The Vault Fine Spirits trio at KODE

Sometimes you have an opportunity to re-discover familiar drams in a completely different setting familiar friends…

That is exactly what happened one fine evening many months ago in Mumbai at KODE with Keshav Prakash featuring a trio from The Vault Fine Spirits Collection.

We began with a distinctly light then shifted gears completely to peat and closed with a sherry sweet. No serious tasting notes as this was purely an evening to quaff and enjoy with others who appreciate a good dram.

Other Vault whiskies normally found at KODE include:

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Introducing “The Story of the Spaniard” from Compass Box

Sometimes a treat comes to town… this time in the form of the newly launched Compass Box “The Story of the Spaniard” whisky!

Compass Box announced this will join their core range, likely with some variation on a sherry theme in future editions – yet all blends will be anchored by Spanish casks – be it sherry wine or a sherry-like wine.

So what did we find in our introduction to this latest Compass Box blend?

Photo from compassboxwhisky.com

The Story of the Spaniard 43%

  • Nose – Lemon, citrus, anise, subtle, clean, then reveals darker fruits, a hint of  cherries under a bright spice
  • Palate – Spice, initially gives a sense of being a bit brash and young, then on second sip, reveals a delicate balance, warm sweet spices, something a bit deeper almost resinous… Sip again and that spice comes roaring to the fore… and then again it is subdued…
  • Finish – Warming spice

In our first brush with the Spaniard, none of us were tempted to add water. However I was fortunate a bit remained with an opportunity to revisit another day… This time also sampling with a large round cube of ice, slowly melting into the whisky.

Transformed! While normally my default sipping style is need or with a few drops of water, for The Spaniard, I would suggest also trying with a bit of ice. In this second foray, I found:

  • Nose – Retains the citrus yet shifts to more of a mandarin orange and a hint of hazelnut, more dark red wine than typical Christmasy sherry notes
  • Palate – A delight. The wine-like quality emerges more, with some tannins and a light bitterness, with a sweet citrus twist
  • Finish – The bitterness remains with sweet spices

Like all Compass Box blends, the details are disclosed – including that it is not chill filtered and natural colour. For the first release, the recipe is:

  • 40% was aged in 1st fill Sherry butt using a malt whisky near Aberlour
  • 25% in ex-Spanish red wine casks with malt whisky from Teaninich
  • 15% highland blend (Clynelish, Dailuaine, Teaninich) further matured in hybrid french oak cask with a heavy toast
  • Then a combination of 8% refill sherry butt and 7% refills hogshead from Deanston, 5% re-charred barrels with malt from Glen Elgin.

CompassBoxWhisky.com

And what do the folks at Compass Box have say about it?

You will find a whisky that is full, soft and sumptuous on the palate with flavours of citrus peel and pears poached in red wine and spices. It’s a whisky ideal for late evening sipping or stirring into a cocktail.

Worth trying? Absolutely!

And for those curious to track it down, I understand it should be available in India shortly through The Vault Fine Spirits.

Other Compass Box core range?

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A Phenomenon Revisited – Compass Box Phenomenology 46%

Compass Box’s Phenomenology is one of those whiskies that is both phenomenal and a phenomenon. I have yet to encounter a whisky that provokes such a range of reactions – with highly individual perceptions.

I first had it with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents back in February 2018. Where our host very generously asked if I would like to take the bottle home to share with others. Would I?? Oh yes indeed!

And the perfect evening presented itself in June 2018 with the Whisky Ladies. We were a lovely small group and after our Highland Hijinks trio, our evening didn’t seem quite finished…

Enter Phenomenology…

And what a remarkable experience it was. Just to give a feel for the contrasting responses, I’ve deliberately kept them separated by speaker for the nose… read, discover and see if this possibly could be the same whisky!

Just a sampling of the aromas different ladies found are noted below:

  • Floral, lots of jasmine, honeysuckle, perfume
  • Almond, like Amaretto, shrewsbury biscuits
  • Citrus, salt, melon or more precisely cantaloupe, a licorice saunf and surprisingly sharp
  • Almond, dum biryani
  • Salted caramel, toffee, rhubarb, orange rind, musk, tobacco leaf
  • A kaleidoscope of aromas, fresh green apples, french vanilla, pure dessert, icing sugar powder, blue cheese, toasted rice, yoghurt

As for the rest, our combined experience was:

  • Palate – A light hint of peat, great “teeth”, whiff of skunk, cedar plank with salmon, sage, had a great mouthfeel, light spice
  • Finish – Citrus and floral, mild spice, black cardamom

To say we loved it was an understatement. It was complex, challenging, sparked conversation. And not only did we each find largely quite different aspects, even individual women found multiple elements too… this was no one-dimensional dram. No siree!

Above all – how could such contrasting characters emerge from the same whisky?

Here is where the folks at Compass Box excel, they share their secrets, telling the world exactly what goes into the bottle so one can attempt to dissect, deconstruct, discover and above all learn and be inspired…

What is fascinating is the bulk of this blend comes from Glenlossie – a distillery I’ve yet to try as a single malt and has no specific official bottles outside of Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range. Yet its been around since 1876 quietly producing whisky for blends.

And what does it add to Phenomenology?

  • 72% total liquid volume with a malt whisky matured in re-charred hogshead
  • And what does it add in terms of its flavour profile? Fresh, Fruity, Apples
Next up? Tamdhu with 24.5% matured in first fill bourbon cask adding Caramel, Oak, Spice. In this case, one I’ve tried but long ago and not at a time when I took any tasting notes, which means I have no particularly memory.
And the last 3? A split between rather familiar distilleries:
  • Highland Park with 2% matured in re-charred hogshead bringing burnt butter, bonfires, tar
  • Talisker with 1% matured in refill butt adding salty, coastal, brine dimensions
  • Caol Ila with a mere 0.5% matured in a hogshead throwing marshmallow, vanilla and sweet smoke into the equation
With this knowledge, do we understand more? Perhaps. And yet the proof is in the pudding so to speak… the way in which the whiskies were blended in such a masterful way to produce something unique and quixotic. And well worth revisiting.
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Vault Collection – Spice Tree 46%

Last in our original club’s “The Vault Collection” trio was a a Compass Box blend. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 3​: Compass Box Spice Tree 46% | Non-Chill Filtered & Natural Colour

  • Color: Pale Gold
  • Nose: Boiled confectionery, a little varnish, lemon citrus. Then very quickly a lot of cloves and nutmeg. Notes of walnuts, apples, orange rind and ginger follow. Almost perfumey.
  • Palate: Gorgeous mouthfeel. Lovely arrival with a bouquet of spices and vanilla. Warm bread pudding. Follows the nose very closely. Oily and waxy. Some old leather, pencil shavings and that ginger from the nose. I did get just a wee hint of smoke. Again, nicely balanced.
  • Finish: Medium with lingering spices. A perfect after dinner dram on a cold night.

The “reveal”…

We couldn’t place this one even though most of us have had it in the past. That’s the beauty of blind tastings. You think you know your whisky but blind tasting is such a leveller. The reveal surprised us. Compass Box Spice Tree. Enough and more has been said about Compass Box and Spice Tree in the past so I will not repeat myself but instead I urge you to pour yourself a dram and enjoy this expression. Sláinte!

Official notes:

Big, sweet aromas of clove, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. The palate is full, round and sweet, with the spice and vanilla complementing the core distillery characters and leaving a long finish.

The Vault Collection trio:

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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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Compass Box Quartet! (suggestion morphs into voluntTOLD)

A certain word has entered our vocabulary – “Voluntold” – where one is rather enthusiastically volunteered for an activity or responsibility… accompanied by a fairly heavy undercurrent of being “told” to step up and “volunteer”….

Original credit goes to a dear friend from Winnipeg who “voluntold” her husband to be the official photographer at our wedding. Given he’s both a brilliant filmmaker and photographer, the results were spectacular, very welcome and the best possible gift!

Since then it has stuck.

And with some marvellous applications… including a recent innocent and offhand “suggestion” to a fellow whisky aficionado for an upcoming Bombay Malt & Cigar whisky session, which somehow slipped into a “voluntold” interpretation to acquire from La Maison du Whisky in Singapore.

And the results? A quite interesting quartet of Compass Box blends…

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet

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Compass Box – No Name 48.9%

Last in our Compass Box quartet was “No Name”…. in a black as sin bottle, a neck dripping in tar like wax… And what did we discover?

No Name 48.9%

  • Nose – Our immediate reaction? Who needs a cigar with a whisky like this! Smoke was in your face, campfires burning, sweet, charcoal, burnt leaf, acrid, tar…. yet still an underlying sweet
  • Palate – Sweet, almost too much sweet, more cigar, spice, bitter and dry, one even remarked “its like burnt plastic” chased by dark fruits
  • Finish – Bitter
  • Water – The verdict was out whether it helps or harms

This is no easy whisky. And for our resident sherry aficionado, it was the complete opposite of the kind of whisky he would chose. Even those who enjoy a good peaty dram found it a bit much. Clearly it is unique, and one cannot ignore it… but it is certainly not for everyone.

And what do the folks at Compass Box have to say?

For this our peatiest whisky yet, we have decided on No Name. The idea for this limited edition was sparked by the discovery of a parcel of casks of mature, heavy-peated single malt whisky from a well-known distillery located along Pier Road, in the Southeast of the island of Islay.

Even peatier than our whisky called ‘The Peat Monster’ – the staple peated Blended Malt Scotch Whisky in the Compass Box range – the resulting blend is massive in terms of the intensity and complexity of flavour; a whisky brimming with complex peatiness, but tempered with hints of fruit character and an underlying sweetness.

Flavour Descriptors A bonfire-like smokiness on the nose with a peatiness that is by turns tarry and medicinal with hints of autumn leaves. A powerful smokiness and peatiness follow, accented by hints of ripe cherries, plums and spice.

Recommendations This is a whisky for slow sipping either neat, with a splash of water or with an ice cube, which will reveal the layers of massive complexity this whisky offers as the whisky very slowly dilutes.

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet:

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Compass Box – Phenomenology 46%

Next in our Compass Box quartet explorations was a true conversation starter… every element had something different to deliver.

Phenomenology 46%

  • Nose – Did this whisky really start off with a faint whiff of eau du detergent?? Then apple juice, slightly sour… however the aromas were exceedingly shy… taking effort to tease out… A bit of talcum powder, then finally as it began to open up some light spice, coffee, vanilla custard, toffee
  • Palate – Holy toledo! What a contrast. An absolutely awesome whisky… so smooth on the tongue almost soft initially then explodes into spicy sweetness… fruity, cracked black pepper, all in a velvety coating with a puff of smoke
  • Finish – Deceptive… highly deceptive… as it is very long yet at a whisper not a roaring spice

There was no mistaking this is a complicated and contradictory whisky – a nose which is almost elusive in character initially. Then a palate that made an extraordinary arc from subtle and nuanced to needle sharp spice. Even the finish provoked a debate – some suggesting it was remarkable by its absence and equally strong opinions it was there if only one tuned in to its quiet frequency.

Well named and well constructed to be discordant yet harmonious too.

And what do the folks at Compass Box have to say?

We’d long been working on a blend of single malts that combines seemingly dissonant flavour profiles, but together creates something compelling. We landed on a recipe that elicited a surprising range of reactions and descriptions, each person taking away something different from the whisky.

Rather than try to settle on whose perceptions were ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, we were inspired by the phenomenological school of thought to consider how different people experience the same phenomenon.

Flavour Descriptors Aromas and flavours reminiscent of berry fruits, baked apples and hints of banana, with a delicate peaty-smokiness that follows and resonates in the long finish.

Recommendations This is an ideal whisky for sipping and contemplating on its own, or with a splash of water or an ice cube which will reveal subtle complexities.

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet:

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Compass Box – The Double Single 46%

Next up in our Compass Box quartet was The Double Single, named for it bringing together one single grain whisky (Girvan) and one single malt whisky (Glen Elgin)… with the idea that bringing them together elements beyond the sum of their parts.

And what did we think?

The Double Single 46%

  • Nose – Initial hit of varnish, has heft, sharp, then shifted into blood oranges, then green apples with a tartness, spice like paprika, cloves, cinnamon, marmalade sweetness, vanilla sponge cake, icing super, dancing around… after some time, took on a musty sweetness
  • Palate – “My god its complex!” Chilli flakes, sweet chilli spice, silky smooth, coats then spices flare gently, no question it is robust, complex with different elements playing counter point to each other
  • Finish – Very sweet with an interesting contrast to the palate

For one, on the nose it reminded of Mr Kipling’s “French Fancies”. And what a remarkable palate. It was without a doubt the preferred whisky to accompany a good cigar. In short, we loved it!

And what do the folks at Compass Box have to say?

Flavour Descriptors  In The Double Single we have combined single malt whisky from the Glen Elgin distillery and single grain whisky from the Girvan distillery. The elegantly complex, ethereal malt whisky character is balanced on a decadent cushion of rich, sweet, vanilla-tinged grain whisky character.

Recommendations The combination is a deeply satisfying yet versatile whisky, perfect served as a rich aperitif before a winter’s dinner, or as a rewarding post-prandial any time of year.

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet:

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Compass Box – Whisky de Table 40%

First up in our Compass Box quartet was a chilled bottle of Whisky de Table, blended for La Maison du Whisky to enjoy like a glass of wine with dinner. So what did we think?

Whisky de Table 40% for La Maison du Whisky

  • Nose – Bursting with fruity grains, sharp honey, citrus, bright, cheerful, dried limes and wild flowers
  • Palate – More weight than anticipated based on the nose, lightly herbal, a bit of smoke. 2nd sip was pure sugar, spice, very sippable…
  • Finish – Not much of a finish, just short and sweet
  • Ice – We skipped water and went straight to a few cubes of ice… which brought out green lime cordial, very sweet
  • After time… really started to shift into an orange oil essence, quite enjoyable

The initial impression taking a whiff even before pouring was “It’s a Sauvignon Blanc!” And on the first sip, it was an exclaim of “Very drinkable whisky.”

For some, the nose was more interesting than the palate. More than one remarked on how much it reminded them of sipping on a crisp bottle of white wine.

While not complex, chilled it is refreshing, enjoyable and far too easy to drink… exactly what one would want in a whisky with a light repast.

What more do we know about this whisky? It is a blend of Clyneslish, Caol Ila, Benrinnes and Linkwood, aged in American oak barrels from Buffalo Trace.

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet

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