Method and Madness Single Grain 46%

First up in our Irish Method and Madness quartet was a single grain, matured in ex-bourbon barrels then finished in virgin Spanish oak.

What did we think?

Method and Madness Single Grain Virigin Spanish Oak Finish 46%

  • Colour – Straw
  • Nose – We immediately thought of veggie bhajia, a deep fried desi savoury snack made with besan (chickpea flour)! Behind the vegetable oil, we found some honey, a hint of floral fragrance, with a herbal bitterness. After the 1st sip, the vegetal quality gave way to a nutty vanilla toffee aroma.. shifting into balsa wood or fresh pine
  • Palate – First impression was banana with sharp spice, then it calmed down revealing a bitter ajwain element. A few sips in and the wood increasingly came to the forefront with a bit of vanilla pudding or honey depending on the sip
  • Finish – Soft feeling, coats with warmth but nothing very specifically discernible, more like a shadow of the woody palate than anything distinctive, yet the impression remained
  • Water – Some added water and one thought it completely transformed the grain. Certainly it smoothed and rounded it out more, the spice remained but was tempered and not so honeyed

Overall we found there was more character than expected in a grain. The wood certainly came through and could very well be the influence of the time spent in virgin Spanish oak casks.

And the revisit? Nope! Not to our taste. Let’s just say there was a funky sour quality that was thankfully completely missing in our original tasting.

What did the folks over at Midleton have to say?

This release asked the question: What if we take a step away from the familiar with a Single Grain whiskey aged in Virgin Spanish Oak. Without giving too much away, the two made very good partners, with a taste of gentle wood spice playing off the natural sweetness of the grain.

  • Nose – New pencil shavings, light rose petal, fresh rain on pine
  • Taste – Warm toasted oak, fresh peeled grapefruit, zesty wood spices
  • Finish – Sweet cereal, clove spiciness, fresh mint

Would we agree? We certainly found the woodsy quality, floral hint and spice, however we certainly didn’t find the grapefruit on the palate though perhaps our interpretation was bitter with out the citrus element. Overall we were glad to have a chance to try but this wouldn’t be one we would run out and buy again.

This bottle was purchased in London at the Whisky Exchange, currently available for £43.75 and opened in November 2019.

What else did we try in our Method and Madness evening?

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“Curious” – Shelter Point Montfort District Lot 141 Single Grain (2018) 46%

Something you really do need to know about Shelter Point distillery from BC, Canada is when they say “field to flask”, they really do mean it. The grow their own barley on their farm with this particular expression named after the lot:

Raised right here on our family farm on Vancouver Island, Montfort District Lot 141 is a truly unique field-to-flask whisky. The name itself is the very lot in which the single-grain barley was grown, and the coordinates to the exact field are included on every bottle. Distilled in our traditional copper pot stills, aged in American oak and French oak at our oceanfront warehouses, and bottled on-site by the Shelter Point family, Montfort DL 141 is a proud product of our distillery home.

I was so enthusiastic about our 2018 edition Shelter Point quartet that I arranged to share it with our Whisky Ladies, our original Mumbai tasting group and other enthusiasts…

Here is what we discovered! Starting with the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai when the bottle was freshly opened…

Shelter Point Montfort District Lot 141 Single Grain (2018) 46%

  • Nose – Lots of fruits, sour mash, “barnyard funk” not in a bad way, just very rustic, like a dusty granary. Then chocolate mousse, cider, grape… with the aromas continuing to evolve… an unmistakable juicy fruit, gummy bears and dried tropical fruits
  • Palate – An odd sweetness, grape mash, becoming even sweeter, the oak is also there, a creamy or buttery quality
  • Finish – Limited
  • Water – Surprising how much it opened it up, yet also became less layered in the aromas

There was no doubt that the aroma was the most complex element… a few remarked how it was a shift after the beautiful Artisanal Single Malt.

A few weeks later, our original Mumbai tasting group had a chance to sample:

  • Nose – Benedryl, lots of cherry cough syrup, sweetened berries, cut green apple, tempered from earlier, single mono note, sweetest fruit, milk chocolate
  • Palate – Chocolate fudge, coconut “Bounty” candy bar, good body, cream
  • Finish – Short

More like a liqueur than a whisky… Shelter Point shares that the grain came from a single field. Yet we had lots of speculation about what the grain could be – was it barley that was unmalted? Or something else…? And what casks were used to achieve that berries and chocolate cream combination?

Then a revisit with friends familiar with Shelter Point whiskies soon after that:

  • Nose – Raw husk, bourbon-like, honey, faint liquorice, purple grape
  • Palate – At first so different than the aroma, heavy spice, sweet, farm like… Next sip was completely consistent with the nose – the light liquorice very much there, same with the purple grape
  • Finish – A fennel herbal finish with spice

This one requires a bit of effort. Particularly after the delightful Artisanal Single Malt, this Shelter Point is a definite contrast. Curious, challenging… one that takes patience to unravel. Yet worth taking time and feel privileged to have sampled.

As for the folks over at Shelter Point have to say?

  • Tasting notes: On the nose, Montfort DL 141 has distinct notes of vanilla fudge, dried fruits and hazelnut. The palate is honied and herbaceous with a luxurious assortment of dark chocolate cherries, leading to a warming spicy finish, with lingering oak and almond nougat.
  • Still: Custom-designed copper pot still
  • Base: 100% unmalted barley (That’s it. Nothing else)
  • Distillation: Small-batch, 3x distilled
  • Spirit: Natural colour and non-chill filtered

It also won the best Canadian grain in the World Whiskies Award 2019 having this to say:

“Floral and honey nose, orchard fruits and peaches with a light toffee colour. Spice, but very well balanced. The palate brings in green wood and flavours of baking spices, coconut and marmalade. Smooth and buttery in the mouth. Medium finish.”

What else did we sample in our Shelter Point 2018 Edition evenings?

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Dubai Dream Drams – SMWS “Busy buzzing bees” 38 years (1977) 49.6%

In our special “Dream Drams” evening in Dubai early 2019, we went from a lively and most enjoyable Irish whiskey to a completely different direction with a single grain.

And no ordinary grain, it was a Strathclyde bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) from 1977, matured for 38 years, producing only 72 bottles from a refill ex-bourbon cask…

And in their trademark way, it was creatively dubbed “Busy Buzzing Bees” by the SMWS folks.

What did our merry tasting group in Dubai have to say about it?

SMWS G10.10 “Busy buzzing bees” 38 years (23 Nov 1977) 49.6%

  • Nose – It greeted us with fresh pepper, then mellowed in vanilla, nougat, eucalyptus, emerging a distinctive farm-like quality, cedar wood, light lavender
  • Palate – Honey and caramel, a few found it “buttery”, delightfully sweet
  • Finish – Bitter almond
  • Water – Beautiful and silky

How rare it is to have a grain whisky that has matured nearly 40 years… we were honoured to have such an opportunity.

What did the SMWS folks have to say about this whisky?

A light, sweet and floral aroma greeted the Panel. Sugar dusted fruit flavoured bonbons and candy corn were mentioned before a picture full of promise emerged; sitting in the garden sipping on a Lemon Drop Martini and listening to the bees buzzing in the laurel hedge.

The taste had honey-roasted peaches with lavender ice cream whilst the overall impression was one of an almost perfect balance between delicate, perfumed sweetness and dry wood spice.

A drop of water and a plate of seafood pasta in a creamy marinara sauce and a glass of chilled, slightly mineralic, Riesling Auslese was being served.

DRINKING TIP: Perfect to replace a dessert wine

For those curious to try, it is still showing as available through the SMWS for £278.40.

Here are a few more whiskies we sampled in our Dubai Dream Drams evening:

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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 Ladies Grain – The Chita 43%

Most would be familiar with Suntory’s popular Hibiki blend which brings together the Chita grain with Hakushu and Yamazaki. For many years, Suntory kept Chita nearly ‘secret’ in Japan – with no exports available.

I remember when I first picked up a bottle in Tokyo  (July 2014) – our tasting group in Mumbai were astounded by its exquisite, perfumed and nuanced character. Before featuring it in an article on Japanese whiskies, I reached out to the folks at Suntory to ask if they had any plans to market Chita outside of Japan. That was mid 2015 and the answer was “not yet” with plans clearly afoot to change that state sooner than later.

So when the NAS export version “The Chita” became available at Singapore duty-free a year later, I was excited to try it! Thanks to a “speed dating” sample sip at the airport, I had this chance, however didn’t discover much of what made our original experience so interesting.

Since then we’ve had more grains and know to calibrate expectations. And as always, the best thing about exploring whiskies with a tasting group – in this case the Whisky Ladies – is the different impressions which includes those who come with a fresh open approach not coloured by past experiences.

So what did we collectively think?

The Chita 43%

  • Nose – Light banana, vanilla, soft wood, almond, light perfume, honey
  • Palate – Lemon and pepper, sweet, pleasant, uncomplicated, more of that light perfume in the flavours and definitely more honey too
  • Finish – Simple, sweet yet satisfying

Overall we pronounced this one for the “easy drinking” category. Completely pleasant and one that could be brought out as an enjoyable uncomplicated option. One lady shared  she generally keeps a bottle of The Chita stocked and prefers it with ice and a splash of water for a simple refreshing wind-down drink.

What is interesting to note is that while the age is not stated, part of the character comes from the grain aging in a variety of casks – American White Oak, Spanish Oak and wine. This combination is given credit to producing a grain that is mild and smooth.

Suntory shares that they’ve produced grain as “dashi” or a broth base for their blends since 1972.  Yet only with the craze for Japanese whiskies globally and a growing interest in grain as a category on its own has The Chita become available since 2016.

And what do they have to say?

Shinji Fukuyo describes The Chita Single Grain Whisky as the “serenity of Japanese whisky.” Like the misty, calm seas of the Chita Peninsula on a day of elegant stillness, this airy whisky has a presence that is unmistakably serene.

“There is a quiet confidence and tenderness in our grain whiskies. These qualities allow them to be their own heroes, whether in a blend or featured as a single grain whisky.”

From the House of Suntory Whisky, a mild, smooth single grain whisky with unparalleled sophistication and a clean, clear finish.

  • Colour: Bright gold
  • Nose: Creme brûlée, cardamon, acacia honey, blossoming rose
  • Palate: Mild and smooth, hint of mint, deep honey
  • Finish: Clean and clear, spiced oak with subtle bittersweet notes

And what would a bottle of The Chita set you back? You can find it at Changi airport in Singapore for approx SGD 80 / USD 60 / INR 4,250. By Asian standards that is quite reasonable and more importantly, it is available in several airports in the region making it easy to pick up too. From that perspective, it is an easy buy for an easy drinking alternative.

PS – Photo credit goes to our whisky contributor Paula McGlynn

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

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

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Grain Whiskies – Haig, Chita, Nikka, Cambus

Though the humble grain is mostly found in blends, the Whisky Ladies are no stranger to exploring grains…

Just a couple that come to mind include….

All of our earlier grain experiences were mingled with trying malts or blends, so when it came time to decide a theme anchored by Suntory’s grain whisky Chita, we decided to go all out with grains!

We put out the word and here is what turned up!

And here is a selection of other grain tasting experiences:

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

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