Douglas Laing’s Old Particular – Invergordon 28 year Single Grain 56.5%

After the Girvan 8 year and Strathclyde 25 year, the last of our Single Grain Trio was from Invergordon from the Highland region – at the ripe age of 28 years.

Invergordon 28 year (Aug 1987/Nov 2015) DL 11004 56.5% Douglas Laing’s Old Particular, 490 bottles

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Muted varnish, honey vanilla, more wood with a sharp element too, lemon, herbs, quite musty, one even described it as a ‘dirty dish rag’
  • Palate – Burnt toast like marmite, very salty, like sea water, some cinnamon and spice
  • Finish – Dry roasted spicy salty peanuts, very dry
  • Water – Brought out even more spice with a hint of liquorice

On 1st sip one remarked “makes an impact”… that sharp element on the nose came through as a bit harsh on the palate initially. It was exceptionally dry and it was certainly the saltiest finish I’ve ever come across. One even said “It’s like gargling salt water.”

Was it our style of whisky? No. Was it worth trying? Absolutely.

Here is what the folks over at Douglas Laing have to say:

  • Nose: Opens with a spiced toffee character, with polished oak and a sweet home baked quality
  • Palate: Mouth coating and sweetly spiced, with caramel butter cream and a treacle character
  • Finish: A spicy, sweet and pleasantly long finish, showing late oak

For another perspective, here is what the chaps at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Cinnamon and rich toffees, vanilla, resin and oak.
  • Palate: Soft fudge, dates, brioche, molasses and a hint of pot pourri.
  • Finish: Spicy oak.
  • Overall: A rich and dignified single cask grain.

What else did we sample in our Single Grain Trio with Indian Whiskies Duo evening?

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Douglas Laing’s Old Particular – Strathclyde Single Grain 25 year 51.5%

Our Single Grain trio evening continued with Strathclyde single grain from Glasgow. Originally built in 1927 on the site of an old cotton mill to produce gin, it has gone on to pump out grain spirit, primarily for blends for its current owner – Chivas Bothers Holdings, part of the Pernod Ricard group.

Strathclyde Single Grain 25 year (Aug 1990/Sep 2016) Refill Barrel DL11335 51.5% Douglas Laing’s Old Particular, 116 bottles

  • Nose – Unmistakable varnish – full-on, then caramel, banana, light flowers, then nuts like walnut, coconut, dried fruits, shifted into a creamy aroma – like sweet coconut cream, becoming increasingly sweet like butterscotch – loads and loads of butterscotch, then baked banana bread, roasted almonds, a bit of chocolate, then just as earlier it was unquestionably butterscotch, it was sawdust or fresh wood shavings, after airing even more like marshmallows!
  • Palate – Cinnamon sweet, the 2nd sip was quite bitter and a bit harsh, the settled into mulled wine, while pleasant, nothing remarkable
  • Finish – Bitter long, with a spice chaser, very dry and closed with nail polish
  • Water – Don’t. Loses the nose which is by far the best aspect. However it did bring out the most compelling nescafé instant coffee taste!

The nose was the most interesting element of this grain whisky. It was remarkable how it kept evolving – all elements nuanced yet distinctive. Whereas on the palate, it was came across as innocuous, something to accompany with little remarkable on its own.

And yet, as we re-calibrated ourselves to grain, there was no doubt this was the clear favourite of the three single grains sampled!

Here is what the folks over at Douglas Laing have to say:

  • Nose: Round and full of sweet golden syrup with a floral, herbal and gristy style
  • Palate: Carries a mouth coating molasses character plus spice-studded orange
  • Finish: Long, with gentle vanilla toffee, muscovado sugar and late sweet spices

For another perspective, here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Milk chocolate, thyme honey and a pinch of spicy clove.
  • Palate: Cardamom and cinnamon up front, followed by waves of caramel and brown sugar.
  • Finish: Minty, with heaps of chocolate-fudge brownie later on.

While I can’t say where this particular bottle was purchased, it is available through Master of Malt for $82. We sampled it on 31 August 2017 from a closed bottle.

What else did we sample in our Single Grain Trio with Indian Whiskies Duo evening?

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Exploring Aged Grain Whiskies – Girvan, Strathclyde + Invergordon

Once upon a time if you had asked me to characterize our Bombay Malt & Cigar club, I would have said it was a set of gentlemen in pursuit of the finer things in life. In terms of their preferences – quality older Scottish single malts would be the ONLY whiskies to make the cut.

Fast forward to find we’ve come a long way… we’ve explored a Westland trio from the US, undisclosed distilleries, blends, bar night fare, proving these gents aren’t so stuffy after all!

So when our August 2017 session featured a trio of single grains followed by a duo of Indian whiskies… we knew we may not be in for the BEST whiskies but we were game to try some DIFFERENT drams.

Single Grain Trio:

Indian whiskies duo:

Would any of these whiskies be ones any of us would want to run out and buy? No. But was it worth spending a bit of time trying? Absolutely!

