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Serge whiskyfun

 

Tasting notes:
Whiskies 11,730
Others 1,009

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Index of whiskyfun


Whisky Tasting

 
Aberfeldy (41) - Aberlour (89)
Abhainn Dearg (2)
Allt-A-Bhainne (2
6)
An Cnoc (
20)
Ardbeg (3
50) - Ardmore (64)
Arran (
80) - Auchentoshan (85)
Auchroisk (2
7) - Aultmore (39)
Balblair (72) - Balmenach (35)
Balvenie (
83) - Banff (46)
Ben Nevis (
97)
Ben Wyvis (
2)
Benriach (
153) - Benrinnes (43)
Benromach (
49) - Bladnoch (54)
Blair Athol (4
7) - Bowmore (404)
Braes of Glenlivet (
34)
Brora (
117)
Bruichladdich (2
24)
Bunnahabhain (
243)
Caol Ila (436)
Caperdonich (
81)
Cardhu (
31) - Clynelish (298)
Coleburn (
15)
Convalmore (1
8)
Cragganmore (
58)
Craigduff (3) - Craigellachie (
47)
Dailuaine (50) - Dallas Dhu (35)
Dalmore (91) - Dalwhinnie (24)
Deanston (26) - Dufftown (48)

Edradour (55)
Imperial (62) - Inchgower (44)
Inverleven (20)
Isle of Jura (91)

Kilchoman (30)
Kilkerran (
11) - Kinclaith (7)
Kininvie
(3)
- Knockando (
31)
Ladyburn (9) - Lagavulin (110)
Laphroaig (358) - Ledaig (73)
Linkwood (121) - Littlemill (99)
Loch Lomond (29)
Lochside (65)
Longmorn (182) - Longrow (60)

Macallan (254) - Macduff (62)
Mannochmore (2
7)
Millburn (
20)
Miltonduff (
55) - Mortlach (153)
Mosstowie (1
9)
Oban (23) - Octomore (14)
Old Fettercairn (28)
Old Pulteney (71)

Scapa (36) - Speyburn (28) - Speyside (16)
Springbank (2
49)
St-Magdalene (46)
Strathisla (8
7) - Strathmill (26)
 
 
Pete and Jack



2016
April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
February 1 - 2
January 1 - 2

2015
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

2014
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

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

 
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1969 - 1983

   


 

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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

2002-2016


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May 24, 2016


Whiskyfun

A few Yamazing NAS, AU, and Vintages

Time to try more Japanese whiskies. It’s true that the disappearance of age statements and the massive price hikes (our friends seem to get more Scottish than the Scots with their whiskies these days) have kind of curbed our enthusiasm, as the good Larry Davis would have said. First, an apéritif…

Yamazaki ‘Sherry Cask 2009’ (48%, OB)

Yamazaki ‘Sherry Cask 2009’ (48%, OB) Three stars and a half Yes, the ancestor of those insane newer batches that are fetching very high prices at auctions. Apparently, this very ‘2009’ now goes for around €1,800 a bottle. No age statements and one mad world. Colour: dark red amber. Nose: lets admit that this is pretty lovely, with a bag of dried fruits and marmalades, many raisins, and a blend of various tobaccos and precious woods, all that covered with touches of menthol and liquorice. Perhaps a little cellulosic varnish. Ultra-classic, a kind of polished, less ‘rustic’ Glenfarclas. Whiffs of old wine cellar. Honestly, this is a beautiful nose, a kind of JS Bach of the whisky world. Mouth: starts with marmalade on burnt cake, goes on with wheelbarrows of dried dates, keeps going on with notes of ruby Port, cherry liqueur and even Amarone, and gets then very raisiny. Corinths. Once again it’s highly polished, and at times you’d think you’re having some old oloroso ‘dulce’. The strength is perfect. Finish: long, rather tobacco-ish now, that is to say a little drier. Some cherry-flavoured marzipan in the aftertaste. Comments: what it is, is extremely good. What it’s not is moving and subtle. Or as they say in Scotland, ‘good not great’. Some oak is feeling a bit, as in many Japanese whiskies. I had tasted it at the MM Awards 2009 – 100% blind of course – didn’t write notes, but went for 83 points. I’ll be a little more generous this time, but remember this is no blind tasting. Probably one of the worst Q/P ratios out there ;-). SGP:651 - 84 points.

Good, let’s get serious…

Yamazaki ‘Age Unknown’ (43%, OB, 1989)

Yamazaki ‘Age Unknown’ (43%, OB, 1989) Five stars That’s right, the ancestor of the ancestors of the current NAS Yamazaki, since this baby was bottled in 1989 under the ruling of master blender Keizo Saji. Some sources in Japan state that the majority, if not the totality was distilled in the 1960s. Colour: deep amber. Nose: what’s in there, and that wasn’t quite in the ‘2009’, is complexity. In fact it is amazing, since it reminds me of the famed pre-war Macallans, such as the stunning 1938 ‘handwritten label’. Fantastic combination of honeydew, old Yquem, Cohibas, old plum wine, crème de menthe, chartreuse, chocolate liqueur (drops), honeysuckle, perhaps a little elderflower… No, a lot of elderflower. I know that’s an acquired taste, but I for one (and as an Alsatian) am all for it. Perfect nose, with a great deal of complexity. Sends the ‘2009’ back to school. Mouth: of sweet Vishnu! Starts magnificently, with the strongest chestnut honey blended with liquid caramel, and rather develops on some kind of fruitcake seasoned with aromatic herbs. Figs, star anise, a touch of cane sugar, dried bananas, apricots, old sweet Madeira, a little pipe tobacco, more honey, a bit of light fudge, soft liquorice… Really, it is amazingly complex, and it feels like more than 43%. Finish: long, rich, silky, doing the peacock’s tail for a long time. How many caudalies? Perhaps more than 100? In case you don’t know, which I doubt, a caudalie is one second. It’s a measure of how long any drink lasts on your palate once you’ve swallowed it. Comments: yeah sure, under these conditions and circumstances, you don’t need any age statement! SGP:661 - 94 points.

Yamazaki 2003/2014 (55%, OB, for the Whisky Shop, Spanish oak bota corta, cask #ADDY3038)

Yamazaki 2003/2014 (55%, OB, for the Whisky Shop, Spanish oak bota corta, cask #ADDY3038) Four stars and a half There, a proper vintage. Colour: mahogany. Nose: starts with this feeling of ‘sherried bourbon wood’ that’s sometimes to be seen in modern sherried malts, which suggests it was bespoke sherry-treated new oak. Now who would be against all these smoked prunes? Add burnt honey, Demerara sugar, actually old high-proof Demerara rum (Port Mourant), and orange peels and you’ve got… this. We’re far from the ‘Age Unknown’ as far as complexity is concerned, but it works. With water: soy sauce, tobacco, and lovage. Nice. Excuse me? Yes, and umami. Mouth (neat): some massive, oaky, slightly sour (tamarind, red currants) arrival, extremely thick and ‘extracted’, perhaps a little difficult. Huge bags of cloves and these tannins that are ‘sticking your tongue and your palate together’. This is extreme indeed, one could think of the wildest batches of Glenfarclas’ famous ‘105’. With water: what’s better is that it swims like a champ, becoming beautifully chocolaty and liquoricy. Bitter oranges. It’s not that it became ‘complex’, but it’s very fulfilling. Finish: long, balanced, on tobacco and chocolate. Thin mints in the aftertaste. Comments: I like it actually much better than the ‘Sherry 2009’, even if styles are similar. SGP:561 - 88 points.

A last rare one…

Yamazaki 1986/2009 'Owner's Cask' (51%, OB, Butt/Mizunara, cask #6B0021)

Yamazaki 1986/2009 'Owner's Cask' (51%, OB, Butt/Mizunara, cask #6B0021) Five stars While thinking of Bert V. We had tried some sister casks five years ago, especially cask #6B0018 had been quite fantastic (WF 90) while #6G5020 had been even greater in my book (WF 91). Now what is ‘butt/mizunara’? Probably a butt made out of mizunara oak, unless only parts of the butt were in that Japanese oak a.k.a. Quercus mongolica (some staves, and/or the heads). Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s well know that Yamazaki loves mizunara – and conversely. No exception to the rule here, this is crisp, fresh, ‘resinously oaky’ in a great manner, with a wonderful herbal side, mint leaves, touches of chalk, and then, and I swear I’m not making this up, obvious notes of some of the most mineral rieslings. We’re talking Ste-Hune by Trimbach, for example. Das esch echt tip top! Now, it was a butt, but I don’t find any sherry. With water: superlative menthol and eucalyptus. Wandering throughout an small unknown island in the Mediterranean. Mouth (neat): one of these very sappy ones. Chartreuse, genepy, wormwood, verbena, all that. The freshness is impressive, and even if one feels that this baby’s pretty much oak-infused, all the oils and saps from the quercus mongolica manage to make it, or at least keep it perfectly fresh and elegant. Quite the opposite of American oak – not that I don’t like American oak, of course, but there. So, it’s great. Fresh almonds. With water: gets creamy and fruitier. Peaches in syrup, plus perhaps a little drying green oak? Not too sure, but careful with water, just a few drops will do. Finish: long, clean, with more citrus on top of all these sappy and mentholated notes. Comments: I’m usually not too fond of oak-driven spirits, but this time, I feel I have to bow my head before this butt that never saw any sherry (unless I’m wrong again). SGP:571 - 91 points.

(Merci beaucoup Phil, Ryan in Taiwan, and SImon!)

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

 

 

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May 23, 2016


Whiskyfun

Angus

Our talented correspondent Angus reports
(almost) live from Islay


Tasting four new
bottlings for Feis Ile

So once again we couldn’t make it to Islay for the festival, but our good friend Angus McRaild is over there and could send us his own tasting notes. I think it’s important to know that Angus and yours truly share very similar tastes with regard to whisky (perhaps not w.r.t. folk rock, though), and that you may take his scores exactly as if they were mine, should scores matter. - Serge

Bowmore ‘Feis Ile 2016’ (54.9%, OB, American Virgin Oak & European Oak Sherry Casks, 1500 bottles)

Bowmore ‘Feis Ile 2016’ (54.9%, OB, American Virgin Oak & European Oak Sherry Casks, 1500 bottles) Two stars and a half
Apparently this is matured in virgin oak before being re-racked into fresh sherry. Hmmm...
Colour: Coppery orange
Nose: It really is the oak that sings loud and clear first. New oak, pencil shavings, a little caraway liqueur, some turpentine effect from the alcohol. After a little time some creosote and tarry notes emerge morphing quickly into a light ashyness. Some glimmers of Bowmore are in there, poking bravely through the clouds of new oak. With water: more sea air and little more depth overall. The wood shavings are still quite prevalent but there’s also old motor oil and tool sheds knocking about in there now which is certainly pleasant.

Palate: Hot, syrupy oak at first with lots of glazed fruits and tar liqueur. This is much nicer on immediate delivery than the nose. More fat, pulpy fruits and oils but also quite a lot of oak still, there is more distillate character but you’re never forgetting it’s really an oak-forward whisky. Some nice sweet gristy notes and peat oils emerge on second sip with notes of orange marmalade and something slightly coastal like sandalwood. With water there is a little more deft green fruit but its no fruit-bomb Bowmore. Greengages, various jams, then more wood derivatives such as pin resin and tea tree oil. With a bit more time it really starts to display some nice notes of wormwood and Green Chartreuse.
Finish: A lot of residual tingling on the front of the palate and a nice coastal fade but not overly long. Slightly sticky woody notes and something menthol in the background.
Comments: It has its moments but this sort of bottling feels a little like a missed opportunity. Bowmore’s distillate is so distinctive it’s kind of frustrating that for a Feis bottling they don’t embrace and show off their own best qualities. The oak is just a bit too prevalent here and there is a bit of a confusion between the virgin oak and the sherry. 79 points.

Bowmore 17 yo ‘Hand Bottled’ (56.1%, OB, Feis Ile, PX cask matured, 2016)

Bowmore 17 yo ‘Hand Bottled’ (56.1%, OB, Feis Ile, PX cask matured, 2016) Four stars and a half
Colour: Polished copper
Nose: Immediately muscular, coastal, gingery and tarry with big notes of creosote, old kreel nets and dried seaweed. Some freshly ground black pepper, capers in brine, nutmeg and eventually something sticky molasses from the sherry. I’m not normally the biggest fan of modern Bowmore and sherry together but this seems very nicely integrated so far. Some leafy and earthy notes emerge with a little time in the glass along with hints of graphite and ink. Gets increasingly more spicy as well with more notes of ginger and cumin. With water: softer with notes of fresh ginger bread, hot kippers with lemon juice and various smoked teas. Ultimately a lovely medley of gentle smokiness, resin, leafy sherry and seashore characters.

Palate: Peated sticky toffee pudding (that doesn’t exist but perhaps it should...?). Also smoked Dundee Cake (time to stop inventing phenol-infused puddings perhaps?) Lots of jams, creosote, tar liqueur, camphor, hessian cloth and some dark fruits. Maybe becomes a bit tart and tannic after a couple of sips. Lets add some water... more brine notes, smoked mussels and syrupy camphor notes. The sherry and the distillate remain pretty well integrated with nice notes of warm rye bread, black tea and freshly kilned malt. Some more medicinal qualities appear with time such as mercurochrome and a lick of iodine.
Finish: Good length with some solid resinous smokiness, seashore bonfires and peat oils.
Comments: I often find these big, sticky sherry casks and Bowmore can become easily disentangled and a little un-balanced. This, however, was a solid one and a good surprise. A highly quaffable and very worthy Feis bottling. Coming soon to an auction near you no doubt... 89 points.

Lagavulin 18 yo (49.5%, OB, Bicentenary Edition, Feis Ile 2016, Refill Hogsheads & European Oak Bodega Sherry Butts, 6000 bottles)

Lagavulin 18 yo (49.5%, OB, Bicentenary Edition, Feis Ile 2016, Refill Hogsheads & European Oak Bodega Sherry Butts, 6000 bottles) Five stars
I didn’t make it over to Lagavulin’s open day this year but apparently the queue was one of the finest and most impressive yet. When I went this morning to buy a couple of bottles for myself there was still a queue. Perhaps you could call it a ‘living queue’. Each time it is depleted it gets topped up with fresh whisky enthusiasts. Anyway, quite excited to taste this one...
Colour: Pale gold.

