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Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2007 - Part 1
       
October 2007 - part 2 <--- November 2007 - part 1 ---> November 2007 - part 2
 

November 14, 2007


DON QUIXOTES IN MOTION - in case you didn't find it yet, we urge you to read Ian Buxton and Charlie McLean's Rumour Mill each time it comes out. It's very well informed (no simple PR micro-waving like at so many places on the Web - yes, we get them too), simply hilarious and well worth your 'Web time'. Probably quite as good as the Scotch Whisky Review, just shorter but more frequent. SGP:999 - 100 points both ;-)
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 
TASTING – FOUR UNDISCLOSED YOUNG ISLAYERS
Islay
Hédiard Islay Single Malt 8yo (43%, Hédiard, 2007) Hédiard is a famous ‘high-positioned’ grocery store, place de la Madeleine in Paris, they are Fauchon's main competitor. Let’s see if this whisky is really deluxe... Colour: white wine. Nose: buttery, smoky, porridgy... Yes, this one really smells like ‘smoky porridge with slices of bananas’. Not much else I’m afraid. Mouth: more on the ashy, smoky and grassy side, with also quite some pepper and green tea. A lot of apple peelings as well. Finish: rather long, on smoke, ‘green peat’ and always bitter apples. Well, it’s a bit rough at 8yo but unmistakably a young Caol Ila. Not bad at all but I think it would benefit from further ageing to be honest. SGP:146 (wazzat?) - 78 points.
Born on Islay 1997/2007 (43%, Wilson & Morgan 'House Malt', casks #3973-3980) Colour: full gold. Nose: yes! Mint, lemon, sultanas, smoke, wet stones, wax/paraffin, oysters, ripe apples, smoked ham, smoked tea, bitter oranges, apple peelings and walnut skins. Everything we like... Mouth: wide yet ‘focused’ at the attack. Liquorice roots, gentian, peat, beeswax, bitter oranges, white pepper, quince jelly, orange blossom water and smoked ham. Plus a little vanilla. Rather perfect balance and complexity. Finish: long, more on the peaty side now. Very good stuff as always with W&M’s house malts. SGP:256 - 85 points.
Badger 'Islay' 6yo 2001/2007 (46%, Milroy's, cask #27, Bourbon Hogs, 398 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: exactly the same as Hédiard’s, with just a little extra-oomph thanks to higher alcohol. Just as smoky, buttery and porridgy... But it develops a little further, on notes of parsley and apple pie plus wet dog. Mouth: sharper, more ‘crystalline’, ashy and mineral now, which is good news. Butter pears, pepper, Chinese mushrooms (these large black ones that usually come dried). Very good smokiness and peatiness, getting earthier and more liquoricy with time. Excellent long finish, still crystal-clean, very peaty and even a little salty. Well, this one is quite better on the palate I think but doesn’t exactly taste like Caol Ila. Possibly from another distillery... Wait, ‘Badger’... Oh boy, they did this anagram thing again! Okay, so it must be Laphroaig... ‘Good stuff’ at just 6 years of age. SGP:346 - 85 points.
Breath of Islay 14yo 1992/2007 (56,5%, Adelphi, cask #5347, 278 bottles) We liked the 2005 version a lot (90). Colour: pale straw. Nose: again, more or less the same with just more coffee, probably from the alcohol. Also a little fatter, oilier, ashier and more mineral (wet chalk). Whiffs of lamp petrol. Mouth: excellent, in the same vein as the Milroys, with an extra-mintiness and a little more lemon but developing much further after the attack, maybe more ‘Lagavulin’ than ‘Caol Ila’ now. Notes of strawberries, marzipan, orange blossom water, getting then earthier, with even notes of fresh mushrooms (not Chinese this time) and something faintly resinous. Excellent peaty whisky, really, bold and assertive of not very complex. Long, clean but very persistent finish on peat, liquorice and dried pears. This one won’t disappoint peat lovers! SGP:238 - 89 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: these guys of Gnawa Diffusion will always make me laugh. Granted, you have to understand French to get it but if you don't, well, you may like Gazel au fond de la nuit.mp3 just for the music... Please buy Gnawa Diffusion's music... Gnawa
 

November 13, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan   

JOHN HIATT
The Barbican, London
October 22nd 2007

Did I ever tell you Serge, that I was once taken to what I can only describe as a counterfeit hotel? It was in China – a Haiyatt hotel – not to be confused of course (and I’m sure it wasn’t) with a Hyatt hotel. I’d also observe that the whisky they served in their KTV bar was certainly not to be confused with Johnnie Walker Black Label. This is all a long way round to saying that there’s certainly nothing phoney about John Hiatt. Here’s an artist who really wears his heart on his sleeve – warts (and there have been quite a few of those in his turbulent career) and all. And he’s particularly exposed tonight as he’s as unplugged as any artist can be when they are alone on stage with only their cables, trailing from a succession of mouth-watering Gibson acoustics, for company.

John Hiatt
Now I’ll tell the truth. I’m short of time. In a hurry. Too many reviews to write. So I’m going to keep this short. Because he simply was quite awesome. Charming and engaging (“Well” he said, surveying an almost full Barbican auditorium, “Well, this is a fancy place. What the hell are we doing here?”), warm and humorous in his reminiscences (“We were lower middle class … well, my father was a gambler, so when he was up we were upper middle class …) he had in the audience in his grasp from the opening bars of ‘Drive south’, accompanied by his wonderfully rattly Gibson jumbo. He occasionally complained of forgetfulness as he stumbled over a few of his lyrics (“Man” he said by way of explanation, “when I was young I really did some damage”) but for the most part was word and note perfect (in case you’re not aware, Mr Hiatt can truly sing as if blessed by the gods) – and his guitar playing was hugely accomplished – the way he filled the stage and the theatre reminding me of Roddy Frame’s excellent gig at the Bush a couple of years ago.
John Hiatt
Hiatt has songs a-plenty to sing for us. Some – ‘I just want to go on with you’ and ‘Thank you’ (get a sense of some spiritual contentment here?) are new, in the course of being recorded for a forthcoming album. Then there are classics from his collaborations with Nick Lowe and Ry Cooder such as ‘Thing called love’ (apparently he’s still benefiting from the royalties accrued from Bonnie Raitt’s cover version) in which he notably rhymes “Queen of Sheba” with “amoeba”.
Frazz
And a litany of his top tunes – including - ‘Tennessee plates’ (accompanied by an anecdote about stealing cars – “Shit – I can’t believe I was so stupid as to do that”), ‘Riding with the King’, ‘Memphis in the meantime’, the astonishingly powerful ‘Have a little faith in me’ (sung at the keyboard), ‘Lipstick sunset’ (more shades of Nick Lowe) and from his latest album, the eponymous ‘Master of disaster’. They’re all great songs, but none so moving as the deeply autobiographical ‘Crossing muddy waters’
Hiatt. Fake? Phoney? Not a bit of it. Music simply doesn’t get more brutally honest than this. As the critics would say – “a triumph”. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate, cartoon Jeff Mallett)

 

Many thanks, Nick... That Chinese Haiyatt Hotel... That's plain incredible! Now, I'm wondering why they didn't name it The Haiyatt Decency right ahead while they were at it. Reminds me of one of my favourite whisky plagiarisms, the very infamous John Bolt (India, early 1990's). But let's cheer ourselves up with some genuine rock and roll made in John Hiatt now: this song you mentioned, called Tennessee Plates.mp3. - S.

