When you think you know the Penderyn Madeira 46%

Ever think you know something well? To discover perhaps you don’t it as much as you thought? For a couple of us, that was clearly the case with our blind tasting of this Penderyn Madeira finish!

Penderyn Madeira 46%
  • Nose – A curious forrest like quailty initially then shifted into the tropics – more specifically banana… even more a banana cream pie – a yummy banoffee pie, sugar and water, vanilla, berries with a dusting of white castor sugar
  • Palate – Banana, coconut, toffee…. consistent with the banoffee pie and yet also quite dry…
  • Finish – Bitter
Our speculation ran rampant. We could not guess the distillery however thought likely not a standard ex-Bourbon or ex-Sherry… one idea was perhaps a rum cask as we found a Caribean quality to the aromas and flavours…
In truth, we were stumped… and then shocked with the reveal. Why?
This evening was far from our first brush with this Penderyn. And that is when I pulled out previous notes…
To discover our memory was perhaps faulty as there were quite a few elements still in common – particularly the bananas from our 2017 experience! The bananas and bitter finish was even there back in 2011!
So what did our memory retain?
  • A bit of a tricky whisky – not a traditional bourbon or sherry influence (check!)
  • Can initially come across as a bit sharp or unbalanced (check!)
  • But give it time and it becomes quite enjoyable with the different elements start to come into an interesting tune (and…. check!)
I suppose it was more that the banana really dominated this time whereas our most recent tastings (in completely different environments!) had less of the banana and more perfume (2019, 2020). We were also influenced a bit by its cousin expression – Myth – tasted in 2021.
It is also possible that there was a shift in recipe, storage conditions… or just that we approached this one with a different mindset coming 4th in a completely blind tasting evening.
The overall conclusion is that it remains a solid dram and frankly we also just love the elegant cut glass bottle. Yes.. appearances do influence too!

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Another English entrant – Cotswold Signature Single Malt 46%

English whisky is starting a wee revival… nothing on the scale or breadth of the Irish, however there are modest entrants here and there… now numbering around 20+.
Apparently, the 1st in this English whisky revival came in 2007 with “The English” from St. George’s distillery in Norfolk that we tried earlier in the evening.
In a previous evening, one tasting companion and I had the pleasure of sampling a whisky from The Lakes Distillery – which has an Arran and Macallan connect that started in 2014.
For Cotswold, their distillery also began in 2014 with both gin and whisky… to be honest I heard more about their Gin which has been well received. So was delighted when the blind tasting revealed their whisky!
What did we think?
Cotswold Batch 06/2018 46% (5950 bottles)
  • Nose – Distinctive, floral, brown sugar, custard, tuberoses? Milky Toffee, hazelnut and honey
  • Palate – A nice kick, heavy, chewy chili whisky, very dry…. as it settles starts to reveal a delicate fruitiness on the palate too with that millky toffee and creamy custard also there…
  • Finish – Dry cloves, cinnamon bark, the kind of finish that prompts you to pucker up! Then again… like the palate… keep sipping and it settles in nicely, even reasonably long
Initially, we found it a tiny bit imbalanced but with the revisit, enjoyed the sweetness and spice… especially the aromas are enchanting and invite you to return to sniff and sniff again. Give it a bit of time and this whisky nicely opens up. As it is quite a ‘light weight’, there is zero need for any water – best had neat!
As we tasted it blind, we again turned to speculate the cask mix. Perhaps ex-bourbon maybe even a first fill? Though we had sweet spices on the finish, didn’t discern much of a sherry cask influence.. perhaps something else? But what do we know?
Turns out it is indeed from first-fill barrels – unspecified on the label. And as Cotswold works with batches, what we had in the 2018 6th batch could differ from what is available today.
What more do we know? I believe we tasted one of their Signature Single Malts. In which case they have this to say:
Our award-winning Cotswolds Signature Single Malt Whisky, the first whisky ever made in the Cotswolds, is crafted using the finest locally grown, traditionally floor-malted Cotswold barley. Matured in highly active STR (Shaved, Toasted and Re-charred) ex-red wine casks and premium first-fill ex-Bourbon casks, this single malt whisky provides an incredible depth of flavour with notes of honey, Seville orange marmalade and dark red fruits.

An interesting introduction – I would certainly keep an eye out for other opportunities to explore further.

At the moment, this expression (but not batch) is available for GBP 39 – which is quite reasonable all things considered.

What else did we try in our Scottish ‘adjacent’ themed evening?

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Reviving England’s Whisky Production – The English “Original” 43%

St.George’s Distillery in the UK (not to be confused with the Californian St George), was founded in 2005 by James Nelstrop and his son. Whilst initially they had a micro distillery in mind, the permit would only come with a full blown operation – so that’s exactly what they decided to set-up!

Taking advice from whisky expert Iain Henderson, production began in 2007 with both peated and unpeated standards. We were introduced to the unpeated “Original” one fine evening in Mumbai, early January 2022 – sampled blind.

We started with The English… what were our impressions?

  • Nose – Citrus, resin, sharp alcohol, pine, green apple, boiled sweet, shy, allspice, as opened up becomes sweeter
  • Palate – A piquant spice, curry leaf, very bitter – Allspice? Dry mace flower (Javithri)… has quite a dry mouthfeel
  • Finish – Bitter… like bitter almond (which is a bit off), or that slightly salty dried Chinese sour cherry, one sampler even found a bit of licorice

Overall? We found that the nose required a bit of a workout, we really needed to carefully pay attention to be rewarded with a few different elements. It had many of the right ingredients however it felt a bit like it wasn’t quite there yet…

As we were tasting blind, our speculation turned to cask – we thought likely an ex-bourbon cask. We weren’t convinced it was a typical Scottish single malt… but no clue beyond that.

And the reveal?

Interesting and a good introduction to this English distillery. This whisky also stood up well with a cigar – which is always a good thing with these gens!

What did the folks at The English have to say about their “Original” standard?

The English – Original. Aged to perfection in specially selected Bourbon Casks. An unpeated single malt whisky. A great easy-drinking classic single malt

With their official tasting notes:

A gentle aroma with hints of vanilla and tropical fruits. Like a soft whipped vanilla ice cream. Melts on the palate. Slightly nutty with a long malty finish. Finish is clean, dry and slightly salty.

This whisky retails for GBP 42.50.

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St Kilian ‘Seven’ Sherry PX + Oloroso 51.7%

Back in October 2021, the Bombay lads and I explored together St Kilian distillery from Germany’s Signature Edition One, Four and Six. One set made its way to India whereas a second remained in Europe. I augmented the European ones with the Seven, which was enjoyed in more sociable settings rather than proper sit-down tasting… until the new year!

Described by the St. Kilian folks as an “ideal companion for summer”, they introduce this expression by sharing it is

Matured in ex-sherry barrels, this bottling reflects the Andalusian summer sun. The balanced balance between ex-Sherry PX and ex-Sherry Oloroso barrels ensures a harmonious enjoyment.

What did we think?

St Kilian Signature Edition ‘Seven’ (2017/2021) 51.7% 5,700 bottles

  • Nose – Dark, rich treacle, coffee, plump and juicy raisins, salty licorice… shifts more and more into fruity elements, apricots, dates, sherry berry aromas
  • Palate – Spicy! A rich chocolate bar with cherries, raisins and nuts, a clear sherry stamp – chewy and rich, warming, full-bodied
  • Finish – Long, strong with a nice spice on the tail end…

While it starts out dark and stormy, with an initial hit of acetone, this one soon displayed its clear Sherry cask influences. We also tried it with water – with a bit of a debate depending on whether you prefer your whiskies more intense and indulgent or preferred a fruitier and creamier dram.

In some ways, I would say with a dash of water, this is the most ‘accessible’ of the quartet we’ve tried. While all four St Kilian’s tried from the Signature Editions are bursting with character, this one has more of a ‘nod’ to more classical sherry aromas even if the flavour retains something distinctively different.

What more do we know? The St Kilian recipe is:

  • 73% ex Sherry Olorosso and
  • 27% ex Sherry PX

As for official tasting notes? Here’s what St Kilian has to say:

  • GERUCH Süße Noten von Rosinen und in trockenen Sherry eingelegte, dunkle Früchte lassen Raum für reife Pfirsiche mit Walnuss sowie feinen Kräutern, vorrangig Minze und Salbei.
  • GESCHMACK Die trockene Süße von Rosinen und Walnuss wird begleitet von reifen Pfirsichen und sahnigen Malzbonbons, mit wärmenden Anklängen von aromatischer Eiche, frischer Minze und Salbei.
  • NACHKLANG Lang, cremig und würzig-warm mit feinen Sherry-Noten, Honig, Malzbonbons sowie reifer Walnuss.

As for a rough translation?

