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Tasting notes:
Whiskies 10,528
Others 699

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Index of whiskyfun


Whisky Tasting

 
Aberfeldy (35) - Aberlour (79)
Abhainn Dearg (2)
Allt-A-Bhainne (2
6)
An Cnoc (
20)
Ardbeg (3
38) - Ardmore (60)
Arran (6
9) - Auchentoshan (71)
Auchroisk (26) - Aultmore (29)

Balblair (63) - Balmenach (33)
Balvenie (
73) - Banff (43)
Ben Nevis (
90)
Ben Wyvis (
2)
Benriach (
137) - Benrinnes (43)
Benromach (
42) - Bladnoch (54)
Blair Athol (4
2) - Bowmore (379)
Braes of Glenlivet (
29)
Brora (
115)
Bruichladdich (2
12)
Bunnahabhain (
238)
Caol Ila (406)
Caperdonich (
81)
Cardhu (
31) - Clynelish (284)
Coleburn (
15)
Convalmore (1
8)
Cragganmore (
58)
Craigduff (3) - Craigellachie (
40)
Dailuaine (47) - Dallas Dhu (32)
Dalmore (85) - Dalwhinnie (19)
Deanston (22) - Dufftown (41)

Edradour (38)
Imperial (58) - Inchgower (44)
Inverleven (18)
Isle of Jura (85)

Kilchoman (20)
Kilkerran (
7) - Kinclaith (7)
Kininvie
(3)
- Knockando (
31)
Ladyburn (9) - Lagavulin (97)
Laphroaig (337) - Ledaig (73)
Linkwood (105) - Littlemill (79)
Loch Lomond (26)
Lochside (62)
Longmorn (172) - Longrow (52)

Macallan (228) - Macduff (51)
Mannochmore (2
5)
Millburn (1
9)
Miltonduff (
53) - Mortlach (114)
Mosstowie (1
7)
Scapa (34) - Speyburn (22) - Speyside (15)
Springbank (22
5)
St-Magdalene (46)
Strathisla (80) - Strathmill (24)

Talisker (105) - Tamdhu (45)
Tamnavulin (14)
Teaninich (40)
Tobermory (28) - Tomatin (
106)
Tomintoul (5
8) - Tormore (36)
Tullibardine (3
7)
 
 
Pete and Jack


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1 - 2
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October
1 - 2
September 1 - 2
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July 1 - 2
June 1 - 2
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April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
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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
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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
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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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The Magical History
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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

2002-2015


Whiskyfun counter
 


Scotch Legal Announcement

 
 

April 1, 2015


Whiskyfun

Breaking News
Whiskyfun.com to label any new NAS malt whiskies as 3 years old

They’re slowly invading our shelves and might soon make for 50% of travel retail. Those are the no-age-statement malt whiskies (NAS), that is to say those whiskies that, contrarily to what’s happening in many other fields where giving better information to the consumer is becoming crucial, are now hiding one of their most important features, their ages.
Of course the industry has holstered up its guns and polished its brand new selling points, but they are often contradicting what they were still stating loud and clear just four years ago, hence losing, maybe, a tiny wee chunk of their credibility.

justin
Doesn't age matter?

For example, do you remember Chivas Bros’ ‘Look for the Number’ campaign, with its ‘Know the age, know whisky’ baseline? That was in 2010. Gone. And there are new lines appearing here and there, such as ‘NAS gives our blenders the opportunity to be more creative’. Or even stranger, ‘NAS gives us more flexibility’ (I can see why the board of directors or the shareholders would care, but the consumer?) Or ‘we now understand wood technologies much better than before, and so don’t need much ageing anymore’. Or ‘frankly, old whiskies can be tired’. Or 'age statements were only a recent, temporary thing' (not sure that applies to malt whisky). At times, the industry's explanations sound like those of a little boy that was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Oh and as we’ve said many times already, if age was irrelevant, why not drop it from your older whiskies as well?
In fact, the industry seems to be trying to kill two birds with one stone. One, make up for their supposedly dwindling stocks of older whisky (we had screwed up with our production plans but you're toasted, not us). Second part of the move, raising prices. If your 10 years old sells for £30 it would be pure madness to try to sell your 5 years old for the same price or even more, wouldn’t it? Unless you hide any mentions of age or vintage, find a funny name and a story to match, hire a posh London agency that’s got a great old book about Victorian or Viennese designs, make abundant use of rejuvenated oak and/or wine treatments to give 'flavour', and sometimes make the public believe that you might have added very old whiskies to your vattings (but since it’s now forbidden to advertise that part, you can’t quite tell. How convenient.)
In fact one of the most emblematic new NAS whiskies, which I won’t quote out of Christian charity, is actually not even five, and yet it’s sold for the same price as their ten years old. Bingo! Time-to-market cut in half, how cool is that? In truth, as Jack Washback may have said before, NAS is simply made by adding £15 to a 5 years old whisky. And yes, NAS/young whisky can be just superb, but that's not my point.
SO, as this little website is all about information, and as we believe age is one of, if not the most important bit of information regarding any single malt whisky (it's simply consubstantial), I’ve decided that we’ll display the ages of strictly all the malt whiskies we’ll taste from now on. But since the only thing we’re sure about, when tasting NAS Scotch whisky, is that it’s a least 3 years old (its legal minimum age), we’ll simply label any NAS malt as ‘3 years old’. Not blends and not grains.

So, matching conduct to words, this is what we’ll be tasting right tomorrow:

Glenlivet 3 yo ‘Founder’s Reserve’ (40%, OB, +/-2015)
Glenmorangie 3 yo 'Signet' (46%, OB, +/-2014)
Dalmore 3 yo ‘King Alexander III’ (40%, OB, +/-2014)
Highland Park 3 yo 'Svein' (40%, OB, travel retail, +/-2015)
Macallan 3 yo ‘M’ (44.5%, OB, +/-2014)
Old Pulteney 3 yo ‘Clipper around the world’ (46%, OB, +/-2015)
Laphroaig 3 yo ‘Select’ (40%, OB, +/-2015)
Ardbeg 3 yo 'Perpetuum' (49.2%, OB, 2015)
Bowmore 3 yo 'Small Batch' (40%, OB, +/-2014)
Talisker 3 yo 'Skye' (45.8%, OB, +/-2015)
BONUS:
Yamazaki 3 yo ‘Sherry Cask 2013’ (48%, OB)

That’s a great bunch of 3 years old whiskies, isn’t it? So, stay tuned!

 

March 31, 2015


Whiskyfun

New cats, Wolfburn
vs. Ardnamurchan

The northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland vs. the westernmost distillery, that should be fun. But these will be new makes or BPS, so I’m afraid we just won’t score them. That would be stupid if you ask me.

Wolfburn 20 mo 2013/2014 'Inaugural Release' (46%, OB, Swiss import, British plain spirit)

Wolfburn 20 mo 2013/2014 'Inaugural Release' (46%, OB, Swiss import, British plain spirit) Wolfburn Distillery, in Thurso, make unpeated malt whisky. (A bit) sadly this not-quite-whisky-yet was reduced to 46% vol. and matured in ex-Laphroaig quarter cask, so I’m not totally sure we’ll manage to get a perfect grasp of Wolfburn’s style, as Laphroaig can be very, say ‘invading’, even when in very small proportions. Just ask the blenders! Colour: pale white wine. Nose: the pears are plentiful, and great news, Laphroaig has good manners here, so the smokiness is rather minimal. Drops of lapsang souchong? There are also touches of rubber and butter, as usual in very young whiskies, and maybe a little pineapple. A pleasant, gentle spirit altogether. I especially enjoy the whiffs of damp earth and roots that arise after a few minutes, as well as the very tiny touches of rubbed mint leaves.

Mouth: there’s rather more smoke now, while the body remains fairly delicate, certainly not fat. There’s something that reminds me of Glenmorangie, perhaps. Blood oranges, pears, pineapples (but not too much of that), barley water, and very few rubbery/feinty notes, which is quite an achievement at such young age. Finish: rather short, a little more citrusy. Maybe something very faintly medicinal in the aftertaste, but that might be Laphroaig. There’s also more smoke and ashes, more lapsang souchong. Comments: a sweet and easy profile that should be ready quite early in my opinion. SGP:533

Ardnamurchan 2015 new make (63%, sample, 2015)

Ardnamurchan 2015 new make (63%, sample, 2015) This is Adelphi’s distillery, which started distilling last year. It’s located on the shores of Loch Sunart. This is unpeated newmake, but Ardnamurchan does (or should do) both unpeated and peated. Oh and the spirit still is more or less twice as large as Wolfburn’s. Colour: white. Nose: it’s obviously rougher than the Wolfburn, but remember this is new make, and at a much higher strength (not natural though, it’s been reduced a bit).

Having said that, it seems to be a fatter spirit, more ‘congeneric’, with more meaty/waxy notes, more earth and farmy notes, quite some mushrooms and humus… I also find a little tincture of iodine. I really enjoy this, it’s not unlike some gentler… mezcal (that would have been distilled at Clynelish, ha-ha). Hurray! Mouth: a little more difficult to enjoy, but that’s the strength. A lot of sweet barley and pear bonbons. With water (down to +/-46%): some wax comes out, together with tinned fruits and most certainly several kinds of oranges. A little Schweppes-Orange, perhaps. Finish: quite long, mostly on oranges, with a little linseed oil. Comments: so indeed, a fatter style, but it’s hard to compare it with the Wolfburn since that one came ‘with Laphroaig inside’, and was twenty months older. SGP:451

 

 

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March 30, 2015


Whiskyfun

A few American whiskeys

This small bunch will include bourbons, naturally, and maybe other whiskeys from the good old US of A. We’ll choose them one after the other, but we’ll try to start with the simpler ones. In theory.

Jack Daniel's ‘Old No.7’ (40%, OB, USA, Tennessee Whiskey, +/-2013) Two starsWhat happens? It’s the second time in two years that I’m tasting old Jack! It’s not bourbon, and yet it is – or something like that. Colour: deep gold. Nose: now I remember. Varnish and CH3COO[CH2]4CH3 (that’s bananas and pears) plus butterscotch and vanilla and a touch of orange. So easy, so smooth… And frankly, this is a pleasant nose. Mouth: very sweet. Grenadine, cranberry syrup, bananas, jelly babies and just a touch of toasted bread that comes with a few soft oak spices, such as cinnamon. Very light mouth feel. Finish: short, sweet. We’re in a candy shop. More oak and vanilla again in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s always made me laugh that fine gentlemen such as Lemmy Kilmister or Keith Richards were so deep into Jack Daniels. Have they ever tried Octomore? Seriously, this is no bad whiskey at all, it’s just very consensual. Some aspects remind me of Dad’s Southern Comfort. SGP:730 - 71 points.

In truth, if I tasted the old No.7 again, that was because I needed a stepping-stone to this one…

Jack Daniel's 'Single Barrel Select' (45%, OB, USA, for The Whisky Lodge Lyon, France, cask #13-5720, 2013)

Jack Daniel's 'Single Barrel Select' (45%, OB, USA, for The Whisky Lodge Lyon, France, cask #13-5720, 2013) Two stars and a half The Whisky Lodge is one of the oldest whisky shops in France. If you’re ever in Lyon/Lyons, go there! Colour: deep gold – slightly darker than No.7. Nose: more substance, less sweetness, more fudge and praline, touches of warm pencil shavings, sweet corn, cedar wood (brand new humidor) and just a hint of fresh mint mixed with black earth. Mouth: it’s sweeter again, starting with a hints of sloe gin, then we find both ripe and dried bananas, plenty of raisins, some grenadine and some mulled white wine. Cinnamon, star anise… Good body, while the oak never exactly dominates while being very obvious. Finish: not very long but there’s some triple-sec-filled chocolate. Pencil shavings again in the aftertaste – just a little. Comments: that this is bigger than the No.7 is an understatement. Not my preferred style, but it’s high quality whiskey for sure. SGP:650 - 78 points.

While we’re in Tennessee…

George Dickel 'Tennessee Whisky No. 12' (45%, OB, USA, +/-2014)

George Dickel 'Tennessee Whisky No. 12' (45%, OB, USA, +/-2014) Two stars Colour: gold. Nose: that this baby is straighter and more on cereals is another understatement. Plenty of sweet bread, custard, pecans, then rather toasted oak, cocoa powder and roasted chestnut. Litres of custard. Some notes of grated coconut as well. American oak singing loud – and in tune. Mouth: I do find these touches of sloe gin or jenever again, then rather bitter oranges. Sadly, there’s also rather too much coconut, something that I hadn’t find last time I tried Dickel No.12. I mean, to this extent. There’s also a lot of pencil shavings – the pencil got tiny! Finish: medium long, a little astringent and kind of gritty. Rough tannins. Comments: last time I had liked it quite a lot (WF 79) but this time I find something disturbing. SGP:551 - 70 points.

Basil Hayden's (40%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2014)

Basil Hayden's (40%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2014) Three stars This baby races within the Jim Beam team. I had thought Hayden’s was bottled at a higher strength than others, but this one isn’t. And it’s very expensive in Europe, around 70€. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s fresh and fragrant, I guess there’s more rye in this one. It’s gentle bourbon, and maybe is it even a little light, but the aromas are well defined and never simply oaky. Oranges, a drop of lavender cologne, rye, white chocolate, plantains, violets, some charcoal… Rather delicate so far. Mouth: it’s a fruity and mildly spicy one, with oranges, rhubarb, a drop of gin and quite some rye yet again. Violet sweets like they make in the lovely city of Toulouse, dried bananas, and some matter notes of chocolate and cinnamon. Finish: medium long, fruity, slightly perfumy. Oranges and those violet sweets again. Comments: a very pleasant discovery. I don’t think I had tried this baby before. SGP:640 - 82 points.

Evan Williams ‘1783’ (43%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2014)

Evan Williams ‘1783’ (43%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Some kind of NAS small batch by Heaven Hill. We might see more of these whiskies bearing a large founding date instead of an age/actual vintage. Because our mind works that way… Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s a bigger, more fragrant, but also much simpler nose after our friend Basil’s. Vanilla, sawdust and caramel at full steam, plus a touch of earth and liquorice that adds balance. It’s bourbon. Mouth: fudge and caramel plus vanilla and a drop of apple juice. Really straightforward, with good balance and even a kind of fruity freshness that makes it most pleasant. But it’s very simple. Finish: good length. Apple juice, orange marmalade and custard plus a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. As (almost) always. Comments: pleasant and drinkable. Maybe just a wee tad boring. SGP:530 - 77 points.

Evan Williams 2004/2014 'Single Barrel' (43.3%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon)

Evan Williams 2004/2014 'Single Barrel' (43.3%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon) Three stars Colour: amber. Nose: another world. It’s not that this baby’s any more complex than the 1783, but it’s certainly fuller and more elegant at the same time. I quite like these earthy spices, for example, these touches of wood smoke (heating up the barbecue), and even the massive doses of vanilla and soft oak spices. Nutshell, it’s simple but it’s full. And it’s getting more fudgy in a matter of minutes. A lot of toasted oak too. Mouth: same comments, it’s a fuller and bigger version, with good fruits (stewed rhubarb and apples), orange cake, a touch of caraway and clove, then quite a lot of vanilla-flavoured marmalade. Very easy to drink. Finish: good length. More vanilla-flavoured marmalade, spice cake, caramel and toasted oak. Comments: simple and to my liking, even if the oak’s as loud as the aforementioned Lemmy Kilmister. SGP:541 - 81 points.

W.L. Weller 12 yo (45%, OB, USA, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2014)

W.L. Weller 12 yo (45%, OB, USA, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2014) Three stars and a half This is wheated bourbon, meaning that, as I understand it, there’s quite some wheat after corn. Instead of rye, for example. Does that make sense? Colour: pale amber. Nose: rounded and smooooth! Like nosing a Mars bar topped with liquid honey and maple syrup. That may sound a little regressive, but it’s actually very pleasant. In the background, that earthiness that nicely balances some bourbons, slightly sour. Pleasantly so. Mouth: this is a blend of honey and maple syrup aged in active oak. The end result is a huge spoonful of praline and milk chocolate plus three raisins and a sparkle of glazed chestnut (are you sure, S.?) The oak makes it a little drier and matter after one minute, but that’s fine. Finish: not the best part, but once again, there are more important things in life. I find it a little thin. Comments: very easy, uncomplicated, and well made – says this taster who’s no bourbon lover. Smooooth… SGP630 - 83 points.

