Armorik’s Bretan Whiskies – Breizh, Armorik Classic + Double Matured

The great thing about going to any Whisky industry event is an opportunity to try a range of whiskies – including those you would be unlikely to buy. Even better is when there is a chance to sample drams you would otherwise find challenging to encounter.

I first sampled an Armorik whisky from the Warengham distillery in Bretagne in June 2015 at La Maison du Whisky, Singapore. It was the Classic and while it didn’t compel me to add it to the final selection from that shopping expedition, it certainly was no disaster. Since then, I’ve had limited encounters and none with an opportunity to try a trio side-by-side.

For those unfamiliar with the brand and distillery, there is a 100 year distillation history in creating elixirs and other spirits, expanding into launching whisky blends in the late 1980s and single malts late 1990s.

So what did I trio at Whisky Live Singapore 2017?

For all, I was informed though providing No Age Statement (NAS), each was matured for a minimum of 5 years.

Breizh Blended Grain 42%

  • Nose – Young, lightly malty, sweet
  • Palate – Soft, hint of cinnamon, cereals
  • Finish – Minimalist, light spice

While fleeting, the impression was of something light, young, nothing offensive but nothing drawing me into it further either.

And what do the folks at the distillery have to add?

50% grain, 50% malt. The double distillation in copper stills is followed by an ageing in traditional oak casks, all matured by the climate with a particular climate in Brittany. Here are a few of the factors that now lead Distillerie Warenghem to offer this excellent Blended Whisky at 42% ABV. Breizh is a famous cousin of the WB, which was the first Breton Whisky. EUR 35.

Armorik Classic 46%

  • Nose – Lots of cereals, fruit, vanilla
  • Palate – Again quite soft, light, fruit, almost a hint of smoke, woodsy… reminded just a bit of a Japanese whisky matured in French Oak
  • Finish – Has quite a sharp spice that grows stronger – not in an unpleasant way but hard to ignore

It wasn’t quite what I remembered – quite a bit more approachable and I was informed they have ‘tinkered’ with the target whisky style to achieve just this easier to access element.

What do the Warengham folks have to add?

Cornerstone of the range, ARMORIK Classic comprises the best of our cellars in a highly refined edition. As a marriage of sherry and bourbon casks of different ages, it highlights the quality of the ageing on the Breton Coasts and the expertise of our cellar manager. This ARMORIK Classic comes in a non-chill filtered version, thus refining its aromatic qualities. EUR 41.

Armorik Double Maturation 46%

  • Nose – Light cereal, less of the spice, more citrusy
  • Palate – Soft, fruity, an almost apple sauce quality, woody oak
  • Finish – Spice burn with a light fruity finish

The Warenghem is double matured in Oak and Sherry casks, which would have lead one to believe even more of the Sherry character would have infused the whisky. Whereas it was a light touch.

What more do the producers of Armorik have to say?

Genuine symbol of the Distillery’s values, this Armorik highlights both the quality of its know-how and its attachment to the Breton land. In partnership with a local cooper, the Distillery designed unique Brittany oak casks. Armorik Double Maturation remains in them for many long years before being transferred into Oloroso sherry casks for a second maturation. Reduced to 46% and non-chill filtered, it pleases through its richness and elegance. EUR 46.80.

To be honest, the Armorik Classic was for me the most enjoyable of the trio. It was my introduction to this range and would remain the one I would suggest folks start if exploring whiskies from Warengham. You also have to appreciate their price point – they are very much keeping their whiskies in the affordable range.

What I would like to try next is something a little older, preferably cask strength… like their 12 year or 13 year. Let’s see if such an opportunity presents itself one of these years…

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Glen Garioch 17 year (1996-2016) Cask No 3730 55.7%

After the absolutely stunning Glen Grant 60 year, dangerously drinkable Bowmore 12 distilled in the 1970s, the peculiar The Prestonfield Vintage 1972 Bowmore 16, we shifted gears to a meatier sherry style whisky from Adelphi‘s single cask bottling of Glen Garioch.

Adelphi Glen Garioch 1993 (note image from different year)

Glen Garioch 17 year (1996-2016) Cask No 3730 55.7% (Adelphi) 152 bottles

  • Nose – Top note of varnish, orange cream cookies or that fanta fizz, citrus zest, sweet honey, clove, a teasing nose that later revealed a musty quality – in a good way
  • Palate – Spicy, old style wood, sweet spice orange like clove studded oranges at Christmas, an almost brandy-like quality, red and green stewed apples, a dash of cocoa, continued to evolve taking on a meaty quality like a quality wagyu steak
  • Finish – Lovely chewy dates

There was a nicely mature quality to this dram, exceedingly smooth and no sense of it being full strength at 55.7%. A lovely sherry quality, more in keeping with what we normally expect – and that’s a mighty fine thing indeed!

What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection from July 2017?

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A 60 year old whisky?! Yes please! Glen Grant 60 year (1950-2010) 40%

Mature whiskies are rare and beyond the means of most whisky imbibers.

Thanks to a few events, generous fellow malt explorers, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling a couple of older drams – Glendronach, Glenfarclas and Auchentoshan come to mind. Yet none crossed the 50 year mark, let alone touched 60 years…

Until a fine evening of malting with Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula who started our evening off with this beauty from Glen Grant.

And best yet – my sample began completely blind so I had no idea what I was experiencing…

Glen Grant 60 year (14 Oct 1950 – 22 Nov 2010), Cask Strength No 2750, 2760 40%

  • Nose – Musty, like a granary with my being transported to the Manitoba farms of my youth, cereals, then shifts more into the old, polished wood of antique furniture, followed by a light sweet honey, a delicate perfume, flowers, fruits, cream, the slightest hint of bitter mocha, as it kept airing with a just drop remaining, a delightful piquant aroma emerged
  • Palate – Rubber, smoky, more of that antique wood, coffee, very elegant and nuanced, exceedingly easy on the palate, great mouthfeel
  • Finish – Such staying power! Yet delicate with a light clove spice

Slow, complex with a hint of smoke without a pinch of peat. The more you sip, the more you marvel. Very sophisticated. This was one that if you had a full dram, it could last hours… sit, savour and let it continue to speak to you, revealing different elements along the way.

The two casks were both ex-sherry – one first fill and the other re-fill. While we do not know the balance between the two, given its nuanced character, the re-fill may have had more play.

We spoke of the contrasting character of sherry matured whiskies – with the younger Kavalan’s on one end of the spectrum with its intense very berry sherry character to the Glendronach grand dames matured for 39 – 42 years in Pedro Ximénez Sherry puncheons dripping in rum-soaked Christmas cake with dry fruits and nuts.

Whereas this Glen Grant was much more gentile, with a fresh ripe fruitiness not dried dates or prunes, light honey drizzle not rich dark maple syrup… a quite fabulous balance of subtle elements in perfect harmony.

Apparently this is a Gordon & MacPhail bottling can be found for £3,500 through Whisky.online. Here’s what they have to  say:

A 1950 Glen Grant bottled in 2010 at 60 years of age. There is no other company in the world that still holds stocks of whisky like this, another super aged masterpiece by Gordon & MacPhail. Glen Grant is a spirit that ages beautifully, this is a beguiling mix of antique wood aromas, simmering spice, all kinds of layered fruit complexity and utterly perfect balance. A truly beautiful, utterly classy whisky that captures just how beautiful the really old whiskies can be, mesmeric stuff.

And yes, for once, words like “beguiling”“layered fruit complexity”, “classy” and “mesmeric” really do apply…

What else did we sample in our Krishna Collection from July 2017?

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Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 year 46%

After The Original, our Glenmorangie tasting continued with the Lasanta – a word that derives from the Gaelic for warmth and passion.

We were led through the experience by Dr Bill Lumsden and Brendan McCarron who shared their insights into the whisky…

They shared how the Lasanta first spent 10 years in ex-bourbon casks, much like The Original, followed by 18 – 36 months in ex Olorosso and PX sherry casks. The sherry cask finish is what Bill credited for providing a very “up fruit, spicy, ginger, unctuous” character that is both “classic yet enhanced.”

There was no doubt this whisky gained much of its character from its sherry finish… Impressions of:

  • Creamy, caramel custard, sweet spices, vanilla on the nose, with substance, good body, raisins, more creme on the palate followed by a dry, chocolate nutty spice finish…

Pairing talk turned to enjoying with a good Monte Cristo cigar, or a rich fruity dessert, a ginger chilli chocolate… very much an ‘autumn’ whisky for cooler weather….

Well after the main tasting, when we returned to the Lasanta, found that it kept is character in a most satisfying way.

And what do the formal Glenmorangie tasting notes have to say?

Elegant but full bodied this whisky has spent ten years maturing in American white oak ex-bourbon casks before being extra-matured for a further two years in Oloroso and PX Sherry casks from Jerez in Spain.

  • Aroma: Warm spices mix with smooth chocolate covered raisins, honeycomb and caramel toffee.
  • Taste: Deliciously sweet sherry flavoured sultanas, orange segments, walnuts and butterscotch combine to create complex warm spices.
  • Finish: Long and satisfying finish with spiced orange and chocolate covered hazelnuts.

We sampled the Lasanta at the launch of Glenmorangie’s Bacalta in February 2017.

Other Glenmorangie experiences:

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Ladies Choice – Kavalan Solist Sherry (2009) 57.1%

Our “Ladies Choice evening for the Bombay Malt & Cigar gentlemen closed with a Taiwanese tipple – the Kavalan Solist Sherry.

(www.tripfolk.com)
(www.tripfolk.com)

Shruti Sutwala returns as our last Whisky Ladies of Mumbai guest reviewer… 

With a background in marketing, Shruti took the plunge to transform her passion for travel into a profession. Her company, TripFolk, curates unique travel experiences with like minded travelers, tapping into local bloggers, travel writers, wine and food enthusiasts, art curators and more….. 

Given that Shruti travels extensively (plus has a partner who shares her whisky explorations), she can always be counted on to have a good whisky bottle (or more!) kicking around in her cabinet.

She’s particularly fond of more complex whiskies with a wide variety of profiles. Shruti has introduced us to Japanese whiskies like the yin yang Nikka Blended and the subtle Nikka Coffey Grain.

kavalan-jpg

Here is what Shruti has to say about the Kavalan Solist Sherry:

I had my first exposure to Kavalan Soloist thanks to the whisky ladies and oh my god – did I fall in love with it. The “Soloist” is their premium line of whisky and of course the better one. This time we tried the “Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask S090102020 Bottle No 258/511 57.1%.”.

As the name suggests its sherry and more sherry all over from colour (dark wood) to nose (raisins & cherry) and flavour (fruity, spiced, honey). It has quite a complex experience & finish which is rather unique & different from Scottish Malts – probably because of the Taiwanese weather conditions & ageing process.

For me this dram is a perfect post dinner drink, it is plain yummy and would be the perfect ending to a wonderful evening. 

What else did we sample in our “Ladies Choice” evening for the BMC gentlemen?

Other Kavalan tasting experiences:

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East to West – Clynelish 15 year 54% (Gordon + MacPhail)

Our journey from East to West finished in the ‘motherland’ of malt – Scotland.

However as we were sampling blind, we had no clue! We were still savouring the remarkable Puni Alba and remarking on how impressed we were with the Paul John Bold, when our host brought out a 4th whisky. Naughty man… we normally try to stick to three but… couldn’t resist!

Clynelish 15 year (2001/2016) 54% (G&MP)

Here is what we found:

  • clynelish-2001Nose – So rich! Bursting with sherry berry sweetness – such welcome aromas. Soaked rum and raisins, Christmas cake, promises body and age, slightly musty hints, more plum pudding, orange zest…
  • Palate – 1st sip? Puzzlement… while clearly high in alcohol strength, it had a very light body, bitter green wood, spicy, almost too dry, lots of HOT peppers that were a contrast with the clear sherry nose. As it opened up more, revealed chocolate and a hint of coffee beans
  • Finish – Hot chilli – the red ‘mirchi’ type
  • Water – A few drops brought out bitter gourd and the sherry sweetness became slightly bitter. Then it settled down and with a more generous dollop became a bit more balanced between the different elements

After tremendous promise on the nose, we were challenged by the palate. In part this may have been shifting from standard whisky strengths to cask strength and the sherry experimentation.The hot pepper and bitterness was such a contrast to the initial aroma which teased us into thinking we were in for a full rich traditional sherry dram.

As speculation commenced, there was a sense an effort to move in the direction of GlenDronach or Benromach yet operating with different variables – be it the new make spirit or casks.

And the reveal… Clynelish? Never would have guessed.

What a different kind of Clynelish – clearly no “micro-greens, perfume, delicate sweet spice” or “sun-dried flowers among the sand dunes.”

Which just goes to show the power of different cask maturation on a whisky – in this case Gordon & MacPhail brought together two sherry refill casks – No 307849 & 307850.

Here is what the folks over at Gordon & MacPhail have to say about this Clynelish:

WITHOUT WATER

  • Aroma – Rich Sherry aromas combine with green apple, kiwi, and orange followed by charred oak and subtle clove notes.
  • Taste – Sweet and spicy on the tongue with orange peel, green apple, and ripe banana flavours complemented by a chocolate praline edge.

WITH WATER

  • Aroma – Soft vanilla notes mingle with water melon, plum, and cherry aromas. Which combine with toasted malt and cocoa powder notes.
  • Taste – Creamy and sweet with raspberry, banana, and orange flavours enhanced by charred oak and delicate peppermint influence.

For us, sherry is always a fine finish to an evening and while this one puzzled us a bit, it brought to a close a most satisfactory evening from East to West.

Other whiskies sampled in our East to West evening included:

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Glendronach ‘Allardice’ 18 year vs ‘Parliament’ 21 year

I first tried GlenDronach years ago and my subsequent encounters re-inforced the impression of a rich sherry spice and everything nice range.

Then along came the exceptional experience of sampling the Glendronach grand dames – 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 years old – extraordinary whiskies well beyond the reach of most malty mortals!

For the rest of us though, the core range is in our reach and well worth enjoying. I’ve tried both the 18 & 21 year separately so couldn’t wait to compare them side-by-side!

glendronach-18-year

GlenDronach Allardice 18 year 46%

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Sherry, salty briney, sea water, sooooo nicely balanced! Candy brittle – like a salty peanut brittle, toffee apple
  • Palate – Full and chewy, cinnamon apple, dry, like soaked cedar plank to smoke salmon,
  • Finish – Fabulous finish! Some star anise sweetness, refreshing

Overall it is an exceedingly drinkable dram. A lovely well balanced tipple to enjoy with others, merrily sipping away while engaging in desultory conversation. Enough going on with the whisky to prompt comments but not distract from a convivial evening either.

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

The GlenDronach 18 years old has been named after the renowned founder of the distillery, James Allardice. This exceptional sherried single malt is non chill filtered and of natural colour. Matured in the finest Spanish Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 46%, this sublime richly sherried malt is truly unforgettable.

  • Nose – Sweet aromatics of fudge and Muscovado sugar. Fruit compote and glacier morello cherries provide added complexity.
  • Palate – Rich dark and seductive. Remarkable flavours of stewed fruits and all-spice marry together with classic aged Oloroso sherry and toasted walnut bread combined with chocolate orange.
  • Conclusion – Tremendously complex and long.

We quite enjoyed the 18 year and were primed for further delights with the 21 year…

GlenDronach Parliament 21 year 46%

glendronach-21-yearHere is what we found:

  • Nose – Chocolate banana milkshake, lots of sherry elements yet more subtle, dry sherry, chilli chocolate warmth, a dash of spicy perfume, cloves in oranges. As it aired took on a musky quality, a bit of vegetable compost, rum raisins
  • Palate – Initially quite dry, bitter and much more forceful than the 18 year. Lots of rum raisins
  • Finish – Spice, bitter with a hint of rosemary

One serious dram. No mistaking its sherry character. Commands attention and to be reserved for those times when in the mood for a truly indulgent whisky.

Here is what the folks over at GlenDronach have to say:

Matured in a combination of the finest Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for a minimum of 21 years, the ‘Parliament’ continues the great GlenDronach tradition of offering fruit-laden intensity in its single malts. This rich expression has been named ‘Parliament’ after the colony, or ‘parliament’, of rooks that have been nesting in the trees that overlook the GlenDronach distillery for almost 200 years. Bottled at 48%, the ‘Parliament’ is non chill filtered and of natural colour.

  • Nose – A delicate mix of ripe autumnal fruits – notably blackberries and red plums. Rich Oloroso sherry and candied orange segments. Spiced oatmeal biscuits and toasted oak fragrances bring excellent weight and balance.
  • Palate – Resolute flavours of fine Oloroso sherry and bitter chocolate sauce, which has been spread liberally over homemade plum pudding. This is all infused with fabulous spicy notes – cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Full bodied with smooth tannins.
  • Conclusion – Long and lingering.

One small confusion… the bottle we sampled was labeled as 46% and yet from the GlenDronach website, it seems they bottle Parliament at 48%, so there could be some variation.

glendronach-18-21

So… how did they compare? Both were superb! Wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to either but would select based on mood, context and company.

My companions were of the firm opinion that if buying to share with others, would opt for the more affordable and affable Allardice 18 year. Not that the Parliament 21 year isn’t fantastic, far from it! Just that it is a little heavier on the wallet and equally delivers a rich, heavy dram that need focused attention – not for everyone or every mood – but what a whisky!

When I re-read my earlier posts, I had thought Allardice a little pale next to my memory of the Parliament. Side by side it fully holds its own. They are clearly from the same family and I found so much more in the newly opened 18 year!

I equally absolutely loved how the 21 year mellowed, softened yet made more intense many of the enjoyable elements found in the 19 year. The complexity of the Parliament stands out, however completely agree with my fellow samplers that if thinking of a dram for others, would introduce GlenDronach with the 18 year (or the 15 year Revival… but that is another matter!).

More good news for India – you can buy GlenDronach through The Vault or Delhi duty free!

Related previous GlenDronach tasting encounters:

Other miniatures sampled:

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Kilchoman Peat Pairing Evening

Our original Mumbai based whisky tasting group consistently pushes the bar when conceptualising evenings.
We rotate hosts with each responsible to curate the experience – both whiskies and food to follow.
Over the years, we’ve had whisky and food pairings before.

Some of us even enjoyed a delightful dinner years ago with Anthony and Kathy Willis featuring Kilchoman Machir Bay and 100% Islay paired with a multi-course north Indian meal at Neel, Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai.

None of this could prepare us for the unique experience in store for our March 2016 whisky tasting evening.

Our host began with a fabulous concept to explore the nuances of peat. Three different expressions from Kilchoman at identical 50 ppm which demonstrated the effect of the casks on the character with increasing percentage of sherry.

To then take this a step further, she then wanted us to explore how the peaty whiskies paired with three courses weaving in elements of smoke.

We first sampled in rapid succession the trio of whiskies blind. Then they were revealed to re-visit each paired with  carefully planned, beautifully presented courses.

Here is what we enjoyed from Kilchoman:

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Teeling Single Malt 46% (Bottled 10/2014)

Our May 2015 tasting session included three distinctly different whiskies from Scotland (Deanston), USA (Hudson) and this one from Ireland. As usual, we sampled it blind to reduce any influence of a particular brand or previous experience.
Teeling (Whisky Lady)

Teeling (Whisky Lady)

Teeling 46% Bottled 10/2014
  • Colour – Deep amber
  • Nose – Oh happiness and joy! Deep, strong character, while the first whiff has tar and leather, it soon mellows into a delicious spicy honey, a tart hint of lime, warm vanilla… after the first sip, strong cinnamon, plums, yum!!
  • Taste – Robust with a chewy depth, initially summer strawberries which later deepened into plums, envelops you with a delectable cocoa warmth, sooooo smooth and well balanced
  • Finish – Nice chewy finish that lingers
  • Water – Doesn’t overly dilute the character, however doesn’t reveal anything new either… can be added if you want to extend your sipping slightly…
  • Overall experience – An imminently SOCIABLE whisky.

It was uncanny how after just a few sips, the chatter rose, sparked animated banter with amusing faffery. As a practice, we never re-pour during our initial tasting, however at first one, then another and another reached for the bottle to have just a wee bit more…

In a way, it was hard to pinpoint down precisely why it is such a likeable whisky. It isn’t sweet, isn’t spicey or smoky. It’s simply a most enjoyable dram with a decided “feel good factor.” It also re-inforced our overall positive take on Irish whiskies.
After airing – still yum however wouldn’t pair with food. Instead, this is a whisky to kick back and enjoy with a bunch of mates. Don’t expect wonders but do expect to have a rollicking good time! One I would consider adding to my cabinet if the opportunity arises…
Teeling (Whisky Lady)

Teeling (Whisky Lady)

More about the whisky:
  • Teeling’s single malt contains whiskies aged for up to 23 years
  • Matured in a range of wine casks: sherry, port, Madeira, white Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Small batch production

May whiskies snapshot:

What others are saying:

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