Whisky Lady – February 2018

Time for the monthly round-up of malty adventures and more! February was a quieter month with just two whisky tasting sessions, providing an opportunity to share impressions from WhiskyLive Singapore.

Photo: Rashmi Dhawani

As the Whisky Ladies had joined the gents for a round of independent blends, we decided to have a completely random evening of “Contributor’s Choice” at the close of January:

This was followed by our original club being overwhelmed by the inventive packaging while being undwhelmed by the whisky:

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents are becoming rather regular in their sessions – no mean feat consider most members can be more easily be found loitering in London, Dubai, Munich, Singapore and various US and other airports. What did we explore? A Compass Box Quartet!

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What a remarkable trio! As I could not make it to the session, the samples reached home to enable us to compare our guest writer Nikkhil Shirodkar’s notes with the group with my independent impressions of our Kavalan Solist Cask Night:

I also kicked off the first batch of a series sharing fleeting impressions from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

Beyond the tasting group meetings, there was an impromptu gin evening with a few friends

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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Sansibar’s Glentauchers, Spicely Sweet + Smokey Peated

At Whisky Live Singapore 2017, the Sansibar booth was manned by a local bartender who was so passionate about what the folks at Sansibar are doing, it was positively infectious.

Thanks to La Maison du Whisky, I’d already encountered the Islay Malt 8 year and brought it back for a special undisclosed distilleries evening.

Now, as it was at Whisky Live, it means my impressions were fleeting… however enough to cement an opinion that Sansibar is worth continuing to keep an eye on!

Glentauchers 8 year 48.2%

  • Nose – Soft, sweet, lightly elegant
  • Palate – Not just sweetness and light, a bit bitter, toffee, butterscotch raisin
  • Finish – Bitter nuts

Overall this is a light desert in a bottle.

Spicily Sweet 48% – Blended Small Batch, Batch #1 “Sunset”

  • Nose – Very fruity, aaaah… yum!
  • Palate – Smooth, sweet, soft fruits, light spice
  • Finish – Here is where the spice peeps out even more

My initial thought was this is a summer dram – sun soaked fruits – with a name that perfectly personifies its name “spicily sweet”! It was so enjoyable that I thought folks back in Mumbai might enjoy it too. And sure enough, “Sunset” closed an evening exploring independent blends

Smokey Peated 48% – Blended Small Batch, Batch #1 “Signal Fire”

  • Nose – Bacon, wood fire, fruit behind the smoke like pineapple and other tropical fruits
  • Palate – Holy toledo peat! Turbo charged peat yet not in the least harsh, more fruits
  • Finish – Captive ash. No messing with it peat. Bit of a pepper chaser

I thought of the Sansibar Islay Malt 8 year cask strength which brought an elegance to peat. By contrast the “Signal Fire” was unabashed peat.

Quite interesting to try this trio and I planned to return to continue sampling… however all the other whiskies I had hoped to try were polished off. Clearly others found the offerings also appealing.

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Sansibar’s Spicily Sweet 48%

After our Douglas Laing trio of Timorous Beastie 46.8%,  Epicurean 46.2% and Rock Oyster 57.4%, we shifted gears to Germany with a restaurant cum independent bottler Sansibar.

This was not my 1st brush with Sansibar…. I had snagged a cask strength Islay dram for my whisky tasting groups a year earlier… shared in two sessions:

I then had a chance to try more of their range at Singapore’s Whisky Live in November 2017. There was no doubt one of the set I tried was coming home to Mumbai to share…

To then have an opportunity to try it together with BOTH the Whisky Ladies and Bombay Malt & Cigar gents? Along with other independent blends? Well it seemed like just the right opportunity!

Sansibar’s Spicily Sweet 48%

  • Nose – Mmmm…. caramel sweet… lots of toffee… Christmas pudding, coconut, brandy butter tart, then started to reveal more fruits like papaya, shifting back in vanilla, more baked goods like butter pecan pie, a hint of cinnamon and other sweet spices
  • Palate – “Wow!” It was one of those whiskies where articulating the experience in specific descriptors was lost in the pure pleasure of just enjoying the palate. Nicely rounded, sweet and spice beautifully balanced. In short – it was simply delicious.
  • Finish – Continued in the lovely sweet spicy vein
  • Water – Why add? Not needed at all

For most this was a return to their whisky ‘happy place’… particularly for one of our gents, this was “his” style of whisky and a perfect accompaniment to a good cigar.

There were a few ‘outliers’ with different impressions. One lady remarked it started off with “old sock” scent.. which may sound atrocious but it actually quite common and not a disaster in drams. Another said she found naphthol in the finish….

Yet the overall consensus was this was an enjoyable dram, aptly named “Spicily Sweet” with more emphasis on the sweetness than the spiciness.

Here’s what the folks at Sansibar have to say:

COLOUR gold
NOSE Honey, figs, prunes on butter crumble, with marzipan, raisins, caramel and cinnamon
TASTE Sweet honey, herbal liqueur, caramel and almonds, with pepper, cinnamon and dried fruit
LEAVING Spicy, peppery, with dried fruit and hazelnut

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

This bottle of Sansibar Spicily Sweet was purchased at La Maison du Whisky, Singapore for approx SGD 150.

What were the whisky blends explored?

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Whisky Ladies + Gents explore blends – Timorous Beastie, Rock Oyster, Epicurean, Sansibar Spicily Sweet

A few years ago two of our Mumbai based whisky clubs decided to combine for a sociable evening each year:

So what did 2018 bring? Blends… yes you read that right… blends.

But not your ordinary run-of-the-mill blends, this session featured a Scottish trio from Douglas Laing and a lone Sansibar blend.

Which whisky blends did we explore?

Tasting notes coming soon….

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

Until then, here are a few other blend sessions:

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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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Undisclosed Distilleries – Sansibar Islay Malt 8 year 52.2%

Trips to Singapore since discovering the world of whisky nearly always include a stop at La Maison du Whisky.

Sure there has been a change in staff however when I shared my idea of doing a twist on our usual ‘blind tasting’ approach, Priscilla did a great job…

Sansibar is a new independent whisky bottler out of Germany, on the isle of Sylt, Bad Nenndorf, near the Danish border. They carefully select their Scottish casks, have them bottled then brought over for their (and now our) enjoyment.

It kicked off our underground original Mumbai tasting group’s 6th anniversary. My original plan was to then contrast and compare with the Bombay Cigar & Malt gents  a week later! Except that session kept getting delayed… from Feb.. to March… to April to… eventually May

At the first since of a delay, I decided without further ado to share notes from our 1st tasting experience separately and then did a short synopsis when eventually the 2nd session finally occurred with “Undisclosed Distilleries… Again!”

sansibar-islay-8-year

Sansibar Islay Malt Whisky 8 year (2007/2015) 52.2%

Here is what the original underground group found:

  • Nose – A salty lemon citrus twist entangled with muted peat, initially quite fresh, one found it quite ‘pungent’, another was reminded of peppermint drops, then it began to shift into paan, ‘bazooka‘ chewing gum, basil and pine needles. As it continued to open, took on a nutty quality yet overall sweet citrus with a light touch
  • Palate – Nice and chewy – starts with sweet citrus then shifts into cinnamon spice and rounds out with peat
  • Finish – A lovely long finish
  • Water – Unbelievable – water rounds it out even more!

Though we knew it was only 8 years and a steep starter for the evening at 52.2%, found no rough edges and instead a remarkably well rounded whisky. One member speculated it must be matured in re-fill bourbon barrels.

We returned to the Sansibar Islay after sampling the other whiskies and found it took on a much more nutty quality like almond marzipan, lots of cereals, rice milk and concluded, in short, it is simply a wonderful whisky.

While not disclosed on the bottle, I came to know the distillery is Lagavulin. The Lagavulin 16 year was once a familiar friend and I had an opportunity to try the 8 year side by side with this one in Singapore – absolutely no comparison!

The Sansibar Islay comes from a single cask with 330 bottles. If you are lucky enough to stumble across one, grab it!

Standard Lagavulin 8 year:

  • The palate is light in texture, with a magnificently full-on Lagavulin taste that’s even bigger than you may expect; sweet, smoky and warming, with a growing, smoky pungency, then dry, with more smoke.
  • The finish is lovely: clean, very long and smoky. This is a polished and exquisitely crafted celebration of Lagavulin with smoky-clean aromas and a mighty taste.

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

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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!

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