Whisky Lady – August 2018

This August brought more monsoon rain and yes – some malts too! All three Mumbai whisky tasting groups met up and a bonus minis session.

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we took a rather significant detour from our usual whisky fare to explore rums from Columbian & The Seychelles:

For our original group, I had a special session planned for well over a year… to  explore different dimensions of Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte with their Micro-Provenance 5 series:

Before we dove into the MP5, we calibrated our palate with:

For the Whisky Ladies, it was our 3rd anniversary with a sociable evening of Irish drams, courtesy of our friends over at Pernod Ricard who kindly shared:

  • Jameson Caskmate Stout Edition 40%
  • Green Spot 40%
  • Yellow Spot 12 year 46% and
  • Redbreast 12 year 40%

Plus we had a terrific minis session – Campbeltown style – comparing whiskies from Glen Scotia and Springbank… laugh if you will but we found…

There were a few other explorations…

I also posted notes from July’s remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

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

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

Last in our Port Charlotte cask evening was one that stumped our entire group. We sampled it blind, with no clue beyond everyone knowing the whiskies sampled that evening were from the same distillery, similar age, barley, peat level yet matured in different casks.

What did we find?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

  • Colour – Dark amber
  • Nose – Dark chocolate, cinnamon spice, raisins, prunes, apricot, such fruity sweet, almost sweet wine-like, shifting from dark to white chocolate nougat, vanilla, cappuccino, marmalade, walnut, not a hint of peat… then after some time, became almost meaty with a subtle ash and… believe it or not… bubblegum! After even more time… was that lemon custard? Or coconut cream pie?
  • Palate – Spice, even more than the others this one was sooooooo sweet! Then a roaring spice behind the sweet which eased into a ginger spice, followed by salt, roasted coffee bean and a gentle peat, with wonderful oils
  • Finish – Lovely
  • Water – Needs a splash of water – then it becomes juicy, fruity and simply fabulous!

For some, this was the favourite or runner up of the night!

There was something so completely appealing about the complexity of the aromas and, once water was added, it was absolutely wonderful on the palate. There was a lovely balance between the fruits, chocolate and light peat… which initially had a ‘barely there’ quality but revealed itself after adding water.

And our cask speculation?

After tossing out possibilities from rum to muscatel to sherry PX, most settled on Port thanks to its rich sweet character. No one even came close to guessing French virgin oak.

With the reveal, everyone was stunned!

On two counts…

  • First, did it really get all these elements from virgin oak?
  • And second, while it really came into its own with water, how could it be 63.5% after 10 years!

For both… there was more to the story which can be found in the MP5 broadcast with Adam and Allan.

Let’s start with the alcohol strength…

63.5% seems nearly impossible for 10 years until you consider the approach taken at Bruichladdich. Unlike other distillers that first add water to their new make spirit to bring it to a uniform 63.5% before maturing, Bruichladdich puts it into the cask at the full force of a true cask strength which is closer to 70%.

And what about the cask?

They shared that after nearly 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask, it was finished for 6 months in a French virgin oak with a medium char from Seguin Moreau cooperage which held nothing before… they credited the virgin oak for providing the depth of colour to the whisky.

An interesting twist… all we know is that we really enjoyed the results!

What more do we know from the bottle?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 30.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Virgin Oak
  • Warehouse: P4. L8 – Dunnage

I purchased this set at The Single Cask in Singapore and we opened the bottles in August 2018 in Mumbai.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

We also started our evening comparing casks with a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8%.

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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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Bruichladdich Port Charlotte MP5

The whole idea behind Bruichladdich’s Micro-Provenance (or MP) series is to demonstrate the difference to be found between casks when starting at approximately the same place. Through this journey, one can explore the evolution of a single malt, comparing and contrasting…

For #LaddieMP5, head distiller Adam Hannett selected three single casks of Port Charlotte whisky:

  • All starting at the same peat level – 40 ppm
  • Using the same barley type – Optic
  • Distilled within 2 weeks of each other in November 2005
  • Then matured for 10 years…. just in different casks…

The result was a fascinating experiment and experience enjoyed by our original Mumbai whisky tasting group late August 2018.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks Trio: 

I asked the Comms team for more info and they said the best thing to do is to watch the MP5 broadcast where Adam and Allan talked through the whiskies – well worth watching!

To get us in the mood for peaty full cask strength drams, I also opened up another bottle of Port Charlotte to help calibrate our palates. The whisky I selected for this purpose was:

Tasting notes will be available over the next few days….

Curious about other Bruichladdich Port Charlotte tasting experiences?

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Whisky Lady – July 2018

July brings monsoon rains, vacations and often a slightly slower pace of life… and yet this month still had a rather admirable set of whisky tasting experiences. And even though technically only 1 of our 3 Mumbai whisky tasting groups “officially” met, somehow gatherings over a dram still happened… read on…

Whisky Ladies Sukhinder Singh’s Cask Strength Trio from The Whisky Exchange in London:

Pedigree malts from around the world:

Our original group were introduced to a remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

I also finally got around to sharing tasting notes from an evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac always push the boundaries… The last three remarkable whiskies sampled were…

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

You can also find even more Whisky bits ‘n bobs on:

Whisky Lady – June 2018

June was quite full with all three tasting groups holding their regular sessions plus a few interesting visitors with:

With our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we shifted gears to have an evening dedicated to open bottles – a complete mixed bag of what was lying around. Which in our case meant a merry trip through:

For the Whisky Ladies, it was a night of Highland Hijinks!

And our original group? We were introduced to a remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Glenrothes 20 year (Oct 1996/Oct 2016) 54.6% 1 of 252 bottles*
  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 57.1% 1 of 198 bottles*
  • North Star’s Cask Series 002 – Caol Ila 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles*

Last month, I took our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents on a European Exploration and caught up with all the tasting notes which had a clear divide between ones we quite enjoyed…. and those we decidedly did not!

The thumbs “down” category included:

And in the thumbs “up” category?

In addition to our normal tasting evenings, we were fortunate to have not one but two IBHL sessions in April and May respectively with:

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we ambled through a rather remarkable range of whiskies…

*Tasting notes coming soon…

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

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Whisky Lady – March 2018

It is time for a malty monthly round-up! Where all the sessions marched in order, one after the other wish a special bonus evening with Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula.

So where did we begin?

The Whisky Ladies took a  “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia:

Followed the very next evening by the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents exploring whiskies from Japan:

Our original club did a revisit with:

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we ambled through…

March also was a month to catch-up on a few earlier tasting experiences… beginning with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents  Compass Box Quartet!

And more fleeting impressions from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

*Tasting notes coming soon…

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

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Bruichladdich Octomore 07.1_208 5 years 59.5%

For the Whisky Ladies, our Bruichladdich Peat Progression evening closed with a second mighty Octomore expression! In this case, the Octomore 7.1… released in 2015 before the 7.2 travel edition and one of the last Jim McEwan expressions.

What did the Whisky Ladies think?

Bruichladdich Octomore 07.1_208 5 years PPM 208 Scottish Barley 59.5%

  • Nose – Leather, eucalyptus, pine cleaner, sweet cinnamon and a dash of pepper
  • Palate – Chewy tobacco, bitter chocolate, still has that trademark power peat with no harshness and surprising balance unique to Octomore given the whopping 208 PPM, however more like bitter kerela than fruity sweet, a bit of baked goods, toffee
  • Finish – It does indeed last, with a chaser that is almost like bitter tea and basil

As it followed the 7.2, it was hard not to compare… we found it did not have quite as many elements, and curiously more academic than the artistic flourish of the 7.2, certainly not as complex and yet though it had a little less polish it was still a compellingly good dram.

I suspect if sampled solo, we would have thought it quite fabulous however the combination of polished peat and silky sweet in the 7.2 was a hard act to follow.

I would consider the 7.1 like autumn following the sunshine summer of the 7.2. Both unique in their way.

What do the folks over at Bruichladdich have to say?

  • Character – Sweet and gentle belying an awesome power and hidden depths
  • Colour – Summer sun on Hebridean sand
  • Nose – Initially the nose is sea spray and caramel, lemon balm and pipe tobacco. Slowly, the peat smoke rises from the glass, gentle but strong lifting vanilla, mint, toffee, golden syrup and almond. Peach follows with pear syrup and buttercup. A symphony, a delight to experience.
  • Palate – Wow! Smoothness, sweetness and then smoke. A texture like no other, satin soft and devilishly warming. The American oak influence is in perfect tune with the smoke and soft fruits delicately, skilfully coaxed from the still during exceptionally slow distillation. Vanilla, honey, citrus rise up to be met with sea spray and leather, smoked mussels mix with autumn bracken and crème brûlée.
  • Finish – As the sweetness from the oak fades the salt comes to the fore one last time while the gentle peat smoke steady and true grows and outlasts all else.
  • Mood – The feeling is that of long summer nights turning cooler and shorter as autumn approaches. Watch the sun set over the sea and breathe the peat smoke hanging in the air.

