North Star Series 8 – Inchgower 11 year 52.5%

The minis can’t have all the fun in virtual tastings! It was time to also crack open one of the big boys! And that is exactly what happened one fine eve with the Bombay Malt &Cigar gentlemen. What did they have? It was a revisit of standard bar fare with Bowmore 12 year, Caol Ila 12 year with a Mortlach thrown in for good measure.

As for me? I let them decide… and here is what they picked!

Inchgower 11 year (July 2007 / Mar 2019) Refill Hogshead 52.5% (North Star 008)

  • Nose – It started with light peat, caramel and spice, leaves
  • Palate – First sip was bursting with lots of pepper, spice and fire… then it opened up to reveal treacle and maple syrup
  • Finish – The finish was like chomping down on a cigar with a leather chaser

Something about this one clearly called for some water… and no careful 2-3 drops but a generous dollop. What did this do? Transformed the Inchgower!

  • Nose – That caramel cola quality came through even more, sponge cake
  • Palate – Lots of cinnamon spice…. with a bit of tart kumquat
  • Finish – Retained the sweet spice

This was no easy drinking dram but one that demanded attention… a bit of an unruly beast… tamed slightly by diluting.

What else do we know? It was matured in a refill hogshead which produced 321 bottles. With shipping and tax, it came to approx GBP 60. Which frankly is quite reasonable for a  cask strength original!

As for Iain Croucher and his delightful tasting notes? Here is what he has to say:

  • Nose – Kola Cubes & pancakes with maple syrup
  • Palate – White pepper & caramel shavings
  • Finish – Tobacco (Montecristo not Marlboro)

Prior to this, my only brushes with Inchgower were 13 year olds bottled by G&MP from their Connoiseurs Choice range – one at cask strength and the other not.

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Minis – Glenturret 14 year 54%

Our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai, like many tasting groups around the world, are lying low waiting out this COVID storm. However our connect remains strong and the bonus of going virtual is that I could even join one evening!

We each chose a preferred dram from home supplies to quaff together. What did I select? I was in the mood for something summery – a day-time dram in keeping with sipping on a sunny late afternoon in Europe. I also didn’t want to crack open a full bottle so turned my attention to my box of advent calendar minis.

My eye spied the Glenturret and thought – that looks about right! My last brush with Glenterret was the stunningly delicious 30 year from La Maison du Whisky‘s Artist range.

What did I discover?

Glenturret 14 year (2001) 54% (Highland Laird – Bartels Whisky)

  • Colour – Bright golden
  • Nose – Initially quite vegetal, lots of barley, hay, then shifted into delicious honey, strawberries, sweet spices…
  • Palate – Wow! Light spice, cereals, a twist of citrus, becomes fruitier… is that apricot? Or peach? Delightful with just enough depth to keep interest up!
  • Finish – Ginger sweet and fruit forward
  • Water – Fabulous! Even better… delicious

It was distractingly good – right up my alley in terms of taste profile. Whilst not complex, it was sunshine in a glass. Slowly sipping it was like having a fabulous blend of breakfast and desert – cream, fruits, cereals with a drizzle of honey topped with fresh grated cinnamon and cloves…

What more do we know about this whisky? It was matured in a port pipes and sold under Bartels Whisky’s Highland Laird range – which is focused on bottling single casks at cask strength.

And what do the folks at Bartels Whisky have to say?

We bottled this Glenturret in 2017, it has always been one of our more unusual malts having been aged in an ex port pipe.  The natural colour reflects this well.  It has gone down really well at events and shows we have attended.

Nose: Cooking spices, sultanas, anise and a touch of damp wood.
Palate: Oak spice shows off very well in this Glenturret, with black pepper, ginger and clove. Layers of orange keep it from getting far too spicy.  A slight sweetness coming through from the port pipe.
Finish: Drying and long.

Now I will admit my math was a bit perplexed at a 14 year being maturing from 2011 and bottled in 2017, but what the heck! It is just a terrific dram no matter the age.

As for what it would set you back? Bartels Whisky have it listed as GBP 58 – which is a complete bargain!

