Whisky Tales – Sild “Crannog” 3 Year Single Malt 48%

On one of many trips to Munich, I wandered into Tara Whisky Shop on a mission to find something distinctive – preferably at least one whisky from Germany.

When the Sild “Crannog” edition single malt was suggested, it had the hallmark of a gimmick… new make spirit from Slyrs, matured in barrels stored on a clipper “Angel’s Share”, but would it actually be any good?

And that’s when I was given a sample and was surprised… not bad… not bad at all. And so impulsively I picked it up and have no regrets!

In this case, the story has a few layers…  According to their website, 60 years ago, Rainer Heiliger, a wine dealer, purchased the production site of the Holsten-Brewery in Westerland, Bötticher Street 7 on Sylt to store his fine wines. Then along came Alexander Sievers, son-in-law and current owner of the Heiliger wine shop, is a passionate whiskey connoisseur. An encounter with Floria Stetter, founder of the Slyrs distillery, joined by Anton Stetter, co-owner of Slyrs, and Hans Kemenater, a master distiller from Bavaria led to the creation of the SILD brand.

It turns out that storage space for the whiskey casks was expensive on the island. The solution? As Alexander Sievers shared If we can’t store it on land, we’ll just have to store them on the water. We need a ship where we can store our whiskey on”.
The historic cutter “The Angel’s Share” was acquired, restored and made seaworthy, anchored in List, with its cargo of whisky.

Stories aside, what did we think of the whisky?

Sild “Crannog” 3 year Single Malt 48%

  • Colour – Dark honey
  • Nose – Caramel sweet and salty popcorn, havan smoke, cherries, plums, simply delicious, a hint of tobacco leaves
  • Palate – Spice, initially sharp, some brine, a bit oily, sweet spice, had real substance and terrific character, growing more enjoyable sip by sip
  • Finish – Definitely there, smooth, sweet with the warmth remaining, ending with a bit of copper or metallic note
  • Water – We wouldn’t recommend… while it makes it fruitier, spicier it somehow loses something too

Overall we were rather impressed. For many, this was the favourite of the evening. It reminded us of settling into a comfortable leather chair… or a shipwreck whisky, washed ashore…

Another thought it channeled the spirit of “Ernest Hemingway” with his iceberg style, understated yet adventurous.

We set it aside and revisited to discover a delicious banana split parfait, loads of fruits… yum!

There was no doubt this was a whisky worth trying, kicking back to enjoy!

And what do the folks over at Sild have to say?

An absolute rarity, the CRANNOG edition from the SILD distillery is the only whiskey worldwide that is stored at sea on board of a ship – “The Angel’s Share”. 2700 entire bottles will be produced. It’s a sought-after collector’s item for international whiskey enthusiasts.

But why store it at sea? For the simple reason that it gives the whiskey a unique taste. SILD Crannog undergoes an incomparable ageing process like no other whiskey. The natural course of the tides, the continuous and gentle rocking of the waves, but also the brute force of the swell during storms, shape the taste of the SILD Crannog. Even inside the port, the sea can get so rough during strong east winds that not even experienced captains will head into port during a storm. Add to that the salty sea air and the varying temperature conditions over the course of three years. Such development gives the Crannog an enormous range in flavor: strong, peppery, and pleasantly salty with a full-bodied taste of malt. In the glass, it shines like dark amber and has a spicy, sweetish and slightly smoky aroma.

  • Appearance: deep amber
  • Aroma: smoky – leathery, light vanilla notes, malty, cool – salty, iodine, seaweed, white pepper, appears light in the nose and yet complex
  • Taste: creamy soft and round, salty in the mouth, iodine and a sea breeze, distinct malt character, interesting play of sweetness, saltiness and spicy
  • Finish: in the finish very long and complex

I purchased this whisky at Tara Whisky Store, Munich in December 2018 for EUR 90 plus tax, however can now only find it on auction sites for EUR 170.

What else did we sample in our evening of Whisky Tales?

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Bavarian Bounty – Slyrs, SILD, Aureum, Finch

Normally you would only hear about a whisky from me AFTER it has been tasted. However  with my recent jaunts to Munich, I’ve gathered a few German whiskies yet confess I know very little about the industry there…

What surprised me most in this recent Munich visit was just how many German brands putting out “single malts”. Even more remarkable to learn there are approx 23 distilleries producing some variation of “whisky”… No wonder I saw distilleries like “Stork”, St Kilian, Höhler, Hammerschmiede with The Glen Els as just a few vying for space with Slyrs.

So decided to do a little “Pre-Cursor” post to explore a bit more about the whiskies I did pick up… call it an appetizer before the tastings to come…

Slyrs is the best known Bavarian single malt. While the first whisky was distilled using stills from the traditional Lantenhammer distillery in 1999, by 2007 Slyrs whisky had a new home at a newly erected distillery in Neuhaus. From there I have sitting in my cupboard 3 whiskies:

What else did I pick up?

  • From Ziegler distillery, I picked the “basic” Aureum Single Malt 43% rather than their experiments maturing in Chestnut barrels, guitar wood in barrels, ex plum brandy or cognac barrels.
  • And from Finch, their Finch Classic 40% which is matured for 5-6 years in ex Bourbon then  wine casks.

We’ve had quite a few European whiskies over the years, here are a few German ones we’ve managed to sample:

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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 Explorations – Germany’s DeCavo 46%

In my trip to Munich in November 2017, I happened upon a speciality spirit shop. As usual, a lively conversation about different whisky distilleries ensued. However I had a very specific quest – to try and find  something I could not buy anywhere else.

DeCavo fit the bill perfectly. Now the challenge is that the very thing that makes an unusual  whisky so interesting… also means further details can be elusive.

What I could find out is that DeCavo is from the Brandenburg specialty distillery based in Hagen with the name inspired by their practice of storing barrels in a cave (Dechenhöhle) for maturation… hence it is called “German cave whisky”…

That being said, it isn’t clear whether the bottle I acquired is a malt spirit or old enough to be called whisky. What can be misleading is you can have a “single malt” that is still a spirit i.e. under 3 years and hence not yet what those  in Scotland and Europe would call “whisky.”

Above all… what matters most to us is what did we think?

DeCavo Handcrafted Single Malt Batch 10, Cask 92 46%

  • Nose – Yum! Banana – to be more precise cooked and caramelized banana crepe, bubblegum, berries, banofee pie, cinnamon candy… after some time  unmistakable coconut like Malibu rum! Or that Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion… Kept shifting into a bit of bay leaf, worm wood, vanilla… and even rum with Christmas pudding notes. Delicious nose!
  • Palate – Striped candy, toffee, wood, there was some substance here not just frothy sweet, almost like a quality liqueur, creamier on the palate with a lightly toasted element
  • Finish – Tight, hints of licorice
  • Water – Brings out the spice, reveals a musty slightly bitter finish

There was absolutely no doubt this was the surprise of the evening! And an absolute delight. I don’t think anyone imagined how much we would enjoy this German dram. It was truly exceedingly tasty and what an interesting inviting nose!

So I dug around to find out more and found out the following:

Jim Murray not only helped us fill the first barrel, but also tested our DeCavo Hand Crafted Single Malt and added it to the whiskey Bible. We are looking forward to an outstanding 91 out of 100 points. Together with an indication of the impressive quality of the distillate, which has already been ripened for several months, and the explanation that he can hardly wait to be able to rate it as whiskey in two years. He describes the taste of the DeCavo Hand Crafted Single Malt as a citrus-toning, attractive, oily, juicy, malty and “smacking delicious”. In addition, he points out that bottlings with such a high score fall into his personal category “brilliant”.

  • Color: light copper
  • Nose: milk chocolate, vanilla and caramel as with crème brûlée, nutty, dried fruit, some marzipan
  • Taste: Vanilla, caramel, nutty, dried apple, fresh pastries

This bottle was purchased at Wien Laden in Munich in November 2017.

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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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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European Tour – Slyrs 51 NAS 51%

Last in our Whisky Ladies European tour was a surprise bonus whisky from Germany!

The genesis of Slyrs distillery was apparently a bet for a crate of Bavarian wheat beer. After more than a few whiskies shared somewhere in the Speyside region of Scotland, Florian Stetter (former Master Distiller of Lantenhammer Distillery) bet that he would create a Bavarian whisky. Distilling since 1999, the 1st whisky was launched in 2002 and remains in full production in Neuhaus, now under the management of Florian’s brother Anton Stetter.

The name “Slyrs 51” literally refers to the alcohol strength of this expression – bottled at 51%. Launched in October 2015, Slyrs 51 is considered as the “big brother” of their single malts.

This bottle was sourced by a new Whisky Ladies of Mumbai member from her trip to Bavaria and may be difficult to obtain outside of Germany.

And what did we think? Read on…

2016-06-28 Slyrs 51

Slyrs 51 NAS (Lot 3453) 51%

  • Colour – Rich amber
  • Nose – Musty, quite bold yet oddly soft, sweet, sense of being quite syrupy, a bit of banana, hint of spicy chocolate
  • Palate – Much more powerful than nose indicated.. initially quite intense, sweet and bitter both with the bitterness taking on increasingly a nutty quality, some spices, then begins to settle in and becomes buttery
  • Finish – Banana walnut bitter
  • Water – Cries out for a generous dollop of water… No delicate drops will do here! And with water? Out came a yummy caramel aroma and once the spice settled, enveloped our Whisky Ladies with a warm sweetly bitter dram.

Of all the four European whiskies, this was the most direct and ‘in your face’. The very literal approach to the name was a fairly good indication that there would be few flourishes and flounces, just a solid linear whisky with strength.

Slyrs 51 is apparently made from malt from northern Bavaria, using a longer fermentation process, casking at a lower strength and matured in a mix of new American oak and ex sherry port and sauternes casks.

Here’s what the folks over at Slyrs have to say about their whisky (roughly translated).

  • Colour: Golden brown
  • Odour: Strong dark wood and malted barley
  • Taste: Full-bodied, malty-aromatic, complex aromas reminiscent of vanilla and hay
  • Finish: Long and intense, spicy notes

For more information, check out this article in WhiskyConnosr: Slyrs – Whisky’s best kept secret by Dominic Roskrow

There is also a interesting review by Benedikt Luening on Whisky.com: Slyrs 51.

Other whiskies sampled during our European tour included:

Overall we closed the evening feeling rather privileged to enjoy four such distinctive European whiskies during a Mumbai monsoon!

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Whisky Ladies European Tour – Teerenpeli, Danica, Kornog + Slyrs

In the wake of the Brexit vote, the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai decided to go on a European whisky tour featuring:

2016-06-28 European Tour

The Teerenpeli Finnish whisky was a recent acquisition from my trip to London – recommended by the folks over at the Whisky Exchange and a rather fine addition to our evening.

The Brauntstein Danica‘s was snagged as the only Danish whisky available at Copenhagen airport!

The Kornog from France has been eagerly awaited! Special request ordered by one of our whisky lady’s prompted by my curiosity after sampling a cask strength version.

A complete bonus on announcing June’s theme was the addition of a 4th European whisky from Bavaria, Germany. I mean, who else in Mumbai other than a “Whisky Lady” just so happens to have a bottle of Slyrs 51 sitting in their whisky cabinet??

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