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.

Tune in over the next few days to see what we thought of our night with these Glens.

Earlier tasting experiences with some “Glens” include:

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Undisclosed Distilleries – Again!

A few months back I shared a trio of whiskies with our original tasting group – each did not disclose the distillery.

My original intention was to immediately share the same whiskies with our Bombay Malt & Cigar group… we had a wait a few extra months and by the time the evening arrived, I managed to add a 4th undisclosed distillery bottle to the mix – what fun!

And challenged the gentlemen to attempt to guess the possible distillery…

Wilson & Morgan “Highland Heart” Sherry (2006/2015) 43%

We began with the delicious sherry delight…

  • Nose – Sherry, berries, bannoffee cream pie, lots of cherries, delicious orange marmalade, prune, dark chocolate
  • Palate – Malty, biscuits, Ghanna bitter chocolate
  • Finish – Beautiful, long, round finish
  • Water – Opens up more but not required

We found it warm, fruity, luxurious and utterly delicious… there is a rich robustness to this whisky which belies its mere 43%.

And the guesses? From Glenrothes, to Glendronach to Aberlour… none suspected Macallan.

Sansibar Islay 8 year (2007/2015) 52.2%

We moved on to Islay…

  • Nose – Sea breeze Islay, sweeter honey notes, some iodine, peat and then peppermint
  • Palate – Cinnamon spice, chewy, velvet and smoke
  • Finish – A lovely finish, peat, bitter cinnamon that ends on sweet
  • Water – Had a bit of a debate – yes or no – with a complete divide on whether we preferred with or without water. Some found it made it sharp and sour whereas others thought it tamed it into sweet submission.

Interestingly, while the Wilson & Morgan seemed stronger and richer than 43% the Sansibar didn’t give a hint of being cask strength.

And the guesses? It was more a process of elimination… everything it was not and only a ‘maybe’ Ardbeg… firmly in the ‘Well it isn’t…’ category was Lagavulin. Oops!

Port Askaig 19 year 50.4%

  • Nose – Wow! Sweet stewed fruits, pears, with a restrained peat, wet rag, white sugar cane as it opened revealed hazelnuts and cream
  • Palate – Oily resin, smooth as silk with a subtle smoke
  • Finish – Sour bitter sweet
  • Water – With a few drops simply made is spicier. With a generous dollop brought out a perfume smoke. Again – opinions were divided between preferring with water and those who thought it best absolutely without a drop

It has a simple yet interesting nose, a complex palate, with a sweet finish.

And the guessing game? Perhaps Bunnahabain, Bruichladdich… certainly not Caol Ila!

Finlaggan Cask Strength 58% 

  • Nose – Pudding, overripe bannoffee pie, coconut, Jamaican sugar cane, lemon curd, nutmeg, spice, dry leaves and hay, vegetable
  • Palate – Peppery peat,
  • Finish – Smokey bitter ash chased by cinnamon sweet
  • Water – It softened the whisky considerably, bringing out juicy fruits – particularly peaches

Final guesses? After an initial speculation may perhaps be Caol Ila, Bowmore… settled on Laphroaig.

If you are curious, check out what I found originally:

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The elusive Longmorn 16 year 48%

Once upon a time, a fabulous Mumbai based gal pal and I would alternate picking up a bottle of Longmorn 15 year then the 16 year as a reasonably affordable duty free dram. We certainly had a few good evenings spent over this whisky.

So it was only logical to consider acquiring a bottle to share with the Whisky Ladies. However… we COULD NOT track down a Longmorn 16 year. It had simply disappeared. All our various ‘whisky mules’ in far flung corners of the world also had no luck!

Until one rainy afternoon in Singapore I was on a quest for a fellow Mumbaiker for something else and found myself at Century Cellars. My eye spied a single Longmorn amidst a wide range of whiskies. The store manager admitted she had actually ordered it by mistake and it was the last bottle.

I immediately messaged my friend “You want?” (Knowing full well she was in the process of wrapping up life in India to move to Canada). And the answer after a few seconds consideration was “You bet!”

The thing is, when we pulled this out after the rather delicious Bowmore White Sands with the Whisky Ladies, it was simply too rough and I’m afraid it missed its mark.

So the bottle went home to my friend and I kept  a wee sample to revisit.

