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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2009 - Part 1
       

January 2009 - part 2 <--- February 2009 - part 1 ---> February 2009 - part 2

 

February 13, 2009


Macallan

TASTING
TWO RARE MACALLANS

Macallan ‘Golden Jubilee’ (47%, The Whisky Exchange, 50 decanters, 2002) A marriage of 50 different vintages to celebrate 50 years since the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II. Colour: dark amber. Nose: starts on beef stock and dark chocolate, more oloroso than the olorosoest of all olorosos and gets then extremely complex, with no obvious aromas standing out anymore. It’s rather an assemblage of myriads of tiny notes, such as raisins, beef jerky, milk chocolate, walnuts, bread crust, burnt caramel, rum, strawberry jam, ash smoke, ham, wine sauce, toffee, kirsch, coffee, bacon, moss, mushrooms… Agreed, what a litany! Oh, and maybe cooking turnips. Mouth: well, the first feeling we get is ‘old Macallan!’ It’s big, robust whisky and really, it’s very Macallan (I know this is of little use, sorry.) Smyrna raisins, toffee, liquorice, smoked ham, prunes, coffee… Oh well, you see what I mean. Very Macallan indeed and this is adorable, even if it does get just a tad dryish after a moment. Finish: long, a tad rawer now, salty and balsamic but also more candied and fruity at the retro-olfaction (apricot liqueur). Comments: very interesting dram, more polished and ‘old gentleman’s club’ on the nose than on the palate. Very good of course. SGP:553 - 90 points.
Macallan-Glenlivet 18 yo (54.9%, Cadenhead's, Black Dumpy, +/- 1985) Colour: very dark amber. Nose: Jesus! But this is magnificent! It is extremely demonstrative and what a fabulous ‘toffee-ish’ sherry! And what a fantastic smokiness! Look, I’m going to cut the crap right now, this is the epitome of a sherried Macallan. Museum quality as they say in the art world. Mouth: exceptionally good. Extreme, huuuuge sherry but fantastically well balanced. Call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: endless (less, less, less, less…). Comments: none. This is why we’re into whisky. This kind of thing happens only once or twice a year. A GTO of sherried whiskies. Why the distillery didn’t bottle more of their sherried wonders at cask strength, I don’t know. It’s also to be noted that classic olorosoed Macallans are very seldom to be found at independents’. Congrats to the Cadenhead people who, around 1985, decided to buy/bottle/issue this (whatever), they deserve the Légion d’Honneur. SGP:474 - 95 points.
 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: The Tuareg band Tinawiren is one of our favourite recent discoveries (but they’ve been around since quite some time). They come from the Ifoghas’ Adrar in Mali and I doubt there’s any contemporary music that’s as entrancing as theirs. Please have a listen to Mano Dayak and then buy all of their music (or better yet, go see them live).

Tinariwen
 

February 11, 2009


TASTING – ’76-’72, A SHORT LONGMORN VERTICALE
Longmorn
Longmorn 31 yo 1976 (51%, Scotch Malt Sales, Distillery Collection, Japan) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts very fruity, as these old Longmorns can be, on a lot of apricot and yellow plums, with whiffs of fresh mint and coal smoke underneath. Develops more towards both honeyed notes and something very earthy and kind of resinous. Pine needles, wet moss, dead leaves, mint liqueur (reminds of a liqueur that was called Ricqlès, I don’t know if it’s widely known, sorry). Also quite some wax. Not one of these easy but great überfruity old Longmorns but still a very pleasant nose, rather fresh, with even something coastal. Water: I don’t think water is needed here, let’s not take chances. Mouth: very punchy and very green, with a huge tannicity, pretty unexpected. Sharp and woody, all fruitiness having almost vanished on the palate, as if it was wiped off by the heavy woodiness. It’s only at the very beginning of the attack that one can feel that there are quite some fruits beneath the wood. With water (let’s try this!): on the nose it’s the fruitiness that stands out (more apricots and ripe bananas) but on the palate, the oak still rules. Finish: same comments, oak plus mint this time. Comments: a very drying version of Longmorn. SGP:261 – 79 points.
Longmorn 1975/2007 (53.2%, Jack Wieber, The Cross Hill, 130 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: starts very similar to the 1976 but the fruitiness is bigger whilst there’s a little less smoke. The development happens more on all things chocolaty plus hints of bananas, acacia honey, nougat and fresh oak, with again hints of pine resin and a pleasant greenness (apple skin). Very nice and once again, I don’t feel like adding water to this one. Mouth: once again, there’s quite some wood, but other components manage to shine through, such as crystallised oranges, dried bananas and roasted nuts. It’s very good actually, but you have to like oak in your whisky. With water (while the nose got pleasantly nougatty): no further development, big oak encapsulating (sorry) dried fruits and mint. Nice honeyed notes. Finish: long, the oak being decomposed into various spices (cinnamon first, then nutmeg and white pepper). Notes of cooked strawberries at the retro-olfaction. Comments: another rather rough and punchy version of Longmorn but this time balance is maintained. Not one of the best but it’s still of high quality. SGP:461 - 88 points.
Longmorn-Glenlivet 13 yo 1974/1988 (46%, Cadenhead's, Black Dumpy) Colour: straw. Nose: this is much drier and much more spirity and grainy, it’s as if Longmorn’s fruitiness needed thirty years or more to come out. It’s also very grassy and almost acrid for a while, before all that mingles with notes of fresh butter and liquorice and gets much nicer as well as a little beefy. Much more ‘Highlands’ than straight ‘Speyside, with little fruitiness, even after a good fifteen minutes of deeeeep nosing. Mouth: very powerful and once again, there’s quite some oak, but the rest is well there and it’s very nice. Just like on the nose, it’s a very grassy combo, with a lot of pepper on top of that. A very powerful whisky, Longmorn being totally unrecognisable here in our opinion. Finish: long, with traces of ‘a sherriness’ but the aftertaste is very grassy and peppery, with even a little salt. Comments: raw and brutal and in that sense quite spectacular. An unusually beastly Longmorn. SGP:272 - 84 points.
Longmorn 1973/2005 (56.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, cask #2198, First Fill Sherry Butt) Colour: full amber. Nose: once again, this is very punchy but it’s the sherry that plays first parts. Milk chocolate, burnt bread, cappuccino and wood smoke, then mushrooms and even the noblest of them: truffles. All that is very nice but once again, the distillery’s trademark fruitiness doesn’t quite manage to shine through. With water: well, there are more fruits but also a little too much wine, or say a vinosity (with its banner-bearer blackcurrant jam). Other than that it’s fine sherried Longmorn. Mouth (neat): dry oloroso at full speed. Need I tell you more? A little ‘too much’. With water: it’s good, it’s okay, it’s pleasant. More fruit jams but also a little too much drying-ness. Finish: long, both dry and fruity. I know… Comments: perfectly good old whisky but G&M had dozens of old Longmorns that were much superior in our opinion. SGP:361 - 84 points.
Longmorn 29 yo 1972/2001 (57.6%, Blackadder, Caledonian Connection, Japan) Colour: full amber. Nose: quit some sherry again but this is more complex, with many more ‘secondary’ aromas such as game, metal polish, tarmac, cigar box, soot… A lot of dark chocolate as well. With water: ooooooh yes! The fruity cavalry finally arrived, mangos, papayas, bananas… Also jamón ibérico (right, dry cured ham), chestnut purée, coal smoke, leather, lit Habano… Fantastico whisky! Mouth (neat): ah, once again, this is more like it. A load of sherry but also all of Longmorn’s fruits, tangerines, oranges, guavas… Frankly, all the four siblings we had before have been a little tiring but this is very, very nice. With water: top notch! All honeys and all fruits (right, despicable shortcuts but the other Longmorns have been really tiring). Finish: long, majestic, on nougat, fudge, various jams and just hints of coriander. Comments: a beauty – lucky Japanese friends! SGP: 662 - 92 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: Louis Prima on Whiskyfun! Yes but it’s his stunningly unlikely version of Sympathy for the devil, with nice cracks (! - today's bands fake them anyway, don't they?) and a roaring and groovy Hammond organ! Please buy Louis Prima’s music…

Louis Prima
 

February 10, 2009


Buzzcocks   CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE BUZZCOCKS
Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, January 30th 2009
 
I know I saw the Buzzcocks way back in the 1970s, but as I think I’ve explained before, and am ashamed to confess, this distant memory is shrouded by a surfeit of Boddingtons (still then made in Manchester) consumed in the parlour of a pub next door to the sadly-missed Strangeways Brewery. At the time, the Buzzcocks cut a bit of a dash: a frenetic guitar-led sound touched by an unusual Pop sensibility in their angst-laden and sexually challenging lyrics largely the responsibility of front man Pete Shelley, now lauded, like Martin Peters, as being somewhat ahead of his time. Despite some chart singles, commercial success and the more widespread recognition it brings never greeted this Manchester foursome who went the inevitable way of all things until the recent new wave of Seventies nostalgia saw them re-form in a partly changed line-up, and even record some new material. But tonight is firmly about the past as the band work through all the tracks from their first two albums, Another Music In A Different Kitchen and Love Bites (albeit in a rather eccentric order), supplemented by a few other early ‘hits’.
The Lurkers
The Lurkers
Much to my surprise, the Bush is packed to the rafters – it’s even pretty full when support act, the Lurkers, fronted by the gloriously unreformed Arturo Bassick, take the stage. Introducing ‘Come and reminisce if you think you’re old enough’ he opines, “Being a punk’s about not growing old in some home, sitting in a chair and pissing and shitting your pants, although frankly that’s what I do now most nights when I’m on tour” (those closest to the stage reeled back at this point). As they say, you couldn’t make it up. But when they finished the set with a two-hundred-mile-an- hour rendition of Dean Martin’s ‘Little old wine drinker me’, I got the strong impression that, conceivably, their day was past. The same could not be said for the Buzzcocks, who, but for the exception of Pete Shelley’s voice (not helped by a pretty poor sound balance) sounded as fresh as a daisy, their material positively vibrant, and their music a lot louder and heavier than I recall through the beer haze. They were, somewhat to my surprise, and the Photographer’s (“I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage all night”) very impressive.
The Buzzcocks
The Buzzcocks
Shelley couldn’t have been as disinterested as he looked. Although his vocals were strained (I think there was some sort of echo or reverb on them, an attempt to make them carry a little further perhaps?) and his occasional remarks terse and indifferent, he gave a magnetic performance. He looked an unlikely character for the job – with a Mondrianesque design shirt and an ill-matched well-worn pair of baggy Jolliman style Action Trousers (with a roomy cut and elasticated waist). His sparring partner, guitarist Steve Diggle (who displayed a surprising aversion to barre chords), was sipping Moet and Chandon NV from a pint-sized plastic glass and looked just the part whilst clearly having the time of his life. New band members, bassist Tony Barber and drummer Danny Farrant turned in more than creditable performances – in fact Farrant was a commanding figure. Together they created a sense of energy that quite took hold of the audience. Beer and (plastic) glasses flew around in all directions, one girl was swiftly restrained from lurching off the balcony into the crowd below. In the sizeable mosh, there was a heaving mass of bodies, crashing and crushing, sometimes quite violently – to be truthful it was hard to know if they were ‘dancing’ or fighting. And it was illuminating to see, along with the kids (who seemed to start at the age of about 16, many a bald or grey head (and bouncing beer-belly) in the thick of it - clearly some were more than old enough to know a lot better. This of course only added to the delight of many of the kids upstairs with their Dads (and just occasionally Mums) who were witnessing a real flashback, and a glimpse into their parent’s past.
Pete Shelley I suppose it’s far too late for the Buzzcocks to become fashionable again, but when you see a performance like this, and realise just how contemporary much of their music still sounds, you can’t help thinking than they deserve a little better than the footnote in the history of rock and roll that they seem doomed to occupy. The current tour is extensive, with dates across Europe, so why not go and see them and make your own mind up, or invest in the new series of re-released albums? - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

<- Pete Shelley in his Mondrian shirt

Listen:
The Buzzcocks on MySpace
Newcastle FESTIVAL - The very excellent Gordon over at Spirit of Islay reminds us that the first Newcastle Whisky Festival will take place on Saturday May 9th, 2009. Wait, Newcastle... isn't that on the road to Scotland? Another good occasion to kill two birds with one stone...
Tomintoul

TASTING – THREE OLD AND YOUNG YOUNG TOMINTOUL

Tomintoul-Glenlivet NAS (40%, OB, perfume bottle, circa 1975) Tomintoul was a very young distillery when they issued these strange ‘perfume’ bottles, as it first distilled in 1965. A good way of catching attention for sure! Colour: amber. Nose: round and rather pleasant, malty and orangey (marmalade), with hints of leather and tobacco and whiffs of pinewood smoke. A very nice surprise, this wasn’t a very young whisky it seems. Mouth: right, it’s rather weaker now, chocolaty but drying and cardboardy, even a tad dusty, lacking roundness. Very malty as well, with notes of orange marmalade just as on the nose. Not too interesting I’d say – less so than the container. Finish: short, dry, chocolaty. Comments: very nice nice nose but there isn’t much to see on the palate in our opinion. SGP:232 – 73 points.
Tomintoul-Glenlivet 8 yo (43%, OB, Perfume bottle, +/-1992, 75cl) Colour: gold. Nose: certainly younger and yeastier than the NAS version, much more on porridge and soaked grains. Notes of honey, heather and the same kind of smokiness as in the NAS. Rather pleasant again but a tad blander. In both versions there was something that reminded us of Highland Park (the smoky honeyness, if you see what I mean). Mouth: more body than the NAS at this point. Bigger honeyed notes, quite some chocolate again and a big maltiness. Old bottle effect starting, slight mouldiness, tea… Finish: medium long, very caramelly now. Comments: better than the NAS on the palate, rather satisfying. SGP:341 – 76 points.
Tomintoul NAS (40%, OB, 'Peaty Tang', +/-2007) Colour: pale gold. Nose: ever visited a malting plant? Huge notes of malted barley, then flints and porridge, wet hay and… More porridge. Hints of wet dogs as well. From the countryside, definitely. And Islayer without the sea and without the hospital. Mouth: clean, grainy and smoky, with a little aniseed and notes of apple juice but other than that there’s not much development. Gets a little sugary. Finish: medium long, grainy, peaty. Comments: it’s good whisky but it’s a tad narrow and weakish for our taste. These peaty batches will probably be much better with more age and a few extra-percents. The Old Ballantruan that they issued in 2006 at 50% ABV was a good example… (82) SGP:336 - 78 points.
 

February 9, 2009


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 
Caperdonich TASTING
TWO RECENT 1972 CAPERDONICH
Caperdonich 35 yo 1972/2008 (48.3%, The Whisky Fair, 188 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: at first nosing, it seems that it’s one of these pretty exuberant and very fruity Caperdonichs that we like so much (apricot pie galore), with what we call ‘a whole beehive minus the stings’ first in the background, and then quickly coming to the front. That is to say honey of course, but also pollen, old wood, putty, pine resin, wax… Also notes of very ripe butter pears, faint whiffs of wood smoke, hints of bergamots… And then these notes of ‘old Sauternes’ that are so entrancing in whisky (when they don’t come from actual Sauternes casks). Well, even then that can be excellent as we could find out, for instance in Celtique Connexion’s double maturing… Right, I digress. Anyway, this Caperdonich is more than perfect on the nose, we love this kind of profile, especially when there isn’t the tiniest flaw. Superb. Mouth: punchier than expected, maybe even a tad wild at the attack but it’s equally smooth… Let’s say ‘wildly rounded’ (which doesn’t make any sense, does it?) Bananas, oak (firm and solid but not plankish), orange marmalade, yellow plum jam, many spices… And then a slight grassiness that keeps it alive and nervous. Excellent again. Finish: long, with an unexpected peppery blast that really transforms it. Comments: a very rich dram, sometimes charmingly candied and sometimes wilder and spicier. High quality and a magnificent nose. SGP:652 – 92 points.
Caperdonich 1972/2008 (49.9%, Gordon &MacPhail Cask for LMdW, first fill sherry butt, cask #1976) Colour: mahogany (really!) Nose: pour 0.5l wild strawberry liqueur and 0.5l coffee liqueur into a shaker, add a few spices (star anise, cinnamon, cloves), shake well and then nose. Very concentrated, close to being a bit heavy but highly expressive, reminding us of some old Armagnacs. Not too sure the original spirit brings much more than ‘the engine behind’ but what’s sure is that the whole is extremely, well, luscious. Hints of roasted chestnuts. Mouth: this is really a matter of taste! It’s not the first time I’m trying this puppy and if I remember well, the scores were all over the place at the MM Awards 2008, some adoring this and others (such as your truly) staying rather cold. Indeed, this is rather a sherry and oak decoction, and actually closer to a very old Palo Cortado than to ‘a malt whisky’. That is to say that there are loads of bitter chocolate and balsamic vinegar, lorryloads of cinnamon and shiploads of walnut liqueur. Of course it’s not forbidden to be a fan of this kind of brew! Finish: long, still dry, still tannic and still full of cinnamon, with also a little salt. Comments: this is extreme and of course sherry worshippers should be totally fond of this. Really spectacular but a bit too extreme for our taste. Indeed, a matter of taste. SGP:472 - 85 points (still, because in its own genre, it’s probably a winner).

MUSIC – Recommended listening: Can you sing the jazz when you’ve got anything but a jazz voice? Here’s White Hinterland’s answer – it’s called Dreaming of the plum trees. Please buy White Hinterland’s music. (right, it's not exactly jazz.)

 

February 8, 2009


St Magadelen

TASTING
TWO 1982 ST MAGDALENE

St Magdalene 1982/2008 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #2199) This one gave us a lot of trouble when we first tried it blind. Colour: straw. Nose: extremely waxy and grassy, all on walnut skin, lemon zest and wet hay, getting then bizarrely papery and butyric. Quite some rubber (bands), ginger tonic, cut grass, plastic (brand new car – if they still make some.) Not easy for sure. Mouth: sugary and paraffiny but certainly nicer than on the nose. Crystallised lemons, green tea, grapefruits and butterscotch. Very, very ‘Lowlands’ now, very recognisable when tried blind. Finish: long, lemony, with some added pepper and just a little salt. Comments: once again, this isn’t very easy whisky and maybe it’s more for closed distilleries fetishists? (no, I didn’t mean necrophiles!) But it is interesting whisky, from a rather inactive cask, obviously. SGP:361 - 73 points.
St Magdalene 25 yo 1982/2008 (61.8%, Blackadder Raw Cask, cask #2180, 603 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: the same kind of ‘waxy citrus’ as in the BBR but also more orangey and coffee-ish, which really complements the whole here. Nice farminess as well (wet hay again) as well as quite some chocolate. With water: same, with more grass, flints, linseed oil, chalk and tobacco. Nice. Mouth (neat): powerful and completely different from the BBR. Much, much fruitier, mostly on pineapples and pears, but also very hot and peppery so let’s add water. With water: even fruitier, even kind of bubblegummy. Pomegranates, strawberries and white chocolate. Not for children, though… Finish: long and still as fruity, with just more white pepper and a little cinnamon. Comments: according to the cask numbers, this was probably distilled on the same day as it’s sibling and then filled… in a much better cask (and/or stored at a better place). SGP:551 - 83 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: The New York based Jacques Schwarz-Bart was born on the Guadeloupe island (French West Indies), that’s probably why he recorded this great tune called Déshabillé with ex-Kassav gutarist and singer Jacob Desvarieux. Please buy these two excellent musicians’ music!

 

February 6, 2009


OUR TRIBUTE TO ROBERT BURNS  
Robert Burns
Sometimes we can be extremelty late and slow at Whiskyfun, a good example beeing this homage to Robert Burns that we're posting more than one week after his 250th birthday. Having said that, we believe that this original drawing by our friend Bruno Marty (also a member of the excellent whisky-distilleries forum) is absolutely wonderful!
 
Glen Mhor

TASTING – TWO GLEN MHOR

Glen Mhor 32 yo 1975/2008 (40.6%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, cask #4041) Isn’t it great that Duncan Taylor have quite some old Glen Mhors left? Colour: gold. Nose: ah, it seems that this cask was much less extreme and wild than its ‘colleagues’, as what we get here is rather a gentle fruitiness that’s even got something Irish. Not too ripe bananas, melons, pears and blackcurrants plus hints of earl grey tea. Unexpected indeed, Glen Mhor was usually a big dram… After five minutes there are also whiffs of eucalyptus that start to pulsate (Vicks) but it’s still a rather delicate and slightly shy Glen Mhor. Mouth: there’s quite some oak here, obviously. Strong tea and white pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg, then only shadows of ‘a fruitiness’ (more green bananas here). Something leathery as well. Rather drying but it doesn’t quite ‘glue’ your tongue and your palate together, as some other very oaky malts do. Finish: rather short but clean, with added hints of raisins and dried figs. Comments: actually, this one is an interesting old malt where the oak is extremely, say ‘present’ but that’s still pleasant to sip. At just a little over £100, it’s worth trying but don’t expect to find any smoke or even beefiness like in other Glen Mhors. One may prefer earlier bottlings of these 1975 by DT. SGP:461 – 82 points.
Glen Mhor 1978/1990 (60.9%, SMWS 57.2, screw cap, 75cl) Colour: straw. Nose: Jah! Pencil shavings juice and vanilla powder… And that’s pretty all. It’s probably the high alcohol that masks all the rest. With water: ouch! Ether and fermenting grass and not much else. Raw spirit, even at +/-45% vol. Mouth (neat): huge, spirity and extremely sweet. Pineapple drops and bubblegum. With water: pineapple liqueur and white pepper plus heavily sugared water. Finish: long but still on the very same easy-easy notes of tinned pineapple. Comments: I’m surprised, I was very glad to be able to try a young Glen Mhor in its natural state but I must say there isn’t much happening here. Now, there aren’t any flaws either, only a huge… simplicity... SGP:630 - 78 points.
Canadian   CRAZY WHISKY AD: FOR THE SAKE OF INNOVATION

Canadian Club Classic 12yo. Copy: 'Dr Wilsmere Greenwood administers his automatic retina adjustment apparatus on a nervous patient. – Of course, some discoveries are greater than others.'
It might be wondered what caused the patient's retina problems.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: A very fresh and very poppish little song called Monday morning.mp3 by Stockholm’s The Charade. Warming music from Sweden! Please buy The Charade’s music…

The charade
 

February 5, 2009


Highland Park

TASTING
TWO 1986 HIGHLAND PARK

Highland Park 1986/2007 (45%, Samaroli, Coilltean, cask #2291, 346 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: right, it’s one of these very ‘natural’ Highland Parks that nose much younger than they actually are, with very little oak influence but some pleasant floral and fruity notes. Quite a lot of orange squash, lemonade, a little mint and aniseed, porridge, yoghurt and ginger. A little more citrusy (and finally grassy) than the ‘average’ unsherried indie Highland Park. Not unpleasant. Mouth: good, big, peppery and lemony attack, something like a more mildly peated Talisker. Then more butter, more grass, more liquorice and even more lemon. Nice bitterness. Finish: medium long, all on pepper and lemon, with a faint saltiness. Less peat and more honey in the aftertaste. Comments: a good dram and a worthy counterpoint to the officials. SGP:353 – 83 points.
Highland Park 22 yo 1986/2009 (55.7%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #2254) It’s this moment when we’re trying the very first whisky that’s been bottled in the new year… 2009, already… time flies! Colour: pale gold. Nose: very similar to the Samaroli at very first sniffing but gets then much flintier, waxier and grassier, with more ‘earthy’ wood plus even more aniseed and mint. With water: same as the Samaroli, please read above. Mouth (neat): very good citrusy and grassy attack, with less peat and pepper than in the Samaroli but more oomph. With water: once again, exactly the same as the Samaroli. Maybe just a slightly bigger grassiness. Finish: same, just a little grassier and earthier but that may well come from the waters that were different (for reduction) as we’re using Vittel, which the excellent Mr Samaroli probably does not do. Comments: another anti-honeyed HP. One more point for the extra-10% vol. SGP:353 - 84 points.
 
IS THE CAT IN THE BAG?
Remember the famous old joke, “There are two things a Scot likes naked, and one of them is whisky”? Well, according to some fearless Aussies, only one of them remains true. Indeed, as seen on The Shout website, a young company called ASM Liquor just launched a new Scotch named Naked Scot that’s ‘free from residual herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides.’ Their CEO said that “Consumers really have very little choice and frequently pay a premium for poor quality products (read full of chemicals - Ed). Our brands are sexy in style and price tag, but they’re also better quality than many commercially advertised brands in the $70 to $80 range”. Ermnlmrml… Right, frankly, we don’t find the bottle too sexy, especially the tartan cap, but we also know that many Scots are working on organic whiskies. Benromach’s is already out and we believe Bruichladdich, among others, have several batches maturing in their warehouses. Now, we also remember the Springbank Da Mhile, no big success at the time but maybe the average Scotch drinker is now ready to pay a few extra-quids for genuinely organic whisky?

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: exceptional piece by an exceptional trumpet player, Donald Byrd and his exceptional band (Ron Carter, Lew Tabackin, Frank Foster, Duke Pearson et al) doing Fufu in 1969 (on the famous Kofi LP). It's 'modern' hardbop at its best, please buy Donald Byrd's music!

Donald Byrd
 

February 4, 2009


TASTING - TWO YOUNG PEAT MONSTERS
Supernova

 

Good, time to add our tasting notes to the incredible volume that has already gone about Ardbeg’s Supernova. We have been wondering about which other whisky we were going to use as a sparring-partner. Octomore? Nah, that’s exactly what everybody will do or already did, so we’d rather use the recent Ar1, probably a young ‘regular’ Ardbeg (‘probably’ peated to +/-55ppm instead of the Supernova’s 100ppm).
We’ll also have another Ardbeg on the side as ‘benchmark’, an unsherried 1974 of excellent, but not stellar quality (30yo, cask #2739).
Ar1 (58.7%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2008, 50cl) Colour: straw. Nose: starts extremely ‘Ardbeg’, right on soot and coal smoke mixed with sea air and soaked grains, and more of that after that, with only hints of vulcanized rubber and antiseptic. Also a little fresh butter and sweet apple (golden) that mellow it down just a little. Fresh apple juice. Hints of metal come through after a while (gunmetal). With water: ever tried to put your head into a coal stove? Err… Other than that, it smells just like ‘the distillery’, or like the kiln at a neighbouring distillery. Mouth (neat): explosive! Huge whisky, less fruity/sweet than expected, except during the two or three first seconds. ‘Green’ bitterness (green tea, chlorophyll gum), capsicum, cumin, cardamom, strong liquorice, Turkish coffee, herbs liqueur (more Underberg here)… Very concentrated and powerful! There’s also a faint sweetness (honeydew) that prevents it from getting maybe a tad bitter and acrid. Rather spectacular and not for the fainthearted, as they say. With water: it does get fruitier now, with more dried apples but the same big smokiness and spiciness are still there on the back of your palate. Smoked cardamom? Finish: long, with more coastal notes, such as oysters. Big peat at the retro-olfaction. Comments: it’s young but it’s more complex than anticipated (feared?) Excellently big. SGP: 268- 89 points.
Eleven Ardbeg 'Supernova' (58.9%, OB, advanced Committee release, 2009) Colour: pale gold. Nose: it is more peaty, ashy and tarry for sure, with also very big notes of fresh walnuts and various other grassy and earthy notes such as gentian roots, wet earth, fresh mushrooms, moss… Quite some coffee as well. Big, big smoky, ashy and sooty notes that, quite funnily, give it fino-like touches (flor, ‘nose of yellow’).
Not exactly ‘extreme’ so far, but most certainly sootier than a regular young Ardbeg and in that sense it’s closer to our benchmark 1974 than the Ar1. With water: now it noses almost exactly like the Ar1, with not much noticeable differences. Maybe added hints of pencil lead/shavings and even more soot. Yes, even deeper into a coal stove ;-). Mouth (neat): right, there were rather obvious differences on the (undiluted) nose but it’s not the case on the palate, these two whiskies being very similar at this point. This one is maybe just a tad grassier again, but other that that it’s another big, phat, rich, concentrated and extremely liquoricy peat monster. It seems that the extra-45ppm are more noticeable on the nose. With water: all the ‘tarry smokiness’ went to the back and the front has more sweetness, on dried apples again. Finish: long, ‘oystery’ again but with more pepper, more ‘good’ rubber and more liquorice plus just hints of bitter oranges. Extremely present in the aftertaste, the latter being rather similar to the much older 1974's. “Like if you had swallowed a pair of rubber boots” said a friend the other day about another Islayer. Comments: well, this IS peatier but it’s not a different planet. Let’s simply quote the famous guitarist Nigel Tufnel (of Spinal Tap fame): “This one goes to eleven - whilst regular Ardbegs may go to ten.” Very excellent young peat monster nonetheless – and I mean it. A little more complexity may have propelled it to 90. Oh, and it's very drinkable! SGP: 269- 89 points. (and thank you Alexandra)
 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: PLEASE don't take this too seriously, but I think we found the perfect music to match a very heavy peat monster. It's called Towards the infinite.mp3 and the band is named Colosseum (not the original Colosseum of course but the 'Finnish funeral doom metal morticians'). I think it's good fun (!) even if it lacks a little groove, err...You may buy this colossal music...

Colosseum
BONUS – You say these Ardbegs aren't that heavy? Right, right, better have something like the Swingle Sisters doing a nice little fugue then... (and then buy their music.)
 

February 3, 2009


TASTING - FOUR TULLIBARDINE

Tullibardine
Tullibardine 1992/2006 (46%, OB Vintage Edition) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one starts very smoky and porridgy, reminding me of the Littlemills we had the other day. It gets then much grassier, very fresh, with a lot of cut grass as well as hints of redcurrants and not too ripe gooseberries. Maybe hints of asparagus and leek as well as a little paraffin. Finally lager beer (Pilsner Urquell) and baker’s yeast. The smoke grows bigger. Mouth: much more fruitiness here, with quite some apples, pears and pineapples, then notes of bubblegum and this curious grassiness that reminds us of some white rums. Good but maybe just a tad more ‘vulgar’ than on the nose. Finish: long, grassy and peppery. Comments: very good malt whisky, that’s all I can say. I think Tullibardine’s bottlings are improving at the speed of light. SGP:261 - 81 points.
Tullibardine 16 yo 1992/2008 (56.9%, Blackadder RC, Bourbon cask #745, 180 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: similar to the official 1992, only bigger and even more spectacular in its own very grassy genre. With water: a very heavy but rather beautiful oak strikes hard now. This one smells almost exactly like newly sawn oak but even if it may sound excessively woody, it isn’t. No easy vanilla here. Beautiful association between the big grassiness and the big oakiness. Mouth (neat): now, this tastes very ‘modern’, with much more vanilla and ginger than in the official and on the nose. Less fruits and more grass. With water: excellent! A little olive oil, lemon peel, peppercorn, less vanilla, a little resin (and cough syrup). Truly excellent. Finish: long and, just like the official, very grassy and peppery again. Comments: I like this one a lot, even if it’s no complex nor subtle whisky. Perfect for your hipflask. SGP:272 - 89 points.
Tullibardine 1993/2007 (46%, OB, Moscatel Finish) Colour: gold. Nose: let’s put it this way: we don’t get any moscatel at all, nor any winey notes. Let’s say this one smells almost like the two excellent ones we just had, only a tad rounder and mellower. Funnily, the whiffs of lager are even bigger. Gets then a tad more coastal and briny. Very nice!!! Mouth: once again, the wine is very discreet. Maybe it brought this faint roundness that wasn’t in the unfinished versions. Very good waxiness, notes of cherry stem tea, green tea, apple peel and a little kirsch. Finish: rather long and rather peppery once again. Ginger tonic, hints of kriek beer. Comments: it seems that the Moscatel wood (not first fill I think) brought cherry notes. Strange and unexpected… But excellent! SGP:361 - 85 points.
Tullibardine 1993/2008 (46%, OB, ‘Sauterne’ Finish) As the good people at Celtique Connexion in Britanny or Glenmorangie, Signatory or Bruichladdich in Scotland have already shown us, Sauternes can work very well with whisky. I said ‘can’ ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: extremely close to the Moscatel, only a little rounder and more honeyed. Like if someone had poured a few litres of mead into a regular cask – as for the rest, please read above. Mouth: right, the wine is more obvious here, but it does not overwhelm the whisky at all. Hints of rose jelly and ripe apricots added to a very nice cask of Tullibardine (please see above). Finish: long, candied, fruity (more quinces here) and slightly smoky. Quite some pepper once again. Gets maybe a tad too ‘exotic’ in the aftertaste (pineapple drops). Comments: once again, this is very good, but the shier moscatel finish worked a little better in my opinion. SGP:451 - 84 points (But pssst, dear distillers, there’s an ‘s’ at the end of Sauternes.)
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: but who had that dirty sound on Stroll on? Of course, it was the Yardbirds with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page and it was in 1966 (it's on the OST of Antonioni's famous Blow Up film)!... Please buy the Yardbirds and all their descendents' music...

Yardbirds
 

February 1, 2009


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
FOLK AMERICA
HOLLERERS, STOMPERS AND OLD TIME RAMBLERS
Seasick Steve

The Barbican, London
January 21st 2009

 

Things have certainly come a long way for ‘hobo’ bluesman and collector of largely dysfunctional guitars, Seasick Steve, since your Whiskyfun reviewers saw him at the Borderline just over a couple of years ago.
You may remember that he’d just been ‘discovered’ – courtesy of the patronage of London DJs such as Charlie Gillet and Joe Cushley, and the ‘novelty spot’ on Jools Holland’s 2006 Hogmanay Show (this year’s contenders, a ‘humourous’ harmonica four-piece from Finland or thereabouts, didn’t quite hit the same spot). He moved seamlessly from the Borderline to Festival stages throughout the country and has been a must-have performer at the likes of Glastonbury and Reading ever since. At the end of last year he toured the UK – starting with a sell-out show at the Royal Albert Hall (the Borderline, capacity 275, Albert Hall, capacity 7,000), which I would have predicted to be a disaster, given the cold nature of that late-Victorian structure, but typically Steve delivered a “hugely entertaining, at times staggering show”, according to the Guardian. He’s even been nominated for a Brit Award (“I didn’t know what a Brit was, but if it means I’ve done a good job, then that’s ok”), and having won us over with his insouciant charm, self-deprecating manner, and genuine sense of humility (not to mention his wonderful playing and singing), is in danger of becoming, if he isn’t already, a certified National Treasure. And I can’t help thinking that his presence on stage as compere of this first of two ‘Folk America’ concerts at the Barbican, has helped fill the hall with a wonderfully disparate and enthusiastic audience, because a lot of us, like Steve, haven’t heard of any of the mostly young performers on this bill of ‘Hollerers, Stompers and Old Time Ramblers’.
The two concerts are part of a BBC series on American roots and folk music, so depending on where you live, you may be able to see some of the wonderful films that have been assembled for this, including concert footage, on the equally wonderful BBC iPlayer. And whilst the first night was a sell-out, the second, ‘Greenwich Village Revisited’ was apparently struggling to shift seats, judging by the 20% discount that was being offered, and the fact that it was still being advertised two days after the event – desperation indeed. No doubt down to the Billy Bragg effect, as the Braggster was introducing night two – and let’s face it, who wants to be harangued by Billy about Woody Guthrie, like a classroom of ignorant school children, in the middle of a recession that might just be as deep as the dust bowl?
Seasick   No – Seasick’s laid back approach was far better, starting the evening with a few tunes like ‘Falling down blues’, and then sitting back in his rocking chair, giving the briefest introduction to each artist. It was his rocking chair, and the clothes on the hokey washing line behind him were his, as was much of the other bashed-up furniture, purchased largely, we were told, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which as any of you whisky travellers will know, is on the road to the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg. Tonight, no doubt to abide by BBC regulations, Seasick’s bottle of Jack, his ever-present on-stage companion, is suitably disguised with a mock label and surely a collector’s item by now.
The evening’s performers were an eclectic bunch, and frankly it was one of those occasions when the second half somewhat failed to live up to the promise of the first. Final act The Wiyos, were entertaining enough with their take on Blind Willie McTell’s ‘Dying crapshooter’s blues’ and “pick-me up murder ballad” ‘Leaving home’, aka ‘Frankie and Johnny’, but were in reality only a rather inferior ‘roots’ take on Spike Jones and His City Slickers – playing very well but not as amusing as they thought. And their urbanity (they’re from Brooklyn) was somewhat at odds with all the other performances. Preceding them, Diana Jones (“she brought the silence on me” said Steve of her rehearsals) was worthy, with songs about dying Scottish miners trapped in the bowels of the Appalachians, and the indignities suffered by native American children at the hands of ‘educators’. But her vocal range seemed somehow stunted, and without her accomplished accompanists on tenor guitar and fiddle, her set would have been weak in the extreme. Compared with this, the first half was a delight. Allison Williams, on claw-hammer banjo, and fiddler Chance McCoy powered their way through tunes such as ‘Dance all night with a bottle in your hand’ (a new Whiskyfun anthem perhaps?) and ‘Wild Bill Jones’ (“Wild Bill Jones and that long-necked bottle have been the ruin of me …”) with a remarkable energy, and the dancing of guitarist Danny Knicely brought the audience to their feet. The talkative fiddler and accordionist Cedric Watson and his Bijoux Creole gave us a slightly different take on the Louisiana Zydeco style, with some wonderfully percussive full-body washboard playing from Joseph Chaisson.
However pick of the bunch was the unlikely American/Australian bluesman C. W. Stoneking, with a voice and style that has to be heard to be believed. “Man, he lost in the 1920s” said Steve, which is a pretty good summary of Stoneking’s ‘hokum’ style. But it would be wrong to dismiss him as simply a pastiche performer – his songs, which in this short set ranged from ‘Darktown strutters’ ball’, ‘Dodo blues’ and the “Jungle calypso murder ballad” ‘Love me or die’ have real depth and colour, and an edge which means that Mr Stoneking has been filed in my very favourite ‘Weird’ box. And I don’t think I was alone in my enthusiasm – the rush for his CDs from the merchandise stall was such that they were as rare as, well, Dodos. Catch him if you can. Dodo
Big Encore
Seasick, accompanied by drummer Dan Magnusson, ended the evening with two more tunes, but not before he’d given us some cookery tips on how to make an apple pie in a skillet – “an apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze”. They played ‘Waiting for the train’ and ‘Chiggers’, a tribute to the little critters who inhabit the tall grass of the Mississippi Delta and will eat you up if you give them the chance (who else could get away with the line – “I wear my socks up to my knees”?), before the entire company returned for the obligatory big encore, Uncle Dave Macon’s ‘Won’t get drunk no more’. At which point the audience delivered the ovation it had rehearsed with the BBC’s film crew at the start of the evening, although by this point it had been well and truly earned by all. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Listen: C.W. Stoneking (and his gothic hillbilly music) on MySpace
Seasick Steve's MySpace page
 
Glen Grant

TASTING – TWO 30yo GLEN GRANT

Glen Grant 30 yo 1976/2007 (50%, DL OMC, cask #3745, 228 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: ah yes, it is one of these superb old sherried Glen Grants, in a slightly rough version. No need to write a novel about it, let’s only say that it’s full of espresso coffee, prunes, wood smoke, tarmac, parsley, bitter chocolate and roasted chestnuts. Perfect dryness, no sulphur as such. With water: a bigger fruitiness (blackcurrants, blackberries) and more herbal notes. Whiffs of leather, mushrooms and rubber (bicycle inner tube). Mouth (neat): excellent attack, lively, all on dried fruits and spices, getting maybe just a tad too peppery and drying after ‘the first wave’. Cherry jam, crystallised chestnuts, cocoa and a lot of cloves. With water: goes on in the same vein, getting a tad more raisiny and round and less drying. Water works very well here. Finish: long and very classic, very pleasantly old-style. Guinness? Comments: a perfect sherried Glen Grant, extremely drinkable. SGP:451 - 89 points.
Glen Grant 30 yo 1977 (57.4%, Douglas of Drumlanrig for www.whisky.com.tw, Sherry butt) Colour: dark straw. Nose: this one is different, with much, much less sherry influence but also more straight oak (quite some cinnamon and whiffs of incense plus apple peeling). Hints of vanilla and fresh oranges, then fresh mint. Very nice nose, not overpowering at all. With water: the mint grows bigger, and we even get hints of celery and dill. More complexity and an unexpected ‘coastalness’ (sea air, even shells). Lemon and apple juice. Mouth (neat): powerful and very vegetal, with truckloads of fresh walnuts and an unexpected saltiness. Lemon balm, pepper and ginger. Assertive and, well, ‘good’. With water: excellent, with more crystallised ginger, almonds, lemon marmalade and even kind of a peatiness. Finish: long and funnily minty, salty and peaty. Comments: did they fill this excellent Glen Grant into an ex-Islay cask? Very, very good and interesting. SGP:452 - 88 points.

January 2009 - part 2 <--- February 2009 - part 1 ---> February 2009 - part 2


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

Caperdonich 35 yo 1972/2008 (48.3%, The Whisky Fair, 188 bottles)

Longmorn 29 yo 1972/2001 (57.6%, Blackadder, Caledonian Connection, Japan)

Macallan ‘Golden Jubilee’ (47%, The Whisky Exchange, 50 decanters, 2002)

Macallan-Glenlivet 18 yo (54.9%, Cadenhead's, Black Dumpy, +/- 1985)