Port Finish – Amrut Port Pipe Peated 48%

India is making its mark with Amrut and Paul John single malts… so when we were planning an evening exploring different finishes and the Amrut Port Pipe Peated became available, well… we simply had to give it a whirl!

Amrut Port Pipe Peated 48%

  • Nose – Well hello peat, smoking pipe, sea salt, apricots, a richness, then as it opened up more, became spicier, smoked meats, some cognac and even sweet candies, apples, give it even more time and there was a whiff of mocha coffee chocolate
  • Palate – Spice and peat and sweet combine, heavy and creamy on the tongue, balanced
  • Finish – After the 1st sip, the finish was a bit bitter, then a few sips in, the finish was nice long, lazy peat, with sweetness and salt, just hanging around

We thought it a good ‘all rounder.’ Overall… there was something quite ‘desi‘ about this one. We even speculated about tasting besan – the chickpea flour used to make pakoras. Whereas another suggested kebabs picking up on the hint of smoked meats dimension. Yet another called it a solid 4 course meal. Hmm…. were we starting to get hungry?

It was apt though – this is a whisky of substance. What was curious was how the port element was subtle, whereas the peat was predominant.

Certainly this is a whisky you would be proud to call Indian.

Zoe and Amrut

And what do the combined Amrut and The Vault folks have to say?

This a single cask release made with a combination of 3 YO Virgin Oak & Ex-Bourbon matured malts that are further aged in the very rare 30 YO Port Pipe cask from Portugal, for another 2.5 years. Whisky aged for 5.5 years in tropical climate like Bangalore, which is 3000 ft. above sea level brings the flavour to its apex profile. The peated malt, imported from Scotland, uses Aberdeenshire peat that delivers well rounded peat notes with only a hint of iodine on the nose and palate.

  • Nose: First up is butterscotch wrapped in delicious gentle peat with growing sweetness of honey, and raisins. Thick oak tannins and hints of cinnamon flavoured dark chocolate.
  • Palate: The peat has come to life with all the creaminess from raisins and honey. Lots of citrus and tropical fruits. Cinnamon and chocolate in the background.
  • Finish: Ever so long and mouth coating. Peat, citrus and sweetness lingers on with massive salivation and little dryness.

You won’t find this whisky easily…. only 100 bottles were released for sale in Mumbai – launched as part of The Vault Biennale, held in Mumbai February 2019. And if you managed to snag one of those bottles? It would cost you Rs 7,000 / approx $100.

Curious about other Amrut experiences?

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Port Finish – Tomatin 14 year Port Wood 46%

From the Highland, we sampled Tomatin’s 14 year Port Wood finish 46%. In 2014, Tomatin added it to their core range, noting that it starts in Bourbon barrels before spending a year being finished in Port pipes.

So what did we think?

Tomatin 14 year Port Wood finish 46%

  • Nose – Initially lots of wine, grapes, some spice, even black salt from a chaat masala, dried herbs, old shoes
  • Palate – Grape cool aide with spice, yoghurt, a bit thin
  • Finish – Bizarre tannins
  • Water – A bit softer, yet gained an odd metallic quality

Sometimes when you taste with others, one thought leads to another and another. In this case, we spiralled from the above observations into uproarious laughter. Why?

Well… we started off remarking how the aroma reminded us of a cheap bar… more specifically the morning after with the stench of spilt cheap red wine and tequila. The reaction was so strong from a few that there was considerable trepidation to even taste.

And then?

Let’s just say it considerable devolved into talk of baby puke (not uncommon with whiskies) and even less polite observations… back to that bar with the unmistakable aroma of those who over indulged and could not contain there… er… you get the picture.

So we read what the folks at Tomatin have to say? Could we discover some of the notes they share?

The Tomatin 14 Year Old is soft, smooth and sweet, benefiting from its time spent in Tawny Port casks which previously held port for around 50 years.

Rich but balanced aromas of red berries, sweet honey and rich toffee develop into aspects of light fruits and nuts on the palate and an abiding finish of smooth fruit salad.

Sorry? Rich? Fruit salad?! And that’s when we devolved into laughter… when someone mentioned maybe if it was fruit that… er… again… you get the picture.

So I set it aside to see if it improved with a bit… it happens sometimes.

And?

Nope! Not for us. If anything was a bit queer. Sigh…

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve? A few we enjoyed much much more!

And that is the terrific thing about experiments – some hits, some misses and more!

If you picked it up from Master of Malt in the UK, this Tomatin would set you back approx $60. However like most whiskies, prices vary massively depending on where you purchase it and understand this particular bottle cost nearly double that! Yikes!

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Madeira Finish – Penderyn Madeira 46% a favourite!

Our Whisky Ladies explored an evening of finishes… moving from Speyside to Wales to explore the affect of Madeira on whisky… Here is what we discovered…

Penderyn Madeira 46%

  • Nose – When freshly opened had a bright sharpness, metallic, then shifted into a perfume – rose and other flowers, then fruity, then the wood came to the fore followed by a nice nuttiness of chestnuts, shifting further to a chewy gummy bear, from candy to creme brûlée
  • Palate – Fruits and spice, some tannins, with a lovely slow progression, an nice understated but interesting character, some dates, toffee and cream
  • Finish – Cotton candy, then toffee and a hint of vanilla

We really enjoyed this one! One of the few times it was absolutely a unanimous “thumbs up!” We found it very drinkable, feminine, with enough going on to keep us engaged.

I set it aside and revisited after sampling all unusual finishes of the evening. What did I find? An initial whiff of sweet varnish, then a lovely candied toffee, vanilla… simply yum!

This is another you can find at some duty free or, if you picked it up from the Whisky Exchange in the UK, it would set you back approx £40.

Penderyn Official Website

And what do the folks at Pendryn have to say?

This whisky is the original Penderyn ‘house style’, aged in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in ex-Madeira wine casks to bring out its full gold character. It is bottled at 46% abv.

Official Tasting Notes:
  • Nose: A classic freshness with aromas of cream toffee, rich fruit and raisins.
  • Palate: Crisp and finely rounded, with the sweetness to balance an appetising dryness.
  • Finish: Notes of tropical fruit, raisins and vanilla persist.
  • Balance: Oaky vanilla tones/dry sweetness

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve?

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Finishes – Glenfiddich IPA 43%

We started our “Unusual Finishes” journey in Speyside with one of the grandaddy’s of the Glens – Glenfiddich with their IPA beer experiment.

Glenfiddich IPA 43%

  • Colour – Pale golden
  • Nose – Started off with a bit peach, sweet and grassy, some citrus, then back to a granary, barley and hay, then a crepe with sugar and lemon
  • Palate – Some spice, very sweet, yet flat with no body, a bit oily
  • Finish – Not bad, the spice remains for a bit. One even described it as “lumpy”

Our overall reaction was that it was exceedingly…. average. Yup average. It was also pronounced superficially drinkable.

Could we discern the hops influence? Perhaps a bit but it wasn’t massively pronounced.

It is also relatively easy to find in duty free – so accessible that we discovered 3 whisky ladies had picked it up! Sparking a joke that this would go into the category of whiskies decent enough to not be embarrassed to gift.

Debate turned to whether this would make a good cocktail – a Whisky Sour perhaps? Or maybe an Old Fashioned or Sazerac?

I set a glass with the IPA aside and revisited it after an hour – it was pleasant, grassy and inoffensive.

And their official tasting notes?

  • Colour – Rich golden.
  • Nose – An elegant harmony of fresh green apple, William’s pear and spring blossom. Complemented with aromatic hops and fresh herbs.
  • Taste – Vibrant with a zesty citrus note followed by creamy vanilla and a hint of fresh hops.
  • Finish – Enduring sweetness with an echo of green hops.

While travel retail prices vary wildly around the world, if you picked it up from Whisky Exchange in the UK, it would set you back approx £45.

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve?

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Peaty Highlander – Ballechin Heavily Peated 12 year 54.5%

Our explorations of Highland peaty drams led us to Edradour distillery with a full cask strength dram.

Ballechin Heavily Peated 12 year (May 2017) 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Cask 330 54.5% 251 Bottles

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Wow! Floral yet with a power punch, some sharpness, sweetly herbal, cinnamon, star anise, then the floral dissipated to be replaced by maple bacon, honey sweetness with a citrus twist
  • Palate – Honey, maple syrup, very dry, holds and took on that distinctive maple bacon whisky, substance
  • Finish – Nutty, toothpaste, lovely spice, iodine
  • Water – Sour with no spice… given time revealed cinnamon then a nutty quality, like pressed almond oil

Our final conclusion was this would be a perfect monsoon whisky… one to enjoy when the heavy rains wash away all the heat and pollution, dropping the temperature too.

What did the folks at The Whisky Exchange have to say?

A single-cask Ballechin bottled at a cask-strength of 54.5% and exclusive to The Whisky Exchange, this heavily-peated single malt from Edradour distillery boasts a smoky, farmyard character to rival any Islay whisky. Balanced by sweet citrus and hints of honey, this is a fantastic dram which elegantly combines sweet, savoury and smoky notes to memorable effect.

TASTING NOTES BY BILLY ABBOTT (THE WHISKY EXCHANGE)

  • Nose: Sweet and green smoke at first: freshly sawn branches newly tossed on to a bonfire of burning pine. Hints of jelly-baby fruitiness develop, along with Vick’s Vaporub, honey and lemon lozenges and white toast with honey. The lighter notes at the front obscure but don’t hide a darker background of rich smoke.
  • Palate: Savoury smoke to start: smoked ham and signed lemons. White pepper heat mixes with bicycle-tire inner tubes, sharp lemon curd and a hint of creosoted fence. A bubble of black liquorice rises from the depths, bursting to reveal blackcurrants and anise.
  • Finish: Tar and char fade to leave bittersweet liquorice and lemon butter sauce.
  • Comment: Softer than many Ballechins, this brings together sweet and savoury notes, all wrapped up in a smoky blanket.

And what would it set you back? If, like our Whisky Lady, you purchased it from The Whisky Exchange in London, expect something around £80.

What else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies Peaty Highland drams evening?

What else have I tried from Edradour distillery?

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Peaty Highlander – Inchmoan 12 year 46%

From Loch Lomond distillery, Inchmoan is another variant of Inchmurrin (or Inchfad, Croftengea, Rosdhu)… with peat to go with the Highland sweet.

Here is what we thought of this 12 year expression…

Courtesy DevPaula

Inchmoan 12 year 46% (Loch Lomond Distillery Island Collection)

  • Colour – Burnished copper
  • Nose – Quite metallic to start, iron, copper, rust, fruits, back to a blacksmith, wet leaves, then campfire s’mores, sweet, apricot, rum raisin, macadamia nuts
  • Palate – A nice campfire peat, juicy raisins, butter, silky smooth, syrupy with a herbal quality like sipping Jägermeister with a flash of fresh tarragon, then tannins and a bit of “raw hide”, then back to herbal, followed by sweet coffee and chocolate, and is that a bit of ginger and cinnamon?
  • Finish – Long finish, surprisingly gentle, sweet grassy peat, smoke and peppery spice with a stoneware close
  • Water – Simply perfect as is – no need to add

What we enjoyed most was the shifts and changes with this whisky. We thought there was a bit of a burn to start – a touch of “dragon’s fire” which then settled down and became dangerously delicious!

What did the folks at The Whisky Exchange have to say?

Inchmoan is the peated single malt produced at Loch Lomond. The 12 Year Old is sweet and spicy with notes of vanilla and a smoky backbone.

And what would it set you back? If, like our Whisky Lady, you purchased it from The Whisky Exchange in London, expect something around £45.

What other Peaty Highlanders did our Whisky Ladies try?

What else have we experienced from Loch Lomond?

And that’s it! Me thinks it might be time to explore more!

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Peaty Highlander – Aird Mhor 8 year 55.3%

Sound it out… “Aird Mhor” and you realize perhaps this might be “Ardmore”… and sure enough it is!

Our Whisky Ladies session dove straight into this cask strength offering from the Single Malts of Scotland range bottled by Speciality Drinks. It was purchased at their Whisky Exchange Covent Garden store under the guidance of Duncan.

So what did we think?

Aird Mhor 8 year (1 Dec 2009 / 25 June 2018) Cask 707910 55.3% 261 Bottles

  • Colour – Golden
  • Nose – Gentle smoke, leather, wood, citrus, orange, as it opened became increasingly sweet
  • Palate – Spice, tobacco, warm, 2nd sip was like an echo of Laphroaig, calming, sweet
  • Finish – Long finish with a bit of liquorice and vanilla
  • Water – No surprise it initially ramped up the spice, but when it settled down it brought out a nicely nutty quality, helped balance it out a bit, with it a bit oily on the palate

This one was a bit curious and not for everyone. Going straight from zero to full cask strength was also an adjustment.. though one our Whisky Ladies can easily make!

One remarked this whisky was a bit of an “attention seeker” with a fierceness and forcefulness that demanded notice. In this respect, it showed its youthful enthusiasm.

We discovered that the hint of Laphroaig peat came from the Ardmore being matured in ex Laphroaig barrel.

It wasn’t complicated and yet it provoked a clear divide between those who enjoyed and those who didn’t care for it so much.

Apparently Mogambo also has something to say!

Aird Mhor + Mogambo courtesy DevPaula

What did the folks at The Whisky Exchange have to say?

A smoky dram from Aird Mhor (aka Ardmore distillery). While nearby distilleries are better known for unpeated whisky, Ardmore bucks the trend, making a powerful and smoky dram. This single-cask bottling from The Single Malts of Scotland – distilled on 1 December 2009 and bottled at years old on 25 June 2018 – is a classic, with punchy smoke, honey and lemon.

I must say, I rather think “punchy smoke, honey and lemon” is a rather good way to describe this one!

What else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies Peaty Highland drams evening?

And what else have I explored from Ardmore?

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Shelter Point Cask Strength (2018) 58.7%

Last in our Shelter Point quartet from BC, Canada was their 2018 Cask Strength expression. Travelling from the west coast of Canada to Manitoba, the Manitoba to Maharashtra India, this quartet was a gift from the distillery to our Mumbai based tasting groups.

First up was the Whisky Ladies, followed by the Original tasting group and then for the last remaining drops an informal evening with a couple friends.

Here is what the Whisky Ladies had to say…

Shelter Point Artisanal Cask Strength (2018) 58.7%

  • Nose – Farm sweet, unripe avocado, smooth, citrus and camomile
  • Palate – Fruity with a bit of spice, some ginger, smooth, bright
  • Finish – Star anise, long and sweet
  • Water – We debated about this – to add or not. In the end those that did add were a bit disappointed whereas those who kept it water free, continued to enjoy their whisky full strength

Overall, what did we think? We found it quite sophisticated, we loved its character and sheer joyfulness. There was also a nice spiciness too that gave it a terrific kick.

We revisited it after some time and found it was full of sugar icing, vanilla, baking goodies and a tasty vanilla milkshake. Yum!

And then two weeks later with our original Mumbai group?

  • Nose – Some lovely classic notes that comes with a proper cask strength, complex, honey sweet, grape or linseed oil, perfume vanilla, sweet bubble gum, maple sugar cookies, red twizzlers, hair oil
  • Palate – Sweet and spice – one remarked how it is the distinctive Rye spice, a bit earthy, and at the centre – yum! Almost yolky
  • Finish – Just like the nose – fruity…

This one had the most diverse aromas… not an easy whisky, yet endearingly “cheerful” amidst its complexity and layers.

And a further revisit with a few friends a few days later was a different experience:

  • Nose – It began with a kicking spice, lots more “whisky”, then coconut marzipan, effervescent
  • Palate – Spices, quite “manly” with a bitter walnut, nougat, again a distinctly “rye” element but very balanced
  • Finish – Had a nice “oomph!”, black pepper, a bit bitter

We found the whisky kept changing the more it was in the glass, quite quixotic, teasing… so we decided to add water. Wow!

  • Nose – Toasted coconut, lime, lavender, herbal, flowers
  • Palate – Dark grapes, marmalade, chocolate
  • Finish – Heightened the bitter chewy quality chased with a hint of salt

Confession time?

I started to think of a quintessentially Canadian bar beverage made with Canadian “Rye” whiskey (aka a blend with a generous element of rye) and ginger ale. And while I was never a “Rye and Ginger” gal, I found myself pulling the bottle out of the whisky cabinet, pouring a generous dram, throwing a few large chunks of ice into the glass and topping with a healthy splash of cold ginger ale. Delicious!

The folks over at Shelter Point shared:

To create this limited edition cask strength whisky, we selected two casks of triple-distilled unmalted Shelter Point barley and combined these with two casks of rye, creating an incredibly rich and spicy whisky. Decadent, complex and intense, this blend will surprise you with layer after layer of flavour.

  • Shelter Point Cask Strength Whisky is fragrant on the nose with apricots, rum raisins and sticky toffee pudding.
  • The palate is sweet and warming with candied ginger, nougat, honey blossom and pineapple.
  • The satisfying finish is incredibly long with an assortment of spices, cherry wood and salt.

Whisky Facts:

  • Still: Custom-designed copper pot still
  • Base: 50% unmalted barley and 50% rye
  • Distillation: Small-batch, 3x distilled
  • Spirit: Natural colour and non-chill filtered
  • Alcohol Content: Bottled at 58.7% Alc.Vol

Bottom line? It absolutely works!

Here is what else we tried in our Shelter Point 2018 Quartet, courtesy of the cool cats over at the distillery:

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“Dining delight” Shelter Point Double Barrelled (2018) 50%

Imagine sitting down to a table overflowing with food – some contrasting salads, maple glazed carrots, beans, corn on the cob, pasta, roasted meat – and beside it sits a glass of liquid, pairing perfectly.

Naturally you thought wine, right? Perhaps even a Pinot Noir…  But what if the image shifted from a deep large round glass of red wine to the distinctive contours of a Glencairn glass? Containing instead a beautiful whisky from the west coast of Canada… ?

While you may be surprised, if you tried, you would not be disappointed!

But first, our  Whisky Ladies of Mumbai had a chance to discover… Here is what they had to say…

Shelter Point Double Barrelled French Oak Cask Finish Single Malt (2018) 50%

  • Nose – Sweetness, a bit musty and shy initially, then a lovely perfume, caramel, fruit, butter popcorn, candied apple, flowers
  • Palate – Spice, lots of variation, very different, whisky and wine combine
  • Finish – Long, dark grape peel, even some rich buttery ghee, a pinch of salt

Then a few weeks later our original Mumbai tasting group checked it out.

We discovered this whisky had certainly evolved… none of the musty elements, though some found it retained a bit of “shyness” on the nose until it opened up in the glass…

  • Nose – A lovely wine note, surely it must have held red wine in the French oak cask? It also had a light almond aroma mixing with the sweet fruits and berries
  • Palate – Such character! A nice balance of sweet and dryness, wood, spice and tannins, clear stamp of red wine with a nice body
  • Finish – Some light spice?

The more we sipped, the more we enjoyed this one. It had a wonderful palate… almost like sipping a good red wine.

As we sat down to dinner, this whisky made a brilliant companion. It truly turned out to be a perfect “dinner whisky” – wonderful!

It was then further revisited with a few friends not long after:

  • Nose – Soooo fruity! Pear, blackberry, sugar sweet and malty, macadamia nuts, cherry
  • Palate – Marvellous! Less sweet than the nose indicated, more substance. Is that coffee? Certainly more of those yummy berries with a nice peppery spice… not in the least bit harsh
  • Finish – Character follows through with a vanilla cream close

As before, the more we sipped, the more we enjoyed. It was much more complex than the other Shelter Points… one that requires you to slow down and pay attention.

I confirmed with the folks over at Shelter Point that their 2nd edition was in collaboration with Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, with a French Oak cask which previously held their rich fruity Pinot Noir.

All our speculation about the cask used for the finish fell into place – there was no doubt the dark grape, the tannis and berry fruitiness came from the wine cask.

Curious to know more? Here is what Shelter Point has to say:

We hand selected 4 of our finest Single Malt whisky casks and finished them in French oak wine barrels, previously home to Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir. Aged in our American oak for six and a half years, and then finished for 1993 hours in the flavourful French oak, Shelter Point Double Barreled Whisky is a sensational marriage of spirits.

Tasting Notes:

  • Nose: A deep, rich berry jam with toffee apple and toast. Stewed fruits, figs and rum raisins followed by powdered jelly doughnuts.
  • Palate: Sweet, juicy tropical fruits with oak and forest berries.
  • Finish: A warm peppery finish of cherry pie and salted caramel.

Whisky Facts:

  • Still: Custom-designed copper still
  • Base: Two-row barley (That’s it. Nothing else.)
  • Distillation: Small-batch, 2x distilled
  • Spirit: Natural color and non-chill filtered

So there you have it – one whisky, three distinctive experiences!

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

Interested in more Shelter Point tasting experiences?

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Singapore’s The Swan Song

Imagine a place that has only one of a kind drams… those rare bottles where there are merely a few hundred or so ever produced. And once gone, they are no more!

That is exactly what you can expect at The Swan Song in Singapore.

It is tucked away behind the main Prinsep Street, up a flight of stairs and open only Thursday to Sunday or holidays. Why? Put simply this is a passion project run by individuals who were brought together by a philosophy that sharing is caring.

Here you can try a rare open bottle from a closed distilleries such as Lochside, Port Ellen and Brora or explore mature marvel from the 1960s.

Kelvin Hoon and Arun Prashant are the men behind this remarkable place. Arun I had met years before when he managed The Auld Alliance where he was responsible for one of my most memorable tasting evenings in Singapore. Amazingly after many years, when we walked in, he remembered that night too.

So under his able guidance, what did we try November 1, 2018?

We began with a Cadenhead’s Linkwood-Glenlivet 28 year (1989/2017) 43.7% with only 289 bottles from a barrel purchased by The Swan Song, The Writing Club, Quaich Bar and Ubin Seafood.

It was rich, complex, one that makes you slow down and unravel its many layers. In short, it was the perfect way to get into the mood for something truly special.

Curious to know more? Just check out Justin Choo’s post on Spirited Singapore with some insider insight.

Then my companion and I each selected one dram:

Lochside 22 year (May 1979/Jan 2001) 50% (Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask) 1 of 276

I had such fabulous memories of the Lochside 1981, that this was an easy pick. And it absolutely did not disappoint!

Port Charlotte 12 year (2004/2016) 57.3% (Highland Laird) Bottle 81 of 225

Spot on for my friend – peat, complexity and just a damn good dram!

And an incredible experience in honour of my birthday…

Longmorn 1969 61.5% (G&MP), bottled in the 1980s

Can I just say… words failed me. This was by far the highlight of my entire trip to Singapore.

Huge thank you to Arun and team for your generosity of spirit with your spirits – a unique collection that is there to be enjoyed by the discerning or those who simply want to discover! Bravo to the team and look forward to more opportunities to enjoy a dram there on my next trip to Singapore… before it sings its swan song.

You too can enjoy your Swan Song experience in Singapore at:

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