European Explorations – Switzerland’s Swiss Highland Forty Three 43%

From Rugen Distillery, who have been brewing beer on Rugen Mountain since 1892… they ventured into making whisky when the Swiss laws changed in 1999. Their 1st offering was “Mountain Highland” in 2003 and now regularly produce small batches, aged a minimum of three years in oak casks. The wort and distillation all take place on their distillery premises.

This particular whisky is originally named Forty Three for its alcohol content – 43%. We sampled it as part of a European Explorations evening, just after a rather delicious Duetsch dram from DeCavo.

So what did we think of the Swiss Highland?

Forty Three Swiss Highland Single Malt Whisky 43%

  • Nose – Initially quite dry, some sawdust, light balsa, sweet honey, bay leaf, a bit of a shy nose, salt sheen, restrained, hint of vanilla, cream
  • Palate – Soft – surprisingly soft, well rounded, hay, malty like marmite at the back, really grows on you, tasty
  • Finish – Quite long, warm… actually make that remarkably incredibly long

We had anticipated this would be a bit raw and harsh, to discover quite the opposite!  It was again far more accessible and enjoyable than we had anticipated.

Here is what they have to say on the label:

  • Colour – Deep golden amber
  • Body – Soft texture, lightly creamy
  • Nose – The fresh and fiery notes are surrounded by subtle honey and some floral aromas topped off with lovely vanilla notes
  • Palate – Slightly woody notes are combined with coffee and chocolate leading to a light smoothness. A slight maltiness is felt at the beginning, which then rises beautifully in caramel and fermented vanilla bean.
  • The fine balance between sweetness and strength give a special tension to the product, the soft creamy mouth feel creates an exclusive sustainability.

I purchased this bottle at Wien Laden in Munich in November 2017.

My European Explorations with the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents included:

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Whisky Ladies Après-ski

With December, one often thinks of winter, skiing, coming in stomping off the snow, peeling off toque, scarf, mittens and many layers, settling down in front of a roaring fire to enjoy a drink, food, great company… all the while making merry.

Our Whisky Ladies decided to embrace a decidedly northern theme of “Aprèsski” with European whiskies where one can also enjoy winter sports, even though it remains a balmy 27’c in Mumbai.

We began our evening with mulled wine made by our Swedish host and lebkuchen smuggled in from a recent trip to Germany… then quickly shifted gears to a rather remarkable line-up with a few whiskies anchoring the session with full pours and a couple of small shared samples picked up by a Whisky Lady while backpacking around Austria!

Here is what we tried:

*While matured in France using European barrels, strictly speaking the new make spirit is from Scotland… with the  most annoyingly difficult wax on the cork which required a ‘proper’ corkscrew to pop open. How peculiar! As is the whisky too…

As for the others, just click on the links and read what we thought!

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Italian whisky? Puni Alba Marsala + Islay 43% – Oh My!

The Whisky Ladies of Mumbai are well on the path of exploring European whiskies… having tried drams from Finland (Teerenpeli), Denmark (Danica), France (Kornog), Germany (Slyrs), Sweden (Mackmyra & Spirit of Hven)… all unique and different from standard Scottish fare.

Whereas our original tasting group, with five years of monthly merry malt sampling complete, have only scratched the surface when it comes to whiskies from Europe. In 2013 The Belgian Owl and Dutch All Rye made less than stellar appearances and in 2014, the Czech Hammer Head received a rather firm ‘thumbs down’.

We were due a tryst with European whiskies. Yet after the disappointing drams, anything offered had to 1st pass the ‘taste test’.

When given an ‘assignment’ to find something ‘different’ by our host for his January 2017 session, my 1st thought was Europe and the 2nd thought was that it simply had to be tried before buying – no leaving the experiment to chance!

Which is where my August 2016 trip to Singapore came in handy with an opportunity to ‘speed date’ a trio of Puni whiskies at – where else – La Maison du Whisky.

Even I wasn’t sure before trying. Italian whisky? Really?! When there is such marvellous Italian wine, it begs the question… whisky?

Our original group sampled this completely blind – having no clue what they were trying…

Puni Alba 3 year Batch #2 (2015) 43%

puni-alba

  • Nose – How unique – we needed to ‘tease’ out the different elements. At once sweet and sour, mild antiseptic, hint of tropical fruits, some nutmeg, coconut? There was something truly completely different about this one… sweet, dry yet teasingly
  • Palate – Wow! Starts off so smooth then there is a remarkable dry chilly that sneaks up from behind and ‘whoosh!’ envelops completely. One found cooked drumsticks, another lots of tannins, yet another found chocolate
  • Finish – An, unbelievably long finish and so surprising, it extends from the dry chilly to a long drawn out light cigar like finish
  • Water – Needed? No. Nice? Yes and remarkably did not dent the fabulous finish, simply enabled the mild peat quality to surface more

What a different whisky with its ability to have a deceptively soft ‘front’ then delicious spice that sneaks up from ‘behind’. Without a doubt, it had the most remarkable long finish of all whiskies sampled that evening.

As we speculated, it was very clear this was not Scottish and quite untraditional in its approach. The dry sweetness, soft smooth front then spice from behind, the shy peat that slowly unfurled, the exceptionally long finish… This was a whisky that didn’t neatly fit into clear categories.

Our host pulled out the bottle. Italy?

Putting it mildly, we were collectively ‘maha’ (greatly) impressed. From the design of the bottle to the quality of its contents.

Let us be very clear, Puni is out to change any pre-conceived notions that Italians aren’t up to the challenge of producing whisky! The Puni distillery began operations in 2012 and is located in the Italian alps, taking its name from the nearby Puni river. They use locally grown rye, pot stills and began with three core expressions:

  • Nova – American & European white oak casks
  • Alba – Marsala wine and Islay casks
  • Nero – Pinot nero casks

Here is what they have to say about their Alba:

ALBA – the Italian word for dawn, as well as the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland – is matured for three years in the finest Marsala casks from Sicilly and finished in handselected casks from the Isle of Islay. ALBA is a harmonious combination of the rich & fruity flavours of Italy and the distinctive smoky character of the Scottish island.

Flavour : dark fruit | peat | cloves

The interplay between maturation in Marsala casks and ex-Islay peated whisky casks shows such experimentation can bring about quite wonderful results!

Puni Italian Trio

Other whiskies sampled our East to West evening included:

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Whisky Ladies European Tour – Teerenpeli, Danica, Kornog + Slyrs

In the wake of the Brexit vote, the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai decided to go on a European whisky tour featuring:

2016-06-28 European Tour

The Teerenpeli Finnish whisky was a recent acquisition from my trip to London – recommended by the folks over at the Whisky Exchange and a rather fine addition to our evening.

The Brauntstein Danica‘s was snagged as the only Danish whisky available at Copenhagen airport!

The Kornog from France has been eagerly awaited! Special request ordered by one of our whisky lady’s prompted by my curiosity after sampling a cask strength version.

A complete bonus on announcing June’s theme was the addition of a 4th European whisky from Bavaria, Germany. I mean, who else in Mumbai other than a “Whisky Lady” just so happens to have a bottle of Slyrs 51 sitting in their whisky cabinet??

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