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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Bunnahabhain 25 year (1991/2017) 50.5% (Blackadder Raw Cask)

Over the years we’ve sampled an increasing number of independent bottles. Clearly Gordon & MacPhail then Signatory are the ones we most readily come across, however every once and awhile we manage to stumble across a whisky from Blackadder.

Blackadder is known to focus on bottling a single cask, predominantly at cask strength. This particular bottle of Bunnahabhain is from their Raw Cask brand.

Image: Blackadder’s FaceBook page

Bunnahabhain 25 year (1991/2017) Cask No 5436 50.5% (Blackadder Raw Cask)

  • Nose – Brine, prunes, sour plum, then sweet yet tangy like amchor or tamarind, a hint of fulfer, candied fruit, rasins, anar or marmalade orange rinds
  • Palate – Had a very classic matured quality. Rich oriental spices, ripe blood orange, really quite elegant and fabulous
  • Finish – A deliciously long sweet finish, more of that marmalade, quite full and satisfying

The overall sense was a really rather “yummy” whisky. One we thoroughly enjoyed sampling!

Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac, shared it is an “excellent example of wood management.”

What more do we know? Well.. the helpful folks over at Blackadder managed to track down the label… which explains it was matured in a Sherry butt cask until July 2017 for the Taiwan market with 550 bottles.

Here are a few more Bunnahabhain drams sampled over the years:

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One amazing Ardbeg (1990/2003) Sherry 46% (G+MP)

Ardbeg is one of the Islay peaty “kings”… known far and wide for its strong distinctive character… which makes an interplay with sherry all the more interesting… courtesy of a Gordon + MacPhail’s experimentation.

What did we find?

Ardbeg (1990/2003) Sherry Cask 3133 46% (Gordon + MacPhail)

  • Nose  – Initially a bit ‘soapy’, then clear stamp of sherry and peat, cinnamon, wood fires burning, old books, quite rich, some dry hay, tannins, ash
  • Palate – Pure wildfire! With lots going on, fire and spice, chocolate, lots of ash, really quite brilliant!
  • Finish – Long finish with peat, chocolate and don’t laugh –  watermelon rind
  • Water – While ordinarily would not add to a 46%, please do in this case! It then reveals delicious bacon, maple syrup  along with cinnamon spice

Overall this had a brash “Pay attention dude!” quality – a “text book” Islay whisky – in the best possible way.

You won’t easily find this whisky as it was specially bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for Symposion Sweden.

While I couldn’t find any official tasting notes, recommend you check out WhiskyFun‘s review!

Other Ardbeg tasting experiences

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An evening with Krishna Nakula

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we meandered through a malty mix.. with our evening featuring a duo from Amrut!

Added to the mix was an amiable amble through the contrasting:

Plus a sniff and swish through:

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Whisky Lady – May 2018

May had some terrific sessions! All three Mumbai based tasting groups met plus we had a few extras too! Plus I had a chance to catch-up on previous tasting sessions notes as well.  Read on…

All three tasting groups met, with most notes to follow next month…

The Whisky Ladies enjoyed a theme of “Northern Lights” exploring:

Whereas our original group tasted two Highland drams and an Irish pot still whiskey:

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, I took them on a European Tour with:

In addition to our normal tasting evenings, we were fortunate to have a few industry extras in April and May with:

  • An evening with Caitlin Hill, Brand Ambassador for Bruichladdich and Botanist over a  quartet of cocktails and food pairing*
  • An evening with Stuart Harvey, Master Blender for IBHL with Balblair 05, 99, 00 and Speyburn 15 year*
  • An evening with Samantha Peters, Digital Marketing for IBHL with Speyburn 10 year 43%, Balblair 05 46%, Old Pultney 12 year 40%*

Which was augmented by a terrific evening at KODE with Keshav Prakash featuring a trio from the Vault Collection – Compass Box Asyla, Kilchoman Machir Bay and Edradour Caledonia.

In May, tasting notes were shared for our original club’s April session featuring The Vault Fine Spirits Collection, ably penned by our Guest Writer Nikkhil:

There was also a Minis evening playing around with finishes:

An informal evening with a few friends resulted in revisiting a few drams and sampling for the 1st time Shelter Point Cask Strength 2017 Winter Release 57.2% (Bottle 594/1088)

And for a final bit of “catchup”, back in March, the Whisky Ladies took a  remarkable “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia:

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

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Bowmore “BBQ Mango Salsa” 1989 46%

Every once and a while a Whisky Lady treats herself or is treated to a special whisky… and is generous enough to share it with all of the Whisky Ladies. That was exactly the case for this particular 27 year old Bowmore bottled by Wemyss.

Bowmore “BBQ Mango Salsa” 27 year (1989/2016) 46% (Wymess) Bottle 234/234

  • Nose – Random tropical fruit, nose gets sweeter and sweeter, then out comes a true barbecue delight
  • Palate – Smokey, balanced, surprisingly light and very tasty
  • Finish – Long, subtle, light spice, brown sugar and vanilla

Yes there is grilled pineapple and rich barbecue sweet flavours. It is indeed aptly named. And a most enjoyable whisky.

Here is what the Wemyss folks have to say about this dram:

“This hogshead serves up charcoal smoked mackerel with a mango salsa side.”

Curious about other Bowmore’s sampled? Here are a few…

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Whisky Ladies “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand & Tasmania with a nod to Crazy Uncles!

The Whisky Ladies adventures continue… this time waaaaay down under with drams from  Tasmania and New Zealand.

Often with our Whisky Ladies sessions, there is a particular bottle which “anchors” an idea and we build a theme around it. In this case, over two years ago our host picked up from Australia Whippersnapper’s Crazy Uncle Moonshine. She then stumbled across in the UK a pair of New Zealand whiskies from a closed distillery… and thus a Kiwi plus Australian dram discovery in Mumbai theme was born!

And while we technically had 3 bottles, our core focus is whisky, so when we learned another Whisky Lady had been hanging on to a celebrated Sullivans Cove from Tasmania, it naturally had to join the mix! And I had a “back-up” Hellyers Road Pinot Noire…. just in case it was needed…which proved be handy as traffic conditions on that particular evening were atrocious!

So what specifically made it into our “Trans Tasman Tour” explorations?

We closed with regaling each other with personal tales of our crazy uncles toasting to their quirks, maddening qualities that sit side by side with remarkable generosity and sparks of brilliance… with the spirit that kick started the evening idea in the 1st place:

Those who successfully navigated Bombay traffic to reach on time were rewarded with a birthday bonus:

It was indeed a memorable malty evening of fabulous fellowship over a different dram or two or three or four or more! 

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Whisky Lady – April 2018

Another marvellous malty month! Where all three tasting groups met… and I unforgivably missed one! However made up with more whisky adventures.

So what all mischief did we get up to in April?

Photo: The Whisky Barrel

The absolute highlight was a once in a lifetime opportunity to try a 64 year old whisky!

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar group explore Lost Distilleries Trio from the Classic range:

  • Towiemore 43% The evening favourite – think apple crumble meets malt!
  • Gerston 43% Seaside brine, bitter sweet, peat and spice
  • Stratheden 43% Humid, citrus, chocolate… long finish

Whereas our Whisky Ladies Islay Adventures

Plus a few interesting evenings:

Plus a set of no less than seven Gin gin gins!

The balance of the month’s posts were all catching up on earlier tasting sessions…

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents explored whiskies from Japan:

Our original club’s revisited:

And the last fleeting impression from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

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

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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