Talisker 8 year 2009 48.4% (Old Particular)

Last in my Old Particular trio is a complete shift in character to the Isle of Skye with the peaty Talisker. Though technically part of their “Highland” region bottles, it is also an “Island” distillery.

Talisker 8 Year Old 2009 (cask 12578) 48.4%

  • Nose – Mmmm smoked meats, juicy fruits with a bit of brine
  • Palate – A nice smokey burn, touch of ash, a dash of sugary sweet
  • Finish – Cinnamon, then a nice campfire finish

It has been awhile since I’ve had a Talisker… and I gotta admit it hit the spot. Peat and sweet, nothing complicated but well balanced and just… worked. In truth, it disappeared too soon – always a good sign!

As for tasting notes? Here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt had to say:

Part of Douglas Laing’s Old Particular series, this expression from Talisker was distilled in 2009 and bottled at 48.4% ABV, after 8 years of maturing in a refill hogshead. It is one of only 378 bottles produced. Of course, this whisky was bottled without colouring or chill-filtration..

  • Nose: Complex warming phenols alongside intense seaweed notes.
  • Palate: Both sweet and salty, maritime flavours are joined by slightly ashy notes and a touch of brown sugar.
  • Finish: Distinctly sooty on the finish, balancing by subtle sugar sweetness.

Would I agree? Overall yes!

And what about previous brushes with Talisker?

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Jura 12 year (2006) 48.4% (Old Particular)

I found myself in the mood for something uncomplicated… a dram to ease into an evening of sampling… The obvious choice from the Old Particular trio was to start with the Jura. From Jura Island, the distillery style tends towards lighter whiskies intended to support a blend. However more recently, there has been subtle peat added to the equation.

Jura 12 Year Old 2006 (cask 12966) 48.4% – Old Particular (Douglas Laing)

  • Nose – Cereal, butter biscuits or lemon curd cookies – a bit of sour, yet some citrus and sweet
  • Palate – A bit more substance than anticipated, can see the wood influence with a hint of bitterness, a bit salty… like lightly salted nuts and raisins.. is that a hint of toast?
  • Finish – Light spice, that nutty bitterness continued

Overall it hit the spot for something not too sweet, straight forward and a way of kicking off a tasting trio.

As for tasting notes? Here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt had to say:

12 year old single malt from the Jura distillery, named after the island it resides on. This whisky was distilled in December 2006 and allowed to age in a refill hogshead for 12 years, then bottled in December 2018 by Douglas Laing for the Old Particular range. Only 357 bottles were produced.

  • Nose: Custard Cream biscuits, dried lemon and grapefruit peel, a hint of salted peanuts.
  • Palate: Soft oak and smoke appears up front, followed by citrus once again and sultanas.
  • Finish: Almond pastries, coriander and caramel.

Would I agree? More or less…

And what about previous brushes with Jura?

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Lochranza Vertical – Arran 23 year 52.6%

I’ll admit it, I simply fell in love with the Isle of Arran. Early September 2020, we spent a fabulous day driving all around the Island… prompted by my desire to visit the Lochranza distillery! It was so much fun discovering this microcosm of Scotland that we completed the circumference – even making it to Arran’s new Lagg distillery too.

I wanted something special from the distillery to commemorate our trip – a bottle that I could not buy anywhere else. There were so many to chose from, but this 23 year old single cask sherry, bottled at cask strength, caught my eye!

I very happily picked this up at the distillery shop and knew the biggest challenge would be my impatience to try it! Determined to share it in an evening tasting with fellow whisky enthusiasts in Mumbai, I sent the bottle home to India with my partner where it would wait…until some indeterminate time to taste…

Thankfully it wasn’t so long! Just a few months later, late January 2021, we cracked it open in a combined virtual / real life Whisky Ladies of Mumbai session.

Arran 23 year (29 May 1996/11 March 2020) Sherry Hogshead Cask No 436, 52.6%  Bottle 245/283

We first sampled it ‘neat’ without a drop of water:

  • Nose – Nuanced and subtle it grew in intensity, from light rose to rich mocha, caramel, cinnamon, clearly complex, rich, the aromas swirling in the glass combining to create a beautiful perfume – one even quipped “American Leather” after a men’s cologne…
  • Palate – Wonderful! A spirited sherry… almost too much of a good thing! Fierce and forceful – there was rich toffee, coffee, chocolate, dates and rum raisins
  • Finish – An intense long finish

My fellow tasters knew this clearly had a higher alcohol percent – likely cask strength. So we were encouraged to add water… how did it change?

  • Nose – Enabled more of the dark fruits to emerge, caramel sweetness, fudge
  • Palate – Ahh… opens it up and does wonders! Now we can really settle in with all those fabulous flavours, fruitier still full and quite fabulous
  • Finish – Perfection! Remains long and lingering… dark fruits of dates, prunes, dried figs with cinnamon spice… rum raisin Christmas pudding

While intense, we found it had an absolutely phenomenal aroma and with water, the elements were lush, rich and indulgent but not overwhelming. Yes the heaviness remained but it was now balanced.

Even after setting it aside, contrasting and comparing, there was a compelling quality about this one – distinctive and definitely a sherry bomb! If anything, the aromas kept getting sweeter – it became like eating sugar or molasses!

In complete contrast, our ‘In Real Life’ Whisky Ladies thought it was like pineapple grilled on a campfire, perhaps even a single rum not whisky at all!

Could I see the rum? Absolutely! Having recently spent a lazy evening revisiting Jamaica’s Hampden 2010, I easily understood why there was speculation I had thrown a rum in – just to mix things up! As I poured a dash more without water, I completely appreciated the strong heavy rum-like quality – that peculiar powerful punch that comes from the unique conditions found in Luca Gargano‘s discoveries.

The colour alone was an indicator that this was something different with the 3rd sample…. while initially the 18 year (2nd) seemed quite similar in colour to the 14 year (1st), there was a subtle deepness to the gold… However nothing compared to the almost ruby red intensity of the 23 year (3rd).

Sitting back comparing all three side by side, there was no doubt the 2nd managed to strike a brilliant balance between age, intensity and flavour. Clearly complex, it was full bodied and flavourful without being overwhelming like the 23 year old. While those of us who sampled virtually eased into the cask strength with water, the 23 year old was a ‘miss’ for those who met in person. For all of us, the 14 year was easily the most accessible, the sherry influence more restrained. It was simply enjoyable without complication.

What do the folks at Arran have to say about this 23 year old?

A rare opportunity to purchase a bottling from one of our oldest Sherry Hogsheads. These precious and unusual bottling are in short supply and as such are a real treat for those who love a Sherry Cask matured Single Malt.

This particular Single Cask is a Sherry Hogshead from 1996. In the first years of production at Arran, Sherry Hogsheads were often used. We have an outstanding, but small collection of casks from this year still slumbering away in our warehouses. This cask was specially selected and liberated for our visitors to Lochranza and our online whisky shop by Master Blender James MacTaggart and is the perfect one for sipping and savouring.

Tasting notes:

  • Nose – Toffee, fudge and caramelised lemon
  • Palate – Delicious sweet spice and hazelnut
  • Finish – Sweetness, Spice, Vanilla, Smooth, Hazelnut, Dark chocolate, Creamy.

After a long time, it was such a pleasure to sample a single distillery vertical – we could see the progression – building in intensity and complexity. A fabulous evening!

You can find here the detailed tasting notes for the other Arran‘s sampled together with the 23 year:

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Lochranza Vertical – Arran 18 year 46%

Next in our Arran age statement flight after the 14 year was an 18 year old! While the bottle we tasted from was purchased in 2018, it remains part of their core range, now in fresh new 2020 packaging. I understand that the style has remained consistent – playing with a range of Sherry casks to produce a fruity, tasty dram.

Arran 18 year 46%  

  • Nose – Wow! Quite the nose – initially sweet with heavy syrup, lots of sherry influence with this one, chocolate and coffee, mild cinnamon and back to dark fruits
  • Palate – Mmmm…. there is a real depth here, sherry berry, dark fruits with dates, sweetened prunes, vanilla, good dose of sweet spices – particularly cinnamon, some  allspice, even ginger… as we continued sipping, coffee became more and more prominent, joined by rum raisin cake
  • Finish – There was a debate on this – first sip it seemed a bit ‘short’ with so much going on initially that the finish was lost… but as we continued, realized it has quite a long flavourful finish full of lingering mocha, cinnamon chased by sea salt, even a bit of a citrus tang

If the 14 year old had a toffee sweetness, the 18 year old was mocha – a decadent coffee chocolate…. a kind of creamy dreamy desert. There was no doubt everything that was fabulous about the younger whisky was taken up a few notches with the 18 year. It had wonderful flavours that invites one to just sip, savour, rolling around on the tongue, simply enjoying.

