Writers Tears 2013 Cask Strength 53%

While I was off jaunting around North America and UAE, my fellow Mumbaikers were exploring whiskies… This is a guest post by Nikkhil, a member of our original Mumbai whisky club.
Pour 1: Writers Tears 2013 Cask Strength 53%
  • Nose: Citrus, lemon/lime hit which quickly faded into some mild honey followed by some baked/toasted cereal grain notes – think Marie biscuit. Then suddenly it turned solventy. The nose kept changing rapidly. Some odd notes of pressure cooker boiled peanuts. Hints of green apple. Overall very temperamental. And the initial citrus hit never returned. 
  • Palate: A swift uppercut! Hot but strangely not raw. Young and rather thin on the palate. We did speculate on this being a high strength bottling. Again just like the nose the heat faded quickly! Very little mouthfeel. Volatile. Bitter cereals, tannic and spirit driven. A very muted development. With water it turned more bitter. Some faint banana and herbal notes. We couldn’t quite place this spirit either in terms of its flavour profile or geography.
  • Finish: There was none! We were all unanimous on that.
Reveal: We were quite surprised (in disbelief) and those in the know of this brand were even more so. One member was disappointed as he had highly recommended it based on his previous encounter with Writers Tears in Glasgow. Another member was equally perplexed as this was high up on his wishlist having been recommended by an Irish whiskey aficionado.There was not a hint of the “pot still” character even though it claims to be a vatting of Irish single malt and Irish pot still.
In my experience Irish whiskies always start spirit driven and solventy and benefit immensely given some time in the glass. Could it be the same with this one? Did we sample it too quickly? Perhaps I should have poured one more, let it rest and then revisited it.
The discussion then turned to provenance or rather the lack of it when it comes to newer Irish whiskey with many NDPs (non distiller producer) sourcing the bulk of their matured stock from Cooleys and Middleton.
Official notes: 
 
  • Nose: Flashes of apple with hints of vanilla and honey over a distinctively Irish Pot Still base
  • Taste: Gently spiced with a burst of ginger and butterscotch with background notes of toasted oak
  • Finish: Long, elegant finish with subtle notes of milk chocolate and almonds

Writers Tears whiskies are a combination of unspecified Irish pot still and Irish single malt, triple distilled and aged in ex-bourbon casks.

This bottle was sampled blind, opened in September 2017 in Mumbai for this tasting. It can be found online at the Celtic Whisky Shop for €150.00.

The 2014 edition all appears to be sold out/discontinued on Master of Malt, however The Whisky Exchange still has the 2015 (2100 bottles at $151)  & 2016 (2640 bottles at $151) available. 

This may be a cask where variation between the years makes a difference. What was stellar one year becomes merely average another year or – gasp! – even a disappointment.

Whiskies sampled in September 2017 by our original club included:

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September Samplings – Writers Tears, Springbank Burgundy + 12 year Cask Strength

It has been a long time since I missed one of our original club’s whisky tasting evenings. It is because of this dedicated group that I even started writing about whisky – initially just to chronicle our monthly tastings. However it simply could not be helped…

Stepping into the breech was a newer member who volunteered to document the impressions and discussions. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Nikkhil Shirodkar.

Nikkhil heads Broadcast Technology & Operations at 9X Media – India’s largest music network.

His passion for whisky is infectious and his quest to know more impressive. Nikkhil’s whisky preferences lean towards the well balanced and nuanced styles. He is a big fan of Compass Box, Highland Park and old style whiskies like Mortlach and Lochside. On the Irish side he is a big fan of Midleton and Redbreast.

He also just so happens to be the 1st man to write a guest post for Whisky Lady in India… with tasting notes about all three whiskies sampled in September by our original club:

Check out the links above to read what Nikkhil has to say!

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Speed Tasting – Midleton Dair Ghaelach 58.2%

And now the last of our “Speed Tasting” drams, in an evening where we sampled blind five different drams with just 2-3 minutes each…

What were my hasty impressions of Dram “E”?

Midleton Dair Ghaelach Batch 1, Tree 9, Bottle 2439 58.2% 

  • Nose – Again such a shift in character from the previous whisky. This one was milky chocolate, creamy, perfume powder, banana with even a dash of coffee
  • Palate – Brash to the point of being almost harsh, spicy with a swagger, then settled into pesto… then sweet spices, even a touch of vanilla
  • Finish – Burn… spicy
  • Character & Complexity – Most variation between the different elements, like a ‘3 in 1’ whisky

This one was quite “hot” and young. It was a bit like a “3 in 1” whisky with its different dimensions.

Midleton distillery produces Jameson, with only a few official bottlings under the Midleton name.  Dair Ghaelach is a single pot still whiskey that was aged initially in refill American oak for between 15 and 22 years and then finished for a year in virgin Irish oak from a single tree.

There are different editions, so what we sampled was different than Jim Murray’s 3rd best whisky in the world for 2016 which was 58.1%, tree not specified. Whereas ours was a different batch from Tree 9 at 58.2%.

However just for kicks, let’s see what Mr Murray had to say about it:

  • Nose (23.5) – A plethora of bourbon-style liquorice and honey – though here, closer to heather honey. Polished oak floors, melt-on-the-nose grain… and so it goes on… and on… and on… An odd hybrid of Kentucky and Irish… but a thoroughbred of course…
  • Taste (25) – That is probably one of the greatest deliveries of the year. Absolutely abounds in pot-still character, both being hard as nails and soft as a virgin’s kiss. But the way it interacts with the ulmo honey/red liquorice/heather-honey-vanilla/embracing grain is something of a once in a lifetime experience. And what’s more, barely a hint of spice throughout…
  • Finish (24) – Just long, gorgeously silky and soft and a delicious furtherance of a spellbinding flavour compounds of before…
  • Balance & overall complexity (24.5) – For heaven’s sake. This is just too ridiculously beautiful… and so unmistakably Irish for all the virgin oak. Truly world class.

What were the other whiskies “Speed Tasted“?

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Speed Tasting – Hyde No 5 Burgandy Finish 46%

Last month, we had a remarkable experience “Speed Tasting” experience and rated five different drams in just 15 minutes, giving us just a few minutes each. No discussion, just a solo activity recording our numerical assessment of aroma, palate, finish, character & complexity….

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What were my hasty impressions?

Hyde No 5 The Aras Cask 6 year old Single Grain 1860 Burgandy Finish 46%

  • Nose – For the 1st dram, came across as slightly astringent, then smoke or roasted wood, softening into sweet fruits
  • Palate – Spice, clean, fruity
  • Finish – Very spicy finish, holds but not complex
  • Character & Complexity – While not complex, it had a few interesting elements and not a bad way to start the set

The next part of our “Speeding Tasting” was a quick discussion. For one, this was his favourite of the five. Another called it a bit of a ‘dessert’  whisky.

Then the reveal… it wasn’t specifically pegged as Irish or having a Burgundy cask finish. So was clearly a surprise!

What else do we know about this whisky? Well… this instagram from Hyde provides some ideas…

Hyde Instragram

Like all the whiskies we zipped through, I’m quite confident more would be revealed with a different approach but it was a great way to quickly crystallize a few impressions in three minutes or less!

The focus on rating the whisky is something I’m inherently averse to doing and honestly lost time dithering about translating what my senses were saying into numbers! So didn’t have time to come back and revisit for a more rounded impression.

What were the other whiskies “Speed Tasted“?

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Speed Tasting Whisky

One fine monsoon weekend, a few folks decided to get together for a lighthearted whisky activity.

