Taiwan’s Yushan Blended Malt 40%

Yushan is the new brand for Taiwan’s Nantou Distillery whiskies – currently available with three expressions – an ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and this blended malt.

I will admit I’ve tried none from Nantou before now… and frankly bought it on a whim!

Yushan Blended Malt 40%

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Nose – Apples and pears, then gosh! That pineapple is sooo pronounced! A nice tangy sharpness, a dash of sweet spices, honey and hay
  • Palate – A touch of spice, light and a bit citrusy, followed by a malty
  • Finish – Light spice chased by a bitter close

It isn’t a spectacular dram however it isn’t bad either. Something uncomplicated to enjoy on a summers evening.

Here are tasting notes from the chaps over at Master of Malts have this to say:

  • Nose: Sultana, pineapple chunks, thyme honey and some spicy nutmeg.
  • Palate: Creamy vanilla and tangy orange, joined by rounded malt and buttery biscuit.
  • Finish: Coffee bean, orange again and a slightly floral hint lingering right at the end.

I picked this one up from Master of Malt for €37.36 when they were still able to ship to Germany.

Til date, all other brushes with whisky from Taiwan was exclusively with Kavalan:

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Nikka Super Old vs New Japanese Blends

Wow! Time flies! Our evening comparing Japanese blends from the 1980s and today took place early 2020 in Mumbai. We kicked off with a pair from Suntory, followed by these Nikka Super Old bottles.

The story told by the Nikka folks is:

Super Nikka is a blended whisky born in 1962.
Masataka devoted himself into creating this whisky soon after his wife Rita’s death to represent his deep love for her.
He could never have accomplished his dream to make genuine whisky in Japan without the support from Rita.

Since 1962, little has changed about the bottle… but what about the contents of this blend?

Nikka Super 43% from 1980s

  • Nose – Initially a promising nose – started nice, fruity, quite summery, think pears… then lightened more, cotton candy, lots of sugars, balsa wood, then nail varnish
  • Palate – Grain… wood pine, very different, round full, but doesn’t coat, puckering, wood, moth balls, pine lysol, dusty old cupboard
  • Finish – What finish? Really wasn’t much of any

Nose and taste were contrasting…  And after we returned? Hmm… sorry no polite way to put it… it was simply nasty. Sorry… what ever happened sitting for decades it didn’t do this  dram any favours I’m afraid.

Nikka Super 43% from today….

  • Nose – Varnish, little to nothing on the nose, maybe linseed oil?
  • Palate – Was it better on the palate than nose? Nope… grape juice
  • Finish – Blank… simply blank…

How different this was from our previous experience with the European revival version!

Again, I will admit I wasn’t at my best… my olfactory senses dulled by illness, but I had company in a less than enthusiastic reaction. Just check out the fabulous notes on the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai blog.

However our less than stellar impressions didn’t diminish the appreciation of trying a bit of history in a bottle side by side with its modern avatar. A worthy experiment indeed!

And above all the company of our combined Whisky Ladies and Bombay Malt & Cigar gents evening was fabulous and I miss our tastings immensely!

What about other whiskies sampled from Nikka including at Whisky Live Singapore 2016

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Suntory Old vs New Japanese Blend

Suntory is the grand daddy of Japanese whisky and a fitting place to begin our evening comparing old and new blends.

So what exactly was Suntory Excellence? It was from Yamazaki distillery, likely released in 1980, possibly using whiskies aged 30 years old. Some sources indicate it was created to start competing with Scottish blends – at a time when Japanese whisky was little known beyond certain circles! Hence their putting it in a ‘decanter’ bottle with a glass stopper rather than the kind of bottles that were standard at that time.

While we assume it was a blend, I came across a few references that indicate the expression was intended as a pre-cursor for easing into single malts. Specifically, the Yamazaki which was then launched as a single malt in 1984.

Blend or not (though likely a blend!), Suntory Excellence had two versions – the 1st sported a neck ‘ring’ like the one we tried vs another which came out later that had the “excellence” tag integrated as part of the bottle.

Could you find it today? Primarily the later avatar seems to pop up on auctions and was last seen with prices in the GBP 450 range. Our version? The closest I could find was on auction for $3,800.

The second one we tried – Suntory Old – is a popular blend that was first produced in the 1940s. Suntory’s founder Shinjirō Torii dreamed up this blend. First produced in the 1940s, bottle and label hasn’t changed much in the last 70 years.

What did we think?

Suntory Excellence 43% from 1980s

  • Nose – Chorus of perfume, concentrated maple treacle, aged prunes… as it opened fruits became more prominent – peaches? Was promisingly rich, caramel cream
  • Palate – Started a tiny bit sour, thin, alcohol, perhaps even a bit metallic? Slightly flat and bitter.. but then something began to change…  by the 2nd sip it warmed up, and the 3rd was even better… dried black current, anise…
  • Finish – A light spice burn

This was a curious one… for the nose we initially kept being reminded of other spirits like calvados, cognac or even armagnac. It teasingly reminded our host of his Christmas pudding made a year in advance, kept in the fridge enabling the alcohol to concentrate… However on the palate it was a shadow of the promise – like wine that gets too old and become a bit watery.

As for me? Confession time… I was down with a nasty flu so truly could not give justice to the experience… So I took a wee sample of the original with me back to Germany.

I finally re-opened it this evening…. The aroma initially had an intense varnish dimension, then shifted into dates, a sweet salty caramel on the palate with an aged cognac like quality. It was similar to our original impression with something peculiar and distinct about it that differed from most modern blends.

And with a splash of cool water? The fruitiness that was hinted on the nose came to the fore, the varnish tamed and the intensity dampened. But that element that came across as being more akin to calvados than whisky was even more pronounced. Interesting… and remarkable to have an opportunity to try it some 40 years after it was originally bottled.

So what about its modern cousin?

Suntory Old 43% from 2010s

  • Nose – Salty, citrus, a bit of nail varnish, maybe a bit nutty, we struggled to say something about the nose beyond this
  • Palate – Sour, much more bitter than would have expected from the nose, a bit of spice tingle
  • Finish – Um… no… not very favourable

This one just landed in the middle of our tongues and then nothing. We really tried to find something.. one even piped up maybe jelly beans?

Not bad, holds up better as a blend. For some this pair were the winners of the evening. But don’t take my word for it! I encourage you to check out the fabulous tasting notes on the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai blog!

What about other whiskies sampled from the Suntory stable?

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Advent Minis – Heaven Hill 8 Year Old 2009 63.5%

While Heaven Hill hasn’t directly featured in prior tasting experiences, we’re no stranger to their brands like Pikesville and Elijah Craig from their distillery stable.

This particular sample was originally bottled by The Higginbottom, which traces its whisky roots to the late 1800s, when Henry Albert Higginbottom supplied whisky for British troops. The brand was recently revived by Higginbottom’s great great grandson Leo Scott-Francis.

It was part of a cool relaxed evening in Nurnberg sampling minis from my advent calendar. What did we think?

Heaven Hill 8 Year Old 2009 (May 2009 / November 2017) Cask 152736 63.5% – The Higgbottom Revival 

  • Nose – Bourbon banana caramel with a sharpness, honey oats, a granary, wheat husks, unripe
  • Palate – Whoosh! What spice! Dry but with a nice depth
  • Finish – Full spice
  • Water – Now this one cried out for some water. And wow – how fabulous with it. Suddenly out came a cornucopia of fruits with banana, pineapple, green apple, throw in a generous dash of Demerara sugar, the flavours were fuller, colourful with an exceedingly nice after taste

This was definitely an example of a dram that grew on you… the more we sniffed and sipped – particularly after water was added – the more we enjoyed it. We clearly wished there was more than the wee 3cl!