  • Nose – Sweet notes of raisins and dry Sherry, dark fruits leaving room for ripe peaches with walnuts as well as fine herbs – primarily mint and sage
  • Taste – The dry sweetness of raisins and walnuts is accompanied by ripe peaches and creamy malt sweets, with warming hints of aromatic oak, fresh mint and sage
  • Finish – Long, creamy and spicy-warm with fine notes of sherry, honey, malt sweets as well as ripe walnut

What else did we try from St Kilian?

I would easily recommend Edition ‘Seven‘ however also kept coming back to the ‘One’ – which so far is my favourite! Next would be the peaty ‘Four‘ with the ‘Six‘s Rye / Burgandy combination not working quite as well for me. Based on this experience, I will also keep an eye out for future Editions too!

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St. George Gins

Years ago a fabulous friend and former Whisky Lady came for a visit to Mumbai from the US… she brought along some treats!

These California beauties patiently waited for the right opportunity… cracked open to help bring in the new year, in hopes that 2022 would break the COVID cycle!

So what do we know? Well… this isn’t our 1st brush with St. George… We first explored this American craft distillery’s Single Malt – more specifically from their Lot 16. It was a positive experience and I was certainly looking forward to discovering more from these folks.

Enter these St. George Gins – Terroir, Botanical and Dry Rye

Rather than detailed tasting notes, I’ve shared overall impressions…

St. George Terroir Gin 45%

Love this one! It has a fabulously fresh and clean quality – like stepping into a forest during a spring rain. Could completely catch the fir, sage, sweet bay leaf… intoxicating in a delightful herbal way.

Personally, I preferred this one straight on the rocks… letting the chilled water heighten the bright cheerful experience.

What more do we know?

Forest-driven and earthy, Terroir is a profoundly aromatic gin with a real sense of place. We wanted to make a spirit that conveyed what we love about the monumental groves of trees, moist and misty glens, and sun-baked chaparral of our favorite local parklands.

With Terroir Gin, we try to take you there with Douglas fir, California bay laurel, coastal sage, and other evocative botanicals. 


St. George Botanivore Gin 45%

Super sweet and summery, this gin is amped up on botanicals – a cornucopia of scents.

If Terroir was a cool fresh spring rain, Botanivore was hot summer sunshine, bursting with a garden of herbs, flowers and spices….

For me, this one worked well with a slightly bitter tonic which acts as a nice counter-point to the sweet abundance of aromas. I also suspect it could make a mighty fine dry martini. 

What more do we know?

Botanivore, our “botanical eater,” is comprised of 19 different botanicals working in concert. Think of a meadow in bloom—herbaceous, fresh, and elegant.

What’s in it? Count with us… angelica root, bay laurel, bergamot peel, black peppercorn, caraway, cardamom, cilantro, cinnamon, citra hops, coriander, dill seed, fennel seed, ginger, juniper berries, lemon peel, lime peel, orris root, Seville orange peel, star anise!


St. George Dry Rye Gin 45%

OK… This one surprised me. I don’t quite know what I was expecting but imagined it would have just a hint of rye? I certainly hadn’t dreamt of a full-force rye battling with juniper, a curious cross-breed which is neither rye nor gin!

As I sipped and sniffed, I found the Rye side was quite grain forward. Yet it was paired with equally bold gin elements – clear juniper, black peppercorns, citrust twist… 

I confess that I struggled with the Rye Gin. When I first tried it, I had only tonic water and soda as mix options. Frankly either ocmbination didn’t quite work for me.

If anything this made me think of a Canadian rye & ginger ale. So many days later, I pulled Dry Rue out to try again.. this time with the right mix! 

The result? Much better! It was still curious but worked well with ice and ginger ale – something brighter than a standard Rye and deeper than a typical Gin.

The folks at St. George also recommend using it as a base for an Old Fashioned or Negroni. Hmm… perhaps the next try!

What more do we know?

A base of 100% pot-distilled rye makes this a gin for whiskey lovers—and for gin im-purists willing to take a walk on the rye side.

Think genever, then think again—and brace yourself for a gin with structure, spice, and an impossibly rich mouthfeel.

…for Dry Rye Gin we chose just six botanical ingredients: Juniper berries are the star here (50% more than in either of our other two gins), complemented by black peppercorn, caraway, coriander, grapefruit peel, lime peel—which were all selected to play up the peppery nature of juniper that we love so much.

Once again, many thanks to our lovely lady (you know who you are!). We miss you like mad!

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

Bellevoye Trio – Red “Grand Cru” 43%

Last from the French National Flag trio from Bellevoye was “Red” with a Grand Cru finish… We had a promising start with “Blue” and “White” so were curious to see what this would bring.

