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

       

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

 

 

September 14, 2020


Whiskyfun

A small purse of Highland Park
and Secret Orkneys

I think I have a very smart question for you (yeah right), what would you prefer, some disclosed Highland Park that bears the name of a dresser from IKEA’s and neither an age nor a vintage statement, or some ‘Secret Orkney that cannot be named even under torture’ that comes complete with all data? I agree, not an easy question, although I believe I’m guessing what you’re thinking just now…

Highland Park ‘Triskelion’ (45.1%, OB, 2019)

Highland Park ‘Triskelion’ (45.1%, OB, 2019) Two stars and a half
A triskelion? But isn’t that an ancient Greek (and then Celtic) symbol rather than anything Viking? Neither an age nor a vintage statement here, but we know that ‘First-fill sherry seasoned Spanish oak butts, first-fill sherry seasoned American oak casks and first-fill bourbon barrels and hogsheads were combined and a small number of refill casks added to provide a degree of softness’. Very reassuring isn’t it. Frankly, this obsession with selling points around wood (almost) all over Scotland is going nowhere. Not even at £170 a skittle. Colour: gold. Nose: oak, sawdust, a Saturday morning at IKEA indeed, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, curry powder, moss… I find this simply a little unpleasant. A little tobacco, burnt wood and fruit peel coming in after a good minute, perhaps sour cherries, but that’s a little late. I hope the palate will be more to my liking… Water brings out menthol, as often with very wooded whiskies. Mouth: it sure is, this is pretty smoky, leathery, curry-like again and full of tobacco, with good marmalade and honey-glazed nuts. A leathery bitterness in the background, that’s the casks. Anyway, I prefer the palate for sure. Finish: long, a little bitter, too spicy for me, mainly on green walnuts and bitter almonds. Comments: water really helps it but who’s going to add water to a whisky that’s already been reduced to 45% vol.?
SGP:372 - 79 points.

I always feel the need to go back to the regular 12… Oh let’s do that. No, not the 10, that would be unfair to the Triskelion.

Highland Park 12 yo ‘Viking Honour’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Highland Park 12 yo ‘Viking Honour’ (40%, OB, +/-2019) Three stars and a half
More Viking paraphernalia… Could we at least have Lagertha? Colour: gold. Nose: not my preferred style of HP either, but this is fresher, fruitier, more lively, even if the core is kind of similar. Bitter oranges, marmalade, ginger, ale, whiffs of pumpernickel bread, oak spices, a little leather and tobacco… Indeed I like this nose better. Mouth: no questions, this is more refreshing despite the ‘seasoning’ that’s a little too apparent to me. Pepper, oak spices, black tea, grass smoke… Nice earthy honey beyond these bitterish spices. Finish: medium, spicy, with an obvious tannicity. Comments: they seem to have used active seasoned wood too here, but the spices and the leather were better controlled in my opinion. But indeed I much prefer the brighter, distillate-driven HPs. Because what a distillate it is indeed!
SGP:461 - 83 points.

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2018 (50.7%, Duncan Taylor, Octave, cask # 5019914)

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2018 (50.7%, Duncan Taylor, Octave, cask # 5019914) Four stars
All in all and big oak for big oak, we might as well try one of these small Octaves that became Duncan Taylor’s main speciality. Colour: pale gold. Nose: indeed the oak feels, but it’s a little matter, without those sour/bitter notes that often come with quickish sherry seasoning. A little camphor, bananas, eucalyptus, whiffs of seawater, grass smoke, almond milk… With water: a walk in the woods etcetera. Mouth (neat): pretty fine, with notes of coconut and mangos from the active oak, a little iodine, seaweed, a grassy smokiness, some lime juice… I find this perfectly all right, while the distillate’s rather more in the front, quite bizarrely given this configuration. With water: creamier, really good, smoky and coastal, with only a touch of coconut, plus papayas and bananas. Well conducted. Finish: medium, clean fruity, balanced. Oranges, honey and mint, that just always works. Comments: very good, uncomplicated, very satisfying.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

And now, some of those beautiful secret Orkneyans that many IBs have or have got…. Weren’t Blackadder the pioneers, with their Old Man of Hoy? Sadly we haven't got any in the boxes currently.

Secret Orkney 18 yo 2000/2019 (53.1%, Le Gus’t, hogshead, 356 bottles)

Secret Orkney 18 yo 2000/2019 (53.1%, Le Gus’t, hogshead, 356 bottles) Five stars
This baby comes with some lovely puffins on the label. Well, I guess they’re puffins, are they not? Colour: pale gold. Nose: it is a very dry, very mineral one, full of clay, limestone, saltpetre, soot and bread dough, also floor-cloth and vase water. All that is much nicer than it sounds mind you. Crushed aspirin, linseed oil... With water: grist, dough, porridge, ink, plaster… Mouth (neat): exactly what we were expecting, a grassy smoke, some chalk, sucking fabric, bitter almonds, green lemons… It’s really sharp and tense. With water: water pulls fruits, namely lime and lemon, as well as more medicinal notes, around ointments and Vick’s best. Tiny herbs too, coriander leaves, Thai basil, borage… Finish: long, rather salty, mineral, very ‘HP’. Indeed, what a distillate. Comments: I refrained from finding Provence herbs, since these charming bottlers are located in Manosque, in the heart of, well, Provence. Please note that neither have I mentioned pastis. Top notch HP, right up my alley.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Unnamed Orkney 12 yo 2006/2019 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, hogshead, cask #DRU 17/A6211+12)

Unnamed Orkney 12 yo 2006/2019 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, hogshead, cask #DRU 17/A6211+12) Four stars and a half
What does this cask # mean? A code for the aliens? Another Macintosh that started to behave erratically? (indeed Macs aren’t what they used to be these days…) Colour: white wine. Nose: simple, not easy, on chalk, apple juice, flour, porridge, polenta, husk, fresh laundry and ink. Mega-austere, but I find that charming. Mouth: how very good! Fantastic chalk, green pepper, lime zests, salt, muesli, gentian and mezcal 50/50 (who’s ever going to bottle that?) Top notch. Finish: very long, a wee tad bitter (well, it’s on bitters, Angostura and stuff). Smoky and green aftertaste (eggplant?) Comments: find such a drop at cask strength and you’re ready to fight your fiercest enemies. Possibly a BFYB drop, we’ll see.
SGP:362 - 89 points.

From The Isle of Orkney 19 yo 2000/2020 (55%, The WhiskyFind for HNWS Taiwan, hogshead, cask #7, 332 bottles)

From The Isle of Orkney 19 yo 2000/2020 (55%, The WhiskyFind for HNWS Taiwan, hogshead, cask #7, 332 bottles) Five stars
Another 2000 vintage. High hopes. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a slightly oilier and fatter 2000, a little more on rapeseed oil perhaps, sunflower seeds, otherwise asparagus, beach sand, porridge, grist, wholegrain bread,  fumes (say a Porsche for once – and why not?), new plastics (cheap stuff from Wish’s that you should never have bought), cactus and fern… This one too is very austere, and I just love it. Despite that poisonous stuff from Wish’s. With water: mega-austere! Concrete, ink, soot, ashes, linseed oil, fresh paint, carbolineum… Mouth (neat): almost the same as the Le Gus’t – no surprise here. Superb grasses, seaweed smoke, various stones and sands, chalk, green tea… With water: citrus, cactus and angelica on top of all these grasses and minerals. Finish: long, without the tiniest iota of sweetness. Perhaps touches of caraway and orange blossom water. Comments: the 90-card is in order with these distillates, as long as no silly woodwitchery has been done on the drop.
SGP:362 - 90 points.

(Thank you Tony et al.)

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

 

September 12, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Mixed doubles
Not that I’ll be having double measures mind you. Just a return to an assortment of pairings. Bit of a mixed bag today but let’s kick off with Glenburgie.

 

Glenburgie 1978/1990 (58.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #71.3)

Glenburgie 1978/1990 (58.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #71.3)
The SMWS was issuing quite a selection of rocket fuel, raw distillate young malts such as this one in the 80s and early 90s. At the time I suspect it was a case of innocence, accident and financial juggling that led to such selections. Although, in retrospect it’s a pretty unique library of bottlings that captures in very raw form a transitionary era of distillate and production in Scotland. Anyway… Colour: straw. Nose: crushed grass, trampled nettles, wool and chalk dusters. There’s some brighter notes of malt extract and juicy cereals too. Natural, simple and honest malt whisky - just a tad rough and ready. With water: drier, breadier, seedier and more yeasty, lemony and with some flinty minerality. Mouth: even at full strength this is surprisingly approachable. Lots of petrolic oiliness, sheep wool oils, mineral oil and pumpkin seed oil - oily in other words. But there’s lemon barley water too, some notes of quinine and more punchy grassy notes. On one hand its austere, but there’s enough natural sweetness to keep things in check. With water: a few notches waxier now, sandalwood, new leather chamois, a drop of cough medicine, some dried herbs, Bakelite, playdough. Funny stuff! Finish: good length, some fruity muesli with a drizzle of condensed milk and a few bitter herbs. Comments: In many ways this is the inversion of a lot of contemporary single malts, in that it is rather soulful and charismatic but technically slightly wobbly in some places. A fun and highly instructive wee whisky, if not totally thrilling.
SGP: 462 - 84 points.

 

 

Glenburgie 21 yo 1998/2019 (55.4%, The Whisky Exchange ‘Single Casks’, cask #900888, hogshead, 254 bottles)

Glenburgie 21 yo 1998/2019 (55.4%, The Whisky Exchange ‘Single Casks’, cask #900888, hogshead, 254 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: impressions of cactus flesh mixed with brown bread and golden syrup at first nosing. Not a million miles from the SMWS in terms of these green and grassy note, only here there’s an added layer of elegance and lightness that time has clearly bestowed. Develops a really pleasing ‘jellied’ fruitiness with pineapple syrup and white jelly bean sweeties. Some honeysuckle too. With water: leaner, greener and more pronounced on cereals, pollens, canvass and a few crumbs of a Custard Cream biscuit. Mouth: elegantly honeyed on arrival and holding this impression of jellied fruits and fruit cordials rather nicely. Nettle tea, lychee, a little rosewater and matcha. With water: nicely creamy, a little vanilla custard, some more of these gentle pollen notes and various meadow flowers. Finish: medium and on fresh cereals, scone mix, dough, lime pith, putty and some hints of sweetened sunflower oil. Comments: What’s cool is that in terms of core DNA, there’s a lot of similarity to the SMWS - cereals, greenery, nettles, this tension between sweet and dry - but here time has brought complexity and a fruitier accent. A very easy and pleasurable wee Glenburgie.
SGP: 651 - 87 points.

 

 

Onwards to Teaninich. I feel like this is another name on the up amongst whisky folk, probably due to its greater prevalence amongst indy bottlers but also no doubt due to the fact that the distillate tends to shine rather charismatically these days - arguably more than in recent interim decades.

 

 

Teaninich 11 yo ‘Batch 2’ (47.9%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1987 bottles)

Teaninich 11 yo ‘Batch 2’ (47.9%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1987 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: my mind is starting to automatically think of Teaninich as a kind of ‘diet Clynelish’. You have all these scattered chalky and medical notes, dry cereals, sheep wool oils, wee touches of wax, white flowers, coal scuttle, little coastal flashes. It’s all very personality-forwards and fun. What’s obvious as well is that this is from pretty plain wood, so there is nowhere for this distillate to hide. Mouth: focused on raw ingredients again. Nettles, bouillon stocks, canvass, more sheep wool, ink, barley sugars, sunflower oil, hand cream. You really feel like you are drinking a rather humble barley eau de vie. Finish: medium, on things like newspaper ink, petrichor, a few ointments and white mushroom. A wee thread of sweetness holds balance. Comments: This style to me feels very close to what I imagine ‘Highland’ whisky to taste like in the loosest of senses. Probably not for everyone, but I find this sort of bottling extremely charming because it’s very natural and you really feel like it has a personality.
SGP: 462 - 86 points.

 

 

Teaninich 20 yo 1999/2019 (55.7%, Archives ‘The Fishes of Samoa’, cask #307938, hogshead 248 bottles)

Teaninich 20 yo 1999/2019 (55.7%, Archives ‘The Fishes of Samoa’, cask #307938, hogshead 248 bottles)
Are they not running out of fish yet at Whiskybase? Will we finally soon see ‘The Kebabs of Glasgow’? Or how about ‘The Hazard Jackets of Diageo’? Colour: straw. Nose: creamy natural sweetness with a little vanilla custard mixed with pineapple jelly, gentle ointments, sun lotion and toasted sunflower seeds. Straightforward, direct and pretty easy and classical in style. There’s a lovely freshness about it that I really enjoy. With water: drier, chalkier, notes of vase water, linens, sourdough and mash water. This interesting dusty and medical combination. Mouth: drier than the nose suggests and a little more powerful with notes of chalky medicines, heather ales, hessian, putty, mineral oil, camphor and dried herbs. A nicely petrolic texture and hints of vapour rubs and balms. Some notes of acrylic and playdough too - things are getting quite interesting now. With water: a really fun mix of mechanical oils, sunflower oil, yellow fruits, sweetened children’s medicines and camphor. Finish: good length, nippy medical notes, putty, olive oil, herbal bitters, white pepper and things like cloves, plasticine and crushed aspirin. Comments: This one started deceptively classical and swiftly morphed into another beast entirely. Charismatic and just the right side of weird, one to pour for friends blind and have fun with.
SGP: 562 - 87 points.

 

 

Let’s stick around this neck of the alphabet…

 

 

Tullibardine 14 yo 2006/2020 (55.3%, Lady Of The Glen, cask #36, rum finish)

Tullibardine 14 yo 2006/2020 (55.3%, Lady Of The Glen, cask #36, rum finish)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: the rum whispers on the nose initially, manifesting more as a nicely gloopy mix of mechanical fluids, barley sweetness and pineapple syrup. Juicy, fat and giving the impression of weight and texture. Quite impressive and enjoyable so far. With water: much drier, leaner, more cereal, more medical and chalkier. Some slight briny touches which probably come from the rum. Mouth: the rum steps forwards here but overall the integration is good. Lots of lovely brown bready notes, brown sugars, ginger beer with dark rum, muesli, bicycle inner tube and camphor. The distillate itself feels rather weighty and textural, but perhaps the rum has magnified that. Some baked bananas and coconut oil. With water: again this nice tension between rum and whisky which actually works pretty well. More coconut, some dried exotic fruit chunks, mint and soda bread. Finish: good length, lightly drying, medical, mentholated, quietly saline and still with a glimmer of coconut and pineapple. Comments: A finish that has worked quite well I think, what’s good is that the quality of the original Tullibardine still comes through loud and clear. You can kind of see the join where the rum has been patched on, but it fits well I think.
SGP: 652 - 83 points. 

 

 

Tullibardine 25 yo 1993/2018 (43.2%, Cadenhead Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles)

Tullibardine 25 yo 1993/2018 (43.2%, Cadenhead Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: beautifully rich and fragrant with many warm breads, pastries, sunflower oil, cereals studded with dried fruits, crushed Brazil nuts, pumpkin seed oil and touches of hessian, chamois leather and sheep wool. Beautifully charismatic and natural distillate, the kind of aroma that feels as much compiled by time as by wood and raw ingredients. Wee lactic touches of vanilla cream and a little sandalwood too. Mouth: an assertive spiciness of rye bread and cupboard spices. Nutmeg, cinnamon bark, baking soda, Cheng Pi dried orange peel and then some rather punchy herbal bitters. Indeed, there’s a nice thread of bitterness running throughout that feels tense but never becomes too much. Some darjeeling and green teas, white pepper and waxed canvass. Finish: long, more herbal bitters, strong green tea, olive oil, miso, hessian, brown bread, spices and cocktail bitters. Comments: Blind I don’t think you’d ever peg it as Tullibardine, it’s almost ‘New World’ in style with all these punchy spices and breads. A really fascinating and extremely charismatic example that offers riches for those willing to seek it out.
SGP: 462 - 88 points.

 

 

While we are ’T’ing, how about some Tobermory…

 

 

Tobermory 23 yo 1995/2018 (54.2%, The Single Cask, cask #1201, 161 bottles)

Tobermory 23 yo 1995/2018 (54.2%, The Single Cask, cask #1201, 161 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: firm and malty and slightly tense at first. Then some quite classical ‘Tobermory’ things like sourdough starter and chalky notes begin to emerge. Snapped twigs, a sense of a rather brittle mineral quality and things like oily rag and boot polish. Pretty good I think, it certainly has something to say. With water: opens really well, much sootier, greasier, oilier and globally ‘fatter’. Water seems to unlock a sense of viscosity and texture. Mouth: quite gentle on arrival, linseed oil, chamois leather, green tea with milk, lemon barley water, mixed seeds, mineral oil. Getting a little more mechanical with time. Some herbal teas now, along with things like lemon peel and few dried herbs. With water: cooking oils, mashed potatoes, plain malt, oily rags, steel wool, cornflour, baking soda. Undeniably charismatic, but perhaps getting a tad austere and off the beaten path. Finish: medium and quite dry with some pretty salty notes, water crackers, mechanical oils, turmeric, newspaper ink. Comments: Tobermory from these vintages remains a very hard to pin down creature. This is fascinating, often enjoyable whisky but it feels a little unsure of itself and meanders at times.
SGP: 362 - 82 points.

 

 

Tobermory 24 yo 1995/2019 (54%, The Single Cask, cask #329, 247 bottles)

Tobermory 24 yo 1995/2019 (54%, The Single Cask, cask #329, 247 bottles)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: richer, breadier and a tad more cohesive. Still quite focused on things like cooking oils, ink, seeds and trail mix but there’s a lovely sense of richness and thickness about it. With water: sandalwood, cornflour, bouillon stock, unmalted barley, dried herbs and salted butter. Mouth: indeed, this is more punchy, more peppery and with nice wee touches of soot, asparagus, white mushrooms and olive oil. With water: again this nice oiliness of texture and quite a saline/umami vibe going on. Vegetable broth with soy sauce, miso, tarragon and more inky notes. Finish: good length and quite focussed on fresh breads, linens, starches, umami broths, dried herbs and wee yeasty touches. Comments: There’s a very obvious shared DNA going on here, but I feel this one was noticeably more cohesive and assertive in character. I suspect the casks themselves have a pretty big role to play here.
SGP: 462 - 86 points.

 

 

It’s funny how all those ’Ts’ possessed a very similar SGP profile. Is there an argument to be made for a new set of whisky ‘regions’ to be based around an alphabetical definition? You know, like Ardbeg and Auchentoshan for example? (Perhaps not Angus) But that’s enough of this region of the alphabet.

 

 

Longmorn 17 yo 2002/2020 (56.2%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #800638, bourbon barrel, 229 bottles)

Longmorn 17 yo 2002/2020 (56.2%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #800638, bourbon barrel, 229 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: a lighter Longmorn, all on grasses and cereals and lemon peel at first. Breezey and sunshine-y with things like bailed hay, sunflower oil and a little hessian. Also some green banana and a little drying earthiness. With water: makes it grassier and a notch more austere with this chalkiness and touches of cornflour. Mouth: there’s some gentle barley sweetness upon arrival but generally the profile adheres to that set by the nose. That is grasses, crisp cereals, lighter cooking oils and things like barley water and pink lemonade. Some slightly sweeter and richer notes come through such as limoncello and fruit-studded muesli. With water: pot pourri, light olive oil, hints of canvass and hessian. Also things like bitter lemon and some grapefruit pith. Finish: slightly on the short side and rather peppery, herbal bitters and a slightly sharp cereal tone. Comments: All perfectly fine, but I feel there are better Longmorns from these vintages. This one feels ever so slightly hollow.
SGP: 451 - 82 points.

 

 

Longmorn 15 yo 2005/2020 (63.1%, North Star, oloroso sherry butt, 596 bottles)

Longmorn 15 yo 2005/2020 (63.1%, North Star, oloroso sherry butt, 596 bottles)
Colour: reddish mahogany. Nose: hot n’ spicy sherry! Lots of paprika, maraschino juices, cocktail bitters, a few pencil shavings, black coffee and rose cordial. For lovers of this rather punchy, modern sherry style this should be rather heavenly, although I find it ever so slightly on the heavy side. Some salted caramel fudge and suggestions of burnt toffee apple. With water: lots of hessian, dry earthiness, roasted hazelnuts, more strong coffee notes and a few cola cubes. Mouth: rather aggressive on the alcohol side obviously, but you also have these pretty grippy and assertive tannins. Lots of bitter chocolate nibs, strong black tea, five spice, cloves and graphite oil. Powerful stuff! Some salted treacle too. With water: the texture becomes quite satisfyingly rich and luxurious, this chocolate sauce vibe ensues while the tannins calm down slightly and take on a creamy edge. Also rather a lot of stuff like Marmite and date molasses. Gets very sticky and showing quite a few bitter herbal extracts. Finish: long, rather meaty, some gamey hints that allude to mature pinot noir, soy sauce, raspberry jam and mint choc chip. Comments: Plenty fun to be had here as long as you have your pipette handy. As with so many of these modern sherried beasts, this is a very entertaining whisky, but I’d struggle to ‘entertain’ more than a dram at a time (get your coat Angus!) Anyway, I feel like you yourself will have a pretty clear idea whether you’ll kill your grandma to get a bottle of this or leave it on the shelf.
SGP: 471 - 85 points. 

 

 

Mortlach 12 yo 2008/2020 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #800109, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 177 bottles)

Mortlach 12 yo 2008/2020 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #800109, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 177 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: an immediate dive into posh custard made with sweet wine, lemon barley water, elderflower cordial and various meadow flowers and blossoms. One to drink while the summer is on its way out I’d say. More of these lovely notes of wet ferns, dandelions and mossy tree bark. Freshness is the word here. With water: grasses, pollens, nectars, freshly malted barley, greengages and a wee twist of lemon peel. Lovely! Mouth: custard again but in biscuit form here as Custard Creams. Also white stout beer, yellow plums, ripe cantaloup melon, baked green apples and some lightly hopped IPA (think Deuchars on cask). With water: vanilla cream soda, light hessian, some barley sugars, watercress and white pepper. A sip of mint tea too perhaps. Finish: medium and with more beery notes, a firm maltiness, more peppery warmth and still this pervasive custardy creaminess. Comments: I’d take this over the Longmorn any day I have to say. An extremely satisfying Mortlach from a cask that has really paired well with and amplified the more textural aspects of the distillate.
SGP: 651 - 87 points.

 

 

Mortlach 1936 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 1980s)

Mortlach 1936 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 1980s)
Not sure what there is left to say about these bottlings. Perhaps only that they deserve both legend and infamy. On one hand we left only to imagine what they might have been like bottled at higher strengths, on the other: we could have never had them at all. In the end, for me, they represent liquid history and very specific kind of poetic, old style beauty in Scotch Whisky. They are always a thrill and pleasure to try, even when they disappoint on a  technical level. Colour: amber. Nose: the epitome of what is lauded about these 1980s long aged G&M malts: coconut, medicines, precious wood oils and the faintest, most threadbare of peats. Then, of course, beyond all that: exotic fruits. Presented here in dried out, crystalised, tea-ish form. Heather flowers, manuka honey, wormwood and the most ancient and beautiful of herbal liqueurs, what I imagine 19th century yellow Chartreuse should smell like. Mouth: about as assertive and ‘big’ as this series at 40% could get. Massively thick fruit oils, mango tea, guava jam, lime oils, all manner of dried out wildflowers, umami paste and many herbal bitters, extracts and infusions. This peat is still there, threading its way between everything in a wispy and almost ethereal manner. The mouthfeel is still oily and superbly textural. Rancio and the deliciously walnutty sherry grow ever more dominant over time. Finish: medium - possibly a tad short. But still immensely riddled with precious herbs, hardwood resins, exotic teas and a thrillingly complex array of old school medicines. Comments: Not the best of the Mortlachs from this era by G&M, but it’s still a stunning and haunting lost style of whisky and - despite the hurdles of low ABV and filtration - it still has much to say. And it says it beautifully.
SGP: 463 - 92 points.

 

 

Big thanks to Dirk.

 

 

 

 

September 11, 2020


Whiskyfun

A trio of Bladnoch

Let’s be honest, I never quite understood Bladnoch. I remember some beautiful ueber-clean citrusy expressions, a few wobbly ones too, then some very engaging and passionate owners after Diageo had sold on the distillery, and then, since around five years, some incomprehensible square bottles finished in the most unlikely wine casks and priced at slightly ridiculous levels. I’m sorry, but as they say at progressive book clubs, what the f***? By the way, is Bladnoch still Scotland’s southernmost distillery?

Bladnoch 17 yo ‘Californian Red Wine Finish’ (46.7%, OB, +/-2018)

Bladnoch 17 yo ‘Californian Red Wine Finish’ (46.7%, OB, +/-2018)
As some nasty people would say, the good news is that it is a ‘Limited Release’. Seriously, which mad soul would let some empty Californian red wine barriques being shipped to Scotland to be used as finishing vessels (even worse, they were quite possibly French oak)? Imagine the carbon costs while there are same-ish barriques all over Europe! But you never know, this could be good…  Colour: gold. Nose: sour, gingery, milky, yoghurty and just unpleasant. Readymade polenta and porridge, yeast, touch of feints... Mouth: relatively nicer but frankly unbalanced and sour. Too much ginger and too much nutmeg, too much stale ale too. There’s even a misplaced wee saltiness, and quite some peat smoke that’s just as misplaced. I’m dead sure this was better before they dumped the juice into red wine (whether Californian or not, that’s purely anecdotal). Finish: medium, rather on sweet and sour breads this time, which I find a little better. Ginger in the aftertaste, not a good sign, in general. Comments: Bladnoch could be lovely in the old days, and even stand up to Rosebank (if not to St Magdalene). I find this sad, I hope they’ll be back one day.
SGP:542 - 65 points.

Thank god we’ve got our dear indies… But first, for a quick recovery…

Bladnoch (70°proof, OB, Co.Import Torino, 75.7cl, 1970s)

Bladnoch (70°proof, OB, Co.Import Torino, 75.7cl, 1970s) Five stars
An old bottle I’ve got in WF’s private bar. We already tried this expression, but when there’s a pressing need, we ought to act swiftly… Colour: gold. Nose: pine nuts, moss, citrons, lemon grass, almond oil, castor oil, spearmint, old magazines, manzanilla… Phew, I was about to start to wonder if my nose and palate hadn’t failed me. Mouth: oh yes, herbal teas, lemons and citrons, moss, rucola, marrow, sesame oil, salt… have I mentioned lemon already? Finish: pretty long after fifty years in glass and at barely 40% vol., with more mosses, pepper, lemons, ink, paraffin, good cardboard. Comments: phew, that was tight! I was about to throw in the towel. I won’t change my old score but I could have gone one point higher. It’s true that what used to be a little uncommon became extremely rare as far as whisky’s concerned. Oh hell…
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Okay, this has become a quartet then. Even better…

Bladnoch 25 yo 1991/2017 (54.3%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, Statement No.29, hogshead, cask #8274, 172 bottles)

Bladnoch 25 yo 1991/2017 (54.3%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, Statement No.29, hogshead, cask #8274, 172 bottles) Three stars
Which kind of statement will this be?... Colour: deep gold. Nose: all right, this is not quite a well-chiselled, all-pure citrusy Bladnoch, and to tell you the truth, we’re a little closer to the wacky newish OB here, with some sour porridge-y smells and quite some stale pepper. Bark and nutshells may improve it a wee bit, but only water could really save it, in my opinion. With water: sour wines, cheeses and Democrat gym socks. I know what I’m trying to say. Indeed those would be much worse. Mouth (neat): oloroso on acid at first, with the bitterest walnuts (GMO I’m sure) and some mustardy and cardboardy development that we’ve hardly ever seen before. There’s a little soap too, but there are also very positive signals sent from the background. Let’s watch them closer… With water: frankly, I don’t know. Chewing your cigar? Quaffing two bottles of walnut wine? Sipping walnut stain? This is seriously bitter, my friend. Finish: long, bitter, ridden with all walnuts ever produced in Scotland. Salty aftertaste. Comments: some kind of statement indeed, I’m wondering if Baldrick wasn’t at the helm here. But there’s something very spectacular – and of course, cunning – to this little baby. Crazy stuff.
SGP:272 - 80 points.

Shall we ever meet civilisation?...

Bladnoch 28 yo 1990/2019 ‘Exotic Fruit Granola’ (56.9%, Wemyss Malts for HNWS Taiwan, bourbon barrel, 100 bottles)

Bladnoch 28 yo 1990/2019 ‘Exotic Fruit Granola’ (56.9%, Wemyss Malts for HNWS Taiwan, bourbon barrel, 100 bottles) Four stars and a half
A bourbon barrel, right, we should be safer now… As for Granola, not too sure, but Wemyss have had an excellent Bladnoch 1990/2016 ‘Apple Syllabub’, so there is serious hope… Oh, and they’re all really crazy in Taiwan, just saying. Colour: gold. Nose: probably the most Bladnochian of them all, even more so than the old NAS OB. Passion fruit sherbet, mirabelle ice cream (try that before you die), various cakes, Danishes, touches of overripe bananas (but we’re nowhere near any rum), custard, orange cakes… This is truly beautiful, pretty delicate, yet assertive. It’s a whole pastry shop. With water:  tenser and more citrusy, that’s a normal, and much expected unfolding. Mouth (neat): big stuff at 28 years of age, cake-y and rather on mirabelle eau-de-vie (believe me, I distil some almost every year) as well as some mint, eucalyptus, grasses and hay. It’s actually almost too powerful given the profile, so… With water: this is where the oak comes out, with a medicinal side (pine syrup) and quite some liquorice. A little drying but all most pleasant. Mouthwash. Finish: long, on ‘a tea in the Sahara’. Tea and mint, a little dry. Bitter liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: only the finish is slightly subpar in my humble book, all the rest was of very great distinction.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

(Thank you Tony)

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

 

September 9, 2020


Whiskyfun

A wheelbarrow of nine American whiskies

For, say the fifteen first years of little Whiskyfun, we used to post a lot about music too, with tips, mp3s and the world-famous Concert Reviews by Nick and Kate. But the worst part of this lousy website finally took over, that is to say whisky and other aged spirits. Sad turn of events, really, but we just couldn’t have kept up. Now in a way, History catches up with us since guess what just turned up? That’s right, Bob Dylan’s own whiskies! What’s more, one of them was aged in barrels made out of oak that was cut in the mountains just near WF Towers in France, in the Vosges! Incredible…

Heaven’s Door ‘Straight Rye Whiskey’ (43%, OB, USA, 2020)

Heaven’s Door ‘Straight Rye Whiskey’ (43%, OB, USA, 2020) Four stars
It’s not fully aged in Vosges oak, just finished for six months in those casks after seven years in regular America barrels. It’s to be noted that oak from the Vosges are also used in wine making. I’ve seen this baby at 46% vol. on the Web but this is well a 43% vol. version. Naturally, it’s sourced whisky from MGP’s and I’m wondering if Bob Dylan was fully involved (the answer, my friend…), but it seems that they plan to open a Distillery in Nashville. With all that in mind, let’s proceed… Oh and no, we won’t quote songs, but we won’t deny that Heaven’s Door is a lovely name. Colour: gold. Nose: this nose is lovely too, rather gentle, really full of rye, touches of violets, turmeric, some funny hints of tequila, then dill and fennel seeds, heather honey, warm caramel, cinnamon roll, and more earthy agave/tequila. What I really like here is that it’s earthier than other ryes, which I sometimes find too ‘round’ and lacking responsiveness, if you see what I mean. Mouth: starts dry, on sawdust and many spices, including white pepper and cinnamon indeed. It is very bready too, and would rather go towards caraway, cloves and nutmeg, then ground coffee and raw cocoa. The rye is very obvious, I’m also finding notes of buckwheat (not distilled buckwheat) and some wood ashes. It’s really dry, not a style that I dislike. Finish: rather long, spicy, earthy and grassy, with only a little marmalade and lavender sweets in the aftertaste. And a little salt too. Comments: it’s not often that spirits endorsed (or more) by high-celebrities are really good, but this dry American really is in my book. It’s as dry as Mr Bob.
SGP:362 - 86 points.

Heaven’s Door ‘Tennessee Bourbon’ (42%, OB, USA, straight bourbon, 2020)

Heaven’s Door ‘Tennessee Bourbon’ (42%, OB, USA, straight bourbon, 2020) Three stars and a half
High-maize content and this one too was bottled at a lower strength (seen at 45% on the Web). This ‘could’ be George Dickel juice, but that’s pure speculation, I’m no bourbon sleuth at all. Oh and couldn’t you blend Dickel with smaller parts from younger and smaller distilleries from Tennessee? Why would ‘sourcers’ always only buy readymade juice? By the way, there’s a black crow on the bottle but I doubt dear Joni Mitchel ever gave a hand here. Colour: gold. Nose: I’m finding some rye too but the whole is much rounder, gentler and easier than the rye, with less character, and certainly more vanilla and maple syrup. No big coconut though, so that’s sorted. Rather a lot of custard, biscuit and growing notes of pineapple jam and perhaps pear jelly. Mouth: I find it relatively firm, not that rounder than the rye, and rather dry and earthy again, which seems to be the desired style. Olive crackers, a little burnt caramel, nutmeg and cinnamon cookies, spicier honey (chestnut?) and some lavender and violet sweets, that’s the rye I suppose. Still a little less characterful than the rye, but it’s not as much a smooth and lazy baby as some other – and no less rock and roll - offerings from Tennessee. Finish: medium, with good creaminess and some maple syrup. Touch of aniseed in the aftertaste. Comments: I find this very good, it’s just that I’m having a soft spot for the rye. Not just because they’ve cut the trees near my house (all right, 30km away)…
SGP:551 - 84 points.

I remember Bob Dylan had bought a house in Nethybridge, near Aviemore in the late 2000s, so should we also expect some Balmenach one day?

But since we’ve mentioned George Dickel… Eenie meenie… What?

George Dickel ‘Tabasco Barrel Finish’ (35%, OB, USA, +/-2019)

George Dickel ‘Tabasco Barrel Finish’ (35%, OB, USA, +/-2019)
Wha-a-a-t indeed? Long story short, this is Dickel finished in Tabasco (so flavoured, Doritos-style) and bottled at a lower strength, possibly because it was pretty offensive at 40% or more. My guess… Colour: gold. Nose: pretty horrible. Some sour harissa, too light, green pepper… What’s the point here? I love Tabasco and am kind of fond of George Dickel, but this is just a good example of two fine juices killing each other if you ask me. Possibly the most pointless alcoholic drink ever, even before Haig Club. Mouth: Fireball anytime! This is terrible, too sugary and too full of chillies at the same time, and just undrinkable. Wrecks your palate – well it wrecked mine – and to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t even try to pour this over Hawaiian pizza. That’s right, the one with pineapples that hipsters in Alabama adore. Finish: couldn’t tell you, I’ve rinsed my mouth with marc de gewurztraminer at still strength. Comments: a ‘whisky’ as stupid as a voice assistant while it won’t even give you yesterday’s weather or play ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon. Or indeed ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ by Bob D. I’m not even sure I’ll ever manage to get my glass clean, better just toss it in a very remote (because of the smell) dumpster. I suppose this was another late-night idea straight from a dinner at the Rotary-Club.
SGP:690 - 1 points.
Skull

And now if you would excuse me, I’ll need a good thirty minutes to try to recover my palate…  Nose is fine though… Wait, perhaps this?

Elijah Craig ‘Barrel Proof B518’ (66.7%, OB, USA, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 2018)

Elijah Craig ‘Barrel Proof B518’ (66.7%, OB, USA, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 2018) Three stars and a half
Some corn-fuelled bourbon by Heaven Hill, not too expensive and much lauded by Bourbon enthusiasts and the American press alike. But watch the strength… Colour: rich gold. Nose: warm sawdust, cologne and molasses, but that’s normal at this murderous strength. So… With water: the best use of water, as they say. Nice fruits, mangos, apples, bananas, and a huge vanilla-and-maple syrup combo. So a little rudimentary perhaps, but that’s not a problem in this context. No one’s expecting Clynelish 1972 anyway. Mouth (neat): very sweet and very ethanoly. Big oak too, sugar, coconut balls… Not the style that malt drinkers prefer, but water should help… With water: classic high-class fruity bourbon, quality’s high, while it tends to get very spicy and that’s all the oak. Finish: dry and bitterish and peppery finish. A little rustic I would say. Comments: very very good, naturally, but I tend to prefer complex whiskies. Or more ‘idiosyncratic’ ones, such as Mr Dylan’s rye. Even if bourbon exegetes may cry wolf now, since the latter’s sourced, which, to some friends, is the equivalent to adding pineapple onto your pizza.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

More Heaven Hill, by indies this time…

Heaven Hill 10 yo 2009/2019 (50.2%, Liquid Treasure, bourbon barrel, 161 bottles)

Heaven Hill 10 yo 2009/2019 (50.2%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon barrel, 161 bottles) Four stars and a half
Isn’t it reassuring to learn that a Heaven Hill would stem from a bourbon barrel? Fine work on the label, very appropriate. Colour: gold. Nose: immediately superior, fresher, fruitier, more complex, less buried in vanilla and corn syrup, with plums, apples, papayas, touch of liquorice, hawthorn, oranges… With water: quite superb, floral, with lovely teas, Assam, touches of peaches, hints of beedis, orange cake… It’s this fruity/herbal freshness that’s really awesome. Mouth (neat): excellent, maltier (I know that’s bizarre), with even touches of smoke (even more bizarre) and some minerals (more bizarre yet). With water: indeed. Apricot jam, butterscotch, tinned peaches, custard, moderate pepper, a little peppermint, well-behaved vanilla (vanilla is the Kim K. of whisky)… I’m really fond of this little indie HH. Finish: rather long, bodied as a malt, complex, a tad sweeter. Fruit peel in the aftertaste, that’s tops too. Very well selected Mr Liquid and Mrs Treasures! Comments: another case of some indie bottlers trashing the officials, if you ask me. All these 2009s are very good, some, as this one, are excellent. IMHO, as we used to say before Karen took over the Internet.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Let’s gear towards boutique whiskies…

Garrison Brothers 3 yo 2015/2019 (47%, OB for Peter Siegenthaler, USA, Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, cask #9057, 63 bottles)

Garrison Brothers 3 yo 2015/2019 (47%, OB for Peter Siegenthaler, USA, Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, cask #9057, 63 bottles) Four stars and a half
Hopes are high, the pedigree is immaculate here. Colour: deep gold. Nose: Aristotle said it already, bread will save the world. This is very bready, in a wonderful manner. One of the greatest pleasures in life is to have breakfast in the Germanic Alpes (Schweiz, Austria, Germany) in front of some snowy mountains, with dozens of different breads, some farm butter and a good bottle of champagne. Sometimes some Sekts will do. That’s exactly the impression I have while nosing this little Texan whisky of pretty high quality. Mouth: absolutely a-do-ra-ble, with rare honeys, stouts of good origins, and of course all those breads, chiefly pumpernickel. Gingerbread, Stolle, sucking a sweet cigar, having some ginger cookies. Finish: long, full of sweet oak spices but never ‘oaky’, going on with dried figs and more special honeys. Manuka, purple heather… And black olives in the aftertaste! That’s amazing. Comments: sure it’s a baby, but in this case, age doesn’t matter. Let’s not generalise, please. BTW and speaking of Texas, I’ve just listened to an early gig by ZZ Top (circa 1971). They never got better.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

How could we resist…

Garrison Brothers 6 yo 2014/2020 (60.1%, OB for Peter Siegenthaler, USA, Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, cask #7117, 81 bottles)

Garrison Brothers 6 yo 2014/2020 (60.1%, OB for Peter Siegenthaler, USA, Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, cask #7117, 81 bottles) Four stars
I’m very pleased to learn, from the most distinguished Swiss importer, that at 60.1% vol., ‘der Bourbon ist in Fassstärke.’ Haben wir nicht bemerkt. Colour: very dark red amber. Nose: high-alcohol blocking, Much less happening, only molasses, praline, caramel and pear cake. With water: we join the sister, drop by drop, but this showcases the limits of ‘home reducing’, we never quite manage to get to that perfect breadiness. Remember, ‘buy at high strength, you can always add the water yourself’ really is a BS proposition that negates the complex dynamics of water/alcohol interactions. There, I said it.  Oh and this Garrison is very good. Mouth (neat): fudge and cognac galore, but we’re ten times more ‘jammed’ than with the perfect sister cask at 47%. That’s the limits of high-strength, really. With water:  I think we got it right this time, this is really good, but cask #9057 still reigns supreme. Good menthol though. Finish: long, very very good but  tad more on everyday routes. Comments: how-the-hell would I have guessed, in all honesty, that I should have had the strongest sibling first? But don’t get me wrong, this is very good too.
SGP:651 – 85 points.

Why not an old bottle as this session’s signature? We don’t do old bottles of bourbon very often, do we?

Wild Turkey 8 yo (101 US proof, OB, +/-1960)

Wild Turkey 8 yo (101 US proof, OB, +/-1960) Three stars
101 US proof are 50.5% vol., US proof are for whisky lovers that are bad at math; UK proof is a whole different story… Colour: amber. Nose: I wouldn’t say you’ve got that old ‘OBE’ kind of thing with bourbon; they either kept very well or are flat dead, but I’m not sure they really ‘evolve’ in glass as much as Scotch whiskies do. This has some cake, touches of cardboard, some meatier coconut too (teriyaki sauce as well?) and whiffs of mushrooms in the woods, as well as some metallic notes (old rusty tin box). The jury’s still out… Mouth: good, a little earthier than contemporary offerings, with notes of fermented tea, cocoa pods, coffee dregs… In short it’s very dry and perhaps not very sexy. Perhaps for die-hard bourbon specialists only? Finish: medium and dry. A drop of soy sauce and one of mint syrup, then coffee and ‘sucking your Gauloise’. A very French thing, but if I remember well, Wild Turkey used to belong to Pernod until they sold it on to Campari, around 2010. Comments: not tired, just a little dry and more pine-y and mentholy than expected.
SGP:362 - 80 points.

Do we have room for a last American? Something insane and inane? No, not him, rather the strongest whisky we’ve ever tried!

Heaven Hill 16 yo 1994 (82.70%, EBRA special reserve, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, European Bourbon Rye Association Switzerland, cask #1.1, 77 bottles, +/-2010)

Heaven Hill 16 yo 1994 (82.70%, EBRA special reserve, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, European Bourbon Rye Association Switzerland, cask #1.1, 77 bottles, +/-2010) Two stars and a half
These rare bottles are much sought after and extremely expensive. Given the totally lethal strength, no need to tell you I called both my lawyer and my insurance agent, but shh, I haven’t told my old Mum and even my dear wife isn’t in the know. Would you agree this would remain between us? Holy Mary, full of grace, mother and associate of the redeemer…  Colour: deep red amber. Nose: coffee? Caramel? Fudge? Peach jam? This is easy, just keep your nose at distance… With water: yeah, I do get those roasted chestnuts, the honeys, the pencil shavings, the praline, the toasted pastries and even this very specific kind of mentholated custard… But I’m finding it globally… a little shy. Mouth (neat): yeah well… This BURNS! I feel some coffee and peach skins, that’s all. With water (first time ever I’m adding water 50/50 and we’re still above 40% ;-))… Sweet Vishnu! So with water: syrups, oak, spices, rye, lavender, ginger, touches of earth, turmeric, ginseng powder, pollen… It’s fine, but really nothing to write home about. Finish: long, depending on the level of reduction, that’s all. The oakiness is a little sour. Nicer liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: the strength is spectacular, the whiskey is not, in my very humble opinion. Rather good but uncomplex bourbon, hard to handle. Just a topic of discussion?
SGP:551 - 78 points.

Let's stop there, okay? Lawyers and insurance folks, you can go home now.

(Danke vielmals Joe, Max und Peter)

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

 

September 8, 2020


Whiskyfun

Special Releases Special, today Pittyvaich

Not a name we’re seeing very often these days, I would say the breed is almost extinct, after the distillery was closed for good in 1993, and demolished in 2002. I couldn’t tell you much more, I’ve only ever tried, what, twenty-two different Pittyvaichs? I’ve got another sample of a Cooper’s Choice that I had found terrible the first time I tried it in 2018 (WF 60!) so let’s take this opportunity to see if we revise our judgement, and then try the new Special Release…

Pittyvaich 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.5%, The Cooper’s Choice, bourbon, cask #35105, 295 bottles)

Pittyvaich 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.5%, The Cooper’s Choice, bourbon, cask #35105, 295 bottles) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: petrol, flints, lamp oil, pinot grigio, grapeseed oil, grist, wholegrain bread, engine oil… Well this is certainly old-school. Hints of swiss cheese too, cranberry jelly, a little balsamico, pils beer… It’s very intriguing, some kind of late 1980s Springbank made with different specs. With water: back to normality, this has almost become Glenfiddich 12, honest. Which, by the way, I think is pretty good these days, but we’re digressing. Mouth (neat): I can see why another sample would have gone awry, whilst this one did not but remains on the verge of wackiness. Sour fruits (rotting bananas), beers, yeast extracts, old mead, mutton suet… A funny drop for sure, but not a disaster. With water: same funny development, it becomes gentler, but would never totally lose its heavy-ish beery side. Some thicker sweet ale. Finish: rather long, a tad leafier and with more plasticine and paraffin. Something of old-style Mortlach here and there, perhaps. A meaty/sulphury side. Comments: absolutely not in 60-territories indeed, it’s good that a friend could set us straight on the right path. Thank you.
SGP:462 - 86 points.

Pittyvaich 30 yo 1989/2020 (50.8%, OB, Special Releases 2020)

Pittyvaich 30 yo 1989/2020 (50.8%, OB, Special Releases 2020, first-fill ex-bourbon casks) Five stars
Shall we find mutton suet? Lamb fat? Bone marrow? Paraffin? Sulphur candles? Castor oil?... Colour: light gold. Nose: we’re very close to the 1988, which makes sense, just a tad leafier and perhaps more austere. More oils (rapeseed, perhaps sesame, grapeseed) and with whiffs of concrete dust, scoria, then rather green bananas and avocado juice. Not a very common profile for sure, but there’s some elegance and self-restraint to this one. Old school again (yet I don’t think the distillery was very old). With water: lovely yeasty sourness, ale, broken branches, beets, perhaps even a little cabbage (but no sulphur!) Mouth (neat): this is very good, no quibbling at all this time, and certainly fruitier. Various bananas, probably guava, then apples of all sorts. Beyond that, the expected mineral and chalky combo, paraffin, some Sancerre-y flavours (chalk, fruit peel) and some grapefruit. With water: oh perfect, mint chiming in, together with fennel seeds, ouzo, cider, chlorophyll… Finish: medium, rounder and a little fruitier, citrusy, with a little ginger and perhaps palm heart. Not too sure about the palm hearts. Comments: vive la difference! That’s something I’ve learnt over the years, you could find stunners at strictly all Distilleries, it’s just that some issued more of them and you have to hunt some down. The thrill of the chase, sir.
SGP:451 - 90 points.

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

 

September 7, 2020


Whiskyfun

Special Releases Special, today Cardhu

Always pleasant to be able to taste a new Cardhu. In some countries such as France and Spain, Cardhu’s the perfect access-category malt whisky, together with Glenfiddich and, perhaps, Glenmorangie. As for a proper sparring partner, we aren’t spoiled with choices anyway, so perhaps the 18?

Cardhu 18 yo (40%, OB, +/-2018)

Cardhu 18 yo (40%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars
It’s an expression I like, gentle and complex, even if I’m not sure we’re seeing it much on our favourite shelves these days. Colour: gold. Nose: very very nice, not too demanding but complex, a bit old-school (the school of the 1990s shall we say), with some malt, glazed chestnut, roasted nuts (aren’t roasted nuts disappearing from our malt whiskies?) and a large bag of Jaffa cakes. Orange blossom water. Wee touches of aniseed here and there, rose petals, stewed peaches, a little tamarind jam, some wee metallic touches (silverware)… Nutshell, something oriental. Mouth: excellent and not even very light. Marmalade, dried figs, raisins, walnut wine, pecan pie, honey-glazed nuts, Chinese pancake, maple syrup… I find this 18 really superb; only slight problem, it goes down like cold beer or wine. Finish: not too long for sure, but clean and wonderfully honeyed and nutty. What we call ‘chouchous’, or caramel-coated roasted peanuts. Simply a sin. Comments: a surprise, really. Have they upped their game? Do not overlook this expression of little Cardhu…
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Cardhu 11 yo 2008/2020 (56%, OB, Special Releases 2020, refill, new and ex-bourbon American oak)

Cardhu 11 yo 2008/2020 (56%, OB, Special Releases 2020, refill, new and ex-bourbon American oak) Four stars and a half
This will probably be the opposite of the 18. As I may have said earlier, and even if they do some odd (light) finishings here and there from time to time, I have the impression that Diageo are willing to let their distillates shine, rather than push ‘wood’ as others have been doing for at least ten years. After all, they’re distillers, not cabinetmakers. Loud applause at Château Whiskyfun, of course. Colour: light gold. Nose: very citric, slightly acid (remember acid drops?), and pretty terrific, I think. I’m reminded of those pale Rosebanks ‘Rare Malts’ that were so superb, and just love this nervous, tart, restless profile. Limoncello, hops, sourdough, there. With water: malt, cake, croissants, scones, lemon marmalade. Good continental breakfast. Mouth (neat): anybody who would have said this is Cardhu should be knighted in the Order of the Garter. Pure, luminous, citrusy, tense arrival, with a sweeter, rounder development on acacia honey. It’s not complex, but it’s perfect. With water: back on Rosebank, really. Life without sherry is a good life too. Finish: medium, pure, simple and superb, on more limoncello and some good beer. Comments: have to check the prices. This year’s line-up with the SRs is maybe not spectacular ‘on the paper’, but the cask selection is top-notch in my opinion.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

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

 

September 6, 2020


Whiskyfun

The hunt for malternatives, Cognac’s turn

Let’s see what we have today…

Rémy Martin ‘XO’ (40%, OB, Cognac, Fine Champagne, +/-2019)

Rémy Martin ‘XO’ (40%, OB, Cognac, Fine Champagne, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
We don’t expect much here but you never know. What’s even scarier is that the house’s master blender (they have master blenders too in Cognac) claims that this baby ‘expresses all its potential at the aperitif, on ice’. And it wouldn’t come cheap at 200€. Colour: deep amber. Nose: let’s calm down, this is a lovely nose, very fresh and fruity, far from the ‘old style’ we were expecting and rather on stewed peaches, papayas, honey and nougat, stewed rhubarb, sultanas, quince jam and a little caramel. Millionaire shortbread, then touches of liquorice and menthol. Really, lovely, but what scares me now is the rather mean ABV. At this price, it’s really becoming a no-no. Let’s see… Mouth: what a disappointment. While the nose was even quite splendid, this is thin and dry, on coffee and cocoa, burnt caramel, leaves and stems, bitter herbs… There’s an earthy fruitiness in the background (oranges and tea) but that’s not enough at all. A little rancio though and echoes of some young oloroso. Finish: short, drying, weak. Comments: indeed, on ice, perhaps. Very disappointing and totally not malternative, but then again, the nose was splendid.
SGP:341 - 76 points.

Ragnaud Sabourin ‘No.20 Réserve Spéciale’ (43%, OB, Cognac Grande Champagne, +/-2019)

Ragnaud Sabourin ‘No.20 Réserve Spéciale’ (43%, OB, Cognac Grande Champagne, +/-2019) Four stars
This is own-estate cognac, pure ugni blanc, aged 20 years in a wet cellar. Shall we see the concepts of dry/wet cellar become more prevalent in whisky too, one of these days? Yeah I know Scotland is pretty wet altogether, but still… Colour: gold. No colouring this time. Nose: this is completely different, much less ‘commercial’ (whatever that means) and more characterful, grassier, with a pack of menthol cigarettes, some hay, those stewed rhubarbs yet again, certainly some zests, humus and mushrooms, yellow peaches, balsa wood, eucalyptus, fresh agaves… It’s even got a tiny touch of high-end tequila mind you, and gets then more mentholy. Another lovely nose, this time tenser and grassier. Mouth: these extra-3% make all the difference. I’m finding a little pepper this time, some bitter fruits (peel), agaves indeed, some earthy liquorice, grape pips, some oak, tobacco, herbal teas, and notes of green figs. Allspice. Do not expect raisins here, it’s a dry Cognac. Finish: rather long, rather on drier honeys such as chestnut, with touches of green walnuts as well. Comments: not a sexy ooh-ah Cognac at all, but it’s full of depth and honesty. Again, it’s not very commercial – and more than three times cheaper than the Rémy.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Fanny Fougerat 2010 ‘Le Laurier d’Appollon’ (42.2%, OB, Cognac Petite Champagne, 2460 bottles, +/-2019)

Fanny Fougerat 2010 ‘Le Laurier d’Appollon’ (42.2%, OB, Cognac Petite Champagne, 2460 bottles, +/-2019) Three stars and a half
Found at The Whisky Exchange and said to be a ‘combination of only five barrels’, although the label would display a cask number. Anyway, the Cognac makers are sometimes very hard to follow with anything they do with their casks. Not that that’s very important… Colour: light gold. Nose: I find this much more convincing than earlier expressions from this wee house’s. It’s dry and tense, on branches, roots, leaves and fruit peel, then liquorice wood, a touch of turmeric and ginseng, peach skin, then whiffs of dry gewurztraminer, rosewater, lady’s moisturizer, just a handful of raisins... Mouth: firm but softer than the Ragnaud Sabourin, with some liquorice allsorts, some youth for sure, some mentholy peaches and touches of chalk. A few spicy touches, Thai sauce, coconut water… I find this pretty good, rather malternative indeed, and quite modern in a way. Very good balance. Finish: medium, leafier. A little vanilla too, they may have used some newish oak. Touches of green curry in the aftertaste. Comments: young and very good. We’re far from the style of the old houses (such as the Rémy XO, right).
SGP:451 - 84 points.

Let’s find some older ones…

Petite Champagne 1969 (46.4%, Jean Grosperrin, Cognac, +/-2020)

Petite Champagne 1969 (46.4%, Jean Grosperrin, Cognac, +/-2020) Four stars and a half
Colour: deep gold. Nose: perfection. Oranges and earths, mosses, quinces, orange and honeysuckle blossom, old precious woods (old car dashboard), thuja wood, ancient humidor, eucalyptus forest in the midst of summer, menthol… Well we’ll keep this short because we’re just too busy enjoying this wee wonder… (that’s lousy, S.) Mouth: in my meagre experience, 90% of the very woody spirits have just lost it, while 10% actually improved along the path. That’s the case here, you just have to love these foresty touches, the mosses and barks, all the pinewood, pine cones, cloves and caraway, cinnamon, cracked pepper… What’s more, some serious oranges and peaches do counterbalance that obvious oakiness, which just, well, works. Unless you prefer gin or vodka… Finish: long, perfectly bitter, going towards dry herbal cordials, Underberg, Unicum, stuff like that. More for bitter teeth – no problems, I’m a member of that tribe. Funny that bergamots and apricots would pop out again in the aftertaste, whilst aftertastes usually tend to be even bitterer. All for the better. Comments: a superb style and a maturation that was carefully monitored, I suppose. Now for a 1969, it’s not very erotic (oh, S.!)
SGP: 371 – 89 points.

I think I’m ready to take even more oak…

Fins Bois No.58 (42.2%, Jean Grosperrin, Cognac, 124 litres, +/-2020)

Fins Bois No.58 (42.2%, Jean Grosperrin, Cognac, 124 litres, +/-2020) Five stars
So most probably a 1958. Wasn’t that the year of Johnny B. Goode? Colour: amber with rose-y hues. Nose: this one’s much more delicate, floral and fruity, with whiffs of peonies, ylang-ylang, orange blossom, tinned litchis, fresh young gewurztraminer, gorse, vine peaches, geranium (flowers), fresh figs… You would never guess this was distilled more than sixty years ago. Ne-ver. Mouth: this will teach me, there’s much less ‘big’ oak than in the pretty ‘active’ 1969, and we’re rather on some kind of sumptuous herbal tea, with touches of aniseed, liquorice, lime blossom, peach leaves, sorb eau-de-vie, jujube, quince jelly, kumquats… This is all rather entrancing, while the spicy/oaky side that is taking off after a good twenty seconds will only complement all that and never take over (despite the big cloves, pine needles and black pepper). Superb. Finish: we’re rather geared towards spruce buds but it remains extremely fresh and even, ach, pretty thirst-quenching. Which is a problem, in fact. Pinewood and oak in the aftertaste – no problems. Comments: seriously, I’m very fond of this fresh little Fins Bois that’s way, way older than me. Jokes on postcards only please.
SGP:661 - 91 points.

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

 

September 5, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Bowmore: Backwards by vintage
I feel enough time has passed since ‘that’ tasting that we can tentatively do another, admittedly more modest, wee Bowmore session. Just a bundle of assorted samples and we’ll go backwards in time as usual.

 

Bowmore 17 yo 2002/2019 (53.6%, Cadenhead Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 294 bottles)

Bowmore 17 yo 2002/2019 (53.6%, Cadenhead Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 294 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: crushed nettles, crisp sauvignon blanc, flint smoke, lime, chalk dusters and crab sticks. This impression of beach foam and sand and rock pools emerging quite vividly. Pure, clean and pretty immaculate distillate driven, modern era Bowmore. With water: crystal clear minerals and taut smokiness. Briny and medical with these hints of gauze and antiseptic. Mouth: Indeed, extremely coastal, limey, pure, citric acidity, seawater, lemon juice on an oyster, wet pebbles, seaweed crackers and green olives. With water: gets a little oilier in texture and reveals a few woozy citrus fruits like grapefruit and lemon, then perhaps a more tropical edge emerging. Pretty superb! Finish: long, and full of crystalline peat, seawater, lime and a wee puff of boiler smoke. Comments: The word that springs to mind is flawless. What I love about these Bowmore vintages is that they are modern and technically brilliant but, unlike many other very good contemporary makes, they also feel like they have something of a soul about them.
SGP: 456 - 89 points.

 

 

Bowmore 18 yo 2001/2020 (55.2%, North Star, refill barrel, 190 bottles)

Bowmore 18 yo 2001/2020 (55.2%, North Star, refill barrel, 190 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: a richer and more opulently fruity style. Soft vanilla layered with tropical fruit syrups and fruit salad juices. There’s also that crisp smokiness and wee touches of leather and brine about it. A slightly more active cask has really worked here I think. You really feel these wee nods towards old school, fruity Bowmore coming through. Some nibbling green pepperiness too. With water: the briny and coastal aspects really emerge loudly now. Something like smoked olive oil, seawater, pollen and gorse flower. Mouth: the oak is indeed quite present at first, lots of spices, vanilla cream, beach foam, sandalwood, dried wildflowers and smoked cereals. Also things like canvass, putty, soot and tarry rope. I also get some crystallised exotic fruits and dried mango. With water: coconut water, soy sauce, sweetened cough medicines, lemon barley water and wee hints of petrol and pure brine. Finish: long with a wonderfully elegant smokiness, citrus rind, natural tar, herbal toothpaste and more dried out exotic fruit notes. Comments: I really think the cask and the distillate are locked in some kind of intricate tango here. At least it’s not an arm wrestle! I would say water is also essential as there’s quite a few different facets buried within.
SGP: 666 - 90 points.

 

 

Bowmore 11 yo 2000/2011 (58.5%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 234 bottles)

Bowmore 11 yo 2000/2011 (58.5%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 234 bottles)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: younger but this is really the same DNA. Beach foam, sand, rock pools again, also wet seaweed, hessian, cider apple and lemon juice. Pure, brilliant and vividly coastal, although also with a hefty hit of petrolic power too. With water: rather focussed on smoke now, grassy and flinty style smokiness with touches of soot, crushed seashells and ink. Perhaps some canvass too. Mouth: smoked olive oil mixed with brine and a few herbal infusions. Umami paste, salt-baked white fish and pure seawater. Direct, salty and pretty punchy. With water: big, peppery, saline and smoky with touches of chilli heat about it. Cured meats, salted fish, tar, anchovies and pickling juices. Finish: long, deeply smoky, sooty, inky, tarry and peaty. Comments: I’d say it’s maybe still on the young side, but you can see where everything is heading and the kernels of that impressive quality these stocks are showing now. Still, this is grade A beach and bonfire dramming material.
SGP: 367 - 87 points.

 

 

Bowmore 11 yo 1999/2010 (58.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.168 ‘After Dark’, first fill sherry butt, 269 bottles)

Bowmore 11 yo 1999/2010 (58.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.168 ‘After Dark’, first fill sherry butt, 269 bottles)
I believe this one was re-racked but I couldn’t tell you for how long. Colour: black coffee with reddish hues. Seriously dark! Nose: quite the departure! Some kind of smoked Turkish delight mixed with pitch dark chocolate, sea salt and soy sauce. Notes of Maggi, tar, salted liquorice, jasmine tea, cured game meats and old leather. The sherry here is really well integrated and the whole feels beautifully dense, syrupy and gooey. Impressions of salted caramel, walnut liqueur and root beer. With water: Irish coffee, toasted pecans and walnuts, camphor and balsamic. Mouth: perhaps a tad bitter at first, lots of tannic black tea, black pepper and herbal bitters - Jägerbombs anyone? I also get some kind of smoked raspberry jam, natural tar liqueur and cherry flavoured throat sweets. With water: dilution works well to soften things up quite a bit. Brings more meaty tones, more umami and a deep, damp earthiness. Bags of tobacco and bitter chocolate. But overall the tannins are softer. Finish: long, meaty, full of roasted nuts, game meats, coffee, tar, smoked paprika and medicines. Comments: Lovers of sherry and peat with the volume turned up to 11 should seek this one out. The bitterness is just a little too much for me, but there’s a huge amount to enjoy here and especially if you have your pipette handy.
SGP: 576 - 88 points.

 

 

Bowmore 13 yo 1996/2009 (46%, The Whisky Vault, cask #9600015/16, refill sherry, 50 bottles)

Bowmore 13 yo 1996/2009 (46%, The Whisky Vault, cask #9600015/16, refill sherry, 50 bottles)
I’m not sure, but would that cask number suggest a re-rack? Colour: light gold. Nose: fresh, delicately saline, nicely coastal, lemony and softly cereal, with this ever so slightly leafy sherry profile in the background. Slightly simple but very classical and easy going, and very obviously Bowmore, which is always good news. Mouth: feels quite hefty for 46%, and the sherry comes through a little louder and more directly at first. Lots of light earthy tones, grilled meats, gentle tarriness and things like putty, camphor and wee leathery touches. Some bone dry Manzanilla perhaps, along with some posh olives. Becomes flintier and chalkier with time. Finish: long, dry, crisp, cereal, chalky, lemony and wonderfully coastal and mineral. Comments: This one starts slow but becomes really superb by the end. Seriously, a bone dry glass of high octane Manzanilla.
SGP: 365 - 88 points. 

 

 

Bowmore 20 yo 1995/2015 (55.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.253 ‘Manzanilla in Manila’, refill bourbon hogshead, 242 bottles)

Bowmore 20 yo 1995/2015 (55.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.253 ‘Manzanilla in Manila’, refill bourbon hogshead, 242 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: again this rather ‘foamy’ coastalness. I cannot think of foam shrimps and surfy beaches. This one is very easy and gentle and fragrant. Lots of sandalwood, dried herbs, miso, putty, lemon oil and things like clay, sun lotion and light medicinal touches. Lovely! With water: fragrant is still the word. Extremely elegant, savoury, umami and coastal now. Lots of gorse, sea air, hints of tangerine, lemon jelly and pineapple. Mouth: much weightier than the nose would suggest. Quite big an emphatic in the mouth but still showing plenty maturity. Lots of saltiness, green olives, pure peat smoke, brine, olive oil and gentle tarry notes. Bandages, hessian and a little aniseed. With water: warm, lightly smoky, saline, citrus, wee tropical touches and still pretty umami and savoury. Finish: long, coastal, sandalwood, lemon peel, chamomile tea, bonfire smoke and more dried herbs. Comments: Faultless, natural and extremely charming Bowmore. I love this super elegant and fragrant profile.
SGP: 566 - 89 points.

 

 

Bowmore 1993/2005 (56.8%, Berry Brothers, cask #500061)

Bowmore 1993/2005 (56.8%, Berry Brothers, cask #500061)
A bottling with a pretty substantial reputation. Colour: straw. Nose: Indeed, this is the epitome of purity, cleanliness and pin-shape coastal inclusions. There’s also grapefruit acidity, lime, white flowers, chalk, stone fruits, guava. Very ‘1993’ in other words. Beautifully taut, structured and with an almost pristine salinity. With water: develops a big, bright and clear smokiness now. Bonfire smoke, tarry rope, camphor, lemon scented smelling salts and seawater. Wonderful! Mouth: brilliant arrival, all on green and exotic fruits such as melon, guava, mango, pineapple and passion fruit. Chalk, beach pebbles, cluttered minerals, bath salts, lime pith, kiln smoke and sandalwood ash. Feels rather like one of these old brown glass 12 year old from the 1980s at high strength. With water: there was a tension before between the smoke and the fruits, but water really negotiates a beautiful truce between these forces and adds in these wonderfully textural layers of oily peat. Some dusty notes, dried seaweed, smoked sea salt and a few crystallised exotic fruit notes. Finish: long, citric, perfectly coastal, fresh, invigorating and still wonderfully briny, smoky and lightly oily. Comments: I’ve had this one before but I remember it being as powerfully smoky as this - perhaps time has changed me rather than the whisky. Anyway, I just love the tension, balance and power on display from all the various facets within this one.
SGP: 667  - 91 points.

 

 

Bowmore 26 yo 1992/2018 (50.1%, OB for Canada, 1st fill sherry puncheon, 535 bottles)

Bowmore 26 yo 1992/2018 (50.1%, OB for Canada, 1st fill sherry puncheon, 535 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: gamey, herbal and wonderfully savoury at first. Lots of smoked sea salt, bouillon broth, Maggi, anchovy paste and natural tar. The peat seems to have been extremely well preserved despite peat and time. Also miso, soy sauce and even wee hints of kippers. With water: rather linear and doubling down on cured meats, drying earthiness and lots of dark, murky salinity. Black pepper, seawater and beef stock in a cocktail shaker. Mouth: quite a bitter arrival all on herbal extracts - Jägermeister or Unicum - cocoa powder, soot and earthy black teas at first. Not totally convinced by the pairing of peat and sherry here. There’s much to admire but feels every so slightly out of kilter. With water: evolves a slightly unexpected spicy edge with some chilli-infused dark chocolate, smoked paprika and also new leather shoes, boot polish and some pretty hefty herbal bitters. Like concentrated Fernet Branca! Finish: long, beefy, tarry, bitterly herbal and with rather a drying note of tannic black tea. Comments: It seems to be one of these early 1990s examples where the distillate was clean and pure but somewhat devoid of fruit, which is what you feel is missing here. There’s much to enjoy, but I think the cask and the distillate haven’t gotten on too well and there’s an overarching bitterness which doesn’t sit too easily within the whole.
SGP: 465 - 86 points.

 

 

FIona MacLeod 33 yo (46.3%, The Character Of Islay Whisky Company, bottled 2020)

FIona MacLeod 33 yo (46.3%, The Character Of Islay Whisky Company, bottled 2020)
A newish release from the team at Atom. I’m not sure who Fiona MacLeod is, but having had a sneaky sniff at the sample bottle, I’d bet my bottom groat that she used to work night shifts in France… Colour: light gold. Nose: indeed! Dried out perfume bottles, pot pourri, lavender and a bashed up, powdery packet of Parma violets from your pocket. There’s also the seashore, some sandalwood and touches of lemon peel. Pretty classical 80s Bowmore style, but I wouldn’t say it’s too extreme or hyper soapy. Mouth: perhaps a tad more difficult here. New handbag, imperial leather soap, some unusual sourdough bread notes, lamp oil, something like sour pollen, ink, assorted weird stuff. Becomes kind of indefinable except to say: 80s Bowmore innit! There’s a kind of slightly jagged sooty smoky vibe going on as well, it fades in and out between these lighter coastal oddities. Getting probably ‘too’ soapy now - lavender hand soap. Finish: this is a little more pleasant, it’s on some kind of sage sausage grilling over charcoals. More dried flowers and violets. Comments: I think your feelings about this whisky will boil entirely down to whether you like 80s Bowmore or not. This has reminded me that I haven’t had one for a very long time, so I’m pleased to become re-acquainted with the style and be reminded that I do not like it very much. Although, I will say that while this is weirdly soapy, it isn’t a totally dreadful type of soap (think 70s Edradour) it’s rather a fragrant and gently scary style. Make of that what you will.
SGP: 554 - 75 points.

 

 

Bowmore 22 yo 1976/1994 (52.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.27, 280 bottles)

Bowmore 22 yo 1976/1994 (52.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.27, 280 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: one of those wayward wilderness years Bowmores. A funny mix of lactic, farmyard, confectionary sweetness and a syrupy fruit salad juiciness underneath. Unusual but very enjoyable. In time there’s more classical notes of fragrant sandalwood, crushed seashells and even things like waxes and gentle ointments. With water: more leathery, salty, lightly farmy and earthy. A profile that’s more in synch with other 76 Bowmores I tried. Still a rather jellied fruitiness though, some pineapple emerging. Mouth: there’s an almost Clynelish-ey vibe to this with these nice mixes of polished leather, waxes, saline coastal notes and hessian. I also get citronella wax, putty, beach pebbles, old herbal medicines and white pepper. I’m not totally sure I’d peg it as Bowmore if tased blind. Still, very good nonetheless. With water: some sandalwood, chalky medicines, mint tea and a wee kiss of 1980s violets coming through. Finish: good length, rather drying and all on hessian, beach sand, minerals, chalk dust, citrus pith and some cereal notes. Comments: Some 1976 Bowmores face backwards, others face in the direction of the 1980s, while this one seems to take a long term view and feels more 90s in style. A very funny oddball of a Bowmore but plenty to enjoy.
SGP: 464 - 86 points.

 

 

Bowmore 12 yo (43%, OB, miniature, 1980s)

Bowmore 12 yo (43%, OB, miniature, 1980s)
A wee mini I’ve had knocking about my cupboard for some years now; this seems like as good an occasion as any to crack it… Colour: amber - which is much darker than expected. Nose: this is the first time I’ve ever found a sherried batch of one of these old OB 12 year old. This is all on gently smoked game meats, venison salami, salty ramen broths, damp pipe tobacco, mushroom powder and mulchy earthen floored cellars. There’s botritic raisins and gentle rancio too. Keeps opening up and developing along rather earthy and tertiary lines. The fruits are there but they remain dark, exotic and strictly stewed and crystalised. Hugely impressive so far I have to say. Mouth: many salty game meats, pistachios, chocolate sauce, strawberry wine and treacle. Bitter chocolate studded with smoked sea salt and some natural tar. Trouble is, there is also some soapiness too. However, it feels like a bottle flaw rather than a distillate flaw; this is old school Bowmore for sure. Full of meat broths and herbal medicines now too. Finish: long, very gently smokey, lots of soft dark fruits, earthy black teas and more of these elegant meaty tones. Comments: This is a bit of a let down, the wee soapy incursion on the palate was unfortunate. But I suspect other examples of these minis may sing a different song. You can certainly feel how great the whisky originally was, the nose on its own was easily 92 point territory. Although, one thing I have noticed recently, is that more and more old bottles are beginning to develop soapy issues where you wouldn’t expect them. Is this something other people have noticed too? Or perhaps my palate is doomed to soap sensitivity. It’s annoying because I never found a sherried batch of this 12yo before and this is 100% circa 1970 distillate Bowmore.
SGP: 664 - 84 (ish) points (but another mini of the same could easily be 92/93)

 

 

Bowmore 32 yo 1968/2000 (45.5%, OB, 1860 bottles)

Bowmore 32 yo 1968/2000 (45.5%, OB, 1860 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: a gentle one, initially all on crushed seashells, ink, embrocations, sea air and much lighter, more ethereal exotic fruit notes. A rather gloopy fructose impression, then more pointed notes of kiwi, mango jam, guava and lemon cough drops. Some grapefruit pith and nice wee streak of saltiness. Elegance and class are the watchwords here. Mouth: something like peat smoked sandalwood, herbal infused waxes, tangerine peel, dried out exotic fruits, olive oil and natural tar. Some smoke passion fruit, rapeseed oil and fir liqueur. Getting fatter, oilier, more emphatically medical and with a rather resinous fruitiness. Finish: long, camphory, nicely bitter, full of citrus, wee touches of melon, tar, ointments and more coastal touches. Comments: Bish bash bosh! Beautiful old 60s Bowmore, even if it’s a rather shy example that wears its fruits lightly.
SGP: 655 - 91 points. 

 

 

Bowmore 1956 (43%, OB for Italy, Soffiantino import, sherry, 1980s)

Bowmore 1956 (43%, OB for Italy, Soffiantino import, sherry, 1980s)
A legendary bottle. Colour: deep gold / amber. Nose: Yes! Really the epitome of Bowmore at its greatest. You have fruit that is primarily exotic and tropical in character but it is presented as this quivering, gelatinous mass around which orbits leathery, salty sherry, coastal subtleties, the most beguilingly fragrant peat smoke and various ancient and tertiary medicines. There’s herbs, seawater, petrichor, umami, waxes, camphor, salted liquorice, natural tar. Everything is just so powerful, vivid and assertive. And yet… also perfectly harmonised too. Nothing out of step or balance, everything keeping perfect time and pace. Whiskies like this present you with a conundrum: that time and base ingredients can create something so utterly beautiful it can drive you mad trying to figure out where the reach of the human hand ends and where nature takes over. Mouth: (oh yes, I suppose we should actually taste some of it at some point) as thick and resinous and unctuous and fat as whisky can be at 43%. A dazzling collision of peat, smoke, herbs, fruits, salt, waxes, medicine and seashore. I also find a gentle but totally luxurious sweetness underpinning everything as well. Ok, enough, call the anti-maltoporn brigade and let’s get out of here quick. Finish: endless, meandering, thick - that word gelatinous comes to mind again - tarry, oily and just utterly, spellbindingly fruity. Comments: A benchmark for this distillery, and undeniably for Scotch Whisky as a whole too. The most painful thing about the rarity and expense of whiskies like this one, is that they cannot be more widely tasted, appreciated, studied and understood. Especially in this contemporary era where the sharing of that knowledge would have such profound value.
SGP: 766 - 95 points.

 

 

Heartfelt thanks to KC. Andy, Stewart and Dirk.

 

 

 

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

 

September 4, 2020


Whiskyfun

Special Releases Special, today Dufftown

I’ve been having a little trouble with Dufftown lately, but that may have been me (and because of some slightly obnoxious sherry). Let’s let the owners have their say, and first find a proper sparring partner of a similar age and cask profile at the indies…

Dufftown 1999/2018 (54.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill bourbon, 163 bottles)

Dufftown 1999/2018 (54.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill bourbon, 163 bottles) Three stars
This is ex-bourbon, we should be safe… Colour: straw. Nose: very gentle, on peach skin and cornflakes, with some honeycomb, mirabelle tarte and orange blossom water in the background. Reminds me of oriental pastries, Turkish delights, angel hair and such. It’s even a little Balvenie-y, I would say. With water: perhaps a little less ‘oriental’ (for lack of a better term) and more on the usual vanilla, barley, cake, fresh bread… Mouth (neat): terrifyingly Balvenie-y (not that that’s really terrifying), on a lot of ripe mirabelles, honeys, bergamots, and just a touch of varnish that makes things a bit messy. Just a bit. With water: a soapy touch coming out, the rest is fine, on shortbread and apple pie. Tends to lose focus, I would say. Finish: medium, good, fruity again, the aftertaste is a tad less interesting. Grassy. Comments: it’s had its moments in the light but I would say the make’s a little too mundane to catch a lot of attention and it’s not the very best friend of H2O.
SGP:551 - 80 points.

The Singleton (of Dufftown) 17 yo 2002/2020 (55.1%, OB, Special Releases 2020, refill American oak hogshead)

The Singleton (of Dufftown) 17 yo 2002/2020 (55.1%, OB, Special Releases 2020, refill American oak hogshead) Four stars
I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand the whole concept behind those ‘Singletons’, a problem that already started with the early Auchroisks, it’s almost as if an Ottoman scientist was in charge of the marketing at the very beginning. Must be me, now I hope we’ll find some good quality Turkish delights in this one, which I love. Ha-ha. Colour: straw. Nose: not dissimilar, but it’s got less oak, and consequently, more garden fruits, gooseberries, kiwis, some rhubarb, certainly some very lime-y IPA beer, hops, touches of fresh ginger, bamboo shoots, white currants… It’s pretty sauvignony. With water: gentle and very brioche-y. Chardonnay this time, twenty-year-old Champagne, biscuits, pear cake… Any citrus is gone for good, but more grass is appearing. Mouth (neat): well, it’s very good, even tarter than expected, fresher, pretty much on grapefruits and lemon marmalade, lemongrass – and isn’t it funny that I’m finding bamboo shoots on the palate too? (no it isn’t, S.) With water: williams pears, cider, quince jelly… Citrus gone again. That’s really intriguing that water would erase any citrus. Any chemists in the room? Ale. Finish: medium, maltier, hoppy and cake-y. Comments: this one wasn’t too easy to grasp, but that was part of its charms.
SGP:561 - 85 points.

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

 

September 3, 2020


Whiskyfun

Special Releases Special, today Mortlach

I’ve already had a wee sip and thought it was unusually crisp and clean – which is right up my alley. But let’s first find a proper sparring partner, this time there’s a plenty of choice. Mind you, Mortlach is not Pittyvaich. Although, in some ways…

Mortlach 22 yo ‘Marriage’ (54.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, 1200 bottles, 2018)

Mortlach 22 yo ‘Marriage’ (54.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, 1200 bottles, 2018) Three stars
Four hogsheads and a sherry butt, married for better or for worse by the priests and priestesses of whisky over there in London. Colour: deep gold. Nose: huge sulphur. I mean, old guns, used matches, town gas and black truffles. These are not smells that are unseen in Mortlach (the early Flora & Fauna spring to mind) but this one’s going quite far, becoming almost smoky (pine cone smoke). Burning meat fat, mad man’s barbecue, exhaust... Water may make it gentler – or not, let’s see. With water: no. On Paris’s ring road at peak hour. Or there, a Tesla about to explode, right, burning plastics and other chemicals. Mouth (neat): well in the style of the Flora & Fauna, and we know it’s got its aficionados, but the feeling of sucking a pistol is a bit unusual. A lot of leather too. With water: ah, there, civilisation. Oranges, wax, tangerine liqueur… We tamed it but that’s a little late. Finish: long, dry, meatier. Moe Mortlach as in most Mortlachs. Comments: it’s true that it reminded me of some marriages. Explosive indeed. For lovers of this genre only, I would say.
SGP:372 - 80 points.

Landslide now, I wager…

Mortlach 21 yo 1999/2020 (56.9%, OB, Special Releases 2020, finished in PX and oloroso seasoned casks)

Mortlach 21 yo 1999/2020 (56.9%, OB, Special Releases 2020, finished in PX and oloroso seasoned casks) Four stars
Right, sadly only a finishing but remember we found out that they’ve been tuning them down in recent years and that some have become purely anecdotal. According to the colour, that would be the case here… Colour: pale gold. Nose: sulphur gone, even meatiness gone, hello crispness and fruits. You do feel a few oils (graphite) and this feeling of ‘a fat Islay without any smoke’ but what’s really leading the pack is this bright combination of white and yellow fruits with chalk and paraffin. The tenser side of Mortlach, probably the one we like best. Oloroso and PX are M.I.A. and we shall not complain at all. With water: citrus and waxes all over the place. Mouth (neat): huge, fantastic, pure, rich, fat, crisp, resinous, melony, waxy, mineral, a tad rubbery. Haut-Brion blanc? No, Mortlach! With water: spicy herbs coming out, as well as a little leather, caraway, cinnamon mints, chilli, pepper, tabasco… It’s as if the casks had suddenly woken up. Having said that, citrus and wax keep running the show. Finish: long and spicy. A tad less interesting I would say, oak spices could come out just any ‘active’ aged spirit. Comments: utterly loved it as long as we hadn’t unleashed the oak spices towards the end. Blame it on our water. Or, hey, on the Pedro!
SGP:561 - 87 points.

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

 

September 2, 2020


Whiskyfun

Special Releases Special,
today Dalwhinnie

There are very few new expressions of Dalwhinnie around, but it seems that owners Diageo are pretty fond of the make as they seem to insert it into any special series they’re doing, such as their Game of Thrones series, the newish Prima & Ultima and, indeed, these new Special Releases. We shan’t complain, it’s a very fine drop that should never be overlooked. And the location is glorious too…

Dalwhinnie 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2019)

Dalwhinnie 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2019) Three stars
I have to say I’ve found  recent batches a tad weaker, but I suppose everyone slows down from time to time. Shall we find a malty honeyness? Colour: straw. Nose: I find it even more spirity than last time, a little rough, feeling much younger than 15 at first. But things tend to improve, with old books chiming in, honey indeed, cupcakes, chamomile tea, perhaps a little chocolate, a wee touch of wood smoke, fresh brioche… That’s right, it’s pretty brioche-y, which reminds me of queen Marie-Antoinette (The people have no bread? Let them eat brioche!) Mouth: once again it starts rough, even rather gritty and dusty. Let’s not rush it… Good, these slightly cardboardy notes wouldn’t go away, while the background is rather on ale and grist/flour. I seem to remember Dalwhinnie 15 was much richer and rounder… twenty years ago. Finish: medium, with a bitter side. Bread, leather, bitter ale… Comments:  perhaps a little tough and rustic, doesn’t really feel fifteen. Oh and so, is it a Speyside or is it not a Speyside?
SGP:361 - 80 points.

Dalwhinnie 30 yo 1989/2020 (51.9%, OB, Special Releases 2020)

Dalwhinnie 30 yo 1989/2020 (51.9%, OB, Special Releases 2020, refill hogsheads) Five stars
There’s a lovely hare on the label but I can’t see any tortoise… Colour: white wine/straw. Very pale given its age, this should be distillate-driven. Nose: oh what a difference fifteen years make, this is so lively, complex, elegant, refreshing and full of fruits. Rhubarb and citrons, I would say, perhaps greengages, a tiny touch of nail polish that goes extremely well with this style, a little chalk, a drop of ink, a spoonful of muesli… I find this perfect, really. There already was a superb 1989 in the SRs back in 2015, this one may go one step forward. With water: oh this subtle smoke (Mum’s cigarette), panettone in the oven, praline, almond croissants, this very small touch of engine oil... Brilliant nose, so subtle… Mouth (neat): fantastic, a little mentholy and branche-y or rooty, with a perfect tension, a chalkiness, some citrons and grapefruits, and a wee bit of green pear. Totally perfect when unreduced, not even sure it would need water. But I’m supposed to be some kind of whisky blogger, so… With water: menthol up, almonds, marzipan, bits of plasticine, citrons again, lemon zests… The tension builds up, this is perfect. Finish: medium, even a tad short, but complex and elegant, on, say lemon-flavoured amaretti. Comments: very very smart and very very good, without any unnecessary cask ‘stuff’ in the way. Have to check the price…
SGP:462 - 91 points.

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

 

September 1, 2020


Whiskyfun

Special Releases Special,
today Cragganmore

I have to say I still have the taste of that glorious old 48 yo from the Prima & Ultima series in my mouth. Other than that, let’s proceed, with first the latest Distiller’s Edition… Unless there is a 2020 out?

Cragganmore 2007/2019 ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (40%, OB, CggD-6571)

Cragganmore 2007/2019 ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (40%, OB, CggD-6571) Three stars
A ruby Port finish at 40% vol., what could go wrong? I have to say I’ve never quite understood how the coding was working here. Must be me. Colour: gold. Nose: light and dry indeed at first, pretty malty, with touches of raspberry jam coming out, perhaps, a little marmalade, Jaffa cakes, and echoes of old sweet red wines. I suppose that’s the Port. Mouth: starts rather okay, on chocolate and eau-de-vie, but tends to get dry and a little too leafy. There’s the trademark smokiness (wood) but it does get a little astringent, while there wouldn’t quite be enough oomph to keep the whole afloat. But let’s not exaggerate, it’s a pretty fine dram and at 45%, it would be very fine. Finish: short, a little too jammy for me, but I’m also finding cherries, while I adore cherries. Comments: the cherries saved it. Do you know the cherry jam they make in the Basque country?
SGP:651 - 80 points.

Cragganmore 20 yo 1999/2020 (55.8%, OB, Special Releases 2020)

Cragganmore 20 yo 1999/2020 (55.8%, OB, Special Releases 2020, refill casks and fresh-charred casks) Four stars
I think it is some kind of owl on the label. Colour: pale gold. Nose: firm, on tangerines, zests, melon liqueur, manzanilla tea (not wine) and a little grass. Whiffs of hand cream. Not hugely expressive this far, but I’m sure water will unlock it and unleash quite a few more fruits. With water: not quite, we’re rather towards sponge cake and biscuits.  And why not, nothing wrong with that! But I’m not finding too many idiosyncrasies, as they say in rap. Mouth (neat): thick and textured, sweet and yet tense and firm, rather on high-strength triple-sec at first, cereals, then something like beer sauce. Mead as well, chouchen (Breton honey spirit)… It’s really thick, oily, and potent. With water: even creamier, and rather all on cereals, Golden Grahams, barley and agave syrups, sweet beer… Finish: rather long and thick, and rather on peanut butter, more cakes, more cornflakes, golden syrup, marmalade… Comments: very very good, it’s just the most timid we’ve had so far. Big and yet gentle – remember that band, Gentle Giant? 
SGP:551 - 86 points.

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

 

WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

August 2020

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Lagavulin 12 yo 2007/2020 (56.4%, OB, Special Releases 2020, refill American oak casks)  - WF91

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
None in August

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Talisker 10 yo (45.8%, OB, +/-2019)  - WF90

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Monymusk 24 yo 1995/2019 ‘EMB’ (67%, Velier, Villa Paradisetto, Jamaica)  - WF91

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Fujimi ‘7 virtues of the Samurai’ (40%, OB, blended Japanese whisky, +/-2019) - WF25

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


 

 

 

Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Bladnoch (70°proof, OB, Co.Import Torino, 75.7cl, 1970s)

Dalwhinnie 30 yo 1989/2020 (51.9%, OB, Special Releases 2020, refill hogsheads)

From The Isle of Orkney 19 yo 2000/2020 (55%, The WhiskyFind for HNWS Taiwan, hogshead, cask #7, 332 bottles)

Secret Orkney 18 yo 2000/2019 (53.1%, Le Gus’t, hogshead, 356 bottles)

Pittyvaich 30 yo 1989/2020 (50.8%, OB, Special Releases 2020, first-fill ex-bourbon casks)

Fins Bois No.58 (42.2%, Jean Grosperrin, Cognac, 124 litres, +/-2020)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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