“I like the label!” Great King Street, Starward, Smoky Goat

There is the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” However let’s face it, we can’t help but be swayed by the ‘packaging’ sometimes!

The theme for our May Whisky Ladies evening was a trio of whiskies selected by our host simply because “I like the label!”

One was a familiar favourite and the other two were completely new to both her and our merry bunch of whisky women.

2016-05-17 Great King, Starward, Smoky Goat

We sampled:

With some very clear ‘wins’ – the ever lovely Compass Box treat and the surprisingly fabulous Starward from Australia.

2016-05-17 Great King St + Starward

And a very clear ‘no!’.. yeah this one decidedly got our goat for being unpalatable…

2016-05-17 Smoky Goat 2

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Irish Night – Connemara NAS 40%

Just to ensure we didn’t miss Ireland’s peated offering, the lads n lasses evening included Connemara!

(Six Mumbai 2015)

(Six Mumbai 2015)

Lina Sonne is our last Whisky Ladies of Mumbai guest whisky reviewer for our Irish Night… 

An escapee academic, Lina heads the Mumbai office of Okapi and its consulting portfolio on innovation and entrepreneurship. Her work focusses on enabling inclusive innovation, social entrepreneurship and start-ups across South Asia and she has traveled widely across the region.

Lina has developed a bit of a reputation for preferring whiskies with a bit more ‘hair on the chest,’ veering towards more robust and peated profiles. On a recent trip back to Sweden, she zeroed in on Mackmyra’s peated Svensk Rök as THE whisky she wished to share with Mumbaikars. 

Here is what Lina has to say about the Connemara….

  • Nose – Definitely seaside, distinct peat and plenty of wood.
  • Palate – Smooth and very light on the palate – a puff of wind on your tongue and it finishes! Where did all that peat go?
  • Finish – Light sweet finish, but with some bitterness and maybe a walnut hiding in there somewhere.
  • Water – Add water and old wood comes out, with a little spice to tickle your tongue.

Overall we found that the Connemara had a great peaty nose promising plenty, but failed to deliver on the palate, with the peat all but disappearing. While still an enjoyable dram, we had hoped for a bit more drama. Instead, it’s quite dry and makes you want to go looking for water.

brandImageConnemara

Kilbaggan website

Here’s what the folks over at Kilbeggan distillery have to say about their Connemara:

Inspired by Ireland’s ancient distilling traditions, Connemara’s smooth sweet malt taste and complex peat flavours makes it a truly unique Irish whiskey.

Connemara is the most decorated Irish whiskey with a huge collection of Gold Medals and has been honoured as the “Worlds Best Irish Single Malt”. Connemara allows you to unearth the Peated Pleasures of Ireland.

Last but not least, more guest reviews by different Whisky Ladies of Mumbai:

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Irish Night – Bushmills 16 year 40%

Pindadaan-Marathi-Movie-Poster

Next up in our Irish lads n lasses evening was Bushmill‘s 16 year!

Fellow Canadian Paula McGlynn is our 1st guest whisky reviewer…

In addition to her blog & experiments with Pollywood Vlog (now discontinued), Paula is a film maker with her partner (Gulbadan Talkies) and actress, recently making her Marathi film debut.

What matters to our Whisky Ladies in Mumbai, is she’s the kind of lass that will track down a new whisky experiment from Canada, take an hour off from shooting in Goa to zip over to Paul John to collect a coveted bottle of Peated or pop into WhiskyLive when in South Africa… just because… whisky!

Here is what Paula has to say about the Bushmills 16 year….

Bushmills Single Malt Whiskey 16 year old is aged for 16 years in a combination of Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon-seasoned casks, then matured for several months in port wine barrels.

(Photo: www.bushmills.com)

(www.bushmills.com)

Paula’s Tasting Notes

  • Color: Amber
  • Nose: Sweet and subtle nose. Burnt sugar, toffee, citrus, overall restrained.
  • Palette: Cinnamon, caramel, marmalade, orange peel, star anise.
  • Finish: It hangs at the back of the tongue. Fennel and spice.
  • Water: Leather and more spice. Not recommended. It damps it down, but it was noted that after sitting for a while, the water brings out more of the Port notes.

Overall it is reserved and subtle but clean. Retains the distinct sweetness characteristic of Bushmills expressions.

Here is what the folks over at Bushmill have to say about the 16 year:

“The unique maturation process gives this single malt its distinct notes of juicy fruits, nuts and spice, as well as a hint of ruby redness.

It’s best enjoyed neat or over ice.”

It was also awarded Gold at the 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

PS In the consumption contest, Bushmills 16 year was 2nd!

More reviews by different Whisky Ladies of Mumbai:

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Irish Night – Bushmills 10 year 40%

Rather than bounce around with multiple distilleries, our recent Irish evening narrowed its focus to primarily Bushmills.

For those not familiar, the Old Bushmills distillery can be found in Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland and traces its history back some 400+ years.

1st up in our combined Whisky Ladies & Bombay Malt & Cigar evening was the Bushmills 10 year.

Carissa’s tasting notes:

(Bushmills official website)

(Bushmills website)

  • Nose – Light, sweet, sprightly, a bit of banana, hints of vanilla, some honey, a whiff of spice all typical of an ex bourbon cask, mellowed into a soft caramel
  • Palate – Some fruit – apples and pears, very smooth and easy to drink, a hint of sweet spice like cinnamon, malty cereal
  • Finish – Was there a finish? Maybe a little light whisky sweetness…
  • Water – Hmm… honestly don’t… it was already quite ‘thin’ to our palates now more attuned to cask strength than 40%… and the whisky character is already quite restrained so best avoided

Overall we found it was a good start to the evening – one of those eminently accessible whiskies. While it doesn’t challenge, it does an admirable job of lubricating the senses with a sweet, sociable, uncomplicated yet pleasant whisky.

Here’s what the folks over at Bushmills have to say about their 10 year:

Bushmills Single Malt Whiskey 10 year old is triple distilled from 100% malted barley and matured for at least 10 years in bourbon season barrels which give it it’s honey, vanilla and milk chocolate aroma.

It can be served neat, over ice or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try it frozen.

We didn’t try it frozen, however…in a muggy Mumbai May night? Perhaps that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Extra special treat for this sessions are guest reviews by different Whisky Ladies of Mumbai!

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Irish Night – When the BMC + Whisky Ladies unite!

To the casual observer, it may seem slightly absurd that one woman living in Mumbai could be part of three whisky tasting groups. Yet each are unique and completely delightful.

Particularly our Whisky Ladies group attracts quite a bit of… ahem… gentlemanly attention with many men wishing to crash our female only party.

However the lads over at our Bombay Malt & Cigar club are a rather more civilised lot. Clever gents, they knew the best way to enjoy an evening with the ladies would be to extend a gracious invitation to the mysterious whisky women of Mumbai.

And thus the Irish night was conceived!

While it didn’t take 9 months for this momentum occasion to become a reality, many  most amusing efforts went into selecting more sociable Irish whiskies, with the gentlemen taking full charge of sourcing everything from the whiskies to pipettes to acquiring more Glencairn classes to even glass covers!

Bushmills Distillery 21 May 2016 (Photo: Arti)

Bushmills Distillery 21 May 2016 (Photo: Arti)

At one point some 10+ whiskies were being bandied about as options, however in the end they settled on:

Then a few more were added as ‘bonus’ whiskies:

As always, the proof of what proved most popular is what was consumed most during the evening… in this case, the evidence is quite clear! The Bushmill’s 21 year beat the pants off the entire competition. Followed by the 16, 10 and Steamship lagged behind…

Bushmills Steamship, 10, 16, 21

Bushmills Steamship, 10, 16, 21

Our venue host personally cooked an Irish stew as the focus entrée of a fabulous sit down dinner which followed our slightly inebriated pronouncements about the various drams. We even had an Irish themed assortment of music and naturally much merriment was had by all!

To say the lads fully embraced our Irish evening is a wee bit of an understatement.

As for the lasses? Let’s just say we are plotting how to return the courtesy… with a theme that may completely disrupt normal notions of what defines a good dram!

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

Piña colada whisky – Nikka Coffey Grain 45%

Naturally our Whisky Ladiesfar east‘ trilogy closed with an offering from Japan. Japanese whiskies are known for their ability to craft exquisite top-notch quality whiskies. Nikka certainly has put out a number of quite fabulous whiskies.

Given the bold Kavalan Solist cask strength whisky, we took care to clear our palates and recalibrate our thinking before sampling this grain whisky. We knew it would be much more delicate and nuanced.

To help switch gears from the strong coffee quality of the Kavalan, we were reminded to think ‘coffey stills’ not ‘coffee.’ Our whisky contributor shared that the whisky is named for the type of ‘coffey’ stills used by Nikka. These column stills were enhanced by Aeneas Coffey, who patented his approach which revolutionised liquor production in the mid-1800s.

Here’s what the folks over at Nikka have to say about this particular whisky:

This Grain Whisky is distilled in a “Coffey still”, which is a very traditional and rare patent still Nikka imported from Scotland in 1963. The Coffey still produces a complex whisky with a mellow and sweet taste originating from the grain itself. Please enjoy the uniqueness of this whisky which Nikka offers to the connoisseurs.

Nikka Coffey Grain

Nikka Coffey Grain

Here is what we found:

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Piña colada with coconut, pineapple, lots of tropical dry fruits, sweet as in very sweet, some struggled to get past the ‘alcohol’, vanilla, a little dry papaya, one of those high-end granola cereals chock full of dry fruits
  • Palate – Mmm… some spice, butter, coconut, honey, light banana, quite subtle, only when taking a big swig does the spice peak out
  • Finish – Back to piña colada
  • Water – Adds a little spice and caramel but not really needed

For a setting, we thought would be a perfect pre-dinner whisky to get things started. Or one to sip while having a good chat with a friend where the whisky accompanies nicely but doesn’t command attention or distract from the focus on a good conversation.

Overall it is quite restrained as a whisky, elegant, smooth and easy to drink. It is hard not think this is targeted at what marketeers thing appeals to women, stereotyping preferences for sweet  piña colada like beverages with frilly umbrellas.

What do our whisky ladies of Mumbai have to say?

  • “Instagram whisky with a soft filter”
  • “Gee… are they trying to say this is a woman’s whisky with pretty pink packaging?”
  • “Gateway whisky… easily accessible but…”

In short, most of our lasses prefer a bit less pina colada and a bit more substance and complexity.

That doesn’t mean this isn’t a decent whisky. It absolutely is. However it doesn’t quite hit the preferred character for our whisky women. Talk turned to Yoichi and Nikka’s Taketsuru Pure Malt and away from what was right in front of us.

Just to check if we were missing anything, took a gander at the tasting notes on the bottle:

  • Nose: Fresh and enticing, it reveals ripe pear, cherry and exotic fruit aromas. Citrus notes of blood orange and lemon appear, slowly giving way to more subtle floral scents. With air, aromas of pastry, coconut and bourbon vanilla emerge, with underlying notes of mint and a hint of musk.
  • Palate: Juice and pleasant, the promises of the nose are kept. Intense ripe fruit with rum accents (banana) and caramel. The complexity develops with hints of liquorice and star anise. The mid-palate shows more fruit, dominated by pear nectar and quickly moving on to creamier notes with an omnipresent freshness.
  • Finish: Just as pleasant as on the palate with pear and vanilla bourbon, ending on a very nice light bitter touch.

Do we agree? Well… once they mentioned pear, that rang true. But complex? Musk? Intense ripe fruit?? Hmm… and not one mention of  piña coladas??

Other Nikka whiskies sampled til date:

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Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask 57.8%

Our whisky ladies evening from the far east continued with a Kavalan comparison… After setting the stage with Concertmaster, the real symphony crashed on our senses with the remarkable Solist Sherry Cask. To say it hit some amazing high notes is an understatement!

2016-04-25 Kavalan Solist

Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask No S1001200358, Bottle No 025/507 57.8%

  • Colour – Unbelievable colour! Like ruby coffee or a very dark maple syrup
  • Nose – Astounding. Coffee, prunes, rum soaked, very berry sherry, hazelnut, maple syrup, vanilla, raisins, almond and marzipan, sweet toffee, figs and other dried fruits
  • Palate – “Wow!” A flood of warm buttery yum. Like a hot rum toddy or warm mulled wine. Cloves, black pepper, allspice. Dry and chewy.
  • Finish – Absolutely gorgeous finish, rich, long and lingering… “The finish just doesn’t end!”
  • Comments“Giving me shivers up my spine!” “Quite heady and heavy” “Now THIS is a symphony unlike the Concertmaster!!”

Overall, we found this is the kind of whisky where a little goes a long way. It certainly isn’t one you would want to much of… Instead just one dram and you would be completely satisfied. Some compared it to a chewy chocolate candy like those ‘melody’ wrapped toffee coffee chocolate candies. It is a remarkable whisky – very different, big, rich, intense and one that requires you pay attention.

However, before moving on, we decided to experiment with adding water. Normally when we add water, it is just a few drops, however instinct prompted a different approach here… in part as it is cask strength and in part as its intensity begged a little taming…

  • A couple drops – Punched it up to make it even more forceful. It was as though the volume, already quite high, was increased to a thundering crescendo! Cranked up the spices, the sweetness and pushed it into the territory of “I’m not sure I still like this anymore…”
  • A good dollop –  Yes it did dampen the forceful quality brought out by only a few drops, however nothing new was revealed. It simply mellowed into the hot rum toddy style with just a tinge less kick
  • Ice cube“Holy mother of… !?” Transforms. Normally we find ice ‘shocks’ the whisky – not in a good way. Here? Released a beautiful sweet perfume on the nose. The first hint of something more delicate beneath all the sherry strength. And the palate? Morphs into a smooth, gorgeous sipping whisky that perfectly cuts the sweet. With ice you could settle down, sip, savour and continue to enjoy this unique whisky… perhaps even greedily coming back for more.

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

Matured in Spanish top quality oloroso sherry casks in special editions, Kavalan Solist Sherry is bottled by hand at the distillery, without any colouring, chill-filtration. It is a naturally smooth and rich whisky with a complex character. It is clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit, nuttiness and spices with some marzipan and vanilla touches to it as well.

  • Colour – Dark and mouth-watering raisin
  • Nose – Clean and complex with multi-layers of dried fruit, nuttiness and spices with some marzipan and vanilla touches to it as well
  • Palate – Rich, oily and full with pleasant dried fruit and spices that linger on in the mouth plus a hint of fine coffee
2016-04-25 Kavalan Solist Tasting Notes
Related notes from our Whisky Ladies April session:
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Kavalan Concertmaster 40%

Our whisky ladies evening from the far east enabled us to contrast and compare two very different Kavalan whiskies.

For those not familiar, Kavalan is Taiwan’s answer to the whisky world. While founded only in 2005, it is winning award after award – in 2014 alone over 100 awards! Master blender Ian Chang and the team take full advantage of Taiwan’s warmer climate to produce no age statement experiments, maturing in different casks and playing around with finishes.

Back in 2008, just three years after the distillery was constructed, Kavalan launched its first ‘Classic’ whisky. A year later in 2009, Concertmaster was released.

The bottle I shared with our Whisky Ladies was acquired in Taipei a few years ago. It was honestly a disappointment when first tried and was brought as a ‘base line’ before sampling the Solist.

Concertmaster (Whisky Lady)

Concertmaster (Whisky Lady)

Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish 40%

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Nose – Initially a bit peculiar, like it was pretending to have peat but isn’t, then honey, sour, a bit citrusy, formaldehyde, some vanilla, followed by caramel and orange peel
  • Palate – Smooth. Not horrible but sorta a whole lot of nothing, neutral, non-descript, innocuous, inoffensive
  • Finish – Warm with some bitter orange peel
  • Water? No need, already quite light and thin
  • Comments – “Dare I say… insipid?” “Definitely NOT a concert or symphony of aromas or flavours!”

While overall not bad, it was not particularly memorable either. Clearly we struggled to discern specific elements on the palate. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad whisky at all. Just not one to make the heart sing… let alone a full blown concerto!

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

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

  • Colour – Pleasant brownish red
  • Nose – Tropical fruitiness with honey, vanilla, coconut and candy floss
  • Palate – Rich bodied with natural sweetness and complexity

If you look today on the Kavalan website, you will no longer see Concertmaster prominently featured though it is still very much present. However there are rumours of its production being phased out. We have to say its absence would not be a great loss to the world of whisky. And if it means more attention on Solist and other experiments? Please! Please!

For the story on my initially acquiring and sampling this bottle from Taipei… read here.

Related notes from our Whisky Ladies April session:

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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!

post-milestone-200-2x

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Smokehead “The Rock Edition” – style over substance?

We get it. Its a gimmick. But gimmicks do get attention.

Sure its brash, testosterone fuelled and meant to be fun. But is it any good?

Smokehead

Smokehead “The Rock Edition” NAS 44.2%

So what did the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai think?

  • Nose: Smoked bacon, beef jerky, gorging on Montreal smoked meat (think Schwartz Deli!), pastrami on rye, hickory, popped out back for a summer BBQ, if you dig deep a hint of honey sweetness, ashtray
  • Palate: Pungent, peaty “not as bad as it smells” 
  • Finish: I’m sorry… was there a finish? It was like all the punch just suddenly fizzled out. Nada.
  • Water: Some thought 6 drops ‘salvaged’ it… yes there was a debate on the exact number of drops required! Consensus was six drops smoothes out the dram without overly dampening the smokey spirit. As one put it, can now taste the whisky and “I no longer feel like I’ve just smoked a pack of cigarettes!”

This Smokehead certainly sparked a lot of commentary…

  • Whisky to get trashed to…
  • College guys, sitting around playing cards, smoking and getting drunk
  • All bravado and no brains

Let’s be very clear, a number of our whisky ladies have no patience for wimpy whiskies. Peat scores high on their preferred elements in a good dram. However this one was all over the top flash without the substance.

There were several comments along the lines of it being a brash guy coming on really strong but in reality a limp noodle. Ahem… You get the picture.

When compared with other openly peat pushing drams like Compass Box’s Peat Monster or Bruichladdich’s Octomore, regret to say this Smokehead is outclassed. Now… it could be the Rock Edition specifically as it is meant to be no frills, just straight-on rock thrills. A couple lasses had sampled a different Smokehead and recalled more character and less clobber over the head with an ashtray experience.

So what more do we know about Smokehead?

  • Do they disclose the Islay distillery? Nope! All we know is its part of Ian McLeod distillers….
  • Do they use colouring? Yup!
  • What else? Not a whole heck of a lot.

What did the Ian Weir, Marketing Director for McLeod have to say when launching this edition?

 “The new limited edition presentation not only celebrates Smokehead’s close affinity to rock music, but reaffirms the brand’s unique position within the Single Malt category. Smokehead is vigorous and unapologetic about its big and intense peaty flavours. Like rock and roll, people must accept it for what it is or not at all. The brand is an enthusiastic supporter of rock music and we have some exciting plans underway to take this even further in 2012.”

And their official tasting notes?

Nose: Heavy smoke and peat.   Amazing richness.   Lemon, fresh ginger, plum jam.   Salty and spicy.
Body: Like a cannonball – hits the palate at once with cocoa, peat and some honey sweetness then explodes with peppery spice and more earthy peat.   Spreads to all the areas of your mouth with more peat and light sweetness.
Finish: Even more peat, spice, mandarin – then dries up.   When you think it’s all over the peat comes back to hit you again.
Impression A rollercoaster of peat and spice with some delicate sweetness.

Well… did we accept it ‘as is’? Meh… Not gonna run out and buy another bottle. However for a sociable drinking evening, makes for a great conversation piece!

Other whiskies sampled before the Smokehead included:

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