Whisky Ladies – Anything better than whisky and chocolate?

Our Whisky Ladies in Mumbai’s February session had a bonus – chocolates specifically designed to pair with whiskies. One set of pralines were meant to pair best with a mild and soft, delicate whisky. The other set were meant to pair with smokey or sherry cask matured whiskies. Each lady also shared a little insight into the bottle she brought….

When Neuhaus meets Single Malt Whiskies

Delicate – Hibiki Harmony NAS 43%

A few of us initially sampled this delightful whisky as a soothing balm after a romp through seven Paul John whiskies – yes in addition to the quintet reviewed, there were two bonus samples direct from the master distiller! Our contributing whisky lady shared how she loves the delicate nuanced balance Harmony achieves with its three component whiskies – Yamasaki, Hakushu and Chita.

What did we discover with Harmony?

  • Whisky – The nose was indeed delicate, nuanced, flowery, honey sweet. The palate was soft, very well constructed. In short, an exceedingly civilised dram to kick-off our evening!
  • Chocolate – Paired with pralines having caramel ganache, caramelised hazelnuts or toasted almonds or a smooth, rich creamy single origin Javanese cocao milk chocolate

Peaty – Lagavulin 16 year 43%

Our contributor confessed this was her ‘go to’ dram during her London student days. For many this was a familiar friend. The kind of peaty ‘curl up by the fireside’ quality you turn to for comfort. For a few, it was a first introduction to this classic Islay dram.

What did we find with the Lagavulin?

  • Nose – Peat, split pea with ham soup, forrest, moss, then sweet honey, vanilla, warm toasted sugared almonds, finally a curl of cinnamon spice
  • Palate – Spicy, smokey, ‘tarka’, a buttery quality, keeps getting sweeter, rich, powerful
  • Finish – Long and dry, moss, smoke, vanilla
  • Quote“I feel like I just took a drag from a cigarette!”

For chocolate, we paired similar to the sherry bomb…

Sherry – Abelour A’bunadh batch 46 (2013) 60.4%

Our whisky lady picked up this particular gem in the US at a speciality whisky store. She shared she wanted something distinctive to bring back to India and was directed to this gorgeous cask strength sherry bomb. She opened it prior to our session, fell in love and with great difficulty was able to keep it reserved for our tasting pleasure.

So…. how was this A’bunadh with chocolate?

  • Whisky – Gorgeous sherry notes of plums, figs, raisins, burnt sugar. Cherry berry sherry bomb on the palate full of rich flavours, well rounded and robust. The finish closed with long drawn out rummy raisins.
  • Chocolate – Paired with pralines having more of a deeper, bitter or more intense single origin chocolate from Peru, or ones containing speculooos or puffed rice to add texture and balance the smokey peat or christmas sweet of sherry

Some may recall we sampled batch 35 at a Whisky Ladies ‘Cask Strength Diwali‘ and for comparison, it was pulled out revealing juicier fruits.

Without a doubt, pairing whiskies with chocolate was a smashing success!

2016-02-27 Whisky + Chocolate

Other Whisky Ladies of Mumbai evenings:

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Hibiki Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” 43%

My early introduction to Hibiki was with its enjoyable 12 year blend years ago and then its even more delightful 17 year sibling. However the craze for Japanese whiskies in recent years has meant pressures on stock and, like many other companies, Suntory is no exception to embracing the NAS trend rather than be restricted to have a year statement linked to the youngest whisky found in the bottle.

Japanese Harmony “Master’s Select” is a recent Hibiki offering found in most Duty Free shops around the world… and just so happens to be the whisky that kicked-off our regular group‘s November tasting trio!

Hibiki Japanese Harmony

As our normal practice, we sampled blind then revealed the whisky…

Hibiki Japanese Harmony NAS 43%

  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – That new bottle ‘bang!’ with jackfruit, over-ripe fruit, then a little sour, slightly medicinal, morphing into sweet basil, a little Vicks vapour rub, very sweet, fresh, even a whiff of orange marmalade and eucalyptus
  • Palate – Dry, bitter, a bit ‘hard’ with light leather, quite ‘wintery’, a bit oaky, nutty – more along the lines of a betel nut with that astringent after taste, with a larger sip becomes quite spicy
  • Finish – There but relatively non-descript, nothing exceptional
  • Water – Without even adding, it feels like was already opened with a few drops of water, those that did found it spicier but didn’t add anything specific
  • Speculation – Sense that it is between 40 – 43%, feel of being a bit ‘junior’, could the colour have a little caramel?

The unveiling – the new Hibiki NAS blend with Yamazaki sherry cask, Hakushu and Chita.

And our overall thoughts? Quite straight, linear, no complexity, yet equally a ’no complaints’ kind of whisky! An entirely pleasant dram and when in the mood to simply sip, enjoy while listening to say.. classical music… this would do the trick!

Here’s what the Masters of Malt folks have to say about the whisky:

Hibiki Japanese Harmony is made with malt whiskies from the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries, as well as grain whisky from the Chita distillery. The whiskies are drawn from 5 different types of cask, including American white oak casks, Sherry casks and Mizunara oak casks. The blend itself was crafted by the Suntory Whisky blending team, led by Master Blender Shingo Torii. An elegant expression, with wafts of honey, orange, a herbaceous touch or two and light oak.
The other whiskies sampled in our November session included:

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Whisky double trouble

A funny thing is starting to happen… as our original whisky tasting group looks forward to our 5th year together, we are beginning to do a little inadvertent duplication.

As our practice is to rotate hosts with each host responsible for curating the evening, not disclosing the whiskies procured for our sampling pleasure until after we have tasted blind, it means we do not coordinate with each other to ensure we aren’t buying the same or similar thing.

At the time of the reveal, we are now occasionally hearing ‘Oh’ in a different tone as the whisky just tried was already acquired for a forthcoming session by another member. That happened in August with the Bruichladdich The Organic Scottish Barley 50%.

However for those that are similar, rather than exactly the same, it means we can play around with interesting comparisons… and in the coming months we will have opportunities to do just that!

Hibiki Harmony, Aultmore 18, Glenburgie 15

Hibiki Harmony, Aultmore 18, Glenburgie 15

For example, November’s three whiskies included:

Why is that remarkable?

We had just sampled the Aultmore 15 year bottled by Gordon & MacPhail the previous month… and here was another Aultmore. Naturally we have asked the hosts from both sessions to bring along both bottles to our next tasting in January!

And now that I have the delightful Whisky Ladies group too, that provides scope for even more such comparisons! Between the two whisky tasting groups, I was able to put side-by-side the distillery release of Caol Ila 12 year next to a Gordon & MacPhail Caol Ila 12 year.

For those of you part of a whisky tasting group, how do you acquire whiskies and organise your sessions?

And do you sometimes get that ‘Oh!’ of duplication or ‘Oooh!’ for another opportunity to do a different kind of comparison?

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