Here are a few others I tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Advent Minis – Caol Ila 8 Year Old 46% – Provenance

After a rye, bourbon and highland, it was time to turn to something peaty – and what is a more classic expression than Caol Ila?

Caol Ila 8 Year Old – Provenance (Douglas Laing)

  • Nose – Pure peat, wood smoke, cured meats, bacon, maple
  • Palate – Full peat, cinnamon, a clear classic Caol Ila, nicely rolled around on the palate with a lovely peat
  • Finish – Nice finish, cinnamon spice

While I can’t guarantee it, I think this is cask #13077, which was aged in a refill hogshead from February 2011 to February 2019. After its maturation, it was bottled at 46% ABV with an outturn of 392 bottles.

Here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Toasty at first, becomes increasingly coastal. Sweetness of honeycomb in the background.
  • Palate: Flapjacks, oatcakes and plenty of smoky barley.
  • Finish: Meaty malt and black pepper spiciness.

Here are a few others we tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Advent Minis – Heaven Hill 8 Year Old 2009 63.5%

While Heaven Hill hasn’t directly featured in prior tasting experiences, we’re no stranger to their brands like Pikesville and Elijah Craig from their distillery stable.

This particular sample was originally bottled by The Higginbottom, which traces its whisky roots to the late 1800s, when Henry Albert Higginbottom supplied whisky for British troops. The brand was recently revived by Higginbottom’s great great grandson Leo Scott-Francis.

It was part of a cool relaxed evening in Nurnberg sampling minis from my advent calendar. What did we think?

Heaven Hill 8 Year Old 2009 (May 2009 / November 2017) Cask 152736 63.5% – The Higgbottom Revival 

  • Nose – Bourbon banana caramel with a sharpness, honey oats, a granary, wheat husks, unripe
  • Palate – Whoosh! What spice! Dry but with a nice depth
  • Finish – Full spice
  • Water – Now this one cried out for some water. And wow – how fabulous with it. Suddenly out came a cornucopia of fruits with banana, pineapple, green apple, throw in a generous dash of Demerara sugar, the flavours were fuller, colourful with an exceedingly nice after taste

This was definitely an example of a dram that grew on you… the more we sniffed and sipped – particularly after water was added – the more we enjoyed it. We clearly wished there was more than the wee 3cl!

Particularly for my companion, there was a clear new world over old world vibe – she loved the Rye and also this Bourbon vs the Dalmore or Caol Ila. Which is part of the magic of such minis – an opportunity to discover tastes and preferences with a wee nip rather than investing in a full bottle.

What do the chaps at Master of Malt have to say about this Heaven Hill?

  • Nose: Honeyed fruit and fresh florals. Spicy cedar and nutmeg.
  • Palate: Quite punchy at full strength, with clove, menthol and black pepper. A drop of water helps to bring buttered corn and sponge cake notes forward.
  • Finish: Coffee bean, dark chocolate and oak.

Here are a few others we tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Advent Minis – Dalmore 14 Year Old 2003 57.8%

Dalmore is one of those Highland distilleries that you count on for a familiar flavour profile with a good dose of sherry.

A couple years ago the Whisky Ladies enjoyed the Dalmore standard 15 year… and at Whisky Live in Singapore, I had full plans to come back and spend time at their booth however somehow only managed to check out the 18 year in passing… The last Dalmore properly sampled was the slightly pricey King Alexander III which was a bit of a let down.

Beyond these, I’ve had a few quite enjoyable Dalmore’s over the years and had high expectations of this one… So what did we discover with this single cask edition bottled by the folks over at Master of Malt?

