Going on an expedition! Shackleton’s Journey 47.3%

The whiskies of yore are extremely rare, however whisky recreations (particularly when backed with a good story) are making a come-back!

Shackleton was inspired by 3 crates of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt discovered in Antartica in 2007 from an 1907 expedition with Ernest Shackleton, brought to fortify his ‘Nimrod’ expedition. Richard Paterson, Master Blender of White & Mackay (owners of the Mackinlay brand), re-created this whisky based on analysis of the previous preserved bottles from the originals.

There are now three editions – ‘Discover’ and  ‘Journey’ both at 47.3% and a newer 40% version for mass market. The initial editions used Orkney peat in the malting, matured in American white oak sherry casks with a blend of malts from Glen Mhor and Dalmore distilleries with others from Speyside and beyond.

Our original group sampled the Journey version completely blind before the reveal.

Shackleton 47.3% – Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, The Journey edition

  • Colour – A bright yellow gold straw
  • Nose – Fruity, organic, citrus, a sense that it might be a bit oily, banana, as the pronounced alcohol started to settle down revealed a more earthy side, dairy curds, dry hay, has quite a farm-like quality, a bit of khatta meetha (sour & sweet), tamarind, kept changing and evolving, shifted to cut grass, vegetal, copper, hint of smoke, autumn leaves, garden flowers, light spice, sesame oil, tropical fruits, light honey, even marmalade
  • Palate – Sweet yet with a bitter green element too – like meethi or cereal, a little spice and sweet, while came across as young it was without being harsh or raw, fresh tumeric, dry, even a bit of sulfur?
  • Finish – A long, bitter finish with more of that tumeric

This whisky had quite a volatile character. After the first sip, the nose was dramatically dampened down, the diversity gone, and the aromas and palate aligned. Some found it bitter quality pleasant, others a bit too much. While not complex on the palate… it began with character then became flat with the nose slipping into wet mud.

Then we added water... what a difference that made! The bitterness left, replaced by a much sweeter, balanced dram, a gentle smoke weaved its way around. Often water initially brings out spice – in this case not at all – instead it just brought all the elements together.

As our discussions continued, it aired further as we debated whether this was Scottish at all… could it be European? A blend? The aromas shifted to a medicine cabinet, iodine and adhesive bandaids chased by b-complex pills.

While we concluded it may not be a “repeat” drink, it certainly sparked a lot of conversation and was good way to start our evening.

With the reveal, we were distracted by all the paraphernalia that came with the whisky… The packaging was cleverly designed to bring history to the consumer of the reconstruction – a straw covered bottle, a slim envelop bursting with photographs, copies of old letters, a negative strip, map, booklet outlining the tale…

The Journey edition is described to be the “elegant and refined” avatar:

With the launch of the Shackleton Epic Expedition, and continued correspondence with Shackleton’s grand-daughter Alexandra and the Antarctic Heritage Trust, Richard Paterson was inspired to create a second edition of the Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt – The JOURNEY.

The Epic Expedition will attempt to replicate Shackleton’s “Double”: his journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia, a distance of 800 miles over sea and ice. This will be done with the same kinds of equipment used in the 1916 expedition, including the Alexandra Shackleton, a replica of the 23ft open lifeboat used on the original voyage.

The Journey Edition of Mackinlay’s takes the same base of single malts used to create the original Discovery Edition and, still inspired by the original recipe, builds on them to create a noticeably different dram – a more elegant and refined interpretation.

What all did we try in our explorer’s evening of “It’s all about the packaging”?

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Explorers – Shackleton, Tobermory, Highland Park Thor

One of the reasons we love tasting blind is we can explore a whisky without being influenced by previous experience with the distillery or marketing paraphernalia. For our February 2018 session, this came in handy… as the theme of the evening ending up being the whisky packaging!

What all did we try?

Did I mention the marketing? Just wait to see the booklets, photos, special boxes and more!

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Mars Iwai Traditional Blended Whisky 40%

At various international airports, I’ve spotted Iwai Traditional and its cousin Mars Maltage “Cosmo” a few times… And not to scoff at reasonably priced blends, it just never quite made it into the final “cut” to come into Mumbai, India.

Which is why it was a welcome appetizer at a recent Whisky LadiesContributor’s Choice” evening…

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

Mars Iwai Traditional Blended Whisky 40%

  • Nose – Very sweet, banana, caramel, candied green apple, raisins, a bit dusty, soaked fruit. However rather than opening up to reveal more, as it aired took on an almost ‘flat’ quality, settling into a sweet rum or apple juice
  • Palate – Clearly quite a bit of grain in the blend, pineapple rum cake, cardboard, no body at all, came across as a bit raw and young, a slight hint of charcoal peat
  • Finish – Bit of a spice burn and that’s it
  • Water – Not quite sure why but it was attempted. Just don’t. All it does is bring out sharp alcohol and adds nothing to the equation

Now our Whisky Ladies are accustomed to higher strength drams, so it is no surprise several remarked that this seemed to be quite “watered down.”

