Peaty Highlander – Ballechin Heavily Peated 12 year 54.5%

Our explorations of Highland peaty drams led us to Edradour distillery with a full cask strength dram.

Ballechin Heavily Peated 12 year (May 2017) 1st Fill ex-Bourbon Cask 330 54.5% 251 Bottles

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Wow! Floral yet with a power punch, some sharpness, sweetly herbal, cinnamon, star anise, then the floral dissipated to be replaced by maple bacon, honey sweetness with a citrus twist
  • Palate – Honey, maple syrup, very dry, holds and took on that distinctive maple bacon whisky, substance
  • Finish – Nutty, toothpaste, lovely spice, iodine
  • Water – Sour with no spice… given time revealed cinnamon then a nutty quality, like pressed almond oil

Our final conclusion was this would be a perfect monsoon whisky… one to enjoy when the heavy rains wash away all the heat and pollution, dropping the temperature too.

What did the folks at The Whisky Exchange have to say?

A single-cask Ballechin bottled at a cask-strength of 54.5% and exclusive to The Whisky Exchange, this heavily-peated single malt from Edradour distillery boasts a smoky, farmyard character to rival any Islay whisky. Balanced by sweet citrus and hints of honey, this is a fantastic dram which elegantly combines sweet, savoury and smoky notes to memorable effect.

TASTING NOTES BY BILLY ABBOTT (THE WHISKY EXCHANGE)

  • Nose: Sweet and green smoke at first: freshly sawn branches newly tossed on to a bonfire of burning pine. Hints of jelly-baby fruitiness develop, along with Vick’s Vaporub, honey and lemon lozenges and white toast with honey. The lighter notes at the front obscure but don’t hide a darker background of rich smoke.
  • Palate: Savoury smoke to start: smoked ham and signed lemons. White pepper heat mixes with bicycle-tire inner tubes, sharp lemon curd and a hint of creosoted fence. A bubble of black liquorice rises from the depths, bursting to reveal blackcurrants and anise.
  • Finish: Tar and char fade to leave bittersweet liquorice and lemon butter sauce.
  • Comment: Softer than many Ballechins, this brings together sweet and savoury notes, all wrapped up in a smoky blanket.

And what would it set you back? If, like our Whisky Lady, you purchased it from The Whisky Exchange in London, expect something around £80.

What else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies Peaty Highland drams evening?

What else have I tried from Edradour distillery?

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Whisky Live 2018 – Edradour Ballechin

Edradour has been known as the smallest traditional distillery, up in Pitlochry, Perthshire part of the Highlands region.

Currently owned by Pernod Ricard, the Edradour distillery produces a range of different single malts under both the Edradour (unpeated) and Ballechin (peated) brands with a dizzying array of wine cask finished experiments as well!

And what did we try at Whisky Live Singapore in the VIP room? Two distinctly different drams…

Edradour Ballechin 8 year (2009) 46%

  • Nose – Had a lovely nutty quality – veering towards hazelnut and almond – with a clear influence of both the sherry dried fruits and a puff of smoke
  • Palate – Beautifully balanced between peat and sherry sweet, fruity, smooth and a light chilli spice, honey
  • Finish – Sweet sherry fruits and spice – delicious!

The gent who encouraged us to try was a merry Scottish fellow but completely mixed up the contents and context!

It is a marriage of Edradour’s un-peated ex-Sherry cask # 69 and the peated Ballechin ex-bourbon casks # 279, 280 and 281.

It was rather good and I was exceedingly surprised to discover how affordable it was in the UK at GBP 50… alas in Singapore it is a pricy SGD 198 (ie more than double at GBP 115).

Edradour Vintage 10 year (2008/2018) FF Sherry Cask No 8, Bottle 515 57.9% (LMdW)

  • Nose – Juicy berries, red fruits, clear robust sherry
  • Palate – Follows through on the palate with the nose, light sweet spice, black raspberries, dry
  • Finish – Full finish, with dry sweet spices of cinnamon bark and clove

No doubt this was some quality sherry and the bottle noted it was a first fill sherry cask.

If you are curious, in Singapore, this bottle goes for SGD 258 and was specially selected for La Maison du Whisky.

What about other Edradour’s sampled by our Mumbai based tasting clubs over the years?

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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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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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Edradour 12 year ‘Caledonia’ 43%

I first tried Edradour’s ‘Caledonia’ back in 2013 as part of an evening that featured a Glenlivet quarter of 12, 15, 18 and 21 years. Personally I quite enjoyed the Edradour’s robust character however some in our group weren’t fans.

I then purchased an Edradour 10 year which fuelled two whisky tasting sessions featuring Signatory whiskies (original & Bombay Malt + Cigars) where I discovered how wonderfully its sherry berry warmth paired with cigars.