Dalmore 14 Year Old 2003 57.8% 

  • Nose – Lots of toffee, caramel, bannofee cream pie, it settled down quickly, shifting into something a bit sour, peach pits and cherry
  • Palate – Warm sweet spices, wood, dry, sits on the surface
  • Finish – Long finish, tingling and a bit tart
  • Water – Sour cherries, some spice but flat – honestly water did not do the malt any favour

I’m not sure if it was my anticipation of something “good” or how the Dalmore followed the Rye but I must admit, I found it a bit disappointing. It wasn’t bad, it just simply wasn’t exceptional. And that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt have to say :

It’s been a bit of a while since we independently bottled some Dalmore single malt, so we decided to fix that by bottling up a stunning 14 year old from the distillery as part of our Single Cask Series. This one was distilled in April 2003 and left to age in a bourbon cask until March 2018, when it was bottled at cask strength.

  • Nose: Sultana, dusty oak and new leather, hints of fresh pear drenched in honey.
  • Palate: Hugely chocolatey, though pear notes still shine through. A hint of hoppy bitterness.
  • Finish: Fizzy oak, foam bananas and greengages.

Here are a few others we tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Advent Minis – Whistle Pig Rye 10 year 54.3%

I had to be amused by the journey our 1st sample has taken. Originally from Canada – like me – it then was aged at WhistlePig Farm in Vermont. To then be rebottled by the folks at Drinks by the Dram in the UK and finally shipped off to me in Nurnberg, Germany.

But this was no normal WhistlePg in my wee advent calendar of single casks – nope! This was a single barrel release at cask strength.

WhistlePig 10 Year Old  54.3% – Drinks By The Dram Exclusive

  • Nose – It started off with typical rye, some spice, cloves, orange peel, honey and oats, porridge, sweet caramels, hint of mint and a touch of oak
  • Palate – Had all the lovely elements of rye, some caramel, spice, more of the honey and oats, more of that butterscotch… it reminded me a bit of stroopwaffles
  • Finish – Light liquorice, butterscotch
  • Water – Racks up the spice, the rye became even more prominent, more barley and less honey, the light brown black liquorice danced on the palate, lots of spice on the finish in a most delicious way

I have to admit upfront that I’m not normally a rye fan. But this was a darn good dram. Nothing about it was harsh, and whilst there was no major variation and you couldn’t call it complex, it was full flavoured and really quite enjoyable and well balanced.

And my companion? Let’s just say she discovered that she absolutely IS a rye fan! Particularly for this one.

What do the folks over at WhistlePig have to say about the standard expression?

The spirit of entrepreneurship.

Fortune, superb taste, and hustle lead us to the discovery of an aged Rye Whiskey stock in Alberta, Canada. We rescued the stock from misuse as a blending whiskey, aged it in new American Oak, then hand-bottled this rye on its own. We’re honored to present the most awarded Rye Whiskey in the world.

  • Nose – Allspice, orange peel, anise, oak, char and caramel
  • Palate – Sweet; hints of caramel and vanilla, followed by rye­spice and mint
  • Finish – Long finish; warm butterscotch and caramel

Here are a few others we tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Chorlton Single Casks – Ruadh Maor 8 year 62.5%

Last in the remarkable trio from Chorlton Whisky was a whisky distilled at Glenturret. Like the Miltonduff and Orkney, we sampled it blind before the reveal of all three together.

Here is what we discovered…

Ruadh Maor 8 year 62.5% 158 bottles

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Mmmm… maple glazed bacon, Life Buoy soap, chip shop oil, blue cheese, curdled milk, beach ground nuts in sand and salt, boiled peanuts… then started shifting and it revealed light perfume, lemons in brine, the lactic aroma more pronounced, green olives, pizza tomato sauce, umami, light soy, cinnamon, fried chaklis, like being next to a meat shop
  • Palate – Delicious sweet peat, butter then sweet spice… really quite amazing
  • Finish – What a finish! It simply did not stop

We couldn’t help it… after such interesting aromas and fabulous palate, we were greedy to see how it faired with water.

The verdict?

It did rather well with water. It enhanced the peat, bringing it out more on the nose, definitely on the palate and certainly following through on the finish. Comments like “Yum, yum, yum!” could be heard! Even those who initially resisted adding water succumbed and went “Fab!”

We then began to speculate about the peat. We found it hard to pin down. It wasn’t a typical Islay… we struggled to identify it. Some wondered if it could be from Campbeltown? With smoke more than peat. However the briney quality had us puzzled.

