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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Mithcher’s Small Batch Bourbon Sazerac Cocktail

After sampling Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon solo, we had a change to try it in a different avatar – an exceedingly good Sazerac… so good that a few even had a repeat!

Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon L16F747 45.7% (91.4 proof)

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

  • 2 1/2 oz. Mitcher’s small batch bourbon whisky
  • sugar cube
  • dashes bitters
  • Absinthe
  • Lemon peel
  • Old-fashioned glass
Directions:
  1. In an Old-Fashioned glass, muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of water.
  2. Add several small ice cubes and the whiskey and bitters.
  3. Stir well and strain into a second, chilled, Old-Fashioned glass in which you have rolled around a few drops of absinthe until its inside is thoroughly coated, pouring off the excess.
  4. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel

The quality of the absinthe makes all the difference. In our case, we had a Czech absinthe – Bairnsfather;’s Reality Absinth – that was truly exceptional.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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FEW Bourbon Manhattan Cocktail

After enjoying the FEW Bourbon straight up, it was time for cocktails!

While I’m not sure if this is exactly what was whipped up for us, this is in the same territory…

FEW Bourbon Manhattan

  • 2 oz. FEW Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1 oz. Italian vermouth
  • dashes Angostura Bitters
Directions
  1. Stir the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters well with cracked ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist or a maraschino cherry.

In this case, the cherry was soaked in a rather fine bourbon, and naturally it was also a quality vermouth, hence the results were frankly fabulous.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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FEW Bourbon 46.5%

The beauty of bourbon is how its full sweet flavours can make a killer base for a solid cocktail. The better the bourbon, the better the base, the better the cocktail.

And that’s just what we explored with our FEW Bourbon Manhattan…

First we sampled it blind, then we had it in a specially crafted cocktail.

FEW Bourbon 46.5% Batch 17H30

  • Nose – Fresh yeasty, flowers… like marigold or chrysanthemums, light citrus, quite sweet, light sacred ash, honey, raisins and apricots, dusty grains, perfume and lightly sour
  • Palate – Tastes quite different than the nose indicated, spice, cloves and oils, not at all harsh, sweet, with a walnut bitterness, something odd not normally found in whiskies like pulses or lentils
  • Finish – Minimal and a bit bitter.

While it came across as a bit soft and thin, there was still plenty going on. For the bourbon fans in the room, there was no doubt this was a fine specimen. Too soon our wee snifters with just a few sips were empty and it was time to move on to the next…

But this wasn’t it for us! No siree! After the teasing sample, out came one really quite fabulous Manhattan.

What do the folks at FEW have to say about their Bourbon?

Southern Tradition meet Norther Rye…

This spirit, distilled through timeless liquor-making techniques, utilizes a three-grain recipe that infuses generations of Southern tradition with the spiciness of northern rye and a touch of malt for smoothness. FEW is hand-crafted through a small-batch process in charred oak barrels to age its bourbon whiskey.

In a terrific twist, FEW Spirits takes their name from Frances Elizabeth Willard, a key figure in the Temperance Movement, The craft distillery is based in Evanston which has seen its fair share of Prohibition…. which sparked the creation of a remarkable array of illicit liquor plus import of Canadian rye whisky that was sometimes so harsh it had to be mixed up with various ingredients… making way for the famous flapper accoutrement – the cocktail!

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon

Our Bourbon explorations continued with Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon.

We began sampling it completely blind, to share our impressions without any influences beyond what was in our glass, then had the reveal followed by a brilliant cocktail.

Here is what we found…

Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon L16F747 45.7% (91.4 proof)

  • Nose – We were welcomed by mandarin oranges, sweet vanilla, jasmine, Cointreau, chocolate, creamy, butter rice, toffee, caramel, Chinese sweet red bean buns, fresh bread
  • Palate – Ooh! Very nice spice. Well rounded, has more substance than the FEW bourbon, orange blossoms, cinnamon gum like a Big Red, very smooth, lots of dried fruits
  • Finish – Lovely sweet light clove student oranges… long finish

It was universally pronounced “delicious!” A clear favourite of the evening – bringing enough character to make us happy to keep enjoying.

This was followed by an exceedingly good Sazerac… so good that a few even had a repeat!

Something to note about Mitcher’s is their master distiller, Pam Heilmann, was the first woman since Prohibition to serve as Master Distiller at a Kentucky Distillers Association distillery and their Mast of Maturation & Exec VP, Andrea Wilson, was the first woman to ever serve as Chair of the Kentucky Distillers Association.

What do they say about their Small Batch Bourbon?

Michter’s US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is made from a carefully selected mashbill that features the highest quality American corn. It is then matured to the peak of perfection. Truly “small batch” each batch of our US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is batched in a holding tank sized to fit a maximum of twenty full barrels, leaving no margin for “blending out” imperfection and thus necessitating excellence from every barrel. Reflecting the spirit of the Bluegrass State, Michter’s US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is nuanced, mellow and earthy.

Michter’s tasting notes:

  • Rich caramel with balanced vanilla, stone fruit notes, smoky depth, with an oak finish.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Bourbon Cocktail Hour with FEW, Mitcher’s, Underground Apple

Sometimes its good to shake things up! And that’s exactly what we experienced in our recent session. Literally shaking up some bourbon to make cocktails!

To get us in the mood, our evening began with a pop quiz on Bourbon, with fun factoids like a crash course into the confoundingly confusing mix of prohibition and restrictions (wet, dry, moist, wine, limited, golf…) to be found around alcohol consumption in the very state that boosts of bringing bourbon to the world – Kentucky!

Once our trivia round was finished, we dove into the Bourbons. We started with just a few sips of each… then the “main event” commenced…carefully crafted cocktails playing with the different elements of the drams.

So what did we enjoy?

Read on over the coming days to find out more about our brush with Bourbons brought back to Bombay!

This wasn’t our 1st rodeo with American whiskies either… We’ve had some past adventures such as:

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Westland Whiskey – From “Wow” to maybe “Not Now”!

Three years ago I was introduced to Westland and went from curious and cautiously impressed, to “This really is very good”, to wow and fan status. Til now…

Westland Cask No 395 54.6% – June 2015

We found the hand filled Cask No 395 to be “very creative, complex, insanely interesting.” Since then I’ve kept an eye out for Westland, encouraging others to check it out too.

Westland Sherry 46% – Oct 2016

This positive perspective continued when our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents tried the Sherry Wood blind. For many this was the 1st truly impressive American single malt they sampled. They generously shared the the bottle with the Whisky Ladies who were equally impressed.

Westland Single Malt 46% – Jan 2017

Now on the hunt for Westland, the Whisky Ladies managed to acquire the standard Single Malt and cracked it open early 2017. We loved it!  Rapturous moans of pleasure… marmalade, praline, buttery, creamy, bursting with different elements. it was a complete hit!

Westland Trio – July 2017

This enthusiasm picked up pace even more when the Bombay Malt & Cigar group blind tasted a trio of Peated 46%American Oak 46%, Sherry Wood 46%. While the Sherry and American Oak came out on top, they were all terrific and firmly cemented a fan club.

A bottle came home with me and was my “go to” dram during a stressful project with a small nip once and a while, which guaranteed to bring both relaxation and a smile.

Westland American Oak – June 2018

Fast forward nearly a year and this positive trajectory took an abupt about turn… with a bottle that completely “flopped”…

What did we find?

  • Nose – Caramel, honey, vanilla, sour, sharp, wood, after time a bit of sweet clove, more new oak
  • Palate – An odd edge, starts with spice on the tip of the tongue with a drop in the middle, not terribly satisfying
  • Finish – Very bitter… long but not enjoyable
  • Water – Helps… brought out a bit of mulled wine, orange syrup, sticky toffee and pudding on the nose, maybe marginally helped the palate, but not much

The best aspect was the aroma which at least went through some shifts but it overall it was a complete disappointment. It wasn’t “bad” but it also wasn’t “good” and it didn’t have any of the elements we found so enjoyable previously.

I started flipping through the pages of my tasting notebook, reading out past passages…

  • “Delicious aroma, easy drinking character” and “Dangerously drinkable” – Aroma was ok but dangerously drinkable? No way!
  • “Too caught up simply enjoying” and “Relax my love, drink me now…” – Huh?

This was simply not the same quality and character. And lest you think this was an anomaly, I had another bottle purchased around the same time. Same thing. Huge disappointment, needs water and can be disguised in cocktails. It isn’t disastrously bad, but it definitely isn’t amazingly good. More harsh, raw and curiously unsatisfying.

One wonders, after Westland was acquired by Remy Cointreau in Dec 2016, could this be a sign of things to come?

Or a “blip” in what was earlier an award winning upstart that put American single malt on the world whisky map?

Only time will tell….

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Breaking open the bar – Westland, Glenmorangie, Balblair and DeCavo

We had another type of evening planned but with our original contributor unwell, decided to shift gears completely and crack open our respective bars to pull out an open bottle or two.

What did we decide to try / revisit?

  • Westland American Oak 46% – What once impressed…. now disappointed… just not what it used to be…
  • Glenmorangie 19 year 43% – First opened with the Whisky Ladies in January,  Soft citrus, fruity, light florals, lovely… classic Glenmorangie style
  • Balblair 05 46% – Opened as part of a recent evening with the folks from InterBev, it had a slightly sour element not previously found but still most drinkable
  • DeCavo NAS Batch 10 Cask 92 46% – Brought back as our favourite from a recent European exploration. Still lip smackingly good! We’d love to try more and a 375 ml bottle is perfect size for our tastings…

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