Unexpected tasting trio – Kamet, James Eadie, Enlightenment

During my last week in India, I had a special whisky reunion where I had expected to be the host sharing the whiskies – those opened recently or a wander down malty memory lane with some minis.

Instead, my fellow whisky traveller surprised us by bringing not one, not two but three unique whiskies. The first we tried knowing it was a new Indian single malt, the other two followed our original format – tasting blind.

  • Kamet 42.8% – A new single malt from India
  • James Eadie 2017 56.6% – A surprise blended Scotch
  • Compass Box Enlightenment 46% – Limited edition blend of Highland whiskies

Tasting notes will come in due course, however it truly was such a wonderful reminder of our monthly gatherings… which started a decade ago! Most of the original group have moved to different locales – Singapore, Delhi, Goa or for me, Germany. However the spirit of camaraderie and keen interest in exploring the  world of whisky remains.

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Birthday Drams – The Glenrothes Elders’ Reserve 18 year 43%

Many years ago I sampled a bottle of Glenrothes. I found it a rich, robust, heavy sherry whisky… not a daily dram but something for a special evening. Think oversized leather chairs, dusty library, glass in one hand with a cigar in the other accompanied by a roaring fire.

So when wandering through Singapore airport duty free in 2016, I spotted this Elders’ Reserve and picked it up… For years it quietly and patiently waited in the back of my whisky cabinet for the right occasion. In the meantime, our Mumbai tasting groups tried both of the other travel retail Glenrothes Reserve expressions from this set:

Recently I decided enough was enough – it was high time to revisit something from this distillery. What better excuse to open than an evening of belated birthday celebration with our Bombay Cigar & Malt gents! So what did we think?

The Elders’ Reserve 18 year 43% (official bottling)

  • Colour – Golden amber
  • Nose – Oh my! It comes across more like a robust ruby port than whisky! Followed by Christmas pudding, dates – more tart than sweet. Then it shifts into sweeter and sweeter notes with marmalade and ginger spice
  • Palate – Even more port-like… though now more a tawny port style, lots of tannins that cause one to pucker up, raisins, prunes, quite dry… as in incredibly dry on the palate! Coffee and wood, black pepper
  • Finish – The dryness carries though fully into the finish, chewy almost like tobacco leaf

Whilst we kept thinking of port, it wasn’t matured in a Port cask – instead American and Spanish oak casks – presumably ex-bourbon and ex-sherry respectively.

All in all, it has a ‘vintage’ feel like something that is a throwback to another time. Again, not an every day dram… instead this is a deep rich dram for an occasional indulgence. For some, it may even be “too much”… it all depends on palate and preference.

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

The Elders of the Kirk are the pillars of society. Highly respected and elected to represent the community, they are looked up to for their knowledge.

Spicy with notes of coffee, wood and polish, this expression shows levels of  complexity that can only be achieved by extended maturation. Matured for a minimum of 18 years in equal proportions of American Oak and Spanish Oak casks, it reflects the wisdom of the Elders of the community of Rothes.

  • Bouquet: Ripe, tropical mango, vanilla pods ginger and toffee apple
  • Palate: Sweet, creamy vanilla ice cream dusted with nutmeg, mixed dried citrus
  • Finish: Sweet vanilla and lingering oakiness

Tasting Elders’ Reserve is like waking to a dawn chorus but instead of a cacophony of bird song it offers flavours and lots of them. The first wave is followed by another and another. These collectively herald the complexity of this delicious dram. The overall result is a pleasing collection of wonderfully mature flavours apparently justifiably proud to be upholding the great name.

This bottle was opened in Mumbai, August 2021. As for where and how this bottle was acquired? It was from back in the days when I regularly commuted back and forth between Mumbai and Singapore… purchased in June 2016 from Changi Airport duty free for SGD 160.

The Whisky Ladies in Mumbai didn’t get a chance to try this one as it remained with our host. However I kept aside samples for our ladies in Paris and then pulled out an old North Star Glenrothes 20 year for the two Mumbai ladies who plan to join us remotely. That tasting experience awaits a date much later in September!

