Paris Whisky Live 2022 – VIP Antipodes Ex Libris – Knappogue Castle + JP Wiser

What the heck is the “Ex Libris” line from La Maison du Whisky’s Artist range all about? Put simply, this series goes beyond Scotland and links whisky to literature. Clean labels with a nod to days gone by, I was drawn to discover what lies between the covers of these “books.”

The quartet sampled at Paris Whisky Live featured a trio from Ireland from Knappogue Castle with three contrasting expressions (ex bourbon, sherry, and port) named after James Joyce poems followed by a remarkably aged Canadian J.P. Wiser – 40 years! – taking title inspiration from Canadian author Mordecai Richler.

As this was a Whisky fest, I kept to my pattern of sniff, swish and (sigh…) spit… which means my notes are fleeting impressions rather than proper tasting insights.

Knappogue Castle “Summer Wind” 28 Year (1994) ex-Bourbon Cask 888138 52.2% (LMdW ex Libris) EUR 540

  • Nose – Bright, light, and fruity, faintly floral
  • Palate – Darker dessert, vanilla cream, lovely balance, classic style
  • Finish – Light spice chased by candied ginger

An enchanting afternoon dram. I loved it! Such a perfect way to kick off our Knappogue Castle trio…

Knappogue Castle “Wind of Spices” 24 Year (1997) ex-Sherry Cask 87601 54.4% (LMdW) EUR 499

  • Nose – Delicious pastries, with some lovely heavier wood elements
  • Palate – Lovely rich, heavier, intense berries, chocolates, such depth of character… it almost touched being in the wood too long…. a bit vegetal
  • Finish – Long and strong

What a contrast with the ex-Bourbon! The Sherry cask added a marvelous dimension…. the kind of special dram you simply want to sit back, relax in a comfy leather chair with a damn good book…. slowly savoring for hours. Fabulous!

Knappogue Castle “Wind of May” 22 Year (2000) Ruby Port Cask 45429 56.8% (LMdW) EUR 515

  • Nose – Heavier
  • Palate – Hmmm…..  it was a bit too much punch for me, at least so early in the morning!
  • Finish – Bitter

For me, this was more of a winter dram than late-spring whisky.  Now I appreciate this was just a sniff and swish, however, I struggled with this one…. my scant tasting notes reflect this struggle too. Perhaps in a different setting, I would have a very different impression.

Changing gears, I moved on to The Apprenticeship, taken from Mordecai Richler’s novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959), which refers to the journey of J. P. Wiser’s master blender, Dr. Don Livermore.

JP Wiser’s “Apprenticeship” 40 year (1982) 61.9% (LMdW)

  • Nose – Spicy, Sweet corn then shifted into a deep woodsy dimension
  • Palate – Smooth, waxy…. a bit like flavored crayons, all sorts of elements going on
  • Finish – Spicy

Now, this is one I wish I could have given more time and attention to! It isn’t often you come across something of such a vintage – particularly from Canada. I will fully admit that for a Canadian, I’ve woefully neglected exploring the Canadian whisky scene in my infrequent trips to visit family and friends. And to have a slice of whisky history like this practically slip through my fingers (nostrils)? Ah well…

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Paris Whisky Live 2022 – VIP Gordon + Macphail’s Convalmore + Highland Park

Gordon & Macphail’s Private Collection features rare, old and even closed distilleries, a “must catch” at any whisky festival and a very good reason to go “VIP” for at least one day at Paris Whisky Live.

Featured in 2022 were a closed distillery – Convalmore – and a familiar friend with Highland Park. I had to start with the Convalmore which was approx 40 years patiently maturing in refill American hogshead.

This was my first experience with Convalmore – which was “Victorian” Speyside distillery that spent most of its life in blends. “Mothballed” in 1985, this particular vintage dram came from some of its final years of operations.

