Compass Box – No Name 48.9%

Last in our Compass Box quartet was “No Name”…. in a black as sin bottle, a neck dripping in tar like wax… And what did we discover?

No Name 48.9%

  • Nose – Our immediate reaction? Who needs a cigar with a whisky like this! Smoke was in your face, campfires burning, sweet, charcoal, burnt leaf, acrid, tar…. yet still an underlying sweet
  • Palate – Sweet, almost too much sweet, more cigar, spice, bitter and dry, one even remarked “its like burnt plastic” chased by dark fruits
  • Finish – Bitter
  • Water – The verdict was out whether it helps or harms

This is no easy whisky. And for our resident sherry aficionado, it was the complete opposite of the kind of whisky he would chose. Even those who enjoy a good peaty dram found it a bit much. Clearly it is unique, and one cannot ignore it… but it is certainly not for everyone.

And what do the folks at Compass Box have to say?

For this our peatiest whisky yet, we have decided on No Name. The idea for this limited edition was sparked by the discovery of a parcel of casks of mature, heavy-peated single malt whisky from a well-known distillery located along Pier Road, in the Southeast of the island of Islay.

Even peatier than our whisky called ‘The Peat Monster’ – the staple peated Blended Malt Scotch Whisky in the Compass Box range – the resulting blend is massive in terms of the intensity and complexity of flavour; a whisky brimming with complex peatiness, but tempered with hints of fruit character and an underlying sweetness.

Flavour Descriptors A bonfire-like smokiness on the nose with a peatiness that is by turns tarry and medicinal with hints of autumn leaves. A powerful smokiness and peatiness follow, accented by hints of ripe cherries, plums and spice.

Recommendations This is a whisky for slow sipping either neat, with a splash of water or with an ice cube, which will reveal the layers of massive complexity this whisky offers as the whisky very slowly dilutes.

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet:

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Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach 46.3%

Bunnahabhain is known as the un-peated Islay dram… which makes their Ceòbanach a bit of a departure.

Knowing this limited edition expression was new to the market, one of our Whisky Ladies decided it was just the right twist to bring to our “Contributors Choice” evening.

Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach 46.3%

  • Nose – Perfumey peat, sweet, way more peat than had anticipated, creamy, slightly astringent until it settled down, almost salty
  • Palate – Bacon, bloody mary, spice kick, quite direct, black pepper, citrus and bitter yet smooth and almost oily
  • Finish – Long finish, not heavy, spicy and sweet with a dash of salt too

This was one of those drams that is hard to go back to anything else after such peat. It certainly wasn’t “clobber over the head” peat but it wasn’t a push-over either.

Here is what the folks at Bunnahabhain have to say:

Ceobanach [pronounced kyaw-bin-och] means ‘Smoky Mist’ and harks back to a simpler time; when island life depended on peat for warmth and trade, a time when smoke from the open fires mingled with the salty sea air, to create a ‘Smoky Mist’ you could almost taste.

Bunnahabhain Ceobanach has an unusually rich character; from the sweetness of the Bourbon casks, to the intense Islay malt peatiness, not to mention the characteristic sea air influence from more than 10 years maturing on the coast.

  • Colour – Lemon gold
  • Nose – Intensely pungent depths of sweet oak, seaweed, smoke and elegant light tar with mild antiseptic
  • Palate – Exceptionally balanced malt sweetness, then tangy yet mellow vanilla, white pepper, bitter orange and salt
  • Finish – Lingering oatcake saltiness and sweet peppered smoke

For the ladies in the mood for peat, this one hit its mark.

So what did we sample in our Whisky Ladies “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

Here are a few more Bunnahabhain’s sampled over the last couple of years…

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Trying to give Smokehead a chance….

So we tried Smokehead once before – the Rock edition. To say that it didn’t impress the Whisky Ladies is putting it mildly. While we are always curious to try different things and no strangers to peat, ashtray is generally not our preferred style.

However when approached by the folks over at Ian MacLeod distillery suggesting their standard Smokehead is more accessible than the Rock edition, I didn’t have the heart to refuse their rather sincere representative, though did warn him our tasting would be unbiased and honest.

The little Smokehead mini sat patiently waiting for many months until finally one evening it was time to try a range of peat whiskies. Thus was born the evening of minis of a peaty persuasion – Peat Chimney 12 year 40%Big Peat 46%Longrow 46%BenRiach Peated Quarter Cask 46%Ledaig 10 year 46.3%. Smokehead came along for the ride but the others politely but firmly declined.

What to do with our poor rebuffed Smokehead sample? Try try try again… finally a fateful evening occurred when Smokehead finally was cracked open.

Smokehead 40%

  • Nose – Sweet smoky “breathable” want pulled port, braised steak craving, cinnamon, sweet BBQ rub
  • Palate – Watered down, then ash tray, came out as oddly flat
  • Finish – Queer finish, almost off

Our conclusion “All talk, no action”… in other words the nose was more promising than the palate.

Full disclosure – this sample was provided by the folks at Ian McLeod.

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Peat Unusual – Ailsa Bay 48.9%

1st up in our Peat Unusual session was Ailsa Bay…

This Lowlands distillery is part of the Girvain complex, owned by William Grant & Sons. Most of the output makes its way to blends however there was a recognition that a single malt expression should also make it to market.

What did our cigar chomping gents think?

Ailsa Bay 48.9%

  • Nose – Sweet and peat, raw bacon, honey cured ham, black pepper then cinnamon spice, smoked paprika, very sweet
  • Palate – Nice light spice, dry oaky candy, acrid smoke
  • Finish – Long bitter then turns sweet…. long
  • Water? Sweet toffee, butterscotch, no bacon and almost syrupy, even more sweet on the palate, still a bitter long finish

We set it aside to revisit… much more enjoyable however still more on the sweet side, not much variety, could even be described as ‘linear’ with a wintry quality.

Overall we thought not a bad start but not one we would run out to grab another bottle immediately.

So  what do we know?

Alisa Bay is purported to find balance between sweet and peat… which they strictly adhere  to 21 PPM for the peat then also measure the ‘sweet’ side too with their SPPM – at a level of 11 SPPM. They also use a ‘micro maturation’ process with the new make spirit filled into Hudson Baby Bourbon casks (25-100 Litres vs standard barrels with unto 200 Litres) for 6-9 months for an ‘intense rapid maturation’ then transferred to a mix of virgin and 1st fill American oak casks.

And Alisa Bay’s  tasting notes?

  • Nose: FRESH WOOD SMOKE WITH NOTES OF SMOULDERING DAMP HEATHER AND AN EXTINGUISHED BONFIRE. FOLLOWING THE SMOKE IS A WAVE OF OAKY SWEETNESS AND HOT BUTTERED TOAST WITH AN INTRIGUING HINT OF CARAMELISED APPLE.
  • Taste: AN IMMEDIATE PUNCH OF PEAT IS QUICKLY BALANCED BY A BURST OF VANILLA OAKINESS. THE FLAVOUR MEANDERS BETWEEN SMOKE, FRUIT, CREAMY TOFFEE AND BACK AGAIN. WITH EVERY SIP THE COMPLEXITY OF THE WHISKY DEEPENS AS LAYER UPON LAYER OF FLAVOUR IS REVEALED.
  • Finish: AN INTRIGUING BALANCE OF OAKY SWEETNESS AND PEATY DRYNESS.

Would we agree? Mostly… however complex? Not what we found.

While I can’t definitively confirm, I suspect this particular bottle made its way to us via The Whisky Exchange where it can be purchased for approx £55.55.

Our “peat unusual” whiskies….

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Peaty Mini – Ledaig 10 year 46.3%

Last in our peaty persuasion session of miniatures was the Ledaig 10 year. This certainly wasn’t my first brush with Tobermoray Distillery’s peaty product… a few years ago my 1st introduction was to a Gordon & MacPhail Ledaig 1997, then our original club sampled the Ledaig 18 year and last summer I picked up the Ledaig 10 year in Winnipeg.

Ledaig 10 year 46.3%

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – Dry hay, farm peat, invitingly sweet, grassy
  • Palate – Peat spice, balanced and straight forward
  • Finish – Warming… like being wrapped in a nice warm fuzzy blanket

Overall we put this in the category of a quality bar standard – one to keep in your cupboard and trot out for folks who are getting to know their whiskies and interested in exploring further…

We sampled from a sample from closed miniature in October 2017 purchased from The Whisky Exchange for approximately $6.

And what else did we sample in our merry mini malts evening?

And here’s more malt miniatures from my The Whisky Exchange:

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Peaty Mini – BenRiach Peaty Quarter Cask 46%

Next in our miniatures sampling was a little nip from a recent trip to Canada. After some disastrous experiences with decent drams being devastated by poor storage, I was keen to shorten the gap between acquiring the sample and actually tasting it!

BenRiach Peat Quarter Cask 46%

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – Peppery peat of a style that is “quite forward”, cinnamon apple crumble, chased by delicious oily bacon
  • Palate – Christmas peat, plum cake, very sweet
  • Finish – Spice sweet, cinnamon

Each sip tells a different whisky – the kind of one we wished we had more of to continue to explore.

We also tried it in the Norlan glass – it smoothed out the palate, yet punched up the flavours, gently rounding and bringing out a dry quality.

And what do the folks at BenRiach have to say?

This UNIQUE single malt has been distilled from PEATEDmalted barley and has been FULLY matured in quarter casks. A smaller cask allows for more INTERACTION between the wood and the spirit, giving the whisky a great depth of flavour and aroma in a shorter period of time. Bottled at 46%, non chill filtered and natural colour, this is an EXTRAORDINARY, full-flavoured dram.

  • Nose – Elegant waves of wood smoke intensify to burning heather with a delicious contribution of ripe orchard fruits. Subtle hints of peaches, cinnamon sugar and a slight herbal note of fresh barley give an added contrast to the unique, rich peat character.
  • Taste – Intense peat smoke mellows to smouldering peat embers infused with green pear and nectarine notes. Nutty oak and vanilla pods combine with a touch of white pepper and a twist of lime to give a crisp, smoky finish.

We sampled from a sample from an open bottle in October 2017… The original bottle was opened on my wedding in June 2017, purchased at a Winnipeg Liquor Store for approx $107.

And what else did we sample in our merry mini malts evening?

And here’s more malt miniatures from my The Whisky Exchange:

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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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R+B Distillers – Borders + Raasay

There are a dizzying array of new distilleries popping up all over the world. And yet setting up a new distillery – nay two – is no small feat.

The team at Raasay & Borders Distillers (R&B Distillers) recognize that “Building distilleries takes time though, so we are satisfying our impatience by working with a Highland distillery to very deliberately craft the styles of whisky representative of what’s to come.”

As part of our Monsoon Malts & More evening, we dove into two wee samples…

Borders Single Grain 51.7%

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – While clearly a grain, it is soft not pushy, old flowers like chrysanthemums, slight sulfur, fruits and acetone, sweet the sour then sweet again
  • Palate – Sweet spices, lots of character, creamy, slightly astringent yet not unpleasant, hints of coffee
  • Finish – Staying power

Not in the least bit harsh and as we continued sipping, thought more and more of Koffee Toffee… and pronounced it as “rather a good grain!”

What do we know about it? It is distilled in the highlands, non-chill filtered and natural colour.

Here’s what they have to say:

  • Aroma: Prominent sherry notes on the nose, hints of sugar-coated nuts.
  • Taste: Surprisingly dry on the palate with the sherry influences dominating. Walnuts balanced with vanilla, herbaceous and floral notes coming through towards the end, and just a touch of warm spice.
  • Finish: Lingering, dry and complex.
  • Food Pairing: Pairs well with Cocoa Black dark praline chocolates.

What more do we know about it? It has 50% wheat & 50% malted barley, finished in Oloroso Sherry casks. In their words:

Our Borders highland single grain whisky is a testament to our 19th century heritage and a nod to our future. Our Co-founder Alasdair Day’s great-grandfather blended whisky in the Coldstream – marked by the golden dot on this bottle.

The River Tweed is iconic to this uncommon provenance. It is integral in our R&B story and in forming part of the border between Scotland and England. The soft rolling landscape that surrounds it is reflected in character through the light, sweet notes of this lowland-style whisky.

We then shifted gears to their second offering – Raasaay.

Raasay “While We Wait” 46%

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – Iodine, light leather, oils
  • Palate – Sharp and initially an off quality, a bit rancid, olive oil, sour, peat, chewy and bitter then sweet
  • Finish – Sweet

You would think from the notes this would be a rather unpleasant whisky. But here is the thing, as we sipped it began to grow on us more and more.

For two of us, it reminded us of a Ledaig from Tobermoray, particularly when we added a few drops of water.

Here’s what they have to say:

  • Nose: Chocolate, pear, raisin. Blackcurrant, chocolate cake, slight kirsch brandy note, red wine note.
  • Palate: Cherry at the front palate, smoke, more chocolate notes, orangey notes, slight burnt oak note. Vanilla and oaky notes. Dash of orange and raspberry.
  • Finish: Slightly floral. More oak. Cookies.

What more do we know about it?  In their words:

While waiting for the Isle of Raasay Distillery to rise beneath Dùn Caan, we’ve crafted a single malt demonstrating our whisky making skills to offer a tantalising taster of what’s to come.

We achieved this by blending two expressions from one distillery; one peated, one unpeated. The whisky then finished in French oak Tuscan wine casks from three vineyards that produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Naturally, one turns so speculate, which Highland distillery produces both grain and malt whisky? Could it be Loch Lamond…?

Other whiskies sampled in our Mumbai monsoon malts evening included:

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Bruichladdich Octomore 07.1_208 5 years 59.5%

For the Whisky Ladies, our Bruichladdich Peat Progression evening closed with a second mighty Octomore expression! In this case, the Octomore 7.1… released in 2015 before the 7.2 travel edition and one of the last Jim McEwan expressions.

What did the Whisky Ladies think?

Bruichladdich Octomore 07.1_208 5 years PPM 208 Scottish Barley 59.5%

  • Nose – Leather, eucalyptus, pine cleaner, sweet cinnamon and a dash of pepper
  • Palate – Chewy tobacco, bitter chocolate, still has that trademark power peat with no harshness and surprising balance unique to Octomore given the whopping 208 PPM, however more like bitter kerela than fruity sweet, a bit of baked goods, toffee
  • Finish – It does indeed last, with a chaser that is almost like bitter tea and basil

As it followed the 7.2, it was hard not to compare… we found it did not have quite as many elements, and curiously more academic than the artistic flourish of the 7.2, certainly not as complex and yet though it had a little less polish it was still a compellingly good dram.

I suspect if sampled solo, we would have thought it quite fabulous however the combination of polished peat and silky sweet in the 7.2 was a hard act to follow.

I would consider the 7.1 like autumn following the sunshine summer of the 7.2. Both unique in their way.

What do the folks over at Bruichladdich have to say?

  • Character – Sweet and gentle belying an awesome power and hidden depths
  • Colour – Summer sun on Hebridean sand
  • Nose – Initially the nose is sea spray and caramel, lemon balm and pipe tobacco. Slowly, the peat smoke rises from the glass, gentle but strong lifting vanilla, mint, toffee, golden syrup and almond. Peach follows with pear syrup and buttercup. A symphony, a delight to experience.
  • Palate – Wow! Smoothness, sweetness and then smoke. A texture like no other, satin soft and devilishly warming. The American oak influence is in perfect tune with the smoke and soft fruits delicately, skilfully coaxed from the still during exceptionally slow distillation. Vanilla, honey, citrus rise up to be met with sea spray and leather, smoked mussels mix with autumn bracken and crème brûlée.
  • Finish – As the sweetness from the oak fades the salt comes to the fore one last time while the gentle peat smoke steady and true grows and outlasts all else.
  • Mood – The feeling is that of long summer nights turning cooler and shorter as autumn approaches. Watch the sun set over the sea and breathe the peat smoke hanging in the air.

Our Bruichladdich Peat Progression evenings also featured:

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Bruichladdich Octomore 7.2_208 5 years PPM 208 58.5%

Our Bruichladdich Peat Progression evening shifted from Port Charlotte to the mighty Octomore expression!

In this case from their travel retail line, matured in American oak casks and casks which previous held Syrah wine. I believe it was released late 2015 and picked it up in Singapore in 2016.

The whisky was sampled in three sessions:

  • Initially with the Whisky Ladies with a freshly opened bottle
  • Then a mini Whisky Ladies session with two who missed our main night
  • Followed by our original Mumbai tasting group who had all whiskies completely blind before the reveal

Bruichladdich Octomore 07.2_208 5 years PPM 208 58.5%

What did the Whisky Ladies think?

  • Nose
    • Waves of sweat peat, nutty chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg
    • Mild menthol, deceptive as the peat becomes quite restrained – almost minimalist, creamy, a bit antiseptic, sinus clearing like horseradish, dark chocolate, molasses
  • Palate
    • Incredibly smooth, remarkable how there can be so much peat swirling about and yet not a single harsh note, there is passion but… no rough jagged edges
    • Simply delicious! Chocolate, cinnamon, so smooth….
  • Finish – Lingers, long yet restrained – more like the echo of sweet peat

For the Whisky Ladies, I introduced Bruichladdich’s brand ambassador Murray’s “trick” to enjoying whisky in Asian heat… out came a few glasses filled to the brim with ice then topped up with water.

A few shots of ice cold water to cool the mouth and then a sip of Octomore – sublime! Silky smooth, gentles and smooths the peat without subduing the seductive quality – I do believe the expression “Sex on toast” was mentioned. It brought out ice cream, floral, prunes with the peat becoming quite shy – there but holding back.

And our original underground Mumbai whisky club?

  • Nose – Peaty, heather, honey sweetness, marigold flowers or nasturtiums, incense, pipe tobacco, after opening more green apples and pears, shifting between subtle peat, floral and fruity elements
  • Palate – Very sweet, so incredibly smooth, thick body, incredibly balanced with the smoke, sweet flower and fruit with a light salt coming together in harmony
  • Finish – Initially bitter, then sweet vanilla on the back of the tongue, shifting between leather and honey
  • After a shot of ice water – Red velvet, salty caramel, sweet spice

With the reveal, it was impossible to believe a peat level of PPM 208. If anything the Port Charlotte 12 seemed to have more of a peat swagger or ‘punch’ at a paultry PPM 40. There was no doubt this was a stellar whisky of exceptional craft. Just as it was no surprise we polished off the last drop!

For the original group, this whisky closed our evening. We reflected back on the range and could see a thread of bitter sweet common to all with each having depth and character. There was no doubt of the tremendous care and craft that went into each creation… and we found it overall very impressive.

And for the ladies? Our night was yet to close! We moved on to contrast the Octomore 07.2 with the 07.1…

What do the folks over at Bruichladdich have to say?

  • Character – Enigmatic. Defiant. Forget what you thought you knew.
  • Colour – Liquid gold.
  • Nose – Golden syrup, smoke and red berry fruits to begin. The gentle smoke weaves through poached pear and apple pie from the distillation with the ripe fruits from the cask, red berries peach and apricot. As you inhale deeper, delicate floral notes unclouded by the smoke are released heather, lilies and orange blossom.
  • Palate – The combination of sweet fruits and smoke is classic Octomore. Huge levels of peat sit in perfect balance with the flavours released from the cask. Add a drop or two of water and we get cherry, bramble, strawberry from the Syrah casks; cinder toffee, brown sugar, honey and crème brulee from the American oak burst through. You can feel and taste the rewards of our patience – slow trickle distillation provides the soft silky texture that coats your mouth and releases wave after wave of the soft fruit and floral fragrance.
  • Finish – As lemon zest, red fruit and vanilla oak fades away the deep smoke lingers, a potent reminder of the strength and character of Islay.
  • Mood – To be enjoyed in good company. Pour another dram. Everything else can wait….

Our Bruichladdich Peat Progression evenings also featured:

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