Whiskyfun
Home
(Current entries)

Facebook Twitter Logo



Whisky Tasting

 
 
 

 

 

 
Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2021 - Part 2

       

July 2021 - part 1 <--- July 2021 - part 2 ---> August 2021 - part 1

 

July 31, 2021


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Angus  
A pair of Smögen
Is there anyone who does not love Smögen and what Mr Caldenby is doing there? There is a very good reason I pester him to let me bottle his whisky.

 

I do not always agree with how he does things or his approach to wood perhaps, but isn't that healthy and rather the point of whisky? The pleasure of respectful disagreement (remember that?). Certainly, in my book, he remains one of the absolutely leading lights of 'new wave' whisky making, where things really are made by hand and legitimately measure up to the dictionary definition of that otherwise banished word: 'craft'. Some of the releases can be a bit too whacky for me, but they are always brimming with personality and never, ever boring. Boring is the point of no return for whisky in my book.

 

 

Smögen 6 yo '100 proof' Batch 1 (57.1%, OB, Sweden, sherry quarter cask, 2020)

Smögen 6 yo '100 proof' Batch 1 (57.1%, OB, Sweden, sherry quarter cask, 2020)
Colour: pale amber. Nose: extremely leafy and resinous with a whole charcuterie of cured and smoked dark meats. Also dark grained breads, smoked German beers, venison baked in cocoa and salt (try it, amazing!), also some perfectly sharp and salty Dutch liquorice. Pow! With water: there is a definite and rather 'Swedish' fishiness now, the overt suggestion that both pickling and burying have occurred at some point along the way. Also smoked black pepper and some chunky BBQ smoke. Mouth: perfectly leathery, sharp and salty sherry that combines nuttiness, black pepper, game meats, wood spices, earthy tones and smoked dark teas. Peat and modern sherry working in rare harmony I think. With water: a kind of candied peaty note, sweet smoke, tar extract, smoked olive oil, more smoked salami, black coffee and hessian. Finish: long, peppery, meaty, tarry and richly smoky. Comments: if I were left in charge of Smögen, I would fill every drop of new make into plain oak barrels and hogsheads. This terrific wee bottling is exactly why I should not be left in charge of Smögen.
SGP: 476 - 90 points.

 

 

Smögen 8 yo 2011/2020 (62.7%, Scotch Malt WHisky Society, #145.1 'A sweet kiss from a smoking mermaid', 1st fill barrel, 240 bottles)

Smögen 8 yo 2011/2020 (62.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #145.1 'A sweet kiss from a smoking mermaid', 1st fill barrel, 240 bottles)
One of my fellow SMWS panel chairs clearly has more experience with mermaids than I do. But was she on fire, in a wood smoker, sparking of a large joint - we demand answers! Colour: straw. Nose: pure, hyper sharp and slightly closed up to begin. We're in very narrow Caol Ila territory I feel. Pure seawater, pickling brine, smoked olive oil and salt-cured sardines. Impressions of wet seaweed and beach pebbles come out too. It's undeniably impeccable, but keeps its cards close to its chest. With water: a pure and pristine smokiness, one that takes in peat and wood smoke and possesses an almost crystalline, brittle quality. I also find pink sea salt, ink and a little carbolic acidity. Mouth: pretty merciless upon arrival. A coiled spring of seawater, stone-honed peat smoke, mercurochrome, lemon juice, oyster water and sandalwood ashes. It's monolithic but there also many subtle suggestive things popping out like chalkiness, citrus piths, smoked olive oil; then eventually we get to thicker stuff like camphor, deeper phenolics, tar coal soap and green peppercorns in brine. There is a lot of detail and requires close attention. With water: quite immense now with water. Becomes broader, more open, the texture is fatter and thicker in every direction. A real mouth-filling carpet of smoke, tar, pebbles, salt, minerals and petrol. Finish: extremely long, sharply smoky, green and black olives, lightly fermentary with hay, rollmop herring, wood ashes, pickling brine and salted liquorice. The complexity just seems to gather pace and momentum over time. Comments: It's probably the style of Smögen I most enjoy, and as such I'm having a wee internal battle about the score, but I suppose it's also a demanding style of whisky that you have to really be in the mood for. We are really in smoked barley eau de vie territories here - and brilliantly so if you ask me.
SPG: 377 - 90 points.

 

 

 

WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

July 2021

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1991/2020 (50.5%, The Perfect Fifth, 165 bottles) - WF91

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Caol Ila 1978/1989 (55%, R.W. Duthie for Samaroli) - WF94

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Glenfarclas '105' (60%, OB, +/-2020)  - WF87

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Borderies 11 ans (46.8%, Jean Grosperrin, batch #L854, 2020)  - WF92

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Nikka 'Apple Brandy V.S.O.P.' (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2015)  - WF50
 

July 30, 2021


Whiskyfun

Olympics

Olympic Japanese trios, Day 4/8
Mars's young peated Tsunuki was really rather something, so maybe would we go on with a little more whisky from the Tsunuki aging warehouse…

Mars Komagate 'Tsunuki Aging 2018' (57%, OB, Japan, 1462 bottles)

Mars Komagate 'Tsunuki Aging 2018' (57%, OB, Japan, 1462 bottles) Four stars
This was distilled in altitude at Shinshu and matured at Tsunuki aging cellar down in the south, in bourbon, sherry and umeshu casks. I believe they do annual releases. The reputation (and the price) is high. Colour: gold. Nose: a little hot and spirity, perhaps, with quite some varnish and even glue, then a large bag of cider apples and the greenest pears, plus indeed green plums, damsons that aren't too ripe, raw quinces... Surprisingly austere and showing self-restraint this far. With water: bready notes coming out, raisin rolls, pilsner, chalk, perhaps a touch of very young brandy… Mouth (neat): very fat mouth feel, almost thick, on really a lot of limoncello and raw wood. Bags of fruit peelings too, green tea, peppermint… A little bubblegum too but it remains rather austere when undiluted. With water: no massive changes, it remains pretty minimal. Japanese aesthetics rather than Scotch whisky taste-alike? Finish: medium, still minimalistic. Chalk, gras, vanilla, beer. Comments: wait, rather Bauhaus whisky? Really excellent but I'd say it's lacking complexity to make it to the top of the 80s (let alone the 90s).
SGP:451 - 85 points.

And quite logically…

Mars Komagate 'Tsunuki Aging 2019' (56%, OB, Japan)

Mars Komagate 'Tsunuki Aging 2019' (56%, OB, Japan) Four stars
Same set-up except that apparently, this is only ex-bourbon and sherry. Adios umeshu, sob… Colour: gold. Nose: extremely close, only a wee tad rounder, with a little more vanilla and a little less glue. Perhaps a touch of sulphur. Other than that, we have a similar development on green apples and pears, plus three or four raisins (in the whole vat). With water: rather rubber than sulphur. Not exactly unpleasant. Mouth (neat): tenser, brighter, zestier than the 2018, more vertical and much more on lemons and granny smith, plus some chalk and green walnuts. We call these blade-y malts  in that case that would be a katana I suppose. With water: awesome if a tad unidimensional. A touch of pineapple perhaps, IPA, bread, chalk, blood oranges, paraffin. Heather honey, mead, a few sultanas again. Finish: medium, rather soft. Genuine hazelnut paste (not that brand) and lemon marmalade. Comments: a notch more to my liking. Very good, actually, just not very broad, which will probably happen when the whisky's older.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

By the way, the first in the series, the 2013, scored 86 in my book as well. But let's try a single cask if you please…

Mars Tsunuki 2017/2020 (61%, OB, Japan, for Kirsch Import, 2nd fill barrel, cask #5108)

Mars Tsunuki 2017/2020 (61%, OB, Japan, for Kirsch Import, 2nd fill barrel, cask #5108) Four stars
Hold on, this is not only from the Tsunuki warehouses, it was distilled at the subtropical Tsunuki Distillery as well. It's also to be noted that Kirsch Import have had several pretty brilliant and 'off the beaten tracks' bottlings in the recent months/years. May I humbly say 'bravo'? Colour: white wine. Nose: oh well, I wouldn't say there are vast differences here, this is just as austere, minimalistic, grassy and spirity. But then again, 61%, baby. With water: some chalk, moss, roots and branches. A touch of mint, one of eucalyptus. I suppose we could do inhalations with this and cure any cold. Mouth (neat): not sure I should. Well, it's a high-voltage sweet eau-de-vie de barley with some vanilled sugar coating and a feeling of fresh mirabelle eau-de-vie. More or less. With water: sugar up. Little easter eggs, marshmallows… Finish: same. Rather long but very sweet. Bonbons, jellybeans… Comments: another one that's super-excellent but perhaps still a tad… minimalistic?
SGP:641 - 85 points.

 

Today's Podium

Mars Komagate 'Tsunuki Aging 2019' (56%, OB, Japan)
Mars Tsunuki 2017/2020 (61%, OB, Japan, for Kirsch Import, 2nd fill barrel, cask #5108)
Mars Komagate 'Tsunuki Aging 2018' (57%, OB, Japan, 1462 bottles)

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

 

July 28, 2021


Whiskyfun

WF

 

WF 19

Some unusual Ben Nevis for little WF's 19th Anniversary
Indeed, right today we are 19 and we couldn't have had just anything for this lousy website's Anniversary. Ben Nevis! In fact we tend to like to try dozens of Ben Nevis in a row since it's such an interesting and awesomely 'wild' malt whisky, but this time, we'll have only two, except that they'll be pretty unusual indeed. In theory… (while we keep thinking of Colin Ross)...

Ben Nevis 6 yo 2015/2021 (58.1%, Roger's Vintage Selection, cask #34, 328 bottles)

Ben Nevis 6 yo 2015/2021 (58.1%, Roger's Vintage Selection, cask #34, 328 bottles) Five stars
This baby's advertised as being 'heavily peated'. We shall see… It's also ex-first fill sherry, so let's be careful if you please… Colour: gold. Nose: bacon! I mean, bacon as in bacon, and as in bacon crisps, bacon Doritos, bacon bourbon (Jim Beam, Ol' Major), MacDonald's Cheddar and Smoky Bacon… Well, we're 'culturally' (okay) extremely far from bacon, but this is very spectacular and, guess what, kind of balanced. But you could put your glass in another room and still smell bacon, really… Even the cats go crazy just now. With water: more regular fudgey smoke, coal, creosote, butterscotch…  Mouth (neat): I have to confess I enjoy this a lot. This time there isn't only bacon, there's also lime, tobacco, ginger paste, a little wasabi if not chilis (rougail, Creole spice mix), peppered fudge… Really, love this weird concoction. With water: it loves water. Touches of gunpowder, truffles (on the palate), otherwise pepper and perhaps spinach. I agree spinach isn't common in whisky. Oh and naturally, fried bacon. Finish: very long, but I'm wondering, by what miracle was it kept balanced? Now what's to be found in the aftertaste, in your opinion? That's right, smoked bacon. Comments: brainwave. I'm not saying I'd quaff a gallon while listening to a speech by President Macron, but brainwave. With 1 bonus point for inventiveness.
SGP:555 - 90 points.

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1990/2015 'Mr Taketsuru ' (61.3%, OB, rejuvenated barrel, cask #1, 235 bottles)

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1990/2015 'Mr Taketsuru ' (61.3%, OB, rejuvenated barrel, cask #1, 235 bottles) Five stars
An historical bottling as this was the very first cask filled after the reopening of Ben Nevis Distillery, which had been bought in 1986 by Nikka's Takeshi Taketsuru, son of Masataka Taketsuru. Most sadly, Mr Taketsuru could not try his bottled cask, as he passed away in 2014 at the ripe age of 90, one year before his barrel was disgorged. Colour: gold. Nose: it's probably very stupid but I'm thinking of Yoichi. Indeed, it is not a 'greatly deviant' Ben Nevis, it's rather a 'fatter clean one' that, in my humble little book, would rather feel Japanese indeed. Probably my mind playing tricks on me but there, I try to write what I think. Having said that, it was a rejuvenated barrel, so with extra filtering powers. Plantains, greener mangos, vanilla, marzipan, avocado juice, butter croissants, vanilla fudge, cinnamon rolls, coconut water… So you see, not a very wild Ben Nevis indeed. With water: same feelings. One of the cleanest, and yet fattest Ben Nevisses I could nose. Mouth (neat): a little Ben-Nevisness indeed (smoked green olives anyone?) but other than that, it's fully on peach syrup (huge), marzipan, verbena and wormwood, vanilla and coconut, touches of sandalwood, green spices, red bean paste (azuki paste or anko, or those daifuku moshis, which are excellent)… It really is a wonderful Yoich… I mean Ben Nevis. With water: gets even more tropical, with more bananas, otherwise rosehip, jasmine and hibiscus teas, all having 'Surprising Health Benefits' according to Google. Google st*nks more and more these days, if you ask me. Finish: medium and rather sublime, with thousands of tiny aromatic herbs tickling your palate. It's uncommon that whiskies would get even better at this stage. Strawberries. Comments: between us, I have to confess I wouldn't have recognised the distillery, but it sure is one of the greatest Yoich… I mean Ben Nevis. Superb and rare.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

We shall see if we make it to Twenty. Twenty is a little too much. In the meantime, happy 19th, little WF, you demanding mistress!

(Thank you Werry!)

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

 

Still, just a few words...
(oh, no!)

Dear friends, readers, whisky enthusiasts, members of the industry, retailers and bartenders, we won't write a long statement or anything like that, since 19 is not really a number, is it? After all, don't good distillers usually wait until their 19 years old spirit is 20 before they disgorge and release it? All I'll say is that while shipping alcohol, including samples, across the Channel becomes increasingly difficult after Brexit, and after a long period of time without any whisky festivals 'in flesh', we still manage to gather a healthy (so to speak) amount of liquid every week, so our statisticians  are reckoning that we shouldn't run out before… 2025, should that ever happen. Oh, yes, by the way, sorry to disappoint you but indeed we do not buy approx. 1,000 bottles of +/- £300 (guestimate) spirits a year just to feed WF, even if I agree that would be very ethical. Things you can do when you taste fifty or one hundred spirits a year you cannot do when you try one thousand or one thousand two hundred of them. What's more, as far as traffic goes, the latest 12 months have shown record numbers once again, with all figures rising by around 15% (visits, visitors, pages…) Which means that we still haven't found the slightest motivation to change anything to this cavern-age little website, we'll just go on filling it up… Now you could argue that our technological handicaps will further accumulate, such as our extremely bad SEO, growing aversion to catchy headlines and increasing non-compatibility with that wee tax-evading company called G**gle – not to mention stupid A**xa. Well, in our view, that's rather an advantage since we believe only 'good' readership will then find us, while all we won't want is accidental readership. After all, we still rank #4 at Feedspot, just after The Whisky Exchange, The Whiskey Wash and Whisky Advocate, which frankly, is good enough for us.
But this was too long already, let me just send you a wee virtual glass of Brora 1972 and say "à la bonne vôtre", and thanks for your ongoing support! And thanks to our compadre Angus in Scotland, who's been a tremendous asset to this wee four-hand website.

PS: the reopening of Brora Distillery was the best recent piece of news, given that little Whiskyfun.com started as just a few pages about… Brora!

 

July 27, 2021


Whiskyfun

Olympics

Olympic Japanese trios, Day 3/8
We've got one of those peated Akkeshis, and then perhaps some Mars…

Akkeshi 'Kanro' (55%, OB, Japan, 15000 bottles, 2020)

Akkeshi 'Kanro' (55%, OB, Japan, 15000 bottles, 2020) Four stars and a half
This baby was heavily marketed – hence available – in France last year but it looks like everything's been sold out. The story's pretty simple, 'this is like an Islay distillery, only in Japan'. Why not, short stories being the best? Colour: gold. Nose: ha, I'm immediately reminded of a young peated Ben Nevis we had the other day (not sure whether we'll publish it before or after this one though) and that was reeking of smoked bacon. So huge bacon, rather huge 'new tyres', scuba diving suit, Vicks Vaporub, eucalyptus, green pesto, kelp, boat oil and just old tarry ropes. Great fun here, let us get on with this unusual Japanese baby… With water: oh, it's almost closing. Stewed zucchinis? That's funny… Mouth (neat): thick, heavy, concentrated, and pretty excellent. Essential oils, herbs, leaves, fruits, myrtle, eucalyptus, bear's garlic, turmeric, Thai basil… A lot of action in this one; we approve. With water: remains open this time, just as thick, spicy, mentholy, pleasantly heavy-ish, on some kind of mentholated and smoked coffee-flavoured toffee. Yep my friend. Finish: really long, rather on mentholy spices and with the expected citrus in the aftertaste. Salted lemons and a little mezcal, while the bacon's back too. Comments: I'm a fan of this one, it's totally an un-boring malt whisky. Great fun and high quality given the age.
SGP:564 - 89 points.

I say young peat calls for more young peat…

Mars 'Tsunuki Peated' (50%, OB, Japan, 14830 bottles, 2020)

Mars 'Tsunuki Peated' (50%, OB, Japan, 14830 bottles, 2020) Four stars and a half
A blend of 2016 and 2017 peated distillates bottled in 2020. Very young, obviously, so I suppose some extra-care was given to 'wood technology'. Now why and how they all manage to sell their baby peaters for the price of three to four bottles of Ardbeg Ten, I don't know. Colour: straw. Nose: not a big peater at all, this is almost discreet, on chalk, limestone, wool, mushrooms, crushed bananas and old papers. Strictly nothing against this, having said that. Oh do I also notice hints of tinned sardines in olive oil? With water: oh mud and wool, that just always works. Mouth (neat): excellent, just much narrower and shier than the extravagant, quite bombastic Akkeshi. Tight smoked lemons and herbs, green riesling (or crazy ultra-green chenin blanc), flints and lemon curd… With water: sweet green fruits, ripe gooseberries and all that. Plums, grapes, rhubarb, apples, physalis… Finish: rather long and very perfect. Menthol. Comments: I would say the actual advent of Japanese whisky did not happen twenty or fifteen years ago; it's happening now. Brilliant young whisky.
SGP:455 - 89 points.

  And the real pioneer was…

Chichibu 10 yo 2009/2019 (61.9%, OB, Japan, Ghost series, bourbon, cask #554, 157 bottles)

Chichibu 10 yo 2009/2019 (61.9%, OB, Japan, Ghost series, bourbon, cask #554, 157 bottles) Five stars
Why do these now go for £3,500.00 at auctions? Shouldn't we tax all these crazy transactions and send the moneys to Haiti, Sudan or Afghanistan? Colour: deep gold. Nose: we're happy because this is the choice of kings, I mean simply bourbon instead of all those unnecessary flavourings done for fools. Dead wood, moss, mushrooms, pistachios, plantains and manioc, focaccia, croissants, wee artichokes… This is really complex and yet epic. And f***ing smart. With water: oh! Many herbs, thyme, mint, rosemary, sage, borage, verbena,… I'm even finding buttered garden peas. How very English, no? Mouth (neat): extraordinary, even at almost 62% vol. Full-class grassy, bready, herbal and fruity combo, but at 62% we won't push our luck… With water: superb, just a tad simpler, which comes unexpected. Mashed fruits and vegetables, maize bread, masala…  Finish: long, more on citrus. Lemongrass. Comments: that's the thing with these wee wonders, you need at least a PhD in pipette handling to catch their very substance. I'm almost siding with the bottlers who rather believe in 'ready-to-drink' bottling strengths. Such as 57.1% ;-). Nah, great, great Chichibu, but I'm wondering if we couldn't have gone even higher…
SGP:562 - 91 points.

(Thanks a lot Chris, Werry)

 

Today's Podium

Chichibu 10 yo 2009/2019 (61.9%, OB, Japan, Ghost series, bourbon, cask #554, 157 bottles)
Mars 'Tsunuki Peated' (50%, OB, Japan, 14830 bottles, 2020)
Akkeshi 'Kanro' (55%, OB, Japan, 15000 bottles, 2020)

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

 

July 26, 2021


Whiskyfun

Olympics

Olympic Japanese trios, Day 2/8
Since we were having some excellent Yoichis, let's have more if you don't mind…

Yoichi 'Apple Brandy Wood Finish' (47%, OB, Japan, 6700 bottles, 2020)

Yoichi 'Apple Brandy Wood Finish' (47%, OB, Japan, 6700 bottles, 2020) Four stars
I've seen this at €200, which left me flabbergasted. I mean, whisky flavoured with calvados and sold without any age statement? What's the idea? Having said that, the story goes like 'Mr Taketsuru used to sell apple juice while his first whiskies were maturing, so there's always been a strong relationship between Nikka and apples'. All right then, may I suggest a William Tell Edition next time? Colour: gold. Nose: you do feel some sweet cider if you nose deeply, otherwise a softer, easier maltiness on brioche and brown beer. Having said that, if you wait, you'll start to notice notes of mint (rubbed leaves), dill, fennel, menthol tobacco… Now the notes of apple brandy have almost disappeared. Touch of incense. Mouth: pretty good, if a tad 'crossover'. Sweeter, fruitier, really on sweet apples this time, then kirschwasser and a little crème de menthe. Some drops of that pink peppercorn liqueur that tourists bring back from… Wait, what is the country again? You say Scotland? Edinburgh??? Finish: medium, rather on walnut cake, with only a mild smokiness. Perhaps a little pastis in the aftertaste, as well as some green peat and some bitterness. Shoe polish. Comments: very good, very sweet, with an unusual combination (apples, mint, peat, aniseed). Now 'Japanese Whisky Of The Year'? To each her/his own.
SGP:653 - 86 points.

Yamazaki 12 yo (43%, OB, Japan, +/-2021)

Yamazaki 12 yo (43%, OB, Japan, +/-2021) Three stars
It's been ages, it was about time. No need to curb our enthusiasm, in the own words of Larry David. Colour: light gold. Nose: a little burnt wood, peelings, beers, butter, mashed potatoes and turnips, sawdust, autumn leaves… This is really dry; I'm almost finding spinach and eggplant. No fruits whatsoever in this nose. Mouth: much better on the palate, bigger, sweeter, with better beers and pear juice, quite some oak for sure, herbal teas, cinnamon, ginseng, then going towards eucalyptus, peppermint and, hold on, mizunara oak? Finish: a little short, rather on soft liquorice, with a few tropical fruits coming in late. Bananas, papayas and mint. Comments: I find it a little wobbly in the knees, to tell you the truth and not too flamboyant, but it is a fine drop. Needs time, for sure.
SGP:351 - 81 points.

Yamazakura Asaka 'The first' (50%, OB, Japan, 2019)

Yamazakura Asaka 'The first' (50%, OB, Japan, 2019) Four stars
Said to be the very first whisky distilled, aged, blended and bottled by the Asaka Distillery which is located north of Tokyo. In my book, the name Yamazakura is very shady because of some lousy foreign 'Japanese' whiskies, but only fools never change their mind. Colour: white wine. Nose: nice, bready, with touches of paraffin and white asparagus, green bananas, guavas (not unseen in very young malts), doughs, sweeter weissbeer… Well I do enjoy this. With water: nice, with wet plaster, potatoes, last year's apples, a pile of old magazines, a wee mustiness that's not unpleasant… So I repeat, this is nice. Mouth (neat): pretty good, with a few perfumy touches at first but the distillate's been well taken care of, with some singular mentholy fruits and several aromatic herbs. Some kind of Japanese herbal smoothie of high quality. With water: some mead and some sake kicking in., more white beers… Nicely fermentary. Finish: medium, rounded, on some kind of fruit beer. The aftertaste is a tad sugary. Comments: I'll say it, when I saw the name Yamazakura I pulled out my pistol and put it on the tasting table. That was not necessary at all, I'm very positively surprised.
SGP:542 - 86 points.

(Thank you Chris)

 

Today's Podium

Yamazakura Asaka 'The first' (50%, OB, Japan, 2019)
Yoichi 'Apple Brandy Wood Finish' (47%, OB, Japan, 6700 bottles, 2020)
Yamazaki 12 yo (43%, OB, Japan, +/-2021)

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

 

July 25, 2021


Whiskyfun

Olympics

Olympic Japanese trios, Day 1/8-bis (malternatives)
Indeed we could have had some Japanese rums (we may try some next week on Sunday) or some Japanese brandies, or even Shochu, but since there's a large Calvados session planned in August, I thought we could rather have a trio of Japanese 'Apple Brandies' by Nikka. Remember, since Masataka Taketsuru's days, Nikka's always been into apples; I guess we'll tell the story sooner or later…

Nikka 'Apple Brandy V.S.O.P.' (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2015)

Nikka 'Apple Brandy V.S.O.P.' (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2015)
We've tried both the rather light and dry Rita 30 yo brandy (WF 82) and the very good Miyagikyo 'Apple Brandy Wood Finish' (WF 87) which, I suppose has done good use of some empty casks. Having said that, I do not know much about this very brandy, whether they make it themselves or not etc. Let's just try it as the decanter screams 'I'm worth it!' (S., what?). Colour: full gold. Nose: light, rather between a young blended calvados and some sugary rum ala black Bacardi. Not unpleasant at all, naturally, but really thin and after thirty seconds, you would believe you're nosing cider into which someone would have thrown Demerara sugar. Mouth: I'm not too sure. Rather a lot of brown sugar again, some cider again, some leaves and peelings, a little cardboard, then some raw plum spirit, and something rather rough and hot, pretty spirity. Thinnish body. Finish: short and a little dry and even burnt. Comments: I'm reminded of Mekhong 'whisky' and I remember that the Rita Brandy was ten times better (on a scale that is not, contrarily to what many good folks believe, linear!) Anecdotal spirit but the decanter is lovely.
SGP:330 - 50 points.

Did they really make their excellent Yoichi and Miyagikyo 'Apple Brandy Finish' using these casks?... Right, please a second chance…

Nikka 'Apple Brandy X.O.' (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2015)

Nikka 'Apple Brandy X.O.' (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2015) Two stars
Another lovely bottle, this time a white flagon with a very 'medieval pop' label that The Beatles could have used for an album. Or the band 'Renaissance'. Colour: deep gold. Nose: not that different, probably a little drier and closer to the fruit, rather more elegant, with touches of mead beyond the cider, some pleasant fermentary notes, and above all that, no traces of burnt sugar whatsoever. Way, way nicer than the VSOP on the nose. Mouth: but certainly, this is much better, pretty dry and leafy, rather rustic, but with good notes of apples and once again, almost no feeling of 'added sugar'. Finish: rather short, a little drying, a little cardboardy… Some unexpected, earthier notes of eggplant and celeriac in the aftertaste. Comments: again, it's not really my scene but this is better than the VSOP indeed, I doubt anyone would disagree.
SGP:330 - 70 points.

We said trios…

Nikka 12 yo 'Single Apple Brandy Hirosaki' (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2018?)

Nikka 12 yo 'Single Apple Brandy Hirosaki' (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2018?) Three stars
I believe these ones are only available at their whisky distilleries. Hirosaki is the name of a town in the north of Honshu, where they grow a lot of apples, they even have an 'Apple Park' with more than one hundred sorts. To be visited during the apple season, I suppose, but luckily, not all breeds do grow simultaneously. Colour: deep gold. Nose: ah, now we're talking! Lovely varnish, calvados indeed, pear spirit, nail polish, hops, almonds, various kernels, crushed pine nuts, a touch of orange, perhaps even a little incense…  A wonderful nose indeed, miles away from the very disappointing VSOP and XO in my book. Mouth: indeed, very good if a tad green, leafy, peely… Green apples and green walnuts, some earth, pepper, coated with almond paste and, perhaps, a tiny touch of red bean curd. Some sweetness coming through after a few seconds, around… sweet cider. Finish: long, more rustic. More apple peelings and a little candy sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: I liked the nose better than the palate. They call it 'sweet and fruity' but I find it neither sweet nor fruity. But I find it pretty good. Too bad I haven't got anything left from that Rita 30 yo.
SGP:340 - 80 points.

Mixed feelings but I believe those 40% vol. didn't really help either. Tomorrow, back to Japanese whisky, including some excellent ones by Nikka!

 

 

Today's Podium

Nikka 12 yo 'Single Apple Brandy Hirosaki' (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2018?)
Nikka 'Apple Brandy X.O.' (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2015)
Nikka 'Apple Brandy V.S.O.P.' (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2015)
 

July 24, 2021


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Angus  
Glenlivet - with relief!
I have been somewhat absent from wee Whiskyfun in recent weeks, this is mostly because we've been moving house. Which apparently is quite stressful - who knew! Although, if you're looking for helpful tips on how to stay in shape, try moving your entire whisky collection on your own from one part of the country to another. Extra points (and immolated calories) to anyone who can do it without the use of a van, although that only counts if your collection is over 10 bottles. But wait, what on earth am I talking about? I am definitely NOT a collector, I just happen to have a lot of whisky. Somehow these bottles seem to accumulate.

 

Anyway, things are settling down and I am adjusting to my new life as a Fifer (much to the amusement of several esteemed pals). Hence the 'relief' in today's title. Let's celebrate this re-location with a few Glenlivets if you don't mind. One of the 'original' single malts (what does that mean Angus?) and a name that remains a stalwart to this day in my book, one I'm always happy to try.

 

 

Glenlivet 8 yo (80 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, early 1970s)

Glenlivet 8 yo (80 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, early 1970s)
We tried another 8yo in the same livery from similar era almost exactly a year ago on these very pages, and indeed it was stunning (WF:91). However, that one was 70 proof and dark sherry, whereas we're now at 80 proof and pale / refill - which in all honest I actually find more intriguing… Colour: straw. Nose: a wee metallic flush of OBE at first, but also many bright notes of citrus rinds, lemon-scented waxes, chalk, mineral oils, flints - I cannot help but think of some old style, very mineral-driven Clynelish. Really excellent. Mouth: big arrival! The ABV is doing sterling work already. Lots of metal polish, soots, waxes, soft embrocations, mineral oils once again and this feeling of sheep wools, animal fats and herby bouillon stock. Still a persistent tang of OBE, but I wouldn't say it's excessive. Finish: good length, nicely drying, many notes of sandalwood, linens, light medicines, waxes, cereals and some light mechanical oils. Comments: old style, characterful distillate that it is impossible for me not to enjoy. Only this lightly modulating OBE aspect will prevent it hitting 90. But there's bags of pleasure abound here.
SGP: 462 - 89 points.

 

 

Glenlivet 13 yo 2007/2020 (65.3%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #900243, 1st fill sherry butt, 625 bottles)

Glenlivet 13 yo 2007/2020 (65.3%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #900243, 1st fill sherry butt, 625 bottles)
65.3%? Allow me to just prepare my Kevlar tasting pants! Colour: amber. Nose: what's cool about these batches is that they remain eminently nose-able even at full power, which I think is one of the signs of a good whisky. Easy, leafy and nicely chocolate-driven sherry. With some whiffs of fresh espresso, Nutella, cellar earth and strawberry jam. With water: cherries, malt loaf, chocolate stout beer, brown bread studded with pumpkin seeds etc. Certainly drifts more towards this nutty, earthy and bready style. Mouth: ok, here it's a tad more 'ouchey', but there's still a lot of fudge, millionaire shortbread and this time raspberry jam. But quick with the water please… with water: big, spicy and fudgy, lots of pink peppercorns, jams, bitter chocolate and wood spice. You feel the modernity of the sherry cask style now. Finish: long, nicely bitter, rather gingery, very warming, some new wood and more peppercorn notes. Comments: I think it's a bit too beastly for my tastes, although if you are after raw, unvarnished sherry power then you could do a lot worse. A'bunadh on methamphetamine.
SGP: 561 - 86 points.

 

 

Glenlivet 30 yo 1990/2020 (54.4%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Connoisseur's Choice', cask #17167, refill hogshead, 197 bottles)

Glenlivet 30 yo 1990/2020 (54.4%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Connoisseur's Choice', cask #17167, refill hogshead, 197 bottles)
Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: wow, a beautifully concentrated style that is much closer to the various legendary 1972s. Can you use 'notes of 1972 Glen Grant' in a 1990 Glenlivet tasting note? Seriously, bags of honey, mature dessert wines, nectars, pollens, yellow plums, fruit salad juices and wee touches of melon and pineapple. Pure class! With water: some leafy tobacco, more pollen, dried flowers, turmeric, hessian cloth and other lighter fabric notes. Mouth: holds up extremely well. A firm arrival with lots of soft wood spices, quince jelly, cloves, nutmeg, lanolin, preserved citrus peels and some kumquat and wee waxy touches. I think, given blind, I'd say it was from a much earlier era of production. With water: evolves a lot of these soft wood spice and sandalwood tones. Dried out flowers, citrus rinds, spiced marmalade and flower honey on brown toast. Elegant and yet still with good power. Finish: long, gently warming, spicy and peppery. Lingering impressions of honeycomb waxes, dried flowers, tobacco, moss and lemon rinds. Comments: extremely good, extremely classy modern old Glenlivet. Haven't we already tried a few really great Glenlivet casks from these early 90s vintages? Mind you, most are 'unnamed Speysiders', or, as you might also call them 'distillery own goals'. Anyway, on the flip side, I do think these older G&M releases are a bit pricy now.
SGP: 651 - 90 points.

 

 

These Glenlivets are a lot of fun, why not one more silly one for the road?

 

 

Glenlivet 34 yo 1966/2001 (64.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #2.36, 'Caramel bon-bons and fromage frais')

Glenlivet 34 yo 1966/2001 (64.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #2.36, 'Caramel bon-bons and fromage frais')
From a cask that appears to have been warehoused in Satan's jockstrap. Colour: deep gold. Nose: we really aren't so far away from the 1990, there's a lot of resinous honeys, fir wood, dried flowers, exotic hardwoods, subtle waxes and also some big notes of long matured rums. This sense of convergence we often talk about when wood-aged spirits reach this kind of age. I'm also finding leafy tobaccos, lemon marmalade and some old yellow Chartreuse. Really quite a complex nose, I don't get the alcohol much at all. With water: many shades of bread, satsuma peel, mango, kumquat, sandalwood and this wonderfully fragrant herbaceous quality and a rather resinous fruitiness. Mouth: ok, this is your wakeup call! A huge arrival, full of shoe polish, exotic hardwood resins, rums, tropical fruit jams, pollens, honeys, pressed flowers and various long-brewed herbal and exotic teas. Powerful, yet pretty brilliant. With water: pollens, flowers, waxes, verbena, wormwood and these extremely classical vibes of camphor, hessian and vapour rubs. Hugely detailed and intricate whisky. Finish: long, perfectly balanced between firm, peppery and warming qualities along with softer waxes, pollens, herbal teas and crystallised fruits. Comments: brilliant but rather dominating whisky, the kind of bottle you can make last at least a decade and watch how it evolves with time and air.
SGP: 572 - 91 points.

 

 

 

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

 

July 23, 2021


Whiskyfun

Olympics

Olympic Japanese trios, Day 1/8
A pretty wild bunch of various Japanese whiskies, three at a time, for eight days, to celebrate the courage of the Japanese people. Let's see what we can find… Excuse me? Of course this is sport, now please dont drink and throw javelins, thanks.

Nikka 'Coffey Malt' (45%, OB, Japan, +/-2021)

Nikka 'Coffey Malt' (45%, OB, Japan, +/-2021) Two stars and a half
This NAS baby is very popular in France, perhaps because people here believe it's made out of coffee (of course I am joking). I rather liked this expression last time I tried it in 2015, but had thought it was a little 'easy-easy' (WF 82), perhaps because of the column still (a.k.a. Coffey). Colour: gold. Nose: really a lot of UHU glue, cellulosic varnish, sawdust, then green tea and lemon zests, then coconut cream. Extremely unusual, you really need to enjoy varnish in the nose of your malt. By the way, not sure you could call some malt not distilled in discontinuous pot stills 'malt whisky' in Scotland. Unless I'm wrong, that would be grain whisky, even if it's malt. Again, unless I haven't been paying attention all these years… Mouth: light and easy, certainly closer to some grain whisky indeed, with a little bourbon and even light rum as well. Rather thin even if there's some creaminess as well, and once again, a little lacquer and limoncello. Finish: I'd swear there is a little café latte indeed. Or something weird by Starbucks. Comments: I'm really having trouble with this style and could not not think of… Havana Club. Yeah or Haig Club.
SGP:430 - 78 points.

Let's make amend subito presto…

Yoichi 20 yo (52%, OB, Japan, +/-2005)

Yoichi 20 yo (52%, OB, Japan, +/-2005) Five stars
Right, we've tried this wonder by Nikka several times already, but this is another bottle you understand, while life's too short for bad whisky (and bad wine, bad tea, bad coffee, bad brandy…) By the way, this is one of the few bottles that started the Japanese craze… Colour: deep gold. Nose: wow, extremely rich, camphory, deeply herbal and exotic, with notes of sawn teak wood, a family pack of macadamia nuts, some diesel oil, bandages, crème brulée… How unusual and complex indeed! I think bottle aging did it much good and I'll probably have to raise my score. With a drop of water: many fresh nuts, a touch of wax, and this little tarriness that's often made me think of Ardbeg. Mouth (neat): flabbergasting richness yet with a lot of elegance, always around teak and other wood oils, bananas and papayas, tobacco, overripe apples and pears, a drop of varnish once again, vin jaune, walnuts, camphor, tar (touches)… With water: absolutely perfect and, I'll say it again, rather a little Ardbeggian. We're talking 1970s Ardbeg, naturally. Finish: rather long, with stunning honeys mixed with eucalyptus honey and once again, a little tar. Comments: just splendid.
SGP:463 - 92 points (up from 91).

We said a trio, so perhaps another rather legendary Yoichi?...

Yoichi 1987/2007 (55%, OB, Japan, 2000 bottles)

Yoichi 1987/2007 (55%, OB, Japan, 2000 bottles) Four stars
In truth I had tried this one around twelve years ago and was a little disappointed (WF 85). But this is another bottle and once again, bottle aging may have improved it. Colour: golden amber. Nose: typically varnishy, but absolutely not as varnishy as the humble Coffey Malt. On the other hand, it is tarter and smokier than the 20, perhaps a little rougher, more on piney woods (sandal, cedar) and green walnuts. Wood still a little loudish, perhaps, a little leather (new shoes)… With water: gets green, with some coal tar, latex, bitter beers, rubber bands, raw wool, tyres, smoky tea… Were at the Scuba Shop! Mouth: absolutely huge, biting, almost aggressive, with really a lot varnish this time, peat smoke, cracked pepper, grapefruits, lemon, tar… It is a fighter. With water: pretty similar, even greener. More medicinal as well (cough medicine). A feeling of smoked and mentholated marmalade. Finish: rather long, rather on eucalyptus, which is not uncommon with Japanese whiskies. Comments: I totally agree 85 was a little too low, but after twelve more years of bottle aging, I wouldn't say it really worked its way to the top. A great whisky, but with a few dissonances, would I say.
SGP:564 - 87 points.

(Merci François, Nicolas)

 

Today's Podium

Yoichi 20 yo (52%, OB, Japan, +/-2005)
Yoichi 1987/2007 (55%, OB, Japan, 2000 bottles)
Nikka 'Coffey Malt' (45%, OB, Japan, +/-2021)

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

 

July 22, 2021


Whiskyfun

summer

Summer Duets
Today Glenrothes
Glenrothes is easy to find as many indies have some these days, which is excellent news since the make never totally disappoints, in my humble opinion. Let's have two of them, maybe three…

Glenrothes 22 yo 1996/2019 (51.1%, Sansibar for Whisky-Maniac, sherry, 238 bottles)

Glenrothes 22 yo 1996/2019 (51.1%, Sansibar for Whisky-Maniac, sherry, 238 bottles) Four stars
One of the rare new indie labels that would actually suggest to total beginners that this is Scotch whisky indeed. There's value in tradition. Colour: gold. Nose: rather hot and rough at first, with bay leaves, cherry stems, green peppercorn, green walnuts, a little shoe polish, apple peelings… Gears towards almonds after that, but it's still relatively rustic. With water: completely different, much more on beeswax, marmalade, quince jelly and peanut cream. Orgeat. Wonderful once reduced. Mouth (neat): much fuller on the palate than on the nose when undiluted, but this time green spices are running the show. Biting lemon zests, bitters, green pears, green pepper again, fresh turmeric and ginger… This green biting side is pretty unusual, but once again, let's see what water will do to it. Btw it's feels more powerful that 'just' 51% vol. With water: once again water really improves it, with many more oranges appearing, including bitter ones, and bags of walnuts. Amaretti, young bone-dry oloroso. Finish: pretty long, with fruit stones and kernels. Something kirschy. Bitter almonds and orange zests in the aftertaste. Comments: it is not an easy Glenrothes in my book, but provided you've got a good pipette it'll become very rewarding. A little tough when undiluted.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Glenrothes 31 yo 1988/2019 (50.1%, Hunter Laing, Platinum Old & Rare, 109 bottles)

Glenrothes 31 yo 1988/2019 (50.1%, Hunter Laing, Platinum Old & Rare, 109 bottles) Four stars
Probably more roundness to be expected from this older expression. Colour: full gold. Nose: there is a wee grassy side to this one too (and turmeric) but other than that, almond cake and triple-sec are having the upper hand this time, as well as chestnut and heather honeys, which just always works in my book. Tangerines and a little camphor are also adding to this lovely combination. With water: I wouldn't say it changes much, except that even more of some earthy citrusness rose to the surface. Mouth (neat): this eucalyptus plus curaçao composition is a little unusual but it works. Timut pepper, touches of cedarwood, quince syrup, cinnamon, citron liqueur, a touch of myrtle liqueur too… Are we in Corsica? Pace e salute! With water: we're very close to the Sansibar, just a little leafier yet. Turmeric and bitter almonds too, mint and verbena tea, lime-flower tea… Finish: medium, pretty grassy and almondy. Comments: they tended to converge once reduced. Very fine drops, with a grassy/rustic side that's not always to be found in Glenrothes. The casks, I suppose…
SGP:461 – 87 points.

A third one would be welcome…

Glenrothes 19 yo 1997/2017 (58.8%, Whiskybase, sherry butt, cask #15404, 562 bottles)

Glenrothes 19 yo 1997/2017 (58.8%, Whiskybase, sherry butt, cask #15404, 562 bottles) Four stars
Whiskybase, that's an excellent website and resource, with great people at the helm! Colour: gold. Nose: blimey, same ballpark yet again, with some slightly sour and green fruits, something hot, pine honey, and possibly more earthiness, with even mushrooms and mosses. Some pretty grassy sherry. With water: no changes, just more leafiness, more bay leaves… Mouth (neat): a little more butterscotch and even a few raisins in this one, otherwise just more turmeric, ginger, bitter oranges, marzipan, and probably a little thyme (tea and honey)… Another slightly tougher and hotter Glenrothes, having said that. With water: gets different this time, much more on cakes and nuts. Pecan pie, dark nougat, roasted peanuts, sugar almond… these sorts of things. Finish: long, more on caramel and black nougat. Funny hints of chamomile and peppermint tea in the aftertaste. Comments: another very good one that doesn't exactly go down easy; but that's part of its charms.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

I'll try to find some unsherried Glenrothes next time. In the meantime, pace e salute indeed!

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

 

July 21, 2021


Whiskyfun

summer

Summer Duets
Today Glenfarclas
Some heavies from that famous family-owned distillery with good whisky and friendly people-who-know-what-they-are-doing inside. Is Dylan still living in the neighbourhood?

Glenfarclas '105' (60%, OB, +/-2020)

Glenfarclas '105' (60%, OB, +/-2020) Four stars
I'm really following these seminal NASses, the 104-then-105, but last time I tried it that was in 2017 (WF 86). Colour: light gold. Didn't the 105 lose some colour over time? Nose: I seem to remember quite some sherry used to be involved, but this time we're rather on malty and leafy stuff, fruit peelings, honey-glazed vegetable (try that, eggplants, turnips…) and beers. With water: beers, bitters, roasted nuts, pumpernickel. The blackest, moistest breads. Mouth (neat): I find this extremely good, if a little brutal, which was the whole point anyway. Huge maltiness, roasted nuts, concentrated syrups, artichokes and Brussels sprouts, stout… With water: takes water extremely well, it is ready for the 100 metres freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics. Excellent sweeter maltiness, barley syrup... Finish: rather long, perhaps a tad sweet(ish) but all these breads and grains can't be wrong. Comments: gold medal! What a drop, this 105, one day post-Covid we'll go to the distillery and do the largest verticale of 104-105s that's ever been done. For example, this one was maltier, and less sweet than a 2017 batch.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Glenfarclas 15 yo '100 proof' (57.1%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, +/-2021)

Glenfarclas 15 yo '100 proof' (57.1%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, +/-2021) Four stars
A little upset here. Look, I've been informed obout some kinds of whisky forums where some otherwise very good people were kind of complaining about the fact that we're trying too many whiskies by or for Elixir/The Whisky Exchange/Yada and other well-doing companies on whiskyfun. Here's my two-step answer. First, in the own words of famous social psychologist and part-time singer Madonna, 'I've successfully graduated from University of Zero F*^ks Given' (Ed: calm down S.!) And second, please be aware that bad brands/distilleries tend to NOT send us their stuff, which I find rather smart. Conversely, brands/distilleries that do good stuff tend to send us MORE of their stuff. Just between us, we're no masochists, we're rather happy with this situation, as this is a PERSONAL TASTING DIARY and certainly NOT A BUYING GUIDE. I may write a few more lines about those issues in the coming months. Right, years. Colour: gold. Nose: hold on, it is the same whisky! I mean, it is the 105, more or less! Perhaps just a tad deeper, but I'm not even sure about that. With water: fermenting plums, fig arrack, sloe eau-de-vie… Mouth (neat): hell, it is just a marginally brighter and more citrusy 105, with a few more beerish notes, hops, thick ale, speculoos... Isn't this one a little… Belgian? With water: it really is the 105. I'm not saying they took the 105 and just slapped a 15 label onto it, but they're really close. Finish: even the finishes are pretty similar. This 15 might be a little rounder, cakier and fruitier, but those differences are totally marginal. Comments: we could down 10l of each to try to find differences, which wouldn't be very sensible. Please don't let the children read this.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

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

 

July 20, 2021


Whiskyfun

summer

Summer Duets
Today Auchroisk 1997
As Lynyrd Skynyrd's world-class philosophers would have said, 'pronounce Oh-thrusk'.

Auchroisk 17 yo 1997/2014 (53%, Golden Cask, bourbon, cask #CM 209, 280 bottles)

Auchroisk 17 yo 1997/2014 (53%, Golden Cask, bourbon, cask #CM 209, 280 bottles) Four stars
Matured in x-fill casks according to the colour. Or concrete, clay, stainless, glass, ceramic, beech, porcelain, sandstone, platinum… All right, not platinum. Colour: very pale white wine and that's good news. Let me explain why… Nose: pure barley-y, doughy, gristy, porridge-y, fermentary, yeasty, mashy nose. Put into an oven and you get a pretzel ;-). With water: more porridge, chalk, clay… Mouth (neat): distilled lager, really. There's something that I really enjoy a lot here, it's all natural, unmasked, naked, raw, and extremely malty/bready. Good pepper as well. With water: fruits coming out. Well, apples and pears. Finish: medium, with green plums this time. Otherwise porridge, grist and compadres. Comments: typical filler, these have been its 15 minutes of (very relative) fame. I have much tenderness for these well-made yet humble spirits. Pushing-up my score a wee bit here…
SGP:541 - 85 points.

Auchroisk 23 yo 1997/2021 (54.6%, Hunter Laing, The first Editions, refill hogshead, cask #17814)

Auchroisk 23 yo 1997/2021 (54.6%, Hunter Laing, The first Editions, refill hogshead, cask #17814) Four stars and a half
This one's brand new, mind you. Colour: white wine. Nose: another untouched, un-flavoured, un-peated, un-wined, un-PXed, un-heavily-charred Speysider that, consequently, is allowed to display the loads of subtleties that it was keeping within itself, such as tiny herbs and flowers (borage, dill), broken roots and branches, fresh leaves, wild carrots and celeriac, poppy seeds and sesame, parsnips and turnips, riesling and grüner (veltlinger), yoghurt and muesli… And literally myriads of other tinier aromas. With water: as usual, more earth, even mud, humus, oats, fresh breads of all kinds… Mouth (neat): sublime yeasty, beery breadiness and a lot of pepper, mead and gingerbread. With water: and there, the fruits are coming out. Pickled ones, pepper, chutneys… Nah it's not that fruity. Some salt coming out. Yes, salt. Finish: long and spicier, more peppery, a tad bitter. Goes towards vegetables and roots. Lemons in the aftertaste. Comments: a great fighter al natural. Chilled on caviar or smoked salmon, with a lot of thick whipped cream! Great bottle.
SGP:361 - 88 points.

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

 

July 19, 2021


Whiskyfun

summer

Summer Duets
Auchentoshan
We've had some superb Auchentoshans in the past but for around ten to fifteen years, the owners have kept releasing flavoured NASs that have not, in their vast majority, really inspired us. Too much wood, not enough spirit.

Auchentoshan 'Dark Oak' (43%, OB, 1l, +/-2020)

Auchentoshan 'Dark Oak' (43%, OB, 1l, +/-2020) Two stars
A modern NAS 'multiple oak' version that would use the usual candidates, namely Oloroso, PX and Bourbon. Just like anyone else… Let's see if this is as boring as the pedigree suggests (Ed: you're too negative, S.) … Colour: gold. Nose: sawdust, cinnamon, ginger, then coconut and vanilla plus cardamom and rye bread. Then citrus that lifts it. Feels artificially aromatized but not that boring, after all, and pretty well executed. Mouth: towards young rye whisky, but with more sawdust, plank, cardboard and stale spices. I would have said young 'foreign' whisky from a young distillery, and certainly not Scotch malt whisky. Finish: medium, pretty much on wood spices and cinnamon mints and rolls. Comments: acceptable but soulless, feels made in the lab. Hope they'll never be allowed to use oak chips.

SGP:441 - 74 points.

Let's try to find that light citrusness that we used to like so much…

Auchentoshan 22 yo 1998/2020 (51.8%, Chapter 7, cask # 100155, 199 bottles)

Auchentoshan 22 yo 1998/2020 (51.8%, Chapter 7, cask # 100155, 199 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: it's cool to find some Auchentoshanness, namely bubblegum and marshmallows plus Malibu, coconut balls and proper vanilla pods. Notes of banana wine. With water: there, the malt comes out, wholegrain bread, sourdough, also popcorn, hops, light beers… Mouth (neat): sweet, clean, extremely typical. Big coconut water, coconut and papaya chips, dried pears, barley syrup, and indeed a large family pack of marshmallows. For a large family. With water: very good, rather on pastries this time, religieuse, Paris-Brest, English pound cake (apologies), meringue-y stuff… Gears towards citrus, always one of the best finales in my book. Finish: this is where it would join Bladnoch and Rosebank as far as the Lowlands' traditional style was concerned. And perhaps Daftmill (!) but neither St. Magdalene (too big) not Glenkinchie (too light). Comments: once again, the indies keeping the flame alight.

SGP:641 - 87 points.

Game, set and match. C.U.

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

 

July 18, 2021


Whiskyfun

A few French brandies for malt enthusiasts

ML
Marie-Louise d'Autriche

You would call these Cognacs, except at Mr Putin's where I suppose they would soon start to call these 'French brandies', while theirs would be called Conjak or Konjac or Koniak again. Nah that's just a little joke, hope VVP won't do to these spirits what he just did to Champagne. Why not Russian Skotchsk Viski next time? Let's see what we have…

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'L'Organic Folle Blanche' (48.2%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2021)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'L'Organic Folle Blanche' (48.2%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2021) Four stars and a half
This is a single vintage harvested and, I suppose, distilled in 2010, so a ten years old that fully stems from J-L Pasquet's own estate. Colour: gold. Nose: there's what's maybe not often to be found in cognac, some tension and a vegetal brightness that would go way beyond raisins and peaches. Melon skins, some muscovado sugar, even touches of ripe barley and sugarcane (how funnily 'fusion' is that?), also broken branches and hay, a little peanut butter, dandelions… I'm really not experienced enough to be able to recognise folle blanche, but if that's the thing, well hurray for folle blanche!  Mouth: pretty oily and quite curiously, a little malty, with those fine pastry-like notes that are sometimes to be found in malt whisky too (raisin rolls, panettone, kougelhopf…), then rather the expected sultanas, peach and apricot jam, honey, liquorice… Notes of blood oranges too, vanilla, and even a little rye. Finish: rather long, tighter than your usual cognac. Orange blossom water, earl grey, kumquats, liquorice, touch of clove, some menthol in the rather refreshing aftertaste…  Black radish. Comments: the aftertaste makes you ready for more. A cunning plan. Seriously, this is 'modern' cognac, in the very best sense of that word. For us.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Grande Champagne 1993/2020 (48.3%, M. Wigman, precious moments)

Grande Champagne 1993/2020 (48.3%, M. Wigman, precious moments) Four stars
Some late-landed batches of cognac were bottled in Scotland but I'm not totally sure that was the case here. Colour: full amber. Nose: a few sooty, mineral notes at first, with also whiffs of struck matches, then rather strong honey and gingerbread, black raisins, oloroso and indeed rancio. Some brighter notes of marmalade, peaches, melons and nectarines would then bring a little lightness to this otherwise pretty robust cognac. Mouth: robust indeed, this time rather on stewed rhubarb with a few cinnamon and vanilla pods and sticks, rather a lot of black tea with raisins, some lightly salted liquorice, then chocolate and coffee that would bring even heavier tannins. Yet, I wouldn't call this one Mr Woody. Finish: pretty long, you'd almost feel like you just had some kind of VORS sherry (very old, blend of oloroso and PX). Burnt sugar and more liquorice.  Comments: the complete opposite of the Pasquet, although both were full-bodied. Very likeable too.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Grande Champagne 1993/2020 (48.3%, M. Wigman, precious moments)

Borderies 11 ans (46.8%, Jean Grosperrin, batch #L854, 2020) Five stars
Grosperrin are having some pretty special cognacs these days, such as some rare Fins Bois or Bois Ordinaires. Remember the Oléron last time? These cognacs are not often to be found as 'single', which makes them even more interesting. This time we're having a young Borderies, which is the smallest 'cru' in cognac, said to be the true connoisseurs' cru. Colour: full gold. Nose: well, this has more knack and more oomph, more phenols would I add, more waxes, oils, wok sauce, tamarind, black raisins, menthol cigarettes, pine needles, then the usual melon skins, also camphor, tiger balm, ointments… There's clearly something a little coastal to this nose, somehow ala Bruichladdich. Mouth: sweet Vishnu, this is amazing! Extremely aromatic, bordering sweet muscat but without anything even remotely cloying, with stunning peaches and, err, yes, litchis, late-harvest pinot gris, very ripe apricots, a good load of heather honey (white heather)… Would you please call the French Anti-Cognacporn Brigade? Unless they're on strike…  Finish: long, amazingly fruity, jammy and fresh. Umeshu and a few fermentary notes, say around sake. Brilliant. Comments: an irresistible young killer. But too good, too easy, too dangerous… We're going to lodge a complaint first thing Monday morning…
SGP:751 - 92 points.

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'L.83' (51.9%, Swell de Spirits, Wonders of the World, Petite Champagne, 176 bottles)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'L.83' (51.9%, Swell de Spirits, Wonders of the World, Petite Champagne, 176 bottles) Five stars
The great house Pasquet again, this time through some new indie bottlers who have selected this wee one as their very first bottling. Not the worst possible choice if you ask me. Colour: full gold. Nose: very lovely at almost 40 years of age, very fresh and fruity, almost refreshing, with luminous peaches, melons, fresh figs, then ylang-ylang and honeysuckle, perhaps elderflowers, then lighter honeys and beeswax. A wee resinous touch as well – 40 years, after all -  with some fir honey and some propolis, which makes for the best possible defence against any microbes and viruses. Yep. With water: lovely earthiness, more propolis, teak oil, cedarwood… Mouth (neat): superb, this time again with notes of pinot gris Vendages Tardives, or better yet, riesling Vendanges Tardives, which is rarer and clearly my favourite VT. Sadly no one's making these every year, sometimes they make them once in a decade. But back to this perfect well-aged cognac, it's really a two-step spirit, with first ripe and preserved fruits (the usual peaches and melons, plums…) then more resinous notes, with a tannicity (black tea) and a few savoury touches (chen-pi, Maggi). With water: it's not often that water would reveal more fruitiness instead of more tannicity. Moshi, mead, tangerine liqueur, citron… Finish: long, with rather more menthol and chlorophyll. Some kind of grand-cru mouthwash. Ha. Comments: is this really old cognac? Up for some endless debate? Excellent choice, Swell de Spirits!
SGP:551 - 90 points.

Le Têtu 'Lot 57' (47.3%, Malternatives Belgium, Jean Aubineau, Grande Champagne, 2021)

Le Têtu 'Lot 57' (47.3%, Malternatives Belgium, Jean Aubineau, Grande Champagne, 2021) Five stars
Apparently, the name Le Têtu (Mr Stubborn) refers to the ninety-year-old owner/distiller. In French, we sometimes joke and say those lovely people are 'têtus comme des barriques' (instead of bourriques, which means mules). Do you understand me? Yep that's part of the French paradox; now careful,  they usually own old shotguns filled with rock salt. And naturally, this is a 1957. Colour: golden amber. Nose: we're really striking gold today. This time we're having a huge bag of all kinds of raisins produced by Man (sultanas and all the others) plus dried figs and litchis/longans. Then some fantastic lightly savoury notes, bouillons, satay sauce, korma… And perhaps some beach sand, damp chalk… This is a pretty intriguing development towards coastalness. No oysters though. Mouth: still rustic, in a marvellous way. Pear skins, vieille poire, even touches of raw cider, then a wide range of earthier raisins and figs, some caramel, old rancio (try the old Rivesaltes from France – the price for a good rancio is… 10€ a bottle, which is a crying shame! Many people talk about rancio in cognac without even knowing what rancio really is). Some chocolate liqueur, earth, pinewood, overripe bananas… But no over-woodiness whatsoever. Finish: love this finish – sadly it's the finish – with a lot of citrus in all their guises plus some tiny aromatic herbs, especially wormwood. Someone may have poured a few drops of absinth into this glory. Comments: Mr Stubborn? Well two can play at this game…
SGP: 561 - 91 points.

Hermitage 'Marie-Louise' (43%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2017)

Hermitage 'Marie-Louise' (43%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2017) Four stars and a half
This one's sixty years old (60 years in Limousin oak!) and comes in a stylish old-fashioned lead crystal decanter. Marie-Louise was the name of good old Napoléon's second wife, Marie-Louise d'Autriche a.k.a. Maria Ludovica Leopoldina Francisca Theresa Josepha Lucia de Habsbourg-Lorraine. Colour: full gold. Nose: let's say some 30 years old Sauternes, with flabbergasting mirabelles and apricots, plus whiffs of well-behaved rose petals and orange blossom and a dollop of all-flower honey. The nose is made out of crystal too (so to speak), while it's probably a blend, in the best sense of that word. More or less in the style of the most expensive Johnnie Walkers, sublime and a little bit expensive. Mouth: classic, rather old-school cognac this time, with more tannins, tobacco, herbal teas, fruit skins… Ripe mirabelles leading the pack at the fruit department. A tad more tea-ish than all the others. Finish: a tad short and rather on various herbal teas, chamomile, artemisia, hawthorn… A touch of caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: this little Marie-Louise is absolutely awesome, even if time has just started to take its toll. Perhaps two or three extra-percentages would have kept it above the 90-line, but who am I? An highly desirable decanter for sure.
SGP:441 - 89 points.

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

 

July 16, 2021


Whiskyfun

Summer Duets
Two Bunnahabhain
of good age
(this to flooded Germany and Belgium)

Germany
They aren't rare but they're often superb, whilst some rare or expensive stuff is almost always either nasty or really too pedestrian. No I won't quote any names.

Bunnahabhain 33 yo 1987/2021 (49.5%, Maltbarn, sherry cask)

Bunnahabhain 33 yo 1987/2021 (49.5%, Maltbarn, sherry cask) Four stars and a half
Oh my god the 1987s are already 33, the age of Christ. Colour: gold. Nose: proper good refill sherry and rather a lot of one of malt whisky's main ingredients, time, which would translate into overripe apples, mint, camphor and natural old beeswax. Pollen too, williams pears, a little barley syrup, then something around fig wine and oriental pastries (orange blossom, almonds, honey, rosewater…) A fresh box of Turkish delights straight from Istanbul's old Atatürk Airport (pre-Erdogan); also some old furniture polish. An awesomely 'antique', I was about to add 'Turkish' nose. Mouth: totally coherent, just even more on beeswax and resinous dried fruits, small figs, dates, prickly pear chips. There's a lot of honey, touches of cedarwood, and indeed once again something oriental, rather more towards mint tea this time. With pine nuts inside, please! Finish: medium, honeyed and waxy, with very moderate woodiness and a little orange wine in the aftertaste. I'm not talking about skin-contact white wine, I'm talking about wine made out of orange, mind you. Resinous and mentholy aftertaste. Comments: seemed a wee tad fragile here and there but it always got back very elegantly.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1991/2020 (50.5%, The Perfect Fifth, 165 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1991/2020 (50.5%, The Perfect Fifth, 165 bottles) Five stars
This one's younger but the strength's a little higher, so we have it as #2. Some kind of logic is always needed, is it not. Colour: straw. Nose: a similar style but this one's more herbal, less honeyed, probably a little brighter and with more citrus and even a little seaweed. Almost another generation of Bunnahabhain, rather tenser and indeed brighter. A little chalk. With water: damp chalk, mud, moss, lemons and citrons, kelp and crabs, fresh bread… All things that we usually enjoy. Mouth (neat): even more so, this is very tight, a little smoky, certainly mineral, lemony, kind of 'muddy' in a good way, a little sooty, grassy, slightly fermentary… If you like, we're rather more in the cluster of HP, Cly, Spr and all. Which couldn't be bad news. With water: perhaps the missing link between the gentler praline-led older batches and the newer, tighter, more coastal, more phenolic style of Bunnahabhain. I'm finding this pretty perfect, while it would go on and on with green citrus and earthy herbs. Finish: Comments: pretty much a surprise but we did try these batches at the distillery when they (and we) were younger. Glad that they found their way… to our tasting glass. Superb whisky, I'm afraid these batches are now to be taken very seriously. Extremely seriously.
SGP:563 - 91 points.

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

 

July 15, 2021


Whiskyfun

summer

Summer Duets
Some Mortlach
The beast of Dufftown that now comes in rather square bottles, is that description good enough for you? Now to be honest, such duets are always very hard to do since when the whisky's good, you would just need more. A challenge to the taster!

Mortlach 14 yo 'Alexander's Way' (43.4%, OB, +/-2020)

Mortlach 14 yo 'Alexander's Way' (43.4%, OB, +/-2020) Three stars and a half
Which Alexander would that be? Alexander The Great? Alexander McQueen? Pushkin? Calder? Fleming? Colour: gold. Nose: fragrant and pretty bright, starting straight on marmalade and zests, with some clear wood smoke and some coffee dregs and some cold black tea. Add some earthy black prunes and a little coal tar, scoria and just plain coal. It's reminiscent of some older official Mortlach, such as some batches of the Flora & Fauna. Mouth: rather rustic and rough, with clearly more wood smoke and coal, rather a lot of pepper, sour plum wine, a drop of Maggi (which is pretty salty), then coffeeish malt and a growing earthiness. No smooth malt whisky at all, it's even going towards heavy stout, such as Mackeson's (I'm not too sure, I last tried that 30 years ago), with some kind of semi-sweet astringency. Finish: dry, earthy, still rustic, perhaps a tad meaty now, which should be rather 'Mortlach'. Say sweeter mild beef jerky. Sweet office coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: it's really rustic indeed. I like this, but it's probably not for everyone. If I may, Alexander.
SGP:452 - 83 points.

Mortlach 15 yo 'Game of Thrones' (46%, OB, +/-2019)

Mortlach 15 yo 'Game of Thrones' (46%, OB, +/-2019) Three stars and a half
A Mortlach 'Game of Thrones', that's like a Meursault 'Mariah Carey' or a Cohiba 'Céline Dion'. No? Remember Game of Thrones? It was a mediocre fantasy/violent/sex TV series that used to pull some success pre-Covid and that used to have strictly nothing to do with whisky, let alone Scotch malt whisky. Perhaps something vaguely Scottish? Remember that? Colour: straw. Nose: burnt herbs and woods, sour ashes and fruits, pine resin, burnt sugar and indeed Guinness. Some soot too, saltpetre, bay leaves. Not a huge fan of this nose… Mouth: much better than what the nose suggested. Good bitter herbs and bitter oranges, bitter beer, pepper, 'sucking your cigar', then some strawberry syrup and a little grenadine. Strawberry cream. That's bizarre… Haribo's Giant Strawbs. Actually, I rather enjoy this unusual palate, knowing that strawberries are absolutely not uncommon in malt whisky; it's just that I have forgotten the name of the molecule(s). Finish: rather long, pretty good. Chocolate covered strawberries and cracked black pepper. Comments: the TV series was a nasty nightmare IMHO, while this Mortlach was rather better. That anyone thought that it would be a good idea to associate such a fine malt whisky with Game of Thrones still baffles me. Next, a Clynelish 'Sharknado'? Brora 'Chainsaw Massacre'? Lagavulin 'Fear the Walking Dead'?
SGP:551 - 83 points.

We just couldn't stop this here; we need a trio or a quartet. So let's go on with another famous 15…

Mortlach 15 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, +/-2020)

Mortlach 15 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, +/-2020) Four stars
What a lovely old label, even if the bottle itself has changed. An old friend, really… Colour: gold. Nose: more brightness, more fruits, more citrus, while it would have kept this kind of mineral meatiness that's so very 'Mortlach'. What was expected and anticipated is happening after around two minutes, that is to say a rather massive soupy, miso-y development, with parsley, marrow, umami, Maggi, Bovril and onion soup. How very Mortlach. Mouth: beats the OBs in my book, while the profile would be very similar, on pepper, earth, bitter herbs, touch of salt, tobacco and Fernet Branca. I've always been thinking that Fernet Branca was very Mortlach, and conversely. Tends to become drier and drier, almost bitter. Naively biting into a Seville orange - I speak from personal experience. Finish: rather long, rather big given the ABV, rather bitter, salty, meaty and herbal. Comments: I really like this Mortlach 15. A higher voltage was not needed. Cellar this and we'll talk around 2045.
SGP:462 - 86 points.

Still, more oomph and we're done.

Mortlach 12 yo 2008/2020 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, first fill bourbon, cask #800109, 177 bottles)

Mortlach 12 yo 2008/2020 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, first fill bourbon, cask #800109, 177 bottles) Four stars
No sherry this time, while we've already noticed that Mortlach without any sherry at all could be pretty different. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh massive chalk and wort, pine needles, then rather litchis and pears, which is a little surprising indeed. Those strawberries are back too, hay, tiger balm, gorse, mullein flowers, woodruff… how very interesting (and nice). With water: manzanilla and fruity sake, 50/50. I am not joking. Mouth (neat): really fat, rather on paraffin and bitter oils (strong olive), sooty, getting tarter, on green lemons and green apples. The tartiest granny smith. Bang. With water: really perfect, mineral and sooty, and fruity at the same time, a kind of combo that's pretty rare elsewhere. So, I would say it is very Mortlach. Finish: long, more of grapefruits, with something that's not very common in whisky…. drumroll… tomatoes! The aftertaste is a little more common, more on malt, chalk, bread, apples… Tiny touch of salt once again. Comments: absolutely excellent, top fat meaty distillate in a brighter guise.
SGP:452 - 87 points.

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


July 2021 - part 1 <--- July 2021 - part 2 ---> August 2021 - part 1


 

 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Ben Nevis 6 yo 2015/2021 (58.1%, Roger's Vintage Selection, cask #34, 328 bottles)

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1990/2015 'Mr Taketsuru ' (61.3%, OB, rejuvenated barrel, cask #1, 235 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1991/2020 (50.5%, The Perfect Fifth, 165 bottles)

Chichibu 10 yo 2009/2019 (61.9%, OB, Japan, Ghost series, bourbon, cask #554, 157 bottles)

Yoichi 20 yo (52%, OB, Japan, +/-2005)

Borderies 11 ans (46.8%, Jean Grosperrin, batch #L854, 2020)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'L.83' (51.9%, Swell de Spirits, Wonders of the World, Petite Champagne, 176 bottles)

Le Têtu 'Lot 57' (47.3%, Malternatives Belgium, Jean Aubineau, Grande Champagne, 2021)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
@