For me, the Edradour 10 was a rich desert whisky – not one for every day but when in the mood for its dark fruity flavours, was a darn good dram.

So when picking out minis in London a few months ago, naturally thought to revisit the Edradour Caledonia!

edradour-12-year-caledonia

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Rich dried fruits, bursting with dates, nuts and generous dollop of rum, christmas cake literally soaked with dark rum, chocolate rum raisins, very sweet, then other elements emerges like the creamy frosting on a mince pie, a hint of salty brine, now cake with a rich fatty vanilla ice cream, almost like sweetened condensed milk, butter tart with pecans and raisins, sticky toffee pudding…
  • Palate – Sweet spices of cloves, cinnamon, allspice and a little star anise, bread pudding, berries, very ‘full’ big and bold
  • Finish – A proper finish! With sweet spices including a more pronounced star anise element, a bit bitter and deliciously long

What was most remarkable about this whisky was how the nose evolved. From the typical sherry notes to a slightly salty then creamy character, it then took on a very sweet coffee chocolatey malt like a rich dark stout, then after even more time elapsed had a vegetal quality like stumbling into a vegetable patch with cabbage and cucumbers… when we revisited after an hour, could not believe what happened! The vegetable patch had become a sour mash?!

While the end note wasn’t so appealing what was remarkable is the range of aromas…

Overall it was such a treat to revisit and we quite enjoyed this dram. We appreciated its desert-like quality however wouldn’t recommend leaving it for an hour or more… Best to just keep sipping and enjoying!

Good news for India – you can actually buy this whisky through the folks over at The Vault or even now in Delhi duty free! Here’s what they have to say:

This 12 Year Old has spent the last four years of its maturation in oloroso sherry casks. Caledonia is a toast to songwriter Dougie MacLean who had selected a single oloroso cask from 1997 as part of the homecoming celebrations and named it after his most famous song, ‘Caledonia’. Its enthusiastic reception led to the adoption of the whisky’s name on a permanent basis.

Tasting Notes: This full golden whisky starts off with a nose of peppermint, sugared almond, a hint of sherry, honey and spicy smoky notes. The palate is minty clean, malty and has a remarkable creamy texture for a relatively light malt. The finish is mellow and warming.

Related posts:

Other miniatures sampled:

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Signatory session take two with cigars!

Quick before oxidation did too much damage, I wanted to share with the BMC lads a sampling from my earlier Signatory session.

However as whisky gremlins (aka friends and I) got into the Edradour and the Bunnahabhain too, it was clear augmentation would be needed to have sufficient for my sipping companions as we puffed on our cigars, post initial tasting. With this group, tasting is not the end, merely the selection process to settle down to savour a further dram or two with a cigar, some nibbles and convivial conversation.

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So what did I do? First began with what our merry malt men had to say about the whiskies…

We kicked off with the Speyside – Glenburgie 18 year (13 June 1995 / 20 Feb 2014) Cask No 6451, 391 bottles 46%.

  • Nose – Flowers, perfume, summer meadow
  • Palate – Surprisingly robust
  • Finish – Spice
  • Water – Adds ‘wood’ brought out vanilla and moss
  • Overall – Light bright and sprightly

Then followed up with the Islay – Bunnahabhain 26 years (6 June 1988 / 7 Aug 2014) Cask No 1874, 175 bottles 48.6%.

  • Nose – Varnish, lots of esters, pineapple, a flick of mint?
  • Palate – Smooth, a bit oily, tart granny apples…
  • Finish – Sits… very dry, black pepper
  • Water – Spicier, less acidic, brings out the peppers and even a medicinal quality on the nose. Then was that gasoline??
  • Overall – One commented the whisky made his lips numb! Certainly not a favourite (and yet the bottle was empty by the end of the evening… Oh the sacrifices these gentlemen will make!)

Closing our Signatory trio in the Highland‘s with the Edradour 10 year (2 Nov 2004/26 Mar 2015) Cask No 406, Bottle 440 46%

  • Nose – Very chocolaty, vanilla, prunes, fig newton, varnish, rum raisin
  • Palate – Very smooth, little pepper, lime?
  • Finish – Not long but rather pleasant
  • Water – Softens, mellows it out and makes it even sweeter
  • Overall – The kind of whisky to sip in a comfy chair, very palatable, well balanced and well rounded

Having tried all three before, I found the Edradour stood up best after being opened. Alas the Glenburgie had clearly lost some of its earlier nuances. And the Bunnahabhain? Let’s just say it is not one to sit in a bottle. The most expensive of the trio was also the most disappointing.

But what to sip with our cigars?

One already has clear sherry preferences. For him, he likes his whiskies robust and full of flavour. Aberlour just so happens to be a personal favourite, so it was only natural to introduce him to the gorgeous A’bunadh Batch 35.

