A delightful, delicious yet alas discontinued dram – Cambus 24 year grain 51.9%

Every once and a while there is a chance to sample a piece of whisky history. In this case from a Lowland grain distillery that shut its doors in 1993. Before that, Cambus produced grain from early 1800s, with a hiatus from 1913 to 1938 when a fire destroyed much of the original distillery before it was rebuilt.

Like most grains, it mostly went into blends and you won’t find any official bottles. However – if you are lucky – you may come across a few select independent bottles… such as the one from Signatory that I snagged in Singapore at Whisky Live.

Cambus Single Grain 24 year (1991/2015) Cask 55891 51.9% (Signatory Vintage), Bottle 22 of 447

  • Nose – Floral, tempting, subtly complex, honey lemon, shifting between a heady perfume and light ginger, cinnamon, butterscotch and rich vanilla cream
  • Palate – Spice, with a great mouthfeel, cream like Amarulla with a bit of a hazelnut too, fruity, there was depth and character yet with a soft touch
  • Finish – Lightly bitter, closing on more of that delicious vanilla
  • Water – Brings out even more vanilla and toffee, think of a butterscotch ice cream

Overall it was exceedingly tasty… and far far far too easy to drink! It was hard not to say things like “Really nice!” and other happy murmurings.

And that’s just the thing about this whisky – it is simply delicious! A happy companion for a pleasant evening. It doesn’t challenge you but it does have enough substance and spice to make it a sprightly delightful dram.

What else do we know? It quietly matured for 24 years in a single refill butt and was bottled at cask strength.

While I didn’t find any tasting notes from the bottlers, I did check out what the  chaps at Master of Malt had to say:

  • Nose: Yep, that’s yummy grain – thick vanilla, summer fruits boiled sweets and gentle oak spice.
  • Palate: Spicy and honeyed, more vanilla and red fruit, almond pastries and a touch of treacle.
  • Finish: Quite long with a fruity tang.
  • Overall: Mid-twenties grain with a little fruity cask influence.

This bottle was purchased at Singapore Whisky Live 2017 (La Maison du Whisky) after sampling it at the Signatory kiosk. While not readily available, I paid SGD 203 / USD 150 / INR 10,800 in November 2017 and we opened the bottle in September 2018.

Since then I will admit to taking another nip or two as it is simply a rather enjoyable whisky. I keep telling myself to stop and keep it for others to try a sip of history but it sits in my cabinet temptingly tasty. And did I write more tasting notes? No… it was simply too tasty a treat to do anything but enjoy.

What else did the Whisky Ladies try in their Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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Whisky Lady – September 2018

In Mumbai, September is a season of transition… from the cooler monsoon slipping into the October heat of our 2nd summer. Which means the first part of the month is ideal whisky sipping weather by Indian standards and the later is when one tends to think more of a cool Gin & Tonic than straight up dram!

And yet, rain or shine, heat or not, our merry malters of Mumbai are always up for a wee nip or two!

For our Whisky Ladies, we shifted gears to grains. In the past, one would rarely find a grain featured solo, instead it would find favour in blends. And yet more and more one sees grain flying solo, so we decided it was time to explore!

  • Haig Club 40%
  • Suntory Chita 43%
  • Nikka Coffey Grain 45%
  • Cambus Single Grain 24 year (1991/2015) Cask 55891 51.9% (Signatory Vintage)

And our original club? We had a complete departure from our standard fare! We began our evening with a bourbon quiz, then teasingly small snifters of 3 different bourbons followed by carefully curated cocktails. Wow!

  • FEW Bourbon 46.5% morphed into a Manhattan
  • Mitcher’s Small Batch 45.7% slipped into an exquisite Sazerac
  • Cleveland Underground AP Bourbon Whiskey finished with Apple Wood, Batch 3, 45% opened into an original Old Fashioned

Whereas our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents were up for a more classic evening with whiskies aged 21 years:

  • Aberfeldy 21 year No 28750 40%
  • Highland Park 1991 40%
  • The Glenrothes 21 year Minister’s Reserve 43%

Given our Whisky Ladies 3rd year anniversary celebration was on the last day of August, tasting notes about our sociable evening of Irish drams, courtesy of our friends over at Pernod Ricard, were posted in September with:

Beyond this, there was a special chance to try Compass Box‘s new sherry influenced core offering – The Story of the Spaniard.

