Vault Collection – Spice Tree 46%

Last in our original club’s “The Vault Collection” trio was a a Compass Box blend. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 3​: Compass Box Spice Tree 46% | Non-Chill Filtered & Natural Colour

  • Color: Pale Gold
  • Nose: Boiled confectionery, a little varnish, lemon citrus. Then very quickly a lot of cloves and nutmeg. Notes of walnuts, apples, orange rind and ginger follow. Almost perfumey.
  • Palate: Gorgeous mouthfeel. Lovely arrival with a bouquet of spices and vanilla. Warm bread pudding. Follows the nose very closely. Oily and waxy. Some old leather, pencil shavings and that ginger from the nose. I did get just a wee hint of smoke. Again, nicely balanced.
  • Finish: Medium with lingering spices. A perfect after dinner dram on a cold night.

The “reveal”…

We couldn’t place this one even though most of us have had it in the past. That’s the beauty of blind tastings. You think you know your whisky but blind tasting is such a leveller. The reveal surprised us. Compass Box Spice Tree. Enough and more has been said about Compass Box and Spice Tree in the past so I will not repeat myself but instead I urge you to pour yourself a dram and enjoy this expression. Sláinte!

Official notes:

Big, sweet aromas of clove, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. The palate is full, round and sweet, with the spice and vanilla complementing the core distillery characters and leaving a long finish.

The Vault Collection trio:

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Vault Collection – Benromach 10 year 43%

Next up in our original club’s “The Vault Collection” trio was a single malt from the Speyside region. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 2: Benromach 10yr 43%

  • Color: Gold
  • Nose: Red fruits, buiscuity and an immediate waft of gentle peat smoke. Lovely! With time honey ham, lightly smoked apples and sweet meats. Something immediately familiar about this one.
  • Palate: Lovely sweet sherry notes with the gentlest lick of peat. I’m a sucker for this style and balance. Nice mouthfeel despite the low abv. That irresistible sweet savoury note of a bacon and honey combo! Lots of complexity for a 10yr old and top class stuff. This is just a breath behind the Kilkerran 12 which is saying a lot. Now only if it were bottled at 46% and naturally presented!
  • With Water and 20 mins rest, lovely notes of coconut, roasted walnuts and gentle spice along with light bonfire smoke.
  • ​Finish: ​Long with smoke that just lingers along with sweet sherry fruits.

Our guessing game to reveal?

This was a class Scottish act and all of us were unanimous on that. There was a tossup between Benriach and Benromach. One member was bang on with Benromach and sure enough it was that. It just proves yet again that if the focus is on quality and if it is followed up with the right decisions in production (local barley, long fermentation times, top quality wood) then it’s very hard not to have a cracking dram on your hands. It is little or no surprise that the distillery is owned by Gordon & Macphail who in my opinion are the finest independent bottlers in Scotland. Keep up the good work!

Official notes:

  • Nose: Rich sherry with fruit & nut chocolate, delicate spice, green apples, malty biscuit and a touch of light peat smoke.
  • Palate: Juicy raspberries and brambles, sherry, creamy malt and a light peat

The Vault Collection trio:

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Vault Collection – Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish 46.2%

The Vault Fine Spirits has single handed expanded the range of whiskies and other spirits available in India – more specifically through our Duty Free. Which is exactly the theme of the session – exploring a trio from this collection.

First up in the “The Vault Collection” trio was a blind tasting of a whisky from Tasmania, Australia. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 1: Hellyers Road-Pinot Noir Finish 46.2% | Non Chill Filtered | NAS

  • Color: Gold
  • Nose: Dense sweet chocolate, sweet and lactic at the same time. Light varnish notes, burnt matches. Then starfruit citrus with curious notes of paan and nutmeg. Most unusual nose and certainly non-Scottish. Let’s see how the palate lives up
  • Palate: Intensely roasted coffee beans. It was literally like chewing on the beans. Then came the sweet fruity flavors of pears and overripe pineapples. That lactic, porridge flavor was back. With a little time, it got spicy with bitter tannic notes at the back of the throat. This seems young and confused. Bottled a tad too early?
  • With water and about 20 mins of rest it didn’t change much. On the palate, it was now a tad oily with some cold coffee but the bitterness continues.
  • Finish: Very dry and the tannic bitterness continues.

As usual it was time to guess. This was most definitely non-Scottish. One member nailed it down to Tasmanian. And there it was, Hellyers Road! A very challenging whisky certainly not for the novice. Would like to revisit it once it settles down in the bottle. But based on the first impression it was certainly not my kind of a dram.

Official notes:  

The nose is immediately drawn to crisp summer citrus, lemon and orange that obediently withdraws on the palate to manifest a sweet, gentle layer of pepper and spice – a persuasion of the red wine cameo. Burnt blackberry sauce lingers in the aftertaste foreclosing a treasured confusion of the senses.

The Vault Collection trio:

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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New kid on the old block… Wolfburn 46%

After an experiment that clearly demonstrated how ‘greedy’ the angels in a warm climate can be… we moved on to sample a completely different whisky.

Once upon a time, there was a distillery in the town of Thurso, the northernmost Scottish mainland distillery. It was founded in 1821 by William Smith and was apparently one of the largest producers in the country. However by the 1850s, production of Wolfburn ceased.

However what was once old, is now new… again! The new Wolfburn avatar opened near the site of the old distillery, using un-peated malt, pot distillation with no automation.

wolfburn-batch-1

Wolfburn 46% Batch 1 (Mar 2016) 

What did we find?

  • Nose – Sharp, earthy, organic, wet soaks, sour lemon, lab, cereals, initially no smoke but then after sipping, could easily discern a faint wisp of peat
  • Palate – Quite a zing, honey flower sweet, strong with some mocha walnut ‘oomph’ with a lovely echo of peat
  • Finish – Short, bitter sweet. As one put it “It stops at the tonsils”

While clearly young, showed promise and what we particularly enjoyed was the echo of peat – that added a quality that made this whisky stand out in its approach. It also has more substance than one normally expects from a mere three year old.

Apparently this comes from it being aged in an ex-Islay quarter cask. The smaller cask clearly contributed to accelerating the absorption of the cask flavours.

wolfburnHere’s what the Wolfburn folks have to say:

“On the nose you’ll find fruit and malty aromas, with just a hint of peat. On the tongue, sweet and nutty flavours are present, which coat the palate to leave a very slight pleasant flavour of smoke. It is a joy to drink – I hope you enjoy every drop.” Shane Fraser, Distillery Manager

We agreed it is a promising start and look forward to seeing what comes next!

PS If you are keen to try, Wolfburn is available in India through The Vault Fine Spirits

Here’s what others say:

PS Tobi from Barley Mania has an interview with Shane Fraser worth checking out here!

Other whiskies sampled in our experimental evening:

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