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

July 2009 - part 1 <--- July 2009 - part 2---> August 2009 - part 1

 

July 31, 2009


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
ORNETTE COLEMAN
The Royal Festival Hall, London
June 21st 2009

Did I ever tell you, Serge, about the time I met Tony Bennett? I have to say it was something of a nerve-wracking experience. We were promoting his concert in Edinburgh a few years ago, and after an opening set from Diana Krall, were invited ‘backstage’ to meet the artists. Ms Krall was larger than life. Mr Bennett, on the other hand, and much to my dismay, seemed like a shrunken figure in a trench coat. Charming though he was, I spent our five minutes or so of conversation looking at him and thinking that there was no way he could possibly be able enough to perform on stage; like a drowning man I saw a career-condemning disaster pass before my eyes.Back in my seat, I watched with gloom and resignation as the diminutive figure in the Burberry appeared at the back of the stage; his band already in position playing a warm-up tune.

Ornette
What happened next was simply magical, almost out of the greatest tradition of British pantomime. One of Mr Bennett’s people gently removed his coat, and as he walked, at first unsteadily towards the stage, he was transformed, from old man to superstar, towering in the glow of the footlights, the audience eating from his hand.
I had a similar experience with Ornette Coleman. Reports from earlier Meltdown gigs were not good. He played briefly with Yoko Ono, didn’t show up for Moby, and was carefully helped onto the stage during the Patti Smith gig to say a few quiet words before being helped off again. And when he took to the stage for this last of his Meltdown gigs, featuring ‘Reflections’ on his groundbreaking 1960 album This is Our Music, my fears might have been confirmed. Nattily dressed, but slight and frail, he didn’t seem set for a powerful performance.
But one should never underestimate the greatest of great musicians, and after a wobbly start, which featured mainly new material, Coleman’s playing grew in both strength and verve until he dominated the stage just as Tony Bennett had done that night in Edinburgh. Now I’m not a great jazz man, but let me say that at its best, Coleman’s playing was electric, mixing moments of well-rehearsed melodic phrasing with unexpected staccato and plaintive outbursts, accompanied by the occasional turn to his trumpet and violin. Listening to his playing, engrossing ‘though it was, it’s hard to understand now why he caused such a furore back in the 1960s. What was revolutionary then seems almost mainstream today, harmolodics and all, and there was so much structure to the tunes that it’s difficult to know where the description ‘free jazz’ (apart from being an album title) came from.
Ornette Coleman
L to R: Tony Falanga, Ornette Coleman, Denardo Coleman
At the backbone of this performance, providing the canvas for Coleman’s brush, were a prodigiously powerful trio: Tony Falanga on double bass; Al MacDowell on electric bass (which he played for much of the evening like a lead guitar) and Coleman’s son Denardo on drums. Falanga and MacDowell played in pretty much perfect harmony, questioning and answering each other with increasingly complex rhythms and riffs. Denardo, who has been playing with his father (and polarising critical opinion) since he was ten, was a noisy and sometimes sloppy counterpoint. But when the three clicked, the sound they created was almost overpowering. And when they were joined by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, the foursome took on the character of a funk-fuelled express train heading down the track towards the audience at breakneck speed. And all respect to Mr Flea, who demonstrated himself more than capable of standing in such exalted company. In fact he was, as the phrase goes, ‘on fire’ when the band were joined by the horn and drum-wielding Master Musicians Of Jajouka, (or at least one version of the performers who use that name) whose repetitive and hypnotic playing formed the backdrop for a gloriously cacophonous improvisation: three thundering bass players; unwieldy, crashing drumming and Coleman’s saxophone crying and wailing above it all. It was a moment, almost as exhausting for the audience as the musicians, that few who were present will forget.
Ornette
Not that Coleman didn’t have one more ace up his sleeve. A perfectly-constructed encore which brought long-time collaborator, bassist Charlie Haden to the stage for ‘Lonely woman’, a wonderfully delicate composition where both performers, supported by a remarkably restrained Denardo, pulled off that magical trick of expressing as much with the notes that they didn’t play, as with the ones that they did. It was a tender and gentle contrast to the frenetic moments earlier, and left the audience on their feet as it ended. Then Coleman, walking like a man who’s shed more than a few years during the performance, returned to the stage to shake the hands of his many admirers in the crowd and was still doing so as we left. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: Ornette Coleman on MySpace

Dear Nick, I’ve long stopped adding silly comments to your reviews as I felt they were like adding capers to a glass of '72 Brora but frankly, vicarious pleasures work only up to a certain point where they turn into an implacable envy-generator. I'm green, merdre alors! Can’t we rather have a review of a Susan Boyle gig next time? - Serge

Fettercairn

TASTING – TWO OLD OLD FETTERCAIRN by some great 'almost Schwowe' (don’t bother, just a silly private joke)

Old Fettercairn 33 yo 1975/2008 (58.3%, The Perfect Dram, 143 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s not really explosive at very first nosing but that’s probably the high alcohol. ‘Careful perseverance’ enables us to get notes of vanilla custard over a strawberry cake and quince jelly, quite some beeswax and hints of fresh putty. Faint sourness (sauvignon). With water: amazing how it got sort of Clynelish-esque (or is it Clynelish that’s Fettercairn-esque?) with more wax and certainly more lemon. My type, despite the notes of vanilla crème that develop after a while. Who can be against vanilla crème? Mouth (neat): creamy and exuberantly fruity, starting on marshmallows and Turkish delights, all that balanced with something slightly resinous. Eucalyptus drops. Then tangerines and citrons and the oak starting to kick in. Also limejuice, Campari, ginger wine. With water: more orange zests, marzipan, a little maraschino and quite some ginger. The marshmallows and such have disappeared. Finish: long, almondy. Amaretti!!! Comments: a perfect example of some great spirit aged for a long time in a good, yet not overly active cask. The kind of magic that no quick oak/wine doping will ever manage to replace. Thank god! SGP:552 - 91 points.
Old Fettercairn 34 yo 1975/2009 (57%, The Whisky Agency, Bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: we are very close to the ‘other one’ but this one is a tad grassier, with more notes of fresh walnuts and greengages and then limoncello. Kind of fresher yet a little less fruity actually. With water: more resinous and waxy than the 33yo, that is to say even more Clynelish-esque. Also fresh hazelnuts, a little paraffin, green apples and dried pears. And more and more nutmeg and ginger. Mouth (neat): slightly thicker and oilier than the 33yo but otherwise very close. Maybe a tad spicier too (more ginger and much more pepper). Rather beastly, this one! With water: we’re still close to the ‘33’ but this time it’s a tad grassier, maybe a little more complex, with more various spices and a little smoked tea. A tad less ‘focused’ as well. Finish: long, with a little more lemon this time. Lemon pie and white pepper. Comments: rather protean, this one! Very interesting and certainly old school. Same high quality as with the 33. SGP:562 - 91 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Summer's finally here, time to listen to a very, err, stellar The Sun by Alice Coltrane (from Astral Meditations – The Music Of Alice Coltrane). Please buy Alice Coltrane's music.

ALice Coltrane
 

July 30, 2009


TASTING – THE NEW KILKERRAN AND HAZELBURN

Kilkerran 'Work in Progress' (46%, OB, 2009) From Glengyle Distillery and not from Springbank unlike what I’ve read here and there – but indeed, Glengyle belongs to Springbank. According to some sources this one is 4 years old and according to other sources, it's 5 years old. Does that really matter? Colour: white wine (no heavy wood treatment, great!) Nose: dammit, this is superb! An exceptional clean and fresh yet fatty and oily spirit that smells very old Highlands in y opinion. Wax, lemon, wet rocks, linseed oil, motor oil, cut grass, whiffs of ‘clean wet dog’ (not just any street mongrel) and just hints of cider apples (faint sourness) plus a little vanilla from the oak. Gets fruitier and maybe a tad lighter over time, with notes of orange squash. Mouth: probably a little simpler than on the nose but pretty perfect at just 4 yo (or is it 5?), with a big personality and, quite amazingly, a ‘Springbankiness’ indeed, that translates into some very peculiar orangey notes (very different from the oranges that one may find in, say Dalmore). Oily, fat, gingery, waxy/soapy (again, not a repulsive soapiness at all, a soapiness that’s closer to almond milk or marzipan – yes I’ll have to find a better descriptor). What’s sure is that Kilkerran is a rather big distillate and that it’s clearly in the Springbank family. Finish: long, with more smoky grass now and a green bitterness that goes very well with the rest. Comments: this is a distillate that’s much to my liking and that won’t need any heavy woodwine treatment in my view (but who am I?) I can’t wait to be ten years older… SGP:352 – 86 points.
Hazelburn 12yo (46%, OB, 3900 bottles, 2009) This brand new version was distilled in 1997. Colour: amber. Nose: much more cask influence than in the Kilkerran, obviously, but I do not detect any offbeat or cloying notes in this baby, even if the notes of orange zest and liqueur are big. Orangeade as well. A rather unusual whisky actually, getting kind of oriental, with whiffs of incense and sandalwood, cedar wood (brand new humidor), leather… And even more oranges plus notes of metal after a while (old aluminium pan). Kind of the opposite of the Kilkerran in style despite the common orangey notes. Mouth: goody-good, much more to my liking than the first 8yo. More polished, more classical, smoother but certainly not numb, with excellent spices on top of quite a lot of marmalade and ginger tonic. Speculoos. Gets then more peppery and gingery, with also the same kind of ‘pleasant soapiness’ that I found in the Kilkerran. Yup I’ll really have to find another word for that! Finish: long, very orangey and gingery. Zests. Comments: the casks were ‘bigger’ than the Kilkerran’s whilst the spirit is probably lighter but balance is achieved in this Hazelburn. Same rating, but at same ages and cask treatment, Kilkerran may well crush Hazelburn in any tasting session – in my view of course. SGP:541 – 86 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
The crazy and fabulous French scatman André Minvielle
Title: Canto Conte
From: ¡ Canto !
Please buy the great André Minvielle's music.

Andre Minvielle
 

July 29, 2009


TASTING – FOUR OLD OFFICIAL BENRIACH
Benriach  
Benriach 33 yo 1976/2009 (46.2%, OB for the Whisky Fair, hogshead, cask #3550, 103 bottles) There’s already been several fabulous 1976 Benriachs, such as one for the Craigellachie Hotel and one for La Maison du Whisky. Colour: full gold. Nose: as expected, this one screams ‘fruits!’ Actually, it’s a superb combination of tropical fruits with lightly resinous and mentholated notes. Tangerines, passion fruits, papayas, dried grapefruits, plain lemon and mangos coated with ‘natural’ vanilla and lemon honey. Medium oakiness (nutmeg and ginger), astounding freshness at 33 years of age. Enough said. Mouth: fantastically fruity and candied, amazingly fresh. Let’s be short for once: it’s the best grapefruit syrup I ever drank, and indeed one of these stunning 1976 Benriachs in style. Finish: very long, on lemon marmalade and liqueur. Comments: not sure there are vintage effects in single malt whisky but if there are (of course there are), 1976 is THE vintage at Benriach’s. SGP:831 - 92 points.
Benriach 33 yo 1976/2009 (47.4%, OB for the Whisky Fair, hogshead, cask #3558, 162 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this one is less emphatic, less ‘wham-bam’ than cask #3550 and probably a little oakier and more on vanilla. A little more mentholated as well. Now, after five or ten minutes, the exuberant fruitiness does come out indeed, a little more on zests and skins than cask #3550. Fresh walnuts. Let’s check the palate, things can well go upside down. Mouth: we’re closer to cask #3550 now, yet more vanilled and honeyed/candied and less exuberantly fresh. Other than that we have the same big fruitiness, coated with something such as butter caramel and vanilla sauce. Werther’s Originals. Finish: oakier but beautifully so, with quite some ginger and white pepper plus quite some spearmint in the aftertaste. And mucho grapefruit! Comments: hard to say which of these two casks for The Whisky Fair is the best – sorry, my favourite. This one has a little more oak but it’s in no way drying oak. Right, let’s declare it’s a tie, the differences aren’t worth one point in my view. SGP:741 - 92 points.
Benriach 34 yo 1970/2004 (51.2%, OB, hogshead, cask #4005, 254 bottles) Colour: dark amber. Nose: well, if it’s a hogshead it’s a sherry hogshead because this one bursts with parsley and soy sauce at first nosing, as well as notes of old Rivesaltes (rancio), leather and raisins. Truly superb but less “Benriach” than the 1976s and more like some well-aged sherry brandy. Also prunes, hints of raspberry jam and fruit ganache, then whiffs of cherry wood, cedar and cigar tobacco. A humidor full of Habanos. Gets more vinous and dry after fifteen minutes. Mouth: extremely concentrated and very oaky attack, but it’s superb oak, displaying a wide array of spices that combine well with the spirit. No need to list them all but cloves and nutmeg are very obvious. Then a lot of walnut liqueur (Nusswasser that my grandma used to make). Tannic but not excessively so. Dried figs and dates. Finish: long, not as drying as I had feared, with a little mint in the aftertaste. And our beloved grapefruits! (your late, grapefruits). Comments: I tend to prefer the 1976s (who wouldn’t) but this is great whisky. SGP:571 - 90 points.
Benriach 38 yo 1966/2004 (50%, OB, hogshead, cask #2382, 158 bottles) Colour: full amber. Nose: certainly not the most expressive of them all, this one starts more on marzipan and bitter oranges, with much more wood extracts but no obvious tannicity. Whiffs of old turpentine, olive oil, old furniture, then satay sauce, game and old walnuts. The fruitiness is deep down inside, very discreet. Another superb whisky but it lost the distillery’s main characters. Mouth: ho-ho, the beast wasn’t dead! Amazing array of dried fruits and the liqueurs and spirits made thereof combined with dark strong honey (chestnut) and pepper and cloves. Gets just a tad drying and slightly bitterish (grape pips). Finish: long, oaky for sure but still clean if not exactly fresh. Quite some tannins, the finish isn’t the nicest part. Comments: totally fab until it got frankly drying at the finish, which, as usual, will prevent it to fetch 90+ points. Dura lex, sed lex. SGP:471 - 89 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on holidays in St Tropez
We know, an old rotten joke...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a very rare treat, ex-Magma François "Faton" Cahen playing with beatboxes while doing Dans Les Villes Détruites in the early 1980s or late 1970s. Please buy Faton Cahen's music.

Faton
 

July 28, 2009


HAPPY BIRTHDAY WF. We registered whiskyfun.com on July 28, 2002 which seems to mean that this website is seven years old today, even if its 'tasting diary + music reviews' part was started a little later, on February 1, 2004. Nothing as old as our beloved Malt Maniacs (1997) but maybe something to celebrate. We'll see tonight... Anyway, heartfelt thanks to whiskyfun's growing audience, I know that you're all great, passionate people. Santé! - Serge Stamp
Clynelish

TASTING – TWO 1971 CLYNELISH by DOUGLAS LAING

Clynelish 36 yo 1971/2007 (44.6%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 191 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, it is a fruit monster as expected and well within the magical square (Benriach Bowmore Clynelish Lochside – no geography here). Starts as citrusy and ‘tropical’ as it can get, on an avalanche of tangerines and tinned pineapples but the trademark waxiness is well here as well, as well as a little honey and whiffs of damp clay or chalk that kind of prevents it from getting too exuberant, too easy and too, well, enticing. There is some ‘Clynelish austerity’ in there and that’s always good news. More and more on grapefruits and lemon tree honey. Only faint hints of ginger tonic. Mouth: the oak is more present at the attack, distilling hints of white pepper and faint floury notes right from the start and making the whole maybe a tad chalky, but the rest is as excellent as usual, with a lot of beeswax, bitter oranges, marmalade and hints of ginger. More white pepper and a little pepper and cinnamon in the development, as well as a very faint cardboardiness. Finish: long, on bitter oranges and cake, with quite some white pepper once again and just hints of peat. Comments: the oak starts to talk a bit loud here but we’re still in the very best territories, as often with these old ‘new’ Clynelishes. SGP:551 - 88 points.
Clynelish 38 yo 1971/2009 (47.9%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 145 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: we’re well in the same category but with more vanilla, fudge and hints of butterscotch, maybe from the extra-two years (probably not, in fact). A marginally more rounded version, but still a tireless big fruity old malt. Hints of sandalwood and rosehip tea and finally big notes of freshly squeezed oranges. Delicate oakiness in the background (new cupboard). Hard to say which I my favourite, it’s probably on the palate that it’ll all happen. Mouth: mucho bigger than the 36yo, many times richer and certainly of a higher quality in my opinion. Just imagine a blend of many jams and spices plus a little honey and herbs… The oak is perfect. Pink grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, beeswax, soft ginger, Szechuan pepper… State of the art old new Clynelish. Finish: extremely long, extremely clean and extremely well balanced. A little more peat than in the 36yo. Comments: superlative, congrats to Douglas Laing. SGP:662 - 93 points. (with many thanks to Angus du Rangen de Thann)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: long time no blues so let's listen to the very great Al Kooper doing the 12:15 Slow goonbash blues (from the Kooper Sessions, 1969) with the 15 year old - yes - Shuggie Otis on guitar. Please buy Al Kooper's music.

Al Kooper
 

July 27, 2009


Springbank

TASTING – TWO UNUSUAL SPRINGBANKS

Springbank 1974/2000 (44.9%, OB, Private bottling, cask #153, 234 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: a lot of wood influence in this one that starts on cooked butter, cream sauce and a blend of herbs such as chives and parsley. Very unusual but pretty interesting. The sourness grows bolder and comes now along some faint metallic notes as well as a little porridge, lemon juice and big notes of white wine (sauvignon, I’d say). There’s also quite some smoke (garden bonfire) in this very, very unusually dry Springbank. Grass. Little fruits, no coconuts, no honey. Really improves after a good fifteen minutes, getting more honeyed and raisiny, with also some beautiful whiffs of crushed tropical fruits (mangos, passion fruits) and marzipan. Incredible development, this two-step malt should not be rushed. Mouth: excellent attack, much more focused, on honey, raisins and other dried fruits. Figs, dates, pineapples and all that jazz. The problem – well, is it really a problem? – is that it stays on these beautiful flavours and just wouldn’t develop any further. Maybe a little vanilla crème. Finish: long but guess what? Yet again on honey and dried fruits. Comments: a funny old Springbank, a true maverick that wouldn’t keep quiet on the nose whilst it’s very monolithic on the palate. Monolithic but excellent, a very entertaining whisky globally. SGP:542 - 91 points.
Springbank 1996/2008 (52.9%, OB for Lateltin Switzerland, oloroso sherry butt, cask #266) Colour: dark gold. Nose: a completely different profile although I wouldn’t say this one is more ‘Springbank’ than the 1974. The cask seems to do all the talking, with huge notes of fudge, caramel, dates, warm brioche, butterscotch, raisins and figs and strictly no vinous notes so far. Quite some vanilla too, which could suggest this was double-matured but I’m most probably plain wrong. A little sulphur too, I must say. With water: water reveals big notes of rubber and sulphur. Cooked cabbage, asparagus and new bicycle inner tube. Gets then quieter and rather on leather. Mouth (neat): punchy and rich, starting right on these very sulphury notes that I sometimes got in a few fairly recent ‘heavily casked’ Springbanks and Longrows (and not at all in the superb large-batch officials such as the 18yos, nor in the ‘Barolo’, ‘Madeira’ and such), that is to say notes of rotting oranges and even stale ginger tonic. Now, these notes aren’t as ‘excessive’ as in other bottlings, and they may well add some charm to this whisky, provided you like them (again, they might come from burning of sulphur in the casks). With water: much better, this time water killed these odd notes. Earl grey tea, Seville oranges and orange drops. Finish: long, in keeping with the palate. Orange liqueur. Comments: oh well, that was some battle! Once again, a very funny cask that I liked much better neat on the nose, and diluted on the palate. Better than the other way around, I guess. Anyway, anything but a boring whisky. SGP:652 – 86 points.
 
STEPHANE THE MAD MALT MIXOLOGIST
Stephane

proposes his Summertime malt cocktails

"Return of the King!"

Pour into a shaker, with ice :
- 1/2 lemon juice
- 6 cl Glendronach 15 yo Revival 46%
- 2,5 cl Chambord liqueur
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass, decorated with berries, a lemon slice and a sprig of mint.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the good old Captain doing his Party of special things to do (it's on Bluejeans and Moonbeams). Please buy Captain Beefheart's music and why not his paintings (under his real name Don Van Vliet).

Captain
 

July 24, 2009


TASTING – FOUR 1974 ARDBEGS + ONE + A 1975
Sometimes I’m feeling like trying a bunch of great whiskies, even if none of them is really available anymore, instead of the average brand new shinytastic Glen Tommamorin 6yo Zinfandel finish. Please excuse me for being a tad selfish, but my only goal with whisky is having a bit of fun. And what could be more fun than a few 1974 Ardbegs?... (a few Broras! - Ed)
Ardbeg 1974
Ardbeg 19 yo 1974/1994 (43% Dun Eideann, for Donato, Italy, cask #4396) Colour: white wine. Nose: ultra-classical oily and almondy, lemony and peaty old style Ardbeg, displaying all of the trademark coastal and farmy notes. Diesel oil (that story about fishermen and their boats), wet wool (or rather sheep), wild herbs, camphor, oysters, ‘walks on the beach with Sonia and the cocker spaniel’… whatever… Again, a classic. Brilliant, of course, even if not really ‘big’. Mouth: yes, yes and yes. What strikes me first is the balance between the phenolic notes and the fruity ones (mostly lemon and green apples). And then an avalanche of peat, spices, salt, clams, herbs. Gets then superbly mushroomy and minty at the same time, and finally even more lemony. Finish: maybe not the longest but totally delicious. Comments: state of the art middle-aged old Ardbeg by Signatory Vintage (the original bottler here), at just 43% abv! SGP:467 - 94 points.
Ardbeg 24 yo 1974/1998 (51.3%, Signatory, Dumpy, cask #657-658, 306 bottles, US Bottling, 75cl) Colour: full gold. Nose: oh my! What a f*cking fat oily costal peaty resinous camphory almondy mineral citrusy phenolic Ardbeg! Err, excuse me, I got carried away. The most amazing here is that it’s also extremely elegant, complex, ever-unfolding and totally majestic, maybe less ‘concentrated’ than most of the OBs but sort of more sophisticated (unlike these poor tasting notes). Most whiskies are pictures whilst this one is a movie on the nose, if you see what I mean. With water: all kinds of damp things and an immense ‘coastality’. Enough said. Mouth (neat): enormously lemony, zesty and then, of course, peaty. Kind of a peat/spices/custard tart/lemon pie combination that may not sound great but that is. Exceptional compactness. Oh god this is good… With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: long of course, getting unexpectedly gingery and just a tad ‘new-oak style’ at the end. Comments: an exceptional Ardbeg. Only the odd oaky tones at the end of the end of the finish will prevent it to reach the 95-mark in my book. Yup, splitting hairs. SGP:457 – 94 points.
Ardbeg 18 yo 1974/1993 (52.3%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #4385, 255 bottles) Cask #4374 by the same bottler and from the same era was fascinating, so, if all goes well… Colour: straw. Nose: oh no, when will it stop? We aren’t far from the Signatory, only a tad rougher and more spirity but otherwise we have the same kind of everlasting development – another movie star. And can one peat quinces? With water: that’s funny, now it smells exactly like the Dun Eideann. Aren’t we good at reducing whisky? Mouth (neat): big and orgasmic – that’ll do. And immensely peaty. With water: ooh-ah. Very classy. Lemon flavoured marzipan and white pepper. Maybe just a tad less majestic than the Signatory, though. Very, very faint dustiness. Finish: not eternal but superb, more on lemons and grapefruits. Comments: just another very great one. Those were the years… SGP:356 – 93 points.
Ardbeg 27 yo 1974/2001 (52.3%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, Japan, 224 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: ah, a certain drop here, this is rather less expressive, much more restrained and rather kind of cardboardy (cardboard can sometimes be close to marzipan/almonds) even if we’re still very ‘1970s Ardbeg’, that is to say very high in quality. Gets much earthier than its bros (damp earth). With water: nicer for sure. Peated almonds and lemons plus osiers and clams. And a bag of langoustines. Very faint cheesiness. Mouth (neat): once again, this one is a tad less exceptional than its brothers, maybe a tad more unbalanced. Notes of orange drops and squash that, in my view, do not go too well with old Ardbegs but other than that, it’s still great, great whisky of course. A certain earthiness once again, also more medicinal notes. With water: these odd orangey notes get even bigger. Finish: rather long. Grape skins and lemon zests, earthy and medicinal. Comments: excellent and unusually earthy but maybe not the most serious candidate for the Brorardbeg Olympics that we’ll organise one day - maybe. SGP:366 – 90 points.
Ardbeg 1974 And also Ardbeg 1974/2006 (53.5%, OB, Italy, bourbon, cask #3328, 76 bottles) A very little outturn. Nose: fantastic attack on fresh walnuts and then plain peat smoke. Really explodes after that, on camphor, eucalyptus, soft spices and lemon. And olive oil. And lemon. And marzipan. And beeswax. Amazing, getting more and more medicinal after the first ten minutes. Mouth: one of the powerful ones, starting on bitter almonds, developing on more and more quince and cough drops. Also more vanilla than usual. Long finish, rather rounder and candied. Magical! SGP:567 – 94 points.
Ardbeg 1975 And also - yeah I know, not a 1974 - Ardbeg 1975/1988 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Auxil, 75cl) A rare old bottling from the Harry’s Bar’s stock. Nose: very medicinal and tarry, with also a lot of burnt caramel. Goes on with some mint liqueur (Get 31), Parma ham, camphor and whiffs of bicycle inner tube. Some flat-leaved parsley in the background. Mouth: rounded and syrupy, with quite some mint once again. Some caramel too and notes of bitter almonds. Comments: great nose, palate a little more mundane but extremely sippable. SGP:346 – 87 points.

(with thanks to these great men named Bert V., Geert B., Konstantin G., Tomislav R. and all the cool people at Paris’ Harry’s Bar)
   
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on holidays in St Tropez
 

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Pure magic with Béla Fleck & The Flecktones
Title: Magic fingers (and da bass, da bass!)
From: UFO TOFU
Please buy the Flecktone's music.

Bela Fleck
 

July 23, 2009


Glen Grant

SPEED TASTING – FIVE 1974 GLEN GRANT

Another session involving only sister casks, and maybe another brain-teaser. As often, water may stress the differences, if there are any. A pipette is needed so that you can reduce the whiskies similarly in this case, or any differences may come from different dilutions instead of from the whiskies.

Glen Grant 31 yo 1974/2006 (49.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #16569) Colour: straw. Nose: starts on quite some smoke and notes of toast from the wood, gets then much grassy, with whiffs of sawdust, then porridge and cereals. Austere and far from the luscious old sherried Glen Grants. Shy-ish. With water: gets a little more complex at first (leather, hay) but gets then almost ‘aromatically silent’. Mouth (neat): good, rather simple fruitiness, with a pleasant spiciness in the background. Green apples, tangerines, lemons, cloves and pepper. More and more lemon. With water: pleasantly fruity. Finish: medium-long, a little fruit salad with ginger and cinnamon. Comments: the cask wasn’t very active, this one could just as well have been fifteen years old in my humble opinion. But it’s good whisky. SGP:431 - 83 points.
Glen Grant 34 yo 1974/2009 (48.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #16576) Colour: straw. Nose: much shier than cask #16569, actually almost silent. Hints of apple juice and just a little wood smoke again. With water: nada. No developments. Mouth (neat): more wood and more grass than in the 31yo, a little more bubblegum too. Not unpleasant, les shy than on the nose. With water: more fruit drops. Finish: shortish and a little tea-ish. Comments: not the most interesting old Glen Grant, including by the same excellent bottler. SGP:341 - 78 points.
Glen Grant 34 yo 1974/2009 (52.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #16578) Colour: straw. Nose: almost the same as cask #16576 when undiluted. Maybe a tiny-wee bit more mineral. With water: works this time. More fruits, marzipan, tangerines… Good news! Mouth (neat): same as the previous one. Maybe a tad more lemony. With water: more lemony indeed. And orange drops. Works. Finish: medium-long, on orangeade and ginger. Comments: a good one but less complex than the 31yo. SGP:431 - 82 points.
Glen Grant 34 yo 1974/2009 (54.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #16577) Colour: straw. Nose: same when undiluted. Maybe the wood’s a little bigger. With water: indeed, a little more coffee and cocoa powder. Cinnamon, ginger. Mouth (neat): once again, very close. It seems that there’s a little more clove and ginger. With water: it’s the oakiness that comes out this time. Finish: medium, a little tannic. Comments: not bad, but no thrill IMHO. SGP:341 - 80 points.
Glen Grant 34 yo 1974/2009 (55.6%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #16574) Colour: straw. Nose: very close once again, maybe a tiny tad more buttery. Gets then a little fruitier (apples, a little lemon). With water: becomes a little beer-ish this time. Water doesn’t work too nicely. Mouth (neat): same again, more or less. A tad more on kirsch. With water: same, not much development. Maybe more orange juice and tea tannins. Finish: medium. A little tannic again. Comments: well, not the most inspiring old Glen Grant, but it’s pretty drinkable, of course. SGP:351 - 79 points.
Conclusion, they all taste a bit like oak-matured fruit eau-de-vie in a certain way. Little differences between all these casks when undiluted but water bring out obvious differences, which is rather interesting to follow. All these unsherried old Glen Grants are perfectly all right I’d say, but in no way near the very excellent 1970s and 1972s by Duncan Taylor. Having said that, they’re all very fairly priced. Speaking of which…
Glen Grant Glen Grant 36 yo 1972/2009 (45%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #8950) Colour: straw. Nose: hell, now we’re talking!!! An amazing honey/jam combo at first nosing, together with whiffs of well-aged Sauternes, figs, apricot pie, beeswax and… More beeswax. Superb. Mouth: oh yes, impressive attack on honey again, apple pie, more honey, fudge, a little salted liquorice, marmalade, just a little Muscat wine and finally big notes of baklavas (honey and orange blossom water). Finish: long, with the oak’s spices being a tad louder at this point. Cinnamon, ginger and a little nutmeg. Comments: another world. I wouldn’t swap one bottle of these 1972s for ten bottles of 1974. Yes, a bold statement. SGP:641 – 91 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening for a cool Summer evening:
The now very kitschycultish Egyptian-born Lebanese singer Bob Azzam
Title: Viens à Juan les Pins (Grand Prix du Disque in 1960!)
Please buy Bob Azzam's music.

Bob Azzam
 

July 22, 2009


Lochnagar

TASTING – THREE ROYAL LOCHNAGARS

Royal Lochnagar 'Selected Reserve' (43%, OB, 4710 bottles, 2007) A no-age-statement bottling that, in its earlier versions, never really pulled excellent comments from the anoraky hordes. Colour: amber. Nose: good presence at first nosing, combining marmalade, honey and malty notes with a smoky/toasty profile, even a little coal and something such as wet fabric and rocks. Faint peatiness. Gets then a little more leathery, with also hints of melon, peach and walnuts. And we’re finally back on marmalade, with always these faintly mouldy/damp notes. Hints of sherry. Mouth: maybe a little bizarre and ‘undecided’ at first sips, hesitating between some rather luscious orangey/honeyed notes and a ‘leathery waxiness’ that’s maybe not the cleanest ever. That could only generate conflicting feelings ;-). Evolves more towards coffee and Cointreau and as much marmalade as on the nose, but there’s also a slightly drying woodiness in the background. A tad gritty. Finish: medium long, maltier and even more on sugared coffee. Very faint soapiness. Comments: mixed feelings here. On the one hand, it’s not ‘commercial’ at all, and on the other hands, it may lack definition. Oh well, just an opinion… (maybe the influence of nearby Balmoral castle where the royal family is often spending its holidays?) SGP:442 - 83 points.
Royal Lochnagar 22 yo 1986/2009 (53.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #951, 256 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: more powerful, less rounded, in other words straighter than the OB. The mouldy notes are much less obvious whereas the smokiness is even bigger. Notes of cut apples, a little linseed oil and rather graphite instead of plain coal. With water: some peat comes out, hints of motor oil, even tarmac. It’s funny how some ‘natural’ Lochnagars display some of Port Ellen’s usual descriptors. I wrote ‘some’, eh!. Mouth (neat): raw but neat and clean, fruity, maybe a tad varnishy. Gets then grassier but superbly lemony, with also hints of olive oil. Assertive, as they say. With water: fab at first sipping, more on quince jelly, marmalade and figs, getting then rather grassy and lemony again. Takes water well but gets back to normal after a few seconds. An elastic profile, how interesting is that? Finish: long, clean, all on lemon pie. Comments: a funny, very interesting and very good, kaleidoscopic Lochnagar. Very entertaining with water. SGP:561 - 88 points.
Royal Lochnagar 22 yo 1986/2009 (56.9%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #948, 258 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: this sister cask is much less fruity but woodier and grassier, the oak having been more active. More vanilla, ginger and plain sawdust and a faint sourness (yoghurt). The most austere of the three. With water: even more austere and grassy. Chives, mint, lawn, a little dill. Mouth (neat): ah yes, now it’s my favourite, very old Highlands style, with that great fruits/minerals combo that’s hard to describe. Resinous honey, lemon marmalade, cough drops, pepper… And it’s all really big. With water: more of the same, but big time. Probably a little less complex and ‘entertaining’ than cask #951 but maybe even more satisfying for its great compactness. Finish: long, fully on marmalade. Something like rosemary in the aftertaste. Comments: two whiskies in one, nose and palate being very different. But it’s pretty fantastic Lochnagar! Recommended. SGP:551 – 89 points.
 
STEPHANE THE MAD MALT MIXOLOGIST
Stephane

proposes his Summertime malt cocktails

"Pornic Bay"

Pour into a highball :
- 6 cl Auchentochan Classic 40%
- 3 cl strawberry liqueur from Pornic "La Fraiseraie"
- finish with pink grapefruit juice
Add two ice cubes, stir, and decorate with a strawberry.
If you do not have strawberry liqueur from "La Fraiseraie" (shame on you!) try to substitute it with another strawberry liqueur from Bretagne.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Some old skool salsa with Puerto Rico's Willie Rosario
Title: La Mitad
Please buy Willie Rosario's music.

Willie Rosario
 

July 21, 2009


Imperial

SPEED TASTING – FOUR NEW 1990 IMPERIALS

Trying four sister casks is always very interesting and pushes the taster to his limits, looking for tiny-wee differences. It’s also sometimes quite hard… As always, we’ll sort this Imperials by ascending strengths.

Imperial 19 yo 1990/2009 (53.1%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #445) Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh and honeyed, floral, vanilled and orangey, with a medium but obvious creamy oakiness. Very clean, getting emphatically fruity after a few minutes. With water: gets a little more complex, with more herbs and a little vanilla crème. Hints of fresh coriander and maybe sorrel. Coffee and chocolate. Mouth (neat): rich, extremely fruity and slightly peppery. Acacia honey, orange juice and pineapple and lemon drops. Excellent body, gets just a tad drying/woody. With water: back to full fruitiness and spices. Finish: medium long, clean, just as fruity. Comments: one of these excellent Imperials, fresh and vibrant. SGP:641 - 86 points.
Imperial 19 yo 1990/2009 (53.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #449) Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely close to cask #449, a tad oakier and a tad less fruity, these differences getting bigger and bigger. Less exuberantly fresh. With water: we’re now closer, with more fresh fruits and a faintly muscatty profile. A little ginger. Mouth (neat): even closer to cask #445 on the palate but once again a little oakier, getting even a tad bitterish. With water: same differences. More tannins, nutmeg, strong tea. Finish: medium long, with quite some oak. Comments: another good one, but less juicily fruity than cask #445. SGP:551 - 83 points.
Imperial 19 yo 1990/2009 (53.7%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #446) Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely close once again, somewhere between casks #445 and 449, which makes sense according to the cask numbers, doesn’t it? With water: now it’s the fruitiest. Hints of butter pears and spearmint. Mouth (neat): same as cask #445, with maybe even more fruits at the attack. Full-bodied, very orangey. With water: now we’re somewhere between #445 and 449 once again. Finish: not far from #449 in its dryness. Comments: very good, but once again, less emphatic as #445. SGP:551 - 84 points.
Imperial 19 yo 1990/2009 (55.7%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #448) Colour: pale gold. Nose: almost the same as cask #446. With water: same. Mouth (neat): same as cask #446 once again when undiluted, maybe even fruitier. Orange drops and limejuice galore. With water: the fruitiness is bigger now. Peppered oranges. Finish: long, maybe the most citrusy of them all. Sweets, liquorice allsorts, acacia honey. Comments: very good once again. SGP:651 - 85 points.
Conclusion: casks #445, 446 and 448 are extremely similar in their big intense fruitiness, cask #449 is more marked by the oak and a little less fresh. Water brings out more differences and #445 really became my favourite. #448 is very good too.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on holidays in St Tropez
 

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Artist: the extraordinary Ellen McIlwaine
Title: Jimmy Jean
From: We the people
Please buy Ellen McIlwaine's music.

Ellen McIlwaine
 

July 20, 2009


APOLLO XI - BREAKING NEWS! THIS JUST IN
Apollo 11
From an undercover source: This is the true, authentic picture of the event, before it was photoshopped by the NASA. Amazing...
 
Tomintoul

TASTING – OLD YOUNG AND NEW OLD TOMINTOUL

Tomintoul-Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, Whyte & Mackay, blue ceramic, 37.5cl, early 1980s) From a funny old still-shaped decanter. Colour: full gold. Nose: what’s obvious at first nosing is that this one hasn’t suffered from all these years in a usually fairly porous decanter. Good glazing! Starts malty and mentholated, rather toasty as well, with a little smoke (or burnt cake) and notes of earl grey tea getting then more butterscotchy and honeyed. It’s smooth but somewhat dense and rather complex. Very nice floral notes too (fresh chamomile). Also a little liquorice. An excellent surprise beyond the fancy bottle. Mouth: sure it may have lost a bit of its firepower but the attack is still firm, just as malty as on the nose but maybe also more caramelly. Hints of bubblegum and marshmallow plus a little grenadine, honey-coated nuts, violet sweets, vanilla fudge. And more and more caramel that may well not have been fully ‘natural’ in this one. But it’s globally very good. Finish: rather medium-long, malty, grainy and fudgy, somewhat in a style that reminds me of some good old aged blends. Comments: a perfect all-rounder that didn’t lose much steam. Very good! SGP:432 – 85 points (and thank you, Lawrence)
Tomintoul 40 yo 1967 (47.9%, Artworks, extra matured in Rum Wood, cask #2, 2008) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts rather less expressive than the old 12yo and rather grassy, the notes of rum being well there but not invading. Slowly takes off after that rather discreet start, with more barley sugar, hints of overripe bananas, marmalade, vanilla fudge and once again a little mint. Quite some crème brûlée too and finally various herbal teas. Liquorice tea, hawthorn. Oh and a rather beautiful earthiness. Roots, celeriac… Interesting and unusually fresh considering its age. Good work with the cask. Mouth: a little more rum influence at very first sipping and a profile that’s maybe not too precise/focused but it’s pleasant. Barley sugar and herbs, light ‘American’ coffee, crystallised oranges and even more barley sugar. Orange cake, crystallised cherries. Good fruitiness and no overwhelming wood at 40yo. Finish: rather long and more on spices such as cloves and dried ginger. Comments: good old whisky, the rum having probably enhanced it indeed. I liked the unusual notes of cherries on the palate. SGP:541 - 83 points.
Whyte And also Whyte & Mackay’s 8 yo Supreme (43%, OB, blend, late 1970s) This one poured by the great Valentino Zagatti last time we visited him in Italy. Beautiful skittle-shaped bottle. Nose: dry, smoky, on pencil lead and pine resin, rather typical of the era. Verging on cough syrup. Mouth: refined, more on strawberry drops and liquorice plus a good smokiness. Notes of lemon squash. Very nice palate. A salty yet balanced finished. SGP:433 - 82 points. (and thanks, Valentino)
 
STEPHANE THE MAD MALT MIXOLOGIST
Stephane

proposes his Summertime malt cocktails

"Blas-ter"

Pour into a shaker, with ice :
- 6 cl Ardbeg Blasda 40%
- 2,5 cl Jägermeister
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
If you do not have this great liqueur (Jägermeister), you can find it on internet, or you may substitute with another plant liqueur (Izarra, Chartreuse...) but the taste will never be the same than the "Jag"'s one.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Artist: Mexico's iconic Chavela Vargas
Title: Paloma Negra (how much pathos in this?)
Please buy Chavela Vargas's music.

Chavela Vargas
 

July 18, 2009


TASTING – OPPOSITES ATTRACT
TWO GLENFARCLAS AND TWO PORT ELLEN
Glenfarclas The crazy Belgians at the Lindores Whisky Society are celebrating their 5th birthday right this Saturday afternoon and have done their own ultra-limited bottlings, one Glenfarclas and one Port Ellen, 11 bottles only each. So, will these tasting notes be completely useless? (who said once again, who?) Not, because these two whiskies will also be available for tasting at the LWS’ next Whisky Fest in Oostende. In true Whiskyfun fashion, we’ll now oppose them to some of their siblings.
Glenfarclas 1967 (43%, Natural Color, France, +/-2005) Colour: deep gold. Nose: toffee and dried fruits galore at first nosing, pretty much what one would expect from an old Glenfarclas. Dried figs and dates, Xmas cake, huge notes of pipe tobacco and liquorice, even a little wood smoke (maybe pine cone), the whole developing more towards a little rancio and big notes of walnuts, apple peelings and dry sherry, getting finally superbly dry and leathery. A classic! Mouth: the relatively low strength is no problem here, it’s rather big and powerful whisky. Starts very caramelised and rather coffeeish (sugared expresso), very malty as well, nutty, with the more and more notes of toasts, roasted nuts and fudge, getting finally drier once again. Also a little pepper and cloves. Amazingly lively and even vibrant at such old age, but a tad less complex than on the nose. Finish: long, malty, very roasted. Kalhua. Comments: quite a gem within a little known and usually not ueberstellar range. Great nose, palate less complex, standing a bit back. SGP:562 - 90 points.
Glenfarclas 1968/2009 (51.2%, OB for Lindores Whisky Society 5th anniversary, cask #699, 11 bottles) One would expect Mr Timmermans, a patented Glenfarclas collector, would select a good cask for his club. Colour: deep gold. Nose: right, this is exceptional indeed. It’s got everything that the 1967 had plus an extremely luscious yet complex fruitiness that reminds me of the first 1965 Family Cask. Probably more various fruits than a costermonger would know and also some wonderful whiffs of beehive (minus the stings) and a little vanilla fudge. Perfect balance. With water: gets fantastically dry and elegant, very stylish, with whiffs of precious wood (wouldn’t a new Rolls-Royce smell like this?), steak and various herbs. Water truly brings another dimension. Mouth (neat): extremely big, dense and assertive, tasting higher than +/-50%, starting very liquoricy and with notes of Mandarine Impériale and maybe a little raspberry eau-de-vie. Very concentrated and without one single sign of overaging, it’s almost a little rough when unreduced! Hints of grape skins. With water: less development than on the nose but that’s not uncommon at all. More prunes, raspberry jam and soft spices. The oak comes through a bit. Finish: very long, even more on orange liqueur and pepper. Faint peatiness. Comments: big, big whisky. As they say, ‘I want to marry this whisky’. And one would almost wish to acquire the Belgian nationality! SGP:662 - 93 points.
Port Ellen Port Ellen 24 yo 1983/2008 (52.5%, Norse Cask, hogshead, cask #CM016) Colour: gold. Nose: starts big, fat, oily and rather phenolmenal, as tarry as Port Ellen can be but pleasantly coated with ‘sweet’ elements from the oak, such as vanilla and marzipan. Whiffs of diesel oil and new leather jacket (or Moroccan leather shop, err…) Gets then rather citrusy, with hints of lemon liqueur and quite some fresh ginger. Also spearmint. It got much less ‘tarmacky’ after a few minutes but there’s also more gunpowder.
With water: superb! Wet dog (worry again, dogs), unlit Havana cigar (pick your favourite brand), tar and new leather. Mouth (neat): big and thick, bursting with pepper, peat and wood extracts (faint ‘bourbonness’, unusual in Port Ellen) but getting then smoother, quite liquoricy and softly spicy. Big peat. Some dried fruits after that (figs, pears) and the same kind of gingery lemon notes as on the nose. With water: even richer, with many spices and more dried fruits as well as notes of herbs of Provence (thyme, rosemary…) Finish: drier and even spicier. I get lots of clove. Comments: this Port Ellen was rough and a bit dirty when I first opened the bottle but after a good month of breathing, it got more ‘polished’ and complex yet still very big. It seems that most of the 1983s were filled in rather active wood! Anyway, a great one, bravo Denmark. SGP:467 – 93 points.
Port Ellen 29 yo 1979/2009 (52%, Old Bothwell for Lindores Whisky Society 5th anniversary, cask #1654, 11 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: this is much, much more austere and flinty/zesty than the Norse Cask, hence more in line with most OBs including the Rare Malts. Starts on fresh almonds and olive oil, linseed oil and orange blossom water, growing then farmier and more coastal. Cow stable (a clean one! Say a Swiss one…) and wet hay. Slowly unfolds, with more soft spices and lemon, a little gingerbread, a little butter (but it’s not butyric as such) and whiffs of clay. Brilliant and extremely natural. With water: even more lemon, with a most pleasant ‘sourness’ (cider apples, dry chenin blanc). Mouth (neat): once again, a straight, peaty, lemony, peppery and mineral Port Ellen, with the saltiness kicking in later on together with quite some black pepper and a little chlorophyll. Also a superb grassiness that keeps it kind of Riesling-esque. With water: archetypical now. Bitter almonds, lemon marmalade, ginger cookies, herbs and seashells. Finish: long, a little more mineral and lemony again. Comments: a very clean, natural Port Ellen with much less wood influence than in the 1983, but more complexity than in other ‘naked’ bottlings. Pretty much in the same league once again. SGP:367 - 93 points.
And now, please pass the shrimp croquettes! (with thanks to Carsten-H and Luc)
 
CONCERT REVIEW by Luca Chichizola
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
Traffic Free Festival, Venaria Reale, Torino, Italy, July 9th 2009
What is better than a Nick Cave concert? A free Nick Cave concert, of course. It seems that the cultural department of the city council in my hometown of Torino has good taste in music, according to the artists which have been invited to the Traffic Festival since its first edition in 2004: Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Shane MacGowan, Aphex Twin, New Order, Franz Ferdinand, Gogol Bordello, Manu Chao, Lou Reed, Daft Punk, Arctic Monkeys, Patti Smith, The Sex Pistols and many others. Nick Cave
This year, the main attractions were our beloved Australian bluesman/rocker with his very talented band, and electronic-music wizards Underworld. Nice thing about this festival is that, as I said, it’s completely free and it involves other cultural events, too: for example, since Nick Cave was in town, the Museum of Cinema also dedicated a retrospective to his works as writer, screenwriter and film music composer. I personally didn’t see the exposition, but I have had positive reports.
Anyway, I was very curious to see the Bad Seeds live after enjoying a couple of their concerts on DVD. Not so much because of the slightly modified lineup (Mick Harvey left the band and was replaced by Ed Kuepper), but because I had read that their experiences with their latest album and especially the Grinderman side-project seemed to have brought a new fresh approach to the live performances, too.
Nick Cave
This year the music events of the Traffic Festival took place not in a park in Torino, but at the “Italian Versailles”, the recently restored Reggia di Venaria. A magnificent setting, just half an hour from the center of Torino. And again, I must express my congratulations to the organization, because it was impeccable: easy to reach, easy to find parking, and with a sufficiently large open-space area dedicated to the event without risk of damage to the beautiful gardens of the royal estate. Acoustics were decent, and the volume was good and loud (at times even a bit too loud, at least judging from the slight buzz I’m having in my left ear today). OK, maybe the support bands could have been better, since they ranged from the moderate dullness of the three never-heard-before local bands which occupied the stage during the first hour, to the downright annoying performance of St. Vincent (one of those boring “alternative” bands which cover their lack of personality and charisma with tiresome outbursts of grating noise): judging from the general lack of interest, it was rather obvious whom most of the audience had actually come to hear… Well, maybe that should have been obvious from the start, judging how many people around me were wearing Nick Cave or even Einstürzende Neubauten T-shirts: sure, there were also some young people who clearly looked like they had never heard of Nick and had come to the Festival just to have some beers and spend a night out, but they definitely were the minority.
So my wife Silvia and I patiently waited for the supporting acts to finish their show, and at around 22:30 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds finally arrived on stage. Usual black dress with white pointed collar shirt for Nick (luckily without the cheesy moustache that he had been sporting recently), and similar sober attires for the rest of the band… except for the usual weirdo hair and beard sported by Warren Ellis, who as time goes by looks more and more like a bum picked up from the street (but boy, how great a musician he is!).
It is immediately evident, from the first songs in the setlist (“Papa won’t leave you Henry”, “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”, “Red right hand”, and a thundering “Tupelo”) that, as predicted, the Bad Seeds have received a new injection of vitality, power and raw grittiness from the Grinderman experience. Mr. Cave seems to have discovered that strumming on the electric guitar is more enjoyable than sitting at the piano, and while he isn’t the most technically proficient or refined player of a six-strings that I have heard in my life, he certainly compensates that with energy, passion and sheer wildness. The setlist of the gig favoured the rockier and grittier songs from the extensive catalogue of the band, and even the few ones that in the albums used to be quieter, subtler or with more complex arrangements, were often played in radically different versions: stripped to the core, tight, fast, grinding, absolutely mean and hard-rocking. It looked like the Bad Seeds were on a wild spree, and the sheer power of some songs was breathtaking: perhaps too much for the ears of some in the audience, as every time the band unleashed one of their ferocious and sudden outbursts of feedback-distorted aural assault at least a dozen of older folks went away with perplexed faces…
Nick Cave
For those like me who already knew what to expect, it certainly wasn’t a problem… on the contrary, it was rather fun, very energetic. So, the show went on with classics like “Henry Lee” (very wonderful), a blasting “There she goes my beautiful world”, and two oldies which are always great fun like “Deanna” and “The mercy seat”. “Nature boy” was another fine moment, although in a rockier and stripped-down version compared to the richer one played during the Abattoir Blues Tour (they had backing female gospel singers there…), while “The ship song” provided a slightly quieter break. The quieter moment of the concert, anyway, was the sparse and touching “Love letter”, and this was the only song played by Nick at the piano: I would have hoped for more, but as I said before… if he’s happier to play the guitar and occasionally bash some keys on the electric organ, there’s nothing wrong with me; if I want to hear some more of the “crooner” Nick, I’ll simply pick up one of his older live recordings, or one of his late ‘90s albums…
Other fine moments of the show, again of the “raw&rockier” kind, were a version of “We call upon the author” which, in its sheer aggressiveness, could put some of Nick’s Birthday Party stuff to shame, a fine performance of “Midnight man”, and the usually lovely “The weeping song”. The only bit that left me a bit puzzled was “Stagger Lee”, which (apart from the final outburst of noise) was a bit less rhythmically irresistible that the original recording. Probably this partly has to do with Nick’s style of live singing, which often could be considered more of a “freeflow narration”: but if you know him, you also know that if you want the best vocal performances you have to go for the studio albums because he has quite a habit of using a different, more laid-back delivery on live shows.
The concert ended with a very rocky performance of “Get ready for love”, and a very good one of “Moonland” - one of my favorite tracks from their latest album - which was dedicated to that “big fucking yellow disc up there”.
Overall it was a very nice show. I appreciate it when artists try to offer a live experience which differs from what can be heard in the studio albums, otherwise what would be the purpose of going to see a live performance when one can hear exactly the same stuff at home with better quality?
And from this point of view, the show was very satisfactory: again, it’s hard to describe with words how loud, aggressive, energetic and raw the Bad Seeds can be on stage. Kudos in particular to Jim Sclavunos for the explosive drumming, and to Warren Ellis for his absolutely weirdo behavior on stage: whether he’s standing with his back to the audience, or rolling on the floor like possessed by a demon, or making strident noises with his violin, he almost constantly steals the show from Nick. And coming to Nick, well, he was his usual self: quite relaxed and at ease, and even smiling a lot, but always capable of sudden bursts of quirkiness and his trademark jerky “rock postures” and jumps. And, miracle of miracles, he only smoked ONE cigarette in more than one hour and a half!
Personally I was worried that Silvia would kill me for bringing her to this gig, since she only had explored the softer side of Nick Cave so far (albums like “The boatman’s call”, “No more shall we part” and “Nocturama”), but she enjoyed the concert very much, even the louder and grittier moments of it! And this was no small achievement at all: another testament to the great personality and captivating power of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. - Luca Chichizola

Listen: Nick Cave on MySpace
You may also read or re-read Nick's excellent reviews of Nick Cave gigs here, here, here or there. Yes Nick Cave rules on Whiskyfun.

 

July 17, 2009


Tomatin

TASTING
ANOTHER TWO TOMATINS

Tomatin 1964/1991 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map Label) Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts wonderfully, mostly on ‘a freshly opened pack of liquorice drops’ and notes of apricot pie (and warm brioche), with quite some fruits but less than in other old versions from the mid-1950s. More raw oak coming through after a while, as well as whiffs of mocha and straight malt. Also hints of parsley and even chives. Slight dustiness in the background, and finally no more fruits, which isn’t very ‘old Tomatin’ to say the least. Mouth: nice, smooth, mid-oaky mid-fruity, with again quite some coffee and praline and maybe even caramel. A little ginger as well, dried figs… Gets then drier and drier, maybe a tad papery. A little pepper as well. Maybe slightly ‘narrow’ but it’s nice old whisky. Slight OBE. Finish: not really long, with quite some dried pears and maybe a little tapioca (that floury feeling that you sometimes get in some old malts). Comments: good old Tomatin, different from most old fruitmonsters from the same stills. SGP:341 - 84 points.
Tomatin 19 yo 1989/2008 (57.6%, Master of Malt, bourbon) The Master of Malt are back with a new line that seems to have already pulled quite some positive comments elsewhere. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the oak that talks first, somewhat in the ‘Glenmorangie/New oak’ style, with also quite some vanilla, cut grass as well as whiffs of dried flowers. Little fruits but it’s probably the high strength that blocks them. Let’s see… With water: very nice development on banana skin and oranges, with a summery profile that’s well, err, seasonable. The ‘new oak’ profile remains in the background, with faint touches of coconuts, ginger and nutmeg. Oh, and malt. Mouth (neat): hot, powerful, rather fruitier than on the nose when undiluted, with faint notes of strawberries and marshmallows. Something slightly kirschy and quite some oak (ginger) again. Rather rougher than the usual middle-aged Tomatin so far. With water: funny how the slightly eau-de-vie-ish profile gets even bigger with water. Quince? Williams pear? Plums? A little salt too, liquorice wood, nutmeg, white pepper, cornflakes… Even with water, it’s rather bigger than the usual Tomatin. Very good stuff. Finish: long, once again a tad ‘exotic’, with notes that remind me of… date arrak? A little tar in the aftertaste? Comments: very, very good, the big oakiness ‘melting’ particularly well once water is added. In other words, the good life without sherry, without table wines and without peat, but not without oak. SGP:362 - 88 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the Gil Evans Orchestra playing Jimi Hendrix' Voodoo Chile in 1974. Highly controversial and a bit unlikely, isn't it? Butt please buy Gil Evans' music.

Gil Evans
WF BONUS about Jimi: Our friend Hans Offringa (writer of Whisky & Jazz) sent us this little 'ditty':
Foxy Whiskey
After a successful promotion tour of Whisky & Jazz in Charleston SC in the month of June we found ourselves on a plane direction Seattle, to enjoy a well-earned holiday and visit relatives. Apart from climbing Mount Rainier we planned to visit the grave of Jimi Hendrix, in Renton, one of Seattle sub-urbs. While driving to his last resting place we turned on the radio and to our joy and amazement, immediately Hendrix' Foxy Lady blasted through the speakers in the car. His grave turned out to be quite a mausoleum where, among other relatives, Jimi's mother is buried. Apparently the Hendrix familiy has room for more, as can be read on the little sign behind the monument. We shared the moment with one of my favourite bourbons, Ridgemont Reserve 1792, a small batch 8-year old beauty. - Hans
Jimi
 

July 16, 2009


Jura

TASTING – TWO 15yo JURA

Isle of Jura 15 yo 1992/2008 (55.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #8054, 290 bottles) From a hogshead. Colour: white wine. Nose: a typical grassy and flinty Jura, with hints of ale and cut apples and then quite some fresh almonds/marzipan. Damp clay, a little ginger tonic. With water: more ginger, oranges and a little mint and liquorice. Nice (yeah I know that’s not a very precise adjective but ‘nice’ it is). Mouth (neat): powerful and extremely sweet and fruity, with little oak influence at first. Apple liqueur, limoncello, maybe even kiwis. The oak kicks in after the attack, with quite some ginger and nutmeg and something slightly drying/tannic (strong tea, toasted bread). A Jura that’s got quite some character. Gets then a little earthier, even a little rooty. With water: Seville oranges and orange cake. Orange blossom water (or so flavoured brioche). Finish: medium long, sweet… Quince eau-de-vie? Comments: I’m sorry but I repeat: it’s nice malt whisky. SGP:541 – 83 points.
Isle of Jura 15 yo 1990/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing, OMC, Sherry, 718 bottles) Even if it’s ‘lighter’ in alcohol – so to speak, I preferred to try this one after the ‘naked/hogshead’ version because of its probable high sherry content. Colour: golden amber. Nose: the same kind of mid-austere profile as in the 1992 but with an added layer of tobacco, shoe polish and gunpowder as well as a little marmalade. More whiffs of struck matches and brown coal coming through after a while, gets also just a little spritzy-fizzy. With water: more struck matches, unlit Habano. Mouth (neat): good start on quite some marmalade on top of the trademark grassiness. Slight vinosity, then some smoked tea and quite some toasted bread. A little flour (dryness) and maybe touches of some kind of sulphur (truffles, strong coffee). With water: more of that. Roasted chestnuts. Finish: fairly long put these ‘roasted’ notes are even more there. Comments: I would not call this a ‘sulphury whisky’ but these notes of struck matches do sort of dominate the whole, ‘though it’s not unpleasant whisky. SGP:462 - 79 points.
PS: I really find it strange that nobody ever did a Jura Jura finish (wine from the French Jura region)

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Best of blues today, with Big Bill Broonzy and his Backwater Blues
Please buy Big Bill''s music.

Big Bill Broonzy
 

July 15, 2009


TASTING – ANOTHER BOWMORE EXTRAVANGAZA
Bowmore
I usually try to pair similar whiskies but this time and just for fun we’ll stretch the thing to the max, from a recent young bourbon Bowmore to an old black sherry monster via a finished official and a prestigious old 30yo. Let’s see if that will work… (we’ll forget about the late 1970s/1980s if you don’t mind.)
Bowmore 15 yo 'Laimrig' (50.3%, OB, Sweden, 4500 bottles) This one was matured for 10 years in bourbon and then re-racked for 5 years into sherry. What does ‘Laimrig’ mean? Frankly, we don’t care, do we? Colour: amber. Nose: it seems that we’re rather closer in style to a 100% sherry maturation than to a finishing, as things are prettily integrated. Starts with whiffs of gunpowder (no sulphur as such) and dark chocolate, with a surprisingly big salinity in the background. Goes on with a lot of fresh walnuts and apple peeling and a little leather, with the peat coming to the front after that. Also notes of sultanas and dates. Gets finally seriously medicinal (bandages), with also whiffs of old wine barrels. No traces of odd floweriness. Very nice nose. Mouth: it works surprisingly well (I say surprisingly because of the finishing but is it still a finishing?) A lot of tar and a lot of heavy liquorice (Swedish indeed), then sultanas and cloves, prunes, peat, a little green apple, tobacco and finally ginger. Slight bitterness in the background (grape pips). Finish: very long, with just hints of plain wine now (strawberries) but also a beautiful ashy smokiness and a lot of spices. Comments: balance is perfect. Very assertive. Big and very, very, very well made. Water isn’t obligatory. SGP:557 - 90 points. (thank you Geert and thank you Sweden! ;-))
Bowmore 10 yo 1998/2009 (59.8%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 266 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: super-clean new-style Bowmore, sharp, clean, zesty, beautifully maritime and smoky. Same notes of fresh walnuts as in the Laimrig, quite some grass too. Linseed oil, graphite. With water: we’re on Islay, right after the rain, close to the sea, walking in the meadows amongst (wet) sheep. Fist class spirit. Mouth (neat): in style, the opposite of the Laimnlemrindshigg – whatever – but in the same league as far as quality’s concerned. Huge zing but also huge power, so let’s add water. With water: sure it’s no complex whisky (yet?) but once again, the profile is perfect. Maybe still a little too much pears (and the spirit made thereof) but otherwise the big peatiness plus the salt work very well. Finish: long, peaty and still a tad on pears. Comments: I would be curious to see what would happen after two or three more years of maturation, but this is already much to our liking. SGP:447 - 87 points.
Bowmore 30yo 1963/1993 'Anniversary Edition' (50%, OB, 600 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: ha-ha, there’s no fruity explosion at all (we’re not in 1968), rather some huge medicinal notes combined with wood and coal ashes. There’s quite some camphor, whiffs of crushed eucalyptus leaves, mentholated cigarettes (remember Kool?) and, once again, quite some fresh walnuts. Are fresh walnuts the missing link between antique and new-style Bowmores? With water: more tropical fruits and more manure. It became even ‘wider’. Fab! Mouth (neat): fantastically medicinal, with something that really reminds me of the stupendous old pear-shaped 8yo (the bottle was pear-shaped, not the whisky). Cough drops, oysters, tangerine zests, walnuts (yes), almonds, salt, liquorice, mint, kippers… And loads and loads of other flavours. Sorry, the anti-maltoporn brigade is here, let’s stop it. It doesn’t need water on the palate anyway. Finish: magnificently medicinal and resinous. Comments: probably the most medicinal old Bowmore I could try. A work of art. SGP:456 - 94 points. (and thanks to the Gentlemen du Whisky!)
Largiemeanoch 12 yo 1967 (54.2%, Howgate Wine Co., Bowmore, casks #2655/6/7, +/- 1979) A very rare old indie Bowmore, pretty much introvabile these days. It was our travel dram last time we went to Italy with some Malt Maniacs and friends. It’s said that it was bottled by Cadenhead’s. Colour: dark mahogany. Nose: the kind of combo that only old Bowmore plus great sherry can produce. Hard to describe, but I’d say it’s not unlike the first Black Bowmore, with less fruitcake but more smoke and peat. Listing the thousands of aromas that we get (Serge, don’t brag, two dozens will do) would be painful so let’s just mention dried tangerines, leather, pinewood smoke and, should I say of course, passion fruits and mangos. With water: oooooh yess! Black olives, a cellar in Jerez, a bootmaker’s workshop… It’s amazing. Mouth (neat): the most astonishing combination of tropical fruits and all things resinous /smoky /spicy I ever tasted. An absolute masterpiece. With water: I’m about to faint. Finish: life is unfair. All whiskies should be like this one. Comments: it was already great when we opened the bottle but now that it could breathe a bit, it became totally glorious. What’s the role of bottle ageing in all this? Hard to say but I can’t see how a Bowmore could be that fabulous after only twelve years in a sherry cask. We also noticed that almost all our favourite whiskies were around twelve years old when bottled and then spent at least thirty years in glass. No science but hey! SGP:557 - 97 points.
 
STEPHANE THE MAD MALT MIXOLOGIST
Stephane

proposes his Summertime malt cocktails

"Evergreen Witch"

Pour into a shaker, with ice:
5 cl Bunnahabhain "Moine" Jean Boyer Witc’s Bottling 62.1%
2 cl Midori (or another green melon liqueur)
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
A little tribute to "the two Jean Marie" and the excellent Whisky In The Church event that takes place in Den Haag every year.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
If you went to Bunnahabhain during Feis Ile a few years back, you'll probably remeber the excellent Blazin' Fiddles and their Swedish piece.
From: The Old Style
Please buy the Blazin' Fiddles' music.

Blazin Fiddles

July 2009 - part 1 <--- July 2009 - part 2---> August 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: a heavy month!

Ardbeg 18 yo 1974/1993 (52.3%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #4385, 255 bottles)

Ardbeg 19 yo 1974/1994 (43% Dun Eideann, for Donato, Italy, cask #4396)

Ardbeg 24 yo 1974/1998 (51.3%, Signatory, Dumpy, cask #657-658, 306 bottles, US Bottling, 75cl)

Ardbeg 1974/2006 (53.5%, OB, Italy, bourbon, cask #3328, 76 bottles)

Ardbeg 27 yo 1974/2001 (52.3%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, Japan, 224 bottles)

Benriach 33 yo 1976/2009 (47.4%, OB for the Whisky Fair, hogshead, cask #3558, 162 bottles)

Benriach 33 yo 1976/2009 (46.2%, OB for the Whisky Fair, hogshead, cask #3550, 103 bottles)

Benriach 34 yo 1970/2004 (51.2%, OB, hogshead, cask #4005, 254 bottles)

Bowmore 15 yo 'Laimrig' (50.3%, OB, Sweden, 4500 bottles)

Bowmore 30yo 1963/1993 'Anniversary Edition' (50%, OB, 600 bottles)

Clynelish 38 yo 1971/2009 (47.9%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 145 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1967 (43%, Natural Color, France, +/-2005)

Glenfarclas 1968/2009 (51.2%, OB for Lindores Whisky Society 5th anniversary, cask #699, 11 bottles)

Glen Grant 36 yo 1972/2009 (45%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #8950)

Largiemeanoch 12 yo 1967 (54.2%, Howgate Wine Co., Bowmore, casks #2655/6/7, +/- 1979)

Old Fettercairn 33 yo 1975/2008 (58.3%, The Perfect Dram, 143 bottles)

Old Fettercairn 34 yo 1975/2009 (57%, The Whisky Agency, Bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles)

Port Ellen 24 yo 1983/2008 (52.5%, Norse Cask, hogshead, cask #CM016)

Port Ellen 29 yo 1979/2009 (52%, Old Bothwell for Lindores Whisky Society 5th anniversary, cask #1654, 11 bottles)

Springbank 1974/2000 (44.9%, OB, Private bottling, cask #153, 234 bottles)