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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2009 - Part 2
       

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

 

January 31, 2009


GOOD ONES BY CRAIG FERGUSON (love the Japanese bit...)
 
So, where's this Kai Tan whisky to be found? And doesn't what Craig says about Starbucks remind us of quite a few whisky brands/distilleries? And Btw, while I'm at it, seriously, why are most whisky blogs and forums (well, the ones I know of) getting SO deadly serious?
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
With thanks to Olivier and Davin
Littlemill

TASTING - TWO LITTLEMILLS

Littlemill 20 yo 1983/2004 (49.5%, Signatory, cask #2915, 273 bottles) Poor Littlemill used to be Scotland’s oldest distillery before it’s closure in 1994, as it was founded in 1772. Colour: white wine. Nose: starts on a rather striking and unexpected smokiness (rather paper and cardboard smoke but then also pinewood) and gets then rather vanilled (straight vanilla pods), with also notes of cornflakes and muesli and then a very obvious grassiness (dried cut lawn grass). Very pleasant combo, very unusual. Smoked vanilla custard? Mouth: this is much sweeter and fruitier, with a little lemon and a lot of cider apple (or other small green apples). Big bitterness after that, very unusual again, on fresh walnuts and apple peel. A lot of freshly ground pepper as well. Finish: long and even bitterer (very grassy), in that sense quite spectacular. Comments: not a Littlemill that’s easy to sip but an interesting harshness and bitterness that’s not to be found in many “modern’ malts. Probably none, actually. SGP:282 – 80 points.
Littlemill 1990/2007 (57%, Scott's Selection) Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re close to the 1983, only more powerful and hence a tad raw and spirity. Hints of rose scented candles. With water: a load of very ‘natural’ and pleasantly immature aromas (pleasant because they’re very ‘natural’ and close to the raw materials, grain and yeast). Porridge sprinkled with lemon juice, beer and the same kind of smokiness as in the 1983. Mouth (neat): a very big, very grassy attack, all on apple peel and pepper once again, getting then a little fruitier (crystallised lemons and oranges). With water: now it gets really very good. More lemons, apples and cinnamon, with quite some cloves and ginger as well. Finish: long, quite bitter although not as much so as the 1983. Pepper and lemon. Comments: another old-style malt that’s very good in our opinion and that contradicts all the people who claim that Littlemill used to be a cheapo malt whisky. A blast from the past, as they say. SGP:362 – 86 points.
£4m! NO, THIS IS NOT APRIL 1st

All right, Christmas is now far away behind us and maybe it’s time to wonder if Glenmorangie’s very timely £4m Christmas gift offer has actually been sold.
Pardon? You say you weren’t aware of that gift offer? Well, that’s because you don’t read The Robb Report (NOT The Robber’s Report), and if you don’t read The Robb Report it’s because, just like us, you’re no billionaire, whether in dollars, pounds, yens, euros, yuans, rupees our roubles (but of course we’re all billionaires in peace, love, friendship and understanding).
So, what was exactly that Glenmorangie gift offer that was advertised in December’s edition of The Robb Report? A spark of genius, really, as for £4m, anyone could become the 17th man of Tain, a position that was to include:
- a flight to the Ozark mountains in Missouri to choose trees that would make the casks for the whisky of their own (already dried, we hope)
- a flight to Scotland
- a stay at the Glenmorangie House beside the distillery
- tuition on the secrets of malt whisky distilling from Dr Bill Lumsden
- assistance on flavouring and perfecting the client’s own malt
- 20 barrels of this personalised single malt with the first bottling in 2019 and the rest at intervals over the following twenty-five years
I guess all that leaves you speechless, and of course we won’t try to find out about the real value for money of this marvellous bundle. £4m? Hell, who counts, and maybe it’s not any more ridiculous than some of the other Christmas gifts that have been advertised in The Robb Report, such as a $1m golf game with Greg Norman (let’s hope he’d let you win – now, THAT would be worth $1m to all George-Costanzas), a $100m seat aboard a Soyuz spacecraft (Russian nuclear submarines were fully booked already) or a £2m whisky tasting with BOTH Dave Broom and Charlie McLean (I take it!).
Let’s only hope it’s not Mr Madoff who bought the lot. And that the other sixteen men of Tain won’t start claiming for their own...
More in the Daily Express

MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's in 1967 that the French violonist and future Frank Zappa band member Jean-Luc Ponty recorded this stunning composition called You've Changed (that was on his LP 'Sunday Walk'). Wolfgang Dauner was at the piano, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen at the double-bass and Daniel Humair at the drums. Please buy Jean-Luc Ponty's music.

Ponty
 

January 30, 2009


IMPORTANT - Whisky collectors, you should all read this piece that was published in PlanetEarth online. You'll find out that the majority of old pre-1950 whiskies that have been tested using carbon dating have been proven fakes!
 
John martyn MUSIC - SAD NEWS The wonderful Scottish singer and songwriter John Martyn died yesterday January 29th, so it's sad times for lovers of Scotland and music. Nick agreed to write a few lines about him, and as usual they're profound and authentic. - S.
 I first saw John Martyn (OBE) play on a stage full of adoring, cheese-cloth shirted students, on the stage of Lancaster University back in the early 1970s. His gigs were already famous for his astonishing playing, which was never matched throughout his career, his sweet yet growling voice, and of course the Bohemian atmosphere he managed to conjure up, aided by not a few shared narcotics. I can conjure up later gigs at Edinburgh University, in Edinburgh's Castle Esplanade one cold night in September, and more recently at Shepherds Bush Empire and Cropredy, to name a few. If you've read my Whiskyfun reviews you will have noted my genuine regret that his powers faded in his later years, as the consequences of his well-known self-destructive tendencies - his voice becoming - in my opinion at least (and I know some readers vehememtly disagreed with this) a sad self-parody of what it had been. But for all that he remained a musician beyond compare, with the imagination and technique to create a style of playing that has never been copied, so unique was it. He was scheduled to play more gigs this year, and I was very tempted to go and see the old boy again. Sad to say that will never be - but, as they say, his music will live as a lasting testament to his sublime, if occasionally flawed, virtuosity. And if anyone wants to hear it, I do have a very funny story about him throwing a tantrum at Heathrow airport one Friday evening about ten years ago ... - Nick Morgan (photograph by Kate)
 
 

January 29, 2009


LET'S SUPPORT
POPCORN SUTTON!


The famous Appalachian moonshiner Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton has just been sentenced to 18 months in prison, which may kill him quicker than his booze as, according to himself, he is 'a very sick man'.
More in the Wall Street Journal
Join the 'Free Popcorn Sutton' group on Facebook.

Pop Sutton
Imperial

TASTING – TWO IMPERIALS

Imperial 13 yo 1994/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2, cask #2121) Colour: white wine. Nose: typical of these middle-aged Imperials, rather fruity and fragrant, starting on ripe pears and apples with quite some porridge in the background and developing more on dill, aniseed and wet stones. Also a little wood smoke and hints of fresh strawberries, plus hints of burnt cake and coffee as well as a slight soapiness. Very ‘natural’ malt whisky. Mouth: this one is extremely fruity, maybe even fruitier than most other Imperials we had. A lot of lemon juice, fresh pineapples, kiwis and oranges. Icing sugar. A little more pepper after that as well as a growing grassiness. Pineapple-flavoured green tea? (should that exist ;-)). Good palate. Finish: medium long, still very fruity and very clean. Excellent balance. Comments: an easy dram, very fruity but not ‘simplistic’ so to speak. SGP:641 - 82 points.
Imperial 18 yo 1990/2008 (55%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #443) Colour: gold. Nose: we get the same kind of porridgy and fruity notes as in the 1990 but there’s also much more wood influence, with quite some vanilla, ginger, apple peeling and warm butter. Big notes of ale as well, bread leaven and buttered toffee. Very pleasant. With water: gets a little ashy and rather grassier. Hints of fresh almonds and then even more beer and yeast. Very ‘alive’. Mouth (neat): punchy but certainly not too hot, starting on an interesting mix of fruits and spices. Something like pineapples and chilli? Also quite some melons and white peaches covered with vanilla custard. It’s good! With water: very good! Roughly the same profile, only easier to quaff. A little more oranges. Finish: long, clean, very fruity, with more ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: once again, an Imperial that’s very easy and very pleasant to drink, thanks to its perfect fruitiness. SGP:541 - 84 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: No they don’t come from Switzerland but Seattle’s Helvetia is a very good band that has a very nice sound on guitars (great quotes!) Please listen to their Old new bicycle.mp3 and then buy their music…

Helvetia
 

January 28, 2009


Auchroisk

TASTING – THREE INDIE AUCHROISK

Auchroisk 1993/2008 (43%, G&M Connoisseur's Choice) In the new livery for the popular ‘CC’ series, from refill American hogsheads. Colour: white wine. Nose: expressively malty and grainy, with hints of wild flowers and a lot of heather honey that give this one kind of an ‘Highlandparkness’ (excuse me). Otherwise it’s light but pleasant malt whisky, getting more and more honeyed. Mouth: a bit thin at the attack but the profile is pleasant once again, very cereally and malty. Hints of liquorice as well. Reminds us a good blended whisky with a good proportion of malt. Very faint smokiness. Finish: not long but clean, drier, a little more on bitter oranges. Comments: typical average Speysider, not really mindboggling but perfectly drinkable. Kind of a grainless blend (don’t shoot!) SGP:331 – 78 points.
Auchroisk 1992/2007 (46%, McKillop's Choice, cask #15576) Colour: white wine. Nose: pretty much the same whisky as the 1993, only with a little more punch and maybe a little more grassy notes and a little less honey. Agreed, nitpicking. Mouth: more body and more presence than the 1993 this time, also more roughness. Malt, grass, pepper, honey and caramelised apples (tarte tatin). Pear drops (more youth). Finish: medium long, more on burnt cake and strong black tea. Comments: good whisky, a little more demanding than the 1993. SGP:441 - 79 points.
Auchroisk 18yo 1989/2008 (59.4%, Blackadder RC, Sherry, cask #30268, 373 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: hot, fruity, rubbery and kirschy as it sometimes happens with ex-sherry casks. Also hints of varnish and roasted chestnuts. Bread crust. With water: more on paraffin, porridge and baker’s yeast. Empty wine barrel, slight mouldiness. Much more on soaked grains and farmyard after that. Mouth (neat): really punchy, peppery and a little rubbery again, getting frankly bitter. A bit hard to enjoy when neat I must say. With water: its best moment is now. Gets funnily coastal and salty, with added notes of green tea and sorrel. Faint effervescence, or rather the feeling of that. Finish: medium long, grassier. Back to hints of kirsch. Comments: juts like its colleagues, it’s good whisky but it hasn’t got a huge personality. SGP:341 - 77 points.
  CRAZY WHISKY AD: CUBIST ARTWORK

Adam's Gold Stripe, 1961. I think I simply never saw any other whisky ad that was as, say unlikely as this one. Maybe everybody was on acid at the time, both at the brand's headquarters and at the advertising agency?
While posting this, we're thinking of MM's Craig and his friends who have to endure up to 45.7 deg Celsius (114.26 deg Fahrenheit) in Adelaide these days...

MUSIC – Recommended listening: to be honest, we've never been too much into 'fusion' jazz (often way too 'FM') but this time it's a little different. These guys really know how to play: Tetsuo Sakurai is on bass, the famous Greg Howe on guitars, Akira Onozuka on keys and nobody else than Dennis Chambers is on drums! This superband is called Gentle Hearts and they play Wonderland in the Sky. Please buy all these wonderful people's music!

Tetsuo Sakurai
 

January 27, 2009


BAVARIA AND WHISKY
It seems that the recession inspires some whisky people and this crazy new bottling by our friends at the Regensburger Whisky Club is the ultimate proof. You should read the back label, it’s even funnier: ‘In these times of turmoil, we would like to give our members and friends some rest. The contents of this bottle offer a safe haven to their investments: well over 50% along with granted liquidity, withdrawable anytime and anywhere. No short sale, hedge fund or real estate credit will ever beat this. Take your money where the peat is! It surely can’t be in a worse state of decay than our financial system.’ And they add that the bottles are ‘Rare: not signed by the Distillery Manager’ (LOL) and ‘capitalism and caramel-free’.
You may have a look and a laugh (and a sip?) at these wonders at the excellent Munich Whisky & Bar Festival 2009 that will take place on Praterinsel from January 30 to February 1. A festival that will also certainly be more beerish than bearish ;-).
PCX
 
Highland Park

TASTING
THREE OLD HIGHLAND PARK

Highland Park 1966 (41,1%, Jack Wieber, Prenzlow Portfolio, 111 bottles) this one hasn’t got such a huge reputation so let’s use it as the mise en bouche. Colour: gold. Nose: well, I don’t quite understand why the reputation isn’t too high because I find it quite superb, amazingly fresh and, above all, wonderfully resinous with these whiffs of fresh putty and freshly crushed almonds, then camphor and mint-flavoured tea. Now, it’s true that it gets then a tad drier and oakier, maybe even a little tea-ish (dry tannins) but there’s also a most pleasant fruitiness. Pineapple pie? Gets then a little shier and less expressive but it doesn’t dry up. Mouth: drier and sort of weaker at this point, but not dry and weak of course. Green bananas, lemon balm tea, nutmeg, ginger, honey, mint and cinnamon. The mint grows and grows, and so does the nutmeg. Quite some cloves as well. Finish: medium long but perfectly balanced, half fruity (bananas), half spicy (mostly cinnamon). Comments: we’re not far from the best of the famous 1966s that Duncan Taylor issued a while back. It is excellent whisky, not tired at all. SGP:551 – 89 points.
Highland Park 18 yo 1959/1977 (43%, OB, J. Grant, Dumpy, Ferraretto Import, 75cl, dark vatting) The 19yo 1959 was great (93) and the 21yo 1959 even greater in my book (95) so no need to say that we’re having high expectations here. Colour: amber. Nose: I’m 10% sure I never nosed something similar that was bottled within the last 20 years. What’s striking is the huge notes of menthol (not the kind of menthol that comes from excessive woodiness) mixed with whiffs of old precious wood, painter’s turpentine and white truffles. Sure mentioning white truffles sounds like showing off a little too much but believe me, this HP does smell like white truffles from Alba (not the cheap Chinese ones – but of course). The rest is maybe a little dry just like the 1966 was but what a brilliant albeit very unusual nose altogether! Mouth: hey, it’s almost powerful! And instead of a very polite and slightly subdued old malt, we’re having quite a beast here, firing all sorts of flavours almost at random, like a machine gun. Chlorophyll gum, mint gum, prunes, dates, liquorice, walnuts, kippers (yeah!), salt, chestnut purée, coffee, sultanas, beef stock, bacon, dill, fresh mint… This is endless. Finish: long and superb, with prunes and mint liqueur dancing a waltz together (S., stop it!) Comments: Very high up there. SGP:563 - 94 points.
Highland Park 40 yo (48.3%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008) It’s the first time that we write our own proper (so to speak) tasting notes for the recent 40yo; it was about time. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s rather amazing that quite the same resinous and mentholated notes as in the 1959 do show up here. It’s really all on old armoire that hasn’t been opened since… well, WWII and fir tree honey and camphor. It gets then rather fruitier, on dried pears and bananas, and finally very maritime and smoky like a very old Islayer. The secondary notes are gunflints, struck matches, crystallised quinces and heather (trademark). Superb. Mouth: it’s having a bit of a hard time after the 1959 I must say, being rather drier and more vegetal, but it does unfold after a little time. More dry sherry than on the nose, more resinous and ‘green’ notes (chlorophyll again) but also superb notes of sultanas, blood oranges (a fruitiness that’s well here, only a little slow to show up) and fresh almonds. The oak is very present. Finish: very long and more ‘oriental’, with touches of orange blossom water and something slightly Campari-esque. Comments: maybe this beautiful 40 is no absolute fireworks, nor the arrival of the Grand Moghul but it’s a bl**dy good dram, very complex. Just a tiny tad too oaky for my taste. SGP:362 - 91 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
*Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
(This may well be a true story ;-), but of course we don’t have the names.)

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: Excellent collage work in Denmark's CALLmeKAT’s Toxic.mp3. According to myspace, the band consists in 'kat & the keyboard graveyard (casio/korg/hohner)' So much better than the original toxic! Please buy CALLmeKAT’s music…

Callmekat
 

January 26, 2009


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
RICHARD THOMPSON, 1000 Years of Popular Music
The Barbican, London, January 15th 2009
Azincurt
Isn’t history a wonderful thing, Serge? And isn’t it wonderful that it takes great men of vision like your premier Monsieur Sarkozy to recognise history’s true purpose. Which is in this case (should you not know) to act as a mirror thrown up against the epoch-making actions of great and visionary men like your M. Sarko for instance, for the inspiration and illumination of generations to come. So I was inspired to learn that Mr S. plans to appropriate all of your French car factories (just like our world-saving President Brown has with our British banks) and turn them into museums of French history, each presenting a fantastic tableau of one of the great moments in the history of the Republic, ending of course with Mr S. himself, and his lovely guitar- playing wife. Why I even understand that our Mr Brown has suggested pitting the now redundant men of Toyota’s Wearside manufactory against those from Peugeot’s Poissy in a weekly re-enactment of the Battle of Agincourt. What a truly stunning way to exploit the past in these difficult times. Just a shame that no-one from UK plc (in liquidation) will be able to afford to attend.
I’m not sure that Richard Thompson necessarily shares this view of the past. Having said that I would have to observe – and I speak with some authority here – that his One Thousand Years of Popular Music, performed to a Barbican packed with bearded Guardian-reading retired teachers and social workers (and their husbands), was not quite the best history lesson I’ve ever been a party to. But then I don’t think it was supposed to be, with his characteristic mumblings and asides (“this one’s from the industrial age, really a bit hard to date but definitely from the 1800s or thereabouts…”) a perfect parody of a not-so-learned lecturer addressing a cold village hall village history society. Richard Thompson
Is there a lesson in an evening that begins with Thompson winding a hurdy-gurdy and ends with an uplifting medley of vintage sixties Beatles (‘Eight days a week’ never sounded quite so good)? Well, perhaps the rather heavy-handed insertion of a madrigal into the middle section of Nelly Furtado’s ‘Man eater’ suggested an enduring continuity in the format of popular song through the ages, which I’m sure no-one would question. But one could question the title, which perhaps should have included the word ‘European’ given how old world-centric the content of the evening was, with scant regard even to the American tradition, let alone the undoubted influences on popular song of Africa, a chance and fortuitous by-product of Europe’s (and America’s) commercial construct of the slave-trade. But like I said, I don’t think Thompson suggested it be taken quite so seriously, so I’m content to deduce from the evening that what we really witnessed was 1000 years of Richard Thompson playing his wonderful and quite unique guitar style.
Richard Thompson
Indeed we were warned from the start that the content was unashamedly selective – “it doesn’t include the Sound of Music and no Petula Clark”. But our chronological journey, with Thompson more than ably assisted by Judith Owen on piano and vocals (hair tied back demurely for the first half, then unleashed for the second which centred on the twentieth century), and Debra Dobkin on percussion and vocals, (who if she didn’t have bells on her fingers, certainly had them on her toes) was almost exhaustive in the styles of popular song it explored. There was what might be described as traditional folk song – ‘The three Ravens’ and ‘The False Knight’ (“another song that’s very hard to date, but it’s sort of about crack dealers at the school-house door), Italian renaissance dance tunes, Elizabethan madrigals, carols, sea shanties (a first class rendition of my favourite primary school song, and really a river shanty, ‘Shenandoah’), some music hall (“my old granny used to sing me this after three or four gins …”) and even Gilbert and Sullivan. The second half began with the Inkspots’ ‘Java jive’, Cole Porter’s ‘Night and day’ (some spectacular guitar here according to my new 2009 notebook), and “Stick McGhee via Jerry Lee Lewis via my sister’s record player”, ‘Drinkin' wine, spo-dee-o-dee’ (and here I at last have something to thank Wikipedia for, which tells me that “the spo-dee-o-dee was a scat substitute for the original motherfucker”. That’s real cocktail party small-talk stuff isn’t it?). Thompson played ‘See my friends’, his (and mine, coincidentally) favourite song from the Ravens, who used to play at his North London youth club before changing their name to the Kinks, and a really jumping version of the Easybeats’ ‘Friday on my mind’. That was before the inevitable Abba (which got all the bearded ones behind us singing and shouting for Britney, from which we were spared), Nelly F, and an encore that spanned a song attributed to Richard 1st, sung in medieval French, and finally the Beatles.
And I suppose, in conclusion, that the only real lesson we learned, if we needed it, was what a prodigious musician, and entertainer, Richard Thompson is. As Jozzer – who had kindly procured us first row circle seats – observed, it would be hard to think of anyone else who could pull off such a ridiculous show with such supreme panache. You can buy a version of the show on DVD, but a much stronger recommendation would be to catch it live if you can. Groundhogs notwithstanding, what a fantastic start to a musical year. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thank you Nick, but why do you Englishmen always know everything about things that happen in France, that we Frenchmen have never even heard of? As for your suggestion regarding our unemployed car makers, if not enough of your compatriots could make it to Azincourt for the battle reloaded, we could always do it in Hastings I guess, but then it's the French who won't afford to attend. Wait, why not do it on Jersey? Maybe there will be less taxes on helmets and swords... (oh, and arrows). But let's listen to the good Mr Thompson now, I can't understand why he didn't play Joni Mitchell's Black Crow, he does it so well and it's certainly a very popular piece - so to speak. - S 
 
Longmorn

TASTING
TWO 1990 LONGMORN

Longmorn 18 yo 1990/2008 (58%, The Whisky Society, 352 bottles) From two barrels. Colour: straw. Nose: powerful but very aromatic at first nosing, with huge notes of hot oak (freshly sawn), kumquats, beeswax (burning candle) and argan oil, developing then on grassier and more resinous notes (olive oil, ginger, fresh putty, almond milk, cedar wood, pencil shavings). Something that reminds me of Glenmorangie’s Astar or of Glenlivet’s Nadurra but with a slightly bigger complexity. Very, very compact nevertheless. With water: it gets a little less ‘modern’ and a little wilder and farmier, which is nice, but it doesn’t quite change globally. The spices are a little more prominent (curry). This Longmorn has also something a little Japanese. Mouth (neat): rich, punchy, sweet and very oaky, more or less in the same style as on the nose when neat and in that sense very ‘Missouri oak’ again if you see what I mean. A lot of lemon marmalade, ginger, vanilla and then hints of pineapple and coconut (pina colada indeed) with soft spices on top. Once again, it’s very compact and straightforward when neat. With water: I think it’s the best part now, as it lost a bit of its wham-bam oakiness and delivers some better defined fruits such as ranbutans, Williams pears and watermelons. The spiciness is more polished as well and there are some added notes of honeydew and strong lavender honey. Finish: long, with the oak getting a little more talkative again. A lot of oaky spices. Comments: excellent, very straight-ahead ‘modern’ malt whisky, with wood technology inside. SGP:551 - 86 points.
Longmorn 1990/2004 (59.7%, James MacArthur Old Masters, cask #30110) Colour: straw. Nose: there’s less oak influence here, and a bigger maltiness even if other than that, we’re very close in style. It’s also a little more floral (dandelions) and a tad yeastier. In short, less polished and a little wilder. With water: more changes than on the 18yo, this time with more earthy and mouldy notes. Wet earth and leaves, mushrooms, saltpetre, then mint and vanilla fudge. It’s nice. Mouth (neat): same whisky as the 18yo here. With water: same comment, it’s even more the same whisky when reduced. Finish: same. Comments: same. SGP:551 – 86 points.
 

January 25, 2009


WARNING - If you just bought a Laphroaig 1967 Samaroli from ' valmei3332' (san felice circeo, Italy) on eBay don't pay! The picture had been 'stolen' and the bottle bearing this number is currently in a friend's collection and not for sale.
Ardbeg

TASTING - OLDER AND NEWER ARDBEG TEN

Ardbeg 10yo ‘Ten’ (46%, OB, L6, 2006) Colour: white wine. Nose: very, well, 'Ardbeg'. Wood smoke, peat smoke, cigarette smoke, ashes, tar, sea air, kelp and then a little more roundness and fruitiness (ripe apples, fresh walnuts) plus finally hints of lager beer. Not hugely complex but balance is perfect. Well, you know this whisky, don’t you? Mouth: peat, gentian root, limejuice, green apples, ginger, pepper and a little salt and then a little more sweetness than in earlier versions – or so it seems. Finish: long (but not very long), grassier and ashier, the sweetness having vanished. Also less salt than in earlier versions. Leaves your mouth very clean. Comments: classic and straight, big peat but a little gentler than it used to be. SGP:348 - 87 points.
Ardbeg 10yo ‘Ten’ (46%, OB, L8, old label, 2008) Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re extremely close to the ‘2006’. The fruitiness is a tad less obvious whilst the coastal notes are a little bigger. In short, it’s a tad more kippery (copyright Hamish Proctor/Dave Broom) and maybe also a little more medicinal (antiseptic) and earthy. In that sense a little closer to older Ardbegs. Mouth: a bigger sweetness, with something slightly rummy and candied but also a little more oomph than in the 2006. Also bites a little more, which is what we’re expecting, right? Finish: a little longer and a little hotter, with more medicinal notes once again. Strong cough drops (Halls). Comments: it’s a bigger version of the Ten globally, truer to its ‘positioning’ if I may say so. SGP:448 - 88 points.
Ardbeg 10yo ‘Ten’ (46%, OB, L8, new label, 2008) The new label bears a strange text, claiming that ‘Ardbeg is considered by whisky connoisseurs to be not only the best of the Islay malt whiskies but the best whisky in the world’ (I spared you all the capital letters). Well, I wouldn’t claim that this is false or misleading (after all, Ardbeg is #1 on our list, thanks to all the wonderful single casks distilled in the 1970s) but I’m wondering who wrote that odd and rather inelegant line for them. It can’t be him again, can it? Colour: straw (certainly darker than the older version). Nose: frankly, I can’t get any easily noticeable differences with the ‘older’ 2008. Well, after trying very hard, I’d say maybe it’s just a little drier and even less fruity, even if the older 2008 was anything but fruity on the nose. Also a tad less earthy and a tad smokier. Maybe a little more ‘monolithic’ but there are many maybes here. Mouth: once again, we’re extremely close to the older 2008 and it’s even harder to pick differences at the attack... Maybe it’s slightly prickly this time, rougher as if it was younger and certainly much less ‘round and fruity’ than the 2006. A little more lemon as well, more ginger too… And maybe also a little more vanilla. Also something that reminds me of Gorilka vodka, herbs liqueur... Finish: long, with more pepper and lemon. Comments: so, did it change? Well, yes and no. I’d say this version is maybe a little rougher and maybe less polished, with this faint prickliness that’s maybe a little puzzling. Yes, a lot of maybes again, but frankly, what a strange statement on the label! Would you expect that kind of line on your BMW, on your Patek Philippe or on your Cohiba? Or on your Louis Vuitton bag for that matter? SGP:357 - 86 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: the sound of the West Coast at its zenith, with four of the best blowers meeting up for one of the most dazzling sessions ever (cut the crap Serge, will you!) Simply Bud Shank, Al Cohn, Zoot Simms and Phil Woods playing Emily (from the LP 'The Summmit'). Please buy all these luminaries' music! (photo: Al Cohn)

Al Cohn
 

January 23, 2009


Ben Nevis 1992

TASTING
TWO 1992 BEN NEVIS

Ben Nevis 14 yo 1992/2007 (46%, OB, double matured, 815 bottles) From a single sherry cask that’s been unusually treated as it was first matured for 13 years, then reduced, then further matured for one year in the same cask, before final reducing to 46% and bottling. Whether that should be called double maturation or not, we don’t know… Who cares? Colour: full gold. Nose: it starts in a rather beautiful way, on these leathery kinds of sherried notes, with also quite some putty and orange peel as well as tarry notes that we hadn’t expected. Bicycle inner tube (right, bicycle tyre repair kit in Oz Clarke’s mouth). Gets then more chocolaty and even more orangey (loads of orange peel), with something rather briny on top of the whole. One can really smell the effect of that double maturation – joking. Mouth: excellently unusual. Big presence and a mix of all things orangey with smoked tea and a lot of salt. Did they use seawater? It’s rather complex whisky, very lovable provided you don’t find this orange/salt combo appalling. I certainly don’t. Other than that there are notes of kumquats, white chocolate, tinned pineapples and various other fruits. Slight smokiness as well. Finish: medium long, with more pineapples and a faint metallic taste that’s pretty pleasant here. Comments: excellent whisky, but warning, it’s hugely drinkable. SGP:641 - 88 points. (thank you Tomislav)
Ben Nevis 15yo 1992/2008 (59.5%, The Clydesdale, Sherry cask #0350/2626, 306 Bts) Colour: straw. Nose: this is completely different from the OB, much more vanilled and even sort of peaty, which is bizarre. Not smoky as such, having said that. Very nice whiffs of rubbed lemon skin and fresh almonds. With water: more mint, more lemon and more whipped cream, getting yeastier and yeastier, towards plain yoghurt. Les mature when reduced, is that usual? Mouth (neat): excellent attack, clean, lemony and, once again, seemingly peaty, getting then more typically Ben Nevis, with some big fruity notes. Oranges, papayas (a lot), coconuts and icing sugar. Lively whisky. With water: not much changes except for a bigger saltiness – not as big as in the 14yo but it’s still very surprising. Finish: long and clean but with maybe too many spirity notes at this point (fruit spirit, kirsch and so on). Comments: loses points at the finish but it’s another excellent Ben Nevis. I think Ben Nevis should not be overlooked, and I urge all whisky lovers not to make up their minds about this or that distillery after having tried only two or three ‘expressions’. SGP:542 - 84 points.
CRAZY WHISKY ADS: IDIOTS IN MOTION
Chivas 1966   Chivas Regal, USA, 1966. Amazing coppywriting: ''What idiot changed the Chivas Regal bottle again? The same one who did it before. What's he done this time? He's replaced the cork with a screw top. Oh. What did he do last time? Changed the bottle from green to clear. Well, that was a good move. Maybe he's right this time too. It's easier to open. I kind of liked the cork, though. I know it didn't do any good, but I liked it. Is it worth making a fuss about? I guess not, as long as the whisky's made with that same wonderful 12 years old Strathisla-Glenlivet. He isn't going to change that? Are you kidding? What kind of idiot do you think he is?'
Well, maybe he's also heard of TCA... Although we've heard that the cork makers have just found a solution.
Echo Spring Bourbon, USA, 1969. Small letters: ‘We had this brainy accountant working for us. He told us that if we took a great 7 year old Bourbon that should sell to you for $6.00 and priced it to sell at around $4.79 a fifth, we’d end up with one of the best-selling Bourbons in America. Well, he was right. Except for one little thing. Echo Spring Bourbon turned out to be such an exceptional Bourbon that people would’ve been only too happy to pay six bucks for it. At the price it’s selling for now, you can’t afford not to try it.’
Well, judging by Echo Spring's current position in the market, we believe it wasn't such a good idea to fire this delightful gentleman. Maybe drinkers decided to avenge him and stopped buying the brand?

Echo Spring

MUSIC – Recommended listening: flutes may well be an acquired taste in jazz, and maybe sound a bit too fifties or sixties but what's sure is that Herbie Mann knew how to play them, as you'll notice while listening to this totally marvellous and very bluesy 1961 rendition of the standard Willow weep for me. And yes, Bill Evans is at the piano! Please buy Herbie Mann's music...

Herbie Mann
 

January 22, 2009


TASTING – CELEBRATING BOWMORE'S BIRTHYEAR
1779 Bowmore Distillery was founded in 1779, which means that it’ll be exactly 230 years old sometime in 2009. We’ll try to celebrate with a little panache, with a tasting of 19 different Bowmores - because 9 wouldn’t be quite enough, and 29 probably a little too much. All these versions have been distilled in the seventies and eighties and we'll have both officials and independent.
We had first planned to publish this in chunks but there's enough pettiness in this modern world, so let's just unload the whole truck in one go...

#1, 2 & 3:
THREE INDIE 1989 BOWMORES

Distillery No 4, Release No 1 1989/2006 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail Secret Stills, casks #7049-7050, 650 bottles) It seems that we never published any notes for this first edition. Colour: dark gold. Nose: it seems that we have a rather buttery kind of sherry here, evolving on smoked bacon and tobacco smoke. Hints of gooseberries behind all that as well as a little vanilla and then some rather farmy notes (horse manure) and whiffs of soot. Not a clean, crisp Bowmore but an interesting one. Mouth: very good attack on tinned pineapples and grapefruit juice, with quite some oak and cooked butter again. The peat is very present, and so is the salt(iness). Goes on with notes of kippers and something slightly rough. Quite some oak. Finish: long, a little tannic but also pleasantly lemony. Lemon pie, salt and white pepper. Comments: not a prototypical zesty Bowmore, the sherry casks bringing an added pastry-like dimension (butter and such). I like it a lot, mainly because it’s entertaining whisky despite, or maybe because of quite some tiny ‘flaws’. SGP:454 - 87 points.
Distillery No 4, Release No 4 1989/2007 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail Secret Stills, casks #7058-7059-7052-7054, 1500 bottles) A vatting of sherry hogsheads. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re very close to the first release but it’s maybe a little more ‘perfumy’ (lavender), with also more straight peat smoke. The farminess is toned down and there’s a little less cask influence. A marginally cleaner but also simpler vatting. Mouth: once again, we’re close to the 4.1 but this is sort of weaker and maybe duller (although that’s too strong a word). More caramel, butterscotch, vanilla and sweetened tea. A little mono-dimensional. Finish: medium-long but a little drying, with quite some salt. Comments: good whisky, no doubt, but suffers from comparison with the 4.1. A simpler, drier and less expressive version. SGP:344 – 80 points.
Bowmore 18 yo 1989/2007 (52.5%, Dewar Rattray for Potstill Vienna, Painter's Edition, cask #7915, 225 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: rather aggressive and ultra-grassy, with very little peat smoke this time. A little wax and fresh almonds. Not too aromatic to say the least. With water: gets both more maritime (oysters) and gingerier. Whiffs of wet newspaper, cinchona. Mouth (neat): punchy and lemony but soon to get prickly and fizzy like, well, gin tonic. Strange! Water should help. With water: more on earthy and rooty notes. Finish: medium long, lemony and gingery, with a coffee-ish aftertaste. Comments: a good but fairly simple medium-peated Bowmore that sure does not taste like a 18yo. Lacks both depth and zing. SGP:344 - 78 points.

#4 & 5:
TWO INDIES FROM THE 1980s

Bowmore 17 yo 1987/2004 (55.9%, MacMalt, bourbon cask #301, 180 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: raw, powerful and austere, with a lot of smoke and these notes of geranium and lavender that, this time, are very pleasant. With water: gets very coastal, with a lot of iodine, seashells, wet wool and limestone. Classic! Mouth (neat): once again, these very perfumy notes are well here but in no way offensive or unpleasant. Peppered smoked strawberries? But it’s very strong whisky. With water: good, sweet and fruity. Kind of an intermediate Bowmore between the FWP tainted ones and the much cleaner and straighter ones that were distilled from the late 1980s on. The combinations works pretty well I must say. Finish: long and on peat, pepper and strawberries again. Comments: very good, a profile that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been up for long but that’s been a huge improvement over earlier distillates. These unusually fruity batches are really worth trying. SGP:544 - 85 points.
Bowmore 20 yo 1983/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing, OMC, 318 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: hard! Very cardboardy, with also notes of new plastic, cut cactus, wet gravel and then newly opened pack of fruit drops, grenadine and ‘cheapish cologne’. Typically ‘FWP’. With water: nah. Mouth (neat): extremely perfumy. ‘Excessive gewürztraminer’ (yes that exists), cologne, strawberry drops, chlorophyll… Gets very bitter. A hard one indeed. With water: even more so. Finish: rather long but still oddly fruity, perfumy and ‘twisted’. Comments: typical. The only interesting notes are in the aftertaste (violet-flavoured liquorice). SGP:432 – 65 points.

#6 & 7:
TWO 1984s

The old official 1984 at 58.8% was close to a nightmare in my opinion (60) and it gathered a meagre average rating of 64 points on the MM Monitor. So, we’re a little circumspect at this point…
Bowmore 16 yo 1984/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, OMC, 264 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: starts on very huge perfumy and, indeed, ‘lavenderish’ notes. Almost soapy in fact, but not really offensive. Whiffs of patchouli, roses, orange marmalade and warm butter. Very little peat. Mouth: there are more peat and more spices, which improves the whole when compared with the nose, but it’s still a little ‘lavenderish’ and soapy. Huge peppery blast happening on the back of the palate, which nearly saves it. Finish: medium long and quite pleasant, with added notes of lychees and Turkish delights – and less peat. Comments: another variation from that interesting era at Bowmore. Far from being unpleasant. SGP:535 - 78 points.
Bowmore 1984/2000 (60%, James MacArthur, Old Masters) Colour: amber. Nose: quite some sherry that may well conceal the perfumy notes, should they be there. Huge notes of ‘good’ sulphur, gunpowder, used matches and then bitter oranges. Notes of shoe polish as well. With water: really explodes on all things farmy, that is to say cow stable, wet hay, leather grease, manure… The peat has a hard time but the whole is quite spectacular! Mouth (neat): huge, extremely rich and intensely fruity (oranges and pomegranates), with a rather discreet peatiness in the background. Truly playful, the very peculiar fruity/flowery notes working very well, for once. With water: excellent, peatier now, leathery, chocolaty (white chocolate) and very orangey. Finish: very long, all on bitter oranges. Superb. Comments: well, it seems that a heavy but excellent sherry was the best mean to tame the very ‘strange’ spirit that was distilled at Bowmore in the early 1980s. This is excellent in our opinion. SGP:545 - 89 points.

#8, 9 & 10:
THREE RECENT 1982s by Duncan Taylor

These 1982s are often difficult whiskies in my opinion, almost a cursed year at all bottlers’ as far as Bowmore is concerned. Of the seven or eight I already tried, none ever made it to 80 points whilst one of them (cask #85029) went down as low as 59. But of course, all this is a matter of personal taste.
Bowmore 25 yo 1982/2008 (50.1%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #85030) Colour: pale gold. Nose: as expected, this is highly unusual but also rather pleasant, provided you like mint. Indeed, it smells almost like plain mint liqueur! Very, very little peat, but growing notes of aniseed. Totally unexpected, let’s give this one more time… zzz… No, it remains very minty, with added hints of pineapples and fir sap. Maybe they used fir to build this cask? With water (may I remind you that it’s always better to let a whisky rest for a few minutes after having watered it down?): no changes at all. Mouth (neat): hey, it’s quite good! Hugely mentholated, fruity (bananas), resinous (cough syrup), rather rich and round, with the ‘perfumy’ notes buried deep down below the mint. With water: same, maybe just a tad more perfumy. Finish: rather long, now frankly on lavender sweets and ice cream – which can be good, mind you. Comments: THE miraculous 1982 Bowmore? SGP:543 - 86 points.
Bowmore 26 yo 1982/2008 (53.7%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #85032) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a little mint again in this one but much less than in cask #85030. More grass, wet cardboard, almonds… Little peat. With water: no changes. Mouth (neat): nice spicy and peaty attack but these notes of plastic and lavender are soon to strike. Quick, water: not too bad! More ginger and more white pepper, as well as a little more peat. Then back on peppermint. Finish: medium long, a little more on lemon and orange marmalade with slices of ginger. Comments: not a bad one I must say, but far less enjoyable than cask #85030. SGP:444 - 79 points.
Bowmore 25 yo 1982/2008 (57.1%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #85062) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is very soapy and perfumy. Very hard to enjoy but maybe water will help. With water: more ginger beer and more wet paper. Hmm. Mouth (neat): totally unusual again, starting extremely earthy, leafy and kind of mouldy. Reminds me of kombucha and also a bit of rooibos tea. With water: that doesn’t really work. More pepper but also more genever (I know some genevers are good but…) Finish: medium long and sort of shaky/dusty/chalky. Better aftertaste, peatier and more peppery. Comments: another 1982 that isn’t a complete disaster, far from that. SGP:344 - 78 points.

#11 & 12:
TWO ‘OLD’ OFFICIALS

Bowmore 17yo (43%, OB, silk printed label, 75cl, +/-1995) This should be late 1970s distillation so we’re very curious about the profile. Lavender, violets or none of them? Colour: gold. Nose: not at all, sir! A wonderful profile, all made of elegant, light, maritime peat, fresh blood oranges (a little less ‘acidulated’ than regular ones), passion fruits, smoke (fireplace), shoe polish and something faintly metallic that’s often to be found in Bowmores from that era in our opinion. Very nice nose, getting a tad rounder and mellower after a few minutes, more honeyed. Loses a little ‘vivacity’. Mouth: a punchy attack, they honeyed notes being right there together with quite some pepper and ginger. Gets then a little thick and faintly cardboardy and drying at the same time, maybe lacking a little more depth. As expected, there’s also a lot of salt. Really makes you salivate. Finish: a little short, maybe a little more on fruit drops. Less smoky but even saltier. Comments: a great nose and a palate that’s more than okay, maybe just a little ‘undecided’. SGP:535 - 84 points.
Bowmore 21yo (43%, OB, seagull label, 75cl, +/-1993) Colour: gold. Nose: excuse me but ‘wow’. The base is roughly the same as the 17’s but there’s more sherry and more dried fruits, which makes the whole richer and even more thrilling. Complex, with more bitter oranges, hints of diesel oil, more mangos and also more spices such as cloves and cinnamon (just a little). Hints of coriander as well. Classic, top notch Bowmore from the early 1970s so far, with more smoky touches than in the 60s, and more straight fruity ones than in the late 70s. Crossroads? Mouth: an immense attack at just 43% vol, almost unbelievable. Amazing richness and punch, doing ‘fireworks’ (successive salvos of various flavours). First a fruity salvo, led by oranges and tangerines, then all things leathery, then fruits again but rather mangos and such, then straight peaty smokiness and pepper, then all things coastal (including a lot of salt)… And it goes on and on and on… Finish: and on and on… The fruitiness fading away to leave more room for spices, which prevents the whole from getting maybe a tad cloying, such was the richness of this palate. Comments: stunning Bowmore from the not so old days. Wasn’t this beauty within their core range? Anyway, it was said that the 21 was better than the 25, so let’s check that within our next session. SGP:646 - 92 points.

#13 & 14:
TWO OFFICIAL 25yos

We’ll use the newest very zesty 25yo that we liked a lot (90) and that many whisky lovers know well as control.
Bowmore 25yo (43%, OB, seagull label, 75cl, +/-1993) Colour: gold. Nose: very round and very rich, starting with more honey than both the 17yo that we had before and the latest 25. This richness and roundness almost ‘block’ the citrusy and coastal notes that are well there in the background but that seem to be a little shy… for now. From honey, evolves towards leather and cigarette tobacco for a while (‘a freshly opened pack of Camels – or maybe Chesterfields’), then meatier touches (bouillon) probably from the sherry casks, then rather camphor and eucalyptus… And it’s only after that that we get more peat smoke, sea air and tropical fruits (only hints of ripe mangos here). The latest 25 is much wilder, peatier and less polished. Mouth: very good attack but indeed, I can see why many friends thought that the old 21 was better. This is a little weaker (of course it’s not weak whisky at all) and maybe a little drier, with more oak and more ‘dry’ spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and white pepper. Notes of bitter chocolate, and then the classic tropical fruits but maybe a little more as jams than as fresh fruits. Great palate, though, maybe just a little less directly exciting than the 21’s. Finish: medium long, a tad drier now. Strong salted tea. Comments: excellent whisky but not totally up to the phantastik 21. The new 25 has much more violets and lavender on the palate but it’s still one point above this older one in my book because I feel it’s better ‘composed’. Yes, splitting hairs. SGP:554 - 89 points.
Bowmore 25yo 1969 (43%, OB, seagull label, 75cl, +/-1994) The 1968 was excellent (91), let’s see what gives with the 1969 (the erotic year, said Gainsbourg). Colour: gold. Nose: ah, this one is much more typically ‘60s’ than the regular 25, that is to say maybe a little more mono-dimensional, but also more expressive. Huge whiffs of crushed ripe tropical fruits, starting with the trademark mangos and passion fruits and followed by oranges, papayas, kiwis, tangerines and god knows what else. Sure the smokiness and the ‘coastality’ are having a hard time under these very, err, fruity conditions but who cares, this is exactly what we’re expecting from a 1969 Bowmore. Simple but brilliant (say like a 1969 Warhol). Oh, and it’s even farther away from the new 25. Mouth: please take 50cl of multi vitamin juice, 50cl of pure 90% alcohol, one spoonful of sea salt and three pinches of freshly ground black pepper. Blend, shake well, wait, pour, wait, drink. Finish: you may add a big, fat oyster. Comments: not necessary. SGP:744 – 91 points.

#15, 16 & 17:
THREE INDIES DISTILLED IN THE 70s

Bowmore 18 yo 1975/1993 (46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection) Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re already with a distillate that lost a large part of its trademark fruitiness (the mangos and passion fruits are gone but the oranges and passion fruits are still there) but that hasn’t got enough peatiness and ‘coastality’ to make for proper compensation. Now, after two or three rather undecided minutes, the whole gets pleasantly waxy and mineral, and quite almondy as well. Then we have faint hints of rubbed lemon skin and maybe whispers of lavender cologne – or maybe not. Changes directions after that and gets very earthy, almost mouldy… Then more on apple peels and fresh walnuts, then cut grass… Phew! Probably not typically Bowmore (or you really have to be a dedicated Bowmore exegete to be able to instantly find out). Mouth: ah well, we’re back to the very early 1970s now, as this is much fruitier and saltier than on the nose, and rather peatier as well. Peppered lemon marmalade, grapefruits, dried ginger and kippers. Very good. Finish: long and much more coastal. More kippers and oysters, and a rather lemony aftertaste. Comments: excellent palate but a nose that was a tad difficult and never stopped changing. As we haven’t gotten all day, we’ll try to give this one another go another day. SGP:354 - 85 points.
Bowmore 11 yo 1979/1990 (58.4%, Cadenhead's for Dival di Gabri, 75cl) We already tried this one (83) but never wrote any proper tasting notes. Time to repair that. Colour: pale gold. Nose: big, powerful, spirity and ultra-grassy. Huge notes of pencil shavings as well. Almost un-noseable in my opinion, so lets add water. With water: hmm, it’s this kind of development where you just don’t know whether it’s nice or not. On the one hand, the odd floral notes are well here (more heavy geranium than lavender) but on the other hand, there are also some very pleasant notes of cut hay, old nuts (err), old books, old Chinese tea (pu-erh), ginger… A cruel dilemma! Mouth (neat): an incredible beast and a profile that I never encountered so far, how could I describe this?... Hmm… Let’s say five Aspirin Plus C effervescent tablets diluted in 5cl lemon juice (plus a dash of baking powder for good measure). You got it, this is extreme. With water: it’s better but still extreme. Hugely lemony, the peat being almost unnoticeable here. It reminds me more of some Rosebanks Rare Malt than of any other Bowmore. Well, I guess that’s what happens with independent bottlers – sometimes! Finish: long but even more lemony. Lemony liquorice this time? Comments: a very, very unusual Bowmore that’s well in the style of many of these recent-era dumpies by Cadenhead, that is to say always very interesting but sometimes very, very far from the distillery’s style. Agreed, in certain cases that may be good news ;-). SGP:572 - 83 points.
Bowmore 15 yo 1971 (59.1%, Sestante, crest label) Colour: amber. Nose: he-he, this one is funny, as it smells just like beef stock and nothing else at first nosing. Cask strength beef stock, that is… After five or six minutes we do get a little chocolate and very dark raisins but other than that, this is really too hot and burning. Nostrils beware! With water: anything meaty but almost only meaty stuff. Beef meatloaves (with mushroom sauce!), sausages, smoked meat… Then other smoked things (and coal) but it’s always very meaty. Also hints of mint sauce as well as quite some gunpowder and struck matches. Very funny malt and an extreme kind of sherry! Mouth (neat): not bad at all but the very high alcohol plus Bowmore’s profile seem to create a kind of soapiness that’s, well, maybe a tad skanky. Just a tad! With water: very good, finally! An excellent spicy, smoky and salty fruitcake. Finish: very, very long and hugely peaty now. It’s a superb finish, very complex, that reminds me of the best heavily sherried Islayers (Ardbeg 76, Laphroaig 1980, Lagavulin 1985… You know which ones!) Comments: very chaotic but what a finish! As Kenyan as you-know-who? SGP:346 - 85 points.

#18 & 19:
TWO INDIE 1973s

Bowmore 25 yo 1973/1998 (46%, Kingsbury, cask #3172) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s one of these Bowmores from the early 1970s that starts almost as ‘tropically’ fruity as, say a 1968 but that are soon to get more mineral and waxy. In this case all this happens beautifully, passing by hints of fresh coconuts (not the evil ‘Malibu’ notes) and dried bananas via quite some lemon. Now, there’s very little peat and very little smoke, let’s give this one more time… zzz… No, it gets just a little more metallic and medicinal (camphor). Almost no peat but it’s great Bowmore. Mouth: aaah! Now there’s everything, from all citrus fruits to all phenols, from all herbs and liqueurs to all spices and from all things mineral to all things maritime. I think we need not say more (or the anti-maltoporn brigade will arrive.) Finish: good question, does this actually finish? Comments: let’s not get carried away, this is no easy whisky at all and some malt lovers may well miss the point here, as no flavours or aromas are really ‘straight’. It’s rather kind of impressionistic whisky in fact. If you like Monet, you’ll like this (S., this is probably your stupidest comment ever – which says long!) Seriously, all the peat is on the palate. SGP:455 - 93 points.
Largiemeanoch 19 yo 1973 (52.2%, The Whisky Connoisseur, cask #3168, Bowmore, +/-1992) Largiemeanoch is a name that’s also been used by Cadenhead for a legendary 1967 and, I believe, two or three others. Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather less expressive than the Kingsbury but well in the same style at first nosing. Maybe just a slight farminess that we didn’t have in the Kingsbury. A little more lemon as well… But it’s a little shy, let’s try to wake it up with a few drops of water. With water: oh well, it’s still a bit shy. It’s only its ‘coastality’ that got bigger, with distant whiffs of kelp and sea water. Definitely not the most explosive old Bowmore ever. Mouth (neat): what can I say? It’s the same whisky as the Kingsbury, only to the power of two. More of everything, which doesn’t mean that it’s ‘better’ as such, just much bigger. And once again, what a huge contrast with the slightly ‘discreet’ nose. Discreet considering it’s an old Bowmore of course. No water needed on the palate but let’s try. With water: perfect and, once again, ‘impressionistic’. Nothing stands out except for the salt, everything is perfectly mingled. Finish: maybe not the longest – slight disappointment here. Drops a bit quickly, that will cost it two or three points. Very salty aftertaste, like if you had drunk a glass of seawater. Comments: this one has got a few ‘flaws’ in my opinion (finish, parts of the nose) so imagine which score it would fetch, had it been 100% perfect (but does that exist?). SGP:455 - 91 points.
Overall conclusion: well, we won’t comment any more on the very different styles that were to be found at Bowmore’s between, say 1971 and 1989, as lakes of ink have already been dried up in the sake of that very matter. The only thing that really impresses me after these 19 Bowmores is how the SGPs vary from one to the other. It also occurs to me that if we ever find a 100-point malt whisky, it may well be a Bowmore. (With heartfelt thanks to Konstantin)

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: well, posting about the Flamin' Groovies again the other day led me to willing to post about the good old New York Dolls, don't ask me why. Personality crisis? Please buy the New York Dolls' music (they are back!)...

NY dolls
 

January 21, 2009


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
*(c) Doug Stone - thanks Doug!
Ardbeg

TASTING – TWO 1973 ARDBEGS FOR SESTANTE

There have been quite a few of these 1973 Ardbegs by Sestante. Green glass, clear glass, 14yo, 15yo, low strength, full strength… Anyway, there are two that we never commented on before so let’s go…
Ardbeg 15 yo 1973/1988 (43%, Sestante, 'Yellow/Green Label, w. Red Letters', 75cl) Colour: gold. Nose: rather mellow and kind of appeased, starting more on kumquats and soot than on wild peat. A lot of various herbal teas as well, such as chamomile, thyme tea, rosemary and garlic tea (good for our heart) and then whiffs of wet fabric, old books, dusty street under the first rain and tapioca flour (which is quite odourless but not totally so). Gets finally much more medicinal, with whiffs of antiseptic and camphor that are usually rather to be found in a neighbouring malt whisky. And fresh almonds. Mouth: smooth, very lightly peated and unusually honeyed for an Ardbeg. Very strange, but very pleasant development on buttered croissants, caramel crème, kumquats, mint-flavoured nougats and, well, plain mint (and mint liqueur such as Ricqlès – dunno if you know that one). Pretty excellent but you have to like mint. Finish: medium long, even more mentholated. Incredible! Comments: a very unusual lightly peated Ardbeg, maybe not too big on the nose but perfect on the palate, all on mint. Now, we all know that peat can lose its taste in whisky over the years. SGP:363 (yes, 3 is very low for an Ardbeg) - 90 points.
Ardbeg 15 yo 1973/1988 (53.4%, Sestante, green glass, 75cl) We’re having the ‘clear glass’ version aside for due comparison - we already assessed the latter and liked it a lot (92). Colour: gold. Nose: extremely unusual, close to the ‘clear glass’ as far as the profile is concerned but this one is more aromatic. Very big notes of rosemary and thyme, cumin, seawater, antiseptic, smoked tea, spearmint and chamomile, without much peat. Then very huge notes of crushed cloves, then white bread, then oysters and finally quite some menthol again… More oomph than the ‘clear glass’ version. I know, this is quite useless but with this crisis, these old bottling might well reappear at auctions and, above all, become affordable again. Mouth: exceptional attack, smooth and firm at the same time, wonderfully almondy and mentholated. Very, very old almond liqueur (old amaretto), genuine salted ‘farmy’ butter (not the tasteless crap that one can find in most supermarkets – at least in France), walnut liqueur, herbal liqueur (maybe something like Underberg, which I had only once but that I’ll remember forever!), honeydew… Oh well, all I know is that this is superb whisky, probably less peaty and more complex than more recent Ardbegs. Finish: long, more almondy and minty. It’s wonderful! Superb salty signature. Comments: the green glass is a tad more aromatic on the nose and more ‘evolved’ on the palate, whilst the clear glass version is straighter Ardbeg. Which one is the best? Hard to say… If you love Ardbeg, you may prefer the ‘clear glass’ version if you ever see both for the same prices. But just between us, very little people know that both versions just don’t taste the same. At all. SGP:455 (the clear glass is more like 356) - 92 points.
PS: as often, what’s best is a 50-50 vatting of both versions. Just tried that, it’s fantastic!
MUSIC - Got 4:05min? Click on the picture and watch the movie... But warning, you'll most probably laugh your socks off... (as we did! - thanks, Nick!)
 

January 20, 2009


  CRAZY WHISKY AD: PRESIDENTIAL SCOTCH WHISKY?

Johnnie Walker, USA, 1988. I don't know whether George Bush (the father), who was elected when this ad ran, would deserve to appear on Mount Rushmore one day or not, or if he is/was actually drinking Johnnie Walker. The same questions arise regarding the new American President to be dubbed today... But one of the answers to these two questions might be more obvious. Your pick.
Mortlach

TASTING
FOUR MORTLACH FROM THE 1990s

Mortlach 1993/2007 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, 830 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: this really reminds me of the older Flora and Fauna version. All on orange marmalade, malt, burnt cake (with raisins, almonds and hazelnuts), dried fruits (first pears, then figs), chestnut honey and struck matches (or gunpowder). The whole isn’t too big but the balance is perfect. Maybe just a very faint soapiness (old Lux - pfff). Mouth: clean and fruity attack on strawberry jam, orange liqueur and chlorophyll gums (slight bitterness). Develops more on bananas flambéed and roasted peanuts, with hints of honey, and gets finally plain toffeeish, with nice hints of fresh orange juice that keep the whole rather fresh. Finish: not too long but very soft and almost caressing, on orange-filled chocolate. Comments: easy, pleasant, very drinkable sherry, a very good dram to sip in the evening with a good book. A little Agatha-Christie-esque I must say. SGP:531 – 84 points.
Mortlach 14 yo 1991/2005 (46%, Signatory, UCF, cask #4777, 757 bottles) Probably from a butt, considering the size of the batch. Colour: amber with reddish hues. Nose: this is really bigger than the 1993 but also a little more ‘wobbly’, as the notes of gunpowder are much, much bigger. A little sulphury, getting then very sooty and ultra-dry. Waxed cardboard and metal (aluminium), finally bacon and parsley. Rather extreme in the gunpowder/bacon style. The palate will tell. Mouth: more classic at the attack, all on the chocolate and raisins combo, but there’s a rather weird bitterness that arises after that. Not unlike when we were chewing rubber bands at school (just before we started using them as catapults). Something chemical. Finish: medium long, with more of these sulphury/rubbery notes. Not very pleasant. Comments: this one has its moments. Signatory had many, many much better Mortlachs I think. SGP:361 – 72 points.
Mortlach 15 yo 1992/2007 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, DL REF 3934, 671 bottles) From a sherry butt. Colour: amber. Nose: ultra-dry and ultra-leathery sherry, without one single fruity note. Quite a soapiness as well, and the heavy gunpowder in the background. Gets a little nicer (mushrooms) after a moment but there isn’t much pleasure in this one in our opinion. Now, the palate could be magnificent (couldn’t it?) Mouth: bizarre it is. Litres of orange blossom water and lychee syrup (or tinned lychees) mixed with a feint rubber (much less than in the 1991), the whole doing then a U-turn and getting ultra-dry. Plum eau-de-vie? More rubber. Finish: long, dry, rubbery. Comments: not really to my liking. The nose was rather interesting. SGP:351 - 70 points.
Mortlach 18 yo 1990/2008 (56.8%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, Butt, cask #4422) Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a much bigger whisky, and not only thanks to the higher ABV. More classic sherry, with the welcome chocolaty and coffeeish notes, and a more obvious ‘meaty smokiness’ that’s often to be found in Mortlach. Steak and rose-scented soap (which is nice here). Gets then even meatier (game, wine and beef sauce, stock). Water doesn’t seem to be obligatory here but let’s see what happens. With water: goes on in the same vein, maybe just a tad grassier, and then more honeyed. Beehive. Mouth (neat): round but concentrated, almost heavy. Various herbal teas, all strongly infused (blackcurrant buds, cherry stems, peach tree leaves and so on – all rather ‘grassy’), orange marmalade, sultanas and honey sauce (the one some American chaps serve with spare ribs). With water: rounder, richer, fruitier, more on orange liqueur. Or Mandarine Impériale. Finish: long, rather superb I must say, mostly on bitter oranges. Comments: an easy winner. Very good middle-aged sherried Mortlach, a lot happening in there. SGP:541 - 88 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: Let’s keep WF ecclectic and have some great, adventurous jazz again if you please, this time with the terrific Mr. Murray (David that is) playing one of the most wonderful pieces of blended jazz: Morning song.mp3 (from his CD ‘New Life’). A terrific player, please buy his music…

David Murray
 

January 19, 2009


WARNING - There are many Italian fakes on eBay again! We won't restart the 'fake' page (much too painful) but this is really too much. Our friend Geert, who's a well-known Ardbeg collector, tells us for instance that 'gioveg' just sold a fake Ardbeg 10 years 75cl green bottle.
Fake Ardbeg Geert tells us this:
“Why do I know it's fake :
- There is no proof on the label and no content
- The real bottle does not have this rim in the glass 1,5 cm above the label
- The gold lettering is faded and is not shining
- The real bottle has small cuts in the label at the bottom (it's a bottling code!)
- The real bottle has a small dot on the neck.
There is another thing that the genuine bottle has on the label but I will not say it here. People who want to know about it can mail me you will find my mail at www.ardbeg.eu.”
The same seller sold also a fake Macallan Royal Marriage (wrong bottle) and maybe others. And there are several other ‘nicknames’ that currently sell fakes!
REMEMBER THESE RULES OF THUMB:
- NEVER, ever buy from a seller whose feedback is hidden.
- ASK for detailed pictures. Compare foils and caps as well as shapes of bottles and colours of glass with pictures of genuine items.
- 100% positive feedbacks, or other items from the same seller that look 100 genuine (usually cheap old liqueurs) are no proof of honesty.
- Never buy expensive items from unknown sellers. There are many very honest and well-known Italian sellers on eBay, they’ll have what you need! ;-)
OK, back to funnier matters...
 
TASTING – FOUR GLEN GRANTS FROM THE 1960s
Glen Grant 5 yo 1967 (40%, OB, 75cl) These old 5yos make for nice ‘aperitifs’ at the beginning of a session, even if they cannot compete with heavy hitters. Colour: white wine. Nose: starts right on rather big notes of lime blossom and lemon-sprinkled porridge but gets then more metallic and sooty, with a rather obvious Old Bottle Effect. Also hints of shoe polish, cold mint flavoured tea, warm butter and motor oil. Kind of a maderisation happening here, which is unusual in whisky but rather pleasant, adding depth and complexity to this mundane version. Gets very metallic after twenty minutes (old car engine). Mouth: starts as herbal and minty as herbal liqueur. Green Chartreuse, anybody? Then we’re more on kummel, mint drops and liquorice wood but it’s still extremely herbal and unlike any other whisky I could try up to today. Very strange! Finish: medium long, bitter, all on cumin. Very bizarre… Comments: it’s no bad booze but it ain’t single malt whisky! T’s hard to know whether it already was like this thirty-five years ago… Probably not. SGP:271 - 68 points.
Glen Grant 1967/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) Colour: gold. Nose: smells certainly old at first sniffing (old waxed cupboard, antiques shop) but also unexpectedly fruity, with notes of orange juice and grapefruit. Gets then even more ‘tropical’ (so to speak) with notes of bananas, papayas and guavas (ah!) as well as something slightly resinous (putty). The fruitiness decreases after a while, leaving room for greener, mintier and more resinous notes, as well as a little turpentine. Even notes of beer and wet wood, which was truly unexpected in such an oldie. Loses cohesion, usually no good sign for the palate… Mouth: better than feared but rather drying and tea-ish at the attack, mostly on over-infused mint-flavoured tea or something like that. The good news is that the whisky gets rounder after that, these tannic notes mingling with pleasant resinous and fruity notes (angelica, bitter oranges, green bananas, eucalyptus drops). The body is a little thin but okay. Finish: medium long, still a little so-so. Fir liqueur. Too woody now. Comments: an example of a weakish 40yo Speysider at 40%. Not really bad but nothing to write twenty lines about… Err… SGP:271 – 78 points.
Glen Grant 1964/1989 (46%, Moon Import, The Animals, Butt #1-2-3) A strange idea to put snakes on a whisky label methinks… Colour: dark amber. Nose: full sherry here! Starts smooth and rounded, all on sultanas and sweet wine (Maury, Banyuls, cream sherry) with hints of meat sauce (English brown sauce) that quickly vanish. Maybe a faint soapiness in the background but other than that it’s sultanas with ham galore! Maybe not the most complex old Glen Grant ever… Mouth: dry and extremely ‘oloroso-ed’! An avalanche of Syrma raisins this time, together with bags of bitter chocolate and litres of coffee-schnapps. Exactly like on the nose, it’s no complex whisky but it’s all very coherent. Re-fortified oloroso. Finish: long and still on the same notes. A little more oranges ala Dalmore and notes of roasted pine kernels and cashews in the back, which is very pleasant. Comments: more perfectly simple than simply perfect (wot?) but it’s very excellent heavily sherried malt. SGP:552 – 86 points.
Glen Grant 38 yo 1969/2008 (51.7%, Duncan Taylor Lonach) Colour: full gold. Nose: I loved this when I first tried it blind and I still do. Superb combination of fresh fruits, woody elements and soft spices. Oranges, bananas, passion fruits, buttered fudge, butterscotch, Irish coffee, Werther’s, crushed mint leaves, quince pie, tarte tatin, hawthorn tea… One of these old Glen Grants that remind me more of an old Clynelish or Lochside. Very little sherry if any but extremely classy nose, with a long development towards spices. Mouth: excellent attack, complex, powerful, very fruity of course but also unexpectedly salty. Big oakiness but not dryness here, rather a ‘fruity playfulness’ involving acidulated fruits such as kiwis and limes, icing sugar and roasted oil (between olive and argan). Sumptuous climb towards more spices (mostly various peppers) but the very brisk fruity notes remain. Finish: gets grassier, mintier and more resinous (obvious notes of chlorophyll). Comments: an oldie that’s still wonderfully biting, with a perfect oaky structure. Why the bottlers did put this one in their cheaper access range, I don’t know. SGP:552 - 91 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: you can be disappointed with any of the good old Flamin' Groovies' tunes, can you? Let' have their Second Cousin.mp3 today (from the famous Flamingo LP) and then buy some of the gang's music... Such as their new album to come out in 2009.

Flamin Groovies
 

January 17, 2009


   

MALT MANIACS NEWSFLASH
TWO NEW MALT MANIACS

The Malt Maniacs are happy to report that two new certified members have just been dubbed.

Both Dave Wankel from Santa Ana, California, USA (left) and Nabil Mailloux from Kingston, Ontario, Canada (right), besides their obvious passion for fancy clothing, had already written brilliant E-pistles as 'foreign correspondents' so it was more than natural to welcome them among our wild bunch. Both have already written shiny new E-pistles that will soon be published on maltmaniacs.org. Dave Nabil
In the mean time, our good friend Thomas Lipka from Germany asked to step down, for 'busy schedules' reasons. We wish him good luck!
 
Dallas Dhu

TASTING – TWO DALLAS DHU

Dallas Dhu 12 yo 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice Old Brown Label, +/- 1980) Like many other UD/DCL distilleries, Dallas Dhu was closed in 1983. These 1968 Dallas Dhus by G&M came at various ages, such as 11yo, 12yo, 14yo… Colour: full gold. Nose: very, very unusual! Starts on a strange mix of cheese (not the heaviest of course – say Stilton), bacon and vanilla fudge, developing more classically, on malt, orange marmalade and more fudge, with also this very peculiar meatiness and the big whiffs of motor oil and paraffin that are to be found in a few old style Highlanders. ‘A blast from the past’, as they say… Mouth: excellent! As punchy as a malt at 40% can be and very malty, jammy, orangey and smoky. It seems that there’s a little sherry (quite some raisins and dried figs). Goes on with more lemony notes, a little vanilla crème, hints of violet sweets, more orange and herbal liqueurs… A lot happening in this one! Finish: medium long this time but coherent, even maltier now, with these smoky notes again (close to burnt cake) and a little mint. Comments: an old young Highlander that’s got a big presence despite its 40% vol. Quite some mint, probably from the wood. SGP:452 - 86 points.
Dallas Dhu 26 yo 1981/2008 (57.3%, Part des Anges 'Closed Distilleries', cask #PDA366) Colour: gold. Nose: very powerful but well in the same family as the 1968, even if this is a little less ‘oily’ and a little more almondy. Also a little more on lemons and camphor than on oranges. With water: it gets immensely earthy, even after a good twenty minutes of breathing. Fresh mushrooms, roots, moss, wet forest… It’s beautiful and very complex whisky on the nose. Mouth (neat): starts on the same notes of spearmint as the 1968 but there are also many other herbs. First verbena (sweets and liqueur), then celery, lemon balm, liquorice… Another old whisky that tastes unlike any other, a ‘thing’ that just doesn’t happen anymore with modern scotch. With water: indeed. Brilliantly herbal and sweet, on hints of orange blossom water and rosewater, oriental pastries, Turkish delights and pistachios. Hints of peat as well. Really a lot happening in this one. Finish: long, more citrusy and candied now, with an aftertaste on herbal sweets (Ricola, if know that). Comments: a very different and very interesting malt whisky, typically the kind of bottle that’s worth having in your bar rather than twenty times the same woodbomb ;-). Just my two cents. SGP:463 - 88 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: this is, as they say, seminal: Soft Machine doing Out Bloody Rageous on their third album (1970). But warning, it's a 19:30 long piece and you have to be very patient at the beginning! Please buy Soft Machine and their former members' music...

Soft Machine
 

January 15, 2009


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
TONY MCPHEE AND THE THE GROUNDHOGS/
STRAY DOUBLE BILL

The 100 Club, London, January 9th 2009
Greetings from London, Serge, where the credit-crunched populace are staggering like dazed things caught in a pinball machine between sales offering huge discounts on items no-one ever needs to buy, gloomy meetings with bank managers, mortgage lenders and the 4x4 repo man, and the pharmacy, where people like me are queuing to buy every possible patent medicine in sight to try and ward off (in my case sadly to little avail) seasonal illness disorder (or El Cid, as we like to call the Big One here). But whatever our difficulties, they pale into insignificance compared with many around the world - think of poor old Kate Winslet for example, and her baffling Golden Globes award-winning speech, or ‘troubled’ Amy Winehouse, whose beloved Blake has rewarded her for cavorting in the Caribbean with British actor Josh Bowman by filing for a divorce. Yes, whatever our difficulties, things could always be worse. Winslet
And they will be as of the end of this week, when the beloved Pickle Factory, aka the Astoria, closes its Charing Cross Road doors for the very last time before falling to the wrecking-ball of the Crossrail developers. Over-crowded, intrinsically unsafe (or so it often seemed to me), mostly populated by lager-laced loungers, layabouts and louts, with sound that could veer from poor to the absolutely shocking, and with floor-dripping urinals that you could smell before you got into the building (how did that guy manage to spend all night in there selling shots of cologne and chewing gum?), yes, we’re going to miss the dear old place immensely. Music in London just won’t be the same without it. But I suppose one (or two) venues less might not be a bad thing at the moment. Gigs are thin on the ground to say the least. Venues that are normally booking to late spring and early summer have scanty performance lists, and unless you continental Europeans with your cheap Euros decide to come and rescue us in the summer, our Festival organisers are going to be feeling even more uncomfortable than they did last year. In fact with so little cash around, I suspect many promised events may never materialise. And I don’t imagine the wonderful old Pickle Factory will be the last venue to close its doors this year, despite all the big corporate money that’s been going into the capital’s venues over the recent past.
But for all that, Jim Driver’s Rhythm Nights at the 100 Club stagger on, for the moment. So our first gig of the year was cherry-red Blues veteran Tony McPhee and his Groundhogs, partnered on a special double bill with Stray, featuring original guitarist Del Bromham. Now it has to be a strange coincidence that our first planned gig of 2008 was also the Groundhogs at the 100 Club. On that occasion, what is known, quite aptly as it turns out, as ‘winter projectile vomiting disease’ (or the Norwalk virus) prevented your reviewer and the Photographer from attending.
This year, your reviewer fell victim to some equally ghastly ailment, which to be frank I wouldn’t wish on anyone, let alone Jim Driver and his chums, so an advanced sense of social responsibility and the promise of an early warm bed kept me away.     Medicine
More to follow … I hope.
And in the meantime if you’re in bed feeling sorry for yourself, with no vinyl in sight, then why not download some of the Groundhogs’ classic British Blues stuff from you-know-where for you-know-what. Or even better, try and find the recordings McPhee made with the late Jo Ann Kelly, now reissued as Tony McPhee and Friends. It’s healing stuff. - Nick Morgan
Listen: Tony McPhee's MySpace page (excellent stuff!)
Go, London! - S.
 
Balvenie 12

TASTING
THREE FINISHED BALVENIES

Balvenie 12 yo 'DoubleWood' (40%, OB, oak/sherry casks, Bottled +/- 2008) This is well a ‘simple’ finishing and no true double maturation, as the whisky spent only “a few months’ in the second type of wood (European oak sherry casks) and not a significant part of its life. Well, that’s what’s written on the label.

L: new label - R: older label
By the way, they recently changed that label. The former version said ‘Second Cask – Original Sherry Oak maturation Increases Complexity, Depth and Fullness of Flavour. This Second Cask Ageing is at the HEART of The Balvenie DoubleWood.’ The new label bears this instead: ‘SECOND CASK – A FURTHER few months’ maturation in European OAK SHERRY CASKS increases complexity, bringing FRUITY and honeyed depths to this single malt.’ Not sure this is really relevant, that is, and not sure they changed the recipe. Anyway, let’s try this new version… Colour: gold. Nose: medium amplitude, malty and liquoricy. Roasted nuts and a few spicy notes (cardamom is rather vivid here). Pleasant notes of fresh orange juice as well. More ginger and pine resin after a while. Not a big whisky but it’s ‘pleasant’. Mouth: young, caramelly, a bit thin but not weak, rather malty. Notes of pine resin again (cough syrup) and soft spices (ginger, nutmeg). Finish: medium long, clean, caramelly and malty. Comments: good malt whisky, not really challenging but a rather perfect access-category single, just above JW Black and Chivas. This version seems to be a little less bold but also more resinous than earlier batches. SGP:331 - 78 points.
Balvenie Rum Balvenie 17 yo 'Rum Cask Finish' (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008) Finished in Jamaican rum barrels. Colour: full gold. Nose: extremely rummy, to the point where it smells more like rum than like Balvenie. Distillery character not noticeable. Now, we like rum… Mouth: very unusual again, more rum than whisky, let alone malt whisky or even Balvenie. Vanilla, molasses, very ripe bananas, even banana liqueur. Hints of dill. Finish: long, even more on candy sugar and this ‘greenness’ that’s so typical in most rums. Comments: this premix is good but quite undetermined. Not really rum, not really single malt whisky… Sure one may rather buy ‘true’ whisky or ‘true’ rum, but I must say this mixture is good stuff on the palate. SGP:550 - 79 points.
Balvenie Balvenie 1993 'PortWood finish' (40%, OB, 2006) Colour: full gold. Nose: no strawberries, no blackcurrants, not bubblegum, no marshmallows, only Balvenie’s usual flowery and fruity notes (quinces, apricots, vanilla). Now, this version is far from being very expressive. Sleepy? A toned down Balvenie. Mouth: same feeling on the palate. A little weakish, lacking body. Light honey, orange cake, plum spirit and black tea, all that on whispering mode. Finish: not long, more caramelly and malty, and a little sugary as well. Comments: not much Port influence here, but little Balvenie oomph as well on the palate. Very far from the excellent 21yo Portwood but quite sippable I must say. Globally, all these cheap-o finishings at 40% or 43% are rather disappointing and sometimes even a tad ridiculous in my opinion, but none is undrinkable. Now, I would not swap ten bottles against one bottle of the new Signature. SGP:340 - 78 points.

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

Ardbeg 15 yo 1973/1988 (43%, Sestante, 'Yellow/Green Label, w. Red Letters', 75cl)

Ardbeg 15 yo 1973/1988 (53.4%, Sestante, green glass, 75cl)

Bowmore 21yo (43%, OB, seagull label, 75cl, +/-1993)

Bowmore 25yo 1969 (43%, OB, seagull label, 75cl, +/-1994)

Bowmore 25 yo 1973/1998 (46%, Kingsbury, cask #3172)

Glen Grant 38 yo 1969/2008 (51.7%, Duncan Taylor Lonach)

Highland Park 18 yo 1959/1977 (43%, OB, J. Grant, Dumpy, Ferraretto Import, 75cl, dark vatting)

Highland Park 40 yo (48.3%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)

Largiemeanoch 19 yo 1973 (52.2%, The Whisky Connoisseur, cask #3168, Bowmore, +/-1992)