John Bolt

 

 

 

 

 

TASTING – THREE NEW INDIE BOWMORES

Bowmore 2001/2007 (43%, Jean Boyer 'Best Casks of Scotland', Sherry casks, 50cl) Our friends at Jean Boyer found a smart way of compensating for the ongoing price increases (casks are getting more and more expensive, when you can find them), which is to issue parts of their collections in 50cl bottles instead of 70 and hence keep them accessible to the average malt drinker. Let’s just hope that they won’t have to issue 35cl bottles soon, and then 20cl, and then... Colour: white wine. Nose: it starts mellower than expected, peaty but rather discretely so considering it’s a very young Bowmore, on notes of mash and beer but the coastal elements are soon to arrive (kelp and oysters). Quite some vanilla as well, lemons, and even hints of mangos like in some much, much older versions. ‘Smoked porridge’, coffee. Not youngish at all. Mouth: starts very, very malty and develops mostly on coffee, chicory, tea and yes, here it is, sherry. Pleasant dryness. Just like on the nose, the peat isn’t explosive but on the other hand, there’s a lot of salt. Finish: medium long but incredibly salty now, with also a certain grassiness. Good Bowmore that really tastes older than just 6 years old. And how salty it is! One to search for if you don’t have a very salty whisky in your bar, it’s quite spectacular I think. SGP:344 (wazzat?) – 80 points.
Bowmore 16 yo 1990/2007 (46%, Signatory UCF, casks #631+32, 669 bottles) We know Andrew Symington likes this particular bottling quite a lot, let’s see if he has good taste ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: much rounder than the 2001, much more on vanilla and even less peaty. A bit silent I must say, but then there’s quite a mentholated blast, with also rather big notes of linseed oil, wood smoke, ashes, wet wood... Then it’s lemonade, ginger tonic, wet wool... And finally ‘peat’ as such, making a late but much-noticed arrival. This one got much more complex with time. Mouth: excellent attack, all on grapefruits, peat, pepper and smoked tea. Excellent body at 46%. Gets even more citrusy with time, totally classic, with also, guess what? Salt (albeit less than in the youngster). Finish: rather long, compact, satisfying, peaty and more orangey now. And salty of course. SGP:437 - 88 points.
Bowmore 21 yo 1985/2007 (59%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #34027, 259 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: oh, this is archetypical of this period, with these notes of geranium and lavender perfume above the peat. It’s not as bad as it sounds, actually, it’s just that I don’t like this profile at all. Too bad, the rest is pretty nice, with a very pleasant mix of toffee and peat, ashes... Also a little grenadine, beer, pepper... The other good news is that these ‘perfumy’ notes get more discreet with time, but they’re still very noticeable when you compare this one with its younger bros. Smells like plain perfume at times. Mouth: typical. These perfumy notes on the nose now translate into something more, say ‘chemical’, like some supermarket lemon juices. Also something like blackberry Jell-O... Liquorice allsorts... Soap? Oh well... Finish: medium long, a bit straighter now but... Well, this is a slice of History. If you ever wondered how these ‘perfumy’ Bowmores distilled in the late 70’s and 80’s tasted like, this one is a must, kind of a historical bottling (no, no 'e'). This kind of profile disappeared at Bowmore in the early 1990's as far as I can tell, what’s funny (sort of) is that it’s Longrow that took up the torch for a short period of time right at the same moment it seems to me. Did they transfer some equipment or something? But this is a Bowmore and I’m talking about Longrow, tsss tsss... SGP:633 – 68 points.
 

November 12, 2007


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan

RICHARD THOMPSON AND HIS BAND
The Roundhouse, London
October 20th 2007

We’re late. Partly it’s Jozzer’s fault – he’s been costermongering again and is late back from Borough Market. But it’s mainly due to the blocked streets from west to north London – full of beer-bellied, beef eating, red-rose wearing, swing-low singing, pint-clutching English rugby fans, pouring onto the streets from pub doorways, straining to get a pavement position and a view of the garish TV screens inside. It’s the rugby world cup. England are the defending world champions. Rugby’s coming home. The Springboks are dead meat fit only for a braai. Swing low, sweet chariot.

Braai
“Oh no” I hear you say – “it’s bloody Richard Thompson again – Whiskyfun’s almost-resident reviewed artiste”. Correct. And why bloody not? It certainly beats watching a rugby match. Particularly if you’re going to lose
Sandwich Inside the Roundhouse is almost a rugby-free zone. Surprisingly seated (again), our steward takes us on a guided tour of the balcony (sorry folks – his fault not ours) before landing on our dead centre stage seats, immediately below the bar that’s belching burnt cheese toasted sandwich fumes in our direction for much of the evening (just as well I guess, given that the abstemious Mr Thompson is a vegetarian).
He’s just finishing opener ‘Needle and thread’ from his new album Sweet Warrior – the title is taken from a sonnet by Edmund Spenser. "It's kind of a war record” says Thompson, “not just political war but also domestic war or relationship war". Strangely the album has received largely muted reviews, but in the opinion of this writer it’s one of his strongest works for a long time – with a characteristically acerbic take on recent world events, all the more interesting given Thompson’s Sufi Muslim faith. There are some cracking songs – ‘Dad’s gonna kill me’ – filled with common soldier’s slang (the Dad in question is Baghdad) it’s a no-holds-barred view of the war in Iraq from the ground. Then there’s ‘Guns are the tongues’, a tale of a woman who seduces young men and turns them into suicide bombers, and ‘Sunset song’, inspired I assume by Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s masterly Scottish novel of the same name. Thompson plays all of these, and in addition features ‘I’ll never give it up’, ‘Mr. Stupid’ and ‘Take care the road you choose’, from the new album.
Richard Thompson
‘Take care’ finishes with a wonderful Thompson solo. Graceful and fluid, he plays like a painter creating a picture with a number of sometimes apparently unconnected brush-strokes, but ending with a perfectly conceived canvas. Needless to say he’s assisted more than ably by his band – long-time collaborator Pete Zorn is outstanding and tireless on vocals, guitars, mandolins and horns. On bass Danny Thompson is as exceptional as ever – particularly with the resonant growling notes he produces on numbers like ‘Sunset song’. And drummer Michael Jerome brings a contrasting blues sensitivity to the band, in addition to a driving rhythm. It’s a great set – almost note perfect, and in addition to his guitar playing (enthusiasts will like to know that he’s playing the light-blue Danny Ferrington custom built ‘Ferringtoncaster’ guitar) it should be noted that Thompson’s singing is as good – if not better – than I’ve ever heard it. In fact the whole thing sounds so good that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was being recorded.
This possibly explains the urgency with which the band work through a crowded set, which in addition to the new stuff features a trawl though Thompson’s long career. It goes back as far as Fairport’s Unhalfbricking, with an acoustic version of Sandy Denny’s ‘Who knows where the time goes?’ (“Perhaps”, muses Thompson, “when everyone’s got fed up with Nick Drake they might give Sandy Denny the attention she truly deserves”). There’s ‘Bright Lights’, ‘Wall of death’, the scabrous fashionishta song ‘Bone through her nose’, ‘I still dream’, ‘Read about love’, ‘Al Bowlly’s in heaven’, ‘One door opens’, and of course ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’. He’s supported by Jozzer on vocals for a lusty chorus of the wonderful ‘Mingulay boat song’ from Whiskyfun’s 2006 Album of the Year, the piratical Rogues’ Gallery, and finishes the evening with a rampaging version of the painfully cynical ‘Tear stained letter’.
We emerge just ahead of the Roundhouse throng, smelling strongly of burnt cheese. Outside the streets are silent. The broken bottles, drunks slumped in doorways, luminous pools of vomit, all speak eloquently of a national triumph narrowly (and thankfully) averted. Well done Springboks.
But no offence meant, there’s only one trophy winner tonight – and that’s Thompson and his magnificent band. - Nick Morgan (concert photograph by Kate)
Thank you Nick! So, Thompson is a vegetarian!? Strange that the incredible Mr. Schott didn’t list him in his Food & Drink Miscellany, alongside Adolf Hitler, Leonardo Da Vinci, Rainer Maria Rilke or Steve Jobs. Now, there are Sir Paul, Sting, Whitney Houston, Madonna or Brigitte Bardot, so rock and roll is well represented, isn’t it? As for Mr. Thompson’s music, which piece shall we choose this time? Ha ha, why not Mutton street.mp3...- S.
 
