A Salty Peaty Persuasion – Wemyss Peat Chimney 12 year 40%

First up in our mini malts session was a blend from Wemyss.

While I’ve seen all sorts of compelling reviews on whiskies from the independent bottler Wemyss, this was my first foray into their offerings. It was a complete impulse buy in London at The Whisky Exchange, and one I do not regret.

Wemyss Peat Chimney 12 year 40%

Wemyss Peat Chimney 12 yearHere’s what we found:

  • Nose – Such a briney peat greeted us. dry with vanilla, salty with a decidedly maritime twist, seaweed, salty caramel, light chocolate.
  • Palate – Mild, organic mulchy peat, great starter whisky with such an easy to sip kind of peat
  • Finish – Warm peat, seaweed salt, sea mist

Overall, it was one of the saltiest peat whisky I’ve tried. We joked that it was like standing on a wind swept cliff in Scotland, breathing in the salty maritime sea air.

What was interesting was we returned back after some time and the peaty salt had shifted to such sweetness with burnt caramel.

It is reputed to be a vatting of 16 different whiskies with a “hefty slug” of 12 year old Islay malt.

Here’s what the Wemyss folks have to say:

Peat Chimney uses an Islay signature malt to give top notes of sweet smoke, salt and peat.

We sampled from a closed miniature in October 2017… a full bottle would set you back around $60.

And what else did we sample in our merry mini malts evening?

  • Big Peat 46% (Douglas Laing)
  • Longrow 46%
  • BenRiach Quarter Cask 46%
  • Ledaig 10 year 46.3%

And here’s more malt miniatures from my The Whisky Exchange:

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Wine makers making whisky? Sula’s Eclipse 42.8%

I’ll start off with a caveat… I’m not terribly familiar with Indian blended whiskies. Sure I may know the standards names, but their flavour profile? Why people enjoy what they do? Completely utterly inadequately explored!

So when a bottle of Sula‘s experiment into artisan spirits and more specifically Indian blended whiskies just so happened to be available for sample, thought why not?

Eclipse Premium Whisky 42.8%

  • Nose – Decidedly ‘winey’, with a musty quality and quite nondescript nose
  • Palate – Very weak and watered down seeming, yet easy on the palate… one even went so far as to call it ’rounded’ whereas another called it a ‘weak Long Island iced tea’. For some there was a bit of a funky quality. Most were able to discern a bit of bitter Nescafe style instant coffee and walnut
  • Finish – Was there one? It honestly didn’t register

Overall none of our tasting group would voluntarily go out to buy it. But then again, none of this club would ordinarily buy an Indian blended whisky either.

What do we know about it? Apparently it is a blend of 62% grain spirit, 10% malt Scotch, 20% grape spirit and 8% peated malt spirit. Which would seem to tip it more into the category of a hybrid than whisky per se.

And what do the folks at Sula have to say?

Whisky with a twist. Smooth twist and a hint of sweetness aged in French Limousin oak cask, first double distilled grape spirit, “cognac cask aged” from the House of Sula.

I wonder if the twist refers to its absurd top. You kinda twist/pop it up to pour then somehow get it back to its original position. Supposedly this helps make it tamper proof as we also know spurious liquor is rampant in India.

And what would a bottle of Eclipse set you back? Well the Indian MRP is from INR 750 to INR 1,540 (approximately $12-25), depending on which state in India you buy it.

Interested in reading about more Indian whiskies? Go to the India section, with one other blend tasted – Amrut’s MaQintosh.

What else did we sample in our Single Grain Trio with Indian Whiskies Duo evening?

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The Exceptional Grain + Blended Malt

It is pretty ballsy to call yourself “exceptional” but the folks over at Craft Distillers aren’t shy about who they are and what they are doing. And you can’t fault Don Sutcliffe, managing director of Craft Distillers, a 35 year veteran of distilled spirits with Willie Phillips, 23 years managing director of The Macallan for being confident they know their stuff.

So what a treat to try two of their early offerings as part of our monsoon malts & more evening in Mumbai.

The Exceptional Blended Grain Scotch Whisky 43%

  • Nose – Again, like the Borders, clearly grain but not at all harsh, a bit dusty, sweet, mono-aromatic, a little green freshness, then aniseed, light spice
  • Palate – Very soft, light coffee, almost sparkly, quite lovely
  • Finish – Cinnamon candy, lasts

Overall on the palate it kept shifting, sweet, then reveals more, slowly unfurling. This is no harsh grain to go into blending, instead it is nuanced, soft and subtle. In short – most enjoyable.

