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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2019 - Part 1

       

July 2019 - part 2 <--- August 2019 - part 1 ---> August 2019 - part 2

 

 

August 14, 2019


Whiskyfun

Going East and heavy

With just three or four heavy whiskies from Asian countries. Not that that makes much sense, but this is August, and August in France never makes much sense anyway…

Paul John 6 yo 2011/2018 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, India, 564 bottles)

Paul John 6 yo 2011/2018 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, India, 564 bottles) Three stars and a half
A vatting of peated and unpeated Paul John, from five different casks. It’s really remarkable that after having produced massive amounts of junk or fake whiskies for decades and decades, India have recently granted us with two, if not three excellent makers of world-class malt whisky. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s really funny, and mostly on eucalyptus wood at first nosing. This could work in a sauna! But it evolves, with some ginseng, resinous woods, camphor, custard, and some kinds of smoked red fruits. Vicks Vaporub, more burning woods (thuja, fir, cherry tree, juniper wood…) With water: lovely touches of tobacco merge from the spicy wood. Mouth (neat): it’s hugely extractive. Some spicy cake, speculoos, more juniper, heavy liquorice, menthol drops, toothpaste, lavender oil, cloves, cinnamon, more eucalyptus… With water: gets a tad sour, which is normal with all this oak. Russian tea, caraway, more juniper… Finish: very long, mentholy, liquoricy, and with quite some aniseed in the aftertaste. Salty retsina. Comments: phew, quite an experience. It's very heavy on the wood, but we’ve avoided the usual cinnamon/vanilla/ginger combo. Intriguing and even spectacular.
SGP:474 - 84 points.

Karuizawa ‘Ambassador’s Collection’ (59.1%, Elixir Distillers for The Ben, sherry, 2 bottles)

Karuizawa ‘Ambassador’s Collection’ (59.1%, Elixir Distillers for The Ben, sherry, 2 bottles) Five stars
One of the two bottles will be auctioned between the 18th and the 27th of August, amongst other rare spirits donated by the industry for The Ben, a charity that helps struggling drinks professionals in Scotland. This is, of course, an important cause! This very bottle is a vatting of some of the remaining casks of Karuizawa, from a 1972 to a 1999. Colour: amber. Nose: well, there are similarities, especially this pretty extractive side that’s very Karuizawa. But even if there is some menthol and camphor here, for sure, there are also bags and bags of dried fruits, from the usual figs and dates to bananas and pears, as well as some fudge and liquorice. With water: I have the impression that the older vintages tend to dominate this composition, which is great news. There’s this very typical sulphur-that’s-not-quite-sulphury, for example, some patchouli, mint cordial, chen-pi, old artichoke liqueur, moist pipe tobacco, cherry jam, pine ashes… How very ‘K’! Mouth (neat): some kind of rather fantastic chocolate, filled with mint and pinesap cream as well as fruit ganaches. Rather pineapples, I would say. With water: exceptional. Liquorice, fudge, mint, plums, marmalade, and a maelstrom of tinier flavours. As often, it’s the complexity that’s also striking with Karuizawa. Double effect! Finish: long, still marvellously thick and rich. Nutshell: liquorice and plum jam. Comments: to whomever buys this bottle, congratulations! I’m not sure anyone’s ever going to open it, but just like with an old Bugatti that nobody would ever dare driving, ‘now you know that there is some potential inside’. Thank you Elixir!
SGP:662 - 93 points.

Good, another extractive one… Perhaps a Kavalan?

Kavalan 2013/2018 ‘Solist’ (59.4%, OB, Taiwan, for Pangu, Vinho Barriques, cask #W131002018A, 221 bottles)

Kavalan 2013/2018 ‘Solist’ (59.4%, OB, Taiwan, for Pangu, Vinho Barriques, cask #W131002018A, 221 bottles) Four stars
I believe it’s the first 2013 I’m trying. Let’s see if we find the typical and pretty extractive indeed Jim-Swan style… Colour: apricot. Nose: red berries in whisky are always a bad sign, just not in  this case. Tiny touches of pomegranates and cranberries, for example, or prickly pears… But the core is more on coconut water, ripe mangos and papayas, banana cake, and rather a lot of self-restrained sultanas. In short, it’s not very vinous so far. With water: oak comes out. Sawn planks. Mouth (neat): another one that’s rich and thick, creamy, and almost liqueury. Banana liqueur, for example, that’s cool but I’m not sure this is not a tad ‘too much’.  Same with coconut liqueur. The soft ginger notes in the background work well. With water: calms down a bit on the fruity front, but it's the oak that’s getting big again. Ginger liqueur, pepper liqueur, cinnamon mints, caraway… Bananas flambéed as well. It’s really rich! Finish: long, spicy and sweet. The Taiwanese version of a proper fruitcake, I would say. Comments: we’ve been bordering stuffiness at times, but it behaved in the end. So a bit rough and tough after the Karuizawa, perhaps.
SGP:751 – 86 points.
 

August 13, 2019


Whiskyfun

Grainy extras, new Cameronbridge
and compadres

We were just done with our grains when some new ones came in. Let’s not quit while we're on a roll…

Cameronbridge 26 yo 1992/2019 (46.4%, Elixir Distillers, Whisky Trail, 145 bottles)

Cameronbridge 26 yo 1992/2019 (46.4%, Elixir Distillers, Whisky Trail, 145 bottles) Two stars and a half
Some kind of well-aged Haig Club, if you like, except that it wasn’t put into a bottle of aftershave lotion. Colour: deep gold. Nose: warm sawdust, vanilla, praline, shortbread, butterscotch, peach leaves, green pepper, and notes of sour tea. Please pass the yak butter… Mouth: seriously! Some kind of coffee-ish Canadian whisky, with some toffee and always this tea-ish greenness. Nescafé. They have a newish caramel and macadamia cappuccino that’s supposed to be ‘a pure moment of gluttony’. Don’t we hang on Nestlé’s every word? Finish: a little short, more on butterscotch and instant coffee. Comments: indeed, some kind of extra-matured Haig Club finished in some ex-coffee barrels. Good but not quite my cup of espresso, but it's a very intriguing whisky, try it! S
GP:460 - 78 points.

Cameronbridge 34 yo 1984/2019 (52.8%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon barrel, 222 bottles)

Cameronbridge 34 yo 1984/2019 (52.8%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon barrel, 222 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a grassier one, more austere, more on leaves and broken branches, without much varnish or eau-de-vie-ish notes. Perhaps a little strawberry yoghurt? Vodka-Red Bull? Buttercream? With water: the plywood department at Home Depot’s. Someone’s chewing bubblegum. Mouth (neat): not a bad grain, it’s even got a little depth and a wee earthiness. But as always with silent distillates, the cask’s previous content may have had a huge influence. Perhaps was it a 25 years old Malt Mill? With water: once again, these touches of earth. No one would ever dare putting gentian eau-de-vie in wood, otherwise I’d have asked, ex-gentian casks? P.S. I’ve checked, some crazy Swiss do put gentian into oak! What a scandal… Finish: medium, sweeter. Beetroots. Comments: I’m trying to be kind.
SGP:550 - 79 points.

Let’s go back to those magical years…

Ronnie’s Dram 1964/1994 (43%, Signatory Vintage)

Ronnie’s Dram 1964/1994 (43%, Signatory Vintage) Three stars
Well, it’s a little unclear where this little dram came from. The label mentions Fort Williams, so it could be Ben Nevis grain, but other sources mention either Carsebridge or Cameronbridge. I suppose Ronnie should know… Colour: white wine. Nose: much less cask influence in this one, so more grass, sand, and some ultra-light honey. Almost evanescent. Mouth: ah, wait, some action here, with a little smoke, almost peat, some waxes, touches of OBE, something pleasantly metallic, but also a little aluminium and liquorice. Nice waxiness and a feeling of malt. Finish: medium, really pleasant, with an earthy smokiness. Comments: a nice old grain that’s probably met some malt whisky in its life. What was it, exactly?
SGP:362 - 82 points.

It's always good to end a grain session with some ripe old Invergordon…

Invergordon 44 yo 1974/2019 (47.6%, Elixir Distillers, Whisky Trail jazz series, hogshead, cask #0038, 188 bottles)

Invergordon 44 yo 1974/2019 (47.6%, Elixir Distillers, Whisky Trail jazz series, hogshead, cask #0038, 188 bottles) Four stars
Looks like it’s Thelonious Monk on the label, am I not right? Good choice, pure genius. Colour: gold. Nose: why is it that Invergordon always wins? Cassata, panettone, mocha, Irish coffee, honey-coated roasted pecans, milk chocolate, a touch of garden earth… Not quite a wonder yet – which almost never happens on the nose with grain whiskies anyway – but this is promising, let’s see… Mouth: I’m starting to wonder if they weren’t having a small pot still at Invergordon, Midleton-style. This is very good, if not utterly stellar, rather on coffee again, chocolate, coffee-flavoured fudge, triple-sec… Now it wouldn’t unfold much further, but all this is really good and I know fine folks who would even sip this. Sipping grain whisky, imagine! Finish: loses some of its focus and starts to display some ethanoly edges, but we don’t sip grain for its finish, do we. Comments: not all parts are first-class, but it’s really a very fine old Invergordon. One extra-point for Monk (I’m joking).
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Twelve grains within two days! I may deserve some malt, stay tuned…

(Thank you Phil!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all grains we've tasted so far

 

August 12, 2019


Whiskyfun

Ethanol, aged (joking...)

A little grain from time to time can do no harm, as they now say in D.C. And don’t you think there’s around two zillion times more single grain these days than there used to twenty years ago? Let’s see what we have, more or less at random…

Girvan 11 yo 2007/2019 (64.4%, Dramfool, ex-bourbon finished in a Lagavulin sherry octave, 64 bottles)

Girvan 11 yo 2007/2019 (64.4%, Dramfool, ex-bourbon finished in a Lagavulin sherry octave, 64 bottles) Two stars
What? More crazy stuff by the Dramfool gang, I suppose this would get anyone tight as a boiled owl in no time. Colour: straw. Nose: extremely brutal. Nail polish, pear eau-de-vie and bubblegum everywhere, then whiffs of super-hot brake pad. A man’s drink, apparently. With water: huge vanillin and some kind of smoky curry plus koshian (Japanese red bean paste). Mouth (neat): who’s been smoking strawberry liqueur and liquid glue while we weren’t watching? Very warming, shall we say a tad euphemistically. With water: and now rose jelly and tinned sardines, plus some bilberry jelly. Stuff for El Bulli or other mad cooks. Finish: more smoked strawberries and vanilla, and always this varnish. Rather soapy aftertaste. Comments: quite loco and pretty un-scorable.
SGP:725 - 75 points.

Girvan 11 yo 2007/2019 (65.1%, Dramfool, bourbon, 162 bottles)

Girvan 11 yo 2007/2019 (65.1%, Dramfool, bourbon, 162 bottles) Two stars and a half
This ought to be the un-Lagavulinised counterpart. Colour: white wine. Nose: should work well in case of clogged nose. Ikea, corn syrup, new plywood, UHU glue… I suppose water may be needed… With water: some classic shortbread, vanilla, butterscotch and sawdust coming out, while the more chemical side is gone. Mouth (neat): candyfloss, nail polish, lime juice, then vanilla and grass. Cleans your teeth after having unclogged your nose, this should be any doctor’s favourite when unreduced (the whisky, not the doctor). With water: pretty good now, creamy, fruity, with nods to the better Canadian whiskies. Finish: not too long, as all grain whiskies are. Clear syrups and a touch of lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: really fine given its pedigree and scores I've given to other very young Girvans in the past. . Possibly also useable as biofuel -ha.
SGP:541 - 79 points.

Enough already! Let’s rather tackle some older biofu… I mean grain whiskies…

Cameronbridge 21 yo 1997/2019 (54.4%, James Eadie, cask #75792, 265 bottles)

Cameronbridge 21 yo 1997/2019 (54.4%, James Eadie, cask #75792, 265 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: raw alcohol, vanilla, varnish, coconut, corn syrup. With water: same plus a little grass and brioche. Mouth (neat): vanilla, melon sherbet, coconut water, icing sugar, candyfloss. With water: good now, with some marzipan and crushed hazelnuts, halva, macadamia nuts… Finish: medium, rather fine, with notes of sunflower and rapeseed oils. Comments: a fine young grain. Young grains, even when fine, never score too high in my book, so take this is as ‘relatively recommended when there’s no malt around’. And no good blends either.
SGP:641 - 78 points.

Older please…

Port Dundas 30 yo 1988/2019 (51.3%, Cadenhead, single cask, hogshead)

Port Dundas 30 yo 1988/2019 (51.3%, Cadenhead, single cask, hogshead) Three stars
Port Dundas, a seminal grain for sure. I suppose we’re starting to talk at 30 years of age… Colour: straw. Nose: there are a few little tertiary notes indeed, not just a vanilla-ed mumbo-jumbo composition. Marzipan and cigarettes, asparagus, grasses, pistachios, ale. With water: ideas of tequila and echoes of damp moss and mushrooms. More complex than your average kero… grain whisky, for sure. Mouth (neat): this is pretty good. Some kind of orange, apple and melon liqueur, fifty-fifty-fifty. Always been good at math. With water: maple syrup, almond croissants, biscuits, turon, some grassiness in the background. It needed that. Finish: medium, with a little more coconut but it’s all fine. No killing Malibu. A metallic touch in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s still totally grain whisky but it’s got that extra-thing that evokes malt whisky.
SGP:641 – 82 points.

Caledonian 28 yo 1987/2016 (52.6% Kirsch Import, hogshead, cask #23883)

Caledonian 28 yo 1987/2016 (52.6% Kirsch Import, hogshead, cask #23883) Four stars and a half
One of the very last vintages since UDV (now Diageo) closed Caledonian a.k.a. The Cally in 1988. Colour: straw. Nose: classic middle-aged grain whisky, with vanilla, coconut, biscuits, and ripe apples, then a little cardboard and Jell-O. With water: these touches of earth that often come with reduction, otherwise not much else. Fine. Or perhaps hints of old copper? Stills? Mouth (neat): ah but this is good! Tastes like some south-of-Rhône white, Marsanne and roussanne and those things… Even grenache blanc, I would say. White Châteauneuf, distilled and re-aged in oak. With water: really, this is singular and very good. So, driving from Syke in Germany to Avignon in France, buying a few casks of white Châteauneuf-du-Pape,  bringing them back to Germany, having them distilled, then filled into an ex-Caledonian hoggie, well, it was worth it! I find this really excellent, almonds, oranges, bilberries and elderberries, bananas… Finish: rather long, and still on fine de Châteauneuf blanc. I doubt they could get some of that brilliant rare white Rayas Blanc, but who knows? Comments: I’m not joking, roussanne and marsanne.
SGP:641 – 88 points.

Invergordon 31 yo 1987/2019 (63.2%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead, 190 bottles)

Invergordon 31 yo 1987/2019 (63.2%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead, 190 bottles) Three stars and a half
I had first read ’68.2%’ but no, that’s only 63.2, we’re totally safe. You band of assassins! Colour: straw. Nose: it’s still young, but we’re getting there. Some menthol from the cask, otherwise glues, scotch tape, washer fluid, grass, and drops of coconut liqueur. No, not as awful as it sounds. With water: straighter, grassier and earthier. All good things. Humus. Mouth (neat): notes of high-column rum, Bacardi-style, limoncello… It’s not that deadly, apparently (we’ll see if I’m back tomorrow). With water: ah? This is pretty nice, with oranges, mint, honey and olive oil, so a perfect combination. Not the first time we’re noticing Invergordon’s in a different cluster as far as grain whiskies are concerned. Finish: medium, good, almondy, with nice citrus and even touches of camphor. Comments: rather grain for malt drinkers, shall we say. The spirit remains a little thin, as always, but the rest is really very nice.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Invergordon 46 yo 1972/2018 (49.9%, The Finest Malts, City Landmarks, bourbon barrel, cask #32)

Invergordon 46 yo 1972/2018 (49.9%, The Finest Malts, City Landmarks, bourbon barrel, cask #32) Four stars and a half
Are you allowed to call yourself The Finest Malts and then bottle some grain whisky? Well, after all they also call McDonald’s ‘restaurants’… (S., why don’t you just drop your two-pence jokes for good?) Colour: gold. Nose: good, we all know that these really old Invergordons are the best grain whiskies available to man (including bourbon) and this seems to be just another example. Macaroons, olive oil, marzipan, grape pip oil, miso, camphor (touches), old chardonnay, damp magazines, vegetable bouillons… Indeed, we’re almost in malty territories, btw, looks like we haven’t even mentioned vanilla! Mouth: extra-good, just the inherent thinness does prevent it from reaching the heights (which some 1960s ‘gordons may sometimes do). Many cakes and oils, more old white wines, walnuts, perhaps a touch of cardboard… It’s really good that this baby did not go into some pricy blends (and a shame that some others that we just had did not either). Finish: medium, rather sweet and sour, in a good way. Banana wine. Comments: a complex old grain that you could almost drink with food, like a wine. Say with bouillabaisse?
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Time for a last grain (to Memphis – diving to the lowest lows S.)..

Lowland Grain 1964/2016 (48.9%, Whisky-Doris, Nose Art, 15th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #10, 253 bottles)

Lowland Grain 1964/2016 (48.9%, Whisky-Doris, Nose Art, 15th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #10, 253 bottles) Five stars
If they cannot say what it is, it ought to be Girvan. Colour: gold. Nose: something else, rather in the same category as some well-aged Belgian trappists. Wonderful mangos, yeasty bread, pumpernickel, mead, hay, broom, tobacco, raisins, glutamate, morels, heather honey, earth (garden peat)… It is a fantastic nose, we’re extremely far from those soulless empty grain whiskies that are roaming whiskydom these days. Mouth: clearly one of the best grains I’ve ever tried. We’re on thick Belgian beer again, ale, mead, rather chestnut honey this time, rhum agricole, ripe pineapple, candy sugar, asparagus soup, cigar... Sure it tends to get a tad too woody, but even men get woody after 50 years. No, not girlz. Finish: medium, a wee bit bitter. Crystallised grapefruit in the aftertaste. Comments: the nose was utterly perfect and in Premier League, whilst the palate was rather in First division yet rather excellent. Extremely well selected, Doris and compadres.
SGP4561: - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all grains we've tasted so far

 

August 11, 2019


Whiskyfun

Another wee bunch of Jamaicans

Didn’t we say we’d have more? We’ve got a good few Worthy Parks, for example, such as this little white…

Worthy Park ‘Forsyths White’ (57%, Habitation Velier, Jamaica, 2017)

Worthy Park ‘Forsyths White’ (57%, Habitation Velier, Jamaica, 2017) Four stars
Forsyths, of Scotland, are the makers of the double-retort pot still used here, while the level of esters is of 597 g/hlpa, which is high but not dementedly so. Colour: white. Nose: it’s not that you’re getting the molasses, but it does have notes of sucrose beyond the huge piles new Wellies and tyres. Other than that, you’ll find the usual fermenting bananas as well as wee whiffs of rosewater. Which, I suppose, would go away after just a few months in wood. With water: more new tyres, more lime, more olives, less rosewater (that was quick!) Mouth (neat): reminds you that rum is extremely different from whisky, in the sense that all flavours are there in the first place, which makes aging in wood just an additional process, and not an essential one. Unless we’re talking industrial high-column rum, naturally. Kirsch and Williams pears, sugar syrup, limoncello, then the expected olives, tar, rubber and liquorice. With water: improves. Bright and millimetric (take that BoJo) sardine-y, lemony, and with a lot of brine. And olives, and even gin. Finish: rather long, but once you’ve found notes of gin, you cannot get those out of your head. So, gin, sugar. Comments: seriously, this is seriously good white rum, rather high precision.
SGP:652 - 86 points.

Let’s try just the opposite, for fun…

Black Jack (no ABV statement, OB, Jamaica, USA, +/-1950)

Black Jack (no ABV statement, OB, Jamaica, USA, +/-1950)
Some very old Jamaican, most probably a blend, bottled for a Yorkville Liquor Co., Third avenue 79th Street, New York. Colour: pale gold. Nose: someone may have toyed with this little baby, as it noses much sweeter and rounder than your usual Jamaican (even than young Appleton). I’m getting really a lot of coconut liqueur and water, for example, really a lot, as well as some hand cream and ‘humble’ moisturizers. Careful now… Mouth: it’s good, but it hasn’t got much Jamaicanness, while it could have come from just any island. Loads of coconut once again, syrups, cane sugar, caramel… It’s getting a little cloying, to tell you the truth. Clearly ‘arranged’ rum, but within that category, it’s doing rather well. Finish: long, but that’s the ethanol and the sugar. Comments: not all Jamaicans have always been sugar-free, but the ‘preparations’ may have happened at any stage of production or… shipping/warehousing.
SGP:820 - 65 points.

Jamaica Rum 13 yo 2005/2018 (53%, Cave Guildive, 248 bottles)

Jamaica Rum 13 yo 2005/2018 (53%, Cave Guildive, 248 bottles) Three stars and a half
They wouldn’t tell you from where it stemmed, but the marque here was ‘JMWP’, which clearly means Worthy Park. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s not your average high-voltage Worthy Park, but it’s got a marvellous medicinal and nutty start, full of pine needles, camphor, eucalyptus, oak extracts, bitter almonds, and crushed bananas. Goes on with more pine/fir notes and the kind of tropical cakes that you would find in some agricoles. The whole is just perfect. With water: some soap, loads of paraffin, some green tannins, let’s wait… zzz… Well, it’s getting a little plankish I’m afraid, but nothing too serious. Mouth (neat): a tad too extractive, perhaps, too sweet as well (strawberry liqueur, guignolet), but the spices are perfect, between cinnamon, nutmeg and sweet curry. The oak feels a wee bit, but it should be a good swimmer. With water: it is a good swimmer. More brine, olives and anchovies, while the oak’s spices have got earthier. Always a good sign. Finish: long, even more ‘pot still’, so more on olive brine, to cut a long story short. Comments: many ups and some downs here. A bit between two worlds, but quality’s very high.
SGP:462 - 84 points.

WP Jamaica 13 yo 2005/2018 (55.3%, Valinch & Mallet, cask #18-1302R, 256 bottles)

WP Jamaica 13 yo 2005/2018 (55.3%, Valinch & Mallet, cask #18-1302R, 256 bottles) Three stars and a half
WP, what could that be? I tell you, one day some good folks will label this elusive make ‘Porky Wrath’ or something. Happened in whisky, will happen in rum. Sure, be my guest. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re rather on fruit peelings this time, old pears, then tobacco and camphor, a welcome touch of vinegar, brine, and a rising orange-blossomness. It is not high-ester ‘WP’. With water: earth, warm cakes, toffee, sawn pinewood. Hints of Bovril or Viandox too, that’s nice! Mouth (neat): creamy, and with the same kind of soapiness as in the Guildive. Not quite soap, but not quite wax either. Water should help once more… With water: rather rubber, which is not unseen in some batches of WP. Otherwise, it’s brine and olives once more. Finish: long, gritty, brine-y. Comments: it appears that these batches of 2005 are a little ‘different’. They may have changed something to the processes, but it’s not nearly as bad as in 1980s Bowmore. See what I mean? Anyway, very good WP, as expected.
SGP:462 - 84 points.

Perhaps an OB?...

Worthy Park ‘Marsala Cask Finish 2012’ (60%, OB, Jamaica, double matured, 319 bottles, +/-2018)

Worthy Park ‘Marsala Cask Finish 2012’ (60%, OB, Jamaica, double matured, 319 bottles, +/-2018) Two stars
I think we tried another Marsala-ed Worthy Park before and it was OK, but purists will wonder, ‘why Marsala?’ What’s the real difference between saucing-up your rum as many brands do, and using any ex-wine casks you may find to do a finishing? Isn’t that all premixing anyway? Colour: deep gold. Nose: of course you feel it, and of course the very essence of the original distillate was altered. Raisins, walnut wine and used matches, is that really an asset to a rock-solid Worthy Park? Whacky stuff. With water: no! More sulphur coming out. Mouth (neat): much better, because the distillate took over, that is all. Lemons, salt, brine, tarmac, and only a little wine, phew! With water: yes, same. Still a few raisins flying around, but the esters are watching (?) Finish: long, but harder again, green, bitter, sulphury, deviant. Comments: people are often wondering if rum is going the whisky way these days. I think they should not, and that while some whiskies aren’t flavourful enough (or too flawed) to stand on their own feet and so need additional wine and/or wood, that just cannot happen with Worthy Park, Bielle, Hampden, Neisson, Foursquare, Bellevue and a few other names. Finishings equal bad signals, I would definitely ban Marsala, Zinfandel, Barolo, Bordeaux, Chardonnay, or whatever unnecessary mashups they could come up with. And my, the sulphur on the nose!
SGP:652 - 75 points.

Reminds me of one of Glenfarclas’s mottos, ‘We don’t finish our whiskies, but you can.’

(Merci Hubert)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far

 

August 10, 2019


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent and guest taster Angus MacRaild

 

 

Three New Bruichladdich Plus Sparring Partner Angus  
There is a trio of new Bruichladdich among us and I’m quite intrigued as it’s all stuff from the more serious end of the distillery’s spectrum. That is to say: ingredient, process and distillate focussed. And - mostly - geared around no-nonsense, full term bourbon maturation without excessive use of unlikely wine casks. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of these Bere/Organic/Islay Barley things in the past and I’m always keen to see how these stocks - and ideas - are progressing.

 

There is much chatter about Bruichladdich’s experiments and their co-opting of the language of terroir. Many voices remain sceptical, which is perfectly fair. What I will say is that in my view their language has been well matched by the extent of their efforts and those efforts are authentic and meaningful. You don’t buy a croft and build a maltings only as a marketing stunt. Their focus on barley is extremely refreshing and, if you take some time to speak to Bruichladdich’s distillers and farmers, you can see it goes more than soil deep. I don’t agree with everything they do, but I love that they seem to have agreed a safe word and stepped outside the vanilla zone into the awkward leathery darkness of uncertainty and fun! Anyway, let’s try these new ones and then find a suitable sparring partner to finish.

 

 

Bruichladdich 6 yo 2011/2019 ‘Islay Barley’ (50%, OB, 75% ex-bourbon American oak and 25% ex-wine European oak)

Bruichladdich 6 yo 2011/2019 ‘Islay Barley’ (50%, OB, 75% ex-bourbon American oak and 25% ex-wine European oak)
The barley for this one was grown in 2010 at Coull, Rockside, Island, Mulindry, Starchmill and Cruach farms. Colour: pale straw. Nose: there is a definite yeasty quality that belies the youthfulness. Although, it is undeniably clean and focused on sourdough, rye bread, moss, cut grass, damp ferns and other greenery. Things like toasted pumpkin seeds, olive oil, new leather, oily rags and hints of coal and hessian. Feels rather fatty and gives the impression of an almost gloopy texture awaiting you - something I’m always delighted to find in whisky. Over time it develops more towards chalk, lemongrass, plain cereals and fresh fabrics. With water: a more obvious fruitiness now. Hints of melon, (hello Bruichladdich!) bubblegum and cider apple. Getting slightly farmy and quite a bit more bready and autolytic which is great. Mouth: there’s a richness and kind of gingery spiciness on arrival that feels like it derives from the European oak but there’s no jarring wine quality which is good news in my wee book. Instead we’re very much doubling down on that rye-esque spiciness of the nose. Some green pepper, dried thyme, lemon barley water and rapeseed oil. Very grassy and punchy now but it really is quite impressive for the age; that initial yeasty note feels suddenly quite distant. With water: melon again, along with green banana, cornflour and an elevated salinity and mineral aspect. Finish: rather long and with a nice earthy / cereal mix. Hints of quinine, lemon and spiced herbal teas. Comments: When you speak to farmers on Islay about growing barley, it can be fascinating to see the differences between there and the more common growing areas of the mainland. There are environmental challenges that deliver lower crop yields and less efficient barley. Which in turn has a notable impact on process during production. I’m always happy to try these kinds of bottlings as you really feel that there is character here in abundance. I’d add that that character feels quite different to what I’d consider ‘classical’ Bruichladdich. But when has Scotch Whisky been a static entity? If Scotch Whisky has a future, quality must be king in my view. A few more years and these stocks will be pretty serious hitters I think.
SGP: 561 - 87 points.

 

 

Bruichladdich 8 yo 2010/2019 ‘The Organic’ (50%, OB, ex-bourbon American oak)

Bruichladdich 8 yo 2010/2019 ‘The Organic’ (50%, OB, ex-bourbon American oak)
This one was distilled entirely from a 2009 crop of organically certified barley grown at Mid Coul farms in Inverness. Colour: white wine. Nose: salty butter and freshly chopped herbs such as parsely and chives at first. Some sunflower oil, fresh linens, pebbles and touches of paint and canvas. Super clean and impeccably fresh with a kind of lemony spritz about it. With water: the freshness is elevated further. Lots more fresh cereals, fabrics, putty, chalk, trail mix, baking powder, lemon peel and some very light touches of medicine and cut grass. Mouth: the freshness of the nose is perfectly matched but there’s a greater sense of syrupiness on arrival in the mouth. Where the nose gave the impression of lightness and airiness, here it’s more creamy, lightly earthy, peppery and texturally assertive. Clover, mint jelly, lemon balm, some light waxiness, creamy vanilla and touches of candy floss. Very enjoyable and possessing an apparent maturity beyond its years. With water: pink lemonade, pine resin, carbon paper and the impression of some rather dense and sticky flapjack. Finish: good length, all on mineral water with orange vitamin tablets, white pepper, grassy olive oil and gorse. A little coconut water in the aftertaste. Comments: When people ask me for examples of ‘good’ modern whiskies I can’t help but point to these Bruichladdichs. This combination of cleanliness, freshness and distillate character works extremely well and I love that they are making genuine efforts with the ingredients and not just the casks. While at the same time paying far less heed to such death-knell dogma as ‘efficiency’ and ‘yield’. Once again: these stocks at 10-12 years will comfortably be 90 point material I suspect. Only thing I’d add is that I’m not so sure this one really needs water.
SGP: 651 - 88 points. 

 

 

Bruichladdich 8 yo 2010/2019 ‘Bere Barley’ (50%, OB, ex-bourbon American oak)

Bruichladdich 8 yo 2010/2019 ‘Bere Barley’ (50%, OB, ex-bourbon American oak)
Distilled entirely from a 2009 batch of Bere barley grown on Orkney. Bere is an ancient, six-row varietal of barley that has been cultivated in Scotland since at least the 8th century. It’s notoriously difficult to work with in distilleries compared to more contemporary varietals, generally leading to porridge-like mashes and far lower yields. However, results at Arran and Bruichladdich so far suggest it makes a pretty characterful whisky... Colour: straw. Nose: quite a profound divergence from the previous two. This is going up another level again in terms of texture and fattiness. There’s also more green fruits - gooseberry, apple, green banana - and more sweetness in the form of honey and golden syrup. Wee touches of camphor, mint tea, eucalyptus, hessian, dusty malt bins and yellow flowers. I really love this profile - big, generous, complex and sinewy. With water: oily, sooty, esters, citrus pith, lightly carbolic, sheep wool, earth and increasingly coastal with things like sandalwood and seashells. Mouth: that’s the thing about Bere - it’s just so different. There are aspects here which nod towards world whiskies such as this really punchy, bready spiciness like pumpernickel. But there’s other aspects too. Coal dust, hessian, olive oil, grass, nutmeg, lime pith, waxed canvas and various scattered mineral qualities. I find it both highly entertaining and pleasurable. With water: pah! Superb complexity. Oily, estery fruits, autolytic, spicy, camphor and farmhouse cider with some more canvas, gorse and saline minerals. Finish: long, lemony, salty, slightly waxy and mineral. Comments: Who was it that said barley varieties don’t make a difference...?
SGP: 662 - 90 points!

 

 

Right, let’s have something slightly different that may give that terrific Bere Barley a run for its grist...

 

 

Bruichladdich 16 yo 2002/2019 (60.9%, Archives, cask #R07/143, first fill sherry hogshead, 230 bottles)

Bruichladdich 16 yo 2002/2019 (60.9%, Archives, cask #R07/143, first fill sherry hogshead, 230 bottles)
This from our great pals at Whiskybase. Will you be at their excellent Gathering festival in Rotterdam in October? If so then come find me and say hello. Serge has promised a few bottles of 1972 Brora for free pouring on my stand... Colour: deep amber. Nose: ooft! An usual profile that is simultaneously full of nervous, clean sherry, briny salinity and medical embrocations. Also lots of salted almonds, Maggi, tar, toasted walnuts, marmite and some kind of mix of espresso and seawater. Extremely potent and punchy stuff! With water: lots of soy sauce, more Maggi, black olives, cough mixtures, herbal bitters, balsamic and some pretty bitter chocolate. Mouth: if you blended tar, leather, black coffee, cola syrup, root beer and cherry cough medicine you might get some kind of mind-expanding smoothie that would resemble this. Despite all this medical potency and seashore bluster, the sherry remains pin sharp and clean throughout. Very impressive stuff! Some grizzly notes of black pepper, cured game meats and yet more tar! With water: beef stock based ramen with some chilli flakes, lots of sea salt, earthy black teas, salted liquorice and things like smoked paprika and jasmine. Finish: long, extremely meaty, herbal, sooty, camphory and medical. Comments: A world of difference from the Bere Barley; same quality! It’s to be wondered if this wasn’t from some of those lightly peated early batches distilled by the new ownership at the time? Either way, superb selection by the Archives team.
SGP: 473 - 90 points.

 

 

 

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Bruichladdich we've tasted so far

 

August 9, 2019


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today new Dallas Dhu and sparring-partner

Imagine, G&M have a new Dallas Dhu! There’s always been talks about restarting the distillery, but I’m not sure it’s been done in flesh, has it? I think Dallas Dhu is pretty much the rarest of all distilleries that have been scratched off between the early 1980s and 1990s, and that Port Ellen or Brora are insanely common by comparison. What’s sure is that we have not got any other Dallas Dhu up our sleeves, and that consequently, we’ll have to find another sparring-partner…

Dallas Dhu 50 yo 1969/2019 (43.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1656, 176 bottles)

Dallas Dhu 50 yo 1969/2019 (43.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1656, 176 bottles) Four stars
Will this be a better ‘coup’ that that 50 yo Caol Ila that they had a little earlier this year? Or was that last year? Not sure at all, I don’t seem to remember anything utterly  thrilling from Dallas Dhu’s, but then again, we’ve only ever tried thirty-seven of them. Let’s make that thirty-eight. Colour: brownish amber. Nose: well, my dear, this is something different again, which is what we’re expecting from those old distilleries anyway. In this case, we’re rather finding old oils and old dried fruits from an old rusty tin box, chiefly raisins and figs. Then old embrocations and mint cordials, puréed chestnuts, and some camphor balm. After a few minutes, it would rather shift towards vegetables, beans, asparagus, stewed spinach, also paraffin and a touch of natural soap… Nice, as new bloggers would say. Love them all! Mouth: it’s a funny baby for sure, pretty proto-meta, in a way. Wood shavings, tar liqueur, pine needles, bitter zests, green pepper, black tea, pan-fried French beans, various woods (most pines and firs), strong teas, cloves, caraway, cinnamon, juniper… Finish: rather long but getting green and a little drying. Looks like the oak started to take over a while back already. Comments: good, this is Dallas Dhu, this is very rare, this is 50 years old, and the wood did not totally drive the spirit off the track. It’s got some emotional and historical value, for sure. But in my book, the new St. Magdalene and Longmorn in the same series are in a whole different league. ‘Conservatory score’.
SGP:371 - 85 points.

So let’s find a sparring-partner… Why not another 1969, to keep some kind of coherence?

Glenfarclas 1969/1991 (52.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.31)

Glenfarclas 1969/1991 (52.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.31) Four stars and a half
Remember, Glenfarclas was the first distillery to be ever bottled by the SMWS. Obviously, it’s distillery #1. Colour: gold. No freshish sherry, apparently. Nose: ah, glazed apples and marzipan, plus a touch of sunflower oil and chamomile. These unsherried Glenfarclas weren’t very common back then, and neither were the Macs by the way. Goes on with some dandelions, nectar, beeswax, and a pleasant wee sourness. Not-too-ripe greengages? With water: a grassy, waxy and chalky Speysider that would have brought body and structure to many a blend. Mouth (neat): very good, going to show that Glenfarclas is a big, fat, and potent distillate. Oily fruits, grapefruits, citrons, peppery oils (grapeseed, olive)… With water: cracked pepper, paraffin, greens, watermelons, pumpkin purée, grapefruits, and some bread. Always love bread in my whisky. Finish: rather long, fresh, vegetal and citrusy, always with this dry, oily background. Comments: some enthusiasts may have been surprised when presented with this very unusual unsherried Glenfarclas. Liked it a lot.
SGP:461 - 89 points.

(Thank you Angus)

 

August 7, 2019


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today new old and old middle-aged Longmorns

And both from the same warehouses! But which one should we start with? Perhaps the one from the latest vintage?

Longmorn 53 yo 1966/2019 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry butt, cask #610, 398 bottles)

Longmorn 53 yo 1966/2019 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry butt, cask #610, 398 bottles) Five stars
Everything’s wonderful here, and God knows that G&M have already had many stunning Longmorns. It’s even to be wondered if Longmorn’s not always been a G&M thing. Colour: mahogany. Nose: bam, old teas, cigars, tar, and pre-Franco oloroso. Then mushrooms, walnuts, raw chocolate, soy sauce, lovage, some kind of very savoury meat sauce, and freshly sawn pine and eucalyptus woods. State of the art sherry maturing, there isn’t anything nicer out there. With water: sure, some tannicity, black teas, sawn wood, cocoa, tobacco, more meat sauce, Marmite (didn’t BoJo ban that?) and bags and bags of dried morels and porcinis. All is lovely, but I’ll say it again, with these very old whiskies, it’s on the palate that things may get awry, let’s see… Mouth (neat): phew! It’s dry and drying, it’s full of terpenic, resinous flavours, it’s got quite a lot of tar, perhaps a few pencil shavings, and certainly a good load of cinnamon. But this works, unless you were expecting bags of fresh fruits. With water: and it would even stand water, getting just a tad more tea-ish and chocolaty. A few dried currants, or just one. Finish: long, more mentholy, sappy, and greenly bitter. Fernet Branca and bitter bitters. That’s fine, I like that. Comments: it’s like when you go see some very old actors or musicians on stage, and they do not disappoint. Like Marshall Allen with the Sun Ra Arkestra, 95 this year! Love him!
SGP:371 - 90 points.

And so the sparring-partner… Well, it’s more than that, this baby could easily defeat the new 53 yo, watch it!..

Longmorn 21 yo 1965/1986 (55%, Intertrade)

Longmorn 21 yo 1965/1986 (55%, Intertrade) Five stars
This was bottled at natural cask strength. Love this on the back label, “Longmorn has been recognised by connoisseurs to produce one of the truly outstanding Glenlivets”. Luckily, the owners are the same. Colour: amber. Nose: the parentage is obvious, but this has kept all its fruitiness, although some perfect OBE is starting to show. Meaty chocolate, marmalade, kumquats, prunes and Armagnac (old sherried Longmorns could be quite Armagnacqy, in my opinion), then savoury raisins and chocolate truffles. And regular truffles too, but no gas or used matches whatsoever. Third, some menthol and some limestone ‘after the rain’. And four, herbs, parsley, lovage, basil… It’s just got everything you would expect from a well-aged sherried Speysider after more than 30 years in glass. With water: some old sherry, old walnuts, chen-pi (dried zests), umami, and that Chinese prune sauce that comes with Peking duck. I keep forgetting the name, I’m afraid. Also touches of old metal, tools, copper coins… All this is just totally perfect. Mouth (neat): an tad brutal, but we know that’s an asset (as long as you’ve got water on the side, that is). Eau-de-vie, kirsch, a touch of sour wood or leaves… Amazing that it kept this power and this roughness on the palate, after all those years! But… With water: well it kept a small share of roughness, but that’s an asset and all the rest is doing ‘the peacock’s tail’. There’s even a wee touch of salt and a spoonful of homemade miso and fermented soy. No no no, no natto. Finish: long, dry, and rather all on raw chocolate and beef stock. Comments: that was close, and it’s all a matter of personal tastes and preferences in such cases.
SGP:462 - 91 points.

Back to younger Longmorns next time!

(Thank you Angus)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Longmorn we've tasted so far

 

August 6, 2019


Whiskyfun

A new bag of blends

The indies are issuing more very small-batch blends (or blended malts, but that’s not new) these days, it’s actually a pretty new thing. Some even went from blends to single malts in the 1990s or early 2000s and are back to blends for some reasons (let’s not try to elaborate). Let’s see what we have. Fun, hopefully!...

Spirit of Freedom ‘45’ (45%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

Spirit of Freedom ‘45’ (45%, OB, blend, +/-2015) Three stars and a half
This by J.&A. Mitchell. It contained forty-five different whiskies, let’s see if we manage to detect Springbank (talk big while you can, S.) It’s related to 2014’s Scottish referendum in some way, so we’re very late again. Unless we’re very early, hoping that these 45 would become 55, ha-ha… Colour: white wine. Nose: vegetables, mashed potatoes, grist, fennel, celeriac, chalk, liquorice, brine. It’s clearly a little Springbanky, and pretty nice on the nose. No obvious grain whisky that I could detect. Mouth: it’s good, it reminds me of some older White Horse, just with less depth and rather more youth. Bitter herbs, chalk, wax, gherkins, a few plums, a touch of smoke… It’s very clearly Springbanky, I would be curious to know about those 44 other whiskies that have been in use. Nah, drop that. Finish: medium, saltier and creamier. Touches of diesel oil, seawater, chalk, grass. Comments: some kind of younger, less well-polished Springbank. Which makes it a little more difficult rather than the other way ‘round. Still good, naturally.
SGP:362 - 83 points.

McPink (43.5%, House of McCallum, blend, 2018)

McPink (43.5%, House of McCallum, blend, 2018) Three stars
Some blend finished in Port wood casks and ‘inspired by the story of Mary Queen of Scots’. Haven’t we seen that before? Colour: gold with apricot hues. Nose: fine and not too Porty. Which means not ridden with raspberries and cassis, while it does have a pleasant fruity side, well balanced. Rosé wines sell very well these days, I suppose this should sell well too. It’s fresh and it’s got nice cake-y notes. Cherry cake.  Mouth: like it, how bad is that, doctor? It would even take one or two ice cubes, I’m absolutely not against that (what’s happening, S.? Did you do a blood test latterly?) Cherry stem tea, oranges, Campari… Finish: medium, and even more on bitters. Ginger. Comments: a good alternative in a spritz? Seriously, I think it’s good, and once again the grains are hard to detect.
SGP:551 - 81 points.

Perhaps some older blends…

Spica 29 yo 1989/2019 (45.5%, North Star Spirits, blend, 1000 bottles)

Spica 29 yo 1989/2019 (45.5%, North Star Spirits, blend, 1000 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: that’s right, a blend. Nice maltiness, breads, cakes, ripe fruits, old wine cellar, potpourri, liquorice, cherries, sweet mushrooms… It hasn’t got the higher definition of a good single malt, but it’s got a good complexity and I’m not sure we’re worse off for that. Mouth: same feelings. Fruitcake, dough, cherries, raisins, malt, then chocolate and tobacco and a touch of violet sweet. Or there, crystallised violet flowers, as they make in Provence. Finish: rather medium, and rather more on marmalade, oranges… Back to cherries, raisins and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: reminds me of some folks that used to fit VW Beetles with genuine Porsche engines. Good, one Euro each and I drop my crappy car analogies and metaphors.
SGP:561 - 85 points.

Older please…

Whisky Trail Vol.4 38 yo 1980/2019 (46.7%, Elixir Distillers, Jazz Series, blend, sherry butt, cask #0035, 445 bottles)

Whisky Trail Vol.4 38 yo 1980/2019 (46.7%, Elixir Distillers, Jazz Series, blend, sherry butt, cask #0035, 445 bottles) Four stars and a half
With a bass player on the label, so I suppose this brand new baby will be rather ‘pulsating’… What’s the exact definition of a blend, by the way? Could you teaspoon some malt (say, Bunnahabhain) using some grain ‘on paper’ and call that a blend? With all these new blends that do not taste of grain at all, you start to wonder (but indeed, does grain have any taste anyway?) Colour: gold. Nose: cake-y and honeyed at first, then more coastal, with lighter juicy sultanas and whiffs of beeswax in Summer. Wee touches of preserved pineapples and very ripe bananas. Noses pretty much like a single malt, if you ask me, and a perfect one at that. The butt did its job with self-restraint and elegance. Mouth: yeah right. This is excellent, fresh, more tropical as far as fruits are concerned (mangos, maracujas), with just touches of vanilla, heather honey, coconut and simply oranges. Honeycomb and malt/bread. Finish: medium, fresh, on tropical fruits and honey. Only the aftertaste is a tad oaky and gritty, but let’s not forget that this lovely juice is almost 40. Comments: excellent, nearly perfect. Someone should start the Blend Buffs (if all blends start to be like this).
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Older yet please…

Excalibur 45 yo 1972/2017 (42.2%, Meadowside, blend, 1200 bottles)

Excalibur 45 yo 1972/2017 (42.2%, Meadowside, blend, 1200 bottles) Five stars
Let’s hope this blend by Donald Hart will be a blade (ooh!) Colour: gold. Nose: I’m reminded of the lovely Hankey Bannister 40 yo. Hope I’m not ruffling anyone’s feathers here. Wonderful flowers and acidic fruits, oranges first and foremost, then mangos and passion fruits, bananas, and finally some kind of all-vitamin fruit cocktail that reminds me of some old Benriachs or Balblairs (or of Club Med). Over all this fruity extravaganza, notes of hazelnut oil and a little beeswax. I don’t know of anyone who would not enjoy this very joyful nose. Mouth: blam, perfect wood-fruit integration, everything in sync, all the wee complexities that only come with good age (tiny spices, substances and evocations), and a perfect drinkability. Just unstoppable. Finish: medium, while the wood that should start to become a little dominant at this point would add a lovely earthiness rather than the usual drying spices. Comments: under these conditions, I say more blends! More blends! More blends!
SGP:751 - 91 points.

Sorry, no even older blends in the library. Unless we’re talking old bottles! Good, just one more…

Sandy Macnab 5 yo (43%, OB, blend, +/-1970)

Sandy Macnab 5 yo (43%, OB, blend, +/-1970) Two stars and a half
This baby is possibly, although we have no proof, a genuine ‘single blend’, that is to say a blend of Lochside malt and Lochside grain. If I’m not mistaken, they started making grain in the late 1950s and stopped in the early 1970s, so data match. It’s also to be noted that there were many official 5 yos in those days, as youth was suggesting lightness, while lightness was ‘the thing’. Think Clynelish, Glenfarclas, Glen Grant… Which does not mean that the spirits weren’t actually older! But age is just a number, is it not (yeah yeah). Colour: gold. Nose: it is more ‘blendish’ than all the ones we just tried, with this hole in the profile that’s usually caused  by grain, but while it is not as exponentially fruity as I had hoped (mind you, Lochside!), it’s got good earthy tones and a savoury kind of cardboard. Maggi, soups, asparagus, button mushrooms, old books… Mouth: a funny style, but we aren’t far from the last official Lochside, the 10 yo, which wasn’t stellar. It’s them indies who ‘made’ Lochside, mind you. Having said that, there is this very peculiar citrusness that’s quite emblematic. Citron liqueur or something, it’s hard to describe. Notes of saccharose. Finish: rather short, and a little flat. Not at all bottle fatigue, having said that. Comments: pretty good but other Sandy Macs were in a higher league. We might try a bunch in the future, we’ll see.
SGP:631 - 77 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all blends we've tasted so far

 

August 5, 2019


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today new old St. Magdalene and friend

Those crazy people at G&M (although crazy may be too strong a word) have just launched, right in the middle of Summer, an old Longmorn (OK), and old Dallas Dhu (excuse me?) and a St. Magdalene. It’s the latter that we’ll have today but most sadly, WF’s wee St. Magdalene shelf is currently empty. We could have asked our friend Tomas, Mr St. Magdalene himself, but we’ll rather find another 1980s Lowlander by G&M as the obligatory aperitif…

Bladnoch 12 yo 1988/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

Bladnoch 12 yo 1988/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Three stars
I remember some very light and yet citrusy Bladnochs ‘GM CC’, but also some rather monstrous 1988s ‘CS’. Colour: gold. Nose: exactly, soft and light citrus. Lemon tarte with meringue and wee bits of zests, then touches of both fresh and stewed rhubarb, gooseberries, and perhaps a touch of yoghurt and sourdough. All that works very well, it’s a good example of a malt that was very singular and ‘different’. Mouth: yeah well, these young Bladnochs could also be a little too chalky on the palate, indeed. Aspirin tablets, drinking liquid plaster, sucking chalk… All that with a very lemony background (squash). Very singular indeed, but perhaps a little too singular. As they say over the river Rhine, es war damals… Finish: medium, a tad grassier, and very chalky and lemony again. The aftertaste is a little too sour/yeasty for me. Comments: chalk and lemon yoghurt cake, or something like that.
SGP:651 - 80 points.

And so…

St. Magdalene 36 yo 1982/2019 (53%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, refill American hogshead, cask #2092, 161 bottles)

St. Magdalene 36 yo 1982/2019 (53%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, refill American hogshead, cask #2092, 161 bottles) Five stars
In my book, St. Magdalene was one of the most complex malt whiskies ever, but I think it used to need higher voltages than just 40 or 43% vol. Which is the case here, so all should be fine… By the way this baby comes in a lovely wooden box covered with ‘points de Hongrie’ that would make for a gorgeous pencil (or iPhone) box. Let’s go buy pencils! Colour: light gold. Nose: quite astonishingly, we’re not too far from the Bladnoch as far as aromatic profiles are concerned, with a similar citrusness that works extremely well. Except that this is deeper, richer, and much more complex, and would range from jams and fresh fruits to sherbets and ice creams. We’re talking lemons and lime, bergamots, oranges, citrons, and probably angelica, lilies and rhubarb again. This fruity and floral freshness is simply fantastic, and for that we have to thank a relatively lazy hogshead. Thank you, Mr Hogshead. With water: ah, typical. Leather, herbal teas, tobaccos, old perfumes, potpourri, mushrooms… One cannot not think of the RMs, provided one’s tried any of those. Mouth (neat): bites you a bit at first, starting with an unusual lemon squash/washing powder/lemon honey combination, but the honey wins it and gets very complex, with some kind of honey cake with bits of bitter chocolate, tealeaves, black tobacco and then half a glass of artisan mead, or even chouchen, which is a stronger form of mead that they make in Brittany. The washing powder became clay, all for the better indeed. Oh and no I never ate any washing powder, but remember when we write ‘washing powder’, that only means ‘reminiscent of washing powder’. There’s no banana in whisky either. With water: wonderful notes of Riesling, rhubarb wine, a little liquorice, tobacco, grapefruits… Finish: medium, a tad drier and more on herbal teas, with citrus skins and more mead in the aftertaste. Comments: check! It’s well a wonderful St. Magdalene. And if you love mead, you’ll adore this. Agreed, mead is a little cheaper.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

(Merci Lucero)

 

August 4, 2019


Whiskyfun

A wee bunch of Jamaicans

Instead of sailing the seven seas and try rum from just anywhere on this planet, let’s rather focus on one of the very few ‘grand cru’ places out there, Jamaica! We may well do that on several Sundays in a row, as there’s rather plenty… But first, an easy aperitif!

Monymusk 2003 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2015)

Monymusk 2003 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2015) Four stars
Well, not sure this will be ‘easy’, as Monymusk/Clarendon are doing higher-ester rums as well. What I like with Mezan in general is that they don’t go downmarket with unlikely wine casks. By the way, their motto is ‘The Untouched Rum’. Bravo, hurray! Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: lovely little Jamaican, rather on overripe bananas for starters, then on liquorice and tar bonbons as well as the expected olive brine. Crisp, clean, and very fresh on the nose, while the lighter strength would add to the freshness. Mouth: very good, very Jamaican, and very fresh again. Those bananas, liquorice, tar, brine and olives are all here, with added petroly touches. Finish: medium, rather saltier. A drop of good mezcal may have been poured in (of course not). Comments: to Jamaican rum what Caol Ila is to Islay malt. This starts well.
SGP:363 - 86 points.

Good, let’s have some heavier hitters…

Monymusk 14 yo 2004/2018 (56.2%, Kintra, Rum 4 ALS, 126 bottles)

Monymusk 14 yo 2004/2018 (56.2%, Kintra, Rum 4 ALS, 126 bottles) Three stars and a half
A charity bottle, with 10€ donated to that very worthy cause with each purchase. Well done! Colour: white wine. Nose: in similar territories at first, but this one is lighter in style, less estery, rather on tropical fruits, bananas, and just cane juice. A touch of whacky varnish (not butyric though) and a pleasant freshness again. With water: could well be the distillery’s light continental style, but it has to be ex-pot still. Some nice whiffs of pear juice mixed with fennel seeds. Seems to work. Mouth (neat): unusual, hot, with highly concentrated banana juice, then rather vegetables mixed with liquorice allsorts and some paraffin. I agree that’s a tad unlikely, but this is not an unpleasant feeling. With water: good, sweet and cane-y, always with these touches of varnish. There’s more brine as well, olives, a spoonful of ashes, rotting banana skin… Finish: medium, on pretty much the same flavours. Comments: I do prefer the brighter higher-ester style of the Mezan, but this one’s very good too. And it’s for a good cause, so theoretically worth 100 points.
SGP:451 - 84 points.

Worthy Park 7 yo 2010 (57.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #R11.3, ‘Crême brûlée flambé’, Jamaica, ex-bourbon, 311 bottles, +/-2018)

Worthy Park 7 yo 2010 (57.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #R11.3, ‘Crême brûlée flambé’, Jamaica, ex-bourbon, 311 bottles, +/-2018) Four stars
Pssst, if the name’s supposed to be French, that would be ‘flambée’, as in ‘brulée’. But we’re splitting thin hairs again at WF Towers… Colour: gold. Nose: lime juice and seawater, on a solid cake-y and vanilla-ed base. Add liquorice wood, drops of mezcal, and a few olives, and there, a perfect dry mar… I mean, Hampden. With water: new linoleum (but do they still make that?) and leatherette, garage, old two-stroke engine... Mouth (neat): rather rounder than the Hampdens, but that may be some pretty active American oak. Other than that, just the right amounts of cane juice, olives, seawater again, ripe bananas, and diesel oil. It’s getting really sour, in a beautiful way, with tequila-y sides. Margarita was her name. With water: a little varnish this time, and the odd pears. Probably still a little young, doesn’t rum age a little ‘faster’ only when on location? I suppose this matured in Scotland. Finish: long, back on olives, brine, and lime juice. Gasoline in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps three more years and we’d have reached the 90-mark, while vanillin from the oak feels a bit. Excellent nonetheless.
SGP:363 - 87 points.

Something different…

New Yarmouth 12 yo 2005/2017 (68%, Cave Guildive, Jamaica, bourbon, 223 bottles)

New Yarmouth 12 yo 2005/2017 (68%, Cave Guildive, Jamaica, bourbon, 223 bottles) Four stars
This one from Zürich, where they cook good röstis and bottle excellent rum. It was an ex-Heaven Hill barrel. Seldom seen, New Yarmouth is part of the group that owns Appleton and produces J. Wray & Nephew. Look like it has nothing to do with Clarendon distillery, contrarily to what I had written before, it’s just located within the Clarendon Parish. Colour: white wine. Nose: totally Jamaican, with plenty of esters and salty things, but there’s also a lot of varnish and I suppose those crazy 68% vol. are the main culprits. With water: high gherkins, olives, smoked green tea, brake fluid, and a handful of capers, plus the usual overripe bananas. Definitely high-ester. Mouth (carefully): concentrated lime juice mixed with paint thinner. I would say it’s safer to add water right away… With water: very sour, grassy, lemony, even ashy and chalky, with rather big notes of concentrated pineapple juice this time. It’s a striking combination, rather fruitier than those of high-ester colleagues Hampden and Worthy Park. Finish: long, petroly, but also chalky and fruity. Comments: I tend to enjoy Worthy Park’s higher straightforwardness even better, but this New Yarmouth is great Jamaican, no doubt. Oh well same score, let’s not nit-pick.
SGP:563 - 87 points.

We’ve had Monymusk, Worthy Park, New Yarmouth… Let’s have an old Hampden now.

Hampden 35 yo 1983/2019 (55.3%, Valinch & Mallet, cask #19-3501R, 237 bottles)

Hampden 35 yo 1983/2019 (55.3%, Valinch & Mallet, cask #19-3501R, 237 bottles) Five stars
The marque here was HGML, which means that the wash was very highly esterified, probably to more than 1,000 g/hlpa. No need to say that such old Jamaicans are very rare, and could only happen thanks to cool-climate aging, unless very extreme ullage would have been done. Colour: gold. Nose: frankly, you wouldn’t say it’s this old, as it’s as bright and fresh as a tenner at first nosing. Having said that, you already understand that it’s going to be pretty complex when reduced a wee bit, since you’re already getting notes of tinned anchovies, some kind of smoked butter, and a wide array of herbs and plants. Let’s see… With water: a tense plasticness and loads of pickled vegetables and fruits, I would rather say. Small maize, cherries, gherkins, capers… Also ink, old newspapers, a charming metallic touch (coins), and the tiniest tiny bit of crystallised pineapple. It’s perfect. Mouth (neat): a heavy concoction indeed when unreduced, with loads of salted liquorice plus some kind of tar-smoked fruits. Many fruits starting to ferment, and even some of the fruitiest Swiss cheese (proper Gruyères, for example). With water: salt and fish! That’s funny. Chinese fish sauce, sardines, anchovies, then olives, lemons, tapenade, lime juice, a little wild thyme, oyster plant… And even a feeling of peat, mind you, but in general, salted liquorice is running the show. Finish: long and astoundingly fresh. Fantastic lemony grassiness. Comments: such a long aging is not something you could do in the tropics, unless you’re ready to lose 90% of your production, or even more. It’s fabulous old rum that hasn’t lost an iota of its original flavour profile along the years.  Esters seem to be much less fragile and prone to flavour mutations than peat smoke…
SGP:463 - 92 points.

(Merci Lance)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far

 

August 2, 2019


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today Glen Spey

Not the most famous malt ever, but any distillery can produce great casks, we all know that. Let’s see what we have… First, an aperitif at a lighter strength…

Glen Spey 2007/2019 (49.8%, Single Cask Seasons, refill sherry butt, cask #802147, 549 bottles)

Glen Spey 2007/2019 (49.8%, Single Cask Seasons, refill sherry butt, cask #802147, 549 bottles) Three stars
This baby was bottled to celebrate Spring this year. We’re a little late, aren’t we… Colour: gold. Nose: perhaps a tad soapy at first, not something unseen with these makes, then rather all on barley, bread, apples, and lamp oil. These little whiskies purely made for blending are rarely nosing whiskies, in my opinion, but the palates can be pretty superlative. Let’s check that out… Mouth: maybe not superlative, but there are mysterious flavours here, such as hints of burnt Swiss cheese (the end of a fondue, if you will), green pears, very strong beer (remember Brewdog’s cold-distilled beer? Almost a weapon of mass destruction, thank God they made very little of it, and thank God no one ever told Colin P. and Dick C.) Also Ovaltine, energy bars, toffee… It’s really good now. Finish: pretty long, as malty as, yeah, Ovaltine/Ovomaltine. Comments: one of those dichotomous little malt whiskies. Forgettable nose, pretty remarkable palate.
SGP:551 - 82 points.

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 16 yo 2001/2018 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, hogshead, 288 bottles)

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 16 yo 2001/2018 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, hogshead, 288 bottles) Three stars and a half
Rocket fuel? Colour: white wine. Nose: as austere and grassy as malt whisky can be. Mown lawn, sand, chalk, porridge, books, graphite oil, grist. With water: sour beers and grass juices, leak, carrot cake... You see! Mouth (neat): fruitier. Barley, apples, liquorice wood, aniseed. Totally naked, simple, pretty flawless malt whisky. It’s just not very, say, mindboggling. With water: what, brine? Sardines? Is that its response to water? Some LOL-whisky! Finish: pretty long and unexpectedly salty. Fish crackling? Let me check where the distillery’s located, I think I forgot… Indeed, it’s rather in the North of Speyside, near Glen Grant, so not ‘too far’ from the sea. Comments: fun whisky to entertain your guests, but don’t forget your pipette! You may skip the nosing part…
SGP:361 - 84 points.

Glen Spey 11 yo 2007/2018 (58.4%, James Eadie, PX cask finish, cask #805410)

Glen Spey 11 yo 2007/2018 (58.4%, James Eadie, PX cask finish, cask #805410) Three stars and a half
It’s a PX finish, don’t we expect the worst? To me, using PX on whisky is like, say adding an electronic drumkit to some long-lost John Coltrane tapes. Anyhow, sorry, I'm just rambling on. Colour: amber apricot. Nose: it happens that sherry casks impart a rather nice earthiness, and that’s what’s happening here. Other than that, we’re rather finding crude chocolate (like 100%, really) and perhaps some mushrooms. Maybe not such a bad idea, those drumkits, ha… With water: do you know carbonnade flamande? Just asking… Mouth (neat): brutal and good! Caramel, orange liqueur, butterscotch, stout, pipe tobacco. What brand, that drumkit? With water: perhaps a little bitter now. The leafy/tannic part of PX coming out, perhaps. Finish: long, very much on stout, marmalade, and green pepper. Comments: I must make amend. A love supreme (bim bam ziing), a love supreme (bim bam ziing), a love supreme (bim bam ziing)…
SGP:561 - 84 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glen Spey we've tasted so far

 

August 1, 2019


Whiskyfun

Little duos, today two different Ardmore

Shall we find some peat? Soot? Peaches? What’s sure is that these won’t be your average Ardmores – given that Ardmore’s never totally average anyway.

Ardmore 10 yo 2008/2018 (56.1%, Sansibar for Liquor Library, Helvetica Bar, Whisky & Alement and The Oak Barrel)

Ardmore 10 yo 2008/2018 (56.1%, Sansibar for Liquor Library, Helvetica Bar, Whisky & Alement and The Oak Barrel) Three stars
Careful, this baby was matured in an ex-Laphroaig barrel, so more peatiness is to be expected. Colour: white wine. Nose: there is this feeling of sweet peat indeed, which is very Ardmore-y (smoked peaches and melons) but also an unusual coastalness indeed, but I wouldn’t have said Laphroaig. Who would? Not a very profound nose. With water: it’s almost as if the Laphroaig was even younger than this little Ardmore. Raw malt, kiln, wet fabric… Mouth (neat): funny and unusual. It is very sweet, and you would almost believe it’s Ardless (Ardlair, a.k.a. unpeated Ardmore) blended with a heavy peater such as, indeed, Laphroaig. Loses you a wee tad. With water: a tad two-dimensional. Fruits and smoke. Finish: medium, sootier, ashier. It’s still a smoked Speysider, with this lightness that you wouldn’t find on, say, Islay. Comments: a little difficult to pin down. We’re in similar territories as those of peated Benriach, for example.
SGP:545 - 82 points.

Ardmore 20 yo 1998/2019 (51.6%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask # 750790, 280 bottles)

Ardmore 20 yo 1998/2019 (51.6%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask # 750790, 280 bottles) Four stars
They called this one ‘Aird Mhor’, a little quirk of theirs, I suppose. Because they can. Colour: white wine. Nose: this is very subtle, rather on mashed carrots and potatoes, asparagus, peelings, balsa wood, with touches of blood oranges, and very, very little peat. If any. A very elegant nose. With water: smoked almonds, new fabric, sourdough, porridge, hints of hair spray. Mouth (neat): wonderful creamy and citrusy palate, tart and yet deep, totally full of citrus, with a few notes of crystallised angelica. Lime, grapefruit, pomelos, citrons… With water: please do not add too much water! As a matter of fact, it does not like water at all, we could call it a ‘cat-malt’. Gets very cardboardy once reduced, whichever the number of drops you would add. Or the kind of water. Finish: medium tense, grassy and citrusy, with a few balsamic notes, maybe from some peat. Comments: different and very good. Gets smokier by the minute, without ever getting ‘a peater’. Some kind of coitus interruptus that does not end badly, in other words.
SGP:553 – 87 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Ardmore we've tasted so far

 

WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

July 2019

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Springbank 24 yo 1994/2019 (47.7%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, The Black Series, sherry hogshead, 148 bottles) - WF 93

Serge's favourite older bottling this month: Springbank 12 yo (Proof, Cadenhead, +/-1965)
- WF 96

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
As we get it (66.1%, Ian McLeod, Highland, +/-2018) - WF 89

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Grande Champagne Lot N°25 (42.1%, Jean Grosperrin, 204 litres, 2019)  - WF 92

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Dzama 6 yo (45%, OB, Madagascar, +/-2017)  - WF 65

July 2019 - part 2 <--- August 2019 - part 1 ---> August 2019 - part 2


 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Excalibur 45 yo 1972/2017 (42.2%, Meadowside, blend, 1200 bottles)

Longmorn 53 yo 1966/2019 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry butt, cask #610, 398 bottles)

Longmorn 21 yo 1965/1986 (55%, Intertrade)

Lowland Grain 1964/2016 (48.9%, Whisky-Doris, Nose Art, 15th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #10, 253 bottles)

St. Magdalene 36 yo 1982/2019 (53%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, refill American hogshead, cask #2092, 161 bottles)

Karuizawa ‘Ambassador’s Collection’ (59.1%, Elixir Distillers for The Ben, sherry, 2 bottles)

Hampden 35 yo 1983/2019 (55.3%, Valinch & Mallet, cask #19-3501R, 237 bottles)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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