Sullivans Cove 16 year 47.5%

Sullivans Cove shot from quiet quality in a special niche corner to global prominence a few years ago thanks to a few well deserved awards. Since then, tracking down a bottle is challenging… even more so to find one with an age statement.

Our merry Mumbai malters were earlier introduced to the Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask and not so long ago our Whisky Ladies went on a Trans Tasmanian Tour which included  Sullivans Cove Double Cask, yet these glimpses into what Tasmania has to offer and more specifically Sullivans Cove remain rare opportunities here in Mumbai.

Which made it all the more interesting to discover, sampling completely blind this beauty…

Sullivans Cove 16 year (05 Dec 2000/22 Feb 2016) Barrel No HH0561 47.5% Bottle No 74 of 120, Non-chill filtered, American oak ex-bourbon cask

  • Colour – Dark gold
  • Nose – Sharp, distinctive, came across as high alcohol initially, then opened into a tropical fruit paradise, some biscuit, compost and wet earth, moss, it then rapidly dissipated closing up… with a few deep sniffs could discern rubber, cashew feni… quite tricky on the nose as it was on the one hand a bit sharp and on the other hand shy… After the 1st sip revealed pears, dry copra, beyond the coconut, the tropical fruits really came to the fore, quite lively… After quite some time and a revisit, there was paan betel nut too!
  • Palate – Barley water and really rather sweet, then the spice grows, not harsh but surprisingly forceful, chew and get cinnamon. It had this most amazingly deceptive quality of seeming mellow and yet take a good swish and breath in to find SPICE!  Yet equally take a small slow sip and it was like honey water with just a dash of pepper,  so so smooth
  • Finish – A funny sort of finish… An immediate ‘flash’ then just holds you gently for quite some time
  • Water – Most were not tempted. Those that did found it took the sharp and spice mellowing it to modest and nice.

While initially the nose gave a sense of alcohol strength, the palate clearly put this into perspective with a determination it must be below 48%. There were many aspects of this whisky that were ‘tricky’ – in a very interesting way. It also was one that demanded time and attention. Sit back, relax and enjoy the dialectic.

With some whiskies, we find the flavour profiles are fairly universal – accessible to practically anyone in the world. In cases like this Sullivans Cove, we found many qualities that fit perfectly with the palate of Indian fruits, spices, country liquor and deserts. Which made it all the more meaningful and memorable to enjoy in India.

What else do we know about this Tasmanian dram? Here is what they say…

To create this exceptional Single Malt Whisky our distiller has selected the highest quality local ingredients and American Oak ex-Bourbon casks. The award winning result is elegant and creamy exhibiting sweet malt, vanilla and citrus notes with a lingering finish. Taste our splendid isolation, indulge your senses.

Our host admitted this bottle set him back a pretty penny. I do believe something like $400 was mentioned, in large part as a rather hefty “Angel’s Share” made the remaining liquid all the more precious.

What did we try in our “pedigree” evening?

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Pedigree Malts – Midleton, Sullivans Cove, Kilkerran

There is no doubt that the world of whisky has changed and will continue to change. What has emerged are a few players that are truly “pedigree” even if their origins are not your typical Scottish… Brands that are being recognized for their consistent calibre…

We were treated to such a trio on a fine monsoon swept evening in Mumbai… Each was sampled completely blind with the reveal done only after all three were given our full and careful consideration.

What did we try in our Pedigree Malts?

While none of these are the “traditional” pedigree vintage whiskies, each has a dedication to quality that shines through.

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Vault Collection – Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish 46.2%

The Vault Fine Spirits has single handed expanded the range of whiskies and other spirits available in India – more specifically through our Duty Free. Which is exactly the theme of the session – exploring a trio from this collection.

First up in the “The Vault Collection” trio was a blind tasting of a whisky from Tasmania, Australia. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 1: Hellyers Road-Pinot Noir Finish 46.2% | Non Chill Filtered | NAS

  • Color: Gold
  • Nose: Dense sweet chocolate, sweet and lactic at the same time. Light varnish notes, burnt matches. Then starfruit citrus with curious notes of paan and nutmeg. Most unusual nose and certainly non-Scottish. Let’s see how the palate lives up
  • Palate: Intensely roasted coffee beans. It was literally like chewing on the beans. Then came the sweet fruity flavors of pears and overripe pineapples. That lactic, porridge flavor was back. With a little time, it got spicy with bitter tannic notes at the back of the throat. This seems young and confused. Bottled a tad too early?
  • With water and about 20 mins of rest it didn’t change much. On the palate, it was now a tad oily with some cold coffee but the bitterness continues.
  • Finish: Very dry and the tannic bitterness continues.

As usual it was time to guess. This was most definitely non-Scottish. One member nailed it down to Tasmanian. And there it was, Hellyers Road! A very challenging whisky certainly not for the novice. Would like to revisit it once it settles down in the bottle. But based on the first impression it was certainly not my kind of a dram.

Official notes:  

The nose is immediately drawn to crisp summer citrus, lemon and orange that obediently withdraws on the palate to manifest a sweet, gentle layer of pepper and spice – a persuasion of the red wine cameo. Burnt blackberry sauce lingers in the aftertaste foreclosing a treasured confusion of the senses.

The Vault Collection trio:

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“Trans Tasman Tour” Crazy Uncle Monsoon 43%

It was inspired by a crazy 90 year old uncle, saved for 2 years to share with the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai and finally opened one fine evening…

Whipersnapper’s Crazy Uncle Moonshine Barrel Aged 43%, Bottle 1/15

Truth be told, there were no tasting notes taken… instead we passed around this mad moonshine and shared tales of the crazy uncles in our lives. Some stories terribly amusing, others humbling and touching… all testament to the cantankerous and curiously compellingly kind mad men who make an impact.

So what else made it into our “Trans Tasman” explorations?

Curious about more? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Sullivans Cove Double Cask 40%

After some experimental whiskies from Australia and New Zealand, it was time to turn to one we had high hopes would satisfy our craving for something a bit more complex and perhaps even a bit more classic…

Based in Tasmania, Sullivans Cove is one of the distilleries that put Australian whiskies on the world map. And with good reason.

Tasmania’s Sullivans Cove Double Cask (2008/2015) 40%

  • Nose – Fruity, spice, finally a “proper” whisky, a bit of Amarula creaminess, some ripe bananas, forest greens, mud and moss, nice and earthy, then flowers
  • Palate – Comes together beautifully, some coriander, full and well rounded, some raisins, accessible yet satisfying
  • Finish – The icing on the cake, fabulous light yet has substance morphing into cherry, dark chocolate, cinnamon

There is a certain elegance to this whisky. It is both classic and modern. What we also remarked is that though only 40%, this was a proper full whisky that left nothing out.

We sampled the DC080 which is a combination of a French Oak Australian Port Cask and American Oak Bourbon Cask, using barrels HH0203, HH0206, HH0272, HH0408, HH0437 with the youngest from 22/08/2000, Bottled 13/07/2015. We sampled Bottle 1,458 of 1,556, freshly opened that evening.

Here is what the Sullivans Cove have to say about their Double Cask, appreciating there is variation between editions:

  • Nose – Vanilla, soft malt and orchard fruits
  • Palate – Honey, boiled lollies and buttered scones
  • Finish – Mild spices and soft oak with lingering creamy sweetness

So what else made it into our “Trans Tasman” explorations?

Curious about more? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Willowbank Doublewood 10 Year 40%

Next up on our Trans Tasman tour is another Kiwi whisky from the closed Willowbank distillery – this time a 10 year old matured in “double wood” in other words two different sets of casks – bottled by the New Zealand Malt Whisky Co. Ltd.

