Zuidam Millstone Sherry 55.5%

This was my 1st taste of Zuidam’s Millstone Whiskies… This Dutch distillery is known for its uncompromising quality.

Malt Maniac 2016 Awards

Zuidam Millstone (11.9.1998/5.8.2016) Odoroso Sherry Cask #2530 55.5% OB 44 of 203 bottles

  • Nose – Sharp juicy fruits, plum wine, dash of sweet spices with cinnamon, cloves and allspice, back to a burst of red fruits, sultanas, honey water then prunes, a shifting spice from black pepper to cayenne, then back to fruity boiled sweets or candied orange
  • Palate – Wow! Now we are talking a serious dram. Om biscuits with that distinctive caraway, perhaps a bit of kalonji too. Clear stamp of sherry with some age behind it too…
  • Finish – Gorgeous finish
  • Water – No interest in adding…

An unmistakable Christmas dram. Stunning.

While this was an official bottling, there are no notes on the Zuidam website…  however this dram won Malt Maniac’s 2016 “Thumbs Up” award so clearly someone agrees this is a mighty fine dram!

What else did we try in our “Sinful Samples” evening?

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Sinful Samples – Bunnahabhan, Tullibardine, Millstone, Glendronach, Wolfburn

Tis the season to be jolly… and all that jazz! Yet before all the mad social rounds of the season kicked off, we snuck in a completely chilled out informal sampling of samples…

Call it a “Pajama Drams” night, it had no formality just a few folks, more than a few samples to put side by side to provoke some interesting tasting experiences…

What did we try?

It may seem like a prodigious amount for one sitting but we were a disciplined lot… some sniffing, swishing and spitting went on plus a swallows and discarding the balance. Sacralige to some but sensible for us.

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Sherry Element – Amrut Intermediate Sherry 57.1%

Next up in our Sherry Elements evening was a complete surprise – An Amrut Intermediate Sherry, part of their core line-up purchased by our host around 7 years earlier.

We sampled it completely blind, with the reveal shared only after sampling all whiskies in the evening.

Amrut Intermediate Sherry 57.1%

  • Colour – It initially struck us incredible – a deep ruby, exceptionally dark. Could it be real? It seemed impossible, til we started to really get into the whisky and then it didn’t seem so improbable after all
  • Nose – Initial sniff was sharp, medicinal dispensary, came across as having high alcohol, homeopathic sulfur, then began to open up… banana, tropical fruits, caramel, a children’s sweet chewable multi-vitamin, lemon hint, the aromas just kept dancing around… needing time to settle…. then prunes, gave a sense of being oily, perhaps some spice… going through several cycles, including tobacco, burnt matches, cocoa, juicy plums, opening up more to reveal different dimensions. After sipping, the aromas revealed clear sherry, peppers
  • Palate – At first quite intense, bitter, sour then Wow! Raisins, cocoa, a clear stamp of “Now this is a whisky!” Sharp, bitter but balanced. Then shifted into orange and chilli chocolate. With a lovely mouthfeel, fabulous balance.
  • Finish – Long, starts like bitter chocolate and ends with sweet
  • Water – We decided this one could have a few generous drops of water…So smooth! The Diwali explosion  of flavours were softened yet retained its full character. Became even sweeter, almost floral, a crisp dosa smell, then more like crepes with the orange really popping out.

It was in many ways a complete chameleon… Hard to pin down, needed time to open up. We thought it could make a marvellous cigar malt – holding its own and pairing well. The nose and  palate were beautifully matched. It was clearly an interesting whisky, complex, the kind where a little goes a long way. A few in the room pronounced it “Stunning.”

And when it was revealed? Amazement. To put it mildly, what we had otherwise sampled of its core line available in India… let’s just say we’d be underwhelmed. Whereas this was a fabulous dram. Leading talk to frustration with the inconsistency of our Amrut experiences. This one was without a doubt a ‘keeper’…

What do the folks over at Amrut have to say?

