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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Wolfburn Morven 46% vs Aurora 46%

Wolfburn is a newer distillery from the Highlands…

So the story goes, once upon a time there was a Wolfburn distillery based in Thurso, Caithness that was founded in 1821 by William Smith that time produced approximately 1,25,000 litres a year… yet ceased operations sometime in the 1850s. Though the old distillery is long gone, the folks who founded Wolfburn 2.0 in 2013 based it in a similar location to take advantage of the water from the Wolf Burn.

Our host was captured by the quality and character of its new make spirit and has been a believer in the distillery ever since.

And what did we think?

Wolfburn Morven 46%

  • Nose – Hard boiled sweet, bubble gum, cherry, pure sugar with red dye, white grape, honeyed ham
  • Palate – Peat, very sweet, a bit of spice, sweetened condensed milk
  • Finish – Bitter sweet
  • Water – No temptation to add

Truth be told, we found it almost too sweet… for me it almost reminded me of being matured in a cognac cask like Brenne… The peat has a light touch… a mere 10 ppm.

While there are no official tasting notes on the Wolfburn website, the chaps over at  Master of Malt have something to say….

A late 2017 addition to Wolfburn’s core range, Morven is a lightly peated single malt from the northernmost distillery in mainland Scotland. This expression rounds out the distillery’s range well (which also features their signature Northland Single Malt and the handsomely Sherried Aurora Single Malt) and shows that the relatively new distillery has plenty to offer already.

  • Nose: Fresh notes of juicy apple and white grape are deliciously juxtaposed with earthy, mineral-y peat.
  • Palate: Nutty malt pairs well with soft smoke, joined by peppered oak and caramelised fruit developing later on.
  • Finish: Sweet hints of shortbread and ginger stick around on the finish.

Just to contrast we decided to try the Wolfburn Aurora side by side…

Photo: Wolfburn

Wolfburn Aurora 46%

  • Nose – Sweet, yoghurt, capsule, over-ripe pineapple, boiled sweets
  • Palate – Sweet spice, could there be some light smoke too?
  • Finish – Liquorice
  • Water – Again, no temptation to add….

This was much more our preferred style… still sweet but in moderation with enough other elements to hint at a character worth waiting to see its future avatars.

And what do the folks at Wolfburn have to say?

MELLOW AND GOLDEN
This beautiful sherried whisky is made from spirit laid down in a combination of American oak and Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. Benefitting from long fermentation and slow, gentle distillation, the spirit is laid down on site in our purpose-built warehouses. At the end of the maturation process the casks are brought together to create an exceptionally smooth and perfectly balanced dram.

We had to wonder, where is the light peat from?  Our host shared that while the malt is unpeated, it is matured in an ex-Islay cask for a “kiss of peat”… making for just a hint not more.

For those curious, Wolfburn is available in India… check out The Vault Fine Spirits or Mumbai airport duty free.

What else did we try in our “Sinful Samples” evening?

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GlenDronach 21 year (1993/2014) 58.1%

Glendronach is known for its rich deep sherry character. Over the years we have enjoyed many a marvellous malt from this distillery.

So in our relaxed evening exploring samples we were delighted to have a GlenDronach in the mix… well-timed after just having the Dutch Zuidam’s Millstone sherry dram.

And what did we think?

GlenDronach 21 year (1.1993/9.2014) Olorosso Sherry No 35 58.1%, Official Bottling for Beija-Flor and Silver Seal, bottle 523 of 605

  • Nose – Sheeeerrrryy!! Rich, wet prunes, gigs, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark chocolate, spice, wine soaked Christmas cake
  • Palate – Full, rich, intense, dark chocolate and tobacco, such full on sherry, quite dry and astringent, betel nut, red wine tannins, with pepper that morphs into chilli chocolate
  • Finish – Fabulous finish, long warm spice, stays and stays
  • Water – Makes it super spicy, not needed

One of those whiskies which can go on and on and on… where a little goes a very long way. However not one you could have much of… however fabulous for that moment.

Here is the point we had to admit, as marvellous as the Zuidam Millstone dram was, GlenDronach is in a different class completely.

While this was an official bottling, there are no notes available… It was last found auctioned for £240 at Whisky Auctioneer.

Some other fine GlenDronach drams:

What else did we try in our “Sinful Samples” evening?

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Tullibardine 228 Burgundy 43%

I will admit I’ve had very limited experience with Tullibardine…. My one passing sample was a 20 year old at a Winnipeg whisky bar that I didn’t even finish.

The Burgundy is part of this Highland distillery’s wood finish series with Sauternes, Burgundy and Sherry finish using the number of  litres to label the expression.

Official distillery photo

Tullibardine Burgundy 43%

  • Nose – Crisp with a piquant quality, very fruity – lots of white fruits like pear, apple then settled into a pronounced green melon like a honey dew melon, green toffee, honey
  • Palate – Light spice, quite direct
  • Finish – Spice finish
  • Water – Capers… bitter… then… believe it or not lifebuoy soap

We puzzled over the Burgundy dimension… “Where is the Burgundy” It had none of the colour or red fruit quality we tend to associate with a Burgundy finish…

To be honest, it wasn’t a “keeper” for any of us.

And what do the folks over at Tullibardine have to say about their 228 Burgundy whisky?

THE AUBURN HUE OF THIS WHISKY COMES DIRECTLY FROM ITS TIME SPENT IN THE 228 LITRE BARRIQUES THAT PREVIOUSLY HELD PINOT NOIR FROM CHATEAU DE CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET.

  • THE NOSE OF THE 228 FEATURES RED CHERRIES AND VANILLA WITH HINTS OF CHOCOLATE AND TURKISH DELIGHT.
  • ON THE PALATE, THERE IS A REAL HINT OF RED SUMMER FRUIT, MORE CHOCOLATE AND A SWEET SPICE NOTE ON THE FINISH.

What else did we try in our “Sinful Samples” evening?

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Sinful Samples – Bunnahabhan, Tullibardine, Millstone, Glendronach, Wolfburn

Tis the season to be jolly… and all that jazz! Yet before all the mad social rounds of the season kicked off, we snuck in a completely chilled out informal sampling of samples…

Call it a “Pajama Drams” night, it had no formality just a few folks, more than a few samples to put side by side to provoke some interesting tasting experiences…

What did we try?

It may seem like a prodigious amount for one sitting but we were a disciplined lot… some sniffing, swishing and spitting went on plus a few swallows, discarding the balance. Sacralige to some but sensible for us.

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Sherry Element – Oban 15 year (2015) Fino Cask 43%

First up in our “Sherry Element” evening was Oban… yes Oban… with a Montilla Fino finish.

Our original club kept to its preferred tasting approach of sampling completely blind. In this case, the reveal waited until the very end after sampling all three whiskies.

Oban 15 year (2000/2015) 43% Bourbon / Fino cask Special Release OD 164.FA Limited Edition

  • Nose
    • Before tasting – Immediate brush of bourbon, super overripe bananas, coconut, fruits, very sweet… then began to take on a musty clothes quality like after the rains…. a shift into a medicinal element, paan, then watermelon, steamed rice shifting into biscuits – Crackerjack salty then mangaram sweet wafer, cereals
    • After tasting – Lemon fruit base, then plasticine… somehow it lost its distinctness
  • Palate – Spice, clove, sweet and yet also very bitter with that medicinal quality on the nose following through on the palate, neem leaf, has a certain intensity yet overall quite a light body
  • Finish – Short with a bitter edge
  • Water – Kills the nose, kicks up the spice on the palate and also dampens the bitterness, however one found it reduced it to ‘pure alcohol’… would not recommend adding water

For the most part, colour isn’t a primary focus of our tastings… more as one facet to consider. Yet speculation was rife from the outset that surely this could not be natural… I do believe one comment went along the lines of “Has an almost yellow shine like its on steroids.”

The aroma came on with a decent strength initially, then quickly dropped and became muted. As for its character? We found it quite straight in, straight out. Young, sweet and largely remains on the front of the tongue, with a bitterness on the sides.

And when we revisited after nearly an hour?

Discovered it made it much more approachable, hardly any bitterness remained and oddly came across as almost oily. Alas all the aromas we found earlier were elusive. Yet overall with extra air it became quite drinkable.

With the reveal there was surprise. There were certainly a few who have fond memories of Oban 14 year as being reliable bar stock.

Even our host admitted to being a tad disappointed… as clearly had expected more… and yet the revisit certainly showed it is not too shabby after all.

Here’s what the folks over at Oban have to say about this Distillers Edition on the label:

The Western Highland style of Malt is epitomized by Oban’s gentle sweetness and surprising richness of palate and finish. The pettiness of the Islands it faces across the Firth of Lorn is softened by the influences of the Highlands at its back. To underline its sea-laced flavours, Oban’s Master Distiller has chosen Montilla Fino. This dry, delicate cask-wood beautifully enhances Oban’s distinctively graceful style.

What did we sample in our “Sherry Elements” evening?

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