For our tasting notes, read on over the next few days…

This session also happened to be our annual partner’s night… A chance for our better halves to enjoy an evening, jointly socializing after the ‘serious business’ of whisky tasting concludes and desultory puffing on cigars with conversation commenced.

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The Exceptional Grain + Blended Malt

It is pretty ballsy to call yourself “exceptional” but the folks over at Craft Distillers aren’t shy about who they are and what they are doing. And you can’t fault Don Sutcliffe, managing director of Craft Distillers, a 35 year veteran of distilled spirits with Willie Phillips, 23 years managing director of The Macallan for being confident they know their stuff.

So what a treat to try two of their early offerings as part of our monsoon malts & more evening in Mumbai.

The Exceptional Blended Grain Scotch Whisky 43%

  • Nose – Again, like the Borders, clearly grain but not at all harsh, a bit dusty, sweet, mono-aromatic, a little green freshness, then aniseed, light spice
  • Palate – Very soft, light coffee, almost sparkly, quite lovely
  • Finish – Cinnamon candy, lasts

Overall on the palate it kept shifting, sweet, then reveals more, slowly unfurling. This is no harsh grain to go into blending, instead it is nuanced, soft and subtle. In short – most enjoyable.

Here’s what The Exceptional team have to say:

A blend of remarkable aged grain whiskies, including a barrel of 30-year-old from the Carsebridge Distillery, long since closed. Blended by Willie Phillips, formerly of The Macallan; finished in first-fill sherry casks. Subtle, elegant, authentically individual, with great structure. (750ML/43%abv) $100.  

The Exceptional Blend Small Batch Scotch Whisky 43%

  • Nose – Biscuits, lemon cream, almost like Jim Jams, then a slightly sour quality on the nose before returning to sweet
  • Palate – Quite thin on the palate, spice, zesty and very sweet
  • Finish – There but.. sweet, edging towards almost being too sweet

Overall next to the remarkably good grain, we were not quite so enthusiastic. This doesn’t mean it is a bad dram – far from it. However is it truly exceptional? Something so exquisite you would remember it above all others? Hmm…

The most remarkable element are the aromas which are most pleasing and in harmony, even as they shift between different dimensions. However the palate, while exceedingly nice, missed depth and complexity. At least for us with our wee sample.

Here’s what The Exceptional team have to say:

Mature grain whiskey from North British, Strathclyde, and Cameron Bridge distilleries blended with selected barrels of aged, malt whisky from 11 distilleries, including a 30-year-old Macallan. Deep and layered complexity. Superb whisky. (750ML/43%abv)  $120

Overall, there was no doubt the grain was our favourite and genuinely stood out. The blended malt was exceedingly good but not quite what we at least would call exceptional – a pity for the range of whiskies that went into its making.

Yet it was completely worth the experience and I’m looking forward to future opportunities to see where these gents go with their experiments.

Other whiskies sampled in our Mumbai monsoon malts evening included:

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R+B Distillers – Borders + Raasay

There are a dizzying array of new distilleries popping up all over the world. And yet setting up a new distillery – nay two – is no small feat.

The team at Raasay & Borders Distillers (R&B Distillers) recognize that “Building distilleries takes time though, so we are satisfying our impatience by working with a Highland distillery to very deliberately craft the styles of whisky representative of what’s to come.”

As part of our Monsoon Malts & More evening, we dove into two wee samples…

Borders Single Grain 51.7%

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – While clearly a grain, it is soft not pushy, old flowers like chrysanthemums, slight sulfur, fruits and acetone, sweet the sour then sweet again
  • Palate – Sweet spices, lots of character, creamy, slightly astringent yet not unpleasant, hints of coffee
  • Finish – Staying power

Not in the least bit harsh and as we continued sipping, thought more and more of Koffee Toffee… and pronounced it as “rather a good grain!”

What do we know about it? It is distilled in the highlands, non-chill filtered and natural colour.

Here’s what they have to say:

  • Aroma: Prominent sherry notes on the nose, hints of sugar-coated nuts.
  • Taste: Surprisingly dry on the palate with the sherry influences dominating. Walnuts balanced with vanilla, herbaceous and floral notes coming through towards the end, and just a touch of warm spice.
  • Finish: Lingering, dry and complex.
  • Food Pairing: Pairs well with Cocoa Black dark praline chocolates.

What more do we know about it? It has 50% wheat & 50% malted barley, finished in Oloroso Sherry casks. In their words:

Our Borders highland single grain whisky is a testament to our 19th century heritage and a nod to our future. Our Co-founder Alasdair Day’s great-grandfather blended whisky in the Coldstream – marked by the golden dot on this bottle.

The River Tweed is iconic to this uncommon provenance. It is integral in our R&B story and in forming part of the border between Scotland and England. The soft rolling landscape that surrounds it is reflected in character through the light, sweet notes of this lowland-style whisky.

We then shifted gears to their second offering – Raasaay.

Raasay “While We Wait” 46%

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – Iodine, light leather, oils
  • Palate – Sharp and initially an off quality, a bit rancid, olive oil, sour, peat, chewy and bitter then sweet
  • Finish – Sweet

You would think from the notes this would be a rather unpleasant whisky. But here is the thing, as we sipped it began to grow on us more and more.

For two of us, it reminded us of a Ledaig from Tobermoray, particularly when we added a few drops of water.

Here’s what they have to say:

  • Nose: Chocolate, pear, raisin. Blackcurrant, chocolate cake, slight kirsch brandy note, red wine note.
  • Palate: Cherry at the front palate, smoke, more chocolate notes, orangey notes, slight burnt oak note. Vanilla and oaky notes. Dash of orange and raspberry.
  • Finish: Slightly floral. More oak. Cookies.

What more do we know about it?  In their words:

While waiting for the Isle of Raasay Distillery to rise beneath Dùn Caan, we’ve crafted a single malt demonstrating our whisky making skills to offer a tantalising taster of what’s to come.

We achieved this by blending two expressions from one distillery; one peated, one unpeated. The whisky then finished in French oak Tuscan wine casks from three vineyards that produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Naturally, one turns so speculate, which Highland distillery produces both grain and malt whisky? Could it be Loch Lamond…?

Other whiskies sampled in our Mumbai monsoon malts evening included:

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Whisky Ladies Compass Box Eve – Hedonism 43%

At our Whisky Ladies Compass Box evening shifted gears completely… Having just sampled Spice Tree Extravaganza and the lightly peaty Great King Street Experimental Batch, we realized before launching into the decidedly peaty Flaming Heart and Peat Monster, it might be a good idea to recalibrate our palates with the unique Hedonism.

Compass Box Hedonism 43%

  • Nose – Exquisite! Subtle, nuanced, fresh oranges, exceedingly fresh and fragrant
  • Palate – Piña colada with that mix of coconut cream and pineapple, sweet light spice, silky smooth, vanilla custard
  • Finish – Starts with a great finish then “Oh you are gone, but was nice while it lasted!”

There was an immediate flashback to the Nikka Coffey Grain with its coconut, pinneapple, yet obviously a much more nuanced variant… for some it was absolutely delicious and for others, just not their style. Which seems to be the case with grain whiskies.

It was a complete departure from the earlier drams and an excellent example of the range of unique blends Compass Box produces.

Here’s what the folks at Compass Box have to say:

The inspiration behind our whisky HEDONISM is just that – pleasure, enjoyment, a celebration of that ideal marriage between distilled spirit and high quality oak maturation. The aromas and flavours hint of vanilla, caramel, a delicate fruitiness, accented by flashes of coconut in the finish. This is a whisky that will appeal to both the ardent whisky enthusiast and newcomers to whisky alike.

Our Compass Box evening included:

Psst… this wasn’t my first rodeo with Hedonism… you can read more about my earlier experiences here. I was delighted to sample a more recent incarnation.

This whisky was purchased by one of our Whisky Ladies and sampled from an open, nearly full bottle in July 2017.

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Girvan Patent Still 28 year 42%

One doesn’t often come across an aged grain. So it was such a surprise and treat to have this 28 year old Girvan close our tasting trio. We sampled blind from a freshly opened bottle, having no clue what we were sipping. Here is what we found…

Girvan Patent Still 28 year 42% No 1 Apps KA269PT

  • Nose – Nail polish remover, paint, some fruit, furniture polish, reminded one of a Chemistry lab with a bio-chemistry sweet note, staying steady, not evolving beyond an oil and spice, then after tasting the nose transforms – revealing fruits, pudding, opening up in a beautiful way
  • Palate – Sweet honey water, Parsis toffee green mathai (sweet), then began to open up to reveal a quality almost like an eclair, then a bitter caramel rum ball
  • Finish – Initially a spicy finish then a sweet, walnut bitter, with a chocolate noughat, held and genuinely very nice
  • Water – Nope. Don’t. Just enjoy it neat.

There was something quite unique about this whisky. We began to speculate that perhaps it was finished in a white wine cask – perhaps muscatel or sauternes? Perhaps not a single malt at all? Some corn? With such a honey light colour it was hard to pin point. All we knew was it was quite unique with a very distinctive and interesting character.

And the reveal? An aged Lowland grain! Wow!

Girvan goes by the name The Girvan Patent Still referring to their continuous distillation method using Coffey Stills which they credit for creating “a delicious spirit full of a rich intensity.”

Here is what the folks over at Girvan have to say:

Filled to American White Oak our whisky’s soul is forged from wood & mellowed by time. Naturally golden amber in colour – this is Single Grain Whisky at its finest.

Notes of honey, toffee, vanilla & caramelised fruits. It is, quite simply, Deliciously Different single grain whisky. 

  • Rich & Complex
  • Vanilla
  • Toffee Apple
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus/Chocolate Orange

I suspect, but cannot confirm, this whisky was bought at Dubai’s Le Clos for $361.

Bottom line, did we enjoy? Absolutely! It was a unique experience – both distinctive and memorable.

Also from our evening:

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