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Tasting notes:
Whiskies 10,980
Others 774

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Index of whiskyfun


Whisky Tasting

 
Aberfeldy (38) - Aberlour (84)
Abhainn Dearg (2)
Allt-A-Bhainne (2
6)
An Cnoc (
20)
Ardbeg (3
47) - Ardmore (60)
Arran (6
9) - Auchentoshan (80)
Auchroisk (2
7) - Aultmore (35)
Balblair (63) - Balmenach (35)
Balvenie (
73) - Banff (43)
Ben Nevis (
93)
Ben Wyvis (
2)
Benriach (
141) - Benrinnes (43)
Benromach (
44) - Bladnoch (54)
Blair Athol (4
4) - Bowmore (398)
Braes of Glenlivet (
29)
Brora (
115)
Bruichladdich (2
17)
Bunnahabhain (
243)
Caol Ila (409)
Caperdonich (
81)
Cardhu (
31) - Clynelish (288)
Coleburn (
15)
Convalmore (1
8)
Cragganmore (
58)
Craigduff (3) - Craigellachie (
42)
Dailuaine (47) - Dallas Dhu (32)
Dalmore (87) - Dalwhinnie (22)
Deanston (26) - Dufftown (48)

Edradour (54)
Imperial (62) - Inchgower (44)
Inverleven (19)
Isle of Jura (90)

Kilchoman (20)
Kilkerran (
11) - Kinclaith (7)
Kininvie
(3)
- Knockando (
31)
Ladyburn (9) - Lagavulin (99)
Laphroaig (341) - Ledaig (73)
Linkwood (112) - Littlemill (90)
Loch Lomond (29)
Lochside (62)
Longmorn (172) - Longrow (57)

Macallan (245) - Macduff (58)
Mannochmore (2
5)
Millburn (
20)
Miltonduff (
53) - Mortlach (119)
Mosstowie (1
7)
Oban (23) - Octomore (10)
Old Fettercairn (28)
Old Pulteney (67)

Scapa (34) - Speyburn (25) - Speyside (16)
Springbank (22
7)
St-Magdalene (46)
Strathisla (8
5) - Strathmill (26)
 
 
Pete and Jack



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Music Awards
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Music Awards
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Feis Ile
Special
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Music Awards
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Feis Ile
Special
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- 2

2005
Music Awards
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1- 2
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Feis Ile
Special
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1 - 2

2004
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1
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1
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1
June
1
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1
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1
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1

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Disclaimer
 

All the linked files (mp3, video, html) are located on free commercial or non-commercial third party websites. Some pictures are taken from these websites, and are believed to be free of rights, as long as no commercial use is intended.

I always try to write about artists who, I believe, deserve wider recognition, and all links to mp3 files are here to show you evidence of that. Please encourage the artists you like, by buying either their CDs or their downloadable 'legal' tracks.

I always add links to the artists' websites - if any - which should help you know more about their works. I also try to add a new link to any hosting website or weblog which helped me discover new music - check the column on the right.

I almost never upload any mp3 file on my own server, except when dealing with artists I personally know, and who gave me due authorizations, or sometimes when I feel a 'national' artist deserves wider recognition. In that case, the files will remain on-line only for a few days.

I do not encourage heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages, nor dangerous motorbike riding. But life is short anyway...

As they say here: 'L'abus d'alcool est dangeureux pour la santé - à consommer avec modération'

   
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Copyright Serge Valentin,
Nick Morgan,
Kate Kavanagh

2002-2015


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September 4, 2015


Whiskyfun

Good Auchentoshan 1992 vs. 1992

I know we’ve already had quite some Auchentoshans just a few weeks ago, but this is a way of trying to keep a summery sun above our heads. Because to me, Auchentoshan is the epitomical summery malt whisky… I’d add that I find it quite ironic that Littlemill’s rather more sought after than Auchentoshan these days. Would someone have imagined that would happen, thirty years ago! Like, someone at Littlemill…

Auchentoshan 23 yo 1992/2015 (46.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch)

Auchentoshan 23 yo 1992/2015 (46.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re far from the vanilla-ed officials, this one’s rather a fresh and mineral one, with quite some cut grass, watermelons, lemongrass, a faint fizziness that reminds us of effervescent vitamin tablets, and then perhaps notes of vanilla-flavoured yoghurt (and lemon-flavoured ones as well). Noses very ‘natural’. Mouth: a very sharp, very zesty arrival that feels stronger than 46%. There’s a lot of lemon squash, a feeling of limestone and chalk, grasses, a touch of plasticine, as well as more and more bitter herbs. Grapefruit skin. Finish: medium, sharp, herbal. Touches of salted salmiak in the aftertaste, which reminds me of that funny Finnish thing we tried the other Sunday. Comments: it’s not an easy Auchentoshan at all, at least not one you could pour just anyone. Perhaps a more intellectual one? SGP:451 - 85 points.

Auchentoshan 23 yo 1992/2015 (52%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 134 bottles)

Auchentoshan 23 yo 1992/2015 (52%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 134 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this is very interesting, because it’s obviously the same distillate, only matured in more active American oak that added creaminess and ‘sexiness’, while filtering out the grassy and ‘tablety’ notes. So it feels a little less natural, and rather easier, which is not obligatorily a bad thing mind you. Let’s check it with water:  we recreated the Cadenhead, with a bit more fruits, and a bit less limestone. Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the Cadenhead right from the start, with these massive grassy notes, and this bitterish lemony side. Zests and clay are ruling this baby! With water: lemon and lime all over the place. It’s a Auchentoshan that really hints at… some kind of blend of Bladnoch and Rosebank, perhaps? Finish: medium, on the same limy notes. Comments: one more point for more easiness, but we’re clearly in the same category. SGP:541 - 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Auchentoshan I've tasted so far

 

 

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September 3, 2015


Whiskyfun

Unlikely whiskies or quasi-whiskies
from the rest of the world

… As our Scottish friends would say… Well not sure they can still say that, given the current success of some of these whiskies ‘from the rest of the world’…

Praskoveykoe 4 yo (40%, OB, Russia, bottled 2009)

Praskoveykoe 4 yo (40%, OB, Russia, bottled 2009) Two starsRussian whisky made in the Stavropol Region, at Praskoveya Winery. That's in northern Caucasus. We had tried a 5yo back in 2011 and found it more than acceptable (WF 70). Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a sweet and fruity drop, it seems, full of pears and apples, with pleasant notes of ripe sweet barley and perhaps a touch of sweet vanilla. As often, there’s also a little dust, hints of cardboard, a little flour perhaps… No big nose, and no off note either. Mouth: again, this isn’t unpleasant, with apples and oranges, then vanilla and shortbread. It’s light bodied, without any obvious flaws, and no traces of burnt stuff as may be found in unlikely ‘foreign’ whiskies. I could drink this (while in Caucasus!) Finish: medium, sweet, with touches of jams and liqueurs. Perhaps plum eau-de-vie? Comments: honest and serious young local whisky. I think I’ll use the same score as that of the 5yo. SGP:341 - 70 points.

Brenne (40%, OB, France, single malt, +/-2015)

Brenne (40%, OB, France/USA, single malt, +/-2015)Two stars French whisky totally unknown to the French, marketed in America by some Americans, how unlikely is that. It’s a bit like the infamous Bastille, perhaps. It’s made in the Cognac region, using cognac stills I guess, and while Brenne is also the name of a lovely region of France, that’s rather around 150 or 200 km away from Cognac. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very unlikely, but not unpleasant. It’s got notes of overripe mangos and molassy rum, plus a lot of overripe bananas, which rather gives this baby some kind of Caribbean style. Not quite whisky, but truly ‘world’. In fact, blinded, I’d have said rum from Mauritius. Mouth: same feeling, this is much more rum than whisky. Bananas again, sweet medicine for kids, strawberry sweets, a little vanilla again, plus an oaky structure in the background (cinnamon, white pepper, tea). Finish: rather short, with more tannins coming out. Vanilla cream in the aftertaste. Comments: not a bad spirit at all, it's even rather likeable, and indeed it reminds me of some cured rums. Just don’t expect Ardbeg. Or Cognac XO. Or Glann ar Mor, for that matter… SGP:620 - 70 points.

Debowa Polska Golden Oak Vodka (40%, OB, Poland,+/-2014)

Debowa Polska Golden Oak Vodka (40%, OB, Poland,+/-2014) Oak aged vodka, or probably rather oak flavoured vodka. I don’t know if the vodka was made with grains, which would have made this baby a quasi-whisky, but let’s just taste it… Colour: white wine. Nose: more grassy vodka than whisky, for sure. Ethanol, mown lawn, more grass, even more grass, truckload of grass, fruit peelings, and perhaps a little oak indeed. But no vanilla-ed extravaganza! Mouth: sweeter, and rather vanilled this time. Sugar syrup, custard, tinned pears, more sugar… And perhaps a touch of strawberries. Another one that’s no bad spirit, it’s just a little ‘in the middle of nowhere’. Finish: very short. Vanilla and corn syrup. Comments: rather bland, but acceptable as some kind of component in some kind of cocktail, and certainly not repulsive. A good occasion to use a 50-mark, that doesn’t happen so often. SGP:330 - 50 points.

Well, it seems that our Russian whisky’s leading the pack at this stage… Wait, weren’t we in Poland?...

Polugar ‘Classic Rye' (38.5%, OB, Poland, unaged, +/-2013)

Polugar ‘Classic Rye' (38.5%, OB, Poland, unaged, +/-2013) Two stars Russian ‘breadwine’ made in Poland in pot stills. We have already tried some malted rye by Polugar, and that one was excellent (WF 80). Colour: white – so not aged in wood. Nose: feels like distilled bread, and this is something I enjoy. Rye, obviously, liquorice, caraway, juniper, a little fennel perhaps… And massive whiffs of some wholegrain bread straight from the baker’s oven. A touch of earth as well. It’s probably no very deep spirit, but it was distilled with care. Mouth: oily, on the same notes. Too bad it’s only bottled at 38.5%, that makes it a notch flabby. A hint of smoked ham, perhaps, otherwise herbs, caraway, a little ginger, and a lot of bread. Finish: not short, very bready, and spicy. Bizarrely, I find touches of dry oak, while there obviously isn’t any. Comments: good spirit for sure, but its too light. Especially when you know that good rye can make for true powerhouses. SGP:361 - 72 points.

