Whisky Ladies Turn Two!!

Who would have imagined two years ago that a simple conversation about women and whisky could lead to such a wonderful group!

Each month we come together in different members home to explore diverse whiskies from around the world. We’ve had quite the adventures and you can read more about the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai’s experiences in the Whisky Ladies Corner.

But this fine August evening was meant purely for celebration of our two year milestone as the “Whisky Ladies of Mumbai.”

Naturally as this is a fellowship over whisky, the drams were centre stage… Some were revisits of favourite drams from earlier tasting sessions… Some were shared for the 1st time with the Whisky Ladies.

This was not an evening for careful dissecting, discerning and discussing drams. This was an evening to enjoy over conversation with wonderful company, accompanied by morsels of yumminess!

A few extras from the last year:

We look forward to many more adventures together! Thank you ladies for making each gathering such a wonderful experience!

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Birthday whisky – Auchentoshan 40 year 41.6%

After our untraditional ‘risky whisky?‘ trio of lesser known whiskies from France (Brenne & AWA Pinot Noire) and the US (Virgil Kaine), we turned to a very traditional Lowland… and no young thing either… a mature 40 year old Auchentoshan no less!

And why such a rare aged whisky magically appearing in our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai midst?

It was all thanks to a Whisky Ladies’ birthday… 40th birthday… from an uncle who knows nothing would be more appropriate than giving the birthday lass a venerable 40 year old whisky! And generous soul that she is, our birthday Whisky Lady both hosted the evening and shared her special gift!

Auchentoshan 40 year (4 Nov 1965/4 Aug 2006) Bourbon Cask 41.6% Bottle No 196/200

  • Nose – A sense of very mild old sherry, a light sharpness, fresh pears, hint of ginger with a slight citrus twist, light toasted nuts
  • Palate – Very clean, elegant and clearly a ‘proper whisky’, figs and prunes yet all with a light touch
  • Finish – Lasting mild-mannered finish, one where you can really take your time, mellow, mellow, mellow…

Such an easy drinking whisky… most of all the descriptions “elegant” and “mellow” are most apt!

In the Glencairn vs Norlan glass experience, the Norlan gave a totally different finish – very spicy and more ‘alcohol’. Definitely one to have in the Glencairn!

What is also interesting is this is apparently matured only in a bourbon cask yet had some of the soft sweetness one associates with sherry finish.

Sipping this whisky sparked a wee debate on whether such a price tag was merited… a figure of some $2,000 was mentioned that had most of us aghast. Seriously?? No… not worth that price, especially as we could have bought some 15 – 25 other interesting whiskies for such an amount! Yet… none of use regretted an opportunity to sample such an elegant mellow Lowland dram…

Here’s what the producer has to say:

Rich, old gold in colour, the nose is a delicious combination of sweet vanilla, delicate lemon and orange citrus notes, a touch of almonds and a light, leafy freshness.  The palate is clean and zesty but is beautifully complemented by hints of vanilla and a touch of raisins.  The finish is soft and mild.

What else did we sample that “risky whisky” evening?

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Whisky clubs revealed

As some may know, I’m part of three whisky tasting groups in Mumbai. Each has its own format and approach…

I’m often asked how do we do it? What is the recipe for success?

We certainly do not have any ‘magic’ formula, however found a few key factors:

  • Core group of very dedicated people who value quality over quantity – drinkers would be bored silly & chaff with impatience at our slow process of sniffing, sipping and discussing small samples
  • Ability to source unique whiskies from outside India and go well beyond standard duty-free fare
  • Keep it small – too many people and it becomes a party vs an opportunity to share a focused discovery of a specific whisky
  • Typically needs at least one ‘ring leader‘ per group that rallies the ‘troops’ and keeps things on track in terms of participation, fairness in contributions, planning dates/places, etc
  • None are ‘commercial’… there are no membership fees, no one is trying to make money and instead we each contribute in kind and mind!

Want to know more? Here is a quick guide to what works for us with a warning… these are ALL closed groups.

That said, if you are part of a whisky tasting group, would love to learn more about how you go about it. Maybe there is something you do that we would love to try!

Whisky Ladies of Mumbai

  • Who – Core group of ladies supplemented by guests if ‘spots’ in a particular session available
  • Where – Rotate venues at different members homes, limiting ‘spots’ by number of ladies that can be comfortably accommodated in a single discussion space (typically around 8-10)
  • When – Monthly, mostly 3rd Tuesday but bounces around too
  • What – Different approaches… we try to source in such a way to achieve themes yet sometimes simply mix it up to have some fun
  • How – At times the contributor tells a little about the whisky before we sample, other times we just dive in… so far we have not sampled blind

Bombay Malt & Cigar Club

  • Who – Select set of guys and one gal (guess who that is!)
  • Where – Two venues (a/c for summer, outdoors for winter) where glasses and more stored, cigars acceptable plus always fabulous food… why mess with a good thing?
  • When – Sporadically with an aim of every month or so
  • What – Rotating whisky ‘curator’ who collects whiskies in advance to share plus another who takes the lead on ‘curating’ the cigars
  • How – Generally not blind however initial tasting of whiskies strictly without cigars then followed by discovery of another indulgence – cigars!

Original & Underground 

  • Who – Small group of fellow whisky adventurers who devote a serious evening to exploring whiskies, running since 2011
  • Where – Rotate at members homes with each hosting at least once a year
  • When – Monthly except monsoon or sometimes December, strictly 3rd Thursday and planned up to year in advance (I kid you not!)
  • What – Host curates completely! From selecting the whiskies to the dinner that follows… sometimes even special whisky food pairings
  • How – Blind tasting before the reveal

There are other whisky tasting groups around however one of the challenges we in India face vs other countries is limited access to quality, unique whiskies beyond duty-free fare. India may be one of the worlds largest consumer of whisky – however that is predominantly cheap blended whisky – the quantity over quality kinda stuff that doesn’t interest our groups.

So it requires dedication, commitment and creative planning to source whiskies. Hence our groups are all ‘private + closed’ as there is a careful balance between interest, aligned approach and ability to contribute. With our original group, it isn’t unheard of to start collecting for a theme years in advance.

Whereas groups like Winnipeg’s Cabinet or my aunt and uncles’ Fort Frances Whisky Club, have access to a reasonable range through their local Liquor Store, with friendly arrangements to import interesting bottles plus supplement acquisitions from member’s travels.

My uncle was treasurer for years with his group – membership comes with a price and entitles to attend so many sessions / year plus the chance to win the lucky ‘draw’ to take home the balance of a bottle at the end of the evening. It is all fair, square and again completely non-commercial in nature.

Personally I really enjoy tasting with others – I gain so much having different voices and reactions not just my solo impressions.

Would love to learn more about other whisky tasting groups both within India and outside!

Related posts:

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200 whisky posts…. with thanks!

Six months ago, I celebrated a remarkable milestone – 100 whisk(e)y posts with 100 whiskies!

I enthusiastically listed all 100 whiskies reviewed and couldn’t stop doing a jig of celebration!

Fast forward and today marks 200 whisky posts… a double accomplishment!

However nothing is achieved without help! So I thought it high time to recognise all the fabulous folks that made it possible….

Most importantly, our Mumbai based whisky groups! Our shared journey and tasting sessions gave birth to this blog:

Plus very special tastings thanks to:

Most importantly, many anonymous friends and fellow bloggers who bravely court liver failure in the quest to find that special dram! Be it sending a sample or sharing an evening… an amusing quip or shared opinion, you know who you are!!

I raise a dram to you all in salut!


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