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Tasting notes:
Whisky 10,011
Others 595

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Index of whiskyfun


Whisky Tasting

 
Aberfeldy (32) - Aberlour (79)
Abhainn Dearg (2)
Allt-A-Bhainne (
22)
An Cnoc (
18)
Ardbeg (
320) - Ardmore (60)
Arran (
62) - Auchentoshan (69)
Auchroisk (
26) - Aultmore (29)
Balblair (61) - Balmenach (31)
Balvenie (
72) - Banff (43)
Ben Nevis (
85)
Ben Wyvis (
2)
Benriach (
126) - Benrinnes (38)
Benromach (
37) - Bladnoch (54)
Blair Athol (40) - Bowmore (
346)
Braes of Glenlivet (
28)
Brora (
114)
Bruichladdich (203)
Bunnahabhain (
217)
Caol Ila (389)
Caperdonich (
73)
Cardhu (
31) - Clynelish (264)
Coleburn (
15)
Convalmore (1
8)
Cragganmore (
55)
Craigduff (3) - Craigellachie (
36)
Dailuaine (44) - Dallas Dhu (32)
Dalmore (82) - Dalwhinnie (19)
Deanston (19) - Dufftown (41)

Edradour (37)
Imperial (56) - Inchgower (40)
Inverleven (18)
Isle of Jura (79)

Kilchoman (19) - Kinclaith (7)
Kininvie
(2)
- Knockando (2
4)
Ladyburn (9) - Lagavulin (91)
Laphroaig (300) - Ledaig (73)
Linkwood (98) - Littlemill (79)
Loch Lomond (26)
Lochside (62)
Longmorn (172) - Longrow (52)

Macallan (227) - Macduff (51)
Mannochmore (2
5)
Millburn (1
9)
Miltonduff (
49) - Mortlach (111)
Mosstowie (1
7)
Scapa (34) - Speyburn (22) - Speyside (15)
Springbank (
220)
St-Magdalene (
43)
Strathisla (
80) - Strathmill (22)

Talisker (103) - Tamdhu (45)
Tamnavulin (
14)
Teaninich (
40)
Tobermory (
28) - Tomatin (98)
Tomintoul (
55) - Tormore (33)
Tullibardine (
35)
 
 
Pete and Jack


2014
September 1
August 1 - 2
July 1- 2
June 1- 2
May 1 - 2
April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
February 1 - 2
January 1 - 2

2013
Music Awards
December
1 - 2
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2
September 1 - 2
August 1 - 2
July 1 - 2
June 1 - 2
May 1 - 2
April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
February 1 - 2
January 1 - 2

2012
December
1 - 2
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2
September 1 - 2
August 1 - 2
July 1 - 2
June 1 - 2
May 1 - 2
April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
February 1 - 2
January 1 - 2

2011
Music Awards
December
1 - 2
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2
September 1 - 2
August 1 - 2
July 1 - 2
June 1 - 2
May 1 - 2
April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
February 1 - 2
January 1 - 2

2010
Music Awards
December
1 - 2
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2
September 1 - 2
August 1 - 2
July 1 - 2
June 1 - 2
May 1 - 2
April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
February 1 - 2
January 1 - 2

2009
December
1 - 2
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2
September 1 - 2
August 1 - 2
July 1 - 2
June 1 - 2
May 1 - 2
April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
February 1 - 2
January 1 - 2

2008
Music Awards
December
1 - 2 - 3
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2
September 1 - 2
August 1 - 2
July 1 - 2
June 1 - 2
May 1 - 2
April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
February 1 - 2
January 1 - 2

2007
Music Awards
December
1 - 2
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2
September 1 - 2
August 1 - 2 - 3
July 1 - 2
June 1 - 2
Feis Ile
Special
May 1 - 2
April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
February 1 - 2
January 1 - 2

2006
Music Awards
December 1 - 2
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2 - 3
September
1 - 2
August
1 - 2
July
1 - 2
June 1 - 2
Feis Ile
Special
May
1 - 2
April
1 - 2
March
1 - 2
February
1 - 2
January 1
- 2

2005
Music Awards
December 1 - 2
November 1 - 2
October
1- 2
September
1 - 2
August
1 - 2
July
1 - 2
June
1 - 2
Feis Ile
Special
May
1 - 2
April
1 - 2
March
1 - 2
February
1 - 2
January
1 - 2

2004
December 1 - 2
November 1 - 2
October
1 - 2
September
1
August
1
July
1
June
1
May
1
April 1
March 1
February
1
January
1

No archives for 2002-2003

 
Malt maniacs goodies
 

Othe whisky stuff
 

Brora

The Magical History
of the Great
Brora Distillery
1969 - 1983

   


 

Ye Auld Pages
that used to be here

   

 

 



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

2002-2014


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September 20, 2014


Whiskyfun

WF 10000 medal

A Birthday Session, 1960 in Martinique, Scotland and Japan
It's my birthday today. For this special occasion I decided to choose three spirits that were distilled in my birth year. That, I agree, doesn’t make much sense, as it’s only a number, but I also wanted to select three very different aged distillates, for once, while keeping some kind of coherence, which will be that common vintage, 1960. Other than that, well, this is just a normal session!

Habitation Saint Etienne 1960 (45%, OB, Martinique, +/-2013)

Habitation Saint Etienne 1960 (45%, OB, Martinique, +/-2013) Four stars and a half This baby was distilled at the original Habitation Saint Etienne, which got closed in 1988. The brand’s still in use, and even alive and kicking, but it’s been ‘squeezed’ as HSE. There are many great bottles under that name, by the way, but the spirit can’t be exactly the same as the original, unless it was distilled before 1988. Please note that this rhum was probably poured into inert containers (demijohns or bottles?) some time in the 1980s or 1990s, so it might have aged only for around 20 years. Probably for the better if you ask me, the rhum was lying in La Martinique’s tropical climate. Colour: dark red amber. Nose: an extreme smoothness, the whole being extremely delicate, elegantly fragrant, with some sultanas, touches of ylang-ylang, some honeysuckle, oriental pastries and then whiffs of old humidor as well as hints of dried figs and dates. Keywords: elegance and mellowness. It’s not very sugarcane-y, having said that, and one could have mistaken it for some old cognac. Remember, old spirits tend to converge! Mouth: the oak feels, and it starts grittier than expected, punchier as well, with a faint grapey side (cognac again.) The good news is that that all that tends to mingle and to become smoother, with raisins again, dried papaya slices, a tiny touch of mustard or even wasabi, then more bitter chocolate. Some tannins for sure. Strong black tea. Finish: quite long, drier, oaky and chocolaty, but always with some raisins that are the guardians of smoothness in this context. I love the hints of black olives and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: a superb nose and a palate that tends to be a notch too oaky for me, that’s an old story as far as… old spirits are concerned. But it remains a very great old spirit for sure. SGP:562 - 89 points.

Macallan 1960 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Rinaldi Italy, +/-1975)

Macallan 1960 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Rinaldi Italy, +/-1975) Five stars A famous series, all whiskies being 15 years of age, although that was not always advertised. I’ve tried quite a few vintages from 1946 to 1963, all ex-sherry wood, but I had kept the 1960 for this special occasion. Now’s the time. Colour: dark amber. Nose: both the resemblance and the differences are striking. Did they use to add a bit of rum into Macallan at CH&K? Of course I’m joking, what’s similar is the ‘old humidor’ side as well as the dried fruits, while what’s obviously different is the slightly steely profile, the whiffs of roasted malt, the notes of toasted cake and the chocolate. Also the wood smoke that arises after one minute. More globally, this is obviously drier; I’d even say it’s both drier and less emphatic than many other vintages. The raisins have been burnt here. Mouth: wider, fuller and more ‘immediate’ than the rum, and without any noticeable oakiness. It’s typically old Macallan, in fact, with this sherry that does not taste like plain sherry at all, and that brings many dried fruits, from figs to raisins and from dates to prunes. No meatiness here, no gunpowder, no grapey notes, rather those fruits plus some tobacco, some fresh fruits as well (ripe bananas, perhaps) and then just one drop of cough syrup that brings even more complexity (a little wormwood, aniseed, mint, sloe, juniper…) Impeccable. Finish: long, rather round, with some chocolate, marmalade, maybe cherries in kirsch, figs… Fresh oranges in the aftertaste lift it. Comments: one of the whiskies that converted many people to malt whisky. No wonder! Even if other vintages have been even more stellar in my opinion… SGP:562 - 92 points.

Yamazaki 1960/2003 (56%, OB, Japan)

Yamazaki 1960/2003 (56%, OB, Japan) Four stars I believe this baby used to be the oldest Japanese single malt when it was launched, before being dethroned by both Yamazaki 50 yo and Karuizawa 1960. Yamazaki, as you probably know, is Japan’s oldest whisky distillery (although there are rumours of even older, so pre-1923, much smaller long-gone distilleries.) Colour: dark red amber. Nose: one can feel that this one’s spent much more time in wood, because its rather varnish and even acetone that first reach your nostrils. But as usual, those notes do get mellower, leaving room for a lot of tobacco, polished wood, roasted chestnuts and then many dried fruits and chocolates. Becomes more and more chocolaty over time, and tertiary as well. Ham, mushrooms, old Bourgogne, humus… Quite superb! With water: even more superb and incredibly complex. Marzipan, old books, old oils, sesame oil, cedar wood, a touch of caraway, turmeric, earth… A fabulous nose indeed, but with old whiskies, that doesn’t say anything about the palate. Mouth (neat): again, the oak feels, but what’s really striking is this massive coconut, there’s more coconut than in a coconut! That comes from the oak again, of course, and I have to say I’ve never tasted such a profile before. Tannic coconut milk. Not too sure this time… With water: rather curious! Coconut-and-menthol flavoured black tea, I’d say. Almond oil as well, liquorice wood… Finish: long, tannic, always with a lot of coconut and some bitter chocolate. Very cocoaty (excuse me?) Comments: I found the nose totally impressive, probably one of the greatest noses ever once the varnish had vanished (good one!), but in my book, the palate was rather too oaky - even if that was high quality oak. SGP:471 - 87 points.

(Muchas gracias, Cyril, Emmanuel and Diego)

 

 

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September 19, 2014


Whiskyfun

WF 10000 medal

New Port Ellen Special Release and compadre
You may remember that this year’s Brora Special Release was WF’s 10,000th review – old news, already – and since there’s no old Lagavulin this year, the only other old SR peaters this year are the obligatory Port Ellen and a Caol Ila 30 years old. Hum, not sure Diageo will like the wording ‘obligatory Port Ellen’. Anyway, let’s try that one today, beside another 1978, a rather rare one that’s not often to be seen… because our friends the Swiss seem to have quaffed it all, more or less. Grüezi!   

