Whisky Tales – Sild “Crannog” 3 Year Single Malt 48%

On one of many trips to Munich, I wandered into Tara Whisky Shop on a mission to find something distinctive – preferably at least one whisky from Germany.

When the Sild “Crannog” edition single malt was suggested, it had the hallmark of a gimmick… new make spirit from Slyrs, matured in barrels stored on a clipper “Angel’s Share”, but would it actually be any good?

And that’s when I was given a sample and was surprised… not bad… not bad at all. And so impulsively I picked it up and have no regrets!

In this case, the story has a few layers…  According to their website, 60 years ago, Rainer Heiliger, a wine dealer, purchased the production site of the Holsten-Brewery in Westerland, Bötticher Street 7 on Sylt to store his fine wines. Then along came Alexander Sievers, son-in-law and current owner of the Heiliger wine shop, is a passionate whiskey connoisseur. An encounter with Floria Stetter, founder of the Slyrs distillery, joined by Anton Stetter, co-owner of Slyrs, and Hans Kemenater, a master distiller from Bavaria led to the creation of the SILD brand.

It turns out that storage space for the whiskey casks was expensive on the island. The solution? As Alexander Sievers shared If we can’t store it on land, we’ll just have to store them on the water. We need a ship where we can store our whiskey on”.
The historic cutter “The Angel’s Share” was acquired, restored and made seaworthy, anchored in List, with its cargo of whisky.

Stories aside, what did we think of the whisky?

Sild “Crannog” 3 year Single Malt 48%

  • Colour – Dark honey
  • Nose – Caramel sweet and salty popcorn, havan smoke, cherries, plums, simply delicious, a hint of tobacco leaves
  • Palate – Spice, initially sharp, some brine, a bit oily, sweet spice, had real substance and terrific character, growing more enjoyable sip by sip
  • Finish – Definitely there, smooth, sweet with the warmth remaining, ending with a bit of copper or metallic note
  • Water – We wouldn’t recommend… while it makes it fruitier, spicier it somehow loses something too

Overall we were rather impressed. For many, this was the favourite of the evening. It reminded us of settling into a comfortable leather chair… or a shipwreck whisky, washed ashore…

Another thought it channeled the spirit of “Ernest Hemingway” with his iceberg style, understated yet adventurous.

We set it aside and revisited to discover a delicious banana split parfait, loads of fruits… yum!

There was no doubt this was a whisky worth trying, kicking back to enjoy!

And what do the folks over at Sild have to say?

An absolute rarity, the CRANNOG edition from the SILD distillery is the only whiskey worldwide that is stored at sea on board of a ship – “The Angel’s Share”. 2700 entire bottles will be produced. It’s a sought-after collector’s item for international whiskey enthusiasts.

But why store it at sea? For the simple reason that it gives the whiskey a unique taste. SILD Crannog undergoes an incomparable ageing process like no other whiskey. The natural course of the tides, the continuous and gentle rocking of the waves, but also the brute force of the swell during storms, shape the taste of the SILD Crannog. Even inside the port, the sea can get so rough during strong east winds that not even experienced captains will head into port during a storm. Add to that the salty sea air and the varying temperature conditions over the course of three years. Such development gives the Crannog an enormous range in flavor: strong, peppery, and pleasantly salty with a full-bodied taste of malt. In the glass, it shines like dark amber and has a spicy, sweetish and slightly smoky aroma.

  • Appearance: deep amber
  • Aroma: smoky – leathery, light vanilla notes, malty, cool – salty, iodine, seaweed, white pepper, appears light in the nose and yet complex
  • Taste: creamy soft and round, salty in the mouth, iodine and a sea breeze, distinct malt character, interesting play of sweetness, saltiness and spicy
  • Finish: in the finish very long and complex

I purchased this whisky at Tara Whisky Store, Munich in December 2018 for EUR 90 plus tax, however can now only find it on auction sites for EUR 170.

What else did we sample in our evening of Whisky Tales?

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Bavarian Bounty – Slyrs, SILD, Aureum, Finch

Normally you would only hear about a whisky from me AFTER it has been tasted. However  with my recent jaunts to Munich, I’ve gathered a few German whiskies yet confess I know very little about the industry there…

What surprised me most in this recent Munich visit was just how many German brands putting out “single malts”. Even more remarkable to learn there are approx 23 distilleries producing some variation of “whisky”… No wonder I saw distilleries like “Stork”, St Kilian, Höhler, Hammerschmiede with The Glen Els as just a few vying for space with Slyrs.

So decided to do a little “Pre-Cursor” post to explore a bit more about the whiskies I did pick up… call it an appetizer before the tastings to come…

Slyrs is the best known Bavarian single malt. While the first whisky was distilled using stills from the traditional Lantenhammer distillery in 1999, by 2007 Slyrs whisky had a new home at a newly erected distillery in Neuhaus. From there I have sitting in my cupboard 3 whiskies:

What else did I pick up?

  • From Ziegler distillery, I picked the “basic” Aureum Single Malt 43% rather than their experiments maturing in Chestnut barrels, guitar wood in barrels, ex plum brandy or cognac barrels.
  • And from Finch, their Finch Classic 40% which is matured for 5-6 years in ex Bourbon then  wine casks.

We’ve had quite a few European whiskies over the years, here are a few German ones we’ve managed to sample:

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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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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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Germany’s Thousand Mountains 46.2%

From Sauerländer, a conveniently small bottle of whisky made its way from the distillery in Germany to a Worli sea facing bungalow in Bombay.

Like a few new distilleries, it is a project born out of friendship and a love for a good dram. My host had been to the distillery and shared how open the team is to consumers buying a barrel, keeping it there until it is ready to bottle.

What did we find in our wee sniff and swish?

Thousand Mountains McRaven Single Malt Whisky 46.2%

  • Nose – Fresh hay, quite organic, bit nutty
  • Palate – Young, uncomplicated, easy to drink, lightly fruity and malty
  • Finish – Short

We didn’t spend too much time with this whisky, just enough to say hello, pronounce it pleasant and move on to other samples on offer that evening.

And what do the folks at Thousand Mountains have to say?

Description: From our Kallenhardt water and malt we make a mash, which is gently saccharified and fermented with special yeast. Burning is based on a specially developed, aroma-friendly firing process that promises first-class raw whiskey. This allows us to produce a first-class whiskey after a relatively short barrel aging. The storage of our Mc Raven takes place first in Tuscan red wine barrels and finally in selected Bourbon casks. Our master distiller Julian Wellhausen fills our single malt unfiltered and not dyed in our hand-finished bottles.

  • Taste: The taste shows a slight sweetness of marzipan paired with fine, peppery spiciness, with aromas of dark fruits, oak, vanilla and dark chocolate.
  • Odor: The Mc Raven shows an intense scent of vanilla, malt and fresh fruits in Nosing. Attention! He unfolds several times with other nuances. Give him time.
  • Colour: Natural amber coloring by barrel storage.
  • Tip: Our Thousand Mountains Mc Raven whiskey has 46.2% Vol. This allows you to treat it to a few drops of water. You will be surprised what flavors are still being released. The pleasure experience is expanded.

I’m still relatively new to exploring German whiskies, only having tried:

The 1st (DeCavo) was a delightful surprise and the 2nd (Slyrs) was a bit too brash for my taste. This one fell somewhere in between – still quite young but not completely raw. Guess we will see how it evolves over time.

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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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European Whisky – Italy’s Puni Nova Bourbon Cask 43%

I first sampled this whisky years ago at La Maison du Whisky together with two other Puni whiskies. At the  time I was hunting for something decidedly “different” for a fellow whisky aficionado and the more daring Puni Alba Marsala + Islay combination was very unique and fit perfectly into my friend’s East to West theme.

Yet I kept remembering how the bourbon, though initially dismissed, had an interesting quality that drew my sampling companion and I back… So when next I had an opportunity, snagged this bottle and impatiently waited for the right whiskies and setting to open it!

Finally in May 2018, with the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, an evening of European Explorations fit the bill perfectly! And what did we think?

Puni Nova Bourbon Cask, Batch #2 (2015) 43%

  • Nose – Fresh, organic, honey, flowers, almond, was there light smoke like sacred ash? Then increasingly pure honey vanilla… shifting into sour coconut or palm feni
  • Palate – Feels good on the tongue then a bit of a burn, coats the mouth
  • Finish – Spice on the finish
  • Water – Sour and bitter on the palate, yet rounds it out a bit

There was something unfinished about it and after such superbly and surprisingly enjoyable offerings from Germany (DeCavo) and Switzerland (Swiss Highland), the gents were honestly disappointed.

It was not what I remembered from years ago… Perhaps the difference is an open oxidized bottle vs freshly opened? Perhaps I originally had batch 1 and there was variation? Perhaps it was merely the tasting order and comparison. Perhaps it simply needs to be set aside like the first time and revisited.

Here is what they have to say on the label:

Matured for three years in American & European oak casks natural colour & non chill-filtered

  • Honey, banana, vanilla

This whisky was purchased for SGD 135 at La Maison du Whisky.

My European Explorations with the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents included:

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European Explorations – Gouden Carolus Single Malt 46%

During our evening of European Explorations, a complete bonus whisky from Belgium was added.

Het Anker makes a well known dark Belgium beer – Gouden Carolus.  They have branched out into distilling whisky… using the mash of the Golden Carolus Tripel beer which is aged in 1st fill bourbon casks then ‘Anker’ casks.

So what did we think of it?

Gouden Carolus Single Malt 3 years 46%

  • Nose – Deep fried veggies, savoury and oily, caramel sweet, vanilla, flower pod, ripe fruit, after some time we found marshmallows roasted over a campfire
  • Palate – Flat and spice, top is bitter, some salt, a bit sour like amla
  • Finish – Salty finish like saline, frat beer
  • Water – Sour and salt

So… beer to whisky… and while our tasting notes sound a bit odd, it somehow works. It was certainly a far sight better than the only other Belgium whisky I’ve tried – the Belgium Owl.

Here is what they have to say on the label:

  • Rich and balanced with fruit, vanilla, creme brule 

This whisky was a gift to our host.

My European Explorations with the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents included:

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European Explorations – Switzerland’s Swiss Highland Forty Three 43%

From Rugen Distillery, who have been brewing beer on Rugen Mountain since 1892… they ventured into making whisky when the Swiss laws changed in 1999. Their 1st offering was “Mountain Highland” in 2003 and now regularly produce small batches, aged a minimum of three years in oak casks. The wort and distillation all take place on their distillery premises.

This particular whisky is originally named Forty Three for its alcohol content – 43%. We sampled it as part of a European Explorations evening, just after a rather delicious Duetsch dram from DeCavo.

So what did we think of the Swiss Highland?

Forty Three Swiss Highland Single Malt Whisky 43%

  • Nose – Initially quite dry, some sawdust, light balsa, sweet honey, bay leaf, a bit of a shy nose, salt sheen, restrained, hint of vanilla, cream
  • Palate – Soft – surprisingly soft, well rounded, hay, malty like marmite at the back, really grows on you, tasty
  • Finish – Quite long, warm… actually make that remarkably incredibly long

We had anticipated this would be a bit raw and harsh, to discover quite the opposite!  It was again far more accessible and enjoyable than we had anticipated.

Here is what they have to say on the label:

  • Colour – Deep golden amber
  • Body – Soft texture, lightly creamy
  • Nose – The fresh and fiery notes are surrounded by subtle honey and some floral aromas topped off with lovely vanilla notes
  • Palate – Slightly woody notes are combined with coffee and chocolate leading to a light smoothness. A slight maltiness is felt at the beginning, which then rises beautifully in caramel and fermented vanilla bean.
  • The fine balance between sweetness and strength give a special tension to the product, the soft creamy mouth feel creates an exclusive sustainability.

I purchased this bottle at Wien Laden in Munich in November 2017.

My European Explorations with the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents included:

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Can spirits “spoil”? The mystery of Domaine Des Hautes Glace – Les Moissons Organic

It was supposed to be an interesting experiment – exploring the boundaries of malts – with an organic spirit that technically is not yet whisky.

Les Moissons Single Malt is made using organic barley grown and malted on-site at Domaine des Hautes Glaces in the alpine region of south-east France with harvests from 2010 to 2012. Matured in a combination of virgin oak casks and those which used to hold either Cognac or white wine.

Sounded interesting! And we were intrigued… Except there was a different kind of experiment at work – a bizarre swirl of something that started as a spot… then grew… and grew… from a few specs of dust into a fuzzy swirl of a dirty muddy sandy brown. Who knew such a thing is possible?

But we are intrepid souls, so decided to open it up and try it anyways… what did we find?

Domaine Des Hautes Glace Organic Single Malt 42%

  • Nose – Musty, mushroom, sharp, fungal, yeast, rotten fruit, penicillin, rancid, rough, one even went so far as to pronounce it “Horrible!”
  • Palate – Believe it or not, we took a sip! And were rewarded with rotten pickle.

After spitting it out and hoping no one would go blind, we were incredibly perplexed. How could a closed bottle of spirit go bad? And what exactly was this odd growth like substance inside the bottle? Is it really possible for a whisky to go off?!

Turns out such a strange dusty sedimentation tends to be found when E150a i.e. caramel is added to enhance colour. After a few years, it can settle – particularly when stored, even more likely if in warmer conditions or direct sunlight.

While I’m not completely sure when it was bottled, I bought it last year and it is pretty obvious that here  in Mumbai warmer conditions applies. As for direct sunlight? Nope.

Yet here is the challenge with the explanation in this case – the bottle specifically states no additives, not chill filtered and that it is natural colour. Hmm….

So what do the folks at Domaine des Hautes Glaces say? It is possible that what we found is actually what they intended?

  • Colour: Gold.
  • Nose: Powerful and refined, with hints of truffles, spices and white flowers, then we pass through fields of barley. The malt emerges hand in hand with aromas of candied fruit.
  • Mouth: Deep and silky. Notes of almond paste, citrus and vanilla. The pastry texture runs into herbs and fresh figs.
  • Finish: Firm and long-lasting. Its taste draws on underlying artichoke, dark chocolate and mint, with an aftertaste of apricot, lemon and earth.

Can I just repeat? Hmm… Fungal vs truffles? Rotten fruit vs candied fruit?

I guess we just chalk it up to an experience – yet another adventure in our explorations of the world if whisky and spirits!

I purchased this at La Maison du Whisky for SGD 105, who suggested the possible explanation and offered to help with my next purchase from them… very kind.

My European Explorations with the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents included:

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