Chieftain’s Choice 22 years (1993/2015) 52.7%

There are an increasing number of independent bottlers putting out single malts with the distilleries kept deliberately undisclosed. In this case, the bottle was part of Chieftain’s Choice, from Ian Macleod, which tend towards rare whiskies  – be it the distillery such as ones that are now closed, age or something specific that makes it unique.

Chieftain’s Choice 22 years (1993/2015) 1st Fill Sherry Cask No 3612 52.7%, 579 Bottles 

  • Colour – Bright ruby
  • Nose – Pure sherry bomb – in every way. Press hard and the different dimensions of prunes, raisins, bitter, rum soaked tart, stewed brandied fruit, then even sweet almond milk is revealed.
  • Palate – Honey sweet with spice then pure sweet with some tannic woods – again perfect sherry balance
  • Finish – Exceedingly sweet

We pronounced it “Pure desert!” And while it reminded us a bit of a Glendronach, that is pure speculation and we could be off completely.

What do we know for certain beyond it being matured in a 1st fill sherry cask? Only that it is from Speyside… and it is an exceptionally good example of an unadulterated sherry cask.

If ever anyone is able to share more, we would be most curious to know!

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McClelland’s Speyside Single Malt 40%

During my last trip to Canada, I caught up with one of our Mumbai Whisky Ladies who moved to Canada. Naturally our evening turned to a sip or two. Of late, her preferences have leaned towards lighter Speyside drams.

One was from a familiar distillery – Auchentoshan – though an expression not yet reviewed – American Oak…

The other was new to me – McClelland’s Speyside, started originally as a blender, now part of the Morrison Bowmore distillers.

The thinking behind the McClelland’s range is to explore the ‘character’ of key whisky distilling regions –  launched in 1986 with an Islay, Highland and Lowland expressions  and joined in 1999 by this Speyside expression.

They describe a Speyside whisky character as being:

Speyside malts are sweet and fruity;
sometimes delicate, sometimes rich and robust.
Always complex.

And while I did not take detailed notes, my recollections were of:

  • Nose – Honey, light fruit and florals, fresh, sweet
  • Palate – Light spice, slightly nutty, floral with a oaky slightly bitter quality too
  • Finish – Short

Overall quite pleasant and an easy drinking dram.

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

  • Colour – Honeyed with golden highlights.
  • Body – Light to medium, elegant and balanced.
  • Nose – A fresh invigorating Speyside malt of mint, menthol and freshly cut pine. Traces of fine dark chocolate and a lingering sweet malt aroma.
  • Palate – An initial fibrous sweet nougat essence is complemented by the savoury flavours of brazil and hazelnut. A subtle floral freshness adds a faint perfumed bouquet to the palate.
  • Finish – Short, yet powerful, complex unforgettable.

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Speyside 12 year 40%

Knowing we were in for a sherry trio with the Edradour and GlenDronach, we deliberately decided to start with a light ‘appetizer’ mini from Speyside.

And the whisky?

speyside-12-year

Speyside 12 year 40%

Here is what we found…

  • Nose – Phospherous like we just lit a match, sharp alcohol, then prunes, slightly musty, light herbs of perhaps basil, rosemary, juniper and a hint of pine, was there an elusive whiff of apple? olives? Or just a sliver of toffee caramel before sliding into turpentine then back to a generic sweet…
  • Palate – Thin and watery… 40% just doesn’t give it enough ‘oomph’. Very dry and a bit bitter. One likened it to the dryness the way your tongue feels after chomping down on a mouthful of dry crackers.
  • Finish – Was there one? Perhaps the lightest dash of cinnamon before disappearing?

Overall it was completely nondescript. Like a generic Speyside without anything that distinguished it remarkably and a few elements that were not entirely appealing. We really had to push ourselves to find much.

I felt exactly the same when I went to research to find out more about this particular bottle.

We know it is a single malt, from Scotland, specifically Speyside, matured for a minimum of 12 years and bottled at 40%.

The bottle also shares:

The cool, clean waters of the River Spey, beloved by generations of fly fisherman, are at the heart of Scotland’s whisky-making tradition.

But beyond that?

Erhm… nothing except you can buy a 700ml bottle for $40 at Marks and Spencer in the UK.

  • You can taste the history in each distinctively creamy sip, redolent with notes of mature vanilla and warm, spicy cinnamon. 
  • About this bottle: This smooth Speyside classic is made using time honoured, traditional methods that haven’t changed for over 130 years. In the heart of north-eastern Scotland runs the fast- flowing waters of the River Spey. On whose banks, it’s cool clean waters are at the heart of the country’s treasured and esteemed whisky making tradition.
  • Allergens: Sulphites

I’m not kidding…

After the spectacular surprise from The Whisky Exchange with their Edition No 1 Speyside 10 year, this was a complete let down.

What more should we know about this whisky?

Other miniatures sampled:

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More Miniatures – Speyside, Edradour, Glendronach 18 + 21

My fellow Mumbai whisky aficionado and I kept up our dedication to explore the world of whiskies through miniatures…

So enthusiastically did we embrace our task that we even invited another friend to join the sipping sampling fun!

And what did we explore this time?

speyside-edradour-12-glendronach-18-21

Our session featured a Speyside appetizer and a revisit of three familiar Highland sherry friends:

Tasting notes will be coming soon, however if you missed any earlier miniatures explorations, check out our experiences here:

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On a lighter note… Tyrconnell, Clynelish, Speyburn

Most whisky aficionados have a ‘preferred’ profile. It could be bold peaty or sweet sherry or a craving for complexity where nothing else will do!

One of our original malt group members is partial to lighter more delicate whiskies. He seeks a little nuance and elegance in his dram.

So when it came time to host our 1st tasting session for 2016, he selected whiskies that he hoped would achieve such an approach.

2016-01-27 Oak League

Our evening had a decidedly light sprightly feel with:

However don’t be fooled! Just when pegged into a particular ‘type’, purely for contrast, our host shared that when he’s had a hard day at work, only something a bit rougher, tougher and robust will do.

That’s when a Wasmund’s 12 month 48% was pulled out! Because we all need a little ‘bad boy’ to spice things up once and a awhile.

Me? I’m terribly mood dependant. Some could say I can’t make up my mind, but it is simply that I enjoy the range of profiles.

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BenRiach 16 year 40%

In recent years, BenRiach has been playing around with peated expressions, however to get a real sense of the distillery, nothing beats sampling one of their classic Speyside drams.

BenRiach 16 year (Whisky Lady)

BenRiach 16 year (Whisky Lady)

I sampled this 16 year in March 2015 after our Paul John Indian whisky evening. It was just a quick sip or two but as I was in the ‘note taking’ mode, jotted down a few impressions…

BenRiach 16 year 40%

  • Nose – Honey, vanilla, floral sweet, all those lovely Speyside fruity floral fun
  • Taste – Cream, buttery toffee, apples, hint of something more… is that a whisp of smoke? Followed by a hint of herbs
  • Finish – Light and enjoyable with a dash of caramel

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

This smooth single malt has an elegant full taste and aroma that captures fruity floral notes, with fascinating overtones of honey, vanilla, spices, toffee and apples.

  • Nose – Honey, vanilla, floral, fruity with well balanced wood overtones.
  • Taste – Rounded medium to full bodied, rich honey, vanilla with hints of cream, spices, toffee and apples.

What others say:

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Aultmore ‘Foggie Moss’ 18 year 46%

Once upon a time you hardly heard of Aultmore… Capitalising on this, the folks over at Bacardi aka John Dewar & Sons created a marketing campaign positioning Aultmore as one of the Last great malts of Scotland known as a “secret dram of locals and Buckie fishermen.”

Late 2014 they began to release three different expressions:

Aultmore is a rare Speyside malt known locally as “a nip of the Buckie Road.” The distillery’s water filters down through the misty, mysterious area called the Foggie Moss. Aultmore is rated top-class and is a dram sought after for its gentle grassy notes. Aultmore will be available from November with a 12- year-old, a 21-year-old in Travel Retail, and a 25-year-old in limited quantities.

By July 2015, this was joined by the 18 year which I picked up for another member at the “World of Whiskies” shop at Heathrow Airport after sampling a nip of the 12 and 21 year… At that time our tasting group had never tried anything from Aultmore so thought – why not?

20151119_Aultmore 18
Here is what we found… naturally tasted blind!
Aultmore ‘Foggie Moss’ 18 year 46%
  • Colour – Straw
  • Nose – Blue cheese, very fruity – particularly sweet lemon, seems quite effervescent, “Very nice!” Some jasmine flowers, a little licorice, herbs, mellows into a clean, light, crisp note
  • Palate – “Nice taste!” Considered more in the laal mirch (red pepper) kind of spice rather than the prick of black peppercorns, a burst of lemon, a bit chewy, a little leather, subtle but very much there…
  • Finish –  A little haldi (turmeric), more of the faint leather… the finish is light but stays, understated but impressive
  • Water – Much better without water
  • Speculation – Distinct, didn’t feel like we’ve had it before
  • Comments “A bit difficult to grasp initially, yet once you’ve cracked it, beautiful to be with!”

The unveiling – surprise! We actually HAD tried an Aultmore just the previous month – the Aultmore 2000 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail to be precise.

Once we knew the age, we started to speculate that perhaps they use 2nd fill bourbon casks given the light colour. Overall, we were pleasantly pleased and while ‘nice’ may seem a bit tame as a description, it really was quite… well… ‘nice’ in an enjoyable way!

The other whiskies sampled in our November session included:

Whisky Ladies Conquer a Cask Strength Diwali!!

We are no shy retiring missish lasses… no siree! Mumbai’s Whisky Ladies aren’t afraid to take on a trio of cask strength malts against the backdrop of India’s Festival of Lights – Diwali! After all, if firecrackers are bursting around us, why not have a few sherry bombs and whisky booms delighting our senses?

Last night we explored:

20151112_105,Chichibu2009,A'bunadh

And here is what we found…

Glenfarclas 105 NAS 60%

  • Colour – Burnished copper
  • Nose – Smells like Christmas! Very sherry-y, caramel, then vanilla notes as it opens up
  • Taste – Sweet, dark and smokey, honeyed prunes, raisins, nutty and chocolatey
  • Finish – Smooth yet also quite dry – especially with a few drops of pani (water)
  • Pairing – We just happened to have a few truffles on hand… so naturally started testing out pairings and pronounced it successful though “The kick comes back after a hit of chocolate truffles!”

Comments…

  • “It’s just like bad life choices… with caramel”
  • “Like cafe patron!”
  • “No sweet tooth here, just alcohol tooth!”
  • “Now it is simply a sherry wine bomb!”

This Speyside dram got things off to a rollicking start! Some missed the step of… “Perhaps you may wish to spit your 1st sip as going from 0% to 60% in the first swig can be a bit jarring. However our ladies were undaunted and found it became increasingly dangerous as this dram does go down rather well, easy to just keep sipping and sipping and sipping…

Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu 2009 French White Oak Cask #2357 63.1%

  • Colour – Golden straw
  • Nose – A little spicy, very sweet, light floral notes and yet can pack a punch or hit you between the eyes too!
  • Taste – Cayenne pepper, very summer-y and light, flirty, smooth yet confusing, bright and bubbly
  • Finish – Deceptive… there but much more subtle than the aroma and palate would indicate
  • Water – A couple drops of water rounds it out
  • Pairing – For some, the Chichibu and strawberries was a killer combination – who needs champagne if you have an effervescent whisky? For others, it was the brie cheese that did it. And the balance? Well… let’s just say there are a few of the opinion that chocolate goes with practically everything, doesn’t it?

Comments…

  • “From the wrong angle, just a sniff will get you!”
  • “While light and flirty, if you look at it the wrong way, it will kick you in the ass!”

This young Japanese single cask has many unique qualities and distinctly different from the straightforward Glenfarclas. It has a bright light element that completely belies its strength. Again – a dangerous combination!

Abelour A’bunadh Batch No 35 60.3%

  • Colour – A deep dark burgundy with ruby highlights
  • Nose – Cinnamon and cloves, gingerbread, honey, pronounced prunes, black cherries, Christmas cake, classic sherry-bomb
  • Taste – Apple cider, caramel, warm and smooth, very ‘Christmassy’, rum-soaked raisins, robust and bursting with character
  • Finish – Think curling up by a cosy warm fireplace…
  • Water – This one works straight yet also does a happy dance with drops or a dollop!
  • Pairing – Best with a sharp old cheddar, needs something that can hold its own with such brilliant flavours.

Comments…

  • “Beautiful things are happening in my nose! And its not what you are thinking!”
  • “This is one you notice every sip… and yes! It is probably getting you drunk…”

When the A’bunadh came out, there was literally a squeal of delight from one lady – as she would be re-uniting her taste buds with an old favourite. Talk turned to the slight shifts in flavour profiles between batches, fruitless efforts to track down certain batches from the 20s! Disbelief they are now into the 50s and a recommendation to simply ‘grab it’ if you see it!

What makes this Speyside stand out is its unabashed sherry quality. Rather than simply acquiring a sherry ‘finish,’ A’bunadh matures exclusively in Spanish Oloroso sherry butts, gaining a rich, robust and surprisingly well rounded profile.

Even better was the realisation that the price point for both Speysides remains reasonable (i.e. below $70) though the Japanese is near impossible to find at any price!

Our whisky ladies relished this cask strength trio – without a doubt a Diwali night to remember!

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Glen Deveron 20 year

This will forever be known as the evening when a mere three-year old out-classed a twenty year old… read on…

Glen Deveron 20 year

As usual, our merry malt sippers tasted ‘blind’ three different whiskies, revealing the sample after snipping, swishing, swallowing and hopefully savouring!

On this evening, our whiskies were carefully ordered by age – 3 year, 16 year and closed  with this 20 year.

Glen Deveron 20 year

  • Colour – Dark amber…. So dark couldn’t help speculate perhaps some of the colour was ahem… enhanced?
  • Nose – Sweet all spice, some jackfruit, banana pie, perhaps a hint of caramel too?
  • Taste – Oily sweet, sherry with caramelized orange
  • Finish – Fresh mint, brass
  • Water? Spice and nothing else

Reactions – Oddly disappointing… perhaps as the Blair Athol 16 year had such an unmistakable character or the Chichibu ‘The Floor Malted’ 3 year was such an interesting start, the Glen Deveron didn’t stand out. The nose was promising, taste was somewhat familiar and the finish had more of that toothpaste mint than a fresh sprig.

The reveal – None had thought it was 20 year… with such an age, it is entirely possible the colour is natural. However goes to show our minds came to different conclusions based on our experience with the whisky which simply did not have the complexity and depth we seek in more mature whiskies.

While I initially blithely listed this as “Glen Deveron” distillery, turns out it is actually part of Macduff distillery, which was acquired by William Lawson Distillers, which became part of the Martini & Rossi corporation in 1980, acquired by Bacardi in 1992, who put their subsidiary John Dewar & Sons in charge of the Macduff distillery. So… think I’ll stick with calling it Macduff?!

So… this release from Macduff distillery is part of their Royal Burgh of Banff Collection with 16, 20 and 30 year releases for the duty-free market.

Chichibu, Blair Athol, Glen Deveron

So does age really matter? At the hands of a master, apparently a mere 3-year-old ‘toddler’ can out-class a 20-year-old ‘adult’!

PS – For those curious to read more about the other whiskies:

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Kininvie 17 year 42.6% – a quandary no more!

Earlier this year, I wrote about my quandary regarding the Kininvie 17 year. You see, I picked it up from Singapore duty-free but as a 1st bottling, wasn’t sure if I should keep it a bit longer or open it immediately. After all, I’m not in the collector’s league and whisky for me is something to enjoy!

Kininvie 17 sample

Kininvie 17 sample

At the time, Ronald Ding of Whiskyrific made a lovely offer – to share a sample on which basis I could make an informed decision to crack open or keep.

Alas my Singapore travel plans kept getting postponed and when I did finally go in June 2015, Ronald and I simply could not manage to connect.

So he made an even kinder offer – to post the sample to me in Mumbai, India.

Now… I had my doubts. Would it actually make it through customs to my doorstep without incident or hassle?

Remarkably it did!

Kininvie 17 year, batch 1, 42.6% (bottle #3959)

So here is what I found…

  • Nose – Instant grapey wine-like quality, a bit of oak, powder, floral, sweet, the usual flirting with vanilla and honey, then a slight nuttiness peeps out
  • Palate – Again grapes – as in serious grapiness (is that a word?), mellowed into a delightful dram, the usual maltiness, creamy, yes a bit buttery too, a hint of warm spice to round out
  • Finish – Did I say grapes before? This time think grape coolade…
  • Water – Nope – didn’t try as it is already quite light
  • Overall – Without a doubt smooth, light, classic Speyside… with grape!

I don’t think I’ve had a whisky that reminds me so forcefully of grapes… at first wine-like on the nose, then juicy grapes on the palate and grape coolade on the finish. I kid you not.

Which if you don’t like grapes means this isn’t the whisky for you.

But if you do… it is actually quite nice, pleasant, gentle, and grows on you sip by sip. I was disappointed when my wee sample dram was done.

KininVie 17

Kininvie 17, batch 1, bottle no 3752 with sample from no 3959

The Kininvie distillery is based in the Conval hills of Dufftown, part of the Balvenie distillery compound and I first encountered it as a component in the rather yummy Monkey Shoulder.

There were a few prior single malt releases under the ‘Hazelwood’ label in honour of Janet Sheed Roberts, granddaughter of Glenfiddich’s founder William Grant, who lived to a remarkable 110 years old. From lawyer to director of William Grant & Sons, as noted on the label, she opened the distillery in 1990.

Kininvie 21 then 17 year was initially released in Taiwan and now available in the UK. You can read more about Master of Malt’s insights on this distillery here.

The official tasting notes suggest:

  • Nose – Rich and full aroma with fresh fruit notes and a deep vanilla sweetness. Uniquely fragrant with a characteristic floral note that is accentuated through the addition of a little water
  • Taste – Beautifully sweet, buttery vanilla and slightly spicy
  • Finish – Long and lingering with a notable sweetness

So many thanks Ronald!! I do suggest you check out his assessment on Whiskyrific – Kininvie 17 year!

As for my quandary? I think I will hang on to it until the right opportunity presents itself… as in to share not save.

Slainthe!

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