Bowmore 16 year “The Prestonfield” Vintage 1972 43%

The more we explore the remarkable range of whiskies out there, the more we push into sometimes quite rare territory. Even expensive territory. And yet even highly acclaimed and coveted drams can sometimes lose their lustre. Old + rare + pricy doesn’t always = mind blowingly brilliant!

And every once in a while it is good to have that reminder.

After the truly dangerously drinkable and most enjoyable Bowmore 12 year distilled in the 1970s, we were primed to be transported to celestial levels with “The Prestonfield” vintage 1972 aka Bowmore 16 year.

Yet what did we find…..?

Bowmore 16 year “The Prestonfield” Vintage 1972 (28 Feb 1972-1988), Sherry Wood, CS No 1036 – 1039, Bottle no 9861, 43%

  • Nose – Phenoylic, like walking into an old Scottish hotel with the scents of an old rug, worn leather chair and the fire burning (promising but unidimensional)
  • Palate – Sooth – like sacred ash mixed with camphor, a weird peculiar ‘queerness’ like carbolic soap
  • Finish – Limited with an almost tallow or lard-like quality

So here is the thing. The nose was promising once past the carbolic acid, an initial sip was sooty yet bland, then had a strongly ‘off’ quality. I’ll admit. I made a face. Both times I sipped. Even a bit on the 3rd when I was braced for it and ready for something decidedly different. Something like the tallow from animal fat used to make candles, that had gone slightly rancid. The most complimentary description I could think of was raw bitter chokecherries.

I had to admit it didn’t work for me and tried to understand why Prestonfield whiskies are so highly rated if this was an example. What about that strange, frankly to me quite awful tasting quality, that makes it be deemed ‘good’? Just because its rare? Costs a lot? Sorry. Doesn’t cut it for me.

Speculation turned to whether this bottle could have gone off – yet there was no rust on the cap and the miniature was opened just before we tasted. So…?

Who knows. Perhaps something had indeed gone wrong between when initially bottled and our opening… after all, nearly 30 years had passed. Or perhaps there was some small drop of something else that got into the bottle when originally filled that turned it queer over the years. Or even still, it could be that much more discerning palates than mine found something remarkable in what to me was unusual to the extent of being not enjoyable.

Do I regret trying it? Absolutely not! Would I be tempted to try again? Perhaps… just to see if something happened to this particular miniature that was not representative of the original whisky. But not enough to put a lot of effort into tracking it down.

This 5 ml bottle was purchased by Krishna Nakula for £35. On Whisky-OnlineAuctions.com, the last available miniature’s bid closed at £45 in February 2015.

What do we know about Prestonfield whiskies? Here’s what La Maison du Whisky shares:

The Prestonfield range of whiskies is without doubt one of the most well-known among connoisseurs, and yet few people are aware of its origins. Created in the 1980s by the Symington brothers, the famous label with the drawing of the Prestonfield Hotel is now available exclusively through La Maison du Whisky. The whiskies selected for this range have always been some of the best but, from 2000, the decision was made to bottle them all at cask strength from a single cask. Almost exclusively single malts, these whiskies are extremely sought after, and often appear at the major auctions.

What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection from July 2017?

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A 60 year old whisky?! Yes please! Glen Grant 60 year (1950-2010) 40%

Mature whiskies are rare and beyond the means of most whisky imbibers.

Thanks to a few events, generous fellow malt explorers, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling a couple of older drams – Glendronach, Glenfarclas and Auchentoshan come to mind. Yet none crossed the 50 year mark, let alone touched 60 years…

Until a fine evening of malting with Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula who started our evening off with this beauty from Glen Grant.

And best yet – my sample began completely blind so I had no idea what I was experiencing…

Glen Grant 60 year (14 Oct 1950 – 22 Nov 2010), Cask Strength No 2750, 2760 40%

  • Nose – Musty, like a granary with my being transported to the Manitoba farms of my youth, cereals, then shifts more into the old, polished wood of antique furniture, followed by a light sweet honey, a delicate perfume, flowers, fruits, cream, the slightest hint of bitter mocha, as it kept airing with a just drop remaining, a delightful piquant aroma emerged
  • Palate – Rubber, smoky, more of that antique wood, coffee, very elegant and nuanced, exceedingly easy on the palate, great mouthfeel
  • Finish – Such staying power! Yet delicate with a light clove spice

Slow, complex with a hint of smoke without a pinch of peat. The more you sip, the more you marvel. Very sophisticated. This was one that if you had a full dram, it could last hours… sit, savour and let it continue to speak to you, revealing different elements along the way.

