Flora and Fauna – Strathmill 12 year 43%

Last in our Whisky Ladies European Chapter comes a Strathmill, part of Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range. To the best of my knowledge, this would be my 2nd brush with Strathmill – the earlier being a 21 year mini bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company.

What did we think of their official bottling?

Strathmill

Strathmill 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Toffee, meadows, over ripe fruits, figs, dried apricot, fresh pudina (mint), coriander, anis seed, perhaps even onion seed like nigela or ajwain. There was something a bit salty, nutty, fruit leather
  • Palate – Not as sweet as anticipated from the aromas, spicier than expected, an oaky woodiness… then flat…
  • Finish – Was there?

We puzzled a bit with this one. Our initial impression was that it was a bit too watered down. However what it really needed was time. As we sat debating, trying to discern more… it took on more and more substance, revealing some chocolate, even a leather and spice… a nice fruitiness came forward and we found to our surprise it was not at all ‘dull’ anymore! Far from it… instead there were delicate but discernible dimensions worth waiting for… and even a nice light chocolate buttery finish. Where was that hiding initially?

I dug out the notes from my earlier experience with the Strathmill 21 year and it rang true this time as well!

“Don’t be tempted to dismiss this whisky as a lightweight… As we continued to sip, it vacillated between cheerful and a deeper character…”

What do the folks at Diageo have to say?

A smooth, easy-drinking all-rounder with a good balance of sweet and dry notes and a medium-long finish. This 12-year-old single malt whisky is surprisingly rich and sherried with notes of cooked fruits, spices, and chocolate. Serving Suggestion: Strathmill works best served in a traditional whisky glass, neat or with a little water

  • Appearance – Pale gold.
  • Body – Smooth, with a medium body.
  • Nose – Light prickle. A closed nose at full strength. A hint of ‘Café Noir’ biscuits. With water, solvent, sweet and minty at first. Light and creamy, becoming darker. Chocolate-chip, mint ice cream, then Toblerone. Roasted peanuts and their skins. Remains pleasantly clean. Dried parsley and moss.
  • Palate – Sweet start. Some acidity.
  • Finish – A medium-length, dry finish. Chocolaty aftertaste.

In our first Flora & Fauna evening, we also sampled:

With more to come…

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Flora and Fauna – Mannochmore 12 year 43%

Our 1st 2021 Whisky Ladies European Chapter comes thanks to a Diageo connection with careful selection from their Flora and Fauna range.

For some reason I’ve gravitated towards Mannochmore in the last year or so… likely influenced by the rather marvellous Gordon & MacPhail 25 year cask strength sampled at Berlin’s Union Jack and most recently a Chorlton cask strength 12 year.

So I was rather curious to see how it would hold up in an official bottling at a mere 43%…

Mannochmore 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Bournvita and vegemite, then sweet sweet honey, shifting even into honeysuckle flowers, crisp green apples, pears, then fresh cut grass, then a hint of prunes… it kept shifting between more vegetal lightly salty elements and fruity flowery, fresh and green
  • Palate – Interesting – not at all what we expected from the aromas. It was surprisingly well rounded, had a kind of mineral substance, a dash of salt, some wood and light spice, yet as we sipped, it started to become more and more in harmony with the aromas
  • Finish – Initially herbal, anise

We paused… hmm… gave it some consideration. It comes across as ‘easy drinking’ and yet at the same time there is a classical yet whimsical element too. Backed up by quiet strength. Is it massively complex? No. But it is interesting. And has a kind of classic Speyside nod with just enough maturity to not be completely dismissed as a ‘light weight’.

We set it aside to try the others and returned to be pleasantly surprised. It kept is character. If anything it was even fruitier, remained rounded and tasty… not such a bad dram at all.

Bottom line – we liked it!

What do the folks at Diageo have to say?

Surprisingly clean, dry, and refreshingly direct. Mannochmore makes a good aperitif with its light, grassy and herbal notes.

  • Appearance – Pale gold or white wine.
  • Body – Light to medium in body, like a fine wine.
  • Nose – The first impression is sweet and lightly malty, then some aldehydic (green sticks) notes emerge and a slight whiff of brimstone. After a while, the green notes become green apples, and the sulphur notes more like carbon monoxide. With water, similar to the unreduced nose: fresh-fruity, with traces of ‘Spangles’ and acid drops, and still a hint of sulphur compounds in the background. Somewhat ‘monochromatic’ for a Speyside.
  • Palate – Fresh and clean – appetising with good acidity and a well-balanced dryness overall.
  • Finish – Surprisingly dry in the finish for a Speyside.

Would we agree? In truth we didn’t get the sulphur but the balance rang more or less ‘true.’   

In our first Flora & Fauna evening, we also sampled:

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

Flora and Fauna – Teaninich 10 year 43%

This was my 2nd brush with Teaninich distillery. Just a few months earlier in London I’d sampled a Teaninich 11 year mini from That Boutique-y Whisky Company. I wasn’t massively impressed, but also could appreciate it was but one brief brush.

What did we think of the official bottling?

Teaninich 10 year 43%

  • Nose – Started off fruity – think fresh apricot… which gradually gave way to a sweet sponge cake with vanilla, a bit of lemony citrus, loads of honey… which then shifted further into an orange cinnamon followed by an aroma that was a bit ‘leafy’ or even herbal
  • Palate – Say waaay? It was a complete contrast and the best we could come up with was an oddly ‘petrol’ like burn. Even when it revealed a light spice – mostly cinnamon with some nutmeg – that curious petrol quality remained.
  • Finish – Initially a bit ‘shy’ or limited on the finish, here is where that autumnal leafy moss-like element was most pronounced

While we knew it was already quite ‘diluted’ by some standards, bravely thought to experiment further and try with a few drops of water – just to see what affect it had.

The fruitiness returned with a bit of nutty batter and sweet on the nose, however the palate? Less petrol but became completely nondescript.

Overall we found this whisky curiously imbalanced. Something that perhaps combined would bring an important element to the equation, but on its own? Meh..

We set it aside and carried on tasting the other two. And then returned to see how it fared?

Ignoring the slightly watered down version, the original glass rewarded us with a lovely toffee vanilla, even pineapple, infinitely sweeter and much more enjoyable on the palate than our 1st sampling… even more remarkable – it held up well. And no petrol. Curious.

While the bottle notes indicated something a bit different, I was able to track down these insights from the folks at Diageo…. here’s what they had to say

A well rounded Highland single malt whisky with light salty flavours making a fine apéritif. A crisp, dry and appetising malt that starts fresh and orange-sweet with a long and dry finish.

  • Appearance – Mid gold, almost buttery.
  • Body – Light to medium body, crisp and mouth-cleansing.
  • Nose – The first impression is fresh and citric (oranges and lemons), with a background scent of violets, which rises then falls. It is replaced by concentrated orange juice and old oranges. There are some very light cereal notes (cornflakes?) in the background. The overall impression is clean and appetising. Softens and dulcifies when water is added. Becomes more scented – clover flowers – but still upon a base of orange juice. There is also a whiff of beeswax.
  • Palate – Light and sweetish, but overall dry with pleasant acidity and even a pinch of salt.
  • Finish – Long and dry. The beeswax returns in the aftertaste.

What else did we try that evening from the Flora and Fauna range?

With more to come…

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

A foray into the Flora and Fauna range

Our 1st 2021 Whisky Ladies European Chapter comes thanks to a Diageo connection with careful selection from their Flora and Fauna range.

For those not familiar, the range was introduced in the 1990s to make accessible lesser-known distilleries which typically do not have official single malt bottles as their liquid is instead providing the backbone of blends. Most are available at 43% – a hint above the minimum and mass production strength of 40% but not into the slightly stronger so-called connoisseur’s preferred strength of 46%. Most also are reasonably affordable… depending on where you purchase.

What goodies did our lovely virtual host buy for us?

We chose to split our sampling into two evenings:

  • One late January 2021 combing Paris and Mumbai with the Teaninich, Mannochmore and Strathmill
  • A second bringing together France and Germany featuring the Linkwood, Inchgower and Auchroisk

Please be a wee bit patient as we share our impressions with you in the coming weeks or so!

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Additionally, there are the two ‘off-shoots’ with:

That Boutique-y Whisky Co – Dailuaine 15 Year (2018) 47.5%

For our That Boutique-y Whisky Co samples from Master of Malt, we deliberately focused on distilleries not yet sampled in their single malt avatar.

We began with a whisky from Speyside – Dailuaine. Part of Diageo stable, it is rarely seen outside blends… in 2005, it seems only 2% of the distillery’s output was bottled as a single malt.

Fast forward a bit and Diageo finally did a “Flora and Fauna” bottling, describing it as:

Sweet, nutty and rich.. This is not just an after dinner dram, it’s an after-dinner mood in a liquid. Thick, rich yet pleasantly, palate-cleansingly sweet. Try Dailuaine whisky with the cheese course, or just nose the cheese rind, fruit and citrus aromas hidden in its depths.

What did we think of our TBWC sample?

Dailuaine 15 year (May 2018) 47.5% Batch 2, 950 bottles

  • Nose – It initially came across as young and fruity, dripping in honey, then shifted and began to reveal a more vegetal sour dimension, organic and musty, leafy, woodsy even a touch of hay, yet still sweet and delicious
  • Palate – Very easy going yet with a bit of spice too, straight forward with more of that slightly sour element, then spice… Revisiting after some time, the woodsy quality was even more apparent with a nice light oak, something of depth and character in this one yet still approachable
  • Finish – A touch bitter

After time, yet comfortable like a cashmere sweater… even the gentle soap used to wash one too! We found the nose a bit more interesting than the palate. Overall it was an excellent introduction and a terrific way to kick off our evening!

Dailuaine 15 Year Old - Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Whisky Company).jpg

And what do the folks over at That Boutique-y Whisky Company have to say?

The Dailuaine distillery lives up in the Speyside region, and has done since 1852. It was home to Scotland’s first pagoda roof, an architectural element used by quite a few Scotch whisky distilleries over the course of history. Sadly, the Dailuaine pagoda roof burnt down in the early 1900s, which did stop production for a short while, but soon enough they were back to it! Interesting to note that until recently, some of the condensers at the Dailuaine distillery were made from stainless steel instead of copper, which resulted in their single malt having a touch of sulphur to it – some people are well into that, some aren’t. Our Dailuaine label features a pair of sulphur molecules, one seems to be nice and the other seems to be some sort of terrible nightmare creature from the netherworld. Steer clear of that one.

Tasting notes:

  • Nose: Meaty at first, with leafy hints and molasses developing later on.
  • Palate: Barley sweetness, juxtaposed intense oak spiciness.
  • Finish: Lingering red berry and cinnamon.

Depending on where you acquire it (if still available), a 50 cl bottle would set you back approximately £55.

Dailuaine B2.jpg

What other That Boutique-y Whisky Company samples did we try?

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Blair Athol 12 year 43%

Blair Athol is a Diageo whisky that previously was found either in blends or independent bottles… our previous brushes with Blair Athol was the robust sherry cask strength Signatory 27 year and the Hunter Laing 16 year.

We sampled it blind….

Blair Athol 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Initially quite organic, sharp old cheese, fresh rain, slight salt behind the spice, cranberry sour not sweet, a bit acetone sharpness, narrow profile, edgy fume, nutmeg… After sipping, spice, yoghurt. Leave for some time and get caramel and fruits, then goes back to spice, then gulkand rose.
  • Palate – Very smooth, silk, sweet, fruity spice, buttery oily, liquorice, so easy and light, nice and enjoyable. Such spice, fruit and something else.
  • Finish – Grapey, coffee
  • Water – Absolutely no need

We found it had no off notes, quite a “happy” whisky. We thought it likely did not have natural coloured likely low alcohol.

And the reveal?

Not one we would have guessed but also only had limited past opportunities to sample whiskies from Blair Athol.

The official tasting notes share:

A rich, sweet malt best drunk with only a drop of water, when it holds its sweetness better.

  • Nose – Muscat grapes and Madeira wine, brimstone in the background, even tar. Dried apricots in the foreground, and treacle toffee.
  • Body – Medium to full bodied, but not cloying.
  • Palate – Rich and mouth-filling, with a good balance.
  • Finish – A curious sweetness is introduced at the end, after the acidity and dryish finish has passed.

What else did we sample that evening?

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When an International Scotch Day celebration is NOT about the whisky

From time to time, our Whisky Clubs are invited to events… Let’s just say it is convenient to extend an invite to one and get a bunch of whisky aficionados – particularly if it is a rollicking group of “Whisky Ladies.”

And that is how we found ourselves at Diageo’s International Scotch Day… Yet given what we assumed would be the whiskies on offer, our interest was more the multimedia artist’s ‘odes’ to the water of life, live music and good company.

In short, it is known as the evening the “Whisky Ladies” became the “Bitchy Ladies!”

Why?

Just peruse some of our Tasting Sessions or Ladies Corner and it easy to see we are an adventuresome bunch, exploring a wide range of whiskies sharing frank, fun and sometimes brutally honest opinions about what we sample.

Which means the bar is set pretty high to impress these ladies. We strolled in, traipsing after actress Freida Pinto and headed straight for the bar.

We knew the stuff on offer would not make our normal “cut” yet we still gamely did a tasting round of the whiskies available – Johnie Walker, Black and White, Black Dog and Vat 69. I’m too polite to reproduce what was said. 🙂

1st you.. then you.. like this not that!

Cocktails was clearly the way to go! However the “Old Fashioned” approach also didn’t make the “cut” either so one Whisky Lady took charge telling the poor beleaguered bartender how to go about it!

Getting an Old Fashioned right?

The food? From a fabulous chef yet with pairings that seemed a tad random and mostly got quizzical curious reactions.

And the Art? “Not so finely disguised advertising” was one comment, however it was fun playing around with the “Black & White” exhibit.

Black + White Whisky Lady?

Lest we seem like complete ingrates, what finely pleased these picky ladies? Oh the music, merriment and mischief we caused!! In the end, we had a mighty fine evening!

PS – It was interesting to read the somewhat “random” quality we found was echoed in other cities..

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Mini Malts – Auchroisk 1996 46%

Up next up in our miniatures sampling was a duo from Gordon & MacPhail from their Connoisseurs Choice line.

From the prodigious Speyside region, Auchroisk was built in 1974 with high necked stills intended to produce a lighter elegant spirit. Today it is owned by Diageo with some official bottlings released under the label ‘The Singleton’ (until 2001) which confusingly now is used for three different malts in three different regions: Dufftown (Europe), Glendullan (USA) and Glen Ord (Asia).

Primarily used in blends such at J&B, you may find it difficult to track down a bottle. Only a few casks have been acquired by independent bottlers and there are very limited official releases such as a 20 year, 30 year and a few single casks.

I previously sampled an Auchroisk 20 year old from independent bottlers Duthies – a sub-brand of Cadenhead. This experience didn’t enamour me as my impression was “dishwater soap meets dry wood”… however I also speculated my sample had become tainted, so was keen to try again.

This time, I went with a Gordon & MacPhail bottling of approximately 17 years.

Auchroisk (1996/2014) 46% (Gordon & MacPhail)

Auchroisk + Glen KeithHere’s what we found:

  • Nose – Initially quite organic, overripe fruit – especially banana, think sour mash, leaves in the spring damp after a rain,  flowers, then a delightful honeydew melon. After airing, revealed fresh crisp pears
  • Palate – What a contrast! A soft, subtle yet delicious peat, sweet, smooth, beautifully balanced, still quite fruity with a nice coating, like sucking on gumdrops
  • Finish – A lovely long finish, sustaining a gentle sweetness

Absolutely delightful! We quite enjoyed how the nose shifted from over-ripe fruit to crisp fresh pears… the taste brought another dimension but above all it was the finish that invited us to slow down and enjoy.

