Dubai Dream Drams – SMWS “Harmonious Balance” 19 year 55.2%

We almost didn’t open this bottle… after sampling a quintet of “Dream Drams” in Dubai early 2019, we stopped to enjoy a delicious dinner, socialize with our better halves until someone somehow came to the conclusion that we simply had to open just one more bottle!

So out came this Laphroaig, bottled by the folks over at Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), fancifully dubbed “Harmonious Balance.” Matured for 19 years in refill ex-bourbon hogshead cask, this whisky truly turned out to be the “show stopper” of the night!

SMWS 29.229 “Harmonious balance” 19 year (13 May 1988) 55.2% (Laphroaig)

  • Nose – A floral perfume, hand spun candies, a hint of tobacco leaf peaking through  honey
  • Palate – A delicious spice, peat yet more nuanced and balanced than expected from a Laphroaig, think a mild sweet cigar not a brash bold bad boy, chased by a bit of sweet salted toffee
  • Finish – What an absolutely glorious finish! By far the longest, lingering and lovely finish of the evening… much after sipping, one could still enjoy the sweet peat and touch of spice with a chocolate minty freshness too

For many, this was the favourite of the evening… even those who purport to not care for peat were won over and we must admit it was aptly named “Harmonious balance” as all the elements came together in the most beautiful way.

When I compared our impressions with the full version of their tasting notes found online, there was a clear resonance in experience. Here is what the SMWS folks had to say

Imaging waking up, looking out the tent door pitched on the beach and seeing a glorious sunrise over the sea. We then made breakfast on a driftwood campfire by toasting bread and having it with salted butter and thick set honey. To taste, cigar smoke sweetness at the start, ashy with a hint of tar in the mid palate and a slightly herbal/peppermint finish – all in perfect balance and harmony. When we reluctantly added a drop of water the sun continued getting higher in the sky and the scent of fresh salty sea air made us feel ready for whatever the day had in store for us.

It was one of only 234 bottles produced from the cask, last seen online selling for approx EUR 200.

Our Dubai host put together a remarkable collection of “Dream Drams“:

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Dubai Dream Drams – Kilchoman Sherry Single Cask 59.5%

Started in 2005, Kilchoman was the first new distillery on Islay in nearly 125 years. More importantly, the distillery crafted a distinctive “Islay character” style that challenged assumptions that quality required age.

Recently in Mumbai, I had the pleasure of chatting with Kilchoman’s founder Anthony Willis in the Spirited Stories tent at The Vault Biennale, where he shared with pride their journey into the world of whisky making.

There will be more on that another time, for now let’s focus the whisky! This particular single cask release featured as the 5th whisky sampled early January 2019 in Dubai.

In keeping with our “unique” theme, this bottle was one of only 42 produced to be sold from the Kilchoman distillery shop. It is approximately 5 years of age and according to Whisky Base, last sold for EUR 161.

Here is what my tasting companions found…

Kilchoman Sherry (8 Nov 2007/22 Feb 2013) Cask 447/2007 59.5%

  • Nose: Wet wood, campfire, burnt sugar cane, cinnamon, black pepper
  • Palate: The peat from the fresh bottle was quite pronounced, edgy, taking time to settle down and reveal the sherry dimension
  • Finish: A sweet peat cinnamon
  • Water: Tamed it considerably but for some it still remained a bit brash and unbalanced

I could swear one of the guys called it an “utara” whisky… which in Hindi literally means “descend” or “bring down” but is also slang for what you drink the next morning to take the edge off a bad hangover… like “hair of the dog.”

For a few of my sampling companions, this was simply too powerful and peaty for their palate – which is perfectly fine as half the fun of tasting a range of whiskies is discovering your personal preferences. That said, moving to a fresh pour of a cask strength at nearly 60% after the Longmorn 25 year or Strathclyde 38 year was certainly a shift in approach!

For these gents, perhaps something like the rich fruity Kilchoman Sanaig 46% might have been a more natural progression in our sampling journey. For a strong expression like this, having the right setting, time to ease into its personality, slowing down and settling in, makes all the difference.

