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Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2006 - Part 1
       
October 2006 - part 3 <--- November 2006 - part 1 ---> November 2006 - part 2
  

November 14, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan

LILY ALLEN
the Astoria, London, November 7th 2006

For a while I was seriously concerned that I might have been the oldest person in the Astoria, so I was relieved to see some genuine greyhairs pushing their way through the crush of mainly late-teenage girls. Some were clearly chaperoning daughters, whose discomfiture at the presence of their Dads (“Come on Shaz, just follow me, I’ll find you a good spot”) was even greater than mine. All around was a sea of little Lilies, almost (but not exclusively) white, and all bearing the slightly dangerous demeanour of their heroine Lily Allen. So it’s booze, fags, and f-words. And mobile ‘phones, many of which are constantly in use, despite the fact that it turns out to be quite a loud set.

Some of them look as though they don’t get out too much (it’s all that social networking on Myspace I suppose) but they’re all making the most of tonight. It’s partly a matter of pride you see – this morning Lily posted her regular blog, complaining that last night’s Astoria gig ‘sucked’ and that the audience “just weren’t feeling it”. “I hope tonight’s better”. The gauntlet has been thrown, and well and truly picked up by this bunch.
Now you do know who Lily Allen is don’t you? Well she’s London’s summer pop sensation, according to some a spontaneous hit, like the Arctic Monkeys and Sandy Thom, thanks to Rupert Murdoch’s Myspace. “Lily” said Sunday highbrow rag the Observer in May “is a genuine, no PR, punters-love-it success” – yes, that was just at the time when “no PR” Lily was to be found bursting out of the pages of both the broadsheet and tabloid British press on a daily basis. She was already signed to Parlophone (her second label), who announced their biggest ever digital marketing campaign to promote her first single ‘Smile’ (which rushed to number one) and album Alright, Still.
This is what they said: “With this campaign we have ensured that Lily remains true to her online roots and her success through MySpace. We have created a website that reflects Lily's personality and vibrancy as well as maintaining the successful features of social networking sites like MySpace with her blog, personalised feature, music player and homepage information feeds. Lily's outspoken nature and sense of humour are really captured in her blog, which is the perfect medium to communicate Lily's personality to her fans and ensure a loyal following that we can motivate upon release. With nearly 40,000 friends, MySpace is one of the most important, direct and targeted promotion platforms we have. This is why we are premiering the album exclusively with MySpace the week before release”. Hmmm.
Oh yes – it’s also obligatory to mention the fact that she’s got a famous dad, actor and comedian Keith Allen, also famed for his novelty musical collaborations with Damien Hirst and Blur's Alex James (Fat Les’s ‘Vindaloo’). And just to be clear – she has bags of fuck-off attitude – she’s gobby, as they say in these parts, and doesn’t care who she picks a fight with, either in the press or in the flesh. This is what she said about Paris Hilton: "Paris is hideously untalented. I poured my heart into my album. She just got someone else to do it for her. If she's rude to me I'll punch her." She is the living and breathing incarnation of the binge drinking laddettes who are such a central feature of urban Friday nights (see her song of the same name) – and if you don’t believe me then ask Peaches Geldof. Or in fact the crowd up in the balcony – having got everyone moving downstairs Lily then looked up: “and what about you fuckers up there? What the fuck are you playing at? And most of you have got fucking free fucking tickets. Just dance you fuckers…” See what I mean?
Now Lily is normally nicely turned out in pretty summer frocks (a nice and knowing counterpoint to her character), but tonight she’s in a grey track suit and looks as though she’s just come from a fruit and veg stall on Hackney’s Ridley Road market. She apologises – “A’ve been vom-it-in all arfternun” (I’m sure she’s not allowed to speak like that at home). Well illness may have accounted for a slightly subdued Lily – apart from the balcony moment we were spared the expected torrent of foul-mouthed abuse for which she is famed – but it did nothing to detract from her performance. So let’s be clear, she is a hugely talented performer, who at only 21 can hold a pretty feisty audience in the palm of her hand. For someone with such a relatively diminutive stature she has prodigious presence. Her band are tight and pump out the cockney calypso ska fuelled rhythms that form the backdrop for most of her songs – it’s sort of Chas and Dave meets Desmond Dekker, with a little bit of British B-film themes from the early 1970s thrown in for good measure.. And the material is lively enough – in the course of the gig I think we get all of it: ‘LDN’, ‘Shame for you’, ‘Knock 'em out’, ‘Nan you're a window shopper’, ‘Cheryl Tweedy’ , the Kooks’ ‘Naïve’, ‘Littlest things’, ‘Not big’ ‘Friday night’, ‘Everything's just wonderful’, ‘Friend of mine’, ‘Alfie’, ‘Absolutely nothing’ and, of course, ‘Smile’. The songs, as Lily tells us, are mainly about being “fucked over” one way or another. Mostly of course by boys or blokes. And they’re also about the pleasure of revenge – “Let's see how you feel in a couple of weeks, when I work my way through your mates”. It’s all pretty juvenile stuff really, but despite a lot of the hype (“gritty urban reality”) it’s anodyne and inoffensive – I could certainly think of a lot worse. But it hardly seems like a secure basis for a long term career.
No, on the assumption that Ms Allen doesn’t burn herself out (which some of the more lurid tales of her nightlife suggest she could) she’ll need to move quite quickly from novelty rude girl to something a bit more grown up. She’s got the voice for it, even though she chooses not to really use it a great deal. And she’s quite obviously got ‘the people’ , musicians, producers (hip New York DJ Mark Ronson and keyboard player to the stars and arranger Greg Kurstin both worked on her album), and of course label-owners EMI, for whom little Lily’s future success is no doubt already ‘share-price sensitive’. So let’s hope that her chirpy summer songs go into hibernation over the winter and turn out in the spring as something far more substantial and long-lasting.
- Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Cool, thanks Nick. Lily Allen, a summer pop sensation? But she was on Whiskyfun right on June 12! And June 12 isn’t quite summer, is it? But let’s not blow our own bugle too much… Lily was quick to invade our TV screens here (you know, that dusty thing that sits in a corner of the living room and that looks like a monitor, just with more buttons), as ‘Smile’ used to be the background music for several Club Internet (French branch of T-Online) commercials...
  Now, it's true that Lily and gang are very good at viral marketing (sorry, I mean, propagation marketing) and after all, why not play their game and watch the clip for the new single: 'Littlest things'? As sweet as it can get... Actually, the window at the left is 'her rather fab, all emcompassing (sic) viral media centre' that should 'bring a little sparkle' to Whiskyfun, as they say on Lily's website. Let's see what will happen... Will they take control of Whiskyfun? Aaargh... - Serge
 

TASTING - TWO OLD PULTENEYS

Old Pulteney 30 yo 1973/2003 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, cask #2254, 241 bottles) It’s not that often that I come across a really old Pulteney. Colour: dark mahogany. Nose: very sherried, obviously, but not as oloroso-esque as expected. Great integration of the sherry with both a resinous and a maritime character, the latter giving the whole a nice lightness (sort of, because it’s still a big whisky). Lots of crystallized fruits, oranges, huge notes of blackcurrant leaves and buds plus peonies… Very little rubber but quite some burnt cake, pencil sharpener and roasted nuts. Not monstrously complex in fact but perfectly balanced.

Mouth: even less classical now, with a very resinous attack. Sure we have quite some toffee and coffee but the rest is all chlorophyll, mastic, un-sugared mint tea, cough syrup, herb liqueur, liquorice stick… Okay, quite some cooked fruits (strawberries) and notes of tawny Port after that – and again these notes of newly sharpened pencil (remember, at school?) Long finish, maybe a tad sour and tannic but also very ‘jammy’ and toffeeish. A genuine sherry monster, that’s for sure – very invading sherried aftertaste. 88 points.
Pulteney 19 yo 1974 (59.1%, Whyte & Whyte, US) Colour: white wine. Nose: completely different, hugely maritime and very peaty, probably peatier than any other Pulteney I ever had (as peaty as, say the peatiest Ardmores). Also rather buttery and quite vegetal, even mineral (wet chalk). Maybe a little rough but very interesting, the ‘coastality’ making it smell almost like a Coal Ila (a guaranteed miss, had I nosed it blind). Mouth: sweet and peaty again, but rounded and kind of creamy, with a little salt right at the attack. Very good and different from any other so called ‘peat monsters’. Maybe we could say ‘orange drops plus pepper plus peat’ if we tried to define this profile. No farminess. Gets warming after a while. The sweetness reminds me of a young Lagavulin. Gets quite liquoricy and slightly grassy… Still a little simple but the balance is almost perfect and so is the long, bold, peaty and fruity finish. Frankly, I didn’t know Pulteney made such heavily peated batches in the 1970s. Not complex but excellent. 87 points. (many thanks, Tom)
And also Pulteney 8 yo 1997/2006 (46%, McGibbon's Provenance, Winter/Winter) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s all pears, white peaches and green apples at first nosing, with a bizarre milkiness and notes of burning cardboard. I think it’s simply too young and that it didn’t have time to mature properly (I know, in the old days, they would have simply re-levelled it with caramel). More and more on pear spirit. Not bad in fact, just immature I think. Mouth: ouch, this is quite hard. There’s lots of salt and lots of fresh fruit juice (pears again, apples) plus kind of a dryness from the wood but that’s pretty all, I’m afraid. Plus, it’s quite sugarish, especially at the finish. Interesting young Pulteney with all its attributes but it’s simply too young I think. 72 points.
  

November 13, 2006


TASTING - TWO YOUNG INDIE MORTLACHS

Mortlach 1996/2006 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #999) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one starts extremely fresh, mostly on cut green apple plus flints. Pleasantly sharp and clean, with something that reminds me of a good young sauvignon blanc. It gets then more and more mineral, almost metallic (aluminium pan), with also hints of ham. Notes of spring water, green gooseberries and vanilla-flavoured yoghurt. Very little wood influence that I can get.
Mouth: a sauvignon indeed. The attack is very grassy and rather lemony as well as hugely sweet, almost sugary. Lots of freshly cut apples plus hints of liquorice, fruit sweets. Slightly bubblegummy as well, Turkish delights, marshmallows, heavily sugared cold tea... Hints of bay leaves. An enjoyable young Mortlach from the new generation. Finish: rather long, sweet and slightly bitter (nicely so), grassy, with notes of limes and lemon zests. A very youngish, but already balanced Mortlach. Little wood but maybe the new generation doesn't need that much of it. 80 points.

Mortlach 10 yo 1995/2006 (46%, McGibbon's Provenance, cask ref #2745) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very similar at first nosing, again on green apples, stones, metal, ham… Gets just both more lemony and more 'porridgy' after a moment (also yoghurt, fresh parsley…) with also a little more vanilla. The meaty notes (York ham) grow bolder by the minute. Gets very bubblegummy as well. Mouth: we do have notes of sherry now and much more oak as well. Nice spiciness (white pepper, nutmeg, cloves) as well as quite some toffee. Other than that, the general profile is pretty much similar to the 1996's, with also a little more liquorice and less bubblegum or marshmallow this time. More mature, obviously. Finish: very long, toffeeish and coffeeish plus lots of ripe strawberries and crystallised oranges. Gets a bit tannic and drying but nothing excessive. More complex than the 1996, that complexity being probably brought by a more active cask. 83 points.

And also Mortlach 11 yo 1993/2005 Port Finish (43%, Dun Bheagan, cask #9073, 792 bottles) Nose: interesting wildness, rather meaty (game). Wine and caramel sauce. Also malty and nutty, faint smokiness. Little Port that I can smell – good news if you ask me. Mouth: full-bodied, nutty, caramelly and slightly coffeeish, with typical notes of gravy, oxtail and liquorice. Still no Port, still good news: 81 points.
 
 

MALT MANIACS INFORMATION

REPORT: WHISKY LIVE FESTIVAL – CAPE TOWN 2006

by MM correspondent Joe Barry
(East London, South Africa)

Having flown down from East London to Cape Town I attended on the 1st and 2nd November the FNB sponsored Whisky Live Festival which was held at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town.

The first workshop was the “Craft of Blending” presented by Don Paul who is the author of “My Whisky Companion”, which I have recently read and he is also headmaster of the College of Whisky in Cape Town which specializes in training industry personnel in the art of whisky tastings and presentation of whisky products.
Don gave us all a brief history of whisky distilling and how blending takes place on a commercial basis and during his talk he made sure a number of malts circulated amongst us so there was no chance of anybody running dry. We then started our own blending attempt with each of us having a 200ml bottle which already contained the base which was about 100ml of Cameron Brig grain whisky. There was a choice of about 28 single malts to add to the base and with only 100ml to add one had to be careful not to overdo the individual blends. Of course as Don pointed out if we were lucky enough to hit the jackpot and create “the perfect blend” we had to remember the exact quantities of how we did it but with 20 or 30 people present we all ended up just pouring it in and not measuring it. One of my neighbours was very unhappy with his creation which he said tasted a bit like “paracetemol” but I was quite happy with my blend which on top of the Cameron Brig base contained Clynelish, Glen Elgin, Dalwhinnie, Glendullan, Highland Park, Macallan and Lagavulin ( How’s that for giving out secrets!). I managed to add two new whiskies to my mileage being Cameron Brig and Glendullan and all in all it was a most enjoyable evening with the added bonus of being able to take your creation home where my brother and I finished off the evening by enjoying a few tastings of the blends we had created.
The second night at the Festival began with a visit to the main tasting hall which contained the many exhibitors’ stands, hospitality areas and foodstalls, where we tasted amongst others Highland Park, Glenmorangie, Macallan and Talisker. The locally produced Three Ships whisky was also there, who in 2003 came out with a10 y.o. single malt with only 6000 bottles available, a first for South Africa. A very interesting exhibit was the Wall of Whisky which was a display of whisky’s available from Picardi Rebel, a large South African liquor chainstore and if you purchased one of their products you put yourself in line to win all the whiskeys contained in the Wall of Whisky, a prize worth about R35000.00. Here’s hoping!
But the most interesting stall for me by far was that of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society South African branch. Yes, they are here at last, based in Johannesburg and I met Keith and Caroline from the Society and Annabel, a delightful young Scottish lass from the Society’s head office in Edinburgh who was out here to assist with the launch. They had some very interesting whiskies, I tasted an Invergordon 24 year old, a Glendullan 14 and a Glen Scotia 14 all of which were first time tastings for me.
The evening culminated in a workshop presented by the inimitable Dave Broom to whom I passed on Johannes’ regards. Dave’s workshop entitled “Free your mind” was a fascinating journey involving some lesser known whiskies and for the second time that evening I had the pleasure of tasting one or two that I had not come across before. Dave’s fascinating talk illustrated a different way of enjoying whiskies, a Slow whisky the Glenrothes 1991 14 year old, a Quick whisky Compass Box Oak Cross, a Subtle whisky a 12 year old Linkwood, a Young whisky a seven year old Ardbeg Still Young, a Weird whisky an Invergordon 40 year old and a Rare whisky a Benriach 25 year old.
This is the first time that I had met Dave Broom and I can only admire his passion and dedication to his subject. The evening culminated in an all too quick return to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society stand, the drive home and a final nightcap at home tasting a dram of the previous evenings’ homemade blend.
The 2006 FNB Whisky Live Festival was a first time event for me and as interesting as the main exhibition hall is I cannot overly emphasise to people who attend a festival such as this to try and get to as many of the workshops as you can, they are really fascinating, you meet the most interesting people and altogether it becomes a very rewarding process for those whose passion is whisky. - Joe
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: another French artiste we like a lot despite his 'attitude' which is... err, maybe sometimes too 'Iwannabearock'n'rollhero': Alain Bashung, who's singing La nuit je mens.mp3 (At night, I'm lying) with oozing violins and all that... No bad, eh! Please buy his music...

  

November 12, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Jozzer

ROGER McGUINN
The Bloomsbury Theatre, London
October 31st 2006

It was never going to be one of those ‘I was there’ concerts. But discussing those over coffee in the restaurant beforehand made us late. Nick’s stand-in Alex was winning with a Talking Heads gig (David Byrne in his massive suit), before Trizzer played her ace: Hendrix in Chislehurst Caves.

So as we arrived, a muffled second verse of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ was escaping from the auditorium. Ah, so that’s how he’s approaching it – get THE biggie in first. The only UK No. 1 of The Byrds which McGuinn founded with Gene Clark and David Crosby. It was their first single - and the title of their debut album - which topped the charts here in the summer of ’65. Inside, standing on the right of the stage dressed all in black was a man playing a Rickenbacker 12-string and singing in that distinctive voice.
We moved to take our seats as the applause welled up, only to find our way in blocked by a bloke in a wheelchair with a pair of crutches stuck in it. Photographer Kate, not usually one to hold back in anything, decided the kerfuffle would be too much and we retreated. The place was a sell-out; around 99% reliving something they may or may not have remembered from the sixties.
McGuinn sat centre stage and played a 7-string guitar specially made for him by Martin. The extra string is a second G tuned an octave higher. He reckons it gives him all the benefits of six and twelve string guitars and he can even make it sound a bit like a banjo. Personally I’d opt for a six-string guitar, twelve-string guitar and a banjo every time.
Throughout, he wore a hat. At a carefully jaunty angle. A black fedora with a small but obvious red feather in the band. George Melly’s similar model, A3 bassist Mr Segs’s trilby, Richard Thompson’s beret, and Noddy Holder’s exaggerated topper all seem right and suit their wearers. McGuinn’s had an air of a dull politician donning a baseball cap backwards. Worse, the cosy nature of this concert made it look like McGuinn was being rude by not taking it off.
He definitely began to remind me of someone? Who was it?

There are summer days when the Byrds, oft credited with inventing folk-rock, are still the perfect sound. It has west coast relations but the combination of the jingly-jangly 12 string and three-part harmonies made it unique. The lush, sustained Rickenbacker sound was first achieved by an engineer compressing the recordings to protect his equipment. But, frankly, as a lead singer McGuinn needed those harmonies.
Some of the stories, told in a voice a couple of notes deeper than Truman Capote’s, were OK. Dylan once asked him, ‘What was that song you just played?’ about a Byrds number given the ‘Beatles Beat’ treatment. He was told, ‘That’s one of yours, man.’
Half a dozen yelps greeted mention of the widely acclaimed The Sweethearts of the Rodeo album. Released in 1968 it was the Byrds sixth in three years. Influenced by new Byrd Gram Parsons it is sometimes cited as the start of country rock. From it, McGuinn did Dylan’s ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’. 40 years ago, the Nashville mafia wasn’t happy about hippies trying to gatecrash country music. Ralph Emery, influential host of TV show Nashville Now and a DJ, refused to play the Byrds version of that song on his radio programme after previewing 15 seconds of the disc.
When he said ‘What’s it about?’, Rog answered, ‘I don’t know. It’s a Bob Dylan song’. (Bloomsbury chuckled at that.)
These days McGuinn concentrates on his solo career and working on his worthy but cheesily-named Folk Den Project, capturing America’s (and with it a lot of our) musical heritage. This set featured Den songs, ‘The Water is Wide’ learned from Pete Seeger and ‘Easter’ from the King of the 12-String, Lead Belly. We also got, as Rog put it, ‘a song about a dog’ (‘Old Blue’) followed by ‘a song about a horse’ (‘Chestnut Mare’).
There are musos who claim that Gene Clark was the most important musician in the Byrds. Playing their poppy co-composition ‘You Showed Me’ (a top 10 hit for the Turtles) suited Rog’s style. But a Richard ‘Rabbit’ Brown number was made anodyne. And when Rog sang ‘St James Infirmary Blues’ I was reminded of Neil Sedaka and, for one terrifying moment, Chris de Burgh. Some white men really ain’t equipped to sing the blues.
But neither of those was who he really reminded me of…
Got it! Even before he sang a song that he and his wife ‘assembled from a blessing’, Rog’s doppelganger dawned on me. We were watching Ned Flanders - Homer Simpson’s relentlessly pleasant, piously Christian next-door neighbour – in human form. And indeed, I discover online, Roger was Born Again in 1977, obviously as Ned.
Rog/Ned returned to his standing position for the three-song encore including ‘Chimes of Freedom’ and Pete Seeger's ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ with which the audience joined in – moderately, even during the anti-war lines.

Roger practices in that hat.
Picture: Thom Allen
As we regrouped in the foyer, the departing audience were doing their own reviews. ‘That was very good.’ ‘Nice’ was heard several times.
Alex said McGuinn seemed like an ‘all–round good egg’. (Kate observed it was only natural since he came out of the Byrds.) And it appears he is: at his happiest touring; cooperating with fans’ websites and playing benefits - not least with The Rock Bottom Remainders a super-rich band made up successful writers including Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Stephen King and Ned’s creator Matt Groening. McGuinn’s singing voice is limited (it was why he failed his audition to join The Kingston Trio). He’s not a great guitarist. He’s not a particularly good raconteur. But he played with Bobby Darin, flew in a Lear Jet with Peter Fonda, performed in Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, wrote and recorded some bloody good tunes. He qualifies as legendary even if you think Rolling Stone went over the top with "Music would be a very, very different place if it hadn't been for Roger McGuinn".
He’s definitely been there and done all that. Respect is due.
This night, I was there. But it felt rather more like an autograph convention than a gig. - Jozzer (concert photographs by Kate)
Many thanks, Jozzer, for having been a deluxe replacement for Nick. As our Chief Reviewer probably told you before, our 2006/2016 gig budget has been exhausted by extravagant expenses such as the Whiskyfun Dormobile at Cropredy, a brand new 25-megapixel-anti-shaking camera and two dozen calzones in London (where unscrupulous pizzaiolos may hide anything – very scary if you ask me) but if you don’t desperately need to rely on writing concert reviews to make for a living, well, I’d say our digital doors are wide open to any new reviews of the same excellent kind! As for Roger McGuinn, I propose we have the very sweet and quite 'seasonable' May the road rise to meet you.mp3 (I think it's from 1996's Live from Mars album - although not live). There's some music on his myspace (of course) page as well.
 

 

MALT MANIACS NEWSFLASH

Most Maniacs are currently buried under lots of Awards samples but the first ratings are starting to flow in. Belgium and Australia are well advanced and so is France, while Holland's Johannes is almost done with his tastings and just sent us his first notes:

Aaaaaaahh…. ( for an official Yamazaki) - Hoolala! (for a new 15 yo from Adelphi's) - Aaaah… (for a 1967 Speysider from Gordon & MacPhail's) - Whooah… (for a Bowmore by the Scotch Single Malt Circle) - Whoaah! (for another official Yamazaki - an older one).
More on December 1., when all the results will be published. There should be surprises, lots of surprises!
 
TASTING - TWO OLD OFFICIAL TAMDHUS
Tamdhu 10 yo (43%, OB for Cinzano Italy, 1980’s) Colour: amber. Nose: very expressive, starting quite phenolic and sort of resinous. Lots happening in there! Notes of spearmint, seawater and smoked tea with also quite some butter caramel and roasted nuts. Something metallic in the background (old bottle effect) as well as a little tar, old books and beeswax. Very complex for a mundane 10 yo OB, what a great surprise.
Mouth: ah yes, it’s very oomphy, starting with quite some salt (funny, that happens at the end usually) and lots of roasted nuts together with again these resinous and waxy notes. Goes on with earl grey tea, dried herbs (parsley, rosemary, sage etc.), mocha, a little bitter chocolate. It’s probably less bold on the palate and maybe a little less interesting but the finish is rather long, maybe a tad drying now but very coffeeish, with also notes of slightly burnt bread crust. Very good, even if another old Tamdhu 10 yo (late 1980’s) was a little creamier and more full-bodied. 88 points for this one.
Tamdhu 15 yo (43%, OB for Germany, ceramic, 1980’s) Colour: gold. Nose: rather more subdued, almost discreet when compared with the 10 yo but it does give off more or less the same kinds of aromas. Phenolic and resinous, waxy, nutty and rather maritime despite the distillery’s location. Hints of seashells and kelp. Gets also a little meaty and then more resinous (pine needles, Vicks, turpentine). Hints of sherry in the background. Not as wham-bam as the 10 yo but just as enjoyable and probably even more complex. Mouth: rounder and softer than the 10 yo , and also more satisfying. The general profile is similar again but more complete. Lots of resinous and waxy notes, all sorts of caramel and toffee, a certain saltiness, roasted nuts, quite some liquorice, something like rosewater, strawberry jam (the sherry), smoked tea… The finish is very, very similar to the 10 yo ’s, though, with again something slightly drying and rather coffeeish. But what an excellent old, big whisky! 90 points.
  

November 11, 2006


TASTING - TWO GLEN MORAYS
Glen Moray 1978/2004 (57.6%, OB for Craigellachie Hotel, cask #7765, 180 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: spirity and coffeeish at first nosing, with hints of pear spirit and pineapple drops but not much else. That should indicate that water is needed. With water: gets much oakier and tannic but it’s nice oak here. It smells like a cabinetmaker’s workshop! Also quite grassy. Not a very easy whisky…
Mouth (neat): sweet, grainy and slightly minty, getting very sugary and a tad oaky. Not bad at all but water is needed again. With water: not much development, it’s still all sweetness and wood. Long but spirity and slightly tannic finish. Not bad! 78 points
Glen Moray 1991 ‘Mountain Oak’ (60.5%, OB) Another variation on oak – and as only oak is allowed and as the industry seems to need a little creativity, I propose ‘morta’ next time, a partly fossilized kind of oak that can be found in southern Brittany, in old swamps. But beware, it’s very difficult to cut or saw it ;-) and it’s as black as coal. They use it to make pipes there because it doesn’t… err, burn or bend. Anyway! Colour: pale amber. Nose: again, spirity but more caramelly than coffeeish. Quite some varnish as well… Water please: yes, it got quite bourbonny but also quite resinous, not unlike Compass Box’s Spice Tree. Nice liquorice and ginger. Maybe to single malt what Australia’s Jacob Creek is to chardonnay (please don’t start yelling at me, Jacob’s Creek is French owned – Yeah, I know, Glen Moray too). Mouth (neat): even sweeter than the ‘Craig’ but also much more resinous and ‘varnishy’, with apparently lots of wood extracts. Quite enjoyable, I must say, simple but almost drinkable without water. With water now: even sweeter, even more vanilled, even spicier… Long, very rounded and very sweet finish with a littler ginger and a very long aftertaste on vanilla and caramel. A rather good, simple, crafted woodsky from ‘the new world of Scotch whisky’, whatever that means. 80 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: as promised, here's Bela Fleck (NOT Ben Affleck) and his Flecktones playing the famous Hoedown.mp3 live and probably better than Emerson, Lake and Palmer... Please buy these guys' great music!

  

November 10, 2006


TASTING - TWO GLENLIVETS FROM THE MID-70's
Glenlivet 1974/2006 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #5203) Several great Glenlivets by BBR these days… Colour: gold. Nose: maybe not immensely expressive at first nosing but the first notes we get are very enjoyable: sangria, orange juice, ham… Quite some sherry, with a faint sourness (orange marmalade, balsamic vinegar)… Rather elegant and subtle, not thick at all. It gets then much meatier, almost animal (game, hare's belly, dog) with quite some soy sauce and a slight smokiness. Smoked ham?
Keeps developing on very ripe blackcurrants and bigaroon cherries and then a whole fruit salad. This one gets more and more expressive with time. Wine-poached pears, strawberry cordial, cherry liqueur... All that is still very elegant. A sherried whisky with no toffee, no coffee, no raisins and no chocolate for a change. Beautiful. Mouth: a rather powerful attack with a little rubber and lots of cooked fruits (hot raspberry jam, mulberries). Quite some wood as well, old sweet wine, orange liqueur, honey, oriental pastries… Gets more gingery with time, slightly prickly. Lots of crystallised fruits and raisins this time, liqueur-filled milk chocolate, getting also quite spicy (cloves). Maybe a little less elegant than on the nose now but still very pleasant. Finish: long, lingering, spicy and quite bitter now (rubber, bay leaf) but that's not a problem. Quite some wood as well, with rather green tannins. The nose was the best part I think. 86 points.
Glenlivet 29 yo 1975/2004 (53.9%, Signatory, cask #5720, 432 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: more powerful and maybe a tad rougher at first nosing but just as animal (pheasant, horse sweat, ham), with almost the same kind of very enjoyable sourness. We do have more coffee and chocolate now, balsamico again, soy sauce, rum-soaked sultanas… Whiffs of menthol and lovage, dried mushrooms (ceps), highly reduced wine sauce. Probably thicker and les civilised than the BBR but certainly not less good. A wild sherry, in other words… Mouth: much thicker and oilier than the 1974, almost hot, invading. Lots of liquorice and lots of spices beyond the expected 'sherriness'. Pepper, cloves, maybe even chili… Lots of prunes as well, with something of a brandy. Develops on more classical fruity and chocolaty notes, Christmas cake, burnt raisins, bitter chocolate... Quite some orange marmalade, kumquats… Still thick, bold and wild, with the tannins starting to come through just like with the BBR. Finish: very long, with something lively (icing sugar) but also quite some rubber again, bitter caramel, chlorophyll chewing gum… and also lots of raisins. A very wild and powerful sherry indeed, very concentrated - for big boys. 87 points.
And also Glenlivet 21 yo 'Archive' (43%, OB, circa 2006) One of my favourite ‘modern’ Glenlivets, let’s check this new batch. Nose: round and spicy at the same time – keyword: ‘balance’. Loads of roasted nuts, ripe apples, walnut skin. Hints of calvados, liquorice, quince and bergamot. Slight smokiness. Mouth: really smooth, nutty, hints of salt (the Dutchies’ salted liquorice). Dried oranges. Nice oakiness, maybe just a tad drying. Little interesting ‘bumps’ but again, a perfect balance. Will convert any non-whisky drinker. 87 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: very innovative flute and sax player Yusef 'Gentle Giant' Lateef plays Plum blossom.mp3 (from Eastern sounds). We're in 1961 and there's something of the Flecktones, don't you think? Maybe the banjo... (we'll have some Flecktones soon on WF.) Anyway, please buy Yusef Lateef's music...

  

November 9, 2006


TASTING - THREE YOUNG CLYNELISHES

Clynelish 1997/2006 (43%, Jean Boyer's Gifted Stills) It's always interesting to taste young malts from distilleries that usually offer lots of character. Jean Boyer reduce their whiskies in several steps, degree by degree, like they (should) do in Cognac. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: very, very fresh and clean, starting a bit neutral (green apples) but soon to give off Clynelish's main marker: wax and paraffin as well as hints of violets and lilies of the valley. It makes me think of high-end vodka that would have been flavoured with beeswax and violets. Yes, that's a positive comment. It gets more classically mashy, like any young malt: apple compote, mashed potatoes, muesli… Also hints of cold ham, oysters, beer and motor oil. A fisherman's boat? Mouth: a sweet, fruity and 'funnily' peppery attack (green pepper, capsicum) with again this huge waxiness. Not exactly bold but expressive and again, very clean and fresh. Develops on pears and pineapples, cactus juice, sugared lemon juice. Not immensely complex, for sure, but balance is already achieved. Finish: medium long, maybe a little sugarish. The palate lacked a little oomph I think, probably because of the 43% but the whole is hugely drinkable. Have this instead of gin or vodka! 85 points.
Clynelish 1997 (46%, Whisky-Doris The Dram, 150 bottles, 2006) Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely close at first nosing, maybe a tad more closed but that may come from the higher ABV. Let's just give this one a little more time… Indeed, it develops in a slightly different direction, with a little more flowery notes (violets) and maybe a little more smoke but other than that it's just the same whisky - which is good news. Mouth: same whisky indeed, with just a little more oomph and, maybe, a little more 'sugariness'. Marginally less complex but with a similar finish, with maybe just a little salt this time. Very good again, no reasons to give this one a different rating. 85 points.
Clynelish 1992/2006 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #7168) Colour: white wine. Nose: oh, my God! This one smells like an old Clynelish 12 yo from the sixties!!! Okay, not quite but the resemblance is striking, with lots of wax (mostly beeswax), something pleasantly metallic, wet stones, hints of peat, lemon, oysters… Really beautiful and ultra-clean. Goes on with superb spices (nutmeg, black pepper, sage, bay leaves), hints of varnish, green tea… Extremely expressive yet very elegant, before it gets mashier and 'younger', just like the 1997 (muesli and all that jazz plus wet straw and 'clean' vase water). Prototypical Clynelish, brilliant. Classy distilling. Mouth: oh yes, it's great whisky. Less 'Old Clynelish' now and closer to the 'new' output but the waxiness is huge. Not exactly full-bodied (roughly the same feeling as with the 1997) but superbly lemony, with a most enjoyable bitterness (green tea, lemon zests). Develops on fresh almonds and walnuts, cardamom, nutmeg, small green bananas, violet sweets... Just excellent. Finish: not enormously long but very coherent, kind of a summary of the whole with, of course, lots of wax. Superb waxy and citrusy retro-olfaction. Excellent selection by Doug McIvor again, it seems. But he is a fellow Clynelish lover if I'm not mistaken… Who said great whiskies are getting too expensive? 90 points (BFYB).
MUSIC – Recommended listening: the very first Whiskyfun entry about music was about the great, great South-African jazz pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim and now's the time to pay tribute to this genius again, with Kata.mp3 ( from No Fear, No Die) with great drumming by Ben Riley. Please buy Abdullah Ibrahim's music!
  

November 8, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY AND THE ASBURY JUKES
The Astoria, London, October 27th 2006
It’s been sometime since we were at the Astoria, that lovely former pickle factory on Charing Cross Road. And in fact since our last visit there’s been a bit of a hoo-hah about the future of the old place, with conspiracy theorists pointing the finger at freeholders property group Derwent Valley, claiming that they had plans to redevelop the whole site once the current lease to the Mean Fiddler group expires. As it turns out there was just a little August media-madness at work; Derwent are apparently in the clear, but an even bigger threat comes from a proposed railway development (PDF document) that would see the theatre giving way to a huge new Underground station. If you’re at all concerned about the loss of this smelly London landmark rock venue (I am) then have a look here or here.
Yeah – it’s a Friday night and we’d forgotten that the unstoppable GAYE nightclub means that Astoria gigs always start early, so by the time we arrive from an excellent early dinner the place is packed (the upstairs is closed, so it’s probably only three quarters full) and veteran New Jersey rockers and intimates of the great, Southside Johnny [Editor’s note: are you sure you don’t mean Johnnie?] and his Asbury Jukes have just hit the stage. Now if you’re seriously concerned about spelling then let me mention the following. His real name is John Lyon. ‘Southside’ come from his love of Chicago blues, Asbury from Asbury Park, the suburb where he cut his musical teeth. And Jukes (the good pickle factory folk spelt it ‘Dukes’ on the tickets) from Little Walter’s band. Not that we can really see either Johnny or his Jukes. Our usual spot is taken, and we get stuck in a flow of people moving to and from the bar with the inexorable certainty of an ebbing tide. It’s claustrophobic, but a glimpse of space to the left sees us move to the other side of the theatre where we tuck in comfortably below the bar, but on a raised podium that gives us a good sight of the stage across the sea of balding heads in front of us.
Actually that’s not entirely true. It has the feel of a blokish night, but we’re in the thick of a gang of fiftyish leather jacketed bald blokes and their very blonde partners (also leather jacketed and hairdressers) who are giving a master-class in binge drinking and chain-smoking that any ASBO-seeking youngster should watch with awe. It becomes apparent that they’ve come up to Town from the East (Essex that is), just like they used to back in the seventies, and like almost everyone else in the audience they know all the songs, all the words, and even when to punch their fists in the air. Actually, they’re just here to party.
On the stage the diminutive Johnny [Editor’s note – are you sure?], sadly sans leather jacket, sunglasses and hair, is giving an astonishing lesson in east-coast (New Jersey, not Canvey Island) white R&B singing. I tried to figure out how old he was until good manners got the better of me.
He’s accompanied by original Juke Eddie Manion on saxophone (who’s also been touring with Springsteen in the Seeger Sessions Band), and long-time sidekick Bobby Bandiera on guitar (who’s now also a fixture in Bon Jovi) – but the whole band are, as I believe they say, kicking, remarkable given the time they’ve spent on the road – there’s no going through the motions here, and special mention should be made of keyboard player Jeff Kazee, who has a wonderful Hammond B3 moment in ‘Fever’. Set list? Well I could hardly take notes, but I know they played ‘Sweeter than honey’, ‘Shake ‘em down’, ‘Tired skin’, ‘Souls on fire’, a nice Little Walter cover with some very decent harmonica playing from SJ, ‘Sweeter than honey’, ‘When Rita leaves’, ‘Trapped again’, ‘Fever’ (simply excellent), ‘Love on the wrong side of town’, ‘Passion Street’, ‘I don’t wanna go home’, and of course, ‘Havin’ a party’. By which time everyone was – including the girls (a term which is used in the loosest possible sense) who had got up on stage to dance and sing, and even the fellow from the audience who was playing Kazee’s spare keyboard – having a party of their own. Simply fantastic. We all parted with hugs and embraces like the very best of friends, and I couldn’t help thinking, as we walked through a chill late-October London, that if every Friday night was a Southside Johnny night, then the world would surely be a better place to live in. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Many many thanks, Nick. Southside Johnny’s ‘I don’t want to go home’ (are you really sure it’s not Johnnie?) was amongst the LP’s we were getting from the US through our familial ‘importing society’ in the 1970’s… Kind of a pre-Mink DeVille for us if memory serves… I now remember that some of us used to mix up the Asbury Jukes and the Amboy Dukes and it seems that still happens, according to your review. I must confess that I had forgotten about Southside Johnny (alright, alright!) – shame on me. And there’s plenty of great mp3’s on his website; a fine gentleman indeed! - Serge
 
TASTING - TWO BUNNAHABHAINS

Bunnahabhain 25 yo (43%, OB, 2006) Colour: amber. Nose: fresher than expected at first nosing, almost youthful. Sweet and slightly sour (cooked apples), starting mostly on flowers in fact (dandelion). Notes of old wood and fudge, with also something metallic (disturbing here). Develops on chestnut crème, brownies, with a rather enjoyable smokiness. Rum-soaked sultanas, smoked ham, liquorice stick… It's not exactly dirty but not as clean as the XVIII, which I liked much better at this moment.
Gets more coffeeish and woody after a while (old wood), with also hints of wax polish and chestnut honey. Mouth: a demonstrative but also quite indefinite attack, sweet and sour again. Notes of sangria, orange honey, Chinese sauce for dim-sums (I don't know how they call it). Lots of roasted nuts and old sweet wine (not the best), getting quite salty and liquoricy. It's still quite malty (Ovomaltine) and gets more and more toffeeish with time. Lots of 'cooked' coffee as well. Well... Finish: rather long but still kind of dirty and sourish… Smoky and jammy aftertaste. Well, we perfectly know that they have much better old casks in the warehouses. The XVIII is way better I think. 80 points.
Bunnahabhain 20 yo 1977/1996 (55.4%, SMWS No 10.31) Colour: full amber. Nose: much more sherried and much more on chocolate and coffee beans at first nosing. Slightly spirity and sharp, with quite some varnish. Goes on on kirsch, mocha, Smyrna raisins, old sherry… Really dry. Gets then very meaty and sort of smoky (barbecue). Hints of distillation (mash, beer)… Smells more and more like Guinness mixed with coffee liqueur. Gets really stale after a moment. I don’t like it too much, I must say… Mouth: strong, extremely jammy and vinous (sweet white wine) and slightly salty right at the attack. Again kind of dirtiness and sweet-and-sourness. Much less dry than on the nose, close to a mixture of various fruit eaux-de-vie (kirsch, plums, pear). Goes on with strawberry jam, orange cake, Irish coffee, rum… Sour fruitiness. The kind of rough sherry that I don't quite like. Finish: rather long but getting rubbery, still quite fruity (rotting strawberries) and even saltier. It's not Bunnahabhain's day today, it seems. Thank God there are also many great versions out there… Like our dear Auld Acquaintance. 77 points.
And also Bunnahabhain 12 yo (40%, OB, Second Edition, circa 2006) Nose: typically fresh and honeyed, roasted nuts, coffee with schnapps. Mouth: seems to be peatier than earlier versions. Slight smokiness, chestnut and fir honey, roasted coffee bean. Long finish. Plenty of body, in progress I think. 84 points.
 
  

November 7, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
PERE UBU The Mean Fiddler, London, October 24th 2006
David Thomas cuts an unlikely figure, perspiring, trench-coated, perched on a stool and squeezed uncomfortably into a gap by the side of the Mean Fiddler’s meanly proportioned merchandising booth. He’s smoking a cigarette down to his nicotine-yellow smoke-singed fingers, to his left empty coke cans, some improvised ashtrays, litter the counter.
Interesting support Stan Ridgeway is playing on stage. There’s also a box of CDs, Pere Ubu’s new album, Why I Hate Women, on the counter. “If you want to buy it from me then get it now, I’ll be gone in ten minutes, I’ve got to go earn some money”. Disinterested in our pleasantries and totally unmoved by the prospect of a Whiskyfun review, his eyes light up when he sees the Photographer’s tenner – “now give me the money” he growls as he suddenly leans forward to snap it up like a crocodile pouncing from the water, slumping again into a lethargic torpor once he’d trousered the note. All that was missing was his famous whippet.
I first saw Pere Ubu at the Roundhouse in 1978, a support act for the wonderful Graham Parker and the Rumour. It was, I think, their first visit to the UK during what was still a phase of marvellous musical turmoil in the world of rock and roll. And Pere Ubu, as I can still recall vividly, were simply astonishing – the thing of the moment – unconventional, unexpected, unpredictable and uncompromising. An animated David Thomas, looking like the main protagonist in Eraserhead, beat out distracted rhythms with his hammer and sang with almost hysterical intensity, to a pounding bass beat backing, with fragmented guitar and a disorientating science-fiction synthesiser that looked more like an old valve radio.
Phew – it really felt like Datapanik in the Year Zero as these proto-punks sang twenty-first century blues songs with an angst and anger forged in the industrial wastelands of their homeland, Cleveland Ohio. This was, you may recall, the home of a number of other bands of the time, not least the mildly amusing and vaguely successful Devo. If you want to know where Pere Ubu stood in the scheme of things then just consider this quote from the usually well-informed music website Trouser Press: “one of the most innovative American musical forces, Pere Ubu is to Devo what Arnold Schoenberg was to Irving Berlin” (mind you they also talk about “Thomas' avant-garde folk-blues-jazz-rock cultural synthesis”, which is a bit heavy going for an ordinary bloke like me). And if you want to know about their messy history and various incarnations then have a look at the ubuprojex website (“the art and business affairs directorate for Pere Ubu and related projex”), which along with the whippet is a pet, I suspect, of Mr Thomas. Needless to say in various interims Thomas’ reputation as an opinionated and unpredictable outsider, at odds with the comfortably collusionist business of music has been enhanced by a series of solo works (including an unlikely collaboration with Richard Thompson), performance projects, and most recently and marvellously his two sea-shanty contributions to the piratical ‘Rogues Gallery’ double album. His characteristically off-the-wall interpretation of ‘Drunken Sailor’ could be the track of the year.
But tonight he’s in Pere Ubu mode, with a sparkling band – sometime journalist Keith Moline on guitar (if not fragmented, then fractured), Michele Lamb on pounding bass driving the band along with drummer Steven Mehlmen, and star of the show computer-boffin Robert Wheeler who like his predecessor in 1978 occupies the left hand side of the stage with what looks like a home-made synthesiser, cables trailing all over the place, and a home-made Theremin which he plays like a virtuoso.

Robert Wheeler
Thomas is an energised presence on stage, but despite his sometimes witty interactions with the audience (Thom Yorke, Madonna, Sting and even little Kylie are all targets for his spleen) one can’t help thinking that, like the characters in most of his lyrics (no, forget that, I meant all of his lyrics), he’s very much on the outside, alienated, set apart and contemptuous of the mundane (I note a large number of references to Post Offices) – if he’s anywhere he’s deep inside his songs. In fact the intensity of his performance is quite remarkable – fuelled by endless Camels (tips ripped off with disdain), canned beer that makes him grimace, and the occasional pull on a half-full brandy bottle, he has an almost menacing presence, solely possessed and distracted by his thoughts (which one might imagine were all on the slightly angry side of things). Actually he’s also distracted to the point of fury by a failing microphone stand – an older and less frenetic Thomas has a unique microphone style which is constantly disrupted by the collapsing stand. In so far as the Mean Fiddler has a mosh pit we’re in it, and as his frustration and rage grows (which is telling of just how inside these songs he is) it begins to feel like a seriously dangerous place to be. Nicely, when the whole lot is eventually flung away to the floor in disgust, almost decapitating the man to our right, Thomas nods a discrete apology.

The Modern Dance (1978)
Why I Hate Women (2006)
And despite his apparent angst about cash and equipment we’re not short changed on the evening. Indeed he seems determined to deliver value for money – when he screws up the start to ‘Modern dance’ he halts the band - “Now these good people have paid their money to see Mr Thomas perform his hit and I think we owe it to them to ensure he does it properly” – before racing through what might have been a word perfect version, had we been able to understand a single word that he was singing. And having returned for an encore he drives the band on, calling songs at will, past the curfew, eventually apologising that he has to leave to catch his train home (and no doubt give the whippet its last walk before bedtime). The new album is a cracker, and he mixes material from this – notably ‘Love song’ (an outstanding song) , ‘Two girls, one bar’, ‘Mona’, ‘Stolen Cadillac’ ‘Flames over Nebraska’ (“I’m proud to say this is a song written for me a few months ago by Elvis Presley”) and ‘Synth farm’ with an eclectic selection from the band’s extensive back catalogue including the hugely misogynistic ‘Time will catch up with you’, the marvellously titled love song from debut album Modern Dance, ‘Nonalignment pact’ and ‘Final solution’, but alas not their early take on reggae ‘Heaven’, which would have made a very good evening almost perfect.
In fact the performance was so good that afterwards I wasn’t even annoyed when we found a parking ticket stuck to the car’s window screen. To have seen someone who (like Martin Peters always used to be) is still ten years ahead of his time - after almost three decades – is pretty remarkable. It’s just a shame that Mayor Ken got the forty quids, when obviously Mr Thomas thinks he needs it more. Help this man achieve his material ambitions - buy his records! - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thank you, Nick. I don’t know what’s happening in London with pataphysics these days, after Kevin Ayers’ grande gidouille, now Le Père Ubu! Anyway, Pere Ubu-the-band was, and still is quite hot in France, at least in underground circles. I remember Modern Times being praised to the skies in the press when it was launched here and the first EP, Datapanik in the Year Zero, was a must as well even if we had to import it from the States (thanks Dad for flying to Canton, Ohio quite often at the time). Music? Let’s see… Why not have the incantatory 30 seconds over Tok yo .mp3? To our distinguished readers: don't be put off by this piece's 'freedom', there are many much easier tunes by Pere Ubu.
A good French website about Pere Ubu (the band) here. - Serge
 

TASTING - TWO SCAPAS

Scapa 1993/2006 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky) La Maison' had quite some stunners bottled for them this year, including by G&M (notably the Longmorn 1972 and the Glen Keith 1967). Let's see if this humbler Scapa is as good… Colour: pale gold. Nose: ho-ho, this is nice. Very fresh and maritime at first nosing, with quite some peat and an interesting 'animality'.

Quite some smoked ham (shoulder cooked in a still with marc like we do in Alsace), kelp, oysters and various other seashells, smoke… Maybe the peatest Scapa I ever had. Other than that we have also notes of flints, herbs (dill, rosemary, coriander, mint), something slightly tarry, wet hay, farmyard... A rather expressive version and a true Highlander in style. Pretty pleasant! Now, all these aromas do vanish after a few minutes, leaving room for 'simpler' aromas such as white peaches, apples, lemons and gooseberries. Mouth: less phenolic but almost as maritime at the attack, with quite some salt and notes of salicornia. Rather strong in fact, this one tastes more than 45%. Gets a little vegetal (salad, chlorophyll) and 'simply' fruity (apples, apple skin, candied lemon) before a little peat does manage to come through... Or is it me? Rather simpler than on the nose, that's for sure. Finish: rather long and quite salty, going on with green apples, not too ripe bananas and notes of oatcakes. Well, it all happens on the nose with this one - and what a nose. 85 points.
Scapa 14 yo 1992/2006 (60.5%, OB, batch SC 14001, 50cl) I must say these very high ABV's scare me a bit… (even if some versions are very drinkable when undiluted). Colour: pale gold. Nose: as expected, the high ABV masks most other aromas. It's quite closed, almost silent, especially when compared with the G&M. Just grass, apples and pears… Quick, water! Well, it does get more expressive indeed, rather nicely grassy (hay, daisies) but that's almost all. Maybe hints of marzipan... Mouth (neat - arrrgh): very sweet (pineapples and pears) and very spirity, almost like newmake. No interest whatsoever but water will probably revive it this time… Well, not really. Just like on the nose, this Scapa remains austere and raw, close to plain spirit. We do have apples and maybe fresh almonds and walnuts but that's all I can get. Finish: long but spirity and grassy. I've always wondered why they chose these kinds of rather 'silent' profiles for this series. 75 points.
 
  

November 6, 2006


TASTING - TWO RECENT OFFICIAL GLENROTHES

Glenrothes 1991/2006 (43%, OB) Colour: pale gold. Nose: balanced and mellow right at first nosing, with enjoyable whiffs of wood smoke. Starts on various kinds of honey (chestnut, eucalyptus), fresh ceps, praline, with a very nice maltiness. Extremely well balanced, with hints of rubber bands (nice here), strawberry jam, gin orange... Maybe just a tad too caramelly but very pleasant.
Mouth: sweet, round, caramelly and fruity, with maybe a slightly weak mouth feel. Not much body in fact, the middle being a bit thin but the rest is pretty enjoyable. Quite some orange marmalade, bergamot, candied quince… Gets quite toffeeish. Finish: Not too long and lacking body again. Too bad. The general profile is very nice and so is the nose but the palate lacks oomph, which makes the whole a little 'unsatisfying'. Probably a very good single malt for friends who aren't used to full-bodied whiskies. 78 points.

Glenrothes 1985/2005 (43%, OB) Colour: pale gold. Nose: in the same league as the 1991 but more complex and even more expressive on the nose. There's added layers of resins and tropical fruits (mangos, passion fruits). Other than that we have the same honeyness (plus fir honeydew), vanilla crème, quite some cinnamon, pollen. Superb smokiness again (garden bonfire). I think it's much better (I mean, much more interesting in any case) than most older official versions of Glenrothes. More oomph, more complexity, less 'simple roundness). Thumbs up! Mouth: much bolder than the 1991 at the attack, with more sherry. Rather flavourful, resinous (eucalyptus honey again), with great notes of baklavas, plum pudding, vanilla fudge, toffee… Perfect balance (but the middle is slightly weak again). Goes on with smoked tea, bananas flambéed, old rum, and high-end kirsch… Excellent! Finish: much longer and more satisfying than the 1991's, jammy, with lots of nougat and orange salad seasoned with olive oil (try this!) Rather impressive, much better than some older official 1985's. I think they should bottle these versions at 45 or 46%, they would become real winners. 88 points.

 
MUSIC AND WHISKY INTERVIEW - DAVE CICIOTTE
Let’s face it, many musicians are into whisky or whiskey quite superficially – or let’s rather say that they are sometimes deep into it but in the literal sense, whereas Dave Ciciotte, from Connecticut, is a true aficionado, who knows his Islay, his Speyside and his Campbeltown by heart. He’s also an inspired artiste and composer whose music is infused with influences ranging from early Captain Beefheart to avant-garde jazz (and kazoo!) What’s more, he claims that his main equipment used for recording is Ardbeg, which might explain why some of his pieces are sometimes idiosyncratically – and nicely - raw… Anyway, all that was more than enough for us to decide to interview Dave. And after all, isn’t his band called ‘Whisky Burrito?’
Whiskyfun: Dave, please tell us a little more about what you do, music-wise.
Dave Ciciotte: I play bass and do some vocals in a sort of artsy garage band called Whisky Burrito. The band’s name looks like a Scottish/Mexican theme restaurant when it’s up on a sign. I’ve also been doing home recording for about 5 years, making solo albums and doing some “project work” – whatever that is.
WF: Which other musicians are you playing or did you play with?
Dave: My doctor warned me against associating with too many musicians “Musicians cause a profound sense of fatigue, followed by a feeling of emptiness". Luckily, I was able to interpret these feeling correctly. Loss of essence. I do not avoid musicians, but I do deny them my essence. So I mostly play music with painters, sculptors, photographers, or other artists rather than with proper musicians.
WF: I see, global art - great. But which are your other favourite artistes?
Dave: Gilberto Gil is great, have you hear Espresso 2222, some album! His 1968 album is a lot of fun as well. Aside from that, my list of favorites would begin with Beefheart, Funkadelic, Can, Jerry Lee Lewis, Albert Ayler, and Fela Kuti, then the list would just keep going and going and going…. The best answer is that it depends on the day – depends on the mood.
WF: Which are your current projects?
Dave: I’m working on a solo record that I hope to finish by early 2007. It could really be an awful mess if everything goes right. In the band, we’re bringing in a new member on keyboards & odd sounds. That requires writing new parts and re-thinking the songs. I’m enjoying that process quite a bit.
WF: So, when did you start enjoying whisky? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Dave: Yes, I have a musical memory.
Back when I was first seriously getting into single malts, I was playing at a bar in New London, CT. The only whiskies they had there were Johnnie Walker Red and surprisingly, a bottle of Laphroaig. So between songs, I announced that everyone should try some of the Laphroaig, extolling its bold and smoky virtue to the crowd. I got many confused looks, it seems the crowd was not familiar with the fine Islay Malt. Anyway, a bit later the bartender came up to the stage, mid-song, with a glass for me. Apparently, he had served a number of people Laphroaig after my announcement, so it was basically a thank you. Getting paid for playing music is all well and good, but playing for single malt scotch, now that was a real treat!
WF: What’s your most memorable whisky?
Dave: The Macallan Cask Strength. I hadn’t tried any cask strength whisky before buying a bottle of this, and wasn’t prepared for its big power or sharp flavor. I remember watching “The Man Who Would be King” on DVD while trying my first glass, and feeling like my nose had been blown off my face. I forgot all about the movie, and just sat there starring at the glass thinking, “what in the hell did I just buy?”
I could have sworn it was some sort of kerosene based vinegar, but really it just needed a bit of water. Since then I’ve warmed up to the Macallan c/s, and now enjoy it without fear of bodily harm. But it was that scary first impression that made it the most memorable whisky for me.
WF: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Dave: For my “everyday” single malts I like Glenfarclas 12 yo or Ardbeg 10 yo .
My overall favorites are two Old Malt Cask bottlings - a 16 yo Highland Park, and 21 yo Brora, both from sherry casks. They may not be the best examples of their respective distillery character, but they have an originality, richness, balance, and complexity that puts them as my personal top malts. The Brora tastes like blueberry pie & ice cream to me.
WF: Excellent, a good occasion to taste blueberry pie while not making your teeth blue like blue ink! But are there whiskies you don’t like?
Dave: Something about the “Classic Malts” series doesn’t hit me the right way.
WF: Now, ‘If the river was whisky baby, and I was a diving duck’ is one of the most famous and well used whisky lyrics, from sea-shanties to blues and rock and roll. Do you have a favourite musical whisky reference?
Dave: Steely Dan’s “Drink Scotch whisky all night long, and die behind the wheel”. A morbid one, isn’t it.
WF: Quite, I must say. Now, music and whisky are often though of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Dave: Sure, it’s all good healthy fun, and it puts hair on your chest too.
WF: Oh my God... Are you sure? Something else, in some ways you could argue that tasting a whisky is similar to listening to a piece of music – you deconstruct the two in the same way. Care to comment?
Dave: In both music and whisky, really great stuff is always more than just the sum of its parts. On the other hand, when tasting bad whisky or hearing unpleasant music, people will make a similar kind of grimace on their face. Sadly, I’ve seen that face a number of times when I start singing – ouch!
WF: I'm sure that's not true! By the way, I once heard an eminent whisky professional say that he tasted whisky in colours. Do you taste whisky in music?
Dave: I just made a short rhyme about this subject:
If whisky were in music, my ears would be wax free.
I just checked, and it’s all clean in there! Was it washed out by whisky?
Of course it was the whisky, it’s in music don’t you see.
For when you play a song, it’s not too long before you’re all dizzy.
 
WF: So that's a Whiskyfun exclusive rhyme, excellent, thank you! Loved the 'wax free', although that wouldn't quite fit a Clynelish... There is also a famous passage in a book written in the 1930s (Aneas Macdonald) where the author compares different styles of whisky to different sections of an orchestra – how would you see that working in a jazz or rock band, or in a classical orchestra?
Dave: Peaty/smoky malts would be the low rhythm section. Bourbon cask aged malts would be mid-range instruments like the guitar or perhaps piano. The sweeter, sherry cask matured malts would be higher range vocals or even horns.
- Here’s my whisky approximation of classic era YES:
Caol Ila on drums (Bruford)
Ardbeg on Bass (Squire)
Glenlivet on Keyboard (Tony Kaye, I couldn’t think of a good Rick Wakeman)
Cragganmore on guitar (Howe)
Aberlour on vocals (Anderson)
Can’t you hear it? “….sharp – DUNNNNH! – distance - DUNNNNNH! - how can the wind with it’s Aberlour round me - I feel lost in the city ….”
Oh wait, that song is from Fragile, and Tony Kaye didn’t play on that. Hmmm, I still need to think of a whisky Rick Wakeman.
I really should have gone with a whisky Van der Graaf Generator.
WF: Ah yes, Van der Graaf. Did you read the interview we had with co-founder Judge Smith? Now, do you also have a favourite piece of music to drink whisky with, or better still, desert island dram, desert island disc?
Dave: My friend has a fancy record player and sound system designed to go with it. Listening to instrumental LP’s from the early 60’s is by far the most enjoyable music that I’ve ever had dram with.
For my desert Island dram, I’d go with Ardbeg 10. For the desert island disk, it would be either The Flatlanders “More a Legend Than a Band” or Roxy Music’s “Siren”.
WF: Everyone thinks of Jack Daniels as being the great rock and roll whisky – why not Scotch?
Dave: Scotch is a mature taste, and one that is to be savoured. Jack Daniels is not really a mature taste, it’s for getting drunk really fast.
Also, snifters are not very “rock and roll”.
WF: And if it was Scotch, can you think of which brand? What would be the Scotch equivalent of rappers drinking Cristal?
Dave: The Scotch of rock and roll? It’d probably be some crappy blend that tasted of gasoline and air freshener. And the rap equivalent of Cristal? A high priced malt that could be seen as a “status symbol” - I’d give the edge to Macallan.
WF: Last question, if you were to go by another name, what would it be?
Dave: Well, when I was five years old I didn’t like the name Dave, so I asked everyone to call me Choochoo. That lasted for only a few months though. But, in college, I told a friend about my alias of younger days, and “Choochoo” stuck. It became my nickname for the next 4 years.

Thank you very much, Dave!
A few links of interest:
Dave Ciciotte's soundclick website (you'll have to register to be allowed to listen to Dave's music but it's free and really worth it, I downloaded all tracks and enjoy them allmost daily - most. Some excellent 19th Century Irish drinking songs played creative-rock-style!)
Dave's myspace page (strange layout but great music)
Whisky Burrito's soundclick website

 
  

November 5, 2006


TASTING - TWO GLENALLACHIES
Glenallachie 13 yo 1991/2005 (43%, Dun Bheagan, casks #90261-90262, 1800 bottles, sherry finish) Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather expressive, starting on warm milk with hints of mint. Develops on something slightly cardboardy, getting then quite porridgy (mashed potatoes, muesli). Goes on with a little vanilla crème as well as hints of canned pineapples. Faint hints of cold ashes and paraffin. Probably not the greatest Speysider ever but its 'naturality' is pretty enjoyable.
Mouth: sweet and rounded attack, soon to get very caramelly. Huge notes of crème brulée, nougat and praliné. Quite some cappuccino as well, roasted peanuts, with traces of sherry. Quite pleasant I must say. Something grassy in the background. Finish: not too long but rather balanced, still quite caramelly, with also a little liquorice and quite some tannins at the end (tea). A rather good version of Glenallachie I think - if you need one. 78 points.
Glenallachie 11 yo 1985/1997 (43%, Signatory, cask #4068) Colour: white wine. Nose: erm… a much weirder start, rather oddly fruity, cardboardy and sort of chemical. Something very metallic as well (old tin). Orange powder, rotting kiwi, cheap air freshener… It gets marginally better with time but these weird fruity notes remain. Something very beerish as well, Schweppes... Also hints of aspirin, seltzer, cactus juice… Yes, a mix of fruit spirit and tequila. Hard to enjoy, I'm afraid, and it's not the first Glenallachie I had that was in the same strange league. Mouth: good news, it's a little better at the attack… for a while. Gets then quite cardboardy again, oddly gingery and peppery, strangely watery at the same time. Goes on with pineapple sweets but also plastic, grass and all kinds of leaves (like when you eat infused green tealeaves). Lemon skin and seeds, aspartame… It's quite hard to enjoy this one. Finish: Not too long, getting quite drying and bitterish at that (grape skin). Oh well… 59 points.
 
MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Sunday so we go classical with Australia's Paul Wee playing what was at the time considered as 'the most technically difficult work', Mili Balakirev's famous Islamey.mp3 (composed 1869). Some even added that 'Live performance of this work is risky for even the most hardened concert pianist'. So, please go and listen to Paul Wee's concerts... Picture: Balakirev
  

November 4, 2006


TASTING - TWO 1982 ST MAGDALENES

St Magdalene 23 yo 1982/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, DL ref 2718, 329 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: a very expressive start, very wild, vegetal and animal at the same time. Quite some smoke, fresh butter, vase water, whole pack of green tea, lemon and walnut skins… Goes on with paraffin, lemon balm, oysters, chlorophyll, then lots of lemon juice, wet straw, kelp… Unusually coastal, this one could well be mistaken for a lightly peated Islayer.

Mouth: ample, vegetal, smoky and waxy, very coherent with the nose. Lots of peat again, lemon juice, something like a high-end tequila, getting sweeter with time. Goes on with lots of fruits (pears, grapefruits, quinces), getting sort of nervous after that, even bolder, slightly mustardy and peppery. Wow, lots happening in there, especially the finish is extremely long, grassy and peaty… Rather untameable but truly beautiful. And I didn’t know they made some peaty whisky at Linlithgow! 91 points.
St Magdalene 21 yo 1982/2003 (56.5%, Hart Bros) Colour: white wine. Nose: much more vegetal and mineral, much more austere. Newly cut grass, lemon skin again, green tea, hints of rubber… Sharper but also simpler. Quite some wet limestone, grape skin, bay leaves… Really sharp like a blade and a little hard to enjoy if you usually seek smoothness. Mouth: much closer to the DL now but again, a little simpler and less peaty (but it is still quite peaty). Yet, it gets rather prickly and bitter (rather nicely, that is, like myrtle liqueur), on horseradish, walnut skin, burnt caramel, orange zest and herbal liqueur (Underberg). It’s also quite tarry, getting then very peppery and mustardy. What a beast! And again a very long finish, even grassier but less peaty than the DL, with just hints of sultanas to make it ‘human’ (er). It is an excellent whisky for my tastes but it may well sort of repulse drinkers who like sweetness and roundness in their malt. Anyway, I think it’s worth no less than 89 points.
 
 

MALT MANIACS INFORMATION

ST. MAGDALENE DISTILLERY PROFILE by Robert Karlsson

 

Operational: ~1753-1983
Region: Central Lowlands
Neighbours: Rosebank, Glen Flagler, Glenkinchie
Address: St. Magdalene, Linlithgow, West Lothian, EH49 6AQ

The most beautifully named distillery of them all has a well-documented and well-known history. This thanks to a certain gentleman with the name of Alfred Barnard. He visited the distillery at around 1895 and thanks to this his detailed descriptions can be found reprinted in numerous whisky publications. In his book you can for instance read that they used a gas engine of two horse powers to hoist barley to the fifth floor of the west Maltings (which were 124 feet long, 75 feet broad and five stories high). The stills he describe as: ”two Wash Stills holding 3500 and 4881 gallons respectively; three Low Wines Stills, holding 1500, 1867, 2676 gallons respectively; also a Low Wines and Feints Charger, holding 3000 gallons”. Now that’s attention to detail! I truly recommend his book – The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom - for further in-depth details of the distillery from this time.
Now back to the history lesson. The town, or village, of Linlithgow has been quite prominant in scottish history going way back to the middle ages and beyond. The site of the distillery once held a leper hospital run by temple knights of the St. John of Torpichen back in the 12th century, this later became the convent of St. Magdalen’s run by the Lasarus orden. The town was a favourite amongst royalty and Mary Queen of Scots was born here.
The distillery of St. Magdalene was built to compete with a neighbouring distillery called Bulzion (there were during that time as many as five distilleries in Linlithgow operating simultaneously). It was founded by Sebastian Henderson and later bought by Adam Dawson who also run a distillery called Bonnytoun in the said town. This was back at the end of the 18th century, actual years seems quite unclear and information differ depending on where you find it. When Barnard visited them around a century later the distillery then covered the grounds of both these distilleries and run an extensive operation indeed.
The distillery stayed in the Dawson family until 1912 when their company went out of business. Three years later it was incorporated into the Scottish Malt Distillers company which at that time ran five distilleries (Clydesdale, Glenkinchie, Grange and Rosebank), later they were better known as United Distillers, and now Diageo. During the first years of this era the distillery was heavily refurbished and got electricity in 1927. They did their own floor malting until 1968 and also during the second world war when distilling was stopped. After 1968 they used the maltings of the Glenesk distillery. After the end of the war production continued until 1983 when it was mothballed.
The distillery used several water sources for various purposes. Amongst them an artesian well, the nearby Union Canal and two springs. Their yearly production was around a million liters of double-distilled malt whisky which is a rather unorthodox method of distillation considering it’s a lowlander where the normal procedure was, and is (except for Glenkinchie) triple-distillation.
Today no more angels fly in the distillery but instead people live there. The distillery was rebuilt to flats in the mid 90’s, and again in 2002, but the distillery houses, including the pagoda roof, remains intact. Atleast on the outside.
St. Magdalene is undoubtedly another lost Lowland jewel. The bottlings from here are most often wonderfully complex. Amongst the most praised ones are the 19 yo Rare Malts bottling distilled in 1979. A hugely praised bottling, not the least by us maniacs. It is still possible to find this bottling and if I were you I’d try to find a case right away. There are several other bottlings around and most are delicious stuff. Sometimes this malt is bottled under the name of Linlithgow.- Robert

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's catch a little sun (I hope you like percussions) with Mahmoud Fadl aka the drummer of the Nile and the United Nubians playing Saidi style.mp3. A bit boisterous but I like that. Please buy these people's music.

  

November 3, 2006


TASTING - TWO GLEN KEITHS (almost)

Glen Keith 1967/2006 (53%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, cask #3876, 215 bottles) Some 1967 Glen Keiths I had before were very dark and heavily sherried. Colour: amber (good news!) Nose: su-perb! Probably the best cough syrup ever, fabulous at first nosing. Starts on old turpentine, camphor, cellulose varnish, pine resin, tar and mastic, with also huge notes of crystallised quince and very ripe peaches. Lots of marzipan as well, fresh walnuts, vin jaune (fino)... Abfab!
Gets more and more resinous (pine, fir, old Chartreuse) and almondy. Extreme compactness. Granted, you have to like eupyreumatic aromas in your whisky to enjoy this venerable Glen Keith but if you do, this is for you. Amazing. Mouth: very coherent! Lots of tannins but nice ones, together with something very earthy (gentian roots and eau-de-vie). Superb bitterness (old Chartreuse again, bitter orange liqueur) and then these camphory notes, eucalyptus sweets, mint drops, propolis gums... Lots of orange marmalade as well, dried ginger, notes of ginseng powder. Probably not amazingly complex and maybe a little cloying if don't like this kind of profile too much but I do so I love this rather extreme Glen Keith. Yes, it may be oak infusion but the end result is really fab. Finish: very long, very bitter and resinous, tarry, like kind of a very old herbs liqueur with just a pinch of salt. It's extreme and I love it. 93 points.

Craigduff 32 yo 1973/2005 (53.9%, Signatory, cask #2514, 557 bottles) The second cask of Craigduff bottled by Signatory - Craigduff was an experimental peated malt distilled at Glen Keith. Colour: gold. Nose: a little bizarre - not in a bad way. Starts on notes of wet animal (okay, dog) and green tea, vase water, burning leaves… Also hints of mustard. Goes on with notes of oatcake, white chocolate, something chalky, roasted peanuts, coffee… Then back to vegetal aromas such as grass or parsley. Notes of wet cardboard, coal smoke, marzipan, walnuts… rather nice I must say, even if it's maybe less complex than cask #2513 (the cask Signatory bottled last year). Gets more mineral and ashy after a few minutes, with also notes of heavily hopped beer. Mouth: a rather bitter attack, with something curiously meaty (smoked sausage). Grassy and peaty (not ala Islay at all, it's a different kind of peat, very 'green'). Develops on lots of bitter ingredients such as walnut skin, grape and lemon seeds, propolis again, chlorophyll, grass... quite some marzipan as well. Something rather tarry, 'sticky', leafy (green tea)... Lots of rather green tannins as well. It's good and unusual whisky on the palate, but you have to like bitterness and 'greenness'. Finish: long, extremely coherent, with always this rather enjoyable bitterness. Really a curiosity, this Craigduff, and a good one. A curiosity worth 87 points in my books.

 
 

MALT MANIACS INFORMATION

MILANO WHISKY FESTIVAL 2006 (Oct 21-22) by Luca Chichizola

 

It takes quite a bit to make me move from my hometown and go to Milan: not because I am lazy, but because I truly don’t like that chaotic, grey and dreary big city… But how could I miss the main (only?) event of this kind in Italy? So, on a rainy October morning I hopped on a train and went in with great expectations…As you can see there were some interesting names among the exhibitors, although I did not expect a big event like those held in other countries.

When I arrived at the Marriott Hotel, the first impression was not thrilling: the hall for the event was not huge, and there were very few people. Oh, well, less confusion… more chances to chat with the exhibitors and to taste drams without hurry.
The first place I went to was the Springbank/Cadenhead stand (actually it was the stand of Arnolfini, the Italian importer), where I was kindly offered a free dram of the Springbank 25 yo and of the Hazelburn 8 yo . Both very nice: the 25 yo was not so different from the already good 21 yo (maybe a tad drier and more “toasted”), but I actually found the Hazelburn more interesting. It may still be lacking a bit in complexity, but it has a very interesting nose of candied orange, and it’s not wimpy at all in spite of being a triple distilled malt, with a nice spicy finish. I definitely have to buy a bottle… Anyway, at the stand there was the complete Springbank /Longrow /Hazelburn range, plus some Cadenhead bottlings (later in the afternoon I had a 1993 Ardbeg which was nice but nothing special, with an immature nose). The people at the stand were a bit puzzled when they saw me taking notes, and asked me if I was a journalist… Quite incredibly they didn’t know the Malt Maniacs!

Milan Galleria
Next stop was the Macallan stand. Now, I absolutely love the sherried Macallans and the brand, so when I saw that at the stand they only had the “Fine Oak” range I decided to ask for confirmation of my fears. Yes, Macallan is no longer importing the Sherry Wood range to Italy: they probably think we are not an important market, evidently… Funnily, the PR at the stand spoke with great excitement of how this Fine Oak series is such an improvement over Macallans of years ago, that the interplay between American and European oak is perfect, etc. etc. If I may be blunt, it sounded like marketing crap to me: the old sherried bottlings were much much better, and it’s ridiculous to keep insisting in motivating an economic choice with fake remarks on how fine the quality of the new product is. Anyway, I tried the only non-Fine Oak bottle at the stand (the infamous 1876 Replica), but it was quite disappointing, especially for a bottle of that price. I then had a small taste of the 25 yo Fine Oak: not bad, I’ll admit… but also unremarkable. Exactly what you’d expect from a mass-produced malt of this age, class and price… but no surprises or thrills.
By the way, the Macallan stand was where I discovered that at most stands you had to pay with pre-bought tokens for tasting the whiskies (at Springbank the drams were free… although later during the day they started charging a fee): a good bargain, anyway, because the prices were generally quite honest, ranging from 1 to 14 Euros for most things I have seen (and 14 Euros was for a HUGE dram of expensive and rare stuff like Brora or Lagavulin 30 yo ). By the way, at most stands it was possible to ask for a smaller than usual measure (which is a good choice if you want to taste many malts and still walk away on your feet) and pay proportionally less than the official price.
I then headed towards the Diageo/Velier stand: Velier from Genova is now the Italian distributor for the official Caol Ila range and for the “Reserve” Luxury Collection by Diageo. This stand was very interesting, and I met two guys with good knowledge and great passion: Mr Barberis from Velier, and Mr Gasparri from Diageo. I returned to this stand several times during the day, and I tasted many interesting expressions, including the unpeated 8 yo Caol Ila (not very complex and with an immature nose, but very bold, sweet and malty on the palate), the very interesting Moscatel finish Distillers Edition Caol Ila (a pleasant interplay of the smoky character of the distillate with a fruity, thick and fresh sweetness, sort of Lagavulinish), the now legendary 2004 30 yo Brora (soooo complex and thick, very farmy and organic), the new 30 yo Lagavulin (much nicer than the 25 yo , richer, more complex and perfectly balanced… although TOO expensive for my pockets), the 25 yo Caol Ila (OK, but I prefer younger expressions), and for simple curiosity the ultra-deluxe blend JW Blue (which was actually nicer and tastier than I expected: it truly doesn’t taste like a blend).
Overall, the Diageo/Velier stand was a great place to have a chat and to taste many malts which would have bankrupted me if I had to buy all those bottles (and this is one of the main reasons why you should always go to this kind of events). Yes, because it seems to me that these new deluxe malts by Diageo are a bit of a marketing strategy to up the prices exponentially compared to the old Rare Malts series which was much more affordable (though not of inferior quality).
Oh, well, this is getting an expensive hobby… but at least the whiskies I tasted were very good. Too bad that the Mortlach 32 yo was only for sale “by the bottle”, not “by the dram”… I would have been glad to taste it.
After a quick stop at the Glenfarclas stand where I didn’t taste anything because I already knew most of the bottles they had brought (but I had a chat with Robert Ransom, who showed his great admiration for our Luc and for his impressive collection of rare bottles from their distillery), I quickly passed by the Bar Metro stand where I had to collect all my strength NOT to be tempted to buy one of their old and rare, and of course expensive, bottles (these guys have an IMPRESSIVE collection!).
My next stop was at the Benriach stand: I was enormously pleased to see that they are building a vast and interesting new range of different malts. It seems that the new ownership is truly passionate and motivated, and the long chat I had with managing director Billy Walker was one of the finest moments of the day. We spoke of his plans for the distillery, of the many interesting casks that they inherited from the previous owners, and many other things. Billy gained lots of points in my book when he said that wood finishing experiments CAN be interesting, but that only the successful ones should be put out on the market… contrarily to what some distilleries are doing. A very interesting conversation, and thanks again for the free dram of an excellent limited release of a 1984 21 yo peated Benriach matured in Oloroso sherry butts. I’ll definitely try some of their new bottlings soon!
  Another stand where I was seriously tempted to buy a bottle was the one of Giovanni Giuliani, a collector from Forlì who had some very old Ardbeg and Lagavulin for sale… Again, sorry for not buying anything but I would have definitely gone out of budget! Anyway Giovanni is a very nice person, and he was one of the guys at the Festival who better knew the Maniacs… his words about Serge were of great admiration! (editor's note: why do Italians always exaggerate?)
So, more or less, this was all. There were a few other stands of independent bottlers like Douglas of Drumlanrig, or the German guys of Whiskyauction… but nothing more.
I can’t finish this report without thanking, once again, Fabio Rossi from Wilson & Morgan, who came to the festival as a simple visitor: tasting and chatting with him helped the day pass much more pleasantly, and as usual he brought some nice samples to taste. Keep your eyes open on his imminent new releases, especially a stunningly syrupy 21 yo full-sherry Glenglassaugh which blew my socks off!
I think that the Milano Whisky Festival still has to grow a bit: I had fun, I chatted with lots of people, I tasted some nice malts, but of course it could be a much bigger event. During the day, the festival got quite populated so there IS interest for single malts in Italy: many old experts, but also many young people like me (including quite a few ladies in their 20’s!), looking for information, looking to discover this world and seeking for reliable sources of knowledge. We as Malt Maniacs are doing our best, but more distilleries and importers should believe more strongly in the Italian market. The potential is all there... - Luca

 

MUSIC - Recommended listening - Another interesting new voice and lots of personality: it's Sweden's Frida Hyvönen and she's singing You never got me right.mp3. Please buy her music...

  

November 2, 2006


TASTING - TWO NEW STRATHISLAS
Strathisla 21 yo (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMDW France, cask #6119, 144 bottles) Hum, quite a strange idea to tell us about the cask # and forget about the vintage… Colour: full gold. Nose: wow (sorry, I know some readers don’t like ‘wows’) it’s immensely fruity, almost like, say a 1968 Bowmore. Lots of bananas, lots of papayas and quite some mangos and passion fruits. It gets then more vanilled and nicely oaky and spicy (white pepper, hints of ginger) but the fruits are always here, with also touches of fresh butter, cappuccino and candle wax. Not exactly a fruitbomb but we aren’t too far…

Mouth: compact and very coherent, with a superb blend of ripe bananas, cinnamon, ginger and oak, maybe just a tad drying. Quite some tea, white pepper, fresh walnuts, dried ginger, cocoa… Lots of grapefruits as well, cinnamon sweets… Lots of body. Finish: very long considering it’s relatively low strength, mostly on orange liqueur, white pepper and ginger, maybe a tad too drying. But it’s very good, no doubt. 89 points.
Strathisla 1967/2006 (44.5%, Taste Still, cask #1893, 158 bottles) Colour: pale amber. Nose: much more marked by the wood at first nosing but in a rather beautiful way, with quite some smoked tea, green bananas, vanilla crème and whiffs of incense and cigar box (cedar wood). Then we have quite some fruits (tropical ones such as mangos and guavas) but also ripe apples and pears. Faint hints of sherry, blackcurrant buds, peaches… In any case, a beautiful old malt nose, not dramatically complex but so enjoyable. Let’s hope the palate will be in keeping with the nose. Mouth: excellent news, it does not seem to be over-woody. It starts on the same notes of green bananas and cinnamon, with also quite some nutmeg and some still silky tannins. Develops on cider apples, chlorophyll chewing-gum (nice bitterness), cold tea, salad, vanilla… Granted, it is a little drying but that’s more than okay here. Notes of quince jelly, bergamot sweets, peach skin, fresh almonds… And the finish, even if not too long, is still balanced and fruity (bananas again). An agile ancestor, neither bitter nor toothless. 90 points.
 
SHOPPING - TRICK YOUR LOVED ONE
Maybe it's already time to think about this year's Christmas shopping! So, why not choose to present your loved one with a magnificent Duke Ellington CD set (1), eco-friendly shampoo (2), high-class body lotion (3), classic perfume (4) or Diego Marradona's most beautiful goals on DVD (5)?...
... Except that (1) is actually XO Cognac, (2) is Canadian wine, (3) is vodka, (4) is Japanese whisky and (5) is Argentinian wine. Hem...

 

MUSIC - Recommended listening - in the 'unlikely' series we have the 'Pavarotti of Salsa' Tito Nieves singing Let it be.mp3. Next time Mozart's requiem? Anyway, please buy Tito Nieves' music...

  

November 1, 2006


TASTING - TWO AUCHROISKS

The Singleton of Auchroisk 1983 (40%, OB, circa 1994) Colour: full gold. Nose: a very malty, rather expressive attack on the nose, with lots of cornflakes and caramel notes, bread crust, Guinness and something smoky (wood smoke). Goes on with notes of ripe strawberries and crystallised oranges, whisky fudge, raisins and a faint oakiness. Nothing really thrilling but the whole is rather flawless, even if it gets a little cardboardy after ten or fifteen minutes.

Mouth: weaker and thinner now, with just lots of caramel and a little cardboard again at the attack. Hints of roasted nuts… Not much happening on the palate, I’m afraid, we’re almost in blend territories. The finish’s a little bolder, slightly smoky, with notes of burnt cake and a lingering maltiness and a little salt. 73 points.
Auchroisk 26 yo 1979/2006 (56,7%, Signatory, Sherry Butt #25427, 592 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: the profile’s roughly the same at first nosing despite the much higher strength but then it develops on more coffeeish and fruity notes. Bold notes of torrefaction, dry tealeaves and nougat, then quite some rum and raisins, the whole getting rather oaky after a while. Same hints of strawberries… It’s a bit harsh, let’s add a few drops of water. Great news, that really works, bringing out nice whiffs of wet grass and hay, crushed leaves, green tea, chicory, mastic… Very nicely vegetal and herbal, with also a little tar. Mouth (neat): rather nervous at first sip, maybe a tad rubbery and quite resinous. Very malty again, grainy, getting really hot then. With water: that worked again but in a different direction, more on Xmas cake, dried oranges, black nougat and mocha (Irish coffee). Lots of presence. Finish: rather long, caramelly and ‘roasted’, with also quit some dried figs. Very good but it really needs water. 86 points.
 

MUSIC - Recommended listening - We need a little bouncy music from time to time so let's have the Midnight Juggernauts ('an indie-electro-synth assault poised before Armageddon) doing Shadows.mp3. Gaddafi (aka Andy) is on guitars and Noriega (aka Vincent) is on synths... Which shouldn't prevent you from buying their music!

 

JUST A VERY NICE PICTURE - taken in a warehouse at Lagavulin Distillery. Beautifully cubist I think, and don't we feel the barrel did put the table in front of the window so that it can jump out as soon as it's ready to conquer the world? (photo Nick Morgan, 2006)


October 2006 - part 3 <--- November 2006 - part 1 ---> November 2006 - part 2


C
heck the index of all entries:
Whisky
Music
Nick's Concert Reviews
 

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

Clynelish 1992/2006 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #7168)

Glen Keith 1967/2006 (53%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, cask #3876, 215 bottles)

St Magdalene 23 yo 1982/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, DL ref 2718, 329 bottles)

Strathisla 1967/2006 (44.5%, Taste Still, cask #1893, 158 bottles)

Tamdhu 15 yo (43%, OB for Germany, ceramic, 1980’s)