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Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2009 - Part 1
       

April 2009 - part 2 <--- May 2009 - part 1 ---> May 2009 - part 2

 

May 13, 2009


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
JIM WHITE
The Union Chapel, London April 30th 2009
Jim White Talking of valued recommendations, one of the nicest things about music is sharing; same goes for malt whisky, I suppose. But as is the case with whisky, sometimes it’s hard to call: you have to pick the right whisky for the right person. The bohemian experimentalist will explore and try, and enjoy, anything; often just the experience of something novel or different is enough.
Others are more conservative. And as there’s some degree of personal exposure in doing this – getting it right can strengthen a relationship, getting it wrong quite the reverse - one has to tread carefully. But when you do get it right, it’s delightful. Hence my delight that our fellow fish and chipsters at the packed Union Chapel for Jim White (it’s Big Bobby and Little Claire) have smiles all over their faces only minutes into the gig, and are no less beaming when we wave them goodnight a couple of hours later.
I’m not surprised, since this show, part of a short European tour, scored very highly on the Jimometer.
Patrick Hargon
“It’s sort of quiet in here. That’s how it was last night in Norway, ‘till I told them how happy I was to be in Sweden”. Relaxed and very much at ease, White was accompanied by Patrick Hargon, who jived and joked and made his customised Telecaster positively sing in the rafters of this old church, and Lisa Hargon Smith (yes, they are related) on bass.Mr White is about to make another album, so this is his last appearance in the UK for a little while, and a useful opportunity to try out material on a friendly (that’s an understatement, I should say ‘adoring’) crowd.
“I don’t want to keep on doing the same old stuff, I could have been Phil Collins to do that”. And there are some previously untold stories too. Of the new songs ‘Where would I be’, with some clever looped harmonica, led the Photographer to write in my little black book – ‘now this should be a No 1’. ‘The way of love’ was written as a memory of a chance meeting and the most innocent of kisses with a prostitute on a beach in Florida, where White, then a fundamentalist Christian, once worked as a sun-tan lotion salesman (could it be anything other than a Jim White song?). ‘Hick hop’ sort of speaks for itself, and ‘The trials of Job’ was, given the title of the song, a surprisingly up-tempo piece, almost in a Jonathan Richman rock and roll style. Altogether some encouraging stuff that bodes well for the next record.
Jim White
White began the set with a version of ‘Fireworks factory’, originally recorded with Johnny Dowd and Hellwood and, from his back catalogue ‘A perfect day to chase tornados’, which he introduced with a new story, albeit set on the same beach as the customary anecdote. This latest tale, of an abortive rescue attempt, was a metaphor for life’s relentless quest for the unattainable, or something like that. He played ‘The wound that never heals’, possibly his most disturbing song, about a sexually-abused woman turned serial killer and the very pretty ‘Still waters’ and ‘Static on the radio’. Add the more light-hearted ‘If Jesus drove a motor home’ (“We like playing this song but people keep telling us they don’t like it”), and from his last album, ‘Turquoise house’, which gave Hargon a chance to run through a small manual of classic Country and Western riffs. White ended the show with a solo performance of ‘Bluebird’, the lovely song written for his daughter. A perfect way to finish. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: Jim White's page on MySpace
 
TASTING – THREE FRUITFUL AUCHENTOSHAN
Auchentoshan
Auchentoshan 16 yo 1991/2007 (46%, Hart Bros) Colour: white wine. Nose: young and a little spirity at first nosing, with also a lot of fresh orange juice. Quite some wood smoke and crème brûlée coning through after that, the whole getting rather gentler. Hints of marzipan, lavender crème and earl grey tea. A very clean Auchentoshan, maybe a tad more candied and vanilled than some other very fruity versions. Gets a tad yeastier after fifteen minutes. Mouth: fresh, youthful, extremely fruity as Auchentoshan can be. All on apple juice, bubblegum, strawberries and just a little lemon. Orange drops. Finish: medium long, still on oranges and other fruits, with just hints of oak (faint dustiness). Comments: another one that should be very pleasant on ice later in summer (that’ soon!) SGP:531 – 80 points.
Auchentoshan 19 yo (46%, Duthies, +/- 2009) The famous ‘Duthies’ brand name has just been revived by Cadenhead. Duthies is notably famous for providing Mr. Samaroli with some his best bottlings. Colour: straw. Nose: this one bursts with vanilla of various kinds (crème, custard, ‘natural’ pods), developing on all things pastry-like (caramel, praline, cappuccino, apple pie) and with only hints of lemon and grapefruit and maybe a little anise and dill. Once again, a very clean and fresh whisky, very easy yet appealing. A little more complex than the 1991. Mouth: a very pleasant combination of the spirits’s usual zestiness with some clean, sweet oak and quite a lot of soft/sweet spices. Indian korma sauce? Notes of pineapples. Very good. Finish: medium long, on tangerines and soft chillies. Comments: an undemanding but extremely pleasant dram, well balanced. SGP:530 – 84 points.
Auchentoshan 24 yo 1984/2008 (55.4%, Signatory, bourbon, cask #264, 159 bottles) Cask #263 was good (WF 82) and cask #265 for Austria was even better (WF 90). Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s straight oak that talks first this time, with whiffs of fresh sawdust , pencil shavings and vanilla. Hints of chalk and bread crumbs. With water: really resembles the Duthies now, minus the aniseed and dill. A little less oak. Mouth (neat): a slight sourness (cider apples) and quite some oak again but the rest is expectedly clean and fruity. Oranges, apple juice, grapefruit. Green tea. With water: once again, we’re very close to the Duthies once water has been added. Crisp and zesty. Finish: medium long, well balanced between oak/vanilla and citrus fruits. Comments: what we expect from Auchentoshan. Very clean, bottled just before the oak would start to dominate the rather light and fruitful spirit. SGP:531 - 84 points.
 

May 12, 2009


Lochside

TASTING – ANOTHER THREE EXCELLENT LOCHSIDE

Lochside 17 yo 1991/2008 ‘Eso Child’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, 252 bottles) A late period Lochside, the wonderful distillery having been closed in 1992 and demolished around 2004. Look at the picture below, wasn’t it very ‘Neuschwanstein’? And the malt always quite princely? Colour: pale gold. Nose: as clean, crisp and fruity as Lochside could get, with something a little ‘Lowlands’ as often (Bladnoch, Auchentoshan) plus that extra ‘old Highlands’ kick that’s so trilling. It’s not a big nose actually but we’re getting tangerines, passion fruits, rhubarb, yellow flowers and fresh mint, all encapsulated in a light, refined oakiness (cedar wood). Hints of dried flowers (pot-pourri). A very elegant dram on the nose, kind of aerial but not really light. Mouth: assertive and very, very fruity, with a lot of orange juice and even papayas as well as notes of fresh bananas, the oak growing then bigger (cinnamon). The big fruitiness evolves more towards kiwis after a moment, with unusual vegetal notes (sorrel, rocket salad). Finish: medium long, more on strawberry drops now. And quite some kiwi! Comments: not as much a fruitbomb as earlier vintages but it’s still very fruity whisky with quite a body. We’ll always miss the very ‘unusual’ Lochside. SGP:641 - 87 points.
Lochside 23 yo 1981/2005 (55.4%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, bourbon hoghsead, 238 bottles) There’s been many 1981s and some by Berry Bros, Cadenhead, Murray McDavid or the SMWS have been truly magnificent. Colour: gold. Nose: more oak and dryness, the whole being much less expressive than the 1991. Maybe the alcohol does block it. Hints of green bananas and something definitely Irish in style. With water: bang bang! Ripe grapefruits, ripe grapefruits and ripe grapefruits, plus crushed coriander. Oh, by the way, maybe you could help: I’ve planted some coriander in the garden but some annoying snails keep eating it. Any ideas how I could get rid of them without using any chemicals? (No, I won’t catch them and eat them!) Mouth (neat): now, this is a fruitbomb! Bunches of fresh fruits such as passion fruits, oranges, mangos, pears… Quite some pepper from the wood as well, the whole getting very hot so let’s add water again. With water: fantastic fruitiness! More bananas, guavas… Finish: medium long, clean and just as fruity. Comments: I’m curious about the kind of yeast they were using at Lochside at the time. Wine yeast? What a big fruitiness! SGP:730 – 90 points.
Lochside 21 yo 1981/2002 (60.7%, Cadenhead's, Authentic Collection, Sherry Hogshead, 306 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: once again, this one is a little shy, it’s probably the high alcohol. Whiffs of newly sawn oak and tealeaves. With water: less exuberantly fruity than the Blackadder but more complex, with some grapefruit for sure but also hints of lovage, parsley, fresh almonds, apple peeling… Smells more and more of lovage and maybe of coriander again. Quite superb! Mouth (neat): almost the same as the Blackadder when neat as far as the flavours are concerned but truly burning. We need water. With water: we have a rounder version of the Blackadder now. More oak influence and less freshness but it’s still excellent. Maybe between the Daily Dram and the Blackadder in style. No lovage on the palate, alas. Finish: rather long, on grapefruits and oak (white pepper, ginger). A little mint in the aftertaste. Comments: very good again. SGP:650 - 87 points.
Lochside
Lochside Distillery in 2000 (picture Nick/Wikipedia).
The Springbank of the East (not architecturally that is).
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
(with reference to Jack Handy)

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Pat Metheny
Title: Zero Tolerance for Silence, Part One (1994 - Right, this is not just for any ears, but this record was a milestone, the Octomore or Supernova of music - heavymetallers may go back to school!)

Please buy Pat Metheny's music.

Pat Metheny
 

May 11, 2009


Hazelburn

TASTING – TWO HAZELBURN (Springbank)

Hazelburn 7 yo 2001/2008 (49.4%, Cadenhead, Bond Reserve, 4 small casks, 316 bottles) Small casks should mean heavy oakiness, but let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: good news, no excessive oakiness, rather a pretty young and very natural, clean spirit, all on… muesli and vanilla crème. Hints of yogurt and mocha and then quite some freshly cut apple and, yes, fresh oak (not completely dried). Whiffs of ginger. Farmyard, hay and wet earth/grass in the background. Rather delicate actually, kind of a civilized brute. Mouth: unusual, very unusual. Starts on quite some cardboard (pleasant here) and ginger tonic (pleasant here), going on with some orange squash (pleasant here) and powdered ginger (pleasant here), and getting then more and more gin-like (pleasant here). In short, a profile that doesn’t sound too good in my book but which, quite inexplicably, I sort of enjoy. Finish: long but gets maybe a tad too bitter now (orange skin). Comments: I rather like this one, for it lets the spirit talk a bit, even though the wood’s work is very obvious. SGP:361 - 81 points.
Hazelburn 11 yo (56.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #126.1, 207 bottles, 2009) From a first fill sherry butt. Do you think it’s a good idea to have dropped the vintages within the new SMWS line? I don’t. Now, this is the first Hazelburn by the SMWS ever, so it’s ‘important’ – but only 207 bottles in an 11yo butt? Where are the others? Colour: dark mahogany. Nose: heavy-heavy Pedro Ximenez or even pure cream sherry, extremely spectacular. A 50-kgs fruitcake and litres of various fruit liqueurs and syrups (blackcurrants, strawberries, pineapples, raspberries, prunes, sultanas, bananas), toffee and quite some tar/smoke, but none of the other aromas that we sometimes find in heavily sherried whiskies (no leather, no gunpowder, no coffee, little meat and little spices). In other words, a simple but extremely spectacular sherry monster. I doubt the spirit itself has much to tell us here… Maybe on the palate? Mouth: rich, thick and coating but certainly not vulgar nor lumpish, and rather drier than on the nose. Frankly, it tastes like if there was at least 20% pure sherry in here, but it works and beautifully so. Tons and tons of orange marmalade, tamarind, prunes and crème de cassis and then extremely big notes of cloves, maybe the biggest I ever had in a whisky. What a monster. Finish: extremely long, with more straight oak now, and always these huge notes of cloves. Comments: blimey, I even forgot to add water. A spectacular whisky but if you don’t particularly enjoy heavy sherry, you may pass… SGP:751 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
A friend who's just back from Ethiopia brought me a wonderful CD, I believe from a certain 'Nebyu Tesfaye' but I couldn't find any information on the www. So I'll simply share it with you, if you ever recognise the music, please drop me a mail!

Ethiopia
 

May 10, 2009


TASTING – FOUR RECENT 26yo PORT ELLEN
Port Ellen
Port Ellen 26 yo 1983/2009 (46%, Douglas of Drumlanrig, cask #5033, 440 bottles) A wonderful label that makes me think of a Soviet officer’s cap – personal pathos I guess! Colour: straw. Nose: a crisp, clean lemony Port Ellen, medium peated at first nosing, evolving towards notes of fresh oysters and butter, then fresh almonds, grass and a little nutmeg, getting just a tad paraffiny and papery (wet newspaper). Whiffs of ginger tonic, gin fizz… Little wood influence it seems, a rather gentle and soft Port Ellen. No sherry that I can smell. After fifteen minutes: more burnt caramel. Mouth: good, compact, lemony and peaty at the attack, drops a bit in the middle (a little cardboard), takes off again towards the end (lemon marmalade and ginger) and ends up on something such as lemon-flavoured marzipan. Something slightly dusty/chalky. Finish: rather long and quite lemony, with some salt. Comments: a Port Ellen of good quality, no more, no less. Not a big one. SGP:446 - 85 points.
Port Ellen 26 yo 1982/2008 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, refill butt, 731 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: a rounder one, with much more vanilla and praline at first nosing, but it gets then pretty similar to the 1983, with these rather sharp lemony notes and a few coastal notes (seashells). Grass, fresh almonds, cut apples… Also kumquats/quinces. And no gin fizz. Maybe a tad butyric. Once again, rather a gentle version of Port Ellen – so far! Mouth: more unusual than on the nose, kind of honeyed and resinous, reminding me of oriental pastries (baklavas, orange blossom water). Certainly unexpected and much to my liking. Goes on with lemon marmalade, crystallised ginger, bitter oranges and even something like chutney (mango?), which makes it even richer, yet clean and perfectly balanced. Very, very good palate! Finish: long, with a little more pepper and even hints of aniseed. Comments: the nose wasn’t really outta this world but the palate was rather fantastic, round yet very nervous, very Port Ellen. Port Ellen with honey! SGP:547 - 89 points.
Port Ellen 26 yo 1982/2008 (51.2%, Signatory for LMdW, Collector's Edition No. 2, hogshead, cask #1135, 318 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: this one is straighter and sharper, with almost no vanilla this time and rather a crisp minerality besides a little lemon (less than in the DLs) and the coastal notes (clams, tarry rope). Also fresh almonds and walnuts plus a lot of grass. Whiffs of fresh ink (brand new book). A little austere but don’t we like austere Port Ellens? Mouth: indeed, it’s a sharp, ultra-zesty, very crystalline PE and a beautiful one, starting on litres of lime juice and taking off on notes of pu-erh tea, cardamom and cumin, pepper and then other citrus fruits (mostly grapefruits.) There’s also more and more lemon, and that very special peatiness that’s often to be found in Port Ellen (rather of the tarry/earthy kind.) Jolly good. Finish: Comments: totally clean, flawless Port Ellen, more lemony than usual, with also something that reminded me of our crispiest Alsatian Rieslings. Now, we liked the Collector’s Edition No.1 even better, that one was a truly majestic Port Ellen! (WF 94). SGP:357 - 90 points.
Port Ellen 26 yo 1982/2009 (56.2%, Douglas Laing OMC for The Nectar, refill hogshead, 193 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: we’re extremely close to the other OMC at first nosing, both whiskies being actually almost identical despite different wood treatments (but it seems that the casks weren’t very active anyway). Maybe a little more citrusy notes (orange zests, lemon) and maybe a slightly bigger ‘coastalness’. More sour fruits too (cider apples, also a little baker’s yeast), the whole getting frankly zestier after ten or fifteen minutes. Great. With water: oh, this one does not swim too well! Gets a little cardboardy… Mouth: once again, we’re close to the other OMC in style but this one is the biggest of them all. Very powerful but creamy, rather rich considering it’s a non-sherry PE, luscious, flavourful… We have a lot of marmalade, pepper spice-mix (that includes paprika and caraway), dried ginger, straight peat, lemon-sprinkled smoked salmon (not kidding) and, well, lemon again. With water: works better than on the nose but it does not add much to the whisky. Maybe a little more salt. Finish: long, clean, zesty, perfectly balanced. Comments: this one was probably the most ‘Port Ellen’ of all four, but water is not obligatory – for once! SGP:447 - 91 points.
Quite interestingly, I found all four PEs to be much nicer on the palate than on the nose, which is exactly the opposite of what usually happens with fairly old whiskies. What’s sure is that the stock that’s still in wood can rest peacefully until 2030 or even later, it’s not the rather wordless wood that’ll start to dominate the spirit anytime soon. But we’re not in a hurry, are we?
Stephane

STEPHANE THE MAD MALT MIXOLOGIST
proposes his malt cocktails for the Springtime

TODAY: "Sunny Speyside afternoon"

Pour into a tumbler, with ice:
- 6 cl Linkwood F&F or a young version from an independent (Signatory, Jean Boyer...) preferably "bourbon matured" or with little influence of sherry
- 2 cl pineapple liqueur
- 1 cl banana liqueur
- 1 dash passion fruit syrup
- Finish with pink grapefruit juice
Decorate with exotic fruits.
Variants: Linkwood is a malt that usually blends very well, especially with tropical fruits.
You may substitute it by another young and rounded Speyside whisky of your choice, and appreciate the changings in the resulting taste.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
An extraordinary Cuban sounding lamento by the great Angolan singer José Adelino Barceló de Carvalho aka Bonga!
Title: Makongo
From: Angola 74 (1974)
Please buy Bonga's music.

Bonga
 

May 9, 2009


CONCERT REVIEW
by Nick Morgan
BONNIE PRINCE BILLY
Royal Festival Hall, London
April 20th 2009

I really have tried hard with Bonnie Prince Billy, aka Will Oldham. If you don’t know, he’s from the home of Bourbon, Louisville, Kentucky; also the birthplace of Mohammed Ali who had a street named after him (reminding me of a very funny story about the Pendennis Club, which I’ll leave ‘till later) and indeed, of the famous Louisville Slugger.

Bonnie Prince Billy
It’s not that Billy lacks advocates. Almost every thinking-person’s newspaper or magazine deifies him on a regular basis, and Dave rarely misses an opportunity to sing his praises – as he did, in typically engaging Dave style, here. But we all know how subjective our appreciation of music is and, no matter how intriguing the press and valued or trusted the recommendations, I’ve never quite connected with Mr Prince’s music. Don’t misunderstand, his songs are wonderful in their structure, the lyrics aching, searching, deeply personal, yet hugely accessible. But there’s just something missing. Recessive production and too much wistful melancholia, I just don’t know what. As we sat at the table next to Bonnie, band, entourage and crumpled pile of papers in Wagamama, chomping noodles, tofu and snow-peas, I was tempted to ask him what it might be, but he was so engaged in his grub and thoughts that it seemed rude.
Bonnie Prince Billy
As it happens I didn’t need to, because this truly splendid performance (so good that I put my notebook away, sat back and allowed the blessed music to roll over me, just like waves on the white sands of an isolated Hedridean beach) provided the answer. Josh Abrams on bass, Emmett Kelly on guitar and vocals, Cheyenne Mize on guitar, violin and harmonies and the other great Jim White driving the band along on drums, with Billy’s own eclectic grungy guitar, gave his fine songs a compelling edge. Gave them the punch that they often seem to lack on record. Alt. country, punk country, indie folk country rock punk, maybe a touch of acid-house? I have no idea what you call it, but it was a thing of beauty. I’ve noticed a few comments on forums that the hard-assed country style killed some of the songs, but for me, combined with Mr Prince’s vocals (and the joyful harmonies) it brought them vividly to life. And you do know how good a performance is when a song ends, only to be greeted by that wonderful moment of awed silence from the audience. That was what followed ‘I see a darkness’.
Bonnie Prince Billy
Bonnie Prince Billy,
dancing Appalachian style
There’s a thin line to be walked between art and artfulness and I’ve never been sure which side Mr Bonnie is on, but in this performance, his demeanour (bib and braces donned après noodles), absurdist comments, occasional Appalachian-style dancing, indeed the whole package, seemed entirely natural and fully engaged with the music. Of course BPB has a new album out, Beware, and he played about half-a-dozen songs from it. But there were almost another twenty songs drawn from his extensive back catalogue of work and all played with the same overwhelming intensity, not a dud amongst them. And I wasn’t going to forget support act Susanna, an impressive three-piece from Norway fronted by the wonderfully-voiced Susanna Wallumrod, with Helge Sten on a very other-worldly guitar, who provided the perfect amuse-bouche for Mr Billy.
Maybe we’re just lucky, but this one rocketed into ‘Gig of the year’ contention, usually a small space which is already getting very crowded. And my advice: well of course buy Bonnie Prince Billy’s albums, since it’s how he makes a living, but don’t take them at face value and please go and see him perform live. It’s a wonderful visceral experience, which for what it’s worth nearly had me in tears. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Listen: Bonnie Prince Billy on MySpace
 
Craigellachie

TASTING
TWO CRAIGELLACHIE

I know, comparing two whiskies with very different ‘pedigrees’ doesn’t make much sense, but at least the colours and the ABVs are the same (!!!)…

Craigellachie 9 yo 1999/2009 (46%, Douglas of Drumlanrig, cask #5043, 389 bottles) This is one of Douglas Laing’s ‘second’ labels and comes from a sherry butt, obviously not first fill according to its light colour. Colour: pale straw. Nose: raw, spirity, grassy and very porridgy, with little fruitiness. Big notes of grains, barley and warm bread and finally a little rubber. I wouldn’t say this is the most pleasant nose I ever encountered… Mouth: very sweet at this point, all on barley sugar and apple pie, but the rest is a little rough and quite indefinite. Malt. A little liquorice, a little vanilla and a little white pepper. Finish: rather long but still ‘simply malty’. Comments: not bad and certainly not flawed but very average and not very interesting, I think this is the kind of whisky that should maybe not be bottled as a single cask. Very little sherry influence. SGP:231 - 72 points.
Craigellachie-Glenlivet 25 yo 1962 (46%, Moncreiffe for Meregalli) Colour: pale straw. Nose: a very big old bottle effect here, and a pleasant one, combining soot, metal polish, wax, motor oil and this mouldiness that’s sometimes very pleasant (old wine cellar, mushrooms, old books…) Also a little ink and wet chalk, and even some diesel oil. Probably not much coming from the original spirit but the whole is much appealing (to die-hard whisky lovers). Mouth: sweet and waxy, typically ‘OBE’ed’ once again. Marzipan, pine resin (cough sweets), mint drops, salmiak, cumin… And all that jazz. Very good and rather bold (good mouth feel). Finish: quite long, more on fresh walnuts and apple peel. Good grassiness, more cough sweets in the aftertaste (menthol). Comments: one of these oldies that converge after a lot of years in glass, getting beautifully dry, as is the case with many old Cadenhead’s. Good stuff. SGP:262 - 89 points.
 

May 8, 2009


Longmorn 39

TASTING – TWO NEW 39yo LONGMORNS

I like 19, 29 or 39yo whiskies, they look kind of more ‘honest’, as if the bottler didn’t wait for them to become 20, 30 or 40 just to pull ‘free’ extra money from the market.

Longmorn 39 yo 1970/2009 (51.7%, Alambic Classique, cask #9401, 139 bottles) Matured in a Pedro Ximenez sherry cask, so probably quite thick! Colour: amber. Nose: classical old Longmorn, starting on a much elegant combination of opulent fruitiness, polished old wood and gunflints. Magnificent, as almost always. Dried longans and figs, ripe blood oranges, apricot pie, strawberry liqueur, beeswax, habanos and old rum (old Longmorns often smell like old Caribbean rums – partly), hints of horse stable, whiffs of kummel liqueur, various honeys… Really classical, an ode to long maturation vs. all these rushed BS youngsters that start to pollute our shelves these days. With water: the fruitiness disappears a bit and is replaced with leathery and meaty notes. Again, very classical. Mouth (neat): right, the sherry’s a little heavy and thickish indeed, but the whole isn’t overly sweet or even sugary, it’s rather a little dry (grape skin). A lot of orange liqueur, then cinnamon and nutmeg as often with these old casks. Probably a little less polished than on the nose. With water: in the same vein, the wood being maybe a tad drying here but the fruitiness is big enough to stand it. Notes of old rum, just like on the nose. Very good. Finish: long, more citrusy now. A tannicity in the aftertaste. Comments: very, very good. Fabulous nose and a palate that’s maybe just a tad less… well, fabulous. SGP:651 – 90 points.
Longmorn 39 yo 1969/2009 (58.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Mash Tun and KasK, Tokyo, 460 bottles) From a refill sherry butt. I always liked G&M's old Book of Kells design, I find it reassuringly out of fashion. And what a whoppingly high strength at 39 years old, was this one matured in Arizona? Colour: pale amber. Nose: powerful but extremely aromatic and luscious, with what seems to be an incredible complexity. Great whiffs of gunpowder (no straight sulphur) and tarmac floating on the surface of what appears to be an ocean of various fruits. But at almost 60% vol., water is needed… So with water: blimey, will you please call the anti-maltoporn brigade and quick? Superlatively superlative, as almost only old Springbanks and Longmorns can be. Kilned passion fruits? Mouth (neat): extremely thick and fantastically rich and concentrated, this is more (high-end) jam than whisky! Amazing fruitiness, sublime spiciness and something that reminds me of a very old Yquem or Sélection de Grains Nobles. What a beauty! With water: did you call the anti-maltoporn brigade? We’re close to perfection here. Finish: long and sublime, stunningly elegant and refined despite the richness. Comments: kudos to our Japanese friends for having selected this total beauty. Dekaeshita! SGP:652 - 95 points. (and many thanks, Hideo!)
Longmorn And also Chieftain’s Choice Single Highland 28 yo 1964 (50%, Scottish Independent Distillers, Taiwan, +/-1992) A Longmorn from the early Chieftain’s Choice range for Asia, that I found in Portugal. Don’t ask! Nose: very vegetal, on fern, linseed oil and turpentine, very old style and kind of Clynelishian, which is always good news in my view. Gets then a little fruitier but there are also funny hints of turnips (Baldrick!), mint and more and more camphor. Mouth: a fruity attack, firm, on citrus, getting then even more lemony. Very zesty. Also a little wax, pepper and mushroomy notes. A big dram old style, with little sherry if any. Brilliant Longmorn once again! SGP:463 – 92 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Andy McKee (and his strange guitars)
Title: Art Of Motion
Please buy Andy McKee's music.

Andy McKee
 

May 7, 2009


Tomatin

TASTING – TWO NEW 1965 TOMATINS

These old Tomatins can be brilliantly fruity and youthful or plain dead, depending on the casks. Jack Wieber had a fantastic 1965 in the Cross Hill series, and so did Duncan Taylor. Besides, together with (indie) Glenfarclas, Tomatin seems to be the last Scottish malt whisky of which many old casks can still be found for reasonable prices (loud applauses!)

Tomatin 43 yo 1965/2009 'Oat Mint' (47.1%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, 210 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: starts fresh and clean, on a typical blend of very fruity notes such as not too ripe bananas and papayas with a very subtle spicy woodiness (cedar wood with a little menthol). Develops more on slightly resinous notes, wax polish, pollen and earl grey tea, the menthol growing rather bigger in the background. Not a wham-bam fruitbomb, rather complex, but as always with these oldies, it’s on the palate that the truth will lie. Mouth: what’s rather striking is this one’s nervousness and freshness, even if the fruitiness is soon to be replaced with a wide assortment of spices from the oak. Cinnamon, nutmeg, even soft chilli, white pepper… Then we’re back on mangos and mint, with even faint notes of strawberries and pear drops, as if the fruits wouldn’t let the rather beautiful oak do all the talking. Finish: rather long, with the kind of oakiness that’s very typical of these whiskies (banana skin) and a tiny wee bit of smokiness. Comments: a very good version where neither the fruits, nor the oak managed to dominate each other. SGP:551 - 90 points.
Tomatin 43 yo 1965/2009 (48.2%, Whisky-Doris) Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re obviously very close to the Oat Mint here, with maybe more roundness and ‘fatness’, and more honey and ripe melon as well. In short, a little less mint and a little more ripe fruits, the global quality being similar on the nose. Mouth: once again, this one is bigger and richer than the Oat Mint, starting straight on pear and strawberry drops, with quite some mango and passion fruits as well (but not ala ‘68 Bowmore, if you see what I mean). Then we have all the spices, nutmeg first, then star anise and mint, and finally quite some pepper. Peppered strawberries? Please bring champagne! Finish: long and, just like the Oat Mint, half fruity, half spicy/oaky. Comments: another very good 1965 Tomatin, most certainly in the same league as the Oat Mint. This one is more assertive and expressive, but perhaps a tad less complex. Same rating. SGP:651 – 90 points.
Tomatin And also Tomatin 36 yo 1965/2001 (49.7%, Douglas Laing OMC, 216 bottles) Nose: we’re maybe a little closer to an old Glenfiddich here, as it’s rather more cereally, the fruitiness being a little more subdued than normal. Hints of bananas. The whole is a tad shy and reminds me of some fruit that didn’t fully mature, ‘though the whole is still very nice. Mouth: more fruits this time, orange drops, and a little salt, which was unexpected. Reminds me of a tequila/lime/salt combo, with a nice oakiness to complement the whole. Comments: maybe not one of the best in my book, but it’s still of high quality. SGP:451 – 86 points.
Supernova

BONUS TASTING – TWICE THE SAME ARDBEG, HtoH
(probably the stupidest tasting session ever!)

The official claim is that both bottlings of the Supernova came from the same batch, but other malt freaks noticed that the bottling codes were dissimilar (L08 for the ‘Committee’ and L09 for the general release), which means that the general release may have spent at least a few more weeks in one or several vatting tanks. Would that change anything to the whisky? Probably not but let’s see… Besides, whilst it was believed (wrongly it seems) that the first version came from a very small ‘boutique/experimental/secret’ run of uber-peated Ardbeg, a recent press release by the owners claimed this (quote): “For the creation of Ardbeg Supernova, we analysed and tasted a wide range of different Ardbeg whiskies of varying ages.” Perplexed?
Anyway, woooof! First I tried the Ardbeg 'Supernova' (58.9%, OB, advanced Committee release, 2008) while reading my old tasting notes and decided that I wouldn’t change one word to them (S., you lazy B.!) Then I tried the Ardbeg ‘Supernova’ (58.9%, OB, general release, 2009) and found, indeed some very tiny differences on the nose and on the palate, whether when neat or diluted, but the problem is that these tiny wee differences kept changing – first the CR was a tad more lemony, then it was the GR, then the GR was a tad smokier, and then it was the CR… The kind of things that happen anytime you try the same whisky from two different bottles. So, the colours being the same, I decided that only a large panel of tasters tasting both whiskies in a double-blind session could maybe settle this very existential question. As far as I’m concerned, I’d say that these two (excellent) whiskies are most probably the same indeed. SGP: 269- 89 points.
05/20/09 Update: blimey! Some crazy Ardbeggophiles have been questionning my comments and said that both whiskies were clearly different. That's why I checked the first trade sample I got for what was meant to be the 'committee release' and it appears that it was drawn in January 09, whilst the actual committee release was bottled in 2008. Which means that when I first tried Supernova while thinking it was the committee version, it was most possibly the 'regular' version already, the existence of which nobody was even aware of. Oooh, this is getting too complicated, let's move on if you please. Supernova
 
GREAT NEWS! No need to add a few drops of the expensive Supernova behind your ears or on your chest anymore, as Alsatian born and friend of Beyoncé Thierry Mugler just launched A*Men Pure Malt cologne! Blurb from their US webshop: "An innovation in perfumery, Pure Malt honors the tradition of Scotland’s peaty Whiskies with its smoky and sensual woody accents. The result is a surprising fragrance of elegance and sophistication in which several malts collide, exciting the senses and revealing a truly noble and refined masculinity." And now let's quote the box: "Discover the fusion between A*Men and the world of spirits thanks to a patented method inspired by traditional techniques used to produce the finest Whiskies. A*Men Pure Malt is aged in oak casks to reveal a fragrance imbued with elegance, intensifying a lingering note that is subtly peaty and exceptionally noble. Do not drink." Angel
Love the last, short sentence, the only one that does not sound like a genuine PR piece by some Scottish distillers! (But hey, Pure Malt? Shouldn't it be Blended Malt?)

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Fela Kuti and Africa 70
Title: No Agreement (Fantabulous – if not ecstatic, WF refund!)
From: No Agreement, 1977
Please buy Fela Kuti's music.

Fela Kuti
 

May 6, 2009


TASTING – THREE RECENT OLD CAOL ILA OR MAYBE FOUR
Caol Ila
Caol Ila 1979/2008 (56%, Jack Wieber Old Train Line, Bourbon Cask, 261 bolles) Colour: gold. Nose: very spirity, aggressive, wit whiffs of cologne and a lot of oak/plank behind that. Not much else, this one probably needs water. With water: indeed! It really opens up, getting rather superbly smoky, farmy and coastal. Osyters, fresh almonds, wet stones, wet hay, garden bonfire, ‘wet grass smoke’… Classical. More and more fresh almonds and seashells (clams spring to mind – so to speak). Also patchouli and eucalyptus… Oh, and linseed oil and even turpentine… A very long development, don’t rush this one! Mouth (neat): much, much more to my liking than on the nose when neat, starting unusually medicinal for a Caol Ila. Big notes of cough medicine, something antiseptic, a lot of iodine/salt, then ‘just like when we licked rocks when we were kids’ (to each his own). Gets then peatier and a tad aggressive again, time to add water. With water: perfect. Liquorice, salt and vanilla, and myriads of tiny nutty/coastal notes that we won’t list here, do not worry. Finish: very long, dry, coastal and a tad resinous now. Leaves you mouth as clean as a baby’s. Comments: truly excellent but really needs water. SGP:257 - 90 points.
Caol Ila 1982 (61.9%, Queen of The Moorland, Committee Bottling, Edition XXVI, 60 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: very close to the 1979, quite pungent and austere, very grassy. Water is probably more than needed here. With water: once again, water did wonders! This is an extremely clean, sharp, zingy, almondy, nutty, mineral, ashy and lemony Coal Ila, with this extra-roundness that works so well (macchiato), and with just hints of cedar wood and maybe even sandalwood coming through after quite some time. Not to be rushed! Mouth (neat): a powerful yet rather easy attack, very sweet thanks to the high ABV, with quite some lemon zest, orange marmalade and even that fruity prickliness that one can sometimes find in cask strength whiskies (green apples, kiwis.) But it’s getting hot… With water: this is very funny, it got very, very fruity now, which was certainly unexpected. Notes of cranberry juice, grapefruit, more green apples… And these notes of smoked tea in the background. Finish: very long, nervous, almondy, lemony and salty. Comments: memorable, but only 60 bts! Where are the others? SGP:257 - 91 points. (and thanks, young Angus ;-))
Caol Ila 26 yo 1982/2009 (62.8%, The Whisky Cask) Colour: gold. Nose: quite curiously, this one is rather more ‘noseable’ than the others when neat, and most certainly less spirity. Grass, fresh almonds and green tea. With water: now it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the others anymore, as if it came from another distillery. First it’s rather peatier, and then it’s much more vegetal, almost yeasty/sour and also much more lemony. In short, a wilder version of Caol Ila, with less oak/ageing. Smells much younger than 26 actually. Mouth (neat): we’re close to the other 1982 but it’s VERY hot and powerful, so I’m sorry but we won’t take any more chances. With water: exactly the same feeling. It’s pretty good but it tastes like if it was 12yo. Plus, there’s something too metallic and oddly grassy. Nails? Finish: long, all on lemon juice and ‘osyter juice’. Fresh almonds once again. And quite a lot of straight peat. Comments: it’s certainly not as bad as it sounds in my notes, just surprisingly ‘young’ by comparison with the others and maybe not quite mature. But good it is! SGP:266 - 80 points.
And also Port Askaig 25 yo (45.8%, Specialty Drinks, 2009) As the excellent bottlers wrote, ‘in a world of change and innovation, there is still a place for the tried and tested approach.’ No doubt about that! In any case, just like the official Talisker 10yo, this new Port Askaig is bottled at Imperial 80 proof, that is to say 45.8% vol. As for the malt inside, well, both the name and the view of the Paps of Jura suggest… Your guess! Colour: pale gold. Nose: a clean and fruity start, with whiffs of liquorice allsorts, dill and celery flight around, then a little cinchona/bitter tonic, the whole getting then more focused on everything from ‘there’, that is to say wood ashes, wet sand (the beach, really), motor oil (and paraffin), a little gentian and other rooty notes. Finally a little fresh marzipan (not cheapo confectionary), infused green tealeaves, and maybe white cherries and overripe apples. More and more coastal on ‘subsequent nosing’. Mouth: rather round and even kind of mellow, reminding me of old versions of Caol Ila in a certain way (pre-1974). Some liquorice, notes of salty oysters, the lemon that goes well along, then quite some nutmeg and a little cinnamon from the oak, plain wood (chewed pencil), maybe a little tapioca (faint dustiness) and finally hints of cherries just like we had on the nose (not too ripe bigaroons). Medium peatiness. Finish: medium to long, with a nice clean ‘smoky/dusty bitterness’, apple peel, and more spices in the aftertaste (pepper and cardamom). Comments: not a peat monster, rather a gentleman of an Islayer, in the league where most flawless 25yo Islayers lie. SGP:365 - 90 points.
Caol Ila And also, speaking of pre-1974 Caol Ila… Caol Ila 19 yo 1966/1985 (58.3%, Sestante, 240 bottles) A rare and legendary bottling. Nose: powerful and quite aggressive, kind of rustic and very authentic, whatever that means. Kind of candied, peppery, peaty, with a lot of melon jam. Very unusual. With water: more ash and smoke, more classical. Mouth: round and powerful, full, peppery. Loads of peat and orange liqueur, extremely rich. Smoked tea. With water: it got fabulously round and balanced. Kumquats, pepper and smoke. It’s maybe not the most complex CI ever but it’s very, very ‘full’. Very, very superb! SGP:556 – 93 points. (and thanks, Luc T.)
PS: A press release just announced that there will be a single cask/cask strength Caol Ila 1996 'Feis Isle Special' this year, as well as a Lagavulin 1995. £69.99 each.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: John Cale the Hobo Sapiens
Title: For A Ride
From: Black Acetate (2005)
Please buy John Cale's music.

John Cale
 

May 5, 2009


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
SHARON SHANNON AND HER BIG BAND WITH CAMILLE O'SULLIVAN AND SHANE MACGOWAN
The Forum, Kentish Town, London,
April 18th 2009

As I think you know I was a big fan of Del Shannon back in the old days, largely because the copy of ‘Little town flirt’ that a neighbour gave us was for many years about the only record we had in the house – even before we had a Dansette record player. But you could actually play it with a pin if you spun it on the top of your finger and listened very closely. Though ‘Flirt’ charted in the UK at number 4, what was of more interest was the remarkably (even at the time) culturally insensitive B side, ‘The Wamboo’. With lyrics like this:

Del Shannon
Del Shannon
        Well way down deep in the Belgian Congo - hey the Congo
Well there's a dance they call the wamboo - hey the Wamboo
And as they dance they sing this song, wam-boo wam-boo way, wamboo,
With voodoo drums beating all night long, wam-boo wam-boo way, wamboo
Wam-boo wam-boo way, wam-boo wam-boo way
Wam-boo wam-boo way-o!
Who really needs peace, love and understanding? Anyway, we decided to ‘time capsule’ the record for posterity, and it now lies safely entombed under concrete in a very secret spot in Oxfordshire. No doubt it will explain something of the folly of human civilisation when it’s discovered by some post-apocalyptic archaeologist. Or maybe not.
All of this might lead you to think that I’m struggling to say anything much about Sharon Shannon’s (no relation) performance at the Forum a couple of weeks ago, which sadly isn’t far from the truth. It’s not that I don’t have huge admiration for this genre-defying performer who, through a variety of imaginative collaborations, has managed to bring the accordion, kicking and screaming, into the twentieth century. And it’s not that she, or her accomplished band, didn’t perform well, although the almost painful smile that Ms Shannon had painted on her face suggested at times that she was playing through a pain barrier, as if suffering from the accordionists’ version of repetitive strain injury. With her group taking turns to lead (although frankly I don’t think we’d really paid our money to hear the roadie perform his party piece ‘Dancing in the moonlight’), she conjured up a relaxed almost ceilidh-like atmosphere on the stage, which was enjoyed by the crowded balcony, all pints of Guinness and up for some Saturday night craic, and by the noisy but frankly half- empty downstairs.
Sharon Shannon
Sharon Shannon
But truth is, after a while the songs and tunes tended to merge together into a sort of Gaelic wallpaper, and if you nodded off half-way through a song you could wake thinking that you were trapped in the living hell of a woollen shop in Oban.
So Ms Shannon’s tactic to break through the tedium was ‘Special Guests’. Camille O’Sullivan burst on the stage larger than life, wearing the sort of short skirt that made you glad you weren’t at the front of the stage, and tore into her witty song ‘In these shoes’. It didn‘t get any better than this, with a predictable rendition of ‘The port of Amsterdam’ (hammy enough to fill several baguettes) that must have had poor old Jacques Brel spinning in his grave. Her version of ‘Don’t think twice it’s alright’, a difficult enough song to perform at the best of times, sung from a lyric sheet, was simply lamentable.
Camille O'Sullivan
Shane MacGowan, Camille O’Sullivan,
Shane MacGowan
But it got worse – and I’ll be very honest and say now that had I known that Shane MacGowan was the big ‘Special Guest’ I wouldn’t have bought tickets; I’ve expressed my view on this subject before. He had a coterie of fans downstairs who could have been at a bear-baiting, cheering as he staggered onto the stage clutching a pint glass of vodka. Why people want to watch someone as ill as MacGowan humiliate themself in public is beyond me and even if he does need the money, I question the judgement of anyone who puts him on stage. He very clearly didn’t know what day it was, let alone which microphone to use, and when he poured a pint of beer over himself, incapable of getting the glass to his lips, we decided to call it a day and bid our farewell to the not-so-funny Kentish Town Forum. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Listen: Sharon Shannon's page on MySpace
 
St George TASTING – THREE ST. GEORGES FROM TWO COUNTRIES (with dragons, red crosses and all that!)
To tell you the truth, I’m not too sure this session makes any sense…
St. George Lot 3 (43%, OB, Single Malt Whiskey, California, USA) Colour: pale gold. Nose: right, this is one of these uber-fruity and youthful ‘foreign’ single malts that are perfectly made but that do not ‘nose’ like Scotch (nor Japanese, nor Irish) at all. We’re rather very close to a blend of tutti frutti spirit and beer distillate (fleur de bière), but having said that, it’s very pleasant spirit. Whiffs of brand new kirsch, tinned litchis, quince jelly and Muscat wine, then rather big notes of bubblegum. Little oak influence that I can get. Another one that should go well on ice… Mouth: once again, we’re extremely far from ‘malt whisky’ as we know it but it’s very pleasant spirit, fresh, crisp and very fruity, kind of ‘Chinese’ (mei-kwei-lu, rice brandy, litchis, even longan spirit). Seriously, this really reminds me of the spirits I used to taste last time I was in China (although I couldn’t tell you what they were, I don’t read Chinese). But granted, this is cleaner and more elegant! Finish: shortish but just as clean and muscatty. Comments: not ‘whisky’ (not even rye) in style but very pleasant! SGP:720 - 78 points.
St George Chapter 3 2007/2009 (46%, OB, The English Whisky Co., cask #475) 18 months old so no whisky yet, from American bourbon 1st fill. The master distiller (or is he distillery manager) is the famous and very engaging Iain Henderson, ex-Laphroaig and ex-Edradour. Colour: white wine. Nose: almost new make! Porridge, vanilla-flavoured yogurt, strawberry liqueur, then wet hay, newly cut grass and just hints of fresh mushrooms (faint earthiness). It’s nice, but it’s new make (almost). Mouth: indeed, a very young, very fruity but also very beerish and slightly feinty spirit. One can feel that there’s ‘some potential’ here, but we’re still far from ‘whisky’ as we’re used to it. Quite some apple and pear juice, bitter beer, hints of cane syrup… Finish: medium long, smooth, slightly salty. Comments: no doubt this is good new make, but it’s not really something to enjoy. More ‘documentation’ so to speak, except that I’d have rather issued these ‘documents’ at cask strength as for instance Kilchoman does/did. See you in five or six years! SGP:431 - 65 points.
St George Chapter 4 2007/2009 (46%, OB, The English Whisky Co., peated) 18 months old so no whisky yet. The malt for this one was peated to 50ppm. I’ve seen single cask bottlings but the label for this one does not display any such indications. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s amazing how peaty whiskies are quicker to smell ‘mature’, the peat’s big aromas masking any faint ‘flaws’ that are obviously there in such young malts. So, this is pretty nice, ashy, quite bubblegummy (of course), grassy and slightly citrusy. Whiffs of cough syrup. Medium smokiness. Mouth: once again and for the same reasons, this works better than the unpeated version, even if there’s something slightly strange (something like burnt herbs – oregano?). Liquorice wood, bitter herbs (Jägermeister), ginger tonic, even gin… That’s it, this is rather good gin! Finish: medium long, with added notes of cinchona. Comments: tastes like a Negroni (1 part gin, 1 part vermouth, 1 part Campari). I like a Negroni… SGP:335 - 70 points.
 

May 4, 2009


TASTING – TWO BEAUTIFUL NEW SPINGBANKS
by BERRY BROS
Springbank
Springbank 1993/2009 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #195) Colour: straw. Nose: very nice! Starts almost as spicy and assertive as more recent Springbanks can be, with huge notes of cloves and juniper on top of bitter oranges and grapefruits, then a rather big minerality (gunflints, chalk, clay), faint whiffs of coal and wood ashes, and finally that pleasantly dirty farminess that sometimes comes with the package (dusty farmyard after a heavy summer rain- whatever!). I like this nose a lot, even – or maybe because – it’s a little understated. Mouth: as often with the distillery’s recent outputs, the attack is a tad ‘shaky’ and guess what, I like that! Oranges and kumquats, ginger tonic and Campari, warm butter and sour cream, all that at the same time! More and more bitter oranges after that, a faint dustiness (cigar tobacco) and finally something vegetal, between celeriac and salsify. Very, very entertaining whisky, kind of anti-classical if I may say so. Finish: medium long, still on vegetables and bitter oranges. Comments: typical naked (read unfinished) new style Springbank, a malt like no other. SGP:362 - 88 points.
Springbank 1992/2009 'Peat-Smoked' (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #71) We found this intriguing bottle in Limburg. Peat-smoked Springbank? Was it wash for Longrow that was distilled under Springbank’s 2.5 regime – and not just twice? Or simply Longrow? Something else? We’ll ask the good people at Berry Bros’ and at Springbank’s if they can tell us more about this strange version but in the meantime, let’s try it if you please… Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed! This reminds me of recent Longrows in style but it’s maybe a tad less fat and oily, a little less peaty as well, and rather more medicinal and mineral. Antiseptic, tincture of iodine, embrocations, bitter oranges and discreet whiffs of wild thyme, then more tangerines and even mangos and passion fruits. You know what? This reminds me a bit of the 1973/1974 Longrows… Does that ring a bell? Mouth: what a superb attack! Once again, it’s kind of a slightly lighter Longrow, flinty, ashy, peaty, mineral, salty (big time) and citrusy. Very clean at this point, definitely coastal and, well, beautiful! Fantastic zestiness. Nutmeg. Finish: rather long, maybe just a tad waxy now, with also the same kind of notes of vegetables as in the ‘regular’ Springbank that we just had. Comments: this year’s surprise – so far. Are there many other casks of this very Longrow-esque Springbank??? SGP:256 – 91 points. May 10 update: it 'may well be Longrow under another name'.
 
Glenfiddich WHISKY ADS - A rather pretty new French ad for Glenfiddich 18 years old. 'Nothing big has ever being made in just one day'. Interesting: a 'handwritten' batch number on the label. Like other makers, Glenfiddich seem to be willing to drop 'consistency' these days, and maybe pull a few extra-euros from each bottle by giving it a 'small batch' feeling.....

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Joker’s Daughter
Title: Under the influence of Jaffa cakes
From: The Last Laugh, 2009
Please buy Joker’s Daughter's music.

Joker's Daughter
 

May 3, 2009


Blends

TASTING
TWO UNUSUAL BLENDS

The Michael Jackson Special Blend (43%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Blend, 1000 bottles, 2009) This was blended by Whisky Magazine and Doug McIvor from the great man’s collection of already opened bottles. It’s no Scotch as there was whisky from various countries. An undetermined ‘proportion of the proceeds’ were to go to the Parkinson’s Society. Colour: full gold. Nose: this is very malty and grainy at first nosing, obviously quite young on average. Whiffs of fruit spirit, baker’s yeast, dandelions, then fresh mint and a little caramel, and finally a pleasant oakiness with a little vanilla, liquorice and touches of aniseed. It’s probably not a very ‘defined’ whisky but this nose is rather nicer than any random vatting’s – if you already tried to ‘marry’ several old opened bottles of yours, I’m sure you see what I mean ;-). Mouth: once again, it’s maybe not very compact but it’s pleasant to sip, malty, slightly oaky, with good vanilla notes and a little liquorice. Hints of kirsch and other stone fruit spirits. Finish: medium long, with a little caramel, custard and quite some black tea. Funny hints of calavados. Comments: this wasn’t meant to be a stellar whisky I guess, rather a tribute to a man who’s still our leading light and who used to be one of the true gods of whisky. SGP:352 – no rating (or 100/100 for Emjay.).
Very Rare Old Liqueur Scotch Whisky 33 yo 1968/2001 (54.8%, High Spirits, Italy, Blend, 75cl) The ‘marriage’ of the grain and malt whiskies, all distilled in 1968, was made in 1974 and blend was then further matured until 2001. This unusual bottle carries funny comments such as ‘guaranteed 6 bottles to the imperial gallon’ or ‘please destroy this label when bottle is empty’ – proof that our Italians friends were already aware of the faking problem. Colour: full amber. Nose: let’s put this straight, it smells much more like an excellent old sherried Glenfarclas than like a blend, even a prestige deluxe super-premium version. Rather big sherry, cigars (humidor), coffee, wax polish, maraschino, cassis jam, ripe raspberries, strong liquorice, leather and beef stock. Classical! Is there really grain whisky in there? Mouth: creamy, rich, starting straight on a big, luscious oakiness ala old Japanese, with myriads of spices and dried fruits and, indeed, hints of coconut liqueur that points us a bit towards some old grain whisky. Then strawberry liqueur, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, hints of dried bananas and maybe a little date spirit (arrak). The ‘grainy’ part is definitely much more noticeable on the palate than on the nose. Finish: long, rich, almost heavy, extremely aromatic. Figs! Comments: I don’t know which proportions of grain whisky was put into the vatting, and maybe even the bottlers didn’t know, but if it was large, it seems that the malt absorbed the grain in the cask. Brilliant whisky anyway! SGP:562 - 89 points.
Islay Mist And also Islay Mist 8 yo (43%, OB, D. Johnston & Co. for Bonfanti, +/-1970) Laphroaig inside! A very elegant nose starting on praline, the peat coming out very gradually. The whole gets drier and drier. The palate is rounded and soft at the attack but becomes much bigger in the back, and very salty. The finish is even saltier, to the point where we’re wondering if they didn’t roll the barrels in the sea before they could reach the puffer ;-). Nutshell: a drier version of Islay Mist, some having been rounder and jammier. SGP:344 – 86 points. (thank you, Christophe A.)

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: The fascinating Lennie Tristano and his trio
Title: I can’t get started (1946)
Please buy Lennie Tristano's music.

Lennie Tristano
 

May 2, 2009


TASTING – FOUR 18yo LAPHROAIG
Laphroaig 18
There are truckloads of new independent Laphroaigs around these days, and most range from good to very goodin my opinion (1991, 1998…) But let’s see how the new official 18yo stands the course against a few competitors from ‘private’ teams…
Laphroaig 18 yo 1990/2008 (46%, Hart Bros) Colour: straw. Nose: starts rather yeasty and acidic, on apple peels, lemon and sauvignon blanc, the peat kicking in a little later. Faint hints of antiseptic but not many more medicinal notes. A very simple and youngish Laphroaig actually and seriously, I doubt this is eighteen years old. I’ve got a stash of 3yo hidden somewhere and believe me or not, it smells more mature than this one. Mouth: an immense saltiness and quite some ‘earthy peat’ (tell me about a pleonasm) plus notes of crystallised lemons and quite some liquorice wood. Still simple but waaay more compact and satisfying than on the nose in my opinion. Finish: long, balanced, almost perfect now, right between the peat, the lemon and the earthiness. Comments: shy nose, good palate, great finish. Better than the other way around I guess. SGP:357 - 82 points.
Laphroaig 18 yo (48%, OB, 2009) Colour: pale gold. Nose: smoother than the HB, much more vanilled (first fill bourbon casks?) but also fruitier and rounder, with some pleasant coastal notes (sea air, iodine.) It’s also rather more medicinal than the HB, with hints of tincture of iodine, bandages and a little camphor. Oh, and whiffs of gentian. It’s still a gentle and rather shy Laphroaig so far, that is, let’s hope the palate will be bigger. (Note: opens up just a bit after… one hour! On more citrons and kumquats.) Mouth: it IS bigger, starting on all things earthy (gentian spirit and liquorice wood – my taste), with quite a saltiness but less than in the HB. Lemon sprinkled oysters, peat, maybe a hint of coriander and even sorrel, and then a rather big oakiness – not plankish of course – that, once again, hints at some kind of new oak treatment, ‘though it’s no vanilla bomb at all. Anyway, it’s good! Faint nuttiness. Finish: long, even more on liquorice wood. Lemon. Comments: this is complicated. I think I liked the nose of the 15yo that this one is meant to replace a little better because of its beautiful fruity notes (if I remember well) and of its subtleness but this is bigger and more assertive on the palate indeed, even if probably a little less complex and more ‘modern’. SGP:367 - 87 points.
Laphroaig 18 yo 1990/2008 (54.4%, Signatory for Vinothek St.Stephan Vienna, Decanter, cask #73, 254 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh yeah, this is another world. Much more aromatic than the others, peatier, wilder, farmier, more herbal, spicier, more coastal, earthier, rootier… In short, much nicer on the nose! With water: extra bags of eucalyptus leaves, menthol, chlorophyll and lime-blossom tea. We won’t complain. Mouth (neat): once again, it’s got the extra-kick that the others didn’t have, and it’s not only the higher strength. A true peat monster but not really a brute, rather ‘a whisky that knows where it wants to go’ (will you cut the crap one day, S.?) Peat, salt, ripe apples, gentian spirit, butter pears, chillies, marzipan… Excellent! With water: it transformed into liquorice and mint liqueur, is that possible? Finish: long, clean, almost refreshing because of the notes of menthol… Comments: oh well, this one reminds us of the wonderful 1991s by Signatory. All are all of the highest quality in our book. SGP:358 – 90 points. (and thanks, Konstantin)
Laphroaig 18 yo 1990/2008 (55.4%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Switzerland, cask #2250) Colour: straw. Nose: we’re somewhere between the Signatory and the OB here. Actually a little closer to the Signatory. Peat, coastal notes (sea air, sea water, shells) and notes of torrefaction as well as a little vanilla, praline and marzipan. Typical, no less, no more. With water: it’s totally… err, funny that this one now smells like the Signatory when the latter was neat. Also more notes of fresh espresso coffee, burnt cake… Big dram! Mouth (neat): wowie, what a monster! It’s harsher and punchier than the Signatory, rawer and rougher as well, combining straight peat, something like eglantine eau-de-vie (don’t ask), marzipan, pears and salt. It gets closer to the Signatory once the fire is tamed. With water: same feeling as with the Signatory, very high quality. Finish: very long, very liquoricy. Comments: excellent on all accounts, and very entertaining at that. Our Swiss friends may soon lose their secret banks accounts, but they’ll have this great Laphroaig to find consolation. Even better than cask #2248 in our book! SGP:268 - 90 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: another bet won, some Gilbert Montagné on Whiskyfun! Yes, but it's The Fool... (in 1971). Please buy Gilbert Montagné's music...

Gilbert Montagné
 

May 1, 2009


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
DAVID BYRNE
Royal Festival Hall, London, April 13th 2009
David Byrne You may consider a David Byrne gig to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience: they are certainly always memorable, always surprising, and no two are the same. As it happens, I’m horrified to learn that my first, Talking Heads at Camden Palace in 1979, saw them share the stage with a fledgling U2. But sorry, Bono fans and completists, I must have been in the pub at the time or possibly eating a kebab, because it was baggy-trousered Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark whining their way through Enola Gay by the time we arrived.
What was simply unforgettable was Talking Heads, whose remaindered import albums I’d been flogging for a year or so at Our Price Records in Tottenham Court Road. Listening to the second of these for the first time, the Brian Eno-produced ‘More Songs about Buildings and Food’, was one of those genuine life-shaping experiences: who, after all, can imagine a musical world without the brooding other-worldly cover of Al Green’s ‘Take me to the river’? That started a lifelong on-off romance for me with the work of Mr Byrne, and a few more gigs thrown in for good measure. It was clearly the same for Brian Eno, who produced two more albums for the Heads, and in 1981, a joint effort with Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, being one of the first to make extensive use of sampling in an age of innocence before, as Byrne observed, the lawyers got involved. And last year, they reunited for a new album, Everything that Happens will Happen Today. And I have to admit that when I booked for this concert over six months ago, I thought it was a going to be a joint performance, rather than what we got, which was Byrne and band performing The Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno. But it would be churlish to complain: this already ranks as a hard-to-beat gig of the year.
David Byrne
Knowing Byrne’s reputation for bringing the intellect, sometimes mystifyingly, into the heart of rock and roll, a colleague asked “was he being very clever clever”? To which the answer would have to be no. This was Byrne at his most accessible. All rhythm and funk, soulful vocals (‘Take me to the river’ never sounded more like Al Green, which certainly wasn’t the idea at the start), hips swaying and booty swinging, and a huge dollop of wit and playfulness. It’s not often that a concert begins with the performer giving his audience tips on how to take pictures (particularly at the hallowed Royal Festival Hall), but this one did and thus set the tone for the evening, which saw the front of the hall packed with dancers after song number six or so. As observed by Jozzer (who unbeknownst to me was lurking a few rows behind), it was as joyous and uplifting a gig as he could remember – and Jozzer rarely does joyous or uplifting.
David Byrne
Of course it was very clever, with nothing left to chance. A huge bare stage with a white-suited Byrne (sporting an all-white haircut that would make Nick Lowe envious) fronting a white-suited four-piece band, with three white-suited backing singers. And then there were the dancers, seemingly unchoreographed but in truth their every step planned to the last inch, who cavorted across the stage, at one point jumping over the hardly-diminutive Byrne as he stood playing his guitar, only to arrive in just the right place to catch him as he fell backwards, all the time moving in and out of step with each other, Byrne, and his singers. Simply mesmerising and exhilarating stuff. And of course there was the music: seven songs from the new album, with Eno joining to sing on the finale ‘Everything that happens’, with another thirteen from the past, none nostalgic, each as fresh as a daisy, featuring groove-ridden guitar from Byrne in support of his penetrating and expressive vocals. Let’s pick some favourites: ‘One fine day’, ‘Heaven’, ‘Houses in motion’, ‘Burning down the house’ (tutus and all)? Which is best? They’re simply all so good. It’s hard to say. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: David Byrne on MySpace - Talking Heads on MySpace
 
Allt-a-Bhainne

TASTING
TWO ALLT-A-BHAINNE

We’ll always remember what the PR department at some distillers’ (who owned All-A-Bhainne) once replied to a question we asked about the distillery quite some years ago: “Are you sure this distillery belongs to us?” As always our PR friends were very good at dealing with outgoing messages and terrible at handling incoming ones.

Allt-A-Bhainne 11 yo 1997/2008 (46%, Jack Wieber, Scottish Castles, cask #40816) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one starts rather flinty and spirity, with a profile that reminds us of many Speysiders (such as young Glendullans). Rather clean, growing fruitier (apples, pears, gooseberries), with whiffs of wet rocks and earth/gravel. Gets finally a tad dusty/chalky but nothing ‘too much’. An average very young Speysider of good quality from a fairly neutral cask (no oxymoron here I hope). Mouth: hmm… interesting. Sure there’s a lot of pear spirit but also Steinhäger (kind of German gin – haha, try it!) and various other strange spirits. Okay, nutshell: this is rather spirity ;-). I wouldn’t say I like it a lot but entertaining it is. Notes of ham arriving as well. Finish: rather long, mid-fruity, mid-meaty, mid-grassy ;-). A bizarre combination I must say, not too far from a dry martini. Comments: we’re off the beaten tracks for sure here, but this Allt-A-Bhainne has its moments. SGP:441 - 74 points.
Allt-A-Bhainne 15 yo 1979/1995 (55.2%, Signatory, Dumpy Old Label, cask #28320, 620 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: unusual! Starts all on fresh butter, genuine vanilla (pods) and deep whiffs of chrome polish, getting then spectacularly ‘kippery’, maritime, meaty… And finally as chalky as the 1997. A rather wild version, this cask must have had a strange history before filling. Interesting! With water: more of the same. Wet chalk and tons of it. Yoghurt. Mouth (neat): big creamy fruity punchy fresh… fruit spirit! Something that reminds us of rye. With water: good, clean, certainly fruitier and better balanced than the 1997. A very strong fruit liqueur seasoned with some vanilla, coriander, a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. Finish: long, more on gin and seriously so. Comments: we like this one better than the youngster, but some maniacal friends liked it even (way) better. A bit too unsexy I’d say. SGP:531 - 79 points.

April 2009 - part 2 <--- May 2009 - part 1 ---> May 2009 - part 2


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

Caol Ila 1979/2008 (56%, Jack Wieber Old Train Line, Bourbon Cask, 261 bolles)

Caol Ila 19 yo 1966/1985 (58.3%, Sestante, 240 bottles)

Caol Ila 1982 (61.9%, Queen of The Moorland, Committee Bottling, Edition XXVI, 60 bottles)

Chieftain’s Choice Single Highland 28 yo 1964 (50%, Scottish Independent Distillers, Taiwan, +/-1992)

Laphroaig 18 yo 1990/2008 (55.4%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Switzerland, cask #2250)

Laphroaig 18 yo 1990/2008 (54.4%, Signatory for Vinothek St.Stephan Vienna, Decanter, cask #73, 254 bottles)

Lochside 23 yo 1981/2005 (55.4%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, bourbon hoghsead, 238 bottles)

Longmorn 39 yo 1970/2009 (51.7%, Alambic Classique, cask #9401, 139 bottles)

Longmorn 39 yo 1969/2009 (58.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Mash Tun and KasK, Tokyo, 460 bottles)

Port Askaig 25 yo (45.8%, Specialty Drinks, 2009)

Port Ellen 26 yo 1982/2008 (51.2%, Signatory for LMdW, Collector's Edition No. 2, hogshead, cask #1135, 318 bottles)

Port Ellen 26 yo 1982/2009 (56.2%, Douglas Laing OMC for The Nectar, refill hogshead, 193 bottles)

Springbank 1992/2009 'Peat-Smoked' (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #71)

Tomatin 43 yo 1965/2009 'Oat Mint' (47.1%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, 210 bottles)

Tomatin 43 yo 1965/2009 (48.2%, Whisky-Doris)