LMdW Artist #8 – Benrinnes 20 year 49.4%

We kicked off exploring the full range of the new La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 with a non-Sherry Benrinnes.

This was a far cry from my first encounter with Benrinnes which was a Single Malts of Scotland bottle of a 24 year old cask strength. That one was harsh and medicinal. And this one? Read on…

Benrinnes 20 year (1995/2018) Hogshead Cask #9063 49.4% (279 bottles)

  • Nose – Started a bit dusty, light fruit, mild and subdued… then started to evolve… even more pronounced fruits, vanilla sponge cake, sweet dry grass
  • Palate – Again soft and mild, gently sweet and exceedingly easy to sip, slightly “rusty”, then a bit spicy
  • Finish – Lightly bitter and nutty, sweet, spice and a bit metallic

Much more enjoyable and interesting than my previous encounter.  When I later read the tasting notes, thought they were rather apt!

As for what it would set you back? SGD395.

And what do the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say?

  • Nose – Refined, complex. At first, the aromatic palette is covered in a thin layer of arnica and peppermint aromas. Then, everything shatters, ceding to notes of green malt, cut hay and incredibly juicy fruits (white grape, canary melon, Louis bonne pepper). The longer it is left to breathe, the more concentrated it becomes. Vanilla pod and acacia honey bring lots of consistency.
  • Palate – Elegant, rich. On the attack, the vanilla pod has developed into a creamy custard and numerous aromatic plants (verbena, sage, rosemary), highlighting its pleasant freshness. The mid-palate is characterized by notes of polish (beeswax, emery cloth) and honey (still acacia). The spicy (grated ginger, cinnamon) end of the palate struts its stuff.
  • Finish – Long, airy. Green almond and fresh walnut appear alongside freshly cut hay. Then, unexpectedly and with originality, it develops notes of green olive and lime. The luscious (sorrel, lemon balm) retronasal olfaction is slightly peppery and sprinkled with a few grains of salt. The empty glass faithfully reproduces the medicinal notes of the initial nose, adding cocoa bean and praline.

—-From LMdW website transition from French.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 sans Sherry

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Whisky Live 2018 La Maison du Whisky Exclusives – Clynelish + Glenburgie

At Whisky Live Singapore 2018 there were many La Maison du Whisky exclusive bottles…. No surprise given who organized the event!

I tried the Clynelish and Glenburgie side-by-side in the VIP room…

The Glenburgie was selected by Florian Were for the 50th anniversary of La Maison du Whisky which was started on 20 rue d’Anjou, part of their Whisky Chronicles series.

Glenburgie (1995/2018) Cask #6542 55.6% (LMdW 20 rue d’Anjou) Limited 221 Bottles

  • Nose – Light and bright, some lovely fruits – particularly peaches and apples
  • Palate – Warm and comforting, tropical fruits and a hint of leafy tobacco
  • Finish – Beautiful and long with a lovely spice and hint of cocoa

Even though I only had a wee nip, it was utterly delightful and certainly a style I appreciate. I would have loved an opportunity to come back for more of this…

Clynelish (1997/2017) Cask #6922 55.8% (LMdW)

  • Nose – Lovely light crisp fruits like apples and pears, nicely fresh
  • Palate – The aromas follow through on the palate, dripping with honey and fruits
  • Finish – A bit of spice, more than expected given how initially delicate and light it was on the palate

Again, easy and accessible with enough character to make you pay attention. Incredibly balanced and deceptive as didn’t come across as cask strength.

What an enjoyable pair… both were simply unique bottles to sample and not available for purchase. Clocking in around 23 and 20 year for single casks at cask strength, this was clearly a case of trying  “once” not more…. however if you do come across either and enjoy lighter more nuanced styles, take advantage of the opportunity!

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Gordon and Macphail’s Mannochmore 18 year 46%

At Whisky Live 2018 in Singapore, the Gordon & MacPhail booth is a great opportunity to sample fine whiskies and then possibly select one that might make it home to Mumbai for others to try.

The Mannochmore was very much in the running given our Mumbai tasting group’s haven’t yet sampled a whisky from this distillery.

This whisky is part of their Connoisseurs Choice range and I had only a small “speed date” style sniff and swish to discover a feel for the dram.

Mannochmore 18 year (23 August 1999 / 16 July 2018) 46% Refill Sherry Butt 10686, 670 Bottles

  • Nose – An overt Sherry, loads of raisins, noughat
  • Palate – Oak, dry, sweet spices with a citrus twist
  • Finish – A nice spice, more wood and something else

There was no doubt it was matured in a sherry cask… It certainly was interesting. But was it one to bring back to Mumbai?

I had only a wee nip for a passing impression – enough to know would like to revisit yet also sufficient to prefer to pick up in a less pricey market. At La Maison du Whisky in Singapore, it would set you back SGD 299.

What do the folks at Gordon & Macphail have to say about this whisky?

  • Nose – Full and fruity; aromas of stewed raisins soaked in Sherry, reminiscent of light fruitcake. Sweet marzipan notes complemented with creamy chocolate orange undertones. 
  • Taste – Full-bodied and warming; winter spices mingle with indulgent dark chocolate and clove studded orange flavours. Hints of rich plum jam and dark brown sugar lead into candied cherries.
  • Finish – Hints of tobacco and liquorice linger, fading into oak.

Other whiskies sampled at the Gordon & MacPhail booth, Whisky Live 2018:

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Gordon and Macphail’s Glenlivet 14 year 56.5%

At Whisky Live 2018 in Singapore, the Gordon & MacPhail booth is a great opportunity to sample fine whiskies.

This time, I sampled both in the main section and in the VIP room which featured whiskies like this one – bottled exclusively for La Maison du Whisky.  

Glenlivet “The Chronicles” 14 year (2003 / 20 June 2018) 56.5%

  • Nose – Greeted with lovely fruits – particularly apples and apricots, honey with a sweet light citrus
  • Palate – Spicy, very fruity and eminently drinkable
  • Finish – A slight spice, cream then sweet, like sucking on a delicious hard candy

Keep in mind this was a mere ‘teaser’ at Whisky Live Singapore so not a proper taste, however I was left with the impression of a lovely, most approachable whisky.

And what do we know? The Glenlivet was matured in refill bourbon barrels and bottled by Gordon & Macphail for La Maison du Whisky as part of their Connoisseurs Choice cask strength line.

And what would this set you back? At La Maison du Whisky in Singapore – SGD 299.

What do the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say about this whisky?

Among the favorite single malts of Gordon & MacPhail, the most famous Scottish independent bottler, undeniably figure Glenlivet. What’s more natural when you know that this venerable house is based in Elgin, the capital of Speyside. Very representative, this version invites us to discover a complex aromatic and gustatory palette within which fruits, flowers, spices and aromatic plants intertwine to unveil the landscapes of the region where it was born.

  • Profile: concentrated, the first nose is marked by candied fruits (lemon), peppermint, acacia honey and vanilla.
  • At aeration, it becomes floral (hyacinth) and grass (straw). Powerful, the attack on the palate is extremely fruity (pineapple, pear).
  • The mid-palate is spicy and finely wooded.
  • Affirmed, the finish is marked by notes of royal jelly, lavender honey and violet candy.

Other whiskies sampled at the Gordon & MacPhail booth, Whisky Live 2018:

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Gordon and Macphail’s Inchgower 13 year 55.1%

At Whisky Live 2018 in Singapore, I stopped by the Gordon & MacPhail booth with a simple goal – taste a few and decide if one made sense to bring it back home to Mumbai.

Of each, I had only a wee nip – mostly a sniff, swish and move on…

Inchgower 13 year (2005/2018) 55.1%

  • Nose – Coffee beans, toast and toffee, berries
  • Palate – Oak, a bit of spice, fruity jam and then the most fabulous toast, butter and kaya
  • Finish – Had a nice kick, salted nuts, creamy and delicious

Don’t laugh but I couldn’t help but define this whisky in my mind as a particularly yummy kaya toast – crisp perfectly dark golden toast, slathered in butter with that distinctive kaya coconut milk eggs and sugar combined to make an exceedingly tasty jam.

My sampling companion may be Singapore based but it seems this favourite SE Asian breakfast hasn’t made it into his culinary repertoire. Whereas for the young lady serving the whiskies? She immediately got the reference and completely agreed.

That is half the fun of sampling in Asia. Palate parallels are completely apt yet entirely different than what would find in Scotland.

As for this whisky, all through the next masterclass, I kept think of kaya toast whisky with a lovely nutty nougat finish…. so much so that I found myself at the whisky store, perusing the shelves to see if they still had a bottle remaining.

This whisky is part of their Connoisseurs Choice range matured in refill sherry hogshead. As for what it would set you back? At La Maison du Whisky in Singapore, that would be SGD 200.

And obviously, you can tell, this is the whisky that has made its way back to Bombay.

What do the folks at Gordon & Macphail have to say about this whisky?

  • Nose – Delicate Sherry aromas accompanied by floral violets and zesty Seville orange. Undertones of toasted malt evolve with subtle hints of butter candies and toffee. 
  • Taste – Honeyed summer berries made into a tangy strawberry and raspberry jam develop into a slightly drying oak. With time, flavours of creamy hazelnuts and silky dark chocolate emerge. 
  • Finish – Long and lingering fruit and nut chocolate.

