Flora and Fauna – Inchgower 14 year 43%

Last in our Flora and Fauna series was the Inchgower. Our ‘host’ admitted being rather partial to this from past tasting experiences… did it live up to expectations this time?

Inchgower 14 year 43%

  • Nose – A wine like quality, musty and mossy, mould and mushrooms, earthy, cork, some vanilla sweetness, nougat, Dasheri mango or cantaloupe, baked goods then shifted into something more oily
  • Palate – Pungent, very dry spice, has character and kick, like the way wasabi opens up your taste buds, increasingly pronounced ginger
  • Finish – A bit salty, more almonds?

This whisky got off to a curious start… earthy then shifted to fruity, lots of character, but did we like it? Hmm… it certainly is interesting and a bit unusual.

We gave it some time, returning to find it had gone back to the vegetal earthy element and got a bit of ‘smoke’?

With all of these Flora and Fauna whiskies, we were not tempted to add water… this was no exception.

What do the folks at Diageo have to say?

This 14-year-old single malt whisky is a conundrum, in which the aromatics, and even the flavour, change continually. This is a complex and interesting mix with a sweet palate and bitter finish.

  • Appearance – Deep amber.
  • Body – Medium bodied and mouth filling.
  • Nose – Rich and deep and a hint of toffee. After a while offers some short-crust pastry and fruit, like greengage tart or damson pie. Then it settles and becomes lighter and vaguely ‘gun-metal’ – a mix of metal, gun oil and cordite, but all very faint. With water, it freshens up but gives little away. For a time there is an unmistakable scent of horse chestnuts – green and nutty – but after a while, it becomes much sweeter and more floral, like acacia honey.
  • Palate – Sweet overall, but also curiously mouth-drying, with some salt and traces of oil.
  • Finish – A saccharine-bitter finish that leaves an aftertaste of almonds.

Would we agree? To a certain extent…

Curious how this experience compares with other Inchgower drams? Check out:

As for what else did we sample in our foray into Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range? Here you go:

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Flora and Fauna – Auchroisk 10 year 43%

Flora and Fauna is Diageo’s official bottling series for their distilleries that predominantly go into blends or are found in independent bottling. After the Linkwood, our Whisky Ladies Euro chapter cracked open an Auchroisk. What did we think?

Auchroisk 10 year 43%

  • Nose – Cherry wood, cooked cherries, caramelized toasted nuts, candy apple… as it opened up more such aromas were joined by coffee, some tannins, spicier with hints of mulberry
  • Palate – Ahh… it does indeed have good body, some cinnamon spice, a bit of cherry cola quality and again those tannins from the nose come are on the palate too
  • Finish – A slightly smokey aftertaste that lingers

Just from the aromas alone there was a sense of body and substance which fully came through on the palate. Of the three Flora and Fauna whiskies we sampled together, this was the favourite for its character and

We set it aside and revisited after sampling the Inchgower… any change?

If anything, even more interesting! This time we found strawberry sweet, some milk chocolate and salty caramel. Delicious.

What do the folks at Diageo have to say?

An apéritif malt whisky, pleasant and light, which opens sweet, fresh and balanced then dries to a short finish. Doughy and buttery on the palate. This textured single malt whisky displays hints of lemon and pineapple with a slight aniseed and smokey finish.

  • Appearance – Pale gold.
  • Body – Smooth, with a light to medium body.
  • Nose – A mild nose for its strength. Sweet and fresh. Ground almonds are immediately apparent, even dry marzipan. Acetone. Some dark chocolate behind (this develops towards milk chocolate). Becomes nuttier all the time. With water, opens up: fresh and estery. Acetone, cooked pears, solvent. A light oily-fatty note behind, possibly nut oil. Nuttiness still apparent. Also a very light char in the back. Becomes more cereal-like – soggy Shreddies – and more ‘boney.’ Not so clean.
  • Palate – Takes a fair amount of water. Light and fresh; pleasant mouthfeel. Sweetish start, some acidity. 
  • Finish – Surprisingly dry, fairly short – all well balanced.

Curious about other experiences with Auchriosk? Read on…

What else did we sample in our foray into Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range?

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Flora and Fauna – Linkwood 12 year 43%

With even tighter ‘lock-downs’ happening around the world, our wee Whisky Ladies European Chapter carried on our virtual merry malty explorations. This time with the final trio from Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range….

The most natural place to begin was with the Linkwood – a distillery we’ve all tried before and have overall enjoyed for its light yet tasty and refreshing fruity sometimes floral character. So what about this official bottling?

Linkwood 12 year 43%

  • Nose – For me it started off with bubblegum, for my tasting companions one found prunes and another almonds… overall we found it fruity, with a good dash of vanilla, light and honeyed… however as it opened up, the effervescent fruity quality subsided  and it settled into a honey hay
  • Palate – A clear easy drinking dram, pleasant yet unsophisticated, creamy, with a bit of wood, light spice with some clove and tea
  • Finish – Not so long but with a hint of raw faintly bitter almond

We concluded this is a perfect late afternoon early evening sipping dram. Something the cheerfully enjoy, taking your time… and while obviously of a more ‘commercial’ bent than some of the cask strength independent bottler vintages we’ve sampled over the years, its a nice one to have around.

We set it aside and returned after trying the Auchroisk and Inchgower… had it changed?

That delightful bubblegum was back – and how! Joined by some apple sauce, very sweet… still easy drinking with a hint of floral and one even thought of champagne!

Was it the best Linkwood we’ve had? No…. however if you want an entry point into this distillery, it isn’t a bad choice.

Our whisky host for the evening read notes from the bottle… which said a lot of marketing blah blah about water but not so much about the whisky. So I checked online to see what the folks at Diageo have to say?

A whole garden of fruit and flower scents in a smooth, long, complex yet wholly integrated Speyside of utter distinction. This 12-year-old single malt whisky has a rich and oily mouthfeel with nutty, cereal notes and an aromatic and dry finish.

  • Appearance – Old gold.
  • Body – Mouth-filling, smooth and medium-bodied.
  • Nose – The first impression is of fresh soft-fruits (but indistinguishable), with a hint of vanilla in the background. Then light cigar-box notes are perceptible, and a faint hint of expensive ladies’ perfume. The whole effect is civilized, complex and tightly integrated. With water, it opens into carnations and lavender, with a whiff of perfumed smoke. There are traces of juicy green sticks, then cedar-wood, with undercurrents of pomander or dried orange peel.
  • Palate – Mouth-filling and smooth. Sweet, overall. Viscous, but fresh and clean: a pleasant acidity helps to maintain this.
  • Finish – Cedar notes emerge in the finish, which is long.

Curious about other explorations of Linkwood? There have been quite a few!

What else did we sample in our foray into Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range?

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The Whisky Warehouse No. 8 – Bunnahabhain 14 year 56.7%

Long back, a very talented multi instrumental, multi country music buddy encouraged “Bunna” explorations as his kind of Islay – not really peaty but having substance and character to spare. Over the years, I’ve had mixed experiences – some excellent, some so so and some that didn’t quite do it for me.

Bunnahabhain 14 year (24 Oct 2002 / 31 Oct 2016) Bourbon Hogshead No. 3048, 56.7% 307 Bottles

  • Nose – Initially greeted us with quite a distinctive coconut oil… which settled down into salt water taffy, candied guava, fresh bread, orange comfy or cointreau, even a bit of coffee candy, swirling about with a hint of smoke too – more like an echo or subtle embers than a live burn…overall leaving an impression of fruity
  • Palate – Silky smooth… some salted caramel, spicy desert, herbal, buttery… with a wee bit of even peanut butter, richly rolling around nicely on the tongue
  • Finish – Lovely and long, delicious
  • Water – No need… truly

I have to confess that this is without a doubt the best Bunnahabhain I’ve had in a long time. Even better as it sits in the glass, opening up more and more. While a different character, there was an element of the lightly salted ‘buttery’ quality that made us think of the insanely delicious Aveux Gourmands.

