Birthday Dram – Speyside 45 year 45.1%

Our “Birthday Dram” evenings were primarily prompted by this bottle… Which a fellow whisky aficionado and I were lucky enough to sample in London last year with Sukhinder Singh.

Released at Whisky Show 2019 by The Whisky Exchange, it was matured in a single sherry butt for 45 years before being bottled in 2019 with a dash of another Speyside distillery so it could be released as a blend of 549 bottles.

At the time, we were struck by how it was both fruity and rich without being heavy. We found it simply delicious! An autumnal dram, the kind of mature, classic, complex whisky you imagine slowly sipping and savouring while sitting in a leather armchair of an old family library, full of dusty books, a thick carpet, relaxing in warmth from the fireplace…

We thought it worthy of our friend and whisky expert who has been brand ambassador in India to top Scottish distilleries.

TWE’s Speyside 45 year (1973 / 2019) Sherry Cask 45.1%

  • Colour – Rich amber
  • Nose – Treacle, sweet wood, generous maple syrup, boiled sweets… quite a kaleidoscope of aromas, from dried fruits to cherries, sweet spices of cinnamon to oak and something hinting of the forest
  • Palate – At first quite unusual – green leaves, sap, a hint of acetone, young wood, then it was like pushing through a top layer to discover something quite meaty and remarkable below… tobacco leaf, toast, raisin butter tart
  • Finish – Quite sweet

Overall we found this whisky is quite complex. However it wasn’t ‘classic’ in style, instead it had a unique combination of elements we don’t often find. Certainly we didn’t see this as a typical Glenfarclas or the unnamed other Speyside in the blend.

However as it kept shifting and evolving in our glass, I strongly suspect this is the kind of whisky that won’t be harmed by a bit of oxidation. In fact may actually be even more interesting as time passes – hence the perfect gift for our friend who can slowly, carefully, share with select folks a special dram or two!

Here’s what the folks over at TWE have to say:

Aromas of brown sugar and fruitcake open on the nose, followed by brown bread with butter, maraschino cherries, raisins, cinnamon-baked apples, dried mango and rich, earthy aromas. The palate offers notes of toasted oak, baked apples, sultanas, bitter char, soft spice and light fruitcake.

Billy Abbott from The Whisky Exchange has this to add:

  • Nose: Brown sugar and light fruitcake lead: Mr Kipling’s Country Slices with a side-order of brown bread and butter. Darker, savoury notes slowly build, with char and singed raisins balanced by rich earthiness and old-Cognac rancio. Fruit sits at the core: maraschino cherries, plump raisins, baked apples, wine-poached pears and a hint of dried mango.
  • Palate: Venerable but fresh – old oak is poised against sweet baked apples; sultanans balance bitter char. Soft spice builds across the palate: brown sugar and nutmeg lead to the fruit from the nose. The fruitcake is back and remains light, sprinkled with crunchy crystals of sugar. Thick damp oak and fragrant riverbank earthiness provide a backbone.
  • Finish: Brown sugar lingers, accompanied by char and a parade of fruit: apples, sultanas and, finally, sticky raisins.

Now this is one that would set you back a pretty penny or two or three! Obviously we purchased it through The Whisky Exchange – currently available for GBP 425. This bottle was opened in August 2021 in Mumbai on a special belated birthday evening for a fellow whisky traveller’s 60th birthday.

What else did we try in our Birthday drams evening?

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Birthday Drams – The Glenrothes Elders’ Reserve 18 year 43%

Many years ago I sampled a bottle of Glenrothes. I found it a rich, robust, heavy sherry whisky… not a daily dram but something for a special evening. Think oversized leather chairs, dusty library, glass in one hand with a cigar in the other accompanied by a roaring fire.

So when wandering through Singapore airport duty free in 2016, I spotted this Elders’ Reserve and picked it up… For years it quietly and patiently waited in the back of my whisky cabinet for the right occasion. In the meantime, our Mumbai tasting groups tried both of the other travel retail Glenrothes Reserve expressions from this set:

Recently I decided enough was enough – it was high time to revisit something from this distillery. What better excuse to open than an evening of belated birthday celebration with our Bombay Cigar & Malt gents! So what did we think?

