Scottish Grains Recap

According to our friends over at Malt Madness, today in Scotland, there are only 6 full fledged grain distilleries:

  • Cameronbridge – the oldest & largest grain whisky distillery now best known for Haig
  • Girvan – a grain distillery built in 1963 by W. Grant & Sons that has recently released a few age statements
  • Invergordon from Whyte & Mackay can primarily be found only in Independent bottles
  • North British the second largest Scotch grain distillery
  • Starlaw – opened in 2010 and owned by La Martiniquaise
  • Strathclyde – owned by the Pernod Ricard conglomerate with a few independent bottles out there

Yet this should soon be changing… with new distilleries opening such as R+B who put out  advance indicators of the style they plan to emulate… including a grain with their Borders Single Grain 51.7%.

Of these, our whisky tasting groups of Mumbai have managed to get their hands on:

  • Cameronbridge with their Haig Club 40% accessible, innocuous and frankly forgettable grain
  • Invergordon 28 year 56.5% from Douglas Laing – Think muted varnish, vanilla, salty sea water with roasted peanuts
  • Cambus Single Grain 24 year (1991/2015) Cask 55891 51.9% from Signatory Vintage – An absolutely delightful delicious and alas discontinued dram
  • Girvan 8 years (2006/2014) 46% from Berrys’ – Starts with a hit of pure alcohol then sweet bananas, some vanilla from the oak wood, lemon drop sweetness peeped out… all the elements were very subtle with the overall scent of light varnish
  • Girvan 28 years 42% – From a bio-chemistry set to sweet fruits, pudding, tasting like honey water, eclair and a caramel rum ball
  • Strathclyde 25 year (1990/2016) 51.1% from Douglas Laing – A remarkable nose that 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.

Still to try something from North British and Starlaw… However not such a bad start to exploring this category of whisky!

Curious about even more grains? Check out this Grain’s page dedicated to just grain – in all its various from Scotland to Japan to North America and Europe!

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

Bombay Canadian Club – JP Wiser’s 18 year 40%

Ah…Canada and Canadian whiskies… Time to shift from blends to a single grain… In our case, aged for a most respectable 18 years… Welcome to our experience with J.P. Wiser’s 18 year old!

JP Wiser’s 18 year 40%

  • Nose – When we freshly opened the bottle were initially hit with acetone and varnish, however this quickly settled down into wood, spearmint, pine sol, apples, warm, liquorice, cotton candy, light toast then sawdust
  • Palate – Very soft, at first thought it almost watery on the 1st sip but don’t pre-judge…. the 2nd sip reveals light caramel, nicely rounded, a bit oily… the 3rd sip revealed even more depth and complexity with sucking candy
  • Finish – A lovely liquorice spice

Overall we found this one you should give a bit of time.

For our Malt & Cigar gents, what mattered most was it paired rather well with a good cigar, thank you very much!

The folks at the LCBO have this to say:

A single grain whisky that is dominated by aromas of green apple in part due to the unique aging conditions in Southern Ontario. It pours a medium golden amber with additional aromas of caramel, orange peel and spice; the palate is round and medium-bodied with a silky texture and a smooth vanilla driven, finish.

Thanks to Canada’s regulated approach to the sale of liquor, one can easily find both where to buy (simple – your provincial LCBO) and how much (currently C$79.95).

Check out what our Bombay “Canadian” evening covered:

Don’t want to miss these Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

A delightful, delicious yet alas discontinued dram – Cambus 24 year grain 51.9%

Every once and a while there is a chance to sample a piece of whisky history. In this case from a Lowland grain distillery that shut its doors in 1993. Before that, Cambus produced grain from early 1800s, with a hiatus from 1913 to 1938 when a fire destroyed much of the original distillery before it was rebuilt.

Like most grains, it mostly went into blends and you won’t find any official bottles. However – if you are lucky – you may come across a few select independent bottles… such as the one from Signatory that I snagged in Singapore at Whisky Live.

Cambus Single Grain 24 year (1991/2015) Cask 55891 51.9% (Signatory Vintage), Bottle 22 of 447

  • Nose – Floral, tempting, subtly complex, honey lemon, shifting between a heady perfume and light ginger, cinnamon, butterscotch and rich vanilla cream
  • Palate – Spice, with a great mouthfeel, cream like Amarulla with a bit of a hazelnut too, fruity, there was depth and character yet with a soft touch
  • Finish – Lightly bitter, closing on more of that delicious vanilla
  • Water – Brings out even more vanilla and toffee, think of a butterscotch ice cream

Overall it was exceedingly tasty… and far far far too easy to drink! It was hard not to say things like “Really nice!” and other happy murmurings.

