Whisky Lady – June 2018

June was quite full with all three tasting groups holding their regular sessions plus a few interesting visitors with:

With our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we shifted gears to have an evening dedicated to open bottles – a complete mixed bag of what was lying around. Which in our case meant a merry trip through:

For the Whisky Ladies, it was a night of Highland Hijinks!

And our original group? We were introduced to a remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Glenrothes 20 year (Oct 1996/Oct 2016) 54.6% 1 of 252 bottles*
  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 57.1% 1 of 198 bottles*
  • North Star’s Cask Series 002 – Caol Ila 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles*

Last month, I took our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents on a European Exploration and caught up with all the tasting notes which had a clear divide between ones we quite enjoyed…. and those we decidedly did not!

The thumbs “down” category included:

And in the thumbs “up” category?

In addition to our normal tasting evenings, we were fortunate to have not one but two IBHL sessions in April and May respectively with:

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we ambled through a rather remarkable range of whiskies…

*Tasting notes coming soon…

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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 – 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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Whisky Lady – May 2018

May had some terrific sessions! All three Mumbai based tasting groups met plus we had a few extras too! Plus I had a chance to catch-up on previous tasting sessions notes as well.  Read on…

All three tasting groups met, with most notes to follow next month…

The Whisky Ladies enjoyed a theme of “Northern Lights” exploring:

Whereas our original group tasted two Highland drams and an Irish pot still whiskey:

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, I took them on a European Tour with:

In addition to our normal tasting evenings, we were fortunate to have a few industry extras in April and May with:

  • An evening with Caitlin Hill, Brand Ambassador for Bruichladdich and Botanist over a  quartet of cocktails and food pairing*
  • An evening with Stuart Harvey, Master Blender for IBHL with Balblair 05, 99, 00 and Speyburn 15 year*
  • An evening with Samantha Peters, Digital Marketing for IBHL with Speyburn 10 year 43%, Balblair 05 46%, Old Pultney 12 year 40%*

Which was augmented by a terrific evening at KODE with Keshav Prakash featuring a trio from the Vault Collection – Compass Box Asyla, Kilchoman Machir Bay and Edradour Caledonia.

In May, tasting notes were shared for our original club’s April session featuring The Vault Fine Spirits Collection, ably penned by our Guest Writer Nikkhil:

There was also a Minis evening playing around with finishes:

An informal evening with a few friends resulted in revisiting a few drams and sampling for the 1st time Shelter Point Cask Strength 2017 Winter Release 57.2% (Bottle 594/1088)

And for a final bit of “catchup”, back in March, the Whisky Ladies took a  remarkable “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia:

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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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Italian whisky? Puni Alba Marsala + Islay 43% – Oh My!

The Whisky Ladies of Mumbai are well on the path of exploring European whiskies… having tried drams from Finland (Teerenpeli), Denmark (Danica), France (Kornog), Germany (Slyrs), Sweden (Mackmyra & Spirit of Hven)… all unique and different from standard Scottish fare.

Whereas our original tasting group, with five years of monthly merry malt sampling complete, have only scratched the surface when it comes to whiskies from Europe. In 2013 The Belgian Owl and Dutch All Rye made less than stellar appearances and in 2014, the Czech Hammer Head received a rather firm ‘thumbs down’.

We were due a tryst with European whiskies. Yet after the disappointing drams, anything offered had to 1st pass the ‘taste test’.

When given an ‘assignment’ to find something ‘different’ by our host for his January 2017 session, my 1st thought was Europe and the 2nd thought was that it simply had to be tried before buying – no leaving the experiment to chance!

Which is where my August 2016 trip to Singapore came in handy with an opportunity to ‘speed date’ a trio of Puni whiskies at – where else – La Maison du Whisky.

Even I wasn’t sure before trying. Italian whisky? Really?! When there is such marvellous Italian wine, it begs the question… whisky?

Our original group sampled this completely blind – having no clue what they were trying…

Puni Alba 3 year Batch #2 (2015) 43%

puni-alba

  • Nose – How unique – we needed to ‘tease’ out the different elements. At once sweet and sour, mild antiseptic, hint of tropical fruits, some nutmeg, coconut? There was something truly completely different about this one… sweet, dry yet teasingly
  • Palate – Wow! Starts off so smooth then there is a remarkable dry chilly that sneaks up from behind and ‘whoosh!’ envelops completely. One found cooked drumsticks, another lots of tannins, yet another found chocolate
  • Finish – An, unbelievably long finish and so surprising, it extends from the dry chilly to a long drawn out light cigar like finish
  • Water – Needed? No. Nice? Yes and remarkably did not dent the fabulous finish, simply enabled the mild peat quality to surface more

What a different whisky with its ability to have a deceptively soft ‘front’ then delicious spice that sneaks up from ‘behind’. Without a doubt, it had the most remarkable long finish of all whiskies sampled that evening.

As we speculated, it was very clear this was not Scottish and quite untraditional in its approach. The dry sweetness, soft smooth front then spice from behind, the shy peat that slowly unfurled, the exceptionally long finish… This was a whisky that didn’t neatly fit into clear categories.

Our host pulled out the bottle. Italy?

Putting it mildly, we were collectively ‘maha’ (greatly) impressed. From the design of the bottle to the quality of its contents.

Let us be very clear, Puni is out to change any pre-conceived notions that Italians aren’t up to the challenge of producing whisky! The Puni distillery began operations in 2012 and is located in the Italian alps, taking its name from the nearby Puni river. They use locally grown rye, pot stills and began with three core expressions:

  • Nova – American & European white oak casks
  • Alba – Marsala wine and Islay casks
  • Nero – Pinot nero casks

Here is what they have to say about their Alba:

ALBA – the Italian word for dawn, as well as the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland – is matured for three years in the finest Marsala casks from Sicilly and finished in handselected casks from the Isle of Islay. ALBA is a harmonious combination of the rich & fruity flavours of Italy and the distinctive smoky character of the Scottish island.

Flavour : dark fruit | peat | cloves

The interplay between maturation in Marsala casks and ex-Islay peated whisky casks shows such experimentation can bring about quite wonderful results!

Puni Italian Trio

Other whiskies sampled our East to West evening included:

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East to West – Hakushu, PJ Bold, Puni Alba + Clynelish

I love the forethought and creativity that goes into some of our whisky tasting sessions…

Our January 2017 host’s theme was a journey from East to West… following a geographic progression from Japan to India to Italy and finally Scotland.

hakushu-paul-john-puni-clynelish

It was a fabulously curated collection that shifted in styles and threw in surprises too! Each was sampled completely blind before the reveal.

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Singapore “Speed Dating” Whisky…

Singapore may be expensive as far as whisky purchasing is concerned, however it never fails to deliver a new discovery.

There are some terrific night spots to nip into for a whisky flight (or two) – The Auld Alliance, Flagship and Quaich.

There are always unique offerings at La Maison du Whisky.

Even Changi Airport is no slouch as a spot to sample something novel with its range of whiskies from everyday duty-free to airport exclusives to a special “I have way too much money” collection upstairs…

So what did my August 2016 Singapore trip have in store?

It began with a pilgrimage to La Maison du Whisky

I stopped by early, well in advance of 6 PM ‘sampling’ time to pre-select options more or less under SG$200, less readily accessible elsewhere, not a repeat of any previous drams and could spark conversation from our fellow samplers back in Mumbai.

After a bit of careful thought, Priscilla sprung into action and began pulling out a few… checking some possibilities that I declined… to come up with a diverse shortlist. My sampling companion arrived and we began our final selection process by “speed dating” each whisky with quick short nips.

Puni Italian Trio

We began with a trio from Italy. Yes… Italy. We compared (right to left):

Puni Nova Bourbon Cask 43% 

  • Matured in American and European oak casks, initially seemed just grains, flowers, honey and vanilla… relatively standard on the palate.
  • In short, dismissed as not terribly interesting… but after the others, we found ourselves drawn back… then it really began to grow on us… for a young whisky, it has something quite enjoyable and attractive for a lighter dram.

Puni Alba Limited Edition 43%

  • Limited edition, uses barley, wheat and a locally grown rye matured from six months to three years in oak barrels that previously contained Sicilian marsala, Pinot Noir from South Tyrol and Zibibbo from Pantelleria.
  • And the result? Interesting, definitely interesting, but also oddly schizophrenic… simply didn’t seem to know what direction, here there or where?
  • Was it a light romp or storm the bastions? No balance between the sweet and spice elements like a cocktail with too many ingredients.

