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.
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…
A marketer by profession, Shruti brings her passion to travel across through her travel blog MeWanderlost. She divides time between creating brands, travelling to distant corners of the world & inspiring many to experience the world.
Given that Shruti travels extensively (plus has a partner who shares her whisky explorations), she has blessed us with equally adventurous whiskies from Australia, Bhutan, France, Iceland, Japan and US.
Here is what she has to say about the North Star Cask Series 005 Islands offering…
North Star Orkney 12 year (March 2006/May 2018) 57.8% is a great example of the trend of “secret bottling” by an independent bottler.
It’s secret because all we know about it is that it comes from Orkney and that it’s bottled from a refilled bourbon hogshead. Well, the Orkney is so small that the secret is really not a big one, it has to be one of the two big ones on the island!
It’s rare because independent bottling is all about small batch production – we tasted the Cask Series 005, 1 of 362 bottles, and yes, the same one will not be available in the market anymore.
And of course its experimental if the official tasting notes are any indication. Here it goes – on the palate it’s supposed to be ‘Melted Normandy salted butter poured over popcorn’ & on the finish Clover-honey on yer toast”. That’s experimental for sure!
Nose: The nose definitely connects to the island origin of this dram – it has strong sea salt & sea weed notes followed with some fruitiness. It feels quite young in the beginning, however develops subtle smokiness & butter notes, a perfect invitation to sip it along.
Palate: The peat on the nose doesn’t disappoint as you sip it along as it develops a nice caramel toffee sweetness. What stood out for me was a nice buttery coating on my palate which reminded me of the butter whisky I had in Scotland. Notes of burnt caramel, pipe tobacco, vanilla & a touch of spice with the subtle smokiness is just lovely!
Finish: After the mélange of notes on the palate, the finish was a little flat for me. Some comments around the table were “flat ginger ale” and “bitter”.
Adding a few drops of water made it more approachable for a few, however for me it lost the nice chewy and buttery character with the water.
Summing it up, it’s a solid dram which is nicely matured & balanced & at the same time not so serious. With the Orkney, the bottlers have clearly made a statement that whisky can be fun & experimental, yet well rounded. It would be a great addition to any collection, pity, there are so few of them in the market. A clear vote winner, this one was polished off in the post tasting session!
For those curious about cost, this whisky was purchased online in July 2018 from Master of Malt 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:
Nose – Seaside peat, sweet, salty, reminded a few of Douglas Laing‘s Rock Oyster, fried fish with lemon and tarter sauce, maple bacon with hickory smoke, lots of bacon, sea salt and iodine
Palate – Started by dancing along the surface of the palate, very sweet, cinnamon gum, cinnamon hearts, lovely sweet
Finish – Peaty with light cinnamon finish
Overall we found it was a fall whisky, think apple pie and autumn leaves.
Here is what the folks over at Talisker had to say:
Rich and fruity – Victoria plums, greengages, perhaps dried orange peel – with some butterscotch or rum toffee and a thread of smoke behind. The smoke soon advances into the foreground and the toffee note is joined by a light mintiness.
With water, appropriately, maritime characteristics emerge – dry boat varnish, edible seaweed. Still sweet; now with notes of iodine and the smokiness of an un-struck match.
In brief… Sweetness and power, with less smoke and chilli than younger expressions.
In a sentence… Unmistakably Talisker; mild-mannered and sweet to begin with, then more assertive, warming and smoky.
When doing whisky tastings, themes are great but sometimes going a bit random is even better! And that’s exactly what we did this month with the Whisky Ladies…. we invited contributions and then discovered what they brought!
What did we explore in our Ladies Choice evening?
Our core focus was a trio with a wee ‘appetizer’ blend thrown in at the last minute:
Once upon a time, Highland Park was a ‘gateway’ whisky for me… more specifically the 18 year which opened my palate and senses to the character and complexity of a decent dram.
Shift ahead a few years to a period where Highland Park made to the switch to vintages and no age statement “Heroes”, “Warriors” and “Legends”… with the 1998 and Einar disappointing while the Thor surprising and pleasing.
Enter the 21 year old that is known by its vintage 1991. Introduced to travel retail in 2012, the thinking was as each vintage ran out, it would be replaced by the equivalent next vintage i.e. this one replaced the 1990 vintage and the expectation was by 2013 the 1992 would be released and so forth.
Except a funny thing happened along the way… for Highland Park, after a few years the vintage approach didn’t “stick”… quietly without fanfare the duty free shelves holding vintage whiskies were slowly replaced by age statements.
Which means our patient whisky host had managed to keep one of the few 21 year olds from the vintage marketing “experiment”.
As we opened this bottle that had sat patiently waiting its turn for nearly 6 years, talk turned to our varied experiences with Highland Park – good, bad, brilliant and much in between.
And this bottle? Read on to see what we thought…
Highland Park 1991 40%
Nose – Grassy, pine, spruce, sea grass or a seaweed salad, light citrus coming from behind, lemon flower bouquet, light fruity, inviting comforting nose, short bread, butter biscuits, vanilla and a hint of cloves
Palate – Islands, light leathery peat, very smooth and round, had some substance, chewy mouthfeel, creamy and buttery, yet a slight citrus twist in there too which added a refreshing element
Finish – Subtle nuanced finished, cinnamon spice
We really enjoyed it – very yum! And more importantly, had all those elements many of us once enjoyed in a Highland Park – character, complexity and just a darn good dram.
Even more remarkable is that it was full flavoured at only 40%. While none of us were tempted to add a splash of water, these days anything lower than 46% tends to come across as a bit “watery” – not so with this Highland Park.
We set it aside for some time and the revisit just confirmed it is a lovely whisky and a clear winner for most.
However when it came time to pair with cigars, this would not be my pick… I’d prefer to simply enjoy it on its own.
What would this set you back? It was last seen for about £120 on auction.
Not all peat is your campfire smoky character…. In keeping with our “Peat Unusual” theme, this Ledaig, specially bottled by Signatory, was not your ordinary direct peat Ledaig expression but instead something different.
What did we think?
Ledaig “Very Cloudy” 7 years (7 June 2008/15 Dec 2015) 40% Hogshead 700551 + 700552 Signatory Vintage 910 Bottles
Nose – Sweet and sour, that wet dish cloth element with lemon, ammonia yet restrained, as it opened more, a sweet wet hay
Palate – Super easy to drink then the peat peaks out from behind, becomes sweet and spicy
Finish – Peat and sweet
It was not heavily peated, more like an accent or splash of colour than the main act. One joked that it could be a peated whisky for non-peat lovers. We found it overall very easy to drink with its enjoyable light peat. Quite a contrast to other Ledaigs sampled over the years.
Given its ‘very cloudy’ moniker, we were curious enough to put it in a fridge to chill to see its effect. Did it make it cloudy? Not much, but it was rather nice chilled.
As this bottle came from a BMC guest, we don’t know where it was acquired, however we sampled it from a closed bottle in November 2017.
Interested in other experiences with Ledaig whiskies?
There are no official tasting notes available however this particular bottle was personally recommended by TWE’s owner Sukhinder Singh and an easy pick given how much I’ve enjoyed Ledaig’s sampled til date.
Ledaig 12 year (5 Feb 2004/29 Aug 2016) Cask 1030, 327 Bottles 58.1% (SMSW)
What did the ladies think?
Nose – We were immediately greeted with peat, then brine – making us imagine sea swept coasts, there was a wildness to it, stormy weather and bold character… even as it opened revealing marmite, fruit, apple pear, herbs and more with even a hint of heather, it retained a robust quality
Palate – One spoke of fresh oysters, another of steak tartare, the herbal quality on the nose followed through on the palate, there was also a lovely cinnamon spice with black pepper, yet all combined in a very smooth, balanced dram
Finish – Such a long finish, continuing to reward with peat and sweet spice with that slightly salty briney dimension too
If the Glen Moray was a bright spring morning, and the Arran a hot summers day, then the Ledaig was a wind lashing, rainy cool winter evening.
I’ve enjoyed Ledaig’s bold peaty character before yet this was clearly a top notch cask – remarkably silky smooth and clean with no harsh or brash qualities even at full cask strength. No need to add water but also lovely with too.
A 12-year-old Ledaig, the peated whisky from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, from The Single Malts Of Scotland. This was distilled in 2004 and bottled in August 2016 from a hogshead. I picked it up from The Whisky Exchange in London in June 2017, under the owner Sukhinder Singh’s guidance for GBP 64. It was opened from a fresh bottle in July 2017.
This particular bottle was personally recommended by TWE’s owner Sukhinder Singh for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai as an affordable whisky that is an excellent example of Arran’s style.
Arran 14 year (16 Dec 2000/7 Aug 2015) Barrel 2000/1106 Bottle 185 of 197 55.5% (TWE)
What did the ladies think?
Nose – We immediately noticed it has more “oomph!” than the Glen Moray, toasty, almost musty initially, then warm maple syrup, rum raisins, shifting into something pungent, an earthy yeasty quality, like wet fall leaves, some cinnamon and cloves, resin…
Palate – Wow! Cinnamon spice – both paprika and black pepper. There was no doubt this was a full on cask strength whisky.
Finish – Honey sweet, bourbon, spice, a bit unbalanced initially
There was initially a mixed reaction. Many of have had quite positive experiences with Arran so had high expectations which were not initially met.
But then as we discussed and debated, a funny thing happened. That whisky sitting in our glasses with a little patience began to open up. Making the doubters into converts who warmed up to the whisky as it warmed up to us, revealing apricots, chocolate, apple sauce, and an almost minty freshness.
Some added water whereas some did not. Which was a better option came down to personal preference with more leaning to without.
Bottom line is give this one time and it will reward you with a beautiful, fruity, balanced dram that is both rich, robust and complex. Well worth being just a bit patient.
The bottle provides succinct tasting notes of:
This single-bourbon-cask Arran whisky selected by The Whisky Exchange is loaded with aromas of pear drops, apple crumble and ripe peaches. The mouthfeel is full and rich, with brioche buns, a touch of lemon zest and manuka honey.
Nose: Complex nose with notes of spicy vanilla and cinnamon, coconut, honey and tropical mango and guava.
Palate: Warming and spicy at first with clove and black pepper prominent. Then the sweetness and the fruit start to come to the fore: honey, mango, pineapple and apricot.
Finish: Lightly sweet with honey and tropical fruit overtaken again by the spice.
Comment: Arran’s history began by bottling lots of single casks, and this is another example of a great one from the distillery. Classic Arran fruitiness, but with lots of spice – a complex and rewarding whisky.
This whisky was purchased at The Whisky Exchange in London in June 2017, under the owner Sukhinder Singh’s guidance for GBP 65. It was opened from a fresh bottle in July 2018.
So what made this session distinctive? This time our selection had a decidedly independent bent, all purchased through The Whisky Exchange in June 2017, personally recommended by Sukhinder Singh as affordable quality drams:
Glen Moray 8 year 57.8% 251 Bottles (SMSW)
Arran 14 year (16 Dec 2000/7 Aug 2015) Barrel 2000/1106 Bottle 185/197 55.5% (TWE)
Ledaig 12 year (5 Feb 2004/29 Aug 2016) Cask 1030, 327 Bottles 58.1% (SMSW)
What did the ladies think? Read on over the next few days…