Our Bruichladdich Peat Progression evenings also featured:

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Bruichladdich Octomore 7.2_208 5 years PPM 208 58.5%

Our Bruichladdich Peat Progression evening shifted from Port Charlotte to the mighty Octomore expression!

In this case from their travel retail line, matured in American oak casks and casks which previous held Syrah wine. I believe it was released late 2015 and picked it up in Singapore in 2016.

The whisky was sampled in three sessions:

  • Initially with the Whisky Ladies with a freshly opened bottle
  • Then a mini Whisky Ladies session with two who missed our main night
  • Followed by our original Mumbai tasting group who had all whiskies completely blind before the reveal

Bruichladdich Octomore 07.2_208 5 years PPM 208 58.5%

What did the Whisky Ladies think?

  • Nose
    • Waves of sweat peat, nutty chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg
    • Mild menthol, deceptive as the peat becomes quite restrained – almost minimalist, creamy, a bit antiseptic, sinus clearing like horseradish, dark chocolate, molasses
  • Palate
    • Incredibly smooth, remarkable how there can be so much peat swirling about and yet not a single harsh note, there is passion but… no rough jagged edges
    • Simply delicious! Chocolate, cinnamon, so smooth….
  • Finish – Lingers, long yet restrained – more like the echo of sweet peat

For the Whisky Ladies, I introduced Bruichladdich’s brand ambassador Murray’s “trick” to enjoying whisky in Asian heat… out came a few glasses filled to the brim with ice then topped up with water.

A few shots of ice cold water to cool the mouth and then a sip of Octomore – sublime! Silky smooth, gentles and smooths the peat without subduing the seductive quality – I do believe the expression “Sex on toast” was mentioned. It brought out ice cream, floral, prunes with the peat becoming quite shy – there but holding back.

And our original underground Mumbai whisky club?

  • Nose – Peaty, heather, honey sweetness, marigold flowers or nasturtiums, incense, pipe tobacco, after opening more green apples and pears, shifting between subtle peat, floral and fruity elements
  • Palate – Very sweet, so incredibly smooth, thick body, incredibly balanced with the smoke, sweet flower and fruit with a light salt coming together in harmony
  • Finish – Initially bitter, then sweet vanilla on the back of the tongue, shifting between leather and honey
  • After a shot of ice water – Red velvet, salty caramel, sweet spice

With the reveal, it was impossible to believe a peat level of PPM 208. If anything the Port Charlotte 12 seemed to have more of a peat swagger or ‘punch’ at a paultry PPM 40. There was no doubt this was a stellar whisky of exceptional craft. Just as it was no surprise we polished off the last drop!

For the original group, this whisky closed our evening. We reflected back on the range and could see a thread of bitter sweet common to all with each having depth and character. There was no doubt of the tremendous care and craft that went into each creation… and we found it overall very impressive.

And for the ladies? Our night was yet to close! We moved on to contrast the Octomore 07.2 with the 07.1…

What do the folks over at Bruichladdich have to say?

  • Character – Enigmatic. Defiant. Forget what you thought you knew.
  • Colour – Liquid gold.
  • Nose – Golden syrup, smoke and red berry fruits to begin. The gentle smoke weaves through poached pear and apple pie from the distillation with the ripe fruits from the cask, red berries peach and apricot. As you inhale deeper, delicate floral notes unclouded by the smoke are released heather, lilies and orange blossom.
  • Palate – The combination of sweet fruits and smoke is classic Octomore. Huge levels of peat sit in perfect balance with the flavours released from the cask. Add a drop or two of water and we get cherry, bramble, strawberry from the Syrah casks; cinder toffee, brown sugar, honey and crème brulee from the American oak burst through. You can feel and taste the rewards of our patience – slow trickle distillation provides the soft silky texture that coats your mouth and releases wave after wave of the soft fruit and floral fragrance.
  • Finish – As lemon zest, red fruit and vanilla oak fades away the deep smoke lingers, a potent reminder of the strength and character of Islay.
  • Mood – To be enjoyed in good company. Pour another dram. Everything else can wait….

Our Bruichladdich Peat Progression evenings also featured:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on: