Highland Salt – Old Pulteney Dunnet Head 46%

We continued with the Old Pulteney… And I have to admit this is one I’d had in my cupboard since the summer of 2017.

I remember picking up the Old Pulteney at Heathrow airport. It was a morning flight and yet I did my “due diligence” sampling different drams at the World of Whiskies. What I won’t do for our Mumbai tasting groups!

The whisky is part of their Lighthouse series named for the Dunnet Head lighthouse built in 1831 by Robert Stevenson (Grandfather of the author Robert Louis Stevenson).

And what did our Whisky Ladies think?

Old Pulteney Dunnet Head 46%

  • Nose – Bright oranges, a bit musty initially, then revealed a lovely sea salt, some vanilla, more citrus and even a hint of cocoa
  • Palate – Yummy!! Has real substance and amazingly well-balanced with sweet spices, fruit – especially pear, lightly smokey with that caramel salt too.
  • Finish – Nice, long and lingering

There was no doubt this whisky was a hit with our Whisky Ladies. Many remarked on how it was sooooo tasty!

Here’s what the folks over at Old Pulteney have to say:

  • Appearance – Old Brass.
  • Nose – Warming and sweet, with notes of spices, bitter chocolate and a whiff of a freshly varnished deck. Lemon and creamy vanilla overtones offer balance and brightness.
  • Taste – Rich fruit cake, sultanas and salted caramel give way to a touch of leather and fragrant floral top note; a long smooth finish.

Other Old Pulteney’s sampled include:

What else did we try that evening?

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Highland Sweet – Glenmorangie Dornoch 43%

We started our evening with the Highland Glenmorangie… The Dornoch is part of their travel retail range.

Glenmorangie Dornoch 43%

  • Nose – It began with very “classic” Glenmorangie notes of heather, honey, lightly floral, juicy oranges… quite summery in its style… then started to evolve revealing a cognac quality, raspberries and dare I say it? A whiff of very light smoke…
  • Palate – A rather yummy way to start off the evening… The smoke is certainly there, yet a delicate touch, so smooth, soft and again that cognac almost white wine like quality… certainly sweet, light fruit, swish it around more and some stewed apple pie with a dash of cinnamon and cloves emerged
  • Finish – Really rather nice and surprisingly long, ending on the orange citrus

Overall we found this one simply delivered. Nothing pushy about it – just pleasant and enjoyable.

And what do the Glenmorangie folks have to say?

  • Aroma: A classic Glenmorangie spirit matured in ex-bourbon American white oak then transferred to ex-Amontillado casks.
  • Taste: The swirling of under-current of peat adds an unexpected dimension of sweet smoky apples, complemented by vibrant sweet nutty flavours layered upon the rich, warm toffee and dried fruits.
  • Finish: After tasting you are left with added layers of distinctive floral notes, the softness of vanilla with hints of citrus.

While it was the same combination of ex-Bourbon then Amontillado Sherry finish, thankfully it was far superior to The Tayne recently sampled. The touch of smoke added a certain something and substance.

Mind you, we also need to know when this Travel Retail was purchased… back in 2016 from Changi Airport in Singapore. Much has happened with the distiller since then… Just saying…

What else did we try that evening?

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Whisky Ladies “Bar Bottle” – Glenmorangie, Old Pulteney, Compass Box, Ardmore

We had different plans for this evening – a much anticipated combined night with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents… However it was not do be so what to do instead?

We thought why not reach into our bars and see what was available to share…

Here is what we unearthed:

It turned out every bottle could be purchased (at one time) at duty-free and yet each was certainly a cut above the standard travel retail fare.

It also just so happened that each had a touch of smoke… from a mere hint with the Old Pulteney and Glenmorangie to a more pronounced puff of peat with the Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend and Armore Triple Wood Peat.

In an unplanned twist, all three single malts were also from Highland distilleries… with the delightful Compass Box blend a terrific foil with some highland whiskies too.

Overall it proved to be a most enjoyable quartet and a good reminder to not dismiss what you may find when perusing airport wares – at least in some select airports around the world!

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Glenmorangie The Tayne’s Amontillado Spanish Sherry “Finish”

Next up was a single malt our host selected for its Amontillado Spanish Sherry finish. Again a duty free purchase, part of Glenmorangie’s moderately priced Legends range that has been around since early 2016.

We sampled it blind before our host revealed the whisky. Here is what we found…

Glenmorangie The Tayne 43%

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Narrow, subdued and almost industrial, some sulfur, a metallic copper but not varnish, faint tobacco leaves, a bit earthy and mildly nutty. After some time revealed some muskmelon, marshmallows and oranges, sweet
  • Palate – Much more bitter than expected, then sweet and green, a bit khatta sour, some spice, more of those leaves, dry with a rather thin body overall
  • Finish – Strangely flat, not much happening and didn’t remain either
  • Water – For most, there was no temptation to add water. For the few that did, there was a mixed response – one thought it toned the bitterness down whereas another thought it merely upped the spice. Either way, water didn’t dramatically change any impressions

While it was a freshly opened bottle, poured and served immediately, it had oddly muted aromas – we really had to work at teasing out what was there.

It was tough to pinpoint this one. It somehow reminded of an American single malt from Westland – not the ones we earlier tried and loved, but instead a more recent version that disappointed.

Was it even Scottish? If so, perhaps Highland, but there wasn’t anything to distinguish it as coming from a particular distillery or cask approach.

We were stumped.

And the reveal?

Again a surprise. Glenmorangie?!

I personally could not believe this was the same whisky I’d sampled with the Whisky Ladies when it was first released. I read out the Tayne tasting notes from that session to my companions – how could our experience differ so much? Where was nose bursting with character with marvellous sherry Christmasy notes, the yummy coffee, chocolate, orange complexity??

Naturally setting and mood, even  tasting order makes a huge difference. But to miss nearly all of the elements that made The Tayne the favourite of the evening for our Whisky Ladies and the opposite for our Original group?

As the bottle was recently purchased, it was unlikely (but not impossible) that storage conditions had an impact.

Could it be that standards have slipped? If so, then it is truly terribly disappointing. If not, what can explain such a radically different experience?

PS – If curious what this could set you back, it can typically be found for around $85 in duty free.

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

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Sherry Expressions – Seasoned, Finished or Matured…

Sherry’s influence on single malts is significant. At one of the spectrum could be a full on sherry “bomb” matured for years exclusively in first re-fill casks and at the other a mere hint with a “touch” of sherry finish for a mere month.

Our host for the evening cleverly selected from duty-free three different variants of Sherry expressions. Each explored a different approach to bringing a sherry influence to the whisky.

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

Read on over the next few days for insights into our impressions, speculations and interpretation of what the distillery shares about the way in which the sherry element influenced each single malt.

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Scottish Grains Recap

According to our friends over at Malt Madness, today in Scotland, there are only 6 full fledged grain distilleries:

  • Cameronbridge – the oldest & largest grain whisky distillery now best known for Haig
  • Girvan – a grain distillery built in 1963 by W. Grant & Sons that has recently released a few age statements
  • Invergordon from Whyte & Mackay can primarily be found only in Independent bottles
  • North British the second largest Scotch grain distillery
  • Starlaw – opened in 2010 and owned by La Martiniquaise
  • Strathclyde – owned by the Pernod Ricard conglomerate with a few independent bottles out there

Yet this should soon be changing… with new distilleries opening such as R+B who put out  advance indicators of the style they plan to emulate… including a grain with their Borders Single Grain 51.7%.

Of these, our whisky tasting groups of Mumbai have managed to get their hands on:

  • Cameronbridge with their Haig Club 40% accessible, innocuous and frankly forgettable grain
  • Invergordon 28 year 56.5% from Douglas Laing – Think muted varnish, vanilla, salty sea water with roasted peanuts
  • Cambus Single Grain 24 year (1991/2015) Cask 55891 51.9% from Signatory Vintage – An absolutely delightful delicious and alas discontinued dram
  • Girvan 8 years (2006/2014) 46% from Berrys’ – Starts with a hit of pure alcohol then sweet bananas, some vanilla from the oak wood, lemon drop sweetness peeped out… all the elements were very subtle with the overall scent of light varnish
  • Girvan 28 years 42% – From a bio-chemistry set to sweet fruits, pudding, tasting like honey water, eclair and a caramel rum ball
  • Strathclyde 25 year (1990/2016) 51.1% from Douglas Laing – A remarkable nose that kept evolving – all elements nuanced yet distinctive. Whereas on the palate, it was came across as innocuous, something to accompany with little remarkable on its own.

Still to try something from North British and Starlaw… However not such a bad start to exploring this category of whisky!

Curious about even more grains? Check out this Grain’s page dedicated to just grain – in all its various from Scotland to Japan to North America and Europe!

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Royal Brackla 21 year 40%

Royal favour has its benefits… including in the world of whisky.

The distillery was founded in 1812 by Captain William Fraser of Brackla House on the estate of Cawdor Castle and by 1833 was selected by King William the IV to be the royal court whisky. The distillery changed hands, had its ups and downs – including closing for some time in 1943-45 and 1964-66 then 1985-91.

And yet the “Royal” title remained, even as it changed hands eventually ending up as part of the Dewar & Sons portfolio.

We sampled this 21 year old whisky blind, with a reveal at the end. Here is what we thought…

Royal Brackla 21 year 40%

  • Nose – We were greeted with varnish, lime, sharp and direct, link control, medicinal soap, started to shift and become very sweet, cinnamon spice candy, bananas, hallowe’en corn candy, marshmallows, wood sap, toffee, burnt caramel, a puff of smoke, resin, white pear, leafy basil, curry leaf
  • Palate – Soft, a nice coating and well balanced, raisins and resin, a bit of chocolate, loads of wood, honey, with the 2nd sip was much spicier
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice – delicious!
  • Water – I never would have thought to try but others prompted – the whisky takes water quite well, opening up a complete fruit basket of aromas, butterscotch, rounds it out even more, with a lovely sweetness, revealing a nice fresh grassy element on the palate, surprisingly it also improved the mouthfeel

It was a rather nice way to finish up our Scottish traditional trio. Again it had the sense of being a combination of ex-bourbon with some ex-sherry too.

And the reveal?

A recognition this is a distillery we rarely encountered. Yet were pleased to do so that evening.

So what do the folks at Dewar (aka Barcardi) have to say? They have quite succinct tasting notes:

Richly fragrant with summer berries, dark chocolate, star anise, and a sherried sweetness.

Our original tasting group explored two other whiskies in our classic Scottish trio evening:

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Old Pulteney 17 year 46% revisited

Sometimes it is nice to be reminded of how much you enjoy a particular distillery and its whiskies. We had just such an opportunity with our Scottish “classic” evening…

Naturally half the fun was tasting completely blind with the reveal only at the end. Here is what we found…

Old Pulteney 17 year 46%

  • Colour – Copper
  • Nose – Sweet perfume, floral, vanilla, a touch of salty brine, chocolate, butterscotch, so familiar and inviting, toffee, some gentle sherry influence. After the 1st sip we found marzipan, almonds, light sweet citrus like a lemon cake. As it opened even more, there was a hint of smoke. As we let it sit even longer, the citrus shifted into a lively orange peel oil.
  • Palate – Soft sweet spice with some salt. A lovely complexity, sweet lime, lightly bitter with a subtle touch of tobacco leaf, a wisp or puff of smoke, so beautifully balance
  • Finish – Ends on a sweet note, gentle spice, really quite beautiful, a bit of liquorice
  • Water – Mellows it out… some preferred with and some without

We all really enjoyed this whisky and found it quite lovely, with a “feel good” character. While exceedingly easy to drink, it also had complexity and kept evolving. We all were confident that it must be Scottish and clearly well crafted. It also had all the hallmarks of an ex-Bourbon cask with a bit of ex-Sherry too.

A few of us kept remarking how there was something so completely familiar about it. We settled on Highland, one even mentioned Old Pulteney, another an old style Balvenie.

And our reaction to the reveal that it was an Old Pulteney 17 year?

Delight! An excellent reminder of how this whisky is simply one good dram.

Naturally this was one of many enjoyable evenings with Old Pulteney of which a few included:

Our original tasting group took an evening with a classic Scottish trio:

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Scottish Trio – Linkwood, Old Pulteney, Royal Brackla

Sometimes you just want to enjoy classic styled whiskies… with a flight that has a straight forward age progression from younger to older… no experimentation, just a standard combination of ex-bourbon cask and ex-sherry maturation.

That is exactly what we did this month, sampling each malt blind… And yet it wasn’t entirely as “traditional” an experience as one would think…

Our original tasting group went “traditional” with a Scottish trio:

Curious to know more about what we found? Just click on the whisky links above and get all the juicy details!

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Dewar’s Aberfeldy 21 year 40%

Ah Dewar’s… a blend that has gone beyond the mold by being involved with such initiatives like the Dewarists – an MTV series of musical travelogues around India. This show blended musicians from different genres and places living the motto: “Some things are just worth doing.”

I will openly admit to having a soft spot for any brand that gets behind independent musicians and contributes to the cultural fabric of their target market.

And what does that have to do with this whisky review? Naturally Aberfeldy distillery is part of the Dewars stable… and its 21 year old the high-end of their travel retail offerings.

What did we think? Read on…

Aberfeldy 21 year No 28750 40%

  • Nose – Sherry, vanilla, light hazelnut or bitter almond, dried orange peel, cloves, fruity, like pear or white apricot, very sweet and honeyed
  • Palate – Different than the nose indicated… some leather, bitter and then became fruity. As it settled in became nice and enjoyable with a decent mouth feel
  • Finish – Long yet initially quite bitter, nutty like walnut skin

Never had a whisky that greeted us with such a wet warm whisky welcome… It was quite ‘friendly’ in a sloppy moist puppy dog kisses kind of way. Yet amusing and sweet too.

We set it aside for some time and returned to see how it had become sweaty in the covered glass. A few whiffs and sips, we decided it was worth the wait. The sweetness and initial drizzle of honey became more and more pronounced. The fruit also lightly mingled with a soft peat on the palate.

Overall we found it simple, easy to drink, uncomplicated yet eminently enjoyable.

And what would a bottle of this Aberfeldy would set you back? One can find it online at Master of Malt for approx £130.

PS If you are curious about the Dewarists… here is an ad film that provides insights into this series that ran from 2011 to 2016…

Dewar’s Scotch and The Dewarists

In our latest greatest adult evening, what all did we try?

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