St Kilian Signature Edition ‘Nine’ 55.3%

I love being able to bring something new and different to our tasting groups in India. The delight of hunting down something that is both novel and worth the time spent considering its different dimensions. Now, a high-end mature Scottish malt and a young upstart from Deutschland cannot be compared, however, there are some very worthy experiments taking place in Europe these days! And St Kilian distillery from just outside Frankfurt is one to watch.

What did we try?

St Kilian Signature Edition “Nine” 55.3%

  • Nose – Young, malty, with a different kind of sweetness than the One and Six. Lots of pears, crunchy orchard fruits. Cinnamon candy. Flaky biscuits with cream. Quite summery in character…
  • Palate – Well, well, well… Not nearly so ‘innocent’ on the palate as the nose teased… There was still lots of candy, and cinnamon however it was joined by a healthy dose of spice, malt, bitter apple, quite warming… and was that a hint of peat? Overall we found it quite chewy and well-rounded
  • Finish – Resin, dried orange peel… a proper finish
  • Water – Don’t mind if I do! This dram easily integrates a splash of cool water – revealing more orchard fruits like peach and apricot

It could be described as contradictory. When we first opened the bottle, Krishna Nakula (Malt Maniac) called it a bit ‘funky’ with an active nose that veered on sour mash.  The kind of whisky one would prefer to have on a wet cold rainy day….

However, just a week later with the Whisky Ladies, we found it had settled down considerably. And rather than be considered a ‘cool weather’ whisky, it held its own in the summer heat. More importantly, did we like it? Absolutely yes! For some, it was a clear ‘win’ – either the favourite or jostling for that position with the peaty ‘Four‘.

This just goes to show, that different stages of oxidation, different environments, mood, and company make all the difference. Tasting progressions are also key! With the Whisky Ladies, the Nine followed the St Kilian One and Six, so our palates were pre-calibrated to something European not Scottish.

What do the folks behind this bottle have to say?

The Signature Edition Nine is an intense, fruity and creamy-sweet taste experience. The melange of exotic fruits harmonises pleasantly with the spicy warmth as well as the sweet and full-bodied flavours.

What more do we know? The cask composition is 11% Oak, 27% ex-Sauternes, 62% ex-Bourbon.

Here are the official tasting notes:

  • AUSSEHEN Leuchtender Bernstein
  • GERUCH Ein betörendes Bouquet von reifer Aprikose und saftigem Pfirsich steht im Einklang mit süßem Toffee und feiner Vanille, begleitet von floralen Noten, dezenter Ingwerschärfe, würziger Eiche sowie einem Hauch Grapefruit.
  • GESCHMACK Ein süßer und vollmundiger Start mit Pfirsich, Ananas und Grapefruit, gefolgt von cremigem Honig, Vanillepudding sowie sahnigem Toffee und getragen von einer wärmenden Eichenwürze mit Ingwer und etwas Zimt.
  • NACHKLANG Lang und cremig-warm mit Karamell und süßem Mandelgebäck, dazu etwas frisch geriebene Grapefruitschale mit einer Spur Walnuss.

A rough google supported translation:

  • Nose – A beguiling bouquet of ripe apricots and juicy peaches is in harmony with sweet toffee and fine vanilla, accompanied by floral notes, subtle ginger sharpness, spicy oak, and a hint of grapefruit.
  • Palate – A sweet and full-bodied start with peach, pineapple, and grapefruit followed by creamy honey, custard, and toffee and carried by a warming Oak spice with ginger and some cinnamon.
  • FinishLong and creamy – warm with caramel and sweet almond biscuits, with some freshly grated grapefruit zest and a hint of walnut.

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Arran Cask Finishes – Arran Port Cask Finish 50%

Last in our evening of Arran “finishes” was the Port Cask Finish, which followed the Arran Sauternes, Amarone and Sherry.

Years ago this Port finish was my first introduction to Arran, courtesy of purchase by an actuarial friend (on condition I could reimburse!) who was in Edinburgh. I recently came across the faded receipt for £45 from Stirling Whisky Shop, near Stirling Castle… It meant so much more given I’ve now both been to that very shop and the distillery!

Today in 2022, it no longer is part of their core range… Which is a pity. While it may not be for everyone, I remembered the Port Cask Finish as a rich intense whisky that stands proud at 50% yet also works with a dash of water.

So what did we think?

Arran Port Cask Finish 50%  

  • Nose – Heavy and intense – prunes, dark rich wood, then shifted to be intensely floral, rose, vanilla, then deep forest, even some slightly sour black cherries
  • Palate – Full-bodied, tobacco, a nice spice – think more of garam masala than sweet spices alone
  • Finish – Dry, very long, with more of that light spice
  • Water –  Just a dash opens it up nicely – after the extra kick of spice subsides, it makes this more approachable, dry to ripe fruits, yet still nicely robust

This whisky was full of dark heavy elements – from the dark fruit aromas to the tobacco… there is something that makes you ‘picker up’ with this one. It also paired rather well with a Cigar,

I’ve revisited this one a couple times – it’s more intense and flavourful than I prefer for a “daily dram”.

What do the folks at Arran have to say?

A fantastic choice at any time, particularly as an after dinner dram, especially with a delicious cheese selection.

After initially maturing in traditional oak casks for approximately 8 years, The Arran Single Malt in this bottling was finished in a selection of Port casks sourced from an artisan producer of this iconic Portuguese fortified wine.

The maturation process was monitored under the watchful eye of our Master Distiller, to ensure that the Port casks and the intrinsic character of The Arran Single Malt partnered with each other perfectly. The end result is a combination that’s full of charm and rich flavour, and a wonderful way to discover more about the Arran range of Single Malts.

Official distillery tasting notes:

  • Nose – Cinnamon, baked apples
  • Palate – Vanilla spice, ripe citrus & dried fruits and nuttiness. With a splash of water more depth of mandarin citrus with fudge and honeyed notes.
  • Finish – Spice, Bitter orange, Chocolate, Cherries.

We chose to try this Port together with three other Arran whiskies:

Whilst all from this finishes series are no age statements, there was no doubt that they are well-thought-out expressions that are worthy of attention.

So far, we’ve already tried the Arran Port Cask Finish 50% together with:

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Arran Cask Finishes – Amarone 50%

Oh the beautiful Arran Amarone Cask Finish… we fell in love with you back in September 2017 during a delightful Sunday sundowner… I had such fond memories I feared trying again and being disappointed.

Back in 2017, there was an announcement that the Amarone would be back soon…. it was… but then next it wasn’t, and currently, there is no update on if and when it will return… much like some of the other cask finishes like Sauternes.

However for that fine evening in early January 2022, here is what we thought of the Amarone…

Arran Amarone Cask Finish 50%

  • Colour – A lovely bright pink rose blush
  • Nose – Fresh and fruity! Raisins then red fruits… ripe raspberries and cream, sour plum and cherries… then shifted back to raspberries but this time Rogers raspberry cream soda! Then back to cherries again… and then the slightly tart cranberry…. back to raspberries… simply yum!
  • Palate – Silky smooth… tempting and teasing like Turkish delight, fruit and berry sweet, slightly gingery with a touch of pink peppercorns
  • Finish – Slightly spicy, rich, and satisfying
  • Water – Does it need it? Nope! But if you feel like adding a wee splash… it greedily marries it with the whisky to become even fruitier

Did it stand up to my romanticized notion of this whisky? It did indeed… It is like a decadent dessert, yet not cloyingly sweet. A perfect balance of its different elements, harmonious from its intoxicating aromas to captivating taste which carries through in a lingering finish.

What do the folks at Lochranza distillery have to say about their “Out of Stock” Amarone finish?

Our Arran Amarone Cask Finish is the perfect partnership of rich, red wine and our iconic Arran Single Malt taste.

After initially maturing in traditional oak casks over a number of years, The Arran Single Malt in this bottling was ‘finished’ in a selection of Amarone wine casks. The wine casks used in this bottling were sourced from an artisan producer of Amarone wine in the Veneto region of Italy.

A luxurious Italian wine meets a complex and vibrant Scottish character – there is a lot to love and appreciate about this Single Malt and you will enjoy every dram.

And the official tasting notes?

  • Nose – Cherry, turkish delight, chocolate
  • Taste – Poached pears, touch of cranberry and honey
  • Finish – Sweetness, Pears, Turkish Delight, Cherries, Dark chocolate

Would we agree? Yes indeed!

We explored this together with:

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Arran Cask Finishes – Sauternes 50%

Our host confessed this Sauternes finish Arran has become his everyday drinking dram… until he discovered that this affordable, fun and easy whisky was out of stock – eek! At the time, he lamented the scarcity of this expression…. However, recently I’ve discovered it can still be tracked down in Europe. Who knows? Perhaps it will also come back as a regular cask finish expression too!

So…. what did we think?

Arran Sauternes Cask Finish 50%

  • Nose – Lemony sweets, bananas, juicy fruit, green apple, grapes, honeysuckle, a hint of spice, soooo sweet… shifts into vanilla creme and slightly salty biscuits
  • Palate – What a surprise! Incredibly smooth yet much more substance than anticipated… this isn’t pure sweetness and light, there’s a bit of ginger and spice, a woody warmth… yet also doesn’t lose its fruity elements either
  • Finish – Subtle at first the carries on and on…. really rather nice
  • Water – To add or not to add? In the end, we did and it was also lovely… amped up the spice in the most delightful way

When I think of Sauternes, the assumption is it would add a subtle sweetness to a whisky. Is that what we found here? The sweetness – yes. However, on the palate, there was an unexpected “Oomph!” of character. Which frankly made me enjoy this whisky even more! Yum!

What do the folks at Lochranza distillery have to say about their Arran Sauternes?

This sweeter side of Arran Single Malt makes an ideal dessert dram with complementary notes of apricots, melon and honeysuckle.

To achieve this rich partnership, our traditional Arran Single Malt is matured in oak casks for eight years and is then ‘finished’ in a selection of Sauternes wine casks.

These Bordeaux sweet white wine casks are specifically selected by our Master Distiller from a talented small producer to ensure the notes from both wine and whisky make the perfect marriage. If you’re looking for something that shows off the sweeter side of Arran Single Malt, this is perfect choice for you. It pairs beautifully with a creamy toffee or fudge based pudding.

And the official tasting notes?

  • Nose – Honey sweetness and citrus
  • Palate – Richly honeyed and backed with a lifting zestiness that slides into spice and zingy salt. Once the dram opens out, vanilla and sultana stand out followed by notes of toasted oak.
  • Finish – Sweetness, Honey, Apricots, Melon, Honeysuckle.

Would we agree? Absolutely!

Here is what else we explored in our Arran quartet of:

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Penderyn Dragon Range – Legend 41%

While not called Legend, a few of us have tried Penderyn’s Madeira finish over the years. It proved to us that this Welsh distillery has got the balance right – affordable, enjoyable with just enough interesting going on to make us happy to repeat! My most recent revisit was at the close of 2020 with my Advent Calendar malty marathon.

The Madeira finish is a core Penderyn expression and a bottle sitting in Mumbai was intended to anchor an exploration with our desi tasting companions. Which we will get to… one of these months or years…

However in the interim, “Legend” – also a Madeira finish – beckoned as part of the Dragon range tasting set.

Penderyn Legend 41%

  • Nose – Apples, touch of citrus, subtle, vanilla cream, as it warmed up a hint of rum raisins and cream
  • Palate – Some spice, a bit of woodiness, later we wondered – was that a touch of grapefruit? It also had that bitter quality
  • Finish – Spicy at the back – black peppers then ginger

After the delightful Myth which had fruit in abundance in the nose and considerable substance on the palate with a satisfying finish, the Legend came across as… dare I say it… a wee bit flat?

We speculated perhaps we should have started with the Legend – with fresh palates, perhaps this would have made a better ‘appetizer’ before moving on to the bourbon. A bit counter-intuitive but may have resulted in a more harmonious progression.

We set it aside and carried on with the Peaty Celt… then returned to revisit. No major transformation however did detect some red currents, some spice and bitterness.

And what do the folks at Penderyn have to say?

Legend is a Madeira-finish single malt whisky, bottled at 41% abv. (43% in the USA)

  • Nose: Aromas of fresh apples and citrus fruits intermingle with cream fudge and sultana raisins to create a complex yet fresh, clean and well-balanced whisky.
  • Palate: Incredibly smooth and both fresh and rich dried fruits abound. Delicate and sweet on the palate with just a hint of bitterness to remain refreshing.
  • Finish: A long aftertaste of Madeira cake and sultanas.

Would we agree? Not entirely… Could it be my opening and transferring into wee sample bottles a month+ before and distributing dampened the character? Some whiskies are particularly susceptible to losing their “oomph!” with oxidation. Or could it be the recipe for Legend differs from their core Madeira finish?

Either way, we did not find the complexity or the rich dried fruits. Pity…

Here is the convoluted tale of how we came to taste the Penderyn Dragon range:

What about our earlier Penderyn explorations?

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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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Dunkerton Drams – Starward Nova 41%

Australia deserves its reputation for fabulous wines and – yes – whisky! So why not combine? While Tasmania dominates, Starward prove you can be in Melbourne and deliver something worthy of attention with distinction – by consistently maturing their whisky in wine barrels.

And while we’ve explored their Apera (sherry style) Solera, a spirited experiment under 3 years (New World Project), even their 10th Anniversary special…. somehow missed trying this Nova expression from their core range! Time to rectify that gap in our collective whisky explorations…

Starward Nova 41%

  • Nose – Plum, red cherries, black and red raspberries, strawberries, red liquorice, grapes, red wine, sweet yet also tangy, dried mango powder (aamchor), sweet basil
  • Palate – Light tannins, soft, bitter, great round fruits, had a nice fruity ‘fullness’
  • Finish – Moist mouth-watering finish, cherry cough syrup

Perhaps it was just us, however we could really find the red wine element in the equation – something bold and full bodied like a shiraz or a cab? And while only 41%, this whisky had full flavours in abundance. A most enjoyable way to close our evening, watching the sunset over green rolling pastures in Somerset.

What do the folks at Starward have to say about their Nova?

  • Beginning / A fruity, double distilled single malt made with Australian barley and craft brewers’ yeast for extra flavour.
  • Middle / Lightly charred or steamed barrels sourced from Australian wineries making great shiraz, cabernets and pinot noirs. Often filled fresh when the barrel is still wet with wine. Matured in Melbourne’s wildly varied climate for three years.
  • End / Exceptional length thanks to the red wine barrels. Bright aromatic notes of red berries, orchard fruits, vanilla, caramel and soft oak spice.
  • Future / Smooth and complex when sipped neat. Shines in classic cocktails. Works exceptionally well with food.

And their tasting notes:

  • Nose / Like we took bright flavours of red berries and orchard fruit and coated them in soft oak spice
  • Palate / Imagine a rich red berry pudding covered in vanilla, caramel and spice.
  • Finish / Balanced and long. The sweetness fades and the delicious flavour goes on.

What did we try in our 2nd Dunkerton evening?

