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Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2020 - Part 1

       

June 2020 - part 2 <--- July 2020 - part 1 ---> July 2020 - part 2

 

July 14, 2020


Whiskyfun

Fight

Ultimate duos and wee fights, today Dufftown

 

We’re going on with our exploration of the new Prima & Ultima series by Diageo. Flora & Fauna would have been more ‘post-Covid’ and surely less trumpeting as the name of the series, but apparently, it’s taken. Ha. So today, Dufftown as one of those Singletons I’ve never quite understood since when it was Singleton of Auchroisk, in the old days. But I’m sure that’s me, and that the strategies were extremely smart… Anyway let’s have a young light one as the sparring-partner…

The friendly sparring-partner:

Dufftown 2008/2017 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead)

Dufftown 2008/2017 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead) Two stars and a half
This was still the older, humbler livery. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s this grassy, doughy and sooty style. Rust, old tools, mown lawn, sawdust, sourdough, carbon paper, saltpetre, new magazine… In short, it’s a rather austere nose. Mouth: sweeter at first, with some kinds of peppered sweets like they have in Mexico (unless I’m wrong, I once got Mexican lollipops that had been very peppery), then grass, barley wine, cinnamon mints, more pepper and something reminiscent of charcoal. Gets then breadier and bitterer, with also notes of Fanta (mild retching here – that’s not the whisky it’s the idea of Fanta). Finish: rather long, inky, grassy, not easy. Orange peel and soot. Comments: not quite my cup of malt I have to say, but I know this style has got some aficionados.
SGP:361 - 77 points.

The Prima & Ultima:

The Singleton of Dufftown 30 yo 1988/2019 (48.8%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak, 469 bottles) Four stars and a half
What does make this one stand out? Well, it was distilled just after they had decided to do longer fermentations at Dufftown and it is part of the very first hogsheads they had filled after that change in the wash. Basically, Dufftown became fruitier and grassier in 1988. Colour: straw. The wonders of proper refill! Nose: I find it a little tropical at first, with a layer of coconut and avocado juice, then rather herbal and aromatic, with quite some verbena, elderflowers and sweet woodruff or Waldmeister syrup.  Also tiny touches of caraway and aniseed, as well as this apple liqueur they make in Spain and which they call, naturally, manzana. Mouth: more or less the same flavours, plus more pepper. I for one am a sucker for anything herbal like this, chartreuse plants, absinth, Verveine, fennel, dill… While all that transforms into green fruits, rhubarb tarte, preserved greengages, gooseberries, apples… It’s very nicely fresh and refreshing, just a wee tad thin here and there, but I believe that’s part of the style. Finish: medium, fresh, with herbal teas, a little liquorice, aniseed, fennel seeds, and an oak that got a tad mentholy, which goes well in this context. A little white chocolate and coconut oil in the aftertaste. Comments: lovely and kind of light, perhaps an afternoon malt? I find it excellent, it could easily replace that ‘cup of tea’ that recently went entirely out of fashion in continental Europe.
SGP:461 - 89 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Dufftown we've tasted so far

 

July 13, 2020


Whiskyfun

Fight

Ultimate duos and wee fights, today Lagavulin

 

It is Lagavulin’s turn, with an old but not-too-old 28 years old that’s pretty appealing. But let’s try to give it a hard time, with that 25 years old that came out for the Bicentenary of the Distillery as the sparring partner. First time we’re writing proper official notes from a proper bottling, mind you…

The friendly sparring-partner:

Lagavulin 25 yo (51.7%, OB, 200th Anniversary, sherry casks, 8,000 bottles, 2016)

Lagavulin 25 yo (51.7%, OB, 200th Anniversary, sherry casks, 8,000 bottles, 2016) Five stars
We had tried a production sample just as it was coming out, but this is the real deal. I mean, a real bottle from a real shop’s shelves. No, not dramazon.con. Colour: dark amber. Nose: are we not too tough with the new one? I mean, this is brilliant, Lagavulin and sherry in unison, without a single off-note, with this feeling of old embrocations that work so well. It really was a medicinal Lagavulin that was walking on its neighbours’ beds if you ask me. Then come tobacco, old pu-her tea, cigars, engine oil, chocolate, Spanish ham, wood and charcoal smoke…  With water: bang, menthol and dunnage and soot, old cigars, bandages… Mouth (neat): what a glorious, albeit monstrous drop it is! Huge very bitter marmalade, then cigars and leather, salt and peppery oloroso… It’s pretty rough actually. I remember water used to work pretty well though… With water: you may laugh or not, but it reminds me of the first Distiller’s Edition, yes that 1979 that went to prove that not all finishings were just silly j**k. Marmalade, roasted chestnuts, coffee, bitter chocolate, wood spices… Finish: long and just perfect. Ristretto with a drop of limoncello (could we do that or would our Italian friends just hang us – or worse, make us drink 10€-grappa?) Notes of prune too. Comments: a wee tad rougher than the age was suggesting, but we’re nit-picking again and in my humble book, this is well worth a big fat…
SGP:467 - 92 points.

Good, I think we’re warm now…

The Prima & Ultima:

Lagavulin 28 yo 1991/2019 (50.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak cask, 1013 bottles)

Lagavulin 28 yo 1991/2019 (50.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak cask, 1013 bottles) Five stars
Got to love refill American oak! This is the one where they decided to preserve ‘that pure Lagavulin spirit with minimal cask influence’. Clap clap clap clap clap clap clap. This is not a single cask this time, and I suppose, although they wouldn’t tell but we’ll soon find out as we’ll have a chat with Dr. Jim, that the casks had first been ‘polished out’ with grain whisky. As they should all do (but then NAS is dead, no?) Let us proceed… Colour: straw. Nose: ite missa est, this is the way. We know that each and every time we find a good young ex-virgin, recoopered or STR cask, we buy it (so to speak). And yet, nothing can beat the glory of proper refill when your distillate’s as pristine as Lagavulin (says this guy who just loved a full-sherry version) and when ageing is long enough. So, chalk, petrol, lemon, green apples, clay, paraffin, peppermint, kippers, whelks (ciao guys), seaweed, bamboo shoots, lemongrass (huge), tequila (not making this up), bandages… I think we’re convinced. With water: aniseed! Absinth! And all the rest that was already there. Mouth (neat): is it really needed that I write what I think? It’s a little simple, actually, even narrow, almost needy if you like, but it’s got this kind of high-precision mechanism that’s just implacable. Smoke, chalk, oil, salt, wax, lemon, agave, oysters. I’m reminded of Old Clynelish, which, granted, was fatter and waxier yet. With just a drop of water: no real changes. More putty perhaps, as often. Finish: extremely long, and that would be the oils I believe. Comments: don’t get me started. Now these casks could easily make it to 50. As they say, we can’t wait.
SGP:457 - 93 points.

All hail Lagavulin!

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Lagavulin we've tasted so far

 

July 12, 2020


Whiskyfun

More cognac for Maniacs

Do you hear the category growing within ‘educated circles’? All they would need is less 40%  – although wine brandy stands low strengths a little better than whisky if you ask me – and less obscuration, including boisé and caramel. And more leaders, organisation, understanding that communication now works in more global manners, and probably less rappers. No, inventing yet another new cocktail may not be the way. Anyway, not my business, let’s see what we have…

Merlet ‘VSOP Brothers Blend’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018)

Merlet ‘VSOP Brothers Blend’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018) Three stars
Apparently, it is one of those ‘new generation’ Cognacs that sometimes try to emulate malt whisky. Now I fondly remember the Merlet ‘Assemblage N°2’ that came out four or five years ago (WF 90). Colour: full gold. Nose: great house, Merlet. This is not whisky-y at all, it’s just a perfect, fresh and vibrantly fruity and complex Cognac, with hints of sémillon, preserved peaches, ultra-ripe Provence melons, gorse, sultanas, and ‘a pack of Camels’. Well, I imagine, haven’t nosed any pack of Camels since around 1985. Touches of liquorice, incense and tar too, a very faint rancio, perhaps. In fact, this nose is perfect, there. Mouth: this is where the 40% feel, what a waste of great Cognac! Not that it’s weak mind you, but after a very nice honeyed and peachy arrival, it tends to fall flat and to get too dry and even cardboardy. What a shame! Finish: short, with a tarry side. Comments: do not do this to me! I would almost feel the need to redistill this, fill a wee cask… And see you around 2030. Because I thought the nose was rather stunning.
SGP:651 - 80 points.

Drouet ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2018)

Drouet ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2018) Two stars and a half
Some own-estate Cognac from Salles-d'Angles. The house has got a very good reputation I have to say. Colour: full gold. Nose: just as lovely, a touch less aromatic and floral, and a notch more on citrus, blood oranges, a little toasted oak, hints of camphor and eucalyptus, orange blossom… So a slightly more classic style. Mouth: a little more oomph this time, but the disease stroke again, it’s soon to get too drying because of the low voltage. Look, it’s fine that large brand VOSPs would be weak, because spirit lovers wouldn’t touch them anyway, but to reduce this quality below 43% - okay, 42 - is not a good idea anymore, frankly. Peaches, honey, biscuits, black tea. Finish: short, drying. Comments: okay, I know that street drinkers tend to be afraid of higher strengths, but couldn’t they do two versions of the same cuvées? Like when the Scots would have had 70° proof and 100° proof?
SGP:551 - 79 points.

But we’ll try again…

Couprie ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2018)

Couprie ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
This is a little estate in Ambleville, in the family since 1780. Now it’s always a little scary when a maker would advertise his VSOP as a possible ‘apéritif, served on ice, as a long drink or in a cocktail’. But that kind of speak remains harmless, does it not. Colour: dark gold. Nose: the gentler, the less emphatic, the one that’s most on caramel and fudge, perhaps, honey, cake, raisins, a little cedarwood… Good quality, but nowhere near the Merlet and the Drouet as far as noses are concerned. Mouth: hey hey, it’s the Tortoise and the Hare! This time there are more decibels, more fruits, resins, darker honeys, jams, liquorice and raisins, prune jam (ever tried that?) And it wouldn’t even lose any steam after one long minute. I suppose only the finish will be shorter and thinner. Finish: indeed. Honey, cinnamon, mirabelle and apricots jams…  Comments: the others were clearly superior as far as aromas were concerned, but the fact that this little Couprie has more oomph lets it overtake them. Indeed, the tortoise rather than the hare.
SGP:551 - 83 points.

Good, let’s change gear…

Vallein Tercinier 53 yo 1967/2020 (47%, OB, Grande Champagne, selected by Wu Dram Clan)

Vallein Tercinier 53 yo 1967/2020 (47%, OB, Grande Champagne, selected by Wu Dram Clan) Five stars
Seriously, are you allowed to say ‘dram’ when talking about Cognac, good friends? Or ‘clan’? Now I suppose ‘wu’ is fine. Seriously, not much to add about Vallein Tercinier, undisputedly amongst the kings and queens of French malternatives., together with a handful of other houses. So, a 1967, why am I thinking of Jimi Hendrix?... Colour: bright amber. Nose: fruits being stewed in an old kitchen around nine, on a Sunday morning. Apricots, peaches, apples, mirabelles, some lime honey and a few cinnamon and vanilla sticks. I wouldn’t say there’s much more, and it isn’t extremely complex, but focus is perfect and focus is all-important. Mouth: ah old cognac and old woods, that’s a whole story. In this case, let’s be honest, the spirit is almost integrally wood-driven, but it seems that transition went smoothly, and that wood oils have kept it fresh and, above everything else, balanced. Nutshell: Assam tea, bitter chocolate, cinnamon, roasted pecans and almonds, cigars and menthol. The thing is, a few pretty reckless fruits keep fighting the battle in the background, Alamo-style. Especially peaches, that’s excellent. Finish: long and tarrier, more chocolaty and more mentholy. One of the best possible conclusions when a spirit is this old. Comments: a serious case of a pretty oaky spirit that isn’t too oaky at all, I would say. Sweet Vishnu, why don’t we do half points (and wear a Panama hat?) We would have gone for 90.5, but since this is Sunday...
SGP:571 - 91 points.