As for the folks at Whisky Warehouse No. 8? I’ve taken the liberty to ‘google translate’ my way through Julia’s terrific tasting notes:
Whiskeys from Bunnahabhain are always good for a surprise and this single barrel is no exception. Anyone who wants to deduce the taste from the nose impressions of this bottling will be amazed at how different the whiskey ultimately behaves on the palate. At least one can rely on the well-known attributes of most Bunnahabhain bottlings: hardly any wood, a little salt and a good balance of all aromas.
  • Nose: Soft and fully ripe fruit notes such as cherries, star fruit and lychees. Underneath there is a layer of salty peat that has a slightly medicinal effect, but also a damp campfire that was already burning the day before.
  • Taste: Spicy like in a hay barn, herbal notes like dried thyme and thistles, slightly nutty and almond-like, the fruit notes linger in the background, but they now appear much fresher and crisper. The peat and smoke notes also remain surprisingly restrained.
  • Finish: It is especially the herbal notes that stay on the palate for a long time and become dry towards the end. Very late, a pinch of fleur de sel tickles the taste buds.

What about other Bunnahabhain explorations?

My “Last Chance” set also contained:

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The Whisky Warehouse No. 8 – Glenturret 8 year 57.5%

This would be my 3rd Glenturret 8 year from an independent bottler! We were rather impressed by the North Star’s Glenturret – which was distilled the same month as this Warehouse cask and bottled within a month of each other. I’d also had the pleasure of trying Chorlton’s Ruadh Maor aka peated Glenturret.

So what about this one from The Whisky Warehouse No. 8?

Glenturret 8 year (Dec 2010 / Apr 2019) Bourbon Hogshead Cask No. W8 181, 57.5% 330 Bottles

  • Nose – Even before putting in the glass, we had a whiff of our wee bottle and went – Mmmm….sweet smoked bacon! And then into the glass it went and… huh? Where did the delicious aroma go? Instead we found a brine, hay… predominantly cereals like hot (slightly boring) porridge, wet fall leaves, rubber gum… is that gym shoe? Curious
  • Palate – Ah.. now here is the light peat smoke, bay leaves, cinnamon spice, a bit of ginger bread… not a heavy peat, more like peat ‘adjacent’
  • Finish – It does last…

Let’s be honest, we were a tad disappointed. I happened to have the North Star Glenturret bottle handy and pulled it out to compare, making my virtual tasting companions a wee bit jealous. Yup! There were all the fabulous elements we enjoyed about the Glenturret – a nuanced peat, tasty cereals, maple bacon… We dismissed the Glenturret and moved on to our other minis..

However a funny thing happened along the way… as it patiently sat there… an amazing alchemy with air took place. We returned for a revisit and we delighted to discover much that we enjoyed in the North Star was now present! Where had all those lovely qualities been hiding?

  • Nose – Gingerbread joined the light puff of smoke,
  • Palate – Some cheese, smoked meats chased by cinnamon spice
  • Finish – Remained dry and long

Even on the first go, we enjoyed the palate more than nose alone… however with the revisit it was clear this had all the makings of a rather enjoyable dram. Certainly one to wait for it…. wait for it… as it just might be “Legend… wait for it…. dary!

Curious about other Glenturret experiences?

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Glen Scotia 1832 Campbeltown 46%

Last in our Campbeltown trio was a no age statement Travel Retail offering from Glen Scotia. While one may be tempted to have an NAS before age statements, in this case, I knew this expression was both more peated than a standard Glen Scotia plus an experimentation with a PX sherry cask finish, so it ‘felt’ intuitively like the one to close with… even though the least expensive of the bunch!

That’s part of the magic with tasting order – when trying whiskies side by side, selecting the right progression of profiles is critical. Try something really intense up front and you can overwhelm the senses to miss completely the nuances of a subtler dram. It seems self-evident but can be tricky when you’ve never tried that particular expression and have to go by a ‘gut’ feel basis what you do know of the distillery, potential impact of the wood, particularly as described peat levels can be notoriously unreliable – both by ppm and the ‘eye’ (palate) of the beholder!

