Germany’s Elch Torfduett 50.6%

One of the highlights at the 2022 Schwetzinger Whisky Festival was spending time with the folks from Elch Distillery. The setting was inviting, at the Schloss just outside of Heidelberg. I was captivated by Elch’s cheeky Moose mascot, its use of local elements, and its commitment to the spirit’s craft.

Along the way, sampling various whisky wares, I also developed a weakness for their absolutely fabulous range of liqueurs. Can I just say “Eier Elli” – BEST egg liqueur! They also make a mighty fine Gin – yum!

However, the focus is their whisky and experimentations with German peat. That summer, their peaty Torf vom Dorf was my “pick” of the festival!

As a proud Franconian distillery, not so far from Nuremberg, my friends and I had plans to make a weekend trip – check out the distillery, their gasthof, maybe even their nearby “glamping” set-up. We thought perhaps sometime in the summer 2023.

And then we heard the terrible news of their tragic fire in February – destroying the roof. A terrible setback and much effort lies ahead to rebuild. Naturally, our plans to make a summer jaunt were postponed.

Which was why it was so good to have a chance to check in with the fine folks at Elch at The Village 2023 whisky festival in Nurnberg. They shared their hopes to overcome the challenges and launched two new whiskies were featured:

  • Torfduett – a new entrant to their core range, matured in 90% ex-bourbon barrels and 10% acacia
  • Neustart – a special “reboot” edition at a deliberately higher price to help raise funds to support the rebuild of their brewery and distillery.

My friends sampled several and I just had sniffs of their glasses as it was (alas!) a non-tasting day for me due to dental issues! However, the good folks at Elch took pity, and sent me away from their booth with a wee sample of Torfduett that I decided this fine summery day to crack open!

Elch Torfduett 50.6%

  • Nose – Fresh timber and tires, bay leaf, orchard fruits, sweet spices of clove and cinnamon bark, a hint of toffee, and a whiff of vanilla pod
  • Palate – The peat is more subtle than anticipated, like warm embers rather than a raging forest fire, yet still firmly there, chased by light-baked fruits – mostly pear with green apples too.
  • Finish – Lovely and lingering with a hint of chilies
  • Water – Yes, please! Brings out a delightful cinnamon spice and everything nice

There is something quite “fresh” and green about this one. And a nice new addition to their range – well done!

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That Boutique-y Whisky Company – World Blend, Cotswolds, Macduff, English

After such fabulous fun in Paris and London celebrating That Boutique-y Whisky Co‘s 10th anniversary, I simply had to bring back some for the lasses in Mumbai.

It turned out to be a bit of a slightly random assortment… My initial plan was to do an English whisky theme however could only find two TBWC bottles from merry old England. Then I spotted the World Whisky Blend and couldn’t resist, followed by another TBWC on sale, so thought, what the heck!

So, here is what we tried from That Boutique-y Whisky Co:

We opened them in April 2023, as part of inaugurating our new Mumbai flat. It was a typical sweltering April evening, which is exactly why I wanted to start with a “welcome cocktail” using the World Whisky Blend! A couple of friends came early and we played around with variations on an Old Fashioned with different elements and proportions until we got it “just right”!

So what was our recipe?

And the steps?

  1. Bring together the maple syrup, bitters, orange juice, and whisky in a mixing glass – stir til well mixed
  2. Add the ice, and then stir until well-chilled
  3. Strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube (or several small ice cubes if you don’t have a mega cube – which was the case for us that evening!)
  4. Express the oil of an orange twist over the glass, then drop into the glass to garnish

And if you want a wee bit of fizz, throw in a splash of soda. And voila! Refreshing and fun!

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Germany’s Fading Hill Rye and Peat

At The Village whisky festival in Nurnberg, there was a dizzying array of interesting offerings – with particular attention paid to Germany-based distilleries. For those not familiar, there is an incredibly robust range of whisky-producing distilleries now in Deutschland – many having shifted into Whisky only recently.

In the case of Birkenhof Brennerie, they just celebrated 175 years of making spirits with eight generations of a family-run business!  Based in the northern Rhineland-Palatinate, they’ve also reached a milestone of 20 years of making whisky under the brand “Fading Hill‘.

Whilst they had their own booth at the festival, these particular expressions – two of their core three – came from a special German Whisky club at a booth devoted to a range of member German distillers. As I couldn’t sample that day, I packed the duo up to journey with me to India to check out one fine sweltering evening in April!

Fading Hill Rye 6 Year (2015/ Feb 2022) Cask No 23 and 128, 45%

  • Nose – Yes, this is indeed rye, with generous chocolate
  • Palate – Spicy, some mixed tropical fruit, cream
  • Finish – More of that pepper chased by some fruits

There is nothing shy about this rye! It was like biting into a spicy raisin and dried fruit chocolate bar. Powerful full flavours, it was akin to a rye on sherry steroids. The more I sipped it, the more it grew on me. What fun to have a chance to explore this expression!

I set it aside to try its Peat sibling… returning to find the chocolate raisins even more pronounced if that is even possible! Including on the palate… yup! It was totally like having a spicy Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar!

Here’s what the folks at Birkenhof Brennerei have to say about their Rye expression?

The Classic Rye: matured in a single sherry cask. Our classic – a tribute to the first Fading Hill distilled in 2002. An intense single rye whisky, composed of a double-distilled rye mash that is fermented in a way that preserves the aroma. Matured for years in exceptional sherry casks.

My sample came complimentary however this whisky retails for a quite reasonable Eur €56.50.

Fading Hill Peated 4 years (2018 / March 2022) 4th Edition, Cask No 751, 752, 753 (PX Sherry, Bourbon, Islay Quarter Cask Finish) 46%

  • Nose – Yheasty, a bit of faint seaweed, cinnamon bark – a lovely salty sweetness, as it opened up, smelt like malty biscuits
  • Palate – Silky smooth with sour cherries and a peaty chaser
  • Finish – Herbal, like the after-taste of an intense flavour-packed herbal liqueur

Well… when I started my journey in Nurnberg, I had quite a generous sample… however by the time I unpacked in Mumbai, there were just a few wee drops remaining. So if my notes are minimal, trust you will understand!

And what about their Peated expression?

Handcrafted and extraordinary: matured in exquisite ex-bourbon casks. Distilled from a wort explicitly peated according to our specifications, our Peated Edition Single Malts have a distinctive character. Baroque and concise, with an extraordinary play of aromas.

Like its Rye expression, this was complimentary… however if you are curious, check it out for Eur €59.50 in Deutschland.

Both whiskies are bold and unmistakable. I’d be curious to also try their classic single malt expression – maybe at the next whisky festival, I will be able to explore properly on-site!

PS – Many thanks again to the good folks with the Schottlandforum!

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Nurnberg “The Village” Whisky Festival 2023

Imagine being a kid in a giant candy store, one of the biggest in the land, and then being told you can only look, not eat!

That was my experience at the remarkable “The Village” Whisky Festival. I had been looking forward to it for a long time, had my entry and Masterclass tickets purchased, and a whole fun weekend with friends planned… But then the universe had other ideas…

Ever had a  cracked tooth? Followed by 3-hour emergency dental surgery? Then a tooth extraction? Which got infected? To discover you have a bizarre never before experienced reaction to antibiotics – not just one but two? Oh, and did I mention unrelenting pain for weeks?!

So there I was with a “chipmunk cheek”, barely able to talk with the foul taste of antibiotics in my mouth, generally feeling miserable for myself… yet determined to not miss completely!

I missed the Sharing Angels reunion, barely made it through our Masterclass with Lindores Abbey (with whiskies sniffed and tucked away in sample bottles for a later date), a meeting by the German Distillers Association (Verband deutscher Whiskybrenner) stand with a duo from Fading Hill (their Rye and Peat expressions), a pitstop at the Elch booth, before heading home to crash! Not fun at all…

However, it reminded me how lucky we are in Europe to have such exhibitions. It was an impressive array of distilleries from around the world. And just like the France section at Paris Whisky Live, the German distiller’s section at The Village is impressive.

Even more so, had I been in any shape to make some purchases, there were certainly more than a few gems! For prices that would be the envy of anyone in Asia, given the friendly tax treatment of spirits in Deutschland.

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Whisky Lady – January to March 2023

So what have I been up to the last few months? A mix of new tasting experiences and slowly making my way through notes from 2022 – which was particularly “busy” with two weekends of Whisky Festivals.

My first tasting session of 2023 was with the Bombay Malt & Cigar lads – what fun! It was my turn to “host” the whiskies so I carefully chose a theme – Swansong. Each whisky came from an independent bottler and each had a story, celebrating whiskies that once were and will not be (quite the same) ever again. 

It was quite the way to kick off a new year!

Paris Whisky Live tastings continued with:

As a pre-cursor to Sweden’s Agitator’s Whisky Ladies of Mumbai session, I shared notes from their early experiments with:

It was interesting to see how Agitator evolved into the rather interesting trio we tried late December with their two core expressions: Single Malt 43% and Rök 43% plus a limited edition small batch expression Argument: Småfat 46%.

Back in Nurnberg, I cracked open a Glenlivet travel retail trio of Reserve, Solera Vatted, and Small Batch. Because, why not?

Curious to know more? Check out a few more summaries:

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Whisky Lady – Oct to Dec 2022

Happy New Year! It is so good to be home celebrating with family and friends. And reflecting on how busy the last few months have been!

Unexpected tastings, sharing special drams with fabulous folks, birthday celebrations, and to top it all off – two whisky festival weekends in a row!! Wow wow wow!!! Paris Whisky Live and London’s Whisky Show – let me repeat – WOW!!

Let’s start with birthday drams….

We also had the Chorlton birthday drams – with the gift that kept on giving! So far we have held 4 tastings just from this quartet… Two in London and two in Mumbai where one session brought together two birthday ladies! (including yours truly)

Paris Whisky Live was divided between Day 1, which was devoted to the VIP area:

Day 2 was meandering around the main section with a penchant for French whiskies, a smattering of Scottish, and one Indian thrown in for good measure!

