A perfect partner… Suntory’s Toki 43%

After our rather interesting evening exploring Rampur from India, Royal Lochnagar 12 year and the remarkable aged grain Girvan 28 year…. we had an opportunity to pick anything from our hosts floor to ceiling whisky cupboard…

My eye spied Suntory’s Toki… like Hibiki,Toki is made from Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita.

Suntory’s Toki 43%

  • Nose – Cheese, lemon miringue pie, light peaches or crisp apples, simple
  • Palate – Exceedingly smooth, very drinkable, think custard, hint of ginger, light citrus, fresh and clean
  • Finish – Short, sweet, a little spicy, simple yet pleasing

Our immediate reaction is this would pair well with a cheese and fruit platter – think a nice range of old cheddar and applies. Or desert – something light not heavy. Or even an arugula salad with blue cheese and caramel walnuts.

I brought the glass with us for the dinner… our desert was a baked lagan nu custard. And the Toki paired with it? perfection! Just the right interplay between the different elements and an ideal way to close the evening.

Here’s what the folks at Suntory have to say:

  • Color – clear gold
  • Nose – basil, green apple, honey
  • Palate – grapefruit, green grapes, peppermint, thyme
  • Finish – subtly sweet and spicy finish with a hint of vanilla oak,
    white pepper and ginger

Also from our evening:

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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.

Also from our evening:

Our main sampling was followed with a bonus…

  • Suntory Toki 43%

Tune in over the next few days for tasting notes..

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Whisky Archives – Cracking open the cabinet…

Another from the tasting archives… this time from Sept 2011. Rediscovering these notes brought a flood memories of my previous Mumbai flat… that had a fabulous cabinet in which all my whisky was stashed… now replaced in our current home by a larger storage space waaaaay up high in our kitchen pantry.

We broke with tradition and merrily abandoned all pretense of blind tastings… instead settled down for a sampling of various bottles. It became a  popularity contest between different regions and geographies as small pegs of multiple whiskies were sniffed, swirled, swallowed, savoured and yes – much discussed!

Samplings from earlier sessions - all quaffed at one occasion!

Speyside‘s dominated the evening with:

  • Aberlour’s cask strength Abu’nadh batch 32 (sampled earlier) and batch 31 were compared. Batch 31 was a clear winner and a hit of the evening! Bold yet with an extraordinary warm finish… with layers to discover and enjoy.
  • Aberlour 10 year held its own with slight smokiness and butter, however was overshadowed by it’s cask strength cousin.
  • Cragganmore 12 year was softer on the palate and a nice contrast to the Abelours
  • Glenrothes 12 year (also sampled earlier) gained appreciation for its smooth fruity aroma, sherry note and oak, medium slightly spicy finish.

Islay‘s were represented by a few familiar friends:

  • Bunnahabhain 12 year 40% is a regular favourite with several folks
  • Caol Ila is also well-known and after the last drop of one bottle was polished off, another was opened… Need one say more?
  • Lagavulin 16 year was also a familiar friend but neglected with all the other options…

Highland

  • Dalwhinnie from the highest distillery in Scotland was a delightful gentler ‘everyday’ favourite

Japan

  • Suntory’s Hakushu 18 year…. In a class of its own with hints of forest, moss, nuanced, with a divine finish – simply exquisite. It remains one of my favourites!

Canada

  • Crown Royal from Gimli, Manitoba (my home province) certainly added a different element with rye, however alas outclassed by single malt companions

Naturally what’s expressed here is only one interpretation based on snippets of conversation and personal bias. Would love to hear others opinions on any of these whiskies…

Slainthe!

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Ladies Choice – Appetizer whisky aka Akashi Blended Whisky 40%

First up in our “Ladies Choice” evening where the Whisky Ladies hosted the Bombay Malt & Cigar gentlemen, was a whisky we introduced as an ‘appetizer’ to the main meal… the Akashi from Japan.

Photo: Team Table

Photo: Team Table

And our 1st guest writer is a newer member of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai, Nikoulina Berg.

Niko knows her stuff. Experienced in the F&B industry with a career that has spanned Germany, US, Spain, China, Singapore and now India, Niko has a certain flare for food and fine spirit and wines.

Currently based in Mumbai with The Table & Magazine Street Kitchen as Vice President Operations of Food Matters, she has a hand in crafting special evenings of food and fellowship.

She immediately fit into the Whisky Ladies – in her inaugural session she just so ‘happened to have’ a Bavarian whisky (Slyrs) to augment our European whisky evening

Here is what she has to say about the Akashi Blended Whisky 40% (also sometimes referred to as Akashi Red for the red stamp on its label).

  • Colour: Pale, Light gold
  • Aroma: Sweet, Cereals, Honey
  • Palate: Mellow and very light body – everything but harsh – sweet on the palate, smooth with a hint of caramel and hazelnut
  • Finish: Leaves you wanting more – more texture, more intensity – almost disappears instantly after a quick hit of spices
  • Water: After adding water it becomes almost sweeter than before and it has a surprisingly longer finish, with hints of marshmallows, pear and pineapple

Most of us have a favorite style of whisk(e)y and it is very easy to dismiss this one after a quick taste – not finding the ‘usual’ intense aromas and tastes with a more complex structure.

Take a second look or sip and it might not be so bad after all.

Turns out this Akashi is a great ‘aperitif’ – not too complicated or intense – it’s simplicity creates an appeal in itself, maybe best described as a ‘table’ whisky.

It pairs well with cheeses, charcuterie, antipasti because it does not overpower them but is rather complementing.

After our tasting with the cigars being lit, the Akashi pretty much turned into the favorite of the night with it’s easy-sipping qualities. Hence, it is not just a decent aperitif, but an evenly good ‘digestif’ or maybe just a very ‘sociable whisky’.

Table for One

Table for One

Here are the ‘official’ notes on Akashi:

Akashi whiskey subtly blends malt and oak. Compared to traditional whiskey, Akashi is easy to drink, with less peat and smoke flavors. The flavor is mild, soft, and retains a strong malt aroma, characteristic of Japanese whiskeys, which are approachable, smooth and soft. It is recommended to add ice and soda water for a more delicate and smooth taste.

• Nose: fresh orange peel, very light smoke, ginger, pepper, honey
• Palate: oily, pepper, sweet cake, citrus fruits, vanilla
• Finish: middle to long, light honey, sweet aftertaste

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

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Whisky Ladies Choice – Treating the BMC Gentlemen…

Last year, the gentlemen from the Bombay Malt & Cigar club took it upon themselves to treat the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai to an evening of Irish whiskies and cigars.

This year, it was our turn to return the favour.

We debated a range of different approaches and finally decided on a theme of “Ladies Choice.” And what pray tell did that mean to us?

We wanted to share with the gentlemen some of the most memorable whiskies we sampled together as a tasting group. They may not be the world’s best whiskies but they would be our “Choice” – ones that stood out in some kind of way.

We went about it in a democratic manner and voted, tallied up the responses to create a “short-list”, then began the efforts to source these whiskies.

Our approach was a bit flexible, in some cases we knew it would be impossible to source the EXACT same whisky. What worked was finding something from the same distillery or similar category.

The whiskies were literally sourced from around the world involving travel, friends of friends and even last minute acquisitions…

What made it into our final “Ladies Choice” list?

JapanAkashi Red Blended Whisky 40%

  • In truth we had several Japanese whiskies in mind however the Akashi was accessible and a refreshing departure from the expensive exclusive impossible to find Japanese single malts, so figured why not!
  • It also made for a perfect ‘appetizer’ whisky to get the evening going…

Sweden – Mackmyra Vinterdröm 46.1%

  • The most enjoyable peaty Mackmyra Svensk Rok 46.1% captured our attention with its clean, minimalist yet smoky qualities.
  • So when our Swedish whisky lady went on the hunt over Christmas for something distinctly different from the distillery, this limited edition “Caribbean love affair” avatar was her pick!

IndiaPaul John Single Cask #1844 60.5%

  • The Paul John Select Cask Peated Batch 1 “OMG bacon!” made many Whisky Ladies swoon for more during our Paul John evening… we definitely wanted to include a Goan single malt, preferably a Select Cask or Single Cask…
  • Thankfully Michael from Paul John distilleries was able to oblige our interest – literally hand delivering this single cask a mere two days before our evening!

France – Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC 46%

  • Kornog’s whisky from Bretagne will forever be known in our group for the comment “How did you go from being a perfect gentlemen to getting my bra off like that?” (WL on Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46%)
  • Alas the Trived 10 BC was no longer available so we took a gamble on the newer Pempved 14 BC

TaiwanKavalan Solist Sherry Cask S090102020 57.1%

  • There was no doubt a Kavalan was going to make the cut…
  • By a very wide margin, the Solist Sherry Cask topped the charts with the most votes from all our Whisky Ladies tasting experiences. So… it simply HAD to be our ‘showstopper’ of the evening!

Somehow not one Scottish whisky made it into the list. Not a single one. It wasn’t deliberate. It was simply how the votes panned out.

But that says something about how the whisky world is going…

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Has the Japanese whisky ‘bubble’ burst? Hakushu 43%

Once upon a time, the Hakushu 18 year was a favourite – an excellent example of exquisite balance with complexity and a touch of smoke to make it interesting. Then the price rose to ridiculous levels and availability went from challenging to near impossible.

With our original group, we taste blind, so our experience is influenced only by our reactions not any other element… hence we had no clue we were about to experience a Hakushu NAS avatar picked up in Japan.

Here is what we found:

  • hakushuNose – Quite vibrant, fresh, clean, light citrusy lemon, lots of perfumes, tropical fruits, very sweet… as it opened started to take on a musky quality, then quite woodsy – particularly pine – like walking through a temperate forest, coriander seeds… a bit mossy
  • Palate – As the 1st whisky of the evening, the initial sip was bitter, then became sugar sweet, light and dry, cereals, with a nice gentle spice, dry currents, slight resin, while it lacked body, it sat nicely mid palate
  • Finish – Short and sweet with a hint of nuts
  • Water – While not needed, helped open it up slightly to reveal dry coconut, and the slightly nutty element shifted to nutty biscuits

Overall we found this an exceedingly ‘friendly’ whisky, absolutely no harshness, very smooth. Light, uncomplicated, enjoyable in its way.

Speculation ran against it being Scottish and Japan was mentioned but it didn’t quite fit the profile of familiar offerings. We found it quite ‘youthful’ and possibly matured in white oak barrels.

And the reveal… Hakushu?!? Where was the light dancing peat? The complexity?

Conversations turned to aged Hakushu vs its current re-incarnation… disappointment over the NAS Chita vs the beautiful Chita 12 year, Yoichi‘s of yore not coming close to their NAS avatar

Has the Japanese whisky ‘bubble’ burst? Has the price surpassed quality? While still ‘well constructed’ where is the ‘soul’ that tipped the whisky from being ordinary to extraordinary?

Sigh…

Just to compare, what do the folks over at Suntory have to say about this Hakushu?

Fresh with citric notes.

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Nose – Peppermint, melon, cucumber
  • Palate – Yuzu, grapefruit, lemon thyme
  • Finish – Refreshing, subtle smoke

Can’t argue with most except the smoke… clearly it was too subtle for us!

Other whiskies sampled that evening include:

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East to West – Hakushu, PJ Bold, Puni Alba + Clynelish

I love the forethought and creativity that goes into some of our whisky tasting sessions…

Our January 2017 host’s theme was a journey from East to West… following a geographic progression from Japan to India to Italy and finally Scotland.

hakushu-paul-john-puni-clynelish

It was a fabulously curated collection that shifted in styles and threw in surprises too! Each was sampled completely blind before the reveal.

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Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 year 43%

Friends in Canada picked up this bottle years ago in Tokyo… It was opened during my visit to Winnipeg in June 2016 and a small sample made its way back to India to be tasted again.

Nikka‘s vatted malt or “pure malt” marries single malts from Yoichi and Miyagikyo without any grain whisky. This particular Taketsuru 21 won World’s Best Blended Malt Whisky at the World Whiskies Awards – 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Given this, we had high hopes of a superlative whisky of exceptional quality, complexity and balance.

Nikka Pure Malt 21

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 year 43%

  • Nose – Prunes, a sour quality like soya sauce or a rich winey vinegar, sweet resin, tart, sweet spices, basil, a hint of dark bitter chocolate, acai, tight dry cranberries, vanilla essence
  • Palate – Very tart, cinnamon bark, dry ginger, oak, haldi (tumeric), slightly soapy quality
  • Finish – Long, very dry, both bitter and sweet at the same time with sweet spices like cloves and cinnamon with a surprising kick that sneaks up on you then lingers…

Overall, when first sampled in Winnipeg, I found vanilla honey warm into caramel, it was clearly rich, a bit bitter with a distinctly dry finish, but I missed many of the elements that burst forth when given a chance to sample solo.

Back in Mumbai I sat with it for some time, really giving it an opportunity to open up. It has a number of fairly unusual qualities – I’ve never had a whisky that is quite so ‘tart’ or with soya sauce – but unmistakably its there.

In short – it has character. And to be honest – much as I appreciate a whisky that has character – this goes into the category of “so glad I tried, but did not have to buy.” I actually don’t think I could handle a lot of it – a good example where a little goes a long way.

Like many Japanese whiskies, finding a 21 year old today may prove challenging – both in terms of accessibility and affordability. I last found this online for approx $700. Crazy, eh?

Here’s what the folks at Nikka have to say:

This pure malt whisky is characterized by a deep and flavorful richness and excellent balance unique to whisky matured for 21 years. You’re sure to enjoy the nose, which blends the richness of ripe fruit with the elegance of the aged cask, and the complex changes in character that appear as the finish approaches.

Other Nikka blends sampled include:

I couldn’t help but be amused at how well travelled this bottle has been… Born in Japan, purchased in Tokyo, traversed the globe primarily around Asia to then reach Winnipeg, Canada where it was first opened. Then a sample continued its journey to London before carrying on to Mumbai, India where it was re-tasted. Thus goes the world of whisky and its whisky fabric!

Thanks again Doug & George for this sample – I’m delighted you “don’t collect stamps!”

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The mighty Karuizawa 12 year (1999/2011) 58.9%

Another highlight at Whisky Live Singapore‘s Collector’s Room was the increasingly rare Japanese discontinued distillery – Karuizawa.

2016-11-12-karuizawa

Karuizawa 1999 12 year 58.9%

Bottled 24 Oct 2011, Single Cask #867 with 204 bottles

What did I find?

  • Nose – Lots of dark fruits, dusty
  • Palate – Spice, gorgeous complex character
  • Finish – Long yet quite subtle, lots of figs, dry and bitter

The challenge with dark, rich, intense whiskies is they can become a little too overpowering. This was not the case here… it held back from overwhelming. While it had a lovely nose, it was the taste and finish that really stood out.

While I doubt I will have a chance to try something like this again, am glad I had this opportunity.

Other rare Japanese whiskies sampled:

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Whisky Live Singapore – Collectors Room

Whisky Live Singapore has a special ‘Collector’s Room’ where the unique, rare and exclusive whiskies reside.

2016-11-12-whisky-collectors-room

Which ones did we chose?

Then had a bonus Bruichladdich 10 year 58%.

2016-11-12-collectors-quartet

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