Particularly for my companion, there was a clear new world over old world vibe – she loved the Rye and also this Bourbon vs the Dalmore or Caol Ila. Which is part of the magic of such minis – an opportunity to discover tastes and preferences with a wee nip rather than investing in a full bottle.

What do the chaps at Master of Malt have to say about this Heaven Hill?

  • Nose: Honeyed fruit and fresh florals. Spicy cedar and nutmeg.
  • Palate: Quite punchy at full strength, with clove, menthol and black pepper. A drop of water helps to bring buttered corn and sponge cake notes forward.
  • Finish: Coffee bean, dark chocolate and oak.

Here are a few others we tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Advent Minis – Whistle Pig Rye 10 year 54.3%

I had to be amused by the journey our 1st sample has taken. Originally from Canada – like me – it then was aged at WhistlePig Farm in Vermont. To then be rebottled by the folks at Drinks by the Dram in the UK and finally shipped off to me in Nurnberg, Germany.

But this was no normal WhistlePg in my wee advent calendar of single casks – nope! This was a single barrel release at cask strength.

WhistlePig 10 Year Old  54.3% – Drinks By The Dram Exclusive

  • Nose – It started off with typical rye, some spice, cloves, orange peel, honey and oats, porridge, sweet caramels, hint of mint and a touch of oak
  • Palate – Had all the lovely elements of rye, some caramel, spice, more of the honey and oats, more of that butterscotch… it reminded me a bit of stroopwaffles
  • Finish – Light liquorice, butterscotch
  • Water – Racks up the spice, the rye became even more prominent, more barley and less honey, the light brown black liquorice danced on the palate, lots of spice on the finish in a most delicious way

I have to admit upfront that I’m not normally a rye fan. But this was a darn good dram. Nothing about it was harsh, and whilst there was no major variation and you couldn’t call it complex, it was full flavoured and really quite enjoyable and well balanced.

And my companion? Let’s just say she discovered that she absolutely IS a rye fan! Particularly for this one.

What do the folks over at WhistlePig have to say about the standard expression?

The spirit of entrepreneurship.

Fortune, superb taste, and hustle lead us to the discovery of an aged Rye Whiskey stock in Alberta, Canada. We rescued the stock from misuse as a blending whiskey, aged it in new American Oak, then hand-bottled this rye on its own. We’re honored to present the most awarded Rye Whiskey in the world.

  • Nose – Allspice, orange peel, anise, oak, char and caramel
  • Palate – Sweet; hints of caramel and vanilla, followed by rye­spice and mint
  • Finish – Long finish; warm butterscotch and caramel

Here are a few others we tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Old vs New Japanese Blends

Once upon a time, an excise officer lived in Mumbai, India. Bucking convention, he married outside of his community and country to a lovely elegant lady from Japan. They enjoyed the good things in life and were happy to generously share with their friends too – including an enthusiasm for Japanese whiskies. It was through this connect a couple of bottles made their way into a South Mumbai home many years ago. And while most were consumed, some were not… and a precious few were passed on from father to son as part of a dusty yet diverse collection.

These gifts from the 1970s / 80s inspired an evening honouring the “old” and comparing them with the “new” – a fitting way to bring in 2020. Just to put this into perspective, some 40 – 50 years ago, hardly anyone in India even knew Japan made whisky. To then imagine the Japanese whisky craze that captured attention decades later? Unthinkable! Instead this was the era where Johnnie Walker Black reigned supreme – just exploring anything beyond “Black” was being a bit daring and adventuresome!

So what did we try? Two pairs of Japanese blends…

Now, truth be told, we had no idea how these sealed bottles had fared. Had the decades been kind? Or would we be hugely disappointed? And what made us most curious – how did the “old” style compare with the “new” equivalent?

As we could not predict what we would find when the bottles were opened, back up blends were acquired as well – a Mars Iwai and Hibiki Harmony. Just in case.

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Whisky Ladies visit Paul John Distillery

From our first Whisky Ladies Paul John evening, there was interest in making a trip to Goa to visit the distillery. Particularly after Paula’s visit and then mine, we knew it was only a matter of time.

After a few efforts to organize, we settled on August 2019. Flights were booked, an old Portuguese villa arranged for our stay… small group or large… we were determined to finally make it!

And it was COMPLETELY worth the trip. If you enjoy whisky and find yourself in Goa, DO NOT MISS!

Particularly as Paul John Distillery has a lovely visitor centre… That just invites you to  step up and explore…

Pankaj Poorvana greeted us with coffee and a quiz… Which is the world’s most popular whiskey by volume purchased? Apparently it comes from India and is a blend – Officer’s Choice!

With that, we were welcomed into a truly beautiful pavillion, with tiles and furniture lovingly restored.

It was like entering a whisky temple in the middle of a tropical paradise inspired by a Goan Portuguese villa…

Colourfully decorated with paintings by Bianca in the style of Mário João Carlos do Rosário de Brito Miranda, a popular Goan cartoonist and painter.Before the tour we were brought into a media room where we were shown a video about why Paul John felt ready to make single malt and more specifically in Goa, bringing the “soul of India” to world. The film shared how Paul John has won hundreds of awards with their core line of:

And then our tour began… stay tuned for details on our experience!

Paul John Visitor Centre, John Distilleries
Plot #M21A, Cuncolim Industrial Estate, Salcete, Goa – 403703. (Location available on Google Maps)

Days: Monday- Saturday (Sundays and Public Holidays closed)
Timings: 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Visitor Center Contact: +91-74477 88979
Website: https://pauljohnwhisky.com Email: visitorcentre@jdl.in

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Drammers Club is in Mumbai!!!

Another malty memory from 2019 was my first Drammers Club tasting in April… which was a practical cornucopia of whiskies!

For those not familiar, the Drammers Club started in New York and has been opening chapters around the world. For Mumbai, co-president Charlie Prince teamed up with Rohan Mirchandani.

In the session I joined, Charlie shared the intent to anchor Mumbai sessions with an Indian whisky and American  plus other interesting bottles picked up around the world.

The focus for India was Paul John with Yash Bhamre, Brand Ambassador:

  • Brilliance & Edited– I’ll admit, seeing 10 odd whiskies, skipped this pair to focus on sampling those not yet tasted
  • Nirvana 40% – An opportunity to try even before its official launch! It was friendly, approachable, fruity, caramel, easy going
  • Select Cask Peated from Yash’s personal collection, while it didn’t have the pronounced ‘bacon‘ of some editions, it was still a great example of their cask strength peated avatar
  • SMWS 134.3 “Hello Flavour” 56.9% ex bourbon cask, 189 bottles, released 2017… had tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, intense flavours and a delightful finish

And for the American side of the equation?
  • Barterhouse 20 year 45.1% – Easy going creamy and one I’d love to try again in more optimal tasting circumstances
  • Old Commonwealth Postage Stamps of Ireland – A very unique dram that deserves specific attention. I hurriedly jotted down a few tasting notes – Tight black currents and dark berries, black vanilla pods, rich creamy caramel coffee on the nose… Smooth flavorful tea leaf on the palate, a bit queer with the finish initially but harkened back to the nose
  • Heaven Hill Marsala Hogshead Finish (2001/2017) Cask 17074, 46.5% Bottle 13 or 199 bottles – I wasn’t sure about this one, it started off as very musty, nail polish, definitely different funky. However it tasted much better – smooth and sweet, wet fall leaves, berries with spice, finishing with tannin merlot

To round things out, we also explored from Japan:

  • Ichiro’s Double Distillery 46% – Not bad with lots of cantaloupe, honey dew melon, musk melon
  • Ichiro’s Single Grain – I skipped this one – too much of a good thing is, well… too much!

Now I will admit both my pics and tasting notes are rubbish. A crowded noisy bar – no matter how fabulous it is for sociable occasions – just isn’t my way of savouring a single malt. So you will have to forgive my scant impressions. It also cemented my preference for humble low key tasting evenings with a small group of friends over a trio or at most quartet of whiskies not over 10!

Don’t get me wrong – I’m delighted Mumbai has a Drammers Club chapter and wish the team all the best. Charlie and the gang are definitely bringing greater variety of whiskies to a larger audience – and that surely is a good thing!

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Method and Madness Pot Still Chestnut 46%

The last in our Method and Madness evening was a revisit of their Pot Still Chestnut Finish. We first tried it a few months ago so when we decided on the tasting order, thought to close with this one.

Method and Madness Pot Still Chestnut Finish 46%

  • Colour – Dark gold
  • Nose – When first poured had that damp cloth aroma, then shifted into sweet pink bubble gum, very sweet candy, jammy, a bit dusty with a dash of cinnamon
  • Palate – Fruity, more of that sweet berry jam, a bit oily
  • Finish – Finally a finish!

Overall we were surprised with how enjoyable we found it as hadn’t been terribly impressed in our initial experience. We were happy to be pleasantly surprised – particularly as it was a good one to sip while puffing on a cigar.

What did the folks over at Midleton have to say?

Single Pot Still whiskey aged in chestnut casks, a combination of what we’ve always done in Midleton and what we’ve never tried before. It’s not often we stray from the traditional oak, but one sip suggests it was well worth the deviation.

  • Nose – Red liquorice laces, fresh rosemary and mint, grated root ginger
  • Taste – Sweet fruit and spice, cinnamon toast, ripe banana
  • Finish – Aromatic green tea, dissipating fruit and spice, rich wood farewell

This bottle was purchased in London at the Whisky Exchange, currently available for £62.75 and opened in November 2019.

What else did we try in our Method and Madness evening?

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Method and Madness Pot Still Hungarian Oak 46%

Midleton Distillery in Ireland has an experimental line called Method and Madness. They play around with a base of grain, single malt or pot still whiskey, typically matured in ex-bourbon barrels then finished in another barrel. In this case it was a pot still whisky finished in oak from Hungary.

What did we discover?

Method and Madness Pot Still Hungarian Oak Finish 46%

  • Colour – Yellow straw
  • Nose – First whiff and it came across as quite distinctive – varnish but not your typical old wood polish or young sharp varnish – instead something else. Honeycomb, wood shavings, vegetal oils… shifting into ripe banana mash then fried banana chips. After the 1st sip
  • Palate – A nice spice, sweet liquorice, sweet and smooth
  • Finish – Practically absent, just warm
  • Water – Suddenly what made this whiskey interesting was just gone! The aromas simply faded into nearly nothing. On the palate it softened the flavour but… so what?

No question this came across as being on the young side but the aromas were interesting, had the best mouthfeel of the Method and Madness series so far however the finish was warm but not much more. Overall we decided this was a pleasant but innocuous whiskey.

We set it aside to revisit and guess what? It regained a bit of its character and did rather well paired with a cigar. Just goes to show how it important it is to try different things to see what works best for a particular dram.

What did the folks over at Midleton have to say?

The quest for uncommon casks led us to the Carpathian Mountains of Hungary and the rich volcanic soils that give rise to Quercus Petraea, Virgin Hungarian Oak and Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – a curious combination, with a very special outcome.

This Limited Edition release is a ‘World- First’ for Irish Whiskey; a Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey aged in Bourbon Barrels and finished in Virgin Hungarian Oak.

  • Nose – Treacle toffee, toasted coconut, campfire ashes
  • Taste – Silky smooth richness, bittersweet liquorice, dry woodland notes
  • Finish – Dissipating spice, toasted oak, mountain mist

This bottle was purchased in London at the Whisky Exchange, currently available for £80.95 and opened in November 2019.

What else did we try in our Method and Madness evening?

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