And I finally found scribbled notes from a November 2017 session where we explored   uncommon peat whiskies:

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

For many of our September sessions, tasting notes will come soon…

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Whisky Lady – August 2018

This August brought more monsoon rain and yes – some malts too! All three Mumbai whisky tasting groups met up and a bonus minis session.

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we took a rather significant detour from our usual whisky fare to explore rums from Columbian & The Seychelles:

For our original group, I had a special session planned for well over a year… to  explore different dimensions of Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte with their Micro-Provenance 5 series:

Before we dove into the MP5, we calibrated our palate with:

For the Whisky Ladies, it was our 3rd anniversary with a sociable evening of Irish drams, courtesy of our friends over at Pernod Ricard who kindly shared:

  • Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition 40%
  • Green Spot 40%
  • Yellow Spot 12 year 46% and
  • Redbreast 12 year 40%

Plus we had a terrific minis session – Campbeltown style – comparing whiskies from Glen Scotia and Springbank… laugh if you will but we found…

There were a few other explorations…

I also posted notes from July’s remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

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

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

Last in our Port Charlotte cask evening was one that stumped our entire group. We sampled it blind, with no clue beyond everyone knowing the whiskies sampled that evening were from the same distillery, similar age, barley, peat level yet matured in different casks.

What did we find?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

  • Colour – Dark amber
  • Nose – Dark chocolate, cinnamon spice, raisins, prunes, apricot, such fruity sweet, almost sweet wine-like, shifting from dark to white chocolate nougat, vanilla, cappuccino, marmalade, walnut, not a hint of peat… then after some time, became almost meaty with a subtle ash and… believe it or not… bubblegum! After even more time… was that lemon custard? Or coconut cream pie?
  • Palate – Spice, even more than the others this one was sooooooo sweet! Then a roaring spice behind the sweet which eased into a ginger spice, followed by salt, roasted coffee bean and a gentle peat, with wonderful oils
  • Finish – Lovely
  • Water – Needs a splash of water – then it becomes juicy, fruity and simply fabulous!

For some, this was the favourite or runner up of the night!

There was something so completely appealing about the complexity of the aromas and, once water was added, it was absolutely wonderful on the palate. There was a lovely balance between the fruits, chocolate and light peat… which initially had a ‘barely there’ quality but revealed itself after adding water.

And our cask speculation?

After tossing out possibilities from rum to muscatel to sherry PX, most settled on Port thanks to its rich sweet character. No one even came close to guessing French virgin oak.

With the reveal, everyone was stunned!

On two counts…

  • First, did it really get all these elements from virgin oak?
  • And second, while it really came into its own with water, how could it be 63.5% after 10 years!

For both… there was more to the story which can be found in the MP5 broadcast with Adam and Allan.

Let’s start with the alcohol strength…

63.5% seems nearly impossible for 10 years until you consider the approach taken at Bruichladdich. Unlike other distillers that first add water to their new make spirit to bring it to a uniform 63.5% before maturing, Bruichladdich puts it into the cask at the full force of a true cask strength which is closer to 70%.

And what about the cask?

They shared that after nearly 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask, it was finished for 6 months in a French virgin oak with a medium char from Seguin Moreau cooperage which held nothing before… they credited the virgin oak for providing the depth of colour to the whisky.

An interesting twist… all we know is that we really enjoyed the results!

What more do we know from the bottle?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 30.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Virgin Oak
  • Warehouse: P4. L8 – Dunnage

I purchased this set at The Single Cask in Singapore and we opened the bottles in August 2018 in Mumbai.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

We also started our evening comparing casks with a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8%.

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

One of the ‘traditions’ of our original whisky group is to taste blind… In this case, I gave a bit of a twist by openly sharing we were sampling whiskies from the same distillery, peated at the same level and nearly the same age with the only difference the cask.

My goal was to eliminate wild speculations to instead focus on the narrow range of variable – cask. With the reveal made only after we tasted each whisky separately and then compared them to each other, sharing thoughts on the possible cask(s) used.

We began with the Cognac cask – while not part of the MP5 series – I chose it to calibrate the palate. We then moved on to the Bourbon cask, then this one… which added a Bordeaux finish.

What did we think?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

  • Colour – A clear touch of red – which we later found clearly came from the Bordeaux cask finish
  • Nose – Initially greeted with curd and tobacco, quite strongly spirit driven, some sulfur – like we just set off some crackers ‘patakar!’, then settled down with less peat, revealing chocolate, and a range of aromas that went from wine to sweet and salty dried fruits, pistachios and raisins
  • Palate – Very spicy at first, with an interesting over brewed tea quality, like tannins from red wine, sweet with an interesting spice, shifting into raspberries and walnuts
  • Finish – A long finish with a strong peppery close
  • Water – Initially made it spicier then really opened up with many finding it quite fabulous once opened up with a splash of water

While we found this one a bit thin on the palate, lacking the body of the MP5 Bourbon, it had quite a distinctive and appealing quality. We also found it less salty than the 1st with almost negligible peat.

For one, he confessed that if he wasn’t already told this was a peaty Islay whisky, he never would have guessed. We wanted to know how that could possibly be the case – given similar ppm from other distilleries retain a much more pronounced peat.

The answer in part can be found in the Laddie MP5 broadcast in which the head distiller Adam Hannett speaks with Allen Logan, distillery manager.

Around the 20 min mark, they shared how their PC style is to always start at 40 phenolic parts per million (PPM). However the phenol content changes as it is mashed, malted and further softened through the slow distilling process. The shape of the still is another factor, which enables lighter flavours to come through. Then, as the spirit ages, it loses more phenols…

The result? You end up with considerably less ppm than you started with… And for Port Charlotte (PC) specifically, it means the whisky is surprisingly versatile with different cask types, particularly if it is aged for a longer period.

Yet without this insight or knowledge of the re-casting, what did our merry malters think?

After much speculation, most votes veered to sherry with one clear it could not be sherry as it had a wine quality. Clearly this taster was exceedingly close!

What Adam shared in the broadcast is this whisky began in an ex-Bourbon cask for 10 years then was finished for 9 months in the fresh Bordeaux cask from the town of Margeaux.

When asked why they recast the spirit, the answer was:

“We wanted to see what else we could explore, do and try new things.”

In part this was motivated by a recognition the whisky needed an extra ‘boost’ from re-casking.

And when the topic of the wine cask finish arose, Allen spoke of their early experiments with finishing 15 and 20 year stock using ex-Bordeaux casks, which turned the whisky pink after only a short period of time! What to do? Jim McEwan suggested releasing the whisky as a special edition for Valentine’s Day, what else?

As for this whisky? I revisited it the next evening and found the wine element unmistakable… and think we underestimated it in our first foray. Or perhaps with just a little oxidation, it revealed its balanced complex character. Superb!

What more do we know?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 29.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Bourbon / Bordeaux
  • Warehouse: WH5. L2 – Dunnage

I purchased this 200ml tasting set trio for an embarrassingly high amount from The Single Cask in Singapore.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

Before we tasted the MP5 series, I opened a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8% to help calibrate our palate to the Port Charlotte style.
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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Fresh Bourbon Cask #1999 56.9%

For over a year, I waited impatiently to dive into this Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance aka MP5 trio!

I came across the set in Singapore at The Single Cask. taking a good long whiff of their open bottles and was intrigued. I kept thinking about them… and on my next visit, I was delighted they still had a closed set remaining. So I packed it up and brought it back to Mumbai for our merry malters!

I decided to do it in the same order Adam and Allan did on their YouTube broadcast… so we began with the ex-bourbon. While I knew what we were sampling, my fellow whisky explorers tried it blind.

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Fresh Bourbon Cask #1999 56.9%

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – Bounty chocolate with roasted coconut, tropical fruits – particularly pineapple, cashew fruit when nearly ripe, subtle peat, ripe bananas, dates, lightly leather and wood polish, faint iodine then evolved into a fresh clean delicate citrus
  • Palate – Spicy cinnamon, jute kopra, coconut barfi, lightly oily, a wonderful mouth feel, coffee, coconut shell
  • Finish – Medium length, a bit bitter, chillies, coconut
  • Water – Opened up beautifully, lovely balance of spice then sweet, delicious with a gentle orange citrus

We loved it! It began as a pure tropical treat and evolved into creme brule, bubblegum… We really enjoyed this whisky And found it was a fabulous easy drinking dram. It had a lovely balance, very tasty, becoming even more enjoyable as it opened further with water and had a little more time sitting in the glass.

Remarkably, there was very little peat – just a light leather curl of smoke enveloped in creamy sweet goodness. Equally no one came even close to predicting the alcohol strength – there was talk of 46% or 48% with no one imagining 56.9%!

I challenged my tasting cohorts to give their best guesses on what cask(s) went into creating this dram. After the Cognac surprise, speculation ranged from rum to virgin oak to bourbon… with the last spot on!

What more do we know?

  • PPM: 40
  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 17.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Fresh Bourbon
  • Warehouse: P2. R19 – Dunnage

We loved this whisky and wished there was more! By the end of the evening there were just a few drops remaining… clearly a good sign.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

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Bruichladdich Port Charlotte MP5

The whole idea behind Bruichladdich’s Micro-Provenance (or MP) series is to demonstrate the difference to be found between casks when starting at approximately the same place. Through this journey, one can explore the evolution of a single malt, comparing and contrasting…

For #LaddieMP5, head distiller Adam Hannett selected three single casks of Port Charlotte whisky:

  • All starting at the same peat level – 40 ppm
  • Using the same barley type – Optic
  • Distilled within 2 weeks of each other in November 2005
  • Then matured for 10 years…. just in different casks…

The result was a fascinating experiment and experience enjoyed by our original Mumbai whisky tasting group late August 2018.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks Trio: 

I asked the Comms team for more info and they said the best thing to do is to watch the MP5 broadcast where Adam and Allan talked through the whiskies – well worth watching!

To get us in the mood for peaty full cask strength drams, I also opened up another bottle of Port Charlotte to help calibrate our palates. The whisky I selected for this purpose was:

Tasting notes will be available over the next few days….

Curious about other Bruichladdich Port Charlotte tasting experiences?

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North Star Discovery – Islay 8 year 58.3%

Last in our North Star trio was a whisky from its 2nd series simply named “Islay”. We sampled it blind and were floored by the reveal with an introduction to a new independent bottler who certainly seems to be bringing quality and value to his selections.

Islay 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles

  • Nose – A sour peat… dare I say it… almost headache inducing? Certainly highly medicinal. Which then slipped into ham, pineapple, mellow with a very different character than how it began, lemon tart, musk melon, some spice… shifted again this time into smoked sweet grass, green coffee beans, cut hay, quite vegetal, dry forrest
  • Palate – Starts exceedingly smooth then SPICE. Had a phenolic Islay style sweet peat not the palate with smoked pepper ham, with more fruits like grilled pineapple and apricot
  • Finish – Sweet, slightly briney and ends with something we couldn’t quite name… after going on and on and on…..
  • Water – Wow! What a difference! It really brought out the best qualities – the nose took on a peak smoke with dark chocolate and cherries, the palate augmented the sweet peat with a berry dimension and the finish then revealed beneath the salty sweet ash a light citrus sweet

As the last of our trio, we joked that perhaps the theme of the evening was spice, sweet and slow things down as each whisky took its time to fully reveal  its character.

Our talk turned to speculate the origins of this dram. For all it was sufficiently distinctively Islay to fall in that camp. But which one? We veered towards Caol Ila which, though not actually stated by the bottler, may very well be the case.

The extra fruitiness that emerged behind the peat made sense once I learned the whisky was finished in a pair of ex-sherry octave casks.

And what about the official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Medicinal, peat smoke & dark chocolate
  • Palate: Sweet peat, delicate sherry notes
  • Finish: Subtle ash, citrus & peppery peat smoke

Interestingly our findings were most aligned with the official tasting notes with water. And certainly we would highly recommend adding some generous drops to bring out the best in this whisky.

What were we fortunate to sample in our introductory North Star Trilogy?

Before it sold out, you could find it through Master of Malt for approximately £75.

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North Star Discovery – Ardmore Peat 8 year 58.7%

Next up in our North Star Discovery was another from their inaugural series… this time from Ardmore. We’ve not come across much Ardmore in our whisky explorations – my only brush has been a speed sniff and swish of the Ardmore 1997 45% (G&MP).  at Whisky Live Singapore at the Gordon & MacPhail booth.

Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 58.7% 1 of 198 bottles

  • Nose – PEAT, oily, sulfer, soapy, capsules… like walking into a doctor’s or chemist shop, iodine, steam engine, musty… then started to shift character revealing waves and waves of cinnamon, plums, mosambi juice, dark juicy fruits, black cherry, cinnamon apple juice, sour cherries…. kept evolving shifting from fruits to a slightly oily soot, like sacred ash, then a bit lactic, old flowers like malas after a day or so… then dark chocolate… and yet another element revealing such a delicious BBQ honey bacon, lots of smoked meats, light tar… followed by coffee, creamy yoghurt… an absolutely unbelievable nose
  • Palate – Sweet roaring spice, lots of sweet peat, stewed chewy fruits, then sweet meats and BBQ. Has good body, lots of character, oodles of spice yet still beautifully balanced between all the elements.
  • Finish – Chocolate cinnamon with a slight orange zest with a “hold” that really stays… dry
  • Water – Brilliant with! Becomes so sweet, lovely honey bacon with a mandarin perfume twist on the nose, silky smooth with a lovely rolling cinnamon sweet on the palate and fantastic finish.

We began to speculate, while it clearly had peat, we thought it wasn’t an obvious Islay dram, yet still likely Scottish. It has a gentle peat quality, pronounced, firmly there but with a subtle hand.

Thinking about the cask, we wondered about french oak? Something that gives a good kick like the way the virgin oak does for Spice Tree.

Again we guessed cask strength and absolutely loved the way water gave it even more “something.”

One remarked that it was a bit “naughty” in the nicest possible way…

Could any of us pick out that it was Ardmore! Not a chance… and that too from a new independent bottler? Impossible.

Which made the reveal all the more enjoyable.

And what about the official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Delicate peat, smoked meats & iodine
  • Palate: Sweet fruit juices & smoke from a BBQ
  • Finish: A great balance of savoury, smoke & chocolate orange

What were we fortunate to sample in our introductory North Star Trilogy?

Unfortunately North Star bottles fly off the online “shelves” quickly!

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Whisky Lady – July 2018

July brings monsoon rains, vacations and often a slightly slower pace of life… and yet this month still had a rather admirable set of whisky tasting experiences. And even though technically only 1 of our 3 Mumbai whisky tasting groups “officially” met, somehow gatherings over a dram still happened… read on…

Whisky Ladies Sukhinder Singh’s Cask Strength Trio from The Whisky Exchange in London:

Pedigree malts from around the world:

Our original group were introduced to a remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

I also finally got around to sharing tasting notes from an evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac always push the boundaries… The last three remarkable whiskies sampled were…

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

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