  • Nose : Instead of the usual biscuit aroma, we now get moist cake. And my word: is it fruity and spicy!! Love the freshly waxed oak floor, too. Brain-explodingly complex and multi-layered with one of the most intriguing sherry-style-bourbon-style marriages on the market
  • Taste : Cracking delivery and entirely unique in form. The structure is decidedly oak-based, but acts as no more than a skeleton from which the juicy sultana and spices drape. Salivating, too, as the barley kicks in powerfully. But the liquorice-orangey-honeycomb bourbon theme quietly shapes the flavour profile; the spices pulse and glow
  • Finish : Quite a chunk of natural caramel quietens the more exuberant characteristics; long and elegant

What did we sample in our “Sherry Elements” evening?

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Sherry Elements – Oban, Amrut, Kilkerran

As a whisky tasting group, we’ve sampled many a sherry matured cask over the years.. however we have not had an evening dedicated to different elements of sherry… until one fine evening in November 2017.

What did we sample?

And what made each of these distinctive?

1st off the Oban was not your standard familiar friend – the 14 year – no siree! It was instead a 15 year limited edition initially matured in an ex-bourcon cask then a Montilla Fino Cask.

Next up was an Amrut Intermediate Sherry purchased some 7 odd years ago and carefully kept. Again a combination of bourbon and sherry… with quite a complex and different character than the Oban.

And the Kilkerran? The Campbeltown offering was again Sherry wood… with a peaty element too.

None were full force sherry, each had a unique dimension, making our evening a most enjoyable exploration. All had been carefully collected over years by our host… none can be readily obtained today… of if you do, likely not quite the same as what we sampled.

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Rye Night – High West Whiskey Double Rye 46%

Last in the official pours from our original club’s rye night was a whiskey from High West. As I was off in Germany, notes were ably recorded by our guest writer Nikkhil… Read on!

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Pour ​3​: High West Double Rye Whiskey 46% | Batch No: 16I08 | Un-chill filtered

  • AppearanceDark brown caramel
  • Nose: Acrid,nail polish, solventy, metallic paint shop. A tiny hint of rose petals.Muted nose. We weren’t getting anything much from this one.
  • Palate: Sharp and bitter sweet but not rough. Palate as muted as the nose. Hints of coco,cinnamon and tobacco. With water it gets even sharper. Green tea and some black pepper.
  • Finish: Short and still solventy.
  • After 20min rest: Grassy notes and tobacco.
Official notes:
  • Nose: Mint, clove, cinnamon, licorice root, pine nuts,and dark chocolate, with a surprising dose of gin botanicals throughout
  • Taste: Rye spices up front, then menthol, mint, eucalyptus, herbal tea with wildflower honey and all spice
  • Finish: Cinnamon and mint, gradually sweetening through the finish, with a hint of anise

Double Rye: A blend of straight Rye whiskeys ranging in age from 2 to 16 years. Straight Rye whiskeys: 95% rye, 5% barley malt from MGP & 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley malt from Barton Distillery.

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The original’s rye night contained:

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Rye Night – Cascadia Rye (Portugues Port Barrels) 43.5%

Alas I again had to miss our session as was off gallvanting around Germany, however our resident guest whisky writer Nikkhil is back again to share our group’s impressions.

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Pour 2: Cascadia Rye Whiskey Port Barrel Finish | 43.5%

  • Appearance: A distinct pinkish amber hue
  • N​ose: Very jammy, over ripe fruit, orange oil, coco. A distinct note of gulkand (a sweet preserve of rose petals). Turmeric here as well. Strangely some sulphur notes. Mushrooms? A member even picked up mango pickle!
  • Palate: Mildly spicy. Dry coriander seeds, white pepper, vanilla. The jammy fruity nose was a lot subdued on the palate.The turmeric continues as well as the paan notes. Delicious actually.
  • ​Finish: ​Long with lingering notes of menthol/mint and warm spices.
  • With water it opens up beautifully. The soft fruits are back. Aniseed, rose, light tobacco along with that sulphury note created an interesting and a very unique flavor palate. The spices, though restrained keep the balance in check.
After 20min rest: Meaty notes, bubblegum and weirdly Lifebuoy soap! 
Official notes:
 