Puni Alba Marsala Islay 43%

  • Matured in Marsala and Islay casks, initially attracted attention – quite different with its pronounced cloves, range of fruits, peat, tobacco and nuts.
  • However like a one trick pony, we kept waiting for more… then reached back to the Puni Nova as the more drinkable dram!

Bruichladdich 1990 24 year

Next up was Bruichladdich 1990 24 year 56.5%

  • I was pre-disposed to fall in love… after all this was a special bottle for LMDW from a distillery that produces a rather interesting range of whiskies…
  • Eager anticipation, I took the first few whiffs…. and sip… And had the opposite reaction.
  • Harsh cloves cinnamon no softness… thin rather than layered and robust
  • Perhaps it needed time to air, a few drops of water or simply more consideration possible in a quick sample however didn’t pass the taste test… and in fairness, not all whiskies do… some simply require patience and attention not possible when “speed dating”

W+M Sherry + Sansibar Islay

We then moved on to two independents without the distillery disclosed:

Wilson & Morgan “Highland Heart” Sherry Cask Malt 2006 43%

  • As you would expect from a sherry, lots of delicious stewed fruits, a distinctly winey quality yet accompanying this was also a richer nutty dimension that brought you back for another nosing again and again
  • On the palate it was mellow, smooth and seemed to have many more layers than we could properly discern in a small taster… overall left you with the impression of an eminently drinkable dram

Sansibar Islay 8 year 52.5%

  • Sansibar are new independent bottlers from Germany and a first for me!
  • Unlike some who disclose minute detail about the cask, here the approach is different sharing only that it comes from a single cask, aged 8 years (2007-15) with 330 bottles…. and the rest? Up to you to guess!
  • We quickly pronounced it a fine specimen of an Islay malt
  • Compared it with the distillery official bottling – no doubt which WE preferred!

Wolfburn

Wolfburn 46% Batch #2

  • As a new re-entry, this distillery has been on my radar and considered in London with rather honest advice “It is still quite raw” enabling the Teerenpeli to win that round (I’m ever so grateful!)
  • From 7.03.2016, Distillery Manager Shane Fraser shares “On the nose you’ll find fruit and malty aromas, with a hint of peat. On the tongue, sweet and nutty flavours are present, which coat the palate and leave a very slight pleasant flavour of smoke. It is a joy to drink – I hope you enjoy every drop.”
  • This one was thrown in as a courtesy to let me try as a bottle was not available for purchase. Yes there is fruit, nuts, hint of peat, quite intense with lots of promise but not there yet – a bit ruff, gruff and certainly not balanced.
  • However… Let’s just say I’m looking forward to seeing what more comes… though can safely skip this one…

Taylor

We then shifted our attention to the Americas… In this case, to potentially obtain a 3rd American whiskey as counterpoint for two recent acquisitions direct to Mumbai from Denver, Colorado…

For this ‘brief’ we explored a duo from Colonel E. H. Taylor, part of the Buffalo Trace stable:

  • Small Batch 50% – What a change to shift gear to a rye! I’ll admit I’m neither a bourbon nor rye aficionado, however for this style, was a rather good example.
  • Barrel Proof 63.6% – Packs a serious wallop! As in galloping head on into all senses, firing all cylinders. Yowza!

Singapore Airport's Whisky Wall

Next up Changi Airport…  A few highlights / lowlights include:

  • Suntory has launched outside of Japan The Chita… Quite reasonably priced, alas it was not the exquisite Chita Single Grain 12 year I picked up in Tokyo years ago. Easy to pass…
  • However the Kavalan selection was tempting with a Sherry cask strength for less than SG$100. And a new Kavalan Peaty Cask – matured in a cask which previously held a peated whisky for SG$175.

What made the final cut for purchase?

You will just need to be patient til one or more whiskies sampled make it into a focused tasting session.

  • Sept 2016 – Wolfburn Batch #1 makes its way via another original tasting group member
  • Jan 2017 – The Italian Puni Alba was a hit with the original tasting group!

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