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Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2004 - Part 1
       
           
November 2004 - part 2 <--- December 2004 - part 1 ---> December 2004 - part 2
 
December 13, 2004
  CONCERT REVIEW
THE SAW DOCTORS
Shepherds Bush Empire
- Saturday December 11th, 2004 - by deca-yotta-deluxe guest writer Nick Morgan (with apologies to Jimmy J.)

Stately, plump, Barry the Bouncer came from the stairhead, and walked into the bearpit of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Halted, he peered down into the dark and called up coarsely, ‘Jeez, I’d kill for a pint of porter’. Beneath, the vulgar and venereal looking lady spoke through her Guinness moustache, ‘For goodness feckin’ sake, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a visit to the Doctor’s …’
Actually you don’t get a stream of consciousness from this self declared ‘Joyce County Ceili Band’ – in truth its best to leave your brainbox at the door – rather it’s a flood of unremitting (and to be honest almost oppressive) good humour, mawkish sentimentality and Irish Showband fuelled folksy rock and roll. It’s loud, loquacious, and totally infectious.
If you’re not familiar with the Saw Doctors then you should have a look at some of their earlier albums – If this is rock and roll then I want my old job back, All the way from Tuam, Same oul’ town and Songs from Sun Street – which provide the majority of material for the evening. To be fair they haven’t recorded much of real note since, but they have maintained their reputation as a live act without compare.

Over the years doctors have come and gone, so only two of the original line-up remain – Davy Carton (who looks as though life on the road has taken its toll) and Leo Moran (who still looks like a myopic daft boy, with a grin that would just make anyone want to smile). Moran also gives the Doctors their very distinctive big guitar sound – with a style that is somewhere between Duane Eddy and Hank Marvin.  
The crowd, a mixture of Irish ex-pats (largely, by the look of their football shirts, from Galway and Ma yo ) and faux Fenians from up-town slumming it at the Bush (some had even forgotten to take their pearls off!) are song and word-perfect.
  The Empire is packed. We fall in with a crowd of left-footed Ulstermen and their ladies – happy to help lift Kate on their shoulders so she can see Leo – and succumb to the craic – singing, more Guinness, waving our arms and trying to dance (like angels trying to dance on a pinhead). Poor behaviour for a reviewer I know. But that’s what the Doctors are about – ‘if you need a few tunes just give us a call for the house, the pub or the parish hall …’ - take it or leave it. (picture left by Nick: after the gig).
Oh yes – and if you’re interested then check out a free concert in London’s Trafalgar Square on Sunday 13th March. The day after Whisky Live in London – and no vouchers to worry about paying for! - Nick Morgan (photos by Kate)
Thanks a bunch, Nick. Yes, this concert sounds like a great follow-up after WhiskyLive. Here's a sample clip of one of the band's hits: n17 (short mp3). I also found a very nice - and complete - version of n17 by another Irish band: the oddly-named Wild Colonial Bhoys.
 

TASTING - ANOTHER BIG BOWMORE SESSION:
8 SPECIAL EXPRESSIONS

Bowmore 15 yo 1989/2004 (58%, SSMC, Cask #6185, 240 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: very spirity and grassy at first nosing, but it then gets much more complex. Freshly mown lawn, fresh pepper, green barley. Some peat, but some ‘farmy one’. Hints of eau de Cologne and violets perfume. Hints of dill. Gets a little buttery after a few minutes. Fresh rhubarb, ‘boerekool’. Some peppermint too – and some Chinese anise. Nice! Mouth: some big, bold and typical ‘perfumey’ notes. Lavender sweets, violet sweets, Turkish delight. Some fructose, acidic fruits (kiwi), litchi. Too perfumey and spirity for my taste, I must say. Really pungent, and some water doesn’t help too much. Long, burning finish. 82 points.

 
  Bowmore 14 yo 1989/2003 (58.9%, SMWS, 3.88) Colour: dark straw. Nose: really farmy, with lots of liquorice and roots. Gets very bourbonny (vanilla, oak). Some interesting perfumy notes, plus some dried fruits. The peat is then growing stronger, getting farmier and farmier. Mouth: lots of candies at first, pear drops, English liquorice, parfait amour liquor. Gets sweeter and sweeter (plain white sugar). Lots of pepper then, and some peat… Sugar and pepper! Long finish, on lavender syrup and hay jelly, with a pinch of salt. The nose is absolutely great, but the palate is a little too much on ‘chemical’ sweets. 85 points.
Bowmore 15 yo 1989/2004 (46%, Signatory for LMW, cask #6186, La Preceptorie finish) A heavy sweet wine from the South of France (Banyuls). Colour: light yellow with a pinkish hue. Nose: the strange thing is that there are some similarities between Bowmore and these wines – especially the sweetish/perfumy aromas. Still, quite fresh and rather enjoyable, not too heavy. Crystallised melon and guava. Some sweet wine, wild strawberries. Hints of peat, but not much Bowmore character. Hints of crushed mint leaves and citronella. Mouth: again lots of English liquorice, strawberry jam, cold herbal tea, diet sugar. It’s hard to know what comes from Bowmore and what comes from the wine. Very little peat and smoke. The finish is medium long and slightly sweetish… 81 points.  
  Bowmore vintage 1984 (58.8%, OB) Colour: light amber. Nose: quite pungent and even burning at first nosing. The alcohol sort of blocks all aromas. Some hand nosing gives lots of peated barley, but it’s really too strong. Some water doesn’t bring any more aromas. Mouth: ouch, this is precisely the kind of Bowmore I don’t like. Very soapy and perfumy, with lots of old pepper and dust. Erm… 60 points.
Bowmore 17 yo 1976/1994 (52.9%, SMWS, 3.18)
Colour: yellow. Nose: wow, again a great fruity Bowmore in the style of the sixties. Tons of tropical fruits (passion fruits, mango, pineapple and fresh banana). How great! Perhaps one of the last years when Bowmore was really great. Some light caramel, kiwi, gooseberry. Very, very nice. Mouth: bold and rich, with again, lots of tropical fruits, crystallised fruits, and a little peat. Not overly complex, but very satisfying and ‘compact’. Highly sippable. 87 points.
 
  Bowmore 1984/2000 (45%, Samaroli, fino sherry puncheon)
Nose: pure H2S, rotten eggs, sulphur, matchstick, coal smoke. Not good at all, I’m afraid. Mouth: weird, with some tart smoke, nutrasweet, roasted raisins… Plain un-enjoyable, no wonder this one never sold. 61 points.
Bowmore 16 yo 1972 (43%, The Prestonfield, cask #1036/1039) Colour: amber. Nose: lots of rosewater, dried pineapples, pink grapefruit, but the whole is a little weak. Hints of pear spirit. Gets a little bitterer after a while, with some lemon skin. Mouth: lots of grapefruit at first. Some apple skin, pepper, smoke, dried Spanish orange… Orange zest… Very nice, very compact, even if not too complex. Gets like an orange marmalade. Long finish, juts slightly watery. 87 points.  
  Bowmore 22 yo 1965 (43%, The Prestonfield, cask #47)
Colour: light amber. Nose: a big basket of tropical fruits again, with some extra tangerine and pink grapefruit. Very intense and complex at the same time. Freshly squeezed orange juice, crystallised ginger, Turkish delight, heather honey. Hints of tiger balm and burning fir wood. Just superb. Mouth: bold and very wide attack, so complex and satisfying! Lots of crystallised grapefruit and pineapple. Some smoke, some burnt cake, espresso coffee, amaretto… Bold and rich. Very long finish, on pink grapefruit and candy sugar. An absolute winner. 94 points.
Bowmore 30 yo ‘Sea dragon’ (43%, OB) Colour: light amber. Nose: tropical fruits again, but slightly oxidised ones. No so demonstrative, but still impressive – and very elegant and refined. Lots of citrus, but some apricot and melon. Whiffs of smoke, getting coastal. Mouth: quite creamy and coating, with lots of fruit liqueurs, some quince jelly, kiwi juice, lemon seeds. Some lemon zest that sort of structures the whole. Very nice bitterness. Slightly watery, but in a nice way, especially the finish. This one would have needed 3% more alcohol; it lacks just a little oomph. 91 points.  
  MUSIC - Recommended listening - I hate to write this, but here's a guy who made almost all bluesmen sound cheap - and sometimes laughable: Albert 'King of telecaster' Collins. We miss him a lot since he died ten years ago. Please have a listen to 'Too Many Dirty Dishes' (mp3). Convinced? Oh, there's also this high-energy contender to the title of 'Official Hymn of the Malt Maniacs' (mp3) that Albert composed. Great, eh? Please buy his music - I know you will.
Sorry, no updates until Thursday morning (Italy again).
 
December 12, 2004

 

TASTING - GOING WELSH!

Prince of Wales 10 yo (40%, OB, Welsh whisky, ‘Single Vatted Malt’) Ha! A single vatted malt, so funny! Fellow Malt Maniac Lex wrote the whole story of Welsh whiskies in Celtic Malts, and it’s very interesting. Anyway, let’s taste this one now.

Colour: white wine. Nose: very perfumy, with lots of lilac, chemical orange juice (Tang), kiwi, pink grapefruit, red currant, Chinese sweet sauce (the one for the dim sums). The ‘chemical’ flavours grow stronger and stronger. Lemon-flavoured cleaning powder, concentrated lemon juice. Very special, if not enjoyable. A part of it makes me think of Rosebank or Bladnoch… Mouth: surprisingly strong attack, with some wood, roasted peanuts, cold coffee, and lots of caramel, both light and burnt. Some bitter orange too, but not much else. The finish is rather short and gets somewhat bitter, with some strange offbeat perfumy notes. This one isn’t a complete catastrophe, that’s for sure, but it’s hard to give it more than 49 points.  
  Penderyn ‘Madeira Finished’(46%, OB, Single Malt Welsh Whisky) The fist malt to be distilled in Wales, according to Lex. Colour: straw with a salmony hue. Nose: starts on wood and wine, with some hints of three-star Cognac. Quite flowery (peony). Gets then quite buttery, with some milk caramel, overripe apple. Hints of vase water and old books. Again, something special. Quite weak! Mouth: what a strange attack, on burnt wood, dust and cheap rum. Gets really bitter after a moment. Some rosewater, Turkish delight, bubblegum…Hard to say it tastes like a Single Malt. Much closer to some ‘foreign’ experiments, like Guillon in Champagne or even India’s Sikkim, than to any SMSW. Short and watery finish, on melon liquor. Ouch. 45 points.
MUSIC - Highly recommended listening - coz they are really extraordinaires! Yes, Shibboleth is mastering the art of pastiche better than Pizzicato Five! Try for instance Black Onions (mp3). As somebody wrote on their website: 'This band will pin you to your chair and restyle your hair'. That's certainly true, and anyway, you must encourage them and buy their music.  
And oh, let's also listen to their wonderful early-Zappa-inspired track 'One of the Millions' (mp3). Ah, these old keyboards! There are lots of other downloadable tracks on their website, some being more experimental - try them all! These guys are really brilliant - please buy their music (yes, I know, I insist - heavily).
 
December 11, 2004
MUSIC - Enough with the music from the North! It's chilly outside, so I feel I need something mucho caliente these days... Oh, why not start with most sucessful 'Franco-Espanol activist' (LOL) Manu Chao? Like, do you know the King of the Bongo? Or Me Gustas Tu? (both mp3) Please buy Manu's music if you like it. It'll warm up your bones and refresh your mind.  
 

TASTING - TWO BRAND NEW INDIE 25 yo HIGHLAND PARKS

Highland Park 25 yo 1979/2004 (50%, Cadenhead, 214 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: lots of garden lovage, Maggi, soy sauce. Very interesting! Gets a little waxy, with some light honey and flowers (heather). Very, very nice. Mouth: satisfying and coating. Lots of fruits, pineapple, mandarin. Highly drinkable! Too bad it gets a little too tannic (Van Houten cocoa powder). 88 points, still.

Highland Park 25 yo 1979/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission IV, 750 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: very flowery, on dandelion, buttercup, and all sorts of wild flowers, including heather, no need to say. Perhaps just a little too spirity. Mouth: nicely balanced, on white fruits (pear, gooseberry) and crystallised fruits (pineapple, oranges, apricot). Long finish, getting again a little spirity. 87 points.  
  NEW BOTTLINGS - Interesting new label, this one! I'd bet this brand new Islayer by the German club - and independent bottler - 'Whiskymania' is very good, but I can't help wondering whether the stone soldier (a viking?) on the label had a sip of it... Does this malt make the teeth grow? Or is it a scary beverage? Is the soldier about to run with his tail between his legs? Does this malt bite you? What's sure, is that these Germans from Whiskymania have a good sense of humour. Congrats!
 
December 10, 2004
SPECIAL ISSUE - Whiskyfun's 15 best whisky gift ideas for Christmas 2004. Catch 'em all before it's too late!
   
Idea #1. The famous Glenfiddich 21 yo 'Wedgewood' decanter. The Whisky Exchange has it at £199 instead of £350, which was the price originally. I hope not too many collectors rushed out to buy this one when it was launched...   Idea #2. This Crown Royal gift set includes a wood cabinet and two very nice martini glasses (?!). For just USD 61.56, it's not too expensive, even if you throw the bottle away... Now, if you don't like martinis, this is not for you.   Idea #3. For £76.45, the Whisky Lovers Deluxe gift set includes only one 35cl bottle of Johnnie Black, but also loads of fudge, cheese, or marmalade. There's also a book by our fellow maniac Charlie. Great, then it's worth it!
         
   
Idea #4. The Crystal Whisky Mugs (Set of 6) come from India. For USD 74.99, they come quite cheap, even if they aren't especially suitable for sipping your favourite malt. But maybe crystal isn't suitable for drinking beer either...   Idea #5. A Scottish paperweight with a miniature single malt whisky. Interesting, these superb paperweights can make some very efficient weapons, especially when your mother-in-law disturbs you when you're having your prefered dram.   Idea #6. Superb above your chimney: the Declaration of Arbroath (no, no, this is a reprint - limited, though). For just £49.99, this is the declaration of 1320, where the Scots swear they 'will never on any conditions submit to the domination of the English'.
         
   
Idea #7. For £39.99 each, these bottles of whisky contain either a piper doll (not much room left for whisky) or a pot still, filled with barley. Then you'll have to explain to your friends that you musn't just throw some barley into a still to make whisky. Tricky.   Idea #8. There still are some French families who will never, ever pour you a whisky directly from its original bottle (that would be a shame, mon cher!) If you think they're right, you can buy one of these lead crystal whisky decanters for around 110 EUR each. No need for caramelised whiskies anymore!   Idea #9. For £54.99 each, you can choose either a pot still, or a globe with working tap and two glasses. Some interesting alien objects, supremely elegant. Beware, these are no narguilehs, so don't try to use them for smoking your favourite 'apple' tobacco.
         
   
Idea #10. They are very clever at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I mean, not always... That's good news for the glug-glug club, especially at Heathrow: they won't need to shake all suitcases to check whether there's some whisky inside anymore. Boys, just look for the SMWS luggage tags! (USD 18 for a set of two).   Idea #11. Now, this is clever: the Hangover Hamper. The set includes a bottle of bloody mary pre-mix, two miniature bottles of vodka, an ice spoon maker, a cooling eye mask, and some aromatherapy 'mood enhancers' called 'Morning After + Night Before'. Can we also have one called 'Moring Before + Night After', for heavy drammers? And the miniatures, can we have some... OK, OK...   Idea #12. Finally, something serious! Louis Vuitton à Paris can make such a special 'cave à whisky' for you. All handmade, with the best raw materials... I don't know the price, though. Maybe around 15,000 EUR? Perhaps they will even go as far as filling a decanter with some Brora, for the same price. Cool, some free Brora!
         
   
Idea #13. Tired to serve your whisky 'from the bottle'? Afraid of lead crystal? No big deal, then you can use these 'Souvenir Barrels'. But if you pour your whisky into a cask, it'll start to mature again, won't it? No, it won't. Look at the barrel's top a little closer... Yes, there is a glass bottle inside the cask. Again, clever - and yes, very elegant.   Idea #14. Dalmore is really wandering off Scotland, as their luxurious Dalmore Experience Hamper, which was 'introduced to celebrate the magnificent price of £25,8770.50 which a bottle of 62 years old made at whisky auction' (?!) does contain: two Dalmores (OK), some glasses (OK), a water jug (OK), plus some Belgian chocolate (?), some Columbian coffee (??); some havana cigars and a cutter (???) and finally Richard Paterson’s Tasting Notes (ah!). £217.38 for the whole.   Idea #15. Last but not least: the book that made us all laugh a lot this year (not for what's inside, but because they did it): 'The Definitive Guide to Vintage Macallan' - formerly known as 'The Definitive Guide to Buying Vintage Macallan', and priced at £10. The price is now only £5, and as they write on their website: 'shipping of the Guide is free to anywhere in the world'. Be quick, buy one of these, so that they can finally say: 'Good riddance!'
         
 
December 9, 2004
 

CONCERT REVIEW - JAH WOBBLE AND THE ENGLISH ROOTS BAND - 100 Club, London - December 7th, 2004 - by yotta-deluxe guest writer Nick Morgan

Few performers can have taken as culturally diverse and eclectic a musical journey as Jah Wobble (actually it's John Wardle – but apparently this was too much for the linguistic skills of the late Sid Vicious, so he became at some point in the late 1970s Jah Wobble).

And maybe this is what you have to do when you realise your own musical limitations, and those of Dub style bass lines – move rapidly through genres (and like marketeers, never hang around long enough in any one in case you get found out) and surround yourself with a succession of highly talented and obviously committed musicians.
So tonight we have Jah Wobble (“I am 45 years of age and still extremely good looking”), with all the easy humour and latent menace of an East End market trader who looks as though he’s lived life on the outside and the inside, as do much of the audience, some of whom appear to be having a Wormwood Scrubs reunion in the corner.

With Wobble is his English Roots Band, of whom singer Liz Carter and long-time collaborator, piper Jean-Pierre Rasle (yes Serge, a Frenchman playing English roots music – this European stuff is really getting out of hand !) particularly excel. And what we get for most of the evening are tunes from Wobbles last album, English Roots Music, spiced with a few older songs, notably the hit ‘Visions of you’. It’s a sort of Fairport Convention in-a-dub meets the Upsetters.  
And when it's good – it's very very good – in fact almost sublime. But when it's bad – well, you know the rest …
On the left hand side of the stage it's solid Wobble bass – he directs the band, grins, occasionally mutters at the audience in a cheeky-chappy sort of way, and carries on a sophisticated dialogue with the sound-desk (for much of the night) which comprises a single message – “Fuckin’ turn it up !!!!”. On the right a bewildering array of pipes, horns, whistles and flutes, not just for Rasle, but also Colin Bell. Guitarist Chris Cookson divides his attentions between acoustic and electric and is consistently mesmerising.
  What results are pulsating drum and bass rhythms and surprisingly subtle and well defined (when you can hear them properly – “Fuckin’ turn it up !” – or actually, maybe just turn the bass down ?) layers of guitars, pipes and voice with an almost hypnotic effect (Wobble seems to be in such a self generated trance that he fails to notice that half his audience has left with two-thirds of the gig to go). At the end the addition of a pedal steel guitar and percussionist produced what seemed like 30 minutes of largely self-indulgent jamming. Good fun with your pals in the bedroom when your mum’s out shopping, but pretty heavy going for the punters. The result is something of a curate’s egg – which is probably a pretty good reflection on Wobble’s work as a whole.
But you know – at least he tries, and is worthy of considerable respect for that. So if you’re not up on the Wobble oeuvre, then here’s a tip for a last-minute Christmas stocking filler – his just released three CD anthology, perhaps fittingly titled I could have been a contender, which at around £15 is, if you ask me, a far better investment than some dodgy independent bottling !  [censored - the editor] - Nick Morgan (photos by Kate)
Thank you, Nick. Not sure whether that Frenchman playing the pipe is an oddity or not, we have many pipers in Bretagne (wot, who said too many?). Besides, English roots music might well have been 'imported' by Guillaume le Conquérant's, I mean, William the Conqueror's bellicose mates ;-)... Anyway, I found this nice song by Jah Wobble: I Love Everybody (mp3). So do I.
 

TASTING - BLAST FROM THE PAST: TWO VERY OLD MACALLANS

Macallan 1947 (80 proof, OB, Rinaldi Bologna, bottled circa 1962) Nose: amazing, like an old leather suitcase you open for the first time since fifty years: old leather, wax, old books… Develops on beehive, cod oil, burnt cake and lots of peat and smoke. Mouth: so peaty, so complex! Bunches of tropical fruits, dried orange, pine resin. It’s almost as bold and smoky as a current 10 yo Talisker. The kind of bottle the distillery bought back, vatted and re-bottled recently to build its ‘vintage’ range. Simply stunning. 96 points. (December 12 - correction: in fact the vintage range was made only with some G&M bottlings like the one below, which means it never matured at the distillery, but in G&M's warehouses. In other words, just some G&M re-bottlings, no OB.)

Macallan-Glenlivet 36 yo 1937 (43%, G&M, Co. Import, Pinerolo)  Colour: pure gold. Nose: surprisingly smoky (Valentino Zagatti would have said ‘molto torbato’ ;-) Lots of caramel and lots of vanilla. Some very nice sherry notes, quite refined. X-mas cake, dried fruits… Too bad all that doesn’t last for too long, the nose getting somewhat weak after thirty seconds or so – but how elegant! Mouth: ah, bolder than expected. Slightly tannic… Really a classic, but it’s not too complex. Lots of cooked apples with some cinnamon and caramel, getting a little drying and bitter after a while. Medium long finish, on cocoa powder and cardboard. 80 points. Hmm, as they say in Italy: ‘for drink or for collect?’ – yes, that is the question.  
DISTILLING - Oh, I forgot to tell you that like every year, we had our 'distillation day' at home last Saturday. This year we made some pear (label above) with a new still we never rented before (but who the hell had the idea to paint it blue?) Yes, this is a potstill. We'll try to peat and distil some marc de gewurztraminer next year, and this is no joke.
  TASTING - Glen Mhor 10 yo (43%, OB for Moccia, Ferrara, bottled circa 1972) The bottle’s got the same shape as the current Isle of Juras’, and Valentino Zagatti told us it used to be his favourite dram. Colour: amber. Nose: quite peaty attack, getting a little grainy. Develops on a lot of grassy notes, with some lavender and violet. It really smells springtime, like a big bouquet of wild flowers. It needs some time to go any further, but after ten minutes, lots of dill, parsley and fennel do emerge. Very nice! Mouth: again, it’s nice and very delicate. Peppermint, herbal tea, camomile… Very nice indeed, even if not too complex. Perhaps a little feminine? 85 points (but emotionally much more).
 
December 8, 2004

TASTING - FIVE 'ITALIAN' ARDBEGS

Ardbeg 21 yo 1974/1996 (40%, Sestante) Colour: straw. Nose: a nice mixture of peat, smoke and fresh fruits at first nosing, but it gets curiously grainy, flat and weak. Very delicate, but really too restrained. Perhaps the bottle has been opened for too long. Mouth: again, slightly watery, lacking vivacity. Notes of old cardboard and smoke. The whole seems to be really tired. My rating is 78 points but please don’t take it too seriously.