Port Ellen 1978/2002 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, for World of Whisky St Moritz, cask #5347, 302 bottles)

Port Ellen 1978/2002 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, for World of Whisky St Moritz, cask #5347, 302 bottles) Three stars and a half Some sister casks haven’t been much to my liking, I had found them extremely dry and vegetal. Let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: well well well, it hasn’t got the immense and implacable punch that the Rare Malts 20 and 22 had, while it’s also rather un-tarry, so a bit un-PE, but on the other hand, it’s a very coastal one, with plenty of sea air, iodine, oysters and all that. Also touches of white fruits, yellow peaches, green melons, greengages, and just hints of candy sugar. A very civilised Port Ellen, fresh and clean. Too clean, perhaps? Mouth: very different. Not much Port-Ellenness either, but there is more punch, around ‘oyster juice’, pepper, ink, cardboard and then plenty of ashes. And then, once again, a little candy sugar. So I find it good, for sure, but it’s rather forgettable as a Port Ellen. Finish: rather long, a little acrid, with notes of leaves and grass. A strange touch of mustard in the aftertaste, that comes together with a little plasticine, almost plastic. Comments: indeed not all Port Ellens are/were utterly stellar. SGP:466 - 83 points.

Port Ellen 35 yo 1978/2014 (56.5%, OB, 14th Special Release, 2,964 bottles)

Port Ellen 35 yo 1978/2014 (56.5%, OB, 14th Special Release, 2,964 bottles) Five stars Let’s try to forget about the heavy price tag, and focus on the juice! After all, should you test-drive a new Ferrari, you’ll focus on the engine and the chassis (and the brakes!) more than on its price, won’t you. But is this a Ferrari or is it a badged FIAT? Let’s see… (apologies, I’m known for my very crappy car analogies, but I just can’t help.) Colour: gold. Nose: its quite brutal! At this pace, they’ll still have ‘young’ PE by 2050, unless the stocks are almost depleted indeed (which they are since around 2000 anyway, ha!) After that initial burst of alcohol and creosote, many smaller elements are falling into place, one after the other. Turpentine, eucalyptus, tincture of iodine, seaweed, almond oil, pink grapefruits, tobacco smoke, chartreuse, coal, walnuts and apples… But rather less tar than expected. With water: some very nice notes of white wine (sour) and brine, humus, fir smoke, damp wool, garden bonfire… Mouth: triple bang! It’s huge, it’s massive, it’s sharp at the same time, and it’s almost… young. Quite some smoke, a little fish oil, grapefruits and lemons, smoked tea, liquorice, kippers, green tea. A lot of lemon zest, with something rather green, pungent, tannic… Grape pips? Cider apples? Not an easy baby for sure, but it’s not a peat monster. With water: the greenness is even more obvious. Liquorice wood, grass, green apples, kippers, maybe a wee touch of chlorine (nope, I’m using my usual Vittel), grapefruits, a little salt… And bags of apple peelings. Finish: long, rather on cider apples, smoked fish… The greenness remains. I have to add I’m finding little tar in the aftertaste, just a little – better late than never! Comments: we’re very close to last year’s release, as far as I can tell, this one being maybe just a notch rougher. On the other hand, it’s a very moderately tarry PE that’s probably less ‘immediate’ than earlier versions. Oh, and quality remains very high, of course, even if I have the feeling that the Caol Ila 30 will be (even) more to my liking. Just a feeling (yeah yeah). This new PE should come out around mid-end October. SGP:366 - 91 points.

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

 

 

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September 18, 2014


Whiskyfun

WF 10000 medal

‘Old’ ones at 35 years of age
I think I forgot to tell you that we’ll only select high flyers for these celebratory sessions. I’m meaning 90+, unless I fail. But no need to tell you why I’ve decided to pair the two babies we’ll have today. I agree this does not make much sense once again – the idea’s abysmally weird, in fact - but I had though it would be fun to taste two ‘old Old’ of very similar ages. A double O, in a sense, but sadly no Stromness! (whisky historians and lovers of oldies will underst… oh forget!)

Old Pulteney 35 yo (42.5%, OB, 2014)

Old Pulteney 35 yo (42.5%, OB, 2014) Five stars This new old Old Pulteney comes from a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, and is relatively fairly priced (at 600€ - gosh I'd never have thought I'd write that.) Colour: ancient gold. Nose: this is subtle, starting with whiffs of quince cake, overripe apples, oranges and eucalyptus leaves, as well as a little patchouli and ‘old suitcase full of old papers.’ Very delicate, and indeed it reminds me of last year’s 40 yo – or was that the year before? I also get distant notes of sauna, or would that be a Moroccan hammam? And then more cassis/blackcurrant, both buds and berries, maybe coated with milk chocolate. All subtle, bordering fragility, maybe… After fifteen minutes, much more brioche, honey, cake, praline, raisins… Mouth: who said it would be fragile? The arrival is rather perfect, fruity, almost youthful, without any straight oakiness. Rather notes of oranges again, cooked rhubarb – or jam, light golden raisins, a little honeydew and mead… At the spice department we’re rather having cinnamon and a little caraway, while the sherry’s becoming a little more obvious, with some kind of spicy walnut. The mouth feel is more than acceptable despite the low strength and the old age. Finish: good length, maybe a notch drier and just a wee bit bitter towards the aftertaste, but that’s the old age and that’s normal. A salty touch. Comments: not tired, this one, and it’s certainly less ‘fragile’ than the 40yo (and yet the 40 yo was much higher in alcohol.) Only complain, it’s too easily quaffable at 600€ a bottle! Really excellent. SGP:551 - 90 points (but 91+ without the finish/aftertaste).

