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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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

One of the ‘traditions’ of our original whisky group is to taste blind… In this case, I gave a bit of a twist by openly sharing we were sampling whiskies from the same distillery, peated at the same level and nearly the same age with the only difference the cask.

My goal was to eliminate wild speculations to instead focus on the narrow range of variable – cask. With the reveal made only after we tasted each whisky separately and then compared them to each other, sharing thoughts on the possible cask(s) used.

We began with the Cognac cask – while not part of the MP5 series – I chose it to calibrate the palate. We then moved on to the Bourbon cask, then this one… which added a Bordeaux finish.

What did we think?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

  • Colour – A clear touch of red – which we later found clearly came from the Bordeaux cask finish
  • Nose – Initially greeted with curd and tobacco, quite strongly spirit driven, some sulfur – like we just set off some crackers ‘patakar!’, then settled down with less peat, revealing chocolate, and a range of aromas that went from wine to sweet and salty dried fruits, pistachios and raisins
  • Palate – Very spicy at first, with an interesting over brewed tea quality, like tannins from red wine, sweet with an interesting spice, shifting into raspberries and walnuts
  • Finish – A long finish with a strong peppery close
  • Water – Initially made it spicier then really opened up with many finding it quite fabulous once opened up with a splash of water

While we found this one a bit thin on the palate, lacking the body of the MP5 Bourbon, it had quite a distinctive and appealing quality. We also found it less salty than the 1st with almost negligible peat.

For one, he confessed that if he wasn’t already told this was a peaty Islay whisky, he never would have guessed. We wanted to know how that could possibly be the case – given similar ppm from other distilleries retain a much more pronounced peat.

The answer in part can be found in the Laddie MP5 broadcast in which the head distiller Adam Hannett speaks with Allen Logan, distillery manager.

Around the 20 min mark, they shared how their PC style is to always start at 40 phenolic parts per million (PPM). However the phenol content changes as it is mashed, malted and further softened through the slow distilling process. The shape of the still is another factor, which enables lighter flavours to come through. Then, as the spirit ages, it loses more phenols…

The result? You end up with considerably less ppm than you started with… And for Port Charlotte (PC) specifically, it means the whisky is surprisingly versatile with different cask types, particularly if it is aged for a longer period.

Yet without this insight or knowledge of the re-casting, what did our merry malters think?

After much speculation, most votes veered to sherry with one clear it could not be sherry as it had a wine quality. Clearly this taster was exceedingly close!

What Adam shared in the broadcast is this whisky began in an ex-Bourbon cask for 10 years then was finished for 9 months in the fresh Bordeaux cask from the town of Margeaux.

When asked why they recast the spirit, the answer was:

“We wanted to see what else we could explore, do and try new things.”

In part this was motivated by a recognition the whisky needed an extra ‘boost’ from re-casking.

And when the topic of the wine cask finish arose, Allen spoke of their early experiments with finishing 15 and 20 year stock using ex-Bordeaux casks, which turned the whisky pink after only a short period of time! What to do? Jim McEwan suggested releasing the whisky as a special edition for Valentine’s Day, what else?

As for this whisky? I revisited it the next evening and found the wine element unmistakable… and think we underestimated it in our first foray. Or perhaps with just a little oxidation, it revealed its balanced complex character. Superb!

What more do we know?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 29.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Bourbon / Bordeaux
  • Warehouse: WH5. L2 – Dunnage

I purchased this 200ml tasting set trio for an embarrassingly high amount from The Single Cask in Singapore.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

Before we tasted the MP5 series, I opened a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8% to help calibrate our palate to the Port Charlotte style.
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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Fresh Bourbon Cask #1999 56.9%

For over a year, I waited impatiently to dive into this Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance aka MP5 trio!

I came across the set in Singapore at The Single Cask. taking a good long whiff of their open bottles and was intrigued. I kept thinking about them… and on my next visit, I was delighted they still had a closed set remaining. So I packed it up and brought it back to Mumbai for our merry malters!

I decided to do it in the same order Adam and Allan did on their YouTube broadcast… so we began with the ex-bourbon. While I knew what we were sampling, my fellow whisky explorers tried it blind.

