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 – Laphroaig Brodir 48%

Back in 2000 the Coen Brothers released a film called “O Brother, where are thou?” It’s sound track was memorable and one that reflected a place and time… For some reason as I sipped this Laphroaig Brodir, I kept having the “Man of Constant Sorrow” going through my head…

But I digress… on to the whisky… the last of our Islay Iterations that I sampled one fine April evening in Mumbai…

Laphroaig Brodir 48%

  • Nose – Charcoal, very sweet, plummy
  • Palate – Port and peat make a lip smacking combination! Juicy and sweet, some mango and other mixed fruits guides with a peat punch, smooth
  • Finish – Lots of peat with a distinctive port finish

There is no mistaking either the Laphroaig stamp or the port influence on this one… bringing a rich juicy dimension to the peaty Laphroaig… a rather delicious dimension.

What more do we know about this whisky? Here’s the what the Master of Malt folks have to say:

Laphroaig’s Brodir single malt Scotch whisky was originally released to the Travel Retail market. You can probably guess what ‘Brodir’ means in ancient Norse – of course, it’s ‘Brother’.

For this expression, the Islay distillers first matured the whisky in ex-bourbon barrels before transferring it over to casks which previous held Ruby Port. The combination of Laphroaig’s classic coastal peaty gorgeousness with the elegance of the Ruby Port finish make Brodir a very handsome dram indeed.

And the Master of Malt chaps tasting notes:

  • Nose: Fresh honey drizzled over dried tropical fruit, followed by a salty sea breeze.
  • Palate: Quite refreshing and light (for a Laphroaig). Continued fruitiness on the palate, somewhat juicier than the nose might suggest. Smoke pops up a little later.
  • Finish: Rich smoke on the finish grows and grows.

What else did we explore in our Islay Iterations evening?

And just for a little fun.. here is that song that refused to leave me the entire time I sipped the Laphroaig Brodir…

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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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Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%

Our final dram of our monsoon malt evening was my bottle of Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%, bought to join an undisclosed distilleries session.

The story of Vintage Malt Whisky Company‘s  Finlaggan is deliberately unclear. As an independent bottler, Brian Crook‘s team has managed to pull off a feat of balancing quality with price for their brand ‘Finlaggan‘ while shrouding in mystery whether they are from many or a single anonymous distillery. Most speculation favours a single distillery – with names bandied about including Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Caol Ila.

The name Finlaggan comes from a loch on the north side of Islay, just west of Port Askaig and the whiskies under this label are intended to “embody the spirit of Islay” with three core NAS expressions: Old Reserve 40%, Eilean Mor 46% and Cask Strength 58%.

They also bottle Islay Storm, which strikes me as clearly Kilchoman – an opinion shared by another fan of the distillery.

I had the pleasure of sampling the Finlaggan Cask Strength 58% three times with other whisky aficionados and again last night in an impromptu, informal random yet most enjoyable evening at home. While the different tasting notes are all variations on a quite similar theme, together they represent an interesting exploration of an exceptionally affordable, quality dram.

1. The Single Cask – Open bottle

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

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

2. The Bombay Malt & Cigar (BMC) Club – Closed bottle

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

Our guesses? After an initial speculation may perhaps be Caol Ila, Bowmore… settled on Laphroaig. But of an older style.

3. Monsoon malts and more – Open bottle from BMC evening

  • Nose – Light leather, slight iodine, chocolate, roasted sesame seed, so sweet
  • Palate – More smoke than heavy peat, utterly delicious, one to enjoy rolling around your mouth
  • Finish – Lovely long smoky cinnamon finish

Rolling around on our palate, considering all factors… our guess was Lagavulin.

The Vintage Malt Whisky Company has this to say about their Finlaggan Cask Strength 58%:

  • 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

No matter the impression, its a marvellously tasty dram at a most affordable price. Definitely gets full marks for value.

Purchased from The Whisky Exchange in London for £48.95 in 2017.

Other whiskies sampled in our Mumbai monsoon malts evening included:

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SMWS “Moonlight night at the beach” 20 year 51.9%

Last in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Moonlight night at the beach” where we finally, firmly entered into the land of peat – Islay style!

29.216 “Moonlight night at the beach” 20 year (26 Nov 1996) 51.9%

Islay, Virgin Oak Hogsead 293 bottles

  • Nose – Well hello peat! Then as it settled in, revealed citrus, summer meadow, bitter ash, sweet then sour, chocolate cinnamon, bitter almond,  then back to ash, shifting between sweet and smoke
  • Palate – First hit of ash, the 2nd sip was pure sweet, further sips found it to be quite chewy, curiously soft and became increasingly gorgeous as it opened, nice, heavy and almost oily
  • Finish – Sweet cinnamon, long and satisfying

The whisky was wonderfully complex. Peaty but not in an overly forceful way – clearly a mature dram.

And with water….

  • Nose – Citrus, lemon drops, orange, embers rather than a raging fire, sweetness, spice
  • Palate – Young cigar, bitter, wet…
  • Finish – More linear but still most enjoyable

And as it continued to open up, took on a delicious maple bacon. Mmm…. bacon…

Of all the whiskies we sampled in our SMWS evening, this one was unmistakable – a clear Laphroaig! Not of the current mass market “hit me over the head peat” but a mature, much more nuanced older style  Laphroaig. And yes – our guess was spot on.

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

The scent made us all feel very cosy and warm; baked chocolate marshmallow apples, a steaming creamy bowl of porridge and gingery plum cake. To taste, crunchy, chewy and crispy skin salmon crackling at first before sweet flavours arrived in the form of honey cured hickory smoked bacon. With water we made a campfire on the beach out of driftwood under a moonlit sky and ate sugar coated fennel seeds and chocolate covered coffee beans both infused with a gentle sweet peat smoke. Nineteen years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, finished in a virgin oak hogshead with a heavy toast and a medium char.

DRINKING TIP: For a walk on the beach at night

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BMC explores a Scotch Malt Whisky Society quartet

Once upon a time there were Bombay, Delhi and Pune chapters of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in India. I’ve certainly come across a few bottles in members homes… and rumour has it there remains stock at Indigo too.

However to have an opportunity to explore over an evening four single cask strength SMWS bottles with our Bombay Malt & Cigar Club? Bring it on!

What all did we sample in our SMWS evening?

The bottles reveal only the region, cask type, alcohol strength and in some cases the age… however for those clever enough to do a simple online search, all is revealed about the distillery codes.

As for what we thought? Tasting notes available by clicking on the links above. I should also note, the sampling order which was spot on in terms of a tasting profile progress from light to sweet to robust and peat!

And our cigar of the evening? An Edward Sahakians private vintage selection 1999. A might fine night it was indeed.

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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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“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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Stunning Laphroaig 21 year 53.4%

My first Bombay Malt & Cigar evening closed with this whisky… by that point note taking was not happening, instead it was pure unadulterated enjoyment of a cigar with an exceedingly fine dram.

So what a treat to revisit this whisky to close our September miniatures evening!

laphroaig-21-year

Laphroaig 21 year (2008) 53.4%

Bottle 18 of 750 (Heathrow T5)

  • Nose – Initially tar, burnt rubber, bacon, hickory yet all much more subtle than your standard Laphroaig, rich and fruity, slightly subdued but in a wonderful way that enabled other elements like orange peel, walnuts butter, a warm spicy quality, sense of being both mellow and fresh, lovely interplay of sea salt, toffee, citrus, nuts, mint, smoke and more…
  • Palate – Exactly as promised, beautifully mellow, smooth and sweet… a dampness and refined peat… none of the typical Laphroaig swagger, this instead was elegant with a light touch rather than heavy hand, soft spices balancing perfectly with peat, gorgeous harmony between all the different elements
  • Finish – Steevious plant sweet, honeysuckle, simply superb as it was deliciously long
  • Water – Much preferred this beauty neat!

Overall this whisky was in a different league… an absolute stunner!

I will admit to being a bit surprised to read on the label a recommendation to add TWICE the amount of water as whisky to truly appreciate the character as “whisky at cask strength may overpower the palate but adding water will release the unique flavour of this limited-edition Laphroaig.”

Seems like it would drown the nuance and range…laphroaig-21-year-t5

I did a bit more digging to discover this particular bottle last sold for approx $2,250. It had two editions – 750 bottles for the UK and 1427 for the US travel retail market. It was also known as the “T5” Laphroaig as it was created by distillery manager John Campbell to commemorate the opening of Terminal 5 (T5) at Heathrow Airport, London in 2008. While further details were not disclosed, it was said to be a ‘marriage’ of 9 casks.

The owner indeed picked this bottle up at the newly opened T5 Heathrow Airport… Back in 2008, he was in the height of his peaty loving phase, so acquiring a special edition Laphroaig wasn’t a difficult decision.

What was more remarkable was hanging on to it for almost 8 years, carefully kept aside.

And for this kind and considerate act, we were ever so grateful!

Here’s what others have to say about this dram:

Related posts:

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Laphroaig vs Laphroaig

It used to be when you thought ‘peat’ you thought of Islay and likely the mighty Laphroaig…. its thick, tar and rubber quality with seaweed, iodine which stands up to say ‘Hello Islay peat!’ This quality puts it firmly on the favoured ‘hit list’ of true die hard peat lovers.

Whisky lovers will also often share their whisky preference arch… often starting with easy drinkable blends, then graduating to ‘gateway’ commercial single malts and then somewhere along the way while exploring various single malts getting their mind and taste buds absolutely blown away by something completely peaty!

Some remain in their ‘peat phase’ for a long time… others evolve beyond that while still harbouring a special place in their whisky heart for the first peat punch that hit their palate.

After an early flirtation with Laphroaig, I moved on to others quite quickly. However I will never forget the ‘silver seal’ Laphroaig 16 (1987) that I sampled… it was distinctly different than what I’d come to expect with a soft, sweet, almost flowery quality with initially just a curl of smoke before revealing its peatiier nature.

So when I saw several newer Laphroaig’s were playing around with different elements was quite excited! Smartly, took advantage of samples available at the Singapore duty free which were promoting their new PX Cask thinking it may reveal some of that sweeter, lighter and almost teasing quality I found with the 1987. They were also freely offering the An Cuan Mor meaning ‘Big Ocean’ for its proximity to the ocean.

Short answer is I passed on the Laphroaigs and surprisingly (to me!) acquired without a pre-tasting a boxed set exploring the underlying single malt elements in Ballantine’s 17 year. The challenge with those split second airport decisions is you know you are not truly giving the whisky a proper chance so I was delighted the PX made a re-appearance in a recent tasting session.

Our host very kindly pulled out the standard Laphroaig 10 year to compare. In a quick nip had the impression of:

  • Nose – Tar and rubber sweet
  • Palate – Distinctly Laphroaig sweet peat with that edge of seaweed iodine
  • Finish – More sweet peat
  • Water – Are you kidding? Nooooo!

That was when I realized how spoilt we’ve become in recent years with cask strength whiskies… And if not cask strength, then tending towards higher strength rather than the standard entry level whisky at 40%. Far from the ‘in your face’ peat I remembered, the 10 year seemed a tad weak though clearly peated.

When sampled next to the PX, suddenly discovered in the PX that I had earlier missed… by contrast it has a much sweeter quality and could clearly discern the sherry stamp.

 

And what do the folks over at Laphroaig have to say about their PX?

  • COLOUR: Antique Gold
  • NOSE: From the bottle there is a nice sherry aroma of sweet sultanas and raisins with a hint of sweet liquorice and only the slightest tang of peat. Adding a little water brings out the marzipan and almond aroma with a counterpoint of creamy nuts and lots of ripe fruits but again there’s only the slightest tang of peat smoke.
  • BODY: An intense and profound deepness
  • PALATE: Without water a massive explosion of peat fills the mouth with huge amounts of oakiness only just moderated by the sweeter heavy sherry flavour. Adding a touch of water only slightly moderates the massive peat reek which very slowly fades and just allows a little of the sweeter sherried flavours to come through although there is always that burst of peat smoke that dries the mouth.
  • FINISH: Concentrated peat and thick sherried oak with a deep dryness

What did we think in our initial tasting? Read related posts here:

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