This is no frivolous dram, instead one for a meaningful relationship.

My sipping companion is now a full convert to the “If it is Gordon & MacPhail… buy it!”

Here’s what the Gordon & MacPhail folks have to say:

Without water:

  • Aroma – Fresh and fruity with ripe plum and kiwi aromas. Toasted malt and subtle herbal notes with hints of old leather and aniseed.
  • Taste – The palate is peppery initially with stewed plums and lemon flavours. A lingering milk chocolate edge develops.

With water:

  • Aroma – Stewed pears, banana and grapefruit aromas. A subtle hazelnut and toasted malt edge lingers.
  • Taste – Sweet with cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. Fruit flavours develop with plum and lychee.

More malt miniatures picked up from The Whisky Exchange:

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Linkwood 24 year (1991/2015) 53.8%

Our quest for great cask strength whiskies around 100 pounds began with a Linkwood…

Interestingly, our last session also featured a Linkwood – a rather delightful 25 year old from Gordon & Macphail. So hopes were high!

linkwood-24

Linkwood 24 year (16.061991/04.08.2015) 53.8%

Cask No 586497, 268 Bottles, Hogshead  (TWE The Single Malts of Scotland)

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Quite summery, grass, vanilla, flowers, sweet, light, hay, light toast. As it opened further a little spice, honey, sweet tree sap. Post our initial sips, took on more wormwood, resin and the sweetness subsided
  • Palate – Great kick, a blaze of unexpected spice, big mouthful
  • Finish – An elongated burn
  • Water – With a few drops, spice and more burn… added more and started to open up

In short, this one needed water. A very generous dollop not a mere drop or two… bringing closer to 46% seemed a more balanced level.

I couldn’t help but wish we had the the Gordon & Macphail 25 year bottling to compare. At 43%, that Linkwood was truly superb. Fabulous value for a quite lovely whisky.

Whereas this one, at cask strength, had terrific promise on the nose but no follow through on the palate. It wasn’t that the whisky was ‘wrong’ it simply wasn’t really ‘right’ either.

We gave it even more time and returned after sampling the other whiskies… once again a lovely aroma yet just didn’t deliver on the taste. One even remarked this was a ‘heartburn’ whisky?!

Our quest was clearly off to a shaky start…

What else did we sample in our trio?

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Whisky Ladies Scottish Tour – Glenkinchie 12 year 43%

First up in our Scottish regions tour was a whisky from the Lowlands… a region that is the backbone of blends producing primarily grain whisky.

In terms of single malts, there are now only a few active distilleries in the region with Auchentoshan probably the most recognized, Alisa Bay the newest entrant and Glenkinchie, our feature whisky for the evening, part of the Diageo stable. Three new distilleries are joining the Lowland ranks – Daftmill, Eden Mill, and Kingsbarns.

Lowland whiskies are reputed to be light, grassy without peat, typically triple distilled to make for a more delicate whisky, earning the nickname “The Lowland Ladies.”

It seemed a good place to start our evening…

Glenkinchie 12

And what did our Whisky Ladies find?

Glenkinchie 12 year 43%

  • Nose – Apple cider, honey sweetness, quite fresh, then began to reveal an earthy moss, floral perfume and sweet cinnamon spice
  • Palate – Alcohol then spiced apple cider, plank of wood, bit oily, musty cardboard
  • Finish – Chocolate heat, some star anise
  • Water – Bit a debate whether it was needed – for some made it flat, others felt it opened it and made it even sweeter, smoothened it as it damped down

Here’s what the folks over at Glenkinchie have to say:

  • Nose – Aromatic and floral notes.
  • Palate – Sweet with a slight liquorice aftertaste
  • Finish – Dry finish

Did we agree? Sure about the nose but not so sure about the succulent, fleshy, juicy elements…

The Whisky Ladies of Mumbai’s Scottish Regional Tour continues…

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