LMdW Artist #8 – Bunnahabhain 35 year 47.9%

La Maison du Whisky’s Artist Series 8 is all about exploring unique casks which represent the artistry and character of their distilleries – be it in a non-Sherry or Sherry matured avatar. The Sherry range was adorned with most gorgeous labels created by Japanese artist Takehiko Sugawara.

At our Whisky Live Sinagapore 2018 tasting, this Bunnahabhain was the ‘penultimate’ dram in the series – both the oldest and most certainly the most expensive at SGD 1,999.

While we had only a wee nip, were left with the following impressions…

Bunnahabhain 35 year (1979/2018) Sherry Cask#9521 47.9% (472 bottles)

  • Nose – A lovely soft understated quality, complex with many nuanced layers – a bit medicinal, a bit floral, a bit of fruit, a hint of spice, even a herbal quality with a tinge of saline
  • Palate – Very soft and light, incredibly smooth, the palate was completely in character with the aromas – beautiful
  • Finish – Long yet subtle

Don’t laugh but what first struck me is how “nice” this whisky is! Exceedingly nice. I’ve been disappointed with older Bunnahabhain’s before but not this one.

What do the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say about this whisky?

  • Nose – Voluptuous, concentrated. Irresistible notes of emery cloth, tincture of iodine, heady flowers (purple lilac, geranium), cocoa beans and leather provide a lot of fabric and depth to the first. At aeration, it becomes more fruity (orange, fig, apricot), spicy (cinnamon, grated ginger) and exotic (passion, mango). Balsamic, it extends on eucalyptus, cardamom and even basil
  • Palate – Creamy, smooth. True delicacy, the attack in mouth oscillates between the candy with the violet, the blood oranges, the dark chocolate, the liquorice and the dried fruits (date, nuts). With a lot of freshness, the mid-palate is fruity (black grape), liquorice (stick) and honey (linden). These tones precede little bourbon vanilla, ripe bananas and cloves.
  • Finish – Long, fluffy. It preserves and preserves intact every flavor unveiled by the mouth. Then, as and when, she fully satisfies her desire for exoticism (passion, mango, guava). In retro-olfaction, coffee with milk, crushed strawberries, blueberries and ginger permeate the palate. The empty glass is resinous (pine, sweet of the Vosges) and empyreumatic (eucalyptus).

—- From LMdW website with an imperfect google translation from French.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 with Sherry

If you are curious, here are a few more Bunnahabhain ‘s sampled over the years…

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LMdW Artist #8 – Glenlivet 10 year 64.1%

Next in La Maison du Whisky’s Artist Series 8 was a classic Sherry styled Glenlivet…

We sampled it at Whisky Live Singapore 2018’s VIP Room – just a wee nip but it was worth it.

Glenlivet 10 year (2007/2018) 1st Fill Sherry Cask#900214 Batch #2 64.1% (308 bottles)

  • Nose – Fresh, forward and just a tinge shy, nuts and berries, a hint of sweet flowers too
  • Palate – New style sherry with a bit of “oomph!” – far more on the palate than nose with much more nuts and dry fruits along with juicy plums, cherries and dates
  • Finish – Dry spice with some serious sherry lingering

While its nose was a bit shy, there was nothing shy on the palate. We were rewarded with a lovely rich quality. Robust and full flavoured, it did not disappoint.

And what do the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say? Well… their website currently features a slightly different bottle… However it too sounds like a mighty fine dram.

But is it worth the price? Just to put in perspective, a bottle of this Glenlivet would put you back SGD 380.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 with Sherry

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LMdW Artist #8 – Bowmore 15 year 55.3%

Our skip through La Maison du Whisky’s Artist Series 8 continued with another Sherry dram – this time progressing to combine with peat!

Bowmore 15 year (2001/2018) Sherry Cask #108 55.3% (679 bottles)

  • Nose – Light peat and sweet with vanilla, fruits, nuts, honey
  • Palate – Very balanced, wonderful interplay between the dry fruits, nuts, sweet spices and light peat with a dash of salt
  • Finish – Nice cinnamon sherry spice finish that really stays

A solid dram just bursting with character… full flavoured and really quite fabulous.

And while it was a fleeting, passing sample… this whisky was a tough act to follow. We needed to take a wee break after the Caol Ila and this one before continuing our sipping journey…

As for what this Bowmore would put you back if buying in Singapore? Don’t fall off your seat…. SGD 820. And exactly why it is terrific to try in such settings Whisky Live as waaaay beyond my pocket book!

Want to know more? Well I only had a wee nip, however this is what the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say about this whisky:

  • Colour – Intense golden yellow
  • Nose – Elegant, precise. Delicately placed at the top of the aromatic palette, a peat both herbaceous (lichen), salty, smoke, iodine (spray), vanilla, floral (carnation) and fruity (pear) provides a lot of rhythm and race at the first nose. After creation, it becomes exotic (passion, guava) and medicinal (tincture of iodine). Further on, candied lemons, fresh walnuts and acacia honey underline its extreme sweetness. A fine smoky pungency highlights its remarkable fullness.
  • Palate – Rich, concentrated. With the same elegance as the nose, the attack in the mouth is peaty / smoke, saline and mineral (chalk). More and more milky (coconut, almond). It gains unceasingly unctuousness. In the middle of the mouth, hay cut, green walnuts, almonds, candied lemons and noble spices (ginger, saffron, clove) bring a second breath to a palate that is growing in power. Very untied, the back-mouth invites us to savour a succulent rice pudding perfumed with verbena. Magnificent.
  • Final – Long, fluffy. The start of we bite into a juicy pear. Very quickly, however, notes of ashes, soot and smoke take over the initiative with great delicacy of expression. Oily, earthy, marine (seaweed, kelp) and animal (bacon, smoked salmon), the retro-olfaction sees malted barley pointing the tip of the nose. The empty glass is herbaceous (cut hay), spicy (ginger), vegetable (tobacco), earthy (dry peat) and vanilla.

—-From LMdW website with an imperfect google translation from French.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 with Sherry

If you are curious, here are a few more Bowmore‘s sampled over the year…

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LMdW Artist #8 – Ben Nevis 25 year 55.3%

Our next Sherry from La Maison du Whisky’s Artist Series 8 washroom the Ben Nevis distillery. We sampled it at Whisky Live Singapore 2018‘s VIP room.

As this whisky isn’t everyone’s style, some of my tasting companions skipped this one… whereas I soldiered on and dove in for a sniff, swish, (and yes) spit!

Ben Nevis 25 year (1991/2018) Sherry Cask #2375 55.3% (561 bottles)

  • Nose – Some sour salty plums and prunes, toffee, nuts and touch of citrus
  • Palate – Slightly spicy, honey sweet, dried fruits with a bit of salty sour too
  • Finish – Hint of spiced and a bit chalky or milky

Ben Nevis isn’t for everyone… and this was very much in keeping with a Ben Nevis “style” with a bit of sour, salt and in this case – sherry.

And what would a bottle of this cost? If buying in Singapore, that would be SGD 575. Hmm…

If curious to know more, here is what the folks over at La Maison du Whisky have to say:

  • Nose – Very exotic in its oxidative register (pineapple, mango), the first nose perfectly synthesizes the Ben Nevis style. At aeration, the influence of sherry clearly evokes a sherry fino type. Notes of almonds, walnuts and curry are reminiscent of Jura yellow wine. Very deep, it evolves on citrus (lemon, grapefruit), praline and verbena. At the precise moment, the aromatic palette is still far from having delivered all its secrets.
  • Palate – Lively, removed. Vanilla, the attack in the mouth is also deliciously honey (acacia), vegetable (cucumber) and fruity (dried apricot, gooseberry). Both menthol and lemony, the mid-palate reveals a luxuriant nature, nuanced by a shades of green that goes from the softest to the darkest. The mouth is nobly spicy (saffron, ginger, cardamom).
  • Finish – Long, sweet. With the same power of seduction as the nose and mouth, it oscillates between almond milk, candied pineapple, cut hay and spices (ginger, clove). In retro-olfaction, Mirabelle plums and quince add to its fruitiness. Empty glass is medicinal (balm), spicy (cinnamon), roasted (coffee) and oily (walnut, almond).

—From LMdW website with an imperfect google translation from French.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 with Sherry

Curious about other Ben Nevis tasting experiences?

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LMdW Artist #8 – The Glenrothes 20 year 52.8%

Our first sherry dram from the La Maison du Whisky’s Artist Series 8 was from The Glen Rothes distillery.

Even our wee nip at Whisky Live Singapore 2018 was enough to establish this as a solid sherry specimen in a beautiful bottle with art by Takehiko Sugawara.

Glenrothes 20 year (1995/2018) Sherry Butt Cask #909700 52.8% (530 bottles)

  • Nose – Classic sherry notes with sweet spices, dates, prunes! With a lovely toffee, chocolate orange
  • Palate – Full flavoured, well rounded and robust! Loads of sherry dry fruits with and a touch of blue cheese or rancio
  • Finish – Sherry, spice and cloves, toast, salty caramel and chocolate

What a whisky! No doubt this dram delivered! If you happen to be in a sherry mood, this one is a marvel…

However with only 530 bottles in existence, available only through La Maison du Whisky, you may find it challenging to track down. Not to mention the pricy price tag at SGD 725.

However I was rather delighted to have a chance to try a quick sample…

Here is what the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say:

  • Nose – Fine, ample. At first, beautiful notes of bitter orange are coated with dark chocolate. This wonderfully classic starter is also composed of red and black fruits (blackberry, strawberry) and noble spices (cardamon, ginger, cinnamon). At aeration, it evolves on precious wood (beeswax), vanilla and leather. Dried fruits (dates, figs) then add complexity to the aromatic palette.
  • Palate – Lively, racy. In attack of mouth, the orange releases their juice at the same time sweet and acidulated. Very tense, it reveals notes of salted butter caramel, exotic fruits (guava, persimmon) and creme brûlée. Unveiling gianduja, the mid-palate is also close to malted barley. In the back of the mouth, strawberries and blackberries make a particularly tasty and fleshy taste return.
  • Final – Long, balanced. Change of scenery. Heady flowers (iris, purple lilac, peony) make their appearance and perfume the atmosphere of one who also shines by the delicacy of his touch. In retro-olfaction, chocolate and salted butter caramel accompany notes of toasted bread and aromatic plants (chervil, laurel). Original the empty glass lets admire a wood that is reduced to dust giving way to cocoa beans and very ripe bananas.

—- From LMdW website with an imperfect google translation from French.

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 with Sherry

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LMdW Artist #8 Sherry – The GlenRothes, Ben Nevis, Bowmore, Glenlivet, Bunnahabhain

La Maison du Whisky’s Artist Series 8 has two distinctly different ranges… this one is all about the Sherry with the most gorgeous labels created by Japanese artist Takehiko Sugawara.

While we followed the suggested order alternating between non-sherry and sherry, I thought to focus on the sherry range – and what a range!

Here is what we sniffed, swished and sampled our way through in the Whisky Live Singapore 2018 VIP room…

La Maison du Whisky Artist #8 with Sherry

For those whose brains are wired to maths… you will note the years are all in intervals of 5  yet if you calculate, may actually be more. Take the Bunnahabhain 35 year which was laid in a cask in 1979 and bottled in 2018. What this means is it could actually be 38 or 39 years, depending on the month it went into the cask or bottle.

We won’t quibble or question their logic, just enjoy what wonders the years quietly maturing in their respective sherry casks produced!

PS – Don’t miss the Artist Series #8 without Sherry either!

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Whisky Live 2018 – Edradour Ballechin

Edradour has been known as the smallest traditional distillery, up in Pitlochry, Perthshire part of the Highlands region.

Currently owned by Pernod Ricard, the Edradour distillery produces a range of different single malts under both the Edradour (unpeated) and Ballechin (peated) brands with a dizzying array of wine cask finished experiments as well!

And what did we try at Whisky Live Singapore in the VIP room? Two distinctly different drams…

Edradour Ballechin 8 year (2009) 46%

  • Nose – Had a lovely nutty quality – veering towards hazelnut and almond – with a clear influence of both the sherry dried fruits and a puff of smoke
  • Palate – Beautifully balanced between peat and sherry sweet, fruity, smooth and a light chilli spice, honey
  • Finish – Sweet sherry fruits and spice – delicious!

The gent who encouraged us to try was a merry Scottish fellow but completely mixed up the contents and context!

It is a marriage of Edradour’s un-peated ex-Sherry cask # 69 and the peated Ballechin ex-bourbon casks # 279, 280 and 281.

It was rather good and I was exceedingly surprised to discover how affordable it was in the UK at GBP 50… alas in Singapore it is a pricy SGD 198 (ie more than double at GBP 115).

Edradour Vintage 10 year (2008/2018) FF Sherry Cask No 8, Bottle 515 57.9% (LMdW)

  • Nose – Juicy berries, red fruits, clear robust sherry
  • Palate – Follows through on the palate with the nose, light sweet spice, black raspberries, dry
  • Finish – Full finish, with dry sweet spices of cinnamon bark and clove

No doubt this was some quality sherry and the bottle noted it was a first fill sherry cask.

If you are curious, in Singapore, this bottle goes for SGD 258 and was specially selected for La Maison du Whisky.

What about other Edradour’s sampled by our Mumbai based tasting clubs over the years?

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BenRiach 12 year (2005/2018) Sherry Cask No 5052 59.3%

When planning my sherry unusual evening, I wanted there to be variety – hence Irish, Indian and Islay – yet also knew we needed at least one “proper” classic sherry dram.

Enter the BenRiach single cask, single malt bottled for World of Whisky, Heathrow Airport. Now lest you think this was standard travel retail fare, this cask was launched for World Whisky Day in May 2018 for a slightly pricey £120.

Matured in Olorosso Sherry, non-chill filtered with natural colour, we managed to nab bottle 292 of a mere 597… and discovered it was worth every single pound!

BenRiach 12 year (14 Oct 2005/2018) Cask No 5052 59.3% 

  • Nose – Milk caramel sweets, slight citrus hint, heavy toffee, rum raisins, chocolate eclairs…  started to shift into chocolate liquor, dark fruits, nuts… after quite some time there was almost a hint of blue cheese
  • Palate – Gorgeous! Simply a class act. Dark plums, black cherries, rich and simply outstanding. Lovely cinnamon, raisins, complex, so well balanced, every sip a reward.
  • Finish – Huge long flavour. Everything we loved about the palate simply carried through… for an incredibly long time… superb!

There was no doubt this was an exceptional single malt.

Not one of us were tempted to put even a single drop of water. Each sip we enjoyed more… and it kept evolving. By the 3rd we discovered cayenne, by the 4th chocolate, by the 5th the dark fruits again came to the fore… and the next dripping in honey… you get the picture!

This was one worthy whisky that invited you to slow down, take your time, savour each sip and be rewarded with the most marvellously long finish.

A brilliant reminder of what a quality sherry dram can and should be!

BenRiach tasting notes with the bottle:

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Honeycomb, chocolate, honey covered dates
  • Taste – Rich dark chocolate and herbs, honey coated almonds and figs

Here are the whiskies explored in our Sherry Unusual evening:

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Sherry Unusual – Hyde, Paul John, Kilchoman, BenRiach

Sherry’s effect on whisky can be a marvel. And I wanted to do something a bit different for our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents to push the boundaries beyond the known sherry drams like Aberlour, GlenDronach, Glenrothes, etc.

Normally we dive straight into whiskies, knowing what we are trying. However I wanted to have a bit of fun with a surprise…. So kept my fellow tasters “blind.”

Next, I introduced a “reference” pour.

I said nothing about it – merely to smell (not sip) with a request between each whisky to go back to the “reference” to recalibrate senses and compare.

It didn’t take long til they realized the “reference” wasn’t whisky at all but instead a sherry… with speculation it may be a “cream” or sweetened avatar rather than a dry fino or amontillado.

I later revealed that it was a Kingsgate Canadian sherry from KittlingRidge Ontario, Canada  described on the bottle as:

“A premium medium dry sherry, barrel aged in oak for extra smoothness.”

However this Kingsgate is now known as Apera with an explanation that it is medium dry Oloroso sherry “style” dessert wine. This 2013 nod from to EU regulations recognizes that a “true” Sherry can only come from the Spanish triangle.

Which tells you this funny little bottle, inherited from a friend who was leaving India, has been around for a few years…

As for what we tried? Not quite your usual fare…

Here is the progression we explored with our Sherry Unusual evening with whiskies from Ireland, India and Islay…. plus an extra special single cask:

Hyde #6 President’s Reserve 8 year single grain + 18 year single malt 46%

From Ireland, picked as an appetizer, the bottle stated it was finished in Sherry. What made it unusual is that it is a new brand, released to help promote the Hyde name before their Hibernia distillery in Cork is fully producing.

Paul John 7 Year (2009) Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish 57.4%

This was the biggest surprise – none imaged it could be from India! We were mighty impressed with what the folks from Paul John produced with four years in ex Bourbon then 3 years in ex Sherry casks. It also opened up beautifully with a bit of water.

BenRiach 12 year (2005/2018) Oloroso Sherry Cask No 5052 59.3%

A true class act. Selected just to be sure we had at least ONE proper single malt in our evening. Gorgeous and astounding how at 59.2%, not a drop of water was desired.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm (2010/2016) Sherry 46%

A pure peat monster tempered with 100% sherry from Islay. Not everyone’s tipple but certainly demonstrated how peat and sweet can combine!

Just click on the whisky links to find out even more about what we discovered!

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Glen Deveron 20 year 40% matured in Sherry Oak

Last in our Sherry expressions evening was 20 year old whisky from Macduff distillery matured in Sherry Oak.

We first sampled it blind then our host revealed the whisky. Here is what we found…

Glen Deveron 20 year 40%

  • Nose – Initially whiff was pure jackfruit, then sour, lots of sulfur, a bit musty then it started to settle down revealing lots of tropical fruits – particularly pineapple, a bit more sourness in the background, but largely a sweet slightly overripe fruit basket, as it opened up further, it began evolving into a sourdough, almost plasticine element, then bubble gum and sugary cola
  • Palate – So soft and mild, like a vanilla sponge cake or pineapple upside down cake, lemon custard, quite lovely with a light bitterness creeping too as it eased into its finish
  • Finish – Very nutty – particularly hazelnut and part of what made the whisky interesting
  • Water – None were tempted – no need to add even a drop

Though it clearly was low alcohol and hence for many it was a bit too watered down, like sipping sugar water, it was beautiful in its way. Some really appreciated its subtle and nuanced character, even if it was not massively complex.

Key was giving it time to let the initial sulfur dissipate so the fruit sweetness came to the fore. Particularly the palate was pleasing – one even remarked “outstanding.”

And the reveal?

Again a surprise. None would have expected a 20 year old.

Which triggered a reminder of our earlier encounter with this specific single malt – an evening back in October 2014 – remembered as the night a 3 year old Japanese whisky (Chichibu ‘The Floor Malted’ 3 year) outclassed a 20 year old!

This time around, the Glen Deveron got a favourable response from a few who thought it quite pleasant and enjoyed the soft sponge cake flavours on the palate.

Yet it brought us back to our discussion on the critical role played by the cask – both its quality and the number of times it was used and how.

While it says Sherry Oak Casks, this doesn’t actually tell you much. Had it been 1st fill sherry casks, one normally sees this proudly declared. We thought it is much more likely to be a combination of oak (logically American given its affordability) and a 2nd or 3rd fill sherry cask. While pure speculation on our part, it struck us as the right combination to produce the results we found.

Such an approach could be called “Sherry Oak” – as yes there is some “Sherry” – just how much and what fill is indeterminate and equally there is “Oak” – whether it is is ex-bourbon 1st or 2nd or 3rd fill or simply straight American Oak or something else – it is still legitimately Oak.

Not so long ago, this duty free dram could be found for $75. However more recently it made an appearance at Mumbai’s duty free for $125. That shared, you may not find this Macduff’s offering as easily today as you once could as the expression has been discontinued.

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

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