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 Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

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

  • Caol Ila 16 year (1969) 40%
  • Yamazaki 12 year (1996/2009) 60% (Whisky Live Japan 10 year anniversary edition)

Tasting notes to follow in the coming months… so stay tuned!

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

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Waldviertler J.H. Single Malt 41% + Rye Malt 41%

Next up from Austria was a duo from Waldviertler J.H. with their 5 year Single Malt and 6 year Rye Malt.

Both come from the Austrian distillery J Haider in Roggenreith, north of the Danube river. It was founded in 1995 by the Master Distiller Johann Haider and his wife Monika Haider. While new to us, it seems the distillery has become such a tourist attraction that by 2011 it had 80,000 visitors a year (FYI double Glenlivet)

What did we think?

Valdviertler J.H. 5 year Single Malt 41%

  • Nose – Plastic, glue, why tried to say honey?? Perfume but more of an industrial, chemical variant than fine perfume, amaretto, syrupy, dusty grain
  • Palate – Raw wheat, gehu (guar gum), quite crude (one called it ‘battery acid’)
  • Finish – Unrefined

To say it didn’t hit the spot was an understatement. To be fair, this group of Whisky Ladies have little familiarity with rye. At best the Canadian know if from youthful follies of Rye and Ginger(ale).

And this Austrian Rye was decidedly young… something we would describe in hindi as ‘kaccha’ meaning it is raw or uncooked… for something that really should be prepared properly.

Yet like many of these experiments, it was interesting to try… just wouldn’t go out of our way to repeat.

Here’s briefly what the distillery has to say:

Single Malt J.H. and Dark Single Malt J.H. are made from 100% barley malt. When the malt is roasted lightly, caramel tones emerge, while dark roasting produces coffee-caramel tones.

Valdviertler J.H. 6 year Rye Malt 41%

  • Nose – Surprisingly similar to the Rye, but more honey, antisceptic, gummy adhensive, with a whiff of flowers like rajnigandha jasmine
  • Palate – Malt grain, ply or cardboard, rancio, completely ‘kaccha’
  • Finish – Holds… but why? In truth for this finish holding isn’t a good thing

What can we say without sounding discourteous… this was simply not a single malt for us. Far too raw, like hooch that touched wood.

Here’s briefly what the distillery has to say:

Rye Malt J.H. is made from 100% malted rye, light roasted(41%. alc.). 
Flavor: This rye malt whisky is unique in Euroe, its mellow sweet honey note evolving from the special malting of the rye, hamonising perfectly with the light vanilla flavor of the sessile oak (local oak).

Like Wiser’s Uuahouua Pinot Noir, you can purchase the Rye Malt from the Austrian Supermarket for approximately €62 for the 700 ml bottle.

Here’s what they have to say:

The Original Rye Whisky J.H. is the best-selling whiskey and has added much to the family’s success. Ever since 1995 the family business of family Haider has been distilling whisky at the highest stage possible, making them and their exquisite liquor an international pioneer. Family Haider started to destil Schnaps in the 1990’s using a … Alle Produkte von Waldviertler Whisky Haider

Learn more about the distillery from Whisky Intelligence’s “Milk or Whisky? Austria’s first distillery Walviertler Roggenhof”

What all did we enjoy in our Après-ski evening?

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Wieser’s Uuahouua Pinot Noir 40%

One of the fabulous things about our Whisky Ladies is their adventurous spirit and itchy feet… which means any given month a few can’t make it as they are off traversing the world.

For our group – this is a huge plus as it means bringing back little gems which otherwise could never be obtained.

Even while back-packing with minimal luggage, one of our ladies scored in Austria a few very interesting miniatures which were duly shared at our “winter” session… paying homage to European ski destinations.

What did we think?

Wieser’s Uuahouua Pinot Noir 40%

  • Nose – Very sweet with a bit of spice, oranges, buttery, then like gummy bears
  • Palate – Very winey, like a desert whisky, though still a bit raw, goes down rather well
  • Finish – Spice with a surprisingly long finish

Now this whisky might just be worth seeing where they go next. Like many European wine cask finishes, there is something unique.

While I have no idea what the 200 ml  bottle set our Whisky Lady back, it seems you can purchase a full 700 ml bottle from a supermarket in Austria – how civilized! It currently costs approximately €54 for the 7 year version.

Here’s what they have to say:

Luminous Chestnut red. Fruity and velvety like Pinot Noir. Feminine wine flavour and masculine Malt in perfect harmony. A contrast which couldn’t be greater: a high-tech distillery in a 1,000-year-old house, a joining of things traditional and modern. Markus Wieser, the grandson of the Austrian wine pioneer Josef Jamek, is a passionate master distiller of … Alle Produkte von Wieser 

What else did our backpacking marvel bring back from Austria?

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Swiss Whisky – Langatun Old Bear (2010/2016) 62.8%

Our adventures in whiskies continued… with our first whisky from Switzerland.

Langatun distillery is located in Langenthal and while new to us is definitely not a new kid on the block… It can trace its lineage to 1857 when Jakob Baumberger founded a distillery on his father’s farm. Their granary harkens back to 1616. And they are no stranger to peat, playing around with its use for over a hundred years.

But what about the whisky??

Langatun Old Bear Cask Proof (May 2010/Feb 2016) 62.8% Peated Single Malt, Cask Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Non-coloured, Lot No L0116

  • Nose – Apricot, plum, sweet, wood smoke, quite Christmassy, plum cake (one even described as edible rotten fruit)
  • Palate – Complex… finally a truly complex dram! Layers upon layers upon layers, coating the palate beautifully with rich balance, lots of sweet spices of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, quite dry, caramel, treacle…. Yum!
  • Finish – Fabulous! Dark chocolate with cherry fruit, wonderful sweet spices settling on clove

Just as the Box Dalvve was a summer dram, the Langatun was clearly a winter whisky.

Here is what the folks in Switzerland have to say about their malt:

The “Old Bear” is a homage to Jakob Baumberger, who founded a distillery on his father’s farm in 1857, and who also took over a small brewery in 1860 in Langatun. The company logo of the brewery was in the coming decades the bear, the “Old Bear”.

The “Old Bear” is prepared in the same way as the “Old Deer”, but with slightly smoked barley malt, therefore the additional name «Smoky». Incense is carried out as in the case of meat or fish: during the drying of the germinated barley, the drying air smoke is added, the aromas of which are deposited on the barley malt and reach the finished product through the further processing steps. 

The “Old Bear” is stored in oak barrels, where Châteauneuf-du-Pape was previously cultivated, a very strong deep red wine. Its traces can be found in the “Old Bear”: an intense red-brown color, in the nose beautiful notes of wood and smoke, in the taste a typical malt component and in the finish subtle smoky flavor with a slightly vinous undertone.

Back in 2013, Jim Murray gave this whisky a remarkable 96 points for the 2008/2012 Lot No1201 described only as “Whisky for the gods…”

Stuart P over at Master of Malt has this to say for tasting notes:

  • Nose: Herbal and pine-cone freshness leaps from the glass, then richer aromas of vanilla custard and stewed red berries.
  • Palate: More custard notes on the palate, subtle smoke and black pepper, along with stewed fruit, cake spices and toasty oak.
  • Finish: Burnt sugar and cinnamon, with a hint of red berries.

Purchased at The Whisky Exchange for £69.55 and sampled from an unopened bottle in December 2017.

What else did we sample in our Après-ski evening:

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Swedish Whisky – Box Whisky Dálvve 46%

Yet again we have returned to Sweden, compliments of our Swedish Whisky Lady’s summer trip to the land of her birth.

She brought this Box Whisky with her… carefully kept aside for just this occasion! A special Après-ski evening with whiskies from France, Switzerland and Austria.

Box Whisky Dálvve 46%

  • Nose – One coined the phrase “It is Scandi floss!” for it light sweet candy floss like aroma, then behind the sweet peaked some peat, overall impression is fresh, minimalist, with some citrus grapefruit, cedar wood
  • Palate – Not complicated yet exceedingly enjoyable, in keeping with the aromas – minimalist, peat and lightly sweet
  • Finish – Starts off slightly bitter then warms up in a lovely way

This was definitely a ‘thumbs up’ dram with exclamations like “Sweden rocks!” and “Mmmmm… really rather nice.”

We found it very drinkable, one of those happy to be home whiskies that can work even in Mumbai’s warm weather. A bright summer dram.

Here’s what the folks over at The Whisky Exchange have to say:

Dálvve is a medium-peated whisky that has been aged for around five years in first-fill bourbon casks. This is a sweet and smoky whisky with notes of vanilla.

Here’s what else we sampled that evening:

It was purchased in Sweden in August 2017 and opened from a closed bottle in December 2017.

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

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Whisky Ladies Après-ski

With December, one often thinks of winter, skiing, coming in stomping off the snow, peeling off toque, scarf, mittens and many layers, settling down in front of a roaring fire to enjoy a drink, food, great company… all the while making merry.

Our Whisky Ladies decided to embrace a decidedly northern theme of “Aprèsski” with European whiskies where one can also enjoy winter sports, even though it remains a balmy 27’c in Mumbai.

We began our evening with mulled wine made by our Swedish host and lebkuchen smuggled in from a recent trip to Germany… then quickly shifted gears to a rather remarkable line-up with a few whiskies anchoring the session with full pours and a couple of small shared samples picked up by a Whisky Lady while backpacking around Austria!

Here is what we tried:

*While matured in France using European barrels, strictly speaking the new make spirit is from Scotland… with the  most annoyingly difficult wax on the cork which required a ‘proper’ corkscrew to pop open. How peculiar! As is the whisky too…

As for the others, just click on the links and read what we thought!

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Zuidam Millstone Sherry 55.5%

This was my 1st taste of Zuidam’s Millstone Whiskies… This Dutch distillery is known for its uncompromising quality.

