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

       

May 2021 - part 1 <--- May 2021 - part 2 ---> June 2021 - part 1

 

May 31, 2021


Whiskyfun

The vicarious Feis Ile sessions
Today Caol Ila

Celebrating Islay and Feis Ile from Whisky Fun Towers, with carefully selected whiskies from most distilleries, while we're all dreaming of 2022...

Ah, Caol Ila. Folks keep saying that it's the most industrial of all Islay distilleries, but first the location is tremendous, and second, I cannot even remember when I last tried a relatively 'mediocre' Caol Ila. It would even take a little wine from time to time, thanks to a fresher, cleaner, less extreme peaty profile. Let's see what we have…

CI

Caol Ila 12 yo 2008/2020 (50%, Roger's Whisky Co, PX octave finish, cask #318691B)

Caol Ila 12 yo 2008/2020 (50%, Roger's Whisky Co, PX octave finish, cask #318691B) Four stars
A tiny bottling from a tiny cask, oh and PX, let's see if what I just wrote was just codswallop or not. I mean, w.r.t. Caol Ila and wine… Colour: Gold. Nose: no stuffy raisins, no heady cherry tea and no bags of rubber and leaves, this is well Caol Ila, with this impeccable freshness and, as far as PX wood goes, rather notes of menthol and pine resin. Also tangerines and hessian. With water: mandarins, bananas, other tropical fruits… Mouth (neat): you really feel the spicy oak behind the seawater and lemon juice, and that's obviously the octave. Paprika, Thai basil, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, curry, salt, Szechuan pepper… Very modern, but balance has been preserved. With water: extremely well mastered, even if it may be a little too much on the spicy side. Finish: long, spicy and more on butterscotch and nougat. Comments: typical ex-small active cask. In my view they sometimes fail; well, not this time, not at all. But then again, Caol Ila can take almost anything.
SGP:655 - 86 points.

Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (58.8%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts Of Scotland', cask #317838, hogshead, 300 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (58.8%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts Of Scotland', cask #317838, hogshead, 300 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this one's pretty austere and rather all on medicinal notes, iodine, mercurochrome, gauze, bandages, then tons of chalk, limestone, plaster… A touch of olive and gherkin in the background. Not a bad sign… With water: gets even ueber-chalky. Chalk vodka? Would you say there is a market? Mouth (neat): very tight, salty and lemony, with hints of white cherries and almonds. Extremely pure, it seems… With water: boy does it swim well! Superb, pristine, katana-y ashes, lemon, chalk and seawater. This one does not cut you into halves, it cuts you into quarters, Kill-Bill-style. Finish: long and perfect, pure, chiselled and extremely vertical. Pretty mezcaly, in fact. Comments: this kind of stuff is why we're into whisky.
SGP:357 - 90 points.

Good, we've already tried many CIs recently, so perhaps two older ones and we'll call this a session.

Caol Ila 1983/2015 (43%, Samaroli, barrel, cask #1461, 250 bottles)

Caol Ila 1983/2015 (43%, Samaroli, barrel, cask #1461, 250 bottles) Five stars
It is interesting that they would have bottled this one at 43%... unless that's the actual natural cask strength? Nah, they would have said '43.1' or '42.9'… Remember, Silvano Samaroli was not behind these bottlings anymore, as he had sold his company and name. Colour: straw. Nose: wait wait wait… smoked almonds, lanolin, putty and fresh paint, old books, grape-pip oil, olive margarine spread, then delicate small oysters (I've read about Kumamotos but I've never seen – let alone tasted – any of those)…. What's sure is that this is extremely subtle and, I would add, perfect on the nose. Let's only hope the palate isn't too weak. Mouth: I'll say it, I find this sublime. The peat has already spread into several directions, fresh almond/nuts, tropical fruits (pink bananas first) and anything even remotely coastal. From old rubber dinghy to ark shell via oysters and razor clams. No, really, believe me. Astounding palate, while you wouldn't even notice the lightness. It is even a quality, and asset here. Finish: sure it is not very long, but it is glorious, mainly on salted citrus and fresh nuts. Wow. Comments: wow, sublime indeed. To think that I've lived for 6 years without even knowing about this utter glory. Now, 250 bottles, that's not many… And Samaroli's 1968 'Oval Label' still reigns supreme… (WF 96).
SGP:464 - 93 points.

Caol Ila 40 yo (44.9%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship Edition No.2, refill American hogshead, 2019)

Caol Ila 40 yo (44.9%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship Edition No.2, refill American hogshead, 2019) Five stars
Ahhh, the late 1970s… I believe Caol Ila was one of the rare distilleries that used to 'burn' greater malts in those whisky-loch-days, for reasons I could not explain; that's just an empirical observation. Colour: gold. Nose: by all saints, prophets and dancers, what a nose! Have you still got the number of the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade? Sublime lemony brine with that beach bonfire in the distance and a wide range of embrocations, seafood, and fresh nuts. Macadamia, almonds… Then menthol and a touch of anise. Mouth: all herbal teas of the creation, including a few that would be a little 'woody' but that's totally normal. Liquorice wood, sandalwood, soft cinnamon… All the rest is endlessly complex and, in fact, fractal. You know, a flavour generates other flavours, each of them generating other flavours in turn, and so on and on and on. So, as we said, a fractal palate. Finish: medium, soft, rather on high-end tea, with the usual almondy side. And citrus etc. Comments: the Samaroli and this one, what a duet! Miles and Coltrane when you 'blend' both in your glass.
SGP:464 - 93 points.

(Thanks a lot, Michael)

 

Over to Angus in Edinburgh...

 

 

 

Caol Ila 10 yo 2010/2021 (52.9%, Thompson Brothers, 500 bottles)

Caol Ila 10 yo 2010/2021 (52.9%, Thompson Brothers, 500 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: sharp citrus, yeasty notes, active washbacks, sourdough, oysters with lime juice and some more 'outdoors' notes of tarry rope and fishing harbours. With water: rock pools, and swimming pools, all the pools! Also elastoplasts, mouthwash, wood ashes and bonjella mouth gel. Mouth: wonderfully ashy, lemony and coastal. Lots of seawater, some tart grapefruit, mineral salts, lemon peel and wee briny touches with a hint of vinegar. With water: nicely thickened with a richer, deeper smokiness. Kippers, lemon juice, anchovies in olive oil, chives, white and black pepper and some green olives in brine. Finish: long, lemony, smoky, coastal, sharp and pristinely fresh. Comments: yup, excellent quality, pretty faultless modern Caol Ila. Gathers one or two extra points with water in my view.
SGP: 356 - 86 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 10 yo 2010/2021 (58.2%, Watt Whisky, hogshead, 326 bottles)

Caol Ila 10 yo 2010/2021 (58.2%, Watt Whisky, hogshead, 326 bottles)
Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: Mark Watt has some interesting things to say about getting aromas as colours when nosing whisky. It's something I also find myself on occasion and indeed, this one has a distinctly 'green' coastal vibe of capers in brine, wet seaweed, seawater and things like parsley, grass and petrol. With water: cornichons, more brine, preserved lemon and freshly chucked oysters. Mouth: very salty, almost like plunging mouth first into a Margherita with these notes of agave and particularly mezcal. Also lemon juice, wool, pickling brine, more seawater and green olives. With water: a slightly metallic edge to the smokiness, still razor sharp, immensely saline and increasingly mineral. Finish: long, on malt vinegar, mercurochrome and seawater. Comments: hard to argue with the purity and gutsy, saline power of this one.
SGP: 357 - 87 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 15 yo 2005/2021 (57.5%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur's Choice for The Whisky Exchange, cask #301507, refill sherry hogshead, 266 bottles)

Caol Ila 15 yo 2005/2021 (57.5%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur's Choice for The Whisky Exchange, cask #301507, refill sherry hogshead, 266 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: I think peat and refill sherry more often make better bedfellows that peat and first fill sherry. That's the case here where there's a wonderfully leathery smokiness with cured game meats, earthen floor cellar funk and plenty of natural tar extract, tobaccos, pickled walnuts and anchovy paste. A lovely sense of concentration and balance. With water: more of these elegant meaty tones with notes of cured Iberico ham, some more leathery notes, more hessian, tar and black olive bread. Mouth: cured meats, smoked sea salt, brine, old leather and lots of hessian and canvass notes. Some black pepper and paprika too. Lovely balance again and an excellent weighty texture. With water: big, punchy, leathery saltiness now. More of these impressions of smoked sea salt, smoked olive oil, black olive tapenade, tar, bandages and hot paprika. Finish: long, tarry, smoky, leathery and briny; quite a bit of spiciness and meatiness in the aftertaste. Comments: there was something distinctly Spanish about this one, perhaps I just really, really need to go back to Jerez. Excellent as ever.
SGP: 566 - 89 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 1977 (63.8%, Gordon & MacPhail 'CASK', 1980s)

Caol Ila 1977 (63.8%, Gordon & MacPhail 'CASK', 1980s)
How many amazing, often rather enormous, whiskies has this series sheltered over the years? This should be one of the earlier releases, probably bottled around 10 years old. Colour: deep gold. Nose: what I find both charming and extremely cool about these bottlings, is that the initial nose actually appears quite subtle and shy despite the ABV. We're initially all on petrol, wet rocks, sheep wool and wee touches of camphor, brine and aniseed. There's a feeling of fatness and richness that the modern ones lack I think. With water: doubles down on anchovies, capers, seawater, brine and lemon juice. Extremely fresh and coastal but still with a deeper sense of weight to the distillate. Mouth: this impression of petrol and seawater immediately, but with added layers and textures of smoked olive oil, fir wood, pine resin, natural tar and black olive paste. Also many wee notes of tobaccos, seawater, hessian and sandalwood. Extremely clever whisky that hops between power and subtlety with ease. With water: perfect now. Briny smoke, olive oil, sardines, capers, parsley, mineral salts, rope and tar. Huge whisky but brilliantly controlled and inviting. Finish: very long, tarry, every shade of olive, some kippery smoke, hessian and dried seaweed. Comments: I think the key difference with Caol Ila from these 1970s vintages is the distillate was a little broader and 'fatter' in texture. That's really on display here and it works excellently I have to say. Makes the drinking experience a bit easier and hugely pleasurable.
SGP: 477 - 91 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 19 yo 1974/1994 (61.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #12566, 380 bottles)

Caol Ila 19 yo 1974/1994 (61.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #12566, 380 bottles)
These batches are pretty hallowed nowadays. Colour: gold. Nose: seawater, medicines, bandages, lemon juice and peat smoke. All brought together with brilliant precision and purity and with this same sense of 'weight' that was in the 1977, only here it feels even more distinct and powerful. I think power and control are the key words here. With water: green olives, fresh chopped herbs, lemongrass, gauze, pink sea salt, gorse and wet beach pebbles. Gathers a wonderful complexity that keeps evolving. Mouth: hugely dense and smoky on arrival, but not acrid smoke, rather deeper, quilted, soft kiln smoke. Pure, silky peat smoke, black olive, natural tar, hay loft, farmyard notes, many medical embrocations, iodine, kelp and bonfire embers. Becomes increasingly tarry over time, quite immense! With water: stunningly oily now! The texture is just brilliant. The impression of peated olive oil, smoked limoncello (I know when I'm getting carried away because start using tasting notes for things that don't exist), pickled mussels and gherkins, natural tar and fir wood. Also many various wee ointments and these savoury qualities of Maggi, vegetable stock and soy sauce. Keeps evolving in completely compelling ways. Finish: long, extremely deep and broad. Salty, leathery and full of soft, thick peat smoke, brine, wood ashes, olive oil, tar and mineral oil. Comments: this kind of tasting note that could easily have been three times as long. The evolution, depth and complexity is just wonderful. And water seems to work miracles on the palate with this one. They really did get things right straight off the mark in 1974.
SGP: 476 - 93 points. 

 

 

Hugs to Enrico

 

 

 

Tomorrow, Laphroaig Day! Not sure we'll manage to keep that short and sweet. Bowmore as well should be pretty extravagant, and Ardbeg too, but shh…

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

 

May 30, 2021


Whiskyfun

The vicarious Feis Ile sessions
Today Bruichladdich

Celebrating Islay and Feis Ile from Whisky Fun Towers, with carefully selected whiskies from most distilleries, while we're all dreaming of 2022...

Today is Bruichladdich Day. Well, I've just decided that it would rather be Port Charlotte Day, and that we would try to go 'deeper' this time. Not that yesterday's humbler Lagavulin session has been totally traumatising, but there, and anyway there's no room here for both Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte at the same time. And why not Octomore then? Now we'll see what Angus will add…

L

Port Charlotte 2010 'OLC:01' (55.1%, OB, 2020)

Port Charlotte 2010 'OLC:01' (55.1%, OB, 2020) Three stars
The cask-bill is extremely complicated here. 40% 2nd fill American oak, 30% 1stfill American oak, 25% VDN and 5% 2nd fill syrah, then a 18-month finish in oloroso. Holy featherless crow, that's marquetry! We're almost at Prowein or Vinexpo. Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh, the syrah coming out and… I am joking. It's a fine, smoky, peaty, bready malt, perhaps not with a lot tension and responsiveness, but we're fine with this unexpectedly fermentary nose. In short, no straight vinous notes. With water: cow stable and fermenting grass and cherries. Something like that. Mouth (neat): the spirit is strong, so it would stand and hold anything. As a matter of fact it starts pretty well, with nice touches of raspberry wine (perhaps) but then there's this spicy fruitiness (Schweppes and Fanta) that feels a bit out of place. With water: sameish. Finish: pretty long. Bread, raspberry eau-de-vie and ashes. Comments: a very unusual proposition. I would understand this set-up on Bruichladdich, less so on a heavy peater. Take my palette and give me a bottle of the stunning regular PC 10 for it, and we'll be friends forever.
SGP:656 - 82 points.

Port Charlotte 16 yo 2002/2018 (60.5%, Dramfool, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 221 bottles)

Port Charlotte 16 yo 2002/2018 (60.5%, Dramfool, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 221 bottles) Four stars
Ah, bourbon, that's civilisation! Colour: light gold. Nose: but of course. Normal peat, normal bourbon, normal oak, normal medicines, massive quantities of seawater and iodine. With water: white bread, ink, carbon paper. In short, a perfect representation of the French administration (boy I'll be in trouble again). Mouth (neat): great natural peaty bourbonness. Ashes, apples, lemons, vanilla, citronella… But 60.5% are too much for me. With water: good, we tamed it. Citron liqueur (I'm often quoting this, please try to find a bottle of, say Liqueur de Cédrat by Mattei in Corsica, you'd be in for a treat). Some salty doughs. Finish: long and very salty, I'm rather fond of this, you could use it to salt any soup. Comments: great peaty drop, just a tad uncomplicated.
SGP:557 - 87 points.

Pl5 2009/2018 (63.1%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon hogshead and barrel, 582 bottles)

Pl5 2009/2018 (63.1%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon hogshead and barrel, 582 bottles) Four stars
I have a huge back-catalogue of PCs, some pretty old already. Colour: straw. Nose: pure ashes, tarmac, brine, sauvignon blanc, rhubarb juice, fresh almonds and just peat smoke. Crystal-clean and right up my alley. Touch of vanilla and biscuit. With water: similar, just easier, with a little chalk and a little lambswool. Nothing totally unexpected. Mouth (neat): very good, simple, crystalline, lemony and ashy, with a lot of tar too. Seawater. With water: I believe it's the saltiness that would set it apart from the other peaters on the island. That's strange since the barley was not malted on the Islay. Salty bread and ashes. Finish: rather long, rather chalky. A feeling of sucking your brand new woollen sweater. Comments: a little austere and very good. Doing such a session is not easy, just saying. Bruichladdich would have been easier…
SGP:457 - 86 points.

Pl6 2011/2019 (55.3%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon barrels, 1163 bottles)

Pl6 2011/2019 (55.3%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon barrels, 1163 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one too I should have tried earlier. Colour: straw. Nose: feels rather lighter and more herbal, more on camphor and fresh butter, croissants, carrot soup, putty, marzipan… This noses as if it was twenty years older. Quite. With water: marzipan and putty up, linseed oil, fresh oil paint… Quite a Van Gogh of a young whisky! Mouth (neat): very good. Lemon tarte with meringue, stewed rhubarb, tarry teas and liquorice, touch of mustard and green walnuts… That's all very nice. With water: there, kippers, salt and limoncello, plus ashes. Finish: long, a little peppery now. Ashy and tarry aftertaste. Comments: wonderfully mature at just 7 or 8.
SGP:367 - 88 points.

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2008/2019 (56.5%, The Cask Whisperer, Jim McEwan's Private Stock, Château Margaux wine cask, cask #3562, 329 bottles)

Port Charlotte 10 yo 2008/2019 (56.5%, The Cask Whisperer, Jim McEwan's Private Stock, Château Margaux wine cask, cask #3562, 329 bottles) Three stars
Some of Big Jim's stock. I'm a little surprised he would have secured some ex-Margaux back in the days. Colour: neither red, nor pink, rather mirabelle yellow. Phew. Nose: you do spot some cabernetty notes here and there, as well as apricots and certainly cassis, geranium flowers and peonies, but I don't notice any clashes and I wouldn't call this a peated winesky. It is even pretty gentle. With water: copper polish, dunnage, old wine cellar, wool, and a nuttier peatiness. Pink grapefruits. Mouth (neat): I find this pretty good, not un-Port-Charlotte, not really winey, just a tad too peppery for me, and I believe that's the fresh French oak. Mind you, Château Margaux, if this is proper château wood for the 1er Cru, only use their barriques once. With water: gets a little leafy. A few clashes here and there now, peat and raspberries and such… Finish: rather long, very leafy. In my book, French oak makes many whiskies excessively leafy/spicy. Cassis mustard. Comments: could have been much worse.
SGP:567 - 82 points.

Port Charlotte 17 yo 2001/2019 (52.8%, The Cask Whisperer, Jim McEwan's Private Stock, Sherry cask, cask #834, 340 bottles)

Port Charlotte 17 yo 2001/2019 (52.8%, The Cask Whisperer, Jim McEwan's Private Stock, Sherry cask, cask #834, 340 bottles) Two stars and a half
Interesting, some early pre-record-breaking-era Port Charlotte, done before they started to 'crank up the ppms'. Colour: full gold. Nose: smoked raisin rolls and pecan pies, that's what I get at first. Not a bad start. A touch of sulphur (cabbage, used matches), some pipe tobacco, some cherry jam, then truffles over grenadine. Perhaps a little unlikely, perhaps was it a prototype cask back in 2001? With water: rather tighter. Glue, walnuts and morello cherries. Sounds strange but I find it pleasant, and it is really not too sulphury. Mouth (neat): fun but really unlikely. Turmeric, leather, plasticine, cinnamon mints, sour apples, tarry rubber, cherry lozenges… With water: not too sure. Peppered blood oranges? Finish: long, leathery, peaty, peppery, gingery, with also loads of cherry jam. Comments: wasn't this one a little experi-mental? Rather for the record, I would say.
SGP:566 - 79 points.

I'm sure we'll find a 90+ but at this pace, the quest may be long… Let's try an uppercut…

Port Charlotte 13 yo 2001/2015 (63.5%, The Bottlers, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #1031)

Port Charlotte 13 yo 2001/2015 (63.5%, The Bottlers, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #1031) Five stars
Well, just ask! Ah, the Bottlers a.k.a. Raeburn Fine Wines and their Cognac-like bottles, they did some utter glories in the past and they've reigned supreme on our lists. Their Broras, for example… Colour: gold. Nose: there, nice, a manzanilla! I know this is bourbon. Peat, mustard, green walnuts, touch of curry, seawater, some seafood (say razor clams?) and some menthol. No quibbles. With water: some metallic and earthy touches. Nice. Mouth (neat): oh very good! Very very good! Perfect dry, walnutty, bitter, fino-like arrival indeed, then a growing smoky pepperiness that plays with your tongue and a good litre of dry herbal cordial. Grapefruit. With water: gets saltier and more coastal. Reminds me of some older vintages from the easternmost distillery on Islay's south shore. Right, towards Kildalton. Finish: long and perfect. Comments: yeah right, I'm six years late. Shame shame shame. Oh and feels like proper dry sherry, really; was it really a bourbon hogshead?
SGP:467 - 91 points.

Port Charlotte 6 yo 2011/2018 'Islay Barley' (50%, OB)

Port Charlotte 6 yo 2011/2018 'Islay Barley' (50%, OB) Five stars
Boy am I late once again! Colour: white wine. Nose: still on new-make-y notes, gorse, soft bread, fresh panettone, nougat… I find this adorably gentle and smooth. Some sourer notes on the background, asparagus, lime, olives, vegetal earth… I find this rather superb. With water: o.l.i.v.e.s. Mouth (neat): just perfect. Tight, tart, vertical, on lemons, peat, tar, ashes, bread and chalk. With water: more olives, bitter almonds, grapefruits, brine… Just perfect. Finish: long, brine-y. Comments: no one needs long tasting notes. As Voltaire once said, 'I wrote a long tasting note because I had no time for a short one'. Yeah, Voltaire was a whisky enthusiast, everybody believes he was only feeling on hot chocolate, but that's because he used to add some Port Charlotte to it while no one was watching. Right, it was the old Port Charlotte distillery (S., please!)
SGP:467 - 90 points.

I think we've reached a good cruising altitude, have we not…

Port Charlotte 13 yo 2004/2017 (54.1%, Caora, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #969, 314 bottles)

Port Charlotte 13 yo 2004/2017 (54.1%, Caora, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #969, 314 bottles) Four stars and a half
Looks like they hadn't hired Jeff Koons (or Stranger & Stranger) for the label, but that's probably better. Colour: straw. Nose: but yes. Sunflower oil, lemon zests, almonds, asparagus, beach sand, oysters, tar lozenges, etcetera. Metal polish. With water: superb. Loves water. Almondy riesling. Mouth (neat): perfect ex-bourbon PC, just a little rough around the edges (abundant pepper). With water: do not add too much water or some pretty vulgar notes of coconut and vanilla will come out. Who needs coconut and vanilla? As long as you don't it'll remain perfect. Finish: long and perfect. Smoked and salted almonds. Comments: yet another admirable drop. An easy method for heavy peaters: just abandon any wine wood, including sherry (unless you only actually release the 20% best). But then again, who am I?
SGP:457 - 89 points.

Off to the barn…

Port Charlotte 15 yo 2003/2019 (55.5%, Maltbarn, sherry cask, 171 bottles)

Port Charlotte 15 yo 2003/2019 (55.5%, Maltbarn, sherry cask, 171 bottles) Four stars and a half
I know, this is peat and sherry but maybe is this one part of those 20%? Colour: amber. Nose: ah, maybe! Walnut cake and pecan pie, toasted nuts, peanut sauce (Indonesian satay, I would kill for that), then fumes and engine oil. Imagine if we ever buy a Tesla, all we'll be left with will be whiffs of plastic. You're right, as long as it is not burnt plastic…With water: no, lovely. Kumquats, bergamots and mentholy tar. Sauna oils. Mouth (neat): it is clearly a good sherry. Fish bouillon, tight herbs and spices (allspice, ras-el-hanout), dried orange and cloves, tobacco, brine, capers, cough syrup, mint drops… With water: just add a drop. Not even sure it really needed water; it tends to become a tad too chocolaty. Finish: long, dry when reduced, brighter when neat. Comments: clearly one of the better sherried PCs. Indeed, part of those 20%.
SGP:467 - 89 points.

A last one. We'll have many more in the future….

Port Charlotte 2009 'MC:01' (56.3%, OB, 2018)

Port Charlotte 2009/2018 'MC:01' (56.3%, OB) Three stars and a half
This one was aged in French oak and bourbon, then finished for 2 years in Marsala. No ideas why. Colour: deep gold. Nose: Marsala can be reminiscent of sherry, which is rather the case here. I don't think this is very winey, but there is a little gunpowder and some struck matches. With water: much nicer, with oils, chives, oranges, lemon powder… Mouth (neat): a big beast blending peat, gunpowder and raisins. Extreme but that was probably the whole idea here. With water: much cleaner again, more on lemons, seawater, ashes, raw peat… Finish: long, a tad grassier and spicier. Comments: you see I'm using great water, it almost eradicates both sulphur and wine. Requests on a postcard.
SGP:467 - 84 points.

 

Over to Angus in Edinburgh...

 

 

 

Bruichladdich Origins (57.5%, OB for Feis Ile 2021, 3000 bottles)

Bruichladdich Origins (57.5%, OB for Feis Ile 2021, 3000 bottles)
A 13 cask 'cuvee' composed of whisky from 12 different vintages with a minimum age of 7 years old, 6 barley types and 9 different cask types. It sounds just as busy as Bruichladdich's courtyard on open day. Let's see what has emerged from such a medley… Also, I note the bottle image says 56.3% and my sample says 57.5%. Dear Bruichladdich, does this mean that I'm trying a vat sample rather than the actual liquid from the bottle? Colour: pale gold. Nose: the good news is that there's a very familiar 'freshness' that I find characterises modern Bruichladdich and it's on display here front and centre. So rather a lot of ripe green fruits, some softer coastal tones, sea air and even some lighter medicinal aspects such as bandages. In time there's a little more peppery heat which feels like it's coming from the wood, but no complaints here. With water: a lovely and generous fruitiness now with water, overripe green fruits, fruit salad juices and a style that feels almost closer to that of 70s Bruichladdich. Mouth: the wood is more grippy on arrival in the mouth but it's nicely balanced with the enjoyably fat and gloopy distillate. Some notes of melon, olive oil, pollens, sandalwood, banana chips, hessian. Pulls in quite a few directions, but it still feels nicely 'Bruichladdich'. With water: again, rather fruit forward with hints of mango, limoncello in tonic water and some touches of lanolin and white pepper. Finish: medium, a little drier, more peppery and still nicely fresh. Comments: I suddenly wish I was on Islay, rather a lot. I find this very good and the composition of all these various forces seems to have settled in balance, which is no mean feat. I especially like this rather generous and easy fruitiness and freshness. An ideal Feis Ile release.
SGP: 651 - 87 points.

 

 

Port Charlotte 8 yo 2011/2021 PAC:01 (56.1%, OB, bourbon & ex-red wine)

Port Charlotte 8 yo 2011/2021 PAC:01 (56.1%, OB, bourbon & ex-red wine)
Matured for 6-7 years in bourbon barrels then re-racked into ex-Pauillac red wine casks. Colour: gold. Nose: I actually find it extremely fresh and pure, all on wet rocks, seawater, sea spray, brine and then these softer notes of ink and hessian. Impressions of coal smoke and peat embers. Really lovely nose! With water: really doubles down on this impression of hessian, tarry rope, creel nets, ink and oily sheep wool. But still also quite saline and fresh. Mouth: a little more spicy encroachment from the French oak now, pickled onion Monster Munch (a delicacy, look it up!), sardines in olive oil, tar, embrocations, paprika. Ever so slightly unusual but still works I think. With water: water seems to brush aside these spicier oak tones and it's now more on green pepper, miso, smoked olive oil, tar, medical embrocations and a little plasticine. Finish: long, quite a lot of lemon oils, tar, caraway, iodine and pickling juices. Comments: I think the finishing here was done with a light touch and worked pretty well. There's no sense of overly-lopsided red wine sloshing about the place. Same quality as the Origins in my view.
SGP: 466 - 87 points.

 

 

Port Charlotte 18 yo 2001 (60.4%, OB Private Cask 'HJW No2', #R09/216-8)

Port Charlotte 18 yo 2001 (60.4%, OB Private Cask 'HJW No2', #R09/216-8)
Hey, wasn't that cask number a droid in Star Wars? Colour: deep gold. Nose: there is undeniably 'something' about these first few vintages of Port Charlotte, especially at this age. I get immediate notes of Brora, bandages dipped in seawater, mercurochrome, petrol and natural tar. It's also wildly salty and briny with notes of anchovy paste and more seawater. With water: smoked olive oil, verbena, wormwood, olive brine and pine wood. Indeed, these olive notes get pretty loud with impressions of black olive bread and sea salt. Mouth: wonderfully emphatic, tarry, oily, peaty, briny and textural in terms of mouthfeel. Like peated petroleum jelly. Some dried herbs, wintergreen, soot, engine oil, camphor and Barbour grease. More of these distinctive Brora / farmyard vibes too. With water: perfectly salty, chiselled and yet also wonderfully oily and textural still. Camphor again, petrol, tar, iodine, mentholated oils, dried seaweed and dried rosemary. Finish: long, farmy, deeply oily, smoky, many more dried black olives, herbs and wee sooty touches. Comments: really watch these batches! In the words of great Michiel Wigman: "Future classic!"
SGP: 476 - 91 points.

 

 

 

Tja, heavy peat and wine = Russian roulette. Next time and as a precaution, we'll only have ex-bourbon or ex-refill Port Charlotte.

Tomorrow, it's Caol Ila Day! Stay tuned…

 

 

May 29, 2021


Whiskyfun

The vicarious Feis Ile sessions
Today Lagavulin

Celebrating Islay and Feis Ile from Whisky Fun Towers, with carefully selected whiskies from most distilleries, while we're all dreaming of 2022...

Lagavulin's Day! Oh, how I'm missing the Lagavulin oysters (one tiny oyster drowned in 10cl of Lagavulin 16), the ladies' crab sandwiches, the bay scallops, the sample of 'Malt Mill' if it's still in the office… Oh and the warehouse tour with you-know-whom… And – just the once will not hurt – let' start this with a recent DE…

L

Lagavulin 2003/2019 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, lgv 4/508)

Lagavulin 2003/2019 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, lgv 4/508) Three stars
We've been very lazy with the DEs lately, not for bad reasons shall I add. We'll always remember the 1979, bam! Colour: gold. Nose: that's the thing with Lagavulin DE, contrarily to most other Distillers Editions, it is not that different from the regular 16, it would just feel like a 16 that's been further pushed towards sherriness. This one's really very nice, with tobacco, caraway, a touch of mustard, cigarettes, cedarwood, pinewood fire, eucalyptus… All that is well-balanced, getting even a little meaty. Ham and porcini. Mouth: a little drying perhaps, and very mentholy. Rather a lot of oak this time, thin mints, then rose jelly and muscat. Tends to become sweeter and sweeter, almost aquavity (Linie), and even a little stuffy and cloying. Maybe am I overstating this case but I do not recognise the older vintages anymore. It's PX, right. Finish: rather long and getting very leafy and even bitter. Going from sweet to dry and bitter back and forth is a little tiring. Comments: awesome nose but the bittersweet palate's a little difficult to me.
SGP:556 - 82 points.

Lg 11 2007/2021 (54.1%, Elixir Distillers 'Elements Of Islay', 1067 bottles)

Lg 11 2007/2021 (54.1%, Elixir Distillers 'Elements Of Islay', 1067 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: lamb's wool, grist, husk, barley, mercurochrome, bandages, hay. Boy is this close to nature! With water: same plus plaster and chalk. New sweater, leaven bread. A little elementary (ha, ha!) Mouth (neat): very sweet and creamy arrival, which is very Lagavulin. Someone's redistilled a good IPA, such as Lagunitas (well, I love Lagunitas but I'm no expert). Pear and banana cake, plus big smoke. This one's not particularly coastal, having said that. With water: more on bread and flour, with a yeasty side. Finish: medium, sweet, almost sugary. Peated pears. Comments: well, this is as close to visiting the distillery as possible, now not sure they grow pears at the Lag a' Mhuilinn. Elementary and good.
SGP:646 - 84 points.

You'll see that Angus has tried this Lg too and liked it even more. Now let's see if we've got something else… Perhaps a secret one?

An Islay Distillery 9 yo 2007/2017 (59.5%, Cadenhead, Warehouse Tasting, hogshead)

An Islay Distillery 9 yo 2007/2017 (59.5%, Cadenhead, Warehouse Tasting, hogshead) Four stars
Stuff that reminds us of the festivals indeed… This is Lagavulin. Colour: white wine. Nose: raw, ethanoly, on almonds and wood alcohol. We've known some vodkas… With water: some wool coming through, porridge, amateur scones, weissbeer… Mouth (neat): once again, the inherent sweetness of young Lagavulin comes out first, it is really the sweetest distillate on the island. Pears, orange drops, limoncello – smoked. The tarter, tighter lemon juice and a salty tang. Going towards margarita, my favourite cocktail (but I'm no cocktail guy either). With water: gets very sweet again. Bonbons and sweet flour, with a touch of camphor, which would add to the whole thing. Artisan pastis, that's nice too. You just had to wait… Finish: long, with rather a lot of dill, fennel seeds, pastis, celeriac… Well that comes unexpected, better late than never. Liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: a funny young beast that took its time.
SGP:646 - 85 points.

No huge Lagavulins today, I'm afraid. Next time, I promise, by the way the new Feis bottling should arrive very soon, we'll simply add it here. And I promise we'll make our next session, which is Bruichladdich, rather extravagant. Promise.

Hold on, there was something a little wrong with the DE… Let's quickly try the latest expression, why wait?…

Lagavulin 2005/2020 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, lgv 4/509)

Lagavulin 2005/2020 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, lgv 4/509) Three stars and a half
Wait, 2020-2005, that's not 16 years! But who's counting? Colour: deep gold. Nose: nice, fresher, more coastal, probably peatier, drier yet, with ashes, seaweed, a little mint, perhaps myrtle… No big sherry here, no excessive leafiness, no chocolate and coffee on the loose, no meat and mustard… So it is a cleaner DE, I would say. So far. Mouth: well, there is some leather, ginger, leaves and raisins, but that goes pretty well with the spirits sweetness. Good salt and oranges, tar. I would say we're a little closer to the 'regular' 16 years old, which cannot be bad news. Finish: good length, smoke, leather, cracked pepper, earth and mint, touch of molasses. Comments: it is not as sweetish as the '2019' and certainly less bittersweet. Rather more to my liking. Couldn't they switch to oloroso? No, I know, don't shoot, I was just jesting a wee bit.
SGP:556 - 84 points.

(Merci Lucero)

 

 

Over to Angus in Edinburgh...

 

 

 

Lg 11 2007/2021 (54.1%, Elixir Distillers 'Elements Of Islay', 1067 bottles)

Lg 11 2007/2021 (54.1%, Elixir Distillers 'Elements Of Islay', 1067 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: very coastal and pure. Lots of wet rocks, seawater, fishing nets, wet seaweed and sand. I also fine lemon juice, brine and smoked olive oil with a slightly leathery peat smoke. Classy stuff! With water: much ashier, sootier and more to do with fabrics, bonfire smoke, sea salt and brine. Simpler with water. Mouth: hot peppery peat smoke, ashes, brine, lemon juice, oysters and seawater. Very modern, pristine peated malt. Some oily tufts of sheep wool in there too along with some suggestions of coal dust. With water: smoked barley, hay loft, mercurochrome, more soot, wet rope and a bigger impression of tar and capers in brine. Finish: quite long, sharply citric on fresh lemon juice, a touch of parsley and more gutsy peat smoke. Comments: all perfectly fine, precise and excellent. Although, feels a notch simple overall for me. 
SGP: 367 - 88 points.  

 

 

Lagavulin 11 yo (61.5%, OB for The Syndicate?, 1980s)

Lagavulin 11 yo (61.5%, OB for The Syndicate?, 1980s)
A rather scarce and mysterious bottling of Lagavulin done in the 1980s, most probably for this group of private cask owners known as 'The Syndicate'. Colour: white wine. Nose: wow, another level! Hugely petrolic and full of mineral oils, sandalwood, natural tar, anchovy paste, oyster sauce, lemon infused olive oil and touches of kelp and fir wood. Superbly aromatic and 'thick'. With water: pin sharp coastal air, seawater, beach foam and wee touches of horseradish, aniseed and bath salts. Mouth: wooft! This stunning combination of petrols, oils, peat smoke, tar, TCP, iodine, embrocations, beach wood and preserved lemons in brine. Crystalline peat smoke with hints of shellfish, smoked olive oil and more impressions of pine wood again. A sense of impeccable cohesion and concentration. With water: absolutely brilliant with water. Opens spectacularly on medicines, dried herbs, salt-cured fish, tar, deep drying phenolics and a soft but huge peat smoke. Finish: long, stunning peaty, smoky, lemony, tarry and full of olive oil, seawater and more petrol. Comments: totally stunning young Lagavulin. Impeccable distillate that balances purity, precision, power, and crucially also depth. I love it! 
SGP: 368 - 93 points. 

 

 

Hugs to Aaron! 

 

 

 

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

 

May 28, 2021


Whiskyfun

The vicarious Feis Ile sessions
Today Port Ellen Maltings

Celebrating Islay and Feis Ile from Whisky Fun Towers, with carefully selected whiskies from most distilleries, while we're all dreaming of 2022...

I believe today should have been the beginning of Feis Ile but due to a tiny bug (it's really not a bug, S.) they had to cancel the event, just like last year. So we cannot go/fly/swim/row/sail to Islay this year, but what we could do is to try a few of their whiskies on their theoretical official days, what do you say? I'm not sure we'll find the time to have many of them, sometimes probably just one or three that we'll select carefully, but there, you get the idea. Or maybe we'll push things and have quite a lot on certain days? You're right, as we would do on location? We shall see… In the meantime, here's 'our' programme:
Friday May 28 : Port Ellen Maltings
Saturday May 29 : Lagavulin
Sunday May 30 : Bruichladdich
Monday May 31 : Caol Ila
Tuesday June 1 : Laphroaig
Wednesday June 2 : Bowmore
Thursday June 3 : Kilchoman
Friday June 4 : Bunnahabhain
Saturday June 5 : Ardbeg
Sunday June 6 : Jura

 

And so, this is Port Ellen Maltings Day (is it?) but we won't crunch any peated barley, we'll be content with just one new independent Port Ellen. Sadly, we won't be allowed to marvel in flesh at the construction works of the 'new' Port Ellen Distillery, but we shall try a 1983 which, as you know, still is Port Ellen's very last vintage whisky, until the new Distillery is three-years-old that is. Oh and glad to think of Port Ellen Distillery after we've witnessed the rebirth of Brora just this week. Glorious people, work, and most probably whisky.

Port Ellen 36 yo 1983/2019 (53.5%, Hunter Laing, Eidolon, Release 01, 638 bottles)

Port Ellen 36 yo 1983/2019 (53.5%, Hunter Laing, Eidolon, Release 01, 638 bottles) Five stars
This baby was bottled in 2019 but it only came out around Christmas last year. It is, according to the very engaging bottlers, 'a whisky of contrast – both testament to historic wisdom and a celebration of modern whisky expertise'. We shall not argue, only remember that just like at Brora, the rare 1983s were rather superior, in my book, to earlier vintages such as 1979, 80, 81 or 82. As if the Distilleries had been bidding farewell (you'll make us all cry, S.).  Colour: deep gold. Nose: it is a rather rounder Port Ellen, which may come either from older age, or from sherry wood. Or from both. A feeling of smoked almonds, old riesling, smoked haddock, then cigars, walnuts, hardwood and teak oil. Cedarwood, humidor, chicken broth. Quite superb but you do feel it's holding back a wee bit, perhaps. With water: it's lifted to fresher, more herbal floors. Spearmint, a touch of basil, then mushrooms, moss… And fresh walnuts. Mouth (neat): double-whammy, no water needed this time. Someone's smoked chocolate and coffee, herbal teas, oranges and lemons, clams and other seafood, and most of all, walnuts. A little caramel, where does that come from? With water: earthy black tea and chestnut honey, plus liquorice and mint. It's also slowly becoming tarrier, which was to be expected. Finish: rather long and frankly tarry now. One of Port Ellen's main markers in my book. Goes on for a long time on sour soups, sorrel, spinach, watercress… And back to smoked coffee, chocolate and walnuts. It's come full circle. Very ashy and almondy aftertaste. Comments: these Port Ellens are unbreakable, rotproof, and just eternal. What's more; great balance peat/sherry in this one. Happy Feis Ile!
SGP:466 - 93 points.

 

 

Over to Angus in Edinburgh...

 

 

 

Port Ellen 18 yo 1982/2001 (43%, Douglas McGibbon 'Provenance', sherry)

Port Ellen 18 yo 1982/2001 (43%, Douglas McGibbon 'Provenance', sherry)
A 1981/2000 version in the same series I tried recently was excellent (WF90), let's see if this adjacent vintage is a match. Colour: amber. Nose: a lovely nose, all on soft medical embrocations, natural tar, fir wood and pine resin. Eucalyptus oils, BBQ embers, peppered game meats and a very salty and precisely earthy old school sherry. Many smaller notes of walnuts and balsamic beneath. I think Port Ellen can be extremely charming at these kind of lower ABVs sometimes. Mouth: wonderful arrival, all on intensely concentrated tars, oily, slightly grubby peat smoke, smoked black pepper, more cured game meats, incense, TCP and iodine. Huge for 43%! Finish: long, leathery, black puffer smoke, smoked fish, dried seaweed and pickled walnuts. Comments: just totally marvellous balance between peat and sherry, both being rather powerful but perfectly entwined. I adore this humble wee Port Ellen. I think the bottling strength was extremely clever here. 
SGP: 566 - 91 points. 

 

 

Thanks Aaron.

 

 

 

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

 

May 27, 2021


Whiskyfun

Strathmill and Strathmill

There's more Strathmill at the indies. Never been a blue chip but since there's more, we now realise that there are some very good ones. It is a side effect of the disappearance of some of the 'big shots' within the indie ranges. Better a Strathmill that tells its name or a 'secret' supposedly teaspooned Macallan that does not?

Strathmill 26 yo 1994/2020 (47.4%, Morisco Spirits, bourbon hogshead)

Strathmill 26 yo 1994/2020 (47.4%, Morisco Spirits, bourbon hogshead) Four stars
We've already tried a very young Caol Ila by this new bottler that was excellent (WF 87). Also, we like it that they would have finished this Strathmill of good age in… nothing. Looks like pure refill… Colour: light gold. Nose: it is not particularly unusual, or different from the rather vast flows of natural Speysiders that are currently being distilled – and are sleeping - in Scotland, but it is particularly attractive, with perfect bread, grist, beer, apples, vanilla, porridge, malted barley, then marshmallows and lemon curd. More a top filler than anything else, but that's exactly why I find it charming this far. For Johnnie Walker Blue? Mouth: proper well-aged malt whisky with a citrusy edge. Apples, grass, porridge, ale, touch of honey, then lemons, bergamots, citrons and grapefruit as well as the marmalades and liqueurs made out of them. Very good mouth feel. Finish: long, grassier, a tad bitter. Rather a lot of lemon peel in the aftertaste, a little limoncello as well. Comments: very good. You could also use this to compose your own Mozartian top-of-the-world San-Francisco-ready blended Scotch. Take this and add 20% very old Invergordon, 20% old Clynelish or Highland Park, and 10% old Ardbeg. Salud!
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Strathmill 33 yo 1986/2019 (54.2%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare Platinum Selection, 150 bottles)

Strathmill 33 yo 1986/2019 (54.2%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare Platinum Selection, 150 bottles) Four stars
I'm glad to realise that this emblematic series is still being made. I fondly remember the very first set; oh, that Glendullan! Colour: light gold. Nose: goes straight to peel and grass, Wulong tea, grapefruits, also leaves and barks. Just touches of vanilla and all-flower honey in the background. Water should wake it up a little more… With water: a few wee camphory and resinous notes and more softness. Green bananas, would I say. Mouth (neat): this feeling of 'top filler' once again. This is very malty and leafy, big bodied, perhaps a little bitter (it is extremely leafy, in fact). Some earthy herbal teas and some lemon peel in the background. With water: it loves water and becomes almost gentle. Sponge cake with some honey and fig jam. Warning, fig jam can kill (because you'll empty the pot in a flash and immediately order a case – even worse, from Amazon!) Finish: rather long, solidly malty and grassy, with that honey in the aftertaste. Comments: a little hard when neat, but water does it much good in my opinion. I think the bottlers should add this to their labels when appropriate, 'better with a few drops of water'.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Free bonus:

Strathmill 25 yo 1993/2018 (51.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles)

Strathmill 25 yo 1993/2018 (51.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles) Three stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely close to the Platinum; almost undistinguishable, in fact. Don't mix-up your glasses or you're dead. I mean, figuratively. With water: this time it does not really get any softer. A lot of grass, leaves, and apple peel. Mouth (neat): a tad wackier than the Platinum this time, with a few burnt notes and perhaps a little shoe polish that's not obligatorily in its place. Otherwise grass and lemon peel with bitter leaves. Hope water will do its magic once more. With water: hold on, fish? Certainly a little salt. Well, Strathmill is not that far from the sea, it's just at the vertical of Inchgower, just south of Glen Keith. 30 miles from the sea, perhaps? (so seven hours of driving, ha-ha). Finish: rather long and a little better. A touch of varnish on top of lemon syrup and a little vanilla cake. Comments: I think the others were 'clearer', which was one of their assets.
SGP:361 - 80 points.

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

 

May 25, 2021


Whiskyfun

Another briefcase of Clynelish

It was so moving to watch the reopening of Brora the other day, we've almost forgotten that a lot of work has been done at Clynelish too. After all, both whiskies have got the same father – or rather mother, the old Clynelish Distillery! Let's have a trio of 'new' Clynelishes…

Clynelish 22 yo 1997/2020 'Tropical scented Candle' (49.8%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 236 bottles)

Clynelish 22 yo 1997/2020 'Tropical scented Candle' (49.8%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 236 bottles) Five stars
That's a name that seems to be very accurate. Do we still need to try the whisky then? Colour: gold. Nose: looks like these batches have become perfect at 20+ years of age. Stunning citrus, waxes, then earths and polishes. Huge quinces too, otherwise oranges, citrons, pink grapefruits, and beeswax, hand cream, proper vanilla pods, putty, marzipan… This is the worst you could do when starting a session, I mean, having a winner as #1. Mouth: a little drying at first, with a little tea and oak, but it would then unfold on the expected waxes, citrus, and cakes. Perhaps is it getting a little fatter and rounder than I had hoped, with a little 'too much' vanilla and sweetness, but I am quibbling for nothing. Oily mouthfeel. Otherwise oranges, tangerines, elderberries, quinces, guavas, sweeter apples… And probably a tiny touch of salt as well as umami sauce. Finish: hold on, quite some salt! And some honey. Comments: classic and classy Clynelish. Have I not already tried this one?
SGP:551 – 90 points.

Clynelish 24 yo 1996/2020 (54.9%, Whisky Nerds, bourbon hogshead, cask #WN001, 282 bottles)

Clynelish 24 yo 1996/2020 (54.9%, Whisky Nerds, bourbon hogshead, cask #WN001, 282 bottles) Five stars
Colour: straw. Nose: this one's twenty times tighter, more vertical, mineral, chalky, earthy, bready… But there's also a large bag of overripe apples from last year, and some candlewax, naturally. With water: fresh panettone and angel hair. Fresh bread and orange blossom, plus beeswax. Mouth (neat): good, after twenty to twenty-five years, these vintages have become perfect, characterful aged spirits, with a waxiness that became just huge. Sure it was there right from the start, but it's now really become massive, as if it had grown in the barrels (after having grown in the receiver), like a blob. Right, physarum polycephalum. With water: a tad tighter, more on dough and ale. Finish: long, perhaps a wee tad oaky but that's just nothing. Zests in the aftertaste. Comments: same ballpark, just a tad less round and civilised than the Wemyss.
SGP:451 - 90 points.

Clynelish 2010/2021 (59.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Asia-Pacific exclusive, cask #800204)

Clynelish 2010/2021 (59.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Asia-Pacific exclusive, cask #800204) Four stars
I'm afraid we do not have a picture yet. These vintages are great but I tend to believe that they're a little too young, and that the superb waxiness that we all enjoy so much needs a few more years to become really prominent. Just a gut feeling… Colour: white wine. Nose: well, not quite, this is waxy, what didn't come through yet is rather some rounded citrus, I would say. Bread, fresh scones, marshmallows, wool and grist, paraffin, 'sweet' candles… but remember, almost 60% vol. With water: sameish plus barley water, malt, sweet maize bread, brioche… Mouth (neat): tart lemons and rhubarb plus chalk and leaven bread. Seems to work but then again, 60% vol. With water: you bet it works. Lemons, chalk, cinchona, paraffin… Finish: long, on the same kinds of notes. Paraffin, dough, citrus… Comments: young and phat, thick, oily whisky, and yet it's got this refreshing side. Major style today.
SGP:552 - 87 points.

Perhaps a little bonus? A Brora next door?

Brora 26 yo 1976/2002 (46%, Douglas McGibbon, Provenance, Winter/Autumn)

Brora 26 yo 1976/2002 (46%, Douglas McGibbon, Provenance, Winter/Autumn) Five stars
This used to be Douglas Laing's 'budget' range as far as single malts were concerned. And yes they were having Brora… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: 1976 is not a common vintage at Brora, but this is fantastically medicinal. I had tried these batches but I'm afraid I had forgotten about then, until we did a wee online tasting with Angus, a few weeks ago. Chalk and camphor, with drops of eucalyptus essence and some sour breads. Süweck, we say here. Sourdough with some eucalyptus inside, something animal (some cheese, perhaps?) and whey. Very unusual, very beautiful. Mouth: high-tension doughy and chalky smoke, with some kinds of pine-y ashes and rubbery breads. That's the harder part, rubber's not always easy to handle. Finish: long, with more grasses, also more smoky wax, and always this chalkiness. Sucking lambswool with a little hard caramel. Comments: it's a pretty smoky 1976. Not that I've tried dozens, but this is a good surprise, with clear echoes of Old Clynelish.
SGP:366 - 90 points.
 

May 24, 2021


Whiskyfun

World sessions
Number Twenty-One
Italy, 547 points! Well, not quite but let's celebrate the victory of the Italian squad at the Eurovision song contest. What a strange event! With lockdowns and curfews still on in many countries, such as France, I suppose many more people have been watching this real live museum of popular music this year. Like, 1950-1980.

Puni 'Arte No. 1' (43%, OB, Italy, 3,000 bottles, 2020)

Puni 'Arte No. 1' (43%, OB, Italy, 3,000 bottles, 2020) Three stars
The Puni 'Gold' had been rather not too bad earlier this year (WF 78). This one is a limited edition, let's see if it is very 1970, as was their national rock band the other night (they were pretty good, I think). This one is said to have been aged 'for almost seven years' in bourbon and refill Scotch. Colour: white wine. Nose: very bready, with touches of smoke and lemon, plus a little chalk. Porridge, grapefruits, touch of pineapple and pear… There's something coastal to this, which may suggest that some ex-coastal Scotch malt casks have been in use. Mouth: the peat is obvious, this rather feels like some in-cask blending. Was some Laphroaig used here too? Caol Ila? The whole idea is a little sketchy, as it is elsewhere including in Scotland, but once again, I believe it rather worked to take that short cut. Finish: medium, fruity and peaty. Comments: a modern and rather well-made world blend. In tune with the times, I would say.
SGP:643 - 82 points.

Let's cross the Alps…

Puni 'Arte No. 1' (43%, OB, Italy, 3,000 bottles, 2020)

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 'Moissons Single Malt' (44.8%, OB, France, +/-2020) Four stars
This is their regular single malt, while they also have a single rye under the 'Moissons' banner. In French, moissons means harvest. This is a vatting of 13 casks from six vintages. I believe, but I could be wrong, that no wine casks have been harmed in the process. Colour: white wine. Nose: totally and fully on cereals, earth, bread, yeasts, grist, flours, husk… I'm sure you get the picture, this is as close to the raw materials as you can get. Love this both organoleptically and philosophically. Whiffs of orange and acacia blossom coming out after a few minutes, which is even more lovely. A little celery too. Mouth: firm and totally on cereals and citrus once again. Focaccia and panettone, we're back in Italy! More orange blossom, some oils (sesame?), bread, touches of cardamom and caraway, wholegrain breads… Finish: rather long, with a rather earthy and salty background that could make you think of mezcal. Comments: this is what I was expecting. Great work on this side of the Alps.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

fr

To England! And no, we won't mention the Eurovision contest…

Puni 'Arte No. 1' (43%, OB, Italy, 3,000 bottles, 2020)

Cotswolds (46%, OB, England, +/-2021) Four stars
This too is the distillery's 'regular' single malt. I know it is their latest batch, but I just don't know about the details. Not even sure this is the right picture. Colour: straw. Nose: good fun to have this one after the Moissons, as this is much softer, rather more on vanilla, overripe apples, toasted oak, gooseberries, perhaps melons… So it is more 'moderate', but everything's in place and I find this nose rather perfect given that it's probably very young. Mouth: excellent, in a whole different style than that of the DHG. Probably more cask influence, with a little varnish, fruit drops, bonbons, vanilla, lemon curd, then baby bananas and liquorice allsorts… Finish: medium, very fruity and 'bonbony'. Foam bananas kept in oak, vanilla, touch of coconut.... Comments: quite a few younger distilleries are doing it according to the rule book, while a decade or two ago, many were doing it more or less at random. Like, hey, let's experiment!
SGP:641 - 85 points.
en

Cley 'Malt and Rye' (58%, OB, The Netherlands, Vat 114 Batch 11/20, 2020)

Cley 'Malt and Rye' (58%, OB, The Netherlands, Vat 114 Batch 11/20, 2020) Four stars
Whilst it wasn't totally there yet, I rather enjoyed the very young 3 yo C/S by Cley the other day. This should be more brutal… Colour: apricot. Nose: good fun, but indeed it is a little brutal. I seem to find some kind of smoky fudge, certainly a lot of milk chocolate, some rye for sure and some buckwheat too, some very rich modern-style beer (I know zilch about beer but I've tried a MIkkeler (sp?) the other day that was nosing a bit like this…) Something wild too, almost animal. With water: a wide range of gingerbreads from all over Europe, from Rotterdam to, say Vienna. Did I ever tell you that I'm a confessed sucker for gingerbread? Mouth (neat): too strong for me but this heavy bourbon from Holland seems to work. Huge gingerbread, Stolle, violet drops, marmalade, cinnamon rolls… Good fun, I'm sure. With water: ticks all my preferred boxes. Rich, spicy, honeyed, on breads, wild cookies, and of course gingerbread. Big black raisins too. Frankly, I would have said great yet crazy garage whiskey from Murica. Finish: long, just perfect, without any embarrassing woody notes. Lovely sweet spiciness that makes you think of Christmas. Yep I know this is the month of May. Only the aftertaste is a wee tad green and bitter. A wee tad… Comments: there. Love rye and love this. I love the bottles too.
SGP:662 - 87 points.
nl

Good, a looong flight to the other side of the planet now…

Hellyers Road 2013/2020 (61%, OB for Taiwan, Tasmania/Australia, Masters Series, sherry, cask #14132.12)

Hellyers Road 2013/2020 (61%, OB for Taiwan, Tasmania/Australia, Masters Series, sherry, cask #14132.12) Four stars and a half
We've tried several other Hellyers Road for these most honourable bottlers, all have been top-notch. Now when they say sherry, does that mean that some sherry butts are being shipped from Jerez to Tasmania? Colour: gold. Nose: masters indeed. This burns a bit, of course, but there's this aroma that I just adore, a large box of Läckerlis from Basel, Switzerland. How 'world' is this? Gingerbread is here for sure, but water is needed. With water: gets pretty complex, with various honeys (blue gum, perhaps? I'm joking, that's the floral emblem of Tasmania), beers, hops, wild yeasts, some sweeter turmeric, Seville oranges, touch of litchi liqueur… Mouth (neat): sublime. Triple sec, aniseed, marmalade, juniper and caraway, Cointreau, chartreuse… It's extremely expressive even at 61% and some would wonder if this wasn't made in a lab, as some make some 'rums'. Of course it wasn't. Sublime, really. With water: orange liqueur aged in oak! Does that really fit here? On the one hand, some would argue that this is not whisky. I mean, it does not quite taste like/of whisky. On the other hand, it is excellent, rich, bold, fun and just intriguing, with these notes of tangerine liqueur and Szechuan pepper. Finish: long, spicy and citrusy. Comments: sherry? Did we see any sherry? Probably a little controversial, but I for one am finding this crazy concoction just terrific.
SGP:661 - 88 points.
as

Boy, those Dutch and Tasmanian whiskies were monsters! Let's just cancel the Auchentoshan session I had planned, if you agree…

 

May 23, 2021


Whiskyfun

Caution

A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!

 

Malternatives:
It is Cognac day at château WF

Good un-boiséed and un-obscured Cognacs keep gaining traction within whisky circles. We'll have a wee bunch today, but first, an apéritif…

Bache Gabrielsen 'Serénité' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne , +/-2019)

Bache Gabrielsen 'Serénité' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne , +/-2019) Two stars and a half
This baby's said to shelter some 60 yo but as usual, if you haven't got the proportions, this kind of statement is just useless, if not misleading. That's why it's been forbidden in Scotch whisky quite some years ago. The 40% feel a tad stingy given that this is supposed to be a modestly prestigious bottle (110-150€). Colour: deep gold. Nose: fine, fruity, light, with stewed peaches and pears plus just touches of varnish. Some nice raisins, orange blossom water… It would tend to become rounder and fatter over time, with more fudge and even caramel and black nougat. Mouth: good and fruity, really a mirror of the nose with first stewed fruits and raisins, then fudge and caramel. Sadly, the body's thin and a little frustrating, which also makes the wood stand out. A very light 'middle'. Finish: short, sweet, with a little bitterness from the oak in the aftertaste. Comments: the houses 'Pure & Rustic' range is much more to my liking when it's at cask strength. The VSOP and XO are very light an sweet too.
SGP:430 - 78 points.

Perhaps two 'early landed' ones now, a definition that's about to disappear since I believe you cannot call it 'cognac' anymore if it's not entirely aged in the Cognac region, with only a few remaining exceptions. That's why we may start to see more and more of this kind:

Sample X 27 yo 1993/2021 (46.3%, Kintra Spirits & The Rum Mercenary, French Brandy, 212 bottles)

Sample X 27 yo 1993/2021 (46.3%, Kintra Spirits & The Rum Mercenary, French Brandy, 212 bottles) Three stars and a half
1993? Unless this is Macallan. I'm joking. Colour: gold. Nose: this is a rather grassier one, tougher than the Bache, less rounded and 'easy-easy', with notes of bourbon too, then a little warm rhum, sugar cane, roasted pecans and peanuts, burnt raisins, then a little eucalyptus, toffee, mocha… I find this lovely, and probably not very 'old-school Cognac'. Mouth: it's fun to find notes of rhum again (agricole), nougat, butterscotch, fudge… A wee rusticity, a few bitter herbs, parsley, some liquorice, black tea… Finish: rather long, rather more 'traditional' at this point. A little oak and more black tea in the aftertaste, as well as a drop of pastis, proof that this is French spirit indeed. LOL. Comments: early landed? I'm not totally floored yet here (ha) but we're already way above the Bache.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Early Landed Cognac 27 yo 1993/2020 (53.5%, Maltbarn, 82 bottles)

Early Landed Cognac 27 yo 1993/2020 (53.5%, Maltbarn, 82 bottles) Four stars and a half
In theory, this should be similar but this colour is much darker. Colour: amber. Nose: indeed this is a bolder and rounder Cognac, with many more jams, dried fruits, and even honeys, molasses… Yet it is extremely elegant, with a high-definition fruitiness and some lovely whiffs of meadow flowers, and gorse. Mirabelle jam, quince jelly, blood oranges, nectarines… With water: almonds. When almonds (and cherry eau-de-vie and liqueur) come out that's always a good sign. Mouth (neat): superb! Mint, pine resin and liquorice mingled with some luscious jams, apricots, more mirabelles, more honey, some cough syrup, touch of verbena… With water: maybe not, do not add too much water, it would push the oak towards the front and temper the fruitiness. Gets a little too tea-ish, but some excellent liquorice wood's popping out too. Finish: medium, rather more on dried fruits, figs, raisins, dates, apricots… Comments: this one's excellent, but water's unnecessary. And the outturn was very small.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

And now two older Petite Champagne…

Vallein Tercinier 53 carats 'Lot 68' (46.8%, Asta Maurice, Petite Champagne, cask #AMF002, 120 bottles, 2021)

Vallein Tercinier 53 carats 'Lot 68' (46.8%, Asta Maurice, Petite Champagne, cask #AMF002, 120 bottles, 2021) Five stars
As I understand it, this was distilled while the French were either demonstrating, or on strike. So yeah, could be any vintage actually, especially since we're now organising strikes and demonstrations in Paris just for tourists. Okay, perhaps not in the Charentes… Colour: full gold. Nose: typical Vallein Tercinier, in the sense that it's rather extravagantly fruity and even tropical, but without any heady notes. Sublime tangerines, nectarines, mangos, pink bananas, ylang-ylang and honeysuckle, also little touches of gewurztraminer, viognier and muscat. Amazing nose, really, with an emphatic fruity freshness that's just irresistible. I say anyone not liking this nose should go see a doctor. Mouth: with such marvellous noses you always fear disappointment on the palate. Not so here, this is just as fresh and fruity, and as tropical. Emphasis on mangos, bananas and passion fruits this time, then honeydew and perhaps drops of Bénédictine, before some amazing tangerines would join the dance. I would say this baby's just totally 'obvious'. Finish: medium, a tad grassier and even oakier, which is absolutely normal and was expected. Green tea, Seville oranges… But the mangos and maracujas keep singing in the aftertaste. And dancing! Comments: just an 'obvious' old Cognac by one of the greater little houses. So glad that the distillers didn't go on strike back in 1968.
SGP:751 - 92 points.

One year earlier…

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Lot 67 Le Voyageur' (40.6%, Malternative Belgium, Petite Champagne, 438 bottles, 2021)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Lot 67 Le Voyageur' (40.6%, Malternative Belgium, Petite Champagne, 438 bottles, 2021) Five stars
Another very good little Cognac house that managed to catch the attention of the usually rather monomaniacal whisky afficionados. Well, of some of us. Colour: gold. Nose: rather sublime as well, but rather less on tropical fruits, and more on honeys and flowers. Honey come from the flowers after all. I would say vanilla first, then heather honey (and flowers), orange blossom honey (and flowers), mint honey (and leaves), then rather gentler touches, dandelions, yellow flowers, buttercups, also hibiscus, jasmine… It's all very floral and a wee tad mentholy. Coriander too. Absolutely awesome, but watch the palate, that's where the devil usually lies. Mouth: rather miraculous. It's not even too fragile, even if, granted, it's not and could not be as sublimely fresh and floral as on the nose, especially at 40.6%. So it's rather playing it on herbal teas, chamomile, lime tree, hawthorn, carcadet/hibiscus, lotus… All this works just as fine since the oak remained well-behaved, and since a little citrus is there too, especially tangerines. A little mead too. Really, rather a miracle, we've tried some old lighter Cognacs that had been just insanely sublime on the nose, and flatly tea-ish and cardboardy on the palate. Finish: rather short but clean, and even fresh. A touch of liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: pretty much a balancing act. All ended perfectly well!
SGP:651 - 90 points.

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

 

May 22, 2021


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Mostly newish whiskies in pairs
I know, what a snappy title right? Still, it is at the very least accurate.

 

Auchentoshan 21 yo 1999/2021 (51.3%, Lady Of The Glen, cask #501673, refill bourbon barrel, 30 bottles)

Auchentoshan 21 yo 1999/2021 (51.3%, Lady Of The Glen, cask #501673, refill bourbon barrel, 30 bottles)
Only 30 bottles, what happened here I wonder? Colour: bright gold. Nose: hey! What's this? Honeys, pollens, mirabelle, olive oil cake, beeswax, eucalyptus oil. Gregor seems to have bottled some 40 year old Glen Grant by mistake. Seriously, this is just a pile of soft honeys, green fruits and wonderfully concentrated syrupy natural sweetness. With water: abundant green fruits, freshness, wildflowers, waxed canvass and honeycomb. Lush! Mouth: I'm beginning to understand why there might only be 30 bottles now. This has the profile of an extremely concentrated, oxidative profile which also held its strength well. More of these very rich honeys, pollens and beeswax, but with a much bigger voice from the wood now too. Clean, toasty wood spices, bergamot, bitter orange peels, tarragon and more eucalyptus resins. Still excellent mind you. With water: works very well with water as it eases up on the woodier dominance. There's more balance now with some spiced jams, quince, putty, aniseed, crystallised citrus fruits, candied peels and more of these wonderful resinous beeswax qualities. Finish: good length, again maybe a tad too astringent but we're still comfortably in these nicely honeyed, fruity and waxy territories. Comments: only the slightly astringency on the neat palate and finish will prevent me going higher. But this is still the best Auchentoshan I've had in ages. Now, go find a bottle…
SGP: 651 - 88 points.

 

 

Auchentoshan 21 yo 1997/2019 (50%, Hunter Laing 'Old Malt Cask', cask #15754, refill hogshead, 249 bottles)

Auchentoshan 21 yo 1997/2019 (50%, Hunter Laing 'Old Malt Cask', cask #15754, refill hogshead, 249 bottles)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: typically light, cereal-dominated Auchentoshan. Almost effervescent with these subtle notes of toast, oatcakes, breakfast cereals and fresh linens. Some citrus air freshener and touches of icing sugar. With water: a little more character now with some nice notes of bailed hay, soda bread and popping candy. Mouth: this is the trouble I so often find with Auchentoshan, plainness. It's fine, clean, light and nicely sweet, it just feels kind of plain and airy and thin. This impression of lemon air freshener again, barley water and a little bubblegum. With water: lemon barley water diluted with soda. Malt extract, cream soda, a little lemon peel. Again, it's just a bit plain. Finish: short, light, sweet, cereal dominated. Comments: It's fine, very pleasant in some ways, it's just the 'triple distillation' issue for me.
SGP: 531 - 81 points. 

 

 

Arran 8 yo 2012/2021 (59.2%, Watt Whisky, bourbon barrel, 173 bottles)

Arran 8 yo 2012/2021 (59.2%, Watt Whisky, bourbon barrel, 173 bottles)
I haven't tried any Arran for far too long, let's immediately rectify this unacceptable situation… Colour: straw. Nose: creamy porridge! At least that is the first impression I get, porridge with a big spoon of honey run through it. Then some very attractive notes of yellow plums and daffodils, sometimes I get aromas in colour co-ordination, which is absolutely the case here, this is a very 'yellow' whisky. Ah of course, now daffodils too! With water: I find it developing more towards dry cider, flowers and vase water. Feels quite summery, which is great because it's currently pissing with rain here in Edinburgh. Mouth: custard, sweet wines, cider apple, subtle hints of melon and some more robust barley sugar notes. With water: opens up more onto pure cereals, baking powder, starched linens, white flowers, small hints of hessian and white pepper. Rather big in fact with a lovely freshness. Finish: medium, grassy, lightly sappy, more cereals, seeds and various pollens and flowers. Comments: 8 years is a lovely age for many whiskies, don't you think? I'm a big fan of this humble wee Arran. Bags of freshness and easy charm. Feels as though it would make a superb highball, or is that still sacrilege to say?
SGP: 541 - 86 points.

 

 

Arran 17 yo 2002/2020 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, barrel, 185 bottles)

Arran 17 yo 2002/2020 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, barrel, 185 bottles)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: what's fun is that there's quite a bit of similarity to the 2012 in that you get this immediate impression of freshness, sweet porridge, plain cereals, raw barley and flowers. However, there's clearly an added dimension from the extra age in the form of a globally more honeyed and syrupy character. Some wonderfully concentrated notes of green and orchard fruits beneath those initial aromas. Very attractive. Mouth: a slightly lactic and milky sweetness on arrival, milk bottle sweets, creamy porridge vibes again, condensed milk, custard and vanilla cream. Some impressions of custard doughnuts and various other 'naughty' pastries. Sweet, easy and with just the right glimmer of fruitiness and floral notes. Finish: long, and actually with some wonderfully vibrant and more assertive fruits coming through such as guava, star fruit, kiwi and grapefruit in the aftertaste. Comments: that big flush of fruits in the finish was a great wee surprise.
SGP: 641 - 87 points.

 

 

Westport 21 yo 1999/2020 (43.8%, The Whisky Cellar, cask #800075, hogshead, 164 bottles)

Westport 21 yo 1999/2020 (43.8%, The Whisky Cellar, cask #800075, hogshead, 164 bottles)
Westport of course being Glenmorangie 'incognito', as well disguised as a giraffe in dark sunglasses at a Pterodactyls only techno night. Colour: white wine. Nose: light, delicate and extremely elegant. All on apricots, yellow plums, dried flowers, vase water, sunflower oil, hand cream and condensed milk. The perfect whisky for an evening's first dram. I also find tiny impressions of mineral oil and sandalwood. Mouth: interestingly, it is these mineral touches that come through more clearly here. Along with some unusual notes of cardboard and acrylic. Concrete, white flowers, plasticine, hessian and bitter herbs. Slightly unlikely perhaps. Reminiscent of some old school Cadenhead AC bottlings from the 1990s. Finish: medium, light bitter, herbal, floral and on plain cereals. Comments: loved the nose, the palate was little more challenging I think, but overall it's a pretty fascinating, 'bare bones' take on the distillery character.
SGP: 451 - 84 points.

 

 

A Highland Distillery 16 yo 2005/2021 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, refill sherry butt, 628 bottles)

A Highland Distillery 16 yo 2005/2021 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, refill sherry butt, 628 bottles)
There are whispers on the wind that this is from a distillery that rhymes with 'Mensporranflea'… Colour: amber. Nose: mmmm, big fudgey, nicely sharp, prickly sherry. Tinned dark fruits, sultana, malt loaf, singed raisins, Irish coffee and a wee sprig of fresh mint. An excellent sherry cask I think. With water: ever so slightly gamey now with touches of old pinot noir, date cake, hessian, fig, five spice and baked plums. Mouth: fudge, raisins, sultanas, cocoa, bitter chocolate, walnut wine, cough mixtures and a few dried mixed herbs. Direct, straight, classical and extremely good! With water: really hits its stride now. Lots of soft, mulchy earthiness, light tobacco notes, more of these lovely soft dried fruits and further notes of espresso and bitter chocolate. Finish: long, leafy, lightly minty, fresh with bags of this super clean, lightly earthy, fruity sherry in the aftertaste. Comments: Terrific selection. I love this kind of refill sherry cask that has plenty left to give but never drifts into total sherry bomb territory. Super clean, bright, but still rich and full bodied. I could quaff this all night long.
SGP: 561 - 88 points.

 

 

Glenrothes 9 yo (58%, Dràm Mòr, cask #2851, moscatel finish, 340 bottles)

Glenrothes 9 yo (58%, Dràm Mòr, cask #2851, moscatel finish, 340 bottles)
Moscatel being a very sweet style of sherry wine not dissimilar to PX. Colour: rose gold. Nose: indeed, sweet, young Speyside malt. Lots of nectars and syrups and various honey notes. A very nice impression of sweet wines like young Sauternes, also grape must and lemon curd. With water:  interesting, reduction brings a more cereal and vegetal side, rather as if it 'deleted' the finishing. Mouth: same, very sticky, syrupy but not 'unnatural' which is always good news I think. Various sticky fruit jams, citrus curds, candied fruit peels and jams. Some impressions of freshly glazed pastries too. With water: unlike on the nose this still rather sweet, only now more floral and perhaps more obviously vinous and green with some snapped twigs and grape must. Finish: medium, jammy, some green bramble leaves, white pepper, hessian and more of these nice musty notes. Comments: I think this finishing was quite smart and worked very well. Watch these young Glenrothes, they are pretty good drams I think.
SGP: 641 - 85 points.

 

 

Glenrothes 21 yo 1997/2019 (40.8%, The Single Cask, cask #262, refill sherry hogshead, 270 bottles)

Glenrothes 21 yo 1997/2019 (40.8%, The Single Cask, cask #262, refill sherry hogshead, 270 bottles)
Colour: orangey amber. Nose: very soft, as you'd expect from the ABV, but also rather charmingly old school with this very leafy, aromatic sherry profile that incorporates many subtle dark fruits, milk chocolate, leather, rancio and even some lightly crystallised exotic fruit notes too. Some earthy teas, eucalyptus and plum wine. Sort of fragile, but very beautiful. Mouth: perfectly fresh, clean and rather nutty sherry. Also with a lot of milk chocolate so that it becomes rather like a Snickers bar with this additional caramel sweetness. Indeed, there's further notes of caramel and coconut chocolate wafers, rosewater, mint tea and red liquorice. The strength may be low, but it never feels like it's holding it back. Finish: medium in length, soft, juicy earthiness, tobaccos, mushroom powder, miso and hints of soy sauce and pomegranate molasses. Comments: Extremely dangerous whisky. Please do not store your bottles near a tumbler glass or you may find them mysteriously evaporating. A little more oomph of ABV would have propelled this one very close to 90 I think. As it is…
SGP: 651 - 88 points.

 

 

Ledaig 12 yo 2008/2021 (55.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 244 bottles)

Ledaig 12 yo 2008/2021 (55.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 244 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: typical and typically great! Crystalline peat smoke, lemon juice, some slightly more grubby puffer smoke in the background, creel nets and a big surge of pure seawater. Impeccable and pristine modern peated malt whisky. With water: big, sooty, slightly mechanical smokiness, with impressions of preserves lemons, black olive bread and smoked sea salt. Mouth: richer, oilier and rounder than the nose suggested. Big, thick notes of tar, malt vinegar, chip fat, mercurochrome, lemon juice and smoked olive oil. Impressions of sardines and anchovies in brine along with green olives in dirty martinis. With water: more refinement, goes towards gentian eau de vie, natural tar, vapour rubs, bandages, medical tinctures, TCP and smouldering peat embers. Really great with water actually. Finish: long, perfectly sharp, coastal, medical and still displaying a lovely depth and weight to the peat smoke. Comments: modern Ledaig is very hard to argue with.
SGP: 367 - 90 points.

 

 

Ledaig 12 yo 2008/2020 (55.9%, Archives 'The Fishes of Samoa', cask #70003, hogshead, 249 bottles)

Ledaig 12 yo 2008/2020 (55.9%, Archives 'The Fishes of Samoa', cask #70003, hogshead, 249 bottles)
Seriously guys, when are we going to get 'The Chips of Samoa'? Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: a notch lighter, more petrolic, towards mineral salts, malt vinegar, brine, seawater, kiln smoke, wet rope, sheep wool, old workshops. There's more subtlety and more complexity here, but still a residual sense of coiled power too. With water: simpler now, focussed on seawater, bandages and brine. Mouth: seawater, gherkins, capers, anchovy, English mustard, aniseed and horseradish. There's also oysters and lemon juice too, with a splash of spirit vinegar. With water: antiseptic, seaweed crackers, seawater again, a touch of grapefruit and some nice notes of smoked olive oil. Finish: long, softly smoky, lightly herbal, still very coastal and with some more vinegar and lemon juice. Comments: I think I preferred the Cadenhead by a midgie's moustache, it was just a little more 'emphatic', but this is still serious stuff! 
SGP: 366 - 89 points. 

 

 

Thanks to Andy!

 

 

 

 

May 19, 2021


Whiskyfun

Hurray, it's alive!
(Celebrating the reopening of Brora)

I'm happy to report that it is right today that Diageo have officially broadcasted the inauguration of refurbished Brora Distillery. Amongst friends, I'm calling this new step the beginning of 'Phase III' because in my book, there have been a Phase I and a Phase II. I'm trying to keep an already complicated story as simple as possible; remember the distillery was first named 'Clynelish' – we sometimes call it Old Clynelish to avoid any confusions with 'New Clynelish' – so that's 'Phase I' as Old Clynelish lasted from 1819 to May 1968, when they decided to close the Distillery since the 'new' Clynelish had been completed and had started producing. Then, in 1969 they decided to restart the old distillery to produce some peatier, 'Islay-style' whisky which was in very high demand from blenders. It first became 'Clynelish II' for a few months, until it was decided to rechristen the distillery 'Brora' from December 2, 1969 on. That's the beginning of 'Phase II' in my book, which lasted until March of 1983, when they closed the Distillery 'for good'. Then, I believe around 2017, Diageo decided to refurbish and reactivate the Distillery, with some important work to be done, but without any major changes or alterations done to the equipment and to the methods of production. For example, the now refurbished stills have not been changed, they were still there as we all know, probably because you couldn't take them out without cutting them into pieces – or dismantle the roof or the whole still house.
So right this morning, the Brora Wildcat Gates have been opened and the first official cask of Brora has been filled in 38 years. Which means that in my book  'Phase III' has started right today! There's been a ceremony this morning (rather a movie première), which I could attend 'virtually', and here are further bits of information that I could gather…
- The aim is 'to make Brora like it was then'.
- Fermentation will be long.
- The still house has been rebuilt using the original Brora stones.
- They'll use malt from Ord Maltings, as was the case before.
- Maximum production will be 800,000 litres a year.
- The distillery will be a carbon-neutral site.
- They'll welcome visitors from July 1st on.
- There will be a distillery exclusive bottling, a Brora 39 yo 1982.
- I've heard a Distillery rep, can't remember whom, say that 'they'll try to make it even better than in the past'. That's going to be the trickier part, if you ask me!

 

A few pictures before we proceed with the tasting...

Brora

Brora
Brora
Brora
Brora
Brora
Brora

 

So to celebrate the reopening, Diageo have created a 'Triptych', a set of three decanters that shelter three major styles that have been made at the Distillery in the past, a 1972, a 1977 and a 1982, all bearing 'funny names'. We need fun anyway, don't we.

Brora
We shall now try all three, but first, just one or two wee warm-me-ups if you don't mind… I have already tried and scored both, but never wrote any proper tasting notes and I believe this is an occasion better than any other to remedy that awful situation.

Brora 21 yo 1977/1998 (56.9%, Rare Malts)

Brora 21 yo 1977/1998 (56.9%, Rare Malts) Five stars
One of those fantastic Rare Malts by United Distillers. Colour: pale gold. Nose: you know, we were that impressed with the 1972s that any subsequent vintage used to be deemed as 'much less peaty'. But in truth, and this is a perfect example, these vintages were still very peaty. It starts extremely coastal, really on oysters and any other living beings from the sea, before some typical whiffs of brown coal and 'farmyard' would start to emerge. What's sure is that I find it much purer and brighter than before after all those years, but maybe is that the effect of perfect bottle ageing? With water: gets awesomely medicinal. Old-style mercurochrome (remember when it was red) and wet crushed limestone. Very pure, with a farminess that's, well, gone. Some perfect rubber too (new scuba suit).Mouth (neat): fantastically lemony. Salted lemon cake and oysters with lemon. It is extremely compact, which is totally an asset in this context. With water: perfect zing. Crystal clean coastal peat, well I find it more coastal than any Islays. Finish: long, blade-y, extremely vertical. And medicinal. Comments: I remember we used to buy these from Nicolas for 79€, but you could sometimes find it at 59€. And sometimes 50€ when we were complaining because the boxes were missing. Should we keep believing in progress and mankind?
SGP:366 - 92 points.

Brora 30 yo '2002 Edition' (52.4%, OB, 3000 bottles)

Brora 30 yo '2002 Edition' (52.4%, OB, 3000 bottles) Five stars
A Special Release from before the Special Releases, the first Brora in this series and the first OB if you take neither any 'Old' Clynelish, nor the Rare Malts into account. Oh well we used to classify the Rare Malts as 'official independent bottlings' anyway, which sounds extremely silly in 2021. We've never let anything stop us. I also remember well the first time I tried this one blind, in front of a few hundred people. 'It's Talisker!' did I exclaim without thinking. After almost 20 years, I keep feeling shame… Colour: gold. Nose: I wasn't remembering all this coriander, cardamom, and even curry. It is fatter than the RM, with more oak and certainly more spices, especially pepper. That's probably why I had thought it was Talisker… back in 2002. It is also clearly farmy, this time, but that was really a trait of the 1972 vintage. With water: a lot of hay, almonds, coal, also mint, and distant whiffs of the very friendly farm dog barking at you for no reason. Mouth (neat): more ashes than in the 1977, more very dry and tarry lapsang souchong, and with all those spices that keep fighting you. Coriander seeds, chiefly. With water: awesomely almondy and mentholy. Touches of salt, smoke, smoked salmon, fatter oysters… Finish: long, a tad bitterer and grassier. Comments: in my view these very early 1972 'SRs' were somewhat stuck between the otherworldly younger, more brutal Rare Malts, and some older 1972s that had gained a fabulous complexity over the years. But they remain high-class.
SGP:467 - 92 points.

Brora 1982/2021 'Triptych – Timeless Original' (47.5%, OB, 300 bottles)

Brora 1982/2021 'Triptych – Timeless Original' (47.5%, OB, 300 bottles) Five stars
Someone here deserves a medal for this classy example of the subtle art of using half-oxymorons in copywriting. Timeless original? Nostalgia isn't what it used to be! Joking aside, 1982 was a 'low peat' vintage but they were still pretty different from 'new' Clynelish, perhaps more austere and less citrusy, fat and waxy. Let's see… Colour: straw. Nose: they must have selected some better casks. To be honest we've encountered some slightly wishy-washy 1982s in the past, but this is rather closer to the 1977 RM that we tried just a few minutes ago. Having said that I'm also finding some very pretty notes of ripe gooseberries, with a little metal polish, a touch of coconut, and perhaps a little turmeric. A little curry, and 'of course' lemongrass and zests. Mouth: most probably some blender's work. I mean, most other 1982s I could try in the past have been single casks. This time we're close to some Clynelish 1982 or 1983, many of which having been almost out of this world in my opinion. Waxy citrons and bergamots with a tiny touch of salt and smoke, and a dollop of yellow chartreuse, anyone? I wouldn't say I'm surprised, but… oh well yes, I am. Superb. Finish: rather long and waxier yet. Blind, I say Clynelish and I applaud wildly (not glass in hand). Comments: very smart, very well played. To be honest I had thought this would be the set's Achille's heel (S., boo!).
SGP:552 - 91 points.

Brora 1977/2021 'Triptych – Age of Peat' (48.6%, OB, 300 bottles)

Brora 1977/2021 'Triptych – Age of Peat' (48.6%, OB, 300 bottles) Five stars
All my life, I've been believing that they had made the peatiest Broras in 1970-1972 since that was when they were needing a lot of peaters for their blends. And that since, for example, Caol Ila's extension had been completed, they were in the need for less from 1974 on. And that consequently, the level of peat was decreased at Brora. But a new version - well could be that I've simply been all wrong all those years – is that they actually increased the peat levels until around 1977, and only decreased them later on. I must admit that the 1977 Rare Malts was pretty peaty. Colour: gold. Nose: it is just incredible to nose the RM and this new Triptych in parallel, for they are so close. Someone's burning old pinewood in the fireplace, and coal in the stove! Someone else is doing inhalation baths with camphor and eucalyptus, and a third person is smoking salmon over beechwood. All that in the same room. Mouth: hold on, could this be around 45 years of age? Only yesterday, the 21/1977 RM was in the shops! Quite. So this is austere, ashy, dry, then rather spicier, somewhat in the stye of that first SR, with some curry and ginger. Must be the wood. A lot of tension remaining, which I always found very 'Brora', but there's also more waxy citrus emerging over time. Beeswax, kumquats, a wee bit of yuzu… But the 'bed' remains superbly austere and, yes, vertical. Finish: rather long, fat and tight at the same time. Watch this new silly adjective: 'Meursaulty'. One day, the Scots will jail me. Comments: actually, we've never tried many different 1977s, so it is not that easy to describe the style of that vintage – if we may talk about 'vintages' in whisky. Grand whisky.
SGP:464 - 92 points.

Brora 1972/2021 'Triptych – Elusive Legacy' (42.8%, OB, 300 bottles)

Brora 1972/2021 'Triptych – Elusive Legacy' (42.8%, OB, 300 bottles) Five stars
For decades and as far as Brora was concerned, I've believed that there was 1972 on the one side, and all other vintages on the other side. And between us, that's never been because I used to think that the 1972s were 'elusive', quite the opposite. But that's just a word on a bottle, a funny one at that. Well done. Colour: gold. Nose: oh well oh well oh well. Almost a 50 years old. It is still tight, tarry, a wee bit rubbery, with these whiffs of new Teflon, wee pink artichokes, ski wax, oysters, elastomer, creosote, then a little fresh butter, lanoline, hand cream, newspapers, then kelp and seawater, whelks, fresh crabs (I'm not joking), then bitter almonds, hints of sage and tarragon, parsley, and even, after fifteen minutes, wet dogs! (we're sorry as ever, dogs). Astounding complexity. Mouth: as they say, three things are certain in life; death, taxes, and the fact that Brora 1972 is eternal. What was not totally sure yet was if it would take real old age, especially wood, well. I mean, if the tea-ishness that really old aging usually brings – well always – would mingle well with this spirit's inherent style. The answer is yes. Salted smoked almonds, smoked oysters, magazines, chewing rubber bands, drinking lapsang souchong and young pu-her, smoked oysters, kippers, menthol cigarettes, cannabis resin, salty lemons, white tequila (half a drop), gentian… Well this is endless. Finish: for the record. Comments: every time you try a Brora 1972 it is like if you're having one for the first time in your life. A Brora 1972 always surprises you. I just hope it is this style that they'll make again at the 'New' Brora Distillery. Could they also have been restarting some Saladin boxes somewhere? At Ord? Updtae: they have bot.
SGP:466 - 96 points.

Long life to Brora Distillery! I'm so happy to be able to update the last of my very old pages about Brora, will do that a.s.a.p.

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

 

May 18, 2021


Whiskyfun

Yet another barrow of Highland Park.
Or Scapa?

With all these secret Orkneys invading the market, I'm sure the reputation of Scapa will rise without them having anything to do or to spend. That's cool!

Orkney Single Malt 17 yo 2002/2019 (49.1%, Whisky-Fässle, butt)

Orkney Single Malt 17 yo 2002/2019 (49.1%, Whisky-Fässle, butt) Four stars
Another wee duck by the Fässle that, I'm dead sure, won't be a lame one. Colour: gold. Nose: we're not far from the style of most OBs and I'm sure that's the sherry. In this case, it's rather a leafy one, with some cherry tea (stems and leaves) plus this slightly farmy and coastal side. In short, a farmyard near the sea. Also burnt raisin rolls – childhood memories indeed – as well as some paraffin, pencil eraser, and so on. School! Mouth: starts salty and smoky, gets then leafy and a little tea-ish, with once again this combination of farmy and coastal notes. I find a little rough, but that's pretty pleasant. Another one for the hipflask? Finish: rather long, with a little salted caramel and a few resinous notes. Grass. Retsina? The aftertaste is rather dry and leafy. Comments: get your hipflask ready! The one with the skull and bones and that funny Harley-Davidson logo.
SGP:362 - 85 points.

Secret Orkney 16 yo 2003/2019 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Secret Orkney 16 yo 2003/2019 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary) Five stars
This little mercenary on the label seems to be drinking his HP from the skull of one of his enemies. Which gives me a few ideas I have to say… Colour: white wine. Nose: it is a full-mineral, crystal-clean fresh HP, on lamp oil, grass, lime juice, sourdough and granny smith. With a nod to Clynelish down in the south. With water: never have I found this much linseed oil in any malt whisky. A lot of raw wool too. Mouth (neat): terrific lime-y arrival, fat and mineral, tart, full-bodied and superbly waxy. Goes on with a salty smokiness. With water: fabtastic waxy, mineral, salty and lemony development. This is perfect. Finish: rather long and saltier yet. Comments: another gift to mankind, we can only meditate. Scores would further rise after a few more years in a well-stored bottle. For example, a well-stored bottle is a bottle that's located in my own cellar (S., please!)
SGP:463 - 90 points.

An Orkney Distillery 14 yo 2006/2020 (60.9%, Watt Whisky, ruby Port barrique 'rested', 307 bottles)

An Orkney Distillery 14 yo 2006/2020 (60.9%, Watt Whisky, ruby Port barrique 'rested', 307 bottles) Three stars
With 'rested', the very honourable bottlers mean that the malt had spent the first few months of its life in Port, before it was transferred to a better civilised cask. Reversed finishing, in a way. Now, it remained pretty pink, which is intriguing… Colour: pretty pink. Nose: wee touches of blackcurrant bud at first, perhaps geranium (flowers, not leaves thank God), then the expected Highlandparky development, with some sea salt, beach sand, honey sauce, grapefruits, earth, fresh almonds… All rather good things. With water: it wouldn't change much. Mouth (neat): not bad at all but the Port has been extremely resilient in here. Which made this baby grape-y and a little salty/sour. Some kind of little-known Chinese sauce for Dim-Sum, would I say. With water: but how much ruby Port was there in this barrique in the first place? I'm sure no one knows, but the amounts of red and black fruits are rather huge here, while those, in my humble opinion, wouldn't tango too well with the biggish distillate. Now don't get me wrong, this is no Frankenstein whisky either, it's just, well, something else. Finish: rather long, rather better now. Some cherry juice with a little salt and a little green pepper, all the rest being 'HP'. Comments: sure this is a winesky, but it does go down without hassle. It's just not my preferred style.
SGP:652 - 82 points.

More 2006…

An Orkney Distillery 14 yo 2006/2020 (60.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland for USA, cask #45, 303 bottles)

An Orkney Distillery 14 yo 2006/2020 (60.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland for USA, cask #45, 303 bottles) Four stars and a half
High strength alert! Colour: white wine. Nose: what should I say? Sunflower oil, limoncello, damp clay, sandwich bread, chalk, smoke, beach sand, roasted peanuts, paraffin… Once again, we shan't file a complaint here. Also whiffs of fresh dry Alsatian muscat – I swear I'm not dreaming. Please pass the white asparagus! With water: gets cloudy as milk! And this viscimetry in action… Chalk, Woolite, crumb, sourdough, a touch of gherkin brine, not unseen in clean HPs… Mouth (neat): as often, the very high alcohol makes it sweetish, almost bonbony, all that with a very thick body. Marshmallow vodka. With water: it's funny that I would find white asparagus (no muscat though), chalk, lemon, a lot of fresh bread, some salt, oysters, a little lemon oil, even weissbeer, and all that jazz that we enjoy so much. Finish: long, tense, vertical, really rather salty, with an aftertaste on some kind of salty and smoked grapefruit liqueur. Comments: sure you'll need your best pipette, but then it'll deliver. Just excellent.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

Good, after those excellent Scapas (!) let's have a proper HP. I'm even wondering if this won't be the oldest HP I've ever tasted… Ah, no, there was that official 50 1960/2010. Anyway…

Highland Park 45 yo 1975/2021 (46.6%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions Authors Series for Taiwan, refill hogshead, 24 bottles)

Highland Park 45 yo 1975/2021 (46.6%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions Authors Series for Taiwan, refill hogshead, 24 bottles) Five stars
Sweet Jesus Mary and Joseph, a forty-five years old Highland Park, they don't exactly give these away with coupons, do they. I'm not sure the very narrow outturn would suggest this is only a chunk of the content of the cask, of if, as they used to say in brochures (bring-them-back!), the angels have been very greedy. But let's try this baby, with due deference… Colour: gold. Nose: it went to the piney and waxy side, with whiffs of fresh paint and putty, pressed apples, gueuze beer, then we have some pollen, some very old Sauternes that aged well – they usually do – some furniture polish, beeswax, drawing gum, this resinous substance that bees tend to harvest (propolis), then elements from a forest, moss, mushrooms, fern, woodruff, old tree stump… This is just perfect, exactly fit, very complex, with a side that reminds me of that very legendary bottling they did at the owners', the 1962 'John Goodwin'. Mouth: something strange is happening, I believe I could almost copy-and-paste what I said about the nose. Which is rather miraculous, as these very old malts, even when the noses are brilliant, tend to become a little too resinous and drying on your palate. Which is absolutely not the case here. Let's just add some peach syrup with a dollop of old yellow Chartreuse, as well as Crème de menthe and liqueur de sapin des Vosges (a thing we have over here). Finish: indeed, it'll lose one or two points at the finish, which is totally normal at this ripe old age. A bright finish in a 45 yo whisky would not be human (what?) A salty, metallic, bouillony touch and, well, a little mead and cardboard. Nothing abnormal indeed. Comments: this one reminds us that the true equation remains Malt-Whisky = Barley x Yeast x Water x Oak x Time.
SGP:562 - 92 points.

I can't see how we could 'climb over' that 45. Ciao (with apologies to the very fine Scapa people).

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

 

May 17, 2021


Whiskyfun

Another barrow of Highland Park

It is always a joy to taste HP. And it's even funnier to do that loosely, in no particular order, as they come to the tasting table. Like this…

Highland Park 14 yo 'Viking Soul Cask' (57%, OB for Humble Whisky, American oak firkin, cask #300151, 52 bottles)

Highland Park 14 yo 'Viking Soul Cask' (57%, OB for Humble Whisky, American oak firkin, cask #300151, 52 bottles) Four stars and a half
Those little firkins are something – when there's something left in wood after a few years of maturation, as they tend to leak. Love it that it's not sherry, by the way. Colour: amber. Nose: bingo, it's one of those retro-modern old-school malts, both compact and wide, if you like. Lovely sour cream, the trademark heather honey, elderberries, guavas, fresh wholegrain bread, sauna oil, pinewood smoke, broken branches, sourdough… Retro-modern indeed. With water: more pine-y oils, sauna, teak… I have to say I am a sucker for these aromas. Balsa wood. Mouth (neat): but this is super-good! Excellent citrus (lime and bergamots), tight earthiness, ground nuts, walnut wine, cough syrup… The oak's pretty tight too, but remember this was a firkin and we remain way below the limits (of oaky tightness). With water: excellent swimmer, although it wouldn't change much. Finish: long and piney, perhaps a tad woody at this point but just pour yourself another dram a.s.a.p. and you'll be fine. Comments: HP is a great, robust distillate that stands many kinds of treatments (just not lousy hastily-treated PX casks). Love the medicinal/piney touches in this little firkin; well-chosen, Jason.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

Highland Park 'Cask Strength' (63.5%, OB, +/-2020)

Highland Park 'Cask Strength' (63.5%, OB, +/-2020) Four stars
NAS and exclusively ex-sherry, not obligatorily the best of news. But this is HP… Colour: gold. Nose: a bit brutal, leafy and leathery, a tad sour, but also pleasantly coastal. Some vanilla, some raisins – apparently. But then again, 63.5% vol. The jury's out and far away… With water: some menthol and some kelp, some liquorice, tobacco, a little kirschwasser perhaps, some fresh bread… Looks like we're getting there indeed. Mouth (neat): this is huge and extremely sweet, rather bizarrely and contrastingly. I do detect some great signs of Highlandparkness, but I've decided that I would need my palate for the next twenty years. So… With water: yep, salty wine and earthy breads, that's all things we like. The sherry's a tad too noticeable to me, but that's me. Finish: long, salty, with some menthol and many breads. Lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: what a distillate! It even survived a full-sherry treatment, at such young age! Even if that was probably mainly refill.
SGP:462 - 86 points.

Perhaps another beastly one, and another attempt at shorter notes…

Highland Park 14 yo 2006/2020 (60.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry puncheon, cask #4269, 588 bottles)

Highland Park 14 yo 2006/2020 (60.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry puncheon, cask #4269, 588 bottles) Five stars
G&M have been instrumental to HP. Not only to HP. Colour: light gold. Nose: ho-ho-ho, chalk, candlewax, flints, peanut oil, Parma ham, marrow… With water: iodine, wet plaster, oysters, engine oil. You cannot beat that. Mouth (neat): sublime mineral, grassy, ultra-tight arrival, then chalk and lime. Who needs literature? (why do you keep calling your miserable gibberish 'literature', S.?) With water: instantly floors you. Crystalline smoky and mineral development, with just a few bits of lemon for decoration. Some oils too. Finish: long, tarrier. The greatly dirtier side of HP coming out. Comments: stunner alert, this is a true aristocratic thug of whisky. That was short indeed - et nunc est bibendum!
SGP:453 - 90 points.

That one was really great, assuredly. But let's move on…

Highland Park 'Orkney Rowing Club' (58%, OB, 4000 bottles, 2019)

Highland Park 'Orkney Rowing Club' (58%, OB, 4000 bottles, 2019) Four stars and a half
Some kind of charity bottling, as I understand it. Our dear friends in Scotland seem to be loving both rowing and piping. Colour: gold. Nose: fine smoked barley and cakes. Garden bonfire, scones, and cappuccino. This seems to work… With water: gets chalky, doughy and medicinal, which is typically 'modern HP'. I love modern HP, as long as no useless wood's been in use. So to speak. Mouth (neat): all good, all fine. Limoncello, a touch of crème de menthe, some chalk, then some grape pips oil and some even 'greener' oils. Cider apples. Love this tight greenness. With water: hurray! Perfect saltier lemons and earths, chalk, green teas, smoke… Orkney rowers have it good. Finish: pristine well-chiselled smoky, mineral and coastal barleyness. Riiiight up my alley. Even nicer, grapefruit in the aftertaste; that just always works. Comments: I think I've found a new hobby: rowing. Does that work glass-in-hand? Anyway, I am ready for Henley! This wee OB's on the heels of the brilliant G&M…
SGP:453 - 89 points.

Highland Park 13 yo 2007/2021 (57.1%, OB for Decadent Drinks, cask #4613, 349 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 2007/2021 (57.1%, OB for Decadent Drinks, cask #4613, 349 bottles) Four stars and a half
I find the name 'Decadent Drinks' very London, no? I think this is very sherried… And it is European oak. Hold on, is anyone in the UK still entitled to use the word 'European'? Colour: amber. Nose: stones, rocks, old engine, then chestnut purée and silverware, zwetschke pie and old copper coins, soot and proper tomato sauce… Well indeed this is pretty decadent, we're reminded of some much, much older bottlings of HP. Not only HP, to tell you the truth, you'd almost believe this an old dumpy C/S by CAD. That's probably the metals in there. With water: metal polish, metal polish, and metal polish. Plus Bolognese sauce and a drop of Maggi. We do know that the good folks at Decadent Drinks are huge fans of Maggi.   Mouth (neat): oh very good, proper sherry on proper HP. It's just that it is a wee bit too strong, biting, and almost aggressive. But we have a solution at hand… With water: this is where sherried stuffs often get awry, but this one holds the road, with good smoke, vegetables, tobaccos and this wee gamey side. A drop of kirschwasser – which would always improve any dishes anyway, just like good grappa. Something I learnt at Barmetro's in Milano, quite some years ago. Hey let's try that, add a drop of grappa or marc or kirschwasser to any junk food – indeed, even to a Big Mac -  and presto, enter the amazing world of high gastronomy! But back to this HP, it is very good indeed. Finish: long and good. A touch of fresh oak in the aftertaste. Comments: did I mention that citrus in the end of the aftertaste?
SGP:362 - 89 points.

That's enough already. Next time  - so tomorrow if all goes well - we'll have something totally different: Secret Orkneys!

(Merci again Tim!)

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

 

May 16, 2021


Whiskyfun

This is Sunday, let's have another wee bunch of rum

Since this is Sunday… Oh and let's start this with something crazy…

Arruco 'XO' (40%, OB, Spirit Drink, +/-2020)

Arruco 'XO' (40%, OB, Spirit Drink, +/-2020) Three stars
This is a blend of 70% Caribbean rum with 30% Armagnac. I don't know what to think. Perhaps just try it? And is it that different from someone finishing some rum in an unrinsed (if not re-moistened) Armagnac cask? So let's keep an open mind… Colour: gold. Nose: I get no rum and I get no Armagnac; I get something else. Some verbena, for example, some Bénédictine, certainly notes of that funny thing I tried the other day, Falernum. Beets, genepy, celeriac, fennel seeds, almond milk, a touch of grenadine… I do like this nose, even if it noses 'sweet'. Mouth: it is sweet. But the concoction worked, with pretty much the same flavours, with perhaps an emphasis on caraway. I'm reminded of some aquavit. Also pineapples, oranges and raisins I would say, a drop of crème de menthe… Finish: medium, sweet and herbal. Cointreau. Comments: there's a recipe behind this, it is not just a blend of rum with Armagnac. Not quite my kind of drink but I enjoy the fact that you do not immediately feel the need to reach for the ice bucket. In fact, I would quaff this.
SGP:750 - 80 points.

Another one that's seen some French brandy in its life…

Maison La Mauny 2015/2019 'E15' (62.8%, Excellence Rhum, La Martinique)

Maison La Mauny 2015/2019 'E15' (62.8%, Excellence Rhum, La Martinique) Four stars and a half
This fierce baby matured in a Cognac cask. This should be agricole but I don't think it says so. Colour: amber. Nose: sure it is a little hot but you do already feel some cassata and panettone, fresh ginger cookies, quite a lot of liquorice, maple syrup, and some overripe bananas. Whiffs of violets or even ylang-ylang. With water: espresso popping out, butterscotch, vesou, black nougat, perhaps even roasted peanuts… It is a fantastic nose, really. Mouth (neat): thick, creamy, pretty fantastic too. Spices and herbs on a bed of pineapple and banana. Funny how it responds to the Arruco, in a much drier manner. Dill, caraway and fennel, ideas of incense perhaps, and certainly a lot of cane juice. Or cane honey. With water: do I detect rye? We're not that far from some thick young American rye whisky. Buckwheat as well, more caraway, nutmeg, cinnamon mints… Finish: long, spicy, superbly dry and earthy, rather more on green liquorice. Perhaps a little rooibos tea in the aftertaste. Comments: pretty amazing and at almost 63%, you've got more in the bottle (that's lame, S.) This will also compensate for the rather poor old La Mauny 5 that we tried last week.
SGP:671 - 89 points.

Let's just swim to a little island close to Guadeloupe…

Bielle 2012/2019 'YQM' (59.2%, Excellence Rhum, Marie-Galante, agricole)

Bielle 2012/2019 'YQM' (59.2%, Excellence Rhum, Marie-Galante, agricole) Four stars and a half
Integrally aged in some 'prestigious' Sauternes barrique. My monies on Yquem then, Bielle being 1er Grand Cru at château Whiskyfun anyway. Nah, sure the acronym 'YQM' gave it away. Colour: double gold, as they say at Awards. Nose: rather bizarrely, its rather shier than the La Mauny, with some fresh pinewood, perhaps, some earth, perhaps one or two mushrooms… Could be that it really needs water. Let's see… With water: herbal. Hay, stewed rhubarb, white peaches, with just a touch of tar that would remind us that this is Bielle. Some artichokes too and whiffs of new rubber boots. That's well Bielle. Mouth (neat): it is not totally different from the La Mauny, I am sorry to say. I know I 'should' find many differences, but I shan't push this. Some bergamots, for sure. With water: there, bergamots indeed, orange blossom water, lemongrass, apricots (Sauternes?) and aniseed… Finish: pretty, on the same notes, more or less. Pastis in the aftertaste (what?) plus that discreet petroly side. Comments: brilliant but I'm afraid I liked the La Mauny even better. That La Mauny was something else.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

This is really a great house, let's have one more for them, if you don't mind…

Chairman's Reserve 20 yo 2000/2020 (65.1%, OB for Old Brothers and Excellence Rhum, St. Lucia, bourbon, cask #922000, 234 bottles)

Chairman's Reserve 20 yo 2000/2020 (65.1%, OB for Old Brothers and Excellence Rhum, St. Lucia, bourbon, cask #922000, 234 bottles) Five stars
This baby from the John Dore 1 still. One day, I'll have to find out about what that means, really, I'm more familiar with John Deere (tell me about a spirit blogger!) Seriously, it is a fairly new small pot still that takes both molasses-based and ex-cane juice wash. So this is 'batch', or 'discontinuous' rum… Colour: full amber. Nose: a lot of varnish, acetone, even a little ammonia, paint thinner, black olives, balsamic vinegar…  Mind you, 65%! With water: I find this rather sublime. Every Chairman's Reserve I'm trying is even better than the previous one. Fantastic liquorice wood, Meursault (yep), olives, a little varnish remaining, sour apples, a little umami, fermenting plums… Or there, umeshu. Fantastic nose. Mouth (neat): love it but boy is it strong! That black tea that you forgot in the teapot… last week. The sourest beers, very sour cherries too, plywood juice… Nutshell: water is obligatory. With water: and bravo! Tight and spicy, on coriander, cumin, liquorice, some tar, a feeling of old oloroso, walnuts… Finish: tar! I've just tried a flight of old Ardbegs again (not published yet) and it's true that Ardbeg in dark oloroso  is fairly close to this. Kind of. Comments: in this context you either embrace or resist. We embrace.
SGP:363 - 90 points.

I think we need an ace or this high-echelon session will turn badly. Not many options left…

Uitvlugt 27 yo 1993/2021 (47.6%, RumSponge, Guyana, barrel, 174 bottles)

Uitvlugt 27 yo 1993/2021 (47.6%, RumSponge, Guyana, barrel, 174 bottles) Five stars
The label here is really good and reminds us that the Dutch, especially E&A Scheer, have been instrumental in the rise of rum (whatever those cool guys on the islands say). What's more this is described as 'early landed' rum, which I find particularly smart as well. I would just clarify that the word 'godverdamme', which means 'jings' according to this label, is pretty much Alsatian too. As we say here, gottverdammi! Colour: straw. Nose: Uitvlugt is rum of malt whisky quality. I mean, you could almost classify this as 'sugarcane whisky'. Brine, sardines and anchovies, lemon juice, sour wine, touch of vanilla, touch or paprika, touch of turmeric, touch of sawdust, with even a very tiny bit of garlic and even wild bear's garlic. This sour brine is what makes Uitvlugt's style in my book. A style that  I cherish. Mouth: mirroring the nose, word-for-word. What I particularly like in older Uitvlugt is that some tiny notes of 'unusual' vegetables are slowly becoming clear. For example, Brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, or eggplants… All that being properly salted and peppered, of course. A little coffee too. Rather fascinating if you give this wee spirit a good chunk of your time. It grows on you. Finish: long and salty. Apologies, Sponge, I'm finding notes of tinned English gherkins now. Comments: for a few minutes I had feared it would have gone over the hill. It was just a wee tad slow (or I was too impatient). Oh and no water is needed, which will save the planet as we all know.
SGP:463 - 90 points.

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

 

May 15, 2021


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
'That' Glen Grant
I feel like I'm very much 'late to the party' here, but I didn't know Serge was planning to publish his notes for this shiny new / ancient Glen Grant 1953 yesterday. Anyway, this is undeniably an exciting whisky and, being a self-confessed Glen Grant fanatic, I am afraid you will just have to put up with my notes as well. Needless to say, the strength, age and provenance of such a cask are all pretty incredible. Sometimes it is good to just wallow in the un-adulterated excitement of being a whisky geek. Let's first find a suitable aperitif though… 

 

Glen Grant 12 yo (43%, Moray Bonding, Giovinetti import, 1960s)

Glen Grant 12 yo (43%, Moray Bonding, Giovinetti import, 1960s) 
I've already recorded notes for a few of these releases on WF. But the colour from bottling to bottling never seems to sit still so no doubt there's considerable batch variation. That's my excuse anyway. Colour: pale amber. Nose: it's easy to forget when trying many very good modern whiskies, just how fucking incredible old style sherry was / can be. I'm sorry, but this just kills any modern sherry cask stone dead. A stunning mix of mentholated wood resins and honeys. Fir wood, natural tar, long-aged herbal liqueurs, walnut wine and a soft yet wonderfully deep rancio. Simple, but kind of to die for. Mouth: similarly stunning. Hugely resinous, herbal, peppery and waxy. The impression of fat, textural, peppery distillate all wrapped up in some wonderfully salty, fruity, nervous old school sherry. Mint chocolate, black coffee, more walnuts and more dried herbs. Finish: medium, loses one point here, but still wonderfully leathery, earthy, chocolatey and riddled with rancio, dark fruits and tobacco. Comments: There are of course many technically better whiskies, but if you told me I could only have one whisky to drink for the rest of my life, it's entirely possible I might chose an old Glen Grant like this. Pleasure, decadence, opulence, grace, subtlety, class and charm epitomised. This is 'happy whisky' for me.
SGP: 652 - 91 points. 

 

 

Glen Grant 67 yo 1953/2021 (59.4%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Mr George Legacy', 1st fill sherry butt, cask #4209, 355 bottles)

Glen Grant 67 yo 1953/2021 (59.4%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Mr George Legacy', 1st fill sherry butt, cask #4209, 355 bottles) 
Of all the people in whisky I wish I could have met, George Urquhart is right up there with the Bessie Williamson's of yesteryear.… Colour: deep, ruby mahogany. Nose: it's tricky with such whiskies, because you very much 'steel' yourself to be impressed. Which is definitely the case here where the word that feels immediately appropriate is 'precious'. Precious hardwood resins, many types of honey and the conjunction of long-aged demerara rums and Grande Champagne cognacs. A perfectly deep and precise rancio. And many, many smaller aromas of things like natural tar, aged teas, old medicines, tobaccos, earth. Familiar aromas in this type of whisky but the interplay, nuance and complexity are utterly brilliant. With water: perfect now! The fruits begin to really sing, with these crystallised and exotic fruit notes emerging. Jammy, fat, herbal, textural, medical and with a stunning earthy depth. Mouth: the power is immense on arrival. The wood is big, spicy and with these brooding, chocolatey tannins everywhere. But they are clean and controlled, while the alcohol feels like it provides essential structure. Superbly dense, sticky dark fruits, more ancient, rancio-drenched Cognac, salted liquorice, natural tar, herbal liqueurs and walnut wine. It is the length and depth of this whisky that is so impressive, you can only follow it in so many directions at once, and wherever you follow it leads you somewhere new. With water: the best cough medicine you ever tasted. Stunningly resinous, peppery, deep, pristinely spicy, chocolatey, medicinal and endlessly complex and evolving. A distilled essay on time. Finish: an endless, perfectly bitter, peppery afterglow. Warmth, fruits, herbs, medicines, spices and earth. Comments: As ever, hard to disengage the emotions in such instances. Unlike so many other very old whiskies, I would say the palate matches, and even surpasses, the nose here at times. A truly brilliant whisky that is a very worthy demonstration and celebration of how great age can, on rarefied occasion, be a tremendous asset. A genuinely great achievement and a very fitting tribute to George Urquhart, to whom we whisky geeks undoubtedly owe a significant debt. 
SGP: 562 - 94 points. 

 

 

There's a fair amount of criticism you could lay at G&M's feet over the years. But the laying down, stewardship and preservation of such stocks was genuinely decades ahead of its time and the fact such a bottling can still be issued today is just thrilling if you ask me. Remember, whisky is not at all like Cognac. There are not centuries of cultural mentality supporting and encouraging the passing of product from generation to generation; no culture of preserving and storing in glass; no normalisation of age statements like '100 years old' - or indeed the maturation 'apparatus' with which to easily achieve such ages. These 'mega old' whiskies we're seeing now are a relatively new thing and, despite being 'old', in many ways they are arguably the start of something new. 

 

 

There seems to be more and more talk these days about this milestone of '100 years old' that we appear to be inching towards incrementally. I don't believe there is any reason on paper why this could not one day be achieved, it's just that it is something which would have to be understood, decided, designed and planned for at the outset or in youth - not grasped for latterly. These Gordon & MacPhail stocks are probably the closest we have to such a mentality and process, and in my view that's something to be commended. Irrespective of what stocks remain and how far they may be stretched, the fact such bottlings exist at all is extremely satisfying.

 

 

 

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


May 2021 - part 1 <--- May 2021 - part 2 ---> June 2021 - part 1


 

 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Brora 30 yo '2002 Edition' (52.4%, OB, 3000 bottles)

Brora 1972/2021 'Triptych – Elusive Legacy' (42.8%, OB, 300 bottles)

Brora 26 yo 1976/2002 (46%, Douglas McGibbon, Provenance, Winter/Autumn)

Brora 21 yo 1977/1998 (56.9%, Rare Malts)

Brora 1977/2021 'Triptych – Age of Peat' (48.6%, OB, 300 bottles)

Brora 1982/2021 'Triptych – Timeless Original' (47.5%, OB, 300 bottles)

Caol Ila 40 yo (44.9%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship Edition No.2, refill American hogshead, 2019)

Caol Ila 1983/2015 (43%, Samaroli, barrel, cask #1461, 250 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (58.8%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts Of Scotland', cask #317838, hogshead, 300 bottles)

Clynelish 24 yo 1996/2020 (54.9%, Whisky Nerds, bourbon hogshead, cask #WN001, 282 bottles)

Clynelish 22 yo 1997/2020 'Tropical scented Candle' (49.8%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 236 bottles)

Highland Park 45 yo 1975/2021 (46.6%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions Authors Series for Taiwan, refill hogshead, 24 bottles) 

Highland Park 14 yo 2006/2020 (60.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry puncheon, cask #4269, 588 bottles)

Port Charlotte 6 yo 2011/2018 'Islay Barley' (50%, OB)

Port Charlotte 13 yo 2001/2015 (63.5%, The Bottlers, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #1031)

Port Ellen 36 yo 1983/2019 (53.5%, Hunter Laing, Eidolon, Release 01, 638 bottles)

Secret Orkney 16 yo 2003/2019 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Chairman's Reserve 20 yo 2000/2020 (65.1%, OB for Old Brothers and Excellence Rhum, St. Lucia, bourbon, cask #922000, 234 bottles)

Uitvlugt 27 yo 1993/2021 (47.6%, RumSponge, Guyana, barrel, 174 bottles)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Lot 67 Le Voyageur' (40.6%, Malternative Belgium, Petite Champagne, 438 bottles, 2021)

Vallein Tercinier 53 carats 'Lot 68' (46.8%, Asta Maurice, Petite Champagne, cask #AMF002, 120 bottles, 2021)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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