TBWC’s Mackmyra 3 year 47.2% – The “Friendly” Dram

We can’t help type-casting whiskies… some are sherry bombs, others peat monsters, some sociable whereas others are elusive, complex and even at times difficult.

And how did our original Mumbai tasting group’s new year adventures begin? With a rather “friendly” whisky from Sweden.

As per our normal practice, it was sampled completely blind before the reveal. Here is what we discovered…

Mackmyra 3 year, Batch 1, 47.2% That Boutiqu-y Whisky Company Bottle 68 of 220

  • Nose – Initially greeted us with a sour fruit, curds, earthy, leafy, coastal, salt, wet stones, wandering in the rainforest, castor oil, green apple, hummus, dry apricot, spice…  all before the 1st sip! Then a sharpness and much more pronounced spice emerged, light tobacco and even coconut.
  • Palate – Lots of bitter, spice, made us “pucker” up, yet with that prick was character and substance, smooth, straight forward yet not in the least bit harsh
  • Finish – A lovely spice… not very long but nice

For two of us, there was something teasingly familiar about this whisky… that we couldn’t quite place.

And what was it like with water and bit of patience?

  • Nose – After releasing a whiff of suffer, a lovely perfume wafted out, talcum powder… much later with the revisit was an oily varnish and peaches
  • Palate – Much sweeter yet still has a bitter quality…. as time passed, it became sweeter and sweeter, increasingly enjoyable as it opened up even more

For most, water was the way to go… while it initially brought out the spice a bit more, it then mellowed the whisky out rather nicely. Beyond making it sweeter, it made it even more approachable, one could even call it a very “friendly” whisky.

After sampling all the whiskies we returned to find a yummy cinnamon candy, bubblegum… really quite delightful. I loved it and would happily come back to this one!

Mackmyra B1.jpg

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

What do the folks at That Boutique-y Whisky Company have to say?

Should you find yourself near an imposing and immovable-looking wall surrounded by a grove of cloudberries in the forests of Sweden, look for the moonlight to guide you to a doorway etched in the rocks. An inscription will glow upon the archway, instructing you of how to enter. Don’t bother with incantations or hexes. Those will get you nowhere. The inscription is a riddle. Answer correctly and the walls will shift, allowing you to enter the Mackmyra distillery, home to many superb Swedish single malts – and we’ve bottled some for you! Mackmyra have experimented with maturing whisky in casks that previously contained cloudberry wine, and whispers among the trees (or are they ents?) suggest that some of that whisky has made it into this expression…

Tasting notes:

  • Nose:  Marzipan, juicy apricot and raspberry, hints of brown sugar.
  • Palate: Pastries filled with quince jam. Cherry Bakewell and cinnamon.
  • Finish: Rather long and sweet, though a prickle of peppercorn does develop.

And what would this set you back? £128 for a 50 cl bottle.

I must also say the cloudberry wine clearly added a cheerful note to this Mackmyra.

What other Jim McEwan whiskies from That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC) did we try?

As for me, it is perhaps NOT such a surprise that this whisky was somehow familiar… Thanks to fabulous Nordic and Swedish connects, I’ve had great opportunities to try more than one whisky from this rather interesting distillery:

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Dubai Dreams – Midleton Very Rare 2011 40%

So what does an Irish whisky have to do with Dubai? It just so happens this particular bottle was enjoyed in Dubai with an Irishman who truly appreciates his Irish whiskies.

And he wasn’t the only one… our gathering of gents had many who enjoy their whiskies… however truth be told, slowing down, sniffing and discussing the aromas before the first sip was a departure from their usual approach.

However they were kind enough to indulge my light admonishment to be a bit patient.

When I shared this was the luxury brand of Irish single malts, this caught their attention.

And it truly is. Not only is Midleton the Jameson groups premier brand, this particular bottle is a rare collectable one… these day if you are very lucky, you may find it online for around €500.

Midleton “Very Rare” is an annual limited release started in 1984 to celebrate the best of Midleton (read Jameson) distillery. Each year these bottles tend to fly off the shelf and for Midleton fans, half the fun is comparing the different expressions – particularly the “old” which had their retired master distiller Barry Crocket’s involvement vs the “new” (2014 onwards) which purely reflect their master distiller Brian Nation’s hand in the blend.

What did we find?

Midleton Very Rare 2011 No 042585 / L121731255 40%

  • Nose – A pronounced butterscotch, caramel and toffee character, sweet grass, dripping with honey, after time some vanilla cream
  • Palate – Smooth, one could even say buttery, light fruits, honey, some black pepper spice, a nice oily feel though it was also quite light and “clean” on the palate
  • Finish – Quite gentle, there but with a light touch and continued with the linear “clean” dimension
  • Water – No temptation to add… It was perfect “as is”

The quality and character of this particular blend lends an easy comparison with a Highland malt. We described it as quite “spring like” with a fresh appealing and accessible approach.

Our somewhat biased Irish sampler declared this “Simply the best!” However there clearly was concurrence. We discussed how there were no harsh notes… and would put this in the category of a lovely easy drinking dram.

We spoke of what makes Irish whisky distinctive – tends to be triple distilled, not malted, limited use of peat and judicious use of ex-sherry casks.

As the last drop was drained… there were satisfied murmurs of appreciation… what a wonderful way to kick off our evening!

Our most generous host shared a remarkable collection of drams:

  • SMWS G10.10 “Busy buzzing bees” 38 years (23 Nov 1977) 49.6%
  • Old Pulteney 17 year 46%
  • Longmorn 25 year (1988/2014) Cask 14384 46% (Berry’s Bro)
  • Kilchoman Sherry (2007/2013) Cask 447/2007 59.5%
  • SMWS 29.229 “Harmonious balance” 19 year (13 May 1998) 55.2%

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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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Paul John 7 year Oloroso (2009) 57.4%

I’ve been ever so patiently waiting to sample this whisky… wanting just the right opportunity to share it with one of my Mumbai based whisky tasting groups.

Finally… nearly 2 years after I acquired this lovely bottle, it graced an evening of Sherry explorations…

What did we find?

Paul John 7 year (2009) Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish 57.4%

  • Nose – Starts quite nutty – specifically walnut, some balsa wood, toast then starts to shift into sweet dry fruits and spices with an inviting warm cinnamon, mince pie, dates, fresh figs, orange citrus, a delicious drizzle of honey or perhaps maple syrup?
  • Palate – Full force and fabulous! There was a lovely spice, cherries, rich and full bodied while remaining nicely rounded. Some black pepper and cinnamon bark, complex and dry.
  • Finish – Long, strong, sweet and sumptuous, even a little hint of licorice at the tail
  • Water – Wow! Really opened it up… Much fruitier, dried apricot, still keeps the orange, rum raisins, even sweeter yet without losing the lovely “Ooomph!” and character…The nose then took on some vanilla, cream, think of a yummy egg nog with a generous dash of nutmeg

What a whisky! Even before  the 1st sip, we already heard comments like “Beautiful!” and “Remarkable!”

No question this was cask strength. And equally no doubt this was one exceptional whisky. Full flavoured and quite fabulous, it really came into its optimal character with a splash of water.

To put it in desi terms – we were “maha” impressed! Even more so when the reveal was Indian, provoking much national pride. Bravo Paul John!

And what the folks at Paul John have to say?

A limited edition of the Indian single malt from the sunny Goan coasts, Oloroso presents an aromatic tapestry of complex yet gorgeously weighted fragrances, from toasted honeycomb to figs and a touch of dry raisin. Matured for 3 years in American bourbon barrels and finished in sherry casks for 4 years, its creamy flavours offer a delectable blend of barley with grape. The intense sherry richness towards the end, gives this rare whisky its name. The finish is long and luxuriously spiced, with a cocoa tinged vanilla. It is a wholesome Goan experience, packed into every sip.

  • Nose – Complex and gorgeously weighted, Toasted honeycomb, dry resin, dates, figs and apricot, its almost an aromatic tapestry.
  • Palate – Magnificent mix of barley and grape, sweet and creamy, intense richness of sherry in the end.
  • Finish – Long and luxurious, with pulsing vanilla-cocoa mix and a build-up of spices.
  • Colour – Dark Amber
  • Pairing – This extremely complex whisky needs food that can complement it well. Tender, juicy steaks and blue cheese can help you unravel every nuance of this magnificent malt from Goa.

Paul John Whiskies:

Here are the whiskies explored in our Sherry Unusual evening:

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Hyde No. 6 President’s Reserve 46%

Thanks to a mutual whisky aficionado, I was introduced in Mumbai many months ago to two of the merry men behind Ireland’s new whiskey brand – Hyde. Note the deliberate use of brand not distillery… as these folks are building a name for themselves as “bonders” working with existing distillers to craft a range of whiskies with ambitious plans to some day some way have a distillery of their own.

What did they send our way?

Well… A curious miss greeted the Hyde on its arrival… and then I waited an exceedingly long time to find the right evening to share this bottle… So what did we find?

Hyde No. 6 President’s Reserve (May 2017) 46% Bottle No 4780/5000

  • Nose – Bright lemon, a very light sherry perfume, talcum powder, hint of lavender, somehow quite astringent with the lemon the most obvious element – shifting from zest to liquid dishwashing soap, a synthetic lemon desert
  • Palate – One found sulfur, for most it was honey or sugar water, lightly fruity
  • Finish – An initial spice that then relatively quickly dissipated

As the gents knew the theme was some dimension of sherry, speculation turned to it certainly not being fully matured in an ex-sherry barrel but instead only finished and that too not a PX but perhaps Olorosso.

It was a pleasant beginning, simple, sweet with the nose probably the most interesting element.

What do we know about this whiskey?

First off, it is a blend an 18 Year Old Irish single malt and 8 Year Old Irish single grain. Both were first matured in bourbon casks before being finished together for 9 months in Oloroso sherry casks.

It was named in honour of Douglas Hyde, Ireland’s first president, who was inaugurated on 25th June 1938.

And here is what the Hyde folks have to say:

  • Nose – Delightfully floral notes of vanilla, sweet, honey, caramel, chocolate, and mixed fruit, infused with spices.
  • Taste – Wonderfully smooth yet complex, creamy yet fruity with notes of caramel, honey, apricot, and apple, with a silky rich texture.
  • Finish – Rich & Oaky. It lingers in the mouth with a rich long finish.

Here are the other whiskies explored in our Sherry Unusual evening:

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Sherry Unusual – Hyde, Paul John, Kilchoman, BenRiach

Sherry’s effect on whisky can be a marvel. And I wanted to do something a bit different for our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents to push the boundaries beyond the known sherry drams like Aberlour, GlenDronach, Glenrothes, etc.

Normally we dive straight into whiskies, knowing what we are trying. However I wanted to have a bit of fun with a surprise…. So kept my fellow tasters “blind.”

Next, I introduced a “reference” pour.

I said nothing about it – merely to smell (not sip) with a request between each whisky to go back to the “reference” to recalibrate senses and compare.

It didn’t take long til they realized the “reference” wasn’t whisky at all but instead a sherry… with speculation it may be a “cream” or sweetened avatar rather than a dry fino or amontillado.

I later revealed that it was a Kingsgate Canadian sherry from KittlingRidge Ontario, Canada  described on the bottle as:

“A premium medium dry sherry, barrel aged in oak for extra smoothness.”

However this Kingsgate is now known as Apera with an explanation that it is medium dry Oloroso sherry “style” dessert wine. This 2013 nod from to EU regulations recognizes that a “true” Sherry can only come from the Spanish triangle.

Which tells you this funny little bottle, inherited from a friend who was leaving India, has been around for a few years…

As for what we tried? Not quite your usual fare…

Here is the progression we explored with our Sherry Unusual evening with whiskies from Ireland, India and Islay…. plus an extra special single cask:

Hyde #6 President’s Reserve 8 year single grain + 18 year single malt 46%

From Ireland, picked as an appetizer, the bottle stated it was finished in Sherry. What made it unusual is that it is a new brand, released to help promote the Hyde name before their Hibernia distillery in Cork is fully producing.

Paul John 7 Year (2009) Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish 57.4%

This was the biggest surprise – none imaged it could be from India! We were mighty impressed with what the folks from Paul John produced with four years in ex Bourbon then 3 years in ex Sherry casks. It also opened up beautifully with a bit of water.

BenRiach 12 year (2005/2018) Oloroso Sherry Cask No 5052 59.3%

A true class act. Selected just to be sure we had at least ONE proper single malt in our evening. Gorgeous and astounding how at 59.2%, not a drop of water was desired.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm (2010/2016) Sherry 46%

A pure peat monster tempered with 100% sherry from Islay. Not everyone’s tipple but certainly demonstrated how peat and sweet can combine!

Just click on the whisky links to find out even more about what we discovered!

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Exploring experiments in barley, wheats and more!

One fine evening, two gents and I decided to go on a journey of (re)-discovery… new for them, repeats for me… a series of whiskies deliberately chosen for their terriore, experiments in barley, wheats and more…

I warned my companions to not expect standard Scottish malts but instead calibrate their palates to more rustic, less sophisticated fare… and appreciate each for their unique qualities.

What did they think?

Worth exploring yet simply reinforced their preference for a traditional Scottish single malt!

PS – You can read tasting notes by clicking on the links above.

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Cleveland Underground Apple Bourbon Whiskey Sour

Ah… there are times when a chilled whisky sour just hits the spot! Which is exactly why our bourbon evening closed with a non-traditional take on this whiskey cocktail standard.

This isn’t quite what we tried but pretty close…

Underground Whiskey Sour
  • 1 ½ oz Underground Bourbon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 drunken cherry
  • Chickpea froth
DIRECTIONS
  1. In an old fashioned glass, add Underground Bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar
  2. Shake with ice and strain into chilled tulip glass
  3. Add the froth
  4. Garnish with a cherry

Often it is made with frothed egg white… in our case we had a less traditional “vegetarian” version made with the froth from boiling chickpeas – which works surprisingly well.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Cleveland Underground AP Bourbon Whiskey 45%

One of the great things about our Mumbai whisky tasting groups is their adventuresome bent. When opportunity arises to grab something distinctly different, we do!

This was one such experiment from Cleveland Underground closed our bourbon evening.

We sampled it blind and here is what we found…

Cleveland Underground AP Bourbon Whiskey finished with Apple Wood Batch 3 Bottle 1638 90 Proof 45%

  • Colour – We just had to observe this was bright almost reddish with jewel tones
  • Nose – Fresh mash, medicine capsule, wet oats, uncooked porridge, atta flour for making chapatis, sour dough yeast
  • Palate – Frankly a bit weird, tricky on the palate, very untypical, some unboiled peanuts or groundnuts, quite curious
  • Finish – Bitter end

To be honest, we weren’t terribly impressed. There was something rather peculiar about this one which was certainly different but not necessarily in a good way.

With the reveal it was shared this bourbon has taken an experimental approach to maturation – starting with wood barrels, the whisky matures this way for approx 6 months. Then it is transferred to stainless steel tanks where the wood staves from the barrels are added then alternate pressure cycles and temperate to accelerate the maturation process.

The whole raison d’etre of Cleveland Underground whiskies is to push the boundaries. Their bourbon’s include whiskies finished not only with Apple, but also Sugar Maple Wood,  Black Cherry Wood, Honey Locust Wood, and Hickory Wood.

And while it is terrific to experiment, not all experiments are successful with all audiences. With our tasting group, this particular approach didn’t hit the mark in Mumbai.

What do the Cleveland folks have to say about their Apple Wood?

Light and airy body. A tender sweetness with notes of baking spice backstopped by an almost tart finish.

Hmm… don’t think we would agree but still wish the Cleveland Underground team well for their endeavours to do something different.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Tragedy Struck! Gordon + MacPhail’s Linkwood 1998 46%

Once upon a time there was a Linkwood that was poured into a bottle in 2012… to make its way from Scotland to a World of Whisky store to a home in Mumbai, India. And then find its way into our glasses in October 2018…

We sampled it blind and here is what we found…

Linkwood 13 year (8 Dec1998 / Jan 2010) Cask No 5014 Refill Sherry Hogshead 46% for World of Whiskies

  • Colour – Very yellow
  • Nose – When first opened it was so fruity – particularly jackfruit, cashew fruit then red fruits… then as strong as it came on, the basket of fruits slipped away… Particularly after the first sip. Instead there was biscuits, cereal notes with hay, grass… more and more it became dusty, musty, woody… after even more time there was a light coconut and even some marshmallow but… something wasn’t quite right….
  • Palate – Sharp, initially fruity, then musty, sour, earthy, bitter, very woody, some spice, quite thin with little body, wet fallen leaves
  • Finish – Very short finish
  • Water – Some found it horrible, bitter vs others finding it became tart with lemons then sweet, the fruit came back with some spice yet was still very musty with dry coconut husks

We struggled with this one… it seemed oddly incomplete or off… something or other wasn’t quite right. Over and over we kept remarking on the peculiar musty element.

With the reveal we were all surprised.

Linkwood.

Gordon & Macphail.

Really?? The character wasn’t in keeping with our past experience with Linkwood whiskies and certainly not Gordon & Macphail bottles.

And that is when our host revealed that the reason he served this single malt from a lovely decanter was the cork had crumbled completely. He further shared he had purchased this years ago – likely not long after it was released in 2012.

It seemed that tragedy had struck. What could have once been a fine dram was given no favours by being stored in a Mumbai cupboard for years. There actually have been studies on the impact of storage conditions on whisky bottles. Mumbai’s heat isn’t kind to bottles… and this seems to have happened in this case. Sigh….

What about other Linkwood experiences?

Our original tasting group continued in our “classic” evening with two other Scottish single malts:

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