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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting Notes:

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

Whisky Facts:

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

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

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

Interested in more Shelter Point tasting experiences?

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BMC Bourbon – Breaker Bourbon Port Barrel Finish 45%

When I tried to find out more about this bourbon, it turns out it is more a brand than a specific new distillery entering the fray.

The folks over at Ascendant are quiet about the origins and details on their website. While the company is based in California, according to Distiller.com, the bourbon has a mash bill of corn, rye and malted barley which is sourced from  Indiana where it is distilled and aged for a minimum of five years, then blended and bottled in California.

Breaker Bourbon Port Barrel Finish Batch No 5 45% Bottle 727

  • Colour – Burnished ruby
  • Nose – Sweet and sour, yhesty, herbal, basil, dry spices of cardamon and cloves, black peppercorn… increasingly sweet then sour mash
  • Palate – Yhesty malt on the palate, dry, milder than expected, even a bit bitter
  • Finish – Hmm… there but… what exactly?
  • Water – Evens it out a bit

This was a strange one. There was no discernible influence from the Port finish – none of the stewed fruits or dark berries or even grapes of any kind. We simply weren’t sure about it so we set it aside.

And when we returned? No… just no… seriously no.

Let’s see what the folks over at Ascendant have to say:

This special edition Breaker Bourbon starts with fully matured bourbon and is finished in port wine barrels. It boasts a distinct hue and complex flavors of vanilla, cereal grains, oak, spice, and rich stewed fruit leading to a dry finish. Citrus and spice linger on the palate with baked apple notes beneath.

We certainly didn’t find much in common with the tasting notes. Pity.

BMC’s Bourbon Night

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Red Casks – Longrow Red 11 year Cabernet Franc 55.9%

We don’t often get a chance to try drams from Campbeltown, though there are a few clear ‘fans’ in the house! For our original Mumbai based tasting group, this was the first peated Springbank whisky under the Longrow brand that we tried together.

We sampled this whisky blind without bias… and here is what we thought…

Longrow Red Cabernet Franc 11 year 55.9%

  • Nose – Peat! Medicinal and maritime, Hamam or Lifebuoy soap, carbolic, fish oil and salt
  • Palate – Full raging peat fire yet still sweet, well balanced between sweet and peat, most enjoyable… terrific to just roll around the palate and bask in its full flavoured peaty sweetness
  • Finish – Gorgeous sweet spice
  • Water – While it seems counter intuitive, don’t… it somehow made the whisky a bit funky

Overall we quite enjoyed this one! It provoked a lively debate about the different characters of peat… contrasting this style of peat with seaweed vs ashy campfire, with neither elements found in this whisky.

One member was absolutely insistent that it had to be Campbeltown – that the peat style was distinctively from that region! Obviously he was spot on and with the reveal backed up his pronouncement with a short discourse on the three different Islay peat bogs vs Highland vs…. you get the picture!

What do the folks at Springbank have to say? Alas the exact expression we sampled has been replaced with a pinot noir… however this remains consistent for what they are aiming to achieve with their Longrow Red expressions:

Our Longrow Red, always bottled at cask strength, is released annually in small quantities and every year a different type of red wine cask is used to mature the whisky.

Offering a different sensation from Longrow Peated, this whisky is smooth, elegant and subtly juicy.

What did we try in our special “red” casks evening?

Other peaty Campbeltown drams

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Red Casks – Linkwood 16 year (1998) Côte Rôtie 45%

From Gordon & MacPhail’s Private Collection, this special wine cask finish expression was released in the US.

We sampled this whisky blind without bias… knowing nothing about it beyond our immediate experience… until our host revealed it!

Linkwood 16 year (14 Dec 1998/Oct 2015) Côte Rôtie 45% (G&MP)

  • Colour – A gorgeous almost unreal ruby red
  • Nose – Starts as a delightful Christmasy rum raisin with varnish… full on fruity, berries, very sweet, plum cake… loads of caramel, vanilla, soaked dried fruits, red apples, cinnamon brown sugar, malt, herbal green tea, burnt syrup, oily, coconut, calvados, a bit of spice from the oak, some rose petals?
  • Palate – Soooooo sweet! Enough character to bring one back, a lovely mouthfeel, some oils on the palate yet still had a lighter body, green apples, delicious with a hint of tannins, sweet berries
  • Finish – The oil continued… ever so slightly bitter … more creamy nutty… gorgeous
  • Water – While not needed, it opened it up to make the whisky even sweeter and more oak forward on the palate

This one was certainly a shift from the 1st… we struggled to reconcile the rich colour with the lighter body, sparking considerable speculation – how could it be such a bright red? Surely it wasn’t natural! To which our host shared the whisky was not chill filtered and completely natural colour. Hmm….

This confirmed our suspicions of a red wine cask however it didn’t quite fit with previous experiences with whiskies matured in port, pinot noir, bordeaux… so then which red wine? How long was it finished for?

And the reveal? Delighted to see we had a treat from Linkwood – a distillery our collective experiences has given rise to an impression of an underrated whisky well worth catching – particularly if seen fit to be bottled by the folks over at Gordon & Macphail.

As for the wood and finish? The notes on the bottle revealed it was aged for 15 years to then be finished for 23 months in the Côte Rôtie – which is considerably longer than most finishes.

We set the whisky aside for some time and revisited – absolutely exquisite! Definitely one to slowly sip and enjoy.

While further details are not available in the Gordon & MacPhail website, there were short tasting notes on the bottle:

Sweet and cream accents with rich summer berries and green apples, which are complemented by a smooth milk chocolate edge.

Last seen in the US online for approx $160.

What did we try in our special “red” casks evening?

Other Linkwood experiences?

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Starward Wine Cask Project (2018) 41%

Starward’s New World Project series is deliberately intended to “buck” whisky convention. In truth, what is bottled is not “whisky” at all by the traditional guide of requiring a minimum of 3 years maturation. Instead it is a malted barley spirit, playing around with different wine casks – either fortified or table wine – in this case an undisclosed red wine.

And what better way to kick of our evening exploring Starward than with one of their experimental wine cask projects!

Starward New World Project Wine Cask 2.25 yr malted barley spirit batch 170721-A (8 Aug 2017) 41%

  • Nose – Pear drops, autumn leaves, wood, fresh sap, bourbon, very sweet, raw molasses then shifted into a lighter caramel, orange concentrate
  • Palate – Smooth yet youthful and a bit raw, a tinge salty, marzipan, fruits
  • Finish – Sits there with a slight nuttiness

Overall the aromas were much more interesting than the palate – one even described it as “palate stripping!”

It was certainly interesting… we wondered what it would be like with water. For those who added, it lost the delightful pear on the aroma and didn’t gain much on the palate or finish.

And when we returned after some time… was quite sour on the nose, became quite tart on the palate – think the inside of a kumquat.

My strong recommendation with this one is enjoy it but don’t linger too long. Or perhaps try it one of the many cocktails the folks at Starward recommend.

As for its cost? This bottle was purchased at The Whisky Exchange, London and currently retails for £50.25.

Here are a few other Starward‘s explored:

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

One of the ‘traditions’ of our original whisky group is to taste blind… In this case, I gave a bit of a twist by openly sharing we were sampling whiskies from the same distillery, peated at the same level and nearly the same age with the only difference the cask.

My goal was to eliminate wild speculations to instead focus on the narrow range of variable – cask. With the reveal made only after we tasted each whisky separately and then compared them to each other, sharing thoughts on the possible cask(s) used.

We began with the Cognac cask – while not part of the MP5 series – I chose it to calibrate the palate. We then moved on to the Bourbon cask, then this one… which added a Bordeaux finish.

What did we think?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

  • Colour – A clear touch of red – which we later found clearly came from the Bordeaux cask finish
  • Nose – Initially greeted with curd and tobacco, quite strongly spirit driven, some sulfur – like we just set off some crackers ‘patakar!’, then settled down with less peat, revealing chocolate, and a range of aromas that went from wine to sweet and salty dried fruits, pistachios and raisins
  • Palate – Very spicy at first, with an interesting over brewed tea quality, like tannins from red wine, sweet with an interesting spice, shifting into raspberries and walnuts
  • Finish – A long finish with a strong peppery close
  • Water – Initially made it spicier then really opened up with many finding it quite fabulous once opened up with a splash of water

While we found this one a bit thin on the palate, lacking the body of the MP5 Bourbon, it had quite a distinctive and appealing quality. We also found it less salty than the 1st with almost negligible peat.

For one, he confessed that if he wasn’t already told this was a peaty Islay whisky, he never would have guessed. We wanted to know how that could possibly be the case – given similar ppm from other distilleries retain a much more pronounced peat.

The answer in part can be found in the Laddie MP5 broadcast in which the head distiller Adam Hannett speaks with Allen Logan, distillery manager.

Around the 20 min mark, they shared how their PC style is to always start at 40 phenolic parts per million (PPM). However the phenol content changes as it is mashed, malted and further softened through the slow distilling process. The shape of the still is another factor, which enables lighter flavours to come through. Then, as the spirit ages, it loses more phenols…

The result? You end up with considerably less ppm than you started with… And for Port Charlotte (PC) specifically, it means the whisky is surprisingly versatile with different cask types, particularly if it is aged for a longer period.