Bellevoye Red 40% (Grand Cru)

  • Nose – Quite different at first – fresh seaweed and saline – then pears, fresh grass and herbal, very “green” and vegetal…aromatic…  then shifted again into honey, fresh almonds soaked in water, fresh almond oil, a hint of cloves, churan and dry wood, mango leather, bit floral – jasmine, vanilla
  • Palate – More spice than expected, strong mouthfeel, pear, bitter almond, sweet spices like cinnamon and dates, candied ginger
  • Finish – Initially a quick prick of spice then a nice lingering echo – long and lingering with a sweet aftertaste

We found this one quite interesting on the nose – the shifting character making it intriguing… but a bit disappointing on the palate with the first sip. However the more we settled into this one, the more we enjoyed.

I’m not sure what exactly we expected from a “Grand Cru” finish, but this had deeper tones than had anticipated.

This triple malt apparently five to ten years aging in French oak casks then post blend, spent six months in Grand Cru casks.

What all have I tried from Bellevoye?

I bought the tasting set of 200 ml bottles – Red, White & Blue – for EUR 55.

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Bellevoye Trio – White “Sauternes” 40%

We continued our exploration of French Whiskies with another from Bellevoye. So where does the name Bellevoye come from? In an interview with Spirits Hunters, founder Jean Moueix shares:

The name Bellevoye is a creation that makes a lot of sense to us. With my partner Alexandre Sirech, we both changed our lives radically to take directions, paths that were not planned. Bellevoye, in Old French, means the Belle Voie, the beautiful path. Bellevoye’s philosophy is to try to make people happy by encouraging them to take beautiful new paths in life.

After a promising start with the Bellevoye Blue, we turned to White.,, what did we think?

Bellevoye White 40% (Sauternes)

  • Nose – Started out almost with a sherry like element with dried fruits like figs and dates, then shifted into cereals, honey sweet, pears and pineapple, apple sauce with cinnamon and dash of vanilla bean, buttery brioche 
  • Palate – Super smooth and silky, juicy fruits, salty toffee, buttery, fresh brioche, nice and round, apples and cinnamon
  • Finish – Hint of tobacco leaf, more toffee with a chilli chaser

This was a delight – easy sipper. One thing we found is a contrast between the aromas and the palate. In this case the silky buttery quality was endearing. 

What more do we know?

First the different single malts were aged three to eight years in French oak casks and then post blending spent an additional six months aging in Sauternes barrels from a famous Cru Classé.

What about other Bellevoye triple malts?

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Bellevoye Trio – Blue “French Oak” 40%

Living in Europe means I’ve sought out new and different European whiskies to try. However I don’t always want to commit to a full bottle! Enter this pretty trio of 200ml whiskies from Bellevoye.

What are they? Single malts? Nope! They are instead a “triple malt” – meaning a blend of single malt whiskies from three different whisky distilleries – possibly from Brittany (Distillery Clauessens de Wambrechies?), Alsace (Maison Ledai – Distillery Hepp) and Cognac (Maison Brunet – better known for Brenne).

I earlier tried their peated “Black” as part of a Whisky Advent calendar so it was a perfect chance with the Blue, White and Red trio to try the balance.

We kicked off our tour of France’s Bellevoye “Flag” trio with the Blue – “fine grain” finish in a French Oak cask.

Bellevoye Blue 40% (French Oak Grain Finish)

  • Nose – Started with a hint of prune from the fresh cork after it popped open! Then in the glass – sweet hay, faintly floral, a dash of black peppercorn, some cherry chocolate with red chilli, followed by pear and charan
  • Palate – Warming on the surface, terribly easy to drink, imagine have this to spike your pani puri!
  • Finish – Certainly lasts in the mouth

Not such a bad start…whilst it isn’t complex, it makes for a nice pre-dinner malt. Simple and pleasant.

On the revisit, the aromas added a lovely vanilla flowers and spice… really quite nice!

What more do we know? The different single malts started their life in French oak casks, maturing for three to eight years followed by nine to twelve months post-blend in French new oak fine grain casks. No peat is used.

Here is a rough translation of their tasting notes:

  • The nose reveals notes of cereals, sweet spices, honey and white flowers.
  • The mouth is round and balanced with aromas of yellow fruit, cooked apple and gingerbread.
  • The finish is long on fresh notes

So what’ll is in the Bellevoye range?

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Bellevoye Trio – Blue, White, Red

In our quest to delve deeper into European whiskies, I stumbled across this trio online in Germany. Having tasted the Bellevoye Peat (Black) in December, I was curious to explore further. This trio reflects the national flag with Blue, White, and Red.

Founded in 2013 by Alexandre Sirech (Bordeaux wine group) and Jean Moueix (spirits brands, production of Saint-Estèphe and Pomerol vintages), Les Bienheureux (“the blessed”) is a company formed for playing around with French whiskey, releasing malted blends under their brand “Bellevoye.”

Aleandra shared in an interview with “Toast” his view of French whiskies regional ‘styles’:

In Alsace, producers use Holstein stills, which produce very fruity and refined spirits. In the Nord region, the column still used there produces light, easy-drinking spirits. And in Charente, the onion-shaped pot still produces powerful, full-bodied spirits. Having three different cultures of distillation in regions so geographically close to each other is unique in the world. It’s also an excellent illustration of the cultural nuances of France.

So they set-up out craft a “triple malt”, bringing together single malts from different French distilleries already aged between 5 – 8 years, before blending together in their facilities, then finished in their casks for approximately another nine to 12 months.

Providing further insights in the same Toast interview, Alexandre explains:

We make a triple malt because we’ve noticed that, in the same way as Bordeaux wines blend different grape varieties, when the best spirits from the Nord, Alsace and Charente regions come together, the end result is significantly superior to the sum of its parts. It’s every blender’s dream! All the more so, since we always wanted to create a ‘patriotic’ whisky, like a synthesis of the three styles of French whisky I referred to earlier.

So we selected three from the thirty-five French whiskies we tasted in a blind tasting – one from each of the major whisky-producing regions – so that we could draw on the special features of each. Then, we got down to the heart of what it is we do: the blending. Then we allowed the whisky to mature.

So what did I pick up in the Bellevoye Trio?

We have three contrasting yet complementary expressions:

I bought this tasting set of 200 ml bottles online in Germany for EUR 55 with plans to share samples with tasting companions in Paris. Yes… you read that correctly… my thought was to send a French blend bought in Germany back to France.

Thankfully greater sense prevailed! As this trio happens to be readily available in Paris, my tasting companion did the logical thing and bought another set in France!

So I decided instead to loop in our London whisky afficiando handing over samples when we met up in Berlin. And with that – this trio was tasted by folks in three countries – UK, France and Germany!

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Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Le Guip 55%

With Maison Benjamin Kuentz whiskies, we were introduced first to their core trio with (D’un) Verre PrintanierFin de PartieAveux Gourmands then during a trip to Paris explored their limited editions of Aux Particulares Vines 1, 4 and 5.

A lovely Euro Whisky Lady picked up a bottle of “Le Guip” which is a single cask limited edition which was crafted to reflect the character of her family home – Brittany. Picture a slightly gruff fisherman with the bracing spray of the sea – loads of saline notes and hint of peat… at least this is the idea…

What did we find?

Le Guip 55%
  • Nose – Sharp and salty, moss and sea spirit, then it slowly started to curl open… with hints of sweet vanilla and toffee – like a toffifee treat
  • Palate – Salty, spicy – mostly peppery, nutty…. as we sipped, started to reveal some toffee cream and fudge, salty sultanas
  • Finish – Long and strong

Quite direct in character with a truly bracing style. We imagined it would really hit the spot – coming in from the wet and cold… pour yourself a dram and instantly warm up! The salty sea breeze quality certainly brought a feel of wind and waves.

While most MBJ whiskies don’t need water, we thought to give it a whirl with this one… and I’m so glad we did!

The initial reaction from our Parisian was “Hmmm” not entirely convinced water helped, with the sense it took the whisky from interesting to… well… normal.

Whereas for me, I loved how it brought out a nice buttery “fat” feel in the mouth, with fruitiness coming to the fore with quince, vanilla and nuts… and yes sea salt! Whilst the aromas were slightly subdued, the way the flavours rounded out on the palate was reward enough! And the finish? A light tobacco leaf twist just added to the appeal. In truth, this was the only hint of peat we found.

A debate ensued – as to how generous the water needed to be to achieve optimal effect! However the verdict was clear – a dash of water transformed this dram from a rough around the edges swarthy seaman into something more like smooth sailing into the sunset!

What more do we know? Alas the online content has been removed as this edition is no longer available. I believe it is about 8 years and from Warenghem distillery – the folks behind the Amorik brand.

Curious about other forays into whiskies created by Maison Benjamin Kuentz :

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