Then the following weekend was London’s Whisky Show with:

Masterclass: The Unbelievable Truth About Whisky with Gregg Glass, James Saxon, Alex Bruce, Sam Simmonds, Phil & Simon Thompson… like stepping into a private gathering of old friends, catching up telling tall tales over a fine dram or two.

What a wonderful peak into some quite marvelous malts and more at two fabulous whisky fests!

And then back in India at the close of the year, our Swedish Whisky Lady treated us to a trio from a new distillery – Agitator where we explored:

Obviously, the links above mean you can learn more by checking out a specific post…. whereas, for the balance, you will just have to be a wee bit patient as I slowly enjoy putting the virtual pen to virtual paper and then post!

Happy New Year!

Curious to know more? Check out a few more monthly summaries:

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London Whisky Show – Disappointing Diageo’s Den

Once you have been to a whisky festival or two, you start to have a way of navigating their offerings…. making a good connection or two with the lads and lasses at the various booths, and then move on to give others a chance to experience, hopefully learning a thing or two along the way. At London’s The Whisky Show, we had a grand old time and thoroughly enjoyed our day! With one or two teeny tiny exceptions…

Along with our “dream dram” and meal tokens, we also had a Diageo chocolate and whisky pairing ticket too. The meal was really quite terrific for a mass event like The Whisky Show. However every time we would glance over at the Diageo area, it was so crazy crowded around the bar, that we would skip over and continue to other options.

As the afternoon waned, we decided better go before it was too late! At first, it was nearly impossible to get anyone’s attention and when we finally did, enquiring about the pairing, were informed they ran out. He clearly was overwhelmed and not interested in offering anything or having a chat…

However, we persisted and spotted the Clynelish Cask Strength 54.9% was handy. So insisted on a small pour. This wasn’t our 1st Clynelish and found it was fruity and floral as expected.

We thought to try something more but, frankly, gave up. We enjoy the conversations, learning something new, however, for us at least, this clearly wasn’t going to happen at the Diageo den.

So yes, they are the biggest boys in the industry and I’m quite sure they had an impressive array of whiskies available at The Whisky Show – estimated to be above 75 – however we clearly were not pushy enough or important enough to get much ‘love’ from their side. Oh well… you win some and you miss some!

Lucky for us, we had some absolutely STELLAR drams at Gordon & Macphail, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, the TWE festival area and so much more! That this wee uninspiring experience didn’t deter us from a marvelous mostly malty day!!

As for other Clynelish tasting experiences? Read on…

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London Whisky Show – TBWC Intro

I absolutely love how That Boutique-y Whisky Co’s approach at the London Whisky Show. was to feature some fabulous non-Scottish whiskies to balance out some Scottish malts and great grains.

The celebratory energy of 10 years was infectious!

Where did we start? Most came from the North-West Euro Express and some goodies for the 10th anniversary. Dave guided us through a rather interesting set of whiskies:

We came back later to try some of their remarkable blends on offer:

It wasn’t all whisky though, we also tried Christian Drouin’s 21 year Calvados and an extra special flask offering:

So once again, Happy Birthday TBWC!! Can’t wait to see how the next decade unfolds for you and the team!!

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Paris Whisky Live 2022

Years ago, a dear Whisky aficionado shared his favourite Whisky festival in the world is Paris Whisky Live. He had traveled the world for years to find the best of the best, unique quality distillers, best mixologists, and those memorable experiences that linger in the best possible way. I managed to get to La Maison du Whisky’s Whisky Live in Singapore several times (2018, 2017, 2016), however despite a few attempts, never managed to make it to Paris… until 2022!!

Day 1 was devoted to the VIP area:

And closed with a Masterclass with Arran focused on Lagg distilleries.

Day 2 was meandering around the main section with a penchant for French whiskies with a smattering of Scottish and one Indian thrown in for good measure!

There will be no rush on sharing further tasting notes and impressions… because it was one of those festivals you want to slowly explore… like a lovely multi-course meal… no need to rush from course to course!

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London Whisky Show 2022

London is one of my favourite cities! Whisky tasting and exploring a favourite activity! Add to the combination a fabulous companion and you have a dream mix.

Our approach with London’s The Whisky Show 2022 was “less is more”… fewer stops, fewer drams, more time spent with most of them. A full day of slowly meandering between booths, chatting, listening and learning, sniffing, swishing, and (mostly!) spitting our way through some wonderful whiskies – from standards to sublime rare treats!

Ground floor whisky wanderings:

First Floor forays:

Masterclass: The Unbelievable Truth About Whisky with Gregg Glass, James Saxon, Alex Bruce, Sam Simmonds, Phil & Simon Thompson… like stepping into a private gathering of old friends, catching up telling tall tales over a fine dram or two.

Just like savouring some of our special dram experiences, I plan to take time to share tasting notes over the coming month or so. So sit back, relax and in due course, you will be able to vicariously enjoy the show!

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