Cognac Sponge ‘Héritage N.45’ (50.5%, Grosperrin for The Sponge, Fins Bois, 120 bottles, 2020)

Cognac Sponge ‘Héritage N.45’ (50.5%, Grosperrin for The Sponge, Fins Bois, 120 bottles, 2020) Five stars
Apparently, the despicably spongy entity that’s known only too well within whisky circles has gone to Grosperrin’s at night and managed to steal two or three demi-johns (or was it a cask?) while the Dobermans were right in the middle of their digestion nap. Tsk-tsk-tsk. But since we have no morals whatsoever, we will try this little Fins Bois. Remember there are also Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires, so “Fins Bois” are the best of the “Bois” – are you following me? Now fin means fine, which has nothing to do with fine, which is distilled wine, as is Cognac in all cases. I feel that I’m losing you, let’s rather try this liberatory little 1945… Colour: amber. Nose: yes of course. Menthol, pine resin, stewed peaches, heather honey, angelica, perhaps lady’s mantle, a touch of coconut… we’re approaching old malt whisky territory here. Love it. With water: bingo, lovage, parsley, sage, thyme, parsnips, pesto, fir honeydew, heather honey… I know you could think it doesn’t need water since the strength is pretty ‘civilised’, but it does adore H2O in small quantities. Mouth (neat): mind you this is 75 yo and that feels, but the oak’s quite different from that in the 1967, with rather more cinnamon and black tea. Having said that not all fruits are gone, while it’s rather oranges that are running the show. What I really love here is the rootiness in the back, you could almost swear there is some gentian. With water (just one drop): this is where it should nosedive… Well, it’s got the spirit of contradiction, as more fresh fruits are popping out, especially oranges. Finish: medium, with a surprising freshness. The aftertaste is oakier again, but that was to be expected. Comments: first time I’m tasting a spirit under the threat of an automatic pistol. I’ll tell you what I really think another time…
SGP:561 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Cognacs we've tasted so far

 

July 11, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Mixed pairs again
Back to my trusty method of diminishing the sample library: two at a time.

 

Glengoyne 17 yo Batch 1 (49.1%, The Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1204 bottles)

Glengoyne 17 yo Batch 1 (49.1%, The Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1204 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: Hello! As Mr. Paterson would say. There’s a definite sherry component in the mix here which comes through initially as marmalade on brown toast, some damp earthiness, hessian and darjeeling tea with a slice of lemon. Very elegant and attractive I have to say, there’s an easiness about it which is highly charming. Mouth: stewed fruits, cupboard spices, gingerbread, a wee spoonful of chili oil and a pleasingly silky mouthfeel. Some grated nutmeg, sultanas and a wee metallic, coppery touch. Almonds and walnuts too. Finish: long, leathery, getting a tad meatier and still plenty of squidgy dark fruits and some olive oil. Comments: bush, bash, bosh! Direct, straightforward, clean and highly satisfying sherried Glengoyne captured at a perfect age. Great selection and very easy to guzzle no doubt.
SGP: 561 - 87 points.

 

 

Glengoyne 13 yo 2005/2019 (57.9%, Archives ‘The Fishes of Samoa’, cask #1938, hogshead, 248 bottles)

Glengoyne 13 yo 2005/2019 (57.9%, Archives ‘The Fishes of Samoa’, cask #1938, hogshead, 248 bottles)
Look, all I’m saying, is that the people of Samoa must have no shortage of Omega 3 in their diets. Colour: pale straw. Nose: pure and very natural but with a kind of bubbly fruitiness underneath, touching on juicy fruit chewing gum, various crisp orchard fruits (apples, pears, gooseberry etc.) and some gentler notes of cereals, vanilla cream and butter biscuit. With water: gets a little crisper and drier now, more towards plain and pure cereals, water biscuits, buttered crackers and oatcakes. A notch grassier too. Mouth: elegantly textural on arrival and with abundant natural, barley derived sweetness. Barley sugars, lemon barley water, lemon icing and some fruit salad juices. With water: greenery, vase water, fabrics, soda bread, icing sugar, very light spearmint notes and sunflower oil. Indeed, the whole thing feels rather ‘sunny’. Finish: good length with lots of grassy, cereal and bitter lemon notes. Some fresh fabrics, chalk and butter. Comments: Hard to find fault with this extremely natural, modern and fresh wee Glengoyne. It’s not a style of whisky I tend to drink a lot of to be honest, but there’s much pleasure to be had here.
SGP: 551 - 85 points.

 

 

Glentauchers 22 yo 1997/2019 (46.6%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #4163, bourbon barrel, 125 bottles)

Glentauchers 22 yo 1997/2019 (46.6%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #4163, bourbon barrel, 125 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: this wonderfully expressive and rather syrupy green fruitiness that these kinds of Speysidey makes seem to develop after sufficient years. Add to that little hessian cloth, soft wax, mineral oils, dried banana chips and wee slug of orange juice and you have a very attractive, light and balanced nose. Mouth: a wonderful creaminess upon arrival, baked apples, custard, white pepper, heather honey and more of these soft wax and canvass characteristics. Putty, linen and hints of various cooking oils. Feels like it was captured at the perfect age. Finish: long, slightly minty, honeyed, heathery and showing some dried flowers and more green fruitiness. Comments: Just great, mature, satisfyingly balanced, elegant and easy malt whisky. It feels like the cask provided a wonderful ‘background’ sweetness here that feels beautifully integrated. Absolute tumbler juice!
SGP: 651 - 90 points.

 

 

Glentauchers 21 yo 1997/2019 (54.5%, The Whisky Exchange ‘Single Casks’, cask #402, bourbon barrel, 182 bottles)

Glentauchers 21 yo 1997/2019 (54.5%, The Whisky Exchange ‘Single Casks’, cask #402, bourbon barrel, 182 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: what’s fun is that this is quite different, almost fresher with more clear-cut grassiness, green apple gooseberry and overall a brighter and more crisp cereal profile. Buttery toast, underripe pears, even a wee wink of guava. More playful but very attractive still. With water: softer, easier and with a more ‘fleshy’ fruit profile. Quite a bit of melon and even a little pomegranate. Still this nice buttery cereal aspect too. Mouth: feels younger and juicier than the Signatory. Focusing on fruit cordials, juicy fruit chewing gum, tinned fruit syrups and wee touches of lemongrass, herbal teas and sourdough bread. With water: whereas dilution on the nose brought fruit, here it rather narrows things towards the cereals. Very pure and rather keen-edged now. Totally natural barley eau de vie territory. A little more peppery and sinewed too. Finish: long, very barley-dominated, some lemon peel, fabrics, breakfast cereals dusted with icing sugar and some water crackers. Comments: It’s quite cool that they would do these two 97 Glentauchers sort of simultaneously as they’re both quite distinct from each other. This one is a few notches fresher and more dominated by its base ingredients, but on balance I think I prefer the Signatory cask as there’s a general cohesiveness about it that is more to my taste, but that’s probably a very personal thing. You couldn’t go wrong with either.
SGP: 561 - 88 points.

 

 

Strathisla 28 yo 1977/2005 (49.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #58.8)

Strathisla 28 yo 1977/2005 (49.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #58.8)
Colour: straw. Nose: very particular to these kind of wilderness years that most Speyside distillates went through between being fruit/honey bombs until around 1974 and until they became grass juice around 1982. Which is to say milk bottle sweets dusted with cornflour, breakfast cereals with a drizzle of runny honey, pollens, malt extract and heather flowers. All very simple, attractive and easy. Feels like classical malt whisky in many ways - and how could we be against such things here on WF! Mouth: sweet barley, slightly lactic and milky again - but in a nice way, condensed milk, peach yoghurt etc. - then lemon barley water and some grassy and ferny notes. Wee hints of melon and pistachio. Rather funny in many ways. Finish: a tad short but pleasingly juicy on plain barley, toast, cereals, icing sugar. Comments: Wilderness years indeed, it’s a far cry from the embarrassing fruit bombs Strathisla was churning out a decade earlier, but it’s not without its easy charms.
SGP: 531 - 83 points.

 

 

Strathisla 40 yo ‘Astral Hits’ 1967/2008 (47.2%, The Nectar ‘Daily Dram’, 132 bottles)

Strathisla 40 yo ‘Astral Hits’ 1967/2008 (47.2%, The Nectar ‘Daily Dram’, 132 bottles)
While we’re talking about the previous decade… Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, a beehive! It’s one of these rather sappy ones, lots of pine resin, camphor, herbal ointments, honeycomb, furniture polish and green tea with lemon. Wonderfully expressive and elegant, the kind of aroma structure which only time can manifest. Quite a bit of incense, pot pourri, cheng pi, liquorice and bunches of dried herbs. Beautiful. Mouth: doubles down on honeys, sandalwood, dried mint, heather ales, dried wildflowers and more dried herbs. Rather towards medical-tinged things like wormwood, wintergreen and dried lime peel. Not as expressive as on the nose, but that’s probably to be expected with such age. Lemon curd, some softer cereal touches and a nicely floral waxiness. Finish: medium, rather oily, waxy and minty with camphor, putty and crystalised lemon. Comments: Hard to believe now, but there was that window of about 10 years where these kinds of long aged Speysiders were being issued ubiquitously by most indy bottlers. Anyway, preferred the nose here - as is often the case - but this is still a rather textbook and deliciously elegant old Strathisla.
SGP: 651 - 90 points.

 

 

Glendronach 8 yo (45.4%, OB for Italy ‘Ruffino import’, early 1970s)

Glendronach 8 yo (45.4%, OB for Italy ‘Ruffino import’, early 1970s)
I’ve never been sure how many ‘batches’ of this existed. But it seems that the distillery issued many variations in the short decade or so it was using this bottle. There’s vintage version from the early 60s, 40%, 43%, 70 proof, 80 proof and this version for Italy at 45.4%, which is a little more common I think. I’ve recorded notes for various examples over the years and I don’t think I’ve ever found a batch that was disappointing. Colour: gold. Nose: yup! A rather typical and exquisite mix of exotic fruits, mango, passion fruit, guava, cannabis resin, lychee, fruit salad juices pooled at the bottom of the bowl and a rather dense waxiness. If you want to understand what I mean when I say ‘old style malt whisky’, you should make an effort to try one of these old dumpy Glendronachs. Mouth: very greasy and fat. With this almost brusque mineral quality and something like a sweaty waxiness. Grass, mechanical oils, soot, putty, sheep wool, metal polish - raw, cluttered and pretty brilliant. Just pure charisma in many ways. There’s a nice natural sweetness too that feels rather barleyish. Finish: long, fruity, mineral, waxy, camphor, hessian and loads of olive oil. Comments: Pretty exemplary of this era and style of Glendronach. You just cannot try this and not start to notice gaping holes in the contemporary whisky flavour map.
SGP: 562 - 91 points.

 

 

Glendronach 20 yo 1994/2014 (59.1%, OB for Taiwan, cask #30, oloroso sherry butt, 609 bottles)

Glendronach 20 yo 1994/2014 (59.1%, OB for Taiwan, cask #30, oloroso sherry butt, 609 bottles)
It’s been a while since I tried one of these sherried beasts from Glendronach. Colour: reddish coffee. Nose: pretty typical with this rather immense and deep earthiness with freshly ground coffee, toasted walnuts, prunes in syrup, graphite oil, pipe tobacco and old leather. Meaty, earthy and very punchy. A little time and it evolves some more easy notes of strawberries, soy sauce and cassis. Some more dark stewed fruits too and these walnut notes become more like walnut wine or liqueur. With water: evolves beautifully with water, terrifically silky and well-integrated rancio, treacle, walnut wine, soy sauce, balsamic and miso. Some softer notes of herbal teas and mushrooms in the background. Mouth: terrific texture on arrival. Really like some sort of balsamic glaze mixed with walnut cordial and herbal liqueur. Some black pepper, cocktail bitters, herbal throat sweets and cough medicine. Remarkably syrupy and textural in the mouth. Game sausage, paprika, ink, natural tar and redcurrant jelly. With water: maraschino juices, grenadine, orange bitters, green walnut liqueur, Irish coffee and more cured meats and gamey notes. Still deeply earthy but easier and more open now. Finish: long, wonderfully peppery, damply earthy with many tobaccos, walnuts, rancio and more slightly saline soy sauce aspects. Comments: I had it around 86 / 87 when neat but this one was really propelled into the rafters with a little water. Unlike many of the casks in this series, this one displayed a level of integration and complexity and an evolution that was just a bit more compelling and classy and not quite so brutal as some of its sibling casks can often be.
SGP: 462 - 90 points. 

 

 

Inchgower 11 yo 2007/2019 (56.6%, Whisky Druid, cask #803604, 1st fill ruby port quarter cask, 138 bottles)

Inchgower 11 yo 2007/2019 (56.6%, Whisky Druid, cask #803604, 1st fill ruby port quarter cask, 138 bottles)
I have to say, I’m more than a little scared by this cask description… Colour: deep rosé wine. Nose: strawberry jam, raspberry jam, recurrent cordial and any other red, juicy, jammy notes you care to mention. Now, I should say, these are all alarmingly pleasant and integrated at first nosing. Is this a trap? Help! A curious pencil shaving or two and a few drops of brake fluid peep out from beneath this red jam forcefield. Seriously, a shot of this in a cold glass of crémant and you’re laughing - until the following morning at least. With water: surprisingly a rather clear note of freshly made Americano, some chopped herbs, some bitter chocolate, freeze dried red berries, blood orange, grenadine and violet cordial. Madness, but undeniable fun as well. Mouth: ok, this is where things start to come slightly undone. There’s still tones of these red, sticky fruits but here they’re a bit too cloying and sticky for my liking and they don’t feel so integrated with the wood which has a rather jagged pencil shaving edge. Perhaps just a tad too forceful for me. With water: water kind of wrestles things back into some semblance of control, but we’re far from safe territory. Still lots of sticky, jaggy fruits, some sour Belgian kriek lambic, fermenting raspberries, plum wine and red liquorice. Finish: quite long, still oodles of red things, sticky things, goo, fruit cordials, some black pepper, strawberry syrup, lime sweets and marzipan. Comments: I’m afraid I haven’t the slightest idea what to do about scoring this bonkers thing. It’s true I am not a fan of these wine-doped whiskies, but I can’t help feeling that in this instance the cask has created something fun and not especially something ‘bad’. I doubt I could drink a glass but I’m sure I could get drunk with some friends mixing this into all manner of dangerous potions. Anyway, whoever was responsible for this is probably already being watched by Interpol.
SGP: 761 - 76ish meaningless points. 

 

 

Inchgower 34 yo 1974/2008 (61.2%, The Single Malts Of Scotland, cask #8787, hogshead, 128 bottles)

Inchgower 34 yo 1974/2008 (61.2%, The Single Malts Of Scotland, cask #8787, hogshead, 128 bottles)
Not sure you could pick a more different Inchgower if you tried. I suspect this is where any meaning inherent in doing whiskies in pairs breaks down completely. Colour: gold. Nose: beauty! This emphatic and sublimely concentrated mix of waxes, wood resins, honeys, dried flowers and fir wood. Add to that herbal teas, liqueurs and extracts, some rather old school medicines and wee spoonfuls of dark fruit chutneys. With water: waxy honeycomb, bitter orange peel, herbal cough medicine, fir needles, hardwood resins and even wee touches of cannabis oil and wormwood. Mouth: powerful and still immensely fresh. But also doubling down on these wonderfully thready notes of honey, blossoms, wildflowers, heather ale, waxed canvass, citronella candles, mint tea, juniper, yellow plums and fruit cordials. The concentration and coiled power are just wonderful. With water: nicely bitter with many citrus piths, almond oil, miso broth, umami, bouillon, fermenting honey evolving more towards aged mead, flower honey and a beautiful fusion of resinous fruits and herbal teas and ointments. Finish: superbly long, waxy, concentrated, oily and yet delicate enough to still carry these notes of pollens, pressed flowers and long aged Sauternes. Comments: I really believe these batches of Inchgower are still underrated. Dynamic, powerful, deep and superbly complex whiskies that just offer wave upon wave of pleasure. And the strength means you can really geek out with your pipette.
SGP: 662 - 92 points.

 

 

Let’s just pop to Japan then we’ll call this a session.

 

 

Chichibu 2012/2019 (60.8%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, 20th Anniversary, cask #2089, refill hogshead, 349 bottles)

Chichibu 2012/2019 (60.8%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, 20th Anniversary, cask #2089, refill hogshead, 349 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: extremely pure and almost hyper coastal. Lemon juice, oyster water, wet seaweed in rock pools and smoked pink sea salt. Also these notes of squid ink and something almost metallic, like steel wool doused with TCP. A very powerful, crystalline smokiness builds steadily. Very impressive, but blind I’m not sure I wouldn’t have said I was on Islay. Gains softness and medicines over time. With water: pure sea salt, canvass, ink, iodine drops, gauze, bandages and gentle disinfectant notes. The overriding impression still remains one of purity and precision. Mouth: pure seawater, petrol, sheep wool, olive brine, pickling juices, sourdough starter and more lemon juice and some ground black pepper. Pin sharp but also with a gently oily texture in the mouth which supports these deeper peaty notes very nicely. With water: gently chalky and extremely mineral now. A slight dusty edge to the peat and a deeper, more gutsy smokiness that speaks to kiln air and bonfire embers. Dried seaweed and some notes of spicy ramen broth which finally feels happily ‘Japanese’. Finish: long and riddled with this bass-note smokiness, grass, brine, wood embers, petrol and sharp, saline minerality. Comments: I know this bottling has garnered quite a bit of praise so far and it is of undeniable technical brilliance, but I feel it probably lacks a little soul or much in the way of a Japanese ‘accent’. Anyway, these are minor quibbles really, there’s a huge amount of flare and skill on display here and it’s impossible not to be impressed. As ever with Chichibu, when the impeccable distillate isn’t pitched against some unlikely wood, it’s a thrill.
SGP: 358 - 91 points.

 

 

Karuizawa Multi Vintages #1 1981-1982-1983-1984 - b2011 (59.1%, OB ‘Noh Whisky’, casks #6405 #4973 #8184 #6437, bourbon & sherry, 1500 bottles)

Karuizawa Multi Vintages #1 1981-1982-1983-1984 - b2011 (59.1%, OB ‘Noh Whisky’, casks #6405 #4973 #8184 #6437, bourbon & sherry, 1500 bottles)
A rather cool assembly of bourbon and sherry casks, I doubt the label would be legal for a Scotch whisky, but then isn’t Japan rather lawless when it comes to its own whiskies? Colour: coppery amber. Nose: you immediately get the impression that this was a good idea, you have this rather luscious and easy fruitiness emerging from the collision of bourbon and sherry. And ‘easiness’ is a rare thing with Karuizawa I would say. Lots of exotic fruit jams, rare hardwoods, aged teas and a pretty sublime and heady rancio. Wee touches of rose syrup and sultana. Beautiful! With water: really elegant now and full of sticky dark fruits like dates and fig jam. Some miso, treacle pudding and some kind of smoked mint tea. Mouth: big, typically spicy and powerful but also showing a degree of harmony and restraint. Coconut curry, rosewater, lychee, lime jelly, five spice, lightly smoked paprika, chai tea and many dried and crystalised exotic fruits. There’s also a pretty deep earthiness with touches of old school herbal cough medicines and bit of peppery peat smoke. With water: again with this wonderful coconut aspect, more coconut milk on top of smoked cereals, herbal and exotic teas, umami broths, more paprika, dried lime peel, incense and pot pourri. Superb! Really reminiscent in some ways of these pre-war Speyside malts that G&M was issuing with abundance in the 1980s. Finish: long and full of incense, spices, sandalwood, herbal peat smoke, lightly sooty tones and still lots of vivid umami and rancio. Comments: I much prefer this more harmonious style of Karuizawa, you really feel the fusion of a few casks here has tamed the often brutalistic style that this era often displays in single cask form. It’s a shame that Karuizawa is pretty much ‘complete’ now (apart from a few slumbering casks destined for amusing price tags) and that this approach wasn’t take a little more enthusiastically when there were more parcels of stock like this to play with. Anyway, this was great and extremely enjoyable, felt like very ‘pure’ Karuizawa in style.
SGP: 573 - 92 points.

 

 

Big hugs to Dirk, Serge, Gene and Andy.

 

 

 

 

July 10, 2020


Whiskyfun

Fight

Ultimate duos and wee fights, today Talisker (or the beast and the beauty)

So another one from Diageo’s new Prima & Ultima series, this time the old Talisker that’s supposed to be a ‘lighter’ one, but we’ll see. I’m sure it’ll be fantastic, whether light or heavy. As for the sparring partner, who says ‘light Talisker’ thinks ‘Talisker Skye’, I believe. At least that one will make for an easy aperitif… and perhaps a proper steppingstone, let’s see…

The friendly sparring-partner:

Talisker 'Skye' (45.8%, OB, +/-2018)

Talisker 'Skye' (45.8%, OB, +/-2018) Two stars and a half
I have to say the first batches, around 2014 or 2015, did not quite convince me but as they say in rock and roll, you sometimes need tough love… Colour: light gold. Nose: it’s nice-ish, it’s just not very complex, although, could be that they improved the recipe, I’m not too sure. I find less of the straight coconut-and-vanilla elements this time, and more tin, concrete, menthol, camphor and green pepper. Mouth: the oak feels, there’s a drying bitterness, then salt and lemon peel. I find it tough, and god knows I love the 10yo, which shouldn’t be that older. The oak gets louder (sawdust). Finish: medium, gritty and drying. Needs polishing. The aftertaste is a little nicer, read more on smoked brine, but that’s a little late. Comments: duties done, can we have the new 31 Prima & Ultima now? Seriously, there are only two Taliskers which I don’t like a lot, Skye and Port Ruighe. All the others, from Storm to the oldest glories, I really like or love a lot.
SGP:365 - 77 points.

The Prima & Ultima:

Talisker 31 yo 1988/2019 (51.4%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak cask, cask #5773, 721 bottles)

Talisker 31 yo 1988/2019 (51.4%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak cask, cask #5773, 721 bottles) Five stars
This one stems from a small parcel of casks that had been deemed as ‘less peaty’ than usual, so we might expect some lighter-style Talisker here. With 721 bottles it was probably some kind of refill American oak puncheon or butt. Or is it actually a small batch? We’ll soon find out. Having said, I’ll tell you one thing, I almost always find the whiskies much punchier than what the distillers state, really. Remember those very smooth and light Caol Ilas? Me neither. Colour: gold. Nose: ace, this time again. Some fantastic brine at first (that used to shelter perfect pink olives) and really ‘a walk on the beach’, then damp fabric – that old tweed jacket that’s seen many distilleries – and some freshly squeezed lemons. In the background, rather bitter almond paste, putty, and good friends anchovies and sardines. Indeed, it is neither extremely smoky nor peppery this far, but boy is it coastal! With water: there, chalk and clay, beach sand, old embrocations and Vicks. Very very lovely. Mouth (neat): if this is light whisky, Hamilton’s Mercedes is a slow car. I find it extremely fat and oily - you’d almost need a spoon to get it out of your tasting glass – and rather all on seawater and some kind of drier grapefruit liqueur at first sipping. It’s then very medicinal, full of chlorophyll and eucalyptus, pretty resinous too (more putty and pine resin), and then, of course, rather peppery. It is pretty peaty too, mind you. With water: reminiscent of the paler old Taliskers distilled in the 1950s (not the sherry monsters). Which is, naturally, great news. I think it’s time you called the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade. Finish: long and simply divine, back on brine, putty, bitter almonds and camphory ointments. Comments: it is extremely impossible not to down a double. Extremely.
SGP:365 - 92 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Talisker we've tasted so far

 

July 9, 2020


Whiskyfun

Fight

Ultimate duos and wee fights, today Cragganmore

 

I have to say Diageo have had great ideas lately, I’m even wondering if we couldn’t call that ‘their newest brainwave’. There were first the Classic Malts and then the Rare Malts (under the United Distillers banner, or was it UDV?), then a few years have been, say a little less thrilling – all that from a whisky enthusiast’s point of view, and even if you could say that the decision not to do any NAS Lagavulin was quite a feat indeed.
And then lately, the announcement of the reconstructing or overhauling of Brora and Port Ellen, and now this, the Prima & Ultima series. Sure the name sounds a tad ‘pushed’ or at least a little too emphatic, and you could well think ‘Oh well, just another set of Special Releases, are they going to do that twice a year now?’ But look further, the idea is much smarter than that. Indeed they’ve decided to bottle only extraordinary casks in this new series, in the literal sense of that word.

Ultima

For example, Clynelish from exactly when they found out about ‘where that waxiness was actually coming from’ – a very sludge-y story. Or a rare Lagavulin that had been filled in very lazy casks, so that pure distillery character would have been kept (hurray, hurray, hurray!) although they knew that the casks would then need many more years than usual to reach maturity. Or there, a last example, an old Cragganmore, their very last cask from when the stills were still coal-fired. Whisky coming with true, meaningful stories, isn’t that brilliant!?
Now, I’m sure the prices are high, haven’t even checked them not to get influenced, but these whiskies are, I insist, really extra-ordinary. So we’ll try each of them ‘against’ a compadre that’s supposed to be more ‘ordinary’ – not talking about quality here. So let’s have the first one today, I decided to choose the… old Cragganmore. Indeed, not the PE, not the Lagavulin, and not even the Clynelish. Because mind you, such an old Cragganmore sure is a first, if I’m not mistaken.

The friendly sparring-partner:

Cragganmore 1999/2019 (51.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS19038, 312 bottles)

Cragganmore 1999/2019 (51.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS19038, 312 bottles) Five stars
There aren’t many indie Cragganmores, but it seems that some parcels were lying at some brokers’, none of them being really sherried if I’m not mistaken. Colour: white wine. Nose: sauvignon blanc anyone? Believe me this one’s extremely Sancerre-y, and that’s not just my mind playing tricks on me because of the colour. So chalk, lemon, cherry stems, white apples and peaches, gooseberries, green melons… This really works greatly, it’s an extremely pure Cragganmore, lovely distillate as it appears. Thank you, Mr. Hoggie! With water: exceptional purity and freshness, with a wee doughy side and some damp chalk. Amazing. Mouth (neat): extremely coherent, in keeping with the nose, just even tarter, acidic, lemony, full of cider apples and more gooseberries. Also ‘crunching raw rhubarb early in the morning’. With water: not a single weakness here. A little more grass; right, sauvignon. Finish: medium, still very fresh, a tad rounder. Preserved plums. Comments: distilling Sancerre and selling it as Scotch whisky, that was cunning plan, MoS!
SGP:661 - 90 points.

No we didn’t say we would make the lives of those new Prima & Ultima whiskies easy, did we?..

Cragganmore 48 yo 1971/2019 (43.7%, OB, Prima & Ultima, first fill sherry, cask #2301, 352 bottles)

Cragganmore 48 yo 1971/2019 (43.7%, OB, Prima & Ultima, first fill sherry, cask #2301, 352 bottles) Five stars
There’s been a superb official 1973 ‘Special Edition’ back in 2003, but that one had been steam-heated already, as the conversion from direct coal to fuel-heated steam happened in 1972. This very Cragganmore we’re having now is the very last cask made on coal-fired stills indeed; mind you, I feel tiny tears are beginning to form in the corners of my eyes… Colour: walnut stain… Nose: oh, pre-war Yquem! Complete with roasted nuts, dried mushrooms, botrytis, candied apricots, high-class coffee, black figs, glazed chestnuts, a wee slice of black truffle (but no sulphur whatsoever), very old mead, chestnut honey, even manuka honey, and just small touches of wood smoke and camphor. No signs of tiredness whatsoever, quite the contrary, but only the palate will tell… Mouth: we used to have soft sweets that were made out of liquorice, mint and toffee, and I used to love them. I would say this old whisky is in that vein at first, before it would start to empty a whole bag of dried fruits, figs, dates and Smyrna raisins, then we have drops of that very old Sauternes, more glazed chestnuts, thin mints, a drop of old Chartreuse (chartroose in English, ha), then the kind of perfect coffee and cocoa mix that sometimes comes with very old whiskies that were matured in perfect oloroso or amontillado. Splendid dryness – and it’s not tired yet! Neither am I, by the way. Finish: perhaps not eternal, but it goes on with coffee beans and bitter chocolate, becoming drier and drier. Which is unquestionably great. You can’t miss a few drops of very old armagnac in the aftertaste, even older than that old Sauternes we’ve mentioned before. A little soy sauce too. Comments: faultless and fantastically dry, without being ‘oaky’ as such. Utterly loved the coffee in it – where’s my handkerchief?
SGP:372 - 93 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Cragganmore we've tasted so far

 

July 8, 2020


Whiskyfun

A little bag of Bunnies

That would be Bunnahabhain, a.k.a. Islay’s northernmost distillery, as stated on some bottles. That claim should hold forever, there isn’t much room left further north!

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (42.1%, King's Court Whisky Society, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #23003)

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (42.1%, King's Court Whisky Society, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #23003) Five stars
This by good guys in Harlem, in the flatlands. Colour: light amber. Nose: lovely tobacco and old walnuts, soy sauce, hardwoods, humidor, touch of hoisin sauce (fermented plum), then a dry spice mix, with cloves cinnamon, nutmeg and caraway. The notes of old leathery tobacco pouch in an antique shop are just superb. Mouth: indeed, some lovely nutty and tobacco-y notes singing in unison, while the choir would gather roasted chestnuts, coffee dregs, bitter oranges and just old oloroso. Notes of hoisin and miso in the background, that just always works. Finish: rather more on chocolate this time, as well as the usual walnuts and a few sour herbs. Oregano and tarragon? Comments: only the wee lack of power will prevent me from going over…
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Haven’t we started a little too fast?...

Bunnahabhain 10 yo 2009/2019 (57.1%, The Whisky Barrel, Originals, 1st fill oloroso hogshead, cask #TB1004, 292 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 10 yo 2009/2019 (57.1%, The Whisky Barrel, Originals, 1st fill oloroso hogshead, cask #TB1004, 292 bottles) Four stars and a half
Have a full bottle of this, was meant to taste it, and almost downed it without taking any notes. Not very proud. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a meaty, savoury sherry, with some cured ham, English brown sauce, beef bouillon, pipe tobacco and fermented plum sauce. Right up my alley as long as no foul sulphury notes are to be found within the mix. With water: loves water. Old Pu-erh tea and raw earth. Mouth (neat): really very good, rather less meaty and more on chocolate, coffee, tar and soot, and then marmalade and pepper. With water: the earth is back, together with quince jelly, peppered chutney and Madeira-like very old white Bordeaux. Yeah, Madeira, as you prefer. Finish: long, very dry now, a notch rubbery and leathery, quite peppery. Sucking bits of tobacco from an untipped cigarette – in the old days, obviously. Comments: superb tobacco-y sherried Bunnahabhain, for lovers of the genre.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Not sure it’s smart to have a younger ex-bourbon one just now but there, it’s from the same house.

Bunnahabhain 6 yo 2013/2019 (59.7%, The Whisky Barrel, Originals, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #TB1009, 265 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 6 yo 2013/2019 (59.7%, The Whisky Barrel, Originals, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #TB1009, 265 bottles) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: crikey, it’s a peater! Wandering throughout a working kiln, that’s the idea. Grist and husk (I know that’s rather to be found at the milling station), smoke, peated barley, burning peat, moisture, old woods, tourists (I’m joking)… And a little green pepper in this case. With water: rather lighter, grassier, with some hay, asparagus peel, fresh walnuts, whiffs of beach bonfire... Mouth (neat): peat and lemon marmalade, with a salty touch but with less of the coastal side of neighbour Caol Ila’s output. With water: very good, with hints of green curry, pepper and salt, kippers and rollmops… But no oysters! Finish: rather long, spicier. Smoked curry or something, plus sweeter pink grapefruits. Comments: yep, excellent young peat as they make at Bunnahabhain – and as they were constantly doing until the late 1950s. I’ll always remember when dear John McLellan drew a flask from his pocket and let us taste the very first batch of ‘new’ peated Bunnahabhain. If I remember well, that happened while the Blazin’ Fiddles were playing onstage at the Distillery.
SGP:467 - 85 points.

Since we’re doing young ones…

Bunnahabhain 2014/2019 (53.5%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, sherry, cask #3826153)

Bunnahabhain 2014/2019 (53.5%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, sherry, cask #3826153) Four stars
This is really very young, I suppose it’s another peater (Stoisha/Moine and stuff)? Colour: full gold. Nose: it is. Typical gently pumped-up smoky and spicy/fruity young peat bomb. Citrons, pink pepper, vanilla, mango chutney, ginger, other wood spices… Feels very modern, not that there’s anything wrong with that. With water: grist and dough. Mouth (neat): rich and creamy, spicy, with a little espresso (or rather ristretto) plus putty and plasticine, limoncello, bitters, marzipan, caramel… I suppose the cask was heavily charred, or small, or both. With water: just very good, well-mastered modern cooking. Maple syrup, touch of rum, gingery spices, oranges, and a lot of smoke. Duncan Taylor at the helm? Finish: long modern gingery and jammy. Comments: not totally my preferred style but they made it extremely well. I doubt anyone could do better with a 5 years old malt, hence my high score.
SGP:566 - 85 points.

Bunnahabhain 11 yo 2009/2020 (66.8%, Liquid Treasures for eSpirits, ‘From Miles away’, oloroso butt, 252 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 11 yo 2009/2020 (66.8%, Liquid Treasures for eSpirits, ‘From Miles away’, oloroso butt, 252 bottles) Three stars and a half
Very lovely label, really, kudos. Colour: deep amber. Nose: bourbon and chocolate, pipe tobacco, butterscotch… But did you see the strength? Attempted murder on poor blogger, yet again! With water: chocolate and mocha, roasted chestnuts, touches of copper (old pennies), old orange cordial, a little wood smoke… Mouth (neat): feels excellent, but really, I need my palate in the coming week. With water: walnut wine, earth, a chalky touch, a bit of leather, and more coffee. Finish: long, on chalk an coffee. More vegetal in the aftertaste, artichokes perhaps… Comments: a very dry style, very good yet again, perhaps a tad monolithic?
SGP:462 - 84 points.

Bunnahabhain 2008/2019 (54.3%, Erles Whiskyecke, sherry octave finish)

Bunnahabhain 2008/2019 (54.3%, Erles Whiskyecke, sherry octave finish) Three stars and a half
A recipe by our friends at Duncan Taylor’s ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: someone has put bits of inner tube, some orange skins, some Playdoh and a good deal of marzipan into a blender, and then pushed the button. With water: notes of damp wood and sawdust. Not unpleasant. Mouth (neat): very good, thick, creamy, young of course, but balanced, with the right amounts of leather, ginger, marmalade, chutney, truffle oil, earth and umami. Feels a tad ‘labby’ (from the lab) but the end result is impeccable. Mind you, this is not 30 years old Springbank, after all. With water: do not add too much water, these young ‘speeded’ whiskies seldom take water well, they often get dusty and flattish. Should just add one or two drops, you’ll make the marmalade more prominent. Finish: medium, on marmalade, ginger tonic, pepper and spicy tea. Comments: a cool little Bunnahabhain, well produced. It’s neither Exile on Main St.  nor Bitches Brew, but there.
SGP:561 - 83 points.

Time for a last one, let’s get back to Taiwan…

Bunnahabhain 2003/2018 (57%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, sherry butt, cask #1826, 305 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 2003/2018 (57%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, sherry butt, cask #1826, 305 bottles) Four stars
A story about painted faces. Great work on the labels, even if I always find it a little intriguing that ‘remote’ importers (that’s the idea behind an importer, S.) would rather use local illustrations than Scottish or ‘neutral’ ones. Now it’s true that many are tired of tartans, thistles and stags heads… Colour: gold. Nose: oh, patchouli, lime tea, leather, pencil shavings and hot brake pads! And putty, Barbour grease, vin jaune and green walnuts. Hit or miss, this, let’s see… With water: very nice indeed. Citrus out with flying colours – which just always works. Mouth (neat): very good, thick, mentholy, marmalade-y, jammy and spicy, without any wood shavings this time. Drops of ginger beer, perhaps. With water: top notch, lemony and spicy. Perhaps a tad too spicy, having said that, but after all, this is 2020 and whisky’s now all about wood, is it not? Finish: long, very spicy. I’m not sure I like it that I like it, but there. Comments: it’s like when you go outside eat a hamburger (!), I always feel shame, but they’re sometimes very good. Guilty pleasures, civilisation, laziness, resistance and stuff.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Bunnahabhain we've tasted so far

 

July 7, 2020


Whiskyfun

At Waterford, where tèireoir matters

Mark Reynier and gang will never do things like anyone else, that’s for sure. Even the new word ‘tèireoir’ that, I suppose, means Irish terroir, is francely amusing, is it not? Anyway, Waterford’s first official bottlings have arrived and naturally, we cannot wait. I won’t try to add any further literature though, especially since our friend Billy Abbot over there in London Town has already done it in the most splendid of manners. All I’ll add is that the caskbills (yet a now word, no?) are a little different depending on the bottlings, but they remain pretty similar, with some refill and virgin American oak, some French oak, and some VDN which, I suppose, means Vin Doux Naturel in this context, so sweet wine. Let us proceed if you will… Oh and the bottles are as blue as Haig Club’s, but I doubt they would hire David Beckham. Now I’ve heard Cantona was free, and so is Thierry Henry. Maybe not a good idea…

Waterford ‘Single Farm: Bannow Island’ 2016/2020 (50%, OB, Irish, batch #V23449)

Waterford 2016/2020 ‘Single Farm: Bannow Island’ (50%, OB, Irish, batch #V23449) Four stars and a half
Piles of data are available, such as the fact that it was Overture 2015 barley, that the actual age is ‘1322 days’, so 3,62 years, that the A.B.V. was 72.01% before reducing, that the grower was a gentleman named Ed Harpur in Wexford, and that his first car was a blue Morris Marina. I’m joking now. Colour: gold. Nose: there’s 25% French oak here, and I would say it feels a bit, imparting a slightly spicier breadiness than what’s usual with some high-end craft whiskies (I know the word craft is very pre-Covid, but there). Basically, there’s rather a lot of mashed potatoes – with nutmeg of course – then ‘opening a new pack of shortbread’ and a pretty earthy barleyness. Probably a touch of wormwood too, moss, and butterscotch. I find this lovely, and much less an oak-bomb than I had feared. The barley’s clearly audible. Mouth: perhaps more VDN impact, so perhaps a few raisins. Other than that, it’s really a spicy bread that’s paying first fiddle, pumpernickel, with more nutmeg and a few mustard seeds. Oh and some aniseed too. Finish: rather long, fresh, with a little caraway on top of the nutmeg. I’ll add a few drops of Meursault, I also know this will please the owners. Comments: I’m a sucker for these young ‘vibrant’ and bready whiskies. Only little problem, I knew this was going to be good, so no big surprise.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Waterford ‘Single Farm: Ratheadon 1.1’ 2016/2020 (50%, OB, Irish, batch #V23304)

Waterford 2016/2020 ‘Single Farm: Ratheadon 1.1’ (50%, OB, Irish, batch #V23304) Four stars and a half
Same caskbill here, Irina 2015 barley (so harvested in 2015 I suppose), grower was Stephen McDonnel in Carlow, and the casks were disgorged at 71.18% vol. (I suppose that’s an average since they’ve been using four different woods). Colour: gold. Nose: clearly more austere and earthier, more mossy, with more tiny herbs. Frankly, and let’s assume the casks were exactly the same – or were having the exact same specs – the differences are fascinating, much more so than in the newmakes, which I could try before. No wait, it gets rounder now, with more custard… And cut grass, shortbread, oatcakes… Really, it’s rather fascinating but watch it, you could spend hours nosing these babies. They’re a bit like different pianists doing the Goldberg Variations, if you like. Same music, very different feelings. Okay I’m pushing all this a wee bit now. Mouth: rougher and spicier than the first one, a tad more brutal, with more pepper. Wait, are these… kiwis? Do they grow kiwis in Ireland? No we aren’t talking rugby here. Anyway, an excellent drop once again. Finish: rather long, bready, rather with oak spices than straight vanilla. Perhaps a touch of pineapple. And, above all no signs whatsoever of that dreadful thing that often pops out of young much activated whiskies, coconut. Comments: I’ll probably score them all the same, but I will never write that they show ‘potential’, or that ‘we can’t wait until they’re 10 or 12’, because I find them excellent just as they are, in their not-so-naked youth.
SGP:561 - 88 points.

Waterford ‘Single Farm: Ballymorgan 1.1’ 2016/2020 (50%, OB, Irish, batch #V23530)

Waterford 2016/2020 ‘Single Farm: Ballymorgan 1.1’ (50%, OB, Irish, batch #V23530) Four stars and a half
Barley was Overture, harvested 2015, grower was Robert Milne in Wexford, and the dog was an Irish Setter, naturally (S., please stop it!) The caskbill’s a little different, with both a little more refill American and French oaks, and consequently a little less new American and VDN. Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s rather chalkier I would say, a tad more mentholy too, but with again this feeling of young Meursault straight from first fill wood, then clearly quite some custard and shortbread, as well as a touch of pinewood. It’s probably the sexiest so far, and perhaps the most mature ‘on the nose’. Mouth: a little oakier on the one hand, and fruitier on the other hand. Pepper and oranges, bread, nutmeg, cinnamon, also rather more ginger, curry, cloves… Finish: long and spicy. Comments: clearly different, and perhaps a notch more, say ‘binary’ than the other two, but I like it just the same. Oh and let’s say it, such attention to detail is a bliss anyway.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

Waterford 2016/2020 ‘Single Farm: Ballykilcavan 1.1’ (50%, OB, Irish, batch #V22746)

Waterford 2016/2020 ‘Single Farm: Ballykilcavan 1.1’ (50%, OB, Irish, batch #V22746) Four stars and a half
The grower was David Walsh-Kemmis in Lagis. The barley was Taberna harvested in 2015, the A.BV. a hefty 72.33% prior to reduction, and no virgin American oak was harmed this time (45% American, 37% French, 18% VDN). Colour: straw. Nose: a little ‘darker’ as far as aromas are concerned, bitterer, so rather more on stout than lager, or wholegrain bread than baguette. See what I mean? Having said that it’s becoming both softer and thicker then, with an oiliness that wasn’t this obvious in the others. Rapeseed oil, pencil lead, brake fluid… This is most interesting, really. Taberna, you say? Mouth: oh, just perfect. Touches of fermentation (nowhere to be seen in the others) and sourdough, croissants, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon, perhaps a little banana, but no pears and no wine gums. That’s an achievement too. Gets a tad drying after a wee while, but that’s nothing. Finish: long, extremely good, bready and oily, bordering ‘good’ rubber. Dough and bitter ale in the aftertaste. Comments: this would be my favourite, but we’re really splitting babies’ hairs and the score will remain the same. Who needs scores anyway.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Quite unsurprisingly, I’m impressed. The only thing that did not quite strike me is the ‘Irishness’ in these whiskies. They’re bigger than most, if not all Irish ‘whiskeys’ I could try so far and in my humble opinion, could as well be Scottish. If you ask me. Am I in big trouble now? Should I hire bodyguards? Move to Tamanrasset?

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Waterford we've tasted so far

 

July 6, 2020


Whiskyfun

Official Ardbeg at its true core

Ardbeg’s Wee Beastie was quite a coup. Mind you, a proper age statement, some bourbon wood and just a little oloroso for good measure, that’s all what the whisky chatteratis were bound to love. While, let’s be honest, we don’t care about NAS, wacky wine casks that even Robert Parker Jr. has never heard of, and silly names and stories that would have plunged both David Ogilvy and Tony Robbins into an abyss of confusion. We’ll also try a single cask.

Ardbeg 5 yo ‘Wee Beastie’ (47.4%, OB, 2020)

Ardbeg 5 yo ‘Wee Beastie’ (47.4%, OB, 2020) Four stars and a half
The bottle really reminds me of G&M’s early Connoisseurs Choices, or Avonsides. Black, gold, red… Retro keeps striking in whisky. No need to add that we love it that they would have boldly displayed a young age statement, that’s extremely smart, well done Ardbeg, s***w NAS! Colour: straw. Nose: but there, yes, aha, sure. It’s a bit steely at first (grandma’s old tin boxes), then goes onto agave, reaches brine-y aromas, gets to the citrus department, steals a few pears, and finally displays the right amount of tar and peat smoke. In the background, whiffs of raw wool and wet dogs. Dogs, I know we owe you one. Mouth: this feeling of smoked pears that we were expecting, then more sweetness and fruits (passion fruits, melons), then ‘the ashtray’ and notes of Corsican citron liqueur. And why not, Corsica’s an island too! I find it rather sweeter and fruitier than expected, and frankly gentler, but that’s an easier style that I enjoy mucho. It’s just not ‘a beast’ at all if you ask me. Finish: long, clean, rather citrusy and sweet, with moderate smoke. Some eucalyptus in the aftertaste, that’s always very good. Comments: I’m not disappointed at all. Sure they could have named it ‘For the Bar in the Little House on the Prairie’ instead, for it’s rather gentle, but there, well done, it’s one of my favourite recent official ‘begs.
SGP:647 - 88 points.

Ardbeg 2000/2020 (48.2%, OB, for Oldies & Goldies, Geert Bero’s cask, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #2, 221 bottles)

Ardbeg 2000/2020 (48.2%, OB, for Oldies & Goldies, Geert Bero’s cask, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #2, 221 bottles) Five stars
Oldies & Goldies is our dear friend Geert Bero’s new venture into the extremely honourable business of selling old bottles while avoiding fakes, which sits somewhere between tightrope walking and breeding toad-eating tarantulas. So, I’m sure he’ll succeed! Colour: straw. Nose: remember these are the first vintages after the reopening of the distillery by Glenmo (1997 if I remember well). What’s really striking here is the beautiful austerity, the oils and waxes that abound right away, and the way it keeps getting louder over the minutes. It is really very waxy, say on plasticine, with whiffs of seashells on a beach, clams, almond oil, and just above everything, some very Ardbeggian fresh putty. Mouth: it’s pretty delicate for a start, balmy, with herbal pastes and essential oils (lemon peel, eucalyptus), pretty salty, more elegant than vituperative, unfolding on oysters, and I mean that it really tastes of oysters, then on some funny kind of salted chartreuse – which works a treat, quite bizarrely. Some elements are clearly  reminiscent of the gentler 1977-1979 vintages. Flaxseed oil. Finish: rather long but still very elegant, with this putty/salted almonds combo and many sweeter aromatic herbs and plants. Wormwood, verbena, lemongrass, starflower... Plasticine is back in the aftertaste, which will please our inner children. Comments: a lovely elegance here. More than 91, perhaps not totally 92… oh well, that’s what is called nitpicking in French. No need for that.
SGP:466 - 92 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Ardbeg we've tasted so far

 

July 5, 2020


Whiskyfun

Undiluted rums
for Aston

Aston
Tremble, mere mortal, today we shall constantly be navigating between 60 and 70% vol. Please wish me luck… By the way, this session in tribute to Whiskyfun’s main mouser Aston the Scottish Fold, who got hit by a car last week and didn’t make it. R.I.P. poor little Aston, who’s going to select my whiskies next week?

C.A.D.C. 14 yo 2005/2019 (60%, Silent Ambassador, Venezuela, cask #62, 145 bottles)

C.A.D.C. 14 yo 2005/2019 (60%, Silent Ambassador, Venezuela, cask #62, 145 bottles) Three stars
A new Belgian IB, that’s something to celebrate! What’s more, they have a great motto, ‘bibere humanum est, ergo bibamus’. Which, basically, means, ‘please pour us more’.  This baby matured for 12 years in a tropical climate and some further 2 years in Europe (which, by the way, is becoming pretty tropical too these days), while CADC stands for Corporacion Alcoholes Del Caribe. Not the first CADC we’re having, they can be pretty good even if they stem from high columns. Colour: amber. Nose: very soft, rounded, toffee-like, with hints of bourbon, vanilla and cane juice, then rather orange liqueur. Finely clean. With water: really nice, with bags of roasted nuts and a large cup of cappuccino. Mi piacere this nose. Mouth (neat): what I had already noticed, these CADCs may sometimes move towards agricole in a way, meaning that they’re more profound than your average Central-American oak-flavoured ethanol. Cake, matcha, praline, vanilla, café latte, butterscotch… With water: really good, soft of course, on Jaffa cakes. Finish: medium, closer to the raw sugarcanes. Had the columns been shortened when they made this? Comments: a difficult style (to me) but I believe this one made the most of the situation. In my book these rums never make it to 80.
SGP:540 - 82 points.

That one called for more ‘Silent Ambassador’ (don’t we sometimes wish a few ambassadors would keep quiet indeed?)

Monymusk 12 yo 2007/2019 (64%, Silent Ambassador, Jamaica, cask #37, 126 bottles)

Monymusk 12 yo 2007/2019 (64%, Silent Ambassador, Jamaica, cask #37, 126 bottles) Four stars and a half
As we say in France, glups! But Clarendon’s Monymusk can be superb, let’s just see if we get past the high ethanol content… Colour: white wine. Nose: mezcal, paint thinner, bicycle inner tube, williams pears, brine. Five aces! (S., really…) With water: big rubber, inner tubes, new sneakers, new iPhone… I’m sure you get the drift. Mouth (neat): lovely. Bitter almonds, acetone, varnish, tar, lemon juice, green olives. But boy it’s hot! With water: it remains rubbery, solventy and tarry, in a very good way. Quite smoky too, and rather less brine-y and lemony this time. Finish: long and very tarry. Comments: probably the most tarry Jamaican, with less of the zestiness that one could find in Hampden or Worthy Park. Having said that, I like it very much, I’m sure you could use it to patch a flat tyre. No, seriously.
SGP:463 - 88 points.

Good, after Venezuela and Jamaica, let’s move to, say, Nicaragua? With even higher strengths…

Nicaragua 13 yo 2004/2017 (66%, Cave Guildive, bourbon)

Nicaragua 13 yo 2004/2017 (66%, Cave Guildive, bourbon) Three stars
They wouldn’t tell you about the distillery, but I suppose this stems from Flor de Caña a.k.a. Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua. Colour: amber. Nose: I think the Venezuelan was a little deeper and better structured, while this is really light and, as we say, columny. Having said that I rather enjoy these notes of pineapples flambéed. Flambéed with rum, naturally. Oranges too, and varnish as well. With water: fine, more brioche-y, with a little mocha and butterscotch. Mouth (neat): some coconut, it seems, vanilla, corn syrup perhaps, milk chocolate, halva… But it burns, let’s be careful. With water: all clear and good, not that light and not that, well, empty, just a tad thin here and there. A little oak and caramel, more butterscotch, biscuits, bananas… Finish: rather a little short, but nicely cake-y and on bananas. Fambéed! Comments: you know, these bottlers are having the cream of the crop from those third-tier distilleries. Very good rums but in no way representative of the brands and distilleries’ usual outputs.
SGP:640 - 81 points.

How about Panama?

Panama 12 yo 2004 (62%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #R9.2, refill barrel, 243 bottles, +/-2017)

Panama 12 yo 2004 (62%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #R9.2, refill barrel, 243 bottles, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
Nicknamed ‘Paddington bear’s first sip’. What are the police doing? It’s to be noted that #R9.1 had been pretty good (WF81). No ideas as for the distillery, would you have any? Abuelo stuff? Malecon? Cortez? Well, probably Don Jose. Colour: full gold. Nose: this time it’s vanilla and melons that first speak out, then cane juice. Very simple, but clean and really pleasant. But remember, 62% vol. With water: oh, lovely floral scents, dandelions, honeysuckle… And lighter honey (acacia) and vanilla. It was a good, well-behaved barrel for sure. Mouth (neat): good, extremely pastry-like. Danishes, sugar rolls, marshmallows, coconut balls and assorted sweet flavours. Pretty regressive and a little cloying indeed, I get that Paddington stuff now. With water: really sweet, almost sugary, while that cannot be added sugar I suppose. No silly ‘dosage’ at the SMWS unless I’m wrong, and unless it’s been seasoned at birth, like they do with some El Dorados if I’m not mistaken. Finish: short and sugary. Not the best part. Comments: lovely nose, but the palate was a little too sweet for me. So much for Paddington.
SGP:630 - 78 points.

Time for a last ethanol bomb… Oh maybe this…

Gunroom ‘Navy Rum’ (65%, OB, +/-2018)

Gunroom ‘Navy Rum’ (65%, OB, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
This is a no-age-statement blend of rums from Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad, and some high-ranked people claim that it is what Boris Johnson uses as hair lotion. Oh and Trump uses Pappy, did you know that? Colour: gold. Nose: much lighter than expected, but well in the ‘Navy’ style, with some rubber, brine, tar, rotting fruit… With water: the brine won it and it now comes with menthol, which we’ll always applaud. Mouth (neat): both fat and petroly, and columny and light. It’s not impossible that they would have used a blend of pot and column. Lemon, sugar syrup, coconut, tar, overripe bananas, moist vanilla pods… With water: good, really, well balanced, well composed. Lovers of ester bombs won’t like it a lot, neither will fans of daiquiri-ready light rums. All the others will enjoy it, I would wager. Finish: medium, a bit on the sweeter/easier side perhaps. Limoncello in the aftertaste, always a good sign (except in limoncello, maybe). Salt. Comments: a rather good surprise, I was afraid this would have been just another crookery by brand-building hipsters (which the bottle would have suggested).
SGP:462 - 84 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far

 

July 4, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Enrico’s mini adventure
So, I have this Italian friend, Enrico, and he sent me these cool old bottles that he says his grandmother brought back from a bothy when she was on holiday in the Torridon mountains in the 1950s with Sean Connery…

 

Mini

 

 

Actually, this is a very cool and very legitimate set of minis bottled in the 1970s, samples of which have very kindly been provided to me by Mr. Enrico Gaddoni who does fine work at Catawiki auctions and is a source of great knowledge about old whiskies. I never saw this set before, but it features 7 ‘regional’ single malts at high strength. All presented in the guise of a ‘How to blend your own whisky’ kit - complete with mini shot glasses. As we all know, blenders traditionally slam several shots before rolling up their nostrils for a hard day’s sniffing. Let’s see what we find and try to go in an order that traditional ‘regional’ whisky marketing theory would suggest…

 

 

Paper

 

 

Lowland Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)

Lowland Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)
The label for all these minis one says ‘prodotto da Stanley P Morrison’, so I think we can comfortably say this should be Auchentoshan. Not sure what it’ll mean for some of the others though… Colour: light gold. Nose: high alcohols for sure, definitely comes across like youthful triple distillate. But beyond that there are plenty nice things: a scraping of honey on soda bread, brioche, sun lotion (factor 15 - trust me, I’m a pale Scotsman!) and some lemon cough drops. With water: pumpernickel, plasticine, a splash of Tabasco, condensed milk - unusual! Mouth: ouch! Big, hot, peppery and alcoholic. But by the same token there’s barley sugars, breakfast cereals dusted with icing sugar and some rather cheap limoncello lurking behind. Slightly cardboardish as well, could be OME - old mini effect! With water: lots of cheap cooking oil, some gravely and rough minerals, concrete, cardboard, green asparagus and grass. Finish: medium, vegetal, slightly mashy, cooked grains, newspaper ink and more condensed milk. Comments: Hmmm, not the most inspiring, but it certainly feels very ‘old young Auchentoshan’ if you get what I mean? This one was probably for blending with coke to keep the non-whisky drinkers of the household busy while you got on with the serious stuff of creating your masterpiece.
SGP: 441 - 74 points.

 

 

Glenlivet Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)

Glenlivet Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)
This one is probably the biggest wildcard in the set in terms of distillery of origin. Unless it is actually Glenlivet of course. Colour: yellow/gold. Nose: what’s funny and rather cool is that this is very much what you would think of as ‘Speyside’, just as the Lowland was very much ‘Lowland’. Not that I put much stock in regionality in Scotch whisky, but it’s funny how the concept of it re-enforces ideas about perception and flavour sometimes. Anyway, this is a tasting note Angus, not one of your overlong essays! Very grassy, buttery, cereal, quite a bit of olive oil, sunflower seeds, fresh breads and scones. With water: gets increasingly buttery now, slightly herbal too with some parsley and bay leaf. Very pleasant. Mouth: sharp and grassy with rather a lot of citric acidity, but also many white and yellow flowers, meadow freshness, grass, nettles, plain cereals and sunflower oil. With water: obviously quite a young whisky, but it’s well made, rather old school distillate with these very punchy and aggressive cereal, grassy and natural sweetness notes. Finish: medium, very cereal, lightly herbal, buttery and more cooking oils. Comments: I could not possibly tell you the distillery, but it really feels like the kind of whisky SMWS were bottling a lot of in the early-mid 80s. That is to say, young, hot, powerful and very ‘naked’ malt whiskies from plain wood, made in a decidedly uncommercial style by today’s standards. Anyway, quite fun and interesting that they thought of this is ‘exemplary’ in style.
SGP: 551 - 78 points.

 

 

Inverness Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)

Inverness Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)
This is most likely one of three rather notorious concrete factories form the grand city of Schneck! Colour: pale gold. Nose: haha, pure cement! Cactus, gravel, steel wool, wet sack cloth, fabrics, pebbles, chalk, aspirin. The very definition of kooky Invernetian austerity in whisky! Some mashed potato and cooking oils. You cannon not think of some young 1970s Glen Mhor. With water: sharp cereals, fermenting lemons, putty, mineral oil, some mud, more hot concrete and struck flints. Mouth: big arrival, lots of white pepper, a rather grainy waxiness, herbal medicines, a whole scuttle of soot, tobacco leaf and olive oil. Pretty good actually and I would say an improvement on the nose. With water: a neater fusion of medicines and cooking oils, some barley sugars, salty miso and camphor. Finish: good length, white flowers, chalk, a kind of dirty minty flavour and more brutal minerals and peppery notes. Comments: The nose says Glen Mhor, but the palate speaks with more of a Millburn accent. Quite fun and gets better as you go along, even though it’s still totally bonkers old Inverness whisky.
SGP: 463 - 83 points.

 

 

It’s been a tad tricky so far, but in theory things could pick up from this point onwards…

 

 

Campbeltown Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)

Campbeltown Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)
Colour: yellowish gold. Nose: rather Springbanky, which I suppose isn’t a surprise. Lots of overripe yellow and white fruits, lemon-tinged waxes, citronella candles, soft coastal notes, sandalwood and these wonderfully syrupy notes of aged yellow Chartreuse. Pretty glorious so far! With water: gets straighter, more bready, more medical and a nice balance between salty and savoury. Mouth: pow! Amazing texture and power. Super silky and oily yellow fruits. Plum jams, sultans, mango and apricot. Also olive oil mixed with brine, soft peat smoke and a wonderfully thready saltiness popping out between everything. Preserved lemons and herbal cough syrup. With water: perfect balance of waxy, medical, coastal and fruity. Finish: long, lemony, waxy, faintly peaty and wonderfully coastal, mineral and fresh. Comments: Now we’re talking! This just cannot be anything but a top notch late 60s/early 70s Springbank. Impeccable distillate! (This is the point at which Enrico emails to tell me he has proof it’s Glen Scotia)
SGP: 663 - 92 points.

 

 

Kirkwall Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)

Kirkwall Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)
I think we can comfortably assume this is Highland Park. Colour: deep coppery amber. Nose: pristine old school sherry. But a very assertive and powerful style. Tons of roasted nuts, espresso, leaf mulch, salty bodega funk and old leather. Grows deeper with these gloriously resinous and concentrated notes of soy sauce, umami seasonings, tar and the most sublime Orcadian peat: which is to say deeply rooty, earthy, dry and herbal in style. Just magnificent. With water: exquisite! Al manner of leaf mulches, tobaccos, leather, coffee, medicines, chocolate, peat, mushrooms - one of those whiskies that you could go on dissecting for hours. Mouth: Excuse me but what the F**K! Concentrated black tar, soil, smoked black bean curds, iodine, anchovy paste, the bitterest dark chocolate, the saltiest Dutch liquorice. Utterly stunning! Maltoporn central I’m afraid. Just heart-stoppingly deep, powerful and intensely flavoured. With water: it’s really a colossal ballet of umami, earth and deeply resinous and rooty peat smoke. Herbs, meats, tar, medicines, aged black teas… gah! ENRICO! 1cl? Really!!!? Finish: endless, stunning, immense. This captivating muddle of soil-laden, oil, greasy, herbal peat just wanders on forever. Comments: This whisky, bottled in some obscure and silly miniature pack. Welcome to the 1970s, aka: whisky’s ‘age of innocence’! Reminds me of the 1960 17yo OB green dumpy but a cask strength version. Glorious to the point of ridiculousness. This miniature pack is laughing at us God dammit!
SGP: 574 - 94 points.

 

 

Ok, it’s possible I have been too hasty in the ordering of this tasting. We will have to take a short intermission I fear. I’ll just spend half an hour expressing my feelings in a brief 3000 word email to Enrico…

 

 

Skye Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)

Skye Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)
Who wants to make the obligatory joke about which distillery this could possibly be? Colour: orangey gold. Nose: very herbal at first nosing, a mix of seawater, cough medicines and vapour balms. Deeply enchanting with these rather complex aromas of citrus peels and piths. In time it evolves a more honeyed side and the fruits start to become more exotic, but still remaining dried and crystalised. Also heather flowers now as well. Undeniably pretty stunning I have to say. With water: a beautiful abundance of coastal wildflowers, gentle peat smoke, herbs and exotic fruit. Fresher and more specifically on guava, mango and papaya now. Mouth: bags of Cheng Pi aged orange peel, exotic fruit teas, salty ramen broth, white and black pepper, soy sauce, caraway and more of these herbal medical aspects. Salty, waxy and with a bigger and more obvious presence of peat smoke than on the nose. Superb power and freshness. With water: beautifully peppery and waxy now. Absolutely classically Talisker I would say. Vividly coastal, citrus, heather ales, dried herbs, miso, umami broths, wet beach pebbles, hessian. Just brilliant. Finish: superbly long, nervously fruity, light citrus acidity, minerals, olive oil, black pepper and herbal teas. Comments: What rogue lunatic was allowed to assemble this ridiculous ‘blend it at home’ set at Morrison’s in the 70s? Did the supervisor leave the room after they’d done the Inverness one? No doubt the rest of this cask was butchered in whatever batch of ‘Morrison’s Select’ needed bulking out that week!
SGP: 664 - 93 points.

 

 

Islay Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)

Islay Pure Unblended Malt (57%, Stanley P Morrison, Importato E Confezionato Da Bairo, 1970s)
Sigh! I’m sure we all know what distillery this should be ‘in theory’… Colour: gold. Nose: ok, we’re reasonably in control of ourselves so far. Beach pebbles, some heather, seawater, lemon peel. All good and very ‘Islay’ so far. Get’s more coastal and more fragrant with time, more sandalwood and… ENRICO! … lots of supple and ripe exotic fruits. Passionfruit, pineapple, fruit salad juices. Then swings back to crystal clear salinity, lemon juice and a lively minerality. With water: despicable, salty fruity gorgeousness! Mouth: I could weep. Stunningly saline, umami and then fruity. Crystalised exotic fruits drenched with pure seawater and wrapped up in animal furs! Menthol tobacco, lime zest, chalk, putty and a rather petrol-accented peat flavour. Gets leaner, meatier and more savoury with time. With water: oranges, grapefruit, lime, seawater, herbal teas, fruit salad syrupy gunge, ramen with dried seaweed! Pfft, who likes whisky anyway! Finish: yawn! Brilliant. Pfft. Stunning. Whatever! Comments: Enrico, I will destroy you!
SGP: 755 - minus 105 points. (ok, 93!)

 

 

I’m beginning to understand why Enrico gave me these samples at a time when I have to legally remain at least 2 meters away from him! At least one thing is for sure, I am suitably reminded of why I hate miniatures. Fiddly, emotionally manipulative wee bastards that they are.

 

 

 

 

July 3, 2020


Whiskyfun

Unwise Dailuaine on a Friday

I know what you’re thinking now, that would be meat fat, sulphur, leather, and hard-boiled eggs. Well, not obligatorily, let’s see…

Dailuaine 11 yo 2008/2019 (56.5%, Hart Bros for Gianni Migliore, Switzerland, first fill sherry butt, 642 bottles)

Dailuaine 11 yo 2008/2019 (56.5%, Hart Bros for Gianni Migliore, Switzerland, first fill sherry butt, 642 bottles) Four stars and a half
Love, love, love Hart Brothers. Long may they keep bottling crazy and philosophical whiskies! Colour: deep reddish amber. Or rosé copper. Nose: some top-notch Spanish jabugo covered with cracked pepper, tiny bits of inner tube, bay leaves and the juice from two big fat pink grapefruits. Is it unusual? It is. With water: leather, more bay leaves, manzanilla, earth and savoury. Mouth (neat): well, as long as you like chocolate, pepper, cigars, liquorice, coffee and caraway, you’ll like this fat whisky as much as I do. With water: super good when brought down to approx. 45% vol. Lovely chocolate and coffee, then salty brown sauce, roasted pecans, bouillons, that Spanish ham that we’ve mentioned before (you could eat kilos without noticing), manzanilla and olives. How very Andalusian. Swiss-Andalusian, shall we say. Finish: long, nutty, salty. Seville (of course) oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: one of the very best recent Dailuaines if you ask me. Not that I’ve tried thousands, mind you.
SGP:472 - 88 points.

Dailuaine 11 yo 2009/2020 (55.6%, James Eadie, refill hogshead, 219 bottles)

Dailuaine 11 yo 2009/2020 (55.6%, James Eadie, refill hogshead, 219 bottles) Two stars
This one’s paler, that’s interesting… Colour: pale gold. Nose: narrow but well-constructed. Bread, walnuts, flints, then vegetable broth and stewed cabbage. I agree that’s less sexy, but let’s see… With water: not sure. New sneakers, white beer, pencils, and just baker’s yeast. Mouth (neat): very interesting. Huge peppers and chillies (like End of The World XXX de la muerte) plus heavy walnuts and plain wood. Very post-Brexit Americanised whisky if you ask me. With water: better but still very spicy, extractive, leafy and dry. Bitters, Campari, redistilled Aperol (not sure anyone would like to do that, having said that.) Finish: long , green, leathery. Too much extraction, in my humble opinion. A huge tannicity in the aftertaste. Comments: there’s always a lame duck within any great range. Looks like we found James-Eadie’s.
SGP:271 - 72 points.

Yes, one for the road…

Dailuaine 19 yo 1996 (57%, Scotland Grindlay, 236 bottles, +/-2016)

Dailuaine 19 yo 1996 (57%, Scotland Grindlay, 236 bottles, +/-2016) Two stars
An elusive little brand that I’ve only ever seen at Master of Malts’. Colour: straw. Nose: toasted bread, plain bread, burnt wood, pumpernickel and walnuts. There’s some potential in there, apparently. With water: not too sure this shouldn’t have gone into Passport or Black & White instead. Dough, dough and dough. Mouth (neat): good sweet earthy and rooty malt, yeasty, fermentary, almost like some thick beer. Tiny touches of strawberry candy, I think that comes from the yeasts as far as I can remember from my travels. With water: sour and citrusy. Pickled onions and kumquats or something. Finish: Comments: good but not a malt I’ll remember forever. Was Ardbeg Blaack, right? Remember Ardbeg?
SGP:361 - 74 points.

Good, I had hoped this would be a duo tasting, but we might need another one…

Dailuaine 19 yo 1998/2018 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill American oak hogshead, 670 bottles)

Dailuaine 19 yo 1998/2018 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill American oak hogshead, 670 bottles) one star and a half
There was an earlier G&M CC in the old livery that had been pretty good. Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh baguette, pine needles, a walk in the woods, fern, apple juice. Some pleasant aspects but not too sure, this sour doughiness is a tad unsexy IMHO. Mouth: I kind of like this. Wholegrain bread with poppy seeds, grass juice, sour wood, lemon juice, cardboard, spinach, more sour wood. Finish: medium, grassy and sour, even a little soapy. Rather hard. This odd and rather ugly feeling of M&S strawberry yoghurt in the aftertaste. Comments: no, really. But thanks. How un-G&M!
SGP:251 - 69 points.

We’re not there yet, it seems… A duo, that was the original aim!

Dailuaine-Glenlivet 14 yo 2004/2019 (46%, Cadenhead)

Dailuaine-Glenlivet 14 yo 2004/2019 (46%, Cadenhead) Two stars
From two BB hoggies. Cadenhead, please, help us, we need relief… Colour: white wine. Nose: not really. Cheapo riesling, coconut, bread dough, yeast, sour cream. Cane syrup. Mouth: a good drop, acceptable, quaffable, sweet and sour, lemony. Finish: medium, sour, chalky and bready, not in the best of ways. Lemon. Comments: all right, you could always intellectualise anything, but this ain’t got much depth. Now I’m sure it’s a brilliant component in an average blend. As a single malt, perhaps not.
SGP:351 - 72 points.

Take heart!...

Dailuaine 10 yo 2007/2018 (56.1%, Hidden Spirits, cask #DU718, 300 bottles)

Dailuaine 10 yo 2007/2018 (56.1%, Hidden Spirits, cask #DU718, 300 bottles) Two stars and a half
This is a peated cask finish, which I find smart. I mean, we could imagine some kind of lousy recycling here. Wolfburn did it too, after all. Make lousy whisky, finish (okay, blend) in good un-rinsed peaty whisky casks, and presto. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s okay. Some kind of smoked fresh bread. Whiffs of fresh concrete. Grist and yeast. With water: some kind of very young dry Caol Ila. Seriously, it’s blended malt. Mouth (neat): very good! Smoked baguette, bread, crushed banana, lemon fudge, chalk. With water: if this is ‘Dailuaine’ I’m ‘Donald Rumsfeld’. And I don’t like the end result too much. Just don’t water it down. Finish: a tad rubbery. Comments: no luck today (my love is gone away) but it’s far from the worst Dailuaines we’ve had today. This ‘style’ is just a little unnecessary, IMHO.
SGP:361 - 77 points.

This is never going to work, better call this a session. See you tomorrow. Or the day after tomorrow.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Dailuaine we've tasted so far

 

July 2, 2020


Whiskyfun

A Highland Park Trio (again)

Just because they’re always so good when kept as natural as possible. Pristine distillate that needs little make-up or spirit-Botox, just a few good years in a well-mannered cask...

Highland Park 13 yo 2007/2020 ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem’ (61.3%, The Whisky Barrel, refill oloroso hogshead, cask #TWB1011)

Highland Park 13 yo 2007/2020 ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem’ (61.3%, The Whisky Barrel, refill oloroso hogshead, cask #TWB1011) Three stars
This one’s nicknamed ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem’, but I doubt that’s got anything to do with COVID-19. Peace and love, friends. Colour: gold. Nose: really very hot and extremely reminiscent of raw plum eau-de-vie flowing from a wee artisanal still. Hold on, doesn’t the name subtly refer to the word ‘moonshine’? Touches of spent lees too. With water: stems, leaves, peels, grape pips, leather, raisins and candied cherries. Mouth (neat): uurrrgh, this is strong! (I doubt I’ll ever win a Glenfiddich Award for that part). With water: I think we tamed it now. Triple-sec, ginger tonic, pepper, Thai basil, cardamom… Finish: same for a long time, getting even more peppery. More ginger and cinchona too. Comments: good, this baby’s pure rocket fuel (ho-ho) when neat, but it does rather appreciate water indeed, even if it would then remain pretty peppery. I thought the Bowmore ‘One Small Step’ in the same series was in a higher league (WF90).
SGP:362 - 82 points.

Highland Park 1998/2020 (52.5%, Malts of Scotland, for my-whisky-shop, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS20021, 144 bottles)

Highland Park 1998/2020 (52.5%, Malts of Scotland, for my-whisky-shop, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS20021, 144 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: full gold. Nose: this is not, this time, a leafy/gingery sherry, as we get many more notes of dried figs, quince jelly, apricots, and simply sultanas. Quite some honey too, excellent so far. With water: oh, whiffs of menthol and camphor, with a few mushrooms to boot. This combo always wins in my book. And ‘rubbing pine needles while hiking in the woods’. Mouth (neat): rich and creamy, all on honey, raisins and pancake sauce. Toasted brioche too. Nothing to complain about. With water: excellent, a notch drier, but never too spicy. Earl grey tea, cinnamon, tobacco… Finish: long; a tad spicier this time, but all is under control and the raisins keep balancing all that. Comments: we’re rather closer to some OBs this time. I’m reminded of some batches of the 18, for example.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Orkney 19 yo 2000/2020 (57.1%, Thompson Bros. Dornoch, refill hogshead, 343 bottles)

Orkney 19 yo 2000/2020 (57.1%, Thompson Bros. Dornoch, refill hogshead, 343 bottles) Five stars
This is obviously Highland Park, since they’ve put Zulu warriors on the label. Oops, you’re right, Maasais. Remember ‘you move backward you’re dead, you move forward you’re dead, so why move backward?’ Let’s move forward, especially since there’s no sherry in sight this time… Colour: gold. Nose: the coastal and mineral side comes out more, citrus as well, coriander, lemongrass, flints, wax, beach sand, oysters, linseed oil… How greatly millimetric is this? With water: late harvest riesling and a wee bit of burnt tyre, perhaps. Mouth (neat): excellent, creamy, on liquorice, lime and lemon, menthol, spearmint, green pepper, paraffin and grape pips oil. Really lovely and right up my alley. With water: some sherry taste-alike, which is fun. Was it actually a sherry hogshead? Touch of leather and quite some pepper. Finish: long and peppery when reduced, fruitier and more mineral when not. Oh just drop water! Now the aftertaste will always be rather peppery. Comments: state of the art HP, rather high-keyed.
SGP:562 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Highland Park malts we've tasted so far

 

July 1, 2020


Whiskyfun

Two digital Balvenie

Right, not quite, thankfully. But for many reasons, this is the only actual online tasting in which I participated during and post-lockdown, mind you! And it was all very cool, I have to say.

Balvenie 19 yo 2000/2020 ‘The Edge of Burnhead Wood’ (48.7%, OB, Stories, refill bourbon barrels)

Balvenie 19 yo 2000/2020 ‘The Edge of Burnhead Wood’ (48.7%, OB, Stories, refill bourbon barrels) Four stars
100% home-grown barley harvested behind the distillery in 1999 and malted on site at the distillery’s floor malting, so I suppose you could talk about a real ‘single estate’ malt whisky here. Real terroir, baby, like at a wine grower’s. What’s more, they had even been burning heather with the coal when malting. This is a batch of twenty casks, bottled one week before lockdown. Colour: pale gold. Nose: I’m instantly reminded of the lovely 1970s, with this blend of vanilla and preserved mirabelles, then shortbread, fudge and butterscotch, then apricot jam and this nice little mix of breadcrumbs and sawn oak. Mouth: a rather spicy arrival, with bits of ginger and leather, fresh oak, allspice, nutmeg, then more of those plums, as well as bitter oranges. Finish: long and spicy, but not excessively so. Comments: two whiskies in one, with a beautiful bright nose and a palate that’s rather more oak-forward.
SGP:461 - 86 points.

Balvenie 26 yo 1992/2019 ‘A Day of Dark Barley’ (47.8%, OB, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #6864)

Balvenie 26 yo 1992/2019 ‘A Day of Dark Barley’ (47.8%, OB, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #6864) Five stars
This is a single cask this time. They’ve been using roasted and chocolate malt here (90/10). Colour: gold. Nose: I find this much tenser, almost acerbic, with wonderful notes of citrons and grapefruits, as well as these manzanilla-y aromas that we all love so much (don’t we!) Wonderful, if a notch un-Balvenie at times. Isn’t Balvenie located on the West Coast? Even some fresh mint (rubbed leaves). Love it, really. Mouth: very coherent, fresh, tart, citrusy, extremely well balanced, with some rhubarb, kiwi, cider apples, pink grapefruits… And even drizzles of the best petroly rieslings from around Hunawihr and Ribeauvillé (just a little advertising for our own wine region if you don’t mind). Finish: idem, with a little more pepper and crushed stems. Wonderful freshness. Comments: I may have missed the roasted/stouty side that ‘should’ have come with this baby but I believe this is a perfect ‘deviant’ Balvenie, you would almost believe we’re somewhere on the East Coast indeed. More or less between Tain and Wick, see what I mean? But watch it, these are single casks and they may be a little different from each other.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

(Merci Damien)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Balvenie malts we've tasted so far

 

WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

June 2020

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Bowmore 2001/2019 (49.2%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse shop, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 19021, 139 bottles) - WF92

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Old Pulteney 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 fl. ozs, 1970s) - WF93

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Pulteney 14 yo 2006/2020 (55.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 294 bottles)  - WF91

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Bellevue Guadeloupe 21 yo 1998/2020 (55.8%, The Rum Mercenary, Black Label Collection)  - WF91

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Two Fingers (40%, Tequila, white)  - WF50

June 2020 - part 2 <--- July 2020 - part 1 ---> July 2020 - part 2


 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Ardbeg 2000/2020 (48.2%, OB, for Oldies & Goldies, Geert Bero’s cask, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #2, 221 bottles)

Balvenie 26 yo 1992/2019 ‘A Day of Dark Barley’ (47.8%, OB, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #6864)

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (42.1%, King's Court Whisky Society, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #23003)

Cragganmore 1999/2019 (51.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS19038, 312 bottles)

Cragganmore 48 yo 1971/2019 (43.7%, OB, Prima & Ultima, first fill sherry, cask #2301, 352 bottles)

Lagavulin 25 yo (51.7%, OB, 200th Anniversary, sherry casks, 8,000 bottles, 2016)

Lagavulin 28 yo 1991/2019 (50.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak cask, 1013 bottles)

Orkney 19 yo 2000/2020 (57.1%, Thompson Bros. Dornoch, refill hogshead, 343 bottles)

Talisker 31 yo 1988/2019 (51.4%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak cask, cask #5773, 721 bottles)

Cognac Sponge ‘Héritage N.45’ (50.5%, Grosperrin for The Sponge, Fins Bois, 120 bottles, 2020)

Vallein Tercinier 53 yo 1967/2020 (47%, OB, Grande Champagne, selected by Wu Dram Clan)

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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