And here are a few earlier explorations of Starward:

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A Christmas ode with Swedish Mulled Wine – Mackmyra Vinterglöd

I will admit to having a mixed response to some more experimental wine maturation combinations. Not all are a smashing success, in my humble opinion. However how are unique gems discovered without someone taking a crazy idea or playing around? So I entered into this particular tasting with an open mind. Thinking of how much I enjoy the tart tasty mulled crabapple and red wine of my Canadian youth and have adapted to the sweeter avatar I find here in Germany.

Intended to come after the Mackmyra Äppleblom, the Mackmyra Vinterglöd is uniquely finished in a combination of PX and Swedish Mulled Wine casks.

Mackmyra Vinterglöd 46.1%

  • Nose – Initially a whiff of agave, then spicy cinnamon, light Christmasy notes dancing about, then sour plum, Chinese sour cherry, a touch of pine or balsam fir, then some chocolate – yum! More Christmas oranges and cloves, ginger snap cookies
  • Palate – Ginger, sour cherries… the Christmas orange and cloves on the aromas followed through beautifully on the palate, caramelized ginger peel
  • Finish – Dry spice kick, a bit bitter, sweet leather and licorice, cinnamon spice,

Distinctive and even more so when we returned after some time. Really quite interesting… it reminded me of orange bitters, herbaceous and deliciously sweet… like a Ricola swiss herbal lozenge.

What do the folks at Mackmyra have to say?

Mackmyra Vinterglöd (winter glow) is…inspired by the Swedish winter tradition of drinking mulled wine during the colder months of the year.

Vinterglöd carries notes of orange, candied fruit and almond, together with oak and a ginger-like spiciness. The aromatic profile of the whisky comes from its aging in casks that previously held Swedish mulled wine and Pedro Ximénez Sherry.

Vinterglöd is a collaboration with Saturnus Glögg.

  • NOSE – Spicy with berries, fruits and light oily notes. Toasted notes of vanilla, oak and caramel fudge. A light warm and oaky spiciness with a hint of tar and mineralities. Sweet notes of raisin, marzipan, citrus and pear drop. Blackcurrant notes of older whisky are found together with spicy and herbal notes of aniseed, ginger and tobacco leaves.
  • TASTE – Spicy with a nice balance between fruits, berries, oils and oak. Blackcurrant, pear fudge and grapefruit. Pleasant spicy oak with hints of tar and tobacco leaves. The texture has a light oiliness.
  • AFTERTASTE – Oily and spicy with berries and a light dryness towards the end.

What else did we try in our Dunkerton Drams evening?

These were all part of a 2019 Master of Malt Advent Calendar.

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Minis – Glenlossie 8 year (2010) 56.8%

My earlier brushes with Glenlossie were quite positive – both from That Boutique-y Whisky Co and then later in Berlin with a fabulous Sharing Angel. I was completely pre-disposed to enjoy, hoping to discover something interesting. It was fitting my tasting companion for the evening was the same Angel I shared the earlier Glenlossie in Berlin.

We opened this wee dram in February 2020… and what did we find??

Glenlossie 8 year (Oct 2010 / Apr 2009) Cask 8645 56.8% (Hannah Whisky Merchants – Lady of the Glen)

  • Colour – A hint of rose in the gold
  • Nose – Forest honey, sour fruit, a bit heavy, toast, incredibly sweet
  • Palate – Warm, the honey carries through… it was also a bit woodsy, a kid of course texture, mace, garden lovage
  • Finish – Nothing remarkable

We joked that it was a bit like a Winnie the Pooh honeypot – super sweet and not what we expected from Glenlossie. We speculated what could bring about this result? Clearly an ex-bourbon cask but there was something else going on…. certainly not sherry, a wine cask finish perhaps? We then tracked down the Mast of Malt notes – the Port cask finish was clearly the answer we sought!

Months later I decided to polish off the last few drops… what did I find? Surprisingly it was chock full of red berries and red cherries, candy sweet… on the palate it was a bit peculiar but better than I remembered. Interesting? Somewhat… but not one I would run out to try and repeat.

