St Kilian Signature Edition ‘Nine’ 55.3%

I love being able to bring something new and different to our tasting groups in India. The delight of hunting down something that is both novel and worth the time spent considering its different dimensions. Now, a high-end mature Scottish malt and a young upstart from Deutschland cannot be compared, however, there are some very worthy experiments taking place in Europe these days! And St Kilian distillery from just outside Frankfurt is one to watch.

What did we try?

St Kilian Signature Edition “Nine” 55.3%

  • Nose – Young, malty, with a different kind of sweetness than the One and Six. Lots of pears, crunchy orchard fruits. Cinnamon candy. Flaky biscuits with cream. Quite summery in character…
  • Palate – Well, well, well… Not nearly so ‘innocent’ on the palate as the nose teased… There was still lots of candy, and cinnamon however it was joined by a healthy dose of spice, malt, bitter apple, quite warming… and was that a hint of peat? Overall we found it quite chewy and well-rounded
  • Finish – Resin, dried orange peel… a proper finish
  • Water – Don’t mind if I do! This dram easily integrates a splash of cool water – revealing more orchard fruits like peach and apricot

It could be described as contradictory. When we first opened the bottle, Krishna Nakula (Malt Maniac) called it a bit ‘funky’ with an active nose that veered on sour mash.  The kind of whisky one would prefer to have on a wet cold rainy day….

However, just a week later with the Whisky Ladies, we found it had settled down considerably. And rather than be considered a ‘cool weather’ whisky, it held its own in the summer heat. More importantly, did we like it? Absolutely yes! For some, it was a clear ‘win’ – either the favourite or jostling for that position with the peaty ‘Four‘.

This just goes to show, that different stages of oxidation, different environments, mood, and company make all the difference. Tasting progressions are also key! With the Whisky Ladies, the Nine followed the St Kilian One and Six, so our palates were pre-calibrated to something European not Scottish.

What do the folks behind this bottle have to say?

The Signature Edition Nine is an intense, fruity and creamy-sweet taste experience. The melange of exotic fruits harmonises pleasantly with the spicy warmth as well as the sweet and full-bodied flavours.

What more do we know? The cask composition is 11% Oak, 27% ex-Sauternes, 62% ex-Bourbon.

Here are the official tasting notes:

  • AUSSEHEN Leuchtender Bernstein
  • GERUCH Ein betörendes Bouquet von reifer Aprikose und saftigem Pfirsich steht im Einklang mit süßem Toffee und feiner Vanille, begleitet von floralen Noten, dezenter Ingwerschärfe, würziger Eiche sowie einem Hauch Grapefruit.
  • GESCHMACK Ein süßer und vollmundiger Start mit Pfirsich, Ananas und Grapefruit, gefolgt von cremigem Honig, Vanillepudding sowie sahnigem Toffee und getragen von einer wärmenden Eichenwürze mit Ingwer und etwas Zimt.
  • NACHKLANG Lang und cremig-warm mit Karamell und süßem Mandelgebäck, dazu etwas frisch geriebene Grapefruitschale mit einer Spur Walnuss.

A rough google supported translation:

  • Nose – A beguiling bouquet of ripe apricots and juicy peaches is in harmony with sweet toffee and fine vanilla, accompanied by floral notes, subtle ginger sharpness, spicy oak, and a hint of grapefruit.
  • Palate – A sweet and full-bodied start with peach, pineapple, and grapefruit followed by creamy honey, custard, and toffee and carried by a warming Oak spice with ginger and some cinnamon.
  • FinishLong and creamy – warm with caramel and sweet almond biscuits, with some freshly grated grapefruit zest and a hint of walnut.

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Talisker 8 Year (2020) Rum Finish 57.9%

Talisker is known for its lightly peated salty maritime character, situated on the Isle of Sky. Part of the Diageo stable of whiskies, their range has been quite stable over the years with a 10 year, 18 year, Storm… More recently, they have launched some variations with whiskies matured to 8 years – one of which I tried as an ‘Old Particular’ mini from Douglas Laing – quite a pleasant dram that hit the spot in colder climes…

So what did we think of this new cask strength experiment?

Talisker 8 year (2020) Rum Finish 57.9%

  • Nose – Hay, heather, leather, comes across as ‘dry’ yet also has a rum sweetness and raisins, heavy on the ripe bananas joined by other tropical fruit, some roasted pineapple, a hint of coconut and pepper spice chased by a light curl of smoke and sea spray
  • Palate – Jeera (cumin) tamarind ‘goli’… loads of bitter (almost edging into bitter gourd) that initially got in the way of discerning other elements… gradually easing into a roasted black pepper, followed by a sour rum, steeped neem leaves – slightly astringent, then salty
  • Finish – There but… didn’t have any predominant notes – perhaps a bit of black licorice at the end?
  • Revisit – After setting aside, when returned the rum dimension was much more evident – in a good way!