Old Fettercairn 34 yo 1975/2009 (57.2%, Whisky-Fässle, Bourbon hogshead)

Old Fettercairn 34 yo 1975/2009 (57.2%, Whisky-Fässle, Bourbon hogshead) Five stars The only other +/-35 yo whisky I have that I've not tasted yet and that starts with the word 'Old'. No I haven't gotten any 35 years old Old Rhosdhu! Having said that I remember two Fettercairns 1975 by The Whisky Agency that have been pretty brilliant (both WF 91.) Colour: deep gold. Nose: a different beast for sure, but oddly enough, there are similarities. It’s not one of these whacky old Fettercairns at all, and although there is a little engine oil and maybe traces of a kind of green pitchiness (geee), the vast majority consists in fruits, both fresh and as jams. Lemon, plums and green melons, I’d say. Rather tobacco in the background. With water: wax and grapefruits, in a Clynelishian manner. Mouth (neat): very big, and quite strange, in a good way. We’re well at Fettercairn’s – Fettercairn’s finest. Plenty of walnut and apple skins, quite a lot of menthol (mint lozenges), then more ginger, tonic water, Campari and… smoked bacon! Beautifully weird. With water: more gingery, cinchona-like flavours plus bitter oranges and almonds. Finish: long, lemony, waxy, almost resinous, with a dry aftertaste on chlorophyll and paraffin. Comments: vive la difference! SGP:562 - 91 points.

PS: again, don’t be surprised by the high scores, that’s these sessions’ whole point!

 

 

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September 17, 2014


Whiskyfun

WF 10000 medal

Four Ardbeg through the ages
We may take it a bit easier for a little while, that is to say not post new sessions each and every day. Not that I feel I need some kind of recovery (even if after a tremendous Lagavulin-and-jazz-and-friendship-fuelled weekend on Islay, I may be suffering from a serious case of Islay blues), I simply feel the need to take it, well, yeah, a little easier after our 10,000th whisky review.

Some kind of whisky holidays, if you like.

But meanwhile, back at the ranch… let’s do some Ardbeg! I’ve got the new Supernova to taste (ex-bottle, not ex-blogger mini) and this is the problem with NAS whiskies, you just don’t know where to sneak them in a b****y vertical line-up! So since earlier batches have been issued in 2009 and 2010, let’s assume it’s rather older than 11, while we’ve got a 11 years old to taste indeed. Well, I believe that one may make for some kind of solid foundation, or benchmark, or reference…

Ardbeg 11 yo 1975 (86 US Proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers, Sacramento, +/-1986)

Ardbeg 11 yo 1975 (86 US Proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers, Sacramento, +/-1986) Five stars That is right, young old Ardbeg, probably ex-refill. I couldn’t tell you whether the purifier was on or off when this baby was distilled, or simply out of order (I know, pure anorak stuff), but it’s always great to be able to taste legendary distillates at a young age, that is to say when the spirit’s still got a lot to tell. Let’s see… Colour: pale white wine (hurray!) Nose: pah pah pah pah pah! It’s a very pure and very crystalline Ardbeg on the nose, certainly not a fatty one and certainly not a peat monster either. Lemon and oysters, I’d say. Well, at least for a few minutes, because it’s gaining momentum over time, with more marzipan and, above all, more and more diesel oil, broken branches and ashes. All in all, it’s the purity that’s impressive here. Oysters anyone? Fishing ground. Mouth: how lovely! Once again, it starts delicately, but rather on some kind of smoky fudge this time, although lemon and oysters are well there in the background. And then, there, high-impact peat smoke, pepper, ashes, even a little chilli, liquorice wood, salt - and even touches of mustard, somehow ala Brora 1972 if you see what I mean. And bitter almonds. The texture is pretty oily, if not absolutely fatty. Finish: quite long, a bit acrid, and certainly very ashy and smoky. Love the chilli-and-lemon-and-fudge (and smoked salmon) signature. Even more smoked fish in the end of the aftertaste. Comments: it hasn’t got that very peculiar herbal and tarry fruitiness that these Arbegs tended to develop after more years in wood, and I wouldn’t say it’s extremely complex spirit, but then again, only 11 years. What a distillate! I think it was better than the official 10 that used to be available around the late 1980s. SGP:358 - 92 points.

Speaking of officials…

Ardbeg ‘Supernova SN2014’ (55%, OB, Committee Release, 2014)

Ardbeg ‘Supernova SN2014’ (55%, OB, Committee Release, 2014) Five stars The very heavy – and very second degree, I’m sure ;-) -  spacey marketing tends to put off quite a few whisky lovers these days, and we’re even starting to see more and more mockery here and there, but that can’t change the whisky itself, can it? Anyway, I had liked the first Supernova a lot back in 2009 (WF 89), and the 2010 version even more so (WF 90.) This new 2014 has more sherry in it, according to the distillers. It might also be older, but I’m not too sure. Not sure at all… Colour: white wine (hurray!) Nose: sweet Vishnu, we’re close to the 1975! So much for ‘old’ vs. ‘new’ Ardbeg, I have to say this baby’s well within the same lineage, with a similar peatiness, similar lemons and similar oysters. And ashes, peat smoke and all the rest. Granted, it’s rather less complex, a bit fatter and a notch less crystalline, but that may come from the higher strength, let’s see… With water: they diverge now. This is more brutal and certainly more medicinal. A lot of antiseptic, then pinesap and this mega peat that smells just like… The distillery. I just couldn’t be against that. Love this nose. Mouth (neat): it’s sweeter than the 1975, for sure, with more limoncello for example, but once again, the peatiness and the ashes are similar. Having said that the sharpy spiciness that was in the 1975 is almost absent here, there’s this limoncello instead. With water: this feeling of swallowing a Cuban ashtray at 4 in the morning. An ashtray into which someone would have also poured the remainder of a glass of mojito! Finish: very long and while the ashes and peat remain huge, it tends to become a tad sweeter. Is that the sherry? Comments: love this big Ardbeg. Less complex than the 1975 for sure (that wasn’t hugely complex either), but it’s got ashy style and peaty substance (wot?) Certainly not just a gimmick. SGP:459 - 90 points.

Sherry, he said…

Ardbeg 1998/2014 (58.2%, Malts of Scotland, Amazing Casks, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 14027, 222 bottles)

Ardbeg 1998/2014 (58.2%, Malts of Scotland, Amazing Casks, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 14027, 222 bottles) Five stars Cool, this baby came with George Clooney and Brad Pitt on the label ;-). Colour: light amber. Nose: different for sure. More dry, chestnuty, chocolaty, meaty, with some ham, some dry tobacco, some heavy liquorice, some tar (I remember some ex-oloroso Port Ellens by DL), some brine, gherkins, beefstock, then kiwis… A touch of manure as well, horse sweat… And yet, all that remains rather elegant, no mean feat! With water: yup, it’s fresher, kind of cleaner, with spearmint, new leather, tealeaves… and maybe rather chicken stock this time. And bacon. You can tell your mum (or the police) it’s soup you’re having… Mouth (neat): a metallic touch in the arrival, as well as bags and bags of dried figs and caramel. Very thick, but not cloying, balance is preserved. Orange marmalade, thick quince jelly (luv’ that), and then a growing feeling of pipe tobacco juice. Raspberry ganache. Not as meaty as on the nose, by far, and rather sweeter and even fruitier. Mind you, they seem to have tamed a 1998 Ardbeg! With water: no, wait, the spirit strikes back. The sherry becomes drier again, liquoricy and leathery, while Ardbeg is taking the lead – and it’s more Led Zep than Vivaldi. Finish: very long, much spicier. Ginger and sweet mustard plus some kind of smoked caramel. Saltier aftertaste – which was expected. Comments: at first I had felt that the sherry could hinder the spirit from singing, but that was not the case, after all. Great. SGP:558 - 92 points.

You say more sherry? Here we go…

Ardbeg 20 yo 1993/2014 (57.1%, A.D. Rattray for Jurgen's Whiskyhuis, sherry hogshead, cask #1732, 142 bottles)

Ardbeg 20 yo 1993/2014 (57.1%, A.D. Rattray for Jurgen's Whiskyhuis, sherry hogshead, cask #1732, 142 bottles) Five stars This one’s older, twenty’s already a ripe old age these days. Colour: palish gold. Nose: first, there’s much less sherry than in the MoS, and second, this is much more brutal at first nosing, with more acrid leaf smoke, concentrated white wine  - or sauce, such as verjuice/verjus sauce. The great, great news is that it tends to become mezcaly – or agavy - which is something that I adore. Could also be young Jamaican rum! Also almonds and plasticine, but no rubber. A different take altogether. With water: you may start to look for the phone number of the nearest anti-maltoporn brigade… Fab nose! It’s smoky mezcal and heavy-style young rum galore. Mouth (neat): terrific attack, both rounded and sharp. I know, that doesn’t make much sense but the agave-syrup-coated mouth feel blends well with the sharpish lemony peat, if you see what I mean. And there’s a fair share of salt and brine. Maybe a tiny anchovie? And a drop of antiseptic? With water: you may call the anti-maltoporn brigade now. Ashes, herbal liqueurs, salt, almonds, kippers, samphires, wax, ink, mezcal again… Finish: endless, sharp, chiselled, ashy and smoky. Charmingly unsexy. Comments: it was a close tie between the 1998 and this one, and I wouldn't say one is ‘more better’ than the other, it’s just that I love great mezcal. I know, I know… SGP:468 - 93 points.

No whisky under 90, that was some session! All in all, I’m feeling that Ardbeg will always remain Ardbeg, as long as they stay clear from any unlikely ‘wine technologies’ that would bore even a very novice hence very enthusiastic Franco-Japanese sommelier.  

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

 

 

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September 14, 2014


Whiskyfun

 

BIG

So after twelve years of Whisky Fun, today we’ll publish our 10,000th tasting notes. No need to tell you that I’ve been thinking hard about this session. Selecting old whiskies? New whiskies? Rare whiskies? Bang-for-your-buck whiskies? Obscure bottlings? All-time favourites? Rum? (Come on Serge, not rum!) And then I remembered that the very first inception of this little website was all about Brora, aka ‘old’ Clynelish distillery. So I decided to go back home, in a way, and to choose three very emblematic – to me, at least – whiskies. One very old blend by Clynelish’s former owners, Ainslie & Co, then the brand new Brora Special Release, and lastly, the brand new official Clynelish ‘Special Reserve’, which might represent the future of malt whisky. Why am I saying that? Because it’s ‘NAS’, baby…
I have many other stories to tell you, such as a failed attempt at breaking a motorcycle speed record at Bonneville (as a wee sponsor) just last month to celebrate WF’s 10,000 tasting notes, and several others. But this is not the day, I’ll rather tell you all that in the coming ‘celebratory’ weeks. Because mind you, we’ll keep celebrating WF’s 10,000th, with quite a few other exceptional whiskies…But let’s focus on our Ainslie’s – Brora – Clynelish just now, if you don’t mind…
… Especially because this will be a very unusual set-up, as I’ve called two great friends for help, for once. One of them is my old buddy Olivier ‘Zind’ Humbrecht, the superstar winemaker from Alsace (he simply makes the best whites in the world if you ask me). Olivier’s been totally instrumental in my whisky life – although I’m not totally sure I should thank him. With Olivier, we’ll taste the whiskies together at home, and then I’ll taste them a second time two days later, while on Islay at the Lagavulin Jazz Festival, with another great friend as a guest taster, the very famous independent whisky expert and author Dave Broom. Dave is simply the best in his art, and keeps making me feel like Justin Bieber listening to the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
(… Fast Forward…)
And these, my friend, are the amalgamated results of our two wild sessions:

One Brora, his ancestor and his successor

Royal

The Royal Edinburgh (OB, James Ainslie & Co., driven cork, +/-1910) Five stars An old bottle bought for me at an auction a few years back. Time to crack it open! Shouldn’t be a fake, but you never know, let’s see. What’s sure is that the embossed/moulded bottle fits the label and bears the same owners, James Ainslie & Co., a company that was transformed into Ainslie, Baillie & Co. in 1913, hence my guestimate of 1910 as the year of bottling. BTW, we’ve tried a Royal Edinburgh by Ainslie, Baillie & Co. last year, it was just fab (WF 94.) I’d add that despite the label that advertises Clynelish as the brand’s ‘home distillery’, as was customary at the time, this is probably a blend. But probably a blend with high old Clynelish content, and most possibly 19th century Clynelish! Oh and the driven cork is fitted with a small early Bakelite-like peg in its middle, something only to be seen with very old closures as far as I know. Colour: straw/pale gold. Nose: quite surprisingly, we do not find any ‘OBE’, but it’s well fully 100% (that’ll do, fellows) Old Highlands, and certainly close to modern Clynelish and even more so to Brora. Olivier finds it very waxy indeed, while I’m finding touches of tinned pineapples. Dave finds tallow, a little pear compote, then more mineral notes, pencil shavings, lead… Even myrtle and chestnuts. After more breathing we’re all finding more coal, iodine and wee touches of tomato leaves. Also a little mocha. Mouth: remarkably punchy, a bit acrid at first, but with a very oily mouth feel, very dense. Feels like 46% vol. but we wouldn’t know for sure. Rather spicy with some bay leaves, pepper, cedar wood, paraffin, candle wax, mineral oil… Olivier also finds some grape seed oil, juniper… Dave thinks that the age shows more on the palate, and finds a lot of coal as well, ashes, yellow plums, and then more and more yellow chartreuse (Tarragone of course) as well as the fatness of wulong tea. Finish: gently fades away, with touches of birch sap says Dave. A touch of sherry and a touch of mineral sulphur. Comments: phew, it’s certainly not a fake. It keeps improving once oxygen’s done its job. SGP:463 – OH 92 – DB 88 – SV 91 points.

Brora 35

Brora 35 yo 1978/2014 (48.6%, OB, 2964 bottles) Five stars After last year’s 1977, and then the famous ‘big cat’ the 40 yo 1972, this is the brand new Special Release that’ll be available later this year. It doesn’t bear any vintage on the label as far as I can see, but the distillers have confirmed that it’s well 1978, while I’m afraid I’ve only tried two or three 1978s so far, as it’s a very uncommon vintage. Interesting! This baby’s a vatting of refill American and European oak casks, all for the better in my book as the distillery’s very singular character should really shine through despite the old age. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: incredibly soft after the old Ainslie, rather fruitier than earlier releases (pomegranates). Freshly squeezed oranges, then lemon balm. Olivier finds more and more woodruffs, embers, peach skins… It tends to resemble the Ainslie’s more and more, with less oranges and more and more smoke. Takes its time. Dave finds notes of ‘an artist’s studio near the sea’ (linseed oil, paint, old turpentine, sea breeze.) This baby’s rather less earthy, farmy and ‘dirty’ than its older siblings. Mouth: very balanced, elegant… Olivier thinks it’s the most elegant Brora’s he’s tasted (and he’s tasted quite a few.) Starts more coastal than smoky, but the peat’s growing, ala Talisker. An obvious salinity. A little grapefruit. Dave found it tongue cleaning. He also finds linoleum, a bowl of fruits, wet rocks… Finish: of medium length, with notes of dead fire and embers, says Dave. We all find that it’s not a very wild Brora at this point, although we do find more bandages and creosote after twenty minutes. Heavy oil. Comments: some sides really make us think of an old Islay, with this very specific fruitiness. A rather easy Brora, which is just great. SGP:555 - OH 93 – DB 93 – SV 93 points (quite amazingly).

Clynelish

Clynelish 'Select Reserve' (54.9%, OB, limited release, 2964 bottles, 2014) Four stars and a half An interesting bottle, this one! In theory, I’d have preferred to see a vintage and/or an age, while this baby’s NAS, which may imply that there’s some young Clynelish inside. In reality, the youngest vintage inside is 1999, so 15 years old already, but there are much older casks as well. No I couldn’t tell you about those older vintages, or about the proportions. Besides, I think it’s the first time I see such emphasizing on the work of the blender on a single malt by Diageo, as Dr. Jim Beveridge’s role is heavily advertised on the rather lovely retro packaging. It’s true that having followed Clynelish’s vintages and their styles throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, I imagine that working on such a composition may have been an orgasmic experience! Colour: gold. Nose: a different kind of complexity. Olivier feels the sugary side of the grains, notes of Gueuze, a touch of yeast, stone fruits, mirabelles, peaches… A touch of sawdust too, bark, young dry white Bordeaux… A little less emotion than in the others. Improves over time, with more aromatic herbs, lemon grass, lime… Dave finds it slow to open but worth the wait. A little ozonic, he says. He also finds fried plantains, ginger and ginseng. With water: more perfumed, with some pear tart. Also more classic Clynelish wax, wet limestone, a little menthol. Becomes purer. Mouth: creamy, fruity, powerful. Very thick, needs concentration. White fruits and not much wax at this point, which is a little surprising. With water: sir, it’s a revolution! Opens up, everything comes out, first wax then more white fruits, grapefruits, that salinity… Dave thinks it really needs water. Finish: long, on more or less the same notes. Some ash. Comments: the lineage is amazing, one can really feel that the three whiskies came from the same ‘terroir’. Terroir? Sure! But this Clynelish really needs water, it’s not an easy whisky when naked. SGP:552 - OH 89 – DB 89 – SV 88 points

One last thing, you may be wondering which whisky was #10,000. Well, technically speaking, it was the Brora, but I’d say all three were ‘#10,000s’.

All the best from Islay's Jazz Festival!

 

 

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September 11, 2014


Whiskyfun

Four Benrinnes, two styles

Benrinnes is one of these malts that undergo a partial – and mindboggling - third distillation, like Springbank or Mortlach. I’ve never found Benrinnes to be particularly easy, but still, let’s have an old aperitif…

Benrinnes 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map label, +/-1985)

Benrinnes 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map label, +/-1985) Two stars and a half An earlier bottling, bearing the famous ‘old brown’ or ‘old banner’ label, was rather to my liking (WF 85). Colour: gold. Nose: one of these old malts that display big notes of roasted chestnuts and other nuts, as well as touches of old rancio and honey-coated baked fruits. A few walnuts as well, raisins, a little marmalade, then touches of iron that may come from bottle ageing. Almost forgot to mention Marmite. Ah, Marmite! I find this nose rather lovely. Mouth: all in keeping with the nose, with this yeasty maltiness covered with glazed chestnuts at first sips, but it tends to become a little weaker and disjointed. You never know with low strength malts in old bottles! Oranges, malt, cardboard. Drinkable, but forgettable and a little flattish flavour-wise. Finish: a little short, with some burnt oak and more cardboard. Comments: it all happened in the lovely nose. SGP:351 - 78 points.

Benrinnes 28 yo 1984/2013 (49.8%, Hunter Laing, Old and Rare, refill butt, 133 bottles)

Benrinnes 28 yo 1984/2013 (49.8%, Hunter Laing, Old and Rare, refill butt, 133 bottles) Three stars Very, very ‘refill’ according to the colour. Colour: white wine. Nose: amazingly bready, this could have been distilled last year! I even find whiffs of rye. Also porridge, old papers, grass and, indeed, that faint mineral sulphur that probably comes from the spirit, not from the cask. Lager beer, baker’s yeast… Really, this smells extremely young, even if I do enjoy these very ‘natural’ noses that are very close to the raw ingredients. Mouth: same feeling, this is very young, fresh, full of grains, oranges, pears, leaven, beer, ginger… Tastes like some newish craft whisky, minus the heavy wood. As naked as old whisky can get. No traces of sherry, or maybe only the tiniest sultana, somewhere… Finish: quite long, spicy, a little bittersweet and even a little sour, but in a rather good way. Comments: interesting! An almost immature oldie, this one reminds of some friends of mine ;-). SGP:451 - 82 points.

Benrinnes 14 yo 1998/2013 (54.6%, Exclusive Malts for Whisky.com Taiwan, first fill sherry, 689 bottles)

Benrinnes 14 yo 1998/2013 (54.6%, Exclusive Malts for Whisky.com Taiwan, first fill sherry, 689 bottles) Four stars and a half This one could be a sherry monster. Colour: amber. Nose: wee whiffs of good sulphur precede a whole bag of dried fruits, such as the obligatory raisins, figs, pears, apricots… I also find a little cedar wood, some pipe tobacco and quite some marmalade. Classic fruity sherry, all good. With water: a touch of wet raw wool. Like that. Mouth (neat): excellent! Rich and creamy, fruity and spicy, with many dried fruit and a lot of oranges. Love the both fresh and luscious side, it’s not that common in very sherried whiskies. With water: yes, very excellent. It’s some kind of spicy fruit sauce and I could well see it poured over some chicken or prawns. Finish: long, very rich and very clean at the same time. Tinned pineapples in the aftertaste. Comments: it happens even on the palate, for once. And that was very lovely indeed. Almost perfect, in fact. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Now that naked Benrinnes by one of the Laing brothers was really intriguing, let’s try to find another one…

Benrinnes 21 yo 1979/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 234 bottles)

Benrinnes 21 yo 1979/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 234 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine again. Nose: it’s younger than the 1984, but it’s certainly more mature, without much bread/yeast/grain and with many more fruits, including some very zesty tangerines and blood oranges. I find touches of mineral sulphur again (not burnt, no eggs, no cabbage, no matches…), then drops of Gueuze, sweet apples, plums and just a little barley sugar. Nice, clean, natural and mature. Mouth: same, more or less, although it got a little grassy and bitter this time. Not its best side, I’d say, loses points now. The grains are more obvious as well, porridge, oatcakes, bread… And always this bitterness (walnut skin.) Too bad. Finish: of medium length, grassy and grainy. Apples. Comments: I had deep hopes but the palate was so-so, after the very lovely nose. In fact, I think I liked the 1984 a little better altogether. SGP:551 - 81 points.

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

 
Pete McPeat and Jack Washback
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PJ

 

 

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September 10, 2014


Whiskyfun

Three Miltonduff for the crusaders in us

Not much to say about Miltonduff I’m afraid…

Miltonduff 7 yo (46%, Douglas Laing, Premier Barrel, 448 bottles, +/-2013)

Miltonduff 7 yo (46%, Douglas Laing, Premier Barrel, 448 bottles, +/-2013) Three stars … In its unlikely kind-of-retro stone decanter… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s very blendish malt whisky, I cannot not think of Chivas Regal 12. Roasted nuts, toasted bread, bits of oranges, Ovaltine, raisins, chocolate, fudge, soaked grains… It’s not unpleasant, but it’s probably not the Zauberflöte. Mouth: hey, I like this! Once again it’s rather Chivasy, and that works well. Oranges, honey, raisins, fudge… and all that. No need to write a novel about it, let alone an opera, but yeah, it’s pleasant. Finish: rather long, candied, raisiny and malty. Comments: very solid and honest at seven years of age. No flaws. Worth the crazy decanter! SGP:451 - 82 points.

