Vita Dulcis 24 – Sweden’s Mackmyra 5 year Rök 46.3%

Unbelievable but true! I have managed to taste all 24 minis within one month. Something I have never imagined I would accomplish. Now… admittedly, I wasn’t tasting every day. Nor was I even completing each mini. Instead I grouped them in trios and quartets, settling into  a sniff, swish and consideration… mostly on weekends. Curious to know more? You can read about all of the minis here.

As for my penultimate dram? Fittingly, it closed on Europe with a single cask of a Swedish peaty Mackmyra, bottled specifically for Vita Dulcis.

Sweden – Mackmyra 5 year Rök Oloroso Cask Finish 46.3% Exclusive single cask bottling for Vita Dulcis

  • Nose – A bit dusty, then smokey, a dash of honey, fresh and woodsy, a dash of caramel, cinnamon, then shifted into maple chased by vanilla, cured meats
  • Palate – OK now we have peat, delicious, peaking behind was fruits, then baked goods
  • Finish – Bitter sweetness, cinnamon, nicely lingers…

I must say, the more I sipped, the more I enjoyed it. Even after finishing the last drop, came back to my empty glass just to enjoy the aromas. A nice way to wind things up…

As a single cask, I wasn’t able to find specific tasting notes, however I checked out my previously experience with Svensk Rök 46.1%. I’d agree it is certainly in the same vein.

You may also find other encounters with Mackmyra of interest:

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Vita Dulcis 23 – Ireland’s Connemara Peated 40%

Over the years, Connemara just keeps popping up in various forums… including here with a guest post in 2016 and again later that year. However it has been a few years since I’ve sat down and given proper consideration to this lightly peated Irish dram.

Ireland – Connemara Original Peated 40%

  • Nose – Briney, sweet cereals, hint of smoke
  • Palate – Well… that’s a kick! Sweet, light peat with a cinnamon edge
  • Finish – That briney quality comes back

OK… I remember Connemara as being quite a light touch with peat. And it is true – this isn’t heavily peated. However it has much more kick than I remembered. Could it be there has been a shift in peat levels? A little more PPM earlier, then a few years with less and then back to a heavier hand? Or just mood and environment linked.. either way, this was certainly a sharper peat than I remembered on previous brushes.

Distillery official tasting notes?

An aroma of sweet barley with wafts of peaty smoke, kippers and well baked apple crumble. Tastes of lightly honey sweet, subdued clean rather than sooty smoke with peaty vegetal notes, sweet barley water, light spice and vanilla oak.

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Vita Dulcis 22 – Ireland’s The Quiet Man “An Culchists” 12 years 46%

Back in 2018, I met Michael Morris of The Quiet Man on his 1st trip to Mumbai, India. It was a relatively low key gathering that enabled a few different discussions on the Irish whisky industry and a chance to sample their 8 year old – naturally not yet their spirit but with whiskies blended in a style they hope to achieve..

So I was curious to see how their journey has progressed – with this wee mini in my Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar.

Ireland – The Quiet Man “An Culchists” 12 years 46%

  • Nose – Initially a bit sharp, then honey, custard, baked goods – like butter brioche or fresh hot from the oven sour dough
  • Palate – A kick of chilli spice, then citrus, followed by chocolate orange like those Terry Christmas chocolates, a bit of cracked black pepper, wood
  • Finish – Honey

Overall it is pleasant, nothing particularly outstanding. What will be more interesting to explore is once they have their own spirit out in the world.

What more do we know? To be honest, the Quiet Man website wasn’t working for me beyond their landing page, so I couldn’t see if they provided any official tasting notes for this expression. I did find on a German website that it is ex-bourbon, though naturally the distillery is not disclosed.

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Vita Dulcis 21 – Ireland’s Hyde No 5 Burgandy Cask 46%

The Irish whisky industry is going through a resurgence with a combination of new distilleries and brands – some with distilleries ‘to be’. Hyde describes their approach as:

At HYDE, we carefully hand select only the very finest Irish whiskey, made by only the very best Irish whiskey distilleries, which we then finish in vintage oak casks which we source directly from distilleries and bodegas around the world.

I had the pleasure of meeting a couple gents from Hyde back in 2017 during an exploratory trip to Mumbai. They kindly sent a bottle of their No 6 – back in the day when it was possible to ship liquor from other parts of the world to India. I also had an opportunity to briefly sample this expression No 5 in a special speed tasting experiment.

I was curious to see how that quick memory from three years ago compared with the miniature in the Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar.

Ireland – Hyde No 5 “The Aras” Burgundy Cask Finish 46% – Single Grain Whiskey

  • Nose – Initially a touch sharp with spice, then a bit of vanilla and faint fruits
  • Palate – Starts a bit spice, roasted wood, apples
  • Finish – Again – quite spicy

i checked my notes from my previous ‘speed taste’ – was quite similar. In both cases, there was nothing that really stood out and the burgundy influence was hardly discernible.

What do the Hyde folks have to say about this expression?

Hyde No.5 is a triple distilled, Single grain, Irish whiskey from one single distillery location. Originally distilled in a traditional “Coffey” Copper Column still from pure Corn / maize grain.

Matured for a minimum of 6 years in flame charred, first fill, ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky in the U.S.A. before being ‘finished’ for a further 6 months in vintage BURGUNDY French red wine casks.

These Pinot Noir red wine casks come from the BURGUNDY region of France from the Côte d’Or vineyards near Dijon, France.

What about the Hyde team’s official tasting notes?

  • Nose : Spiced with notes of red berry fruit, vanilla, and toasted oak.
  • Taste : A creamy nutty palette entry with notes of sweet custard, apple peel, red berries and orange blossom honey.
  • Finish : A nice long satisfying finish of plum, jam and spice ending with a silky combination of oak and barley

As for my earlier encounters with Hyde? Just the two:

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Vita Dulcis 20 – Ireland’s Roe + Co Cask Strength 2019 Edition 59.1%

This was my first brush with Roe & Co from Dublin – creators of Irish whisky blends. The miniature from the Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar was their 2019 Cask Strength edition.

Ireland – Roe & Co Cask Strength Limited Release 2019 Edition 59.1%

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Sharp, crisp fruits and hint of flowers, cereals – particularly hay, ginger, vanilla custard
  • Palate – Again sharp, pine wood, apples
  • Finish – Spice

Nearly all of the whiskies in this calendar were between 40 – 46% and I simply wasn’t even tempted to add water. However with this one, given it is a bit ‘hot’, thought to see how it fares.

With water? It helped open it up further, smoothed out the palate and before I knew it, my wee 2ml teaser was gone!

On their website, they provide relatively limited details:

This blended whiskey has pronounced flavours of orchard fruit, layers of creamy vanilla and warming woody notes.

And there you have it!

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Vita Dulcis 19 – USA Knob Creek Straight Rye 50%

Next up… another from the US  in my Vita Dulcis 2020 International Advent Calendar… And I’m in the home stretch with just a few more to go!

USA – Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey 50%

  • Nose – Sweet grains, then sour mash, herbal, ginger
  • Palate – Yup! There is that distinctive rye spice! Packs a bit of a whallop… then settles down, brown sugar
  • Finish – A bit of pepper

To me, this is a clear rye. 

I admit, I sampled it on two occasions – once on its own and I realized I simply wasn’t in the mood, so set it aside after a sip. And again this evening after sampling Heaven’s Door Straight Rye Whiskey.

When you think of a classic American rye… it is something like Knob Creek. At first it comes across as direct, no finesse… yes it isn’t just rye spice, there are herbs, wood elements and other things… that start to grow on you…

Distillery official tasting notes?

  • Colour : Shades of gold to light amber.
  • Nose : Expansive notes of herbs and rye with nuances of oak.
  • Taste : Bold rye spiciness with undertones of vanilla and oak.

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Vita Dulcis 18 – USA’s Heaven’s Door Straight Rye Whiskey 43%

Back in the day, this guy sat on a chair and started crooning out of tune. Family friends caught him in a Greenwich Village cafe in the 60s and… having no clue of what impact this singer songwriter would have on music and culture… I’m speaking of Bob Dylan.

And now? Whiskey…

I remember when 1st launched, friends reached out to ask what I thought?

My response? I won’t know til I try… and that’s what is fun about buying whisky advent calendars… chock full of samples you might not otherwise have an opportunity to try.

So what did I think?

USA – Heaven’s Door Straight Rye Whiskey 43%

  • Nose – Definitely rye, but with a lighter touch, sweeter… a bit of honey, vanilla, cream some wood, maybe a touch of mint or basil? Some cream
  • Palate – Again – clearly rye, yet has a lighter touch, less bite… mellows more readily, a bit of apple with a rye spice chaser….
  • Finish – A bit of citrus and licorice then mint

OK, I confess… I’m not a big rye fan. But this one worked. And I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did!

What do the producers have to say?

Breaking with tradition, we finish our Straight Rye Whiskey in toasted oak cigar barres, air-dried in the low-lying mountain region of Vosges, France. This proprietary finishing results in a smoother, ore approachable rye with notes of orange peel, coriander, and spice.

Would I agree? I’m surprised to admit, yes…

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Vita Dulcis 17 – Wales Penderyn Madeira 46%

Ah… Penderyn from Wales… what fun to have a chance to revisit! This Madeira finish is part of their core range – now labelled as “gold“. It has a happy place in our whisky tasting history and one that is a regular ‘stand by’ for sociable evenings.

Wales – Penderyn Madeira Finish 46%

  • Nose – Delicious! Vanilla creme, caramel, resin and raisins, herbal – particularly basil yet hints of mint too, chased by rich toffee
  • Palate – Also yum! Fruit – think pineapple, marmalade on toast with custard, sprinkled with cinnamon, cloves and other sweet spices
  • Finish – Spices, nice ginger tail

As I sipped it, I couldn’t help but smile. Both as I enjoyed the whisky and as I had a flashback to most enjoyable exchanges with Aista Jukneviciute at the Nurnberg “The Village” whisky festival (end Feb/early Mar 2020) where she launched a special expression just for Germany!

Penderyn is a predominantly female distillation team, led by Laura Davies, Distillery Manager, Penderyn Distillery (Wales) – a refreshing contrast to a mostly male industry.

What do they have to say about their Madeira?

This whisky is the original Penderyn ‘house style’, aged in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in ex-Madeira wine casks to bring out its full gold character. It is bottled at 46% abv.

TASTING NOTES
  • Nose: A classic freshness with aromas of cream toffee, rich fruit and raisins.
  • Palate: Crisp and finely rounded, with the sweetness to balance an appetising dryness.
  • Finish: Notes of tropical fruit, raisins and vanilla persist.
  • Balance: Oaky vanilla tones/dry sweetness

As for my other encounters with the distillery? They are quite a few years earlier:

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Vita Dulcis 16 – Taiwan’s Kavalan Concertmaster Port Finish 40%

Last from Asia in my  2020 Advent Calendar was a repeat (for me) from Kavalan with their Concertmaster Port Finish.

What did I find this time around?

Taiwan – Kavalan Concertmaster Port Finish 40%

  • Nose – Sugar plums, dark dried fruits and berries, caramelized
  • Palate – At first I found it quite light, then the flavours grew, taking on a a delightful spice with chewy prunes with a fullness one rarely finds at 40%
  • Finish – Mmmm… the port really comes through on the finish

I’ve had a whole range of experiences with Kavalan in the past – including this expression. I still remember being disappointed with the bottle I brought back from Taiwan nearly 9 years ago! And yet now, particularly after the Suntory “Toki” and Hatozaki Blend, I found myself really enjoying it.

What does Kavalan have to say about Concertmaster, now that it is back on their website?

Using Portuguese ruby Port wine casks as the main flavour, Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish single malt whisky is first matured in specially selected American oak casks and then finished in port barriques. The ageing in barriques mellows the flavours and adds indefinable smoothness to the whisky. It is rich bodied with natural sweetness and complexity.

  • Colour: Brownish red
  • Flavour: Tropical fruitiness with honey, vanilla, coconut and candy floss.
  • Palate: Rich bodied with natural sweetness and complexity.
  • Tasting pairing: Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish pairs indulgently with chocolate, making it even more delicious.

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Vita Dulcis 15 – Japan’s Kaikyo

Last year, Germany’s spirits importer Schlumberger brought two whiskies from Akashi-Tai’s Kaikyo Distillery – including this “Hatozaki Whisky,” named after a lighthouse nearby that dates back to 1657.

Naturally curious, I was happy to see it part of my Vita Dulcis 2020 Advent Calendar.

Japan – Kaikyo Distillery Hatozaki Blended Whisky 40%

  • Colour – So pale, it almost looks like water
  • Nose – It started off with soft brie or camembert, citrus spice… as it opened up, it became fruitier – particularly white nectarines and the cereals became more prominent
  • Palate – Apple juice that morphed into apple sauce with a bit of cinnamon and cheese, bit of honey
  • Finish – Light

I kept thinking of a platter full of different kinds of cheese, apples, figs, a scattering of nuts… it also reminded me of Akashi’s Red, perhaps even more so the White Oak.

What more do we know?

Based on the ABV, it seems clear the ‘Finest Japanese’ expression (not small batch) Hatozaki made its way to Germany.

From this interview with the owner Kimio Yonezawa, it is a blend of malt and grain, whiskies distilled in Japan and outside. In terms of casks, they use sherry, bourbon and Mizunara oak…. even XO plum Umeshu!

As for official tasting notes, here is what I could find:

Hatozaki Finest Japanese Whisky is a premium blend of whiskies, aged up to 12 years in barrel with a minimum malt whisky content of 40%. Light in style with a rich backbone of malt whisky character. Cereal notes and a light sweetness allow for the whisky to be used in both highball and straight pours.

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