Peaty Mini – Big Peat 46%

Next up in our peaty minis evening after the Wemyss Peat Chimney, we explored a blend from Douglas Laing.

Big Peat 46% (Douglas Laing)

  • Nose – Began with quite a sharp peat that then disappeared quickly. Baked banana or a banoffee cream pie then also settled into a surprisingly restrained fermented apple, quite sweet.
  • Palate – A delicious peat heat, black pepper, green peppercorns, liquorice root, quite fresh
  • Finish – Peat spice, sweet liquorice, changes to red chilli, cinnamon spice

What we enjoyed most about this whisky was how it kept changing. While consistently accessible – in a good way. There was overall a fresh lightness to its approach – unquestionably peat but one with a delightful ‘freshness’ and spirit.

Here’s what the folks over at Douglas Laing have to say:

Douglas Laing’s Big Peat is a feisty Islay character with a sweet side. This is a small batch bottling, without colouring or chill-filtration and only contains Islay Malt Whiskies, including Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and (even the now closed) Port Ellen to name but a few!

And their tasting notes?

Opens fresh, salty and clean on the nose, developing to sweet malt dried over peat. On the palate, detect ashes, sweet tar, beaches and smoking chimneys. The finish is long and lingering, replicating the palate with salty, tangy liquorice, smoke, bonfire ashes and a phenolic quality.

We sampled from a closed mini bottle in October 2017. While I can’t recall the exact price, think it was around £5 or so… a full bottle will set you back approximately $55. An exceedingly reasonable price for a most enjoyable dram.

And what else did we sample in our merry mini malts evening?

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Islay Trio – Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2%

After being surprised by both the Bunnahabhain Eirigh na Greine and Bowmore Gold Reef, our Islay trio closed with this Ardbeg.

We sampled it blind, with no idea beyond it being the last of the Islay trio.

Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2%

  • Nose – Very meaty, a proper peat bog, one even said “the peat is nearly at the level of headache inducing”, burnt masala maggi noodles, curd and sour imli (tamarind)… was that black liquorice?
  • Palate – Wildfire chillie, frankly had a solid “sucker punch”, sour ash, a real khaata meetha (sour sweet) quality, some saunf (fennel), then pure cinnamon
  • Finish – Fabulous long finish, cinnamon spice chased by smoke

One described it as “buzzing with peat” and we began to run through our roster of peatier drams. No stamp of Laphroaig and certainly not Caol Ila or Kilchoman.

It didn’t have the balance or depth of an Octomore, had a different swagger we didn’t instantly associate with Port Charlotte either… so not Bruichladdich….

Our speculation turned to Ardbeg, yet didn’t quite mesh with either Supernova or the more familiar 10 year fare… at least so we thought. Perhaps a sherry dimension peaking in there? Ardbeg but not quite the familiar Ardbeg…?

Again, we were not so confident in our ability to place this whisky.

The unveiling?? Uigeadail!

Which sparked memories of the superb Corryvrecken..

Checking out my old tasting notes online, read….

  • Nose – Hello peat! With a dash of espresso, then a delightful curl of maple syrup, underneath a whiff of iodine, then liquorice
  • Taste – Peaty dancing around a camp fire! A bit of tar, like chewing the end of a cigar, an odd almost flat cola flavour, raisins…
  • Finish – Smoky, dry, rubber… then elements of dried apricot

Not so far off… at which point attention turned to the official tasting notes:

  • Nose: Rich and weighty with heady and smoky aromatics. At full strength, the initial aroma is a beguiling mix of warm Christmas cake, walnut oil and parma violets fused with fresh ocean spice, cedar and pine needles falling from the Christmas tree. A smouldering coal fire and the scent of well-oiled leather brings warmth. The sweetness of treacle toffees and chocolate-coated raisins emerge through the smoke. With water, the deep smokiness increases in intensity, reminiscent of a fired Christmas pudding. Rich flowering currants and warm baked banana and walnut bread are served with simmering mocha espresso.
  • Taste: Full flavoured and rich with a deep mouth-coating texture, the taste is an intriguing balance between sweet, spicy and deep smoky flavours. The flavour is initially sweet. A burst of winter spices sets off a smoky-spicy explosion countered by a sumptuous mid-palate of honey glazed smoked food and chewy treacle. Waves of deep smoky tones and rich aromas build up on the palate like a fine Montecristo cigar.
  • Finish: Amazingly long and chewy with lingering raisiny, deep mocha tones and rich aromatic smoke into the perfectly integrated finish.

What did we sample with our Islay trio?

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Islay revisit – Bunnahabhain, Bowmore + Ardbeg

Our original Mumbai based whisky tasting club has an unwritten rule – no repeats. We also taste blind so as not to be influenced by brand or pre-conceived notions about a particular whisky or distillery.

Yet after so many years, our obsession with exploring new territories presents a challenge to find something ‘new.’

So why not have an evening that deliberately sets us up to sample whiskies we’ve had (or similar to ones we’ve tried), but each with a twist… being expressions that aren’t necessarily representative of a distillery ‘house style’ – if such a thing even exists anymore!

We also observed that our impressions bore little relationship to official distillery tasting notes… Past experiments have helped provide insight into possible reasons with a range of factors including the whisky temperature, ambient aromas and environment, tasting order which can influence perceptions of the whisky to follow,  conversation and company, and frankly just the mood of the taster!!

What did our host “trick” us with?

Click on the links above to read our tasting notes, comparing with previous experiences and distillery official tasting notes…

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Ardbeg Supernova 55% (2014)

Ardbeg is known for an experiment or two. From sending whisky molecules into space to pushing the boundaries of peat in whisky, the folks over at Ardbeg are determined this distillery will not disappear anytime soon!

Their Supernova releases are intended to be the peatiest Ardbeg ever… Now with 5 editions, the 2014 avatar currently retails for over $400.

Thanks to the Winnipeg Cabinet lads, I not only enjoyed  a fabulous “peat” evening, I also walked out with a wee dram of this Ardbeg Supernova! (Pssst – you can read their review here which featured a new & old 10 year Ardbeg, Supernova & Amrut.)

Ardbeg Supernova

This puppy cranks the peat up from 55 ppm to 100 ppm, so without even opening or taking a whiff, I knew this was going to have serious peat.

Ardbeg Supernova 55%

  • Nose – As expected – powerful peat! Carbon. Yet also decidedly sweet, pine, minty herbal element, a whack of spice, zing of citrus, bit briney… yet never loosing that charred pettiness
  • Palate – Peat, char, burn, crazy bitter chocolate, dark cherry, you could chomp and chew on this one!
  • Finish – Long, bitter and dry ash…. those peaty fires kept smouldering
  • Water – Had to try… a bit more accessible yet still…

This is no shy retiring young miss. No siree! As promised, it is big, bold and full-on peat. While it is quite assertive, it isn’t harsh – a plus point.

However I found myself reaching out for a dry cracker and gave it some time.

More importantly, as a whisky, did it work?

Hmm… While interesting, the elements simply did not come together for me. Even with a few drops of water, there was something just a wee bit off-balance about this one.

It is a novelty item not an every day dram. While I’m glad I had a chance to try it (and not pay for it), I honestly would reach for other peaty drams before this one.

Here’s what the folks at Ardbeg have to say (from Whisky Exchange website):

  • Aroma: Intense zestiness of smoked lemons and pears, lemongrass and pine needles, embedded in a deep, resinuous, sticky waxy base.
  • Taste: Distinctively peppery, spicy and electric. Powerful peppermint, antiseptic lozenges and other familiar, medicinal tones. Dark, dark birch tar intermingles with spicy-sweet chilli flavoured chocolate, while the entire mouth and palate are coated in luscious linseed oil.
  • Finish: Rich flavours of tar, creosote, briar wood, spicy tobacco and liquorice root.