  • Aging: This Rye Whiskey was first matured in new American Oak barrels, then double barrel finished in French oak casks previously used for maturing rich, 20 year old Port in Portugal. The casks were transferred to the distillery’s No.I vault, the Isle of Whidbey’s oldest maturation warehouse. Located at sea level on the shores of Port Clinton, the spirit was left to mature under nature’s care. The straight Rye developed into one of the most incredible whiskies we have produced. With an aroma rich in port, cocoa, dark cherries, toffee, chocolate and mature oak on the palate, the concentration of flavors is inimitable.
  • Nose:  Rich and full, yet mild.  Lingers in the mind.
  • Tasting Notes:  Rich, delicately spicy and very smooth.

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The original’s rye night contained:

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Rye Night – Cody Road 100% Rye Whiskey 40%

In all our six years of sampling whiskies, our original Mumbai tasting group‘s adventures have only touched on rye every once and again… it has never once been a fully fledged featured evening… until now.

Alas I again had to miss our session as was off gallvanting around Germany, however our resident guest whisky writer Nikkhil is back again to share our group’s impressions.

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Pour 1: Cody Road 100% Rye Whiskey | 40% Abv

  • AppearanceCaramel
  • Nose: Spicy, citrus sour green tamarind on the tree, lemon drops, sweet poppins, orange mithai which gave way to a distinct raw turmeric (haldi root but not the dried one) note. Some ravalgaon toffee notes now in the glass. A very unusual flavour profile which was not yet experienced by the group. Certainly non-scottish!
  • Palate: Spicy and bitter. More turmeric/ginger notes on the mid-palate. Marigold flower petals! I’ve never experienced that before in any spirit. Some caramel popping its head up now. There was something plasticine about it which hit the back of the tongue. Almost like an off note. This I find commonly in first pours and usually settles thanks to oxidation as the level goes down in the bottle.
  • Finish: Spice and bitter stay at the back of the palate. A medium linger with a hint of cocoa notes.
  • With water sweet vanilla, a hint of mint. The bitterness stays. Overall a shy palate.

After 20min rest: The nose and the palate had completely opened up. It smelt and tasted like a cold sweet paan in a bottle! Lovely. The mouthfeel now had an oily consistency. Some cloves, cinnamon and over ripe bananas. Very fruity. The plasticine notes subdued significantly. Time in glass as important as time in cask. Every whisky tasting is a two way conversation and we must avoid the tendency to rush into our tastings in an effort to form or announce our impressions.

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What is interesting is how we have developed a clear slow down, sample, set aside and revisit approach (where we have enough Glencairn glasses!)… more often than not, the whisky will shift with more air – sometimes revealing additional quite interesting qualities, sometimes the opposite where once something that was quite appealing becomes “not” as it becomes sour or its aromas just vanish!

The original’s rye night contained:

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It twas a rye, rye, rye night!

As I was traveling when our original club’s October session happened, our guest whisky writer Nikkhil again stepped up to the occasion.

What made this particularly unique was our 1st ever session focused purely on Rye. As per our normal approach, the merry malters sampled completely blind before the reveal.  

The original’s rye evening contained:

Nikkhil’s comments on the evening:

The hostess revealed all three bottles together. She had chosen a Rye theme for her session and it was indeed a very interesting experience for all of us. It was a first for me. Turmeric and paan notes are not what one would normally associate with a whiskey yet there they were!

The group was divided between the Cody Road & ​Cascadia Rye​ with me preferring the former. High West was not up to the groups liking. I had never imagined a Rye to be “finished” in sherry/port casks.

The Cascadia Rye did have a distinct pinkish hue and that sulphur note. Could the sulphur be because of the port cask finish? Cask fumigation by burning sulphur candles or brimstone sticks has been used to preserve casked wine and to prevent bacterial contamination of casks stored empty. It can also creep up if batches are distilled too fast or in too warm climate​. Cask maturation can significantly mitigate the effect of sulphur after 3 years. But by law an American straight Rye can be bottled after 2 yrs in the cask. Could it be the latter than the former? The mystery continues!

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“Super Nikka Whisky”

After spending time exploring the Nikka “From the Barrel” at our Whisky Ladies “Diwali Drams” evening, we compared it with a revival of an earlier incarnation of their standard “Super Nikka Whisky”.

What did our Whisky Ladies think?

Super Nikka Revival Whisky 43% (Limited Edition for Europe, 2015)

  • Nose – Candy floss, that Hallowe’en candy corn of brightly coloured kernels of yellow, orange and white tips, caramel nuttiness, a sweet almond paste, cola that has gone flat, then from somewhere an unlit charcoal, slightly musty, a hint of chocolate? A dash of pine?
  • Palate – Deceptively sweet, well rounded, light smoke to counter balance the sweet, was there a hint of sea salt too? Regardless of the different elements, they all merged together harmoniously
  • Finish – Lovely finish, cinnamon sweet though a bit abrupt – here then gone.
  • Water – Interestingly, this is the one we tried with water… it nicely reduces the sweetness, adds a dash of spice like a spice guava, making it overall even more enjoyable

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

One of Nikka’s classic brands, the Super Nikka was introduced to the market in 1962. Its luxuriant aroma, gentle hints of peat and scent of vanilla and chocolate are all in harmony, and its flavor is smooth, rounded and well-balanced.

Believe it or not, a fellow whisky aficionado in Mumbai has one of the original’s from the 1960s… I’m sensing we just may need to track down one of the ‘new’ avatars and do a comparison one of these days…

And the results of our “head to head”?

The Nikka Super Whisky was the most popular – for its sociable character in keeping with the mood of the evening. And yet there is no doubt the “From the Barrel” is a fine dram that demands attention.

And yes… I was caught blathering on about context being everything in choice… whisky preferences for me, at least, are highly mood, setting and company dependent. What I love in one context I may not care for in another and vis-a-versa. But that is another tale for another day…

The “Super Nikka” we sampled had recently been opened and tasted at our October 2017 Mumbai session, last seen on Master of Malt for $55 (sold out).

Whiskies sampled in our Diwali Drams evening included:

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Nikka’s “From the Barrel”

Last in the Whisky Ladies “Diwali Drams” evening was a “head to head” comparison between two Nikka blends – their cask strength “From the Barrel” and a revival of an earlier incarnation of their standard “Super Nikka Whisky”.

Most would know that Nikka, the company, uses “Nikka” as the brand name for their range of whisky blends which are either:

Both our whiskies fall into the “blend” category… What did our Whisky Ladies think?

Nikka From the Barrel 51.4%

  • Nose – Coconut, like sweet honey nectar, fruits like pears, a bit of acetone, then coriander (or cilantro or… there was a debate on the different varieties!). After a sip, the nose gained some oil and nuts, then shifted into marshmallow and candied nuts.
  • Palate – We found it was like melted caramel, dense and buttery like a maple butter tart, some sweet raisins too… quite thick on the palate
  • Finish – Last and last and lasts.

Some absolutely loved it! Appreciating how it is bursting with character, a complex drink, one where a little goes a long way.

Words like “Fabulous!” and “Mmmm” could be heard. The finish in particular was described as a “Fabulous, fantastic finish!” And exclaims of how well it could pair with certain food too.

And yet for some, this was almost too much… in its sweet aromas, its dense concentration of flavours and long finish.

What do the folks at Nikka have to say about “From the Barrel”?

This is a blend of multiple types of malt and grain that Nikka reserves. Nikka From the Barrel was created to deliver full flavors and richness of whisky “from barrels” which only blenders can sniff and taste. As the whisky contains so many characteristic components at a higher alcohol of 51.4%, it is essential to let the liquid “marriage” in used casks for 3-6 months for it to stabilize and harmonize. The concept of the unique short squared bottle is “a small lump of whisky”, which perfectly visualizes the rich and strong taste of the whisky inside.

PS – There may be added colour i.e. caramel.

So then how did it stack up against the “Super Nikka”? Read on soon….

The Nikka “From the Barrel” is a 50 cl bottle, sometimes found in duty free for around $50-75 and was opened during our session.

Whiskies sampled in our Diwali Drams evening included:

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