And that’s just the thing about this whisky – it is simply delicious! A happy companion for a pleasant evening. It doesn’t challenge you but it does have enough substance and spice to make it a sprightly delightful dram.

What else do we know? It quietly matured for 24 years in a single refill butt and was bottled at cask strength.

While I didn’t find any tasting notes from the bottlers, I did check out what the  chaps at Master of Malt had to say:

  • Nose: Yep, that’s yummy grain – thick vanilla, summer fruits boiled sweets and gentle oak spice.
  • Palate: Spicy and honeyed, more vanilla and red fruit, almond pastries and a touch of treacle.
  • Finish: Quite long with a fruity tang.
  • Overall: Mid-twenties grain with a little fruity cask influence.

This bottle was purchased at Singapore Whisky Live 2017 (La Maison du Whisky) after sampling it at the Signatory kiosk. While not readily available, I paid SGD 203 / USD 150 / INR 10,800 in November 2017 and we opened the bottle in September 2018.

Since then I will admit to taking another nip or two as it is simply a rather enjoyable whisky. I keep telling myself to stop and keep it for others to try a sip of history but it sits in my cabinet temptingly tasty. And did I write more tasting notes? No… it was simply too tasty a treat to do anything but enjoy.

What else did the Whisky Ladies try in their Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

Whisky Ladies Grain – Nikka Coffey Grain 45%

When our Whisky Ladies set out to explore grains, we just so happened to include one we had sampled before – the Nikka Coffey Grain.

Our earlier impression was of a sun soaked piña colada masquerading as a coconut fruity whisky.

So what did we think on our revisit? Juxtaposed next to other grain whiskies from Scotland and Japan?

Nikka Coffey Grain 45%

  • Nose – Quite aromatic and herbal! Has character, toffee, brown sugar, coconut, some vanilla, sweet corn and a hint of sweet lemon, pear
  • Palate – Sooooooo sweet, silky soft and gentle, loads of that toffee
  • Finish – Sweeter note

One exclaimed “Well this is a fun whisky to meet!” Another shared it certainly is one to satisfy a sweet tooth – like a dessert dram!

For those who had tried it in our earlier session remarked that while there certainly was some coconut, it did not have that delightful almost over enthusiastic tropical piña colada quality.

When we considered the grains sampled so far – Haig, Chita and now this Nikka – there was little doubt the Nikka had the most character.

What do the folks over at Nikka have to say?

Coffey Grain is predominantly made from corn and distilled in a Coffey Still. The complex, sweet and mellow flavors of this expression will help you re-discover the beauty of a grain whisky.
The Coffey Still is the world’s first patented continuous still invented by Mr. Aeneas Coffey in 1830. Masataka Taketsuru valued the feature of this type of still, which retains the flavors of ingredients and also creates a distinctive texture. Coffey Grain and Coffey Malt are Nikka’s signature grain whiskies which show the beauty of our Coffey Stills.

And what would a bottle set you back? You can find it online in the UK for approx £55. We tasted it in September 2018 from an open bottle.

PS – Photo credit goes to our contributor Nikolina Berg.

What did the Whisky Ladies try in their Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

Whisky Ladies Go Against the Grain – Haig Club 40%

From Cameronbridge distillery in Fife, on the edge of Eastern Highlands and Lowlands, the Haig grain has set about creating a marketing space for a “different” kind of whisky.

It does not look like your traditional whisky bottle.

It does not attempt to claim space with your standard dram.

It steers far away from being “traditional” and instead embraces being a base for cocktails, welcomes ice, says hello to cola and more….

As they put it, it is deliberately “designed” to be different.

Forget everything you thought you knew about scotch. Experience the new world of scotch whisky.

So what did the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai collectively think?

Haig Club 40%

  • Nose – Initially a hit of pure alcohol, then starts to slip into a fresh, citrusy scent, some spice, light vanilla that over time started to reveal a nice butterscotch or caramel quality
  • Palate – We had quite a mixed response here – some found it smooth, innocuous honey water whereas others thought it flat to the extend of simply nondescript alcohol
  • Finish – Not much, short, perhaps a hint of honey ginger?
  • Water – Surprisingly given this was already at the low end of alcohol strength for a whisky, we actually did try it with water… and found it made it even more of an “easy drinking” whisky

We certainly weren’t “wowed” by this Haig grain but hadn’t expected to be either.

It was very “accessible” which is a nice way of saying easy-drinking without much distinctive character.

What was more amusing was the division of opinion on whether the “perfume” style bottle was aesthetically pleasing or not. Just like the palate, the room was divided between liking and not.

What is it exactly? A combination of three cask types – first-fill, rejuvenated and refill bourbon barrel-matured whiskies.

