North Star Discovery – Islay 8 year 58.3%

Last in our North Star trio was a whisky from its 2nd series simply named “Islay”. We sampled it blind and were floored by the reveal with an introduction to a new independent bottler who certainly seems to be bringing quality and value to his selections.

Islay 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles

  • Nose – A sour peat… dare I say it… almost headache inducing? Certainly highly medicinal. Which then slipped into ham, pineapple, mellow with a very different character than how it began, lemon tart, musk melon, some spice… shifted again this time into smoked sweet grass, green coffee beans, cut hay, quite vegetal, dry forrest
  • Palate – Starts exceedingly smooth then SPICE. Had a phenolic Islay style sweet peat not the palate with smoked pepper ham, with more fruits like grilled pineapple and apricot
  • Finish – Sweet, slightly briney and ends with something we couldn’t quite name… after going on and on and on…..
  • Water – Wow! What a difference! It really brought out the best qualities – the nose took on a peak smoke with dark chocolate and cherries, the palate augmented the sweet peat with a berry dimension and the finish then revealed beneath the salty sweet ash a light citrus sweet

As the last of our trio, we joked that perhaps the theme of the evening was spice, sweet and slow things down as each whisky took its time to fully reveal  its character.

Our talk turned to speculate the origins of this dram. For all it was sufficiently distinctively Islay to fall in that camp. But which one? We veered towards Caol Ila which, though not actually stated by the bottler, may very well be the case.

The extra fruitiness that emerged behind the peat made sense once I learned the whisky was finished in a pair of ex-sherry octave casks.

And what about the official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Medicinal, peat smoke & dark chocolate
  • Palate: Sweet peat, delicate sherry notes
  • Finish: Subtle ash, citrus & peppery peat smoke

Interestingly our findings were most aligned with the official tasting notes with water. And certainly we would highly recommend adding some generous drops to bring out the best in this whisky.

What were we fortunate to sample in our introductory North Star Trilogy?

Before it sold out, you could find it through Master of Malt for approximately £75.

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North Star Discovery – Ardmore Peat 8 year 58.7%

Next up in our North Star Discovery was another from their inaugural series… this time from Ardmore. We’ve not come across much Ardmore in our whisky explorations – my only brush has been a speed sniff and swish of the Ardmore 1997 45% (G&MP).  at Whisky Live Singapore at the Gordon & MacPhail booth.

Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 58.7% 1 of 198 bottles

  • Nose – PEAT, oily, sulfer, soapy, capsules… like walking into a doctor’s or chemist shop, iodine, steam engine, musty… then started to shift character revealing waves and waves of cinnamon, plums, mosambi juice, dark juicy fruits, black cherry, cinnamon apple juice, sour cherries…. kept evolving shifting from fruits to a slightly oily soot, like sacred ash, then a bit lactic, old flowers like malas after a day or so… then dark chocolate… and yet another element revealing such a delicious BBQ honey bacon, lots of smoked meats, light tar… followed by coffee, creamy yoghurt… an absolutely unbelievable nose
  • Palate – Sweet roaring spice, lots of sweet peat, stewed chewy fruits, then sweet meats and BBQ. Has good body, lots of character, oodles of spice yet still beautifully balanced between all the elements.
  • Finish – Chocolate cinnamon with a slight orange zest with a “hold” that really stays… dry
  • Water – Brilliant with! Becomes so sweet, lovely honey bacon with a mandarin perfume twist on the nose, silky smooth with a lovely rolling cinnamon sweet on the palate and fantastic finish.

We began to speculate, while it clearly had peat, we thought it wasn’t an obvious Islay dram, yet still likely Scottish. It has a gentle peat quality, pronounced, firmly there but with a subtle hand.

Thinking about the cask, we wondered about french oak? Something that gives a good kick like the way the virgin oak does for Spice Tree.

Again we guessed cask strength and absolutely loved the way water gave it even more “something.”

One remarked that it was a bit “naughty” in the nicest possible way…

Could any of us pick out that it was Ardmore! Not a chance… and that too from a new independent bottler? Impossible.

Which made the reveal all the more enjoyable.

And what about the official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Delicate peat, smoked meats & iodine
  • Palate: Sweet fruit juices & smoke from a BBQ
  • Finish: A great balance of savoury, smoke & chocolate orange

What were we fortunate to sample in our introductory North Star Trilogy?

Unfortunately North Star bottles fly off the online “shelves” quickly!

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TWE Cask Strength – Ledaig 12 year (2004) 58.1%

Last in our TWE Cask Strength evening was a Ledaig from Tobermoray‘s distillery on the isle of Mull. Ledaig, pronounced ‘Let-chick’, uses peated malted barley.

There are no official tasting notes available however this particular bottle was personally recommended by TWE’s owner Sukhinder Singh and an easy pick given how much I’ve enjoyed Ledaig’s sampled til date.

Ledaig 12 year (5 Feb 2004/29 Aug 2016) Cask 1030, 327 Bottles 58.1% (SMSW)

What did the ladies think?

  • Nose – We were immediately greeted with peat, then brine – making us imagine sea swept coasts, there was a wildness to it, stormy weather and bold character… even as it opened revealing marmite, fruit, apple pear, herbs and more with even a hint of heather, it retained a robust quality
  • Palate – One spoke of fresh oysters, another of steak tartare, the herbal quality on the nose followed through on the palate, there was also a lovely cinnamon spice with black pepper, yet all combined in a very smooth, balanced dram
  • Finish – Such a long finish, continuing to reward with peat and sweet spice with that slightly salty briney dimension too

If the Glen Moray was a bright spring morning, and the Arran a hot summers day, then the Ledaig was a wind lashing, rainy cool winter evening.

I’ve enjoyed Ledaig’s bold peaty character before yet this was clearly a top notch cask – remarkably silky smooth and clean with no harsh or brash qualities even at full cask strength. No need to add water but also lovely with too.

A 12-year-old Ledaig, the peated whisky from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, from The Single Malts Of Scotland. This was distilled in 2004 and bottled in August 2016 from a hogshead. I picked it up from The Whisky Exchange in London in June 2017, under the owner Sukhinder Singh’s guidance for GBP 64. It was opened from a fresh bottle in July 2017.

What else did we sample in our single cask, cask strength evening?

Each whisky sampled that evening was unique, quality and well worth sampling.

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TWE Cask Strength – Arran 14 year 55.5%

Next in our The Whisky Exchange Single Cask Strength evening was another Island whisky – this time from Arran distillery on the isle of Arran. This isn’t my 1st Arran sample and I’ve quite enjoyed what I’ve tried so far…. particularly both cask finishes – AmaronePort.

This particular bottle was personally recommended by TWE’s owner Sukhinder Singh for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai as an affordable whisky that is an excellent example of Arran’s style.

Arran 14 year (16 Dec 2000/7 Aug 2015) Barrel 2000/1106 Bottle 185 of 197 55.5% (TWE)

What did the ladies think?

  • Nose – We immediately noticed it has more “oomph!” than the Glen Moray, toasty, almost musty initially, then warm maple syrup, rum raisins, shifting into something pungent, an earthy yeasty quality, like wet fall leaves, some cinnamon and cloves, resin…
  • Palate – Wow! Cinnamon spice – both paprika and black pepper. There was no doubt this was a full on cask strength whisky.
  • Finish – Honey sweet, bourbon, spice, a bit unbalanced initially

There was initially a mixed reaction. Many of have had quite positive experiences with Arran so had high expectations which were not initially met.

But then as we discussed and debated, a funny thing happened. That whisky sitting in our glasses with a little patience began to open up. Making the doubters into converts who warmed up to the whisky as it warmed up to us, revealing apricots, chocolate, apple sauce, and an almost minty freshness.

Some added water whereas some did not. Which was a better option came down to personal preference with more leaning to without.

Bottom line is give this one time and it will reward you with a beautiful, fruity, balanced dram that is both rich, robust and complex. Well worth being just a bit patient.

The bottle provides succinct tasting notes of:

This single-bourbon-cask Arran whisky selected by The Whisky Exchange is loaded with aromas of pear drops, apple crumble and ripe peaches. The mouthfeel is full and rich, with brioche buns, a touch of lemon zest and manuka honey.

Rocky from the Whisky Exchange has this to say:

  • Nose: Complex nose with notes of spicy vanilla and cinnamon, coconut, honey and tropical mango and guava.
  • Palate: Warming and spicy at first with clove and black pepper prominent. Then the sweetness and the fruit start to come to the fore: honey, mango, pineapple and apricot.
  • Finish: Lightly sweet with honey and tropical fruit overtaken again by the spice.
  • Comment: Arran’s history began by bottling lots of single casks, and this is another example of a great one from the distillery. Classic Arran fruitiness, but with lots of spice – a complex and rewarding whisky.

This whisky was purchased at The Whisky Exchange in London in June 2017, under the owner Sukhinder Singh’s guidance for GBP 65. It was opened from a fresh bottle in July 2018.

What else did we sample in our Sukhinder Singh’s cask strength evening?

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TWE Cask Strength – Glen Moray 8 year 57.8%

To kick off our trio personally selected by The Whisky Exchange’s owner Sukhinder Singh for our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai as affordable, quality whiskies, each representative of their distillery’s style.

