An evening of indulgence at Union Jack

Once upon a time I lived in Mumbai and had monthly merry malt gatherings with friends. I would also from time to time join a fellow explorer for an evening of minis. Fast forward and we are all found scattered in different parts of the globe with rare opportunities to reconnect.

Last weekend in Berlin was one such chance. My friend came from London and I joined from Nurnberg for the express purpose of catching up and exploring a few drams together. And I knew just the place – the fabulous Union Jack whisky bar – which is now only open Thursdays and Saturdays. Thankfully for us, it was a Saturday!

We put ourselves in the very capable hands of our whisky guide, who ably helped us and all the other tables go on a journey.

We explored three sets of “pairings” followed by a complete indulgence!

What did we think? Just read on over the next few posts…

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Der Weinladen im Schwarzwaelder Store, Munich

Once upon a time I had planned a series of places to find interesting whiskies on your travels. From 2008 to 2019 I was criss crossing around the globe – from Canada to Europe to many parts in Asia. With my travels, I enjoyed exploring curious and quaint places to purchase an interesting dram or two. So it seemed logical to share such discoveries with friends and family in case their path crossed such locations.

Here is one from Munich – Der Weinladen im Schwarzwälder (Black forest wine shop) conveniently located on Hartmannstrasse 8, not far from Marienplatz. Truth be told I was looking for Tara Whisky, but then stumbled across this place and found it utterly charming with very helpful staff. It was during one of my first (of many!) trips to Munich back in November 2017.

Seeing these images today with all the restrictions that life with COVID has brought, I look back on my adventures with a twinge of envy. And at the same time, am quietly amused that was once “novel” is now “normal” as I find myself (mostly) calling Bavaria / Franconia home – with its remarkable forests and easy access to long enjoyable hikes. Even the offerings that seemed at the time “exotic” are now familiar so it was fun to come across the photos I took with great enthusiasm (and little focus) some four years ago.

What whiskies have I picked up there?

  • DeCavo NAS Batch 10, Cask 92 46% – Such an interesting whisky… yet every effort to track down another has been impossible!
  • Forty Three Swiss Highland Single Malt Whisky 43% – An easy going enjoyable dram
  • From Ziegler distillery, I picked the “basic” Aureum Single Malt 43% rather than their experiments maturing with guitar wood in barrels, ex plum brandy or cognac barrels…
  • I also picked up a Finch whisky that I never did get a chance to try… instead it made its way into another Mumbai home to be consumed during the most extreme lockdown when all booze shops were also closed

And beyond whiskies? A few gins and more!

I noted the beautiful bottles of Schnapps – a proud floor to ceiling display of Ziegler specialities. Who could imagine just a few years later I would have the pleasure of going to the distillery and be blown away by their remarkable attention to their craft – be it their schnapps or whisky!

Just in case you happen to be in the area, do check it out:

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Whisky Lady – September 2021

What a month! September started in India and ended back in Germany. As for whisky writing, it brought a nice mix of recalling past whisky experiences, notes from very small in-person gatherings from August and a virtual session in September.

Keeping two aside for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai, the Glentauchers and Balblair were joined by the Macallan Estate Reserve 45.7%…. a quality dram? To be sure… however it is remarkable as much for its marketing and price tag as liquid!

I then held a couple very small “malty memory mini-lane” wanderings… revisiting favourites like Lochside, Linkwood, Mosstowie, Laphroaig, Pine Barrens and more…

My India trip closed with a wee mini reunion led to being introduced to this unexpected trio:

  • Kamet 42.8% – A new, rather promising entrant into Indian single malts
  • James Eadie 2017 56.6% – An affordable quality blend from Scotland
  • Compass Box Enlightenment 46% – After a long time, we were “enlightened” by a Compass Box limited edition

I also caught up with tasting notes from Bavaria’s Ziegler Distillery… with their Aureum range of single malts covered over two postings:

What was most impressive was the clear commitment to ‘craft’ – and was the first of what I hope will be more German distillery visits.

