The Nector of the Daily Drams with Mario

It isn’t so often one has an opportunity to sample a dram or two with the person responsible for bringing it to your glass…

So what is The Nector of the Daily Drams?

It is the name of a range of whiskies bottled by The Nectar (Belgian whisky importer and distributor). They’ve been around since 2006 and are  primarily focused on the BeNeLux market. However, you can find them in other markets – specifically in Singapore – through La Maison du Whisky.

And who was with us in Singapore?

Mario Groteklaes, Marketing & Sales Director who also is primarily responsible for cask selection of their Daily Drams whisky series.

Now I must share, Mario thought my taking a few scribbled notes while tasting nonsense – quite clearly drams are to be enjoyed not dissected and detailed.

My companion and I selected two different whiskies each – sharing a few sips with each other. Then chose another two… again sharing – a most civilized approach!

Here is what we had at La Maison du Whisky before Whisky Live:

  • Ben Nevis 21 year (19967/2017) 48.7% – Not my tipple but a good example of a Ben Nevis style
  • Highland Park 24 year (1992/2016) 50% – Delightfully well-balanced and exactly why once upon a time this was a preferred distillery
  • Springbank 23 year (1994/2017) 50.6% – What one would more aptly associate with the Longrow brand – peaty and pleasurable!
  • The Anniversary Dram XO 45.4% – A rather successful effort to reconstruct an ‘old style’ Macallan

I then followed this quartet with the tiniest taste at the Whisky Live VIP room:

  • Deanston 19 year (1999/2018) 51% – Fruit, spice and rather nice!

Read on over the coming days to know more about what we discovered…

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Hyde No. 6 President’s Reserve 46%

Thanks to a mutual whisky aficionado, I was introduced in Mumbai many months ago to two of the merry men behind Ireland’s new whiskey brand – Hyde. Note the deliberate use of brand not distillery… as these folks are building a name for themselves as “bonders” working with existing distillers to craft a range of whiskies with ambitious plans to some day some way have a distillery of their own.

What did they send our way?

Well… A curious miss greeted the Hyde on its arrival… and then I waited an exceedingly long time to find the right evening to share this bottle… So what did we find?

Hyde No. 6 President’s Reserve (May 2017) 46% Bottle No 4780/5000

  • Nose – Bright lemon, a very light sherry perfume, talcum powder, hint of lavender, somehow quite astringent with the lemon the most obvious element – shifting from zest to liquid dishwashing soap, a synthetic lemon desert
  • Palate – One found sulfur, for most it was honey or sugar water, lightly fruity
  • Finish – An initial spice that then relatively quickly dissipated

As the gents knew the theme was some dimension of sherry, speculation turned to it certainly not being fully matured in an ex-sherry barrel but instead only finished and that too not a PX but perhaps Olorosso.

It was a pleasant beginning, simple, sweet with the nose probably the most interesting element.

What do we know about this whiskey?

First off, it is a blend an 18 Year Old Irish single malt and 8 Year Old Irish single grain. Both were first matured in bourbon casks before being finished together for 9 months in Oloroso sherry casks.

It was named in honour of Douglas Hyde, Ireland’s first president, who was inaugurated on 25th June 1938.

And here is what the Hyde folks have to say:

  • Nose – Delightfully floral notes of vanilla, sweet, honey, caramel, chocolate, and mixed fruit, infused with spices.
  • Taste – Wonderfully smooth yet complex, creamy yet fruity with notes of caramel, honey, apricot, and apple, with a silky rich texture.
  • Finish – Rich & Oaky. It lingers in the mouth with a rich long finish.

Here are the other whiskies explored in our Sherry Unusual evening:

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Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend 43%

Our Whisky Ladies November session quite randomly ended  up with a trio of Highland drams plus the delicious Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend.

As a tasting group, we were no strangers to Compass Box and its whole new calibre of blends. In an earlier session we had even tried a limited edition Great King Street blend – the Experimental Batch.

Here is what we thought of the peaty Glasgow version…

Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend 43%

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Nutty, lightly smokey, old furniture, autumn leaves, some spice, a bit of minerals, some vanilla, biscuits
  • Palate – Simply superb! Coffee, sweet berries, beautifully well rounded, some basil, a bit woodsy
  • Finish – Wood smoke, cinnamon, cloves

Overall we enjoyed our wee nip of this blend and the small bottle was completely polished off!

Here is what the Compass Box folks have to say:

In his 1930 book “Whisky”, Aeneas MacDonald teaches us that Glaswegians historically preferred fuller bodied and more flavour-packed whiskies than people in other parts of the world. So what better name for a whisky such as this?

You’ll find here a rich vein of peaty-smokiness, underpinned by sherry cask-aged whiskies, full of dried fruit and wine character. The palate is full and round, with a sweetness typical of whiskies from our company.

You can also see exactly what this blend is made of, courtesy of the fabulously transparent disclosures of Compass Box.

Here is what else we tried:

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Whisky Ladies “Bar Bottle” – Glenmorangie, Old Pulteney, Compass Box, Ardmore

We had different plans for this evening – a much anticipated combined night with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents… However it was not do be so what to do instead?

We thought why not reach into our bars and see what was available to share…

Here is what we unearthed:

It turned out every bottle could be purchased (at one time) at duty-free and yet each was certainly a cut above the standard travel retail fare.

It also just so happened that each had a touch of smoke… from a mere hint with the Old Pulteney and Glenmorangie to a more pronounced puff of peat with the Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend and Armore Triple Wood Peat.

In an unplanned twist, all three single malts were also from Highland distilleries… with the delightful Compass Box blend a terrific foil with some highland whiskies too.

Overall it proved to be a most enjoyable quartet and a good reminder to not dismiss what you may find when perusing airport wares – at least in some select airports around the world!

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The Appetizer – Ballantine’s 17 year Glentauchers 40%

When one of our Whisky Ladies mentioned she would be bringing a special 20 year old Glentauchers bottled by that Boutique-y Whisky Company for La Maison du Whisky, I suddenly remembered I had an old small bottle of a series presented by Ballentine’s to show off the respective character of key elements in their blend.

So pulled it out, dusted it off and hoped it wouldn’t be completely oxidized and terrible… we were in luck! It had stood the test of Mumbai storage conditions rather well!

Ballantine’s Glentauchers

Ballantine’s 17 year Glentauchers 40%

  • Nose – Fruity, nutty, lemon, butterscotch, ice cream
  • Palate – Lemon cherry, very smooth, buttery, light and balanced, a bit of chilli, slightly bitter
  • Finish – Bitter burnt caramel

Overall this whisky was pronounced “Yum!” Simply an exceedingly easy “appetizer” of a whisky. Far from being a disaster, it was actually quite delicious. Clearly this blend had stood the test of time.

What followed was a trio of single malts:

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Whisky Ladies Contributor’s Choice – Glentauchers, Balvenie, Talisker

When doing whisky tastings, themes are great but sometimes going a bit random is even better! And that’s exactly what we did this month with the Whisky Ladies…. we invited contributions and then discovered what they brought!

What did we explore in our Ladies Choice evening?

Our core focus was a trio with a wee ‘appetizer’ blend thrown in at the last minute:

Curious to know more? Just click on the whisky links to read what we thought!

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Bombay Canadian Club – G+W, Gibson’s, JP Wiser’s, Lohin McKinnon

The funny thing about Canadians is we pop up all over the globe. It just so happens that one of our Bombay Malt and Cigar members is married to a fellow Canadian… and happened to have a trip back there recently… and just so happened to pick up a few bottles of Canadian whisky.

Which meant this month, our Bombay Malt and Cigar group was temporarily dubbed the “Bombay Canadian Club” with a chance to check out some offerings from my home and native land Canada!

Here is what we sampled, standing politely in a row:

Read on in the coming days for more details and impressions about our tasting experiences.

I had barely recovered from a rousing Canadian Thanksgiving feast the previous week with friends in Mumbai when our host followed up our whiskies and cigars with Canadian cuisine of tourtiere meat pie, poutine and nanaimo bars! After such an evening, we practically stood up to sing “O Canada!” (But were too polite to do such a thing.)

What was clear across the board is that these were all quite approachable and easy to enjoy whiskies. Not a single one was priced above CND 100, with most around (or even below) the C$50 mark. Making them equally approachable on the financial front as well.

However in terms of availability, some may need an extra check to see which local Canadian LCB (Liquor Control Board) has stock… as not all are “standard” fare. Case in point, our host really did try to track down other single malts such as Shelter Point… alas not a drop to be found where he went in the East or West!

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Bombay Canadian Club – Gooderham and Worts Four Grains (Take Two!)

This wasn’t my 1st brush with Corby’s reconstruction of an old time Canadian blend which had a checkered past of being sold from Ontario to Quebec and smuggled back to meet the demand during temperance times…

Nope! This Gooderham and Worts Four Grain featured in an earlier “O Canada” evening – with initially not so enthusiastic impression followed by social occasions where it was a complete hit!

Gooderham & Worts Four Grains A.A1129 44.4%

  • Nose – It started off quite musty, grainy like wallowing in a granary, definitely had rye, then shifted into a lovely citrus, settling on a clear orange, even chocolate orange, some caramel, warm… back to wheat husk and barley, a drizzle of honey
  • Palate – Sourdough bread, very malty, sweet sugar on the 2nd sip, light spice, and lots of sourgum, more substance than expected
  • Finish – Surprisingly long, paprika and cinnamon

Overall we found it was very sweet. A clear reflection of all its components of corn, rye, wheat and barley. Most had started with rather – ahem! – modest expectations and were quite pleasantly surprised.

After resting covered for some time, we came back for a revisit – initially greeted with a sharp grain, vanilla and then… remarkably a most distinctive chaat masala emerged with full on black salt. It may sound odd but it wasn’t bad, just unexpected.

As we settled into the cigar puffing part of the evening, this blend held its own… not such a bad start to our Canadian explorations.

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

A blend of corn, rye, wheat and barley and bottled at 44.4% ABV this pours a golden/amber colour. On the nose look for notes of honey, toffee, dried flowers, and bubble-gum; the palate is rich and full with a smooth/viscous mouthfeel and flavours of sweet floral and stone fruit followed by a medium-length spicy finish.

Thanks to Canada’s regulated approach to the sale of liquor, one can easily find both where to buy (simple – your provincial LCBO) and how much (currently C$44.95), with this blend relatively easy to find in Ontario.

And if you are picking this up in Toronto and feeling a little nostalgic, I’d recommend a wander through the old distillery district where you can see what once upon a time was the building that produced an earlier avatar!

Check out what our Bombay “Canadian” evening covered:

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Introducing “The Story of the Spaniard” from Compass Box

Sometimes a treat comes to town… this time in the form of the newly launched Compass Box “The Story of the Spaniard” whisky!

Compass Box announced this will join their core range, likely with some variation on a sherry theme in future editions – yet all blends will be anchored by Spanish casks – be it sherry wine or a sherry-like wine.

So what did we find in our introduction to this latest Compass Box blend?

Photo from compassboxwhisky.com

The Story of the Spaniard 43%

  • Nose – Lemon, citrus, anise, subtle, clean, then reveals darker fruits, a hint of  cherries under a bright spice
  • Palate – Spice, initially gives a sense of being a bit brash and young, then on second sip, reveals a delicate balance, warm sweet spices, something a bit deeper almost resinous… Sip again and that spice comes roaring to the fore… and then again it is subdued…
  • Finish – Warming spice

In our first brush with the Spaniard, none of us were tempted to add water. However I was fortunate a bit remained with an opportunity to revisit another day… This time also sampling with a large round cube of ice, slowly melting into the whisky.

Transformed! While normally my default sipping style is need or with a few drops of water, for The Spaniard, I would suggest also trying with a bit of ice. In this second foray, I found:

  • Nose – Retains the citrus yet shifts to more of a mandarin orange and a hint of hazelnut, more dark red wine than typical Christmasy sherry notes
  • Palate – A delight. The wine-like quality emerges more, with some tannins and a light bitterness, with a sweet citrus twist
  • Finish – The bitterness remains with sweet spices

Like all Compass Box blends, the details are disclosed – including that it is not chill filtered and natural colour. For the first release, the recipe is:

  • 40% was aged in 1st fill Sherry butt using a malt whisky near Aberlour
  • 25% in ex-Spanish red wine casks with malt whisky from Teaninich
  • 15% highland blend (Clynelish, Dailuaine, Teaninich) further matured in hybrid french oak cask with a heavy toast
  • Then a combination of 8% refill sherry butt and 7% refills hogshead from Deanston, 5% re-charred barrels with malt from Glen Elgin.

CompassBoxWhisky.com

And what do the folks at Compass Box have say about it?

You will find a whisky that is full, soft and sumptuous on the palate with flavours of citrus peel and pears poached in red wine and spices. It’s a whisky ideal for late evening sipping or stirring into a cocktail.

Worth trying? Absolutely!

And for those curious to track it down, I understand it should be available in India shortly through The Vault Fine Spirits.

Other Compass Box core range?

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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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