Category Archives: Indian Whisky

Whisky Live Melbourne 2016

By fortuitous chance – and a little rearranging of travel plans – my trip to Oz coincided with Whisky Live Melbourne.

I couldn’t let such an opportunity pass by so booked my ticket online even before the flight plans had been finalised!

Held in the fine looking St Kilda Town Hall – I arrived early to find a queue of fellow whisky fans eagerly awaiting the delights inside. Having previously attended a similar show in Dublin last year I made sure I was well hydrated and fed before the event.

My original plan to sample as much Australian whisky as I could had to be revised as browsing the pre-show website it became clear not many Aussie distilleries were attending. They didn’t need to! Their limited releases usually sold out very quickly leaving little stock leftover for sampling at shows.

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Paul at Pilgrim c/othewhiskeynut

The only representative of the new crop of Aussie distilleries happened to be Melbourne’s own Starward whisky where I reacquainted myself with Paul Slater who had so eloquently guided me through their portfolio during his Starward Talk &Taste evening at Pilgrim Bar the night before.

The lovely Apera and Wine Cask releases were on display at Whisky Live – but Paul had something under the table new to me – New World Projects X .

The contrast between your minds perception of what a clear spirit should be like – and want you actually experience on tasting – is certainly an interesting experience. It’s definitely whisky – if a little more oily and sweet than the Solera release on which a 3rd distillation has removed the colour to obtain Project X.

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Project X c/othewhiskeynut

In a similar vein, Glendalough – one of 3 Irish stands at the show – had their Sherry Cask Irish Poitin which I tried in an almost mirror effect to Starward. In this case the unaged spirit has rested for a short while in sherry casks to give a lovely rich brown colour to the liquid which upon tasting gave a sweetness to the rather young spirit in the bottle. I found both these expressions a rather novel approach which would certainly be a talking point if offered to guests from the drinks cabinet!

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Glendalough Poitin collection c/othewhiskeynut

Leaving Australia behind, India was the next nearest whisky producing country to exhibit with Paul John Distilleries being the sole representative.

I’d read lots of rave reviews about their whisky so eagerly accepted an invitation to be guided through the range by an enthusiastic ambassador who passionately informed me of the manufacturing process as well as the greedy angels in Goa which result in the wonderfully rich fruity & very tasty single malts before me.

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Go on! Try a Goan whisky! c/othewhiskeynut

After 4 of these fine malts were tried I found it hard to pick a favourite between the Bold Edition at 46% or the stunning Select Cask Peated at 58%!  Both we’re delicious and deserve all the praise they have attracted.

Following on from my 4th of July blog I thought I’d further explore the American contribution to whiskey by starting with 2 distilleries new to me.

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Appalachian Gap in Melbourne c/othewhiskeynut

Appalachian Gap Snowfall is an unaged Vermont spirit made with a corn,barley and rye mash. The sweet corn influence took the edge off the 54% ABV together with a pleasant rye spice which I liked and a slightly oily mouthfeel. Their Kaffekask 44% release whereby the whisky is filtered through coffee beans in a Lincoln County Process style certainly brought a coffee kick to the table but was too sweet for my tastes. I declined the Kaffekask Liqueur.

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Dry Fly dispensing! c/othewhiskeynut

Dry Fly Distilling from Washington State had a slightly more traditional selection using 100% wheat mash offerings at both 40% & 60% cask strength as well as a Port Finish at 43%. The combination of vanilla sweetness together with a slightly harsh finish didn’t endear them to me but the Triticale Whiskey I found much more appealing. Triticale is a hybrid grain derived from wheat and rye varieties and Dry Fly claims to be the first using this type of grain in a whiskey. The sweetness was still there but softened by a smoothness and slight spicy rye finish.

Woodford Reserve had a stall – but I found nothing of note.

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A pair of Jacks c/othewhiskeynut

Jack Daniels were next door with 5 releases for the Australian market. Not being a fan of Old No.7 I went straight for the No.27 Gold. At 40% this expression took me by surprise. The lovely pronounced spicy finish had me hooked. Even better than the Gentleman Jack release which I’m partial to. The Jack representative on the stall reliably informed me the double mellowing through 10 foot of sugar maple as well as additional barrel finishes provided the flavour boost. In this instance Sinatra didn’t sing for me!

Having called in at Glendalough I thought I’d better say hello to both Hyde and Tipperary.

Hyde had 3 offerings which I have tried before and enjoyed very much.

Tipperary meanwhile had eluded me with their Rising release so I gave it a go. Oh dear! Far too sweet for my liking.

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Tipperary Boutique Distillery at Whisky Live Melbourne c/othewhiskeynut

My last port of call before turning to the largest contingent of the show – Scottish whisky – was to Sigrun, an Australian importer of Scandinavian malts. Mackmyra & Box from Sweden, Floki from Iceland and Teerenpeli from Finland were in attendance.

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Floki Young Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Sheep dung is used to dry the 100% Icelandic barley Floki is made with. It’s an unaged offering at 47% which gave a characteristic oily mouthfeel together with a slightly off-putting sour note for me. Pity – as I really enjoyed my visit to Rekyavik a few years ago. Maybe further ageing will mature it to my tastes.

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Teerenpeli Rasi c/othewhiskeynut

Teerenpeli Rasi appealed to me instantly with it’s lovely well balanced light smooth taste. I must try out more of these Scandinavian expressions!

My remaining time at the show – along with staying hydrated from the water coolers placed handily around the hall and partaking in some tasty snacks from the centrally placed canteen buffet – consisted of Scotch.

I challenged my peat tolerance by going for the peat monster that is Octmore 7.1. Wow! Peat then spice and an explosion of flavour. Now I get it.

I ventured into NAS territory with Ardmore Legacy, Talisker Skye, Jura Superstition and Laphroig Quarter Cask. Only the Jura I found disappointing with it’s over sweetness.

A trio of Finlaggan expressions from an unnamed Islay distillery – or even distilleries – were all very engaging with the cask strength coming out tops.

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Finlaggan Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

The Glenrothes  rep impressed me very much by keeping a large audience enthralled with his sales patter as he went through a series of releases AND topping up all the glasses at the same time. By this point in the evening I couldn’t quiet keep up with him and my tasting notes were becoming illegible! Suffice to say the one that stood out for me – Glenrothes Vintage 1992 2nd Release had the most balanced nose complemented by a complex cacophony of taste – happened to be one of the priciest.

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Glenrothes in action c/othewhiskeynut

Despite there being a large shop at the back where eager whisky geeks could purchase rare or hard to find expressions – I simply immersed myself in the wonderful opportunity Whisky Live events provide in sampling a wide variety of styles, strengths and regions of whisky production throughout the world. Conversations soon flow as to the merits of NAS vs Age Statements, Bourbon vs Whisky, to chill filter or not and even to add water or not.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Whisky Live Melbourne.

If ever a Whisky Live event comes your way – make a beeline for it.

You won’t be disappointed.

Oh! Don’t over do it.

The combination of drinking plenty of water inbetween samples as well as topping up with a lovely goat curry from the wittily named iCurry restaurant on St Kilda Road afterwards ensured I woke up relatively bright and cheery to face yet another day of adventure in Melbourne.

Slainte

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Airport Travel Whiskey

They say that travel broadens the mind.

In my situation it widens the tasting palate.

Due to a tragic unforeseen event a series of cross Irish Sea flights were unfortunately taken at short notice lately.

Normally I’d relish the opportunity to try out some new expressions offered at airside retail premises but on this occasion a good stiff drink was certainly required.

Dublin’s Terminal 2 didn’t disappoint in this instance with a choice of 3 separate whiskey stalls all touting their wares.

The newly commissioned Walsh Whiskey Distillery proudly showed off their core range of the 3 Irishman releases – Founders Reserve – Single Malt and 12 Year Old Single Malt –  together with the Writers Tears blend. All are very agreeable whiskeys. It will be a few years yet though before we can taste the spirit currently being laid down in Co Carlow as actual matured whiskey.

Teeling had a rather fine display all to themselves showcasing the Small Batch and rather tasty Single Grain releases. The Aviators Whiskey Society Single Cask exclusive bottling was on display too. This Cabernet Sauvignon finished release is sure to taste fantastic but what drew my eye was the last stand.

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Bushmills Steamship at Dublin Airport T2 c/othewhiskeynut

Bushmills new Steamship release commanded attention next to the Whiskey Collection at the duty free shop. As Bushmills haven’t exactly been profuse with their offerings of late – this hotly anticipated release is one not to miss.

Steamship is an oloroso finished single malt bottled at 40% and can be summed up in 2 words – sherry bomb – which is no bad thing in my book as I’m partial to that style of whiskey.

The rich smooth mouth feel and sweet sherry notes left the 10 year old rather a dull comparison when I tried it.

I was sorely tempted to buy a bottle – but having recently finished my Amrut fusion a suitable replacement in the shape of the Amrut Oak Barrel Single Malt won out on the day.

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Amrut fusion morphs into an Indian Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

The return journey came via Gatwick which understandably didn’t feature as much Irish whiskey.

We reacquainted ourselves with our former habit of a wholesome meal at a Wetherspoons care of their Flying Horse airside establishment. Despite having an extensive array of craft beers on offer – the whisky menu was rather limited. A Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select did the honours of washing down my Bangers ‘n’ mash and as bourbons go – this had a smooth delivery coupled with a slightly spicy finish which I found very nice indeed.

I’m not a fan of the layout at World Duty Free airports whereby all passengers have to wind in and out of the shopping area before gaining open space. I’ve found it frustrating having been both a non-shopping late traveller rushing to catch my flight as well as a timely flyer looking for a relaxed retail experience being bumped into by by my former self.

I much prefer the layout at Dublin which has a large central aisle with shops either side the customer can chose to go in to – or not  as the case may be.

No choice is no good in my book.

Whatever option is in play – I usually scan the whiskey area to see what is being promoteted or if any special offers are available. Heading through to Wetherspoons I did spot 2 Bruichladdich expression to tempt me and in this instance I chose to go back after my meal.

Mark Reynier – the former CEO at Bruichladdich is currently laying down distillate for maturation at his new distillery in Waterford – Ireland. I was therefore curious to find out what his previous tenure on Islay had produced as a pointer of things to come.

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The Laddie makes it home c/othewhiskeynut

The Laddie Eight is a non-peated single malt matured in american and European oak casks – non-chill filtered and bottled at 50%. It’s sister travel retail exclusive Port Charlotte CC 01 is heavily pleated – matured in Cognac casks for a few more years and bottled at 57.8%.

I sampled both neat and was blown away by how smooth they were. I could easily drink these straight which can be dangerous at high strength!

Despite the moniker ‘Heavily Pleated ‘ on the Port Charlotte bottle I found this a very well balanced whisky. There was peat present – but it did not dominate the taste and much more complexity shone through in both the palate and finish. The Laddie didn’t disappoint either with a rich wholesome array of flavours coating the mouth.

Based on the delights of this duo of beauties – any new release from Waterford will be highly sought after.

Bruichladdich are also involved in the transparency issue with the Scottish Whisky Association as highlighted by Compass Box so I felt a desire to buy a bottle to acknowledge that stand. However  – my finances have taken a bit of a beating with all this last minute travel – so despite Port Charlotte CC OI being the better malt – The Laddie Eight made it back to my drinks cabinet. I also like doing the unexpected – a non-peated Islay anyone?

My 2nd trip over the water was the usual red-eye-express so too early for whiskey. With finances low I did pick up a small bottle of Johnnie Walkers Spice Road with my last sterling  note in Gatwick. It’s a step up from the Red or Black – but nothing fancy – which at the price point is just fine.

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JW’s Spice Road c/othewhiskeynut

Whenever you fly – it’s always a treat to try out some new ‘exclusive’ – and invariably they are – whiskeys at the airport.

You’re already on the premises with usually a little time to spare – so why not give something new and potentially outside you’re normal range a whirl?

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few tastings that I wouldn’t have gone for otherwise unless I’d taken the opportunity airside.

I usually stock up at the airport too. The staff are generally well informed and very helpful. It’s often the only specialist whiskey shop I manage to get into without going out of my way for months at a time.

Just go easy on the return journey – especially if you’re driving home after landing.

Safe travels

And savour the samples.

Slainte

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India – Whisky Or Not?

India. A land of 1.3 billion souls stretching from the glacier valleys of the Himalayas in the North to the tropical jungles of the South.

India. A great track by 80’s indie rockers The Psychedelic Furs.

India. A land of whisky.

Yes – You read that right. I’ll say it again.

India. A land of whisky.

Those 1.3 billion inhabitants enjoy whisky at a similar rate to us in Ireland – which makes it a pretty damn big market. So big in fact that some statistics have it as THE BIGGEST.

Indian whisky sales

Not only is India THE BIGGEST market – it is also produces THE BIGGEST BRANDS for those consumers.

But like me – I think you’ll be hard pressed to name any of them.

Whisky Top 10
Which ones have you tasted?

So let’s get it straight here.

The worlds BIGGEST SELLING BRAND of whisky is an Indian expression I’ve never heard of.

Not only that – 8 of the top 10 brands are Indian and make up over 80% of actual volume sold.

There are similar figures for others years if you care to hunt them down.

So what is going on?

It seems as if Indian whisky falls foul of European regulations helpfully aided by The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA)  on what a whisky is.

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Annex II Regulation (EC) No 110/2008

But lots of Bourbons also fall foul of the above regulations in regard to item 2(a)(iii) and yet we can still buy it in the supermarket.

A bit of seeing things from a Western-centric angle going on here?

It seems to be accepted that lots of Indian whisky – and I’m talking here about high volume blends, not the excellent Amrut or John Paul single malts – are produced by a combination of neutral spirit made from fermented molasses and imported Scotch.

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My Amrut fusion had a short shelf-life! c/othewhiskeynut

So far so good. I see nothing wrong with using a by-product of sugarcane which is abundant in India for manufacturing a spirit drink.

When whisky makers first entered america there wasn’t much barley. They used what was available – corn, rye – and a new drink called bourbon was developed.

Couldn’t there be room for another category named ‘Indian Whisky’ that can cater for this?

There is already the term ‘Indian Made Foreign Liquor’  (IMFL) commonly used to describe such spirits.

There is also much talk about ‘fake‘ and ‘you can’t trust it’.

But wait a minute.Anyone who has read Naomi Klein‘s book ‘No Logo’ wouldn’t be surprised to learn that 6 out of the 8 Indian Whisky brands in the above table are manufactured by only 2 familiar names; Diageo and Pernod-Ricard.

If you’re not prepared to trust what’s in a bottle of Royal Stag or Bagpiper – why do you trust what’s in a bottle of Glenlivet or Lagavulin?  The same companies make it.

So when I stumbled across one of these Indian whiskys – I just had to try it!

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Royal Stag c/othewhiskeynut

Seagram’s  Royal Stag DeLuxe Whisky according to the label is;

‘A smooth full bodied feel of the best Scotch malts from the highlands and carefully selected Indian grain spirit.’

Bottled and blended by Pernod-Ricard India at 42.8% using the following ingredients;

‘Demineralised water, Grain neutral spirit, Scotch malt concentrate’ and that old ‘INS 150a’ or caramel to you and me. How many times do you see caramel listed on your bottle of Scotch or Irish?

Nose. Sweet

Taste. Sweet, thinking Baileys The Whiskey, Nomad territory here – and then some – but follows through with a lovely softly growing pleasant burn on the mouth and tongue – must be the Scotch kicking in – which lingers.

Finish. Satisfyingly long after the sweetness has faded.

Overall. A very pleasant whisky of 2 halves. The sweetness almost put me off during the first half but when that lovely burn came through in the second – it just made me happy – so happy in fact I had another during extra time!

Verdict; This is an easy going blend to drink. Needless to say I had it neat. The sweetness should be toned down for my liking but otherwise I can see why it’s a popular brand. I don’t think this bottle will last long!

Based on my experience with Royal Stag – I’d happily go on to try the other Indian brands in the top 10. The Bagpiper and Old Tavern names appeal to me – so if there are any reps out there heading home….

Whiskey for me is a journey of exploration,

a journey of taste, and above all

a journey of global discovery.

Go explore,

Sláinte

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