St Kilian Signature Edition One, Four, Six and Seven

A year ago I was supposed to be en route to St Kilian distillery for a weekend of discovery. When the plan was set-up it was at a time when optimistically we thought the worst was behind us and it would be possible to bring together a collection of whisky appreciators, vloggers and bloggers from around Germany.

Alas plans had to be changed to an online event which I unfortunately missed. However undeterred, I thought to create an evening of exploration myself – ordering the “Four” and “Six” to join my “One” from the Messe whisky festival. These bottles made their way to Berlin then London then Mumbai. In the meantime, I ordered another set – this time adding the “Seven” to round out the collection, with samples sent to Paris for another tasting company.

The date was set and we were primed to explore what St Kilian has to offer.

  • Signature Edition ‘One’ (2016/2019) 45% with 37% ex Bourbon, 37% ex Martinique Rum, 18% ex PX Sherry, 5% Chestnut, 3% ex-Bourbon quarter cask (Eur 43)
  • Signature Edition ‘Six’ (2016/2020) 47.5% with 45% Rye, 30% late Burgandy, 25% ex Bourbon (Eur 38)
  • Signature Edition ‘Four’ (2016/2020) 48% with 51% ex PX Sherry and 49% ex Olorosso Sherry, peated to 54 PPM (Eur 41)
  • Signature Edition ‘Seven’ (2017/2021) 51.7% with 73% ex Sherry Olorosso and 27% ex Sherry PX (Eur 43)

St Kilian is approx 1 hour drive from Frankfurt in Rüdenau and has been in operation for approx 6 years. Their inspiration is clearly Scotland – using pot stills – hence their pot still styled whisky bottles. They use both German and Scottish barley and play around with approx 200 different types of casks – not just your typical Oak but Chestnut as well.

The black labels are for the non-peated line and the white labels use peat. All but “Four” is currently out of stock direct from the distillery however I was able to find them from a German distributor.

As for who are the folks behind this distillery? The founder is Andreas (Andi) Thümmler partnered with Irish Master Distiller David F. Hynes, joined by Master Distiller Mario Rudolf. The distillery was built on an old factory site (Meixner textile dye)  with a ‘mere’ Euro 15 million.

Please be a wee bit patient as I pull together our impressions over the next few weeks!

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Compass Box Enlightenment 46%

It has been awhile since I’ve sat down with a Compass Box blend… more than two years! And this opportunity came completely unexpectedly.

It was an August evening in Mumbai where a few of us from our original tasting group re-united for a special evening. I’d intended to simply share what I had recently opened during that trip. However to my very pleasant surprise, one of our lovely tasting companions came with three unique bottles for us to experience – what fun!

What did we think?

Compass Box Enlightenment 46%

  • Nose – A bit shy at 1st then blooms, has blown candles, waxy, honey, tobacco leaf, green peppercorn, black vanilla pod, lemon, fragrant – lightly floral and fruity
  • Palate – Good an spicy, lots of character, powerful, waxy and oily… the spice tamed… and softened into fruitiness – now more berry than apple or citrus, underneath it more of that delicate floral almost herbal quality
  • Finish – Fruity honey

We tasted it blind and began speculating about the cask – could it be French oak 1st fill? American? And where was the spice coming from? Was it a single malt or something else? Ah.. we were definitely having more questions than answers until the reveal!

And what a reveal – you have to appreciate Compass Box commitment to transparency – pushing the boundaries of what is permitted.

I brought a couple samples back with me to Germany, forwarded on to Paris to revisit some evening – hopefully in the not to distant future.

Here is what John Glaser has to say about Enlightenment:

Inspired by the writers, philosophers and scientists of the Age of Enlightenment it sets out to encourage the industry to consider the absurdity of a system that prevents producers from telling consumers exactly what has gone into the whiskies they are drinking.