Nose: What’s great is that they’ve really tried to embrace the distillery character. Immediately you have lots of these elegant dried kelp notes, subtle camphor aromas and mineral qualities. Lots of fresh oysters, lemon juice, wet rocks, seashore pebbles, sheep’s wool and various medicinal tinctures. Totally classical and quite seductive. I almost don’t want to add water but I don’t want to bring Whiskyfun into disrepute (again). Water brings out some autolytic qualities, the breadiness of a good Blanc du Blanc Champagne along with preserved lemons, smoked cereals and crisp white peppery note. Even a wet dog or two (Serge always apologises to the dogs but I think they probably enjoy being wet). Totally wonderful. 
Palate: Bready, peaty, slightly yeasty, gristy, lots of these wonderful tertiary notes which are only found in peated whiskies given sufficient maturation time. Green fruits aplenty, almost more fruity than most modern Lagavulins with a wonderful citrus edge; lots of lemon peel and citrus oils. Some green olive notes and resurgence of these briny notes including capers and anchovies. Perhaps you could add this to a Puttanesca...? With water... it dons a Mezcal mask and gives up notes of smoked agave, more various olives and a soft but luscious phenolic signature.
Finish: Lemony, oily, fruity, smoky, peaty long and totally satisfying.
Comments: This is quite a departure from previous years Feis bottlings, it doesn’t have the same blade-like, ashy sharpness. Instead, this really reminds me of the very early 16 year old White Horse bottlings from the late 1980s. It’s the same kind of fruit-driven, gently phenolic sort of Islay malt. A little paean to the past and a great bottling for their 200th anniversary. I love it, a hugely pleasurable dram. Lets hope that quite a few will be opened and enjoyed rather than just traded at auction. 92 points.

Laphroaig ‘Cairdeas’ (51.6%, OB, Feis Ile 2016, Madeira Finish)

Laphroaig ‘Cairdeas’ (51.6%, OB, Feis Ile 2016, Madeira Finish) Four stars
An interesting fact: the Cairdeas Laphroaig’s for the Feis are bottled at a strength which corresponds to the year of bottling. Last year’s was 51.5% and the year before 51.4%. This year’s release was matured for around 8 years in bourbon barrels before being re-racked into madeira hogsheads for a further 2 years.
Colour: Light Salmon pink.

Nose: Ash, mercurochrome, iodine, some mineral notes and creosote. It’s a big, bone dry Laphroaig that almost has something of good Sancerre (although the colour would suggest a rose). Thankfully the Madeira is quite shy on the nose at first, you rather just get some pretty typical and good modern Laphroaig characteristics. Develops on oily, fulsome peat qualities with brine, TCP and a variety of medicinal notes. Perhaps a tiny shred of red fruits from the Madeira but its very quiet; it was probably a dry Madeira. With water: no massive changes, still a big, dry, hyper-clean, coastal Laphroaig.
Palate: Quite consistent with the nose, lots of TCP, tar, iodine, wet beach pebbles, seaweed in the sun and wet smoked grains. So far the colour is where the Madeira has the loudest voice. A nice savory smokiness develops all on gentle ashy notes, bonfire smoke and olive oil. Not hugely complex but quite direct, well structured and precise. With water there is a little suggestion of fruit from the Madeira but again it is very subtle and totally dominated by these quite straightforward Laphroaig characteristics. Really good stuff.
Finish: Ashy, mineralic, briny, lemony. Another big, bone-dry blade that lingers to nice smoky embers on the palate.
Comments: I think Laphroaig are very smart with their Feis bottlings. Not expensive, quite simple, very classical in style and loads of bottles so there are no silly queues and everyone can afford and acquire one. The Madeira finish seems a little pointless and disposable to me but it certainly didn’t hurt the whisky and was well integrated. A good, solid Laphroaig that is destined for hip flasks on the shore in years to come. Which is exactly what these bottlings should be I think. Well done Laphroaig. 86 points.

 

 

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May 22, 2016


Whiskyfun

Tequila and mezcal head to head, again

Last Sunday we tried to answer this crucial question, what’s best, mezcal or tequila? Everything has been lousy, the procedures and the results, which had been an unexpected draw. So we’ll try again, picking up various tequilas and mezcals at random…

Corralejo ‘Reposado’ (38%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2010)

Corralejo ‘Reposado’ (38%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2010) Three stars This blue baby – but is it blue agave? – was triple distilled, according to the label. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: it’s a rather earthy and rooty one, reminding me of some Swiss gentian eau-de-vie. I also get bitter oranges and grapefruits, as well as a little tincture of iodine, which makes it  rather ‘mezcaly’ tequila. A little tar and plasticine as well. Mouth: I find it very good, rather mineral and earthy again, with a development on grapefruits again, with a saltiness in the background. Lacks punch, though, this would probably rock at 45% vol. Finish: medium, perhaps a little too bitter this time. Which is strange, since it was triple distilled using an unusual set-up, pot then column then pot again. Comments: what’s sure is that I like this reposado much better than their anejo. SGP:461 - 80 points.

Pelotón de la Muerte (41%, OB, mezcal joven, +/-2015)

Pelotón de la Muerte (41%, OB, mezcal joven, +/-2015) Three stars and a half100% espadin from Oaxaca. But what a name, yet again! Better than Norse gods or Scottish lighthouses? You decide… Colour: white. Nose: very typical rustic mezcal, ridden with iodine, smoked herbs, earth, olives and gherkins, lime, and perhaps pickled samphires. It’s very fresh, it is a style that I like a lot. Mouth: super good, starting medicinal (more iodine, antiseptic), getting very earthy, with lemon peel, more olives, and a very ashy side, ala Octomore. Lapsang souchong. Another mezcal that’s making googly eyes at some of Islay’s peatier whiskies. The strength is perfect. Finish: long, very smoky, tarry, earthy, and lemony. Excellent. Comments: could we have this in a more civilised bottle? I’m joking… What’s sure is that mezcal is taking the lead. SGP:363 - 83 points.

Tres Mujeres ‘Extra Anejo’ (38%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2015)

Tres Mujeres ‘Extra Anejo’ (38%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2015) Three stars and a half Another strange bottle. This one’s quite expensive, around 70€. Let’s see what these three ladies have got to tell us… Colour: straw. Perhaps extra-anejo indeed, but not for very long. Nose: this one’s very soft, much softer than the two previous ones. It’s like nosing Glenmorangie after Ardbeg. Having said that it’s complex, delicate, rather floral, with some lilac and orange blossom, and then a superb green wulong or any other top-range green tea. Only wee touches of lavender-scented soap, as can be found in many tequilas. Mouth: a little firmer, starting rather medicinal once again (antiseptic, camphor) and going on with sweets and jellies. Even raspberries. Turkish delights. The agave keeps singing in the background, which keeps it fresh and, well, agave-y. I find this very good. Finish: medium, sweet. Blood oranges, this time? Comments: it’s quite amazing that these 38% taste like 43%. Proof that it’s big spirit. Liked this one quite a lot. SGP:551 – 84 points.

Mezcal Eterno ‘Joven No.1’ (40%, OB, mezcal, +/-2016)

Mezcal Eterno ‘Joven No.1’ (40%, OB, mezcal, +/-2016) Two starsMore sleek packaging around this trendy pure espadin from Oaxaca, that’s meant to be ‘artesanal’ (the equivalent of craft with whisky). Colour: white. Nose: well, not much happening, especially after the Peloton and the Tres Mujeres. Whiffs of broken branches and damp earth, perhaps, gravel, grass… It is very discreet so far, I’d never had said this was craft mezcal. Mouth: a little more happening. Prickly lemon juice, a little ginger, touches of salt, a little tar and rubber… Really one of the softest mezcals I could try, you’d rather think it’s a mixto (only partially agave). Finish: short, a little ashy. Comments: a very gentle mezcal. Perhaps not for us whisky people. SGP:341 - 76 points.

Jose Cuervo ‘Tradicional Silver’ (38%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2014)

Jose Cuervo ‘Tradicional Silver’ (38%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2014) Two stars One of the largest brands, together with Sauza. And of course, as mentioned on the label, this unaged tequila is ‘handcrafted’. Colour: white. Nose: even less happening than in the Eterno. It’s not that it’s not nice, it’s just pretty innocuous, with a little lemon, a little grass, and a wee bit of olive. Mouth: same power as that of the Eterno, that is to say not much, but its relatively clean. More lemon and grass, plus a touch of pitch and a curious feeling of sugar syrup, and even vanilla. A real light one. Finish: short, a little sweet, but clean and rather fresh. Oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: harmless blanco or joven, not bad at all. Perhaps tequila for good people who do not like tequila? SGP:341 - 75 points.

Mezcal is having the floor again…

Mezcales De Leyenda ‘Oaxaca’ (42%, OB, mezcal joven, +/-2015)

Mezcales De Leyenda ‘Oaxaca’ (42%, OB, mezcal joven, +/-2015) Two stars and a half This one’s organic mezcal, made with espadin agaves from San Juan del Rio in a small Mexican cooperative. Colour: white. Nose: nice definition, with some lemongrass and a wee gamy side, around smoked ham, perhaps. Then the usual olives, some tar, a little plasticine, and perhaps hints of chlorine. The whole is very nice, pretty light, and seemingly refreshing, let’s see… Mouth: in the style of the Eterno, so relatively light, although more smoke and salty brine start to come out after a few seconds. Salted lemon juice? Ready-made margarita? Finish: short to medium, lemony, briny. Really gentle, a tad smokier in the end. Ashy aftertaste. Comments: pretty good, just a little lazy at times. Another introductory mezcal? SGP:342 - 78 points.

Herencia De Plata ‘Reposado’ (38%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2015)

Herencia De Plata ‘Reposado’ (38%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2015) one star and a half From Jalisco. I had found their anejo relatively to my liking (WF 78). Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a very fruity, sweet one, with, well, fruits coated with corn syrup and custard. That gives it a fudgy and chocolaty character I’m not too fond of. Mexican Nutella? Mouth: same feeling of Mexican Bailey’s, not quite my thing. Butterscotch. The agave-y notes are well hidden behind all that, provided they’re there. More or less in the style of the Tequila 2 that we had last Sunday, only even rounder and fudgy. Finish: short, chocolaty, vanilla-ed. Comments: I’m sure this baby has got its fans, but I wouldn’t say it’s for whisky enthusiasts. Unless you’re a fan of Haig Club, that is. SGP:531 - 68 points.

Del Maguey ‘San Luis Del Rio Special Stitzel-Weller Cask Finish’ (42%, OB, mezcal, +/-2014)

Del Maguey ‘San Luis Del Rio Special Stitzel-Weller Cask Finish’ (42%, OB, mezcal, +/-2014) Two stars Oh, no! And around €140, mind you. In short, another scary cross-genre spirit, modern-Scotch-style. Colour: extremely pale white wine. Nose: good, the oak is totally anecdotal at this point, which is great news. Having said that it hasn’t got most other Del Maguey’s vibrancy and punch, I’m finding this one a little sleepy, as if it had been filtered. Distant ashes, olives, brine, tar… Mouth: better, but it’s still a little uncertain. Finding limoncello in mezcal, is that normal? Then rather salted margarita, with a little vanilla and Nutella. Exactly what I wouldn’t like to see in some craft mezcal, but that’s probably only me. Well, not sure… Finish: medium, a little uncertain. What I enjoy is this floral smokiness. Geranium? A little chalk in the aftertaste. Comments: disappointed – especially given the price. I find the cheaper Del Magueys much, and I mean much better. SGP:541 - 74 points.

One last tequila…

Ocho ‘La Latilla Reposado’ (40%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, 2015)

Ocho ‘La Latilla Reposado’ (40%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, 2015) Four stars Single estate tequila! I have to say I had really enjoyed Ocho’s Curado a few years back (WF 85). Colour: almost white. Nose: it’s a superb, highly polished tequila, very subtle and complex, with a lovely floral freshness and many cooked fruits, from apples to mangos. So it’s not quite of the smoky/herbal style, but this very delicate profile is wonderful. Barbecued peaches. Mouth: excellent, with a soapy arrival – we’re talking ‘tequila soap’ – as well as hints of violets, jasmine tea, and tangerines. We’re far from the heavy and often very spectacular ‘all agave’ smoky style, this it’s beautiful. Twenty years ago, I’d have added that it’s a little feminine. Finish: short, perhaps, but beautifully floral and fruity. The agave yodels in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent, if a little soft, perhaps. SGP:441 - 85 points.

… And one last mezcal…

Pierde Almas 'Tobaziche' (48%, OB, mezcal, +/-2015)

Pierde Almas 'Tobaziche' (48%, OB, mezcal, +/-2015) Four starsTobaziche is a variety of wild agave. This mezcal matures for around 12 years (probably in stone) before it’s liberated. It comes from San Baltazar Guelavila, and is ‘genuinely craft’. Colour: white. Nose: back to the smoky/leafy/briny, totally agave-y style that we cherish. I wouldn’t say it’s wham-bam mezcal, though, as it’s not totally big, but the purity is impressive. Smoked tea leaves, perhaps used coffee grounds, cigar smoke… All very nice. Mouth: perfect, extremely agave-y, starting rounded and even a little sweetish (grenadine syrup, Cointreau), and getting then brinier and smokier by the second. Also floral tones, such as geranium, lavender, and violet. I know that doesn’t always sound great in whisky, but under these circumstances, that’s all good news. Tends to become more citrusy as well, with tangerines and  pink grapefruits. All for the better. Finish: rather long, extremely fresh and sauvignony. In other words, more grapefruits. Very smoky aftertaste. Comments: simply super good, it’s one of those Islays of tequila/mezcal. Perhaps rather Caol Ila? SGP:453 - 87 points.

So, the results. Did we mangae to decide between tequila and mezcal this time. The former’s averaget was rather close again – says this guy who always thought mezcal, when not taki is 78.4, while the latter’s is 79.6. Thang the industrial junk into consideration, was always vastly superior to tequila.

LAST MINUTE BONUS!! (because you’ve been quiet and understanding ;-))

Licor de Nanche (20%, OB, Casa Argàez, Mexico, +/-2011)

Licor de Nanche (20%, OB, Casa Argàez, Mexico, +/-2011) A bottle that comes straight from Mexico. To be honest, I had thought it was tequila before I checked the label more carefully. And I should have noticed that it came from Yucatan, not from Oaxaca or Jalisco! Nanche is nance, AKA golden spoon, a very acid yellow fruit that grows in tropical America. A first here at WF Towers. Colour: deep amber. Nose: amazing, you would think you’re nosing some old sweet moscatel. It’s also got a cheesy and vinegary side, not that far from some balsamic vinegars, as well as hints of sorghum spirit like they make in China. Perhaps fermenting figs as well. Mouth: very good! Rather vin de paille this time, we’re close to the world of sweet wine, both in structure and, well, organoleptically speaking. What’s really lovely is that it’s not too sweet. Like it. Finish: rather long, not too spirity. More old sweet muscat. Comments: a good surprise, this is better than a bad tequila! I’ll poor some to some wine friends tonight – blind of course. Some fun to be had. SGP:730 - (useless) points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Tequila and Mezcal I've tasted so far

 

 

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May 21, 2016


Whiskyfun

Islay, a good cause, and a White Horse

Suffering from Islayitis here in Alsace. Not that I haven’t been to Islay qui a few times in recent months or years, but it’s the fifth or sixth time I’m missing Feis Ile. In a row, so to speak! So as a kind of compensation, we’ll have a good dram of an old White Horse, from the biggest bottle of White Horse I’ve ever seen.

What’s more, travellers and pilgrims who are lucky to be on Islay over this weekend will have the opportunity to try this very bottle as well and compare their own tasting notes, thanks to salmon fisherman extraordinaire and part-time hotelier Jon Beach aka Jonny Fiddler, who’ll be selling drams of it for charity (can’t quite recall which good cause it is, though, Jon, if you ever read this, please remind me!) As for where on the island you’ll have a chance to cross Jon’s path, I’m not too sure either, but I’d bet that won’t be too far from Port Ellen. Should I get more information, I’ll just post an update below these notes…

Jon
Look for this gentleman (cap is optional) >>>

White Horse (no a.b.v., OB, blend, no capacity but around 6 litres, +/-1960) Five stars In Bordeaux, a 6l bottle is called an impériale, but I’m not sure you could use this rather Napoleonic moniker to characterise a product from Her Very Gracious Majesty’s own lands and terroirs. Now remember that with old wines, the larger the bottle, the higher the quality, which might be true as well with whisky – or not. What’s more, according to Jon, he’s got ‘an e-mail from Diageo’s Dr Nick Morgan where he says he's 99.9% sure it's 99.9% Malt Mill in the bottle. Honest.’ We have absolutely no reason to question that statement! Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s amazing how close we are to both an old chardonnay from Bourgogne and some bone-dry ale – but I’m no beer expert. What’s sure is that wine enthusiasts and beer freaks alike are going to like this. Maggi, old walnuts, old tools, soot, then a growing smoke (coal, peat, wood, all of them), ‘nosing the engine of an old Jag’, allspice, Jägermeister, tobacco, Russian black tea (loose leaves)… It’s all superlatively fantastic, if you enjoy your whisky dry and very complex. Pssst, it MUST be Malt Mill!

Mouth: my god it’s huge! Starts with marmalade and an acrid/pungent smoke, plus a lot of salt, before it bursts into myriads of phenolic, graphite-y, mineral and herbal elements. We’d need two hours to list them all (quite) but just to give you a few examples, there’s some thyme, tobacco, tangerines, chalk, lovage, soy sauce, beef stock, seawater, beeswax, rosemary, oregano, very black tea, liquorice, tar… And lots and lots of other molecules. One of the peatiest blends I’ve tried. Finish: absolutely endless, very herbal and tarry. Long-forgotten herbal liqueurs, Fernet-Branca, crème de menthe,  salt, sooty smoke… … … Comments: we all know old White Horse used to be one of the best, if not the best blended Scotch ever. This is a particularly fat-tastic example. Try it if you’re on Islay! SGP:365 - 91 points.

UPDATE: Jon will be at Lagavulin all day and it'll be £5 a pour (a steal if you ask me) or £20 a 100ml bottle. He'll also have a couple of Port Ellens available. All the money will be going to the webpage set up by John McLellan's family to raise money for the Beatson Cancer Unit in Glasgow.

AND HAPPY 200th ANNIVERSARY, LAGAVULIN!

 

May 20, 2016


Whiskyfun

Little duets, today Glenallachie vs. Glenallachie

Oh I so like the underdogs no one is interested in ;-). This isn’t going to be a hit on Facebook, but just between us, who cares? (I know some attention whores do care, but both you and I are well above that, aren’t we?)

Glenallachie 20 yo 1995/2015 (52.3%, Liquid Sun, bourbon)

Glenallachie 20 yo 1995/2015 (52.3%, Liquid Sun, bourbon) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: a Speysider ex-refill wood. So fruits and a few wild flowers. And plenty of malted barley, beyond the apples and the dandelions. A little fresh bread as well, I mean, real bread, not these square industrial things used to make those dreaded club sandwiches. With water: barnyard. There. Mouth (neat): simple and good, good and simple. Very barleyish, plus apples drizzled with lemon syrup. With water: rounder, fatter, fruitier, more citrusy. Swims extremely well, without becoming as complex as… well, a 40 yo Speysider ex-refill sherry. Finish: medium, clean, sweet. Apples and barley. Comments: one of the millions of such casks they have over there in Scotland, but it’s really good! SGP:451 - 81 points.

Glenallachie 22 yo 1993/2015 (57.3%, The Warehouse Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #5077, 244 bottles)

Glenallachie 22 yo 1993/2015 (57.3%, The Warehouse Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #5077, 244 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: a drier one, with more leaves and fresh almonds. A little mint as well, green tea, perhaps linseed oil… More complex, seemingly, but it’ll all happen on the palate. With water: shortbread and tinned peaches. Mouth: the wood was more active, there’s more coconut and vanilla. That works well. Some tangerines, white pepper, angelica, sweet fresh butter, perhaps a drop of pineapple juice… This is very pleasant! Some parts remind me of ex-bourbon Aberlour. With water: very good malty fruitiness, partly citrusy, partly orchardy. That would be a western orchard, say in Kent ;-). Finish: medium, clean, fresh, fruity. Comments: I’m not sure I’ll remember this cask forever, but it does the job and it does it very well. Extremely quaffable. SGP:551 - 84 points.

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

 

Pete McPeat and Jack Washback
PJ

PJ

 

 

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May 19, 2016


Whiskyfun

A little bunch of Caol Ila, part deux

The older ones. You don’t need any more literature, do you? (Serge, for crying out loud, there’s more difference between literature and what you scribble, than between Glenn Gould and Mariah Carey.)

Port Askaig 19 yo (50.4%, Specialty Drinks, +/-2016)

Port Askaig 19 yo (50.4%, Specialty Drinks, +/-2016) Four stars and a half The first version in 2013 was absolutely excellent (WF 88). Colour: white wine. Nose: some linguist may have invented the word ‘vibrant’ just for this. It is pure briny and smoky Caol Ila, polished by time and not by wood, with fresh apples, fresh almonds, and a discreet mentholy side. Then a little antiseptic/TCP/iodine, and a good dollop of seawater. With water: your old jacket after a walk on Islay. Should I add ‘after the rain’? Mouth (neat): once again, it’s the purity that’s impressive. A smoked blend of seawater and lemon juice, with a few essential oils thrown in for good measure. Mint, camphor… With water: gets a notch fruitier (citrus) and, as often, a little earthy. Mud under your shoes (after that famous walk on Islay). Finish: long, zesty, chiselled, blade-y. I had noticed some sweetness in the first batch, but not quite in this one. Comments: as Ayrton Senna used to say, “If you take away Caol Ila, you take away (one of) the reasons why I do this.” Just put Eau Rouge instead of Caol Ila. SGP:447 – 88 points.

Caol Ila 19 yo 1995/2014 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-Chillfiltered Collection, hogshead, casks #457-458, 692 bottles)

Caol Ila 19 yo 1995/2014 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-Chillfiltered Collection, hogshead, casks #457-458, 692 bottles) Four stars It’s often that the vatting of two or three sister casks brings better results than one single cask. More complexity, for example… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s pleasantly metallic (old tin box) at first nosing, and really very grassy, with cider apples, cut grass, green tea, and all that. No smoke bomb this time, rather a lovely sappy development, with old fir liqueurs and touches of caraway and liquorice, before it starts to get in line. Freshly smoked malted barley – or ‘visiting Port Ellen maltings’. Mouth: classic, zesty, ashy, coastal, salty, lemony… Caol Ila’s very consistent, isn’t it. Perhaps touches of rhubarb and gooseberries from a presbytery garden (what?) Finish: medium, a little more almondy. Salted lemon-flavoured marzipan – yes, should that exist. Comments: go find something bad to say about these whiskies… SGP:456 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 20 yo 1995/2015 (57.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, butt, 564 bottles)

Caol Ila 20 yo 1995/2015 (57.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, butt, 564 bottles) Five stars I can’t see how or why something would go wrong. Unless it was a PX-treated butt, you never know… Colour: white wine. It wasn’t a PX-treated butt. Nose: grass and iodine everywhere, plus the same old wet tweed jacket and the sharpest lemon juice ever. A blade-y nose. And fresh almonds, but I get no butt (well done again, S.) With water: totally unmarked by the wood. Pure youthful Caol Ila, only polished by time. Mouth (neat): cuts you in halves before you even notice. If it’s a blade, it’s a katana. Huge lemon, plus other acid fruits, rhubarb again and again, barely ripe grapefruit... But a butt? If it was a butt indeed, they last used it for sherry whilst the invincible armada hadn’t even set sail yet. With water: superb ultra-sharp profile, totally blade-y. Smoked lemon juice. Finish: long, millimetric, super fit, razor sharp… (I think we got what you were trying to say, S.). Comments: a butt? Wasn’t it rather a great ex-Sancerre cask? Spectacularly sharp. SGP:466 - 90 points.

Older vintages, please…

Caol Ila 31 yo 1984/2015 (54%, Malt Barn, bourbon, 68 bottles)

Caol Ila 31 yo 1984/2015 (54%, Malt Barn, bourbon, 68 bottles) Five stars Ah, the joys of micro-bottlings and shared casks… Colour: straw. Nose: sometimes Caol Ila seems eternal. I mean, you could come across very old ones that remained totally fresh and as playful as a bunch of nymphs, and this one’s just another example. The only signs of older age that you’ll notice are wonderful mentholated, terpenic, sappy tones that make it nose a bit like some artisan turpentine (Leonardo’s). Other than that, oysters (from Loch Gruinart, obviously), kelp, peat smoke and lemon are making the rendezvous. With water: fantastic. Goes towards old tailor’s shop, plasticine, lamp and linseed oil, turpentine indeed… We’re in Leonardo’s studio! Mouth (neat): totally perfect. There’s more ‘time’ this time (!), with some chartreuse, maraschino, marzipan, smoked salmon, white pepper, lemon liqueur, a touch of diesel oil, and, well, ‘old Caol Ila’. S-u-p-e-r-b. With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade immediately! Adore the chlorophyll that comes out, amongst many other tiny flavours. Finish: perhaps only medium to long, but superbly resinous and almondy. Comments: some superlative, perfectly aged Caol Ila that’s got it all going on. Gives you faith in whisky – although I know, only 68 bottles. Probably zero at time of writing. SGP:465 - 93 points.

Caol Ila 1980/2015 ‘The Admiral’s Beacon’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 285 bottles)

Caol Ila 1980/2015 ‘The Admiral’s Beacon’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 285 bottles) Four stars To reduce or not to reduce a 35 years old Caol Ila, that is the question. Apparently, they found the answer at Wemyss Malts’. Having said that, as a Frenchman, I have to say I don't have a good feeling about this Nelsonian name … The Admiral’s Beacon? Wasn’t that bacon instead? Colour: straw. Nose: ah. Noses younger than the 1984, incredibly fresh, perhaps a little diaphanous, so to speak, but this is just like a walk on the shores of Islay, on the Atlantic side. A distant bonfire, some chlorophyll gums in the pocket, the sea spray, your old Barbour jacket (no tweed this time)… And a glass of this for a perfect stereo effect. Mouth: everybody knew this would be good, and indeed it is. It’s even excellent, but the stunning nose was rather fresher and more complex, while the palate is a little ‘greasy’ and bizarrely sweet. Bananas? Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally amazing, it’s just that the oak – I guess that’s the guilty party – made it a little round and ‘Speyside-y’ for Caol Ila. But it is excellent, again, don’t get me wrong. Finish: long to medium, with a little candy sugar, tangerine jam, and custard. The aftertaste is a tad ‘untidy’, perhaps, but it’s true that we had some very sharpy ones just before. Anyway, great old Caol Ila, no question about that. Comments: a sweet and fruity old Caol Ila, which is remarkable, in a way. Interesting that it didn’t go towards mangos and passion fruits, but Caol Ila is neither Bowmore, nor Laphroaig (smart observation, S.) SGP:655 - 87 points.

There are always older vintages…

Caol Ila 1979/2014 (46%, Mackillop's Choice, for World of Whiskies, cask #5297, 264 bottles)

Caol Ila 1979/2014 (46%, Mackillop's Choice, for World of Whiskies, cask #5297, 264 bottles) Five stars Not too sure if this is natural cask strength or not, as the label actually states ’46.0%’. This baby dates back to the times when they still had a few interesting whiskies in travel retail, before they started to get flooded with overpriced NAS… err, things. Colour: pale gold. Nose: whiffs of apple vinegar and bone dry riesling, I like this. We’re really approaching the style of the old pre-extension Caol Ilas, with this very specific smoky/tarry fruitiness that’s so entrancing. Old garage, oils, fisherman’s boat, carbon paper, tarry ropes, hessian, fish oil… I’m sure you see what I mean. Also overripe apples, barley water, a little clay… Perfect! Mouth: some punch! You would have thought it was going to be a little lazy, but not at all. A lot of liquorice, both salted and sweet, perfect walnuts and almonds, some whelks (I’m sorry, whelks - wait…), a wonderful lemony herbalness, a welcome bitterness after that (artichokes?) and a fast growing feeling of ‘eating the ashtray’. The winning trio mint and camphor and eucalyptus is there too. Finish: long. Do you think you could have smoked salmon with mint sauce and lemon? No, it’s not because our dear friends the English do it, that it’s ‘normal’… Comments: another exceptional old Caol Ila. I’m starting to wonder, isn’t Cao Ila the malt that ages the most gracefully? SGP:565 - 92 points.

A last drop and we’re done. Dear distillers, the floor is yours…

Caol Ila 21 yo 1975 (61.3%, OB, Rare Malts, +/-1996)

Caol Ila 21 yo 1975 (61.3%, OB, Rare Malts, +/-1996) Four stars Wasn’t this one the very first Caol Ila within this legendary series? To be honest, some were close to bottled rocket fuel, but that was one of their many charms. Let’s see if this baby’s as extreme as some of its sisters, while remembering that this should come from the very first batches after the distillery had been expanded/rebuilt… Colour: straw/gold. Nose: probably a bit closed, especially after the wonderful trio that we just tried. A feeling of smoked apples, perhaps some cigarette smoke, perhaps some tincture of iodine. But careful, it will pierce your nostrils, so to speak. The alcohol is extremely powerful and even aggressive. So, with water: this feeling of wine vinegar again, limejuice, damp gravel, fresh concrete, chlorine, iodine, earth… It is brutal. Imagine the bridegroom, circa 1995, “honey, I bought a new bottle of whisky to celebrate, let’s open it!” Why don’t marriages last, they ask… Mouth (neat): huge, and yet totally compact. Medicinal alcohol and limoncello, plus some lemongrass, perhaps, and some extra strong mints (perhaps). Fisherman’s Friends. Frankly, it is too strong, you just cannot enjoy it just like that, even while watching the most breathtaking Korean horror movie. With water: we tamed it, and we’re quite proud. Fish oil, paraffin, almonds, ink, plastic, chilli… Finish: extremely long, on smoky concentrated lemon juice. Comments: a total beast. You don’t taste it, you fight it tooth and nail – and it leaves you exhausted and bloodless. I’m so glad it was our last whisky today. Goin’ to bed now… SGP:565 - 87 points.

(And thank you Angus and Fabien)

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

 

 

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May 18, 2016


Whiskyfun

A little bunch of Caol Ila

It can happen that all Caol Ila within one single session do fetch very high scores, as it probably is one of the most consistent, and one of the best distilleries. Will that happen again today?

Caol Ila 8 yo 2007/2016 (53.7%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 324 bottles)

Caol Ila 8 yo 2007/2016 (53.7%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 324 bottles) Four stars Nice labels on these new TWAs. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: I’d call this ‘after-new-make’, which is the state of whisky just after it reached ‘maturity’, that is to say when it lost the last rough, fermentary and spirity notes/flaws that are inherent to immaturity. That means that this is still totally spirit-driven, but already full of seaweed, fresh almonds, lemon peel, and peat smoke. Very, very clean. With water: wet wool, old tweed jacket, almond oil, damp clay… Mouth (neat): it’s really powerful, and once again I’ve got the feeling that they cranked up the peat levels in recent years. A peppery smoke, plenty of green apple, lemon, oysters, and a drop of Tabasco to go with them. Also a perfect green bitterness. With water: gets even grassier and peatier. Perfect straightness and sharpness, very clean. Finish: long, very well-chiselled, mezcaly. Comments: mezcal indeed, but of course this is smokier than the smokiest mezcal. SGP:467 - 86 points.

Caol Ila 2006/2015 'Whisky of The Year' (52.9%, The Auld Alliance, 156 bottles)

Caol Ila 2006/2015 'Whisky of The Year' (52.9%, The Auld Alliance, 156 bottles) Four stars The name’s a joke by the good people at Singapore’s Auld Alliance bar. Disclaimer: “any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.” End of disclaimer. Now the whisky is real. Colour: white wine. Nose: ashier, drier, more austere than the 2007. Hints of fresh rhubarb and sorrel, lime, grass, kelp, damp chalk… With water: the wet tweed jacket is back, and it would come with two Irish Setters – completely wet, of course. We’re sorry, dogs. Mouth (neat): big, sharp, very green, very lemony, with more rhubarb. A touch of mustard – or wasabi, there. With water: rather almondy this time. Barley water, marzipan… Finish: long, very zesty, very similar to that of the 2009. Grapefruit. Comments: same ballpark, same high quality, same freshness, same score. SGP:466 - 86 points.

Caol Ila 9 yo 2006/2015 (51.3%, Sansibar and S Spirits, bourbon, 340 bottles)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2006/2015 (51.3%, Sansibar and S Spirits, bourbon, 340 bottles) Four stars This should be very similar… Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed, but this one’s got a little more medicinal notes (iodine, bandages) and perhaps a little more pineapple as well. So it’s a little fruitier. With water: I get more eucalyptus and more wet dogs. Old clothes, touches of truffles… Mouth (neat): excellent, mentholy and earthy, so a little different this time. The pineapples are there too (and lemon, oysters, seaweed, smoke, ashes, seawater… As usual). With water: indeed, it’s a little fruitier. Liquorice allsorts, violet drops, anis bredala (an Alsatian thing)… Finish: medium, with even more sweet liquorice. Grassy smoke. Comments: same high quality, this one’s just a little more deviant, thus a little more interesting. Good, one more point. SGP:556 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 2001/2015 (58.8%, Malt Barn, sherry, 192 bottles)

Caol Ila 2001/2015 (58.8%, Malt Barn, sherry, 192 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: more oak influence, as expected, but it’s still pretty distillate-driven. The combination creates notes of amaretti, and other almondy things, while there’s a whole fruit salad in the background, with even papayas. Some herbal teas, and rather less peat smoke than in the younger siblings. With water: a superb leafy smoke, with a complexity that wasn’t to be seen in the others. It hints at pre-reopening Caol Ila, so very early 1970s. Really. Mouth (neat): very punchy, more citrusy, more minty, and more kind-of-terpenic. Strong peppermint liqueur, more amaretti, and even a few drops of maraschino. Did all that come from the sherry cask? It’s very intriguing. With water: extremely good. It loves water. Liquorice wood. Finish: long, extremely well defined, and yet rather wide. Almonds, saps, smoke, citrus, menthol… Comments: smashing. I almost went for 90. Well done Malt Barn! SGP:556 - 89 points.

Let’s try an older very young sherried one…

Caol Ila 1998/2008 (59.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, sherry, casks #12875+12876)

Caol Ila 1998/2008 (59.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, sherry, casks #12875+12876) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s leafier, greener, with more tobacco, earthy tea, walnuts, soy sauce, umami… A different style, a similar very high quality. And let’s not forget that G&M did a lot for Caol Ila, most very old ones coming from their own stable. With water: as often with G&M, the whisky gets cloudy. Chlorine, smoke, pine needles and, perhaps, burning hashish. Mouth (neat): almost like crunching menthol cigarettes while drinking good retsina. Very mentholy, sappy, chartreuse-y, and smoky. This was some cask, it had a lot to say. With water: ah, it doesn’t swim too well, careful with water. Tends to disintegrate, even with a few drops. Finish: long, oily, mentholy, sappy. Comments: what a beast. I’ll never understand the good people that keep telling us that Caol Ila is a gentle, very lightly peated Islayer. SGP:476 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 19 yo 1997/2016 (40.2%, Sansibar and S Spirits, sherry, 599 bottles)

Caol Ila 19 yo 1997/2016 (40.2%, Sansibar and S Spirits, sherry, 599 bottles) Four stars I’m sure it was ‘natural cask strength’. Did they store it in the dampest, coldest warehouse in Scotland? Colour: full gold. Nose: as delicate as an old dry white wine, perhaps a very old manzanilla? Lovely old leather, walnut wine, earth, ‘a city just after the first rain’, many herbal teas, fresh asparagus, old wine cellar, saltpetre, touches of camphor, moss, mushrooms… I short, it’s extremely tertiary. Mouth: something really different. Blind, I’d have said it’s an old peater from G&M’s old ‘brown’ Connoisseur’s Choice series. Burnt walnut cake, a little marmalade, touches of bitter caramel, cedar wood, black tobacco, some kind of dry balsamic vinegar (only cheap industrial ones are sweet anyway), only hints of bitter oranges… I’m not sure it’s technically perfect, but its got many charms, for sure. Finish: a little short, and a little oaky/drying. Eating tobacco. Comments: it hasn’t got the youngsters’ brightness and punch, and sure the peat’s not big here, but it’s got something sexy. Hard to describe. SGP:464 - 85 points.

Tomorrow, part II, some older Caol Ilas. Stay tuned.

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May 17, 2016


Whiskyfun

More blended malts because this is 2016

Question of the day, between a disclosed single malt that wouldn’t tell you about its age, and an undisclosed one or even a blended malt that does, what’s the most trustworthy? Yeah, I agree, it all depends on who’s behind it. The two first ones are good examples of trustworthy bottlings, since they do not sport any of those seminal notions, only ‘good names’.

Enlightenment (46%, Compass Box, blended malt, 5,922 bottles, 2016)

Enlightenment (46%, Compass Box, blended malt, 5,922 bottles, 2016) Four stars A name that sounds like some John Coltrane, how could we be against that? No ages given this time (remember the recent controversy) but we still know that this baby contains 48.2% Clynelish… And the remainder just doesn’t matter. I’m joking, it also contains 36.7% Glentauchers, 10.8% Balblair, and 4.3% Mortlach. This is pure class, and remember Imelda Marcos’ famous quote, “after all, the mass follows class. Class never follows mass.” Don’t tell me you’d have preferred some Wittgenstein! Colour: white wine. Nose: I understand what they’ve tried to do, a lighter, fruitier, more consensual Clynelish. And they succeeded. Much freshness, wheelbarrows of golden delicious apples, a lot of wisteria, and a waxiness that’s much closer to beeswax than to plasticine. Is it being a sexist if you say that it’s got a feminine side? Which is, no need to say, a compliment? Mouth: it’s rather punchy, zesty, slightly mentholated for a start, before it starts to unfold on more acidic apples, gooseberries, white currants, and perhaps a touch of pineapple. This time, Clynelish’s wax got a little shier, I’m not sure I’d have recognised it. Finish: medium, fresh, fruity, with more grassiness. Comments: very good vatting, but I’m not sure I don’t prefer some excellent single Clynelish, Balblair, Glentauchers, or Mortlach. Or maybe am I missing a few drops of Laphroaig? Otherwise yeah, I find it extremely good. SGP:551 - 86 points.

The Whisky Agency 'Extra Old' (44.7%, The Whisky Agency, blended malt, sherry, 2015)

The Whisky Agency 'Extra Old' (44.7%, The Whisky Agency, blended malt, sherry, 2015) Four stars What does Extra Old or XO mean? In Cognac that means that the youngest component is at least six years old. But in this very case, that’s probably older… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a firm, pleasantly rubbery and grassy start that we’re experiencing, before more and more walnuts and hazelnuts would join in the dancing, together with some marmalade and ‘dry’ raisins. Also whiffs of exhaust pipe, brake pad ‘after Monaco’, and used matches. Reminds me of some sherried Macduffs and Tamdhus that we’ve seen in recent years here and there. Mouth: those garage-y notes remain, with more struck matches and ‘hot brakes’, but I’m also finding some walnut cake and some praline. I enjoy the bitterish and earthy tea notes in the background very much. Finish: long, but appeased and gentler. But there is quite some leather and tobacco in the aftertaste. Comments: for lovers of this style, that sometimes also reminds us of some sherried Mortlachs. Oh let’s not start to play the guessing game… (you did, S.!) SGP:471 - 86 points.

Siar Port 18 yo 1997/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, blended malt, 685 bottles)

Siar Port 18 yo 1997/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, blended malt, 685 bottles) Four stars Only two malts, matured in bourbon and finished in sherry. Colour: white wine. No fist fill sherry involved. Nose: in the style of the Enlightenment, with a fresh orchardy fruitiness coated with custard and light honey, which actually makes it a tad rounder. No sherry that I can detect. Some sides remind me of ex-bourbon Aberlour, but I’m sure I’m wrong. Apples, pears, touches of bananas, acacia honey… In truth, this could as well be Balblair. Mouth: immaculate malty fruitiness, with some apple crumble, Ovaltine, butterscotch, shortbread, Weetabix, and drops of maple syrup from two years ago (when they get darker). Total malty goodness. Finish: medium, always very malty, with touches of lemon that, once again, lift it a bit. Nice fresh signature, but the aftertaste remains very malty. Comments: imagine some friends asking you ‘how does malt whisky taste?’ You may pour this. SGP:551 - 86 points.

We could have an older one…

Royal Mile Whiskies 40 yo (47.1%, Royal Mile Whiskies, blended malt, 337 bottles, 2015)

Royal Mile Whiskies 40 yo (47.1%, Royal Mile Whiskies, blended malt, 337 bottles, 2015) Four stars and a half A vatting of Glenrothes, Macallan, and Tamdhu. What could have gone wrong? On the one hand, many flavours may overlap between these three malts, but on the other hand, some coherence may have been obtained, let’s see… Colour: dark gold. Nose: very complex, and not tired. Roasted chestnuts and maple syrup for a start, then chocolate and praline, then toasted brioche and warm croissant, then some pipe tobacco, without any obvious pencil shavings or other undesirable oaky tones. A little wood smoke though. And far away in the distance, the usual marmalade and raisins. Mouth: excellent and lovable. It’s more or less a blend of various honeys with a little Sauternes, or better yet, straw wine from Jura. Then some leafy tea, some tobacco, and once again a little marmalade that keeps it appropriately fruity. The oak’s a little more obvious this time, but we’re rather around cinnamon cake than straight planks or chips. Really excellent. Finish: medium, clean, never oaky as such, rather on dried figs and dates. When is Christmas this year? Oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: we’re bordering the 90 points. Great blended malt. SGP:651 - 89 points.

(Many thanks, Phil and Simon!)

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

 

 

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May 16, 2016


Whiskyfun

Little duos, Aberlour light and heavy

Just like The Whisky Lodge in Lyon did last year, and LMDW much earlier, The Whisky Exchange managed to have their own official cask of Aberlour, which is as rare as hen’s teeth (unless Monsanto or any other wizards of genetics have just managed to prove that old saying wrong – same with flying pigs). But first, a wee apéritif…

Aberlour 13 yo 1995/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, recoopered hogsheads, 1200 bottles)

Aberlour 13 yo 1995/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, recoopered hogsheads, 1200 bottles) Three stars and a half Similar label as shown on picture. This from the old sample library. Colour: white wine. Nose: pure raw maltiness, on barley, apples, candy sugar, and smidgens of mint. Rather goes towards Fanta and ginger ale after a few seconds, but while uncommon, that’s not unpleasant. Porridge with drizzles of crème de menthe. Fun nose. Mouth: pure, clean, on all orchard fruits, plus sunflower honey and a blend of orange and apple juices. Plus a little barley syrup. Goes down like that, you don’t even notice. Dangerous. Finish: medium, on sweet malt and more candy sugar, mixed with apple juice. Vanilla-ed signature. Comments: pure good undemanding malty goodness, which I find very good. Right. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Aberlour 16 yo (53.5%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, first fill sherry, cask #4738, 2016)

Aberlour 16 yo (53.5%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, first fill sherry, cask #4738, 2016) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: the exhaust of an old English straight-six. Say 007’s. Plus some pencil shavings and other things made out of cedar wood. That gives the whole a funny bourbony side (yup I had noticed it was fist fill sherry), but some changes start to occur after just thirty seconds, with more fruit pudding, roasted chestnuts, lit Cuban cigars, marmalade, and Demerara sugar. You may make that Demerara rum. There’s also something metallic (old penny book), and drops of mint and liquorice essences as well… Really intriguing! With water: class and classic bold Speysider from some active wood. Some dill, fennel, parsley… Mouth (neat): exactly the same feeling, with a bourbony start full of ginger, caraway, and nutmeg, and a long development on triple-sec, spicy Christmas cake, liquorice liqueur, and rich high-esters rum. With water: careful, too much water will make it quite aquavity (!) Caraway… But other than that, it’s superb big bold Aberlour. Finish: very long, spicy, liquoricy, ending on chestnut purée mixed with thick agave syrup (I imagine). Comments: it may not go in for subtleties, but this fat and punchy style works a treat. I, for one, quite love it. SGP:561 - 89 points.

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May 15, 2016


Whiskyfun

Tequila and mezcal head to head

To celebrate that Mayan city that a kid in Canada had just discovered using Google Earth, and that wasn’t actually a Mayan city, let’s have a few tequilas and mezcals today. Yeah I know, just any excuses. We’ll select them more or less at random, and have each categories in turn. Starting with, eenie meenie…

Los Arango ‘Reposado’ (35%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, 2010)

Los Arango ‘Reposado’ (35%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, 2010) Two stars A bottle from the Mexican market, bearing the year of bottling. Sadly, the cork is very lousy… The name refers to Pancho Villa, it seems. Yeah, marketing stories are even lousier in Mexico than in Scotland. Colour: straw. Nose: very light, but rather elegant, soft, whispering, with whiffs of soft lemon juice and only a moderate ‘agaviness’. A little lavender and a touch of fragrant soap, as often. Mouth: really light, fresh, clean, slightly earthy… Not a lot to say, actually. The very low strength – again, it’s not a bottle for export – probably is a handicap. Finish: very short, but clean. It hasn’t got more power than a sylvaner or a white zin. Comments: it’s a clean, very easy spirit, but it’s frustrating. I think the original juice was probably ‘nice’. Ha, nice… SGP:231 - 70 points.

A mezcal now…

Mexcal Burrito Fiestero (40%, OB, mezcal joven, +/-2016)

Mexcal Burrito Fiestero (40%, OB, mezcal joven, +/-2016) Three stars Ha, imagine someone in Scotland starts to use the brand ‘Whixky’ or ‘Scotx’. A good idea or what? Right, right… Colour: white. Nose: the opposite of that Arango tequila. Much harsher, wilder, much more rustic, and much, much smokier and earthier. It’s acetic in a good way, there’s pickled gherkins, olives, cigar ashes, a lot of brine, flints, myrtle, a little camphor… Now beware contrasts, we’ll have to double-check all that in a few minutes, after we’ve tried other mezcals and tequilas. Mouth: its really earthy and dirty, and I’d swear there is some peat. Notes of old fabric, dishwater, which is a little less nice, but nothing to worry about. Also some eau-de-vie-ish notes, proof that this is very young indeed. No long aging in stoneware or glass. Finish: medium, calms down, and becomes a little soft. Earthy lemon. Comments: my kind of spirit. It’s just that we’ll possibly come across (even) better ones in a few seconds… SGP:353 - 82 points.

Back to tequila…

XQ ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2014)

XQ ‘Blanco’ (40%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2014) Two stars The bottle looks really weird, like many other tequilas. The result of a meeting between bottles of Dimple/Pinch and Sandy MacNab. Colour: white. Nose: it’s hard after a good mezcal. This noses almost like some slivovitz, with some almond and some, well, plum spirit (well done S.) Zweschke. Mouth: better, more agave-y, but the plums remain there. It’s also got a thickish texture that’s a little scary, but of course they wouldn’t have glycerined it, would they. What’s sure is that the weak Los Arango was a cleaner, more complex spirit.  Finish: medium, a little fermentary. Comments: oakayish, but I think it lacks definition to appeal to malt drinkers. Unless, as a mixer… SGP:331 - 72 points.

Mezcal please…

Marca Negra ‘Dobadán’ (47.8%, OB, mezcal, single agave, +/-2015)

Marca Negra ‘Dobadán’ (47.8%, OB, mezcal, single agave, +/-2015) Four stars This rather successful one comes with a perfect hipster-compatible packaging. I like it though, and I’m no hipster (even my offspring agrees). It seems that Dobadán  is pretty rare. Colour: white. Nose: ooh, nice! It noses a bit like some Octomore new make, if you see what I mean. Perfect farmy, earthy, and smoky style, with even hints of horse dung, black olives, some kind of basaltic mud, and in the background, rather overripe bananas and other rotting fruits. ‘Ideas’ of Jamaican dunder-pit rum. Mouth: huge! Sure there’s the higher alcohol, but there’s also plenty of gritty, acrid, harsh, pungent (that’ll do, S.) stuff. Mixing olive brine and cigar ashes. Finish: long, superbly dirty. Comments: there’s something perverse and wacky to this fantastic spirit. The New York Dolls’ preferred? SGP:463 - 86 points.

Tequila please…

2 ‘Reposado’ (40%, OB, organic tequila, 100% agave, +/-2016)

2 ‘Reposado’ (40%, OB, organic tequila, 100% agave, +/-2016) Two stars Remember ‘reposado’ means only a few months of aging, often only two or three. So basically, they’re unaged spirits (and that’s why I’m having some amongst blancos/jovens). Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: ah, this is a tequila that’s got a little more to tell us, even if it’s much softer and shier than the mezcals. A few coastal notes, for example, or these touches of grapefruits. What’s quite striking is that there are loads of gooseberries. Mouth: unusual. Nougat and custard, light honey, cappuccino, butterscotch… It does feel a little liqueury, or ‘Baileyish’… Did the short aging happen in virgin oak? Finish: medium, with a little more agaviness. The vanilla stays there. Comments: not quite my thing, but I’m sure that technically speaking, it’s a very good one. But are they bourbonising tequila too? SGP:431 - 75 points.

Mezcal…

Del Maguey ‘Pechuga’ (49%, OB, mezcal, +/-2014)

Del Maguey ‘Pechuga’ (49%, OB, mezcal, +/-2014) Three stars I’m sorry, but LOL! This is the well-know espadin-based mezcal that’s distilled a third time with some chicken hanging in the still. They don’t make much of it – but as they say, there might be a reason. Colour: white. Nose: it’s complex. I’m not saying I’m getting the chicken, but it does have soft olives and capers, a little fresh walnut, savagnin-style, some grapefruits, and then more and more guava. We’re talking guavas found on location, not our supermarket guavas that are pretty odour and flavour-less. Having said that, I like the Marca Negra’s sharper and cleaner nose a little better. Mouth: it’s good, for sure. Citrusy, earthy – still can’t find the chicken – with as many gooseberries as in the ‘2’, some grass, some green tea, and an ashy/earthy herbalness. Perhaps a blend of lapsang souchong with gunpowder green tea? A little aniseed too, even pastis. Wasn’t it a French chicken? Finish: long, but once again, I prefer the ones that are better chiselled, sharp, blade-y… Comments: these pechugas are legendary, but I think there are better mezcals. At Del Maguey’s, for example. SGP:452 - 80 points.

We must get back to tequila…

1921 ‘Reposado’ (40%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2015)

1921 ‘Reposado’ (40%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2015) Four stars This is 100% blue agave. Once again, the packaging is rather baroque. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: and once again, this is a much softer spirit, but we’re rather going towards the good mezcals this time. Hints of artichokes, olives, Brussels sprouts, smoky earth… In short, it’s rather more agave-y than the average tequila. Mouth: very good! Yesss, a tequila that I really enjoy! Olives, lemon, smoke, peat (yeah, really), gherkins, even a little tar… All good. There’s a wee roundness in the background that’s a little less engaging (vanilla) but that’s nothing. Finish: medium, appropriately sharp, zesty, earthy, smoky… Comments: wasn’t that artisan mezcal? No, I’ve checked the bottle again, it’s well tequila. But after all, all tequilas are mezcals… SGP:452 - 85 points.

Is there going to be a twist in the drama? Let’s see…

Derrumbes ‘San Luis Potosí’ (43.5%, OB, mezcal, +/-2015)

Derrumbes ‘San Luis Potosí’ (43.5%, OB, mezcal, +/-2015) Three stars and a half This is single-variety mezcal (it’s called salmania, dunno what it is, wild or cultivated…), from a single village, namely San Luis Potosí. Sure we could do some research, sure… Colour: white. Nose: oh, potatoes! Then turnips and roses, beetroots, old clothes, tinned litchis, tinned sardines, and fermenting rhubarb. Or rhubarb wine. Saying that this is unusual would be an understatement. Mouth: yesssss. Gentian, roots, earth, green apples, cranberries, then bizarre – but lovely – notes of sweet old liqueurs, such as parfait amour and curaçao, while the earthiness keeps leading the pack, which is a good thing. Really unusual, with a sucrosity that I hadn’t expected, but the whole works. Finish: medium, a little sugary, but the very earthy/herbal background keeps it fresh and straight. Comments: fun spirit, a little disconcerting at times. But that’s a clear asset when you taste many spirits. SGP:652 - 84 points.

Good, where are we? One, two, three…seven, eight agave-y spirits. Do we push this to ten? OK, a tequila then… Eenie meenie… Oh, ‘sugar!’…

Mejor ‘Pink’ (40%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2016)

Mejor ‘Pink’ (40%, OB, tequila, 100% agave, +/-2016) Three starsWell, this quote is worth its weight in peanuts: ‘Mejor Pink is a chic presentation of Mejor's fabulous Blanco Tequila. Made from hand-selected 100% Blue Agave, Pink is dressed up with a vibrant hue and stylish contemporary packaging to exude a sophistication that complements the ultra-smooth superior quality of Mejor's Tequila. Pink is chic modern luxury.’ Copywriters on acid. Colour: please do not ask! Nose: frankly, it’s okay. It doesn’t smell of roses, cheap cologne, or cheap jelly babies. A typical light, rather agave-oriented nose, fresh, clean… And pink. No! Mouth: I hate to write that this is good. You just have to forget about the colour. Lemon, touches of earth, olives, brine, smoke, green apples, herbs… Finish: medium, nicely salty, agave-y, earthy… Comments: I had feared it would have been sweetish, or strangely girly, or inexpressive. Not at all, this is pretty good tequila – just with a very weird colour. Correction, copywriters AND marketers on acid! SGP:452 - 80 points.

Mezcal’s last turn…

Papadiablo (47%, OB, mezcal, +/-2014)

Papadiablo (47%, OB, mezcal, +/-2014) Some expensive mezcal made out of espadin (cultivated agave) mixed with various wild agaves, but I don’t know about the proportions. Very lovely packaging, by the way – just don’t mistake it for the sparking water on your table. Colour: white. Nose: no! Varnish, Uhu glue, more jelly babies, pineapple drops… Where’s the wildness? Where’s the smoke? Where’s the earth? It’s there, actually, but totally subdued. A little camphor coming through, which is better. Mouth: no way. Strange, ridden with nail polish and other varnishes, wrecked distillation (distilled tropical fruits, usually a total miss)… You have to wait for a long time before more positive ideas come to your mind. About the packaging, for example… Finish: medium, still very varnishy. Comments: with mezcal, anything goes, but there ought to be limits. I think this one’s totally weird. Have I mentioned perversion before? SGP:441 - 50 points.

A little math now. Tequila’s average is 76.4, while mezcal’s is… 76.4. I swear I did not make that up.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Tequila and Mezcal I've tasted so far

 

 

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May 13, 2016


Whiskyfun

Three indie Glen Elgin

Another distillery we’re not seeing very often. And yet, we’ve tried some sumptuous Glen Elgins in the past…

Glen Elgin 17 yo 1995/2013 (46%, Milroy's of Soho, hogshead, cask #1669, 348 bottles)

Glen Elgin 17 yo 1995/2013 (46%, Milroy's of Soho, hogshead, cask #1669, 348 bottles) Two stars and a half It’s not that we’re seeing Milroy’s much either, these days… Colour: straw. Nose: very malty, almost bready, with, yeah, some bread and touches of cardboard and beeswax. Behind that, some acidic fruits (green apples) and drops of plum eau-de-vie. A little sugarcane as well, a touch of paraffin. Mouth: in keeping with the nose, with first more sweet bread and malt, then some honeyed raisins, with a grassy background. A wee touch of wood smoke, perhaps. Finish: medium, malty, with some bitter green oak and oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: very fair and honest malt whisky from an excellent distillery. SGP:351 - 79 points.

Glen Elgin 23 yo 1990/2014 (49.2%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon, cask #7870, 189 bottles)

Glen Elgin 23 yo 1990/2014 (49.2%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon, cask #7870, 189 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: same kind of profile, even more austere, grassier, with interesting hints of polished copper, old coins, old tin boxes, all that. Some hand cream as well, fresh almonds, a little shoe polish, and the thing that saves them all, lemon juice! In the background, a wee bourbonness, that is to say vanilla and coconut. Works well. Mouth (neat): very good! It reminds me of that thick big punchy blend called White Horse, which is not surprise since Glen Elgin always was at its core (you’re right, together with Lagavulin). Oily mouthfeel, grassy and herbal development, then waxy grapefruits and some almond oil. Very, very little vanilla and coconut, all for the better, Jasper. Finish: long, malty, with broken branches – so very fresh wood – and more oily goodness. Comments: perfect. Sure there’s no obvious and dominant aromas, no big peat, no sherry, no big fruitiness, and no vanilla crème, but as far as texture and balance are concerned, it rocks. SGP:451 - 88 points.

Glen Elgin 24 yo 1989/2014 (52.4%, Mackillop's Choice, 240 bottles)

Glen Elgin 24 yo 1989/2014 (52.4%, Mackillop's Choice, 240 bottles) Four stars The rather discreet Mackillop’s have bottled some of the best indie whiskies under their very, err, pleasantly unnoticeable label. Colour: gold. Nose: in the style of the Signatory, only a tad rounder and waxier, with less metallic and polishy notes. So rather beeswax and stewed fruits, plus some honey and, once again, a little hand cream. With water: the beeswax became flowers, which sometimes happens once you’ve added good water. It gets pretty nectary. Mouth (neat): same differences, it’s got more western fruits, apples, peaches, even pears… And peelings, more beeswax, pollen… Perhaps is it a little narrower than the excellent Signatory? With water: narrower but beautifully fruity. Apple pie covered with honey and custard. Tea time! Finish: medium, honeyed, fruity. Strawberry jam in the aftertaste/retro-olfaction. Comments: all very good once again. The thickish distillate shines through, I liked the Signatory’s greener style just a notch better. SGP:541 - 87 points.

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

 

 

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May 12, 2016


Whiskyfun

Little duets, Longrow vs. Longrow

Longrow! The double-distilled peated Springbank, of which they fill less than 100 casks a year according to one of their back labels. Why they don’t make more of it remains a mystery, because except a few very sulphury ones that had been filled into wacky sherry wood, I’ve never come across one that hasn’t been close to stellar. Let’s have two of them…

Longrow 18 yo (46%, OB, 2014)

Longrow 18 yo (46%, OB, 2014) Five stars I know, I know, I’m late to the party, but we’ve got limited tasting capacity. By the way, the last 18 I’ve tasted, a 2011 expression, had fetched 92 in my book, so our expectations are high… Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah yes. Silver cutlery, old coins, tin boxes, linseed oil, chalk, this very peculiar waxy smokiness that’s so very Longrow, and an odd fruit, which I never managed to pin down, although I know it does exist. What’s this unusual fruit that one can find in Longrow? Any clues? Some pinesap as well, old herbal liqueur from Mitteleuropa, mothballs (which is very Longrow indeed)… Mouth: it is oh-so-good! Lemongrass, linseed oil, mint, green tea, smoked fish, soft green curry, citronella, a little natural vanilla… Although when I’m reading my older notes, it seems that this newer expression is a little less wood-driven, which is just, well, cool. Everything’s perfect. Finish: quite long, a tad oakier now, with a lingering gingery touch and this feeling of having just eaten carbon paper, ink, and cigar ashes. Comments: whisky with character, attitude, self-respect, and individuality. The opposite of these modern one-note whiskies. SGP:454 - 92 points.

So, another Longrow… A young 1987, how does that sound?

Longrow 8 yo 1987/1995 (57.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Longrow 8 yo 1987/1995 (57.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars and a half As usual, and as stated on the label, the bottlers are confident this was matured in an oak cask. Because we all know that could have been ebony or rosewood ;-). But let’s be serious, we’ve already tasted some stunning 1987s, especially some by Samaroli, Moon, or Signatory. Colour: Sancerre. I mean, pale white wine. Nose: between rocket fuel, nail polish remover, and lamp oil. Now what’s good is that these aggressive varnishy notes tend to go away, as almost always, leaving room for some rather immaculate smoked apples and pears. Well not sure anyone’s ever tried to smoke apples and pears, but I’m sure this is what would occur. Plus raw smoked barley (kiln) and smoky porridge. Ah, nature! With water: old towels in an abandoned hotel room somewhere in Campbeltown. I-am-not-making-this-up. Mouth (neat): hits you behind your ears, with plenty of citric apples (cider apples) and a raw, very mineral smoke. And then the saltiness kicks in, while the whole is getting smokier by the second. Pristine, immaculate young peater, with a growing minerality. Minerality is not something all peaters possess. With water: gets gentler, almost rounder, with some apple pie and drops of this ‘thing’ they serve you on pancakes for breakfast in the UK. No, no, it’s not maple syrup, it’s some kind of sweet concoction. Perhaps maize/corn syrup? In this context, it’s good. Finish: yeah, lemon! Lemon enhances and lifts just any malt whisky. Wonderful green zestiness. Comments: still a little rough around the edges, despite the twenty years of bottle aging (my god, twenty years already!) but the spirit is first class. SGP:464 - 88 points.

(Und vielen Dank, Angus)

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

 

 

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May 11, 2016


Whiskyfun

An understated new 50 years old

I’m asking you, who could throw a new Glen Mhor 1965 (one nine six five) into the market just like that, as if it was just another shirt by Urban Outfitters? You’re right, Signatory Vintage. True class indeed. But first, a little apéritif from the very same house…

Millburn 16 yo 1979/1993 (60.1%, Signatory Vintage, butt, cask #1102, 308 bottles)

Millburn 16 yo 1979/1993 (60.1%, Signatory Vintage, butt, cask #1102, 308 bottles) Five stars I agree, an apéritif at 60% vol. is a strange idea, but you see, I had thought it would be best to have one from the three long closed Inverness distilleries. Which were… Hey, can you name them?... Colour: straw. Nose: some kind of citric minerality, if you see what I mean. Aspirin tablets, fizzy lemon juices, fresh concrete, old clothes, gravel after the rain, yoghurt, the sharpest muscadets, chalk… In short, a style that’s nowhere to be seen anymore. Give this to anyone used to modern NAS Glenmo (for example), and they’d tell you it’s not Scotch whisky. I mean, this Millburn. With water: more of the same, plus bandages and, perhaps, brake fluid. Mouth (neat): pure lemon juice aged in stoneware and infused with chalk and clay. A knife! With water: glorious minerality and citrusness. I’m not sure I had previously noticed that Millburn could be this lemony. I’m sure it cuts the thinnest paper sheet, as Uma Thurman would have said in Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Finish: long, totally lemony, mineral, and, well, blade-y. Comments: perhaps for well-trained samurais only. No, it’s really great. SGP:471 - 90 points. Which leads us to…

Glen Mhor 50 yo 1965/2016 (47.1%, Signatory Vintage, 88 months oloroso finish, cask #3934, 353 bottles)

Glen Mhor 50 yo 1965/2016 (47.1%, Signatory Vintage, 88 months oloroso finish, cask #3934, 353 bottles) Five stars A fifty-years-old Glen Mhor! And they didn’t even put it into a Lalique-Baccarat-Daum-Whatever decanter with golden angels and hand-carved silver stags heads! How classy and understated is that? Now, they did a finishing on it, which may suggest that it had been a little lazy before those 88 last months… Let’s see… Colour: deep amber. Nose: if you’re into old cars and/or motorbikes, this is whisky for you. An old can of Veedol forgotten in an old garage, next to a Velocette and a Norton (like it, Ralfy?) There are also walnuts from the oloroso, as well as roasted chestnuts, then plenty of earth (an old dunnage warehouse), drops of soy sauce, most certainly umami, and a superb beef bouillon enhanced with bone marrow and wee bits of black truffles. After five minutes, some menthol and some Vicks Vaporub arising. This would cure any cold. Mouth: it’s a little shaky, with these ‘funny’ notes of cumin and aniseed, but there’s also a complexity that’s hard to find in younger whiskies. Many spices, many oils, many meat bits, many terpenic/mentholy touches, and quite a few mushrooms, covered with some kind of chocolate sauce (mole) and little pieces of black tobacco. As if Gauloise had ever made some menthol cigarettes – which, to my knowledge, never happened. Finish: long, with touches of paraffin and other waxes. The bouillon is back in the aftertaste, and it’s quite salty, at that. Comments: respect, that the first word I could think of. Mind you, a 50 yo Glen Mhor! My score will be deferential. SGP:472 - 90 points.

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

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

 

 

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May 10, 2016


Whiskyfun

Tobermory or not Tobermory

A stupid, very stupid Shakespearian headline. Apologies. Now a few Tobermories from the Isle of Mull can't do any harm, even if they're currently a little overshadowed by their peated brother, Ledaig. Besides, we've hardly ever seriously tasted 30 of them. In almost 14 years of Whiskyfun! So let's see what we can find... And perhaps have them by ascending strength.

Tobermory 20 yo 1995/2015 (48%, Claxton's, hogshead, cask # 1501-652, 279 bottles)

Tobermory 20 yo 1995/2015 (48%, Claxton's, hogshead, cask # 1501-652, 279 bottles) Four stars By a new independent bottler from York, England. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: totally and plainly Tobermory, with some baker's yeast, fresh bread, damp raw wool, mashed turnip and celeriac, ale... All that is nicely coated with some custard and touches of bacon, which may suggest a refill sherry hogshead, but I may well be wrong. In any case, we're as close to distillery character as possible, yet it's not feinty at all. Not saying Tobermory is feinty! In other words, very nice nose. Mouth: one of the best Tobermories I could try. All qualities, without any flaws. Peppery bread, lemon juice, tons of malt, some smoky porridge, drops of limoncello... But it's the maltiness that's most impressive. Finish: medium, rounder, with some maple syrup. Malt and lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: this starts very well. I'm always procrastinating with the 'T malts' (anything after Talisker) but that's obviously stupid. SGP:452 - 87 points.

Tobermory 20 yo 1994/2015 (53.5%, Gleann Mor, A Rare Find, cask #98, 274 bottles)

Tobermory 20 yo 1994/2015 (53.5%, Gleann Mor, A Rare Find, cask #98, 274 bottles) Two stars and a halfWhether a twenty years old Tobermory is a rare find remains debatable, but after all, only quality counts. Colour: gold. Nose: we're very close, this has just a little more vanilla, it seems, and perhaps more maple syrup. Other than that, same ballpark - at a higher strength. And no bacon. With water: more austere. Ink, carbon paper, scoria, concrete, stout, baker's yeast... Nutshell, what one would expect from Tobermory. Mouth (neat): much more difficult than the Claxton's this time, bitterer, yeastier, dirtier... But it's not void of any charms. With water: a little better, thanks to this lemon that's coming out. Peppered lemon-flavoured yoghurt, or something like that. Finish: long, creamier, and a little cleaner. Cider and pepper. Comments: good, but it hasn't got the 1995's clarity and sexiness. Certainly rawer. SGP:362 - 79 points.

Tobermory 20 yo 1995/2015 (54.7%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon, cask #1076, 250 bottles)

Tobermory 20 yo 1995/2015 (54.7%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon, cask #1076, 250 bottles) Four stars Back to 1995, aren't we curious? Colour: white wine. Nose: could it be a vintage thing? This one's cleaner and better balanced again, with some malt for sure but very little 'dirty yeast', in a style that's very similar to that of the first 1995. Sunflower oil, vanilla, brioche, wool, mashed potatoes... I guess what's really important with this profile is balance, and balance seems to have been achieved. With water: croissants ;-). Mouth (neat): excellent, zesty yet rounded (thanks to the bourbon wood), with a perfect earthiness underneath, and these rather delicate yeasty and malty notes from the distillate. Not to forget its coastalness (peppered oysters). With water: goody good, just a little less polished than the first 1995. Seriously, a vintage thing? Finish: rather long, earthier, more peppery. Hints of tequila in the aftertaste (we'll soon do a massive tequila tasting, by the way). Comments: all very good. Good work on Tobermory by some indies these days. SGP:452 - 86 points.

Seriously, is it a vintage issue? Let's have another 1994 and try to find out...

Tobermory 21 yo 1994/2015 (55.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #660881, 265 bottles)

Tobermory 21 yo 1994/2015 (55.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #660881, 265 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: ha-ha, same feeling of ink and carbon paper, plus some menthol essence and perhaps a little ham and charcoal. And of course some yeast, perhaps even dollops of that dreadful thing from the UK called Marmite. Malt for barbeque? With water: German weissbeer and plenty of baker's yeast. Mouth (neat): right between the others. Neither 1994 nor 1995. Perhaps 1994.5? Seriously, I find it a little austere and dry, and we're fairly close to 'eating the barbeque from the bottom'. With water: frankly better, but it remains 'globally yeasty'. If you like bread or pastry when they're not totally cooked, so rather 'pale', this is for you. Finish: medium, with more pepper and, hurray, more lemon. Comments: probably more a matter of parcels of casks than a vintage issue, but I definitely like the 1995s better. Now, this one isn’t bad. At all. SGP:352 - 82 points.

Not an easy session, but let's have a last one, and let's try to find some rocket fuel, just for fun...

