Whisky Ladies Contributor’s Choice – Mars Iwai, Glenrothes, Glenmorangie, Bunnahabhain

You would think having one Whisky Ladies session in January would be sufficient… and we certainly had a merry evening combined with the gents to explore Douglas Laing blends with a bonus!

However we decided to skip our February session in favour of a late January one to welcome back for an evening a member who now resides in the US.

We went completely random in whisky choices… only knowing who would be bringing a contribution… nothing else.

So what did we sample in our “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

Photo: Rashmi Dhawani

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Wolfburn’s Morven, Aurora and Original

Whisky Live is a great opportunity to try whiskies you are curious about but wouldn’t necessarily buy…. a chance to ‘speed taste‘ with a simple sniff, swish and spit.

Wolfburn is a newer distillery, promising for its sweet minerally new make spirit. These were at best fleeting impressions as I stopped by the Wolfburn booth towards the end of my sampling explorations… at that stage where you have nearly had enough.

Wolfburn Northland 46% – ex-Bourbon

  • Nose – Quite oaky, raw cereal,
  • Palate – Young but… sweet, lightly floral, slightly nutty
  • Finish – Spice and is there just a bit of peat too?

Wolfburn Aurora 46% – ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry

  • Nose – Sweet yet restrained, pineapple or melon, yoghurt
  • Palate – Barely there… Sweet spice… a sense of being raw yet very sweet
  • Finish – Spice

Wolfburn Morven 46% – Peat

  • Nose – Young, organic, oaky
  • Palate – Light peat, an odd quality, some spice
  • Finish – Burn

To be honest, it didn’t work for me… however it was just a wee brush…

All said, it was good to zip through this trio… reinforces a preference to wait a few more years to see what Wolfburn does with a bit more time.

Other brushes with Wolfburn?

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Sansibar’s Glentauchers, Spicely Sweet + Smokey Peated

At Whisky Live Singapore 2017, the Sansibar booth was manned by a local bartender who was so passionate about what the folks at Sansibar are doing, it was positively infectious.

Thanks to La Maison du Whisky, I’d already encountered the Islay Malt 8 year and brought it back for a special undisclosed distilleries evening.

Now, as it was at Whisky Live, it means my impressions were fleeting… however enough to cement an opinion that Sansibar is worth continuing to keep an eye on!

Glentauchers 8 year 48.2%

  • Nose – Soft, sweet, lightly elegant
  • Palate – Not just sweetness and light, a bit bitter, toffee, butterscotch raisin
  • Finish – Bitter nuts

Overall this is a light desert in a bottle.

Spicily Sweet 48% – Blended Small Batch, Batch #1 “Sunset”

  • Nose – Very fruity, aaaah… yum!
  • Palate – Smooth, sweet, soft fruits, light spice
  • Finish – Here is where the spice peeps out even more

My initial thought was this is a summer dram – sun soaked fruits – with a name that perfectly personifies its name “spicily sweet”! It was so enjoyable that I thought folks back in Mumbai might enjoy it too. And sure enough, “Sunset” closed an evening exploring independent blends

Smokey Peated 48% – Blended Small Batch, Batch #1 “Signal Fire”

  • Nose – Bacon, wood fire, fruit behind the smoke like pineapple and other tropical fruits
  • Palate – Holy toledo peat! Turbo charged peat yet not in the least harsh, more fruits
  • Finish – Captive ash. No messing with it peat. Bit of a pepper chaser

I thought of the Sansibar Islay Malt 8 year cask strength which brought an elegance to peat. By contrast the “Signal Fire” was unabashed peat.

Quite interesting to try this trio and I planned to return to continue sampling… however all the other whiskies I had hoped to try were polished off. Clearly others found the offerings also appealing.

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Paul John’s Zodiac Series – Kanya 50%

When I was in Goa at the Paul John distillery early 2017, Michael shared he had plans for a Zodiac series… each whisky named after a sign of the Zodiac, all limited release, likely to be from older stock, each unique.

So when I wandered over to the Paul John booth at Whisky Live Singapore 2017 to say hello to the guys, the 1st Zodiac release – Kanya – was the whisky whipped out with pride… and who could resist an opportunity to try?

It was a sneak peak into a whisky that became officially available early 2018.

Paul John Kanya 7 year 50%

  • Nose – Soft tropical fruits, musty, luscious, fruit drops, citrus sweet and spice, caramel
  • Palate – A real bite, old wood, dry, such character
  • Finish – Long and strong

Overall it was chock full of personality. With a sense of being caught just a moment before being in the wood too long… Marvellous. One I would have loved to settle down with properly.

Other Paul John experiences:

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Armorik’s Bretan Whiskies – Breizh, Armorik Classic + Double Matured

The great thing about going to any Whisky industry event is an opportunity to try a range of whiskies – including those you would be unlikely to buy. Even better is when there is a chance to sample drams you would otherwise find challenging to encounter.

I first sampled an Armorik whisky from the Warengham distillery in Bretagne in June 2015 at La Maison du Whisky, Singapore. It was the Classic and while it didn’t compel me to add it to the final selection from that shopping expedition, it certainly was no disaster. Since then, I’ve had limited encounters and none with an opportunity to try a trio side-by-side.

For those unfamiliar with the brand and distillery, there is a 100 year distillation history in creating elixirs and other spirits, expanding into launching whisky blends in the late 1980s and single malts late 1990s.

So what did I trio at Whisky Live Singapore 2017?

For all, I was informed though providing No Age Statement (NAS), each was matured for a minimum of 5 years.

Breizh Blended Grain 42%

  • Nose – Young, lightly malty, sweet
  • Palate – Soft, hint of cinnamon, cereals
  • Finish – Minimalist, light spice

While fleeting, the impression was of something light, young, nothing offensive but nothing drawing me into it further either.

And what do the folks at the distillery have to add?

50% grain, 50% malt. The double distillation in copper stills is followed by an ageing in traditional oak casks, all matured by the climate with a particular climate in Brittany. Here are a few of the factors that now lead Distillerie Warenghem to offer this excellent Blended Whisky at 42% ABV. Breizh is a famous cousin of the WB, which was the first Breton Whisky. EUR 35.

Armorik Classic 46%

  • Nose – Lots of cereals, fruit, vanilla
  • Palate – Again quite soft, light, fruit, almost a hint of smoke, woodsy… reminded just a bit of a Japanese whisky matured in French Oak
  • Finish – Has quite a sharp spice that grows stronger – not in an unpleasant way but hard to ignore

It wasn’t quite what I remembered – quite a bit more approachable and I was informed they have ‘tinkered’ with the target whisky style to achieve just this easier to access element.

What do the Warengham folks have to add?

Cornerstone of the range, ARMORIK Classic comprises the best of our cellars in a highly refined edition. As a marriage of sherry and bourbon casks of different ages, it highlights the quality of the ageing on the Breton Coasts and the expertise of our cellar manager. This ARMORIK Classic comes in a non-chill filtered version, thus refining its aromatic qualities. EUR 41.

Armorik Double Maturation 46%

  • Nose – Light cereal, less of the spice, more citrusy
  • Palate – Soft, fruity, an almost apple sauce quality, woody oak
  • Finish – Spice burn with a light fruity finish

The Warenghem is double matured in Oak and Sherry casks, which would have lead one to believe even more of the Sherry character would have infused the whisky. Whereas it was a light touch.

What more do the producers of Armorik have to say?

Genuine symbol of the Distillery’s values, this Armorik highlights both the quality of its know-how and its attachment to the Breton land. In partnership with a local cooper, the Distillery designed unique Brittany oak casks. Armorik Double Maturation remains in them for many long years before being transferred into Oloroso sherry casks for a second maturation. Reduced to 46% and non-chill filtered, it pleases through its richness and elegance. EUR 46.80.

To be honest, the Armorik Classic was for me the most enjoyable of the trio. It was my introduction to this range and would remain the one I would suggest folks start if exploring whiskies from Warengham. You also have to appreciate their price point – they are very much keeping their whiskies in the affordable range.

What I would like to try next is something a little older, preferably cask strength… like their 12 year or 13 year. Let’s see if such an opportunity presents itself one of these years…

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Compass Box Enlightenment + Oak Cross

Compass Box just does blends to a different standard. These are no run of the mill drams. Their quirky sometimes stunning packaging is as appealing as what is contained in the bottles too.

At Whisky Live in Singapore (November 2017), I skipped all the whiskies sampled not so long ago with the Whisky Ladies to instead focus on lightly sniff, swish and spit my way through two.

Enlightenment 46%

  • Nose – Fruity, malty, cereals, bit of pepper, crisp fruits, teasing vanilla
  • Palate – Sweet light spice that grows, bright, citrus
  • Finish – There… with more spice

Overall it is exceedingly nice and eminently drinkable.

And what do the folks over at Compass Box have to say?

Inspired by the writers, philosophers and scientists of the Age of Enlightenment, this blend of fruity fragrant Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskies is bursting with aromas of fresh orchard fruit, vanilla, soft spice and pear.

Oak Cross 43%

  • Nose – Light oak, malty with a bit of fruit
  • Palate – So smooth with a woody spice, clove
  • Finish – More oomph than expected, warm and stays

In many ways Oak Cross is a great name for this whisky…. it has solid oak crossed with a nice spice. It absolutely works!

And the Compass Box folks insight?

We begin by sourcing whiskies from three single malt distilleries; one for its ethereal fruity character, one for its enchanting perfume and one that lends a complex and substantial structure to the blend.

All are aged in American oak casks before we place a portion into innovative hybrid casks featuring heavily toasted new French oak heads. These give the whisky an added richness and spice-like complexity. By carefully blending back the French oak-aged whisky with its American oak-aged forebear, we are able to create a refined, rich, but well-mannered malt whisky, with fruity aspects that will remind you of baked apple or pears, complemented by a rich, toasty oak character.

