Getting back into tasting! With miniatures…

One of my favourite ways to taste whiskies is at home, with a friend or two, focused on some interesting whiskies. Even better if they feature miniatures that we would likely never buy – either as they are too rare or too expensive! Back in 2019, pre-Brexit, I bought myself a treat of Drinks by the Drams Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar, sampled a few but then set aside for when could share the experience with one or two fellow whisky aficionados.

Fast forward to a fine 2022 September evening in Nurnberg with friends. We had dinner plans however a wee whisky tasting was also on our evening agenda. Out came the miniatures and we each picked whiskies we were curious to try.

We decided to pair up our choices – two before dinner as an “appetizer”, then two additional pairs post dinner.

What did we start with?

And then our next set? Here we shifted gears completely and selected two grains:

Our final set was a further contrast – switching to peated Islay drams with:

It was a lovely evening and good fun to contrast and compare without distraction.

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Whisky Lady – May + June 2022

Trips tend to trigger whisky experiences for me! Whilst May was all in Germany, June brought a wedding in Cape Town (fabulous fun!) and every hope of a special whisky weekend in London…. dashed by a rather ill-timed bout with that cursed Covid.

So whilst I was laid flat on my back with complete loss of smell and taste (a true tragedy for a whisky aficionado!), a very special evening took place in London Sukhinder Singh (aka The Whisky Exchange) where our gents cracked open some seriously coveted Chorlton bottles:

  • Glen Elgin 12 year (21 April 2009 / summer 2021) refill hogshead 56.6%
  • Tormore 28 year (16 Nov 1992 / summer 2021) refill hogshead 42.4%
  • Orkney 22 year (9 Jun 1999 / February 2022) bourbon hogshead 53.4% (aka Highland Park) – A true treat!
  • Bunnahabhain 18 year (28 Feb 2002 / Dec 2021) sherry butt 53.4%

Samples were set aside for me to try another day…. in the meantime, I managed to catch two more sets of Chorlton’s:

  • From the May 2022 releases, I managed to snag all three! Now waiting patiently in London…  Teaninich 12 year 54.2%, Benrinnes 14 year 55%Faemussach 21 year 56%
  • And another trio from the Chorlton’s finally available in Europe! Mannochmore 13 year 59% Caol Ila 11 year 60.4% from the April 2022 releases and Staoisha (Bunnahabhain ) 8 year 59.9% from Dec 2021

However before being knocked out of commission, I had a chance to catch up on a few tasting notes…

Whilst I’m still only in India a few times a year (once in 2020, twice in 2021, and aiming for thrice in 2022!) our lovely Whisky Ladies of Mumbai have been very kind to set aside samples of some of their tasting sessions. Though I’d much prefer to join in person, at least this way I can (almost) feel like I’m keeping up with their remarkable whisky journey.

This is how I sampled the whiskies tried during the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai’s March 2022 session. It had a decidedly Canadian theme, courtesy of a fellow Canadian’s trip back in late 2021:

I also explored an assortment of different drams such as:

  • Compass Box Orchard House 46% – Whilst not sunshine and ripe fruits, for an affordable blend, can grow on you….
  • Hunter Laing Hepburn’s Choice Glenburgie 8 year (2007) 46% – Another one where anticipation from reality differed – had to recalibrate expectations from fruit orchard to tobacco leaf… must add water to this one!
  • Plus a return to a favourite distillery – Lochranza – to explore their exceedingly affordable ‘entry level’ Arran Barrel Reserve 43%

So my tasting adventures these months have been rather limited… however with a whisky festival coming up in Heidelberg in July, another in Hamburg I’m considering, plus both Paris and London in September, my hope is to get things back on track!

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

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

Coveting Chorlton… Delayed pleasures

We’ve been on a bit of a “Chorlton” journey… I’ve become a complete fan of David’s cask choices, his gorgeous labels and so over the last few years I’ve done my best to snag a nice set or two with plans of having a few special tastings.

Last week I was supposed to be enjoying these beauties… carefully collected as a special 60th birthday celebration which was postponed a few times as we struggled to organize a gathering across countries. Finally the night was planned in London, flights booked and the bottles ready and waiting to be opened! And then along came a rather unpleasant bout with COVID…. sigh… So whilst I missed the evening, considerable enjoyment was reported along these lines:

  • Glen Elgin 12 year 56.6%A lovely appetizer dram
  • Tormore 28 year 42.4% One of those rare remarkable whiskies
  • Bunnahabhain 18 year 53.4%Really stood out
  • Plus a bonus bottle purchased by our birthday boy – the Orkney 22 year 53.4% (aka Highland Park) which also made quite the impression!

Hopefully, in a few months, there will be an opportunity to get to London and quite possibly snag a wee sample to experience myself!

Thanks to shipments finally making it to Europe, I have these lovelies with me in Nuremberg;

  • From April 2022 releases: Mannochmore 13 year 59%Caol Ila 11 year 60.4%
  • From December 2021 releases: Staoisha 8 year 59.9% (aka Bunnahabhain)

Whereas I’m not sure when I will be united with these waiting for me in London or Paris:

  • From December 2021 releases: Ledaig 12 year 55.5%Speyside (Glenrothes) 13 year 64.6%
  • From the May 2022 releases: Faemussach 21 year 56%Teaninich 12 year 54.2%Benrinnes 14 year 55%

However, I won’t be sampling these anytime soon! Not being very patient, I’m left with memories of previous tastings…

However rather than long for what I can’t try, here is a quick summary of those from Chorlton’s La Nouvelle Vague series I have had the pleasure of trying:

And from Chorlton‘s earlier L’Ancien Régime series:

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Compass Box Orchard House 46%

I will admit this was an impulse purchase! I was picking up something else and my eye spotted this new expression from Compass Box. So I took a deeper look and went – yup! Sounds like this just might be a blend up my alley!

I had notions of sweetness and light, a burst of orchard fruits… reflecting in the glass what was inspired by the bottle…. and?

Compass Box Orchard House 46%

  • Nose – Fresh pineapple, tobacco leaf, almond paste, much shyer than expected, bit of candle wax… after more time a hint of vanilla
  • Palate – Tobacco and tea, malt and spice, ginger and biscuits, smoke alongside fruit
  • Finish – An echo of the palate, white pepper

Well, this isn’t just sweetness and light… there is more at play here. I was anticipating something much fruitier, juicy, and full… however there is something ‘rougher’ and a bit ‘tougher’ involved. Perhaps it is the influence of that tiny bit of Caol Ila (read more below) or something else… Once I set aside the preconceived idea of a frothy fruity dessert-like concoction, I could settle down to experience it for what it is.

Reading through the blend elements, the different dimensions play their role.

What do the folks at Compass Box have to say?

Fruit-forward & spirit-driven

What is more universally delicious than ripe fruit? Even the greatest chefs have been known to serve a simple dish of strawberries or a single, perfect peach as a dessert.

Orchard House gathers together some of the fruitiest malts Scotland has to offer, including whiskies from the Linkwood and Clynelish distilleries; what’s more, we have sourced many of these whiskies as new spirit and laid them down in our own oak casks. This, our monument to fresh fruitiness in Scotch whisky, has been many years in the making.

As for the official tasting notes, Compass Box share this:

  • Aromas of apple and pear dominate, with hints of pineapple, lemon and lime zest, and Earl Grey tea.
  • Take a sip and note the malty and gingery flavours. These are soon joined by honey, wild strawberries and vanilla shortbread.

What more do we know?

The good folks at Compass Box revealed what they can with these insights into the blending composition:

  • 39% – The Linkwood Distillery Single Malt, First Fill Bourbon Barrel – Apple Blossom, Vanilla
  • 29% – The Clynelish Distillery Single Malt, First Fill Bourbon Barrel – Apple, Wax, Honey
  • 20% – The Benrinnes Distillery Single Malt, First Fill Bourbon Barrel Single Malt – Fudge, Apples, Malt
  • 8% – Distillery near the town of Aberlour, Single Malt, Revatted Oloroso Sherry-Seasoned Butt – Red Apple, Sultana, Malt
  • 2% – Highland Malt Blend, Custom French Oak Barrel – Heavy Toast Blended Malt – Chocolate, Cinnamon, Ginger
  • 2% – The Caol Ila Distillery Single Malt, First Fill Bourbon Barrel – Smoke, Almond, Vanilla

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

Whisky Lady – March + April 2022

March slipped into April with a wonderful yet HOT journey home to Mumbai, India… then return to a warming Deutschland, where miserable grey rain shifted into welcome sunshine.

This India trip came at a time when many COVID restrictions were lifted and events starting again. What this meant was an opportunity to meet renowned Indian master distiller Surrinder Kumar who was the talent behind Amrut’s journey to global fame and India’s own Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula.

It kicked off with a tasting evening at home with the lads behind SMAC India and Krishna exploring a remarkable range:

Then was followed by the launch of a new Indian Single Malt – Indri.

Talisker, Kilchoman, Stauning

Next up was a curious trio of Rum, Tequila and Mezcal finishes from London’s Whisky Exchange with:

And finally, the ladies joined me in (re)exploring St Kilian Signature Edition:

Whilst April was a busy tasting month for me, March was largely devoted to catching up on prior tastings from my previous trip to India! You would think nothing happens in Europe – which is far from the case as I missed not one not two but three events in Deutschland whilst holidaying in India.

Early 2022, our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents held a fun-filled evening of one of my favorite distilleries – Lochranza – with a quartet of Arran expressions exploring cask finishes:

I also brought back to Deutschland samples kindly set aside from the Whisky Ladies December 2021 session which featured:

And finally, I shared another remarkable whisky tasting from last year’s Paris trip to Maison Benjamin Kuentz – Inouïe Mélodie!

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

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

Rum, Tequila and Mezcal Finishes from Talisker, Kilchoman and Stauning

Spirits like rum, tequila and mezcal are each in quite a different category than Whisky. However with the increasing shortage of casks and voracious appetite for something ‘new’ and ‘different’, there has been an explosion of experimentation all around.

Inspired by the Stauning “Bastard” bottle, our whisky host for the evening amusingly dubbed this trio “Cheap Bastard” as none were outrageously priced. (However, he did mention in dismay, the increase in average whisky prices at The Whisky Exchange in London – more than what can be found elsewhere in the UK.)

Talisker, Kilchoman, Stauning

So here goes an evening devoted to a curious trio of Rum, Tequila and Mezcal finishes with:

And considering our host called this a “Cheap Bastard” evening – his words, not mine – I took the liberty to add the current prices for each. Not exactly what I would consider “cheap” however I must admit to becoming spoilt with more accessible prices in Germany!

And whilst I likely wouldn’t have chosen these whiskies, that’s the brilliant part of tasting with others – each brings what tickles their fancy to the table – expanding your exposure and explorations well beyond what one person alone could ever hope to purchase!

Be a wee bit patient as detailed tasting notes will follow…

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Whisky Lady – February 2022

February can be a mixed month – in some parts of the world crazy cold, in others dreary and rainy and others… well… you can enjoy the sunshine and balmy breezes! So what about our whisky explorations?

Back in Deutschland, virtual tastings continued – this time with a set from Warehouse No 8 purchased the previous year set-up to explore Scottish regions:

Our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai explored a Swedish Trio with:

And our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents held a fun-filled evening of one of my favorite distilleries – Lochranza – with a quartet of Arran expressions exploring cask finishes:

I also posted notes from the previous month from a social evening with Gin featuring Portobello Road No 171 London Dry 42%, Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish 43%, Brockmans 40%, Sacred  London Dry 43%.

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

And if you don’t want to miss a post, why not follow Whisky Lady on:

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

Whisky Lady – January 2022

What a month!! I’ve been happily home in India and even better managed to fit in a couple tasting sessions – squeezed in a narrow window of days in-country and negative tests!

Winter in India is perfect for whisky and yet we also had some gin too.

On New Year’s Eve, I found myself surprisingly more in a gin than whisky mood, so decided to open a trio gifted by an American friend many years ago… much later I sat down and revisited, sharing a few impressions of these gins from California distillery St George here: St George Terroir, Botanivore, and Dry Rye 45%

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents managed to gather not once but thrice in rapid succession to explore two sets of whiskies and one set of gin. We started off with a Scottish Adjacent exploration of:

In a departure from our usual focus on Whisky, our host had long back collected for a social evening an assortment of Gins featuring Portobello Road No 171 London Dry 42%, Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish 43%, Brockmans 40%, Sacred  London Dry 43%.

And we closed with a fun-filled evening of one of my favorite distilleries – Lochranza – with a quartet of Arran expressions exploring cask finishes – Sauternes, Amarone, The Bodega Sherry and Port with tasting notes to come soon!

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

And if you don’t want to miss a post, why not follow Whisky Lady on:

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

Blind tasting The Famous Grouse 40%

Nothing like tasting blind to set aside preconceived notions… particularly when it comes to well-known blends…

A version of this blend has been around since 1896 with the “Famous Grouse” name remaining consistent since 1905. Considered a top-selling whisky brand in the UK, I have to confess that I don’t recall ever having tried The Famous Grouse before.

What did we think?

Famous Grouse 40% 

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Raisins, sherry influence, oily and heavy, overripe fruits, wet mop and phenol, island influence, bit of brine, fermented bread, light iodine, wet leaves,
  • Palate – Smooth on the palate, gentle, watery softness, honey-sweet, nice mouthfeel, reminded a bit of mead
  • Finish – Soft white pepper, long, sherry element with juicy whisky soaked raisins

Nothing hugely distinctive or complex, but there were still some nice elements. However they were a bit curious – on the one hand, there was a briney Island style and on the other hand, a more traditional sherry dram.

We speculated this may be Scottish but beyond that? We had no clue!

Turns out this was the real “googly” in the mix for the evening. The other three were deliberately Scottish ‘adjacent’ whereas just for kicks, our whisky host decided to bring into our evening something we would not have expected!

With the reveal?

It all made sense – why there was a duality of character, why it came across as Scottish but not distinctively this or that. The Famous Grouse is known to use both Highland Park and Macallan – which certainly helped explain what we found!

As for the official notes?

  • Appearance: Full golden, clear and bright
  • Aromas: Candied fruits, buttery shortbread, citrus peel
  • Taste: Dried fruit, soft spices (cinnamon/ginger), hint of oak
  • Finish: Smooth, well balanced

Interesting to try and why I enjoy blind tastings! Here is what else we tried that evening:

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Scottish Single Malt “Adjacent” – The English, Famous Grouse, Cotswold, Penderyn Madeira

Once upon a time in Mumbai, a lass with four merry gents used to regularly gather together to explore whiskies, relax puffing cigars, exchanging witty remarks, tending to close the evening with most enjoyable repasts….

We are now scattered across four countries and in COVID conditions, the chances of meeting in person are slim. So we’ve made do with the rare combination of partly in-person and partly virtual…

Somehow at the start of 2022, we managed to kick off with nearly all of us together! Beginning with a set that our whisky host had saved and ready since 2019!

The theme was simple – explore English / Welsh whiskies – adjacent to Scotland…. but then he threw in a ‘googly’ with a well-known Scottish blend just to challenge us. All four whiskies were tasted blind before the reveal.

So…. what did we try?

This Scottish Single Malt ‘adjacent’ theme featured:

It was a good mix of introduction and re-introduction, wrapped up in a  blind package one fine January evening in Mumbai.

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