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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2020 - Part 1

       

September 2020 - part 2 <--- October 2020 - part 1 ---> October 2020 - part 2

 

 

October 14, 2020


Whiskyfun

Winey disaster and some fantastic relief

We haven’t heard much of Benromach recently apart from the fact that they have a new livery, I hope they’re doing well. Having said that, we could source a few novelties, some seemingly quite whacky, so let’s see. Let’s only hope they’ll keep their fantastic position as a traditional Highlander, and that their new Cherry-Heering-like packaging just means… nuffin’.

Benromach 2009/2019 ‘Cask strength Batch 1’ (58.8%, OB)

Benromach 2009/2019 ‘Cask strength Batch 1’ (58.8%, OB) Two stars and a half I know there are newer batches, but I suppose they’re similar. Are they? The thing that’s to be remembered about Benromach is that they’re using brewer’s yeast, if I’m not wrong. Colour: deep gold. Nose: I’m finding a little cardboard, ink, carbon paper, some slightly chemical notes as well, as if some dirty-ish sherry casks had been used. A lot of wood shavings too, rather over the top in my book. With water: metal polish, old tools, mushroom soup, some carbolic notes, walnut stain… A god example of a love-it-or-hate-it nose. I’m still out with the jury… Mouth (neat): big gingery and spicy oak, it’s not easy to get past that. Huge mustard too. Well, there is also a ’100 proof’ version that is (was?) ten times superior in my book. With water: tinned sardines, rollmops, Chinese dried flatfish (I cannot remember the name, but that’s quite an experience) and just some salty mustard sauce with some sawdust. Worcester sauce. Finish: long, oaky and salty, sour, very sauce-y. Not easy. Very salty aftertaste. Comments: I believe the casks were too loud here. Sure B. is a powerful distillate, but I’m not sure it could stand such a treatment. Even Brora ’72 wouldn’t, in my humble little book.
SGP:263 - 78 points.

Benromach 2011/2019 ‘Sassicaia Wood Finish’ (45%, OB)

Benromach 2011/2019 ‘Sassicaia Wood Finish’ (45%, OB) one star and a half
This is gonna be tough. I totally cherish and adore the genuine Italian reds (Barolo, Chianti and others) but I loathe their so-called Super-Tuscan Bordeaux-blends. Last time we ordered Sassicaia in a restaurant we couldn’t finish the bottle – and there were four of us. Ugly oak juice, very 1980s. Same with Ornellaia by the way, but there, an open mind we said… By the way, Sassicaia wood doesn’t exist, Sassicaia is a wine estate, not a forest, neither is it an oak varietal. Just saying. Colour: apricot. Nose: hey, not un-nice. Peach skins, melon skins, peach skins, melon skins, peach skins, melon skins… Mouth: drinkable, but barely. Unbalanced, skinny, too much on peels and leaves, without any of the malty goodness that usually comes with Benromach. Let’s remain politically correct, this was very unnecessary. Finish: no, too leathery. Comments: wine finishing as Glenmo used to do them in the very late 1990s or early 2000s. Do owners G&M have deals with Sassicaia? Wait, do they actually own Sassicaia? Hold on, do Sassicaia own G&M???
SGP:371 - 68 points.

Wait, this could be even more terrifying…

Benromach 2009/2017 ‘Château Cissac wine cask finish’ (45%, OB, 4200 bottles)

Benromach 2009/2017 ‘Château Cissac wine cask finish’ (45%, OB, 4200 bottles)
Why am I trying this? Cissac is a fine Bordeaux, but nothing extraordinary, but wait, maybe that’s the trick, using cheap second-tier Bordeaux casks… Colour: gold. Nose: yes indeed, the humble cru bourgeois from Haut-Médoc may well destroy the so-called Super-Tuscan, as this is not too un-nice, sure there’s too much green pepper and too much rubber, but it is kind of noseable. Having said that, we’re extremely far from, say Benromach 10 yo, as I last tried it a few years ago. Is it still very very nice malt whisky? Mouth: okayish. Barely. No, I’m trying my best but it’s bad juice, rubbery, unpleasant, unbalanced, and totally unnecessary. Poor Benromach and poor Cissac -  I think I’ll buy a case of Cissac to make amend. Seriously it’s a fine Haut-Médoc, do not let these absent-minded châteaux being pulled down by the crazy Scots and their two-penny grain distillates and marketing strategies! Finish: forget. Comments: I think I liked the Sassicaia a little better, actually. After all, this is Europe!
SGP:561 - 65 points.

No luck at all with Benromach and wine this time, but I’m sure things will get much, much better now… Because mind you, they’re in!

 

 

 

Benromach 15 yo (43%, OB, 2020)

Benromach 15 yo (43%, OB, 2020)
I loved the older livery (WF 87) and I cannot see why this one would be different. It’s a blend of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon Benromach. Colour: gold. Nose: but yes, this is the Benromach we loove at WF Towers, ridden with soot, cigar ashes, walnuts, suet, chocolate, beeswax and shoe polish (say brown), and these smallish curry-like aromas that are very Benromach and that are rather difficult to describe. Or perhaps rather garam masala? Mouth: love it, love salted walnuts, bizarre waxes, pepper, burnt Brussels sprouts, umami (didn’t we say we’d rather say osmazôme?) beef bouillon, roasted pistachio and cashew, English brown sauce (with apologies). Really bags and bags of old walnuts. Finish: rather long, dry, and wonderfully on old dry herbal cordials. Artichoke bitters and rather wood smoke in the aftertaste. Smoked meats and nuts, smoked almonds, mustard… Comments: what a relief! But we had no doubts…
SGP:372 - 88 points.

 

 

Now that we’re in full form, let’s have a last Benromach…

 

 

Benromach 2011/2020 (61.2%, OB, for France, first fill sherry, cask #39, 331 bottles)

Benromach 2011/2020 (61.2%, OB, for France, first fill sherry, cask #39, 331 bottles)
This one should rock and roll… Colour: deep gold. Nose: I get liquid wax (furniture polish) and some walnuts yet again. Some whiffs of pu-erh tea (does anyone realise what that does to me?) and something definitely Ardbeggy. I’m not joking, I’m thinking about those ridiculous sherried Committee Releases from the good old days. Stunning tar and rubber, new-Wellies-style. But it’s also a little hot… With water: oh, cigars, yet more walnuts, retsina, horse saddle, dried cow dung, dried porcinis, nutmeg… I think this is simply brilliant. Why buy a ticket to the countryside when you can just buy a bottle of this (but you ought to be quick)? Mouth (neat): someone blended Ben Nevis with Ardbeg while we weren’t watching, then added a rather mentholy young Benromach. Now it burns a bit, so quick… With water: glorious, almost a very salty and mustardy amontillado from Sanlucar. More or less. Finish: very long, dry, on tobacco and tea, more mustard, bitter almonds, even more walnuts, earth, a touch of lavender in the aftertaste… Comments: crazy young Benromach. Who needs Bordeaux blends (I mean, in whisky)?
SGP:362 - 90 points.

 

 

 

Thank you Benromach, that was quite some rollercoaster today! See you soon.

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

 

October 13, 2020


Whiskyfun

A brand new Craigellachie 49 year old

There is a rather incredible new Craigellachie 49 years old from Gordon & MacPhail’s, exclusive to LMDW, which we shall try while hoping it won’t have gotten too woody at this ripe old age. But first, a wee sparring partner from the official stable, a newer batch of the 17 yo…

Craigellachie 17 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019)

Craigellachie 17 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019) Three stars
We’ve first tried this baby when it came out, in 2014, and rather liked that first batch (WF 84) but we haven’t heard much from the owners since back then. I really hope it wasn’t a damp squib and that they’re doing as well as possible. Colour: gold. Nose: rather firm, on a good balance between bananas, citrons, shortbread, vanilla and ripe kiwis. Does the job, it’s just not very identifiable, as many distilleries are now issuing this kind of malt whisky. Homogenisation through the use of active barrels, anyone? Mouth: same feelings, it’s good, with even a little fatness, nice citrus, good wood, notes of melons, sponge cakes, a wee rooty side, a little pepper and ginger form the wood… But we’re really in the middle of the road. Finish: medium, maltier, with touches of ale, butterscotch… Comments: technically perfect, but perhaps not totally entrancing. It was Aultmore, wasn’t it? No wait, Strathmill? Benriach? My memory seems to fail me… Now I’ll need to try the 23 again, that one had been utterly brilliant when they launched it (WF 91).
SGP:551 - 82 points.

And so this new old Craigellachie that should have been introduced to the thirsty masses at Whisky Live Paris 2020… Take heart, Paris!

 

 

 

Craigellachie 49 yo 1970/2019 (48.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Esclusive, Archive Release, cask #1608)

Craigellachie 49 yo 1970/2019 (48.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Esclusive, Archive Release, cask #1608)
Colour: amber. Nose: yes there is a G&M style. Does that come from the wood they’ve been filling? From Elgin’s atmosphere? What’s sure is that this little Craig’ is well in line with t he house’s emblematic Longmorns, Glenlivets or Glen Grants, that is to say rather shock-full of beehive-y notes, old varnishes, precious woods, and those raisins that are just not too raisiny. I know what I’m trying to say. Heather honey, beeswax, pipe tobacco, pollens, preserved plums, and lastly, a little fresh cranberry juice, which is surprising but rather lovely. Oh, and a little propolis (pine or birch saps). Oh, and small Turkish dried figs. Oh, and dates filled with marzipan. Oh, and very old Sauternes. Now, the devil always is on the palate, so let’s just see how it goes… Mouth: a little beeswax and citrus at first, then some big oak for sure, but that translates into many saps, resins, and a feeling of quaffing very old bottles of Jägermeister. That propolis again (you can have it diluted in ethanol to heal your throat and bronchi) and some bitterish vegetables, rucola (rocket), sucking pine needles, quaffing cough syrup, and crunching coffee beans. That’s all extremely dry, as this baby digested all its fruits and sweetnesses, but since it rather went towards saps than straight tannins, it’s still full of charms. Finish: medium, very dry, sappy and resinous. Bits of raw cocoa and more coffee beans. Comments: there’s been a 1970/2016 G&M Exclusive for LMDW that had been fruitier and that I liked really a lot (WF 91), while this one is a little oakier but still of super-high level, provided you like your saps as much as I do.
SGP:362 - 90 points.

 

 

 

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

 

October 12, 2020


Whiskyfun

Imperial measures (cream of the crop)

So to speak. So a wee bag of single malts from Imperial Distillery, more or less at random…

Imperial 26 yo 1994/2020 (45.3%, The Whisky Show, Impossibility, barrel, 198 bottles)

Imperial 26 yo 1994/2020 (45.3%, The Whisky Show, Impossibility, barrel, 198 bottles) Four stars and a half
There seems to be some kind of M.C. Escher-style theme on the various labels for this brand new London bottling. They’re doing the Whisky Show virtually this year and I have to say they’re doing it very well. As long as the whiskies themselves are not virtual… Colour: white wine. Nose: a very zesty and mineral, old-chenin style nose that reminds me of an old Savennières that would have gone integrally dry. Then wet wool, a touch of paraffin, a droplet of lime juice and a few crushed mint leaves. Touch of yoghurt, a little leaven as well, I’m finding it rather fermentary. Mouth: a basket of lemons, granny smith, candle wax and baguette dough. Something slightly medicinal as well, camphor-lemon embrocation, then green peat with a touch of nutmeg. Limestone. I am reminded of ‘Old’ Clynelish here, even if this Imperial is rather less metallic and garage-y. Finish: long, with a rather wonderful bitterness and always this waxiness. Citrons. Comments: I have to confess Imperial is not the distillery that I knew the most about, but this one’s rather perfect, well on the royal axis that runs from HP to Springbank via Clynelish and Ben Nevis.
SGP:452 – 89 points.

 

 

 

Imperial 30 yo (54.8%, Single Malts of Scotland, Director’s Special, 2020)

Imperial 30 yo (54.8%, Single Malts of Scotland, Director’s Special, 2020)
Colour: white wine. Nose: very close, fermentary, chalky, flinty, with lemons and green apples, and a global style that’s even more vertical. More white wine, even more vinegar, lees, lemon juice… Huge zestiness here. With water: citrons! I’m citrons’ biggest fan. In early 1980s Clynelish, for example. Mouth (neat): absolutely superb, very waxy, with lemons and a plastic-like earthiness that sounds wrong but that’s actually rather superb.  A drop of white Port, perhaps. I know, I know… With water: lemon and wax in the power of 2. The director has it good. Finish: long, greener and a little bitterer. Artichokes, perhaps. Comments: a little more austere and demanding than the 1994, and perhaps a little more elegant as well. More intellectual, would we have said before it became touchy not to be inclusive of dumber folks. Hey, just a very silly joke! No jokes no fun, no fun no whisky.
SGP:451 - 90 points.

 

 

 

Imperial 24 yo 1995/2019 (53.1%, Thompson Bros., bourbon barrel, 166 bottles)

Imperial 24 yo 1995/2019 (53.1%, Thompson Bros., bourbon barrel, 166 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: light gold. Nose: this one’s really full of old copper, metal polish, old coins, graphite oil, even soot and ink. Some bone dry white wine in the background, grapefruit skin, and quite some paraffin too. Well in line with the previous ones. With water: there, melons and vine peaches, citrons… Amazing that water would make such wonderful fruitiness come out, after a much drier nose when unreduced. Mouth (neat): very dry, very grassy, a notch acetic, with more very dry white wine (some verdejos) and a lot of citrus peel. Green apples and green pears. Very tight, almost like using plyers on your tongue. Nah, I’m exaggerating yet again, but I’m finding les soft and easy than other Imperials. With water: oh! Tangerines, apples, greengages, lemon blossom honey and beeswax. Perfect. Finish: medium, with a tiny-wee salty touch. Really!  Comments: another superb one, but do not forget to add a little water.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Imperial 23 yo 1995/2018 (49.5%, The Maltman, for HNWS Taiwan, sherry finish, cask #400, 2016 bottles)

Imperial 23 yo 1995/2018 (49.5%, The Maltman, for HNWS Taiwan, sherry finish, cask #400, 2016 bottles) Four stars
Taiwan, quite a whisky country! Most probably in the top five in my opinion. Colour: deep gold. Nose: smells sweet, almost like some proper old Pedro Ximenez, with the usual flinty/waxy spirit supporting it. Integration is pretty perfect this time, to my amazement shall I add. Touches of spicy pipe tobacco, raisins, grapefruits, paraffin, peach skins…  Really, it’s how the sherry and the distillate mingled together that impresses me. Mouth: rather thick, with big spices upfront, pepper, coffee beans, bitter chocolate, sucking your cigar… It’s pretty drier this time, and perhaps not that PX-y after all, my bad. It’s excellent too, but it may be lacking that wonderful clarity that the others had.  Finish: long, with walnuts, ginger and pepper. Notes of damson spirit (slivovitz). Comments: another one that’s excellent, if a little less in the best pages of my little book. A finishing very well done.
SGP:661 - 86 points.

Good, let’s find an older vintage before we call this a (short) imperial session.

Imperial-Glenlivet 16 yo 1979/1996 (64.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Imperial-Glenlivet 16 yo 1979/1996 (64.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars and a half
Ah, the ‘small cream label’ series and its epic keros… I mean high-octane bottlings! Colour: pale white wine (this starts well…) Nose: hot and marginally fruity, rather more medicinal than the newer vintages, between aspirin, dough, and perhaps fresh brioche that’s a little undercooked. Whiffs of liquorice and earl grey, a little vanilla and nougat too. Less ‘refill’ than expected. With water:  huge viscimetrics! And pretty much the same waxy notes as in the others, with similar citrus peel and fermentary notes. Some ale, fruity hops, orange blossom, panettone... Mouth (neat): strong and a tad on plastics, beyond some fruity liquorice (or liquorice allsorts). I believe water would be in order… With water: all on citrus this time, including the liqueurs made thereof. Limoncello and Cointreau or Grand-Marnier, with a little chalk too. It is also a little fizzy and bitter (Aperol spritz – with official apologies). Finish: rather long, waxy and citrusy. Once again, I’m finding similarities with that famous shoebox distillery up there in Brora. Aren’t we slowly starting to find those relatively pretty? Comments: a superb older drop. I’ve never tried Chivas’ Dalmunach, the new distillery that replaces the now demolished Imperial, I sincerely hope the style will be in the same vein. We’ll see… Oh yeah I know they’ve already issued a 4yo, but we’ve never seen it in the flesh. They are no fools.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

(Thank you Tim)

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

 

October 11, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

More rums and hopefully more malternatives

 

 

Now, now that the prices have reached those of malt whisky, it’s all becoming a little less crucial, is it not. More and more learned voices are telling me I should rather have a closer look at Calvados by the way, so we’ll see…

 

 

Clairin Communal Ansyen (49.3%, OB, LMDW, Haiti, 2964 bottles, 2020)

Clairin Communal Ansyen (49.3%, OB, LMDW, Haiti, 2964 bottles, 2020)
This a blend of four distilleries, married for around two years in ex-rum and ex-whisky casks. Should be good. Colour: gold. Nose: there, diesel oil. And then curry, gingerbread, black olives, rotting pineapples, burnt tyres (in other words, dragster wheels), then camphor, jasmine, old cigars, lilies, liquorice… And more diesel oil, or there, Tesla batteries. Indeed, one must keep up with what's going on in the world. Mouth: it is totally impossible to resist this huge load of salty liquorice, brine and tar. Holy feartherless crow! It is not the subtlest spirit ever made by honest men, and perhaps is it even a little one-dimensional, but I just adore this style. Now if you’re firmly against salted liquorice, you may abstain here. Finish: long, hyper-compact, pretty rich, salty and always loaded with liquorice and natural rubber. A little rich honey in the aftertaste. Chestnut. Comments: hell and damnation, what was that? There’s ‘L’union fait la force’ written on the label, which is Haiti’s motto. And Belgium’s, if I’m not wrong.
SGP:564 – 90 points.

 

 

Let’s hop to Martinique…

 

 

Neisson 2016/2020 ‘Rhum Vieux Bio’ (52.3%, OB, LMDW, Martinique, 470 bottles)

Neisson 2016/2020 ‘Rhum Vieux Bio’ (52.3%, OB, LMDW, Martinique, 470 bottles)
Have I ever told you what I think of Neisson? I know, they’re expensive, but they’re fantastic too and they do not make 15mio litres of spirit a year, mind you. Oh, ‘bio’ means ‘organic’. Colour: gold. Nose: probably not exactly as complex as the other week’s VSOP, and perhaps a little more on fresh oak (vanilla and coconut). A little less character perhaps, and more straight ‘soft agricole’ aromas. Sugar cane, cookies, bananas, vanilla, a little earth…  Now water may change the game. With water: coconut wine, a touch of metal (copper kettle), some kind of liquoricy mushrooms perhaps. Sure that exists, check rodopaxillus nudus (bragging a bit but no harm done I hope). Mouth (neat): nah, it is excellent. Earth and liquorice, black nougats, heather honey, beeswax, a touch of candy sugar, dried bananas, a tiny mint drop… With water: for once, water doesn’t change much. Finish: long, a tad fruitier, a little more on tropical fruit jams. Mango and banana, I would say. Comments: excellent, just a tad less impressive than the latest VSOP in my humble book. I would add that the Clairin is a serial killer, always tricky as #1 in a line-up (which I hadn’t anticipated, silly me).
SGP:641 - 88 points.

 

 

Savanna 15 yo 2003/2020 ‘Grand Arôme’ (66.5%, OB, La Réunion, cognac cask, cask #251, 420 bottles)

Savanna 15 yo 2003/2020 ‘Grand Arôme’ (66.5%, OB, La Réunion, cognac cask, cask #251, 420 bottles)
Seen the strength? And the fact that it’s grand arôme, so long fermentation? This is vintage 2003 but only filled in 2004, so I suppose they keep the white rum in tuns before they fill their casks. Or do they keep the molasses? Not too sure, I’ll have to fly to La Réunion once the virus is gone for good. I believe this is ex-molasses, not cane juice, while they make both at Savanna. Colour: deep gold. Nose: crude oil, liquorice, earth, black olives, bakelite, capers, sour brine, nail polish, acetone, and a lot of ethanol, so let’s not push our luck. With water: oh lovely, old books in a library, attic, old oils and petrol in a garage, liquorice, roasted nuts of all kinds, burnt walnuts, wood smoke, deep-roasted Brussels sprouts (or something like that), carbon paper and new fiberglass… I find this bold and superb. Mouth (neat): bang, curry, liquorice and diesel oil. Extreme stuff, water is streng obligatory. With water: smoky and salty, with some deep floral tones (lavender) and some aniseed-flavoured liquorice. Very oily mouth feel. Finish: very long, rather on salted liquorice and salted anchovies. Some sour vegetables in the aftertaste – Brussels sprouts again? Comments: extreme rum that takes no prisoners. Keep your pipette within reach. I like it a lot.
SGP:473 - 88 points.

 

 

Since we’re having monsters, let’s take the next plane to Trinidad…

 

 

Caroni 20 yo 2000/2020 ‘Basdeo Dicky Ramsarran’ (64.3%, Velier for LMDW, Trinidad, 1251 bottles)

Caroni 20 yo 2000/2020 ‘Basdeo Dicky Ramsarran’ (64.3%, Velier for LMDW, Trinidad, 1251 bottles)
Another one from their ‘Employee’ series. By the way, they all have great names, they could be characters in the Lord of the Ring or Game of Thrones, no? (but don’t tell them I said that…) Colour: amber. Nose: much, much gentler than the Savanna, more delicate, with notes of praline, soft honeys, chestnut purée, ylang-ylang, fudge… But at this strength, those feelings are purely anecdotal, water is obligatory. With water: balsamic woods, thuja, cedar, notes of old tea, cold smoke. It remains pretty gentle, mind you. Mouth (neat): oh pine sap, putty, plasticine, varnish, ether and menthol that almost anaesthetise your lips and tongue… It’s very strong! With water: extremely sappy, empyreumatic, with something roasted, burnt woods, a lot of tar, cocoa, oloroso, plasticine… Actually it takes its time, getting tighter and brighter, displaying citrons after two minutes, and some honeyed  lemongrass after five of them. This one likes to play with you, like a young dog. Finish: not that eternal, and rather a little soft. Cigars and toffee? Having said that some diesel oil appears in the aftertaste. Comments: a rather enigmatic Caroni, would I say. Quality remains very high, naturally, but I’m afraid that stoopid clairin that I liked so much killed everything.
SGP:563 - 88 points.

