A Phenomenon Revisited – Compass Box Phenomenology 46%

Compass Box’s Phenomenology is one of those whiskies that is both phenomenal and a phenomenon. I have yet to encounter a whisky that provokes such a range of reactions – with highly individual perceptions.

I first had it with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents back in February 2018. Where our host very generously asked if I would like to take the bottle home to share with others. Would I?? Oh yes indeed!

And the perfect evening presented itself in June 2018 with the Whisky Ladies. We were a lovely small group and after our Highland Hijinks trio, our evening didn’t seem quite finished…

Enter Phenomenology…

And what a remarkable experience it was. Just to give a feel for the contrasting responses, I’ve deliberately kept them separated by speaker for the nose… read, discover and see if this possibly could be the same whisky!

Just a sampling of the aromas different ladies found are noted below:

  • Floral, lots of jasmine, honeysuckle, perfume
  • Almond, like Amaretto, shrewsbury biscuits
  • Citrus, salt, melon or more precisely cantaloupe, a licorice saunf and surprisingly sharp
  • Almond, dum biryani
  • Salted caramel, toffee, rhubarb, orange rind, musk, tobacco leaf
  • A kaleidoscope of aromas, fresh green apples, french vanilla, pure dessert, icing sugar powder, blue cheese, toasted rice, yoghurt

As for the rest, our combined experience was:

  • Palate – A light hint of peat, great “teeth”, whiff of skunk, cedar plank with salmon, sage, had a great mouthfeel, light spice
  • Finish – Citrus and floral, mild spice, black cardamom

To say we loved it was an understatement. It was complex, challenging, sparked conversation. And not only did we each find largely quite different aspects, even individual women found multiple elements too… this was no one-dimensional dram. No siree!

Above all – how could such contrasting characters emerge from the same whisky?

Here is where the folks at Compass Box excel, they share their secrets, telling the world exactly what goes into the bottle so one can attempt to dissect, deconstruct, discover and above all learn and be inspired…

What is fascinating is the bulk of this blend comes from Glenlossie – a distillery I’ve yet to try as a single malt and has no specific official bottles outside of Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range. Yet its been around since 1876 quietly producing whisky for blends.

And what does it add to Phenomenology?

  • 72% total liquid volume with a malt whisky matured in re-charred hogshead
  • And what does it add in terms of its flavour profile? Fresh, Fruity, Apples
Next up? Tamdhu with 24.5% matured in first fill bourbon cask adding Caramel, Oak, Spice. In this case, one I’ve tried but long ago and not at a time when I took any tasting notes, which means I have no particularly memory.
And the last 3? A split between rather familiar distilleries:
  • Highland Park with 2% matured in re-charred hogshead bringing burnt butter, bonfires, tar
  • Talisker with 1% matured in refill butt adding salty, coastal, brine dimensions
  • Caol Ila with a mere 0.5% matured in a hogshead throwing marshmallow, vanilla and sweet smoke into the equation
With this knowledge, do we understand more? Perhaps. And yet the proof is in the pudding so to speak… the way in which the whiskies were blended in such a masterful way to produce something unique and quixotic. And well worth revisiting.
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Whisky Ladies Highland Hijinks – Old Pulteney, Glenmorangie, Aberfeldy

When we have whisky tasting themes, it tends to be “anchored” by something our host has to share. Which is exactly what inspired  our Whisky Ladies June 2018 session…

It began with a bottle of Glenmorangie and was augmented by two more highlands…

What did the Whisky Ladies sample in our night of Highland Hijinks?

I simply couldn’t help throwing into the mix something that had nothing whatsoever to do with the Highlands… It is the kind of whisky you want to share with others, just to see what they discover!

Just check out the links above to read the full tasting experience…

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Whisky Lady – May 2018

May had some terrific sessions! All three Mumbai based tasting groups met plus we had a few extras too! Plus I had a chance to catch-up on previous tasting sessions notes as well.  Read on…

All three tasting groups met, with most notes to follow next month…

The Whisky Ladies enjoyed a theme of “Northern Lights” exploring:

Whereas our original group tasted two Highland drams and an Irish pot still whiskey:

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, I took them on a European Tour with:

In addition to our normal tasting evenings, we were fortunate to have a few industry extras in April and May with:

  • An evening with Caitlin Hill, Brand Ambassador for Bruichladdich and Botanist over a  quartet of cocktails and food pairing*
  • An evening with Stuart Harvey, Master Blender for IBHL with Balblair 05, 99, 00 and Speyburn 15 year*
  • An evening with Samantha Peters, Digital Marketing for IBHL with Speyburn 10 year 43%, Balblair 05 46%, Old Pultney 12 year 40%*

Which was augmented by a terrific evening at KODE with Keshav Prakash featuring a trio from the Vault Collection – Compass Box Asyla, Kilchoman Machir Bay and Edradour Caledonia.

In May, tasting notes were shared for our original club’s April session featuring The Vault Fine Spirits Collection, ably penned by our Guest Writer Nikkhil:

There was also a Minis evening playing around with finishes:

An informal evening with a few friends resulted in revisiting a few drams and sampling for the 1st time Shelter Point Cask Strength 2017 Winter Release 57.2% (Bottle 594/1088)

And for a final bit of “catchup”, back in March, the Whisky Ladies took a  remarkable “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia:

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

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Vault Collection – Spice Tree 46%

Last in our original club’s “The Vault Collection” trio was a a Compass Box blend. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 3​: Compass Box Spice Tree 46% | Non-Chill Filtered & Natural Colour

  • Color: Pale Gold
  • Nose: Boiled confectionery, a little varnish, lemon citrus. Then very quickly a lot of cloves and nutmeg. Notes of walnuts, apples, orange rind and ginger follow. Almost perfumey.
  • Palate: Gorgeous mouthfeel. Lovely arrival with a bouquet of spices and vanilla. Warm bread pudding. Follows the nose very closely. Oily and waxy. Some old leather, pencil shavings and that ginger from the nose. I did get just a wee hint of smoke. Again, nicely balanced.
  • Finish: Medium with lingering spices. A perfect after dinner dram on a cold night.

The “reveal”…

We couldn’t place this one even though most of us have had it in the past. That’s the beauty of blind tastings. You think you know your whisky but blind tasting is such a leveller. The reveal surprised us. Compass Box Spice Tree. Enough and more has been said about Compass Box and Spice Tree in the past so I will not repeat myself but instead I urge you to pour yourself a dram and enjoy this expression. Sláinte!

Official notes:

Big, sweet aromas of clove, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. The palate is full, round and sweet, with the spice and vanilla complementing the core distillery characters and leaving a long finish.

The Vault Collection trio:

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Minis – Nomad Outland Whisky 41.3%

Many of us have a bit of “Nomad” in us… a wandering spirit that takes us from beyond the land of our birth. No surprise, some whiskies also take a little jaunt too… in this case from Scotland to Jeerez, Spain.

We sampled it in a lovely relaxed evening exploring a few minis… all of which had a bit of a boost through finishes – in this case Pedro Ximenes. And what did we think? Read on…

Nomad Outland Whisky 41.3%

  • Nose – Greeted by great big luscious caramel toffee. Possibly a bit of cream Amaratto? An interesting sweet and sour, stewed fruits especially peach, shifting into almost overripe fruits… then allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon… apple pie with nuts, especially hazelnut, doughy, baked pineapple. After the 1st sip, nicely restrained, vanilla. Much later shifted to orange bitters. Sip again, back to caramel pecan pie… Sip again then citrus…. and a long time later boiled sweets. How fabulous!
  • Palate – Pure applesauce with jaggery, a bit tart too, some tannins, stewed fruits. Quite light almost like sugar water, not much body but very refreshing.
  • Finish – Subtle finish, quite pleasant, light spice, anise and lime zest

What a perfect summer afternoon dram. We thought it might be rather nice chilled – as in chilling the bottle not adding ice.

So what do we know about this whisky? According their website, this whisky blend is a collaboration between master distiller Richard Paterson and expert Sherry producers Gonzalez Byass.

They share that it is:

made with a selection of over 30 malt and grain whiskies aged between 5 and 8 years old, which are blended together and matured in Sherry butts in Scotland for three years. Following that, the whisky is shipped off to Jerez, where it is finished in Pedro Ximénez casks for a year before it is bottled. Richard Paterson and Gonzalez Byass’ master distiller Antonio Flores experimented with different Sherry casks, including Oloroso and Fino, but ultimately decided on the Pedro Ximénez casks for this enticing expression.

And what do they have to say about the whisky profile?

  • Bright, topaz coloured whisky
  • It has a unique aroma with malty notes, reminiscent of oak and sherry due to its ageing in american oak barrels.
  • Smooth and elegant on the palate. With prominent flavours of raisins, honey and distinctive bouquet as a result of the finishing of the whisky in Pedro Ximénez sherry barrels.
  • A long finish, pleasant
  • With hints of vanilla and dried fruits. A very elegant whisky with a complex aftertaste.

Our minis “finishes” eve included:

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Minis with fabulous finishes – Glen Scotia, Nomad, Shelter Point

Believe it or not, we had a problem of plenty… lots of different minis to potentially explore picked up our several trips.

A tasting companion neatly organized into different possible sets and the one we elected to try was whiskies with finishes… we initially planned to sample four but in the end we were content with just these three:

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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:

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Lost Distillery – Stratheden Classic 43%

Stratheden Distillery, from the Auchtermuchty in Fife, was around for approximately 100 years – officially from 1829 – 1926 and quite possibly prior to that as illegal stills. It was purely family owned – the Bonthrone family – whose founder Alexander Bonthrone ran the place from when he established it at 31 years until 1890 – a remarkable 60+ years!

You can read more about the distillery story here…. however our attention turned to the whisky….

Stratheden Classic 43%

  • Nose – It was exceptionally humid, like sniffing a very damp cloth, yet behind that was lots of honey, light yet sharp notes, some citrus, yet that musty almost chalky quality remained. After sipping and leaving it for some time, there was spice with burnt orange
  • Palate – Soft, well rounded, rather a nice mouthful, a hint of dark chocolate, bitter – enough to make one pucker, overall quite subtle
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice with the longest finish of the three whiskies sampled

Overall this was one that wouldn’t stand out as “oh wow!” but went from “Hmm… not so sure about this one” from the aroma to “Hmm… actually rather nice” on the palate to “Oh… hey that’s really rather surprisingly solid” with the finish. And kept improving the longer it was in the glass and the more one sipped.

What do the Lost Distillery folks have to say about it?

Malty, orange peel, chocolate, peat

Here is the Lost Distillery Trio that we sampled:

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Lost Distillery – Gerston Classic 43%

“What was once lost… has now been found!” Or so it would seem.. whisky wise that is! All part of the initiative to re-construct or in their terms “re-interpret” whiskies from lost distilleries closed years ago.

After checking out the Towiemore, we moved on to Gerston – which opened and closed then open and closed again (1796-1882 & 1886-1914). We sampled the Classic version…

Gerston Classic 43%

  • Nose – Pure seaside! Lots of brine, sea salt, caramel, a hint of smoke, toffee covered almonds. The salt spray subdues after time….
  • Palate – Soft, dry, bitter, lots of sweetness too, yet more than anything very dry with some  peat
  • Finish – A spicy finish – much more than anticipated – with lots of cinnamon

What did we think?

Hmmm…. I do believe that one mentioned “Talisker’s bastard child” or an Orkney offshoot…. this from a whisky aficionado who decidedly does NOT care for briney maritime style drams.

However if that’s your preferred style Gerston  might just be up your alley.

Here is what the folks over at Lost Distillery have to say about Gerston:

  • Ripe fruit, toffee, smoke & spice

Here is the Lost Distillery Trio that we sampled:

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Lost Distillery – Towiemore Classic 43%

Once upon a time there was a distillery in the Parish of Botriphnie outside of Dufftown. Whilst on our planet a mere thirty years (1898-1931), Peter Dawson’s endeavour enjoyed “a fine reputation as an excellent pure malt whisky.”

During its scant existence, it was a well travelled… Dawson’s whisky was selected for the pleasure of the Prince of Wales, later George V, on the maiden voyage of HMS Indomitable to Canada in 1907 and Captain Scott took it on his Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole in 1910.

You can read more about Towiemore’s history  on the Lost Distillery website.

What we cared about was the whisky…

Towiemore Classic 43%

  • Nose – Musty, sweet with a hint of leather, lots of apple crumble, ginger bread, caramel tart apple, slightly bitter with a bit of dish rag. After some time pure applesauce morphing into peaches
  • Palate – Nice spice, very easy drinking yet with enough going on to make it enjoyable, lots of red apples, very accessible
  • Finish – Light but there, pleasant yet closes bitter

One of our tasting companions admitted how this whisky was much better than he had expected – particularly on the palate vs what the nose seemed to indicate – particularly from the musty dish rag dimensions.

For most, this was the most accessible and enjoyable of the three Lost Distillery whiskies we tried. A good one to settle down and just imbibe….

Here is how the Lost Distillery folks describe a piece of Towiemore’s story….

Towiemore’s fresh new make spirit was filled predominantly into Sherry Butts, although Hogsheads and some plain oak casks were also used to offer a slightly different variations in character. These casks were stored in a ten-bay range of single storey bonded stores of the traditional style. Once sufficiently matured, these casks were transported by rail to Leith and Glasgow, or to grocers to be sold singularly in the local market. In 1902 Dawson sent an order of eighteen wagons full of casks to Glasgow. This was probably the first batch of Towiemore!

The Towiemore spirit contained in these casks was a distinguished whisky of mid-to-long finish. Cereal notes are present on the nose due to the use of flavoursome barley, with a hint of earthy heather and smoke caused by local peat. The Towie Burn produced a smooth base for the whisky, full of minerals. Vienna Yeast ensured Towiemore was infused with a citrus zest, while the long necks and ascending lyne arms of the stills embodied the whisky with a long finish of walnuts and almonds. Maturation in Sherry Butts produced a surge of creamy sherry taste coupled with lucid notes of fruitcake and sweet spice.

Here is the Lost Distillery Trio that we sampled:

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