Our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai sampled it one fine March evening… and here is what we thought…

New Zealand Willowbank Doublewood 10 year Blended Whisky 40%

  • Nose – Salty caramel popcorn, candy toffee, heavy vanilla, cotton candy, cognac, salt water taffy, shifted to grapes and raisins, then into perfume nose and quite beautiful
  • Palate – Almost wine-like in the region of prosecco, then a bit mineral, shifts back to toffee coffee like a coffee liquor or an instant coffee, then almonds
  • Finish – Strangely, there was an almost red vermouth quality

We found this much more enjoyable than the 22 year old and, dare I say it, the Hellyers Road Pinot Noire.

The colour was exceptional – a bright red that clearly showed off its time spent finishing in ex red wine casks.

What more do we know?

This whisky is a  blend of 70% malt and 30% grain, spent 6 years maturing in Bourbon casks before spending 4 years finishing in French oak barrels which previously held red wine. It was distilled at the closed Willowbank distillery in Dunedin on the South Island, then was released by The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

So what else made it into our Kiwi and Taz explorations?

Curious about more “Trans Tasman” drams? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Hellyers Road Pinot Noir 46.2%

Our Whisky Ladies evening exploring drams from Australia and New Zealand kicked off with a jaunt to Tasmania’s Hellyers Road. For those curious to know more about the distillery, check out their story or take a tour with my favourite Tassie Whisky Wafflers with their trip to Hellyers Road.

Yet this was no ordinary Hellyers Road offering. Nope! This whisky was with a wine twist… Red wine finishes are popping up all over the place these days… and let’s be honest, it has been a mixed experience…

So what did we think of it?

Hellyers Road Pinot Noir 46.2%

  • Nose – Dusty musty distinctly different, a bit of plasticine, one called it summery, juicy berries, very sweet, shifted into peanut brittle or chikki, vanilla, some flowers, metallic, kept changing  from creamy to fragrant to buttery to something else entirely
  • Palate – The initial reaction from some was that it was really yummy, caramel, so much better than the aroma… but then wait… it took on a bitter (almost rancid) walnut, coffee, chai masala, rich
  • Finish – Iron, nutty, long lightly spicy finish
  • Water – Don’t, please don’t…. I do believe “skunk” was mentioned
  • Revisit – After setting it aside for some time, it was revisited and revealed a distinctive bitter burnt orange

It was a bit of a puzzle, with many contradictory elements. A slightly cheeky comment was that it went from a summer day at the fair to an entirely different “play” in an S&M  dungeon.

Bottom line, it really is “alive” – certainly not a whisky to reach out for when you just want to relax and unwind. But perhaps one when you wish to challenge a guest, keeping them guessing at what exactly they are sipping.

Putting this theory to the test, I later shared with India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula the Hellyers Road Pinot Noire side-by-side with the No 99 Red Cask. His vote? The Canadian blend – though also a bit different and not for everyone, called it “not off” with the wine finish working with the rye spice. Whereas the Pinot? Nope. Didn’t care for it considering it a bit “weird” though did note its interesting “toffee coffee” quality. So in the contest between two ex-British colonies – the Canadian blend beat the Tasmanian experiment.

And yet – that is half the fun with whisky. Not all experiments work for everyone but if you didn’t try, you wouldn’t know!

What do the folks over at Hellyers Road have to say?

Our Original Single Malt Whisky, aged in American Oak (ex-bourbon) finished in French Oak (ex-pinot noir) to provide a tantalising point of difference for single malt lovers. Imaginative and unique, this delightful spirit evokes all the complexities of a Tasmanian rainforest. Judged a Global Whisky Master and one of the World’s Ten Best Value Whiskies in 2015 (United Kingdom).

  • The nose is immediately drawn to crisp summer citrus, lemon and orange that obediently withdraws on the palate to manifest a sweet, gentle layer of pepper and spice – a persuasion of the red wine cameo.
  • Burnt blackberry sauce lingers in the aftertaste foreclosing a treasured confusion of the senses.

PS Those curious about pricing, this whisky was purchased in Indian duty free for Rs 9,750 (approx USD 150).

So what else made it into our Kiwi and Taz explorations?

Curious about more “Trans Tasman” drams? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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Whisky Ladies “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand & Tasmania with a nod to Crazy Uncles!

The Whisky Ladies adventures continue… this time waaaaay down under with drams from  Tasmania and New Zealand.

Often with our Whisky Ladies sessions, there is a particular bottle which “anchors” an idea and we build a theme around it. In this case, over two years ago our host picked up from Australia Whippersnapper’s Crazy Uncle Moonshine. She then stumbled across in the UK a pair of New Zealand whiskies from a closed distillery… and thus a Kiwi plus Australian dram discovery in Mumbai theme was born!

And while we technically had 3 bottles, our core focus is whisky, so when we learned another Whisky Lady had been hanging on to a celebrated Sullivans Cove from Tasmania, it naturally had to join the mix! And I had a “back-up” Hellyers Road Pinot Noire…. just in case it was needed…which proved be handy as traffic conditions on that particular evening were atrocious!

So what specifically made it into our “Trans Tasman Tour” explorations?

We closed with regaling each other with personal tales of our crazy uncles toasting to their quirks, maddening qualities that sit side by side with remarkable generosity and sparks of brilliance… with the spirit that kick started the evening idea in the 1st place:

Those who successfully navigated Bombay traffic to reach on time were rewarded with a birthday bonus:

It was indeed a memorable malty evening of fabulous fellowship over a different dram or two or three or four or more! 

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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Lovely labels – Australia’s Starward 43%

Starward was introduced in our Whisky Ladies May session, part of whiskies our host selected based on labels she found attractive and interesting! Produced by New World Distilleries in Australia, Starward is a new entry to the growing Australian whisky market.

Unlike many terrific Australian whisky distilleries based in Tasmania, New World Distilleries is located just outside of Melbourne – apparently in an old Qantas hanger. They use Australian barley and age their whisky in reconditioned Australian oak casks. In the case of Starboard, the casks were previously used to age an Australian sherry called Apera. This makes for a novel fresh and distinctly Australian approach to their whisky.

2016-05-17 Starward

Starward NAS 40%:

  • Nose – Apricots, prunes, a sherry-like influence, honey, demerra sugar. Then a hint emerged of a flowery woodsy perfume… like faded lavender sachets in a cedar closet. As it aired more, out came some pepper, toasted coconut and even a little sour curd
  • Palate – Quite deceiving and a contrast to the nose with a much deeper profile than expected, topped with sweet spices, an almost tingling sensation yet smooth, intense flavours yet well balanced, more pepper, ginger, even apples or a citrus twist
  • Finish – Short and sweet
  • Water – Though a few hesitated to add, after initially punching up the spice it brightens and opens up the whisky. While not needed, doesn’t kill it either.

Overall a sense of youthful intensity with depth. Not massively complex yet had a teasing quality that danced along a spectrum of possibilities.

Bottom line… did we like it? Absolutely!!

Based on this introduction, am quite interested in seeing what more comes from this distillery.

Here’s what the New World folks have to say about their whisky:

Starward represents a new world where experience is respected but boundaries are challenged. This world class malt is youthful, rich and bright; a fine balance of tradition and innovation – of passion and analysis.

Bold but delicate, youthful but mature; rich and contemplative, and surprisingly crisp. It’s the essence of a determination to explore, discover and enlighten.

Starward. What whisky can be.

And Starward‘s tasting notes:

  • Rich amber colour
  • Aroma of ripe orchard fruits: pears, bananas and apples with vinous raisins and dried figs. Caramel, vanilla and marzipan balance the fruit.
  • The palate is filled with rich, toasty caramel, creme brulee, more fruit, pepper, sandalwood, nutmeg and marzipan.
  • A full, sweet, juicy mouthfeel, with a youthful, spicy, dry finish.

Here’s what others have to say:

Other whiskies sampled in our ‘I like the label!‘ session:

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