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Whiskies 15,611
Other spirits 2,060
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Index of whiskyfun


Whisky Tasting

 
Balblair (92)
Balmenach (42)
Balvenie (1
15)
Banff (5
2)
Ben Nevis (1
98)
Ben Wyvis
(3)
Benriach (1
87)
Benrinnes (
90)
Benromach (6
6)
Bladnoch (
80)
Blair Athol (
8
5)
Bowmore (5
36)
Braes of Glenlivet (4
6)
Brora (1
34)
Bruichladdich (2
9
8)
Bunnahabhain (3
58)
Dailuaine (66)
Dallas Dhu (
41)
Dalmore (1
23)
Dalwhinnie (
33)
Deanston (4
8)
Dufftown (5
3)
Edradour (83)
Ladyburn (12)
Lagavulin
(1
62)
Laphroaig (4
68)
Ledaig (1
33)
Linkwood (1
54)
Littlemill (1
24)
Loch Lomond (
72)
Lochside (6
9)
Longmorn (2
22)
Longrow (7
5)
Macallan (309)
Macduff (
89)
Malt Mill
(1)
Mannochmore (
4
3)
Millburn (2
4)
Miltonduff (
9
4)
Mortlach (
200)
Mosstowie (2
2)

Scapa (46)
Speyburn (
44)
Speyside (22)
Springbank (3
72)
St-Magdalene (5
4)
Strathisla (
10
6)
Strathmill (
41)

 
 
Pete and Jack



2020
July 1
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- 2
March 1 - 2
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2019
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1 - 2
November
1 - 2
October
1 - 2
September 1 - 2
August 1 - 2
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June 1 - 2
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April 1 - 2
March 1 - 2
February 1 - 2
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2018
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

2017
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

2016
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

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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The Magical History
of the Great
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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
Angus MacRaild
2002-20
20

 


Scotch Legal Announcement

 
 

August 3, 2020


Whiskyfun

More than enough Miltonduff

Proud of that headline, for once! Anyway, Miltonduff is not quite a blue chip, unless you remember the sometimes fantabulous old official 13 years old. That’s right, the Milton-duffs. But many little names have been doing huge progress lately and are given more exposure since the inflated brands (no names needed) have virtually disappeared from geekier shelves. That’s rather worrying when brands would rather cater for the unlearned, don’t you agree? Anyway, let’s see what we have… Perhaps first a little aperitif?

Miltonduff 1984/2014 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed label, refill bourbon barrels)

Miltonduff 1984/2014 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed label, refill bourbon barrels) Three stars
A rather famous half-official label by G&M. It’s pretty old but since it was bottled at a low strength I thought we’d have it as #1. Colour: gold. Nose: starts very floral and honeyed, which is awesome. Honeysuckle and heather honey, marmalade, biscuits, Jaffa cakes, geraniums and wisteria… This is what, in the old days, we would have called a ‘feminine’ whisky. Mouth: very nice arrival, rather on quince and orange jams, but it’s got this gritty, very drying oak that gets in the way. As if you would have forgotten about your little Darjeeling in your old teapot – since yesterday. Tannins, sawdust, cardboard, bags of cinnamon… Finish: medium and just as drying, but some fine notes of pineapples do come through now. Comments: this is a little surprising, last time I had tried this one informally, I had thought it was real good. I may try it again… in a few years.
SGP:551 - 80 points.

Miltonduff 9 yo 2008/2017 (52.6%, Duncan Taylor, sherry octave finish, cask # 8316503, 82 bottles)

Miltonduff 9 yo 2008/2017 (52.6%, Duncan Taylor, sherry octave finish, cask # 8316503, 82 bottles) Four stars
I suppose this will be fully cask-driven, as usual with these little octave bottlings. I would say doing a finishing in an octave is the nearest thing to using oak chips, except that it’s perfectly legal, and rightly so. Colour: light gold. Nose: typical, with ginger at first, then cinnamon and leather, with some vanilla and whiffs of geranium. Perhaps a touch of mustard with curry. Unusually oaky, but pleasant. With water: behaves very well, becoming fruitier and even fresh. Roasted bananas, rum… Mouth (neat): it was all well-controlled, even if it’s really going towards bourbon. Wood spices, roasted raisins, vanilla, cinnamon, white pepper, oranges… With water: what’s this witchcraft? I’m finding this really good – yes, Serge at the keyboard. Good balance between fresh tropical fruits and oak spices. Finish: medium, on bananas flambéed and pancake sauce. Comments: Duncan Taylor have become masters at this game and have, in my opinion, almost created a brand new category, a proper alternative to STR.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 11 yo 2007/2019 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles)

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 11 yo 2007/2019 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles) Four stars and a half
This should be the exact opposite of the Duncan Taylor, that is to say a fully naked, all-natural Miltonduff. Colour: white wine. Nose: bone-dry, hyper-austere, ultra-grassy and chalky, with only green pears and apples at the fruit department. Oatcakes. All right then… With water: yellow peaches! Hurray, that’s always a winner! Mouth (neat): there’s something to be loved in this kind of hot naked style. Riesling, cranberries, chalk, grass, blackcurrants, lime juice. You could almost prepare some cocktail with those ingredients, but it would be easier to buy a bottle of this little ‘duff by Cad’. With water: not many changes, really, and it didn’t even get any easier. What a waste of water. Finish: long, a little more on sweet barley. Preserved peaches again in the aftertaste, I say ‘bravo’. Comments: one of these little all-natural distillate-driven gems that Cadenhead do bottle from time to time.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

More young ones…

Miltonduff 10 yo 2009/2020 (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, first fill bourbon, 576 bottles)

Miltonduff 10 yo 2009/2020 (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, first fill bourbon, 576 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s bizarrely petroly and musty at first sniffs, as if one of the casks had previously contained some peater, which is obviously not the case since this is first fill BB. Otherwise apple juice, melon, muesli and plantains, plus barley syrup of course. Mouth: very bright and fruity, with quite a lot of oak (coffee and chocolate) but also a fine range of fresh fruits, williams pears, apricots… It’s not complicated whisky, but it does its job with dedication and faith (what?) Finish: medium, fruity, syrupy. Some wine gums for sure. Some rosewater in the aftertaste, muscat, gewurztraminer (no, no umlaut in Alsatian)… Comments: fruity, cool, and very good. The exact definition of a 85-pointer in my little book.
SGP:641 - 85 points.

More youngsters…

Miltonduff 8 yo 2009/2018 (60%, The Golden Cask, cask #CM245)

Miltonduff 8 yo 2009/2018 (60%, The Golden Cask, cask #CM245) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re reminded of the Cadenhead. Chalk, vanilla, apple juice, wee touch of smoke, paraffin and ethanol, naturally. With water: peaches and lemons, with touches of ground coffee. Mouth (neat): creamy and syrupy, with ripe bananas and pineapples, but that may be the high alcohol. It ought to be the high alcohol. With water: pure fruit syrup, peaches again, pears, bananas… Eau-de-vie de Barley? When will LVMH launch such a perfume? Nicola Sturgeon could be the égérie/the muse. And why not, since Penelope and Charlize are busy elsewhere in the group? Finish: medium, ueber-fruity. This much fruitiness is almost too much, almost cloying. Comments: sure it’s not Brora 1972, but it’s loyal, faithful and honest. Honestly.
SGP:741 - 84 points.

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 11 yo 2008/2019 (56%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 1116 bottles)

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 11 yo 2008/2019 (56%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 1116 bottles) Four stars
This one from 4 casks, so singularities may have been erased this time. Colour: white wine. Nose: the AC was clearly superior, this is rather a fruity, easy, syrupy one. Sugarcane, green bananas, ripe plums, pancake syrup… With water: whiffs of fruity ale now. Sweet dough, brioche from this morning, apple peel… Mouth (neat): in a way it is spectacular. A true fruit bomb, full of very ripe plums, bananas and pineapples. It is almost some liqueur, you would almost believe someone’s added a lot of muscovado sugar, which was obviously not the case. Unless, unless… I am joking. With water: still sweet, but with fine herbal notes, peelings, some hay… Finish: medium, thick and syrupy. Is it possible to make some liqueur out of bamboo shoots? More sweet ale in the aftertaste, IPA… Comments: I still prefer Cadenhead’s single cask, by far, but this one really doesn’t cheat either.
SGP:751 - 85 points.

Good, we’ve got two or three older ones but I would suggest we do them tomorrow, agreed?

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Miltonduff we've tasted so far

 

August 1, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Death by Highland Park: Part II
I just noticed that I am recording notes for this session exactly one year and a day after I published the first of these rather ambitious tasting line-ups. I had originally assumed last year’s session would be a one off, but then a certain sizeable Alsace wine grower with a taste for Highland Park furnished me with an even bigger pile of these official single casks.

 

Add to that the fact I was already accumulating a few other HPs of my own for a more modest session and there you have it: time for a sequel. These HP single casks can be pretty hard work, but let’s not allow that to deter us. We’ll go forwards haphazardly by vintage/age, but first: a couple of older aperitifs to acclimatise.

 

 

Highland Park 18 yo (43%, OB, 1990s)

Highland Park 18 yo (43%, OB, 1990s)
From one of these rather dark vattings in the old cylindrical bottles. Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: wonderfully old school, easy, leafy and earthy sherry. Many nuts, chocolate, praline, rancio, leather and some sea salt. Quite a while away from the current batches, and you really get the impression that they may have put some older stocks in the mix. Gentle and aromatic notes of dried herbs, medicines and hessian. All very classical and enticing. Mouth: superb richness upon arrival. Big, fatty, salty, nutty, leather, earthy and full of tobaccos, dried mushrooms, figs and this superbly mineral and nervously saline sherry. Emphatic, precise, punchy and just brilliant. Finish: Long, warming, again with all this chocolate and nuts, wee touches of lemon, more dunnage earthiness and more salty old rancio sherry. Comments: Little wonder these batches elevated HPs name during that era and won just about every award going. It just oozes class and easy, sinewy charm.
SGP: 662 - 92 points.

 

 

Highland Park 19 yo 1985/2005 (54%, Signatory ‘Cask Strength Collection, cask #2911, hogshead, 296 bottles)

Highland Park 19 yo 1985/2005 (54%, Signatory Vintage ‘Cask Strength Collection, cask #2911, hogshead, 296 bottles)
Always intriguing to try whiskies from ‘my’ vintage. Colour: straw. Nose: bone dry at first nosing, could almost be the purest, most mineral and chiselled of Loire sauvignons. Grasses, green herbs, apple peelings, mineral oil, putty, lime pith, chalk. Highly austere but extremely pure HP. In time it becomes a little more scented with beach pebbles, citronella wax and sandalwood. With water: a little leafier and more herbal. Putty, fabrics, wet cereals, hessian cloth. Mouth: big arrival, all on hot cider, grass, apple peelings, tarragon, flints, chalk, soot, lime infused cooking oils and white pepper. Punchy, similarly austere and with a pretty crisp coastal accent. Almost petrolic and saline. With water: softer, more oily, herbal, coastal, chalky and medical. Still rather pure and chiselled in style. Finish: good length, very dry, salty, flinty and with bags of taut minerals, bath salts and dried herbs. Comments: The flip side of the HP coin from the OB 18yo. This is a pretty brutal and tough example of HP but the quality is pretty high.
SGP: 363 - 87 points.

 

 

Highland Park 15 yo 2002/2017 (56.9%, OB for NOR’EASTER, cask #3249, refill sherry butt, 546 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2002/2017 (56.9%, OB for NOR’EASTER, cask #3249, refill sherry butt, 546 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: golden syrup, brown bread, wet leaves, chalky rocks, medicines, clay and limestone. Fresh, inviting and relatively easy. Also you get an immediate impression of distillery character, which I’m all for. With water: a clean and precise earthiness, nicely punchy olive oil notes, more of these wet leafy, damp forest aspects - things like moss and ferns. Then some increasingly saline qualities like crushed seashells. Mouth: herbal, wormwood, soot, some rather syrupy medicines, putty, camphor and rather a nice mix of coastal freshness and warm freshly baked breads. With water: fatter, slightly greasier and meatier but still with wonderfully medical and herbal aspects. Still rather sooty and with oily sheep wool and camphor. Cod liver oil and seawater. Finish: long, brightly herbal, some honey and mead, lemon barley water and heather ale. Comments: This one feels oddly like many of these great indy versions of HP from refill that are floating about today’s market. Which is great as the distillery character remains front and centre and perfectly balanced with the sherry.
SGP: 562 - 90 points.

 

 

Highland Park 15 yo 2002/2018 (58.3%, OB for HKexcl, cask #2123, 1st fill American oak sherry butt, 523 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2002/2018 (58.3%, OB for HKexcl, cask #2123, 1st fill American oak sherry butt, 523 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: a kind of glowing sweetness from the American oak, but it sits very well alongside darker fruits, coconut oil, golden sultanas, black Chinese tea, banana bread with chocolate, miso, camphor and a very light and fragrant heathery peat. Lots going on and quite excellent at first. With water: slightly direr and more playful with bread notes, pastries and some fruit jellies. Mouth: again the wood is assertive but just about kept in check by other forces. Lots of warm spices, cherry liqueur, strawberry jam, charcoal, black pepper and cured meats. Paprika, lime cordial and liquorice. With water: a little more natural, more leather, camphor, oily rag, dry roast peanuts and putty. Some pine resin and cloves too. Finish: long, herbal, getting rather mentholated and with a fair bit of hardwood resin, natural tar and various fruit liqueurs. Comments:  You feel the wood, but it’s high quality and again enough integration has happened to bring round everything out in a luxurious and cohesive fashion.
SGP: 652 - 89 points.

 

 

Highland Park 14 yo 2003/2018 (59%, OB for Sweden ‘Ltd Edition 2018: 1’, cask #6147, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 575 bottles)

Highland Park 14 yo 2003/2018 (59%, OB for Sweden ‘Ltd Edition 2018: 1’, cask #6147, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 575 bottles)
Colour: ruby amber. Nose: indeed, it is true what they say about European oak, this is deeper, spicier and more dominated by bitter chocolate, liquorice, wood spices, treacle, cherry jam and Turkish delight. Excellent! With water: more of these treacle notes, plum pudding, caraway, salted liquorice, strawberry liqueur and soy sauce. A tug of war between sweet and salty. Mouth: big arrival, all on winter spices, mulled wine, camphor, pine resin, natural tar, pecan pie, rosewater and verbena. Powerful, drying and pretty deeply earthy. With water: very savoury now, lots of umami seasonings, Maggi, black tea, mutton stock, camphor and roast chestnuts. Finish: long, deeply earthy, bitter herbs, black pepper, cured meats, strong tea, wormwood. Comments: It’s immensely good whisky but it’s a little monolithic at the same time. You can’t help but feel another four years or so in the cask would have brought just the right amount of harmony. But hey, Macallan ‘visitor experiences’ don’t pay for themselves.
SGP: 572 - 88 points.

 

 

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2018 (59.9%, OB for Sweden ‘Ltd Edition 2018: 2’, cask #4462, 1st fill American oak sherry puncheon, 600 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2018 (59.9%, OB for Sweden ‘Ltd Edition 2018: 2’, cask #4462, 1st fill American oak sherry puncheon, 600 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: back to the American oak again with all this golden syrup mixed with coconut milk, vanilla sponge cake with spices, gorse flowers, heather honey and lemon infused olive oil. I have to say, I think I find these American oak HPs a little easier and more accessible, but that’s probably because they hit their stride at a younger age compared to the European oak examples. With water: brighter, fruitier and rather juicy with these notes of fruit salad syrups and bubblegum. Also some cloves and brown bread. A few medical touches too. Mouth: herbal teas, lemon curd, dried thyme, limoncello in mineral water, rose syrup, hessian, mint tea and some gentle tobacco leaf notes. With water: jasmine tea, rosewater, lime syrup, herbal cocktail bitters, coal dust and hessian. Some dunnage earthiness and black pepper. Finish: long, full of brown breads, toasted seeds, peanut brittle, salty honey, heather flowers and a little vanilla cream. Comments: Someone at Edrington was choosing very good wood in the early 2000s it seems. These casks are all quite active and punchy but they are super clean and work well with the distillate. The Americans are definitely easier to get along with than the Europeans in this case, which is arguably the only situation in which you could ever write that sentence (love to my American pals ;)
SGP: 651 - 89 points.

 

 

Highland Park 12 yo 2004/2017 (65.3%, OB for BevMo!, cask #6737, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 360 bottles)

Highland Park 12 yo 2004/2017 (65.3%, OB for BevMo!, cask #6737, 1st fill European oak sherry butt, 360 bottles)
Colour: orangey gold. Nose: wooft, quite a departure, this one really gives the impression of real bodega funk! Salty, nutty, balsamic notes with leather, bitter chocolate and not a little rancio. Pickled walnuts, olive tapenade, soot, leaf mulch, old pipe tobacco in a leather pouch and salted liquorice. Totally superb nose, love it! With water: grasses, hay, silage, a drier earthiness and some hints of treacle and pumpernickel bread. Mouth: once again, these note of pickles, leather, tobacco, a whole forest mulched and pulped, some camphor, rubber fishing wellies and mechanical grease from a bike chain. Getting very meaty and full of umami, broths, bouillon stocks and pickle juices. Hey, I forgot it was deadly rocket fuel strength! With water: hugely fat, peppery, greasy, meaty, spicy and with many dark fruit jams, rancio, salty liquorice again, dark chocolate and herbal bitters. Finish: long and probably getting a tad too rubbery / meaty now - we’re approaching Mortlach territories, but with more of these pleasing pickled walnut vibes. Comments: What a monster. I really love this one, you feel immediately that it was an older style of sherry cask, or at least a cask which had contained a more curious style of sherry. Now, some of these meatier aspects will probably be rather divisive depending on where you stand on such things in sherried whiskies. Some parts are really worth 91 for me, but on a technical level it’s probably a bit too extreme. But what a character nonetheless!
SGP: 572 - 87 points.

 

 

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (63.5%, OB for Glasgow Airport Duty Free, cask #6569, refill butt, 660 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (63.5%, OB for Glasgow Airport Duty Free, cask #6569, refill butt, 660 bottles)
Woohoo! Glasgow! Maybe not the duty free bit so much though. Colour: gold. Nose: refreshingly refreshing, as they say in Glasgow (what?), as in lots of more aromatic, coastal distillery character. Drier, leaner, more linens, wet rocks, chalk, canvass, heather ales, old shilling beers, wet pebbles and wee hints of cooked vegetables. Could be an indy bottling really. With water: really nice now, honey cake, olive oil, freshly chopped parsley and soda bread. Some salty butter to spread on it too. Mouth: nicely syrupy and fat in the mouth upon arrival. Cooking oils, pasta water, elastoplasts, clay, ointments, herbal cough medicines and salty liquorice. Nicely natural. With water: cooking oils, cereals, baking parchment, ink, dried tarragon and miso. Getting very salty and oily now. Quite a savoury and appetising style. Finish: good length, rather greasy and ever so slightly rubbery, but also still very bready, rich, oily, savoury and salty. Comments: Indeed, a refreshing change and a much more vivid take on the distillate. It’s just that you are left with the feeling that this would have been so superb given another few years in cask, don’t get me wrong it’s already very good but I feel a cask like this could have evolved into something a lot more fascinating. That wee rubbery note in the finish lost it a point or two I think.
SGP: 472 - 87 points.

 

 

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (64.9%, OB for Duty Zero Hong Kong, cask #5424, refill butt, 644 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (64.9%, OB for Duty Zero Hong Kong, cask #5424, refill butt, 644 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: salted caramel, butterscotch, pumpernickel bread, caramelising brown sugar, dunnage earth - different again this one. Continues with many roast nuts - macadamias, Brazil, walnuts, pecans - kirschwasser, plum wine and things like jasmine tea and five spice. With water: deeper, drier, more peppery and more profoundly earthy with many bitter herbs, tobaccos, leather and aged teas. Mouth: ouch, the heat. But also some very lovely and hyper clean sherry flavours of strawberry wine, damson jam, prunes, balsamic, treacle pudding and hessian. Lots of strong black teas with sugar as well. With water: much easier now with H2O. In fact quite beautiful, lots of chilli jam, red fruit cordials, exotic hardwood resins, natural tar, mint syrup, treacle and dark chocolate sauce with sea salt. Finish: long, resinous, earthy, saline, very warm and full of wee wood spices and dried herbs. Pot pourri, incense and some old dried out herbal medicines. Comments: Water is obligatory here, but this one is really a winner.
SGP: 562 - 90 points.

 

 

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (65.4%, OB for Vinothek Massen - Luxembourg, cask #5975, refill butt, 619 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 2004/2018 (65.4%, OB for Vinothek Massen - Luxembourg, cask #5975, refill butt, 619 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: slight initial balsamic acidity, then honey cake, toasted hazelnuts and freshly baked brown bread. There’s also some firm earthy notes underneath along with chopped walnuts, bouillon stock and celery salts. Dry, lean and slightly vegetal in a pretty attractive way. But you do get the impression the alcohol is masking a few things here. With water: some nicely bitter herbal extracts, black pepper, various roots and aged pu erh teas. Quite dry and leafy still. Mouth: phew! It’s rocket fuel but it’s tasty rocket fuel. Lots of roast nuts, candied fruits and various fruit cordials. Some blackcurrant jam, dried cranberries and fruit loaf. Crying out for water though… With water: this is still really quite powerful and hot. Chilli pepper, natural tar, black pepper, crushed aspirin, dry earth, soot, hessian. It’s an out and out beast. Finish: long, very spicy, dry, earthy, herbal, sooty and with plenty of bitter herbs. Comments: The flavours are all very nice but it just feels a bit too tough I’m afraid. This one really feels like it could have done with more years in cask. The alcohol heat doesn’t make room for too much pleasure I’m afraid. Now, technically it’s fine…
SGP: 472 - 85 points.

 

 

 

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Highland Park we've tasted so far

 

July 31, 2020


Whiskyfun

Linkwood with little wood

Ooh that’s smart! Indeed (no it's not, S.), shouldn’t we try a few Linkwoods, as they come to the table? I think we’ve got plenty in both the archives and in the ‘newly arrived’ boxes…

Linkwood 12 yo 2007/2020 ‘Reserve Cask Parcel No.2’ (48%, Elixir Distillers, hogsheads)

Linkwood 12 yo 2007/2020 ‘Reserve Cask Parcel No.2’ (48%, Elixir Distillers, hogsheads) Four stars and a half
The label tells us that the angels’ share has been of 24.33%. Aren’t they good at math? This is a vatting of four casks. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: awesome, smoky and fruity, very fresh, tense, bready, herbal, with fresh carrots, with touches of ham that are usually rather to be found in ex-sherry. Smoked kiwis and greengages, what’s not to like? Mouth: in Alsace we say ‘hoppla’, which means that there’s nothing to quibble about. More smoked ham and various green fruits, gooseberries, granny smith, rhubarb (I know it’s the stems that we’re eating, love them and have plenty in my garden), green pepper, earth. Finish: long and earthier. Comments: upper-echelon bottling, marvellous freshness and high-precision work inside.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Linkwood 12 yo 2007/2020 (54.9%, Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #804457, 276 bottles)

Linkwood 12 yo 2007/2020 (54.9%, Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #804457, 276 bottles) Four stars and a half
This should be similar. Colour: muscadet wine. Nose: strike. Pure, crystalline bready barleyness, with whiffs of coal smoke and crushed bananas in porridge, with a dollop of honey and whiffs of yellow flowers. Perhaps roses as well, I’ve often associated Linwood with roses, not to sure I was always right. Some pink grapefruits. Mouth: creamy and barley-y. A little grey pepper, cherries, bread, panettone, scones and then bitter oranges. Superb clean and balanced fruity distillate, very pure and easy to quaff. Excellent. Finish: rather long, with nots of bitter almonds, then citrons and a little muesli. Lemony aftertaste. Comments: at the very heart of proper malt whisky, without any make-up. I find this luminous and I could drink this all day. I said I could, neither that I should and nor that I will. I know I haven’t even added any water.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Linkwood 12 yo 2007/2020 (56%, Golden Cask, bourbon, 276 bottles)

Linkwood 12 yo 2007/2020 (56%, Golden Cask, bourbon, 276 bottles) Four stars
This one too should be similar. Colour: straw. Nose: punchier and harsher, but this time we’ll make good use of water, I promise. Hops, lemon zests, baker’s yeast, porridge, sour cream, yoghurt, dough… We shall see. With water: raw wool, ideas of bleach, washing powder, chalk, aspirin… Mind you, I do enjoy this style. Mouth (neat): akin to the Elixirs this time, creamy and lemony, blade-y, but this time a little rawer. Limoncello and granny smith. With water: ah yes lovely, fruitier, you’d almost believe you’re having a Lagunitas. Finish: same, for a good length of time. Comments: sharp and very good. Linkwood deserves better exposure, after G&M had pushed it alongside Mortlach. I agree, that was a long time ago.
SGP:461 - 86 points.

Good, are we truly ready for some genuine Linkwood madness, Old-Whiskyfun-style?

Linkwood 10 yo 2008/2018 (57.4%, James Eadie, oloroso finish, 615 bottles)

Linkwood 10 yo 2008/2018 (57.4%, James Eadie, oloroso finish, 615 bottles) Four stars
This baby was finished in oloroso for twenty months. I believe J. Eadie are very, very good at producing young modern whiskies of high – if modern indeed – quality. Colour: well the finish doesn’t show in the colour. Gold. Nose: it’s rawer, more from the country, with more petrol, grist, skins, hay, and only then the expected butterscotch and Mars bars. With water: fresh baguette and focaccia. We’re in the core. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy, on a lot of custard, triple-sec, peppermint liqueur, marmalade and… slivovitz. True eau-de-vie de barley. With water: excellent and smart. A tiny touch of oak shavings, perhaps, but other than that it’s a bed of orange blossom and elderflowers. Right, or syrups and liqueurs made thereof. Finish: rather long, clean and bright, yet syrupy. Oranges and ginger. Comments: was that oloroso cask STR-ised? Whatever, the end result is pretty perfect. I told you, masters of this (relatively) new game.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Linkwood 27 yo 1990/2018 (50.3%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, cask #9735, hogshead, 233 bottles)

Linkwood 27 yo 1990/2018 (50.3%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, cask #9735, hogshead, 233 bottles)
I’ll confess that we’re keeping some of Signatory’s 30th anniversary bottlings for ‘later’. After all, pleasure is also in waiting, Or in climbing the staircase – right. Having said that our pal Angus already tried it for these modest pages and liked it rather a lot. Colour: gold. Nose: phooh, this works. Bitter almonds, quince jelly, putty, fresh paint, roasted pistachios, marzipan… What does the people want? With water: strange, I’m finding linoleum and ‘a lost Saturday afternoon at Ikea’s’. Couldn’t find much worse… Mouth (neat): strange and relatively good. There’s a herbal fragility I would say, some coconut water in excess I would add, and an unexpected feeling of ‘sour spices’. What’s happening? With water: plastics and cardboards. No. Finish: no, this can’t be the real thing. Comments: when I see all these friends filling samples with plastic caps (any plastic + booze situation is a total mess, really) I feel sad. This is a good example, this baby got totally wrecked within less than two years. De profundis etc.
SGP:151 - no points.

Linkwood 21 yo 1997/2018 (56.9%, Signatory Vintage, The Whisky Embassy Bonn, refill sherry hogshead, cask #4239)

Linkwood 21 yo 1997/2018 (56.9%, Signatory Vintage, The Whisky Embassy Bonn, refill sherry hogshead, cask #4239) Two stars
This is German. Love Bonn, love the valley, love the vineyards, love the people (S., that was lame at best!) Colour: gold. Nose: as we all know, there’s good sulphur and there’s bad sulphur. This is good sulphur, umami-y, flinty, full of walnuts, paraffin, suet and… leatherette. With water: ah nice, on new leather jacket (or boots, as you like) and pickled fruits and vegetable. Tiny maize, for example, gherkins, onions... Mouth (neat): it is a little uncertain, too peppery, too sulphury, too dry, too petroly, too leathery, and yet pleasant and quaffable. Water should help us. With water: not too sure. Truffles and Schweppes, zests… Finish: medium, still a little sulphury. Comments: it’s extremely hard to score this kind, as some would claim that the sulphur is an asset, while others will insist that it’s a flaw. I would remain cautious…
SGP:362 - 75 points.

No luck with Signatory today – last time that happened that was around 1925. Excuse me, 1924. But let’s go on…

Linkwood 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask # 12574, 314 bottles)

Linkwood 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask # 12574, 314 bottles) Two stars
Haven’t heard much from DL’s lately, certainly hope they’re doing fine! I know, Covid, Boris and stuff. Of course we emphasize! Colour: white wine. Nose: tense, slightly smoky (coal), vegetal, dry, with a tiny touch of soap. That cannot be right. With water: touches of yeast, then grapefruits and paraffin. Okay. Ish. Mouth (neat): ah rather good, on grapefruit jam and tight chalky white wine. With water: sadly it wouldn’t quite swim. Gets a little cardboardy. Finish: medium and average. Comments: no, a little too hard and probably rather unnecessary. No, not a matter of wrecked sample this time, for sure not. Hey DL!?
SGP:352 - 73 points.

Linkwood 27 yo (54.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Whisky L.,, ‘A truly engaging experience’, #39.166, 152 bottles, +/-2018)

Linkwood 27 yo (54.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Whisky L.,, ‘A truly engaging experience’, #39.166, 152 bottles, +/-2018) Two stars and a half
According to the name, this was bottled when the SMWS crew responsible with finding the names switched from regular peyotl to pajateros. Gotta love them anyway. Colour: gold. Nose: whiffs of sunflower oil at first, then rather warm praline and some kind of earthier brioche. A little uncertain this far, I would say. With water: we lost it. Between yesterday’s breads and tomorrow’s Chicken wings, plus cardboard. Twenty-seven-years-old-Linkwood, really? Mouth (neat): nah, this is very good, punchy, rich and crisp at the same time, on spicy breads and auntie’s old peppermint liqueurs. See what I mean? With water: it's okay as long as you do not add more than half a drop of H2O.  Otherwise, just forget. Finish: good when neat, appalling when reduced. Comments: I just couldn’t manage this one. My fault for sure. Some sides were pretty great though. To whom should I send my postcard?
SGP:461 - 77 points.

Looks like this session is going south. One last try and off to Netflix (a.k.a. the end of civilisation, but indeed stinky amazon prime is even worse – no they don’t deserve any capital letters)… Good, heavy artillery please!...

Linkwood 21 yo 1956/1977 (45.7 G.L., Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Linkwood-Glenlivet 21 yo 1956/1977 (45.7 G.L., Cadenhead, black dumpy) Two stars
From when that old lady was still at the helm at Cadenhead’s in Aberdeen. Oh yeah, and ‘GL’ means Gay-Lussac, so pretty much % vol. A.B.V. Oh and ‘black dumpy’ sure isn’t any official terminology. Colour: white wine. Nose: but naturally. Soot, tar, marrow, old copper coins, toolbox, beach sand, tin box, toolbox, a Jaguar engine (straight 6) and a pile of old magazines in an old attic in and old house in an old town in an old country. Mouth: these are tough, probably too paraffiny, too cardboardy, too meaty and too metallic, but that’s exactly what we enjoy in these very unlogic early black dumpies by Cadenhead. Where else are you going to find artichoke liqueur seasoned with brass and aged in fibreglass containers? Nowhere! Finish: medium, dry, on difficult vegetable. Eggplants, parsnips, swedes, salsify… Comments: honestly, this was tough. Even good old Jaypee Sartre wouldn’t have touched it. Hemingway? Probably…
SGP:361 - 76 points.

Conclusion: better choose your Linkwoods clean, young and crisp. Yep, Serge at the MacBook.

PS: it is always pretty stressful to the taster when you encounter such a string of, say moderately impressive whiskies, because invariably, you start to wonder whether you, instead of the spirits, are having a problem. That’s where benchmark/reference whiskies come handy as well, as they represent a good way of checking if everything’s okay with your nose and palate, especially if you haven’t become over-sensitive – temporarily - to some main flavours, especially bitterness, which can happen rather often in my experience.

(Molto gracias, Angus, Roger)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Linkwood we've tasted so far

 

July 30, 2020


Whiskyfun

A wee trio of Auchroisk

We haven’t tried many Auchroisk but some have been good.

Auchroisk 22 yo 1996/2018 (46%, Orcines, France, hogshead, cask #1976, 266 bottles)

Auchroisk 22 yo 1996/2018 (46%, Orcines, France, hogshead, cask #1976, 266 bottles) Four stars
By The Whisky Lodge in Lyons/Lyon. Colour: white wine. Nose: some pure gristy and barleyish malt whisky, full of porridge and crushed bananas, with touches of tar and ashes in the background, then a little aniseed and rubber. Rather a fuller Speysider this far, I would say, the age sure doesn’t show. Mouth: I totally understand why a blender would need this rather oily malt whisky that’s got oils and spicy herbs aplenty. Bitter leaves, banana skin, soot, graphite oil, touches of angelica and liquorice root… Seriously I haven’t tried many Auchroisk al natural, and I am rather pleased. It is not ‘just another Speysider’. Finish: medium, rather on some pretty unusual waxy grasses. Or seaweded? Wakame? Comments: very good and interesting drop, recommended. I should have tried it earlier – been lazy again.
SGP:452 - 86 points.

Auchroisk 27 yo 1991/2019 (48.7%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask #19-2701, 291 bottles)

Auchroisk 27 yo 1991/2019 (48.7%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask #19-2701, 291 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s more on bonbons, wine gums, Jell-O, then cassata and stewed fruits, with a good proportion of rhubarb. Very different. A whiff of wood smoke coming from the background as well as some sour dough. Mouth: a similar feeling, with an oilier structure and touches of rubber, artichoke… It remains rather on doughs and sweets. Finish: nice, rather oilier and waxier indeed, so that may be a marker. It was about time we improved our list of Auchroisk markers. Comments: another one that’s very good, it was just a notch sketchier than the 1996. I would drink this!
SGP:461 - 84 points.

And now one of those young wrestlers by James Eadie… (I suppose it’s a wrestler…)

Auchroisk 12 yo 2007/2019 (59.4%, James Eadie, first fill bourbon, cask #80595, 291 bottles)

Auchroisk 12 yo 2007/2019 (59.4%, James Eadie, first fill bourbon, cask #80595, 291 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: they’re doing a super job, really. You’ve got this waxy, paraffiny, almost plastic side, then the grist and the porridge, then a sourness (natural yoghurt), then banana skins, touch of aniseed, umami sauce, earth, dried porcinis… I have to say I rather fond of this. With water: bread baked in the fireplace or something. Some spearmint, citron, auntie’s lemon curd… Mouth (neat): high power, ridden with aniseed, menthol and sour cream, then baguette dough, bananas, pastis and fresh mushrooms. Some grapefruit keeping it sharp. With water: a little rubber, absolutely not a problem in this context. Gherkins. Finish: long, sweeter, more on triple-sec and limoncello, but with a grassier and bitterer aftertaste. Comments: they really have a house style at James Eadie’s, I’m not sure many indie bottlers could say that too. Try some of their whiskies, I believe we should buy a few and cellar them for thirty years or so, and then open them while listening to Madonna’s latest.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

It was a very satisfactory session. To me, at least.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Auchroisk we've tasted so far

 

July 28, 2020


Whiskyfun

July 28, 2020, Whiskyfun is eighteen
I'm really glad that Angus accepted to pen down something for us today. Our Scottish friend has been an invaluable asset to this wee website for quite a few years already, thanks mucho Angus, over to you... - Serge

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
The ‘fun’ line between innocence and cynicism
Serge has asked me to write something about Whiskyfun for its 18th birthday. So, in true ‘Whiskyfun disclaimer’ fashion: please be aware that I am writing this more from the perspective of a whisky lover and a ‘fan’ of Whiskyfun - less as a ‘late era’ contributor.

 

So, 18 years of age! In whisky terms this website is now entering the ‘mature’ bracket. Whereas in human years it is finally legally allowed to buy itself a celebratory pint. Let’s just call the nearly 19000 tasting notes for whiskies, rums, Cognacs, brandies and other spirits ‘practice’.

 

 

What’s for sure is that Whiskyfun is now old enough to incite pause for thought, when we hear ’eighteen years’ most of us can cast our minds back to what we were doing (I was in school!) and wonder what on earth happened to those intervening years that evaporated like so much angel’s share through the pores of daily life.

 

 

Much has changed since 2002: we live our lives now in an almost constant state of exhaustion from the relentlessness of upheaval. Society, politics, the environment - this pandemic. We have grown used to impermanence, flux and a sense that if there was a time before all this of stability, continuity and consensus, it was real all too briefly - an oasis of time now ticked dry. The world we live in today is not the one into which Whiskyfun was born back in 2002 - something as true of whisky as it is of the more serious aspects of our lives.

 

 

2002 was still firmly in Whisky's ‘age of innocence’, an era that is glanced back at in a convoluted gush of nostalgic adulation, jealousy and a pinch of revisionism. Perhaps what is most important, and often easily lost amidst the clattering virtue signaling and grouchiness of much contemporary whisky discourse, is that it was a time when the internet itself still smelled fresh. It was populated but more sparsely so; still a frontier that held promise, excitement and a sense of optimism.

 

 

What you might define as ‘Phase One’ of Whisky’s collision with the internet began in 1995 with Johannes Van Den Heuvel’s Malt Madness and the various scattered ‘forums’ and ‘conversations’ between people who gravitated around this fascinating drink. Whiskyfun (which let us not forget originated on Malt Madness), I would argue, blew the whistle on ‘Phase 2’.

 

 

Serge with Johannes Van Den Heuvel (circa 2004)

Whereas Malt Madness pro-actively started a process of connecting threads and joining dots, Whiskyfun instead reflected a culture that was still fledgling and ill-defined. It was conversational and irreverent in tone, you could be eavesdropping on some whisky nerds giggling about whisky and jazz in a pub - writing in English with a French ‘accent’.  

 

It formalised tasting notes but kept the language of description direct and unfussy. It popularised, and to a degree standardised, scoring as part of a shared system of communication and maintained a regular and reliable stream of meaningful content.

 

 

I would argue that the effects of this were not immediately apparent. The early years of Whiskyfun were very much characterised by jokes about bottles of 1976 Ardbeg being laughably expensive at £170 and the adventures of a posse of pals called the Malt Maniacs. In 2002 an Ardbeg wasn’t so profoundly more hallowed than an Ardmore, a position we are almost pre-conditioned to reflexively assume today.

 

 

While Whiskyfun undoubtedly reflected a culture, it wasn’t long before it also began to inform that same culture. As the style of writing and recording notes and scores became slightly more detailed, defined and elaborate - the SGP being introduced in November 2007 was, I would argue, a pivotal shift - so the increasing readership began to take notice of these ‘reviews’ and include them in their considerations about whisky. And - let’s not kid ourselves here - their purchases too.

 

 

Perhaps more than any other site Whiskyfun played a key role in proliferating knowledge and establishing a consensus about whisky that was independent of, and divergent to, the officially sanctioned industry narratives of the time. It is the medium of the internet that has shattered and reshaped whisky and its associated culture. However, if high speed broadband, social media, online auctions, new platforms of exchange and immediate communication are the techno-nervous systems that rewired us all, Whiskyfun’s content provided some timely lifeblood to flow throughout these new systems.

 

 

There are criticisms to be made, and plenty who have made them, that Whiskyfun scores carry silly weight or that it helped inflate the desirability of certain types of whisky into distantly isolated financial reach. However, there are some key considerations to bear in mind about these critiques. Firstly, Serge did not set out to achieve an end goal with Whiskyfun - it is a site devoid of ‘agenda’ in that sense. The power of this ‘wee’ website is that it has never forgotten the other, most important, part of its name: fun! It remains deeply uncommercial, it has never become more than a hobby for its creator, and it still manages not to take itself or its subject too seriously - while also maintaining a strong level of consistency in its critical approach to spirits. Crucially, it was also always honest about what it found in the glass while never making any presumptions to express some kind of absolute ‘truth’ about any particular spirit.

 

 

Indeed, given the lurching and disquieting world of 2020 we now live with, there is power and comfort in the unchanging, low-fi permanence of Whiskyfun - both in its content and aesthetic. Because it remains, give or take a few additions and tweaks, at heart the same as it was in 2002, it is understandably a source of daily amusement, reliability and joy to whisky lovers across the world. It states its opinions clearly, does not concern itself with whisky fashions - in fact I suspect Serge would argue it remains deeply un-fashionable in many of its opinions - and continues to revel in an unashamed love of the one thing that still unites us all. Which in 2020 is sadly the real rarity.

 

 

In 2020, Whiskyfun’s more revolutionary capacity is arguably complete, or certainly finite. It is penalised by Google due to its refusal to ‘play ball’ with today’s web rules but remains sustained by a growing and loyal audience of whisky literate readers. I suspect the extent of the effects of its upheaval are pretty limited in nature from here on out.

 

 

Today’s whisky world is one of endless debates about what ‘type’ of scoring system is better. Moaning continually about the dreaded ‘flippers’ and prices - sometimes with good reason; other times with blatantly congealing jealousy. In 2002 Japan was on the ascendancy and there was a lot of chatter about how Scottish single malts were naff compared to what they used to be - a situation arguably inverted in 2020. Some of Whisky’s narratives are cyclical, while others linear - the topic of terroir evolves in ways I haven’t the space to touch on here. On one hand, whisky in 2020 exists in an era of profound cynicism. But on the other there are better and more deeply considered things being written and discussed about whisky than ever before. Unsurprising when you consider just how much bigger whisky’s world and population of admirers is now. You can sense it is a subject and a product on the cusp of something brighter and better in my view.

 

 

I believe Whiskyfun has played an important role in the evolution of whisky culture and community over the past 18 years. If it has a role to play in the coming decade, in my view it is not one of leadership, but of reflection again. To try to shut out the noise for a few quiet moments, to inhale and to think deeply with an open mind about what these many new spirits are telling us. What messages are being smuggled through by new generations of keenly inquisitive minds that take issue with homogenisation and mediocrity and demand something better of this great drink - wherever it is being made. Whiskyfun, after 18 years, has nothing to prove. But as long as whisky matters to enough people and as long as we love whisky, it will always have something to say. Hopefully it will continue to say those things with depth of thought, but only a pinch of seriousness.

 

 

At least, that’s what I think anyway. Serge may disagree entirely. - Angus

 

 

 

 

 

And on that note: battle mode initiated!

 

 

 

 

WF 18th Anniversary Mega Session
SPRINGBANK, SPRINGBANK!
From Alsace and Edinburgh at the same time, a true cross-border session so probably a big, costly mess. You shoot first, Monsieur l'Ecossais!

 

 

 

Serge has suggested we do a kind of ‘Springbank battle’, where we will retaliate back and forth with different examples. He also then proceeded to tell me he had mostly samples of amazing old rarities he picked up at the Whisky Show Old & Rare. So, please excuse me while I just slip into my Kamikaze officer’s uniform…

 

 

 

 

 

Springbank 14 yo 2003/2017 (57.1%, OB for 30th Anniversary of Cadenhead Edinburgh shop, ex-Guadeloupe rum barrel, 186 bottles)

Springbank 14 yo 2003/2017 (57.1%, OB for 30th Anniversary of Cadenhead Edinburgh shop, ex-Guadeloupe rum barrel, 186 bottles)
This seems like a good jumping off point. I admit Guadeloupe rum is a tad scary, but this being full term maturation it could be ok… Colour: pale gold. Nose: slightly austere at first nosing, grass, chalky medicines, hessian, sunflower oil and some encroaching mechanical notes like WD40 and bicycle chains - I suppose that must be the rum speaking. It’s not jarring or loud in any way which is good news I think. With water: easy, lean, mineral, lightly medical and feeling all quite oily and gently coastal. Keeps this slight chalky edge which retains freshness well. Mouth: plenty coastal Springbank juiciness! Very oily, lemony, briny and fatty but also still with these medicinal and mechanical accents. I think in this instance the rum has reached a kind of ‘full integration’ which is great news and works very well. Some cactus, sandalwood, salted honey, brine and camphor. With water: indeed, the oiliness is more emphatic now. Superb salinity, pepperiness (almost Taliskerish) minerals, some herbal infused olive oil, and actual olives in brine too. Some salty liquorice and more sandalwood. Wonderfully fresh, vivid and coastal. Finish: Long and focussed on medicines, gauze, soft tarry notes and wee mechanical things like brake fluid or oily old rags. Comments: I have to admit, this was something of a surprise. I had it around 88 but then water really propelled it forwards. Definitely bring your pipette to this party! And the rum is really pristinely integrated, great and worthy selection for an Edinburgh whisky institution.
SGP: 463 - 90 points.

 

 

 

Serge: ha-ha-ha, Springbank in rum? Like that old ‘Green’ Springbank? Well played but actually, I was having some recent, ‘simpler’ and ‘purer’ Springbanks as well, it was just a little trick in the spirit of Whiskyfun… Like this baby from their core range…

 

Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2020)

Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2020) Five stars
Not too sure this one was bottled in 2020 but if it wasn’t, that would be late 2019. Utterly loved the 10 last time I tried it three or four years ago, that’s why we’re having this one now, in this unusual context ;-). Colour: light gold. Nose: A fireplace the next morning, full of ashes, tar and soot, before it would gear towards manzanilla-y aromas, that is to say mustard, green walnuts and seawater. Would please pass the langoustines? The oak was not inert either, as we’re also finding touches of yellow curry, vanilla, and a wee blend of caraway and anise seeds. Mouth: wonderfully salty, coastal, ashy, sooty and waxy. It’s a rough style, as always, one from the countryside. Lemon and bitter orange, tar, liquorice, mustard, ink and plasticine, and a whole bag of fresh walnuts on your tongue. Quite some cinchona too, tonic water, bitters… It’s not impossible that these newer batches would display a little more active oak than before, not too sure. Finish: rather long, dry, still sooty, salty and ashy, rather with walnut skins and green peppercorn in the aftertaste. Comments: lovely lovely lovely, perhaps just a notch less ‘blade-y and vertical’ as previous batches (circa 2015).
SGP:362 - 90 points.

 

 

 

Ok, ok, it appears I have been lulled into a ‘false sense of purity’ (Angus, quit while you’re behind!) Let’s see what a logical next step could be…

 

 

 

 

 

Springbank 18 yo (46%, OB, rotation 2019)

Springbank 18 yo (46%, OB, rotation 2019)
I’m told this batch is composed of 88% bourbon and 12% ex-port wood. Colour: bright straw. Nose: quite elegant at first, wet rocks, sheep wool, carbon paper, sunflower oil. Also this familiar, gentle medicinal profile which includes crushed aspirin, gauze, bandages and rather subtle embrocations. I’d also add that it’s nicely mineral and fresh. Mouth: a little more grizzly than the nose suggested, some rather farmyard qualities and then it swings back towards honey, heather beer, miso, ink, waxes and mineral oil. Extremely easy and I would say pretty well balanced. Lots of medicine again, more cooking oils - olive oil now - gentle notes of seawater, herbal ointments, putty and hessian. Finish: medium and with a lot of medical, mineral and coastal flavours in the aftertaste. Comments: Perhaps not as thrilling as previous batches but this is still devastatingly confident whisky. And I love that it really feels like ‘pure Springbank’. Blind I wouldn’t have spotted any port lurking within. I think something the good folk at Springbank don’t get enough credit for is their skill at putting these kinds of batches together and balancing these different wood types.
SGP: 562 - 90 points.

 

 

 

I see, so we want something pure, but yet with a little seasoning. You could, indeed, achieve that by adding a small proportion of ex-sherry, Port or Madeira wood, but you could also just use a good old refill sherry cask. Also simpler when you’re into single casks!

 

Springbank 19 yo 2000/2020 (50.8%, The Whisky Kingdom for Wu Dram Clan, refill sherry hogshead, cask #669, 249 bottles)

Springbank 19 yo 2000/2020 (50.8%, The Whisky Kingdom for Wu Dram Clan, refill sherry hogshead, cask #669, 249 bottles) Five stars
I’ve heard this was good, and I hear like a wolf! (yeah yeah, S.) Colour: straw. Nose: when it all starts will olive oil and brake fluid, you know you’re on the right train, knowing that this is a Springbank that’s actually a tad ‘Longrowy’, so rather more petroly, chalkier and smokier than usual. Add a handful of barley and one of beach sand at high tide, plus the usual raw wool (or old tweed jacket), and there. With water: rather tenser and earthier, also more on dough, ink, tar… A reaction that’s not unseen with clean Springbanks. Mouth (neat): superb, starting with these wee ‘chemical’ notes that always work (but only in Springbank ;-)), plus limoncello, paraffin, grist, dough and cracked pepper. It’s a little ashy too. With water: gets rather bitterer. More paraffin, beer, soot, and certainly more leaves. Perhaps not the best swimmer ever, better keep it neat. These whiskies are hard to reduce properly anyway. Finish: long, rather fat and oily, with some bitter wax, lemon marmalade, and the usual sootiness. Comments: terrific Springbank, as expected, but keep your water for watering the geraniums.
SGP:363 - 90 points.

 

 

 

The amazing Serge Valentin: eyes of the earthworm! Ears of the cuttlefish! Speed of the Sea Anemone and smells like a badger! (You can get away with more in ‘virtual’ sessions when you’re not ‘within reach’ I believe.)  Anyway, seeing as we are talking sherry and single cask, let’s stick with the officials and try this one…

 

 

 

 

 

Springbank 24 yo 1994/2019 (46.2%, OB for UK, sherry hogshead, 294 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1994/2019 (46.2%, OB for UK, sherry hogshead, 294 bottles)
This one caused quite a stir when it came out I believe, although I think that was more to do about the predictable scramble for bottles and resulting tsunami of disappointment that ensued. Anyway… Colour: amber. Nose: expressively earthy and full of toasted nuts at first. Peanut brittle, waxed canvass, sultana, mushroom broth, camphor, linseed oil and soy sauce. I have to say, this is impressively fresh, clean and full of old school, sherried richness that you don’t find too often with Springbank’s sherry casks. Lots of lean mineral qualities and motor oil emerge in time, while also getting more towards leaf mulch and tobaccos. Very impressive! Mouth: ah ok, here’s where it falls down a bit I think. Feels a little too faded and ‘light’, rather a lot of balsamic, stewed fruits, some light acidity, a few fruity medicines and strawberry scented pipe tobacco. Very nice but you feel it has been captured on the way down rather than on the way up. Still nicely nutty and a bit chocolatey and overall very clean and still showing some lovely earthy qualities. Finish: medium, earthy, nutty, mulchy, oily and with more wee notes of old vinegars and herbal wines. Comments: The nose was gorgeous, but I feel the palate crumbled slightly. Now, it’s still a very quaffable old Springbank. But I would say one for the tumbler rather than the copita. Serge takes the lead…
SGP: 652 - 87 points.

 

 

 

Crikey, apparently our whisky lemur up there in Edinburgh is trying to play it sneaky, laying a weaker card on the table to try to make us lower our guard. But I too have read The Tortoise and the Hare, so not so fast Mr. Angus....

 

Springbank 22 yo 1995/2018 (44.3%, Svenska Eldvatten, refill sherry hogshead, cask #498, 137 bottles)

Springbank 22 yo 1995/2018 (44.3%, Svenska Eldvatten, refill sherry hogshead, cask #498, 137 bottles) Four stars
Our good friends in Sweden are always releasing very interesting bottlings, and when I use the word ‘interesting’ that’s not political correctness. Colour: dark gold. Nose: what, carrots and cinnamon? That’s very unusual indeed, we’re almost wandering throughout the Atlas mountains. Then gentian, wine acidity, cigars, umeshu (Japanese plum wine, more or less) and turnips/celeriac. At times this feels almost like cold vegetable soup seasoned with natural vanilla. Very interesting indeed, but curious about the palate, no need to say… Mouth: loads of fun in there, although the taster would sometimes wonder ‘why?’ and ‘how come?’ More carrot cake, IPA beer, celeriac and turnip, even eggplant, sour wines, tonic water, Campari, then some Indian spices, curries, earl grey, drops of Worcester sauce, tobacco, leather… In fact, this one’s pretty loco, deviant and sometimes dissonant. Captain Beefheart playing the Osmonds (younger readers, even though they’re shameless tax evaders, Google is your friend). Finish: long and sour. This is where it’s revealed that it’s the cask that was totally crazy. Big tannicity in the aftertaste. Comments: very deviant. Good fun to be had but to be handled with much care, it’s not unlike tickling an old lion – not that I’ve ever tried, but my cats give me a good idea.
SGP:462 - 85 points.

 

 

 

Serge always references cats when he is bluffing. Let’s keep our cards close to our chest and shift gears ever so slightly…

 

 

 

 

 

Springbank 24 yo 1993/2018 (52.7%, SCOMA 40th Anniversary, cask #14, refill sherry hogshead, 300 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1993/2018 (52.7%, SCOMA 40th Anniversary, cask #14, refill sherry hogshead, 300 bottles)
In case you don’t know, SCOMA is a legendary and very influential whisky shop in Germany that was responsible for importing many great and important names (including Springbank and Cadenhead) back in the era before single malt enthusiasm was widespread. Indeed, you could argue they played a pivotal role in European whisky enthusiasm. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s certainly one of these more ‘left-field’ 1993 Springbanks. Lots of flinty notes, mineral oil, graphite, ink and stewed fruits like sultana and prune. It evolves more along this profile with more earthiness, leaf mulch, tobacco, gun oil and hints of various brown breads and dark grains. It’s definitely getting more recognisably ‘Springbanky’ with time. With water: dried mint, ink, miso, umami broths, animal furs, turmeric, dried flowers, waxes. Quite complex and individualistic. Mouth: nice arrival, very clean but quite punchy and powerful. Very bready, earthy, mineral and slightly gamey and saline. Salted almonds, game salami, rye bread, dried tarragon, mineral oil and coal dust. A fascinating ‘teeter’ between weird early 90s and more the assertive, classical style they were transitioning to at the time. Also, it should be noted, this is a very good sherry cask. With water: beautifully complex and ‘broad’ now. Mushrooms, wild herbs, flowers, nuts, breads and more mineral, medical and rather emphatic oily things like camphor, vapour rubs and herbal cough medicines. Really vibrant and superbly fresh now. Finish: long, wonderfully mineral, nutty, saline, oily, herbal and medical. Extremely Springbanky and brilliantly fresh and complex. Comments: It’s like we began in 1993 and ended up at 1995 within the space of the same whisky. Terrific and fascinating distillate in a top notch sherry cask. I’m very happy SCOMA could find such a fun and enjoyable wee glory for their 40th! Great selection folks.
SGP: 473 - 92 points.

 

 

 

I see, some kind of counterattack. I’m sure our friend believes he’s played a decisive tactic and that he’s going to win this one. But remember what good old Napoléon said after Austerlitz, 'The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory’… Indeed we’ve got what ought to be a very secret weapon…

 

Springbank 25 yo 1993 (47.3%, Exclusive Malts, Creative Whisky Co., 1 bottle)

Springbank 25 yo 1993 (47.3%, Exclusive Malts, Creative Whisky Co., 1 bottle) Four stars
Indeed, this is bottle One of One and guess what, it’s been opened (obviously, since we’re trying it). So this is a worthy representative of yet another whisky category, bottles that have been proven extinct, a.k.a. B.P.E.. Consequently, hoarders and flippers: please go your way! Colour: gold. Nose: cheese and gym socks at first, that’s not unseen in some vintages of Springbank. Iron fillings and old tools aren’t unseen either, and neither are leatherette, heavy menthol, new electronics and rucola salad. Is it a crazy Springbank? Yes it is, but let’s prepare for the palate…  Mouth: starts dissonant in the way we like it (ground coffee, mustard and cranberry juice, anyone?), gets then very peppery and cardboardy, with sour and sweet wines, brine, and just the right amount of plasticine and straight plastic. Some of the sherried officials from similar vintages were a bit like this, except that they were having more sulphur. This one remains kind of civilised. Finish: marmalade, ginseng, and ‘sucking pebbles’. Comments: totally mad. Well, you don’t see these every day, for many reasons.
SGP:372 - 85 points.

