Peat Unusual – Ledaig “Very Cloudy” 40%

Not all peat is your campfire smoky character…. In keeping with our “Peat Unusual” theme,  this Ledaig, specially bottled by Signatory, was not your ordinary direct peat Ledaig expression but instead something different.

What did we think?

Ledaig “Very Cloudy” 7 years (7 June 2008/15 Dec 2015) 40% Hogshead 700551 + 700552 Signatory Vintage 910 Bottles

  • Nose – Sweet and sour, that wet dish cloth element with lemon, ammonia yet restrained, as it opened more, a sweet wet hay
  • Palate – Super easy to drink then the peat peaks out from behind, becomes sweet and spicy
  • Finish – Peat and sweet

It was not heavily peated, more like an accent or splash of colour than the main act. One joked that it could be a peated whisky for non-peat lovers. We found it overall very easy to drink with its enjoyable light peat. Quite a contrast to other Ledaigs sampled over the years.

Given its ‘very cloudy’ moniker, we were curious enough to put it in a fridge to chill to see its effect. Did it make it cloudy? Not much, but it was rather nice chilled.

As this bottle came from a BMC guest, we don’t know where it was acquired, however we sampled it from a closed bottle in November 2017.

Interested in other experiences with Ledaig whiskies?  

Our “peat unusual” whiskies featured:

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Introducing “The Story of the Spaniard” from Compass Box

Sometimes a treat comes to town… this time in the form of the newly launched Compass Box “The Story of the Spaniard” whisky!

Compass Box announced this will join their core range, likely with some variation on a sherry theme in future editions – yet all blends will be anchored by Spanish casks – be it sherry wine or a sherry-like wine.

So what did we find in our introduction to this latest Compass Box blend?

Photo from compassboxwhisky.com

The Story of the Spaniard 43%

  • Nose – Lemon, citrus, anise, subtle, clean, then reveals darker fruits, a hint of  cherries under a bright spice
  • Palate – Spice, initially gives a sense of being a bit brash and young, then on second sip, reveals a delicate balance, warm sweet spices, something a bit deeper almost resinous… Sip again and that spice comes roaring to the fore… and then again it is subdued…
  • Finish – Warming spice

In our first brush with the Spaniard, none of us were tempted to add water. However I was fortunate a bit remained with an opportunity to revisit another day… This time also sampling with a large round cube of ice, slowly melting into the whisky.

Transformed! While normally my default sipping style is need or with a few drops of water, for The Spaniard, I would suggest also trying with a bit of ice. In this second foray, I found:

  • Nose – Retains the citrus yet shifts to more of a mandarin orange and a hint of hazelnut, more dark red wine than typical Christmasy sherry notes
  • Palate – A delight. The wine-like quality emerges more, with some tannins and a light bitterness, with a sweet citrus twist
  • Finish – The bitterness remains with sweet spices

Like all Compass Box blends, the details are disclosed – including that it is not chill filtered and natural colour. For the first release, the recipe is:

  • 40% was aged in 1st fill Sherry butt using a malt whisky near Aberlour
  • 25% in ex-Spanish red wine casks with malt whisky from Teaninich
  • 15% highland blend (Clynelish, Dailuaine, Teaninich) further matured in hybrid french oak cask with a heavy toast
  • Then a combination of 8% refill sherry butt and 7% refills hogshead from Deanston, 5% re-charred barrels with malt from Glen Elgin.

CompassBoxWhisky.com

And what do the folks at Compass Box have say about it?

You will find a whisky that is full, soft and sumptuous on the palate with flavours of citrus peel and pears poached in red wine and spices. It’s a whisky ideal for late evening sipping or stirring into a cocktail.

Worth trying? Absolutely!

And for those curious to track it down, I understand it should be available in India shortly through The Vault Fine Spirits.

Other Compass Box core range?

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Whisky Lady – August 2018

This August brought more monsoon rain and yes – some malts too! All three Mumbai whisky tasting groups met up and a bonus minis session.

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we took a rather significant detour from our usual whisky fare to explore rums from Columbian & The Seychelles:

For our original group, I had a special session planned for well over a year… to  explore different dimensions of Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte with their Micro-Provenance 5 series:

Before we dove into the MP5, we calibrated our palate with:

For the Whisky Ladies, it was our 3rd anniversary with a sociable evening of Irish drams, courtesy of our friends over at Pernod Ricard who kindly shared:

  • Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition 40%
  • Green Spot 40%
  • Yellow Spot 12 year 46% and
  • Redbreast 12 year 40%

Plus we had a terrific minis session – Campbeltown style – comparing whiskies from Glen Scotia and Springbank… laugh if you will but we found…

There were a few other explorations…

I also posted notes from July’s remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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Campbeltown’s Springbank 37 year 43%

Once and a while, a rare dram will make an appearance in Mumbai. Such was the case one fine monsoon evening. Our hosts had a rather enviable array of whiskies in their bar and gave me a chance to pick something new to open that evening. As soon as I spotted this one, there was no doubt it was the one to try.