Convalmore (1982/2 Mar 2022) Refill American Hogshead #155 55.5% (Gordon & Macphail) 104 bottles

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Delightfully fruity – pears, apples… dripping in sweet honey, shifting into vanilla cream – delicious
  • Palate – Lovely on the palate, soft… continued the fruity element, a bit waxy
  • Finish – Light spice, sweet with a buttery texture

Beautiful! This was so special. Fruity, waxy, subtle, nuanced and supremely sophisticated. Such a lovely whisky… and such a treat to have a chance to try something so rare and lovely from a closed distillery.

The official Gordon & Macphail tasting notes are remarkably similar to my scribbles from a sniff & swish at Paris Whisky Live:

  • Nose – Rich vanilla pod gives way to fresh green apple and orange zest. Honeysuckle notes develop with quince and toasted walnut.
  • Taste – Sweet and smooth exotic fruit flavours accompany poached pear and floral notes. White chocolate comes to the fore alongside baked apple
  • Finish – A medium-bodied finish with guava and sweet honey.

I couldn’t find this exact bottle for sale, however, a related one from 1982 was listed on WhiskyBase for GBP 1,500, which gives you a feel for just how pricey a sip of whisky history can be.


Next up was another vintage dram – also pushing the high side of 30s from Orkney Island with Highland Park. I must admit that this distillery was an early favourite – my ‘gateway” dram to single malts back in the 1990s – particularly the 18 years old. Since then, they have gone all over the place with different approaches, some very “Viking” branding… which made it all the more refreshing to slip back in time to the “original” spirit of their spirits…

Highland Park 37 year (1984 / 31 Dec 2021) Refill American Hogshead #1816 46.3% (Gordon & Macphail) Bottles 116

  • Colour – Gold
  • Nose – Fruitier than expected, sweet lemon/lime-like mosambi, honey sweet and light, with a dash of salted caramel
  • Palate – Incredibly silky smooth, gorgeous and well balanced, with a hint of citrus fruit coming from behind, light peat gives this a lovely dimension
  • Finish – Gentle and subtle

What fun! This was a lovely dram… In some ways reminded me a bit of the much younger Chorlton 15 year Orkney.

And what about the official Gordon & Maphail tasting notes as a reference? Yup! Would certainly agree…

  • Nose – Fragrant lemon aromas intertwine with honeydew melon and sweet Demerara sugar. Red apple notes develop accompanied by grapefruit zest and walnut.
  • Taste – Citrus fruit flavours give way to guava and subtle cured meats. Dried mango comes to the fore alongside toasted almonds and spicy pepper.
  • Finish – Soft smoke lingers on the finish with green apple, poached pear and spice.

I was curious to see what this experience would set you back… and found a bottle currently available through Whic.de for EUR 1,790.

What an interesting pair… and there we have it!

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London Whisky Show – Kyrö Malt, Wood Smoke + Monbazallic Rye

It is terrific to discover something new! And that is just what happened at the London Whisky Show with this distillery from Finland – Kyrö.

There is a quirky humourous approach… with the visual of a bunch of men running buck naked (from a sauna) across a field…. as they shared:

It all started with five friends in a sauna, pondering why nobody in Finland was making rye whisky. We had no idea how to make whisky the “right” way, so we did it our way – and Kyrö Malt is where the story of Kyrö Distillery Company began.

Two co-owners were there in London with their enthusiasm infectious! We couldn’t help enjoying both the whiskies and the experience.

Kyrö Malt Rye 47.2% 

  • Nose – Young, fresh, herbal with some menthol
  • Palate – Softly sweet, licorice, rye bread
  • Finish – Clean pine

I really quite liked this Rye… it had a clean fresh style that was quite appealing

What more do they have to say?

Made with 100% malted Finnish rye, Kyrö Malt is a whisky that proudly breaks the mould. It is double pot distilled and aged in a combination of new American oak and ex-bourbon casks, resulting in intense pepperiness, balanced with sweet notes of caramel and vanilla.

It’s perfect sipped as it is, in a whisky sour – or any way you like.

  • Nose: Pepper, Vanilla, Caramel, Dried fruits
  • Palate: Sweet rye bread, Honey, Wild berries, Smooth finish with caramel and mocha

I read the description and notes much later, but from my memory and tasting scribbles, it rang true!

