About Carissa Hickling

Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, has called India home since 2003, working in Asia Pacific and traveling all over! She's also a bit of a 'Whisky Lady' too!

Whisky Lady – December 2018

Happy New Year!!! December was full of mischief in Mumbai, merriment in Munich and delightful New Year celebrations in Dubai.

Our Whisky Ladies enjoyed a Smokey Night of:

Plus notes from an earlier Whisky Ladies session with:

Our other two groups took a break for the holiday season providing a chance to share a few tasting experiences from my November Singapore trip starting with Nector of the Daily Drams:

  • Ben Nevis 21 year (19967/2017) 48.7% – Not my tipple but a good example of a Ben Nevis style
  • Highland Park 24 year (1992/2016) 50% – Delightfully well-balanced and exactly why once upon a time this was a preferred distillery
  • Springbank 23 year (1994/2017) 50.6% – What one would more aptly associate with the Longrow brand – peaty and pleasurable!
  • The Anniversary Dram XO 45.4% – A rather successful effort to reconstruct an ‘old style’ Macallan
  • Deanston 19 year (1999/2018) 51% – Fruit, spice and rather nice!

Then from Whisky Live Singapore with:

Plus a sampling of various Gordon & MacPhail offerings with:

Plus tasting notes from our Bombay Malt & Cigar Sherry Expressions eve:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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Smoky Night – Kilchoman Loch Gorm 46%

Last in our Whisky LadiesSmoky Night” evening was this Islay – Kilchoman’s full sherry expression – Loch Gorm.

What did we think?

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 46%

  • Nose – Mmmmmm…. lovely tobacco, sea salt, smoke, mixed with Christmas cheer, some orange twist, dried fruits and sweet spices
  • Palate – Yum! Soft and buttery, chocolate, peat rolling around with a clear sherry dry richness
  • Finish – Gorgeous peat

For many, this was proper peat and sweet dram – a full, robust and satisfying whisky.

More than anything else, this evening was a terrific reminder that tasting order and environment makes all the difference!

After the rather disappointing Bunnahabhain, this Loch Gorm was “Oh yeah!” The peat hit just the right note and the sweet was also quite welcome.

Whereas for the Bombay Malt and Cigar lads, we sampled this same whisky after a trio of unpeated sherry drams. And the one just before – the BenRiach – was particularly spectacular. So when we got to the Loch Gorm it was a bit of a shock to the palate.

And what do the Kilchoman folks have to say about Loch Gorm?

  • Nose – Orange peel, cloves, caramel and mixed spice with waves of fruit cake and citrus.
  • Palate – A beautiful balance of spicy richness, cooked fruits, chocolate with layers of brown sugar sweetness and earthy peat smoke
  • Finish – Mouth-filling peat smoke, lasting tropical sweetness, toffee and rich dried fruit.

The biggest distinction here being 100% oloroso sherry cask matured… As the Kilchoman folks put it:

It is common for distilleries to use a variety of sherry producers but for our consistent quality and character, it is vital that we source them all from just one bodega. We select a combination of sherry butts and hogsheads from Jose Miguel Martin that provides two separate styles of maturation.

These ex-oloroso sherry casks impart a combination of heavy sherry notes, spicy dark chocolate, rich fruits and burnt sugar. This balances beautifully with the Kilchoman peat smoke and citrus fruits found within our farm crafted spirit.

For us, the results worked!

Our Smokey Night with the Whisky Ladies also included:

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Smokey Night – Bunnahabhain Chuach-Mhona 50%

We continued our smokey explorations with Bunnahabhain…. typically known as the one Islay distillery that typically doesn’t use peat. Yet more and more you will find Bunnahabhain flirting with variations of peat.

Bunnahabhain Chuach-Mhona 50%

  • Nose – Shy yet familiar, a bit sharp and came across as immature, initially not so peaty, some spice, a bit of zing, honey, hay, sweet grass and then a bit of smoke and ash
  • Palate – Direct, burnt toast
  • Finish – Spice
  • Water – Much sweeter and brought out a pleasant cinnamon

To be honest, this was the most disappointing whisky of the bunch. It was surprising how there was both minimal peat and how young it seemed, missing so many elements we appreciate in a good dram.

And what do the Bunnahabhain folks have to say?

Gaelic for ‘peat stack’, this malt has strong influences of peat and sea salt. 

  • Colour – Pale gold
  • Nose – Crisp and lively sweet peat, with herbal hay, dry smoke and burning grass
  • Palate – Starting light, malty and sweet, developing into smoky white pepper and seaweed saltiness
  • Finish – Lingering dry smokiness with seaweed and spice

Our Smokey Night with the Whisky Ladies also included:

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Smokey Night – Kilchoman Machir Bay 46%

Next up in our Smokey Night with the Whisky Ladies was a familiar friend – Kilchoman’s Machir Bay.

While I may be on sampling opportunity No 5 (or is it 6) for this particular expression, it was the 1st time for the Whisky Ladies and in perfect keeping with our smokey theme.

Kilchoman Machir Bay 46%

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – A bit musty to start, but then what a fabulous peat, buttery, creamy, sharp spice, cinnamon, vanilla, jasmine? some fresh fruits then a delightful citrus peel
  • Palate – Very smooth, loads of delicious spice! Well balanced, lightly salty, herbal, wood, pepper, cinnamon bark, nicely oily
  • Finish – Gorgeous, long, tingly, lightly bitter, with a nice ashy smoke

Did we enjoy it? Absolutely yes!

As for what the Kilchoman folks have to say about Machir Bay: 

  • Nose – Lemon zest, vanilla and distinct coastal influence give way to floral intensity, juicy peaches, pears, and wafts of rich spices
  • Palate – Bursts of tropical fruit and dried sultanas, warming smoke and waves of honey, malt, butterscotch and rich sweetness
  • Finish – Sherry-soaked fruit, cracked black pepper and sea salt. Long-lasting with layers of citrus sweetness and maritime peat smoke

In terms of the cask, it predominantly relies on ex-Bourbon with approx 20% ex-Sherry.

Our Smokey Night with the Whisky Ladies also included:

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Smokey Night – Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood Finish 46%

We started our Smokey Night on a lighter note… with something from the Highlands…

Long back our Mumbai original group tried some new make spirit from Glengassagh. I then had a chance to try the Torfa – ugh. I then revisited it as a mini together with the Evolution… better. I reminded myself to keep an open mind and see what we discovered with this bottle.

Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood Finish 46%

  • Colour – Bright ruby red
  • Nose – Began with a bit of tar, smoke yet very mild, a bit rubbery, butter crème, spice, raisin, ginger…
  • Palate – Spice, steamed plums, brandy cherries, raisins, very peppery, wood, some mystery pulpy fruits, however pleasantly rolled around the palate
  • Finish – Then sweet

It was pronounced a good daily whisky. While not terribly distinctive, it was easy to enjoy.

As for me? I was happy to try a Glenglassaugh that I enjoyed!

Here’s what the Glenglassaugh folks have to say about their Peated Port Wood Finish:

Glenglassaugh’s waves of fruit and smoke are amplified in Peated Port Wood Finish. Whilst finishing in ruby Port pipes, the open structure of the oak brings waves of velvet tannins and peppered dark fruit, reminiscent of Winter berries by an open fire, kissed by the sea.

  • Colour: Rose gold
  • Nose: Heather honey drizzled over a medley of fresh red fruits, all backed by intriguing waves of sweet peat smoke
  • Palate: Delicious wild red berry compote and clotted cream balanced by a hint of cracked black pepper, surrounded by a fantastic sweet campfire peat note.

Would we agree? Not sure we would call the light smoke “waves” or describe as campfire peat… but overall, the notes weren’t far off.

Our Smokey Night with the Whisky Ladies also included:

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Smokey Winter Nights – Glenglassaugh, Kilchoman, Bunnahabhain

Delhi in winter has a smokey quality from the stubble in fields surrounding the city being burned to little roadside fires to keep warm.

While it has been years since I lived through a Delhi winter, I was reminded of those chilled evenings with smoke in the air during our recent Whisky Ladies evening which featured Smokey Whiskies!

What did we try?

So let’s talk a bit about peat with its PPM or Peaty “Phenol Parts Per Million”….

Once upon a time, peat was the norm to dry malted barley. Then enter this new fangled alternative called coal… or more precisely coke… made readily accessible by the 1960s via rail. Coke burns more evenly, more consistently and with less smoke than peat. The Lowlands and Speyside regions jumped on the unpeated bandwagon early.

Yet most of Islay kept to using peat. As do other distilleries – some craft both unpeated and peated variants – occasionally under different brand names.

Glenglassaugh, for example, have two versions of their port wood finish – the peated one we tried and one without peat.

Whereas Bunnahabhain from Islay, once known for eschewing peat,  has more recently been flirting more openly with peat. Today approx 25% of their whisky has varying degrees of peat.

Kilchoman, by contrast, has from the start kept peat as part of its consistent style, playing instead with the casks with a gradation from none to full sherry.

And PPM? It is measured at the point of the dried barley… typically using UV spectroscopy or High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). However where the PPM level starts is NOT where it finishes.

Throughout the whisky making process, phenols are lost. How much depends on a range of different factors from what is left behind in the draft at the end of mashing to how they are changed during fermentation with the type of still changing the character and intensity and most importantly how it is impacted during the second distillation.

So while Kilchoman may consistently START at 50 PPM, where it end up may differ significantly… Just check out what we found with the Port Charlotte 10 year MP5 series!

There are those that suggest that given PPM can bear such little relation to actual “smoke” strength, why not drop using PPM completely and instead define the peat as light, medium or heavily peated?

Want to know more? Don’t listen to me, check out an expert like Dave Broom on Whisky.com.

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Whisky Live 2018 La Maison du Whisky Exclusives – Clynelish + Glenburgie

At Whisky Live Singapore 2018 there were many La Maison du Whisky exclusive bottles…. No surprise given who organized the event!

I tried the Clynelish and Glenburgie side-by-side in the VIP room…

The Glenburgie was selected by Florian Were for the 50th anniversary of La Maison du Whisky which was started on 20 rue d’Anjou, part of their Whisky Chronicles series.

Glenburgie (1995/2018) Cask #6542 55.6% (LMdW 20 rue d’Anjou) Limited 221 Bottles

  • Nose – Light and bright, some lovely fruits – particularly peaches and apples
  • Palate – Warm and comforting, tropical fruits and a hint of leafy tobacco
  • Finish – Beautiful and long with a lovely spice and hint of cocoa

Even though I only had a wee nip, it was utterly delightful and certainly a style I appreciate. I would have loved an opportunity to come back for more of this…

Clynelish (1997/2017) Cask #6922 55.8% (LMdW)

  • Nose – Lovely light crisp fruits like apples and pears, nicely fresh
  • Palate – The aromas follow through on the palate, dripping with honey and fruits
  • Finish – A bit of spice, more than expected given how initially delicate and light it was on the palate

Again, easy and accessible with enough character to make you pay attention. Incredibly balanced and deceptive as didn’t come across as cask strength.

What an enjoyable pair… both were simply unique bottles to sample and not available for purchase. Clocking in around 23 and 20 year for single casks at cask strength, this was clearly a case of trying  “once” not more…. however if you do come across either and enjoy lighter more nuanced styles, take advantage of the opportunity!

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La Maison du Whisky exclusives at Whisky Live Singapore 2018

Beautiful bottles seemed to be the theme with many of the La Maison du Whisky exclusives featured at Whisky Live 2018 in Singapore.

The most obvious example of that is the Artist Series – now on its 8th edition with a change in approach. This time, they split the series into non-sherry and sherry whiskies, with two different artists.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 sans Sherry

For the non-sherry whiskies, the artist selected was French photographer Jérémie Lenoir. As they share “Immerse yourself in an ode to the purity of the elements and the natural graphics of the earth’s surface through the five labels of this new range.”

  • Benrinnes 20 year (1995/2018) Hogshead Cask #9063 49.4% (279 bottles)
  • Glenturret 30 year (1987/2018) Hogshead Cask #371 55.3% (214 bottles)
  • Bruichladdich 25 year (1993/2018) Hogshead Cask #1640 46.9%
  • Caol Ila 15 year (2003/2018) Hogshead Cask #302465 54.2% (282 bottles)
  • Ardmore 10 year (2008/2018) Cask #800168 60.3% (233 bottles)

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 with Sherry

Whereas for the Sherry whiskies, Japanese artist Takehiko Sugawara was selected and crafted remarkable labels – truly photographs do not do justice and these are indeed works of art.

  • Glenrothes 20 year (1995/2018) Sherry Butt Cask #909700 52.8% (530 bottles)
  • Ben Nevis 25 year (1991/2018) Sherry Cask #2375 55.3% (561 bottles)
  • Bowmore 15? year (2001/2018) Sherry Cask #108 55.3% (679 bottles)
  • Glenlivet 10 year (2007/2018) 1st Fill Sherry Cask#900214 Batch #2 64.1% (308 bottles)
  • Bunnahabhain 35 year (1979/2018) Sherry Cask#9521 47.9% (472 bottles)

Two other whiskies of note bottled exclusively for La Maison du Whisky include:

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Whisky Live 2018 – Ardgowan’s Expedition 46%

Just as we were leaving the main area at Whisky Live Singapore, we stopped by the Ardgowan stand.

One of the more curious developments in the industry is “constructing” whiskies from existing distilleries to “craft” the potential profile of a new distillery…

The team was passionate about their project and the story of polar explorer Robert Swan and his son Barney’s trip to the South Pole using only renewable energy.

Our Ardgowan man shared that before getting into whisky, he was an engineer – involved in renewable energy. So when asked to develop a zero-carbon snow melter that would be lightweight, robust and inexpensive, they came up with creating the Ardgowan “snow melter.” The simple kit worked and Robert and team used them in their expedition.

In return, the Ardgowan team asked Robert to take a bottle of an aged single malt to the South Pole – which now forms part of the Ardgowan Expedition commemorative blend of malts. Plus, naturally, a small sample to toast their trip!

From this single bottle, the team blended it further to package 600 hundred bottles for the 600 miles the original bottle traversed.

And as he regaled us with the tale, we had a wee nip. My impression was of something initially quite grassy on the nose, fresh and happy, then honeyed citrus and stewed fruits on the palate. It was friendly and approachable… really quite nice.

And what do they have to say about their whisky?

  • Colour – Antique brass
  • Nose – Initially pink peppercorns and raspberries with cream and honey. Icing sugar
    combined with hints of saw dust and tree bark. Then dried pink grapefruit peels and zesty blood oranges. Crème brûlée and freshly ground coffee beans appear later.
  • Palate – A pop of citrus, peppery spice and honeyed sweetness comes first. Followed by a hint of beeswax on old furniture. Then more citrus fruits with honeysuckle and freshly cut flowers. Very well balanced with a luxuriously unctuous and coating mouthfeel.
  • Finish – A very long finish that truly lingers with a brilliant balance of citrus, spice and
    sweetness.
  • Overall – A delicious and very well balanced whisky with wonderful layers of citrus, spice and sweetness. A fantastic mouthfeel that will have you chewing and savouring each drop. An incredibly long and nuanced finish will have you coming back for more.

Did you spot that price tag? SGD 1,200! However, much like Raasay While We Wait, there are plans for more affordable whiskies to be sold as Ardgowan in the “style” of what they anticipate making… many years from now when the idea of a distillery becomes a reality.

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Whisky Live 2018 – Sullivans Cove

In the main floor of Whisky Live 2018, it was such a treat to meet Patrick Maguire of Sullivan’s Cove.

While we sipped away, Patrick regaled us with their passion for the craft and preference for small and old fashioned approaches that may require patience yet produce results that cannot be rushed.

All the while, I quietly sniffed, swished and sampled two of their malts.

Double Barrel (12 Dec 2007/24 Jan 2018) Double Cask No DC098 Barrel No 45%

  • Nose – A lovely fruit – particularly pear and apple
  • Palate – Balanced texture
  • Finish – Darker

Patrick shared it is a combination of French Oak and American casks – typically aged 10 – 18 years, sometimes using up to 6 different barrels to get the right balance.

After the Double Cask, we moved on to a single cask matured in American Oak – ex JD barrels to be precise.

American Oak Single Cask (9 Jun 2006/20 Aug 2018) Barrel No TD0108 47.5%

  • Nose – Lovely ex-bourbon aromas, wood, vanilla, a whiff of forrest
  • Palate – Some spice, wood
  • Finish – Warm, long and strong

It was truly memorable to meet the man behind the malt… and one of the reasons to

You can find more experiences from Whisky Live 2018 Singapore here.

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