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

October 14, 2006


TASTING – TWO INDIE GLENLOSSIES
Glenlossie 19 yo 1978 (43%, Hart Bros) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very sweet and rather rounded at first nosing and extremely malty. Noses much younger than 19yo. Quite some apple compote, caramel, honey, and huge notes of sweet liquorice and vanilla. Faint whiffs of spearmint. Simple but pleasant. Mouth: frankly simpler now, still very malty and caramelly with also notes of orange jam (not marmalade) but it really lacks complexity. It’s just good and drinkable but it doesn’t quite deliver considering its ‘pedigree’. Yet , it’s got a rather long and compact finish but it’s just sweet and caramelly. Now, we can’t talk about a flawed whisky – at all. 78 points.
Glenlossie 16 yo 1972 (57.7%, Sestante, Italy) colour: amber. Nose: very spirity and almost aggressive, starting on quite some coffee but quick to switch to rum, overripe bananas, bananas and tangerines. Really assertive, going on with quite some vanilla fudge, liquorice allsorts, cappuccino? Gets more and more ‘noseable’ and more and more coffeeish. Nice woodiness, with also hints of spearmint, grapefruit, Chinese anise, orange juice… Really playful, I feel this one won’t need water despite the high strength. Mouth: thick, creamy, spicy and orangey attack. Lots of punch but again, that’s bearable. Beautiful notes of cloves, gingerbread, kumquats, curry, all sorts of oriental spices, rum, Corinth raisins… Heavy liquorice, chlorophyll chewing gum… Maybe hints of rubber but also all kinds of dried fruits (orange zests, ginger, coconuts, lots of papayas…) Almost extravagant, all that being topped with liquid caramel and strong honey (chestnut)… It’s so concentrated that the long finish gets a little bitter and sort of ‘over-flavourful’ if that’s possible. Extravagantly rich! 88 points.
  MUSIC - Recommended listening - okay, the start is slightly odd, the use of the rythm box is... well... slightly odd, the voices are sometimes slightly out of tune, but the result is quite charming: Shyam Vai, Sai Mann and Subhadra Vaidhyanathan sing O Mere HumSafar (mp3 - I guess it's in Urdu but not sure). Alas, I don't think this has been released.
  

October 13, 2006


TASTING - TWO NEW OFFICIAL ABERLOURS
Aberlour 25 yo 1980 (51.1%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, cask #12293, 255 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: a rather expressive start on vanilla, oak and wild flowers, with hints of honey and pollen. Quite close to an old Balvenie in style, except that it’s also a little more perfumy (subtle touches of musk and sandalwood). It gets fruitier with time, with quite some oranges and very ripe bananas, lots of melon, Mirabelle plums…
The oak gets more present after a while, with a slight greenness (grape skin) that prevents the whole from being too syrupy. A very pleasant nose that reminds me of the bourbon Aberlours you can taste – and fill your own bottle with – at the distillery. Classy. Mouth: sweet and very creamy mouth feel but this one doesn’t lack vivacity. Silky tannins, white pepper, vanilla… Gets rounder and very fruity after a short moment, developing on bananas again, mirabelle eau-de-vie, quince jelly… It gets then more peppery and slightly greenish/bitterish but no big deal at all. Quite caramelly as well (also praline). Very good. Finish: long, bold, lingering, mostly on bananas flambéed, toasted cake and dark caramel… The mouth wasn’t as complex as the nose suggested but the whole is extremely good single malt and an interesting old unsherried Aberlour. 88 points.
Aberlour 30 yo 1975/2006 (48.9%, OB for LMDW France, cask #4577) Colour: straw (paler than the 25yo). Nose: oh, I’m sorry but this one is even more Balvenie-ish, starting on mega-bold notes of green bananas and breakfast honey as well as green plums. Lots of coconut as well, papayas, “beurrée” pears, peaches, melons again… Extremely expressive, with also nice notes of liquorice all-sorts, tea, chamomile, keeping developing on apricot jam and notes of sweet white wine from the Southwest of France (manseng grapes). Rather superb, I’d say. Mouth: a superb start, even fruitier than the 25 yo and certainly more complex, although the oakiness is quite impressive now. Green bananas again, sugared green tea, vanilla-flavoured tea, quite some nutmeg, pear cordial, something funnily bubblegummy… An amazing sweetness. It gets spicier after that, the tannins giving the whole a great structure just like with some white wines (Burgundy). A little cinnamon, vanilla peaches, hints of Szechuan pepper, cappuccino… And always lots of bananas. Rather long finish, still sweet and fruity, with that very pleasant toastiness and lots of caramel as a signature. 90 points.
 
 

WHISKYFUN'S HALL OF FRIENDS INTERVIEW

- JEAN-MARIE PUTZ -

Hi, Jean-Marie, where do you live and what’s special there?
I have been living in The Hague, Holland for the last 21 years. For years, I thought the only special thing about the town where I’m living was the fact it was near the sea… So I’ve had kind of a holiday sensation since years now. I was born in the Belgian Ardens, and as a boy, I always dreamed of flat countryside, as cycling is much easier in these conditions…
And a few years ago, I discovered a very nice whisky shop round the corner. This makes the town very special. And very expensive too…

Who or what made you discover whisky?
Well, whisky was not very difficult to discover… Supermarkets are full of that stuff, and the sensation it gives is quite pleasant. At least when you are 18 or so. It facilitates contacts, or at least, you are not afraid to talk to girls… And the good thing about it, is that you forget about what you said quite quickly. Good thing, because I was not always so smart…
The discovery of single malt happened years and years later. At times you do not need this stuff anymore to speak with unknown people… I was 46 when I first went back to Scotland (after 25 years), and it happened during a visit to the most famous whisky distillery in Scotland, Glenfiddich. It is not my favourite whisky… But it was my first contact with the “real world”… And I just discovered there were more kinds of whisky than the ones I was drinking when I was 20… And back home, I discovered this shop round the corner… What else do you need to become a whisky fan?
Why do you like whisky?
Great question. Probably because it gives me lots of pleasure. Because it remains an unbelievable magical mystery. How can something made from grain and water get so much different flavours? How is it possible to find such a rich palette of smells and tastes in a glass? And how is it possible to find such a lot of differences between different distilleries, as they basically use the same production equipments and processes? This makes it so amazing. And again, if I did not get happy while drinking a glass of whisky (which I can smell for hours before drinking…) I guess I would never drink whisky… There are so many things I do not drink… May be I should try tequila or vodka?
Do you have a favourite distillery?
In fact I am completely unable to answer this question. I consider a lot of distilleries as potentially the bests (like everybody, most of the Islay distilleries, with however some preference for Ardbeg and old versions of Bunnahabhain). I like some Lowlands distilleries, or should I say distillers? I admire the work done by Raymond Armstrong at Bladnoch, but I also appreciate the malts from that distillery… Malts were produced long before Raymond took the distillery over… Northern Highlands distilleries like Old Pulteney, Brora or Clynelish, Speyside distilleries like Dailuaine or Caperdonich, Cragganmore and Linkwood… And many, many others. There are some of them which I guess will be great in a few years, like Arran or Speyside.
But if you ask me what is my favourite distillery, I guess I would not be in state to give you a proper answer. I could add Port Ellen, St Magdalene, Laphroaig, and probably 85 others to the list.
I hate Glenturret. Not so much because I do not really appreciate their whisky (or at least the few I could drink), but I hate it for the same reason I hate Disneyland… In fact it is kind of Disneyland, but it’s the oldest distillery in Scotland now, since another of my favourites burned down… Littlemill. Did I say I appreciate Glen Scotia?
What’s your favourite expression?
I was really impressed by a Bunnahabhain by Duncan Taylor and a St Magdalene by Gordon & MacPhail. The Bunnahabhain is a 38 years old in their “Rare Auld” collection. A sherry cask distilled in 1967. A cask strength whisky with 40.8% of alcohol. The St Magdalene was produced in 1975, and I guess it is the nicest Lowlands I ever tried.
There are many others, like the Ardberg 1977, but it is sometimes rather difficult to make selections amongst things you love..
What’s your best – or most vivid – memory regarding whisky?
I guess one of my greatest memories regarding whisky is the first bottling for my forum. “The first for us”, a great old fashioned Glen Garioch. I did not expect it, and I’m really very happy to know 250 bottles are appreciated world wide, with the logo of the forum I founded on the labels…
Oh yes, what a great dram! Is there any other specific bottling you’re looking for?
Here again, there are so many nice things… But no, I’m not looking for a specific bottling I cannot find…
Are you a member of a whisky club and which one?
I’m not a member of any whisky club. I spend already enough time in whisky with my own tastings, the maintenance of the site (whisky-distilleries.info) and the discussions in the forum. But it is maybe a good idea to become a member of some club some day…
Imagine you had a magic wand, what would you change in the whisky world?
The whisky world does not really need a magic wand to be changed, I guess. But I’m afraid about the future of this world, as I guess it will be more and more difficult to find nice things for a reasonable price in the future. So, a magic wand… I’d make Scotland larger, so that more barley can grow locally, and I’d make the whether better in the summer, above the fields, without changing anything just round the distilleries, which need colder temperatures… Can a magic wand do all that for me? And if any power is left after this operation, I’d like to find cheaper good whiskies… And why not make my house bigger. And… and… and…
Finally, I like the whisky world like it is too….
Have you been to Scotland? What’s your favourite place there?
I’ve been several times to Scotland. I guess I can give the same answer as about the distilleries. There are so many nice places over there. My favourite place is…. Scotland.
Do you also, like us at Whiskyfun, like music? Which kind?
Oh yes, I like music. My favourite song is since about 40 years now “Pick a bale of Cotton” by Leadbelly and the Golden Gate Quartet. I was 12 when I first heard it, and this was my gateway to both blues and African music. Jazz came a few months later. In the meanwhile, I extended my tastes to authentic world music. Not only African traditional music, but also Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Javanese, etc….
Maybe you will not believe me, but I do not like Celtic music, nor bagpipes…, even if I’d be very happy to blow in a bagpipe round midnight in my garden, after having drunk the best whiskies of my collection… But this is just a fantasy….
Do you have other hobbies?
I used to like photography. I even built a new lab in my house 2 years ago, but whisky, the site and the forum took me so much time, I did not yet enter my new dark room….
Is there another ‘liquid’ you like, apart from whisky? What’s your favourite expression of it?
As a genuine Belgian, I appreciate beer… My favourite is a trappist called Orval.
Anything to add?
Did I tell you I love whisky?
Are you kidding, Jean-Marie? Anyway, thanks for all your answers and keep on the good work with whisky-distilleries!

 

MUSIC - Recommended listening - some of our distinguished readers and listeners liked Beth Anderson's works so let's go a little further now, with the great surrealist poet Gherasim Luca recitating Passionnément.mp3 (aired on Radio France in 2005, probably recorded in the 80's). Isn't this totally beautiful - even if you don't understand French?

  

October 12, 2006


TASTING - TWO OLD SPRINGBANKS
Springbank 20 yo 1967 (46%, OB for Prestonfield, sherry wood, casks #3131-3136) Colour: amber. Nose: a little discreet at very first nosing, getting quickly boldly dry and coffeeish but also nicely jammy (cooked strawberries). Lots of Corinth raisins, notes of rum, smoke, barbecue, fireplace… Gravy and dried oranges, cocoa… Certainly less exuberantly fruity than other old Springbanks, surprisingly ashy (matchsticks) and meaty.
Notes of ham. Certainly beautiful but maybe not grand, lacking a little expressivity although it does keep developing even after a long time, getting fruitier (apricots) and then very vegetal (lots of lovage and parsley). Definitely not a classical Springbank. Mouth: much creamier, much more ‘Springbank’ now, with quite some coconut, fruitcake, a little salt, candy sugar… What’s more, it’s bold whisky, very invading now. Goes on with all sorts of crystallized fruits (mostly citrus, especially grapefruit), a little rancio, concentrated wine sauce… Gets nicely bitter (old walnuts, fino), salty buttered caramel, coffee flavoured fudge, liquorice stick… Now it gets really grand, with superb resinous notes, bergamot, quince jelly, funny hints of smoked fish, kippers… Better and better indeed. The finish is very long, thick, coating but perfectly balanced, on ‘smoked and salted small bitter oranges’. Ah, if only that could exist! 94 points.
Springbank 36 yo 1970/2006 (53,1%, Signatory, Sherry butt #1629, 461 bottles) Colour: amber with reddish hues. Nose: this one’s much fruitier, more expressive but maybe also a little less elegant at first nosing. Lots of canned pineapples and candied oranges with also quite some smoke, milk chocolate, notes of wine sauce, cooked strawberries, sweet and sour dishes (Chinese cooking). Slight rubberiness. Grows farmier after a moment, on wet straw, ‘clean’ manure, dead leaves bonfire… Rather wild despite its old age, getting better and better with time. The start wasn’t fab I think but it’s getting really fantastic after a good ten minutes, very animal in fact (horse sweat, wet dog). I like that! You just have to give it a little time (was the same with the Prestonfield)… Mouth: powerful, slightly cardboardy at very first sip but that just goes away then. Fruity, candied, slightly bitter and sour, with kind of a metallic taste for a moment but that does also vanish after a few seconds, leaving room for bitter oranges, ginger tonic and various spirits such as kirsch or plums eau-de-vie. A slight roughness, let’s try it with a little water (and while the nose got nicely herbal): no, I’m sorry, that doesn’t work, it got a little flat and really cardboardy. This Springbank isn’t a swimmer, it seems. So, back to the ‘naked’ version (much better!) with a long and powerful finish, still a bit rougher than expected and very ‘kirschy’ but satisfying and nicely compact, with the tannins getting very obvious now, but not drying. In short, a very good, restless and rather rough old Springbank that ‘looks’ much younger than 36yo. The nose was really nicer than the palate, I think. 89 points.
 
 

MALT MANIACS INFORMATION

LADYBURN DISTILLERY PROFILE by Robert Karlsson

 

Operational: 1966-1975
Region: Western Lowlands
Address: Grangestone Industrial Estate, Girvan, South Ayrshire, KA26 9PT
Owner: William Grant & Sons Ltd.

Another Lowlander allowed only a short time on the air. Just as was the case with several other distilleries in the lowlands during this time it was active only for a few (nine) years and little remains of the stocks today.
History tells that during the sixties many distilleries in the lowlands were disappearing due to excess production and an inadequate demand. In order to tackle this problem many grain distillery complexes attempted to instead move the malt distilleries into their ”factories”. So did also Girvan in this case. The distillery of Ladyburn was built in 1966, three years after the Girvan complex was opened in 1963. It was built close to the lake Penwhapple Loch which also acts as water supplier to the production, apart from being just that, a lake. The distillery had two wash stills and two spirit stills, now removed and whereabouts unknown.
Presumably the general idea was for these malt distilleries to produce the malt part of the blends that the grain distilleries were mainly responsible for producing. In this case mainly the Grant’s blend, not too unheard of according to some. In this and most (all?) other cases this strategy failed miserably, not so unlikely due to the fact that the area was swimming in whisky from the earlier over production.
So Ladyburn went the same way as Kinclaith, Inverleven, Ben Wyvis and Glen Flagler. And that way was down. A pity as these guys made great stuff, although it’s perhaps a bit easy to say that now when everything that remains have been in casks for quite a while and has thus in most cases lost their distillery character.
The Girvan complex is still producing grain whisky today for the companys blends and even Ladyburn is active again. Although it has now been converted into making something much more vile and evil than malt whisky. Namely vodka. Ladyburn supplies Richard Branson with vodka for his ”Virgin” brand these days in some form of joint venture.
Bottlings from Ladyburn are perhaps needless to say rare and seldom found although a few bottlings surface from time to time. A few independents have also bottled Ladyburn under the name Ayrshire, among them Gordon & Macphail and Duncan Taylor. Also Wilson Morgan has not too long ago bottled a cask from Ladyburn. There was also a distillery bottling vintage 1973 available a few years ago although quite steeply priced. A malt definitely in my taste although not everyone would agree. Rumours claim there still exists a number of casks at the distillery earmarked for future bottling. Let us all join together in a silent prayer that the rumour has truth in it.
The Girvan grain distillery is also found as a single grain bottling under it’s own name but is also very commonly available under the name of Black Barrel. - Robert
MUSIC - Recommended listening - a little avant-garde music from time to time can't do no harm so today let's have American composer Beth Anderson doing her Country time.mp3 or Ocean motion mildew mind.mp3 (from Peachy Keen-O). Reminds me of Pierre Henry's work with Spooky Tooth in a certain way... Please buy her music! (via UbuWeb)
  

October 11, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Dave Broom

SPARKLEHORSE
Old Market, Brighton
October 9 2006

“The owls have been talking to me”. I think, Serge, that you’ll agree it is an arresting line. It was, I reckon, the one which first made me aware of the work of Mark Linkous aka Sparklehorse. Actually the ‘horse are a band but since he changes the lineup every few months let’s just accept the fact that it’s him.


Mark Linkous, second from the right
He’s been quiet of late.. five years between the last album [‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ .. ahh the irony of that title] to the new, rather gorgeous, ‘Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain’ .. just the odd appearance on a compilation (I recommend his heavily treated version of Johnny Cash’s ‘Dark as a Dungeon’) but he’s back in Brighton once more.
This is the third time I’ve headed along the beach to see him. The first was not long after his accident. You haven’t heard of the accident? He collapsed having self-medicated (let’s just draw the veil over what and how) and fell back, unconscious, with his legs trapped beneath him. This meant he was wheelchair bound for a long time, but he didn’t stop performing. After all, there was the first album to promote [that’s ‘vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot’] so he took to stage in wheelchair, complete with guitar fx pedals and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s on optic. The support I seem to recall was provided by the late lamented Neutral Milk Hotel [but we’ll do them some other time, shall we?]
The last time was about three years back on a humid summer night. He turned up with two other musicians, no record to promote, about three new songs and whispered his way through a quiet yet suitably warped set. The Welshman and I fell over him on our way out of the gig, slumped against the back wall sipping a bourbon.
And now? Well as you might be able to tell from that, you’re never quite sure what you’ll be getting with Mr Linkous. The rumour is however that he’s happy. According to Mrs Broom if this is indeed the case then I won’t like him any more, but the Welshman, Shaggy and I take the chance anyway.

Sparklehorse, 'Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain'
There is a support act whose name has escaped me even less than 12 hours after the event. Something to do with crayons is all I recall. The highlight of his set is a xylophone solo. Some people cheer. We get another beer. Sparklehorse take the stage. Drummer / pump organ player (not an easy task that), pedal steel, keyboards / guitar / vocals, bass and Mr Linkous nattily attired in a black suit and waistcoat and Aviator shades. The bass player is also in black and the keyboard player in a shiny dark mod suit. The drummer however rather lets the side down by wearing a white t-shirt, though I suspect a suit is somewhat restrictive when playing a drumkit. I can’t see the pedal steel player as he is at the back and obscured by the 6’ plus Linkous who smiles, shyly, says hello and gets cracking.
The rumours appear to be correct. It’s never easy to decipher his lyrics .. there were always a lot of spirits, birds, insects, animals flying around [horses still appear regularly .. and he’s got something about their teeth] but also ditches and (a)basements; now though there are frequent references to the sun. He appears to be enjoying himself. The music? Well where do we start. Think of Jim White’s skewed take on country/blues, stir in Neil Young [both pastoral and experimental], some gorgeous pop riffs, a nod to Jesus & Mary Chain, a touch of Tom Waits, some hints of the Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev (though he was an influence on both of their recent music rather than the other way round) .. and you might get an indication. Even in his thrashiest moments you can tell he has a way with a melody.
The set mixes all the new material with plunderings from the first three albums (vivadixie features heavily) so it is loud and heavy, then suddenly quietly introspective, vocals often barked through a distorting mike. He rounds it off.. as usual .. with ‘Homecoming Queen’ with the audience singing the chorus. “Weird, but deliciously so” is Shaggy’s take on it and for a man who makes parsnip beer that’s pretty much on the button. Welcome back Mr Linkous, glad that you’re happy. - Dave Broom
Many thanks Dave, lots of interesting stuff happening in Brighton (UK) it seems. But let's have a little music by Sparklehorse right away, with Cow.mp3 - that was on Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot indeed (how Web-compatible is that?)
 
TASTING - TWO OFFICIAL 1992 BALBLAIRS
Balblair 13 yo 1992/2006 (46%, OB for LMDW France, three bourbon casks, 884 bottles) Bottled in September. Colour: white wine. Nose: a very buttery and vegetal start, on newly cut grass, paraffin and almond milk. Also notes of ginger tonic, walnut skin, getting slightly cardboardy and maybe a little rancid (old butter or milk). Goes on with notes of beer and a little soap. Rather clean (good one, eh?) and fresh but little development. Not the nicest Balblair ever…
Mouth: starts rather malty, oaky and slightly sourish (green apples, cider), with also quite some vanilla and plain sugared apple juice. Add to that a little liquorice, apple skins, lemon zest and caramel and you’ve got the picture. Finish: medium long, caramelly and cardboardish. Again, it isn’t too bad of course but it’s not the best and it’s rather uninteresting I think. 76 points.
Balblair 12 yo 1992/2005 (58.8%, OB, ‘Single Peaty Cask’ #2932) A slightly bizarre labelling as it’s from an ex-bourbon cask but that had contained heavily peated Islay malt just before (Balvenie 17yo Islay Cask anyone?) Colour: pale straw. Nose: rather powerful but also bourbonny, with quite some lactones, vanilla, oak and again a slight cardboardiness. Notes of coffee like often with these young high-strength malts. Green barley, soy beans… No peat that I can smell. With a little water: we have a huge soapiness now but that happens when you just added water (saponification). Let’s wait for a few minutes… Right, we do get the peat now, as well as a rather huge farminess, both vegetal and animal (wet straw, cow stable). Settles down after a while but it’s still a little soapy and papery. Mouth (neat): spirity and varnishy, slightly bitter, with indeed quite some peat coming through. But it’s really rough so quick, let’s add water! Oh, that’s funny, the peat almost vanished this time, leaving room for bold notes of apple juice and vanilla crème plus quite some spices (white pepper, soft paprika). It gets also woodier. Finish: rather long, nicely peppery, waxy and slightly bitterish (leaves, green tea). Not an easy malt, this one. Not hugely good but interesting this time. 83 points.
 
  

October 10, 2006


TASTING - TWO BEAUTIFUL LONGMORNS
Longmorn-Glenlivet 10 yo (43%, OB for Claretta di V. Rosignano , ‘Straight Malt’, bottled 1967) Amusingly labelled as ‘straight malt’. Colour: white wine. Nose: typical old bottle effect at first nosing, with a mixture of passion fruit, tea and something slightly metallic. Sounds horrible but it’s not! Goes on with something both mineral and waxy, not unlike with the old Clynelishes, and develops on superb notes of pink grapefruit, rubbed orange skin and lemon juice.
Then we have fresh herbs (chives, mint)… Extremely fresh and playful despite the fact that it spent forty years in glass. Most enjoyable sharpness and austerity – whiffs of coal smoke after a moment, also garden bonfire. Mouth: again lots of wax and grapefruit, with something enjoyably bitter. Goes on with tea but also lemon juice again, quite some salt, salted butter caramel. Notes of marzipan and marron glacé, smoked tea, dried parsley… Very good, getting even saltier after a while, especially at the finish that’s not too long but rather bold and curiously maritime and citrusy, with also lots of peat now. Excellent old young Longmorn! 90 points (and thanks Michel).
Longmorn 1972/2006 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, cask #1088, 607 bottles) Colour; dark amber. Nose: much more sherried of course but the general profile isn’t too different. Strikingly great balance, with lots of fresh fruits, dried fruits and pastries plus a little smoke. Apricots, very ripe mangos, dried oranges, all sorts of raisins, mocha, lots of chocolate, crystallized angelica… Gets also nicely flowery (peonies, violets) and gingery, with a little cinchona (Schweppes). Hints of game. Again, what’s really beautiful here is the balance. Mouth: starts exactly like the old 10 yo plus the sherry influence, which is perfect here. Again a beautiful balance between the sharpness/minerality and the richness brought by sherry full-ageing. Lots of kirsch and guignolet (cherry liqueur), crystallized lemon, pink grapefruit, bitter almonds, Turkish delights, oriental pastries (baklava)… And then we have that huge saltiness, just like in the old 10 yo as well as notes of (high-end) sangria, old burgundy, salted liquorice… Yet, it stays very elegant and never cloying – brilliant! Finish: rather long, still very salty and jammy, also on orange liqueur, getting just slightly drying… Almost perfect! 92 points.
 
 

MALT MANIACS INFORMATION

   

E-PISTLE
SO YOU WANT TO START A WHISKY CLUB?
by Lawrence Graham (Canada)

So you want to start a whisky appreciation club? Good for you, it can be very rewarding and you’ll meet a lot of very interesting people along the way. Here are some suggestions.

Recruiting Fellow Members & Where to Meet
Sometimes it may seem that you’re the only person in your area that has a passion for whisky, this is unlikely. Most liquor store that sell premium whiskies will know their customer base and will put you in touch with like minded people. They’re out there and they can be found, use your local knowledge and imagination. Hold the first meeting in members’ home, the cost is very reasonable!
The Number of Whiskies to Taste per Session
Depending on the group and the length of the meeting you might want to start with two to three whiskies per meeting. Its general practice to start nosing & tasting the lighter whiskies at the beginning of the session and to finish with the heavier whiskies at the end of the evening. For a great description of how to nose and taste whisky please visit Whisky Magazine
Glassware
There is a myriad of glass ware on the market but I suggest that in the beginning you look for a simple & inexpensive but functional glass and the best for small groups is a small brandy snifter, about 10 cm or 4 inches tall. They are quite suitable for nosing and tasting whisky and you can easily cup the glass for hand warming and the curved sides help concentrate aromas. On this side of the Atlantic this style of glass can be found in many second hand & charity stores which have any kitchen related inventory. I presume there are such stores in most urban centers. These little brandy snifters usually sell for about .25 cents, saving valuable funds for whisky purchases. As your experience with whisky grows you can look towards purchasing blenders nosing & tasting glasses or Glencairn glasses.
When cleaning whatever glassware you choose remember to hand wash them with a gentle dish soap rinsing very well to eliminate any residual soap. Avoid cleaning your glassware in a dishwasher as dishwashers tend to leave a soap reside which will negatively impact the next whisky.
Tasting Sheets
If you want to use tasting sheets to write down your impressions and to score your whiskies you can make them up making note of nose, palate and finish with some space for comments. Some people add in legs and color and over all balance, it’s up to you. If you would like some sample score sheets please email me and I’ll be happy to send them to you in Word format, you can adjust them as you see fit.
(Editor's note: you may also download Serge's tasting sheet, PDF)
Water
To add water or to not add water? This can be quite contentious issue for some odd reason. However you might want to take a clue from distillers, they add water when assessing a whisky. With experience you will be able to determine which whiskies are suitable for the addition of water. As a general rule and in particular in the case of scotch whiskies, those whiskies that are matured in new oak or ex-bourbon casks tend to be able to accept more water than those matured or ‘finished’ in ex wine casks such as sherry, port or table wines. It is also advisable to have a glass of still water per person to clean the palate in between drams. Still water is generally the best, avoid sparkling water, it just doesn’t work when making an assessment of a whisky. Ice? Don’t. It’s a disaster.
Banking & Dues
Don’t go over board, in the beginning a simple system is the best and you may find you don’t actually need a bank account, one trusted person can keep a small cash on hand fund with a simple list of dues paid and expenditures. In my Club we have a general prohibition on discussing Club finances at our meetings; we are focused on the whiskies being presented. Our finances are not secret however they are certainly boring and thus open to all; they can be discussed via email if required. We collect dues once a year but since you are just starting out you may opt for a shorter period, perhaps once every three months. As an aside, I had a friend who was very much consumed by bourbon and tried to start a club based on his passion, however he just couldn’t get past the feeling that he absolutely needed a bank account and was very much stuck on that point. I suggested an envelope to keep the money in, a suggestion that he rejected out of hand. He never did open that bank account or start a club. Kind of missed the point, didn’t he? Pity.
Newsletters & Communication of Meeting Dates
Once again the key to success is to keep it simple and if possible communicate by email; this reduces the cost of communication as compared to letters and stamps and is very speedy. Again email communication is economical and leaves more money for whisky purchases. This is important.
Left over whisky
Whatever you do with the remainders or ‘heels’ of the bottles be fair, either distribute them amongst the members or auction them off to the highest bidders, the resulting funds can be used for buying……you guessed it, more and better whisky. Another options is to save them and have a nosing party at the end of each year, we pair this event with a meal, and it works out very well.
Perfume, Hand Creams & Aftershave
These and other such products should be eradicated at all costs, the attendees need to be educated about the negative effect these products have on the sense of smell. Whisky is generally a product that is quite delicate and since most people tend to marinate themselves with copious amounts of pollutants they will spoil the event for all. Hand creams are particularly odious and they can cling to the glass, there’s no proper nosing happening with such a polluted glass. Ugh!
Food
It is not a good idea to serve food when making an initial assessment of a whisky, if you feel it will add some benefit to the evening then wait until the nosing & tasting is complete. Pairing whisky and food in a social setting is another aspect altogether and can be quite enjoyable. I frequently enjoy whisky with my meals.
Sharing the Work Load
Don’t try and do everything yourself, try and share the work load among your fellow members, if you don’t you’ll burn out and leave. This would be a shame, no?
Women
Yes, they live on this planet also and they really like whisky, so why not include them too? A roomful of grunting silent males is simply not that amusing and quite frankly the female of our species has a much better sense of smell and is much more adept at turning what she smells into words. Since most whisky appreciation groups are more than mere ‘drinking’ clubs the ability to turn what you smell and taste into words is of high value.
Friends & Family who Travel
If you are having a difficult time sourcing whiskies locally then you can always turn to friends and family who travel, you’d be surprised how often they can help you acquire a hard to find bottle. Ideally these people should not have a taste for whisky otherwise they’ll be shopping for themselves, the selfish bas…….
Drinking & Driving
Don’t do it. Show some leadership and ensure that all participants have a safe way home, set a proper example. The down side of such irresponsible behavior is generally irreversible and ruins lives.
If there is a single theme that I’ve tried to communicate is to keep it simple in the beginning and stay focused on the whisky and the people, the rest will fall into place as your group gains experience. Have fun and…….Slainte! - Lawrence

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: an always very interesting band, the Liars, are doing A visit from drum.mp3 (from their 2006 album Drum's not dead). The trio has really something to say! Please buy their music if you like it...

  

October 9, 2006


TASTING – TWO OLD CLYNELISHES
Clynelish 30 yo 1972/2002 (46%, Celtic Legend, Cask #2254) Colour: amber. Nose: a rather fresh and maritime start, with the trademark waxiness shining through right at very first nosing. We have also something nicely papery (old books) and interesting hints of metal and high-end tea like in some very old bottles. It gets then finely resinous and minty (fir honey, spearmint), with quite some elegant sherry notes as well (lots of chocolate and raisins) as lots of honey now. Finally a few fruits but not as many as usual: mostly small oranges and apples, with also a faint smokiness. I really love these unusual notes of ‘old bottle’ rather than ‘old cask’. Ancient style!
Mouth: an extremely sweet attack, with much more sherry now. Quite vinous in fact, with a distinct sourness like in some old wines plus a little rubber. Huge notes of concentrated sweet wine (cooked), sultanas, prunes, orange marmalade and strawberry jam, the whole sort of overwhelming Clynelish’s character – and God knows Clynelish isn’t shy whisky. Notes of buttered caramel and whisky flavoured fudge like they sell at most touristy distilleries (grandpa buys whisky and granny buys fudge, eh). It’s only at the relatively long finish that it all calms down, with less vinosity and more sultanas and caramel. Well, the nose was just perfect but the palate was a little too ‘influenced’ for my tastes. But it’s still a great old Clynelish! 87 points.
Clynelish 1973/2006 (54.3%, The Prestonfield for LMDW France, sherry butt #8912, 405 bottles) An expression many have been raving about since WhiskyLive Paris. Colour: white wine. Nose: much more expressive, much fruitier but also much peatier (although a little less peaty than when I first nosed it and immediately though it was Brora). Starts developing on huge notes of beeswax, honey and pollen, it’s really like when you open a beehive (with appropriate protection of course). Then we have earl grey tea, pine resin, cough syrup, hints of fresh mastic… And then the much anticipated fruits, fresh oranges, guavas and papayas, quince, ripe bananas – then it makes kind of a U-turn towards old books, leather, tobacco and resins, with a beautiful peaty signature plus a little ginger, ginger ale and white pepper. Just beautiful, with a more than perfect balance and lots to say. Mouth: oh yes, here’s the peat I got last time, together with this beautiful, waxy and honeyed fruitiness peculiar to Clynelish. Lots of citrons, lemons, quinces and peat, with a superb smokiness plus quite some paraffin, mastic flavoured sweets, small bitter oranges, gentian spirit, quince jelly, a little nutmeg and black pepper… The peat first lingers in the background but really comes to the front after a while, with an obvious ‘Broraness’. Damn, this is so f******* good (please excuse my coarseness but it’s hard not to lose your self-control when in front of such a great whisky). Okay, the rest will be censored then… 95 points.
 

 

MALT MANIACS NEWSFLASH

It is on this very day that our fellow Taiwanese MM Ho-cheng Yao will become a Keeper of the Quaich (nicknamed Keepers of the Cake in maniacal circles). Congrats, Ho-cheng, Uisgebeatha Gu Brath!

 

MUSIC - Recommended listening - Oldies but goldies, we're in the 60's and Margo Guryan sings Under my umbrella.mp3. After Astrud Gilberto and Claudine Longet's returns (I mean, on the Web), it seems the old naive sound prevails again! Please buy Margo Guryan's music...

  

October 8, 2006


TASTING - TWO BEN NEVIS
Ben Nevis 1992/2005 (46%, OB for LMDW France, cask #2614, 632 bottes) Colour: amber. Nose: starts very Ben Nevis, on lots of coffee and chocolate plus something typically sweet (rose jelly, Turkish delights). Goes on with whiffs of freshly crushed mint leaves, kelp, earl grey tea and keeps developing on strong, wet pipe tobacco and prunes. Hints of smoke as well. Very expressive and sort of jammy, with also faint notes of fresh wild mushrooms (boletus). Really playful even if a little ‘thick’ on the nose.
Mouth: probably a little less coherent and bold, slightly disjointed at the attack. Very malty and fruity (lots of slightly overripe fruits such as strawberries and apples but also lychees). Gets then very toffeeish and coffeeish again, as well as hugely liquoricy (triple salted liquorice that is – I’m now an expert, thanks to fellow Dutch maniac Michel). Improves with time, getting compacter. Finish: long and satisfying, on even more salty liquorice as well as bitter chocolate and armagnac-soaked prunes. In short, it’s very good, just the attack on the palate was a bit so-so I think. For lovers of thick and jammy whiskies. 86 points.
Ben Nevis 1990/2006 (58.3%, Taste Still Selection, bourbon cask #2712, 313 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: more austere and quiet at first nosing (maybe the high level) but also more elegant. Again, we have the usual coffee and fruit jams but it gets then more resinous and herbal, in a rather beautiful way. Notes of mastic, eucalyptus, fern, moss, pine resin, developing on marzipan and something slightly maritime (seashells and kelp). Gets then quite waxy, also on fresh walnuts and smoked tea, with a rather obvious oakiness (quite some cellulose varnish). Close to the OB in style but again, rather more elegant and refined. Amazingly, it doesn’t need any water. Mouth: punchy and extremely coherent with the nose. Starts hugely waxy and almondy (marzipan), with lots of tannins but silky and integrated ones. Gets then resinous again, with also lots of vanilla… Now, even if the attack was rather smooth you’ll need to add water or it’ll start to (slightly) burn your throat. Right, now we have lots of fresh strawberries coming through, cough syrup, orange marmalade, with a slight smokiness and always these nice tannins… Finish: rather long, probably more austere again but always on lots of wax and marzipan. Very good and interesting, less coffeeish than many OB’s. 89 points.

 

MUSIC - Recommended listening - It's Sunday, we go classical with Pierre Laniau playing Erik Satie's Je te veux.mp3 (I want you) on the guitar in 1982... (from vinyl and via UbuWeb)

  

October 7, 2006


 

MALT MANIACS INFORMATION

TAMNAVULIN DISTILLERY PROFILE by Lawrence Graham

Operational: 1966
Mothballed: in 1995
Region: Speyside (Livet)
Operational Owner: Tamnavulin-Glenlivet Distillery Company Limited
Current Owner: Whyte & MacKay Ltd
Address: Tomnavulin, Ballindal-loch, Morayshire, AB37 9JA

If you turn to your Barnard and eagerly look up Tamnavulin Distillery, you’ll be disappointed not to find an entry and this is explained by the fact that the distillery was built in 1965/6 long after Barnard had toured the distilleries of Scotland in the late 1880’s. The name means Mill on the Hill and the Gaelic version is “Tom a’Mhulinn”.
The water source is two fold; underground springs at Easterhorn in the local hills for production providing soft water and cooling water from the nearby river Livet. (1) Tamnavulin is the only distillery to be situated close to the river Livet. Speyside distilleries generally source their water from the contorted and folded Dalradian rocks and granites of Ben Rinnes and Glenlivet. Dalradian rocks include the Grampian group made up of Psammite (impure quartzite) and Quartzite and the Appin group made up of Limestone, Quartzite and Schists & phyllites. (2)
Tamnavulin Distillery is situated close by the Tomintoul and Braeval Distilleries and the more famous Glenlivet Distillery and shares the famous Glenlivet prefix. The distillery was built between 1965 and 1966 and a short 30 years later was mothballed by the owners, Whyte & MacKay Ltd. Tamnavulin-Glenlivet Distillery was originally built by Invergordon Distillers Ltd using the same contractors, Logicon, as had built Tomintoul Distillery. (3)
The distillery was originally equipped with three wash stills and three spirit stills both fitted with normal necks. The wash stills have a capacity of 75,500 liters and the spirit stills have a capacity of 69,600 liters. The peaked canopy full-lauter mash tun is manufactured of stainless steel with a capacity of 10.52 tonnes of grist and there are eight stainless steel washbacks that hold a total of 552,000 liters of wash. The distillery can produce up to 4,000,000 liters of whisky per year. (4)
From the start of its life Tamnavulin had several ‘stable mates’ including the Invergordon Grain Distillery, the Ben Wyvis Distillery (located within the Invergordon Grain Distillery complex), Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay, the Tullibardine Distillery in Blackford, Perthshire, the remnants and warehouses of the Glenfoyle Distillery at Dasherhead near Stirling, the Deanston Distillery near Doune, the fellow Speysider Glenallachie Distillery and the nearby Tomintoul Distillery.
The current owners of Tamnavulin, Whyte & Mackay Ltd also own Fettercairn Distillery, Isle of Jura Distillery and Dalmore Distillery. In 1994 Tamnavulin was sold by Invergordon the Whyte & Mackay Ltd and the in the next year, 1995, they mothballed the distillery.
Interestingly Tamnavulin did operate briefly in 2000 for a short period. To quote Gavin Smith’s article in the fourth quarter edition of the Malt Advocate Robert Fleming, the current Manager of Tomintoul speaks of his experience at Tamnavulin Distillery;
“ I’d learnt lessons from Tamnavulin,” he said. “I was there in 1994 when it was closed down. I was in charge of both Tomintoul and nearby Tamnavulin. JBB, as the company then was, took Tamnavulin out of mothballs for six weeks to make spirit in May 2000, knowing that they were selling Tomintoul and the wouldn’t have access to me and the experienced distillery staff there for much longer.
“ When we shut Tamnavulin down again,” he said, “our remit was to shut it down as though it was just for a silent season. You empty all the pipe work and the storage vessels. You have it in a state that all you need to do is connect up all the equipment and go-whether it’s closed for two weeks or two years.”
There is yet hope for Tamnavulin……… - Lawrence

(1) (4) The Scottish Whisky Distilleries by Misako Udo
(2) Whisky on the Rocks by Stephen & Julie Cribb
(3) The Scotch Whisky Industry Record by H Charles Craig

 

MUSIC – JAZZ - Recommended listening: a little Brad Mehldau can do no harm so let's have a very quiet 'but beautiful' Blame it on my youth.mp3 today... And please buy his music!

 

 

 

 

 

 

TASTING – THREE LINKWOODS

Linkwood 12 yo (70° proof, OB, white label, 1970’s) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts playful and fragrant, on ripe apples and all sorts of herbal teas (rosehip, hawthorn), kiwis, gooseberries, copper pan, violets… It gets then delicately smoky, with also notes of old newspapers (paper and ink). Goes on with a little honey and marmalade, vanilla, hints of motor oil… Lots happening, great! Mouth: very sweet, starting on lots of orange cake, ripe apples again, cereals… Something metallic as well (old bottle effect?) It’s also rather liquoricy, getting slightly bitter after a moment (walnut skins). Lots of body considering both its age and its ABV. Hints of gooseberries and white peaches with a little caramel. Really good. The finish isn’t too long (of course) but still nicely balanced between praline / nougats and walnut skin. Less complex on the palate but it’s a very good old whisky altogether. 85 points.
Linkwood 12 yo (40%, OB, castle label, 1980’s) Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely similar, just a little fruitier and less smoky. Slightly more flowery as well, with maybe a faint farminess. Just as enjoyable as its older sibling. Mouth: again, very similar at the attack, maybe just a tad more full-bodied but also a little simpler, getting a little too ‘sweetish and tea-ish’ after a moment. The finish is a little longer but again, simpler, except for a little salt at the very end. 82 points.
Linkwood 1990/2006 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, first fill sherry butt #6951, 754 bottles) Colour: dark amber – brownish. Nose: starts very sherried and quite animal, on game or lamb with mint sauce. Quite some chocolate as well, Smyrna raisins, maybe a little sulphur and rubber… Hints of cough syrup, prunes, plum sauce, onion jam… A rather tarry and organic kind of sherry I’d say, with also lots of caramel (not saying there is some of course). Mouth: the attack is slightly weak and sluggish (both 12 yo were more nervous), starting with a little marmalade, Danish pastry (cherries), roasted pecan nuts… Not bad at all but a little indefinite. Goes on with a little strawberry jam, cake, liquorice allsorts, tar again, tea… Lacks maybe a little definition. Finish: medium long, sweetish and tarry, getting a little drying and really walnutty. Not too bad but there are so many better ‘sherry monsters’ by G&M and/or LMW these days! 79 points.
  

October 6, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
PRESTON SHANNON AND THE B.B. KING ALL-STAR ORCHESTRA

B.B. King’s Blues Club, Memphis, Tennessee, September 22nd 2006
It’s true. The Mississippi Delta is shining like a National Steel guitar as we make our way north up Highway 61 to Memphis, and inexorably, Graceland.
    Simply put – if you are the sort of person that’s sad enough to have a list of “Twenty things to do before you die” then this should be in the top ten (and I don’t even care much for Elvis, but this is my second engrossing and thought provoking visit). And as it happened we arrived just after Serge and a party of his French Elvis-loving chums. Memphis itself seems to ooze music history at every street corner – and possibly the best is the home of Sam Phillips’ Memphis Recording Services, aka the still functioning (albeit after some years of dereliction) Sun Studios. A wonderfully tacky tour ends in that tiny studio where rock and roll history was made, and if you’re patient enough to wait for the other visitors to leave then a spine-tingling moment of communion with the Gods of rock and roll is guaranteed. Almost worth, as they say, the price of the ticket.
Actually after a few days in Memphis we’re museumed out. The excellent Stax Museum of American Soul Music, a new complex on the site of the original Stax Studios which fell into decay and were then demolished, after the label went bankrupt in 1975. It tells the story of the rise and fall of this most influential of labels, which “was more than just a label, it was a culture”, and which was both in terms of artistes and management (at least until the assassination of Dr King in 1968) one of the most successfully integrated companies in the country – as Steve Cropper is quoted as saying – “no colour ever came through the door”. In addition to the exhibits the place hosts a community-focussed music academy and performance space. The Smithsonian-affiliated Rock and Soul Museum starts in the Delta cotton fields and tries (not always successfully) to put the development of rock and soul into a social, economic and political context – the early galleries are really very good, with some excellent recordings, but as is often the case – in fact exactly as it should be, they raise more questions than they answer. I confess we took a rain-check on the Lorraine Motel and the National Civil Rights Museum – time simply didn’t allow; and as Chef Wendell, who cooked our supper on Thursday told us “well you can go, but it’ll just make you sad, and you’ll be back here saying ‘Wendell, I need a drink’”. He’s right. I’ve been there before. But it’ll take you more than a triple Tanqueray to get over such a profound and lasting experience.
In a sense Beale Street - where the Delta Diaspora assimilated themselves into the urban milieu before in many instances travelling north (taking their music with them) - is a museum too (others would say tourist trap). In the years following the murder of Dr King the area was largely cleared and what remains is surrounded by suspiciously silent yet swanky shopping malls, sports stadiums, expensive flats and a Gibson guitar factory, mostly making ES Series semi-acoustics and also the custom BB King ‘Lucille’. Believe me it’s better than a distillery tour, they only make 40 guitars a week (some stills make tens of thousands of bottles); they have a truly ‘interactive’ shop (you can sample thousands of pounds worth of guitars for as long as you like) and you can buy things there too (I got a key ring).
Brandon Santini (Delta Highway) and Sonny Boy Williamson's grave
Anyway, if you’re from out of town Beale Street is where you head for music. It’s on the street during the day and at night in the numerous clubs and bars that line both sides. And whilst some of it sounds appalling and offers uncomfortable echoes of New Orleans’s boozy Bourbon Street (don’t go there Memphis!) some is pretty good. We strolled into the Blues Hall and fell over Delta Highway, a local four piece outfit. Well, not quite local as outstanding vocalist and harmonica player Brandon Santini moved to Memphis a few years ago along with guitarist Justin Sulek, with music on their mind. They rocked a small house, made up largely of beer-slugging conventioneers, with well chosen standards like Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Eyesight to the blind’ (did I mention that we went to see Sonny Boy too, whom we found, characteristically, with a bottle of gin by his side?) and some impressive and intelligent Santini compositions (I liked ‘Done told you once’, ‘All the water in the ocean’ and ‘Cold as ice’). Sadly (from what I could tell) we didn’t get their regular rhythm section so whilst Santini and Sulek impressed the performance as a whole was a little lame, and even with the regular guys in place their new CD Westbound Blues plods along a bit. But Santini is the real article and if you’re a blues fan the CD is well worth the $15 it cost me in the tips bucket.
Right, Preston Shannon
So on what was supposed to be the last night of this extended review tour of the Delta (thanks Serge, could we go Club Class next time?) – it turned out that it wasn’t, but that’s another story – we headed to the premier Beale Street venue, BB King’s Blues Club for fried pickles, Memphis wings, slabs of BB-Q ribs, Delta fried shrimp and grilled Cajun catfish – mmmm, that’s nice. What’s nicer is the effortlessly accomplished B.B. King All-Star Orchestra, led (I think) by trumpeter Curtis Pulliam, who are backing Beale Street’s own Preston Shannon, a guitarist cut in a mould somewhere between B.B. King and Albert King, with a strong Stax-style singing voice. He’s recorded four albums of which the latest, Be with Me Tonight, has just been released. He’s playing to a mixed crowd of locals and tourists, and appropriately it’s a crowd-pleasing Friday night rhythm and blues set, with his band punching a heavyweight rhythm. He starts with Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd’s ‘634-5789’ and runs through tunes like the Rolling Stones ‘Miss you’, ‘Never make your move too soon’, a bluesy medley of Wild Cherry’s ‘Play that funky music’ and the Commodore’s ‘Brick House’ (did I tell you this was a dancing club?), Santana’s ‘Like the ocean under the moon’, ‘Soul Man’ and ‘Purple Rain’, interspersed with some classic Memphis style guitar blues – and if he was spare with his playing (preferring to sing and play up to the audience) when he did go for big solos he certainly didn’t disappoint us – here’s a man who knows his way through a Gibson. Why at one point he even tried to eat it! And like almost everyone else he was perfectly charming to talk to between sets and happily signed all the CDs I could buy (“To Kate, welcome to Memphis”).
B.B. King All-Star Orchestra
Yes it’s a soulful place right enough. And you don’t have to scratch too hard to find the blues too. It’s an easy going place, well worth a few days of anyone’s time. Every one’s pretty friendly, it’s not too hot; why, we even had ducks strolling through our hotel foyer. About the only thing we didn’t like were the tamales, which somehow didn’t quite match up to the ones we ate in Clarksdale, they were red hot. Why I’m sure even the King himself might have liked one, spread with peanut butter and dipped in jelly. Mmmmmm. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thank you, Nick and Kate, for these three excellent reviews (New Orleans – Greenville – Memphis, what a trip!) and for the beautiful photographs! I must confess it wasn’t me who went to Graceland and put that tasteful icon (or was it an ex-voto?) that looks like yet another attempt at rebuilding the highly damaged links between my little country and the mighty good old US of A. I’d add that my top priorities, next time I fly over there, would rather include a visit to some of my favourite whisky buddies, the Plowedsters – even if they happen to gather in Las Vegas every year. Not my favourite place, to say the least, but they are great, great guys, so let’s not be over-fussy. But let’s have a little music by the Delta Highway now, to be found on their myspace page.
 
TASTING – TWO NEW GLENLIVETS
Glenlivet 16 yo 'Nàdurra' (57,2%, OB, first-fill bourbon casks, 2006) We already had a low strength version - well, 48% - that was good but quite bourbonny, here’s the full proof version. Colour: straw. Nose: starts on an interesting smokiness and hints of natural lavender plus lots of vanilla. Quite powerful but balanced. Then it switches to rather heavy notes of liquorice and aniseed as well as small cider apples and walnuts.
Keeps developing on toasted oak, nougat, a little toffee and hints of nutmeg… Also thyme and rosemary, chives, fresh coriander smoked tea… The smokiness keeps underlining the whole. A very, very nice nose, playful and very entertaining. I like it! Mouth: the attack is bold, oily and powerful but not pungent, extremely sweet and fruity with lots of ripe pineapples, bananas flambéed and a little kiwi that makes it quite playful (slight acidity). Goes on with lots of vanilla crème and all sorts of fruits liqueurs (apricot like they make in Holland, Parfait Amour, triple-sec…) with a nice oaky backbone and quite some spices coming through after a moment (green curry). Also crystallized ginger. Finish: very long, with a nice and unexpected bitterness that counterbalances the sweetness (strawberry sweets). Lots of pepper as well. This ‘new style’ woodsky has been perfectly ‘crafted’, that’s for sure. A success, much better than the first version I think. 89 points (just a little more complexity would have propelled it towards 90+ points).
Glenlivet 1975/2006 (54%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #10846) Colour: dark amber. Nose: this is a sherry version but it’s interesting that we have the same smokiness at first nosing. It’s also very rounded, sweet, creamy, developing on lots of chocolate and praline, chestnut honey, toffee… Great notes of torrefaction (coffee and smoke), mocha, very clean old rancio… The balance is very perfect, the whole being hugely compact. Gets quite minty after a while, with again whiffs of lavender flowers. Goes on with oasted peanuts, hints of church incense and cigar box… Truly flawless – classicism at its best. Mouth: it’s in keeping with the nose although it’s a little more nervous and slightly rougher. Lots of sherry, lots of raisins (sultanas but also Corinth), quite some orange marmalade and, above all, lots of fruitcake. Quite some dried pears and bananas, figs, prunes… Add to that a little old rum and armagnac plus quite some milk chocolate and dashes of black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon and you get, again, a classic sherried Speysider. The finish is long, creamy, still on dried fruits plus pepper and cloves. Very good, very…err, classic. 89 points as well.
  

October 5, 2006


TASTING – TWIN CASKS 40 yo BOWMORES
Bowmore 40 yo 1966/2006 (43.4%, Duncan Taylor, cask #3316, 151 bottles) Colour: pure gold. Nose: vibrant, expressive, a true fruit bomb starting on truckloads of passion fruits and mangos and developing on pink grapefruits. Amazingly fruity, really. It gets then a little buttery, with also touches of peat smoke, getting then frankly maritime, which is great news (it’s not only a fruit bomb). Whiffs of sea breeze, fisherman’s nest, shells…
We have a slight oakiness in the background, just to keep the whole perfectly straight. Grows even more coastal after a few minutes, with notes of kippers, canned sardines, anchovies… Maybe that comes from the Loch Indaal water that used to enter the casks when they were used to roll the barrels from the puffers to the distillery. Anyway, this cask is really a wonder, I think it’s the first time I can nose an old Bowmore that’s so greatly balanced between fruitiness and ‘coastality’ (except for the more usual lemon + oysters). Mouth: a great attack, not too oaky, not too tea-ish, not tired, not evanescent, not drying… Fab news considering this one’s age. We do have all these fruits again actually, even if it’s not as wham-bamy as on the nose, maybe a little more on oranges and tangerines rather than passion and mango. More vanilla as well, maybe a little flour and paper but also lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, the whole getting spicier and spicier with time (but again, not drying). Granted, this palate isn’t as thrilling as the nose but it’s still really excellent. No peat here, though. Finish: medium long but balanced, getting a tad drying now but nothing unusual for a 40 yo whisky. Loads of cinnamon. Rating: the nose is like 95 points, the palate like 88 or 89… Okay, let’s say 92 points for this excellent old Bowmore. No wonder it sold out in a flash.
Bowmore 40 yo 1966/2006 (43.2%, Duncan Taylor, cask #3317, 171 bottles) Colour: pure gold (slightly darker than cask #3316) Nose: extremely close but probably a little less expressive, slightly more cardboardy and vanilled. A little less of everything but we do have that great balance fruits/sea again. Superb. Mouth: it’s the other way ‘round now, this palate starts bolder and more expressive than its twin cask. More on oranges, Grand-Marnier, marmalade, vanilla sauce, quince… Much more powerful despite the slightly lower ABV. Maybe a little more peat as well and certainly more pepper, plus these very bold notes of cinnamon. The finish is longer as well, more balanced, creamier, in a nutshell: more satisfying. I feel it deserves one more point in fact, so it’s going to be 93 points. No wonder it sold just as quickly as its twin cask but maybe we can still find a few bottles on the Web…
 

 

MALT MANIACS NEWSFLASH

MM Monitor: Johannes (a.k.a. ‘his highness’) is currently cleaning up the data while Robert is studying a searchable database solution. A new, updated version should be online around December 15 whichever the solutions we find (expect probably more than 20,000 ratings altogether – hurray!)

  • Several Maniacs are now very busy tasting the MM Awards' samples, including NYC’s Peter to whom we shipped the samples via a private jet (and this is no joke). Results will be announced on December 1st and we expect to be able to hand over a few awards or medals to the winners ‘physically’.
  • Davin will take over a ‘book reviews’ section on the new Malt Maniacs website. In the meantime, I think you should check Neil Wilson and Ian Buxton’s impressive effort to bring very old whisky books back to life.
  • Viewers of Singlemalt.tv may wonder whether we could finally find the stolen bottle of Talisker that Luc hid ‘somewhere’ or not. The answer is ‘no’ because we're civilized people - but we all know Belgians have deep pockets, don’t we?

 

MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's occasional - but excellent - WF music reviewer Dave Broom who first drew our attention to Joanna Newsom who, he wrote, was 'singing in some demented child’s voice'. Well, it seems she got much better within one year, as her excellent new song Sawdust diamonds.mp3 will show us. You must buy her new album 'Ys'!

  

October 4, 2006


TASTING – TWO NEW OFFICIAL BRUICHLADDICHS
Bruichladdich 20 yo 1986/2006 'Blacker Still' (50.7%, OB, firstfill oloroso and port pipe, 2500 bottles) Again a nice story here, ‘blacker still’ referring to old, unpolished stills (hence blacker) that are supposed to make better spirit just like old pans make better soup. Funny bottle as well, ‘finished’ like a bottle of Port. Next step, using genuine wine bottles? ;-) Colour: dark amber.
Nose: lots of sherry, lots of coffee, lots of chocolate and lots of prunes right at first nosing with a nice smokiness (burning leaves and wood). Notes of kirsch, Smyrna raisins, toffee, slightly burnt cake (brownies), hints of balsamic vinegar, with also something slightly animal in the background (rabbit). Also something coastal, sea air… then pine needles. Very sherried but quite fresh and rather complex at the same time, which is always good news. Just a very, very faint soapiness. Mouth: a big, bold sherry with lots of rancio, caramel and toffee, roasted raisins, chicory… A little rubber as well and kind of a ‘nice’ sourness (wine sauce). Gets quite liquoricy and then more and more on cooked caramel (gentle bitterness). Goes on with bitter oranges, cinchona, maybe a little curry, sage, cloves (mulled wine), hints of chilli... Lots of presence on the palate, the whisky staying maybe slightly in the background and the sherry and the port playing the first parts here. Medium long finish, frankly winey and ‘cooked’ now but still in a nice way. A good version, for genuine sherry lovers. 86 points.
Bruichladdich '3D3' (46%, OB, The Norrie Campbell Tribute, 3rd Edition, bourbon) Norrie Campbell used to be the last traditional peat cutter on Islay. He probably liked the island’s products as the Laddie gang wrote ‘Lord help the angels when Norrie comes knocking on Heaven’s door!’ This 3D3 is peated at roughly 40ppm and contains the first Octomore ever, although I don’t know in which proportions. It’s also back to 46% instead of the previous 50% (Moine Mhor or 3D2). Colour: straw. Nose: a very peaty start indeed, peatier than both first editions. Yet it’s rather elegant and fresh, not hugely complex but very clean, with quite some peat smoke, a little lemon, green apples, paraffin, fresh almonds, fresh herbs (some pros could have written ‘a walk in the garden after the rain at 6am’) and just whiffs of coal smoke and dried flowers. Pretty good, it really makes me think of some young Caol Ilas. Mouth: much sweeter now, quite gentle and amiable at first sipping considering its ‘pedigree’. Grows bolder after a few seconds, getting even hot after a minute. Loads of peat of course but also a huge spiciness, with lots of pepper and even wasabi (that green kind of mustard – made out of radishes – that you eat with sushi) and chilli. Bang! Not burning but really invading, with that pepperiness that won’t leave your mouth before long. Also a nice earthiness (roots, gentian)… The finish is very, very long, extremely peaty and peppery with also a little mint… Well, I can understand why they didn’t bottle it at a higher strength, maybe it would have been a little too wild and ‘beastly’. 88 points (and now I’ll have to drink litres of water before I try another malt!).
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK
 
Jim, just a very silly little joke, you know we all love you...

 

MUSIC - Recommended listening - Holland's Anouk has such a beautiful, bluesy voice! Try for instance Who cares - acoustic version.mp3... She sounds like a saxophone! Please buy her music if it's available where you live...

  

October 3, 2006


 

 

 

 

 

TASTING – THREE NEW BLENDED MALTS

Monkey Shoulder (40%, OB, 27 casks, 2006) A blended malt containing Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. Beautiful packaging I think but will the content match it? Colour: full gold. Nose: very fresh and rather expressive at first nosing, with a rather obvious Balvenie character. Quite some honey and pollen, apricot pie and vanilla crème as well as hints of dried ginger, earl grey tea and flowers (buttercups). Hints of violets, liquorice sticks and gentian roots (rather earthy – is that Kininvie?) Rather pleasant but not really complex. Mouth: we’re closer to a blended whisky now, with something distinctly caramelly, toasted and grainy. Maybe also a little thin… Notes of cornflakes, milk chocolate, with a slight spiciness (white pepper) and notes of soft liquorice and violet sweets. The finish is medium long, nutty, caramelly and grainy, with also a little salt… The whole is certainly good but it lacks character to appeal to malt drinkers I think. But it’s flawless. 79 points.
Oak Cross (43%, Compass Box, 2006) The casks had their two ends changed with new French oak – an idea by fellow Maniac Olivier, easier and more ‘orthodox’ than adding new wood into the cask (staves or chips). The vatting contains mostly Clynelish and Teaninich plus a little Dailuaine. Colour: white wine. Nose: very clean and straightforward, with little obvious oakiness. Starts on forest notes (fern, moss and fresh mushrooms) as well as fresh fruits (freshly cut apples, pears), getting then closer to ‘natural’ barley, porridge, oat. A little vanilla, cinnamon and hints of nutmeg plus Chinese anise – or spices for mulled wine (but that’s quite discreet). Again an pleasant vatting, pretty harmless and much, much less oaky than the Spice Tree was. Mouth: starts fruity and sort of perfumy and milky (lactones – here’s the new wood!) with Clynelish really coming through after a few seconds. Excellent waxiness that complements the new wood plus bitter oranges, almonds and fresh walnuts. ‘Funny’ salty touches. The finish isn’t too long but perfectly balanced, with a little mastic, wax again, rosemary, lavender sweets and slightly peppered vanilla crème. Well, this is very good, probably better than each of its constituents (which is the whole point here I guess). 85 points.
Flaming Heart (48.9%, Compass Box, 2006) Another vatting containing 1⁄4 Caol Ila and lots of Clynelish plus again a little Dailuaine for good measure. Colour: straw. Nose: Caol Ila shines through first (peat, fresh apples and smoked oysters) but Clynelish is well here, with another kind of ‘coastality’ (less smoky) and lots of green and yellow fruits: pears, plums, white peaches plus hints of diesel oil. Excellent, very clean, perfectly balanced, with a great freshness. Especially the chosen proportion of Caol Ila is perfect. Mouth: exactly the same happens on the palate. First Caol Ila (and a rather wild one, at that) with a straightforward smokiness, then mingling with Clynelishe’s complex fruitiness and waxiness. Lots of spices, at that, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, kumquats, dried figs, soft curry… Very, very good. Long, ample finish on both peat and spices plus notes of bananas flambéed and finally lots of pepper. Wonderful I think – now, this is for single malt drinkers! My favourite Compass Box so far and by far. 90 points, with my modest (yeah) congratulations and encouragements.
 
 

MALT MANIACS INFORMATION

KINCLAITH DISTILLERY PROFILE by Davin de Kergommeaux

It’s safe to say there was no pagoda atop the Kinclaith Distillery, no quaint dunnage warehouses with earthen floors and blackened, low, stone walls. A babbling burn did not deliver the purest water in Scotland to mash the barley or cool the condensers. No; Kinclaith was part of a big, ugly, urban, industrial complex. Yet someone in that complex cared about Kinclaith, for in its 17 short years of production some fine, and now much-sought-after malts were put to cask.

All that remains of Kinclaith is a sign in the Strathclyde grain distillery, with the simple text: Strathclyde & Long John Distillers Limited Kinclaith Distillery 1957 Glasgow. For Kinclaith was an afterthought - a malt distillery housed within the mammoth Strathclyde grain distillery at 40 Moffat Street near the Glasgow airport. As collectors of rare malts have learned from the experiences of Ben Wyvis, Glen Flagler, Killyloch or Ladyburn, a grain whisky distillery is not a safe place for a pot still.
Built in 1957 by Schenley’s Long John Distillers, Kinclaith was used almost entirely in-house for Long John blends. The first Kinclaith passed through the spirit safe in 1958, but when Strathclyde was sold to Whitbread in1975, production of Kinclaith came to a halt and the distillery was dismantled to make way for more grain whisky and vodka production at Strathclyde. What a shame that so often only hindsight is 20/20.
In Scotch Missed, Brian Townsend tells us Kinclaith was highly productive, using two stills to turn out a slightly smoky but full-bodied malt. Releases are few and tasting notes rare, but reviewing what is available would lead one to wonder if Kinclaith had a distillery style at all. In any case notes for both smoky and fruity versions exist. Michael Jackson in 1989 declared a Gordon & MacPhail bottling lightly fruity – melon dusted with ginger. The melon comment has survived to date in many derivative articles and tasting notes, though no one else seems to have actually tasted it.
Jackson found a 20 yo Cadenhead version light, gingery, aromatic and dry. This is likely the same bottling Johannes called flat and grainy on the nose with maybe a whiff of smoke. The palate too, was flat, spirity and very dry with no obvious character. In my nose it brought petrol, citrus notes, dust and paraffin. It was closed with hints of metal, sour fruit and slight peat smoke. The palate was sweet and slightly bitter with almonds and walnut skins. It was peppery hot but not very flavourful with bitter grassiness, and some cinnamon hearts. Neither Jackson nor Johannes particularly liked the Cadenhead bottling. Wallace Milroy also found smoke and spirit in another Cadenhead bottling.
Serge and Olivier both tried a 1966 G&M version, which performed much more impressively with scores in the high 80’s. The nose was peppery with cooked apples, butterscotch, fresh pastry and hot croissants. On the palate Serge found salted caramel, butter and lots of herbal tea notes, then cooked spinach, licorice, burned cake, coffee liqueur and roasted pecans. Overall it was quite malty and salty. Hmm… a salty Lowland whisky from an industrial area of Glasgow. It does, once more, put the lie to the romantic stories of salt-sea air penetrating barrels, for no doubt Kinclaith was also warehoused in Glasgow.
My own experience with Kinclaith is limited to just three bottlings, the best of which was probably a re-bottling, from James MacArthur’s Fine Malt Selection. More than anything, this lovely Kinclaith had benefited from years in a sherry butt. The nose was very much like candied orange and there was the ginger that Jackson had found in his G&M version.
Is that the common thread? ginger? but then more herbal tea notes appeared. On the rich palate again the candied orange was right up front with lots of Christmas spices. Just an excellent whisky by any standards and all the more for it’s being so rare.
Two 1969 distillations released by Duncan Taylor are said to be in the same vein. The 36 yo I tasted certainly was a beauty with sweet, fruity Christmas spices citrus notes and kiwi on the nose, followed by a sweet, slightly tannic palate with a certain enticing woodiness. Again, it was peppery hot with cinnamon notes. Other releases number only a few though one can hope that lying in some forgotten corner of some forgotten warehouse others will turn up, for this really is a whisky worth trying before we make our final judgments on the Lowlands.
So there you have Kinclaith, an ugly, short-lived, city-based, Lowland distillery with no official bottlings and only a handful of independent releases that stretch from drinkable to quite spectacular. A whisky rarely tasted but much coveted, with prices to match. - Davin

 

MUSIC – Heavily recommended listening: oldies but goldies, we're in 1970 I believe and the great (I mean, truly great) Eric Burdon sings Spill the wine.mp3 (but not the whisky) with War and their dazzling flutes and percs. Please do what you have to do.

  

October 2, 2006


CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
MISSISSIPPI DELTA BLUES & HERITAGE FESTIVAL

Greenville, Mississippi, September 16th 2006
Welcome to Greenville, Mississippi. In case you’ve forgotten it’s famous as the place where the levee burst in 1927, leading to the devastating flood of the Delta region, commemorated in song by Charley Patton (amongst others) in his ‘High water everywhere’. Charley, arguably the most influential of the Delta bluesmen, still lives close by in the corner of a largely forgotten cemetery, if you’re prepared to take the time to look. But otherwise Greenville is a largely forgotten place, apart from, that is, its three ‘riverboat’ casinos (only two of which have reopened following last year’s storms), questionable vehicles of economic regeneration. The broad boulevards of the semi-derelict downtown area are dusty and desolate – lined with long-time-closed shops and failed businesses – beyond are impoverished neighbourhoods leading up to Highway 61, at the North end bordered by the famous Nelson Street (celebrated by the late Little Milton in ‘Annie Mae’s café’). The guidebooks say “take care – this is a rough part of town”. We dine at Nelson Street’s Doe’s Eat House. There’s an armed guard outside. Welcome to Greenville.
We’re here for the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival, a sort of week long jumbler of events that ends up with a ten hour ‘blues’ festival in a former cotton field just outside the town (apparently it’s an “historic” field, but I’m not sure why). It’s another Mississippi Delta day, and, excuse my French, it’s fucking hot. And unlike the smart locals we haven’t got awnings or gazebos to erect (behind the yellow tape of course), or fishing chairs to sit in (yes – they have them here too), and our New Orleans hats and quickly acquired ten dollar brollies (the ten dollar brolly man cashed up and left for a short break in Europe half way through the afternoon) offered little by way of real shade as the temperature soared.
The Reverend Joe Washington and the Gabriel Tones
We arrived early, anxious to catch veteran Delta bluesmen Eddie Cusic and T-Model Ford, who are preceded on stage by “the gospel band”, who turn out to be the Reverend Joe Washington and the Gabriel Tones. “Are there any church folk out there, are there any church folk out there?”. Well, judging by the bewildering number of churches we’ve passed on the road there must have been, but no one seems to want to ‘fess up, as the Reverend works up quite lather on the small stage. Actually it’s a relatively simple affair, nothing as sophisticated as even a small free festival in London – the stage is open and offers just a little shade from the sun, the sound system’s old fashioned, the mixing desk just sits on an old table next to us in the middle of the field.
The crowd is fairly sparse at first, but the field fills up as the afternoon wears on and the sun starts to go down. There are smoked sausages, barbecued ribs, hot hog’s maw tamales (they’re red hot!) and other similar delicacies on sale – oh yes, and the life saving lemonade and bags of ice – did I mention the big dogs? The audience is largely black and largely grey haired. There are several big family parties for whom this event, now in its 29th year, acts as an annual homecoming – some are even wearing the t-shirts. And there’s a lot of pride in the fact that people have come from all over the continent to be here – “Any folks in the house from Oklahoma?” It’s during one of these frequent roll calls that the photographer is moved to break cover, waving her arms hysterically when boogie pianist Jerry Kattawar drawled "Is there anyone in the house from England?”. “Ya’ll come here all the way from England?” asks one of our neighbours, incredulous, and ready to hand out first-aid chilled beers from his capacious ice-box.
Soon they’re running a book on how long we’ll stand the heat – “yo’ ever git this hot in London?” asks one anxious punter as he calculates his wager.
Eddie Cusic, T-Model Ford and Jerry Kattawar on the Juke Joint stage (right)
Both Cusic and Ford disappoint. They play out the stereotype of the old bluesman, but Cusic is barely in tune (I mean you don’t have to try and sound like a wax field recording made seventy years ago) and T-Model Ford, who impressed in front of an indifferent audience in London’s Barbican eighteen months ago, is, well, let’s say ‘emotional’. “It’s Jack Daniels time, yo’ just ‘scuse me while I take my medicine”. It seemed to be “Jack Daniels time” between each song (actually it was Canadian Club that I saw him clutching onto later in the afternoon, as he was helped off the Juke Stage, barely fit to play), which at least gave his bass player and drummer (his grandson who could hardly see above the cymbals) a few minutes to try and guess what song was coming next. Not great – but have a listen to his album, Pee Wee get my Gun, and you’ll have an idea what it could have been. The audience were polite but subdued – too hot to heckle, regarding this is almost as a penance they had to suffer before the fun started. That was with Mike and Jerry Kattawar’s crowd-pleasing boogie, with Jerry at the piano improvising salacious lyrics inspired by women in the crowd.
The Delta Blues Review
It seemed to go down very well, as did the Delta Blues Review. This is a massive assembly of largely local artistes featuring feisty pianist and singer Eden Brent, guitarist John Horton with his Albert King Flying V guitar (put to good use on ‘Born under a bad sign’), brassy blues diva Barbara Looney, the soulful vocalist Ricky Johnson, former Bobby Rush guitarist Mickey Rogers, and inimitable blues shouter, Mississippi Slim. With his multi-coloured hair, odd shoes and purple suit (with cape) he hollered and howled hysterically and did more to enliven the audience than anyone before him. And I think he must be older than my mum (and that’s old – sorry mum).
Big Bill Morganfield and his band must have come onto the stage around 4.30, and although the sun was getting lower the heat was still unremitting. As blues fans might have guessed, Big Bill is the son of Mackinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters. He’s released several CDs, tours most of the year, won a W C Handy award a few years ago as ‘Best New Blues Artist’ (fantastic – he’s about the same age as me), and is an all round ambassador for the blues and the work and memory of his father. But though he is a big man with a very good band he somehow fails to make much of an impact – maybe he was suffering from the heat too – and the strength of some of his material (“here’s a little song I wrote, it’s called ‘Hoochie Coochie girl’”) was suspect. But Serge, by that time it was too late. The shivering and dizziness that signify the onset of heat exhaustion were setting in, and despite the pleas of some of our gambling companions (“Oh no man, please, just ten more minutes”) we made a run for it – it was about 5.30, and 98 degrees. So I’m sad to report we missed crooning soulman Mel Waiters, the lascivious veteran Denise Lasalle, local boy turned Nashville hero Steve Azar (he had the biggest tour bus back stage), 1970’s chart-toppers the Manhattans, and saddest of all, the baddest man in blues, Whiskyfun’s favourite bawdy bluesman, Bobby Rush, whom I know would have been on fire in front of this crowd (and someone we ran into later told us he was). So as you can see not even really a big blues line-up – more I think a soulful homecoming than blues heritage.
Later, after a suitably air-conditioned cool couple of hours in a motel room we emerged for a late supper at the Shotgun Shack, where we enjoyed ice cold Buds and more Creole cuisine, to the gentle sound of a drum machine and a guitarist-singer with a late night radio voice (“Hi there folks, here’s one you may remember from back in the sixties, it’s that Cajun classic from Creedence Clearwater Revival…”). “You know”, he told us, “I should have started doing this years ago. I used to play when I was in the air force. Playing the guitar and singing helped the stress, it stopped me from killing people …”. Welcome to Greenville. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thanks a bunch, Nick. Quite some characters indeed, these guys! While browsing the Web I could learn, for instance, that Mississippi Slim's nickname was 'The Eighth Wonder of the World'. Do you confirm that? But let's have a little Charley Patton and his great glissandos right away, with his excellent Spoonful blues.mp3 (thanks to Revenant records - check their website, especially the mp3 page)
 

TASTING – TWO BABY ARDBEGS

Ardbeg 5 yo 2000/2005 (58.4%, Ian McLeod for Whiskyfreunde Essenheim, cask #845, 324 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: rather raw, with a huge fruitiness at first nosing (ripe apples) but then lots of notes of varnish, lamp petrol and glue (UHU). Those disturbing smells leave then place for nicer ones, like raw peated barley, wet grains, grappa… Extremely rough and pretty immature I’m afraid. Now, if you see it as documentation, no problems ;-). But let’s try it with water:

This sure works, bringing out an enjoyable farminess (cow stable, grain barn, wet hay, huge notes of cider) but alas, there’s also a little acetone coming through now. As raw as possible. Mouth (neat): much, much better now. Extremely simple and very rough (just lots of peat smoke, barley and sugared apple juice) but it’s rather flawless now. The kind of spirit that should be absolutely great in… 15 or 20 years. With water: one step forward, it got almost pleasant now. Notes of smoked tea, gentian spirit… The finish is very long but slightly acrid and sort of cardboardy. Well, it’s probably much too young (peated vodka) and hardly enjoyable but again, it’s interesting to taste whisky in the making. No rating (useless).
Ardbeg 'Young Uigeadail' (59.9%, OB, Committee Reserve, 1392 bottles, 2006) A.k.a. ‘Oogling’, three very young bourbon barrels vatted with one even younger sherry butt (distilled 2002). Colour: gold. Nose: again we have these harsh, raw notes of plain spirit to begin with. Really pungent but the balance is better. The sherry gives a few notes of red fruits (it’s more or less like a finishing effect). Lots of rubber as well. Not enjoyable but maybe a little water will work: oh, now it got immensely caramelly (just like a handful of Werther’s original) and the peat almost vanished! That’s odd… Notes of ripe gooseberries and strawberries, hints of cloves… And still (almost) no peat. Strange… Did it enter the fourth dimension? Mouth (neat): very similar, extremely simple but slightly rounder, thanks to a little vanilla, strawberry jam and caramel brought by the sherry cask I guess. Nothing else. With water: the balance is certainly better (at roughly 45%) and the peat is well here. Gets a little sweetish but also nicely medicinal and peppery, liquoricy, round and compact. Really good now, especially the finish that’s quite long and satisfying, on peat and, here it goes again, lots of milk caramel (Werther’s). Okay, the finish saves it all but I can’t forget that for decades we’ve been told that whisky’s all about maturing and I don’t think this ‘Oogling’ will deny that. An expression that’s more for collectors than for drinkers anyway I guess… Right, let’s have another glass of the fabulous 'Airigh Nam Beist' to recuperate. 75 points.
  

October 1, 2006


TASTING – TWO ARRANS
Arran 1996/2006 'Fixin Wood Finish' (55.6%, M&H Cask Selection, cask #96/1372, 144 bottles) Fixin is a village in the extreme north of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits, where they make rather good red wines and almost no whites. Colour: straw with salmony hues. Nose: spirity and rather sharp at first nosing, with notes of kirsch and fresh almonds but also a slight dirtiness (old cask, ‘old nun who neglects herself’ as we say at our wine club – err…). Goes on with overripe strawberries, grenadine syrup… Not much else. Not bad but not exactly interesting, I’d say, but then again, I’m not a big fan of these haphazardly made wineskies.
Mouth: sweet and punchy, with… well… something burning. Hot and slightly disjointed, with raw spirit on one side and ripe strawberries on the other side (and not much in the middle except something rubbery). Long but raw and sugarish finish. Well well, our Belgian friends are used to propose us much, much better expressions (even stunning ones I must say) but I’m sorry, I’m not game this time. Good proof that nobody can constantly succeed – yeah, I know, that was a little PC ;-). 65 points.
Arran '100° proof' (57%, OB, 2006) Colour: white wine. Nose: strong, powerful, grainy and rather mashy at first nosing. Quite some vanilla crème, mashed potatoes, cereals. Faints hints of baby vomit (that’s not negative), yoghurt sauce… It gets then cleaner and nicely flowery (daisies, hints of lilies of the valley). Notes of sorrel and cider apples, a little mead and a slight farminess. As close to ‘raw whisky’ as it can get but certainly better than most of the crazy ‘aromatised’ versions. Now, I still can’t get why Arran didn’t decide to make some peaty whisky at the time. Mouth: this is even better. Bold and almost hot but very nicely fruity and creamy, with lots of vanilla and cooked white fruits (apple compote, pear pie). Also a little nougat, white chocolate, mirabelle eau-de-vie, cornflakes… It’s good. Finish: long, sweet and very fruity. Encouraging but I like the new regular 10 yo a little better. 78 points.

 

MUSIC - Recommended listening - maybe not for just any ears but it's Sunday and we go sort of classical with the great Pierre Henry's Etranglement.mp3 (Strangulation) from 'Intérieur extérieur', 1997. Amazingly funny despite the title... Please...



September 2006 - part 2 <--- October 2006 - part 1 ---> October 2006 - part 2

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

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

Aberlour 30 yo 1975/2006 (48.9%, OB, cask #4577)

Bowmore 40 yo 1966/2006 (43.4%, Duncan Taylor, cask #3316, 151 bottles)

Bowmore 40 yo 1966/2006 (43.2%, Duncan Taylor, cask #3317, 171 bottles)

Clynelish 1973/2006 (54.2%, The Prestonfield, sherry butt #8912, 405 bottles)

Flaming Heart (48.9%, Compass Box, 2006)

Longmorn-Glenlivet 10 yo (43%, OB for Claretta di V. Rosignano , ‘Straight Malt’, bottled 1967)

Longmorn 1972/2006 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, cask #1088, 607 bottles)

Springbank 20 yo 1967 (46%, OB for Prestonfield, sherry wood, casks #3131-3136)