 
  Ardbeg 15 yo 1989/2004 (40%, Mandibolari, 120 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: not too Ardbegish – much more Ardmorish at first nosing. But after a deep nosing some ‘veggie’ smoke, wet garden bonfire. Quite austere, not too far from some 1987 Longrows… Yes, strange to need some other distilleries’ names to describe an Ardbeg! Lots of white pepper, but it’s really too restrained and a little weak. Mouth: lots of roots, gentian eau de vie, wet earth, humus. Ha-ha! I really like this… Quite bold too, with some cooked apple, apricot jam. What a beautiful taste, but too bad the nose is a little weak… Rather long, but slightly metallic finish. 87 points (and what a great label!).
‘The Ardbeg that shouldn’t exist’ – or the lost vintage? Ardbeg 1988/2002 (40%, Mandibolari) Ardbeg wasn't active in 1988, so this one is said to be a fake. Fake vintage, that is, or just a labelling mistake? Colour: white wine. Nose: quite some grapefruit at first nosing. Somewhat like a riesling – but not ‘better’, Mr Murray. Lots of pepper and smoke coming then. Quite fresh! Fresh rubber (black, soft rubber). Hints of passion fruit and kiwi. What a nice nose! Mouth: some gentian eau de vie again, some lemon juice, pepper, old vase water, cold over infused herbal tea. The aromatic profile is great but it lacks some oomph, definitely. Would have been so lively at cask strength! 87 points.  
  Ardbeg 10 yo 1993/2003 (46%, High Spirits, 285 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh, quite clean, on liquorice and herbal tea. Hints of lemon zest and again, it gets quite farmy after a while. Mouth: nice and bold attack, on pepper, ginger and smoke. Nicely balanced. Lots of punch! Long and extremely peppery finish. A good Ardbeg, even if not amongst the ones we’ll remember forever. 84 points.
Ardbeg 9 yo 1991 (45%, Samaroli, cask #631, 444 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: farmy attack, on fermented hay. Not much else, I’m afraid. Pure and aromatically skeletal. Strange… Mouth: the attack is quite nice, but there’s not much else then. Infused straw? The extreme of Samaroli’s ‘clean’ style? Finish: rather long but simple. 80 points.
 
  MALTS - Next time you go to St Andrews, Scotland, maybe you'll feel you need a haircut. Clever promotion! I guess it's quite appealing to some student(s) ;-).
MUSIC - Recommended listening: French actress Jeanne Balibar sings 'Le Tour du Monde' (mp3) composed by Alsatian musician Rodolphe Burger (yes, it's him on the guitar). Elegant actress, daughter of a famous philosopher... no wonder she's making some elegant music. Please buy Jeanne's music if you can find it where you live.  
 
December 7, 2004

 

 

CONCERT REVIEW - JOHN OTWAY AND THE BIG BAND - The Half Moon, Putney, London - December 4th, 2004 - by zetta-deluxe guest writer Nick Morgan

The church bells were ringing when I arrived in Putney – a Triple Bob Major I think – a charming, eccentric, and very British remnant of a bygone golden age. Appropriate then that I was heading – with my mate Bob – to see John Otway; charming, eccentric, British, remnant, bygone, golden and most definitely aged.

If the 51 year old Otway didn’t exist it would be hard to imagine him, let alone invent him. And certainly far beyond the powers of the witless corporate-faced marketing and A&R guys who dominate decision making in most record companies – even the so called independents. [Editor’s note – steady on Nick - just remember what pays your pension !] Otway is one of those very British gems who gently slid through the door that Punk had kicked in so violently in the mid-seventies – think Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Siouxsie Sioux, Elvis Costello – but whose musical directions and ambitions lay elsewhere. Otway’s songs (and there are some good ones – try ‘Josephine’ off the first album) are mostly rooted in the English folk-tradition, and his performance is pure Music Hall – somewhere between the insouciant naiveté and manic surrealism of comedians such as Charlie Drake, Tommy Cooper and Eric Morecambe.
He starts the evening by somersaulting (literally) through what was – until a couple of year’s ago – his sole claim to fame – the 1977 top thirty (no. 27) hit ‘Really free’, followed by the B-side ‘Beware of the flowers’ – which for those of you who don’t know, was voted number seven in a BBC poll in 1999 for the Nations’ favourite song lyrics.

We then get Josephine, Delilah (recorded for a Weetabix advert it charted in 1995 at 187) and Otway’s new pomp-rock anthem ‘We rock’ – at which point the shirt comes off for the first time in the evening (the reason for the failure of Queen’s ‘We will rock you’, he explains, was because it had too many words in the title) and finally a fitting tribute to comedian Benny Hill, with Otway on electric fiddle.  
  The second set starts with the unlikely 2002 top-ten disco hit ‘Bunsen burner’ (with Otway on Theremin), and its B-side ‘House of the rising sun’, an Otway speciality. We get turbo-charged Rolf Harris – ‘Two little boys’, and Bachman Turner Overdrive – ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’ during which Otway lives up to the title by going through an absurd (and visibly painful) range of stunts – ending with a diving somersault from a step-ladder.
There must be easier ways of making a living, but Otway and his very tight band are clearly enjoying every minute of it – as are the audience. He’s often described as a National Treasure – but put him in a museum and I can’t imagine anyone would pay even a dollar and a half just to see him. Rock and Roll’s self-declared ‘Greatest Failure’ is a live act to be savoured. And like Rome everyone should see him at least once before they die. So if you’re ever in the UK and get the chance – go. Otherwise wait for the World Tour of 2006 – which will be funded – Otway confidently tells us, by his forthcoming No 1 hit album ……. - Nick Morgan (photos by Nick)
Thank you, Nick. I didn't know John Otway before, so I just did my homework. I guess it's all British humour, which the French will never understand... Anyway, here's Beware of The Flowers (mp3). Some other mp3s are to be found here.
TASTING - Convalmore 24 yo 1978/2003 (59.4%, Rare Malts)
Colour: straw. Nose: very special, it smells like an un-smoky Laphroaig. Very medicinal, with some bandages, cod oil, lamp petrol, tar… Some funny smells of a brand new tyre. Very special indeed. Gets slightly metallic (oxidised copper). Mouth: rich and bold, very coating. Lots of wax, eucalyptus and tar. Quite some smoke, smoked tea (Lapsang Souchong), over-infused tea. Very, very interesting – I feel Convalmore was perhaps an overlooked distillery. Anyway, this one is a love-it-or-hate-it malt, and I love it. 90 points.
 
