Port Finish – Tomatin 14 year Port Wood 46%

From the Highland, we sampled Tomatin’s 14 year Port Wood finish 46%. In 2014, Tomatin added it to their core range, noting that it starts in Bourbon barrels before spending a year being finished in Port pipes.

So what did we think?

Tomatin 14 year Port Wood finish 46%

  • Nose – Initially lots of wine, grapes, some spice, even black salt from a chaat masala, dried herbs, old shoes
  • Palate – Grape cool aide with spice, yoghurt, a bit thin
  • Finish – Bizarre tannins
  • Water – A bit softer, yet gained an odd metallic quality

Sometimes when you taste with others, one thought leads to another and another. In this case, we spiralled from the above observations into uproarious laughter. Why?

Well… we started off remarking how the aroma reminded us of a cheap bar… more specifically the morning after with the stench of spilt cheap red wine and tequila. The reaction was so strong from a few that there was considerable trepidation to even taste.

And then?

Let’s just say it considerable devolved into talk of baby puke (not uncommon with whiskies) and even less polite observations… back to that bar with the unmistakable aroma of those who over indulged and could not contain there… er… you get the picture.

So we read what the folks at Tomatin have to say? Could we discover some of the notes they share?

The Tomatin 14 Year Old is soft, smooth and sweet, benefiting from its time spent in Tawny Port casks which previously held port for around 50 years.

Rich but balanced aromas of red berries, sweet honey and rich toffee develop into aspects of light fruits and nuts on the palate and an abiding finish of smooth fruit salad.

Sorry? Rich? Fruit salad?! And that’s when we devolved into laughter… when someone mentioned maybe if it was fruit that… er… again… you get the picture.

So I set it aside to see if it improved with a bit… it happens sometimes.

And?

Nope! Not for us. If anything was a bit queer. Sigh…

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve? A few we enjoyed much much more!

And that is the terrific thing about experiments – some hits, some misses and more!

If you picked it up from Master of Malt in the UK, this Tomatin would set you back approx $60. However like most whiskies, prices vary massively depending on where you purchase it and understand this particular bottle cost nearly double that! Yikes!

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Peaty Highlander – Ballechin Heavily Peated 12 year 54.5%

Our explorations of Highland peaty drams led us to Edradour distillery with a full cask strength dram.

Ballechin Heavily Peated 12 year (May 2017) 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Cask 330 54.5% 251 Bottles

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Wow! Floral yet with a power punch, some sharpness, sweetly herbal, cinnamon, star anise, then the floral dissipated to be replaced by maple bacon, honey sweetness with a citrus twist
  • Palate – Honey, maple syrup, very dry, holds and took on that distinctive maple bacon whisky, substance
  • Finish – Nutty, toothpaste, lovely spice, iodine
  • Water – Sour with no spice… given time revealed cinnamon then a nutty quality, like pressed almond oil

Our final conclusion was this would be a perfect monsoon whisky… one to enjoy when the heavy rains wash away all the heat and pollution, dropping the temperature too.

What did the folks at The Whisky Exchange have to say?

A single-cask Ballechin bottled at a cask-strength of 54.5% and exclusive to The Whisky Exchange, this heavily-peated single malt from Edradour distillery boasts a smoky, farmyard character to rival any Islay whisky. Balanced by sweet citrus and hints of honey, this is a fantastic dram which elegantly combines sweet, savoury and smoky notes to memorable effect.

TASTING NOTES BY BILLY ABBOTT (THE WHISKY EXCHANGE)

  • Nose: Sweet and green smoke at first: freshly sawn branches newly tossed on to a bonfire of burning pine. Hints of jelly-baby fruitiness develop, along with Vick’s Vaporub, honey and lemon lozenges and white toast with honey. The lighter notes at the front obscure but don’t hide a darker background of rich smoke.
  • Palate: Savoury smoke to start: smoked ham and signed lemons. White pepper heat mixes with bicycle-tire inner tubes, sharp lemon curd and a hint of creosoted fence. A bubble of black liquorice rises from the depths, bursting to reveal blackcurrants and anise.
  • Finish: Tar and char fade to leave bittersweet liquorice and lemon butter sauce.
  • Comment: Softer than many Ballechins, this brings together sweet and savoury notes, all wrapped up in a smoky blanket.

And what would it set you back? If, like our Whisky Lady, you purchased it from The Whisky Exchange in London, expect something around £80.

What else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies Peaty Highland drams evening?

What else have I tried from Edradour distillery?

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Peaty Highlander – Inchmoan 12 year 46%

From Loch Lomond distillery, Inchmoan is another variant of Inchmurrin (or Inchfad, Croftengea, Rosdhu)… with peat to go with the Highland sweet.

Here is what we thought of this 12 year expression…

Courtesy DevPaula

Inchmoan 12 year 46% (Loch Lomond Distillery Island Collection)

  • Colour – Burnished copper
  • Nose – Quite metallic to start, iron, copper, rust, fruits, back to a blacksmith, wet leaves, then campfire s’mores, sweet, apricot, rum raisin, macadamia nuts
  • Palate – A nice campfire peat, juicy raisins, butter, silky smooth, syrupy with a herbal quality like sipping Jägermeister with a flash of fresh tarragon, then tannins and a bit of “raw hide”, then back to herbal, followed by sweet coffee and chocolate, and is that a bit of ginger and cinnamon?
  • Finish – Long finish, surprisingly gentle, sweet grassy peat, smoke and peppery spice with a stoneware close
  • Water – Simply perfect as is – no need to add

What we enjoyed most was the shifts and changes with this whisky. We thought there was a bit of a burn to start – a touch of “dragon’s fire” which then settled down and became dangerously delicious!

What did the folks at The Whisky Exchange have to say?

Inchmoan is the peated single malt produced at Loch Lomond. The 12 Year Old is sweet and spicy with notes of vanilla and a smoky backbone.

And what would it set you back? If, like our Whisky Lady, you purchased it from The Whisky Exchange in London, expect something around £45.

What other Peaty Highlanders did our Whisky Ladies try?

What else have we experienced from Loch Lomond?

And that’s it! Me thinks it might be time to explore more!

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Peaty Highlander – Aird Mhor 8 year 55.3%

Sound it out… “Aird Mhor” and you realize perhaps this might be “Ardmore”… and sure enough it is!

Our Whisky Ladies session dove straight into this cask strength offering from the Single Malts of Scotland range bottled by Speciality Drinks. It was purchased at their Whisky Exchange Covent Garden store under the guidance of Duncan.

So what did we think?

Aird Mhor 8 year (1 Dec 2009 / 25 June 2018) Cask 707910 55.3% 261 Bottles

  • Colour – Golden
  • Nose – Gentle smoke, leather, wood, citrus, orange, as it opened became increasingly sweet
  • Palate – Spice, tobacco, warm, 2nd sip was like an echo of Laphroaig, calming, sweet
  • Finish – Long finish with a bit of liquorice and vanilla
  • Water – No surprise it initially ramped up the spice, but when it settled down it brought out a nicely nutty quality, helped balance it out a bit, with it a bit oily on the palate

This one was a bit curious and not for everyone. Going straight from zero to full cask strength was also an adjustment.. though one our Whisky Ladies can easily make!

One remarked this whisky was a bit of an “attention seeker” with a fierceness and forcefulness that demanded notice. In this respect, it showed its youthful enthusiasm.

We discovered that the hint of Laphroaig peat came from the Ardmore being matured in ex Laphroaig barrel.

It wasn’t complicated and yet it provoked a clear divide between those who enjoyed and those who didn’t care for it so much.

Apparently Mogambo also has something to say!

Aird Mhor + Mogambo courtesy DevPaula

What did the folks at The Whisky Exchange have to say?

A smoky dram from Aird Mhor (aka Ardmore distillery). While nearby distilleries are better known for unpeated whisky, Ardmore bucks the trend, making a powerful and smoky dram. This single-cask bottling from The Single Malts of Scotland – distilled on 1 December 2009 and bottled at years old on 25 June 2018 – is a classic, with punchy smoke, honey and lemon.

I must say, I rather think “punchy smoke, honey and lemon” is a rather good way to describe this one!

What else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies Peaty Highland drams evening?

And what else have I explored from Ardmore?

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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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