Whisky Lady – August 2018

This August brought more monsoon rain and yes – some malts too! All three Mumbai whisky tasting groups met up and a bonus minis session.

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we took a rather significant detour from our usual whisky fare to explore rums from Columbian & The Seychelles:

For our original group, I had a special session planned for well over a year… to  explore different dimensions of Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte with their Micro-Provenance 5 series:

Before we dove into the MP5, we calibrated our palate with:

For the Whisky Ladies, it was our 3rd anniversary with a sociable evening of Irish drams, courtesy of our friends over at Pernod Ricard who kindly shared:

  • Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition 40%
  • Green Spot 40%
  • Yellow Spot 12 year 46% and
  • Redbreast 12 year 40%

Plus we had a terrific minis session – Campbeltown style – comparing whiskies from Glen Scotia and Springbank… laugh if you will but we found…

There were a few other explorations…

I also posted notes from July’s remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

Last in our Port Charlotte cask evening was one that stumped our entire group. We sampled it blind, with no clue beyond everyone knowing the whiskies sampled that evening were from the same distillery, similar age, barley, peat level yet matured in different casks.

What did we find?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

  • Colour – Dark amber
  • Nose – Dark chocolate, cinnamon spice, raisins, prunes, apricot, such fruity sweet, almost sweet wine-like, shifting from dark to white chocolate nougat, vanilla, cappuccino, marmalade, walnut, not a hint of peat… then after some time, became almost meaty with a subtle ash and… believe it or not… bubblegum! After even more time… was that lemon custard? Or coconut cream pie?
  • Palate – Spice, even more than the others this one was sooooooo sweet! Then a roaring spice behind the sweet which eased into a ginger spice, followed by salt, roasted coffee bean and a gentle peat, with wonderful oils
  • Finish – Lovely
  • Water – Needs a splash of water – then it becomes juicy, fruity and simply fabulous!

For some, this was the favourite or runner up of the night!

There was something so completely appealing about the complexity of the aromas and, once water was added, it was absolutely wonderful on the palate. There was a lovely balance between the fruits, chocolate and light peat… which initially had a ‘barely there’ quality but revealed itself after adding water.

And our cask speculation?

After tossing out possibilities from rum to muscatel to sherry PX, most settled on Port thanks to its rich sweet character. No one even came close to guessing French virgin oak.

With the reveal, everyone was stunned!

On two counts…

  • First, did it really get all these elements from virgin oak?
  • And second, while it really came into its own with water, how could it be 63.5% after 10 years!

For both… there was more to the story which can be found in the MP5 broadcast with Adam and Allan.

Let’s start with the alcohol strength…

63.5% seems nearly impossible for 10 years until you consider the approach taken at Bruichladdich. Unlike other distillers that first add water to their new make spirit to bring it to a uniform 63.5% before maturing, Bruichladdich puts it into the cask at the full force of a true cask strength which is closer to 70%.

And what about the cask?

They shared that after nearly 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask, it was finished for 6 months in a French virgin oak with a medium char from Seguin Moreau cooperage which held nothing before… they credited the virgin oak for providing the depth of colour to the whisky.

An interesting twist… all we know is that we really enjoyed the results!

What more do we know from the bottle?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 30.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Virgin Oak
  • Warehouse: P4. L8 – Dunnage

I purchased this set at The Single Cask in Singapore and we opened the bottles in August 2018 in Mumbai.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

We also started our evening comparing casks with a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8%.

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

One of the ‘traditions’ of our original whisky group is to taste blind… In this case, I gave a bit of a twist by openly sharing we were sampling whiskies from the same distillery, peated at the same level and nearly the same age with the only difference the cask.

My goal was to eliminate wild speculations to instead focus on the narrow range of variable – cask. With the reveal made only after we tasted each whisky separately and then compared them to each other, sharing thoughts on the possible cask(s) used.

We began with the Cognac cask – while not part of the MP5 series – I chose it to calibrate the palate. We then moved on to the Bourbon cask, then this one… which added a Bordeaux finish.

