North Star Discovery – Glenrothes, Ardmore + Islay

There is something so fabulous about being truly surprised.

Which is why our original Mumbai tasting group keeps to its habit of tasting blind. Sometimes we reveal each whisky immediately after tasting, other times we wait until we have sampled all three whiskies.

In this case, it was after tasting all three drams and what a reveal! Why?

As it introduced North Star Spirits, a new independent bottler based in Glasgow. Starting in just 2016, we understand it is a “one man” operation by Iain Croucher, earlier part of A.D. Ratraay group.

Interestingly, he has a distribution relationship in Germany with Sansibar – which is another independent bottler that caught my attention recently for its ability to spot good casks for relatively reasonable rates.

My photos do not do justice to their packaging which is …

What did we sample?

  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Glenrothes 20 year (Oct 1996/Oct 2016) 54.6% 1 of 252 bottles
  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 57.1% 1 of 198 bottles
  • North Star’s Cask Series 002 – Islay 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles

Unfortunately North Star bottles have already captivated attention that it is best to pre-order online as they seem to be snapped up quickly!


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Chieftain’s Choice 22 years (1993/2015) 52.7%

There are an increasing number of independent bottlers putting out single malts with the distilleries kept deliberately undisclosed. In this case, the bottle was part of Chieftain’s Choice, from Ian Macleod, which tend towards rare whiskies  – be it the distillery such as ones that are now closed, age or something specific that makes it unique.

Chieftain’s Choice 22 years (1993/2015) 1st Fill Sherry Cask No 3612 52.7%, 579 Bottles 

  • Colour – Bright ruby
  • Nose – Pure sherry bomb – in every way. Press hard and the different dimensions of prunes, raisins, bitter, rum soaked tart, stewed brandied fruit, then even sweet almond milk is revealed.
  • Palate – Honey sweet with spice then pure sweet with some tannic woods – again perfect sherry balance
  • Finish – Exceedingly sweet

We pronounced it “Pure desert!” And while it reminded us a bit of a Glendronach, that is pure speculation and we could be off completely.

What do we know for certain beyond it being matured in a 1st fill sherry cask? Only that it is from Speyside… and it is an exceptionally good example of an unadulterated sherry cask.

If ever anyone is able to share more, we would be most curious to know!

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An evening with Krishna Nakula

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we meandered through a malty mix.. with our evening featuring a duo from Amrut!

Added to the mix was an amiable amble through the contrasting:

Plus a sniff and swish through:

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Whisky Lady – May 2018

May had some terrific sessions! All three Mumbai based tasting groups met plus we had a few extras too! Plus I had a chance to catch-up on previous tasting sessions notes as well.  Read on…

All three tasting groups met, with most notes to follow next month…

The Whisky Ladies enjoyed a theme of “Northern Lights” exploring:

Whereas our original group tasted two Highland drams and an Irish pot still whiskey:

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, I took them on a European Tour with:

In addition to our normal tasting evenings, we were fortunate to have a few industry extras in April and May with:

  • An evening with Caitlin Hill, Brand Ambassador for Bruichladdich and Botanist over a  quartet of cocktails and food pairing*
  • An evening with Stuart Harvey, Master Blender for IBHL with Balblair 05, 99, 00 and Speyburn 15 year*
  • An evening with Samantha Peters, Digital Marketing for IBHL with Speyburn 10 year 43%, Balblair 05 46%, Old Pultney 12 year 40%*

Which was augmented by a terrific evening at KODE with Keshav Prakash featuring a trio from the Vault Collection – Compass Box Asyla, Kilchoman Machir Bay and Edradour Caledonia.

In May, tasting notes were shared for our original club’s April session featuring The Vault Fine Spirits Collection, ably penned by our Guest Writer Nikkhil:

There was also a Minis evening playing around with finishes:

An informal evening with a few friends resulted in revisiting a few drams and sampling for the 1st time Shelter Point Cask Strength 2017 Winter Release 57.2% (Bottle 594/1088)

And for a final bit of “catchup”, back in March, the Whisky Ladies took a  remarkable “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia:

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

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Vault Collection – Benromach 10 year 43%

Next up in our original club’s “The Vault Collection” trio was a single malt from the Speyside region. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 2: Benromach 10yr 43%

  • Color: Gold
  • Nose: Red fruits, buiscuity and an immediate waft of gentle peat smoke. Lovely! With time honey ham, lightly smoked apples and sweet meats. Something immediately familiar about this one.
  • Palate: Lovely sweet sherry notes with the gentlest lick of peat. I’m a sucker for this style and balance. Nice mouthfeel despite the low abv. That irresistible sweet savoury note of a bacon and honey combo! Lots of complexity for a 10yr old and top class stuff. This is just a breath behind the Kilkerran 12 which is saying a lot. Now only if it were bottled at 46% and naturally presented!
  • With Water and 20 mins rest, lovely notes of coconut, roasted walnuts and gentle spice along with light bonfire smoke.
  • ​Finish: ​Long with smoke that just lingers along with sweet sherry fruits.

Our guessing game to reveal?

This was a class Scottish act and all of us were unanimous on that. There was a tossup between Benriach and Benromach. One member was bang on with Benromach and sure enough it was that. It just proves yet again that if the focus is on quality and if it is followed up with the right decisions in production (local barley, long fermentation times, top quality wood) then it’s very hard not to have a cracking dram on your hands. It is little or no surprise that the distillery is owned by Gordon & Macphail who in my opinion are the finest independent bottlers in Scotland. Keep up the good work!

Official notes:

  • Nose: Rich sherry with fruit & nut chocolate, delicate spice, green apples, malty biscuit and a touch of light peat smoke.
  • Palate: Juicy raspberries and brambles, sherry, creamy malt and a light peat

The Vault Collection trio:

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Whisky Lady – April 2018

Another marvellous malty month! Where all three tasting groups met… and I unforgivably missed one! However made up with more whisky adventures.

So what all mischief did we get up to in April?

Photo: The Whisky Barrel

The absolute highlight was a once in a lifetime opportunity to try a 64 year old whisky!

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar group explore Lost Distilleries Trio from the Classic range:

  • Towiemore 43% The evening favourite – think apple crumble meets malt!
  • Gerston 43% Seaside brine, bitter sweet, peat and spice
  • Stratheden 43% Humid, citrus, chocolate… long finish

Whereas our Whisky Ladies Islay Adventures

Plus a few interesting evenings:

Plus a set of no less than seven Gin gin gins!

The balance of the month’s posts were all catching up on earlier tasting sessions…

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents explored whiskies from Japan:

Our original club’s revisited:

And the last fleeting impression from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

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

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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 Tour” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia:

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

Our original club did a revisit with:

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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