One of the reasons we love tasting blind is we can explore a whisky without being influenced by previous experience with the distillery or marketing paraphernalia. For our February 2018 session, this came in handy… as the theme of the evening ending up being the whisky packaging!
What all did we try?
Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Shackleton “The Journey” 47.3%
Tobermory 15 years 46.3%
Highland Park’s Valhalla Series “Thor” 16 year 52.1%
Did I mention the marketing? Just wait to see the booklets, photos, special boxes and more!
Nose – Perfumey peat, sweet, way more peat than had anticipated, creamy, slightly astringent until it settled down, almost salty
Palate – Bacon, bloody mary, spice kick, quite direct, black pepper, citrus and bitter yet smooth and almost oily
Finish – Long finish, not heavy, spicy and sweet with a dash of salt too
This was one of those drams that is hard to go back to anything else after such peat. It certainly wasn’t “clobber over the head” peat but it wasn’t a push-over either.
Here is what the folks at Bunnahabhain have to say:
Ceobanach [pronounced kyaw-bin-och] means ‘Smoky Mist’ and harks back to a simpler time; when island life depended on peat for warmth and trade, a time when smoke from the open fires mingled with the salty sea air, to create a ‘Smoky Mist’ you could almost taste.
Bunnahabhain Ceobanach has an unusually rich character; from the sweetness of the Bourbon casks, to the intense Islay malt peatiness, not to mention the characteristic sea air influence from more than 10 years maturing on the coast.
Colour – Lemon gold
Nose – Intensely pungent depths of sweet oak, seaweed, smoke and elegant light tar with mild antiseptic
Palate – Exceptionally balanced malt sweetness, then tangy yet mellow vanilla, white pepper, bitter orange and salt
Finish – Lingering oatcake saltiness and sweet peppered smoke
For the ladies in the mood for peat, this one hit its mark.
Duty free releases can sometimes surprise you… They can be terribly average, a marketing dumping ground to see what sticks. They can also be a rather fine example of the best a distillery has to offer… or an interesting experiment in a new direction.
For this age statement Glenmorangie, I have to admit I was expecting it to take a rather “classic” take on the Glenmorangie style, an evolution from The Original like the classy 18 year rather than shifting into heavy play of finishes like with Amontillado Sherry Casks with The Tayne.
When it showed up fresh from London to Mumbai at the hands of a welcome visiting Whisky Lady as her contribution to the evening, curiosity was indeed sparked!
Nose – Surprising sea salt, perfume, restrained, nuanced, honey, with a hint of rancio, a bit musty, old cheese, damp after the rains, then keeps getting sweeter and fresher revealing a soft citrus
Palate – Very peppery at first, citrusy, intense and so unexpected after the aromas, oily, bittersweet
Finish – Sea salt, iodine, metallic
Water – A few drops really opens it up and brings out more of the typical Glenmorangie 10 floral honey aromas, the peppers on the palate into balance and rounds it out beautifully
Quite subtle with some lovely notes… And a surprising saltiness for a Genmorangie.
How it blossomed with a bit of water surprised most of us who thought at 43% should be zero need to add. We had a debate on its impact on the finish – with some finding it made it even saltier and others thought sweetened it.
But the best way to have it? With sea salt dark chocolate caramel. Which we just happened to have from the US, courtesy our contributor who brought the Glenmorangie.
Aroma – This bright sparkling golden whisky is fresh and zesty on the nose with suggestions of mint and eucalyptus, intensifying into candy, peaches and vanilla. A drop of water releases floral notes and honey.
Taste – A complex and creamy balance of vanilla, tangy oranges, apricots, apples, butter candy and a hint of menthol.
Finish – In the aftertaste, there is a strong suggestion of mint toffee alongside oak tannin and Glenmorangie’s celebrated lingering, bittersweet citrus fruit.
The whisky that ruled our Whisky Ladies “Contributors Choice” evening was The Glenrothes … A speyside distillery known for its rich, complex vintages. For some of our whisky ladies this was an introduction, for others a welcome opportunity to revisit a favoured dram.
Whisky Live is a great opportunity to try whiskies you are curious about but wouldn’t necessarily buy…. a chance to ‘speed taste‘ with a simple sniff, swish and spit.
Wolfburn is a newer distillery, promising for its sweet minerally new make spirit. These were at best fleeting impressions as I stopped by the Wolfburn booth towards the end of my sampling explorations… at that stage where you have nearly had enough.
Finish – Here is where the spice peeps out even more
My initial thought was this is a summer dram – sun soaked fruits – with a name that perfectly personifies its name “spicily sweet”! It was so enjoyable that I thought folks back in Mumbai might enjoy it too. And sure enough, “Sunset” closed an evening exploring independent blends…
Nose – Fruity, malty, cereals, bit of pepper, crisp fruits, teasing vanilla
Palate – Sweet light spice that grows, bright, citrus
Finish – There… with more spice
Overall it is exceedingly nice and eminently drinkable.
And what do the folks over at Compass Box have to say?
Inspired by the writers, philosophers and scientists of the Age of Enlightenment, this blend of fruity fragrant Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskies is bursting with aromas of fresh orchard fruit, vanilla, soft spice and pear.
We begin by sourcing whiskies from three single malt distilleries; one for its ethereal fruity character, one for its enchanting perfume and one that lends a complex and substantial structure to the blend.
All are aged in American oak casks before we place a portion into innovative hybrid casks featuring heavily toasted new French oak heads. These give the whisky an added richness and spice-like complexity. By carefully blending back the French oak-aged whisky with its American oak-aged forebear, we are able to create a refined, rich, but well-mannered malt whisky, with fruity aspects that will remind you of baked apple or pears, complemented by a rich, toasty oak character.
So here we are in February 2018… and I’m only now getting around to sharing observations from November 2017 Whisky Live Singapore…. Why the delay?
Because I found it really hard to put into words that after such a terrific experience at Whisky Live Singapore 2016, the 2017 edition simply wasn’t for me. Which seems exceedingly churlish to admit when the organizers were kind enough to extend a day pass.
However rather than dwell on disappointments, let me focus on the key benefit of attending any Whisky Live anywhere in the world – the whisky!
There definitely were highlights and I captured a few fleeting notes on my sniff, swish (and mostly spit) experiences… And before you gasp in dismay about not savouring and swallowing, I firmly adopt a “Survival Guide” approach to explore to the max and over-indulge to the min.
There is a price to such a “speed dating” method. Notes cannot be complete and lack in-depth insights. Instead, they are just quick surface impressions… like a teaser… merely giving a sense of what might come… if only…
So with that caveat in mind, welcome to explore Whisky Live Singapore 2017:
Amrut with Kadhambam 50% and Porta Nova 62.1%
AnCnoc 12 year 40%, 18 year 46%, 24 year 46% with Stuart Harvey
So we tried Smokehead once before – the Rock edition. To say that it didn’t impress the Whisky Ladies is putting it mildly. While we are always curious to try different things and no strangers to peat, ashtray is generally not our preferred style.
However when approached by the folks over at Ian MacLeod distillery suggesting their standard Smokehead is more accessible than the Rock edition, I didn’t have the heart to refuse their rather sincere representative, though did warn him our tasting would be unbiased and honest.