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Fresh Bourbon Cask #1999 56.9%

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – Bounty chocolate with roasted coconut, tropical fruits – particularly pineapple, cashew fruit when nearly ripe, subtle peat, ripe bananas, dates, lightly leather and wood polish, faint iodine then evolved into a fresh clean delicate citrus
  • Palate – Spicy cinnamon, jute kopra, coconut barfi, lightly oily, a wonderful mouth feel, coffee, coconut shell
  • Finish – Medium length, a bit bitter, chillies, coconut
  • Water – Opened up beautifully, lovely balance of spice then sweet, delicious with a gentle orange citrus

We loved it! It began as a pure tropical treat and evolved into creme brule, bubblegum… We really enjoyed this whisky And found it was a fabulous easy drinking dram. It had a lovely balance, very tasty, becoming even more enjoyable as it opened further with water and had a little more time sitting in the glass.

Remarkably, there was very little peat – just a light leather curl of smoke enveloped in creamy sweet goodness. Equally no one came even close to predicting the alcohol strength – there was talk of 46% or 48% with no one imagining 56.9%!

I challenged my tasting cohorts to give their best guesses on what cask(s) went into creating this dram. After the Cognac surprise, speculation ranged from rum to virgin oak to bourbon… with the last spot on!

What more do we know?

  • PPM: 40
  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 17.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Fresh Bourbon
  • Warehouse: P2. R19 – Dunnage

We loved this whisky and wished there was more! By the end of the evening there were just a few drops remaining… clearly a good sign.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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Bourbons in Bombay – The mighty Stagg Jr 64.75%

Last of our explorations of American drams was another bourbon from Buffalo Trace… from Blanton’s we turned our attention to the mighty Stagg Jr.

What did we think?

Stagg Jr 129.5 proof / 64.75%

  • Nose – Fresh wood, sawdust, cherry, pepper spice, raisins, buttery, vanilla ice cream fruit cake, then back to cayenne, a citrus twist, strong sherry like qualities
  • Palate – Whoo boya! A full on bourbon, very sugary, nice mouthfeel, quite concentrated, a big boy bourbon
  • Finish – Long finish

First swig and one exclaimed “Me on the horse I rode in…” It was full on cowboy action.

We thought it might go rather well with ice… so out came the big balls. It did indeed work well, taming that bad boy to something rather drinkable with the citrus quality coming out even more.

And what do the folks over at Buffalo Trace have to say?

George T. Stagg built the most dominant American distillery of the 19th century, during a time known as the Gilded Age of Bourbon. Uncut and unfiltered, this robust bourbon whiskey ages for nearly a decade and boasts the bold character that is reminiscent of the man himself.

Rich, sweet, chocolate and brown sugar flavors mingle in perfect balance with the bold rye spiciness. The boundless finish lingers with hints of cherries, cloves and smokiness.

What all did we sample in our American whiskey night?

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Bourbons in Bombay – Back to our old friend Blanton’s 46.5%

We shifted from single malt back to Bourbon with the reliable Blanton’s… it was by no means most of our first brush with Blanton’s… a few shared when in doubt, it is always safe to reach out for this bourbon. From Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s is a traditional bourbon made of corn, rye and barley… from warehouse H.

What did we think?

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon 93 Proof Dumped 5-25-17, Barrel No 424, Ruch No 47

  • Nose – Lemon tart, honey sweet, a hint of tobacco or sweet grass, light leather
  • Palate – Lovely sweetness, new American oak, caramel with a bit of orange marmalade
  • Finish – Soft subtle finish, walnut bitterness

Such an enjoyable easy drinking bourbon. The 1st hit wakes you up but is not even the least bit harsh. This was an easy pick to settle down for the night with a cigar…

And what do the folks over at Buffalo Trace have to say?

  • Nose – A deep, satisfying nose of nutmeg and spices.
  • Palate – Powerful dry vanilla notes in harmony with hints of honey amid strong caramel and corn.
  • Finish – A medium finish composed of returning corn and nutmeg flavors.

What all did we sample in our mostly Bourbon night?

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Bourbons in Bombay – Jefferson’s Very Small Batch 41.15%

We kicked off our explorations of American drams with a Kentucky Straight Bourbon… In truth, Jefferson’s is a bourbon brand rather than a distillery per se… though the parent company Castle Brands did acquire a stake in the Kentucky Artisan Distillery.

But let’s not get hung up on details and pedigree… What did we think?

Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon 41.15%

  • Nose – Clear stamp of bourbon, then sour, citrus, lots of new wood, caramel, pine, varnish, musty, dry, paint thinner, acetone… then mellows into a light custard
  • Palate – Soft, a bit watery, and while not complex has some character, a bit bitter… as it sits starts to shift more into a light citrus honey
  • Finish – Soft after taste remains but not something you could describe as a finish

One remarked it could be described as a ‘ladies bourbon’… Speaking as a lady, not sure this would be my style of whisky at all! But I digress…

We set it aside for some time and revisit… it was like gripe water! Sweet and sour, cereals, ripe bananas, sour green apples and pears, then a nutty bitter close, softening into sweetness again. Not brilliant but not bad either.

And what do the folks over at Jefferson’s have to say?

Jefferson’s Bourbon is made in very small batches. Actually, ridiculously small batches. We take up to four different Kentucky straight bourbon whiskies of different ages and marry them together. Doing this, we get a lot of complexity and balance while maintaining the consistency needed in a bourbon (one of the blends comprising of at least 55% of the total). We wanted to make it big enough for the connoisseur, yet approachable for people just getting into the premium bourbon field.

Would we agree? It certainly is approachable…

While I can’t confirm, I suspect this bottle was purchased in the US of A… generally available for around $30. Which makes it mighty good value for money.

What all did we sample in our mostly Bourbons night?

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BMC’s Bourbon – Jefferson’s, St George, Blanton’s, Stagg

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar (BMC) gents are definitely going beyond the borders of Scottish Single Malts… the latest in this flirting with other drams was an evening devoted to bourbon… with an American single malt whiskey thrown in for good measure!

So what did we sample?

You can also find more North American whiskies in the “US & Canada” page!

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Brush with Bourbon – Elmer T Lee 45%

Last in our trio of bourbon’s at 1602 Dundas was a dram from Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky who produce Blanton’s, W. L. Weller, E. H. Taylor and Buffalo Trace among others. Elmer T Lee is named after their Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon 45%

Image: LCBO

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Sweet mash, fruity cinnamon spice, over ripe fruits
  • Palate – Grape, raisins, bitter dry oaky, spicy
  • Finish – Slow bitter finish

Elmer T Lee has the clear and unmistakable stamp of Kentucky Bourbon character – lots of fruit, spice, bold and impossible to ignore.

While we split a 30 ml shot, a 750 ml bottle can be purchased at a Toronto LCBO for CND 54.95. Here what they have to say…

LCBO’s Tasting & Serving Notes

Complex and addictive. Scents of cinnamon, hazelnuts, and dried fruit precede big flavors: cinnamon spice, raisinated and plummy, like Madeira or Sherry. Long finish, with a bit of a bite. Score – 97. (Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast, Sept. 2010).

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

Other forays into American whiskies from Buffalo Trace:

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Brush with Bourbon – Basil Hayden’s 40%

Next in our brush with Bourbon informal flight at 1602 Dundas was a bourbon from the Jim Beam stable – part of their small batch bourbons such as Knob Creek. Styled after the mash created by its namesake Basil Hayden, it uses double the rye of a standard Kentucky bourbons.

Image: Beam Suntory

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon 40%

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Resin, herbal, oats, cereals, sweet, honey, woody, treacle
  • Palate – Initial ‘yeowch’, then acclimatized to it, revealing some spices
  • Finish – There but..

What is fabulous about the world of whisky is the range of styles – something for everyone! However I’ve learned that my palate preferences veer away from both bourbon and rye… Which meant this whisky had a double strike against it as it both is very clearly a bourbon with a higher rye quotient.

What I enjoyed most was the nose – I could keep sniffing it and finding more elements. For me, the kick would be a brilliant dimension in certain cocktails – one where the interesting elements in the nose are given full room to shine with the rye spiciness and character on the palate punching up the drink.

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

The recipe for this classic Bourbon dates back to 1796. Amber in colour; on the nose are notes of dried apricot, caramel, custard, green peppercorn and hay; on the palate it is medium-bodied and warming, with flavours of white pepper, burnt sugar, dried white flowers and vanilla that finishes with a lingering herbal spice.

This bottle was released in February 26, 2015, made in Kentucky, USA by Beam Global Spirits and Wines with a style described as medium & spicy.

While we split a 30 ml shot, it can be purchased at Toronto LCBO for CND $53.95.

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

Other forays into American whiskies from the Beam Suntory family:

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