Sinful Samples – Bunnahabhan, Tullibardine, Millstone, Glendronach, Wolfburn

Tis the season to be jolly… and all that jazz! Yet before all the mad social rounds of the season kicked off, we snuck in a completely chilled out informal sampling of samples…

Call it a “Pajama Drams” night, it had no formality just a few folks, more than a few samples to put side by side to provoke some interesting tasting experiences…

What did we try?

It may seem like a prodigious amount for one sitting but we were a disciplined lot… some sniffing, swishing and spitting went on plus a swallows and discarding the balance. Sacralige to some but sensible for us.

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Gordon + MacPhail – Longmorn 2002/2015 43%

Last but certainly not least in our Gordon & MacPhail evening was a whisky from Longmorn.

Longmorn Distillery is found between Glen of Rothes and Elgin. Its name is derived from the Gaelic, Lhanmorgund, which means “place of the holy man”. This is a reference to the church which once stood there. Prior to the distillery being built in 1897, there had also been a grain mill on the site. R.J.S. McDowell considered Longmorn to be one of the top four malt whiskies.

And what did our Whisky Ladies think?

Longmorn (2002/2015) 43%

  • Nose – Baon! Yippee!! Then overripe fruits, creamy custard, nutmeg and such yummy eggnog, a bit of spice, ginger bread, shifted to sweet spices, peanut brittle… all this before the 1st sip!! Then… wool jacket with smoke, more fruits
  • Palate – Curious quality, black liquorice, peppercorn, so sweet, soft tobacco which took a long time to develop… smooth
  • Finish – Musky smoke, comforting wrapping around like a warm blanket with a black liquorice chaser

One remarked how it was like an “elegant man” and a yet also a bit of an old dandy.

I’ll admit I had a moment before we opened the bottle of dread… what if it was a disaster? The last Longmorn we had was less than stellar…  and the Longhorn of old was a character – and a most enjoyable one at that.

And the verdict? A complete hit. Sweet but with substance. Just the right element of a hint of smoke, sweetness from the sherry 1st fill hogsheads.

On the bottle, the notes confirmed it is from 1st fill ex-sherry hogsheads and described as:

Delicate Sherry notes with stewed apples, pear and traces of tobacco. The palate has white pepper initially with banana and orange flavours complemented by a creamy milk chocolate chip.

Here’s what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say on their website:

Without water:

  • Aroma – Delicate Sherry influences with vanilla, stewed apple, and cinnamon spice. Hints of dried tobacco and cream soda are complemented by milk chocolate aromas.
  • Taste – Sweet and creamy initially with mild chilli spice developing. Liquorice, orange zest, and toffee flavours followed by a milk chocolate edge.

With water:

  • Aroma – Delicate Sherry initially with fresh green apple, sweet hay, and banana aromas with hints of toasted pecan nuts.
  • Taste –  Peppery with green apple, grapefruit, and charred oak flavours are complemented by a mouth coating milk chocolate and Brazil nut edge.

Would we agree?

The affordable G&MP trio featured:

This bottle was purchased at The Whisky Exchange for GBP 48 and freshly opened in November 2017 for our Whisky Ladies.

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Gordon + MacPhail – Aultmore 2000/2014 46%

Next up was an Aultmore I’d had the pleasure of sampling this back in October 2015. The original purchase request was for the newer version from 2002 (bottled 2016) at only 43%, however I was so happy to see this one make its way to Mumbai that I kept it to myself!

Aultmore Distillery lies several miles north of the town Keith on the eastern fringe of Speyside. The distillery was established and building commenced in 1895 by Edward Alexander. The distillery initially did well and production was doubled in the first few years. However, the Pattison crash (1899) hit Edward hard as he had been a large supplier of bulk whisky to Pattison. Production continued at Aultmore but times were difficult; closing during WWI with the barley shortage, then Edwards sold the distillery to John Dewar & Sons Ltd in 1923. It was rebuilt when temporarily closed from 1968 to 1971, this time under the auspices of United Distillers, a pre-cursor to Diageo. Then in 1998, Diageo sold the Aultmore Distillery to Bacardi, subsidiary of Dewars – yes back to its earlier owners – in a deal worth more than £1 billion!

Known primarily as an element in blends – initially Pattison, then various for Dewars and others, it has only more recently emerged as a single malt. It should be noted that Aultmore whisky is not matured at the distillery site.

We sampled a 2000 vintage Aultmore bottled by Gordon & Macphail as part of their Connoisseurs Choice range. And what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Aultmore (2000/2014) 46%

  • Nose – Initially very sweet, then spice, baked pear, grassy, wildflowers, fresh meadow, then star anise, fresh mint – almost like paanAfter the 1st sip, a lovely lemon peel, so subtle and nuanced
  • Palate – So much going on… herbal, almost reminiscent of Underberg, though has a thin body, it has such a lovely delicious quality, roast cumin, some darker notes which made it eminently more complex and enjoyable
  • Finish – Brilliant! Spice to chewy bitter back to spice and soooooooo long, as it evolved took on almost a burn match quality
  • Water – Initially punches up the spice, makes the palate fruitier, nicely rounded, with a sweet finish with a hint to bitter to make it interesting

For many, this was the most interesting as its character kept shifting as we settled down and let it evolve.  Each sip revealing more elements, all in subtle harmony.

Aultmore 2000

On the bottle, the notes confirmed it was matured in refill American Hogshead and refill Sherry Hogsheads. They describe it as:

The whisky has herbal and dried fruits aromas with hints of charred oak. On eat palate there is a delicate fruitiness with spices and a touch of oiled wood.

More detailed tasting notes from Gordon & MacPhail are for the 2000 vintage bottled in 2012 not 2014. Here is what they say about the 12 not 14 year Aultmore:

Without Water:

  • Nose – The whisky has herbal, dried apricot and raisin aromas with hints of charred oak.
  • Taste – Delicate fruitiness, with red apple and pear flavours. Festive spices and a touch of oiled wood linger.

With Water:

  • Nose – Toasted malt and sweet summer fruit aromas, blueberry and raspberry. A subtle cinnamon edge lingers.
  • Taste – Peppery and sweet with hints of green apple and plum. Becomes creamy with a smooth milk chocolate edge.

Would we agree?

This bottle was purchased at The Whisky Exchange for GBP 53 and freshly opened in November 2017 for our Whisky Ladies.

The ‘affordable’ G&MP trio featured:

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Gordon + MacPhail – Glendullan 2001/2014 46%

1st up in our Gordon & MacPhail trilogy evening was a bright, light delightful dram from Glendullan.

Glendullan Distillery was founded in 1897, and was the last built of the original seven distilleries of Dufftown. Glendullan was rebuilt in the 1960’s and an additional distillery unit was built between 1971-72. Currently owned by Diageo.

And what did our Whisky Ladies think?

Glendullan (2001/2014) 46%

  • Nose – Light, flowery, a spring breeze and then a balmy summer day, sweet lemon curd, beautiful… after the 1st sip, turned to a honey cinnamon spice, apricot, fresh fruit, crisp applies, caramel shift to wild flower honey
  • Palate – A delightful spice, all rather “grown up” then shifts to candy cane with a light tingle
  • Finish – Really stays…

I was expecting something light bodied, refreshing, likely best had chilled… and sure enough… it was absolutely delightful. A completely “happy” whisky, nothing harsh yet avoided stepping into the territory of cloying sweet. Instead it was nuanced quality, exceedingly drinkable, just warm, lovely doing a sprightly dance on our palate…

On the bottle, the notes confirmed it is from 1st fill ex-bourbon barrels and describes it as:

The whisky has sweet vanilla notes with hints of kiwi and green apple aromas. The palate is sweet with cracked black pepper, lime and orange flavours. These combine with a lingering creamy chocolate edge.

Here’s what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say:

Without water:

  • Aroma: Sweet vanilla with hints of kiwi, green apple and lime. These are complimented by underlying coconut, white chocolate and rose water aromas.
  • Taste: Cracked black pepper with lime, ripe banana and orange zest flavours. These combine with a lingering creamy milk chocolate edge.

With water:

  • Aroma – Vanilla pods with hints of cucumber, green banana and lime zest. A subtle freshly cut grass and cedar wood note lingers.
  • Taste – Ripe banana, pressed apple and melon flavours initially. A delicate trace of vanilla and digestive biscuit develops.

Would we agree? For the most part yes! And for the rest? Who cares… we loved it!

The ‘affordable’ G&MP trio featured:

This bottle was purchased at The Whisky Exchange for GBP 45 and freshly opened in November 2017 for our Whisky Ladies.

