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?

  • Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Shackleton “The Journey” 47.3%
  • Tobermory 15 years 46.3%
  • Highland Park’s Valhalla Series “Thor” 16 year 52.1%

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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McClelland’s Speyside Single Malt 40%

During my last trip to Canada, I caught up with one of our Mumbai Whisky Ladies who moved to Canada. Naturally our evening turned to a sip or two. Of late, her preferences have leaned towards lighter Speyside drams.

One was from a familiar distillery – Auchentoshan – though an expression not yet reviewed – American Oak…

The other was new to me – McClelland’s Speyside, started originally as a blender, now part of the Morrison Bowmore distillers.

The thinking behind the McClelland’s range is to explore the ‘character’ of key whisky distilling regions –  launched in 1986 with an Islay, Highland and Lowland expressions  and joined in 1999 by this Speyside expression.

They describe a Speyside whisky character as being:

Speyside malts are sweet and fruity;
sometimes delicate, sometimes rich and robust.
Always complex.

And while I did not take detailed notes, my recollections were of:

  • Nose – Honey, light fruit and florals, fresh, sweet
  • Palate – Light spice, slightly nutty, floral with a oaky slightly bitter quality too
  • Finish – Short

Overall quite pleasant and an easy drinking dram.

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

  • Colour – Honeyed with golden highlights.
  • Body – Light to medium, elegant and balanced.
  • Nose – A fresh invigorating Speyside malt of mint, menthol and freshly cut pine. Traces of fine dark chocolate and a lingering sweet malt aroma.
  • Palate – An initial fibrous sweet nougat essence is complemented by the savoury flavours of brazil and hazelnut. A subtle floral freshness adds a faint perfumed bouquet to the palate.
  • Finish – Short, yet powerful, complex unforgettable.

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Peat Unusual – BenRiach 25 year Authenticus Peated 46%

Last in our “Peat Unusual” evening was the beauty that inspired the evening in the 1st place! To recap, the goal was to sample peaty whiskies – other than Islay – that did not neatly follow conventional expectations of a Peaty dram.

Alas my notes from that evening were waylaid… however I had an opportunity to share a few remaining drops in another occasion… so what follows are those impressions.

BenRiach 25 year Authenticus Peated 46%

  • Nose – An initial whiff of surfer that then disappeared. Sherry sweet, peat, medicinal, green apple like a Granny Smith, cranberry juice (the tart kind not cough syrupy sweet type), juicy tart, dried hay
  • Palate – Lots going on, grassy and herbal, taste like tobacco, coriander seeds, light rancio, unmistakable peat yet equally rich and robust with other dimmensions too
  • Finish – Whiff of smoke, fabulously long and lovely

Overall we found it to be a brilliant dram. Complex, nuanced, mature and having a sophistication few whiskies achieve.

To put it mildly, this whisky was in a completely different league than the others.

And what do the folks over at BenRiach have to say?

  • Appearance: Bright, warm amber gold.
  • Nose: Elegant aromas of ripe pineapple, fresh mountain herbs and a profusion of sweet peat. A huge pungent blast of peat smoke emerges, partnering the peated element perfectly. Full bodied and audacious.
  • Palate: A fantastic fusion of rich peat and smouldering embers bound together by fresh herbs – oregano, aniseed and chicory in particular. A rush of sweet, wild honey provides a lovely contrast to this lively, intense expression.
  • Conclusions: Terrific weight and development which leaves a powerful long lasting impression on the palate.

I know this whisky was picked up at The Whisky Exchange in 2016 where it can be purchased for approx 225. I was impatiently waiting for the appropriate occasion to try… what a wonderful evening of seated whiskies.

Our “peat unusual” whiskies featured:

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BMC Peat Unusual – Alisa Bay, Ledaig “Very Cloudy”, Loch Lomond Peated, BenRiach 25 Peated

It is finally slipping into “winter” (by Indian standards), with the pollution smog haze rarely lifting, and somehow the weather and climatic conditions seem to be influencing whisky preferences… to peat. And no ordinary peat… an exploration of a few whiskies one would not normally have on the top peat picks list from regions not immediately associated with peat. Because why should our familiar friends over in Islay corner the market when other options exist?

As this was a BMC session, we had no pretence of hiding the bottles… instead merrily dove in to our discoveries eyes wide-open!

Our “peat unusual” whiskies….

Our host shared that it began with the BenRiach 25 year peated… and morphed from there… each selected to be peat with a twist. For example, you don’t typically find BenRiach whiskies peated… Then it continued with Loch Lomond – again not normally peated. So why Ledaig you may ask? By their “nature” Ledaig is Tobermoray’s peaty whiskies. Yes indeed. However the “Very Cloudy” Vintage 2008 is known to have a lighter dusting of peat rather than full force peat. And Alisa Bay? Not only is it newer to market as a single malt, it breaks with typical Lowland convention to combine peat with sweet…

Read on over the coming days to see what we found…

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A’bunadh Batch #52 (2015) 60.5%

During our December sampling session, one of our fellow tasters brought along an Abelour A’bunadh. It is remarkable to  realize they are on to batches in the 50s… and soon to hit 60! I still have fond memories of their sherry bombs of the 20s…

But  on to this one… what did we think?

Abelour A’bunadh Aberlour A’bunadh Batch No 52 (NAS 2015) 60.5%

  • Nose – As expected – a complete sherry bomb, lots of chewy black cherries, Christmas cake, dark dried fruits, almost rum like
  • Taste – Christmas cake, a drizzle of caramel, warm and smooth, apply cider, raisins, prunes, robust and bursting with character, a little ginger, creamy and very berry Christmassy
  • Finish – Sweet spice with more of those dark cherries
  • Water – As always, opens up with a generous dollop of water

Worked for us and met every expectation for a Christmas sherry bomb dram!

And what about other Aberlour experiences?

And other drams sampled in our chilled out evening?

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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 few swallows, 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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