While I tried with water, it isn’t needed though holds it own too with a drop or two. It does help bring out the orange marmalade fruitiness, however keep it in your glass long enough without water and that also comes forward too. I kept thinking of one of those fruit and nut chocolate bars! With just an extra kick of zesty orange… with a fresh pour, the dates are more prominent… much later there was even a bit of black licorice joining the various elements – lovely!

There was no doubt this was a favourite for many. It was indulgent without being overwhelming… a fully satisfying well rounded robust sherry influenced whisky.

What do the folks at Arran have to say about their 18 year old?

The Arran 18 year-old is the one of the most popular expressions in our core range of single malts and one of the oldest available.

The Arran 18 year-old is a wonderfully balanced expression of Arran Single Malt which displays the tremendous depth of character of our Distillery.

Caramelised citrus and tropical notes on a background of toasted oak have created an intense, well rounded dram with charm and personality. A luxurious mix of our finest aged Sherry Casks, this fully mature expression of Arran Single Malt is exceptional.

Official tasting notes:

  • Nose – Orchard fruits with syrup and toasted oak
  • Palate – Caramelised orange, dark chocolate, baked peaches
  • Finish – Sweetness, Spice, Citrus, Baked peaches.

What else did we sample from Arran in our vertical flight?

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Do also check out the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai blog with the continuing adventures of the lovely ladies in India…

Lochranza Vertical – Arran 14 year 46%

Kicking off our Arran veritical flight was an 14 year old! Back in 2010 it was released to take a step up from the Arran 10 year and matured primarily in ex-bourbon casks. At the time, it was reasonably accessible in select travel retail around the world. In India, The Vault Fine Spirits brought this particular bottle to Mumbai Duty Free where I was happy to pick it up in 2018.

Prior to trying the official bottling, I had sampled The Whisky Exchange’s 14 year cask strength expression as part of a trio recommended by Sukhinder Singh for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai. That one was intense and flavourful, taking a bit of time to open up to show off its full glory.

Naturally I was very curious to see what this official bottling would bring… we sampled it late January 2021 in two parallel sessions – one virtual and another in person – coming together at the end to contrast and compare our experiences.

I was enjoying life in the country so joined the virtual session… here is what we found…

Arran 14 year 46%  

  • Nose – Initially a bit musty, malty, vanilla, quite fruity, even a bit tropical with a touch of coconut oil, overall quite refreshing… as it continued to open up, the musty quality disappeared and it was just delightful fruits – some cooked apples, even a bit floral, with lots of lovely toffee
  • Palate – Mmmmm… smooth, balanced and well rounded with a nice fruity fullness, a bit of that coconut oil, orange spices, perhaps some light sherry influences with dried figs or dates
  • Finish – Peppery – black peppercorn specifically – initially seemed quite long, but after the next sip didn’t seem to have quite such a long strong staying power – still eminently pleasant though

At first whiff – we knew we were in for something good. And first sip? Ahhhhh finally a proper whisky. For some this was after months… even a year deprived of a decent dram.

I braved adding some water to see how it shifted the dram dynamic…

  • Nose – For me, at least, it brought out a nutty dimension, even some nasturtiums, kept the fruitiness on the nose
  • Palate – Initially a bit spicier, it retained its character with a malty fruity approach… even creamier and almost reminded me of a good masala chai chased by chocolate

Overall, we found it was an easy happy whisky – well crafted and friendly. Something  refreshing yet eminently satisfying.

And what about our ladies who sampled together in Mumbai rather than our virtual session? Complementary with a few different insights – like melon on the nose which we didn’t catch. For more insights, there will soon be detailed tasting notes on Whisky Ladies of Mumbai blog.

Unfortunately you won’t find the official distillery tasting notes for the 14 year old any more as they have gone back to having the standard range go from the 10 year old to skip ahead to the 18 year.. So I’ll bring to you instead the The Vault tasting notes:

Dried fruits, vanilla and toffee upfront. With a little water, a salty tang appears along with caramelised fruits indicating a depth of flavour. The palate has an initial burst of brine leading onto warming toffee apples and hazlenuts. This is followed by dates, chocolate orange and spiced tea cake. The mouth feel is overwhelmingly rich and weighty.

The bottle had scant additional details – indicating it is from Batch No A14 L271016 From October 2016 – I have no idea if this is simply to keep our friends in customs happy along with the description of ingredients “Matured Potable Alcoholic Distillate, Water.” However it would seem to indicate this expression was from a 2016 batch ie the barrels were laid in 2001 or 2002.

The label did provide notes with:

The Arran 14 year is a smooth and richly rewarding expression of the Arran Malt bursting with character and complexity. The extra years of maturation have added a depth of sweetness, and spice to create a fully rounded and satisfying dram. 

Would we agree? Certainly. And did we like it? Absolutely! An undeniably enjoyable dram and a great way to open our tasting trio.

What else did we sample from Arran that particular evening?

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Arran Flight

Years ago I started to collect a flight from Arran… inspired by how much we enjoyed the Arran Port Cask and even more so by the Amarone Cask.

It began primarily as a combination of travel retail acquisitions however culminated in a fabulous day trip to Isle of Arran in September 2020… amusingly these Arran’s were paid with four currencies from four countries, collected over three years with the intention of sharing with a whisky group in Mumbai.

Unbelievably I’m back in India! Even more remarkable, I finally have a chance to share these bottles from Isle of Arran with friends. Naturally this will be done responsibly, virtually and all that… we do live in COVID times after all!

I decided to break the Arran exploration into two parts….

A vertical – doing a straightforward age progression…

  • Arran 14 year 46% – A balance of ex bourbon and ex sherry finish, likely from 2016, purchased early 2018 from Mumbai Duty Free for Rs 7,200 (approx EUR 80)
  • Arran 18 year 46% – A mix of sherry casks, picked up by a kind ‘whisky mule’ during his travels in October 2017 for USD 81 (approx EUR 67)
  • Arran 23 year (1996/2020) Sherry Hogshead Cask No 436, 52.6% – A single cask sherry which produced a mere 283 bottles, bottled at cask strength that I purchased in September 2020 directly from the Lochranza Distillery for GBP 145 (approx EUR 160)

I then kept in reserve for another time the additional expressions with no age statements…

  • Arran Lochranza Reserve 43% – A mix of ex bourbon and ex sherry casks, purchase late 2018 from Dubai’s Le Clos for AED 150 (approx EUR 34)
  • Arran Port Cask Finish 50% – As the name suggests, finished in a port cask, purchased early 2019 from Dubai’s Le Clos fro AED 180 (approx EUR 40)

The tricky choice was what to do with a small bottle hand filled from the new Lagg Distillery? Keep it back for the NAS expressions or throw a mini of a mini into the mix to give others a chance to try something unique? In the end, not having enough extra mini bottles clinched it – so it has again been stored to wait for another time.

  • Arran Peated (2020) 60.4% – 1st batch from a peated bourbon barrel, bottled by hand on 3 September 2020 at Lagg Distillery, purchased for GBP 30 for a 200 ml bottle (approx EUR 100 for a 700ml)

And with that, decision made, minis filled, packages dispatched, balance remaining in bottles sent to one of our Whisky Ladies who offered to host a few able to join in person – socially distanced – in her large living room. How lovely!

Notes to come – both here and on the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai‘s blog!

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Lagg Distillery – new kid on Isle of Arran

We didn’t actually plan to go to Lagg Distillery… our primary intent for a day in Isle of Arran was to spend time at the Lochranza Distillery and then explore a castle or two, maybe do some hiking.  However as we drove around the Island… we found ourselves passing Machir Moor, lunch at the golf club just up from Blackwaterfoot…. and there we were in Lagg… how could we simply drive past?

And yet in these strange COVID times, a visit to a distillery is a cautious and limited activity. Care is taken to reduce entry and minimize contact. Yet even with these restrictions, it was clear it would be worth stopping and spending a few moments getting a glimpse of might be possible when fully open.

What about a distillery tour? Alas not possible. A tasting? Not a proper sit down affair. However you can go to the rather lovely visitor centre’s shop. Here you can peruse books and art celebrating whisky and the island. Meander through a lovely assortment of whiskies and related paraphernalia.

And around the corner from this section was a generous range of Arran whiskies… including an opportunity to purchase some of the new Lagg distillery’s new make spirit, miniatures….

Alternatively… there is a whole wall of full bottles… just waiting to be taken home… with friendly staff happy to help share insights into the different expressions.

Or, best of all, a chance to pour your own 200ml bottle from a cask. I couldn’t resist… just haven’t decided if it will go home to hubby to Mumbai or join me back in Nurnberg.

It is a beautiful site and I can just picture enjoying a light bite in the bright central cafe area overlooking Alisa Craig, also known as Paddy’s milestone.

What about Arran samples? Though there were a few wee drops available at the shop to help decide what to buy, I skipped. However here are a  few notes from previous tasting experiences:

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Chorlton Single Casks – Orkney 9 year 63.1%

After such a brilliant start with the Chorlton Miltonduff, we were primed for something interesting. Our host then poured us this Orkney dram, which we sampled completely blind before the reveal.

Orkney 9 year 63.1%

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Wow! Began with acetone, medicine capsule, industrial metal – particularly copper, burnt ghee, then started to shift into caramel, suddenly heavy dry fruits, nuts – imagine a box of figs and nuts! Then curd – like those yoghurt covered raisins, shifting further into grape skin, a wine tannins, back to minerals, wet slab for sharpening a knife… all of this before even the 1st sip! Then a smoked honey ham, like a Chinese honey pork dish from Mumbai’s Golden Dragon
  • Palate – Superb! A lovely balance, silky, sweet, smooth, spice with a gentle smoke… a bit of wood char, salty caramel… a lovely honey sweet with a touch of salt yet no medicinal element
  • Finish – Lovely, long and continued to hold

The aromas kept evolving – particularly after the 1st sip.

And what about adding water? Yes please! We found it brought out the spice and honey even more. A dash of dry roasted cinnamon and other sweet spices. In some ways the peat was quite deceptive – hardly their on the 1st sip even with water and then quite pronounced in subsequent sips.

We concluded that water really helps open this whisky up beautifully. And yet we equally enjoyed it without water… one of those remarkable whiskies that is terrific both with and without, simply showed off different dimensions.

All  we could be certain is there was high quality wood, a classic approach with an ex-bourbon showing no signs of sherry or experimental wood finishes. Truth be told, it was mighty good to simply enjoy a traditional dram.

We set it aside to sample the 3rd whisky in our trio – each explored blind with only our speculation for company!

And then returned to this one… And found it a bit sour, salty on the nose, the peat clear and warming on the palate, a distinct personality with a nice chewy quality. Imagine a coconut lozenge… Delicious!

The Chaps over at Master of Malt have this to say:

9 year old single cask single malt from the isle of Orkney, drawn from a bourbon hogshead and independently bottled by Chorlton Whisky. With a very small number of whisky distilleries in Orkey, you might be able to figure out which one this whisky is from when tasting it. 191 bottles were produced.

  • Nose: Coffee bean, sea air and a touch of cookie dough.
  • Palate: A bit gristy, but with plenty of vanilla and salted caramel to back it up.
  • Finish: Lingering smoke and olive oil.

Alas with less than 200 bottles, it flew off the shelves at Master of Malt at the reasonable price of €62.49 – now completely sold out.

We also enjoyed these other Chorlton Single Cask whiskies:

And what about other Orkney (aka Highland Park) drams?

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Original Club – Jura 11 year 58.6%

Our host had a clear theme in mind – to feature different Islands around Scotland. We’ve not explored many whiskies from the Isle of Jura – just Superstition and Turas-Mara. We sampled this whisky blind, without any inkling of what we were trying.

Distiller’s Art with Jura 11 year (2006/2018) 58.6%, Refill Hogshead, bottle 229 of 270

  • Colour – Quite light straw
  • Nose – Sour kumquat, drunken fruit, solvent, volatile, rose petals, country liquor, limoncello, lalima rose, vitamin B complex, santosh sandalwood, unusual and atypical
  • Palate – Tangy, spice and sweet, a narrow palate profile, not evolving, no 2nd or tertiary flavour, peculiar and odd
  • Finish – Burn slightly bitter
  • Water – Made the sweetness very prominent, much more spice, prickly on the mouth and palate

This was a puzzle – it initially came off as almost not like a whisky at all! One speculated it may even be a grain? We overall concluded it likely was not Scottish, maybe one of these experimental whiskies… quite curious.

With the reveal we were surprised. Not at all what we had expected. Which just goes to show that it is good to explore without brand bias or pre-conceived notions.

What else did we explore?

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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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