And of course the whisky itself is something rather special. A blend of fruity, fragrant Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, it is bursting with aromas of fresh orchard fruit, flavours of vanilla, soft spice and pear and an alluring apple peel waxiness on the finish. An uplifting, enlightening whisky with which to ponder the world of Scotch not only as it is but also as it could be.

What’s the recipe?

  • 48.2% Clynelish 1st fill American standard barrel – Bright apple, waxiness
  • 36.7% Glentauchers 1st fill American standard barrel – Fruity, herbal
  • 10.8% Balblair 1st fill American standard barrel – Perfumed, bright
  • 4.3% Mortlach rejuvenated American standard barrel – Muscular, weighty

And the official tasting notes?

Fresh, vibrant and uplifting with a mouthfeel that is moreish and mouth-watering. On the nose you will find bright apple and pear, vanilla cream and light violet; on the palate soft spice, gentle citric notes and more of that uplifting orchard fruit character.

Enlightenment is a limited edition blend bottled in April 2016 with 5,922 bottles. As for the price? Hard to say as it isn’t so readily available now.

What else did we try that evening?

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Back to blends – James Eadie’s Trade Mark ‘X’ 45.6%

For the most part, our whisky wanderings are firmly in the single malt category… with a few exceptions. This James Eadie that made an appearance in Aug 2021 was one such occurrence.

It was hunted down by a fellow whisky explorer who after we tasted shared the story of Rupert Patrick – the current owner – who found records of his great-great-grandfather’s blend, sampled some surviving bottles (turns out they were from the 1940s!) and then worked to reconstruct with a whisky expert (Norman Mathison).

What more do we know about James Eadie? For this particular “X” edition, their website shares:

In recreating Trade Mark ‘X’, only whiskies form distilleries which he personally bought from have been included in this blend – including some which have long ceased production.

As he specified, these whiskies were matured in either American oak or sherry wood.

Finally, we invited veteran Master Blender Norman Mathison to use his four decades’ worth of expertise to bring Mr. Eadie’s whisky back to life.

The result is an elegant, peaty dram, which offers a rare glimpse into the art of blending from the first Golden Age of Scotch whisky.

So that was the promise, what about our experience with the liquid?

James Eadie 2017 45.6%

  • Nose – Oh my! Initially quite sharp, lemon varnish, the fruity, cereals, bourbon sour, some yoghurt then… it started to shift dramatically to reveal hints of savoury meats, yet throughout retaining a “light” style.
  • Palate – Flavourful, fruity, silky sweet with spice at the back, lots of white peppercorns and fresh capsicum, hay, buttered toast
  • Finish – Hmm… is that cinnamon? With a dash of ginger?

We tasted this blind and initially thought it may have quite a high alcohol strength… however as it settled in the glass though perhaps not after all as it went from punchy sharp to quite light.

We didn’t initially think of adding water but thought, why not?

What a discovery! It became quite lively with a lovely peat revealed. While it made the body lighter, it gave more character and style. Well worth trying that way.

With the reveal we were all surprised – while we couldn’t guess the distillery we didn’t catch on to it being a blend either. Interesting. Our whisky “host” shared the cost – which I later looked up as being EUR 45.

I kept aside two small samples – one to take back and keep in Nurnberg and another to forward on to Paris. In a few months some additional impressions may join our original thoughts. I’m looking forward as this definitely was one I’d like to revisit!

What else did we try that evening?

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A venerable Glenglassaugh 40 year (1965) 47.8%

One of the best things about a good Whisky Festival or very well stocked bar is an opportunity to try something that ordinarily you would never be able to buy on your own… That is exactly why at Berlin’s  Union Jack we shared a very clear brief – we wanted to end our evening with something truly exceptional and rare. Our preference was a discontinued distillery – something that we would otherwise never ever have a chance to experience….

My tasting companion mentioned interest in a Port Ellen however we were open to anything. Our whisky guide for the evening consulted the Union Jack owner and came up with a remarkable short-list: Rosebank 25 year, Glen Ord 1975, Brora 27 year (2015), Macallan-Glenlivet 1968/1983 (Berry Bros)… to which we also added the Glenglassaugh 40 year (1965), which my eye had spotted as soon as we walked in the door… A light sniff of each bottle made the choice very clear…

Obviously you can tell which one we selected!

