Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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The remarkable Glen Grant 64 year (1949) 40%

No… that is not a typo… that really is 64 years… as in matured for 64 years… with the new make spirit laid to rest in first fill sherry butts in 1949. A piece of whisky history with the clocks turned back.

And I had a chance to sample it completely blind… no clue what I was trying or how exceptionally rare such a dram is.

Glen Grant 64 year (24/11/1949 –  6/6/2014) Cask 2200 + 3185 40%

What did my wee sniff, swish and savour sampling reveal?

  • Nose – Old wood varnish, betel leaf, peach pit, drizzle  of maple syrup, ripe fruits, specifically then shifted into roasted pineapple and a bit of jackfruit, red wine tannins, a bit yeasty, those sweet and sour, tart and tangy Chinese (Li Hing Mui) or Japanese (Umeboshi) dried plums, a hint of old leather
  • Palate – What have I discovered? A bit bitter with elements rarely found like hing, then shifts into raw mango powder or unripe guava, some tamarind, like bhel puri masala, yet no spicy “pepper” heat, continued that sweet element with substance yet truly tangy too, remarkable
  • Finish – After a simply marvellous nose, interesting palate, the finish was surprisingly light… closing with a puff of smoke

Overall it was a mystery – delicate and unique. Surprisingly tangy yet sweet too. Complex yet not heavy. Clearly old yet had fresh elements also. a kaleidoscope of contradictions… that somehow worked together in weird and wonderful ways.

I kept aside just a few drops to revisit after some time and was rewarded with an exceptional bouquet of fruits, flowers then pine.

The last drop drained, I again set the empty glass aside… and returned an hour later to discover the most glorious perfume! Simply wafting out from the glass. Beautiful.

When we learned this was matured in a 1st fill sherry butt, it was such a surprise. The colour was so light whereas previous brushes with older sherry drams were deep and dark – like the Glendronach 39 – 42 year.

It also is a complete marvel that after 64 years it could still achieve the min 40% required for it to be called a whisky!

This certainly goes into the category of “once in a lifetime” and I also have to appreciate the work the Gordon + MacPhail team are doing preserving then releasing rare examples of whisky history to the world.

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

Without water:

  • Nose – Delicate Sherry aromas mingle with vanilla, rose water, and violet notes. Hints of burnt sugar, prune, and a lingering marzipan edge develops.
  • Palate – White pepper initially with grapefruit and hints of apricot preserve. Ground coffee and toasted almond flavours are complemented by underlying cigar ash.
  • Finish – Long, floral, and smoky.

With water:

  • Nose – Tropical fruits with pineapple and mango aromas. Subtle beeswax polish notes combine with bonfire embers and an orange zest edge.
  • Palate – Ripe banana, raisin, and fresh grapefruit flavours with a delicate hint of violets complemented by a lingering smoky edge.

Other rare vintages sampled over the years:

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Whisky Live 2017 – Signatory’s Linkwood 8 year and Cambus 24 year

The last in the Whisky Live 2017 sniff, swish and move on was a stop by the Signatory booth. While they had a range of offerings, two caught my eye…

Cambus 24 year (1991/2015) Cask No 55891, Bottle No 431/447 51.9%

  • Nose – Subtle, nuanced, floral with a light perfume, citrus, salted caramel
  • Palate – Simply delicious, nothing harsh, a lovely softness, perfectly executed, honey, vanilla
  • Finish – Herbal spice

Cambus is a discontinued distillery from the Lowlands… one I hadn’t before encountered but would be keen to try more…

Linkwood “Very Cloudy” 8 year (14 May 2008/15 Jun 2016) Bourbon Cask No 800029 – 8000031 40%

  • Nose – Don’t laugh but this had a fruity bubblegum aroma, then light oak, honey
  • Palate – Some spice, ginger bread
  • Finish – Woody, spice

While fleeting impressions, particularly the Cambus stood out… yet both where worthy drams.

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Whisky Lady – March 2018

It is time for a malty monthly round-up! Where all the sessions marched in order, one after the other wish a special bonus evening with Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula.

So where did we begin?

The Whisky Ladies took a “Trans Tasman Trip” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia with:

  • Willowbank 10 year Doublewood 40%*
  • Willowbank 22 year (1989) Barrel No 58 52.8%*
  • Hellyer’s Road Pinot Noire 46.2%*
  • Sullivan’s Cove Double Cask (2008/2015) 40%*
  • Crazy Uncle Moonshine 43%*
  • Plus a bonus birthday dram of Bowmore 1989 “BBQ Mango Salsa” 46% (Wymess)*

Followed the very next evening by the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents exploring whiskies from Japan:

  • Hibiki Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” NAS 43%*
  • Nikka All Malt 40%*
  • Miyagikyo NAS 45%*
  • Hakushu “Distiller’s Reserve” NAS 43%*

Our original club did a revisit with:

  • Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 year 43%
  • Kavalan Solist Sherry S090608029A 58.6%
  • Kilchoman Machir Bay Cask Strength 60%
  • Plus a bonus of Amrut’s Fever Club Con-Fusion 46%

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we ambled through…

March also was a month to catch-up on a few earlier tasting experiences… beginning with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents  Compass Box Quartet!

And more fleeting impressions from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

*Tasting notes coming soon…

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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Whisky Live 2017 – Benromach

Next up in the Whisky Live Singapore speed tasting was Benromach… Once again, missed a chance to speak with someone from the distillery but was still good to reconnect with the Benromach drams.

