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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Sherry Element – Amrut Intermediate Sherry 57.1%

Next up in our Sherry Elements evening was a complete surprise – An Amrut Intermediate Sherry, part of their core line-up purchased by our host around 7 years earlier.

We sampled it completely blind, with the reveal shared only after sampling all whiskies in the evening.

Amrut Intermediate Sherry 57.1%

  • Colour – It initially struck us incredible – a deep ruby, exceptionally dark. Could it be real? It seemed impossible, til we started to really get into the whisky and then it didn’t seem so improbable after all
  • Nose – Initial sniff was sharp, medicinal dispensary, came across as having high alcohol, homeopathic sulfur, then began to open up… banana, tropical fruits, caramel, a children’s sweet chewable multi-vitamin, lemon hint, the aromas just kept dancing around… needing time to settle…. then prunes, gave a sense of being oily, perhaps some spice… going through several cycles, including tobacco, burnt matches, cocoa, juicy plums, opening up more to reveal different dimensions. After sipping, the aromas revealed clear sherry, peppers
  • Palate – At first quite intense, bitter, sour then Wow! Raisins, cocoa, a clear stamp of “Now this is a whisky!” Sharp, bitter but balanced. Then shifted into orange and chilli chocolate. With a lovely mouthfeel, fabulous balance.
  • Finish – Long, starts like bitter chocolate and ends with sweet
  • Water – We decided this one could have a few generous drops of water…So smooth! The Diwali explosion  of flavours were softened yet retained its full character. Became even sweeter, almost floral, a crisp dosa smell, then more like crepes with the orange really popping out.

It was in many ways a complete chameleon… Hard to pin down, needed time to open up. We thought it could make a marvellous cigar malt – holding its own and pairing well. The nose and  palate were beautifully matched. It was clearly an interesting whisky, complex, the kind where a little goes a long way. A few in the room pronounced it “Stunning.”

And when it was revealed? Amazement. To put it mildly, what we had otherwise sampled of its core line available in India… let’s just say we’d be underwhelmed. Whereas this was a fabulous dram. Leading talk to frustration with the inconsistency of our Amrut experiences. This one was without a doubt a ‘keeper’…

What do the folks over at Amrut have to say?

  • Nose : Instead of the usual biscuit aroma, we now get moist cake. And my word: is it fruity and spicy!! Love the freshly waxed oak floor, too. Brain-explodingly complex and multi-layered with one of the most intriguing sherry-style-bourbon-style marriages on the market
  • Taste : Cracking delivery and entirely unique in form. The structure is decidedly oak-based, but acts as no more than a skeleton from which the juicy sultana and spices drape. Salivating, too, as the barley kicks in powerfully. But the liquorice-orangey-honeycomb bourbon theme quietly shapes the flavour profile; the spices pulse and glow
  • Finish : Quite a chunk of natural caramel quietens the more exuberant characteristics; long and elegant

What did we sample in our “Sherry Elements” evening?

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Sherry Elements – Oban, Amrut, Kilkerran

As a whisky tasting group, we’ve sampled many a sherry matured cask over the years.. however we have not had an evening dedicated to different elements of sherry… until one fine evening in November 2017.

What did we sample?

And what made each of these distinctive?

1st off the Oban was not your standard familiar friend – the 14 year – no siree! It was instead a 15 year limited edition initially matured in an ex-bourcon cask then a Montilla Fino Cask.

Next up was an Amrut Intermediate Sherry purchased some 7 odd years ago and carefully kept. Again a combination of bourbon and sherry… with quite a complex and different character than the Oban.

And the Kilkerran? The Campbeltown offering was again Sherry wood… with a peaty element too.

None were full force sherry, each had a unique dimension, making our evening a most enjoyable exploration. All had been carefully collected over years by our host… none can be readily obtained today… of if you do, likely not quite the same as what we sampled.

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Wine makers making whisky? Sula’s Eclipse 42.8%

I’ll start off with a caveat… I’m not terribly familiar with Indian blended whiskies. Sure I may know the standards names, but their flavour profile? Why people enjoy what they do? Completely utterly inadequately explored!

So when a bottle of Sula‘s experiment into artisan spirits and more specifically Indian blended whiskies just so happened to be available for sample, thought why not?

Eclipse Premium Whisky 42.8%

  • Nose – Decidedly ‘winey’, with a musty quality and quite nondescript nose
  • Palate – Very weak and watered down seeming, yet easy on the palate… one even went so far as to call it ’rounded’ whereas another called it a ‘weak Long Island iced tea’. For some there was a bit of a funky quality. Most were able to discern a bit of bitter Nescafe style instant coffee and walnut
  • Finish – Was there one? It honestly didn’t register

Overall none of our tasting group would voluntarily go out to buy it. But then again, none of this club would ordinarily buy an Indian blended whisky either.

