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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Whisky Lady – March 2018

It is time for a malty monthly round-up! Where all the sessions marched in order, one after the other wish a special bonus evening with Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula.

So where did we begin?

The Whisky Ladies took a “Trans Tasman Trip” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia with:

  • Willowbank 10 year Doublewood 40%*
  • Willowbank 22 year (1989) Barrel No 58 52.8%*
  • Hellyer’s Road Pinot Noire 46.2%*
  • Sullivan’s Cove Double Cask (2008/2015) 40%*
  • Crazy Uncle Moonshine 43%*
  • Plus a bonus birthday dram of Bowmore 1989 “BBQ Mango Salsa” 46% (Wymess)*

Followed the very next evening by the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents exploring whiskies from Japan:

  • Hibiki Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” NAS 43%*
  • Nikka All Malt 40%*
  • Miyagikyo NAS 45%*
  • Hakushu “Distiller’s Reserve” NAS 43%*

Our original club did a revisit with:

  • Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 year 43%
  • Kavalan Solist Sherry S090608029A 58.6%
  • Kilchoman Machir Bay Cask Strength 60%
  • Plus a bonus of Amrut’s Fever Club Con-Fusion 46%

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we ambled through…

March also was a month to catch-up on a few earlier tasting experiences… beginning with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents  Compass Box Quartet!

And more fleeting impressions from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

*Tasting notes coming soon…

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

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Whisky Live 2017 – Gordon + MacPhail’s Balmenach, Linkwood, Ardmore

Gordon & MacPhail never disappoints. And while it would have been nice to have someone from the team at WhiskyLive Singapore like in 2016, their whiskies spoke loud and clear. While just a sniff, swish and move on, it was still terrific to have a quick insight into a trio of lovely drams.

Balmenach (2008/2016) 46%

  • Nose – Grassy, perfumes, crisp apples
  • Palate – Straight forward, spice, fruity, simple yet quality.
  • Finish – Really nice spice finish

Linkwood 15 year 43%

  • Nose – Sherry, floral and fruity
  • Palate – Creamy, well rounded, smooth, accessible. Very smooth… a nice “lazy” dram
  • Finish – Such a delightful happy finish

Ardmore 1997 45% 

  • Nose – Vegetal, leafy tea, light pepper and smoke
  • Palate – Forest, sweet, while not complicated, has a nice easy drinkable quality.
  • Finish – Easy dram

A nice diversion… and a reminder Gordon & MacPhail delivers.

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Whisky Lady – February 2018

Time for the monthly round-up of malty adventures and more! February was a quieter month with just two whisky tasting sessions, providing an opportunity to share impressions from WhiskyLive Singapore.

Photo: Rashmi Dhawani

As the Whisky Ladies had joined the gents for a round of independent blends, we decided to have a completely random evening of “Contributor’s Choice” at the close of January:

This was followed by our original club being overwhelmed by the inventive packaging while being undwhelmed by the whisky:

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents are becoming rather regular in their sessions – no mean feat consider most members can be more easily be found loitering in London, Dubai, Munich, Singapore and various US and other airports. What did we explore? A Compass Box Quartet!

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What a remarkable trio! As I could not make it to the session, the samples reached home to enable us to compare our guest writer Nikkhil Shirodkar’s notes with the group with my independent impressions of our Kavalan Solist Cask Night:

I also kicked off the first batch of a series sharing fleeting impressions from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

Beyond the tasting group meetings, there was an impromptu gin evening with a few friends

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

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Whisky Live with Stuart Harvey – AnCnoc 12, 18 and 24

At Whisky Live Singapore 2017, the AnCnoc booth was a welcome change… with someone who really knows what he is talking about!

Enter Stuart Harvey – master distiller and master blender for Inver House, Keeper of the Quaich and much more. We first met in Mumbai in July 2015 when he came to introduce then conduct a Master Class of BalblairOld Puteney and Speyburn.

At that time, AnCnoc was not part of their Indian line-up. Given its lighter, elegant Highland character, it is one of those whiskies where you can appreciate it needs to be available where a more nuanced profile is understood. For example, you would never want to shock an anCnoc with a bunch of ice and drown it with water. While not ideal, by contrast the Speyburn could hold up well even with such cavalier serving norms, thank you very much!

But I digress… on to the anCnoc… and fleeting impressions from a quick “speed tasting”…

anCnoc 12 year 40%

  • Nose – Light, bright, fruity and floral, drizzle of honey, sweet citrus sweet
  • Palate – Cereals, soft, subtle, gently complex
  • Finish – Fabulous light touch

The 12 year is a perfect sunny afternoon dram, exceedingly easy to drink. Matured in American oak with (did I get this right?) a Fino finish.

anCnoc 18 year 46%

  • Nose – Sherry sweet and spice, still fruity though now more dried fruit than juicy fresh fruit, floral, vanilla
  • Palate – Balanced, continuing with the fruity light pepper spice with a hint of citrus
  • Finish – Lovely warm spice
  • Water – Opens it up beautifully

A marriage of ex-Spanish sherry casks and American ex-bourbon, if the 12 year old is an afternoon dram, the 18 year slides into an early evening sipper.

anCnoc 24 year 46%

  • Nose – Intense character, shifting into Christmas cake territory, vanilla custard
  • Palate – Full force wood, warm spice
  • Finish – Take your time…

The 24 year is clearly a deeper, darker expression than the other two and well worth sampling. If the 18 year is an early evening companion, the 24 year is to pull out late when you just want a little that will go a long way… not rushing the experience.

I wouldn’t mind an opportunity to try it again properly instead of merely speed tasting!

Related experiences:

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Glenmorangie 19 year 43%

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!

Glenmorangie 19 year 43%

  • 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.

What do the folks at Glenmorangie have to say?

  • 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.

So what else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

Other Glenmorangie’s sampled over the years include:

And a few Glenmorangie evenings too:

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Whisky Ladies Contributor’s Choice – Mars Iwai, Glenrothes, Glenmorangie, Bunnahabhain

You would think having one Whisky Ladies session in January would be sufficient… and we certainly had a merry evening combined with the gents to explore Douglas Laing blends with a bonus!

However we decided to skip our February session in favour of a late January one to welcome back for an evening a member who now resides in the US.

We went completely random in whisky choices… only knowing who would be bringing a contribution… nothing else.

So what did we sample in our “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

Photo: Rashmi Dhawani

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Wolfburn’s Morven, Aurora and Original

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.

Wolfburn Northland 46% – ex-Bourbon

  • Nose – Quite oaky, raw cereal,
  • Palate – Young but… sweet, lightly floral, slightly nutty
  • Finish – Spice and is there just a bit of peat too?

Wolfburn Aurora 46% – ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry

  • Nose – Sweet yet restrained, pineapple or melon, yoghurt
  • Palate – Barely there… Sweet spice… a sense of being raw yet very sweet
  • Finish – Spice

Wolfburn Morven 46% – Peat

  • Nose – Young, organic, oaky
  • Palate – Light peat, an odd quality, some spice
  • Finish – Burn

To be honest, it didn’t work for me… however it was just a wee brush…

All said, it was good to zip through this trio… reinforces a preference to wait a few more years to see what Wolfburn does with a bit more time.

Other brushes with Wolfburn?

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Douglas Laing’s Highland Blend Timorous Beastie 46.8%

With their inventive packaging, having a sense of whimsy, play and days of yore, the “Remarkable Regional Malts” series explores the five different regions of Scotland.

We began with Douglas Laing’s Highland blend …

Timorous Beastie 46.8%

  • Nose – Fruity, yoghurt, an agave-like quality, raw, barley mash, spice, light cream, caramel, baby puke, yeasty, honey sweet
  • Palate – Spice burn, a few remarked “tastes better than it smells”, quite peppery with more alcohol ‘beastie’ than timidity
  • Finish – Sharp, short, bitter

There was a mixed reaction to this one. The agave like aroma was akin to the “morning after an overindulgence of tequila”… Another found this was “something to be used for cleaning like solvent.” Yet another quipped “The rat is there on the label for a reason!”

While not horrifically bad, it was a bit like having peppery tequila.

Here’s what they have to say:

Douglas Laing’s Timorous Beastie, immortalised in Robert Burns’ famous Scots poem “To a Mouse”, was a timid, little field mouse. Echoing our national bard’s wit, ours is most certainly not for the fainthearted! This non coloured, non-chill-filtered Small Batch bottling is a marriage of appropriately aged and selected Highland Malts – including, amongst others, those distilled at Glen Garioch, Dalmore and Glengoyne distilleries.

Tasting notes:

  • Nose – Overridingly sweet on the nose, then warming to floral, light barley & spicy honeyed tones.
  • Palate – The palate opens in a spicy style – fructiferous, mellow, with sugary vanilla.
  • Finish – The finish is at first subtle, but runs to a sweet character that carries an oaky quality plus a late meringue style.

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

What were the other whisky blends explored?

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BMC Peat Unusual – Alisa Bay, Ledaig “Very Cloudy”, Loch Lomond Peated, BenRiach 25 Peated

It is finally slipping into “winter” (by Indian standards), with the pollution smog haze rarely lifting, and somehow the weather and climatic conditions seem to be influencing whisky preferences… to peat. And no ordinary peat… an exploration of a few whiskies one would not normally have on the top peat picks list from regions not immediately associated with peat. Because why should our familiar friends over in Islay corner the market when other options exist?

As this was a BMC session, we had no pretence of hiding the bottles… instead merrily dove in to our discoveries eyes wide-open!

Our “peat unusual” whiskies….

Our host shared that it began with the BenRiach 25 year peated… and morphed from there… each selected to be peat with a twist. For example, you don’t typically find BenRiach whiskies peated… Then it continued with Loch Lomond – again not normally peated. So why Ledaig you may ask? By their “nature” Ledaig is Tobermoray’s peaty whiskies. Yes indeed. However the “Very Cloudy” Vintage 2008 is known to have a lighter dusting of peat rather than full force peat. And Alisa Bay? Not only is it newer to market as a single malt, it breaks with typical Lowland convention to combine peat with sweet…

Read on over the coming days to see what we found…

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