Ankara 5 yo Malt Viski (43%, OB, Turkey, +/-2000)

Ankara 5 yo Malt Viski (43%, OB, Turkey, +/-2000) Two stars Some malt whisky made by a large Turkish state-owned monopolistic corporation called Tekel, since 1963. Sadly, they stopped make it quite a few years ago, and it even seems that that state monopoly was disbanded and privatised in 2004. Tekel were also making raki, Turkey’s national liquor, as well as, if I remember well, cigarettes. Colour: gold. Nose: vanilla and sawdust are ruling the whole thing, then sponge cake and biscuits. It’s very simple, and perhaps rather bourbony at times (no straight malty aromas to be seen), but I think it used to do the trick. I remember we were drinking it with Coke while vacationing around Bodrum, and we weren’t complaining… Mouth: surprisingly good. Or rather more than acceptable, with good oak, vanilla, orange liqueur, sweet bread, and, perhaps, three drops of raki. No, I’m joking. Good body. Finish: a bit short, but these spices from the oak and the oranges work in sync. Comments: even more to my liking than I remembered. Our Turkish friends were making it very well! It’s a bit of a shame that now that there seems to be an enthusiastic whisky scene in Turkey, the country stopped making this good whisky. SGP:441 - 74 points.

Good, Turkey takes the lead!

P&M (42%, OB, pure malt, France, Corsica, +/-2007)

P&M (42%, OB, pure malt, France, Corsica, +/-2007) An older bottle of the Corsican P&M. We’ve tried a recent batch two years ago and it’s been to my liking (WF 78). P&M contains chestnuts, and some say that chestnuts aren’t grains, hence that this couldn’t be whisky. I’m calling that being a notch too picky, perhaps… Colour: gold. Nose: fern, burning wood, cider apples, cider, charcoal, these sorts of things. Rather unusual, but not unpleasant. It’s rather light, it seems… Mouth: more difficult. The texture is perfect, but the oak feels, and you’ve got an impression of cardboard and cheap fruit liqueur. Saccharin. And certainly sweet beer. Pass… Finish: quite long, a tad drier, but also a little soapy. Comments: all I can confirm is that P&M have improved their malt whiskies a lot since they started. A lot! SGP:430 - 55 points.

Penderyn ‘That Try’ (41%, OB, Wales, 2015)

Penderyn ‘That Try’ (41%, OB, Wales, 2015) Two stars A lot of story around this bottle, rugby, tries, old legends and all that. Now they just wouldn’t tell you what’s inside the bottle, except that it’s Penderyn. No age, vintage, wood type… A little short, perhaps? Colour: white wine. Nose: peated apples and white cherries, perhaps, plus grapefruit and sweet porridge. I’ve always found quite a lot of porridge in Penderyn – not that I’ve tasted hundreds, mind you. I quite enjoy the notes of sauvignon blanc as well. A Sancerre from Wales? Mouth: a little light, but the profile is very fine, sweetly smoky, with again these feeling of sauvignon blanc and smoked grapefruits. Sadly, it tends to nosedive, loosing steam and power, and becoming dry and rather too ashy. That must be the 41% vol. Finish: short, dry, ashy. Too bad, some sides were really nice. Comments: it’s a little funny to celebrate rugby legends with a light whisky – whether peated or not – but again, some sides were very pleasant. SGP:444 - 75 points.

Wales just took the lead, while using a story about their rugby team defeating the All-Blacks back in 1973. The All-Blacks? Hold on…

New Zealand Whisky 22 yo 1991/2013 (60.5%, OB, Willowbank, New Zealand, bourbon barrel, cask #135)

New Zealand Whisky 22 yo 1991/2013 (60.5%, OB, Willowbank, New Zealand, bourbon barrel, cask #135) Three stars Other vintages have been very good, especially a 25 yo at 46% vol. (WF 85). Some older bottlings from the same distillery, bearing other names such as Milford or Lammerlaw, have been a little more unlikely IMHO. Colour: gold. Nose: very grassy, and almost closed. That’s the high strength. Broken branches, leaves, almonds… Not much. With water: white bread, soot, putty, and perhaps this kind of spritz car dealers put into their second-hand cars to make them smell newer. Mouth (neat): a Jonah-Lomu-esque arrival, massive, citric, flinty, and rather bready/cerealy. Rather raw despite the older age, but as always, water should help… With water: ah yes, this is good. A grassy, citrusy, sooty and grainy profile, rather raw again, but full and, as they say, satisfying. No ultra-deep whisky, bit it works. Finish: quite long, with lemons and chalk or clay. Comments: a good beast, of ‘Scottish quality’. May lack definition at times, but, well, I really liked it. SGP:362 - 82 points.

It seems that the Kiwis just took the lead, but the game isn’t over yet…

Amrut 2009/2014 (56.5%, OB, India, for Taiwan, Indian barley, PX, cask #2702, 360 bottles)

Amrut 2009/2014 (56.5%, OB, India, for Taiwan, Indian barley, PX, cask #2702, 360 bottles) Three stars This baby lost 46% of its content to the angels, according to the label. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re having cakes and raisins aplenty, a little earth as well, but perhaps not Amrut’s trademark citrusy brightness this time. PX can be tricky! A little sour wood as well. With water: more sour wood, leaves, old cellar, humus, saltpetre… A very earthy one. Mouth (neat): rich and very cake-y. More citrus this time, but also a wee dusty side, which makes it slightly dirty and sour. That’s not bad at all, but yet again, I find this one rather un-Amrut on the palate. Chestnut purée, praline, milk chocolate… With water: same feeling. This dusty earthiness is a little troubling. Like the chocolate, though. Raisin-filled Lindt chocolate. Finish: quite long, with brighter oranges and always quite a lot of milk chocolate. The aftertaste is a tad dusty again. Comments: very good, of course, but I believe we’ve all tried brighter Amruts. SGP:551 - 81 points.

The Kiwis are keeping the upper hand. Let’s try another rugby country…

Lark 'Small Cask Aged' (43%, OB, Australia, Tasmania, Port cask, cask #516, 2014)

Lark 'Small Cask Aged' (43%, OB, Australia, Tasmania, Port cask, cask #516, 2014) Four stars An unusual lighter Lark, after the ‘monsters’ we’ve tried last year. Colour: amber. Nose: a few touches of pencil shavings form those ‘small casks’, I guess, but other than that, were pretty much in old Macallan territories, which I find highly surprising. These dried figs, these raisins, this coal smoke as well, these slightly meaty notes… This has depth and complexity – while I’m sure it’s young stuff. Mouth: oak spices, raisins, honey, a touch of mint, a touch of liquorice, some caraway for sure, quite some coffee (the oak again?), café latte, butterscotch… It’s the coffee that’s most impressive. Café-Kuchen? Good body at just 43%, which mean that the spirit’s got depth. Finish: medium, and guess what, it reminds me of the old Macallan 12 again. Comments: I didn’t get the Port, and I won’t complain. I like this little Lark quite a lot. SGP:561 - 85 points.

Australia has got the upper hand now. Let’s fly back to Asia. To Taiwan, but not to Kavalan…

Nantou 'Bourbon Type' (46%, OB, TTL, Taiwan, +/-2014)

Nantou 'Bourbon Type' (46%, OB, TTL, Taiwan, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Our first Nantou! This is probably quite young… BTW, Nantou is made by TTL, a story that reminds us of Ankara and Tekel, as TTL, which means Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor, is a corporation owned by the state, and a former monopoly as well. Colour: pale gold. Nose: some light easy bourbony malt that reminds me of some entry-level Japanese malts. A young Yamazaki or something. Vanilla cake, apple pie, barley… It’s not complex, but it’s balanced and very pleasant. Custard! Mouth: very good, very easy, well crafted, with vanilla, cake, oranges, apples and a touch of sour cream. I haven’t got anything bad to say against this, it’s just not extremely… mindboggling? Finish: medium, very clean, vanilla-ed, barleyish, cake-y. Comments: very Japanese indeed. Little magic,  whisky that’s perhaps a notch technological, but totally indisputable. They’re heading this way in Scotland too, you know… SGP:441 - 79 points.

Another chance…

Nantou 'Sherry type' (46%, OB, TTL, Taiwan, +/-2014)

Nantou 'Sherry type' (46%, OB, TTL, Taiwan, +/-2014) Three stars Indeed, the Japanese way. So sherry this time… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the bourbon plus raisins. Light, balanced, easy… Mouth: pleasant, easy, and even quite complex. Pink grapefruits, sultanas, rosehip tea, a very discreet spiciness (pink pepper, bay leaves) and then perhaps dog roses. Very good, no doubt at all. They must have put a lot of care into these batches. Finish: medium, extremely well balanced, with soft oak spices, fruits, some malt, and pastries. I even find a subtle phenolic touch, around lamp oil or other ‘chemical’ oils. Comments: no, really, this is very good. Made with a lot of seriousness and care, and I doubt you could do much better within just a few years. Perhaps not much thrill yet, but that may come… SGP:451 - 81 points.

And guess what, they do single casks as well! Let’s try one of them – not more – and we’ll call this a tasting session.

Nantou 2009/2014 (55.1%, OB, TTL, for emba wine club, Taiwan, bourbon, cask #098, 192 bottles)

Nantou 2009/2014 (55.1%, OB, TTL, for emba wine club, Taiwan, bourbon, cask #098, 192 bottles) Three stars and a half Another bottling that feels very ‘Suntory’… That’s smart! Colour: gold. Nose: straight, clean, bourbony style. The vanilla’s rather loud, but there’s very little coconut, which is a sign of good quality in my book. If you feel the coconut in anything ex-American oak, it’s junk. There. Butter cream, brioche, white chocolate, freshly sawn planks, custard… A well-known song, but there aren’t any off notes. With water: oh nice! Teas and herbs, vanilla, light honey, fresh oak… Mouth (neat): technologically perfect. Oranges, vanilla, toasted oak, apple pie, shortbread, oatcakes, custard, acacia honey… The oranges add a little vibrancy to this combo. Smart! With water: quite nice, smooth yet not dull or flabby, it just loses a bit of focus and tends to become a little… Indefinite? Now you feel the barley and you feel fresh oak. Finish: medium, perhaps a tad plankish. Not much happening. Lose points here. Comments: they must have benchmarked Suntory (whom, in turn, may have benchmarked the….) The finish wasn’t utterly great, but all the rest was ‘pretty perfect’. Kudos. SGP:451 - 83 points.

So, who won? The Kiwis! I hope that wasn’t a prefiguration of this year’s Rugby World Cup… (but we haven’t tasted any of the best French whiskies today, hehehehe…)

Bonus, this baby just in, so tasted a few days after our main session was completed...

