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Tasting notes:
Whiskies 10,518
Others 699

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Index of whiskyfun


Whisky Tasting

 
Aberfeldy (35) - Aberlour (79)
Abhainn Dearg (2)
Allt-A-Bhainne (2
6)
An Cnoc (
20)
Ardbeg (3
38) - Ardmore (60)
Arran (6
9) - Auchentoshan (71)
Auchroisk (26) - Aultmore (29)

Balblair (63) - Balmenach (33)
Balvenie (
73) - Banff (43)
Ben Nevis (
90)
Ben Wyvis (
2)
Benriach (
137) - Benrinnes (43)
Benromach (
42) - Bladnoch (54)
Blair Athol (4
2) - Bowmore (379)
Braes of Glenlivet (
29)
Brora (
115)
Bruichladdich (2
12)
Bunnahabhain (
238)
Caol Ila (406)
Caperdonich (
81)
Cardhu (
31) - Clynelish (284)
Coleburn (
15)
Convalmore (1
8)
Cragganmore (
58)
Craigduff (3) - Craigellachie (
40)
Dailuaine (47) - Dallas Dhu (32)
Dalmore (85) - Dalwhinnie (19)
Deanston (22) - Dufftown (41)

Edradour (38)
Imperial (58) - Inchgower (44)
Inverleven (18)
Isle of Jura (85)

Kilchoman (20)
Kilkerran (
7) - Kinclaith (7)
Kininvie
(3)
- Knockando (2
4)
Ladyburn (9) - Lagavulin (97)
Laphroaig (337) - Ledaig (73)
Linkwood (105) - Littlemill (79)
Loch Lomond (26)
Lochside (62)
Longmorn (172) - Longrow (52)

Macallan (228) - Macduff (51)
Mannochmore (2
5)
Millburn (1
9)
Miltonduff (
53) - Mortlach (114)
Mosstowie (1
7)
Scapa (34) - Speyburn (22) - Speyside (15)
Springbank (22
5)
St-Magdalene (46)
Strathisla (80) - Strathmill (24)

Talisker (105) - Tamdhu (45)
Tamnavulin (14)
Teaninich (40)
Tobermory (28) - Tomatin (9
9)
Tomintoul (5
8) - Tormore (36)
Tullibardine (35)

 
 
Pete and Jack


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2008
Music Awards
December
1 - 2 - 3
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2
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April 1 - 2
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2007
Music Awards
December
1 - 2
November
1 - 2
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1 - 2
September 1 - 2
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Feis Ile
Special
May 1 - 2
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2006
Music Awards
December 1 - 2
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2 - 3
September
1 - 2
August
1 - 2
July
1 - 2
June 1 - 2
Feis Ile
Special
May
1 - 2
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1 - 2
March
1 - 2
February
1 - 2
January 1
- 2

2005
Music Awards
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November 1 - 2
October
1- 2
September
1 - 2
August
1 - 2
July
1 - 2
June
1 - 2
Feis Ile
Special
May
1 - 2
April
1 - 2
March
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February
1 - 2
January
1 - 2

2004
December 1 - 2
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1 - 2
September
1
August
1
July
1
June
1
May
1
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1
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1

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Disclaimer
 

All the linked files (mp3, video, html) are located on free commercial or non-commercial third party websites. Some pictures are taken from these websites, and are believed to be free of rights, as long as no commercial use is intended.

I always try to write about artists who, I believe, deserve wider recognition, and all links to mp3 files are here to show you evidence of that. Please encourage the artists you like, by buying either their CDs or their downloadable 'legal' tracks.

I always add links to the artists' websites - if any - which should help you know more about their works. I also try to add a new link to any hosting website or weblog which helped me discover new music - check the column on the right.

I almost never upload any mp3 file on my own server, except when dealing with artists I personally know, and who gave me due authorizations, or sometimes when I feel a 'national' artist deserves wider recognition. In that case, the files will remain on-line only for a few days.

I do not encourage heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages, nor dangerous motorbike riding. But life is short anyway...

As they say here: 'L'abus d'alcool est dangeureux pour la santé - à consommer avec modération'

   
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Copyright Serge Valentin,
Nick Morgan,
Kate Kavanagh

2002-2015


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March 27, 2015


Whiskyfun

Happy International Whisky Day!

Michael Jackson
Every year since 2008, International Whisk(e)y Day celebrates the birthday of the late Michael Jackson, eternal king of whisky writing, and the greatest spirit in the world. Raise a glass on March 27th and help fight Parkinson's Disease!

We did that in the past, let’s do it again, we’ll toast to Michael Jackson’s memory with one of, if not his favourite distillery, Macallan. We’ll start with the usual wee aperitif, and then try to find something rarer, something the great man would have probably enjoyed!...

Macallan 12 yo 'Fine Oak' (40%, OB, +/-2014)

Macallan 12 yo 'Fine Oak' (40%, OB, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Not very maniacal bottles anymore, but you never know. Older 12 FO used to cruise along the WF 78 line. Colour: dark straw. Nose: have you also found quite some menthol in recent batches? And then rather butterscotch and shortbread, with a layer of caramelised apples and hazelnut butter? And then more beer and porridge, with a spirity side? Mouth: tastes young and a little spirity, with a slightly thin body. More apple juice, malt, a touch of chocolate and a touch of honey. Sour fruits in the background (that’s not too far away). Finish: short and rather thin. Roasted nuts and a little maple syrup, plus ‘ideas’ of marmalade. Comments: very light malt whisky, easy to drink. Similar feelings as last time I tried it. SGP:331 - 78 points.

Aperitif, done. Lets get down to business… Oh, unless we first have another light one, since only good comparison is reason…

Macallan 1994/2014 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt)

Macallan 1994/2014 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt) Three stars and a halfColour: pale gold. Nose: straighter and tighter, with less nuts and biscuits, and rather more barley and ripe garden fruits, which may add freshness. On the other hand, I find it rather less aromatic, and probably a little grassier. Mouth: oh yeah, this has much more oomph, actually, more freshness, fruits, definition, tightness, immediacy… Apples, gooseberries and rhubarb pie, then oranges, aromatic honey (thyme, perhaps) and golden raisins. Very nice touch of sherry, with some walnut cake and raisins. Unless that’s Alsatian kougelhopf… Finish: good length, good malty fruitiness, with heather honey and a few roasted (right, burnt) raisins. Comments: this one was more satisfying than the 12 FO, longer, with more volume… But its true that it’s also quite older. Goes down very well. SGP:441 - 83 points.

So, older Macallans…

Macallan 14 yo 1980/1994 (43%, Master of Malt, 360 bottles)

Macallan 14 yo 1980/1994 (43%, Master of Malt, 360 bottles) Four stars and a half This rare Macallan by Master of Malt in their earlier form, that is to say before the Internet ;-). Colour: amber. Nose: hold on, wasn’t this an OB? It’s very ‘older OB’ indeed, that is to say with a rather magnificent paxa… err, sherry that used to translate into tinned pineapples, mangos, blond tobacco, sultanas, fig liqueur, honey, cigars, sandalwood, heather honey… This nose is wonderful, complex, delicate and assertive at the same time. I even find whiffs of ‘good’ Italian tomato sauce, the ones that are kind of fruity. Matriciana? Mouth: and yes yes yes! Full Macallanness, sherry, raisins, jams, touches of Turkish delights, marmalade, all that in perfect sync. There’s even this tiny touch of sulphur that goes so well with this style. Finish: the only weaker part, it tends to lose focus, just a bit, and to become a little tea-ish. But remember, only 43% vol. A wee smokiness in the aftertaste. Comments: Macallan Old Skool with all its attributes. Really, this one tastes like a very good older OB (rather a 18 in fact). SGP:551 - 89 points.

We’re making good progress, aren’t we…

Macallan 8 yo 1969/1978 (86.8 US proof, Avery's for Marshall Taylor for Corti Brothers, San Francisco)

Macallan 8 yo 1969/1978 (86.8 US proof, Avery's for Marshall Taylor for Corti Brothers, San Francisco) Five starsOld young whisky, one of most interesting combos. In this case, 8 years + 37 years in glass… Sounds like a paradise, doesn’t it. Colour: gold. Nose: first, I think we have to apologise to the angels who haven’t had much of this during those only eight years in wood. And second, I’m dead sure that a significant part of what the lucky taster can find in this nose wasn’t quite there in 1978. You see, it’s all a matter of aroma precursors that need time to do their jobs, even when in glass. In this case, they went towards magnificent beehive-y notes and the best old Sauternes and Sélections de Grains Nobles. Ach ja, or Trockenbeerenauslese. Raisins, apricots, mirabelles, honey, mushrooms, coffee, light molasses, agave syrup, citronella… What’s also striking is that this is complex and focussed at the same time. You’re right, that’s style. Mouth: well, this could as well be 30 years old, despite the fact that’s there’s a wee roughness from young age remaining there. Other than that, it’s a tarte tatin made out of apples and pears and covered with the finest spices and honeys. Finish: this wee roughness hasn’t left. Some grass and tannins from 1978 haven’t said their final word. Comments: rather fascinating, even if a wee bit of intellectualisation may be needed to fully enjoy this old young baby. Oh wait, there, menthol and liquorice… It remained fierce! SGP:461 - 90 points.

Let’s close this chapter with some classic of the classics. This one’s really for Michael!

Macallan 1951 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Italy, +/-1966)

Macallan 1951 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Italy, +/-1966) Five stars It’s got a red sticker on the bottom of the main label, which, in WF’s book, makes it different from the other 1951s by CH&K that haven’t got that red sticker – and that we’ve tried before. Okay? BTW, in case you don’t know, Campbell, Hope & King were the ‘official’ bottlers of Macallan until around 1978, together with G&M who were a bit less ‘official’ (but pretty good!) Macallan themselves took over around 1980. Sadly, CH&K went to the wall in the late 1970s, not too sure that was a consequence – or was it the cause. But enough gossip… Colour: gold. Nose: this is real old Macallan, with a seemingly much fatter profile, full of oils, saps and earths, then notes of old books and leathers, inks, tobacco, pitch… It’s only after that very tertiary barrage that fruitier and jammier notes take off, such as dates, figs and raisins, marmalade, cherry jam and all that. After ten minutes if rather becomes mentholy, in a beautiful way. Humus, moss, mushrooms… Mouth: yess. Old chartreuse plus old Grand-Marnier, fifty-fifty. Oily mouth feel (worm tubs and all that), herbs, jams, soy sauce, liqueurs, peat smokiness, liquorice, mineral things, mint drops, cigarette tobacco, pipe tobacco, a touch of salt… This bottle was brilliant. And it tastes like 46% vol. Finish: very long, with less sweetness – always good in any finish – and a lasting feeling of salty mineral things, plus liquorice. Comments: indeed, great bottle. Old bottles tend to become a bit different from each other, especially when they were kept in very different environments, so scores can vary quite a bit. Yeah, this one was a great one, I’m sure it had been kept next to an Old Clynelish. Sorry, just another lousy joke. SGP:562 - 93 points.

Santé, Michael!

Links:
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March 26, 2015


Whiskyfun

Linkwood looking for roses
(higgledy-piggledy)

Many moons ago, the first time I tried Linkwood, I had read in Michael Jackson’s Companion that I had to expect notes of roses in the nose. And since back then, I can’t help keeping looking for them… We’re not always superior animals, are we?

Linkwood 1995/2014 'Honeysuckle Bower' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 332 bottles)

Linkwood 1995/2014 'Honeysuckle Bower' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 332 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: boo, no roses, rather plenty of barley sugar and water, plus apples, some marzipan, orange squash (even Fanta) and more and more lemonade. Indeed, there’s a kind of fizziness, and yet I can’t spot any very tiny bubbles. That’s fun and certainly fresh. Also a touch of mint. Another readymade Scottish mojito? Mouth: it’s a rather excellent fruity Speysider, full of ripe apples, oranges, and again, barley sugar. Funnily enough, that fizziness is still there as well, but that’s more on the peppery side. Notes of liquorice allsorts. Finish: quite long, with some sweet and bitter ales. Comments: if I write ‘goody good’, will that be enough? SGP:551 - 83 points.

Linkwood 24 yo 1990/2014 (51.7%, The Whisky Barrel, Burn's Malt, hogshead, cask #3540)

Linkwood 24 yo 1990/2014 (51.7%, The Whisky Barrel, Burn's Malt, hogshead, cask #3540) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: a rather similar profile, quite unsurprisingly, but there isn’t any fizziness this time, and rather more fudge and toffee. Warm tarte tatin straight from the bakery, some marmalade, toasts, butterscotch… A breakfast malt? Nice nose nonetheless. With water: some kind of pan-fried cereals plus maple syrup and light fudge. Mouth (neat): excellent arrival, rich and honeyed, with a touch of liquorice wood and a huge maltiness. Rather stout than ale after that, slightly burnt caramel… or rather hot caramel-covered apple pie. Right, tarte tatin. With water: a malted Mars bar. Do you know what the Scots do to Mars bars? Finish: good length, malty, caramelly, with more stewed fruits. Orange salad. Comments: refill sherry hogshead? This one’s much to my liking. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Let’s go plunder the ‘older sample library’…

Linkwood 17 yo 1987 (57.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #39.51, 'Orchids, vanilla and cream', 316 bottles, +/-2004) Two stars No pictures. But orchids? Where are my roses?... Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, indeed this is more floral than the others. It’s more mineral as well, which gives it a flinty side. And there’s a lot of raw malted barley again. And oranges. Maybe a little soap as well, but maybe is that the high strength, let’s see. With water: orangeade and barley water. It’s rather fresh. A pack of orange drops. Mouth (neat): rather strange… Fizzy orange juice (so we’re close to the Wemyss in that respect) plus some kind of lavender-flavoured liquorice. Or rather violet. We had such a thing in France, that was called ‘Zan à la violette’. With water: ham? Really bizarre… And bitter oranges. Not too sure this baby takes water very well. Finish: some kind of gin and orange. Cinchona in the aftertaste. Comments: not too sure about that one. It would appear that I missed the orchids. SGP:461 - 76 points.

Linkwood 10 yo 1984/1995 (59.2%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, 327 bottles)

Linkwood 10 yo 1984/1995 (59.2%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, 327 bottles) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: starts very malty, with these Mars bars again, but then there’s more leafy/tea-ish notes, as well as a lovely earthiness. A feeling of strong mocha, I’d say. Ristretto of course. With water: great whiffs of powdered porcinis and humus. We’re in a forest after a heavy shower. Mouth (neat): very rich and creamy mouth feel. Maple syrup, triple-sec, chocolate and cappuccino, then some orange squash just like in some of the others. Barley sugar. With water: we’re back in the forest. Pinesap, more mushrooms, a touch of liquorice and earth… And raisins. Dried apricots. Finish: long, malty, chocolaty, with light dried fruits in the aftertaste. Those apricots. Comments: I like this one a lot. Great selection by Fabio and gang. My god, 20 years… SGP:561 - 87 points.

Linkwood 15 yo (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, rotation 1969)

Linkwood 15 yo (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, rotation 1969) Five stars The buyer wrote the year when he bought this bottle on its label. Always handy. Colour: dark amber. Nose: instant OBE, and a great one. The lower strength doesn’t feel at all, while lovely notes of mead, soy sauce, menthol and old Rivesaltes will give you a delicate feeling of old rancio. There’s also a little strawberry jam, as well as ‘old coins’. Mouth: my, but this is big! Perfect buttered fudge, salted caramel, fig cake, perhaps a little umami, parsley, oxtail, Alsatian marrow soup (excuse me, you say you never tried that?)… It’s extremely tertiary, there are myriads of tiny flavours, pipe tobacco, soups, bouillons, old liqueurs… And all that. Plus, perhaps and indeed, rose-flavoured Turkish delights. Finish: quite long, impressively fresh. Oranges, jams, tobaccos, herbal teas, spices, herbs… Comments: not a surprise at all, these old Linkwoods by G&M have always been wonderful. Those, are the whiskies one should hunt these days, they’re never too expensive. But careful, I’ve already come across wrecked bottles. Always check the levels! Or buy two, one will be great, the other will be dead(ish). SGP:562 - 90 points.

Linkwood 1992/2005 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, refill sherry)

Linkwood 1992/2005 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, refill sherry) Four stars This baby by one of our beloved French bottlers. There aren’t many… It’s going to be very tough after the old G&M. Colour: light amber. Nose: not that tough, even if we’re back on more ‘regular’ fudgy/malty notes. Plenty of maple syrup-covered cornflakes, corn syrup, coffee toffee, raisins, apple pie… And Ovaltine/Ovomaltine. Mouth: I find this very drinkable, we’re not too far from some older Macallan 12 yo. Coffee, fruitcake, toffee, marmalade, roasted nuts, roasted peanuts, raisins… And all that. Ultra-classic middle-aged sherried Speysider. A little Aberlourish at times. Finish: rather long, the low strength doesn’t feel at all. Very toffee-ish. Marmalade in the aftertaste, as often. Comments: you just had toffee. Again, ultra-classic. SGP:551 - 85 points.

The problem with all this sherry is that it’s hard to ‘get’ the distillate. Let’s try to find a naked monster and see what gives. After so-so honeysuckle and orchids, shall we find those roses?...

Linkwood 11 yo 1984 (60.5%, James MacArthur, 500 years of Scotch Whisky, +/-1995)

Linkwood 11 yo 1984 (60.5%, James MacArthur, 500 years of Scotch Whisky, +/-1995) It’s a little complicated. On the one hand, this is an 11 yo distilled in 1984, so bottled in either 1995 or 1996. On the other hand, it was meant to celebrate 500 years of Scotch, which happened in 1994. Something doesn’t click too well here, but after twenty years, seriously, who cares? Colour: pale white wine. Nose: naked, as expected! Arthur at James MacArthur seems to like these totally distillate-driven whiskies, and frankly, how could we be against that? What’s really amazing is that beyond the brutality and the roughness of this malt, there, I do find roses. Seriously, roses. Haleluja! But there’s also quite some dust, flour, gravel, cut cactus, wet concrete… So it’s not the fullest nose ever, but let’s go on… With water: damp papers in the basement. Mouth (neat): old style weirdness. In the old days, the indies used to bottle just any cask, provided it was ‘single malt’. So you had utter glories, and whacky ones as well. I’m afraid this one’s rather a whacky one, with a huge chalky side, notes of plastic, notes of the odd drinks the Coca-Cola Company makes out of lemons that were perfectly alright, and, well, more chalk. Now you could always intellectualise these whiskies, but frankly… With water: chalk in lemon and grass juice. Finish: same. Very grassy spirit. Comments: we found roses. The rest was rather dispensable. SGP:261 - 65 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Linkwood I've tasted so far

 

 

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March 25, 2015


Whiskyfun

Blends, a (truly) freewheeling session

Good, it seems that we’ve accumulated a new little bag of blended Scotch, both recent and old, so let’s have them ‘until we succumb’. Unless we get bored way before that ever happens. Remember that the ‘blends are as great as malts’ motto is the close cousin of that other well-known contemporary mantra that claims that age is irrelevant. I guess grain will also soon be just as great as malted barley (as the well-known whisky connoisseur David Beckham very well knows), and all what we’ll still need is a Pharrell Williams song extolling the virtues of speedy ageing. Maybe Madonna could help as well. Anyway, we’ll first have some recent NAS blends (double punishment!), then some recent AS ones, then older drops, as usual – from when they didn’t know yet how to make whisky, ha-ha.

The Famous Grouse (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

The Famous Grouse (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars and a half What does 'matured in seasoned oak casks' exactly mean? I remember Grouse was great in the 80s. Colour: gold. Nose: well well well, this ain’t unpleasant. It’s light, delicate, with whiffs of light honey, ripe plums, flowers, plus a little custard. No feinty notes, no obvious caramel, no straight spirity notes. There is some elegance in this. Mouth: indeed, it’s perfectly all right. Maltier, with roasted nuts, cornflakes, some honey again, brown syrups… There is a lightness, and yet it’s rather full-bodied when compared with other large brands. Finish: a little short, of course, but that’s almost an asset in this context where freshness and easy-drinkability seem to be some of the goals. Only the aftertaste is a little simpler and cardboardy. Comments: really, I’m fairly impressed. Entry-level large brands usually cruise along the 72-75 line, but this will be… SGP:441 - 78 points.

Mackinlay's 'Original' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

Mackinlay's 'Original' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars I had thought the brand was nearly extinct… Unless the Shackleton operations could revive it? This baby’s said to be 5 years of age, and that’s precisely the age of an older bottling (1970s) that I had much enjoyed. Maybe did that one contain plenty of Glen Mhor? Oh and the new one’s got a nice ‘replica-retro’ label too! Colour: gold. Nose: it is a much, much drier and grassier profile after the Grouse. I find almonds, smoky grass, a touch of metal (old tin box) and then more earth and pears. It’s an elegant nose, probably not very sexy (read commercial) but I rather enjoy it. Mouth: it’s rougher and fuller than Grouse, as if there was much more malt in there, but on the other hand, I find burnt notes and rather too much hay, soot and leather, which makes it a little difficult. Could it be that the skilful blenders have tried to replicate the old Glen Mhor side? Finish: quite long but a little astringent and kind of ‘muddy’. Comments: we’re somehow in young malt territories, but many young single malts are actually cheaper. SGP:351 - 72 points.

Enough with NAS, let’s try aged ones…

Chivas Regal 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

Chivas Regal 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars Would you imagine that it seems that this is the first time – ever – that I’m writing proper tasting notes for a contemporary regular Chivas 12 years old? No I’m not joking. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s lighter, even lighter than Grouse, but it’s also fruitier (apples) and, above all, more aromatic. We’re talking herbal teas and flowers, chamomile, honeysuckle… What it’s lacking is a little more volume – or you could call that depth. A touch of clay. In a way, it’s a lighter Glenlivet 12 – but I believe Chivas use other malts in this, don’t they. Mouth: light indeed, with a thinish body. Apple juice, roasted malt, ale, tea, some honey and just a little orange. The honeyed notes are adding a little length, but not much. Finish: short, tea-ish, malty. Tarte tatin. Comments: there, exactly my very own definition of a 75-points whisky. Pleasant and flawless, but forgettable. Grouse had more oomph. SGP:441 - 75 points.