TASTING – TWO YOUNG BEN NEVIS
Ben Nevis Ben Nevis 8 yo (43%, Duncan Taylor Battelhill, 2007) Colour: straw. Nose: rather expressive, very fruity at first nosing. Pears, pineapples and ripe apples. More warm caramel after a moment and then rather big mashy notes, porridge, hot yoghurt sauce like they have in India. A bit raw but not uninteresting. Ah, youth! Mouth: rather fruity again, caramelly, candied, with less porridgy notes but more grass. A slightly weakish middle. Finish: rather short, nuttier at this point. Not bad at all actually, I guess it does what the price tag says. SGP:581 (wazzat?) - 74 points.
Ben Nevis 1996/2007 (43%, Jean Boyer 'Best Casks of Scotland', single cask) A single cask bottling from a re-coopered hogshead. Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is much cleaner, rather more elegant, less extravagantly fruity, better balanced, with a pleasant smokiness in the background and hints of meat sauce. More complex and better balanced. Mouth: again, not too much oomph I’d say but the excellent balance really saves it all. Notes of honey-coated nuts, caramel again, tarte tatin (caramelised apple pie), a little nougat, ripe apples and pears (butter pears)... Toasted. Finish: a tad longer than the 8yo’s, maltier but also fruitier again (tinned pineapples). Honey and caramel. Good dram for everyday, it won’t make you scratch your head but the nose was interestingly phenolic. SGP:435 - 80 points.
 

November 11, 2007


TASTING – THREE LAGAVULINS
Lagavulin
Lagavulin 1990/2006 Distillers Edition (43%, OB) As usual, this one was finished in PX casks. Colour: deep amber. Nose: oh well, this is the kind of nose that should make me think again about what I, err, think about finishings generally speaking. Just a perfect blend of rather heavy smoke with chocolate. That’s it, smoked chocolate. What’s amazing is how dry this one is, to the point where we’re wondering if it’s really Pedro Ximenez that was used here. Or maybe Lagavulin is big enough a whisky to tame it? (Ippon!) Other than that it’s a cortege of soot, strong espresso (ristretto), coal, beef stock and strong liquorice. It’s like if the wine had made the spirit smell even peatier. Mouth: just as dry as on the nose, very coffeeish and liquoricy, with notes of bitter toffee, malt and stout. And peat, of course. Also hints of coriander. Maybe a tad smoother than on the nose, I’d say, but the dryness is still perfect. Just the finish is slightly weaker and shorter (the profile is perfect, though) but that should come from the ABV. At 45 or 46%, this would be ultra-big! SGP:148 (wazzat?) – 89 points.
Lagavulin 14 yo 1984/1999 (51.7%, Acorn, Japan) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is closer to ‘nature’ I’d say. More farmy peat, more fruits (notes of pears and apples but also oyster-plants) and more mashy notes (mashed potatoes, porridge, soaked grains). Deeply farmy, I’d say, this one really smells like a working malting plant (Port Ellen Maltings, for that matter). Also whiffs of horse dung. Mouth: very good attack, even if there’s something drying (chalk, flour). Quite some salt assaulting your palate right at this point. Other than that it’s nothing but a true peat monster, drier, smokier and more extreme than any of its well-known neighbours. The cask was rather inactive, that is. Finish: very big, very long and ultra-smoky and ashy. Bang! SGP:059 - 87 points.
Vanilla-Peat 1994/2007 (56.8%, Taste Still, 223 bottles) Not sure this is Lagavulin as with such a name, it could well be a peated Tamnavulin, couldn’t it? Okay, let’s not be an ass... Colour: white wine (slightly darker than the 1984). Nose: this is really bigger now, extremely smoky, ashy, mineral, certainly less fruity and sharper than other young Lagavulins we could try (including its new make). Extremely flinty. Notes of burnt matchsticks, chalk, wet limestone, getting then lemonier, very zesty. Mouth: big, big, big. Smoke, lemon juice, peat, pepper and reversely. Finish: same but with a little salt as well. SGP:039 – 88 points.
 
MUSICRecommended listening: imagine a string quartet playing the Cure... Like the David Stout Quartet doing Lovecats.mp3. Yes that works! Please buy all these people's excellent music...
 

November 10, 2007


TASTING – EMPTYING THE ARRAN COMPARTMENT
Arran
Arran 10 yo 1996/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor NC2) Colour: pale gold. Nose: mashy, grainy and beerish – not bearish. Nice notes of linseed oil. Also fusel oil, fresh butter. I like the dryness of this one, even if it’s a little austere. Mouth: notes of apples and pears (including peelings) and a little oak. Vanilla. More tannins at the finish. Simple but not unpleasant. SGP:260 (wazzat?) - 77 points.
Arran 8 yo 1996/2005 (53.6%, OB for Verviers Festival Belgium, cask #16/161, 258 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: the very same whisky, only at cask strength. Maybe a little more fruits (ripe apples) and faint whiffs of smoke. With water: same plus notes of beer (gueuze). Mouth (neat): yes, more fruits. Very drinkable. Vanilla and oak, grains, cereals. With water: a little more liquorice. Finish: medium long, vanilled, porridgy and slightly liquoricy. Not much character but no flaws either. SGP:361 – 78 points.
Arran 10 yo 1995/2006 (57,6%, SMWS 121.1 'Golden Syrup') Colour: pale gold. Nose: very close to the ‘Verviers’, just a bit more vegetal, grassy and less fruity. With water: same, just a tad yeastier (bread crumb). Mouth (neat): good body, oily and creamy. Vanilla and oak, grains and cereals. Very natural. With water: same. Finish: good length, vanilla and grains. SGP:370 – 78 points.
Arran NAS Calvados Finish (58.9%, OB, bottled 2003) Colour: pale gold. Nose: not much difference with the ‘native’ versions. A tad more buttery and, okay, notes of ripe apples. Pleasant I must say. With water: grassier and even grainier. Mouth: much more interesting than on the nose. Bubblegummy, notes of cherry-flavoured beer (Kriek) this time. Spanish apple liqueur (manzana verde). Or should I say ‘calvados’? With water: it got really good now, creamy, fruity and jammy ala Balvenie. Good, medium long finish on the same flavours. SGP:560 – 81 points.
Arran
Arran NAS Cognac Finish (59.5%, OB, bottled 2005) Colour: straw. Nose: even more buttery and grassy. Austere. With water: funny notes of cheese coming through (comté, gruyère). Some would say ‘gym socks’, that is. Mouth (neat): hot, sweet, vanilled, as bubblegummy as the Calvados but a tad less complex. With water: simpler again and slightly dryish. Medium long finish on grains, vanilla and quite some oak (pepper). SGP:470 – 77 points.
Arran NAS '1er Cru Sauternes Cask Finish' (56,2%, OB, Bottled 2006, 310 bottles) Nose: farmy and vinous. Mouth: sweet, quite clean but aromas of distillation and a little soap. SGP:670 - 69 points.
Arran NAS '1er Cru Bourgogne Cask Finish' (56,5%, OB, Bottled 2006 for USA, 75cl) Nose: much more oak but a nice one. Farmy and animal. Mouth: sweet and fruity, playful, this one works. Strawberry sweets (tagada). Very funny. SGP:661 - 86 points. (that’s maybe a little too much but I liked the fun!)
Arran NAS 'Lepanto PX Brandy cask from Gonzales Byass Finish' (59,4%, OB, Bottled 2006) Nose: farmy and animal, wine barrel. Porridge. Mouth: sweet, balanced. Not much wine influence. Cider apples, hints of cinchona. SGP:573 - 79 points. Just between us, why Arran didn’t start its life by making a peat monster (even a gentle one) still escapes me...
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Is this funky of what!? It's Master Dennis Chambers and he's doing Roll call.mp3 with a whole bunch of slingers (the Breckers, Matt Garrison, Jim Beard...) Please buy the great drummer's music, please... (via Pow-wow central) Dennis Chambers
 

November 9, 2007


TASTING - TWO NEW YOUNG LAPHROAIGS
Laphroaig Laphroaig 8 yo 1998/2007 (46%, Douglas Laing Provenance, Autumn/Spring) Colour; very white wine. Nose: ultra-pure, ultra-clean, not very mature it seems but all edges have already been smoothened over. Whiffs of peat smoke, wool, wet stones, lager beer, hints of tar... A very good peated vodka? Little fruits if any. Mouth: totally classic. Peat, hints of pear juice, tar, big smokiness, pleasant bitterness (green tea), getting quite grassy but with little medicinal notes this time. It is not impossible that Laphroaig’s output got less medicinal at the end of the 1990’s... Finish: medium long but very, very smoky and ashy. Yes, prototypical. SGP:147 (wazzat?) - 85 points.
Hag Rap Oil 9 yo 1998/2007 (56.7%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, 450 bottles) Only mad souls could have written this on a whisky label: “This wild and peaty beauty comes from the Isle of Islay. Rumours say that the most beautiful witches make heavy use of it when organising their annual Kildalton Cross Sabbath on Feis Ile’s Tuesday night, that’s why we named it the ‘Hag Rap Oil”. Very mad indeed, but let’s try this young Laphroaig now. Colour: white wine. Nose: take the same notes as in the 8yo and add a little vanilla and nutmeg, probably from a more active cask and you get a very, very good peated vodka. Wait, it keeps developing, with hints of linseed oil, soot, liquid tar, slight hints of bandages, embrocations... Also hints of kirsch, black olives... Much more complex than we first thought. Hag Rap Oil
Mouth: punchy and wild like a bunch of witches (sure, Serge, sure...), maybe a tad spirity at the attack but then it’s a blast of peat and tar, with a profile that’s very similar to the DL’s this time, with maybe just a little more salt. Also maybe a tad less dry. Finish: very long, very peaty, very ashy and very smoky, with even a little aniseed. The trap is that it’s very drinkable... Witch stuff indeed. Frightening. SGP:249 – 89 points.
MUSIC – Very recommended listening: The great late French jazz pianist extraordinaire Michel Petrucciani playing his famous composition Looking up.mp3 con mucho gusto. Please buy his music (may I recommend his works with Lee Konitz?) Petrucciani
 

November 8, 2007


TASTING – TWO NEW 1967 STRATHISLAS
Strathisla Strathisla 40yo 1967/2007 (48.8%, Duncan Taylor, cask #1894, 162 bottles) Colour: deep gold. Nose: well, it’s not a fruity explosion that happens here, quite unexpectedly, but rather a very soft and kind of understated layer of nougat, caramel crème and vanilla that unfolding. Not big, for sure... And then there’s something like unlit hash, olive oil, resin, all that mixed with overripe apples and beeswax. No woodiness whatsoever but the whole is kind of shy I’d say.
Mouth: much fruitier at the attack (crystallised lemon), quite creamy, but getting a little grassier and bitterish after that (apple peelings). Actually, it’s very good but rather simple and youngish for a 40yo Strathisla, which is a little strange. Maybe this one would have made it ‘till 60yo without batting an eyelid – and then they could have sold it for big money in a crystal decanter presented in an ebony case with a golden padlock (and a free iPhone) – but Duncan Taylor aren’t into that sort of thing, are they? Finish: well, there are quite some tannins (and nutmeg) at this point but it’s still quite ‘simple’ and youngish. In short, this is very good whisky for sure but 40 years old, are you sure? Ah, the mysteries of whisky maturing... SGP:563 (wazzat?) - 85 points.
Strathisla 1967/2007 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMDW, cask #6112) Colour: gold. Nose: the profile is more or less the same as the Duncan Taylor’s, juts much bolder, much more expressive. First, lots of fruits, both dried and fresh. Tangerines, figs, citrons, lemons, dates... Then it’s the resinous notes that play their solos, such as mastic, putty and pine needles... Then a little humus (and moss, mushrooms), with a pleasant mouldiness (wine cellar) and then notes of old white wine (chardonnay, old white Bourgogne, Madeira, walnuts) and shoe polish (and leather) and smoke. All that is subtler than it sounds, very, very elegant. Very perfect balance – and again, no woodiness as such. Mouth: superb, just superb. What’s striking is the balance between the fruits, the wood and its spices and the ‘phenolic’ (or ‘secondary’) notes that come in waves. At complete random: crystallised lemons, cough syrup, argan oil (yum-yum), roasted pine kernels, apricot jam, yellow Chartreuse (Tarragona better), Turkish delights, quince liqueur (my!), soft liquorice... And God knows what else. What’s really striking here is the mix of both complexity and balance. Finish: just a long (but not very long) extension of the palate, which is pretty good news. And an amazing compactness. Well, the guy who selected this cask deserves the Malt Maniacs Golden Cross. SGP:666 (devlish indeed) - 93 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: more relaxation today, with a wonderful African ballad by the Orchestra Marrabenta Star de Mocambique called Nwahulwana.mp3. Isn't this cool? Please buy these people's music! Wazimbo
 

November 7, 2007


TASTING - FOUR OFFICIAL ABERLOURS
Aberlour

Aberlour 10yo (40%, OB, circa 2007) Aberlour 10 is a very heavy seller here in France, its owners Pernod-Ricard pushing it quite heavily. Colour: full gold with orangey tones. Nose: a very malty, caramelly and toasted start, developing more on crystallised oranges, toasted brioche and hot honey-coated nuts. There’s also a little smoke in the background as well a a little sherry and hints of fresh mint. Rounded but certainly not toothless despite the 40%. Mouth: well, it’s a bit weak now, malty, candied and toasty but other than that it really lacks oomph. Almost no middle and a whispering finish. It’s good in fact, just too thin for hardcore malt freaks I’d say. SGP:422 (wazzat?) – 79 points.

Aberlour 16yo (43%, OB, Sherry, Double cask Matured, circa 2007) We quite liked an earlier batch of this one (84). Colour: amber. Nose: more body but it’s globally more mellow, deeply honeyed, floral and fruity (dried fruits). Dandelions, ripe apricots, orange marmalade, maple syrup, candy sugar, pastries, mint... Really luscious, thick and sort of perverse, I’d say. Mouth: the attack is a bit less thick (I was afraid it would be lumpish) but still very honeyed, malty, jammy and toasty. Notes of sweet sherry and quite some fresh and dried fruits (headed by dates, then very ripe bananas, sultanas...) Good oakiness that keeps it ‘structured’. Finish: not really long but nicely honeyed and candied. Very good malt that should please anyone from your mother-in-law to your friend who’s heavily into single malts. SGP:833 – 85 points.
Aberlour 22 yo 1980/2002 (43%, OB, 4500 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this is very different. Probably more elegant and much cleaner, more on leather, herbal teas, tobacco and big flowery notes (dandelions, jasmine tea) as well as a lot of soft honey, fresh mint leaves, crystallised lemon, hay, straw... Quite superb and sort of the opposite of the 16, maybe better balanced. Mouth: a little thicker now, almost oily, but still with a fresher profile. We have a little mint striking right at the attack, then rosehip tea, Turkish delights, quite some vanilla, tinned lychees, oranges... Something oriental. Goes on with hints of grapefruits and lemons plus a little oak. Gets more and more citrusy, especially at the rather long finish that’s all on orange and lemon marmalades. A very good variation on Aberlour. SGP:652 – 87 points.
Aberlour 'A'bunadh' Batch #20 (60.5%, OB, 2007) One of these famous malts that make us lesser mortals tremble. Batches #11 and 15 have been my favourites so far, let’s see if #20 will join them in the pantheon. Colour: deep amber with brownish/orangey hues. Nose: oloroso galore! Very big notes of raisins, chocolate, prunes, cherry liqueur, cloves... All that is nicely dry and even a tad smoky but that may well come from the alcohol. With water: it gets a bit more herbal and slightly wild as well as meatier. Is that English brown sauce? Mouth (neat): very powerful of course but not undrinkable, quite astonishingly. Big sherry, big raisins, hints of mint and chlorophyll, litres of kirsch (just like when you put your nose over a demijohn)... But let’s not tempt fate – so, with water: gets more herbal again, with notes of thyme and rosemary, sage, bay leaves... Also quite maltier and even a little smoky. Finish: long, coating, elegant (yes) and spicier (pepper and ginger). Shoo, to the pantheon! SGP: 634 – 90 points.
 
APOLOGIES – No, we did not inadvertently pour a bottle of Brora 30yo onto our computer! Due to an unusually high number of requests, the reason of which is still unknown to us, Whiskyfun was temporarily unavailable on Nov. 6 from 15:00 on, Paris time (error 503). Should that happen again, please don’t lose hope and come back later, we’ll upgrade our hosting services as soon as possible.
 
MUSIC – Recommended listening: well, if the new world of whisky (and website shutdowns) makes you nervous, you may have a listen to Asha Bhonsle and Ali Akbar Khan and their wonderful Guru Bandana.mp3. Let's call that a '2007 raga for whisky lover'. Please buy this wonderful music...
Update by MM's Krishna: Asha Bonsle along with her two sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Usha Mangeshkar ruled Indian Film Industry as playback singers (mostly hindi) for nearly half a century.
Asha Bhosle
The piece of music is a Classical rendering of Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan (I am too samll a person to write anything on him) on Sarod with Asha Bhonsle and it is a sacred relationship of Guru with Sishya (meaning disciple). - K.
 

November 6, 2007


TASTING – FOUR PORT ELLENS
Port Ellen
Port Ellen 11 yo 1983/1994 (40%, The Whisky House Bologna) The Whisky House is a line by the Kik Bar in Bologna, Italy. I haven’t seen a new bottling since a long time I must say. Colour: white wine. Nose: ah, young Port Ellens! Even at only 40%, this is big whisky, with loads of tar, notes of brand new tyres (not burning ones), matchsticks and maybe something more delicately floral (lilies). It gets then rather mashier and porridgy, like many young whiskies that didn’t see much active oak. Notes of yoghurt sauce and always a big peat smoke. Also coal. Mouth: big punch at 40%, with a lot of lemon juice, pepper and salt plus something resinous. Big peat again, tar, strong salted liquorice, cough syrup... Not the most complex peaty palate ever but the whole really delivers. Finish: rather long, resinous, tarry and salty, getting maybe just a tad cardboardy, which is the only flaw this one has got. Too bad, it would have made it above 88 points (SGP:149) (wazzat?)
Port Ellen 1976/1995 (43%, Dun Eideann for Auxil, France, casks #4763-64, 760 bottles) This bottling was done by Signatory Vintage. Colour: gold. Nose: well, this is as expressive as Port Ellen can get, especially at 43% ABV. Starts slightly buttery but also immensely tarry and smoky, with a lot of coal smoke, peat smoke, brand new tyres, tarmac... Even hints of burning plastic (which I find pleasant here - don’t ask). Behind all this we have also notes of ‘a freshly opened pack of mint drops’ plus quite some grilled bacon. Really hyper-expressive , a true monster. Superb – and what a smoke! Mouth: maybe a bit gentler now but still very powerful. ‘Pleasantly pungent’, very smoky, with strong notes of pear sweets this time, or even pineapples. Gets also more peppery and quite salty, with heavy notes of salmiak, salted liquorice. The smokiness is permanent. Finish: long, smoky and salty, and always very liquoricy. One of the most wham-bam low-strength Port Ellens I ever came across I think. SGP:139 - 91 points.
Port Ellen 21 yo 1973/1998 'Port Ellen Maltings’ (58.4%, OB) No need to say this is a legendary bottling! Thanks to the Lindorables for having sourced this one that I had never tried before. Colour: straw. Nose: wild, very wild, starting on an unusual way, very much on smoked ham and bacon but evolving very quickly towards more typical notes of tar and new tyres. Notes of hot butter, nougat, peated malt... Gets then very flinty, mineral, chalky, lemony... And then quite animal, almost like with some old sherry monsters (but no traces of sherry here). Also raw wool, hare belly, porridge... Rather fantastico but let’s see what happens with a few drops of water... Great things! The lemony notes get rounder and probably more approachable, then there are Turkish delights, faint hints of bubblegum (very funny here), strawberry sweets (it’s probably the first time I get notes of strawberries in Port Ellen), hints of antiseptic, smoked tea... And lots of micro-things that we won’t bother to list here. Superb. Mouth (neat): amazingly assertive indeed! Even bigger than on the nose, superbly lemony and peaty, wild, beautifully bitter (strong liquorice), with touches of salt on the tip of your tongue. Also something camphory (cough sweets). Ultra-big notes of lemon marmalade. A bit too big to be enjoyed neat I must say, lets add water again. Right, now it’s a little less complex than on the nose but there a big notes of grapefruits, tinned pineapples, candied lemons and added hints of blackcurrants. Finish: long and more classic now, pretty much in the genre of the Rare Malts 20 and 22yo’s, that is to say much straighter now. Anyway, a stunning whisky, not just a rarity for collectors who are ready to hand out 2000+ euro’s for a single bottle. SGP:789 - 94 points.
Port Ellen 24 yo 1982/2006 (59,4%, Chieftain's, Hogshead #1513, 300 bottles) I hope this one won’t have a hard time after the PE Maltings. Colour: straw. Nose: less expressive at first sniffs, with a lot of sulphur this time, paper (new book) and even a little soap. All that settles down after a moment, leaving room for flintier notes, quite some smoke, lemon, hay... Very grassy. Water should help here... Oh, this is extravagant! Very big notes of old roses and lychees like in a gewurztraminer (really!) as well as the same kind of bubblegummy notes as in the PE Maltings. Also perfume (Joy de Patou springs to mind), orange blossom water, strawberries again (!) and then various spices and hints of coriander. Entertaining, to say the least. Mouth (neat): Aha! This one is really far from paling into insignificance beside the PE Maltings at this stage. Actually, it’s pretty similar, maybe a tad less lemony and a bit sweeter but it’s ultra-big again, with lots happening (we get dill, crystallised lemons, pepper, curry, nutmeg, green tea, liquorice roots...) With water: maybe it falls back into line now, getting much grassier. The lemony notes are still there, that is, and so is the big peat. Finish: very long, very grassy, very lemony and very peaty, with good bitterness, especially at the aftertaste. Well, maybe this one isn’t quite as majestic as the PE Maltings globally but some parts of it really do bear comparison. SGP:768 - 91 points.
MUSIC – Heavily recommended listening: the terrific Richard Hawley certainly is WF’s current best rock and roll artiste (thanks again, Nick) so let’s have one of his most beautiful songs, The nights are cold.mp3 (acoustic recording for the website) and then buy his fantastic latest CD – or any of his CD’s for that matter. (see also Nick's recent concert review) Hawley
 

November 5, 2007


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
 
Auchentoshan

 

 

 

 

TASTING – THREE AUCHENTOSHANS

Auchentoshan 1991/2007 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #480) We already had cask #481 and it didn’t quite impress us – maybe we’ll find this one to be better. Colour: white wine. Nose: this one starts extremely zesty, all on lemon and fresh butter. Goes on with beautiful floral notes (jasmine, lime blossom) as well as whiffs of turpentine and linseed oil. Also hints of rhubarb and gooseberries. Perfect balance and huge freshness and purity. Mouth: good news, it is better than cask #481 in our books. Granted, it’s in no ways as pure and clean as on the nose but the mix of orange juice, vanilla and soft spices (nutmeg, cloves, chinese anise) works well here. More and more orange with time. Finish: medium long, orangey and vanilled. Maybe this one lost its zing on the palate but it’s still a rather good Auchentoshan. SGP:540 (wazzat?) - 78 points.
Auchentoshan 16yo 1990/2007 (46%, Milroy's, cask #17284, Hogshead, 329 bottles) Colour; pale straw. Nose: quite different from the 1991. Less clean and more marked by the cask, which means more vanilla but also more porridgy and grainy notes. It gets then rather smoky and flinty, with again notes of fresh butter and also overripe apples. Faint whiffs of mint and dill. Mouth: extremely close to the 1991at this stage, almost identical. Please read above, thanks. SGP:451 - 78 points.
Auchentoshan 50 yo 1957/2007 (49.5%, OB) At roughly 3,000 Euros, this doesn’t come cheap but hey, what a superb bottle! (please note that we’re ‘working’ on a sample, not the full bottle). Colour: gold – amber. Nose: an expected beautiful start on ‘good’ varnish, bold notes of fresh and nicely ripe strawberries, vanilla and marzipan. Then it’s the leather, Havana tobacco (unlit cigar – I don’t know why, this reminds me of cigars by La Gloria Cubana that we used to smoke fifteen years ago – but no more cigars these days), quince jelly, pecan pie, peanut butter... Gets then a tad resinous (eucalyptus, menthol, cough syrup, thuja wood). Also sandalwood and a little incense... And then it’s back on ripe strawberries and the jam made thereof. An amazing old whisky, incredibly fresh and lively. Very, very high class. Mouth: well, there’s much more oak now but it’s okay, really. Quite some green tannins, that is, and strong tea... Things settle down after a while, leaving room for beautifully candied and orangey notes. Then we have various herbal teas (chamomile, cherry stems, blackcurrant leaves) and then more resinous ones (eucalyptus sweets, chlorophyll gum, pine sweets). The whole is much drier than on the nose, to be honest. Finish: not very, very long but what’s interesting is that it’s not too tannic and woody, and rather herbal, minty and resinous again. Alright, this one is maybe more a nosing malt but the palate is anything but flawed considering its age, and certainly not ‘too old’ no too woody. The nose was out of this world, which is enough to grant this 50yo Auchentoshan a very high score. SGP:555 – 93 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: it was about time we checked whatour friend Finian McKean was up to these days, and we found out that he's really kicking, as Dropping roses.mp3 should testify. Please buy Finian's music and go see him live. Finian McKean
 

November 4, 2007


Bruichladdich

TASTING – TWO 1991 BRUICHLADDICHS

Bruichladdich 1991/2007 (46%, Berry Bros, cask #2277) Colour: white wine. Nose: classy! All of Bruichladdich’s trademark fruits are well here, melons and peaches first, then gooseberries and pears... Then a slight meatiness that you also sometimes get when you distil fruits (believe me, I’ve been distilling fruits for almost twenty years) and finally a little porridge and warm milk. Little cask influence but a very clean spirit.

Mouth: again, a very fruity attack. Lots of fruits, apples, melons, peaches, pears... Add to that quite some pepper and even hints of mustard. Finish: medium long, spicier now, but the fruits are still there. A good Bruichladdich, even if it tastes rather younger than it actually is. SGP:661 (wazzat?) – 83 points.
Bruichladdich 14 yo 1991/2005 (56%, Cadenhead's Auth. Coll., 318 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is much more on vanilla, vanilla and vanilla, as if the cask had been much more active than in the BBR. Now, it also sort of masks the fruitiness here. Hints of smoke and, once more, a little porridge. Faint soapiness. Mouth: better at the attack, very fruity but some notes of violet and lavender sweets do appear after a moment. Hints of cologne (again, I don’t drink cologne but it’s easy to guess how it would taste, isn’t it?) Finish: long, with even more fruits and a little honey but also these slightly disturbing notes of cologne... SGP:442 – 70 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Why not have an old tune by Sir Harry Lauder today? Like A Wee Deoch An' Doris.mp3, recorded in 1926. Not really high-fidelity but what a beautiful accent... Harry Lauder
 

November 3, 2007


   

MALT MANIACS NEWSFLASH
WHISKY SPRINGBOKS CELEBRATE

We were so busy mourning Les Bleus’ failure at the rugby World Cup that we forgot to congratulate all our South African friends for their splendid victory in Paris.

Joe Let’s put things right with this picture of MM’s very own Joe Barry toasting to his compatriots’ amazing success at Whisky Live Cape Town with a bunch of friends and bro. Once more, kudos to the Springboks! - S. (photograph Martine Nouet)

OTHER GREAT NEWS

Malt Maniacs' very own Ho-cheng just translated Michael Jackon's famous book 'Whisky' into Chinese. This new edition was launched right yesterday and of course, Ho-cheng and the editor were very sad about the fact that the great man passed away just a few weeks before the event and couldn't attend it. Anyway, you may buy this masterpiece here (website in Chinese of course)

Ho-cheng
Tomintoul

 

 

 

 

TASTING – THREE TOMINTOULS

Tomintoul Glenlivet 17yo (40%, OB, Whyte and Mackay for Marks & Spencer, 1980's) Colour: full gold. Nose: fresh, floral and fruity like Tomintoul can be, with notes of ripe apples, light honey, warm butter and brioche. Soft maltiness, hints of shoe polish that may come from early OBE. Exactly what we could call a pleasant dram, nicer than most supermarket malts we could try. Mouth: well, this is more weakish, alas, probably more on blend territories. Toasted, malty, grainy and caramelly, with just hints of salt. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just a bit uninteresting as far as the palate is concerned. Finish: a little short, very toasted, nutty and caramelly, with also quite some vanilla. SGP:552 (wazzat?) - 80 points for the very nice nose.
Tomintoul 1989 (43%, Whisky-Doris The Dram, 120 bottles, 2007) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is a little less fruity and floral and more on roasted nuts, toasted bread, malt and honey at first sniffs, but gets fruitier over time (papayas, tangerines)... Good oomph. More honey, pollen, nectar after a while, with faint hints of smoke and leathery notes. Not far from absolute aromatic balance. Mouth: much more oomph than in the 17yo, even if once more, this one is very toasted, caramelly and nutty. Maltier than on the nose, with also a little liquorice, resin and honey. Very ‘Speyside’ I’d say. Finish: medium long but again, very balanced, on malt and caramel. This one should please any dedicated good blend drinker willing to change categories. SGP:654 - 84 points.
Tomintoul 1976/2007 (49,6%, Mackillop's Choice, Sherry wood) Colour: pale gold. Nose: now, this is a true fruitbomb. A whole basket of papayas, guavas and bananas, and the ice creams made thereof, with a very Irish side. Develops more on butter toffee, butterscotch, honey, praline, nougat... The wood is very discreet at such old age and the whole is a wonderful, soft dram. Oh, also a little spearmint as well as chamomile tea. Mouth: bold and punchy attack, with the fruits upfront but also hints of rubber, quince jelly and bitter almonds. A little wilder than we had thought after nosing. Gets then a little more resinous and grassy, with an even bigger grassiness and maybe green tannins. Finish: very long and really marked by the oak now, as well as mint and even more bitter almonds. A very contrasted whisky, displaying a very fruity nose but a much bitterer and grassier palate in my opinion. Probably one of the limits of our SGP system, as nose and palate are so different. Still, SGP:851 - 84 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: We had inexplicably deleted Brian Auger’s fantastic Tiger.mp3 (1966) a while ago so here it is again, back in its full glory. Rule Brian Auger! Please buy Brian Auger's music! (picture by Kate: Brian Auger with an unknown grinning fan ;-)) Brian Auger
 

November 2, 2007


IMPORTANT - A NEW WHISKY PROFILING SYSTEM THAT WORKS, FOR ONCE
We’ve been playing with the idea of coming up with quick profiles for each whisky we taste for quite some time now. We’ve considered mappings, bar charts, wheels, figures, pictograms... We’ve also considered using David Wishart’s cluster system, or Thierry Benitah’s earlier profiling system using stars, no to mention several original systems that all crashed when confronted with real life tastings. Phew! Yet, we knew we had to come up with something a.s.a.p., something that would allow our distinguished readers to get an overall feeling about this or that whisky, more precise than just dry and simplistic scores but quicker to read than our sometimes lengthy – and quirky - tasting notes. But ‘everything’ was still on hold when I got a very interesting press release from Diageo’s (press releases from the industry are usually utterly boring and uninteresting, and almost always simple requests for free advertising for this or that very exciting new bottling. I must confess we almost never read them, which may explain why we never publish them – not even after careful microwaving.)
So, what was up at Diageo’s? Well, with the help of the excellent Dave Broom, they just sort of dropped the ‘regional classification’ of their malts and moved a few steps forward by building a very simple yet very efficient new way of classifying whiskies: a two-dimensional Flavour Map. As Dave put it, that Flavour Map was designed to ‘help consumers gain a greater understanding of this magnificent spirit.’ Further, 'the Flavour Map doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive description of each malt, or to take the place of detailed tasting notes. It sets out to inform consumer choice by showing the differences between standard expressions of malt whiskies.' Well, I personally believe that it will also work quite well with less standard expressions...
Flavour Map
Diageo's new Single Malt Flavour Map with a few examples
So, how does this Flavour Map work? It’s very simple (KISS!), you simply place any whisky you try on that map where it fits, depending on two simple scales: the Y-axis goes from ‘delicate’ to ‘smoky’ and the X-axis from ‘light’ to ‘rich’. Sure that’s extreme simplification but I quickly tried the new Flavour Map with several whiskies and it really worked. Frankly, we could discuss at length the fact that it’s very simple (and maybe even simplistic) but this system’s main asset is that it works, whereas many much more accurate systems seem to fit the complexity of malt whisky much better but... don’t work (usually because they take too much time or because as they are quite precise, you’d like them to be even more precise). So, once again, the better was the enemy of the good and it seems that Nick Morgan and gang wisely opted for the good.
Now, you guessed it, I immediately wondered how I could use the Flavour Map myself on WF and I’m afraid I didn’t find a satisfying answer, alas, mainly because I think it works best when graphically expressed whilst WF is already very heavy and loaded with images. So, here’s what I finally came up with: a flavour profile that’s expressed using only 3 figures, each ranging from 0 (minimum) to 9 (maximum). It’s very close to the Flavour Map in spirit (I hope!) albeit probably less ‘immediate’ and sexy, but on the other hand, it’s even quicker to build. I’ll call this three-figure profile the ‘SGP’:
S for the Sweet/Fruity scale (honey, fruits, candy, raisins, vanilla, flowers etc.)
G for the Grainy/Grassy scale (porridge, yeast, grass, malt, wax, beer etc.)
P for the Phenolic/Smoky scale (farm, peat, sea, tar, spices, liquorice, meat etc.)
Of course any dedicated whisky freak will immediately feel the need to subdivide these three simplistic scales into dozens of subscales but once again, I think it’s better to have a simple system that works rather than a huge labyrinthine system that we’ll never manage to handle properly since what we always lack is time (no, not whisky).
So, with this new system, plain water would get an SGP of 000 whilst a careful vatting of young cask strength Ardbeg, Macallan and, say Clynelish would possibly get an SGP of 999. What I propose is that we try to use the SGP system for a few weeks on WF and if it works (i.e. if we get thousands of laudatory comments – okay hundreds – okay, dozens), we’ll institute it definitely and maybe do some bit of reengineering on our older tasting notes when time permits.
Anyway, bravo! to the mighty Diageo for having made this very clever move and hence for having helped us coming up with a quick and easy profiling system that's much inspired by it. Kiss!
Okay, let's try the SGP now, with...
 
TASTING – TWO BENRIACHS
Benriach 22 yo 1984/2007 (53.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland) From a newly bottled single cask, details to come (but we may well forget to add them). Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah, yes, this one comes from the now legendary heavily peaty batches it seems. Peat, hot butter and pepper, plus toasted bread, charcoal, matchsticks and hints of smoked bacon. Really straightforward, very classy. Trademark notes of grapefruits and tangerines coming through after a while, as well as a slight farminess (wet hay) and faint whiffs of mercurochrome. A bit ‘rigid’ but it’s the kind of rigidity we like (no hidden meanings of course). Mouth: excellent, nervous attack on a honey, caramel and ‘peppery peat’ combo that’s rather unusual, even on Islay methinks (except, maybe, in some Lagavulins). Develops on crystallised lemon zests and marmalade, with an impressive ‘smooth bitterness’. Notes of strong herbs liqueur and even a little tar. Finish: obviously long, maybe a little smoother now, leaving a pleasant sensation of cleanliness – but the peat fires back at the aftertaste. This is very good. SGP:438 – 91 points.
Benriach Benriach 30 yo 1976/2006 (53%, OB for LMDW, cask #3557, 222 bottles) We’re still wondering why we never gotten around to trying this one before, such is our love for Benriach (will that do?) Colour: gold. Nose: much, much less peat if any, and a superb fruitiness instead, mixed with the same kinds of vegetal hints as in the 1984. ‘Wet un-smoked pipe tobacco’. At the fruits department we have the same notes of tangerines and grapefruits but also bold notes of passion fruits and mango. Quite some vanilla as well, light honey, flower nectar, ham... The oak is quite present but works as an underlining (carpenter’s workshop). The whole is very demonstrative, for sure, not quite an old fruitbomb but... And again hints of wet hay.
Mouth: starts very nervous, uberfruity (as much passion fruit doesn’t exist in the whisky world I think), with also orange squash, grapefruits (truckloads), soft spices and less oak than on the nose it seems. It doesn’t really develop I think but the attack was that great that it’s not a problem when it lasts until... the finish, which is long, still on these bold fruity notes of course but with maybe more spices, notably pepper and also something slightly resinous. Reminds me of Sauternes ‘at cask strength’ (which is plain stupid) – or maybe Marc d’Yquem? (brandy made out of Yquem’s dregs - that should exist.) SGP:932 – 92 points.
Comments. So, how did the SGP system work with these two Benriachs? See the new figures just before each score. The first figure (S) clearly indicates that the 1976 is extremely fruity (S=9). Both are mildly grainy/grassy (G=3) whilst the 1984 is very phenolic/smoky (P=8) and the 1976 displays just hints of such notes (P=2). A quick glance at both SGP's should clearly indicate to any of our distinguished readers how different these two malts are, even if they both come from the very same distillery. Err, does that work?
 
SHOPPING (RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS ONLY, THANKS)
Imagine you’re a relatively famous whisky company and you want to catch as much free publicity as possible to push one of your brand names. Which options do you have? Quite a few actually, here are some examples among others:
  • Improve the product so that the consumers notice it. Hmm, that’s costly and often impossible to do, not to mention the fact that it may not be noticed at the end of the day.
  • Do a bit of guerrilla marketing. Like, inviting a retired Mongolian cosmonaut to your distillery and do a special bottling for the occasion. Hmm, well, the problem is that there aren’t that many Mongolian cosmonauts around... And it may be good for your PR but not obligatorily for your positioning...
  • Put an old bottle of yours on auction and buy it back anonymously for an insane price, while making sure that there are many journalists around when that happens. Hmm, well, the trick is so overused that all you may pull is mockery. Variant: wait for an old bottle to appear in the auction houses’ catalogues. Problem: that may take a long time.
  • Launch a new very old bottling, very limited, and put an insane price tag on it. No need to sell it, what you seek isn’t a little extra-money, remember, it’s free publicity. So, the dearer the better, as long as it doesn’t look plain ridiculous.
Okay, the latest trick is well known, and it’s probably one of the industry’s favourites. But even there, you have several main options:
  • Do a Pétrus finishing on it.
  • Do a luxurious packaging. Crystal decanters are a must in this case, even better with a famous name on it (Daum, Lalique, Baccarat...)
  • Or create a crazy bundle, by adding gloves, leather cases, fountain pens, plain silver hipflasks, guns, iPods, VIP trips to the distillery, whatever.
Right, there is a problem: how will the consumer link this crazy new bottling to your core range? After all, a fantastic hyper-deluxe Lalique decanter does not look like your regular 10 years old at all, so no ‘Audi effect’ here (spot an A8 and you’ll feel the urge to buy an A3, shouldn’t you have the dough for the A8). Well, it seems that Dalmore have resolved the dilemma, by doing exactly this:

Dalmore 64

1. Decide on a very limited series. Like, two bottles only. Just one wouldn’t make for a series whilst three or more would be useless. Imagine you’ll maybe have to buy them back at some point, that would be stupid.

2. Select a very old malt. Remember, the older, the better. 64 year old will do (coz you already had a 62.)

3. Use crystal. Lalique already have dealings with a competitor? Baccarat will do. But make sure your new bottle looks like your core range (more or less). Remember, Audi.

4. Add all you need, hand calligrapher certificates (not too much work, remember, only two bottles – cheaper than going to the printer’s after all), wax seals, a few goodies (corkscrew etc.)...

5. Hmm, there’s something missing...

Right, a case! So, use the most exclusive materials, like, why not, Sterling silver! Hold on, that won’t look like your core range, will it? Well, that depends on the shape of that case. Actually, there is a solution, and that solution is shown on our picture. No, this isn’t a joke! Oh, by the way, RSP is £100,000. No further comments needed, I guess, except that what's sure is that Dalmore are on top form these days...
MUSIC – Recommended listening: simply Shannon McNally, doing Geronimo.mp3. So beautiful... Please buy Shannon McNally's music, thank you. Shannon McNally
 

November 1, 2007


Benromach

TASTING – THREE (almost) OFFICIAL BENROMACHS

 

Benromach 1968/2007 (43%, OB) Colour: mahogany. Nose: starts exactly as you’d expect from a heavily sherried whisky, with coffee, prunes, fruitcake and cocoa/chocolate. It’s quite smoky at that, not exactly peaty but quite, developing on dried oranges and a whole bunch of meaty and spicy aromas (brown sauce, game, soy sauce, lovage, parsley, hints of camphor...). More classic sherried whisky does not exist I think. Mouth: more of the same, maybe a little drier and spicier, with quite some oak and tannins, but the rest is perfect. Again, coffee, toffee, Seville oranges, Xmas cake, roasted almonds... And then hints of spearmint and even a little aniseed. Perfectly dry. Finish: not exceptionally long but very clean for a ‘sherry monster’, all on coffee and praline. Less drying than feared at this stage. Perfect old sherried malt and in these days when any dodgy make is priced at unlikely levels, certainly a BFYB bottle (less than 200 Euros). Congrats to the owners. 90 points.
Benromach 2000/2007 (60.4%, OB for LMDW, cask #724, 241 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: powerful but certainly not unbearable, starting amazingly ‘Islayian’ even if there’s not a huge lot of peat (but there is quite some peat in this, no doubt). Goes on with notes of soaked malt, raw wool, motor oil, a little tar, almonds, marzipan, linseed oil... Even hints of dried kelp. The smokiness grows bigger with time, at that. Very Speyside... Not! Not far from the recent ‘Peat Smoke’ version I ‘d say, just bigger and maybe a tad more complex. A surprise. With water: (just like the ‘Peat Smoke’, it got as opaque as milk! What did they put into this???) it gets even closer to nature, all on dead leaves, humus, mushrooms and peated barley. And really a lot of linseed oil. Mouth: big, bold, sweet and even peatier than on the nose, really on ‘Islay levels’ now. Fruitier than most Islayers, though, and maybe a tad less ‘precise’ as far as the palate is concerned. But this is very hot, let’s see what happens with water: well, it’s good, simple, peated whisky. Maybe no thrill but no flaws either. Interesting kind of sweetness (gentian liqueur such as Suze if you know it). Finish: long, sweet and peaty, keeping your digestive track ‘warm and serene’. 84 points.
Benromach 1982/1996 (63%, G&M Cask, casks #1335/1341) Colour: deep amber. Nose: a little sulphur at first nosing, soon to vanish, and then it’s a cascade of wood and coal smoke, bitter oranges, strong honey, mirabelles... Just before it gets wilder and rougher. Leather, cigarette tobacco (unlit Camel), shoe polish, smoked tea, wet dead leaves. Gets really hot after a while (63%, mind you) so let’s ad a little water to it. It got wonderfully resinous and candied, with loads of vegetal aromas such as crushed eucalyptus leaves, mushrooms, moss, fern, mint, dill and God knows what else. Brilliant, provided you don’t forget to add water. Mouth (neat): forget it! You can feel it’s great whisky but it’s as hot and burning as kerosene (I would imagine). With water: oh yes, it is great whisky. It’s all very similar to what happened on the nose, with a lot of notes of cough sweets, parsley, crystallised angelica, dried pears, mastic drops, aniseed... Perfect! Finish: long, complex, thick, rich, candied but not clumsy at all (quite the contrary), with added notes of quince jelly. And always dried pears. I’ve never been really disappointed with G&M’s Cask series, and many are even stunning. It’s not this one that will make me change my mind. But as always, water is obligatory. 90 points.
Harris MUSICRecommended listening: American blues shouter (and one of the inventors of rock and roll) Wynonie Harris again does Quiet whiskey.mp3. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely accidental... (via Joie de vivre)

October 2007 - part 2 <--- November 2007 - part 1 ---> November 2007 - part 2


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

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' Batch #20 (60.5%, OB, 2007)

Auchentoshan 50 yo 1957/2007 (49.5%, OB)

Benriach 22 yo 1984/2007 (53.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland)

Benriach 30 yo 1976/2006 (53%, OB for LMDW, cask #3557, 222 bottles)

Benromach 1968/2007 (43%, OB)

Benromach 1982/1996 (63%, G&M Cask, casks #1335/1341)

Port Ellen 1976/1995 (43%, Dun Eideann for Auxil, France, casks #4763-64, 760 bottles)

Port Ellen 21 yo 1973/1998 'Port Ellen Maltings’ (58.4%, OB)

Port Ellen 24 yo 1982/2006 (59,4%, Chieftain's, Hogshead #1513, 300 bottles)

Strathisla 1967/2007 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMDW, cask #6112)