What more do we know? The folks at Master of Malt have this to say:

A wonderful amber-coloured indie bottling of Glenlossie. The single malt was distilled on 8 October 2000, and matured in a single bourbon hogshead. It was then treated to a finish in a first-fill ruby Port cask for around six months, sourced from a family-owned bodega near Porto in Portugal. The liquid was then bottled on 10 April 2019 by Hannah Whisky Merchants for the Lady of the Glen range, with the cask yielding 287 bottles at cask strength.

  • Nose: Toasted oats, berry compote and honey, floral malt and baking spice.
  • Palate: Caramelised nuts, vanilla fudge, lots of dried fruit, fresh red berries, liquorice and butterscotch.
  • Finish: Toasted walnut and buttered brown bread with blackberry jam.

So the dates don’t jibe – the bottle says 2010 whereas you might have spotted the above says distilled in 2000.. suspect this was a typo.

And what would it set you back? Hannah Merchant have it listed for GBP 100. Before this sample, I hadn’t tried anything from Hannah Whisky Merchants with their “Lady of the Glen” line.

Here are a few others I tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Teeling Brabazon Bottling 49.5% – Sherry Twist?

For those who make it to Ireland and start to explore beyond the big daddy Midleton, known best for its Jameson brand, there are a plethora of options… yet still only a small yet growing number of distillers.

Teeling is one of them and relatively recently launched a new “Brabazon Bottling” series – to explore maturation experiments with fortified wine – kicking off with this Sherry avatar and then launching a Port version for the 2nd series. Our host had tried both and knew to reverse the tasting order so we had the 2nd first and the 1st second. But what matters more than series and tasting order is what we thought!

Teeling Brabazon Sherry 49.5% (Series 1, 02/2018)

  • Nose – Heavier than the Port, dark plums, fruity, sharp cheddar, direct, liquorice, black olives or capers… and after the 1st sip, it was an explosion of Christmas qualities, dried fruits, cinnamon, cloves, ginger…. then settling into a caramel with a hint of salt and toast
  • Palate – Usual… like a sweet apple and ginger chutney, kiwis, cloves, chocolate… while wasn’t massively complex, it had a strong character, quite tasty with a light Christmas pudding
  • Finish – Beautiful! The finish was really long… really really long… with a curl of liquorice

Early reactions to this one after the 1st sip was “I like it! I really like it!” With comments about how it simply envelops into a nice warm hug… In many ways it was the yin to the yang of the Port with a slower start on the nose, blooming fully on the palate, and slowly tapering into a lingering finish.

Which sparked a lively comparison between the two non-chill filtered Brabazon Bottling boys… Which was preferred? Why?

Some were decidedly against this one. Finding it a bit challenging and lacking in a certain something required to make an appealing tipple. Others had the opposite reaction, really enjoying it.

I’ll admit I was in the 2nd camp and found it an interesting twist on the sociable quality I’ve come to expect from Teeling

And what do the folks at Teeling have to say?

The Brabazon Bottling Series is a limited edition collection of unique Irish Single Malts capturing the full impact and flavour crafted through fortified wine cask maturation.

Series No. 1 focuses on sherry cask maturation and consists of a range of carefully selected sherry cask aged whiskeys producing a full flavoured sherry influenced Irish Single Malt. This bottling consists of a vatting of 6 different sherry casks, carefully chosen for their complementary character. The Brabazon Bottling Series 1 is bottled at 49.5% ABV with no chill filtration allowing for all the natural flavours of this whiskey to be retained. Limited to just 12,500 bottles, this is a whiskey to savour.

Teeling’s Tasting Notes:

  • Nose – Earthy dried fruit and roasted hazelnut, with marmalade, peach, plum and burnt toffee.
  • Taste – A rich sherry sweetness, red berries, nuttiness and toffee, with a hint of of liquorice and clove.
  • Finish – Lingering mixed spice, trail-mix, crisped marshmallow, dry tannins and spice with toasted wood.

What else was picked up Whisky Ladies Irish Trio:

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