What do we know about it? Apparently it is a blend of 62% grain spirit, 10% malt Scotch, 20% grape spirit and 8% peated malt spirit. Which would seem to tip it more into the category of a hybrid than whisky per se.

And what do the folks at Sula have to say?

Whisky with a twist. Smooth twist and a hint of sweetness aged in French Limousin oak cask, first double distilled grape spirit, “cognac cask aged” from the House of Sula.

I wonder if the twist refers to its absurd top. You kinda twist/pop it up to pour then somehow get it back to its original position. Supposedly this helps make it tamper proof as we also know spurious liquor is rampant in India.

And what would a bottle of Eclipse set you back? Well the Indian MRP is from INR 750 to INR 1,540 (approximately $12-25), depending on which state in India you buy it.

Interested in reading about more Indian whiskies? Go to the India section, with one other blend tasted – Amrut’s MaQintosh.

What else did we sample in our Single Grain Trio with Indian Whiskies Duo evening?

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Exploring Aged Grain Whiskies – Girvan, Strathclyde + Invergordon

Once upon a time if you had asked me to characterize our Bombay Malt & Cigar club, I would have said it was a set of gentlemen in pursuit of the finer things in life. In terms of their preferences – quality older Scottish single malts would be the ONLY whiskies to make the cut.

Fast forward to find we’ve come a long way… we’ve explored a Westland trio from the US, undisclosed distilleries, blends, bar night fare, proving these gents aren’t so stuffy after all!

So when our August 2017 session featured a trio of single grains followed by a duo of Indian whiskies… we knew we may not be in for the BEST whiskies but we were game to try some DIFFERENT drams.

Single Grain Trio:

Indian whiskies duo:

Would any of these whiskies be ones any of us would want to run out and buy? No. But was it worth spending a bit of time trying? Absolutely!

For our tasting notes, read on over the next few days…

This session also happened to be our annual partner’s night… A chance for our better halves to enjoy an evening, jointly socializing after the ‘serious business’ of whisky tasting concludes and desultory puffing on cigars with conversation commenced.

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Raising a toast to India – with whisky!

Today is India’s Independence Day… This remarkable sometimes maddening country I’m fortunate to call home.

And what better way to celebrate its birth than raising a virtual ‘toast’ with a dram from India’s single malt distillery – Paul John.

Here’s to you India!

Wall of whiskies!

Paul John whiskies :

Paul John Experiences:

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Another Indian single malt – Rampur 43%

It is one of those strange ironies that being able to BUY in India an Indian single malt produced in India is actually difficult.

Rampur Single Malt is from Radico Khaitan distillery in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, India. The distillery itself dates back to the 1940s, however this is their first single malt. Touted as the ‘Kohinoor of Single Malts’.

This particular bottle was purchased in the US. We sampled it blind – freshly opened.

Rampur (06/2016) Batch 383 43%

  • Nose – Banana, spice, sweet lemon, peaches, nectarines, jackfruit, summer fresh with juicy fruits, cashew fruit, mandarin orange canned segments, honey sugar drops… if covered for a bit lost some of the fruitiness and took on a young wood quality, then as aired more… melon toffee, light perfume, cashew feni
  • Palate – Green capsicum, a bit of spice, not at all bitter yet also no body, no complaints per se but nothing wonderful either
  • Finish – Spice, bitter, a sense of being quite green or young
  • Water – Just makes it sweeter with a bit of spice – adds nothing

Our speculation ran rife – the nose was initially quite lovely but by contrast the palate disappointing. Discussion turned to how this is characteristic of some young whiskies that are bursting with fruit aromas but haven’t yet spent enough time in the cask for it to shift to more complex notes or have any staying power. We all felt this whisky had promise but just needed to spend more time maturing.

We also speculated that this may be one of those whiskies that do not keep well… some more powerful peaty and even sherry bombs seem to mellow out with a little oxidation, revealing more nuanced characters. Others, again tending to be younger or more delicate drams can lose the very quality that makes them interesting if spend too much time oxidation in a bottle.

We could not specifically identify its origin – just that it was neither Scottish nor Japanese and not typically American either.

With the reveal, we were terribly impressed out host managed to track down a bottle as we’d been coveting an opportunity to try it since launch.

In all we pronounced it a “Good early attempt.” 

At the end of the evening, we returned to see how it fared with an hour or so open… there was a lovely toasted coconut on the nose, a coffee bitter on the palate yet overall it was a ‘mono-dimensional’ whisky… lacking the nuanced complexity we ideally seek in a dram.

Who knows, perhaps future editions with a bit more patience will reveal further characteristics. And certainly this is an entirely respectable early effort and nothing to dent desi pride in yet another home grown single malt.

PS Our ever so kind host donated the remainder, so it was re-sampled Aug 2017 as part of a Single Grain Trio and Desi Duo. What did the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents think?

  • Nose – Saffron, sweet, full ripe oranges, that Middle Eastern orange water, nuts, baklava, very sugary and back to a sweetened orange reduction
  • Palate – Cherries, mixed fruits, stewed plums and grapes. Overall quite accessible
  • Finish – Limited finish but quite bitter, in an oddly artificial way, with the bitter aftertaste staying… not entirely pleasantly

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What a range! Rampur, Royal Lochnagar, Girvan 28 year

What a range! From Rampur, Uttar Pradesh to nearby Balmoral Castle to a unique aged grain Girvan, our original Mumbai tasting group had quite the June session.

Here is what we we explored:

Our main sampling was followed with a bonus…

Just click on the links above to read more…

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Of all the gin joints… Native Brews early experiments

Whisky Lady in India is all about exploring the world of whisky, one dram at a time, with friends and solo adventures too.

However there are reasons rules should be broken every once and a while to spice things up.

And that’s exactly what the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai decided to do one February Sunday.

The venue was perfect… a desultory sunset overlooking the Arabian sea.

The slight chill that comes with a Bombay winter replaced by the growing heat… not quite scorching by day but inching upwards… enough to appreciate the wind off the waters and something a little cool to whet your whistle…

We began with a quick lesson on gin’s standard botanicals with an opportunity to take a whiff of the core ones, neatly packaged by our host and master alchemist – Susan Dias of Native Brews:

  • Juniper berries (Juniperus communis)
  • Coriander seeds
  • Angelica root and/or angelica seed
  • Lemon and/or orange peel
  • Coriander
  • Orris root
  • Cassia
  • Nutmeg
  • Black peppercorn
  • Cinnamon

Then came the real fun! An opportunity to try her new gin experiments…

#1 Gin “Sweet Delight” 42% 

  • Classic nose
  • Citrus on the palate with lemon peel, very sweet, coriander and pepper
  • After taste had spice, slightly bitter

Pairs well with guava, green mango

#2 Gin “Pushing the peppers” 42.8%

  • Lots of spices on the nose, particularly pepper
  • More coriander
  • Finishes with lots of wet peppery fennel

Reminds of Indian salami or… don’t laugh one even said  Axe body spray!

#3 Gin “Classic Style” 47%

  • All the elements pop out – distinct yet married well together
  • Just a hint more bitter than the others with a punchy finish spice

We closed our tasting with a chilled shot of “Mahua” a desi flower native to Maharashtra used to make a country liquor popular with the tribal community. Alas the restrictions and complications of India’s archaic liquor laws means you won’t see it on your shelves anytime soon…

Naturally our evening progressed from sampling to a sociable rather tasty Gin & Tonic made with the 3rd gin which worked perfectly!

Other gin explorations include:

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Whisky Live Singapore – Amrut

Whisky Live Singapore had many wonderful highlights! Some terrific discoveries, great opportunities to revisit familiar whiskies in a distillery progression, chance to meet some wonderful new folks part of the whisky fabric, passionate about the art and craft of producing quality whiskies for our enjoyment.

However there were some disappointments. Alas Amrut was one.

Let me be clear – I’m delighted Amrut have grabbed global attention and put India on the whisky map. Heck this blogs all time top ‘hits’ whisky post is about – believe it or not – Amrut’s MaQintosh whisky!

However my direct personal experiences have largely been wanting.

The evening with Jim Murray was rather mixed.

The lack of access in India to their niche releases garnering international attention is frustrating.

Only in Singapore did I have a chance to try the Fusion 50% and admit – yes it is better than what we’ve tried in India. Even the unique Spectrum which, while very interesting, isn’t my kind of whisky.

Only recently courtesy of Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula did I finally meet an Amrut whisky that I genuinely was impressed with… and it was a sample from a limited edition, only for the Taiwan market whisky.

Seeing Amrut was part of Whisky Live Singapore, I hoped for something special to make its way to the event. A chance to finally properly see more of what is getting the whisky world excited.

Nope.

The standards.

And worse?

2016-11-13-amrut

The entire two days of the event their booth was mostly empty, the people staffing it seemed completely bored and totally disinterested in being there.

One had to wonder – really – what a missed opportunity!

Let me re-iterate, I want to be a well wisher. Yet not with this experience…

Other Amrut experiences:

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