Lost Distillery – Stratheden Classic 43%

Stratheden Distillery, from the Auchtermuchty in Fife, was around for approximately 100 years – officially from 1829 – 1926 and quite possibly prior to that as illegal stills. It was purely family owned – the Bonthrone family – whose founder Alexander Bonthrone ran the place from when he established it at 31 years until 1890 – a remarkable 60+ years!

You can read more about the distillery story here…. however our attention turned to the whisky….

Stratheden Classic 43%

  • Nose – It was exceptionally humid, like sniffing a very damp cloth, yet behind that was lots of honey, light yet sharp notes, some citrus, yet that musty almost chalky quality remained. After sipping and leaving it for some time, there was spice with burnt orange
  • Palate – Soft, well rounded, rather a nice mouthful, a hint of dark chocolate, bitter – enough to make one pucker, overall quite subtle
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice with the longest finish of the three whiskies sampled

Overall this was one that wouldn’t stand out as “oh wow!” but went from “Hmm… not so sure about this one” from the aroma to “Hmm… actually rather nice” on the palate to “Oh… hey that’s really rather surprisingly solid” with the finish. And kept improving the longer it was in the glass and the more one sipped.

What do the Lost Distillery folks have to say about it?

Malty, orange peel, chocolate, peat

Here is the Lost Distillery Trio that we sampled:

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Lost Distillery – Gerston Classic 43%

“What was once lost… has now been found!” Or so it would seem.. whisky wise that is! All part of the initiative to re-construct or in their terms “re-interpret” whiskies from lost distilleries closed years ago.

After checking out the Towiemore, we moved on to Gerston – which opened and closed then open and closed again (1796-1882 & 1886-1914). We sampled the Classic version…

Gerston Classic 43%

  • Nose – Pure seaside! Lots of brine, sea salt, caramel, a hint of smoke, toffee covered almonds. The salt spray subdues after time….
  • Palate – Soft, dry, bitter, lots of sweetness too, yet more than anything very dry with some  peat
  • Finish – A spicy finish – much more than anticipated – with lots of cinnamon

What did we think?

Hmmm…. I do believe that one mentioned “Talisker’s bastard child” or an Orkney offshoot…. this from a whisky aficionado who decidedly does NOT care for briney maritime style drams.

However if that’s your preferred style Gerston  might just be up your alley.

Here is what the folks over at Lost Distillery have to say about Gerston:

  • Ripe fruit, toffee, smoke & spice

Here is the Lost Distillery Trio that we sampled:

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Lost Distillery – Towiemore Classic 43%

Once upon a time there was a distillery in the Parish of Botriphnie outside of Dufftown. Whilst on our planet a mere thirty years (1898-1931), Peter Dawson’s endeavour enjoyed “a fine reputation as an excellent pure malt whisky.”

During its scant existence, it was a well travelled… Dawson’s whisky was selected for the pleasure of the Prince of Wales, later George V, on the maiden voyage of HMS Indomitable to Canada in 1907 and Captain Scott took it on his Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole in 1910.

You can read more about Towiemore’s history  on the Lost Distillery website.

What we cared about was the whisky…

Towiemore Classic 43%

  • Nose – Musty, sweet with a hint of leather, lots of apple crumble, ginger bread, caramel tart apple, slightly bitter with a bit of dish rag. After some time pure applesauce morphing into peaches
  • Palate – Nice spice, very easy drinking yet with enough going on to make it enjoyable, lots of red apples, very accessible
  • Finish – Light but there, pleasant yet closes bitter

One of our tasting companions admitted how this whisky was much better than he had expected – particularly on the palate vs what the nose seemed to indicate – particularly from the musty dish rag dimensions.

For most, this was the most accessible and enjoyable of the three Lost Distillery whiskies we tried. A good one to settle down and just imbibe….

Here is how the Lost Distillery folks describe a piece of Towiemore’s story….

