Remarkable Random Range of Whiskies

What does a Scottish blend from the 1950 / 60s made for a Hamburg distributor and a German malt that barely qualifies as whisky have in common? Or what does a peaty coastal single malt bottled by an Indian distillery have to do with a sophisticated complex Island dram from a much-coveted Indie bottler? And how about the price range from an affordable entry-level Island OB in GBP 20s vs another over 150?! Or sourced from an auction some 40 years after bottling vs direct from bottler within hours of going on sale, to Le Clos Dubai duty-free or available exclusively in Bangalore only… Frankly speaking, they have practically nothing in common beyond a random sweaty evening in Mumbai where they just so happened to be tasted together!

A Remarkable (Random) Range

What a remarkable – if random! – range for a brilliant evening… which was revisited another night in Mumbai with more malt experts!

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St Kilian Signature Edition ‘Nine’ 55.3%

I love being able to bring something new and different to our tasting groups in India. The delight of hunting down something that is both novel and worth the time spent considering its different dimensions. Now, a high-end mature Scottish malt and a young upstart from Deutschland cannot be compared, however, there are some very worthy experiments taking place in Europe these days! And St Kilian distillery from just outside Frankfurt is one to watch.

What did we try?

St Kilian Signature Edition “Nine” 55.3%

  • Nose – Young, malty, with a different kind of sweetness than the One and Six. Lots of pears, crunchy orchard fruits. Cinnamon candy. Flaky biscuits with cream. Quite summery in character…
  • Palate – Well, well, well… Not nearly so ‘innocent’ on the palate as the nose teased… There was still lots of candy, and cinnamon however it was joined by a healthy dose of spice, malt, bitter apple, quite warming… and was that a hint of peat? Overall we found it quite chewy and well-rounded
  • Finish – Resin, dried orange peel… a proper finish
  • Water – Don’t mind if I do! This dram easily integrates a splash of cool water – revealing more orchard fruits like peach and apricot

It could be described as contradictory. When we first opened the bottle, Krishna Nakula (Malt Maniac) called it a bit ‘funky’ with an active nose that veered on sour mash.  The kind of whisky one would prefer to have on a wet cold rainy day….

However, just a week later with the Whisky Ladies, we found it had settled down considerably. And rather than be considered a ‘cool weather’ whisky, it held its own in the summer heat. More importantly, did we like it? Absolutely yes! For some, it was a clear ‘win’ – either the favourite or jostling for that position with the peaty ‘Four‘.

This just goes to show, that different stages of oxidation, different environments, mood, and company make all the difference. Tasting progressions are also key! With the Whisky Ladies, the Nine followed the St Kilian One and Six, so our palates were pre-calibrated to something European not Scottish.

What do the folks behind this bottle have to say?

The Signature Edition Nine is an intense, fruity and creamy-sweet taste experience. The melange of exotic fruits harmonises pleasantly with the spicy warmth as well as the sweet and full-bodied flavours.

What more do we know? The cask composition is 11% Oak, 27% ex-Sauternes, 62% ex-Bourbon.

Here are the official tasting notes:

  • AUSSEHEN Leuchtender Bernstein
  • GERUCH Ein betörendes Bouquet von reifer Aprikose und saftigem Pfirsich steht im Einklang mit süßem Toffee und feiner Vanille, begleitet von floralen Noten, dezenter Ingwerschärfe, würziger Eiche sowie einem Hauch Grapefruit.
  • GESCHMACK Ein süßer und vollmundiger Start mit Pfirsich, Ananas und Grapefruit, gefolgt von cremigem Honig, Vanillepudding sowie sahnigem Toffee und getragen von einer wärmenden Eichenwürze mit Ingwer und etwas Zimt.
  • NACHKLANG Lang und cremig-warm mit Karamell und süßem Mandelgebäck, dazu etwas frisch geriebene Grapefruitschale mit einer Spur Walnuss.

A rough google supported translation:

  • Nose – A beguiling bouquet of ripe apricots and juicy peaches is in harmony with sweet toffee and fine vanilla, accompanied by floral notes, subtle ginger sharpness, spicy oak, and a hint of grapefruit.
  • Palate – A sweet and full-bodied start with peach, pineapple, and grapefruit followed by creamy honey, custard, and toffee and carried by a warming Oak spice with ginger and some cinnamon.
  • FinishLong and creamy – warm with caramel and sweet almond biscuits, with some freshly grated grapefruit zest and a hint of walnut.

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Whisky Ladies tryst with St Kilian Signature Edition One, Four, Six and Nine

Three from this particular set of St Kilian whiskies had made their way to India in late 2021 and were opened for the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents to explore… however being overall a generous lot, they decided the Whisky Ladies should also partake, so the bottles were set aside and tasted in April 2022. Naturally, I simply couldn’t resist augmenting with the German distiller’s latest Signature Edition – Nine.

What did we find?

Signature Edition ‘One’ (2016/2019) 45%

  • Nose – Sweet and smooth, cherry, fruity honey, rum and vanilla, orange, grilled pineapple, candied fruit with a slight hint of sweet spices like cinnamon
  • Palate – Subtle at first and then builds with a surprising spice. Green, fresh, and almost rye-like with capsicum, green peppercorns, a hint of dry hay with a nice bitterness. Overall quite smooth, rounded out by tropical fruits – especially pineapple
  • Finish – Short to medium finish

For some, it was almost on that ‘sickly’ sweet end of the spectrum – reminding us of a super sweet Shirley Temple cocktail! The rum influence brings a nice tropical quality. We concluded it was an easy sipper and a rather apt way to ease into our evening.

Personally, I recalled how my first impression was mixed but how much this grew on me in Germany – particularly its nice ‘warming’ quality in contrast to the cold outdoors. To discover it also adapts well to sweltering in Mumbai heat was a pleasant surprise.

Signature Edition ‘Six’ (2016/2020) 47.5%

  • Nose – Initially reaction was – yummy! A delightful rose of a sweet gulab jamun. Whilst it was incredibly sweet, warm with nice pepper spice, there were subtle additional elements like kafir lime leaf, hazelnut followed by chocolate milk
  • Palate – We could really catch the Rye in the flavors, joined by wood, sweet… Think more along the lines of a chocolate bar with red chili and cinnamon, joined by slightly bitter nuts
  • Finish – Closed with bitter chocolate, very nutty… certainly present but also a wee bit elusive or deceptive and teasing

Definitely interesting and could discern the rye influence. Worth trying, however, is it really the one to come back to? The verdict was never firmly made here.

Signature Edition ‘Four’ (2016/2020) 48%

  • Nose – Initially medical peat, it quickly settled into sweet peat and cola! There was that delicious smoked bacon, loads of hickory wood chips, nicely nutty – brazil or hazelnut? Followed by baked apple pie
  • Palate – Delicious! Tastes even better than it smells with sweet cured ham… over time tannins came forward followed by Montreal smoked meats or Canadian back-bacon drizzled in maple, beautifully oily and well-rounded, it had just a fabulous mouthfeel – as much chocolaty to the taste as the sense of melted  chocolate rolling around your mouth
  • Finish – I found a nice long cinnamon spice, others tasted a light leather with a hint of salt, and one even noted there was a bit of mustard oil!

A complete departure from the others, we absolutely loved it! No doubt this was a rather good peaty dram – enough that I’m hoping to catch their next peated edition.

As for our overall conclusion? By the end of the evening, we pronounced the St Kilian exploration worthy of our time and attention. In short, a terrific example of why we come together to explore and experience the range of what’s out there in the world of whiskies!

And what about the Nine? I haven’t forgotten about it. We tasted it after the ‘Six’ and before the ‘Four’ with the full tasting notes posted separately.

And if you are curious, you can read all about the different casks below or click the links to compare our Ladies and Gents impressions!

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St Kilian ‘Seven’ Sherry PX + Oloroso 51.7%

Back in October 2021, the Bombay lads and I explored together St Kilian distillery from Germany’s Signature Edition One, Four and Six. One set made its way to India whereas a second remained in Europe. I augmented the European ones with the Seven, which was enjoyed in more sociable settings rather than proper sit-down tasting… until the new year!

Described by the St. Kilian folks as an “ideal companion for summer”, they introduce this expression by sharing it is

Matured in ex-sherry barrels, this bottling reflects the Andalusian summer sun. The balanced balance between ex-Sherry PX and ex-Sherry Oloroso barrels ensures a harmonious enjoyment.

What did we think?

St Kilian Signature Edition ‘Seven’ (2017/2021) 51.7% 5,700 bottles

  • Nose – Dark, rich treacle, coffee, plump and juicy raisins, salty licorice… shifts more and more into fruity elements, apricots, dates, sherry berry aromas
  • Palate – Spicy! A rich chocolate bar with cherries, raisins and nuts, a clear sherry stamp – chewy and rich, warming, full-bodied
  • Finish – Long, strong with a nice spice on the tail end…

While it starts out dark and stormy, with an initial hit of acetone, this one soon displayed its clear Sherry cask influences. We also tried it with water – with a bit of a debate depending on whether you prefer your whiskies more intense and indulgent or preferred a fruitier and creamier dram.

In some ways, I would say with a dash of water, this is the most ‘accessible’ of the quartet we’ve tried. While all four St Kilian’s tried from the Signature Editions are bursting with character, this one has more of a ‘nod’ to more classical sherry aromas even if the flavour retains something distinctively different.

What more do we know? The St Kilian recipe is:

  • 73% ex Sherry Olorosso and
  • 27% ex Sherry PX

As for official tasting notes? Here’s what St Kilian has to say:

  • GERUCH Süße Noten von Rosinen und in trockenen Sherry eingelegte, dunkle Früchte lassen Raum für reife Pfirsiche mit Walnuss sowie feinen Kräutern, vorrangig Minze und Salbei.
  • GESCHMACK Die trockene Süße von Rosinen und Walnuss wird begleitet von reifen Pfirsichen und sahnigen Malzbonbons, mit wärmenden Anklängen von aromatischer Eiche, frischer Minze und Salbei.
  • NACHKLANG Lang, cremig und würzig-warm mit feinen Sherry-Noten, Honig, Malzbonbons sowie reifer Walnuss.

As for a rough translation?

  • Nose – Sweet notes of raisins and dry Sherry, dark fruits leaving room for ripe peaches with walnuts as well as fine herbs – primarily mint and sage
  • Taste – The dry sweetness of raisins and walnuts is accompanied by ripe peaches and creamy malt sweets, with warming hints of aromatic oak, fresh mint and sage
  • Finish – Long, creamy and spicy-warm with fine notes of sherry, honey, malt sweets as well as ripe walnut

What else did we try from St Kilian?

I would easily recommend Edition ‘Seven‘ however also kept coming back to the ‘One’ – which so far is my favourite! Next would be the peaty ‘Four‘ with the ‘Six‘s Rye / Burgandy combination not working quite as well for me. Based on this experience, I will also keep an eye out for future Editions too!

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St Kilian ‘Four’ Peat, Sherry 48%

After St Kilian’s inaugural “One“, and their Franconian “Six” we shifted gears to explore their “smoky” Fourth Signature Edition.

St Kilian describes their whisky as:

Surprisingly intense, spicy and smoky: With a phenol content of 54 ppm in the malt, the “Four” is not only the smokiest one to date, but also the most aromatic and strongest bottling of St. Kilian thanks to its full maturation in sherry casks.

What did we think?

St Kilian Signature Edition ‘Four’ (2016/2020) 48% 10,700 bottles

  • Colour – Dark  gold
  • Nose – Sweet smokey meats, Nordic wood sauna, jerk pork, honey glazed ham, smokey marinade, pine, herbal, cigar tobacco, fudge and chocolate, hint of coffee, dark caramel, even better the 1st sip
  • Palate – Savoury, a bit sharp, peat and sweet, initially imbalanced, a bit bitter, charred wood…
  • Finish – A nice fat finish, thick with flavours – smoke and sweet, long peat….

We found with all three, that water is a great addition – in this case an absolutely must!

  • Nose – Mmmm sherry, maple bacon, cinnamon, buttery salted caramel, malted milk chocolate
  • Palate – Tempers the peat, took out all the sharpness, completely balanced the elements so could setting into its smokey sweetness
  • Finish – The flavours remain – dilution didn’t dampen the full finish

Could absolutely see the Sherry cask influence on this one. If you are in the mood for a full-bodied whisky with a smokey sweetness, well worth checking out. With each sip, it grows on you more and more.

What more do we know? Well the good folks at St Kilian are open about their recipe:

  • 51% ex PX Sherry
  • 49% ex Olorosso Sherry
  • Mix of German unpeated early with Scottish peated barley (54 PPM) from Glenesk Maltings

As for their official tasting notes?

  • GERUCH Kräftiger, warmer Lagerfeuer-Rauch lichtet sich für fruchtige Sherry-Aromen mit süßen Rosinen, cremigem Butterkaramell-Fudge, frischem Apfel und feinen Anklängen von würzigem Tabak und Leder
  • GESCHMACK Vollmundig-intensiv mit aromatischem Torfrauch, begleitet von einer Melange aus getrockneten Pflaumen, Datteln und Rosinen, abgerundet von einem Hauch Vanille und dunkler Schokolade mit Fleur de Sel
  • NACHKLANG Lang und würzig-warm mit feinen Sherry-Noten und sanft ausklingendem Rauch

With a rough translation:

  • Nose – Strong, warm campfire smoke clears for fruity sherry flavours with sweet raisins, creamy butter caramel fudge, fresh apples with hints of spicy tobacco and leather
  • Taste – Full-bodied and intense with aromatic peat smoke, accompanied by a melange of dried plus, dates and raisins rounded off by a hint of vanilla and dark chocolate with sea salt 
  • Finish – Long and spicy warm with fine notes of sherry and fading smoke

What else was included in my wee St Kilian quartet?

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St Kilian ‘Six’ Rye, Pinot Noir, Bourbon 47.5%

After a promising start with St Kilian’s 1st Signature Edition – One – we fast forwarded to their 6th Edition with a strong “Franconian” bent:

The Signature Edition Six is ​​a real Franconian! The special barley malt comes from Upper Franconia and the barrels of fine Pinot Noir from Lower Franconia.

Signature Edition ‘Six’ (2016/2020) 47.5% 6,500 bottles

    • Colour – Dark  gold
    • Nose – Cherries, grapes, an almost rye-like spice, licorice, after time it was a bit malty, fresh grass and hay, tobacco leaf, apples
    • Palate – Sour cherry, lots of spice, bitter and dry, strong red wine elements – dates, raisins, woody grain….
    • Finish – Spicy with sherry sweet Christmas spices – very dry and long
    • Water – Oh nice! Much fruitier, juicier, softer with the grapes and cherries coming back both in the aroma and palate, a nice tannin came out and the finish was even better too – long and warming

We found both with the One and this, that water really made the malt! It started a bit acrid without but really came together with water.

While certainly not a ‘classic’ style, it had an interesting character – could certainly see the Rye and also Pinot cask influence on this one.

We also thought it might go well in an Old Fashioned – something to try one of these days!

This one was a bit of a departure shifting from malt whisky into rye with a recipe of:

  • 45% ex Rye (American Oak from Early Times)
  • 30% ex Franconian Pinot Noir (French Oak from Fürst winery in nearby Bürgstadt)
  • 25% ex Bourbon (American Oak from Old Forester)

As for their official tasting notes? Here’s what the folks over at St Kilian have to say:

  • GERUCH Feine Gerbsäure, reife Trauben
  • GESCHMACK Im Antritt eine feine Süße gefolgt von Weinaromen sowie Aromen von Getreide
  • NACHKLANG Feine Würze, süß, trocken und langanhaltend

With a rough translation:

  • Nose – Fine tannic acid, ripe grapes
  • Taste – In the beginning a fine sweetness followed by wine aromas and grain
  • Finish – Fine flavour, sweet, dry and long-lasting

I found a bit more about this expression from Whisky.com.

What more did we try from St Kilian?

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J.B.G. Münsterländer Single Grain Whisky 42%

J. B. G. Münsterländer comes from Geuting – a small distillery in Bocholt, in the north-west of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany near the border with The Netherlands. They began producing whisky in 2013 with both single grain and single malts.

J. B.G. Münsterländer Single Grain Whisky 6 year (12 Nov 2020 / 20 Mar 2017) Cask 26, 27, 28, 42% (Bottle 161/1000)

  • Nose – Coconut, chocolate, caramel popcorn, fresh and creamy, marshmallows and cotton candy, bananas, light sweet spices
  • Palate – Very sweet, smooth, really quite nice in an uncomplicated friendly style
  • Finish – Nothing much to speak of.. but that’s OK

A nice “sniffing” whisky, one you can sit back, sniff and sip in a relaxed companionable way. A great discovery and one that prompted interest in exploring further… perhaps next time one of their single malts.

What do the Münsterländer folks have to say?

Our Single Grain Whisky from the Musterland region has received a slow and careful double distillation. Entirely aged to maturity in new casks crafted from American white oak our whisky is reduced to the sought alcohol content with our own well water fresh from source. This way you receive a mellow, well-balanced and full-bodied Single Grain Whisky.

Official tasting notes:

  • Nose – Rich aromas of vanilla, cocoa and nutmeg, harmonious
  • Taste – Sweetness of cocoa and vanilla, fine wooden notes
  • Finish – Mellow, nutty and long

My tasting companions had picked up this bottle on sale for around Our 30, however you can still find it online for approx Eur 45.

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Black Forest Wild Peated Single Malt 42%

Imagine tromping through the wilds of a deep dark Black Forest and coming upon a distillery and winery that is both new and has linkages back to 1855.

These folks at Black Forest seem to be into producing a wide array of spirits and wines – from Riesling and Chardonay to hazelnut eggnog and rum, brandy, vermouth and gin…. including a peated single malt… a sample which made its way to my hosts home and our whisky glasses!

Black Forest Wild Whiskey Peated 42%

  • Nose – Fish oil – think cod liver oil, old cellar – musty and damp, hint of metal or mechanical grease, finally started to shift a bit – granary, dusty hay, dirty socks, then a bit saline
  • Palate – Metallic, wet motor, sharp yet at the same time insipid
  • Finish – None
  • Water – Really doesn’t help

Living in Germany has opened up a whole new world of whiskies – some interesting, some perplexing and some that…. well… are definitely not my ‘style’. I suspect you can already tell which one this fall into!

I get the concept of local pride and appreciate small distilleries taking a gamble to venture into whisky making. However not all offerings work for all palates.

wild-brennerei.de

What more do we know? The folks at Black Forest shared they use summer barley, dried under a peat fire, double distilled and then age for 6 years in three different (unspecified) barrels.

Rough translation of their tasting notes:

  • Smell: Salty, light aromas of iodine, subtle peat notes, nuances of smoke and seaweed, slightly fruity
  • Taste: Very soft, strong body, a lot fo character, slight sweetness, caramel, nutty
  • Finish: Long smokey aftertaste, lots of body and powerful finish without losing finesse

As for what it would set you back, should this appeal to you, Eur 40 for 500ml.

Chalk this one up to the category of “you don’t know til you try…”

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St Kilian Signature ‘One’ Bourbon, Rum, Sherry, Bourbon, Chestnut 45%

The “First Drops” of a new distillery are always exciting though sometimes shaky. There is always the temptation to get your inaugural batch “out” yet also it may take a few experiments til you hit your stride.

What about Germany’s St Kilian Distillery? For their 1st batch, they went bold with 18,500 bottles. My first bottle was a treat from the fabulous “Whisky und Frauen” from our time together at The Village – whisky festival in Nurnberg in Feb 2020.

I knew that this was one to share with friends in India. The perfect opportunity arose late October 2021 however whilst the bottle could make its way to Mumbai, I could not. The perfect solution came in acquiring a 2nd bottle for myself in Germany – which is thankfully is still available!

With the “One”, St Kilian describes it as a whisky which is fruit-sweet with notes of tropical fruits and vanilla, matured in an individual composition of excellent barrels (five in total – more on that later!).

And what did we discover in our wee “hybrid” virtual / physical tasting bringing together Nurnberg and Mumbai?

St Kilian Signature Edition ‘One’ (2016/2019) 45% 

  • Colour – Bright caramel
  • Nose – First a bit acetone and sharp, then quickly shifted to heavy honey, Williams pear, mashed bananas, rum and caramel, malt, roasted apple and a touch of fresh grass
  • Palate – Initially a bit sharp, then delicious… Sweet, spice… went down easily, imminently easy to drink. The pear we found on the nose was initially lost on the palate
  • Finish – Wood and malty

We found it tasty and an interesting 1st venture…  as we considered it further we decided to see the impact of a dash of water.

Our conclusion? Well worth  trying that way! It brought balance, fruitier with the wood elements even more pronounced. The finish was even spicier – in a good way.

Overall we quite enjoyed it with water – made it more accessible without diluting the interesting elements – particularly the aromas.

What more do we know? Well the good folks at St Kilian are open about their recipe:

  • 37% ex Bourbon
  • 37% ex Martinique Rum
  • 18% ex PX Sherry
  • 5% Chestnut
  • 3% ex-Bourbon quarter cask

We found the experimentation with different casks worked – particularly after adding a bit of water which brought the influence of each distinct cask into balance.

Here are the official tasting notes:

  • GERUCH Süße Fruchtnoten von Birne, karamellisiertem Apfel und Mango mit sanften Aromen von Malz und Sahnebonbons
  • GESCHMACK Weich und mild-fruchtig, dann eine ausgewogene Würze und ein malziger Abschluss

With a rough translation:

  • Nose – Sweet fruit notes of pear, caramelized apples and mango with gentle aromas of malt and cream candy
  • Taste – Soft and mildly fruity, then a balanced spice and malty finish

An excellent start to our evening exploring whiskies from St Kilian!

What else did I include in my wee St Kilian quartet?

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St Kilian Signature Edition One, Four, Six and Seven

A year ago I was supposed to be en route to St Kilian distillery for a weekend of discovery. When the plan was set-up it was at a time when optimistically we thought the worst was behind us and it would be possible to bring together a collection of whisky appreciators, vloggers and bloggers from around Germany.

Alas plans had to be changed to an online event which I unfortunately missed. However undeterred, I thought to create an evening of exploration myself – ordering the “Four” and “Six” to join my “One” from the Messe whisky festival. These bottles made their way to Berlin then London then Mumbai. In the meantime, I ordered another set – this time adding the “Seven” to round out the collection, with samples sent to Paris for another tasting company.

The date was set and we were primed to explore what St Kilian has to offer.

St Kilian is approx 1 hour drive from Frankfurt in Rüdenau and has been in operation for approx 6 years. Their inspiration is clearly Scotland – using pot stills – hence their pot still styled whisky bottles. They use both German and Scottish barley and play around with approx 200 different types of casks – not just your typical Oak but Chestnut as well.

The black labels are for the non-peated line and the white labels use peat. All but “Four” is currently out of stock direct from the distillery however I was able to find them from a German distributor.

As for who are the folks behind this distillery? The founder is Andreas (Andi) Thümmler partnered with Irish Master Distiller David F. Hynes, joined by Master Distiller Mario Rudolf. The distillery was built on an old factory site (Meixner textile dye)  with a ‘mere’ Euro 15 million.

I’m curious to see how their expressions and explorations evolve… particularly the unpeated ones!

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