While we’re at it, there’s also this rather bizarre newish bottling…

Chivas Regal 12 yo 'Mizunara Special Edition' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

Chivas Regal 12 yo 'Mizunara Special Edition' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars Well, if the excellent Japanese distillers can do Jerez, sure the Scots can do Mizunara oak. Ah the wonders of globalisation… But this is only a finishing, so let’s hold our horses. Colour: gold. Nose: a leafier, oakier, grassier version of Chivas 12 yo. Some tobacco as well. It’s lost its rounded lightness and gained some, well, leafiness on the nose (as well as a little vanilla and, maybe, cedar wood). Mouth: I’m not 100% sure the spirit was big enough to stand the additional oak. The arrival is rather enticing, with many spices (ginger, cinnamon, white pepper), but it really nosedives after five seconds. Frustrating. I’m totally sure this would have worked much better at 45-46% vol. Finish: short yet tannic. You just had a cup of unsweetened strong black tea. Comments: I prefer the regular Chivas 12. The oak seems to have kind of erased the fruitiness. SGP:361 - 70 points.

Slaintheva 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2010)

Slaintheva 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2010) Four stars A little-known old brand by Alexander Dunn that used to sell bespoke labels (like Glen Serge or Loch Whiskyfun and stuff like that, you know). This is a rather recent bottling that I found in a shop in Andorra - for cheap, no need to say. Slaintheva means ‘the very best of health!’ Thanks! Colour: gold. It’s really funny that almost strictly all blends do share the same colour. Nose: starts well, with nuts, almonds and a little fresh butter, but some kind of soapiness that’s somewhat connected to the almondy notes tends to take over. Metal polish, gravel, scoriae. A touch of lavender too. With this kind of nose, the palate could be excellent… or totally wrecked. Mouth: it’s the former! This is rather excellent, fat, smoky, sappy, waxy, complex… What a surprise! Wonderful oiliness, minerality and salinity, with a little ink as well, newspapers, ashes, soot… Tastes much older than 2010 as far as the year of bottling is concerned (which I had totally guessed), which is strange since the bottle looked brand new. Excellent mouth feel. Finish: long, oily and sappy. Very waxy and slightly salty aftertaste. Comments: there’s some great coastal malt in this blend, for sure. A very mysterious bottle nonetheless… I’ll dig further whenever I have time… One day. SGP:363 - 87 points.

It’s getting tougher for the next ones… So we’ll have only one newish bottling and then go explore the past…

William Lawson's 13 yo (40%, OB, blend, bourbon cask finish, +/-2014)

William Lawson's 13 yo (40%, OB, blend, bourbon cask finish, +/-2014) Two stars and a half At WF Towers, William Lawson will remain related to Miss Stone… forever! So, no rules, great Scotch?... What’s sure is that it’s very expensive (+/-48€). Colour: gold. Yeah, same nuance as usual. Nose: you get the finishing. Vanilla and sunflower oil, a little fresh butter, apple peelings, some cardboard in the background… The whole remains dry. Few fruits. Mouth: good body at just 40%, but it’s more or less ridden with vanilla and butterscotch. That can work well with full-bodied young malts, but in this case it’s all a little more difficult, because of the distillate’s lightness. Having said that, it tends to gain body over time, with a growing maltiness, Speyside-style. Improves. Finish: an acceptable length. Very pleasant touches of earth and smoke in the aftertaste. Walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: well made for sure, but the price makes it rather… anecdotal. But there’s Sharon Stone. SGP:551 - 78 points.

Good, time to have the oldies…

Old Mull (38%, OB, blend, for Mexico, 1950s)

Old Mull (38%, OB, blend, for Mexico, 1950s) Five stars That’s right, 38%. Remember that in the old days, Scotch could be bottled at 37.5 or 38% vol. Plus, it’s not impossible that the Mexican laws did allow such strengths. After all, there are many tequilas that are still bottled at 38% vol. Colour: gold. Nose: I’ve already tried some old Old Mulls, some older than this, and indeed there’s always been this feeling of greasy, sooty malt. As if you were nosing some kind of smoked cooking oil. Ah, yes, sesame… Plus old books, ink (obviously) and carbon paper. An old office in an old company in an old country. Mouth: it’s got power! The missing 2% do not feel after all these years, as there are many whiskies that were bottled at 40 or 43% some decades ago that have lost more alcohol than this. Actually, it’s a lovely liquoricy palate, full of salmiak (so salt + Liquorice) and salted fish – although I wouldn’t say it’s totally kippery. What’s sure is that the malt content was very high, maybe even 100%. And that the malt(s) was very, very coastal. And that it’s brilliant whisky. Finish: quite long, always on oily salty liquorice. Totally old style coastal Highlands. Comments: a wonderful old fat blend, in the same category as the old White Horses, Mackie’s, Logan and all that. Wait wait wait, could it be that there was some… Malt Mill inside? That’s not impossible, at all. A great old blend, I love it more and more. Yeah I know, only 38% vol…. SGP:363 - 90 points.

The problem with those whiskies is that they’re session killers. Unless… This…

Teacher’s 'Highland Cream' (44%, OB, blend, Ruffino Italy, +/-1960)

Let's go on with a classic...

Teacher’s 'Highland Cream' (44%, OB, blend, Ruffino Italy, +/-1960) Five stars After Sharon Stone, here come the sexy teachers from the 1960s! Teacher’s means Ardmore, as you know. I guess you’ve noticed the unusual strength again. Colour: gold. Nose: more fruits again, all kinds. Various apples and various pears, covered with a little, say iron filings, plus mint and eucalyptus (old style mouthwash). It’s globally more herbal and mentholated than the Old Mull, which was more coastal and, by comparison, more medicinal. Makes sense, doesn’t it. After five minutes, notes of old sweet white wine plus some mead. Vin Santo?

Mouth: superb! Everybody’s looking for old White Horses, but I say old Teacher’s are worth it as well. Old yellow chartreuse, other herbal liqueurs, a peatiness that remains well defined, a feeling of smoky/tarry mints, plus, even more important, a big fat and yet very ‘nervous’ mouth feel. Did they really add any grain whisky to this fabulous composition? Finish: very long, amazingly big and balanced. Some lemon now, grapefruits, a touch of salt… Comments: I think I like this one even better than the Old Mull. Spectacular peaty blend, it’s so sad that everybody seems to have lost the recipe. Right, maybe not John Glaser. SGP:464 - 91 points. PS: … sure this was also an ode to bottle ageing…

Teacher

I agree, we should stop now, but this is Whiskyfun dot com, isn’t it. Let’s try to find a rarer old brand… and then call this a proper tasting session. 

Moorland (100°US proof, OB, blend, +/-1940)

Moorland (100°US proof, OB, blend, +/-1940) Two stars A blend by R. & B. (R and B?) Smith and Son in Perth, bottled for Paramount Liquors in Los Angeles. What’s very interesting is that as some used to do at that time, the malts are listed on the labels (in this case the back label). So we’re having a blend of Glenlivet, Glengrant (yup), Highland Park, Clynelish, Ardbeg, Rosebank, Caledonian and Cameronbridge. Sadly, quantity was ‘rigidly limited’. By the way, the brand’s still active; well, they have it at b****y  Amazon. Oh and the strength is great, 100° US meaning 50% vol. Colour: gold (no s…). Nose: full of damp earth, soot, dirty grease, old garage, these sorts of things. Downside, there’s also quite some plasticine, new leatherette, plastic pouch and all that. Not always a good sign, but let’s see…

Mouth: full power! But it’s also a real Janus. One part is just great, with an acrid smokiness and ashes and strong mints and concentrated lemon juice. The other part’s more difficult, with these plasticky notes again, some glue, very bitter herbs… It’s almost like eating grass. Moorland indeed. Finish: extra-long, but plastic-covered grass doesn’t quite do it, if you see what I mean. Comments: that’s the fate of any old bottle. You can feel that it was stupendous whisky, but something just went wrong. Could be the taste of light/glass, as the label is much discoloured. Too much Californian sunlight? SGP:272 - 75 points (for the record).

You’re right, we just couldn’t stop here. I say we both need a last pick-me-up… Maybe a blended malt for a change? Would this do?...

Old Elgin 46 yo 1938 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Book of Kells, +/-1984)

Old Elgin 46 yo 1938 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Book of Kells, +/-1984) Five stars The label wouldn’t say, this could as well be a single malt instead of a vatted malt, but I firmly believe it’s a vatted. I agree, beliefs… Now 1938 was a stupendous year for, for example, Macallan. Or Mortlach. Or Linkwood. Imagine, 1938! And imagine that these days, some would like to erase any notions of age and/or vintage from our beloved malt whiskies! And nothing will stop them, apparently. Remember, as our Pete & Jack may have said before, whisky, without age, is vodka. But we’re digressing… Colour: deep gold (aaahhh…) Nose: adios peat and smoke, welcome luscious fruits and honeys! This has certainly something to do with the old Macallans from that time, with a very, very delicate smoke coating apricots, mirabelles, kumquats (yeah well) and hundreds of tinier aromas. Verbena, wormwood, sultanas, figs, pipe tobaccos (many of them, but I don’t know them, we should ask a pipe aficionado), mandarins, putty, a touch of sugarcane, a touch of Bakelite, some linseed oil for sure, wet oil paint, hessian… The list would be endless, better stop now.

Mouth: I'd swear you can taste time. You can taste Bartok, Honegger, Teddy Wilson, Jelly Roll Morton and Gershwin. And Magritte, Cocteau, Frida Kahlo, and Dali… And sadly enough, quite a bit of gunpowder. Finish: the low strength feels a bit, but the complexity remains rather immense. Many dried fruits and some tobacco smoke, plus old style herbal liqueurs and a wee note of grapefruit. And marzipan. Comments: and now an existential question; what’s better, knowing age and even vintage but not the distillery, or knowing the name of the distillery but neither the age nor the vintage? Discuss, because those issues are getting big big big (and big)*. Oh and this Old Elgin was quite fab. But imagine we wouldn’t have known about its vintage and/or age. ‘Glen Elgin NAS possibly distilled circa 1930-1940, bottled between 1970 and 1990…’, bwaaaah!!! I feel sorry for the future Malt Maniacs. SGP:562 - 92 points. (*) it’s totally useless to listen to industry people (and the good people who work for them) about those issues, however talented, friendly and engaging they are. It’s like asking a fishmonger if his fish is fresh. But we’re digressing yet again, aren’t we?

Session over.

(thanks Geert, thanks Patrick, you both rock)

 

 

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March 24, 2015


Whiskyfun

Cult whiskies from Japan
(including some Japanese Ardbeg)

Isn’t it amazing how big Japanese whisky has become? I remember well twelve or fifteen years ago, you had so few people outside Japan who were even considering trying some, apart from a handful of pioneers such as the wonderful Dutch connoisseur Bert Vuik, who used to have dozens of opened Karuizawas, Yoichis or Yamazakis way before anybody else had even heard of those names (especially Karuizawa). Anyway, let’s have a few today. Bert, this is for you my dear friend.

Togouchi 12 yo (40%, OB, ‘Japanese’ blend, +/-2014)

Togouchi 12 yo (40%, OB, ‘Japanese’ blend, +/-2014) Two stars I never tried the 12 before, but I had tasted the 18 back in 2011. Not my favourite (WF 78). Oh and it seems that Togouchi isn’t quite Japanese, it’s meant to be a blend of Scotch and Canadian that’s further matured in Japan. Can you still do that with Scottish malt? At 75€ a bottle, all this travelling seems to have cost money. Colour: straw. Nose: plenty of sour apples and wood plus a touch of smoke. Funnily enough, I also find whiffs of Japanese powdered green tea (macha). Must be my brain playing tricks. Mouth: easy and sweet. A lot, and I mean a lot of cider and apple juice, then oak and, once again, green tea, whether Japanese or not. Keeps developing on orchard fruits, greengages, pears, gooseberries… And maybe some funny hints of tomatoes, which is quite uncommon in whisky. The body’s a little thin. Finish: rather short and always a little sour. The smoke is extremely discreet. Comments: more than acceptable, but it simply doesn’t click. I think it’s disjointed and a little too weak. SGP:441 - 72 points.

I wanted to try again a recent version of Togouchi 18, but I think we’ll do that another time. Because there’s more serious stuff waiting for us… In fact, this may represent exactly the opposite…

Karuizawa 12 yo 2000/2013 (64,3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt #166)

Karuizawa 12 yo 2000/2013 (64,3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt #166) Four stars A wee beast from Karuizawa’s last year. Colour: gold, so probably refill. Nose: a lot of wood varnish at first nosing, really a lot, then bags and bags of cider apples and other grassy/green fruits. Touches of cedar wood and cinnamon in the background, and not much sherry. Lastly, more and more natural vanilla, which comes with some chamomile and other mild herbal teas. It’s only after a good fifteen minutes that a few sultanas are showing themselves. With water: nice whiffs of eucalyptus and camphor, as well as a little humus and tobacco. It got much more ‘Japanese’, whatever that means. Mouth (neat): very punchy citrusy fruits, with a little sour wood and, indeed, raisins. A feeling of apple juice sweetened with a little… Sauternes. Oranges. With water: now we’re talking. Herbal teas, tobacco, old style crème de menthe, tar, lapsang souchong, bitter oranges… That was worth the wait. Finish: long, with a curious bourbony side. A little coconut, perhaps. Comments: a rather delicate Karuizawa, only the very high strength had made it a little beastly at first. Water is needed to unlock it. SGP:552 - 87 points.

Let’s trying to find a good sparring partner… Maybe another 2000?...

Yamazaki 2000/2010 'Owner's Cask' (ABV to come, OB, for Bar Cafe Ciroru Tokyo Namubukuro, barrel, cask #EU 70121)

Yamazaki 2000/2010 'Owner's Cask' (ABV to come, OB, for Bar Cafe Ciroru Tokyo Namubukuro, barrel, cask #EU 70121) Five stars This baby’s very rare. Colour: gold. Nose: oh very lovely, there are ‘strong ideas’ of Bowmore in this one, which is rather un-Yamazaki in my book. But nothing to complain about, this is almost a Tempest from Japan, plus quite a few delicate touches of aromatic herbs. Would I dare quoting wasabi? And yet, I do find a little wasabi. And parsley. Other than that, we have seawater, kippers, oysters with a drop of Tabasco, lemons, grapefruits, ashes… With water: oh, it became much more medicinal! Band-Aid, more eucalyptus, old embrocations, smoking beedies, old pu-erh tea, mushrooms… I utterly love that. Mouth (neat): exceptional. Smoke and green spices in a unusual combination that would involve caraway, green curry, then pink grapefruits and tangerines, oysters again, smoke of course… With water: how do you say Anti-Maltoporn Brigade in Japanese? I love these whiskies when they’re both focussed and complex. Finish: long, zesty, yet fat, yet tart, yet full… I guess you got it. Comments: indeed, exceptional. One of the smokiest Yamazakis I ever had the opportunity to pour into my glass. And only ten years old! SGP:566 - 92 points.

Shall we dare going back to earlier vintage after that young glory? You bet!

Yamazaki 1995/2006 'Owner's Cask' (56%, OB, for Heavy Foot Club, Shinjuku, Japan, barrel, cask #5G 3015, 164 bottles)

Yamazaki 1995/2006 'Owner's Cask' (56%, OB, for Heavy Foot Club, Shinjuku, Japan, barrel, cask #5G 3015, 164 bottles) Four stars and a half It’s not easy to find reliable information online about those Japanese places when you do not read Japanese, but it seems that the Heavy Foot Club is a restaurant. We’ll leave it at that. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s more the wood that speaks out here, with assorted coconutty aromas and a good deal of vanilla and new oak (carpenter’s workshop). Beyond that, I find the usual marshmallows and bubblegum, as well as discreet touches of sake (S., are you really sure?) Classic young ex-bourbon Yamazaki this time. With water:… but it takes water extremely well, becoming ‘oriental’, with some sandalwood, cigars, incense… Mouth (neat): very heavy, ridden with mentholated oils and other essential oils from the wood. I find this a tad unlikely. Spectacular, but unlikely. A lot of marzipan and bitter oranges too, then white pepper and ginger. With water: citrus fights back and knocks the oak down. Lemon citron grapefruit oranges. That’s very lovely. Finish: long, sweet and spicy like a sweet and spicy cake (bravo, S.) Comments: borders the 90… err, border. Needs water. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Let’s try to find another barrel…

Yamazaki 1993/2007 'Owner's Cask' (57%, OB, barrel, cask #3N70037)

Yamazaki 1993/2007 'Owner's Cask' (57%, OB, barrel, cask #3N70037) Three stars and a half These old Owner’s Casks are really becoming ‘cult’, way beyond the more pedestrian large NAS batches, whether sherried or not. Colour: gold. Nose: same vein as the previous one, just with more varnish, nail polish remover and all that on top of all this coconut, vanilla and sawdust. It is a little rough and brutal, but I’d bet water will help. With water: not quite this time, the tannins are brought out, plus slightly excessive notes of hay. Mouth (neat): its plain and pure fruit juice. It’s a little more tropical this time, with bananas on top of the coconut, and more tart at the same time, with kiwis and rhubarb. The touches of varnish and/or tinned pineapples haven’t gone yet. With water: very good now. Bizarrely, I cannot not think of the best Arrans (ex normal wood). Sweet apples. Finish: quite long, on a blend of pina colada with apple juice. Have to try that one day. Comments: I really liked it, but I’d say it hasn’t quite got the magic. SGP:651 - 84 points.

Let’s try a hoggie for a change, there should be less oak…

Yamazaki 1993/2006 'Owner's Cask' (53%, OB, hogshead, cask #3P70270, 196 bottles)

Yamazaki 1993/2006 'Owner's Cask' (53%, OB, hogshead, cask #3P70270, 196 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s peatier once again, and it is just superb. The moderate strength (kind of) makes it more approachable, while menthol, tobacco, cedar wood, thuja and humus are running the show, before more Barbour grease, almond oil and fresh putty emerge. The distillate has more freedom in this context, and it all reminds me of something… But what? With water: oh! Old liqueurs, pitch, a fisherman’s old boat, old books, carbon paper… I know this, it’s on the tip of my tongue!... Mouth (neat): right, did someone mistakenly pour some old Ardbeg into this bottle? Seriously? I’m not joking, at all, this tastes just like some 1974 ‘beg. Smoked tea, smoked almonds, tar, salted fish… Well we won’t list all flavours we get, but really, it’s old Ardbeg. Amazing again. With water: please call the Anti-Maltoporn Samurais! Finish: endless and magical. What a cask, what a cask… Dear, dear (refill) hogsheads! There’s also more and more smoked ham. Comments: we’ve approached grandeur with this one. And it swims like Mark Spitz. SGP:457 - 93 points.

What shall we do now? Let’s have only one, and we’ll be done. But let’s choose it very carefully (given that this is a verticale, so it must be older…) Well, it seems that we’ll stay at Yamazaki, with another hogshead…

Yamazaki 1989/2011 'Owner's Cask' (59%, OB for Futataka, 3rd edition, hogshead, cask #9W70427, 101 bottles)

Yamazaki 1989/2011 'Owner's Cask' (59%, OB for Futataka, 3rd edition, hogshead, cask #9W70427, 101 bottles) Five stars We already tried Mr. Futakata’s first two editions, and both have been purely magical. Mr. Osamu Futakata runs the South Park Malt Bar in Nakano-ku, Tokyo. Colour: deep gold. This starts well. Nose: Zen! Starts minimal, in a great way. Whiffs of chestnuts being roasted, warm praline, probably white chocolate… It’s only after two or three minutes that more fruits come through, first plantains, then ripe mangosteen… And then it’s rather delicate herbal teas. Honeysuckle, lime tree, orange blossom, rosehip… Far in the background, some cedar wood and some incense are slowly burning. And then we have some crème au beurre. All this is very subtle, despite the very high strength. I can’t wait… With water: the most extraordinary digestive herbal tea. Genepy, fennel and verbena stand out. Maybe rosemary (did you know sniffing rosemary can increase memory by 75%? Well so say some websites). Mouth (neat): how extreme-oriental is this?! Now it’s also massive, so let’s be careful. What I seem to get is something very spicy, very umami-esque (not making that up), quite unusual… Some kind of spice decoction, perhaps, and I’m wondering whether this wasn’t Japanese oak (quercus mongolica). Quite a lot of ginger and plenty of bitter oranges. Water seems to be obligatory here. So… With water: what’s absolutely stunning here is the Japanity (I do apologise). This is not Scotch-like at all, it’s got plenty of character and it’s got this very specific spiciness that may make it a notch challenging to beginners (but would beginners come across this?) Mentholated oak spices, tropical fruits, leather… The list would be endless. Finish: very long, spicy and sweet at the same time. Gingerbread, oranges, peppermint, cloves, caraway, a little brown sugar, something medicinal (cough syrup) and a little… wasabi. There! And if you insist, I may well find hints of soy sauce. Comments: seriously, this is a great bottle. I was ready to go up to 94 until a few oak spices in the finish started to make it a wee-tad drying. Just a wee tad. SGP:572 - 93 points.

Didn’t someone just claim that those were cult whiskies?

(with heartfelt mercis to dear Bert V., Scott, and Mr Futakata)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Japanese I've tasted so far

 

 

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March 23, 2015


Whiskyfun

Antique and contemporary Bruichladdich

To tell you the truth I was mostly interested in the newish ‘bere barley’, but while we’re at it, and since this is Whiskyfun, let’s also have a few older (and much older) siblings.

Bruichladdich 'The Organic Scottish Barley' (50%, OB, Mid Coul, Coulmore, Mains of Tullibardine Farms, 2013)

Bruichladdich 'The Organic Scottish Barley' (50%, OB, Mid Coul, Coulmore, Mains of Tullibardine Farms, 2013) Three stars We already had a non-organic version at 46%, and found to our liking (WF 85). Colour: white wine. Nose: there are rocks and there’s some coal smoke at first nosing, which comes with a lot of plasticine and putty. New leatherette, cider apples, grass… I wouldn’t say this is a very sexy nose, but indeed it’s different. With water: becomes even more austere. Old oil barrel (empty), rocks, saltpetre, a touch of dry hops, white bread… Mouth (neat): raw lemony and grassy rocks, chalk, wax, oil… It’s a little rough but on the other hand, there’s something very natural to this. With water: a little more fruits, perhaps touches of melon as often in Bruichladdich, but there’s also a feeling of rye, porridge, wholegrain bread. Whether the fact that it’s organic has any influence, I have no idea, it shouldn’t in any case. But it feels ‘natural’ indeed. Finish: quite long, still grassy and peppery. Comments: one for the hipflask, I don’t think this baby’s true sipping malt whisky, but I really enjoyed its natural side. SGP:362 - 82 points.

Bruichladdich 'Bere Barley 2008' (50%, OB, Uhi Orkney Farms, 2014)

Bruichladdich 'Bere Barley 2008' (50%, OB, Uhi Orkney Farms, 2014) Four stars and a half I believe most bere whiskies I’ve tried had been made from bere barley grown on Orkney. I remember well, for example, an Edradour distilled by/for Michel Couvreur. Colour: white wine. Nose: it is much fruitier than the organic, unexpectedly lighter as well, fresher, cleaner… In fact it’s a kind of melon-flavoured Belgian beer. Yes, seriously. It’s only in the background that we find a few bready notes, stewed pears and apples, and a touch of honey. The whole works very well. With water: oh, all the grains and breads come out, with flying colours. Visiting a bakery around five (am). Mouth (neat): much more difference on the palate. Fruit bread, honey-covered corn bread, Williams pears and a touch of barley water. It reminds me a bit of some new American craft whiskeys. With water: excellent! Breads and fruits in perfect sync, plus a touch of mint flavoured tea and a smidgen of juniper. Finish: quite long, with more oranges this time. Bready/spicy aftertaste. Comments: love this. One of the highest quality/age ratios I know of. SGP:352 - 88 points.

Bruichladdich 10 yo 2003/2014 (61.8%, OB, Private Cask, Jamaican rum barrel, cask #1119)

Bruichladdich 10 yo 2003/2014 (61.8%, OB, Private Cask, Jamaican rum barrel, cask #1119) Five stars A very appealing pedigree, Jamaica making some of the very best rums in the world (as you may know, especially if you read these humble pages on Sundays). On the other hand, Jamaican rum may just kill the Laddie’s rather light spirit… Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, I don’t know which proportion of dundery rum there is in there, probably less than 5%, but it’s singing loud, clear and distinctively, and give this very unusual, yet rather fantastic blend an unusual medicinal side. Camphor, antiseptic, pineapple and melon, four aces. Plus tar and fumes, that’s probably purely the rum. Spectacular unusual nose. With water: same but even nicer (how’s that possible, S.?). Mouth (neat): sweet Vishnu, this really works! Once again, the heavy rum is calling the shots, but this really is spectacular. Olives, tar, salt, pineapples… With water: same, plus oranges and citrons. Wonderful. Finish: very long, medicinal, camphory, Jamaican. Comments: probably the rummiest rum-cask-matured Scotch I’ve ever tried, but since they used my favourite style of rum, I’m pretty much in awe, even if this is more meta-spirit than pure malt Scotch whisky. You’re right, who cares. SGP:553 - 90 points.

Bruichladdich 35 yo 1979/2015 (41.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles)

Bruichladdich 35 yo 1979/2015 (41.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles) Four stars I haven’t seen many 1979s but a much younger one by Cadenhead, 1979/1997 at 55.8%, had worked very well (WF 88). Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a rather delicate one, that does have the traits of the early 1970s, such as some slightly jammy melon again (orange melon from Cavaillon), touches of plums, a little beeswax, hints of Muscat, perhaps… Also apricots and a wee touch of gingerbread. What’s really remarkable here is that it’s 100% old Bruichladdich, so instantly recognisable, probably thanks to a lovely and shy-ish hogshead. Mouth: same feeling, this is unmistakably 1970s Bruichladdich, with melons, plums and all that, plus this mild coastalness that adds a touch of salt. Tends to become a little gritty/grassy after a while, with some green tea as well, chewing leaves (especially cherry leaves)… If I had to find a small flaw in this baby, that would be it. Finish: a little short, grassy… But fresh melon remains in the aftertaste, which is nice (and very Bruichladdich). Also oranges. Comments: both a little fragile and sometimes faintly rough, like grandmas can be, but it deserves much respect. Loved the melon. SGP:561 - 86 points.

Let’s have an even older vintage and we’ll be done and shall have covered almost forty years of Bruichladdichness…

Bruichladdich 20 yo 1969/1990 (43%, Dun Eideann, casks #4928-4932)

Bruichladdich 20 yo 1969/1990 (43%, Dun Eideann, casks #4928-4932) Four stars This series used to be a kind of sub-brand by Signatory Vintage for some markets. And there were crackers. Colour: gold. Nose: it is a much more mineral Bruichladdich, more austere, with whiffs of concrete after the rain and almonds, before more oranges and, indeed, melons and raisins appear. There’s also a little rubber and a drop of seawater, perhaps, orange blossom, a touch of fresh putty… All that is actually rather complex, but probably a little shy. Shier than the 1979 on the nose, for sure. Mouth: sweeter and fruitier. Plenty of… guess what? That’s right, melons, as well as honey and a little Muscat wine. That would be small berry Muscat, not the slightly vulgar ‘big’ ones. There’s also a touch or rubber again, quinine tonic, a very wee touch of plastic and then more marzipan and other almondy things. The body’s bigger than the nose suggested. Finish: not too long but fruitier and juicier. Jelly babies and Fanta. Oh and melons and Muscat. Comments: a very interesting muscaty old Bruichladdich. Some parts were slightly shaky (esp. the wee rubbery side) but this fruitiness was very… Bruichladdich. SGP:541 - 85 points.

(Thanks a lot Gunther)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Bruichladdich I've tasted so far

 

 

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March 22, 2015


Whiskyfun

Malternatives on Sunday, today Rhum from Martinique

As promised, we’ll now start to try to make our little rum sessions a little better focussed on styles, or regions, or even brands/distilleries.

Rhum (40%, OB, Wolfberger, +/-2015)

Rhum (40%, OB, Wolfberger, +/-2015) one star and a half A mysterious rhum by Alsatian wine and drinks giant Wolfberger. The label wouldn't say where it comes from or give any other clues, but as it's signed 'Wolfberger Distillers', let's assume it was made by them, in Alsace (but in all logic, it should rather be Martiniquan or Guadeloupean). Colour: gold. Nose: a warming rum, very Caribbean, shock full of ripe bananas, liquorice, ripe pineapples, briny cane juice and caramel. It’s probably very young, but I find it epitomatically Martiniquan. Mouth: the body’s a bit thin, and there’s probably too much colouring caramel, but I find the remainder pleasant, with good character and caneness (!). Having said that, this style is probably better on ice cream or in ‘aged’ mojitos. Finish: short, with too much caramel. Comments: I had feared an utter disaster, but yeah, as I said, it’s rather okay. The nose was much nicer than the palate. SGP:530 - 68 points.

Oh well, let’s rather have older Martiniquan agricoles…

La Favorite 1990 (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1998)

La Favorite 1990 (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1998) Three stars and a half La Favorite Distillerie remains extremely traditional and is highly regarded. Their output is quite small. Colour: amber. Nose: starts a tad oaky, with plenty of pencil shavings and chocolate, but oxygen does it much good and will let complex tertiary notes of sauces and aromatic herbs come through. I find a little mint and gravy (and yet it’s no English-style rum ;-)), then soy sauce, shiitake, Maggi and all that. Plus, of course, briny cane juice. A rather unusual profile, extremely far from the sugar bombs that tend to invade our rum shelves. Mouth: xactly the same phenomenon. A bit of oak and liquorice at first, then subtle yet assertive notes of meat sauces, mushrooms, mint, tobacco, salted liquorice… It’s really a pity that the ABV wasn’t a tad higher, though. Finish: a bit short, but salty and gamy at times, then salty and kippery. Comments: complex and characterful old style agricole, just a little weak(ish). SGP:461 - 84 points.

How shall we go on? Maybe have three famous Martiniquan agricoles that where distilled in the 1970s…

Saint James 1979 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2000)

Saint James 1979 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2000) Four stars and a half Maybe is it time to remind you what’s ‘rhum agricole’. To cut a long story short, it’s rhum that’s distilled from cane juice rather than molasses. Earlier this year we had a Saint James 1885 and then a 1939. Glorious stuff, my my! However, modern Saint James have lost a little cachet according to rum lovers. Colour: deep gold. Nose: big rich and thick nose, this is almost concentrated overripe banana mixed with strong honey (chestnut style), pitch and gherkin juice. It’s well an agricole, but if it was Scotch, it would be a sherry monster. Old Macallan Cask Strength or something. Mouth: very heavy. Even in your glass, it moves like oil. Plenty of roasted nuts, marmalade, strong honey again, heavy liquorice, black raisins and bananas, prunes, tobacco… Well, if you like them fat, you’d love this. What’s striking is that it never gets as sickly sweet as other very dark rums. It’s well an agricole. Finish: very long, ample, now with more salty/briny notes. Comments: not sure whether this bottle was from the ‘good’ or from the ‘better’ era. I find it almost perfect. SGP:662 - 88 points.

J. Bally 1975 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1995)

J. Bally 1975 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1995) Four stars and a half Another well-known old brand/distillery that often use these famous triangular bottles, although that’s not the case here. The style should be a little lighter than that of the Saint James. Colour: amber. Nose: indeed, this is a lighter, more floral style, but it’s certainly not void of any cane-y notes. Bananas and lilies, then rather more humus than in the others, some milk chocolate, some liquorice, a little leather, a little smoked meat (smoked beef jerky)… And even Grisons meat. Also whiffs of old roses. Mouth: rather fatter than expected, with more liquorice and brine. Much more liquorice and brine! And then blood orange juice (lovely stuff), a touch of black olive and a touch of coffee. Balance is perfect. High-class rhum agricole. Finish: long, with a little more fruit (bananas, obviously) and a perfect briny signature. Comments: it’s impossible to tell you which one I preferred, between the Saint James and the Bally. So, same score. Maybe will the last one call the shots? SGP:552 - 88 points.

Trois Rivières 1974 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1995)

Trois Rivières 1974 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1995) Three stars I believe there were earlier bottlings of 1974, but this one’s a 70cl, so it just cannot be very old. I mean, the bottle’s younger while the rhum’s older, makes sense, doesn’t it. To be honest the few Trois Rivières I could try until today have never quite been utter heavyweights. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s the straightest of them all (we’re not talking about the mock Alsatian) and the cleanest as well. And possibly the least interesting. A little chicken bouillon on dried bananas, honey, light liquorice and bread-crumb, plus roasted peanuts and warm oak. Very nice, just a little too shy. Mouth: nah, it’s not that shy, but it’s the roundest and sweetest of them all. Liquorice allsorts, orange liqueur, maple syrup, a little toffee, perhaps hints of pipe tobacco… All that is very fine, but this baby’s a little… unnoticeable, perhaps. The sweet arrival (liquorice allsorts, jelly babies) is a little odd in this agricole-y context. Finish: medium, sweet, easy. Sugar cane syrup. Comments: it is, no doubt, excellent rum, it’s just lacking… memorableness, perhaps. The wow factor’s missing. SGP:651 - 82 points.

I know I wrote we’d stop here, but the problem is that we have another, much older Martiniquan and this is a good opportunity…

La Martiniquaise 'Rhum Pur' (40%, OB, Martinique, +/- 1940)

La Martiniquaise 'Rhum Pur' (40%, OB, Martinique, +/- 1940) Three stars and a half Pre-WWII colonial rum bottled in metropolitan France around, or just before the war. Today, La Martiniquaise became a large French drinks company, just behind Pernod-Ricard, and own Glen Moray Distillery in Scotland since 2008. They’re one of the very few companies that seem to have resisted the urge to try to premiumise just any brand of booze and, hence, seem to be extremely successful. Colour: amber. Nose: almost as fresh as if it was distilled three years ago. It’s pretty cane-y, quite earthy, and has got rather a lot of honey and maple syrup, then tobacco leaves and a touch of bacon. Maybe hints of plasticine. What’s sure is that there’s very little OBE, and that I would not call this ‘ a complex old brown spirit’, despite the wee touches of chives and garlic that come through after a few minutes. Mouth: once again, this is fresh and pretty clean. Someone may have added molasses and/or cane syrup at some point, though. Rather lovely spicy touches, around caraway and soft ginger. In truth, this is almost liquid gingerbread. I find little agricole-ness, but indeed there’s also a little brine and olives that make it onto your tongue after a fifteen seconds. That’s nice, obviously. Finish: rather long, with more raisins and touches of smoke and tar. That’s nice as well. Comments: frankly, this old baby was unexpectedly good. I had feared it would be very cheap booze for low rank soldiers; well it’s rather stuff for lieutenants and captains. SGP:641 - 84 points.

(and grazzie mille, Francesco and Cyril)

More tasting notes Check the index of all rums I've tasted so far

 

 

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March 20, 2015


Whiskyfun

Two recent Tullibardine

Tullibardine’s becoming a little uncommon these days. I have to say the spirit’s style is often uncommon as well, with a very particular yeastiness.

Tullibardine 24 yo 1990/2014 (51,3%, Liquid Treasures for SYC Vino and Cigar Taiwan, hogshead, 270 bottles)

Tullibardine 24 yo 1990/2014 (51,3%, Liquid Treasures for SYC Vino and Cigar Taiwan, hogshead, 270 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: some kind of grassy porridge sprinkled with linseed oil and powdered coal, or something like that. It’s very dry, pretty austere, and certainly not uninteresting. It’s after five good minutes that notes of fresh bread, baker’s yeast, and even leaven come out, together with a little vanillin. We’re in a bakery again. Also hints of gravy and/or Marmite. With water: a lot of fresh barley and less fermentary notes. Mouth (neat): completely different, how funny! It’s grapefruit and lemon-flavoured custard, with a bit of tapioca, candle wax, peppermint and pickled ginger. This baby should go well with sushi! With water: indeed, it became quite sake-like. Reminds me of the thick milky/cloudy one, how is it called again? Ah yes, nigori. Finish: long, on cereals, yeasty sake, earth… Comments: quite loved this very unusual baby. Perhaps for adventurous whisky lovers who’ve already got a few bottlings of each main style. SGP:352 - 85 points.

Tullibardine 1980/2014 (48,3%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 14023, 146 bottles)

Tullibardine 1980/2014 (48,3%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 14023, 146 bottles) Four starsColour: gold. Nose: this time it’s more some metal that’s striking first. A bag of old copper coins, iron… In the background, some fresh butter, cut grass, soot, linseed oil again, leaves and green tea. Just as austere as the 1990, but less yeasty and kind of cleaner. Freshly sawn acacia wood. With water: fun sour wood and Swiss cheese plus marzipan and barley water. Gets quieter over time, more on overripe apples and light caramel. Mouth (neat): fun! Plain oak marinated in pepper, lemon and mint sauce, then covered with marmalade and Campari. I’m not joking. This is unusual, and, yeah, fun. With water: no! It just wouldn’t swim, water letting the oak come to the front. Strong tea and brutal dry spices. More cinnamon than in cinnamon. Finish: long, oaky and peppery. Comments: good, as long as you avoid water – but do you need water at 48% vol.? – it’s really excellent. SGP:461 - 86 points.
 
Pete McPeat and Jack Washback

 

 

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March 19, 2015


Whiskyfun

Vertically Tomatin,
for the better or the better

Tomatin used to be a huge distillery. Well it still is, but several others have become fairly bigger than Tomatin in recent years. Let’s see if the light exotic fruitiness is to be found in all vintages or not…

Tomatin 12 yo 2002/2014 'Cuatro #1' (46%, OB, fino sherry finish, 1500 bottles)

Tomatin 12 yo 2002/2014 'Cuatro #1' (46%, OB, fino sherry finish, 1500 bottles) Three stars Fino’s very interesting, but this is only a finishing. Well, a little more than that, as this baby spent 3 years in fino wood. I like the ‘Spanish’ packaging. Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather buttery and spicy, with more yeast than usual, a feeling of fino indeed (walnuts and apples), then rather almonds and a tiny-wee bit of scented soap. It is a little winey. Mouth: good and bizarre. Not quite whisky, not quite heavily fortified sherry. Sour apples, cumin, walnuts, crystallised oranges, bitter chocolate, cloves, spicy gingerbread, dried pears… I find it rather Christmassy, with all these spices. Good mulled white wine! The body’s perfect. Finish: rather long, with again a tiny soapiness, then more spices, oranges and walnuts. Comments: don’t expect to find any Tomatinness in this one, but what’s sure is that they made it very well. SGP:551 - 82 points.

Tomatin 12 yo 2002/2014 'Cuatro #2' (46%, OB, manzanilla finish, 1500 bottles)

Tomatin 12 yo 2002/2014 'Cuatro #2' (46%, OB, manzanilla finish, 1500 bottles) Three stars This one fights the same battle. What’s more, manzanilla can be extremely close to fino. Colour: gold. Nose: it seems to be a notch fatter and rounder, which was unexpected. More truffles and struck matches as well, a bit of rubber, cut flowers, herbal teas, bitter marmalade, caraway… I think I liked the fino a little better. Mouth: this is different, drier, unexpectedly smoky (did they season ex-Islay casks with manzanilla – but indeed manzanilla can be very coastal and border smokiness). Lovely oranges and pink grapefruits, plus something flinty. Then more green spices, green peppercorns, as well as drops of Fanta or something like that. Finish: quite long, lemony and spicy. Schweppes-lemon, seriously. Earth in the aftertaste. Comments: another unusual one, fun to taste. Perhaps a little tiring. SGP:461 - 80 points.

Tomatin 17 yo 1997/2014 (51%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill hogshead, 268 bottles)

Tomatin 17 yo 1997/2014 (51%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill hogshead, 268 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: in a way, it’s the opposite of the finos. Whistle-clean, all on grass and garden fruits, especially gooseberries and apples. That’s all folks. A bone dry Sancerre. With water:  a little more syrup, a little more roundness and sweetness. Mouth (neat): this has more roundness. Tinned peaches and pears plus a light honey syrup and a fistful of white cherries and greengages. Perfect lemony backbone. Super-clean, super-fruity. With water: same. Extremely approachable and drinkable. Watch your bottles. Finish: medium long, fruity, clean, easy… Comments: 100% uncomplicated pleasures. Not a single tiny flaw. SGP:541 - 86 points.

Tomatin 16 yo 1997/2014 (56.4%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, bourbon, cask #5969)

Tomatin 16 yo 1997/2014 (56.4%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, bourbon, cask #5969) Four stars This should be similar. Colour: white wine. Nose: not it’s not. I mean, similar. It’s much grassier, more of bread and yeast, yoghurt, coal smoke, even tar… Maybe that’s the higher strength. The fruits are almost absent at this point. Intriguing. With water: what, creosote? Mouth: ah there, lemons… and peat! It definitely was an ex-peater cask, maybe even Laphroaig. The Tomatin absorbed peaty and medicinal notes like a sponge, it seems, to the point where this rather feels like some vatted malt. And I find it excellent! So yeah, there, a new recipe, 90% fresh and clean Tomatin + 10% Laphroaig. Have to try that one day. With water: superb! Amazing how water worked here. This baby reminds me of Douglas Laing’s newish Rock Oyster (tasting notes unpublished at time of writing). Finish: long and coastal. Un-Tomatin, and really good. Comments: a very interesting bottle that started so-so and became wonderful. Reminds me of those Evan Williams ads showing girls before and after aging who… oh forget. SGP:552 - 87 points.

Dear owners, the floor is yours again…

Tomatin 18 yo 1990/2008 (58.3%, OB, for Germany, refill bourbon, cask #16351, 173 bottle)

Tomatin 18 yo 1990/2008 (58.3%, OB, for Germany, refill bourbon, cask #16351, 173 bottle) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: yeah, there, tropical fruits! We knew they were coming, didn’t we. Bananas and mangos, with something Irish, then hawthorn tea and some fresh oak. With water: the wood’s vanilla is getting louder, but never dominating. Perfect fruity lightness. Mouth (neat): mangos, bananas and passion fruits again, not totally in Benriach’s older style, but we’re close. Or maybe rather 1960s Balblair. Blood oranges, rich apples, a bit of nutmeg. Excellent. With water: syrups and fruit cocktails. Drops of light honey. All we still need is a swimming pool and someone playing some early Santana. Finish: medium length. Fresh tropical fruits, honey syrup, vanilla, a touch of cinnamon. Comments: perfect. This may confirm that Tomatin lost a large part of its tropicalness sometime in the early-to-mid 1990s. SGP:641 - 90 points.

Back at the indies…

Tomatin 1987/2014 (46.3%, Càrn Mor, Celebration of the Cask, hogshead, cask #495, 187 bottles)

Tomatin 1987/2014 (46.3%, Càrn Mor, Celebration of the Cask, hogshead, cask #495, 187 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: a more mature, more tertiary version of a tropical fruit bomb. The mangos and bananas have become overripe (a bit), while aromatic herbs and teas have joined in the dancing. There are also bags and bags of overripe apples, as well as these notes of blond tobacco that often come with age. A new pack of cigarettes. Mouth: starts a little decadent, with notes of old Sauternes and sultanas starting to rot (just starting). Some parts make me think of some old cognac, but this is sweeter. The sweetness is actually huge, and you really have to love sultanas. Decadent indeed, but there are also guavas and a discreet earthiness that will prevent this baby (and, consequently, the taster) from falling in pure lust. Finish: long, honeyed, rich, very raisiny. Grande Champagne? Comments: some might say this is a little too much, and indeed you could wonder whether this wasn’t some kind of ex-honey cask, but let’s not deny ourselves a good thing. Oh hell, I love it. SGP:751 - 89 points.

And a last one for the road…

Tomatin 40 yo 1967/2007 (42,9%, OB, 1614 bottles)

Tomatin 40 yo 1967/2007 (42,9%, OB, 1614 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: golden amber. Nose: this entrancing and extravagant tropicalness that was also to be found in 1960s Balblairs and Lochsides, but almost nowhere else. Ah, yes, Bowmore. Mangos, guavas, papayas (loud) and maracuja in total sync, plus ripe apples as fillers. Plus a little camphor, eucalyptus and menthol cigarettes. A few years ago this style was still rather easily available, but today, they’re gone gone gone, extinct, finished, exterminated on the altar of modern Scotch whisky! Now, it’s also a little fragile and wouldn’t stand oxygen for long, getting a little flat and cardboardy. Don’t sip this while listening to In-a-gadda-da-vida! Mouth: exactly the same profile as on the nose, flavour for flavour. And a similar fragility, although it’s got a little more oomph and brightness than expected. As often, a touch of earth in the background helps a lot, as only fruits wouldn’t quite do it. Finish: surprisingly long and zesty, with renewed tropical fruits – and even grapefruits! And certainly bananas. Comments: as often with these very old ‘T’ whiskies (Tomintoul, Tomatin, Tamnavulin…), there are ups and there are downs, but there’s something slightly antiquated that’s just moving. Remember, whisky is time in a bottle. SGP:651 - 88 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Tomatin I've tasted so far

 

 

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March 18, 2015


Whiskyfun

Blended Malts

We used to call them bastard malts in the old maniacal days. The parents are unknown, but the kids may still have potential. Especially branding potential…

Rock Oyster (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2015)

Rock Oyster (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2015) Four stars Nice retro design for whisky hipsters, but psst, I’ve heard minimal Japanese design was making a fairy-tale comeback. Colour: white wine. Nose: a bready/smoky profile. Eating fresh baguette on the shores of some remote island early in the morning, while seaweed and floated wood are burning one hundred metres away. It’s no big peater, but I have to say these very natural smells are rather entrancing. Also love these whiffs of fresh mint and cut apples. Very well composed, the youth is an asset in this context. Do hipsters have good taste, after all??? Mouth: excellent. Fresh, salty, peaty, young, vibrant (love that meaningless word), bready… There is no apparent oak and the raw materials remain in the front, but this baby’s anything but immature. Finish: long, salty, kippery, barleyish… Ashy/tarry aftertaste. Comments: this should go well with langoustines. Forgot to mention oysters. Very, very well done, very smart. NAS may be much more acceptable when it’s blended malt… SGP:356 - 87 points.

The Silver Grouse 12 yo (45%, OB, blended malt, +/-2014?)

The Silver Grouse 12 yo (45%, OB, blended malt, +/-2014?) one star and a half How unlikely! Sure there is an age statement (thanks a bunch), but this celebratory baby was heavily chill-filtered at -8°C, which may have removed many flavours if you believe whisky forums. It’s been around for years – it was launched in 2005 – but it’s the first time I come across this odd whisky. Colour: gold. Nose: well this isn’t un-nice. Caramel, fudge, vanilla, barley syrup, Ovaltine, chocolate, café latte, those sorts of things. We’re closer to a blend than to a blended malt, but these corny (ahem) notes aren’t unpleasant. Very smooth and rounded. Mouth: malt liqueur. Caramel, fudge, chocolate, maple syrup, heavy vanilla, peanut butter… Tends to become a little cloying, though, as much as when you’ve already had four Snickers bars. And no water (or Meursault). Finish: short, sweet, very caramelly. Comments: I think this is frankly ‘too much’. I like the normal Grouse, but this is so thick that it’s hard to swallow without water. SGP:730 - 68 points.

Spice King 12 yo (40%, Wemyss Malts, blended malt, +/-2013)

Spice King 12 yo (40%, Wemyss Malts, blended malt, +/-2013) Three stars Apparently, I’ve liked this one, since it got a World Whisky Award while I was a (blind) judge. Time to publish some notes. Oh and I had also liked a 8yo Spice King back in 2011 (WF 82). Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, we’re not that far from DL’s Rock Oyster, but this one’s milder and a little more fragile, probably because of the low strength. Hessian and all things from a fisherman’s boat plus a distinct Laphroaigness, including these touches of bandages and antisepctic. In the background, sour apples and, ah, oysters. Mouth: just very good. We’re more geared towards Caol Ila now, with more sweetness and a more delicate peatiness. Some almonds, ripe apples, a touch of salt… And some vanilla. There’s always vanilla. Finish: quite short, but that’s the strength. Leaves an oily feeling on your tongue. Comments: indisputably very good, just a little light for my taste. SGP:455 - 82 points.

Hebridean Distilleries 16 yo (57.5%, Whisky Tales, 180 bottles, 2012)

Hebridean Distilleries 16 yo (57.5%, Whisky Tales, 180 bottles, 2012) Four stars This baby contains Ardbeg, Bowmore and Laphroaig. Colour: straw. Nose: huge and as peaty as burning peat, this one doesn’t do things by half. A touch of butter, porridge, sour apples, lemons and seawater, and then an avalanche of peat. Did I mention peat? With water: nosing a fistful of just-kilned barley, before it starts to lose some of its smokiness. Mouth (neat): quite perfect, in all simplicity. One might try to find distinct Ardbeggy, or Laphroaiggy, or Bowmory notes, but that would be a waste of time. Massive smoke, massive kippers (GMO, ha). With water: more lemon and more ashes. Finish: long and very smoky. Comments: what’s really funny here, is that this combo noses and tastes (even) smokier than any of its components. What’s the trick? Not very complex, but truly spectacular. SGP:358 - 87 points.

I had thought I would have gone on, but that spectacular smoke bomb just killed the session. Boo!

 

 

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March 17, 2015


Whiskyfun

A few Bushmills, some perhaps putative
(and since today's Saint Patrick)

It seems that I haven’t tried the official Bushmills malts since 2010, but I’ve tried some indies! Let’s start with the official aperitifs…

Bushmills 16 yo (40%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2014) Three stars So, last time I tried the 16 that was four years ago. I had liked it. It’s matured in ‘three woods’. Colour: dark gold. Nose: hyper-mega fruity, as expected. Would make a 1976 Benriach nose like an Octomore in comparison. Quite. And it’s also very Irish, with these sweet metallic notes (copper?) and the touches of slightly sour mango compote. Other than that, it’s banana and guava galore. Mouth: very easy, very fruity. It’s a rather light body but it does sing and has got some oily texture, bizarrely. Bananas and guavas again, plus a touch of litchi and then rather more oak than I expected. Strong rosehip tea, sour apples, green apricots, cinnamon. Finish: relatively short. More rosehip tea with bits of dried guavas and grated cinnamon. A touch of beer in the aftertaste. Comments: very fine, only the 40% make it a little, say flabby. Score unchanged. SGP:740 - 82 points.

Bushmills 21 yo (40%, OB, Madeira finish, +/-2014)

Bushmills 21 yo (40%, OB, Madeira finish, +/-2014) Three stars Another one that I always quite liked. Colour: full gold. Nose: same family, obviously, but this one’s a little grassier, fatter (apparently), with some white chocolate, sunflower oil, then rather light honey, touches of ripe bananas, flowers (peonies, lilies of the valley)… A touch of earth as well. I find this pretty elegant and nicely balanced. No wine sings loud, as they say around 5am. Mouth: we’re closer to the 16, with this leafiness that mingles well with the fruits. That may be accentuated by the Madeira, not too sure. And indeed there are walnuts and almonds, then a touch of mint (drops) and tobacco. Finish: the length’s okay, on strawberry jam and spicy chutneys, the aftertaste is a notch bitter (strong tea again). Comments: not too sure a 21yo should still be bottled at 40% vol., it’s great spirit but it’s a little frustrating because of that. SGP:651 - 82 points.

We should try to find a Bushmills at cask strength and of similar strength, I think…

Columban of Iona 23 yo 1991/2014 (57.5%, The Stillman’s, Irish single malt, bourbon barrel, 231 bottles)

Columban of Iona 23 yo 1991/2014 (57.5%, The Stillman’s, Irish single malt, bourbon barrel, 231 bottles) Five stars You know the story about St. Columban/Colomba/Colombus, don’t you. All genuine, with pristine records! ;-). I should add that The Stillman’s have already impressed us with another indie Bushmills last year. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a smoky one, and it’s big, and yet it’s very elegant, while remaining big. Fantastic notes of smoked oils, fresh asparagus (I said fresh ones), fresh walnuts and almonds, sweet smoked barley and then something that I love, argan oil. A nose unlike any other. With water: the fruits and flowers come out while the peat is toned down. A bit. Mouth (neat): totally impressive. There are other light and fruity peat monsters, especially in Scotland’s mainland, but I’m not sure they’ve got this depth and complexity. I had never thought you could smoke bananas and mangos ;-). I knew about almonds. With water: same phenomenon, more fruits, less peat. Balance remains perfect. Finish: long and very fresh, with what they call a salty tang. Comments: two whiskies in one, great! Without water, almost Ardbeg (I said almost) and with water, Bushmills! Exceptional selection by our Swiss friends. SGP:664 - 91 points.

Another quick one…

Irish Single Malt 2003/2014 (49.5, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead)

Irish Single Malt 2003/2014 (49.5, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: ultra-clean, leafy and ‘greenly’ fruity. Banana skins, apple peelings, then bonbons and Haribo stuff. A bit young, perhaps. Funny notes of aquavit and caraway after five minutes. Mouth: same feeling of aquavit, genepy and kummel. That’s fun! Also some banana liqueur, ginger liqueur. It’s not quite natural banana that’s everywhere in the background, rather this confectionary called, I believe, Allens Bananas or Banana Splitz or Banana Lollies or Candy Bananas… Whatever, it’s very regressive anyway. Some William pears too. And pear bonbons, of course. Finish: quite long and very pearish. Amyl acetate everywhere. Comments: whisky for kids, that’s fun (they’ll put me into jail for writing these kinds of things one day). an unusual bottling by the otherwise always immaculate Fässle. I'm not sure this is Bushmills BTW. SGP:830 - 78 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Irish I've tasted so far

 

 

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March 16, 2015


Whiskyfun

A kind of verticale of Knockando. Indeed.

Knockando’s usually gentle and easy, rounded and malty, with apple pie notes and… hold on, let’s first select a few.

Knockando 12 yo 2000 (43%, OB, +/-2014) Three stars I like it that this baby was bottled at 43% and not 40. The last 12 I tried was the 1978/1992, so I’m very late now… Colour: gold. Nose: exactly, it’s easy, rounded and malty, with apple pie notes, some maple syrup, warm Danish pastries and a light floral side (our beloved dandelions). Typical access-category malt whisky that won’t be disagreeable to anyone. Mouth: rounded but certainly not flat, very malty, with some honey and chocolate, a feeling of Ovaltine bar, cornflakes and some roasted barley and hazelnut. Good, rather oily body. Finish: not short, still very malty and chocolaty. A drop of bitter coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: a gentle dram that’s not that gentle. For us in France, Knockando’s a must-have-in-your-bar. My exact definition of a good 80-points whisky. SGP:441 - 80 points.

Knockando 1972/1984 (43%, OB, 75cl)

Knockando 1972/1984 (43%, OB, 75cl) Three stars Let’s check if the style of the 12 has much changed over the years… Colour: gold. Nose: this style is rather fruitier and more floral, and consequently less malty and chocolaty, as if there was less sherry in these old batches. On the other hand, I find some sunflower oil and other oils, as well as wee touch of rubber. Mouth: same differences on the palate, the mouth feel is rather oilier, fatter… As often with older malts. Apple compote with oil, orange jam, a touch of honeydew and a bit of pinesap that may come from bottle ageing in this case. Finish: quite long, on compotes and other stewed fruit specialties. Clear touches of triple-sec in the aftertaste, plus a little leather. Comments: these old Knockandos are never very expensive. Good occasions to try older malt whisky without blowing a bank. Styles are rather different, but I wouldn’t claim that this older vintage was better. So… SGP:541 – 80 points.

Knockando 1970/1982 (43%, OB, 75cl) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: very similar. Perhaps a notch grassier? Also touches of fresh putty, plasticine and all that. OBE, maybe… Mouth: nah, no need to spend too much time on this one, it’s very similar to the 1972. Perhaps are the oranges a little more in the front. Finish: similar. Comments: same kind of good classic shtuff. Not much else to say, I’m sorry. SGP:541 - 80 points. Back to modern times with the…

Knockando 15 yo 1997 (43%, OB, +/-2013)

Knockando 15 yo 1997 (43%, OB, +/-2013) Three stars and a half According to its label, this one was ‘richly matured’, you understand… Colour: gold. Nose: it is, indeed, the 12/2000 with more richness. So more roasted nuts, brioche, malty things (chicory and coffee), chocolate, Kellog’s things… Then apple compote and, quite bizarrely, these roasted notes that one can find in heavily botrytised wines. Is noble rot to be found on barley, or do they always use massive doses of fungicides? Mouth: it’s a slightly coffee-ish Knockando that kind of ‘winks’ at Cragganmore. Honey, malt, chocolate, cappuccino, cornflakes again, agave syrup, apple pie, cinnamon rolls… Quite a few cinnamon rolls! Good body. Finish: surprisingly long, honeyed and malty. Strong dark honeys… Comments: I find this very good. What it doesn’t have is much distillery character, but it sure goes down a treat. In the same cluster as many good quality cognacs, I’d say, but of course this is much, much maltier. SGP:551 - 83 points.

Good, before we tackle the higher strengths, let’s have an older OB again. And rather a prestige cuvee…

Knockando 1963/1985 'Extra Old Reserve' (43%, OB)

Knockando 1963/1985 'Extra Old Reserve' (43%, OB) Four stars and a half This baby spent its glass life in a square bottle. Colour: gold. Nose: ah well well well, this is different. More complex, wider, both more tertiary and with many more fruits, including tropical ones. Mangos in Knockando? You bet! It’s also got a superb wax, between beeswax and more mineral waxes ala Clynelish, enchanting notes of hazelnut oil, some lime blossom, green tealeaves and jasmine that goes so well with that, freshly mown lawn... Tends to become a little chalky after a few minutes, though, not obligatorily in the best way. Mouth: fantastic! Old chartreuse (do you know the very rare white one?), honeydew, lemon liqueurs, high quality Pinot Gris (Alsatian, obviously), some malty things but less than in the modern ones… This is absolutely superb, and certainly more grassy and phenolic (albeit lightly phenolic) than most Knockandos. But as always, that may come from bottle aging. Finish: rather long, on… say some mint-flavoured tea sweetened with characterful honey. Comments: simply one of the best Knockandos I’ve tasted (but I haven’t tasted hundreds). On par with the lovely 25 yo Special Release from three years ago. SGP:551 - 88 points.

We just couldn’t stop now. Why not try some (rare) indies?

Knockando 14yo 1994/2009 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, bourbon barrel, cask #4863, 357 bottles) Two stars Colour: pale straw. Nose: restrained, simple, barleyish… There isn’t a lot happening in this one, despite the pretty butterscotch and croissants, and vanilla… And light honey, acacia-style. Or it’s too subtle for me. Let’s see… With water: no significant improvement, rather the contrary. Tiny touches of new plastic. Mouth (neat): it’s a lightish rather floral and fruity Speysider, but there are many such lightish rather floral and fruity Speysiders. If you dig deep you’ll find hints of mirabelles, and perhaps pears, but other than that, I find this baby a little immature. With water: umpfff… Finish: medium length. Touches of cider apples and lemon save it a bit. Comments: okayish. Some kind of interest because it’s one of the very rare independent Knockandos, but other than that… SGP:441 - 70 points.

Last one… And independent again…

Knockando 26yo 1980/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #1912, 268 bottles)

Knockando 26yo 1980/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #1912, 268 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: there are similarities with the DL, although this one’s more mature, a perhaps more complex. I enjoy this oily side (sunflower oil) and the ripe apples, as well as the touches of fresh butter and custard, and perhaps these very distant whiffs of crushed mint leaves, but other than that, it’s slightly boring whisky. Mouth: sweet and fruity alcohol, cherries, apples, sweet barley, corn syrup… What’s quite pleasant is the fattish mouth feel, akin to that of liquid honey. Finish: medium length. Sweet barley to the power of two. Comments: rather good well-aged malt whisky, no more, no less. A bit ‘yawny’, perhaps. SGP:541 - 78 points.

This time the officials won fair and square, which doesn’t always happen at WF Towers.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Knockando I've tasted so far

 

 

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March 15, 2015


Whiskyfun

Malternatives on Sunday,
one petit sac de cognac

I know that was Frenglish at best, but I just can’t resist cheap rhymes.

D’Aumagne ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Louis Royer for Diners Club, Fins Bois, +/-2013)

D’Aumagne ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Louis Royer for Diners Club, Fins Bois, +/-2013) Four stars D’Aumagne is the name of the distillery. Fins Bois are usually fillers in Cognac, more or less like grain whisky in Scotland, but there are great ‘single’ Fins Bois, let’s hope this is one of them. Colour: gold. Nose: typical very fresh and very fruity Fins Bois, youthful and extremely clean. I’d call this a joyful style, with tinned litchis, plenty of ripe greengages, apricots, tangerines and melons. The opposite of ‘lounge’ cognacs for old politicians. After fifteen minutes, lovely honeyed notes. Mouth: the same huge fruitiness is to be found on the palate, with similar fruits, although the apricots and tangerines are playing first fiddles this time. There’s also more honey and a bit of sweet oak, while the prunes and raisins are almost absent this time. Finish: not very long, but it’s still very clean and fruity. You just had apricot syrup. Comments: perfect starter, an excellent youngster that you could have as an aperitif. Well done Diners Club (didn’t know they still existed BTW). SGP:640 - 85 points.

Frapin ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, single estate, +/-2014)

Frapin ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, single estate, +/-2014) Three stars Frapin’s a good name, obviously. Colour: amber. Nose: much more oak in this polished baby, more spices, more raisins and more prunes. As well as a discreet smokiness (mentholated cigarettes). There’s something oriental to this, korma sauce or something. It remains delicate and elegant all along – if not really big. Mouth: classic well aged cognac, with good oomph and body, but it’s a little  less chiselled than I had hoped. Raisin cake, chocolate, cooked honey and a little burnt toast. Burnt apricot pie. Finish: rather long, cooked and stewed. Pies and rum and raisin cream. Comments: classy cognac but I thought the palate was lacking a bit of definition. We’re still way above the larger brands and their VSOPs. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Ragnaud-Sabourin 'VSOP' (41%, OB, Grande Champagne, single estate, +/-2014)

Ragnaud-Sabourin 'VSOP' (41%, OB, Grande Champagne, single estate, +/-2014) Three stars Another very well reputed house. Colour: deep gold. Nose: we’ve gone one further step towards ‘old cognac’ territories, with these woody spicinesses such as cedar wood, sandalwood, tobacco and so on. Having said that, it remains quite fresh, never stuffy, and would rather develop on superb notes of ripe and stewed peaches. Maybe a wee bit of rancio starting to show off? Love this nose. Mouth: we’re not far from the Frapin, even if this one’s got more wood spices again, and more definition at the same time. Sweet tobacco, more prunes, fruitcake, golden raisins… Maybe more what you would expect from a relatively old cognac from a good house. Finish: quite long, with more cinnamon. The aftertaste is a tad tea-ish but there’s good honey in that tea. Comments: high quality. SGP:651 - 82 points.

I’m quite happy with those three VSOPs, and we could stop now, but why not go on for a little while with an interesting head-to-head?

Vallein-Tercinier ‘Petite Rue 71' (47%, OB, Petite Champagne, single estate, +/-2014)

Vallein-Tercinier ‘Petite Rue 71' (47%, OB, Petite Champagne, single estate, +/-2014) Four stars and a half It doesn’t exactly say so, but this cannot not be a 1971. Colour: deep gold. Nose: there’s what wasn’t quite in the others: time. It’s magnificent, complex yet it does not go in all directions, with honeydew in its core and many dried fruits, fragrant flowers and oriental spices revolving around it. Wee whiffs of copper coins – which I like a lot – plus dried longans, lime tree tea, a little patchouli, apricots and raisins, some pipe tobacco that wouldn’t be too dark (honeydew again) and then the most magnificent soft earthiness. Assorted mushrooms. It’s all very tertiary. Mouth: rougher and bolder this time – but I guess that’s the strength, starting with unexpected notes of very old and totally supreme calvados (so yeah, apples and pears) and developing with exceptional notes of old liqueurs and herbal teas. All of them, literally. The complexity is immense and at times, Macallan circa 1940 crosses my mind. Only flipside, it tends to become a little too herbal and mentholy towards the finish. Finish: long but maybe a wee-tad bitterish. Comments: magical old cognac. Only the finish was a bit of a let-down, but that often happens with old spirits. What a pity, I’d have gone way above 90. SGP:661 - 89 points.

Leyrat ‘Lot 71 Chai de la Distillerie’ (40%, OB, single estate, +/-2013)

Leyrat ‘Lot 71 Chai de la Distillerie’ (40%, OB, single estate, +/-2013) Four stars Another one that might well be a 1971. Leyrat is a rather new brand that belongs to ABK6 if I’m not mistaken. The domaine is actually named ‘Domaine de chez Maillard’, but I can’t find any information about the appellation (Grande Champagne or Fins Bois and so on.) Should be Fins Bois. Will this baby manage to stand up to the Vallein? Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s an easier, fruitier, younger style of old cognac, with many more fresh fruits that remind me of the Diners Club. I mean, their excellent cognac. Stewed and candied peaches and melons are running the show, before more oranges and some light green spices start to join in. Maybe a little dust as well, bread crumbles, old wood… The jury’s still out, but I also find hints of ripe mangos, all for the better. Mouth: it’s not a very complex oldie, but what it does it does well. Raisins and vanilla cake, kugelhopf (really), even panettone, then more sappy oils from the wood. Cedar wood, cigars, a feeling of thuja… Finish: quite long – the low strength doesn’t feel- and rather sappy. Raisins in fir liqueur. Maybe a little salt. Comments: of course you’re right, I should have had this one first, before the stronger Vallein. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. But this Leyrat was very good. SGP:561 - 86 points.

BONUS: Wait, this bottle just in, quite a few days after I had finished our little session. I just couldn’t wait until our next cognac flight…

Grateaud ‘Brut de Fût’ (61.5%, OB, Borderies, single estate, cask #86, lot #2713, 2013)

Grateaud ‘Brut de Fût’ (61.5%, OB, Borderies, single estate, cask #86, lot #2713, 2013) Four stars Look at this label, could anything be more ‘craft’, other than no label at all? Probably made with a Commodore or a Sinclair computer. The label wouldn’t tell, neither does it even give you the smallest clue, but this baby’s 35 years of age. I won’t even mention the price for this single cask, truly cask strength old cognac, that would make you cry (psst, that’s 120€). Oh and remember, these good people do take care of the vines, do the harvests, make the wine, distil it, mature it and sell it. Not exactly a push-button job, is it. Colour: full gold. Nose: perfect. Peaches, a touch of eucalyptus smoke, honey, Muscat raisins, lime tree blossom, a bit of cinnamon, overripe apples, dandelions, blond tobacco… There isn’t anything missing.

With water: exceptional. Old oriental saps and tobaccos that you would have found in a hidden antiques shop somewhere in the Middle-East, or on Ebay. Plus the obligatory peaches. Mouth (neat): high impact, of course, but the back is both floral and delicately spicy. Some vanilla for sure, cider apples, then more other things green and rather tannic… It’s hard to tell whether that tannicity comes from the wood or from the super-high strength. Probably the former, but let’s check that… With water: no, forget, it all got rather smoother, still oriental and superbly herbal. There are rougher edges (apple peelings) but in a way, that makes it even craftier. Finish: long, but the tannins are back. The weaker spot, I’d say. Comments: once again, at had it much higher, until the tannins started to try to take over the palate. The nose was totally out of this world. SGP:561 - 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all cognacs I've tasted so far

 

 

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