Yet without this insight or knowledge of the re-casting, what did our merry malters think?

After much speculation, most votes veered to sherry with one clear it could not be sherry as it had a wine quality. Clearly this taster was exceedingly close!

What Adam shared in the broadcast is this whisky began in an ex-Bourbon cask for 10 years then was finished for 9 months in the fresh Bordeaux cask from the town of Margeaux.

When asked why they recast the spirit, the answer was:

“We wanted to see what else we could explore, do and try new things.”

In part this was motivated by a recognition the whisky needed an extra ‘boost’ from re-casking.

And when the topic of the wine cask finish arose, Allen spoke of their early experiments with finishing 15 and 20 year stock using ex-Bordeaux casks, which turned the whisky pink after only a short period of time! What to do? Jim McEwan suggested releasing the whisky as a special edition for Valentine’s Day, what else?

As for this whisky? I revisited it the next evening and found the wine element unmistakable… and think we underestimated it in our first foray. Or perhaps with just a little oxidation, it revealed its balanced complex character. Superb!

What more do we know?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 29.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Bourbon / Bordeaux
  • Warehouse: WH5. L2 – Dunnage

I purchased this 200ml tasting set trio for an embarrassingly high amount from The Single Cask in Singapore.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

Before we tasted the MP5 series, I opened a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8% to help calibrate our palate to the Port Charlotte style.
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Amrut Port Pipe Peated 62.8% (LMdW)

It is time to admit I’ve gone from being skeptical about the Amrut’s available in India to being puzzled by experiments like Spectrum to becoming rather impressed with some of the expressions available outside of India.

After enjoying the Fever Club Con-Fusion whisky, our host shared the tale of when he 1st encountered this at Whisky Live in Paris. Shared how he was intent on other explorations but when passing by the Amrut booth sampled this and went “Woah!” So much so that of all the options, this is the one that stood out and made its way back to Mumbai for our sampling pleasure. Lucky us!

Amrut Port Pipe Peated 62.8% 

  • Nose – Spice, fruit, basil and mint, not just herbal… it is like a chutney, very sweet fruit, then shifts to dark rich bitter chocolate
  • Palate – “What the F@%k!” Exceptional. An elegant peat. Cinnamon spice. a light brine, very dry.
  • Finish – Long spice peat…
  • Water – Absolutely no temptation to add

There was absolutely nothing off… very well crafted, the kind of whisky that will make you stop and pay attention.

Here is what the folks at La Maison du Whisky has to say?

One of this Amrut’s undeniable charms (of which there are many) is the construction of its aromatic and gustatory palette. Like the peat that gradually tames an olfactory opening of rare power. After taking the upper hand, like an inspired sculptor, it tastefully chisels out a palate and finish with an almost sensually smooth texture. In this, it is every bit as good as the magnificent version also aged in a port cask which, in our 2017 Creation Catalogue, majestically marked La Maison du Whisky’s 60th anniversary.

Profile: the very powerful initial nose is hot, mineral and camphoric. Little by little, an oily, earthy peat envelops the aromatic palette. Equally as present on the attack, this peat gradually becomes sweeter (apricot tart). The finish is malty and full of freshness. Lightly tannic, the end of the palate is herbaceous and floral.

Single Cask no. 2713 – Port Pipe
Limited edition of 420 bottles
Exclusive to LMDW

Curious about other Amrut tasting experiences?

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Vault Collection – Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish 46.2%

The Vault Fine Spirits has single handed expanded the range of whiskies and other spirits available in India – more specifically through our Duty Free. Which is exactly the theme of the session – exploring a trio from this collection.

First up in the “The Vault Collection” trio was a blind tasting of a whisky from Tasmania, Australia. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 1: Hellyers Road-Pinot Noir Finish 46.2% | Non Chill Filtered | NAS

  • Color: Gold
  • Nose: Dense sweet chocolate, sweet and lactic at the same time. Light varnish notes, burnt matches. Then starfruit citrus with curious notes of paan and nutmeg. Most unusual nose and certainly non-Scottish. Let’s see how the palate lives up
  • Palate: Intensely roasted coffee beans. It was literally like chewing on the beans. Then came the sweet fruity flavors of pears and overripe pineapples. That lactic, porridge flavor was back. With a little time, it got spicy with bitter tannic notes at the back of the throat. This seems young and confused. Bottled a tad too early?
  • With water and about 20 mins of rest it didn’t change much. On the palate, it was now a tad oily with some cold coffee but the bitterness continues.
  • Finish: Very dry and the tannic bitterness continues.

As usual it was time to guess. This was most definitely non-Scottish. One member nailed it down to Tasmanian. And there it was, Hellyers Road! A very challenging whisky certainly not for the novice. Would like to revisit it once it settles down in the bottle. But based on the first impression it was certainly not my kind of a dram.

Official notes:  

The nose is immediately drawn to crisp summer citrus, lemon and orange that obediently withdraws on the palate to manifest a sweet, gentle layer of pepper and spice – a persuasion of the red wine cameo. Burnt blackberry sauce lingers in the aftertaste foreclosing a treasured confusion of the senses.

The Vault Collection trio:

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Hellyers Road Pinot Noir 46.2%

Our Whisky Ladies evening exploring drams from Australia and New Zealand kicked off with a jaunt to Tasmania’s Hellyers Road. For those curious to know more about the distillery, check out their story or take a tour with my favourite Tassie Whisky Wafflers with their trip to Hellyers Road.

Yet this was no ordinary Hellyers Road offering. Nope! This whisky was with a wine twist… Red wine finishes are popping up all over the place these days… and let’s be honest, it has been a mixed experience…

So what did we think of it?

Hellyers Road Pinot Noir 46.2%

  • Nose – Dusty musty distinctly different, a bit of plasticine, one called it summery, juicy berries, very sweet, shifted into peanut brittle or chikki, vanilla, some flowers, metallic, kept changing  from creamy to fragrant to buttery to something else entirely
  • Palate – The initial reaction from some was that it was really yummy, caramel, so much better than the aroma… but then wait… it took on a bitter (almost rancid) walnut, coffee, chai masala, rich
  • Finish – Iron, nutty, long lightly spicy finish
  • Water – Don’t, please don’t…. I do believe “skunk” was mentioned
  • Revisit – After setting it aside for some time, it was revisited and revealed a distinctive bitter burnt orange

It was a bit of a puzzle, with many contradictory elements. A slightly cheeky comment was that it went from a summer day at the fair to an entirely different “play” in an S&M  dungeon.

Bottom line, it really is “alive” – certainly not a whisky to reach out for when you just want to relax and unwind. But perhaps one when you wish to challenge a guest, keeping them guessing at what exactly they are sipping.

Putting this theory to the test, I later shared with India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula the Hellyers Road Pinot Noire side-by-side with the No 99 Red Cask. His vote? The Canadian blend – though also a bit different and not for everyone, called it “not off” with the wine finish working with the rye spice. Whereas the Pinot? Nope. Didn’t care for it considering it a bit “weird” though did note its interesting “toffee coffee” quality. So in the contest between two ex-British colonies – the Canadian blend beat the Tasmanian experiment.

And yet – that is half the fun with whisky. Not all experiments work for everyone but if you didn’t try, you wouldn’t know!

What do the folks over at Hellyers Road have to say?

Our Original Single Malt Whisky, aged in American Oak (ex-bourbon) finished in French Oak (ex-pinot noir) to provide a tantalising point of difference for single malt lovers. Imaginative and unique, this delightful spirit evokes all the complexities of a Tasmanian rainforest. Judged a Global Whisky Master and one of the World’s Ten Best Value Whiskies in 2015 (United Kingdom).

  • The nose is immediately drawn to crisp summer citrus, lemon and orange that obediently withdraws on the palate to manifest a sweet, gentle layer of pepper and spice – a persuasion of the red wine cameo.
  • Burnt blackberry sauce lingers in the aftertaste foreclosing a treasured confusion of the senses.

PS Those curious about pricing, this whisky was purchased in Indian duty free for Rs 9,750 (approx USD 150).

So what else made it into our Kiwi and Taz explorations?

Curious about more “Trans Tasman” drams? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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Whisky Live 2017 – Amrut Kadhambam + Portonova

Just before heading out from Whisky Live Singapore 2017, I popped back to say “ciao!” to the folks at the Paul John booth… Right next to them was Amrut with the gents from the distillery, quite a refreshing contrast from the previous year.

And what did I briefly sample?

Amrut Kadhambam 50% 

  • Nose – Nice and fruity – apricots?
  • Palate – Spice, more fruit, woody, light tobacco
  • Finish – More of the lightly smokey spice

The USP for Kadhambam is that it is both peated and unpeated whisky matured in 3 different casks – Oloroso Sherry Butts, and Amrut’s Brandy and Rum casks.

Amrut Portonova 62.1%

  • Nose – Rich sherry berry like with a Port twist! Almost chocolaty
  • Palate – Dry spice, more dark fruits
  • Finish – Long, sweet, berry concentrate
  • Water – From my quick check, generous dollops of water is a must!

So there you have it! A short, sweet and surface level synopsis of two more Amrut whiskies.

And other Amrut‘s sampled over the years?
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