It really felt like a “well-rounded” month of musings and more as we continue to explore the wonderful world of whiskies – from new to old, rare to revisits, from India to Germany, blends to single casks, affordable to crazy expensive!

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

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

Mumbai Malty Memory Mini-Lane… Part 1

Years ago, I “cherry picked” special or unique whiskies from our tasting sessions to bottle up a mini. The idea was to have a bit remaining as a reference point to compare and contrast with other tasting experiences. However it didn’t take long to run out of empty 50 ml miniature bottles to store these samples. So whilst I stopped gathering “new” samples, the “old” ones sat neglected as one, two, three… five years passed!

Then on my most recent trip home, I pulled out one of my all-time favourites – Lochside (1981/2005) 43% G&MP. Remarkably it wasn’t a disaster!

Inspired by this, I pulled out all the old minis, dusted them off and dumped a few which obviously were bad. Who knew whisky could get clumpy, stain the insides of a glass bottle? Eeek!?

Experienced at revising past samples (aka operation clean house!), my tasting companions knew to have our spit bowl ready, primed to have a few awful ones amongst hopefully a few gems!

Overall it was tremendous fun and the minis hadn’t faired to badly. What did we try?

Curious how today vs yesterday compared? Skim below for our current impressions and check out the old post for what we found before!

I thought to ease us into our malty memories evening with a friendly Irish dram. I also just so happened to have two 30 ml samples set aside so more than enough for us to kick-off our evening with the same whisky.

Back in 2016 a couple gents from Hyde were in India scouting out the market, they hinted at possible plans for their own distillery. We met in a popular bar restaurant in Mumbai and spent an enjoyable evening.

Not long after their trip, they sent a gift from Ireland. Those were the days when it was still possible to send samples to India and get them through customs! Hyde still selects and blends Irish whisky, however any thoughts of setting up their own distillery are indefinitely on hold.

Don’t be duped by the deceptive pic photo bombed by our feline.. it was a full sized bottle.

Did it survive the test of time? Oh my! It did – if anything it was even better than we remembered!

We were greeted by lemons and cantaloups on the nose, green and black peppercorns – initially sharp then mellowed into a long finish with a warm heat. Quite a tasty appetizer!

We then continued with a tale of two mature Linkwoods:

What fun! Same distillery, similar years, different strength, year and Indi bottler… with some clear similarities and differences. Here are my notes for the 25 year:

  • Nose – Initially shy and subtle, calvados, stewed apples, then apple cider, generous honey, apple sauce with cinnamon – do I sense an “apple” theme here??
  • Palate – More spice than anticipated from the aromas, some tobacco leaf, slightly bitter and musty but still quite tasty
  • Finish – Long, really “sits” there and keeps you company

We also used different tasting glasses too – I finally tried my Glencairn “copita” vs our normal Glencairn glass (sorry no pic!). How did the experience compare?

  • Copita Nosing glass – Nose was sweeter, palate rounder and more balanced
  • Standard Glencairn glass – Initially enabled the aromas to come out more – with greater clarity and distinctiveness to each element, spicier on the palate

Those trying the cask strength found it much “sharper” however still displayed its character.

Diving further into the “vintage” stash, we next tackled what remained of a 35 year old from a very special evening with “Dream Drams” – those rare, aged and very unique whiskies one typically cannot afford and do not get the opportunity to try.

So how did our mini fare?

  • Nose – Pear, orange peel, hazelnuts, lightly floral, toast with butter and marmalade, vanilla, oak, hint of salt
  • Palate – Absolutely fabulous on the palate – orange chocolate, lovely mouth feel with that dash of salt just adding to the enjoyment
  • Finish – Long, lovely with a bit of beeswax, salt and don’t laugh – marmite

Wow! Incredible how much of the character remained – even after sitting in a mini for 4+ years. I checked out my old notes – it clearly did better with a bit of oxidation in the full bottle and even kept its ‘lustre’ when transferred into a mini. Yum!

Time to switch gears into something completely different!

From October 2016, we explored a rather interesting range of American drams. One lady purchased a ‘beer whisky’ which was remarkable for its unique character. She was absolutely delighted to spot the mini in the mix, having thought would never have a chance to try it again!

What did we discover in our revisit?

  • Aroma – From stout to sweet, pinesol to
  • Palate – Bittersweet, cloves, wintermint and yes – “beer-y”

It truly is a different kind of dram – most enjoyable as a kind of “hybrid” between a good beer and whisky. Far from “traditional” whisky it is worth checking out!

Whilst we sipped our beer whisky, our peaty lady opted for:

Her pronouncement? The mini had successfully survived being stored for years – yeah!

The Ileach came from a most enjoyable “Islay Iterations” evening dominated by Lagavulin and Laphroaig – including indie bottles like this one.

We thought Ghosted Reserve 21 year, No 2 42.8% would make a nice next step, however it didn’t stand the test of time… and practically “ghosted” us!

All we found was a bit of coconut oil and lemon on the nose, betel nut on the palate and not much else. Innocuous and a bit insipid. Pity. However we weren’t surprised that a couple languished after a few years.

1st strike…

One lady thought to give the Inchmurrin Madeira mini a go… Alas, what was once “OK” was – Nope! This one was abandoned and later dumped.

That made it ‘2 strikes’!

We decided to close our evening on what we hoped would be a ‘sure thing!’. This remarkable 21 year old Laphroaig was enjoyed over several evenings, years apart so I was relatively confident that the remaining mini would still be worth

It is both a Laphroaig at its best and a nod to an earlier avatar…. a more refined style which created an absolute stunner!

  • Nose – Fruity, lightly floral, fresh and green yet peaty too with that delightful ‘bacon’ we enjoy mixed with sweetness and a hint of salt
  • Palate – Delicious! Smooth as silk, elegant… we simply savoured and enjoyed

A marvellous malt and a worthy way to close an evening cracking open and revisiting past tastings together.

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Unexpected tasting trio – Kamet, James Eadie, Enlightenment

During my last week in India, I had a special whisky reunion where I had expected to be the host sharing the whiskies – those opened recently or a wander down malty memory lane with some minis.

Instead, my fellow whisky traveller surprised us by bringing not one, not two but three unique whiskies. The first we tried knowing it was a new Indian single malt, the other two followed our original format – tasting blind.

  • Kamet 42.8% – A new single malt from India
  • James Eadie 2017 56.6% – A surprise blended Scotch
  • Compass Box Enlightenment 46% – Limited edition blend of Highland whiskies

Tasting notes will come in due course, however it truly was such a wonderful reminder of our monthly gatherings… which started a decade ago! Most of the original group have moved to different locales – Singapore, Delhi, Goa or for me, Germany. However the spirit of camaraderie and keen interest in exploring the  world of whisky remains.

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Whisky Lady – August 2021

Ahhh…… home sweet home!!! After a series of European adventures, it was such a delight to be home in India for month! Which yes… also included a tasting or two or three!

With our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we took a more ‘traditional’ Scottish bent with:

Keeping the Glentauchers and Balblair aside for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai, it was joined by:

What to say about a GBP 400 dram? No doubt well crafted, but is it really worth the hype? Check out our tasting notes and decide…

Shifting gears completely, back in July, our Euro Whisky Ladies explored the Welsh Penderyn distillery‘s Dragon Range with notes published in August:

  • Myth (ex-Bourbon) 41% – A happy, lively summery dram, engaging on the nose, lovely on the palate… an easy enjoyable sipper
  • Legend (ex-Madeira) 41% Surprisingly our least favourite of the trio… whereas we’ve enjoyed the Madeira cask Penderyn in the past… pity
  • Celt (Peat) 43% – Apples and vanilla aromas, buttery, smokey, well rounded whisky

As we reflected on this horizontal flight, we appreciated that each had apples and vanilla on the nose and a nice bitterness on the palate which gave character. It was interesting to taste a trio like this together and we loved that they came in 200ml bottles (given our limited quantity consumption!). That shared, Penderyn remains quite affordable in the whisky world and worth picking up.

