed. There was a pleasant complexity to this one.

We returned after sampling the peaty Glenturret 8 year… Sometimes having a sherry dram follow peat, can lead to disappointment. Absolutely not in this case! If anything, we appreciated this Auchroisk even more.

  • Revisit – Gorgeous! Vanilla, tobacco, sweet liquorice, lovely christmasy character without being too intensely sherry. Also had a nice nuttiness. And sipping? Simply delicious. In short – Yum! A delightful dessert-y whisky.

No doubt – we thoroughly enjoyed this dram! And would be interested in exploring more…

This Auchroisk was matured in a Oloroso sherry hogshead which produced 280 bottles. I paid approx GBP 67, ordered directly from the fabulous folks at North Star Spirits.

As for Iain Croucher‘s tasting notes? Here is what he had to say about this Auchroisk:

  • Nose – An oil-burning Rayburn baking an orange sponge pudding
  • Palate – Orangeade Spangles & freshly plundered brambles
  • Finish – Nutty caramel with a plum & vanilla compote

We admit, we had to look up “spangles” to discover they are a British sweet. Just like an oil-burning Rayburn! Once we had a better sense of the references, would agree!

What else was part of my North Star latest score?

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North Star Regions – Speyside 12 year 50%

North Star has a Millennial Series with whiskies from Scotland’s four main regions – Highland, Speyside, Islay and Island. I started with the Highland and have now cracked open the Speyside! Alas I haven’t been able to get my hands on either the Islay nor the Island, so this will conclude my exploration of this series.

The distillery isn’t directly stated, but the longitude and latitude provided on the bottle brings one to Aberlour distillery in X (N 57° 26’36.14″ by W 3° 14’17.04′). When I think of Aberlour, what comes to mind is a robust sherry bomb – particularly A’bunadh which was once upon a time regular duty free cask strength purchase.

So what about this one? Well… it was sampled over a few sessions – including with our Whisky Ladies of Europe!

The Speyside 12 year 50%

  • Colour – Dark copper
  • Nose – Rich, fruity with apricots, pineapple, heavy with honey or maple syrup, rum raisins, as it opened up some dark bitter chocolate (think 95%), more raisins which were joined by nuts – particularly walnut, dried figs, some cherries…
  • Palate – Very tasty! Pepper, sweet spices of cinnamon and cloves, dark berries, more of that apricot, perhaps a bit of melon? Nice creamy butter that coats the palate with oils, buttered toast
  • Finish – Quite long. There was an almost coffee-like quality or betel nut? A bit bitter, with some chilly spice.
  • Water – Dampens the aromas… however nuts became slightly more pronounced. Less spice, more sweetness, betel leaf and melons. In some cases adding water transforms a dram. In this case? It neither added dramatically nor detracted.

Overall it lived up to its promise of being a proper sherry dram – though not as overwhelming as some cask strength A’bunadh’s I’ve experienced! What was remarkable was the consistency – from 1st whiff to finish – it followed a common theme. I had jotted down a few notes from an earlier solo tasting months ago… to then see notes from the tasting with the ladies was practically identical!

The only shift was after we set it aside and returned after an hour. We immediately found it a bit sour or tart – crabapples with a bit of medicinal sweetness, orange peels and cloves. And yet – even this was all aligned to the overall character of the dram.

Rather than tasting notes, the North Star team share the following quote from Aedan Andrejus Burt:

Speyside is often considered Scotland’s sweetest and most approachable region. Wherever you go, they’ll introduce you to a dram, and probably something the locals call a ‘breakfast whisky’ soon enough. Home to around 50 distilleries, over a third of Scotland’s total, the area covers a 50-mile strip between Inverses and Aberdeen, around the River Spey. For that, most distilleries have their own water source, of which they are immensely proud. The honeyed and fruity character of Speyside whiskies make them highly sought after, and the banks of the Spey accommodate many of the country’s best known stills.

I purchased this bottle in May 2020 during our COVID ‘shut-in’ from Sansibar for EUR 37.82 plus 19% tax. There is zero doubt this is a value for money dram!

Curious about earlier Aberlour tasting experiences? Well… there have been a few…

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North Star European Chapter – Royal Brackla, Fettercairn, Ichgower

Twas the night before Diwali… also Friday the 13th November… and as dusk fell in Europe, we cracked open a trio of North Star drams.

Our bottles had traversed quite some distance before we could sip together!  Originally from Scotland, they first made their way to me in Nurnberg, Germany… Then re-packaged into small samples, the whiskies continued their journey to Paris, Bretagne and rural Sweden… For one, it was then back to the UK – London to be more precise. For another, it was an even further adventure, flying to Mumbai for quarantine consumption.

So what did we try virtually together?

I had previously sampled all three, but was curious to see how they evolved and the impressions of my merry malty tasting companions!

Royal Brackla 11 year (2018) 55.2%

I will openly admit to being partial about this one! And wasn’t surprised when it was pronounced a ‘yummy’ whisky.

  • Nose – Apples, pears, all those lovely orchard fruits which shifted into spiced pineapple, toffee, nuts, then candied apple, cider, a herbal grassy quality, brioche
  • Palate – Again – quite tasty. A nice spice – think chilli chocolate, some salty caramel
  • Finish – Long and pleasant, a hint of anise

There was a debate on whether to add water or not… those who did were rewarded with maple syrup aromas with the palate rounding out with oils coming forward. The herbal quality took on a vegetal dimension – one mentioned brussle sprouts!

Without water, with water and even after airing for some time, what we appreciated most is how the base notes remained consistent. An enjoyable dram and terrific start to our evening.

Fettercairn 12 year (2019) 57.4% 

Quite a contrast to the earlier dram!

  • Nose – We were greeted by an inviting cognac, then clear shift into grapes, some mint and moss, lots of lovely dark berries – like black current or a blackberry jam, bit of nuts, over time it opened up further rewarding with a lightly floral perfume… after even more time, the caramel of coca cola came out too
  • Palate – Full strength, it packs a punch! From the fruity aromas, the spice initially came on strong! But then as it settled in, juicy grapes with a bit camomile and dandelion tea
  • Finish – Salty spice

And with water?

There were a few different comments – from soap to flowers to almond paste on the nose…. the real change was the palate. Early spring by the seaside.

We had a laugh at Ian’s tasting notes and quipped – less Disco & Funk, more Jazz & Blues in character.

Inchgower 11 year (2019) 52.5%

Our last brought a delicious Speyside peat to the mix.

  • Nose – Petrol and peat, sweet and salty, then also a bit peppery with a hint of licorice, increasingly caramel sweet as it opened up further
  • Palate – Shortbread biscuit, lemon zest, incredibly silky, black forrest
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice

Our peaty lady pronounced this a sweat hairy mechanic… who rises horses! And yet that was only the initial whiff… it mellowed and shifted to something infinitely more complex and subtle. This was clearly no Islay peat.

The kind of dram you would love to have in your hand to sip in a jazz club or coming back from skiing.

Remarkably, one lady was able to guess the exact distillery – long before the reveal – from her days with Diageo.

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Berlin’s Union Jack Tasting Adventures

Back in the day when we blithely took travel for granted, I popped over to Berlin for a weekend. A highlight was an evening at The Union Jack Pub with a Sharing Angel – Germany’s whisky women network.

I was completely distracted by the thick menu of options – until I discovered the real menu was displayed in a captivating way all around the room and in the head of the very knowledgable staff. High up in one corner, I couldn’t help but spy a collection of North Star. Then a set of Spirit Shop bottles… peak around the corner and even more independent goodies. It was like being a kid in a candy store!

Where did we start?

With a very green Berliner Kindl Weisse beer… cold, slightly tart and extremely refreshing, at a low alcohol level with a hint of woodruff, it was a perfect way to kick off our evening.

After many many different suggestions, we settled on our 1st dram:

We had high expectations of the Speyside – My companion thought it may be an old Edrigdon which dipped a bit 40 and was topped up by Glenfarclas, marrying together to mature even longer. She had tried it (or something similar) before and found it quite fabulous!
However this bottle? The nose was initially shy, we still had hopes but even after giving time to open up, it simply didn’t deliver. Unfortunately it was also thin and flat on palate. We began to speculate that perhaps it oxidated too long? We set it aside and returned to a sour nose, a bit of spice on palate and not much more. Tragedy, I confess I didn’t even finish it…
By contrast my companion’s Royal Brackla was a delight! All sunshine and happiness apples and apricots loads of sweet fruits, that carried through beautifully on the palate. I enjoyed it so much that I later picked up a bottle to enjoy it properly!
He really tried… Last effort began with SMWS Bunnahabhain – no peat, light fruit but not quite there. Then brought out Glenmorangie Bacalta… And Mannochmore – choice was clear.

Mannochmore 25 year (1990/2015) Bottle 0251, 53.4% (Gordon & Macphail)

It was like coming home – full fruity, complex, rewarding in every way. No need of water. Simply marvelous and such a perfect way to close our evening!

It was wonderful meeting a fellow whisky explorer, connecting and discussing malty matters over a dram or two.

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Missing Canada…. Shelter Point’s new expressions

It is hard to believe, but I was last ‘home’ to Canada the summer of 2019 – a rushed trip triggered by needing a new passport pronto then race back to India to apply for both my German work visa and Indian long term visa. I was successful with the passport, also with the German visa but alas not the India visa – which remains elusive and further complicated by our tricky COVID times.

But I digress… While in our neighbourhood Liquor mart, I was thrilled to see that Shelter Point is now available in Manitoba. So naturally what I brought back from Canada was two bottles of Shelter Point‘s core single malt – one for my ‘new’ home in Germany and one for my ‘real’ home in India.

So in November 2020, when I saw online that Shelter Point had yet another really interesting looking limited edition expression, I was determined to not miss out!

A few clicks of a button later, an order was placed.

And what did I buy in anticipation of some very future trip to collect in Canada?

  • Shelter Point “The Collective” 4 year (2020) 46% – A blend of five casks chosen by Shelter Point’s five local staff to reflect the collective spirit and passion of their Shelter Point family. 
  • Shelter Point 7 year Single Cask #5 (2020) 43% – A blend of malted barley, unmalted barley and rye whisky, aged in an ex-bourbon cask, then finished in French oak. 
  • Montfort District Lot 151 Single Grain Whisky (2020) 46% – Montfort 151 is the lot in which the single-grain barley was grown. We’d tried the Montfort DL 141 before so was curious how the 151 contrasts and compares.

I truly have no idea when it will be possible to gather this bounty and bring it back to either Germany or India. However I know these beauties are waiting patiently with family. For now, that is enough… and I hope maybe by next summer?!?

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