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Gordon + MacPhail’s Affordable Trio – Glendullan, Aultmore, Longmorn

I’ve long been a fan of Gordon & MacPhail – finding they deliver consistent quality for value – even in their younger or entry level ranges. I decided to test this by deliberately selecting a few of their most affordable offerings – all around 50 GBP – for a special Gordon & MacPhail evening with the Whisky Ladies in Mumbai.

The purchasing was easy thanks to help of a friend who stopped by The Whisky Exchange in London. The gradual import into India took a bit more time. What required the most patience of all was waiting for an evening to share with the Whisky Ladies!

Two of the whiskies selected were from their “Connoisseurs Choice” range which was started in the mid-1960s by Gordon & MacPhail to bring to whisky aficionados whiskies that were less readily available as a single malt at an overall reasonable price range.

One was from their “Distillery Labels” range using unique distillery designs once used ‘officially’ to bottle the whisky under license from the distillery, now in disuse except through a special relationship with Gordon & MacPhail.

The Whisky Ladies Gordon & MacPhail trio featured:

Fabulous each one in its own unique way…. 

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Glenfarclas Minis – Glenfarclas 25 year 43%

What a unique opportunity to contrast and compare different expressions from the same distillery side-by-side, taking our time to let 1st impressions settle in, more time to sip and consider, then revisit each to consider their commonalities and differences.

Last in our Glenfarclas minis session was the 25 year.

Glenfarclas 25 year 43%

  • Nose
    • Initial wood, varnish with an almost medicinal quality, organic sweet, green chillies that then sharpened – crisp & clean.
    • As it opened more, it took on a hint of vanilla and talcum powder, tart green granny smith applies, then a hint of calvados or apple brandy.
    • After our 1st sip, we found strawberry cheesecake and biscuits, so sweet, some herbal elements like basil or bay leaf, then an unmistakable tart rhubarb pie… only slightly jarring element was a hint of sulfur
    • After setting aside, with the revisit we found a light acrid smoke, like burning sweet grass, cereals, dry and a bit dusty, yet still retaining that green grass quality
  • Palate
    • The initial sip was light old leather with a chocolate chaser
    • Each sip mellowed more – mocha chocolate, so smooth, getting sweeter and sweeter
    • After setting aside, we found the palate had softened further… like being wrapped in a warm blanket
  • Finish
    • More of that chocolate – like chocolate covered espresso beans with sweet, dark chocolate with a bitter twist too…. all muted, with a light restrained spice

While our initial impressions was of a most interesting and enjoyable dram, it really did need time to open up to reveal its full character. We dubbed it the “2nd date whisky” as you needed to take time to get to know it more to really appreciate what you have.

Here’s what the folks over at Glenfarclas have to say:

  • Colour – Amber with dark gold highlights
  • Nose – Complex, yet refined, with tempting aromas of marmalade, honey, freshly ground coffee, sherry and nuts, some oaky tannins
  • Flavour – Full-bodied and robust, the sherry and the oak fight for your attention yet neither overpowering
  • Finish – Intense, long lasting, dry and malty. A beautiful dark chocolate taste at the back of your mouth to complete the 25 year old.

We sampled this whisky in Oct 2017 from a closed bottle purchased from The Whisky Exchange in London as part of a gift pack for approx $50.

What else did we sample in our Glenfarclas minis session?

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Glenfarclas Minis – Glenfarclas 21 year 43%

Next in our Glenfarclas minis session was the 21 year old… We first sampled it as part of a Glenfarclas evening in 2011…. and clearly a revisit was overdue!

Glenfarclas 21 year 43%

  • Nose
    • The initial whiff was varnish… then sour mash, green grapes, vanilla, more subtle warm vapour, light tea.
    • After the 1st sip, strong green tea, organic sweet, some sawdust, wood at the back…. cork even
    • As it continued to open, it revealed light leather, sea breeze
  • Palate – Tea, leather, warm, bitter, very rounded, salty dry with a maritime twist
  • Finish – Nice long leather, slow burn feel, slightly bitter

With the aromas, over time it began to unfurl from a tight nose to reveal multiple dimensions.

We set it aside and revisited after trying all the Glenfarclas miniatures… what then?

  • Nose – Fruits like guava and white fruits like pear, jicama then a sweet perfume shifting into a salty brine
  • Palate – Soft and then sour then bitter, then sweet… overall just an enjoyable soft sweetness
  • Finish – Much more bitter than the original tasting and very dry

Overall we found it very approachable, quite enjoyable. Still had that quite straight forward dimension like the other Glenfarclas, yet with so many more elements.

So what do the folks at Glenfarclas have to say:

  • Colour – Dark amber-gold.
  • Nose – Intense, full of aromas – sherried fruit, tropical fruit, nutmeg and almonds with slight citrus notes at the end.
  • Flavour – Full bodied rich and rounded, develops slowly into fruity and spicy flavours.
  • Finish – Long-lasting and smooth with a chocolate feel at the back of your throat.

We sampled this whisky in Oct 2017 from a closed bottle purchased from The Whisky Exchange in London as part of a gift pack for approx $50.

What all did we sample in our Glenfarclas minis session?

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Glenfarclas Minis – Glenfarclas 105 60%

Next in our Glenfarclas minis evening was the cask strength Glenfarclas 105. First sampled as part of a Glenfarclas evening in 2011, a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 hung out in my whisky cabinet for a few years to be trotted out when only a bold no-nonsense dram would do.

Glenfarclas 105 60%

  • Nose
    • Initial impression is of sweet varnish, sherry stamp, stewed figs, dates and all the dried fruits, like a thick fig jam with seeds, some nutmeg and cinnamon, fermented, sour cherries, walnuts
    • Then showed off aam papad,  dried apricot, black cherry
  • Palate
    • Robust, bursting with flavours, spice, red chillies, cinnamon, fresh ground pepper then sweet
  • Finish – Black peppercorn, sweet and spice
  • Water – Wonderful Christmas Cake qualities, sherry notes

While wonderful on its own, with water it really comes into its own. Where one should wait to let the water and whisky combine to be rewarded with wonderful flavour.

After we set it aside and returned we found:

  • Nose – Sweet tobacco, prunes, cream, dry wood and stewed fruits with custard
  • Palate – Lovely sherry, quite dry, full of Christmasy flavours
  • Finish – Retained the lovely pepper sweetness

Overall we enjoyed its robust, straight forward sherry bomb qualities.

What do the folks over at Glenfarclas have to say?

  • Colour – Deep peaty-gold
  • Nose – Complex, oaky, apples & pears and a tempting dark toffee sweetness
  • Flavour – Dry and assertive, develops quickly to reveal a rich spiciness, combined with a hint of oak and sherried fruit.
  • Finish – Amazingly smooth for the strength, wonderful warming with a lingering spiciness, yet very rounded.

We sampled this whisky in Oct 2017 from a closed miniature purchased from The Whisky Exchange in London for approx $11.

What else did we sample in our Glenfarclas minis session?

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Glenfarclas Minis – Glenfarclas 15 year 46%

What fun – a quartet of Glenfarclas minis to discover! For us… the logical place to begin was Glenfarclas 15 years…

Glenfarclas 15 year 46%

  • Nose – Fresh waff of polish, lemon, wood, astringent like antiseptic whips, a bit raw, citrus malty sweet, very clean
  • Palate – Soft then malty, wildfire at the back and bitter
  • Finish – Quite dry and stays

After we sampled the full set of Glenfarclas minis – the 105, 21 year and 25 year – we revisited the 15 year. What did we find?

  • Nose – Sour ‘baby puke’, herbal, some subtle lemon
  • Palate – SPICE! Top and back… then coated with sweetness
  • Finish – Remains dry

Nice and straightforward. No surprises and no pretence. What you see is what you get. And there is nothing wrong with that.

And what did the folks over at Glenfarclas have to say?

  • Colour – A rich golden amber.
  • Nose – Complex, sherried, light butterscotch aromas, with a hint of dried fruit.
  • Flavour – Full bodied with a superb balance of sherried sweetness and malty tones. 
  • Finish – Long lasting, gloriously sherried, sweet and distinguished.

We sampled this whisky in Oct 2017 from a closed bottle purchased from The Whisky Exchange in London as part of a gift pack for approx $50.

What all did we sample in our Glenfarclas minis session?

  • 105 60%
  • 21 year 43%
  • 25 year 43%

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Glenfarclas 15 year, 105, 21 and 25 year

In 2011, a member of the Glenfarclas family – George S Grant – came to Mumbai to meet with whisky aficionados. Quite a few of us had the privilege of joining an evening at the Four Seasons where we sampled the 12 year, 105, 21 year and the remarkable 40 year!

Fast forward to 2017, fuelled by miniatures shopping at The Whisky Exchange in London, we decided to revisit the Glenfarclas range… this time with the:

Just click on the links above to read what we thought…

Other Glenfarclas tasting adventures:

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