Other whiskies sampled at the Gordon & MacPhail booth, Whisky Live 2018:

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Gordon and MacPhail’s Miltonduff 10 year 43%

At Whisky Live 2018 in Singapore, the Gordon & MacPhail booth is a great opportunity to sample fine whiskies and then pic the select one that might just make it home to Mumbai.

This colourful case flags that the Miltonduff is part of Gordon & Macphail’s new Discovery range – intended to explore the distinctive styles of sherry, peat and bourbon. In this case – it is a sherry cask.

My first brush with Miltonduff was part of the Ballentine’s 17 year old special box set featuring different component distilleries. This was followed by a Single Cask 21 year old.

So it was a pleasure to have a chance to try a different avatar in a teasing fleeting taste…

Miltonduff 10 year (2018) 43%

  • Nose – A delightful dry sherry
  • Palate – Stewed raisins and fruit cake
  • Finish – A lovely citrus orange finish

I wish I’d had more time and opportunity to enjoy… However that wee nip was enough to know I would welcome an opportunity to try it again in a proper setting…

And what would this set you back? At La Maison du Whisky in Singapore, SGD 150.

What do the folks at Gordon & Macphail have to say about this whisky?

  • Aroma – Chocolate and sticky orange marmalade transforms into juicy plump stewed raisins and sweet baked apple, freshly cut grass notes delicately balance the rich sherry influences.
  • Taste – Sweet and spicy: comforting butter candies weave with roasted hazelnut followed closely by orange zest, cinnamon, and mouth-warming pepper maturing into plum and fig jam. 
  • Finish – Long with highlights of chocolate and stewed fruit finishing with lingering winter spices.

Gordon & MacPhail at Whisky Live 2018

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Whisky Live 2018 – Gordon and Macphail

At Whisky Live 2018 in Singapore, one booth I simply couldn’t miss was Gordon & Macphail – both on the main floor and the VIP room.

While I didn’t sample everything, I did manage to have a “speed date” with a few remarkable drams…

Gordon & MacPhail at Whisky Live 2018

While the Caol Ila was an absolute stunner, it was clearly well beyond my price range!

Of the balance, the one that both was in my price range and sufficiently different to prioritize for bringing its way back from Singapore to Mumbai was the Inchgower.

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BenRiach 12 year (2005/2018) Sherry Cask No 5052 59.3%

When planning my sherry unusual evening, I wanted there to be variety – hence Irish, Indian and Islay – yet also knew we needed at least one “proper” classic sherry dram.

Enter the BenRiach single cask, single malt bottled for World of Whisky, Heathrow Airport. Now lest you think this was standard travel retail fare, this cask was launched for World Whisky Day in May 2018 for a slightly pricey £120.

Matured in Olorosso Sherry, non-chill filtered with natural colour, we managed to nab bottle 292 of a mere 597… and discovered it was worth every single pound!

BenRiach 12 year (14 Oct 2005/2018) Cask No 5052 59.3% 

  • Nose – Milk caramel sweets, slight citrus hint, heavy toffee, rum raisins, chocolate eclairs…  started to shift into chocolate liquor, dark fruits, nuts… after quite some time there was almost a hint of blue cheese
  • Palate – Gorgeous! Simply a class act. Dark plums, black cherries, rich and simply outstanding. Lovely cinnamon, raisins, complex, so well balanced, every sip a reward.
  • Finish – Huge long flavour. Everything we loved about the palate simply carried through… for an incredibly long time… superb!

There was no doubt this was an exceptional single malt.

Not one of us were tempted to put even a single drop of water. Each sip we enjoyed more… and it kept evolving. By the 3rd we discovered cayenne, by the 4th chocolate, by the 5th the dark fruits again came to the fore… and the next dripping in honey… you get the picture!

This was one worthy whisky that invited you to slow down, take your time, savour each sip and be rewarded with the most marvellously long finish.

A brilliant reminder of what a quality sherry dram can and should be!

BenRiach tasting notes with the bottle:

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Honeycomb, chocolate, honey covered dates
  • Taste – Rich dark chocolate and herbs, honey coated almonds and figs

Here are the whiskies explored in our Sherry Unusual evening:

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Sherry Unusual – Hyde, Paul John, Kilchoman, BenRiach

Sherry’s effect on whisky can be a marvel. And I wanted to do something a bit different for our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents to push the boundaries beyond the known sherry drams like Aberlour, GlenDronach, Glenrothes, etc.

Normally we dive straight into whiskies, knowing what we are trying. However I wanted to have a bit of fun with a surprise…. So kept my fellow tasters “blind.”

Next, I introduced a “reference” pour.

I said nothing about it – merely to smell (not sip) with a request between each whisky to go back to the “reference” to recalibrate senses and compare.

It didn’t take long til they realized the “reference” wasn’t whisky at all but instead a sherry… with speculation it may be a “cream” or sweetened avatar rather than a dry fino or amontillado.

I later revealed that it was a Kingsgate Canadian sherry from KittlingRidge Ontario, Canada  described on the bottle as:

“A premium medium dry sherry, barrel aged in oak for extra smoothness.”

However this Kingsgate is now known as Apera with an explanation that it is medium dry Oloroso sherry “style” dessert wine. This 2013 nod from to EU regulations recognizes that a “true” Sherry can only come from the Spanish triangle.

Which tells you this funny little bottle, inherited from a friend who was leaving India, has been around for a few years…

As for what we tried? Not quite your usual fare…

Here is the progression we explored with our Sherry Unusual evening with whiskies from Ireland, India and Islay…. plus an extra special single cask:

Hyde #6 President’s Reserve 8 year single grain + 18 year single malt 46%

From Ireland, picked as an appetizer, the bottle stated it was finished in Sherry. What made it unusual is that it is a new brand, released to help promote the Hyde name before their Hibernia distillery in Cork is fully producing.

Paul John 7 Year (2009) Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish 57.4%

This was the biggest surprise – none imaged it could be from India! We were mighty impressed with what the folks from Paul John produced with four years in ex Bourbon then 3 years in ex Sherry casks. It also opened up beautifully with a bit of water.

BenRiach 12 year (2005/2018) Oloroso Sherry Cask No 5052 59.3%

A true class act. Selected just to be sure we had at least ONE proper single malt in our evening. Gorgeous and astounding how at 59.2%, not a drop of water was desired.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm (2010/2016) Sherry 46%

A pure peat monster tempered with 100% sherry from Islay. Not everyone’s tipple but certainly demonstrated how peat and sweet can combine!

Just click on the whisky links to find out even more about what we discovered!

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Glen Deveron 20 year 40% matured in Sherry Oak

Last in our Sherry expressions evening was 20 year old whisky from Macduff distillery matured in Sherry Oak.

We first sampled it blind then our host revealed the whisky. Here is what we found…

Glen Deveron 20 year 40%

  • Nose – Initially whiff was pure jackfruit, then sour, lots of sulfur, a bit musty then it started to settle down revealing lots of tropical fruits – particularly pineapple, a bit more sourness in the background, but largely a sweet slightly overripe fruit basket, as it opened up further, it began evolving into a sourdough, almost plasticine element, then bubble gum and sugary cola
  • Palate – So soft and mild, like a vanilla sponge cake or pineapple upside down cake, lemon custard, quite lovely with a light bitterness creeping too as it eased into its finish
  • Finish – Very nutty – particularly hazelnut and part of what made the whisky interesting
  • Water – None were tempted – no need to add even a drop

Though it clearly was low alcohol and hence for many it was a bit too watered down, like sipping sugar water, it was beautiful in its way. Some really appreciated its subtle and nuanced character, even if it was not massively complex.

Key was giving it time to let the initial sulfur dissipate so the fruit sweetness came to the fore. Particularly the palate was pleasing – one even remarked “outstanding.”

And the reveal?

Again a surprise. None would have expected a 20 year old.

Which triggered a reminder of our earlier encounter with this specific single malt – an evening back in October 2014 – remembered as the night a 3 year old Japanese whisky (Chichibu ‘The Floor Malted’ 3 year) outclassed a 20 year old!

This time around, the Glen Deveron got a favourable response from a few who thought it quite pleasant and enjoyed the soft sponge cake flavours on the palate.

Yet it brought us back to our discussion on the critical role played by the cask – both its quality and the number of times it was used and how.

While it says Sherry Oak Casks, this doesn’t actually tell you much. Had it been 1st fill sherry casks, one normally sees this proudly declared. We thought it is much more likely to be a combination of oak (logically American given its affordability) and a 2nd or 3rd fill sherry cask. While pure speculation on our part, it struck us as the right combination to produce the results we found.

Such an approach could be called “Sherry Oak” – as yes there is some “Sherry” – just how much and what fill is indeterminate and equally there is “Oak” – whether it is is ex-bourbon 1st or 2nd or 3rd fill or simply straight American Oak or something else – it is still legitimately Oak.

Not so long ago, this duty free dram could be found for $75. However more recently it made an appearance at Mumbai’s duty free for $125. That shared, you may not find this Macduff’s offering as easily today as you once could as the expression has been discontinued.

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

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