Bunnahabhain 25 year (1991/2017) 50.5% (Blackadder Raw Cask)

Over the years we’ve sampled an increasing number of independent bottles. Clearly Gordon & MacPhail then Signatory are the ones we most readily come across, however every once and awhile we manage to stumble across a whisky from Blackadder.

Blackadder is known to focus on bottling a single cask, predominantly at cask strength. This particular bottle of Bunnahabhain is from their Raw Cask brand.

Image: Blackadder’s FaceBook page

Bunnahabhain 25 year (1991/2017) Cask No 5436 50.5% (Blackadder Raw Cask)

  • Nose – Brine, prunes, sour plum, then sweet yet tangy like amchor or tamarind, a hint of fulfer, candied fruit, rasins, anar or marmalade orange rinds
  • Palate – Had a very classic matured quality. Rich oriental spices, ripe blood orange, really quite elegant and fabulous
  • Finish – A deliciously long sweet finish, more of that marmalade, quite full and satisfying

The overall sense was a really rather “yummy” whisky. One we thoroughly enjoyed sampling!

Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac, shared it is an “excellent example of wood management.”

What more do we know? Well.. the helpful folks over at Blackadder managed to track down the label… which explains it was matured in a Sherry butt cask until July 2017 for the Taiwan market with 550 bottles.

Here are a few more Bunnahabhain drams sampled over the years:

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Amrut Port Pipe Peated 62.8% (LMdW)

It is time to admit I’ve gone from being skeptical about the Amrut’s available in India to being puzzled by experiments like Spectrum to becoming rather impressed with some of the expressions available outside of India.

After enjoying the Fever Club Con-Fusion whisky, our host shared the tale of when he 1st encountered this at Whisky Live in Paris. Shared how he was intent on other explorations but when passing by the Amrut booth sampled this and went “Woah!” So much so that of all the options, this is the one that stood out and made its way back to Mumbai for our sampling pleasure. Lucky us!

Amrut Port Pipe Peated 62.8% 

  • Nose – Spice, fruit, basil and mint, not just herbal… it is like a chutney, very sweet fruit, then shifts to dark rich bitter chocolate
  • Palate – “What the F@%k!” Exceptional. An elegant peat. Cinnamon spice. a light brine, very dry.
  • Finish – Long spice peat…
  • Water – Absolutely no temptation to add

There was absolutely nothing off… very well crafted, the kind of whisky that will make you stop and pay attention.

Here is what the folks at La Maison du Whisky has to say?

One of this Amrut’s undeniable charms (of which there are many) is the construction of its aromatic and gustatory palette. Like the peat that gradually tames an olfactory opening of rare power. After taking the upper hand, like an inspired sculptor, it tastefully chisels out a palate and finish with an almost sensually smooth texture. In this, it is every bit as good as the magnificent version also aged in a port cask which, in our 2017 Creation Catalogue, majestically marked La Maison du Whisky’s 60th anniversary.

Profile: the very powerful initial nose is hot, mineral and camphoric. Little by little, an oily, earthy peat envelops the aromatic palette. Equally as present on the attack, this peat gradually becomes sweeter (apricot tart). The finish is malty and full of freshness. Lightly tannic, the end of the palate is herbaceous and floral.

Single Cask no. 2713 – Port Pipe
Limited edition of 420 bottles
Exclusive to LMDW

Curious about other Amrut tasting experiences?

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Shelter Point 2017 Winter Release 57.2%

My love affair with Shelter Point from Vancouver Island continues… courtesy of a fellow Canadian from British Columbia who picked this bottle up on a recent jaunt from Vancouver to Mumbai.

Here is what we thought…

Photo: Paula McGlynn

Shelter Point Cask Strength 2017 Winter Release 57.2% (Bottle 594/1088)

  • Nose – Lots of sweet cereals, heavy honey, toasted nuts, a bit of spicy chilli, honey comb, started to take on quite a fruity dimension – warm, ripe summer fruits, honey drizzled oats or barley, lightly floral shifting back into warm freshly baked pie
  • Palate – Sooooooo good! A happy whisky with a nice kick… one that we were simply too busy enjoying to dissect the different elements of the palate… all I can recall is the lovely baked goods, light cinnamon, apples continued…
  • Finish – Very long, a bit ‘tingly’ with a hint of sweet grass
  • Water – You can, makes it even more “happy” yet it also isn’t needed either

It reminded us of a Canadian summer night – after the heat of the day, a slight drop in temperature, a light breeze, the smell of sunshine fading into sunset with warm grasses, fruits and a hint of honeyed flowers.

What I loved most is it had that “Let me wrap you up in a warm welcoming blanket” quality – just more pronounced with more kick and character than the standard Single Malt at 46%.

As always, the biggest problem with Shelter Point is it is simply far too inviting and has a dangerously bad habit of “disappearing” quickly in happy consumption!

I was curious to know more so wrote to the folks over at Shelter Point. Here is what distiller Leon Webb had to say:

Cask Strength 2017:

  • Nose: An enticing aroma of candied sweets and creamy treats, lattice apple pie with vanilla custard and homemade ice cream, candy floss, praline chocolates, hazelnut and a hint of white pepper
  • Palate: Sweet and juicy fruits, honey, pecan pie, brown sugar and cinnamon
  • Finish: Rum raisins and sweet tobacco 

Shelter Point Cask Strength Whisky 2017 Facts:

  • Base: Two-row barley and rye
  • Distillation: Small-batch, 2x distilled and non-chilled filtered
  • Alcohol Content: Bottled at 57.2% Alc.Vol
  • Bottle Size: 750ml
  • Batch Size: 1088 bottles
  • Packaging: Classic Tennessee-style bottle features Vinolok glass closure and original engraving of Shelter Point Farm created by renowned illustrator Steve Noble

Here are a few other Shelter Point’s sampled til date:

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Whisky Live 2017 – Signatory’s Linkwood 8 year and Cambus 24 year

The last in the Whisky Live 2017 sniff, swish and move on was a stop by the Signatory booth. While they had a range of offerings, two caught my eye…

Cambus 24 year (1991/2015) Cask No 55891, Bottle No 431/447 51.9%

  • Nose – Subtle, nuanced, floral with a light perfume, citrus, salted caramel
  • Palate – Simply delicious, nothing harsh, a lovely softness, perfectly executed, honey, vanilla
  • Finish – Herbal spice

Cambus is a discontinued distillery from the Lowlands… one I hadn’t before encountered but would be keen to try more…

Linkwood “Very Cloudy” 8 year (14 May 2008/15 Jun 2016) Bourbon Cask No 800029 – 8000031 40%

  • Nose – Don’t laugh but this had a fruity bubblegum aroma, then light oak, honey
  • Palate – Some spice, ginger bread
  • Finish – Woody, spice

While fleeting impressions, particularly the Cambus stood out… yet both where worthy drams.

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Kavalan Solist Cask Trio – Sherry

After the Kavalan Solist Brandy and Port casks, we finished our trio with the familiar Sherry cask.

Except this is the thing about all Kavalan Solist whiskies, each is a unique cask which means there is also something to discover about the elements specific to that particular cask – be it from 2008, 2009 and even two from (20102010).

So which one did we try? A cask from June 2009….

Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask S0906080388 Bottle 098/522 57.8%

Nikkhil’s tasting notes

  • Color: Dark Varnish
  • Nose: Now that’s what you call a Sherry monster! A blast of prunes, orange oil, espresso, chocolate. Whiff of pencil shavings, tobacco, leather, old furniture. Stunning!
  • Palate: Thick like treacle. Gorgeous mouthfeel, if only silk was edible! Follows the nose note to note. It was Christmas all over again. Drams like these should not be dissected. They are simply too complex for words. Hence I’m going to stop. Just sit back and enjoy this masterpiece.
  • With Water: All the gorgeousness gets amplified.
  • Finish: Long and warming. Like a conversation with an old friend.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

And now… to shift from what the tasting group had to say to the separate sampling session…

Carissa’s tasting notes:

  • Nose – More restrained than the 2nd dram, yet clearly has a solid sherry quality, dry, tight fruits
  • Palate – Rich, velvety quality, coffee, chocolate, complex, almost evaporates in the mouth, gorgeous and completely delicious, silky smooth and refined
  • Finish – Not just long, simply remarkable

The colour alone gives it away – deep dark maple syrup. Had all the hallmarks of a mature whisky – the way a sherry cask matured dram should be. “We are not worthy.” Exceptional.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

And the reveal?? Kavalan Sherry… not old at all, just the beneficiary of an accelerated maturation in the warm climate of Taiwan.

The folks at Kavalan have this to say about their Sherry Cask:

Matured in Spanish top quality oloroso sherry casks in special editions, Kavalan Solist Sherry is bottled at the distillery, without any colouring or chill-filtration. It is a naturally smooth and rich whisky with a complex character. It is clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit, nuttiness and spices with some marzipan and vanilla touches to it as well.

  • Color – Dark and mouth-watering raisin
  • Nose – Clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit, nuttiness and spices with some marzipan and vanilla touches to it as well.
  • Palate – Rich, oily and full with pleasant dried fruit and spices that linger on in the mouth plus a hint of fine coffee.
  • Tasting – We suggest drinking Kavalan Solist Oloroso Sherry Cask neat.

Our Kavalan Cask Trio covered:

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Kavalan Solist Cask Trio – Brandy

What a remarkable opportunity – a trio of cask strength whiskies from the same new make spirit – each matured in a different cask.

First up from Kavalan was the Brandy Cask… Sampled initially by our regular tasting group completely blind with notes by Nikkhil then a sample sent to me… also sampled with no clue about the whisky.

Kavalan Solist Brandy Cask AO90709055 Bottle 052/281 55.6%

Nikkhil’s notes:

  • Color: Dark Amber
  • Nose: Initial hit of spirit vapors. Then overripe bananas, hint of honey, kafir lime citrus. Green apples, damp mud, sawdust. Some leather notes now along with beeswax. Overall there wasn’t a lot of weight on the nose suggesting a younger whisky.
  • Palate: Oh my god can somebody please dial the fire brigade! My nostrils are singed and throat scorched. The fire quickly spread around the group. I’ve never had a whisky that hot and raw. Once the fire was doused by glugging lots of water I nervously got back to tasting.  Young and rather thin on the palate and the heat was still simmering! Very little mouthfeel. Volatile. Bitter tannis and spirit driven. A very muted development. I think this one was bottled too early.
  • With water (and it could take a lot) and about 30mins of rest it transformed completely. That acrid heat was gone and the mouthfeel returned. Now there were tropical fruits, pineapple, some hints of mango, lychee and even coconut. On the palate it was now oily with some faint tobacco and star anise. It was also distinctly briny and the bitterness continued.
  • Finish: Very dry and the tannic bitterness continued with hints of licorice.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

Carissa’s tasting notes:

  • Nose – Woah! Varnish… sharp, astringent then started to settle down… light banana, honey, vanilla, shifting into caramel
  • Palate – Harsh, raw, salty, spice, quite a kick initially, very piquant, bit bitter, then a hint of coffee and chocolate
  • Finish – Warm burn, jaggery, lingers… with more of that spice, salty and bitter, long and tingly

Overall had a sense of being young as in very young, possibly ex-Bourbon cask. A bit “in your face” and seemed to have a high alcohol strength so… decided to try again with a generous splash of water…

  • Nose – Brightens it up, lemon, floral and more honey
  • Palate – Rounds it out, still bitter and reveals even a light leather, old wood and much more depth
  • Finish – Intense

While still young, with water much more approachable. Wait longer and it reveals even more.

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What do the folks at Kavalan have to say about their Brandy Cask?

Part of the Kavalan Solist series, matured in the hand-selected and top-quality brandy cask which is then individually and meticulously selected by the master blender with his skill to create uniquely fruity flavors and distinct characteristics for your sampling pleasure. This cask strength single cask malt whisky is non chill-filtered with natural colour to retain the fullest flavours.

  • Color – Seductive midnight amber
  • Nose – Irresistible peach, passion fruit, strawberry and mango fragrances with delicious vanilla, toffee, spices and honey mingling in the background.
  • Palate – Oily, round and smooth with complex and long finish that ends with a taste of sweet lychee.
  • Tasting – We suggest drinking Kavalan Solist Brandy Cask neat.

Would we agree? For this particular cask, a healthy dollop of water and time to open up makes all the difference. Neat? No. Dillute and give it time… Yes.

Curious how we associated the Brandy with Bourbon cask – now knowing what we were sipping, it would be interesting to try it again side-by-side with the Solist bourbon cask.

Our Kavalan Cask Trio covered:

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Kavalan Solist Cask Collection – Brandy, Port, Sherry

The hard thing about having a “real” job rather than running my own business is that the variables beyond ones control are simply much higher. Which means sometimes, despite best efforts, I have to miss a whisky tasting session.

Galloping yet again to the rescue was our fabulous guest writer Nikkhil Shirodkar… except this time our host insisted on a different approach.

  • Our regular tasting group’s collective impressions were captured by Nikkhil who then also enjoyed the great reveal and further discussions
  • A sample trio was generously set aside for me to go through and jot down my notes separately
  • Both sets of notes to be compared to see how similar or different they were, with enthusiastic pressure put to “guess” the theme
  • Then finally… nearly a month later… the reveal

But it was worth it – completely worth it!

Photo: Keshav Prakash

So here we are… drum roll… our original group’s January trio:

It was a remarkable theme exploring three different casks from Taiwan’s Kavalan distillery with their Solist series of individual casks at full strength.

Nikkhil had this to share about their experience when the whiskies were revealed…

So the host decided to quiz by asking us to guess the producer of the whiskies. The only obvious give away before the reveal was that these were intensely Sherried drams. So we round up the usual suspects: Glenfarclas, Glendronach, Aberlour Abunah without thinking about Non-Scottish producers. I don’t think any Non-Scottish producer has an equivalent range to the Kavalan Solist. But then again, how often does one get to sample/drink a Kavalan Solist on a regular basis? We totally missed that one even though in hindsight it was so obvious.

What Kavalan has achieved in terms of the sheer quality of their offerings is truly remarkable. We are all aware of the hot tropical climes and its effect on maturation but its more than just the weather. Every process, right from the selection of the barley to the shape of their stills, the best wood policy and access to a variety of premier casks all add in delivering stunning whiskies.

Remember that the entire Kavalan range is NAS! Is age on the bottle then just a number? A quick a tip. Every bottle in the Solist range has a code which can be decoded very easily to reveal its age. For eg. S0906080388 bottled in 2015 makes it roughly 6yrs old. Here is how:

Sherry Cask | Year |  Mon |  Day |  Barrel on the Day

S  |   09 06   |  08  |  0388

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A’bunadh Batch #52 (2015) 60.5%

During our December sampling session, one of our fellow tasters brought along an Abelour A’bunadh. It is remarkable to  realize they are on to batches in the 50s… and soon to hit 60! I still have fond memories of their sherry bombs of the 20s…

But  on to this one… what did we think?

Abelour A’bunadh Aberlour A’bunadh Batch No 52 (NAS 2015) 60.5%

  • Nose – As expected – a complete sherry bomb, lots of chewy black cherries, Christmas cake, dark dried fruits, almost rum like
  • Taste – Christmas cake, a drizzle of caramel, warm and smooth, apply cider, raisins, prunes, robust and bursting with character, a little ginger, creamy and very berry Christmassy
  • Finish – Sweet spice with more of those dark cherries
  • Water – As always, opens up with a generous dollop of water

Worked for us and met every expectation for a Christmas sherry bomb dram!

And what about other Aberlour experiences?

And other drams sampled in our chilled out evening?

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Zuidam Millstone Sherry 55.5%

This was my 1st taste of Zuidam’s Millstone Whiskies… This Dutch distillery is known for its uncompromising quality.

Malt Maniac 2016 Awards

Zuidam Millstone (11.9.1998/5.8.2016) Odoroso Sherry Cask #2530 55.5% OB 44 of 203 bottles

  • Nose – Sharp juicy fruits, plum wine, dash of sweet spices with cinnamon, cloves and allspice, back to a burst of red fruits, sultanas, honey water then prunes, a shifting spice from black pepper to cayenne, then back to fruity boiled sweets or candied orange
  • Palate – Wow! Now we are talking a serious dram. Om biscuits with that distinctive caraway, perhaps a bit of kalonji too. Clear stamp of sherry with some age behind it too…
  • Finish – Gorgeous finish
  • Water – No interest in adding…

An unmistakable Christmas dram. Stunning.

While this was an official bottling, there are no notes on the Zuidam website…  however this dram won Malt Maniac’s 2016 “Thumbs Up” award so clearly someone agrees this is a mighty fine dram!

What else did we try in our “Sinful Samples” evening?

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Nikka’s “From the Barrel”

Last in the Whisky Ladies “Diwali Drams” evening was a “head to head” comparison between two Nikka blends – their cask strength “From the Barrel” and a revival of an earlier incarnation of their standard “Super Nikka Whisky”.

Most would know that Nikka, the company, uses “Nikka” as the brand name for their range of whisky blends which are either:

Both our whiskies fall into the “blend” category… What did our Whisky Ladies think?

Nikka From the Barrel 51.4%

  • Nose – Coconut, like sweet honey nectar, fruits like pears, a bit of acetone, then coriander (or cilantro or… there was a debate on the different varieties!). After a sip, the nose gained some oil and nuts, then shifted into marshmallow and candied nuts.
  • Palate – We found it was like melted caramel, dense and buttery like a maple butter tart, some sweet raisins too… quite thick on the palate
  • Finish – Last and last and lasts.

Some absolutely loved it! Appreciating how it is bursting with character, a complex drink, one where a little goes a long way.

Words like “Fabulous!” and “Mmmm” could be heard. The finish in particular was described as a “Fabulous, fantastic finish!” And exclaims of how well it could pair with certain food too.

And yet for some, this was almost too much… in its sweet aromas, its dense concentration of flavours and long finish.

What do the folks at Nikka have to say about “From the Barrel”?

This is a blend of multiple types of malt and grain that Nikka reserves. Nikka From the Barrel was created to deliver full flavors and richness of whisky “from barrels” which only blenders can sniff and taste. As the whisky contains so many characteristic components at a higher alcohol of 51.4%, it is essential to let the liquid “marriage” in used casks for 3-6 months for it to stabilize and harmonize. The concept of the unique short squared bottle is “a small lump of whisky”, which perfectly visualizes the rich and strong taste of the whisky inside.

PS – There may be added colour i.e. caramel.

So then how did it stack up against the “Super Nikka”? Read on soon….

The Nikka “From the Barrel” is a 50 cl bottle, sometimes found in duty free for around $50-75 and was opened during our session.

Whiskies sampled in our Diwali Drams evening included:

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