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Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2006 - Part 1
       
 
February 2006 - part 2 <--- March 2006 - part 1 ---> March 2006 - part 2
 

March 14, 2006


CONCERT REVIEWS - GOGOL BORDELLO by Dave and Nick, head to head!
Where else do you get that, where? Imagine Whiskyfun's most distinguished concert reviewers just went to see the very same band, but not the same gig, and each of them decided to write his very own report. Interesting isn't it? Me, I'm amazed... How lucky we are! Okay, please take a deep breath... Drum roll... Here we go!
Gogol Bordello, Concorde 2, Brighton, March 5th 2006
By DAVE BROOM

OK Serge. Imagine that you have fallen hopelessly in love with a mysterious, sophisticated, Ukrainian woman. It is a whirlwind romance: hearts leaping out of the body, eyes turning into hearts, tongues lolling (my template for life was formulated through over-exposure to Looney Tunes). You decide to wed. The first time that you will meet the parents, however, will be at the wedding. Wishing to impress, you decide to surprise them by booking a Ukrainian folk band for the event. That night, mysteriously, coincidentally, a mangled flier is pushed through your letterbox: “Gypsy Music! 8 piece! Band!! Weddings!! Parties!! Anything! No gig too small!! Have own transport!’ You book them.
Fast forward to the day of the wedding. All is going well until a battered, bus arrives with GOGOL BORDELLO painted in straggling red and black letters on the side. Into the hall stagger nine misfits dressed in ripped clothes, strange hats and weird jewellery. There’s a lot of exposed flesh. All have a manic glint in their eyes. There’s a bass player with locks, a worryingly straight guitarist, a desiccated long-haired violinist, a portly bald accordionist with a penchant for shell suits, a huge, silent drummer and two hopelessly exotic girls. The singer pushes his way to the front. He’s whipcord thin with pale translucent skin, crazed eyes, pomaded hair and a luxuriant moustache. For a moment, Serge, I think it is you. “My name is Eugene HUTZ!” he shouts at me with a crazed grin. “We are band! Let’s party!”
They start. My in-laws’ jaws drop. My new wife glares. I shrug and start to pogo. How can’t I? This music is driven by that compelling gypsy folk mix of violin and accordion, but electrified and slashed through with Clash-like reggae lines (GB are one of the few bands to master this). There’s a hint of dub, off-tune punk-folk. The violinist leers at us and shreds his first bow, the flying horsehair matching his ragged long grey frizz. Eugene, who has lost his shirt, starts shouting ‘Start Wearing Purple!” We all bounce along, chanting it back at him. On come the girls with washboards. One is called Pamela the other is Elizabeth. I’m unsure whether the names refer to the women, or the instruments.
The venue is now mass of sweaty, grinning people. The music is relentless, frenetic, played without a break and with a defiant, crazed attitude. It does for gypsy music what the Pogues did for Irish folk, what the Boggs tried to do for bluegrass. GB have the art-punk look of New York (their base) married to the dangerous air and magpie approach of the Alabama Three. In their clattering take on the world Mussolini takes Stalin on a fishing trip; we can all go: ‘through the roof! Underground!’
The girls are back on.. screaming, while Eugene hits a battered fire bucket with a drumstick. Elizabeth then begins to crash her cymbals together. I look round. My new mother in law is heading my way. She grabs me and starts to dance. No-one can resist. The music gets faster. That violinist is in league with the devil, forcing us to dance ever faster. Half of the audience has invaded the stage. Pamela is being carried aloft through the crowd while standing on top of a bass drum and beating the shit out of it. Eugene is playing the drumkit with his soaked shirt. Now he‘s replaced Pamela on the drum and has started howling. I haven’t seen a climax to a gig like this since Lux Interior of the Cramps cut his trousers off with a broken wine bottle. My father in law embraces me, weeping with thanks. Best live band around? They can’t be far off. Serge. embrace the gypsy punk in you ... you’re half way there already! - Dave Broom
 
Gogol Bordello, The Astoria, London, March 10th 2006
By NICK MORGAN

Prepared to be shocked. He reels, lurches and stumbles around like a man caught in a shockwave, yells in a barely comprehensible English like a singer with advanced Tourette’s syndrome, leers at girls, mothers and even grannies, and throws himself, without restraint, into the nearest crowd of unsuspecting rock fans. Yep, that’s Jozzer, who in the absence of The Photographer is my chaperone for the night. We dined at one of our Chinatown haunts: after quail, scallops, mustard greens, eel and aubergine our chirpy waiter looked pretty glum when we announced our intention to leave. “You go down pub?” he asked, warily eyeing Jozzer’s collection of empty glasses. So I tried to explain Gogol Bordello to him, eventually showing him the tickets to assuage his incredulity. “You pay money for that? Sounds like big rubbish”.
We’re at the Pickle Factory, packed like gherkins (or cornichons to you Serge) in a jar, to see Gogol Bordello, purveyors of ‘Gypsy Punk’, and the darlings of New York’s easily impressed arty club scene, fronted by singer and sometime actor Eugene Hutz “a larger-than-life, New York-based Ukrainian émigré. If you want to picture him then think of Liverpool FC’s beanpole striker Peter Crouch with a Charlie MacLean tash. And I know, I’m uncomfortable about the ‘G’ word too, hardly PC here these days, so let’s call them purveyors of ‘Traveller Punk’ . Yes Serge, this is a country where we now have crappy Italian restaurants that have ‘travelling violinists’ who come and persecute you at your table with hopelessly played romantic melodies.
‘Gypsy Punk’? Well it’s hardly new is it, but New York has a very short memory. A little piece of my heart is forever the Three Mustaphas Three, musically the same sort of idea, and far more sophisticated. And it’s really Pogues territory too, and, for that matter, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers whose lead singer, J D Wilkes could truly be said to be shocking. And then Serge there are your own Les Négresses Vertes, who I recall seeing playing on Glasgow Green way back in the 1980s, truly the embodiment of ‘Gypsy punk’.
Never mind. In the cause of brevity I will summarise: high in energy, huge in entertainment, low in spontaneity, poor in music, medium in originality. But it’s great fun, and the Astoria is rocking like I have never seen it rock before. Hutz and his fellow band members, a wonderfully roguish assembly of expat Eastern Europeans and Americans, and the ‘dance troupe’ (I know they’re called Elizabeth and Pamela, because their names were written on their washboards) work the audience with a studied professionalism beyond compare, and the result is frenzy. Set list? How the hell should I know? But they did the purple song, and the one about being an immigrant, and the fast one that sounded like the purple one, and a slow one, and then an even faster sort of purple one. And I did notice a few throw away but deeply profound lyrics – something about Bill Clinton’s saxophone, and the end of western civilisation, but to be frank no more than a delicate non-conformist veneer on a wonderfully well thought out and brilliantly executed performance concept.
“One trick pony” said Jozzer, who by this time was working the audience, cider in hand, trying to sell them “Unlucky white heather, get your unlucky white heather here”. I disagreed. At least two tricks, for the adroit use of the carefully choreographed ‘dance troupe’, with their feisty attitude, washboards, cymbals and bass drums stopped the rather repetitive content from dragging – and without this street theatre showmanship the gig could so easily have been another Hayseed Dixie. I’m glad it wasn’t. Not shocking, but thoroughly entertaining. Buy their music? Not sure. But you must go and see them. And I know Jozzer would like to go too – I can give you his number… - Nick Morgan (all concert photographs by Nick's Nokia - other by Hilary Hulteen)

Wow, many thanks, Dave and Nick! That was (even) better than the tasting section in whiskymag - although you both agreed GB sounded like the Pogues - and on the girls' names! I must confess Gogol Bordello sounds rather like the Klezmatics meeting Manu Chao meeting The Clash (indeed) meeting Goran Bregovic to my ears, all that after a good dram or three. Genetically modified music? Our honourable readers may decide to find out by themselves, as we do have quite a bunch of mp3's on Gogol Bordello's website, which is mighty cool. They can for instance have a try at Sacred darling.mp3, Green card husband.mp3 or When the trickster starts a-poking.mp3. Now, I think true Gypsy punk music (in the best sense of 'punk', if that exists) was invented before WWII, by a certain Django Reinhardt. Yeah, I told you I'm no good musicologist! And oh, by the way, Dave, I may sport a moustache just like Eugene, but last time I went to the bathroom, I could check, alas, that I'm not exactly 'whipcord thin' anymore. A side effect of whisky? As for the Cramps, I saw them six or seven years ago in France, and Mr. Interior didn't cut his trousers off - he just didn't wear any! - S.

 
TASTING - THREE INDIE 10 yo ARDBEGS
Ardbeg 10 yo 1992/2003 (40%, G&M for GDA Milano) Colour: dark straw. Nose: rather aromatic at first nosing, with some peat and notes of apple compote and peat. Granted, it lacks a little oomph but we’re in the same territories as most ‘Connoisseur’s Choices’. Notes of iodine, sea air, seaweed with a little lemon and orange juices and hints of camphor. An enjoyable, discreet Ardbeg. Mouth: well, now it lacks a little body, I’m afraid. Not exactly watery but rather tea-ish, with quite some wax and paraffined cardboard, vanilla fudge, dried herbs. Interesting notes of smoked salmon as well but there’s too much caramelly notes in there, globally. We’d have liked a little more sharpness and vivacity, and especially the finish is quite weak and too tea-ish. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not unpleasant at all but I feel the association of a low A.B.V. with these caramelly tastes do not fit Ardbeg too well. 78 points.
Ardbeg 10 yo 1992/2002 (46%, McNeill’s Choice, Germany) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: again it’s a little discreet right at first nosing but then we have the usual notes of peated malt, grain barn, boiled cereals, porridge… It’s also quite flinty and gets then more and more mineral. A very mashy nose, with no sign of fruitiness. Mouth: a little sweeter but again, we’ve very little fruit. Lots of peat of course, together with something waxy and cardboardy again, developing on more or less the same aromas as on the nose: grains, kilned malt, porridge… A very simple profile, very pleasant in its ‘Ardbegness’ but lacking a little complexity. The finish is rather long but getting almost acrid. Very austere. 80 points.
Ardbeg 10 yo 1991/2001 (59.9%, Acorn, Japan) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one starts quite different, probably thanks to the high A.B.V. It’s a little coffeeish (as often with high-octane malts) and much more medicinal and maritime than the previous one. Big iodine, bandages, oysters, wet stones, grapefruit… Notes of cold ashes. Let’s see what happens with a little water: the peat grows even bolder, waxier, more medicinal and farmier at the same time (bold notes of cow stable and horse dung). Superb, especially considering its age! Mouth (neat): really full-bodied but incredibly drinkable. Lots of peat, smoke, lemon, grass… Much more exciting than its lighter siblings. Goes on with cough syrup, beeswax and fir sweets, white rum, notes of pisco… Okay, water needed now: oh, now we do have lots of fruits, mostly lemon, tangerines but also very ripe melons. Superb notes of gentian spirit as often, liquorice stick, and a great dryness. It’s sharp like a blade! And the finish is long, very coating, very compact, with a little salt… Anyway, a totally flawless young Ardbeg. 89 points.

 

SHOPPING - Seen on Billig-sprit.se! Here's what they say about it: 'Alcohol with 96 % Vol. Trink Alkohol very rare - Alcohol with 96 % Vol. Normaly only to buy in the Farmacia. Very rare and difficult to get. Clear pure taste. You can only enjoy mixed. Minimum age is 32 years to order this product. This product could be very dangerous if you drink straight. You could be death if you try to enjoy straight.'

Yeah, rings a bell... By the way, the price is 'now' 119,95 EUR for 5 litres. Okay, I'd add 'please advertise responsibly!' (and thanks, Robert)

 

March 13, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE MYSTERY JETS,
The Mean Fiddler, London, March 9th 2006
I sometimes wonder about people in marketing, I really do. I mean, I thought their job was to find the right people for their product, and then persuade them to buy it. Isn’t that right Serge? Well in the case of the Mystery Jets, whose first album Making Dens was released last Monday, I can’t help thinking that the marketing department at 679 Recordings (an ‘indie’ offshoot of Warner Music) were having a ‘Friday afternoon’, as they used to say at Ford Motors in Dagenham.
The insight that they seem to be working on is that music lovers like eccentrics and misfits (and God knows Serge, that’s certainly true of us isn’t it?). So what do they do? Well they seem to spend all their time telling us, the press, anyone who will listen, that that’s what the Mystery Jets are. Big mistake guys!
We don’t want to be told that in advertising, and we might even get a bit fed up reading it in interviews or reviews. What we really want to do is find out for ourselves – or at least get told by our best mates. If I didn’t know better I’d look at the adverts and make a positive decision not to buy – but then I guess I’m not a ‘target consumer’ as they say. I can also tell that from the beautifully produced CD sleeve (the design and packaging work associated with this band is fantastic – marketers reprieved!), which nicely, instead of having lyrics, has a carefully crafted picture to represent each song. But try and read the typeface with my tired middle aged eyes – wrong font, wrong colour background. That’s it – moan over.
It’s the Mean Fiddler, and I’m only here in the middle of a domestic crisis involving a 14 year old boy, football and fractured elbows (ouch!) because it’s a big night for the Jets, and quite a big one for my daughter who’s professionally involved with the band (but not, as you might guess from the above, on the marketing side – phew!). So yes Serge, I declare ‘an interest’ here, as our Members of Parliament only occasionally like to say. But let’s be clear, in keeping with Whiskyfun principles I bought my own ticket (yes, this is reviewing without the bungs and freebies that occur in much music journalism – and other categories I could think of too) and I even declined a pass for the after show party. Where was I?
Yes – it’s a big night because the album is just released – something of a rite of passage as singer Blaine Harrison picturesquely explained to us, and they’re here celebrating with longstanding fans, friends, mums and dads. And blimey, one of the dads is even on stage – guitarist, keyboard player and stylophone meister, Henry Harrison. Who from what I can gather was in the band when it started when the rest of the boys were about nine. So it’s taken some years of careful nurturing in their wonderful London hideaway on Eel Pie Island (whose association with the birth of rhythm and blues in the UK is knowingly acknowledged on the CD cover) to get them to this stage. And if only people can see beyond the unhelpful ‘eccentric’, ‘quirky’, ‘bonkers’ stereotyping I suspect they have a long way to go yet, and probably very quickly.

 

 

 

 

Left, Blaine Harrison - right, Kai Fish and William Rees

The gig is fantastic. The opener is Zoo Time. Play the ‘who do they remind me of’ game and you’ll quickly on one song get through Franz Ferdinand, Pink Floyd, Barclay James Harvest, Moody Blues, Teardrop Explodes and more. In fact in the end you have to give up and simply agree that they sound like the Mystery Jets. Full stop. In the engine room are drummer Kapil Trivedi and the often Bruce Foxtonesque bass-player Kai Fish – and combined with the nicely fractured guitar playing of William Rees they provide a formidable rock and roll outfit, supported by Harrison (Henry, senior) and Harrison (Blaine, junior), who (seated as a result of a longstanding illness) sings, plays occasional guitar, and plays as second drummer, famously bashing away at all sorts of pots and pans (this, apparently, is one of the things that makes them ‘eccentric’ – hmmmm). I should add that Blaine Harrison has a great English rock and roll voice, and also that I get a weird sense of déjà vu every time I hear him sing.
In the course of a pretty high energy hour or so they work through the entire album and give us ‘Lizzie’s Lion’ as an encore. Highlights for me are,(in addition to the really powerful opener ‘Zoo time’), ‘The boy who ran away’, ‘Purple prose’ (nice guitar playing), ‘You can’t fool me Dennis’ (shades of the sadly departed Boo Radleys), ‘Horse drawn cart’, ‘Little bag of hair’, and ‘Making dens’ (which has a satisfyingly nice feel of what the Beachboys should have been about it). The songs are well crafted – and if you haven’t guessed it’s the sort of good old English stuff that your Whiskyfun reviewer adores - as the packaging emphasises it’s all cricket bats, boys' comics, red telephone boxes and model aeroplanes. Magic.
The whole evening is totally engaging, with these charming young men (well, except Harrison senior) sharing their obvious pleasure in the moment with their adoring fans – typical of the feel is when bassist Fish climbs on the speaker stack in the middle of a song to shake hands with friends and admirers in the balcony. I can’t see him being able to do that in twelve month’s time. In fact they look so happy you can only imagine that they must feel like they’ve got the best job in the world.    
Which reminds me of the only low point of the evening – the man with the worst job in the world, stuck in a corner of the squalid and stinking floor-flooded men’s urinals, trying to persuade his would-be clients to buy a soft towel or some aftershave. Two last things. I’m reliably informed that the band began life as ‘the misery jets’. I can only congratulate whoever it was that threw out the misery and put in the mystery – what a great name. And secondly, just to keep a few old Dads very happy, as Serge would say, “please go and buy their music”. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Nick's Nokia)
Many thanks, Nick! All that reminds me of the Kinks' 1975 'Schoolboys in disgrace' LP, I don't know why... It's true that I quite liked the first Mystery Jets promo EP I got a few months ago via some London undercover connection, and all generations in the house have been debating since then on whether the Mystery Jets are hotter than the Arctic Monkeys or not these days (Kaiser Chiefs are already out here but it seems that Franz Ferdinand are doing a remarkable come back). Yes, we're trying hard to keep up with the UK pace (have you heard about these new shoes called 'Churches'? And how's the Queen Mother? And I've heard Fortnum and Mason have a whisky department now... Who's playing at the Marquee these days, by the way? And who's the resident DJ at the Studio 54? No, wait, that's NYC, right? And did England's rugby team win in Paris, finally? Oops, sorry, Nick.) Anyway, as for these young Mystery Jets, good news, we do have You can't fool me Dennis.mp3! And to all, 'please go and buy their music' indeed!
 
TASTING - TWO BENRIACHS
Benriach 36 yo 1968/2005 (50.7%, Duncan Taylor, cask #2595, 131 bottles) Colour: gold amber. Nose: very present, starting on old dry white wine and gunpowder, cordite, apple compote, cider… Gets really smoky and sulphury after a while, and starts then to develop towards fresher, fruitier notes (very ripe apricots) and also light honey, heather, Virginia tobacco, before it gets back to very nice winey notes (more like ice wines now) although I doubt it was a wine cask. And always these whiffs of smoke and ashes. – lots of body and ‘energy’ considering this Benriach’s age! Also hints of musk, orange water…
Mouth: sweet, bold and broad attack, on toasted cake and fruitcake, getting almost hot. Very spicy, peppery and gingery but nicely balanced, with just a certain lack of ‘middle’ (as often in old malts) despite the otherwise very full body. Lots of cloves, a little Tabasco, cinnamon and plum pie, notes of kirsch, hints of mint… The finish is rather long but also quite tannic and slightly bitter. Anyway, one of the most nervous 35+ malts I ever had, excellent to make your friend play the age guessing game, they might tell you it’s 10 or 12 years old. 85 points.
Benriach 1982/1993 (60.6%, Gordon & MacPhail Cask, casks #5211, 12, 13)
Colour: gold. Nose: hotter and more spirity than the 36 yo but most amazingly, it doesn’t seem to be much younger (well, it’s rather that the other one didn’t seem to be much older, actually). We do have quite some flinty, gunpowder-like notes again, as well as apricots, tobacco, hints of cedar wood and mint leaves, but with probably more sourness and yeastiness (quite some muesli, oatmeal, true yoghurt…) and hints of fresh parsley. Notes of buttered caramel – nice and not overpowering! Mouth: again, it’s surprisingly drinkable and I don’t feel the need to add any water to it. Very sweet and grainy attack, with lots of cider, apple juice, cereals, getting almost as spicy as the 36 yo (pepper, cinnamon and clove etc.) We do have a certain sourness again that make me think of some Greek or Turkish dishes that are cooked with yoghurt. Something bourbonny as well, quite some vanilla and lactones… The finish is rather long but not immensely so, despite the 60%. Anyway, a good one again, lacking perhaps a little delicacy. But then again, maybe I should have added a few drops of water. 82 points.
 

March 12, 2006


 

MUSIC It's Sunday, we go classical with the excellent English counter-tenor Paul Esswood singing Bach's Widerstehe doch der Sünde.mp3 (from Cantata BWV 54, Gustav Leonhardt). Please buy Mr. Esswood's records or go to his concerts. (via Karen Mercedes' website)

TASTING - TWO INDIE CLYNELISHES
Clynelish 12 yo 1992/2005 (59.9%, Adelphi, cask #15100) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather powerful and fragrant but very noseable at such high strength. Very fresh, very clean, with notes of coffee, cut apples, newly mown grass and quite some smoke. But right, it does get overpowering now, so quick, some water! Ah, now we have the usual bold waxy notes, lots of farmy aromas (wet hay and ‘clean’ manure as often) and whiffs of smoke. Something milky in the background. The whole is very fresh, maybe a little simple but very ‘young Clynelish’. I like that.
Mouth (neat): very sweet and fruity, with lots tangerines, pineapples, apples and pears… Simple but nice, getting burning… With water: it doesn’t change much, except that we do have something waxy again now, as well as notes of marshmallows and bubble gum. Lots of body, even when reduced to roughly 45%. The finish is long, nicely citrusy and with an enjoyable bitterness. A prototypical young Clynelish. 86 points.
Clynelish 1989/2003 (60.6%, Blackadder, cask #6088) Colour: white wine. Nose: just as powerful, as expected, but more discreet. Very fresh again but it’s less fragrant and more mineral. This one does need water! Right, it’s much closer to the Adelphi now, with the same beautiful farmy aromas and smoke. Probably even more expressive, now that it got watered down. Most enjoyable. Mouth: that’s funny, it’s got almost the same attack as the Adelphi, with maybe more notes of fruit sweets and fruit liqueurs. Maybe a little less clean. With water: it’s almost exactly the same whisky as the Adelphi now, and I can’t taste any significant differences. Same rating (of course): 86 points.
 

March 11, 2006


CRAZY WHISKY ADS - JOHANNES WANTS MORE... So be it!


Okay, Johannes did it again! I had thought Amsterdam had surrendered, and that the ad war between maltmadness.com and whiskyfun.com was over. But no, our sneaky Dutchman was just cleaning and shining his weapons and he just stroke back with a very famous Maker's Mark ad. Okay, the fact that that ad is very famous may be the problem but let's be magnanimous and consider Johannes' reply as valid, and as 'the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle', let's go on with this extremely rare set of three ads (I think they only ran each once, it was in a women's magazine from Outer-Mongolia - and maybe Inner-Mongolia as well but I'm not too sure). Johannes, your turn - if you dare...

 

 

TASTING - TWO 1981 LOCHSIDES BY CADENHEAD
Lochside 23 yo 1981/2004 (55.1%, Cadenhead, 204 bottles) Colour: deep amber – brownish. Nose: rather powerful, starting quite caramelly and very winey, with whiffs of smoke. It isn’t too expressive, even after a good ten minutes, with just notes of dried oranges. Very unusual for a Lochside, I guess the sherry’s really too dominating. Let’s try it with water… Right, it gets more herbal as often, smokier, with notes of wet chalk, stones, rosehip tea and something meaty. Nice but not a thilling. Mouth (neat): powerful and very sweet again. Almost sugarish. Extremely caramelized, with something slightly sour… Lots of dried oranges as well, heavily sugared orange marmalade, Cointreau… something bitter in the background (rubber). Quite enjoyable in fact but really simple. With water: not much changes this time, maybe more praline, toasted bread and a pinch of salt. The finish is rather long but marked by some notes of burnt cake and bitter caramel. In short an okay Lochside but the sherry really overwhelms Lochisde’s trademark fruity notes and maybe the whole lacks complexity – too bad! Not even sure they were there in the first place! Now, it’s not a flawed whisky, far from it. 78 points.
Lochside 23 yo 1981/2005 (56.7%, Cadenhead, Portwood matured, 246 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: starts as powerful but much less marked by the wine. Much less caramelly and more austere, more elegant and better balanced. It’s not that the fruits manage to come through either, but there are more meaty notes (whiffs of hot gravy), ashes, soy sauce… We have also these mineral notes, something chalky, smoky… Also notes of hot butter, mashed potatoes, celeriac, hints of dill and even aniseed, maybe old roses. Interesting and no need to add water as far as I’m concerned. Mouth: now it’s much closer to the other one, even if it’s more nervous. Quite some caramel again, sweet red wine (err, Port), blackcurrant jam. It gets a little too hot and we’ll try to add a little water now: no, not much else happening I’m afraid. Perhaps a little more mint and tea. The finish is medium long, getting frankly minty now… Again, not a winning Lochside and there’s little distillery character but I think it’s still quite better than the first version, even if it lacks a little complexity as well. 81 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening - A nice little pop band called Loquat does the Smiths' There is a light that never goes out.mp3. Rather charming... Please... you know what.

 

March 10, 2006


TASTING - TWO GLEN SPEYS

Glen Spey 32 yo 1973 (48.7%, JWWW Auld Distillers, Bourbon cask, 174 bottles, 2006) Colour: gold – amber. Nose: quite fragrant at first nosing, with some rather winey and rubbery notes… Lots of very ripe yellow fruits coming through after a few seconds, such as mirabelle plums, yellow peaches, apricot… We have also something quite mineral and smoky, notes of toasted bread, old white wine (old Rieslings) with little hints of Madeira, coffee, chicory ‘coffee’... There’s quite some menthol as well, a little camphor…

Another ‘wine-malt’, and a nice one, at that, with a perfect balance. Very, very enjoyable – another great selection by Jack ‘The Pirate’, it seems… Mouth: extremely fruity and nervous attack, with tons of crystallized oranges and kumquats, eau-de-vie cherries and dried apricots and notes of fructose but quite strangely, the malts gets then suddenly dry and sort of short. Bizarre! It gets then quite coffeeish and smoky again, with notes of burnt cake, cough syrup and grilled tea but the mouth feel is maybe a little thin. What’s more, the finish is rather short as expected, minty and sort of dry, but not unpleasant. Well, the nose was wonderful, the attack superb but it didn’t quite deliver after that. Too bad, but on the other hand, that makes it very easy to drink. 86 points (but it would have probably reached the 90-mark with a little more body).
Glen Spey 16 yo 1981/1997 (60.5%, Cadenhead, oak cask) Colour: white wine. Nose: very spirity, grassy and coffeeish like many high-octane malts. Lots of newly mown grass, limestone and… and? Yeah, let’s add a little water! Oh, it gets even grassier and mineral, even after a few minutes. Very grainy and buttery as well, with some very nice notes of rosemary and thyme coming through. Wild carrots? Interesting, nevertheless, and very, very ‘natural’, with little direct wood influence. Mouth (neat): unexpectedly drinkable, sweet and joyous, on apple compote and marzipan, pear spirit, boxed pineapple… Right, it’s starting to burn now… Water please! That worked, it really improved. Nice notes of gentian (do you know ‘Suze’?), liquorice stick, sugared tea… Gets even grassier, tea-ish (not the kind of tea you find in tired malts), with also hints of white chocolate and dried coconut. It’s good, and the finish is rather long, grassy again, getting just a tad too drying. But the whole is very nice, very natural but not ‘neutral’ at all. 85 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening - Just another new Astrud Gilberto? Certainly not! Brazilian born French resident (and singer) Bïa has his own, laidback way of singing bossa nova and it's totally beautiful! Try for instance Mon coeur est un vagabond.mp3 (my heart is a wanderer)... Superb, don't you think? And not that easy low-fi kind of bossa at all. Please buy Bïa's music!
 

March 9, 2006


NEW – EXCLUSIVE MUSIC AND WHISKY INTERVIEWS
Whiskyfun’s motto could be ‘fun, whisky and music go together’ and we often noticed that many excellent musicians enjoy good whisky indeed. That’s why we came up with this idea: asking artistes we like what they think about music and whisky, about their experiences, their projects etc. with a set of pre-formatted questions. Kind of a ‘music and whisky Chinese portrait’ if you like. We hope you’ll like this new rubric!

Today, as a first, we interview the excellent English singer and songwriter PHIL DOLEMAN, whom guitarnoise.com called “Joe Jackson meets Richard Thompson” and the BBC… “The male Victoria Wood”!

Whiskyfun: Phil, tell us briefly about what you do, music-wise.
Phil Doleman: I’m a singer / songwriter / guitarist. I write, record and perform my own material as a solo acoustic act. I also play other instruments (bass, 5 string banjo, ukulele, mandolin, harmonica, whistle).

WF: Which other musicians did you play with?
Phil:
In 2004 I became the banjo player for part-time band 4-4-2, who were originally brought together to record a song for the Euro 2004. We made the record “Come on England”, which went straight in at number 2, making it the most successful record of the tournament. Recently the band reformed to record some demos for a possible World Cup release.
WF: Which are your other favourite artistes?
Phil: I love quirky lyrics & short, snappy, to the point songs. Billy Bragg, John Otway, Squeeze, Richard Thompson, Ian Dury.
WF: Which are your current projects?
Phil: I’m working on a new CD, which should be released in June. As the evenings get longer I’m also going to be repeating the ‘Live in Your Living Room Tour’ that I did last year. I take my show out to people’s homes, rather than asking them to make the effort and come out to see me!
WF: When did you start enjoying whisky? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Phil:
I’d only tried fairly nasty cheap blended whisky until a friend introduced me to single malts in the late 80’s and I was hooked. At the time I was playing in my first band, so a lot of the musical memories are not ones that people would ever have heard unless they had been to one of our gigs, but at the time I was listening to (on CD and live) Clive Gregson & Christine Collister, the late Isaac Guillory, and a lot of ‘pub rock’.
WF: What’s your most memorable whisky?
Phil:
Laphroaig – at the time it barely tasted like Whisky to my uneducated palate, but I loved it from the first sip.
WF: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Phil:
Laphroaig, Talisker, Glenfarclas, Glenmorangie.
WF: Are there whiskies you don’t like?
Phil: I haven’t found one yet!
WF: ‘If the river was whisky baby, and I was a diving duck’ is one of the most famous and well used whisky lyrics, from sea-shanties to blues and rock and roll. Do you have a favourite musical whisky reference?
Phil:
Squeeze – Labelled with Love.
“She unscrews the top of a new whiskey bottle
And shuffles about in her candle lit hovel,
Like some kind of witch with blue fingers in mittens
She smells like the cat and the neighbours she sickens”
WF: Music and whisky are often though of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Phil:
Absolutely!
WF: In some ways you could argue that tasting a whisky is similar to listening to a piece of music – you deconstruct the two in the same way? Care to comment?
Phil: I am always wary of deconstructing anything – especially music and comedy (which my songs often contain). You usually end up with lots of bits that are less than the whole.
WF: If your favourite whisky was a piece of music what would it be, if it was a musical instrument what would it be?
Phil:
A good tear-jerking ballad, and probably a slide guitar or a harmonica.
Thank you Phil!
Phil Doleman's official website is here. Video and audio files are to be found in its download section, or on Phil's myspace page (we especially like 'My name is Susan'). And no need to say that we're all looking forward to Phil's new CD 'Rock & Roll Casualty'!

TASTING - TWO RECENT YOUNG CAOL ILAS

Caol Ila 1998/2005 ‘Very Cloudy’ (40%, Signatory for La Maison du Whisky) From the ‘funny’ series that was filtered before it got reduced. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: it doesn’t start wildly but there’s presence indeed. Very smoky, peaty and rather rubbery (rubber bands), with quite some burnt matchsticks, ashes, stones and hints of marzipan, almond milk, a little resin and maybe faint hints of new plastic. Whiffs of smoked tea, humus, forest after the rain… Very little fruity notes if any. A very clean, honest and uncomplicated Caol Ila, with quite some oomph at just 40%.

Mouth: there’s maybe a little lack of body right at the attack but it does grow bolder after that. Smoked herbs, resins, herbal teas, something very leafy with a nice bitterness but always quite some freshness. Something that really makes me think of some (good) gins. A poolside Caol Ila? Quite some peat but again, very little fruits and almost no sweetness, which may be good news here. We have also an unexpectedly long finish, on marzipan and cold, un-sugared strong tea. Again, a good one for next summer – on ice? 82 points.
Caol Ila ‘Very Young’ (59.4%, Whisky-Doris, 2006) This one is bottled for German online retailer whisky-doris.de. Previous bottlings were very good, I thought. Nose: not as rough as expected but typically uncomplicated and compact. Peat, smoke, ashes, stones, a little lemon juice and a dash of pepper and that’s it, ite Missa est. Ah, yes, also whiffs of fermenting hay and maybe a little manure. A flawless youngster that will neither make you scratch your head, nor frown. Mouth: quite oily, with lots of sweetness now, probably from the alcohol. Astonishingly drinkable at such high strength. Develops on grapefruits, lemon skins and seeds, peat of course… Something bitterly vegetal (endives), quite some liquorice, something rooty… Exactly the same comments: it’s simple, straightforward but flawless. For true peatheads or people who’d like to try new kinds of cocktails, as I guess this one would make for an excellent kind of high-octane ti-punch (1 measure whisky, 1 measure lemon juice, a dash of candy sugar and one mint leave or two. To be served chilled!) In short, a good one again. 81 points.
 

March 8, 2006


TASTING - TWO YOUNG SPRINGBANKS
Springbank 8 yo (43%, OB for Japan, pear shaped, late 1970’s) Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh, this is very different from what we’re used to, and probably much closer to the current young OB’s than to the older tenners. Starts very fresh, clean and fragrant. Very bold notes of pear spirit, freshly cut vegetables (Turnips? Celeriac?), cider, something rubbery (rubber bands)… It gets then rather flowery (lily of the valley, lilac) and slightly earthy and rooty (humus). Something mineral as well, whiffs of smoke, lemon juice… And maybe hints of fresh coconut milk and sake (or is just self-suggestion?) No traces of sherry in this one, but a rather long development and lots of subtlety. A ‘Riesling malt’ again?
Mouth: simpler, starting maybe a tad weak but then, yes, we do have lots of fresh coconut. Rather tons of it, in fact. We have then a nice bitterness (strong tea) and notes of cough syrup, liquorice stick, celeriac again (did you already taste celeriac spirit? It’s not too bad!) Not lots of development now, the palate being certainly simpler than the nose, but the finish is rather long and, most of all, very salty. A very interesting old Springbank, in any case, even if not one of the richest. 88 points.
Springbank 10 yo 1995/2005 (58.4%, Blackadder Raw Cask) Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s much hotter of course, thanks to the high alcohol (lots of coffee), so let’s just water it down to approx 43% vol. right away, just for the sake of the comparison. Wow, it’s a revolution! Quick sniffs when it was neat didn’t reveal much depth but now it’s a whole new whisky. Very similar to its elder sibling in fact, although it does not start on lots of pear spirit, rather walnut liqueur and high-end tequila.
A beautiful compactness, with quite some menthol, eucalyptus, coffee again… and again these earthy, rooty notes. Fresh mushrooms? We have also notes of greengages, gooseberries, wet hay, smoke… A great surprise! Mouth (diluted): oh yes, again it’s beautiful. Very little coconut if any but lots of oomph, even at roughly 43%, with some big liquorice stick, smoked tea, dried oranges… It develops on various other spirits – it really reminds me of the ‘blanche’, that rather trendy white, immature armagnac you can sip in summer on lots of ice. Notes of pisco as well, grapefruit juice, something flinty and slightly metallic. I’m not sure everybody will say it’s whisky (again, I feel it could be several other spirits – or a blend) but it’s most enjoyable and highly original. Also nice notes of aloe juice. The finish is rather long, nicely bitter and vegetal, herbal, and again quite salty… Again a very interesting young Springbank, for people out there who seek… well, difference. 87 points. (and thanks, Antoine).
SCOTTISH GENIUS LOST - For anyone who had ever set foot inside a Glaswegian wally close tenement parlour, or sitting room, Ivor Cutler's scatological observations on Scottish urban living struck a resonant chord, no doubt deeply in tune with his maudlin harmonium accompaniment. A truly unique oddity (like the Bonzo Dog Band, famed for his appearance in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour) he deserves to be remembered on the occasion of his death, and far beyond. Nick.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening - Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs and Aaron Morgan, from California, aka The Finches, play a nice little song called The road.mp3. Charming, don't you think?... Please buy their music!

 

March 7, 2006


TASTING - TWO RATHER EXTREME 1975 ABERFELDIES
Aberfeldy 1975/2006 (56.2%, JWWW The Cross Hill, Bourbon cask, 146 bottles)
Colour: pale amber. Nose: we have some rather disturbing whiffs of rubber and sulphur at very first nosing but good news, those are soon to dwindle. It gets then a little spirity but other than that we have some rather enjoyable notes of candied oranges, tangerine liqueur, rancio (yes Charlie), and kind of a ‘nice’ dirtiness coming from the wood. It smells almost like a sherry cask whisky.
Goes on with something sweet and sour, cooked strawberries, buttered caramel, slightly smoky and flinty… The whole gets then very oaky, quite herbal and a little resinous… Well, nothing too special here in fact, I think it’s a little too indefinite and that it lacks a little ‘cleanliness’. Mouth: hmmm, it starts much better, with some nice fruity notes (orange marmalade) and both a sourness and a bitterness that give it lots of personality. We have huge, but not excessive notes of infused wood, bay leafs, burnt bread. It’s also rather rubbery, at that, but it’s an enjoyable kind of rubber. The finish is bold, long, spicy and almost penetrating… An interesting, beastly palate, rather extreme! 86 points for the whole.
Aberfeldy 25 yo 1975/2001 (57%, Cadenhead Bond Reserve, Sherry Hog., 228 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: much cleaner, with a wood that’s much less dominating. It’s rather powerful but also subtle and very elegant, with a beautiful balance, this time. Notes of cooked fruits, orange jam and caramel, woodworker’s workbench, quite some spices (nutmeg, curry). Goes on with whiffs of melted butter, hot pastries, cooked manioc, peppered chocolate (that’s excellent) and hints of raw celeriac… Just great – and again, what a beautiful balance. Classy! Mouth: an excellent attack, majestic and probably as woody as the Cross Hill, but perhaps more balanced. Yet, there’s lots of mustard, even wasabi, pepper, huge notes of gentian and liquorice stick, celeriac again… Very herbal indeed! It’s so compact, so nicely austere in its own way, I would even say ‘serious’ (!) There’s a little sweetness in the background to prevent it from getting sinister… Just perfect! And the finish is long, persistent, on liquorice and ginger... In short, a rather unusual but very, very classy sherried malt. 91 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening - Some news from Whiskyfun favourite Nellie McKay, at least! Well, her much anticipated new album 'Pretty little head' has been postponed, due to legal issues, by her record company, Columbia (she wanted it to be a double CD, they didn't etc.). A shame! Thank God we could find a few demos, like the rather brilliant The big one.mp3 (remember, it's just a demo). Please buy Miss McKay's new album as soon as it's out, and in the meantime, buy her first release, Get Away From Me. Thanks! (via the excellent blog The rich girls are weeping)
 

March 6, 2006


TASTING - TWO CLYNELISHES

Clynelish 27 yo 1974/2001 (55.7%, Signatory, cask #2570, 229 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: very punchy and nervous, almost sharp at first nosing, with something very mineral that then switches to the trademark waxiness. This ‘wall of austerity’ then dissipates and reveals a beautiful mix of fruits, flowers and farm-like aromas. It’s definitely more complex, and more full-bodied than many famous 1972 Clynelishes.

Lots of oranges, fresh pineapples and guavas on one side, then we have the flowers (iris, lilly of the valley). Not the ‘sweet’ kind of flowers at all, something more herbal. And finally lots of hay, clean horse stable… All that is underlined with a beautiful phenolic structure: a little peat, lots of wax (dare I say of course), resins, ‘fatty’ smoke, humus… I say wow, it’s splendid! And very, very elegant, not of the ‘obvious’ kind at all. Mouth: wow again! Direct, powerful, very affirmative (hum), sexy (huh?) but it’s more Ava Garner than Pamela Anderson – classy stuff. Superbly grassy, salty, waxy, resinous, fruity (citrusy)… It grows saltier and saltier, more and more herbal, with even notes of mustard and curry. Something frankly Brora-ish in there! Lots of liquorice as well, Worcester sauce, oyster sauce. It gets rather extreme in its very own way, almost hot, invading, camphory… Tell me about presence! A whisky you’ll remember for years. I love it! And the finish is long, thick (salted liquorice), almost impregnating… Anyway, 93 points for this excellent surprise, but that rating is even more personal than usually, and I guess all aficionados won’t like it as much as I do, for it’s so extreme (and thanks Lexus).
Clynelish 32 yo 1973/2005 (55.1%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 6 months rum finish) We won’t wonder why they decided to finish a 1973 Clynelish, will we? Sacrilege? Hum, we’ll see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more rounded and sweet, I’d say more discreet than the 1974 although it’s far from being ‘silent’. Starts on something buttery, creamy (vanilla cream, freshly baked pastries), together with very nice flowery notes (flowers from the fields) and fruit jam (melon, plums, peaches). Whiffs of smoke and ashes, ripe apricots… And then the usual waxiness (like a beehive here). Simpler but undoubtedly enjoyable, with a nice freshness and hints of rum but it’s really integrated here – maybe it’s not the rum that I can smell, after all. Above all, it’s much fruitier than the Signatory, hence more ‘classical’. Mouth: punchy and powerful, much closer to the typical old Clynelish we know – which is strange, considering it’s been finished. I guess the ‘treatment’ has been very light here, despite the 6 months. Rounded, fruity (quince jelly, oranges, a little bananas, hints of mangoes), getting rather close to quince eau-de-vie (that’s really excellent when it’s properly distilled). Quite some pepper, tannins (much more tannins than in the 1974), maybe the rum coming through now… Closer to white rum, I’d say… Strange, I must be wrong ;-). And we have quite some salt again, something slightly metallic (silver spoon), wax… And a very nice balance and compactness. The finish is long, waxy and a little drying but nothing excessive. Another good old Clynelish, no doubt, even if it’s quite far from being as grand, majestic and explosive as that 1974. 88 points.
 
CRAZY WHISKY AD - ON THE STUFF INSIDE
It's been quite a while since Johannes, over at maltmadness.com, declared an ad war on us. That was on February 24 and we retaliated right on February 26. Since that very day, no news from the sneaky Dutchman, except a long strain of poor excuses (like, you know, 'my PC crashed and stuff') or vain threats... Well, I don't doubt he'll manage to come up with a proper reply Dutch-style within the coming days (months, actually), maybe with, again, half-naked starlets... So, in the meantime, I thought we could keep the preassure on him, by publishing a few naked starlets of a different breed...
Fifty years and the same old idea - more or less.
Top, left, Johnnie Walker Black Label in the 1940's: 'A whisky that needs no label'
Top, right, Chivas Regal, in the 1960's: 'Just a reminder that the most impressive thing about Chivas Regal is what's in the bottle, not what's on it.'
Bottom, left, Crown Royal in the 1970's: 'A king with no clothes is still a king.'
Bottom, right, Jim Beam White in the 2000's: 'The stuff inside matters most.'
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening - If you're in a bad mood (or if you live in Los Angeles) maybe you'd better postpone this one: the Mooks playing Hollywood nocturne.mp3. A magnificent, I think, blend of blues and German neorealism... Just superb. Please buy the Mooks' music...(via motel de moka)

 

March 5, 2006


TASTING - TWO BRACKLAS
Royal Brackla 1976/2006 (61.2%, The Cross Hill JWWW, sherry cask) Already quite some malts bottled in 2006 to taste. Let's start with this 'German' Brackla. Colour: gold. Nose: oh, there’s also a little peat in there! Much less, that is. Bold notes of citronella and stones, flints, with whiffs of rubber (rubber band), fresh mint leaves and cooking yellow plum jam. Quite rounded for such a high strength malt, very jammy, It gets then very winey but it’s more like a Sauternes or an Alsatian late harvest wine than like a sherry. Lots of very ripe fruits, bananas, ginger bread, … Let’s try it with a few drops of water: it gets a little grassier now, with notes of forest, fern and moss, pine needles, old papers… Great, it got even more complex.
Mouth: very sweet, astonishingly rounded and drinkable at more than 60%, very creamy, on tons of fruit jam again, orange salad with honey and olive oil (try that one day, it’s delectable), resin sweets, rubber, cough syrup… Excellent, I guess it was a refill cask. Let’s add water: oh, it gets even creamier and fruitier, on Xmas cake, candied kumquats, ginger. Quite some pepper, hints of cloves, fruit liqueurs… And always quite some rubber. The finish is very long, very bold and very fruity. One of these great old Bracklas, definitely, maybe there’s just a little too much rubber. 89 points.
Royal Brackla 1983 (57.5%, The Whisky Connoisseur) Colour: white wine. Nose: ha-ha! This Brackla seems to be unusually peaty… Fresh, very herbal and grassy, with notes of fresh mint and paraffin, lit candles, marzipan, motor grease, diesel oil… A very interesting peat, not exactly Islay-style, nor of the farmy kind. Delicate and lively – an excellent surprise. Mouth: the attack is sweet and very fruity (pears, strawberries, white peaches) with quite some peat again in the background. What a perfect balance! Quite some paraffin, waxed cardboard (not too enjoyable this time), with odd notes of rotted game developing now… Strange… Notes of over-infused earl grey tea, marzipan… lavender soap… Hum, thing seam to skid now. Bizarre… Plus, the finish isn’t too long but quite bitter. Is it falling apart? Too bad, it did start great… 78 points.

 

 

MUSIC – It's Sunday, we go classical with something pretty interesting, I think: the superb avant-garde soprano Claron McFadden singing (well, you can hear her singing) a rare work by Adolphe Sax - who invented, well, you know what - Paradiso.mp3 (excerpt). Please buy her records and go to her concerts!

 

March 4, 2006


TASTING - TWO INDIE PULTENEYS
Old Pulteney 14 yo 1990 (43%, Signatory, casks #04/781/1 & 2, 729 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: rather discreet at first nosing, with just whiffs of alcohol and something mashy but it gets then quite nicely flowery and fruity (not that it’s a fruitbomb if course). Green apples and pears, daisies… We have something rather smoky in the background (fireplace, wood smoke), growing then bolder with time. Also notes of yoghurt (quite yeasty), barbeque herbs, bitter chocolate, ginger ale, cardboard, maybe sea water… Not too expressive but fresh and pleasant.
Mouth: a rather nice attack on coconut milk (like in some un-sherried Springbanks) and sugared orange juice, something waxy… It gets then rather earthy and rooty (gentian spirit), sort of medicinal, switching then to watered down lemon juice, lettuce, grass juice. Herbal, almost bitter but not unbalanced. The finish is quite long, herbal and very salty, with the coconut making a remarkable coming back (Malibu?). A rather natural and lively expression of Pulteney, without the usual ‘relative’ roundness we can find in most OB’s. No thrill but good. 81 points.
Old Pulteney 16 yo 1989/2005 (46%, Whisky Galore) Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re more or less on the same territories here, although this one is more mineral, sharper, and not yeasty at all. Bold notes of wet limestone, grapefruit juice, again quite some smoke… Cleaner and probably more elegant, but not really more complex. No coconut here but hints of fresh litchis and roses. Again a pleasant, natural Pulteney with almost no direct cask influence that I can smell this time. Mouth: sweeter and nervous, starting on lots of sweets (Haribo’s strawberries, marshmallows) and again quite some salt. It gets then very grassy and herbal (green tea, lemon zests, fresh rhubarb). Lots of oomph and boldness. Develops a little further with quite some liquorice and ginseng powder (yes, quite earthy again). The finish is long again, maybe rougher than the Signatory but just as salty, with notes of gin. Again a good one to sip just because you wanted to have a nice ‘natural’ whisky with quite some personality. 83 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening - Long time heroes Idaho play Much closer now.mp3. (from We Were Young and Needed the Money) Almost everything is out of tune in there - yes, on purpose, I guess - but I think it's a beautiful song - it's magical! Please buy Idaho's music...

 

March 3, 2006


TASTING - TWO CLASSY INCHGOWERS

Inchgower 25 yo (54.1%, Whisky Doris, 2006) Colour: cognac. Nose: oh yes, this is the kind of sherry I like! It starts on a fantastic mix of smoked ‘stuff’, coffee and cocoa, with no heaviness at all. We have then quite some balsamic vinegar, grilled meat, old dry white wine (very old Montrachets, Château-Chalons), bitter caramel, hot brownies… Very little rummy, raisiny, fruity notes this time and kind of an austerity that’s all elegance here...

The smoke grows bolder by the minute (I already had a few very smoky Inchgowers), with also notes of game (foul pheasant), sea air, coal, maybe also heating oil. Ah, yes, and linseed oil. Extremely classy, with not a single hint of sourness or vinosity. Mouth: yummy! It starts sweeter and rounder but still in a rather austere, almost rigorous way. Lots of cocoa, toasted bread, ristretto coffee, Smyrna raisins this time, grilled almonds with caramel… It’s beautifully dry in fact, all elegance. The bitter chocolate really starts to overwhelm the whole after a moment, and I love bitter chocolate and its dryness. It doesn’t really develop any further, but what we have is that excellent, that it’s almost good news. The finish is long, beautifully dry and, again, superbly austere. Bingo! 93 points (but you have to like dryness in your whisky).
Inchgower 27 yo 1976/2004 (55.6%, Rare Malts) Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh, that’s funny, there’s lots of smoke in there as well! It starts maybe a little more discretely, though (no sherry at all), but develops quietly, on mineral notes, ashes, newly mown grass and old books. Just as elegant as the 25yo… Notes of burning beech tree wood… It gets then quite peaty, farmy (hay, very clean manure) and goes back to ashes (err…) Another relatively shy, but great Inchgower – on the nose, at least. Mouth: now it’s much creamier, sweeter than its sherried sibling, with lots of fresh fruits (mostly Williams pears but also ripe plums and white peaches) and hints of fructose that add a little extra-vivacity. It gets then quite herbal (lettuce, a little dill, chives), then goes back to cider apples and pears… Turkish delights, notes of buggle gum, marzipan, mint… Very good, all in nuances despite the high alcohol. And the finish is long and ‘broad’, on almond milk, pears again, something waxy and resinous… In a nutshell, another classy Inchgower, maybe not as truly exceptional as the ‘dry sherry monster’ above but still worth 90 points as far as I’m concerned.
MUSIC – Recommended listening - Breaking news, I'm into post-hardcore! Well, not really, don't worry, but as much I as I hate this kind of music usually, I like Lauren K. Newman's work quite a lot (which won't fail to amaze all the youngsters around, hahaha!) Do you want to become the hero of the neighbourhood as well? Have a try at Bleak, ruined choir of one.mp3 and play it loud! And then buy her music (or present your favourite nephew with her CD...)
 

March 2, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
CHAS AND DAVE
The 100 Club, London, February 24th 2006
Well Serge, welcome to my knees-up nightmare. Crash bang wallop! We took a smash and grab – that was a Paul McKenna – to the rub-a-dub, got a couple of Britneys (a bloody deep sea diver!), grabbed a lion’s lair in the Johnny Horner, sat on our fifes and enjoyed the Russell. The place was packed – not your usual 100 Club muso crowd, more like a cross between an East End wedding reception and a Hen Night (yes Serge – we still have them here, despite your bird flu’) in Southend. We’ve got a mum, dad and kids in front of us, a bemused American sociologist to our left, and to the right, in a tight 1960s psychedelic Dicky, someone who looks remarkably like Lionel Blair (and who, for the amusement of Cockney rhyming slang aficionados, is actually wearing a pair of flares). The excellent DJ Boss Goodman is working his way through a fine selection of British R&B, and making quite a Serge.

Lionel Blair
We’re here to see Chas and Dave. They’re hot. They wowed Glastonbury, toured with the Libertines, and have at last made it big in the USA. In case you don’t know they play rockney – a unique combination of cockney sing-a-long songs and rock and roll. Sounds awful doesn’t it – barely better than my Dad’s favourite long-player, always brought out at Christmas, Mrs Mills Honk-Tonk Christmas Party Favourites Volume 9.
Actually it’s a lot cleverer than that – slightly misogynistic yet innocent reflections on the fragility of the human condition I would say, with lyrical callisthenics of astonishing accomplishment (yes I know ‘Rabbit’ drove everyone bonkers in the end but listen to it again and you’ll have to admit it really is sweet).
And although they wear their talent very lightly, Chas Hodges (piano) and Dave Peacock (bass) are musicians of no mean skill, with a long list of session work to their names. Dave might be one of the best bass players we see all year. Oh yes – and on drums is Micky Burt – formerly of the late and much lamented Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers (“Oi Mick, let’s ‘av some stick”), doing a passable impersonation of Albert Steptoe.
Strangely Chas comes to the stage with his own bodyguard – but it’s easy to see why as the girls (and their Mums, and their Grannies) close in on the cramped stage. “Are there any London girls in ‘ere tonight” almost provokes a riot – just as the photographer goes into action. But it’s a happy crowd with just the right number of Britneys inside them – no sign of trouble here. We get what we might expect – ‘Rabbit’, ‘Gertcha’, ‘Beer belly’, ‘Margate’, ‘London girls’, and of course, the number one smash ‘Ain’t no pleasing you’, with a selection of somewhat interminable instrumental medleys of the Mrs Mills meets Russ Conway school. But overall it’s great fun and educational too – we learn all the special hand signals you have to give to different songs from the Mum in front of us, who like almost everyone else knows the words and the dances off by heart.
By the end you could hardly move. A passing bus party of Pearly Kings and Queens had joined us, and behind them came a veritable procession of barrow boys, coster-mongers, cockle sellers, lovable street urchins and poor little match-girls. Lionel B was busy choreographing them in the style of the opening number from the other Lionel’s Fings ain’t wot they used t’be. There’s a gang of dodgy villains from Kent at the bar buying everyone drinks with £500 notes. The Mum in front has succumbed to the several bottles of the 100 Club’s special Chateau Neuf et Six, and has to be restrained by the bouncer, and her kids, from jumping all over Chas.
Why Serge, I swear I even saw the late Queen Mum there enjoying the crack with a nice glass of hock as the deathly silent whistle of V2 missiles could be heard overhead.

What a knees-up!
What a night! What a knees up! I saw Chas and Dave described as ‘strangely life affirming’ in a Guardian review last year – but that’s just Guardian Jackson Pollocks isn’t it? They’re simply good fun – if you get the chance go along and enjoy. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thanks a bunch, Nick. I didn't know you were mastering Cockney Rhyming Slang so well and I must confess I was pretty much in terra incognita with these Chas and Dave fellows, but then again, the only thing we really know about English popular culture over here comes from Quadrophenia or Tommy. Okay, add to that the Full Monty, Trainspotting and yes, football (soccer)! Speaking of which, while doing my homework, I found out that Chas and Dave are also famous for something that you did not mention (God knows why): the songs they wrote for the Tottenham Hotspurs. I won’t comment on them, as I know next to nothing about football, and just nothing about sport anthems, but our distinguished readers may have a try at them. Quite strangely, you can find many of them via a Tottenham supporters’ club from… Singapore!
 
TASTING - TWO BALBLAIRS
Balblair 40 yo (42.8%, Single Malts of Scotland, cask #1346, 2005) Colour: pale amber. Nose: starts on bold and scary notes of varnish and cellulose but they are soon to give the fruits some elbowroom. We have quite some apricot pie, ripe peaches and strawberries, spear mint and fresh almonds… It gets then nuttier and nuttier (roasted hazelnuts), with also some melon and plums… Notes of light honey, heather, cigarette tobacco, all that being quite fresh and lively despite the old age. Whiffs of spices, the malt getting very minty after a few minutes, with hints of lemon balm. Enjoyable, no doubt, even if not enormously expressive.
Mouth: oh yes, there’s quite some wood in there. It’s far from being just plank juice like some other oldies but there’s quite some tannins indeed, notes of immature fruits (plums), liquorice roots, bold nutmeg and pure cocoa, getting quite bitter and drying after a while. Notes of varnish again (not that I drink varnish usually), walnut liqueur, the whole getting cardboardy and slightly sour (cider apples). It gets a little difficult now, sort of tight and thin – except for the wood. The finish is rather short, lacking body and frankly woody. Well, the nose was very nice but the mouth is maybe too dry, slightly tired and a tad disappointing, unlike all other malts from this series I’ve had, all ranging from very good to excellent. 80 points.
Balblair 10 yo (57%, OB for Pinerolo, late 1970’s) Colour: full amber. Nose: oh, this is rather unusual! Punchy but not violent, starting very earthy, on fresh mushrooms, humus, bold notes of moss, fresh almonds, wet dead leaves. There’s quite some varnish again, interestingly, and also notes of fresh mint, camphor, turpentine… The varnish doesn’t vanish like in the 40yo, though. Keeps developing on marzipan, coffee and chocolate, getting then sort of winey (sweet white wine) and flowery (peonies). Also notes of blackcurrant syrup, mulberries… There must have been quite some ex-wine casks in this vatting. A very interesting whisky. Mouth: this one is much punchier, creamier yet far from being ‘thick’. Very herbal now (barbeque herbs, curry), really dry and bitter but not excessively so. Notes of old sweet wine again, cooked fruits (apricots), and lots of tannins, not unlike the 40 yo but there’s much more body and oomph here. Bitter caramel, strong tea, Tabasco, Worcester sauce… Yes, it’s hot! Cough! Notes of sugared mustard, orange marmalade and more and more tannins. Hints of cooked mushrooms and liquorice stick. I must say I like this rather extreme, rough and most unusual profile. Not what we’d expect from a Balblair at all! And the finish is long, bold, tannic and hot - what a beast. 86 points.
 

March 1, 2006


TASTING - THREE BOWMORES
Bowmore 13 yo 1991/2005 (49%, Glen Denny – Hunter Hamilton, cask #HH91/1699, 272 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather spirity, sharp at first nosing, very pure. Starts quite mineral, almost like a Riesling (flints, matchsticks, lemon), getting very smoky (garden fire) and maritime (fresh oysters, seashells). We have then some very nice grainy notes (soaked barley), notes of buttered mashed potatoes and something herbal (hay). A very fresh and clean Bowmore, extremely far from most young OB’s from the last years. Very, very ‘Islay’, whatever that means. .
Mouth: sweet and nervous, more typically ‘recent Bowmore’. Smoke, fruit liqueurs, boxed fruits, lavender crème… Something slightly unpleasant in that mixture, but that’s me, I guess. We have also quite some salt, liquorice, gentian roots, and a rather long, more classical, peaty and salty finish. Loads of salt! The nose was just great, hence my 83 points
Bowmore 8 yo 1990/1999 (56.5%, The Whisky House – Donato, Italy, cask #3409) Colour: white wine. Nose: we have a very similar Bowmore here, everything being just toned down, with maybe a little more flowery flowers (not of the lavender – violets – geraniums kinds, rather flowers from the fields. Other than that it’s almost as mineral, lemony and maritime as the Glen Denny, maybe just a tad less smoky. Less expressive, globally. Mouth: extremely close to the Glen Denny, just more powerful, thanks to the higher ABV I guess. What’s more, it’s even saltier, which is amazing. It gets also a little cleaner after a moment, a little smokier… The finish is very long, ‘plentiful’, sweet and smoky, all the perfumy notes having vanished. Good news. 84 points.
Bowmore 12 yo (43%, OB, early 1990’s?) Colour: amber. Nose: already some notes of ‘bottle age’, with very little smoke if any (was it a lack of 'tails'?) No notes of ‘geranium’ or ‘lavender’, that is. There is something coastal, though, together with a little dust and cardboard. Rather discreet… Notes of ashes, a certain lack of cleanliness. Mouth: there is quite some peat now, and also crystallised fruits and butter caramel plus a little liquorice. It gets then bolder, with quite some salt and tar and gets then a little ‘difficult’ (heavy notes of salty liquorice). The finish is rather long, mostly on dried plums and salt… In short, this one is little weird, lacking freshness and cleanliness. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid. 77 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening - Lavender Diamond's singer Becky Stark does Why oh why.mp3 (from her CD 'Artifacts of The Winged'). Very delicate! Please buy her music... And there's a nice cartoon there.


February 2006 - part 2 <--- March 2006 - part 1 ---> March 2006 - part 2
     


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

Aberfeldy 25 yo 1975/2001 (57%, Cadenhead Bond Reserve, Sherry Hog., 228 bottles)

Clynelish 27 yo 1974/2001 (55.7%, Signatory, cask #2570, 229 bottles)

Inchgower 25 yo (54.1%, Whisky Doris, 2006)

Inchgower 27 yo 1976/2004 (55.6%, Rare Malts)