Kyrö Wood Smoke Rye 47.2% 

  • Nose – Sauna wood smoked, sweet grass
  • Palate – Like a log cabin, cedar plank used to cook fish
  • Finish – Out of nowhere, big and bold!

OK, maybe I was influenced by all the sauna talk… but it really did remind me of a sauna!

What more do they have to say?

With Kyrö Wood Smoke we honour the oldest kind of Finnish sauna – the smoke sauna.

Using an ancient northern tradition, the rye used in Kyrö Wood Smoke has been introduced to alder smoke in a 100-year old “riihi” barn.

Double pot distilled, Kyrö Wood Smoke is then aged in a combination of French oak, new American oak and ex-bourbon casks, resulting in intense pepperiness and sweet notes of caramel and vanilla, lifted by crisp alder smoke.

How incredibly unique!

Kyrö Rye Whisky + Monbazillac Cask “Kyrö’s Choice” 53%

  • Nose – Very different! Almost reminded me a bit of mescal, sweet wood, caraway, and rye
  • Palate – Very big, distinctive, acidic, apples, oats

What more do we know? The co-founder shared it was made, like the others with Finnish malted rye in new oak then a twist with an ex-Monbazillac cask.

Both the Malt & Wood Smoke whiskies retail for around EUR 50 for 500 ml bottles, whereas the special 2022 London Whisky Show Kyrö’s Choice is currently only available through The Whisky Exchange for GBP 65.

If you are curious about other Finland whiskies I’ve sampled, check out the following:

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London Whisky Show – Macallan

After some absolutely stellar drams sampled at the Gordon & Macphail area, my companion was keen to move on to Macallan at the London Whisky Show.

For all the talk of the mighty Macallan, I’ve had surprisingly few encounters… only three since starting to share tasting notes of which the most remarkable was a special 50th birthday gift!

Not all in the line-up were available for consumption and after already sniffing, swishing, and mostly spitting our way through 14 whiskies, we decided to only try three. So we put ourselves in the hands of the young lady at The Macallan area.

Macallan 15 year Double Cask 43% 

  • Nose – Sherry yet surprisingly ‘clean’
  • Palate – Soft, juicy, what you would expect
  • Finish – Very berry on the finish, dry

The young lady walking us through the whiskies, shared her rehearsed speech about sherry-seasoned casks and how the 15-year remains part of their core range.

Macallan Rare Cask (2022) 43% 

  • Nose – It had a tightly closed nose, then clear sherry aromas
  • Palate – Sherry however somehow didn’t quite work
  • Finish – OK

To be honest, this was a bit of a disappointment. There was only a hint of the rich smoothness Macallan is known for… At least for us, it was a bit muted.

Our guide shared the intention is to select and bring out each year a new ‘rare cask’.

Macallan Classic Cut (2022) 52.5% 

  • Nose – Shortcake, dessert, berries
  • Palate – Like a muted sherry, with an odd element we didn’t quite catch
  • Finish – Sharp

It had a promising nose and I was particularly interested in this expression which has less sherry and more ex-Bourbon casks than The Macallan typically uses.

However either we were simply not catching the true essence with our wee sniff, swish, and spit, or it wasn’t for us. However in fairness, the extremely rare and unique Imperial 42 year and lost Lowland Inverleven 25 year from Gordon & Macphail were a very tough act to follow!

So then… where did our whisky wanderings take us next?? To another favourite – That Boutique-y Whisky Company!

If you are curious about other Macallan‘s I’ve sampled, check out the following:

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Arran Cask Finishes – The Sherry Cask 55.8%

There are times when only a sherry bomb will satisfy. After progressing from the Arran Sauternes to Amarone, we shifted gears to the cask strength “The Bodega” Sherry finish. Just looking at the colour, there was every indication this would be one serious dram!

So what did we think?

Arran “The Bodega” Sherry Cask 55.8%

  • Colour – Deep burnt orange, almost a red copper
  • Nose – Oh my! Sherry meets banoffee pie! Rich, dry fruits, drunken raisins, intense, salted caramel, roasted almonds, dark berries, dates, a hint of leather, fruity sweet and sour cherries with a pinch of salt
  • Palate – Smooth! No burn even at 55.8% Proud and full-bodied, a complete sherry bomb, bursting with dark fruits and berries, a spark of spice, a swirl of dark chocolate and marmalade
  • Finish – Long finish with a dash of salt joining the dark dry fruits, chased by sweet dry spices
  • Water – Necessary? No. But a generous dollop opens up tames the aromas and transforms the palate into juicy ripe fruits – more plums than figs – delicious!

Well, well, well… There was absolutely no doubt this was matured in a Sherry cask. Too rich and robust for an ‘everyday’ dram, it had balance and charm. Fabulous!

What do the folks over at Lochranza have to say about The Bodega?

Sherry Cask ‘The Bodega’ is a stunning new addition to our core range of whiskies and is the perfect choice for someone who enjoys their Single Malt with plenty of body and complexity.

Matured in some of the finest casks available to the whisky industry, this cask strength Sherry matured Single Malt is both luxurious and elegant with layers of rich sweet spice and oak. Our Master Distiller has worked with producers in some of the most prestigious Sherry Bodegas in Jerez, Spain to select only the best quality casks to be filled with our precious spirit.

This bottling is a return to the style of some of the earliest Arran Single Malt, which was mostly matured in Sherry Casks.

And the official tasting notes?

  • Nose – Toffee, sweet spice and fruit
  • Taste – Ripe fig and cherries
  • Finish – Dark chocolate, Mandarins, Ripe figs.

And with that, we continued our evening exploring Arran Cask Finishes:

Currently, The Arran Sherry Cask remains available for approx GBP 46 / EUR 48.

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Birthday Dram – Macallan Estate Reserve 45.7%

The Macallan is one of those venerable distilleries that has reached legendary status.

I was very kindly gifted this bottle for my 50th birthday – wow! It was carefully kept aside for nearly two years, waiting for the right occasion.

Finally back in Mumbai over the summer, I thought our Whisky Ladies 6th anniversary the perfect moment! I’m so proud this tasting group hasn’t fully fallen apart in the wake of COVID restrictions, limited travel and vastly changed circumstances for many.

We split the tasting into two parts:

  • One live in person with restricted numbers in an attempt to have a modicum of social distancing in our modest home
  • Another fully virtual with our Euro ladies in Paris and two in Mumbai on the waitlist plus myself back in Nuremberg

This meant I needed to open the bottle just prior to the session and to my horror – the cork crumbled!

To be honest, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more with older bottles. In this case, with surgical care and precision, I eased out the biggest chunk, then went on a delicate fishing expedition for as much of the remaining bits as I could. Tip for others facing a similar challenge – a lobster fork is a great tool for such a scenario!

I was a bit trepidatious the whisky may have suffered… thankfully it seems to have survived what could have been a disaster!

The Macallan Estate Reserve 45.7%

  • Colour – Dark copper
  • Nose – A complete sherry bomb! Very rich and intense… amusingly we found cherry cola! Followed by prunes, wood, a hint smokey
  • Palate – Spice with attitude, rich dark woods, tannins, the kind of whisky that prompts you to ‘pucker up’, like a dry deep robust shiraz, black currents, followed by rich sweet spiced marmalade
  • Finish – Spicy raisins, cloves and ginger – delicious!

As we sipped, one of our lovely ladies recalled her time at the distillery – before COVID. She described its remarkable facilities and the whole curated “experience” – very professional and on a completely different scale. They know they are leading the pack of the “big leagues” and this exceptional bottle was no accident.

And what about our second session a month later? Each of us sipped from small samples that had been bottled up in August.

  • Nose – We found none of the earlier intensity, though clearly it had a strong sherry influence. Instead we found it slightly medicinal, sour cherry and salted banana commingling with prunes
  • Palate – Mild… one comment was “like it is trying to be elegant but isn’t quite there”, a bit herbal, metallic, opening up more to soft dark fruits, becoming a bit chocolaty
  • Finish – Initially it was a bit shy, then revealed coffee beans – like an espresso candy

There was a bit of division on this one – some liked, others were indifferent, more for the style than the whisky itself. It wasn’t one of those strident “pay attention” to me kind of whiskies. Instead there was an understated element… we also wondered if perhaps we erred having it follow the robust Glenrothes.

After our session, I had a break from our whiskies (German class!)… 1.5 hours later what did I find? Remember that “trying to be elegant” comment? It had indeed become elegant, perfectly poised and balanced. Leading me to conclude this is one best had where there is no distraction, simply a single focus on just this whisky.

Here’s what the folks over at Macallan have to say:

  • Colour – Dark Amber
  • Nose – Soft fruits, ginger, vanilla, fudge and citrus
  • Palate – Rich and fruity with intense oak wood and spiced orange
  • Finish – Long with sweet citrus and oak wood

If you also want to enjoy this remarkable dram, I found it is still available – at least on TWE for GBP 399. I was very blessed to have been gifted it in November 2019 and we opened it in August 2021.

What else did we enjoy in our Birthday / Anniversary celebrations?

Unbelievably, both evenings were anchored with GBP 400 whiskies?! For the Whisky Ladies, this gem and for the Gents, the TWE Speyside Blended 45 year.

Now, I’m very much the kind of whisky explorer who enjoys tracking down worthy yet affordable drams. Typically I won’t go above EUR 100 if I can help it! However it is such a treat to experience exceptional whiskies well beyond our normal budgets – so huge thank you to kind benefactor and combined purchasing power respectively!

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Lochranza Vertical – Arran 23 year 52.6%

I’ll admit it, I simply fell in love with the Isle of Arran. Early September 2020, we spent a fabulous day driving all around the Island… prompted by my desire to visit the Lochranza distillery! It was so much fun discovering this microcosm of Scotland that we completed the circumference – even making it to Arran’s new Lagg distillery too.

I wanted something special from the distillery to commemorate our trip – a bottle that I could not buy anywhere else. There were so many to chose from, but this 23 year old single cask sherry, bottled at cask strength, caught my eye!

I very happily picked this up at the distillery shop and knew the biggest challenge would be my impatience to try it! Determined to share it in an evening tasting with fellow whisky enthusiasts in Mumbai, I sent the bottle home to India with my partner where it would wait…until some indeterminate time to taste…

Thankfully it wasn’t so long! Just a few months later, late January 2021, we cracked it open in a combined virtual / real life Whisky Ladies of Mumbai session.

Arran 23 year (29 May 1996/11 March 2020) Sherry Hogshead Cask No 436, 52.6%  Bottle 245/283

We first sampled it ‘neat’ without a drop of water:

  • Nose – Nuanced and subtle it grew in intensity, from light rose to rich mocha, caramel, cinnamon, clearly complex, rich, the aromas swirling in the glass combining to create a beautiful perfume – one even quipped “American Leather” after a men’s cologne…
  • Palate – Wonderful! A spirited sherry… almost too much of a good thing! Fierce and forceful – there was rich toffee, coffee, chocolate, dates and rum raisins
  • Finish – An intense long finish

My fellow tasters knew this clearly had a higher alcohol percent – likely cask strength. So we were encouraged to add water… how did it change?

  • Nose – Enabled more of the dark fruits to emerge, caramel sweetness, fudge
  • Palate – Ahh… opens it up and does wonders! Now we can really settle in with all those fabulous flavours, fruitier still full and quite fabulous
  • Finish – Perfection! Remains long and lingering… dark fruits of dates, prunes, dried figs with cinnamon spice… rum raisin Christmas pudding

While intense, we found it had an absolutely phenomenal aroma and with water, the elements were lush, rich and indulgent but not overwhelming. Yes the heaviness remained but it was now balanced.

Even after setting it aside, contrasting and comparing, there was a compelling quality about this one – distinctive and definitely a sherry bomb! If anything, the aromas kept getting sweeter – it became like eating sugar or molasses!

In complete contrast, our ‘In Real Life’ Whisky Ladies thought it was like pineapple grilled on a campfire, perhaps even a single rum not whisky at all!

Could I see the rum? Absolutely! Having recently spent a lazy evening revisiting Jamaica’s Hampden 2010, I easily understood why there was speculation I had thrown a rum in – just to mix things up! As I poured a dash more without water, I completely appreciated the strong heavy rum-like quality – that peculiar powerful punch that comes from the unique conditions found in Luca Gargano‘s discoveries.

The colour alone was an indicator that this was something different with the 3rd sample…. while initially the 18 year (2nd) seemed quite similar in colour to the 14 year (1st), there was a subtle deepness to the gold… However nothing compared to the almost ruby red intensity of the 23 year (3rd).

Sitting back comparing all three side by side, there was no doubt the 2nd managed to strike a brilliant balance between age, intensity and flavour. Clearly complex, it was full bodied and flavourful without being overwhelming like the 23 year old. While those of us who sampled virtually eased into the cask strength with water, the 23 year old was a ‘miss’ for those who met in person. For all of us, the 14 year was easily the most accessible, the sherry influence more restrained. It was simply enjoyable without complication.

What do the folks at Arran have to say about this 23 year old?

A rare opportunity to purchase a bottling from one of our oldest Sherry Hogsheads. These precious and unusual bottling are in short supply and as such are a real treat for those who love a Sherry Cask matured Single Malt.

This particular Single Cask is a Sherry Hogshead from 1996. In the first years of production at Arran, Sherry Hogsheads were often used. We have an outstanding, but small collection of casks from this year still slumbering away in our warehouses. This cask was specially selected and liberated for our visitors to Lochranza and our online whisky shop by Master Blender James MacTaggart and is the perfect one for sipping and savouring.

Tasting notes:

  • Nose – Toffee, fudge and caramelised lemon
  • Palate – Delicious sweet spice and hazelnut
  • Finish – Sweetness, Spice, Vanilla, Smooth, Hazelnut, Dark chocolate, Creamy.

After a long time, it was such a pleasure to sample a single distillery vertical – we could see the progression – building in intensity and complexity. A fabulous evening!

You can find here the detailed tasting notes for the other Arran‘s sampled together with the 23 year:

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Vita Dulcis 12 – USA’s Legent “Two True Legends” 47%

This is my first encounter with Legent bourbon, which brings together Fred Noe (think Jim Beam 7th generation master distiller) and Shinji Fukuyo (Suntory), combining bourbon and blending of bourbon, sherry and red-wine casks.

It was third sampled in an evening of north american whiskies… what did I think?

USA – Legent “Two True Legends” Finished in Wine and Sherry Cask 47% – Kentucky Straight Bourbon

  • Nose – Young, granary, old spilt red wine
  • Palate – Alcohol kick. Brash spice, cloves and cinnamon, mash
  • Finish – Warm spice

They indicate it has been matured in sherry, but no hint of it in the whisky. As for the wine? Reminded me of some whiskies I have tried that are partly matured in Merlot or Pinot Noir – which to be honest, doesn’t tend to work for me. And this case? Hmm…. not really.

I must admit, I simply wasn’t in the mood so stopped after one sip.

So I decided to come back and give it another go… better… definitely better… or perhaps I calibrated to a different style.

What do they have to say?

Legent is a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey partially finished in wine and sherry casks. But it’s more than that. It pushes the boundaries for how bourbons can be created while remaining true to the core of bourbon’s principles. It’s a collaboration between two whiskey legends – Fred Noe & Shinji Fukuyo – and two unique styles of whiskey making.

They speak of a three cask strategy:

  • Bourbon barrel aging. From these barrels, Legent absorbs char notes and rich, traditional bourbon cues like layers of caramel, oak and vanilla.
  • Sherry Cask finishing. Sherry casks add complex layers of spice, raisin and heavy dried fruit labor. These casks also help give Legent its deeper, reddish colour.
  • Red-wine cask aging. French oak wine casks impart different oak notes than traditional white oak bourbon barrels. These red-wine casks also give Legent mild, fruity undertones and a light acidity.