As the evening I pulled it out was unpleasantly warm, I first put my mini bottle in the freezer. Then poured a chilled dram and gave myself over to the experience… would it come close to the memories of amused conversations with my friend about life, the universe and everything?

 

Longmorn 16 year 48%

  • Nose – A bit woodsy, fresh spice  bourbon, as it opened but took on a lovely custard and lightly fruity minty quality
  • Palate – Initially comes on strong, with spice and an alcohol ‘oomph!’. Then starts to reveal light crisp fruits like apples and pears, cinnamon toast, alternating between sweet and a chewy bitterness almost edging on a hint of peat, some spice, it has substance, perhaps not entirely balanced but enough elements to make it interesting
  • Finish – Wood, a bit of bitter chocolate, dry…

Yes it initially comes across as a bit rough, but as you settle in giving it more time to open up, it becomes more and more enjoyable. I had enough in my sample to let it sit and found after 15 minutes or so it became much fruitier with oranges, capsicum, a curl of light leather and overall significantly more approachable.

And with a dash of water? Any roughness gone completely. Lots of fruits, even berries, from a dram that initially was a tad unbalanced, every element came together in harmony.

In short, if you rush it – you will completely miss what makes this actually more than just a decent dram. This is one to wait, give a bit of time… While there is nothing overly fancy, there is much more going on than at 1st appearance with the lovely chewy spicy fruity dimension that is most enjoyable.

Let’s be clear… this is the ‘old version’ not the ‘reinterpreted‘ version. From traditional brown to purple boxes… I was rather amused to walk into Singapore airport after feeling victorious in tracking down the elusive Longmorn 16 year to see its new avatar proudly displayed – with a steeper price tag!

And the memories? Yes… this whisky will always be associated with my friend who is now happily in the process of getting settled in Canada. So it was worth saying a final whisky farewell with the Longmorn 16 year!

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Royal Brackla 16 year 40%

After our miniatures trio, we decided to change things a little… and moved our attention to a Royal Brackla 16 year – simply as it was open and I’d never tried. Reason enough!

Royal Brackla is better known as a component in Dewar’s or Johnnie Walker… however like many whiskies is now stepping out of the blend shadows to show off its single malt avatar to the world.

This was my 1st encounter… and what did we find?

Royal Brackla 16 year 40%

  • Nose – Balsa wood, a bit dry, then shifts into wet forest, mushrooms, whiff of being on an old boat with a bit salty mouldy moisture. After time takes on a light banana cream pie,
  • Palate – Smooth, ginger spice, almost like a tic tac freshness
  • Finish – Not much to speak of…

Overall? It was initially difficult to get past the ‘watered down’ sense that comes with many 40% whiskies. There also is certainly nothing particularly ‘regal’ about this whisky….

However when the tantalizing aromas of food wafted our way and we could resist no longer… we made a terrific discovery. This was a food whisky – something easy to drink that goes well with nibbles.

Our conclusion? Put it in the category of “bar and food whisky.”

And there is certainly space enough out there for such dramsl!

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Minis – Inchmurrin Madeira Finish 46%

My host and miniature sipping cohort unabashedly admitted this particular bottle was picked up purely because of the distillery name – Loch Lomond – and its association with a fictitious whisky that would regularly make its appearance in Tintin comics as a favoured drink of Captain Haddock!

Regardless of inspiration, it was good to have an opportunity to sample an Inchmurrin with Madeira finish!

Loch Lomond actually produces whiskies under a range of names – Craiglodge, Croftengea, Inchfad, Inchmoan, Old Rhosdhu – of which Inchmurrin is only one and known for only containing whisky from the pot stills with rectifying heads.

Loch Lomond is also a relatively newer distillery – 1st opened in 1966 – with the ability to produce both malt and grain whisky plus use three different types of stills – two traditional pot stills, four ‘Lomond’ stills and one column still.

And what did we find?

Inchmurrin Madeira Finish 40%

  • Nose – Instant iodine when freshly opened that quickly disappeared to reveal dry cherry wood, cranberries and sour red cherries, became increasingly sour but not in a bad way – more tart than anything else
  • Palate – Surprisingly soft light cherries, sharper if you took a big swig, yet overall fruity
  • Finish – Light sweet spice

Overall we decided this is a ‘day drink’, not complex, not challenging, yet it was also edging on being refined and feminine.

We thought perhaps it may be a whisky to enjoy in a hot climate when in the mood for something veering towards sour rather than saccharine sweet. The light cherry quality was actually quite appealing in its own way.

In this case, the underlying light whisky did get a nice ‘boost’ from being finished in fortified Madeira wine cask…

What do the folks over at Loch Lomond have to say?

  • Nose – Fresh citrus orange bursts on the nose giving way to almond marzipan comes through with nutmeg.
  • Palate – Velvet smooth and welcoming on the tongue. Fruity character of peach and fig is overlaid with rich butterscotch and delicate walnut.
  • Finish – Long finish, dry grape tannins and oak, lingering nuttiness.

What did we try in our miniatures session?

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Minis – Glengassaugh Torfa 50%

This particular peated Glenglassaugh and I had a rather unpleasant 1st experience two years ago…. hence I deliberately decided to keep an open mind to try again and see – better, ok or gasp! worse??

What did we think of the Glenglassaugh Torfa 50%?

  • Nose – Smoke – quite acrid then more ash, cured meat, salty, sour, dish rag
  • Palate – Sweet, oily, a bit chewy, then peat, a little cinnamon spice slipped in and it became increasingly sweet
  • Finish – Like chewing on a cinnamon stick, dry, peat

As we found Evolution benefited from being set aside and revisiting, we did the same with the Torfa. All we got was peat, sweet and spice.

In principal I like the idea of having a nearly cask strength whisky i.e. 50%. I also enjoy a good peated whisky too.

And.. at least this time I didn’t get cleaning solvent as I did back in 2015!!

Perhaps I need to wait another 2 years… or more… and see what these folks come up with.

However, for now, while happy to revisit and certainly not the disaster I remember from two years ago, it simply isn’t my kinda dram and I’m not going to be running out to buy anything from Glenglassaugh anytime soon.

What do the folks over at Glenglassaugh have to say?

At Glenglassaugh, in addition to the traditional production, we also produce a very limited quantity of whisky using richly peated malted barley as the cereal varietal. The malted barley has been dried in the traditional way, over peat infused kilns, giving the whisky its unique smoky flavour. Glenglassaugh ‘Torfa’, with its peaty, phenolic nature, is a unique expression, and is quite different to the usual style of whisky produced in the Highlands.

  • Colour: Gleaming yellow gold.
  • Nose: Vivid, sweet, sooty campfire smoke and sea air infuses zest of lime, apricot jam and ripe soft fruits; all gently warmed by hints of stem ginger and cracked black pepper.
  • Palate: An eloquent, sweet coastal peat smoke engulfs candied peel over melon, pineapple and roasted red apples. Oat biscuits, hints of heather honey and a gentle cigar box spice all combine to give a terrific balance to the expressive smoky character.
  • Finish: A heady, yet elegant, harmony of distinct coastal peat and striking spiced fruit flavours.

What else did we try in our miniatures session?

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Minis – Glenglassaugh Evolution 50%

What happens if a distillery was founded (1875), closed (1908), re-vamped and re-opened to be used in blends (1960), completely mothballed (1986) then opened again (2008), release into the market spirits immediately and then manages to be sold (2013)?

Welcome to Glenglassaugh’s illustrious past of operating only approx 1/3 of its history! However there is hope since BenRiach Distillery Company took over – a most respectable brand along with its other distillery GlenDronach. With Rachel Barrie more recently being added to the equation, let’s see what happens next!

However for now… we have two NAS expressions to sample – Evolution and Torfa – both bottled at a bold 50%.

What did we think?

  • Nose – Initially sour curd, wet cereals, old banana, musty & dusty, soaked oats, even in the sweet there is a little sour like sour mash, a bit grassy, porridge with honey
  • Palate – Dry, light spice, bitter yet sour
  • Finish – Bitter
  • Water – Add a dash and we were ‘rewarded’ with rotten fruit

We began to joke it was like having a great mouth disinfectant. Not something you would choose to sip but maybe swish around for the medicinal benefits.

Had we not left it alone to breath, would have overall been rather scathing with this one.

However our revisit was interesting – salty caramel, toffee & fudge – sweet and much less bitter than earlier. There was also a sharp tingle on the nose like industrial metallic. Still not great but it managed to redeem itself a little.

What do the folks over at Glenglassaugh have to say?

Glenglassaugh Evolution is created by maturing the whisky in a unique combination of the finest hand-picked ex-Tennessee first-fill whiskey barrels. This expression shows great depth of character and finesse, a harmonious combination of whisky and oak. Bottled at 50%, natural colour and non chill filtered, Evolution represents the heart of Glenglassaugh’s distinctive personality, and indeed the landscape in which it is set.

  • Colour: Crisp harvest gold.
  • Nose: A luscious syrupy combination of sweet barley, delicate pineapple and waves of soft buttery vanilla. Deeper oak spices and caramelised pear develop and warm the nose.
  • Palate: Robust, white peppery oak floods through crisp green apple and freshly cracked barley. A gentle salted caramel emerges alongside hints of ripe banana and fruit salad syrup.
  • Finish: A vibrant combination of classic oak spices and delicate soft fruits surrounded by fragrant waves of vanilla pod.

Sorry… rewind? Seriously? Were we having the same whisky?? “Depth of character and finesse”??? Had we not given it considerable time to breath, we would have missed the salty caramel… however it is hard not to be cynical reading the marketing speak.

All I can say is this – I hope for better in a few years. Much better.

What else did we try in our miniatures session?

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Minis – Glenglassaugh Evolution + Torfa, Inchmurrin

After a few months hiatus, our miniatures sessions are back!

This time we decided to explore a revived discontinued distillery (Glenglassaugh) and a whisky my cohort couldn’t resist… having grown up with Tintin tales of Loch Lomond whisky (Inchmurrin)…

For my part, I was keen to revisit a freshly opened bottle of the Torfa, having had a rather negative 1st experience a few years ago at Quaich in Singapore. And was equally curious what else Glenglassaugh had to offer. As for Inchmurrin? I had no pre-conceived notions… however found our tryst with Pendryn’s Madeira sufficiently interesting to be curious to compare.

The minis were followed by Royal Brackla 16 year 40%… just because it was already open and I hadn’t tried it yet… a most acceptable justification! Turned out to be a great food accompaniment.

Other miniatures sessions:

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Miltonduff 21 year (1995/2016) 45.8%

Just like the Glentauchers, I first flirted with Miltonduff as part of a set of 17 year old Ballantine‘s blends ‘featuring’ variations that focused on exploring the component distilleries.

It was by far our favourite of that quartet and again this ‘lighter touch’ flight at The Single Cask in Singapore too!

Miltonduff 21 year (07.02.1995/22.02.2016) 45.8% Bottle 169

  • Nose – Lovely almond nutty quality, creamy nougat, then a light tobacco chew, a dash of spice and a slightly woodsy element
  • Palate – Much more substance than the other whiskies sampled in the flight – dark dry fruits, chocolate, toffee, well balanced
  • Finish – Yum! With a shifting character between sweet caramel to tobacco then chocolate… Fabulous!

What can I say? I really wish I had more than the mini pour! It was delicious – the kind of whisky that makes you want to sit back, relax and enjoy, slowly sipping and savouring. There is substance, well rounded and while not heavy, there is more than enough going on to keep you interested.

For my sampling companion, there was zero doubt this was the ONLY whisky of the quartet to his palate preferences.

Here’s what the folks over at The Single Cask have to say about this Miltonduff (SG$404.60):

Founded in 1824 and also currently owned and operated by Pernod Ricard, Miltoduff is one of the signature whiskies alongside Glentauchers which plays and important part in shaping the character of the Ballantine’s brand of blended Scotch whisky. The whisky from Miltonduff is also used in the Chivas Regal range.

  • Nose: The most mature of the four. Spicy, dark and woody. A very inviting nose redolent with toffee, glazed red fruit and a touch of cocoa. Charcoal and tannins, a tin of furniture wax.
  • Palate: Lots of thick caramel and red cherries. The dark and spicy theme continues. Rye bread, more char and deeply polished wood. Good mouthfeel.
  • Finish: Luxuriant and rich. Almost a light dessert in itself.

Would I agree? Most certainly!

Related posts:

Sampled as part of a whisky flight at The Single Cask together with:

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