We expected a pleasant appetizer whisky like Akashi Red Blended Whisky which we had dubbed the “apple cider” whisky. Yet somehow that had no pretence of being more and hence was somehow more enjoyable in its uncomplicated way.

What do we know about this whisky? Not much… except that it is apparently a blend of sherry, bourbon and wine casks with a bit of peat. Alas, I could not track down official tasting notes in English…

The Mars Hombo company is not new to the spirits industry and added whisky to their repertoire in 1949. In 1985, they opened their Shinshu distillery – producing whisky under the Mars label. This distillery at Shinshu, Kuyshu Island, Nagano Prefecture is thought to be the highest in Japan (even more so than Hakushu). More recently, the company is opening a new distillery in Kagoshima, Tsunuki.

What else did we sample in our “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

Interested in reading about more Japanese whiskies tasting notes? Check out the Asia Whiskies page.

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Whisky Ladies Contributor’s Choice – Mars Iwai, Glenrothes, Glenmorangie, Bunnahabhain

You would think having one Whisky Ladies session in January would be sufficient… and we certainly had a merry evening combined with the gents to explore Douglas Laing blends with a bonus!

However we decided to skip our February session in favour of a late January one to welcome back for an evening a member who now resides in the US.

We went completely random in whisky choices… only knowing who would be bringing a contribution… nothing else.

So what did we sample in our “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

Photo: Rashmi Dhawani

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Sansibar’s Glentauchers, Spicely Sweet + Smokey Peated

At Whisky Live Singapore 2017, the Sansibar booth was manned by a local bartender who was so passionate about what the folks at Sansibar are doing, it was positively infectious.

Thanks to La Maison du Whisky, I’d already encountered the Islay Malt 8 year and brought it back for a special undisclosed distilleries evening.

Now, as it was at Whisky Live, it means my impressions were fleeting… however enough to cement an opinion that Sansibar is worth continuing to keep an eye on!

Glentauchers 8 year 48.2%

  • Nose – Soft, sweet, lightly elegant
  • Palate – Not just sweetness and light, a bit bitter, toffee, butterscotch raisin
  • Finish – Bitter nuts

Overall this is a light desert in a bottle.

Spicily Sweet 48% – Blended Small Batch, Batch #1 “Sunset”

  • Nose – Very fruity, aaaah… yum!
  • Palate – Smooth, sweet, soft fruits, light spice
  • Finish – Here is where the spice peeps out even more

My initial thought was this is a summer dram – sun soaked fruits – with a name that perfectly personifies its name “spicily sweet”! It was so enjoyable that I thought folks back in Mumbai might enjoy it too. And sure enough, “Sunset” closed an evening exploring independent blends

Smokey Peated 48% – Blended Small Batch, Batch #1 “Signal Fire”

  • Nose – Bacon, wood fire, fruit behind the smoke like pineapple and other tropical fruits
  • Palate – Holy toledo peat! Turbo charged peat yet not in the least harsh, more fruits
  • Finish – Captive ash. No messing with it peat. Bit of a pepper chaser

I thought of the Sansibar Islay Malt 8 year cask strength which brought an elegance to peat. By contrast the “Signal Fire” was unabashed peat.

Quite interesting to try this trio and I planned to return to continue sampling… however all the other whiskies I had hoped to try were polished off. Clearly others found the offerings also appealing.

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Armorik’s Bretan Whiskies – Breizh, Armorik Classic + Double Matured

The great thing about going to any Whisky industry event is an opportunity to try a range of whiskies – including those you would be unlikely to buy. Even better is when there is a chance to sample drams you would otherwise find challenging to encounter.

I first sampled an Armorik whisky from the Warengham distillery in Bretagne in June 2015 at La Maison du Whisky, Singapore. It was the Classic and while it didn’t compel me to add it to the final selection from that shopping expedition, it certainly was no disaster. Since then, I’ve had limited encounters and none with an opportunity to try a trio side-by-side.

For those unfamiliar with the brand and distillery, there is a 100 year distillation history in creating elixirs and other spirits, expanding into launching whisky blends in the late 1980s and single malts late 1990s.

So what did I trio at Whisky Live Singapore 2017?

For all, I was informed though providing No Age Statement (NAS), each was matured for a minimum of 5 years.

Breizh Blended Grain 42%

  • Nose – Young, lightly malty, sweet
  • Palate – Soft, hint of cinnamon, cereals
  • Finish – Minimalist, light spice

While fleeting, the impression was of something light, young, nothing offensive but nothing drawing me into it further either.