 

 

Let’s see if the clairin would even kill a Hampden before we call this a session…

 

 

Hampden 10 yo 2010/2020 ‘LROK’ (59%, OB for LMDW, Jamaica, bourbon barrel, cask #92, 250 bottles)

Hampden 10 yo 2010/2020 ‘LROK’ (59%, OB for LMDW, Jamaica, bourbon barrel, cask #92, 250 bottles)
The marque LROK indicates a kind of average esteriness (150 to 400 g esters/hlpa), but remember all Hampdens are estery anyway, even the ‘lightest’ ones, as we could find out last week with a totally awesome and pretty complex OWH. Colour: deep gold. Nose: take tinned anchovies. Let marinate in benzine. Then smoke over burning fuel, then add olive oil, nail polish remover, and embrocations, then wait for a long time. It’s to be remembered that fermentations there are extremely long, sometimes weeks and weeks, and that shows. The notes of cedarwood, heady honey and rotting fruits (bananas) are splendid too. With water: brine, coal smoke, rucola, clay, olives, mezcal… Mouth (neat): huge, perhaps a tad monolithic, gritty, rather rustic, salty, kerosene-y, ridden with liquorice and a little tar and rubber, some lemon juice beneath all that… But this baby keeps hitting you, water’s obligatory once again. With water: ah yes, perfect. Some salty and lemon-flavoured tar and liquorice. Finish: long, dry, drying, ashy. Grapefruit juice in the aftertaste, which lifts it. Comments: this one managed to play on an even field with the clairin. By the way, there are very lovely original drawings of endemic Jamaican birds on those very elegant labels.
SGP:463 - 90 points.

 

 

There will be many more...

 

 

 

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

 

October 10, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
A mini Orkney adventure
I wasn’t expecting to return to Orkney so soon after our recent extravaganza of official single casks, however it’s been a rather stressful couple of weeks and this bundle of old miniatures are eyeing me from the sample shelf. It’s not only Highland Park this time though, we’ll also have a Scapa as well and, to kick things off, this wee curiosity…

 

Pride of Orkney 12 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, miniature, 1980s)

Pride of Orkney 12 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, miniature, 1980s)
It just says ‘Highland Malt’ on the label. Could be either distillery on their own, or just as easily a vatting of both makes. Let’s see… Colour: deep gold. Nose: phew! Superbly rich, fat, oily, slightly grassy and with this rather greasy phenolic style. Camphor, marrow fat, mineral oils, soot and this slightly herbal waxiness. Totally charismatic and indeed very ‘Orcadian’ distillate. With water: drier, a little dustier with many pressed flowers, heather flowers, pollens and waxes. Superb! Mouth: brilliantly full of honeys, aged mead, wood resins, spices, natural tar, embrocations, minerals, olive oil, camphor and this pretty resinous, herbal, almost ‘sticky’ peat. Some shoe polish and caraway too. With water: more honeys but also more salty now too. Dried mint, camphor, pollens, tar, phenolics and herbal bitters. Finish: long, drying, tarry, menthol, coastal waxy. Comments: My guess is, rather obviously I suppose, Highland Park. Although, you can never be sure, I’ve also tried some rather hefty old 100 proof Scapas from G&M bottled during this era. What’s for sure is the quality of this humble wee mini is superb!
SGP: 563 - 92 points.

 

 

I’m not sure it makes much sense to go directly to Scapa now, but probably less sense to wait and do it at the end after another flurry of HPs. Anyway, it’s at a pretty rocket fuel strength so I’m sure everything will work out well enough in the end…

 

 

Scapa 1979/1989 (62.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #17.3)

Scapa 1979/1989 (62.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #17.3)
One of these early, high octane and probably extremely naked, distillate-forward SMWS bottlings that seem to increasingly represent a singular snapshot of whisky history. Which is, of course, extremely cool! Colour: white wine - distilled indeed! Nose: raw grass, lemon juice, chalk, cactus, mirabelle, crushed aspirin. Very pure and with an undeniable freshness, but also rather punch and austere. With water: still rather closed and tough, seeds, fabrics, linens, sun lotion, cooking oils - all very natural and pure but a bit tricky. Mouth: pretty hot and tough really. Although there are some nice notes of sunflower oil, fruit teas sweetened with honey and heather flowers. Perhaps a touch of miso as well. With water: much better with water, there’s a spiciness, a more pronounced honeyed quality, some salinity, mustard, putty, camphor and a nice seam of waxiness has been exposed. Finish: medium, slightly medical, chalky, lemony, honeyed - rather like a hot toddy really. Comments: It’s to be wondered how the early era members of the SMWS remained sober when confronted with such monolithic rocket fuel whiskies. Of course, the answer is that they didn’t. Anyway, I think you can dispense with everything else here and simply pour into a tumbler with a good slug of water and you’ll have a highly pleasurable, if humble, wee Scapa. Otherwise it’s a bit of a brute.
SGP: 472 - 84 points.

 

 

Highland Park NAS (70 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, 1970s)

Highland Park NAS (70 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, 1970s)
One of these beautiful old St Magnus labels that G&M issued under license for many years in the 1960s and 70s. Colour: chestnut / amber. Nose: a very unctuous and earthy old style of sherry. Full of rancio and dripping in old balsamic, natural tar, walnut wine and things like cured game meats and old Burgundian pinot noir. Quite beautiful. Mouth: perfectly earthy, rich, medicinal, tarry and full of stewed dark fruits, crystallised citrus peels, orange oils, herbal liqueurs and again more rancio. Also hessian, more game meats and this particularly herbal and heathery Orkney peat. Finish: not the longest but beautifully rich, meaty, darkly fruity and herbal. Comments: A beautiful old glory. Hard to believe this was only 40% and survived all these years with such poise and freshness in this tiny wee mini. A style very much of its time - sadly.
SGP: 663 - 92 points.

 

 

Highland Park NAS (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, 1970s)

Highland Park NAS (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, 1970s)
A full strength version in the same presentation from around the same era, probably early-mid 70s. Colour: gold. Nose: superbly pure and just brimming with heather, salted honeys and the most beautifully rich and fragrant peat smoke. All studded with wispy herbs, gentle phenolics, natural tar, embrocations and this impression of coastal sea air. Elegance, beauty and also power all in perfect balance. With water: putty, oils, mechanical rags, ointments, soot, tar, bandages and seawater. Pretty stunning! Mouth: massively dense, oily, tarry and medical. Rather emphatically peaty and peppery too. Very herbal, oily peat, lots of heather honey, black and white peppers, guaze, lanolin and camphor. With water: there’s a dustiness which may well be OBE, but the oiliness and textural weight are becoming quite breath-taking. Hugely fatty, tarry, peaty, phenolic, drying, herbal and vividly saline now. Finish: very long, warming, honeyed, peaty, oily and full of wee things like seaweed, heather ales and more of these glorious tarry notes. Comments: Unbelievable distillate with almost eternal staying power. There was a tiny bit of OBE about this one so we’ll dock it one or two points, but this in a full sized , well-travelled bottle would probably be knocking on the door of 95 points very easily. I can feel it warming my toes!
SPG: 565 - 92 points.

 

 

Highland Park NAS (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, 1970s)

Highland Park NAS (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, 1970s)
This is pretty much the same except for the fact it has a blue capsule rather than a gold one. Not sure what that means for the contents though… Colour: gold. Nose: gentler in style, more towards honeys, aged mead, gentler saline qualities and heather beers. The peat is much shier here. Instead it’s all on soft notes of mustard powder, herbal liqueurs, ointments and medical embrocations. Also this pretty superb waxiness. With water: out come heather flowers, gorse, dried mango and pumpkin seed oil. Rich, dense and still rather medical. Mouth: here the power comes through, big and emphatic tarry notes, greasy phenolics, heathery peat smoke and more these rather textbook herbal liqueur qualities. Also these lovely textural waxy aspects adding weight in the mouth. With water: pow! Flower honeys, herbal ointments, gauze, lemon infused olive oil, putty, natural tar, camphor, seawater. Majestic! Finish: superbly long, thready salinity, fatty waxes, tarry phenolics, olive oil, grass, chalky minerals and herbal cough medicines. Comments: The way Highland Park used to weave peat throughout its spirit in the most compelling, ethereal fashion was just utterly genius if you ask me. They should really try to do some batches in this style again.
SGP: 653 - 93 points.

 

 

Let’s go sideways in time but upwards in age…

 

 

Highland Park 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, 1970s)

Highland Park 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, 1970s)
So this one is the livery that seems to have taken over from the St Magnus label and was used by G&M in the early 1990s. However, this is one of those slimmer, taller old flat miniatures with a smaller gold capsule, which theoretically should pre-date the slightly bigger bottles, which the previous two came from. (Keep up!) So this could pre-date the previous two drams slightly, or not. Oh God! I’m becoming a person who ‘does miniatures’ aren’t I? Please send help! Colour: deep, orangey gold. Nose: utterly sublime! Take the most dense, syrupy, ancient yellow Chartreuse and add pure heather honey, natural tar extract, drops of seawater, a cluster of top quality black olives, some of the saltiest Dutch liquorice, wrap it all in hessian and dip it in molten wax and you might be approaching this gloriously powerful, rich, layered and profoundly beautiful nose. With water: wider, fatter, deeper and more sweetness in the form of coconut and heather honey then bandages and anyway, you get the picture… Mouth: anti-maltoporn brigade! Instantly! Seriously, just a collision of the most beautiful honeys, the most compelling and complex herbal peat smoke and things like bone marrow, roast vegetables roasted in honey, Moroccan spices, ancient Claquesin liqueur and many, many various ointments, teas and roots. Sublime! With water: perfection. Mentholated, tarry, briny, peaty, oily, iodine, camphor, waxes, herbs, putty, teas, dried exotic fruits. Finish: endless. Comments: I feel deeply embarrassed to write such a note about piffling little old miniature. Clearly I need help. Please send six pallets of Speyburn to: Angus MacRaild, Miniature Rehabilitation Clinic, Edinburgh… 
SGP: 665 - 94 points.

 

 

Now forwards in time but sideways in age (I know, aren’t miniatures fun!)

 

 

Highland Park 8 yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, 1980s)

Highland Park 8 yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, 1980s)
In theory this should bring us back down to earth gently… Colour: deep gold. Nose: leaner, straighter and a little sharper. More on lemon juice, seawater, coconut, putty and things like wet rocks, ink, beach pebbles and crushed seashells. Wonderfully briny, lemony and still with this persistent mix of natural tar and rather vibrant heathery notes. But wasn’t Michael Jackson already pointing out heather as an HP hallmark decades ago? With water: becomes terrifically savoury, umami and salty. Things like bacon fat, herbal mouthwash, camphor and some rather sharp and invigorating minerality. Mouth: much hotter, sharper and powerful than the others. Pure seawater, mercurochrome, metal polish, soot, lemon juice, brine, green olives and these wee mustardy notes. Fantastic but obviously a different animal from the others. The peat is sharper, leaner and more precise. With water: broader in texture and deeper in flavour. More emphatically medicinal, more of a turfy, herbal peat profile and superbly peppery, salty and waxy. Finish: once again superbly long, resinously peaty, waxy, herbal, riddled with expensive olive oil, natural tar, embrocations and camphor. Comments: Water definitely joined the dots between this one and the previous examples. Not quite in the same league but this is still bewilderingly brilliant whisky. If there’s an argument to be made for terroir in whisky then I would say Orkney in the 1960s and 70s was probably a useful place to begin.
SGP: 574 - 92 points.

 

 

A quick battle with a Dragon and we’re done.

 

 

Highland Park 1973 ‘The Dragon’ (58.9%, Robertson’s Of Kirkwall, sherry cask, circa 1990)

Highland Park 1973 ‘The Dragon’ (58.9%, Robertson’s Of Kirkwall, sherry cask, circa 1990)
There’s also versions at 56.6% and 56.4% (WF 94 and 91 respectively) never tried this one though. I’m also not really sure when these were bottled. Given they were semi-private bottlings done in cheap wine bottles I doubt the usual rules around 75cl to 70cl changeover apply here. Anyway, deep expectations… Colour: amber. Nose: extremely pure and fresh showing a rather lean and mineral sherry with plenty leather, wet leaves, smoked teas and chocolate. Olive oil, hessian, natural tar and shoe polish as well. Clean and beautifully precise. With water: bitter lemon, wintergreen, matcha and lots of dense sooty and heavy mineral qualities. Mouth: superb and huge arrival. Concentrated, syrupy and salty old school sherry. Lots of game meats, tar, herbal bitters, cough medicines, embrocations, leaf mulch and bitter cocoa. Some flint smoke and these wonderfully resinous flavours of precious hardwoods. Getting slightly jammy with red fruit preserves too. With water: now the peat comes through more clearly and with a very definite peppery edge. Black pepper, natural tar, ointments, vapour rubs, camphor, hessian and more smoked tea and dried herbs. Finish: long, tarry, deeply warming, peppery, lightly medical and with this lovely lingering gentle peatiness. Comments: Not sure there’s a dud amongst this whole series of Dragons if you ask me. Stunning old sherried Highland Park.
SGP: 563 - 92 points.

 

 

Good! I’m very happy with that wee session, sometimes nothing but truly excellent whiskies will do.

 

 

Virtual hugs to Mr Phil and to Mr KC.

 

 

 

 

October 9, 2020


Whiskyfun

Fettercairn or Old Fettercairn

It can happen that good folks ask me why I never try Fettercairn. Which is untrue, it’s just that you’ll find them under ‘Old Fettercairn’, which was the name everyone was using when this lousy old website had been built (around the year 1875, ha-ha).

Fettercairn 16 yo (46.4%, OB, 2020)

Fettercairn 16 yo (46.4%, OB, 2020) Four stars
A neat brand new 16 years old from Whyte & Mackay’s, ‘enhanced’ in sherry and Port casks. They usually do that well, we’re rather far from a ‘hey let’s see what would happen if we dumped some of our timid malt into <insert name of any wine here> casks like our competitors do’ approach. Colour: amber. Nose: totally Old Fettercairn at first, with some stone dust, first rainwater since three months, coal, pine bark and cones, really a lot of plasticine, and then indeed some bitter (ale), chocolate and walnuts, ginger, and touches of mustard. Extremely idiosyncratic, with a finishing that just wouldn’t have hidden one single iota of this Fettercairnness. Mouth: sure it is unusual, very dry, peppery, almost fizzy (stout), mustardy, both stewed and burnt and with loads of marmalade, then cloves and juniper. Cedarwood and cigars. Finish: medium, dry. Cooked sherry, walnuts, marmalade, pepper. Lovely earthiness in the aftertaste, perhaps a touch of soap too, bitters, turmeric. Comments: a malt like no other, and that’s what we like in Fettercairn when everything has been done with care and respect. I have to say the turmeric in the aftertaste is rather something. A cure? A crazy style that just everyone should try. Distinguished beginners, I believe this new 16 is a good opportunity.
SGP:372 - 85 points.

 

 

 

Fettercairn 22 yo (47%, OB, 2020)

Fettercairn 22 yo (47%, OB, 2020)
As it appears, this one’s all ex-bourbon barrel, without any finishing this time. We should be even closer to Fettercairns very eccentric profile…  Colour: straw. Nose: heavens! I don’t know if the palate will be in the same vein, but this is gorgeous, extraordinarily clean for Fettercairn, perfectly waxy and fermentary, with notes of lemons and oranges, custard (moderately), then soot and clay, and just a touch of leather and gravel. Parsnips and beets glazed with honey. A little buttercream and nougat. Pour me this blind and I say Ben Nevis (and add ‘perhaps’). Mouth: a little more unbalanced and harsh, on the other hand it’s clearly Fettercairn. Pepper, ginger and turmeric, smoothened up with honey and vanilla. And there is a little saffron! All that is connected to an obvious earthiness in the background. And to bitter oranges. Finish: long, very spicy and peppery. Citron liqueur too, but this earthy pepper is back in the aftertaste. Cocoa pods, torrefaction. Comments: I have to say we’ve had quite a few excellent Fettercairns within the recent months, looks like they’ve upped their game. As long as they’re keeping the whacky personality…
SGP:562 - 89 points.

 

 

 

Just a wee indie to be on the safe side…

Fettercairn 2008/2017 (58.4%, L’Esprit, cask #BB4624, 237 bottles)

Fettercairn 2008/2017 (58.4%, L’Esprit, cask #BB4624, 237 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: hot, on kirsch, cider apples, scoria, parsnips and beets (again), raw grass, roots, barks, soot… Well this isn’t easy, but I’m sure water will pacify this Scottish brute. With water: going towards barley, fresh pears, and quite bizarrely, Glenfiddich. Some paraffin. Mouth (neat): ultra-grassy, hyper-peppery, and seemingly lethal. Extremely hot and raw – but maybe for the hipflask if you like to go fishing at 6am… With water: gets a little bitter, very sooty, with rather a lot of rubber if not soap. Having said, that, we know that’s part of this distillate’s inherent style, so  it is not ‘a flaw’. It’s just a very unusual malt whisky. Finish: long, waxy and earthy. The aftertaste is a tad rubbery again. Comments: reminds me of a bulldog. They are not very pretty, but many just love them (with apologies to all bulldogs and their masters).
SGP:372 - 78 points.

Good, that’s enough.

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

 

October 8, 2020


Whiskyfun

America!

Can we still be friends, whatever happens in November? Great, let’s celebrate with quite a few American whiskies…

Distillery 291 (50%, OB, USA, bourbon, single barrel, +/-2019)

Distillery 291 (50%, OB, USA, bourbon, single barrel, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
These good folks are located in Colorado Springs, where they make this one-year-old maize-driven Colorado bourbon that’s got good scores in the, erm, well, former holy book. Colour: amber. Nose: spicy and bready, with good burnt caramel, touches of lavender and caraway, and cloves and regular caramel. Neat and pleasant, but only the palate will tell. Mouth: a feeling of rye, oak extracts, caramel, violet sweets, liquorice… There’s a little earth too. The barrel did a great job here, I suppose it had been well-treaded in the first place. Poppy and violet sweets. Finish: medium, sweet, with a good dose of oak spices. Caraway in abundance, also aniseed. Comments: very good but probably a little tiring, I mean because of this highly extractive profile. Still well above average and nicely crafty, but perhaps not quite worth 95 biblical points (tallyho, tallyho, red zone!)…
SGP:640 - 79 points.

Copperworks 3 yo ‘Batch 1’ (50.7%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, USA, 2020)

Copperworks 3 yo ‘Batch 1’ (50.7%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, USA, 2020) Three stars
This is single malt and we’re in Seattle this time. By the way, I like it a lot that that Boutique-y Company would now bottle whiskies from just anywhere on this green little planet. Still missing Outer-Mongolia though, but I’m sure that’ll come and we have the patience of a cat. Colour: gold. Nose: just the opposite. The one from Colorado was wham-bam, this one’s much more discreet and, shall we say, elegant and measured, with walnut and pecan cakes, honeycomb, many breads (as it should be), and tiny branche-y and earthy notes. With water: nice spicy wood, balsa and eucalyptus, then chestnut, with notes of buckwheat crepes. Now I doubt they have buckwheat crepes in the state of Washington… Mouth (neat): coffee and caraway, plus gingerbread and blood oranges. That’s a nice fresh combo, pleasantly different and even (almost) refreshing. Good liquorice and cold coffee. With water: good bready tastes, honey, coffee and various soft spices. Careful with water though, none works better. Finish: medium, spicy and cereally. Coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: this distillery too comes with +/-95 points from ‘somewhere’. All smallish operations have that today and I say no harm done, but frankly!? Their websites now look like the plastrons of a bunch of Soviet counter-admirals… Come on, more credibility please!
SGP:451 - 82 points.

Uncle Nearest 1856 (50%, OB, USA, premium whiskey, 2020)

Uncle Nearest 1856 (50%, OB, USA, premium whiskey, 2020) Two stars
We’re in Tennessee this time. Sure, the fact that it would say ‘premium’ on the label doesn’t feel too good, but the branding is nicely ‘far-west’ and I’m sure John Wayne wouldn’t reprove. Curious about the juice now…  Colour: deep gold. Nose: typical earthy grains and soft vanilla, just a touch of coconut, some café latte, and just this feeling of having nosed this many times already. Sourced juice? Pretty pleasant if a little undemanding. With water: geranium and tomato leaves, plywood and liquorice. Mouth: classic spicy and earthy breads and dried fruits (bananas), all in sync. Peanut butter, praline, nougat… I have to say I enjoy this palate rather better than the nose – for once! With water: do not add any, this much oak does not take water well. Mind you, this is not tea. Finish: medium, a tad gritty and oaky. Not extremely pleasant. Very drying aftertaste. Comments: fine but not totally earth-shattering. Lacks personality. I’ll have to try their Small Batch version; next year, perhaps.
SGP:461 - 76 points.

 

 

 

Buffalo Trace ‘Small Batch’ (45%, OB, for LMDW, USA, Kentucky straight bourbon, 2562 bottles, 2020)

Buffalo Trace ‘Small Batch’ (45%, OB, for LMDW, USA, Kentucky straight bourbon, 2562 bottles, 2020)
This one might lift this little session a little bit… LMDW usually had some lighter versions at 40%, but this one should talk to us… Colour: deep gold. Nose: bread and brioche, honeycomb, mead, gingerbread, notes of ripe bananas and even mangos, gorse, dandelions, mirabelle tarte, apricot jam, vanilla and triple-sec, whiffs of aniseed and menthol… What’s not to like? Mouth: simple and uncomplicated (pleonasm alert), a tad woody for European palates, perhaps, but otherwise perfectly fine, fruity and fresh, cake-y, pastry-like, with notes of coconut balls and apricot pie. Only the oak is a tad too much. No botherings… Finish: medium, caky, with some cinnamon. A little sour and peppery oak in the aftertaste. Comments: have I said that I thought this was a very fine – albeit oaky - bourbon?
SGP:561 - 82 points.

 

 

Weller 12 yo (45%, OB, for LMDW, USA, Kentucky straight bourbon whisky, 2020)

Weller 12 yo (45%, OB, for LMDW, USA, Kentucky straight bourbon whisky, 2020)
This is ‘the original wheated bourbon’, you understand. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a lovely floral and fruity arrival, on orange blossom and honeysuckle, then we have honeycomb and proper chardonnay. Our friendly mirabelles too, and touches of cough medicine, eucalyptus, and camphor. Perfect uncomplicated nose, well composed, a little commercial in the best sense of that word. Mouth: very good, simple, with good spices and fruits, and jams. Preserved apricots, cinnamon rolls, notes of pears, and perhaps even echoes of calvados. Or there, applejack. Finish: medium, a little oaky as always. A little sour wood and pepper. Comments: seriously good, if not very complex. But are most bourbons really complex? Do not shoot, me friend of you!
SGP:551 - 85 points.

 

 

 

Whistling Andy (50%, Hot Malt Taiwan, USA, straight bourbon whisky, cask #170005, +/-2020)

Whistling Andy (50%, Hot Malt Taiwan, USA, straight bourbon whisky, cask #170005, +/-2020) Four stars
We’re in Montana this time, but this bottling was done for Taiwan and I’m here sitting in Alsace, tasting this whisky. Such a small world! Colour: full gold. Nose: bread and oak, the nicest combo when we’re tackling a very young spirit. Bread dough, rye, maize bread, grist, baguettes and pumpernickels, all that. Only whiffs of praline and caramel (bordering Nutella). Fine fine fine. With water: more spices and spicy herbs, even more bread as well. A baker’s whisky. Mouth: the smart way. Breads and beers, funny scones, bizarre cakes, odd biscuits and unlikely pancakes, that’s the way. Stick with the raw materials, always! (if I may…) With water: careful, but when you add only one or two drops of H2O, you’ll find a nice cinnamony side. Alternatively, just drop water. Finish: long, dry, bready. Comments: there’s so much oak in most US whiskies that reducing is hard to handle. In general, just abstain. Very good bourbon, by the way.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

Whistling Andy ‘Harvest Select’ (45%, Hot Malt Taiwan, USA, American whiskey, +/-2020)

Whistling Andy ‘Harvest Select’ (45%, Hot Malt Taiwan, USA, American whiskey, +/-2020) Four stars
We’re still in Montana (hey Frank Zappa) but this is a different mashbill, with 40% barley and 40% wheat. So obviously, this cannot be bourbon as bourbon has to contain a majority of corn/maize. Colour: gold. Nose: hey hey, Montana! Ale, fudge, caramel cream, stout, millionaire shortbread, gingerbread, pumpernickel, chestnut honey, garden peat, roasted pecans… Well I just love this, how bad is it, doctor? Mouth: pretty amazing. How old is this juice? The website says that they’re ‘rooted in legacy’, which is always scary (ah they have advertising agencies too in Montana!) but after all, only the result counts and the result is brilliant. Stout, spices, gingerbread, mole sauce, blue mountain coffee, sour wine sauces, oloroso (I’m positive there’s no oloroso in there), tobacco… This is so well done! Finish: long, spicy, stouty (?) and concentrated. Brown sauce. Dry and bitter aftertaste – no problems though. Comments: very well played. Very bold, perhaps not utterly well balanced, but truly characterful. Montana via Taiwan, you say?.
SGP:562 - 87 points.

Good, I believe we’ll do another American session tomorrow. In the meantime…

Blanton’s Gold Edition

Blanton’s Gold Edition (51.5%, OB, USA, Bourbon, +/-2019)
One of Buffalo Trace’s unusual bottlings. It is supposed to be ‘a favorite among discerning bourbon aficionados’, so not exactly us but we’ll keep an open mind. Colour: gold. Nose: softer, more timid, more on woods and nuts. Peanut butter in the front, some sour woods in the back. Notes of stewed pineapple. With water: wood. A Saturday afternoon at Ikea’s – what a nightmare indeed. Mouth (neat): a lot of oak on a shy and thin base spirit. Not for us indeed. With water: the Buffalo Trace ‘Small Batch’ was so much nicer! This is horrid, dry and drying, way too oaky. In other words, oak juice. Finish: no, unpleasant. Comments: Blanton’s single barrels are much nicer in my book, while this golden ticket is horrendously oaky. What a nightmare, I am definitely not a ‘discerning bourbon aficionado’. Sob, I’m a failure!
SGP:371 - 50 points (out of Christian charity).

See ya tomorrow. Unless the White House sends helicopters...

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

 

October 7, 2020


Whiskyfun

Port Ellen again on the tasting table

Because today is Saint Serge's Day - not that we really care, but with some whiskies excuses are sometimes needed...Sadly only two PEs today, but remember the breed has been declared nearly extinct by all whisky houses in about the year 2000. Okay, 2005. So it’s almost a miracle that we could taste around two hundred or two hundred-fifty new ones since back then (shameless wink).

 

 

 

Port Ellen 35 yo 1983/2020 (47.9%, The Character of Islay, The Stories of Wind and Wave, cask #11535)

Port Ellen 35 yo 1983/2020 (47.9%, The Character of Islay, The Stories of Wind and Wave, cask #11535)
A rather self-restrained new line by the good folks behind Atom Brands, and one of those increasingly rare 1983s. Remember they closed the distillery for good in the spring of 1983. What’s more, I’ve often noticed that the 1983s were bolder (and actually better) than the 1981s or 1982s, for reasons I just couldn’t explain. Different specs, perhaps? The swan’s song? A farewell with panache? Just a personal impression? Colour: white wine. Nose: goodness gracious, what a nose! A whirlwind of aromas, never jumbled, always clear and precise, and yet ever changing, as if Danny Boyle had been the head distiller at PE in 1983. Almond oil, crushed anchovies, fresh putty, pencil eraser, shampoo, mint liqueur, agave syrup (yah mezcal), kelp, tarry ropes, hessian, leather polish, new electronics (Huawei… oops!), carrots and turnips, seashells, hand cream, ointments and bandages, brake fluid, new tyres… Phew, we could go on and on and on. Mouth: smoked almond oil and artisanal limoncello, then ale and mead, then various sea elements that we just won’t list. This palate is rather less complex than the nose, but… will you please call the anti-maltoporn brigade before it’s too late? Finish: yep. Resins and a savoury side, with some umami. Or rather, as the first man to discover that fifth taste in the 19th century, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, used to call it: osmazôme. Comments: we may start to use the descriptor ‘osmazôme’ more often. As for this little PE, well it’s just brilliant and reminds me of that Old Bothwell stock from the old days.
SGP:367 - 93 points.

 

 

 

Let’s go find a little sparring partner that we haven’t tried yet… rummage-rummage… Oops sadly no other 1983 in the boxes, so perhaps the nearest vintage, a 1982? Given that there aren’t any 1984s, naturally…

Port Ellen 33 yo 1982/2016 (55.6%, Douglas Laing,  Xtra Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL 11210, 60 bottles)

Port Ellen 33 yo 1982/2016 (55.6%, Douglas Laing,  Xtra Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL 11210, 60 bottles) Four stars and a half
Rather a micro-bottling, wondering if this cask hadn’t been shared amongst several very distinguished houses. Colour: light gold. Nose: extremely, and I mean extremely different indeed, this one’s much straighter, ‘young’, full of tincture of iodine and tar, rather in the style of the famed Rare Malts if you will. So rather less complex, but still epic, very briny and tarry, with some grapefruit skins and that sauvignony side that we always enjoy in straight peaters. Indeed this one’s straight. With water: seawater, oysters, and rather less tar than expected. One of the freshest and brightest old casks of PE I could try, I think. Mouth (neat): wham, as they say in paintings. Very dry at first, a little fatter and fruitier then, loaded with grapefruits and serious amounts of shoe polish, pepper, and just a very tarry, and pretty Port-Elleny peatiness. Licking ashtrays and all that… With water: awesome, still young, perhaps a wee tad simple (splitting hairs as usual), lemony, briny and smoky. I could have said Caol Ila, really. Almond oil and fresh marzipan. Finish: long, rather tight, with touches of glue and varnish. Nothing wrong with that, on the contrary, but the finish is probably not this baby’s best angle. Comments: well in the style of the 1982s indeed, although that’s not all that simple. Whisky is not wine (no kiddin’)
SGP:467 - 89 points.

(Merci François)

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

 

October 6, 2020


Whiskyfun

Balblair age vs. vintage

A lot of changes amongst the second-tier distilleries these days (talking about notoriety, not intrinsic quality), especially when those distilleries start with the letter ‘B’. I mean, Benriach, Benromach, and indeed, Balblair… What’s up?

Balblair 18 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019)

Balblair 18 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019) Four stars
For reasons that escape me I hadn’t tried the current version of the 18 yet. Remember they have kind of dropped their all-vintages policy and went with the pack, doing rather age statements. Indeed, like Glenrothes. It’s expensive, but who counts? Colour: gold. Nose: I find it rather less freshly fruity than other expressions, and rather without the trademark bananas and papayas. Having said that, I’m finding some awesome notes of herbal teas, of eucalyptus, balsa wood, patchouli, preserved apricots, and raisins and walnuts, which suggest a sherry influence. I find it pretty complex, if a little un-Balblair. Mouth: the fruits are back, this time with a lot of marmalade and chocolate (Jaffa cakes), apricots, raisins, blood oranges, a little tobacco… It tends to become a little leafy, with some greener herbal teas. Wee notes of sour wine. Finish: medium, balanced, going from oranges to black tea, coffee and nutmeg. Comments: some parts feel young (was it a finishing?) and others well matured. It’s a very, very fine drop but then again, it’s expensive (150€) and I’m rather missing the aerial fruity beauty of some earlier all-bourbon expressions.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Back to vintage statements, with this new, err, vintage version for LMDW that should have been introduced at WhiskyLive Paris…

 

 

 

Balblair 14 yo 2006/2020 (56.3%, OB, for LMDW, cask #77, 573 bottles)

Balblair 14 yo 2006/2020 (56.3%, OB, for LMDW, cask #77, 573 bottles)
Still the old livery this time! Colour: deep gold. Nose: a few whiffs of struck matches at first, but those do tend to go away, while leather and marmalade start to play first fiddles. Dried figs too, a little gunpowder remaining, walnut cake, cast iron (old Japanese teapot), rancio, a little saltpetre perhaps, old pile of coal in an old cellar… With water: gets really complex know, with old pu-erh tea, a box of cigars, some old-school orange liqueurs, fig wine, some old malmsey, humidor… and the expected walnut wine. A little tarmac too, that’s close to those struck matches in this context. Mouth (neat): extremely creamy, starting with quite a lot of ginger, old walnuts, white pepper and cocoa, getting then drier by the second, going towards fino rather than oloroso. Or is that amontillado? With water: very good, on mocha, cigars, chocolate, Seville oranges, liquorice, a touch of caraway and clove… Chocolate crunchers will love this one – and perhaps have it with chocolate indeed. I mean, proper chocolate. Finish: medium to long, always with this raw chocolate with notes of gunpowder, old orange cordial, high-end Germanic herbal liqueur (the ones they make with hundreds of different plants inside)… Comments: totally excellent, once you go past the initial gunpowder.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

 

 

 

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

 

October 5, 2020


Whiskyfun

A little purse of five young Caol Ila

Indeed we’ve had quite a few young Caol Ilas within the recent weeks, but the question is, can anyone have too many Caol Ilas? While I leave you pondering that seminal question, let me please proceed with this wee batch… (some very useful intro yet again, S.!)

Cola Ali 5 11 yo 2008/2020 (58%, Dramfool, finished in PX, 160 bottles)

Cola Ali 5 11 yo 2008/2020 (58%, Dramfool, finished in PX, 160 bottles) Three stars and a half
More exactly, this baby was finished in a First Fill PX hogshead. All right then. Colour: gold. Nose: no straight raisiny PX, rather some kind of smoked and burnt sponge cake, with some wasabi, lemon juice, and all the coastal shebang one would expect from Caol Ila. Balance seems to have been found. With water: metal polish, old toolbox… Mouth (neat): aggressive and brutal, with really a lot of wasabi and lemon juice at first, then wine gums (strawberry) and, this time, raisins in full swing. Big beast. With water: the bonbony sweetness stands out, some briny and lemony elements too. Finish: long, a little mustardy and candy-like at the same time. Not a common feat. Spicier aftertaste, pepper, juniper… Comments: a very unusual Caol Ila, more for fun that for posterity, I suppose. But don’t we all ned fun?
SGP:665 - 84 points.

More madness…

Caol Ila 7 yo 2012/2020 (58.9%, Signatory Vintage for Waldhaus am See St. Moritz, oloroso sherry butt finish, cask #4, 699 bottles)

Caol Ila 7 yo 2012/2020 (58.9%, Signatory Vintage for Waldhaus am See St. Moritz, oloroso sherry butt finish, cask #4, 699 bottles) Four stars
A finishing period that’s been 11-months long. A heavy concoction for our Swiss friends up-there-in-the-mountains, I’m sure… Colour: red amber. Nose: rich as a barbecued Mars bar dipped into coffee liqueur, I would say. In the background, mint drops, tarmac, liquorice extracts, stout, caraway oil and the fattest oyster there ever was. With water: nicer, better balanced, more Caol-Ila-ish, that is to say rather fresher and more coastal. Lovely black chocolate and espresso coffee. Cloves. Mouth (neat): could I have a spoon please? Extremely heavy and spicy, hugely extractive, ridden with pine resin, tar and liquorice, menthol, gingerbread and, well, yet another liquefied Mars bar. Big size. With water: ginger and leather coming out, cinchona, tonic water, cinnamon, bitter oranges… Now, nothing abnormal here. Finish: long, on bitters, Coca-Cola (not just the colour), chocolate, marmalade and coffee. A salty touch in the aftertaste. Comments: forgot to say, it’s very peaty too. Do they have a yeti in the Alps too? This is what it would drink.
SGP:567 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (58.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #53.332, ‘Storm-tossed kelp on an Islay beach’, refill bourbon hogshead, 308 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (58.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #53.332, ‘Storm-tossed kelp on an Islay beach’, refill bourbon hogshead, 308 bottles) Four stars
It seems that they were sober in Leith when they came up with this name - this time. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this one’s totally pure, that is to say full of seawater, lime juice, mercurochrome, oysters, crabs, and kelp indeed. With water: hessian, seashells, kippers, whelks, langoustines, squat lobsters, clams, winkles… (I think they got the drift, S.) Mouth (neat): quintessentially Caol Ila, just a tad hot and sugary, but I’m sure that’s the very high strength. With water: indeed. Classic, pristine Caol Ila al natural, with salt, lemon, smoke and stuff from the sea. Finish: same. Medium length. Comments: exactly the opposite of the Waldhaus, but I love them just the same.
SGP:456 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 9 yo 2011/2020 (58.5%, C. Dully Selection, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #101, 262 bottles)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2011/2020 (58.5%, C. Dully Selection, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #101, 262 bottles) Four stars
This should be neat and tidy too. Colour: white wine. Nose: yes for iodine and kelp, lemon juice, seawater and just a large plate of oysters. In a way, it’s basic, but that’s exactly what one would expect from a young Caol Ila. With water: superb seaweed, wakame, more oysters yet, a touch of hay and even manure, then a wee hint of white chocolate and vanilla… Mouth (neat): I don’t think I’m using the expression ‘self-evident’ too often, but I believe it would fit here. Once again, some sugary or rather liqueury touches from the high ethanol, which should now go away… With water: indeed. Another simple, ultra-clean and ‘millimetric’ beauty from the Sound of Islay. Finish: rather long and rather more lemony. I know they grow lemons near Ullapool, do they do that on Islay too? I mean, not at the Co-op in Bowmore… The aftertaste is a little bitterer. Comments: same entrancing high brightness.
SGP:456 - 87 points.

As the digestif now, perhaps a much older bottle from what was, in truth, a different distillery?

Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, for Zenith Italy, yellow label, early 1980s)

Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, for Zenith Italy, yellow label, early 1980s) Five stars
Bizarrely, this one’s been flipping through my fingers for decades. This is pre-rebuilding Cao Ila, probably distilled in the late 1960s. It’s the 12 that followed the ‘oval white label’ from the early-to-mid 1970s. Or, you’re right, the ‘white oval label’. Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely more medicinal than ‘newer’ Caol Ila, with litres of mercurochrome and seawater as well as a more moderate tarriness,  then rather fresh green fruits, granny smith, greengages… Bandages and embrocations are getting pretty obvious too. Whiffs of dry chenin blanc. Mouth: superb albeit a little light(ish) but that’s the low strength and all the time spent in glass. Salted lemon juice, kiwi juice, camphor and eucalyptus (they almost always come as a pair in my book), some tar rather than ashes, a note of sage perhaps, antiseptic…  Finish: medium, really much on iodine. A curious touch of smoked pears in the aftertaste. Smoked tea flavoured with bits of dried pear – does anybody make that, by any chance? Comments: perhaps could we say that pre-rebuilding Caol Ila was more medicinal, whilst post-rebuilding Caol Ila is rather more ‘coastal’? Mercurochrome versus seawater?
SGP:455 - 90 points.

Last minute bonus, this one's brand new...

Caol Ila 35 yo ‘Director’s Special’ (50.9%, Single Malts of Scotland, Elixir Distillers, 2020)

Caol Ila 35 yo ‘Director’s Special’ (50.9%, Single Malts of Scotland, Elixir Distillers, 2020) Five stars
Picture of an earlier bottling of Caol Ila in the same prestigious series, as this one is brand new and I haven’t seen a picture yet. In theory, this should be a 1984, but that’s only a theory. Colour: light gold. Nose: aren’t these vintages eternal? When trying them you could easily believe that they could go to 100 years old effortlessly, really. The glory of good, well-behaved refill wood! As for what’s in there, well I would mention putty (as always), bergamots and kumquats, soft brown liquorice, a little camphor, a few drops from a very old bottle of Bénédictine, and then, which is just amazing at 35, ‘a walk on the beach at low tide’. Kelp, wet sand, seashells and all that. Even little green crabs. Or there, razor shells and cockles (oh agreed, just any shells). Wow. With water: lovely notes of fresh oil paint, linseed oil, more putty, leather cream… Mouth: oh my is it tight and compact! Citrons, sesame oil, brine, a putty-like almondiness, lemongrass, touches of coriander leaf… Indeed, 100 yo in shy wood, and easily, no problems. With water: fab-tas-tic. A little sweeter (crystallised grapefruit), with a few ashes, more almond paste, rapeseed oil, pips… I’m even finding a little chlorophyl, I think. Finish: rather long and undoubtedly more coastal. Ashes, oysters, lemon juice, kippers, and yet more putty and marzipan. The aftertaste is incredibly fresh. Pink grapefruits. Comments: what a journey. Marvellous ‘old’ Caol Ila that does not taste old at all. And the citrus!
SGP:655 - 92 points.

(Merci François, Mike and Pierre-Alexandre)

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

 

October 4, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

 

More rums from the Festival des Nouveautés

 

 

I think the selection this year is particularly heavy, in the best sense of that word. No lightish caramel juice to be spotted, unless I haven’t been paying enough attention. For example…

 

 

Vieux Sajous 4 yo ‘First Release’ (50.6%, OB, for LMDW, Haiti, 2316 bottles, 2020)

Vieux Sajous 4 yo ‘First Release’ (50.6%, OB, for LMDW, Haiti, 2316 bottles, 2020)
This ‘vieux’ clairin  is technically well rum and has been matured in a dozen casks such as ex-Benriach or ex-Caroni. So this one too is pretty ‘meta’ or ‘cross’, but I doubt Benriach had much impact on it, unless that was peated Benriach. Let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: more linseed oil and picture varnish that at any painter’s, really. Goes then towards almonds, both bitter ones and regulars, then the much expected olives and benzine, and finally some softer, vanilla-driven notes, with touches of camphor and menthol. Feels older than 4! With water: we’re off to Jamaica! Plastics, petrol, tar, olives, camphor, goat head soup (not too sure about that one, but cheers to The Stones!…) Mouth (neat): very salty, brine-y, full of liquorice, earth, parsnips, petrol and olive oil, and of course sugarcane. It’s pretty rich, with very good clean power, while retaining some of the clairins’ much appreciated ‘soft dirtiness’. With water: goes on and on like that, with added citrus and star fruit. Finish: a notch less heavy, but still very salty. Notes of graphite oil, fusain… We’re at a painter’s indeed. Plastics are back in the aftertaste – typical! Comments: I would tend to enjoy the best white ones even better, but I just love this very characterful style. Basquiat (and the Rolling Stones) in a bottle.
SGP:462 - 87 points.

 

 

Caroni 22 yo 1998/2020 ‘Balas Bhaggan’ (68.4%, Velier for LMDW, Trinidad, 1158 bottles)

Caroni 22 yo 1998/2020 ‘Balas Bhaggan’ (68.4%, Velier for LMDW, Trinidad, 1158 bottles)
This one’s in the 4th ‘employee’ series, and once again, given the strength here, looks like they’re trying to kill us all - but we will not let it happen. Plus, it is heavy Caroni. Colour: deep gold. Nose: old dirt, old furniture, black earth, cigars, fermenting kombucha, a lot of tar and a lot of liquorice, and perhaps a little mango chutney, but not too sure about that with this quasi-lethal strength. With water: humidor and balsa wood, all model glue you’d need to make a wee plane out of it, and something reminiscent of some roughish Turkish fig arrak. Mouth (neat): five rounds against Mike Tyson or something like that. And you feel it won’t do any good to your throat either, so consequently… With water: it’s sweeter and rounder than the Sajous, but both share some similar flavours too. Petrol, earth and plastics plus well-overripe pineapples and bananas. Finish: very long, with our friends the olives coming to the rescue. Earthy and cane-y aftertaste. Comments: rather rustic, as many Caronis are or were in my book, but that’s also what we like in Caroni. Excellent.
SGP:463 - 88 points.

 

 

Caroni 22 yo 1998/2020 ‘Dayanand Yunkoo Ballon’ (68.4%, Velier for LMDW, Trinidad, 1180 bottles)

Caroni 22 yo 1998/2020 ‘Dayanand Yunkoo Ballon’ (68.4%, Velier for LMDW, Trinidad, 1180 bottles)
Cool, another readymade Molotov cocktail! It’s a blend of six casks, with the angel’s (well, the demon’s) share reaching 80% altogether. Indeed, same strength, that’s not a typo. Colour: golden amber. Nose: I find it rather rounder and softer than its brother, perhaps a little more on banana cake and cognac, and less on petroly elements. But only water will really tell… With water: not really, nail polish remover, olive oil, engine oil, tarmac, wine vinegar, rotting fruits… Mouth (neat): ouch! Officer, I have the names of the culprits! Extremely strong, varnishy, acetone-y, ethanoly, and just wacko-wacko. Not the kind of bottle to bring on a plane I suppose, but would anyone let you do that? With (a lot of) water: more pepper, some lemon too, cough medicine, lip balm... It got pretty medicinal, and some spicy olive oil is never far away. Now both bottlings really converge at this point. Finish: extremely long, spicy and medicinal at first, then more on barbecued fruits (pineapples) and Russian black tea. Comments: I think I liked this one a tad better today, but they’re very close as far as quality’s concerned and the outcome could be the other way ‘round right next week.
SGP:563 - 89 points.

 

 

What could climb over some heavy Caroni? You say Hampden?..

 

 

Hampden 9 yo 2011/2020 ‘LFCH’ (60.3%, OB for LMDW, Jamaica, bourbon barrel, cask #296, 250 bottles)

Hampden 9 yo 2011/2020 ‘LFCH’ (60.3%, OB for LMDW, Jamaica, bourbon barrel, cask #296, 250 bottles)
There’s a lovely bird that’s probably featherlight on the label for this most heaviest rum, although I believe this mark would rather suggest this is some low-ester Hampden, let’s see… (it seems that only OWH is lighter than LFCH) Colour: gold. Nose: well, this is still rather petroly/estery/phenolic to me, but indeed, after a few notes of oil and tar, we would rather be going towards stewed vegetables, a little metal (iron), and flowers such as wisteria and jasmine. With water: yeah well, whichever the mark, Hampden is Hampden. Notes of old books, ink, tar, rhubarb jam, cracked pine needles… Mouth (neat): pretty balanced but certainly not light. As if someone would have smoked citrons and thrown ashes into some cane juice. Add cinnamon and a little brown sugar (crikey, The Stones yet again!) With water: salt, lemon, ashes, tar, olive oil and an agave-y side. Notes of fermentation for sure, ale… Finish: long and really fresh, with various kinds of lemons. I’m wondering if you couldn’t make a kind of rum Margarita out of this – but I seldom drink or do cocktails, so I could tell. The aftertaste is a little drying and bitter/sour, perhaps. Big chillies too in the end, Tabasco. Comments: lighter and, above all, cleaner and straighter than the Caronis. Quality’s just as high in my book.
SGP:552 - 89 points.

 

 

Hampden 8 yo 20112/2020 ‘OWH’ (61.7%, OB for Whisky Live Paris 2020, Jamaica, bourbon barrel, cask #667, 250 bottles)

Hampden 8 yo 2012/2020 ‘OWH’ (61.7%, OB for Whisky Live Paris 2020, Jamaica, bourbon barrel, cask #667, 250 bottles)
Here it is, I believe the lightest mark at Hampden’s (40-80 g. esters/hlpa). Mind you the highest, DOK, shelters 1500g or more, as it appears. So no automatic toothpaste this time… Colour: gold. Nose: I hope you’ll forgive this truism, Hampden remains Hampden. Awesome natural rubber, pencil eraser, acacia gum, then indeed, some braised apricots and papayas, that’s not very common. Probably some cashew and pecans too. I find this pretty complex, if not as wham-bam in-your-face as most other Hampdens. Awesome! With water: yes yes yes, pine needles, fern and moss, tiger balm, eucalyptus… Mouth (neat): low-esters? No way, this is clearly estery indeed, even pretty smoky, with a feeling of chewing a candle (rather paraffin) and quaffing retsina, that Greek wine that harbours resin – our Greek friends confirmed there were great un-touristy bottles to be found here and there. But this Hampden is strong, so… With water: we’re going towards bone-dry and flinty white wine. And lime and bamboo shoots. Finish: long, perfect, rather refined and driven by high-class lemons and a little green pepper. A funny touch of HP-y heather honey in the aftertaste. Comments: they were all superb, but this is our winner today. Do you know why? Because it’s also moreish and almost refreshing. Well, I’m exaggerating a wee bit now.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

 

 

 

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

 

October 3, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
A mixed bag of pairs
Things are extremely busy and more than a little hectic here at Whiskyfun’s Edinburgh HQ. So just a few pairs this week, let’s see what we have sitting to hand. Why not this as a solo aperitif…

 

John Jameson 10 yo (no ABV, OB,  )

John Jameson 10 yo (no ABV, OB, circa 1920s)
Colour: gold. Nose: super old school! Full of metal polish and funny old liqueurs and ointments. Like nosing an episode of Peaky Blinders! Becomes rapidly extremely herbal, on herbal toothpaste, bouillon, cough medicines, mothballs and eucalyptus resin. Fir wood, hardwood resins, linseed oil and pot pourri. An ancient and long lost style. Mouth: ah, a shame, it’s kind of fallen apart. Even more so than the nose would suggest. There is some glimmers of herbal resins and even touches of medical smoke. But this is pretty much oxidised sadly. Finish: brief and very thin, a little sour wood residue. Comments: The nose was still showing and impressive amount of character and, had this bottle travelled a little better over the decades, I’d say it would be a fascinating and pretty good dram. As things stand, this is a pretty instructive lesson in the order in which a whisky dies.
No score.

 

 

I’m often rather brutal about Macallan, but I think it’s good to remind ourselves that their reputation was built upon some pretty serious whisky from time to time. It’s been a while since I tried any classic era Macallan, so let’s have some in the form of a couple of old minis. Just about the only affordable ‘format’ old Macallan is to be found in these days.

 

 

Macallan 10 yo (40%, OB, mini, early 1990s)

Macallan 10 yo (40%, OB, mini, early 1990s)
Colour: amber. Nose: well, exactly. Just a superb and elegant old school, leafy and raisiny sherry. Almonds, sultanas, wee glimmers of chocolate, soft earth, mint tea and hints of leather. Simple, easy but extremely refined. Mouth: excellent weight for 40%. Robustly earthy and more focussed of damp tobacco, leather, stewed dark fruits and bitter chocolate than the lighter nose suggested. Rather a punchy and more assertive sherry profile here. Some notes of espresso, rancio and bitter herbs. Finish: good length, wonderfully leathery, drying, plenty tobacco, bitter chocolate, perfectly bitter herbal notes, treacle, dried mint and miso. Comments: Little wonder people got themselves in a lather about these bottlings. Just superb, effortlessly quaffable sherried malt whisky. One that managed to feel both bigger than its ABV and older that 10 years.
SGP: 561 - 88 points.

 

 

Macallan 10 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, mid-1970s)

Macallan 10 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, mini, mid-1970s)
In my experience these 100 proof batches from G&M during this era when they still held the Macallan license could be quite variable. Colour: deep gold. Nose: what I just love here is that the natural distillate is really exposed without any obvious cloak of sherry. Instead you have this wonderfully plush, full and pulpy fruitiness. Ripe yellow and green fruits, mirabelle jam, damsons, pollens, beeswax and flower honeys. Also wee touches of mint, dried apple rings, golden sultanas and melon. With water: a king of oily and fatty cereal profile emerges - cereal eau de vie - with touches of caraway, linseed oil, vase water and lanolin. Mouth: superb and powerful arrival, all on aged mead, dried flowers, waxes, putty, high class olive oil, mineral oils, waxed canvass, lime cordial and many wee herbal and medical touches. Just wonderfully full and ‘fat’ distillate that feels fantastically textural and mouth-coating. With water: again this impression of ‘fatness’ and breadth of flavour. Full of subtle floral, waxy and honeyed notes. Still lightly medical, mentholated and showing more crystallised fruits now. Finish: long, superbly thick, honeyed, resinous, mentholated, jammy yellow fruits, pollens and herbs. Comments: Another, I would argue pretty lost, style of Macallan entirely. The natural aspects of the distillate here - primarily fruits, texture and power - are just spellbinding.
SGP: 662 - 93 points.

 

 

Some peat I think…

 

 

Ardmore 9 yo 2009/2019 (58.5%, The Whisky Exchange ‘Single Casks’, cask #707912, ex-Laphroaig barrel, 242 bottles)

Ardmore 9 yo 2009/2019 (58.5%, The Whisky Exchange ‘Single Casks’, cask #707912, ex-Laphroaig barrel, 242 bottles)
Seeing as Laphroaig and Ardmore are in the same stable and Laphroaig makes a big deal out of maturation in 1st fill barrels, it isn’t too surprising that its refills make their way to Ardmore. Nor that we are now seeing a fair few of the results finding their way to the indys. I think they are generally very good, but I also think that given the raw potency of Laphroaig, you could make an argument for this being a blended malt. Colour: white wine. Nose: sharply citric and slightly yeasty, like sourdough starter drizzled with lemon juice. Then some extremely fresh notes of wet fabrics, seawater and crushed seashells. Some gutsy medicines too. With water: pure, crisp, salty and with glimmers of cereals and carbolic wash acidity. Mouth: could be a light Laphroaig really. All sharp lemon juice, kiln smoke, tar and TCP, only later does there come some more classical Ardmore farmyard smokiness. Some tar, engine oil and dried seaweed. With water: a little softer and more complex with water. Fragrant smoke, beach sand, pebbles, ink and some scattered dry herbs. Still very drying, powerful and medical though. Finish: long, deeply smoky, ashy, mineral and very salty and medical. Comments: Given this blind and told it was Laphroaig I suspect I wouldn’t blink. An ideal whisky with which to kindle some impossible arguments. I find it very good, but still a little young and rough around the edges. These batches in a few years should start to be pretty great I think.
SGP: 366 - 84 points.

 

 

Ardmore 9 yo 2009/2018 (58.5%, The Single Cask, cask #1312, 217 bottles)

Ardmore 9 yo 2009/2018 (58.5%, The Single Cask, cask #1312, 217 bottles)
I would assume this is from another ex-Laphroaig barrel, but let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: perhaps not, this is much more focussed on that classical Ardmore farminess. Hay bails, cow sheds, horse sweat, pepped cured meats, hot mustard and notes of soot and herbal teas. A more gentle, industrial smokiness writhing underneath. With water: a little crisper and leaner in its smokiness, like frying bacon lardons, sootier, fatter and showing touches of tar. Mouth: smoked olive oil, boiled ham, seaweed flakes in hot ramen broth, smoked paprika, black olive bread and engine oil. Big, gutsy and rather powerful but definitely far more ‘Ardmore’. With water: very good, much more herbaceous, umami, saline, meaty and full of tar, embrocations, olive oil and spicy rye breads. Finish: long, brimming with leafy smokiness, natural tar, ointments, mercurochrome and black olive tapenade. Comments: I would love to know if this was also an ex-Laphroaig barrel. What’s for sure is that the distillery character is fully out and proud here, which is great. By comparison I really am left with the impression that these ex-Laph Ardmores are rather muddled and conflict-ridden whiskies in many ways - the Ardmore itself  seems rather lost in the crossfire. Anyway, this one was excellent.
SGP: 464 - 86 points.

 

 

Ledaig 26 yo 1993/2019 (45%, The Single Cask, cask #245, 94 bottles)

Ledaig 26 yo 1993/2019 (45%, The Single Cask, cask #245, 94 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: feels like one of these funny vintages where Ledaig and Tobermory become kind of indistinguishable from each other. Some gentle barley sweetness and malt extract with lactic sweetness like condensed milk, vapour rubs, lightly waxed parchments, menthol tobacco, lemon peel, gentle herbal infusions and umami broths. Mouth: hang on! An immediate and rather striking departure - a handbrake turn almost - towards overripe orange peel, cheng pi dried orange peel tea, kumquats, preserved lemons, pink grapefruit and some rather bitter notes of blood orange. Weird citrus all the way! More barley extract, white mushroom and herbal teas. There’s also the funny chemical touches which occasionally veer into bubblegum territory. In time it realigns a little more with the nose and there’s some nicely salty / savoury bread notes emerging. Finish: medium and very savoury, herbal, oily cereals, minerals, putty, white pepper, lime pith and various breads. Comments: Strange, funny, talkative and at times downright unusual whisky. But it’s never less than charmingly esoteric and eccentric, and certainly far from boring. Another one of these drams to pour blind for whisky friends.
SGP: 652 - 87 points.

 

 

Ledaig 24 yo 1995/2020 (46.4%, Whisky Nerds, cask #128, hogshead, 102 bottles)

Ledaig 24 yo 1995/2020 (46.4%, Whisky Nerds, cask #128, hogshead, 102 bottles)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: brighter, more immediately on cereals, breads and honeys and probably a bit more classical. A clear coastal note, white flowers, soft waxes, herbal teas with lemon peel and touches of wintergreen and bergamot. Elegantly fragrant in fact. Mouth: wonderfully juicy on arrival, white jellybeans and other pineapple sweeties. Fruit salad juices, miso, green fruits, banana and a wee hint of custard adding a sense of creaminess. Goes on with herbal teas, dried tarragon and white pepper. Finish: good length, savoury, lightly salty, dried flowers, herbal teas, pithy citrus peels and a tiny medical kiss in the aftertaste. Comments: Very impressive. Probably my favourite thus far out of all these 90s Ledaigs that have popped up recently.
SGP: 651 - 89 points.

 

 

A couple of 1989 Laphroaig and we’ll be done.

 

 

Laphroaig 17 yo 1989/2007 (50.3%, OB Feis Ile, 4000 bottles)

Laphroaig 17 yo 1989/2007 (50.3%, OB Feis Ile, 4000 bottles)
I have fond memories of quaffing this one with rather merry abandon during Feis 2007, but I never recorded proper notes for it. Time to make amends… Colour: gold. Nose: tar, seashore, coastal freshness, lemon rind, TCP and some very fragrant touches of grapefruit, Earl Grey tea and brine mixed with olive oil. With water: gets immediately younger and more vigorously coastal. Fresh Atlantic air, beach foam, sand and boiled langoustine. Mouth: here you feel the sweetness of the bourbon barrels rather more intensely with these notes of smoky, creamy vanilla, there’s also more natural tarriness, pine sap, seawater, soy sauce and camphor. Perfectly elegant and balanced with these wispy curls of pure peat smoke. With water: perfect! The wood sweetness steps back and we’re again getting this beautiful balance of fragrant, smoked teas, peat embers and pithy citrus peels. Finish: long, wood embers, iodine, smoked olive oil, cough medicine, salted liquorice and seaweed. Comments: At times there’s a tension between the sweetness of the cask and the ‘Laphroaigness’ of the distillate, however with a few drops of water the end result is harmony and beautiful distillery character.
SGP: 566 - 91 points.

 

 

Laphroaig 30 yo 1989/2019 (46.8%, The Whiskyfind, Mizunara oak finish, 1410 bottles)

Laphroaig 30 yo 1989/2019 (46.8%, The Whiskyfind, Mizunara oak finish, 1410 bottles)
I will admit to thinking that Mizunara is slightly overhyped as a ‘thing’. However, it may just be that I’m smelly Scottish philistine. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s taken on this wonderfully fragrant profile that mature Laphroaig from this era seems to possess. Sandalwood, dried herbs, lapsing souchong, crab sticks, mint tea, leather, miso, fir wood, dried seaweed, mineral oil and canvas. There’s a wonderful sense of umami, gentle coastal notes and various citrus peels. Mouth: richly tarry and with a lovely seam of soft, herbal peat smoke. Brine, olive oil, miso, soy sauce, more piney notes, preserved lemons and cough syrups. Finish: not the longest but superbly resinous, tarry, peppery, herbal and nicely saline. Comments: Rather simple and elegant in its construction, but everything is in its place and there’s no sense that whatever has gone on with the Mizunara has been anything other than very sensitively handled.
SGP: 655 - 90 points.

 

 

Thanks to Phil H and to Phil T.

 

 

 

 

October 2, 2020


Whiskyfun

Youngsters special,
Ardnamurchan and Daftmill

Does this make any sense? Probably not, what’s more both distilleries are absolutely not neighbours, mind you you’ll need around four hours and a half to drive from the East (Daftmill) to the West (Ardnamurchan), while latitudes are rather similar. And I’m not taking the stops at the pubs into account.

Ardnamurchan 2019/AD Release No. 4 (57.4%, OB)

Ardnamurchan 2019/AD Release No. 4 (57.4%, OB) Three stars and a half
Sadly not whisky yet, but this should be close. Angus had already tried a proper whisky from theirs and liked it a lot, but we’re on the continent here and Scots are Scots. Colour: gold. Nose: panettone anybody? Shortbread? Butterscotch? Pumpernickel? In fact, many ‘new’ drops are similar, they’ve all learnt how to use active wood and met with dear Dr Swan. And frankly, that’s good news, it’s just that many new cats are pretty, yeah, similar. Unless they play it dirty and re-rack in Laphroaig, or Caol Ila, or whatever, which is just cheating, is it not. No such practices at Ardnamurchan, I’m sure. With water: same. Gingerbread. Mouth (neat): creamy, rich, starting rather spicy (ginger and nutmeg from the wood), getting then a tad sappy/resinous, and rather going on with smoky marmalade and cakes. It’s very good. With water: citrus up, ginger too. The oak feels a wee bit. Finish: long, very nicely lemony now. Lemon, peppermint, ginger, cinnamon. Smokier aftertaste. Comments: modern, worldly, and pretty impressive. I just hope, sincerely, that all these new distilleries all around the world will not make excellent whiskies… that are all the same. What’s more, we should watch deforestation.
SGP:553 - 84 points.

And so let’s try that new Daftmill that should have been introduced at Whisky Live Paris 2020…

 

 

 

Daftmill 11 yo 2009/2020 (60.6%, OB for LMDW, sherry butt, cask #28, 630 bottles)

Daftmill 11 yo 2009/2020 (60.6%, OB for LMDW, sherry butt, cask #28, 630 bottles)
We’ve tried many more ex-bourbon Daftmills until now, but there was a 2006 ex-sherry for Berry Bros. that had been stupendous last year. Colour: deep gold. Nose: have I already written that Daftmill was of ‘grand cru’ quality in my book? Not unlike these garage wines in Pomerol that command higher prices than Pétrus or Lafleur? In fact, this nose is rather exceptional, without any of the heaviness or clumsiness that could be seen elsewhere in such a situation, and just a fantastic and very precise papaya/mango combination that no one can resist. Pink grapefruits too, and not too many raisins and walnuts. Luminous. With water: touches of tobacco and fig leaves. The grapefruits keep Hendrixing. Mouth (neat): high-precision citrus and other tropical fruits, coated with just a dollop of heather honey. Amen. With water: tiny bits of putty, saps, resins, chewing-gum, sweeter oils, waxes… Exactly what a great malty make would display. Exceptional drop and something, if I may, that’s reminiscent of some old sherried Rosebanks that D.L. used to have around Y2K. Finish: long, superb, slightly waxy and resinous, otherwise on the brightest citrus, bergamots, kumquats, grapefruits… Comments: I’m just totally impressed. Oh and no silly finishings and no silly labels, it is all about whisky at Daftmill’s (and BBR’s). Soooo smart…
SGP:651 - 92 points.

 

 

 

Last minute bonus! Several new Ardnamurchans just in, including their very first official single malt whisky, which we’ll have riiiiight away, naturally.

Ardnamurchan AD/09.20:01 (46.8%, OB, 15,950 bottles, 2020)

Ardnamurchan AD/09.20:01 (46.8%, OB, 15,950 bottles, 2020) Four stars
So their inaugural genuine malt whisky, always a moving moment. It seems that this is a five years old, so not just a three-years-old-and-one-day boosted in STR or PX (or Laphroaig), and that it’s a blend of the distillery’s peated and un-peated makes, matured in 2/3 ex-bourbon and 1/3 ex-sherry wood. Now that we know everything, let’s proceed… Colour: light gold. Nose: I rather like this feeling of ‘single-blended malt’, with its freshness, the wee farmy side from the peat, the notes of stewed rhubarb with a little juniper, these touches of aquavit and then these maritime aromas, as well as this rather unexpected oriental side,  between incense and orange blossom water. Almost forgot to mention mirabelle eau-de-vie (but we still make the best in Alsace, haha…) Mouth: clearly ‘a peater’, as as always, the peaty party is having the upper hand. There are hints of strawberry yoghurt, not unseen in fresh peaters, a combination of aromatic herbs (thyme, tarragon) and some kind of spicy mead perhaps. Touches of caraway and sweeter wholegrain bread, gingerbread, speculoos... All that with a solid, rather creamy texture. Finish: pretty long, rather on a spicy/honeyed smokiness. Did anybody ever try to smoke gingerbread? The aftertaste is more on a classic citron/brine/smoke combo. Comments: this impressive young baby improves a lot with oxygen. Let them breathe! Can't wait to try these when the
m too are eleven.
SGP:655 - 86 points.
 

October 1, 2020


Whiskyfun

Balvenie with a The

So only officials today. Sure we have a proper load of Burnsides in the reserve, but those will be tackled later.

Balvenie 12 yo ‘The Sweet Toast Of American Oak’ (43%, OB, +/-2019)

Balvenie 12 yo ‘The Sweet Toast Of American Oak’ (43%, OB, +/-2019) Three stars
These are bourbon barrels that are ueber-toasted once they’ve arrived in Bonnie Scotland. Hope Washington won’t take umbrage. Colour: gold. Nose: typical Balvenie profile in my book, with a large mirabelle tarte covered with custard, as well as preserved apricots, as well as some rather light acacia honey, as well as a little nougat or turon. Also whiffs of sweeter beer, why not pale ale? The nougat side would never stop growing. Mouth: a little oak-froward at first, less ‘smooth’ and fruity than other Balvenies, becoming grassy and indeed, oaky. We’re talking sawdust, fresh oak. Did they shave the casks too? In the end, its rather a bitterer version of B. Finish: medium, grassy, some parts remind me of some beers aged in oak. Can’t remember the name, I know more about pineapple pizzas than I know my beers. Quite. Comments: a very fine drop, but I’m not sure this Nigel-Tufnelesque oaky side is exactly for me.
SGP:461 - 81 points.

 

 

 

Balvenie 21 yo ‘Single Barrel’ (47.8%, OB, cask #5883, 300 bottles)

Balvenie 21 yo ‘Single Barrel’ (47.8%, OB, cask #5883, 300 bottles)
It says ‘traditional oak’, so I suppose that’s a refill American oak hogshead. And we are absolutely not against that. Colour: light gold. Nose: a lot of putty, some nail polish, then some green tea, wheelbarrows of almonds and marzipan, while it would then gear towards the more traditional mirabelles and apricots that I always enjoy in Balvenie. There’s a touch of mint too, perhaps wild carrots… All that before it would turn to buttered popcorn. Mouth: big bodied, with some peppery touches upfront, the usual mirabelles again (but as jam), a pinch of grated coconut, then really green barley that you would have stolen from a field (boo). It’s still got youth and a lovely firmness, we’re not quite in post-prandial territories yet. Finish: long as a Frank Zappa solo, and even improving, I’m even finding a salty touch. Salt in Balvenie? More popcorn too, it’s true that caramelised and salted popcorn is a slaughter, as we say. Never buy very large bags of that and sit in front of Netflix. Comments: still kind of young, and just excellent.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

 

 

Balvenie ‘Tun 1509’ (52.4%, OB, Batch #7, 2020)

Balvenie ‘Tun 1509’ (52.4%, OB, Batch #7, 2020)
I believe they’re doing one batch of this tun a year. Colour: gold. Nose: I suppose there’s some sherry inside this time, not too sure, I’ve haven’t seen the sacred list. Burnt raisins, panettone, fudge and toffee, café latte, perhaps a spoonful of fig jam and one of peanut butter… With water: herbal teas, menthol and pine needles – on top of all the rest. Mouth (neat): lovely, it’s got the sexy roughness that we’ve always enjoyed in some other well-known NAS (a.k.a. pretty young) Speysiders from the olden times, with a good dose of chocolate, coffee, roasted peanuts, raisins, toffee and allspice. Classic no-fuss rich and convincing whisky. With water: the spices further come out, but the whole remains rather rounded and even a little easy, in a good way. Gingerbread and Stolle. Finish: long and even spicier, I mean more on spice cake. No, not space cake, spice cake. Comments: 70% sherry and 40% bourbon? Maybe, I have no proper clue at hand. And yes we’re the best at math.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

 

 

 

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

 

WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

September 2020

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Aberlour 18 yo 2002/2020 (62.4%, OB, cask #2575, 263 bottles) - WF92

Longmorn 36 yo 1975/2011 (50.6%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 163 bottles)- WF91

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
None (I'm afraid)

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Neisson 2014/2020 ‘V.S.O.P.’ (44%, OB, LMDW, Martinique, agricole, 900 bottles) - WF92

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Bladnoch 17 yo ‘Californian Red Wine Finish’ (46.7%, OB, +/-2018)  - WF65

September 2020 - part 2 <--- October 2020 - part 1 ---> October 2020 - part 2


 

 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Balblair 14 yo 2006/2020 (56.3%, OB, for LMDW, cask #77, 573 bottles)

Benromach 2011/2020 (61.2%, OB, for France, first fill sherry, cask #39, 331 bottles)

Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, for Zenith Italy, yellow label, early 1980s)

Caol Ila 35 yo ‘Director’s Special’ (50.9%, Single Malts of Scotland, Elixir Distillers, 2020)

Craigellachie 49 yo 1970/2019 (48.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Esclusive, Archive Release, cask #1608)

Daftmill 11 yo 2009/2020 (60.6%, OB for LMDW, sherry butt, cask #28, 630 bottles)

Imperial 30 yo (54.8%, Single Malts of Scotland, Director’s Special, 2020)

Port Ellen 35 yo 1983/2020 (47.9%, The Character of Islay, The Stories of Wind and Wave, cask #11535)

Clairin Communal Ansyen (49.3%, OB, LMDW, Haiti, 2964 bottles, 2020) 

Hampden 10 yo 2010/2020 ‘LROK’ (59%, OB for LMDW, Jamaica, bourbon barrel, cask #92, 250 bottles)

Hampden 8 yo 2012/2020 ‘OWH’ (61.7%, OB for Whisky Live Paris 2020, Jamaica, bourbon barrel, cask #667, 250 bottles)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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