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Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2018 - Part 2

       

May 2018 - part 1 <--- May 2018 - part 2 ---> June 2018 - part 1

 

May 30, 2018


Whiskyfun

Four funny Japanese whiskies

We’re not talking about all those sourced whiskies that aren’t actually Japanese and that are sold to the amazed masses as Japanese whiskies, we’re rather talking about a few very unusual ones, some pretty old.

Nikka ‘Single Coffee Grain Woody & Mellow’ (55%, OB, Japan, Distillery Exclusive, +/-2017)

Nikka ‘Single Coffee Grain Woody & Mellow’ (55%, OB, Japan, Distillery Exclusive, +/-2017) Two stars
Well, this being woody and mellow, that may be the problem here, precisely, although Coffee stills are supposed to make fatter and deeper whiskies than modern columns. I think these grains are distilled at Miyagikyo. Colour: gold. Nose: it is, indeed, mainly about oak, but there is this very specific Japanness that can be so pleasant, between pine resins, incense and cedar, and menthol cigarettes. Other than that, it’s rather about vanilla fudge and perhaps honeydew melons. With water: at Home Depot. Mouth (neat): really very creamy, extremely oaky, you’d almost believe you’re sipping varnish with some sawdust inside. Not my thing at all, despite these wee touches of coconut that start to come out. With water: rather better, but it needs a lot of water. Green tea, pencil shavings, fudge, red bean paste (how Japanese indeed)… Finish: short, slightly sugary, rather narrow. Comments: I’m afraid I’ll never manage! Although I used to find an earlier expression nicer around eight years ago (WF 80).
SGP:530 - 75 points.

Speaking of earlier expressions…

Nikka ‘Pure Malt’ (55.1%, OB, Japan, +/-2002)

Nikka ‘Pure Malt’ (55.1%, OB, Japan, +/-2002) Four stars
While the White, Red or Black pure malts are/were sheltering Scotch whisky, I think this very one did not, it was only from Yoichi and Miyagikyo. Colour: gold. Nose: this is rather fantastic, very complex, elegant, fragrant, floral… I’m finding honeysuckle and acacia blossom, then mirabelle jam, with touches of honey and this very specific almondiness that’s sometimes to be found in older peaters, such as, say Ardbeg’s Very Old. Really complex. With water: rather perfect. Lady’s perfume, touches of small bananas, a little eucalyptus… Mouth (neat): a tad oaky and tannic for my taste, but other than that it really delivers, on Japanese pastries (beans beans beans), plus orange blossom water and gooseberries. With water: a little more citrus and small berries, blackberries for example. It does not get any oakier, good news (could have happened). Finish: medium, subtler again. Discreet vanilla plus incense and cedar wood. Comments: a very classy vatting, a little less oak-driven than some more modern offerings.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Suntory ‘The Whisky’ (43%, OB, Japan, blend, black porcelain decanter, 76cl, +/-1980?)

Suntory ‘The Whisky’ (43%, OB, Japan, blend, black porcelain decanter, 76cl, +/-1980?) Four stars
Suntory have been using all sorts of ‘creative’ decanters in the past, perhaps even more so than what bourbon used to do in the 1960s and 1970s (you know, rockets, busts, guitars, chainsaws, trucks, Colts, horses…) Apparently, this very decanter was supposed to be Suntory’s cream of the cream, as its name suggested. I came in different colours. Colour: gold. Nose: you never quite know with old decanters, and even more so with stone/clay ones, but his one hasn’t gotten toothless, it’s got nice bananas, panettone, dried figs, notes of barley… And perhaps a little cardboard in the background. The truth will lie in the palate… Mouth: indeed, it did survive, and I’m even finding a little old-Bowmoreness (there could well be Bowmore inside, indeed). A little brine over smoked bananas and touches of leather and tobacco. It’s getting a little earthy over time, I guess you could even call it ‘clay-y’, but not sure that’s the decanter. Rather full-bodied. Finish: medium, with touches of oranges and mangos, plus drops of smoky brine. Indeed, it is Bowmore-y. Comments: I’m sure we’ll never know if there’s Bowmore inside indeed, but truth can’t be far behind. A rather perfect old blend, if not ‘The Whisky’.
SGP:553 - 87 points.

And now something really special…

Karuizawa 21 yo 1967/1988 (43%, OB, Japan, Ocean Sanroku, decanter, 496 bottles)

Karuizawa 21 yo 1967/1988 (43%, OB, Japan, Ocean Sanroku, decanter, 496 bottles) Three stars
That’s is right, some single cask Karuizawa from even before the distillery was sold to Mercian. These bottles were said to be off-commerce and rather used by Ocean as gifts to important people (business partners etc.) The values of these square decanters are reaching new heights these days, but careful, I’ve already tried a few old Karuizawas that had been very moderately… ach, good. Colour: gold. Nose: the largest box of rubber bands ever and some brand new bicycle inner tube. Once those notes have started to vanish, you’ll find rather more marzipan and perhaps wee touches of papaya and banana skins, then rather raisins and dried figs, which is much nicer, obviously. Actually, you never quite know whether those rubbery notes have disappeared or if your olfactory bulb has got used to them and started to filter them out. Mouth: not quite rubbery, rather tea-ish and gritty. Tea tannins, oranges, a wee bit of hashish, eucalyptus, then tangerines. Which, obviously, is rather nice. Finish: rather short, with a feeling of old stone teapot, but also an aftertaste that’s much more reminiscent of all those newer single casks that are so great. Comments: not sure we should even try to score these mysterious high-collectables. But dura Lex, sed Lex.
SGP:462 - 80 points.

(Thank you, Aaron, Chris and Firat!)

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

 

May 29, 2018


Whiskyfun

Caol Ila ad-lib part deux

Didn’t we say there would be a part deux? What’s more, G&M are on again, I think it’s really fantastic that they would have so many casks – and not too many ‘wine ideas’, as in my wee book, peat and red wine rarely tango well together. I know, I keep harping on, and on…

Caol Ila 13 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Discovery, bourbon, 2018)

Caol Ila 13 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Discovery, bourbon, 2018) Four stars
This is from the brand new ‘entry level’ series of malts by G&M. Should be good… Colour: white wine. Nose: oh but we’re at the distillery! Cancel the ferry, you just need this. Brine, lemon juice, grapefruits, seaweed, whiffs of grass smoke, oysters, peaches, malted barley, smoked salmon, beech smoke, then perhaps a wee slice of apple pie covered with custard… Mouth: very good, and less ‘easy-easy’ than I had thought. Starts with limoncello and quite a lot of salt, rather goes on with more stewed rhubarb and a little barley sugar, and gets then a greenish smokiness that works well. It’s a very clean distillate, but it’s absolutely not thin. Finish: medium, a tad sweeter, although there’s some green pepper in the aftertaste. Grapefruits coming along… Comments: a wee tad sweeter than expected, but excellent. Would have loved to ‘discover’ Caol Ila, or peaty whisky for that matter, with this baby.
SGP:566 - 85 points.

Port Askaig 14 yo 2004/2018 (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, bourbon)

Port Askaig 14 yo 2004/2018 (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, bourbon) Four stars
Another brand new one. Of course there’s no proof that this is Caol Ila, and indeed it could as well be peated Bunnahabhain. And to think that there will soon be another working distillery near Port Askaig! Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s cool to be able to try this next to a CI of similar age and pedigree, and indeed this is different. A little less coastal, with less brine, and probably less zesty lemon-ness, while on the other hand, it’s a little more floral (clear notes of geranium – flowers not leaves or stems) and, indeed, rather oranges than lemons. A little breadier too. Now we’re not worlds apart, and these two would almost make you believe in… terroir…  Mouth: good, lemons are coming this time, and we’re even closer to the CI, while some small differences remain. For example, this is a little fatter now, with hints of burnt cakes, raisins, brownies… Finish: long, and a tad bonbony. The smallest pack of Haribo bears and crocodiles and stuff. That’s not too CI either. Comments: I think I liked both just the same. I don’t think I would bet a horse, but I’d say this other excellent peater shouldn’t quite belong here. My bad – who said 'typical'?
SGP:656 - 85 points.

Good, let’s try some heavy hitters now…

Ci10 (58.2%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, 2018)

CI10 (58.2%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, 2018) Five stars
This new baby stems from three hoggies filled in 2008 and 2009. Colour: white wine. Nose: strong and sharp, a tad acetic/acidic at first – you’d almost believe you’re nosing concentrated limejuice – but it’s soon to become more civilised, with these lovely hints of fresh almond paste, anchoiade (crushed anchovies and olives), kelp, oysters… Once again, this Caol Ila is more coastal, more fresh than the Port Askaig. With water: perfect. The driest chenin blanc ever. Mouth (neat): a katana blade! My this is sharp, and my I love this. Very pure distillate, free of any make-ups or fiddling attempts. Lemon, oysters, peat smoke, and basta cosi. Sounds too simple, perhaps, but the balance between those simple elements lies beyond any reproach. With water: love it when these young peaters tend to go towards the best mezcals and rums (Hampden anyone?) Works in the opposite direction too, by the way. Finish: long, saltier. We almost had seawater. Comments: mucho impressed. Even if it’s a 50cl bottle, at roughly 50€ it could well be this month’s favourite B-F-Y-B bottle.
SGP:467 - 90 points.

I think four will do today. So just one missing…

Caol Ila 2006/2017 (59.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, first fill sherry butt, casks 306189, 306191, 306195)

Caol Ila 2006/2017 (59.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, first fill sherry butt, casks 306189, 306191, 306195) Five stars
I had thought some sister bottlings by G&M (filled on the same day) were just utterly stellar. So, high hopes are de rigueur… And yes this is still the older livery. So last year… ;-)… Colour: straw. Nose: huge. Brine, seawater, mud, embrocations, clams, lemons, ashes, olives, putty. No sherry than I can get, first fill, really? But all is fine… With water: perhaps hints of almond milk, hand cream, lady’s moisturizer… Mouth (neat): exceptionally good. Sharp rhubarb, lemon, oyster plant (I’ve now got some in my garden, love it, expect to find it more often in my notes!), a drop of white tequila – not George C.’s… With water: saltier yet. Finish: long, rather more medicinal. Comments: it’s funny that they had this one within a ‘the wood makes the whisky’ series last year, because I find it totally and plainly distillate-driven. By the way, aged in Elgin?
SGP:457 - 90 points.

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

 

May 28, 2018


Whiskyfun

Caol Ila ad-lib

Caol Ila, #1 distillery on little Whiskyfun, with more than 500 different expressions duly assessed since 2002. Isn’t that a little too much, by the way? No! So today we’ll do something very unusual, a self-verticale. Meaning that all these Caol Ilas will stem from one single bottler, the almighty Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin. Starting with the most improbable of them all (spare the rod and spoil the child)…

Caol Ila 13 yo 2004/2018 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Hermitage wood finish, 3166 bottles)

Caol Ila 13 yo 2004/2018 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Hermitage wood finish, 3166 bottles) Two stars
Ermnlmn… was that white or red hermitage? This baby was finished for three years in those ex-Rhone casks. Colour: apricot. Nose: OMG. Rubber bands, nectarines, struck matches, saltpetre, mud, blood oranges, cassis, thyme. Pretty loco if you ask me. Mouth: no comprendo mucho. Tabasco and Worcester sauce, more thyme, oregano, cassis, grenadine, tobacco, cracked pepper, pad Thai, harissa, more grenadine, Aperol, sulphur… Finish: long, unlikely. Comments: you could make some kind of Spritz out of this, I suppose. I’ll try that but no need to waste the Krugs or the Salons... You say Prosecco? You’re in charge here…
SGP:654 - 70 points.

OK, the gloves are off…

Caol Ila 28 yo 1990/2018 (57.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1112, 176 bottles)

Caol Ila 14 yo 2003/2018 (57.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #302260, 212 bottles) Three stars
Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a rather fatter Caol Ila, it seems. Of course it would destroy its Hermitagéed sibling straight away, but I’m finding rather more vanilla than usual. Fresh sawdust, custard, green pepper, tea, a touch of coconut… With water: patchouli, really? Vetiver… That must be the active oak. It’s a very pleasant feeling, it’s just not totally classic CI. Mouth (neat): nah, my bad, this is very very good. Smoked lemons, papayas, and passion fruits, plus notes of crabs and oysters. Those curried crab sandwiches that the lovely women of Diageo are making so well on Islay (when they’re not distillery managers, ha-ha). With water: well, tends to become a tad too sweet again. Coconut water, maybe even litchi. Finish: rather long, with a huge brine that saves everything. Comments: excellent, but I know I like refill better, especially when the distillate’s as brilliant as Caol Ila’s…
SGP:565 - 82 points.

Everything’s going according to plan, it seems…

Caol Ila 17 yo 2000/2018 (57.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #309608, 180 bottles)

Caol Ila 17 yo 2000/2018 (57.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #309608, 180 bottles) Three stars and a half
Okay, refill again… Colour: straw. Nose: ah but this is different. Apple vinegar, oyster water, miso soup, umami sauce, green olives, capers, green coffee, carbon paper, chicory… I’m firmly not against this profile. With water: yes! Smoked marzipan and olive oil. Can’t beat this. Mouth (neat): a Jamaican Caol Ila. I’m finding a lot of resin, retsina wine, putty, eucalyptus toothpaste, coriander… Some action here. With water: citrus and mangos up. Finish: long, just a tad too pina-colada-y for my taste, and that’s the first fill quercus alba. Other than that, I could quaff this during the World Cup. Comments: good progress, good progress…
SGP:555 - 84 points.

Caol Ila 28 yo 1990/2018 (49,6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1112, 176 bottles)

Caol Ila 28 yo 1990/2018 (49,6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1112, 176 bottles) Four stars and a half
Refill wood! The prospects are getting even brighter… But my God, how time flies, the 1990s are already 28 years old! (the old blogger’s lament, LOL)… Colour: gold. Nose: stop it all, this is perfect. Soft peat, soft apples, soft vanilla, subtle balms and ointments, and above everything, those wee pink olives that will always make my heart melt. Will have to start olivefun.com one day… Mouth: soft at first, more powerful then, and just perfectly balanced. The sherry’s playing the triangle – no big part here – while oysters, seaweed, crabs indeed, samphires, and perhaps even urchins (yep) are playing the first instruments. Love the rounded spiciness that ensues, with Danish pastries and even some cinnamon streusel. Finish: medium, with this perfect acidic sourness that’s always so welcome in Caol Ila. Just like in white wine, chenin, riesling… Comments: a very great cask, even if I like my CIs even sharper. No, it’s a great bottle, highly recommended.
SGP:456 - 89 points.

Good, since plenty is no plague…

Caol Ila 28 yo 1990/2018 (50.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1118, 191 bottles)

Caol Ila 28 yo 1990/2018 (50.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1118, 191 bottles) Five stars
Love to do this, tasting sister casks to try to find tiny nuances… or bold differences. It’s to be noted that both casks were distilled on the very same day, January 31, 1990. According to horrendous Google, that’s when the first  McDonald’s in the Soviet Union opened in Moscow. No wonder they dissolved the union a few months later, on December 8, 1991… (S., please, that does not belong here – Ed.). Colour: gold. Nose: yep, whenever the ABV’s higher, the cask’s influence has been lighter, that’s almost a law. That’s why this is tenser, sharper, perhaps a tad more brutal, and certainly more maritime. Kelp, crabs, oysters, whelks (we’re good friends with the whelks), green olives… All is fine. With water: superb, sea breeze, that walk on the beach with friends, beach bonfire, guitars… (oh no, not guitars!) Mouth (neat): yes yes yes. Sharp, blade-y, salty, lemony, sea-ish… This is proper Caol Ila. Not saying the others weren’t, of course, but this is perfect. With water: immaculate Caol-Ilaness. Not a complicated whisky, and it wouldn’t go beyond 90 in my book, but it is a solid 90 for sure. Finish: lemon and rhubarb tarte with meringue and a few drops of Caol Ila poured over. Comments: please forget about that comment about McDonald’s and Moscow.
SGP:456 - 90 points.

Lovely CIs by G&M, very well done! Now one or two young blades would do no harm to us, since we’ve still got a little energy…

Caol Ila 10 yo 2007/2018 (54.1%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon barrel)

Caol Ila 10 yo 2007/2018 (54.1%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon barrel) Three stars and a half
The Whisky Cask are a very good wee German independent bottler. No BS and some welcome discretion, that seems to be their thing. Loud applause! Colour: pale white wine. Nose: oh, this is rough. New tyres, rubber bands, acetone, linseed oil… Not sure, not sure… With water: muddy, mineral, sour, and slightly vinegary. This is one for the hipflask if you ask me. Mouth (neat): good. Smoked williams pears, seawater, ink, carbon, ashes. A tad brutal, but after all, that's all we came in for. With water: resembles the official 12. Always liked the official 12. Good brine, apple juice, lemon juice, and sardines. In fact, no, the official 12 is rounder and sweeter. Finish: long, on smoked almonds and oysters, with a tiny touch of Tabasco and a drop of cider. Comments: drinks very well, as expected.
SGP:456 - 84 points.

A last one for the road… That famous road…

Caol Ila 12 yo 2004/2017 (54.7%, Maltbarn, sherry cask, 175 bottles)

Caol Ila 12 yo 2004/2017 (54.7%, Maltbarn, sherry cask, 175 bottles) Four stars
But what’s a proper ‘sherry cask’, we may wonder? Right, that’s stuff for Facebook and forums… Colour: pale gold. Nose: a relatively oily nose, with rubbers and rapeseed oil, pipe tobacco, graphite, and then rather lovage and oyster plant. A bit uncertain at this point, but water may help… With water: that old tweed jacket that’s seen many rains and moons, some Woolite, duck pound, carbon paper, suntan oil, castor oil… Mouth (neat): oh very good! A sweeter peat, some limejuice at will, a touch of smoked salmon, affiliated kippers, and really litres of earthy brine. With water: gets oilier again. Carbon, sesame oil, brine… But careful, just like many young CIs, water should be added as drops, not litres. Finish: rather long, nicely sour, brine-y… Comments: good structure, a CI that’s a little wilder than other young ones.
SGP:366 - 86 points.

Okay, there might be a part deux tomorrow, stay tuned...

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

 

May 27, 2018


Whiskyfun

A bag of new VHS rums

Looking for malternatives, as always, let’s see what we can find in the boxes… Oh yes, VHS means Very High Strength…

Nicaragua 18 yo 1999/2018 (59.2%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, 257 bottles)

Nicaragua 18 yo 1999/2018 (59.2%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, 257 bottles) Two stars and a half
Official Nicaragua doesn’t always sound good to me as far as rum’s concerned, but good indies such as Hunter Laing may have the remedies… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not some boisterous rum, it doesn’t shoot esters or phenols to you, but I have to say I do enjoy these subtle notes of pastries, croissants au beurre, cane juice (it’s got a discreet agricole side, mind you), and warm brioche straight from the baker’s oven. Orange blossom, honeysuckle, that’s nice… With water: same-ish. Mouth (neat): oranges, pencil shavings, woodruff liqueur, poiré (pear cider), orange-y caramel. Not quite my cup of mal… I mean, rum, but it’s well made for sure. With water: nice, green oranges, sour apples… Finish: medium, a tad acetic, green apples, green wood… Comments: yeah I’m keeping the latest Guadeloupe and Diamond by HL for later… I’ll always first eat the potatoes, then the truffles…
SGP:461 - 79 points.

Okay, one truffle…

Diamond 12 yo 2004/2017 (63.1%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Guyana, 246 bottles)

Diamond 12 yo 2004/2017 (63.1%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Guyana, 246 bottles) Four stars
Indie Demeraras can be stunning, while the officials are getting away with murder if you ask me. Drop unlikely liqueurs and dosages (a fake word that’s now being used by rum makers because Champagne does use it, ha-ha-ha.) Colour: pale gold. Nose: instant olive brine and new rubber boots, then seawater and capers. Some lighter Jamaican, in a way. All nice and millimetric. With water: the exhaust fumes of a S1 E-Type. Some of you will understand… Mouth (neat): impeccable, narrow indeed, simple, but oh-so perfect within that simplicity. A blend of olive oil, lemon juice, and cigarette ashes. A lot of cigarette ashes. With water: takes water like a champ. Huge lime juice plus smoke and brine. That’s all, folks. Finish: very long, very ‘green’. Perhaps a little extreme for Diamond, but isn’t life too short anyway (what what what?) Comments: seriously, it’s very simple, but it’s very good.
SGP:374 - 87 points.

Haiti 2004/2018 (63.1%, Transcontinental Rum Line, for ‘& Fine Spirits Paris)

Haiti 2004/2018 (63.1%, Transcontinental Rum Line, for ‘& Fine Spirits Paris) Four stars
Barbancourt, I suppose… Couldn’t be Klérin/Clairin, could it? Now I haven’t got a proper picture of the front label yet, so I’ve put the back label. Don't ask. Colour: straw. Nose: Barbancourt’s always elegant, even if older, pot-still versions were a bit fatter and ‘wider’. This reeks of cane juice, actually, and I guess that’s the whole point of agricole-y rum. We’re finding true bananas, sweeter roots (manioc?), unexpected wild strawberries, and funny whiffs of celeriac, chervil, lovage, and oxalis. With water: we’re all on sugar cane, with touches of oranges and two olives. Mouth (neat): it’s sharper than I had expected, with lemons and pineapples, green bananas, pickled ‘stuff’ (onions?), then cane juice indeed and touches of pipe tobacco. It’s a proper style, true to its origins, even if some neighbouring islands may sometimes overshadow this very style. With water: brine, olives, grass, and sugar cane. It’s subtle, it’s complex. Finish: medium, and even saltier. Comments: a style that needs to be kept and defended. No one else makes this on our little planet, I believe.
SGP:362 - 85 points.

Monymusk 14 yo 2003/2017 (60.7%, The Rum Cask, Jamaica)

Monymusk 14 yo 2003/2017 (60.7%, The Rum Cask, Jamaica) Three stars and a half
Granted, Monymusk’s not Hampden, and neither is it Worthy Park, but the strength is there… Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a petroly cane, with quite some varnish and nail polish remover on top of all that. But that may be the very high strength, so… With water: cut grass, cucumber, unripe pineapples, some distant whiffs of pony saddle and wildcat (I imagine). Mouth (neat): very solventy for sure, but some nicer coconut and pineapple are keeping it kind of civilised. Quick, water… With water: ah yes, this is better. You could imagine a blend of pineapple juice with limejuice and the stronger gin there is. Gin? Don’t get me started… Finish: medium, rather green and pretty fresh. Limejuice and some liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it’s excellent, but it tends to weave in and out, in a way.
SGP:362 - 83 points.

Caroni 20 yo 1998/2018 (64.6%, The Duchess, Trinidad, cask #19)

Caroni 20 yo 1998/2018 (64.6%, The Duchess, Trinidad, cask #19) Three stars
Indeed, Caroni. There’s more Caroni, dugouts have not gone dry, contrarily to what some good friends have been telling us for years. Remember Port Ellen’s very slow death? They’ve been bottling ‘some of the very few remaining casks’ for two decades… Shortage marketing, always the best! Colour: deep gold. Nose: oak shavings first, then rather cedar wood and milk chocolate. But at this strength, let’s not take any chances… With water: vetiver and sandalwood, coconut, oak sawdust… Mouth (neat): heavy, oak-driven, pencil-shaving-y, extreme. Sweet Jesus, we’re currently eating a whole humidor… With water: finer, more herbal, but still pretty extreme. Litres of sap and resins, varnish... Finish: very long, and very varnishy. Comments: some will love this style, but I’d say we’re rather in upholstery territories this time. Extreme extractiveness (can you say that?)
SGP:372 - 82 points.

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

 

May 26, 2018


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
Random Islays for
Feis Ile
Ah but apparently the phrase ‘Feis Ile’ has been copyrighted these days by Islay’s very own ‘Feis Ile Committee’. A sort of ‘Knights Who Say Ni’ of festival organisation who seem to spend a lot of time getting angry at whisky companies trying to get involved with/cash in on (depending on your point of view) the festival which has become something of a beached leviathan in recent years.

 

Anyway, if you’re reading this Feis Ile people, please send the court summons to Serge Valentin, Whiskyfun Towers, Turckheim... (Or, and preferably, to Angus MacRaild, punishment cell #72, HM Prison Edinburgh, 33 Stenhouse Rd, Edinburgh EH11 3LN. – Serge.)  

 

Nonsense aside, I’m off to Islay for a few days. Like all festivals, it is still a good focal meeting point to catch up with friends and colleagues in the whisky world. And Islay itself remains unequivocally magical at this time of year. If I get a chance I’ll try to record some notes for festival bottlings - although you’ll not see me in any queues to do it! That’s the separate, sibling festival: ‘Feis Queue’, an annual celebration of bottle flipping, overnight tarmac based camping, sunburn, pathetic obsession and money laundering.  

 

Let’s try a few random Islay malts and attempt to bear in mind that we should probably endeavour to not take all this ridiculousness too seriously...  

 

First up: an aperitif...  

 

Pride Of Islay 12 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 1980s)

Pride Of Islay 12 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 1980s)
Colour: Gold. Nose: A nicely clean, gravely and smoked grist maltiness. Some slightly leathery notes with sea air, coastal freshness and few subtle tropical fruits - dried mango, papay, guava, banana etc... I’d wager there’s a few slugs of old Bowmore or Laphroaig in here. A little peppery with time which is also very lovely. Mouth: sadly it’s not as vibrant as on the nose, a little too much OBE gives a cardboardy quality to it. I suspect rather a lot of caramel may have been involved. There are still some nice notes of lemon peel, soft peat, raw barley and bonfire smoke in the background, but globally it falls down a little on the palate. Gets better with a bit of time and air and shows some pleasant notes of mustard seed and watercress. Quite salty as well. Finish: Medium, still touch of cardboard and porridge about it, although the porridge is salted and also contains a decent dollop of runny honey. Comments: I was ready to go to 88 on the nose but the palate dragged things down a bit sadly. I’ve tried other bottles which have been fresher and much better so I suspect there’s a ‘luck of the draw’ element going on here.
SGP: 543 - 78 points.

 

 

Bruichladdich 27 yo 1988/2016 (50.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 150 bottles) Bruichladdich 27 yo 1988/2016 (50.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Bourbon Hogshead, 150 bottles)
Colour: White wine. Nose: It’s a fairly classical Bruichladdich - lots of maritime freshness underpinned with cereals and green fruit. Touches of melon, mandarin, a little nutmeg, some dusty malt and lemon balm. Sunflower oil as well. All very excellent and rather evocative. With water: lemon skins, more cereals, some dried kelp and a little salted butter. Mouth: some shoe polish, buttery toast, dry barley, a hint of vanilla, some gooseberry and maybe a little real ale - a lukewarm pint of Bass (which is a good thing I should add). With water: muesli, oatcakes, lemon marmalade, a splash of ointment and some dried tarragon. Finish: Medium. Lots of drying cereals, a little earthiness and some slightly salty preserved lemon notes. Comments: A good, gluggable and pretty loyal Bruichladdich that should be ideal for knocking back with a fish supper on a pier/jetty/shore somewhere.
SGP: 451 - 84 points.
 

 

Bowmore 25 yo 1991/2017 (49.9%, The Whisky Agency for The Whiskyfair Takao, cask #29736, barrel, 172 bottles) Bowmore 25 yo 1991/2017 (49.9%, The Whisky Agency for The Whiskyfair Takao, cask #29736, barrel, 172 bottles)
Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Silky green and tropical fruits wrapped up in sea air, beach sand and kelp. It’s one of these early 1990s Bowmores which harks back to an earlier, fruitier era. The fruits intensify with lemon oils, guava, passion fruit and mango puree. This saltiness in the background keeps everything pin sharp and in check as well. A little ripe melon, some pink grapefruit and coal dust as well. Straightforward but beautiful. Mouth: biting wood spice but also that tropical aspect is carried forward with distinction. Lots of ripe mango, kiwi, passion fruit and guava. The fruits are rather syrupy in texture with these lovely tertiary notes of olive oil, natural vanilla, elegant peat smoke, some wild herbs and sandalwood. Also more medicinal with time, all on bandages and ointment. Finish: Long, getting peatier and saltier with notes of brine and some smoked fish. What sweetness form the wood there was on the palate really dies away leaving a wonderfully dry and sharp, fruity finale. Comments: Another terrific mid-aged Bowmore from the 1990s. These early 1990s vintages - although not all equal it seems - are really starting to come into their own. Fingers crossed someone can dig up another, older 1993 sometime...
SGP: 664 - 91 points.
 

 

Caol Ila 10 yo 1989/2000 (46%, Cadenhead Original Collection, Bourbon Barrel, 306 bottles) Caol Ila 10 yo 1989/2000 (46%, Cadenhead Original Collection, Bourbon Barrel, 306 bottles)
Colour: Pale gold. Nose: A beautiful mix of seawater, fisherman’s wellies, tar, kippers and many varied ointments. It’s a rather different style to these contemporary, extremely blade-like and ashy Caol Ilas. This is more oily, textural and earthy with its peat qualities. Further notes of green olives in brine, black olive tapenade, anchovy paste, soot and smoked fish. Pure braw! As they say in Turckheim I believe. Mouth: big, fat, oily and densely malty. Lots of smoked barley, lemon and barley water, dried cereal notes, dry phenolics, a little marzipan and some salted cod. Goes on with hessian, more sea water, mercurochrome, metal polish and lime zest. Becomes intensely saline and lemony. Finish: Long and superbly briny, ashy, citrusy and farmyardy. Feels like slurping peated olive oil. Comments: The very definition of ‘moreish’ when it comes to peated malt whisky. Something Caol Ila has unequivocally written the book on in my humble opinion.
SGP: 467 - 90 points.
 

 

Let’s have another cheeky wee Caol Ila while we’re on the subject...  

 

Caol Ila 30 yo 1983/2014 (51.6%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, cask #5288, Hogshead, 187 bottles)
Caol Ila 30 yo 1983/2014 (51.6%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, cask #5288, Hogshead, 187 bottles)
Colour: Gold. Nose: This is one of these pure, mineral, lemon-edged (what?) Caol Ilas. A cocktail of peat embers, all manner of gentle medicinal qualities and many background, evocative coastal aromas such as dried seaweed, wet pebbles, sandalwood and sea air. All the usual suspects such as preserved lemons, green olives, brine and black pepper are all there in abundance. This one also possesses some fascinating tertiary aromas of dried mint leaf and tobacco as well, along with hints of tiger balm, bay leaf and old rope. With water: these beautiful herbal notes are amplified now so that you get the impression of many assorted dried herbs along with some peppered mackerel, old ointments and sun cream (a good reminder that I’ll need to pack some for Islay - I have the kind of Scottish complexion that can become sunburned indoors at night) Mouth: Bone dry, salty peat, seawater, hessian and tar. Pure magic! Anchovies, various shades of olive, umami paste, salted butter, black pepper, chives, parsley and some powerful mineral qualities such as chalk, limestone and wet rocks. With water: olive oil, more seaweed, salt water, lime juice and further smoked fish notes such as Arbroath smokies and good old kippers. Finish: Long, earthy, magnificently coastal and with resurgent notes of all the key players - lemon, peats, smoke, seashore, medicine etc... Comments: It’s in keeping with these numerous brilliant aged early 80s Caol Ilas, but what’s most interesting - and telling - is that, while divergent in style, how close this one is in terms of sheer quality to the 1989. What is it everyone keeps saying about Caol Ila being the most consistent make in Scotchland...?
SGP: 476 - 91 points.
 

 

Let’s head south...  

 

Laphroaig 10 yo ‘Cask Strength’ (58.1%, OB, Batch 009, 2017) Laphroaig 10 yo ‘Cask Strength’ (58.1%, OB, Batch 009, 2017)
I’ve not tried any of the OB CS Laphroaigs for longer than is healthy. Shame on me! Colour: Gold. Nose: A bowl of cigar ash, black pepper, iodine and a few wheelbarrows full of dried seaweed. Goes on with sandalwood, some sweet vanilla and lemon rind. A big, simmering pot of medicine, germoline and TCP bubbles away underneath everything. With water: if there was such a thing as peated grease... lemon oil, black pepper, dettol and wood ash. Mouth: dense, sticky, sweet peats - the kind a Land Rover would need to be towed out of - also bags of salted fish, kippers, black olives and natural tar resin. A huge blustery seashore of a thing! With water: mercurochrome, brake fluid, resinous peats and a lungful of kiln smoke. Finish: Long, intensely ashy, peppery, salty and medicinal. Comments: Why on earth bother with nonsense like Lore and Select when you can just release something as brilliantly ‘no holds barred’ as this? I’m no fan of the uber-vanilla driven modern Laphroaigs, but when they get the balance right and keep the wood in balance with the distillate, it’s still a distillery that is hard to beat in my book. This one is rock solid.
SGP: 368 - 89 points.
 

 

 

May 25, 2018


Whiskyfun

New Glen Spey

Nobody seems to care about Glen Spey. Well, I do, even if only three good people will read this, two of them coming by mistake. Because to me, Glen Spey and all other more or less obscure Scottish distilleries are as just as important as Macallan, Springbank or Lagavulin!

Glen Spey 22 yo 1995/2018 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill American hogshead, 650 bottles)

Glen Spey 22 yo 1995/2018 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill American hogshead, 650 bottles) Three stars
There’s much more data on the new CCs, even those at 46% vol. That’s cool! Colour: straw. Nose: it’s one of those very barley-y Speysiders that are full of, well, golden barley, scones and brioche, ripe fruits (don’t I detect raspberries and blackberries?) and rich ale. The brioche-y side never stops growing. Mouth: it’s extremely malty, you’re almost crunching Ovaltine bars while drinking chicory latte. There’s also quite some toffee, Golden Grahams, and then a bitterer ale-y side. Almost reminds me of Mackeson’s Stout, thirty years ago – that was the last time I tried it, mind you. Finish: long and always very malty, with an oaken edge. Burnt caramel, Guinness. Comments: not an easy/fruity Speysider, but should you need to tell some of your friends about the taste of malt whisky, it’s a good pick.
SGP:451 - 82 points.

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 16 yo 2001/2018 (54%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, hogsheads, 858 bottles)

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 16 yo 2001/2018 (54%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, hogsheads, 858 bottles) Three stars
This one from three hoggies. Could be ideal, let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: this one’s less malty, and more on skins, herbs, leaves, and oils. This is actually a large hessian bag full of various kinds of apples, some from two years ago. With water: same plus a touch of menthol and eucalyptus. Mouth (neat): pure clean obvious malty. In that sense closer to the very good G&M. More stout, mead, ale, burnt cakes, green tobacco, apple skins, breads… With water: yep, gets a tad sappy, almondy… Finish: pretty long, rather on marzipan this time. And beer. Comments: the kind of totally honest malt whisky that could sing ‘I am what I am’. No one’s ever tried to put makeup on it. Very good.
SGP:451 - 82 points.

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

 

May 24, 2018


Whiskyfun

Ardmore’s turn

Ardmore’s long been almost the only peated Speysider, but things have changed. Remember, Ardmore’s the core of Teacher’s, let’s see what we have…

Ardmore 2007/2017 (45%, The Golden Barley, Laphroaig barrel, cask #706428)

Ardmore 2009/2017 (45%, The Golden Barley, Laphroaig barrel, cask #706428) Three stars
This series by the excellent young French bottlers L’Esprit a.k.a. Whisky & Rhum. Ardmore and Laphroaig, that remains very ‘Teachery’, doesn’t it. Colour: white wine. Nose: the problem is that it’s difficult to find out about what’s from Ardmore and what’s from Laphroaig here. Other than that, it’s fine, soft, smoky of course, with notes of smoked meats and ham rather than kippers and other coastal notes. Which means, indeed, that it’s pretty ‘Ardmore’. Unsurprisingly… Mouth: there are these fruits that have always tasted very Ardmore to me, tinned peaches. Also a softer peat, some smoked herbs of some sorts, and a few burnt notes that aren’t unpleasant. Finish: medium, on some rather bitterish smoked/herbal notes, with a wee sour side. Comments: I like a lot, I don’t totally adore.
SGP:465 - 82 points.

Ardmore 2008/2017 (58.8%, L’Esprit, cask #BB 709225, 220 bottles)

Ardmore 2008/2017 (58.8%, L’Esprit, cask #BB 709225, 220 bottles) Three stars and a half
Same bottler, just another series. Oh and a much higher strength, as you may have noticed. Colour: white wine. Nose: this is a bit tenser, sharper, better defined, and with rather more tinned fruits, peaches indeed, apricots, also seaweed this time, tiger balm, tarry ropes, and a very unusual fruity side that would remind us of… dried longans? Some patchouli as well, potpourri, homemade custard… With water: notes of pears. Smoked pears. Mouth (neat): very good. This feeling of smoked fruits, some fresh, some preserved. Hay wine, peated barley, lapsang souchong… It’s certainly a grassier smokiness, and it’s peatier than your average peaty Ardmore. With water: swims very well. More citrus (always great news), a grassy smoke… Finish: long, on a greener smoke. Comments: perhaps not a well-defined style, and should you try this blind, you’ll never find out unless you’re Jim M. Joking. But very good it is! (I mean, this whisky).
SGP:466 - 84 points.

So, more Ardmore, perhaps some official… (easy, S.)…

Ardmore 20 yo 1996 (49.3%, OB, +/-2017)

Ardmore 20 yo 1996 (49.3%, OB, +/-2017) Three stars
It seems that this one too saw some ex-Islay wood… Colour: light gold. Nose: it’s lighter, with more fresh fruits, ripe apples, melons, notes of hay, whiffs of ripe papayas, and an extremely moderate smokiness. Love these whiffs of cut flowers in the background. Very nice nose! Mouth: a tad strange (what we call Haribo-y, with weird hints of sweets and candies), but otherwise very good, softer, rather on herbs and fruits, green melons, white peaches, drops of chartreuse, a wee glass of some kind of orange-y beer… Finish: medium, marmalade-y, mildly smoky, a bit sour, and a tad fermentary. Duvel’s triple-hop IPA. Do you know that one? Now I’m no beer guy, I’m afraid… Comments: really good, but a notch ‘uncertain’ in my book. A tad bizarre given that it’s an official bottling…
SGP:553 - 80 points.

Shall we manage to find a cleaner, better defined Ardmore today?...

Ardmore 21 yo 1996/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12390, 267 bottles)

Ardmore 21 yo 1996/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12390, 267 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: this typical feeling of smoked porridge with bits of preserved peaches inside. I haven’t got anything more to say. Mouth: good, but typically Ardmore, that is to say rather hesitating between fruits and smoke. See what I mean? Don’t get me wrong, love Ardmore, love the distillery and love the people there, but I always found the whisky a tad… say elusive? Maybe is it me… Sour fruits tend to rule the place. Finish: medium, sour, smoky, apple-y… And the aftertaste’s a tad too herbal for me. Grassy beers. Comments: it seems that I’m having troubles with Ardmore. Nothing serious, obviously…
SGP:455 - 79 points.

And him to insist…

Ardmore 21 yo 1996/2017 (52%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12196, 310 bottles)

Ardmore 21 yo 1996/2017 (52%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12196, 310 bottles) Two stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: same indeed. Oats, carbon paper, ashes, smoked porridge, and no fruits whatsoever this time. Rather wee whiffs of horse saddle, cow dung… With water: shall we mention some kind of carefully peated wash distilled in higher stills? Shall we also mention some kind of… dissonance? Mouth (neat): a bit better but once again there is this feeling of any stuff from Haribo’s. Or Jell-O and stuff. Plus, indeed, a layer of smoke. With water: no, it just wouldn’t swim, falls apart once reduced. Finish: almost short and, say skinny. Comments: really not sure. The distillate was a tad too fragile, that’s my humble interpretation.
SGP:355 - 74 points.

Winner is not he who never fails but the one who never gives up, they say… So let’s go plunder the sample library and see if we are done!…

Ardmore 15 yo 1997/2012 (59%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve, for Van Wees, 298 bottles)

Ardmore 15 yo 1997/2012 (59%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve, for Van Wees, 298 bottles) Four stars
This one should send wood, as we say in French. Meaning that it might be a face-melter… Colour: white wine. Nose: aaah! Carbon, supermarket plastic pouch (now streng verboten over here), ink, new magazine, cow dung, and a large plate full of various cheeses. Comté, Cantal, proper Cheddar – should that still exist… Some action, at last! With water: extreme smoky grassiness. As if someone had burned some green tea – but I’m asking you, who would do that? Mouth (neat): perfect, gives you faith in lovely Ardmore. Lemon juice, ink, smoked ham, bitter herb juices, green pepper… it is actually very extreme, but it would get you up! With water: works this time. Green melons, lime, lemon, pomelos, all that been properly smoked using beech and grass. And perhaps dried kelp, on a remote beach. Finish: very long, green austere, grassy, and extremely unsexy. Which, precisely, makes it very sexy. Go figure… Comments: some mad very grassy malt whisky that no sane distiller would ever launch on the market. Well, not to-day. Punk whisky, shall we say? Very rock and roll for sure…
SGP:374 - 87 points.

Ite tasting session est!
Wait wait wait, we’ve got another one, just for sports…

Ardmore 17 yo 1999/2017 (55.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for HNWS Taiwan, refill sherry hogshead, cask #5259, 264 bottles)

Ardmore 17 yo 1999/2017 (55.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for HNWS Taiwan, refill sherry hogshead, cask #5259, 264 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: deep gold. Nose: we knew it. Damp autumn leaves, porcinis, cigars, orange liqueur, pu-erh tea, coffee beans… It is another world. With water: gets really very earthy, and indeed a tad dirty. Gravel, concrete, old walnuts… Mouth (neat): it’s a bit all over the place, you’ve got pepper, you’ve got cured ham, you’ve got ginger, you’ve got leather, you’ve even got a few drops of soy sauce… I imagine that’s the sherry. With water: not an easy one. Beef stock, burnt nuts, chewed cigar, black olive brine, green peppercorns, leaves… Finish: long, very grassy, a tad bouillony, and frankly extreme. A tad rough and rustic, shall we say. A pretty leathery aftertaste after all that. Comments: wild! Doom metal whisky as in doom metal rock and roll. Seemingly…
SGP:374 - 78 points.

I’ll swear that’ll be our last Ardmore for now and until, say September, 2018?

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

 

May 23, 2018


Whiskyfun

Benriach from young to old

Long time no Benriach on WF, time put things straight. It seems to me that the brand got a little less boisterous since it changed hands.

Benriach 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-2017)

Benriach 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-2017) Three stars
Enjoyed this expression when it came out three years ago, time to revisit it. Colour: straw. Nose: classic malty and fruity whisky, well made, well balanced, with touches of pastry, lemon, apples, damsons, and this floral side that’s rather very Benriach. Say buttercups? It’s much les ‘tropical’ than older vintages from the 1970s, but there, it’s very fine… Mouth: good creamy arrival, with just a touch of raisins (sherry, I suppose) then vanilla, apple compote, and meringue. Gets then rather more lemony, so that would lemon pie with meringue. Finish: medium, more barley-y, compote-y, and grassy. A touch of pineapple in the aftertaste. Comments: you couldn’t write a long novel about this one, but everything’s well in place, even if it’s not the most characterful malt ever.
SGP:551 - 82 points.

Benriach 16 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Benriach 16 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars
I didn’t like the first ‘new’ 16 too much (WF 78) but that was in 2005 and a lot of water has gone under the bridges since back then. Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s leafier, chalkier, more porridge-y, and it’s also got more apricots and mirabelles, which balances all that. Hints of sesame oil, perhaps. Mouth: we’re not extremely far from the tenner, this one’s just more orange-y, while it hasn’t got any of the wee raisins that were in that one. Gets a tad tea-ish, perhaps, with also quite some apple peelings. Finish: medium, rather nutty. Oranges and tea. Five o’clock whisky? Cinnamon from the oak in the aftertaste. Comments: to me, in the same league as that of the 10, which was a little brighter and fresher.
SGP:551 - 82 points.

Benriach 20 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Benriach 20 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars
Colour: deep bronze-y gold. Nose: the age of the bees has arrived here. Honey, beeswax, pollen, then rather cigarette tobacco, botrytised Sauternes, mirabelle jam, apricots, dandelions… Mouth: it’s rather pine-y, almost retsina-y at times. Honeydew, eucalyptus, vanilla, tea with milk (ah, the English…), Seville oranges. The back’s rather tannic, having said that, some straight oak feels. Finish: medium, with some chlorophyll, a feeling of crunching fir needles, and a large bag of apple peel. Comments: the oak’s a little loud for my taste, but otherwise it’s very fine, for sure. No need to change score…
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Let’s rather try single casks…

Benriach 11 yo 2006/2017 (57.6%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, Sauternes hogshead, cask #1856, 265 bottles)

Benriach 11 yo 2006/2017 (57.6%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, Sauternes hogshead, cask #1856, 265 bottles) Three stars
Oh bad luck, a wine cask, shame on my personal assistant that chose it (Aston the Scottish fold)… Although we all know Sauternes can work, but if it’s a hogshead indeed then it’s just a Sauternes-seasoned cask, not a proper Sauternes barrique. Remember, with Scotch whisky, you can’t add wine to your distillate, but you’re kind of allowed to first add it to the cask and then fill it. How very bizarre… Colour: gold. Nose: its true that Sauternes and Benriach do tango, as they share a few similarities. The mirabelles, the apricots, sometimes the honeyness, the vanilla (not!)… With water: a large apricot tarte, plus a tarte tatin on top of it. A Big Mac of wine-sweetened whisky. Mouth (neat): you feel some fresh spicy oak, ginger, spearmint, lime, mint leaves, cinchona… So it feels prepared and certainly finished, but I’m finding this premix pretty pleasant. With water: good. Menthol, oranges, apricots, quinces, ginger, cinnamon, oak. Finish: medium, jammy and spicy. Comments: the oak feels but it’s good even if it reeks of ‘the lab’. Just not totally my kind of malt. Why change score?
SGP:651 - 82 points.

Benriach 22 yo 1994/2016 (54.3%, OB, for Independent Spirit, hogshead, cask #240886, 345 bottles)

Benriach 22 yo 1994/2016 (54.3%, OB, for Independent Spirit, hogshead, cask #240886, 345 bottles) Four stars
I think this one’s peated. No wine in sight, let’s go! Colour: straw. Nose: indeed, peated, but that’s rather grass smoke, garden bonfire, also menthol and eucalyptus, the infernal duo… All that on top of the usual apricots and plums, and a wee feeling of williams pears as well. Only good things to say at this point. With water: same and rather what we sometimes call “sweet peat’. Mouth (neat): the grassy peat and the distillate’s rather citrusy style (when this was distilled) just work well together. Lovely feeling of peated limoncello. With water: zesty and sweet, not unlike some late harvest riesling. Finish: medium, the fruits winning it in the end. Comments: the softer side of peat. Real good, I think.
SGP:554 – 87 points.

Good, a last one, and indie this time…

Benriach 42 yo (41%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Director’s Special, for The Whisky Show Old & Rare, 147 bottles, 2018)

Benriach 42 yo (41%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Director’s Special, for The Whisky Show Old & Rare, 147 bottles, 2018) Five stars
So, they wouldn’t tell, but 2018 – 42 = 1976. Or 1977 in whisky mathematics. Well if it is a 1976, it’s a legendary vintage at Benriach, while 1977 wasn’t too bad either… Colour: gold. Nose: more mango and passion fruit than in mango and passion fruit juice. Even old Bushmills and 1960s Bowmore and Laphroaig were less mango-y and maracuja-y. In truth this is sublime. As for tinier aromas, let’s mention hazelnut liqueur, woodruff, tangerines, and perhaps one thin slice of small Cuban pineapple. I’m saying that because those are the best in the world, in my humble opinion. Same with their small bananas. Mouth:  good, indeed the oak’ starting to take its toll, but we’re still at that stage where it’s bringing more to the table than what it’s taking away. Tiny green spices, a minuscule touch of wasabi, some green tea… Overall feeling here: green oranges and bananas. I mean, green bananas. Finish: medium, with a green-tea-ish tannicity that does not stick your tongue to your palate. Comments: light and extreme at the same time. Not unlike the Talking Heads who were all the rage of the season. Psycho Killer, tah tah tah, tah tah tah…
SGP:771 - 91 points.

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

 

May 22, 2018


Whiskyfun

More vatt… I mean, blended malts

Perhaps including some quasi-singles, a.k.a. the teaspooned ones, let’s see what we have in the boxes… We’ll try to focus on new ones, but you never know what may happen in these tastings… This one isn’t new, for example…

Highland Journey (46.2%, Hunter Laing, blended malt, +/-2014)

Highland Journey (46.2%, Hunter Laing, blended malt, +/-2014) Three stars
Not much to be learned from the label, except that this only stems from Highland distilleries (knowing that some good folks will consider Speyside as a part of the Highlands)… Colour: gold. Nose: apples, barley, oranges, raisins, brioche dough, and vanilla. I repeat, apples, barley, oranges… Mouth: really good, just not very singular (but wasn’t that the whole point?) Apples, pears, oranges, vanilla, sultanas, panettone… Would someone blend Glenlivet 12 with Glenfiddich 12 50/50, I suppose you’d get something like this. Finish: medium, a tad more on oranges. Comments: very good, very drinkable, not void of any good maltiness, but it won’t make you scratch your head. Which, no need to say, some will think is an asset. So it’s goo, goody-goody good.
SGP:441 - 80 points.

Old Perth ‘Number 4’ (43%, Morrison & Mackay, blended malt, 2016)

Old Perth ‘Number 4’ (43%, Morrison & Mackay, blended malt, 2016) Three stars
Number 2 had been to my liking (WF 80). Colour: pale gold. Nose: something slightly metallic (old copper kettle) and some stewed celeriac, then rather some old newspapers and a bag of overripe apples, plus some of grandma’s potpourri, some vanilla pods, and a pleasant doughy sourness. Some old-school asperities to be found here. Mouth: really old-school! Some fermenting grass, bitter ale, savoury soups (miso?), walnuts, salted liquorice, and malt extract. The exact opposite of the Highland Journey, which was much sleeker. Finish: medium, with a drop of chicken broth on top of some sweet American bread. Comments: it’s excellent that they found their own old-skool style. A nostalgic blended malt?
SGP:352 - 82 points.

Scallywag 13 yo (46%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2018)

Scallywag 13 yo (46%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2018) Four stars
A newer batch of Scallywag 13, apparently. Just loved the first one last year (WF 86), so happy to follow up (which we wouldn’t do, normally…) This is all Speyside and sherry, by the way. Now, if Milou/Snowy is on Scallywag and Captain Haddock on Big Peat, where's Tintin? Colour: deep gold. Nose: shoe polish and ski wax in a Speysider, how and why could we be against that? And old tools, engine oil, walnuts, old library, Spanish ham, chocolate, overripe mangos… It’s a stunning nose, really. They must be having a secret. Mouth: we’ve certainly known Glenfarclasses that were like this. Not saying this is Glenfarclas-led, of course. Walnut cake, marmalade, chestnut purée, kougelhopf, gingerbread, roasted raisins, etc. Finish: long, with prunes, flints, and walnuts. Some oloroso that would have been very gently ‘dulce-ed’. Comments: still a fan. And love it that they would have put Charlie Maclean’s dog on the label.
SGP:451 - 86 points.

Timorous Beastie 10 yo (46.8%, Douglas Laing, batch #1, blended malt, +/-2017)

Timorous Beastie 10 yo (46.8%, Douglas Laing, batch #1, blended malt, +/-2017) Three stars and a half
Tried the NAS (WF 85), tried the 18 (WF 86), tried the 21 (WF 89) and tried the 40 (WF 91) but never the 10. Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh as a daisy, so floral, subtle, with green melons, yellow peaches, fresh hazelnuts, angelica, rhubarb, and just a drop of vanilla essence. Mouth: fresh and really full of pears, of all kinds. Williams first, naturally. Hints of Gueuze, hops, and tangerines. It’s a pretty light and fresh style, perhaps a little timorous indeed. Some sides remind me of Glenkinchie. Finish: short to medium, a tad ale-y. Hints of asparagus in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps a little shier than its compadres? But once again, it is a very nice composition. And WF’s registered mouser, Aston the Scottish fold cat, says he loves the label.
SGP:441 - 83 points.

Speyside 29 yo 1988/2017 (49.7%, Le Gus’t, blended malt, hogshead, cask #403, 262 bottles)

Speyside 29 yo 1988/2017 (49.7%, Le Gus’t, blended malt, hogshead, cask #403, 262 bottles) Four stars and a half
This baby’s said to be Burnside, so actually Balvenie, but shhh… Le Gus’t are an excellent bunch of spirit and wine lovers from the south of France. They’re located in Manosque, more precisely. Colour: pale gold. Nose: perfect. Some mirabelle tarte covered with custard and topped with drizzles of Swiss apricot liqueur. All right, all right, that would be apricot liqueur from Provence. You may add a few quinces and just ideas of some kind of grassy smokiness. Fantastic nose. Mouth: pretty brilliant. Malty wine gums, marshmallows, mirabelle jam, acacia honey, a spoonful of Lagunitas (IPA, rather the Chicagoan make – yep making this up), and lovely notes of green Pu-erh tea. Great freshness and temper at this age. Finish: long, with a perfect greenness that would hint at acacia wood, quite bizarrely. But of course that cannot be. More honey on the aftertaste. Comments: we’re flying very high this time, although this is still ‘pretty young’.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Speyside 39 yo 1978/2017 (60.4%, Le Gus’t, blended malt, sherry butt, cask #4, 104 bottles)

Speyside 39 yo 1978/2017 (60.4%, Le Gus’t, blended malt, sherry butt, cask #4, 104 bottles) Five stars
Intriguing, very intriguing… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a pollen-y one, you would believe you just opened a beehive (while wearing a beekeeper’s gear, of course). We’re reminded of old Caperdonichs or Glen Grants here. Sweet beer, honeydew, mead, all that… The 60% don’t feel – or is that me? With water: lovely smells of wood smoke, pine, new pipe, burnt apple tarte (make that tarte tatin)… Mouth (neat): magnificent, full, malty, ale-y, honeyed, this is almost distilled mead. With water: goodness gracious, this has knack and tons apricot jam. Touches of maple syrup and always this feeling of great IPA, fruity hops, and indeed mead. I don’t think this style is still on over there in Scotland, which we should regret. Finish: long, a tad more bonbony, with a ‘Chinese’ spiciness that’s just perfect. Chilli-ed Chirashi or how is that called? Comments: old malt in full form. Doesn’t taste very ‘blended’, actually, but I wouldn’t stake my life on that. Great work, Le Gus’t!
SGP:561 - 91 points.

963 8 yo (59%, Sasanokawa Shuzo, Japan, blended malt, +/-2017)

963 8 yo (59%, Sasanokawa Shuzo, Japan, blended malt, +/-2017) Two stars
This is complicated. The bottle comes from Japan but there are every chances that it’s not actually Japanese malt whisky. So perhaps some Scotch malt whisky disguised as Japanese? Let’s hope it’s not as lousy as these bottlers’ other line, the infamous Yamazakuras that I really dislike. Colour: pale gold. Nose: light malt, apples, marzipan, vanilla, pears, sponge cake. This won’t offend anyone, even at 59% vol. With water: a little oak, a little vanilla, a little beer. Mouth (neat): well in the style of the Highland Journey, but I like that one better. Apple juice, beer, barley. Not bad, just very simple. With water: it’s good, it’s easy, it’s barley-y. Pleasant touches of oranges. Finish: medium, malty and beerish. Comments: not much to be seen here, it’s some pretty random average young malt whisky. They have millions of litres of these lying up there in Scotchland. Good not great, in other words, at least it’s not over-vanilla-ed.
SGP:441 - 75 points.

Good, we may need peat now…

Angel’s Nectar ‘Rich Peat Edition’ (46%, Highfern, blended malt, +/-2017)

Angel’s Nectar ‘Rich Peat Edition’ (46%, Highfern, blended malt, +/-2017) Four stars
The regular Angel’s Nectar has been to my liking despite a lousy strength of 40% vol. (WF 83). They upped their game, apparently, but indeed this is still NAS. Colour: white wine. Nose: young Caol Ila playing it easy, with ideas of neighbours Bunnahabhain ‘Moine’. Nice soft nutty peat with some apple juice and drops of seawater, seashells, and some stone-y sauvignon blanc. It’s not a big peater, that’s all I can say. Not sure there’s only peaters inside. Mouth: instantly reminds me of Caol Ila 12, which cannot be a bad thing. Brine, lemon juice, a softer earthiness, a touch of gentian, and a wee bit of kipper. Soft and good. Finish: medium, elegant, slightly salty and mildly peppery, with a grassy white rum in the aftertaste. Who did add some white agricole to the combo? Comments: seriously, this is very good. Very nice smoky zestiness, nothing to add.
SGP:356 - 85 points.

Big Peat 25 yo 1992/2017 ‘The Gold Edition’ (52.1%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 3,000 bottles, 2017)

Big Peat 25 yo 1992/2017 ‘The Gold Edition’ (52.1%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 3,000 bottles, 2017) Three stars and a half
They may be milking the cow here, but all the bovines seem to be most happy with that, so I can’t see why anyone not totally insane should complain. Certainly not this humble amateur taster! By the way, if it’s a 1992, there cannot be any Port Ellen inside, am I not right? Colour: pale gold. Nose: it is a rather leafy, grassy peat, dry and pretty camphory, with a wee buttery side, some fresh almonds, and all things related to a walk on Islay under some heavy shower. So yeah, any day. Damp textiles, raw wool, all that. With water: fermentary, definitely. Smoked yoghurt, perhaps? Mouth (neat): it’s true that this is extremely good. Perhaps a little simple, as if all peaters had annihilated each other in some kind of way, but this lemon plus seawater plus smoke combination just works. With water: a little more sweetness, smoked apple juice, iodine, our friends the whelks… Finish: medium, rather easy going and gentle, cidery… Saltier aftertaste. Comments: excellent, just a tad gentle, perhaps. I’m not sure anyone should add any waters, in fact. No, better not, I don’t think it’s a great swimmer. I’m even wondering if I don’t like the brighter youngsters a little better, to tell you the truth…
SGP:356 - 83 points.

Oh hell, since we’re trying to make a point here…

Big Peat ‘Feis Isle 2017’ (48%, Douglas Laing, sherry finish, 1,600 bottles)

Big Peat ‘Feis Isle 2017’ (48%, Douglas Laing, sherry finish, 1,600 bottles) Four stars
I know, a sherry finish, which sounds as scary as some asparagus soup blended with American coffee to me (couldn’t think of anything weirder just now)… Oh and yeah, I thought it would be smart to taste a Feis 2017 before the 2018 edition started. Some sense of timing, you know… Colour: pale gold. Nose: rubber boots and carbon paper, asparagus soup indeed (I told you), and not a drop of American coffee. All nice, and no whacky sherry that I can detect, so all is fine in the best of worlds so far. Mouth: frankly, this is very good. Sure it’s pretty rubbery, oddly tarry, bizarrely sour, and even kind of dirty and perverse, but there sure is more action than in the 25 years old Golden Millionaire Edition (are you sure that was the name, S.?) What’s more, the sherry seems to bring something poetically rotten. Old ham, marrow soup, mutton suet, something like that. Finish: long, salty, smoky. Very salty, actually. Someone may have added seawater while Fred L. was not watching. Comments: a good and funny gruel, full of bumps and unlikelinesses – but I’ve heard it may attract aliens, so please be careful.
SGP:566 - 85 points.
 

May 21, 2018


Whiskyfun

Inchmoan vs. Croftengea
(don’t try this at home)

Quite. In fact Loch Lomond and their numerous variants (Inchmoan, Inchmurrin, Inchfad, Croftengea, Rosdhu…) have really stuck their head out in recent years, partially thanks to a few merchants who’ve heavily pushed them, while older whisky geeks used to rather think that the whiskies used to be, as they say on Facebook and in the alpine meadows, ‘meh’.


Nice logo that depicts the various stills they’re using

But that was 'before' because surprise surprise, some new ones are not, provided they have not been too actively ‘re-racked’ (a personal comment). Let’s have a few and see what gives…

Inchmoan 12 yo (46%, OB, peated, +/-2017)

Inchmoan 12 yo (46%, OB, peated, +/-2017) Three stars
What’s a bit troubling is that this series is called the ‘Island Collection’, while I had thought the distillery was located in Alexandria, in West Dunbartonshire. Well, it is indeed. Now is Inchmoan peatier then Croftengea or not? I have to say I can’t remember… Colour: gold. Nose: fine, really fine. Wood smoke, peat smoke, a little soot, capers, pineapples, vanilla… I like it that it does not reek of ‘new’ wood too much. As for the peatiness, let’s say the level is that of Talisker. Mouth: peatier now, peppery and sweet at the same time. Something acrid and pungent in the background (pepper and ashes combo), some ginger and cinnamon after that. Finish: rather long, really spicy and peppery, green. You feel the oak’s spices a little bit. Comments: a fine effort, for sure.
SGP:456 - 81 points.

Inchmoan 1992/2017 (48.6%, OB, peated, refill bourbon)

Inchmoan 1992/2017 (48.6%, OB, peated, refill bourbon) Five stars
This one too stems from the Island Collection. My compadre Angus already tried it and thought it was brilliant (WF 90). Colour: straw. Rather paler than the 12. Nose: much more freshness in this one, an oak that’s better integrated, touches of citrons and bananas, then the most complex kind of cough medicine, with some camphor, eucalyptus, pinesap, bitter almonds, propolis, essential oils, fir buds… That’s really lovely. Mouth: Angus was right, this is excellent indeed. It’s got this resinous side that you won’t quite find in any other famous peater, even if that may well come from the wood. Pullmoll, chartreuse, even absinth… Yes indeed, more and more absinth. Did they source this baby from the Val de Travers? There’s also a perfect lemon, and grapefruits to boot. Finish: long, a tad closer to classic ‘peat’, with even a coastal saltiness playing with your lips. Thai herbs in the aftertaste. Comments: I cannot not agree with Angus this time.
SGP:365 - 90 points.

So, a few Croftengea…

Croftengea 2006/2017 ‘Trawlerman’s Satchel’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 387 bottles)

Croftengea 2006/2017 ‘Trawlerman’s Satchel’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 387 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: this is much more new-make-y, and to tell you the truth, it reminds me both of Ardbeg’s ‘Very Young’ and of the first un-fiddled-with Octomores. Rubber boots, tyres, coal smoke, gravel, then jasmine and lilies, lapsang souchong, and some very mineral Alsatian riesling. We shan’t complain at this point. Mouth: definitely peatier than the Inchmoans. Some raw rubbery and grassy smoke, some fresh wholegrain bread, cigar ashes (another one that you could call ashtray-y), and a rather perfect lemony barleyness that really lifts it. Finish: long, ashy and earthy, with some pepper and lime. Bone dry. Comments: it’s pretty dry and extreme, and I actually believe they went ‘beyond Ardbeg’ as far as felt ppms are concerned. No prisoners!
SGP:368 – 83 points.

Croftengea 10 yo 2006/2016 (46%, Cooper’s Choice, bourbon, cask #498, 370 bottles)

Croftengea 10 yo 2006/2016 (46%, Cooper’s Choice, bourbon, cask #498, 370 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: pale gold. Nose: very similar, with just more fruity sweetness from a more active cask. Hints of mangos, bananas, vanilla… Other than that, raw malted barley, rubber boots, and various smoked things are running the show. It’s also perhaps a little farmier – and that’s not only the rubber boots. Mud, farmyard… Mouth: oh very good! I don’t know why, I cannot not think of the Corryvreckan. Also melissa, menthol, limejuice, then the expected big ashes… Another one that gets ashtray-y. Finish: long, very ashy. White pepper and, indeed, ashes. Comments: what these don’t quite have, and that, for example, Ledaig has, is a clear coastal side. Other than that, it’s an extremely fine very smoky distillate.
SGP:457 - 84 points.

Croftengea 10 yo 2006/2016 (50.3%, Jack Wiebers 20th Anniversary, Old Train Line, cask #0207, 344 bottles)

Croftengea 10 yo 2006/2016 (50.3%, Jack Wiebers 20th Anniversary, Old Train Line, cask #0207, 344 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: same whisky as the Wemyss, just at a higher strength. Really, same, with all the rubber boots. With water: even more rubber boots, all brand new. Mouth (neat): sharpish, ashy, rubbery (no flaw in this context), with a feeling of eating lemon peel. With water: indeed, this is exactly the Wemyss. I’m just asking, could you smoke fresh baguette using Cuban cigars? I know some good folks use cigars to smoke salmon, but those good folks are completely crazy if you ask me. Finish: long, extremely ashy. Comments: I think we’ve already emptied quite a few ashtrays today…
SGP:367 – 83 points.

Croftengea 2007/2018 (56.9%, Archives, refill hogshead, cask #195, 312 bottles)

Croftengea 2007/2018 (56.9%, Archives, refill hogshead, cask #195, 312 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: well well well, ashes and rubber are fine, but this time what I’m getting is rather sulphur, flints, and used matches, plus brine. Maybe water will help… With water: sheep and old rusty cars. Mouth (neat): better, but still rather unusual. Burnt fruits, artisanal aguardiente, raw kirsch, burnt tyres, porridge… This one’s really bizarre! With water: yeah, this is waaaay better! A cleaner smoke, grapefruits, ashes, green pepper, lemon… Phew… Finish: long and nicely smoky and barley-y when carefully reduced. Dough, lemon, olives. Comments: water is obligatory here. They should bundle this very extreme whisky with a bottle of Vittel – or gun oil.
SGP:367 - 78 points.

Croftengea 2008/2018 (54.8%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, refill hogshead, cask #271, 289 bottles)

Croftengea 2008/2018 (54.8%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, refill hogshead, cask #271, 289 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: this is Vienna after Medellin. See what I mean? A softer smoke, some softer skins and herbs (asparagus, almond), apple peelings, green cigars, humus and garden peat, Barbour grease… This is civilisation. With water: some delicate metallic touches (copper kettle), raw cider, sourdough… Mouth (neat): excellent, we’re actually quite close to the wonderful Inchmoan 1992. Zesty and well-carved peatiness, perfect yeast and even hops, soft ginger, coffee beans (I’m having a great e these days, they grow great coffee)… With water: gets a tad austere and a bit closed, careful with water. Still very good, though… Finish: rather long, with a wee tropical side, around passion fruit. Salted maracuja (would anyone be mad enough to try that?) Green olives in the aftertaste. Comments: let’s call this baby an ‘almost-90’. So why not 90, you may wonder? Because of the way it takes water on the palate. Drop water, as they say!
SGP:467 - 89 points.

Good, perhaps a last one for the road, and let’s make it lighter and unpeated. We’ve got some Loch Lomond grains as well, but frankly, better pass… So, perhaps an Inchmurrin?...

Inchmurrin 2003/2017 (54.6%, OB for Whisky Nerds, sherry, cask #17/171-1)

Inchmurrin 2003/2017 (54.6%, OB for Whisky Nerds, sherry, cask #17/171-1) Four stars
So, Inchmurrin should be unpeated, capice? Colour: deep gold. Nose: ooh ooh oooh, this is some old Demerara rum. Bits of iron, molasses, camphor, black olives, ultra-ripe bananas, raw vanilla, pencil shavings (cedar), liquorice… Is this really malt whisky? With water: a box of Cuban cigars and a box of Swiss chocolates. Mouth (neat): a great concoction. Not too sure how you could categorise this though, it’s neither whisky, nor rum, nor armagnac, nor bourbon, nor tequila… Well, I guess it’s technically whisky, and it’s actually ‘a little closer to bourbon’. Or American rye. Amusing, very amusing… With water: don’t. Not sure that’s a pattern, but many good whiskies by Loch Lomond don’t seem to like water. How bizarre… Finish: medium, chocolate-y? Cappuccino and hazelnut liqueur. Excuse me? Nutella? What’s Nutella? Comments: fun whisky for funny whisky geeks. Aren’t we all?
SGP:461 - 85 points.

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

 

May 20, 2018


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
Random Brandies
Brandoms? Randies? This session makes little sense I’m afraid. I have a small stash of assorted Brandies and, rather than waiting ages to accumulate suitable sparring partners, I think it would be more fun to just try them all together. So, without further ado...

 

Let’s visit Germany for wee aperitif...  

 

Jacobi 1972 20 yo (40%, OB, German Brandy) Jacobi 1972 20 yo (40%, OB, German Brandy)
A brandy distillery founded in 1880 in Weinstadt by one Jacob Jacobi. Never tried their stuff before...  Colour: Amber. Nose: Nice! A straightforward but very clean and pleasing combination of baked apples, sultanas, brown bread and various toasted seeds. A few notes such as baked raisins, cocoa powder and a little shredded wheat dusted with brown sugar. Rather like a decent XO Cognac if you ask me, one not too adulterated with boisé - or at least that’s the impression I get on the nose. With time it goes towards herbs and fruit jams. Mouth: much sweeter than the nose suggests. Lots of candied fruits, orange syrup, some mulling spices, strawberry jam, orange oils and mandarin liqueur. A few cloves, some more baked apple notes and hints of dense spice cake. Some caraway as well. Finish: Medium, all on soft spices, freshly baked breads and sultanas. Comments: Very nice and quaffable. Maybe a tad sweet on the palate for me - perhaps some sort of sugary substance was involved after all?
SGP: 430 - 81 points.
 

 

And now to that most traditional of Brandy producing countries... England!  

 

You may or may not know, but at Burrow Hill Farm in Somerset where the Temperley family produce some the finest ciders in the world, they also distill some excellent Cider brandies in their two copper column stills from France: Josephine and Fifi. Unlike sibling spirit Calvados, which often contains a significant quantity of pears, Somerset Cider Brandy is made using 100% cider apples. They’ve even gone to the extent of battling for, and securing, a protected geographical indication from those despicable bureaucrats in Brussels. If you can manage it, I’d recommend a wee trip to Burrow Hill Farm in Somerset where you can hear owner Julian Temperley tell you everything from his views on Brexit (short version: he’s against!) to the compelling finer points of the terroir of apples. Anyway, let’s try some...  

 

Somerset Cider Brandy 5 yo (42%, OB)

Somerset Cider Brandy 5 yo (42%, OB)
All of the Temperley’s brandies - barring one or two experiments - are matured in ex-sherry casks. Colour: White wine. Nose: Apples! Although it’s a real variety of apples that you get. A dense apple crumble with a buttery aspect but also green apple peelings, a tart cidery quality and some sweeter, red apple notes as well. There’s also an almost gloopy custard note (although that may be my brain ‘filling in’ for me), along with gooseberry jelly, a hint of soda bread and a slight - yet appropriate - farmy quality. Mouth: it has good density in the mouth with a slightly bitter arrival that is suggestive of crushed apple pips. Some white pepper, nettles and even a few cereals as well. The breadiness is louder here and rather wonderfully savoury - like a good buttery pastry. The apple side is very much towards that tart, cider apple quality. Finish: Medium with notes of golden syrup, brown bread and more appleyness. Even a sense of rhubarb and custard sweets. Comments: If you like characterful eau de vies that carry a distinct sense of their component fruit then this is for you. Charismatic distillate!
SGP: 530 - 84 points.

 

 

Somerset Cider Brandy 10 yo (42%, OB)

Somerset Cider Brandy 10 yo (42%, OB)
The only difference in the ages is age. No re-racking, no dosing with sugar, no tricksy colouring agents. Colour: Gold. Nose: The extra five years is pretty apparent. The same apple richness is there, only here it is more concentrated and silky on the nose. Around it there’s lots of nectar, pollen and syrupy notes. Golden syrup, some shortbread, notes of mirabelle eau de vie and even a needling hint of hessian. There’s also still a big, generous splodge of apple pie in the middle of it all. Mouth: toast with plenty of butter and honey. Apple sauce, grated pepper, nutmeg and some young VS Cognac. Feels younger in the mouth than on the nose this one. An earthiness also makes its presence felt along with some slightly sappy and spicy wood. With time a little herbaceous touch and some apple resin (I’m sure such a thing doesn’t exist, but it’s an impression). Finish: Good length, spicy, earthy, lots of apple peelings and a hint of honeyed porridge. Comments: Similar ballpark of quality but we’ve moving incrementally upwards. The overall character is more concentrated although the complexity remains about the same, which is interesting.
SGP: 540 - 85 points.

 

 

Somerset Cider Brandy 15 yo (42%, OB)

Somerset Cider Brandy 15 yo (42%, OB)
Colour: Light amber. Nose: Ah, the difference here is much greater than between 5 and 10.  This one starts to possess a curious mix of aged Calvados and older Armagnac aspects with these dense earthy and stewed apple notes. Rich aromas of caramelising brown sugar, dates, damson compote, old madeira, dried cranberries and runny honey. Many pastries, a touch of butter, some very old mead and wild flowers. Mouth: a beautiful combination of yellow flowers, mead, cloves, olive oil, sultanas, black pepper and a hint of white balsamic. The apples are starting to coalesce and become more singular and integrated. In the same way that many spirits can converge as they age, so this one starts to display more classical brandy and rum qualities. Lots of earthiness, some estery fruits and savoury bready qualities. Finish: Long, elegant and full of stewed sultanas, fig jam, some pomegranate syrup and apple sauce. Comments: Really quite beautiful and characterful distillate. We’re flying quite high now.
SGP: 550 - 88 points.

 

 

Somerset Cider Brandy 20 yo (42%, OB)

Somerset Cider Brandy 20 yo (42%, OB)
Colour: Amber. Nose: Again it strides in a new direction. This one is farmier than the 15, more leathery, sooty and full of concentrated dark fruits such as dates, figs and sultanas. Some black cherries, fermenting cider, charcoal, wet earth, hessian, graphite and walnut oil. With time some marzipan, sheep wool and muesli. There’s also this wonderful mix of honeys, brown breads and toffee apples. Mouth: despite the age there is still a balancing savoury bite to it. Notes of umami paste, black pepper, biltong, game and aged pinot noir. This is the benefit of natural aged distillate un-bothered by sugary nonsense. A sense of boot polish, coal dust and apple sweets balanced by these light tannins from the wood. Finish: Long, perfectly drying and throwing up all these earthy, honeyed, bready and apple qualities. Comments: Really terrific. I had been unsure when I originally tried these whether I preferred the 15 or the 20 but, side by side, the 20 wins hands down. Worth seeking out and a genuine malternative I’d say.
SGP: 561 - 90 points.

 

 

Phew! Let’s take a trip to that obscure new brandy producing country they call France...  

 

Marie Duffau 1942 (40%, OB, Armagnac, -/+ 1990s)

Marie Duffau 1942 (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/- 1990s)
Marie Duffaux is a small family producer based in Lannepax with 42 hectares of vineyards. Colour: Deep amber. Nose: A beautiful concoction of polished hardwoods and tropical fruit syrups. Some mushroom powder, damp cellars, tea tree oil and many dark, concentrated fruits. Maybe a tad simplistic and straightforward, but it’s beautiful and perfectly precise old Armagnac.

 

 

Mouth: a rather excellent balance between gamey, meaty notes, earthiness and darker fruits. Lots of fig jam, seville orange marmalade, a cheeky wee kumquat and some black pepper and a shaving of truffle. Again, delicious but a tad simplistic. Gets breadier and earther with time. Finish: Medium with a nice mix of dried tropical fruits and dark fruit jams. Becoming similarly earthy and savoury with time. Comments: Beautiful, just perhaps a tad too simple to break the 90 barrier. Another few degrees of alcohol - if it had been possible - would certainly have propelled it further.
SGP: 540 - 89 points.
 

 

Armagnac Delord 1937/2007 70 yo (40%, OB)

Delord 70 yo 1937/2007 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac )
Colour: Deep amber. Nose: More reserved than the Duffau, at first this is all soft brown breads, toasted seeds, little touches of rosewater, dried herbs, lavender oils, precious hardwoods, tool boxes, walnut wine and old chalk. Much more complex. Goes on with increasing fruitiness that manifests as dried apricots, sultana, prune essence and even some dried mango. Hints of sunflower oil, malt loaf and wet earth. Also a touch of strawberry wine and the tiniest scraping of lemon rind. Quite beautiful.

 

 

Mouth: A very spicy and peppery attack with more than a little tannin in the mix as well. The wood is certainly louder here than on the nose but it’s held together well by dried prunes, lots of figs, some black cherries, some ancient herbal liqueur and various toasted and crushed nuts. Especially walnuts as is so often the case with long-aged spirits. A slightly mustardy note arises with time as well, and you can add to that a single bay leaf, some darjeeling tea and a bit of crystalised lemon peel. Finish: Good length, rather drying, on earth, black tea, dried mushrooms, coal dust and some raisiny dark fruits. Comments: It’s a common observation but I feel 40% is really just devastating to these dignified old glories. That said, this is an undeniably beautiful old Armagnac. It says a lot that you can just write such casual notes about a 70 year old Armagnac, while if this was a whisky - well, you can only imagine the pontificating gibberish I’d have spouted by now... I was undecided between 89/90 but, on balance, I think the latter...
SGP: 540 - 90 points.
 

 

And one Cognac for the road. Although, not just any Cognac...  

 

Vallein Tercinier Très vieux fins bois 1938/1941 (47%, OB, 2016) Vallein Tercinier Très vieux fins bois 1938/1941 (47%, OB, 2016)
Serge already wrote some notes for this one but I’m not about to let that stop me... Colour: Light amber. Nose: A soft nose to begin but beneath lies a deep and myriad mix of crystallised citrus fruits, rancio, coconut and many green and tropical fruits. Some dried herbs such as sage, rosemary and bay leaf, then many breads, pastries, sandalwood, fragrant candles and incense. Gets increasingly farmyardy in an elegant way with some notes of bailed hay, hessian and olive oil. Really quite beautiful. Mouth: What a difference the strength makes! Orange peel, tropical mix, desiccated cocoanut, dried mint, lime skins, peaches, nectarine, dried apricot, many soft spices, white pepper and dry earth. Superb power, punch and poise. Not to mention freshness! More sunflower and olive oil, nutmeg, toasted cereals, aged muscat, lemon jelly and a drop of aged ointment. Finish: Wonderfully long, resinous, nervously fruity, spicy and complex. Comments: It’s increasingly said that Vallein Tercinier are really slaying the competition in Cognac these days, I’ve tried a number of their bottlings now and I struggle to find reason to disagree. Serge gave this one 89 but, as happens on occasion, he is wrong...
SGP: 551 - 91 points.
 

 

Thanks to Stefan, Enrico, Dirk, Hans, Matilda and Serge (who is doing a sterling job providing samples for his own blog!)  

 

 

May 19, 2018


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Angus  
Daftmill... too soon?
Don’t you just hate these distilleries that rush their whiskies out as soon as they hit 3 years of age? Well, me too. Thankfully Daftmill is obviously not one of them. Since Francis Cuthbert’s wee Fife distillery began production back in winter 2005, not a single drop has been commercially released.

 

Something that is commendable in my book, although understandable given that Francis has managed to do everything without investors or interference or external pressure. An envious and rather unique position amongst contemporary Scottish distillers. He has recently stuck a distribution deal with Berry Brothers and the following, premier Daftmill bottling is the result. Let’s try it without further ado...  

 

Daftmill 2005/2018 (55.8%, OB, Inaugural Release, bourbon barrels, casks 2, 3 & 7, 629 bottles) Daftmill 2005/2018 (55.8%, OB, Inaugural Release, bourbon barrels, casks 2, 3 & 7, 629 bottles)
Colour: Light Gold. Nose: Clean and fruity malt whisky. Full of lemon barley water, many cereals, freshly churned butter, a hint of something more surgical like lanolin, then fresh gooseberries and white bread. Continues with toasted sunflower seeds, rapeseed oil, trodden clover and some chopped parsley. It’s superbly fresh and pleasingly elegant. With water: some kind of mirabelle and barley eau de vie. Further lemony aspects and some starchy notes of porridge infused with runny honey.
 

 

Mouth: punchy! White stone fruits, lemon rind, raw barley, mint jelly, crushed ivy and white pepper. Goes on with notes of white jelly beans, pineapple cubes and various blossoms and nectars. Quite beautiful and in possession of a subtlety that you feel a Lowland whisky should possess - if you’re going with the flow of tradition that is. With water: a tad more spicy, more fruity (on white and orchard fruits) and floral. There’s also a more prevalent sappy element as well - green wood and green pepper and grass. I feel that it really works perfectly with a drop of water actually. Lemon jelly, bay leaf, fresh thyme and pear drops.

Daftmill back label
Rear label, pithy sentiment

 

 

Finish: Good length. Various seeds, some bitter lemon, quinine, baking soda, sunflower oil and the slightest earthiness. Comments: It’s tough to separate tasting this from the knowledge that, amongst all the many, varied and often uninspiring distilling projects that have arisen in Scotland over the past decade, this is the one distillery that has sat quietly turning out whisky and biding its time before releasing its distillate commercially. This is undeniably excellent, well made and extremely quaffable whisky; a style that is close to the raw ingredients and feels in synch with its place of origin. It’s not utterly stellar, but for a first year of production at a brand new distillery it is remarkable and suggests that this is a whisky to pay very close attention to in years to come.
SGP: 541 - 89 points.
 

 

Now, as you know, on Whiskyfun we don’t score cask samples, but for sake of comparison/illumination, I feel it would be worthwhile recording some notes for a couple of cask samples to place the new official bottling in some kind of olfactory context.  

 

Daftmill 2008/2018 (cask sample, bourbon barrel, cask #49)

Daftmill 2008/2018 (cask sample, bourbon barrel, cask #49)
Colour: White wine. Nose: quite different! This is really much more buttery and herbal. There is a sense of a more textural distillate at play. Lemon meringue, icing sugar, clove rock, sherbet; really a mix of childhood confectionary. Goes on with notes of spun sugar, brioche, sultanas, honey on toast and a few green ferns. With water: leafy, lightly earthy and even a slightly waxy edge. With time a gravely minerality and a few wildflowers. Mouth: Again this is big, emphatic distillate. This one is ever fatter, oilier, more textural and complex. Notes of molten marshmallow, natural vanilla, coconut shavings and soft wood spices. Something like pine resin and lychee sorbet after a while. With water: a clutch of exotic spices and lemon rind. Minty yoghurt, camphor and again some various wood resins and waxes. A little natural vanilla towards the end. Finish: Long, sweet, fruity in the sense of apples, pears and gooseberries. A lick of olive oil in the aftertaste. Comments: For me this is an improvement on the 05, I think Daftmill will only become more interesting in the coming years.
SGP: 531 - No score.

 

 

Daftmill 2006/2018 (cask sample, sherry butt, cask #39)
Daftmill 2006/2018 (cask sample, sherry butt, cask #39)
Colour: Amber. Nose: treacle sponge, toffee apples, mint choc chip ice cream and hessian.  A remarkably clean and juicy sherry cask. Sods of earth, motor oil, wood polish, black pepper and heather honey. A few whiffs of pipe tobacco. Lovely! With water: a little more leathery and chocolatey now. Some cherry cola as well. Mouth: lots of morello cherries, pine resin, raspberry jam and soot. Big, emphatic, lots of chocolate, mint tea, various oils and hessian. Again this is big, clean, punchy and delicious. With water: a more silky texture with walnuts, mineral oil, guava and green banana. Surprisingly fruity with water. Finish: Long, earthy, pleasingly balanced between sweet and savoury elements. Notes of strawberry wine, walnut oil and some herbal cocktail bitters. Comments: Hard to determine how much of this is cask versus distillate. What’s for certain is that both are of excellent and highly clean quality. Again, will be interesting to see how this one shows once it’s bottled.
SGP: 552 - No score.
 

 

In conclusion: Daftmill is very good and I’d recommend you endeavour to taste it and follow its progress.  

 

 

May 18, 2018


Whiskyfun

Blair Athol today

Sometimes you need a little lightness, not only heavy peaters, sherry monsters, and assorted heavily coastal or phenolic drams. The Midlander Blair Athol’s usually a good candidate…

Blair Athol 2008/2017 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

Blair Athol 2008/2017 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Three stars
Young age, good price, good hopes. Colour: gold. Nose: really classic, delicately nutty and malty, with overripe apples and various cakes, plus whiffs of autumn leaves. You could pour a few drops of this into any cappuccino… Or to make a Scottish coffee? Mouth: malty, rather solid, starting with roasted nuts and a little praline, getting then rather leafy, with also a little burnt caramel. Gets then a little peppery and slightly bitter (beer), but I’m also finding more butterscotch. Finish: medium, with a wee sulphury side, otherwise more roasted nuts and quite a lot of malted barley. Golden Grahams. Comments: extremely fair and loyal. Good for showing your new friends what good natural malt whisky is.
SGP:451 - 81 points.

Blair Athol 15 yo 2002/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12106, 357 bottles)

Blair Athol 15 yo 2002/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12106, 357 bottles) Three stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s much more grassy and leafy, there’s some fresh concrete, whiffs of new plastic pouches, new sneakers, and only then some gentler toasted and barley-y notes, plus wee hints of fruit candies. 7up, then porridge and muesli. A little bizarre, so far… Mouth: ah, much better than expected, with quite a lot of butterscotch, orange drops, notes of cooked asparagus and maybe even salsify, sweet potato, café latte, carrot cake… A little cinchona too… An unusual style that rather works. Finish: medium and rather more peppery. Seville oranges plus pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: a tad challenging at times, but really interesting – and I’m not being PC.
SGP:461 - 81 points.

Blair Athol 15 yo 2001/2016 (54.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, sherry hogshead, 300 bottles)

Blair Athol 15 yo 2001/2016 (54.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, sherry hogshead, 300 bottles) Four stars and a half
It seems that a lot of bottles found their way to Taiwan. Colour: gold. Nose: I know it’s sherry but it starts as a bourbon, with fine touches of varnish, some vanilla, and traces of grated coconut. Seriously, this is almost bourbon, I am not dreaming… Some butterscotch too, wee whiffs of violet candies, and I’d even dare claiming that I’m finding notes of rye. With water: pecan pie and maple syrup! Mouth: seriously, bourbon, bourbon, bourbon! Then notes of ham, custard, fudge sundae, caramel macchiato… Some very good bourbon, at that… With water: excellent. Praline, vanilla fudge, and even more butterscotch. Finish: rather long, with some shortbread, brioche, and custard. Hints of violet candies in the aftertaste. Comments: what is this magic? Can we have a picture of the hoggie’s head? (no, please don’t, I’m joking)…
SGP:551 - 88 points.

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

 

May 17, 2018


Whiskyfun

A little more Kavalan

Kavalan’s success within the chatting whisky circles is just amazing. Remember when we were still thinking that anything not Scottish was akin to those Vietnamese snake whiskies that tourists bring back? (and/or post on social media?) We’ve already tried a lot of Kavalan, but we’ve got a little more… And first, the regular, entry-level expression.

Kavalan (40%, OB, Taiwan, +/-2017)

Kavalan (40%, OB, Taiwan, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
This is the classic, NAS Kavalan, so probably not one of the many bombs that they issue as single casks (stating the obvious here, S.) I tried a few earlier vattings and last time it seemed to me that they had improved the recipe (WF 78, 2015). Colour: gold. Nose: it got more tropical for sure, with more mangos and papayas upfront, and only then vanilla and little touches of soot and motor oil. Very pleasant nose, it did improve for sure. Mouth: less tropical, more malty and cerealy, with some custard, apple compote, touches of soft wood (sandal?) and hints of rye and shortbread. It’s fine, and not too light at all. Finish: a bit short, with a little burnt sugar, toasted bread, dough… Comments: we’re approaching the 80-mark here, we’re very very close actually.
SGP:541 - 79 points.

Kavalan 2008/2017 ‘Solist’ (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, for KavaFAN and HNWS, bourbon cask, cask #B080828075, 142 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2017 ‘Solist’ (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, for KavaFAN and HNWS, bourbon cask, cask #B080828075, 142 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: you simply cannot be against this. The best of vanillas, a touch of melon and a touch of ripe peach, then more and more quince (which I worship), and funny touches of strawberry sweets. Mr Haribo’s not too far. With water: the kind of coconutty and vanilla-ed sawdust that you only find in the best bourbons. A touch of guava. Mouth (neat): creamy as jam, yet assertive, very bonbony but never in a ‘childish’ way, with many kinds of apples, peaches, and indeed melons. And so the sweets and candies made thereof. With water: doesn’t change much – change wasn’t needed anyway. Finish: medium, with a little grass. Grass sweets, I think I’ve seen that somewhere… Comments: not all bourbon solists have been perfect in my book, but this one is, almost.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Kavalan 2010/2017 ‘Solist’ (55.6%, OB, Taiwan, for Jing Yuan, bourbon cask, cask #B100811028A, 170 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2017 ‘Solist’ (59.4%, OB, Taiwan, for Jing Yuan, bourbon cask, cask #B100811028A, 170 bottles) Four stars
Picture of a similar bottle (I hope). Colour: deep gold. Nose: very similar, just a tad rougher, and that may just be the younger age. Rather more apples, I would say, as well as grapefruits. All the rest is similar, which is rather good news. With water: perhaps more rhubarbs and kiwis? Cranberries? Mouth (neat): once again a very similar style, with rather more grittier apples on top of all the candies. The cask seems to have been a little more active, or perhaps differently charred. With water: indeed, a little creamier. There’s a little honey and maple syrup too. Finish: medium, with some Demerara sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: well, another one that’s super good.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

I suppose a sherry cask would be in order as the last one today.

Kavalan 2010/2017 ‘Solist’ (56.3%, OB, Taiwan, for 3rd., sherry cask, cask #S100303016A, 502 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2017 ‘Solist’ (56.3%, OB, Taiwan, for 3rd., sherry cask, cask #S100303016A, 502 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: office coffee. Nose: I would say a blend of old style Macallan with Glendronach, and that should tell you about the amount of sherry there’s inside this. Bags of walnuts, tobacco, crushed flints, miso soup and soy sauce, drops of pine tar liqueur, and a growing balsamic side. Black raisins as well. Fairly unquestionable. With water: fresh pipe tobacco galore! Plus Christmas cake (got to use that descriptor from time to time). Mouth (neat): really very good, in my opinion. It’s sweeter this time, very molassy, and yet never sickly sweet, full of Armagnac, prunes, oloroso, walnut liqueur, and maple syrup. Really very good, I think. With water: a tad leafier. Add stewed apples. Finish: rather long, always sherry-dominated, elegantly so. Comments: an impressive sherry monster – monstrous and rather sweeter than others yet well balanced.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

(Thank you Larry)

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

 

May 16, 2018


Whiskyfun

Two distillate-driven Springers

Remember, not a month without Springbank is one of WF’s mottos. Even only two wee Campbeltowners can do, mind you…

Springbank 14 yo 2002/2017 (55.8%, OB, fresh and refill bourbon, 9000 bottles)

Springbank 14 yo 2002/2017 (55.8%, OB, fresh and refill bourbon, 9000 bottles) Four stars
This one came out last year in autumn. Colour: straw. Nose: well, it starts extremely mineral (mineralic as Angus would say), very austere, ridden with notes of flints, guns that were just used, aspirin tablets, then bandages, burning grass and herbs, burnt artichokes… I wouldn’t call it sexy so far, but let’s see what happens once water’s been added… With water: new wellies, new tyres, rock dust, gravel, you see… Mouth (neat): huge lemony, aspiriny, cinchona-y arrival, you’d even believe you’re having bitters… neat. You’re also chomping on cactus leaves and burnt broccoli. I know. With water: gentler and fruitier, but all on sharp citrus, grapefruit, lime, bitter oranges… Finish: very long, with some green pepper this time, and peat smoke. A feeling of having just eaten orange peel in the aftertaste. Comments: one of the austerely bitter recent Springbanks I’ve been given to try. I had expected a little more sweetness, but that’s me.
SGP:373 - 87 points.

Springbank 24 yo 1993/2017 (53.3%, Hunter Laing First Editions, Author’s Series, refill hogshead, cask # HL14288, 216 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1993/2017 (53.3%, Hunter Laing First Editions, Author’s Series, refill hogshead, cask # HL14288, 216 bottles) Five stars
Thomas Hardy’s on the bottle. That’s not the guy from Cognac Hardy mind you… 2016’s 1996 in the same series had been terrific (WF 91). Colour: gold. Nose: it’s amazing that we would be so close to the younger OB, but this one has a little more roundness, around quince jelly and lemon tarte (with meringue, naturally). A little more mud and dry cow dung as well, which goes extremely well with this style. Fantastic. With water: mud and soot, liquid latex, carbolinium… Mouth (neat): perfect mineral/medicinal arrival, with the expected dirty farmy notes coming later on, as well as the coastal lemons and this hints of genepy and other small mentholy herbs. Huge distillate from vintages that, in my humble opinion, weren’t the distillery’s best ever. With water: lemons and other citrus up, plus peppermint and funny touches of mouthwash, Listerine… Finish: long, a tad grassier and sweeter at the same time. A lot of hops in the aftertaste – really! Comments: as always, more a ride than a relaxed stroll through the park. I think the 1996 was a little brighter.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

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

 

May 15, 2018


Whiskyfun

Highland Park crazy

Another name that we’re visiting pretty often. There’s some new G&M with this lovely ultra-classic new livery…

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (60%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Cask Strength, first fill sherry, cask #3812, 655 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (60%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Cask Strength, first fill sherry, cask #3812, 655 bottles) Four stars
They’re now adding whiskies such as this HP CS to their CC series. Colour: gold. Not dark sherry. BTW we’ve learnt while at the bodegas (where they season sherry casks for the whisky industry) that G&M are always asking for ‘bungs on the side’ and not ‘on the top’, like some have in their gigantic palletised warehouses. Nose: I have the feeling that recent HPs are geared towards Springbank – not saying they’re doing that willingly – and this is a good example, with many a medicinal concoction, some clay, mud, crushed chalk, grasses, ointments… Now it’s certainly a little fruitier as well. Nice honeyed touches, and a moderate sherry. Fino type? With water: gets wonderfully mineral. Wet plaster, limestone after a rain, sourdough… Mouth (neat): sharp and really unusual. Chewing on your cigar, eating burnt raisins, quaffing old style orange liqueurs, drinking mead… With water: the honeyed side gets bigger. Some kind of lemon and honey pie, with raisins on the top. Panettone, perhaps. Finish: long, with a little pepper, and always this chalky side. Comments: I think this is extremely good. Big bold young HP, well in the magic coastal triangle (Springbank, Clynelish, Highland Park).
SGP:462 - 87 points.

Highland Park 18 yo 1999/2018 (55.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Cask Strength, first fill bourbon, cask #4262, 210 bottles)

Highland Park 18 yo 1999/2018 (55.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Cask Strength, first fill bourbon, cask #4265, 210 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one was distilled on a Monday, but does that matter? Some say runs are longer on Mondays and shorter on Fridays, but I’m sure that’s a myth. Colour: straw. Nose: now! Bandages, chalk, diesel oil, then quinces and tangerines, as well as Jaffa cakes and finger biscuits (dipped in Champagne - no). With water: more chalk, grass, fresh almond paste, kelp, vanilla… Mouth (neat): perfect, just perfect. Resinous, chalky, grassy, honeyed. Green bananas, ginger, turmeric… You’d really believe this was made in Campbeltown. With water: swims like a champ (who’s up these days? Oh let’s keep Mark Spitz as our reference swimmer, if you don’t mind). Finish: long, rather bright, with some orange blossom honey and a spoonful of eucalyptus-led cough syrup. Comments: brilliant distillate from a respectful barrel. Perfect combo.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

Highland Park 18 yo 1999/2018 (56%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Cask Strength, first fill bourbon, cask #4262, 202 bottles)

Highland Park 18 yo 1999/2018 (56%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Cask Strength, first fill bourbon, cask #4262, 202 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’re very close, obviously, but this one seems to be a tad rounder and more floral at first, then a little more medicinal and pine-y. Pine needles near a beach, toothpaste, chlorophyll... With water: it’s funny how it makes the other one fatter, while it wasn’t fat whisky at all. Whiffs of green chartreuse. Mouth (neat): same comments, this is a pine-ier cask, tenser, zestier, more angular… I’m not sure I don’t like this one even better, to tell you the truth. With water: amazing herbal development. Wormwood, aniseed, peppermint, liquorice, dill, poppy seeds… Finish: a tad bitter but I like that. Stuff some add to cocktails, quinine, mint leaves, oyster leaf… Some salty lime in the aftertaste. Comments: I know I said the previous one was brilliant, but this is even more brilliant.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

87 88 89, wasn’t that just perfect? But let’s move on…

Inganess Bay 18 yo 2000/2018 (52.7%, Maltbarn for Limburg, bourbon, 180 bottles)

Inganess Bay 18 yo 2000/2018 (52.7%, Maltbarn for Limburg, bourbon, 180 bottles) Four stars
Inganess Bay, that’s near Kirkwall. So… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a gentler HP, more rounded, floral, with some acacia honey (rather that very aromatic ones, heather…) custard, mirabelles, perhaps Turkish delights, white chocolate… Now don’t get me wrong, this is not Glenfiddich. With water: a wee rubbery touch, perhaps. New bicycle inner tube. Mouth (neat): another rather perfect one, bigger this time, with these typical wee bitterish touches, orange skins, pine liqueur, Bénédictine, candied angelica, a touch of butterscotch… With water: raisins stewed in honey and mint sauce. A tiny touch of rubber again. Finish: long, rather oily. Grape pip oil and orange honey. Comments: excellent, as expected.
SGP:452 - 87 points.

Well, we haven’t found a 90 yet, have we. Let’s try that and … resort to drastic measures…

Highland Park (98°proof, John Scott, pure malt, +/-1950)

Highland Park (98°proof, John Scott, pure malt, +/-1950) Five stars
John Scott, now John Scott & Miller, are grocers and ironmongers in Kirkwall, Orkney, and were often having some brilliant ‘own’ HPs, not to be mistaken for Robertson’s well-known Dragons. We’ve already tried a few of those but no need to say that this is the rarest of them all. When was this distilled? Most certainly way before WWII! Colour: white wine – even better. Nose: it’s the parentage that’s striking, this is almost the very same distillate, with some chalk, clay, menthol, grass, engine oil, pine needles, grape pip oil, carbolinium, chartreuse, plaster, saltpetre, mushrooms… The freshness is extremely impressive – and yes the bottle’s pedigree is impeccable. Mouth: sweet Vishnu! Another game now, this had both more width and more profoundness than contemporary distillates, while the mouth feel is almost thick. A drop of retsina, come crème de menthe, some salty soy sauce, beeswax, a touch of vieille prune (old damson eau-de-vie), a wee bit of tobacco, and then more and more ‘sweeter’ umami. Sweet and sour prune reduction, Korean wine, quite some pepper, it would just develop for hours, this is totally incredible. It’s also getting peatier by the minute, we’re moving towards old Ardbeg. It’s huge spirit! Finish: absolutely endless, you could almost call it Dostoiewskian whisky. Amazing feeling of oiled smoked brine in the aftertaste. Olives on Orkney? Comments: incredible whisky. I suppose someone had selected a ‘best’ cask back then. You could even believe it was concentrated at some point, using a long-forgotten method that did not, mind you, involve neither new oak nor wine. But what?
SGP:464 - 94 points.

Old Highland Malt Whisky – Orkney - 1894/1918 (Morten & Co., New York)

Old Highland Malt Whisky – Orkney - 1894/1918 (Morten & Co., New York) Five stars
An amazing whisky from Orkney, bottled in 1918 by or for long-gone wine and spirit merchants Morten & Co. of 58 Broad St., New York (earlier Beaver St., also 77 Broad St.). That’s in the financial district of Manhattan. Now it doesn’t mention the distillery, so this could be either Scapa, Stromness, or Highland Park indeed, unless either of those was silent in 1894. Will check that when I have time. No one will ever know for sure, but why should we care? It is always extremely moving to taste such old whiskies, especially when you know that they couldn’t be stinky fakes, a situation that does not happen very often, most sadly (when we’re seeing what our good friends in China or even at posh airports along the Gulf are buying these days, we just cry – no we don’t do schadenfreude). Anyway, no ABV on this, as was customary back then.

Colour: gold. Nose: you could think you’re nosing sweeter olive oil, really. As well as a barrel of pipe tobacco and a large ‘monk’s head’ of old Pu-erh tea. After around five minutes, you would think this is liquid beeswax blended with seawater, with just one drop of Woolite. Really, there’s something pleasantly ‘chemical’ to this. And do not get me wrong, this is fantastic. Mouth: get-out-of-here, this is exceptional. You can feel that the spirit’s body did prevent it from getting stale or tired, same thing that happens with acidic old Chenins, if you like. It’s hard to describe, though, I’d say I’m finding grapefruit juice (chenin, I told you), walnut oil, moderately smoky tea, Maggi and miso soup, and perhaps drops of ink and linseed oil. It’s reminiscent of G&M’s Caol Ilas distilled in the 1960s, if you like, with pretty similar body and style. As for the strength, it rather feels like 45% vol., not less. Finish: impressively long, rather pine-y, salty, and very oily. Touches of ginseng in the aftertaste. Comments: immortal whisky! I couldn’t tell you whether this was Highland Park, Scapa or Stromness, but now that I can brag about the three different Stromnesses I could taste, I would say Stromness was even smokier than this, while Scapa was possibly lighter, even in the late 19th century. So, Highland Park indeed?... 
SGP:464 - 91 points.

And now, a HP that was distilled in the late 18th century… I am joking! Have a good day or night…

(Emmanuel and Olivier, merci mille fois!)

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


May 2018 - part 1 <--- May 2018 - part 2 ---> June 2018 - part 1


 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Benriach 42 yo (41%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Director’s Special, for The Whisky Show Old & Rare, 147 bottles, 2018)

CI10 (58.2%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, 2018)

Caol Ila 2006/2017 (59.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, first fill sherry butt, casks 306189, 306191, 306195)

Caol Ila 28 yo 1990/2018 (50.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1118, 191 bottles)

Highland Park (98°proof, John Scott, pure malt, +/-1950)

Inchmoan 1992/2017 (48.6%, OB, peated, refill bourbon)

Old Highland Malt Whisky – Orkney - 1894/1918 (Morten & Co., New York)

Speyside 39 yo 1978/2017 (60.4%, Le Gus’t, blended malt, sherry butt, cask #4, 104 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1993/2017 (53.3%, Hunter Laing First Editions, Author’s Series, refill hogshead, cask # HL14288, 216 bottles)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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