Here’s what The Exceptional team have to say:

A blend of remarkable aged grain whiskies, including a barrel of 30-year-old from the Carsebridge Distillery, long since closed. Blended by Willie Phillips, formerly of The Macallan; finished in first-fill sherry casks. Subtle, elegant, authentically individual, with great structure. (750ML/43%abv) $100.  

The Exceptional Blend Small Batch Scotch Whisky 43%

  • Nose – Biscuits, lemon cream, almost like Jim Jams, then a slightly sour quality on the nose before returning to sweet
  • Palate – Quite thin on the palate, spice, zesty and very sweet
  • Finish – There but.. sweet, edging towards almost being too sweet

Overall next to the remarkably good grain, we were not quite so enthusiastic. This doesn’t mean it is a bad dram – far from it. However is it truly exceptional? Something so exquisite you would remember it above all others? Hmm…

The most remarkable element are the aromas which are most pleasing and in harmony, even as they shift between different dimensions. However the palate, while exceedingly nice, missed depth and complexity. At least for us with our wee sample.

Here’s what The Exceptional team have to say:

Mature grain whiskey from North British, Strathclyde, and Cameron Bridge distilleries blended with selected barrels of aged, malt whisky from 11 distilleries, including a 30-year-old Macallan. Deep and layered complexity. Superb whisky. (750ML/43%abv)  $120

Overall, there was no doubt the grain was our favourite and genuinely stood out. The blended malt was exceedingly good but not quite what we at least would call exceptional – a pity for the range of whiskies that went into its making.

Yet it was completely worth the experience and I’m looking forward to future opportunities to see where these gents go with their experiments.

Other whiskies sampled in our Mumbai monsoon malts evening included:

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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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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Peat Monster 46%

At last! Our final Whisky Ladies Compass Box Quintet whisky of the evening!

We started with Spice Tree Extravaganza, then the lightly peated Great King Street Experimental Batch, shifted gears completely to the blended grain Hedonism before being bowled over by the majestic Flaming Heart!

No easy feat to follow, Peat Monster boldly entered the fray!

Compass Box Peat Monster 46%

  • Nose “Did I just singe my eyelashes?” Punchy, pepper, much spicer than the Flaming Heart, malty sweet embers, coffee
  • Palate – Sweet, campfires burning, spicy yet not harsh, smoky, malty, lightly fruity
  • Finish – Smoky embers, cinnamon sweet spice
  • Water – This was the 1st dram of the night where a few drops of water really helped open it up, dampening the fires, bringing out a wider range in the spice elements, black liquorice, basil and more… a kaleidoscope of flavours to the back of the mouth and throat

After the gorgeous complexity of Flaming Heart, Peat Monster was a return to a dramatic dram that gets right to the point. Nothing fundamentally wrong with that – in fact at times that is exactly what you are in the mood for! No nonsense, this is what it is and enjoy!

For some, previous memories of Peat Monster was of a well-balanced, rich peaty dram that didn’t demand a single drop of water. Yet this one did. With a few drops transforming it, achieving the accessibility and drinkability we remembered. Interesting…

Here’s what the folks at Compass Box have to say:

You will find a spectrum of seaside and medicinal peatiness, along with kipper-like smokiness, all surrounding a core of fruity malt whisky character. THE PEAT MONSTER is a whisky for those who love intensity, flavour and freshness, balance and drinkability. A whisky for those who appreciate the blending of seemingly dissonant elements to create something sublime.

For the whisky geeks, I’ve included Compass Box’s info graphic, outlining the break-up between Laphroaig, Ledaig, Caol Ila, Ardmore with a 1% dash of Highland malt (Clynelish, Teaninich, Duilaine) with a warning that with each batch variation will occur.

Our Compass Box evening included:

Psst… this wasn’t my first brush with Peat Monster… you can read more about my earlier experience here.

This whisky was purchased by one of our Whisky Ladies and sampled from an unopened bottle in July 2017. It is also available in India through The Vault Fine Spirits.

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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Flaming Heart 48.9%

Our Whisky Ladies Compass Box evening moved on to Flaming Heart with a “smouldering, spicy, complex” profile from whisky aged in new French Oak blended with peaty Islay single malt.

What did the ladies find? In short – wow!

Compass Box Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary Limited Edition (July 2015) 48.9%

  • Nose – Greeted by sweet smoke, surprisingly light and fresh, candied peat, leafy, a bit dusty almost musty, black pepper and also green capsicum, intense without being too much so. As it aired more, revealed vanilla, sea salt and seaweed, mossy, gaining in richness and aromas, even a faintly metallic quality. As even more time passed, it revealed further dimensions from star anise to dried fruits and tight berries to an almost herbal quality…
  • Palate – Rich, very unique, oily, heavy, peppery cinnamon or perhaps even a red chilli dark chocolate, gorgeous rich fruits, bitter, toasty, later even leather joined the flavours, an exceedingly tasty dram with a marvellous rich mouthfeel
  • Finish – Woody, dry, fruit spice, feels like it doesn’t end…

One of our ladies nailed it “I’ve been transported!” For her it was straight to Scotland. For others, it was a walk along a beach with the spray and scent of seaweed. Or striding alone along a wind swept cliff. Or coming home to an old leather chair, settling in with a dusty library of beloved books.

This is a ‘weighty whisky’ of substance. A big whisky. With lots of smoke and gorgeous complexity. So much personality and character.

Talk turned to whether it could be described as “Wuthering Heights” like until another quipped “No… this is Game of Thrones” for its complexity, its depth and range… its different personalities… its distinct stages with Acts 1, 2 and 3. This whisky is the stuff of the Iron Islands, sex and dragons.

Here is what the folks over at Compass Box have to say about their 15th Anniversary edition:

First released in 2006, Flaming Heart was the first whisky to combine the rich, complex spice of Scotch aged in new French oak with the evocative peat-fired smoke of Islay malt. It created a genre-defying style that was smouldering, spicy, complex – and so popular that we’ve re-released it four more times in the years that followed.

A unique interplay between spice, sweet and smoke characteristics. Sweet fruits and wood-smoke on the nose. Fat and full-bodied on the palate with a spicy sweetness and a brooding complexity that is rich, sweet and addictively decadent.

And for the whisky geeks, here is their infographic on its composition:

Our Compass Box evening included:

This whisky was purchased at Le Clos at Dubai International Airport for AED 375 and sampled from an unopened bottle in July 2017. 

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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Hedonism 43%

At our Whisky Ladies Compass Box evening shifted gears completely… Having just sampled Spice Tree Extravaganza and the lightly peaty Great King Street Experimental Batch, we realized before launching into the decidedly peaty Flaming Heart and Peat Monster, it might be a good idea to recalibrate our palates with the unique Hedonism.

Compass Box Hedonism 43%

  • Nose – Exquisite! Subtle, nuanced, fresh oranges, exceedingly fresh and fragrant
  • Palate – Piña colada with that mix of coconut cream and pineapple, sweet light spice, silky smooth, vanilla custard
  • Finish – Starts with a great finish then “Oh you are gone, but was nice while it lasted!”

There was an immediate flashback to the Nikka Coffey Grain with its coconut, pinneapple, yet obviously a much more nuanced variant… for some it was absolutely delicious and for others, just not their style. Which seems to be the case with grain whiskies.

It was a complete departure from the earlier drams and an excellent example of the range of unique blends Compass Box produces.

Here’s what the folks at Compass Box have to say:

The inspiration behind our whisky HEDONISM is just that – pleasure, enjoyment, a celebration of that ideal marriage between distilled spirit and high quality oak maturation. The aromas and flavours hint of vanilla, caramel, a delicate fruitiness, accented by flashes of coconut in the finish. This is a whisky that will appeal to both the ardent whisky enthusiast and newcomers to whisky alike.

Our Compass Box evening included:

Psst… this wasn’t my first rodeo with Hedonism… you can read more about my earlier experiences here. I was delighted to sample a more recent incarnation.

This whisky was purchased by one of our Whisky Ladies and sampled from an open, nearly full bottle in July 2017.

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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Great King Street Experimental Batch 43%

Our Whisky Ladies Compass Box evening kicked off with Spice Tree Extravaganza followed by Great King Street – Experimental Batch. A few of us were familiar with the Artist’s Blend and Glasgow variants, yet all were new to this one…

Compass Box Great King Street Experimental Batch TR-06 (03 Sept 2013) 43% Bottle 1534 of 3815, 500 ml

  • Nose – Light smoke, very sweet, honey, vanilla custard, as it opened a hint of mosambi peel or its fragrant zest
  • Palate – Smooth, fabulous mouth feel, quite unctuous, not heavy, instead almost gentle yet full flavoured, delicately balanced between sweet, light spice and smoke with descriptions like “mouth-watering” and “lip smacking”
  • Finish – Spice and smoke curling and swirling about for a long time, closing with peppers and a faint almost bitter citrus peel

This was a terrific start to our evening, with a whisky that is quite accessible, one to sit, savour and enjoy, becoming sweeter and smoother with each sip.

We discussed how it falls between the flavour profile of Artist’s Blend and Glasgow Blend, veering more towards the Artist end of the spectrum. For one, the standard Artist’s Blend remains a favourite, for others this one simply hit its mark and was a lovely start to our Compass Box evening!

Here is what the Compass Box folks have to say about this whisky:

“Complex, smoky and aromatic with notes of seaweed, mint, salt spray and an underlying dried fruit sweetness.” 

This 500ml bottle was purchased at Le Clos at Dubai International Airport in June 2017 for AED 115, sampled from an unopened bottle in July 2017.

Our Compass Box evening included:

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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Spice Tree Extravaganza 46%

Our Whisky Ladies Compass Box evening kicked off with Spice Tree Extravaganza. Issued on the tenth anniversary of the original Spice Tree bottling being banned, the blend:

“draws its inspiration from The Spice Tree but reinterprets it through the use of older components and a significant portion of sherry-cask aged malt whisky. The Spice Tree’s trademark spice character is retained but set within a richer, more elegant frame with a new depth of flavour and complexity.”

And what did the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai think?

Compass Box Spice Tree Extravaganza 46% (Bottled Aug 2016)

  • Nose – Vanilla, sweet spices, rich and almost rum-like, very sweet, dried apricots, stewed spiced apple or an apple crumble with lots of cinnamon
  • Palate – Spiced cider or wine with cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cloves, with all the hallmarks of Thanksgiving – a little pumpkin pie, light roasted nuts, slightly bitter, yet also buttery too with a great mouthfeel
  • Finish – Nice long flavourful finish, chased by delicious spices

Initially harsh for some, however this was the 1st dram of the evening, and one we readily settled into. Once past the 1st sip, it had the most amazing warm spice burn that actually became more not less pronounced over time – remarkable!

We found it quite balanced for a ‘spicy’ whisky, with the most beautiful aromas… ‘festive’ in its character and one decidedly for a cooler evening. And yet, with all its sweet spices swirly about, it was much more autumn than Christmas in character – the sherry dimensions not overly pronounced, an accent not pushing to the fore… In keeping with a more mature sherry malt than brash young sherry bomb.

In short, it was a rather marvellous malt to commence our Compass Box explorations…

Here is what the Compass Box folks have to say about Extravaganza:

Decadent and playful on the nose, you will find notes of sherry wine, dark berries and the fragrant sweetness of traditional sweet shops.

On the palate there is juicy red fruit, a dark brown sugar richness, the trademark Spice Tree ginger and clove spice character and an endlessly long, spicy, substantial finish.

Recommendations This is an excessive, rich, dare we say extravagant whisky. The perfect drink with which to mark one of our more infamous anniversaries. Drink it any way you like – there are no rules that can’t be broken.

For more information, check out Compass Box’s info graphic on this whisky:

Our Compass Box evening included:

Psst… this wasn’t my first tryst with Compass Box’s Spice Tree… you can read more about my earlier experience here with its standard avatar.

This whisky was bought from Singapore Changi Airport Duty Free for SGD179 and sampled from an unopened bottle in July 2017.

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Whisky Ladies Explore a Compass Box Quintet

Most of our Whisky Ladies are no strangers to the often remarkable Compass Box blends. As a group, we’ve sampled the delightful Asyla, Great King Street – Artists Blend and the unique Hedonism. Independently, some of us have tasted many more…

For some time now, we’ve wanted to enjoy a focused session exploring Compass Box offerings… and found our chance on a monsoon evening in July 2017!

It began as a trio, yet morphed into a quintet – oh my! And no ordinary set either… no siree! We found ourselves exploring several limited edition avatars too..

Here is what we tried a Compass Box quintet of:

As always, the distinctive designs, superb craftsmanship and unique take on different whisky profiles was impressive. What a treat to try these together!

Related Compass Box posts:

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