Like the others sampled blind, we set it aside for some time. When we returned the “Yum!” very much remained – the interplay is fabulous between the sweet, peat, cinnamon bitterness, an oily head, and bacon barbecue.

What a treat and what a surprise to be introduced to a peated Glenturret.

The Chaps over at Master of Malt have this to say:

A wonderfully Ruadh Maor single malt, which is the name Glenturret used for its peated whisky. Distilled in 2010, it was aged for eight years in a hogshead from Caol Ila, which yielded 158 bottles which were bottled in 2019 at 62.5% ABV by Chorlton Whisky. A very unique peated dram, this, with an equally unique label!

  • Nose: Powerful, earthy, oily and smoky, with roasted potatoes, paprika, very salted caramel and just a hint of honey.
  • Palate: Great big savoury flavours of barbecued meats, charred herbs, fresh coffee and a somewhat honeyed mouthfeel, with a drop of orange oil.
  • Finish: Toffee apple and a slight waxy note.

Alas, this Glenturret single cask is sold out – just like the others. When it was available, it could be purchased for the exceedingly reasonable amount of €62.25.

And PS – Turns out the chaps at Master of Malt didn’t quite get the cask detail right. My fellow Mumbai whisky explorer and host checked with the folks at Chorlton who clarified it was just a normal hogshead – not an ex Islay Caol Ila.

We also enjoyed these other Chorlton Single Cask whiskies:

As for other Glenturret experiences, I’m still at early stages having tried only two so far, neither of which had peat:

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Chorlton Single Casks – Orkney 9 year 63.1%

After such a brilliant start with the Chorlton Miltonduff, we were primed for something interesting. Our host then poured us this Orkney dram, which we sampled completely blind before the reveal.

Orkney 9 year 63.1%

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Wow! Began with acetone, medicine capsule, industrial metal – particularly copper, burnt ghee, then started to shift into caramel, suddenly heavy dry fruits, nuts – imagine a box of figs and nuts! Then curd – like those yoghurt covered raisins, shifting further into grape skin, a wine tannins, back to minerals, wet slab for sharpening a knife… all of this before even the 1st sip! Then a smoked honey ham, like a Chinese honey pork dish from Mumbai’s Golden Dragon
  • Palate – Superb! A lovely balance, silky, sweet, smooth, spice with a gentle smoke… a bit of wood char, salty caramel… a lovely honey sweet with a touch of salt yet no medicinal element
  • Finish – Lovely, long and continued to hold

The aromas kept evolving – particularly after the 1st sip.

And what about adding water? Yes please! We found it brought out the spice and honey even more. A dash of dry roasted cinnamon and other sweet spices. In some ways the peat was quite deceptive – hardly their on the 1st sip even with water and then quite pronounced in subsequent sips.

We concluded that water really helps open this whisky up beautifully. And yet we equally enjoyed it without water… one of those remarkable whiskies that is terrific both with and without, simply showed off different dimensions.

All  we could be certain is there was high quality wood, a classic approach with an ex-bourbon showing no signs of sherry or experimental wood finishes. Truth be told, it was mighty good to simply enjoy a traditional dram.

We set it aside to sample the 3rd whisky in our trio – each explored blind with only our speculation for company!

And then returned to this one… And found it a bit sour, salty on the nose, the peat clear and warming on the palate, a distinct personality with a nice chewy quality. Imagine a coconut lozenge… Delicious!

The Chaps over at Master of Malt have this to say:

9 year old single cask single malt from the isle of Orkney, drawn from a bourbon hogshead and independently bottled by Chorlton Whisky. With a very small number of whisky distilleries in Orkey, you might be able to figure out which one this whisky is from when tasting it. 191 bottles were produced.

  • Nose: Coffee bean, sea air and a touch of cookie dough.
  • Palate: A bit gristy, but with plenty of vanilla and salted caramel to back it up.
  • Finish: Lingering smoke and olive oil.

Alas with less than 200 bottles, it flew off the shelves at Master of Malt at the reasonable price of €62.49 – now completely sold out.

We also enjoyed these other Chorlton Single Cask whiskies:

And what about other Orkney (aka Highland Park) drams?

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Original Club – Caol Ila 8 year 59.2%

Our original tasting club in Mumbai has a tradition of sampling blind. We also try to explore something new – which sometimes leads to amazing new discoveries and sometimes disappointments.

What this means is trying familiar distilleries but in new avatars. In this case, we explored an old favourite Caol Ila from Hunter Laing’s newer Distiller’s Art bottling line of Single Casks. Then to add an even further special twist, these particular bottles were picked up from a particular store at cask strength.

Caol Ila 8 year (2009 / 2018) 59.2%, Sherry Hogshead, Bottle 173 of 180

  • Nose – Varnish, sharp, astringent, light banana, honey and caramel, vanilla, overall quite young
  • Palate – A bit harsh, raw, salty, spice kick, very piquant, hint of bitter coffee, chocolate
  • Finish – A warm burn, jaggery, spice, salty butter lingers… long and tingling

We suspected it was likely an ex-bourbon cask and definitely was high alcohol with an ‘in your face’ quality. Powerful and unbalanced… so we added water – a generous dollop. What a difference water made!

  • On the nose, it brightened it up, revealing lemon, floral honey.
  • Then on the palate, rounded it out, smoothing it into buttery leather, old wood and had much more depth
  • Suddenly it had an insane long finish!

While there were clear hints of peat before adding water, there were just too many forward elements competing for attention. With the water, it was truly a different dram.

What else did we explore?

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Minis – Edradour 17 year (1999) Bordeaux Cask Finish 55.2%

I gotta admit, I’ve had hit and miss experiences with wine finishes but generally like most Edradour whiskies so was very curious to see what they did with a Bordeaux finish.

Edradour 17 year (1999) Bordeaux Cask Finish 55.2%

  • Nose – Started with a peculiar rubber, plastic… then citrus, sour, tannins, ripe dark plum, a sharpness, spice at the back, grapes. After the 1st sip, big nose, bursting with fruits, oats, wet hay, porridge, brown sugar and raisins, stewed apple peels
  • Palate – Dry wood, lots of flavour, prunes and plums, dark cherries, solid body, touch of leather
  • Finish – Stays, a subtle spice that holds…  extremely long with a fruity tale
  • Water – Explosion of sweet, much more round, white peach… fabulous

The danger of storing things in hot humid Mumbai is it isn’t kind on plastic or rubber. We speculated if a bit of the initial queer aromas on opening was linked to a terrible storage mishap.

But after some time, we got past the that to – Wow! Power packed. After time, the nose settled down yet also took on a musty quality, the flavours remained big and bold.

So we set it aside to continue our explorations of the other minis. We returned and found again that slightly peculiar plastic then got past it to again wow! Compelling… it was like a completely different whisky…

  • Nose – A potpourri of aromas, rose petals, perfumes, soaped, changed again to plastic then back to fruits and berries
  • Palate – Lemon pie, eve a sweet and tart key lime pie… nope… maybe kumkuat? Mangosteens? Custard apple? Starfruit? Jackfruit?! You get it – a kaleidoscope of fruits!
  • Finish – Spice, sweet and just yum!

So what do the folks over at Master of Malts have to say?

The Edradour distillery is well known for finishing their Highland single malts in wine casks – and they get wonderfully specific with it sometimes. For example, this is a 17 year old expression, distilled in October 1999 and finished in a trio of Bordeaux hogsheads for 46 months before being bottled at cask strength in May 2017! A release of 911 bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Rich notes of stewed red berries and dark chocolate, with underlying menthol and parsley.
  • Palate: Oak-y spiciness begins to take shape on the palate with plenty of cinnamon, pink pepeprcorn and fresh cedar. Remains deliciously jammy with raspberries and cranberries.
  • Finish: Lasting sweetness of red liquorice.

As for what it would set you back? Approx $180.

So what did we try in our minis evening?

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