Tobermory 8 yo 2001/2010 (60.9%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon)

Tobermory 8 yo 2001/2010 (60.9%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon) Four stars An older bottling, but just for fun... Colour: white wine. Nose: oh sugar, it's a Ledaig that's been labelled as Tobermory! My bad... So lapsang souchong and ashes. There, we're done. With water: smoked wool, garden bonfire under the rain (it was lit before the rain started, naturally), and smoked tea with some yak butter. Don't the Tibetan monks drink that? Mouth (neat): tears you apart. Cough, cough... Almonds and tar? Would make a young Port Ellen taste like Glenkinchie. With water: oh, but its great! We tamed the beast, it seems. Lemon, seawater, smoked tea, cigar ashes... All that is very good. Finish: long, well-chiselled, pure, and, there, crystalline. Comments: a surprisingly  flawless young peat bomb. Which reminds me that we've got many new Ledaigs to taste, so stay tuned. SGP:458 - 86 points.

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

 

 

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May 9, 2016


Whiskyfun

New Dark Cove vs. Caol Ila vs. Port Ellen

The general release of Ardbeg Dark Cove is in, but rather than select other supposedly-young Ardbegs as sparring partners – and let’s be honest, there aren’t many ‘disclosed’ new ones around – we’ll choose some other young peaters, to try to have a better grasp of contemporary ‘Beg in the general Islayian scheme. Game?

Ardbeg ‘Dark Cove’ (46.5%, OB, general release, 2016)

Ardbeg ‘Dark Cove’ (46.5%, OB, general release, 2016) Four starsI had enjoyed the committee release quite a lot back in March (WF 88). Let’s see if around 9 less degrees will make a difference. Colour: gold. Nose: there is a feeling of new American oak, with this vanilla, but we’re below the limits. I remember I had tried the two components of the popular Ten a while back at the distillery, one was ex-refill bourbon, the other ex-first fill. We’re closer to the latter here, and once again, I do not get much sherry, let alone ‘dark’ sherry. A little crème brulée, perhaps, and then whiffs of ginger and nutmeg from the wood, before more coastal and – of course – smoky notes start to rise to your nostrils. Triple-sec as well. And bandages. Feels a little sweet, pleasantly so. Mouth: indeed, it is a little sweet, with a citrusy blast at first, then some ginger and plenty of ashes, then a touch of salty tar. Perhaps a little rubbery ginger (or gingery rubber) before it gets even saltier. It’s not the most complex Ardbeg ever, this is no 1960s or 1970s distillate, but as they say in mail order, it does deliver. Finish: long and rather more nutmeggy/gingery. Typical young Ardbeg aftertaste, as if you had just chewed a rubber band. Comments: it feels young and sometimes a little rough, but we haven’t got anything against young whisky. SGP:467 - 86 points.

So, other young Islays? How about a gentler one, and then a beastlier one, both at roughly the same strengths and ages? Is that coherent enough for you?

Caol Ila 7 yo 2008/2016 (46%, Càrn Mòr, Strictly Limited, hogshead, 760 bottles)

Caol Ila 7 yo 2008/2016 (46%, Càrn Mòr, Strictly Limited, hogshead, 760 bottles) Four stars and a half I am not, no need to say this, suggesting Ardbeg Dark Cove is seven years of age. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: huge differences. This has much less wood (and vanilla, coconut, ginger, and tutti quanti), and many more fruits, starting with some big and bold notes of freshly cut pears. Bags of them. It’s only after two or three minutes that the coastalness and the light smoke come out, both quite gracefully I have to say. Perhaps a little chlorine as well, iodine, fresh oysters… It’s lovely, but perhaps a little immature, as I also get a little varnish and acetone. Just wee whiffs. Mouth: excellent, bright, fresh, ‘nervous’, tart, salty, smoky… In fact, I find it extremely salty, even saltier than the saltiest batches of Bowmore (when they used to roll the barrels in the loch from the distillery to the puffers – pure hearsay, of course). We’re almost in white mezcal territories here. Once again, immaturity has its upsides. Finish: long, sharp like a blade, and rather immaculate. Less citrus than usual. Comments: some aspects reminded me of the new Lagavulin 8. Excellent! I also find this young CI peatier than usual. Indeed, a blade. SGP:368 - 88 points.

It’s going to be tough to find a punchier young peat monster at 46% vol., but you see, we’ve got good friends…

Port Ellen 10 yo 1981/1992 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection)

Port Ellen 10 yo 1981/1992 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection) Five stars As you probably know, this used to be Cadenhead’s budget series. But quality could be high, and nevertheless, it’s always a thrill to be able to taste young PE. A thrill that’s getting rarer by the year, while the older casks now tend to become less, say ‘bright’. Colour: white wine. Nose: well, what it’s got is this superb almondy/tarry profile that’s so very Port Ellen. We’re talking fresh almonds and apple peel, plus linseed oil and plasticine. How very PE indeed. The peat doesn’t sing high yet, but these hints of long-forgotten oils and washes are simply impressive. It’s what the Ardbeg Dark Cove may become after… 25 years of bottle aging ;-). Mouth: a perfect, well-chiselled, tarry peatiness, with some smoked salmon and bags of various ashes (wood, coal, peat) before more and more green pepper starts to make it really bigger. And acrid, in a good way. Perhaps ideas of fish oils as well, this is clearly coastal. What’s also sure is that it’s less easy and ‘immediate’ than both the Ardbeg and the Caol Ila, and that it tends to become even saltier than the latter. What a beast, and what a distillate. And no, while we’re at it, they have not obligatorily closed PE because it was ‘less good’ than Lagavulin and Caol Ila, contrarily to what some ‘smarter’ people will tell you. There were other issues, such as a lower efficiency, or not enough expandability, or environmental matters… Finish: long and perfect. Strongly smoked salmon and cigar ashes. Comments: many very young PEs were bottled at 40% or 43%, such as Signatory’s (and they were great). This one packs more punch, and should you want to try it, you may drive to Fiddler’s in Drumnadrochit and bring a case of Speyburn with you. Some magic may happen… Oh and something else, I believe these versions at 46% were rather better than the ones at cask strength (you know, 65% vol. and such). A budget series, he said. SGP:268 - 92 points.

PS: what would be totally great would be that Ardbeg issued some purely ex-refill young babies from time to time. But maybe that’s only my own obsession…

(And gracias again, Jon!)

 

 

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May 8, 2016


Whiskyfun

Six Islayrnatives from Trinidad

Sometimes nicknamed ‘the Ardbeg of rum’, the closed Caroni Distillery in Trinidad was maybe rather the Port Ellen of rum. Now, let’s not forget that unlike Port Ellen Distillery, they were also making some lighter style rum at Caroni, not just high-ester phenolic bombs. Let’s have a few, by ascending strengths…

Caroni 1999 (40%, Mezan, Trinidad, +/-2016)

Caroni 1999 (40%, Mezan, Trinidad, +/-2016) Four stars Mezan seem to favour spirit-driven rums, and we just cannot be against that, despite the very low strengths they also seem to favour. Colour: white wine. Nose: lovely. I often use that word, but this one really is lovely, with this subtle combination of engine oil and tar, dandelions, and cane juice. It whispers a little low, but it’s all delicacies and elegances. Very pure. Mouth: it’s Caroni’s lighter style, rather on lemon this time, only touches of salt, liquorice, and tar, and then more cane juice, which gives it a wee agricole side. Very good, one to sip while, ach, not noticing. Finish: medium, a little brinier and more olive-y. In other words, more Caroni. Comments: excellent, as expected. Once again, they bottled a very ‘pure’ rum, with a beautiful nakedness. We’ll have another vintage next… SGP:452 - 85 points.

Caroni 1996 (40%, Mezan, Trinidad, +/-2016)

Caroni 1996 (40%, Mezan, Trinidad, +/-2016) Three stars More oak influence in this one, according to the colour… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a rather grassier and drier Caroni, with indeed more oak, grass, fruit peel, as well as a little cigarette tobacco and perhaps cedar wood. It’s less bright and pristine than the 1999. Mouth: you’d really think you’re having a French agricole. Sugar cane, nuts, wood spices, touches of soft mustard, walnuts… It’s certainly excellent, but I really liked the 1999’s crystal-clean style better. Not sure I’d have recognised Caroni, had I tried this baby blind. Finish: once again, it gets a little saltier. Black olives instead of green ones. Comments: nah, it’s very good, no doubt. It’s just less, say singular. SGP:452 - 82 points.

Caroni 18 yo 1997 (51.9%, Sansibar, cask #861, 288 bottles, +/-2016)

Caroni 18 yo 1997 (51.9%, Sansibar, cask #861, 288 bottles, +/-2016) Four stars and a half More whisky people doing rum. They usually do that well. Colour: full gold. Nose: a wild one! Old leather jacket, Barbour grease, cigars, humidors, patchouli, hay, diesel oil, capers, Seville oranges, eucalyptus and myrtle… Everything’s quite wonderful, I have to say. With water: more old leather jackets covered with old waxes and oils, barnyard, pot-pourri, menthol… What a nose! Mouth (neat): it’s amazing how Ardbeggian this is indeed. And we’re talking 1970s Ardbeg, such as the few fino casks they had. Walnut wine, brine, oysters, smoked fish, hessian, tar, grapefruits… All that is coated with some spicy oak notes, more towards lemongrass and pickled ginger. A treat. With water: gets softer this time, with more oranges, and a wee bourbony side. Sweet cinnamon drops. Finish: long, but curiously narrower, and less expensive (pleonasm, S.) Perhaps a tad too oaky? Comments: I’m being too picky, this one’s excellent. SGP:462 - 88 points.

Caroni 18 yo 1997 (53.3%, Sansibar, cask #104, 266 bottles, +/-2016)

Caroni 18 yo 1997 (53.3%, Sansibar, cask #104, 266 bottles, +/-2016) Four stars and a half A sister cask. Colour: full gold. Nose: same-ish territories. Perhaps a little more oranges? And marmalade? And Triple-sec? I know, that’s all kind of the same thing. With water: get’s more vegetal and pine-y than its sibling, with a little more moss as well. Green apples. Just as lovely. Mouth (neat): same, very Ardbeggian, with this fat tarriness and, once again, rather more bitter oranges. The oak’s a tad louder too, with a little more pepper. Pepper and sultanas. With water: a little more sultanas this time, with a sweeter edge. Finish: long, mentholy and raisiny. Lemongrass. Once again the oak really starts to roar. Comments: not enough differences to come up with a different score. Great rum once again, you just mustn’t be afraid of a little oak. SGP:562 - 88 points.

Caroni 17 yo 1997/2015 (52.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #883, 263 bottles)

Caroni 17 yo 1997/2015 (52.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #883, 263 bottles) Four stars and a half Another sister cask, obviously. Colour: full gold. Nose: once again, same high territories. Perhaps a little more tar and even natural rubber? It is a little Port-Ellenish, in that sense. More Barbour grease and other things that our ancestors used to cover their leather garments with. With water: mint and grasses and tar. Mouth (neat): same. Perhaps a notch more citrusy? The feeling of salty black liquorice is huge. A few jelly babies in the background, orange-flavoured ones first. With water: we’re closer to cask #104, despite the numbers. This sweeter edge. Finish: very same-ish. Comments: same score once again. There are even less differences than in two songs by Coldplay. SGP:562 - 88 points.

Perhaps is it time for the last one. Let’s make it another 17 yo…

Caroni 17 yo 1998/2015 ‘Extra Strong’ (55%, Velier, Trinidad)

Caroni 17 yo 1998/2015 ‘Extra Strong’ (55%, Velier, Trinidad) Five stars Velier and boss Luca Gargano are the good people that brought Caroni to everyone’s attention. Their 12 has been a favourite at home. Colour: gold/amber. Nose: soft, and more pastry-like than the others. We’re talking praline and milk chocolate, then plantains, ganaches, and crème brulée. The phenolic/tarry/earthy notes are there, but subdued and working just as some wee seasoning. With water: mint leaves, Kools, pu-ehr tea, a real top three. Mouth (neat): superb. I know it’s molasses, but once again, there’s an agricole style that works beautifully. Touches of salt and lemon on a bed of orange cake covered with peach and maracuja syrups. There’s even a little honey. The lemon really lifts it. With water: goes towards herbal teas. When that happens with whisky, it’s great news, why would that be any different with rum? Lemon blossom, chamomile, dog rose… Finish: rather long, perfect, orangey, fresh. The oak never gets in your way. Comments: it’s aged in the tropics, you know. 70% angel’s share, but the flying buggers left the best 30% for us. SGP:652 - 90 points.

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

 

 

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May 7, 2016


Whiskyfun
Whiskyfun fav of the month

April 2016

Favourite recent bottling:
Springbank 12 yo 'Cask Strength' (54.1%, OB, batch #12, 2016) - WF 90

Favourite older bottling:
Rosebank 28 yo 1965/1993 (53.4%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #2498, 180 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Glenrothes 8 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, The MacPhail's Collection, +/-2015) - WF 87

Favourite malternative:
Foursquare 2 yo 2013/2015 (64%, Habitation Velier, Barbados) - WF 89
 

May 2, 2016


Whiskyfun

Wacky vatt... I mean, blended malts

There are more and more of them. Some disclose what's inside, but many don't. They need a lot of branding, and perhaps a few stories, or they'll remain 'cheap humble bastards'. Sure you can claim that your blenders are the modern Leonardos (not Di Caprio), and that they actually do 'create' something, but frankly, all that is a little 'pushed' and I know many friends who remain a little, say unconvinced. And yet, some of these bastard malts are very good. Let's try a few, at random - there are so many of them these days! Oh, almost forgot to say, at WF Towers, we do not consider the teaspooned blended malts (Burnside, Westport, Williamson and others) as actual blended malts, they're just single malts in disguise. So we'll avoid them today...

Older than Old (46.5%, Eiling Lim, blended malt, 2015)

Older than Old (46.5%, Eiling Lim, blended malt, 2015) Four stars and a half This wee batch contains Highland and Speyside malt whiskies. It’s all pretty secret, so, shhh… Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s coherent, and it’s very pleasant, midway between a sherry monster and a fresh fruit bomb. And that works. Raisins, white Port, pastries, a little pinesap (some old wood in there), perhaps a little leather (new shoes just out of their box), and a little muscovado sugar. And there, a little rum. I’m amazed by the fact that its not dissonant at all, they may have done  some marriage for a few weeks or months. Mouth: just excellent. It’s got something of Glen Garioch, mind you, especially this distant saltiness and a mild smoke, before more praline and soft Swiss chocolate join in the dancing. A touch of ginger liqueur, perhaps. Perfect strength and body. Finish: quite long, well rounded, but with good spikes and bumps. It’s not one of these old vatted malts to sip in a Chesterfield armchair while listening to Purcell. Oh forget about that. Comments: real good, but on the other hand, they may have used real good components. SGP:552 - 89 points.