Here is what the folks at Kilchoman have to say in their tasting notes:

  • Colour: Rich golden
  • Nose: Nice, combines peat and sherry, typical Kilchoman cloves and cinnamon
  • Palate: Soft peaty aromas with overtones of sherry, slightly dry on the palate. A good example of Kilchoman in sherry wood.
  • Finish: Clean, long and rich

If you are curious about other Kilchoman tasting experiences, check out:

The other Dream drams generously shared by our Dubai host included:

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Dubai Dream Drams – Longmorn 25 year 46%

The Longmorn distillery has an interesting history – after building Glenlossie, John Duff founded Longmorn near Elgin in 1893, part of the Speyside region. He then went on to set-up nearby the BenRiach distillery too. What is also notable is Masataka Taketsuru, the man behind Nikka whiskies did a stint at Longmorn in 1920.

Today part of Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Holdings, it produces the official Longmorn 16 year bottle plus can be found in a collection of independent expressions like this one. The rest of Longmorn’s production lends a sweet, deeply fruity element to blends.

This 25 year old Longmorn graced our “Dubai Dream Drams” evening as the 4th whisky sampled…

Longmorn 25 year (1988/2014) Cask 14384 46% (Berry’s Bro)

  • Nose – What a nose! It immediately greeted us with ripe tropical fruits…. it really was sooooo fruity! Then shifted into an eggnog rich sweetness
  • Palate – While no doubt the fruits remained, they were joined by deeper notes – including speculation about a hint of peat, plus continuing our theme of the evening we also pronounced it “buttery”
  • Finish – Long, lovely

In truth, the scant scribbled notes I took that evening did not do justice to this whisky. It was truly quite superb in a class of its own. Sweet, substance and one to savour.

As for what they shared on the bottle?

The name Longmorn is said to derive from an old Scottish word meaning “place of the holy man”. Produced near Elgin, this malt whisky is high respected for its smooth, complex full character and heady bouquet.

The primary aromas give peach skins, tropical fruits and honey. There is some underlying grapefruit and pineapple to enliven the nose. The palate offers a creamy texture with abundant fruit and some white chocolate notes cut by a little spice.

As for other Longmorn encounters? Read on…

Here are are few more remarkable drams our Dubai host generously shared that evening:

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Dubai Dream Drams – Old Pulteney 17 year 46%

I fully admit to enjoying the occasional Old Pulteney…

Currently the Old Pulteney 21 year is my evening sipping dram at our wee “cabana” in the country… the perfume of the fresh air combines with the fragrant fruits, spice, dash of maritime salt of the whisky in the most relaxing way.

Whereas I recently finally finished the last drops of the Old Pulteney 12 year in Mumbai, having enjoyed its warm apple crumble yumminess.

And while I don’t have a bottle of the 17 year conveniently gracing my whisky cabinet, there is something about this particular expression that brings us back. I’ve had a few opportunities to sip and savour this expression over a few years:

Alas it is now archived and increasingly difficult to track down… so if you do come across it, do take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy!

Old Pulteney 17 year 46%

  • Nose – A beautiful bouquet of flowers, then cherries, a hint of salt, lemon cake
  • Palate – Smooth as silk, sweet, a little fresh tobacco leaf, some citrus
  • Finish – Lovely, light and lingering

What a delight to revisit…. and in such terrific company.

A few other drams our amazing Dubai host shared included:

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Dubai Dream Drams – SMWS “Busy buzzing bees” 38 years (1977) 49.6%

In our special “Dream Drams” evening in Dubai early 2019, we went from a lively and most enjoyable Irish whiskey to a completely different direction with a single grain.

And no ordinary grain, it was a Strathclyde bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) from 1977, matured for 38 years, producing only 72 bottles from a refill ex-bourbon cask…

And in their trademark way, it was creatively dubbed “Busy Buzzing Bees” by the SMWS folks.

What did our merry tasting group in Dubai have to say about it?

SMWS G10.10 “Busy buzzing bees” 38 years (23 Nov 1977) 49.6%

  • Nose – It greeted us with fresh pepper, then mellowed in vanilla, nougat, eucalyptus, emerging a distinctive farm-like quality, cedar wood, light lavender
  • Palate – Honey and caramel, a few found it “buttery”, delightfully sweet
  • Finish – Bitter almond
  • Water – Beautiful and silky

How rare it is to have a grain whisky that has matured nearly 40 years… we were honoured to have such an opportunity.

What did the SMWS folks have to say about this whisky?

A light, sweet and floral aroma greeted the Panel. Sugar dusted fruit flavoured bonbons and candy corn were mentioned before a picture full of promise emerged; sitting in the garden sipping on a Lemon Drop Martini and listening to the bees buzzing in the laurel hedge.

The taste had honey-roasted peaches with lavender ice cream whilst the overall impression was one of an almost perfect balance between delicate, perfumed sweetness and dry wood spice.

A drop of water and a plate of seafood pasta in a creamy marinara sauce and a glass of chilled, slightly mineralic, Riesling Auslese was being served.

DRINKING TIP: Perfect to replace a dessert wine

For those curious to try, it is still showing as available through the SMWS for £278.40.

Here are a few more whiskies we sampled in our Dubai Dream Drams evening:

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North Star Spirits Series 5, Regions 5, Bottles 5

Once a year, two of our Mumbai whisky groups come together to celebrate our mutual passion for a fine dram. This time, I selected the whiskies – ordered online and brought in by another member for our sampling pleasure. I was inspired by an earlier introduction to North Star Spirits and honed in on their series 5, tending towards the more affordable options available with a nice cross-section from different regions.

While the Whisky Ladies sponsored the whiskies, the gents hosted our evening in a gorgeous South Mumbai home with a most civilized sit down tasting followed by a brilliantly paired dinner. To put it mildly, the bar was set high!

And did the whiskies deliver? Read on to discover…

Our 5 Region North Star Spirits cask strength quintet from Cask Series 005 included:

Each was distinctive, unique and completely worth trying!

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North Star’s Caol Ila 12 year (2006/2018) 54.6%

Our final North Star Series 5 whisky was from the Islay region with a Caol Ila whisky. While it was the last, it was an entirely appropriate tasting order with this peaty robust dram coming after some lighter, flirtatious whiskies.

Here is what we discovered with the North Star Cask Series 005 Caol Ila…

Caol Ila 12 year (April 2006/May 2018) 54.6%

  • Nose – Hello peat! Sweaty, yheasty, medicinal… quite ‘wintry’, pine nuts, spirit of “peat fun”, some salt, kept evolving with the peat much less pronounced, giving way to other aromas, green asparagus, young potato starch, burnt maple bacon, sweet citrus, lightly smoky sweet grass, burnt sugar, sour cherry
  • Palate – Proper peat, some spice and everything nice. Crêpe Suzette with cherry liquor flambé, perhaps with a touch of citrus too
  • Finish – Green chilli and wasabi, sweet grapes

For those of a peatier persuasion, quite enjoyed this one. The bottle shared a few more details – noting the Caol Ila was bottled from a refill hogshead, un-chill filtered and natural colour.

As for what Iain Croucher had to say about it in his North Star’s tasting notes?

  • Nose: An Oligarch’s humidor… a big dusty one
  • Palate: A peated Sherbet Lemon, doubled-dunted with a peated Soor Ploom
  • Finish: Reminds me of well-seasoned hardwood burning near a new carpet… all subjective of course

Now I must share, we had the most hilarious response and commentary on this one – thoroughly enjoying the reading of the tasting notes… including having to look up what exactly is a “Soor Ploom.”

In case you are curious, a “Soor Ploom” according to Wikipedia is

a sharp flavoured, round, green boiled sweet originally associated with GalashielsScotland.

A “childhood favourite,”[3] they are pale green and “slightly acid in flavour”.[2]

Overall it was terrific having a chance to try such distinctive drams – well worth exploring.

For those curious about cost, this whisky was purchased online in July 2018 from Master of Malt for £76.36 / USD 100 / INR 7,215 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Or check out the Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

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North Star’s Orkney 12 year (2006/2018) 57.8%

Our 5 region tour of North Star’s series 5 continued with a whisky from the Islands.

(www.tripfolk.com)
http://www.tripfolk.com

This time our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai guest reviewer is Shruti Sutwala… 

A marketer by profession, Shruti brings her passion to travel across through her travel blog MeWanderlost. She divides time between creating brands, travelling to distant corners of the world & inspiring many to experience the world. 

Given that Shruti travels extensively (plus has a partner who shares her whisky explorations), she has blessed us with equally adventurous  whiskies from AustraliaBhutan, FranceIceland, Japan and US.

Here is what she has to say about the North Star Cask Series 005 Islands offering…

North Star Orkney 12 year (March 2006/May 2018) 57.8% is a great example of the trend of “secret bottling” by an independent bottler.

It’s secret because all we know about it is that it comes from Orkney and that it’s bottled from a refilled bourbon hogshead. Well, the Orkney is so small that the secret is really not a big one, it has to be one of the two big ones on the island!

It’s rare because independent bottling is all about small batch production – we tasted the Cask Series 005, 1 of 362 bottles, and yes, the same one will not be available in the market anymore.

And of course its experimental if the official tasting notes are any indication. Here it goes – on the palate it’s supposed to be ‘Melted Normandy salted butter poured over popcorn’ & on the finish Clover-honey on yer toast”. That’s experimental for sure!

  • Nose: The nose definitely connects to the island origin of this dram – it has strong sea salt & sea weed notes followed with some fruitiness. It feels quite young in the beginning, however develops subtle smokiness & butter notes, a perfect invitation to sip it along.
  • Palate: The peat on the nose doesn’t disappoint as you sip it along as it develops a nice caramel toffee sweetness. What stood out for me was a nice buttery coating on my palate which reminded me of the butter whisky I had in Scotland. Notes of burnt caramel, pipe tobacco, vanilla & a touch of spice with the subtle smokiness is just lovely!
  • Finish: After the mélange of notes on the palate, the finish was a little flat for me. Some comments around the table were “flat ginger ale” and “bitter”.

Adding a few drops of water made it more approachable for a few, however for me it lost the nice chewy and buttery character with the water.

Summing it up, it’s a solid dram which is nicely matured & balanced & at the same time not so serious. With the Orkney, the bottlers have clearly made a statement that whisky can be fun & experimental, yet well rounded. It would be a great addition to any collection, pity, there are so few of them in the market. A clear vote winner, this one was polished off in the post tasting session!

For those curious about cost, this whisky was purchased online in July 2018 from Master of Malt for £53.76 / USD 70 / INR 5,080 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery

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North Star’s Macduff 11 year (2006/2018) 55.2%

From the Highland region, our next North Star Series 5 exploring 5 regions in Scotland was from the Mac Duff distillery, best known for their Glen Deveron brand.

Our guest reviewer Rekha Sharma has been part of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai from the start.

Having lived a fairly nomadic existence since a young age, Rekha gained over two decades of varied corporate & entrepreneurial experience.

From cable media industry in Hongkong with Disney Challen then Turner Networks (CNN), she then moved to New York where she founded & managed a retail business in Manhattan, combining an Asian antique store with an art gallery & a cafe/bar.

Now living in India, Rekha manages a serviced apartments business in Bombay,  being a part of a rapidly changing economic & social landscape that is India today.

Above all, Rekha enjoys the arts, cooking, interior design, travelling & good whiskey!

Here is what she has to say…

Macduff 11 year (Nov 2006/May 2018) 55.2%

  • Nose – Dish water soap, very light, flowers, flirting with us by running away then gently re-appearing, red delicious apple, balsa wood and some lovely ripe bananas
  • Palate – Peach, apricots, metallic, almost eggy, liquorice
  • Finish – Bitter walnut, big red chewing gum
  • Water – Much better! Really brings out more with this one and gave it a somewhat sweet, creamy finish

It was a friendly easy drinking dram and hard to imagine it was cask strength!

The North Star Macduff was bottled from a refill bourbon hogshead, un-chill filtered, natural colour with only 240  bottles.

North Star’s tasting notes:

  • Nose: Red apple & that smell you get when rain hits hot tar macadam
  • Palate: Instantly creamy & sweet, like my mum’s custard
  • Finish: The crispy topping on a creme brûlée 

This whisky was purchased online from Master of Malt in August 2018 for £53.76 / USD 70 / INR 5,080 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

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North Star’s Campbeltown 4 year (2014/2018) 57%

Next in our North Star Series 005 quintet was a whisky from Campbeltown, which was reviewed by fellow Canadian Paula McGlynn.

Paula McGlynn is a CEO and Founding Director of Gulbadan Talkies and Bharatiya Digital Party (BhaDiPa). BhaDiPa is the pioneer of Marathi digital content, starting with its hit series “Casting Couch with Amey & Nipun” in 2016, and recently revived the Marathi Stand-Up comedy scene, now managing over 15 comic artists. BhaDiPa now has 3 channels under it’s brand, including Bha2Pa (Travel) and Vishay Khol (Politics and Infotainment). BhaDiPa recently received the Zee Talkies Marathi Comedy award for “Best Web Series”, and currently has over 80 million views and over 800K subscribers.

Entrepreneur, producer, actress, script writer… Paula will track down a new whisky experiment from Canada or the US, take an hour off from a film shoot in Goa to pop over to Paul John distillery for a tour (plus collect a coveted bottle of Peated) or drop by WhiskyLive when in South Africa… just because… whisky!

You can also check out her #daarudiscoveries on Instagram at Dev_Paula

Here is what Paula has to say about the Campbeltown…

North Star Series 005 – Campbeltown, 4 yrs, 57.4%
  • Blended Malt (blend of 2 casks) – Distillery Unknown
  • Bottled from a refill bourbon hogshead, un-chill filtered, natural colour.
  • Item no longer available for purchase

The second in an impressive-looking line up of North Star whiskies was a bit of a surprise – a 4 year old blend, cask-strength bottle (uh-oh) 57.4%!

The Campbeltown immediately drew a few raised eyebrows, and when assigning review-duties to the whisky ladies Carissa warned me to be ‘gentle’ considering its youth.

Upon opening, the first few whiffs led to a few remarks around the table about nail varnish and alcohol fumes… reaffirming our concern that this whisky needed some more time with the wood before bottling.

However, much to everyone’s surprise there started to appear notes of honeycomb, cream, vanilla, and those small, sweet and tart mandarin oranges!

Upon first sip, we were all pleasantly surprised to discover a delightfully light and fruity palate echoing the nose – honey, oranges, ginger, and an orange-maple liqueur quality.

Ending with a mid-length finish (again, a nice surprise), we drew further floral notes of lavender, aromatic bitters, salt, and some lingering orange sweetness.

After sampling a few more whiskies, we returned to this one to find the nose had shifted to a delicious butterscotch, while the palate remained much the same as before.

With a few drops of water, it brought out a lot more hard spices like cloves and ginger, and lost some of the more delicate floral notes. Still, not a bad trade-off depending on your mood!

Campbeltown 4 year (Apr 2014/May 2018) 57%

  • Nose: sweet mandarin orange, honeycomb, floral, cream, vanilla, and sprite! (later butterscotch)
  • Palate: honey, oranges, spice, ginger, orange-maple liqueur
  • Finish: mid-long, bitters, lavender, light sugar-water sweetness, salt, and some lingering orange flavour

The official tasting notes remark on something most of us had never tried… ‘oddfellows aromatic sweeties.’ I did a quick Google and turned up an image of some chalky-looking sweets of mixed colors… I felt it must have been somewhat accurate as mixed fruit, floral, and citrus flavors coming together in a heady-sweet mix from being mixed around in a paper bag. (the image source was named Scottish Retro Sweets)

I really really loved this whisky, not just because it was unique to find such a light summery orange element in a whisky, but the pure surprise element of this depth and complexity coming from a 4-year old whisky. It’s like the underdog story, distilled and bottled… everyone loves it!

North Star’s official tasting notes:

  • Nose: Lemon citrus & cut-grass. Oddfellows aromatic sweeties
  • Palate: Gingerbread & a lovely clementine
  • Finish: Super summer fruit with a touch of sea salt

Carissa asked the folks at North Star for more insight and this is what Ciara Hepburn had to say:

The Campbeltown in Series 005 was a blended malt, and unfortunately they do not give us information as to what the whisky is made up of. I love bringing this bottle to my tastings as there is usually a few dinosaurs in the room that cannot believe this is only a 4 year old!

We couldn’t agree more! It was a hit and great reminder that terrific whisky can be crafted with just a few years.

For those curious what we paid (before it disappeared from online shelves!), this whisky was purchased from Master of Malt in August 2018 for £37.40 / USD 50 / INR 3,600 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

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