Glen Moray is not on most of our merry Mumbai malters top hits list… in part as they tend towards affordable NAS whiskies with finishes… It also isn’t so often you will come across a cask strength avatar either… so we were primed to dive in and discover!

And were rewarded by a rather marvellous most enjoyable malt.

Glen Moray 8 years 57.8% 251 Bottles

What did the ladies think?

  • Nose – Is that bubblegum? Loads of pear, even that hybrid apple snow pear, the perfume of flowers, vanilla, lavender, crisp and crunchy apples, then shifts into baked apple pie and ice cream
  • Palate – 1st sip at cask strength was fire and heat. The it shifted into cinnamon and chilli… with  water it was transformed into a yummy baked delight, pure desert
  • Finish – A delicious fresh fennel or pastise element, then lightly bitter with a citrus twist
  • Water – An absolute must for this dram. All the spice morphs into a very tasty, fruity, honeyed whisky, soft and gentle, smooth and inviting with just the right balance of fruit, flowers, a light touch of sweet spices

Overall we loved it. With water it took us to our “happy place”, nice and relaxing. Something to sit, sip, enjoy with friends or solo. An eminently approachable and enjoyable whisky.

Here is what Billy Abbott at The Whisky Exchange had to say:

  • Nose: Candied lemon peel and lemon jelly are backed up by biscuity grain, soft spice and vanilla cream.
  • Palate: Lemon zest, vanilla toffee and butterscotch to start, with citrus building on the tongue. Lemon sherbet sparkles before darker notes of chocolate and liquorice roll in, along with clove and dark spice notes.
  • Finish: Dark and spicy, slowly lifting to reveal dried lemon peel and freshly milled malt.
  • Comment: Youthful and zesty, with an excellent balance of spirit and cask character.

Did we agree? Overall yes. What we unanimously agreed is this was one fine dram, most enjoyable.

What else did we sample in our TWE cask strength evening?

  • Ledaig 12 year (5 Feb 2004/29 Aug 2016) Cask 1030, 327 Bottles 58.1% (SMSW)
  • Arran 14 year (16 Dec 2000/7 Aug 2015) Barrel 2000/1106 Bottle 185/197 55.5% (TWE)

This whisky was purchased at The Whisky Exchange in London in June 2017, under the owner Sukhinder Singh’s guidance for a mere GBP 46. It was opened from a fresh bottle on July 2018.

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Whisky Ladies TWE Cask Strength Night – Glen Moray, Arran, Ledaig

This was not our first evening devoted to high alcohol strength whiskies… Last time, our Diwali celebration featured Glenfarclas 105 60%, Chichibu 2009 63.1%, A’bunadh 35 (2011) 60.3% and we’ve certainly sampled other Cask Strength drams including our Bruichladdich peat progression session.

So what made this session distinctive? This time our selection had a decidedly independent bent, all purchased through The Whisky Exchange in June 2017, personally recommended by Sukhinder Singh as affordable quality drams:

  • Glen Moray 8 year 57.8% 251 Bottles (SMSW)
  • Arran 14 year (16 Dec 2000/7 Aug 2015) Barrel 2000/1106 Bottle 185/197 55.5% (TWE)
  • Ledaig 12 year (5 Feb 2004/29 Aug 2016) Cask 1030, 327 Bottles 58.1% (SMSW)

What did the ladies think? Read on over the next few days…

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Bruichladdich PC 12 year 61.1% (Blackadder Raw Cask)

We have another Blackadder Raw Cask whisky… this time from Bruichladdich… or rather more specifically from Port Charlotte.

Port Charlotte 12 year Sherry Cask No 622 (July 2003 / May 2016) 61.1% Blackadder Raw Cask range. Bottle 209/284

  • Nose – Chocolate, dark fruits, what do you want! Smoke, peat, sherry, peppers, earthy, mineral
  • Palate – Outstanding – beyond connoisseur quality, sacred ash, spice, a 3-D fullness, fruits… from orange to dark berries, dry with just the right balance between spice, sweet and a chaser of peat.
  • Finish – Holds, spice, green capsicum, a bourbonesque close… also marvellous
  • Water – Please do! Then wine notes are revealed, much sweeter, brought out the peat, dampened the spice, lots of gorgeous dark fruits, delicious

Had the best qualities of a brash youngster yet the complexity of a more seasoned character. This was clearly no ordinary Port Charlotte… and one we felt privileged to try.

With a bit more patience, it took on an even spicier character – like biting into a green chillies vs our normal experience where spices tame and get subdued over time. I truly wished we had more to try as had the sense that it would have kept evolving and revealing even more dimensions.

It certainly re-sparked by interest in exploring more from Bruichladdich… and Port Charlotte specifically… Here are just a few tried til date:

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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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