August 13, 2022


Special Holiday Weekend Edition!!!

In the midst of this fourth heatwave here in Alsace, I'm very happy to report that after an eight-year long hiatus and rather a few complains on the occasion of our 20th Anniversary (but where's the music!?) Nick is back with a wonderful and wittier-than-ever concert review straight from Glasgow, while Angus over there in Fife managed to taste two wee Littlemills. Other than that, this little website will stay on vacation for a few more days while we're thinking of a new, yet temporary setup for our tastings to come. Stay tuned! - Serge


Concert Review by Nick Morgan

Richard Hawley, Sumer Nights
at the Kelvingrove Bandstand

Glasgow, August 6th 2022

Glasgow audiences are notorious.  Barrowlands, may be, as Richard Hawley assured us, 'the best gig in the country', but the people of the Dear Green Place can be fickle folk and hard to please, particularly when confronted with English performers.  The famous Glasgow Empire, sadly demolished in 1963 and replaced by an ugly and now unloved and unwanted office block, was known as the graveyard for English performers, particularly comedians.  On a Saturday night shipyard workers, refreshed by a few hauf and haufs  would shower below-par acts with handfuls of rivets (that was in The Glasgow Herald Serge, so it must be true). There are precious few shipyard workers in tonight's  excited crowd at the lovely Kelvingrove Bandstand, although given the demographic is quite possible that a few retired ones have made it up from the beautiful Partick boozers of Dumbarton Road.  That might account for this extensive prostate driven que for the urinals.

This is Sumer Nights at the Kelvingrove Bandstand, although the sturdy outerwear much in evidence confirms that England's heatwave has yet to cross the border.  Fourteen gigs featuring some of Whiskyfun's finest such as the Waterboys and Edwyn Collins and Serge's particular favourite 'fookin' Richard Hawley.  This is a rolled-over 2020 gig because of the you-know-what.  In 2019 Hawley had released his eighth studio album, Further, which, said a press release, had optimism at its heart (bad timing there Richard).  Unlike his seven others this one is not named after a part of hometown Sheffield.  Your reviewer was at the very accomplished launch gig at Dalston's EartH, a former cinema and billiard hall with (just like the Kelvingrove Bandstand) remarkably uncomfortable bench seating.  But regardless of physical discomfort the performance was so typically good that a trip to Glasgow for the 2020 gig in the park was being planned before all that optimism suddenly shrank away. 

Glasgow Empire

Nonetheless, when the chance of a spare ticket appeared I was off dodging and diving train strikes, cancelled flights and melting tarmac as well as you-know-what to get to the DGP. 

Richard Hawley Band

Had the shipyard workers been in I can't help but think they might have given 'special guest' support act Studio Electrophonique (aka James Leesley) a few bags of rivets and more for his trouble.  But on a chilly early evening this audience warmed both to his wrist-slittingly melodic melancholia, and the confidence beyond his years he displayed in handling the crowd ('don't worry, you'll be dancing by the end').  It must be a Sheffield sort of thing; Studio Electrophonique, by the way, is a reference to a pretty remarkable piece of Sheffield's music history, without which no Jarvis Cocker, no Pulp etc.  I rather enjoyed Leesley's tunes, but to be honest I was distracted by the guitar tech on the right-hand side of the stage who was busy tuning and polishing Hawley's entourage of guitars, who had come along for the night.  This was, we later learned, Gordon the Guitar tech from Glasgow, 'conceived under the stage of the Barrowlands', and 'the best in his price bracket'.  He certainly had a job on his hands.

Long-standing Whiskyfun readers may remember Hawley's guitars.  Tonight he started off with one of two Telecasters as he began the set with the first two tracks from Further, 'Off my mind' and 'Alone'.  He had started with these same big songs at the Further launch gig back in 2019, aided I recalled by a brass section – a huge sound, although tonight it's Hawley and Shez Sheridan's guitars doing most of the work.  Song three and first guitar change (to an acoustic) for title track 'Further'.  It's one of those wistful and melodic Hawley beauties, with both his voice and Sheridan's delicate electric guitar to the fore.  I'm always surprised at how much the sea surfaces in the lyrics of this land-locked Sheffield songster, but perhaps it's there as a counterpoint to the lived life of the city: 'the ocean is calling as we're here working in the grime'.  The ocean may be calling, but the city is never far away – it's at the heart of the next big guitar song 'Standing at the sky's edge' from the 2012 album of the same name, and also the title of a musical co-written by Hawley and Chris Bush which premiered at the famous Sheffield Crucible theatre (think snooker) in the spring of 2019.  With four stars from the Guardian it tells the story of three families over sixty years living in Park Hill, the now regenerated brutalists 1960s council estate that stand high on the sky's edge overlooking the centre of Sheffield – the largest listed building in Europe.  Having been delayed by you-know-what it returns to the Crucible later this year, and then transfers to the National Theatre in London in 2023.  Not to be missed, I'd say Serge.
The normally garrulous Hawley had confined himself to nothing more than song titles and 'thank you' until the end of his sixth song 'Emilina says', a countryesque crooner from Further that could have been written by Studio Electrophonique.  Actually it's not miserable enough for that. But what followed began as a humorous anecdote about  being offered 'a swally' by a stranger in the band's hotel. But musings on Glaswegian drinking slang suddenly took a different turn as Hawley declared 'you know I wish I was Scottish, or Irish, Welsh, or anything but English. I just hate the fookin' Tories'.  My goodness! The auditorium exploded. It was as if the spirit of Red Clydeside, lurking somewhere in a single-end in Partick, had been conjured up from a magic lamp. All that was missing was a man waving a red flag.

