Can spirits “spoil”? The mystery of Domaine Des Hautes Glace – Les Moissons Organic

It was supposed to be an interesting experiment – exploring the boundaries of malts – with an organic spirit that technically is not yet whisky.

Les Moissons Single Malt is made using organic barley grown and malted on-site at Domaine des Hautes Glaces in the alpine region of south-east France with harvests from 2010 to 2012. Matured in a combination of virgin oak casks and those which used to hold either Cognac or white wine.

Sounded interesting! And we were intrigued… Except there was a different kind of experiment at work – a bizarre swirl of something that started as a spot… then grew… and grew… from a few specs of dust into a fuzzy swirl of a dirty muddy sandy brown. Who knew such a thing is possible?

But we are intrepid souls, so decided to open it up and try it anyways… what did we find?

Domaine Des Hautes Glace Organic Single Malt 42%

  • Nose – Musty, mushroom, sharp, fungal, yeast, rotten fruit, penicillin, rancid, rough, one even went so far as to pronounce it “Horrible!”
  • Palate – Believe it or not, we took a sip! And were rewarded with rotten pickle.

After spitting it out and hoping no one would go blind, we were incredibly perplexed. How could a closed bottle of spirit go bad? And what exactly was this odd growth like substance inside the bottle? Is it really possible for a whisky to go off?!

Turns out such a strange dusty sedimentation tends to be found when E150a i.e. caramel is added to enhance colour. After a few years, it can settle – particularly when stored, even more likely if in warmer conditions or direct sunlight.

While I’m not completely sure when it was bottled, I bought it last year and it is pretty obvious that here  in Mumbai warmer conditions applies. As for direct sunlight? Nope.

Yet here is the challenge with the explanation in this case – the bottle specifically states no additives, not chill filtered and that it is natural colour. Hmm….

So what do the folks at Domaine des Hautes Glaces say? It is possible that what we found is actually what they intended?

  • Colour: Gold.
  • Nose: Powerful and refined, with hints of truffles, spices and white flowers, then we pass through fields of barley. The malt emerges hand in hand with aromas of candied fruit.
  • Mouth: Deep and silky. Notes of almond paste, citrus and vanilla. The pastry texture runs into herbs and fresh figs.
  • Finish: Firm and long-lasting. Its taste draws on underlying artichoke, dark chocolate and mint, with an aftertaste of apricot, lemon and earth.

Can I just repeat? Hmm… Fungal vs truffles? Rotten fruit vs candied fruit?

I guess we just chalk it up to an experience – yet another adventure in our explorations of the world if whisky and spirits!

I purchased this at La Maison du Whisky for SGD 105, who suggested the possible explanation and offered to help with my next purchase from them… very kind.

My European Explorations with the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents included:

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European Explorations – Domaine des Hautes Glace, DeCavo, Swiss Highland, Gouden Carolus, Puni

Over the last few years, I’ve had a few opportunities to explore European whiskies… so much so that I created a separate page devoted just for whiskies with European origins.

I will also admit that the novelty factor is often higher than the quality factor. Hence I knew I was taking a gamble with this particular quartet – acquired over a few years for the Bombay Malt & Cigar gentlemen.

What did we try?

And just because I happened to have an open bottle, I shared a snifter of Bretagne’s Buckwheat whisky Eddu Silver 40%. It was quickly quaffed, pronounced like calvados and we moved on to the main event!

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Whisky Lady – May 2018

May had some terrific sessions! All three Mumbai based tasting groups met plus we had a few extras too! Plus I had a chance to catch-up on previous tasting sessions notes as well.  Read on…

All three tasting groups met, with most notes to follow next month…

The Whisky Ladies enjoyed a theme of “Northern Lights” exploring:

Whereas our original group tasted two Highland drams and an Irish pot still whiskey:

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, I took them on a European Tour with:

In addition to our normal tasting evenings, we were fortunate to have a few industry extras in April and May with:

  • An evening with Caitlin Hill, Brand Ambassador for Bruichladdich and Botanist over a  quartet of cocktails and food pairing*
  • An evening with Stuart Harvey, Master Blender for IBHL with Balblair 05, 99, 00 and Speyburn 15 year*
  • An evening with Samantha Peters, Digital Marketing for IBHL with Speyburn 10 year 43%, Balblair 05 46%, Old Pultney 12 year 40%*

Which was augmented by a terrific evening at KODE with Keshav Prakash featuring a trio from the Vault Collection – Compass Box Asyla, Kilchoman Machir Bay and Edradour Caledonia.

In May, tasting notes were shared for our original club’s April session featuring The Vault Fine Spirits Collection, ably penned by our Guest Writer Nikkhil:

There was also a Minis evening playing around with finishes:

An informal evening with a few friends resulted in revisiting a few drams and sampling for the 1st time Shelter Point Cask Strength 2017 Winter Release 57.2% (Bottle 594/1088)

And for a final bit of “catchup”, back in March, the Whisky Ladies took a  remarkable “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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Northern Lights – Mackmyra Mack 40%

Yet again we have returned to Sweden, compliments of our Swedish Whisky Lady’s summer trip to the land of her birth. She considered other options then settled on their entry level whisky.

Mackmyra Mack 40%

  • Nose – Oranges, warm peaches in the sunshine, bubble gum, candy floss. Just a fabulous warm and inviting nose, some caramel custard too
  • Palate – Initially came across as a bit flat, like apple juice, but keep sipping and you’ll enjoy the light spice and amiable character, quite satisfying
  • Finish – Light restrained and quite tasty

Overall it reminded us of a summery county fair. Though most of us would have preferred a bit more “oomph!”, perhaps a bit higher than 40%.

Disappointing to learn they use caramel for colouring but it was quite accommodating and easy to drink.

Truth me told – it was the “hit” of the evening and we had to set it aside to keep it from being emptied completely!

Here’s what the chaps over at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Vanilla, boiled sweets and soft orchard fruit. Pear drops and spicy caramel. 
  • Palate: Candies peels, vanilla fudge, hint of basil, stewed fruit. 
  • Finish: Sweet oak spices.

It was purchased in Sweden in August 2017 and opened in Mumbai May 2018.

Whisky Ladies Northern Lights:

Curious to try more Nordic whiskies? Check out the European whisky section with a selection of Swedish whiskies:

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Northern Lights – Flóki Young Malt 47%

Our intrepid Whisky Lady host brought back from her trip to Iceland some remarkable images, memories and yes a malt too! She shared how she considered  the Sheep Dung (smoked with Icelandic sheep poo) but settled on the Young Malt.

As we opened the bottle, she told us tales of her winter adventures in Iceland. With others chiming in with their experiences too. Stories swirled about a remarkable land of exceptional natural landscape, socializing in hot springs, quixotic nightlife, music and more…

Flóki Young Malt 47% 1st Impression

  • Nose – Lots of hay, like being inside a granary, dusty, a bit yeasty, young, a little metallic, quite organic
  • Palate – What a contrast! Cinnamon candy, a bit peculiar- not necessarily in a bad way just something very unfamiliar, a tough whisky with a hint of light leather from tannery, rubber
  • Finish – Back to hay with a bit of spice, had an almost “flat” quality with cedar

At one point we joked that we’d stumbled inside a barnyard! It was quite rustic, unique and definitely different. We began to joke it was like wandering into a set of Game of Thrones.

There was no doubt it would be welcome after hiking in the glaciers! Very apt for Iceland.

Here is what the folks who create Flóki have to say:

100% Icelandic locally grown barley. Named after one of Icelands first explorers, Hrafna-Flóki (Flóki of the ravens).

Carefully distilled using our custom made distillation equipment to extract the full flavor of the barley and then matured in new wood american oak barrels.

Flóki is a complex and unique malt with a blend of characteristics you´d expect in Bourbon, Irish Whisky and Scottish Highland Whiskys.

Not sure I’d call it complex, but it is certainly unique and worth exploring for the novelty!

Whisky Ladies Northern Lights:

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Northern Lights – Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 40%

This wasn’t the 1st, 2nd or even my 3rd time sampling this particular whisky.  However it was an exceedingly apt way to kick start our Whisky Ladies evening exploring whiskies with a Northern Lights connect.

As soon as the bottle came out, a fellow Canadian couldn’t help but recall her youthful follies with a quintessential Canadian drink – Rye and Ginger aka ginger ale.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 40%

  • Nose – Maple, very sweet, light rye yet accessible, sparkling cider, juicy fruit gum
  • Palate – Ginger, sweet, bit spicy then  back to sweet
  • Finish – Short, sweet, light wood

It made us think of making a terrific Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

Whisky Ladies Northern Lights:

You can read about other tasting adventures with the Northern Harvest Rye here:

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Northern Lights – Crown Royal, Flóki, Mack

It can be a lot of fun playing around with a whisky theme. With the right combination, you can discover something different even in a familiar dram, or appreciate nuances in a spirit you may otherwise dismiss.

It was one of those kinds of sessions, held together by a distinctly “northern” theme. So while it it was swelteringly hot outdoors, we retreated to the cool ac of indoors and enjoyed our Northern Lights evening of:

While none would be considered outstanding, yet each was unique and as a set, enabled us to appreciate their different dimensions.

Talk turned to affordability… these days in the quest for something special, prices can become daunting. This was a terrific reminder that in the right company, context and frame of mind, there is no need to spend a “bomb” to obtain something quite enjoyable.

Case in point, when we looked up prices discovered:

  • Northern Harvest Rye $32
  • Mack $42
  • Flóki $52

From our perspective, these are all eminently affordable for quite affable drams.

What was even better was the tales of how each made it from their respective locales to Mumbai… details coming over the next few days!

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Powers 12 year 46%

One fine evening in Mumbai our tasting group settled down to sample a trio… completely blind followed by the reveal. We closed with a dram from Ireland.

Powers 12 year John’s Lane Release 46%

  • Nose – Distinctly different, pot still, chocolate, hazelnut, milky, bit of varnish, oily, green and spic, tumeric, cinnamon, organic. Opened up and took on a forest quality – particularly spruce wood, green apple, some cumin, bay leaf, a bit of floral like rose essence…. After a long time came back and it was pure candy sweet!
  • Palate – Quite tasty and with spice! Pineapple, more of that gulab jaman with rose essence, while it certainly wasn’t completely, was quite sociable with a happy easy style
  • Finish – Butter, spice, not long but nice
  • Water – Absolutely no need

Our speculations?

One immediately identified it as Irish pot still. Talk turned to Bushmill Black, Powers.. we all found it to bhquite

And the reveal?

Guess what? Powers! It was a nice amiable ending to our evening.

Here’s what the folks at Powers have to say:

Powers John’s Lane Release is a Single Pot Still whiskey that celebrates the origin of the Powers Whiskey tradition and provides a glimpse of the whiskey style that made Powers famous. The distillate has been matured for no less than 12 years, mainly in American Oak casks with a small inclusion of Iberian Oak for balance and complexity and then married to create the distinctive honey and spice flavor of Powers.

  • Nose: An abundance of earthy aromas, leather, tobacco with layers of charred wood, dark chocolate and treacle toffee.
  • Taste: Full bodied spice front followed by vanilla, honey and dried apricot.
  • Finish: Lingering honey sweetness on toasted oak.

What else did we sample that evening?

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Blair Athol 12 year 43%

Blair Athol is a Diageo whisky that previously was found either in blends or independent bottles… our previous brushes with Blair Athol was the robust sherry cask strength Signatory 27 year and the Hunter Laing 16 year.

We sampled it blind….

Blair Athol 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Initially quite organic, sharp old cheese, fresh rain, slight salt behind the spice, cranberry sour not sweet, a bit acetone sharpness, narrow profile, edgy fume, nutmeg… After sipping, spice, yoghurt. Leave for some time and get caramel and fruits, then goes back to spice, then gulkand rose.
  • Palate – Very smooth, silk, sweet, fruity spice, buttery oily, liquorice, so easy and light, nice and enjoyable. Such spice, fruit and something else.
  • Finish – Grapey, coffee
  • Water – Absolutely no need

We found it had no off notes, quite a “happy” whisky. We thought it likely did not have natural coloured likely low alcohol.

And the reveal?

Not one we would have guessed but also only had limited past opportunities to sample whiskies from Blair Athol.

The official tasting notes share:

A rich, sweet malt best drunk with only a drop of water, when it holds its sweetness better.

  • Nose – Muscat grapes and Madeira wine, brimstone in the background, even tar. Dried apricots in the foreground, and treacle toffee.
  • Body – Medium to full bodied, but not cloying.
  • Palate – Rich and mouth-filling, with a good balance.
  • Finish – A curious sweetness is introduced at the end, after the acidity and dryish finish has passed.

What else did we sample that evening?

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Glengoyne Distiller’s Gold 15 year 40%

One fine evening our original Mumbai tasting group settled down to sample a trio… completely blind followed by the reveal.

We began with a Highland single malt picked up by our host’s father-in-law in Russia.

Glengoyne Distiller’s Gold 15 year 40%

  • Nose – Clear stamp of an ex-Bourbon cask, banana, vanilla, boiled sweets, honey, a bit floral, quite sharp, scented erasers, candied orange, lavender, marigold, like wandering through a garden, bit oily, grapes and wine tannins. After the first sip, the perfume settled down and the spice stepped back too to make way for a more vegetal, honey, caramel, biscuits, something heavier underneath, pumpkin seeds, yeasty
  • Palate – Starts off quite mild, quite thin to the point it almost evaporated, none of the oiliness promised on the nose…. after consideration it had a light to medium body, quite “neutral” in character. Keep sipping and found a light hint of brine, a hint of tobacco or leather, nescafe coffee powder
  • Finish – Began a bit bitter yet a nice bitter, white pepper corn, black raw licorice, mineral, while not long shifted between different elements
  • Water – While it seemed a contradiction given how light we found it, the whisky is quite enjoyable with a bit of water. It rounds it out, particularly if you let it sit for some time. It also then reveals fruits like  green apple.
  • Return – And be rewarded with butterscotch!

What did we think?

There was a familiar quality with a classic approach. We found it quite nice and all shared how it grows on you. Easy to sip and while there were no distinctive qualities that shouted out one particular distillery over another, it was quite pleasant.

For most, the nose was its best quality – enjoying how it would change and evolve. We also found it best to give more time, let it sit – worth the wait.

As we speculated about it, our general conclusion was that it was Scottish, low 40%s, primarily bourbon cask. One suggested it came from “pedigree”.

And the reveal?

What complete surprise! Previous Glengoyne’s had a much heavier sherry influence – it was quite different than what we recalled. We wanted to learn more about the casks used and were surprised to learn it spent six years in a sherry cask? Really? Could it be a 3rd fill…..? The wording on the bottle was a imprecise.

It was originally released only for travel retail, only natural colour.

Official tasting notes for the standard 15 year:

  • Nose: Fresh hay, malt flour, citrus and dried fruit.
  • Mouth Feel: Smooth and clean
  • Initial taste: Clean with a gentle sweetness.
  • Finish: Long with gentle spice and lingering oak.

What else did we sample that evening?

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