Up for a last one? Or maybe two? Let’s try to find another wheated… rummage rummage… Found one! We’ll go more artisan. Yes, craft, if you will…

2nd Chance Wheat (47%, OB, USA, Sonoma County Distilling Co., batch #2, 2014)

2nd Chance Wheat (47%, OB, USA, Sonoma County Distilling Co., batch #2, 2014) Four stars By the same good people who give us the excellent Sonoma/1512 Rye. Unmalted Californian wheat is the primary grain here, then there’s malted rye. They made just 137 cases of this and I like the fact that, as stated on the back label, this baby was ‘given a chance to mature in an optimal, decelerated environment.’ Good one. Colour: gold. Nose: yeah well, the rye and the oak speak first, and beautifully so. I also find old tarry papers, pumpernickel (it’s very bready again) and a bit of baker’s yeast. We’re almost wandering throughout a bakery at five in the morning. Also love these hints of juniper and wild myrtle. Mouth: perfect, even if, yet again, the rye may be doing all the talking. Love this bready/spicy development, the sweet spicy fruitiness (some kind of fruity Indian sauce – the name escapes me), the pumpernickel and other wholegrain breads, the gingery, almost quinine-like feeling. Not to mention the mouth feel, which is perfect. Finish: very long, maybe a tiny-wee tad bitterish, but the aftertaste is perfect. Read very bready. Comments: indeed, in this case, age doesn’t matter much. Very characterful spirit, extremely well made. I’m sure that’s the ‘decelerated environment’. Ha, Californians! ;-) Seriously, indeed this was rather sweeter than the full ryes by the same very good little house. SGP:561 - 87 points.

Well, it seems that that nasty little Californian wheater just killed this session. Better like that.

 

 

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March 27, 2015


Whiskyfun

Happy International Whisky Day!

Michael Jackson
Every year since 2008, International Whisk(e)y Day celebrates the birthday of the late Michael Jackson, eternal king of whisky writing, and the greatest spirit in the world. Raise a glass on March 27th and help fight Parkinson's Disease!

We did that in the past, let’s do it again, we’ll toast to Michael Jackson’s memory with one of, if not his favourite distillery, Macallan. We’ll start with the usual wee aperitif, and then try to find something rarer, something the great man would have probably enjoyed!...

Macallan 12 yo 'Fine Oak' (40%, OB, +/-2014)

Macallan 12 yo 'Fine Oak' (40%, OB, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Not very maniacal bottles anymore, but you never know. Older 12 FO used to cruise along the WF 78 line. Colour: dark straw. Nose: have you also found quite some menthol in recent batches? And then rather butterscotch and shortbread, with a layer of caramelised apples and hazelnut butter? And then more beer and porridge, with a spirity side? Mouth: tastes young and a little spirity, with a slightly thin body. More apple juice, malt, a touch of chocolate and a touch of honey. Sour fruits in the background (that’s not too far away). Finish: short and rather thin. Roasted nuts and a little maple syrup, plus ‘ideas’ of marmalade. Comments: very light malt whisky, easy to drink. Similar feelings as last time I tried it. SGP:331 - 78 points.

Aperitif, done. Lets get down to business… Oh, unless we first have another light one, since only good comparison is reason…

Macallan 1994/2014 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt)

Macallan 1994/2014 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt) Three stars and a halfColour: pale gold. Nose: straighter and tighter, with less nuts and biscuits, and rather more barley and ripe garden fruits, which may add freshness. On the other hand, I find it rather less aromatic, and probably a little grassier. Mouth: oh yeah, this has much more oomph, actually, more freshness, fruits, definition, tightness, immediacy… Apples, gooseberries and rhubarb pie, then oranges, aromatic honey (thyme, perhaps) and golden raisins. Very nice touch of sherry, with some walnut cake and raisins. Unless that’s Alsatian kougelhopf… Finish: good length, good malty fruitiness, with heather honey and a few roasted (right, burnt) raisins. Comments: this one was more satisfying than the 12 FO, longer, with more volume… But its true that it’s also quite older. Goes down very well. SGP:441 - 83 points.

So, older Macallans…

Macallan 14 yo 1980/1994 (43%, Master of Malt, 360 bottles)

Macallan 14 yo 1980/1994 (43%, Master of Malt, 360 bottles) Four stars and a half This rare Macallan by Master of Malt in their earlier form, that is to say before the Internet ;-). Colour: amber. Nose: hold on, wasn’t this an OB? It’s very ‘older OB’ indeed, that is to say with a rather magnificent paxa… err, sherry that used to translate into tinned pineapples, mangos, blond tobacco, sultanas, fig liqueur, honey, cigars, sandalwood, heather honey… This nose is wonderful, complex, delicate and assertive at the same time. I even find whiffs of ‘good’ Italian tomato sauce, the ones that are kind of fruity. Matriciana? Mouth: and yes yes yes! Full Macallanness, sherry, raisins, jams, touches of Turkish delights, marmalade, all that in perfect sync. There’s even this tiny touch of sulphur that goes so well with this style. Finish: the only weaker part, it tends to lose focus, just a bit, and to become a little tea-ish. But remember, only 43% vol. A wee smokiness in the aftertaste. Comments: Macallan Old Skool with all its attributes. Really, this one tastes like a very good older OB (rather a 18 in fact). SGP:551 - 89 points.

We’re making good progress, aren’t we…

Macallan 8 yo 1969/1978 (86.8 US proof, Avery's for Marshall Taylor for Corti Brothers, San Francisco)

Macallan 8 yo 1969/1978 (86.8 US proof, Avery's for Marshall Taylor for Corti Brothers, San Francisco) Five starsOld young whisky, one of most interesting combos. In this case, 8 years + 37 years in glass… Sounds like a paradise, doesn’t it. Colour: gold. Nose: first, I think we have to apologise to the angels who haven’t had much of this during those only eight years in wood. And second, I’m dead sure that a significant part of what the lucky taster can find in this nose wasn’t quite there in 1978. You see, it’s all a matter of aroma precursors that need time to do their jobs, even when in glass. In this case, they went towards magnificent beehive-y notes and the best old Sauternes and Sélections de Grains Nobles. Ach ja, or Trockenbeerenauslese. Raisins, apricots, mirabelles, honey, mushrooms, coffee, light molasses, agave syrup, citronella… What’s also striking is that this is complex and focussed at the same time. You’re right, that’s style. Mouth: well, this could as well be 30 years old, despite the fact that’s there’s a wee roughness from young age remaining there. Other than that, it’s a tarte tatin made out of apples and pears and covered with the finest spices and honeys. Finish: this wee roughness hasn’t left. Some grass and tannins from 1978 haven’t said their final word. Comments: rather fascinating, even if a wee bit of intellectualisation may be needed to fully enjoy this old young baby. Oh wait, there, menthol and liquorice… It remained fierce! SGP:461 - 90 points.

Let’s close this chapter with some classic of the classics. This one’s really for Michael!

Macallan 1951 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Italy, +/-1966)

Macallan 1951 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Italy, +/-1966) Five stars It’s got a red sticker on the bottom of the main label, which, in WF’s book, makes it different from the other 1951s by CH&K that haven’t got that red sticker – and that we’ve tried before. Okay? BTW, in case you don’t know, Campbell, Hope & King were the ‘official’ bottlers of Macallan until around 1978, together with G&M who were a bit less ‘official’ (but pretty good!) Macallan themselves took over around 1980. Sadly, CH&K went to the wall in the late 1970s, not too sure that was a consequence – or was it the cause. But enough gossip… Colour: gold. Nose: this is real old Macallan, with a seemingly much fatter profile, full of oils, saps and earths, then notes of old books and leathers, inks, tobacco, pitch… It’s only after that very tertiary barrage that fruitier and jammier notes take off, such as dates, figs and raisins, marmalade, cherry jam and all that. After ten minutes if rather becomes mentholy, in a beautiful way. Humus, moss, mushrooms… Mouth: yess. Old chartreuse plus old Grand-Marnier, fifty-fifty. Oily mouth feel (worm tubs and all that), herbs, jams, soy sauce, liqueurs, peat smokiness, liquorice, mineral things, mint drops, cigarette tobacco, pipe tobacco, a touch of salt… This bottle was brilliant. And it tastes like 46% vol. Finish: very long, with less sweetness – always good in any finish – and a lasting feeling of salty mineral things, plus liquorice. Comments: indeed, great bottle. Old bottles tend to become a bit different from each other, especially when they were kept in very different environments, so scores can vary quite a bit. Yeah, this one was a great one, I’m sure it had been kept next to an Old Clynelish. Sorry, just another lousy joke. SGP:562 - 93 points.

Santé, Michael!

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March 26, 2015


Whiskyfun

Linkwood looking for roses
(higgledy-piggledy)

Many moons ago, the first time I tried Linkwood, I had read in Michael Jackson’s Companion that I had to expect notes of roses in the nose. And since back then, I can’t help keeping looking for them… We’re not always superior animals, are we?

Linkwood 1995/2014 'Honeysuckle Bower' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 332 bottles)

Linkwood 1995/2014 'Honeysuckle Bower' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 332 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: boo, no roses, rather plenty of barley sugar and water, plus apples, some marzipan, orange squash (even Fanta) and more and more lemonade. Indeed, there’s a kind of fizziness, and yet I can’t spot any very tiny bubbles. That’s fun and certainly fresh. Also a touch of mint. Another readymade Scottish mojito? Mouth: it’s a rather excellent fruity Speysider, full of ripe apples, oranges, and again, barley sugar. Funnily enough, that fizziness is still there as well, but that’s more on the peppery side. Notes of liquorice allsorts. Finish: quite long, with some sweet and bitter ales. Comments: if I write ‘goody good’, will that be enough? SGP:551 - 83 points.

Linkwood 24 yo 1990/2014 (51.7%, The Whisky Barrel, Burn's Malt, hogshead, cask #3540)

Linkwood 24 yo 1990/2014 (51.7%, The Whisky Barrel, Burn's Malt, hogshead, cask #3540) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: a rather similar profile, quite unsurprisingly, but there isn’t any fizziness this time, and rather more fudge and toffee. Warm tarte tatin straight from the bakery, some marmalade, toasts, butterscotch… A breakfast malt? Nice nose nonetheless. With water: some kind of pan-fried cereals plus maple syrup and light fudge. Mouth (neat): excellent arrival, rich and honeyed, with a touch of liquorice wood and a huge maltiness. Rather stout than ale after that, slightly burnt caramel… or rather hot caramel-covered apple pie. Right, tarte tatin. With water: a malted Mars bar. Do you know what the Scots do to Mars bars? Finish: good length, malty, caramelly, with more stewed fruits. Orange salad. Comments: refill sherry hogshead? This one’s much to my liking. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Let’s go plunder the ‘older sample library’…

Linkwood 17 yo 1987 (57.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #39.51, 'Orchids, vanilla and cream', 316 bottles, +/-2004) Two stars No pictures. But orchids? Where are my roses?... Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, indeed this is more floral than the others. It’s more mineral as well, which gives it a flinty side. And there’s a lot of raw malted barley again. And oranges. Maybe a little soap as well, but maybe is that the high strength, let’s see. With water: orangeade and barley water. It’s rather fresh. A pack of orange drops. Mouth (neat): rather strange… Fizzy orange juice (so we’re close to the Wemyss in that respect) plus some kind of lavender-flavoured liquorice. Or rather violet. We had such a thing in France, that was called ‘Zan à la violette’. With water: ham? Really bizarre… And bitter oranges. Not too sure this baby takes water very well. Finish: some kind of gin and orange. Cinchona in the aftertaste. Comments: not too sure about that one. It would appear that I missed the orchids. SGP:461 - 76 points.

Linkwood 10 yo 1984/1995 (59.2%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, 327 bottles)

Linkwood 10 yo 1984/1995 (59.2%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, 327 bottles) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: starts very malty, with these Mars bars again, but then there’s more leafy/tea-ish notes, as well as a lovely earthiness. A feeling of strong mocha, I’d say. Ristretto of course. With water: great whiffs of powdered porcinis and humus. We’re in a forest after a heavy shower. Mouth (neat): very rich and creamy mouth feel. Maple syrup, triple-sec, chocolate and cappuccino, then some orange squash just like in some of the others. Barley sugar. With water: we’re back in the forest. Pinesap, more mushrooms, a touch of liquorice and earth… And raisins. Dried apricots. Finish: long, malty, chocolaty, with light dried fruits in the aftertaste. Those apricots. Comments: I like this one a lot. Great selection by Fabio and gang. My god, 20 years… SGP:561 - 87 points.

Linkwood 15 yo (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, rotation 1969)

Linkwood 15 yo (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, rotation 1969) Five stars The buyer wrote the year when he bought this bottle on its label. Always handy. Colour: dark amber. Nose: instant OBE, and a great one. The lower strength doesn’t feel at all, while lovely notes of mead, soy sauce, menthol and old Rivesaltes will give you a delicate feeling of old rancio. There’s also a little strawberry jam, as well as ‘old coins’. Mouth: my, but this is big! Perfect buttered fudge, salted caramel, fig cake, perhaps a little umami, parsley, oxtail, Alsatian marrow soup (excuse me, you say you never tried that?)… It’s extremely tertiary, there are myriads of tiny flavours, pipe tobacco, soups, bouillons, old liqueurs… And all that. Plus, perhaps and indeed, rose-flavoured Turkish delights. Finish: quite long, impressively fresh. Oranges, jams, tobaccos, herbal teas, spices, herbs… Comments: not a surprise at all, these old Linkwoods by G&M have always been wonderful. Those, are the whiskies one should hunt these days, they’re never too expensive. But careful, I’ve already come across wrecked bottles. Always check the levels! Or buy two, one will be great, the other will be dead(ish). SGP:562 - 90 points.

Linkwood 1992/2005 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, refill sherry)

Linkwood 1992/2005 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, refill sherry) Four stars This baby by one of our beloved French bottlers. There aren’t many… It’s going to be very tough after the old G&M. Colour: light amber. Nose: not that tough, even if we’re back on more ‘regular’ fudgy/malty notes. Plenty of maple syrup-covered cornflakes, corn syrup, coffee toffee, raisins, apple pie… And Ovaltine/Ovomaltine. Mouth: I find this very drinkable, we’re not too far from some older Macallan 12 yo. Coffee, fruitcake, toffee, marmalade, roasted nuts, roasted peanuts, raisins… And all that. Ultra-classic middle-aged sherried Speysider. A little Aberlourish at times. Finish: rather long, the low strength doesn’t feel at all. Very toffee-ish. Marmalade in the aftertaste, as often. Comments: you just had toffee. Again, ultra-classic. SGP:551 - 85 points.

The problem with all this sherry is that it’s hard to ‘get’ the distillate. Let’s try to find a naked monster and see what gives. After so-so honeysuckle and orchids, shall we find those roses?...

Linkwood 11 yo 1984 (60.5%, James MacArthur, 500 years of Scotch Whisky, +/-1995)

Linkwood 11 yo 1984 (60.5%, James MacArthur, 500 years of Scotch Whisky, +/-1995) It’s a little complicated. On the one hand, this is an 11 yo distilled in 1984, so bottled in either 1995 or 1996. On the other hand, it was meant to celebrate 500 years of Scotch, which happened in 1994. Something doesn’t click too well here, but after twenty years, seriously, who cares? Colour: pale white wine. Nose: naked, as expected! Arthur at James MacArthur seems to like these totally distillate-driven whiskies, and frankly, how could we be against that? What’s really amazing is that beyond the brutality and the roughness of this malt, there, I do find roses. Seriously, roses. Haleluja! But there’s also quite some dust, flour, gravel, cut cactus, wet concrete… So it’s not the fullest nose ever, but let’s go on… With water: damp papers in the basement. Mouth (neat): old style weirdness. In the old days, the indies used to bottle just any cask, provided it was ‘single malt’. So you had utter glories, and whacky ones as well. I’m afraid this one’s rather a whacky one, with a huge chalky side, notes of plastic, notes of the odd drinks the Coca-Cola Company makes out of lemons that were perfectly alright, and, well, more chalk. Now you could always intellectualise these whiskies, but frankly… With water: chalk in lemon and grass juice. Finish: same. Very grassy spirit. Comments: we found roses. The rest was rather dispensable. SGP:261 - 65 points.

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

 

 

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March 25, 2015


Whiskyfun

Blends, a (truly) freewheeling session

Good, it seems that we’ve accumulated a new little bag of blended Scotch, both recent and old, so let’s have them ‘until we succumb’. Unless we get bored way before that ever happens. Remember that the ‘blends are as great as malts’ motto is the close cousin of that other well-known contemporary mantra that claims that age is irrelevant. I guess grain will also soon be just as great as malted barley (as the well-known whisky connoisseur David Beckham very well knows), and all what we’ll still need is a Pharrell Williams song extolling the virtues of speedy ageing. Maybe Madonna could help as well. Anyway, we’ll first have some recent NAS blends (double punishment!), then some recent AS ones, then older drops, as usual – from when they didn’t know yet how to make whisky, ha-ha.

The Famous Grouse (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

The Famous Grouse (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars and a half What does 'matured in seasoned oak casks' exactly mean? I remember Grouse was great in the 80s. Colour: gold. Nose: well well well, this ain’t unpleasant. It’s light, delicate, with whiffs of light honey, ripe plums, flowers, plus a little custard. No feinty notes, no obvious caramel, no straight spirity notes. There is some elegance in this. Mouth: indeed, it’s perfectly all right. Maltier, with roasted nuts, cornflakes, some honey again, brown syrups… There is a lightness, and yet it’s rather full-bodied when compared with other large brands. Finish: a little short, of course, but that’s almost an asset in this context where freshness and easy-drinkability seem to be some of the goals. Only the aftertaste is a little simpler and cardboardy. Comments: really, I’m fairly impressed. Entry-level large brands usually cruise along the 72-75 line, but this will be… SGP:441 - 78 points.

Mackinlay's 'Original' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

Mackinlay's 'Original' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars I had thought the brand was nearly extinct… Unless the Shackleton operations could revive it? This baby’s said to be 5 years of age, and that’s precisely the age of an older bottling (1970s) that I had much enjoyed. Maybe did that one contain plenty of Glen Mhor? Oh and the new one’s got a nice ‘replica-retro’ label too! Colour: gold. Nose: it is a much, much drier and grassier profile after the Grouse. I find almonds, smoky grass, a touch of metal (old tin box) and then more earth and pears. It’s an elegant nose, probably not very sexy (read commercial) but I rather enjoy it. Mouth: it’s rougher and fuller than Grouse, as if there was much more malt in there, but on the other hand, I find burnt notes and rather too much hay, soot and leather, which makes it a little difficult. Could it be that the skilful blenders have tried to replicate the old Glen Mhor side? Finish: quite long but a little astringent and kind of ‘muddy’. Comments: we’re somehow in young malt territories, but many young single malts are actually cheaper. SGP:351 - 72 points.

Enough with NAS, let’s try aged ones…

Chivas Regal 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

Chivas Regal 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars Would you imagine that it seems that this is the first time – ever – that I’m writing proper tasting notes for a contemporary regular Chivas 12 years old? No I’m not joking. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s lighter, even lighter than Grouse, but it’s also fruitier (apples) and, above all, more aromatic. We’re talking herbal teas and flowers, chamomile, honeysuckle… What it’s lacking is a little more volume – or you could call that depth. A touch of clay. In a way, it’s a lighter Glenlivet 12 – but I believe Chivas use other malts in this, don’t they. Mouth: light indeed, with a thinish body. Apple juice, roasted malt, ale, tea, some honey and just a little orange. The honeyed notes are adding a little length, but not much. Finish: short, tea-ish, malty. Tarte tatin. Comments: there, exactly my very own definition of a 75-points whisky. Pleasant and flawless, but forgettable. Grouse had more oomph. SGP:441 - 75 points.

While we’re at it, there’s also this rather bizarre newish bottling…

Chivas Regal 12 yo 'Mizunara Special Edition' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014)

Chivas Regal 12 yo 'Mizunara Special Edition' (40%, OB, blend, +/-2014) Two stars Well, if the excellent Japanese distillers can do Jerez, sure the Scots can do Mizunara oak. Ah the wonders of globalisation… But this is only a finishing, so let’s hold our horses. Colour: gold. Nose: a leafier, oakier, grassier version of Chivas 12 yo. Some tobacco as well. It’s lost its rounded lightness and gained some, well, leafiness on the nose (as well as a little vanilla and, maybe, cedar wood). Mouth: I’m not 100% sure the spirit was big enough to stand the additional oak. The arrival is rather enticing, with many spices (ginger, cinnamon, white pepper), but it really nosedives after five seconds. Frustrating. I’m totally sure this would have worked much better at 45-46% vol. Finish: short yet tannic. You just had a cup of unsweetened strong black tea. Comments: I prefer the regular Chivas 12. The oak seems to have kind of erased the fruitiness. SGP:361 - 70 points.

Slaintheva 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2010)

Slaintheva 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2010) Four stars A little-known old brand by Alexander Dunn that used to sell bespoke labels (like Glen Serge or Loch Whiskyfun and stuff like that, you know). This is a rather recent bottling that I found in a shop in Andorra - for cheap, no need to say. Slaintheva means ‘the very best of health!’ Thanks! Colour: gold. It’s really funny that almost strictly all blends do share the same colour. Nose: starts well, with nuts, almonds and a little fresh butter, but some kind of soapiness that’s somewhat connected to the almondy notes tends to take over. Metal polish, gravel, scoriae. A touch of lavender too. With this kind of nose, the palate could be excellent… or totally wrecked. Mouth: it’s the former! This is rather excellent, fat, smoky, sappy, waxy, complex… What a surprise! Wonderful oiliness, minerality and salinity, with a little ink as well, newspapers, ashes, soot… Tastes much older than 2010 as far as the year of bottling is concerned (which I had totally guessed), which is strange since the bottle looked brand new. Excellent mouth feel. Finish: long, oily and sappy. Very waxy and slightly salty aftertaste. Comments: there’s some great coastal malt in this blend, for sure. A very mysterious bottle nonetheless… I’ll dig further whenever I have time… One day. SGP:363 - 87 points.

It’s getting tougher for the next ones… So we’ll have only one newish bottling and then go explore the past…

William Lawson's 13 yo (40%, OB, blend, bourbon cask finish, +/-2014)

William Lawson's 13 yo (40%, OB, blend, bourbon cask finish, +/-2014) Two stars and a half At WF Towers, William Lawson will remain related to Miss Stone… forever! So, no rules, great Scotch?... What’s sure is that it’s very expensive (+/-48€). Colour: gold. Yeah, same nuance as usual. Nose: you get the finishing. Vanilla and sunflower oil, a little fresh butter, apple peelings, some cardboard in the background… The whole remains dry. Few fruits. Mouth: good body at just 40%, but it’s more or less ridden with vanilla and butterscotch. That can work well with full-bodied young malts, but in this case it’s all a little more difficult, because of the distillate’s lightness. Having said that, it tends to gain body over time, with a growing maltiness, Speyside-style. Improves. Finish: an acceptable length. Very pleasant touches of earth and smoke in the aftertaste. Walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: well made for sure, but the price makes it rather… anecdotal. But there’s Sharon Stone. SGP:551 - 78 points.

Good, time to have the oldies…

Old Mull (38%, OB, blend, for Mexico, 1950s)

Old Mull (38%, OB, blend, for Mexico, 1950s) Five stars That’s right, 38%. Remember that in the old days, Scotch could be bottled at 37.5 or 38% vol. Plus, it’s not impossible that the Mexican laws did allow such strengths. After all, there are many tequilas that are still bottled at 38% vol. Colour: gold. Nose: I’ve already tried some old Old Mulls, some older than this, and indeed there’s always been this feeling of greasy, sooty malt. As if you were nosing some kind of smoked cooking oil. Ah, yes, sesame… Plus old books, ink (obviously) and carbon paper. An old office in an old company in an old country. Mouth: it’s got power! The missing 2% do not feel after all these years, as there are many whiskies that were bottled at 40 or 43% some decades ago that have lost more alcohol than this. Actually, it’s a lovely liquoricy palate, full of salmiak (so salt + Liquorice) and salted fish – although I wouldn’t say it’s totally kippery. What’s sure is that the malt content was very high, maybe even 100%. And that the malt(s) was very, very coastal. And that it’s brilliant whisky. Finish: quite long, always on oily salty liquorice. Totally old style coastal Highlands. Comments: a wonderful old fat blend, in the same category as the old White Horses, Mackie’s, Logan and all that. Wait wait wait, could it be that there was some… Malt Mill inside? That’s not impossible, at all. A great old blend, I love it more and more. Yeah I know, only 38% vol…. SGP:363 - 90 points.

The problem with those whiskies is that they’re session killers. Unless… This…

Teacher’s 'Highland Cream' (44%, OB, blend, Ruffino Italy, +/-1960)

Let's go on with a classic...

Teacher’s 'Highland Cream' (44%, OB, blend, Ruffino Italy, +/-1960) Five stars After Sharon Stone, here come the sexy teachers from the 1960s! Teacher’s means Ardmore, as you know. I guess you’ve noticed the unusual strength again. Colour: gold. Nose: more fruits again, all kinds. Various apples and various pears, covered with a little, say iron filings, plus mint and eucalyptus (old style mouthwash). It’s globally more herbal and mentholated than the Old Mull, which was more coastal and, by comparison, more medicinal. Makes sense, doesn’t it. After five minutes, notes of old sweet white wine plus some mead. Vin Santo?

Mouth: superb! Everybody’s looking for old White Horses, but I say old Teacher’s are worth it as well. Old yellow chartreuse, other herbal liqueurs, a peatiness that remains well defined, a feeling of smoky/tarry mints, plus, even more important, a big fat and yet very ‘nervous’ mouth feel. Did they really add any grain whisky to this fabulous composition? Finish: very long, amazingly big and balanced. Some lemon now, grapefruits, a touch of salt… Comments: I think I like this one even better than the Old Mull. Spectacular peaty blend, it’s so sad that everybody seems to have lost the recipe. Right, maybe not John Glaser. SGP:464 - 91 points. PS: … sure this was also an ode to bottle ageing…

Teacher

I agree, we should stop now, but this is Whiskyfun dot com, isn’t it. Let’s try to find a rarer old brand… and then call this a proper tasting session. 

Moorland (100°US proof, OB, blend, +/-1940)

Moorland (100°US proof, OB, blend, +/-1940) Two stars A blend by R. & B. (R and B?) Smith and Son in Perth, bottled for Paramount Liquors in Los Angeles. What’s very interesting is that as some used to do at that time, the malts are listed on the labels (in this case the back label). So we’re having a blend of Glenlivet, Glengrant (yup), Highland Park, Clynelish, Ardbeg, Rosebank, Caledonian and Cameronbridge. Sadly, quantity was ‘rigidly limited’. By the way, the brand’s still active; well, they have it at b****y  Amazon. Oh and the strength is great, 100° US meaning 50% vol. Colour: gold (no s…). Nose: full of damp earth, soot, dirty grease, old garage, these sorts of things. Downside, there’s also quite some plasticine, new leatherette, plastic pouch and all that. Not always a good sign, but let’s see…

Mouth: full power! But it’s also a real Janus. One part is just great, with an acrid smokiness and ashes and strong mints and concentrated lemon juice. The other part’s more difficult, with these plasticky notes again, some glue, very bitter herbs… It’s almost like eating grass. Moorland indeed. Finish: extra-long, but plastic-covered grass doesn’t quite do it, if you see what I mean. Comments: that’s the fate of any old bottle. You can feel that it was stupendous whisky, but something just went wrong. Could be the taste of light/glass, as the label is much discoloured. Too much Californian sunlight? SGP:272 - 75 points (for the record).

You’re right, we just couldn’t stop here. I say we both need a last pick-me-up… Maybe a blended malt for a change? Would this do?...

Old Elgin 46 yo 1938 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Book of Kells, +/-1984)

Old Elgin 46 yo 1938 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Book of Kells, +/-1984) Five stars The label wouldn’t say, this could as well be a single malt instead of a vatted malt, but I firmly believe it’s a vatted. I agree, beliefs… Now 1938 was a stupendous year for, for example, Macallan. Or Mortlach. Or Linkwood. Imagine, 1938! And imagine that these days, some would like to erase any notions of age and/or vintage from our beloved malt whiskies! And nothing will stop them, apparently. Remember, as our Pete & Jack may have said before, whisky, without age, is vodka. But we’re digressing… Colour: deep gold (aaahhh…) Nose: adios peat and smoke, welcome luscious fruits and honeys! This has certainly something to do with the old Macallans from that time, with a very, very delicate smoke coating apricots, mirabelles, kumquats (yeah well) and hundreds of tinier aromas. Verbena, wormwood, sultanas, figs, pipe tobaccos (many of them, but I don’t know them, we should ask a pipe aficionado), mandarins, putty, a touch of sugarcane, a touch of Bakelite, some linseed oil for sure, wet oil paint, hessian… The list would be endless, better stop now.

Mouth: I'd swear you can taste time. You can taste Bartok, Honegger, Teddy Wilson, Jelly Roll Morton and Gershwin. And Magritte, Cocteau, Frida Kahlo, and Dali… And sadly enough, quite a bit of gunpowder. Finish: the low strength feels a bit, but the complexity remains rather immense. Many dried fruits and some tobacco smoke, plus old style herbal liqueurs and a wee note of grapefruit. And marzipan. Comments: and now an existential question; what’s better, knowing age and even vintage but not the distillery, or knowing the name of the distillery but neither the age nor the vintage? Discuss, because those issues are getting big big big (and big)*. Oh and this Old Elgin was quite fab. But imagine we wouldn’t have known about its vintage and/or age. ‘Glen Elgin NAS possibly distilled circa 1930-1940, bottled between 1970 and 1990…’, bwaaaah!!! I feel sorry for the future Malt Maniacs. SGP:562 - 92 points. (*) it’s totally useless to listen to industry people (and the good people who work for them) about those issues, however talented, friendly and engaging they are. It’s like asking a fishmonger if his fish is fresh. But we’re digressing yet again, aren’t we?

Session over.

(thanks Geert, thanks Patrick, you both rock)

 

 

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March 24, 2015


Whiskyfun

Cult whiskies from Japan
(including some Japanese Ardbeg)

Isn’t it amazing how big Japanese whisky has become? I remember well twelve or fifteen years ago, you had so few people outside Japan who were even considering trying some, apart from a handful of pioneers such as the wonderful Dutch connoisseur Bert Vuik, who used to have dozens of opened Karuizawas, Yoichis or Yamazakis way before anybody else had even heard of those names (especially Karuizawa). Anyway, let’s have a few today. Bert, this is for you my dear friend.

Togouchi 12 yo (40%, OB, ‘Japanese’ blend, +/-2014)

Togouchi 12 yo (40%, OB, ‘Japanese’ blend, +/-2014) Two stars I never tried the 12 before, but I had tasted the 18 back in 2011. Not my favourite (WF 78). Oh and it seems that Togouchi isn’t quite Japanese, it’s meant to be a blend of Scotch and Canadian that’s further matured in Japan. Can you still do that with Scottish malt? At 75€ a bottle, all this travelling seems to have cost money. Colour: straw. Nose: plenty of sour apples and wood plus a touch of smoke. Funnily enough, I also find whiffs of Japanese powdered green tea (macha). Must be my brain playing tricks. Mouth: easy and sweet. A lot, and I mean a lot of cider and apple juice, then oak and, once again, green tea, whether Japanese or not. Keeps developing on orchard fruits, greengages, pears, gooseberries… And maybe some funny hints of tomatoes, which is quite uncommon in whisky. The body’s a little thin. Finish: rather short and always a little sour. The smoke is extremely discreet. Comments: more than acceptable, but it simply doesn’t click. I think it’s disjointed and a little too weak. SGP:441 - 72 points.

I wanted to try again a recent version of Togouchi 18, but I think we’ll do that another time. Because there’s more serious stuff waiting for us… In fact, this may represent exactly the opposite…

Karuizawa 12 yo 2000/2013 (64,3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt #166)

Karuizawa 12 yo 2000/2013 (64,3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt #166) Four stars A wee beast from Karuizawa’s last year. Colour: gold, so probably refill. Nose: a lot of wood varnish at first nosing, really a lot, then bags and bags of cider apples and other grassy/green fruits. Touches of cedar wood and cinnamon in the background, and not much sherry. Lastly, more and more natural vanilla, which comes with some chamomile and other mild herbal teas. It’s only after a good fifteen minutes that a few sultanas are showing themselves. With water: nice whiffs of eucalyptus and camphor, as well as a little humus and tobacco. It got much more ‘Japanese’, whatever that means. Mouth (neat): very punchy citrusy fruits, with a little sour wood and, indeed, raisins. A feeling of apple juice sweetened with a little… Sauternes. Oranges. With water: now we’re talking. Herbal teas, tobacco, old style crème de menthe, tar, lapsang souchong, bitter oranges… That was worth the wait. Finish: long, with a curious bourbony side. A little coconut, perhaps. Comments: a rather delicate Karuizawa, only the very high strength had made it a little beastly at first. Water is needed to unlock it. SGP:552 - 87 points.

Let’s trying to find a good sparring partner… Maybe another 2000?...

Yamazaki 2000/2010 'Owner's Cask' (ABV to come, OB, for Bar Cafe Ciroru Tokyo Namubukuro, barrel, cask #EU 70121)

Yamazaki 2000/2010 'Owner's Cask' (ABV to come, OB, for Bar Cafe Ciroru Tokyo Namubukuro, barrel, cask #EU 70121) Five stars This baby’s very rare. Colour: gold. Nose: oh very lovely, there are ‘strong ideas’ of Bowmore in this one, which is rather un-Yamazaki in my book. But nothing to complain about, this is almost a Tempest from Japan, plus quite a few delicate touches of aromatic herbs. Would I dare quoting wasabi? And yet, I do find a little wasabi. And parsley. Other than that, we have seawater, kippers, oysters with a drop of Tabasco, lemons, grapefruits, ashes… With water: oh, it became much more medicinal! Band-Aid, more eucalyptus, old embrocations, smoking beedies, old pu-erh tea, mushrooms… I utterly love that. Mouth (neat): exceptional. Smoke and green spices in a unusual combination that would involve caraway, green curry, then pink grapefruits and tangerines, oysters again, smoke of course… With water: how do you say Anti-Maltoporn Brigade in Japanese? I love these whiskies when they’re both focussed and complex. Finish: long, zesty, yet fat, yet tart, yet full… I guess you got it. Comments: indeed, exceptional. One of the smokiest Yamazakis I ever had the opportunity to pour into my glass. And only ten years old! SGP:566 - 92 points.

Shall we dare going back to earlier vintage after that young glory? You bet!

Yamazaki 1995/2006 'Owner's Cask' (56%, OB, for Heavy Foot Club, Shinjuku, Japan, barrel, cask #5G 3015, 164 bottles)

Yamazaki 1995/2006 'Owner's Cask' (56%, OB, for Heavy Foot Club, Shinjuku, Japan, barrel, cask #5G 3015, 164 bottles) Four stars and a half It’s not easy to find reliable information online about those Japanese places when you do not read Japanese, but it seems that the Heavy Foot Club is a restaurant. We’ll leave it at that. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s more the wood that speaks out here, with assorted coconutty aromas and a good deal of vanilla and new oak (carpenter’s workshop). Beyond that, I find the usual marshmallows and bubblegum, as well as discreet touches of sake (S., are you really sure?) Classic young ex-bourbon Yamazaki this time. With water:… but it takes water extremely well, becoming ‘oriental’, with some sandalwood, cigars, incense… Mouth (neat): very heavy, ridden with mentholated oils and other essential oils from the wood. I find this a tad unlikely. Spectacular, but unlikely. A lot of marzipan and bitter oranges too, then white pepper and ginger. With water: citrus fights back and knocks the oak down. Lemon citron grapefruit oranges. That’s very lovely. Finish: long, sweet and spicy like a sweet and spicy cake (bravo, S.) Comments: borders the 90… err, border. Needs water. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Let’s try to find another barrel…

Yamazaki 1993/2007 'Owner's Cask' (57%, OB, barrel, cask #3N70037)

Yamazaki 1993/2007 'Owner's Cask' (57%, OB, barrel, cask #3N70037) Three stars and a half These old Owner’s Casks are really becoming ‘cult’, way beyond the more pedestrian large NAS batches, whether sherried or not. Colour: gold. Nose: same vein as the previous one, just with more varnish, nail polish remover and all that on top of all this coconut, vanilla and sawdust. It is a little rough and brutal, but I’d bet water will help. With water: not quite this time, the tannins are brought out, plus slightly excessive notes of hay. Mouth (neat): its plain and pure fruit juice. It’s a little more tropical this time, with bananas on top of the coconut, and more tart at the same time, with kiwis and rhubarb. The touches of varnish and/or tinned pineapples haven’t gone yet. With water: very good now. Bizarrely, I cannot not think of the best Arrans (ex normal wood). Sweet apples. Finish: quite long, on a blend of pina colada with apple juice. Have to try that one day. Comments: I really liked it, but I’d say it hasn’t quite got the magic. SGP:651 - 84 points.

Let’s try a hoggie for a change, there should be less oak…

Yamazaki 1993/2006 'Owner's Cask' (53%, OB, hogshead, cask #3P70270, 196 bottles)

Yamazaki 1993/2006 'Owner's Cask' (53%, OB, hogshead, cask #3P70270, 196 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s peatier once again, and it is just superb. The moderate strength (kind of) makes it more approachable, while menthol, tobacco, cedar wood, thuja and humus are running the show, before more Barbour grease, almond oil and fresh putty emerge. The distillate has more freedom in this context, and it all reminds me of something… But what? With water: oh! Old liqueurs, pitch, a fisherman’s old boat, old books, carbon paper… I know this, it’s on the tip of my tongue!... Mouth (neat): right, did someone mistakenly pour some old Ardbeg into this bottle? Seriously? I’m not joking, at all, this tastes just like some 1974 ‘beg. Smoked tea, smoked almonds, tar, salted fish… Well we won’t list all flavours we get, but really, it’s old Ardbeg. Amazing again. With water: please call the Anti-Maltoporn Samurais! Finish: endless and magical. What a cask, what a cask… Dear, dear (refill) hogsheads! There’s also more and more smoked ham. Comments: we’ve approached grandeur with this one. And it swims like Mark Spitz. SGP:457 - 93 points.

What shall we do now? Let’s have only one, and we’ll be done. But let’s choose it very carefully (given that this is a verticale, so it must be older…) Well, it seems that we’ll stay at Yamazaki, with another hogshead…

Yamazaki 1989/2011 'Owner's Cask' (59%, OB for Futataka, 3rd edition, hogshead, cask #9W70427, 101 bottles)

Yamazaki 1989/2011 'Owner's Cask' (59%, OB for Futataka, 3rd edition, hogshead, cask #9W70427, 101 bottles) Five stars We already tried Mr. Futakata’s first two editions, and both have been purely magical. Mr. Osamu Futakata runs the South Park Malt Bar in Nakano-ku, Tokyo. Colour: deep gold. This starts well. Nose: Zen! Starts minimal, in a great way. Whiffs of chestnuts being roasted, warm praline, probably white chocolate… It’s only after two or three minutes that more fruits come through, first plantains, then ripe mangosteen… And then it’s rather delicate herbal teas. Honeysuckle, lime tree, orange blossom, rosehip… Far in the background, some cedar wood and some incense are slowly burning. And then we have some crème au beurre. All this is very subtle, despite the very high strength. I can’t wait… With water: the most extraordinary digestive herbal tea. Genepy, fennel and verbena stand out. Maybe rosemary (did you know sniffing rosemary can increase memory by 75%? Well so say some websites). Mouth (neat): how extreme-oriental is this?! Now it’s also massive, so let’s be careful. What I seem to get is something very spicy, very umami-esque (not making that up), quite unusual… Some kind of spice decoction, perhaps, and I’m wondering whether this wasn’t Japanese oak (quercus mongolica). Quite a lot of ginger and plenty of bitter oranges. Water seems to be obligatory here. So… With water: what’s absolutely stunning here is the Japanity (I do apologise). This is not Scotch-like at all, it’s got plenty of character and it’s got this very specific spiciness that may make it a notch challenging to beginners (but would beginners come across this?) Mentholated oak spices, tropical fruits, leather… The list would be endless. Finish: very long, spicy and sweet at the same time. Gingerbread, oranges, peppermint, cloves, caraway, a little brown sugar, something medicinal (cough syrup) and a little… wasabi. There! And if you insist, I may well find hints of soy sauce. Comments: seriously, this is a great bottle. I was ready to go up to 94 until a few oak spices in the finish started to make it a wee-tad drying. Just a wee tad. SGP:572 - 93 points.

Didn’t someone just claim that those were cult whiskies?

(with heartfelt mercis to dear Bert V., Scott, and Mr Futakata)

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

 

 

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March 23, 2015


Whiskyfun

Antique and contemporary Bruichladdich

To tell you the truth I was mostly interested in the newish ‘bere barley’, but while we’re at it, and since this is Whiskyfun, let’s also have a few older (and much older) siblings.

Bruichladdich 'The Organic Scottish Barley' (50%, OB, Mid Coul, Coulmore, Mains of Tullibardine Farms, 2013)

Bruichladdich 'The Organic Scottish Barley' (50%, OB, Mid Coul, Coulmore, Mains of Tullibardine Farms, 2013) Three stars We already had a non-organic version at 46%, and found to our liking (WF 85). Colour: white wine. Nose: there are rocks and there’s some coal smoke at first nosing, which comes with a lot of plasticine and putty. New leatherette, cider apples, grass… I wouldn’t say this is a very sexy nose, but indeed it’s different. With water: becomes even more austere. Old oil barrel (empty), rocks, saltpetre, a touch of dry hops, white bread… Mouth (neat): raw lemony and grassy rocks, chalk, wax, oil… It’s a little rough but on the other hand, there’s something very natural to this. With water: a little more fruits, perhaps touches of melon as often in Bruichladdich, but there’s also a feeling of rye, porridge, wholegrain bread. Whether the fact that it’s organic has any influence, I have no idea, it shouldn’t in any case. But it feels ‘natural’ indeed. Finish: quite long, still grassy and peppery. Comments: one for the hipflask, I don’t think this baby’s true sipping malt whisky, but I really enjoyed its natural side. SGP:362 - 82 points.

Bruichladdich 'Bere Barley 2008' (50%, OB, Uhi Orkney Farms, 2014)

Bruichladdich 'Bere Barley 2008' (50%, OB, Uhi Orkney Farms, 2014) Four stars and a half I believe most bere whiskies I’ve tried had been made from bere barley grown on Orkney. I remember well, for example, an Edradour distilled by/for Michel Couvreur. Colour: white wine. Nose: it is much fruitier than the organic, unexpectedly lighter as well, fresher, cleaner… In fact it’s a kind of melon-flavoured Belgian beer. Yes, seriously. It’s only in the background that we find a few bready notes, stewed pears and apples, and a touch of honey. The whole works very well. With water: oh, all the grains and breads come out, with flying colours. Visiting a bakery around five (am). Mouth (neat): much more difference on the palate. Fruit bread, honey-covered corn bread, Williams pears and a touch of barley water. It reminds me a bit of some new American craft whiskeys. With water: excellent! Breads and fruits in perfect sync, plus a touch of mint flavoured tea and a smidgen of juniper. Finish: quite long, with more oranges this time. Bready/spicy aftertaste. Comments: love this. One of the highest quality/age ratios I know of. SGP:352 - 88 points.

Bruichladdich 10 yo 2003/2014 (61.8%, OB, Private Cask, Jamaican rum barrel, cask #1119)

Bruichladdich 10 yo 2003/2014 (61.8%, OB, Private Cask, Jamaican rum barrel, cask #1119) Five stars A very appealing pedigree, Jamaica making some of the very best rums in the world (as you may know, especially if you read these humble pages on Sundays). On the other hand, Jamaican rum may just kill the Laddie’s rather light spirit… Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, I don’t know which proportion of dundery rum there is in there, probably less than 5%, but it’s singing loud, clear and distinctively, and give this very unusual, yet rather fantastic blend an unusual medicinal side. Camphor, antiseptic, pineapple and melon, four aces. Plus tar and fumes, that’s probably purely the rum. Spectacular unusual nose. With water: same but even nicer (how’s that possible, S.?). Mouth (neat): sweet Vishnu, this really works! Once again, the heavy rum is calling the shots, but this really is spectacular. Olives, tar, salt, pineapples… With water: same, plus oranges and citrons. Wonderful. Finish: very long, medicinal, camphory, Jamaican. Comments: probably the rummiest rum-cask-matured Scotch I’ve ever tried, but since they used my favourite style of rum, I’m pretty much in awe, even if this is more meta-spirit than pure malt Scotch whisky. You’re right, who cares. SGP:553 - 90 points.

Bruichladdich 35 yo 1979/2015 (41.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles)

Bruichladdich 35 yo 1979/2015 (41.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles) Four stars I haven’t seen many 1979s but a much younger one by Cadenhead, 1979/1997 at 55.8%, had worked very well (WF 88). Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a rather delicate one, that does have the traits of the early 1970s, such as some slightly jammy melon again (orange melon from Cavaillon), touches of plums, a little beeswax, hints of Muscat, perhaps… Also apricots and a wee touch of gingerbread. What’s really remarkable here is that it’s 100% old Bruichladdich, so instantly recognisable, probably thanks to a lovely and shy-ish hogshead. Mouth: same feeling, this is unmistakably 1970s Bruichladdich, with melons, plums and all that, plus this mild coastalness that adds a touch of salt. Tends to become a little gritty/grassy after a while, with some green tea as well, chewing leaves (especially cherry leaves)… If I had to find a small flaw in this baby, that would be it. Finish: a little short, grassy… But fresh melon remains in the aftertaste, which is nice (and very Bruichladdich). Also oranges. Comments: both a little fragile and sometimes faintly rough, like grandmas can be, but it deserves much respect. Loved the melon. SGP:561 - 86 points.

Let’s have an even older vintage and we’ll be done and shall have covered almost forty years of Bruichladdichness…

Bruichladdich 20 yo 1969/1990 (43%, Dun Eideann, casks #4928-4932)

Bruichladdich 20 yo 1969/1990 (43%, Dun Eideann, casks #4928-4932) Four stars This series used to be a kind of sub-brand by Signatory Vintage for some markets. And there were crackers. Colour: gold. Nose: it is a much more mineral Bruichladdich, more austere, with whiffs of concrete after the rain and almonds, before more oranges and, indeed, melons and raisins appear. There’s also a little rubber and a drop of seawater, perhaps, orange blossom, a touch of fresh putty… All that is actually rather complex, but probably a little shy. Shier than the 1979 on the nose, for sure. Mouth: sweeter and fruitier. Plenty of… guess what? That’s right, melons, as well as honey and a little Muscat wine. That would be small berry Muscat, not the slightly vulgar ‘big’ ones. There’s also a touch or rubber again, quinine tonic, a very wee touch of plastic and then more marzipan and other almondy things. The body’s bigger than the nose suggested. Finish: not too long but fruitier and juicier. Jelly babies and Fanta. Oh and melons and Muscat. Comments: a very interesting muscaty old Bruichladdich. Some parts were slightly shaky (esp. the wee rubbery side) but this fruitiness was very… Bruichladdich. SGP:541 - 85 points.

(Thanks a lot Gunther)

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

 

 

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