Whilst clearly not a typical Talisker, the light peat, pepper, and saline maritime elements were there. The rum certainly took it in a different direction however it wasn’t entirely harmonious. The nose was the most appealing part with the palate more curious than enjoyable and the finish almost forgettable.

I realized much later that I wasn’t in the least bit tempted to try with water – though this was at cask strength. Perhaps that would have brought out different elements and tempered the slightly strange palate.

So what more do we know? This is part of the Diageo Special Releases 2020 and was finished in pot-distilled Jamaican rum casks.

What else? There was also care taken with the packaging – certainly upping their ‘game’… Not just with this special edition – they have also refreshed their standard range too.

Talisker, Kilchoman, Stauning

This whisky joined an evening devoted to a curious trio of Rum, Tequila and Mezcal finishes… followed by:

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Hampden Last Ward, FourSquare Destino and Caroni Rums

Years ago at Singapore’s Whisky Live I was both introduced to Luca Gargano and the exceptional range of rich unique rums he has brought to the world. Luca is a man on a mission to put Single Rum on the same stage as the most sophisticated single malt. He also has introduced a rum categorization approach which is now know as the Gargano Classification, based on how the rum is produced – both the distillation method be it pot still or columns and type of sugar used – sugar cane juice, syrup or molasses.

Back in 2016, I was particularly entranced by Hampden’s Habitation Velier –  blown away by its rich range of flavours. So much so that a bottle returned home with me to Mumbai where I happily introduced it to others.

As I was clearing through old ‘half posts’, I came across this one from 2018 and a flood of memories poured back!

Habitation Velier Last Ward 9 year (2009/2018) 59%

  • Nose – Gorgeous! Rich sweet fruits, vanilla, mint and fresh
  • Palate – Round, rich, tart, spice, fabulous sour cherry
  • Finish – After all the sweetness, a surprisingly dry bitter finish

From Barbados, a pot still with white yeast to produce a pure single rum which was then aged for 9 years with an angels share of approximately 64%.

What was most enjoyable about this one was the way as our animated conversation continued, the rum shifted and changed. Remarkable and so rewarding!

We shifted gears to explore another rum….

Foursquare Destino 12 year (2003) 61%

  • Nose – Wow! Sharp yet coquettish, distinctive
  • Palate – Can really taste the Madeira, dry spice – particularly clove

This was also from a pot still, known as a single blended rum as it was a blend of rum matured in an ex-Madeira cask and for two years in an ex-Bourbon cask. Distilled 2003, blended Dec 2017… bottled in 2018.

Talk turned to rum making traditions in Cape Verde, Port au Prince, Haiti, Barbados… it was highly educative, entertaining and enlightening.

From there we moved on to Caroni… Luca shared Caroni Employees special editions feature key people who help make the rum magic happen.

Caroni Dennis “X” Gopaul 20 year (1998/2018) 69.5%

  • Nose – Sour perfurme
  • Palate – Smooth and sweet, rich, surprisingly spicy too
  • Finish – Yes! Yet has a bit of bitter than sweet

Dennis X Gopaul is a very rich, warm and concentrated spirit, distilled in Trinidad in 1998 and aged for 20 years in the tropical climate of Trinidad before bottling, with an angel share of 78%. It is the content of only 5 oak barrels.

Caroni John “D” Eversley 22 year (1996/2018) 66.5%

  • Nose – Strong classic Caroni
  • Palate – Oily almost like petroleum!
  • Finish – Bitter, dry to the point of prompting a wee “pucker”

What a rum!!! Unmistakable power and punch! Those two extra years did an extra something to ramp up everything in this unique rum.

Pity the balance of my scribbles went astray and I didn’t pull impressions, notes and photographs together earlier. However it was still fun to half-revisit… with these four accompanied by further rums:

Curious to know more? One of the best bloggers on such rums I’ve come across so far is The Lone Caner.

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Kentucky Rye – Angel’s Envy Rum Finished Rye 50%

We all know about the angel’s share…. the portion of whisky that evaporates while quietly maturing in barrels – typically 5% a year in the case of Kentucky bourbon.

The brand “Angel’s Envy” is a multigenerational affair – Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson came out out retirement from a lifetime in the whiskey industry to collaborate with his son, Wes, on a bourbon finished in Port barrels. Wes’s son Kyle then also joined the family business.

The story goes that after tasting their inaugural whiskey, Lincoln joked that they’d “finally gotten a better deal than the angels.” Hence Angel’s Envy brand was created by Louisville Distilling Company, now a subsidiary of Bacardi Limited.

After Bourbon finished in Port, they turned to Rye finished in Rum casks and Cask strength series finished in Port. Our host selected the Rye finished Rum… and this is what we found…

Angel’s Envy Rum Barrel Finished Rye 50% Batch I0T, Bottle 291

  • Nose – A very strong unmistakable burnt caramel, treacle, maple syrup, bananas and cream, some salted caramel, coca cola, rich, sugary and creamy
  • Palate – Like a fine rum… it was one of those drams we can call “desert in a glass”, bread pudding, nutmeg, coconut cream
  • Finish – Sweet spice that lingers

There was zero question the rum had a strong influence here. And no ordinary rum – this was clearly quality stuff. We thought of rums like Criterion and others Lucas has introduced to the world such as Long Pond.

I have to admit this was unlike any rye I’ve ever tried. It was simply sinfully sweet… and yet when it came to the cigar, wasn’t happening. The very elements that made it so unique, were the same elements that prompted us to steer clear of pairing with a cigar. This Rye demands to fly solo, no accompaniment.

I stumbled across this insight from the folks at Flaviar:

Angel’s Envy Rye starts life as a quality, but rather traditional mix of 95% Rye and 5% malted barley. Bulleit, Dickle… a lot of the top guys use this mix because it works well. This is where Angel’s Envy works their magic. First, they age it a full six years in medium-char American oak. Then they finish it for an additional 18 months in Rum casks, but not just “any” Rum casks. These are “THE” Rum casks from Plantation Rum… the ones that started as Cognac casks from Maison Ferrand. So Angel’s Envy Rye is third in a line of super-premium awesomeness in those casks, emerging 7 1/2 years old. No more sales pitch, you just think about that for a minute and get back to us.

What the makers of Angel’s Envy share as their tasting notes?

  • Appearance – Crystal clear quality with a rich, reddish amber color
  • Nose – Aromas of citrus, caramel candy, maple sugar, vanilla, oak, hazelnut, spice, and sherry wood
  • Palate – Sweet rum, sherry wood, and soft oak
  • Finish – Both sweet and dry, as well as quick and easy

What else did we try in our Kentucky Rye evening?

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Long Pond Rum – 2003 + 2007

Jamaica’s Long Pond Estate is in Trelawny parish, not far from Hampden Estate. Both started around 1750 with several ownership changes – including a stint from 1977 to 1993 where the Jamaican government assumed control, before divesting. Then again in 2006, Long Point with Clarendon distillery and Innswood aging facilities were brought together to create National Rums of Jamaica (NRJ), which is owned by National Sugar Company (Jamaican government), Goddard Enterprises (West Indies Rum Distillery, Barbados) and Demerara Distillers (Guyana).

Long Pond TECC 11 year (2007/2018) 62.5%

  • Nose – Complex, ripe fruit, molasses treacle
  • Palate – Very full, rounded, balanced
  • Finish – Beautiful finish

Absolutely gorgeous! Thick, rich, full flavoured and fabulous.

Long Pond TECA 15 year (2003/2018) 63%

  • Nose – Sour mash, overripe fruits, sugary – loads of fermented sugar cane juice – but in a rather odd way, almost like a mad chemistry experiment running amok
  • Palate – Forceful, unbalanced and overwhelming initially, then settled in
  • Finish – Long, strong

Personally, my preference was the 11 year old yet both were powerful, complex, exceptional rums.

At Whisky Live 2018, we also sampled more rums from Luca Gargano:

  • Caroni Dennis “X” Gopaul 20 year (1998/2018) 69.5%
  • Caroni John “D” Eversley 22 year (1996/2018) 66.5%
  • Foursquare Destino 12 year Single Blended Rum ex-Madeira & 2 year ex-Bourbon 61%
  • Hampden LFCH 7 year (2011/2018) 60.5%
  • Habitation Velier Last Ward 9 year (2009/2018) 59%

Curious to know more? One of the best bloggers on such rums I’ve come across so far is The Lone Caner.

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Red Casks – Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask 43%

Our original tasting group was in for a surprise! A special theme of unusual finishes, first sampled completely whisky blind without bias…

Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask 43%

  • Nose – Fruity, floral and distinctly ‘feni’-like, some citrus, distinctly ‘prickly’, syrup, salted cashews… as it settled down, started to reveal a nice oily aroma, a sweet and sour of khoya, strongly reminded us of a gulab jamun, toffee cream chocolate, spice… after the 1st sip, had a nice vanilla biscuit, retaining the gulab jamun chased by salted caramel, rum spiked honey water
  • Palate – Initially greeted us with a spicy ginger, salt then gentle tobacco, something of substance and a bit astringent, yet still heavy oils, chewy, butter biscuit, a good balance… if you the breathed it in were rewarded with khatta meetha  or sour sweet
  • Finish – A bitter pepper spice that sparked a debate – lingering with orange peel and almond or short yet balanced? I was in the camp that found after the initial oomph… the shadow of the finish remained
  • Water – After it initially sharpened the spice, it settled down to make this whisky more pleasant and mellow on the palate however didn’t reveal anything new

Overall we found the aromas quite volatile when freshly open, taking some time to settle down… and interesting.

There was loads of speculation… we didn’t think it was sherry cask but there was definitely something different going on. One member was clear it was rum, others not convinced.

And the reveal?

Well our rum speculator was spot on!

What did we try in our special “red” casks evening?

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