Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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When Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask didn’t quite hit the mark

Next up in our “revisit” evening was a cask strength single cask whisky from Kavalan, part of their Solist line.

We sampled completely blind, revealing only after much debate and speculation.

Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask S090608029A Bottle No 269 of 485 58.6% (Bottled 2017.10.02)

  • Colour – The colour was remarkable – so dark it was more like coffee with a rich ruby hue than whisky!
  • Nose – Pure sherry, coffee, lots of rummy, plummy notes, complex, chocolate, dark fruits, weighty, kept thinking of chocolate covered raisins, sweet spices, caramel toffee
  • Palate – Unexpected. Packs a punch – and not in an entirely good way. Sulfur, rubber – as in burnt rubber tyres, dry bitter, tannic, lentil, neem
  • Finish – Spice sherry
  • Water – Completely changes – much more coherent, the bitterness a bit tamed, the red fruits came out even more

To be honest, we really struggled with this one. It had elements of a few different familiar whiskies but not when put together. And it just didn’t work somehow either. The nose was so incredibly promising but the palate…. frankly seemed “forced”. The colour also had us puzzled – it was so dark to provoke speculation that something was decidedly different.

With the reveal there was surprise! Particularly as we’d just sampled a Kavalan Solist Sherry mere months earlier.

Generally we’ve all had very positive experiences with Kavalan Solist – with the Sherry being their signature rich, complex, robust whisky. However this one simply didn’t hit the mark for us.

This was by no means our only brush with this particular whisky… however that’s the thing about Kavalan Solist Sherry, each cask is unique.

What do the Kavalan folks have to say?

  • Colour – Dark and mouth-watering raisin
  • Nose – Clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit, nuttiness and spices with some marzipan and vanilla touches to it as well
  • Palate – Rich, oily and full with pleasant dried fruit and spices that linger on in the mouth plus a hint of fine coffee

Here are a few others sampled over the last year or so….

Here is what else we tried in our “revisit” evening:

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Revisiting Johnnie Walker’s Green Label, Kavalan Solist Sherry, Kilchoman

One of the things I really appreciate about our original Mumbai tasting club is that our default is to sample blind. What the means is even something we thought we knew, we have an opportunity to rediscover.

Which was exactly our hosts theme – to revisit whiskies we all know – or at least we thought we did!

Here is what we tried:

With a bonus of Amrut’s Fever Club Con-Fusion Batch No 1, 46%

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Japan Jaunt – Hakushu 43%

After two blends and a Nikka single malt from Miyagikyo distillery, the last in our “Japanese Jaunt” was a single malt from Suntory’s Hakushu distillery.

It was certainly not my 1st experience with Hakushu… Once upon a time the 18 year old was a favourite until it became highly elusive. Then our original tasting group sampled the NAS avatar.… followed by the Whisky Ladies… leaving only our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents to sample… which happened one fine evening in March 2018.

Hakushu NAS 43%

  • Nose – Plunged into a wet forest, light peat, crisp apples, pine needles, fresh bark, aniseed, a bit of spice, pistachios, green sap, very fresh and sweet
  • Palate – Hugs the tongue, very soft and a great mouthfeel, citrus spice, bitter almond with a light spice chaser and a puff of smoke
  • Finish – Bitter sweet finish with more of the aniseed coming to the fore
  • Water – Like the Miyagikyo, absolutely no temptation to add

Overall it was pronounced “very nice” until the topic of its price was raised. Which sparked a debate about whether Japanese whiskies are truly worth the hype.

Whether you think yes or no, the bottom line is our evening was filled with finely crafted whiskies with a range of characters and it was a most enjoyable exploration.

Here’s what the folks at Suntory have to say about their Hakushu distillery:

Straight from the untouched forests, soft and crisp waters and mountains of the Southern Japanese Alps, it is no wonder that Hakushu is a “green and fresh” whisky.Created by the dream for a new type of whisky of Keizo Saji, the second master brender, the unique taste made in distinct

Four seasons in high altitude is praised by the most curious whisky connoisseurs and lovers of gastronomy. Its crisp and vibrant feel, unique in a single malt whisky, enlivens and liberates your senses.

What else did we taste in our “Japan Jaunt“?

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Japan Jaunt – Miyagikyo 45%

After two quite different blends – the Hibiki and All Malt – we shifted gears into single malts starting with the Miyagikyo from Nikka. Miyagikyo is known to be the lighter more nuanced of the two Nikka single malts, a contrast from the robust Yoichi.

Miyagikyo NAS 45%

  • Nose – Floral, citrus – particularly kumquat, spring, cherry blossoms, gooseberry, with a dash of spice peaking behind
  • Palate – Almost fizzy, a lot of white pepper, very sweet, fruity and a bit bitter
  • Finish – Very spicy, long and dry
  • Water – No inclination to add whatsoever

There is a light elegance and feminine quality to this whisky. Which means it is either a style one appreciates or does not.

What was interesting in our Japanese explorations was there was narry an age statement in sight – a sign of the times with whiskies from Japan.

And what do the folks at Nikka have to say about the Miyakgikyo?

This is a single malt from the Miyagikyo distillery, Nikka’s second distillery built in 1969. The founder Masataka Taketsuru chose this site in the mountains of Sendai to contrast with his first distillery, Yoichi, located in the coastal area. Using less peaty malt and distilled in a pot still heated by indirect steam, Miyagikyo single malt has an elegant fruitiness and a distinctive aroma with a strong Sherry cask influence.

What did we taste in our “Japan Jaunt”?

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Japan Jaunt – Nikka’s All Malt 40%

After the Suntory’s Hibiki blend, our Japan jaunt shifted to a vatted / blended malt from Nikka. This particular dram brings together single malt from Yoichi and Miyagikyo pot stills with a Coffey malt whisky. Hence the name “All Malt” as each of its components are malted.

Nikka All Malt 40%

  • Nose – Burnt toffee, sherry like, rich chocolate, burnt caramel custard or a creme brule, hazelnut, dusting of cinnamon, coffee
  • Palate – “Dessert in a glass” Delicious, cigar base, smooth and soft, mellow, Parsi daily milk toffee
  • Finish – Long drawn out… stays
  • Water – Absolutely no temptation to add water

Overall we found it quite satisfying. No pretence – just a solid blend – pure and rich are indeed a good way to describe it. One remarked that it had an almost highland quality.

For an evening with cigars, it more than held its own… an important quality in a good whisky for these gents!

The Nikka All Malt also buck the pricey trend with Japanese whisky – keeping to a below $50 range (depending on where you buy it).

And what else did we sample in our Japan Jaunt?

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Japan Jaunt – Hibiki “Masters Select” 43%

Our Bombay Malt and Cigar gents began as staunchly preferring Scottish Single Malts. And while one could explore for years and years and still be scratching the surface of Scottish expressions, it is nice to veer in a different direction too.

Hence our host’s theme of Japanese whiskies. He admitted that he’s a bit “late” to the Japanese craze and somewhat aghast at the prices for such drams. However curiosity plus a few duty free stops lead to acquiring a quartet of two blends and two single malts, covering a range from Japan’s two most popular whisky companies – Suntory and Nikka.

1st up was Hibiki from Suntory – a blend of their single malts Yamazaki and Hakushu together with their grain Chita. What did the gents think?

Hibiki Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” NAS 43%

  • Nose – Malty coffee caramel, oranges, elder flower, opens to forest green
  • Palate – Dances along the surface, lightly piquant, different elements, bitter almond
  • Finish – Bitter
  • Water – Rounds out

We set it aside and revisited after finishing our sampling of all four whiskies. What did we find?

  • Soft sweet and slightly salty
  • Fairly innocuous

Overall we pronounced it a “happy” drinking whisky. Not complex, but it doesn’t need to be. A perfect “starter” whisky for those who are new to the world of whisky and curious to try something from Japan. Translation – what we would serve at parties if just happened to have an open bottle and not be terribly upset if it is emptied by the end of the evening.

I’ve had several trysts with Hibiki – its earlier 12 and 17 year incarnations, part of a blind tasting with our original club when the NAS expression 1st launched years ago plus a rather nice chocolate pairing with the Whisky Ladies. Which means this particular expression has graced all three Mumbai based whisky tasting clubs.

I once even attempted to create my own version of Hibiki bringing together a few drops of an older Yamazaki with the Hakushu 18 year and Chita 12 year. While not disastrous, I’m clearly no master blender!

And what else did we sample in our Japanese jaunt?

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Whisky Lady – March 2018

It is time for a malty monthly round-up! Where all the sessions marched in order, one after the other wish a special bonus evening with Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula.

So where did we begin?

The Whisky Ladies took a “Trans Tasman Trip” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia with:

  • Willowbank 10 year Doublewood 40%*
  • Willowbank 22 year (1989) Barrel No 58 52.8%*
  • Hellyer’s Road Pinot Noire 46.2%*
  • Sullivan’s Cove Double Cask (2008/2015) 40%*
  • Crazy Uncle Moonshine 43%*
  • Plus a bonus birthday dram of Bowmore 1989 “BBQ Mango Salsa” 46% (Wymess)*

Followed the very next evening by the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents exploring whiskies from Japan:

  • Hibiki Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” NAS 43%*
  • Nikka All Malt 40%*
  • Miyagikyo NAS 45%*
  • Hakushu “Distiller’s Reserve” NAS 43%*

Our original club did a revisit with:

  • Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 year 43%
  • Kavalan Solist Sherry S090608029A 58.6%
  • Kilchoman Machir Bay Cask Strength 60%
  • Plus a bonus of Amrut’s Fever Club Con-Fusion 46%

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we ambled through…

March also was a month to catch-up on a few earlier tasting experiences… beginning with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents  Compass Box Quartet!

And more fleeting impressions from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

*Tasting notes coming soon…

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

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BMC goes to Japan – Hibiki, Nikka, Miyagikyo, Hakushu

This month our Bombay Malt and Cigar gents moved in a different direction…. far far far away from Scotland to land on Japan.

After much grumbling and discussion of how Japanese whiskies price has shot through the roof, we settle down to give the drams a proper try… noting that there was a narry an age statement in sight!

And what did we sample in our jaunt to Japan?

Which was followed by cigars (naturally!) home-made sushi, tempura, chicken teriyaki skewers, Thai curry and stewed peaches with much merriment joined by our partners too!

Interested in more whiskies from Japan and Taiwan? Check out the Asia section…

Or previous tastings of:

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Whisky Live 2017 – Amrut Kadhambam + Portonova

Just before heading out from Whisky Live Singapore 2017, I popped back to say “ciao!” to the folks at the Paul John booth… Right next to them was Amrut with the gents from the distillery, quite a refreshing contrast from the previous year.

And what did I briefly sample?

Amrut Kadhambam 50% 

  • Nose – Nice and fruity – apricots?
  • Palate – Spice, more fruit, woody, light tobacco
  • Finish – More of the lightly smokey spice

The USP for Kadhambam is that it is both peated and unpeated whisky matured in 3 different casks – Oloroso Sherry Butts, and Amrut’s Brandy and Rum casks.

Amrut Portonova 62.1%

  • Nose – Rich sherry berry like with a Port twist! Almost chocolaty
  • Palate – Dry spice, more dark fruits
  • Finish – Long, sweet, berry concentrate
  • Water – From my quick check, generous dollops of water is a must!

So there you have it! A short, sweet and surface level synopsis of two more Amrut whiskies.

And other Amrut‘s sampled over the years?
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