Whisky Lady – July 2018

July brings monsoon rains, vacations and often a slightly slower pace of life… and yet this month still had a rather admirable set of whisky tasting experiences. And even though technically only 1 of our 3 Mumbai whisky tasting groups “officially” met, somehow gatherings over a dram still happened… read on…

Whisky Ladies Sukhinder Singh’s Cask Strength Trio from The Whisky Exchange in London:

Pedigree malts from around the world:

Our original group were introduced to a remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

I also finally got around to sharing tasting notes from an evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac always push the boundaries… The last three remarkable whiskies sampled were…

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Yamazaki 25 year Sherry Cask 43%

There is no question that Japan, and specifically Suntory, has produced some exquisite whiskies over the years. Yamazaki holds a core place in Japanese whiskies rise in global prominence.

In recent years the Yamazaki 2016 Sherry has auctioned for as much as EUR 1,950! To then think of what a 25 year old can attract? This particular whisky is an official bottling and my whisky companions and I shared a small sample in April 2018.

(Image Master of Malt)

Yamazaki 25 year Sherry Cask 43%

  • Colour – Incredibly dark – almost unbelievable
  • Nose – Varnish, old wood, dark fruits, stewed plums, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, Christmas cake, enriched spices of nutmeg, butter cream, coriander
  • Palate – Very sweet, spices, very dry, more of the star anise, some dark juicy fruits or berries, a little cocoa
  • Finish – Long, solid with some bitter tannins
  • Water – One would ordinarily think at 43% the addition of water would be a crime. In this case, with such a concentrated flavours, it helped to open  up the whisky in the most marvellous way

Overall it was a brilliant whisky – rich, complex, intense. And one well worth sampling if you happen to be so fortunate to come across it.

I will admit that most Yamazaki’s I’ve enjoyed were long before I started to record tasting notes and most certainly before prices rose astronomically. However here are two Yamazaki‘s that stand out which I had the pleasure of sampling in the last few years:

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Whisky Lady – June 2018

June was quite full with all three tasting groups holding their regular sessions plus a few interesting visitors with:

With our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we shifted gears to have an evening dedicated to open bottles – a complete mixed bag of what was lying around. Which in our case meant a merry trip through:

For the Whisky Ladies, it was a night of Highland Hijinks!

And our original group? We were introduced to a remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Glenrothes 20 year (Oct 1996/Oct 2016) 54.6% 1 of 252 bottles*
  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 57.1% 1 of 198 bottles*
  • North Star’s Cask Series 002 – Caol Ila 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles*

Last month, I took our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents on a European Exploration and caught up with all the tasting notes which had a clear divide between ones we quite enjoyed…. and those we decidedly did not!

The thumbs “down” category included:

And in the thumbs “up” category?

In addition to our normal tasting evenings, we were fortunate to have not one but two IBHL sessions in April and May respectively with:

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we ambled through a rather remarkable range of whiskies…

*Tasting notes coming soon…

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An evening with Krishna Nakula

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we meandered through a malty mix.. with our evening featuring a duo from Amrut!

Added to the mix was an amiable amble through the contrasting:

Plus a sniff and swish through:

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Whisky Lady – April 2018

Another marvellous malty month! Where all three tasting groups met… and I unforgivably missed one! However made up with more whisky adventures.

So what all mischief did we get up to in April?

Photo: The Whisky Barrel

The absolute highlight was a once in a lifetime opportunity to try a 64 year old whisky!

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar group explore Lost Distilleries Trio from the Classic range:

  • Towiemore 43% The evening favourite – think apple crumble meets malt!
  • Gerston 43% Seaside brine, bitter sweet, peat and spice
  • Stratheden 43% Humid, citrus, chocolate… long finish

Whereas our Whisky Ladies Islay Adventures

Plus a few interesting evenings:

Plus a set of no less than seven Gin gin gins!

The balance of the month’s posts were all catching up on earlier tasting sessions…

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents explored whiskies from Japan:

Our original club’s revisited:

And the last fleeting impression from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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Japan Jaunt – Hakushu 43%

After two blends and a Nikka single malt from Miyagikyo distillery, the last in our “Japanese Jaunt” was a single malt from Suntory’s Hakushu distillery.

It was certainly not my 1st experience with Hakushu… Once upon a time the 18 year old was a favourite until it became highly elusive. Then our original tasting group sampled the NAS avatar.… followed by the Whisky Ladies… leaving only our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents to sample… which happened one fine evening in March 2018.

Hakushu NAS 43%

  • Nose – Plunged into a wet forest, light peat, crisp apples, pine needles, fresh bark, aniseed, a bit of spice, pistachios, green sap, very fresh and sweet
  • Palate – Hugs the tongue, very soft and a great mouthfeel, citrus spice, bitter almond with a light spice chaser and a puff of smoke
  • Finish – Bitter sweet finish with more of the aniseed coming to the fore
  • Water – Like the Miyagikyo, absolutely no temptation to add

Overall it was pronounced “very nice” until the topic of its price was raised. Which sparked a debate about whether Japanese whiskies are truly worth the hype.

Whether you think yes or no, the bottom line is our evening was filled with finely crafted whiskies with a range of characters and it was a most enjoyable exploration.

Here’s what the folks at Suntory have to say about their Hakushu distillery:

Straight from the untouched forests, soft and crisp waters and mountains of the Southern Japanese Alps, it is no wonder that Hakushu is a “green and fresh” whisky. Created by the dream for a new type of whisky of Keizo Saji, the second master brender, the unique taste made in distinct.

Four seasons in high altitude is praised by the most curious whisky connoisseurs and lovers of gastronomy. Its crisp and vibrant feel, unique in a single malt whisky, enlivens and liberates your senses.

What else did we taste in our “Japan Jaunt“?

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Japan Jaunt – Miyagikyo 45%

After two quite different blends – the Hibiki and All Malt – we shifted gears into single malts starting with the Miyagikyo from Nikka. Miyagikyo is known to be the lighter more nuanced of the two Nikka single malts, a contrast from the robust Yoichi.

Miyagikyo NAS 45%

  • Nose – Floral, citrus – particularly kumquat, spring, cherry blossoms, gooseberry, with a dash of spice peaking behind
  • Palate – Almost fizzy, a lot of white pepper, very sweet, fruity and a bit bitter
  • Finish – Very spicy, long and dry
  • Water – No inclination to add whatsoever

There is a light elegance and feminine quality to this whisky. Which means it is either a style one appreciates or does not.

What was interesting in our Japanese explorations was there was narry an age statement in sight – a sign of the times with whiskies from Japan.

And what do the folks at Nikka have to say about the Miyakgikyo?

This is a single malt from the Miyagikyo distillery, Nikka’s second distillery built in 1969. The founder Masataka Taketsuru chose this site in the mountains of Sendai to contrast with his first distillery, Yoichi, located in the coastal area. Using less peaty malt and distilled in a pot still heated by indirect steam, Miyagikyo single malt has an elegant fruitiness and a distinctive aroma with a strong Sherry cask influence.

What did we taste in our “Japan Jaunt”?

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Japan Jaunt – Nikka’s All Malt 40%

After the Suntory’s Hibiki blend, our Japan jaunt shifted to a vatted / blended malt from Nikka. This particular dram brings together single malt from Yoichi and Miyagikyo pot stills with a Coffey malt whisky. Hence the name “All Malt” as each of its components are malted.

Nikka All Malt 40%

  • Nose – Burnt toffee, sherry like, rich chocolate, burnt caramel custard or a creme brule, hazelnut, dusting of cinnamon, coffee
  • Palate – “Dessert in a glass” Delicious, cigar base, smooth and soft, mellow, Parsi daily milk toffee
  • Finish – Long drawn out… stays
  • Water – Absolutely no temptation to add water

Overall we found it quite satisfying. No pretence – just a solid blend – pure and rich are indeed a good way to describe it. One remarked that it had an almost highland quality.

For an evening with cigars, it more than held its own… an important quality in a good whisky for these gents!

The Nikka All Malt also buck the pricey trend with Japanese whisky – keeping to a below $50 range (depending on where you buy it).

And what else did we sample in our Japan Jaunt?

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Japan Jaunt – Hibiki “Masters Select” 43%

Our Bombay Malt and Cigar gents began as staunchly preferring Scottish Single Malts. And while one could explore for years and years and still be scratching the surface of Scottish expressions, it is nice to veer in a different direction too.

Hence our host’s theme of Japanese whiskies. He admitted that he’s a bit “late” to the Japanese craze and somewhat aghast at the prices for such drams. However curiosity plus a few duty free stops lead to acquiring a quartet of two blends and two single malts, covering a range from Japan’s two most popular whisky companies – Suntory and Nikka.

1st up was Hibiki from Suntory – a blend of their single malts Yamazaki and Hakushu together with their grain Chita. What did the gents think?

Hibiki Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” NAS 43%

  • Nose – Malty coffee caramel, oranges, elder flower, opens to forest green
  • Palate – Dances along the surface, lightly piquant, different elements, bitter almond
  • Finish – Bitter
  • Water – Rounds out

We set it aside and revisited after finishing our sampling of all four whiskies. What did we find?

  • Soft sweet and slightly salty
  • Fairly innocuous

Overall we pronounced it a “happy” drinking whisky. Not complex, but it doesn’t need to be. A perfect “starter” whisky for those who are new to the world of whisky and curious to try something from Japan. Translation – what we would serve at parties if just happened to have an open bottle and not be terribly upset if it is emptied by the end of the evening.

I’ve had several trysts with Hibiki – its earlier 12 and 17 year incarnations, part of a blind tasting with our original club when the NAS expression 1st launched years ago plus a rather nice chocolate pairing with the Whisky Ladies. Which means this particular expression has graced all three Mumbai based whisky tasting clubs.

I once even attempted to create my own version of Hibiki bringing together a few drops of an older Yamazaki with the Hakushu 18 year and Chita 12 year. While not disastrous, I’m clearly no master blender!

And what else did we sample in our Japanese jaunt?

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