Benromach 5 year 40% 

  • Nose – Lightly organic, yoghurt, fruity
  • Palate – Very soft, a little spice
  • Finish – Sweet

It was like we were off to a good start! A nice appetizer style dram, whetting the appetite for more to come…

Benromach Organic (2010/2016) 43% 

  • Nose – Guess what? Yup – quite “organic”, fruits, farm fresh
  • Palate – So smooth, warm fruit, fresh, grows on you…
  • Finish – Cereals, spice

The cereals were light, fresh and balanced.

Benromach Peat Smoke (2007/2016) 46% 

  • Nose – What a lovely puff of smoke… not heavy at all
  • Palate – Happy peat
  • Finish – There but not forceful

More Benromach

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Whisky Live 2017 – Gordon + MacPhail’s Balmenach, Linkwood, Ardmore

Gordon & MacPhail never disappoints. And while it would have been nice to have someone from the team at WhiskyLive Singapore like in 2016, their whiskies spoke loud and clear. While just a sniff, swish and move on, it was still terrific to have a quick insight into a trio of lovely drams.

Balmenach (2008/2016) 46%

  • Nose – Grassy, perfumes, crisp apples
  • Palate – Straight forward, spice, fruity, simple yet quality.
  • Finish – Really nice spice finish

Linkwood 15 year 43%

  • Nose – Sherry, floral and fruity
  • Palate – Creamy, well rounded, smooth, accessible. Very smooth… a nice “lazy” dram
  • Finish – Such a delightful happy finish

Ardmore 1997 45% 

  • Nose – Vegetal, leafy tea, light pepper and smoke
  • Palate – Forest, sweet, while not complicated, has a nice easy drinkable quality.
  • Finish – Easy dram

A nice diversion… and a reminder Gordon & MacPhail delivers.

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Explorers – Shackleton, Tobermory, Highland Park Thor

One of the reasons we love tasting blind is we can explore a whisky without being influenced by previous experience with the distillery or marketing paraphernalia. For our February 2018 session, this came in handy… as the theme of the evening ending up being the whisky packaging!

What all did we try?

Did I mention the marketing? Just wait to see the booklets, photos, special boxes and more!

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The Glenrothes Manse Reserve 43%

The whisky that ruled our Whisky LadiesContributors Choice” evening was The Glenrothes … A speyside distillery known for its rich, complex vintages. For some of our whisky ladies this was an introduction, for others a welcome opportunity to revisit a favoured dram.

The Glenrothes Manse Reserve 43%

  • Nose – Caramel, toffee, vanilla, coffee, honey suckle, buttery, sticky bun, gingerbread
  • Palate – Treacle, oily, bread pudding with vanilla sauce, rum raisins with panache, pumpkin pie
  • Finish – Burnt candy orange, allspice

Soooo yummy! Grounded, complex and complete.

After such a super sweet nose, it was so welcome to have more depth on the palate. Like coming full cycle. Clear balance between maturing in ex-Bourbon and Sherry casks.

Their description of “Autumnal fruits, alluring spice” is spot on.

It was a clear favourite with the Whisky Ladies.

And what do the folks at The Glenrothes have to say? Read on…

  • Bouquet: Autumn orchard, custard cream biscuits, fleeting but recurrent floral notes.
  • Palete: Fresh, uplifting, bottled pears, soft alluring spices
  • Finish: Medium length. Refreshingly fruity with uplifting spices

So what did we sample in our Whisky Ladies “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

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Whisky Ladies Contributor’s Choice – Mars Iwai, Glenrothes, Glenmorangie, Bunnahabhain

You would think having one Whisky Ladies session in January would be sufficient… and we certainly had a merry evening combined with the gents to explore Douglas Laing blends with a bonus!

However we decided to skip our February session in favour of a late January one to welcome back for an evening a member who now resides in the US.

We went completely random in whisky choices… only knowing who would be bringing a contribution… nothing else.

So what did we sample in our “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

Photo: Rashmi Dhawani

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Sansibar’s Glentauchers, Spicely Sweet + Smokey Peated

At Whisky Live Singapore 2017, the Sansibar booth was manned by a local bartender who was so passionate about what the folks at Sansibar are doing, it was positively infectious.

Thanks to La Maison du Whisky, I’d already encountered the Islay Malt 8 year and brought it back for a special undisclosed distilleries evening.

Now, as it was at Whisky Live, it means my impressions were fleeting… however enough to cement an opinion that Sansibar is worth continuing to keep an eye on!

Glentauchers 8 year 48.2%

  • Nose – Soft, sweet, lightly elegant
  • Palate – Not just sweetness and light, a bit bitter, toffee, butterscotch raisin
  • Finish – Bitter nuts

Overall this is a light desert in a bottle.

Spicily Sweet 48% – Blended Small Batch, Batch #1 “Sunset”

  • Nose – Very fruity, aaaah… yum!
  • Palate – Smooth, sweet, soft fruits, light spice
  • Finish – Here is where the spice peeps out even more

My initial thought was this is a summer dram – sun soaked fruits – with a name that perfectly personifies its name “spicily sweet”! It was so enjoyable that I thought folks back in Mumbai might enjoy it too. And sure enough, “Sunset” closed an evening exploring independent blends

Smokey Peated 48% – Blended Small Batch, Batch #1 “Signal Fire”

  • Nose – Bacon, wood fire, fruit behind the smoke like pineapple and other tropical fruits
  • Palate – Holy toledo peat! Turbo charged peat yet not in the least harsh, more fruits
  • Finish – Captive ash. No messing with it peat. Bit of a pepper chaser

I thought of the Sansibar Islay Malt 8 year cask strength which brought an elegance to peat. By contrast the “Signal Fire” was unabashed peat.

Quite interesting to try this trio and I planned to return to continue sampling… however all the other whiskies I had hoped to try were polished off. Clearly others found the offerings also appealing.

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