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 swallows and 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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Another French whisky? Guillon Banyuls 43%

Once upon a time if you spoke of whisky from France, folks might look at you with a rather puzzled expression. Whisky? France? Surely you mean the other W – Wine, right?

Fast forward and there are an increasing number of contenders vying for a place in the world of whisky… including from France. And with France the 2nd largest consumer of whisky after the UK and before the US, no wonder French distilleries are popping up and getting into the act.

This Guillon spirit was our 1st in a quartet of NAS whiskies with our original Bombay Whisky tasting group – sampled completely blind.

Guillon Banyuls (2015) 43%

  • Nose – Some chocolate cherry, almost a rum quality, fresh lemon then vanilla, light banana fruits, a ginger oil, then shifted into some cereals with a hint of sweet spice
  • Palate – Mirchy pepper hot with raisins, young, no body and oddly flat
  • Finish – Short – just alcohol warmth with a bitter
  • Water – Doesn’t enhance – if anything makes it a bit dry

It initially reminded us of a bourbon – not with the typical brash banana caramel but instead a softer, fresher approach.

With the reveal and the decanter styled bottle, we started joking about whether we were having perfume or whisky or something else entirely?

While new to us, Guillon Distillery has been producing spirits since 1997. Owner Thierry Guillon has been aging spirits in oak barrels from French vineyards of the AOC regions of Champagne, Banyuls and Sauternes.

This particularly spirit was matured in Banyuls wine casks – a French dessert wine similar in style to Port.

But is it whisky? Turns out… it is not. After I originally shared this post, a wee twitter flurry commenced which clarified this is a ‘malt spirit’ rather than whisky… as Franck Debernardi   pointed out “They use white alcohol mixed with malt extracts/flavors and sugar. They were forbidden to sell their spirit as whisky.” 

What this meant was during our evening of sampling, we were under a misconception. Where talk had turned to French whiskies… Given the range of wine casks in France, it is entirely logical that French whiskies play around with maturing in wine casks. Our Whisky Ladies recently sampled a whisky from Alsace (AWA) matured in ex Pinot Noir cask and another (Brenne) in ex Cognac casks. But was this particular liquid in that category? Apparently not!

What else did we try in our NAS evening?

French whiskies sampled over the last year or so include:

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Exploring NAS whiskies – Guillon, Oban, Arran + Kavalan

Sure folks still bemoan the days where “No Age Statement” whiskies were few and far between in the world of single malts, however NAS whiskies are here to stay! And frankly, some of them are rather good.

So it was rather apt that one of our retired whisky club members for his birthday (of years we shall not say!) turned to a quartet of NAS whiskies… which turned out not to all be whiskies… as there is a new avatar of ‘malt spirit’ which joins the fray.

Guess which one of our 4 bottles wasn’t a whisky after all?

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Who knew Alsace produces whisky? AWA Pinot Noire 42%

Next up in our risky whisky evening was another offering from France – this time the Authentique Whisky Alsacien (AWA) Pinot Noire.

The whisky lady who brought this unusual offering shared how she discovered this whisky nestled amidst all the wine in France. As in AWA was the ONLY whisky to be found amongst a LOT of wine! Apparently there are other varieties of AWA – linked to different wines like Reisling, GewurztraminerPinot Gris and this Pinot Noire. Plus someone clearly has a sense of humour with AWA’s “The Dog’s Bullocks” whisky!

So… what did we find?

AWA (Authentique Whisky Alsacien) Pinot Noire 42%

  • Nose – Dark purple grapes, fruity almost reminds one of a sloe gin, fresh figs, flower like wild rose or hibiscus, then took on a deeper quality with malty treacle
  • Palate – Initial hit of raw grain for some, flowers like a bouquet bursting in ones mouth for others, bit of a sharp zing, sits on top
  • Finish – Grapey wine-like finish

There is a playful quality to this whisky. Sophisticated? Nope. Just fruity fun! Perhaps it was our imagination but we certainly found the wine influence which made it quite a departure from your standard ex-bourbon / ex-sherry cask fare.

Overall this surprise from a Whisky Lady’s trip to France received a ‘thumbs up’ just for being… rather.. well like-able!

When we contrasted tasting this whisky in our standard Glencairn glass vs Norlan, we found in the Norlan it flattened the nose to brown sugar however brought much more out in the palate – much spicier with cloves, quite a delicious piquant quality.