The two casks were both ex-sherry – one first fill and the other re-fill. While we do not know the balance between the two, given its nuanced character, the re-fill may have had more play.

We spoke of the contrasting character of sherry matured whiskies – with the younger Kavalan’s on one end of the spectrum with its intense very berry sherry character to the Glendronach grand dames matured for 39 – 42 years in Pedro Ximénez Sherry puncheons dripping in rum-soaked Christmas cake with dry fruits and nuts.

Whereas this Glen Grant was much more gentile, with a fresh ripe fruitiness not dried dates or prunes, light honey drizzle not rich dark maple syrup… a quite fabulous balance of subtle elements in perfect harmony.

Apparently this is a Gordon & MacPhail bottling can be found for £3,500 through Whisky.online. Here’s what they have to  say:

A 1950 Glen Grant bottled in 2010 at 60 years of age. There is no other company in the world that still holds stocks of whisky like this, another super aged masterpiece by Gordon & MacPhail. Glen Grant is a spirit that ages beautifully, this is a beguiling mix of antique wood aromas, simmering spice, all kinds of layered fruit complexity and utterly perfect balance. A truly beautiful, utterly classy whisky that captures just how beautiful the really old whiskies can be, mesmeric stuff.

And yes, for once, words like “beguiling”“layered fruit complexity”, “classy” and “mesmeric” really do apply…

What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection from July 2017?

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Krishna Collection – Enjoying a few drams with a Malt Maniac

India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula is a rather fine fellow to dram with… So when we thought July would be a slow whisky month, a few of us decided it would be an absolutely brilliant idea to see if Krishna would be free for a short visit to Mumbai. Lucky us – he was!

And he didn’t come empty-handed… Nope. He brought along an assortment of miniatures that we had the pleasure of enjoying a wee nip… quick glimpses all concentrated in a brief but memorable one hour of discovery.

What did we sample?

Links to more detailed tasting notes are provided above. Some were truly quite an eye-opener, so be sure to check out what we discovered!

Other evenings with Krishna Nakula include:

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Dream Drams – Mortlach 1976, Lochside 1981, Mosstowie 1979, Aultmore 2007

There are tasting experiences that collectively push the bar to a completely different level.

On this particular monsoon evening in Mumbai with Malt Maniac’s Krishna Nakula, none were standard distillery drams. All but one would qualify as ‘adult‘ whiskies, representative of an older style… From Gordon & MacPhail‘s rare old collection  of closed distilleries to Signatory Vintage‘s mature cask strength set to a unique Master of Malt single cask series, these were no ordinary single malts.

These were the drams that dreams are made of… prompting a few of us wonder… are we truly worthy?

What did we sample?

  • Mortlach 37 year (1976/2013) 43% G&MP
  • Lochside 24 year (1981/2005) 43% G&MP Old Rare Collection
  • Mosstowie 35 year (1979/2015) 48.1% Signatory Cask Strength
  • Aultmore 5 year (2007/2012) 66.8% Master of Malt
  • Laphroaig “T5” 21 year (1987/2008) 53.4% – Bonus Dram!

You will simply need to be patient over the coming weeks as I catch up with all the marvellous malts enjoyed. Trust me… it will be worth the wait.

And a HUUUUGE thank you to our host, whisky contributors who made such an exceptional evening possible! You know who you are.

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SMWS “Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna” 9 year 64.5%

Next in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna”. Aside from a wee bit of eye rolling at the name, we settled immediately into sampling…

What did we find?

30.94 “Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna” 9 year (6 June 2007) 64.5%

Speyside, 1st fill Spanish Oak ex-sherry butt, 666 bottles

  • Nose – Coconut, leather saddle, thick honey, 70% bitter chocolate, plums, chocolate covered acai berries, marshmallow, biscuits, toffee
  • Palate – Sweet cinnamon spice, bursting with character, quite dry almost like a PX or Madeira, roasted salty nuts, rich, creamy with a bit of chocolate
  • Finish – Holds…. bitter, a bit woody with more of the cinnamon spice

This is a BIG bold whisky with tremendous complexity. Remarkable to have so much going on after only 9 years. It was also incredibly smooth and balanced for such a powerful alcohol strength – hard to imagine we were sipping 64.5%?!?

In short – we loved this one! It hit all the right elements for complexity…. even after opening for over a hour, the nose still held its own with big toffee sweetness, nicely rounded on the palate and a finish with staying power.

As for guessing? Names such as Glendronach, Glenrothes and a few others were tossed about. With the reveal, delighted to discover it was indeed a Glenrothes.

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

We stood at the foot of the volcano; a towering eminence of tightly packed fruitcake and sticky toffee pudding, and gazed up towards the bellowing clouds of pork crackling infused smoke. Climbing onto the back of a giant duck and gripping the leather reins we began our ascent with the spicy smell of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon becoming heavier as we advanced. The ground shook as figs, dates and roasted chestnuts were blasted high into the sky and rivers of molten toffee passed nearby. Sipping export strength navy rum to steady our nerves we bravely continued further towards the summit passing boulders of macadamia nuts, honeycomb and salted chocolate.

DRINKING TIP: Drink whilst reading Tolkien stories to the devil.

What else did we sample in our SMWS evening?

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SMWS “Totally Tastylicious” 15 year 57.8%

Next in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Totally Tastylicious” from Speyside. Naturally it was a full cask strength with the distillery not directly disclosed – known only through its code number.

So did we find it totally tasty??

76.131 “Totally Tastylicious” 15 year (30 Sep 2001) 57.8% 268 bottles

  • Nose – Lots of ripe fruits, figs, citrus lime, mandarin orange, black peppercorns, pine, vanilla and cream, cherries, sweet spices, berries, toffee, egg nog, oak…
  • Palate – Salt water taffy, toffee, coffee and caramel, rich fruits and full-bodied
  • Finish – Spice, nice and long – delicious!
  • Water – Not even tempted to try

The nose was fabulous – it simply kept evolving, shifting and revealing different elements. Initially came across as a juicy sherry, it kept morphing eventually settling into a sweet toffee. And the promise on the nose followed through on the palate – really quite gorgeous which continued to a superb finish.

In short, we found this whisky rather wonderful. And yes… tasty!

Our guess? Perhaps an Aberlour but… when we found out it was Mortlach, made perfect sense!

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

The nose had truckloads of wood and fruit – we identified orange boxes, orange muscat, Madeira molasses cake, Demerara and dried fruits (figs, dates) on polished wood. The palate was just Wow! – juicy, chewy, tangy, fruity, woody and winey – wine gums, plum stones, grilled almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon – and a vigorous nod towards Calvados; liquorice Imps to finish.

Water enhanced the complexity of the nose – orange chocolates, punch-bowl, empty cigar tubes, herbal hedgerows, sherbet, pomanders… The palate – plum, Kirsch, charred wood, toasted cumin seeds – totally tastylicious.

After 14 years in ex-bourbon wood we moved this to a first-fill French oak hogshead.

DRINKING TIP: This is quite different – something to turn to when you need a change.
What else did we sample in our SMWS evening?

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SMWS “Eastern Promise” 14 year 56.8%

First in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Club Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Eastern Promise”. This whisky was selected as a lighter start to our quartet, something to tease the palate awake… and get us in the mood for further delights.

What did we find?

37.85 “Eastern Promise” 14 year (1 Oct 2002) 56.8%

Speyside, Ex-Bourbon Hogsead, 234 bottles

  • Nose – Apple juice, lots of white fruits like pear, a light perfume, talcum powder, gripe water, soft, pink marshmallows, a bit of light heather.. after time was almost chalky with the aromas nearly disappearing. After more time, a bit of lime cordial…
  • Palate – Spice, lightly malty, liquorice, chalk, perhaps a hint of smoke? Quite thin without much weight
  • Finish – Nothing memorable

There was something oddly ‘closed’ or muted about this whisky… resisting opening up hence leaving the impression there should be more to it but we simply couldn’t access.

So we tried adding water…

  • Nose – Initially brought out a light spice, cooked oats almost like a porridge but slightly sour… perhaps more like rice congee? With a drop or two of soya sauce?
  • Palate – A bit of wet mud, almost like compost – like leaves decomposing in a forest after a heavy rain, again that fleeting hint of smoke but quite faint
  • Finish – Still nothing memorable

We tried leaving it to open up further for nearly an hour… and were rewarded with wet mop aromas, sugar water on the palate and a whiff of smoke. Hmmm…

Nope. Sorry. This one didn’t do it for us.

As for guessing? We made a few lacklustre attempts but nothing with any degree of confidence. Turns out it is from the Cragganmore distillery.

As a starter, it certainly succeeded in calibrating our palates to cask strength whiskies. But as a dram, our quest tends towards more complex, weightier whiskies.

But that’s half the fun of whisky explorations – discovering what appeals to your personal palate and what doesn’t.

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

We were transported to a Thai street food market with a never-ending variety of fruits as well as a wide selection of dishes on offer all smelling of exotic spices being cooked right in front of us. The stall we stopped at served barbequed spice-rubbed chicken with a kumquat-lemongrass dressing. We decided to have a plateful of it and the mouthfeel was a delicate balance between sweet and spice with a light smoky finish. After some water we were drawn to aromas of rice noodles, shrimp and scallion rolls which we dipped in a soy and oyster sauce – weird but wonderful!

DRINKING TIP: Open your mind and you open your life
 

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BMC explores a Scotch Malt Whisky Society quartet

Once upon a time there were Bombay, Delhi and Pune chapters of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in India. I’ve certainly come across a few bottles in members homes… and rumour has it there remains stock at Indigo too.

However to have an opportunity to explore over an evening four single cask strength SMWS bottles with our Bombay Malt & Cigar Club? Bring it on!

What all did we sample in our SMWS evening?

The bottles reveal only the region, cask type, alcohol strength and in some cases the age… however for those clever enough to do a simple online search, all is revealed about the distillery codes.

As for what we thought? Tasting notes available by clicking on the links above. I should also note, the sampling order which was spot on in terms of a tasting profile progress from light to sweet to robust and peat!

And our cigar of the evening? An Edward Sahakians private vintage selection 1999. A might fine night it was indeed.

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A Night with Glen – Glenlivet Master Distiller’s Reserve 40%

A few months back, our host and I had an opportunity to share a slice of insight into ‘our’ Bombay with a delightful film crew from Australia and Columbia. As thanks, the team thought a couple whisky women deserved a whisky and picked this bottle up from duty free.

Now both of us were touched by the gesture but admitted an NAS dram from Glenlivet’s travel retail line probably wouldn’t have been our 1st choice.

Don’t get me wrong… There are plenty of fabulous NAS whiskies out there and many available through travel retail too! Case in point – nearly all of our Bruichladdich Peat Progression bottles came straight from duty free!

And it is good to visit the mass market standards sometimes just to have a ‘baseline’ from where whiskies with nuance and character shine… a foil if you will.

So our “A Night with Glen” seemed the perfect opportunity to test this theory. And see what the Whisky Ladies thought…

Glenlivet Master Distiller’s Reserve 40%

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – Fresh from the bottle varnish! Then a dampness, caramel, early maple, became increasingly more and more yeasty yoghurt, even the phrase ‘baby puke’ was used, honey, after some time a little orange zest, aside from the predominant yoghurt quality, overall easy on the nose
  • Palate – Mild, flat, shockingly astringent for only 40%, then settled into a simple, inoffensive, bland whisky with just a bit of almonds, hint of figs and plums or a generic fruit
  • Finish – Sweet and simple, slight hint of cinnamon

We decided to be kind… So we came up with phrases like “not offensive” and “much nicer than the 1st” (Glencadam 15 year)… to be countered by the opinion of a novice who admitted “while it is easier to drink, the Glencadam was a bit more interesting.”

So talk turned to the heat… and how for a climate like Mumbai, we should be considering what whiskies work best for our environment. Why having with a cube of ice considered ‘verboten’ in most whisky afficianados is the standard approach here in India.

And more importantly, concluded this might be the kind of ‘drinkable whisky’ to sip, with ice, and not be distracted or horrified at shocking the character and quality of the dram with a cube or two.

Much like the Glencadam, this wasn’t my first tryst with this particular Glenlivet. Our original Mumbai tasting group sampled it blind… and it didn’t meet muster with that malty lot either.

Also from our Night With Glen:

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Whisky Ladies “A Night with Glen”

For the Whisky Ladies June session, we decided to spend “A Night with Glen”… or more precisely:

Now, the Whisky Ladies tend to be a discerning bunch with adventuresome tastes, so this was a departure from our more off-beat explorations.

The evening was sparked by the acquisition of the lesser known Glencadam, followed by a gift of the Glenlivet, a reminder that we had earlier intended to do a Glenmorangie night so had the start of a collection… and voila! A theme was born.

Other tasting experiences with some “Glens” include:

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