And what do the folks at the distillery have to add?

50% grain, 50% malt. The double distillation in copper stills is followed by an ageing in traditional oak casks, all matured by the climate with a particular climate in Brittany. Here are a few of the factors that now lead Distillerie Warenghem to offer this excellent Blended Whisky at 42% ABV. Breizh is a famous cousin of the WB, which was the first Breton Whisky. EUR 35.

Armorik Classic 46%

  • Nose – Lots of cereals, fruit, vanilla
  • Palate – Again quite soft, light, fruit, almost a hint of smoke, woodsy… reminded just a bit of a Japanese whisky matured in French Oak
  • Finish – Has quite a sharp spice that grows stronger – not in an unpleasant way but hard to ignore

It wasn’t quite what I remembered – quite a bit more approachable and I was informed they have ‘tinkered’ with the target whisky style to achieve just this easier to access element.

What do the Warengham folks have to add?

Cornerstone of the range, ARMORIK Classic comprises the best of our cellars in a highly refined edition. As a marriage of sherry and bourbon casks of different ages, it highlights the quality of the ageing on the Breton Coasts and the expertise of our cellar manager. This ARMORIK Classic comes in a non-chill filtered version, thus refining its aromatic qualities. EUR 41.

Armorik Double Maturation 46%

  • Nose – Light cereal, less of the spice, more citrusy
  • Palate – Soft, fruity, an almost apple sauce quality, woody oak
  • Finish – Spice burn with a light fruity finish

The Warenghem is double matured in Oak and Sherry casks, which would have lead one to believe even more of the Sherry character would have infused the whisky. Whereas it was a light touch.

What more do the producers of Armorik have to say?

Genuine symbol of the Distillery’s values, this Armorik highlights both the quality of its know-how and its attachment to the Breton land. In partnership with a local cooper, the Distillery designed unique Brittany oak casks. Armorik Double Maturation remains in them for many long years before being transferred into Oloroso sherry casks for a second maturation. Reduced to 46% and non-chill filtered, it pleases through its richness and elegance. EUR 46.80.

To be honest, the Armorik Classic was for me the most enjoyable of the trio. It was my introduction to this range and would remain the one I would suggest folks start if exploring whiskies from Warengham. You also have to appreciate their price point – they are very much keeping their whiskies in the affordable range.

What I would like to try next is something a little older, preferably cask strength… like their 12 year or 13 year. Let’s see if such an opportunity presents itself one of these years…

Interested in more French whisky experiences? Check out:

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Compass Box Enlightenment + Oak Cross

Compass Box just does blends to a different standard. These are no run of the mill drams. Their quirky sometimes stunning packaging is as appealing as what is contained in the bottles too.

At Whisky Live in Singapore (November 2017), I skipped all the whiskies sampled not so long ago with the Whisky Ladies to instead focus on lightly sniff, swish and spit my way through two.

Enlightenment 46%

  • Nose – Fruity, malty, cereals, bit of pepper, crisp fruits, teasing vanilla
  • Palate – Sweet light spice that grows, bright, citrus
  • Finish – There… with more spice

Overall it is exceedingly nice and eminently drinkable.

And what do the folks over at Compass Box have to say?

Inspired by the writers, philosophers and scientists of the Age of Enlightenment, this blend of fruity fragrant Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskies is bursting with aromas of fresh orchard fruit, vanilla, soft spice and pear.

Oak Cross 43%

  • Nose – Light oak, malty with a bit of fruit
  • Palate – So smooth with a woody spice, clove
  • Finish – More oomph than expected, warm and stays

In many ways Oak Cross is a great name for this whisky…. it has solid oak crossed with a nice spice. It absolutely works!

And the Compass Box folks insight?

We begin by sourcing whiskies from three single malt distilleries; one for its ethereal fruity character, one for its enchanting perfume and one that lends a complex and substantial structure to the blend.

All are aged in American oak casks before we place a portion into innovative hybrid casks featuring heavily toasted new French oak heads. These give the whisky an added richness and spice-like complexity. By carefully blending back the French oak-aged whisky with its American oak-aged forebear, we are able to create a refined, rich, but well-mannered malt whisky, with fruity aspects that will remind you of baked apple or pears, complemented by a rich, toasty oak character.

More Compass Box experiences:

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Whisky Live Singapore 2017

So here we are in February 2018… and I’m only now getting around to sharing observations from November 2017 Whisky Live Singapore….  Why the delay?

Because I found it really hard to put into words that after such a terrific experience at Whisky Live Singapore 2016, the 2017 edition simply wasn’t for me. Which seems exceedingly churlish to admit when the organizers were kind enough to extend a day pass.

However rather than dwell on disappointments, let me focus on the key benefit of attending any Whisky Live anywhere in the world – the whisky!

There definitely were highlights and I captured a few fleeting notes on my sniff, swish (and mostly spit) experiences… And before you gasp in dismay about not savouring and swallowing, I firmly adopt a “Survival Guide” approach to explore to the max and over-indulge to the min.

There is a price to such a “speed dating” method. Notes cannot be complete and lack in-depth insights. Instead, they are just quick surface impressions… like a teaser… merely giving a sense of what might come… if only…

So with that caveat in mind, welcome to explore Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Whisky Live Singapore’s Collector’s Room picks for 2017:

  • Caol Ila 16 year (1969) 40%
  • Yamazaki 12 year (1996/2009) 60% (Whisky Live Japan 10 year anniversary edition)

Tasting notes to follow in the coming months… so stay tuned!

And what did I walk away with? You may be surprised:

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McClelland’s Speyside Single Malt 40%

During my last trip to Canada, I caught up with one of our Mumbai Whisky Ladies who moved to Canada. Naturally our evening turned to a sip or two. Of late, her preferences have leaned towards lighter Speyside drams.

One was from a familiar distillery – Auchentoshan – though an expression not yet reviewed – American Oak…

The other was new to me – McClelland’s Speyside, started originally as a blender, now part of the Morrison Bowmore distillers.

The thinking behind the McClelland’s range is to explore the ‘character’ of key whisky distilling regions –  launched in 1986 with an Islay, Highland and Lowland expressions  and joined in 1999 by this Speyside expression.

They describe a Speyside whisky character as being:

Speyside malts are sweet and fruity;
sometimes delicate, sometimes rich and robust.
Always complex.

And while I did not take detailed notes, my recollections were of:

  • Nose – Honey, light fruit and florals, fresh, sweet
  • Palate – Light spice, slightly nutty, floral with a oaky slightly bitter quality too
  • Finish – Short

Overall quite pleasant and an easy drinking dram.

Here is what the folks over at McClelland’s have to say:

  • Colour – Honeyed with golden highlights.
  • Body – Light to medium, elegant and balanced.
  • Nose – A fresh invigorating Speyside malt of mint, menthol and freshly cut pine. Traces of fine dark chocolate and a lingering sweet malt aroma.
  • Palate – An initial fibrous sweet nougat essence is complemented by the savoury flavours of brazil and hazelnut. A subtle floral freshness adds a faint perfumed bouquet to the palate.
  • Finish – Short, yet powerful, complex unforgettable.

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Sansibar’s Spicily Sweet 48%

After our Douglas Laing trio of Timorous Beastie 46.8%,  Epicurean 46.2% and Rock Oyster 57.4%, we shifted gears to Germany with a restaurant cum independent bottler Sansibar.

This was not my 1st brush with Sansibar…. I had snagged a cask strength Islay dram for my whisky tasting groups a year earlier… shared in two sessions:

I then had a chance to try more of their range at Singapore’s Whisky Live in November 2017. There was no doubt one of the set I tried was coming home to Mumbai to share…

To then have an opportunity to try it together with BOTH the Whisky Ladies and Bombay Malt & Cigar gents? Along with other independent blends? Well it seemed like just the right opportunity!

Sansibar’s Spicily Sweet 48%

  • Nose – Mmmm…. caramel sweet… lots of toffee… Christmas pudding, coconut, brandy butter tart, then started to reveal more fruits like papaya, shifting back in vanilla, more baked goods like butter pecan pie, a hint of cinnamon and other sweet spices
  • Palate – “Wow!” It was one of those whiskies where articulating the experience in specific descriptors was lost in the pure pleasure of just enjoying the palate. Nicely rounded, sweet and spice beautifully balanced. In short – it was simply delicious.
  • Finish – Continued in the lovely sweet spicy vein
  • Water – Why add? Not needed at all

For most this was a return to their whisky ‘happy place’… particularly for one of our gents, this was “his” style of whisky and a perfect accompaniment to a good cigar.

There were a few ‘outliers’ with different impressions. One lady remarked it started off with “old sock” scent.. which may sound atrocious but it actually quite common and not a disaster in drams. Another said she found naphthol in the finish….

Yet the overall consensus was this was an enjoyable dram, aptly named “Spicily Sweet” with more emphasis on the sweetness than the spiciness.

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

NOSE Honey, figs, prunes on butter crumble, with marzipan, raisins, caramel and cinnamon
TASTE Sweet honey, herbal liqueur, caramel and almonds, with pepper, cinnamon and dried fruit
LEAVING Spicy, peppery, with dried fruit and hazelnut

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

This bottle of Sansibar Spicily Sweet was purchased at La Maison du Whisky, Singapore for approx SGD 150.

What were the whisky blends explored?

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