The verdict? Comes across more like “whisky” in the Norlan than the Glenairn glass. So all depends on how you like your tipple.

You won’t find much about AWA however… try as I might no luck finding any official tasting notes! If anyone does – let me know!

What else did we sample that “risky whisky” evening?

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Risky whisky? Not with a delightful Brenne

Our whisky ladies evening began with a decided romance spun atmosphere by candlelight… thanks to a rather more mundane reason – the road was being dug up in front our host’s home!

Yet starting the evening with a soft glow was rather apt for the 1st sample –  a French Single Malt Brenne Estate Cask.

Brenne is one of those whiskies I’ve been curious to try for some time. The brainchild of Allison Patel (The Whisky Woman) in partnership with a 3rd generation Cognac producer, she set about creating a ‘new’ whisky.

Brenne Estate Cask 40%

  • Nose – A burst of apple sauce, then bubble gum – as in bazooka or hubba bubba – quite candy sweet and as it opens up, sweet basil, honey and lavender join the choir, settling into a raspberry cherry cough syrup sweet
  • Palate – Lightly spiced sweet apple juice, light, soft, gentle cognac, cherry cola, more and more cherry
  • Finish – Red dark cherry

For some, this style of whisky may be too sweet yet it somehow manages to be a desert whisky without slipping into that sickly sweet territory. Think of it like ice cream after a meal!

In short it is a quite lovely whisky, pretty, delightful and something you could easily sip at the start or end of an evening. Rich and complex? Certainly not, but nonetheless quite enjoyable!

We wondered how the notes might change between our standard Glencairn glass and Norlan… with the Norlan, there was more flower than bubblegum and on the palate a very clear apple cognac with whisky cream. Little change in the finish.

We then wondered how it might be if chilled so put a glass of Brenne in the fridge.

The verdict? Don’t! Cold it simply became syrupy sweet stepping clearly onto the side of being TOOOOO sweet and loosing all its lovely nuance.

Brenne is produced in the Cognac region, initially aged in new Limousin oak barrels then finished in used Cognac casks – on average for approximately 7 years. The distilling technique follows the “Cognac” style, using colder fermentations and small batch production, then twice distilled in copper alembic still.

As we understand, each Brenne is from a single cask so one can anticipate some variation between what you sip today vs another bottle from a different cask tomorrow.

Here is what the Brenne folks have to say about their whisky:

SMOOTH, APPROACHABLE with lots of FRUIT A distinct experience of fruit-forward expressions followed by the spice notes from malted barley, all balanced with the sweetness from Cognac soaked oak

What else did we sample that “risky whisky” evening?

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Whisky Ladies Risky Whisky

Our Whisky Ladies are generally an adventuresome set. Which is why our whisky explorations are not limited to your standard Scottish fare… not to say we don’t thoroughly enjoy a solid Scottish dram, just that our predilections lean to the off-beat rather than well trodden paths.

Which sometimes leads to some rather stellar flops! Most recently the AD Laws Triticum + Hordeum stand out as whiskies we would never ever chose to repeat. On the other end of the spectrum, that very night Canada‘s Shelter Point was an instant hit and another evening Finland‘s Teerenpeli 10 year was just yum!

We know when you take risks with your whisky choices there will be some delicious surprises mixed in with some unmitigated disasters!

When we began our evening, we had no idea how our selection would fare… just that we wanted to continue our whisky explorations to seek out new distilleries! Here is what we tried:

Then we added brilliant bonus drams… Our whisky lady host of the evening was celebrating her 40th birthday. What better way than with a 40 year old Auchentoshan!! And her whisky lady mother then decided we simply must have an extra desert treat of a rather bonus bourbon Willlett.

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Nordic Explorers – What a journey!

Over the past few months, a fellow whisky lady and I have slowly been working our way through a delightful dozen 20 ml bottles representing five Nordic countries and seven distilleries.

There were some highlights and lowlights and it was a fascinating tasting travel. For those who missed the individual posts, I thought I would share a short synopsis of our Nordic journey…

Sweden - Smogen + Box

Denmark

Finland

Iceland

Norway

Sweden

Nordic Whisky Set

*** Thank you again 

Now… to fill these bottles back up and return the favour. What shall we chose for Thomas to try??

PS These are not the only Nordic whiskies we’ve sampled… Check out the Europe page.

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