However in this case, my blind tasting companions from the first session confirmed the appropriateness of starting with the Springbank 10 year, followed by the Glen Scotia 16 year and this expression. So I followed the same approach for the Whisky Ladies virtual session held a few weeks later!

Whereas the small group of ladies began with this NAS followed by the Springbank 10 and Glen Scotia 16. In this case, tasting order made little difference – we had quite similar impressions of all three whiskies!

Glen Scotia 1832 Campbeltown 46%

  • Nose
    • Mixed group – Started with Williams pear or dishrag (depending on who you ask!), walnut, caramel or toffee, bacon, dates, the gulkand that goes into paan, hints of vanilla, one also got kerosene or motor oil, sour leather… after some time – don’t laugh – but I got gummy bears!
    • Virtual ladies – For us, it started with overripe almost spoilt fruits, quite pungent, oily, shifting from sweet overripe black grapes to bananas, then figs to nuts, with rum raisin.. shifted again to dahi… after even more time the over ripe fruit dimension was replaced by other elements like cardamon kheer, touch of smoke
    • During our share and compare, the other group of ladies added their sense of honey lemon, comforting.. with a vanilla perfume
  • Palate
    • Mixed group – A clean peat with cinnamon, salt and smoke, pepper fry, sweet stewed fruits, nice and round
    • Virtual ladies – The 1st sip was a bit of a shock of bitter spice, but after the initial ‘punch’, the 2nd sip was smooth, still having spice but chased with subtle sweet peat, resin, with that tasty bitterness lingering… there was also a herbal green element we couldn’t quite place which the other group of ladies nailed – green capsicum
  • Finish
    • Mixed group – Salt and pepper spice, dry
    • Virtual ladies – The bit of bitterness remained, dry with black pepper licorice spice

In our mixed group, we initially found it a bit unbalanced… there was a curious quality for some time until it settled down. Once that “motor oil” quality finally dispersed and it began to grow on us. When we compared with the others, we found all three had dry finishes with this one a bit spicier than the others. Certainly the peat was more pronounced too, though clearly not a typical Islay style.

As for our ladies? For us, it was all the contrasts that made us slow down and really explore this one.  As interesting as the nose was to begin with, after a few sips, it lost a bit of its pungency. However by contrast, the palate grew on us more and more. This whisky challenged us – in a good way, reminding us why it is so fun to explore different dimensions with others. The other group also enjoyed it – sharing the warm and tingly combined with perfume finish.

Bottom line – it was a ‘yes’ from all.

What do the folks at Glen Scotia have to say?

The higher peat content gives a more sweet and smoky character and a beautiful rounded finish.

  • Nose – Peat smoke on a salty sea breeze with background notes of crème caramel and vanilla
  • Palate – Golden syrup (light treacle), spiced apple and vanilla. Light medicinal peat notes bring balance to the mid-palate
  • Finish – Long, lingering peat with dried fruit notes adding sweetness

I purchased this whisky late Oct 2019 from Munich airport for EUR 62 on my way back home to Mumbai…. ahhh…. those were the days when we could freely fly back and forth!

And with that, we finished our wee journey to the Campbeltown region with Springbank and Glen Scotia!

Interested in other Glen Scotia experiences? Check out:

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Campbeltown – Glen Scotia 16 year 46%

Today part of the Loch Lomond Group, Campbeltown’s Glen Scotia traces its history to 1832, however certainly had a few ‘silent’ periods. The first halt in 1930 was brought on the dramatic fall of distilling in the Campbeltown region triggered by the depression, temperance movement and rising distribution costs. Original known as “Scotia”, the distillery re-opened a few years later as “Glen Scotia” when bought by the Bloch Brothers. Fast forward to the next major decline in the whisky industry – no surprise is shut production from 1984 to 1989 – starting up again when bought by the Gibson group.

With our history lesson now over, what about the whisky? Well… it has both lightly peated and non-peated variants, playing around with American oak / ex-bourbon, oloroso and PX sherry casks.

As for our collective tasting experience? I’d explored a a few minis from Glen Scotia with a regular tasting companion. We found the entry expression – Double Cask 46% – was quite a good indicator of what is to come, noting the 15 year took a bit of time to ‘warm’ up, whereas the Victoriana 51.5% was a clear ‘pleaser’ from the start.

So then… what about this 16 year?

Glen Scotia 16 year 46%

  • Colour – Coper and gold
  • Nose
    • Mixed group – Musty cupboard, sour fruits, a bit like a fruity brandy, lots of honey, oak, floral talcum, rose peppermints, coffee sweets, chicory, lightly salted, dry spice, more light wood, grass, celery, cherry blossoms
    • Virtual Ladies – A nice bourbon, fruits and nuts with cocao, changes so much in a gentle way… toffee, berries shifting to cherries… sweet but not too sweet… our IRL ladies also found beeswax
  • Palate
    • Mixed group – Spiced Christmas oranges with cloves, dry salt, cigar leaf, gooseberries, apple – like calvados, sour plum, almonds, dry sherry, peppery spice, hint of peat
    • Virtual ladies – Simply delicious! Incredibly silky with a great well rounded mouth feel. We tasted figs with dates, a gentle roasted quality…  our IRL ladies agreed – noting what really stood out was the velvety smoothness with a hint of mint at the back
  • Finish
    • Mixed group – Salty dry
    • Virtual ladies – Sweet milk chocolate, after lingering for some time slowly eases out with a dry black licorice
  • Water – A few drops didn’t hurt… but why dilute something so fine? Truly not needed

For the mixed group, we concluded overall that it had quite a friendly nose – more interesting and complex than the palate. Even after the glass was empty, the aromas were most appealing. For a few in our cross-country virtual tasting (from London to scattered locations around Europe to Mumbai) this was the favourite.

As for our ladies? We agreed! We found it had a fabulous harmony, makes its presence felt in a gentle enticing way. The kind of dram you want some ‘alone time’ with…. slow down and simply enjoy.

What more do we know? Just that it was matured in ex-bourbon and American oak (presumably virgin?) for a minimum of 16 years and released for Travel Retail. While the distillery notes do not indicate it was matured or finished in sherry casks, both their tasting notes and our experience would indicate a hint.

What do the folks at Glen Scotia have to say about their 16 year?

  • Nose – Fresh sea spray and floral notes give way to softer caramel and vanilla
  • Palate – Rich sherry flavours, toffee, raisins and roasted hazelnut. Apricot and orange add more subtle fruit notes
  • Finish – Long dry finish with touches of peat combining with nutty elements and coastal, salty notes

I picked it up in Singapore’s Changi Airport in November 2018 for SGP 167 (approx EUR 105 / INR 9,100). A bit pricey, but then that is also Singapore…

What did we explore in our Campbeltown evening aside from the Glen Scotia 16 year?

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Campbeltown – Springbank 10 year 46%

This isn’t my first Campbeltown trio… Even more so, we are no stranger to Springbank distillery – I counted over a dozen different tasting experiences from the last few years! I’ve even tried this 10 year expression – back in 2015 and again 2019. Overall the experiences have been positive, so I was curious to see what we find this time around!

This whisky was sampled on two occasions – once by a mixed group from London to Paris to Nurnberg and Mumbai and the 2nd as a combination of Whisky Ladies connecting virtual and a very small group in real life, culminating in a comparison of our experiences.

Springbank 10 year 46%

  • Nose
    • Mixed group – Fruity, honey, fresh wood, tropical fruit – particularly pink guava, pineapple, toffee and vanilla cream, cake frosting and pastry…
    • Ladies virtual  – Started off as tropic spice, apricot, opening up to increasing sweetness, cream… over time some maple honey emerged with cereals
  • Palate
    • Mixed Group – Subtle peat, smoky, salty, a nice woodiness… after the 2nd sip, sweet spice of nutmeg, allspice, dry cherry
    • Ladies virtual – The first sip was a bit harsh – burning down the throat to the finish. After the initial spice kick, further sips were easier but still lots of black pepper and nutmeg
  • Finish
    • Mixed Group – Lighter touch, like a dry wine finish, bit bitter and peppery
    • Ladies virtual – Very peppery finish, quite dry
  • Water – Lots of overripe fruit, spicier, sour fruit (tried only by the mixed group)

Our mixed group was a bit more charitable in our overall assessment We found that while initially there was no hint of peat on the nose, it came through on the palate. While it wasn’t a crowd pleaser, we found it settled into a mellow sweet peat.

The Ladies were all pretty clear that this one did not impress. Several had otherwise good Springbank experiences – including a venerable Springbank 37 year! Those who joined iRL, found it bitter, oily with some cilantro. Especially when we revisited it after trying the others, it was flat to the nose and palate. Disappointing I’m afraid.

What about the Springbank official tasting notes?

Our 10-year-old offers whisky drinkers the perfect introduction to the Springbank range. Matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, it is perfectly balanced from the first sip through to the full, rich finish.

  • Nose: Orchard fruit (pear) with a hint of peat, vanilla and malt.
  • Palate: Malt, oak, spice, nutmeg and cinnamon, vanilla essence.
  • Finish: Sweet, with a lingering salty tingle.

Would we agree? Not really…

What else did we explore in our Campbeltown evening?

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Campbeltown Trio – Glen Scotia, Springbank

There may be limited distilleries in the Campbeltown region, however while it doesn’t have the range of other regions like the compact but prodigious Speyside, sprawling yet plentiful Highlands or the Islay character, it quietly yet firmly refuses to give up.

While once there was 30 distilleries, today stands 3 – Glen Scotia, Glengyle (Kilkerran) and Springbank – and I thought it past time we slow down to explore at least a small sample from Campbeltown.

While my original plan was to have representation from each of the three distilleries, in the end I satisfied myself with 3 contrasting expressions from 2 distilleries.

What did we explore in our Campbeltown evening?

All of the whiskies were opened in January 2021 and redistributed to interested partakers. In an interesting twist – this trio had multiple dimensions to its tasting experience:

  • Combination of Whisky Ladies in Europe and a couple guys from Bombay Malt & Cigar brought together virtually, sipping from London to Paris, south of France to Nurnberg and of course Mumbai… with samples that were better traveled than some people!
  • Virtual Whisky Ladies in India – mostly Mumbai with one in Delhi and remaining bottles making their way to a very small (socially distanced!) gathering in Bandra “IRL”… after about 45 mins of tasting separately, the virtual and ‘real’ groups joined together to compare notes

It followed an earlier session exploring an Arran vertical. Which just goes to show – we refuse to be daunted by limited travel, limited sourcing means – where there is a will, there is a way!

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Talisker 8 year 2009 48.4% (Old Particular)

Last in my Old Particular trio is a complete shift in character to the Isle of Skye with the peaty Talisker. Though technically part of their “Highland” region bottles, it is also an “Island” distillery.

Talisker 8 Year Old 2009 (cask 12578) 48.4%

  • Nose – Mmmm smoked meats, juicy fruits with a bit of brine
  • Palate – A nice smokey burn, touch of ash, a dash of sugary sweet
  • Finish – Cinnamon, then a nice campfire finish

It has been awhile since I’ve had a Talisker… and I gotta admit it hit the spot. Peat and sweet, nothing complicated but well balanced and just… worked. In truth, it disappeared too soon – always a good sign!

As for tasting notes? Here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt had to say:

Part of Douglas Laing’s Old Particular series, this expression from Talisker was distilled in 2009 and bottled at 48.4% ABV, after 8 years of maturing in a refill hogshead. It is one of only 378 bottles produced. Of course, this whisky was bottled without colouring or chill-filtration..

  • Nose: Complex warming phenols alongside intense seaweed notes.
  • Palate: Both sweet and salty, maritime flavours are joined by slightly ashy notes and a touch of brown sugar.
  • Finish: Distinctly sooty on the finish, balancing by subtle sugar sweetness.

Would I agree? Overall yes!

And what about previous brushes with Talisker?

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