For another, we earlier spoke of enjoying a good Irish dram – when in the mood for something a little simpler and sociable. He’d sampled Tyrconnel before – even has a bottle at home – however had yet to try the Madeira finish.

Now, another member knows his stuff and nothing less than a complex, nuanced and very special dram will do! I knew what remained in my whisky cabinet would not meet such standards. Closest was a few remaining rare Japanese whiskies yet only a single dram left – clearly insufficient to support a good cigar. So the Signatory trio would simply have to do.

And the last? I still haven’t pegged his preference beyond a desire to try something ‘different’. So added an unpeated Paul John Classic into the mix.

My experience pairing with the cigar? I initially thought the Edradour with its rich sherry notes would pair best with my robusto. Imagine my surprise to discover the delicate Glenburgie held its own.

Slainthe!

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Signatory’s Edradour 10 year (2004) 46%

Last in our Signatory session was a complete change of pace. From older, more nuanced whiskies, we boldly stepped into younger sherry territory.

For those not familiar, Edradour is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries, controlled by the independent bottler Signatory. Edraour has been busy with a lot of experimentation. For such a small distillery, it has a classic range, cask strength, then wine finishes and even wine matured whiskies plus their Ballechin peated line.
This particular bottle shows off what Edradour can do in only 1o years – part of its classic range – that clearly provides details on when it entered and left its specific cask.

2016-02-19 Edradour 10

As always, our original tasting group initially sampled this Edradour completely blind before revealing the whisky…
Edradour 10 year (2 Nov 2004/26 Mar 2015) Cask No 406, Bottle 440 46%
  • Colour – Deep ruby red
  • Nose – Holy moly! Rum soaked raisins, dried fruit, mincemeat Christmas tart, iodine, citrus lemon, port? Some toasted almonds, slightly sour, prunes
  • Palate – Smooth, sweet, very very rummy, caramel, a bit woody, thick and robust. One of those sherry bombs bursting with Christmassy character but a shade darker. Lots of rum soaked dried fruit particularly dates, nuts.
  • Finish – Rum finish, dry, slightly bitter and chewy
  • Water – Can add… but why bother. Most preferred it neat.
  • Speculation – Sense of being like an El Dorado rum. The colour was really quite unbelievable. Speculation it may even have gone through a force maturity with wood chips. Or possibly, could it be, a rum cask?
  • Overall – A complete desert whisky. The kind that would pair superlatively well with chocolate and oranges. And faaaar too easy to drink! As evidenced by it being the whisky most consumed that night.
And the unveiling? A complete surprise. Most of our tasting group previously had the pleasure of enjoying the robust Edradour 12 year Caledonia whisky. While it shared the rum-like quality, there was something quite distinctive about this 10 year and none made the connect.
It is such fun curating evenings like this – though we had all tried something from each distillery, sampling the selection of a single cask from Signatory made for a unique experience.
When I purchased the Glenburgie in 2014, I had no thought to hosting an evening that would focus only on Signatory whiskies. However when I bought the Bunnahabhain… the kernel of an idea began to germinate. The logical extension was to include Edradour.
Choosing the tasting order was also key.
In this case, I went by what I anticipated from the whisky profile rather than age. From the Glenburgie sampled til date, suspected it would be the most delicate, had high expectations that the Bunnahabhain would need more time and attention so perfect to follow and then closed with the boldest though youngest whisky.
It worked!
Our special Signatory session also featured:
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Signatory session with Glenburgie, Bunnahabhain + Edradour

Most single malts tell you surprisingly little about exactly when they began their life.

Sure – the bottle says 10 year but what that really means is the youngest whisky in that bottle in front you was matured for 10 years.

As for the year it was bottled? Look closely… many do not tell you this.

The key with most age statement whiskies is carefully playing around with stock to produce a consistent flavour profile. Which means more mixing and blending between casks than you might imagine to achieve that distinctive taste you have come to call a familiar friend.

However if you really want to explore the nuances of a ‘pure’ single malt, then a single distillation in a single cask preferably at cask strength is the way to go.

And no one does that better than some terrific independent bottlers who keep an eagle eye (or acute nose and taste buds) out for something truly special.

This is the territory that tells you when that whisky hit the cask, which cask and even how many bottles exist… perhaps your bottle even has its own number.

Over the years we’ve had some fabulous Gordon & MacPhail offerings, a few Douglas Laing & Co, however less from Signatory.

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So for three years, I’ve slowly acquired three distinctly different whiskies – two examples of Signatory’s independent bottlings and one from their own wee distillery – Edradour, each from a different region in Scotland.

What pray tell did I manage to track down?

It seemed a fitting trio to fete the beginning our fifth year of whisky tastings as a dedicated group in Mumbai.

Anyone have a favourite independent bottler? Or tried a particularly interesting Signatory bottle?

Slainthe!

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