Speed Tasting – Mystery Malt Blend…

Last month, we had a remarkable experience “Speed Tasting” and rating five different drams in the space of just a few minutes, quickly assessing and determining a score based on nose, palate, finish, character and complexity.

With three down and just two to go… the clock was ticking!

What were my hasty impressions of Dram “D”?

Mystery malt aka “House blend”

  • Nose – Tight berries, clear sherry stamp, then resin, mocha, and waves of peat, campfires
  • Palate – Very accessible… perhaps a low alcohol strength? Yet high in flavours. Peat, sweet grass and more… again those rich berries, more chocolate
  • Finish – Lovely, not over powering with a sweet peat that holds
  • Character & Complexity – Delicious, great interplay between sherry and peat

For quite a few – including me – this was the highest rated dram of the evening.

What exactly was it?

It was Keshav Prakash’s own home blend… with leftover Glendronach 15 year and 4-5 Islay malts. A bold blend that somehow worked!

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What were the other whiskies “Speed Tasted“?

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Glen Garioch 17 year (1996-2016) Cask No 3730 55.7%

After the absolutely stunning Glen Grant 60 year, dangerously drinkable Bowmore 12 distilled in the 1970s, the peculiar The Prestonfield Vintage 1972 Bowmore 16, we shifted gears to a meatier sherry style whisky from Adelphi‘s single cask bottling of Glen Garioch.

Adelphi Glen Garioch 1993 (note image from different year)

Glen Garioch 17 year (1996-2016) Cask No 3730 55.7% (Adelphi) 152 bottles

  • Nose – Top note of varnish, orange cream cookies or that fanta fizz, citrus zest, sweet honey, clove, a teasing nose that later revealed a musty quality – in a good way
  • Palate – Spicy, old style wood, sweet spice orange like clove studded oranges at Christmas, an almost brandy-like quality, red and green stewed apples, a dash of cocoa, continued to evolve taking on a meaty quality like a quality wagyu steak
  • Finish – Lovely chewy dates

There was a nicely mature quality to this dram, exceedingly smooth and no sense of it being full strength at 55.7%. A lovely sherry quality, more in keeping with what we normally expect – and that’s a mighty fine thing indeed!

What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection from July 2017?

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Krishna Collection – Enjoying a few drams with a Malt Maniac

India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula is a rather fine fellow to dram with… So when we thought July would be a slow whisky month, a few of us decided it would be an absolutely brilliant idea to see if Krishna would be free for a short visit to Mumbai. Lucky us – he was!

And he didn’t come empty-handed… Nope. He brought along an assortment of miniatures that we had the pleasure of enjoying a wee nip… quick glimpses all concentrated in a brief but memorable one hour of discovery.

What did we sample?

Links to more detailed tasting notes are provided above. Some were truly quite an eye-opener, so be sure to check out what we discovered!

Other evenings with Krishna Nakula include:

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Dream Drams – Mortlach 1976, Lochside 1981, Mosstowie 1979, Aultmore 2007

There are tasting experiences that collectively push the bar to a completely different level.

On this particular monsoon evening in Mumbai with Malt Maniac’s Krishna Nakula, none were standard distillery drams. All but one would qualify as ‘adult‘ whiskies, representative of an older style… From Gordon & MacPhail‘s rare old collection  of closed distilleries to Signatory Vintage‘s mature cask strength set to a unique Master of Malt single cask series, these were no ordinary single malts.

These were the drams that dreams are made of… prompting a few of us wonder… are we truly worthy?

What did we sample?

  • Mortlach 37 year (1976/2013) 43% G&MP
  • Lochside 24 year (1981/2005) 43% G&MP Old Rare Collection
  • Mosstowie 35 year (1979/2015) 48.1% Signatory Cask Strength
  • Aultmore 5 year (2007/2012) 66.8% Master of Malt
  • Laphroaig “T5” 21 year (1987/2008) 53.4% – Bonus Dram!

You will simply need to be patient over the coming weeks as I catch up with all the marvellous malts enjoyed. Trust me… it will be worth the wait.

And a HUUUUGE thank you to our host, whisky contributors who made such an exceptional evening possible! You know who you are.

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Monsoon malts and more…

I love this part of monsoon – the temperature dips, the rains have a wildness and for a bit of time, we have just the right conditions to curl up indoors and enjoy a good dram.

So one fine Friday night, I and two whisky affianados found ourselves free to explore a few interesting whiskies… just because.

What all did we sample?

  • Eddu Silver 40% – Buckwheat whisky from Bretagne, France 
  • R & B Distillers – New entrant bottling interesting whiskies
    • Borders Single Grain 51.7%
    • Raasay “While We Wait” 46%
  • The Exceptional – Craft Distillers Sutcliffe and Ex Macallan’s Willie Phillips new baby
    • Blended Grain Scotch Whisky 43%
    • Blend Small Batch Scotch Whisky 43%
  • Highland Park 12 year 40% – An echo of an 18 year favourite
  • Finlaggan Cask Strength 58% – A most enjoyable mystery Islay

Oh yeah, and an absolutely undrinkable chilli rice-whiskey from Laos… Plus an impromptu chilled cocktail playing around with the Eddu’s unique qualities.

Tasting notes coming in the next few weeks… or so…

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Glenmorangie Bacalta 46%

Finally, after tasting The Original and Lasanta, attention turned to the main purpose of the Glenmorangie event… the revelation of the 2017 private edition – Bacalta.

Dr Bill Lumsden with Brendan McCarron shared the thinking and process behind the Bacalta – which means baked in Gaelic.

Bill shared the inspiration was a discontinued Madeira finished whisky that was replaced by Nector D’Or.

Knowing it would not be possible to simply acquire ‘ready made’ casks, a partnership was struck with a Malmsey Madeira maker, casks specifically created, heavily toasted before then holding the ‘sacrificial wines’ i.e. seasoned by the Malmsey Madeira, baked the traditional way. Bill shared that he found Malmsey Madeira had the “lively refreshing character, high acidity that reacted well to the toasted wood.”

Once ready, the wine was discarded and the 10 year aged Glenmorangie transferred gain its unique finish through maturing in the ex-Madeira casks.

Glenmorangie Bacalta 46%

  • Nose – Initially sharp blue cheese – rancio, then chocolate, aged balsamic, while one could discern the ‘house’ characteristics of The Original, it had layered on top ripe peaches, apricots like a thick smear of marmalade on toast, baked citrus  becoming caramelized
  • Palate – First sip had a gorgeous spice, then brioche, revealing a mineralogy and savoury almost smoky element, followed again by spicy textures, a big mouthful of pepper, so incredibly sweet like sucking on fruit lozenges
  • Finish – Chased by menthol mouthwash that slipped into paan, then lemon pepper and back to that hint of aged balsamic

The Bacalta was like a rich baked fruit syrup with almost a smoky quality… delicious but one where less is more.

Talk turned to pairing the Bacalta with grouse, pheasant – in short any gamy bit with a fruity sauce. This was no light sprightly pairing but one to take advantage of Bacalta’s unique qualities.

And what do the Glenmorangie formal tasting notes have to say?

The eighth release in our multi-award-winning and always intriguing Private Edition, Glenmorangie Bacalta brings new heights of complexity to a rare wood finish. Inspired by the long, balmy days on the island of Madeira, Glenmorangie Bacalta (Scots Gaelic for “baked”) is a sun-soaked single malt which delivers wonderfully warm layers of sweetness, brimming with baked fruits and honeyed tones.

It has been created from Glenmorangie first matured in former bourbon casks, then extra-matured in bespoke casks baked under the sun which once contained Malmsey Madeira – the sweetest and most prized of the Madeira wines.

  • Aroma: Fragrant, honeyed and sweet. Some ripe apricots, mead-like, and a curious flinty note, followed by sweet white chocolate.
  • Taste: An initial burst of mint toffee, with baked fruits such as caramelised oranges, honeycomb, almonds and dates.
  • Finish: A rich, syrupy aftertaste, with more caramelised citrus and pears, creamy fudge, and an intriguing mentholic sensation in the background.

In short, it was a classy experience – start to finish – as one would expect from the Luis Vitton Moet Hennessy brand.

Other Glenmorangie experiences:

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Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 year 46%

After The Original, our Glenmorangie tasting continued with the Lasanta – a word that derives from the Gaelic for warmth and passion.

We were led through the experience by Dr Bill Lumsden and Brendan McCarron who shared their insights into the whisky…

They shared how the Lasanta first spent 10 years in ex-bourbon casks, much like The Original, followed by 18 – 36 months in ex Olorosso and PX sherry casks. The sherry cask finish is what Bill credited for providing a very “up fruit, spicy, ginger, unctuous” character that is both “classic yet enhanced.”

There was no doubt this whisky gained much of its character from its sherry finish… Impressions of:

  • Creamy, caramel custard, sweet spices, vanilla on the nose, with substance, good body, raisins, more creme on the palate followed by a dry, chocolate nutty spice finish…

Pairing talk turned to enjoying with a good Monte Cristo cigar, or a rich fruity dessert, a ginger chilli chocolate… very much an ‘autumn’ whisky for cooler weather….

Well after the main tasting, when we returned to the Lasanta, found that it kept is character in a most satisfying way.

And what do the formal Glenmorangie tasting notes have to say?

Elegant but full bodied this whisky has spent ten years maturing in American white oak ex-bourbon casks before being extra-matured for a further two years in Oloroso and PX Sherry casks from Jerez in Spain.

  • Aroma: Warm spices mix with smooth chocolate covered raisins, honeycomb and caramel toffee.
  • Taste: Deliciously sweet sherry flavoured sultanas, orange segments, walnuts and butterscotch combine to create complex warm spices.
  • Finish: Long and satisfying finish with spiced orange and chocolate covered hazelnuts.

We sampled the Lasanta at the launch of Glenmorangie’s Bacalta in February 2017.

Other Glenmorangie experiences:

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Glenmorangie Original 10 year 40%

Our Glenmorangie Bacalta Launch tasting linked Dr Bill Lumsden and Brendan McCarron in Scotland with whisky afficianados in Mumbai, Sydney and Seoul. It began with the foundation of all Glenmorangies… The Original 10 year:

“We’ve found there are 140 different flavours in our Original” — Bill Lumsden

An appropriate place to start, we sniffed, sipped, swished and savoured…

As we sipped, Bill and Brendon shared their observations, augmented by those enjoying in Mumbai:

  • Creamy and complex, sweet butter, some sweet spices such as ginger, gentle nuttiness with almond, coconut, sunshine like character…

The Sydney folks observed that the Original’s character is:

  • Fresh applies, light… sunshine and spring like

Talk then turned to pairing with white fish, shrimp, foie gras… and more fancifully to enjoying at a:

  • “Chinese restaurant in Taipei with steamed fish seasoned with soy sauce and sweet ginger!”

As an opportunity to revisit The Original in a formal virtual four country tasting, it was indeed a unique experience… an excellent base for the whiskies to come… The Lasanta and Bacalta!

Other Glenmorangie experiences:

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Glenmorangie’s Bacalta Launch

Many months ago, on a Wednesday afternoon, I found myself at the Four Seasons hotel lured by whisky. Up on the screen was Dr Bill Lumsden and Brendan McCarron in Scotland, us in Mumbai, others in Seoul and Sydney…

We were all there to be introduced to the latest experiment producing the 8th release in Glenmorangie‘s annual Private Edition series – Bacalta.

However this being Luis Vitton Moet Hennessy, an entire experience was curated for us… depending on time zone, participants enjoyed a multi course lunch, early evening repast or dinner… liberally accompanied by Glenmorangie whiskies.

Then, we all joined together to walk through a tasting of:

  • The Original 10 year 43% Foundation of all Glenmorangie “with 140 flavours” — Bill Lumsden
  • Lasanta 12 year 46% – Classic yet enhanced …Creamy, caramel custard, sweet spices 
  • Bacalta 46% – Like rich baked fruit syrup with an almost smoky quality… delicious and one where less is more.

An impressive and most enjoyable experience.

Other Glenmorangie experiences:

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Royal Lochnagar 12 year 40%

After the original Rampur 43%, we were primed for something different… We sampled blind from a freshly opened bottle, having no clue what we were sipping.

Royal Lochnagar 12 year 40%

  • Nose – Varnish, oily, sweet, a bit like a saag sabzi (spinach veggie dish), bitter, old fruits, cold pressed coconut oil, a little lemon zest, some light liquorice, sense of being heavy
  • Palate – Sharp, hot, spice, then as we grew accustomed to it, appreciated its chewy quality with a good mouthfeel, one even mentioned ‘oil cake’, very smooth but fairly standard in character
  • Finish – Green pepper oil, bitter
  • Water – The oiliness comes on more sweetly. Some shared with water, it simply joined the territory of “Just a good a drinkable whisky”

As we sipped and discussed, we appreciated how it retains its aromas, a nice pleasant finish with many enjoying the finish more than the initial taste on the palate, but in all not a terribly complex whisky. As for age, it was hard to judge but seemed in the NAS category. In short, we found it a decent dram, enjoyable in its way but somehow quite ordinary.

With the reveal some surprise – none would have thought the whisky had matured for 12 years.

Royal Lochnagar is located near Balmoral Castle and has been producing whisky since 1845. Once upon a time, you would not find an official bottling easily however with Diageo’s “Classic Malts Selection“, it joins the ranks of travel retail popping up all over the globe.

It is described as “a fragrant Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky with a delightful balance of fruit and spices.” with official tasting notes of:

  • Nose – Planed wood, light toffee, boat varnish. After a while, coffee with brown sugar. A relatively closed nose. Linseed oil behind, even putty, and later a lychee-like acidity. With water the acidity comes up (acid drops), and the nose sweetens. Still a pleasant fresh woodiness or leatheriness, the varnish now supported by artists turpentine. Warm sand. After a while, coffee dregs with brown sugar. Not an obvious nose, however.
  • Taste – Pleasant; an initial sweetness is quickly overtaken by acidity. 
  • Finish – Dry; medium-length, with an attractive lingering sandalwood aftertaste.

Hmm… at least they haven’t over-inflated various elements and admit to the varnish, acidity, and yes – sandalwood isn’t a bad way of describing the finish.

But overall… nothing to prompt rushing out to explore more from this distillery. Simply one to enjoy for what it is.

Also from our evening:

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