Bombay Canadian Club – JP Wiser’s 18 year 40%

Ah…Canada and Canadian whiskies… Time to shift from blends to a single grain… In our case, aged for a most respectable 18 years… Welcome to our experience with J.P. Wiser’s 18 year old!

JP Wiser’s 18 year 40%

  • Nose – When we freshly opened the bottle were initially hit with acetone and varnish, however this quickly settled down into wood, spearmint, pine sol, apples, warm, liquorice, cotton candy, light toast then sawdust
  • Palate – Very soft, at first thought it almost watery on the 1st sip but don’t pre-judge…. the 2nd sip reveals light caramel, nicely rounded, a bit oily… the 3rd sip revealed even more depth and complexity with sucking candy
  • Finish – A lovely liquorice spice

Overall we found this one you should give a bit of time.

For our Malt & Cigar gents, what mattered most was it paired rather well with a good cigar, thank you very much!

The folks at the LCBO have this to say:

A single grain whisky that is dominated by aromas of green apple in part due to the unique aging conditions in Southern Ontario. It pours a medium golden amber with additional aromas of caramel, orange peel and spice; the palate is round and medium-bodied with a silky texture and a smooth vanilla driven, 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$79.95).

Check out what our Bombay “Canadian” evening covered:

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Whisky Ladies Grain – Nikka Coffey Grain 45%

When our Whisky Ladies set out to explore grains, we just so happened to include one we had sampled before – the Nikka Coffey Grain.

Our earlier impression was of a sun soaked piña colada masquerading as a coconut fruity whisky.

So what did we think on our revisit? Juxtaposed next to other grain whiskies from Scotland and Japan?

Nikka Coffey Grain 45%

  • Nose – Quite aromatic and herbal! Has character, toffee, brown sugar, coconut, some vanilla, sweet corn and a hint of sweet lemon, pear
  • Palate – Sooooooo sweet, silky soft and gentle, loads of that toffee
  • Finish – Sweeter note

One exclaimed “Well this is a fun whisky to meet!” Another shared it certainly is one to satisfy a sweet tooth – like a dessert dram!

For those who had tried it in our earlier session remarked that while there certainly was some coconut, it did not have that delightful almost over enthusiastic tropical piña colada quality.

When we considered the grains sampled so far – Haig, Chita and now this Nikka – there was little doubt the Nikka had the most character.

What do the folks over at Nikka have to say?

Coffey Grain is predominantly made from corn and distilled in a Coffey Still. The complex, sweet and mellow flavors of this expression will help you re-discover the beauty of a grain whisky.
The Coffey Still is the world’s first patented continuous still invented by Mr. Aeneas Coffey in 1830. Masataka Taketsuru valued the feature of this type of still, which retains the flavors of ingredients and also creates a distinctive texture. Coffey Grain and Coffey Malt are Nikka’s signature grain whiskies which show the beauty of our Coffey Stills.

And what would a bottle set you back? You can find it online in the UK for approx £55. We tasted it in September 2018 from an open bottle.

PS – Photo credit goes to our contributor Nikolina Berg.

What did the Whisky Ladies try in their Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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Whisky Ladies Go Against the Grain – Haig Club 40%

From Cameronbridge distillery in Fife, on the edge of Eastern Highlands and Lowlands, the Haig grain has set about creating a marketing space for a “different” kind of whisky.

It does not look like your traditional whisky bottle.

It does not attempt to claim space with your standard dram.

It steers far away from being “traditional” and instead embraces being a base for cocktails, welcomes ice, says hello to cola and more….

As they put it, it is deliberately “designed” to be different.

Forget everything you thought you knew about scotch. Experience the new world of scotch whisky.

So what did the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai collectively think?

Haig Club 40%

  • Nose – Initially a hit of pure alcohol, then starts to slip into a fresh, citrusy scent, some spice, light vanilla that over time started to reveal a nice butterscotch or caramel quality
  • Palate – We had quite a mixed response here – some found it smooth, innocuous honey water whereas others thought it flat to the extend of simply nondescript alcohol
  • Finish – Not much, short, perhaps a hint of honey ginger?
  • Water – Surprisingly given this was already at the low end of alcohol strength for a whisky, we actually did try it with water… and found it made it even more of an “easy drinking” whisky

We certainly weren’t “wowed” by this Haig grain but hadn’t expected to be either.

It was very “accessible” which is a nice way of saying easy-drinking without much distinctive character.

What was more amusing was the division of opinion on whether the “perfume” style bottle was aesthetically pleasing or not. Just like the palate, the room was divided between liking and not.

What is it exactly? A combination of three cask types – first-fill, rejuvenated and refill bourbon barrel-matured whiskies.

Beyond that… here’s what the folks producing it have to  say :

HAIG CLUB’s ultra-smooth character and toffee and butterscotch notes can be paired with a variety of complementary flavours to add extra layers of complexity, resulting in a range of cocktail styles that eclipse most whisky brands and showcase unexpected ways for people to enjoy Scotch.

  • Appearance: Light, bright gold with a fine viscosity, suggesting freshness and sweet flavour.
  • Nose: Light creamy butterscotch or custard, with tropical fruits and citrus becoming richer and sweet; a pleasing light woody spiciness.
  • Taste: Icing sugar or coconut creamy sweetness, butterscotch, and a mouth-watering spiciness. Like a tropical fruit salad with a fresh clean balance.
  • Finish: Short and very clean, with traces of freshly sawn wood.

And what would a bottle of the Haig set you back? You can find it online at Master of Malt for £39.95 or various duty free airports around Asia. Our bottle was purchased a few years ago and opened in September 2018.

PS – Photo credit goes to our contributor – with thanks!

What did the Whisky Ladies try in their Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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Douglas Laing’s Old Particular – Invergordon 28 year Single Grain 56.5%

After the Girvan 8 year and Strathclyde 25 year, the last of our Single Grain Trio was from Invergordon from the Highland region – at the ripe age of 28 years.

Invergordon 28 year (Aug 1987/Nov 2015) DL 11004 56.5% Douglas Laing’s Old Particular, 490 bottles

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Muted varnish, honey vanilla, more wood with a sharp element too, lemon, herbs, quite musty, one even described it as a ‘dirty dish rag’
  • Palate – Burnt toast like marmite, very salty, like sea water, some cinnamon and spice
  • Finish – Dry roasted spicy salty peanuts, very dry
  • Water – Brought out even more spice with a hint of liquorice

On 1st sip one remarked “makes an impact”… that sharp element on the nose came through as a bit harsh on the palate initially. It was exceptionally dry and it was certainly the saltiest finish I’ve ever come across. One even said “It’s like gargling salt water.”

Was it our style of whisky? No. Was it worth trying? Absolutely.

Here is what the folks over at Douglas Laing have to say:

  • Nose: Opens with a spiced toffee character, with polished oak and a sweet home baked quality
  • Palate: Mouth coating and sweetly spiced, with caramel butter cream and a treacle character
  • Finish: A spicy, sweet and pleasantly long finish, showing late oak

For another perspective, here is what the chaps at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Cinnamon and rich toffees, vanilla, resin and oak.
  • Palate: Soft fudge, dates, brioche, molasses and a hint of pot pourri.
  • Finish: Spicy oak.
  • Overall: A rich and dignified single cask grain.

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

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Douglas Laing’s Old Particular – Strathclyde Single Grain 25 year 51.5%

Our Single Grain trio evening continued with Strathclyde single grain from Glasgow. Originally built in 1927 on the site of an old cotton mill to produce gin, it has gone on to pump out grain spirit, primarily for blends for its current owner – Chivas Bothers Holdings, part of the Pernod Ricard group.

Strathclyde Single Grain 25 year (Aug 1990/Sep 2016) Refill Barrel DL11335 51.5% Douglas Laing’s Old Particular, 116 bottles

  • Nose – Unmistakable varnish – full-on, then caramel, banana, light flowers, then nuts like walnut, coconut, dried fruits, shifted into a creamy aroma – like sweet coconut cream, becoming increasingly sweet like butterscotch – loads and loads of butterscotch, then baked banana bread, roasted almonds, a bit of chocolate, then just as earlier it was unquestionably butterscotch, it was sawdust or fresh wood shavings, after airing even more like marshmallows!
  • Palate – Cinnamon sweet, the 2nd sip was quite bitter and a bit harsh, the settled into mulled wine, while pleasant, nothing remarkable
  • Finish – Bitter long, with a spice chaser, very dry and closed with nail polish
  • Water – Don’t. Loses the nose which is by far the best aspect. However it did bring out the most compelling nescafé instant coffee taste!

The nose was the most interesting element of this grain whisky. It was remarkable how it kept evolving – all elements nuanced yet distinctive. Whereas on the palate, it was came across as innocuous, something to accompany with little remarkable on its own.

And yet, as we re-calibrated ourselves to grain, there was no doubt this was the clear favourite of the three single grains sampled!

Here is what the folks over at Douglas Laing have to say:

  • Nose: Round and full of sweet golden syrup with a floral, herbal and gristy style
  • Palate: Carries a mouth coating molasses character plus spice-studded orange
  • Finish: Long, with gentle vanilla toffee, muscovado sugar and late sweet spices

For another perspective, here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Milk chocolate, thyme honey and a pinch of spicy clove.
  • Palate: Cardamom and cinnamon up front, followed by waves of caramel and brown sugar.
  • Finish: Minty, with heaps of chocolate-fudge brownie later on.

While I can’t say where this particular bottle was purchased, it is available through Master of Malt for $82. We sampled it on 31 August 2017 from a closed bottle.

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

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Berrys’ Girvan Single Grain 8 year (2006/2014) 46%

Our Single Grain trio evening began with a ‘statutory warning’… a not so gentle reminder to free ourselves from expectations of superior single malts and instead consider the humble grain that mostly goes disguised into blends…

And what did we find?

Girvan 8 year (2006/2014) Cask 532398 46% (Berrys’)

  • Nose – Though only 46%, had an initial ‘hit’ of pure alcohol! Quite grainy, then slowly sweet bananas, some vanilla from the oak wood, lemon drop sweetness peeped out… all the elements were very subtle with the overall scent of light varnish
  • Palate – First pronouncement was “Well… it isn’t unpleasant” Hmm… Oddly, the 2nd sip was a bit harsher, back to the initial nose of alcohol… as we continued to sip, a bit of coconut could be found..
  • Finish – Yes… there is a finish… of pepper and spice
  • Water – Add a few drops or dollop and it pumps up the spice, shifting to quite a bitter quality
  • After airing – We set it aside and returned after nearly an hour to find it had settled into quite a sweet nose – almost cotton candy like! Whereas the palate and finish remained much the same

Overall… it was interesting to sample a single grain but it wouldn’t be the whisky of choice for any of us. I flipped back to notes from an earlier experience with the Girvan 28 year – clearly age helped yet there was enough to discern some similarities.

Distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2014 unchillfiltered and uncoloured.

For another perspective, here are the producer notes:

”This ex – Bourbon barrel single grain whisky has pronounced fragrances in vanilla, custard creams and some lively citrus. The palate is surprisingly full and oily with waves of coffee cream, spice and juicy lime. To finish there is a delicate spicy prickle.”

While I can’t say for certain, I strongly suspect this bottle was purchased from LeClos, Dubai Airport for $42. We sampled it 31 August 2017 from a closed bottle.

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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R+B Distillers – Borders + Raasay

There are a dizzying array of new distilleries popping up all over the world. And yet setting up a new distillery – nay two – is no small feat.

The team at Raasay & Borders Distillers (R&B Distillers) recognize that “Building distilleries takes time though, so we are satisfying our impatience by working with a Highland distillery to very deliberately craft the styles of whisky representative of what’s to come.”

As part of our Monsoon Malts & More evening, we dove into two wee samples…

Borders Single Grain 51.7%

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – While clearly a grain, it is soft not pushy, old flowers like chrysanthemums, slight sulfur, fruits and acetone, sweet the sour then sweet again
  • Palate – Sweet spices, lots of character, creamy, slightly astringent yet not unpleasant, hints of coffee
  • Finish – Staying power

Not in the least bit harsh and as we continued sipping, thought more and more of Koffee Toffee… and pronounced it as “rather a good grain!”

What do we know about it? It is distilled in the highlands, non-chill filtered and natural colour.

Here’s what they have to say:

  • Aroma: Prominent sherry notes on the nose, hints of sugar-coated nuts.
  • Taste: Surprisingly dry on the palate with the sherry influences dominating. Walnuts balanced with vanilla, herbaceous and floral notes coming through towards the end, and just a touch of warm spice.
  • Finish: Lingering, dry and complex.
  • Food Pairing: Pairs well with Cocoa Black dark praline chocolates.

What more do we know about it? It has 50% wheat & 50% malted barley, finished in Oloroso Sherry casks. In their words:

Our Borders highland single grain whisky is a testament to our 19th century heritage and a nod to our future. Our Co-founder Alasdair Day’s great-grandfather blended whisky in the Coldstream – marked by the golden dot on this bottle.

The River Tweed is iconic to this uncommon provenance. It is integral in our R&B story and in forming part of the border between Scotland and England. The soft rolling landscape that surrounds it is reflected in character through the light, sweet notes of this lowland-style whisky.

We then shifted gears to their second offering – Raasaay.

Raasay “While We Wait” 46%

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – Iodine, light leather, oils
  • Palate – Sharp and initially an off quality, a bit rancid, olive oil, sour, peat, chewy and bitter then sweet
  • Finish – Sweet

You would think from the notes this would be a rather unpleasant whisky. But here is the thing, as we sipped it began to grow on us more and more.

For two of us, it reminded us of a Ledaig from Tobermoray, particularly when we added a few drops of water.

Here’s what they have to say:

  • Nose: Chocolate, pear, raisin. Blackcurrant, chocolate cake, slight kirsch brandy note, red wine note.
  • Palate: Cherry at the front palate, smoke, more chocolate notes, orangey notes, slight burnt oak note. Vanilla and oaky notes. Dash of orange and raspberry.
  • Finish: Slightly floral. More oak. Cookies.

What more do we know about it?  In their words:

While waiting for the Isle of Raasay Distillery to rise beneath Dùn Caan, we’ve crafted a single malt demonstrating our whisky making skills to offer a tantalising taster of what’s to come.

We achieved this by blending two expressions from one distillery; one peated, one unpeated. The whisky then finished in French oak Tuscan wine casks from three vineyards that produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Naturally, one turns so speculate, which Highland distillery produces both grain and malt whisky? Could it be Loch Lamond…?

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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