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

January 31, 2007


TASTING - SEVEN BENRIACHS
Benriach 10 yo 'Curiositas' Peated malt (46%, OB, bottled +/- 2006) I think the first versions of the Curiositas were, well, curious but I’ve heard wonders regarding the newest batches so let’s see… Nose: farmy, very farmy. Farmy peat, if your prefer… Wet hay, manure, dog’s place… Not much else I think. Kind of an anti-Islayer. Mouth: pearish and peaty of course but again, rather simple. Pepper… Hints of Provence herbs (thyme and rosemary) but also something slightly acrid. I’m sorry but I like most other versions of the ‘new’ BenRiach much, much better. Now, this will please people who seek variation in their peat. 75 points (unchanged)
Benriach 37 yo 1968/2006 (52%, OB, Hogshead #2712, 157 bottles) No peat version. Nose: super smokiness at first nosing, mixed with bananas and vanilla pod. Very ripe mangos. Goes on with quite some wax polish, sandalwood, strawberry jam, hints of allspices… Lots of nougat as well. Truly beautiful and something that reminds me of old Clynelish. Really lush. Mouth: oh yes, immensely fruity like a blend of old 1968 Bowmore, 1972 Clynelish and 1966 Lochside. Well, you see what I mean. Hints of varnish. something nicely green and also a little salt. Gets very spicy, with a great oakiness (ginger, white pepper). Marzipan, liquorice… Extremely rich, almost fat, and the finish, is long, gingery and peppery (white), getting back to bananas. Slightly drying at the end but just excellent and not tired in any way despite the 37 years. 91 points.
Benriach 21 yo 1984/2006 (55%, OB, Oloroso Sherry cask #2712, 658 bottles) A peaty version. Colour: gold. Nose: this one starts concentrated, powerful, assertive… Beautifully peaty behind the coffee and the praline. I like the notes of smoked tea a lot. The sherry’s dry and complements the peat quite perfectly – it’s almost like peppered bitter chocolate like they make in Spain. Just a bit of wildness (wild mushrooms, moss, fern). Mouth: a sweet and powerful attack on kumquats, with a growing bitterness (propolis, chlorophyll) and quite some oak. Very pleasant if you like that style. ‘Good’ rubber, strong un-sugared tea, bitter chocolate again. The whole is hugely concentrated – okay, perhaps not exactly subtle but I like this compactness. Finish: long, nicely bitter, juts a tad drying. A little extreme but well made I think. 88 points.
Benriach 21 yo 1984/2006 (56.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #490/514) A peaty one again. Colour: gold. Nose: extremely close to the OB but without the added sherriness. A little more on ‘wet dog – forest’ and less on chocolate. Smells like fresh chanterelles after a while and gets then a little mashier, feintier. Hints of cooking leek. Funny how it makes the rather wild 1984 OB smell almost ‘rounded’ by comparison. Mouth: we’re even closer to the OB now. Again this interesting bitterness, a little harshness, bitter oranges, extra-strong tea… Again, it’s a different kind of peat. Very concentrated. Finish: maybe a little cleaner than the OB’s but also spicier (lots of pepper now) and just as long. This one’s a little more straightforward, more ‘natural’… A great peaty dram. 89 points.
Benriach 26 yo 1980/2006 (55%, OB, New oak barrel #2535, 238 bottles) No peat version. Colour: deep gold. Nose: wow, a fruitbomb! Amazing richness, with truckloads of oranges and bananas with quite some oak, vanilla… Notes of cooked butter and praline. Not exactly complex, that is. A ‘new world’ malt? Australian chardonnay? Mouth: a wham-bam start on tropical fruits and oak, ganache, strawberries, then all sorts of fruit liqueurs (mostly pears, apricot). A fruitbomb indeed. Finish: long, fruity, getting spicier from the oak. A Benriach that reminds me of some recent Glenmorangies (like the Artisan cask). Simple pleasures (but will they last?) 83 points.
Benriach 29 yo 1976/2006 (56%, OB, Hogshead #8084, 194 bottles) Peated version. Colour: gold. Nose: a rather similar profile but it’s all subtler, more complex, more ‘intelligent’ (c’mon!) Quite some tangerines, oranges, bananas, mangos, vanilla… It does develop after that, contrarily to the 26 yo , on lilac, cigar box, soft spices and a little strawberry jam. Most appealing. Mouth: now it’s frankly better than the 26 yo . Almost as fruity but much more complex again, a little less direct – which doesn’t mean less sexy. Warming, compact, rich – maybe just a tad simple, still, but extremely drinkable. Lots of apricot liqueur again and a very long, fruity-spicy finish. Excellent - the peat is very dicreet when compared with other versions. 90 points.
Benriach 11 yo 1994/2005 (59,7%, Signatory, Heavily peated, Port Pipe finish, C#05/355/1, 863 bottles) Colour: pale straw with faint salmony hues. Nose: superb peat here again, straighter than in the two 1984’s. More on smoke, pencil lead, lamp petrol… We do have a little praline and chocolate, that is. Closer to Islay. Mouth: powerful, sharp, mineral, extremely smoky and peaty. Rather extreme, in the peat monster genre. Faint notes of blackcurrant jelly and also a little salt. Discreet sulphur. Not too much Port influence (good news?) but maybe it’s the Port that brought a little roundness. Just a little... Long, extremely peaty finish. A very wild peaty Benriach, very good. Maybe should the distillery launch a Curiositas Cask Strength? (does that already exist?) 87 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's have a good old blues today with the late R.L. Burnside doing Little babe.mp3. Please, you know what to do.

 

January 30, 2007


TASTING - TWO 125th ANNIVERSARY BOTTLINGS
Both Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain were founded in 1881 and hence celebrated their 125th anniversaries in 2006. Of course both launched a special bottling for the occasion so let’s break WF's rules for once and taste two whiskies that do not come from the same distillery head to head. Please note that the Bunnahabhain's price (£395) is twice the Bruichladdich's (£199.99) on their official web sites.
Bruichladdich 1970 125 Bruichladdich 1970/2006 ‘125 years’ (40.1%, OB, 2502 bottles) This one has a very long story. First, 1970 is a legendary vintage at Bruichladdich. Second, with a bunch of other MM’s, we could taste this whisky at the distillery, when it was still ‘naked’, and found it to be wonderful, pretty much in line with the fab ‘1970’ that was bottled three or four years ago. Third, the Laddie gang decided to ‘ace’ it in some of fellow Maniac Olivier’s barrels that had contained his highly acclaimed Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Sélection de Grains Nobles Trie Spéciale from Clos Jebsal (kind of an uber-uber-late harvest if you like). To cut a long story short, we were, well, not exactly sceptic but kind of ‘scared’. I already had a dram of this one but in very bad conditions (you know, a festival + bottle shock) and, well, I felt it was a bit too woody, so I’m more than happy to be able to have it more ‘seriously’ now.
Colour: full gold. Nose: the first thing that strikes me is that it smells like a 1970 Bruichladdich. Bleeding obvious? Well, had you tried Olivier’s ultra-bold wine, you’d have understood why I wrote that. Aromatic and very fruity, the Laddie starts on mangos, ripe bananas and very ripe melons, with notes of citrus fruits (mostly tangerines) in the background as well as light honey and pollen. Then we have a gentle oaky cavalry (?) coming, with quite some vanilla, a little ginger, white pepper, hints of nutmeg… Then it’s back to fruitiness with notes of beurrée pears, quinces and apricots (all from the wine!), with also a distant smokiness, something slightly toasted and again a little ginger. A success, no doubt. Phew, it seems that Jim knew what he was doing and, above all, managed to keep the whisky in those casks for just the right amount of time. Mouth: I think the wine’s much more obvious now, but that’s probably because I know that wine quite well. Starts with a nice mintiness, something smoky, lots of apricots and quinces, candied lemons, spices that are unusual in whisky such as saffron or poppy seeds… The whisky (and the former bourbon casks) strikes back with vanilla, melon, soft tannins, the whole getting woodier and woodier, gently drying, I’d say just below the limit. Phew (again!) The finish isn’t extraordinarily long but balanced, with the oak counterbalancing the ripe melons and tangerines plus notes of caramelised nuts and sultanas. Excellent indeed despite the very low strength. It worked – phew! (Serge, will you stop that!). 91 points.
Bunnahabhain 1971/2006 ‘125th Anniversary’ (44.9%, OB, 750 bottles) No soupping up this time… Colour: full gold (almost the same as the Bruichladdich’s). Nose: rather amazingly similar, although a little more powerful and a little more on vanilla and roasted nuts at first nosing. It’s also a little oakier, with more white pepper and cocoa powder but other than that we have these beautiful notes of bananas, very ripe pears and melons, papayas, mangos… Even ripe pineapples. The spiciness is also bigger. Gets rather dry after a moment. I’d say it’s got a little more oomph than the Laddie (probably thanks to the higher alcohol) but that it’s a little narrower aroma-wise, woodier and certainly more classic. Mouth: rather bold and fruitier than it’s brother from the Rhinns. Lots of citrus fruits, both fresh and candied (kumquats, bitter oranges, tangerines etc.), then de rigueur bananas, then the oak starts to talk with lots of ginger, walnut skin, vanilla, bitter chocolate and white pepper. Bunnahabhain 1971 125
Develops on dried fruits (lots of figs), nougat, touches of resin, praline… More classic but just as good, with a longer finish, more on citrus fruits and lemon verbena, getting just a little drying after a while. Excellent finish, really. In short, less complexity than the Laddie but more oomph and maybe a better ‘density’. Okay, same rating: 91 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: sweet, very sweet, easy, very easy, but also very 'listenable', it's the now famous Corinne Bailey Rae and she's singing Like a star.mp3 (indeed). Please buy her music.

corrine bailey rae
 

January 29, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
DEAR MR FANTASY: A CELEBRATION FOR JIM CAPALDI featuring Steve Winwood, Paul Weller, Pete Townshend, Yusuf Islam, Joe Walsh, Gary Moore, Jon Lord, Bill Wyman

The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London, January 21st 2007
Roast beef It’s 5.30 on Sunday evening. By all accounts I should be sipping a nice glass of Manzanilla while the heady aromas of rare roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and of course cabbage – gently simmered for half an hour or so I reckon – gently seduce me to the dinner table, accompanied by a large glass of claret, of course. But instead I’m shivering and hungry at the door of the Roundhouse as the Photographer has her bag searched and camera gently removed – “Sorry, no cameras tonight”.
The gig’s timed to start at six – and when veteran DJ and Old Grey Whistle test presenter “Whispering” Bob Harris takes the stage he’s only ten minutes late. Why so early? Well no doubt licensing laws have something to do with it. But as I also calculated that the average age of the musicians who’ve given up their Sunday evening to remember Traffic lyricist and drummer (and solo artiste of repute) Jim Capaldi, is 77 (statisticians might like to note the huge skew created by the presence of Bill Wyman), then I’m sure that you can understand that they all need to be tucked up in bed quite early.
Jim Capaldi died in January 2005 from stomach cancer, and this gig has been organised by his wife and friends in his memory, and to raise money for children’s charity Jubilee Action. The tickets aren’t cheap, and I’m not surprised that at the bar I’m surrounded by brokers moaning like market-stall traders about how poor business is. Next to us in the crowd are a group of nicely tanned and creased-jeaned bankers whose ‘casual’ clothing exudes dosh. So no doubt they’ll also be joining in the auction of rock and roll memorabilia that’s going to take place on e-bay on the 19th February for the same cause (at the moment, Bob tells us, it’s all in his living room). You’ll also be able to see (and buy) the film or DVD; there are more cameras in the place than you’d find in a TV studio.     Jm Capaldi
Events like this are always difficult to pull off, often a sort of curate’s egg. But not, I’m glad to say, this one. We are not overwhelmed with speeches; those that we do get are nicely-timed and reflect a pervasive sense of friendship towards Capaldi (most of the musicians performing have collaborated with him at one time or another, many were close friends) and a real celebration of his talents – he did after all write some of the songs that defined a decade. And whilst we do get an almost bewildering sequence of artistes appearing and then reappearing during the first and final third of the show, continuity is provided by a hugely accomplished house-band for the night – led by saxophonist Mark Rivera, the band features drummers Simon Kirke and Andy Newmark, percussionist Ray Cooper, Hammond B4 organist Paul Wickens, guitarist Pete Bonas and bassist Dave Bronze.
Bunch

Believe me, this is some band (they delivered a tremendous ‘Rock and roll stew” towards the end of the night), they’re well rehearsed and aided by backing vocalists (though they do all get a solo spot) Margo Buchanan, Stevie Lange and Dennis Locorriere (yes Sylvia, that Dennis Locorriere). Bill Wyman occasionally takes a turn on bass and Jon Lord plays organ on and off in the first bit, and for almost all of the last section.

Paul Weller kicks off with ‘Paper sun’ and returns later to sing ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ and ‘Pearly Queen’, which you think he might almost have written himself. He’s followed by the grimacing Joe Walsh who sings and plays a very bluesy ‘Living on the outside’ – I’m not sure if the facial distortions are caused by the intensity of his guitar work (which is pretty good) or the obvious difficulties he’s having with the auto-cue, but he continues in the same vein when he returns to sing ‘Forty thousand headmen’ and ‘John Barleycorn’ – an odd choice, but to his obvious delight he delivers the goods. Later, not to be outdone, rock-dinosaur Gary Moore tries to out-grimace Walsh as he plays ….well I couldn’t really tell as it sounded just like every blistering-guitar-riffed Gary Moore song I’ve ever heard. As for the grimacing, I marked it as a draw. Yusuf Islam appeared and sang ‘Man with no country’ (into which he oddly inserts a verse or two sung in Zulu) interlaced with the chorus from his own ‘Wild world’. Towards the end of the night Pete Townshend nearly stole the show with a wonderful solo version of ‘No face, no name, no number’. And despite the ‘no cameras’ rule there’s a (badly made) film of this on youtube, which whilst it captures an amusing exchange with a heckler at the start doesn’t really do Townsend’s performance any justice. It was a wonderful moment.

Steve Winwood took the stage with his band to fill the middle section of the evening. Like Capaldi, Winwood’s solo career faltered somewhat after a promising start and he seems to have spent much of the past decade (or more) making the sort of music that they play on American TV as a background to major golf tournaments. Apparently he’s put all of that behind him now and gone back to basics, and if this short set was anything to go by then he’s made the right decision. Sitting at his Hammond B3 he could have passed (from a distance) for a man in his early twenties, and his voice was just superb. He played ‘Rainmaker’, ‘Who knows what tomorrow may bring’, a deeply-grooved ‘Low Spark of high-heeled boys’ (with inspired and delicate guitar work from Jose Nesto) and ‘Light up or leave me alone”, before picking up a Telecaster to deliver a coruscating ‘Dear Mr Fantasy’. And at the end when we had the obligatory ‘”all the performers on stage bit” (well almost all of them) he and Walsh led them through ‘Love will keep us alive’, written by Capaldi for the Eagles.

If there was a degree of self-congratulation (and some obvious deep sighs of relief) on the stage at the end then it was deserved. As I said these things are difficult to pull off, but this one was done with consummate skill. So much so that I can heartily recommend that you buy the DVD when it’s released; you can sit at home and enjoy it after a nice Sunday dinner. - Nick Morgan.

Thank you, Nick, what a bunch of fearless senior rock and rollers! We see them from time to time - it was Motörhead last time, and Winwood before - on a nice French TV show called 'Taratata' (I know) and it's always quite interesting to hear what Ian Gillan thinks about Jon Lord, Robert Plant about Jimmy Page etc. Quite some Schadenfreude in these interviews, that is ('I've heard John's solo album didn't sell too well. Too bad, his producer was the best and the record company is #1 these days - back luck, probably...') Anyway, yes we found Traffic's Dear Mr Fantasy.mp3! - S.
 
TASTING - TWO OLD PULTENEYS
Old Pulteney 28 Old Pulteney 1996/2006 (45%, Gordon & McPhail for LMDW France) Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh, almost ethereal but vibrant, starting mostly on fruits such as pears (truckloads), apples and strawberries and going on with seaweedy notes. Quite some iodine, notes of ginger tonic, a little mercurochrome, oysters… Then it’s back to the fruits, riper this time (apple pie, poached pears). Ultra-clean and very coastal but peatless. Just faint notes of soap if you sniff very deeply (no, it isn’t my glass).
Mouth: simpler now – not that the nose was utterly complex – but full bodied, with quite some salted liquorice and caramelised nuts as well as lots of fresh herbs (I can think of chive, parsley and chervil). The saltiness strikes back, and then the fruits again, more oranges and grapefruits this time. Clean and very precise. Finish: rather long, nicely bitter now (a little wood and tea, orange skin) but always very salty. Most enjoyable, characterful and lively. A nice variation to have in your bar if you see to the upkeep of a good dozen styles of malts. 86 points.
Pulteney 28 yo 1977/2005 (57.7%, Duncan Taylor, cask #3075, 216 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: slight sulphur for just a quarter of a second and then it’s a pretty beautiful development, rather idiosyncratic as the smart guys say (only Clynelish can compete within this cluster). So, we have this huge ‘coastality’ assaulting our nostrils (like Leonardo’s on that ship), sea breeze and lots of iodine, but with more wood influence, more roundness and also a pleasant mix of meat (smoked sausages) and lots of peppermint and eucalyptus (lots, really). Also something like that amazing Chinese fruit called durian (very extreme aroma-wise, totally indescribable. I’m sorry. In short, I love this. Mouth: this is really punchy, sweet yet restless, starting right with these mint and eucalyptus notes as well as quite some camphor and perhaps hints of mustard and wasabi. It’s quite wham-bam despite it’s respectable age and that’s good news. The salt is well here and so are the crystallised fruits (figs, sultanas). Then we have lots of spices (white pepper but also nutmeg and cloves), of course salted liquorice, and finally the tannins that manage to shine through, so to speak. Tannins plus salt is also what we get at the long finish, plus something mustardy and more and more black pepper that makes this finish almost endless. Rather untameable, this punchy old Pulteney. The Tyson of whisky? 90 points (and thanks, Fabrice).
 
 

January 28, 2007


TASTING - A MIXED BAG OF SPIRITS
Uberach Alsace Whisky (43.8%, OB, France, 2006) Another weird idea: maturing this novelty from my region in Banyuls casks while they could have used some genuine Alsatian casks. This one's made by Distillerie Bertrand, a small unit in Northern Alsace that belongs to a huge wine cooperative. The result is quite good I think but extremely sweet, even sugary and syrupy like a liqueur. Very drinkable but like often, it doesn't really taste like a single malt I think. Did they use pot stills or Holstein eau-de-vie stills? 75 points (being a little chauvinistic here…)
Loch Fyne 'Scotch Whisky Liqueur' (40%, LF, Blend of 12 yo + whiskies and Tangerine/Chocolate Orange) Nose: beautiful notes of oranges (various forms) and a little bubblegum. Certainly nicer than most ‘industrial’ ones (Cointreau, Grand-Marnier, Bols and all that jazz). Mouth: sweet, orangey, slightly gingery. Excellent – one for next Xmas, no doubt (granny will be happy – and me too when I’ll visit her!) 75 points (that says a lot, considering it’s ‘just’ a liqueur).
Chieftain's 12 yo 1992/2005 'The Cigar Malt' Speyside (51.5%, Chieftain's Choice, cask #90201, Port Pipe, 900 bottles) Nose: marked by the wine, slightly sourish. Blackcurrant jelly, caramel, toffee. Maybe you need that to stand a strong cigar? Mouth: powerful but rounder, sweeter, better balanced. Fruit jam, Xmas cake, caramel, caramelised nuts. Slightly rubbery. Long finish, with kind of smokiness, hot cake, hints of blackcurrant jelly again… 80 points.
Armagnac 'Château de Castex' (42%, The Alchemist, AOC Bas Armagnac) Nose: ripe apples and oak, hints of varnish. Great notes of very old sweet wine (Rivesaltes). Lots of raisins – a nose that will please all malt lovers. Mouth: not that far from a single malt. Slightly syrupy, strangely tarry and liquoricy. Hints of bugglegum. I love it! And it had to be a Scot… ;-)… Great work, Gordon! Any maltfreak seeking a little diversity in his bar should have a bottle of this (or try to find his way in the jungle of the official Armagnacs, but as Gordon Wright already did the job, why bother?) 87 points.
Calvados 'Domaine C. Drouin' 15 yo (42%, The Alchemist, AOC Pays d'Auge) As a Frenchman, I must say sipping a Calva that was selected and bottled by a Scot is a most unusual thing... Nose: typically Calvados, with something very farmy (rotting apples), sweet and sour, tropical fruits (very ripe mangos). Hints of curry? Spicier than most Calvados I could taste before. Mouth: we’re really into ‘apples’ now. Enjoyable sourness, Juicyfruity chewing gum, compote… A good Calvados, that’s for sure, but I liked the Armagnac much, much better. 81 points (but hey, I’m no Calvados expert, and I feel Calava appeals less to Scotch drinkers than armagnac – Martine?)
Compass Box 'Eleuthera' (46%, Compass Box, Vatted malt, 2006) Nose: very fresh and very fruity, on gooseberries and strawberries. Ashes, slight waxiness. Clynelish shines through again. Smoky but that’s not the main point here it seems. Mouth: nice attack, first fruity (apples) and then peaty (two-steps attack, funny). Quite some liquorice and orange juice as well, kiwis. Gets bolder with time. Nice vatting, the mix of fresh, ‘lively’ fruits and peat being rather unusual. 81 points.
Compass Box 'The Peat Monster' (46%, Compass Box, Vatted Malt, 2006) A vatting of Caol Ila and Ardmore. Controversial – some love it, some don’t – but I really liked the former batches. Nose: peaty but not too much, very elegant and not really monstrous I think. Notes of beurrée pears, golden delicious apples, beech smoke, white currants, almond milk… Mouth: nice attack, peaty and fruity and very balanced but the mouth feel is slightly thin at the middle. Then it’s back on peat, pepper and cloves and the finish is rather long and very liquoricy. 84 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Sunday, we go (sort of) classical with the great late Cathy Berberian singing this thing by the bugs.mp3 (you'll see and maybe laugh). Or this one... It was all on 'Revolution'. Please remember the great Cathy Berberian and buy her records - you may prefer a little Monteverdi or husband Luciano Berio's works.

cathy berberian
 

January 27, 2007


TASTING - FIVE EXTRAVAGANT EDRADOURS
Edradour 22 yo 1984/2006 PX finish (48.2%, Signatory, cask #06/0090/1, 669 bottles) Colour: Paler than expected. Nose: wet dog, hints of cooked cabbage. Huge notes of Parmesan cheese. Mouth: orange liqueur, pepper, cured ham, liquorice allsorts. Very strange but hugely funny ;-). 70 points.
Edradour 23 yo 1983/2006 Port Finish (52.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #06/0554, 743 bottles) Colour: gold, slightly salmony. Nose: rather clean despite a few notes of old barrel. Slight farminess, toffee, old sweet wine (Port, I guess). Not unpleasant at all. Faint smokiness in the background, no ‘perfumy’ notes. Clean and smooth. Mouth: stranger… nutty and cardboardy, salted butter caramel… Gets more and more caramelly. Werther’s? Toasted. Unusual but pleasant. 80 points.
Edradour 21 yo 1985/2006 Château Yquem finish (50.4%, Signatory, cask #06/0093/1, 320 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: much more vinous, smelling like a fortified wine (like Macvin or Pineau). Better balanced I think. Nice notes of maple syrup, apricot pie, caramel-topped pears… Mouth: sweet and round attack but it’s getting harsher after a moment. Not too tannic but slightly sour. The Sauternes comes through, with ripe apricots and maybe rose-flavoured Turkish delights. Rather long finish, nicely balanced, with hints of fresh mushrooms. Again, pleasant. 80 points.
Edradour NAS 'Batch#1' (52,6%, Signatory, Tokaji matured, Bottled 8/2006) A true extravaganza, supposed to be a ‘love it or hate it’ version according to Signatory. Tokaji is usually very sweet, thick and rich. Nose: first we have lots of sultanas and quince and then something extremely vinous, as if there was lots of wine mixed with the spirit. Gets truly farmy as well, as often with Edradour. Notes of manure and horse sweat, oyster sauce, gym socks, porridge, soaked grain… Hugely different, to say the least. Mouth: very thick, creamy and weird. Lots of Jell-O, tinned pineapples, rotting oranges, cooked strawberries, dried rambutans… Strange, very strange. Gets sourish (sour cherries, kirsch). Gets more and more sweet and sour with time, especially at the finish. Maybe a tad cloying, I must say, but it’s not worse than, for instance the latest ‘Tokaji Longrow’. Hard to rate because it’s so different from what we’d usually call ‘whisky’. Let’s say 70 points (a huge part of that being for its ‘originality’)
Edradour 10 yo (58,8%, Signatory Straight from the Cask, Côtes de Provence finish, 50cl) Colour: salmony. Nose: first we get fresh notes of red wine (fresh strawberries and raspberries) and then the typical Edradour farminess as well as nougat, hints of rose jelly and sangria (oranges and wine). Pretty nice. Mouth: hugely fruity (strawberries ‘of course’) and maybe a tad rubbery. Turkish delights, bubblegum, smoked tea, hints of arrak. The finish is quite long but also even rubberier – not that it’s bothering here. Not the best I think but it’s pretty drinkable. 78 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: a little hillbilly music? Why not, especially if it's funny and, to say the least, 'different'. So, we'll have Mike West singing I'm tired.mp3. Actually, he's calling this 'New Orleans levee-billy music - please buy it.

 

January 26, 2007


TASTING - THREE + FOUR GRAND OLD SPRINGBANKS
Springbank 38 yo 1968/2006 (54%, The Whisky Fair, 117 bottles) From a sherry hogshead. Colour: dark gold. Nose: a rather fresh start, with no overly obvious sherry but rather lots of ripe fruits (mostly apples and strawberries) plus a rather bold ‘oranginess’ (who said Fanta?) and notes of wet stones and coal oven. It’s also slightly mashy (muesli this time) and smoky, getting then more candied (caramel, crystallised oranges, caramelized peanuts) but also a little cardboardy. Whiffs of paraffin and motor oil. Lots happening in there, with a long development, although it never gets rich and bold. It’s great! Mouth: a nervous and rather powerful start, fruity and nicely bitter (lots of oak and tannins that are nicely integrated). Bold orange and lemon marmalade, a little green curry, green pepper, tea, not too ripe bananas, liquorice roots… The oak is very present but doesn’t dominate the malt (yet – I feel it was time to bottle this one). Gets then spicier, gingery, maybe a td grassy… Again, it’s got lots to say. Finish: long, enjoyably tannic and bitter, with notes of cinchona and tonic wine. Excellent old Springbank, 89 points.
Springbank 31 yo 1965/1996 (50.5%, Cadenhead’s ‘Chairman’s Stock’) Colour: very dark amber. Nose: wham-bam! It starts on a very heavy, yet superbly balanced sherry, with also lots of roasted pecans. Amazingly rich, full of sultanas, praline, chocolate, all kinds of dried fruits (such as bananas or figs) but also camphor, mint and eucalyptus as well as something both meaty and flinty (barbecued ham, coal, wet stones…). Absolutely stunning, a concentration of aromas. Classicism at its best, Springbank in its full sherried glory - and it keeps developing for ages! Mouth: amazingly thick and rich (better use a spoon than a glass), powerful, incredibly concentrated. One single drop ignites fireworks in your mouth! Loads of fruit jam (oranges, blackcurrant, figs), prunes, raisins, liqueur-filled chocolate, cooked apricots, roasted nuts (all kinds)… And we have an interesting grassiness that starts to counterbalance the thick jammy flavours: chlorophyll, tealeaves (or Japanese macha), apple skin… And then the spices, the mint and the eucalyptus sweets… Truly amazing. The finish is fantastically long (it’s an invasion!), dryer, peppery, camphory… A true monster of a whisky, the only drawback is that you have to wait for almost one hour before you can try another whisky, even if you down one litre of water. It reminds me also of the greatest old Armagnacs. 95 points.
Springbank 18 yo 1973/1991 (57.9%, Cadenhead’s, rum cask) This one was nicknamed the ‘green Springbank’ and it’s a truly legendary bottling – there were two versions, actually, both fully matured in rum butts instead of just finished like the distillery did in more recent times. Some say it was a mistake… If it’s true, some mistakes have very happy outcomes! Colour: orange – bronze (don’t worry, it’s not plain green). Nose: powerful, starting on raisins (sultanas but also Smyrna) and candy sugar. It’s not hugely rich (especially after the 1965 and despite the long pause). Unusual notes of candied citrons and apricots, seaweed (really), lemon-flavoured yoghurt, coconut (is that Springbank or the rum?) The sultanas grow even bolder after a moment, it gets also a little like a marc… Do I like it? Yes, it’s fabulous, even if a little confusing at the start. Mouth: now it’s thick and fat, almost greasy. Lots of nuts, olive oil, sultanas (of course), prunes… It’s not hot but very warming! Crystallised oranges, kumquats, and pineapple, coconut milk, blackcurrant jelly, light caramel, barley water, sugar cane cordial… Amazing! Gets then minty and camphory just like the 1965… And the finish, even if not as long as the 1965’s, is still pretty long, sweeter, more civilized and jammier (lots of oranges). Maybe not as spectacular as the 1965 but still totally fabulous, no wonder this has now become a cult bottle. Can’t you just make the same again in Campbeltown!? I mean, exactly the same… 93 points.
Springbank 32 yo 1962/1995 (46%, OB, ‘Big S’) Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a little silent for one or two seconds but then we have a true fruits explosion happening, with also a great smokiness. Quite some passion fruits, tangerines, gooseberries, ‘simple’ apples as well as hints of coal oven. Clean, pure, typical old Springbank with little wood influence (very little spices). Maybe some would say it lacks ‘clothes’ but I think it’s quite stunning in it glorious full nudity (what a load of crap, Serge!) Ah, yes, of course, there’s also coconut milk… Mouth: sweet and a little gingery now, fruity but more discreetly so. Less smoky and less mineral as well. Probably simpler than expected, in fact, although it does get nicely minty after a moment. Sugared pear and apple juices, vanilla, faint hints of nutmeg. Slightly deceptive on the palate, I think, especially at the finish that’s not too long and just on apple juice plus a pinch of salt. Too bad, the nose was really fantastic. 88 points.
Springbank 1968/2004 (49.2%, Pacific Caledonian, 271 bottles) This one should also be relatively ‘clean’, as the colour is just as pale. Nose: indeed, we’re in similar territories. It’s maybe even more extravagant and fruity, with more fresh pineapples, more gooseberries, mulberries, apple skin… Also a little oak in the background this time (whiffs of white pepper and a slight sourness). Maybe a little rawer and less elegant than the OB but it’s still interestingly ‘natural’. Mouth: yes, more or less the same phenomenon happens now, with a palate that, again, is simpler than the nose, although a little more compact and satisfying than the OB’s. Pear syrup with vanilla pod, vanilla ice cream, bananas… More wood as well, with quite some white pepper, walnut skin, chlorophyll chewing gum. A little better than the OB now, with notes of mint leaves, cough syrup… Quite leafy and rooty too… The finish is longer than 1962’s, quite spicy now, and ‘of course’ quite salty. Very salty in fact. A rawer nose but a palate that’s more satisfying… scratch, scratch… Ok, same rating: 88 points.
Prestonfield’s Campbeltown 20 yo 1967 (46%, The Prestonfield, casks #3131/3136) A version I love and this is an opportunity to taste another bottle. Colour: amber. Nose: a rather explosive and unusual nose of mid-fermented and dried fruits, with lots of dried longans, slightly rotten oranges, dates and figs (hints of arrak), very ripe apricots, sultanas… All that is totally great, don’t get me wrong. Also great smokiness and minerality. Goes on with oriental pastries, rosewater, cedar box, fresh parlsey (yeah, like in a Lebanese restaurant), getting oakier with time (nutmeg and cinnamon). Again, very unusual and very fabulous. Mouth: ah yes, it’s very good. Not properly bold but the attack is quite ‘funny’, in two steps (first dried fruits, then salt). Lots of strong honey, rancio, beeswax, quince paste, orange liqueur, vanilla fudge… Quite some spices from the wood as well, hints of burnt cake and roasted raisins, prunes… And the finish is quite long, jammy, rummy and honeyed – with again that usual salty touch. Extremely good and quite different from the well-known Local Barleys and company. I still just love it: 93 points.
Springbank 20 yo 1972/1992 (56.5%, Cadenhead) Colour: amber (slightly paler). Nose: much more closed, spirity, austere… And minty. Again these sultanas and kind of sourness but it’s slightly ‘dirtier’ here…. Now, it does sort of take off after a while – without water -, getting much fruitier (both fresh and dried), a little syrupy, smoky… Again these ‘mid-fermented’ fruit notes… Gets more apricoty, quincy (Jones, eh! – ok, ok) with time… A long development like with the stunning old 12 yo 100°proof but a little simpler, still – but great. Mouth: extremely close to the Prestonfield despite its higher strength. Maybe marginally simpler and a tad dryier but otherwise we have the same whisky. What a coincidence! Brilliant stuff, no doubt, just a little rough. Sorry, I didn’t feel like trying this one with water. 90 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: long time no Zappa on Whiskyfun, so time for the kaleodoscopic Inca roads.mp3. Imagine some said it was too comercial when it went out... My! Please buy Frank Zappa's music.
 

January 25, 2007


TASTING - FOUR LINLITHGOWS

Linlithgow 29 yo 1975/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission IV) Colour: straw. Nose: punchier than expected, going directly to flowers and various plants. So we have a little lilac, lots of grass, heavily fermented tea, then hints of nougat… Also something meaty (ham)… A little hard to describe I must say. Now I get mint and whiffs of eucalyptus, wet hay, vase water… It’s much wilder than expected at 29 yo and maybe slightly acrid.

Mouth: very dry and grassy, green, rather oaky, with just notes of fruit eaux-de-vie lingering. It’s far from being unpleasant but it’s a harsh profile, that I’d maybe compare with tequila or white rum. Gets better with time, though, with the oak playing its part (liquorice, vanilla, various spices). Loads of green tea. Finish: rather long, woody and grassy, with a little more sweetness. But I find it quite difficult – or is it me? 82 points.
Linlithgow 1975/2001 (50.2%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #96/315) Colour: gold. Nose: that’s strange, it’s exactly the same whisky on the nose, just a little punchier thanks to the higher ABV. Please see above then ;-). Mouth: yes, just the same whisky with more power and a little more sweetness from the alcohol. Marginally better. 83 points.
Linlithgow 31 yo 1970/2002 (52.4%, Douglas Laing Platinum series, 139 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: ah, this is certainly more complex. The profile isn’t that different but there are more fruits. It’s also nuttier (lots of bitter almonds) and more fragrant, with also notes of flints, wet stones, smoked ham like in the Murray McDavid… Now, it’s not sexy whisky. Austere, a little restrained… For aficionados, in any case. Mouth: ah, now we’re talking. Thick, oily, very grassy of course but beautifully so… Notes of olive oil, marzipan, herbal liqueurs, smoked tea… It’s really getting great with time, very compact. Lots of bitter oranges, soft curry, pepper, a little rosemary and sage… Finish: very long, going on on various herbs and oils (our beloved argan now, maybe pistachio). Phew, not and easy-easy whisky again but it’s offering lots of pleasure if you give it a little time. 89 points.
Linlithgow 23 yo 1982/2006 (60.0%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #2891) Colour: straw. Nose: sharp and austere again, grassy, spirity. Water is needed, so, with water: it gets incredibly wilder, and even grassier. Lots of hay, tea, ‘clean’ manure, mushrooms… A strange beast, this one, and water doesn’t really tame it. Mouth (neat): very spirity of course, thick like oil, almondy… With water: gets sweeter, fruitier (but we have ‘only’ apples and pears), a little rounder but not that much… The finish is maybe the best part, compact, finally soothing, with a nice oakiness as a signature. But St. Magdalene’s never an easy malt – for me, in any case. 83 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: this nice little blues by Lafe Dutton called Ice cream blues.mp3. Please attend Lafe aka Lafayette's gigs and buy his CD.
 

January 24, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE FUNK BROTHERS
Ronnie Scott’s, London, January 18th 2007
Ronnie Scott’s was closed for much of last year for refurbishment, but I’m delighted to report that although the red and white checked tablecloths are sadly no more, and a smoking ban is now in place and the lavatories have been brought into the twentieth (or should that be twenty-first century?) little has been lost by way of atmosphere or intimacy. Tonight is apparently the quietest night in London of the year – it’s the day when everyone feels the Christmas pinch on their bank-balance the most. London (like the rest of the UK and much of Europe) has also been battered by storms. So it isn’t that much of a surprise that the place is not more than two thirds full despite the presence of one of the legends of sixties soul.
The Funk Brothers
The legends are the Funk Brothers, the Tamla Motown studio band who between them played on more hits than the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and the Beatles (as we’re reminded at rather frequent intervals), creating a unique mix of jazz, blues and rock that simply defined the term ‘soul music’. Until recently they were relatively unknown and uncelebrated, but a book followed by a 2002 film, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, changed all of that. And I have to say that the award winning movie makes compelling viewing, made up of interviews and live performances from a group of eight or so of the surviving original musicians (perhaps the most regarded, bassist James Jamerson, died in 1983, fortunately the much admired drummer Richard “Pistol” Allen lived just long enough to make the film) and guest vocalists. A good number of these made it across to the UK for a memorable (I’m told) concert series in 2004.
Jack Ashford
Jack Ashford
Sadly tonight we have only two Funk Brothers on stage. There’s band leader, percussionist Jack Ashford (“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the tambourine that defined the Tamla Motown sound”), who also plays vibraphone, and keyboard player Joe Hunter. Hunter’s an old man (he was the first musician to join Berry Gordy at Hitsville USA, and had left by the early 1960s before the most famous hits were recorded). He’s frail and takes an age to get to his Hammond B3 – and when he does there’s not a great deal to show for it – in fact I half suspected it had been switched off, or at least turned down a few notches. There are some ‘names’ in the line up – drummer Derek Organ is a veteran session-man who played regularly with Janet Jackson, Gregory Wright on keyboards is a retained producer for Tamla Motown, guitarist Angelo Earl is a Memphis-based performer and producer.
Vocalist and lead front man Larry Johnson was plucked from Bar-Keys. But really it’s no more than a very high-quality Tamla Motown tribute band, and it’s hard not to think that there’s a bit of going-through-the-motions in the phoney Soul Revue style enthusiasm that Johnson keeps on trying to pump up through the night.
Who would blame Ashford or Hunter for wanting to cash in, somewhat belatedly, on work that accumulated vast fortunes for some, but not for them? Not me. Particularly as they were dumped, like Detroit, in 1972 when the label moved lock stock and barrel to Los Angeles, losing as many would say, their groove in the process. But really it’s the sort of night that might make you want to reach for a copy of the Trades Description Act and read the section on ‘passing off’ very closely.

Oh yes – and to compound our misery it took us hours to get home in the rain and wind, not helped by a glimpse of what could have been the Funk Brothers’ Bentley parked outside the club as we left. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

 

Thank you, Nick. Maybe there should be a new law, stating that you can’t use a band’s name if you haven’t got at least half of the original members in.

Bentley
I mean, I’d include members who weren’t originally in but who were ‘seminal’ as they say, like Ringo with the Beatles. Right, right… Of course, dead musicians wouldn’t count, except if they were killed by a band mate, like Brian Jones. What rumours? Of course, you wouldn’t expect to see Glenn Miller with the current Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Johann-Sebastian Bach Ensemble is okay as well. Not too sure about anybody using the name Buddy Holly, that is… Or Lynyrd Skynyrd, for that matter. Now, somebody could argue that ‘The Funk Brothers’ is a figurative brand name, hence that it might be reused ad libitum. Especially since the original Funk Brothers weren’t really brothers anyway, were they?.. Oh well, better listen to them in I’m losing you.mp3. - S.
 
TASTING - THREE HIGHLAND PARKS
Highland Park 15 yo 1989/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid, refill sherry) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very perfumy, almost like cologne for a moment, but gets then fruitier while never losing those rather nice perfumy notes. Lots of heather, orange juice, praline and caramel, freshly cut apple… Very fresh, getting more vanilled and buttery after a while. Faint mashiness but the whole is very expressive, almost restless. Mouth: orange is the keyword here again but the attack is a little rough and slightly rubbery, with notes of traditional fruit spirit like they do in the farms over here (notes of distillation). Then we have a lot of caramel and also salty touches, roasted nuts, black nougat, chocolate fudge… The finish is rather long, chocolaty and caramelly, with always this slight rubberiness… 83 points.
Highland Park 1987/2005 (51.3%, SMWS #4.102, 'Smoked duck a l'orange') I’m curious about this duck… Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more marked by the wood at first nosing, with notes of flour, vanilla, loads of vanilla and big bold chocolaty notes. Gets then almost as perfumy as the Murray McDavid with, indeed, lots of fresh oranges. But where’s the duck? ;-) Mouth: creamy, almost thick and oily, starting again on a little rubber and lots of crystallized oranges. Nutty, getting very toasted (cake, coffee beans)… Quite powerful. Gets also rather spicy after a moment (cloves and pepper) and very honeyed (strong chestnut honey). Also nougat. Not overly subtle but really full bodied. Too bad there’s still this slight rubberiness in the background. Finish: long, orangey, honeyed, with a little curry and something rooty/earthy and maybe a tad too bitter… Quite a beast, this Highland Park. 86 points.
Highland Park 1991/2006 (57%, Norse Cask, hogshead #4495, 386 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: certainly cleaner than its siblings, but also sharper and more austere. Grassier (newly cut grass, green tea, leaves…) and a little almondy (nice notes of marzipan). Goes on with interesting notes of amaretto, maraschino (or guignolet, for that matter), the whole getting fruitier and fruitier with time (green bananas). A very nice HP, let’s see what happens with a little water: oh, the peat comes out now, with notes of wet hay, farmyard, soaked grains, boiled cereals and smoke… A very good swimmer, this HP (or the Mark Spitz of whisky?) Mouth (neat): more directly fruity (and almondy again) but also a little feinty in the background. Lots of spices upfront as well as smoked tea and various herbs (dried thyme).
With water: a little less changes than on the nose but we get more liquorice and something like herbal liqueur (Underberg). Funny, it gets more austere with water – but nicely so. Rather long finish, with an enjoyable bitterness and a little bergamot. One of the peatiest Highland Parks I could taste. Very good, good work Denmark. 90 points. (and thanks Niels.)
 

January 23, 2007


WHISKYFUN'S
HALL OF FRIENDS INTERVIEW

MARCEL VAN GILS

 

Hi Marcel, where do you live and what’s special there? 
Maartensdijk, The Netherlands. It’s a really nice, small village in the countryside, near Utrecht, but close to major cities and lakes, woodland etc.

Marcel van Gils
Who or what made you discover whisky?
During my first visit to Scotland some 14 years ago, my first single malt was a Bunnahabhain and because of a really nice Bowmore tasting at (the late) Harry Verhaar’s whisky shop somewhere in 1998 (?). Jim McEwan was still manager at Bowmore, and presented the tasting. In the line up, was THE 40 years old Bowmore. Since it was my first tasting, I thought a 40 year old was common practice at a tasting… Unfortunately I don’t remember really how it tasted. I do recall Jim walking on tables. Bad habit.
The kick-off for my collection was the purchase of the (empty…) 1978 Laphroaig cask, signed by Prince Charles.
Why do you like whisky?
What I really find amazing about whisky is, that despite the fact it is practically all made the same way, it is hard to find two whiskies which are exactly the same. The variety in nose and taste is wonderful.
Do you have a favourite distillery?
In a not random order: 1) Benriach (but not the standard 10 year old, which is terrible) - 2) Longmorn - 3) Laphroaig, but before 1994. I am afraid peat has become the goal, instead of means. I don’t like the peat to be too dominant. At some point you will get bored by too much peat. That’s why, after my initial enthusiasm for Islay whiskies, I am much more a fan of subtle Speysiders. I hope Laphroaig returns to the old style Laphroaig. For new whisky drinkers it’s OK, but veterans know better. - 4) Bowmore, but only old Bowmores. Their recent stuff is not my cup of tea. The old 17 year old with the glass “label” was great and an excellent affordable every day dram. Old Bowmores and Benriachs have a nice mellow fruitiness in common, with just a sniff of smoke. Very distinctive.
What’s your favourite expression?
1971 Longmorn Scott’s 57,8% -1968 Benriach from Duncan Taylor, sherry cask 2595, 36 years old - 1975 Benriach Signatory, 28 years old, cask 7212 - 1976 Benriach from Craigellachie Hotel, just terrific - 1974 Laphroaig 31 years old by La Maison de Whisky, in my opinion (Vive la France!) the best Laphroaig ever - 1966 Signatory Laphroaig, 30 years old, cask 559 - old 10 year old Laphroaig Islay Malt Whisky by Bonfanti (what do you mean, no sherry?). The 1974 Laphroaig proves Laphroaig and sherry make a great combination. This will be a classic. (In fact I know of one Malt Maniac who bought almost the entire output.) Despite Laphroaig’s claim to solely use ex-bourbon casks (since former owner Ian Hunter had good relations with the US back in the 1930’s: Makers Mark) I distinctly believe older expressions like the above mentioned Bonfanti Laphroaig had sherry influences. - 1968 Bowmore 35 years old from The Whisky Fair
What’s your best – or most vivid – memory regarding whisky?
There are many, but was comes first to mind are the wonderful afternoons (pre-tastings) before the evening tastings at Mara in Limburg a. Lahn. Thanks Roland and Carsten. Though it was sometimes really hard to get through the evening program. I learned a lot in this cellar. The very, very best tasting though is the Super Wigman tasting each year. A collectors dream. Only brown Cadenhead dumpies, Conn. Choice brown labels, you just don’t believe your eyes. And a very, very late evening in Craigellachie Hotel in 2005 after an excellent diner, with my wife Leonoor, Duncan Elphick, Hans Offringa, Jeroen Koetsier, Michael Jackson who kept on talking about rugby and the bartenders Tatsuya and Morton, both great guys. A memorable night.
Is there a specific bottling you’re looking for?
Yes, there are two: a 1988 Laphroaig distillery bottle, issued in 2006 for a Swedish group of Laphroaig fans and a 1967-1980 Cadenhead dumpy Laphroaig. I know two people who have the latter bottle. One is Mara, but they won’t sell. Hmm, not very nice, Carsten and Roland. Come on, guys, sell the bloody bottle to me!
Are you a member of a whisky club and which one?
I am a member of the Dutch Connection. Membership is very restricted. Members are: Michiel Wigman (Springbank), Bert Vuik (Ardbeg and Japanese whiskies), Hans Dillesse and Govert van Bodegom (the Longmorn brothers) and yours truly (Laphroaig).
Imagine you had a magic wand, what would you change in the whisky world?
I would make stainless steel change back into wood, make computers at distilleries vanish, appoint managers who think in terms of quality, not shareholder value and marketing, make silly wood finishes go away, which cover up mediocre whisky, and heat the stills with coal again. And, oh yes, make the Ardbeg manager sell the Islay Festival bottle 2007 for 50 pounds.
Have you been to Scotland? What’s your favourite place there?
Many times. Plockton and Loch Earn, because it has a waterski slalom course. Waterskiing is the story of my life.
Marcel skiing
Do you also, like us at Whiskyfun, like music? Which kind?
Yep. Van Morrison, Eagles, U2, Fleetwood Mac. I like musicians and bands who play instruments and make real music, and not computerised productions. I like a lot of music styles. But I really dislike jazz.
Do you have other hobbies?
Waterskiing, snowskiing, tennis, photography, my website laphroaigcollector.com but most of all my dog Pien.
Is there another ‘liquid’ you like, apart from whisky? What’s your favourite expression of it?
I really like good Italian red wine, like Barolo, Barbera etc. A bit expensive, but the Italian wines have a nice spicy touch. Sometimes a beer, but that’s quickly too much for me. I really don’t understand people drinking pints and pints of beer.
By the way, Marcel, we've heard of a new book, can you tell us more?
Yes, at the moment I am working on a book on Laphroaig, together with Dutch whisky writer Hans Offringa. Dutch artist Hans Dillesse will take care of some special illustrations. We have full support of Beam Global (present owner of Laphroaig). The book is about Islay, Laphroaig’s history, a really nice section for the collector, Laphroaig today, introducing the distillery and its staff as it is now, a section about the Royal Appointment and a section about The Friends of Laphroaig. The foreword will be written by Charlie MacLean. We have found a huge archive with never before published material, some photographs go back as far as 1886. We are researching this file now, which is a hell of a job. The book will be sold through the Laphroaig website and is to be issued in September.
The collectors chapter will be great, as some of the major collectors from all over the world have promised their help and are sending me pictures of their bottles. This will be really special. Anyone who can help us with material, photographs, information, whatever, please let me know.
Many thanks Marcel! To our distinguished readers, if you're seeking more information about old Laphroaigs, or simply want to have a look at a very classy whisky website, please have a look at Marcel's Laphroaigcollector pages!
 
TASTING - TWO GLENLOSSIES
Glenlossie 1978/2003 (44%, Secret Treasures, Fassbind Switzerland, casks #4787/4788, 587 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: starts with some nice fruity and flowery notes but gets then much more silent. Notes of wood, tea, herbal teas (mostly chamomile) and faint whiffs of camphor, the whole getting then a little sour (oxidised apple juice) and even metallic (not in a very nice way). Too bad, the start was okay… Mouth: the same seems to happen, the attack being quite nice, on vanilla crème, but the whole getting then a little drying and cardboardy. Not bad at all but rather uninteresting, I’d say, especially when considering it’s a Glenlossie, a great distillery. Finish: medium long, caramelly and tea-ish… Average. 78 points.
Glenlossie 40 yo 1966/2006 (50%, Adelphi, cask #3779, 213 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts on lots of wax polish, old cupboard, tar and metal polish… It smells just like an antiques shop after a moment, with lots of leather, beeswax, cellulose varnish, old wood, cigar box... Absolutely great, with also a smell of ‘newly cleaned copper’. Mouth: extraordinary attack with a funny ‘old bottle effect’ (hints of metal and all kinds of camphory/minty notes) while it was just bottled last year (yes, I’m sure they didn’t rebottle old stocks they’d have bought in Italy). At 40 yo it’s punchy and powerful, with quite a lot of peat like in some older versions bottled in the 80’s. Develops on grapefruit, kumquat, orange zests, notes of kiwi… Smoked tea, something very waxy, cinchona, liquorice…
Superb and not tired at all, quite the contrary. And a beautiful saltiness on your tongue, especially at the long and bold finish. Again, superb, although those ‘old bottle’ tastes may disconcert some whisky lovers, like they did at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2006. 92 points.

 

MUSIC - JAZZ - Recommended listening - Kathleen Holeman sings an entertaining Mood indigo.mp3 with excellent suport by bassist Bob Branstetter. Please buy these people's music and go to their gigs.

 

January 22, 2007


TASTING - TWO UNUSUAL DISTILLERIES

Kininvie 15 yo ‘Hazelwood 105’ 1990/2006 (52.5%, OB, first fill sherry) The first official bottling of Kininvie ever (there has been an ‘Aldunie’ in Germany but I never tasted it). This one has been bottled to celebrate the 105th anniversary (wow) of Janet Roberts, a lady from the Grant dynasty, and is off-commerce. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a very spirity start, with whiffs of oak, wood alcohol and vanilla crème. No sherry that I can smell. Gets then even more bourbonny, vanilled, oaky… Hints of milk chocolate and roasted peanuts, kirsch, plum spirit….

If I had to put it into a ‘profile cluster’, I’d put it alongside the youngish woody Glenmorangies (Artisan Cask, Ozark, Truffle oak and such) and not too far from the Balvenie 10 yo , except that this Kininvie has less aromas, is less rounded and, to be honest, is much less sexy. More a curiosity it seems. Mouth: quite punchy and much fruitier (apples, strawberries, plums) but the oak is well here. A little more enjoyable than on the nose, but it’s no special spirit I think. Truly a base malt for blends, I think. Rather raw, at that, grainy, cereally… Finish: not too long, still spirity and marginally fruity, with a little liquorice and lots of oak. And where’s the sherry? But it’s interesting to be able to taste such a rare malt and I thank fellow MM Ho-cheng for this opportunity. A commemorative bottling, maybe not meant to be opened. 75 points.
Ayrshire 30 yo 1975/2005 ‘Thirty’ (48,9%, Wilson &Morgan, Ladyburn distillery, cask #3376, 223 bottles) A very rare bottling of that long gone distillery. I already tried this version and liked it a lot but didn’t take proper tasting notes. Colour: gold. Nose: lots of tropical fruits at first nosing, especially dried longans or rambutans, dates and figs, even if it’s quite bourbonny/oaky just like the Kininvie. Much more expressive, though. Faint hints of varnish and hints of apple vinegar but gets then quite flinty. Really enjoyable. Mouth: bold and powerful, rather toasted (toasted cake, bread crust). Goes on with dried fruits, banana sweets and hints of bubblegum. Gets then rather spicy (cloves, white pepper, soft curry), with also quite some sweet liquorice. Far from being just a rarity, it’s certainly excellent whisky if not a great-great one. Much better than the Ladyburn 27 yo 1973 OB that I had at 80 points, in any case, so, 87 points for this superb W&M that was very fairly priced, at that.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: I quite like Zach Condon's Beirut (the band, eh) and his/their Postcard from Italy.mp3. Interesting how many new bands manage to make the most out of two or three notes and a nice voice (and a trumpet)... Please buy Beirut's music!

 

January 21, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
BERT JANSCH with Paul Wassif, Beth Orton and Bernard Butler

The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London
January 12th, 2007

I always get twitchy when I hear a phrase like “the British Folk tradition” echo across a restaurant before a gig. I could see them out of the corner of my eye – three lonely and friendless fifty-something men, Littlewoods slacks and pullovers, earnestly talking at each other like would-be preachers auditioning at a Wesleyan convention. “Did I tell you when I saw …”, “Of course if it wasn’t Graham then it’s not clear who…”, “and then he creates the impression of a modality that doesn’t belong to a diatonic scale…”, “I always said that without Renbourn he was nothing …”, “of course if only he was dead he’d be more famous than Nick Drake…”

Littlewoods
On and on they droned until the bill arrived. Out came three draw-string purses and a meticulous bill-splitting operation began. To be frank I really really lost interest when they started calibrating exactly how much wine each had drunk from their solitary bottle. They left – anxious to get value for money by being in their seats as early as possible - and needless to say at the end of the evening they were the ones leading the muted cries of ‘Angie, Angie’. Ho hum.
Bert Jansch
I’m sure I’m not the only person who carries a hatful of Jansch songs around in my head – that most personal of all i-Pods that works on a fiendishly random shuffle. But at some point I’ll probably get Jansch almost every day, ‘Blackwaterside’, ‘Strolling down the highway’, ‘Running from home’ or ‘It don’t bother me’ with echoes of Jansch’s droning guitar and haunting nasal vocals. And of course there’s THAT tune, which like so many other spotty adolescents I spent hours trying to play, much to the distraction of my family. ‘Angie’ of course was pinched from Davy Graham who never experienced the relative commercial success of Jansch, which after the triumph of his earliest albums was cemented first by his partnership with fellow-guitarist John Renbourn and then through their association with the money-spinning folk-jazz combination Pentangle. Embraced as the acceptable face of the sixties by the establishment – well my Mum anyway - (their hit single ‘Light flight’ was the theme tune to BBC TV series Take Three Girls) I first saw them (and therefore Jansch) play in Solihull Civic Centre in about 1972, performing to an audience of neatly-dressed politely-clapping wealthy West Midlands Tories (Solihull, it should be remembered, was the Royal Burgh that banned then folk-singer and comedian Jasper Carrott from running a club within their hallowed boundaries). It was all a bit too sanitised for me at the time (even with Danny Thompson on the string bass), so apart from those songs that never got out of my head, I sort of lost touch with Jansch until 2000, when he released the outstanding Crimson Moon. In the intervening years he’d drunk so much that he became "as seriously ill as you can be without dying" (he did in fact undergo major heart surgery in 2005) as result cleaned up his act and embraced life, and in turn had been embraced by a new generation of guitarists such as Bernard Butler and Johnny Marr. Indeed for the past six years, as a mini-folk revival has bubbled away under the surface in the UK, Bert has been as cool as he was in the sixties.
And he’s released a new album, although he seems to have forgotten this as he doesn’t mention it once during the evening. It’s called The Black Swan and it’s quite excellent. It’s so Bert Jansch that it could have been made forty years ago (well, not quite, as the production is outstanding and very 21st century), in the same way that his eponymous debut album could have been made yesterday. He’s also brought some of the performers from Black Swan with him – slide guitarist Paul Wassif and singer Beth Orton, and from Crimson Moon and numerous subsequent gigs Bernard Butler. But he starts solo, very much in folk club mode (except that is for the over-amplified guitar which at times got so loud as to provoke cried of “turn it down” from some disgruntled Belsize Park resident) with ‘It don’t bother me’, ‘Going down the highway’ ‘Blackwaterside’ and ‘Rosemary Lane’.
Bert Jansch Black Swan
The Black Swan
At which point he could have packed up and I would have been just as happy as Larry. But he doesn’t; he sang a song for Victor Jara (and I don’t think I was the only person in the audience reaching inside my pocket for my Chile Solidarity Campaign badges), plays a wonderfully complex instrumental, ‘Downunder’, ‘My Donald’ from Crimson Moon, and from Black Swan ‘The old triangle’, a song about imprisonment and hanging which was used in early productions of Brendan Beehan’s ‘The Quare Fellow’, and which, Bert tells us, he first learnt many years ago in Edinburgh from Beehan’s brother Dominic. All the time Jansch is nervously apologising for the lack of guests on stage. Apparently he’s under the illusion that we’re here to see them, not him.
Bernard Butler joins for the end of the first set and plays beautifully on his semi-acoustic (Gibson? – I couldn’t quite see) on ‘Fresh as a sweet Sunday morning’, an old Pentangle tune ‘The Casbah’ and ‘Poison’, an old protest song for all the old protesters in the audience. Butler can be wonderfully melodic and his interplay with Jansch was subtle and well judged – guitar fans might also like to know that he was, as we say in the trade, “giving it some Bigsby”. The second set began with ‘Carnival’ the first bar of which brought rapturous applause from those who mistakenly thought it was going to be ‘Angie’. Paul Wassif played (amongst others) ‘Black cat blues’ and Robin Williamson’s ‘My pocket’s empty’, and a solo Jansch gave us ‘October song’ before being joined by a giggly Beth Orton who sang ‘Katie Cruel’ from Black Swan, and her own song ‘Safe and in your arms’ before Wassif and Butler reappeared for finale ‘Watch the stars’ and encore ‘When the sun comes up’. The audience were entranced (well, I was entranced) – Jansch left the stage as diffidently as he’d entered it, and the lights came up as the three Littlewood’s men vainly chanted for ‘Angie’ somewhere at the back.
Bert Jansch London And what would I say about the British Folk Tradition? Well at its worst it’s a myopic fantasy land of ‘golden age’ dreams fit only for superannuated social workers and sociology lecturers. At its best it’s vibrant, inventive, forward looking yet firmly grounded in its origins. Thankfully that is what we had from Mr Jansch and his chums (and the very interesting support, Scott Matthews). Five stars.
- Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thank you, Nick. There’s a bit of serendipity going on today, as I’m editing your excellent review… First I was listening to Beth Orton when I got your article, and then, while checking Bert Jansch’s myspace page, there were a few songs from his 1973 album ‘Moonshine’ playing. I think that says long, by the way. Indeed, Jansch is letting the world listen to his older, famous tunes instead of promoting his recent work! Hit your ‘reload’ button and you’ll also get tunes from 1965’s ‘Bert Jansch’ or 1969’s fab ‘Birthday Blues’… But Jansch isn’t living in the past at all, that’s for sure: his new producer is Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart’s and he’s playing with members of Espers (the band, not that thing in Blade Runner) – although these people might well be living in the past in a certain way, that is… - S.
 

 

 

 

 

TASTING - THREE TAMDHUS

Tamdhu 18 yo (43%, OB, 2006) Colour: gold. Nose: fresh, clean and very grainy. Light in style but not weak. Quite some chamomile tea, light vanilla crème, light honey, roasted peanuts… Something slightly metallic in the background like in some old bottles. Enjoyable notes of orange cake, baklavas, caramel… Not the most complex malt ever but the balance is well here. Mouth: sweet, very caramelly… Very, very caramelly in fact but a little weak, lacking a little more body and mouth feel. Goes on with roasted caramelised peanuts, nougat, light honey, a little praline… Simple. Finish: not too long but not unpleasant, with hints of oak besides the… caramel. In short, the nose was pretty nice but the palate is too… well, you see what I mean. 77 points.
Tamdhu 25 yo (43%, OB, 2006) Colour: gold - just slightly darker. Nose: a little more silent at first nosing, but it gets then more floral and also a little smokier. Nice notes of orange pekoe, cigar box, whiffs of incense… Much less caramel or nutty aromas than in the 18 yo . Gets also more and more floral (wild flowers). Beautiful tobacco notes coming through after a while (both Havana and unlit Camels - I mean, Virginia tobacco). Very, very nice - I hope the palate won't be weakish. Mouth: just another league, compared with the 18 yo . More complex, a little bolder, with a nice oakiness, quite some tea, apple skin, pastries, honey and then quite some spices such as white pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika… Very good, especially the finish that's astonishingly salty. Okay, and a little caramelly, but this is excellent whisky. 87 points.
Tamdhu 15 yo 1991/2006 (60.0%, Adelphi, cask #1955, 257 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: really powerful but astonishingly ‘nosable’ at such high strength. Lots of praline, nougat, very malty and nutty, with also lots of vanilla and maybe hints of roses. There’s quite some oak but it’s not dominant… Keeps developing on freshly squeezed oranges and hints of peonies, with a faint smokiness. Mouth : softer and rounder than expected despite the high strength. Bold notes of liquorice all-sorts and strawberry candies, really playful (icing sugar). Something slightly perfumy (or is it lavender sweets?) but it’s not disturbing at all. Gets very liquoricy after a moment with also a little clove but the huge fruitiness is always here. Finish: long, still hugely fruity (strawberry liqueur) with maybe faint hints of rubber. Extravagantly fruity. 85 points.
 
 

January 20, 2007


TASTING - TWO NEW LONGROWS

Longrow 10 yo 100 proof (57%, OB, 2006) Colour: straw. Nose: quite expressive but a little weird like often with the recent Longrows, with lots of notes of violets and rotting oranges, the whole becoming then quite mashy. Also notes of Cologne, lavender… Truly bizarre for my tastes but I know many guys like it. Little peat in this one, in any case.

Mouth: better now, more ‘classical’. Bold, peatier, nicely sweet and fruity (lots of crystallised grapefruit, kumquat and orange). Better balanced than on the nose, for sure. Goes on with hints of gin fizz, Fanta (or Orangina) and a long, peppery and orangey finish. Quite a good one, in fact, markedly less ‘erratic’ and ‘uncontrolled’ than most finishings the distillery’s been issuing in recent times in my opinion. 83 points.
Longrow 13 yo 1993/2006 (57,1%, OB, MacMhuirich, Currie & Wilkinson, cask #635) Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely bizarre at first sniff, with whiffs of cooked cabbage, new plastic, Alka-Seltzer and, again, rotting oranges. Not unlike the 100° proof, just much more extreme. Goes on with shoe polish and liquid detergent. There’s really something that doesn’t work with my nostrils here – some fellow maniacs liked this one much better. So, I guess it’s me but I don’t like it at all, it’s too weirdly ‘kind of medicinal and chemical’ for my tastes. Mouth: just like with the 100°proof, it’s a little better now, although I can still find lots of ‘chemical’ tastes such as aspirin, paraffin, medicines… Cactus? (aloe). Something like un-aged tequila. Hints of salt but also quite some rubber… Sorry, I’ll have to stop, this one just doesn’t make it for me, but please don’t take my notes literally, there may well be kind of an incompatibility with my very own sensorial system. Something genetic, maybe… 55 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: that's right, it's John Cale and Lou Reed who were doing the latter's very 'nice' little ritornello called Smalltown.mp3 in 1990 (it's on 'Songs for Drella). Please buy these guys' music.

 

January 19, 2007


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 

TASTING - TWO LINKWOODS

Linkwood 15 yo (43%, G&M Licensed bottling, Bottled +/- 2006) Nose: meaty, animal. Balsamic vinegar, wine sauce, something nicely sour. Wild and expressive, far from most earlier versions. Strawberry jam, old Burgundy wine, civet. Mouth: bold, expressive, very caramelly and liquoricy. Lots of cask influence, almost bourbony. Unusually full-bodied, lots of oomph although it’s not especially subtle. 81 points.

Linkwood 15yo (43%, G&M Licensed bottling, Bottled +/- 2006)
Linkwood 30 yo 1974/2005 (54.9%, Rare Malts) Colour: gold. Nose: a fine oak (err) and hints of old roses, vanilla and ginger. Goes on with apple skin and fresh mint leaves, getting then much grassier and a little austere I think. Not too expressive despite the beautiful start. Mouth: a sweet and orangey start, a little more expressive now. Quite some custard, ripe melon and crystallised oranges… Gets peppery (oak) and spicy (cloves), especially at the finish. Very good but not thrilling, I'd say. 85 points, still.
 
MUSIC Recommended listening: Bukky Leo & Black Eygpt do Dem go shout.mp3 (from their album Afrobeat Visions). Bukky Leo, saxophonist and vocalist born in Nigeria, used to play with Fela Kuti, which says long about his skills. Fab music despite the slight ‘FM’ feel - please buy these peoples’ music! Bukky Leo
 

January 18, 2007


TASTING - TWO TOMINTOULS

Tomintoul 40 yo 1966/2006 (45.2%, The Whisky Fair, 139 bottles) Tomintoul’s got a modest reputation but we already had brilliant old versions, including a fabulous 1966 Platinum by DL. Let’s see if this new one by Carsten and gang will match its glory. Colour: gold. Nose: this one is much less concentrated than that old Platinum (I have very vivid memories of the latter) but much fresher at first nosing.

Tomintoul 40yo 1966/2006 (45.2%, The Whisky Fair, 139 bottles)
Something like a plate of oysters (unusual in Speyside) but also fresh bananas and papayas with touches of nutmeg and faint hints of bubblegum (Juicy fruit gum). Also quite some melon and butter pears and hints of mint. The oak is well here but never takes control. Mouth: thicker, richer now, and just as fruity although there’s something slightly cardboardy and drying at first sip. Notes of marmalade, cooked apricots, more nutmeg now, un-sugared green tea, flour… As expected, the oak is more present than on the nose. Gets then more bitter and drying (but below the limits I’d say). The finish isn’t too long and tea-ish, maybe lacking sweetness and body in a certain way – but the green bananas are back. In short, better on the nose but the whole is an enjoyable old oaky whisky. 85 points.
Tomintoul 38 yo 1967/2005 (49,2%, Adelphi, cask #4485) Colour: gold. Nose: pretty much the same profile but it’s a little less fruity and almost light at first nosing. More on apple and green pears, green tea… It’s very fresh again, maybe a tad sulphury but nothing excessive. Beautiful notes of old roses and even lychees in the background and also a little caramel. Rather delicate. Mouth: more body now and much more fruits than in the 1966, with lots of bananas (something Irish) and oranges. You can feel the heavy oak in the background but the fruitiness manages to contain it, which makes a big difference with what happens in the 1966. Quite some body and nice balance. Finish: longer than the ’66, less oaky but more peppery, with lots of orange marmalade. Maybe not a winner but still top-shelf material. 88 points.
Tomintoul 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006) And also Tomintoul 10 yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006) Nose: malty, caramelly, cereally, coffeeish. Balanced. Mouth: very malty, candy sugar, cornflakes. Very drinkable but somewhat in blend territories. 75 points.
Tomintoul 16 yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006) Nose: wilder, much more assertive than the 10 yo . Something wild and organic (hay, game). Mouth: coffee, fruit sweets, nougat. Notes of marzipan. Lacks a little body in my books but it’s better than both the 27 and the 10 yo again. Not uninteresting at all, quite the contrary. 81 points.
Tomintoul 27 yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006) Nose: much fruitier and more expressive than earlier versions I think. Ripe pineapple, chardonnay wine, rum, vanilla fudge, roasted and caramelized nuts. Very nice. Mouth: a but weak, thin mouth feel. Too bad because the profile is nice (fruit salad with rum, praline and nougat). Slight oakiness, lots of vanilla. Bolder at the finish. 80 points.
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: today we'll have another nice whispering troubadour: Andrew Bird from Chicago, and he's singing Sovay.mp3. Excellent arrangements and excellent singing, elegant and delicate. Please buy Andrew Bird's music...

Andrew Bird
 

January 17, 2007


TASTING - THREE MORTLACHS
Mortlach 12yo 1993/2006 (46%, Jack Wieber's Scottish Castles, cask #5228)
Mortlach 12 yo 1993/2006 (46%, Jack Wieber's Scottish Castles, cask #5228) Colour: gold. Nose: very interesting at first nosing, very 'Mortlach' with a mix of honey, roasted nuts, wax and meatiness (smoked ham). Something 'maritime' and fresh, oysters (yes, I know where Mortlach's located), smoked tea, cold chamomile tea… Rather complex. Also hints of fresh walnuts and liquorice sticks and a little toffee, not to forget whiffs of rose water. Very pretty. Mouth: it takes off rather slowly, on light 'breakfast' honey and caramelized nuts but develops on lots of dried and crystallized fruits: oranges, dates, quinces… Enjoyable smokiness in the background, with also hints of bay leaves. Finish: medium long, nutty, getting oakier but never drying. Very good, not too far from the official Flora and Fauna version. 84 points.
Mortlach 1988/2006 (59.2%, The Cross Hill, 300 bottles) Colour: gold, slightly darker. Nose: bolder, more explosive, with much more wood influence. Lots of butter, custard, nuts… Funnily, the development is very similar to the Scottish Castle's, with the same meaty and waxy notes. Superb notes of sherry after a moment (old walnuts, flor). It's both bold and complex… Also lots of dried oranges, pecan pie, fruitcake. Very pretty again! Mouth: bold, powerful and quite sherried, with lots of butter and something clearly meaty (sausages?) Gets then really spicy, peppery, with also lots of cloves. Gingerbread, dried coconut, dried bitter oranges… It's strong but never hot. Long finish, fruity, peppery and nutty, very clean… In short, another excellent Mortlach. 87 points.
Mortlach 17 yo 1988/2006 (58%, Signatory, Sherry cask #4726, 635 bottles) Nose: very interesting because it’s very meaty (ham) and farmy, almost as if it was peated. Goes on with nuts, caramel, coffee… Slightly cardboardy, getting then rather smoky. A different Mortlach. Mouth: sweet and a little milky, getting very fruity but with also a little rubber. Apple compote, strawberries, ripe kiwi. Dairy cream. Hints of kirsch and plum eau-de-vie. Rather long finish on strawberries with vanilla crème and a little porridge. Good. 83 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: there are many sound botchers around and when they're too 'serious', well, it's often plain crap but Melbourne's Philip Jackson is on another planet. Have a try at his Nature boy.mp3 (27th degree humour requested) and maybe you'll see what I mean. After that, please buy his music if you can...

Philip Jackson
 

January 16, 2007


Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB, 'Port Ellen', Bottled +/- 2006)

 

 

 

TASTING - TWO LAGAVULINS AND A PROBABLE ONE

 

Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, 'Port Ellen', Bottled +/- 2006) A malt we’re all following year after year, tracking down the faintest changes… Let’s see… Nose: hmmm, this one seems rougher, rawer, more ‘uncompromisingly Islay’ than earlier batches. Less rounded, peatier, more maritime… Nice notes of very ripe gooseberries but probably less sherry (or, let’s say ‘sherriness’). Lots of ‘rectitude’. Mouth: okay, it’s slightly sweeter and rounder now but it gets then much dryer (walnuts). Quite some peat, roots, smoked tea, liquorice, hints of toffee. Right, Lagavulin 16 is still a great whisky, no doubt. Probably less ‘sweetish’ than some earlier batches and certainly ahead of the core peaty pack from the south shore I think (A10, L10, L16). 89 points.
Lagavulin 13 yo 1984/1998 (46%, Murray McDavid) Colour: white wine. Nose: not exactly bold but certainly rawer and more ‘directly peaty’ than most OB’s. Starts also on quite some camphor mixed with something metallic and mineral, developing on marzipan, cod oil and grapefruit juice. Nice austerity. Goes on with hints of diesel oil and fresh mint. Very interesting although not overly complex I’d say. Mouth: a very enjoyable attack on apple skin and liquorice as well as gentian, chlorophyll and notes of cardamom besides the rather heavy peatiness. Gets quite peppery after that, spicy, almondy… Interesting hints of Japanese sake (don’t ask me which kind, I still have to do my homework on sake). Finish: medium long, balanced, peaty and peppery with a growing grassiness towards the end. A most enjoyable ‘naked’ Lagavulin. 87 points.
Vanilla Sky 14 yo 1992/2006 (53%, The Whisky Fair, 297 bottles) Just bottled in December. Colour: straw. Nose: punchier of course but also rounder, starting more on vanilla (indeed) and something oriental (sandalwood, incense, soft spices) as well as overripe apples. We get more to the peat after that, the whole getting tarrier and smokier, closer to the Murmac in style. Again a little diesel oil and also apple and walnut skin. A straightforward Lagavulin. Mouth: again, it’s punchier but rounder and more marked by the wood. Rather thick and creamy mouth feel. Lots of apple compote but then the pepper takes off, as well as something like Juicyfruity chewing gum and quite some lemon juice and ginger tonic, with hints of cloves and caraway. Very straightforward, getting ashy. Finish: rather long, grassy, peaty and peppery, with a nice smokiness as a signature as well as a little tar. Again and interestingly, a Lagavulin that’s less sweet than most Ardbegs (and yes, Laphroaigs). 89 points.
 
SHOPPING - 15 Ego Cases for people who have serious ego problems
I’m so happy my anti-spam didn’t block this email! Imagine, Lavinia, a large and usually good and serious Spanish-French wine and liquor shop just proposed me a fantastic bargain: a Glenfiddich “Ego Case”. LOL! There’s one bottle of the old Glenfiddich 40 yo bottled in 2000 at 43.60% (excellent whisky but another dust gatherer that still retails for £900/1,300 Euro’s at many shops in the UK) PLUS a tumbler made out of Baccarat crystal PLUS one ST Dupont lighter PLUS one 1-cigar holder PLUS one Ipod Nano 4GB (what!?), the whole nested in a broadly Glenfiddich-branded kind of leather attaché-case. Price? 5,400 Euro’s. Okay, the lighter is worth 400 Euro’s, the 1-cigar case 150 Euro’s, the Ipod 220 Euro’s, the tumbler 100 Euro’s, the ‘fiddich 1,300 Euro’s… Which makes for 2,170 Euro’s. Right, let’s assume Lavinia isn’t too good at buying smoking accessories so let’s make that 2,500 Euro’s. They’re still asking for 5,400 – 2,500 = 2,900 Euro’s for a black Glenfiddich attaché-case that looks furiously 1980’s. Good news, there were only 15 of these “Ego Cases” made for the whole world… And thank God Xmas is over. You can find the offer there.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: he's Corey Harris and he's singing Fish ain't bitin'.mp3. Is that true? Please buy this guy's music... He's at Alligator records, which says long, and he's also in the Martin Scorsese’s film, “Feel Like Going Home”, which says even longer. Corey Harris
January 2007 - part 1 <--- January 2007 - part 2 ---> February 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:

Benriach 29 yo 1976/2006 (56%, OB, Hogshead #8084, 194 bottles)

Benriach 37 yo 1968/2006 (52%, OB, Hogshead #2712, 157 bottles)

Bruichladdich 1970/2006 ‘125 years’ (40.1%, OB, 2502 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1971/2006 ‘125th Anniversary’ (44.9%, OB, 750 bottles)

Glenlossie 40 yo 1966/2006 (50%, Adelphi, cask #3779, 213 bottles)

Highland Park 1991/2006 (57%, Norse Cask, hogshead #4495, 386 bottles)

Pulteney 28 yo 1977/2005 (57.7%, Duncan Taylor, cask #3075, 216 bottles)

Springbank 18 yo 1973/1991 (57.9%, Cadenhead’s, rum cask)

Prestonfield’s Campbeltown 20 yo 1967 (46%, The Prestonfield, casks #3131/3136)

Springbank 20 yo 1972/1992 (56.5%, Cadenhead)

Springbank 31 yo 1965/1996 (50.5%, Cadenhead’s ‘Chairman’s Stock’)