We also appreciate this is a distillery with a trio of women core to their success – with an all women distilling team – Laura Davies (Distillery Manager), Aista Jukneviciute (blender), Bethan Morgans (apprentice distiller)! We have kept a bit aside to revisit once the other set makes its way to Mumbai with plans to have a call with the distillery to learn more!

I’m still catching up on all my various travel notes, however shared our first distillery visit in Sweden – to the lovely isle of Hven / Veen – home to Spirit of Hven. One of these days I will get around to sharing further details of the distillery tour experience however in the interim, here is what we tasted from Spirit of Hven:

By contrast with Penderyn, the most memorable aspect of the distillery tour was being “mansplained” throughout! Sad but true, women as whisky appreciators remain perceived as a minority or oddity despite significant evidence of highly capable women in the industry, as consumers and commentators around the world.

Next we headed to Gavle, to visit Mackmyra Distillery. Again, I will share more insights about our tour experience later, however immediately posted thoughts about our fascinating two-part tasting starting with a trio from their “Elegant” style aka without peat:

Before you get too excited about the whiskies…. be forewarned that “Reserve” means you need to own the cask! Using smaller casks, Mackmyra seems to be doing a brisk business in Sweden selling casks to consumers.

Our journey through their “Elegant” expressions was followed by their “Smoky” trio with peat aka Rök:

Whilst the expressions clearly reflected the depth and range, we overall continue to find the clean “Scandi” character using mostly Swedish oak, only local peat and a ‘freshness’ influenced by juniper… our experience reconfirmed our enjoyment of what this distillery produces.

August was a prodigious month of malty posts! Joining my Swedish travels was insights into my Parisian June jaunt where we met up with Maison Benjamin Kuentz and sampled together:

I’ve updated the notes for Aux Particles Vines as I just received further details on the 1st Edition casks – really appreciate the craft and curiosity in bringing out creative fully “French” experiences and expressions.

Not such a bad range of whisky tastings and travels! With a couple weeks leave home in India, I finally had time to catch up on writing posts too!

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

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

Classic Birthday Drams

It was a tale of two tasting groups… our marvellous Bombay Malt & Cigar gents and our fabulous Whisky Ladies. Once upon a time we would combine annually – alternating who would host the whiskies. Our last gathering was in January 2020 before the scourge of COVID ravaged our world.

However it has been impossible or rather imprudent to think of having such a gathering even as Mumbai enjoys a wee breath of respite between waves. So instead, I suggested two small separate gatherings, sharing some of the same drams.

For both, I decided to take a ‘traditional’ Scottish bent…

With our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we explored:

Then came the 2nd part with the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai… for it I had set aside another gift to join the Glentauchers and Balbair, leaving the Glenrothes behind for our host:

Given August was also when we started the Whisky Ladies, there was another reason to celebrate our 6th anniversary – how quickly time flies! Not with our usual format of each bringing whatever enjoyable open bottle lies at home for a merry exchange. And no group photo either as we kept in our socially distanced seating.

For those ladies who wished to join but were on the waitlist, a third evening was arranged – a month later – with samples brought back to Europe for two ladies there joined by a couple in Mumbai… because why not?

So there you have it – after a long time – evenings of celebrations with classic Scottish drams.

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Whisky Lady – July 2021

My European adventures continued – this time to Scandi country starting on the west coast hopping over to Hven – practically touching Denmark then up to the capital Stockholm on to Gavle with Mackmyra distillery.

What a time to go to Sweden! It was such a fabulous couple of days and well worth the inconveniences of traveling in COVID times.

First up was jaunt from Gothenburg to Laholm to Veen to visit Spirit of Hven where we took a distillery tour and tasted:

Then we popped over to Stockholm and from there to Gavle for a tour of Mackmyra distillery and tasting of:

I managed to catch up on some tasting notes from my June Paris trip… which began with sharing a few drams with our Euro Whisky Ladies:

Then continued with Maison Benjamin Kuentz where we sampled:

(Tasting notes shared in August!)

However I finally got around to sharing tasting notes about a sextet from German distillery St Kilian. The original plan was to go to the distillery in November 2020 – COVID dropped that idea! Then samples were sent to those who were SUPPOSED to be there. Mine didn’t quite make it in time for the online tasting. It then took me MANY months to crack them open with friends – an interesting experience which ranged from promising to a bit perplexing. I then took even more months to try and track down via two folks I knew received the same samples for more insights. As many months had elapsed with both doing such regular tastings that the details were lost. So I hope I can be forgiven for sharing minimal insights… I’m still curious enough to want to explore more – just not the peated drams!

My month closed with a wee Penderyn virtual tasting and a flight home to Mumbai!

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

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

Whisky Lady – June 2021

Confession time – with Europe cautiously opening up again I simply couldn’t resist hopping on a train to Paris for a week!

A highlight of the trip was meeting Benjamin Kuentz, the man behind Maison Benjamin Kuentz that has enthralled us with his creations. As one Whisky Lady had hunted down the 1st edition of Aux Particules Vines, our focus was on that series joined by samples of the 4th and 5th editions. After our tasting, we were connected with a Parisian distributor who had the 3rd edition however so far the 2nd edition remains elusive!

We also avidly discussed our impression of the 2nd edition of Aveux Gourmands compared with the original – which we found more pronounced in the buttery salted caramel.

I took advantage of this trip to bring gifts of my much beloved Chorlton bottles and other samples for us to enjoy together. One evening we sat down together to try:

Before joining our Whisky Ladies in Europe, we held a virtual session exploring the quintet generously sent by the folks at The Belgian Owl.

  • Trying the spirit with Origine provided interesting insights into the underlying qualities
  • Their flagship Identité at only 3 years is friendly with delicious aromas
  • For us, the 3-year single cask Passion was the only disappointment, coming across as a bit unbalanced and ‘not quite there’ the way Identite nailed it… and curiously lacking “passion”
  • When we first tried the 4-year Evolution, we loved how it was a clear step forward from Identite, building on what we appreciated with the added maturity really augmenting the experience on the palate in particular
  • And with Intense? Remarkable! At 72.7% we thought it would be too intense – not at all!

Curious to know more? Check out a few other ’round-up’ summaries:

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

Whisky Lady – May 2021

April bled into May as COVID ravaged India. No distraction can counter how senseless and devastating the situation is… family, friends, neighbours… there are no words.

So rather than event attempt to say more, will acknowledge this ongoing human tragedy and send condolences to all directly and indirectly impacted anywhere in the world.

Shifting gears, what did we try this month? Our Whisky Ladies in Europe thought it time to crack open the quintet generously sent by the folks at The Belgian Owl. Tasting notes to come soon…

I also dug into my personal tasting notes “archive”, bringing to light a remarkable tasting evening held last september in London with Sukhinder Singh of The Whisky Exchange. As we tried 10 whiskies – yup 10! – I shared a few observations in three parts:

In Germany, I confessed to augmenting my wee whisky collection with a few Gordon and MacPhail bottles as it is no longer possible to obtain directly from the UK.

Thanks also to the intrepid persistency of a fellow Canadian in Nurnberg, she managed to track down in Vancouver a Shelter Point Artisinal Single Malt from 2020, bringing it back to Germany. Hooray!! I was so touched with her effort and kindness, bringing a wee taste of Canada to my European home.

In the meantime in France, one of our fabulous Euro Chapter Whisky Ladies went to meet Benjamin Kuentz, the man behind Maison Benjamin Kuentz that has enthralled us with his creations. She hunted down at La Maison du Whisky in Paris some earlier editions of Le Guip, Aux Particles Vines, augmented by an eagerly anticipated new edition of Aveux Gourmands. Something for an upcoming tasting!

We also have waiting in the wings another box set of minis from The Whisky Warehouse No. 8… because it is always good to have something to look forward to – particularly in these continued strange COVID times.

Curious to know more? Check out a few other ’round-up’ 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: