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3 Whiskies to Satisfy Your Chai Latte Craving

 

As the temperature drops down to sweater weather this time of the year, some of us find ourselves craving for some rich, moreish and gently spicy chai latte from the nearest coffeehouse.

 

 

Yet without a drop of milk or stick of cinnamon, there are also whiskies that are warm, sweet, creamy and gently spicy with an uplifting aroma, not unlike having a cup of hot chai latte. 

The key lies in their warmth and spicy notes. From cinnamon to nutmeg, to ginger and then to star anise, there’s a whole spice rack’s worth of flavours in certain whiskies.

 

Many of these same spices are used to brew chai tea.

 

And just as spice can transform food from mere sustenance to sublime pleasure, spice flavours enliven our whiskies. They are also evocative of your memories - think holiday scents wafting from grandma’s kitchen, the sensations of fresh pastries served warm from the bakery, or in cold weather a warm cuppa chai tea latte.

How do whiskies obtain such spicy notes? Usually, these flavours are derived from compounds found in charred and toasted oak casks used to store and mature the spirit. The type of oak used also matters. Virgin American oak barrels tend to provide lightly spicy notes of ginger or coconut flakes. European oak casks tend to impart darker and more intense notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Craving for your cup of warm beverage? Put down that Starbucks card and read on! Our bartender recommends the following three whiskies that are sure to satisfy your chai latte cravings.

 

1. A sweet and syrupy northern India single malt: Rampur Double Cask 

 

 

Given the theme of Chai Latte, it’s quite fitting to start with a relatively exotic northern Indian single malt from Rampur Distillery. 

The Rampur Double Cask expression has a number of flavours that I quite frankly haven’t experienced in my time drinking whiskies from ordinary whisky-producing regions. This was distilled and matured in Uttar Pradesh, northern India. During maturation, the whisky was subject to massive temperature swings (from 0°C-45°C) that promotes greater cask-whisky interaction and very intense flavours not achieved by maturation in the temperate Scottish climate. 

 

So how does it taste?

As you pour this into your glass, you get a potent bouquet that is as deep and rich as sweet sarsaparilla. Very intense ripe tropical fruits with a cocktail of Thai mangoes and rambutans.

 

 

There is also some woodiness on the nose with heavily perfumed Indian sandalwood.

 

 

Notice how viscous and heavy-bodied this is on the tongue. There are slight warming flavours but this is generally smooth with no alcohol burn at all. There are mainly notes of toffee and molasses turning to sweet vanilla and milk chocolate.

 

 

This is one intensely sweet expression that makes you question whether it is whisky. It is very enjoyable nonetheless.

You may wish to check out our full review of the Rampur Double Cask Single Malt expression.

 

2. A velvety and spicy Redbreast Lustau

 

 

Next up, we turn to the most iconic Irish whiskey brand, Redbreast. 

In traditional Irish fashion, Redbreast’s whiskey use both malted barley, and a portion of ‘green’ unmalted barley. Compared to Scotch single malts, the unmalted barley in Irish whiskey adds a slightly spicier overtone and a silky, heavier texture. To learn more about the Irish whiskey-making process, check out our distillery spotlight on Midleton Distillery.

We have with us the Redbreast Lustau edition, a special collaboration between the Redbreast brand and a Spanish sherry winery Bodegas Lustau. These are specially finished in first-fill sherry butts seasoned with high-quality Oloroso sherry.

 

So how does it taste?

On the nose, this is very bright and estery with vanilla ice cream and toasted almonds. 

 

 

This develops to very substantial waves of honey, caramel and custard.

 

 

On the first sip, this is sweet, crisp and velvety in texture. Heaps of buttery vanilla shortbread with lashings of honey and some raisins.

 

 

The finish is long with an enduring sweetness, with growing warmth and spiciness similar to ginger tea.

 

 

You may wish to check out our full review of the Redbreast Lustau expression.

 

3. A smooth and nutty Jameson 18

After the intense Rampur and lively Redbreast Lustau, it’s time to wind down the palate with a smooth and effortless Jameson.

 

 

The typical bottle of Jameson whiskey is fragrant, delicate and fruity, and it is widely known as one of the easiest whiskies to drink in the market. It is no coincidence that many female celebrities the likes of Lady Gaga, Amanda Seyfried and Rihana cite Jameson as their go-to drink when they need some song-writing inspiration.

 

The original Jameson (Image Source: Pernod Ricard)

 

We have with us the much older Jameson 18 Year Old. This bottle is also an exploration of what age does to Jameson’s signature blend. This is essentially the original Jameson that had been aged for 18 years. The casks used are more or less the same.

 

So how does it taste?

On the nose, rich dark fruits with a trailing estery brightness. This develops to fresh notes of pineapples and lemon butter cookies.

 

 

On your first sip, this is medium bodied with slight oiliness and a deep sweetness. Opening flavours are rich with dark fruit jam and an earthy-caramel note reminiscent of Lotus biscoff dipped in semi-sweet Starbucks coffee latte.

 

The Jameson 18 has a character reminiscent of Lotus biscuits dipped in café latte (Image Source: Bon Appetit)

 

The flavours then roll towards a moderate oakiness, with slight coffee bitterness, then some roasted walnuts and almonds. Some slight cinnamon and ginger spice.

 

 

You may wish to check out our full review of the Jameson 18.

 

Tasting set available!

And there we have it- 3 whiskies that are intense, creamy and lightly spicy in an uplifting way. Just like a cup of hot chai latte in a coffeehouse on a rainy day. 

Don't just take our word for how this whiskies taste. You can try them for yourself! We have put together a tasting set of these three whiskies on our online store. Do check it out!

 

 

@charsiucharlie