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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European Explorations – Domaine des Hautes Glace, DeCavo, Swiss Highland, Gouden Carolus, Puni

Over the last few years, I’ve had a few opportunities to explore European whiskies… so much so that I created a separate page devoted just for whiskies with European origins.

I will also admit that the novelty factor is often higher than the quality factor. Hence I knew I was taking a gamble with this particular quartet – acquired over a few years for the Bombay Malt & Cigar gentlemen.

What did we try?

And just because I happened to have an open bottle, I shared a snifter of Bretagne’s Buckwheat whisky Eddu Silver 40%. It was quickly quaffed, pronounced like calvados and we moved on to the main event!

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Northern Lights – Mackmyra Mack 40%

Yet again we have returned to Sweden, compliments of our Swedish Whisky Lady’s summer trip to the land of her birth. She considered other options then settled on their entry level whisky.

Mackmyra Mack 40%

  • Nose – Oranges, warm peaches in the sunshine, bubble gum, candy floss. Just a fabulous warm and inviting nose, some caramel custard too
  • Palate – Initially came across as a bit flat, like apple juice, but keep sipping and you’ll enjoy the light spice and amiable character, quite satisfying
  • Finish – Light restrained and quite tasty

Overall it reminded us of a summery county fair. Though most of us would have preferred a bit more “oomph!”, perhaps a bit higher than 40%.

Disappointing to learn they use caramel for colouring but it was quite accommodating and easy to drink.

Truth me told – it was the “hit” of the evening and we had to set it aside to keep it from being emptied completely!

Here’s what the chaps over at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Vanilla, boiled sweets and soft orchard fruit. Pear drops and spicy caramel. 
  • Palate: Candies peels, vanilla fudge, hint of basil, stewed fruit. 
  • Finish: Sweet oak spices.

It was purchased in Sweden in August 2017 and opened in Mumbai May 2018.

Whisky Ladies Northern Lights:

Curious to try more Nordic whiskies? Check out the European whisky section with a selection of Swedish whiskies:

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Northern Lights – Crown Royal, Flóki, Mack

It can be a lot of fun playing around with a whisky theme. With the right combination, you can discover something different even in a familiar dram, or appreciate nuances in a spirit you may otherwise dismiss.

It was one of those kinds of sessions, held together by a distinctly “northern” theme. So while it it was swelteringly hot outdoors, we retreated to the cool ac of indoors and enjoyed our Northern Lights evening of:

While none would be considered outstanding, yet each was unique and as a set, enabled us to appreciate their different dimensions.

Talk turned to affordability… these days in the quest for something special, prices can become daunting. This was a terrific reminder that in the right company, context and frame of mind, there is no need to spend a “bomb” to obtain something quite enjoyable.

Case in point, when we looked up prices discovered:

  • Northern Harvest Rye $32
  • Mack $42
  • Flóki $52

From our perspective, these are all eminently affordable for quite affable drams.

What was even better was the tales of how each made it from their respective locales to Mumbai… details coming over the next few days!

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Whisky Live Singapore 2017

So here we are in February 2018… and I’m only now getting around to sharing observations from November 2017 Whisky Live Singapore….  Why the delay?

Because I found it really hard to put into words that after such a terrific experience at Whisky Live Singapore 2016, the 2017 edition simply wasn’t for me. Which seems exceedingly churlish to admit when the organizers were kind enough to extend a day pass.

However rather than dwell on disappointments, let me focus on the key benefit of attending any Whisky Live anywhere in the world – the whisky!

There definitely were highlights and I captured a few fleeting notes on my sniff, swish (and mostly spit) experiences… And before you gasp in dismay about not savouring and swallowing, I firmly adopt a “Survival Guide” approach to explore to the max and over-indulge to the min.

There is a price to such a “speed dating” method. Notes cannot be complete and lack in-depth insights. Instead, they are just quick surface impressions… like a teaser… merely giving a sense of what might come… if only…

So with that caveat in mind, welcome to explore with me Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Whisky Live Singapore’s Collector’s Room picks for 2017:

And what did I walk away with? You may be surprised:

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