'We hate the fookin' Tories' chanted the audience enthusiastically, until hushed by Hawley.  'And this', he said, 'is what we'll get when we get rid of them' as the band launched into 'Tonight the streets are ours'.   It is I think, still one of Hawley's best,  a joyous celebration of working class culture.  Cue another explosion, this time of rebellious dancing rapture from oldies and youngsters alike.  Just to my left one old fella (perhaps once a rivet wielding shipyard worker) was dancing, beer in one hand, walking stick waving in the air from the other.  An easy button to press I suppose, but from that point onwards this Glaswegian audience nestled softly like putty in Hawley's hands.

As guitar followed guitar so song followed song, including 'Coles Corner', 'Don't stare at the sun', 'Open up your door', a very menacing 'Down in the woods' and to finish a crunching 'Is there a pill'.  Returning to the stage for an encore Hawley announced 'we've just had a chat, we're all going to move here, fook it' – cue another audience explosion before 'There's a' storm a' coming', which ends appropriately threateningly with Hawley, back to audience, thrashing his Gibson 3355 within an inch of its life, before reverting to the lovely Gretsch for an explosive 'Heart of oak' to finish.  Well almost finish.  They did the false ending thing, with Hawley yelling to the audience in the longueur, 'Shall we rock and roll? Shall we fookin' rock and roll? Shall we fookin' rock and roll?'

And they did.  - Nick Morgan






Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
The 20th Anniversary Sessions, today two 30yo Littlemill


These two have been sat on my sample shelf making eyes at me for long enough, time to see what they have to say…



Littlemill 30 yo 1991/2021 (46.7%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 102 bottles)

Littlemill 30 yo 1991/2021 (46.7%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 102 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: grassy, bright and lean. Soft cereals, crushed nettles, mineral notes and an almost performative Irish accent with all these rather tart exotic fruits, metal polish and fresh green fruit notes. Develops a rather crisp Sauvignon blanc quality too. A beautiful nose, just perhaps a little on the soft side. Mouth: really going for it with this Sauvignon blanc / old style Irish Whiskey fusion. Grass, green fruit acids, passion fruit, flower nectars, olive oil and mineral oils too. Some crisp cereals in the background and wee note of shoe polish and even rice wine! Finish: medium and nicely grassy, citric, still showing nice crispness and green fruit acidity. Comments: one of those Littlemills that really looks towards Ireland. Eminently sippable and charming, just a tad on the soft side.

SGP: 551 - 88 points.



Littlemill 30 yo 1988/2019 (55.3%, Hunter Laing 'Old & Rare', refill hogshead, 85 bottles)

Littlemill 30 yo 1988/2019 (55.3%, Hunter Laing 'Old & Rare', refill hogshead, 85 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: a broader and more polished style. More on cooking oils, honey, wee glimmers of hessian, camphor and putty. There's fruits too, but rather lemon rinds, wee drops of passion fruit and dried mango. I also find some nicely green herbal aspects with a little time in the glass, fresh muddled green herbs along with a little verbena and wormwood. With water: dried sage, pine wood, myrtle and heather. It's got a lot of natural and organic aspects, but at the same time not a fruit bomb like many of its siblings. Mouth: again rather big and nicely polished. White pepper, citronella wax, hessian, top quality super grassy olive oil and a slightly honeyed, aged riesling vibe. Super classy Littlemill! With water: again very lovely honey and olive oil profile, along with some American IPA hops, citrus rinds, camphor and fir woods again. Not your common or garden Littlemill I'd say. Finish: good length, warm pepperiness, dried herbal notes, grassy olive oil impressions once again and some zesty citrus in the aftertaste. Comments: undoubtedly excellent, but also slightly challenging at times. It's not your regular Littlemill fruit bomb, but it's also well worth your time and patience. Probably more a whisky for lovers of aged dry white wines. Rather different from the Cadenhead but same quality I feel.
SGP: 461 - 88 points.



Thanks to Andy and KC!





Copyright Serge Valentin & Angus MacRaild