Whisky Lady – April 2018

Another marvellous malty month! Where all three tasting groups met… and I unforgivably missed one! However made up with more whisky adventures.

So what all mischief did we get up to in April?

Photo: The Whisky Barrel

The absolute highlight was a once in a lifetime opportunity to try a 64 year old whisky!

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar group explore Lost Distilleries Trio from the Classic range:

  • Towiemore 43% The evening favourite – think apple crumble meets malt!
  • Gerston 43% Seaside brine, bitter sweet, peat and spice
  • Stratheden 43% Humid, citrus, chocolate… long finish

Whereas our Whisky Ladies Islay Adventures

Plus a few interesting evenings:

Plus a set of no less than seven Gin gin gins!

The balance of the month’s posts were all catching up on earlier tasting sessions…

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents explored whiskies from Japan:

Our original club’s revisited:

And the last fleeting impression from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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Kilchoman US Tour 2017

Last in our trilogy of familiar friends revisited was a whisky from Kilchoman… We sampled blind and truly struggled with this one. We should have guessed it… we really should have… but were flummoxed.

What did we find?

Kilchoman Machir Bay Cask Strength “Kilchoman 2017 Tour” 60%, Bottle 642/840

  • Colour – A light gold
  • Nose – Peat, sweet, bacon sizzling on a pan, super sweet, tangy citrus, marmite, very fruity, confectionary, marzipan, icing sugar, cinnamon candy then shifted character to reveal sacred ash, tamarind, jaggery then earthy, mineral, oily briney
  • Palate – Surprisingly soft initially then strong, spiced cinnamon, ashy
  • Finish – Aligned with the palate… cinnamon spice
  • Water – Nicely balanced, very oily, chocolate

We couldn’t quite determine was the distillery… We ran through all the usual suspects and dismissed as didn’t quite match our recollections of the “signature” peat style. There was no doubt this was a most enjoyable dram.

And the reveal? Kilchoman?! Remarkable!

And no ordinary Kilchoman. It was picked up by our host in the US during the Kilchoman 2017 US Tour lead by Anthony Willis.

We all puzzled a bit as the whisky didn’t display what we would consider typical characteristics of Machir Bay or the cask strength Kicholman’s we’ve sampled in the past.

Bottom line, did we like it? Yes!

For one, he simply had to go back home to compare the recent impression with the standard Machir Bay. He later reported back that indeed – the sacred ash quality that we discovered does have hint in the original – just one that hadn’t “registered” quite as strongly before. Proving that our memories and ways of storing different drams into different categories can be a bit blurrier than we think!

Other Kilchoman sampled over the years…

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Revisiting Johnnie Walker’s Green Label, Kavalan Solist Sherry, Kilchoman

One of the things I really appreciate about our original Mumbai tasting club is that our default is to sample blind. What the means is even something we thought we knew, we have an opportunity to rediscover.

Which was exactly our hosts theme – to revisit whiskies we all know – or at least we thought we did!

Here is what we tried:

With a bonus of Amrut’s Fever Club Con-Fusion Batch No 1, 46%… what fun!

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Whisky Lady – March 2018

It is time for a malty monthly round-up! Where all the sessions marched in order, one after the other wish a special bonus evening with Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula.

So where did we begin?

The Whisky Ladies took a  “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia:

Followed the very next evening by the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents exploring whiskies from Japan:

Our original club did a revisit with:

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we ambled through…

March also was a month to catch-up on a few earlier tasting experiences… beginning with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents  Compass Box Quartet!

And more fleeting impressions from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

*Tasting notes coming soon…

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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“The Whisky Guessing Game” at The Single Cask, Singapore

Having an opportunity to ‘try something different‘ seems to be the hallmark of most whisky aficionados journey. What better way than through bottlers not disclosing the distillery… here follows the tasting notes and speculation from an anonymous Islay whisky flight experienced at The Single Cask in Singapore.

Cask Islay 46%

  • Nose – Citrus smoke, sweet brine
  • Palate – Ash, peat, oily, sense of being a bit sticky, doesn’t travel well
  • Finish – Bitter… makes you want water!

Cask Islay is a small batch release from A.D. Rattray and you can read what they have to say here.

Islay Storm 40%

  • Nose – Softer than the Cask Islay, fresh grass, fruity apples, cereals, barley oat porridge, followed by a nice sweetness
  • Palate – While it didn’t have much body, there was a fresh green dimension and actually quite interesting, warming into vanilla custard with smoke, sweet peat, sea salt, eminently enjoyable
  • Finish – Very nice finish, surprisingly long

The folks behind this bottle is The Vantage Malt Whisky Company and you can read what they have to say about Islay Storm here.

Dun Bheagan Islay 43%

  • Nose – Briney citrus, tannins
  • Palate – Bit of spice, some body, the peat was actually quite balanced
  • Finish – Sweet spice with cinnamon

IanMacLeod Distillers created the Dun Bheagan collection to feature a range of single casks.

Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%

  • Nose – Tar, asphalt, leather, grass, flowers, quite sweet yet also oddly quite shy and mute
  • Palate – Sharp leather, warm balanced evolution
  • Finish – Sweet spice liquor

It may sounds like a contradiction but it was oddly muted and shy – can’t help but suspect the bottle was open too long with oxidation taking its toll.

Again, the folks behind this marvellous dram are The Vantage Malt Whisky Company, with more details about their Finlaggan range available here.

All were interesting. All would be quite affordable in the UK and not pocket destroying in Singapore. I kept coming back to the Islay Storm, whereas my companion was particularly partial to the Finlaggan.

And our guesses?

  • Cask Islay 46% Our guess? Caol Ila
  • Islay Storm 40%? Zero doubt it was Kilchoman… by a mile! And interesting to try at 40%. Sipping it also sparked my companion’s memories of his 1st visit to the distillery
  • Dun Bheagan Islay 43% Most likely a Lagavulin
  • Finlaggan Cask Strength 58% Probably a Laphroaig

If anyone can prove or disprove any of our speculations – would love to hear!

So there we have it… a wee whisky flight and a most enjoyable evening in Singapore.

The Single Cask is located at 01-25 Chijmes Caldwell House, 30 Victoria Street, Singapore 187996 / info@thesinglecask.sg / +65 6837 0953.

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Kilchoman Trilogy Pairing Quandary

Imagine you are a celebrated curator of special gourmet experiences.

Picture your normal metier as a sommelier is to pair food with wine.

Then someone comes to you with a challenge…

Craft a unique evening pairing dishes with cask strength peated whiskies you have never tried before.

And will not have an opportunity to sample until the evening itself.

Nikhil Agarwal of All Things Nice rose to the challenge, armed with tasting notes… he planned a remarkable six course meal…

However, a true professional, on sampling the whiskies, he suggested reversing the PX with sherry or simply playing around with a sip of each to determine the best pairing. As we discovered, some of the assumptions made based on the tasting notes needed to be adjusted when faced with the reality of our experience with the different expressions.

Kilchoman Bourbon cask

Kilchoman Bourbon cask

Kilchoman Bourbon bottle tasting notes:

  • Colour – Golden hay
  • Nose – Soft fruits, citrus notes with sweet smoky aroma
  • Palate – Vanilla and caramel evident, with a soft full character and ripe fruit notes
  • Finish – Long, clean and sweet with peat smoke and soft citrus notes at the end
Planned to pair with:

Kilchoman pani puri

Bombay’s Street Pani Puri
Crispy unleavened whole wheat pockets filled with mint and coriander spiced chickpea, topped with sweet tamarind sauce

KIlchoman vada pau

Mini Vada Pao
Stuffed potato fritter, garlic seasoning, dry coconut and East Indian bottle masala served within a partially charred Indian pao
What did we find?
  • The pani puri was served with the warm chickpea sabra a surprise inside its crunchy pocket. It was hot and spicy with a sweet tangy tamarind. With the bourbon it ‘popped’ into a crazy tasty combination that left you craving more! Which we shameless requested, to then contrast trying a delicious morsel with each whisky. What we found is the bourbon brought out the spice more, the sherry the sweet side and the PX was juuuust right!
  • And the vada pau? The dry coconut and home made bottle masala made this completely distinctive, standing out as much more than just the savoury snack so loved by Mumbaikars. While all sampled it first with the bourbon, it was when we crossed over to the PX that we discovered a spontaneous combustion of flavours in an absolutely fabulous pairing!
Kilchoman PX

Kilchoman PX

Kilchoman PX bottle tasting notes:

  • Colour – Golden amber
  • Nose – Strong vanilla with citrus fruits, caramelised brown sugar and sultanas
  • Palate – Sweet toffee up front with a hint of marmalade, dryness and a long peaty finish
  • Finish – The finish is long and clean with rich smoke and dried fruit
Planned to pair with:
Kilchoman main course
Mutton Curry or Baingan Bharta and Bhaja, Mixed Dal and Bhindi Fry  
Slow cooked mutton chops in gravy or smoked aubergine served on an aubergine fritter, spiced lentils and super delicious crispy okra, served with Indian bread ‘naan’
Kilchoman Biryani
Matka Biryani and Raita
Mushroom biryani cooked with whole spices served with cold yoghurt salad
What did we find?
  • I can’t speak for the carnivores, but the baingan bharta and bhajan was was a complete treat! To then have bhindi (bitter gourd) prepared my favourite way and a rich comforting home style mixed lentil? And hot buttered naan… Let’s just say my taste buds were doing a happy dance long before whisky was introduced….
  • What I found was different elements paired best with different whiskies. For the mixed dal? Definitely the sherry. For the bhindi? The PX. And the baingan, even the bourbon worked however it was back to the PX for most.
  • The delight with the next course was the contrast between the hot biryani and the cold raita. Again we tried different combinations with the whisky. For some, it went best with the bourbon, others the sherry. Interestingly none would chose to pair this dish with the PX.
Kilchoman Sherry

Kilchoman Sherry

Kilchoman Sherry bottle tasting notes:
  • Colour – Dark burnished copper
  • Nose – Deep sherry, smoke and leather notes
  • Palate – Rich, luxurious sherry flavours. Viscous almost syrupy, lots of cooked fruits and citrus peel
  • Finish – Excellent, for a young whisky this has all the characteristics of great age
Planned to pair with:
 Kilchoman Regiano
Say Cheese
36 month aged Parmigiana Reggiani dressed with organic honey from the forests of Orissa
 Kilchoman Chocolate Ganache
Dessert
60% dark chocolate & coffee ganache

What did we find?

  • In both cases, zero doubt on the whisky pairing choice – the PX. The salty sweet combination of the honey drizzled parmigiana paired beautifully with it. As it did with the sinful chocolate too!

Clearly the PX was the most versatile and the whisky that worked best paired with various dishes. What we found when we sampled it before the dinner was a whisky that was more accessible and easier to simply enjoy than the bourbon or sherry. While each of the trilogy is a unique and worthy whisky,

We’ve had the pleasure of sampling several Kilchomans….

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Kilchoman Trilogy – Sherry Single Cask 60.6%

Back in 2015 as a tasting group, we had only explored Machir Bay and 100% Islay. Middle of last year, I acquired from Heathrow duty-free the Coull Point which quickly embraced it as my ‘go to’ daily dram whisky.

So when browsing around La Maison du Whisky in Singapore in December 2015, the idea of introducing a cask strength Kilchoman trilogy that explored the effect of maturing in different casks (bourbon, PX and sherry) was most appealing. Another member had requested I pick up three whiskies on his behalf, and this seemed just perfect!

Picture then our April hosts face fall when our March 2016 session focused on a Kilchoman trio with Machir Bay, Sanaig and… the very Kilchoman Trilogy Sherry Single Cask he planned for his session!

Undeterred, our host crafted a remarkable unique evening where we appreciated, anew, this single cask whisky. It was a completely different experience and well worth revisiting.

Kilchoman Sherry

Here is what we found:

Kilchoman Sherry Single Cask Trilogy 60.6% (LMDW) 

Single Cask #199 (8.4.2010/31.8.2015), Bottle 173 /643
  • Colour – Much much darker, unmistakable sherry
  • Nose – Tamarind sour, peat, spice, that distinctive imli ka pani (a tart spicy tamarind water), which opened to sweet vanilla, apple pie and caramel
  • Palate – All the peppers – every last one! From sweet crisp green capsicum to black peppercorn and even a spicy red chilly. Very balanced and pronounced “gorgeous!”
  • Finish – Long, bitter, spice at first that smooths into sweet
  • Water – Think we forgot to add in the main tasting but later in the evening, did to help with the pairing
  • Speculation – Same distillery as earlier? Peat theme? All Scottish whiskies… but not typical Islay.
  • Mood / setting – While not an easy whisky, could hold its own in a more sociable setting just as it could be savoured solo
  • Comments – “I’m stealing it!” (til the speaker later discovered he already had a bottle at home!)
So what do the folks over at La Maison du Whisky have to say (translated from French) about this Kilchoman? 

Although the sherry just about gains the upper hand over the peat and smoke in the finish, it is only with a view to prolonging the intense pleasure experienced in tasting this Kilchoman aged in sherry casks. Whether in the nose or on the palate, the notes inherent to sherry and those accumulated through smoked malted barley are so deeply embedded here it is impossible to tell them apart. This beautiful weaving of scents and tastes creates a complex, deep, sparkling and remarkably well-balanced single malt.

Profile: Dominated by peat, but this does not exclude the presence of ripe (Mirabelle plum, quince) and exotic (pineapple, kiwi) fruit.

Others in our Kilchoman Trilogy evening:

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Kilchoman Trilogy – Pedro Ximenez Single Cask 58.4%

Next up in our Kilchoman trilogy was a cask strength whisky matured exclusively in a Pedro Ximenez cask. Unlike the depth of red sherry, this white Spanish grape is dried under the sun to create a thick, dark liquid with raisins and molasses which then is fortified and aged using a solera process.

For whiskies, using either a PX or Oloroso sherry butt produces a distinctive ‘Christmasy’ sweetness with subtle differences. Some suggest a PX cask tends to imbue a whisky more strongly with raisins, gaining  an almost syrupy quality. Whereas Oloroso tends to be rich, spicier plum pudding sweetness. Read on to see what we found with this Kilchoman PX before comparing it with the Oloroso Sherry cask.

Kilchoman PX

Kilchoman Pedro Ximenez Single Cask Trilogy 58.4% (LMDW) 
Single Cask #374 (19.7.2010/31.8.2015), Bottle No 141/261
  • Colour – Much darker than the 1st, clear indication of entering sherry territory
  • Nose – One immediate comment was “It’s like that red hair oil!” (Navratan kesh tel), salty sweet, smoked sweet bacon, stewed fruits, coconut? Cinnamon sweet without the extra spicy zing we sometimes find, lots of sea salt, then caramel popcorn and finally seaweed
  • Palate – Less complex and much more accessible than the 1st whisky. Peat is mild… the sense that you need to ‘pull it out’ rather than being ‘hello! I’m here!’ However better body and much better balanced than the 1st whisky. Think aged balsamic, much more oil and substance, almost chewy or syrupy
  • Finish – Sits there with spice, caramel toffee and an inner curl of peat
  • Water – Doesn’t require it. Some found it killed it.
  • Speculation – Sense of it being more matured than the 1st, sherry elements without being overpowering
  • Mood / setting – This one you could welcome in a bar, not so demanding of careful attention. A lot easier to get acquainted and simply enjoy. One tasters clear favourite!
  • Comments – “Sweet and yummy with some spice!” “A balance of sweet and spice – perfect!”
Here’s what the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say (translated from French) about this Kilchoman:

The nose opens in a particularly heady whirlwind in which peat and sherry match each other note for note in intensity. A spectacular change of olfactory scene overflowing with fruity and floral aromas. An attack on the palate in which peat takes its leave for a few moments before making a triumphant return. The end of the palate is characterised by the sumptuous influence of the sherry. Peat and smoke join forces in a grand finale that emphasizes the great purity of this distillate. Just a few highlights in experiencing this Kilchoman aged in Pedro Ximenez casks.

Profile: the peat gives way to a note of agave here, grapefruit there, and even mustard seed.

Also in  our Kilchoman Trilogy evening:

We’ve had the pleasure of sampling a few other Kilchoman’s in the past too…

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Kilchoman Trilogy – Bourbon Single Cask 60.5%

The Kilchoman Trilogy from La Maison du Whisky celebrates the impact of maturing in different casks on the whisky – Bourbon, PX and sherry.

As usual, we tasted blind. However, as it was a trilogy, our host kept the identity of all three whiskies secret until after we sampled the last. First up for our tasting pleasure was the bourbon cask…

Kilchoman Bourbon cask

Kilchoman Bourbon cask

Kilchoman Bourbon Single Cask Trilogy 60.5% (LMDW) 

Single Cask #260 (6.5.2010/31.8.2015) Bottle 194 /267

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – When first poured, an unmistakable peat which then settled down to reveal sweet fruit, meat like glazed ham and pineapple, a bit vegetal. The smoke softened in a heavy not sharp way, a little sweet medical camphor, almost detol like, then the freshness of green capsicum, a deeper earthy element. Finally after much airing, a sweet basil and mint emerged with sacred ash on the surface and cinnamon candy peaking beneath… when revisited much later, the nose was spicy sweet with sour curd
  • Palate – Sweet, tingly, peat yet a different smoke that your typical Islay, initially sharp it then mellowed without losing its strength and character, a little ‘life buoy soap’ and ‘big red’ cinnamon chewing gum, pepper spice on the lips, tending towards a Punjabi style ’tikka
  • Finish – Warm and spicy
  • Water – Some thought it was ‘dying’ for water, others not. Those that added found it brought out a bitter chocolate quality, a nice spice to savour. Finally after opening up over time, yeasty baked bread and bacon notes came out!

While clearly cask strength, it was a bit thin and hadn’t yet gathered the oils from the wood, so had the sense of possibly being younger.

As we discussed the possible mood or setting to best enjoy this dram, comments were:

  • Too complex for a bar, more like a special date with someone to test if s/he can appreciate such a whisky. “If you don’t get this whisky, you don’t make the cut for a next date!”
  • Or a more contemplative evening solo, as there is an oddly meditative quality more reminiscent of a temple than night on the town.

Did we appreciate this whisky? Certainly. It was hard not to be captivated by the different elements. This isn’t a friendly neighbourhood whisky. It is a bit more intellectual and requires you to pay attention to understand it.

So what do the folks over at La Maison du Whisky have to say (translated from French) about this Kilchoman whisky?

Particularly sunny, this version aged in bourbon casks perfectly encapsulates the precise and balanced style so characteristic of Kilchoman single malts. While the notes of peat and smoke are omnipresent, they leave their mark with great elegance while setting the tone for things to come. This thoroughly subtle influence enables the whisky to gain in olfactory and gustatory power that is both nuanced and perfectly mastered. A work of art!

Profile: Peat and smoke coated in lemony scents. It becomes increasingly voluptuous (rice pudding, tangerine jam).

Not sure I would describe it as ‘voluptuous’ but it certainly was a good way to kick off our tasting session!

Next up in our Kilchoman Trilogy evening:

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on: