Whisky Lady – February 2021

February began in India – desultory summer-like days of sunshine in our country home, quick zip back to Mumbai before hoping back on a plane and train for a chilly overcast welcome back to Germany. A bit of snow, some rain and sunny days… lots of work and in a mere blink, the month was finished!

On the whisky side, I re-packed my 2018 Whisky Advent Calendar (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)…. confident there will be future opportunities when back in India – hopefully in July or December 2021!

Overcoming various logistical hurdles, I had an opportunity to ‘catch-up’ with a missed session, share with others a ‘repeat’ of an earlier session and continue our Euro-Indian sub-continent connect! There was also couple ‘teasers’ – chat with the folks behind The Belgian Owl and an Elements of Islay evening the I experienced vicariously through friends in Mumbai.

Our Diageo Flora & Fauna explorations started with a trio of:

A bit of an Xmas hangover, I had a wee gift trio from vom Fass which featured:

Our fabulous Whisky Ladies of Mumbai held a December session with a decidedly Peaty theme… Kindly samples were set aside and one quiet evening in Nurnberg, I

Also in a ‘catch-up’ type mode, I shared with a couple gents in Mumbai the Arran vertical flight… with another session with our Euro ladies coming up!

The month’s tasting adventures closed with the 1st of two sessions exploring a mystery “C” trio… to be revealed next month! So stay tuned…

Curious to know more? Check out a few other ’round-up’ summaries:

And if you don’t want to miss a post, why not follow Whisky Lady on:

Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Peaty persuasion – High Coast Hav “Spiced Oak” 48%

What’s in a name? Well… apparently a lot! Back in 2010, a distillery was founded in the Höga Kasten or High Coast of Sweden…dubbing itself  “Box Distilleri”.

Fast forward to 2018, a few years after Barcardi gained a stake in Compass Box, a potential ‘brand conflict’ was raised and Box CEO Thomas Larsson acquiesced, changing their name officially to “High Coast“.

Our previous brushes with this Scandi distillery were quite positive – from samples of The 2015 Festival and a special Shareholders 3 year dram in 2016 to a full bottle brought from Sweden to Mumbai –  Dálvve – in 2017.

Here is what I found…

High Coast Hav Spiced Oak 48%

  • Nose – Light smoke, youghurt, malty, sweet spices of clove… started to open up more sweet grass peat, candies, then malty mocha, chocolate, almond biscotti, vanilla icing sugar, a light citrus twist
  • Palate – OK that has some kick, a bit harsh at first, spicy peat, some dry oak, then becomes friendlier, fruitier, sweeter… almost flowery
  • Finish – Black peppercorn, cinnamon brown sugar chaser, vanilla

More punch on the palate than the aromas initially indicated, but becomes more fun and tasty. I was struck with how the freshness also had a nice complement of character depth – considering “Spiced Oak” rather apt, particularly appreciating the light peat.

Somehow I found myself sipping and enjoying and… well.. not really thinking about creating detailed tasting notes as I was simply liking it!

What more do we know?

Lots! Thanks to the transparency in sharing the recipe and process…

I’ve reproduced content from their website below, starting with the overall description and tasting notes… however for the geeks, I encourage you to read on!

Here is what the folks at High Coast have to say about Hav:

Hav is a lightly peated single malt whisky from High Coast Distillery (formerly Box Distillery) in Sweden. It has been matured in both ex-Bourbon barrels and small 40 litre casks made from Swedish and Hungarian oak. ‘Hav’ means ‘sea’ in Swedish and is part of The Origins series celebrating location, history and geography of the Swedish distillery.

Official tasting notes:

  • Aroma: Fruity, Spicy, Cloves, Light Peat Reek, Nutmeg
  • Palate: Well balanced, Fruity, Spicy, Peat aroma
  • Finish: Oak, Cloves, Vanilla

Recipe:

Hav consists of 76,82% unpeated whisky and 23,18% of peated whisky. 66,85% has matured in small casks of Hungarian and Swedish oak up to 5 months then transferred to Bourbon barrels for an average of 6,09 years. 30.84% has matured solely in Bourbon barrels and 2,67% has been finished in 40 liter Hungarian oak casks.