Paul John ‘Bold’ (46%, OB, India, 2015)

Paul John ‘Bold’ (46%, OB, India, 2015) Four stars A brand new peater by Paul John in Goa. I remember I had found the ‘Peated’ at 55% vol. much to my liking back in June this year (WF 86). Colour: dark gold. Nose: it’s a different peat smoke, we’re not exactly on Islay and I have to say some notes remind me of some Mackmyra. How strange. The oak’s been pretty active too, and the problem is that once you know it’s an Indian malt, you just cannot not think of Indian cooking and spices. Which I love, by the way. So yeah, some kind of soft and sweet curry, perhaps, smoked dal, a touch of smoky incense, and even, yes, a pan pack of readymade popadums. I’m aware that all that sounds stupid, and that there should be any ‘Indian’ smells in this, but there. Oh, and I find it extremely well balanced. So it’s unusual, but absolutely not weird. Mouth: same very spicy feeling, with some curry-flavoured bitter chocolate – yes – and certainly plenty of cardamom and nutmeg. It’s also a little drier than expected, and would rather develop on bitter oranges and maybe a little rosemary and thyme. Finish: long, always spicy, always ‘Indian’. Bizarrely, I find Paul John’s peaters more Indian than their unpeated offerings. Very smoky aftertaste, with some oak. Comments: not only funny whisky for old hippies, this ‘stuff’ is surprisingly well made. As some used to say in brochures, ‘this will make a nice addition to your peated collection’. SGP:456 - 85 points.

 

 

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September 2, 2015


Whiskyfun

A large bag of Irish whiskies

We don’t taste Irish very often, so let’s not waste this opportunity to go relatively deep… I said relatively. New bottlings, older bottlings, officials, indies...

Jameson 'Select Reserve' (40%, OB, Irish blend, small batch, batch #JQ-058548, +/-2014)

Jameson 'Select Reserve' (40%, OB, Irish blend, small batch, batch #JQ-058548, +/-2014) Two stars and a half A newish blended Midleton. Retails for 35/40€. Colour: gold. Nose: the pot still components speak loud, with whiffs of copper, overripe apples, tea and tropical fruits (rather around guavas). Broken branches. I find this style fairly dry, in fact. Mouth: sweeter, and yet there’s this dryness in the background. Dried breadcrumbs, bitter chocolate, always these metallic touches, and these overripe apples, peaches, and greengages. Perhaps a little PX or other sweet wines. Cornflakes, toasted bread. Finish: a little short, and rather on herbal teas, as ‘usual’. Hawthorn springs to mind. PX again in the aftertaste, cocoa powder, and always these metallic touches. Comments: certainly good, but I find it a little thin and lacking power. Must be the 40% vol. We’re still quite far from Midleton’s excellent pure pot still whiskeys. SGP:441 - 77 points.

Bushmills 10 yo (40%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2014)

Bushmills 10 yo (40%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2014) Two stars Time to try a newer batch of Bushmills 10. Mixed feelings back in 2007 (WF 74). Colour: pale gold. Nose: very soft, vanilla-ed, with some barley syrup and light all-flower honey, then more tropical fruits than in the Jameson, especially bananas. Maybe tangerines and only a smidgen of passion fruit. Tinned peaches. Mouth: some might call this ‘girly’ but that would mean being horribly sexist. Light and fruity, with more or less the same flavours as in the nose, bananas, cornflakes, light muesli… But it tends to become a little tea-ish and dry. A little thin. Finish: short, rather grassier. Comments: it’s perhaps a little narrow for a malt. The fruitiness tends to fade away. SGP:431 - 76 points.

Teeling 'Single Grain' (46%, OB, Irish grain, wine casks, 2013)

Teeling 'Single Grain' (46%, OB, Irish grain, wine casks, 2013) Two stars Some great whiskeys by Teeling already, but a grain finished in wine wood? Sounds very unlikely, let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: very soft. Vanilla, bubblegum, marshmallows, a little green tea, a little saw dust. Blackcurrant buds, perhaps. This shy baby whispers… Mouth: easiness! Good fruity, sweet arrival, with Haribo’s best and some vanilla and white chocolate, while it tends to become grassier later on, with some green wood. The body’s not thick. Finish: rather short, with sweets and green tea. Comments: bizarrely, we’re pretty much in Bushmills 10 territories, although that one was a malt. Fine, but not characterful spirit. Rather for cocktailers and master mixologists? SGP:430 - 75 points.

The Irishman '70' (40%, OB, pot still Irish, +/-2009)

The Irishman '70' (40%, OB, pot still Irish, +/-2009) Two stars and a half An older bottle of The Irishman. The label states that this is ‘unique Irish pot still whiskey with 70% malt Irish whiskey’. Okay! Colour: pale gold. Nose: oilier, it seems, more syrupy than all other ones, with rather melons that hint at… Redbreast? It’s a pleasant nose, with this typical oily fruitiness. I also get fresh almonds, orgeat syrup… Mouth: a little light, perhaps. Here we go again… Tinned fruits, a little fudge, melon wine, light honey… It’s light, but I find it pleasant. It’s got rather more depth than the others. Finish: quite short, on honeyed herbal tea. Your pick. Comments: very fine Irish. It doesn’t sing loud, but you wouldn’t dump it into Coca-Cola either. SGP:541 - 79 points.

We may have the solution at hand…

The Irishman 'Rare Cask Strength' (56%, OB, Irish, 1400  bottles, bottled 2008)

The Irishman 'Rare Cask Strength' (56%, OB, Irish, 1400  bottles, bottled 2008) Three stars The label wouldn’t tell us whether it’s pure pot still, blended Irish, or malt… Colour: straw. Nose: not too sure. Vanilla and overripe fruits? With water: herbal teas and a curious soapy tone. Bourbony vanilla. Mouth (neat): fruits, as expected. Rather around kiwis, apricots, then drops of sunflower oil and light honey. Very easy despite the strength. With water: unfolds like a newborn butterfly. Papayas and guavas, bananas, vanilla, blond cornflakes, oatcakes, sugarcane syrup. Pleasant. Finish: medium, with this oily mouth feel, quite some vanilla, and plenty of tinned fruits. Comments: really fine, I find. I’ll try to taste a newer bottling one of these days. Weeks. Months. Years! SGP:541 - 81 points.

While we’re trying older bottlings…

Cooley 9 yo 1999/2009 ‘Our Angel’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt)

Cooley 9 yo 1999/2009 ‘Our Angel’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt) Four stars From when there were quite a lot of indie Cooleys around… Say ten ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: starts slightly eau-de-vie-ish, but bright, fruity yet not too fruity, with a little shoe polish and putty. I especially love these whiffs of grapefruits that rise to your nostrils, as well as the earthy side. Feels like some… excellent margarita! Mouth: old Tyrconnell with more oomph, more grass, more malt, and more fruit skins. More honey too, more citrus… Very good! Finish: long, fruity, always with this oily side. Comments: a young Irish with depth and body. It was a great bottle! But it seems that these casks are nowhere to found anymore. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Cooley 15 yo 1993/2008 ‘The Angel’s Port(al)’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt, finished in a Port cask)

Cooley 15 yo 1993/2008 ‘The Angel’s Port(al)’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt, finished in a Port cask) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: really lovely, really complex, and certainly not Porty. Earth and teas, blond tobacco, wulong tea, then, perhaps, touches of old red wine. Cherry stems, old barrel, a wee meatiness (cured ham, Spanish of course). Mouth: full-bodied, rich, earthy, with litres of herbal teas and drops of beef bouillon, red peach juice, toffee, and something like Linzer Torte. That would be raspberry jam and spicy pastries. Very good. Finish: quite long, marginally smoky, jammy, spicy… This baby’s got depth and complexity. Comments: for the record of course, you can’t find these bottles anymore. Excellent Belgian selection! SGP:562 - 88 points.

Oh, while we’re at it…

Cooley 15 yo 1993/2008 ‘The Mad(eira) Angel’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt, finished in a Madeira cask)

Cooley 15 yo 1993/2008 ‘The Mad(eira) Angel’ (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, Irish single malt, finished in a Madeira cask) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: typical Madeira, with this unusual combination of walnuts, sweet mustard, ham, fig jam, and earthy old wine. Quite some leather too. Mouth: sweeter and rounder than expected. Walnuts for sure, sweet mustard sauce, then fudge and, once again, this feeling of Linzer Torte. The leathery side is perhaps a little extreme. Cinnamon cake, mint-flavoured liquorice, pepper… Finish: quite long, spicy. An idea of aquavit, somehow… Comments: it’s hard to know where the flavours came from, cask or spirit. For once, I liked the Port version rather better, much better in fact (yes, Serge speaking). SGP:461 - 80 points.

Break…
We’re back (the next day)…

Connemara 8 yo 2001/2009 (59.2%, OB for Limburg, cask #K01/101196)

Connemara 8 yo 2001/2009 (59.2%, OB for Limburg, cask #K01/101196) Three stars and a half A peated Cooley from when some bottlings started to become pretty impressive… Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s not the peat that’s impressive, it’s rather the fruits, around white peaches, then all this lapsang souchong. The strength is rather impressive too, so… With water: gets much more medicinal. Bandages, all that. Antiseptic. Got much drier. Mouth (neat): it’s got this slightly burnt side that wasn’t absent from several young Connemaras as far as I can remember, some candy sugar, burnt herbs, sugar coated fruits… A little strange so far. With water: much more to my liking. Raw sweet peat, and much less burnt herbs. It remains a little barnyardy, though. Finish: long, very smoky, peppery, citrusy. More ‘Islay’, whatever that means. Comments: needs water, then swims very well. A bit rough, though. SGP:457 - 84 points.

Oh Limburg, maybe we could try one that was bottled for some Limburgian entity, and that was distilled around when that Connemara was bottled… And why not?

Irish Malt 6 yo 2009/2015 (51.4%, Limburg Dramclub, 141 bottles)

Irish Malt 6 yo 2009/2015 (51.4%, Limburg Dramclub, 141 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s the much lighter side of Irish malt, probably from Cooley’s as well, but unpeated. Barley syrup, pink grapefruits, watermelons, ripe apples, and more sweet barley. It’s not often that you come across malt whisky that reeks of sweet barley this much. With water: same, plus grass and a touch of wax polish. Or rather engine oil. Mouth (neat): a whole pack of jelly babies or beans, more grapefruit, more sweet barley, and then a slightly grassy side, with a discreet buttery/feinty side. Very discreet. With water: the citrus comes out more. Crystallised lemons, some lemon grass… Finish: pretty long, grassy and bubblegumy. Some ginger, green pepper, and lemon skin in the aftertaste. Great zing. Comments: it’s funny that this young Tyrconnel-style Cooley’s just as good as the Connemara in my book. Excuse me? Not that funny? You may be right… SGP:651 - 84 points.