What did we think?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

  • Colour – A clear touch of red – which we later found clearly came from the Bordeaux cask finish
  • Nose – Initially greeted with curd and tobacco, quite strongly spirit driven, some sulfur – like we just set off some crackers ‘patakar!’, then settled down with less peat, revealing chocolate, and a range of aromas that went from wine to sweet and salty dried fruits, pistachios and raisins
  • Palate – Very spicy at first, with an interesting over brewed tea quality, like tannins from red wine, sweet with an interesting spice, shifting into raspberries and walnuts
  • Finish – A long finish with a strong peppery close
  • Water – Initially made it spicier then really opened up with many finding it quite fabulous once opened up with a splash of water

While we found this one a bit thin on the palate, lacking the body of the MP5 Bourbon, it had quite a distinctive and appealing quality. We also found it less salty than the 1st with almost negligible peat.

For one, he confessed that if he wasn’t already told this was a peaty Islay whisky, he never would have guessed. We wanted to know how that could possibly be the case – given similar ppm from other distilleries retain a much more pronounced peat.

The answer in part can be found in the Laddie MP5 broadcast in which the head distiller Adam Hannett speaks with Allen Logan, distillery manager.

Around the 20 min mark, they shared how their PC style is to always start at 40 phenolic parts per million (PPM). However the phenol content changes as it is mashed, malted and further softened through the slow distilling process. The shape of the still is another factor, which enables lighter flavours to come through. Then, as the spirit ages, it loses more phenols…

The result? You end up with considerably less ppm than you started with… And for Port Charlotte (PC) specifically, it means the whisky is surprisingly versatile with different cask types, particularly if it is aged for a longer period.

Yet without this insight or knowledge of the re-casting, what did our merry malters think?

After much speculation, most votes veered to sherry with one clear it could not be sherry as it had a wine quality. Clearly this taster was exceedingly close!

What Adam shared in the broadcast is this whisky began in an ex-Bourbon cask for 10 years then was finished for 9 months in the fresh Bordeaux cask from the town of Margeaux.

When asked why they recast the spirit, the answer was:

“We wanted to see what else we could explore, do and try new things.”

In part this was motivated by a recognition the whisky needed an extra ‘boost’ from re-casking.

And when the topic of the wine cask finish arose, Allen spoke of their early experiments with finishing 15 and 20 year stock using ex-Bordeaux casks, which turned the whisky pink after only a short period of time! What to do? Jim McEwan suggested releasing the whisky as a special edition for Valentine’s Day, what else?

As for this whisky? I revisited it the next evening and found the wine element unmistakable… and think we underestimated it in our first foray. Or perhaps with just a little oxidation, it revealed its balanced complex character. Superb!

What more do we know?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 29.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Bourbon / Bordeaux
  • Warehouse: WH5. L2 – Dunnage

I purchased this 200ml tasting set trio for an embarrassingly high amount from The Single Cask in Singapore.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

Before we tasted the MP5 series, I opened a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8% to help calibrate our palate to the Port Charlotte style.
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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Fresh Bourbon Cask #1999 56.9%

For over a year, I waited impatiently to dive into this Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance aka MP5 trio!

I came across the set in Singapore at The Single Cask. taking a good long whiff of their open bottles and was intrigued. I kept thinking about them… and on my next visit, I was delighted they still had a closed set remaining. So I packed it up and brought it back to Mumbai for our merry malters!

I decided to do it in the same order Adam and Allan did on their YouTube broadcast… so we began with the ex-bourbon. While I knew what we were sampling, my fellow whisky explorers tried it blind.

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Fresh Bourbon Cask #1999 56.9%

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – Bounty chocolate with roasted coconut, tropical fruits – particularly pineapple, cashew fruit when nearly ripe, subtle peat, ripe bananas, dates, lightly leather and wood polish, faint iodine then evolved into a fresh clean delicate citrus
  • Palate – Spicy cinnamon, jute kopra, coconut barfi, lightly oily, a wonderful mouth feel, coffee, coconut shell
  • Finish – Medium length, a bit bitter, chillies, coconut
  • Water – Opened up beautifully, lovely balance of spice then sweet, delicious with a gentle orange citrus

We loved it! It began as a pure tropical treat and evolved into creme brule, bubblegum… We really enjoyed this whisky And found it was a fabulous easy drinking dram. It had a lovely balance, very tasty, becoming even more enjoyable as it opened further with water and had a little more time sitting in the glass.

Remarkably, there was very little peat – just a light leather curl of smoke enveloped in creamy sweet goodness. Equally no one came even close to predicting the alcohol strength – there was talk of 46% or 48% with no one imagining 56.9%!

I challenged my tasting cohorts to give their best guesses on what cask(s) went into creating this dram. After the Cognac surprise, speculation ranged from rum to virgin oak to bourbon… with the last spot on!

What more do we know?

  • PPM: 40
  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 17.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Fresh Bourbon
  • Warehouse: P2. R19 – Dunnage

We loved this whisky and wished there was more! By the end of the evening there were just a few drops remaining… clearly a good sign.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

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Revisiting Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 57.8%

Over a year ago, we had two different evenings exploring whiskies from Bruichladdich… doing a peat progression from no peat to peat to super turbo charged peat. At the time, I specifically remembered how the Cognac Cask surprised, given it was a different cask that the usual ex-bourbon, with an interesting inter-play with the peaty Port Charlotte style.

So when planning my special evening with the Port Charlotte Micro-Provenance 5 trio, I thought of having a ‘starter’ to push our palates into the smoky mode. My logic was this would better enable us to discern nuances in the trio, past the peat. Picking up another duty free bottle of the Cognac Cask seemed a perfect fit, in keeping with the cask theme.

I began our session warning my fellow tasters that this was the ‘appetizer’ before the main course. And while we sampled blind, I shared all four were from the same distillery and started at the same ppm – 40 in case you were wondering – but from there diverged.

Only after we sampled all four whiskies blind did they get revealed – one by one – after a round of trying to “guess” what cask magic produced that particular single malt.

Here is what we thought of the Cognac Cask…

Port Charlotte 8 year 2007 CC:01 57.8%

  • Colour – Coppery gold
  • Nose – Sour lemon, apricot, dark chocolate, cinnamon, a sharp “snuff” like quality, pungent like wasabi peas… as it settled down, the bite of tobacco sweetened, with more of the fruit coming to the fore, eventually taking on a chocolate creme
  • Palate – Strong cognac, bitter, dusty, rock salt, despite the almost brash aromas, the flavours were much less phenolic
  • Finish – Chilli, lightly bitter
  • Water – Makes it sweet, beginning with an explosion of pepper of all types – from black pepper to cayenne – settling into a cinnamon sweetness

This one needs time… when we returned to it, we discovered creme brule, a delicious custard, vanilla baked goods quality. Delicious!

The speculation began…

  • Thoughts of alcohol strength hovered around 48%… a far cry from the actual 57.8%
  • As for cask type? It was split between ex bourbon, virgin American oak to one lone voice wondering if it may have a French wine twist… none guessed it could be a Cognac cask

It turned out to be the perfect “kick start”. The bolder peat in this Port Charlotte cleared the path to focus on the more subtle peat of the MP5 trio.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

And what did we try last year? Our Bruichladdich peat progression evenings featured:

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Bruichladdich Port Charlotte MP5

The whole idea behind Bruichladdich’s Micro-Provenance (or MP) series is to demonstrate the difference to be found between casks when starting at approximately the same place. Through this journey, one can explore the evolution of a single malt, comparing and contrasting…

For #LaddieMP5, head distiller Adam Hannett selected three single casks of Port Charlotte whisky:

  • All starting at the same peat level – 40 ppm
  • Using the same barley type – Optic
  • Distilled within 2 weeks of each other in November 2005
  • Then matured for 10 years…. just in different casks…

The result was a fascinating experiment and experience enjoyed by our original Mumbai whisky tasting group late August 2018.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks Trio: 

I asked the Comms team for more info and they said the best thing to do is to watch the MP5 broadcast where Adam and Allan talked through the whiskies – well worth watching!

To get us in the mood for peaty full cask strength drams, I also opened up another bottle of Port Charlotte to help calibrate our palates. The whisky I selected for this purpose was:

Tasting notes will be available over the next few days….

Curious about other Bruichladdich Port Charlotte tasting experiences?

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North Star Discovery – Islay 8 year 58.3%

Last in our North Star trio was a whisky from its 2nd series simply named “Islay”. We sampled it blind and were floored by the reveal with an introduction to a new independent bottler who certainly seems to be bringing quality and value to his selections.

Islay 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles

  • Nose – A sour peat… dare I say it… almost headache inducing? Certainly highly medicinal. Which then slipped into ham, pineapple, mellow with a very different character than how it began, lemon tart, musk melon, some spice… shifted again this time into smoked sweet grass, green coffee beans, cut hay, quite vegetal, dry forrest
  • Palate – Starts exceedingly smooth then SPICE. Had a phenolic Islay style sweet peat not the palate with smoked pepper ham, with more fruits like grilled pineapple and apricot
  • Finish – Sweet, slightly briney and ends with something we couldn’t quite name… after going on and on and on…..
  • Water – Wow! What a difference! It really brought out the best qualities – the nose took on a peak smoke with dark chocolate and cherries, the palate augmented the sweet peat with a berry dimension and the finish then revealed beneath the salty sweet ash a light citrus sweet

As the last of our trio, we joked that perhaps the theme of the evening was spice, sweet and slow things down as each whisky took its time to fully reveal  its character.

Our talk turned to speculate the origins of this dram. For all it was sufficiently distinctively Islay to fall in that camp. But which one? We veered towards Caol Ila which, though not actually stated by the bottler, may very well be the case.

The extra fruitiness that emerged behind the peat made sense once I learned the whisky was finished in a pair of ex-sherry octave casks.

And what about the official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Medicinal, peat smoke & dark chocolate
  • Palate: Sweet peat, delicate sherry notes
  • Finish: Subtle ash, citrus & peppery peat smoke

Interestingly our findings were most aligned with the official tasting notes with water. And certainly we would highly recommend adding some generous drops to bring out the best in this whisky.

What were we fortunate to sample in our introductory North Star Trilogy?

Before it sold out, you could find it through Master of Malt for approximately £75.

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Whisky Lady – July 2018

July brings monsoon rains, vacations and often a slightly slower pace of life… and yet this month still had a rather admirable set of whisky tasting experiences. And even though technically only 1 of our 3 Mumbai whisky tasting groups “officially” met, somehow gatherings over a dram still happened… read on…

Whisky Ladies Sukhinder Singh’s Cask Strength Trio from The Whisky Exchange in London:

Pedigree malts from around the world:

Our original group were introduced to a remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

I also finally got around to sharing tasting notes from an evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac always push the boundaries… The last three remarkable whiskies sampled were…

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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North Star Discovery – Glenrothes, Ardmore + Islay

There is something so fabulous about being truly surprised.

Which is why our original Mumbai tasting group keeps to its habit of tasting blind. Sometimes we reveal each whisky immediately after tasting, other times we wait until we have sampled all three whiskies.

In this case, it was after tasting all three drams and what a reveal! Why?

As it introduced North Star Spirits, a new independent bottler based in Glasgow. Starting in just 2016, we understand it is a “one man” operation by Iain Croucher, earlier part of A.D. Ratraay group.

Interestingly, he has a distribution relationship in Germany with Sansibar – which is another independent bottler that caught my attention recently for its ability to spot good casks for relatively reasonable rates.

My photos do not do justice to their packaging which is …

What did we sample?

  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Glenrothes 20 year (Oct 1996/Oct 2016) 54.6% 1 of 252 bottles
  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 57.1% 1 of 198 bottles
  • North Star’s Cask Series 002 – Islay 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles

Unfortunately North Star bottles have already captivated attention that it is best to pre-order online as they seem to be snapped up quickly!


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Bruichladdich PC 12 year 61.1% (Blackadder Raw Cask)

We have another Blackadder Raw Cask whisky… this time from Bruichladdich… or rather more specifically from Port Charlotte.

Port Charlotte 12 year Sherry Cask No 622 (July 2003 / May 2016) 61.1% Blackadder Raw Cask range. Bottle 209/284

  • Nose – Chocolate, dark fruits, what do you want! Smoke, peat, sherry, peppers, earthy, mineral
  • Palate – Outstanding – beyond connoisseur quality, sacred ash, spice, a 3-D fullness, fruits… from orange to dark berries, dry with just the right balance between spice, sweet and a chaser of peat.
  • Finish – Holds, spice, green capsicum, a bourbonesque close… also marvellous
  • Water – Please do! Then wine notes are revealed, much sweeter, brought out the peat, dampened the spice, lots of gorgeous dark fruits, delicious

Had the best qualities of a brash youngster yet the complexity of a more seasoned character. This was clearly no ordinary Port Charlotte… and one we felt privileged to try.

With a bit more patience, it took on an even spicier character – like biting into a green chillies vs our normal experience where spices tame and get subdued over time. I truly wished we had more to try as had the sense that it would have kept evolving and revealing even more dimensions.

It certainly re-sparked by interest in exploring more from Bruichladdich… and Port Charlotte specifically… Here are just a few tried til date:

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