Speed Tasting – Midleton Dair Ghaelach 58.2%

And now the last of our “Speed Tasting” drams, in an evening where we sampled blind five different drams with just 2-3 minutes each…

What were my hasty impressions of Dram “E”?

Midleton Dair Ghaelach Batch 1, Tree 9, Bottle 2439 58.2% 

  • Nose – Again such a shift in character from the previous whisky. This one was milky chocolate, creamy, perfume powder, banana with even a dash of coffee
  • Palate – Brash to the point of being almost harsh, spicy with a swagger, then settled into pesto… then sweet spices, even a touch of vanilla
  • Finish – Burn… spicy
  • Character & Complexity – Most variation between the different elements, like a ‘3 in 1’ whisky

This one was quite “hot” and young. It was a bit like a “3 in 1” whisky with its different dimensions.

Midleton distillery produces Jameson, with only a few official bottlings under the Midleton name.  Dair Ghaelach is a single pot still whiskey that was aged initially in refill American oak for between 15 and 22 years and then finished for a year in virgin Irish oak from a single tree.

There are different editions, so what we sampled was different than Jim Murray’s 3rd best whisky in the world for 2016 which was 58.1%, tree not specified. Whereas ours was a different batch from Tree 9 at 58.2%.

However just for kicks, let’s see what Mr Murray had to say about it:

  • Nose (23.5) – A plethora of bourbon-style liquorice and honey – though here, closer to heather honey. Polished oak floors, melt-on-the-nose grain… and so it goes on… and on… and on… An odd hybrid of Kentucky and Irish… but a thoroughbred of course…
  • Taste (25) – That is probably one of the greatest deliveries of the year. Absolutely abounds in pot-still character, both being hard as nails and soft as a virgin’s kiss. But the way it interacts with the ulmo honey/red liquorice/heather-honey-vanilla/embracing grain is something of a once in a lifetime experience. And what’s more, barely a hint of spice throughout…
  • Finish (24) – Just long, gorgeously silky and soft and a delicious furtherance of a spellbinding flavour compounds of before…
  • Balance & overall complexity (24.5) – For heaven’s sake. This is just too ridiculously beautiful… and so unmistakably Irish for all the virgin oak. Truly world class.

What were the other whiskies “Speed Tasted“?

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SMWS “Moonlight night at the beach” 20 year 51.9%

Last in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Moonlight night at the beach” where we finally, firmly entered into the land of peat – Islay style!

29.216 “Moonlight night at the beach” 20 year (26 Nov 1996) 51.9%

Islay, Virgin Oak Hogsead 293 bottles

  • Nose – Well hello peat! Then as it settled in, revealed citrus, summer meadow, bitter ash, sweet then sour, chocolate cinnamon, bitter almond,  then back to ash, shifting between sweet and smoke
  • Palate – First hit of ash, the 2nd sip was pure sweet, further sips found it to be quite chewy, curiously soft and became increasingly gorgeous as it opened, nice, heavy and almost oily
  • Finish – Sweet cinnamon, long and satisfying

The whisky was wonderfully complex. Peaty but not in an overly forceful way – clearly a mature dram.

And with water….

  • Nose – Citrus, lemon drops, orange, embers rather than a raging fire, sweetness, spice
  • Palate – Young cigar, bitter, wet…
  • Finish – More linear but still most enjoyable

And as it continued to open up, took on a delicious maple bacon. Mmm…. bacon…

Of all the whiskies we sampled in our SMWS evening, this one was unmistakable – a clear Laphroaig! Not of the current mass market “hit me over the head peat” but a mature, much more nuanced older style  Laphroaig. And yes – our guess was spot on.

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

The scent made us all feel very cosy and warm; baked chocolate marshmallow apples, a steaming creamy bowl of porridge and gingery plum cake. To taste, crunchy, chewy and crispy skin salmon crackling at first before sweet flavours arrived in the form of honey cured hickory smoked bacon. With water we made a campfire on the beach out of driftwood under a moonlit sky and ate sugar coated fennel seeds and chocolate covered coffee beans both infused with a gentle sweet peat smoke. Nineteen years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, finished in a virgin oak hogshead with a heavy toast and a medium char.

DRINKING TIP: For a walk on the beach at night

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SMWS “Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna” 9 year 64.5%

Next in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna”. Aside from a wee bit of eye rolling at the name, we settled immediately into sampling…

What did we find?

30.94 “Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna” 9 year (6 June 2007) 64.5%

Speyside, 1st fill Spanish Oak ex-sherry butt, 666 bottles

  • Nose – Coconut, leather saddle, thick honey, 70% bitter chocolate, plums, chocolate covered acai berries, marshmallow, biscuits, toffee
  • Palate – Sweet cinnamon spice, bursting with character, quite dry almost like a PX or Madeira, roasted salty nuts, rich, creamy with a bit of chocolate
  • Finish – Holds…. bitter, a bit woody with more of the cinnamon spice

This is a BIG bold whisky with tremendous complexity. Remarkable to have so much going on after only 9 years. It was also incredibly smooth and balanced for such a powerful alcohol strength – hard to imagine we were sipping 64.5%?!?

In short – we loved this one! It hit all the right elements for complexity…. even after opening for over a hour, the nose still held its own with big toffee sweetness, nicely rounded on the palate and a finish with staying power.

As for guessing? Names such as Glendronach, Glenrothes and a few others were tossed about. With the reveal, delighted to discover it was indeed a Glenrothes.

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

We stood at the foot of the volcano; a towering eminence of tightly packed fruitcake and sticky toffee pudding, and gazed up towards the bellowing clouds of pork crackling infused smoke. Climbing onto the back of a giant duck and gripping the leather reins we began our ascent with the spicy smell of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon becoming heavier as we advanced. The ground shook as figs, dates and roasted chestnuts were blasted high into the sky and rivers of molten toffee passed nearby. Sipping export strength navy rum to steady our nerves we bravely continued further towards the summit passing boulders of macadamia nuts, honeycomb and salted chocolate.

DRINKING TIP: Drink whilst reading Tolkien stories to the devil.

What else did we sample in our SMWS evening?

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SMWS “Totally Tastylicious” 15 year 57.8%

Next in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Totally Tastylicious” from Speyside. Naturally it was a full cask strength with the distillery not directly disclosed – known only through its code number.

So did we find it totally tasty??

76.131 “Totally Tastylicious” 15 year (30 Sep 2001) 57.8% 268 bottles

  • Nose – Lots of ripe fruits, figs, citrus lime, mandarin orange, black peppercorns, pine, vanilla and cream, cherries, sweet spices, berries, toffee, egg nog, oak…
  • Palate – Salt water taffy, toffee, coffee and caramel, rich fruits and full-bodied
  • Finish – Spice, nice and long – delicious!
  • Water – Not even tempted to try

The nose was fabulous – it simply kept evolving, shifting and revealing different elements. Initially came across as a juicy sherry, it kept morphing eventually settling into a sweet toffee. And the promise on the nose followed through on the palate – really quite gorgeous which continued to a superb finish.

In short, we found this whisky rather wonderful. And yes… tasty!

Our guess? Perhaps an Aberlour but… when we found out it was Mortlach, made perfect sense!

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

The nose had truckloads of wood and fruit – we identified orange boxes, orange muscat, Madeira molasses cake, Demerara and dried fruits (figs, dates) on polished wood. The palate was just Wow! – juicy, chewy, tangy, fruity, woody and winey – wine gums, plum stones, grilled almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon – and a vigorous nod towards Calvados; liquorice Imps to finish.

Water enhanced the complexity of the nose – orange chocolates, punch-bowl, empty cigar tubes, herbal hedgerows, sherbet, pomanders… The palate – plum, Kirsch, charred wood, toasted cumin seeds – totally tastylicious.

After 14 years in ex-bourbon wood we moved this to a first-fill French oak hogshead.

DRINKING TIP: This is quite different – something to turn to when you need a change.
What else did we sample in our SMWS evening?

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SMWS “Eastern Promise” 14 year 56.8%

First in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Club Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Eastern Promise”. This whisky was selected as a lighter start to our quartet, something to tease the palate awake… and get us in the mood for further delights.

What did we find?

37.85 “Eastern Promise” 14 year (1 Oct 2002) 56.8%

Speyside, Ex-Bourbon Hogsead, 234 bottles

  • Nose – Apple juice, lots of white fruits like pear, a light perfume, talcum powder, gripe water, soft, pink marshmallows, a bit of light heather.. after time was almost chalky with the aromas nearly disappearing. After more time, a bit of lime cordial…
  • Palate – Spice, lightly malty, liquorice, chalk, perhaps a hint of smoke? Quite thin without much weight
  • Finish – Nothing memorable

There was something oddly ‘closed’ or muted about this whisky… resisting opening up hence leaving the impression there should be more to it but we simply couldn’t access.

So we tried adding water…

  • Nose – Initially brought out a light spice, cooked oats almost like a porridge but slightly sour… perhaps more like rice congee? With a drop or two of soya sauce?
  • Palate – A bit of wet mud, almost like compost – like leaves decomposing in a forest after a heavy rain, again that fleeting hint of smoke but quite faint
  • Finish – Still nothing memorable

We tried leaving it to open up further for nearly an hour… and were rewarded with wet mop aromas, sugar water on the palate and a whiff of smoke. Hmmm…

Nope. Sorry. This one didn’t do it for us.

As for guessing? We made a few lacklustre attempts but nothing with any degree of confidence. Turns out it is from the Cragganmore distillery.

As a starter, it certainly succeeded in calibrating our palates to cask strength whiskies. But as a dram, our quest tends towards more complex, weightier whiskies.

But that’s half the fun of whisky explorations – discovering what appeals to your personal palate and what doesn’t.

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

We were transported to a Thai street food market with a never-ending variety of fruits as well as a wide selection of dishes on offer all smelling of exotic spices being cooked right in front of us. The stall we stopped at served barbequed spice-rubbed chicken with a kumquat-lemongrass dressing. We decided to have a plateful of it and the mouthfeel was a delicate balance between sweet and spice with a light smoky finish. After some water we were drawn to aromas of rice noodles, shrimp and scallion rolls which we dipped in a soy and oyster sauce – weird but wonderful!

DRINKING TIP: Open your mind and you open your life
 

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BMC explores a Scotch Malt Whisky Society quartet

Once upon a time there were Bombay, Delhi and Pune chapters of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in India. I’ve certainly come across a few bottles in members homes… and rumour has it there remains stock at Indigo too.

However to have an opportunity to explore over an evening four single cask strength SMWS bottles with our Bombay Malt & Cigar Club? Bring it on!

What all did we sample in our SMWS evening?

The bottles reveal only the region, cask type, alcohol strength and in some cases the age… however for those clever enough to do a simple online search, all is revealed about the distillery codes.

As for what we thought? Tasting notes available by clicking on the links above. I should also note, the sampling order which was spot on in terms of a tasting profile progress from light to sweet to robust and peat!

And our cigar of the evening? An Edward Sahakians private vintage selection 1999. A might fine night it was indeed.

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Ben Nevis 19 year (1996/2016) Cask No 871 45.1%

After two teasing whisky flights of 20 ml each at The Single Cask in Singapore, it was time to have a full and proper dram.

To narrow the choices, I by-passed “smoky” or “sweet” to settle on “salty”… as a contrast to the mostly lighter drams we’d just sampled…

And the choice? A whisky from Ben Nevis distillery bottled by The Single Cask. This distillery joins the lot which were opened then closed and re-opened again – in Ben Nevis case – re-opened in 1991 under the new owners – Nikka.

Ben Nevis 19 year (09.07.1996/16.06.2016) Cask No 871 45.1% Bottle 6 of 68

  • Nose – Salty – not sea breeze but more leather with salty caramel, as it opened up took on a sour curd quality
  • Palate – More chewy, soft spice, character
  • Finish – Bit of smoke and spice, with a nice milk chocolate at the end

A few drops of water brought out the spice and a much longer finish with sweet cinnamon.

Apparently this whisky came from a leaky cask, hence why there were only 68 bottles.

What also makes this out of the ordinary for Ben Nevis is that it was matured in bourbon not sherry casks.

And the best part? It was paired in a truly spectacular fashion with a salty caramel chocolate – locally hand crafted and absolutely the perfect accompaniment!

My earlier whisky flight experiences can be found here:

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Kavalan Solist Peaty Cask 54.8%

In fashion, there is a little something called the “show stopper” which closes all the prancing and posing with panache and much applause. In our NAS whisky night, there was no doubt this Kavalan Solist Peaty Cask was the hit of the night!

Over the years I’ve become a Kavalan convert. From a slightly disappointing start with the Concertmaster I picked up in Taipei to most recently a fantastic quick zip through their full core range at Whisky Live Singapore, there have been a few stunners along the way… particularly from the Solist Sherry Casks.

So when I spotted this Peaty Cask at Singapore airport, it simply had to be acquired and fit perfectly into our original club’s NAS themed evening. What makes it particularly interesting is the spirit isn’t peated… instead the peat comes from a cask that previously held a peaty Islay whisky, bringing a more subtle approach to peat dimension.

Kavalan Peaty Cask No R091214006A Bottle No 043/137 54.8%

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Citrus lemon spice, bitter almond, oranges, apricots, subtle curl of smoke or perhaps a whiff of leather, vanilla
  • Palate – Peat, chocolate, coffee, oily and well-rounded, fruity, cinnamon
  • Finish – Fabulous! Long, lightly peated with a hint of ginger spice

The initial reaction was “Aaah… nice!” Then as we became more acquainted with it, “Oh! Really nice!” which then became “Very very good!” and overall degenerated into “Yummy!!!”

Overall our conclusion that while age plays a role, it is completely possible to have a complex, interesting and worthy dram when the whisky in question is one like this Kavalan.

Here’s what they have to say:

  • Nose – Rich in honey, toffee, bees wax and coconut. With water, more of the classic tropical fruit notes especially golden kiwi comes through. Very delicious and refreshing…
  • Palate – More toffee and butterscotch bring a peaty taste but rather subdued and more earthy than maritime. 
  • Finish – The finish is quite long with peppery notes of red chili. 

It is a perfectly balanced and quite complex – a beautiful whisky!

What else did we try in our NAS evening?

Other Kavalan’s explored include:

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Undisclosed Distilleries – Sansibar Islay Malt 8 year 52.2%

Trips to Singapore since discovering the world of whisky nearly always include a stop at La Maison du Whisky.

Sure there has been a change in staff however when I shared my idea of doing a twist on our usual ‘blind tasting’ approach, Priscilla did a great job…

Sansibar is a new independent whisky bottler out of Germany, on the isle of Sylt, Bad Nenndorf, near the Danish border. They carefully select their Scottish casks, have them bottled then brought over for their (and now our) enjoyment.

It kicked off our underground original Mumbai tasting group’s 6th anniversary. My original plan was to then contrast and compare with the Bombay Cigar & Malt gents  a week later! Except that session kept getting delayed… from Feb.. to March… to April to… ? So decided without further ado to share notes from our 1st tasting experience!

sansibar-islay-8-year

Sansibar Islay Malt Whisky 8 year (2007/2015) 52.2%

Here is what the original underground group found:

  • Nose – A salty lemon citrus twist entangled with muted peat, initially quite fresh, one found it quite ‘pungent’, another was reminded of peppermint drops, then it began to shift into paan, ‘bazooka‘ chewing gum, basil and pine needles. As it continued to open, took on a nutty quality yet overall sweet citrus with a light touch
  • Palate – Nice and chewy – starts with sweet citrus then shifts into cinnamon spice and rounds out with peat
  • Finish – A lovely long finish
  • Water – Unbelievable – water rounds it out even more!

Though we knew it was only 8 years and a steep starter for the evening at 52.2%, found no rough edges and instead a remarkably well rounded whisky. One member speculated it must be matured in re-fill bourbon barrels.

We returned to the Sansibar Islay after sampling the other whiskies and found it took on a much more nutty quality like almond marzipan, lots of cereals, rice milk and concluded, in short, it is simply a wonderful whisky.

While not disclosed on the bottle, I came to know the distillery is Lagavulin. The Lagavulin 16 year was once a familiar friend and I had an opportunity to try the 8 year side by side with this one in Singapore – absolutely no comparison!

The Sansibar Islay comes from a single cask with 330 bottles. If you are lucky enough to stumble across one, grab it!

Standard Lagavulin 8 year:

  • The palate is light in texture, with a magnificently full-on Lagavulin taste that’s even bigger than you may expect; sweet, smoky and warming, with a growing, smoky pungency, then dry, with more smoke.
  • The finish is lovely: clean, very long and smoky. This is a polished and exquisitely crafted celebration of Lagavulin with smoky-clean aromas and a mighty taste.

Krishna Collection – Glenlivet 19 year (1995/2015) 58.1%

India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula shared another dram… this time a Speyside from a well-known distillery – Glenlivet – from independent bottlers Signatory.

glvsig1995v3

Photo: Whisky Exchange

Glenlivet 19 year (30 Oct 1995/9 Sep 2015) 58.1%

CS No 166951, Sherry Butt, Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection 431526. 526 Bottles.

  • Nose – Banana spice, clean, lightly herbal, strong start then bursts into a kaleidescope of colours from tea to bright citrus
  • Palate – Cereals, nutty, tasty and utterly delicious – think toast and marmalade
  • Finish – Back to being clean, yet somehow a little less satisfying

This was one of those whiskies that had a delightful nose, quite enjoyable dram yet had less complexity than the other whiskies sampled on that particular evening. Overall though a fine dram indeed.

Others from the 2015 collection:

Other whiskies sampled with Krishna include:

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