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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Finally… an Amrut that made me go “Wow!”

It is one of those ironies that the best whiskies produced in India are not available in India. The complexities of getting permissions for each state, distribution challenges, restrictions on alcohol percentages by state for Indian made spirits, and locally acceptable price points are all barriers to bringing quality locally produced whiskies to the locals.

However it is a shame that much of what has made the world of whisky pay attention to Amrut is simply not available in India.

This sample shared by Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula was no exception. Made purely for distribution in Taiwan, the only reason it made it back into the country was as part of the Malt Maniac global independent award tasting competition.

Photo: Whisky Auctioneer

Photo: Whisky Auctioneer

Amrut 5 year (May 2010/Jun 2015) 56.5% Cask No 3823 Olorosso Sherry for Taiwan Bottle 1/600

  • Nose – Musty, sweet, very vibrant, the dusty quality is actually what makes it interesting, there are many layers – spices like cinnamon, cloves then sterile notes, pickles, dried currents, some oils, a dash of salt, the ‘khatta‘ quality of tamarind
  • Palate – Big thick raisins, spice kick, sugar-coated chillies, marshmellows
  • Finish – Sweet liquorice

The beautiful thing about this is the layers, sherry but not too much sherry… there is a brightness to it that contrasts with the heavy rich flavours. Even re-reading through my notes, it doesn’t sound like it should work but it does.

I hope more such Amrut’s wander their way to me.. this is certainly one I would have liked to spend more time enjoying.

Other Amrut’s sampled include:

Other whiskies sampled that evening with Krishna included:

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Whiskies shared… India’s own Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula

Each year Krishna Nakula makes his pilgrimage to Mumbai to battle with customs to get his annual Malt Maniacs samples into India.

Occasionally when he makes these trips, he brings a few remaining drops from previous years to enjoy with special folks.

Last year he generously introduced me to the gorgeous Glendronach grand dames and a stunning rare Karuizawa.

This year, he simply outdid himself, sharing from the 2015 collection:

All of these whiskies were a treat! And go to show that with a good whisky, even just a few drops can say a lot…

20151121_Rare Malts

Other whiskies sampled with Krishna:

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Ladies Choice – Paul John Single Cask #1844 60.5%

Next up in our Ladies Choice evening was India’s Paul John Single Cask #1844, bottled at full cask strength of 60.5%.

Fellow Canadian Paula McGlynn returns as our guest whisky reviewer…

Guest Post by Paula McGlynn

Guest Post by Paula McGlynn

Based in Mumbai, Paula is an actress – including a Marathi film –  film-maker with her partner (Gulbadan Talkies), producer of the Bharatiya Digital Party‘s irreverent web series “Casting Couch” and script writer.

She’s the kind of lass that will track down a new whisky experiment  from Canada or the US, take an hour off from shooting in Goa to zip over to Paul John to collect a coveted bottle of Peated or pop into WhiskyLive when in South Africa… just because… whisky!

Here is what Paula has to say about the Paul John Single Cask #1844 60.1%…

The whisky ladies and I have come to associate Paul John whiskies with a distinct character, from the Peated Select Cask (my favourite), to the Bold and Edited expressions available in India. Paul John has quickly become a great staple whisky to keep stocked in the liquor cabinet if you want to impress your friends with high quality Indian whisky.

However, on the first try of Cask #1844 most of us were bowled over by the distinct caramel sweetness and had trouble finding complexity underneath. Partly because of the high alcohol level (60.5%), we all had a similar struggle finding new notes on the tongue. However, a generous helping of water helped bring out a few more notes.

  • Photo: Paula McGlynn

    Photo: Paula McGlynn

    Nose – Very sweet nose, vanilla, caramel, deep fried banana (a favourite element in Paul John whiskies for me)

  • Palate – Very dry, sweet, caramel
  • Finish – Smooth and then disappears, star anise
  • 5 drops of water – Added spice to the nose, rounder sweetness and a creamy feel added to palate
  • 10 drops of water – Added the slightest hint of coconut, some of us were getting some pear on the palate
  • Later – Star anise on the nose too

Overall: Nondescript sweetness, pleasing and non offensive if water is added to counteract the alcoholic dryness. However I personally found the 1st batch of the Select Peated to be my favourite PJ of all time, and wished #1844 could have lived up to my expectations.

I think this particular cask contained the pure sweetness that is a favourite component of Paul John malt blends. Although not very complex, the flavour notes presented are unique to the fruity Goan feel of Paul John whisky and it was interesting to have them in a cask strength dram.

This particular cask is available through a Danish distributor – Juul’s – who have this to say about the expression:

  • Color: Flower honey.
  • Aroma: Roasted oak, milk chocolate, pepper, apricot yogurt. The fragrance opens with the addition of a few drops of water, and is shades of orange peel, toasted muesli and peppermint.
  • Taste: At full cask strength, with an intense caramel taste explosion. The taste is drier than the aroma suggests with notes of burnt sugar, mint, malt and apricot.

What else did we sample in our “Ladies Choice” evening for the BMC gentlemen?

For more related updates and activities, check out: