Minis – Edradour Fairy Flag 15 year 46%

When this mini was picked up a few years ago, you could find Edradour’s tribute to the film “The Fairy Flag” on a few shelves around the world.

The story of The Fairy Flag is the union of the Clan Chief of the Macleod’s and Titania, a fairy maiden, with her flag said to be endowed with supernatural power, protecting the MacLeod’s… a flag that can be seen on display at Dunvegan Castle.

As mysterious as the maiden is whether the feature film was ever released!  Rory Mhor Nicoll and Peter Columbia, it doesn’t seem to have been officially released. Instead Rory’s association with Edradour led to a film about Edradour and a documentary about the making of the film.

Edradour Fairy Flag 15 year 46%

  • Nose – A heavy sherry pudding, dried fruits, yummy custard, caramel chocolate, coffee, cream cheese icing, citrus fruits
  • Palate – A wonderful spice – specifically dry spices, dry fruits, a puff of smoke
  • Finish – Had a terrific substance

We joked this was no flighty fairy, more like a gnome. And frankly delivered everything you would want in a whisky. It was also a terrific way to kick off our sampling evening.

We set it aside to revisit after sampling the others… We found it absolutely kept its character. If anything, it evolved into a sprightly dance – exceedingly tasty.

We enjoyed it so much wondered if it is still available – alas it is not… pity.

What do the folks over at Edradour have to say?

Following initial maturation in ex Bourbon casks for 8 years, this whisky has been matured for a further 7 years in fresh Oloroso Sherry casks. Mahogany in colour, this Single Malt is characterized by rich fruits, chocolate and a robust long warming finish.

  • Nose: Dried fruits like raisins and plums, vanilla.
  • Palate: Delicious rich Christmas cake with caramel and chocolate. Typical mouth feel coming from the old copper farm stills.
  • Finish: Sweet and spicy, lingering and warming.

Unchillfiltered • Natural Colour • Distilled, Matured and Bottled at Edradour.

So what did we try in our minis evening?

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Glenglassaugh Revival 46%

The best thing about sampling blind is being saved from your own prejudices.

I will have to admit my first brush with Glenglassaugh was in 2015 with an open bottle of Torfa at Quaich in Singapore. To put it mildly, I wasn’t impressed and my strongest memory was that of solvent. Fast forward two years and I had an opportunity to compare minis of both Evolution and Torfa – better, definitely better. Late 2018, I was introduced to their Peated Port Wood – certainly moving in a much better direction. And now, in May 2019 I found a Glenglassaugh that clearly hit its mark.

Yet I knew none of this when I picked up that Glencairn glass and began to sniff, swish and sip my way…

Glenglassaugh Revival 46%

  • Nose – Sour curd, spice, prunes, raising, chocolatey custard, black pepper spice which then shifted into red chillies, oily, orange cloves and Christmas pudding, tobacco, dusty
  • Palate – Greeted with a bit of spice, tobacco, prunes, medium body with a good mouthfeel, wood smoke, chestnut, caramelized apples, some oak, honey malt
  • Finish – A great chewy cherry finish, more of the prunes carried through, had staying power

Of the three whiskies sampled that evening, it was by far the most robust and complex. The character also kept changing. Most remarkable was when it was revisited there was a delightful perfume!

While I couldn’t find anything specific on the bottle which indicated which batch, our host thought it was from their first release.

What do the folks at Glenglassaugh have to say?

The Revival is the first expression released from Glenglassaugh distillery after being mothballed for more than 20 years. The Glenglassaugh Revival has been matured in a balanced mix of ex-red wine and fresh bourbon casks, vatted and re-racked for double maturation in rich sherry casks. Bottled at 46%, non chill filtered and of natural colour, Revival is a stunning Highland single malt with a coastal charm.

  • Colour: Copper
  • Nose: Sweet caramel and toffee with notes of nutty sherry, milk chocolate and honey. Ripe plums, red berries and oranges. Caramelised sugar and earthy, charred oak.
  • Palate: Sweet, rounded and creamy. Oranges, plums, cherry and walnuts, chocolate, honey-mead, sherry and soft, spiced oak.
  • Finish: Medium with warming mulled-wine spices, sherry and caramel.

While not sure where our host sourced this whisky, it is available at Master of Malt for approx $40.

What else did we try?

What about other Glenglassaugh experiences? Read on…

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The Dalmore King Alexander III 40%

What do we know about this Dalmore? That it was matured in not one or two casks but seven! Aside from the standard ex-bourbon (Kentucky) and Sherry, it also spent time in wine (unspecified), Madeira, Marsala and Port casks. The goal was to produce a unique rich, fruity Highland single malt.

However we knew none of this when we sampled it… blind…

Dalmore King Alexander III 40%

  • Colour – Deep dark burgundy
  • Nose – Dark fruits, cherries, nuts, cheap chocolate bar with nuts and raisins, curdled milk, liquorice, an oddly artificial aroma
  • Palate – A light teasing spice, a bit of mango pickle?
  • Finish – Lingers – a bit bitter then gets spicier with a fruity close… yet still a medium finish that runs away

The colour was a dead give away that something else was going on… which we later discovered with the reveal is augmented with caramel. Hmm…

Overall it was a bit disappointing nothing exceptional and there were a few odd elements that didn’t quite work.

Our host shared he received this whisky as a gift. There was no doubt the person gifting had the absolute best of intentions. And it certainly isn’t cheap – typically retailing for approx $200.

However in our humble opinion, there was more hype and high price than quality. Which is a pity.

What do the Dalmore folks have to say about the King Alexander III?

  • Aroma – Red berry fruits and hints of passion fruit
  • Palate – Citrus zest, vanilla pod, crème caramel and crushed almonds
  • Finish – Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger

What else did we try?

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Hazelwood 21 year 40%

From the Glen Grant & Sons stable, this blend came out a few years ago in travel retail with its glitz bottle, harkening to Art Deco heydays in select cities around the world.

We sampled it completely blind, with no clue what we were trying… Here is what we discovered…

Hazelwood 21 year 40%

  • Nose – Hay, malt, bit sharp, citrus, candy shop, coconut oil, husk, meethi (fenugreek leaves), horseradish, a bit of cinnamon, tobacco, a bit of nuts, wood, acetone, lots of honey
  • Palate – Sweet and spice, more of that horseradish, straight, honey water, no development on the palate, spice remains, thin with no body
  • Finish – Piquant finish, flat, some wood

While it may sound like a nice range of aromas, they all played within a fairly narrow band… overall it came across as quite “watery”… inoffensive and bland. We wondered if it could make a good mixer?

Before the reveal, one speculated it might be a blend. Turns out he was right! More precisely a blend of Kininvie, Girvan, and others…

Curious to know more? Why not check out what I found in an earlier tasting of the Hazelwood 21 year 40%.

What else did we try?

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Port Finish – Tomatin 14 year Port Wood 46%

From the Highland, we sampled Tomatin’s 14 year Port Wood finish 46%. In 2014, Tomatin added it to their core range, noting that it starts in Bourbon barrels before spending a year being finished in Port pipes.

So what did we think?

Tomatin 14 year Port Wood finish 46%

  • Nose – Initially lots of wine, grapes, some spice, even black salt from a chaat masala, dried herbs, old shoes
  • Palate – Grape cool aide with spice, yoghurt, a bit thin
  • Finish – Bizarre tannins
  • Water – A bit softer, yet gained an odd metallic quality

Sometimes when you taste with others, one thought leads to another and another. In this case, we spiralled from the above observations into uproarious laughter. Why?

Well… we started off remarking how the aroma reminded us of a cheap bar… more specifically the morning after with the stench of spilt cheap red wine and tequila. The reaction was so strong from a few that there was considerable trepidation to even taste.

And then?

Let’s just say it considerable devolved into talk of baby puke (not uncommon with whiskies) and even less polite observations… back to that bar with the unmistakable aroma of those who over indulged and could not contain there… er… you get the picture.

So we read what the folks at Tomatin have to say? Could we discover some of the notes they share?

The Tomatin 14 Year Old is soft, smooth and sweet, benefiting from its time spent in Tawny Port casks which previously held port for around 50 years.

Rich but balanced aromas of red berries, sweet honey and rich toffee develop into aspects of light fruits and nuts on the palate and an abiding finish of smooth fruit salad.

Sorry? Rich? Fruit salad?! And that’s when we devolved into laughter… when someone mentioned maybe if it was fruit that… er… again… you get the picture.

So I set it aside to see if it improved with a bit… it happens sometimes.

And?

Nope! Not for us. If anything was a bit queer. Sigh…

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve? A few we enjoyed much much more!

And that is the terrific thing about experiments – some hits, some misses and more!

If you picked it up from Master of Malt in the UK, this Tomatin would set you back approx $60. However like most whiskies, prices vary massively depending on where you purchase it and understand this particular bottle cost nearly double that! Yikes!

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Finishes – Glenfiddich IPA 43%

We started our “Unusual Finishes” journey in Speyside with one of the grandaddy’s of the Glens – Glenfiddich with their IPA beer experiment.

Glenfiddich IPA 43%

  • Colour – Pale golden
  • Nose – Started off with a bit peach, sweet and grassy, some citrus, then back to a granary, barley and hay, then a crepe with sugar and lemon
  • Palate – Some spice, very sweet, yet flat with no body, a bit oily
  • Finish – Not bad, the spice remains for a bit. One even described it as “lumpy”

Our overall reaction was that it was exceedingly…. average. Yup average. It was also pronounced superficially drinkable.

Could we discern the hops influence? Perhaps a bit but it wasn’t massively pronounced.

It is also relatively easy to find in duty free – so accessible that we discovered 3 whisky ladies had picked it up! Sparking a joke that this would go into the category of whiskies decent enough to not be embarrassed to gift.

Debate turned to whether this would make a good cocktail – a Whisky Sour perhaps? Or maybe an Old Fashioned or Sazerac?

I set a glass with the IPA aside and revisited it after an hour – it was pleasant, grassy and inoffensive.

And their official tasting notes?

  • Colour – Rich golden.
  • Nose – An elegant harmony of fresh green apple, William’s pear and spring blossom. Complemented with aromatic hops and fresh herbs.
  • Taste – Vibrant with a zesty citrus note followed by creamy vanilla and a hint of fresh hops.
  • Finish – Enduring sweetness with an echo of green hops.

While travel retail prices vary wildly around the world, if you picked it up from Whisky Exchange in the UK, it would set you back approx £45.

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve?

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Peaty Highlander – Ballechin Heavily Peated 12 year 54.5%

Our explorations of Highland peaty drams led us to Edradour distillery with a full cask strength dram.

Ballechin Heavily Peated 12 year (May 2017) 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Cask 330 54.5% 251 Bottles

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Wow! Floral yet with a power punch, some sharpness, sweetly herbal, cinnamon, star anise, then the floral dissipated to be replaced by maple bacon, honey sweetness with a citrus twist
  • Palate – Honey, maple syrup, very dry, holds and took on that distinctive maple bacon whisky, substance
  • Finish – Nutty, toothpaste, lovely spice, iodine
  • Water – Sour with no spice… given time revealed cinnamon then a nutty quality, like pressed almond oil

Our final conclusion was this would be a perfect monsoon whisky… one to enjoy when the heavy rains wash away all the heat and pollution, dropping the temperature too.

What did the folks at The Whisky Exchange have to say?

A single-cask Ballechin bottled at a cask-strength of 54.5% and exclusive to The Whisky Exchange, this heavily-peated single malt from Edradour distillery boasts a smoky, farmyard character to rival any Islay whisky. Balanced by sweet citrus and hints of honey, this is a fantastic dram which elegantly combines sweet, savoury and smoky notes to memorable effect.

TASTING NOTES BY BILLY ABBOTT (THE WHISKY EXCHANGE)

  • Nose: Sweet and green smoke at first: freshly sawn branches newly tossed on to a bonfire of burning pine. Hints of jelly-baby fruitiness develop, along with Vick’s Vaporub, honey and lemon lozenges and white toast with honey. The lighter notes at the front obscure but don’t hide a darker background of rich smoke.
  • Palate: Savoury smoke to start: smoked ham and signed lemons. White pepper heat mixes with bicycle-tire inner tubes, sharp lemon curd and a hint of creosoted fence. A bubble of black liquorice rises from the depths, bursting to reveal blackcurrants and anise.
  • Finish: Tar and char fade to leave bittersweet liquorice and lemon butter sauce.
  • Comment: Softer than many Ballechins, this brings together sweet and savoury notes, all wrapped up in a smoky blanket.

And what would it set you back? If, like our Whisky Lady, you purchased it from The Whisky Exchange in London, expect something around £80.

What else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies Peaty Highland drams evening?

What else have I tried from Edradour distillery?

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Peaty Highlander – Inchmoan 12 year 46%

From Loch Lomond distillery, Inchmoan is another variant of Inchmurrin (or Inchfad, Croftengea, Rosdhu)… with peat to go with the Highland sweet.

Here is what we thought of this 12 year expression…

Courtesy DevPaula

Inchmoan 12 year 46% (Loch Lomond Distillery Island Collection)

  • Colour – Burnished copper
  • Nose – Quite metallic to start, iron, copper, rust, fruits, back to a blacksmith, wet leaves, then campfire s’mores, sweet, apricot, rum raisin, macadamia nuts
  • Palate – A nice campfire peat, juicy raisins, butter, silky smooth, syrupy with a herbal quality like sipping Jägermeister with a flash of fresh tarragon, then tannins and a bit of “raw hide”, then back to herbal, followed by sweet coffee and chocolate, and is that a bit of ginger and cinnamon?
  • Finish – Long finish, surprisingly gentle, sweet grassy peat, smoke and peppery spice with a stoneware close
  • Water – Simply perfect as is – no need to add

What we enjoyed most was the shifts and changes with this whisky. We thought there was a bit of a burn to start – a touch of “dragon’s fire” which then settled down and became dangerously delicious!

What did the folks at The Whisky Exchange have to say?

Inchmoan is the peated single malt produced at Loch Lomond. The 12 Year Old is sweet and spicy with notes of vanilla and a smoky backbone.

And what would it set you back? If, like our Whisky Lady, you purchased it from The Whisky Exchange in London, expect something around £45.

What other Peaty Highlanders did our Whisky Ladies try?

What else have we experienced from Loch Lomond?

And that’s it! Me thinks it might be time to explore more!

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Peaty Highlander – Aird Mhor 8 year 55.3%

Sound it out… “Aird Mhor” and you realize perhaps this might be “Ardmore”… and sure enough it is!

Our Whisky Ladies session dove straight into this cask strength offering from the Single Malts of Scotland range bottled by Speciality Drinks. It was purchased at their Whisky Exchange Covent Garden store under the guidance of Duncan.

So what did we think?

Aird Mhor 8 year (1 Dec 2009 / 25 June 2018) Cask 707910 55.3% 261 Bottles

  • Colour – Golden
  • Nose – Gentle smoke, leather, wood, citrus, orange, as it opened became increasingly sweet
  • Palate – Spice, tobacco, warm, 2nd sip was like an echo of Laphroaig, calming, sweet
  • Finish – Long finish with a bit of liquorice and vanilla
  • Water – No surprise it initially ramped up the spice, but when it settled down it brought out a nicely nutty quality, helped balance it out a bit, with it a bit oily on the palate

This one was a bit curious and not for everyone. Going straight from zero to full cask strength was also an adjustment.. though one our Whisky Ladies can easily make!

One remarked this whisky was a bit of an “attention seeker” with a fierceness and forcefulness that demanded notice. In this respect, it showed its youthful enthusiasm.

We discovered that the hint of Laphroaig peat came from the Ardmore being matured in ex Laphroaig barrel.

It wasn’t complicated and yet it provoked a clear divide between those who enjoyed and those who didn’t care for it so much.

Apparently Mogambo also has something to say!

Aird Mhor + Mogambo courtesy DevPaula

What did the folks at The Whisky Exchange have to say?

A smoky dram from Aird Mhor (aka Ardmore distillery). While nearby distilleries are better known for unpeated whisky, Ardmore bucks the trend, making a powerful and smoky dram. This single-cask bottling from The Single Malts of Scotland – distilled on 1 December 2009 and bottled at years old on 25 June 2018 – is a classic, with punchy smoke, honey and lemon.

I must say, I rather think “punchy smoke, honey and lemon” is a rather good way to describe this one!

What else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies Peaty Highland drams evening?

And what else have I explored from Ardmore?

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Singapore’s The Swan Song

Imagine a place that has only one of a kind drams… those rare bottles where there are merely a few hundred or so ever produced. And once gone, they are no more!

That is exactly what you can expect at The Swan Song in Singapore.

It is tucked away behind the main Prinsep Street, up a flight of stairs and open only Thursday to Sunday or holidays. Why? Put simply this is a passion project run by individuals who were brought together by a philosophy that sharing is caring.

Here you can try a rare open bottle from a closed distilleries such as Lochside, Port Ellen and Brora or explore mature marvel from the 1960s.

Kelvin Hoon and Arun Prashant are the men behind this remarkable place. Arun I had met years before when he managed The Auld Alliance where he was responsible for one of my most memorable tasting evenings in Singapore. Amazingly after many years, when we walked in, he remembered that night too.

So under his able guidance, what did we try November 1, 2018?

We began with a Cadenhead’s Linkwood-Glenlivet 28 year (1989/2017) 43.7% with only 289 bottles from a barrel purchased by The Swan Song, The Writing Club, Quaich Bar and Ubin Seafood.

It was rich, complex, one that makes you slow down and unravel its many layers. In short, it was the perfect way to get into the mood for something truly special.

Curious to know more? Just check out Justin Choo’s post on Spirited Singapore with some insider insight.

Then my companion and I each selected one dram:

Lochside 22 year (May 1979/Jan 2001) 50% (Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask) 1 of 276

I had such fabulous memories of the Lochside 1981, that this was an easy pick. And it absolutely did not disappoint!

Port Charlotte 12 year (2004/2016) 57.3% (Highland Laird) Bottle 81 of 225

Spot on for my friend – peat, complexity and just a damn good dram!

And an incredible experience in honour of my birthday…

Longmorn 1969 61.5% (G&MP), bottled in the 1980s

Can I just say… words failed me. This was by far the highlight of my entire trip to Singapore.

Huge thank you to Arun and team for your generosity of spirit with your spirits – a unique collection that is there to be enjoyed by the discerning or those who simply want to discover! Bravo to the team and look forward to more opportunities to enjoy a dram there on my next trip to Singapore… before it sings its swan song.

You too can enjoy your Swan Song experience in Singapore at:

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