Miltonduff 1992 (56.7%, Kreuzritter, sherry cask, +/-2014)

Miltonduff 1992 (56.7%, Kreuzritter, sherry cask, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Kreuzritter is a small Swiss bottler. I think the bottling’s done by Jack Wiebers. Colour: gold. Nose: struck matches everywhere at first nosing, gas, truffles… Yes it is pretty sulphury. You like that or you don’t… With water: more struck matches and gunpowder. Sniffing an old rifle. Mouth (neat): forget about the nose, the palate is much more engaging. Heavy raisins and spices, mulled wine, caramel, bitter oranges, pepper… It’s big stuff. I’m sure the Kreuzritters would have liked it (Kreuzritters means crusaders). With water: fine, honeyed, rounded, raisiny, brioche-y and orangey. Walnuts after that, as often. Finish: long, rounded, with notes of spice cake. Comments: the nose was full of sulphur, but we avoided cooked cabbage. Really enjoyed the palate. SGP:551 - 77 points.

Let’s try an older one…

Miltonduff 30 yo 1982/2013 (49.5%, Maltbarn, sherry, 63 bottles)

Miltonduff 30 yo 1982/2013 (49.5%, Maltbarn, sherry, 63 bottles) Three stars and a half Another very interesting micro-bottling by Germany’s Maltbarn. Colour: light gold, so probably refill. Nose: starts with a funny combo of acrid grassiness, grapefruits and coconut oil, before if starts to unfold rather on hay and lemongrass. A little sugarcane as well, a touch of acetone that was there right from the start, then more and more apple peelings and fresh almonds. Also raw barley. Mouth: starts with pepper and ‘green’ apple juice as well as quite a lot of lime, which makes it very zesty, almost green, with a bitterish side. A lot of green tea and then just a touch of butterscotch to make it slightly rounder. And then it tends to become very lemony. Maybe not the easiest and the smoothest dram ever. Finish: long, sharp, very lemony, with some green pepper in the aftertaste. Dry cider. Comments: a green Miltonduff! A little austere, perhaps. SGP:461 - 84 points.

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

 

 

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September 9, 2014


Whiskyfun

French Karuizawa bourbon vs. sherry

This year La Maison could already get two casks of Karuizawa via owners/distributors Number One Drinks, one bourbon and one sherry. More than time to try these cult babies with their very unassuming labels. Because it’s all about the content, isn’t it!

Karuizawa 1984/2014 (58.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, bourbon, cask #8173, 363 bottles)

Karuizawa 1984/2014 (58.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, bourbon, cask #8173, 363 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: a pretty magnificent woodiness here, that is to say not only polished oak, but also other species, such as eucalyptus wood and many precious woods, but I just couldn’t tell you which ones. Maybe rosewood? I imagine the interior of a 1950’s Rolls Royce when it was brand new (maybe!) Other than that, there’s a little smoke, there’s tobacco for sure and there’s a faint chalkiness. I also find dry sherry, or vin jaune, as well as their walnut notes. Also a little humus and mushrooms. Perfect. One strawberry or two after ten minutes. With water: the menthol comes out, old herbal liqueurs, verbena, chartreuse… This is almost a blend of essential oils. Having said that it gets much quieter after just one minute. Mouth (neat): huge and incredibly fruity! You would think that this massive woodiness would overwhelm the spirit and just make the whole extremely dry, while that’s exactly what’s not happening. We’re gravitating around sweeter citrus, that is to say kumquats, oranges and mandarins, covered with crushed cloves and ground pepper. Christmassy? You said it. With water: same profile, just even more vivid and ‘nervous’. Perfect oranges. Finish: long, never embarrassingly oak, always fresh albeit massive. The hidden child of a sumotori and a ballerina. Comments: I think I found this one ampler and more complex than other ex-bourbon Karuizawas. We’re close to the best sherried versions in my opinion. SGP:662 - 92 points.

Karuizawa 1981/2014 (54.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry, cask #152, 566 bottles)

Karuizawa 1981/2014 (54.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry, cask #152, 566 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark amber, but slightly paler than the bourbon. Ha! Nose: it’s not that different at first nosing, and it’s all probably more a matter of wood than a matter of sherry as such. After a few seconds, this one develops rather on resinous wood, thuja, pine and such (and cedar), becoming more balsamic than the bourbon version, more herbal as well. Camphor, thyme… and just as much tobacco. It’s almost like nosing a newly opened pack of pipe tobacco. With water: hurray! Old pu-erh tea, lapsang souchong, mushrooms, very old vin jaune, pinewood smoke…  Mouth (neat): once again, we aren’t that far from the bourbon version. Same oranges and mandarins, same spices, just a little more roundness and easiness, maybe because of the lower strength. So yeah, it’s a wee bit lighter, but don’t get me wrong, it’s huge whisky. With water: this is precious old earthy tea – that’s right, our beloved old pu-erhs. I don’t quite understand why they’ve added ethanol to it ;-). Finish: long, becoming even earthier, with some tannins dancing on your tongue. I mean, a feeling of tannins. Comments: why are all the finer things in life so rare? You’re right, and so expensive? I was ready to go as high as 94, but the slightly drying tannins in the finish made me revise my score. Well, I’d say it’s a tie, although I’m now starting to wonder if the bourbon wasn’t a little… better balanced? Yes, we’re splitting hairs again… SGP:562 - 92 points.

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

 

 

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