Towiemore’s fresh new make spirit was filled predominantly into Sherry Butts, although Hogsheads and some plain oak casks were also used to offer a slightly different variations in character. These casks were stored in a ten-bay range of single storey bonded stores of the traditional style. Once sufficiently matured, these casks were transported by rail to Leith and Glasgow, or to grocers to be sold singularly in the local market. In 1902 Dawson sent an order of eighteen wagons full of casks to Glasgow. This was probably the first batch of Towiemore!

The Towiemore spirit contained in these casks was a distinguished whisky of mid-to-long finish. Cereal notes are present on the nose due to the use of flavoursome barley, with a hint of earthy heather and smoke caused by local peat. The Towie Burn produced a smooth base for the whisky, full of minerals. Vienna Yeast ensured Towiemore was infused with a citrus zest, while the long necks and ascending lyne arms of the stills embodied the whisky with a long finish of walnuts and almonds. Maturation in Sherry Butts produced a surge of creamy sherry taste coupled with lucid notes of fruitcake and sweet spice.

Here is the Lost Distillery Trio that we sampled:

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Lost Distillery Trio – Towiemore, Gerston, Stratheden

I first encountered Lost Distillery via La Maison du Whisky in Singapore… and first had an opportunity to sample their wares at WhiskyLive Singapore in 2016. Ewan Henderson, Global Brand Ambassador, kindly regaled tales and anecdotes, sharing a passion for bringing whisky history to a new re-interpreted life!

Our whisky host for the evening picked these up at La Maison du Whisky in Singapore and focused on a trio from their “Classic” range.

So what all did our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents sample?

If you are curious about my earlier encounter, read on:

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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Islay Iterations – Laphroaig Brodir 48%

Back in 2000 the Coen Brothers released a film called “O Brother, where are thou?” It’s sound track was memorable and one that reflected a place and time… For some reason as I sipped this Laphroaig Brodir, I kept having the “Man of Constant Sorrow” going through my head…

But I digress… on to the whisky… the last of our Islay Iterations that I sampled one fine April evening in Mumbai…

Laphroaig Brodir 48%

  • Nose – Charcoal, very sweet, plummy
  • Palate – Port and peat make a lip smacking combination! Juicy and sweet, some mango and other mixed fruits guides with a peat punch, smooth
  • Finish – Lots of peat with a distinctive port finish

There is no mistaking either the Laphroaig stamp or the port influence on this one… bringing a rich juicy dimension to the peaty Laphroaig… a rather delicious dimension.

What more do we know about this whisky? Here’s the what the Master of Malt folks have to say:

Laphroaig’s Brodir single malt Scotch whisky was originally released to the Travel Retail market. You can probably guess what ‘Brodir’ means in ancient Norse – of course, it’s ‘Brother’.

For this expression, the Islay distillers first matured the whisky in ex-bourbon barrels before transferring it over to casks which previous held Ruby Port. The combination of Laphroaig’s classic coastal peaty gorgeousness with the elegance of the Ruby Port finish make Brodir a very handsome dram indeed.

And the Master of Malt chaps tasting notes:

  • Nose: Fresh honey drizzled over dried tropical fruit, followed by a salty sea breeze.
  • Palate: Quite refreshing and light (for a Laphroaig). Continued fruitiness on the palate, somewhat juicier than the nose might suggest. Smoke pops up a little later.
  • Finish: Rich smoke on the finish grows and grows.

What else did we explore in our Islay Iterations evening?

And just for a little fun.. here is that song that refused to leave me the entire time I sipped the Laphroaig Brodir…

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Islay Iterations – Ileach Cask Strength 58%

After the classic Lagavulin 16 year, the Finlaggan 40%, we moved on to bolder ground with the Ileach Cask Strength 58%. This particular bottle was purchased at a boutique liquor store in Vancouver and brought back from BC to Bombay by one of our Whisky Ladies… to be enjoyed in a special evening focused solely on Islay Iterations – all variations on a theme!

So what did the ladies think of this “Man from Islay”?

Ileach Cask Strength 58%

  • Nose – Piquant, eau de vie, peat but not a heavy peat, light brine, much warmer, wood, sweet, apricot, peach pits, smoke is there but subtle. After some time some bacon… the true peaty character comes out more later, with some sweet grass too
  • Palate – Intense, salt, spice, sour, makes one “pucker” up, mango papad, salted caramel, a bit of a khatta (sour) and meetha (sweet) thing going on…
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice finish, quite clean and surprisingly long
  • Water – Lost everything initially, then its really opened it up beautifully with a fabulous peat sweet, very smooth, some ginger, saffron, salt and a bit of honey

As our banter turned to its character with remarks like “I feel like I’m sleeping in a log cabin” or “It is a ‘non-veg’ kinda dram.”

We kept thinking how one of our Whisky Ladies would have loved this dram! Affectionately known as our “Peaty Lady,” she missed the evening to visit family in her original home of Sweden. Which made it all the more amusing to later learn this particular brand purports to be Sweden’s 2nd best selling single malt! (PS She did manage to try this in an “off book” mini session later).

Ileach is bottled by Highlands and Islands Scotch Whisky, acquired by Vintage Malt Co in 1997. These folks also bottle the Islay Storm whisky…

Here is what they have to say about the Ileach Cask Strength:

  • Nose: Earthy smoky peat and salty ocean Breeze
  • Palate: Pungent peat smoke, chewy sweet malt, pepper, tar and a touch of iodine
  • Finish: Long and warming. Smoky ashes of the peat fire

Naturally the distillery is undisclosed but one rather discerning lady happened to remark that the four bottles – Lagavulin 16 year, Finlaggan Old Reserve plus their Cask Strength and this Ileach all looked remarkable similar in bottle shape. Hmm…

I shared that industry insiders tend to lean towards the theory that all come from exactly the same distillery – meaning we spent most of our evening exploring variations on a very specific theme – Lagavulin!

With this possible element in common, different pieces of the puzzle came together – the nature of the peat being there yet not overwhelming, the slightly briney quality and the unmistakable similarity of cinnamon spice on the finish.

For many, this Ileach was their favourite. A few turned back to the classic Lagavulin 16 year and some moved on to our next dram… a complete contrast with a shift to Laphroaig with its Port finish experiment.

What else did we explore in our Islay Iterations evening?

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Islay Iterations – Finlaggan Old Reserve 40% + 58%

After kicking off our evening with the classic Lagavulin 16 year, the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai turned to an independent bottler with their Finlaggan entry level expression.

Owned by the Vintage Malt Co based on Glasgow, their Finlaggan trio covers increasing strength from their Old Reserve at 40% to their Eileen Mor at 46% to their Cask Strength at 58%.

We just so happened to have two out of three to sample, of which the Old Reserve was an unopened bottle and the Cask Strength had alas oxidized rather considerably since it was 1st opened in May 2017.

The distillery(ies) shrouded in mystery, the only thing clearly admitted is these are single malts from Islay.

So what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Finlaggan Old Reserve 40%

  • Nose – Not quite so much bacon as the Lagavulin 16, more ripe pears, wood, some kaccha guava, fresh grass, honey sweet, cured meats, taking on a faintly metallic quality with brass or copper, then coriander
  • Palate – Raw, light, pleasant, goes down deceptively well, woody, bit spicy, the peat is there but nicely balanced and restrained, that metallic element gave way almost to a medicinal quality yet with a very light touch
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice, buttery coconut oil, star anise, cognac honey

There is a lighter touch to the peat in this Islay – while not complex it is an easy drinking dram – pronounced a good Bombay summer whisky.

Just to compare, here is what the Vintage Malt Co folks have to say:

  • Nose: Earthy smoky peat and salty ocean Breeze
  • Palate: Pungent peat smoke, chewy sweet malt, pepper, tar and a touch of iodine
  • Finish: Long and warming. Smoky ashes of the peat fire

In our tasting progression, we moved on to the Ileach – also from Vintage Malt Co – then the open Finlaggan Cask Strength. Here is where tragedy struck… where once upon a time this was a marvellous malt, spending nearly a year in the bottle in the heat of Mumbai did it no favours. A not so gentle reminder that for enjoyable whiskies… just share and enjoy!

Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%

  • Nose – Very sweet, salty, grassy, milk
  • Palate – Spicy smoke
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice, burnt coconut

It had lost so many elements that made it both interesting and appealing. You can read what I’d thought from a few previous tastings here or check out what the Vintage Malt Co folks have to say:

  • Nose: Lovely pungent peat smoke. Smoky bacon with a touch of old leather
  • Palate: Rich sweet smoke. Iodine, lemon zest with a beautiful mouth coating oiliness. Waves of tarry peat
  • Finish: Peppery peat. Soot and ash. Long and warming

I couldn’t help but wonder if the Eileen Mor 46% might just be the “sweet spot” in the middle – bottled at what some call the “connoisseurs” strength – enough to bring out the full character yet balanced with sufficient water to make it eminently shippable. Perhaps one of these days I’ll have the opportunity to try it.

What else did we explore in our “Islay Iterations” evening?

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Islay Iterations – Lagavulin 16 year 43%

The last time the Whisky Ladies enjoyed this Lagavulin 16 year was over two years ago – paired with chocolate, brought by the exact same lady.

No surprise then when it came time for her to host, this perennial favourite anchored the evening, reminding us of why year and year you can simply count on this favourite standard to deliver. In a time of compromises, sometimes distracting marketing iterations, there is something so comforting to return to a “classic.”

Lagavulin 16 year 43%

  • Nose – A few remarked how there was more bacon than we remembered, lots of the lovely honey sweet elements we expect, a slightly floral hint though also quite punchy, the peat is there but subtle and after airing for some time it took on a wonderful full vanilla caramel custard quality
  • Palate – Wow! Just what we wanted! Peat, smooth and smokey not in the least bit heavy, has its complexity but doesn’t make you over-think. Slightly briney salt edge, spice dancing on the tongue, particularly black pepper and cloves, a bit oily… and much like the aroma, let it sit for some time and even on the palate you will be rewarded with warm French vanilla
  • Finish – Woody, slightly bitter closing on a cinnamon spice
  • Water – One lady immediately remarked how it was like Iodex from a medicine shop – in her opinion killing it completely. Whereas after some time, it made it even smoother on the palate, sweeter though had a sense of being a tad “diluted”

Most prefer it neat though on shared  how this is one dram that can “stand up” to an ice cube, chilling it down to a more enjoyable temperature in the Mumbai heat.

Overall, we were delighted to revisit an old familiar friend and kept coming back to its classic style as we wove our way through independent bottlers Islay offerings…

What did we explore in our “Islay Iterations” evening?

If you are curious about other Lagavulin explorations, check out:

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Islay Iterations – Lagavulin, Finlaggan, Ileach and Laphroaig

The Whisky Ladies decided to go on a wee Islay exploration. But this was no ordinary exploration… we focused on select Islay iterations…

It began innocently enough with our host sharing she had her favourite Lagavulin 16 year tucked away for her session.. followed by another Whisky Lady picking up an Islay independent bottle from an undisclosed distillery… which I just happened to have an open cask strength version of… followed by another Whisky Lady picking another Islay – again undisclosed distillery… Added to the mix was a contrast of a Laphroaig with a port finish that then somehow sparked unearthing another Laphroaig expression.

Which translates into an initial plan to try 3 bottles that morphed into a set of 6!

What did we sample in our Islay Iterations?

  • The classic Lagavulin 16 year 43%
  • Then our 1st undisclosed distillery independent bottler Finalaggan Old Reserve 40%
  • Followed by our 2nd independent bottler with a more powerful cask strength Ileach 58%
  • And just for good measure, added an open Finlaggan 58% to the mix
  • With a shift from Lagavulin to Laphroaig with the port cask finish Brodir 48%
  • Some ladies continued on with the Laphroaig Select Cask… whereas I must admit my sipping and sampling of the initial set was more than enough for me!

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