Casks used:

  • 200 liter Bourbon barrels (Quercus Alba), delivered empty direct from Kentucky
  • 40 litre Swedish oak casks (Quercus Robur), made by Thorslundkagge
  • 40 liter Hungarian oak (Quercus Petraea), made in Hungary
  • Until October 2014, our casks have matured in a damp warehouse, where they lost slightly more alcohol than expected. Since October 2014 until bottling, the casks have been maturing in a dry environment in warehouse number 3.
  • 14/03/2019 48 Bourbon barrels containing 6610,5 kilos of whisky, with an average strength of 61,69% abv, were emptied into our blending tank. There we added, 2154,7 kilos of water to reach the desired strength of 48% abv.

Ingredients:

  • Yeast: Fermentis Safwhisky M-1
  • Unpeated malt: Pilsner malt from Vikingmalt in Halmstad.
  • Peated malt: Pilsner malt from Castle Maltings in Belgien as well as peated malt from Scottish maltsters.
  • Peated to a phenolic level of 31 and 46ppm with peat from Scotland
  • Barely types: Henley, Sébastian, Rosalina, Scarlett, Quench, Tipple, Barke
  • Process water: From Bålsjön, filtered through sand and carbon filters
  • Cooling water: From Ångermanälven
  • Batch size: 1200 kg malt / 6300 liter wort
  • Average fermentation time: 80 hours in stainless steels washbacks.
  • Distilled between: 09/01/2012 – 12/12/2013

First Cut:
Unpeated spirit: 13 minutes head (foreshots)
Peated spirit: 30 minutes head (foreshots)

Second Cut:
Unpeated spirit: 67 % ABV (20°C)
Peated spirit: 60 % ABV (20°C)

Key facts:

  • Strength ABV (alcohol by volume): 48 % ABV
  • Age: 5,24 – 7,12 years (Average: 6,26 years)
  • Phenol content PPM: 0, 31, 46 ppm (Average: 11 ppm)
  • Cask: 40 liter Hungarian oak, 40 liter Swedish, 200 liter Bourbon barrels
  • Number of Bottles: 11 614 st
  • Bottle Size: 700 ml

Gotta admire the passion, precision and creativity that goes into such an approach…

And the other drams sampled in this Peaty Persuasion trio?

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Peaty persuasion – Sprit of Hven “The Nose” 44.9%

Last in a Peaty Persuasion trio was “The Nose” from Spirit of Hven…. This wasn’t our first introduction to this Swedish distillery, however it had been some time – nearly five years since we sample Tycho’s Star! With further explorations clearly overdue!

Clearly with a name like “the nose”, it is a nod to the critical role of nosing to determine which cask is ready and how it is to be used…

So what did I think?

Spirit of Hven “The Nose” 44.9%

  • Nose – Sour mash, solvent? over ripe fruit, cinnamon spice, yes there is some smokiness, cinnamon oatmeal with brown sugar, something quite “chaotic” in the aromas – some malt, some spice, some smoke, some sour, some sweet….
  • Palate – Cinnamon, oaky spice, raisins, a hint of listerine? more bitter oak, with a kind of resin…
  • Finish – Bit of bitter coffee

Well…. there is an oaky spice, however it is a bit peculiar. To be honest, I’m not so sure about this one and struggled with it… Setting it aside, I decided to come back… and just before doing so added a few drops of water, hoping it would help balance this somewhat imbalanced dram.

This time I could tease out more of the overripe fruit, stewed apples, herbs, faintly floral perfume.. but it was still remarkably ‘shy’. And the palate? Hmm.. much improved. Now the oak spice has settled in nicely.

So while the initial experience didn’t tempt me to try water, I’m glad I did.

What more do we know?

The distillery shares that it is an October 2020 release, matured in a variety of casks – more precisely 21 casks! The ‘base’ is 14 French Quercus Petraea casks that previously held wines such as Petrus, Margaux and Latour. These were supported by 7 American Quercus Muehlenbergii casks with a mix of virgin oak and ex Spirit of Hven Vodka casks – yes vodka! These were further ‘married’ in Spanish Quercus Robur ex Oloroso sherry butts. As for age, Spirit of Hven share that the youngest cask is 8 years old and the oldest 12 years – from their distillery’s first year of production.

Here’s official tasting notes:

Without water,

  • The whisky is pungent with balanced elegance, it has a clear note of oak and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are scents of vanilla and caramel combined with coffee and sweet wine. Top note is French oak with a light spiciness.
  • The taste is powerful and lands mid tongue. It shows a menthol sweetness balanced by a slightly acidic bitterness. Elegant and full flavoured.
  • Medium long aftertaste.

With water,

  • The whisky opens up and reveals scents of light, floral herbs, lavender and ripe plums. The scent is caressed, probably as traces from the angels, by a nose of vanilla and apple. This is how the garden of Eden must have scented like.
  • With a little water, the taste becomes velvet smooth and enticing. Balance shifts towards the lid of the mouth with a counterbalance point mid tongue.
  • The aftertaste prolongs with water and the sweet notes extends. Lovely.

I’m sorry… garden of Eden? Not exactly… at least in my experience.

What else was included in an evening of Peaty Persuasion :

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Peaty persuasion – Laphroaig Four Oak 40%

So there I was, one fine evening early 2021 in our wee country home outside of Mumbai… during these days of lockdown, being able to spend time in a calm place where you can freely walk about outdoors, even have dinner with a neighbour, is such a special treat.

To then discover your neighbour also enjoys whiskies… well… that’s another level! I brought a few drops from an Arran flight, and he shared a recent purchase – Laphroaig Four Oak.

Hmmm… peat? The evening was a nippy 20’c, the breeze fragrant… why not?

And I am so glad that I did! Even better, back in Europe I had a sample to enjoy – bringing a lovely memory of a special evening.

Laphroaig Four Oak 40%

  • Nose – Smoky cinnamon, almond pastry, lightly fruity,
  • Palate – Tasty cinnamon spice, more smoke, vanilla cream, silky smooth
  • Finish – Sweet and long, tobacco leaf… even ashy

So…. what I like is that this is a kinder, gentler Laphroaig… young, fresh… silky smooth… not bad. Quite clear this was 40%… but works.

That evening in the country, as I kept sipping, I kept thinking how it had been such a long time since I enjoyed a cinnamon smokey spice.

And back in Nurnberg?

Even more enjoyable…

What more do we know about the Laphroaig Four Oak?

Four different casks are selected by hand; ex-bourbon barrels. Small quarter casks, virgin American oak barrels and larger European Oak hogshead. Four Oak is an extraordinary fusion of flavours including sandalwood, pine, fir and willow. It’s the big malt from the shores of the big ocean.

This complex combination creates a golden, creamy peat-smoked Islay malt with warm, toasted vanilla notes.

  • Colour – Bright Gold.
  • Nose – Aromas of peat smoke with stewed fruit and warm, toasted vanilla.
  • Palate – Hints of sandalwood, pine, fir and willow, experience oak embers and seaweed with smooth buttercream.
  • Finish – Salted liquorice and peaty.

Here’s what more our Whisky Lady shared in her evening of peaty persuasion :

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Peaty persuasion – Laphroaig, Spirit of Hven, High Coast

One of our fabulous Whisky Ladies is known for her “peaty persuasion”… a penchant for a smoky dram with a bit more substance…

While based in Mumbai, she hails from Sweden so this means over the years, through various trips to spend time with family, she has generously brought back quite an interesting array of whiskies from her homeland.

During these strange Corona times, her most recent journey was extended and enabled sparking the creation of our wee Whisky Ladies European Chapter. Coming back to India, she injected much needed new drams to perk up the palates of our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai at the close of 2020.

Alas I was still in Europe so missed the session, however she very kindly kept aside minis which I brought back with me from Mumbai to Nurnberg.

Why not try in India?

Truthfully, over the years unlike my friend, I’ve found myself shifting away from peaty whiskies. I don’t dislike them, just simply find I’ve enjoyed other profiles more. And yet a curious thing happened since moving to Europe… I’m starting to gravitate back to a smokier style.

Context is everything when it comes to whisky appreciation. When the ambient temperature hovers around 30’c or more, somehow a peaty whisky for me at least, isn’t quite right. Dial down the temperature, come in from the cold and voila! Suddenly that peat is perfection and just hits the spot!

Think of it like having a fireplace – for us in Canada, growing up with a fireplace is fairly common. We would spend a winter evening enjoying the ‘toasty’ aroma and warmth that comes from a happy crackling fire. For me, it is particularly associated with Christmas time in Winnipeg with family.

But would we light it in summer? Huh? Seriously?!

You get my drift…

And with that, I present the trio shared in December 2020 with the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai that made it back to Germany in February 2021:

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vomFASS – Mackmyra Duo + Teeling

Back in the days that I regularly travelled to Singapore, I heard about an interesting store – vomFASS – where you could find specialty spirits, oils, vinegars and more!

A friend in Indonesia even purchased one of their whisky blends which we enjoyed one fine evening in Jakarta! However I somehow never made it to their Singapore shop… I was certainly curious, but there was always some other work or play priority…

Fast forward several years and now I – remarkably and conveniently – live nearby a vomFASS shop in Nurnberg, Germany!  For those who haven’t yet encountered these folks, over the last 25+ years, they’ve grown far beyond Germany with franchises scattered around 20 odd countries. The concept remains – purchase both bottle and liquid, return to refill your bottle from the cask you liked – if still available – or try something new.

Naturally I couldn’t resist and found myself picking up a trio!

So what made it into a wee 100 ml “barrel to bottle” vomFASS experience?

  • Mackmyra “Valbo” 42.5%
  • Teeling Reserve Small Batch Sherry 16 year 43%
  • Mackmyra “Kungstorv” Peated 47%

Curious? Read on… Continue reading

Flora and Fauna – Strathmill 12 year 43%

Last in our Whisky Ladies European Chapter comes a Strathmill, part of Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range. To the best of my knowledge, this would be my 2nd brush with Strathmill – the earlier being a 21 year mini bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company.

What did we think of their official bottling?

Strathmill

Strathmill 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Toffee, meadows, over ripe fruits, figs, dried apricot, fresh pudina (mint), coriander, anis seed, perhaps even onion seed like nigela or ajwain. There was something a bit salty, nutty, fruit leather
  • Palate – Not as sweet as anticipated from the aromas, spicier than expected, an oaky woodiness… then flat…
  • Finish – Was there?

We puzzled a bit with this one. Our initial impression was that it was a bit too watered down. However what it really needed was time. As we sat debating, trying to discern more… it took on more and more substance, revealing some chocolate, even a leather and spice… a nice fruitiness came forward and we found to our surprise it was not at all ‘dull’ anymore! Far from it… instead there were delicate but discernible dimensions worth waiting for… and even a nice light chocolate buttery finish. Where was that hiding initially?

I dug out the notes from my earlier experience with the Strathmill 21 year and it rang true this time as well!

“Don’t be tempted to dismiss this whisky as a lightweight… As we continued to sip, it vacillated between cheerful and a deeper character…”

What do the folks at Diageo have to say?

A smooth, easy-drinking all-rounder with a good balance of sweet and dry notes and a medium-long finish. This 12-year-old single malt whisky is surprisingly rich and sherried with notes of cooked fruits, spices, and chocolate. Serving Suggestion: Strathmill works best served in a traditional whisky glass, neat or with a little water

  • Appearance – Pale gold.
  • Body – Smooth, with a medium body.
  • Nose – Light prickle. A closed nose at full strength. A hint of ‘Café Noir’ biscuits. With water, solvent, sweet and minty at first. Light and creamy, becoming darker. Chocolate-chip, mint ice cream, then Toblerone. Roasted peanuts and their skins. Remains pleasantly clean. Dried parsley and moss.
  • Palate – Sweet start. Some acidity.
  • Finish – A medium-length, dry finish. Chocolaty aftertaste.

In our first Flora & Fauna evening, we also sampled:

With more to come…

If you don’t want to miss a post, why not follow Whisky Lady on:

Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Flora and Fauna – Mannochmore 12 year 43%

Our 1st 2021 Whisky Ladies European Chapter comes thanks to a Diageo connection with careful selection from their Flora and Fauna range.

For some reason I’ve gravitated towards Mannochmore in the last year or so… likely influenced by the rather marvellous Gordon & MacPhail 25 year cask strength sampled at Berlin’s Union Jack and most recently a Chorlton cask strength 12 year.

So I was rather curious to see how it would hold up in an official bottling at a mere 43%…

Mannochmore 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Bournvita and vegemite, then sweet sweet honey, shifting even into honeysuckle flowers, crisp green apples, pears, then fresh cut grass, then a hint of prunes… it kept shifting between more vegetal lightly salty elements and fruity flowery, fresh and green
  • Palate – Interesting – not at all what we expected from the aromas. It was surprisingly well rounded, had a kind of mineral substance, a dash of salt, some wood and light spice, yet as we sipped, it started to become more and more in harmony with the aromas
  • Finish – Initially herbal, anise

We paused… hmm… gave it some consideration. It comes across as ‘easy drinking’ and yet at the same time there is a classical yet whimsical element too. Backed up by quiet strength. Is it massively complex? No. But it is interesting. And has a kind of classic Speyside nod with just enough maturity to not be completely dismissed as a ‘light weight’.

We set it aside to try the others and returned to be pleasantly surprised. It kept is character. If anything it was even fruitier, remained rounded and tasty… not such a bad dram at all.

Bottom line – we liked it!

What do the folks at Diageo have to say?

Surprisingly clean, dry, and refreshingly direct. Mannochmore makes a good aperitif with its light, grassy and herbal notes.

  • Appearance – Pale gold or white wine.
  • Body – Light to medium in body, like a fine wine.
  • Nose – The first impression is sweet and lightly malty, then some aldehydic (green sticks) notes emerge and a slight whiff of brimstone. After a while, the green notes become green apples, and the sulphur notes more like carbon monoxide. With water, similar to the unreduced nose: fresh-fruity, with traces of ‘Spangles’ and acid drops, and still a hint of sulphur compounds in the background. Somewhat ‘monochromatic’ for a Speyside.
  • Palate – Fresh and clean – appetising with good acidity and a well-balanced dryness overall.
  • Finish – Surprisingly dry in the finish for a Speyside.

Would we agree? In truth we didn’t get the sulphur but the balance rang more or less ‘true.’   

In our first Flora & Fauna evening, we also sampled:

If you don’t want to miss a post, why not follow Whisky Lady on:

Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Flora and Fauna – Teaninich 10 year 43%

This was my 2nd brush with Teaninich distillery. Just a few months earlier in London I’d sampled a Teaninich 11 year mini from That Boutique-y Whisky Company. I wasn’t massively impressed, but also could appreciate it was but one brief brush.

What did we think of the official bottling?

Teaninich 10 year 43%

  • Nose – Started off fruity – think fresh apricot… which gradually gave way to a sweet sponge cake with vanilla, a bit of lemony citrus, loads of honey… which then shifted further into an orange cinnamon followed by an aroma that was a bit ‘leafy’ or even herbal
  • Palate – Say waaay? It was a complete contrast and the best we could come up with was an oddly ‘petrol’ like burn. Even when it revealed a light spice – mostly cinnamon with some nutmeg – that curious petrol quality remained.
  • Finish – Initially a bit ‘shy’ or limited on the finish, here is where that autumnal leafy moss-like element was most pronounced

While we knew it was already quite ‘diluted’ by some standards, bravely thought to experiment further and try with a few drops of water – just to see what affect it had.

The fruitiness returned with a bit of nutty batter and sweet on the nose, however the palate? Less petrol but became completely nondescript.

Overall we found this whisky curiously imbalanced. Something that perhaps combined would bring an important element to the equation, but on its own? Meh..

We set it aside and carried on tasting the other two. And then returned to see how it fared?

Ignoring the slightly watered down version, the original glass rewarded us with a lovely toffee vanilla, even pineapple, infinitely sweeter and much more enjoyable on the palate than our 1st sampling… even more remarkable – it held up well. And no petrol. Curious.

While the bottle notes indicated something a bit different, I was able to track down these insights from the folks at Diageo…. here’s what they had to say

A well rounded Highland single malt whisky with light salty flavours making a fine apéritif. A crisp, dry and appetising malt that starts fresh and orange-sweet with a long and dry finish.

  • Appearance – Mid gold, almost buttery.
  • Body – Light to medium body, crisp and mouth-cleansing.
  • Nose – The first impression is fresh and citric (oranges and lemons), with a background scent of violets, which rises then falls. It is replaced by concentrated orange juice and old oranges. There are some very light cereal notes (cornflakes?) in the background. The overall impression is clean and appetising. Softens and dulcifies when water is added. Becomes more scented – clover flowers – but still upon a base of orange juice. There is also a whiff of beeswax.
  • Palate – Light and sweetish, but overall dry with pleasant acidity and even a pinch of salt.
  • Finish – Long and dry. The beeswax returns in the aftertaste.

What else did we try that evening from the Flora and Fauna range?

With more to come…

If you don’t want to miss a post, why not follow Whisky Lady on:

Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

A foray into the Flora and Fauna range

Our 1st 2021 Whisky Ladies European Chapter comes thanks to a Diageo connection with careful selection from their Flora and Fauna range.

For those not familiar, the range was introduced in the 1990s to make accessible lesser-known distilleries which typically do not have official single malt bottles as their liquid is instead providing the backbone of blends. Most are available at 43% – a hint above the minimum and mass production strength of 40% but not into the slightly stronger so-called connoisseur’s preferred strength of 46%. Most also are reasonably affordable… depending on where you purchase.

What goodies did our lovely virtual host buy for us?

We chose to split our sampling into two evenings… if you would like to explore in our order:

If you don’t want to miss a post, why not follow Whisky Lady on:

Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with: