Bar Night – Penderyn, Lagavulin and Aberlour

In lieu of our original planned evening, the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents shifted gears to enjoy their version of a ‘Bar Night’ with a Gurkha cigar.

There was some debate over the tasting order and, in retrospect, it could have had the peatier Lagavulin last, swapping place with the Aberlour. However it all worked out in the end!

Penderyn Madeira 46% 

  • Nose – Initially distinctly varnish, then sweet, banana, citrus sweet oranges, resin, pine, vanilla, apricot, bannoffee pie, then odd bitter, pine needles
  • Palate – Tingle at the front, sweet, acidity at the back, banana sweet
  • Finish – Pleasant yet nothing substantial

The two of us who sampled it earlier, were reminded of why we found it an interesting conversation whisky. While not for everyone, there is a distinctive quality to it that cannot be ignored.

It also turned out to be the dram choice of the night for most gents, as it complimented our Gurkhas rather well.

Lagavulin 16 year 43%

  • Nose – Clear peat, yet rounded not harsh, wet rag, berry sweetness, black berries, shifting into a briny ocean spray, leather
  • Palate – Spice sweet, peat, ash, lovely balance
  • Finish – Lovely sweet

In short, a beautiful whisky! What a treat to return to a familiar friend…Those who once upon a time treated the Lagavulin 16 as a bar ‘staple’ were reminded of why that is the case – its ability to have balanced peat and sweet.

And how did the Lagavulin fare with the cigar? A contrasting pairing, with the whisky the predominant note.

Aberlour 12 year 40%

  • Nose – Prunes, sherry, berry
  • Palate – Candy sweet, cinnamon
  • Finish – Light spice finish

The whisky was oddly disappointing as it was a pale comparison with the more familiar A’bunadh.

And yet it was an absolutely perfectly balanced pairing with the cigar.

penderyn-lagavulin-aberlour

Though it wasn’t our original plan, the substitute ‘bar night’ theme worked rather well.

What would you chose as a trio of more accessible drams for a sociable evening?

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Bombay Bar Nights…

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming on quality whiskies, somewhat serious reviews and general pontificating to introduce you to a fine Bombay tradition – the BAR NIGHT.

Now, what you may say makes ‘Bar Night’ here any different than another part of the world?

I’m so delighted you asked!

You see we have a fine colonial tradition of gym khanna in these parts… bastions for a certain sort that once upon a time some were frequented by those mad dogs and Englishmen.

Since then, membership at such clubs may still remain a privilege and yet from time to time a few of us ‘riff raff’ get invited into these rarified domains.

Enter ‘Bar Night’ where more sociable evenings happen opening the doors to members guests on a wider scale.

In our impromptu BMC version, we opened up the ‘Bar Night’ liquor cabinet of our host.

bar-boozeLet’s admit it folks – most of us with a prediliction for quality drams have our ‘jaanta’ (masses) cabinet with an assortment of ‘bar booze’ and then our special ‘reserved’ section hidden away from prying eyes.

Helps avoid those gasps of dismay where a crazy expensive rare single malt is shocked with a bucket of ice or horror of all horrors drowned in soda or some other fizzy substance that has no business going near a prime whisky!

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone all crazy snobby, just some whiskies DO deserve a different sort of treatment.

Here is what we sampled:

penderyn-lagavulin-aberlour

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Penderyn Madeira 46%

It has been several years since I sampled a Penderyn… We simply don’t often come across a Welsh whisky in Mumbai, India.

After deciding on a trio of miniatures – Glencadam 15Auchroisk and Glen Keith – my sampling companion pulled out an open bottle of Penderyn Madeira. Seemed a perfect chance to revisit!

penderyn-madeira

Penderyn Madeira NAS 46%

What did we find?

  • Nose – Initially lots of wood varnish then tropical fruits – particularly bananas almost like the synthetic banana flavouring, demerara sugar, quite a sharp quality too
  • Palate – First quaff was a bit peculiar, old musty wooden cupboard, medicinal, forced wine… but then it began to mellow and shift into custard, granny candies,
  • Finish – First impression was quite tart then sweetened – cranberries shifting into vanilla flavouring

This was one of those whiskies that took some time to get used to… Our 1st  thought was “you can have a conversation about this whisky” but that didn’t necessarily translate into enthusiastic appreciation.

Yet at some point that shifted – about the time the nose took on a distinctive “banana cream pie” we found ourselves rather enjoying it. Funny how that happens sometimes…

For kicks, I pulled out my tasting notes from more than four years ago… sampled as a trio of Penderyn Sherrywood, Madeira, Peated

  • Nose – Varnish, bit of caramel, lots of flowery perfumed notes and quite sweet, fruity with banana and melons?
  • Palate – Some body, a little bolder, woody, more character than the Sherrywood
  • Finish – Short, bit of fruit yet also bitter

As for the Pendryn official tasting notes? Here is what they have to say:

  • Nose – It has a classic freshness with aromas of cream toffee, rich fruit and raisins.
  • Palate… is crisp and finely rounded, with the sweetness to balance an appetising dryness.
  • Finish – Notes of tropical fruit, raisins and vanilla persist in the finish.

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Whisky Archives – Penderyn Sherrywood, Madeira and Peated with Oban 14

As both our formal March and April monthly tasting sessions were cancelled, I started to poke around my ‘Whisky Archives’.

I stumbled upon old scribbled notes from when we tried three expressions from the same distillery (Penderyn) and closed with an Oban. I believe it was a 2011 tasting and there were no photos either so have relied on alternate sources (duly acknowledged). I found the tasting notes frustratingly ‘sparse’ – clearly drafted before I took the mantle of ‘chronicler’ seriously!

Welcome to Wales Wysgi

Little did we know we were about to be introduced to ‘wysgi’ from Wales!

Penderyn is found in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons. It has the distinction of being the only whisky distillery in Wales, launched in 2000 after the Welsh whisky industry was shut down in 1894. Penderyn whiskies are typically first aged in bourbon barrels – predominantly Buffalo Trace – and then finished in Madeira or other casks.

As always, our tasting was ‘blind’ followed by the reveal…

Penderyn Sherrywood NAS 46%

  • Nose – Jackfruit, perfumy, sweetness and light, honey, after a bit a hint of zesty lemon
  • Palate – Starts well, lovely on the palate however not much body, lighter than we were in the mood for…
  • Finish – Slightly spicy then softens
  • Thoughts – Ladylike and almost… well… bland…
Penderyn Sherrywood (XX)

Penderyn Sherrywood (Welsh-Whisky.co.uk)

Penderyn Madeira NAS 46%

  • Nose – Varnish, bit of caramel, lots of flowery perfumed notes and quite sweet, fruity with banana and melons?
  • Palate – Some body, a little bolder, woody, more character than the Sherrywood
  • Finish – Short, bit of fruit yet also bitter
Penderyn Madeira (xx)

Penderyn Madeira (Welsh-Whisky.co.uk)

Penderyn Peated NAS 46%

  • Nose – Smelly socks, vanilla, sweet, hint of leather, citrus – quite a contrast to the earlier expressions
  • Palate – Charcoal, wood oil, again the citrusy element, peppercorns
  • Finish – Peppery but doesn’t stick around long or morph into anything further
  • Thoughts – Had the stamp of a bourbon cask with peat? Interesting but not something that really grabs you.
Penderyn Peated (http://www.welsh-whisky.co.uk/Our-Whiskies/Penderyn-Peated.aspx)

Penderyn Peated (Welsh-Whisky.co.uk)

We then shifted gear to a whisky perhaps double the age (or more!?) of the Penderyn expressions to the highlands with Oban.

Oban 14 year 43%

  • Nose – Spicy, fruity, orange peel
  • Palate – Spice, nutmeg
  • Finish – Lingers… finally!

Quote: “Early evening drink”

The last time I had the Oban 14 year I did not prepare any tasting notes. It was in Singapore late 2014 when I enjoyed an absolutely delightful evening at home with a gal pal. Nothing could have been a better dram for our mood, mad conversations, laughter and sheer joy in catching up after ages. It was indeed an early evening which grew into a later evening and the Oban kept us company all along.

Oban 14 year (Whisky Exchange)

Oban 14 year (Whisky Exchange)

Overall impression

When I look back on the scribbles, they seem a bit uncharitable. At the time, we were spoilt with a series of beautifully aged and balanced Scottish whiskies and were just starting to poke our nose and palate around newer entrants.

Contradictorily while our ability to discern nuances has increased, as a group we have also grown more adventuresome and open to the range of whisky styles. We no longer expect a whisky should be robust and instead delight in the more exquisite delicate notes too just as much as we embrace the peaty or sherry monsters out there.

We can now also put better into perspective more youthful whiskies and go through a re-calibration of ‘young, shows promise’ vs ‘erhm just doesn’t cut it for us’.

I’m also a massive fan of giving a whisky multiple tasting opportunities. Once is simply not enough. It would be interesting to revisit the Penderyn expressions to see what we would discover today. And I know the Oban is a favourite of a few.

If you would like to check out some ‘real’ tasting notes for the Penderyn expressions, check out:

As for the Oban:

Slainthe!

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