Kentucky Rye – Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye 40%

Our host shared he wanted to start with the Basil Hayden’s one as it was an ‘outlier’ in flavour profile and approach. He also shared the reason he wanted to focus on Rye is the ‘liberties’ that can be taken to explore a range of combinations without any major restrictions.

Hence this was not simply matured in a Port cask…. it actually had Port simply blended with the Kentucky Straight Rye and Alberta Rye!

Which I somehow hadn’t clued into until after our tasting… no wonder our notes keep coming back to cherries and port!

Here is what we thought…

Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye 40%

  • Colour – Such a vibrant ruby red it was unreal! (the photo does NOT do justice to the colour!)
  • Nose – Started off a bit peculiar – like it was whiskey at all! Then shifted into orange, cloves, a bit musty and metallic, old wood polish, then increasingly the black cherries of the port became more and more pronounced, peaking behind was some vanilla custard… after the 1st sip, it took a sour almost sharp quality, lots of wood, vanilla and above all cherries
  • Palate – Sour fruits, dark cherries, spice comes in from behind… better on the 2nd sip, oily, sweet… while quite linear had different dimensions, becoming sweeter and sweeter with each sip, the port element remains strong, wood and even a bit of whey
  • Finish – Definitely there

Fresh out of the bottle it was a good place to start – while the three elements were not melding together cohesively, it did make for an interesting interplay. Unlike most where port is an accent from being matured in ex-port pipes, this was full on port… which clearly is due to it literally being added to the mix!

We set it aside and when we returned? It was like coconut water that has gone a bit off… after the cask strength and diverse other ryes, this one at 40% seemed watered down… back to being slightly queer or different.

While it may not be for everyone, it was certainly interesting to try! After later reading the notes it might go well on the rocks, perhaps with a twist of orange or as a cocktail such a Sazerac of Whisky Sour.

What did the folks at Basil Hayden’s have to say?

Blending is an art form, and our Dark Rye is your chance to own what might very well be a masterpiece.

It all begins with Kentucky Rye, providing a firm foundation of spice, oak, dried fruit and subtle molasses undertones for this release to build upon. From there, Canadian Rye from our award-winning Alberta Distillery is skillfully layered in. A touch of California Port, and its complementary notes of ripe fruit, provides the third and final layer to a whiskey just as at home on the rocks as it is in a cocktail.

Full in flavor, yet delicately nuanced, you’d be wise to grab a bottle of our Dark Rye to experience this magical blend for yourself.

  • Color – Deep, rich amber with ruby undertones
  • Aroma – Oaky notes balanced with dark berries and molasses
  • Taste – Complex blend of caramel, dried fruit, and oak with back notes of spice and a rounded mouth feel
  • Finish – Lingering dried fruit with a hint of sweetness and rye spice.

What else was on our Kentucky Rye menu?

  • New Riff Kentucky Straight Rye 50% – New kid on the block with one of their early batches, aged at least 4 years
  • Wilderness Trail Single Barrel 15017 Kentucky Straight Rye 56.5% – Not just from a single barrel but also a small batch that produced only 203 bottles at cask strength!
  • Angel’s Envy Rum Finished Rye 50% – Clearly the ‘premium’ end of the spectrum finished in Caribbean rum barrels

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Port Finish – Amrut Port Pipe Peated 48%

India is making its mark with Amrut and Paul John single malts… so when we were planning an evening exploring different finishes and the Amrut Port Pipe Peated became available, well… we simply had to give it a whirl!

Amrut Port Pipe Peated 48%

  • Nose – Well hello peat, smoking pipe, sea salt, apricots, a richness, then as it opened up more, became spicier, smoked meats, some cognac and even sweet candies, apples, give it even more time and there was a whiff of mocha coffee chocolate
  • Palate – Spice and peat and sweet combine, heavy and creamy on the tongue, balanced
  • Finish – After the 1st sip, the finish was a bit bitter, then a few sips in, the finish was nice long, lazy peat, with sweetness and salt, just hanging around

We thought it a good ‘all rounder.’ Overall… there was something quite ‘desi‘ about this one. We even speculated about tasting besan – the chickpea flour used to make pakoras. Whereas another suggested kebabs picking up on the hint of smoked meats dimension. Yet another called it a solid 4 course meal. Hmm…. were we starting to get hungry?

It was apt though – this is a whisky of substance. What was curious was how the port element was subtle, whereas the peat was predominant.

Certainly this is a whisky you would be proud to call Indian.

Zoe and Amrut

And what do the combined Amrut and The Vault folks have to say?

This a single cask release made with a combination of 3 YO Virgin Oak & Ex-Bourbon matured malts that are further aged in the very rare 30 YO Port Pipe cask from Portugal, for another 2.5 years. Whisky aged for 5.5 years in tropical climate like Bangalore, which is 3000 ft. above sea level brings the flavour to its apex profile. The peated malt, imported from Scotland, uses Aberdeenshire peat that delivers well rounded peat notes with only a hint of iodine on the nose and palate.

  • Nose: First up is butterscotch wrapped in delicious gentle peat with growing sweetness of honey, and raisins. Thick oak tannins and hints of cinnamon flavoured dark chocolate.
  • Palate: The peat has come to life with all the creaminess from raisins and honey. Lots of citrus and tropical fruits. Cinnamon and chocolate in the background.
  • Finish: Ever so long and mouth coating. Peat, citrus and sweetness lingers on with massive salivation and little dryness.

You won’t find this whisky easily…. only 100 bottles were released for sale in Mumbai – launched as part of The Vault Biennale, held in Mumbai February 2019. And if you managed to snag one of those bottles? It would cost you Rs 7,000 / approx $100.

Curious about other Amrut experiences?

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Port Finish – Tomatin 14 year Port Wood 46%

From the Highland, we sampled Tomatin’s 14 year Port Wood finish 46%. In 2014, Tomatin added it to their core range, noting that it starts in Bourbon barrels before spending a year being finished in Port pipes.

So what did we think?

Tomatin 14 year Port Wood finish 46%

  • Nose – Initially lots of wine, grapes, some spice, even black salt from a chaat masala, dried herbs, old shoes
  • Palate – Grape cool aide with spice, yoghurt, a bit thin
  • Finish – Bizarre tannins
  • Water – A bit softer, yet gained an odd metallic quality

Sometimes when you taste with others, one thought leads to another and another. In this case, we spiralled from the above observations into uproarious laughter. Why?

Well… we started off remarking how the aroma reminded us of a cheap bar… more specifically the morning after with the stench of spilt cheap red wine and tequila. The reaction was so strong from a few that there was considerable trepidation to even taste.

And then?

Let’s just say it considerable devolved into talk of baby puke (not uncommon with whiskies) and even less polite observations… back to that bar with the unmistakable aroma of those who over indulged and could not contain there… er… you get the picture.

So we read what the folks at Tomatin have to say? Could we discover some of the notes they share?

The Tomatin 14 Year Old is soft, smooth and sweet, benefiting from its time spent in Tawny Port casks which previously held port for around 50 years.

Rich but balanced aromas of red berries, sweet honey and rich toffee develop into aspects of light fruits and nuts on the palate and an abiding finish of smooth fruit salad.

Sorry? Rich? Fruit salad?! And that’s when we devolved into laughter… when someone mentioned maybe if it was fruit that… er… again… you get the picture.

So I set it aside to see if it improved with a bit… it happens sometimes.

And?

Nope! Not for us. If anything was a bit queer. Sigh…

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve? A few we enjoyed much much more!

And that is the terrific thing about experiments – some hits, some misses and more!

If you picked it up from Master of Malt in the UK, this Tomatin would set you back approx $60. However like most whiskies, prices vary massively depending on where you purchase it and understand this particular bottle cost nearly double that! Yikes!

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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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