Malt Maniac 2016 Awards

Zuidam Millstone (11.9.1998/5.8.2016) Odoroso Sherry Cask #2530 55.5% OB 44 of 203 bottles

  • Nose – Sharp juicy fruits, plum wine, dash of sweet spices with cinnamon, cloves and allspice, back to a burst of red fruits, sultanas, honey water then prunes, a shifting spice from black pepper to cayenne, then back to fruity boiled sweets or candied orange
  • Palate – Wow! Now we are talking a serious dram. Om biscuits with that distinctive caraway, perhaps a bit of kalonji too. Clear stamp of sherry with some age behind it too…
  • Finish – Gorgeous finish
  • Water – No interest in adding…

An unmistakable Christmas dram. Stunning.

While this was an official bottling, there are no notes on the Zuidam website…  however this dram won Malt Maniac’s 2016 “Thumbs Up” award so clearly someone agrees this is a mighty fine dram!

What else did we try in our “Sinful Samples” evening?

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Sinful Samples – Bunnahabhan, Tullibardine, Millstone, Glendronach, Wolfburn

Tis the season to be jolly… and all that jazz! Yet before all the mad social rounds of the season kicked off, we snuck in a completely chilled out informal sampling of samples…

Call it a “Pajama Drams” night, it had no formality just a few folks, more than a few samples to put side by side to provoke some interesting tasting experiences…

What did we try?

It may seem like a prodigious amount for one sitting but we were a disciplined lot… some sniffing, swishing and spitting went on plus a few swallows, discarding the balance. Sacralige to some but sensible for us.

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French Buckwheat Whisky – Eddu Silver 40%

We continue to explore the boundaries of single malts… so on my last trip to Singapore, I challenged the lass at La Maison du Whisky to suggest something ‘completely different.’ She immediately pulled off the shelf this Eddu Silver – a buckwheat whisky from Bretagne, France.

The distillery heritage was as a cider distillery under Guy Le Lay who then embarked on a novel experiment with black buckwheat from Bretagne in 1998. Today, the Distillerie des Menhirs is run by his three sons with a small, unique range of buckwheat whiskies – aptly named ‘Eddu’ which apparently means buckwheat in Breton.

Yup! Think that fits the bill for something unique!

Eddu Silver 40%

  • Nose – Immediately noted it is distinctly different. A bit like an outdoor pool with a hint of chlorine, sharp fruit, quite ripe, honey, then a hint of menthol or euculapoytus, fresh apples, raisins, boiled sweets and confectioners shop, then mousambi rind
  • Palate – Light spice, lots of sugars, wheat cereals
  • Finish – Light and sweet then gone nearly in an instant

Overall we found while it isn’t complex, it was oddly pleasing. While certainly not one we  would say “Hey I feel like sipping an Eddu tonight”, it certainly was worth sampling and one to add to a collection of unique drams for others in Mumbai to try.

We did wonder whether the colour is natural – obviously having no benchmark with buckwheat or information specifically stating no added colour – we had nothing to confirm or deny. However it does indeed have a copper darkness that seems near impossible in what we normally expect in a NAS whisky.

As we continued sipping, found it remaining unique – fresh, sweet and almost organic.

And so we thought to have a little fun… our host popped into the kitchen and returned with a glass mixing jar with ice, campari, sugar liquor, lime and generous dollops of Eddu. An instant refreshing cocktail!

Here’s what the La Maison du Whisky folks have to say:

This pure buckwheat Breton whisky is produced using 80% unmalted buckwheat and 20% malted buckwheat, a mix which reinforces its fruity character. In addition, it is aged in Cognac oak casks. Yermat! (Cheers)

  • Appearance : old gold with glints of copper.
  • Nose : intense, complex. Fruity (citrus fruit, fresh fruit) and floral (rose, heather).
  • Palate : intensified, original fruitiness (apple, ripe plum). Spices (cinnamon, pepper). Very delicately woody.
  • Overall : a fantastic fresh feeling. Fruity and balanced throughout. Fleshy, unctuous.

Purchased from La Maison du Whisky in Singapore for SGD 105 in June 2017.

Other whiskies sampled in our Mumbai monsoon malts evening included:

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Celebrating 30+ European whiskies!

In the grand scheme of things, trying 30 whiskies is no big deal.

But when you live in India and those happen to be European whiskies… it is an accomplishment!

Let’s face it, exploring the world of whiskies behind a crazy custom’s “curtain” that restricts access not just bringing into India but state by state… means relying on individuals making an effort to source directly from far-flung lands rather than simply strolling over to a corner liquor store.

Hence it is indeed a celebration – with thanks – to share a summary of European samples! Now… just providing a list alone isn’t fun.. so with each, I’ve shared a fleeting impression so you can see what might peak your interest to read more…

European Whiskies  

Many of the Nordic whiskies came compliments of 

The Europe page is continuously updated as we explore more whiskies, so feel free to check back anytime to read of more!

PS – Anyone spot the ‘malted spirit’ rather than proper whisky??

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