More Compass Box experiences:

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Whisky Live Singapore 2017

So here we are in February 2018… and I’m only now getting around to sharing observations from November 2017 Whisky Live Singapore….  Why the delay?

Because I found it really hard to put into words that after such a terrific experience at Whisky Live Singapore 2016, the 2017 edition simply wasn’t for me. Which seems exceedingly churlish to admit when the organizers were kind enough to extend a day pass.

However rather than dwell on disappointments, let me focus on the key benefit of attending any Whisky Live anywhere in the world – the whisky!

There definitely were highlights and I captured a few fleeting notes on my sniff, swish (and mostly spit) experiences… And before you gasp in dismay about not savouring and swallowing, I firmly adopt a “Survival Guide” approach to explore to the max and over-indulge to the min.

There is a price to such a “speed dating” method. Notes cannot be complete and lack in-depth insights. Instead, they are just quick surface impressions… like a teaser… merely giving a sense of what might come… if only…

So with that caveat in mind, welcome to explore Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Whisky Live Singapore’s Collector’s Room picks for 2017:

  • Caol Ila 16 year (1969) 40%
  • Yamazaki 12 year (1996/2009) 60% (Whisky Live Japan 10 year anniversary edition)

Tasting notes to follow in the coming months… so stay tuned!

And what did I walk away with? You may be surprised:

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Whisky Lady – January 2018

Everyday Asia

January was nearly travel free!!! Til the 31st Jan when I hopped on a plane to Bangalore…

However I still couldn’t join all whisky related sessions…. sigh…  thus is the life of a working gal, even if the Whisky Lady element remains!

All our Mumbai based whisky groups had an opportunity to meet.

It kicked off the Bombay Malt & Cigar gentlemen hosting with the Whisky Ladies for an evening of three Douglas Laing blends and one Sansibar blend:

As the Whisky Ladies had already joined the gents for a round of independent blends, we decided to have a completely random evening of “Contributor’s Choice” which resulted in:

  • Mars Iwai 40%
  • Glenrothes Manse Reserve 43%
  • Glenmorangie 19 year 43%
  • Bunnahabhain Ceobanach 46.2%

Our original club met however I alas…

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Trying to give Smokehead a chance….

So we tried Smokehead once before – the Rock edition. To say that it didn’t impress the Whisky Ladies is putting it mildly. While we are always curious to try different things and no strangers to peat, ashtray is generally not our preferred style.

However when approached by the folks over at Ian MacLeod distillery suggesting their standard Smokehead is more accessible than the Rock edition, I didn’t have the heart to refuse their rather sincere representative, though did warn him our tasting would be unbiased and honest.

The little Smokehead mini sat patiently waiting for many months until finally one evening it was time to try a range of peat whiskies. Thus was born the evening of minis of a peaty persuasion – Peat Chimney 12 year 40%Big Peat 46%Longrow 46%BenRiach Peated Quarter Cask 46%Ledaig 10 year 46.3%. Smokehead came along for the ride but the others politely but firmly declined.

What to do with our poor rebuffed Smokehead sample? Try try try again… finally a fateful evening occurred when Smokehead finally was cracked open.

Smokehead 40%

  • Nose – Sweet smoky “breathable” want pulled port, braised steak craving, cinnamon, sweet BBQ rub
  • Palate – Watered down, then ash tray, came out as oddly flat
  • Finish – Queer finish, almost off

Our conclusion “All talk, no action”… in other words the nose was more promising than the palate.

Full disclosure – this sample was provided by the folks at Ian McLeod.

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McClelland’s Speyside Single Malt 40%

During my last trip to Canada, I caught up with one of our Mumbai Whisky Ladies who moved to Canada. Naturally our evening turned to a sip or two. Of late, her preferences have leaned towards lighter Speyside drams.

One was from a familiar distillery – Auchentoshan – though an expression not yet reviewed – American Oak…

The other was new to me – McClelland’s Speyside, started originally as a blender, now part of the Morrison Bowmore distillers.

The thinking behind the McClelland’s range is to explore the ‘character’ of key whisky distilling regions –  launched in 1986 with an Islay, Highland and Lowland expressions  and joined in 1999 by this Speyside expression.

They describe a Speyside whisky character as being:

Speyside malts are sweet and fruity;
sometimes delicate, sometimes rich and robust.
Always complex.

And while I did not take detailed notes, my recollections were of:

  • Nose – Honey, light fruit and florals, fresh, sweet
  • Palate – Light spice, slightly nutty, floral with a oaky slightly bitter quality too
  • Finish – Short

Overall quite pleasant and an easy drinking dram.

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

  • Colour – Honeyed with golden highlights.
  • Body – Light to medium, elegant and balanced.
  • Nose – A fresh invigorating Speyside malt of mint, menthol and freshly cut pine. Traces of fine dark chocolate and a lingering sweet malt aroma.
  • Palate – An initial fibrous sweet nougat essence is complemented by the savoury flavours of brazil and hazelnut. A subtle floral freshness adds a faint perfumed bouquet to the palate.
  • Finish – Short, yet powerful, complex unforgettable.

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