The Elders’ Reserve 18 year 43% (official bottling)

  • Colour – Golden amber
  • Nose – Oh my! It comes across more like a robust ruby port than whisky! Followed by Christmas pudding, dates – more tart than sweet. Then it shifts into sweeter and sweeter notes with marmalade and ginger spice
  • Palate – Even more port-like… though now more a tawny port style, lots of tannins that cause one to pucker up, raisins, prunes, quite dry… as in incredibly dry on the palate! Coffee and wood, black pepper
  • Finish – The dryness carries though fully into the finish, chewy almost like tobacco leaf

Whilst we kept thinking of port, it wasn’t matured in a Port cask – instead American and Spanish oak casks – presumably ex-bourbon and ex-sherry respectively.

All in all, it has a ‘vintage’ feel like something that is a throwback to another time. Again, not an every day dram… instead this is a deep rich dram for an occasional indulgence. For some, it may even be “too much”… it all depends on palate and preference.

Here’s what the folks over at The Glenrothes have to say:

The Elders of the Kirk are the pillars of society. Highly respected and elected to represent the community, they are looked up to for their knowledge.

Spicy with notes of coffee, wood and polish, this expression shows levels of  complexity that can only be achieved by extended maturation. Matured for a minimum of 18 years in equal proportions of American Oak and Spanish Oak casks, it reflects the wisdom of the Elders of the community of Rothes.

  • Bouquet: Ripe, tropical mango, vanilla pods ginger and toffee apple
  • Palate: Sweet, creamy vanilla ice cream dusted with nutmeg, mixed dried citrus
  • Finish: Sweet vanilla and lingering oakiness

Tasting Elders’ Reserve is like waking to a dawn chorus but instead of a cacophony of bird song it offers flavours and lots of them. The first wave is followed by another and another. These collectively herald the complexity of this delicious dram. The overall result is a pleasing collection of wonderfully mature flavours apparently justifiably proud to be upholding the great name.

This bottle was opened in Mumbai, August 2021. As for where and how this bottle was acquired? It was from back in the days when I regularly commuted back and forth between Mumbai and Singapore… purchased in June 2016 from Changi Airport duty free for SGD 160.

The Whisky Ladies in Mumbai didn’t get a chance to try this one as it remained with our host. However I kept aside samples for our ladies in Paris and then pulled out an old North Star Glenrothes 20 year for the two Mumbai ladies who plan to join us remotely. That tasting experience awaits a date much later in September!

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Birthday Drams – Balblair 18 year 46%

The Bombay Malt & Cigar gents and I first convened over a Balblair 38 year… so it was perfectly fitting this bottle joined our special birthday evening… even more so as it was my 50th birthday gift from the gents (a few years ago!). I simply had to wait for the right evening to share it with them! And, as my birthday gift, I also wanted to share it with our Whisky Ladies too – so I did just that a couple days later!

What did our gent think?

Balblair 18 year 46%

  • Nose – Freshly opened, we were greeted with a bit of iodine and sea salt, then it shifted into fruity sweetness, ripe plums morphing into sugar plums, raisins and cream, sugar syrup… as it rested longer in the glass, a nice citrus twist emerged, waxy lemon polish… followed in time by fresh pear and honey
  • Palate – Gorgeous, full and well rounded, delicious.. we had no more words as it just satisfied us fully – full stop.
  • Finish – Beautiful, long and elegant

A classic highland dram. Completely worth the wait! It was an excellent reminder of why we’ve consistently enjoyed whiskies from this distillery over the years.

As for the ladies turn?

Balblair 18 year 46%

  • Nose – Salty citrus – think of salted lime rind – that shifts into sweetness, cereals, loaded with honey, a hint of spice just adds to its allure… as it continued to open in our glass, the honey was joined by orchard fruits – particularly pear and fresh apples
  • Palate – Absolutely superb! The kind of dram that fully satiates, elegant and classy.. While overall it is “sweetness and light” there is also substance, with enough elements to keep it interesting
  • Finish – Long lasting with spice chased by an enjoyable bitterness

Narry a thought of adding a drop of water. We had a wee debate whether this was a spring, summer or autumnal whisky – all that mattered is the more we sipped, the more we enjoyed. Simply put this was a class act.

As one lady quipped “Pure seduction! With this who needs a date?”

What do the folks at Balblair have to say?

This late-night expression is rich and autumnal, developed and amplified to unexpected heights, while staying perfectly balanced and closely tied to the bright and fruity character of the Distillery.

  • Colour – Oiled cedar
  • Aroma – Rich toffee and baked pears shine bright against an elegant backdrop of new leather
  • Palate – A masterful balance of juicy apricots, seasoned oak and vanilla custard
  • Finish – Long and warming with chords of fresh spices and raisins 

Matured initially in American oak ex-bourbon casks, followed by first fill Spanish oak butts, adding depth and charisma.

We opened this bottle in Mumbai in August 2021. When I last checked, you could still find this whisky at duty frees (do people even travel??) such as Le Clos at Dubai for AED 500 / $140.

I must say… I simply felt exceedingly blessed to have fabulous whisky companions and the care taken to chose such a perfect birthday gift!

What other Balblair‘s have we enjoyed?

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Birthday Drams – Glentauchers 8 year 48.2% (Sansibar)

It seems a bit ironic that I first discovered independent whisky bottler Sansibar in Singapore, thanks to La Maison du Whisky. At the time, living in Europe was not on the horizon… my life was instead firmly based in Asia, unpacking my bags in Mumbai.

However I’ve since discovered that Sansibar have developed an impressive range! Much more than their “classic” black bottles which I could buy in Singapore. Many of their more colourful and fanciful labels I realized later were displayed in Berlin’s Union Jack where you can also find examples of their joint collaboration with Spirit Shop Selection displaying with their Samurai or Chinese Theatre Masks and many other series.

Fast forward and I now live in Germany, home to Sansibar… however I’ve yet to buy a bottle in Europe! Instead I came home to Mumbai to pull out from the whisky cabinet this delightful dram from a much earlier Singapore to India trip.

We began by giving our gents a chance to taste the freshly opened bottle…

Glentauchers 8 year 48.2% (Sansibar)

  • Nose – Mmm…. lemony, candied orange peel, vanilla sponge cake dusted with sugar, marmalade, lots of candied fruit, milk bread and sugar… the more it opened up, the fruitier it became, also revealing sweet spices to join caramel apples… delicious!!
  • Palate – 1st sip was a bit sharp and chilli spicy, then sour lemon drops that melt into honey sweetness, then shifted into wonderful fruits, cinnamon spice, followed by a yummy toffee coffee twist
  • Finish – Long tasty finish

A classic highland whisky. Completely worth the wait! As we sipped, the more we enjoyed… like basking in the sun in a warm summer’s day. An absolutely delightful dram.

As for the ladies turn? Just a scant couple days later…

Glentauchers 8 year 48.2% (Sansibar)

  • Nose – Wow! All sorts of sweets. Honey and buttery caramel, brioche, nutty, cereals, mmmm…. delicious toffee
  • Palate – Sweet spices, substance, oily with a gorgeous mouthfeel, toffee… almost mocha… indulgent without being heavy
  • Finish – What a lovely long finish, apple and red cinnamon heart candies

We found it sophisticated and romantic, something comforting that simply puts you into a great mood.. one of those happy whiskies that invite you to just slow down, relax and enjoy the ride. Utterly charming

Our best comment of the evening? This whisky is like a much needed “socially distanced hug!

Is it young? Certainly! However clearly a quality cask and a great way to kick off an evening of classic Scottish malts. This particular Glentauchers is from Sansibar’s Classic series with only 244 bottles from a single cask.

What do the folks at Sansibar have to say?

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Mint, fresh sweetness, whole milk chocolate
  • Taste – Chocolate with chilli, toffee & coffee, aromatic wood influence
  • Exit – Soothing warmth with unobtrusive charm

When sold in Europe, it was available for EUR 69. However I picked this beauty up in Singapore for SG$197 from La Maison du Whisky at the 2017 Whisky Live – practically double the price! But completely worth it and so happy could finally share it with friends in India. We opened this bottle in Mumbai, September 2021.

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Classic Birthday Drams

It was a tale of two tasting groups… our marvellous Bombay Malt & Cigar gents and our fabulous Whisky Ladies. Once upon a time we would combine annually – alternating who would host the whiskies. Our last gathering was in January 2020 before the scourge of COVID ravaged our world.

However it has been impossible or rather imprudent to think of having such a gathering even as Mumbai enjoys a wee breath of respite between waves. So instead, I suggested two small separate gatherings, sharing some of the same drams.

For both, I decided to take a ‘traditional’ Scottish bent…

With our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we explored:

Then came the 2nd part with the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai… for it I had set aside another gift to join the Glentauchers and Balbair, leaving the Glenrothes behind for our host:

Given August was also when we started the Whisky Ladies, there was another reason to celebrate our 6th anniversary – how quickly time flies! Not with our usual format of each bringing whatever enjoyable open bottle lies at home for a merry exchange. And no group photo either as we kept in our socially distanced seating.

For those ladies who wished to join but were on the waitlist, a third evening was arranged – a month later – with samples brought back to Europe for two ladies there joined by a couple in Mumbai… because why not?

So there you have it – after a long time – evenings of celebrations with classic Scottish drams.

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

Mackmyra Smokey – Reserve Bourbon, Oloroso and Svensk Rök

The folks at Mackmyra distillery clearly know what they are doing. There is a subtle yet notable fresh “Scandi” style that comes from their use of Juniper which we’ve started to look out for as a signature element.

Our fabulous tour and tasting guide – Ingemar – chose to split our tasting broadly  between:

For the 2nd part, we explored the Smokey style through two “Macmyra Reserve” expressions (available only through purchasing a cask) and one standard expression:

  • Macmyra Reserve Bourbon Rök 3.5 year Fatnr 7765 (2018-11-13) 50.3%
  • Macmyra Reserve New Oloroso Rök Fatrn 38740 (2014-1010/2018-10-10) 57.3%
  • Mackmyra Svensk Rök 46.1% WL (2021 distillery visit)

Here is what we discovered….


#4 – Smokey transition… restrained elegant sweet peat

Unlike the punchy peat of Islay, we’ve found Mackmyra’s Scandi peat much more restrained and nuanced. Our first foray into the “Smokey” side was a perfect example of this.

Macmyra Reserve Bourbon Rök 3.5 year Fatnr 7765 (2018-11-13) 50.3%

  • Colour – Light bright straw
  • Aroma – Mmm… leather, bacon, honey with a citrus twist, had a lovely clean sweet peat aroma with a hint of juniper, restrained and elegant
  • Palate – Light sweet peat, very smooth and well balanced, easy drinking
  • Finish – Delightful cinnamon, long and strong

What a treat! Lovely, uncomplicated… truly stellar. By far one of our favourites of the entire tasting – remarkable at a mere 3.5 years! Narry a drop of this one remained….


#5 – Smokey and Sweet

Switching gears from a restrained elegant peat, we jumped into a more robust peat and sherry combination.

And what did we think?

Macmyra Reserve New Oloroso Rök Fatrn 38740 (2014-1010/2018-10-10) 57.3%

  • Colour – Copper
  • Aroma – Butterscotch toast slathered with butter, malty then becomes faintly floral after some time, shifting into Christmas spices oops and then hickory sweet maple bacon
  • Palate – Very dry, the most pronounced sweet spices – clove, cinnamon, nutmeg… marmite, oak and wood
  • Finish – Very warm finish – which stays, and how!
  • Water – At first, water mere cranks up the spice however didn’t add or reveal anything new… and then a light cinnamon spice with nutmeg and malt

The “Christmas-y” quality was even more pronounced with the New Oloroso Rok than its Elegant avatar.


#6 – Smokey juniper

Last was from their standard line – one we’ve had before many years ago! What do they have to say?

Svensk Rök (Swedish Smoke) is the only smoky single malt whisky made from Swedish ingredients only. In Sweden, we have used juniper to season our food for generations. Now you can enjoy the timeless flavour in a golden form. The aroma is slightly smoky and spicy, with a much smokier flavour and peaty juniper notes.

As for what we found?

Mackmyra Svensk Rök 46.1% WL (2021 distillery visit)

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Aroma – Juniper wood, sweet peat, tobacco, sour mash with an organic or agricultural quality which warmed to become even sweeter with vanilla notes
  • Palate – Much lighter than expected, more of the tobacco leaf, more juniper smoke, lightly salted too
  • Finish – Certainly there yet also not as much “oomph!” as we anticipated – quite dry, oaky with more herbs than juniper

As the only “core” expression tried, it was nice to check out what they had to say in their official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Slightly smoky and spicy with aromas of peat, juniper and vanilla fudge. 
  • Taste: Smokier than the nose with smoky, peaty, juniper notes. Dry, oaky aromas found with light tobacco leaves and herbs. A slight saltiness with minerals, anise and green fruits. 
  • Aftertaste: Slightly dry and smoky with notes of oak, salt and herbs.

Not all official tasting notes “jibe” with our experience – in this case it did completely!

What we tried from Mackmyra’s Elegant Style:

So there you have it! Four “Reserve” experiences, one limited edition and one core. Clearly catering to a local audience, it was no surprise that our cab driver on the way to the distillery – like many – have splurged with friends to buy a small cask after such a tasting!

As for other Mackmyra tasting experiences (nearly 20 and counting!)? You can find them here.

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Mackmyra Elegant – Bourbon Förlagrad, Brukswhisky Moments, Oloroso

After a fascinating tour of Mackmyra distillery we stepped into a ‘social distancing’ tasting room with separate tables for each set of companions.

Six carefully selected expressions were poured, ready and waiting for us… with no details beyond the golden liquid in our glasses.

As we gradually made our way through the progression it was clear they were split between:

  • A trio from their “Elegant” style aka without peat
  • Then a “Smoky” trio with peat aka Rök

So I’ve decided to split sharing our experience into two parts starting with:

Here is what we discovered….


#1 – Elegant Appetizer… foreshadowing the whisky to come!

Unlike Scottish whisky that needs to mature for at least 3 years else it is a “spirit” not “whisky”, American Bourbon can be “ready to serve” after limited time! What about Swedish whisky? Well in the case of Mackmyra’s Reserve Bourbon Förlagrad, just over seven months was sufficient to produce something really quite interesting.

Mackmyra Reserve Bourbon Forlagrad (Pre-stored) Fatnr 41155 (2018-10-29 to 2019-05-14) 55%

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Aroma – Quite organic, farm-like and fresh, cinnamon, light honey, vanilla, fresh juniper, caramel… as it settled down, it revealed apricots and apples
  • Palate – Syropy, Christmas spices, malty, dates, wood, chased by honey
  • Finish – Not so long – oak and spice

Not such a bad beginning… until it was later revealed, we had no clue that we were sampling a “spirit” rather than matured whisky. Even only a ‘light’ time in American Oak nicely influenced the character of the spirit.


#2 – Elegant Moments… Brukswhisky DLX 

Next in the Elegant style was a single cask from their “Moments” series… which provide a limited opportunity to the public to purchase unlike the “Reserve” series which is limited to buying a cask!

We learned this happened to be one of their most recently released expressions. Here is what they have to say:

LIMITED EDITION OF 1999.

Moment Brukswhisky DLX is the deluxe version of our classic Brukswhisky; a nod to the original distillery at Mackmyra Bruk but also a stepping stone towards the future. The recipe has remained the same, but the whisky has aged for a longer period in casks. The whisky has gone through an intriguing development, which has resulted in a richer and more complex palate, with buttery notes of caramel and vanilla. In the background echoes light and spicy notes of toasted oak, juniper and peat. Brukswhisky DLX is between 9-14 years old and was aged in the Bodås Mine warehouse. The colour is natural and light golden yellow.

And what did we think?

Mackmyra Moments – Brukswhisky DLX Nr 659/1999 46.6%

  • Colour – Golden sunshine
  • Aroma – Citrus, light friendly and floral, lots of vanilla, summery pear, slightly herbal, leafy? Soft raisins, fruits (pear?), touch of pepper
  • Palate – Bitter yet interesting, initially a bit woody, warming, a bit of fruits, again slightly herbal with some sweetness too… as it opened up, silky smooth, more of that light herbal element contrasting with juniper and oak 
  • Finish – A nice spicy tail

When I looked back at my scrawled notes, I realized it simply didn’t do justice – particularly as what I recorded BIG AND BOLD was – “We really liked it!!”

I then went on to read Mackmyra’s official tasting notes…

  • Nose: Soft vanilla with caramel, honey and chocolate. Finely roasted, bready notes of oak and spicy herbs with light tobacco leaves, leather, white pepper and eucalyptus. Soft, fruity notes of pears, citrus and a hint of raisins.
  • Taste: Buttery vanilla caramel, ripe pears and citrus. Soft, herbal spices with anise and pepper, light notes of roasted oak, peat and juniper.
  • Summary: Soft citrus and pear fruit that ends with slightly spicy notes of roasted oak and vanilla.

Would we agree? Overall yes!


#3 – Elegant Reserve Sherry…

Last in the Elegant style showed off the influence of an Oloroso cask. At just over four years, the colour was striking!

Mackmyra Reserve Oloroso Elegant Fatnr 39502 (2016-11-22 / 2020-09-21) 49.6%

  • Colour – Dark gold almost copper
  • Aroma – Fudge, fruit and dates, raisins, vanilla, very sweet, full of all the lovely Oloroso aromas
  • Palate – Initially a bit harsh, different, herbal, honey…. like a herbal liquor
  • Finish – Quite spicy in a most enjoyable way
  • Water – Even with water, it was strong and even more distinctive in character… after some time it came into its own – rounder, fuller, heavier with caramel and cream

What was so interesting is even with all the Oloroso, it still had that nice clean “Scandi” style we have come to appreciate from Mackmyra. In this case, it reminded us of birch wood rather than pine or cedar!

There was something quite unusual about this one. It wasn’t easy but it was unique and that alone made it worth including in our line-up. We thoroughly appreciated this one – after tasting all six, this was one we came back to!

An interesting way to transition from “Elegant” to “Smokey”…

Coming up… Mackmyra Smokey Style:

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Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Aux Particules Vines

One highlight from our Whisky Ladies Euro Chapter was the discovery of Maison Benjamin Kuentz whiskies. So when I traveling to Paris in June 2021, we absolutely HAD to meet the remarkably talented man behind the creations. And what an experience in the heart of Paris, going deep into  a cool ‘cave’ like facility where the magic happens!

Our primary focus was on Aux Particules Vines – a whisky series intent on discovering a singular alchemy – the harmony between grain, malt and French wine.

For us, the 1st Edition reminded us of a subtle wet spring morning whereas the 4th edition was a late summer afternoon and the 5th clearly shifted into autumn, demanding more time and patience to open up fully.

With all three we discovered an interplay between aromas, palate and consistently long finishes.

Aux Particules Vines Edition #1 46%

This edition took a wee bit of effort to track down – a hidden remaining stock with La Maison du Whisky which was cleverly spotted by one of our Parisian Whisky Ladies. She brought the bottle along for our tasting with Benjamin, which was such a treat!

What do we know about it? I’ll admit my quickly scrawled notes were impossible to read beyond it finished in a French Wine – Burgandy – and also mention of a white wine?? However Magali from Maison Benjamin Kuentz kindly clarified the whisky was distilled in Loraine at Distillery Grallet Dupic and then has an 8 month finish in White Burgundy barrels (Chardonnay grape) from Jean Chartron wine maker in Puligny-Montrachet. They suggest pairing with pâté or some matured beef meat.

And what did we think?

  • Colour  – Bright gold
  • Nose – Fresh pear, lots of orchard fruits, honey, combined with a surprising saline, shifting slightly from fruit to fresh green leaves, a kind and charming
  • Palate – Smooth with substance, the kind of whisky that has a lovely “fatness” too it without being heavy, still more on the subtle side and not as sweet as we anticipated from the aromas
  • Finish – Long, strong and slightly bitter

Overall there was a subtle “spring-like” quality that we quite enjoyed.

Aux Particules Vines Edition # 4 46%

What do we know about this particular edition?

Its fourth edition, which matured on the left bank of Bordeaux in the ex-cask of a great wine, gave it immense finesse, exhaling fruity and floral notes. This freshness of red fruits and flowers is enhanced by aromas of fresh and dried fruits as well as by fine spices on the finish. A powerful palate that goes ideally with a fresh fruit tart, or a white chocolate pistachio dessert. In the rest of the collection, this fourth edition is a tribute to the work of the vineyard.

And what did we think?

  • Colour  – Dark gold
  • Nose – Very fruity and vibrant, lots of peaches and apricots, a joyful late summer whisky
  • Palate – Such a different character! It started sweet then shifted into quite pronounced ginger, cinnamon… if you held it in your palate for some time the peppercorns popped out joined by wine tannins… interesting indeed
  • Finish – Very long
While the aromas reminded us of a late summer afternoon, the palate was even more vibrant and unique in character.
If you are lucky, you can still track down a 50 cl bottle for Euro 65.
Aux Particules Vines Edition # 5 46%

What do we know about this edition?

This fifth opus is a first for Maison Benjamin Kuentz: it is the result of a blend of a single malt matured in ex-barrels of a Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé, Château Lafon-Rochet, and a touch of a buckwheat whiskey from a Finistère distillery. Enveloping and warm, with fruity and winey notes enhanced by a sweet spice and pastry notes. To taste like a grand cru!

Benjamin added it was a blend with 45% barley whisky from Rozelieres and 55% Buckwheat from Eddu which helps keep the finish. With the strong red wine, we also observed it needs time to open.

And what did we think?

  • Colour  – Light luminous ruby
  • Nose – Initially very fruity and sweet – lots of berries, heavy honey, vanilla, then shifted into coconut oil, revealing more and more character as it opened up
  • Palate – Very different! Initially a bit sharp, bursting with character – a bit malty, the buckwheat initially prominent then merged with the other elements – including the distinctive influence of the Bordeaux
  • Finish – Like the others – long, strong this time with tobacco leaf with a light bitterness
What is so impressive about what Benjamin does is how he orchestrates the different elements – this is a case where clearly the “sum” is greater than its “parts.” There was no doubt a wine cask was used for the finish.

Again, if you are in France and in luck, you may still be able to track down a 50 cl bottle for Euro 75.

We were so impressed with this experience that efforts were made to track down Edition 2 and 3… no luck with the 2nd Edition however one of our Whisky Ladies was successful in purchasing the 3rd Edition. She also has Le Guip, so watch out for future tastings from Maison Benjamin Kuentz!

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Spirit of Hven – Seven Angels – St Raphael 40.9%

Our last Spirit of Hven dram was their most recent – St Raphael – which is the first of their new limited edition Seven Angels series.

The folks at Spirit of Hven love their myths and stories. For this whisky, they were inspired by the tale of the archangel St Raphael sent to heal Abraham and Lot, becoming the patron for doctors, apothecaries and medics.

Hence St Raphael is :

a homage and thank you to everyone within medicine and healthcare. They have fought brave and hard with the Covid pandemic. It is also a tribute to blue light personnel by their side.

They go on to share that the Archangel St Raphael is also the patron for happy meetings, travelers and marriage.

Surely, during this pandemic, we have missed our physical meets, with hugs and human touch. Surely, we long for to travel again, to meet our friends, family and colleagues all around the world. And how huge is not our longing to gather family and friends, and finally be able to celebrate our postponed weddings, to commit, with love, closeness and joy.

Let this whisky be a tribute to the healing, to be able to travel again and meet like we once did. To enjoy the wonders of spring, each other, and a remarkably good whisky.

So what did we think? In short – we loved it! Definitely the right note to wind down our afternoon tasting…

Seven Angels – St Raphael (2010/Mar 2021) 40.9%

  • Aroma – A quick sharp whiff of varnish then it settled down and started to open up, becoming floral, wine, cinnamon and honeysuckle, summery, cloves, dessert confection
  • Palate – Unexpected! Lots of oak tannins, spice, the red wine cask is quite pronounced, while the aroma was floral the palate was a heavier creamier almost fudge like dessert with rich red wine
  • Finish – Long and warm

We could clearly taste the influence of the Italian red wines from Veneto – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Vespiola. We understand six casks in all were used – including one which previously held Spirit of Hven vodka!

Whilst we found it took a bit of time to open up, but when it did – worth it! There was a delightful dessert quality without being overly sweet. The contrast between summery aromas and spicy almost autumnal palate was quite enjoyable. Lots going on but it worked!

What do they have to say? Whilst you may not find the factsheet on their website, the kind folks sent it to me with oodles more details!

Here’s what they have to say about how they made this whisky:

St Raphael is a marriage between six casks from 2010. Five of these casks, made from air dried Quercus Petraea from Allier, have previously held wine from one of the most merited winemakers in Italy. A family-owned winery with many generations. Geographically they are situated just south of the alps in northern Veneto. The blend of the five casks is two previously holding Cabernet Sauvignon, two previously holding Merlot and one that have held a sweet wine made from the grape Vespaiola. The sixth cask, to balance the stringency from the French oak, is made from American Quercus Muehlenbergii. This cask has previously held the unique Hven Vodka that is oak matured prior to last distillation.

And what about their official tasting notes?

Scent and taste without water

  • the first scent is enticing, a wonderful marriage of ripe, well matured red wine on a sunny terrace. Both Merlot and Cabernet show themselves without becoming intrusive. A lovely fudge aroma from the Chinkapin oak makes a soft base. The end is elegant and fruity with notes of honey and apricots, a clear contribution from the Vespaiola.
  • Taste is soft with elegant stringency in the closure. Balanced acidity and a light sweetness. Long, warming aftertaste with round body. No fixated balance point on the tongue, it rolls over all the tastebuds, full palate, with small exclamations. Alcohol is clear but fine-tuned.

With water, just a couple of drops, as the alcohol is initially low, the whisky becomes even more flirtatious. It releases light notes of honeysuckle and ripe, dark fruits. Oak character grows with the notes of herbal French oak. Lovely, elegant hints of liquorice and flowers.

With these couple of drops of water, smoothness reach perfection. Velvet smooth over the tastebuds. The stringent taste that was felt before water is transformed to honey and vanilla.

Considering my tasting companion typically prefers a peatier dram, this one was perfect for a summer afternoon.

What else did we try at Spirit of Hven?

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Spirit of Hven – Seven Stars 6.2 Alcor 45%

Sunshine, warm breeze, nicely relaxed after a long walk around the island, distillery tour and grub, we started the serious business of whisky tasting. As an appetizer, we started with Spirit of Hven’s MerCurious Corn Whisky and then moved on to this expression from their limited edition Seven Stars series.

If today you wanted to try each of the Seven Stars series, I suspect you may need to visit the distillery itself as most are near impossible to track down. However for those fortunate few who make their way for a wee island adventure, you may find out experience edifying!

Seven Stars 6.2 Alcor 45%, Chateau Margaux Cask, 3642 bottles

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Aroma – very full, lush, rich coffee, a bit of leather and cream, loads of fudge, some licorice, very sweet, mocha, coffee cream, dark cherries, salted caramel brittle covered in chocolate
  • Palate – Flavourful and complex, clear follow through on the palate from the nose joined by red wine tannins, curiously thin, the peat comes through on the 2nd sip
  • Finish – Stays on the coffee note with a bit of smoke
  • Water – While didn’t think it would be needed, given the intensity of the aromas and flavours, gave it a try. What did it do? The coffee quality reduced and a nice nutty element emerged with brazil nuts, a bit woody and dry

Overall quite an interesting whisky. A little too “concentrated” or “intense” to have on a regular basis, however it was certainly one worth trying!

What do the folks at Spirit of Hven have to say?

Alcor is number 6½ in the Spirit of Hven “Seven Stars” series. It is the most unique so far amongst the releases. A fantastic marriage of American and European oak. Presenting a wonderful combination of traditional whisky lactones with herbal freshness and younger, vibrant and enticing wine cask character. The whisky has a mesmerizing scent- and taste palate with a delicious balance between freshness and maturity, sweetness and acidity, bitterness and texture.

The Alcor recipe was meant to be a longer finish of Mizar on Chateau Margaux casks. Unfortunately the result was not fully what we hoped it to be. So to improve the recipe, whisky matured on wine cask from Italy, Olorosso and Hven Vodka casks was added. The final result became so good, it made our master distiller cry, happy tears.

The mashbill is the same as with 6:1 Mizar; 58,8% lager malt, 35,3% peated malt (38ppm), 5,9% chocolate malt. This single malt whisky is a blend of seven casks. Three casks made of Petraea oak from Allier that previously held chateau Margaux; one cask made of Faginea oak from Portugal that previously matured Olorosso sherry; two casks made of Muehlenbergii oak from Missouri that was used to mature Hven Vodka; and one cask of Burgundy Robur oak that used to mature Maculan Torcolato.

Scent and Taste Undiluted:

  • First scent impression is raisins, then followed by a light liquorice smokiness. Rich nuances of dark chocolate and coffee combined by a distinguished scent of leather. Dried plums in the background. Mature and elegant, yet full of life.
  • The taste is surprisingly round even at 45 %vol. Delicate bitter notes that do not overpower the sweet oak lactones and wood sugars. Lands mid-back-tongue. Long, sweet aftertaste with soft tannins. Great, big mouthfeel, wins on not being chill filtered.

Diluted: With water 1:4

  • The elegant notes from the wine casks evolves, and gets to dance an intimate dance with the herbal maltiness of the whisky. Together they create a lovely fond of chocolate, coffee and liquorice complemented by spicy raspberries.
  • The taste is sweet yet full of texture and life. Balanced mid-tongue. Medium long aftertaste with round oiliness and slight acidity. Perfect to balance an after dinner espresso.
  • This whisky is almost unnecessary good. You would like it to last forever.

What else did we try from Spirit of Hven?

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