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Minis – Glenrothes (1992) Lustau Sherry 55.3%

We all have certain distilleries we know and love. And others that past experiences influence perceptions – understandably. For my tasting companion, Glenrothes has been more of a disappointment than reward. Whereas for me – I’ve had more positives than negatives.

Glenrothes (1992/2016) Cask 1 Lustau Sherry Finish 55.3%

  • Colour – Gold
  • Nose – Sour, sweet, sweet leather, fibrous, malt mash, tarter, rubharbh.. After 1st sip, musty, talcum… the 2nd sip salty sour plums…
  • Palate – Full flavoured, we loved the tartness, chewy, evolving salt and sour, sherry yum
  • Finish – Dry, tart, then a flat burn
  • Water – Brushfire then spice and plums, less sour, more orange oils, with a spicy fruit finish

We initially thought this is a great early evening dram! Most enjoyable and a good contrast to the Edradours and BenRiachs we earlier sampled.

So we set it aside, returning to find it slightly pungent, shifting between sweet, sour, chaat masala with delicious mixed berries.

What do the folks at Master of Malt have to say?

A delicious release from the Glenrothes Wine Merchant’s Collection range (each of which has been finished in different types of cask from top producers). This whisky was finished in a cask that was previously home to tasty Lustau Sherry! A release of 648 bottles.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

  • Nose: Sticky toffee pudding, raisins and plums.
  • Palate: Citrus begins to develop on the palate (perhaps lemon drizzle cake). Soon joined by dark chocolate.
  • Finish: White grapes, orange peels.

While it is now sold out, it went for approximately $200.

We also sampled these four more drams in our minis evening?

Curious about other Glenrothes experiences?

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North Star Discovery – Glenrothes 20 year 54.6%

This was an evening of discovery… starting with tasting completely blind a mystery malt… which turned out to be a 20 year Glenrothes from North Star’s Cask Series 001…

Glenrothes 20 year (Oct 1996/Oct 2016) 54.6% 1 of 198 bottles, Refill sherry

  • Colour – Yellow gold
  • Nose – Light varnish, heavy honey, citrus lemon, then marmalade, apricot, like breakfast cereal, sense of being very “full”, dry fruits, creme rum and raisin, sense of high alcohol, creamy toffee, chocolate chips, shifting into a curl of tobacco, black ‘bara’ elichi.  After time it shifted into molasses and powdered icing sugar with sweet spices
  • Palate – An explosion of flavour. Salty caramel, completely matches the nose with force… sharp then diffuses into fruity deliciousness. The 2nd sip was much spicier with a creamy quality. And the 3rd revealed tobacco, tannic and dry… then shifted into a sweet perfume palate. Simply “yum!”
  • Finish – Bitter with a ‘khatta‘ sourness like tart apples, initially seemed short, then we realized it is quite the opposite – a lovely long finish with hazelnut pepper and red fruits
  • Water – Kicked up the spice – particularly on the finish, changed and holds. Normally we find water can initially notch up the spice, then mellows. In this case, it remains – lots of peppers, really holds its own with water, reveals a lovely mocha coffee

We joked that it “Tastes delicious on the nose!” like walking into a cookie store! It really teases, from sweetness to bitter with a beautiful balance. Another thought it would make a great “cigar” malt….

We speculated it must have a high alcohol content – likely cask strength, definitely  Scottish, well constructed though we thought perhaps it may not be very old – perhaps 8 – 12 years? We really appreciated its fabulously long finish.

We also observed it had a terrific synch between its aromas and palate – both delicious and mirroring their notes.

The reveal was such a surprise. None of us would have guessed it could be 20 years. Some remarked their mixed experience with Glenrothes, finding it sometimes over-priced for what it delivers.

In this case, it was a fabulous dram.

And what about the official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Ginger biscuits, cinnamon & sultanas
  • Palate: Apple pastries, pear juice & toffee
  • Finish: A dry finish with cocoa nibs & caramel

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

Unfortunately North Star bottles have a tendency to fly off the online “shelves” quickly!

