Minis of a peaty persuasion

It has been some time since the collection of minis were attacked! The collection came out with the intent to focus on whiskies of a peatier persuasion…

And what did we select?

What was remarkable was the range of peats we discovered…

After all this, we rewarded ourselves with a Machir Bay – no tasting notes, just pure unadulterated enjoyment!!

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Glenfarclas Minis – Glenfarclas 25 year 43%

What a unique opportunity to contrast and compare different expressions from the same distillery side-by-side, taking our time to let 1st impressions settle in, more time to sip and consider, then revisit each to consider their commonalities and differences.

Last in our Glenfarclas minis session was the 25 year.

Glenfarclas 25 year 43%

  • Nose
    • Initial wood, varnish with an almost medicinal quality, organic sweet, green chillies that then sharpened – crisp & clean.
    • As it opened more, it took on a hint of vanilla and talcum powder, tart green granny smith applies, then a hint of calvados or apple brandy.
    • After our 1st sip, we found strawberry cheesecake and biscuits, so sweet, some herbal elements like basil or bay leaf, then an unmistakable tart rhubarb pie… only slightly jarring element was a hint of sulfur
    • After setting aside, with the revisit we found a light acrid smoke, like burning sweet grass, cereals, dry and a bit dusty, yet still retaining that green grass quality
  • Palate
    • The initial sip was light old leather with a chocolate chaser
    • Each sip mellowed more – mocha chocolate, so smooth, getting sweeter and sweeter
    • After setting aside, we found the palate had softened further… like being wrapped in a warm blanket
  • Finish
    • More of that chocolate – like chocolate covered espresso beans with sweet, dark chocolate with a bitter twist too…. all muted, with a light restrained spice

While our initial impressions was of a most interesting and enjoyable dram, it really did need time to open up to reveal its full character. We dubbed it the “2nd date whisky” as you needed to take time to get to know it more to really appreciate what you have.

Here’s what the folks over at Glenfarclas have to say:

  • Colour – Amber with dark gold highlights
  • Nose – Complex, yet refined, with tempting aromas of marmalade, honey, freshly ground coffee, sherry and nuts, some oaky tannins
  • Flavour – Full-bodied and robust, the sherry and the oak fight for your attention yet neither overpowering
  • Finish – Intense, long lasting, dry and malty. A beautiful dark chocolate taste at the back of your mouth to complete the 25 year old.

We sampled this whisky in Oct 2017 from a closed bottle purchased from The Whisky Exchange in London as part of a gift pack for approx $50.

What else did we sample in our Glenfarclas minis session?

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Glenfarclas Minis – Glenfarclas 21 year 43%

Next in our Glenfarclas minis session was the 21 year old… We first sampled it as part of a Glenfarclas evening in 2011…. and clearly a revisit was overdue!

Glenfarclas 21 year 43%

  • Nose
    • The initial whiff was varnish… then sour mash, green grapes, vanilla, more subtle warm vapour, light tea.
    • After the 1st sip, strong green tea, organic sweet, some sawdust, wood at the back…. cork even
    • As it continued to open, it revealed light leather, sea breeze
  • Palate – Tea, leather, warm, bitter, very rounded, salty dry with a maritime twist
  • Finish – Nice long leather, slow burn feel, slightly bitter

With the aromas, over time it began to unfurl from a tight nose to reveal multiple dimensions.

We set it aside and revisited after trying all the Glenfarclas miniatures… what then?

  • Nose – Fruits like guava and white fruits like pear, jicama then a sweet perfume shifting into a salty brine
  • Palate – Soft and then sour then bitter, then sweet… overall just an enjoyable soft sweetness
  • Finish – Much more bitter than the original tasting and very dry

Overall we found it very approachable, quite enjoyable. Still had that quite straight forward dimension like the other Glenfarclas, yet with so many more elements.

So what do the folks at Glenfarclas have to say:

  • Colour – Dark amber-gold.
  • Nose – Intense, full of aromas – sherried fruit, tropical fruit, nutmeg and almonds with slight citrus notes at the end.
  • Flavour – Full bodied rich and rounded, develops slowly into fruity and spicy flavours.
  • Finish – Long-lasting and smooth with a chocolate feel at the back of your throat.

We sampled this whisky in Oct 2017 from a closed bottle purchased from The Whisky Exchange in London as part of a gift pack for approx $50.

What all did we sample in our Glenfarclas minis session?

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Glenfarclas Minis – Glenfarclas 105 60%

Next in our Glenfarclas minis evening was the cask strength Glenfarclas 105. First sampled as part of a Glenfarclas evening in 2011, a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 hung out in my whisky cabinet for a few years to be trotted out when only a bold no-nonsense dram would do.

Glenfarclas 105 60%

  • Nose
    • Initial impression is of sweet varnish, sherry stamp, stewed figs, dates and all the dried fruits, like a thick fig jam with seeds, some nutmeg and cinnamon, fermented, sour cherries, walnuts
    • Then showed off aam papad,  dried apricot, black cherry
  • Palate
    • Robust, bursting with flavours, spice, red chillies, cinnamon, fresh ground pepper then sweet
  • Finish – Black peppercorn, sweet and spice
  • Water – Wonderful Christmas Cake qualities, sherry notes

While wonderful on its own, with water it really comes into its own. Where one should wait to let the water and whisky combine to be rewarded with wonderful flavour.

After we set it aside and returned we found:

  • Nose – Sweet tobacco, prunes, cream, dry wood and stewed fruits with custard
  • Palate – Lovely sherry, quite dry, full of Christmasy flavours
  • Finish – Retained the lovely pepper sweetness

Overall we enjoyed its robust, straight forward sherry bomb qualities.

What do the folks over at Glenfarclas have to say?

  • Colour – Deep peaty-gold
  • Nose – Complex, oaky, apples & pears and a tempting dark toffee sweetness
  • Flavour – Dry and assertive, develops quickly to reveal a rich spiciness, combined with a hint of oak and sherried fruit.
  • Finish – Amazingly smooth for the strength, wonderful warming with a lingering spiciness, yet very rounded.

We sampled this whisky in Oct 2017 from a closed miniature purchased from The Whisky Exchange in London for approx $11.

What else did we sample in our Glenfarclas minis session?

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Glenfarclas Minis – Glenfarclas 15 year 46%

What fun – a quartet of Glenfarclas minis to discover! For us… the logical place to begin was Glenfarclas 15 years…

Glenfarclas 15 year 46%

  • Nose – Fresh waff of polish, lemon, wood, astringent like antiseptic whips, a bit raw, citrus malty sweet, very clean
  • Palate – Soft then malty, wildfire at the back and bitter
  • Finish – Quite dry and stays

After we sampled the full set of Glenfarclas minis – the 105, 21 year and 25 year – we revisited the 15 year. What did we find?

  • Nose – Sour ‘baby puke’, herbal, some subtle lemon
  • Palate – SPICE! Top and back… then coated with sweetness
  • Finish – Remains dry

Nice and straightforward. No surprises and no pretence. What you see is what you get. And there is nothing wrong with that.

And what did the folks over at Glenfarclas have to say?

  • Colour – A rich golden amber.
  • Nose – Complex, sherried, light butterscotch aromas, with a hint of dried fruit.
  • Flavour – Full bodied with a superb balance of sherried sweetness and malty tones. 
  • Finish – Long lasting, gloriously sherried, sweet and distinguished.

We sampled this whisky in Oct 2017 from a closed bottle purchased from The Whisky Exchange in London as part of a gift pack for approx $50.

What all did we sample in our Glenfarclas minis session?

  • 105 60%
  • 21 year 43%
  • 25 year 43%

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Minis – Inchmurrin Madeira Finish 46%

My host and miniature sipping cohort unabashedly admitted this particular bottle was picked up purely because of the distillery name – Loch Lomond – and its association with a fictitious whisky that would regularly make its appearance in Tintin comics as a favoured drink of Captain Haddock!

Regardless of inspiration, it was good to have an opportunity to sample an Inchmurrin with Madeira finish!

Loch Lomond actually produces whiskies under a range of names – Craiglodge, Croftengea, Inchfad, Inchmoan, Old Rhosdhu – of which Inchmurrin is only one and known for only containing whisky from the pot stills with rectifying heads.

Loch Lomond is also a relatively newer distillery – 1st opened in 1966 – with the ability to produce both malt and grain whisky plus use three different types of stills – two traditional pot stills, four ‘Lomond’ stills and one column still.

And what did we find?

Inchmurrin Madeira Finish 40%

  • Nose – Instant iodine when freshly opened that quickly disappeared to reveal dry cherry wood, cranberries and sour red cherries, became increasingly sour but not in a bad way – more tart than anything else
  • Palate – Surprisingly soft light cherries, sharper if you took a big swig, yet overall fruity
  • Finish – Light sweet spice

Overall we decided this is a ‘day drink’, not complex, not challenging, yet it was also edging on being refined and feminine.

We thought perhaps it may be a whisky to enjoy in a hot climate when in the mood for something veering towards sour rather than saccharine sweet. The light cherry quality was actually quite appealing in its own way.

In this case, the underlying light whisky did get a nice ‘boost’ from being finished in fortified Madeira wine cask…

What do the folks over at Loch Lomond have to say?

  • Nose – Fresh citrus orange bursts on the nose giving way to almond marzipan comes through with nutmeg.
  • Palate – Velvet smooth and welcoming on the tongue. Fruity character of peach and fig is overlaid with rich butterscotch and delicate walnut.
  • Finish – Long finish, dry grape tannins and oak, lingering nuttiness.

What did we try in our miniatures session?

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Minis – Glenglassaugh Evolution 50%

What happens if a distillery was founded (1875), closed (1908), re-vamped and re-opened to be used in blends (1960), completely mothballed (1986) then opened again (2008), release into the market spirits immediately and then manages to be sold (2013)?

Welcome to Glenglassaugh’s illustrious past of operating only approx 1/3 of its history! However there is hope since BenRiach Distillery Company took over – a most respectable brand along with its other distillery GlenDronach. With Rachel Barrie more recently being added to the equation, let’s see what happens next!

However for now… we have two NAS expressions to sample – Evolution and Torfa – both bottled at a bold 50%.

What did we think?

  • Nose – Initially sour curd, wet cereals, old banana, musty & dusty, soaked oats, even in the sweet there is a little sour like sour mash, a bit grassy, porridge with honey
  • Palate – Dry, light spice, bitter yet sour
  • Finish – Bitter
  • Water – Add a dash and we were ‘rewarded’ with rotten fruit

We began to joke it was like having a great mouth disinfectant. Not something you would choose to sip but maybe swish around for the medicinal benefits.

Had we not left it alone to breath, would have overall been rather scathing with this one.

However our revisit was interesting – salty caramel, toffee & fudge – sweet and much less bitter than earlier. There was also a sharp tingle on the nose like industrial metallic. Still not great but it managed to redeem itself a little.

What do the folks over at Glenglassaugh have to say?

Glenglassaugh Evolution is created by maturing the whisky in a unique combination of the finest hand-picked ex-Tennessee first-fill whiskey barrels. This expression shows great depth of character and finesse, a harmonious combination of whisky and oak. Bottled at 50%, natural colour and non chill filtered, Evolution represents the heart of Glenglassaugh’s distinctive personality, and indeed the landscape in which it is set.

  • Colour: Crisp harvest gold.
  • Nose: A luscious syrupy combination of sweet barley, delicate pineapple and waves of soft buttery vanilla. Deeper oak spices and caramelised pear develop and warm the nose.
  • Palate: Robust, white peppery oak floods through crisp green apple and freshly cracked barley. A gentle salted caramel emerges alongside hints of ripe banana and fruit salad syrup.
  • Finish: A vibrant combination of classic oak spices and delicate soft fruits surrounded by fragrant waves of vanilla pod.

Sorry… rewind? Seriously? Were we having the same whisky?? “Depth of character and finesse”??? Had we not given it considerable time to breath, we would have missed the salty caramel… however it is hard not to be cynical reading the marketing speak.

All I can say is this – I hope for better in a few years. Much better.

What else did we try in our miniatures session?

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Minis – Glenglassaugh Evolution + Torfa, Inchmurrin

After a few months hiatus, our miniatures sessions are back!

This time we decided to explore a revived discontinued distillery (Glenglassaugh) and a whisky my cohort couldn’t resist… having grown up with Tintin tales of Loch Lomond whisky (Inchmurrin)…

For my part, I was keen to revisit a freshly opened bottle of the Torfa, having had a rather negative 1st experience a few years ago at Quaich in Singapore. And was equally curious what else Glenglassaugh had to offer. As for Inchmurrin? I had no pre-conceived notions… however found our tryst with Pendryn’s Madeira sufficiently interesting to be curious to compare.

The minis were followed by Royal Brackla 16 year 40%… just because it was already open and I hadn’t tried it yet… a most acceptable justification! Turned out to be a great food accompaniment.

Other miniatures sessions:

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“Single malt drinkers are promiscuous”

Now before you get all offended… there is a very specific context to this comment.

It came up at a Whisky masterclass with Master Distiller Stuart Harvey, where one of my whisky partners in crime whispered cheekily:

“Single Malt guys are promiscuous, whereas blended guys are very loyal.”

It echoed something mentioned earlier in the day by Stuart, when asked why Inver House decided to enter the Indian market in 2015.

Stuart shared how over the last decade he has seen a shift across the globe but particularly in India:

“Basically we’ve seen people trading up. Ten years ago it would have been the cheaper and mixed products that people were drinking. That was down to affordability, the price point.

Obviously now foreign travel is a lot more common. And they come back and bring back whisky – a nice status symbol.

Earlier they would bring back a nice blend. Then they moved up the ladder to a 12 year old blend. That’s the signal that it is time to introduce single malts. As going from 12 year old blend to a single malt is easy.”

So far, not terribly promiscuous…. however according to Stuart, 12 year old blends can be a tipping point to become a seeker of diversity over monogamy…

“They start getting more interested in the different flavour profiles, they want to try something different, they want to entertain their guests.

Single malt drinkers have more than one brand. As opposed to blended product where people tend to be very loyal to a particular brand.

They want to try something different. So when they are traveling, they try to pick up something different.”

From that point of picking up something different during travels eventually translates into two outcomes:

  • The single malt adventurer infects a loyal local blend drinker into the dangerous world of illicit relationships with an imported single malt!
  • And from such exposure, the desire to acquire extends to duty-free airports at ‘home’ or perhaps eventually from the local ‘wine’ shop.

So while blend drinkers are a loyal lot who for years, nay decades, stick to their Black Label, Teachers, Blenders Pride, those who have strayed down the path of single malts are always itching to explore, make that next remarkable whisky discovery!

I was again reminded of this when a fellow whisky explorer requested ideas for acquiring more miniatures… to add to his growing collection of different sets… already at 14, he added another 20 during his latest London jaunt.

So far we have explored the Tomintoul triofour more minis in August, another set in September… and yet another mini session planned next week!

J2M Miniatures

Before getting smug about such miniature mania, I then thought of our Mumbai based whisky club members creative approaches to sourcing something ‘untried’ from around the globe and my own sampling scores:

Canadian stash

Would you agree? Are single malt sippers incapable of fidelity and always seek the novelty of something ‘new’ in their quest for the next great whisky?

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Tomatin Legacy 43%

First up in our August miniatures exploration was a no age statement whisky from Tomatin.

The Tomatin Legacy expression is dedicated to the legacy of the distillery’s relationship with its community, as the village became a town when accommodating the workers required to build the distillery… and remains today.

Tomatin Legacy

Tomatin Legacy 43%

  • Nose – Quite a kick with bit of varnish, bananas, sweetness creeping into dry wood, light peat? some resin, sweet sour overripe fruit, a vegetal element
  • Palate – While bold it also is curiously ‘thin’, bitter sour kata then caramel sweet
  • Finish – Initial burn then just sits there with subtle dry ash, bitter

Overall left impression of sticky toffee pudding.

We then compared the Legacy with a sample of Tomatin 12 year.

Here’s what the folks over at Tomatin have to say:

Time in Bourbon barrels and Virgin Oak casks brings a light sweetness to The Tomatin Legacy, which boasts aromas of vanilla, marshmallow, pineapple and lemon. On the palate gentle flavours of candy, pine, lemon sherbet, apples and sponge cake emerge ahead of a light, clean finish. 

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015 – 94.5/100

BTW… if you are in the US, just substitute “Dualchas” for “Tomatin”

Here’s what others have to say:

Other miniatures sampled recently include:

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