We had earlier discussed the Glenglassaugh distillery and how challenging it is to have stock of remarkable old vintage whiskies produced before its closure vs a young upstart that was – frankly speaking – initially bottled before it was ready. I shared how malt maniac Krishna Nakula was so enthusiastic about the “old” and had once shared a sample of the “new” make spirit from the re-start.

For those not familiar, Glenglassaugh followed the path of many a Scottish distillery. Founded in 1875 until its closure in 1986. It was re-opened in 2008 and had a wee bit of a rocky re-start however understand it is getting its game together and was joined a few years ago by master blender Rachel Barrie.

However enough pre-amble… what matters most is what we discovered!

Glenglassaugh 40 year (1965) 47.8% (Murray McDavid Mission) Bottle 084/411

  • Nose – Simply superb, berries mashed and fresh, nuanced, like an Eaton mess – full of crunchy mirage, berries and cream, an antique quality opening up further to reveal a hint of coffee richness, a fruity compote, red liquorice, red candies
  • Palate – Exquisite, soft yet big, silky smooth, full flavoured yet elegant, more of that hint of coffee, so balanced with a curl of smoke sneaking up from behind, chocolate coffee cream
  • Finish – Gorgeous – such a long fruity fabulous finish

Having the great fortune of sampling a few venerable, I was poised for something a bit shy… instead this was an absolute delight. Classic and yet still full and flavourful, not a single off note instead it was pure indulgence.

There was such sophistication – from bursting berries to that hint of smoke… it was simply outstanding and well worth choosing as our grand finale.

What more do we know? The label shares it was matured in Sherry and Rivesaltes Casks. I’ll admit I had to look up “Rivesaltes” to find it is a sweet wine made from red or white grapes from the Languedoc region of France. Like sherry, it is a fortified wine of which there are several variations using Grenache, Muscat, Malvoisie with styles ranging from amber, garnet, tuilé or rosé. I will certainly keep my eye out for “Rivesaltes” in future as it clearly did great things for this particular whisky along with the Sherry cask.

The best quote of the evening came from our guide?

“I just cry that they don’t make whisky like this anymore.”

To put into perspective, the average value of this bottle in auctions is approx € 1755 though likely impossible to find now. As for us? It set us back a hefty EUR 80 for a glass however we both felt privileged to have had an opportunity to try.

Before this “penultimate” dram, we had  explored three sets of “pairings” which included:

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Dynamic Duo 3 – SMWS Glenlossie 21 year vs Glenfarclas 21 year

For our last “pairing”, our guide selected two from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society – both 21 year and both cask strength. The idea this time was to play with different finishes – red wine vs PX sherry. Without further adieu – what did we think?

Scotch Malt Whisky Society 46.74 “Orchard perambulations” 21 year (18 September 1997) 54.4%

  • Nose – Mmm…. red currents and strawberries, a nice jammy mash, sour citrus cherries, wood, cinnamon, light liquorice, fresh cut bamboo, coconut and sweet hay
  • Palate – Intense flavours, tart enough to prompt puckering up, spice and berry burst, peat, very dry… as the aromas opened up the palate did too… revealing milky chocolate, creamy caramel… simply beautiful rolling around in your mouth
  • Finish – Long, subtle and really quite fabulous

Quite interesting, particularly as it opened up. One that is well worth trying with none of the tannins one sometimes finds with slightly ‘off notes’ in red wine cask matured whiskies. Instead just sit back, relax and enjoy the rather marvellous malty experience.

As for the folks at SMWS, what do they have to say?

Sweet warm fruits and creamy textures give way to darker fruit compotes, spices, nectars and wood resins. Previously in a bourbon hogshead.

What more do we know? As the label shares, it was matured in a 1st fill barrique / ex red wine with 245 bottles. Unlike some red wine matured whiskies… this one worked!

As for the distillery, it is an open secret that 46 = Glenlossie, in east Speyside. You won’t find official bottlings aside from a Diageo “Flora and Fauna” offering. In truth, it is actually two distilleries – Glenlossie and Mannochmore – a distillery we’ve increasingly started to appreciate more and more.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society 1.208 “Long Conversations by the crackling log fire” 21 year (5 March 1997) 54.3%

  • Nose – Mmmm… a lovely classic dry Sherry, robust, sweet, intense, a dash of spice with a nice nuttiness… fabulous
  • Palate – Just no comparison. Again – quite a marvel, sweet, tart, spice with a full burst of rich Sherry flavours – a proper sherry bomb! Well-rounded, rich, delicious, joined by orange marmalade with sweet spices of cloves, cinnamon
  • Finish – A peppery finish – specifically red cayenne or fresh paprika

The label shares that this whisky was matured in 1st fill hogshead / ex PX with 234 bottles.

What do the SMWS have to say?

Salted plums and cherry chilli liquorice, whilst diluted: tobacco and spiced oven dried orange cloves. previously in an ex-bourbon hogshead.

As for the distillery? Again it is relatively well known that the 1st SMWS distillery offering is none other than the family owned Glenfarclas.

This was the last of our “pairings” from our evening at The Union Jack before a complete indulgence!

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Dynamic Duo 2 – Bunnahabhain 25 year vs Tobermory 20 year

For our next dynamic duo, we went to independent bottlers – both new to me! From what little I could find, both seem to be German based… and were chosen by our whisky guide to contrast and compare drams in their 20s from Islay and Island.

Now I must admit, I’ve had a mixed relationship with Bunnahabhain – particularly their older whiskies which haven’t always lived up to expectations. However I’m always game to be be pleasantly surprised!

Bunnahabhain 25 years Single Cask (2016) 47.7% (Wiebers Brothers)

  • Nose – Citrus, hay, honey and yoghurt, very light toffee, milky and a bit shy, mineral, musty
  • Palate – Surprisingly light and effervescent, then took a slight odd turn – was that sweet pickles?? Followed by some cayenne pepper, tangy, more of that mineral quality, a tough vegetal
  • Finish – Verbena and cayenne

This definitely fit into the category of “ya gotta work it”… what was interesting is how the empty glass held more aromas than when it held liquid.

I still haven’t been able to find any details on Wiebers Brothers with this having a mere 120 bottles. We aren’t sure when the bottle was originally opened however it is possible it was for some time or not… one never knows the impact of oxidation on a whisky’s character.

Tobermory 20 years (1996/2016) 58.8% (The Alambic Classique Collection)

  • Nose – Lemon balm, beeswax, fresh, sweet grass, honey, fresh raw cashew nut… it began evolving becoming fruitier
  • Palate – Quite a contrast to the aromas! Sweet spices, pink and white peppercorns, lots of character without heat, beautiful and well rounded, light cinnamon
  • Finish – Wonderful! The flavours just carry on and on and on….

Once upon a time, we discovered “mouth breathing” whisky – where you take a good waft of aromas then swig and then breath, seeing what the whisky has to say. In this case, it was like having a lovely aromatic hookah.

Some whiskies are all the nose with the palate a pale shadow, others are the reverse. That would be the case here – an absolute stunner on the palate – really outstanding. This is also one of those drams where just a little goes a very long way – particularly with that remarkable finish. A true class act.

Alambic Classique has been an importer and wholesaler of specialty spirits since 1981, and is also an independent bottler for rare and exclusive single malt whiskeys from Scotland. Our bottle was from their Special Vintage Selection – cask strength, uncolored and not chill-filtered.

What more do we know about this one? It a bourbon barrel from a single cask with 247 bottles.

If you haven’t already gathered so far  – the Tobermory was for us the clear winner!

What else did we explore that evening at The Union Jack in Berlin?

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Dynamic Duo 1 – Benromach vs Cragganmore

It has been nearly three years since I first traveled to Berlin – one of those “live wire” global cities that has a palpable pulse of its own. A fellow whisky explorer let me know he was coming from London for the weekend so it made a perfect excuse to pop over for the weekend.

We went to the very well stocked Union Jack whisky bar! Turns out we were lucky to go on a Saturday – one of the two days in a week they are now open.

We were very well taken care of with carefully thought through choices. Our mandate was clear… we wanted to explore – two at a time til the grand finale of something utterly indulgent and extremely rare.

We wanted to start with an “appetizer” duolll something to ease into the evening. Our guide recommended

The thinking was to match to interesting yet ‘lighter’ options to whet our appetites. Particularly with the Cragganmore, we were assured this Distillers Edition is like none other and well worth trying. As for Benromach, we’ve enjoyed many a solid dram from this distillery.

So what did we think?

Cragganmore Distillers Edition (2008/2020) D6572 40%

  • Nose – Dried fruit, light spice with a woody musty malty aroma, mixed with the sweetness was a salty sour caramel. As it opened up further, it revealed orange marmalade with a citrus twist… and with even more time honeysuckle and a touch of hay
  • Palate – A nice spice, more whisky marmalade, woodiness…even resin, sweet spices of clove and black pepper, oily
  • Finish – More of that light spice, dry in a way that prompts you to ‘pucker up’ chased by oak and a touch of sweetness

It had a nice understated quality…. as for the marmalade? It was a distinctly “whisky” marmalade… which worked rather well. There was also much more body than the aromas would have suggested.

Overall it was an enjoyable start and much more interesting that we expected – particularly at a mere 40%.

Benromach 15 year 43%

  • Nose – Citrus oranges and calvados then a bit “woodsy” and beeswax polish, a dash of ginger and then…. after the 1st sip – wow peat?! Like having sweet roasted marshmallows crisped on a campfire, then sour cherries and a hint of sherry
  • Palate – Silky smooth with a lovely peat, elegant and balanced with toffee sweetness and fruity, hint of chocolate
  • Finish – A lovely long finish, truly lovely

Carrying on from the Cragganmore to the Benromach was a good choice! It was like shifting into an antique – it was like opening a lovely 1930 Art Deco cupboard to discover a special treat.

What else do we know? It was matured in 1st fill bourbon and sherry casks. An official bottling that is currently still available.

What do the folks at Benromach have to say?

  • Colour – dark amber
  • Aroma – Aromas of sweet toffee leading to notes of cracked black pepper and peat smoke. Rich forest fruits develop with dark chocolate and dried banana.
  • Palate – Creamy and sweet with ripe apples and an undertone of charred oak. Dark chocolate develops and leads to toasted malt and orange peel with a subtle hint of smoke.
  • Finish – Medium creamy finish with soft smoke and dried fruit

No doubt for us – the Benromach was the winner! What a treat!

If you were curious to try, they are both still available with the Cragganmore currently retailing for approx EUR 53 and the Benromach 15 for approx EUR 70.

As for what next? We had a few more to come…

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An evening of indulgence at Union Jack

Once upon a time I lived in Mumbai and had monthly merry malt gatherings with friends. I would also from time to time join a fellow explorer for an evening of minis. Fast forward and we are all found scattered in different parts of the globe with rare opportunities to reconnect.

Last weekend in Berlin was one such chance. My friend came from London and I joined from Nurnberg for the express purpose of catching up and exploring a few drams together. And I knew just the place – the fabulous Union Jack whisky bar – which is now only open Thursdays and Saturdays. Thankfully for us, it was a Saturday!

We put ourselves in the very capable hands of our whisky guide, who ably helped us and all the other tables go on a journey.

We explored three sets of “pairings” followed by a complete indulgence!

What did we think? Just read on over the next few posts…

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Der Weinladen im Schwarzwaelder Store, Munich

Once upon a time I had planned a series of places to find interesting whiskies on your travels. From 2008 to 2019 I was criss crossing around the globe – from Canada to Europe to many parts in Asia. With my travels, I enjoyed exploring curious and quaint places to purchase an interesting dram or two. So it seemed logical to share such discoveries with friends and family in case their path crossed such locations.

Here is one from Munich – Der Weinladen im Schwarzwälder (Black forest wine shop) conveniently located on Hartmannstrasse 8, not far from Marienplatz. Truth be told I was looking for Tara Whisky, but then stumbled across this place and found it utterly charming with very helpful staff. It was during one of my first (of many!) trips to Munich back in November 2017.

Seeing these images today with all the restrictions that life with COVID has brought, I look back on my adventures with a twinge of envy. And at the same time, am quietly amused that was once “novel” is now “normal” as I find myself (mostly) calling Bavaria / Franconia home – with its remarkable forests and easy access to long enjoyable hikes. Even the offerings that seemed at the time “exotic” are now familiar so it was fun to come across the photos I took with great enthusiasm (and little focus) some four years ago.

What whiskies have I picked up there?

  • DeCavo NAS Batch 10, Cask 92 46% – Such an interesting whisky… yet every effort to track down another has been impossible!
  • Forty Three Swiss Highland Single Malt Whisky 43% – An easy going enjoyable dram
  • From Ziegler distillery, I picked the “basic” Aureum Single Malt 43% rather than their experiments maturing with guitar wood in barrels, ex plum brandy or cognac barrels…
  • I also picked up a Finch whisky that I never did get a chance to try… instead it made its way into another Mumbai home to be consumed during the most extreme lockdown when all booze shops were also closed

And beyond whiskies? A few gins and more!

I noted the beautiful bottles of Schnapps – a proud floor to ceiling display of Ziegler specialities. Who could imagine just a few years later I would have the pleasure of going to the distillery and be blown away by their remarkable attention to their craft – be it their schnapps or whisky!

Just in case you happen to be in the area, do check it out:

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Arran 25 year 46%

Late 2020 I had the pleasure of experiencing a wee sample of the Arran 25 year old at Lochranza Distillery. I didn’t take any tasting notes however remember it being an absolute stunner! It was a remarkable treat, so whilst I have nothing of my own to add, wanted to say congratulations for producing something truly special.

What follows is purely reproducing the distillery information – not my usual approach, but there you have it!

Arran’s 25 Year Old Single Malt

In this, our 25th year of production, we are delighted to present our official 25 year old which now joins our core range for the first time, and will be released in very limited quantities each year.

This 25 year old is truly the jewel in our crown. The whisky has been matured in ex-Sherry and Bourbon Casks and is bottled at 46% Vol without chill filtration or the addition of any colouring. Here’s a breakdown of the life span of the 1995 casks we selected for this very first batch:

Original 1995 Stock
35% ex-Sherry
65% ex-Bourbon

Re-casking
All stock re-casked into 1st Fill and Refill Sherry Hogsheads for 12 months prior to bottling

As one of the first of the new wave of distilleries to reach maturity, this is a proud moment for us to be able to share this landmark Single Malt with you all at the end of what has been a tremendously challenging year for everyone and a very exciting journey that started a quarter of a century ago.  We hope that you will join us in sharing a dram of this special Single Malt over these winter months to toast the continued success of our island story.

Arran 25yo Tasting Notes

  • Nose – Rich oak with a gentle nutmeg note. Sweeter aromas of baked ripe figs, sultanas and black cherries.
  • Palate – Fruit cake with toasted almonds and cinnamon. The juicy zestiness of oranges and mandarins mellows perfectly with manuka honey, muscovado sugar, baked apricots and an interesting white pepper note that provides even more complexity.
  • Finish – Creamy and spicy with dark chocolate, walnuts and dark fruits compote.

It was released on November 16, 2020 for £295 with 3,000 bottles and quickly sold out – with good reason!

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