Sherry Expressions – Seasoned, Finished or Matured…

Sherry’s influence on single malts is significant. At one of the spectrum could be a full on sherry “bomb” matured for years exclusively in first re-fill casks and at the other a mere hint with a “touch” of sherry finish for a mere month.

Our host for the evening cleverly selected from duty-free three different variants of Sherry expressions. Each explored a different approach to bringing a sherry influence to the whisky.

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

Read on over the next few days for insights into our impressions, speculations and interpretation of what the distillery shares about the way in which the sherry element influenced each single malt.

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

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:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Undisclosed Distillery – Wilson + Morgan “Highland Heart” Sherry Cask 43%

Our 6th anniversary session had a twist – rather than our usual blind tasting approach, I opted for bottles that do not disclose the distillery. My last choice was Wilson & Morgan, an independent whisky bottler out of Italy – “The Italian way to Scotland’s finest whiskies.”

“Here’s to women’s kisses, and to whiskey, amber clear;
not as sweet as a woman’s kiss, but a damn sight more sincere!”

wm-sherry-cask

Wilson & Morgan “Highland Heart” Sherry Cask 9 year (2006/2015) 43%

Here is what our original underground tasting group had to say:

  • Nose – Immediate sherry, then old leather chair, dusty bookshelves, incredibly rich, marmalade, coffee, chocolate, toffee, slightly nutty, yet with that sweet stewed prunes sherry underlying it all
  • Palate – Sooooo soft! Cotton ball soft. More of the rich orange, incredibly rounded, simply so tasty you wanted to settle down with it for an entire evening
  • Finish – Red pepper, mile long finish, left you salivating for more

As one taster put it “Such a tasty whisky!” And another dubbed it “very royal.” It indeed had quite a regal quality – a classy classic whisky. The interplay of a hint of peat with royal sherry reminded us of an aged GlenDronach, yet softer and exceedingly well-rounded.

Some of us re-sampled it with a nutella cheesecake or salty sweet cookies dipped in warm chocolate milk… a delightful combination! (from One Street Over).

What does the bottle tell us? It was distilled April 2006, bottle January 2015 as a room sample Cask No 2004/2011.

The William & Morgan’s Sherry cask is known to be from the Macallan distillery. When I first sampled it at La Maison du Whisky, I simply fell in love. The nutty quality, the clear stamp of sherry with flirtatious peat… All I could think was – if this is what Macallan can still produce, where has it all gone? Truly a superb whisky.

Here is what the William & Morgan folks have to say about their whisky:

Returning to sherry intensity after the more delicate 2014 release, our young Speysider tries to evoke memories of a beloved legendary whisky from this region that was sold as a 7 years old in Italy and of which we have fond memories. 

  • The nose is very winey, almost spicy and slightly astringent, with the fragrance of walnuts. 
  • On the palate it retains this lively spiciness, for a pungently peppery character, but it’s well matched by the resinous sweetness of dried fruits (peaches, apricots, plums, sultana raisins) and at the same time it’s kept lean and fresh by a clean mineralogy. It tastes already fully mature thanks to the very active oak casks. 
  • In the end it adds a note of liquorice, to complement the interplay of spice and sweetness

Purchased at La Maison du Whisky as part of a whisky ‘speed dating‘ session.

We loved it!!

The trio of whiskies sampled in our undisclosed distillery evening included:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Undisclosed Distillery Drams – Sansibar, Port Askaig + W+M Highland Heart

While in the grand scheme of things entering our 6th year of monthly whisky meetings may not seem like much, for our original Mumbai whisky club, it is still a marvellous milestone.

The sincerity, dedication and creativity we bring to our sessions just keeps evolving. We put effort into planning our sessions, often collecting whiskies well in advance – as in a year or two.

In 2015, I went fully Japanese sharing bottles purchased a year earlier in Tokyo.

For my 2016 session, I went with Signatory Session theme.

So what to do for my 2017 session?

I put a cheeky twist on our most sacred of traditions – blind tasting. How, you may ask, could there be a twist to something like that? Either you can see the bottle or not.

In this case, we could see the bottles but still not know what distillery we were sampling!

What did I select?

I then added a further sneaky twist to the mix – sharing the exact same bottles in a completely different setting, different company which added a different dimension to the whisky impressions… You can read about the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents reactions here: Undisclosed Distilleries… Again!

wm-sansibar-port-askaig

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

How not to sample a Macallan 15 year 43%…

Next up from the Winnipeg stash is a mighty Macallan. Many a malt drinker once upon a time would swear by the quality of their Macallan. And yet, with our three whisky tasting groups in Mumbai, Macallan has yet to feature as a whisky in our tasting sessions.

Hence when I had an opportunity to snag a dram as part of the 2016 Winnipeg whisky sampling stash, simply could not resist!

Macallan 15

What did I find?

Macallan 15 year ‘Fine Oak’ 43%

  • Nose – Rose, candy floss, mint… and then erhm…
  • Palate – Raisins, citrus… and then umm….
  • Finish – Dry fruits and sweet spices… and then huh?

Alas, I waited too long to re-sample this beauty. The first time I took a sip shortly after bringing it from Canada, I simply enjoyed, narry a tasting note in sight! Yet remember it as being a mighty fine dram.

When sampled again today there was a bitter quality I don’t remember and some rather queer off notes. Hence stopped… as what I was experiencing was clearly not representative of the whisky.

So why post? To share a reminder that when taking wee samples, be quick about enjoying if not properly sealed – as was the case here. Sigh… A tragic waste of a fine whisky.

Fortunately, not all whiskies part of the 2016 Canadian stash were spoilt…

Curious about the 2015 Canadian sampling ‘score’? Read more here

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Singapore “Speed Dating” Whisky…

Singapore may be expensive as far as whisky purchasing is concerned, however it never fails to deliver a new discovery.

There are some terrific night spots to nip into for a whisky flight (or two) – The Auld Alliance, Flagship and Quaich.

There are always unique offerings at La Maison du Whisky.

Even Changi Airport is no slouch as a spot to sample something novel with its range of whiskies from everyday duty-free to airport exclusives to a special “I have way too much money” collection upstairs…

So what did my August 2016 Singapore trip have in store?

It began with a pilgrimage to La Maison du Whisky

I stopped by early, well in advance of 6 PM ‘sampling’ time to pre-select options more or less under SG$200, less readily accessible elsewhere, not a repeat of any previous drams and could spark conversation from our fellow samplers back in Mumbai.

After a bit of careful thought, Priscilla sprung into action and began pulling out a few… checking some possibilities that I declined… to come up with a diverse shortlist. My sampling companion arrived and we began our final selection process by “speed dating” each whisky with quick short nips.

Puni Italian Trio

We began with a trio from Italy. Yes… Italy. We compared (right to left):

Puni Nova Bourbon Cask 43% 

  • Matured in American and European oak casks, initially seemed just grains, flowers, honey and vanilla… relatively standard on the palate.
  • In short, dismissed as not terribly interesting… but after the others, we found ourselves drawn back… then it really began to grow on us… for a young whisky, it has something quite enjoyable and attractive for a lighter dram.

Puni Alba Limited Edition 43%

  • Limited edition, uses barley, wheat and a locally grown rye matured from six months to three years in oak barrels that previously contained Sicilian marsala, Pinot Noir from South Tyrol and Zibibbo from Pantelleria.
  • And the result? Interesting, definitely interesting, but also oddly schizophrenic… simply didn’t seem to know what direction, here there or where?
  • Was it a light romp or storm the bastions? No balance between the sweet and spice elements like a cocktail with too many ingredients.

Puni Alba Marsala Islay 43%

  • Matured in Marsala and Islay casks, initially attracted attention – quite different with its pronounced cloves, range of fruits, peat, tobacco and nuts.
  • However like a one trick pony, we kept waiting for more… then reached back to the Puni Nova as the more drinkable dram!

Bruichladdich 1990 24 year

Next up was Bruichladdich 1990 24 year 56.5%

  • I was pre-disposed to fall in love… after all this was a special bottle for LMDW from a distillery that produces a rather interesting range of whiskies…
  • Eager anticipation, I took the first few whiffs…. and sip… And had the opposite reaction.
  • Harsh cloves cinnamon no softness… thin rather than layered and robust
  • Perhaps it needed time to air, a few drops of water or simply more consideration possible in a quick sample however didn’t pass the taste test… and in fairness, not all whiskies do… some simply require patience and attention not possible when “speed dating”

W+M Sherry + Sansibar Islay

We then moved on to two independents without the distillery disclosed:

Wilson & Morgan “Highland Heart” Sherry Cask Malt 2006 43%

  • As you would expect from a sherry, lots of delicious stewed fruits, a distinctly winey quality yet accompanying this was also a richer nutty dimension that brought you back for another nosing again and again
  • On the palate it was mellow, smooth and seemed to have many more layers than we could properly discern in a small taster… overall left you with the impression of an eminently drinkable dram

Sansibar Islay 8 year 52.5%

  • Sansibar are new independent bottlers from Germany and a first for me!
  • Unlike some who disclose minute detail about the cask, here the approach is different sharing only that it comes from a single cask, aged 8 years (2007-15) with 330 bottles…. and the rest? Up to you to guess!
  • We quickly pronounced it a fine specimen of an Islay malt
  • Compared it with the distillery official bottling – no doubt which WE preferred!

Wolfburn

Wolfburn 46% Batch #2

  • As a new re-entry, this distillery has been on my radar and considered in London with rather honest advice “It is still quite raw” enabling the Teerenpeli to win that round (I’m ever so grateful!)
  • From 7.03.2016, Distillery Manager Shane Fraser shares “On the nose you’ll find fruit and malty aromas, with a hint of peat. On the tongue, sweet and nutty flavours are present, which coat the palate and leave a very slight pleasant flavour of smoke. It is a joy to drink – I hope you enjoy every drop.”
  • This one was thrown in as a courtesy to let me try as a bottle was not available for purchase. Yes there is fruit, nuts, hint of peat, quite intense with lots of promise but not there yet – a bit ruff, gruff and certainly not balanced.
  • However… Let’s just say I’m looking forward to seeing what more comes… though can safely skip this one…

Taylor

We then shifted our attention to the Americas… In this case, to potentially obtain a 3rd American whiskey as counterpoint for two recent acquisitions direct to Mumbai from Denver, Colorado…

For this ‘brief’ we explored a duo from Colonel E. H. Taylor, part of the Buffalo Trace stable:

  • Small Batch 50% – What a change to shift gear to a rye! I’ll admit I’m neither a bourbon nor rye aficionado, however for this style, was a rather good example.
  • Barrel Proof 63.6% – Packs a serious wallop! As in galloping head on into all senses, firing all cylinders. Yowza!

Singapore Airport's Whisky Wall

Next up Changi Airport…  A few highlights / lowlights include:

  • Suntory has launched outside of Japan The Chita… Quite reasonably priced, alas it was not the exquisite Chita Single Grain 12 year I picked up in Tokyo years ago. Easy to pass…
  • However the Kavalan selection was tempting with a Sherry cask strength for less than SG$100. And a new Kavalan Peaty Cask – matured in a cask which previously held a peated whisky for SG$175.

What made the final cut for purchase?

You will just need to be patient til one or more whiskies sampled make it into a focused tasting session.

  • Sept 2016 – Wolfburn Batch #1 makes its way via another original tasting group member
  • Jan 2017 – The Italian Puni Alba was a hit with the original tasting group!

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on: