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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2010 - Part 1
       

December 2009 - part 2 <--- January 2010 - part 1 ---> January 2010 - part 2

 

January 14, 2010


Glen Garioch

TASTING TWO 1990 GLEN GARIOCH AND A BONUS

Glen Garioch 19 yo 1990/2009 (53.8%, Adelphi, cask, #2697, 234 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: a rather oily and smoky Glen Garioch at first nosing that reminds me a bit of the old peaty ones. Rather rough, wild, growing more vegetal, with some white fruits (apples, green pears) and a style that’s a tad Springbankish in its oily flintiness. A tad old skool. A lot of coconut coming through after ten minutes. With water: as usual, more farmy notes, even after quite a few minutes of waiting. Overripe apples… And then back on coconuts. Mouth (neat): directly on coconut and marshmallows, very different from the nose now, fruitier and more playful. Green bananas, apples, a little marzipan and liquorice. Big but not overwhelming body. With water: rounder, fresher, on liquorice, marzipan and bitter oranges. Finish: long, just on the same notes, maybe with added earthy/leafy notes. Comments: a very good coastal Highlander, very true to the genre but with a soft side – at times. SGP:442 – 86 points.
Glen Garioch 1990/2007 (57.1%, Mackillop's Choice, cask #10291) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this is more fragrant than the Adelphi, with more fruits (added notes of peaches) and maybe a bigger farminess and less sooty/oily notes. More demonstrative… for a while, as it gets then much smokier and drier while the Adelphi got fruitier and coconutty. Funny to-ings and fro-ings! With water: exactly the same whisky as the Adelphi now. Water ended these two babies’ disagreement! Mouth (neat): big, grassier, greener and flintier than the Adelphi right from the start. Less sweet oak despite a darker colour? ‘Smoked green pears’, lemons, light caramel. With water: once again, the two 1990s converge once water has been added. Maybe a little more salt. Finish: long, frankly salty now. Marzipan. Comments: same as above, and same rating. SGP:442 – 86 points.
Bonus: Glen Garioch 1976/1985 (50.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #19.1) The very first Glen Garioch by the SMWS, and one of the first bottlings ever by the honourable Society. Colour: straw. Nose: extremely unusual, starting on green olives and even capers, a lot of thyme, white rum and then various meaty notes (ham, dried beef) and quite some pinewood smoke. Globally much smokier than the 1990s but not exactly peaty. Keeps developing on coastal notes, seaweed and just touches of lavender that remind us of some Bowmores from that period. With water: kilned lavender? Cologne-infused hay? Serious touches of FWP (don’t ask, don’t ask!) Mouth (neat): extremely strong (tastes much stronger than 50%) and very bizarre… Notes of plastic, soap, cologne and… plasticine? Hard! With water: a disaster. Plastic galore. Finish: ditto. Comments: very strange that the SMWS chose this cask at the time, it was seriously flawed in my opinion, and it can’t be a sample problem. Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas (c’mon!) SGP:282 - 40 points.
Glen Garioch 15

And also Glen Garioch 15 yo (43%, OB, Auxil, France, 75cl, +/-1991) Four stars A rare version bearing the same kind of label as the old 12 on the picture, only with a ‘15’ and a dark blue background. They just opened a 6-case at Paris’ Harry’s Bar, only to find three bottles of Bowmore 21yo 1970 alongside three GG 15yo, but that's another story. Nose: cow stable and peat, rather wild. Damp barley and horse sweat. Mouth: a tad rounder, more on stewed fruits, a little caramel. The rather farmy peatines grows then bolder. Quite some caramel in the rather long finish, buttered smoked tea. Comment: a bottling that’s at the cusp of two eras at Glen Garioch. Less peat than in earlier bottlings but much more peat than in what was distilled in the late 1970s and onwards. SGP:354 – 86 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: sometimes you just need this. Viktoria Mullova (with Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique - John Elliot Gardiner) playing the Larghetto from Beethoven's Violin Concerto, op. 61. Please buy Viktoria Mullova's works!

Mullova
 

January 13, 2010


TASTING THREE GLENROTHES
Glenrothes
Glenrothes 'Alba Reserve' (40%, OB, +/-2009) Three stars Matured exclusively in American oak refill bourbon casks- and Kosher. Colour: straw. Nose: rather aromatic, starting with notes of gooseberries and vanilla, with a little wood smoke in the background. Also notes of coconut from the almost new oak and a little smoked tea as well as mild floral and honeyed notes. Exactly ‘pleasant’. Mouth: very easy, fruity and vanilled, with good body despite the low strength. Notes of herbal tea (chamomile), caramelised peanuts, dried coconut and malt. Hints of orange blossom water, baklavas, crème brûlée. Finish: medium long, more honeyed. Comments: a very easy dram, flawless and very drinkable. Blend drinkers should like this. SGP:431 – 80 points.
Glenrothes 1994/2006 (43%, OB) Three stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is rather less aromatic than the ‘Alba’, but also rather smokier and maltier. Roasted nuts, fresh pastries (right, croissants) and a little apricot jam. Soft and easy but not uninteresting. Whiffs of damp wood, forest. Mouth: a bigger and more honeyed/malty version of the Alba. Loads of roasted nuts coated with honey and a little white pepper. Crystallised oranges. Finish: rather long, malty and roasted, with some cocoa in the aftertaste. Comments: a rather typical official Glenrothes, smooth but firm. SGP:441 – 82 points.
Glenrothes 18 yo 1990/2009 (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, refill sherry, cask #3331, 385 bottles)  Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is quite different from the OBs, starting with very unusual hints of sweet mustard as well as quite some toasted bread and chocolate cake (brownies). Other than that we’re all on roasted nuts again, malt, milk chocolate and just faint hints of flints, bacon and dried beef that remind us of Mortlach. A little aniseed as well. Mouth: we’re extremely close to the ‘regular’ OBs, which doesn’t happen too often with indie Glenrothes. Roasted nuts, honey, toasted brioche, apricot jam and just a little kirsch. Hints of marshmallows as well. Finish: long, malty, slightly smoky. Comments: kind of a middle-aged official with a little more oomph. Good stuff. SGP:452 - 84 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Mr Bronco Bob, his rough voice and his gang, talented chorists, Hammond organ and all doing People will be people (from his Live CD 'Fat and Muddy'). Please buy Bronco Bob's music.

Bronco Bob
 

January 10, 2010


Banff

TASTING TWO BANFF

Banff 34 yo 1975/2009 (44.1%, Dansk Maltwhisky Akademi - WWW Falster, cask #1490, 109 bottles) Five stars This one is a bottling for our friend Hans-Henrik and his gang of fearless Vikings (as can be seen from the unusual label ;-)) BTW, WWW means Wild Whisky Weekend, not Wolrd Wide Web. Colour: gold. Nose: Banff! Always a pleasure to try this very peculiar malt whisky, with its greasiness combined with sometimes extreme grassy and mustardy notes. Yet, this one is on the (marginally) gentler side, with quite some vanilla crème and green bananas from the oak (maybe also just touches of coconut), before the rather splendid grassiness unfolds, with notes of green mustard, green tea, dill, chives and leather and finally a combination of roasted chestnut and bacon. Complex and very interesting to follow. Mouth: a tad thinnish just for a short while (unexpected) but then it opens up like a thirsty oyster and becomes extremely ‘Banff’, with many teas and many mustards plus all the rather dry spiciness that comes with old age (not only talking about whiskies here, err…) But it’s all under the control of this big malt that was Banff and the combo works particularly well. Finish: long, with a little more fruity sweetness. Ripe apples and pepper. Comments: excellent. I think beginners should hurry and buy a good bottle of Banff before they’re all history. SGP:372 - 90 points. (and thank you Hans-Henrik).
Banff 17 yo 1976/1994 (60.5%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection) Four stars and a half From the older series that we usually call ‘small white label’. Many super-strong whiskies have been bottled in this series and this one is no exception. Colour: gold. Nose: bang! Chocolate, hazelnut liqueur and cut grass at cask strength. Huge grassiness but otherwise the high ABV seems to block it all. With water: oh, this is as wild as (virtually) unpeated malt whisky can be! We’re close to the 34yo, just younger and rougher, although this roughness is extremely pleasant. Farmyard, linseed oil, graphite, mustard, bay leaves and juniper berries. Unusual indeed. Mouth (neat): did I mistakenly drink from the bottle of Thai chilli sauce? With water: it’s still big whisky, and it’s still extremely spicy but provided you like this rather extreme style, you’ll enjoy this a lot. Green pepper, chilli and honey sauce. Finish: long, spicy and honeyed. Also a little menthol. Comments: I insist, these Banffs are not hard to find at auction sites and they usually go for the same amount of money as any modern sweet-oak-ridden, no-age-statement ‘limited’ edition malt whisky. Okay, maybe this one was a tad excessive on the spicy side, that’s why it won’t fetch 90+. Not that it should matter, what a dram! SGP:281 - 89 points. (and thank you Konstantin).
 
WF SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))
Very interesting Review of the whisky year 2009 by our friend Patrick Brossard at whisky-news.com. As always at Patrick's, no fuss, no self-congratulation, no mollifying, no call for arms, no bragging, no fancy design or technology, no back-scratching and no Sun-Tzuian plans whatsoever. All straight to the point - in short: great and genuinely informative!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Philip Glass aficionados may love this Firebat (warning, large file) by supergroup Oregon, recorded in Moscow in 1999 with the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio. Please buy Oregon's (and Ralf Towner's) music!

Oregon
 

January 9, 2010


   

MALT MANIACS ANNOUNCEMENT
The people behind a new whisky competition called
‘the 2010 International Whisky Competition’ have listed on their website many Malt Maniacs as judges. We'd like to make it clear that no MM was involved in organizing this event and no MM was approached to judge the event until after our names had been posted and industry representatives contacted us to see if it was legitimate. We're sorry but no MM will be judging at the 2010 International Whisky Competition, including Martine, Charlie and Dave. The MMs wish the best of luck to the 2010 International Whisky Competition.

 
Scapa TASTING OLD AND RECENT SCAPA
Scapa 16 yo (40%, OB, +/- 2009) Colour: gold. Nose: all on the trademark honeyed notes, with a pleasant grassiness, some chocolate, cinnamon, apple peelings, tea, lemon and a distinct maritime profile developing (sea breeze). Globally fresh and pleasantly light (but not weak!) Also a little camphor, eucalyptus and menthol, growing then bigger. Mouth: good attack, light but not weak (how PC is that?), with more lemon, oranges and various spices as well as a little salt. Apples. Gets then a tad more oaky and tannic but nothing excessive. Finish: medium long and not big but fresh, salty and always with these hints of mint that we already had on the nose. Comments: a very good whisky that really calls for a few extra-degrees because the relative thinness is a tad disturbing on the palate. This would be a winner at 45 or 46% if you ask me. SGP:341 - 83 points.
Scapa 17 yo 1970/1987 (56.2%, Gordon & MacPhail) Five stars A rather rare bottling under G&M’s ‘licensed Scapa label’. Very curious about this one. Colour: straw. Nose: much more intense and rough than the 16 at first nosing, and that doesn’t only come from the higher ABV. Big grassy notes, wax, smoke (much smokier than recent Scapas), a little honey, green apples and just hints of wet newspaper and ink (hope some newspapers will survive, I’d haaaate to have to write ‘wet blogs’). With water: OBE coming out, metal polish, soot, manure and ink and old papers once again. More organic with water. Mouth (neat): extremely punchy and admirably coherent and compact, with many kinds of oranges (including orange blossom, orange honey and marmalade). Beautiful! With water: very elegant, less farmy than on the nose when diluted but rather grassy and resinous. Pu-erh tea and other teas (Chinese green tea). Finish: perfect length, all on, say oranges, grass and ink. Comments: as wonderful as Scapa can be, should one not emasculate it with too much water. SGP:342 – 90 points. (Many thanks Bert V.)
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 

MUSIC - Recommended listening: well, it's not that I'm too much into this kind of 'hard rock' stamped 1975 but I wouldn't deny that Philip Sayce does it very well. Let's listen to his Powerful Thing (indeed) and then buy his music. Gosh I'm feeling young...

Philip Sayce
 

January 8, 2010


Lochnagar

TASTING THREE LOCHNAGAR

Royal Lochnagar 1996/2008 'Distiller's Edition' (40%, OB, batch # RL/96-8S) Two stars and a half 'Double matured in fine old muscat cask wood' Colour: gold. Nose: not really a blast of Muscat but there are muscatty aromas flying over some rather grassy and leathery notes, with also kind of a greasiness (motor oil?) and quite some malt and soot. The whole isn’t as exuberant as the word ‘muscat’ would have suggested. Mouth: very sweet and round but not dull or sluggish, even if there’s a relative lack of body in the middle. A few salty notes, mild honey, orange blossom water, faint hints of sweet mustard and touches of sultanas (the Muscat I guess). Finish: short to medium, more directly on raisins and maybe dried dates. Comments: a tad rounder than the regular RL 12, rather soft but not lacking character and in that sense quite ‘Lochnagar’, although 3 more degrees would have been welcomed (says a ‘palate’ that’s used to CS monsters). SGP:431 - 78 points.
Royal Lochnagar 11 yo 1998/2009 (46%, Signatory, UCF, hogsheads, cask #616+617, 741 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: this is funny, it smells just like a freshly opened Lindt bar (the relatively creamy milk chocolate) at first nosing, getting then rather fruitier, mostly on apples and gooseberries. There are also the same kinds of oily notes as in the DE but toned town. Also whiffs of smoked tea (lapsang souchong) and then cut grass. Mouth: very sweet and slightly resinous, relatively fat, starting on cider apples and developing more on sweetened green tea, walnuts and notes of grapefruits and ginger. Good body and just like in the DE, quite some salt. Do they mature Lochnagar near the sea? ;-) Finish: rather long, with even more salt on top of the grassy notes. Comments: a vigorous natural young Lochnagar – there aren’t that many of them. SGP:352 - 83 points.
Royal Lochnagar 19 yo 1990/2009 (54,6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #356, 259 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: more powerful of course, and much grassier. Notes of shoe polish, wet rocks, even white tequila (can’t tell you whether it’s 100% blue agave or not) and then even more cut grass and apple peelings. Very pleasant austerity. With water: fresh almonds, fresh almonds and… marzipan. Very, very nice. Mouth (neat): starts big, citrusy and grassy, with unexpected notes of fruity Comté cheese (you may prefer genuine Swiss Gruyère or even better, Fribourg). Also violet-flavoured sweets and orange marmalade – unusual combination altogether. With water: quite superb, on almonds again, a little aniseed and the same notes of fruity cheese again. Also a little salt but less than in its younger bros. Finish: rather long, complex, almondy, orangey and grassy. Comments: excellent, really shows what Lochnagar can have up its sleeves. I hope the Queen at neighbouring Balmoral Castle does enjoy a few cask samples of the cute and tidy little Lochnagar Distillery from time to time! SGP:352 - 87 points.
visky

A DESPERATE CALL

After the whisky from the GDR that I tried last year, our friend Dmitry sent us this label for a Soviet whisky (made by some alchemists apparently ;-)) that was called 'whisky-73' and was created from distilled spirit and flavourings. I'd kill for a sample so if you can help, please drop me a line (and thank you, Dmitry!)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: ex-Niagara Muriel Moreno is Comdamnée à plaire (that's on her CD 'Toute seule'). Please buy Muriel Moreno's music.

Muriel Moreno
 

January 7, 2010


Glen Spey

TASTING TWO GLEN SPEY

There are very little Glen Speys out there, only Cadenhead had quite a bunch of them in the past.

Glen Spey 1995/2008 (43% Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: light, grassy, floral and fruity at the same time, sort of ‘average’ but in a rather pleasant way. Apples, flowers from the fields, hints of ashes, just a little burnt wood and finally whiffs of a freshly opened pack of peanuts. Some hay smoke as well. Mildly aromatic, I’d say. Mouth: classic, undemanding young Speysider from refill wood I guess. Apple compote, toasted brioche, roasted nuts and a little chocolate plus just hints of lavender (sweets) and grass. Finish: medium, on the same notes and an added dryness (cinnamon) as well as a little more malt. Comments: rather full and perfectly all right - and very easy to drink. For £30, a good occasion to try the rather rare Glen Spey. SGP:341 - 78 points.
Glen Spey 31 yo 1977/2009 (55,8%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #3656, 210 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: interesting! A tad reserved at first nosing but getting then rather beautifully grassy and almondy, with just a little vanilla coating the whole as well as quite some walnuts and a little cinnamon. Discreet and elegant. With water: unfolds beautifully, on various herbs (I get chives first), unexpected hints of oysters and even kippers and just a little dust. Very interesting to ‘work’ and to follow on the nose. Mouth (neat): a big and very grassy attack, with some ‘green’ spices soon to kick in together with various herbal liqueurs (I won’t list many but Under, Jäger and Béné are clearly in) and even that liqueur made out of artichokes called Cynar, do you know that odd, err, thing? The ‘greenness’ almost bites your tongue so let’s add water again now… With water: gets a tad rounder and more resinous as well, with even more fruits. Rhubarb? Small bitter apples, lime. Finish: long, rather rich, on a combination of all ‘green’ elements that we found both on the nose and the palate. A little oak in the aftertaste. Comments: an unusual dram, grassier than most and in that sense extremely interesting, but it takes your time. A big whisky. SGP:271 - 87 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 

MUSIC - Recommended listening: just the eternal diva of rock Patti Smith doing her Soul kitchen. Please buy Patti Smith's music.

Patti Smith
 

January 6, 2010


Springbank 2001

TASTING THREE OFFICIAL SPRINGBANK

Springbank 2001 (55.3%, OB, 2009) Four stars and a half It all started as a joke on Malt Maniacs’ pages on Facebook, where our friend Peter asked for notes for this baby. Tasting on demand? Why not, I had a sample at hand… Colour: straw. Nose: a lot of malty and flinty notes at first nosing, reminding me of the recent 1997s but with less vanilla, that is to say less cask influence. Develops more on green apples and gooseberries, liquorice allsorts, even hints of marshmallows but I wouldn’t say it’s pearish. There’s an obvious ‘coastal oiliness’ coating the whole, distinct whiffs of peat smoke and a little linseed oil, with also a faint farminess (wet hay). The whole is fresh and very clean (but not of the ‘simple’ kind of cleanliness.) With water: more smoke! Other than that it just goes on in the same direction… Maybe a little mint? Mouth (neat): excellent attack, rich yet firm and pleasantly sharp, lemony and grassy, with that typical kind of oiliness that’s only to be found in recent Springbanks in my opinion. Between almond oil and lemonade, with a pleasant bitterness (lemon peel)… It doesn’t taste immature at all. With water: same, with maybe more grapefruits. Is that cranberries in the background? Finish: very long, lemony, smoky and rather salty. Very clean and fresh aftertaste. Comments: I believe this was matured or finished in quarter casks or even octaves (have to check). What’s sure is that there are no signs of a boringly modern ‘all-vanilla’ profile here, the whole being very superb at such young age. Very clever wood policy if you ask me. SGP:363 – 89 points.
Springbank 16 yo 1991/2007 'Rum Wood' (54.2%, OB, 6000 bottles) Four stars This one was matured for 8 years in bourbon, then 8 years in rum. Colour: white wine. Nose: completely different from the 2001, more citric and vegetal at first nosing. A lot of cut grass, lemon, green tea, rhubarb, then more lemon pie and cake but it remains rather ‘green’. The rum’s influence is rather discreet so far. Whiffs of wet chalk. With water: gets a tad more sourish and buttery but also rather smokier, just like the 2001. Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the 2001 on the palate, only with a little more roundness (candy sugar, sultanas). Quite hot I must say, but drinkable when neat. Grows more and more lemony, with also quite some notes of green apples. With water: the rums seems to come out a little more to the front, it got more polished and smooth. More raisins and a little date liqueur. Works well with Springbank. Finish: malty and raisiny but with the typical freshness lingering. Comments: we’re a little farer from the distillate than with the 2001 but it’s still a very good bottling. A case where rum works much better than wine (isn’t that always the case? ;-)). It’s also true that they probably used ex-Cadenhead rum casks, and that Cadenhead’s rums are usually excellent. SGP:452 - 86 points.
Springbank 12 yo (57%, OB, for Donato, Italy, early 1980s) Five stars One of the ancestors of the famous ’12-100s’ from the 1990s. I believe this one was bottled even before the very famous (yet stellar ;-)) one for Samaroli. Colour: gold amber. Nose: a tad rough and even winey at very first nosing but it all settles down after five minutes, becoming superbly complex and rich. At random, I get figs, iron, quinces, dates, coal smoke, plain coal, cashews, gunpowder, nougat, bergamot, flints… And god knows what else. Amazingly complex. With water: wowowowowow! Amazing! Imagine a very old Yquem or any other very old great Sauternes from a top-class vintage… Such is this one’s complexity! I’m speechless – who said good news, who? Mouth (neat): interestingly, we’re pretty close to the 2001 as far as the general profile is concerned, the whole being rather straighter and sharper than on the nose when undiluted. Same kind of oiliness and citrus notes and even more lemonade and even ginger tonic than in the youngsters. There’s some sherry too of course but it makes the whole rather liquoricy and much less smooth and candied than on the nose. Quite a beast! Gets also more and more peppery, somewhat ala Talisker. With water: it’s still much sharper than on the palate, and so close to both the 2001 and the 1991… Tell me about consistency! Finish: long, flinty, smoky, grassy and a tad leathery, with just a little fruitcake from the sherry. Comments: utterly brilliant nose and a palate that’s a tiny wee bit more ‘normal’ albeit very, very good. It’s even youngish after 30 years in glass! Otherwise we’d have fetched 95, as quite a few old bottlings of Springbank already did. Again, the resemblance between the 2001 and this baby as far as the distillates’ profiles are concerned is amazing… SGP:453 - 93 points.
 
Preview tasting

PREVIEW TASTING

Macallan 18 yo 1990/2009 (54.1%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #18222) Four starsModerately expressive on the nose, on malt and roasted the nuts. Overripe apples. Mouth: more sherry, reminds me of the older official 10yo CS. Much nicer on the palate – very great palate, really.
Macduff 19 yo 1990/2009 (55.7%, Whisky-Doris, sherry hogshead #1422) Four stars Some big, vinous sherry notes on the nose, with a lot of bacon and strawberry jam on the nose; Really huge. Mouth: rich, on blackcurrants and liquorice. An unusual sherried dram, really worth trying if you like sherry.
Miltonduff 22 yo 1987/2009 (56.1%, Alambic Classique, bourbon hogshead #9470, 209 bottles) Four stars and a halfFunny how this one smells of sherry and gunpowder for a BB cask. Dates, raisins and roasted nuts on the nose, a sweet yet nervous palate on many dried fruits. Good spiciness. Very sweet, very good bottling.
Miltonduff 13 yo 1996/2009 (57.2%, James MacArthur, bourbon, cask #5563) Three stars Flinty, grassy and porridgy on the nose, sweet and much on apples and other white fruits on the palate. Tastes very young but clean.
Royal Brackla 16 yo 1992/2009 (54.7%, Cadenhead, bourbon, 183 bottles) Four stars Quite farmy on the nose, organic, mildly meaty. Leather and bacon. Palate: a lot of coconut and vanilla, then pepper and bitter oranges. Tastes like an old grain.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more Jacques Higelin, this time with Est-ce que me guitare est un fusil? (is my guitar a gun?) from his 1975 album BBH75. Please buy Jacques Higelin's music.

Jacques Higelin
 

January 5, 2010


TASTING FOUR
ST MAGDALENES

Some are called St Magdalene, some are called Linlithgow, but it’s well the same distillery (closed 1983) as all malt freaks very well know. I always thought St Magdalene was the wildest and less compromising of all Lowlanders. Maybe the most complex as well. By the way, this is our first 2010 session so we'll add a photograph of an old painting that I just found on eBay (!), ‘Mary Magdalene in the Grotto’, oil painting on steel by Johann Heinrich Ramberg (1763–1840). Yes, I’m very much into old paintings as well… But don't worry, I won't post pictures of paitings every time I try a few malts.

Mary Magdalene
St Magdalene

St Magdalene 26 yo 1982/2008 (52.7%, Cadenhead) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: explosively austere, if I may say so. Soaked grains and wood alcohol, flints, wet rocks, damp clay, fermenting grass and lamp oil… The wild side of the Lowlands indeed. Nicer than it sounds, that is. Nice whiffs of patchouli, dried flowers, leather polish… With water: amazing how it unfolds, on fantastic herbal notes as well as all things mineral. Clay, lime stones, coal, chalk… It does remind me a bit of the Malt Maniacs’ beloved 19yo 1979 Rare Malts. Notes of green apples and gooseberries in the background as well as shoe polish and motor oil. Mouth (neat): punchy, sweet/malty at the attack, then extremely green and grassy, biting, austere and ‘unsexy’ if I may say so. Oily mouth feel. Not an easy dram for sure but this kind of very ‘old style’ is most interesting. I can’t think of any ‘current’ malt that’s close to this, maybe Springbank (partly so) With water: oh yes, this is great. Complex, spicy, herbal, peppery, almondy, leafy, even kind of phenolic and resinous (lots of propolis). A great dram. Finish: long, on the same notes. Comments: usually punters would say that the Islayers are the most uncompromising drams, but this beats them all in my opinion. Excellent selection by WM Cadenhead’s but beware, water is needed even if it’ not particularly strong. SGP:271 - 91 points.

Linlithgow 26 yo 1982/2009 (61.2%, Signatory for Claudio Bernasconi, wine treated butt, cask #08/458, 300 bottles) Five stars I find it quite amazing that the excellent people at Signatory’s would add such suspicious yet honest comments to a label… I mean, ‘wine treated butt’! Colour: pale gold. Nose: as austere as the Cadenhead’s, just a tad more on vanilla and soot, ashes and something like Sauvignon blanc. Very grassy. With water: once again, water works perfectly well here, but the general profile is quite different from the CAD’s. More lemon and lime, almonds, ‘riesling’… Yet, the wine the butt has been treated with remains very discreet. Very nice nose! Mouth (neat): raw, spirity, aggressive, all on green fruits (mostly apples) and capsicum. What a beast at this age! With water: just like the Cadenhead’s, it gets a tad gentler and smoother with water but never compromises. Marzipan, bitter salad, pine resin, juniper, ginger tonic, Jägermeiser… You see what I mean. Finish: long, superbly bitter, herbal, peppery, ‘narrow but profound’ (!?)… Comments: I’m sorry but I still don’t get this wine-treating thing. It’s simply another rather superb old St Magdalene! SGP:261 - 90 points.
Linlithgow 25 yo (62.4%, unknown bottler) Four stars I’m sorry, I don’t know who bottled this baby. Any ideas? Please drop me a line! Colour: straw. Nose: kerosene! Seriously, this is yet another hyper-grassy and flinty St Magdalene. White-spirit, soot, brown coal, cut grass and just hints of chocolate. The whole is extremely strong when neat. With water: ultra-grassy and hyper-lemony, with just whiffs of damp earth and dead leaves that, once again, remind me of the 1979 RM. Sharp but beautifully so. Mouth (neat): b-u-r-n-i-n-g. Raw alcohol. With water: much the same as the previous ones. Bitter almonds, pepper, overripe apples, ginger and pine resin. Maybe a tad less complex than the others. Finish: long, more on gin tonic. Nice clean finish but a tad simpler. Comments: more an average old St Magda but average old St Magdas are usually very good in my opinion. SGP:261 - 87 points.
9:13 update - case solved, it's a bottling for Japan, from David Croll and www.whisk-e.co.jp. Thanks Stefan!
Linlithgow 1982 (64.3%, Cadenhead, White Label, cask #2841) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: once again, we’re in the same ballpark when no water is involved. Extremely austere, grassy and flinty, with just hints of soaked grains and porridge. As raw as malt whisky can be. With water: more or less the same as the 25yo, maybe a tad rounder and more polished. Gets very complex after a while, with notes of old books (luv’ this), car engine, diesel oil, more shoe polish, linseed oil… Mouth (neat): a tad smoother than the 25yo despite the higher ABV, but it’s still very raw spirit. I think even a bunch of Hell’s Angels would start to call their mother, should they be obliged to drink this ‘undiluted’. Even the Bandido Nation ;-). With water: we have an even drier and more austere version here. Water didn’t make it any smoother or rounder, it’s still an ultra-grassy dram. Not easy, really. Finish: very long. Cactus juice? Cask strength cachaça?  Bitter almonds for sure. Comments: enough with silly comparisons or even metaphors. Simply another extreme St Magdalene, maybe at tad perverse to tell you the truth. Again, no ‘current’ malt whisky tastes like these babies. I’ll spare you any silly comments about ‘the good old days.’ SGP:271 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Poland's excellent blues guitarist and vocalist Martyna Jakubowicz does Dom Zachodzacego Slonca. Ain't she good? Please buy Martyna Jakubowicz's music!

Martyna
 

January 4, 2010


CONCERT REVIEW
by Nick Morgan
ROGER CHAPMAN AND THE SHORTLIST

The Jazz Café, Camden Town, London, December 15th 2009

Hold the fucking front page, Serge.  It’s hot news.  Ace veteran rock vocalist, he of the lurid language and colourful turn of phrase, Roger ‘Chappo’ Chapman, is retiring.  At the age of 67 he’s hanging up his microphone stand for the very last time.  After tonight there are just two hopelessly sold-out gigs in home town Leicester, the birthplace of Family, the band that first brought Chapman to fame.  And that’s it. 

Roger Chapman
So there’s a decent crowd of largely washed-out and dead-beat sixty somethings downstairs at the Jazz Café, looking, I realise, strangely similar to the washed-out dead-beats on the stage.  They have (or should it be ‘we have’?) grown old together.  In fact there are probably more pension-books in this place than you normally find in a Post Office (if you can find a Post Office in the UK, but that’s another story).
But Chappo’s determined to go out in a characteristically perverse style, and with his Shortlist delivers as impressive a gig as I’ve seen from him in recent years, his voice far better and stronger than when we last saw him.  It’s a sideways, back to front, and sometimes upside down retrospective of his career, reluctantly narrated by the normally taciturn front man.  At one point he breaks off: “I’m doing fucking verbals.  I don’t do fucking verbals.  Fucking hell’.  Given that Family, probably  still his most famous collaboration, with the likes of Charlie Whitney, drummer Rob Townsend, Ric Grech and John Whetton, only took up about six years of his career Chapman commendably refuses to trade on their back-catalogue at the expense of his more recent work, which makes up the majority of the set.  And very good much of it is too, not least of all thanks to the guitars of Steve Simpson and Micky Moody, although as befits the occasion the whole band are on top from.  This only serves to encourage the witless in the audience to call for famous Family songs such as ‘Weaver’s answer’ and ‘My friend the sun’.  The uncompromising Chapman’s response, ever the considerate conversationalist, is entirely predictable  “fuck off”, or when he’s singing, an artfully raised finger .  But that doesn’t stop the yelling.  At one point he deftly holds his mike-stand aloft over our heads – a threatening and career-defining pose that many of the veterans present will have remembered from the early seventies.  “I’ve got to get rid of this fucker somewhere’ he says.  “Remember what happened last time, Roger” replies a wag in the crowd.
Defiant to the end Chapman delivered only one Family tune, ‘Burlesque’, and also only ‘Who pulled the night down’ from his still excellent ‘Chappo’, the first solo album of his career.  In response to the cries for more he turns back to the crowd, grinning broadly, with a terse ‘Fuck off’ before heading back to the dressing room.  But even this bunch of old-age pensioners are determined to get their pound of flesh, so a weary Chapman trudges back. “You greedy bastards.  You’ve already had forty-five fucking years”.  Maybe only about forty for me but that’s still quite a stretch.  His last song is ‘Shadow on the wall’, which he recorded for Mike Oldfield’s 1983 album Crises.  Roger Chapman
At the mention of Oldfield’s name there’s some grumbling from the audience.  Chapman sprang to his defence.  “Now fucking listen I’ve got no problems with that fucker.  That fucking song paid for my fucking house”. And with a “goodbye” and a “I need a fucking drink” he was gone.
So is it domestic bliss in his adopted home of Barnes, that south-west London retirement resort for resting rock and rollers?  I read somewhere that he teamed up with his old mate Bobby Tench in the summer to play a gig to raise funds for the ‘ancient’ Barnes Bowling Club.  So maybe he intends to see out his years turning the air blue whilst indulging in that most genteel of lower-middle-class pastimes.  But what’s this I hear?  Roger Chapman and the Shortlist to headline at the Rhythm Festival in August 2010?  Surely some mistake?  Retirement?  You’re fucking having me on, Roger. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Listen: Roger Chapamn on MySpace
 

CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE DIRTY THREE
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, December 7th 2009

We went to see the famous Dirty Three at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  Nick Cave sidekick, the unusually garrulous Warren Ellis, in his fancy shoes and tight suit, played the violin a lot, told jokes about being trapped in a room at the Butlin’s holiday camp in Minehead, rolled around on the floor, and toyed with his impressive selection of effects pedals.  Drummer Jim White was awesome. Guitarist Mick Turner an atmospheric presence.  Crescendo after crescendo after crescendo.  Just my type of music.  I loved it and could have listened to it all night.  The Photographer didn’t, a view unmitigated by the passage of time.  There aren’t any pictures. - Nick Morgan No Photo
Listen: The Dirty Three on MySpace
 
Rosebank

TASTING TWO INDIE ROSEBANK

Rosebank 17 yo 1991/2009 (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #2206, 259 bottles) The good people at TSMOS should not add the distillery’s status to their labels, because frankly, reading ‘demolished’ is a tad too depressing… sob… I’d suggest ‘vanished’ instead, or ‘gone into the ethers’ ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: fresh, relatively light, mildly honeyed and fruity (cut apples, tangerines) and faintly mineral. Rather elegant and almost feminine, I’d say. No citrusy blast on the nose, at least not before some somptuous and very lively whiffs of citrons emerge. Mouth: extremely fresh and very fruity but medium bodied. Sweetened apple juice, orange squash, hints of pineapple drops and a little cranberry juice. Maybe also a little lemon but it’s probably less boldly lemony than other Rosebanks. Very good, though, especially since once again, more impressive citrusy notes start to sweet your palate after a while. Am I late today? Finish: medium long, still very fruity, with just a few spices flying around (mostly pepper). Comments: not the most complex Rosebank ever but it’s very easy, very fruity and immensely drinkable (right, and citrusy). Yes, maybe a little dangerous. SGP:731 – 88 points.
Rosebank 18 yo 1990/2008 (46%, Chieftain's, Sherry Butt, cask #614, 312 bottles) Quite some fun with a friend the other day, who wrote to me that he had tasted a pre-closure Rosebank that he enjoyed a lot. I should confess that I’m still looking for a post-closure expression of Rosebank (and Port Ellen, and Brora, and…) Colour: gold. Nose: the sherry dominates here, as it all starts on walnuts and cured ham, but it’s not really bigger whisky than the 1991. Notes of coffee, light toffee, just a little leather and then we’re back to these notes of ham. Not a big nose. Mouth: the distillate has much more to say on the palate than on the nose and we’re rather close to the 1991 this time. Big, big fruits and a sherry that’s rather discreet. Gingered orange squash. Finish: pretty longer than the 1991, on hints of strawberry and orange drops. Grenadine, a little nutmeg. Comments: nose and palate are very different. The sherry rules on the nose, whilst it’s almost absent on the palate. Very good stuff globally, of very similar quality. SGP:631 - 85 points.
 

January 2, 2010


Malt Maniacs
 
Graham Coxon

CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE GRAHAM COXON POWER ACOUSTIC ENSEMBLE
The Barbican,  London, November 28th 2009

Another Barbican gig, another pizza.  Surely I should be buying shares in Pizza Express?  Anyway there’s a pleasant enough bottle of Barolo to wash down the American Hot, inducing a state of warm wellbeing, and joy to all men, which as it turned out was the perfect precondition for this quite unexpectedly wonderful gig. 

It’s Graham Coxon, tortured musical genius of Blur (and therefore the better for a few million quids following their unlikely and hugely successful summer reunion tour) playing his new album, Spinning Top, in the company of the grandly-named Graham Coxon Power Acoustic Ensemble.  Like others of his ‘Britpop’ generation (notably ex Suede guitarist Bernard Butler), Coxon seems to have fallen under the spell of the British sixties folk scene (he later tells us he’s spent much of the day at a memorial event for guitarist Davy Graham at Cecil Sharp House).  So it’s no surprise to see the grand old man of British folk music, Martin Carthy, standing just behind Coxon on stage.  To Coxon’s left is Robyn Hitchcock, a one-man psychedelic revival movement.  Also in the band, adding a remarkable breadth to the band’s sound are sound sculptor Max Eastley with his Arc, Ranbir on the dilruba, Bee2 on percussion and a trio of impressive vocalists.
Carthy Hitchcock
Martin Carthy and Robin Hitchcock
But have no doubt about it, the overall sound is exactly the sort of stuff that we were all trying to play in the late 1960s, Davy Graham meets Bert Jansch, meets John Renbourn, meets Martin Carthy, meets John Martyn and goes just a bit, but no more than that, transcendental in the process. Yes, and I did mention that there’s just a touch of Blur too?  Suitably, for the period it sets out to emulate or evoke, Spinning Top is a concept album, the narrative of a man’s life in fifteen songs, illustrated by some very artful video and graphics produced by Chris Hopewell, which for once seem to belong to the songs they accompany.  And it’s wonderfully performed, with high points being songs like ‘In the morning’, where vocalist Natasha Marsh was simply stunning, ‘Sorrow’s army’ and ‘Dead Bees’. There’s an interesting paradox at work, as the musical arrangements tend towards the fey and whimsical; clearly the subject matter is not.  Coxon himself appears to be a bundle of nerves: he can hardly maintain any eye contact with the audience, and barely manages to mutter introductions into the microphone.  He’s clearly easily bruised (who wouldn’t be after spending so long in a band with an ego the size of Damon Albarn’s?); after ‘Caspian Sea’ he  managed to say, eyes glued to his shoes, “well you’re all here, so it can’t be as crap a song as all the papers said …”
He is a pretty good player, moving easily between picking at his acoustic with his fingers, or with picks, and occasionally just bashing his Fender. It has to be said that Coxon’s vocals are problematic; in fact polarising I would say. 
He struggles to get his notes.  When he does it’s great, but more often than not he misses them.  However his Power Acoustic Ensemble are all working very hard for him.  Hitchcock, deprived of a microphone, is rapt in concentration.  Carthy looks happy, if not slightly bemused by it all, and even produces an electric guitar at one point, for one of the noisy bits that the band clearly relish so much.  They give Coxon the chance to stand and thrash out some volume from his Telecaster and Marshall stack, which clearly remains very dear to his heart, despite the folky theme.  The whole thing is simply engrossing, and ends perfectly with Coxon singing some older tunes, including ‘Latte’ and ‘Baby You're Out of Your Mind’. Carthy Coxon
Martin Carthy and Graham Coxon
It’s cold outside, so I pull up the malodorous goat-fur collar of my kaftan coat to fend off the bitter wind.  The Photographer is wrapped tightly in a Stephen Stills WoodstockTM poncho.  But inside we’re both warmer, and perhaps better, for a fantastic couple of hours from the very warm Mr Coxon. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: Graham Coxon on MySpace

December 2009 - part 2 <--- January 2010 - part 1 ---> January 2010 - part 2


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

Banff 34 yo 1975/2009 (44.1%, Dansk Maltwhisky Akademi - WWW Falster, cask #1490, 109 bottles)

Linlithgow 26 yo 1982/2009 (61.2%, Signatory for Claudio Bernasconi, wine treated butt, cask #08/458, 300 bottles)

Springbank 12 yo (57%, OB, for Donato, Italy, early 1980s)

Scapa 17 yo 1970/1987 (56.2%, Gordon & MacPhail)

St Magdalene 26 yo 1982/2008 (52.7%, Cadenhead)