21 years – Aberfeldy, The Glenrothes, Highland Park 1991

Sometimes you just want to go classic, returning to the days of age statements… or at least an aged dram known by vintage!

That is exactly what we did with our evening trio of “21s” – each whisky was matured for 21 years, an increasing rarity with ever increasing prices in the world of whisky.

In our latest greatest “adult” evening, what all did we try?

Want to know more? Just check out the links above and read on….

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Whisky Ladies Grain – The Chita 43%

Most would be familiar with Suntory’s popular Hibiki blend which brings together the Chita grain with Hakushu and Yamazaki. For many years, Suntory kept Chita nearly ‘secret’ in Japan – with no exports available.

I remember when I first picked up a bottle in Tokyo  (July 2014) – our tasting group in Mumbai were astounded by its exquisite, perfumed and nuanced character. Before featuring it in an article on Japanese whiskies, I reached out to the folks at Suntory to ask if they had any plans to market Chita outside of Japan. That was mid 2015 and the answer was “not yet” with plans clearly afoot to change that state sooner than later.

So when the NAS export version “The Chita” became available at Singapore duty-free a year later, I was excited to try it! Thanks to a “speed dating” sample sip at the airport, I had this chance, however didn’t discover much of what made our original experience so interesting.

Since then we’ve had more grains and know to calibrate expectations. And as always, the best thing about exploring whiskies with a tasting group – in this case the Whisky Ladies – is the different impressions which includes those who come with a fresh open approach not coloured by past experiences.

So what did we collectively think?

The Chita 43%

  • Nose – Light banana, vanilla, soft wood, almond, light perfume, honey
  • Palate – Lemon and pepper, sweet, pleasant, uncomplicated, more of that light perfume in the flavours and definitely more honey too
  • Finish – Simple, sweet yet satisfying

Overall we pronounced this one for the “easy drinking” category. Completely pleasant and one that could be brought out as an enjoyable uncomplicated option. One lady shared  she generally keeps a bottle of The Chita stocked and prefers it with ice and a splash of water for a simple refreshing wind-down drink.

What is interesting to note is that while the age is not stated, part of the character comes from the grain aging in a variety of casks – American White Oak, Spanish Oak and wine. This combination is given credit to producing a grain that is mild and smooth.

Suntory shares that they’ve produced grain as “dashi” or a broth base for their blends since 1972.  Yet only with the craze for Japanese whiskies globally and a growing interest in grain as a category on its own has The Chita become available since 2016.

And what do they have to say?

Shinji Fukuyo describes The Chita Single Grain Whisky as the “serenity of Japanese whisky.” Like the misty, calm seas of the Chita Peninsula on a day of elegant stillness, this airy whisky has a presence that is unmistakably serene.

“There is a quiet confidence and tenderness in our grain whiskies. These qualities allow them to be their own heroes, whether in a blend or featured as a single grain whisky.”

From the House of Suntory Whisky, a mild, smooth single grain whisky with unparalleled sophistication and a clean, clear finish.

  • Colour: Bright gold
  • Nose: Creme brûlée, cardamon, acacia honey, blossoming rose
  • Palate: Mild and smooth, hint of mint, deep honey
  • Finish: Clean and clear, spiced oak with subtle bittersweet notes

And what would a bottle of The Chita set you back? You can find it at Changi airport in Singapore for approx SGD 80 / USD 60 / INR 4,250. By Asian standards that is quite reasonable and more importantly, it is available in several airports in the region making it easy to pick up too. From that perspective, it is an easy buy for an easy drinking alternative.

PS – Photo credit goes to our whisky contributor Paula McGlynn

What else did the Whisky Ladies try in our Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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Grain Whiskies – Haig, Chita, Nikka, Cambus

Though the humble grain is mostly found in blends, the Whisky Ladies are no stranger to exploring grains…

Just a couple that come to mind include….

All of our earlier grain experiences were mingled with trying malts or blends, so when it came time to decide a theme anchored by Suntory’s grain whisky Chita, we decided to go all out with grains!

We put out the word and here is what turned up!

And here is a selection of other grain tasting experiences:

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

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Bourbon Cocktail Hour with FEW, Mitcher’s, Underground Apple

Sometimes its good to shake things up! And that’s exactly what we experienced in our recent session. Literally shaking up some bourbon to make cocktails!

To get us in the mood, our evening began with a pop quiz on Bourbon, with fun factoids like a crash course into the confoundingly confusing mix of prohibition and restrictions (wet, dry, moist, wine, limited, golf…) to be found around alcohol consumption in the very state that boosts of bringing bourbon to the world – Kentucky!

Once our trivia round was finished, we dove into the Bourbons. We started with just a few sips of each… then the “main event” commenced…carefully crafted cocktails playing with the different elements of the drams.

So what did we enjoy?

  • FEW Bourbon 46.5% was the base for a rather delicious Manhattan
  • Mitcher’s Small Batch 45.7% morphed into a marvellous Sazerac
  • Cleveland Underground AP Bourbon Whiskey finished with Apple Wood, Batch 3, 45% frothed into a twist on an Old Fashioned

Read on over the coming days to find out more about our brush with Bourbons brought back to Bombay!

This wasn’t our 1st rodeo with American whiskies either… We’ve had some past adventures such as:

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Peat Unusual – Loch Lomond Peat 46%

Sometimes a whisky is picked up not for marketing schpeels, glowing reviews or word of mouth enthusiasm… Sometimes a whisky is acquired for more whimsical reasons… like a nod to pure childhood sentiment. Yes Tin Tin comics and their Loch Lomond whisky.

This is exactly the motivation for adding the Loch Lomond Peat to an evening of Peat Unusual – all peated whiskies but ones that did not necessarily follow the standard peaty Islay style.

So what did we think?

Loch Lomond Peated 46%

  • Nose – Honey sweet, organic, some caramel custard, floral grasses, tube roses and white flowers and more honey… after tasting there was even a hint of ginger… after sitting for much longer took on an almost sour mash quality
  • Palate – Sweet ginger and a quality that was almost tequila like, some spice
  • Finish – There but… quite shy

Overall this had us scratching our heads wondered where was the peat? Was there any peat? Wasn’t there supposed to be some peat?

Another joked it somehow reminded him of left-over pub tequila. Hmmm…

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad it just wasn’t stellar either, just something to pass away some time, sipping while you engaged in activities… an easy accompaniment

And what do the folks over at Loch Lomond have to say?

Not much as you can’t even find this particular expression on their website!

However the TWE folks have this to say instead:

The peated release of Loch Lomond was launched in 2008 by popular demand. Home to a cooperage, malt distillery and a grain distillery (which produces the best selling Glen’s Vodka), Loch Lomond is a multi functioning site. This has notes of soft fruit and is hugely peated.

Um… hugely peated? That certainly wasn’t our impression.

We opened this bottle in November 2017 and I strongly suspect this was picked up at The Whisky Exchange where it can be purchased for approx £14. And at that price? You can afford to indulge in a bit of pure Tintin nostalgia.

Our “peat unusual” whiskies featured:

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Peat Unusual – Ledaig “Very Cloudy” 40%

Not all peat is your campfire smoky character…. In keeping with our “Peat Unusual” theme,  this Ledaig, specially bottled by Signatory, was not your ordinary direct peat Ledaig expression but instead something different.

What did we think?

Ledaig “Very Cloudy” 7 years (7 June 2008/15 Dec 2015) 40% Hogshead 700551 + 700552 Signatory Vintage 910 Bottles

  • Nose – Sweet and sour, that wet dish cloth element with lemon, ammonia yet restrained, as it opened more, a sweet wet hay
  • Palate – Super easy to drink then the peat peaks out from behind, becomes sweet and spicy
  • Finish – Peat and sweet

It was not heavily peated, more like an accent or splash of colour than the main act. One joked that it could be a peated whisky for non-peat lovers. We found it overall very easy to drink with its enjoyable light peat. Quite a contrast to other Ledaigs sampled over the years.

Given its ‘very cloudy’ moniker, we were curious enough to put it in a fridge to chill to see its effect. Did it make it cloudy? Not much, but it was rather nice chilled.

As this bottle came from a BMC guest, we don’t know where it was acquired, however we sampled it from a closed bottle in November 2017.

Interested in other experiences with Ledaig whiskies?  

Our “peat unusual” whiskies featured:

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Whisky Ladies Irish Celebration – Redbreast 12 year 40%

A few months ago at the soft launch of “The Quiet Man”, Michael Morris told the tale of how the Irish Distillers Ltd team, in their single minded focus to revive the industry and bring Jameson to the top, intended to drop Jameson Redbreast completely. However after hue and cry from Redbreast fans, decided to drop the “Jameson” preface instead to sit back and watch in amazement as Redbreast became so popular, it ensured pot still whiskies continue to have a special place on the world whisky map!

So it was entirely fitting that our Whisky Ladies Irish evening with Jameson Brand Ambassador Ciaran Hanton closed with the best known Irish pot still whiskey – Redbreast.

Rebreast 12 year 40%

  • Nose – Light caramel, quite sharp, a bit of spice like cloves, cinnamon, a big sherry influence, heady dry fruits, cream, toast
  • Palate – Very spice forward, nutmeg, there was a bit of a debate on whether it was balanced and complex or sharp and bitter or smooth and sweet. Take your pick! As we continued to sip, most of us finally settled on sweet meats and raisins.
  • Finish – Roasted spice, almost like a heartburn

With the Redbreast, Ciaran shared how it got its name from the friendly Robin. He also noted how, like Green Spot and Yellow Spot, it began as a bonded whiskey – meaning the stock was purchased by the merchant, in this case Gibeys – and further matured in their casks. As a wine importer, Gibeys had access to sherry casks which found new life maturing whiskies.

Since then much has changed however there is no question Redbreast became the worlds top selling Irish pot still whisky.

And what did we think? Truth be told, the Yellow Spot was a hard act to follow. There was no doubt the sherry influence and that this was a sharper spicier dram than the other pot still whiskies we tried that evening.

All in all, it was a merry night of good company, sociable drams with tales told to colour and spice up the experience even more!

What else did we have in our Irish night?

Our experience was courtesy of Pernod Ricard, tasted from a bottle opened in August 2018.

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Whisky Ladies Irish Celebration – Yellow Spot 12 years 46%

When I first tried Yellow Spot in 2013, it stood out for its approachable yet complex character. Over the years, I’ve kept my eye out for it, yet always found it in more sociable settings like a favourite bar in Singapore and not a proper “tasting” environment.

So when there was an opportunity to introduce Yellow Spot with Jameson’s Brand Ambassador Ciaran Hanton to our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai – it was an enthusiastic yes!

And what did we find?

Yellow Spot 12 year 46%

  • Nose – Brown sugar, fruity – again like the Green Spot we found pears, honey, vanilla, a nice crème brule, cinnamon spice, then apple pie
  • Palate – Love it! Denser than the Green Spot, peach pits, spicier, had that lovely oily silky roll around in your mouth, very tasty, shifting over time from white to red fruits
  • Finish – Light yet ginger spice – quite lovely! Perhaps even some candied apple at the end too with a sweet close

For many ladies, this was the “now we are talking” moment. Settling in to sip, savour and enjoy. Quite  few shared this was their favourite of our Irish evening.

Meantime our Irish whiskey education continued with Ciaran sharing that Yellow Spot is not a “finished” whiskey like those that say start in an ex-bourbon cask then are “finished” for a further time in say a sherry cask. Instead, Yellow Spot gains its character from whiskey that is matured in three separate casks – ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry and ex-Spanish Malaga – then is blended together.

What is interesting is how the Sherry and Malaga, a sweet fortified wine made from Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes, adds a subtle yet discernible elements. What matters most is they come together in harmony to make for an enjoyable dram.

What else did we have in our Irish night?

Our experience was courtesy of Pernod Ricard, tasted from a bottle opened in August 2018 with Jameson Brand Ambassador Ciaran Hanton.

You can also find even more Whisky bits ‘n bobs on:

Whisky Ladies Irish Celebration – Green Spot 40%

A terrific way to kick off an exploration of Irish Pot Still whiskies is with Green Spot

Naturally there is a story to tell… Jameson’s Brand Ambassador Ciaran Hanton shared that the “Spots” began as a whiskey bonder brand. In this case, the Mitchell family used to mark their casks with a spot of colour – denoting different ages. The Blue dollop of paint was for the 7 year, Green for 10 year, Yellow for 12 year and Red for 15 year… of which both the Green and Yellow continue to be produced – just that now the Green Spot has no declared age. It also just happens to be the most popular “Spot” and is slowly becoming available in more places around the globe.

What matters most is what did we find?

Green Spot 40%

  • Nose – Honey suckle, sweet perfumes, literally dripping in honey, caramel desert, honeycomb, aromatic oils, tropical fruits, hay, green grass, apples and pears
  • Palate – Buttery, light sweet spices like cloves, green peppercorn. Had a much fuller flavour than expected – rich, oily, lots and lots of pear, very smooth with something more and a hint of spice
  • Finish – Light spice finish, a bit bitter

We found it quite “summery” – like honeyed sunshine in a bottle. The pears were particularly predominant and the longer we sipped, the more companionable it became. While not complex, its easy drinking character made it a terrific dram to return to…

What else did we have in our Irish night?

Our experience was courtesy of Pernod Ricard, tasted from a bottle opened in August 2018. While Green Spot isn’t yet available in India, one never knows, that may change!

For all the whiskies we sampled that evening except the Stout Edition, it was a happy revisit. If you are curious about my earlier experiences… read on…

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Whisky Ladies Irish Celebration – Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition 40%

Whisk(e)y and beer – separate beverages yet found as companions and occasionally as hybrid experiments.

In this case, the story goes

Like all the best conversations, the one between Jameson’s Head of Whiskey Science and the Head Brewer of a local craft beer brewery, started at the bar. A swapping of whiskey and beer barrels soon after, resulted in Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition – triple-distilled, blended Irish Whiskey that has been patiently finished in Irish craft beer-seasoned barrels.

And what did we find?

Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition 40%

  • Colour – Dark gold
  • Nose – Chocolate, butterscotch and flowers, very yheasty, dry cereals and a bit dusty, coconut, one even found Kahlua coffee liqueur, some hazelnut, cream
  • Palate – Very sweet, caramel, bitter orange and hay – some found it had a ‘hops’ influence, others didn’t discover any discernible stout element beyond the chocolate
  • Finish – Limited yet pleasant

Jameson’s brand ambassador Ciaran Hanlon shared that as Jameson is a mix of malted and approximately 10% unmalted barley, with the unmalted barley adding a creaminess and pepper spice. The thing was, though we could find the cream we didn’t find much spice – at least in this whiskey.

He went on to share that unlike some blended whiskies, Jameson is a single distiller blend and attributed the triple distill approach to producing a smoother style.

While there is no age statement, Ciaran noted typically Jameson has whiskies from 4-7 years, matured in ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and for this special expression, ex-stout barrels.

In this case, the whiskey barrels first go to the craft brewery Fransisco Well to give a little extra whisky “ooomph!” to the stout beer, then the same casks come back to Jameson to work their wonders for six months on the whisky.

There was a bit of a divide on this one – some enjoyed the chocolaty goodness, others prefer their Jameson “straight” without a twist.

Talk turned to many ladies sharing Jameson was their “gateway” dram into wider whisky explorations. It also is one most found can depend on in a bar to be at a reasonable price point for a reliably good sociable dram. And what’s not to like about that?

And the official tasting notes?

  • Nose – An initial aroma of freshly cut hay is complemented by a crisp orchard fruit character – green apples and pears, with a twist of lime zest. Mild pot still spices appear, deepening from green tea to hazelnut and milk chocolate.
  • Taste – The initial sweet mouth coating typical of the Irish pot still inclusion is quickly complemented by the subtle touch of hops and cocoa beans from the beer cask finish.
  • Finish – Long and sweet with milk chocolate and butterscotch.

After the Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition, we switched gears to pure Irish pot still drams:

Our Irish experience was courtesy of Pernod Ricard, tasted from a bottle opened in Aug 2018. For those curious to explore, Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition is available in India.

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