Cooley 1999/2012 (53.3%, Thosop by The Whiskyman, 179 bottles)

Cooley 1999/2012 (53.3%, Thosop by The Whiskyman, 179 bottles) Four stars Thosop used to be a wee company operated by our friend Luc Timmermans, before he handed over the wheel to The Whiskyman. Colour: straw. Nose: a light peat and some rather elegant whiffs of all kinds of precious teas. Certainly wulong! Lime, then pine sap and eucalyptus. Much freshness. With water: more raw Islayness (I know), with seaweed, antiseptic, garden bonfire, band-aid, and just whiffs of ‘a working kiln’. Mouth (neat): smashingly excellent. Extremely precise, zesty, unexpectedly salty (come on, you added some salt to this little Cooley, didn’t you), and, just like the first indie peated Cooleys by Cadenhead, pretty Ardbeggian. Don’t try this blind in front of your best whisky buddies, especially if your fiancée is around ;-). With water: loses point here, it gets a tad cardboardy and feinty. Just a tad. Ha, water! Finish: long, curiously vegetal. Beans? Grass for sure. Comments: I was ready to go very far, until the finish. But this will remain a high score, which should tell you about the rest (nobody’s following you anymore at this point, S., you may drop cryptic writing). SGP:456 - 87 points.

Cadenhead, he said… Pfff, Cadenhead…

Cooley 12 yo 1992/2004 (60%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 234 bottles)

Cooley 12 yo 1992/2004 (60%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 234 bottles) Five stars One of those first indie Connemaras… Imagine the surprise at the time. Colour: straw. Nose: indeed, imagine the surprise. A massive smoky and partly medicinal hit, unknown in Ireland at the time, with plenty of burnt herbs and then some leather and rubber and sour cream and Riesling. Phew! With water: wet dogs (apologies, dogs), kilny smells, raw wool (yes it’s wooly), sour dough… All this is perfect. Mouth (neat): in-cre-di-ble. Extreme peat and lemon, a bit in the style of a blended malt that would have involved 80% of Supernova-style Ardbeg and 20% of the most citrusy Rosebank. Does that give you a proper idea of the stuff? With water: gets a tad bitter and too grassy, careful with water. Finish: very long, perfect, zesty peat, ridden with phenolic… stuff, and lemons and salt and oysters. Comments: I remember a lot of easy tricks have been played on punters at Feis Ile back in 2004. “Try this, what do you say? What is it?” “- A-r-d-b-e-g!” But of course… Too easy, too easy… A shame that they seem to have broken the mold. SGP:368 - 90 points.

Irish Single Malt 22 yo 1991/2014 (48.6%, Eiling Lim)

Irish Single Malt 22 yo 1991/2014 (48.6%, Eiling Lim) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: the exact opposite of Cadenhead’s Cooley. Not in quality of course, but styles are running in the exact opposite direction. Superb whiffs of fermenting tropical fruits (mangos), then herbal teas aplenty. Banana skin, and huge notes of cigar tobacco, which I find very, err, funny. Perhaps summer truffles as well, as well as a little Jamaican rum. Very, very, and I mean very unusual nose. Mouth: tropical fruits, cigars, and sugarcane. No, really, I know this is totally un-Irish. It’s even rather salty, leafy, olive-y, briny, smoky… Some kind of metanoical spirit, perhaps? Aliens? G.W. Bush? Mossad? Who was involved? Finish: long, leafy, and with the same very unlikely, but very appealing notes. Comments: I don’t know where this whiskey’s going to, and after all who cares. Oh forgot to say, I find it excellent. Vive la difference!  SGP:563 - 88 points.

Ireland 13 yo 2002/2015 (52.2%, Exclusive Malts, 10th Anniversary, cask #20021, 336 bottles)

Ireland 13 yo 2002/2015 (52.2%, Exclusive Malts, 10th Anniversary, cask #20021, 336 bottles) Four stars and a half Oh no, is 2002 already 13 years old? How time flies! (that’s probably the only thing I don’t like about age statements, you see time shifting like sand through your hands.) And imagine the totally crazy and very engaging people at Whisky Advocate have just awarded this baby with their Best-of-Something-Probably-Quite-Important award! Colour: gold. Nose: ha ha ha, I understand why, this baby’s got something bourbony. Delicately bourbony. Other than that, it’s got a clear Bushmills style, with tropical fruits (bananas) and tinned pears. But it could be Cooley/Tyrconnel as well. Love the overripe litchis. With water: perfect leathery, leafy, tea-ish, very complex notes. I won’t argue. Mouth (neat): nah, seriously, this is brilliant, you gotta agree with the Americans. Mead, fig liqueur, vanilla cake, sweet fortified wine (say light young PX), and then something that’s pretty unusual in whisky, unless that was a Muscatel finish… I mean, Muscatel! With water: and so you say they dumped fifty litres of muscatel into… I’m joking. Frankly, I find this just a tad too sweet(ish), with a faint liqueury side, but other than that, it’s great. And very talkative, it just wouldn’t let you get a word in. Finish: long, fruity, sweet, very aromatic. Comments: sweet and extremely expressive. In a way, it’s some rum of whisky. I find this superb, just don’t try to quaff more than 10cl in one go (but who would do that? Our dear American friends? ;-)) SGP:741 - 89 points.

Perhaps is it time to say goodbye, and to have a very last one for the road? Make that a peater, please…

Irish Malt Peated 1991/2015 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Irish Malt Peated 1991/2015 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary) Five stars Rumour had it that this ain’t Cooley and that it’s rather peated Bushmills. Peated Bushmills? Why not Mother Theresa singing Nicki Minaj? Colour: gold. Nose: tja. Sehr schön, ausserordentlich, ausgezeichnet, tip-top, echt Klasse… Oh entschuldingung, I mean, apologies, this nose is so nice that it makes you speak German. It’s got Bushmillian bananas indeed, then a little fresh butter and orange pekoe tea (oh S., whatever), then rather blond cigarettes, Camel-style, and mint liqueur. Some eucalyptus, perhaps. With water: exceptional herbal complexity. Oils, leaves, waxes, putties… Fabulous nose. Mouth (neat): oh yeah yeah yeah… Ardbeg, Longmorn, Rosebank, and Springbank. Plus some salt. With water: we’ll keep this short, this is semantically splendid (time to go to bed, S., perhaps…) Finish: why the officials hardly ever come up with such bottlings, I don’t know. Perhaps because they’re afraid everybody would start asking for this very quality, while it was just one exceptional cask or batch? Comments: seriously, what was that? Peated Bushmills, really? I find this whisky plainly and utterly stunning (perhaps just a tad tiring – oh please, let it go, S….) SGP:476 - 91 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Irish I've tasted so far

 

 

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Block Today: CUBAN JAZZ. Performer: Arturo Sandoval. Track: Tito. Please visit his website and buy his music...
 
 

September 1, 2015


Whiskyfun

Indie Lagavulin, most undercover

There was a poll in the Malt Maniacs’ Facebook group (almost 9000 members), and the question was ‘what’s your favourite Islay distillery?’ Quite surprisingly, and although I might well agree, Lagavulin came out as #1, despite the very low number of available expressions. Granted, that may change if they ever replace the much loved 16 with some kind of NAS (like, Dunnyvaig Gold or something), but despite 'rampaging rumours', it seems that there's no such thing in sight AFAIK, which is just super-mega-hyper great news. So let’s celebrate this non-event with a few… Lagavulin (like)!

Finlaggan 'Old Reserve' (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005)

Finlaggan 'Old Reserve' (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005) Four stars and a halfNobody knows if this is really Lagavulin, what’s rather sure is that the bottlers, of Coopers Choice fame, do hold or did hold contracts with Lagavulin (or White Horse, or Diageo's predecessors) and so ‘could’ have bottled Lagavulin under another name. But nothing is dead sure… Anyway, they might have switched to Caol Ila, but perhaps not in 2005, which was rather one or two years before the gold rush. Colour: gold. Nose: that it could be Lagavulin is obvious. It’s got his very peculiar peaty sweetness and the touches of tar and ‘good’ rubber that do hint at the star distillery indeed. And orange cake, praline, earl grey tea, smoky raisins… We’re not even far from the 16, mind you, but of course I could be wrong. Mouth: it’s true that we’re going a wee bit more towards Caol… No, wait, this ought to be Lagavulin. Orange liqueur and strong lapsang plus a drop of brine and pepper liqueur. The fatness behind speaks, and I do not know of many other distilleries that would taste like 45% vol. when bottled at 40% vol. Finish: quite long, a tad saltier. Comments: I wouldn’t stake my life on it, but… Oh and it was an exceptional whisky! SGP:457 - 88 big fat points.

Wait, we’ve even got the old 10…

Finlaggan 10 yo (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005)

Finlaggan 10 yo (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Society, +/-2005) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: well, as much as I thought the NAS could well be Lagavulin, I think this may well not be L, although I think this nose is quite lovely, with unexpected notes of strawberry ice cream (or sweets). Can you burn strawberries? Smoke strawberries? Having said that, it’s unlikely that it’s not another single Islay distillery. Hmmmm, which one could it be? Perhaps Caol Ila indeed, perhaps not… Mouth: a little burnt again, leafy, cake-y, tea-ish… And caramelly. Not too sure about this one, I think I liked the NAS rather better (yup, Serge speaking). Having said that, it’s got some very pleasant salty/orange-y notes, it’s like drinking earl grey tea on the beach. While smoking a pipe of… What? Of course tobacco. Finish: good length, salty, herbal. We’re wandering around herbal teas and smoked seaweed. Comments: a crying shame that I haven’t got any older bottling of Finlaggan Cask Strength handy. SGP:545 - 82 points.

Classic of Islay 14 yo 2006 (60.5%, Jack Wiebers, cask #1033, sherry finish)

Classic of Islay 14 yo (60.5%, Jack Wiebers, cask #1033, sherry finish, 2006) Four stars and a halfOf course we couldn’t be sure ither. This could be something else, let’s see… (but the odds are, well…) Colour: gold. Nose: huge, massive, with this je-ne-sais-quoi that makes it very… ach, hem, Lagavulin. Say a lighter Distiller’s Edition, but at cask strength. Does that make any sense? Rocks, leather, new scuba diving suit (to go get the scallops in the bay, eh), roasted chestnuts, brown coal, new ink (this week’s magazines)… And all that. With water: sharp, mineral, perhaps a tad less sweet than the ‘usual’ Lagavulin, but we’re there. Love the nut peelings and the porridge covered with smoked… say fish? Mouth (neat): high power. It’s the annual official 12yo cask strength, plus a bit of raisiny/leathery sherry. You can’t fight against this. With water: you just can’t. It’s perhaps a little brutal, and it’s probably not one to sip while you’re meditating (or reading the Best Of Kierkegaard), but this joyful smoky thing just works and you’d better not resist it, or it’ll smash you. Also melons (I mean, there are notes of melons). Finish: long, unexpectedly leafy and ‘greenly rubbery’. I’m not too fond of the finish, I have to say. Comments: well, with a better finish, it would have made it to 90. SGP:557 - 89 points.

Good, how do you fight that? Perhaps with this?...

Lagavulin 10 yo 2005/2015 (60.3%, Gleann Mor, A Rare Find, cask #200802)

Lagavulin 10 yo 2005/2015 (60.3%, Gleann Mor, A Rare Find, cask #200802) Two stars What this exactly is, I don’t quite know. An independent micro-bottling of some sort, that you could find at Master of Malt a few weeks back. What’s sure is that it proudly displays the name ‘Lagavulin’! Colour: white wine. Nose: you know, when you’re visiting the distillery, and after you’ve spent a little time with the utterly lovely and terribly knowledgeable (and energetic) Georgie (not that one mind you), you might end up trying whiskies with Pinkie-the-Great, who’s got his engaging face in more lifestyle magazines than both Donald Trump and Brad Pitt. And he’ll let you try this. I mean, something similar, that is to say a young, sweet and smoky malt that’s perhaps not very mature, and probably not totally complex, but one that’ll instantly pleasure you with its sweetness and its smokiness. Long story short, it’s probably one of the least complex whiskies I could try this year (so far), and yet it works sort-of a treat. No, you do not need descriptors. With water: smoked Williams pear eau-de-vie. In a way, this is more Alsatian – or Mitteleuropaisch – than from Islay. Mouth (neat): aged new make, sure. Raw stuff that lacks aging, that constantly hits you between your ears, and that keeps throwing williams pears and pineapples at you. Perhaps is it frankly too young, what do you say? With water: nah, it’s not bad, it’s just immature. A Miley Cyrus of a whisky. A great distillate that’s not been properly aged is still a great distillate, but it couldn’t become the greatest whisky ever – if you ask me. Finish: long, fruity and smoky. Or smoky and fruity, whichever you like best. Comments: I have no serious objections, but even if it’s Lagavulin, I wouldn’t pay 130€ for a bottle of new make, however excellent it is. SGP:637 - 75 points.

This is becoming touchy. I guess this last one will be even touchier…

Dun Naomhaig Water ‘Edition Maltmill, batch 2’ (40%, Reifferscheidt, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon and sherry, 180 bottles, 2014)

Dun Naomhaig Water ‘Edition Maltmill, batch 2’ (40%, Reifferscheidt, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon and sherry, 180 bottles, 2014) Four stars More a joke than anything else – they’ve always been good at that in Bonn-Bad-Godesberg (apologies ;-)). Having said that, I had enjoyed batch #1 quite a lot (WF 90). And yes this is L*g*v*l*n. Colour: gold. Nose: an old bottle of 16, with perhaps even hints of the last pre-16 12s. Something a wee bit metallic (old copper coins), some leather, some teas, some smoked fish, some overripe apples and other juicy fruits as well (pears for sure), plus a wee feeling of leatherette straight from f***g Amazon’s. Mouth: how excellent! It’s a crying shame that our friends aus Bonn haven’t bottled this at 46 or, better yet, 50% vol. But remember, this is a joke… Great wee whisky, salty, pretty oily… With an obvious cousinage with the first Finlaggan we tried. Finish: same (is that really all, S.?) Comments: perhaps not the place and neither the moment to tell you this, but whenever you come across a cheap bottle of NAS Finlaggan that looks a little dusty, please just buy it (them)! SGP:457 - 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Lagavulin I've tasted so far

 

 

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Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Jane Bunnett. Track: Maqueque. Please visit his website and buy his music...
 
 

August 31, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

Bad nose day

Tasting sessions will resume shortly.

In the meantime, here's an unpublished Pete and Jack from the archives...

 

Pete McPeat and Jack Washback
PJ

PJ

 

Whiskyfun fav of the month

August 2015

Favourite recent bottling:
Karuizawa 1983/2015 'Nepal Appeal' (The Whisky Show, cask #3557, 50 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite older bottling:
Imperial 1963/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Corti for Narsai’s and Corti, Pellegrini Imports, 75cl) - WF 95

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Kilkerran 'Work in Progress 7 - Bourbon Wood' (54.1%, OB, 2015)  - WF 91

Favourite malternative:
Demerara 26 yo (46%, Moon Import, 600 bottles, +/-1986) - WF 94

 

August 30, 2015


Whiskyfun

No Malternatives,
a rubbish session for rubbish noses

Bad nose days at WF Towers, but I don’t like to let this lousy website lying fallow for too long. On the other hand, I don’t feel like I could do justice to some complex old whiskies or armagnacs or rums, so let’s simply go plunder the bar underneath the telly and see what we can find. It’s going to be unlikely…

Koskenkorva Salmiakki (32%, OB, Finland, +/-2014)

Koskenkorva Salmiakki (32%, OB, Finland, +/-2014) Two starsI often use the descriptors ‘salmiak’ or ‘tar liqueur’ in my notes, and although we’ve already tried another brand a few years ago (Terva Snapsi, WF 75, which is a lot), we could try another one, just to make sure. Colour: as black as a Lincoln Continental from the White House. Or as crude oil. Nose: less on tar than expected, and more on herbs, mint, caraway, liquorice and such. In a way, we’re rather closer to aquavit than to pure tar liqueur. Well, that’s what I can feel with this bad nose… On second thought, maybe this is simply not tar liqueur. Mouth: LOL! No tar, rather a load of salt and liquorice. Liquid salmiak indeed, and it is extreme. I do enjoy this – although it’s very simple liqueur – but I guess 90% of your friends won’t. Unless they’re Finnish, haha. Thick mouth feel, but any excessive sugariness is kept at bay. That’s good. Finish: very long, extremely salty, but balanced, quite curiously. The aftertaste lasts for hours. Comments: so, no tar liqueur at all, my bad. Quite an experience, this, and I’m wondering if one couldn’t use it in fusion cooking. Ideas ideas… Anyway, I like this, even if – or maybe because? – my nose is impaired. SGP:660 - 75 points.

We’ve started this session with something extreme, so let’s not shuffle the desks…

Génépi des Hautes Roches (40%, OB, Favier, France, +/-2010)

Génépi des Hautes Roches (40%, OB, Favier, France, +/-2010) The kind of stuff that you buy in winter sports resorts. And that you’ll never drink once back. Génépi/genepy is an herb that grows in the Alpes, and they make this kind of liqueur out of it. Some drink it in the morning before a skiing day. Indeed skiing can be dangerous. Colour: as white as the snow on the Mont Blanc. Nose: we’re all on fennel-like scents, aniseed, dill, wild carrots, with a small earthy/grassy side that reminds me of turnips. BTW, have you heard that Black Adder should be back soon? Mouth: same aromas and flavours, plus a little lemon, but there simply is too much sugar. This stuff moves like oil in your glass, and indeed, that’s the sugar. A crying shame. Finish: long, with hints of toothpaste, and always a load of sugar. Bwaaah! Comments: I’ve tasted some artisan genepy that was quite great, and indeed this one is good spirit, but they simply buried it under approx 500g of sugar per litre. Or maybe a little less, I couldn’t tell you. SGP:860 - 40 points.

This is becoming difficult…

Bündner Chrüter (41%, OB, Kindschi, Switzerland, +/-2014)

Bündner Chrüter (41%, OB, Kindschi, Switzerland, +/-2014) I brought this baby back from Davos last year. It’s made out of 50 different herbs and spices. Colour: as white as the Matterhorn in January. Oh whatever. Nose: bigger and more complex than the genepy, well in the style of the Kraüter liqueurs our grandpas used to quaff in the olden days. You get caraway, wormwood, menthol, lemon, perhaps gentian, liquorice, fennel and star anise… I don’t think I could get all the 50 plants and spices, having said that. Remember, bad nose days ;-). It’s a rather refreshing nose. Mouth: hurray, less sugar, and more herbs! That makes this a little bitter – well, quite bitter – and rooty, so pretty unsexy. But I remember my grandmas used to consume these spirits and liqueurs as ‘canards’ (ducks), which means by putting a sugar cube onto a spoon, pouring 1 or 2cls of the liqueur onto it, and just swallowing the whole. Finish: long, very grassy and bitter. Jaegermeister isn’t very far, but Jaegermeister is much sweeter. Comments: very retro, and probably not for the fainthearted. Unless you do ‘canards’. SGP:380 - 60 points.

Unicum (40%, OB, Zwack, Hungary, +/-2013)

Unicum (40%, OB, Zwack, Hungary, +/-2013) Only 40 herbs in this well-known thing, but that’s already a lot. Colour: deep garnet. Almost old Port. Nose: I like! It’s fresh, slightly fruity, herbal but without any aggressive cumin or aniseed-like notes, and it’s rather bitter oranges that are playing first fiddles – although I don’t think there is any inside. Liquorice, myrtle, pinesap… Mouth: harder. Starts sugary, gets bitter. But once again, it’s saved by this feeling of bitter oranges. And lime, celery, lemongrass… Actually, I’m sure it would be rather good on ice. Finish: long, with a little peppermint, ginger, caraway and more bitter oranges. Comments: a kind of stronger Campari, I’d say. We’ve seen much worse… SGP:670 - 65 points.

My nose is weak, but my heart is willing. Let’s go on!

Licor 43 (31%, OB, Spain, +/-2014)

Licor 43 (31%, OB, Spain, +/-2014) This comes from Cartagena. The label is tricky, it could make you think it’s bottled at 43% vol. It’s not, its rather the number of ingredients that are in the combo. Colour: orangey gold (caramel). Nose: fun! Sandalwood, incense, oranges, Armenian paper, rose liqueur, tinned litchis… This really noses ‘antique’, and I find it rather complex. Intriguing, as they say. Mouth: way too much sugar! It’s a plain and utter sugar bomb, which simply kills anything else. You just can’t swallow this without ice, water, tea, Schweppes, or any other liquid you fancy. Just not pure… Finish: quite long, but again, this is sweeter than the sweetest honeys. Can you further concentrate glucose? Comments: what a disappointment after the very sexy nose! SGP:910 - 25 points.

Honey, he said…

Langatum ‘Gold Bee’ (28%, OB, Switzerland, whisky liqueur, +/-2013)

Langatum ‘Gold Bee’ (28%, OB, Switzerland, whisky liqueur, +/-2013) Two stars Swiss whisky mellowed down with Mexican honey from Yucatan, does that make any sense? And more so given that the Swiss make some totally excellent honey? Let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: honey! Really, it noses just like all-flower honey from a good beekeeper. In the background, a few spices, perhaps, but that’s all. Not that we shall complain, I love good honey. Mouth: yeah, honey, honey, honey and honey. The spirit is barely noticeable – which makes this little baby very tricky. Perhaps a little caramel and vanilla? I find this good. Finish: not too long, but if you like honey, whether Swiss or Mexican, you may love this. Comments: I find this very good, really – but then again, I’m also a honey and bee freak. Well done Langatum. PS: don’t try this thing in the open in summer, coz it seems to attract wasps. SGP:720 - 76 points.

Right, perhaps a last one. And why wouldn’t we check one of the weird things the Scots are sometimes making out of their (very rare, very old, very premium) whiskies?...

The Famous Citrus (35%, OB, Scotland, +/-2015)

The Famous Citrus (35%, OB, Scotland, +/-2015) According to the label, this is ‘infused spirit drink’. Not very sexy, is it. To think that this thing comes from the house that also make Macallan. I mean, The Macallan. Colour: dark straw. Nose: no no no no no. Look, I’ve made limoncello and other lemon liqueurs myself, and I know it’s extremely difficult not to come up with smells of… well, toiletry or even air freshener, but that’s well what’s happening here. Or even worse, Fanta Lemon. Mouth: what is this? Dry, acrid, messy, lacking focus, and pretty chemical. Indeed, Fanta Lemon. Finish: long – and that’s the problem. Comments: totally odd, undrinkable, and frankly, it’s a torture. I think it’s a strong contender to the Worst Spirit Of The Year Award. Typical late-June idea at marketing departments, when it’s becoming a chore to build good focus groups coz everyone’s already on holiday. But then again, my nose is impaired these days (better like that, you may think.) SGP:230 - 5 points.

Phew, I agree, a rubbish session. I hope I’ll soon get my nose back, so that we can try more serious stuff!

 

 

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August 28, 2015


Whiskyfun

 

Bad nose day

Tasting sessions will resume shortly

 

August 27, 2015


Whiskyfun

MoMa malts

So we have this solitary old Mosstowie that’s been sitting alone in WF’s ‘Mosstowie’ pigeonhole (implacable logic) for months and months, waiting for a compadre… That never came in. Let’s not wait any longer, we’ll easily find another sparring partner…

Mosstowie 23 yo 1976/2000 (46%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, hogshead, cask #12889, 390 bottles)

Mosstowie 23 yo 1976/2000 (46%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, hogshead, cask #12889, 390 bottles) Three starsThis baby from Miltonduff was bottled at cask strength, not at some ‘reduced’ 46% vol. It’s from LMDW’s older own range. Colour: straw. Nose: it would be far-fetched to claim that you do feel the Lomond stills, but indeed this is rather different, and certainly ‘old skool’, with some shoe polish and other polishes, some soot, some graphite, pencil lead, then rather mildly smoky green tea and green pears. I have to say I find this very pleasant, and oh-so different from all these contemporary vanilla bombs out there. Although there is a little vanilla as well, as well as rising whiffs of peaches and melons. Mouth: starts a little sour (green oak) and rather peppery (same), and certainly not in a sexy way. Bites you a bit, takes your tongue hostage (tannins), with plenty of strong teas and dry spices (cinnamon, nutmeg…) The background is rather green and grassy, and totally out of fashion. Solid body. Finish: long, biting, acrid, and green. Not quite sexy yet. The aftertaste displays more fruits, but they’re whispering low. Comments: typical ‘variant whisky’, meant to bring unusualness and difference to your stash of bottles. Loved the nose, the palate was more difficult. SGP:371 - 80 points.

Good, we were in Elgin with the Mosstowie/Miltonduff, so maybe a Mannochmore? I agree we should have chosen a Glencraig instead – wouldn’t have been the first time we’re doing a Mosstowie vs. Glencraig session - but you see, there’s no Glencraig left in the house either. Sob…

Mannochmore 32 yo 1982/2014 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Port Cask, 186 bottles)

Mannochmore 32 yo 1982/2014 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Port Cask, 186 bottles) Four stars So Mannochmore, of Loch Dhu fame. It’s been re-racked in a Port cask in the year 2005, so this is clearly double maturation, not a simple finishing. Colour: deep gold, not rose-y at all. Nose: it can happen, with red wine casks, that instead of red berries, you rather get stems, buds and leaves, in a cassissy way. That’s what happens here, and beyond that, there are also notes of Jamaican rum of some sorts, with olive tapenade, diesel oil, rubber bands, and, well, dundery smells. So a funny nose, rather unorthodox, with growing whiffs of barnyard that make it even wilder. With water: rounder, with notes of sugarcane syrup. Mouth (neat): thick mouth feel, and a very zesty, tart, squashy, angular arrival. You’re almost drinking concentrated lemon juice, without one single touch of sugar. Pungent and, as they say, rather uncompromising! With water: some bitter grass comes out, together with green pepper. More cabernet than touriga nacional, if I may. Finish: long, rather better balanced, that is to say rounder and sweeter. But it remains very zesty and blade-y. Fresh walnuts and tangerines plus blood oranges in the aftertaste, all for the better. Could be the Port. Comments: I found it very unusual. Some people with love it, some others might find it a little intimidating. SGP:461 - 85 points.

 

Pete McPeat and Jack Washback
PJ

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August 26, 2015


Whiskyfun

Another little tour of America

Let’s have more bourbon and other American whiskies! It’s true that I’m much behind…

Hillrock Estate ‘Single Malt Whiskey’ (48.2%, OB, New York grown barley, barrel #2, +/-2014)

Hillrock Estate ‘Single Malt Whiskey’ (48.2%, OB, New York grown barley, barrel #2, +/-2014) Three stars and a half Truly craft whisky from Hudson Valley, New York, everything being done locally, from growing the barley to aging it through, of course, distilling it. Colour: deep gold. Nose: apple and banana jam matured in oak? Cinnamon cake for sure, a lot of grain and a lot of bread and pastries, and then a growing rather sugary side, but I’m not using that word in a pejorative way. A kugelhopf straight from the oven. We’re very far from anything Scottish, this is mellower and rounder. Mouth: sure the oak feels, as it does in all very young American (truly) craft whiskies, but I’m a sucker for these notes of sweet bread, aniseed biscuits, pepper, overripe apples and overripe mangos (watch your shirt). It’s just getting a wee notch too spicy for me after a while. Big pepper and cloves. Finish: very long, very spicy. Some cloves and juniper berries. The signature is rather fruitier again. Zwetschke cake covered with cinnamon powder? Comments: unless you’re firmly against anything rather spicy/oaky, you should try to try this new cat. I find it impressive. SGP:571 - 83 points.

While we’re at it…

Hillrock Estate ‘Solera Aged Bourbon’ (46.3%, OB, finished in oloroso sherry cask, barrel #7, +/-2014)

Hillrock Estate ‘Solera Aged Bourbon’ (46.3%, OB, finished in oloroso sherry cask, barrel #7, +/-2014) Three stars and a halfThis sounds a little more unlikely. Sherry and solera may not go too well with bourbon (not sure the concept of solera goes well with any spirit…) Colour: deep gold. Nose: there are similarities and there are differences. This time you rather feel the rye, not too much of the sherry, and a sweet, pretty brioche-y side yet again. In truth this is less bready and spicy than the malt, and even better rounded, but I find it’s got a little less character. Mouth: exactly, rather less character despite the rye and it’s violetty tones. Violet sweets, juniper, blood oranges, a touch of caraway, then more marmalade. Globally sweet and, I have to say, rather less oaky/spicy than the single malt. Just as excellent, but easier. Some notes of artisan mead. Finish: rather long, rounded, fruity and jammy. Raisins may have taken over, while the rye got a little quieter. Comments: it’s totally impossible for me to tell you which one I liked best. SGP:651 - 83 points.

Maybe we could try a very well known all-American whiskey and check the differences…

Jack Daniel's 'Master Distiller Series No.12' (43%, OB, Tennessee whiskey, +/-2014)

Jack Daniel's 'Master Distiller Series No.12' (43%, OB, Tennessee whiskey, +/-2014) Two stars and a half This one is a tribute to a certain Jess Motlow, who used to be JD’s master distiller just after Jack Daniel himself. I had found #1 very easy and pretty good (WF 80). Colour: gold. Nose: it is, should I add of course, much gentler, much easier, and much more consensual after the two Hillrocks. Undemanding, smoooth, with much more apricot, then ripe peaches and plums. Some caramel, some grass, some fudge, some maple syrup. Maybe not Jack Daniel’s aimed at rock and rollers?... Keef R., waddaya say? Mouth: light, a tad oaky/cardboardy, with maple syrup again, cake, loads of vanilla, and various fruit juices. Guavas, perhaps. Silky texture, this one won’t harm anyone. Finish: that’s where it loses points, there’s a feeling of sawdust I’m not exactly fond of. On the other hand, there are also more guavas. Perhaps cranberries. Vanilla cream and liquid caramel for sure. Comments: the definition of smoothness and easiness in whisky. SGP:530 - 78 points.

Old Pepper (43%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015)

Old Pepper (43%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Another old brand or that’s been revived, apparently. So not a distillery, I imagine. Not too sure. It’s rather cheap, so we haven’t got any expectations. Oh and apparently, not everything’s going smoothly between James E. Pepper and Old Pepper, but it’s so complicated and we have so little time that we’ll leave this door open. Onto the juice!... Colour: gold. gold. Nose: light, easy, with a good rye content, some vanilla, some American oak, some ginger, and some cinnamon. Does the job, I’d say. Mouth: the juices of overripe apples and pears, touches of tinned pineapples, perhaps kiwis, and these echoes of rye that I enjoy more and more. I rather enjoy these lightness and freshness, especially the pineapples. Finish: a little short, perhaps, but very fruity, with some coconut topping the whole. Cinnamon in the aftertaste, as almost always with bourbons (in my miserable experience). Comments: very, and I mean very all right! Probably young, but the freshness and the lack of straight caramel/vanilla both are assets. SGP:620 - 79 points.

Back to craft…

Rock Town 'Single Barrel Bourbon' (56.8%, OB, USA, Arkansas, barrel #241, +/-2015)

Rock Town 'Single Barrel Bourbon' (56.8%, OB, USA, Arkansas, barrel #241, +/-2015) Four stars We’ve already tasted several great whiskeys by Rock Town. Colour: deep gold. Nose: perfect. This may well be very young – and frankly, they should tell – but everything’s just perfect. Mead and honeydew, cinnamon cake, our beloved sweet pumpernickel bread, fudge, this great dried unfiltered cane sugar that they call galabé in French rhum regions, vanilla cake, raisins… It’s not a spicy bourbon at all, it’s all smoothness despite the high strength… With water: superb spicy/earthy development. Hints of tar, wet concrete, new scuba diving suit (whatever). Mouth (neat): more pumpernickel for the masses! Superb bready/spicy arrival, with molasses and figs coming to the rescue. There’s an earthiness as well – earth in bourbon? Hurray! With water: all things bready and honeyed. Its great that water awakened the grains. Finish: quite long, creamy, sweet, with moderate spiciness, around cinnamon and cloves. Comments: great job, if I may… SGP:551 - 85 points.

Jefferson's Ocean 'Aged at Sea' (45%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015)

Jefferson's Ocean 'Aged at Sea' (45%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015) Two stars and a half So, somebody did it again, sending out a few barrels across the oceans for a few months. An old idea (we had tried a 1899 Glenlivet that was aged just like that), cognac did it, wine did it, Scotch did it, and of course Bordeaux with Cos d’Estournel, and in my views, the results have always been a little unremarkable. I’m not saying they weren’t any good, I’m just saying one couldn’t notice any obvious differences. Ha! Colour: gold. Nose: shy. Chestnuts, perhaps, caramel-covered pastries, Mars bar, vanilla, a small cinnamon cake. The nose is rather shy, let’s check the palate. Mouth: good. Candy sugar, sweet bread, marmalade, vanilla, touches of cloves, ginger, nutmeg, sawdust… So it’s good, no doubt at all. Finish: fairly long, with vanilla, oak, and brown sugar. Comments: sourced bourbon finished for a few months (not aged) at sea. How cool is that? Perfectly drinkable. SGP:541 - 79 points.

More crazy stuff? Be my guest…

Willett 24 yo 1982 'Family Estate' (50%, OB, straight Kentucky bourbon, barrel #2007/31, 2007)

Willett 24 yo 1982 'Family Estate' (50%, OB, straight Kentucky bourbon, barrel #2007/31, 2007) Four stars A really very rare Willett, I think for Japan. Colour: amber. Nose: or when oak’s not a problem. Because some oak there is, you’d even think you’re entering a carpenter’s workshop, but on the other hand, the stunning jammy fruitiness and all the soft spicy cakes just keep it kind of un-oaked. Strange behaviour, but when that happens that’s just plain bliss. And it’s even fresh! With water: ah, a wee small soapiness that would just never disappear, but that may be the rye speaking out. Other than that, leaves and leather, with a malty side. Mouth (neat): firm, big, oaky indeed, a tad biting, but it’s biting like fresh Bordeaux can be biting, you just know you couldn’t avoid that or you’d have cheap commercial juice in your glass instead. In a way, it’ll remind you of the biggest Demerara rums. Port Mourant anyone? With water: back to cereals and grains, plus apple juices and tinned pineapple. Finish: quite long, oaky but never too oaky. Comments: characterful and restless oaked old bourbon. SGP:461 - 87 points.

What goes best after a Willett is another Willett, wouldn’t you agree?

Willett 20 yo ‘Family Estate’ (54.3%, OB, straight Kentucky bourbon, cask #321, 137 bottles)

Willett 20 yo ‘Family Estate’ (54.3%, OB, straight Kentucky bourbon, cask #321, 137 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: deep amber. Nose: I find this rather more ‘Pappy-like’, that is to say rather sweeter, fruitier, with more marmalade and mead, maple syrup… On the other hand, it’s rather less oaked or oaky, although I do find whiffs of mint leaves and perhaps eucalyptus. It’s funny that menthol almost always triggers eucalyptus for me – but you might find that not funny at all. With water: varnish comes out. That’s odd, varnish is usually the first thing that appears when you nose a new whisky. But there are also cigars and old marmalades, all for the better. Mouth (neat): similar to the 24, and this time, almost as oaky. No, oakier, rougher, more mentholy and liquoricy. Maybe is that the higher strength again, let’s see… With water: odd indeed. Fermenting vegetables, ‘serious’ umami, Maggi, black pipe tobacco, old husk. Not too sure, all this is very interesting, perhaps not totally and well balanced. Tannins playing their tricks, I imagine. Finish: very long, green, tannic, but oranges are back in the aftertaste, all for the better. Yay! Comments: a fighter – so you need to be in a fighting mood. There is some oak, and that’s an euphemism. SGP:471 - 84 points.

I agree, we need a 90+. Let’s try even harder…

Evan Williams 15 yo (50.5%, OB, for Japan, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-1985?)

Evan Williams 15 yo (50.5%, OB, for Japan, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-1982) Five stars Nicknamed ‘red label’, this is an earlier bottling from before 1983 (since there's a 200th anniversary logo on the neck - thanks Stefan). It’s well 15 years old, not just 12 like contemporary bottlings. I’m so glad I can try this rarity… Although I’m sure patented bourbon freaks would get even madder! Colour: deep amber. Nose: you know, when you reach something that’s a whole, not just a sum of several, or even many parts. Amazing notes of orange cake mingled with Cuban cigars (I had thought there was an embargo) and wood polishes. Also pencil lead, fumes, a drop of pitch, and a little peanut butter. How very American. With water: it gets medicinal! Bandages! Tincture of iodine! Carbon paper! Eucalyptus! Tiger balm! Mouth (neat): exactly the same feeling of ‘a whole’, with a mineral side that’s so unusual in American whisky (in my humble experience). A feeling of old Highland Scotch. No, really! With water: I think this is exceptional bourbon. Probably dead cheap when it came out, but it gained so much complexity and mineral wideness… Unless that was there in the first place, we’ll never know. Finish: long, leafy, tea-ish, grassy, dry, phenolic… Yup, pretty un-bourbon. Comments: I’m not totally sure this was bottled in the 1980s, and I’m not sure it’s all down to perfect bottle ageing. But what a totally stunning old bourbon! May even beat my favourite old bourbon ever, Kentucky Crown 16 years old. I know I should check where Evan Williams was distilled at the time, deep-read Cowdery’s and Sku’s utterly stunning blogs, and all that. But please do it yourself, coz we’ve got more bourbon to taste… SGP:562 - 91 points.

Good, how many did we have? Nine? Let’s make it to ten and basta cosi… (we found our 90+ anyway…) But let’s make it rather totally monstrous!

Parker's 13 yo 'Heritage Collection' (63.4%, OB, straight wheat whiskey, 2014)

Parker's 13 yo 'Heritage Collection' (63.4%, OB, straight wheat whiskey, 2014) Two stars Straight wheat whiskies are pretty rare, aren’t they? Colour: orange amber. Nose: not quite, this all woodworks. Sawdust, polishes, warm oak, vanillin, cellulosic varnish, maize (yes), fudge, chocolate, pencil shavings… I know many adore this, but I’m just not buying it, babe. With water: pencil shavings all over the place. Or primary schools before the b****y iPad. Mouth (neat): it’s funny, it’s lively, it’s ridden with bubblegum and marshmallow flavours, but it’s basically grain whisky. That’s right, like they make in Scotland. Ethanol flavoured with oak, or something like that. With water: no. No depth, only alcohol and sweet oak. I suppose I just don’t understand this style. And I suppose I'm some sort of pity case. Finish: yes. Creamy, super-easy, I’m sure the Kardashians love this. Comments: this is simply not why I’m a little into aged spirits. It’s certainly brilliantly crafted, but I find this style a little dull and boring. Deep apologies to anyone I would have offended. To think that I had just loved Parker’s 10 yo Heritage Collection from 2011 (WF 87)… SGP:630 - 70 points.

(thanks a bunch, Carsten, Jonny, and Scott)

More tasting notes Check the index of all American whiskies I've tasted so far

 

 

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August 25, 2015


Whiskyfun

Another large bag of Japanese whiskies

Japanese whiskies are all the rage of the season, for rather obscure reasons. What’s possible is that some Scottish brands’ hydrocephalic marketing and slightly arrogant pricing may have put-off quite a few whisky lovers, in favour of the quieter and more restrained Japanese brands. Which, in turn, may be becoming too expensive and a bit too ‘marketing’ as well. Bah, anyway, every sort of dog has its turn and next year it’s going to be Canada, or any other old or new whisky nation. The caravan moves on… But let’s have a few Japanese more or less at random, including some newer bottlings as well as some older ones.

Nikka 'Coffey Grain' 1995/2009 (60%, OB, warehouse #11, cask #189476)

Nikka 'Coffey Grain' 1995/2009 (60%, OB, warehouse #11, cask #189476) Two stars and a half An older Coffey grain, single cask, with an age statement, and a higher strength. Colour: gold. Nose: you’re smelling sponge cake, custard, biscuits, butterscotch and a whole box of shortbread. With water: a little grass, and some coconut oil. Mouth (neat): there’s always something slightly varnishy in these arrivals, as well as extreme coconut from the oak. The mouth feel is very creamy, and I do enjoy these notes of tangerines that appear after a few minutes. But the sweet oak does most of the talking… With water: sweet and smooth like a desert. Feels like there’s been some sugar added to it, while I’m dead sure there wasn’t any. Finish: medium, with these tangerines again. Comments: a strong grain that’s not too ethanoly, but certainly very sweet. You could always call it ‘childish’. Not quite my style, but I know some love it. SGP:640 - 78 points.

Nikka 'Coffey Malt' (45%, OB, +/-2014)

Nikka 'Coffey Malt' (45%, OB, +/-2014) Three stars It’s lost its vintage, its age, and a good few degrees, but it is malt whisky! Colour: pale gold. Nose: eaaasy, smooooth, cake-y, with even more vanilla than in the grain, plus unusual and rather pleasant hints of fresh asparagus, or even Japanese seaweed, nori, also wakame… I’m not making this up, cross my heart!  Mouth: ultra-easy, perfectly balanced, sweet and fruity, and perhaps rather more ‘Irish’ than ‘Scottish’. It’s definitely got something Midletony. Ripe apples, compote, apricots, plums… Definitely good easy whisky. Easy but not dull! Finish: medium, balanced, fruity, sweet… And easy. Comments: indeed, very easy malt whisky, with a light body and plenty of fruit syrups. Or tinned fruits. Pretty indisputable. SGP:630 - 82 points.

Yamazaki 'Mizunara' (48%, OB, +/- 2011)

Yamazaki 'Mizunara' (48%, OB, +/- 2011) Four stars Matured (or finished?) in Japanese oak, or quercus mongolica. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s got more idiosyncrasies, bumps, holes and… presence than the Coffeys. Many herbal teas and plain teas, honeysuckle, all that coated with some vanilla and coconut from the oak, but in an elegant way. Quite some marzipan too, and this feeling of sandalwood and incense that’s rather ‘mizunara’. Mouth: very nice arrival, with a slightly sappy side, as well as various spices, most of the grassy kind. Coriander, cardamom, then a little parsley, perhaps. Also a little pineapple, a few raisins, perhaps bergamots… Definitely different, and even if it feels a bit ‘flavoured’, it’s really to my liking. Finish: long, sweet, with quite some oak, and more tea. Black tea. Comments: a different Japanese, unusual and good. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Hakushu 12yo (43%, OB, Suntory, Japan, +/- 2011)

Hakushu 12yo (43%, OB, Suntory, Japan, +/- 2011) Three stars and a half We should expect some peat! Colour: straw. Nose: indeed, it is a rather candied, rounded peat, without the coastal side of most Islays, so perhaps rather ‘Ardmore’, with these yellow peaches and white flowers. Behind that, a bit of humus, fern, dead leaves, then more citrus. Perhaps a little eucalyptus, or these small Indian cigarettes called bidies. It’s fresh, rather light peat. Mouth: clean, zesty, light peat, with a lot of freshness. If you could smoke grapefruits, I guess this what you’d get, more or less. Lemon grass, perhaps a little green curry and a little chocolate. Finish: medium, fresh, smoky, clean. I seem to find a little roasted sesame oil. Comments: I like this Japanese freshness, and the fact that it’s not all about wood. SGP:453 - 84 points.

Hakushu 'Heavily Peated' (48%, OB, 2012)

Hakushu 'Heavily Peated' (48%, OB, 2012) Four stars NAS this time, and possibly peatier than the 12 yo. I had enjoyed an earlier bottling, circa 2009 (WF 85). Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed it’s peatier, but it’s not a peat monster. The first thing you’re thinking of is lapsang souchong tea, then this faint sucrosity again. Sugar syrup. What’s really lovely is the way it develops on old roses, dried flowers, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood and all that. Even pinesap and embrocations. Bandages? Mouth: like! A crisp salty lemony medicinal style, between Caol Ila and Ardbeg. All right, all right, more towards Caol Ila. Oysters. What’s sure is that it’s rather more maritime than on the nose. Finish: quite long, crisp, clean, perhaps a little mineral – which is rather un-Japanese in my book. Lemons aplenty now. Comments: I really, really enjoy this clean, smoky freshness. SGP:447 - 86 points.

It’s all going smoothly, isn’t it…

Miyagikyo (43%, OB, +/-2015)

Miyagikyo (43%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars A lot of Japanese writings but no age. I really like these sake-like packagings, but when you do not know your kanjis, you’re dead! Colour: gold. Nose: this feeling of buttered tea that hints at oak, but also cigars and herbal teas, which is nice nice nice. It’s warmer, easier, with only a touch of smoke, and perhaps whiffs of thuja wood and custard. Feels crafted. Nicely crafted, that is. Mouth: goody good! I cannot see who wouldn’t enjoy this, only the light strength makes it a wee tad weak (ish). Oranges, apple juice, herbs and teas, a little mint, pinesap, lime for sure, a drop of white rum from a good maker’s… Some kind of ready-made Japanese mojito, perhaps? Finish: medium length, clean, crisp, lime-y, with a touch of wood smoke. A tiny piece of smoked fish? Comments: I wasn’t expecting much, partly because of the strength, and I was wrong. This goes down like silk and spicy feathers (what?) SGP:452 - 85 points.

Because of the strength, he said…

Miyagikyo 1996/2014 (62%, OB, warehouse #18, cask #66535)

Miyagikyo 1996/2014 (62%, OB, warehouse #18, cask #66535) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: oooh! Sure it’s strong, and sure it would kill an elephant better than Dr. Walter Palmer, but these hints of chocolate and orange blossom are perfect. There might be a little too much oak too, but hard to say at this insane strength. Only one solution… With water: huge saponification happening, never experienced it to this extend. Water creating huge soapy smells… Usually, you just need to wait… So let’s wait… zzz… (after fifteen minutes)… Good, the soap is almost gone… Almost… Well not totally gone… (after twenty minutes)… not quite yet… (after twenty five minutes)… yes, gone! Praline, bread crust, macaroons, coconut cake, litchi cake, mandarins… And very, very little smoke this time. Mouth (neat): concentrated oranges, grapefruits, some ginger, some lemon grass, and more punch than Cassius Clay. So quick… With water: perfect! Mentholated raisins, ginger cake, glazed lemon wedges, lemon grass, citron liqueur… Just fabulous, love it. The best use of water ever. Finish: very long, limey, crystal-clean, with he greatest cut ever. Almost Alsatian riesling! Comments: a wrestler that’s not easy to partner with. You need patience (and good water), but then… SGP:562 - 91 points.

And now… Oh no, not 62% vol. again!...

Yoichi 1991/2014 (62%, OB, warehouse #27, cask #129459)

Yoichi 1991/2014 (62%, OB, warehouse #27, cask #129459) Five stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: stunning. Old chartreuse (best of Tarragone), a walk in an eucalyptus forest, a lot cedar wood, and the most precious pu-erh tea. Other than that, it’s seriously strong! With water: no saponification, hurray, but quite a lot of pencil shavings. The oak speaking out, not always a hit in the house, but having said that, there’s even more eucalyptus, and I’m a sucker for eucalyptus. Some wonderful earthy, tobacco-like notes too. No, frankly, it’s a perfect, deep nose. Mouth (neat): utterly expressive, rich, flavourful, and… what’s that word again? Ah yes, assertive. Stunning precious marmalades and chutneys. But then again, its strong stuff… With water: modern magic. Spicy lemons, silky tannins, tangerines, vanilla… At first I had thought it would have become a little, ach, err, slutty, but not at all. Now, the pineapple’s perhaps a little too ‘forward’. I said perhaps… Finish: long, candied, jammy, wonderfully citrusy, with menthol and always eucalyptus in the aftertaste. Comments: what I really enjoyed in this one was the fact that it was extremely Japanese, and totally non-Scottish. Now could the Scots still make this? Honestly, I’m not too sure… SGP:662 - 91 points.

Hakushu, you have the floor again…

Hakushu 1997/2008 'Owner's Cask' (58%, OB, for Shinanoya, barrel, cask #BD40263)

Hakushu 1997/2008 'Owner's Cask' (58%, OB, for Shinanoya, barrel, cask #BD40263) Four stars and a half Japanese whisky selected by and bottled for some Japanese whisky lovers, that could be hard to beat. Colour: amber. Nose: I don’t know which kind of barrel this was, but what’s sure is that it hasn’t been lazy. Rich fruits, Demerara sugar and rum, soy sauce, beef stock, acidic earth and peat, toffee, liquorice wood, a few drops of carbolinium… This one talks! With water: brand new rubber boots and the engine of a Lamborghini Miura (pfff, that’s despicable…) Mouth (neat): thick, rich, concentrated, and terribly Trinidadian. You know, Caroni and stuff. Plenty of oak spices, dark bread (our beloved pumpernickel), and something that also reminds us of the thickest bourbons, old Willett-style. Heavy stuff indeed. With water: some kind of oaky and spicy jam. What we call ‘confiture de vieux garçon’ in France, so ‘a bachelor’s jam’. Which would involve quite a lot of alcohol! Finish: long, very jammy, and extremely marmalade-y and richly spicy. Prunes. Comments: some sides reminded me of old Armagnac. A barrel, really? SGP:652 - 88 points.

Good, let’s have a straighter one, and then perhaps a new Karuizawa, and we’ll be done.

Yamazaki 1993/2007 'Owner's Cask' (52%, OB, for Liqueur Shop Naganoya, hogshead, cask #3P70268)

Yamazaki 1993/2007 'Owner's Cask' (52%, OB, for Liqueur Shop Naganoya, hogshead, cask #3P70268) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a peated Yamazaki! And it’s superb, crisp, whistle-clean, perfectly almondy, eminently lemony, with touches of fresh putty, lemon marmalade, soot, wet limestone, and riesling. Cool climate whisky! With water: shoe polish, coal dust, cigar ashes (no, really), linseed oil, smoked salmon… Mouth (neat): something of the old Ardbeg ten (twist cap, mid-1980s), with grapefruits, soot and ashes, antiseptic, lemon, and green pepper. Another perfectly blade-y one. With water: more fruity sweetness, all for the better. Lemon-flavoured jelly babies and crystallised angelica, plus half a glass of artisan limoncello. Salute! Finish: long and extremely citrusy, with a clean and straight smoky aftertaste. Comments: I’m trying hard to find something bad to say about his one. Fail! Well done, Nagayona! BTW, I’ve seen that they also have great sakes. I love good sake! SGP:554 - 90 points.

Yamazaki 'Vintage Malt' 1993/2004 (54%, OB) 

Yamazaki 'Vintage Malt' 1993/2004 (54%, OB)  Four starsSorry, picture from another vintage. From the now discontinued – I think – Vintage Malt series, which has become pretty hard to find. Colour: pale gold. Nose: We took it all down one notch, it seems. We’re rather far from the Owner’s Cask, with more sawdust and vanilla. What’s better is that it’s lighter and easier, but on the other hand, it’s rather shy Yamazaki, with some bubblegum, marshmallows, vanilla, a little hay, a little cardboard… With water: fermenting hay, cigarette tobacco. Mouth (neat): indeed, easy, good, vanilla-ed, with a little coffee, a little chocolate, some hay, some tobacco, a little chamomile, this particular herbal side (our friend the eucalyptus again)… Yeah, it’s good. With water: even better! Sweet teas and earthy stuff, but I find a little too much marshmallowy sweetness. Comments: just excellent, just not out of this world. But competition is tough today on little Whiskyfun… SGP:651 - 86 points.

Time to have the Karuizawa, perhaps…

Karuizawa 1983/2015 'Nepal Appeal' (The Whisky Show, cask #3557, 50 bottles)

Karuizawa 1983/2015 'Nepal Appeal' (The Whisky Show, cask #3557, 50 bottles) Five stars Some Karuizawa! Bottled in support of Nepal and exclusive to one very high-end masterclass at The Whisky Show in London on October 6. Colour: mahogany. Nose: chocolate and lit cigars. So smoking some kind of dark maduro Cohiba while opening the very best Spanish (okay, dear Italian friends, Italian) dark chocolate, while having a glass of old Port Mourant rum on the side.

So it’s a whole experience, not just whisky. And not only that, there’s also a smoky cup of old pu-erh tea, a good five old books (Hemingway…. But of course) and… hold on, concrete? Stones and flints? Coal crumbles? Old crème de menthe? Mushrooms? Black trumpets, to be more precise? With water: old books, old leather, old wine cellar, old creams, old embrocations, old dry wines, fresh mint cream. Chocolate mint. Mouth (neat): warning tooh-tooh-tooh, warning! This is strong, violent, brutal, and probably not totally civilised. Starts with soups and bouillons, so very Karuizawa, and pretty ‘uma-mi-esque’. I’m sure Uma Thurman used to drink this while they were shooting Kill Bill – and I agree, it showed. Then chocolate, dried figs, all raisins (Corinth, Smyrna, Sultanas, all that), then this Armagnacky side that’s also often to be found in Karuizawa, so prunes, then cigars and plenty of black earth. Licking the ground in an old forgotten factory. With water: I didn’t now they were still having some of these casks. Not sure this would still be legal. Plums and dried dates, old PX, bitter oranges, gasoline, engine oil, Russian black tea, rust, silverware, sucking old pennies, black truffles… Quite unmanageable, all this. Finish: too long, too huge, too dominant, too concentrated. To be honest, it’s a bit tiring! Comments: it fights with you, and it’s not impossible that untrained whisky enthusiasts would give up after just two minutes. You might want to do a bit of training before tackling this monster of a whisky. SGP:474 - 93 points. Masterclass details there.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Japanese whiskies I've tasted so far

 

 

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