Keshav Prakash, of The Vault Fine Spirits, took complete charge and decided we would play a whisky game in 3 parts:

  1. Individual rating
  2. Discussion with comparisons and speculating
  3. Reveal and revisit

In front of us were 5 drams, pre-poured and covered. The rules were simple:

  • Label our rating sheets with our initials and corresponding whisky letter “A… B… C…” as per our table mat
  • Sample each whisky then rate out of 5 on its nose, palate, finish and overall character & complexity
  • Individual activity only – strictly no speaking, comparing impressions or ratings
  • 15 minutes only start to finish then pencils down! Just like in an exam…
  • Beyond that no rules – could get up and walk around, write down more than just the score, whatever worked to achieve a complete rating within the allotted time!

The clock started, the covers came off and the whisky speed dating began…

Part 1 – Speed tasting and rating 

Now… I must confess… I could not rate without documenting my impressions. Long ago I made a conscious decision to not numerically ‘rate’ whisky. So I have never ‘trained’ myself or had the ‘discipline’ of putting hard numbers next to the different elements.

So I pulled out my handy whisky tasting notebook and busily began to scribble random thoughts. That helped sharpen focus and give me enough to then make a split second assessment of each.

Part 2 – Comparing, discussing and guessing

The first question was – are all of these whiskies? Yes.

Then whether some were bourbon, most thought two were ryes… With our votes on which could possibly be which.

Talk turned to some of the different characters – one reminded of cognac cask matured whiskies. Another had peat. We took a stab at guessing some were not Scottish…

Then we shared our individual top rated dram with the overall “winner” the 4th whisky (D) as it had the most character with both sherry and peaty elements.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

Part 3 – Revealing…

This is where the real fun began… three were Jim Murray’s 2016 Whisky Bible winners, one was an Irish grain and the winner? A house blend made by accident more than design!

What a surprise and what a treat!

Click on the links above to ready my hastily scribbled notes compared with Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible or official tasting notes, where applicable.

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A trip to Teeling!

In November 2016 I was travelling and missed our original tasting group’s session. However our host stepped up to the role to ‘chronicle’ the sampling experience.

She went well beyond merely jotting down tasting notes… she visited the distillery and documented observations from there too! What follows is a blend of both for your reading pleasure…

“The Irish invented the stuff. The Scotts perfected it.”

Whiskey was first recorded in Ireland in 1405 then 1495 in Scotland. Old Bushmills Distillery claims to be the oldest (started in 1784) and Irish whiskey is most popular in the USA. Prohibition, independence war and trade disputes with Britain all impacted the Irish whiskey industry.

In 1966, there were only a handful of Irish distilleries. By the 1970s, only two – Bushmills and New Middleton. Yet now, in the last 20 years, Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing spirit in the world. There are currently 12 distilleries with more being set-up yet to release their whiskies.

Teeling was the 1st new distillery built in Ireland in the last 125 years. Its character comes from their approach:

  • Triple distilled in old copper pots making it a lighter, smoother spirit
  • The pot stills used are short, fat, large stills with a round base (thrice the size of normal copper post stills), again helping contribute to the softer character
  • No peat is used – instead wood or other fuels are used to dry the grains
  • They use both raw and malted barley and do mix other grains with it too

2016-11-13-teeling

And now to the tasting notes:

Teeling Single Grain 46%

  • Nose – Vanilla, orange, sweet
  • Taste – Sweet like SWEET (more sugary sweet), smooth, had body / oil / viscous-y, light body
  • Finish – Some thought no finish, another found it bitter

Speculation on the strength ranged from 40% to at most 43% to a lone voice suggesting 45%.

Overall conclusion was this is not a sipping drinking, but a drinking whisky. While it lacks complexity and body, if someone served “I would enjoy it!”

This whisky is matured in California red wine barrels and known for its spice, red berries, grapes, with a dry, woody, spicy finish.

Teeling Single Malt 46%

  • Nose – Light – like a fast car that doesn’t even attempt to promise body, citrusy, mild dry fruits, honey water and figs in water
  • Taste – Spice, sweet but not as sugary sweet as the 1st one – instead more dates and raisins, fruit chocolate sweet, one found the lemony quality on the nose extended to the taste too. Fills the mouth a bit
  • Finish – No comments

One shared he certainly preferred this to the 1st whisky as had more character.

The Single Malt is from 100% malted barley of different ages, typically a batting of five different wine casks – sherry, port, madeira, white burgundy, cabernet – hence the raisin, fig, toffee and dry fruit notes.

Teeling Small Batch 46%

  • Nose – Jackfruit, curdled milk (yes – that’s spoilt milk folks!)
  • Taste – Very nice, a ‘happy taste’, lots of spice notes, lemony, more body than the 2nd Teeling
  • Finish – A spice finish, and considered much “nicer” on the finish

Overall the conclusion was that none of the three sampled so far were complex.

What makes this whisky distinctive is it has further maturation in ex-rum barrels adding a vanilla spice to the whisky.

Teeling Cask Strength (02/2002 – 12/2015) Madeira Cask No 933 55.2%

  • Nose – Lemony, dry
  • Taste – Finally a complex, balanced whisky! Dry, then became buttery, spicy and back to dry, oily in the beginning then dry as simply evaporates! One found a little jasmine on the tongue.
  • Finish – Pepper spice

In reading her notes, I felt like I was there at the session… even more so it transported me back to my Whisky Live Singapore tasting with Teeling’s Single Grain, Small Batch and Single Malt.

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Whisky Live Singapore – Teeling Trio Tasting

My Whisky Live Singapore tasting experience kicked off with a decided Irish air with a trio of whiskies from Dublin’s new Teeling distillery established near Walter Teeling’s old distillery from 1782.

2016-11-13-teeling

Tasting notes are sparse as my approach was to sniff, sip and spit… then move on to the next dram. A sacrilege to many, but worked for me. Hence most of my scribbles are more impressions than proper tasting notes, providing more of a teaser of what is in store than proper evaluation.

2016-11-12-teeling-single-grain

Teeling Single Grain Wine Casks (08/2015) 46%

  • A sweet light fruity breakfast dram with a nice viscous mouthfeel, though soft has substance with a dry finish
  • The Teeling gent shared that the wine cask in question was a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon

2016-11-12-teeling-small-batch

Teeling Small Batch Rum Casks (11/2015) 46%

  • Another sweet easy going dram, vanilla spice on the nose, a bit sweet spice sour on the palate, with a finish that is there and gone
  • Matured in ex-Nicaraguan Rum barrels

2016-11-12-teeling-single-malt

Teeling Single Malt (09/2015) 46%

  • Lots of dry fruits, toffee, citrus, sweet spices, dry finish
  • A vatting of 5 wine casks – Sherry, Port, Madeira, White Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon

2016-11-12-teeling-trio

A light, sprightly start to tasting adventures…

Wanna read about more Irish whiskies? Check out:

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Whisky Archives – Oban 14 year, Deanston 12 year, The Six Isles and Yellow Spot

Another from the archives… from June 2013 and my 1st whisky post on EverydayAsia. Hope you enjoy!

Tasting Notes from 20 June 2013

Following our standard format, we blind tasted before revealing the whisky. This month featured: Oban 14 year, Deanston 12 year, The Six Isles and Yellow Spot.

“Oh us fortunate few! What an evening it was!”

Oban 14 year – Golden amber colour. A light fruity sweet nose. Unexpectedly oily, chewy body with a spicy bite yet smooth. Short finish. Felt familiar, nice yet not exceptional.

Oban 14 year (photo: Carissa Hickling)

Deanston 12 year – A little ‘extra’ brought out by our host for those who missed trying it in an earlier meeting. Nuanced nose with over ripe fruit, sweet and spicy on the palate, lovely finish with a hint of spice that slowly dissipated. Delightful!

Deanston (Photo: Carissa Hickling)

The Six Isles – A vatted malt with single malts from the Scottish Islands: Islay, Jura, Mull, Arran, Skye and Orkney, this one kept us guessing! Quite peaty on the nose with hints of spice and other elements. Burnt ash, rich, oily on the palate yet with only a drop or two of water transformed into an exquisite smooth sweet whisky that would even pair well with desert. A lovely mellow finish. What a wonderful surprise!

The Six Isles (Photo: Carissa Hickling)

Yellow Spot 12 year – From Ireland, a single pot still Irish whisky produced for Mitchell & Son of Dublin, matured in bourbon, sherry and Malaga casks. The nose was fresh and sweet with hints of a complexity to come. On the palate, initially a blend of sea salt and honey, it rounded out with chocolate to fruit, supported by a woody robustness. The finish was particularly superb! Complex, with a gorgeous flavour that lingered…

It has garnered some very well deserved praise from Jim Murray (and us)! An exceptional whisky that hit all our favourite counts for a wonderful malt.

Yellow Spot (Photo: Carissa Hickling)

Any different opinions? Any recommendations along the lines of Yellow Spot?

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Perplexing peat? Connemara NAS 40%

1st up in our original Mumbai whisky tasting group‘s October session was a no age statement dram from Ireland. Unlike most Irish whiskies, Connemara uses peat, hence it was an interesting choice to start the evening with.

We sampled it blind, the bottle freshly opened, and didn’t know what to expect!

connemara

Connemara NAS 40%

  • Colour – Bright pale yellow
  • Nose – Initially quite pungent, harsh, wood varnish, sour curd, then as it aired took on some vanilla, spice, hint of citrus while still retaining a sharp quality and dash of sawdust, settling down further it became increasingly sweet
  • Palate – Salt caramel, peat or coal (for some), wood, unidirectional, very oily. As our palates became better acquainted with it, there was an almost dry waxy quality
  • Finish – There was a finish, however surprisingly subtle. It retained some of the oils, with a sweet pine after taste

Overall we found it relatively thin, so assumed it must be 40%, no more. While it lacked depth, there was an oily quality which gave it some character.

Now here is the thing… there was a bit of a debate on the peat element. One of our members simply did not get a trace of peat whereas others found hints, but not a clear stamp.

During the reveal there was surprise. Those familiar with this whisky recalled a much more direct “in your face” type peat, not this gentle tease. Leading to speculation that perhaps Connemara has been tinkering with the recipe? Or something else what at work?

After sampling all three whiskies for the evening, we returned to the Connemara to see if we could solve the perplexing peat question.

This time, when another glass was poured, instant recognition of peat.

Now… was it in contrast with the Glenlivet? Did we not all have our peat detectors fully switched on with the initial go? Or did it need time to fully reveal its peaty character?

While it still did not have a strong peat quality, there was no doubt it did indeed have some peat.

For a previous review on Connemara, check out what fellow Whisky Lady Lina Sonne has to say:

What all did we try in our October session?

  • Peat – Connemara NAS 40% (this post)
  • Sweet – Glengoyne 18 year 43%
  • Light – Glenlivet Master Distillers Reserve NAS 40%*

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Mixing things up – Connemara, Glengoyne, Glenlivet

After more than five years, our original Mumbai whisky tasting group has become known for pushing the boundaries with a focus on discovering new and different whiskies.

We’ve had home-made experiments with aging, phenomenal food pairings, independent bottlers, country specific themes, unique blends and more!

Which meant it was high time to revisit slightly different avatars of well known whiskies, completely blind to avoid the influence of advertising and pre-conceived notions.

glenlivet-connemara-glengoyne

What did we try?

No strangers to these brands, we’ve even previously had a session focused on Glenlivet, a couple of Glengoynes over the years and most have separately sampled Connemara.

What made it interesting is the order…

Traditionally, we would start with the lightest (Glenlivet) then sherry (Glengoyne) and close with a peated whisky (Connemara).

Here we did the exact opposite – peat, sherry, light! With some interesting results.

*Tasting notes coming soon

Related tasting sessions:

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