Now… back to the next in my Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar!

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Vita Dulcis 2 – Teerenpeli Kaski Sherry Cask 43%

So what next in the  Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar?

This wasn’t my first time sampling a Teerenpeli Kaski. I remember quite enjoying it however much has changed since I first tried it – namely a new Teerenpeli distillery opened in 2015 next to the Teerenpeli brewery rather than the original distillery in the city centre. They still use pot stills, just now with enhanced capacity to 100,000 litres / year. Not bad!

What matters most… did memory serve me well?

FinlandTeerenpelli Kaski Sherry Cask 43%

  • Colour – Dark gold
  • Nose – Apricot, cinnamon spice, honey sweet, light curl of peat topped with brown sugar
  • Palate – Sherry with peat, has a nice chewy quality, prunes, lots of character and frankly just delicious
  • Finish – Yum!

There is something a bit zesty and cheeky about this whisky. I wouldn’t call it ‘brash’ but it definitely has a perky character. Each sip is more and more enjoyable.

I set it aside to see how it was after some time…. it didn’t disappoint! Except for 2 cl being insufficient!

What have I tried from Teerenpeli?

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North Star Regions – Speyside 12 year 50%

North Star has a Millennial Series with whiskies from Scotland’s four main regions – Highland, Speyside, Islay and Island. I started with the Highland and have now cracked open the Speyside! Alas I haven’t been able to get my hands on either the Islay nor the Island, so this will conclude my exploration of this series.

The distillery isn’t directly stated, but the longitude and latitude provided on the bottle brings one to Aberlour distillery in X (N 57° 26’36.14″ by W 3° 14’17.04′). When I think of Aberlour, what comes to mind is a robust sherry bomb – particularly A’bunadh which was once upon a time regular duty free cask strength purchase.

So what about this one? Well… it was sampled over a few sessions – including with our Whisky Ladies of Europe!

The Speyside 12 year 50%

  • Colour – Dark copper
  • Nose – Rich, fruity with apricots, pineapple, heavy with honey or maple syrup, rum raisins, as it opened up some dark bitter chocolate (think 95%), more raisins which were joined by nuts – particularly walnut, dried figs, some cherries…
  • Palate – Very tasty! Pepper, sweet spices of cinnamon and cloves, dark berries, more of that apricot, perhaps a bit of melon? Nice creamy butter that coats the palate with oils, buttered toast
  • Finish – Quite long. There was an almost coffee-like quality or betel nut? A bit bitter, with some chilly spice.
  • Water – Dampens the aromas… however nuts became slightly more pronounced. Less spice, more sweetness, betel leaf and melons. In some cases adding water transforms a dram. In this case? It neither added dramatically nor detracted.

Overall it lived up to its promise of being a proper sherry dram – though not as overwhelming as some cask strength A’bunadh’s I’ve experienced! What was remarkable was the consistency – from 1st whiff to finish – it followed a common theme. I had jotted down a few notes from an earlier solo tasting months ago… to then see notes from the tasting with the ladies was practically identical!

The only shift was after we set it aside and returned after an hour. We immediately found it a bit sour or tart – crabapples with a bit of medicinal sweetness, orange peels and cloves. And yet – even this was all aligned to the overall character of the dram.

Rather than tasting notes, the North Star team share the following quote from Aedan Andrejus Burt:

Speyside is often considered Scotland’s sweetest and most approachable region. Wherever you go, they’ll introduce you to a dram, and probably something the locals call a ‘breakfast whisky’ soon enough. Home to around 50 distilleries, over a third of Scotland’s total, the area covers a 50-mile strip between Inverses and Aberdeen, around the River Spey. For that, most distilleries have their own water source, of which they are immensely proud. The honeyed and fruity character of Speyside whiskies make them highly sought after, and the banks of the Spey accommodate many of the country’s best known stills.

I purchased this bottle in May 2020 during our COVID ‘shut-in’ from Sansibar for EUR 37.82 plus 19% tax. There is zero doubt this is a value for money dram!

Curious about earlier Aberlour tasting experiences? Well… there have been a few…

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