  MUSIC - Why the hell must the best ones leave early? Kevin Coyne, a musician and painter I liked very much, passed away on Thursday. Let's just pay tribute to him and listen to the highly energetic Sugar turns Sour or to the beautiful folk song God Watches (mpga - just change to 'mp3' if you want to download the tracks). And oh, did you know that Coyne was offered Jim Morrison's job in the Doors when the latter died? Coyne turned the proposition down, because he didn't, as he wrote himself, 'fancy wearing the leather trousers'. Independence at its best.
 
December 6, 2004
 

TASTING - THREE SWINGING BOWMORES FROM THE SIXTIES (and one from the fifties)

Bowmore 32 yo 1968 ‘Anniversary Edition’ (45.5%, OB, 1860 bottles) Colour: dark straw. Nose: starts on heavy tangerine, grapefruits, ripe melon. Then you have a desert with some vanilla ice cream and all sorts of fruits, mainly freshly cut pears and apples. Great notes of old rum and banana flambéed. Fantastic! Goes on with lots of passion fruit. Whiffs of smoke… It then goes back to vanilla and fruits and doesn’t change anymore, but the fruity burst right at first nosing is stupendous. Mouth: big bold citrus (grapefruit, lemon) and passion fruit. Goes on with a ‘nice’ bitterness: grape seeds, pineapple, white pepper. Not overly complex but very big. The finish is long, but slightly bitter. In short, a fabulous nose and a good palate. 91 points.

Bowmore 36 yo 1966 (42%, Peerless, cask #3311, 158 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: a prototypical fruity Bowmore from the 60’s. Tons of loads of citrus (tangerine, pink grapefruit, kumquat). Smells like a great old riesling. Rather simple and straightforward in fact, like a mixed fruits juice – but it’s superb. A super pina colada? Amazingly little wood. Mouth: much more complex, with some funny meaty notes like ham or Grisons meat. Lots of lemon juice too, grass juice, lemon zest… Some bitterness. Getting even dry. The finish is long but slightly bitter. Some amazing parts – it’s a jigsaw Bowmore. 89 points.
 
  Bowmore 38 yo 1957 (40.1%, OB, 861 bottles) Colour: pure gold. Nose: much more complex. There sure is lots of citrus, passion fruit etc., but there’s also lots of beeswax, sea air, flowers and plants, accompanied by all their sub-aromas. Propolis, tar, shoe polish, apricot jam, ripe mirabelle, pineapple liqueur, dried figs. Then it goes back to some ‘resinous’ aromas, like old turpentine… This is just endless. What a beauty! Wait, now I have a walk in the forest under the rain. Fern, mushrooms, humus… It would have been simpler – and quicker - to write down all the aromas you can’t find in this whisky. Let’s move on...
Mouth: rather bold attack, with quite some tannins right at the start, but they are soon to get replaced by some wax, eucalyptus, old books… A little dusty and, to be honest, tired. There is almost no point in rating the palate, this malt stands just by its nose. And what a nose! 93 points.
Bowmore ‘Black’ 1964/1995 (49%, OB, final edition)
Great to taste this one after the 2nd edition we had in Paris. Colour: tobacco-greenish. Nose: big sherry, bold torrefaction, freshly sawed wood, old leather. Then some shoe polish, getting heavier and heavier. Lots of Havana tobacco and rancio (old Banyuls wine). Perhaps just a little tired. Hints of soy sauce, mocha, walnut liqueur. Very little fruit, this time – the sherry seems to have taken much more than its share. Mouth: nice attack, on some typical tropical fruits – here there are. Lots of cold tea, with some quite heavy tannins, pepper and clove. Gets spicier end spicier (‘wood’ spices, cinnamon, nutmeg). Goes on with bitter chocolate, cocoa, orange marmalade. Much less fruit jam than in the 2nd edition, but it’s still very nice, even if a little dry. Long finish, on bitter orange, the whole being finally less ‘clumsy’ than the 2nd edition. My rating is just the same: 91 points.
 
  Japan, Toshogu Shrine: 'but what are these whisky casks doing there?' asks Peter Campbell . You can check his very nice website, and please drop him a line if you have a clue... (second from left: Nikka, third: Yamazaki). Wait, could it be that the Asian monks are as 'thirsty' as the Western ones?
MUSIC - Oldies but Goldies: Jimi Hendrix plays Straight Ahead (mp3 from 'Cry of Love', posthumous, 1971). Did you ever notice how funky he was getting in his last tracks? A demonstration...  
 
December 4, 2004
Malt Maniacs Monitor light printable version: bug now fixed (see yellow column, left)
TASTING - Port Charlotte 2001/2004 (67.3%, Private Bottling, cask #286, 336 bottles) This is the first bottle of Port Charlotte I ever saw, as all what I could taste till today was cask samples. A première! Colour: white wine. Nose: wow! It really smells like an excellent Caol Ila, with something Ardbegish. Quite amazingly, it is not too spirity at first nosing, but rather very smoky and rubbery, somehow a la Port Ellen. Lots of brand new tyre aromas, new car, box of rubber bands. Some fresh and lively fruity notes arise after that smoky-rubbery blast: pear, apple, gooseberries, ripe kiwi, litchis… Some sea air too, plus some hints of wet hay and (clean) cow stable. Amazingly mature for such a young malt, it could as well have been a 10 yo . Simply flawless.  

Mouth: incredible, it is drinkable at more than 67%. Very sweet, and much less rubbery than on the nose. Hints of fruit spirit coming from the young age, I guess. Lots of apple juice, pear juice, gentian. Quite grassy too, with some perfume… Okay, after three small sips, this is finally getting too strong, and my mouth gets anaesthetised. Let’s add some water now… Great, the malt reacts beautifully after the usual one or two minutes of saponification. Lots of fruity notes developing, mostly peach. There’s just kind of a strange metallic taste coming through after a few minutes, something like copper, which makes me think of some foreshots. The finish is long and very bold, again slightly metallic – but hey, it’s only three years old (and three months). This is extremely encouraging, to say the least – and I swear I’m not partial.
90 points, mainly for the great nose.

By the way, Bruichladdich will start distilling its Islay grown barley on Monday, and will compare the result with some barley coming from three other places. They hope to stress the fact that 'Terroir' counts in whisky as it counts in wine. Hmm... Imagine it's true... What's sure, is that the barley itself counts, as we could find out when comparing some 'organic' newmake with some regular one... It was so good!

  TASTING - THREE NEW BATCHES OF GLENGOYNE

Glengoyne 17 yo (43%, OB, 2004) Here’s the latest batch. Colour: straw. Nose: rather light, somewhat restrained. Grainy and slightly oaky. Hints of vanilla and butter, not much else. Mouth: ah, nice attack, although quite oaky and sugarish, but some sour notes develop after thirty seconds. Stale wine, cider, apple juice. Gets a little bitter… Medium finish on stale beer. Well, I recall having had some much better 17 yo Glengoyne. Certainly just a batch that’s below the par, or is it me? 78 points. (PS: it may well have been me, as almost all my fellow Malt Maniacs rated this Glengoyne much higher)

Glengoyne 12 yo Cask Strength (57.2%, OB, 2004) A new bottling I already had on… Islay. Colour: light amber. Nose: quite powerful, yet not much aromatic. Grainy, with some feint hints of wine. This one needs a lot of breathing! It’s only after almost fifteen minutes that some sherry, burnt cake and bitter orange emerge. Chocolate liqueur… Quite nice, if you have the time. Mouth: very hot and powerful, almost pungent. Lots of tannins. It really tastes like a rum, with some roughness. An excellent warmer for this winter - a perfect hipflask malt! 83 points.  
  Glengoyne 19 yo 1985/2004 Summer (52.6%, OB, cask #608)
Colour: dark amber. Nose: powerful. Lots of sherry, tangerine, pink grapefruit. A very nice balance between the heavy sherry and the fresh fruits. Orange peel, caramel, peony. It gets more and more aromatic. Musk, dried lavender, even some hints of fresh parsley. It keeps developing for long, getting very toffeeish. How nice! Mouth: bold attack, on very heavy sherry. Extremely winey, tannic and woody. Cooked wine (reduced). The sherry really overwhelms the spirit here… Beware, for sherryheads only. Long, winey finish, with a pinch of salt and vinegar. I loved the nose, but the mouth is too sherried for my taste. 84 points, still. This one has pulled great results during the Malt manaics Awards 2004 operations.
NEWS - The Malt Maniacs Malt Monitor has just been updated. We now have more than 8,000 ratings representing more than 3,000 malts. The page is growing a little too fat, and Excel isn't too good at exporting huge html tables, so, I hope you can read the Monitor in good conditions. I'm considering slicing it into three 'chunks' next time, so that it's quicker to dowmload. We'll see... In any case, you also have a lighter, PDF version, which is also easier to print out. Check the 'yellow' column on the left of this page.
MUSIC - Highly recommended listening: genius pianist Dimitris Sgouros plays Liszt's Rigoletto Paraphrase (mp3 - an encore recorded live at the Sydney Opera House in 1989). Totally stunning! Dimitris Sgouros will play with the London Philharmonia conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy on December 9, 2004 - Athens Megaron Concert Hall (Greece).  
 
December 3, 2004

TASTING - FIVE CAOL ILAS (or only four?)

W&M Born on Islay 1995/2004 (43%, Wilson & Morgan, cask 655-672) Said to be Caol Ila, while some earlier versions were said to be Lagavulin. Colour: gold. Nose: gentle smoke and peat, with quite a lot of vanilla, caramel, and some fine winey notes. Some bitter orange, burning ashes, spices (clove) and some hints of freshly cut grass, tea… Very nice! Strangely Lagavulinish… Mouth: nice attack, sweet and smoky. Peat smoke, orange marmalade, pepper, apricot syrup. Fruit salad, marzipan… Yes, very nice. The finish is rather long, on bitter orange and pepper. Well done, Italy! 84 points.

Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, 2004) Colour: white wine. Nose: much cleaner and fresher, but also a little simpler than the W&M. Smoke, cooked apple, matchstick, bonfire, oatcake… A nice everyday smoky Islayer.

 
Mouth: more austere, and more compact than the W&M. Certainly smokier, with lots of white pepper, apple juice, freshly cut pear, camphor. Medium long finish, on peated malt. Not too complex, I’d say, but nicely compact and ‘pure’, whatever that means. Again, a perfect hipflask malt, worth no less than 85 points in my book.
 

Caol Ila 1994/2003 (40%, G&M for Meregali, Italy) Nose: watery but clean, pure and fresh. Quite nice! Huge whiffs of smoke but not much else, I’m afraid. Mouth: really a straight shooter. Peat, smoke, fresh water, that’s all. The finish is quite long but a little spirity and bitter. 78 points.

Caol Ila 25 yo 1979 (41.7%, Jack Wiebers Auld Distillers Collection) This one is quite rounded but smoky – ‘molto torbato’, with lots of fruits. Nice depth. The mouth is smoky and very satisfying, but gets perhaps a little too sweetish. Still a very nice old Caol Ila. 85 points.

Caol Ila 17 yo 1986/2004 (56.2%, Douglas Laing for Whiskyship 2004, 297 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: quite dusty and smoky, a little closed. Notes of old books. Mouth: extremely strong, peaty but not too much. Very rough, with lots of liquorice, roots. Long and earthy finish. 82 points.  
  MUSIC - Recommended listening: Indian born British DJ, singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer Anjali singing Lazy Lagoon or 7x8 (both mp3). Sounds like Claudine Longet singing some James Bond movie soundtracks. A world of diamonds, fur, caviar, champagne, single malts (?) and... second degree. Please buy her music if you like it.
  GIFTS - Somebody had to do it: here's an eau de toilette for men sold in Australia, called 'Whisky'. It's said to be made in France but I must admit I never saw this one anywhere here. But is it any better than just a drop of Ardbeg Provenance?  
Yes, behind the ears? Hmm, I doubt it. And wait, they also made the 'Double Whisky' perfume (right). Clever, isn't it? If you ever smelled one of these two, please drop me a line. FWP, anyone?
 
 
December 2, 2004
  MALT MANIACS AWARDS 2004 - Blow, trumpets! The results of the MM Awards have just been published. You can find the (sometimes rather remarkable) results here. There is an overview of all the 15 malts that won an award as well as the 63 (!!!) malts that won a medal; gold (3), silver (25) or Bronze (35). Oh, by the way, the overall winner out of all Award entries is the Brora 30 yo '2003' (55.7%, OB). Nah, I know what you think, but all malts have been tasted 100% blind! Vive Brora!

TASTING - TWO VERY GOOD NEW SINGLE GRAINS

Alloa Grain 40 yo 1964/2004 (42.3%, JWWW, Old Train Line, 114 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: lots of praline, roasted peanuts, candy sugar, cappuccino. Gets quite tannic (oaky), vanilla. It’s really the cask doing the job here, but it’s a great. Lots of cold coffee then, and some furniture polish. Hints of aniseed too, concentrated milk, cream. Very nice! Mouth: some nice oak, very subtle. Lots of pear drops, vanilla, light rum, dried coconut… Not overly complex but very, very enjoyable. Rather short, but slightly salty finish. Another great single grain. 87 points.
Girvan 15 yo 1989/2004 (60.4%, James McArthur, cask #110636) A brand new one! Colour: white wine. Nose: a little medicinal at first nosing, with some engine grease. Goes on with rum and vanilla (as in many single grains). Nice woody notes – a very classical single grain whisky. Mouth: ouch, quite pungent and burning, with some fructose and white rum. Lots of vanilla, peardrops… Interesting, it’s really close to a bourbon this time. That’s what I’d have said, had I tasted it blind. 84 points.

 
  TASTING - Bruichladdich 35 yo 1968 ‘Legacy III’ (40.7%, OB) This one’s made with ‘100% first-fill bourbon hogsheads’. Colour: straw. Nose: lots of soft vanilla, mullein flowers syrup, vanilla crème, mirabelle pie. Some white pepper underlining the whole. Rather delicate! Mouth: much bolder than expected. Candy sugar, herbal tea, apple skins, cooked melon. It gets just a little drying, with a finish on green tannins. The whole is very refined and elegant. 89 points.
MUSIC - Recommended listening: very interesting singer and composer Erika Luckett, from San Francisco, sings Besame (mp3 - en espanol) or the nicely bluesy Fire (mp3). She doesn't just sound the same as many young American singers who... well, almost sound the same. Please buy her music!    
 
December 1, 2004
  MUSIC - Oldies but Goldies: Cream sings 'I feel free' (mp3 from their debut album 'Fresh Cream, 1966). Picture, from left to right: Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker.

TASTING - TWO LONGROWS (including a legend)

Longrow 14 yo (46%, OB, bottled 2004) This one has been released in October, and was sherry matured, although not first-fill, I think, as the colour is white wine. Nose: farmy, on green barley, wet hay and milk. Very little smoke and peat. Nice, but not too expressive, I’d say. Mouth: very sweet and malty, and again not too smoky. Quite some pepper… Somehow like a weaker Talisker. 82 points.

 
  Longrow 25 yo 1974 (46%, OB, blue box) A true legend! Colour: light straw. Nose: very pure peat, extremely clean, getting even peatier with time. Medicinal, bandages, paraffin, old turpentine, fusel oil… Wow! It then gets a little grassy (fern, freshly cut parsley), and always quite sharp - superbly. Goes on with all sorts of fresh fruits – superb. Mouth: bold and punchy, with some great smoke and peat, quite clean again and much more delicate than expected. Not a smack in your face peat monster at all, although there’s lots of peat in here. In short, a superb balance. It gets more and more maritime after a few minutes, with some oyster juice, sea fruits… And it’s so young! A great, great malt. 93 points.

November 2004 - part 2 <--- December 2004 - part 1 ---> December 2004 - part 2
     


C
heck the index of all entries:
Whisky
Music
Nick's Concert Reviews
 

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Bowmore 22 yo 1965 (43%, The Prestonfield, cask #47)

Bowmore 30 yo ‘Sea dragon’ (43%, OB)

Bowmore ‘Black’ 1964/1995 (49%, OB, final edition)

Bowmore 32 yo 1968 ‘Anniversary Edition’ (45.5%, OB, 1860 bottles)

Bowmore 38 yo 1957 (40.1%, OB, 861 bottles)

Convalmore 24 yo 1978/2003 (59.4%, Rare Malts)

Longrow 25 yo 1974 (46%, OB, blue box)

Macallan 1947 (80 proof, OB, Rinaldi Bologna, bottled circa 1962)

Port Charlotte 2001/2004 (67.3%, Private Bottling, cask #286, 336 bottles)