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

November 30, 2006


TASTING - TWO 1978 PORT ELLENS

Port Ellen 27 yo 1978/2006 (51%, Glen Denny, cask #607, 372 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: very sharp, lemony and grassy at first nosing, not too expressive I must say. Gets smokier and peatier after a moment but still no quick. Gets then even more vegetal (grass, green tea). Faint hints of mint. Also wet newspaper, stones, greenish white wine (sauvignon)? Wet straw. I like austerity in my Port Ellens but I must say this one is, well, maybe overly austere.

Mouth: better, much better. Punchy, smoky, peaty, tarry and liquoricy as it should be. Really bold, developing on rather subtle notes of crystallized lemon and quince, citrons, smoked tea, something leathery. Gets very spicy and peppery with time (lots of dried ginger)… Really excellent, which is amazing considering the rather silent nose. Finish: extremely long, compact, peaty and ‘candied’, with notes of bergamot and finally loads of pepper and even curry and mustard and a great bitterness. Phew! Too bad the nose was so silent, because the palate is superb. 88 points.
Port Ellen 23 yo 1978/2002 (56.6%, Signatory, cask #5349, 232 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: well, this one isn’t too expressive either. Slightly mashier (mashed potatoes and porridge), with also a little more lemon but still this cardboardiness. Maybe a little more liquorice. Notes of slightly rancid butter developing after a while, salsify, crushed leaves, raw turnips… Greener and waxier than the Glen Denny. Mouth: again, it’s much sweeter but not as complex and satisfying as the Glen Denny on the palate. Maybe too bitter and even drying (over-infused tea, liquorice stick, roots). Lots of mustard this time, curry, chilli, pepper… Almost a malt that you could pour on a pizza! (I have to try that!) Finish: long, getting nicer now, with lots of lemon, marmalade, cinnamon, curry again. Hot and spicy aftertaste. Not a winner but quite a beast – and hey, it’s a Port Ellen. 84 points.
 
CRAZY WHISY ADS – THE WAR OF THE DECANTERS part 1
We’re now entering pre-Christmas time and of course, this period of the year means a lot for all whisky brands, which are all trying to elbow their competitors out of the way and become the perfect Xmas gifts. This year we decided to focus on what used to be probably the most emblematic pre-Xmas marketing weapons between, say 1950 and 1970: the decanters. Indeed, most American and Canadian brands were bottling their whiskies into sometimes completely extravagant decanters instead of their regular bottles. Some of the decanters were fantastic, others were just plain tasteless but let’s marvel at them via the obligatory magazine ads many brands were running at this period of the year, starting today with 1951.
1951: Kentucky Tavern Treasure Island Decanter ‘This is the year for gifts of good cheer – Same price as regular bottle’. With pirates printed on glass. Not exactly classy – yet.
1952: Old Forester ‘Presenting America’s Guest Decanter! – The is nothing better in the market’. Strange design with moulded whirls and a handle that makes it look like a rather cheap jug.
1953: Old Fitzgerald ‘in Distinguished Diamond Decanter – Choose Fitzgerlad’s festive fifth… your key to gracious giving! Laced with gleaming gold and diamond-capped… filled with the oak-ripened richness of a bourbon flavor unique… made in the costly old-fashioned sour mash way to bring you the best for gift or guest! Yours at no additional cost over year-round fifth.’ ‘Oozing’ copywriting.
1953: Schenley ‘Famous Whiskey Fabulous Decanter – So right for holiday gift-giving and entertaining…’ Design close to early 20th century perfume bottles.
The best is yet to come – stay tuned!
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: probably one of the very first 45 rpm's I ever bought myself when it went out: John Kongos with He's Gonna Step On You Again.mp3. I must say I still like it, especially the guitars' sound and the 'Indian' drumming (first I time Iisten to it since the early 70's!)... Please buy John Kongos' music, he's still around! (do you hear me, Kate?)

  

November 28, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan

MOTÖRHEAD
Brixton Academy, London
November 25th 2006

Ask any one hundred rock fans to choose the epitome of the wild man of modern rock and roll and statistics prove that ninety-nine will name Lemmy Kilmister, the Burslem-born front man of “the loudest band in the world” Motörhead (the name is a slang description of a heavy speed user – the umlaut a casual addition to “make the name seem more menacing”). Bad-boy Lemmy has done it all – a roadie for Hendrix he found his way into psycho-space rock-combo Hawkwind, and sang them into the charts with ‘Silver machine’ in 1972.

Sacked following his arrest for amphetamine possession in Canada in 1975 he retaliated in typical style – “It's a terrible thing to be fired, especially for an offence that everyone else was guilty of. So I came home and fucked all their old ladies. Outrageous? No, not at all. I took great pleasure in it. Eat that, you bastards." He followed this with the formation of Motörhead (he’d wanted to call the band ‘Bastard’ but was persuaded this might limit radio airplay time), who gave punk a heavy-metal counterpart and whose high-speed heavy sound (apparently) "created speed metal and thrash metal", whatever they may be. And since their rise to fame and a place in every music-lover’s consciousness with 1980 hit ‘Ace of spades’, Motörhead, in their various guises, have never looked back, never stopped recording, and never stopped touring (indeed, in addition to Motörhead he’s now got a new ‘physco-rockabilly’ band, The Headcat). He’s at number eight in Maxim magazine’s list of Living Sex Legends. Wart-faced finger-poking smoke-toking whiskey-throating Lemmy is every mother’s nightmare.
But how can that be? There are more than a few mothers in the audience at the Brixton Academy, many with their sons. You see something has happened over the past few years and remarkable rock-survivor (quite how he has survived is a mystery both to Lemmy, his doctors, and the rest of the world) Lemmy has been transformed, transmuted, and even transmogrified, from Satanic stereotype to National Treasure. Quite how I’m not sure. His self-depreciating humour must have helped.
Moving revelations about his childhood (he and his mother were deserted by his clergyman father when he was three months old) have thrown a different light on his persona. He’s played it up for kids in adverts for things like Walker’s crisps. He still loves his mum (she’s one of the two people in the world who still calls him ‘Ian’). He’s sixty and shares the same doubts as a growing part of the population – “I hadn’t planned to live this long …it’s weird being old. I don’t feel old. I will not be old, fuck you”. He’s campaigned in the Welsh Parliament against drugs (well, heroin at least). And as the Times told us a few weeks ago, he even sponsors a hard-up under-10s soccer team in Lincolnshire, ‘though for their sins the boys now wear a shirt bearing Motorhead’s Snaggletooth logo, and run onto the pitch to the sound of ‘Ace of spades’. Yup – he’s just an old pussycat really.
And if Lemmy is a National Treasure then his black-shirted audience (am I the only one here not wearing a black T-shirt?) are almost subject to an English Heritage conservation order too (even though a good many of them are German). One in ten are being ‘tagged’ as they come into the theatre for future posterity, “who knows mate” says one, grimacing as his ear receives its fifth piercing, “we could become an endangered species soon”. And for all their lagers, Jack Daniels and Jägermeister (it’s on promotion, being handed out in test-tubes to the punters, apparently it’s very rock and roll these days, and of course it shares a font - Lucida Blackletter - and an umlaut, with Motörhead) the audience are pretty tame, are very solicitous of the Photographer (offering her a bite of a beef-burger was a mistake) and don’t seem to deserve the prodigious police presence they have attracted.
As for the music – well it’s loud, but I’m sure the Bad Seeds at the same venue a few years ago were louder. And of course the sound level at gigs like this is closely monitored – exceed permitted levels and your licence is gone. But let’s agree it’s a deafening wall of sound. We’re almost dead centre, just behind the sound desk and would have a great view but for the fact that the sound desk enclosure is packed with engineers, management (whisky lovers may care to know that Motörhead’s manager is the spitting image of whisky scribe Michael Jackson) and celebrities, including Queen’s Brian May, who brushes past us halfway through the first song, shielded by his menacing security guards, and proceeds to place his perm directly in our line of sight. Nice one Brian.
As befits his National Treasure status Lemmy is a true journeyman of rock.
He stands tall, boots, legs firmly apart, sleeves rolled up, bass slung low and bellows “We are Motörhead. We play rock and roll” before the band burst into “Dr Rock”, or maybe it was “Stay clean”, or maybe ‘Be my baby’. To be frank it was a bit hard to tell through that wall of sound, but normally by about half way through each song you could persuade yourself that they were all playing in the same key and same timing, and that the deep accompanying growl wasn’t a fractured speaker cabinet but rather Lemmy’s singing, if that’s the word to use.
And it was a mixed set, demonstrating that ‘new’ Motörhead can be just as invigorating as the ‘old’ – Lemmy it seems gets somewhat frustrated when their more recent work is disregarded. There’s ‘One night stand’ from this year’s Kiss of Death, and ‘Killers’ and ‘In the name of tragedy’ from 2004’s Inferno, in addition to songs like ‘Iron fist’, and of course ‘Ace of Spades’, ‘Snaggletooth’ (the appearance of which in a live set has for reasons best known to themselves got the Motörhead bulletin boards humming), and a Thin Lizzy tribute (that even had Brian May raising his fist in the air), ‘Rosalie’. In between which Lemmy and guitarist Phil Campbell chat away affably like comperes at a church hall fundraiser in their vaguely Welsh accents, Lemmy’s sounding as if his false teeth need fixing.
It’s all pretty good fun really. We escape during the opening bars of final song ‘Overkill’, manage our way past the menacing plain-clothes policemen outside (honestly, they’re more frightening than the fans, but maybe it’s a Brixton thing) and back to the car for a drive west. I’ve got Lemmy’s words echoing through my brain, “I don’t want to live forever”. Well on the basis of what we’ve seen of Lemmy tonight that, like Pete Townsend’s “Hope I die before I get old”, is clearly another line destined for the trash-can. The old boy’s here for the long-haul.- Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate, Maxim)
Thank you Nick. Still in a bit of a rush here so no clever comments (pfff) but here’s some music by Motörhead: the all famous Louie, Louie.mp3. Harder than Iggy?
 
