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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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 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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That Boutique-y Whisky Co – Fettercairn 21 Year (2018) 48.6%

We closed our That Boutique-y Whisky Company samples quartet with a whisky from Speyside – Fettercairn distillery… While the others were from Diageo, this one was from White & Mackay.

It was my 1st encounter with a single malt from this distillery… and I have to admit up front, it impressed us.

Fettercairn 21 Year (May 2018) 48.6% Batch 3, 669 Bottles 

  • Nose – Greeted us with a sherry spice, sour plums, chilli chocolate, vanilla cream, an  indulgent desert, salty caramel… a bit savoury too, think peanut brittle, caramel custard
  • Palate – Dry hay, overripe fruits, tobacco leaf, well rounded, substance, well done toast
  • Finish – Burnt caramel, bitter roasted almond… lovely and long

This was no light dram, instead we found this one had terrific “oomph!” and character…

We returned after some time and discovered a sharp cheese, grassy and distinctive.

And what do the folks over at That Boutique-y Whisky Company have to say?

Fettercairn (the town) is home to Fettercairn (the distillery), and it has been since 1824. They use an inventive method of making a lighter style of spirit – when they’re collecting the middle cut, the run cool water (not the fragrance) along the outside of the still’s neck, which increases reflux, resulting in a lighter spirit. Science in action. The chaps on the label of our Fettercairn appear to be judging cairns. Looks like one of them likes the larger one.

Tasting notes:

  • Nose: Yellow plum, pear, warm gingerbread, honeyed barley, a little cut grass underneath
  • Palate: Bramley apple, sweet custard and fresh oranges. Winter spice, hazelnuts and a little toffee.
  • Finish: A hint of raspberries is present in a good-length finish.

Depending on where you acquire it (if still available), a 50 cl bottle would set you back approximately £58.

I was very amused when saw their label – we definitely concurred with pronouncing this our favourite for the evening!

Fettercairn B3.jpg

Photo: That Boutique-y Whisky Company

What other That Boutique-y Whisky Company samples did we try?

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LMdW Artist #8 – Ben Nevis 25 year 55.3%

Our next Sherry from La Maison du Whisky’s Artist Series 8 washroom the Ben Nevis distillery. We sampled it at Whisky Live Singapore 2018‘s VIP room.

As this whisky isn’t everyone’s style, some of my tasting companions skipped this one… whereas I soldiered on and dove in for a sniff, swish, (and yes) spit!

Ben Nevis 25 year (1991/2018) Sherry Cask #2375 55.3% (561 bottles)

  • Nose – Some sour salty plums and prunes, toffee, nuts and touch of citrus
  • Palate – Slightly spicy, honey sweet, dried fruits with a bit of salty sour too
  • Finish – Hint of spiced and a bit chalky or milky

Ben Nevis isn’t for everyone… and this was very much in keeping with a Ben Nevis “style” with a bit of sour, salt and in this case – sherry.

And what would a bottle of this cost? If buying in Singapore, that would be SGD 575. Hmm…

If curious to know more, here is what the folks over at La Maison du Whisky have to say:

  • Nose – Very exotic in its oxidative register (pineapple, mango), the first nose perfectly synthesizes the Ben Nevis style. At aeration, the influence of sherry clearly evokes a sherry fino type. Notes of almonds, walnuts and curry are reminiscent of Jura yellow wine. Very deep, it evolves on citrus (lemon, grapefruit), praline and verbena. At the precise moment, the aromatic palette is still far from having delivered all its secrets.
  • Palate – Lively, removed. Vanilla, the attack in the mouth is also deliciously honey (acacia), vegetable (cucumber) and fruity (dried apricot, gooseberry). Both menthol and lemony, the mid-palate reveals a luxuriant nature, nuanced by a shades of green that goes from the softest to the darkest. The mouth is nobly spicy (saffron, ginger, cardamom).
  • Finish – Long, sweet. With the same power of seduction as the nose and mouth, it oscillates between almond milk, candied pineapple, cut hay and spices (ginger, clove). In retro-olfaction, Mirabelle plums and quince add to its fruitiness. Empty glass is medicinal (balm), spicy (cinnamon), roasted (coffee) and oily (walnut, almond).

—From LMdW website with an imperfect google translation from French.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 with Sherry

Curious about other Ben Nevis tasting experiences?

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LMdW Artist #8 – Ardmore 10 year 60.3%

We were nearly through our exploration of the full range of the new La Maison du Whisky Artist # 8.

Back to the non-sherry drams and shifting again back to peat… with Ardmore and a label that made me think of wandering through a chilled winter forest.

Ardmore 10 year (2008/2018) Cask #800168 60.3% (233 bottles)

  • Nose – Citrus, herbal, then shifts into sweet spices, classic
  • Palate – Light spice and again quite herbal, traditional styled peat
  • Finish – Long, tobacco

I will admit by this point, I had been sniffing and swishing through 8 drams. Did this one stand out? Not exceptionally so. Particularly after the powerful Bowmore.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fine dram – it certainly had some interesting qualities however a fleeting sip leaves only an impression than full fledged proper tasting. And I have a feeling to properly appreciate this Ardmore, one would need to slow down to give it full attention and due consideration.

As for a ball park on cost? In Singapore, this bottle would be SGD 300 at La Maison du Whisky.

And what do the folks there have to say?

  • Nose – Both powerful and unctuous. So Ardmore, the first nose does not go with the back of the spoon and we propose to discover a peat trimmed with billhooks. Very chocolaty and spicy (cloves, nutmeg), this peat impregnates the aromatic palette. In the background, some white flowers and peppers (Cayenne) reinforce its heady character. To be noted, its beautiful herbaceous and busty register (verbena, sage).
  • Palate – Rich, dense. In tune with the nose, the attack on the palate is full of vivacity. Whole blocks of peat literally fall down the walls of the palace. At the same time, coconut and juicy pears release their sweet juices and constantly refresh the taste buds. The mid-palate is marked by various essential oils (savory, rosemary). Gradually, a diaphanous smoke starts to intensify.
  • Finish – Silky, nourished. Gourmet, it evokes a delicious milk pie. As it goes, it becomes more and more herbaceous (green malt) and saline. Pink berries and cloves give it the tonicity that will allow it to finish in beauty on notes of red fruits (raspberry, strawberry). Intensely smoke and ash, the retro-olfaction reveals notes of tobacco and menthol. Fibrous, empty glass pays tribute to malted barley.

—-From LMdW website with an imperfect google translation from French.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 sans Sherry

We’ve not had so many Ardmore’s and those that made it to Mumbai were both just this year (2018)!

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LMdW Artist #8 – Glenturret 30 year 55.3%

We continued exploring the full range of the new La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 series with a Highland dram from Glenturret.

I nearly forgot having tried the Glenturret 10 year back in 2013! Somehow Glenturret just isn’t one of those distilleries our merry Mumbai malters manage to encounter in our travels around the globe.

To then have an opportunity to sample a rather fine specimen of some 30+ years? Well, what a treat!

Glenturret 30 year (1987/2018) Hogshead Cask #371 55.3% (214 bottles)

  • Nose – Peach and other orchard fruits, complex, subtle dusting of sugar, a deeper French vanilla, a sweet perfume… utterly delightful
  • Palate – Delicious!! What a class act and how marvellously balanced. Honey sweet yet not too much so, a bit more depth with a zesty spice.
  • Finish – Long delicate fruits, berries, sweet spices… and oh how it lingers

Truly a lovely whisky with tremendous balance and beauty. Really quite superb. My sampling companions were amused as I was clearly in my “happy place” with this whisky! I would have loved to enjoyed this simply on its own and not part of a teaser sampling with 10 in this series!

Just to keep things in perspective, what would this beauty set you back? If buying in Singapore, it would be SGD 595 (approx US 435).

And what do the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say?

  • Nose – Ample, rich. Very jammy (mirabelle, queen-claude) and vanilla, the first is also herbaceous (cut hay, alfalfa) and candied (lemon, pear, apricot). At aeration, the malted barley spreads with extreme delicacy over the entire aromatic palette. Then, he becomes more and more greedy (oat cake, leavened bread, raisin bread) and powdered (cocoa bean)
  • Palate – Creamy, creamy. A spicy sequence (star anise, clove) infuses a lot of pep to the attack of mouth. Then, in the process, bunches of white grapes release a wonderfully tart juice and notes of green grass give it a lot of freshness and going. Very gourmet, the mid-palate invites us to pick a variety of vegetables (zucchini, pumpkin, tomato, eggplant). The finish is honey (lime) and oily (sunflower).
  • Finish – Long, fluffy. From now on, it is the exotic fruits (mango, passion, pineapple) which take the leading role. They are accompanied by some red fruits (raspberry, strawberry) and black (blackberry, blackcurrant). This taste development is a real bath of youth for the taste buds. He also demonstrates that this Glenturret is never short of arguments. The retro-olfaction is spicy (star anise, ginger), vanilla and menthol. The empty glass reveals notes of porridge.

—- From LMdW website with an imperfect google translation from French.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 sans Sherry

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Smokey Night – Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood Finish 46%

We started our Smokey Night on a lighter note… with something from the Highlands…

Long back our Mumbai original group tried some new make spirit from Glengassagh. I then had a chance to try the Torfa – ugh. I then revisited it as a mini together with the Evolution… better. I reminded myself to keep an open mind and see what we discovered with this bottle.

Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood Finish 46%

  • Colour – Bright ruby red
  • Nose – Began with a bit of tar, smoke yet very mild, a bit rubbery, butter crème, spice, raisin, ginger…
  • Palate – Spice, steamed plums, brandy cherries, raisins, very peppery, wood, some mystery pulpy fruits, however pleasantly rolled around the palate
  • Finish – Then sweet

It was pronounced a good daily whisky. While not terribly distinctive, it was easy to enjoy.

As for me? I was happy to try a Glenglassaugh that I enjoyed!

Here’s what the Glenglassaugh folks have to say about their Peated Port Wood Finish:

Glenglassaugh’s waves of fruit and smoke are amplified in Peated Port Wood Finish. Whilst finishing in ruby Port pipes, the open structure of the oak brings waves of velvet tannins and peppered dark fruit, reminiscent of Winter berries by an open fire, kissed by the sea.

  • Colour: Rose gold
  • Nose: Heather honey drizzled over a medley of fresh red fruits, all backed by intriguing waves of sweet peat smoke
  • Palate: Delicious wild red berry compote and clotted cream balanced by a hint of cracked black pepper, surrounded by a fantastic sweet campfire peat note.

Would we agree? Not sure we would call the light smoke “waves” or describe as campfire peat… but overall, the notes weren’t far off.

Our Smokey Night with the Whisky Ladies also included:

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Smokey Winter Nights – Glenglassaugh, Kilchoman, Bunnahabhain

Delhi in winter has a smokey quality from the stubble in fields surrounding the city being burned to little roadside fires to keep warm.

While it has been years since I lived through a Delhi winter, I was reminded of those chilled evenings with smoke in the air during our recent Whisky Ladies evening which featured Smokey Whiskies!

What did we try?

So let’s talk a bit about peat with its PPM or Peaty “Phenol Parts Per Million”….

Once upon a time, peat was the norm to dry malted barley. Then enter this new fangled alternative called coal… or more precisely coke… made readily accessible by the 1960s via rail. Coke burns more evenly, more consistently and with less smoke than peat. The Lowlands and Speyside regions jumped on the unpeated bandwagon early.

Yet most of Islay kept to using peat. As do other distilleries – some craft both unpeated and peated variants – occasionally under different brand names.

Glenglassaugh, for example, have two versions of their port wood finish – the peated one we tried and one without peat.

Whereas Bunnahabhain from Islay, once known for eschewing peat,  has more recently been flirting more openly with peat. Today approx 25% of their whisky has varying degrees of peat.

Kilchoman, by contrast, has from the start kept peat as part of its consistent style, playing instead with the casks with a gradation from none to full sherry.

And PPM? It is measured at the point of the dried barley… typically using UV spectroscopy or High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). However where the PPM level starts is NOT where it finishes.

Throughout the whisky making process, phenols are lost. How much depends on a range of different factors from what is left behind in the draft at the end of mashing to how they are changed during fermentation with the type of still changing the character and intensity and most importantly how it is impacted during the second distillation.

So while Kilchoman may consistently START at 50 PPM, where it end up may differ significantly… Just check out what we found with the Port Charlotte 10 year MP5 series!

There are those that suggest that given PPM can bear such little relation to actual “smoke” strength, why not drop using PPM completely and instead define the peat as light, medium or heavily peated?

Want to know more? Don’t listen to me, check out an expert like Dave Broom on Whisky.com.

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Whisky Live 2018 La Maison du Whisky Exclusives – Clynelish + Glenburgie

At Whisky Live Singapore 2018 there were many La Maison du Whisky exclusive bottles…. No surprise given who organized the event!

I tried the Clynelish and Glenburgie side-by-side in the VIP room…

The Glenburgie was selected by Florian Were for the 50th anniversary of La Maison du Whisky which was started on 20 rue d’Anjou, part of their Whisky Chronicles series.

Glenburgie (1995/2018) Cask #6542 55.6% (LMdW 20 rue d’Anjou) Limited 221 Bottles

  • Nose – Light and bright, some lovely fruits – particularly peaches and apples
  • Palate – Warm and comforting, tropical fruits and a hint of leafy tobacco
  • Finish – Beautiful and long with a lovely spice and hint of cocoa

Even though I only had a wee nip, it was utterly delightful and certainly a style I appreciate. I would have loved an opportunity to come back for more of this…

Clynelish (1997/2017) Cask #6922 55.8% (LMdW)

  • Nose – Lovely light crisp fruits like apples and pears, nicely fresh
  • Palate – The aromas follow through on the palate, dripping with honey and fruits
  • Finish – A bit of spice, more than expected given how initially delicate and light it was on the palate

Again, easy and accessible with enough character to make you pay attention. Incredibly balanced and deceptive as didn’t come across as cask strength.

What an enjoyable pair… both were simply unique bottles to sample and not available for purchase. Clocking in around 23 and 20 year for single casks at cask strength, this was clearly a case of trying  “once” not more…. however if you do come across either and enjoy lighter more nuanced styles, take advantage of the opportunity!

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