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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Glenmorangie The Tayne’s Amontillado Spanish Sherry “Finish”

Next up was a single malt our host selected for its Amontillado Spanish Sherry finish. Again a duty free purchase, part of Glenmorangie’s moderately priced Legends range that has been around since early 2016.

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

Glenmorangie The Tayne 43%

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Narrow, subdued and almost industrial, some sulfur, a metallic copper but not varnish, faint tobacco leaves, a bit earthy and mildly nutty. After some time revealed some muskmelon, marshmallows and oranges, sweet
  • Palate – Much more bitter than expected, then sweet and green, a bit khatta sour, some spice, more of those leaves, dry with a rather thin body overall
  • Finish – Strangely flat, not much happening and didn’t remain either
  • Water – For most, there was no temptation to add water. For the few that did, there was a mixed response – one thought it toned the bitterness down whereas another thought it merely upped the spice. Either way, water didn’t dramatically change any impressions

While it was a freshly opened bottle, poured and served immediately, it had oddly muted aromas – we really had to work at teasing out what was there.

It was tough to pinpoint this one. It somehow reminded of an American single malt from Westland – not the ones we earlier tried and loved, but instead a more recent version that disappointed.

Was it even Scottish? If so, perhaps Highland, but there wasn’t anything to distinguish it as coming from a particular distillery or cask approach.

We were stumped.

And the reveal?

Again a surprise. Glenmorangie?!

I personally could not believe this was the same whisky I’d sampled with the Whisky Ladies when it was first released. I read out the Tayne tasting notes from that session to my companions – how could our experience differ so much? Where was nose bursting with character with marvellous sherry Christmasy notes, the yummy coffee, chocolate, orange complexity??

Naturally setting and mood, even  tasting order makes a huge difference. But to miss nearly all of the elements that made The Tayne the favourite of the evening for our Whisky Ladies and the opposite for our Original group?

As the bottle was recently purchased, it was unlikely (but not impossible) that storage conditions had an impact.

Could it be that standards have slipped? If so, then it is truly terribly disappointing. If not, what can explain such a radically different experience?

PS – If curious what this could set you back, it can typically be found for around $85 in duty free.

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

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Macallan Terra 42.8% with a Sherry “Seasoning” of Spanish + American Oak…

Our host for the evening had a clear plan – explore different dimensions of sherry influences. He started our evening with one that had a subtle yet unmistakable sherry element… with a twist!

We sampled it blind then the whisky was revealed. Here is what we discovered…

Macallan Terra 42.8%

  • Colour – Dark burnished copper
  • Nose – Spice fruit, lemon, raisins, sour plums, figs, quite sharp with some lactone acidity, wood… then it started to mellow, the dry fruits remained as did the sweetness… After even more time, the nose held a distinctive prune and plum element that also had a gentle sweet lemon curd too, perhaps even some cake-like elements too
  • Palate – First sip was full of honey, caramelized sugars with no burn initially then from behind the spice came out – direct, full of red pepper spice. It was oaky, dry, with a khatta meetha (sour sweet) quality, medium body….
  • Finish – No mistaking the sherry element on the finish yet it also retained that lovely spice tail, long, slightly bitter too
  • Water – Some tried, some did not. For this who did, water initially kicked up the spice then mellowed it

We spent a long time speculating about this one before our host revealed the bottle.

There was something familiar – the nose clearly had a sherry influence, and yet on the palate we thought of the spice from a French oak cask or at least a European one. Talk turned to the French Oak Chichibu and discussions of how much more expensive European oak is over American… and then Japanese Mizunara oak even more so!

In terms of palate profile, it most closely reminded us of Compass Box’s Spice Tree yet the aromas clearly meant there was a sherry dimension at work too. What was interesting is the nose made us expect something quite different from we discovered on the palate – less complex than anticipated yet the sweet then spice really grew on all of us.

In terms of age, many of thought it may be young, still playing around with its different elements, yet was well crafted. Above all, we appreciated the quality and balance of this whisky.

And the reveal?

Unbelievable!  A Macallan?

Even more so, a careful interpretation of the wood wording helped clarify what we had puzzled over in our speculations…

The whisky was aged in first fill sherry “seasoned” American and Spanish oak casks – with “seasoned” being the key element. Somehow the Macallan team managed to ‘crack’ having sherry in the casks just long enough to bring a lovely sherry touch to the nose yet not so long that it impacted the new oak quality on the palate.

We were impressed and concluded this was one classy whisky where the quality of wood and care in approach produced a rather enjoyable dram – one that harkened back to the days when one could count on Macallan producing a mighty fine malt.

And what do the folks over at Macallan have to say?

A complex, yet balanced single malt, with a distinctive character of toffee, sweet dried fruit and rich wood spices.

  • Colour – Sunset Orange
  • Nose – Dried fruits are tempered by lemon zest, toffee and light ginger. Aged oak rises.
  • Palate – Sweet dried fruits, subtle tones of ripening apple. Heavy and fresh on the palate.
  • Finish – Medium length. Dried fruit and wood spices.

Terra was released late 2017 for travel retail, part of The Macallan’s Quest Collection. In this case, the aim was to explore the balance between the spice of first-fill oak with the sherry influence of sweet dried fruit. Clearly we found this quest a success!

And while it is duty-free, that doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. Master of Malt had it listed as $171… before it sold out!

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

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Sherry Expressions – Seasoned, Finished or Matured…

Sherry’s influence on single malts is significant. At one of the spectrum could be a full on sherry “bomb” matured for years exclusively in first re-fill casks and at the other a mere hint with a “touch” of sherry finish for a mere month.

Our host for the evening cleverly selected from duty-free three different variants of Sherry expressions. Each explored a different approach to bringing a sherry influence to the whisky.

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

Read on over the next few days for insights into our impressions, speculations and interpretation of what the distillery shares about the way in which the sherry element influenced each single malt.

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