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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Islay Iterations – Ileach Cask Strength 58%

After the classic Lagavulin 16 year, the Finlaggan 40%, we moved on to bolder ground with the Ileach Cask Strength 58%. This particular bottle was purchased at a boutique liquor store in Vancouver and brought back from BC to Bombay by one of our Whisky Ladies… to be enjoyed in a special evening focused solely on Islay Iterations – all variations on a theme!

So what did the ladies think of this “Man from Islay”?

Ileach Cask Strength 58%

  • Nose – Piquant, eau de vie, peat but not a heavy peat, light brine, much warmer, wood, sweet, apricot, peach pits, smoke is there but subtle. After some time some bacon… the true peaty character comes out more later, with some sweet grass too
  • Palate – Intense, salt, spice, sour, makes one “pucker” up, mango papad, salted caramel, a bit of a khatta (sour) and meetha (sweet) thing going on…
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice finish, quite clean and surprisingly long
  • Water – Lost everything initially, then its really opened it up beautifully with a fabulous peat sweet, very smooth, some ginger, saffron, salt and a bit of honey

As our banter turned to its character with remarks like “I feel like I’m sleeping in a log cabin” or “It is a ‘non-veg’ kinda dram.”

We kept thinking how one of our Whisky Ladies would have loved this dram! Affectionately known as our “Peaty Lady,” she missed the evening to visit family in her original home of Sweden. Which made it all the more amusing to later learn this particular brand purports to be Sweden’s 2nd best selling single malt! (PS She did manage to try this in an “off book” mini session later).

Ileach is bottled by Highlands and Islands Scotch Whisky, acquired by Vintage Malt Co in 1997. These folks also bottle the Islay Storm whisky…

Here is what they have to say about the Ileach Cask Strength:

  • Nose: Earthy smoky peat and salty ocean Breeze
  • Palate: Pungent peat smoke, chewy sweet malt, pepper, tar and a touch of iodine
  • Finish: Long and warming. Smoky ashes of the peat fire

Naturally the distillery is undisclosed but one rather discerning lady happened to remark that the four bottles – Lagavulin 16 year, Finlaggan Old Reserve plus their Cask Strength and this Ileach all looked remarkable similar in bottle shape. Hmm…

I shared that industry insiders tend to lean towards the theory that all come from exactly the same distillery – meaning we spent most of our evening exploring variations on a very specific theme – Lagavulin!

With this possible element in common, different pieces of the puzzle came together – the nature of the peat being there yet not overwhelming, the slightly briney quality and the unmistakable similarity of cinnamon spice on the finish.

For many, this Ileach was their favourite. A few turned back to the classic Lagavulin 16 year and some moved on to our next dram… a complete contrast with a shift to Laphroaig with its Port finish experiment.

What else did we explore in our Islay Iterations evening?

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Islay Iterations – Finlaggan Old Reserve 40% + 58%

After kicking off our evening with the classic Lagavulin 16 year, the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai turned to an independent bottler with their Finlaggan entry level expression.

Owned by the Vintage Malt Co based on Glasgow, their Finlaggan trio covers increasing strength from their Old Reserve at 40% to their Eileen Mor at 46% to their Cask Strength at 58%.

We just so happened to have two out of three to sample, of which the Old Reserve was an unopened bottle and the Cask Strength had alas oxidized rather considerably since it was 1st opened in May 2017.

The distillery(ies) shrouded in mystery, the only thing clearly admitted is these are single malts from Islay.

So what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Finlaggan Old Reserve 40%

  • Nose – Not quite so much bacon as the Lagavulin 16, more ripe pears, wood, some kaccha guava, fresh grass, honey sweet, cured meats, taking on a faintly metallic quality with brass or copper, then coriander
  • Palate – Raw, light, pleasant, goes down deceptively well, woody, bit spicy, the peat is there but nicely balanced and restrained, that metallic element gave way almost to a medicinal quality yet with a very light touch
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice, buttery coconut oil, star anise, cognac honey

There is a lighter touch to the peat in this Islay – while not complex it is an easy drinking dram – pronounced a good Bombay summer whisky.

Just to compare, here is what the Vintage Malt Co folks have to say:

  • Nose: Earthy smoky peat and salty ocean Breeze
  • Palate: Pungent peat smoke, chewy sweet malt, pepper, tar and a touch of iodine
  • Finish: Long and warming. Smoky ashes of the peat fire

In our tasting progression, we moved on to the Ileach – also from Vintage Malt Co – then the open Finlaggan Cask Strength. Here is where tragedy struck… where once upon a time this was a marvellous malt, spending nearly a year in the bottle in the heat of Mumbai did it no favours. A not so gentle reminder that for enjoyable whiskies… just share and enjoy!

Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%

  • Nose – Very sweet, salty, grassy, milk
  • Palate – Spicy smoke
  • Finish – Cinnamon spice, burnt coconut

It had lost so many elements that made it both interesting and appealing. You can read what I’d thought from a few previous tastings here or check out what the Vintage Malt Co folks have to say:

  • Nose: Lovely pungent peat smoke. Smoky bacon with a touch of old leather
  • Palate: Rich sweet smoke. Iodine, lemon zest with a beautiful mouth coating oiliness. Waves of tarry peat
  • Finish: Peppery peat. Soot and ash. Long and warming

I couldn’t help but wonder if the Eileen Mor 46% might just be the “sweet spot” in the middle – bottled at what some call the “connoisseurs” strength – enough to bring out the full character yet balanced with sufficient water to make it eminently shippable. Perhaps one of these days I’ll have the opportunity to try it.

What else did we explore in our “Islay Iterations” evening?

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Islay Iterations – Lagavulin 16 year 43%

The last time the Whisky Ladies enjoyed this Lagavulin 16 year was over two years ago – paired with chocolate, brought by the exact same lady.

No surprise then when it came time for her to host, this perennial favourite anchored the evening, reminding us of why year and year you can simply count on this favourite standard to deliver. In a time of compromises, sometimes distracting marketing iterations, there is something so comforting to return to a “classic.”

Lagavulin 16 year 43%

  • Nose – A few remarked how there was more bacon than we remembered, lots of the lovely honey sweet elements we expect, a slightly floral hint though also quite punchy, the peat is there but subtle and after airing for some time it took on a wonderful full vanilla caramel custard quality
  • Palate – Wow! Just what we wanted! Peat, smooth and smokey not in the least bit heavy, has its complexity but doesn’t make you over-think. Slightly briney salt edge, spice dancing on the tongue, particularly black pepper and cloves, a bit oily… and much like the aroma, let it sit for some time and even on the palate you will be rewarded with warm French vanilla
  • Finish – Woody, slightly bitter closing on a cinnamon spice
  • Water – One lady immediately remarked how it was like Iodex from a medicine shop – in her opinion killing it completely. Whereas after some time, it made it even smoother on the palate, sweeter though had a sense of being a tad “diluted”

Most prefer it neat though on shared  how this is one dram that can “stand up” to an ice cube, chilling it down to a more enjoyable temperature in the Mumbai heat.

Overall, we were delighted to revisit an old familiar friend and kept coming back to its classic style as we wove our way through independent bottlers Islay offerings…

What did we explore in our “Islay Iterations” evening?

If you are curious about other Lagavulin explorations, check out:

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Islay Iterations – Lagavulin, Finlaggan, Ileach and Laphroaig

The Whisky Ladies decided to go on a wee Islay exploration. But this was no ordinary exploration… we focused on select Islay iterations…

It began innocently enough with our host sharing she had her favourite Lagavulin 16 year tucked away for her session.. followed by another Whisky Lady picking up an Islay independent bottle from an undisclosed distillery… which I just happened to have an open cask strength version of… followed by another Whisky Lady picking another Islay – again undisclosed distillery… Added to the mix was a contrast of a Laphroaig with a port finish that then somehow sparked unearthing another Laphroaig expression.

Which translates into an initial plan to try 3 bottles that morphed into a set of 6!

What did we sample in our Islay Iterations?

  • The classic Lagavulin 16 year 43%
  • Then our 1st undisclosed distillery independent bottler Finalaggan Old Reserve 40%
  • Followed by our 2nd independent bottler with a more powerful cask strength Ileach 58%
  • And just for good measure, added an open Finlaggan 58% to the mix
  • With a shift from Lagavulin to Laphroaig with the port cask finish Brodir 48%
  • Some ladies continued on with the Laphroaig Select Cask… whereas I must admit my sipping and sampling of the initial set was more than enough for me!

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Undisclosed Distilleries – Again!

A few months back I shared a trio of whiskies with our original tasting group – each did not disclose the distillery.

My original intention was to immediately share the same whiskies with our Bombay Malt & Cigar group… we had a wait a few extra months and by the time the evening arrived, I managed to add a 4th undisclosed distillery bottle to the mix – what fun!

And challenged the gentlemen to attempt to guess the possible distillery…

Wilson & Morgan “Highland Heart” Sherry (2006/2015) 43%

We began with the delicious sherry delight…

  • Nose – Sherry, berries, bannoffee cream pie, lots of cherries, delicious orange marmalade, prune, dark chocolate
  • Palate – Malty, biscuits, Ghanna bitter chocolate
  • Finish – Beautiful, long, round finish
  • Water – Opens up more but not required

We found it warm, fruity, luxurious and utterly delicious… there is a rich robustness to this whisky which belies its mere 43%.

And the guesses? From Glenrothes, to Glendronach to Aberlour… none suspected Macallan.

Sansibar Islay 8 year (2007/2015) 52.2%

We moved on to Islay…

  • Nose – Sea breeze Islay, sweeter honey notes, some iodine, peat and then peppermint
  • Palate – Cinnamon spice, chewy, velvet and smoke
  • Finish – A lovely finish, peat, bitter cinnamon that ends on sweet
  • Water – Had a bit of a debate – yes or no – with a complete divide on whether we preferred with or without water. Some found it made it sharp and sour whereas others thought it tamed it into sweet submission.

Interestingly, while the Wilson & Morgan seemed stronger and richer than 43% the Sansibar didn’t give a hint of being cask strength.

And the guesses? It was more a process of elimination… everything it was not and only a ‘maybe’ Ardbeg… firmly in the ‘Well it isn’t…’ category was Lagavulin. Oops!

Port Askaig 19 year 50.4%

  • Nose – Wow! Sweet stewed fruits, pears, with a restrained peat, wet rag, white sugar cane as it opened revealed hazelnuts and cream
  • Palate – Oily resin, smooth as silk with a subtle smoke
  • Finish – Sour bitter sweet
  • Water – With a few drops simply made is spicier. With a generous dollop brought out a perfume smoke. Again – opinions were divided between preferring with water and those who thought it best absolutely without a drop

It has a simple yet interesting nose, a complex palate, with a sweet finish.

And the guessing game? Perhaps Bunnahabain, Bruichladdich… certainly not Caol Ila!

Finlaggan Cask Strength 58% 

  • Nose – Pudding, overripe bannoffee pie, coconut, Jamaican sugar cane, lemon curd, nutmeg, spice, dry leaves and hay, vegetable
  • Palate – Peppery peat,
  • Finish – Smokey bitter ash chased by cinnamon sweet
  • Water – It softened the whisky considerably, bringing out juicy fruits – particularly peaches

Final guesses? After an initial speculation may perhaps be Caol Ila, Bowmore… settled on Laphroaig.

If you are curious, check out what I found originally:

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Whisky Archives – Cracking open the cabinet…

Another from the tasting archives… this time from Sept 2011. Rediscovering these notes brought a flood memories of my previous Mumbai flat… that had a fabulous cabinet in which all my whisky was stashed… now replaced in our current home by a larger storage space waaaaay up high in our kitchen pantry.

We broke with tradition and merrily abandoned all pretense of blind tastings… instead settled down for a sampling of various bottles. It became a  popularity contest between different regions and geographies as small pegs of multiple whiskies were sniffed, swirled, swallowed, savoured and yes – much discussed!

Samplings from earlier sessions - all quaffed at one occasion!

Speyside‘s dominated the evening with:

  • Aberlour’s cask strength Abu’nadh batch 32 (sampled earlier) and batch 31 were compared. Batch 31 was a clear winner and a hit of the evening! Bold yet with an extraordinary warm finish… with layers to discover and enjoy.
  • Aberlour 10 year held its own with slight smokiness and butter, however was overshadowed by it’s cask strength cousin.
  • Cragganmore 12 year was softer on the palate and a nice contrast to the Abelours
  • Glenrothes 12 year (also sampled earlier) gained appreciation for its smooth fruity aroma, sherry note and oak, medium slightly spicy finish.

Islay‘s were represented by a few familiar friends:

  • Bunnahabhain 12 year 40% is a regular favourite with several folks
  • Caol Ila is also well-known and after the last drop of one bottle was polished off, another was opened… Need one say more?
  • Lagavulin 16 year was also a familiar friend but neglected with all the other options…

Highland

  • Dalwhinnie from the highest distillery in Scotland was a delightful gentler ‘everyday’ favourite

Japan

  • Suntory’s Hakushu 18 year…. In a class of its own with hints of forest, moss, nuanced, with a divine finish – simply exquisite. It remains one of my favourites!

Canada

  • Crown Royal from Gimli, Manitoba (my home province) certainly added a different element with rye, however alas outclassed by single malt companions

Naturally what’s expressed here is only one interpretation based on snippets of conversation and personal bias. Would love to hear others opinions on any of these whiskies…

Slainthe!

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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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Undisclosed Distilleries – Sansibar Islay Malt 8 year 52.2%

Trips to Singapore since discovering the world of whisky nearly always include a stop at La Maison du Whisky.

Sure there has been a change in staff however when I shared my idea of doing a twist on our usual ‘blind tasting’ approach, Priscilla did a great job…

Sansibar is a new independent whisky bottler out of Germany, on the isle of Sylt, Bad Nenndorf, near the Danish border. They carefully select their Scottish casks, have them bottled then brought over for their (and now our) enjoyment.

It kicked off our underground original Mumbai tasting group’s 6th anniversary. My original plan was to then contrast and compare with the Bombay Cigar & Malt gents  a week later! Except that session kept getting delayed… from Feb.. to March… to April to… eventually May

At the first since of a delay, I decided without further ado to share notes from our 1st tasting experience separately and then did a short synopsis when eventually the 2nd session finally occurred with “Undisclosed Distilleries… Again!”

sansibar-islay-8-year

Sansibar Islay Malt Whisky 8 year (2007/2015) 52.2%

Here is what the original underground group found:

  • Nose – A salty lemon citrus twist entangled with muted peat, initially quite fresh, one found it quite ‘pungent’, another was reminded of peppermint drops, then it began to shift into paan, ‘bazooka‘ chewing gum, basil and pine needles. As it continued to open, took on a nutty quality yet overall sweet citrus with a light touch
  • Palate – Nice and chewy – starts with sweet citrus then shifts into cinnamon spice and rounds out with peat
  • Finish – A lovely long finish
  • Water – Unbelievable – water rounds it out even more!

Though we knew it was only 8 years and a steep starter for the evening at 52.2%, found no rough edges and instead a remarkably well rounded whisky. One member speculated it must be matured in re-fill bourbon barrels.

We returned to the Sansibar Islay after sampling the other whiskies and found it took on a much more nutty quality like almond marzipan, lots of cereals, rice milk and concluded, in short, it is simply a wonderful whisky.

While not disclosed on the bottle, I came to know the distillery is Lagavulin. The Lagavulin 16 year was once a familiar friend and I had an opportunity to try the 8 year side by side with this one in Singapore – absolutely no comparison!

The Sansibar Islay comes from a single cask with 330 bottles. If you are lucky enough to stumble across one, grab it!

Standard Lagavulin 8 year:

  • The palate is light in texture, with a magnificently full-on Lagavulin taste that’s even bigger than you may expect; sweet, smoky and warming, with a growing, smoky pungency, then dry, with more smoke.
  • The finish is lovely: clean, very long and smoky. This is a polished and exquisitely crafted celebration of Lagavulin with smoky-clean aromas and a mighty taste.

Bar Night – Penderyn, Lagavulin and Aberlour

In lieu of our original planned evening, the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents shifted gears to enjoy their version of a ‘Bar Night’ with a Gurkha cigar.

There was some debate over the tasting order and, in retrospect, it could have had the peatier Lagavulin last, swapping place with the Aberlour. However it all worked out in the end!

Penderyn Madeira 46% 

  • Nose – Initially distinctly varnish, then sweet, banana, citrus sweet oranges, resin, pine, vanilla, apricot, bannoffee pie, then odd bitter, pine needles
  • Palate – Tingle at the front, sweet, acidity at the back, banana sweet
  • Finish – Pleasant yet nothing substantial

The two of us who sampled it earlier, were reminded of why we found it an interesting conversation whisky. While not for everyone, there is a distinctive quality to it that cannot be ignored.

It also turned out to be the dram choice of the night for most gents, as it complimented our Gurkhas rather well.

Lagavulin 16 year 43%

  • Nose – Clear peat, yet rounded not harsh, wet rag, berry sweetness, black berries, shifting into a briny ocean spray, leather
  • Palate – Spice sweet, peat, ash, lovely balance
  • Finish – Lovely sweet

In short, a beautiful whisky! What a treat to return to a familiar friend…Those who once upon a time treated the Lagavulin 16 as a bar ‘staple’ were reminded of why that is the case – its ability to have balanced peat and sweet.

And how did the Lagavulin fare with the cigar? A contrasting pairing, with the whisky the predominant note.

Aberlour 12 year 40%

  • Nose – Prunes, sherry, berry
  • Palate – Candy sweet, cinnamon
  • Finish – Light spice finish

The whisky was oddly disappointing as it was a pale comparison with the more familiar A’bunadh.

And yet it was an absolutely perfectly balanced pairing with the cigar.

penderyn-lagavulin-aberlour

Though it wasn’t our original plan, the substitute ‘bar night’ theme worked rather well.

What would you chose as a trio of more accessible drams for a sociable evening?

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