PS I recently pulled out the last few drops of the Ardbeg Supernova next to Bruichladdich’s Octomore with a peaty lady asking which she would like to help me polish off. Without hesitation she went straight to the Octomore – which has even higher peat levels than the Supernova yet better balance and somehow more accessible and hence also enjoyable.

Other Ardbeg‘s sampled include:

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Whisky Ladies of Mumbai turn “One”

One year ago, a chance conversation about whisky lead to a fabulous evening… Each month since, a remarkable group of women have met in Mumbai to explore whiskies combined with witty conversations.

Whisky Ladies 1st Anniversary

Together we’ve had 12 fabulous sessions:

  1. Whisky Ladies Welcome Compass Box Asyla, Kilchoman Coull Point, Nikka ‘Yochi’ 10 yr, Caol Ila 12 yr, Ledaig 1997
  2. With Karen Walker – Caorunn ginBalblair 03Old Pulteney 12 yrSpeyburn 10 yrAnCnoc 12 + 22 yr
  3. Cask Strength Diwali – Glenfarclas 105, Chichibu 2009, A’bunadh #35
  4. World Tour – Forty Creek Confederation OakNikka BlendedOban 14 yr, Sheringham William’s White Double Distilled Grain
  5. Go Goan! Paul John Brilliance, Edited, Bold, Classic & Peated
  6. Go American! JD, Hudson Single Malt, Jim Bean, Knobs Creek 9 yr (with Shatbhi Basu)
  7. Sweetly smokey – Dalmore 15 yrMackmyra Svensk RökSmokehead Rock
  8. Chocolate with Hibiki Harmony, Lagavulin 16 yr, A’bunadh #46
  9. Far East – Kavalan Concertmaster SolistNikka Coffey GrainChinese baijiu
  10. “I like the label” – Compass Box Great King Street – Artist’s BlendStarwardSmoky Goat
  11. European Tour – Teerenpeli (Finland)Danica (Denmark)Kornog (France)Slyrs (Germany)
  12. 5 Region Tour – Glenkinchie 12 yrJura Turas-MaraClynelish 14 yrCardhu 12 yrArdbeg 10 yr

Whisky Ladies in Mumbai

And the whiskies for our 1st anniversary celebration? Count them… yup that’s 13 whiskies from left to right…

  1. Amrut Single Malt
  2. Amrut Fusion
  3. Paul John Edited 46%
  4. Paul John Peated 55.5%
  5. Cragganmore 12 year 40%
  6. Smoky Goat 40%
  7. Highland Park 1998 40%
  8. Aberfeldy 12 year 40%
  9. Monkey Shoulder 40%
  10. Dalmore 15 year 40%
  11. Glen Grant 10 year 40%
  12. Caol Ila 12 year 43%
  13. Ardbeg 10 year 46%

Along with a bottle, our potluck approach to nibbles resulted in a fabulous spread.

Whisky Ladies Spread

Here’s to wonderful women that make up this Mumbai malty tribe! May we continue to enjoy many more sessions together!

In celebration, we now have a special Whisky Ladies Corner sharing:

  • Blog posts from our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai (other than mine!)
  • Recognition of evenings we’ve enjoyed courtesy of a few kind benefactors
  • Other nights with whiskies we sourced with different themes
  • Related women centric whisky posts

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Whisky Ladies Scottish Tour – Ardbeg 10 year 46%

We closed our Scottish regions tour with the Islay region… known for its big smoky, peaty drams. This character came from a very practical use of traditional fuel source – peat – to dry the barley as there wasn’t exactly an abundance of trees on the island.

With nine active distilleries and more coming, whisky is the 2nd largest industry on the island. For those enjoy bolder whiskies, on the more consistently peaty side there are BowmoreCaol Ila, KilchomanLagavulin, and Laphroaig. By contrast, Bunnahabhain favours no peat and Bruichladdich is a great example of how distilleries are producing a range of styles – irrespective of region – from unpeated and organic to peated Port Charlotte and super peated Octomore range.

As for Ardbeg? It is considered by many the grand peat monster of them all! Peating at about 50 ppm, there is no mistaking the character of an Ardbeg. As for us? Though most of Ardbeg are NAS, we went with the classic 10 year age statement for our tasting…

Ardbeg 10

And what did our Whisky Ladies find?

Ardbeg 10 year 46%

  • Nose – Mmmmmm peat! Smoked haddock, black pepper, skunky smoky feel, ash with a menthol sweet zing, then warms into vanilla and cocoa with a dusting of cinnamon
  • Palate – Straight forward, hickory sticks and hay, very smooth for all its boldness yet also quite chewy…. this is no subtle dram
  • Finish – Smoke settles in with a coffee toffee with a cooked apples chaser

One lady described it as “cigarettes and apple sauce!”

That’s just it – either you enjoy peat or you don’t. There was a clear division in the room with some ladies going “FINALLY!!!!” And others wrinkling their noses in distaste.

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

  • Nose – A burst of intense smoky fruit escapes into the atmosphere – peat infused with zesty lemon and lime, wrapped in waxy dark chocolate. Bold menthol and black pepper slice through the sweet smoke followed by tarry ropes and graphite. Savour the aroma of smoked fish and crispy bacon alongside green bell peppers, baked pineapple and pear juice.Add water and an oceanic minerality brings a breath of cool, briny seaspray. Waxed lemon and lime follows with coal tar soap, beeswax and herby pine woodlands. Toasted vanilla and sizzling cinnamon simmer with warm hazelnut and almond toffee.
  • Palate – An explosion of crackling peat sets off millions of flavour explosions: peat effervesces with tangy lemon and lime juice, black pepper pops with sizzling cinnamon-spiced toffee. Then comes a wave of brine infused with smooth buttermilk, ripe bananas and currants. Smoke gradually wells up on the palate bringing a mouthful of warm creamy cappuccino and toasted marshmallows. As the taste lengthens and deepens, dry espresso, liquorice root and tarry smoke develop coating the palate with chewy peat oils.
  • Finish – The finish goes on and on – long and smoky with tarry espresso, aniseed, toasted almonds and traces of soft barley and fresh pear.

Would we agree? Certainly those who are peat fans would and this was the dram they had been waiting for all night!

The Whisky Ladies of Mumbai’s Scottish Regional Tour covered:

The close of our regional tour was also a farewell for a most amusing American whisky lady who is back to the ‘motherland’ for a bit before continuing her life adventures in Brazil. Both she and her often brilliant whisky comments will be much missed! We wish her well!!

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Whisky Ladies explore Scottish regions

The whisky map of Scotland tends to be divided into ‘regions’.

Traditionally there were four regions: Highlands, Lowlands, Islay and Campbeltown. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) then added a 5th region of Speyside – given its prodigious production this seems more than merited!

You may also often hear of an ‘Islands’ sub-region encompassing island distilleries excluding Islay…. Whereas the SWA considers these to be part of the Highlands.

Confused yet?

Glenkinchie, Clynelish, Jura, Cardhu, Ardbeg

When our Whisky Ladies decided to go on a Scottish whisky regional tour, we had to skip Campbeltown as weren’t able to source whiskies from Glen Scotia, Glengyle, and Springbank, however we did our able best to appropriately cover the other regions… including that sneaky little not quite sure if it could be considered a region… Islands!

Whisky Ladies Regional Tour sampled:

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200 whisky posts…. with thanks!

Six months ago, I celebrated a remarkable milestone – 100 whisk(e)y posts with 100 whiskies!

I enthusiastically listed all 100 whiskies reviewed and couldn’t stop doing a jig of celebration!

Fast forward and today marks 200 whisky posts… a double accomplishment!

However nothing is achieved without help! So I thought it high time to recognise all the fabulous folks that made it possible….

Most importantly, our Mumbai based whisky groups! Our shared journey and tasting sessions gave birth to this blog:

Plus very special tastings thanks to:

Most importantly, many anonymous friends and fellow bloggers who bravely court liver failure in the quest to find that special dram! Be it sending a sample or sharing an evening… an amusing quip or shared opinion, you know who you are!!

I raise a dram to you all in salut!

post-milestone-200-2x

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Ardbeg Corryvreckan 57.1%

There are times when you crave full-on peat. Over the years, we’ve explored many whiskies with varying levels of peat.

And in the peat department? Ardbeg always delivers.

Ardbeg Corryvecken

Ardbeg – Corryvreckan 57.1%

  • Colour – Deep ruby colour
  • Nose – “Good evening madame, we’d like to present peat, peat and oh… more peat!”
  • Palate – Sweet sour peat chewy, a bit of licorice
  • Finish – Kick ass finish, don’t let the peat fool you – the glorious sweetness remains
  • Water – Adding a dash of water brings out the sweet and spicy element, however most preferred this powerful whisky neat!

Our verdict? “Oh baby, bring it on!” (that means we liked it!)

Here’s what the Ardbeg folks have to say about their Corrycreckan:

This unique and highly peaty whisky is named after the Gulf of Corryvreckan (from the Gaelic Coire Bhreacain meaning “cauldron of the speckled seas” or “cauldron of the plaid”), which is a powerful vortex tide that empties into the sea.

Related posts:

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200 years of Ardbeg – Interview with Bill Lumsden

May around the world was full of official “Ardbeg Day” celebrations commemorating 200 years of Ardbeg.

Fans of peaty Islay whiskies at some point or the other find their way to Ardbeg. Many keep coming back. You can usually spot an Ardbeg poking around in my whisky cabinet – currently it is the Uigeadail.

Ardbeg 200

I thought what better timing to share a short extract from an interview with Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stock, The Glenmorangie Company in Delhi on 10 April 2015 for Man’s World India. While primarily the interview focused on Glenmorangie, we did chat briefly about its peatier cheekier cousin Ardbeg.

CH: May will be the 200th anniversary of Ardbeg and you have plans to launch a new whisky. Tell us more?

BL: Ahh.. the land of the badgers… The 1st product has already been launched – Perpetuum – with the committee release already out.

The idea is that the distillery has a very checkered history. It has been opened and closed and opened and neglected until LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) took it over. So the idea is that in addition to looking back on what has happened in the last 200 years we are looking ahead to the next 200 years. And we want the distillery to remain open and in production in perpetuity. So that is where the name has come from.

Basically I’ve put together a mélange of lots of different cask types, lots of different styles of Ardbeg that have been made over the years. I tasted it in Sydney on Wednesday and I thought, to be honest, I’m generally my own worst critic but I’m quite happy with how this one has worked out.

We are also going to do another bottling for Ardbeg – a higher end bottling. I’ve already put together a recipe for that. It will be very limited. It will not be a cheap and regret I can’t tell you any more details on that as there hasn’t been a pre-release yet.

CH: Let’s talk about the Committee with now over 100,000 members – its role and future?

BL: The committee has grown to such an extent now with these limited bottlings that inevitably there are people who are going to be disappointed.

I’m not 100% sure about the future direction of the committee. It was formed to make sure that the doors of the distillery never close again and its been very successful in that. So like I say, we are reviewing the committee to see how to take it to the next stage.

Bill Lumsden (Ardbeg Blogger Vault)

Bill Lumsden (Ardbeg Blogger Vault)

Pssstt…. Perpetuum is available at the distillery and also online (though apparently demand ‘broke‘ the website temporarily).

Those lucky enough to sample a bottle – slainthe! For the rest of us – raise a toast with your favourite available Ardbeg and celebrate continued access to this impish Islay distillery!

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