This is part of a tasting notes series from a monthly private whisky club in Mumbai, India. This month, with Ganpati processions still clogging the streets of Bombay, we braved traffic snarls and celebrations to make it to our lovely hosts home in Sewri.
Tasting Notes from 19 September 2013
“It was worth the effort to come!”
Glenturret 10 year 40% – Light sweet nose perhaps with a hint of lemon. Not so sweet on the palate, a bit spicy but still smooth with a tinge of bitter kerela. While the finish didn’t linger too long, it was quite pleasant. With a couple drops of water, it became even more mellow and an enjoyable light treat.
None could guess the distillery though it was clearly not a Speyside or Highland. With the unveiling it was shared this Lowland whisky was bought at the distillery and not readily available. Glenturret is found on the Turret River in Perthshire. Touted to have been established in 1775 with some earlier elicit efforts from 1715, it claims to be the ‘oldest distillery in Scotland.’ Today it is better known for the “Famous Grouse Experience.”
Auchentoshan 14 yr Cooper’s Reserve 46% – Bright amber in colour, a delightful bannana, caramel and pear on the nose. Dry yet still sweet on the palate, very smooth with a spicy finish that lingers with a hint of dried fruit. Add water and the peat peaks out both in the nose and palate. Pronounced quite lovely and definitely one to enjoy.
With the unveiling, more than one taster shared their mixed experience with Auchentoshan – having a few ‘duds’ and some ‘delights’ this one at least was firmly put in the positive category. Aged in bourbon barrels and then sherry casks, the packaging declared how it is triple distilled, non-chill filtered bottled at high strength. This prompted a debate on the latest fads in single malts from earlier assuming consumers would dislike any ‘cloudy’ appearance hence chill filtered to it now non-chilled filtered being preferred and a new twist of ‘triple filtered’… Does triple filtered really make a difference we asked?*
Kilchoman Machir Bay 46% – Light gold in colour, such a contrast from the earlier whiskies – bold, rubber, smoky, burnt wood and ash on nose. Carried through on palate with a woodsy strength tempered by a sweeter undertone, a difficult to identify element like soft over-ripe dried fruit. A lingering rich charcoal finish which prompted some debate on its age – some qualities of a younger whisky yet refreshingly complex as one would more typically find in an older whisky. Add a little water and it bloomed further – bringing out both the sweet and spice with the warmth of burnt wood remaining.
There was a challenge in pinpointing this offering as well – the peat was too subtle for a Laphroaig and didn’t quite fit the qualities of other Islay mainstays – however the region was guessed right on! Also aged in ex-bourbon casks and finished in sherry butts like the Cooper’s Reserve, it is far more robust. Machir Bay captures the senses and was the clear favourite – even paired post dinner with chocolate. To learn it should soon be available in India and not ridiculously expensive – my oh my we lucky folks!
Each sample was a contrast and unique. Interestingly, all improved with a few drops of water whether lowland, highland or islay! Slainthe!
*Our ‘internal expert’ was absent this session however came back with the following additional insight:
Regarding Triple Distillation – The general thought is that the higher the casking strength of the spirit the slower the interaction of the spirit with the wood (more absolute alcohol-to-surface area) but some elements such as Lignins are broken down much easily. There is ‘some give and some take’ thus yielding a different taste curve. The cask fill strength in most cases is 63.5% +/- in which there is a loss of alcoholic strength of about 1.5 – 2 % over a 10 year period (that’s in Scotland – in Asia & Caribbean there could be an increase in ABV strength in some cases as the rate of volume – water molecules – decrease of up to 15% per year is much higher than alcohol loss). I am not sure if Triple Distillation has major ‘specific type’ contribution on the overall experience, a more refined spirit need not necessarily have more character but it does contribute to some unique flavours. Vodka, for example, is distilled about 6 times or more albeit in column still. Springbank is 2.5 times distilled and Hazelburn (by Springbank is 3X distillation).
Regarding addition of water – It is all about the science. Ethanol becomes more soluble when the spirit is diluted, this promotes the release of flavour molecules.
Kilchoman Machir Bay is one of my absolute favourite, an amazing whisky for blend of 4 and 5 year old whiskies. Its all about quality ingredients and cask management.
As always, happy to hear contrary views, be corrected on any finer point and generally share the love of a good dram!
- Whisky Tasting – Balvenie Triple Cask, Wasmund’s, The Speyside (17 Oct 2013)
- Whisky Tasting + Food Pairing – Cragganmore, Talisker, Lagavulin, Springbank 18 year (19 Dec 2013)
- Whisky Tasting – Singleton Artisan, Sullivans Cove, Bowmore 21 (17 Apr 2014)
- Whisky Tasting – Jameson, Green Spot + Redbreast (21 Nov 2013)