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North Star Discovery – Glenrothes, Ardmore + Islay

There is something so fabulous about being truly surprised.

Which is why our original Mumbai tasting group keeps to its habit of tasting blind. Sometimes we reveal each whisky immediately after tasting, other times we wait until we have sampled all three whiskies.

In this case, it was after tasting all three drams and what a reveal! Why?

As it introduced North Star Spirits, a new independent bottler based in Glasgow. Starting in just 2016, we understand it is a “one man” operation by Iain Croucher, earlier part of A.D. Ratraay group.

Interestingly, he has a distribution relationship in Germany with Sansibar – which is another independent bottler that caught my attention recently for its ability to spot good casks for relatively reasonable rates.

My photos do not do justice to their packaging which is eye catching and filled with details about the cask type and inventive tasting notes too!

What did we sample?

All are cask strength, from a single cask, with natural colour and no chill filtration.

As North Star bottles have already captivated attention, we understand it is best to pre-order online as they seem to be snapped up quickly!

I’m now on the hunt to find more North Star whiskies to share with our other whisky tasting groups in Mumbai.

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BMC explores a Scotch Malt Whisky Society quartet

Once upon a time there were Bombay, Delhi and Pune chapters of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in India. I’ve certainly come across a few bottles in members homes… and rumour has it there remains stock at Indigo too.

However to have an opportunity to explore over an evening four single cask strength SMWS bottles with our Bombay Malt & Cigar Club? Bring it on!

What all did we sample in our SMWS evening?

The bottles reveal only the region, cask type, alcohol strength and in some cases the age… however for those clever enough to do a simple online search, all is revealed about the distillery codes.

As for what we thought? Tasting notes available by clicking on the links above. I should also note, the sampling order which was spot on in terms of a tasting profile progress from light to sweet to robust and peat!

And our cigar of the evening? An Edward Sahakians private vintage selection 1999. A might fine night it was indeed.

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Whisky Archives – Cracking open the cabinet…

Another from the tasting archives… this time from Sept 2011. Rediscovering these notes brought a flood memories of my previous Mumbai flat… that had a fabulous cabinet in which all my whisky was stashed… now replaced in our current home by a larger storage space waaaaay up high in our kitchen pantry.

We broke with tradition and merrily abandoned all pretense of blind tastings… instead settled down for a sampling of various bottles. It became a  popularity contest between different regions and geographies as small pegs of multiple whiskies were sniffed, swirled, swallowed, savoured and yes – much discussed!

Samplings from earlier sessions - all quaffed at one occasion!

Speyside‘s dominated the evening with:

  • Aberlour’s cask strength Abu’nadh batch 32 (sampled earlier) and batch 31 were compared. Batch 31 was a clear winner and a hit of the evening! Bold yet with an extraordinary warm finish… with layers to discover and enjoy.
  • Aberlour 10 year held its own with slight smokiness and butter, however was overshadowed by it’s cask strength cousin.
  • Cragganmore 12 year was softer on the palate and a nice contrast to the Abelours
  • Glenrothes 12 year (also sampled earlier) gained appreciation for its smooth fruity aroma, sherry note and oak, medium slightly spicy finish.

Islay‘s were represented by a few familiar friends:

  • Bunnahabhain 12 year 40% is a regular favourite with several folks
  • Caol Ila is also well-known and after the last drop of one bottle was polished off, another was opened… Need one say more?
  • Lagavulin 16 year was also a familiar friend but neglected with all the other options…

Highland

  • Dalwhinnie from the highest distillery in Scotland was a delightful gentler ‘everyday’ favourite

Japan

  • Suntory’s Hakushu 18 year…. In a class of its own with hints of forest, moss, nuanced, with a divine finish – simply exquisite. It remains one of my favourites!

Canada

  • Crown Royal from Gimli, Manitoba (my home province) certainly added a different element with rye, however alas outclassed by single malt companions

Naturally what’s expressed here is only one interpretation based on snippets of conversation and personal bias. Would love to hear others opinions on any of these whiskies…

Slainthe!

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