Beyond that… here’s what the folks producing it have to  say :

HAIG CLUB’s ultra-smooth character and toffee and butterscotch notes can be paired with a variety of complementary flavours to add extra layers of complexity, resulting in a range of cocktail styles that eclipse most whisky brands and showcase unexpected ways for people to enjoy Scotch.

  • Appearance: Light, bright gold with a fine viscosity, suggesting freshness and sweet flavour.
  • Nose: Light creamy butterscotch or custard, with tropical fruits and citrus becoming richer and sweet; a pleasing light woody spiciness.
  • Taste: Icing sugar or coconut creamy sweetness, butterscotch, and a mouth-watering spiciness. Like a tropical fruit salad with a fresh clean balance.
  • Finish: Short and very clean, with traces of freshly sawn wood.

And what would a bottle of the Haig set you back? You can find it online at Master of Malt for £39.95 or various duty free airports around Asia. Our bottle was purchased a few years ago and opened in September 2018.

PS – Photo credit goes to our contributor – with thanks!

What did the Whisky Ladies try in their Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

Whisky Ladies Grain – The Chita 43%

Most would be familiar with Suntory’s popular Hibiki blend which brings together the Chita grain with Hakushu and Yamazaki. For many years, Suntory kept Chita nearly ‘secret’ in Japan – with no exports available.

I remember when I first picked up a bottle in Tokyo  (July 2014) – our tasting group in Mumbai were astounded by its exquisite, perfumed and nuanced character. Before featuring it in an article on Japanese whiskies, I reached out to the folks at Suntory to ask if they had any plans to market Chita outside of Japan. That was mid 2015 and the answer was “not yet” with plans clearly afoot to change that state sooner than later.

So when the NAS export version “The Chita” became available at Singapore duty-free a year later, I was excited to try it! Thanks to a “speed dating” sample sip at the airport, I had this chance, however didn’t discover much of what made our original experience so interesting.

Since then we’ve had more grains and know to calibrate expectations. And as always, the best thing about exploring whiskies with a tasting group – in this case the Whisky Ladies – is the different impressions which includes those who come with a fresh open approach not coloured by past experiences.

So what did we collectively think?

The Chita 43%

  • Nose – Light banana, vanilla, soft wood, almond, light perfume, honey
  • Palate – Lemon and pepper, sweet, pleasant, uncomplicated, more of that light perfume in the flavours and definitely more honey too
  • Finish – Simple, sweet yet satisfying

Overall we pronounced this one for the “easy drinking” category. Completely pleasant and one that could be brought out as an enjoyable uncomplicated option. One lady shared  she generally keeps a bottle of The Chita stocked and prefers it with ice and a splash of water for a simple refreshing wind-down drink.

What is interesting to note is that while the age is not stated, part of the character comes from the grain aging in a variety of casks – American White Oak, Spanish Oak and wine. This combination is given credit to producing a grain that is mild and smooth.

Suntory shares that they’ve produced grain as “dashi” or a broth base for their blends since 1972.  Yet only with the craze for Japanese whiskies globally and a growing interest in grain as a category on its own has The Chita become available since 2016.

And what do they have to say?

Shinji Fukuyo describes The Chita Single Grain Whisky as the “serenity of Japanese whisky.” Like the misty, calm seas of the Chita Peninsula on a day of elegant stillness, this airy whisky has a presence that is unmistakably serene.

“There is a quiet confidence and tenderness in our grain whiskies. These qualities allow them to be their own heroes, whether in a blend or featured as a single grain whisky.”

From the House of Suntory Whisky, a mild, smooth single grain whisky with unparalleled sophistication and a clean, clear finish.

  • Colour: Bright gold
  • Nose: Creme brûlée, cardamon, acacia honey, blossoming rose
  • Palate: Mild and smooth, hint of mint, deep honey
  • Finish: Clean and clear, spiced oak with subtle bittersweet notes

And what would a bottle of The Chita set you back? You can find it at Changi airport in Singapore for approx SGD 80 / USD 60 / INR 4,250. By Asian standards that is quite reasonable and more importantly, it is available in several airports in the region making it easy to pick up too. From that perspective, it is an easy buy for an easy drinking alternative.

PS – Photo credit goes to our whisky contributor Paula McGlynn

What else did the Whisky Ladies try in our Grain evening?

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

Grain Whiskies – Haig, Chita, Nikka, Cambus

Though the humble grain is mostly found in blends, the Whisky Ladies are no stranger to exploring grains…

Just a couple that come to mind include….

All of our earlier grain experiences were mingled with trying malts or blends, so when it came time to decide a theme anchored by Suntory’s grain whisky Chita, we decided to go all out with grains!

We put out the word and here is what turned up!

And here is a selection of other grain tasting experiences:

You can find more on a page dedicated just to Grains here.

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

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?

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

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?

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

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.

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on: