Whisky Archives – Cracking open the cabinet…

Another from the tasting archives… this time from Sept 2011. Rediscovering these notes brought a flood memories of my previous Mumbai flat… that had a fabulous cabinet in which all my whisky was stashed… now replaced in our current home by a larger storage space waaaaay up high in our kitchen pantry.

We broke with tradition and merrily abandoned all pretense of blind tastings… instead settled down for a sampling of various bottles. It became a  popularity contest between different regions and geographies as small pegs of multiple whiskies were sniffed, swirled, swallowed, savoured and yes – much discussed!

Samplings from earlier sessions - all quaffed at one occasion!

Speyside‘s dominated the evening with:

  • Aberlour’s cask strength Abu’nadh batch 32 (sampled earlier) and batch 31 were compared. Batch 31 was a clear winner and a hit of the evening! Bold yet with an extraordinary warm finish… with layers to discover and enjoy.
  • Aberlour 10 year held its own with slight smokiness and butter, however was overshadowed by it’s cask strength cousin.
  • Cragganmore 12 year was softer on the palate and a nice contrast to the Abelours
  • Glenrothes 12 year (also sampled earlier) gained appreciation for its smooth fruity aroma, sherry note and oak, medium slightly spicy finish.

Islay‘s were represented by a few familiar friends:

  • Bunnahabhain 12 year 40% is a regular favourite with several folks
  • Caol Ila is also well-known and after the last drop of one bottle was polished off, another was opened… Need one say more?
  • Lagavulin 16 year was also a familiar friend but neglected with all the other options…

Highland

  • Dalwhinnie from the highest distillery in Scotland was a delightful gentler ‘everyday’ favourite

Japan

  • Suntory’s Hakushu 18 year…. In a class of its own with hints of forest, moss, nuanced, with a divine finish – simply exquisite. It remains one of my favourites!

Canada

  • Crown Royal from Gimli, Manitoba (my home province) certainly added a different element with rye, however alas outclassed by single malt companions

Naturally what’s expressed here is only one interpretation based on snippets of conversation and personal bias. Would love to hear others opinions on any of these whiskies…

Slainthe!

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Whisky Ladies of Mumbai Welcome Canada’s Shelter Point Single Malt Whisky 46%

First in our “out of the ordinary” North American evening was a whisky I’ve been impatiently waiting to try – Shelter Point‘s Single Malt.

Shelter Point is a new distillery based in Campbell, British Columbia, Canada. They consider themselves an artisan distillery with a local-first philosophy – growing and distilling their own barley on-site.

We sampled their inaugural batch of Single Malt, courtesy of Patrick Evans, founder of Shelter Point.

shelter-point

Shelter Point Single Malt 46% (2016 inaugural batch)

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Honey maple, fresh hay, lots of cereals, subtle flowers, crisp green apple then shifted and became less sweet, dash more spice, slightly musty, grass morphing into malt, then chestnuts, flirting back to light florals
  • Palate – Light, cereals, heat at the back then so so soooo smooth, flirtatious spice, salty peanuts, hint of chocolate
  • Finish – Light spice, subtle bitterness

We loved how it started so fresh, bright, and sweet then became a bit spicy and nutty, shifting back and forth between lightness and substance.

Overall, it is most enjoyable. Exceedingly easy to drink. And quite impressive for a 1st foray into the world of single malt whisky.

There are too many new distilleries impatient to put out their single malts before they are ready. In this case, though young, it had none of the harsh, raw elements often found. Instead it had a subtle approach with enough interesting going on to keep us engaged. What a delightful dram to kick-off our evening!

One of whisky ladies shared her memories touring their distillery before this whisky was launched and sampling their many experiments. We both were quite pleased with the results and had a proud Canadian in India moment.

I only read the inaugural batch tasting notes after our sampling and would agree:

Experts tell us that the inaugural batch of Shelter Point Single Malt Whisky has a very nice spice with good barrel sweetness, fruit and floral notes and some chocolate on the nose. It’s nicely finessed with a good balance of complexity and delicateness. Translation? It goes down very, very smoothly.

PS Many thanks Patrick Evans, founder of Shelter Point, for sharing a bottle from your inaugural batch – it is a privelege to have it in Mumbai!

What else did we try in our “out of ordinary” American evening?

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Whisky Ladies “Not your ordinary North American” whiskey – Shelter Point, Westland + AD Laws

Our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai are no strangers to North American whiskey… we’ve had other evenings checking out offerings from both Canada and the US.

What distinguished this evening is that we eschewed big brands to opt for newer  players…ad-laws

What did we try?

shelter-point

Other American themed evenings:

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Sake whisky – Togouchi Kiwami 40%

We’ve tried whiskies before that have a decidedly rummy character, an extra anejo tequila with a whisky-like aspect, but a whisky with a clear unmistakable sake stamp? This was a first.

This was also my first foray into Togouchi whiskies and what a surprise. While blended in Japan and clearly catering to the Japanese palate (plus the demand for whiskies from Japan globally), the new make spirit is not actually Japanese.

Instead, the whiskies are a blend of distilled Canadian grain and Scottish malt which is imported to Japan, then aged in primarily ex bourbon casks, diluted with water sourced from the Sandankyo National Park and blended by Chugoku Jozo‘s master blenders in Hiroshima prefecture.

What adds to the mystique is most (apparently not all!) Togouchi whisky is aged in barrels stored in a 361 meters long tunnel that was built for a railway in the 1970s but never used. This unique warehouse near the town of Togouchi boasts that it can maintain an optimal constant temperature around 14°C and 80% humidity.

As for the whisky we sampled, ‘Kawami’ means ‘supreme’ (or ‘height’) and was created as a limited edition non-peated expression for the French market.

Togouchi Kiwami

Togouchi Kiwami 40%

What did we find?

  • Nose – Very mild, think camomile tea or flowers, soft and gentle
  • Palate – Not nearly as smooth as the nose suggested, had a raw ‘new make spirit’ feel yet oddly solid for a whisky that had such a light, bright nose. Some found the in your face ‘alcohol’ content a bit off-putting. For others the grain element was simply too pronounced.
  • Finish – Was there one? We certainly didn’t find any

As we debated and attempted to distill the character of this unusual blend, we kept thinking of sake. No surprise, the Chogoku Jozo folks are better known for their sake and shochu with the Kawami specifically, in our ever so humble opinion, coming across as a whisky masquerading as sake.

In fact, when we were ready to move on to our next whisky, a few knocked it back like a shot and went “Wow!” Declaring this is THE way to have Togouchi Kawami.

PS… our host admitted to being a bit disappointed with the Kawami and pulled out a different Togouchi expression (suspect it was the Togouchi Premium) that was silky smooth, soft and an utter delight.

Want to learn more?

Other whiskies sampled during our far east evening in Mumbai:

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Road trip anyone?

An exciting development with my Canadian trip is an opportunity to go on a whisky distillery tour.

After a year of writing about whisky many folks are surprised to learn that I’m a distillery tour ‘virgin’. Yup!

2015-Gimli-ClarinaTaylor-image3

I received confirmation the tour is set up and they shared a wee list of ‘guidelines’… which sounded vaguely familiar to Inver House’s global marketing head Karen Walker’s fashion advice to Mumbai’s Whisky Ladies!

  • Close-toed shoes
  • No skirts
  • No large pieces of jewelry
  • Please bring your ID
  • No photos are allowed on the tour

As for where we are going?

Let’s just say I’m proud to share that my first tour will be in my home province of Manitoba, Canada… and delighted to be hopping in the car for a little road trip from Winnipeg…

Gimli (Photo: Clarina Taylor)

Gimli (Photo: Clarina Taylor)

Those who haven’t figured it out yet don’t know their whisk(e)y!

PS Photos all courtesy of a dear friend living in Gimli – Thanks Clarina!

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Singapore Saturday Sipping… Crown Royal, Bruichladdich, Springbank + Kilchoman

It was one of those sociable Saturday evenings in Singapore…

It also happened to be the home of a fellow malt aficionado and ex Mumbai tasting group member. On my last trip we took on an eight dram marathon at The Auld Alliance. This trip we swapped such revelries for a family and friends affair with great company, delicious food and… yes… a whisky or two or three!

I will openly admit, it was a fully social setting so it wasn’t like I jotted down tasting notes until the last… when we decided to have a little impromptu ‘tasting’ experience to close the night.

Crown-Royal-Northern-Harvest-Rye

Official CrownRoyal website

However, formal tasting notes or not… we still covered four rather distinctive whiskies in one evening!

Shortly after I arrived, a mystery glass was brought out as a teaser. What did I find?

  • Nose – A sparkling quality like having a whiff of proseco or sparkling apple cider
  • Palate – Some spice yet overall smooth, vanilla – clearly not Scottish, not bourbon, not having the sophistication one associates with Japan…
  • Finish – Sweet spice wood then fades away

The ‘punch line’ was that this particular bottle just so happens to be from Gimli, Manitoba… my home province in Canada. And – you guessed it – was Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye which has literally flown off the shelves globally thanks to Jim Murray’s recent recognition of it as 2016 World’s Best Whisky.

The bottle was snagged in the US by a friend’s brother and brought to Singapore… part of the stash that will be coming into India soon. Gotta love globe-trotting whisky!

Overall what did I think? Honestly – it is not bad for a Rye and really quite excellent for $30 whisk(e)y but… come on… world’s best whisky? Seriously?

The Organic Scottish Barley (Whisky Lady)

The Organic Scottish Barley (Whisky Lady)

With this start to our evening, our host then pulled out the Bruichladdich The Organic 50%:

  • Nose – That overripe fruit to the point of being rotten
  • Palate – Young, a bit of spice, sourness
  • Finish – Still a bit ‘queer’

Just not aligning with my mood for the evening… I simply could not wrap my palate around the extra over-ripe quality.

So our host took pity on my pickiness and out came a reliable dram – Springbank 10 year 46%.

  • Nose – Pear, a hint of peat
  • Palate – Yum – cinnamon and nutmeg, rich oak, a bit nutty
  • Finish – Dry, sweet, salty

Khanna (food) then became the focus… was happily consumed and our evening was winding its way to a close. As the deserts and tea came out… so too did a bunch of glasses for a semi ‘proper’ tasting session. What did we sample?

Kilchoman (Whisky Lady)

Kilchoman (Whisky Lady)

Kilchoman Machir Bay 46%

  • Nose – Honey, cough syrup, leather, medicine and surgical wipes, fruity like peach and grape, very light not a hint of peat, vanilla, sweet, like an apple orchard, quite youthful
  • Palate – Peaty, sharp, black pepper, young, woody, bitter cinnamon bark, a little oily, star anise
  • Finish – Dry wine, a rawness
  • Overall – While not mature and still a bit raw it is also like a procosious youngster – lots of promise, worth checking out and quite remarkable for such a young whisky.

Our host shared tales of his visit to Kilchoman’s distillery and shared how it ‘transformed’ expectations of a young whisky. I was again reminded that for me at least, the Kilchoman Coull Point stands out.

What fun to revisit a few whiskies… and a perfect close to a most enjoyable trip to Singapore.

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Sheringham William’s White Double Distilled Grain 2015 45%

With Crown Royal’s flying off the shelf – irrespective of whether it is the now coveted Northern Harvest Rye or not – attention is shifting to Canada with speculation… is it the new ‘wild west’ of whisky?

20151126_William'sWhite
In steps a new ‘breed’ of upstarts! They may not have age, they may not have pedigree, but they have a whole lotta passion for craft fine spirits.
This half-bottle was brought back on a whim by one of our Whisky Ladies from her recent trip to BC. It was without a doubt the surprise of the night! Read on…
Sheringham ‘William’s White’ double distilled grain 2015 Batch 1308 45%
  • Nose – Yeast, liquorice, woody sawdust, cherry – like cough syrup, a definite sweetness, toasty, nutty, light, wet barley, almonds, butter cream, earthy, but nit unpleasant
  • Palate – Very fresh, light, sweet, perfumed, like sourdough starter, grapefruit, sour curd
  • Finish – Burn
  • Comments “Toasted ghee in a glass”
The definite surprise of the evening. Distinctly different. Never having even touched wood…
Here’s what the folks at Sheringham have to say:

William’s White is our White Whisky inspired by the high quality, smooth clear whisky that was once produced in our area. Bright aromas of sweet grains with a clean and slightly spicy flavour.

To be enjoyed; as a remarkable sipping whisky or in your favourite cocktail, in place of rye or bourbon.

Made from B.C. Red Fife Wheat, B.C. organic white wheat & B.C. malted barley.

If this is what their new make spirit is like, am quite interested to see what they produce in 2018 – their target date for release of their 1st whisky!

Other whiskies sampled in our Whisky Ladies session in November 2015 included:

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Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve 40%

Years ago while in Canada I had the privilege to crash a Winnipeg whisky tasting group.

These gents meet regularly and even have a locked whisky ‘cabinet’ that houses the whiskies acquired, sampled and re-sampled by its members. They are a merry bunch and I do hope another Winnipeg trip will coincide with their session… and they would be kind enough to welcome me back as a visitor!

Naturally, I asked what Canadian whisky is worth taking back to India for our tasting group. Crown Royal wouldn’t cut it (remember this is many years before Jim Murray decided to put Manitoba onto the whisky world map) and to be honest, I hadn’t really been paying much attention to developments in the Canadian whisky scene.

Forty Creek was suggested – specifically the Confederation Oak Reserve. Why? It uses Canadian oak – great big giant white Oak around approx 150 years to be precise – named as the trees likely began their life around the time of Confederation. How Canadian, eh?

Very hopeful and bursting with Canadian pride, I brought back a bottle and couldn’t wait to try! Except… let’s just say I wasn’t exactly bowled over by this whisky. I don’t even have a scrap of tasting notes for it…

However folks back in India in social gatherings LOVED it! A great conversation piece, a very smooth, drinkable dram… just not terribly remarkable in my hazy memory of many years ago.

20151126_Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve

Fast forward to November 2015 and this same whisky made its way via another Canadian lass living in Mumbai as her ‘treat’ from Canada for our Whisky Ladies November. However, always want to keep an open mind so thought what the heck! Let’s give it another chance.

What did we find?

Forty Creek Confederation Reserve Bottle #06232 40%
  • Nose – Citrusy, fresh cut wood, lemon peel, ether like in a doctor’s office, vanilla, cinnamon, fig, a rather Canadian maple and LOTS of honey
  • Palate – Very easy, creamy, smooth, wood, simple, not complex, bit of pepper spice, walnut, not full bodied but pleasant
  • Finish – Honey, mild with a bit of bitter
  • Overall – An easy drinking whisky, nothing exceptional but entirely drinkable

While nice to have something from Canada, there is nothing to make me stand up and go ‘Oh!’ Our contributor shared a similar reaction… and then went to on to share her explorations of newer craft distilleries whose whiskies are yet to come!

So we are still hopeful our patriotic Canadian whisky hearts will find something to fall in love it from our ‘original’ home to share with our friends in our ‘adopted’ home India.

For those that are curious, here are the official tasting notes:

Forty Creek Confederation Oak is the colour of old gold and is a very full bodied whisky.  To the nose it is a big whisky with constantly evolving aromas and flavours.

Beginning with a maple-raisin-vanilla-fig, layers of praline, banana, butter cream, honeyed nuts, marzipan, spice and orange blossoms. As it lingers, dark dried fruits and anise evolve. On the palate it has a very rich entry; soft, round and dry. Full bodied with vanilla, butter cream and pepper spice which is nicely framed with oak, walnut and smoke. 

An exceptional finish that has great depth. A long lingering finish with fading spice and white pepper.  Excellent balance and vibrant flavour. 

Here’s what others have to say about this Forty Creek:

Other whiskies sampled in our Whisky Ladies session in November 2015 included:

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Whisky Ladies November tasting adventures – take two!

Our lovely ladies gathered not once but twice in November!

After a Cask Strength Diwali featuring Glenfarclas 105 60%, Chichibu 2009 63.1%, A’bunadh 35 60.3%… we were ready for a change of pace.

Shruti's Pic

Photo courtesy of our host @ShrutiS

Our line-up included:

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Murray makes Manitobans proud!

Speaking as a proud Manitoban gal, I’m always delighted when anything from my home province makes its mark positively beyond its borders.

However as a whisky explorer, I must admit Rye has never been my thing and the humble Crown Royal from my old backyard Gimli, Manitoba took a back seat long ago…

That said, I’ve begged family and friends to pretty please snag me an extremely reasonably priced bottle of the Northern Harvest Rye from the local Manitoba liquor store to be collected on my next trip to Canada… I’m always open to have my scepticism refuted! And happy to bring the novelty of Manitoban whiskey to Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Crown-Royal-Northern-Harvest-Rye

So what is all the fuss? Skipping merrily past many marvellous Scotch whiskies, Mr Murray has established a clear non-Scottish top 5 with:

  1. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (Canada) – £47  (Manitoba sells for only CND 32.99!!)
  2. Pikesville Straight Rye (USA) – £33
  3. Midleton Dair Ghaelach (Ireland) – £180
  4. William Larue Weller Bourbon (Bot.2014) (USA) – £65
  5. Suntory Yamazaki Mizunara (Bot.2014) (Japan) – £45

As for the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, here is what Mr Murray has to say along with his rating of 97.5/100:

Rye, that most eloquent of grains, not just turning up to charm and enthral but to also take us through a routine which reaches new heights of beauty and complexity. To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice.

And here are what the folks over at Crown Royal share:

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye combines the distinctive flavor of Canadian rye grain with the unmistakable smoothness of Crown Royal for a truly exceptional Canadian whisky.

  • Nose – Baking spices, cereal, light wood spices
  • Palate – Gentle oak note, rich butterscotch, spiced vanilla, develops into soft peppery notes
  • Finish – Smooth and creamy

So there you have it folks. If and when I sample this whiskey, will pass on my thoughts…

Check out the other Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016 winners here!

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