Celebrating 30+ European whiskies!

In the grand scheme of things, trying 30 whiskies is no big deal.

But when you live in India and those happen to be European whiskies… it is an accomplishment!

Let’s face it, exploring the world of whiskies behind a crazy custom’s “curtain” that restricts access not just bringing into India but state by state… means relying on individuals making an effort to source directly from far-flung lands rather than simply strolling over to a corner liquor store.

Hence it is indeed a celebration – with thanks – to share a summary of European samples! Now… just providing a list alone isn’t fun.. so with each, I’ve shared a fleeting impression so you can see what might peak your interest to read more…

European Whiskies  

Many of the Nordic whiskies came compliments of 

The Europe page is continuously updated as we explore more whiskies, so feel free to check back anytime to read of more!

PS – Anyone spot the ‘malted spirit’ rather than proper whisky??

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Ladies Choice – Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC 46%

Our Ladies Choice evening moved from Sweden to France, home of the Glann Ar Mor distillery with its peated single malt Kornog.

pooja-virPooja Vir joins as our next Whisky Ladies of Mumbai guest whisky reviewer…

Pooja has spent the last twenty years working in the  hospitality industry in Bombay and London in project management, operations and marketing communications. She always did love to eat on the job but recently swapped the 9 to 5 and terrific staff discounts for afternoon naps and private clients she loves.  

Here is what she has to say…

The last time we drank a Kornog I wanted to take my bra off.

And this, forever, will remain my first thought each time I drink the (very) peated malt from Breton.

When our favourite Whisky Lady invited me to write a guest post on a whisky I sourced for one of our club’s evenings I warned her it wasn’t going to be about the whisky. She didn’t seem to mind, and so here I am.

My love affair with whisky began when I was 6 months old. Several decades later, over my first ever whisky sour (which I sent back) in a trendy hotel in London’s Shoreditch I began to write a blog called Table for One. It’s a personal diary of sorts, and a record of what I felt when I was out eating and drinking on my own.

More decades later, after a fairly democratic voting process, the Whisky Ladies of Bombay chose 5 bottles for the evening we were hosting the Bombay Malt & Cigar evening. The Kornog Breton Single Malt became my responsibility. A quick call to my bootlegger in London and we were in business.

But I digress… you must want to get back to Breton, and bras.

The bra-extracting whisky that my fellow Whisky Ladies were referring to was the Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46% they tasted a few months ago. However, the Kornog Taourac’h Pemved 14 BC 46% we drank tonight was less titillating.

kornog

Much to the disappointment of the “gentlemen” we were hosting, no bras came off. And much to the disappointment of the ladies who had experienced a Kornog before, this one was as mild as the gents we were hosting.

Fortunately for me though, I didn’t carry the burden of experience. I had started to fall for this Kornog soon after I saw it for the first time. I loved the font on its label. I loved that it came from France (but wasn’t an Armagnac or a calvados or a pastis). I loved that it was the whisky version of Italy’s slow cooking movement – made with wooden washbacks, slow distillation and maturation by the sea.

So I gave it the benefit of the doubt. I decided to like it and all it had to do in return was deliver a perfect first kiss.

The clever folk will tell you its nose is “smoky and fruity with citrusy peat and notes of marzipan.” That it tastes “medicinal with hints of seaweed, tar and pear.” That the “smoke goes awry and marzipan hits again.” Or as the Whisky Ladies put it: the bras stayed on.

It seemed harsh at first sniff, but so much gentler on the tongue. I flirted enough for the two of us, but it didn’t seem to notice. I put a lot of heart into every conversation, and even though all I got back was monosyllables, it didn’t seem to notice.

Ladies and gentlemen, it would seem that I have been afflicted by a one-sided romance. I say this isn’t about the whisky… but of course it is. For it is unlikely that any other whisky, on any other night, with another group of people would have inspired what it did. It is unlikely that anyone else I loved so much, would reject me as surely as this Kornog did.

The Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC is a single-cask bottling, aged in a bourbon cask and bottled in 2014.

Table for One

Table for One

What else did we sample in our “Ladies Choice” evening for the BMC gentlemen?

For more related updates and activities, check out:

Whisky Ladies Choice – Treating the BMC Gentlemen…

Last year, the gentlemen from the Bombay Malt & Cigar club took it upon themselves to treat the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai to an evening of Irish whiskies and cigars.

This year, it was our turn to return the favour.

We debated a range of different approaches and finally decided on a theme of “Ladies Choice.” And what pray tell did that mean to us?

We wanted to share with the gentlemen some of the most memorable whiskies we sampled together as a tasting group. They may not be the world’s best whiskies but they would be our “Choice” – ones that stood out in some kind of way.

We went about it in a democratic manner and voted, tallied up the responses to create a “short-list”, then began the efforts to source these whiskies.

Our approach was a bit flexible, in some cases we knew it would be impossible to source the EXACT same whisky. What worked was finding something from the same distillery or similar category.

The whiskies were literally sourced from around the world involving travel, friends of friends and even last minute acquisitions…

What made it into our final “Ladies Choice” list?

JapanAkashi Red Blended Whisky 40%

  • In truth we had several Japanese whiskies in mind however the Akashi was accessible and a refreshing departure from the expensive exclusive impossible to find Japanese single malts, so figured why not!
  • It also made for a perfect ‘appetizer’ whisky to get the evening going…

Sweden – Mackmyra Vinterdröm 46.1%

  • The most enjoyable peaty Mackmyra Svensk Rok 46.1% captured our attention with its clean, minimalist yet smoky qualities.
  • So when our Swedish whisky lady went on the hunt over Christmas for something distinctly different from the distillery, this limited edition “Caribbean love affair” avatar was her pick!

IndiaPaul John Single Cask #1844 60.5%

  • The Paul John Select Cask Peated Batch 1 “OMG bacon!” made many Whisky Ladies swoon for more during our Paul John evening… we definitely wanted to include a Goan single malt, preferably a Select Cask or Single Cask…
  • Thankfully Michael from Paul John distilleries was able to oblige our interest – literally hand delivering this single cask a mere two days before our evening!

France – Kornog Taouarc’h Pempved 14 BC 46%

  • Kornog’s whisky from Bretagne will forever be known in our group for the comment “How did you go from being a perfect gentlemen to getting my bra off like that?” (WL on Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46%)
  • Alas the Trived 10 BC was no longer available so we took a gamble on the newer Pempved 14 BC

TaiwanKavalan Solist Sherry Cask S090102020 57.1%

  • There was no doubt a Kavalan was going to make the cut…
  • By a very wide margin, the Solist Sherry Cask topped the charts with the most votes from all our Whisky Ladies tasting experiences. So… it simply HAD to be our ‘showstopper’ of the evening!

Somehow not one Scottish whisky made it into the list. Not a single one. It wasn’t deliberate. It was simply how the votes panned out.

But that says something about how the whisky world is going…

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European Tour – Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46%

A year ago during a remarkable tasting evening at The Auld Alliance in Singapore, I first encountered Glann ar Mor‘s peated Kornog from Bretagne, France.

Raving about the distinctive character of the special cask strength Kornog bottled exclusively for The Auld Alliance, I put the word out to our traveling Whisky Ladies to track down another Kornog.

Sure enough, one of our lovely lasses special ordered a Kornog Taouarc’h Trived 10 BC in the UK that wandered its way home to India.

It featured as the 3rd whisky in our June 2016 European Tour

Teerenpeli, Kornog, Danica

Kornog Taourac’h Trived 10 BC 46%

  • Nose – Banana split! Fruity, caramel, vanilla, smoke, chocolate, nutmeg
  • Palate – Peat, bacon, buttery
  • Finish – Chocolate chaser, sweet syrupy with a bacon edge

Think banana split with bacon sprinkles! Sounds strange but is actually quite delicious. The overall impression was of smokey caramel in the most delectable way. With peat hardly discernible on the nose it grew more pronounced on the palate and blossomed in the finish.

It had the most remarkable way of going from a fabulous fruity nose to dancing briefly along the palate to flounce immediately into a wonderful finish.

This Kornog lived up to my hope of a completely distinctive character – in many ways it is rather roguishly reflective of what one thinks of about Brittany. One of our Whisky Ladies lived many years in France and without a doubt, this was her favourite whisky of our tour!

Best quote of the evening?

“How did you go from being a perfect gentlemen to getting my bra off like that?”

While there are few reviews of this Kornog and no official online tasting notes from the distillery, Jim Murray rated the Kornog Taouarc’h Trived 12 BC at a whopping 95. Even if you are not fan of Mr Murray, we would agree this particular Kornog is worth giving a go!

Other whiskies sampled during our European tour included:

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Whisky Ladies European Tour – Teerenpeli, Danica, Kornog + Slyrs

In the wake of the Brexit vote, the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai decided to go on a European whisky tour featuring:

2016-06-28 European Tour

The Teerenpeli Finnish whisky was a recent acquisition from my trip to London – recommended by the folks over at the Whisky Exchange and a rather fine addition to our evening.

The Brauntstein Danica‘s was snagged as the only Danish whisky available at Copenhagen airport!

The Kornog from France has been eagerly awaited! Special request ordered by one of our whisky lady’s prompted by my curiosity after sampling a cask strength version.

A complete bonus on announcing June’s theme was the addition of a 4th European whisky from Bavaria, Germany. I mean, who else in Mumbai other than a “Whisky Lady” just so happens to have a bottle of Slyrs 51 sitting in their whisky cabinet??

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Hunt for Glann Ar Mor’s Kornog

Since June 2015, I’ve spread feelers to track down something more from the Glann Ar Mor distillery

Heck I have a friend who works for a global company with their headquarters in Paris. Surely she could find there when on a business trip?

Or another that has a chateau in France, how difficult would it be to locate on a jaunt between there and India?

Numerous other friends who travel back and forth between Europe and Asia…

How difficult could it be to track down just one more bottle?

Well… it is…

Partly this challenge stems from questions around its continued existence. Earlier in 2015, the distillery announced it would close in August 2015. What?! No!! Say it isn’t so! With the rules on what does / does not qualify as a whisky from Bretagne, the distillery gained an extended lease on life.. however finding their whiskies? Remains elusive!

Kornog (Whisky Lady)

Kornog (Whisky Lady)

I originally tried their peated expression – Kornog – in June 2015 as part of a remarkable evening sampling 8 distinctive whiskies at The Auld Alliance.

Here is what we found:

Kornog 2013 58.7% bottled for The Auld Alliance 

  • Nose – Smooth flowers, garden greens, nail polish or varnish, very sweet – almost too sweet, smells light, bright and fresh… just couldn’t get beyond the sweet
  • Taste – PEAT as in serious peat, horses kick kinda peat, with bitter tamarind, super sour yet also rich and creamy – may sound like a contradiction yet it works
  • Finish – Smoooooth, warm, beautiful and simply delightful
  • Impression – Has a distinctly different character. Superb. We speculated that it may be cask strength

Here is what they have to say about their Peated Single Malt from Breton:

“Born from fire, raised by the wind.”

Traditional pot-still distillation without chill-filtration or caramel colouring. Peated at about 35/40 PPM, it is matured in first fill “barrique” of ex Sauternes wine and first fill bourbon barrels.

Of all the world whiskies sampled, the Kornog stood out as memorable. I resolved to explore more from this distillery.

Why mention any of this at all?

Because one of our whisky ladies has acquired a bottle! Not sure yet when we will have an opportunity to try… or even how hers will compare with its cask strength cousin… however looking forward to sampling in due course!

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Round the world – Bushmills, Beam’s Choice, Kornog, Yamazaki Sherry

By far, the #1 whisky sampling evening I’ve experienced til date was at The Auld Alliance in Singapore.

My fellow whisky adventurer and I began our evening with a stop at The Auld Alliance thinking we would have a wee dram there before carrying on to dinner and exploring another whisky spot.

Then we met Arun and were treated to a detailed tour of the remarkable collection, full of fascinating trivia, rare bottles and such a clear passion for the water of life it was almost overwhelming! Worthy of another post however I could never do justice to the experience.

We went to our dinner but were determined to return to settle down for a proper tasting. Return we did and chose from the sampling menu the ‘World’ and ‘Scottish cask’ options. Arun then offered to curate a custom experience for us, along our chosen lines, completely blind. As in dark glass can’t even glean a clue from the colour blind.

How could we say no?

It was such a treat to sample four such distinctive and unique global whiskies.

Bushmills (Whisky Lady)

Bushmills (Whisky Lady)

1st Irish – Bushmills Single Barrel 1975 49.1%

Cask No 164, Bottle No 153, Part of the 365 single barrel millennium series

  • Nose – Spirity, coconut, raw, citrus lemon, not smooth instead a sharp woody scent
  • Taste – Indeed has a kick – wow! Sharp spice, bitter, no body – simply collapses
  • Finish – Dies like that – snap!
  • Impression – A sharp ‘Zap!’ kinda whisky that tingles… something to jolt you awake rather than woo your heart

This was an ‘in your face’ kinda whisky. It had a raw quality – not watered down, natural strength. A dash of water did open it a bit and while it was a terrific ‘kick-off’, just whetted the appetite for further sampling adventures…

Beam's Choice (Whisky Lady)

Beam’s Choice (Whisky Lady)

2nd American – Beam’s Choice 8 year, 1980 (58.7%?)

  • Nose – Sweet flowery fragrance, clean, pure
  • Taste – Bourbon – no doubt! Sour raw mango, curd, raisins, smooth like a good rum
  • Finish – What finish? It was like it was knocked out for the count and simply couldn’t recover
  • Impression – There was zero doubt this was a bourbon. What we also noted was after the initial sip, when we went back to the nose post sampling other drams, the delightful flowery fragrance had disappeared.

While we knew it was a bourbon, we were both surprised it was Jim Beam as there was a different quality than one finds in the current incarnation. For one, it was matured for 8 years instead of the typical 5 years found today. For another, it had such contrasting elements between the nose and palate.

Kornog (Whisky Lady)

Kornog (Whisky Lady)

3rd French – Kornog NAS 2013, bottled for The Auld Alliance 58.7%

  • Nose – Smooth flowers, garden greens, nail polish or varnish, very sweet – almost too sweet, smells light, bright and fresh… just couldn’t get beyond the sweet
  • Taste – PEAT as in serious peat, horses kick kinda peat, with bitter tamarind, super sour yet also rich and creamy – may sound like a contradiction yet it works
  • Finish – Smoooooth, warm, beautiful and simply delightful
  • Impression – Has a distinctly different character. Superb. We speculated that it may be cask strength

Of all the world whiskies sampled, this one stood out as being in a completely different league. I resolved to explore more from this distillery to learn that it is difficult to track down both the unpeated Glann ar Mor or peated Kornog whiskies and is likely to become even more challenging as the distillery just announced it will be closing in August 2015. What?! No!! Say it isn’t so!

PS – Since this post (June 2015), it now has a slightly extended lease on life… however tracking down bottles from this distillery remains challenging!

Yamazaki 1998 (Whisky Lady)

Yamazaki 1998 (Whisky Lady)

4th Japanese – Yamazaki Sherry Cask 1998 61%

Cask # CU70067, Bottled in 2011, Bottle #429

  • Nose – Like a candy store, bursting with sherry soaked sweeties, fresh, young, powder of flour
  • Taste – A fizzy spice, with some ginger, dried fruits, bursting with raisins, citrus zest and a sense of being rather well-manicured, utterly delicious and… well… dare I say ‘nice’
  • Finish – It warms up, more sweet spice, licorice, long and juicy
  • Impression – There is a youthful exuberance about this whisky. The closest of the lot to something identifiably Scottish which meant to us it must be Japanese!

There is a lot going on with this whisky and what made it special was the interplay of many different elements. What is also remarkable is that it is so utterly smooth you would never guess it to be 61%. We had absolutely no temptation to add even a drop of water.

While a complete treat, I would prefer to come back to it when the focus is on this whisky alone. As one amongst eight, it was simply over shadowed by the distinctive quality of the Kornag and the remarkable Lochside 1981. However without a doubt, one to be savoured and enjoyed and I do hope to have another opportunity sample it.

The Auld Alliance World Whiskies (Whisky Lady)

The Auld Alliance World Whiskies (Whisky Lady)

I would encourage you to not miss The Auld Alliance if in Singapore… you can find it at:

  • 9 Bras Basah Road, RendezVous Hotel, Gallery #02-02A, SINGAPORE 189559 
  • info@theauldalliance.sg Tel: +65 6337 2201