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Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2013 - Part 2
       

July 2013 - part 1 <--- July 2013 - part 2 ---> August 2013 - part 1

 

July 31, 2013


Whiskyfun

ML

The Whiskyfun Anniversary Tastings
Five decades of Highland Park
(2000, 1995, 1984, 1977, +/-1967 plus bonus)

I believe Highland Park is one of the rare brands… oops, distilleries that managed to keep blending high quality with unlikely stories/branding (come on, we love the Vikings, but even my grandma, who was born in the 19th century, hardly met any…) So content and substance at the same time, that’s rare while some brands are all about content now… And seem not too care about (or simply don’t have) their products anymore. The ravages of branding! But enough cheapo babbling, let’s have a few…

Highland Park 11 yo 2000/2012 (53.3%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon, 131 bottles)

Highland Park 11 yo 2000/2012 (53.3%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon, 131 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: one of the freshest and the cleanest, very ‘mineral riesling’, all on wet rocks and lemon juice so far. Nice and very much chiselled. After fifteen minutes: much more vanilla! With water: it became fruitier and the rieslingesque side went away. But it remains pleasantly clean and neat. Fresh garden fruits. Mouth (neat): same feeling as on the nose, many fresh fruits, especially grapefruits but also pears (youth), plus some heavier mineral notes. It’s quite waxy in fact and I cannot not think of Clynelish. Very good youngster! With water: the wax stays there and the fruits get louder. Perfect distillate. Finish: of medium length, clean and very fruity. Peaches? Comments: it’s a rather gentle young HP, very clean, not overly complex but very perfect in its fruitiness. It seems that the 2000s started well up there on Orkney. What’s missing a bit is the peat and smoke… Peat, wazzat? SGP:541 - 85 points.

Highland Park 12 yo 1995/2007 (60%, OB for Maxxium Holland, Cask #1550, 35cl)

Highland Park 12 yo 1995/2007 (60%, OB for Maxxium Holland, Cask #1550, 35cl) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: obviously a sherry cask but what’s striking is that we remain very close to the ultra-clean 2000. That means we have the same mineral, citrusy and rieslingesque notes, only with an added layer of leather, chocolate and tobacco. And that works! Maybe also more of the trademark heather honey. Some coal smoke too. With water: superb! Swims like a champ, with many more complex notes, old tea, tobacco, spices, soy sauce, cedar wood… all very fine. Mouth (neat): big, fat and rich but balanced by the pepper and the ginger. A lot of Seville oranges and ginger, honeydew, crystallised oranges, a little nutmeg… I like these biggish HPs! With water: here you go, water made it pleasantly drier and a little bitterer, but it also added spices and more grassy elements. Chlorophyll? Green walnuts as well. Finish: long, grassy, curiously tequila-ish (in a good way). Comments: when the sherry’s first class young whiskies can taste older, and that’s what’s happened here in my opinion. Hard to beat at just 12 years of age. SGP:653 - 89 points.

Highland Park 20 yo 1984/2004 (57.9%, OB for Germany, Cask #45)

Highland Park 20 yo 1984/2004 (57.9%, OB for Germany, Cask #45) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: we aren’t far from the 1995, we’re even very close. It’s just a little smoother, with more oranges and more honey, as well as a little more peat. Lovely orangey nose, becoming more and more intense. After fifteen minutes, it’s the chocolate that plays first fiddle. With water: same scenario as with the 1995, the sherry comes out and we have more tobacco, walnuts and spices. Top notch. Also ginger tonic, maybe… That ads freshness. Mouth (neat): more difference, which translates into more resinous and grassy notes. It’s a bit bitter (nice alliteration, S., but don’t expect a raise) but all that remains very fine. More nervous and grassy than the 1995 at this stage. With water: a superb woodiness comes to the front. Could be a flaw but it’s an asset in this context. Also oranges, honeys (heather, there you have it) and then the ginger tonic is back. Or rather a ‘blend’ of ginger tonic and orange squash. Nice, unusual and fun. Finish: long, beautifully earthy now. Well, maybe it’s a little cardboardy toward the aftertaste, its only (tiny) flaw. Comments: at times very similar and at times completely different from the 1995. But there is a tiny flaw (IMHO) so I couldn’t go to 90… SGP:562 - 88 points.

Highland Park 15 yo (46%, Cadenhead for Wilson & Morgan, +/-1992)

Highland Park 15 yo (46%, Cadenhead for Wilson & Morgan, +/-1992) Five stars Although the label doesn't say so, this should be a 1977. Having a ‘46%’ after all those beasts is almost like holidays ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: oh hell, oysters! Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever nosed any whisky that was reeking of fresh oysters that much! Even the Islayers don’t. So oysters galore with even a little lemon to go with them, this is absolutely perfect. Because, mind you, I love oysters. Okay, behind all these oysters, a little bread, yeast and yoghurt. All that works well even if the distillate was probably a little less ‘perfect’ than in the 1990s and 2000s. Sometimes variety is more important than perfection. After fifteen minutes: a rather massive smoke comes out! It’s even a little Longrowy, I have to say… Mouth: but… the smokiness is huge indeed! Nothing to do with recent HPs, this is well within Ledaig/Longrow/Caol Ila territories. We’re talking peat levels. So soot, coal, smoke, ashes and all that jazz, plus a moderate coastality (coastalness?) and again our friends the oysters. What a dram! Finish: long, salty, peaty, grassy… Great notes of grapefruits in the aftertaste. Comments: flabbergasting early bottling by Fabio’s Wilson & Morgan. One day I’ll tell you about my wanderings in the Tuscan Bottegas around the year 2000. It was amazing what you could find, the indies had brilliant whiskies!… SGP:466 - 92 points.

Highland Park 8 yo (43%, OB, view of Orkney, straight neck, +/-1975)

Highland Park 8 yo (43%, OB, view of Orkney, straight neck, +/-1975) We already tried some of these with a bulky neck. This neck's straight. It is 1960s distillation. Colour: pale gold. Nose: there’s OBE and there’s more phenolic, smoky and downright peaty notes than in the more modern distillates. Okay, maybe not the 1977. There are also wackier notes, such as waxed papers and ink, but those may come from OBE. It’s also a little butyric. Mouth: OBE gone mad this time. I mean, some parts are magnificent, especially the heavy salt and such, but the cardboard and stale tea have taken over. Finish: long and very drying. Comments: not all old bottlings are great. It’s easy to talk or write about the better old days, but remember that if whisky may improve in glass, it can also go awfy wrong. This one, despite some very shiny parts, was a good example. For the record, other bottles may be magnificent. SGP:232 - 65 points.

BONUS:

Highland Park 25 yo 1988/2013 (55.7%, Cadenhead, small batch, sherry butts, 1086 bottles)

Highland Park 25 yo 1988/2013 (55.7%, Cadenhead, small batch, sherry butts, 1086 bottles) Five stars From the much talked-about new 'black' series by Mark Watt. Elegantly old school, squat bottle, black label and even this legendary very 'Cadenhead' mention: "matured in oak" (they ran out of cedarwood, I imagine). Even the round logo and the gold hint at HP's old official labels, but that wasn't done of purpose of course as the whole series has it. Colour: coffee. Nose: a big, phat, slightly flinty and smoky sherry at first nosing, with quite a lot of coffee to match the robe. It's almost as old-school as the packaging! Goes on with roasted chestnuts, pecan pie straight from the oven and maybe touches of bacon and big black raisins, say Corinthians. A timeless nose so far. With water: classic figs, raisins, dates and other dried fruits. Perfect. Mouth (neat): heavy, big, not pungent though, quite smoky again and rather perfectly leathery as well as slightly sappy/resinous. Also cloves and cumin plus black pepper, chestnut honey (big time! it's a very powerful honey if you don't know it) and then the very classic fruitcake and raisins notes. Big stuff indeed. With water: perfect again, there's even a nice grapey touch (and prunes) that makes you think of some good old armagnac. A lovely honey too as well as quite some caramelised peanuts - that part never stops growing. Finish: very long and it would remain clean and tidy. The coffee returns in the aftertaste, and so does the armagnac. Comments: wham! This could have been bottled for Silvano Samaroli, Eduardo Giaccone or Nadi Fiori thirty years ago. Honest. SGP:563 - 92 points.

BONUS TO THE BONUS: Tah-dah! ...

Highland Park 40 yo (40%, OB, ceramic, 1970s)

Highland Park 40 yo (40%, OB, ceramic, 1970s) Five stars This is most probably pre-war distillation. I've come across this baby several times in the past but as these decanters were quite porous, levels have always been very low to very very low so I've never considered the whiskies were worth proper tasting notes. Great news, my friend Diego recently found a rare 'only a little low' bottle and sent me this sample. Hurray! Colour: amber. Nose: noh, this ain’t possible. This not can exist (how do you like my Italian?) this outta this world, this like the drink of the Olympus. It’s a sin, it’s poetry, it’s not whisky. I mean, imagine they just took some barley, brewed it, distilled it and let it mature in second-hand wine barrels and… they came up with this? This was originally only an agricultural by-product, for crying out loud! Life is unjust. Good, as far as aromas are concerned, I seem to get hundreds but since we’re having a crisis all over Europe, I’ll only quote five. Say almond oil, say old car (engine), say Havana cigars, say sandalwood and say heather honey (HP, you owe me a dram). Mouth: you have to close your eyes to get everything here. What’s impressive at first sips, like in all truly great whiskies, is the power. This is low in alcohol but it’s jam-packed with flavours! I guess you already called the anti-maltoporn brigade – and you did well -  so I will only list five main flavours… Say the best green tea, say bitter almonds, say salted liquorice, say chewing tobacco and say cough lozenges. I’m sorry, a lot are missing…  Finish: right, it’s not as long as a day without whisky (mum, I’m joking) but the oaky impact is huge. Having said that, it’s so immensely complex that any amount of oak would be no problems. Stunning soft spices. Comments: simply legendary but I insist, these decanters are very tricky. Never buy any unless the seller’s got a perfect reputation. Some bottles are unopened and… nearly empty! Same with old Springbank ‘books’, by the way. Yup I’ve been caught. SGP:463 - 95 points.

(With thanks to Diego, Kasper, Olivier and Tomislav)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Highland Park I've tasted so far

 

 

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Block Today: JAZZ to go with Highland Park. Performer: Billy Cobham. Track: Heather. Haha! Please visit Mr Cobham's website and buy the music...
 
 

July 30, 2013


Whiskyfun

ML

The Whiskyfun Anniversary Tastings
Five decades of Bowmore
(2001, 1990, 1989, 1972, 1968)

I’m very proud, I could build a line-up that goes from the most recent to the oldest vintages while keeping ascending strengths! That’s not been easy but what shan’t we do for the cause! As far as the distillery’s concerned, and excepting a certain decade and maybe a few slightly unlikely fiddlings with heavy oak/wine, I’m simply a sucker for the whiskies. What’s more, the indies often bring out pure and more ‘crystalline’ versions and that’s why 80 % of our little session today will be ‘indie-driven’!

Bowmore 11 yo 2001/2012 (46.9%, Sansibar, 263 bottles)

Bowmore 11 yo 2001/2012 (46.9%, Sansibar, 263 bottles) Five stars The Whisky Agency and affiliated brands have already issued many superb young Bowmores. This one may be another fine example, although the low strength is intriguing… Colour: straw. Nose: high smoky impact! I haven’t tried many ‘OOs’ from Bowmore’s yet but it seems that they turned the smoke button toward eleven. Big smoke, big tar, hints of bicycle inner tube (which isn’t straight rubber, eh!), fumes and then seaweed and apple skins. I don’t get any fruits, not even lemon, but this is spectacularly smoky and I like that. Mouth: perfect, just perfect. It’s narrow whisky, it’s not complex, it’s even simple, but it’s perfect. Smoked oysters and grapefruits, that’s all but we don’t need more. Finish: long, same. Saltier aftertaste. Comments: a blade! Only more age could beat this, but not sure the purity wouldn’t be lost a bit. SGP:557 - 90 points.

Bowmore 21 yo 1990/2012 (50.4%, Douglas Laing for Helmsdale Tokyo, Christmas Edition, barrel, 244 bottles)

Bowmore 21 yo 1990/2012 (50.4%, Douglas Laing for Helmsdale Tokyo, Christmas Edition, barrel, 244 bottles) Five stars I’ve eaten my fingers trying not to taste this baby before, but I wanted to have it in this little flight. Colour: white wine. straw. Nose: oh this is nice, we have plenty of fresh walnuts, seaweed and apple skins (just like in the 2001) and then coal smoke, smoked tea, hints of mangos, pink grapefruits and then a little cut grass. Perfect. With water: even more perfect, all the fruits have come to the front. We won’t list the all but mangos and passion fruits are obvious. Wasn’t this a 1966? Wrong papers? Wrong stencilling? Also fresh hazelnuts after a few minutes. Mouth (neat): h-u-r-r-a-y! Ideal balance between citrus fruits and smoke and coastal stuff. Immense zesty Bowmore, very smartly selected by our Japanese friends. It doesn’t need water but procedures procedures… With water: a few wee violety touches come out but other than that, it remains quite perfect. Finish: long and briny. A little grenadine, perhaps? Comments: merry Christmas! One of the very best, if not the best recent middle-aged Bowmores I had the privilege to try, but it does not need water. To hell with water! SGP:656 - 92 points.

Bowmore 21 yo 1989/2011 (54.4%, Silver Seal)

Bowmore 21 yo 1989/2011 (46%, Silver Seal) Five stars The 1980s could be hit or miss (right, usually miss), that’s why I’ve chosen one that was distilled in the very end of the decade ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: hurray again, that stuff isn’t there (you know what, don’t you)! Instead, we have a general profile which is very close to that of the 1990 – no wonder -, it’s maybe just a notch more tarry/rubbery and a little less fruity. With water: this is where the 1990 and this 1989 diverge, this one remains quite dry and grassy. A feeling of agave/mescal (since we’re slowly becoming experts in agave – not!) Mouth (neat): very good. It’s not as perfectly balanced and ‘immediate’ as the 1990, maybe because there are a few tiny-wee dirtier notes, but it’s great Bowmore and I do not get the faintest hints of geranium, lavender sweets, Parma violets or Cadum soap. There. With water: brinier. Anchovies and kippers. Finish: long, salty, very maritime. Beautiful lemony aftertaste. Comments: and yet another superb Bowmore. A 1989 not from the 1980s, are you following me? SGP:567 - 90 points.
UPDATE:
some boxes were mistakenly labelled as '54.4%' but it's well a 46.

Bowmore 23 yo 1972/1995 (54.7%, The Whisky Connoisseur, Cask Master Selection No.2, cask #909)

Bowmore 23 yo 1972/1995 (54.7%, The Whisky Connoisseur, Cask Master Selection No.2, cask #909) Four stars Remember the fabulous Largiemeanochs 1967 and 1972? Those were bottled by or for the same folks, so we have very deep expectations here and now, even if there’s much less sherry involved here according to the colour… Colour: white wine. Nose: yet again, we’re on the same kinds of notes. Smoke, ashes, apple peelings, walnuts, tar, bicycle inner tube, seaweed, grass… Little fruits, just like in the 1989. And yet we’re so closer to the extravagant 1960s as far as vintages are concerned… With water: rather a disappointment. Some butter, grass, paper and asparagus come out, this baby doesn’t swim too well. Having said that, the eucalyptus is nice. Mouth (neat): high impact! Extreme lemon and salt, it’s really some kind of blend of freshly squeezed lemon juice, pickle juice and cold lapsang souchong. Which gives me an idea, hehehe… No signs of bottle ageing, this is as vivid as if it was bottled right this morning. With water: careful with water! Sometimes water imparts cardboardy tones to peaters, and that’s what’s happening here (unless they changed Vittel’s composition?) Actually, you may bring them down to around 45% but lower than may not work. Wait, isn’t the industry’s standard 30%? Or 35%? Finish (at full strength): very long and very lemony. Tarry/rubbery aftertaste. Comments: I don’t know, I may have lost the fight against this untamable baby. It may need/deserve a good one hour or more. SGP:456 - 85 points.

Bowmore 1968/1977 (59.7%, OB, Feschio & Frassa, sherry cask, cask #222)

Bowmore 1968/1977 (59.7%, OB, Feschio & Frassa, sherry cask, cask #222) Five stars Not much to say, except that this shouldn’t be too bad. Colour: gold. Nose: a shame that it’s so strong, it’s all a little blocked just now. What’s funny is to notice that there’s a lot happening behind the high alcohol while not being able to detect much of it. It’s a bit like listening to a string quartet with earplugs, if you see what I mean. So, with water: becomes more medicinal, ala old Laphroaig. Bandages and seawater, wet clothes, old cellar, raw wool, hay... Great but a little unusual. Some putty too, tar, chocolate… The jury’s still out. Mouth (neat): no, this makes you want to swear. It’s immense, it’s out of this world, it’s absolutely stunning and it just leaves you speechless. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. With water: Beethoven (conducted by Frank Zappa). Finish: as long as a Fidel speech. Amazing combination of all things from the sea with all smokes (yeah, including that one) and all citrus fruits. Even salted kumquats. Comments: my only regret is that this is no surprise. These late 1960s Bowmores for various Italian condottieri have all been utterly stunning. Mamma mia! SGP:467 - 96 points.

(With thanks to Hideo, Max and Olivier)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Bowmore I've tasted so far

 

 

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Block Today: BRAZILIAN (sweet). Performer: Wilson Simonal. Track: Embrulheira. Please buy Mr Simonal music...
 
 

July 28, 2013


Whiskyfun

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter ;-))

Eleven years and
nine thousand spirits

So, today this little website is 11 and we're publishing our 9,000th tasting notes. I made sure we'd celebrate both 'events' at the same time and so make big savings ;-). Mind you, nothing too important, next year should be bigger, I'll try to post our 10,000 notes when WF is 12, that'll have more cachet and, hopefully, panache!

As for WF's new news, much to my amazement, and probably thanks to our very humble little postings on Facebook and Twitter that we're now doing since a few weeks (a little reluctantly I have to say but it seems that more and more people are only looking for updates on social media and won't check websites directly anymore), the number of visits to this dinosaur of a website started to rise sharper than before again. In June alone, rather a weak month for whisky, we had 170,000 single visitors (actually only 169,762 but it's our all-time record), which does make for a sharp rise indeed after last year's measly 90,000 in June.

  ML

So in theory, 2013/2014 should be much bigger again according to these recent figures. As far as visits - not visitors - are concerned, we should reach an average of 3Mio a year in the coming months. Not bad, but who cares?

Well, probably only yours truly. Going on with dropping figures wouldn't be very motivating, even if all this is only done for fun and is quite costly.  No I don't get paid, I pay. Having said that, it seems that a few Scottish distillers are more and more afraid of bad scores and wary comments online, as one of them told me after a few beers. On the other hand, there are also more and more bottlers of Scotch whisky from 'the rest of the world' and those do seem to enjoy the fact that 'we'll write what we think'. Maybe they're also a little more innovative and forward-thinking? Or they know they sometimes have better whiskies? Guys, do you rock!

Sadly, I cannot taste more whiskies than I already do, that wouldn't be serious. What's good, I think, is that I'll always find what I'd like to taste, thanks to festivals, retailers, bottlers, distillers and private friends. So, all is very, very and I mean very well at Whiskyfun Towers these days, let's go on! Thanks for your readership, my friend.
- your Serge


And now, what we need is whisky. We're starting a nice (hope you'll agree) series of Anniversary Tastings...
  PJ

 

ML

The Whiskyfun Anniversary Tastings
Wandering around Old Clynelish for our 9,000th

That was an easy choice indeed, but since I wanted to try some very special Brora/Clynelish today, I decided to go for two blends that used to be based on Old Clynelish, then for the rarest Old Clynelish, a 12yo from my stash bearing a spring cap instead of a twist cap, and lastly, one of the rare early bottled Broras, a 13 yo by Cadenhead.

King's Legend (40%, Ainslie's, blend, +/-1975)

King's Legend (40%, Ainslie's, blend, +/-1975) Four stars King’s Legend was an old brand, I’ve also got much older bottlings but I thought we’d rather go for an ‘aperitive-y’ version today. You'll find notes for an older version on this website (WF 88). Colour: gold. Nose: this baby reeks of old Clynelish. It’s extremely mineral and waxy, with good OBE, ashes, touches of iron (old tin box), quite some paraffin, motor oil, a little camphor and just touches of English brown sauce, possibly from OBE. High malt content, I’m sure. Mouth: it’s a punchy blend, quite peaty, ashy and smoky. Above all, it’s very mineral and paraffiny while there’s also quite some pepper as a base. It’s got a Talisker side. Finish: loses points now because of the extreme dryness and the cardboardy side that’s ‘too much’. Comments: a dry and austere blend with high malt content and definitely an ‘old Highlands’ style. Deliciously un-modern. The only fruitiness you’ll find is a little marmalade, or orange zests. SGP:254 - 85 points.

Glen Brora (40%, Carradale Blending Co, blend, +/-1970)

Glen Brora (40%, Carradale Blending Co, blend, +/-1970) Five stars Carradale was one of Ainslie & Heilbronn’s sister companies. Theyve also bottled King's Legend at times. I’ve already downed quite a few bottles of this little baby but never thought I had to come up with proper tasting notes. Now’s the time. By the way, beware of some dodgy people who’d try to sell you this for a very old Brora. Colour: full gold. Nose: a fuller, richer, maltier version of the King’s Legend. There’s probably more caramel inside – which is what the much darker colour suggested anyway – but there’s also more sherry wood, more chicken soup, more tobacco, a bigger sootiness and probably more smoke. What could be is that the Old Clynelish that’s inside was direct-fired whilst the King’s Legend’s Clynelish was already steam-heated. I mean the two stills ;-). The changes occurred in 1961 at Clynelish. What’s sure is that the Glen Brora is a bigger, fatter spirit on the nose. Mouth: it’s huge! Imagine, only 40% vol and already a good forty years in glass. It did not lose 1%, but it’s true the level was high. Once again, we have more or less the style of the King’s Liqueur but with more body, greasiness, fatness, caramel, fudge, cigars, spices, pepper, soot, ashes, liquorice, salt… I don’t think many modern malts could hand a candle to this old baby. And I love the menthol as well… Finish: it’s where the difference with the KL is huge. This one’s long, peppery, salty, there’s some fudge, bitter oranges, gingerbread, juniper, chlorophyll… Wow! Comments: so yeah, it’s no Brora despite the name, but it’s as good as any B. Almost. Now, there’s probably 50% Old Clynelish inside, if not more. SGP:454 - 90 points.

Clynelish 12 yo (70° proof, OB, spring cap, no neck label, Ainslie's capsule, +/-1960?)

Clynelish 12 yo (70° proof, OB, spring cap, no neck label, Ainslie's capsule, +/-1960?) Five stars The only places where I could find these ultra-rare spring cap versions (I know three different versions altogether) were cases of ‘twist-cap’ Clynelishes bottled in the late 1960s. It’s a funny story, it seems that the distillers used to try to get rid of these old unsellable bottles that way. No harm, no fool! So it’s a nice lottery, every time you open a new (well) case of Old Clynelish 12 cream label, you might find one bottle bearing a spring cap. Did Willy Wonka use to be the manager at Clynelish? Colour: gold. Nose: good, this is immense. It’s not immense because of the alcohol, that part is relatively low, it’s immense because of all the shoe polish, the waxes, the soot, the pitch, the almonds and then the various oils. That’s what’s striking, the notes of oils such as graphite, linseed, olive… It’s almost like putting your nose into the exhausts of an old Aston Martin (haha). There’s even a touch of vegetables. Maybe beans? Also hay in a warm summer day. Let’s move on if you please… Mouth: the most intense whisky at 40% vol. I could ever try. This baby was a little closed when we opened it with some good friends up there on location, but now it’s doing ‘the peacock’s tail’ and the flavours are totally stunning (if you like waxy dry whiskies, that is, if you’re rather into bananas or maple syrup you’ll probably hate this). Where was I? So yeah, oils again, coal, tar liqueur (we shall try the rare Clacquessin soon on WF!), oysters, cigar ashes, teas of all sorts, these touches of vegetables again (I’d say artichokes this time), old cough syrup (the eucalyptus side never stops growing, like in many very old whiskies in my experience). Oh well, better call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Finish: all right, all right, it’s maybe not extremely long, but the cleanliness is amazing. It’s akin to the finish of the fifth waters of an ultra-old pre-Mao Pu-erh tea from the seventh sacred mountain. Right, I just made that up. Comments: unnecessary, I think. The highest you could go at 40% vol. Oh, forgot to say, it’s also very peaty whisky. SGP:365 - 94 points.
Spring

Brora 13 yo 1982/1996 (59.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Brora 13 yo 1982/1996 (59.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars and a half Not even 60% vol., pfff.. ;-) I’ve already tried two punchy young 1982s by W.M. Cadenhead but I’m afraid I never took notes. They used to score around WF 88, in case that matters. Oh come on… Colour: straw. Nose: ouch! Raw alcohol, aggressive, pungent and very un-aromatic. Ultra-grassy. So yeah, raw power as Iggy would say, water is much needed. With water: it became very bubblegumy. We all know some late batches at Brora have been totally unpeated and not even waxy/sooty. Well, this is from one of them. Smells like a young Glenmorangie – honest! Mouth (neat): it’s absolutely fabulous to be able to try a distillate such as Brora when it was still young and, above all, from a ‘light’ cask. In fact, this is much fruitier than expected again, I even get a lot of strawberries and pears, and there’s even a feeling of marshmallows and grapefruit-flavoured Jell-O. Does that exist? Really! With water: same, an easy, fruity, young malt. Fruit liqueurs and violet bonbons. A little aniseed as well. Finish: rather long and just as fruity. There’s even a little pastis. C’est vrai ! Nice pink grapefruit in the aftertaste. Comments: the most un-Brora Brora ever, but it remains very good whisky, mind you… Those two stills were (are!) fabulous. SGP:631 - 88 points.

BONUS: since I'm French and I think I deserve a whisky that's older than me (which is becoming harder and harder to find), let's also have this new one as today's digestif... (but our official 9,000th was the Clynelish spring cap, of course!)

Glenfacrlas 1953 Glenfarclas 1953/2013 'Auld Alliance' (43.9%, OB, Spanish sherry butt, cask #1682, 125 bottles) Five stars This 59 years old baby is part of a €15,000 duo and comes with a Hine Cognac from the same vintage, hence the name 'Auld Alliance'. Nope I haven't got the cognac! Colour: full gold. Nose: it's very close to the 1953 cask #1674 for Wealth Solutions, only a notch oakier and a little more aromatic as well, which makes them even. Sort of. Quite a lot of leather and tobacco, then overripe tropical fruits (mangos) and some mentholated oak extracts. The bacon's also louder than in the sister cask and then some whiffs of damp earth do arise. What's impressive is the freshness and the fact that in no way it's simply a sherry bomb. Mouth: almost identical (I'm comparing it with cask #1674 as we speak). A lot of oak spices, tangerines, a little vin jaune (right-o, dry sherry), smoked ham and Virginia tobacco. It feels old and impressively fresh at the same time, which is quite a miracle although, as almost always at this age, the nose was more entrancing and, say vibrant. Finish: pretty long and with a grassiness from the old oak. Comments: the opposite of a dead old whisky. You would think the oak would have taken over (but hey, I doubt they would have bottled it in that case) but it didn't. An ode to old age! SGP:572 - 92 points.

 

 

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July 27, 2013


Whiskyfun

Funnily gimmicky
Glenisla vs. Craigduff

It’s really great that Signatory still had some casks of these rarities. Both ‘peaty’ malts were produced in the 1970s at Glen Keith, for a very short period of time (some sources say Strathisla, actually the jury’s still out as it seems that a few big shots keep arguing). Chivas and Seagram had tried several ways of making ‘Islay’ on the mainland, that’s why we also find old peated Benriachs, for example.

Glenisla 34 yo 1977/2011 (44.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #19605, 274 bottles)

Glenisla 34 yo 1977/2011 (44.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #19605, 274 bottles) Two stars Glenisla was made using peaty water from the Outer Hebrides, that’s been concentrated via distillation. Iain Henderson, who was yet to become Laphroaig’s manager (obviously), had conducted the experiments for Chivas. I’ve only tried Glenisla once so far, and found it a little unlikely (WF 75). Oh and the one we’re having today was distilled on 7/7/77 and bottled on 11/11/11. How smart is that? Colour: white wine. Nose: oh what a strange nose! Heavy liquorice and coffee at first nosing, with plenty of sour wood as well, dust… It does smell a bit like some kind of coffee-flavoured fudge, in fact. It’s also a little yoghurty around the edges, before a very odd kind of smokiness arises, hard to describe. I think I won’t even try… Some fermenting hay too. Mouth: very strange indeed. A bizarre grassiness, quite sour, notes of cheese, some kind of stale beer, some lemon juice… And then more pepper. Also this strange feeling of stale peaty water, but that may well be my mind’s work. I don’t seem to remember I’ve tried too much peaty water anyway, even during the wildest Islay days. Finish: medium length, a little better. Tinned pineapples? It’s more citrusy too, and that’s pleasant. Comments: this one is very hard to score. It’s probably more of historical interest than organoleptically appealing, even though it’s got some pleasant sides. A great bottling, but maybe not for the best reasons. SGP:442 - 72 points.

Craigduff 40 yo 1973/2013 (49.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #2516, 616 bottles)

Craigduff 40 yo 1973/2013 (49.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #2516, 616 bottles) Four stars This baby was bottled by Signatory exactly 40 years after it was distilled, on April 4th, 1973. So 4/4/73 to 4/4/13. It seems that it’s also been made at Glen Keith, so earlier than the Glenisla. Not too sure… The Whisky Exchange have got a nice explanation by Andrew Symington (owner of Signatory) but what’s still a little unclear is what are the technical differences between Glenisla and Craigduff. Colour: gold. Nose: not that different from the Glenisla for a wee while, but it gets then much fruitier and, let’s say it, pleasant. We have mainly oranges and orange squash, funny hints of tamarind, a bubblegumy side that we often find in ex-Lomond stills malt whisky (Mosstowie and such)… Also touches of overripe bananas and maybe even a little sugar cane. A very good surprise so far. After ten minutes: more vanilla. Mouth: once again, this is much, much better. It’s got something of old Ladyburns or Inverlevens if I remember well, with a rather massive combination of oaky vanilla with oranges and lemons. I do not get any peat, I have to say, but it’s a fine spirit, no doubt. Not just ‘for the record’. Nice maple syrup too. Finish: long and much more citrusy. A very zesty finish, very lemony. Cool! Comments: this Craigduff defeats the Glenisla hands down. I also think it’s funny that while trying to come up with a peaty Islay-style whisky, they ended up making some Lowlander ;-). Although there’s more peatiness in the aftertaste. Worth trying, really. SGP:651 - 86 points.

 

 

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July 26, 2013


Whiskyfun

Tasting two new independent Ardbeg

While some new small batch officials are partly wine-driven (lightly so!) the indies keep issuing a few more ‘natural’ expressions. Yes you may call that ‘traditional’ if you like. Let’s have two of them today…

Ardbeg 'Batch 4' (52.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 427 bottles)

Ardbeg 'Batch 4' (52.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 427 bottles) Five stars Batch 1 has been excellent! Not too sure how they ‘bake’ these elusive batches I have to say, but it’s always fun to see a good friend on a label. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s typical modern Ardbeg, with probably less tarry and straightly phenolic notes than older ones, but maybe more brine and seawater on the one side, and garden bonfire on the other side (burning leaves and hay). There’s a feeling of menthol cigarettes – their smoke – and then a pretty massive development on all things medicinal, especially antiseptic. Also a newly opened pack of smoked almonds? Even heavily smoked salmon? Nice complexity. After fifteen minutes: more lemon juice. With water: yess! It became both drier and (even) smokier. Motor oil, hot tarmac in the middle of July ;-), this menthol again, a plate of smoked fish… And grapefruits. Mouth (neat): starts as sweet as Ardbeg can be, before the heavy smoke kicks in. So vanilla and crystallised lemon, then an acrid smokiness that’s exactly what we were expecting. This feeling of ‘eating an ashtray’. This one’s also moderately salty this time. With water: excellent. I don’t know if this is a vatting from various sources but it does taste like a single cask, meaning it’s very ‘focused’ now, very ‘precise’. Beautiful lemon, almond oil and touches of seashells. Say clams. Perfect smoke. Finish: long, not that salty, smoky, ashy and Ardbeggy. You bet! Comments: I’m very happy. I think this is a style that the owners (of the distillery) should produce too. SGP:468 - 90 points.

Ardbeg 19 yo 1993/2013 (57.9%, Cadenhead, bourbon hoghsead, 302 bottles)

Ardbeg 19 yo 1993/2013 (57.9%, Cadenhead, bourbon hoghsead, 302 bottles) Four stars and a half This charming little baby was bottled right this month. I believe it’s from these very small batches that the Laphroaig crew used to make from time to time while Ardbeg was almost dormant. Colour: white wine. Nose: much more austere than the NAS, grassier, smokier, with even some mustard and a lot of earth and bitter roots. In other words, it’s very gentiany on the nose. Just like the previous one, it’s also got a lot of grass smoke and then more tar and pitch, which was less there in the NAS. Also seaweed and maybe pickled samphires. Ever tried that? After ten minutes: these big notes of a working kiln, very ‘Ardbeg’. After fifteen minutes: a little more sweeter aromas, but not much. Grapefruits? With water: wild! Burnt butter, coal, hessian (old forgotten bags) and a lot of ashes and smoke. The peatines is quite massive. Mouth (neat): yes! This sharp, chiselled, slightly oily (and fruity) arrival is unmistakenly Ardbeg. Big ashes, big lemon drops (I mean a lot of them), a lot of gentian and this astringent and acrid profile that keeps growing and growing. Olive oil, a lot of that. Maybe a wee hint of cardboard too, but that’s nothing. Powerful ultra-clean Ardbeg. With water: it’s a wee bit less focused than the NAS at this point, there are drops of seawater that we love in the nose but maybe not always on the palate. The rest is perfect, very kippery, with perfect citrus. Straight lime juice. Finish: long, a little grassy and generally green. Rhubarb? (that’s certainly green!) The aftertaste is saltier than the Boutique’s. Comments: very high quality again. Maybe this one is a wee notch less immediately ‘wow’ and has a few very tiny shaky aspects, but other than that, it’s a superb Ardbeg that’ll beat many more well-known ones. Hands down! SGP:467 - 89 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Ardbeg I've tasted so far

 

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July 25, 2013


Whiskyfun

Comparing the new Tamdhu 10

Tamdhu 10 yo has long been a widely available albeit slightly low-shelf malt whisky. That was hard to understand as I’ve tried several versions from the 1970s and 1980s and most have been superb (WF 88-90). Not to mention the fabulous 15 yo in its flat bottle! But let’s try the new 10 today, together with the most recent ‘older’ version that was, as far as I remember, much more ‘middle-of-the-road’ than most earlier bottlings.

Tamdhu 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-1995)

Tamdhu 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-1995) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a lovely mentholated and malty nose, I even get herbs such as rosemary and thyme. Quite some sage too, which is rare. Then we have more cider apples, apple skins, fresh almonds and walnuts and a wee plankish side that’s far from being unpleasant. Truly a lovely mentholated nose, much nicer than I remembered. After ten minutes: huge notes of peaches, wow! Mouth: peaches again, but also more indistinct flavours, some tea and bergamot (earl grey), maybe a little cardboard, oranges, a slight soapiness… It remains good but the wow factor is gone. Finish: a notch short, malty. Some grass in the aftertaste but the peaches haven’t gone away. Comments: not everything is perfect but this is a very fine dram, easy to find and quite cheap at auctions. SGP:441 - 85 points.

Tamdhu 10 yo (40%, OB, 2013)

Tamdhu 10 yo (40%, OB, 2013) Three stars and a half I quite like this art deco bottle and label, I have to say. Nice nostalgic look. Colour: gold. Nose: very different from the older 10. This is rounder and maltier at the same time, with a little ginger from the oak and then rather coffee, honey, curious hints of tequila, fudge and raisins. Maybe still a little ‘unmingled’ since this was bottled not a long time ago (new whiskies need a little rest in my opinion) but pleasure is here. A very easy nose. After ten minutes: serious, aged tequila! Mouth: starts a little heavy on the caramel and fudge, café latte, apple skins, grass and stout, but it’s good. Would rather go on with white pepper, even green peppercorns, cocoa and bitter oranges. The oak remains noticeable but again, this was just bottled a few weeks ago. Finish: medium length, with more grass and herbs, much drier than expected. A little curry, pepper, black tea… Sweet mustard and kirsch in the aftertaste. Comments: I believe this is a 100% sherry version, but it’s rather dry and leafy sherry Certainly good. SGP:361 - 83 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Tamdhu I've tasted so far

 

 

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July 24, 2013


Whiskyfun

Insane malternative tasting,
two mezcals with worms

(wish me luck!)

All fucking right (Serge!). The other day, I was browsing Master of Malt’s huge website and noticed that they had dozens and dozens of rums and tequilas available as samples. As knowing more about those spirits is part of my plans for the near future (modern whisky can be so depressing), I decided to dig deeper and came across two… aaargh, mezcals with worms! Indeed, worms inside the bottles, and one of them (the Monte Alban) even comes with a wee bottle full of them. No need to say that I immediately ordered one sample of each, and now’s the time to try them. Mind you, even in the little sample bottles, MoM have added one worm! Bah, you do need proteins when you’re getting older, don’t you…

La Penca (40%, OB, mezcal, +/-2013)

La Penca (36%, OB, mezcal, +/-2013) Four stars So this baby comes ‘con gusano’, which means ‘with worm’. Two of them, actually. It is distilled from salmaina (maguey agave) and then aged in white oak barrels. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh well oh well oh well… It reminds me a bit of some old eau-de-vie that you could find in Germany and that used to be matured with… ham. I have very vague memories… Anyway, this is smoky and very sooty, it does smell like charcoaled ham, maybe narguileh smoke, then olives, gherkins and capers. All that in brine of course. Strange stuff but I like it, we’re not far from the best Del Magueys. No fruitiness whatsoever so far.

Mouth: it’s good! Not powerful but there’s a great saltiness, these big notes of agaves (obviously) with this very specific sourness, plenty of olives both black and green, quite some lime and then notes of vegetables, or rather roots, between turnips and celeriac. And even notes of… choucroute! Well we say choucroute but you may say sauerkraut. Finish: good length but no further development, we’re on the same flavours. Maybe a fruitnes in the aftertaste? Pears? Comments: tasty stuff for sure, this is fun and the smokiness is impressive. I think I’ll buy a bottle! (and give the worms to my old cat). SGP:463 - around 85 points.

Monte Alban (40%, OB, mezcal, +/-2013)

Monte Alban (40%, OB, mezcal, +/-2013) Con gusano indeed, this is the one that comes ‘with a little bottle filled with a whole mess of worms, so never again will anyone feel left out at not getting to crunch down on a preserved larva’ according to the intrepid people at Master of Malt’s. Colour: white wine. Nose: much less aromas, this one is almost bland after the La Penca. There is gherkin (maybe), charcoal smoke (for sure), something like old vase water, a little incense, incense smoke… and that’s pretty all. Excuse me? No, I have no ideas how dead worms smell, do they smell of… incense? Mouth: waaah, this is much more difficult. First, it’s bizarrely oily and you cannot not imagine this is worm ‘stuff’. Then it’s got quite some cardboard and plastic and then mustard. Mustard mixed with lemon juice and vinegar. Right… Finish: and it’s long! Lemon-scented soap and litres of brine. Comments: it’s not nasty stuff and maybe mescal freaks do like this one, but I think I’ve gone beyond my personal limits, muchacho. And no I won’t crunch the worm, GEDDIT?! SGP:362 - around 60 points.

PS: I swear I haven't eaten the worm, I think I'll put it on eBay ;-).
PPS: a nice page if you'd like to read more about mezcal, tequila and such.

 

 

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July 23, 2013


Whiskyfun

Old independent Glenglassaugh

Now that the distillery’s been bought by the skilled Benriach/Glendronach folks, we should expect some novelties but let’s remember that Glenglassaugh’s been silent for many years, which means that the whiskies are either very old, or very young. A nice challenge to build bridges over time… Or simply wait? Let’s have some old ones in the meantime.

Glenglassaugh 33 yo 1979/2012 (44.2%, Signatory, Cask Strength, hogshead, cask #1548, 230 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 33 yo 1979/2012 (44.2%, Signatory, Cask Strength, hogshead, cask #1548, 230 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: nice start on fresh butter and apple peelings, with mineral touches to go with all that (wet gravel). It’s very grassy in fact, with more and more cut lawn, fern, leaves… Also linseed oil, graphite oil, almonds… It’s austere whisky but I enjoy this style. Noses much younger than it actually is, obvious refill hogshead. How many refills? Mouth: starts both slightly thin (because of the strength?) and interestingly oily and lemony. There’s a feeling of… basil and oregano but also some oils and nuts. Pretty unusual, especially since it tends to become more herbal and a wee-tad earthy. Chartreuse? Finish: quite long, with more lemon and more bitter almonds as well. The aftertaste remains herbal. Comments: maybe that wasn’t obvious from my notes, but I enjoyed this baby a lot. It needs time but it’s extremely rewarding. SGP:461 - 90 points.

Glenglassaugh 37 yo 1974 (48.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #21.28, 'Relaxing in a tropical garden', 188 bottles, +/-2012)

Glenglassaugh 37 yo 1974 (48.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #21.28, 'Relaxing in a tropical garden', 188 bottles, +/-2012) Four stars and a halfColour: deep gold. Nose: a lot happening in this one! We get the same grassy and mineral notes as in the 1979 but it’s all coated with fruitier and jammier touches. In other words, a fun mixture of orange liqueurs with cough syrup and olive oil. After ten minutes, we have more juicy raisins and, indeed, dates. Lovely nose, complex and movie-esque. Meaning it changes a lot, always for the better. The olive oil never stops growing and I love olive oil. Mouth: flipside, there’s a lot of oak. But a lot of oak can also mean more oils, herbs and spices and when it’s all balanced, well, it works. So yeah, we have sawdust and a glue-ish side, but the way it unfolds on citrus fruits and jams, dried fruits, bananas, coconut (wee touches) and pineapples is rather entrancing. And again, it just wouldn’t stop improving, even the oak gets tamed after one or two minutes, which is pretty miraculous. Finish: long, spicy and jammy. It’s only in the aftertaste that the heavy oak becomes a little embarrassing, that pat isn’t too enjoyable. You have to keep sipping away s that the aftertaste never happens. Err, that would be costly… Comments: I just couldn’t go to 90+ because of the heavy oak, but with maybe 10 or 20% less woodiness, this would be an utter winner in my book. Hope the excellent new owners will manage to deal with this kind of situation. SGP:572 - 89 points.

(with thanks to Marcel)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glenglassaugh I've tasted so far

 

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July 22, 2013


Whiskyfun

Easy old peat, two Caol Ila 1980 at 46% vol.

What can I say? These should be elegant, relatively smooth and very easy to quaff. 46% vol. is just so perfect… and the malt would never, ever disappoint! And it ages so well… And, and, and…

Caol Ila 30 yo 1980/2011 (46%,  Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #2570, 300 bottles)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1980/2011 (46%,  Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #2570, 300 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: hold on, are you sure this is Caol Ila? It’s more medicinal than Laphroaig, more coastal than Ardbeg and more tarry than Port Ellen! Having said that, it all remains smooth and easy, but it does remind me more of pre-extension Coal Ila, such as the late-1960s vintages. Just ask Gordon & MacPhail. At random, I also find anchovies, bandages, olive oil, pitch, coal, seafood (crabs from the sound of Islay?) and touches of camphor. No need to say that all this is just perfect. Mouth: perfect. Perfect balance, saltiness, lemon, fish, seashells, cough lozenges, kippers, salmiak, anchovies, urchins, oysters, clams… On second thought, maybe not clams. Perfect. Finish: good length, clean, complex, salty, coastal. No clams, not even in the aftertaste, which is tarrier. Comments: these 1980 Caol Ila are boringly excellent. Can we have a bad one please? SGP:456 - 91 points.

Caol Ila 1980/2013 'The Smokery' (46%, Wemyss Malts)

Caol Ila 1980/2013 'The Smokery' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 322 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: this is so different from the Mo Or! On the one hand, it’s cleaner, more mineral and peatier Caol Ila. On the other hand, it’s narrower and less complex. The colour is lighter but there is more oak influence, especially vanilla. More than sulphur, caramel or even free radicals ;-), excessive vanilla is the worst thing that can happen to malt whisky in my opinion. And believe me, some distillers are committing suicide these days, unknowingly. Trumpetting suicide! But rant over, that is not the case at all here, this is a beautiful old Caol Ila, just simpler and also smokier than its bro. Also wonderful notes of smoked salted almonds. Mouth: once again, this is a little simpler but on the other hand, the lemon is louder and lemon would just lift the crappiest spirit in my experience. So yeah, lemon, oysters and kippers, all that smoked to perfection. More brine after a moment, while the spirit looses a bit of steam… While getting earthier as well… Saltier as well… Finish: longer, very salty. Amazingly salty in fact, what happened? And there’s even a little chilli in the aftertaste, as well as much more smoke a d a feeling of lemonade. Comments: a fun old Caol Ila that started gentle and civilised and got wilder and wilder. The Expendables’ favourite? Oh crap… SGP:356 - 89 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Caol Ila I've tasted so far

Two independent Macallan

Let’s go on with our little pairs, this time it’s going to be two independent Macallan that were distilled in the 1990s. Especially Cooper’s Choice already had quite a few excellent Macallan…

Macallan 15 yo 1998/2013 (46%, The Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #9452, 345 bottles)

Macallan 15 yo 1998/2013 (46%, The Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #9452, 345 bottles) Four stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: lovely at first sniffs, it’s a big distillate with little sherry influence, if any. Not too sure because there is a wee raisiny side, with also walnuts, so this could be a sherry hogshead as well. Other than that, a lot of Ovaltine, fudge or millionaire shortbread and then totally massive notes of milk chocolate. A creamy one such as Lindt (I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t quote brand names, this is just lazy writing). Also a little menthol. It’s superb distillate and the one of the maltiest malts. Mouth: yes it’s an excellent one again, very malty again, chocolaty, with some fudge and cappuccino as well as caramel and sweet liquorice. Also candy sugar and then… even more chocolate. Marmalade. Finish: long, more on Seville oranges and vanilla. Oh, and chocolate. Slightly bitter and smoky aftertaste, very pleasant. Schweppes. Comments: very classy lightly – or un-sherried Macallan. Archetypical ‘malt whisky’. SGP:552 - 88 points.

Macallan 21 yo 1990/2011 (52.7%, Douglas Laing, Director's Cut, refill hogshead, DL Ref #7565, 267 bottles)

Macallan 21 yo 1990/2011 (52.7%, Douglas Laing, Director's Cut, refill hogshead, DL Ref #7565, 267 bottles) Two starsColour: white wine. Nose: much pleasant again but it’s having trouble after the 1998. This 1990 is curiously younger and harsher, with pears and apples everywhere as well as beer, leaven and dairy cream. Also limestone. With water: more rocks, limestone, whiffs of vase water and leatherette. Bizarre, bizarre, did you say bizarre? Mouth (neat): a little difficult, with a soapiness and rather heavy paraffin, then more bitter/waxy flavours and a prickliness. Gin fizz. A strange baby to say the least, very un-Macallan. With water: becomes bitter and extremely grassy. The exact opposite of the 1998. Finish: long, grassy, bitter. Ashy and sooty aftertaste, which isn’t un-nice. Comments: some parts are intriguing and interesting but the whole is challenging. I know those words kill but I couldn’t find better ones. Soundly beaten by the younger Cooper’s! SGP:371 - 76 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Macallan I've tasted so far

 

 

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July 20, 2013


Whiskyfun

Blasts from the past, two heavy Glenugie

Sob sob sob, there isn’t much Glenugie around anymore… Actually, there isn’t any if I’m not mistaken, so the only way we could do a little Glenugie session was by tasting older bottlings. Yes I do apologise! (No I don’t, you…) Anyway, Glenugie is one of the six Grands Crus in my book, together with Brora, Clynelish, Karuizawa, Lagavulin and Talisker.  Sadly, this may be one of the last Glenugie sessions we’ll ever do…

Glenugie 1978/1994 (57.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #99, 17.5cl)

Glenugie 1978/1994 (57.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #99, 17.5cl) Five stars Not too sure whether this baby was only bottled in a small bottle or not. It only says '99', which is Glenugie's number at the SMWS as you may know. Nah, only total Glenugie freaks know that… Colour: dark amber. Nose: oh hell, utter sherry! Even Quentin’s movies are weak when compared with this brutal beast that’s quite hard to nose. Walnut stain? A fistful of old cigars? A whole jabugo ham? Fresh paint? All sorts of raw wild mushrooms? Oil? Chocolate sauce? Indeed, a total beast that may really need water. It’s almost straight heavily fortified palo cortado. The only little flaw is that Glenugie’s magnificent distillate just wouldn’t make it through the brilliant yet heavy-ish sherry. With water: the spirit doesn’t seem to manage to make it any more through, but the sherry’s magnificent, so… Mouth (neat): is this legal? Pungent, harsh, extremely leafy, raw… and very powerful. I don’t think it works very well at this point, water is probably de rigueur. The spirit is completely dominated again. With water: ah yes, the spirit does come through despite the persisting leafy side. Mangos, papayas, guavas and such… Hello, Glenugie, that was about time! Finish: long, full, rich, with more menthol and camphor. The wood was loud as well. Comments: these whiskies do not exist these days, nobody makes them like this anymore. It’s totally un-commercial, I’d even say it’s got a few minor flaws (the wood’s becoming drying, the distillery’s character is hard to find and so on…) but what a ride! SGP:462 - 90 points.

Glenugie 32 yo 1977/2010 (58.6%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead/sherry butt #1, 670 bottles)

Glenugie 32 yo 1977/2010 (58.6%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead/sherry butt #1, 670 bottles) Four stars This one was finished for 90 months in oloroso, so it's more double maturation. Colour: full amber. Nose: we’re so much in line with the 1978, it’s frightening. The 15+ extra-years did not change much, this is just a little leafier and less chocolaty. The almondy, putty-like side is wonderful too. With water: hell, tobacco! Leaves! Thuja wood! Pu-erh tea! Fabulous nose if you’re into this style… Mouth (neat): oooooh… the SMWS is crushed when we’re talking unreduced spirit. Indeed, this baby’s stronger but it’s more complex, richer, more silky in a way… Stunning oranges and kumquats, bergamots, oily and mentholated things (I don’t know, like sauces, cordials, syrups…) It’s exactly fabulous whisky and I’m not even sure it needs water. Yup I know it was bottled at almost 60% vol. Yet, with water: oh no, it does not swim! The oak comes out and kills the rest, with a ‘cocoa powder effect’ that’s not too nice. Careful with water. Finish: very long, dry, mentholated. After Eights without the lethal amount of sugar. Comments: pfff, this baby is very hard to follow. Some parts were utterly brilliant while some others were kind of incoherent, for lack of a better term. And it hates water! SGP:471 - 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glenugie I've tasted so far

 

 

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July 19, 2013


Whiskyfun

Tasting two more Glen Scotia,
for the better or for the…

Another name that’s not uncommon at the indies’ these days, and that’s actually been ‘revived’ by them. Who will regret the old official 14 yo in its dumpy bottle?

Glen Scotia 1991/2013 'Salted Caramels' (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 279 bottles)

Glen Scotia 1991/2013 'Salted Caramels' (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 279 bottles) Four stars Picture is of last year's bottling. What, salted caramel? We come, we rush, we fly! Colour: gold. Nose: well it’s more mineral than ‘caramely’ at first nosing, and indeed quite salty (sea water). I know, salt does not smell strong. I also get rubber bands and a little hay but all that isn’t very aromatic. An austere nose, but at least it’s not feinty (some GS could be feinty in my book) and I have to say I like these whiffs of brine and seawater that never stop becoming louder. Let’s hope the caramel will be found on the palate… Mouth: well I’m no salted caramel expert, but I do not think this tastes like salted caramels. Or do our friend the Scots make a specific one? Instead, we have some peat, some black olives, some soft chilli, a saltiness indeed and then rather massive notes of salmiak – or salted liquorice. Do the Scots have caramel that tastes like liquorice? Finish: long, salty, liquoricy. There is, indeed, some toffee in the aftertaste. Comments: this is much to my liking, the spirit has a lot to tell us. I was joking about the caramel, there is some caramel but there’s even more liquorice. There. SGP:462 - 87 points.

Glen Scotia 20 yo 1992/2012 (50.6%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon hogshead)

Glen Scotia 20 yo 1992/2012 (50.6%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon hogshead) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: ho-ho-ho, this is a huge jar full of linseed oil, motor oil, almonds, paraffin and, above all, something that’s not very common in whisky, sesame oil. Or even smoked sesame oil. Very curious now… With water: it changes a lot, becoming very ashy and sooty. Very dry. Touches of moss and dead leaves. Very humussy (is that a proper word, S.?) Mouth (neat): g.e.n.t.i.a.n.!!! Earthy, peppery, rooty and slightly rubbery gentian! Let’s hold our horses, this is no easy whisky actually, some parts are lovely and oh-so-smoky-old-Highlands, but this harsh bitterness can be a little off-putting. With water: the jury’s still out, some parts are charmingly old-skool (the smokiness) but others are frankly difficult. Papery salt or salty paper? Finish: quite long, very briny now. Maybe there are even one or two slices of… gherkins? Comments: this is pretty extreme stuff, for aficionados only. Do not pour this to the housekeeper, or your life will change forever. And not for the better… But I love the gentiany side! SGP:362 - 82 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glen Scotia I've tasted so far

 
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July 18, 2013


Whiskyfun

Dark Storm and lighter twenty-five

Talisker is slowly becoming Diageo's most 'animated' malt name, while most other distilleries remain very quiet (some would say elegantly self-assured). This year alone, we see the third new NAS expression, namely Dark Storm, which may be to Storm what Double Black is to Johnnie Black. Or not...

Talisker 'Dark Storm' (45.8%, OB, travel retail exclusive, 2013)

Talisker 'Dark Storm' (45.8%, OB, travel retail exclusive, 2013) Four stars This one was matured in charred casks, which has been 'ensuring an inimitable spiciness and distinctive smoky character' according to a high-ranked exec. What, charred oak makes whisky smokier? Let's see... Colour: golden orange. Nose: raw, peaty, almost harsh, pungent, spirity, a little mentholated... Well, its maybe not a whisky for nosing, I wouldn't say it's overly aromatic. Maybe also a little more medicinal than others? Mouth: ah yes, now we're talking. It's probably very young but peat and vanilla combine well here and it's got good oomph and zing. At first it's a rather rounder and creamier expression of young Talisker but it kept the spicy and peaty signature (it's actually very peaty). Don't look for a lot of complexity but balance and character are there in abundance. Finish: good length, with a vanilla that's a little more in the front. A feeling of salted caramel. Comments: I think I like this new one almost as much as I liked Storm. Ah, and no need to spend a lot of time just nosing it! Definitely modern and both spirit and wood-driven. SGP:457 - 86 points.

Talisker 25 yo (45.8%, OB, refill casks, 5,946 bottles, 2011)

Talisker 25 yo (45.8%, OB, refill casks, 5,946 bottles, 2011) Five stars I think this was the first 25yo bottled at Talisker's usual lower strength instead of the previous 'high strength' levels. The last earlier version that we've tried was the 2008 at 54.2%, brilliant stuff (WF 91). Colour: full gold. Nose: a completely different planet after the Dark Storm, this is smoother of course, but also more complex, with some lilac, tangerines, roses, almonds, this very 'tropical' smokiness that only old peaters can display, beauty cream, brine, oysters... It's a lovely nose, delicate and subtle. Mouth: once again, a slightly smoother version of an old Talisker but power is there. It's no straight brute as older versions could be (remember the 62% vol? Or was that the 20yo?) but it's not lacking oomph. Smoked overripe apples and lemon curd plus brine and kippers. There. Finish: long, maybe a notch woodier, with this feeling of strong green tea but also a perfect brine. Little pepper this time. Comments: I know some whisky lovers and Talisker aficionados were shocked by the drop in strength and in theory, I should be shocked too, but let's be honest, this remains a mightily powerful dram. SGP:457 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Talisker I've tasted so far

 

 

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July 17, 2013


Whiskyfun

Two smashing Miltonduff.
There’s always hope in life.

I have to admit I haven’t got much to say about Miltonduff. It used to be a big name in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s, probably because of some skilled salespersons, but then it seems that the owners stopped pushing it.

Miltonduff 30 yo 1980/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #12431, 321 bottles)

Miltonduff 30 yo 1980/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #12431, 321 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: I think 30 years old is the perfect age for malt whisky matured in not-too-lazy-not-too-active oak, and this is another fine example. I think Samaroli had similar casks, this is very complex, slightly shy and very elegant whisky. So we have dozens of herbal teas, rather on the anise-y side (caraway, aniseed, fennel and such), also lime and orange blossom, then more almond oil, olive oil and argan oil (I swear to sweet Vishnu). I also enjoy this growing leafy/grassy side, making it resemble an old Habanero. Old Lusitania, anyone? What a nose! Mouth: superb! Almost a revelation, with a perfect combination of spicy, herbal and fruity notes. Ultra-complex whisky, so totally un-modern, without what may kill malt whisky in the coming decades: excessive vanilla. My opinion… Finish: long, perfect, with just the right amount of everything. Sucking a cigar that was dipped into honey (ma que horror!) Only the aftertaste is a notch too dry and bitter. Comments: it’s confirmed, there are/were absolute gems in this Mo Or series! Sheer class at a perfect drinking strength. SGP:462 - 91 points.

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 22 yo 1990/2012 (56.7%, Cadenhead, wine cask, Claret)

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 22 yo 1990/2012 (56.7%, Cadenhead, wine cask, Claret) Five stars Claret is the name that the Britons used to use for Bordeaux, so I guess this is from a Bordeaux cask. Colour: gold. Nose: what is this? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy this quite a lot, but it’s unusual. Campari-Orange? Bellini cocktail? Blood oranges? Pink grapefruits? Indeed we’re not quite in classic malt territories but I have to say it’s all very much to my liking so far (says the guy who looks for his gun as soon as he sees red wine in whisky). Bah, the colour wasn’t pink anyway ;-)… With water: more of the same, which is great news. Maybe did the Campari-ish side get even louder? Mouth (neat): I love to be proven wrong as far as whisky’s concerned, and indeed this is a wine cask that worked perfectly well. Did they use 1945 Lafite? 1986 Mouton? Perfect Seville oranges blended with ginger and red berries. Indeed, works extremely well. With water: oh! Water (my usual Vittel) made it extremely thick and syrupy, in a good way. Is that the probable French oak? Gingered maple syrup plus blood oranges and pepper. Finish: very long, spicier but still balanced. Comments: I hereby solemnly declare that this baby was my favourite red-wine-Scotch ever, whether full-matured or just aromatised/finished. Now, am I really sound in body and mind? SGP:562 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Miltonduff I've tasted so far

 
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July 16, 2013


Whiskyfun

Two unusual Clynelish

I can only have two Clynelishes today… But we’ll have more in few days, don’t worry. Including a very, and I man very special one.

Clynelish 24 yo 1988/2013 (48.8%, Alexander, SwissLink 4, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #4550)

Clynelish 24 yo 1988/2013 (48.8%, Alexander, SwissLink 4, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #4550) Three stars and a half After the 1970s, the 1980s are becoming rare. I’ve just checked that this is the first time I try a 1988! Colour: white wine. Nose: sometimes Clynelish can be a little closed at first, and that’s what happens here. That’s why some malt lovers have sometimes problems with Clynelish, they don’t give them enough time in my opinion. Anyway, this baby starts mineral and grassy, with only touches of earth/roots and a little pear in the background; Let’s let it breathe a bit… …. …. (after fifteen minutes) right, there is a little more wax and bergamot, as well as some fresh mint and eucalyptus leaves, but it remains kind of shy and restrained. Mouth: ah yes, now we’re talking. Grapefruits and orange zests, light kumquats (well, kumquats), bitter pears, cider apples… But almost no wax. Finish: good length, even more on apples. Comments: I enjoyed this one but maybe it’s a little narrow. SGP:441 - 84 points.

Clynelish 16 yo 1996/2013 (53.3%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry cask)

Clynelish 16 yo 1996/2013 (53.3%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry cask) Four stars In theory, we should have had this one before the Swiss, but as the strength is higher, I thought we’d have it as #2. Let’s see if that was a mistake… Colour: dark gold. Nose: what is this? One of the most un-Clynelish Clynelishes I could nose, with a dry sherry that’s rather dominating. Then earth, parsley, soy sauce, struck matches, metal (mum’s old aluminium pans) and gentian eau-de-vie. Little Clynelishness, even after ten minutes or more. Maybe water is the key… With water: becomes gamy, with even more matches. Or brown coal? Cigars? Tarmac? Soy sauce and chicken soup? Mouth (neat): intriguing, the combination of a leafy sherry with the big spirit that’s Clynelish is almost creating a third dimension, between oxtail soup and walnut wine. Some sweet mustard too, or some kind of yet-unknown Outer-Mongolian sauce to go with yak meat? Whaf! Pepper. With water: ah, becomes disappointingly normal now. I’m joking, this is much better. It’s even a little briny. Manzanilla (I’m thinking of Lustau’s Papirusa). Finish: long, salty, dry, even more ‘manzanilla’. Comments: maybe one for malt lovers who’ve already got two or four Clynelishes in their stash, as this one’s quite atypical. But it tells you many stories… SGP:352 - 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Clynelish I've tasted so far

 

 

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July 15, 2013


Whiskyfun

Tasting two 1995 Glenrothes

These babies should be quite different despite an identical vintage. Shall we find honey and nuts?...

Glenrothes 1995/2011 (43%, OB)

Glenrothes 1995/2011 (43%, OB) Three stars and a half There was a 1995/2010 that was very pleasant (WF 83). Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh yeah, honey and roasted nuts all over the place, as well as a lot of malt, rather Ovaltine-style. Add to that notes of tarte tatin, caramel and warm praline and you’ll get a rather accurate picture. Very typical middle-aged Glenrothes. Also touches of walnuts and sweet wine coming through later. Dried figs. Mouth: a little narrower but pleasantly malty and fudge-y, with also some chocolate, raisins, honey sauce and orange cake. It’s a smooth and easy tipple, with good body but of course it’s no big beast. Nice touches of grass and green tea as well. Finish: of medium length, honeyed, with roasted peanuts and maybe pecans. Nope, no cashews this time – but maybe Macadamia nuts? Orange marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: good and easy, very ‘medium’, whatever that means. The definition of malt whisky, in a way. I like it. SGP:441 - 84 points.

Glenrothes 17 yo 1995/2013 (46%, Signatory Vintage, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #6972, 761 bottles)

Glenrothes 17 yo 1995/2013 (46%, Signatory Vintage, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #6972, 761 bottles) Four stars A pretty great sister cask was bottled for Waldhaus am See in Switzerland in 2012. Colour: amber. Nose: this is funny, this is a single cask by a well-reputed indie and the whisky’s the same as the official. That very rarely happens in my experience. After a few minutes, maybe this one’s got added touches of shoe polish and a little gunpowder, as well as a little cough mixture… Very nice nose, quite complex and somewhat old-style. Mouth: once again, it’s the OB with a little more oomph, gunpowder, wax and menthol. And liquorice. If the OB was going to ten, this one goes to eleven, Nigel. Finish: good, long, malty, honeyed, roasted and cake-y. A pleasant earthiness in the aftertaste. Sweet malt. Comments: all good. These bottlings often go unnoticed, especially since the excellent bottlers are much quieter than others (who have more friends on facebook than bottles ;-)). A bottling that’s much to my liking again. SGP:551 - 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glenrothes I've tasted so far

 
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July 2013 - part 1 <--- July 2013 - part 2 ---> August 2013 - part 1


 

 

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphab

Ardbeg 'Batch 4' (52.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 427 bottles)

Bowmore 1968/1977 (59.7%, OB, Feschio & Frassa, sherry cask, cask #222)

Bowmore 11 yo 2001/2012 (46.9%, Sansibar, 263 bottles)

Bowmore 21 yo 1989/2011 (46%, Silver Seal)

Bowmore 21 yo 1990/2012 (50.4%, Douglas Laing for Helmsdale Tokyo, Christmas Edition, barrel, 244 bottles)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1980/2011 (46%,  Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #2570, 300 bottles)

Clynelish 12 yo (70° proof, OB, spring cap, no neck label, Ainslie's capsule, +/-1960?)

Glen Brora (40%, Carradale Blending Co, blend, +/-1970)

Glenfarclas 1953/2013 'Auld Alliance' (43.9%, OB, Spanish sherry butt, cask #1682, 125 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 33 yo 1979/2012 (44.2%, Signatory, Cask Strength, hogshead, cask #1548, 230 bottles)

Glenugie 1978/1994 (57.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #99, 17.5cl)

Highland Park 15 yo (46%, Cadenhead for Wilson & Morgan, +/-1992)

Highland Park 25 yo 1988/2013 (55.7%, Cadenhead, small batch, sherry butts, 1086 bottles)

Highland Park 40 yo (40%, OB, ceramic, 1970s)

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 22 yo 1990/2012 (56.7%, Cadenhead, wine cask, Claret)

Miltonduff 30 yo 1980/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #12431, 321 bottles)

Talisker 25 yo (45.8%, OB, refill casks, 5,946 bottles, 2011)