POETRY AND WHISKY in New York - The Bowery Poetry Club is hosting a Single Malt Scotch Holiday Poetry Slam, at 5pm on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006, 308, Bowery at Houston. $20 includes 6 single malts! ($15.00 in advance at virtuous.com).
This fourth annual event features 6 poets reading descriptions of six single malts as the audience samples the whiskeys. The audience votes on the poets and single malts. Door prizes include the Highlands Tweeds Coastal Single Malt Sport Jacket by Orvis and a one-night stay at the luxurious Equinox Hotel in Vermont.
Is there anything that says, “The holidays are here,” more than a bunch of poets sipping whisky? Doesn't poetry sound better when you are knocking back a stiff one? Follow in the bar stool of Robert Burns who wrote, “Let other poets raise a fracas/ Bout vines, an' wines, an' drunken Bacchus/ I'll take another Scotch please!” It's Burns Day without the “Parade of the Haggis.” Robert Fitterman hosts the Single Malt Scotch Poetry Slam.
 
TASTING - THREE SPRINGBANKS
Springbank 5 yo (43%, OB for Italy, 1960’s) It’s interesting to taste a very young Springbank old style, with little wood influence and ageing. Colour: white wine. Nose: light – not weak – in style, starting on a mix of diluted lemon juice, grains and smoke. Slight hints of cologne, porridge, ginger ale… Gets then rather flowery (lily of the valley) and even a little perfumy (vetiver, lemon balm) and finally quite mineral (wet stones), with also hints of plastic. Not hugely expressive but quite clean and complex considering it’s only five years old.
Mouth: starts rather smoothly, on peppered apple juice, paraffin and something quite herbal (grass juice – ever tried that?) and grows then bolder and more assertive, with quite some dried bitter oranges, mastic sweets, smoked tea and coffee flavoured toffee. Quite mature, I guess the bottle did a good part of the work here. Gets more almondy with time and the finish is frankly nutty (fresh ones) and slightly smoky. It’s not grand single malt but it’s very enjoyable and quite historical, because it shows that the great old Springbanks were probably not only a matter of good cask management. 86 points.
Springbank 1975 (46%, Celtic Cross, Japan) Colour: gold. Nose: this is really funny, this one is much older than the official 5 yo but its profile is very similar at first nosing, although it does grow much bigger after a few seconds. Oh, yes, it’s great and unusual, with lots of marzipan, almond milk, Turkish delights but also the trademark fresh coconut plus something very maritime (oysters, clams). Beautiful notes of tangerines, bitter oranges, old books, vanilla crème… More phenolic (eucalyptus scented wax) and maybe more complex than many old unsherried Sprignbanks. Just superb. Mouth: vibrant and extremely waxy at the attack, with again lots of almonds, a little icing sugar, dried lychees and all sorts of crystallized citrus fruits. Gets then superbly spicy (lots of nutmeg and even soft curry) and nutty (fresh walnuts). A ‘taste of yellow’ but that doesn’t seem to come from a sherry cask. Really excellent, despite the rather cardboardy notes that do appear after a while. The finish is quite long, still waxy and nutty (and a little drying) but also quite salty. An excellent variation. 91 points.
Springbank 28 yo 1975/2003 (50.5%, Chieftain’s for Schotse Dagen in Ooidonk, Belgium, cask #1891,186 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: much more spirity, and it’s not just the alcohol, and starting more on mineral, stony notes mixed with lemon skin. A rather unusual austerity here. Something slightly smoky… It does sort of take off after a while, getting rather farmy but also hugely herbal. Hints of asparagus, apple skins… We do have a little fruit then (hints of passion fruits and oranges) but the whole seems to lack a little ‘extroversion’. Maybe a little water will work, let’s see… Well, no, that doesn’t really work. Maybe a little more citrus fruits but that’s all. Strange… Mouth (neat): it’s much more like it now, with a general profile that’s quite close to the Celtic Cross’. Quite some fruit (bitter oranges, green bananas, kumquats)… More and more bananas… Oh yes, it’s the revolution. It does get almost extravagant (on all sorts of fresh fruits and nuts) and also quite spicy, with an added layer of complexity brought by lots of herbal/phenolic notes (chlorophyll, mint, eucalyptus sweets) and again lots of wax. The finish is long, enveloping, waxy and citrusy… Whew! In short, a very, very nice palate but the nose was strangely silent. 85 points.
  

November 27, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
THE BONZO DOG DOO-DAH BAND

Shepherds Bush Empire, London, November 18th 2006
I’m standing in a queue that’s snaking round the side of the Shepherds Bush Empire, just like I did ten months ago at the Pickle Factory (actually it was much much colder that night) when I was waiting to see the Bonzo Dog Dooh Da Band perform a one-off 40th Anniversary concert. Shortly afterwards I reported there were rumours that the seven remaining Bonzos were thinking of touring – unwise as it seemed to me.
Could they ever recreate the nostalgic wonder of that “pinch me was I really there night”? How could they take such a gloriously chaotic shambles out onto the road? And how would a group of barking sixty-somethings (Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell is 73) endure the rigours of a rock and roll lifestyle? Well it’s night number twelve, the last of the tour, we’re upstairs on the first floor (standing in one of the best spots in the whole theatre) of a packed–out Bush (with a surprising and pleasingly mixed age profile, including a few celebrity comedians and a clutch of Blockheads) brimming with excitement, and we’re just about to find out.
Phil the Bonzos’ truck-driver is next to us manning a spotlight, which is what he does when he’s not doing the truck thing. Phil rates tours by trucks – he’s just been out with Razorlight (six trucks) and tomorrow (he hasn’t been home since early October) he’s off with Snow Patrol (eight trucks). After Christmas he’s got Kylie. He’s missing the after-show because he’s got to get the truck up to Bedford to unload. But he’s enjoyed the Bonzos (one truck) tour – “different every night”, “what a great bunch of old geezers”, “they even slept for four nights on the bus”, “I’ve never laughed so much in my life”, “you never quite know what’s going to happen next”. He’s right.

It’s an expanded band – at the core are the Bonzos - Neil Innes, Roger Ruskin Spear, Rodney Slater, “Legs” Larry Smith, Sam Spoons, Vernon Dudley Bohay Nowell and Bob Kerr. But there’s a four piece rhythm section (including Andy Roberts) and fronting on guitar and occasional vocals is former World Party bassist, session man to the stars and sometime Bootleg Beatle David Catlin-Birch. He takes on some of the Viv Stanshall crooning parts very well, like song number two, ‘By a waterfall’, where the Slater/Ruskin Spear/Kerr brass section also announce their intention to play – watched with great pleasure, by the rest of the band. There’s a lot of watching going on – you can see the faces of the whole band, taught with tension and the fear of impending doom every time Ruskin Spear takes on one of his gadgets (and he has trouser-press, Theremin leg, robots, electric torsos – the whole bloody lot except the famous wah-wah rabbits) melt into grins of delight when they all work. At the side of the stage (when they’re not performing) Adrian Edmondson and Phil Jupitus, who’ve been on the whole tour, have their eyes glued on the band. And there’s a lot of pleasure in their own performance – hysterical laughter as Bohay-Nowell camps up ‘Falling in love again’, and when Kerr and Sam Spoons perform the ventriloquist routine on ‘Little Sir Echo’ – “I was laughing so much I couldn’t hold the camera still’ said the Photographer. If you want to know what Jupitus thought about it then you can read his tour diary, all laughter, tears and more laughter.
At the Astoria the set was divided into the trad-jazz half and the rock and roll half. Here the songs are matched and mixed to much better effect. And Innes is relieved of the pressure of doing so many of the vocals (difficult for him as he has a fairly one dimensional voice) by Catlin-Birch, a far more prominent “Legs” Larry Smith (‘Jollity Farm’, ‘Monster Mash’) and Edmondson, who in addition to reprising his ‘I’m bored’ and ‘The strain’, and the brilliant ‘My pink half of the drainpipe’ introduced the second half with a full version of ‘We are normal’ and later dueted with Ruskin-Spear on a near-perfect ‘Trouser press’.

He also played trumpet on ‘Jazz delicious hot, disgusting cold’ – a wonderful ensemble piece. Jupitus played a lot more guitar (he’s following the trend set by the cognoscenti and has swapped his lovely Fender Telecaster for a Gretsch), bellowed his way with aplomb through ‘Mr Apollo’, ‘Tent’, ‘Rockaliser baby’ and ‘Canyons of your mind’ (in Elvis suit) and also ‘Big shot’. Paul Merton joined and had a bash at ‘Rhinocratic oaths’ but couldn’t match Stephen Fry’s Astoria performance, and Bill Bailey sang Keynsham while Sam Spoons juggled with boxes. Purist (Puritan?) Bonzo fans have apparently debated the rights and wrongs of the star performers taking part, but to be frank the Bonzos would not have managed without them – they not only helped make up for the missing Stanshall but gave the band an edge they would not easily have found themselves, and they didn’t hog the limelight. Not even Edmondson, dressed in the parrot suit, carefully reading the sign ‘Crowd surfing can be dangerous’ before launching himself out into the elderly mosh (“Hang on, I’m going to find a patch where there aren’t too many geriatrics, I don’t want them to drop me”).
And if the Astoria was really a ‘being there’ sort of moment, then this was a far more satisfactory comedic performance, a better balanced set. A more thoughtful range of songs (so we also got ‘What do you do’ and ‘Busted’ that were missing from the Astoria), and some excellent comedy moments, generally all very well timed. True there were a few fluffed words here or there, forgotten solos and bum notes but overall is was as much as anyone could have hoped for. And to see these seven elderly, and generally rather distinguished looking gentlemen perform ‘Music for a head ballet’ was a moment to be treasured. Well – they all were really. At the end of ‘Busted’ the band were ushered from the stage by some unlikely looking policemen, leaving an apparently forgotten Bohay-Nowell playing (bizarrely) ‘Silent night’ on his saw. Then all returned for multiple ovations, applause, cheering and not a few tears, after which Ruskin-Spear returned to an empty stage for one final, perfectly executed joke, and that was it. Beaming smiles all round. Phil the Bonzos’ truck-driver rushed off to pack his truck. We went home, and accompanied by some of Scotland’s finest midnight wine watched the rather disappointing video of the Astoria gig (twice as I recall). But hold on! There were cameras all over the Bush. A new DVD is in the offing – and if it’s ever released then go out and buy it. There might never be a next time, but on the other hand …- Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate and Nick's Nokia)
Thank you Nick. Sorry, I have to be quick but here’s Monster mash.mp3 (from the Peel sessions)
 

TASTING - TWO ARDMORES

Ardmore 15 yo (45.7%, OB ‘For the Directors of William Teachers & Sons, 600 bottles, probably 1950’s) Colour: coffee. Nose: what a beautiful sherry! Starts on lots of prunes and chocolate with the peat pulsating in the background and gets then very meaty, in the ‘game’ genre. Loads of roasted nuts, thick wine reduction, blackcurrant jam… Lots of parsley as well.

A meatiness that mingles with the peat most perfectly, giving the whole notes of high-end Madeira. Gets even smokier with time, flinty, with also hints or tar and coal. Quite minty at that, and huge liquorice after a while – I love this nose, happy Directors! Mouth: thick, creamy, ueber-minty, with lots of strawberry jam, pepper, wine sauce again… How thick! Almost like alcoholised plum jam. Yet, it’s not cloying at all because there’s also lots of fresh fruits (strawberries, ripe melon, mulberries) and even hints of lemon to keep the whole beautifully balanced, not too forget the peat that’s maybe slightly shier than on the nose but still there. Fabulous whisky – sorry, peat and sherry extract. Finish: extremely long, concentrated, smoky, peppery and jammy. Amazingly rich and invading, the kind of invasion that’s most welcome. 93 points. (thanks for this beauty, Konstantin)
Ardmore 16 yo 1990/2006 (60.2%, Signatory for Whisky Magazine France, cask #30018, 287 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s funny how it’s got a similar profile – once you took the sherry away, that is. Meaty again (more on smoked ham, that is), peaty, with hints of white peaches and watermelon but mostly coal, tar, matchsticks, even lamp petrol. And then just the same notes of fresh parsley, lovage and mint together with a little liquorice and maybe strawberries with pepper. And yes, wet dog – make that a cocker spaniel. Plain, pure and beautiful, perfectly ‘nosable’ without water. The mainland’s Caol Ila? Mouth: sweet and peaty attack, with again these white peaches and something like pineapple sweets. Really powerful but drinkable, although it doesn’t seem to fully deliver when neat, which is normal. With water: strange, water almost kills it, it gets almost silent (except for notes of fresh oranges) for a few minutes before the smokiness comes back together with a little pepper and apple juice. And grapefruit. Finish: rather long, clean, fruity, smoky and peppery. Beautiful Ardmore – we want more versions of it! 88 points.
  

November 25, 2006


MUSIC AND WHISKY INTERVIEW - TIM HAIN
Imagine Albert King playing with Sly and Robbie or better yet, Buddy Guy with the Pionneers… Wouldn’t that have been a hit? Yeah but no need to look for dirty mash-ups on the Internet, or to pester your favourite second-hand LP dealer, that exists in real life and it’s called Bleggae – the bounciest blues ever! Its 'inventor' is England’s excellent singer and guitarist Tim Hain, master blender extraordinaire, who also happens to know his single malt.
Whiskyfun: Tim, please tell us a little more about what you do, music-wise.
Tim Hain: I'm a singer, guitarist, songwriter, performer. Currently playing out on average 3 times a week with my band ‘Sunnyside Up’, a musical blend called ‘Bleggae’ or Blues/reggae. My album ‘One Man Went To Mojo’ has had very good reviews… even in the traditional blues press.
WF: Which other musicians are you playing or did you play with?
Tim: I have two of everything, as good musicians are busy! My mainstay is ‘the drummer currently known as Prince,’ who also tours with reggae legends ‘Twinkle Brothers’ and ‘Misty In roots’. When he’s not available I use Tapper, who backs Gregory Isaacs when he’s in England. 2 years ago Jeff Beck was at one of my gigs, and we got to jam, which was a big thrill.
WF: Which are your other favourite artistes?
Tim: How long is a piece of string?? From Beatles to Bob Marley, Blues to township, Ry Cooder, Freddie King, Peter Green, Jimi Hendrix, Black Uhuru, Toots, Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear, Paul Simon, Thomas Mapfumo, Salif Keita, Lauryn Hill, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Womack, Smokey Robinson…
WF: Which are your current projects?
Tim: Working on promoting two albums, and working on composing a third at my home studio. Having done over 1000 gigs off my own bat in the last 7 years, I am now networking like crazy to find and build a team to work with and create a ‘brand’.
WF: So, when did you start enjoying whisky? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Tim: At the turn of the Century, new year’s eve 1999/2000, I was employed to play reggae in a castle in Scotland, they were throwing their local dram at us: Oban. Lovely but I had already tasted Lagavulin and was deeply fascinated…
WF: What’s your most memorable whisky?
Tim: I can still smell the 1946 Macallan which rounded off a whisky tasting weekend gifted me by my non-whisky loving girlfriend two years ago! It smelt of oak cabinets I played in as a boy at my grandfather’s house, but full of lemons! Memorable for a different reason: At a bar in that bastion of culture known as Chatham in Kent, I ordered a Bowmore, with a pint of water to keep my voice hydrated while singing. They mixed the two!
WF: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Tim: Several. From the Islay peat monsters which I love, Ardbeg 10 is a staple, and Laph QC ain’t far behind, to the sherried Macallans I cut my teeth (a style best accessed these days with the Aberlour A’bunadh-the good Macs are getting expensive.) Longmorn 15’s an exceptional Speysider but from the 170 or so drams I’ve tried since 2000, there’s few I’d say no to. Re: lighter whiskies, you can’t go wrong with Glenmorangie or Bladnoch. And I was recently forced to eat my Glenfiddich snobbery with a healthy dose of Solera 15. Love CS whiskies - especially limited editions!
WF: Are there whiskies you don’t like?
Tim: Errm… that’s a hard one!
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?
Tim: “One Scotch, One bourbon, and one beer.” Plus footage I recently saw of Howlin’ Wolf bawling out another bluesman for ruining his life with whisky! Classic…
WF: Music and whisky are often though of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Tim: They should indeed - and they do! Bonnie Raitt is HARD! I introduced a friend of mine to a selection of malts one night. She has a far better nose than me! She picked out all the classic notes first time near the glass. I was amazed…
WF: In some ways you could argue that tasting a whisky is similar to listening to a piece of music – you deconstruct the two in the same way. Care to comment?
Tim: As long as the enjoyment comes first…
WF: I once heard an eminent whisky professional say that he tasted whisky in colours. Do you taste whisky in music?
Tim: I taste notes in whisky!! I introduced an artist friend who tasted colours… I find whiskies, especially on the nose, evoke memories of places and events, maybe from childhood.
WF: If your favourite whisky was a piece of music what would it be, if it was a musical instrument what would it be?
Tim: Ardbeg is my mainstay, so it would have to be a Fender Strat.
WF: Do you also have a favourite piece of music to drink whisky with, or better still, desert island dram, desert island disc?
Tim: Every piece of music is good with whisky!! Desert island dram would have to be Ardbeg ‘77 or the Vintage House Macallan single cask I bought to celebrate my daughter’s birth. Desert island disc would have to be Abbey Road, Blackheart Man (Bunny Wailer) or Electric Landlady (whoops!) by Jimi.
WF: Everyone thinks of Jack Daniels as being the great rock and roll whisky – why not Scotch?
Tim: JD sucks for me - far too sweet.
WF: And if it was Scotch, can you think of which brand? What would be the Scotch equivalent of rappers drinking Cristal?
Tim: What’s Cristal?
WF: Cristal is Champagne made by Roederer and rappers love it. Well, wealthy rappers, as a bottle of Cristal from a good vintage like 1990 will cost you around £200 or more.
Tim: OK, to answer your question I'd say the equivalent is a bleggae artist drinking a top Speysider...in this case an old Longmorn... a 37 year old Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling gifted me for my last birthday by my dear friend Anthony Phillips, a composer, and Genesis' original guitarist! I did some 'sleuthing' with the help of Mr Murrays' bible to discover its origin, as the society tends not to name its sources on the bottle. Anyway, he chose this bottle because the famous SMWS description in red letters on the label reads "A Rasta Malt". We figured it was because the whisky was very dark...and deep. Like an old Rastaman! Like Bob Marley or Bunny Wailer in interviews I've seen. I probably have the last "inch" left in England. Anyway, they pulled out the tasting notes.
It seems two "tasters" found "marijuana" on the nose! Hence the name.. I found mainly oak and sherry. The only ganja I found was a crumb in my back pocket...
WF: Yeah, I remember the rasta '7.27', it had weedy aromas indeed. Anyway, thank you very much, Tim, and congrats for your new CD One Man Went To Mojo. It's excellent indeed - to our readers, it's available at Amazon UK.

Links of interest:
Tm Hain's official website
Tim's mySpace page (great music there!)

 

TASTING - TWO NEW BLAIR ATHOLS (or is it Atholl?)

Blair Athol 1991/2006 (43%, Jean Boyer’s Best Casks of Scotland) Colour: full gold. Nose: starts with whiffs of smoke from the sherry wood but soon to get very nicely fruity, on pink grapefruit, strawberries, muscat and very soft curry. Hints of old wood (barrel) as well as rose jelly and liquorice allsorts, Jell-O… Nice pepper in the background and also a little raw incense. Not explosive but there’s really something happening.

Mouth: the attack is a tad limp but then we have lots of ripe strawberries together with a little caramel, liquorice and oranges. Gets maltier and more cereally with time, and even more on sweet liquorice, raspberry sweets. Hints of toasted bread and muesli (with lots of fruits!). Finish: medium long, very sweet, malty and fruity. Interesting fruitiness in this Blair Athol, I’d say it’s a version that should please any of your non-whiskyfreak guests. 82 points.
Blair Atholl 1989/2006 (43%, Whisky-Doris The Dram) I believe Blair Athol and Blair Atholl are the same distilleries ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: much ‘natural’, grainy and malty, getting very herbal – and nicely so. Notes of newly cut grass, green tea, clover… Gets then fruitier, mostly on grapefruit, pineapple, apples… Very nice freshness. Undemanding but the balance is rather perfect. Mouth: quite coating but straighter and spicier than the Jean Boyer but with again lots of liquorice. Goes on with quite some bergamot, white pepper, soft paprika (a little peat?), ginger and then grapefruits and crystallized oranges. Much less sherry. Gets spicier and more ‘candied’ with time. Finish: quite long this time, still as softly spicy and candied, with notes of bitter oranges. Very, very pleasant. 85 points.
  

November 24, 2006


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 
TASTING - THREE HIGHLAND PARKS
Highland Park 25 yo 1952/1977 ‘Silver Jubilee’ (70°Proof, Gordon & MacPhail) Bottled to commemorate Liz II’s jubilee. The Talisker from the same series was great (91) so I’m having high expectations. Colour: pale gold. Nose: huge old bottle effect, with lots of chamomile tea, passion fruit and something slightly metallic at first nosing (aluminium pan). Beautifully mineral (wet limestone, flints), peaty and smoky, developing on linseed oil and paraffin, not unlike an old Clynelish 12 yo white label. Also fresh pineapple, citrons, lime, getting then slightly meaty (ham). Truly beautiful and a profile that I got in no recent bottling whatsoever. Mouth: ho-ho, but this is superb! Creamy, oily, almost thick like a liqueur despite the low strength, with a fantastic attack on candied lemon zest and mastic, olive oil, beeswax and smoked tea. Almost as peaty as, say an old Ardbeg from the 60’s. Goes on with notes of lemon balm, crystallized oranges, Campari, Schweppes… Marzipan, kumquats… So good! Finish: not extremely long but beautifully waxy and citrusy, with the peat lingering in the background and maybe hints of soft curry and pepper. Stunning malt that probably improved in its bottle – and highly drinkable, at that. 94 points.
Highland Park 18 3/5 yo ‘Lunar Bottling’ (45.1%, OB, 2006) Bottled to commemorate some sort of lunar cycle that happens only once every 18 3/5 years – which happened in September 2006. A bit bizarre... Colour: deep gold. Nose: a little less expressive at first nosing but also more wood influenced. Gets then more fragrant, with notes of sandalwood, incense, dried oranges… Quite jammy, orangey. Very nice notes of sherry. Quite complex, rounded, some would say ‘meditative’. Superb balance. Mouth: very sweet, smooth, rounded but not dull at all. Beautiful crystallised fruits, very ripe peaches and strawberries, honey, apple juice, roasted pecans, pistachios... A certain smokiness (smoked tea). The balance is rather ideal and this one is pure pleasure. Long finish, extremely satisfying, with a slight pungency that gives the whole a little twist. Excellent. 90 points.
Highland Park 1988/2003 (56.6%, Spirit of the Isles, hogshead #707) Colour: white wine. Nose: a raw, wild start on petrol and cardboard with also lots of wax and hints of wet dog. Kind of ‘dirty’. Notes of walnuts, marzipan, ginger tonic, cinchona, aspirin… ‘Different’, I’d say. Lots of apple juice as well. Mouth: extremely sweet, sugary… Sweets, liquorice allsorts, apple skin, getting then a little bitter… A little hard to enjoy, maybe one of these so-so casks some indies get. Long but rather bitter finish. Too raw I think. 75 points.

 

MUSIC - Recommended listening - she's Eric Burdon's current bassist (yes, she's an Animal) and her name is Paula O'Rourke. Today she's doing Frozen roses.mp3 (from her solo album Captain Bringdown). Don't you like her detuned voice? Please buy her music!

  

November 23, 2006


MALT MANIACS NEWSFLASH by Johannes van den Heuvel

 

While working on the full refurbishment of the website I'm slowly starting to fully realise how much content we've amassed over the last decade. We've now reached a point where it's sometimes quite hard to find specific articles. For a while the 'Google' search box on the old site helped out for a bit, but for the new site I want to find a seemless new navigation. This slows down the reconstruction a little, but I think it will be worth it once the new sites are live.

In preparation for the launch of the new websites we've registred a new domain; www.maltmaniacs.org. From now on you'll be automatically transferred to our new server if you type www.maltmaniacs.com in the address bar of your browser. For now, typing www.maltmadness.com there will still take you to the old 'frozen' website, but once (part of) the new site is done you'll find the new Malt Madness website under that domain. It will probably take me months (if not years) to get everything working as I want, so I've published a full archive of the current website on http://www.maltmaniacs.org/ADHD/. That section will remain on-line until the rebuild is completely finished.
Meanwhile, we're extremely busy with the Malt Maniacs Awards 2006 - the fourth installment of our annual competition. The final scores from the 12 judges (who sampled and scored some 200 samples 'blind') are expected by this weekend, after which the results for this year will be calculated. Those results will then be published on December 1 - just in time for you to put a few of the winners on your Christmas shopping list. And once again we expect to hand out many more silver and bronze medals than gold - the variety that seems to be so commonly available at a few other 'competitions'... In the three previous years, out of hundreds of single malts that were submitted to the Malt Maniacs Awards, only 13 managed to win a gold medal. Expect some coments about the 'exchange rate' for regular medals versus malt maniacs medals on the awards page when the results are published. - Johannes
 
TASTING - HIGH STRENGTH TALISKERS
Talisker 1992/2006 (58,8%, Jean Boyer One Shot Collection) Colour: white wine. Nose: a very fresh and powerful start on freshly cut apples and yoghurt, farmyard, kelp and soaked grain. Quite sharp and, as they say, uncompromising. Also notes of green tea, walnut skin and wet stone plus hints of cider and crushed sorrel leaves. With water: gets grassier, more mineral, flinty… The peat starts to shine through (smells like floor maltings at the end of the process) as well as sea elements (shells, seaweed). Still quite austere in style – which I like.
Mouth (neat): great attack, direct, punchy, peaty and peppery. Notes of small sour apples, grape skin, liquorice and green chilli. For big boys – not that I’m not one but let’s try it with water now: much sweeter, liquoricy, getting very salty, with also notes of walnuts, oatcake, bread crumb… Finish: long, straightforward, expectedly peppery and ‘mashy’, peaty with maybe juts hints of rubber. Superb young Talisker, perfect hipflask malt for winter times I think. 89 points.
Talisker 19 yo 1979/1999 (60.3%, Cadenhead authentic collection) Colour: straw. Nose: much rounder, ‘sweeter’, starting on vanilla and newly cut grass, spent lies… Goes on with wax, paraffin, fresh walnuts and notes of milk chocolate. Little peat this time. With water: still quite round but there are also nice citrusy notes now, even passion fruit and maybe green mangos and star fruits. Good quality marzipan – not the heavily sugared one they (try to) sell you at supermarkets and linseed oil. Much, much nicer with water. Mouth (neat): rounder, nuttier attack but there’s soon something disturbingly bitter coming through. Rubber bands? Extremely grassy. Herbs liqueur (Jägermeister), highly concentrated liquorice… A bit hard I must say. With water: gets more complex again, fruitier, with something like bitter oranges, herbal tea and metal (old bottle effect, already?) Excellent now, really. Finish: long, waxy, nutty and, of course, peaty with again a little rubber just like with the Jean Boyer. Little pepper this time, that is. A true swimmer, in any case. 87 points (with water, but just 82 neat).
Talisker 17 yo 1979/1996 (62.6%, Cadenhead authentic collection) Colour: white wine. Nose: very close to the 19 yo , maybe just a tad wilder and maybe peatier. Gets more expressive after a while although it’s still very grassy and nutty. Notes of fresh butter and oysters. Nicer than the older version on the nose. With water: that’s strange, it doesn’t seem to be such a good swimmer for it got quite cardboardy and even soapy (even after a good 15 minutes so it’s not just saponification). Too bad – but it doesn’t obligatorily ‘need’ water despite the 62%. Mouth (neat): sweeter, rounder and better balanced than the 19 yo . Quite some pepper, curry, chilli, peat, smoked tea and a pinch of salt. Quite drinkable at 62% - or is it me? With water: oh yes, it’s just perfect now, smoother but still punchy and assertive, with lots of oysters, pepper, citrons, lemons, nutmeg, paprika… Truly beautiful, this one, and the finish is magnificently compact, sweet and peaty, with a more than perfect balance and all the expected pepper. One worth looking for… 91 points (and thanks, Ho-cheng).
 
CRAZY WHISKY ADS - Old Scotch and Old Values
Recent US campaign for Ambassador Scotch. The baseline reads: 'Scotch for another era'. Well, let's just hope it's another era indeed. (Leo Burnett Chicago)
 

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: a very famous blast from the past, Julie Driscoll (now Julie Tippetts - she's much more into jazz since the 70's), Brian Auger and The Trinity doing Donovan's Season of the Witch.mp3. Get prepared to read more about Brian Auger on WF in the foreseable future... And in the meantime, please buy his music!

  

November 22, 2006


TASTING - TWO SHERRIED 1986 BRUICHLADDICHS
Bruichladdich 1986/2006 (54.9%, OB, cask #2, dark sherry butt, 498 bottles) Colour: dark amber. Nose: very aromatic, starting on hot butter caramel and whiffs of wine barrel, cooked strawberries and kirsch. It’s quick to get rather wild, animal (game, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar), nicely sour (wild cherries). Goes on with ham, hints of rubber bands, then parsley, maybe faint hints of cardamom…
Also chocolate sauce (mole), hints of manure. One of the wildest Laddies I ever had. Different, to say the least. Mouth: powerful, sweet, peppery and chocolaty at the attack, nicely biting. Loads of bitter chocolate, even peppered chocolate like they make in Spain. Fruit ganache, marmalade, praline, Japanese grilled tea, orange salad… Gets very spicy after a while (gingery, lots of cloves, dry cardamom)… Aromatically powerful, almost invading. Finish: long and dry ‘as it should be’, mostly on bitter chocolate and pepper. Brilliant palate I think, greater than the nose that was just a tad ‘too much’. Well-deserved 89 points.
Bruichladdich 1986/2005 (54.9%, OB, freesh sherry butt, 516 bottles) Colour: dark amber – slightly darker. Nose: much more classic, more on coffee, cocoa, dried bitter oranges and toffee. Very smoky as well (burning oak), toasted, developing on huge notes of real ale, Guinness, ginger, nutmeg and even curry. Resembles its sibling more and more, with maybe more elegance. High-end empty wine barrels, hints of dried mushrooms... I think it’s beautiful sherried whisky! Hints of game again, bilberry sauce, then parsley again… Quite fabulous, I must say. Mouth: immensely fruity, jammy and chocolaty again, starting on truckloads of bitter oranges, mastic candies, propolis, blackcurrant jelly, rum-soaked pineapples, very ripe bananas, armagnac… And then we have loads of pepper and cloves, prunes, hints of Chinese anise, dried figs… Extremely big, thick, not ‘light’ at all which is unusual with Bruichladdich. And an interminable finish on dried fruits, salt and quite some rubber after lots of ‘caudalies’ (a caudalie – don’t know whether there’s such a word in English – is a measure for the finish, after you swallowed the wine or the spirit. One ‘caudalie’ equals one second). Brilliant whisky, that’s for sure. It seems they bought some perfect sherry butts at the distillery in 1986 – remember the ‘Country Life’ bottling? 92 points.
And also Bruichladdich 12 yo (46%, OB, Second Edition, 2006) Nose: fragrant, fruity, with something ‘different’ from the earlier version indeed. Slight soapiness that’s soon to vanish and then huge notes of gooseberries, melons, tangerines, bananas plus a little acacia honey and orange cake. As fruity as it can get – a designed whisky indeed. Mouth: very coherent. Lots of citrus fruits, oranges, honey, even mangos and then quite some spices (a little nutmeg, white pepper). Vanilla. The finish isn’t too long but balanced and clean, with an enjoyable oaky dryness that prevents the whole from getting cloying (which it isn’t, eh). Very sweet – much sweeter than the 10 yo - but certainly well made. 83 points.
 
 

WHISKYFUN'S HALL OF FRIENDS INTERVIEW

- GORDON HOMER -

Hi Gordon, where do you live and what’s special there? 
I live in the most northerly city in England , Newcastle Upon Tyne, a mere 50 miles from the border with Scotland and 256 miles from the Kennacraig Ferry terminal! I’ve lived here all my life and have seen a lot of changes in 45 years, what’s really special is the quayside area, over the last 10-20 years it’s went from a really run down part of the city to an area of major redevelopment, mind you we still haven’t got a decent whisky bar......
Who or what made you discover whisky?
I always cite one person for getting me into Malt Whisky, a lad i used to hang around with, Dave, it all started back in the summer of 1984 when I’d went through a messy relationship breakup (I can hear Tom saying “Doesn’t it always?”) and we’d went off to Scotland camping for a break. He was well into his malts and at the first nights stop, the Glencoe Inn (the proper pub not the monstrosity that’s there now....), he asked if I wanted one. When i replied no, he asked why, I told him I didn’t like the whisky I’d been given by my parents in Hot Toddies when I’d had a cold, after deducing it had been blends, he said try this Macallan, which I did and didn’t look back ...... I remember having a 1965 or 66 18 yo Macallan in the Ferry boat Inn in Ullapool which was tremendous a few days later in our trip.
Why do you like whisky?
That’s a hard one to answer ...... I suppose because of the variety in tastes, no two malts are the same, unless you’ve got a flight of speysiders..... only kidding......
Do you have a favourite distillery?
LOL! wonder which one he’ll say? Got to be Ardbeg, I love the whisky, we (I’m including Mel my wife in this) love the place, we like the people at the distillery, it’s got everything. Bruichladdich is a close second and I would say if I had to pick a third one it would be Glenfarclas because it’s the first distillery we ever toured and I defy anyone not to try a SMWS old farclas and not love it.
What’s your favourite expression?
I would say any Ardbeg circa 1972 to 1974, the UK release of the 1974 Provenance is still the one to beat in my opinion. My favourite standard release would have to be the Ardbeg Ten, it’s the one I go through the most bottles of .......
What’s your best – or most vivid – memory regarding whisky?
I would say there are two, the first would be the bottling of my Port Charlotte bloodtub on November 25th 2005, it started off as an absolute disaster, we headed up to islay to see it being bottled, got to Kennacraig only to find the ferries cancelled. Drove all the way back to Newcastle thinking we wouldn’t get to see it only for Simon (Coughlin), Jonathon and the lasses at the laddies to pull out all the stops so we could witness it on the webcams. They were fantastic, moving the cams to give us a better view, holding signs up to tell us what was going on. Brilliant! They more than made up for disappointment of not getting across, to say they are stars is an understatement!
The second would be Thursday 29th May 2003, an Ardbeg day that went down in history, where to start? A boat ride along the Kildalton Distilleries complete with Dolphin, Clann an Drumma storming the festival and the most vivid memory of the day ..... sitting with my wife on Ardbeg Pier in the glorious sunshine, swans swimming by, birds of prey in the sky, not a care in the world and a Lord of the Isles in my hand ........Sheer bliss!!!!!!
Is there a specific bottling you’re looking for?
Nothing in particular, expensive one’s cheap?
Are you a member of a whisky club and which one?
Hmmmm......is the SMWS a club? My original Spiritofislay used to be a club before Yahoo made it a group! Otherwise no.
Imagine you had a magic wand, what would you change in the whisky world?
The fun you could have ....... as most people know who know me i have a pet hate of online whisky auctions (i.e E-bay) and the way they’ve led to a rise in prices of Single Malt Whisky so get rid of any online auction site and get the price of the stuff down to a sensible level because £400+ for a 1970’s Ardbeg is getting Criminal.....
Oh and i’d get rid of the LCBO and replace it with something Better for Harrys’ sake ....... ;-)
Have you been to Scotland? What’s your favourite place there?
Is this a trick Question ? LOL! Frequently and Islay. If you want a more specific place than Islay I would say Seal Bay just along from Ardbeg. We like to pull up there, get out of the car and watch the world go by, watch the wildlife go about their ways, we had an amazing encounter with an Otter there once, caught its food, then came and sat down not 20 yards away from us, of course it was the only time I didn’t have my camera handy!
Do you also, like us at Whiskyfun, like music? Which kind?
I love music, my older brother influenced me quite a bit when I was younger, he came in with superb albums like Queens Sheer Heart Attack, Genesis - Foxtrot and he got me into my first great love Lindisfarne ( a Newcastle Folk-rock band who were pretty big a while ago....). I was a right little headbanger in my teens, Motorhead, Ted Nugent, most rock bands. Was a regular at The Newcastle Mayfair rock nights and at the City Hall seeing most of the bands of the 80’s. I’ve mellowed out a bit since then, still love the older rock stuff (Aerosmith etc), but I do listen to a lot of scottish stuff, in particular Robin Laing, Capercaillie and Clann. If you ever get a chance see a band called North Sea Gas, we caught them at The Vaults in the summer, they are great .
Do you have other hobbies?
No bit of a saddo, though I do like tinkering with my computer.
Is there another ‘liquid’ you like, apart from whisky? What’s your favourite expression of it?
I do enjoy an occasional beer, especially real ale, the two Pauls are doing a great job at Islay ales and I love their Summertime “Saligo Ale” and the “Finlaggan Ale” is wonderful. Black Sheep is one of my tops as well and locally Mordues “Workie ticket”, Radgie Gadgie” and “No.9” are great.
Gordon, anything to add?
We only started going over to Islay in 1999 and I must say since our early stays in The Lochside Hotel with Ann and Alistair we have made many a friend on the isle, both Locals and Whisky lovers, and it is always a pleasure to return to what we refer to as our second home and meet up with them. Whisky is a great friendship maker and long may it remain so, one of my own pleasures is sharing a dram with like minded people in wonderful surroundings and long may this continue!
I look forward to meeting up with you and the fellow maniacs the next time Serge, Slainte Mhath !
Many thanks Gordon (and Mel for being so cool with your whiskymania.) To our distinguished readers, don't forget to have a look at Gordon's XLNT Spirit of Islay website!
 
MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Soup, one of WF's most distinguished readers who advises us to have a go at cLOUDDEAD. It's supposed to be hip hop but I think they're closer to Pere Ubu if you ask me. In short, excellent. Ah yes, music... let's try apt A 2.mp3. Thanks Soup!

XMAS SHOPPING - On Tuesday, a miniature (not a full bottle) of Laphroaig from the 1930's fetched no less than EUR 1.329,17 on eBay. But that was nothing because another mini, a Glenfiddich, fetched EUR 2.135,03. Of course, as they say, 'The value of the Auctioned Item is in the collectable container, not it's contents' and 'the container has a value that substantially exceeds the current retail price of the alcohol in the container'. No kidding, that would put the Glenfiddich at EUR 30,000 a bottle. Well, more than that actually, the level being very low when you look closely at the picture... But who counts? (thanks, Luc!)
  

November 21, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan

DEACON BLUE The Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 17th 2006

There’s got to be a better way of doing it than this. It’s Friday night and we’re on our way to Hammersmith for a bite to eat and Deacon Blue at the Apollo. You must remember them – Scotland’s finest from the late 1980s, fifteen Top 40 singles and five Top 10 albums (selling over six million copies) in the space of seven years or so, fronted by songwriter and singer Ricky Ross, the Dundonian who made Glasgow his, and the band’s, adopted home, celebrated in their first album Raintown.

In 1994 the decision of drummer Douglas Vipond to quit for a TV career led to the band’s splitting up (and as I recall a memorable farewell tour gig in Edinburgh), since when Ross has pursued a solo career of mixed fortunes. But a reformed band in one shape or another (guitarist Graeme Kelling died of cancer in 2004, Vipond only plays when other commitments allow – as it happens he’s here tonight) has been touring since 1999. A new album, Homesick, polarised opinions, but tonight we’re on safer ground as the band are here to promote their ‘new’ album Singles, comprising sixteen hits and three new songs. But it must be easier than this.
Let me explain. It’s about two miles from where I live to Hammersmith and the ViaMichelin website tells me we should be able to drive there in around five minutes. But it’s Friday and our departure coincides with a downpour of biblical proportions so we crawl for over an hour and a half, endure a collision with harassed and aggressive out-of-towner and arrive for supper at one of London’s hidden treasures with only about half an hour to eat – fortunately for us the place is deserted because the traffic’s so bad and the storm has closed the Underground. Now – have you any idea what a stressful way that is to start an evening of open-minded reviewing? Well, luckily Deacon Blue were more than up for the challenge and after an iffy start simply brought the house down. It was third song ‘Raintown’ that brought the audience to its feet, where it stayed for most of the night. I was reminded just how good some of the songs were – ‘Fergus sings the blues’, ‘Loaded’, ‘Chocolate girl’ ‘Wages day’ – even if a few don’t seem to have aged better than others. And whilst I have always thought Ross looked an uncomfortable rock-star he has the audience in his hand, teasing them with painful shaggy-dog stories (I believe in French Serge, une histoire sans queue ni tête) one of which, the introduction to ‘Fergus’, included a man drowning in a vat of whisky at Tobermory Distillery (punch line – “it took him four hours, he came up three times for breath”), a thought which might interest Whiskyfun readers. And even though he’s hoarse his voice is as soulful as ever, and frankly singer Lorraine McIntosh was better than on the last two occasions I saw here over twelve years ago. The fans (and believe me, they are fans) love it, they know all the songs, all the words, and they take over ‘Dignity’ completely, drowning out the band when they sing the first verse and chorus in its entirety. But you know, I still can’t get the traffic and rain and anxiety out of my mind.
There has to be a better way – and there is. For fifteen quids we walked away ten minutes after the show had finished with a CD of the whole thing (well – not quite, the new songs weren’t included, nor the Springsteen cover ‘Light of day’, for copyright reasons). Now I thought it was cool that I was able to order a CD of the Who gig at Hyde Park and get it delivered a few weeks later – and was surprised that you could get recordings of their whole European and American tour. And I was amused that at the end of the Jim White and Johnny Dowd Hellwood gig a few weeks ago we were told that we could buy a CD of the performance if we hung around waiting for keyboard player Michael Stark to burn them on his laptop.
But this ‘official bootleg’ thing is big business, run by a company called Concert Live who’ve been recording and selling at gigs for a year – covering bands as diverse as Gang of Four, the Fratellis and Keane. For Deacon Blue they are selling just 400 copies (hmmm, collector’s items, that’s nice) of each gig – you can take them away with you, or order from the comfort of your arm chair and get them delivered to your door. So you don’t have to go out in the cold or rain or traffic at all – or spend all that money on tickets.
I’m sure the next thing will be live downloadable streaming – fantastic – and don’t worry about missing the atmosphere, I can send the Photographer along with a webcam stitched to her bobble hat (on second thoughts she might need to take a ladder too). So Serge the future of concert reviewing – the armchair critic - is upon us. Watch this space. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thanks Nick! Yes, watching live gigs through the Internet is something that'll probably get trendier (I remember a great Chick Corea gig at the Blue Note that we could watch live two years ago). But what about the audience? Will they put a few thousands PC’s in front of the artistes when nobody goes to the shows anymore? Imagine the future of rock and roll, ‘Clap your f*ck*ng keyboards and tap your bl**dy mouse! Hey, I can’t hear you, is your f*ck*ing CPU awake? Is your HD jammed of what?’ And yes, ‘une histoire sans queue ni tête’, very French. Literally, ‘a headless and tailless story’, just like some whiskies ;-). But let’s have a little Deacon Blue live in Glasgow with Dignity.mp3 - it's the audience who's doing most of the job indeed... - Serge
 

TASTING - TWO NEW GLENGLASSAUGHS

Glenglassaugh 40 yo 1965/2006 (46,7%, The Whisky Fair, Fino sherry butt, 361 bottles) Always very interesting to taste an old malt from a Fino cask. Colour: gold. Nose: start on a superb mix of fresh fruits (white peaches, pears and pineapples) and waxy neo-oxidative notes (walnuts, flor) plus something like spring water and aluminium pan. Also kiwis? Amazingly fresh on the nose. Develops on gooseberries, cigar box and oriental pastries: excellent.

Mouth: great news, it’s just as fresh as on the nose. Lots of fresh fruits again (more on oranges and grapefruits this time) and a nice bitterness (old walnuts, chlorophyll chewing gum). Also hints of rose jelly. Gets quite spicy after that (white pepper, cinnamon, dried ginger) and with hints of ginseng. Gets dryer with time but never drying or overly tannic. Finish: long, lemony and peppery, almost like an old Talisker, which is really bizarre but good news. A very good and extremely interesting Glenglassaugh, I think I already tried this one at another bottler’s who got a sample and who, I believe, turned it down. He shouldn’t have, if you ask me – good work Carsten and gang. 90 points.
Glenglassaugh 20 yo 1986/2006 (54,6%, Jack Wieber’s Old Train Line, sherry cask #2164, 354 bottles) I believe 1986 was Glenglassaugh’s last year of distilling so this one ‘should’ be moving. Colour: amber. Nose: a rather bold attack on the nose with lots of caramel and nougat before kind of a flinty sherry takes off. Lots of dried fruits such as quince, dates and figs, kumquats… Quite some rubber as well, slightly sulphury. Cherry tree leaves. Gets then rather meaty like often with these heavily sherried whiskies. Notes of kirsch, plum spirit (slivovitz)… Nice but slightly aggressive I’d say. Mouth: big, bold, powerful, very fruity (lots of crystallised oranges) but again a little too rubbery and maybe too much on fruit spirit (kirsch). Goes on with the usual sultanas, caramel, cooked sweet wine… Something leathery. Finish: long but again, a little bitterish, rubbery… In short, the sherry is really big but the whole is quite harsh and unbalanced I think. The 27 yo 1978/2005 from Jack Wiebers Auld Distiller’s Collection was so much nicer in my books ! (91). I’d say 80 points for this 20 yo .
  

November 20, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
WAYNE SHORTER AND HIS QUARTET
The Barbican, London, November 11th 2006
As you know Serge, I don’t usually have too much trouble getting these reviews down on paper for you – in fact you’ll remember the only time I’ve really struggled was when it came to trying to describe what I judged to be the execrable performance by Steve Harley at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire last year. The review was never written, and by nominating it ‘The Gig that was So Bad that I Couldn’t Be Arsed to Review It Award’ for the Whiskyfun Music Awards I received brickbats and recriminations from Steve Harley fans all over the world (well, one to be honest, and if you really want to judge which one of us was right you can always go to the Bush to see Steve next month, but don’t expect to meet me there). But my philosophy has always been to say it how you see it – and that’s why on this occasion I’m stumped. Quite simply lost for words – I was when we walked out of the Barbican into the stinging cold rain, and I still am.
My familiarity with Wayne Shorter comes, of course, from the band he co-founded with keyboard player Joe Zawinul, Weather Report. In 1970 they picked up the baton of jazz-rock (or probably more accurately jazz-soul) from Joe Sample’s Crusaders and simply redefined the genre with a series of outstanding albums, of which my personal favourite remains the wonderful Heavy Weather. Of course it was some time before I learned about Shorter’s jazz pedigree, both as a performer and composer, with legends Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and then (for seven years) Miles Davis. During this period he also produced a number of solo albums, of which Speak No Evil, or so I’m told, is the best. His tenure in Weather Report lasted ‘till the mid 1980s, after which he continued to collaborate with artistes such as Herbie Hancock, and also Joni Mitchell, having been an almost permanent fixture on her recordings since the late 1970s. About six years ago he formed his current band – featuring Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade, on drums (Shorter, as I might have said already, plays tenor and soprano saxophones), and they’re here tonight at a heaving Barbican as part of the London Jazz Festival, sponsored by BBC Radio 3.
We arrive too late for British jazz veteran Stan Tracey so hung out in the foyer star-spotting (well, we saw saxophonist Andy Sheppard). Shorter and his band are promptly on stage at 8.45. Shorter is 73 – somewhat lacking in mobility – and he almost wedges himself into the curved rim of the piano, using it as a support. That, believe me, is the only sign of frailty he gives. From start to finish the vigour, freshness and fluidity of his playing is quite astonishing, but it is equally matched by the playing of the other four musicians – of whom (though they were all so good it seems unfair) Blade stood out particularly, switching from deft percussive delicacy to driving drum rhythms with none of the awkwardness that his ‘arms and elbows’ style of playing might have suggested. I’m sure the individual pieces were compositions, (indeed I believe we got a version of Shorter’s ‘Footprints’) and they were clearly well-structured, but the evening was characterised by the performers effortlessly swapping improvisations. And that is where I stop because I simply don’t have the language to describe how complex and engrossing this exhilarating performance was – and I’m not prepared to cut and paste it from the work of others.
So let me tell you instead what I was thinking about whilst I floated in this music (I should add that the Barbican sound was perfect, none of the irritating hiss that sometimes bedevils gigs there). I thought of whirlpools, the sort that you often see in the sometimes troubled waters adjacent to the Great Gulf of Corryvreckan at the north of the Sound of Jura of the West Coast of Scotland. Small whirlpools circling each other and then gradually merging to from a larger pool, circling larger pools. It’s a bit like viscimetry really, and the movement of the whorls of flavour bearing compounds that a drop of water will release in a glass of whisky. A hypnotic, thought-consuming, irregular and shifting pattern, repeated with greater or lesser intensity as the evening progressed. I was simply entranced, and it was a very nice place to be.
Needless to say I was rudely pulled back to reality by the standing ovation that justifiably greeted the end of the set. It was really something that you simply didn’t want to end - so I’ve made a mental note to add Shorter’s Footprints Live and Beyond the Sound Barrier albums from 2002 and 2005 to my Christmas gift list, both are well reviewed, and if they are only half as good as this concert then they must be worth adding to the CD library. Treat yourself – you can buy both for around the price of a bottle of decent single malt and they’ll last a lot longer. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Thanks Nick - amen and indeed Speak no Evil.mp3 (original version). You are right, Wayne 'younger brother of Coltrane' Shorter is a total star. - Serge
 
TASTING - TWO OLD OFFICIAL MACALLANS
Macallan 18 yo 1974 (43%, OB) Colour: amber. Nose: starts both fresher and fruitier than expected as well as less heavily sherried. It’s more flowery at first nosing, with heavy notes of peony mingling with tangerine liqueur and hints of old roses. Very elegant and very expressive, with a perfect balance. Whiffs of smoke. Gets then more classical with a little oak, raisins, orange marmalade, apricot cake… Also huge notes of ripe mirabelle plums, faint hints of ginger tonic and even grenadine syrup. And ripe strawberries, blackcurrant, prunes, a little toffee… Funny notes of black olives. Top notch.
Mouth: a beautifully dry attack, not as sweet and rounded as expected. Lots of tea, bitter caramel, balsamic vinegar… Rather powerful at 43%. Goes on with notes of cake, rum, Smyrna raisins… Not very complex in fact but beautifully compact and ‘crafted’. The raisins grow bigger by the minutes (so to speak). The finish is long, slightly bitter, dry and clean, with hints of calvados and a little salt. Classy stuff anyway. 90 points.
Macallan 1948-1961/1981 ‘Royal Marriage’ (43%, OB) Bottled to celebrate Charles and Diana’s wedding. Colour: amber, slightly paler than the 1974. Nose: obviously older at first nosing, less fruitful and woodier, spicier. Maybe this one wasn’t 100% sherry matured? Lots of vanilla and tea, hints of nutmeg, white pepper… Gets then honeyed and flowery (wild flowers, daisies) before we have quite some eucalyptus and menthol coming through. Quite some quince as well, furniture polish… Top notch again, I guess they had to do something unusual for the occasion. But it’s not ‘Macallan’ as we knew it. Mouth: an obvious old bottle effect at the attack, with both something pleasantly metallic and ‘tropically’ fruity (mangos). Even more different now, with something mineral, flinty enhancing the relative sweetness (bergamot sweets). And then we have the eucalyptus and camphor, the pepper, the nutmeg, the cloves… Maybe the middle is slightly weak in fact, the finish being not too long either but even drier than the 1974’s, on lots of tea and again these notes of mangos. Looses points at the finish but it’s still an excellent, princely dram. 88 points.
  

November 19, 2006


NEW ON WHISKYFUN: THE DAILY VIEW PAGE!
I got quite a few complains from distinguished readers who find that WF is too slow to load with dial-up or mobile connections. I agree and as we'll have even more pictures in the future, we have now a Daily View Page with only the current day's stuff. De nada ;-).
 
TASTING - TWO OFFICIAL GLEN DEVERONS
Glen Deveron 10 yo (40%, OB, circa 2000) Colour: straw. Nose: we’re in ‘natural’ territories it appears, with lots of grainy notes, porridge, oats at first nosing. It’s also a little metallic and papery, dusty, getting then rather milky and chalky. Yet, all that is rather enjoyable and there’s something pleasantly flowery coming through after a while, such as hints of lily of the valley but then it’s back to porridge from Porridge’s. Nothing really special but the whole is rather flawless… Wait, it gets quite farmy after a good fifteen minutes, with hints of manure and horse dung… Extreme porridge? (with apologies to our English friends).
Mouth: hugely grainy and cardboardy, cardboardy and grainy, grainy and cardboardy… And that’s all. Not exactly bad but as simple as it can get. No possible maltoporn here, we’re in ‘near-blend’ territories. The finish is quite long, that is, but always on the same notes. Yes, cardboard and grains. The nose was much more interesting! Drinkable. 72 points.
Glen Deveron 12 yo (43%, OB for Martini & Rossi Italy, 1980’s) Colour: gold. Nose: yes, it’s nicer, no doubt. Much more mature (and it can’t be just the extra two years) and, above all, much fruitier. Lots of tropical fruits (mangos and papayas, passion fruits), getting more and more orangey after that. Then it gets rather phenolic – unexpectedly -, with also rotting fruits (over the hill pineapples), plum jam, Jell-O… Hints of eucalyptus and spearmint… And then a little vanilla flavoured tea, just before, again, a certain farminess starts to take control (a much cleaner one, though) together with hints of pine needles. Very interesting, especially when compared with the recent Glen Deverons that are much more ‘mundane’ in my opinion. Mouth: excellent but maybe a tad weakish at the attack… Again these fruity notes (more on apples and pears this time) mingling with all sorts of nuts, cereals, and quite some resinous notes (cough syrup). Also a little tea… Simpler than the nose but balanced and enjoyable, with a medium long finish on tea, cereals and cake plus a wee pinch of salt. Very good altogether. 85 points.
and also... Macduff 13 yo 1990 (46%, Cooper's Choice) In case you don’t know, Macduff is the actual name of the distillery where Glen Deveron’s produced. Colour: white wine. Nose: well, this one smells even more ‘porridgy’ than the official 10 yo . Hard to imagine a malt that’s closer to soaked grains, baby’s cereal, cooked yoghurt, wet cardboard and mashed potatoes. Okay, add to that a little vanilla and traces of wood and that’s it. Mouth: just in the same style, with also something sugarish and maybe hints of kirsch and molasses. Long but grainy and sugary finish, as expected. It is to be wondered how old this cask was prior to filling, but it’s quite interesting to try a very immature, yet not too young malt. A curiosity. 70 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: jazz? Classical? What's sure is that it's very good, it's Japan's Toshiko Akiyoshi playing a slice of Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci.mp3 on the piano... And so it swings... Please buy Toshiko's music!

  

November 17, 2006


TASTING - FOUR NEW OLD (and consistent) CAOL ILAS

Caol Ila 25 yo 1979/2006 (58.4%, OB, 6000 bottles) I think this was the second version of the official 25 yo . Colour: pale straw. Nose: one of the most maritime Caol Ilas I ever had, starting on unusual notes of sea urchins, iodine, all sorts of seashells, oysters… The smoke is more discreet after all these years and so is the peat 'generally speaking'. It develops more on cider apples, fresh butter, liquorice sticks, violet sweets, with also whiffs of church incense. Also fresh turnip and salsify, hints of manure, wet stones... The balance is perfect. With water (45% vol.): we have more fresh butter, notes of lambwool, pine needles, hints of breadcrumb, marzipan... Fresh, clean and subtle, not too far from a younger version, just less round and fruity and more complex and subtle. But that's the whole point, I guess…

Mouth (neat): expressive, much fruitier than the nose and, above all, extremely salty. Quite drinkable at such high strength. Goes on with lemon zests, mastic, argan oil… Gets saltier and saltier. With water: the tannins awake and so does the pepper, but there's still lots of salt. Lemon seeds. Something of a dry martini. Finish: rather long, nicely bitter and resinous, with quite some liquorice stick and notes of gentian spirit. Maybe not as complex as its brothers from the south shore or from Skye but this Caol Ila still really stays the course. 89 points.

Caol Ila 26 yo 1979/2006 (62.8%, Signatory, Hogshead #05/848, 217 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: interestingly different, with more cask influence. Starts on notes of caramel and parsley, celery… Even less peat and smoke but more resin, fern, moss, wet leaves… Quite some marzipan as well, candlewax… Much less maritime than the OB and slightly meatier (ham). Smoked tea. Gets even meatier with time, also notes of old books. Probably the most expressive but not the most elegant. With water: much more peat now, hints of manure, wet hay, porridge… More fresh herbs as well, parsley, lovage… Mouth (neat): slightly sweeter, than the OB, with notes of sherry, something slightly sour and again quite some salt.
Again, less clean than the OB but more demonstrative (quite some crystallised oranges). With water: hmm, too bad, that didn't quite work, the whole getting a little cardboardy but wait… it's improving again now. Lots of bitter oranges and notes of chlorophyll plus something smoky… Well, it's quite hard to compare malts that are so close to eachother. Finish: rather long again, with notes of something like tequila, walnut skins… Nice bitterness and quite some salt. Well, I'm trying to emphasize the differences between these Caol Ilas but again, they're quite close actually. 88 points.

Caol Ila 25 yo 1980/2005 (60.4%, SMWS #53.98) Colour: pale gold. Nose: more closed than both the OB and the Signatory at first nosing, more spirity. Develops on vegetal notes (grass, fir buds) and quite some wax, paraffin, fresh almonds and walnuts… Nice notes of spring water and fresh mint. It does get much peatier after a good five minutes, the peatiest of the first three in fact. With water: tht doesn't quite work this time, no further developement except kind of a cardboardiness and a surprising fruitiness (golden delicious). Mouth (neat): rather sharper and more lemony, more powerful but more austere. The saltiness is well here again. Quite some liquorice and pepper - something of Talisker. With water: it works now, the whisky opens up, getting very classsically 'CI'. Smokiness, salt, apples, marzipan, walnuts, oysters... Finish: long, slightly peppery and metallic… But the whole is another very good old Caol Ila, still in the same league. 88 points.

Caol Ila 1979/2006 (61.8%, Jean Boyer's Best Casks of Scotland) Colour: straw. Nose: this one smells rounder and sweeter, closer to cider apples and fresh walnuts when neat. Notes of farmyard and wet hay, flints, grapefruit skin, fresh butter… Superb. With water: it got much peatier, more 'Islay'. Black pepper, oysters and lemon, soaked grains, garden bonfire, pu-erh tea... Maybe the most complex on the nose but frankly, all four are quite similar (except maybe the SMWS that's a bit 'weaker' on the nose - yes, splitting hairs).
Mouth (neat): the most expressive of them all when neat, very waxy and quite resinous. Spicy (hints of curry), lots of old walnut, notes of fino, green tea… quite some salt again… Slightly biting, water really needed now: it works again but this time, the whisky gets slightly dryer, more austere and also more elegant. Something like peppered tapioca plus crystallised quince, hints of thyme, soft paprika, curry... Also quite some peppermint. Beautifully sharp and ultra-clean. Finish: long again, maybe a little too dry now but nicely spicy (white and black pepper). Notes of flour (dryness). Phew, I'm happy I managed to go through these four similar Caol Ilas, it was really hard to get enough differences… Anyway, I think this last one deserves 89 points. (Please note that this one’s been finally released at 46%, unlike that cask strength sample - notes may then differ.)

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: I don't know whether Olivia Ruiz is known outside France or not but she's certainly quite talented and I think she deserves international recognition. Her current hit single is J'traine les pieds.mp3 (from La femme chocolat)... Please buy her music!

  

November 16, 2006


TASTING - TWO PEATY ILEACHS
We just got the already famous PC5 from Bruichladdich’s (the first official Port Charlotte ever) and after having waited for a good two weeks to let it recover from bottle-shock (it was bottled on October 24) it’s time to taste it. The first PC indie bottlings were very good (especially Gordon Homer’s Bloodtub that was brilliant albeit heavily sherried) so I have rather high expectations. And as I really wanted to get its singularities, I decided to taste it head to head with the current Ardbeg 10 yo that everyone knows very well.
Ardbeg 10 yo (46%, OB, circa 2005) Colour: straw. Nose: rather soft at first nosing, buttery, with lots of soaked grain, porridge and, of course, smoke. Notes of wet stones, kelp, iodine. Something slightly metallic and then quite some apple juice and green pears. Loads of fresh apples after that. Hints of coal, lamp petrol and paraffin. Really a classic. Much less ‘sweetish’ than last time I had it, so it’s most pleasant on the nose. Mouth: starts slightly prickly (green apples, herbs liqueur, pepper) but gets rapidly quite softer (apple compote, smoked tea) and salty, slightly bitter (chlorophyll, lemon zests). Nice minerality, faintly cardboardy… Gets then more and more lemony. Finish: not too long but very lemony and salty, with also a little un-sugared green tea… A sure bet. 86 points.
Port Charlotte 2001/2006 ‘PC5’ (63.5%, OB) Colour: pale gold. Nose (neat): hotter of course but certainly not ‘un-noseable’. Starts on notes of pear spirit and kirsch (not the cheap versions) that probably come from the young age. Lots of smoke after that, peat (peat smoke, really) overripe oranges and apples, something like very ripe melons, then pencil lead, chocolate, hints of geranium, sour cream and yoghurt, milk chocolate… Amazingly expressive at such young age and high strength. With water (at roughly 45%): very interesting to compare it with the Ardbeg. The latter is really on fresh apples whilst the PC is much more mineral (lots of linseed oil as well). Raw wool? Quite some cold green tea as well, getting then minty and quite spicy (curry?) Very interesting for it’s different from all other peated Islayers. Mouth (neat): powerful but drinkable, starting on a mix of bitterness (grape skin), kirsch again and raw spirit, with also something farmier, less maritime than the Ardbeg. Lots of blackcurrant leaves as well, tea… With water now: good, we managed to tame it. Probably simpler than on the nose but extremely coherent, mainly on pepper, gentian spirit, liquorice sticks and chocolate… And always lots of cold green tea (quite some tannins despite its 5 years of age). Finish: rather long, always on pepper and tea, chlorophyll chewing gum, cocoa powder and lots of peat. In short, it’s rawer than the Ardbeg 10, slightly more spirity (fruit eau-de-vie) but potentially more complex. Certainly more mineral and vegetal on the palate as well as on the nose. And already very, very drinkable if you like ‘peat’, I’m pretty sure a few more years of ageing will propel it well over 90 points. We probably have a new Premier Cru on Islay! 86 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: oldies but goldies - We're in 1975 with French poetic supergroup (at the time) Ange.
They are playing Ode a Emile.mp3, a moving story about an old blacksmith. God we used to love Ange!... Some of the members are still touring France so, if you ever come over here, you know what to do.
  

November 15, 2006


TASTING - TWO A'BUNADHS
Aberlour A'bunadh 'Batch #15' (59.6%, OB, 2005) Some of my fellow MM's think this was one of the best batches ever. Colour: full amber. Nose: starts really 'thick', rounded, just like a fruitcake. The balance seems to be perfect indeed. Huge notes of liqueur-filled chocolate, sultanas and prunes, reduced wine sauce, with a more than enjoyable meatiness (ham cooked with pineapple). Develops on cappuccino, chocolate cake just out of the oven, notes of armagnac, blackcurrant jelly... And also these whiffs of wood smoke.
Goes on with quite some caramel, praline, black nougat, churros, brownies… Gets then meatier (game) and also quite spicy (lots of cloves). Up to its reputation indeed, more complex than expected and, above all, extremely compact and satisfying. The blender who made this one deserves a medal. Mouth: punchy and powerful but perfectly drinkable at such high strength. Starts on lots of toffee and roasted peanuts as well as prunes again, Smyrna raisins, notes of arrak (date spirit), ripe red currants… Probably simpler than on the nose (and frankly caramelly) but again, perfectly crafted. I don't know their recipe but it works, both the oak and the wine managing to stay just below the limits. No rubber, no excessive tannins, no overly jammy notes, no sourness... Very good indeed. Keeps developing on herbs (rosemary and thyme) plus rather funny notes of mentholated tobacco (Kool!) Simply very, very good. Finish: long, fruity, 'cooked', on liqueur chocolate and prunes… Excellent indeed. I'd really love to be able to taste one of these after 30+ years in its bottle. Let's be (very) patient… 89 points.
Aberlour 12 yo A'bunadh 'Sterling Silver' (58.7%, OB, 2000) This one was bottled to celebrate the millennium. Colour: full amber. Nose: much more wood influence at first nosing, less fruity. Lots of varnish, freshly sawn plank, green tea… There must be quite some sherry in there but the oak really overwhelms the whole, although it does get much nicer after a few minutes. Indeed, the oakiness slowly vanishes, giving way to rather nice whiffs of menthol, eucalyptus and chlorophyll. But it's still much dryer than expected. Develops on old walnuts, madeira, mustard... Goes on with wax polish, very old chardonnay, leather, oxtail... Very complex, actually, with also quite some nougat and praline, roasted pecans, smoked tea... But then the heavy oaky notes are back, with kind of a greenness. I think the 'simpler' A'bunadh #15 is pretty nicer. But maybe the palate will change that... Mouth: ah, this is rather better now. Creamy and rather oily but balanced, with a huge fruitiness (Christmas cake) but also kind of a sourness. Alas, it gets then more and more tannic, sticking your tongue onto your palate… Quite some mint in the background but also something bitter (rubber, chlorophyll). This one really lacks the beautiful roundness of most regular A'bunadhs. Finish: long but still a little sourish and drying. Don't get me wrong, the whole is very nice whisky but maybe not worth a genuine sterling silver label? 83 points.
And also Aberlour 10 yo (40%, OB, circa 2006) Nose: rather discreet, slightly smoky. Gets better with time, caramel, raisins. Slight dustiness. Mouth: pear spirit, cider, vanilla crème, hints of liquorice. Very drinkable, flawless. 80 points.

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's have some very energetic soul jazz today with the very excellent Marlena Shaw singing Street walking woman.mp3. And of course please buy her music...



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

Ardmore 15 yo (45.7%, OB ‘For the Directors of William Teachers & Sons, 600 bottles, probably 1950’s)

Bruichladdich 1986/2005 (54.9%, OB, freesh sherry butt, 516 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 40 yo 1965/2006 (46,7%, The Whisky Fair, Fino sherry butt, 361 bottles)

Highland Park 18 3/5 yo ‘Lunar Bottling’ (45.1%, OB, 2006)

Highland Park 25 yo 1952/1977 ‘Silver Jubilee’ (70°Proof, Gordon & MacPhail)

Macallan 18 yo 1974 (43%, OB)

Springbank 1975 (46%, Celtic Cross, Japan)

Talisker 17 yo 1979/1996 (62.6%, Cadenhead authentic collection)