A session that starts well!

Rìgh Seumas II 8 yo 2007/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, blended malt, 1298 bottles)

Rìgh Seumas II 8 yo 2007/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, blended malt, 1298 bottles) Four stars Righ Seumas II? Wasn’t that one of the guys in the early episodes of Game of Thrones? It’s interesting that MMcD would tell us what’s inside, that is to say Auchentoshan, Arran, Bruichladdich, Old Rhosdhu, and Tobermory. What a wacky combo indeed, but they wouldn’t  tell us about the proportions. As long as that’s not 90% Rhosdhu, I’m fine. Colour: white wine with a funny hue of… orange wine (if you never tried orange wine – it’s for French bobos - please… don’t.) Nose: we’re having breakfast. I don’t think I’ve found this much porridge in one whisky before. And muesli, smoked tea, white bread… That does give it a feeling of ‘craft’ as can be encountered in a few American or European new craft whiskies. And I’m totally not against that. Mouth: but this is very good! Sure there’s a leafy bitterness, and sure it’s probably not for everyone (if you like Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, please move it along), but this way of being totally ‘on cereals’ is lovely. Very well done. Finish: quite long, with grapefruits and spices such as caraway and poppy seeds. They just couldn’t go with the flow. Sadly, the aftertaste is a little bitter and drying. Loses a few points. Comments: I was’t expecting much, and I was wrong (who said ‘again’, who?) SGP:461 - 86 points.

Bowmore & Craigellachie (46%, Douglas Laing, Double Barrel, +/-2016)

Bowmore & Craigellachie (46%, Douglas Laing, Double Barrel, +/-2016) No age, so probably young to very young. Colour: gold. Nose: oh my, they reinvented FWP. Unless there’s some 1980s Bowmore inside, which I doubt. Lavender soap, myrtle liqueur, brake fluid, smoked fish, juniper berries, broom… It sure is unlike any other malt whisky! It’s not that Bowmore and Craigellachie clash, they just create a new dimension, never seen before. In a way, it’s like going on holidays in Moldova. Mouth: better, or at least a little more normal. I didn’t say civilised. Having said that the soapy tones are still there. Some mad recipe made by someone who’d have smoked herrings using blackcurrant and lavender wood and leaves. I’ve heard they do that in Moldova (I’m joking! And as a matter of fact, I’m planning a visit to Moldova). Finish: quite long and rather unlikely. Sure you get used to these flavours, and should you quaff two litres, you’ll find it all great. But still… Comments: as they say in Iceland, totally no comprendo. SGP:575 - 65 points.

Let’s look for some redemption malt…

Ardbeg & Craigellachie (46%, Douglas Laing, Double Barrel, +/-2016)

Ardbeg & Craigellachie (46%, Douglas Laing, Double Barrel, +/-2016) Four stars and a half I find it admirable to dump a cask of Ardbeg – however young - into a vatting, while you could probably sell it as a single for double the price. Unless, unless… Colour: white wine. Nose: much more mainstream, classic, easy, and frankly pleasant. The vatting added a layer of fresh fruits to Ardbeg’s raw smoke, but frankly, it’s the latter that’s catching all the light. I’m not even sure someone would notice that ‘something else’ was added to Ardbeg, even if, now that we know it, it’s a tad lighter than the usual Ardbeg. Mouth: very good, very Ardbeg Ten. Smoke, brine, lemon, a little tar, a little liquorice… I guess we should be able to taste both casks individually to check how they worked together, but this is very ‘Ardbeg’. And a very good Ardbeg. Finish: long, precise, very Ardbeggian. Comments: aaaah! In fact, this may have worked as if they had matured some Ardbeg in some very active sweet American oak. Excellent. And proof that it wasn’t the Craig’ in the previous one ;-). SGP:456 - 89 points.

While we’re at DL’s and on Islay…

Clan Denny Islay (46.5%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2015)

Clan Denny Islay (46.5%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2015) Five stars What did they do to this label? Them who are usually so good at that? Friday night design? (noh, don’t fire the trainee!) But yeah, it’s the liquid that counts… And the latter gathers 7 Islay malts ‘including whisky from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila’. Mmm, there are two missing. Let’s not play the guessing game… Colour: gold. Nose: there are whiffs of rubber at first nosing but those are going away. What’s left is seawater, macha, smoked ultra-ripe apples, lapsang souchong (litres), plenty of smoked barley (visiting a working kiln), and ashes. As usual, the peaters are playing first trumpets. Mouth: I’m afraid it’s excellent! Complex, smoky, but not ‘stupidly smoky’, with some tobacco, old liqueurs, herbal teas aplenty, touches of wax and plasticine, ‘ideas’ of good Calvados (the one that contains more pears than apples)… No, really, this was composed with enormous gusto. Finish: perfect, earthy, gentiany, ashy, mezcaly… Comments: I hate it that we do not know about the age(s), but I have to bow down before this fantastic young composition. And it’s not even expensive. People often ask me what they should buy for cheap. Today, the answer is ‘this’. SGP:456 - 90 points.

What a disaster, all these NAS vatted malts that are gathering high scores… Shame on me! But perhaps will some very old vatted destroy them? Let’s call to MMcD for help…

Coinninch 20 yo 1995/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, blended malt, 250 bottles)

Coinninch 20 yo 1995/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, blended malt, 250 bottles) Three stars and a half Oh what a name again! But why not, maybe is it better than Norse gods? What? You say Coinninch was a Norse god? There are eight different malts inside, from all Scottish regions. Colour: pale gold. Nose: gutted, they did it again. No peat this time – or very little – rather a wonderful, quite subtle waxy Highlandness, with some sea air, some linseed oil, some kelp, some green apples, some lemons, some… wait, some peat! It is actually rather peaty. How would I put it, remember the older Black Bottle? That’s more or less the style, but this one has got more profoundness and certainly more depth (tsk tsk, that’s the same, S.) I think they almost reconstructed Clynelish, no small feat. Mouth: super good, for sure. What bothers me a little more is this sweet and oily vanillaness that coats it and makes it a little slow after the wonderful nose. It’s lost a bit of oomph and zestiness, but there’s no denying, it’s very good. Oranges, vanilla, smoked fruits, and perhaps a little too much fudge (given the style). Finish: rather long, rather smokier (a peater seems to be willing to have the last word) and slightly salty. Which is good. Comments: I find it less interesting than the Rìgh Seumas, but it’s most certainly very good whisky. IN a way, and that’s only my opinion, there’s either not enough peat, or too much of it (oh S., would you mind your own business please!) SGP:553 - 83 points.

Very happy with this session. NAS, blended malts… With whisky, paradise can be so close to hell!

 

 

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May 1, 2016


Whiskyfun

A bunch of superb Jamaican malternatives

Whether Jamaica’s the Islay of rum remains debatable, there are certainly a few other contenders. But what the island certainly isn’t is ‘the Lowlands of rum’. Let’s expect some very congeneric, dundery flavours… And start with an old apéritif!

Black Joe Original Jamaica (40%, OB, Jamaica, Italy, 1980s)

Black Joe Original Jamaica (40%, OB, Jamaica, Italy, 1980s) Four starsA brand of unknown origin that was available in Italy, and still is, apparently. Colour: gold. Nose: a rather wild, pretty gasoline-y style, with whiffs of those old things that used to fill our childhood. New plastic toys, glue, plasticine, new LP (make that a double)… There’s a thin layer of banana jam and tinned pineapples, but little brine or smoke this time. A little tar, though. Mouth: typically and totally Jamaican, that is to say phenolic and tarry, with touches of salt and once again, some easier notes of pineapples and liquorice (allsorts). Perhaps drop of Maggi and… do you know Antésite? It’s some kind of liquorice extract that we used as a syrup, you could add only three drops to one litre of water. It was very popular in the 1970s. Finish: medium, now with olives! Love olives in my rum. Comments: rather great, if not totally stellar Jamaican rum. SGP:562 - 85 points.

Worthy Park ‘Gold’ (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2016)

Worthy Park ‘Gold’ (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2016) Four stars Doesn't it look like an American beer bottle? Ah we remember a white Worthy park by Rum ation that was, well, smashing, two year ago. Colour: pale gold. Nose: pure brine kept in vanilla-ed American oak. It’s a wonderful nose, with also green olives, black olives, all kinds of tinned fish, some ink, old papers, tar and liquorice, capers, and perhaps just hints of ylang-ylang. This floral/briny combination works particularly well on the nose. Mouth: it is a little rough and, well, unpolished, but that’s almost expected from such a profile. Raw cane sugar, more olives, salt, tarry things, tobacco… And indeed more liquorice. The rum is fat enough to perfectly stand the low strength, you juts don’t feel like ‘you deserved a little more’. Finish: long, always briny, tarry, and liquorice. And what do we have in the aftertaste? That’s right, olives. Comments: one of the ‘peaters’ of rum. In a way, this is the Ardbeg Ten of rum (the older bottle at 40% vol. ;-)). And it’s not expensive at all. SGP:363- 87 points.

Jamaica 5 yo ‘Navy Strength’ (57%, La Compagnie des Indes, Jamaican blend, +/-2015)

Jamaica 5 yo ‘Navy Strength’ (57%, La Compagnie des Indes, Jamaican blend, +/-2015) Four stars A blend of three rums by this new French bottler (well, not that new anymore) that’s already garnered a huge reputation. Mind you, they only bottle pure rum, never sweetened or glycerined ‘junk’. And no fantasy ages. Colour: pale gold. Nose: yes! I don’t know how much ‘lighter’ rums there is inside this vatting, but the high-esters ones are leading the pack. Leatherette, tobacco, tar, liquorice, a little ink, then rather more chocolate and custard – moderately. Perhaps hints of pencil shavings. Some marriage time in active oak? With water: ah, a touch of coconut… Mouth (neat): really very good. It’s a fairly approachable Jamaican, despite the high strength, rather fruitier than the Worthy park. Perhaps blood oranges? But other than that, everything is there, olives, tar, smoke, salt… With water: we’re getting much closer to the Worthy park. Finish: long, well balanced, relatively easy, yet totally Jamaican. Comments: pour this to your friends who aren’t rum ‘experts’. And put Peter Tosh on the stereo. They’ll like it. SGP:462 - 86 points.

Plantation Jamaica 2001 (42%, Plantation, +/-2015)

Plantation Jamaica 2001 (42%, Plantation, +/-2015) Two stars They wrote ‘Jamaica Grand Cru’ on the label. That is, of course, imaginary, unless I missed something. Or perhaps did they mean ‘single distillery’? Colour: orangey gold. Nose: dry, a tad oaky, and plainly Jamaican. Same inky tar and brine than in the Worthy park, except that there’s also some chocolate, cakes, and several spices, such as cloves and nutmeg. The official Worthy park was brighter, but this 2001 is to my liking. Mouth: there’s some added sugar, which is a shame and a pity, but they seem to have exercised restraint this time, they did not totally kill this baby with the medicine. But the liqueury feeling is a little unpleasant. Thickish mouth feel, and more and more Cointreau or Grand-Marnier, the sugar is taking over after just two minutes. Finish: medium, sugary. Comments: did the distillate really need this medicine? Or does the market still have a very sweet tooth? I could understand why one would do this to a Dominican, or a Guatemalan, but to a Jamaican that seems to have been perfectly all right, according to its nose? SGP:731 - 70 points.

Back to unadulterated Worthy Park if you don’t mind…

Worthy Park 2005 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2015)

Worthy Park 2005 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2015) Four stars and a half More pure unsweetened port still rum! Sure the 40% vol. sound a little meagre, but with Worthy park, that may be enough. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a lighter style, it seems. Starts with peaches and custard, goes on with pears and apples, and gets then pretty floral, with dandelions and other yellow nectar-packed flowers. The whole’s very elegant and subtle, just not very ‘Jamaican’. But the Jamaicans don’t only produce congeneric monsters, do they? Mouth: excellent. The first one was an Ardbeg of rum, this one’s a Benriach or a Tomatin. Beautiful soft orchard fruits and several herbal teas, chamomile and compadres. A touch of honey and a touch of crème au beurre. I find it excellent, especially since a little tar is sticking its nose out after two minutes. And a little mint. Unexpected, but very very good. Finish: medium, soft, now a little grassy. I was about to write ‘malty’. Comments: plainly malternative. A very lovely bottle, all elegance and freshness. Some kind of high-class anti-Wedderburn? SGP:552 - 89 points.

Well done Mezan, let’s have another Jamaican Mezan…

Long Pond 2000 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2015)

Long Pond 2000 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2015) Four stars Long Pond is a closed distillery since 2011, not sure it could be restarted. What’s sure is that I’ll always remember Gordon & MacPhail’s stupendous 1941/1999! Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a little acetic after the stunning Worthy Park, and a little grassier, but I would call it ‘dundery’. We’re somewhere between both worlds, with indeed some olives and tar, but also a softer side, with fresh butter and golden delicious apples. There’s also more and more eucalyptus and mint, the whole remaining well-chiselled, as always with Mezan’s offerings. Perhaps a little dust/cardboard? Mouth: leaning to the tarry side, but moderately. Apple pie and cigar smoke and ashes, touches of mint again, a touch of tarry rubber, and ripe green apples. It’s very good, it’s just that the Worthy park was superior in my book. Hints of burnt wood, perhaps, which makes it a notch more, say muddly? A matter of contrast. Finish: medium, a tad bitterish. Green oak? Bicycle inner tube in the aftertaste. Remember? Comments: it’s very good, I think, it’s just that the Worthy Parks never quite gave it the floor. SGP:453 - 85 points.

Great Jamaicans! As long as the bottlers don’t alter them or ‘liqueurise’ them, they make for some of the most perfect malternatives out there. IMHO, as we used to say on usenet. Now it's perfectly fine to enjoy sweetened rums, of course, those are just not real malternatives. Remember, we're tasting rum from a whisky POV!

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

 

 

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