Even more generously, they gave me a chance to take home a sample to share with others, hence it topped off our Campbeltown mini’s evening – like the “show stopper” it was!

Springbank 37 year (May 1970 / January 2005) Cask No1343 Bottle No 630 43% (Chieftain’s)

  • Nose – Green apple, cinnamon, nutty, a bit musty, perfume, fresh fruity fragrant, herbal, bubblegum, rosemary soap, light lavender, lemon grass, cedar, raw white fruit, purple grape soda, citrus orange, dry balsa wood, sour cherry
  • Palate – A lovely spice, so smooth, delicate apple, welcoming, complex
  • Finish – Long strong and gorgeous

Bottom line – it was exceedingly enjoyable – in the category of a whisky you could while away an evening with most companionably. There was an inviting, comforting quality, nuanced, balanced and complex yet in an understated way. We counted ourselves fortunate to have an opportunity to be introduced to such a fine whisky. 

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

As we went back to revisit all our Campbeltown drams, we noted a common thread of sheer drinkability – each was most enjoyable, no off notes, no harshness, with a common theme of vanilla, baked goods with most also having a light citrus fruit.

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Campbeltown’s Glen Scotia Victoriana 51.5%

Our Campbeltown minis explorations returned from Springbank to Glen Scotia to crack open the Victoriana NAS cask strength single malt.

Glen Scotia Victoriana 51.5%

  • Nose – Lemon pie, tart, sweet, doughy, lots of vanilla, more citrus chased by fresh caramel toffee sweets. After the 1st sip, added to the mix a light leather, more of the toffee, dried bay leaf or thatched straw roof, banana, sweet powder and above all vanilla… overall quite aromatic
  • Palate – Toffee caramel, tart, tobacco leaf, balance sweet spice
  • Finish – Tobacco, bitter yet pleasant and long

We both quite enjoyed this whisky – found it perfect for settling down in a comfy cushion chair or sofa, curling up with a nice dram and good book. However to be approached with caution as there is nothing that would hint at its strength – entirely deceptive as has the silky smooth flavourful feel of a 46% not 51.5%.

Here is what the folks over at Glen Scotia have to say about this whisky:

Each cask is chosen for its rare character and exceptional maturity. Finished in deep charred oak, the result is an exceptionally smooth single malt whisky whose aroma and flavour work in harmony. Bottled in the traditional way straight from the cask and without filtration, its subtle wood and vanilla flavour is enhanced by a full bodied spicy fruit aroma and mildly smokey aftertaste.

  • Nose – Dark again. An elegant nose with hints of oak driving the bouquet. Interesting creme brulee notes leading to generous caramelised fruits and finally polished oak.
  • Palate – Sweet and concentrated start with some jammy blackcurrant fruitiness. A big mid palate. Typical tightening towards the back palate. Becomes more austere with water.
  • Finish – Clean and initially sweet.The green bean, with cocoa characteristic.

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

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Campbeltown’s Springbank 15 year 46%

Next in our Campbeltown minis evening, we moved from Glen Scotia to Springbank… comparing their 15 year age statement single malt.

Springbank 15 year 46%

  • Nose – Initial waft of oaky wood, a bit of varnish, wet dough, clearly had substance, biscuits, honey, a pronounced vanilla, shifting into white peach, a bit of spicy apple juice, more baked goods with powdered icing sugar, vanilla custard… after even more time took on a sour fudge sweet quality with nuts like almonds or walnuts
  • Palate – Softer than we anticipated yet again with substance, cereals, silky, apple sauce, more of those yummy baked goods, a bit of spice in the nicest possible way… sugar and spice!
  • Finish – Dry, lightly bitter, a bit of black liquorice, medium length yet solid

We immediately concluded with the 1st sip that this was one dangerously drinkable dram, that just kept being reinforced sip by sip. This was a whisky we would be happy to have sitting on our shelf, bringing out for guests who appreciate a good dram.

Here is what the folks over at Springbank have to say about this whisky:

Like a storm gathering off the Kintyre coast, our 15-year-old Springbank is dark and ominous, yet delicious. Best enjoyed after dinner or with your favourite cigar, this is a true classic.

  • Nose: Demerara sugar, dark chocolate, Christmas cake, almonds, toffee, oak.
  • Palate: Creamy, raisins, dark chocolate, figs, marzipan, brazil nuts and vanilla.
  • Finish: Oak and sherry notes sustain and mingle with hints of leather.

PS You can find Springbank in India through The Vault Fine Spirits.

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

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Campbeltown’s Glen Scotia 15 year 46%

Our Campbeltown minis and more session began with Glen Scotia… According to the Glen Scotia folks, distilling in the Kintyre peninsula harkens back to 1609 with the distillery founded in 1832. It remained one of the two Campbeltown distilleries that survived the downturn in demand from the region and other factors that led to the closure of all but Glen Scotia and Springbank.

But what matters most is the malt… what did we think?

Glen Scotia 15 year 46%

  • Nose – Surprisingly ‘heavy’, with an initial chilli spice, the sweet white biscuits like shortbread, wet dough, loads of vanilla, wheat, light honey wine… becoming increasingly fruity with a citrus twist… after some time took on a cinnamon apple pie quality
  • Palate – Again that sense of substance, spices, hint of coffee, sweet fruits on the top of the palate, tobacco and a bit of salt at the back
  • Finish – Dry, light spice and a bit bitter

Truth be told we weren’t overly impressed initially… however as it rested, it took on increasingly a lovely honey citrus, a sweet sour spice combination that was well balanced and quite enjoyable.

Particularly after we tasted the full set and returned to it, we were delighted to find it silky smooth and really rather nice.

While we didn’t compare it directly with the Double Cask, I had a sense it may be more complex.

Here is what the folks over at Glen Scotia have to say about this whisky:

The whisky has been gently matured in our finest American oak barrels before bottling. The signature nose has hints of vanilla oak, interwoven with the subtle notes of sea spray and spicy aromatic fruits.

  • Nose – Richer colours. Broad and medium-weight with citrus peels, ginger snap biscuits. Sweet and with great depth. Apricot aromas develop then drift towards fruit salad. After a short time the wood come to the fore and water helps to release baked fruit.
  • Palate – A complicated palate where the initial nose would lead you to expect plump fruits, what you get is a surprisingly dry element. The palate fleshes out as the first impact of the nose fades. Adding water brings out the caramalised elements balanced with the wood elements expected of a 15 yr old.
  • Finish – Firm and slightly dry.

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

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Campbeltown Quartet – Glen Scotia 15 + Victoriana, Springbank 15 + 37

It had been some time since we had a minis evening, and this time we focused on Campbeltown… augmented by a special whisky.

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

What fun to explore a few drams  from the Campbeltown region… a once prodigious producer of whisky, now much reduced yet still bringing most enjoyable malts to the world.

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

Last in our Port Charlotte cask evening was one that stumped our entire group. We sampled it blind, with no clue beyond everyone knowing the whiskies sampled that evening were from the same distillery, similar age, barley, peat level yet matured in different casks.

What did we find?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

  • Colour – Dark amber
  • Nose – Dark chocolate, cinnamon spice, raisins, prunes, apricot, such fruity sweet, almost sweet wine-like, shifting from dark to white chocolate nougat, vanilla, cappuccino, marmalade, walnut, not a hint of peat… then after some time, became almost meaty with a subtle ash and… believe it or not… bubblegum! After even more time… was that lemon custard? Or coconut cream pie?
  • Palate – Spice, even more than the others this one was sooooooo sweet! Then a roaring spice behind the sweet which eased into a ginger spice, followed by salt, roasted coffee bean and a gentle peat, with wonderful oils
  • Finish – Lovely
  • Water – Needs a splash of water – then it becomes juicy, fruity and simply fabulous!

For some, this was the favourite or runner up of the night!

There was something so completely appealing about the complexity of the aromas and, once water was added, it was absolutely wonderful on the palate. There was a lovely balance between the fruits, chocolate and light peat… which initially had a ‘barely there’ quality but revealed itself after adding water.

And our cask speculation?

After tossing out possibilities from rum to muscatel to sherry PX, most settled on Port thanks to its rich sweet character. No one even came close to guessing French virgin oak.

With the reveal, everyone was stunned!

On two counts…

  • First, did it really get all these elements from virgin oak?
  • And second, while it really came into its own with water, how could it be 63.5% after 10 years!

For both… there was more to the story which can be found in the MP5 broadcast with Adam and Allan.

Let’s start with the alcohol strength…

63.5% seems nearly impossible for 10 years until you consider the approach taken at Bruichladdich. Unlike other distillers that first add water to their new make spirit to bring it to a uniform 63.5% before maturing, Bruichladdich puts it into the cask at the full force of a true cask strength which is closer to 70%.

And what about the cask?

They shared that after nearly 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask, it was finished for 6 months in a French virgin oak with a medium char from Seguin Moreau cooperage which held nothing before… they credited the virgin oak for providing the depth of colour to the whisky.

An interesting twist… all we know is that we really enjoyed the results!

What more do we know from the bottle?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 30.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Virgin Oak
  • Warehouse: P4. L8 – Dunnage

I purchased this set at The Single Cask in Singapore and we opened the bottles in August 2018 in Mumbai.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

We also started our evening comparing casks with a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8%.

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

One of the ‘traditions’ of our original whisky group is to taste blind… In this case, I gave a bit of a twist by openly sharing we were sampling whiskies from the same distillery, peated at the same level and nearly the same age with the only difference the cask.

My goal was to eliminate wild speculations to instead focus on the narrow range of variable – cask. With the reveal made only after we tasted each whisky separately and then compared them to each other, sharing thoughts on the possible cask(s) used.

We began with the Cognac cask – while not part of the MP5 series – I chose it to calibrate the palate. We then moved on to the Bourbon cask, then this one… which added a Bordeaux finish.

What did we think?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

  • Colour – A clear touch of red – which we later found clearly came from the Bordeaux cask finish
  • Nose – Initially greeted with curd and tobacco, quite strongly spirit driven, some sulfur – like we just set off some crackers ‘patakar!’, then settled down with less peat, revealing chocolate, and a range of aromas that went from wine to sweet and salty dried fruits, pistachios and raisins
  • Palate – Very spicy at first, with an interesting over brewed tea quality, like tannins from red wine, sweet with an interesting spice, shifting into raspberries and walnuts
  • Finish – A long finish with a strong peppery close
  • Water – Initially made it spicier then really opened up with many finding it quite fabulous once opened up with a splash of water

While we found this one a bit thin on the palate, lacking the body of the MP5 Bourbon, it had quite a distinctive and appealing quality. We also found it less salty than the 1st with almost negligible peat.

For one, he confessed that if he wasn’t already told this was a peaty Islay whisky, he never would have guessed. We wanted to know how that could possibly be the case – given similar ppm from other distilleries retain a much more pronounced peat.

The answer in part can be found in the Laddie MP5 broadcast in which the head distiller Adam Hannett speaks with Allen Logan, distillery manager.

Around the 20 min mark, they shared how their PC style is to always start at 40 phenolic parts per million (PPM). However the phenol content changes as it is mashed, malted and further softened through the slow distilling process. The shape of the still is another factor, which enables lighter flavours to come through. Then, as the spirit ages, it loses more phenols…

The result? You end up with considerably less ppm than you started with… And for Port Charlotte (PC) specifically, it means the whisky is surprisingly versatile with different cask types, particularly if it is aged for a longer period.

Yet without this insight or knowledge of the re-casting, what did our merry malters think?

After much speculation, most votes veered to sherry with one clear it could not be sherry as it had a wine quality. Clearly this taster was exceedingly close!

What Adam shared in the broadcast is this whisky began in an ex-Bourbon cask for 10 years then was finished for 9 months in the fresh Bordeaux cask from the town of Margeaux.

When asked why they recast the spirit, the answer was:

“We wanted to see what else we could explore, do and try new things.”

In part this was motivated by a recognition the whisky needed an extra ‘boost’ from re-casking.

And when the topic of the wine cask finish arose, Allen spoke of their early experiments with finishing 15 and 20 year stock using ex-Bordeaux casks, which turned the whisky pink after only a short period of time! What to do? Jim McEwan suggested releasing the whisky as a special edition for Valentine’s Day, what else?

As for this whisky? I revisited it the next evening and found the wine element unmistakable… and think we underestimated it in our first foray. Or perhaps with just a little oxidation, it revealed its balanced complex character. Superb!

What more do we know?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 29.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Bourbon / Bordeaux
  • Warehouse: WH5. L2 – Dunnage

I purchased this 200ml tasting set trio for an embarrassingly high amount from The Single Cask in Singapore.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

Before we tasted the MP5 series, I opened a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8% to help calibrate our palate to the Port Charlotte style.
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