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Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2006 - Part 2
       
December 2006 - part 1 <--- December 2006 - part 2 ---> January 2007 - part 1
 

December 28, 2006


Hi, we're on holidays until January 4th and we may well not have any internet access while there, or maybe we will. We'll try our best...
 
CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE BLOCKHEADS with Phil Jupitus and Martin Freeman
The 100 Club, London, December 22nd 2006
Did you know that you can become a Blockhead, well an honorary one, for only forty quids? You get a nice badge that gets you backstage (hasn’t worked for the Photographer yet but she’s still trying), a photo, and best of all a karaoke disc of instrumentals of a handful of Blockhead hits, and a lyric sheet. If you’ve ever wanted to appreciate Ian Dury’s art as a lyricist and performer then a Blockheads Karaoke night is the way to do it. We tried with Jozzer when we were at Cropredy, he being a bit of a leery geezer and a market trader at that, thought he’d have no trouble in producing a passable imitation of the late great man. Well, though he certainly rocked the caravan he couldn’t get through any of the songs word perfect, even with a crib sheet, and of course trying to achieve Dury’s vocal rhythm and timing was almost impossible.
Johnny Turnbull, Norman Watt Roy and Gilad Atzman
Below: Phil Jupitus and Micky Gallagher
I was reminded of this as I watched comedic rock wannabe and TV quiz show presenter Phil Jupitus stumble badly over the words to ‘Reasons to be cheerful’, to the accompaniment not of a karaoke disc, but rather the Blockheads themselves, on stage at the 100 Club. Phil, you may recall, made a pretty good fist of singing and playing for the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band at their gigs earlier this year, and it turns out he’s performed a few times with the Blockheads during the summer, and will also play with them next year as they celebrate their 30th anniversary. But I have to say that he seemed a bit out of sorts on this occasion, and I wasn’t particularly convinced that The Office star Martin Freeman added a great deal to proceedings either. What Jupitus did do however was relieve the band of the additional burden of vocals, so their playing – or so it seemed to me, was excellent. The great Norman Watt Roy was simply a one man rhythm machine, Gilad Atzman’s saxophone playing was urgent and incisive, and Chaz Jankel and Johnny Turnbull were both on fire. A great ensemble piece, and a wonderful last gig of 2006. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thank you, Nick! Let's have music straight away, with The Blockheads doing the famous and funky Reasons to be cheerful, Part Three.mp3 with that beautiful guitar solo just before the rather abrupt end.
 
TASTING - 3x2 NIKKAS
Taketsuru

TWO TAKETSURUS (blended malts)

Nikka 17 yo 'Taketsuru' (43%, OB) Nose: hints of varnish and incense, cedar wood… Very ‘Japanese’. Rather huge oakiness, lactones, vanilla. Something very bourbonny. Nice but maybe too ‘manipulated’. Japan’s Glenmorangie? Mouth: better although not very definite. Cornflakes, pipe tobacco, dried longans, ripe plums and bananas. Gets slightly drying. Different and good. 80 points.

Nikka 21 yo 'Taketsuru' (43%, OB) Nose: much less varnish and more roundness although it seems to be just as oaky as the 17. Lots of plums, sauce for Pecking duck (how oriental is that?), strongly reduced wine sauce, liquorice… Really concentrated. Lots of milk chocolate as well. Mouth: balanced, slightly peppery at the attack – quite some salt as well. Prunes, walnut skin, soft curry, dried oranges, ginger. Gets quite drying (quite some tannins, lots of cinnamon). Very good. 85 points.

TWO MIYAGIKYOUS

Nikka 15 yo 'Miyagikyou' (45%, OB) Aka ‘Sendai’. Nose: a very interesting profile, not very bold but rather subtle, it seems. Nice notes of marzipan, lily of the valley, hot bread crust… Goes on with small dried oranges, cedar wood, leather polish, hints of nutmeg… All delicacy.

Mouth: the wood influence is quite obvious (lactones, vanilla, soft spices and sort of dryness). Speculoos (gingerbread), soft paprika… Lots happening but it gets then a bit mainstreamish and ‘modern’ (you know, woodskies…) Yet, the balance is rather perfect and there’s even a little salt at the finish, together with notes of white pears. Kind of a spiced up Glenkinchie… Not that I dislike Glenkinchie! 79 points.
Nikka 1989/2006 'Miyagikyou' (58%, OB, Warehouse #24, cask #108645) Nose: very sherried, very sweet and sour, almost like a strawberry soup. Gets better, on raspberries ganache, praline and nougat. Lots of coffee as well, lots of toasted wood, toffee… Rich and concentrated. Mouth: again this slight sourness at first sip, gets then rather oriental (turkish delights, baklavas). Raspberry jam, smokiness, cough sweets. Gets woodier, slightly cardboardy. Mulberry jelly. Slightly rubbery. Good but the rubbery sourness is a bit offbeat I think. 82 points.

TWO YOICHIS

Nikka 15 yo 'Yoichi' (45%, OB, Japan, circa 2006) I really liked the Yoichi 15 yo the first time I had it, a few years ago (86). Let’s try this newer batch. Nose: very elegant, starting on walnut cake and hints of gingerbread. Goes on with quite some vanilla and cinnamon, pollen, tobacco… Rather beautiful oakiness. Also fresh strawberries.

Mouth: creamy but nervous, with a smoky start, quite powerful and concentrated. Walnut liqueur, speculoos again like in the Miyagikyo, candy sugar. Slightly minty. Gets spicy (cloves), gingery… Long finish, faint cardboardiness, lots of spices, bitter chocolate, a little salt and various nuts. Bold and complex – different (very ‘Japanese’) but beautiful. 87 points for this recent version.
Nikka 20 yo 'Yoichi' (52%, OB, Japan, circa 2006) This should be excellent… Nose: amazingly original at first nosing, starting on old kelp, oysters, fishmonger’s… Also tar, diesel oil, well hung pheasant. All that settles down then and we get more ‘regular’ nuts, cigar box, leather, caramel crème and vanilla – and let’s not forget the spices (curry, lots of cinnamon)… A fantastic and unusual profile. Mouth: bold, ample, spicy attack, with a great sourness (small apples, grape skin). Gets quite acrid but that’s great in this context. Superb sharpness. Develops on ‘genuine’ liquorice, something varnishy, tea, notes of Fino (flor, old walnuts). Hints of kiwi and green apples. Beautiful and highly original. Long finish mostly on fresh apples and cinnamon… I love it, I think it’s a masterpiece. 91 points.
 
 

December 27, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
BOB KERR'S WHOOPEE BAND
The Half Moon, Putney, December 20th 2006
Bob Kerr and The Professor
Blimey Serge, I’ve been so busy preparing my Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s delicious Christmas canapés for all those hungry folk who might just possibly descend on La Maison du Rock over the next few days that I’d quite forgotten to write my review of Bob Kerr and his Whoopee Band. You know Bob, he’s the rotund fellow in the colourful checked suit who played trumpet (and the rest) for the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band this year. Bob was a member of the earliest Bonzo line-ups, but left in 1966 to join the New Vaudeville Band which in turn led to the formation of the Whoopee Band, which featured at one time or another fellow Bonzos Sam Spoons and Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell. Today it’s a five piece outfit, with Bob on cornet, trombone, saxophone, guitars and teapot, The Professor (“probably the funniest man in the world” it says on the website) playing clarinet, saxophone and saw, Malcolm Sked on sousaphone and bass, Bert Lamb on keyboards and Henri Harrison and drums.
It’s a nostalgia night – not really as “zany” as people might want to believe, but certainly charmingly eccentric, and very, very British in humour. The sort of thing you would hear on the Light Programme, if we still had such a thing. So despite a few quite noisy excursions into rhythm and blues towards the end (‘Lady Madonna’ and the Blues Brothers’ ‘Everybody wants somebody’) it’s mostly what goes under the name of ‘trad jazz’ with a lot of mostly childish jokes thrown in. There’s a touch of smut - ‘My baby took my cornet, now she can’t blow my horn’ (actually I just might have made that up) but nothing too shocking, and a predictable degree of 1950’s schoolboy xenophobia. A classical moment – the Toreador song from Carmen, brings the best joke of the night: Professor, pointing at score - “Bizet?, it says here Paganini” – Kerr - “No you fool, that’s page nine”. There are also a couple of very accomplished Spike Jones songs – like ‘Cocktail for two’. Kerr is a bit of a Jones scholar, and as I recall spoke eloquently about him on BBC radio programme earlier this year. And despite all the tomfoolery it should be noted that Kerr is no fool when it comes to playing.
Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell (at the right, with Kate The Photographer)

The show was stolen however by guest star, the elegant if cadaverous septuagenarian Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell, who sang his very camp ‘Falling in love again’, narrated an innuendo-laden Christmas immorality tale, ‘Cock Robin and the Christmas Pudding’, did something in a leopard skin Tarzan costume (everyone was laughing so much we didn’t notice what he was actually doing, but I do recall he had a whip) and dueted with the Professor on saw for ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’. As you can see the Photographer and Vernon took quite a shine to each other and I’m sure they’ll be exchanging seasonal greetings at some point over the next few days. Me? Well I’ve got the bloody canapés to finish off and one more review to write before I can relax. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Thank you, Nick. These guys are virtually unknown over here - probably too Bristish - but I agree they are quite funny, as this video should testify... And it was at the Half Moon!
 
 

TASTING - TWO OLD GLENLIVETS

Glenlivet 28 yo 1977/2006 (53.6%, James MacArthur's Old Masters, Decanter, cask #19753) Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh, buttery and floral at first nosing, with hints of fresh mint leaves and cider apples. Quite some oak but it's not tannic. Nice notes of daisies, lilac, peonies… Also quite some vanilla crème. Rather subtle and complex, delicate, maybe even a little shy. Notes of white burgundy (matured in oak), slightly toasted. Also hints of violets. 'Contemplative' as some would say.

Mouth: more expressive now, hugely buttery and nutty with again notes of (old) white wine and lots of liquorice and praline crème. Incredibly rawer than on the nose. Develops on cake, overripe apples, orange cake, butter caramel… Nice sourness in he background… A 'wine-malt' indeed. The finish is very long, bold and balanced at the same time, liquoricy and fruity, highly enjoyable. Worth bottling in a decanter, that's for sure! 88 points.
Glenlivet 30 yo 1974/2005 (55.3%, Acorn, Japan) Colour: pale gold. Nose: hot and pungent at first nosing, almost burning. A few notes of apples and vanilla plus coffee do come through but otherwise, water is needed. Right, that works very well, as water brings out a rather huge meatiness (game) and rather splendid farmy aromas. Very wild, this Glenlivet - unusual. Mouth (neat): sweet and spirity, hugely fruity and liquoricy but again, water is needed. With water: not much development this time, maybe just a little pepper and, as usual, more tannins that were masked by the high alcohol. Finish: rather long, fruity and liquoricy like the 28 yo but not too complex this time. But what a beastly Glenlivet - especially at 30yo. 81 points.
 

December 26, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW
by Nick Morgan

JARVIS COCKER
The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London, December 16th 2006

 

Now here is a meeting of two venerable British rock institutions. The first is the Roundhouse – Victorian locomotive turning shed turned bonded warehouse (Gilbey’s used it for storing gin and Scotch whisky casks for many years) and latterly experimental theatre (I once spent a wonderful eight hours or so here watching Ken Campbell’s Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool perform the ‘reduced’ version of Illuminatus) and cutting edge music venue, only recently reopened after a massive and impressive refurbishment. The second is that not-so-young enfant terrible of Brit Pop, the hopelessly shambolic, bespectacled and brown-jacketed Jarvis Cocker, a national hero not just for Pulp’s Different Class, but also for disrupting a grotesque music awards ceremony involving Michael Jackson (no, the other Michael Jackson) a few years ago. Yep, we all loved him for that. But like the Roundhouse Jarvis has been in the wilderness for a few years, he has become of the cultural glitterati on TV and radio, and more recently he’s been taking time out in his adopted home of lovely Paris with his lovely French wife and son, and fiddling around with numerous projects – including writing lyrics for Charlotte Gainsbourg and, of course, participating in this year’s Jean-Claude Vannier concert at the Barbican. But now just as the old Roundhouse opens its doors once more for a new generation of would-be North London hipsters, so Jarvis has bounced back with a top class new eponymous album (released by Rough Trade it’s been the number one selling independent album of the year) supported by long-time collaborator, guitarist Richard Hawley (who was mugged for this year’s Mercury Prize by wunderkinds the Artic Monkeys) and Pulp bass-player Steve Mackey, both of whom are on-stage tonight. I’m not sure if it matters but all three of them are from Sheffield (like the Arctic Monkeys). Actually I think it matters to them quite a lot.
There don’t seem to be too many Yorkshire folk in the audience. Most I think have come down the hill from Hampstead – there are the young self consciously overdressed fashion victims, and the older beards and baggy trousers crew (and that’s just the ladies – boom boom!). So it’s North London’s upper middle class Guardian hugging chattering classes (who adore Jarvis almost as much as the Guardian) par excellence – and of course they spend most of the night chattering. Take Pinky and Perky (not their real names) for example, who stand in front of us in their little black numbers swigging half-pints of something called ‘Good Red Wine’ (that’s what it said on the label) and nattering all night long.
Natter natter, natter natter. And when they weren’t nattering they were preening themselves as if for some unseen lover (poor bloke, or blokes), lip-gloss, lipstick, mascara and face powder from a glitzy compact. Quite how the Photographer managed not to clock them one I’ll never know. Luckily they jigged their way forward in search of some unsuspecting and unfortunate romance before the violence flared. The only person talking more than P&P was Jarvis, who chatted away incessantly between songs (a little too much for the taste of my French chum who was somewhere in the audience, but perhaps he was having difficulty with the accent).
He managed to muse on the nature of Christmas, on clementines and mandarin oranges, railway routes and timetables, the Corby trouser press, on smoking (apologising for the understandable ban in the Roundhouse he later appeared on stage with a lit cigarette which he handed to a gasping member of the crowd), on the Americanisation of British culture, on loneliness – well he talked about almost everything really. Oh and by the way Yves – was that really you who shouted (more than once as I recall) “Get a fucking move on Jarvis, what’s wrong with just playing the fucking songs?”

Jarvis Cocker
We could hear him almost as well as we could Jarvis. Despite the ungainly interior of this old hulk, like some beached grande dame, the sound was excellent – you could hear every word Jarvis sang, despite the fact that the whole set was seriously loud. Perhaps I should add here that it was also fantastic – a top ten gig of the year – made all the more enjoyable by the fact that Jarvis Cocker cuts an unlikely figure for a rock and roll star – but boy, can he rock. From first song, the marvellous ‘Fat children’, a sombre tale of the times about a fatal mugging in Tottenham (“they wanted my brand new phone with all the pictures of the kids and the wife”), to the simply wonderful ‘Black magic’, with its bullet-shot snare drum and “Black magic yeah yeah yeah” that ended the main set there was hardly any fault to find.
I think it’s only the fourth or fifth gig this band have played but they were cool, confident, and collected as they worked their way through the new album’s songs, and also gave us a couple that are yet to be recorded, including a song about the lonely bachelor’s plight, ‘One man show’ (opening line ‘I’ve got a date with a baked potato tonight”). You shouldn’t expect a lot musical novelty from Jarvis – the tunes are hugely derivative and display a wide array of influences – but it’s the way he packages them up with his striking lyrics that really makes them special. And some of the arrangements are stunning – the glockenspiels and vibraphone on the very pretty ‘Baby’s coming home’ perhaps, or the use of the bells on ‘Black magic’. Oh yes – and in the background there’s some very funky guitar stuff going on too.
Of course some of the songs are deeply dark and designed to shock – ‘From Auschwitz to Ipswich’ for example, or the ‘hidden’ track from the album ‘Cunts are still ruling the world’ which is the band’s first encore. But Jarvis knows he’s here to entertain. So the second encore is “a song that lives in the bricks and mortar of the Roundhouse”, Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’ which was recorded here in 1972 – it’s a raucous loud light flashing affair with a frenetic (it’s true what they say, he really does know how not to dance) Jarvis striking poses and improvising wildly on a Theremin. And this is followed by the tender ‘Quantum theory’ when Mr Cocker manages to bring a hush to the by now raucous audience simply by raising his fingers to his lips. Actually we’ve been in the palm of his hands since he walked on the stage. It’s been that sort of gig. This man has the magic. Outstanding. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Many thanks Nick and Kate! Jarvis is extremely hot in France indeed, as Pulp was, but I didn't know he's living in Paris, although now that you mention it, he's really looking like a 1950 Saint-Germain-des-Prés misunderstood artist. But his music is brilliant indeed (of course we love 'Cunts', especially because it's said it was censored in the UK - is that true?) but we'll go chauvinistic today with his very nice rendering of Serge Gainsbourg's 'Je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais', that is to say I just came to tell you that I'm going.mp3 (from Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited, with Kid Loco). - Serge
 
TASTING - TWO INDIE BUNNAHABHAINS
Bunnahabhain 11 yo 1994/2006 ‘Manzanilla Finish’ (46%, Dun Bheagan, casks #90361/90362, 1590 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh and honeyed at the start, with a little iodine and also caramel. Gets then rather fruity (apples) and leathery, with also hints of incense and cigarette tobacco. Hints of cooked butter and custard, orange cake… Nothing revolutionary but this one's pleasantly soft.
Mouth: sweet, honeyed, slightly sour (sauce for dim-sums) and quite salty at the attack. Notes of toasted brioche, crystallized oranges, caramel… One that reminds me of the official 12yo. Lots of apple juice as well. Finish: medium long, on caramel, overripe apples and with again a little salt. Good finishing – Manzanilla seems to wok well. 83 points.
Bunnahabhain 1977/2005 (49.6%, Scott's Selection) Colour: pale gold. Nose: more presence in this one, with the butter coming through right at the start and more maltiness. Notes of juniper, wine barrel (clean), toffee, cloves, honey… Bolder than the 11 yo but also woodier, with quite some tannins. Mouth: extremely close to the Dun Bheagan, just bolder and more tannic and peppery. Otherwise it's pretty much the same whisky, with just more body and a longer and spicier finish. 85 points.
 

December 25, 2006


 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
TASTING – TWO OLD GLENFARCLAS
Glenfarclas 1971/2000 ‘Christmas Edition’ (53.10%, OB, casks #5959/5960, 543 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: rather fresher and more elegant than expected, rather compact… Starts on caramel and sweet wine such as Banyuls, with some bold but refined oaky tones (no varnish here) and develops on dates, rum-soaked bananas, baklavas… It’s got a lot from late harvest wines (Alsatian pinot gris – formerly called Tokay but thanks to Brussels, that had to be changed). Interesting smoky touches, burning matchstick, coal… Also almonds. Extremely well balanced, the sherry being perfectly integrated.
Mouth: the attack is probably woodier, more vinous and rougher but it’s still superb. More typical as well, with quite some roasted nuts, raisins, cooked fruits, strawberry jam, caramel, milk chocolate… Rather lively, that is, with also lots of orange marmalade, apricot pie, caramelized pears… The finish is quite long at that, sherried and caramelly, with a spicy, peppery tang, getting just a little drying. A very pleasant palate but the real thrill was on the nose. 91 points.
Glenfarclas 27 yo 1970/1998 (55.6%, SMWS #1.81) This one is nicknamed ‘the green Glenfarclas’ and the colour, indeed, is greenish bronze. Nose: very unusual, starting very expressively on huge notes of pineapples (both fresh and canned) and all sorts of sweets (mostly orange drops but also lemon etc.) Totally unsherried (but it had to get green! Was that because of a few nails?) Goes on with something muscaty, old roses, lychees, Turkish delight… Amazingly fruity, with just hints of nutmeg and cloves behind the scene. I couldn’t tell you what the influence of that green ‘stuff’ is here… Now, there’s also been a green Brackla (The Whisky Exchange) or a green Springbank (Cadenhead) so it’s not that rare. Mouth: strong and heavy like a herbs liqueur – I don’t know if it’s the colour’s influence on my mind here. Notes of chartreuse and genepy but also all sorts of fruit liqueurs… Alas, the whole gets frankly bitter and drying after a moment, I’m not sure whether that ‘greenness’ is ok in fact. Well, we wouldn’t expect the SMWS to try to poison us, do we? Plus, I didn’t here of any hospitalization since 1998, so it should be alright. The finish is even rougher but pleasantly resinous now… The power of mind again? Anyway, all the thrill was on the nose this time. A curiosity. 85 points.
And also Glenfarclas 15 yo (46%, OB, circa 2006) New livery. All 15yo’s I had, including very old ones, have been worth 80 or 81 points in my books. Nose: fresh nuts and apples, caramel, faint smokiness. Not very demonstrative but very nicely balanced. Gets toffeeish, with also quite some cappuccino. Mouth: much more wood influence. Lots of cinnamon, small wild apples. Something of a Calvados. Corinth raisins. More and more coffeeish and peppery. Slightly rough but very good, sort of wild. I like it, I think the 15 improved: 84 points.
Glenfarclas 21 yo (43%, OB, circa 2006) I never quite liked the ‘21’ but maybe these newer batches will fit my tastes better. Nice new liveries, by the way, simple and classy. Nose: round but not dull, starting on ripe apples. Hints of Comté cheese (unusual – you could call that gym socks), date liquor (arrack). Bold notes of roasted peanuts. Mouth: sweet, balanced and caramelly. Cake, roasted nuts, malty. Still a little MOTR on the palate for my tastes. 80 points (hey, up 1 point!)
Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, circa 2006) I usually like the ‘25’ much better than the 21 (even if fellow MM and Farclie expert Luc doesn’t seem to agree). Nose: oh yes, it’s much more complex, beautifully nutty, expressive. Beautiful sherry. Hints of game, liquorice, soy sauce… Slightly smoky. Mouth: rounder and sweeter, maybe lacking a little oomph (the 43%) and maybe too fruitish at this age but otherwise it’s very nice. Strawberries, orange salad, caramelized peanuts. Okay, the nose was much nicer, the palate lacks just a little consistency… But the whole is still worth 85 points in my books.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Christmas but we'll not have Sinatra, Nat King Cole or just any provincial choir but rather this Christmas blues.mp3 by Martin Tyrrel. No, he's not John Lennons reincarnation... But please buy Martin Tyrrel's music!

 

December 24, 2006


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
(thank you Geert)
 
TASTING - TWO TULLIBARDINES
Tullibardine 1966/2006 (49.8%, OB, 436 bottles) Colour: deep amber with red hues. Nose: this one starts almost like very dry oloroso, with lots of old walnut notes and Smyrna raisins as well as Chinese plum sauce (sweet and sour) and whiffs of old empty wine barrel (a clean one). Not wham-bam, rather refined, with hints of leather and Havana cigars. It gets then more and more chocolaty and maybe slightly cardboardy.
Goes on with prunes, old Armagnac, bitter oranges, Dantziger Goldwasser. Hints - just hints - of burning pinewood and lacquer. Like a travel through time… Too bad it gets slightly dirty after a moment (wet floorcloth) but the whole is still very enjoyable. Mouth: hugely sherried, raisiny, toffeeish and almost vinous but quite curiously, all that is nicely balanced. Lots of wood and tannins but the whisky isn't really drying. Gets quite vinous but in a nice way (very old Banyuls or Maury). Again, goes on with lots of cocoa and quite some mint, coffee, brownies… One of the best Tullibardines I ever had, even if I wouldn't say this one tastes exactly like Tullibardine usually does. Finish: medium long, on chocolate, coffee and with a faint cardboardiness. Very good but you have to like old sherry. 87 points.
Tullibardine 1989/2005 (55.1%, Scott's Selection) Colour: pale straw. Nose: powerful but curiously subdued at first nosing, with just notes of paraffin and green apples. It gets then very green, very herbal and quite cardboardy again. Develops on lamp oil, olive oil, linseed oil (okay, okay) and wet newspaper. Very close to most OB's, prototypically Tullibardine and as such, interesting if you want to document that distillery in your bar, I'd say. Mouth: sweet and funnily oily, soon to get very dusty. Strange notes of plastic, cod oil (aaargh), something like scented soap, grass, ink (remember, at school…), apple compote and finally black pepper. Not exactly good but hugely entertaining. Long finish, much spicier, peppery, with even chilli or hot curry sauce. Yes, this one's very funny, hence my 80 points.
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Sunday, we go classical (and somewhat pumpous) with the 1er Mouvement de la Symphonie de Chasse.mp3 by Jean-Joseph Mouret (1682-1738), played by the Insititut Hubert Heinrich de Musiques de Chasse. A la chasse, à la chasse! Please buy their music.

 

December 23, 2006


YES - that's right, we have a new design right for Xmas. Not too different, but 'tighter' enough to please the Malt Maniacs' lider maximo Johannes, who used to keep pestering me because he 'suggested' Whiskyfun's 'look' had to be closer to Malt Maniacs'. Well, I hope we succeeded, and that this new set-up is to your liking. Anyway, fun will prevail.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
TASTING - TWO BRILLIANT BANFFS
Banff 1975/2006 (43%, Mackillops Choice, cask #3324) Colour: straw. Nose: ah yes, this is clearly 'Banffesque', starting on some rather grassy notes as well as fresh butter and something like mustard seeds. Notes of fern, moss, wild mushrooms… Also something slightly metallic and waxy that reminds me of the old Clynelish 12 yo OB (yes, great news). Goes on with green apples, hints of shoe polish, wet stones, old coal oven, cactus juice… Even motor oil… Well, I like this!
Mouth: oh yes, it is beautifully austere and this palate is very coherent with the nose. Waxy, mineral, lemony, peppery… Maybe a tad cardboardy as well. The pepper grows bolder by the minute, with also notes of high-end white rum or maybe tequila. And again that metallic tang. Finish: rather long, compact, lemony and beautifully bitter (lemon seeds)… A winning Banff, in the 'old Highlands' style. My fellow Maniac Michel was right, Banff can be great. 90 points.
Banff 27 yo 1976/2003 (54.4%, Cadenhead, 228 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: more silent, and then more mustardy, even grassier. Lots of apple skin, that cactus juice again, fresh walnuts, newspaper of the day (ink), hints of wood smoke… It does get a little fruitier after a while but never goes any further than green apples. Lots of peat as well, it seems. Mouth: punchier and woodier, with much more tannins (loads of white pepper and over-infused green tea) but also more fruitiness (dried pears, apples again, also marzipan). Tastes more and more like an excellent pear eau-de-vie (the one we distil at home sometimes - yeah, yeah). The balance gets really perfect after a few minutes - a Banff that grows on you. Finish: long, both fruity and mustardy, with quite some tannins and pepper… A solid, serious malt. Bravo, Banff! 88 points.
 
CRAZY WHISY ADS – THE WAR OF THE DECANTERS part 16 and last
1972: Does Chivas Regal try to kill the decanters? ‘Sometimes it’s more elegant not to use an elegant decanter.’
1974: Glenfiddich ‘Now that you know your Scotch, taste what came before.’ Are only pure malts worth a decanter?
1975 (circa): Glenfiddich sell a very expensive 25 yo in a decanter. ‘A good $2,100 Scotch is hard to find – The explanation is that 25-year-old Glenfiddich – easily the world’s most expensive Scotch – is also possibly the rarest. Just one barrel of this splendid single malt is available this year. That means a few precious bottles. As befits a Scotch of this calibre, 25-year-old Glenfiddich is being offered only in a hand-cut Edinburgh crystal decanter crowned with a truly regal solid Sterling Silver Stag’s Head. It is accompanied with appropriate documentation and presented in an inlaid wooden chest. To acquire a decanter, please call William Grant & Sons, Inc or inquire through your local purveyor of fine spirits. And remember, whether you add this matchless whisky to your private stock or present it as a gift, the most extraordinary thing about Glenfiddich is neither the decanter nor the cost – it’s the taste.’ A hyperbole that sounds pretty familiar…
1980: But Haig gives the deathblow with this ad – ‘To Scotch lovers, the bottle reveals more than the decanter.’ Ite missa est.
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: we're in December but why not have this very delicate and already famous song called November.mp3 by WF favourite wonder duo Azure Ray... Ah, Maria Taylor's voice... Please buy these girls beautiful music.

 

December 22, 2006


TASTING - A FEW LAPHROAIGS
Laphroaig
Laphroaig 12 yo 1993/2006 (46%, Chieftain’s, casks #8023-8025, 1110 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather fresh, smoky, maybe cleaner and more mineral than usual. Notes of wet chalk, flints, matchsticks… Also fresh butter and apple juice. Nothing too special here but this nose is rather flawless. Mouth: sweet, clean, peaty, smoky… Not complex but again, flawless. Notes of peppered apple juice (?) and a little soft curry. Long finish, nicely sourish like cider apples. Typical and good. 85 points.
Laphroaig 1987 (53.4%, OB for LMDW France, 6 casks, 2006) This new one doesn’t come cheap (185 Euros) Colour: white wine (slightly darker than the 1993). Nose: very clean at first nosing, as smoky and mineral as the 1993 but soon to get hugely medicinal, with lots of tincture of iodine, mercurochrome, pine resin… Also nice hints of wildflowers and fresh almonds but the whole is very extreme. Casualty ward? Mouth: powerful, peaty, herbal (Jägermeister, chlorophyll) and again very extreme and medicinal. Lots of lemon skin as well, cinchona, green tea, apple skin. Kind of a ‘thickness’. Notes of green gooseberries, not too ripe blackcurrants and kiwis… Also something like orange drops. But the keyword is ‘medicinal’! Finish: rather long, fruity, chalky and always medicinal (of course) with also a little pepper. In short, quite a beast, maybe one of the most medicinal Laphroaigs I had in the recent years. Very, very good but tastes younger than 19 yo I think. 89 points.
Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006) Nose: very medicinal (bandages, iodine). Hints of wet dog. Not bold but certainly not declining contrarily to what some say. Mouth: lots of smoked tea, huge gentian spirit. Very earthy. Liquorice roots. Nice peatiness and no excessive sweetness. Quite some body at 40%. Bolder than some earlier versions. Up! 83 points.
Laphroaig 15 yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006) The 15 has always been a controversial version but I always liked its extra-subtlety. Nose: okay, these new badges seem to be a bit rougher than the older ones, closer to the 10. More coastal and peaty but also more caramelly. Smoked cake? Notes of kumquats, citrons, raw ginger… Salsify? Quite different from both the older 15 and the current 10, in fact. Superb notes of grapefruits. Mouth: oh yes, it’s much more complex than the 10. Lots of dried citrus fruits, oysters, salt… Excellent, bolder than the earlier versions. Lots of oomph. 90 points.
Laphroaig 30 yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006) A winning expression, this one is a fairly recent batch I think. Earlier versions used to be the best Laphroaigs ever, together with the old 10 yo (Bonfanti and such), all versions of the 10 yo C/S and last year’s 1974 for La Maison du Whisky. Let’s check if it stays the course. Nose: oh yes, it’s all there. Lots of tropical fruits (maybe all in fact), a superb ‘coastality’ (oysters and all that jazz) and a very delicate peat. The perfect nightcap? Mouth: too bad it lacks a little power, especially at the middle because the profile is more than perfect. Saltier than last time. Small bitter oranges. Slight notes of cinchona, maybe a little disturbing here. Nori, tea… Gets maybe a little too drying as well. Alright, it’s maybe not the total stunner it used to be – or my tastes have changed – but it’s still well worth 90 points in my books.
 
CRAZY WHISY ADS – THE WAR OF THE DECANTERS part 15
1970: Ezra Brooks again ‘It’s a grand old flask’. More Americana.
1970: I.W. Harper ‘Meet the man who made bourbon worth wrapping in a Holiday Decanter. Almost a hundred years ago. Mr. I.W. Harper took his honest bourbon-but with manners, and wrapped it in a handsome Holiday decanter. He gave it as a gift to a few special friends, and ever since then his decanters have been a Christmas tradition. This year I.W. Harper mellow Gold Medal and Bottled in Bond bourbons both come in their own classic crystal-cut decanter and Holiday cartons. Why not start a tradition if your own by putting Mr. Harper’s bourbon on your gift list? And don’t forget yourself.’
1971: Walker’s DeLuxe ‘A gift classic’. Classic indeed.
1971: Old Fitzgerald is back with an old style decanter with handle. 'A classic gift' . Classicism is fashionable - The swan’s song?
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's have Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman and JD Samson aka.Le Tigre playing their Fake French.mp3... I've got to move... whoa oh oh... Very silly but very funny, with something Talkingheads-esque. Please buy Le Tigre's music.

 

December 21, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan

BRIAN AUGER'S OBLIVION EXPRESS
The Pigalle, London, November 28th 2006

We’re in the Pigalle. No – it’s not that lively part of lovely Paris, famed for its charming and accommodating ladies, but rather a new club in London’s Piccadilly. It’s bizarre. Apparently the interior design is based “on the supper clubs of the 1940s” – those must have been the ones where evacuees sat round eating powdered scrambled egg and truffle oil by candlelight as the V2 missiles flew overhead. And it’s taken someone five years to design it – much of which time, I can only assume, was spent underneath his desk searching for his pencil.

It’s a ghastly pastiche of I don’t know what, and with its green flock wallpaper and shiny candelabra light-fittings looks more like the Embassy Suites somewhere in Tottenham High Road than a sophisticated or elegant night-spot. And of course it is sophisticated – because it’s home to regular performances by the new wave of burlesque artistes, or strippers (as my mother also used to say), providing ironic titillation to the tittering classes of Hoxton and the like.

Brian's back
When it’s not hosting strip-shows it’s a music venue, but it has to be said a poorly configured one. There are tables for diners both on the ground floor and on the balcony. Music lovers who don’t want to take the hit for dinner are corralled at the back and to one side, with a pretty poor view. And the position of the stage means that almost everyone downstairs gets a view of the back of the godfather of Acid Jazz’s Japanese shirt, and not really much else. Did I mention it’s Brian Auger with his Oblivion Express? He’s here because his record company (the hard-up Sanctuary Records) are launching a ‘massive reissue campaign’ of his back catalogue, but like us I can’t help thinking he’s spending most of the night wondering what he’s doing in this place when he could be in the Jazz Café.
And he’s not the only one that’s puzzled. The hen party at the table opposite (“and this one’s for you girls” – was it ‘Brain damage’) are drinking champagne like it’s going out of style – blissfully unaware that it’s supposed to be a night of hushed jazz reverie. And the other bloke who’s pretty confused by the whole thing is the burly Russian oligarch, bursting out of his 1970s Sweeney suit who takes the solo table next to ours with a stellar view of the stage. As he takes his seat my Tiffany diamond encrusted Geiger counter, a sophisticated but must have de-rigueur London accessory of the moment, goes into overdrive. He’s already glowing – but that’s in anticipation of the strippers, who of course don’t show, so he angrily scoffs his bowl of caviar and stalks out, leaving a trail of heaven knows what, in his wake.
On stage Brian Auger is in a Hammond organ heaven. And because I know Serge is a bit of a Hammond fan, and a Brian fan, and he’s sitting next to me, I thought I’d do a bit of research (yes I know, when I took my PhD that word had a very different meaning, but now apparently it means five minutes’ scamming on Google, a pre-requisite of journalistic success). Did you know that the Hammond organ was invented by Laurens Hammond, famed for one of his other inventions, the automatic Bridge table – apparently, says the website, “in 1932 alone, a total of 14,000 of these tables were sold”. I couldn’t find any on E-bay, but did discover a few Hammond Maniacs who had them in their collection. It was supposed to keep people happy at home during the depression, which was the same idea behind the Hammond B3, an at-home church organ, with that unique pipe-organ sound synthesised by a complex system of tone wheel generators (see – cool research or what?I almost sound as though I know what I’m talking about). But somewhere it went badly wrong: Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, James Taylor, Rick Wakeman, Rod Argent, Keith Emerson – hardly a church choir, and at the head of this bunch of keyboard maestros the leading exponent of the art form today, Mr Auger, famously known of course for his work with Rod Stewart and the late Long John Baldry in Steampacket, and his UK hit single ‘Wheels of fire’ performed with the captivating vocalist Julie Driscoll (now Julie Tippets). And since 1970 he’s been driving his Oblivion Express around the world playing a delicious, though not too demanding, blend of organ driven jazz blues.
We see a lot of his back. And of his incredible concentration and muscular control as he works his way through the set – playing a Hammond isn’t an easy job, but he makes it seem (almost) like child’s play. Helping him out is son Karma on drums, daughter Savannah Grace Auger on vocals and the excellent and apparently effortless long-fingered five-string bassist Doug Shreeve. But as they work their way through a set that includes ‘Straight ahead’, ‘Butterfly’ ‘Bumping into sunset’, ‘Don’t look away, look around’, John Coltrane’s ‘Naima’, ‘Brain damage’, ‘Compared to what’, and ‘Indian rope trick’ the clear focus of attention is Auger, alternating long solos between the Hammond and his ‘funky’ (and rather too) electronic keyboard.

Karma, Brian and Savannah Grace Auger
It’s fantastic – and because the venue is such a dump it’s an occasion to close your eyes and let the swirling waves of sound roll over you, again and again, like a tide in constant ebb and flow. And at least Mr Auger stands between each song, faces his audience, and chats to us nicely about his influences (Eddie Harris, Herbie Hancock and Wes Montgomery seemed to be high on the list), about some of the songs (the ‘Brain damage’ story was a cracker) and quite a lot about his family, who when they’re not on the road (which they seem to be for much of the year) live in sunny California.
It’s great fun. And the band, and Brian in particular, seem to really enjoy it, despite the inadequacies of the venue. His sisters and friends in the balcony love it; Serge is ecstatic and talks to Brian at the end of the show whilst Mrs Serge snoozes. The hen party have all staggered away, whilst the grumbling jazzers at the back are heading for the late bus to Pinner. And meanwhile, as the Photographer irradiates smiles, having not expected to encounter Oblivion in such a literal way, I’m checking the Geiger counter and carefully brushing down my jacket. Last time at the Pigalle I suspect. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate 'Driscoll')
Merci Nick and Kate… Oh yeah, oh yeah! I agree Piccadilly’s Pigalle Club was more like the liner France’s dining room circa 1966… I was expecting De Gaulle to enter the place anytime. So, that’s what’s trendy in London these days… My! But frankly, I’d have gone to Brian Auger even if the gig had taken place in John O’Groat’s crappiest pub… And on my knees, at that. I was immersed in Hammond organ as a child (it was Jimmy Smith, Rhoda Scott and Wild Bill Davis) and when I first heard Brian Auger (I think it was ‘Tiger’) I understood that Hammond can also rock big time. Keith Emerson also showed us that it’s quite hard to destroy one (he was destroying always the same organ every night!) Then there was the more adventurous Don Pullen… And today we have the fabulous Barabara Dennerlein, Emmanuel Bex, Joey DeFrancesco or Pat Bianchi (it’s even more impressive when they play the bass with their feet!)
But I’m so glad Brian Auger is still around and playing as hard and fast as ever. I just love this guy, he's also a wonderful human being, many thanks again for having drawn us into your swinging London for that occasion. As for music, there are four excellent tunes on his obligatory myspace page. And oh, Brian says hello to all Whiskyfun readers, please see at the right... Of course, like he suggested, one could either read 'wishes' or 'whiskies' I guess... And hey, we have also video! Just the bassist isn't the same... Please see below and play it loud...- Serge
 
Oh, yeah, while I'm at it, here's Barbara Dennerlein (whatch the feet!)
 
 
TASTING - TWO HANYUS (Japan)
Hanyu 1988/2006 (56,3%, Full Proof Holland, Puncheon #9204) Funny manga-like label. Colour: amber. Nose: really unusual, starting on lots of coal and wood smoke as well as smoked ham. A smokehouse? Goes on with interesting notes of wet newspaper (wet paper and ink) and then various spices such as Chinese anise, cardamom, coriander… Hints of burnt caramel, matchsticks… Then we have notes of cheese (comté, gruyere), Chinese sour sauce, blackcurrant leaves… Unusual and very interesting, this Hanyu.
Mouth: really punchy and very woody but it’s a very nice woodiness (no excessive dryness). Lots of dried fruits (longans, figs) as well as quite some tobacco (chewed Havana ;-)), cinnamon, sultanas, white pepper, overripe bananas… Gets very peppery after that, with even chilli, especially at the long and very spicy finish. A great example of a hugely oaky, yet very enjoyable malt. 88 points.
Hanyu 1990/2006 'Queen of Hearts' (54%, Ichiro's Malt, 324 bottles) Hanyu distillery was dismantled in 2004 but Ichiro, grandson of the founder, bought part of the stocks. This bottling was matured in a hogshead and finished in a cognac cask. Colour: amber. Nose: rather bold, fruity (strawberries) and vanilled. Not as special as the Hanyu bottled by Full Proof in Holland I think but maybe better balanced. Much less oak, that’s for sure. Mouth: fruity (ripe bananas) and vanilled again with a nice spiciness. Closer to the ‘Full Proof’ but not as boldly demonstrative. Rather long and balanced finish. Maybe more 'Scottish' and MOTR than expected despite the Japanese-French pedigree, but it’s very, very good whisky, no doubt about that. I can't wait to taste the other 'cards'. 83 points.
 
CRAZY WHISY ADS – THE WAR OF THE DECANTERS part 14
1968: Old Grand-Dad ‘overgive.’ Less and less brands are issuing crazy decanters it seems but Old Grand-Dad carry on with that fine old tradition…
1969: Old Grand-Dad is still on. ‘Indulge someone – There are times to scrimp and save and economize, but this is the season to give the best. Your choice of the decanter or the regular bottle in either gift carton, Red gift wrap holds 86 Proof… Blue, 100 Proof.'
1969: Other brands are really gearing to more conservative demands, like Ezra Brook with maybe one of the ugliest decanters ever. ‘Ezra Brook presents the Classic Firearms Collection. – Now the real sippin’ whiskey gives you something beautiful. From both barrels.’ Well…
1969: J.W. Dant issues this ‘thing’. “Americana”! By J.W. Dant – The Collector’s Bourbon.’ This one was sold by mail order it seems.
 
 

December 20, 2006


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
TASTING - THREE INDIE MACALLANS
Macallan 30 yo 1976/2006 (45.3%, Adelphi, cask #2749, 206 bottles) This one did wonders at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2006. Colour: mahogany. Nose: wow, lots of sherry! Slightly acetic (huge balsamic vinegar, apple vinegar) at first nosing, very unusual. It’s not a flaw here. Gets then very nutty and toffeeish, with lots of strawberry ganache (mixture of chocolate and fruit pulp) and a little coffee. Superb notes of fresh fruits coming through, including pink grapefruit and even passion fruits. Gets then rather meaty (pork cooked with pineapples) and mushroomy. Fantastically lively and complex! A whole adventure… Mouth: concentrated, herbal, minty and jammy at the same time. Great dryness. Notes of sour apples, calvados, black pepper, old rum, old sweet wine… Rich but not thick, lots of elegance. Long finish on bitter chocolate and pepper, buttered caramel, getting maybe just a tad too drying/tannic… Anyway, top notch ‘ancient-style’ Macallan, resembling some much older – and much more expensive OB’s. 92 points.
Macallan 25 yo 1981/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 357 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: hints of sherry – maybe a refill cask – but also lots of roasted nuts, ash, stones, whiffs of smoke. Goes on with white flowers, fresh butter and vanilla as well as pears and apples. Pure, slightly sharp, crystalline. Great austerity and little cask influence. Mouth: punchy, starting with lots of fresh pears and peaches. Candy sugar… Kind of sugariness, less complex and maybe more indefinite than on the nose but the balance is rather perfect. Very long finish, sweet and fruity, with a little caramel crème. Not too much personality on the palate but the nose was superb I think. 85 points.
Macallan 29 yo 1977/2006 (50.3%, Douglas Laing Platinum Series, 185 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: very fruity at first nosing, rather bourbonny. Lots of bananas, vanilla, oak and freshly cut pear (buttery pears). Gets woodier and woodier (carpenter’s workshop) but the profile is rather close to the new officials. A super-Fine Oak? Mouth: very, very oaky and lots of liquorice but that’s okay here. Really close to a very old bourbon (something that reminds me of Hirsch but I’m not a bourbon guy). Loads of vanilla, orange sweets and a long and compact finish on oak and vanilla. Very coherent, maybe a little simple and too oaky but this one should please… err, the bourbon guys. 87 points.
And also Macallan 1991/2006 (56,4%, Jean Boyer, Best Cask of Scotland Collection, Sherry cask) Fresh and spirity. Hints of varnish and glue, getting much better after a while. Natural, grainy, notes of farmyard. Develops of coffee, smoked meat, toasted bread. Soaked barley, smoked tea. Mouth: sweet and thick, extremely fruity (strawberry jam, blackcurrant jelly). Develops on orange marmalade, ripe kiwis, very ripe apples, black nougat. Jammy and rather smoky, wild, unlike most Macallans we know. I like it. 86 points.
 
CRAZY WHISY ADS – THE WAR OF THE DECANTERS part 13
1967: Calvert Extra ‘Why do things the hard way?’
1967: Old Grand-Dad ‘Splurge.’
1967: Old Forester ‘It’s an Old Forester kind of season.’ Is that the same brand that had the stunning Raymond Loewy decanter ten years before???
1967: Martin’s VVO ‘Scotch can be beautiful’. And now the Scots, amazing…

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: in 2004 Alice Coltrane did a beautiful comeback with her son Ravi and that gave the rather classical album 'Translinear light', on which there's John's Crescent.mp3. (Alice is on piano instead of harp). Please buy Alice Coltrane's music.

 

December 19, 2006


 

MALT MANIACS INFORMATION

E-PISTLE: SCOTCH WHISKY - AN INDIAN'S PERSPECTIVE

by Krishna Nukala (India)

Whisky, I know for sure, is a subject that is of growing interest to many an Indian palate. Naturally it excites me to write on this topic because I have a little to share from my experiences with this noble drink. The fact that real whisky’s ingredients are barley (although other grains are permitted), water, yeast and most importantly time, are now known to all. But appreciating whisky is a different ball game and is an outcome of acquired taste.

And when it comes to Single Malts, the grammar of whiskies, the taster (or should I say the connoisseur) has acquired his taste painstakingly over a long period of time. For an Indian palate this process is even more difficult, as the stuff is sui generis to Celts and most of the smells and tastes that are described in Single Malts are from the dietary menu of the western world. For example smells and tastes in things like rhubarb, licorice, short bread, marshmallows, junipers, thyme, rosemary, etc are unknown to general Indian palate although some western tastes like those found in prunes, plum cake, strawberries, garlic bread, etc are now familiar to many Indians. I am mentioning this because these are some of the flavours and tastes that one often encounters while “nosing” and “tasting” Single Malts. On the other hand, when I detect our own Indian smells and tastes like asafetida, ripe guava, betel nut or even green chillies in some of the Single Malts, my fellow drammers look at me with blank faces! That brings me to a discussion- what should an appreciative Indian taster like to find in his whisky? Well- definitely not soda, water and ice.
Even today Indians continue to consume large tumblers of water and soda laced with whisky. Inferior whisky producers, since time immemorial have led us to believe that the only way to withstand their nascent produce is to add lots of ice, water, soda or even cola. As a result, the general Indian palate has not understood how to appreciate a decent dram of naked whisky. The aim seems to have a ‘good kick’ out of the stuff, no matter what it is and when you try to reason out with “What you drink is also important”, you often lose the debate when the guy counters, “Who cares about the taste? I am not a snob.” However, I am happy to find today that there is an increasing tribe of those who are now fed up with what they have been drinking and are asking for quality. Thankfully for this tribe, bless their souls, you do find now in India, some good blended whiskies and some imported standard OB malts. While the connoisseurs, I am sure, continue to source their quota during their sojourns abroad or courtesy- friends and relatives during their home comings. Imported Scotch is still out of reach of general Indian public and the government is ensuring the status by maintaining outrageously high levels of duties and taxes. This is a different topic by itself and one can write volumes on it.
What are the tastes that appeal to the Indian palate and which are the whiskies that offer these tastes? I can safely vouch that the Speyside will be their first choice followed by Highlands stuff. The Indian palate is robust, as it has been subjected to lots of spices since its infancy and I am afraid, the lowland whiskies would be a tad too light for them. And Islay whiskies? I think it would be the same as with any one who has just been initiated into the world of whiskies. Either you love them or hate them.
Indians would love those heavily sherried Speyside whiskies like Glenfarclas, Benrinnes, Macallan, Aberlour, Glenrothes, Tomintoul and even Cardhu. The sweet and honeyed tastes accompanied by spices like cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon would easily be recognised and appreciated. The tannins in the whiskies with thick mouth feel, is like chewing betel nuts, which incidentally is India’s hereditary pastime. And if you have had a drink too many, the dark coating on the tongue is similar to the reddish stains of paan (betel leaves, betel nuts with calcium hydroxide) which is a bonus. This is where the sherry finished whiskies score over their counterpart, bourbon finished whiskies. Having initiated into this, the Indian palate can upgrade itself to spicier and adventurous Highland stuff like Dalwhinnie, Dalmore, Clynelish, Glemorangie or even Highland Park. One of the whiskies I can swear that would be a great hit in India is Glengoyne. The Indians would LOVE it. Among the other whiskies the Indians would dare to try after initiation would be Lagavulin and Port Ellen.
As already mentioned before, due to high tariffs, Single Malts are not generally available, although I am told that Diageo and Allied Domecq have now established offices in India to cater to (or capture?) a niche segment. Single Malts are now available in all 5-star hotels and some high-end bars in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. You can have a dram of standard Glenlivet 12 y.o (OB, 43%) at Rs.700, i.e. EU 11.66 – and I am sure those enjoying would be doing so at their corporate expenses.
One of the latest developments in India is the evolution of Single Malt clubs and I happen to know a few esteemed members personally. One is Suresh Hinduja who maintains a food and drinks website called www.gourmetindia.com and the website has a colourful forum where whisky is discussed passionately. Abhinav Aggarwal from Mumbai, another passionate member, has not yet developed his blog but is joined by another malt enthusiast Keshav Prakash, a cinematographer (who happens to be a friend of Rob Drapper). Yet another worthy name to mention is Vikram Chanty, CEO of www.tulleeho.com- India’s premium website on alcoholic beverages. Except for selling alcohol, it features everything on drinks. During last week’s sojourn to India, Charles Maclean, our undisputed guru, was mentioning to me that he came across a few enthusiasts in Delhi who are part of a Single Malt club. The interest in SMSW is growing exponentially in India and if the tariffs are brought down to local excise duty levels by the government, I am sure the Scotch Whisky Industry would have a daunting task to meet the world’s demand. - Krishna

P.S: A small note on Indian tastes in Scotch Whisky

i) Asafetida: Called Devil’s dung in Europe, it is a resinous substance derived from Ferula plant (native of Iran). The milk, when extracted from the stem or root of the plant is very pungent and sulfurous and very quickly solidifies as rock. It is used in cooking mainly for digestive purpose and offers a typical strong smell not liked by many.

I detected asafetida in the Bowmore 40 y.o 1966-2006 (43.4%, DTC Peerless, C# 3316, 151 Bottles) that was offered to me by Luc at his home in Antwerp. Its presence was unmistakable both on nose and palate and I immediately recognised it and uttered “Asafetida”. Bert, Luc and Davin who were with me had blank faces and did not understand what I was saying. I could not find sufficient vocabulary to explain it to them then, but later at Johannes’s place in Amsterdam, when I narrated the story, he too did not understand and had to Google it out. To re-establish my claim I asked Luc to send me a small sample of that Bowmore in exchange of a small sample of Asafoetida for him.
ii) Guava: Guava is native fruit of Mexico and Brazil and is grown in the back yard of almost every home in India. Guava is to India what Apple is to western world. Like apple, guava smells and tastes different at different stages of ripening. The green one is hard and juicy and as it ripens it develops a strong and fruity smell. The ripe fruit is yellowish with soft flesh and tiny, hard seeds. It is a good laxative and some even consume it to get relief from piles. The ripe fruit has a lot of sugar content and I have tasted distilled guava liquor when I was in Bombay and I must say it is very good – far better than the smelly Goan fenny.

Guavas
I detected ripe guava in Auchroisk 26 y.o 1979/06 (56.7% Signatory Sherry cask) during this year’s Malt Maniac’s Awards. When I described the stuff as ripe guava, Johannes described it as something vaguely fruity. Yes, Johannes you might not have tasted a guava and that is why the taste is vague to you!
iii) Betel nut: Also called areca nut is actually a type of palm fruit. The nuts are small, say 2” in diameter with very hard fibrous covering like coconuts. The whole nuts are greatly in demand throughout the country. The main use of the nuts is as offerings to God during religious ceremonies. It may also have some digestive properties but I am not sure. One cannot really describe it as bitter in taste but the texture on the palate is like extreme tannins on the palate. It is the main ingredient in paan, which is made with betel leaves, calcium hydroxide, dried tobacco flakes and other condiments. Chewing paan is India’s national pastime - undoubtedly.

Betel nuts
I get this betel nut taste in many of the extremely sherried Speysiders like Aberlour, Benrinnes, in some Port Ellens and several of the Glengoynes. This years’ Awards Gold medalist Macallan 30 yo 1976/2006 (45.3%, Adelphi, C#2749, 206 Bts.) has this typical vagaru (the exact description of the taste of betel nuts in my language – Telugu).
Many other Indian tastes like green chillies, black peppers, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cayenne etc are recognised in many malts even by western palates.
Two of the typical Indian tastes which I am eagerly looking forward to find in SMSW are mango and curry leaf. It’s high time the Scots matured whisky in casks made out of mango wood or curry leaf trees! Namaste
 
TASTING - TWO SINGLE GRAINS
Lochside Lochside 42 yo 1963 (45.2%, DL, The Clan Denny, Grain whisky, cask #HH243, 2006) Lochside had also a Coffey still within its buildings and used to produce grain until 1970, when that still was mothballed. Nose: oh, this is very subtle. Starts on coconuts and bananas plus hints of cellulose varnish and shoe polish and starts developing on praline and light honey as well as roasted nuts. Keeps developing on white chocolate and mocha and something like walnut and meat sauce. Pecan pie, roasted cashews, soft liquorice…
Very delicate and certainly not tired. With all these excellent old grains (many by Duncan Taylor but also Douglas Laing or Berry Bros) I’m starting to wonder if grain doesn’t stand the course better than grain… Mouth: a superb attack, rather resinous and salty at the same time. It’s not bold but above all, it’s not overly woody. Quite some nutmeg, cinnamon and white pepper, though, a little camphor and eucalyptus (cough syrup), gingerbread, liquorice as often, vanilla toffee. Not too far from a very old and very good bourbon I think. Excellent and very interesting old grain – old but not tired in any way – but don’t look for Lochside’s distillery character. 90 points.
Girvan 1989/2006 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, casks #110634 & 110635) It’s not that often that we have the opportunity to taste a young single grain, except for Black Barrel and a few others – most new versions are pretty old. Colour: straw. Nose: this one starts on huge, very huge notes of coconuts… It’s almost like Malibu! Amazing… Also white chocolate, fresh pineapple, very ripe melon, vanilla fudge… Amazing, it’s like an un-sugared fruit liqueur. Mouth: hugely sweet and fruity like a cocktail. Pina Colada? Add to that a pinch of nutmeg and clove powder plus something like rose-flavoured Turkish delights and that’s it. Not exactly to my linking but truly spectacular I must say! 78 points.
And also Compass Box 'Hedonism' (43%, Compass Box, Vatted Grain, 2006) Nose: starts on varnish and pear spirit – as expected. Gets cleaner, gingery… Incense, quince, dried longans, hot caramel, vanilla crème. Very, very nice. Mouth: oaky and vanilled but also quite perfumy – in a nice way. Dried pears, cigarette tobacco, fir honey, cough sweets. Perfect young grain with ‘not too much’ wood influence, excellently crafted. I like this version. 83 points.
 
CRAZY WHISY ADS – THE WAR OF THE DECANTERS part 12
1964: Bellows Partners Choice ‘If nobody gives you the gentle taste in whiskey, buy yourself a bottle.’ In other words, don’t bother with the fancy decanter. Err…
1964: Schenley ‘Stockings… Season’s Best… Schenley. Schenley… the life of your party!’
1965: Four Roses ‘Imported Baccarat decanter ($32.00) – Four Roses Christmas decanter (Free).’ Tasteful, really.
1966: Old Forester ‘It’s an Old Forester kind of season – The bite of brittle air. The playful blink of lights. The warm companionship of a great bourbon. To give and to enjoy. Cheers! It’s an Old Forester kind of season.’ And Old Forester used to be king of contemporary design… Declining indeed.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's go Scottish today, with Alistair Hulett and his The Swaggies Have All Waltzed Matilda Away.mp3 (from 1991's album Dance of the Underclass). Please buy Alistair Hulett's music!


December 2006 - part 1 <--- December 2006 - part 2 ---> January 2007 - part 1


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

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

Banff 1975/2006 (43%, Mackillops Choice, cask #3324)

Glenfarclas 1971/2000 ‘Christmas Edition’ (53.10%, OB, casks #5959/5960, 543 bottles)

Laphroaig 15 yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006)

Laphroaig 30 yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006)

Lochside 42 yo 1963 (45.2%, DL, The Clan Denny, Grain whisky, cask #HH243, 2006)

Macallan 30 yo 1976/2006 (45.3%, Adelphi, cask #2749, 206 bottles)

Nikka 20 yo 'Yoichi' (52%, OB, Japan, circa 2006)