 

Well, looks like I’m getting behind with this whole madness…

 

 

 

Oh dear, how embarrassing. In the immortal words of General Charles de Gaulle: “Somebody order that guy an Uber!” Or was it ‘pass the Speyburn’?

 

 

Meanwhile, we shall remain in the notoriously treacherous 1993.

 

 

 

 

 

Springbank 27 yo 1993/2020 (51.3%, Whiskybroker for It’s All About Springbank, cask #26, refill bourbon hogshead, 200 bottles)

Springbank 27 yo 1993/2020 (51.3%, Whiskybroker for It’s All About Springbank, cask #26, refill bourbon hogshead, 200 bottles)
How very funny that bottlings are now being done for themed Facebook groups. What a time to be alive! Colour: bright straw. Nose: extremely pure and at the same time with this typical ‘unusualness’ of 93 Springbanks. Lots of canvass, bailed hay, cooking oils, funny old medicines, herbal liqueurs, chalk, putty, waxes, hot clay, aged mead and yellow flowers. Highly characterful whisky, in the best sense. With water: really doubles down on chalk, fabrics, pebbles, flints, lanolin, paraffin and white coastal flowers. Gorse, pollens and olive oil too. Mouth: pow! Superbly lean and medicinal. Herbal medicines, beach pebbles, waxes, citronella candles, oily cereals, mineral oils, camphor and a nicely salty peatiness. Wonderfully flinty, oily, lightly vegetal and showing many wee medical embrocations and things like fermenting lemons and brine. With water: lemon cough drops, linseed oil, horseradish, camphor, tar, bandages, seawater, preserved lemons… terrific! Finish: long, briny, lemony, oily, medicinal and waxy. Also wee notes of salty honey and dried herbs like thyme. Comments: I’ve just checked and I am indeed a member of the IAAS group on Facebook. Guys, please send 6 bottles to Whiskyfun HQ, Flipper Street, Leith… Anyway, terrific selection. I just loved the purity and the freshness of this one. There’s much been said about these slightly more usual 93s but perhaps all they needed was time? This one was close to being 93 points, but we don’t do partial scores here at WF (my eyes are not yet orange and my hat not yet Panamanian) so 92 it remains!
SGP: 462 - 92 points.

 

 

 

Well, this is really getting tough, these youngsters have got no shame, no respect and no decency. Wait, where have I put my enlarged edition of Sun Tzu's The Art of War again? Found it… Blah, blah, blah, blah.… Ah there, let’s try a blitzkrieg!

 

Springbank 21 yo (100°proof, OB, +/-1970)

Springbank 21 yo (100°proof, OB, +/-1970) Five stars
A bottling of legends, probably late 1940s-very early 1950s distillate, bottled at 57% vol. Remember, all you have to do to convert UK proof to ABV is to divide by 1.76, if I’m not mistaken. So in this case, 100/1.76=… right, err, 56.8%. Whatever, less math, more old Springbank, that’s our new motto! Colour: white wine (hurray). Nose: bang bang bang, this is as smoky as an Islay from the south shore, and as sooty and concrete-y (oh come on, S.!) as an Old Clynelish. It’s been chiseled by masters, this is all distillate-driven, extremely medicinal as well (huge peppermint and pine resin) and just filled to the brim with chalk and clay. I also love these whiffs of old floor-cloth – I know I need an analyst. With water: superlative, pure, incredibly well carved, immaculate, tense, vertical… (I think that’ll do). Mouth (neat): oh the power! Elderflower syrup, rhubarb juice, Austrian riesling (see I’m no chauvinistic Alsatian), limestone and flints, grey pepper, graphite oil, peat, seaweed and oysters… Oh well, please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade, we've been friends for eighteen years. With water: that’s the thing with the greatest whiskies, the more water you add, the bigger they get – up to a certain point, naturally. That’s exactly what’s happening here, while proper lemons and grapefruits are starting to take over. Finish: endless, pure, vertical, mineral, lemony, salty. What’s more, the proportions are exquisite. Comments: in these very rare cases, the whisky is the boss. All you do is trying to follow its path. Amazing Springbank!
SGP:465 - 95 points.

 

 

 

Nurse! He’s found the sharp knives again…

 

 

In truth, I was wondering when this one was going to show up. Now, I cross my heart, hope to die (well…) and stick a Caol Ila in my eye that this note for the very same whisky was actually written a good two months ago. I know we shouldn’t be in the habit of doing the same whisky like this too often, but I feel this is a special whisky and a special occasion.

 

 

 

 

 

Springbank 21 yo (100 proof, OB, UK, circa 1970)

Springbank 21 yo (100 proof, OB, UK, circa 1970)
Bottled around 1970 so should be distilled in the very early 1950s or before. And don’t forget 100 proof in the UK = 57.1%. This is bottle I’ve been chasing and dreaming about for years. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: really another era of whisky production. This rather fat and greasy nose that feels almost viscerally textural. Clay, petrol, oily sheep wool, lanolin and some pure, brutal and pretty chalky medical aromas. Develops the most astoundingly pure medical aroma with the leanest of peat profiles. Cereals, chimney soot, kiln air and the rather fermentary note of distillery wash and carbolic acidity. It’s also rather tangy with things like horseradish, mustard powder and various shades of ground pepper. Humbling and pretty astonishing whisky. With water: the very definition of purity in malt whisky. Putty, clay, ointments, embrocations, raw seawater, petrol, mineral salts and bandages. Mouth: immense arrival. Camphor, metal polish, soot, waxes, tar, iodine, peat, crushed seashells and the most brutal, raw and powerful medical embrocations imaginable. Utterly uncompromising, direct and powerful whisky. Unlike anything else. Cereals, chalk, acidity, flint smoke, ink, fabrics and paraffin. Another whisky that you could just go on with forever. With water: astonishing. Extraordinary. A Venn diagram of medicine, salinity and waxiness with a clarity of personality and a level purity, precision and power that is heart-stopping. Finish: long, bone-dry, austere but also charismatic in the extreme and still touching on these core aspects of purity, medicine and raw, controlled power. Comments: 21 years old and pale as a young Chablis. What’s kind of sad about this is that today this is an almost ideological clarion call of a whisky: the epitome of sculpted distillate, paired back wood and time. But back when it was bottled it was probably just what was available at time of requirement. This is what I talk about when I say ‘old style’ whisky. The closest to this I can think of is 1960s era Clynelish, although this has its own, rather brutal and unflinching style of precision, purity and power. In the end, it stands solitary as its own thing. A poetic old whisky that leaves you speechless with its singular and monolithic style of beauty.
SGP: 464 - 96 points.

 

 

But let’s shift things in a somewhat left-field direction if you please…

 

 

 

 

 

Springbank 50 yo 1919/1970 (66.3 proof, OB for UK)

Springbank 50 yo 1919/1970 (66.3 proof, OB for UK)
There seems to be a fair bit of confusion about these bottles out there, not helped by the existence of the tall calligraphy label bottle which now sells for ‘houses’ or multiples thereof and various conflicting information about cask numbers and overall numbers of bottles. Not to mention the existence of a number of refills and fakes of this one now. However, I’m confident about the origins of this sample. Colour: gold. Nose: unquestionably an ancient style of malt whisky - we’re really more in the realms of Victorian distilling with this one. That is to say deeply scented with pure waxes, metal polishes, vapour rubs, herbal cough medicines, coal scuttles dust, old cracked leather, sheep wool oils and many deep and compelling mechanical and oily complexities. Lots of dry medical ‘vaporous’ aromas with many dried our wee herbal and liqueur-ish touches. Also old pressed wildflowers kept within very old books. Some cedar wood cigar boxes and various wee mineral oil notes and hints of animal furs and grease. Complex despite being only 37.8% abv. Mouth: dusty initially, very herbal and focussed on bouillon stocks, salty old umami broths, dried out waxes and things like old boot and metal polishes. More impressions of sheep wool and a lot of camphor, hessian and putty. Almost painfully old style; a complete departure from almost anything to do with modern whisky. Indeed, these animalistic and ‘fatty’ attributes being to rise. Barbour grease, more mineral oil, rapeseed oil and hints of natural tar. There’s sweetness too, but it’s like some very leathery and salty aged mead mixed with ancient Sauternes. Finish: medium, which is impressive really, you do feel it has perhaps lost some steam (did it really have ‘steam’ to begin with when bottled?) but there’s a lot of dry earthiness, dusty pollens, ink, bone dry herbs such as tarragon and wee touches of fennel, medicine and this persistent mineral/waxy aspect. Comments: The perfect example of a whisky where the technical score and the emotional score are an ocean apart. I think it’s safe to say that this was left too long in the cask, but at the same time it retains a very vivid impression of an utterly different era of ingredients, process and people. And I would still add, most importantly, that despite these slightly weaker parts, it remains a deeply pleasurable and fascinating whisky to drink.
SGP: 462 - 88 points.

 

 

 

By Keepempure and Noagenodeal, Gods of whisky, a double, this is getting very complicated. And didn’t our fearless friend just knock down one of the very few truly sacred cows of malt whisky? I mean, that 1919 was in Michael Jackson’s very first Malt Whisky Companion, if I’m not mistaken! No respect indeed, but this is not quite over, believe me… And I can start messing with some potential liquid idols too…

 

Springbank 28 yo 1967/1996 (46%, OB, Germany)

Springbank 28 yo 1967/1996 (46%, OB, Germany) Three stars
Let’s push it all with this little one by the owners. Not sure this baby was only for Germany by the way, but many bottles carry ‘German’ stickers. You know, with words such as ‘Schnapps, das war sein letztes Wort’ usw. Jo-king. Colour: gold. Nose: oh wow, herbs, wee roots and flowers this time. That is to say the usual gentian, chicory, gorse, dandelions, buddleia, then a waxier base – as we said – and some kind of precious mead. Let’s say it, this is pure ambrosia! And I suppose it’s the cask that added some fresh whiffs of fern, undergrowth and young moss. Whiffs of plasticine too – the receivers? (enough with your conspiracy theories, S., there are enough idi… I mean, mad people around.) Mouth: it’s dry, very waxy, probably too dry actually, with too much cardboard perhaps. It is lovely whisky, but I believe oxygen has taken its toll here. Teas, dried things, paper, stale coconut water… But it does improve, with more honey, candied fruits… Finish: rather short and waxy. Comments: indeed I’m going to give a slightly passable(ish) score to a glorious old Springbank, but I’m sure it’s a matter of bottle and not a matter of bottling. The nose was stunning.
SGP:231 - 80 points.

 

Oh looks like Angus is using heavy artillery yet again… And without saying a word!

 

 

 

Springbank 1972/1991 (59.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.17)

Springbank 1972/1991 (59.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.17)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s surprisingly close to some refill matured mid-90s examples in some ways with these big notes of soft green fruits mixed with waxes, seawater, olive oil and camphor. Extremely pure, rather medical, punchy and very coastal. Pristine distillate! With water: just exquisitely chiselled, powerful, pure and saline. Raw petrol soaked into sheep wool, hessian, paraffin, ink and still a few glimmers of green and yellow fruits - although they lean more towards the exotic now. Mouth: wow! Petrol mixed with seawater and lemon juice and then smoked. Some particularly saline cured meats, serrano ham etc, and also mint julep, iodine, citronella wax, tar, very grassy olive oil and many sharp, very precise medicines and embrocations. Fermenting honey, aged mead and sandalwood, some dried seaweed flakes in ramen broth and pure, briny pickling juices. Amazing! With water: stunning! Immensely dense in texture, thick, fat, gloopy waxes, salted heather honey, lemon oil, tar, vapour rubs and herbal cough syrups. Majestic! Finish: wonderfully long and full of this particular saline honey quality, beach pebbles, chalk, peat, waxes, medicines and herbs. Comments: We don’t know these vintages as well as their 60s siblings I think, but it seems these early 70s ones, while different, can be no less stunning. This one was just devastating in its power, focus and depth of concentration. Quite simply, some of the greatest distillate ever made.
SGP: 464 - 94 points.

 

 

 

Okay, let’s strike back once more (with the energy of despair, I don’t think I’ll ever manage to catch up anyway…)

 

Springbank 33 yo 1967/2000 (50.9%, Blackadder, hogshead, cask #1562, 220 bottles)

Springbank 33 yo 1967/2000 (50.9%, Blackadder, hogshead, cask #1562, 220 bottles) Five stars
No need to remind you, I suppose, that 1965-1967 were legendary vintages at Springbank’s. Did you ever try any of those ‘Local Barleys’ or ‘West Highland Scotch Malt Whiskies’? They were the post-WWII Lafites or Latours of whisky! Colour: gold. Little sherry, even better! Nose: oh this waxiness! Why were so many malts waxier than they are today? I have my theory, that may have been, as I’ve suggested above in the note for the official, because they were using cast-iron receivers and weren’t really washing them out like if there was no tomorrow between two seasons, which did let the waxes and oils build-up and stay on the rough walls and impart all their goodness. As I said, just a theory. Anyway, superb clean and complex nose, exceptionally fresh, waxy indeed, with many herbs and fruit peelings, pollen, touches of camphor, honeys (clover), then the most beautiful assortment of old apple varietals. Very beehive-y. With a drop of water: waxy earth or something. Immense and so subtle, and so far from contemporary wham-bam-see-my-casks whiskies. Mouth (neat): shock full of beeswax, pine resin, late-harvest riesling, quince and apricot jams, apple compote, precious honeys and no-less precious marmalades. Beautiful tension underneath, very Springbank. With water: all things oils and waxes in the front, with flying colours. Finish: medium, very waxy, honeyed, on ripe apples and peaches. Dry cider and a lovely earthiness in the aftertaste. Comments: never clean the receivers unless some imprudent tourists from Northern Europa drowned in them. But is that legal? I’m sure Boris will let you do that, but then of course, not my business…
SGP:561 - 92 points.

 

All right, Edinburgh fell silent, it’s true that it’s 7pm already at time of writing, they must be in bed. So I’m doing the accounts here in Alsace and, wait, it seems that our friend managed to smuggle one more Springbank than me into this session while I wasn’t watching! How unfair is that? What’s more, I thought we could as well push this to eighteen Springbanks since this is our eighteenth anniversary. Let’s see what remains in this vast field of debris… Oh wait, Edinburgh is answering now…

 

 

 

Not so fast Serge! En garde…

 

 

 

 

 

Springbank (???) 26 yo 1969/1995 (51.7%, Signatory Decanter, sherry, 790 bottles)

Springbank (?) 26 yo 1969/1995 (51.7%, Signatory Vintage Decanter, sherry, 790 bottles)
Colour: light amber. Nose: bam! A whole punned of apricots and peaches stewed in some luscious old Armagnac. Prunes in juices, figs, strawberry jam, ancient balsamic and a full bodega of rancio. Pretty exquisite stuff and almost certainly some glorious old 60s Springbank. Wonderfully leafy, elegantly earthy and harmoniously fruity - depth, concentration and balance all in check. With water: huge now! Bags of shoe polish, old leather, game meats and rather hefty old school medicines. Lots of old ointments, pressed flowers and herbal cough syrups. Some aspects also really converge beautifully on old Cognac territory with these specific peachy, dark fruity rancio aspects. Mouth: stunningly dense, darkly fruity, earthy and mineral. Full of this leafy and very mulchy style of sherry riddled with tobaccos, hessian and stewed dark fruits. Also leather, game meats and freshly ground coffee. Moving more towards savoury umami and meaty tones over time. Textbook, exquisite old stuff from Campbeltown. With water: herbal bitters now, of the cocktail variety. Brown bread, banana fruit loaf, bitter dark chocolate, kirsch and more of these punchy, herbal liqueur and medical qualities. Some wonderfully bitter Seville orange marmalade and various exotic spices and teas. Finish: Superbly long, resinous, nervous salty sherry, olive oils, camphor, hessian and many more wee herbal touches. Comments: I’ll be damned if this isn’t that 69 Springbank. Totally stunning stuff!
SGP: 662 - 93 points.

 

 

 

Blimey, yet another sneaky attack from Dùn Èideann, this is getting dangerous. But anyway, since in the true words of Taylor Swift, “Nothing safe is worth the drive”, let’s counterattack once more…

 

Springbank 20 yo 1995/2015 (53%, SCOMA, refill port, cask #42, 537 bottles)

Springbank 20 yo 1995/2015 (53%, SCOMA, refill port, cask #42, 537 bottles) Four stars and a half
Didn’t our friend try some superb Springbank by SCOMA just a few minutes ago? This one’s been double-matured in a refill port butt and spent 5 years in Campbeltown and 15 years on Islay. That’s right, whisky and logics. Colour: rich gold. Nose: starts very medicinal, with a touch of sulphur (stone) and otherwise aspirin and bandages plus tangerine liqueur. Add some coal smoke and notes of ‘old garage’ and I’m sure you get the picture here. I suppose the tangerines came from the port cask. With water: ha, flints, cabbage, limestone, truffle, plasticine, ointments, Vaseline gauze… Mouth (neat): shakes and wobbles a wee bit right at the arrival (smoked tangerines and new plastic, well…) but a reassuring balance is soon to be found. Olive oil, tangerine liqueur, bitter oranges, mercurochrome and aspirin (this would cure just anything), plasticine, walnuts… With water: be moderate with your water, it could become too ‘plastic’. Otherwise, perfectly waxy and medicinal. The port was well-behaved. Finish: rather long, with a wee sourness that’s not unpleasant (mashed turnips) and indeed touches of sulphur. Comments: totally fun, very well done SCOMA, even if it was not a very ‘idiosyncratic’ Springbank.
SGP:562 - 89 points.

 

Good, I believe we’re at 17, one more and we are done. I think we’ll play it fair and in a spirit of peace and harmony, with this little new one…

 

Springbank 22 yo 1997/2020 (55.4%, OB, Private Cask for HMMJ, refill sherry, cask #582, 191 bottles)

Springbank 22 yo 1997/2020 (55.4%, OB, Private Cask for HMMJ, refill sherry, cask #582, 191 bottles) Five stars
I believe it’s good to put an official end to this madness with a private cask bottled for four friends, rather than with some superfluous brandola. Not that Springbank are doing much of that anyway… Colour: pale gold. Nose: mangos, Vicks VapoRub, tiger balm, new plastics, cranberries, charcoal, bandages, lemongrass. Typical and harmonious, whatever you may think. With water: unstoppable. You may call 202-456-1111, that’s the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade. No, don’t, it’s the White House. Mouth (neat): oh very good! But who added the mezcal? H, M, M, or J? Let’s say you take a jar and pour 1/3 proper white mezcal (joven), 1/3 manzanilla anada by the crazy Callejuelas, and 1/3 middle-aged ex-refill Caol Ila. Shake well, and there, you’re on. Now I agree buying a bottle of this, should that be possible, would be easier to do. In theory. With water: smoked lemons and plasticine, I buy that. Finish: long, waxier, smokier, with superb lemony notes and wee touches of grassy oils. Oh there, olive. Comments: wow, nothing to throw. Super well done, HMM&J. But between us, while no one’s listening, tell me who-the-hell added the mezcal?
SGP:563 - 92 points

 

Quick, let’s do the math….

Angus:
978,145.5 points

Serge:
978,145.4 points

Let’s call that a draw since we don’t do decimals anyway.

And so the winner is… Whiskyfun! Thank you all, happy 18th birthday Whiskyfun.

Pace, whisky e salute.

(With thanks to Andy, Angus, David, Emmanuel, Hideo, Jon, Lucero, Phil, Sukhinder and all our other friends who keep supporting little Whiskyfun!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Springbank we've tasted so far

 

 

July 27, 2020


Whiskyfun

Time Warp

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Glencadam 35 years apart

A quick and easy little session today, let’s have a little fun before tomorrow’s anniversary tasting (we’re turning 18 tomorrow). Hopefully…

Glencadam 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2020)

Glencadam 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2020) Four stars
We last tried this little ten from Brechin around five years ago and thought it was really very pretty good (that doesn’t make much, sense, S.) WF85. Colour: white wine. Nose: totally on grist and soot at first, then lemon juice, granny smith and a little mint. It’s petty chalky at that, with good power and sharpness, and touches of pear cider. A sooty chalk tends to dominate after a good five minutes, which is right up my alley. As I remembered it (well I’ve been reading my old notes, which I don’t do often). Mouth: it’s full bodied, rather all on bread dough and lemon juice at first, then more fruity sourness (green apples, maracuja?) plus the expected chalk and rather more pepper than expected. Very solid, sharp, a little austere, lovely. Finish: long, on barley, dough, lemon and always this sootiness that I’m finding a little more in the front than with earlier batches. A drop of Campari. Perfect clean ex-bourbon maturation. Comments: Glencadam’s supposed to be rather light since the swan’s necks are clearly ascending, but no. Ha. Score unchanged.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

Glencadam 1975 (43%, Sélection La Maison du Whisky, 75cl, +/-1990)

Glencadam 1975 (43%, Sélection La Maison du Whisky, 75cl, +/-1990) Four stars
An early independent bottling by La Maison du Whisky and a bottle that’s really hard to come by. I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen it before. Colour: light gold. Nose: we do find similar traits, especially this sootiness and the green apples, but it’s also a tad rounder,  as if the casks were a little more active, which the colour would confirm. Lovely little touches of ripe mangos and papayas, orange blossom, a few metallic notes (od tin box), then orange blossom, ear grey, chamomile tea, elderflower syrup… Awesome freshness, lovely floral side, not quite a profile that’s often to be encountered these days. Mouth: really very similar, on herbal teas, orange blossom water, these metallic touches yet again (silver spoon), and a rather panettone-y ending (mi scusi). A little light because of the 43%, but we’re more than OK with that in this context. Finish: medium to short, this time a little more on hoppy beer, IPA-style. Comments: I’ve been having it at more than that, but the finish brought us back to the same score as that of the 10. It’s a very good score.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

(Merci François!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glencadam we've tasted so far

 

July 26, 2020


Whiskyfun

Caution

A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!

 

Theoretical French Malternatives

So exactly not French whisky, mind you, rather Cognac and Armagnac. The latter is not, contrarily to rather awkward sayings, ‘Cognac’s little brother’.

Domaine du Hourtica 1980 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2018)

Domaine du Hourtica 1980 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2018) Two stars
This is a small estate located in la Bastide d’Armagnac, with the vineyard in the very east of Landes in Bas-Armagnac. These good people, just like the Cognac folks, tend never to state when their juices were bottled, which is becoming more and more a no-no, especially with vintage bottlings. Anyway… Colour: full gold. Nose: a few varnishy touches at first, never a bad sign mind you, then a very classic, coffee and peach-led development, with more varnish actually (cellulosic, of course), preserved mirabelles and kirsch-soaked raisins (almonds, stones). Nice and pretty dry so far. Mouth: quite some oak at first, it’s even a tad biting and too tannic, with too much black tea. Sadly there’s no recovery over time, this baby remains rather too drying for me. A shame because any scrupulous taster will notice that some fresh peaches and apricots are trying to pop out. Hard. Finish: medium, peppery, tannic, very oaky and drying. Comments: no luck this time. Too bad, the nose was very pretty. I’ll try other vintages, I’m sure this one is not representative of this lovely house.
SGP:261 - 70 points.

Fontan ‘Hors d’Âge’ (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2017)

Fontan ‘Hors d’Âge’ (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
This one too is single-estate. Colour: amber. Nose: another style of Armagnac, first on many jams (plums, apricots) and a pack of Jaffa cakes, then rather chocolate and mint – that’s right, thin mints. Easy and fresh, not mindboggling but really pleasant. Mouth: good juice, rather fresh, more on ranges indeed, then plums and raisins. There’s something quick and easy in this style, it’s what we sometimes call ‘a good postprandial spirit for a good little restaurant’. No one will ever complain and the prices are very fair. Finish: medium, with touches of spices (cinnamon, white pepper) over more apricot jam. Comments: good and very drinkable.
SGP:551 - 79 points.

Lous Pibous 1999/2017 (54.7%, L’Encantada, for K&L Wines USA, Bas-Armagnac, 342 bottles)

Lous Pibous 1999/2017 (54.7%, L’Encantada, for K&L Wines USA, Bas-Armagnac, 342 bottles) Five stars
Lous Pibous estate is located in Mauléon d’Armagnac and this is 100% folle blanche, Cognac’s historical varietal that had been eradicated by Phylloxera Vastatrix (the latter had come from America, not China, Mr. President.) Colour: amber with bronze hues. Nose: perfectly dry, almost austere, rather on peach skins and pine resin at first, terpens, then quince jelly and walnut cake. Hints of coffee and tobacco too. Cuban cigars – isn’t it only natural that our American friends would have selected it then? With water:  amazing cough syrup and wee fermentary touches, ala Jamaican rum. Vicks’ very best cuvée. Mouth (neat): awe. Extraordinarily mentholy, camphory and fruity. And spicy. Some kind of high-brow mulled wine, shock-full of stewed peaches, cinnamon, grated liquorice, said menthol and said camphor. Hard to resist, frankly. With water: a bit trickier, since water may bring out the most resinous side of this baby. Better keep it neat, I say. Finish: long and perfect with no, or only one drop of water. Earth, old walnuts, mint, tobacco, ground coffee beans. Bingo. Comments: huge character and personality, this is not ‘regular’ Armagnac, however good regular Armagnac can be. Well done yet again, Encantada.
SGP:671 - 90 points.

Domaine de Baraillon 1995/2019 (44%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, folle blanche)

Domaine de Baraillon 1995/2019 (44%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, folle blanche) Five stars
This is one of the very best houses, making armagnac the traditional way. For example, they distill and fill at 52% vol. and never add any caramel, neither do they reduce their spirits. So, when it’s 44%, it’s 44% ‘natural’, no tricks or fake decimals here. Colour: amber. Nose: rather more oak than expected (dry pipe tobacco, black tea) and really a lot of chocolate and ganache, then apricot coulis and a drop of miso and earth, with a growing umaminess (apologies). This little bastard (reiterated apologies) takes its time. Mouth: almost brutal at first, pungent, full of earth, ueber-ristretto, bitter chocolate (like 110% cocoa - ha) and paprika. Good news, the fruits are chiming in after just ten seconds (still, that’s ten seconds) especially sloe and damsons, but the bitter chocolate and the coffee are keeping the upper hand all along. They could almost make a decaf’ version of this little baby. Finish: long, dry, on more or less the same flavours. Comments: no coffee needed with your digestif, it’s ‘inside’. More seriously, love this fairly brutal one, but it is a little segmenting. I am in the right segment, I think.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

We usually do five ‘malternatives’ but I believe we’ll go up to six, because I’d like to try another Baraillon. Don’t look so happy!

Domaine de Baraillon 1973/2019 (47%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)

Domaine de Baraillon 1973/2019 (47%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) Three stars
Our dear friends in Belgium seem to rather love Baraillon, but it’s true that they tend to really care about what they put into their mouths. For example, their shrimp croquettes are the best in the world (read my lips!) Colour: dark amber. Nose: chocolate again, old rancio, walnut liqueur, then beef stock, a newly opened box of Cuban cigars, pine resin, and just crème de menthe. All that sings in unison, this is almost, err, Gladys Knight and The Pips (high in 1973). Mouth: funny that there would be a soapiness at first (bordering waxy essential oil), and rather a lot of pine resin to boot, but some very earthy and rooty notes keep it balanced, while almost no fruits make it through. In short, this is cough syrup. An extreme profile, you do need to like them very ‘resinous’ and ‘bitter’. Even more segmenting, reminding me of that crazy digestive drop called Underberg. Finish: long and indeed, herbal and bitter. Comments: more Black Sabbath than Gladys Knight and The Pips, after all. Hyper-segmenting and a tad un-Baraillon in my book.
SGP:281 - 80 points.

Didn’t we say we would not only do Armagnac?

Héritage de René Rivière ‘Autour de 1913’ (40.5%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 2020)

Héritage de René Rivière ‘Autour de 1913’ (40.5%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 2020) Five stars
The Belgians! They drink our best Champagnes and quaff our best Cognacs, mind you, which we cheap Frenchies always forget to do ourselves. Where do we write to complain? Brussels? Joking, we just love them. By the way, this old Borderies was transferred to demijohns in 1981, so technically it is,  very, very roughly, a 70 years old. Colour: full gold. Nose: before world war one, imagine! By the way, should you like to listen to some splendid selections of old music from all over the world, you may check this extraordinary website called radiooooo.com. Listening to some +/-1910 French chansons while trying this baby just adds another dimension. Old-style melon liqueur, overripe apples, quinces, yellow and white flowers (honeysuckle!), light acacia honey, a touch of mushroom, a whiff of wood smoke, and a good glass of very old Meursault, how does that sound? It’s pretty light, subtle, certainly complex, and perhaps a tad fragile but only the palate will tell. Let’s proceed… Mouth: indeed it is soft, a little light, pretty floral yet again, and rather all on herbal teas, from the usual chamomile to orange blossom and just green earl grey. Some tiny notes of bergamots and kumquats after that, drops of moderately liqueur-y sweet wines (say late-harvest riesling), then touches of old herbal liqueurs that were all the rage when this was distilled, absinth/wormwood, verbena, mullein, then a little turpentine and angelica. It remains a little fragile all along but would just never hunker down. Like all those men and boys who were about to be send to the trenches. Finish: not very long, but still fresh, herbal, and fruity. This is life, till the end. Comments: it is moving, really. The people who distilled this lovely juice probably died in the following years. From a bullet, a piece of shrapnel, gas, typhus, or from the Spanish flu epidemic. Keep wearing your masks if you’re not an idiot – but I believe very few idiots read Whiskyfun anyway (bragging a little bit, I know). Very lovely and delicate old Cognac.
SGP:441 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all armagnacs we've tasted so far

 

July 25, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Dalwhinnie, Benrinnes and Glenlivet
Three distilleries in focus today, some generally more characterful than others, although all have produced some remarkable distillate over the years. Thankfully we will ‘go backwards in time’ with each of them to varying degrees today.

 

Dalwhinnie 8 yo (40%, OB, UK, early 1980s)

Dalwhinnie 8 yo (40%, OB, UK, early 1980s)
A somewhat forgotten about iteration of Dalwhinnie from before the days of the 15yo and the Classic Malts. Colour: gold. Nose: rather nice but feels a tad biscuity and tea-ish, which to me is a sort of low abv/caramel/old bottle vibe. Now behind that there’s also some pleasing notes of shoe polish, a little peat, some putty and a little malt extract sweetness. Mouth: definitely a bit flat at this strength and you can really feel this rather sickly caramel spectre rising up swiftly. Still more sweet digestive biscuits, sooty notes, metal polish and a vaguely rooty and earthy but still pretty light peat. Some cooking oils and roast root vegetables in honey. Finish: short, buttery, biscuity and slightly fatty - indeed Dalwhinnie did used to be a slightly ‘fuller’ distillate. Comments: This is one of quite a few older official bottlings from this era which are fun and ‘instructive’ to taste but they by no means set the world alight.
SGP: 452 - 74 points.

 

 

Dalwhinnie 16 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante, 1980s)

Dalwhinnie 16 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante, 1980s)
Sestante, remember them? Colour: gold. Nose: waxes and many kinds of polishes: shoe, furniture, metal etc. Linseed oil, putty, canvass and some gentle notes of old herbal liqueurs. Very find and very much ‘old school’. With a little time it evolves nicely towards honeys and tinned fruits while still remaining charmingly unsexy. Mouth: very good, lots of olive old, menthol tobacco, waxes, putty, lime pith, orange marmalade and generally beautiful old school flavours. Some herbs and medicines arrive in time. It just misses a few notches of richness that a higher ABV would have delivered. Now, it’s still dangerously quaffable with all this liberally scattered honey and wax everywhere. Finish: medium, biscuity, sweet, waxy, heathery, honeyed and with some nice herbal tea notes. Comments: A fine drop that feels rather old fashioned in both bottling style and flavour. A few degrees more and it would probably have reached 90 quite easily. Feels decidedly like good, old school, ‘honest’ malt whisky - certainly more ‘honest’ than rebottling old Macallans into lamp shade decanters. But that’s another story.
SGP: 662 - 85 points.

 

 

Dalwhinnie 20 yo 1962/1982 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Connoisseur’s Choice’)

Dalwhinnie 20 yo 1962/1982 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice)
One of the great travesties of whisky in my humble view is that G&M didn’t bottle this series at a higher strength. Thanks again to Mark from Cheaper By The Dram for this sample. Colour: pale gold. Nose: really up a gear from the Sestante in terms of waxiness, metal polish, soot and general fatty oiliness. Stunningly mineral, greasy, mechanical and at the same time full of honey, pollens, vapour rubs and camphor. There’s also these wonderfully fresh notes of wildflowers, tinned peaches and some dried apricot. Mouth: indeed, the strength kind of hurts it here, superbly medical, biscuity, rich, bready, oily and herbaceous but also a few wee hints of cardboard enter into the fray and flatten things a little. Still some glimmers of cereal, putty and lemon infused olive oil. Finish: medium, waxy, pretty herbal, rather honeyed and with a nice lemon rind note and plenty of soft teaish qualities. Comments: Such a frustrating whisky in some respects. The nose was totally beautiful, whereas on the palate you immediately you feel it has been harpooned by the bottling ABV, and probably not a little caramel as well. Still, fascinating to think there was ever a time where it was considered acceptable to treat a 1962 20yo Dalwhinnie in such a way. Now, having said all that, it’s still a highly delicious old highland dram - you just can’t help but imagine what it would have been like above 46% for example.
SPG: 562 - 87 points.

 

 

Benrinnes 23 yo 1995/2019 (51.1%, Cadenhead ‘Small Batch’, 3 hogsheads, 708 bottles)

Benrinnes 23 yo 1995/2019 (51.1%, Cadenhead ‘Small Batch’, 3 hogsheads, 708 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: honeys, herbs and breads! Direct, rather pure and extremely characterful. There’s also a pretty emphatic ‘malted barley’ quality sitting rather weightily underneath everything. Not super complex, but definitely rather super (Angus, get a grip!) With water: there’s a more defined spiciness now with rye bread, cinnamon and white pepper. Some waxed baking parchment and cooked cereals. Mouth: a notch lighter than the nose might have suggested but still pretty great with lots of freshly baked croissant and white bread, honey glaze, dried apricots, herbal teas and things like white flowers and a hint of lychee. With water: more of this freshly baked and glazed patisserie vibe. Some furniture polish, malt extract and a little vanilla custard. Finish: good length, a little fresher and greener with more natural barley sweetness and a rather juicy aftertaste - whatever that means! Comments: It’s to be wondered why Benrinnes isn’t more of a ‘thing’. It’s very often terrific distillate. A little more complexity would have propelled this one past 90; maybe time in bottle will achieve that in this instance.
SGP: 561 - 88 points.

 

 

Benrinnes 1974/1988 (56.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #36.5)

Benrinnes 1974/1988 (56.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #36.5)
1974 was supposedly the first year of Benrinnes’s dalliance with partial triple distillation, which remained until 2007. Colour: gold. Nose: very immediate and appealing notes of apricot jam, flower honey, figs in syrup, soft waxes and things like green tea, lemon peel and sandalwood. One of these rather old school, emphatic distillates that feels kind of ‘highlands’ in character. With water: big impression now of hardwood resins, furniture wax, linseed oil, hessian and oily sheep wool. All the good stuff basically. Mouth: superb arrival, all on olive and mineral oils, putty, lime curd, more waxes, shoe leather, tea tree oil and other funny ‘tertiary stuff’. Rather earthy, oily, waxy, a nice herbal bitterness and excellent weight in the mouth. With water: pine sappy, mineral, extremely fatty and with a palpably gooey waxiness now. Still these wee subtler notes of heather flower, honeycomb, pollens and a light sootiness. Rather a lot of cough medicine now too. Finish: long, satisfying peppery, oily, still this wee bitter herbal quality and a rather rooty earthiness. Comments: Terrific old school malt that showcases the wonderful ‘fatness’ that Benrinnes can often display when ‘on form’. I wonder how much of this character can be ascribed to the distillation technique versus the worm tubs? Although, I suspect there were quite a few other ‘things’ going on back in 1974 that contributed to this final character. Either way, this was a real treat!
SGP: 562 - 91 points.

 

 

Benrinnes 21 yo 1974/1995 (55%, Signatory Vintage for USA)

Benrinnes 21 yo 1974/1995 (55%, Signatory Vintage for USA)
Love love love this series of labels by Signatory. Although, I find it curious that they put notably less info on their US market releases than the UK ones. Interestingly, this one was distilled in the same month as the SMWS, so quite likely a sibling cask. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very different to the SMWS! This is much grassier, greasier and rather more austere. Lots more clay, anthracite, earth, dried leaf mulch, kilned pottery, very lightly medical notes of aspirin and petrichor (damp forest) notes. Quite a departure from the SMWS, but still pretty excellent. With water: these medicinal and spicy aspects are accentuated now. More medicines, ginger wine, camphor, hessian and still a little grassy olive oil. Mouth: ok, back towards the SMWS one now, more fruit jams, exotic fruit teas, waxes, pollens and things like old leather, black pepper and even some vegetal hints including horseradish. Indeed, the whole is rather punchy, peppery and warm. Big, hefty and a pretty textural whisky. With water: rather classical development now with more menthol tobacco, eucalyptus resin, herbal toothpaste, mouthwash, cough mixtures, mineral oil, vapour rubs and more hessian and wax. Finish: long and hugely mentholy and medicinal. Bitter herbs, more green ginger wine, bandages, cocktail bitters and some sharper green herbs like parsley. Comments: Similarities and differences. This one is great, but it’s a tad more monolithic and powerful than the SMWS. Now, in all honesty, I had kind of expected the Signatory to triumph.
SGP: 472 - 90 points. 

 

 

Glenlivet 8 yo (70 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, early 1970s)

Glenlivet 8 yo (70 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, early 1970s)
Colour: light amber. Nose: a super soft, easy and extremely ‘G&M’ style of old school sherry. Bags of leather, truffle, game meat, mushrooms, tobaccos and rancio. Also quite a few layers of tropical fruits, coconut and umami seasonings. Given blind I might just as well have said 21 years old. Mouth: just gorgeous, leathery, bright, fruity, walnutty, earthy, densely rancio-heavy sherry. Some mint leaf, sultanas, fig syrup, a little cocoa, strawberry wine, walnut oil, putty, camphor, herbal resins… It’s got the full kit! Finish: medium and pretty concentrated on chocolate, earth, roasted chestnuts, figs and herbs. Comments: Hard not to be bowled over by this humble wee beauty. One of those old bottlings where you just can’t help but wonder about the veracity of the age statement. The strength also doesn’t feel too low here, the fatness of the distillate and heft of the sherry add more than enough stamina to carry the lower abv.
SGP: 661 - 91 points.

 

 

Glenlivet 12 yo 2007/2019 (66.3%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, cask #900171, 1st fill sherry hogshead, 309 bottles)

Glenlivet 12 yo 2007/2019 (66.3%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, cask #900171, 1st fill sherry hogshead, 309 bottles)
The ABVs on this parcel of casks are always pretty scary, but quality generally seems to be high. Colour: orangey amber. Nose: hot yes, but within that there’s quite a lot of spiced orange liqueur, marmalade, hardwood resins, putty and a little Turkish delight. Although I do also feel a wee bit of bite from the oak. One of these rather effective but assertive modern sherry casks. Goes on with some pencil shavings, green pepper and boiled lime sweets. In time it also becomes a little more floral and showing some red fruits. Lots to enjoy within this admittedly very modern style. With water: understandably lighter and revealing a little more in the way of marzipan, treacle and spices like ginger and cinnamon. Mouth: ooft. I’m tempted to write ‘notes of my own dissolved tooth enamel’ but I wouldn’t do such a thing. Quite a bit of wood shaving, black tea, pink peppercorns and hints of pot pourri and black coffee. With water: more of these notes of resins, black tea and hardwoods. Fir wood, sandalwood - lots of wood! Also spiced orange marmalade, cloves, nutmeg, orange cordial and some fruit chutneys. Finish: rather long and little more towards dark fruits in syrup, cured meats and black office coffee. Comments: Quite a bit going on here and a fair bit of interesting evolution, but the wood is teetering on the brink of being too much for my taste. Not sure it wouldn’t have been better bottled at a lower ABV? Water is certainly obligatory here. Funny how the SGP is the same as the G&M 8yo but they remain worlds apart.
SGP: 661 - 84 points.

 

 

Glenlivet 22 yo 1973/1995 (56%, Signatory Vintage for USA, sherry)

Glenlivet 22 yo 1973/1995 (56%, Signatory Vintage for USA, sherry)
Love, love, love these old ‘inkpot’ dumpies. Colour: amber. Nose: quite a world of difference again, really all on leather, chocolate, roasted nuts, camphor, pollens, dried strawberries and cured meats. Also a fair bit of coffee, tobacco and some fig jam and dates. Deep, dark and very ‘old school sherry’. With water: much more peppery and spicy, some ginger, dried chilli, biltong, roast chestnuts and hessian. Mouth: bitter dark chocolate melted down with strawberry jam, more old leather, pipe tobacco, beef stock, black pepper and a few glugs of strong herbal teas. Rather rooty, slightly medical and very earthy. With water: still quite a bit of hot pepper, smoked chilli, smoked herbs, more leather, camphor, a glimmer of cereal and some sort of spiced treacle cake. Finish: long, leather, chocolatey, peppery, gamey and very earthy and quite dry. A rather mineral side emerges. Comments: Quality is very high, as expected, but some parts remain a tad too ‘rough and ready’ to get over the 90 hurdle in my view.
SGP: 562 - 88 points.

 

 

Glenlivet 35 yo 1966/2002 (68.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #2.43, sherry)

Glenlivet 35 yo 1966/2002 (68.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #2.43, sherry)
What was that I was saying only a couple of notes ago about scary ABVs? Colour: amber. Nose: well, this actually rum. Deep and highly earthy old demerara rum. However, to that you could also add some waxed canvas, sultanas, carbon paper, sooty coal scuttles and in time many dried wildflowers, crystallised exotic fruits and wee hints of some kind of herbal infused wax. Gets also pretty salty and leathery with more than a little rancio. Quite amazingly approachable really. With water: pretty huge now! Big, medical-accented, dark, gingery old rum but also showing these notes of salty liquorice, hessian and herbal bitters. Mouth: ok, yes, ouch. But… but… also the most beautiful of wood spices, incense, pot pourri, cinnamon, turmeric, waxed canvass, pressed wildflowers, five spice, spiced honey cake, madeira fruit loaf, some kind of ancient calvados and fir liqueur. Also these wee natural tarry and concentrated cough medicine notes. Mothballs? Complex, concentrated and superb! With water: ooft! Someone has lobbed an H2O grenade and now there’s roots, flowers, earth, leather, tar, medicines, herbs and rancio everywhere. Massive, monolithic but hugely complex and enjoyable. Keeps developing and evolving with further single drops of water. Many dried citrus peel notes and crystallised exotic fruits still. Finish: extremely long, drying, leathery, very salty and showing some pin-sharp, perfectly bitter herbs, cedar wood, fir wood and natural tar. Some animalistic gamey notes and bitter espresso too. Comments: I have to admit, when I opened this bottle I was not nearly as impressed. It’s been open almost a year now (I think) and the development with a bit of air really has worked wonders. One of those whiskies that doesn’t make sense but, despite everything, emerges victorious. What I love the most is how endlessly entertaining and evolving it is.
SGP: 663 - 92 points.

 

 

Meaningless bonus

 

 

Glenlivet 1958/1968 (cask sample)

Glenlivet 1958/1968 (cask sample)
I know, what use writing notes for a 1 of 1 old cask sample? Well, I totally adore these old ‘artefact’ things so please indulge me, just for the record… Colour: straw. Nose: chiselled minerals, petrol, waxes, chalk, pebbles, white flowers, flints and some hints of plain, raw cereals such as oatcakes and freshly malted barley. The crossroads where ‘natural’ meets ‘old school’. With water: doubles down on this medical edge, notes of bandages, clay, embrocations, white pepper, gauze. More pure barley notes and some mineral oil. Mouth: wonderfully pure, medicinal and showing an almost crystalline waxiness. Minerals, petrol, starched fabric, lime, barley water. Totally brilliant, whisky for lovers of aged dry white wines. With water: terrifically fat, waxy, mineral and medical - almost greasy in texture now. Olive oil, grass, chalky medicines and lemon tea. Finish: long, punchy, medical, waxy, mineral and oily with some wee herbal notes. Comments: At times you could almost think old Giaccone Clynelish. I love to try such old cask samples because they give you a totally unvarnished glimpse into general distillery / malt whisky character of that era. Who knows what became of this whisky but more than likely it vanished into a blend, but it’s consistent in style with many of the great old OB un-sherried Glenlivets. So these characteristics we classify as ‘old style’, I would argue, were not the result of ‘cask cherry picking’ of the time, but were rather just the style that era produced. Now, of course a single sample doesn’t prove a thesis - for that we need to sit down over a pint or six. Anyway, totally brilliant, extremely ‘pure’ old style malt whisky.
SGP: 463 - 93 points.

 

 

 

 

July 23, 2020


Whiskyfun

Cask-driven Glendronach and a surprise

Glendronach is a bit like Kavalan (and perhaps HP now), they keep issuing vast quantities of sherry-treated single casks and it’s easy to get lost in that forest, if I may use that expression. But let’s take our courage in both hands and try a few, as they come to the table... 

Glendronach 24 yo 1993/2017 (60.6%, OB for Abbey Whisky, sherry butt, cask #652, 544 bottles)

Glendronach 24 yo 1993/2017 (60.6%, OB for Abbey Whisky, sherry butt, cask #652, 544 bottles) Five stars
They didn’t state ‘PX’ so let’s hope it’s oloroso… Colour: mahogany. Nose: how perfect is this! Cuban cigars, prunes, old brandy, chocolate, earth, mint, beef stock, flints… It’s not often that some whisky would be this aromatic while still being at such high natural strength. Am impressed and this is only the beginning. With water: old pu-her, miso, cigars, Seville orange, drop of old Armagnac, drop of old Demerara rum, chocolate. Get the picture? Mouth: huge orange marmalade, chocolate, ginger, Assam tea… With water: more black tea, some cracked pepper from the cask, black tobacco… Finish: long, earthier again, and pretty miso-y. Always a hit at Château Whiskyfun. Comments: you cannot not think of some old-school high-strength Macallan. Fabtastic Glendronach – sadly I think we’re too fast, too high… My fault.
SGP:462 - 91 points.

Glendronach 27 yo 1992/2020 (54.5%, OB for Abbey Whisky, PX puncheon, cask #5850, 625 bottles)

Glendronach 27 yo 1992/2020 (54.5%, OB for Abbey Whisky and Sean Russell/The Gas, PX puncheon, cask #5850, 625 bottles) Four stars and a half
There, you wanted PX, S. (did I say that?) Colour: very dark amber. Nose: more fragrant, obviously, pretty floral (peonies), with more raisins, black cherry jam, notes of cured ham, rose petals, chocolate… No raisin bomb so far, so all cleared apparently. With water: ginger cookies, touches of leather, some dried figs, a pack of blond cigarettes (as far as I can remember). Mouth (neat): sweet and good. Fig jam, tamarind jam, raisins, cloves, pink pepper, chicken soup, honey sauce, apricot jam… I think balance is paramount with this style, well looks like they’ve achieved that. With water: could PX be oloroso-y? In truth this would rather be some very old cream-style sherry, VORS and such thick yet lovely wines. Obviously the better side of PX. Finish: long, probably just a little simpler now. Jams, sweet spices, earth, soy sauce, hoisin… Comments: anytime when Pedro is like this.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Don’t we have momentum going…

Glendronach 26 yo 1992/2018 (52%, OB for The Whisky Barrel, PX puncheon, cask #8314, 706 bottles)

Glendronach 26 yo 1992/2018 (52%, OB for The Whisky Barrel, PX puncheon, cask #8314, 706 bottles) Four stars
Colour: amber. Nose: rather (a little) less sherried this time, more on kirsch, Cointreau, watermelon, fresh figs, praline, chestnut purée and sultanas. With water: tobacco, marrow, nutmeg, sage and chervil. Very nice soup! Mouth (neat): a little flinty and leathery at first, with a wee bitterish herbalness (or broccoli, artichoke), then cinchona and ginger. Tonic wine with raisins. With water: it’s keeping this gingery, leathery side. And artichokes. Finish: long, sour-sweet, spicy. With raisins, naturally. Comments: another excellent one, just a little less, say bombastically sherried.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Glendronach 26 yo 1992/2018 (51.8%, OB for The Whisky Barrel, PX puncheon, cask #8314, 720 bottles)

Glendronach 26 yo 1992/2018 (51.8%, OB for The Whisky Barrel, PX puncheon, cask #8314, 720 bottles) Four stars and a half
In theory, this should be very similar. Colour: dark amber. Nose: not quite, this one’s rounder, more on jams and honeys, easier, better integrated, sexier, fruitier (I think we got it, S.) With water: perfect. Glazed chestnuts, Corinth currants, dried figs… Mouth (neat): it feels bigger than just 51, but it’s really sweet, on many candied and dried fruits, sultanas, apricots, quinces, also heather honey, mead… With water: it’s almost pure muscat wine. Check the best Lunel and maybe Frontignan. Finish: long, sweet, all on raisins but with a touch of grapefruit that keeps it bright and even refreshing. Comments: a tad easy-easy, perhaps, but so good! Perhaps not for killjoys…  
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Good, enuf’ PX…

Glendronach 26 yo 1992/2018 (50.8%, OB, for The Whisky Barrel, sherry butt, cask #179, 638 bottles)

Glendronach 26 yo 1992/2018 (50.8%, OB, for The Whisky Barrel, sherry butt, cask #179, 638 bottles) Five stars
They really love their sherry monsters at The Whisky Barrel. Wondering if they shouldn’t have called themselves The Whisky Butt instead ;-). Colour: deep amber. Nose: halt! Perfect. Butterscotch, fruitcake, espresso, cigars. And thousands of tiny aromas that we won’t even mention. With water: love it when miso, beef stock and chicken bouillon come out. Oh and last year’s walnuts. Mouth (neat): early 1970s Macallan, just a tad meatier. With these touches of fresh almonds and cracked pepper supporting the mad jammy fruitiness. With water: it’s funny that, should you add a lot of water, you would come up with a quasi-amontillado. Finish: long, drier. Walnuts and tobacco. Comments: well, when Billy Walker bought and relaunched Glendronach, we immediately stated that a Macallan-killer was in the making. Hate it to say that for once, we were right.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

Glendronach 26 yo 1992/2018 (50.5%, OB, for The Whisky Barrel, sherry butt, cask #180, 539 bottles)

Glendronach 26 yo 1992/2018 (50.5%, OB, for The Whisky Barrel, sherry butt, cask #180, 539 bottles) Five stars
Colour: amber. The lightest colour so far. Nose: this is flintier, probably more complex, more ‘refill’, rather on walnuts, chalk, roasted chestnuts, artichoke liqueur, bitters, marrow, oyster sauce, humidor (filled with Cuban puros), pinesap, mint oil… Wow! With water: some mad bouillon with marrow quenelles, parsley and chives. Mouth (neat): love this. Chocolate liqueur with a good few drops of mezcal, Port Mourant and some kind of crazy cachaça. I’m even thinking of those mad Madeiran agricole rums. Real difference is such an asset to a dusty old category such as Scotch whisky! I wrote ‘real’ because our dear friends the Scots, in general and when innovating, would just all do the same at the same time. I mean they all ‘innovate’ with the very same innovations, which tends to make it all pretty pointless, don’t you think? With water: gets a tad too grassy for me, so loses… drumroll please… one point! Finish: long, meaty. Walnut liqueur over poultry, with mushrooms. One big fat black raisin in the aftertaste. Comments: rather terrific, once again. They’re really masters at this funny game.
SGP:461 - 90 points.

More 1993 while we’re at it…

Glendronach 24 yo 1993/2017 (53.5%, OB for Andy’s Selection, Taiwan, sherry butt, cask #407, 633 bottles)

Glendronach 24 yo 1993/2017 (53.5%, OB for Andy’s Selection, Taiwan, sherry butt, cask #407, 633 bottles) Four stars
Colour: dark amber. Nose: back on some rocks, flints, walnuts, also a curious coastal side (beach pebbles), miso, parsley, chicken soup and such delicacies. Pinewood. Like this dryness very much. With water: moss, pinecones, mushrooms, all very welcome. Mouth (neat): question: are all 1993s great? Black chocolate, pepper, walnuts, cinnamon rolls, toffee, muscovado sugar, marmalade, quinine. With water: What, some sweetness! This is a scandal! Seriously, it’s excellent, just a tad sweet. No raisins in our oloroso please! Finish: long, very good, sweet and spicy. Figs and pepper. Comments: it hasn’t quite got the depth and complexity of the aforementioned cask #180, but it’s still excellent Glendronach. PX in disguise?
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Glendronach 24 yo 1992/2016 (57.6%, OB, for Tiger's Finest Selection Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt, cask #95, 589 bottles)

Glendronach 24 yo 1992/2016 (57.6%, OB, for Tiger's Finest Selection Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt, cask #95, 589 bottles) Five stars
Colour: very dark amber. Nose: once again this feeling of ‘old’ Macallan. Who said paxarette, who? It’s absolutely perfect here, with chocolate, bouillons, marmalade, coffee, regular cakes and fruitcake. Amen. With water: wonderful chocolate and even raw cocoa. Ever smelled chocolate being torrefied/roasted? Mouth (neat): extremely good. The better batches of old Mac 10 C/S. A flinty/earthy side, something raw and something rough, teas, crystallised fruits, raisins, peppers, cigars and chocolate. What more does the people want, beyond agent orange out of office? With water: funny and unusual, in the best of ways. Special honeys and herbs, perhaps thyme? Finish: long, meatier, perfect. Ham stewed in chocolate sauce. Well I’m sure nobody ever did that, but I’m sure it would be good. Coffee sauce is not unseen unless I’m wrong. Herbal touches in the aftertaste. Pine liqueur. Comments: excellent. Liquid thin mints.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

Good, that’s eight already, perhaps a last one for the road? Let’s try to find a naked indie… Or, no, a much older, more prestigious OB as this little session’s official signature…

Glendronach 12 yo 1963 (43%, OB, Ruffino, Italy, +/-1985)

Glendronach 12 yo 1963 (43%, OB, Ruffino, Italy, +/-1975) Five stars
So this is still Teacher’s Glendronach, with only two coal-fired stills (was expanded to four only in 1966). And greatest of news, the colour’s light, which may suggest we might get Glendronach’s original, un-sherry-stuffed style. What newer owners Allied called the ‘Original’ later on, if I remember well. Colour: gold. Nose: good, it was fatter and oilier (direct-fired stills!) and much more ‘Highlands’ than today. Say between Springbank and Pulteney, okay? Wonderful lemons, waxes ala Clynelish, mutton suet, fabrics, old magazines, old toolbox, copper coins, things like that. Trump’s old penny book from when he was a child, with many ‘vintages’ missing. 1968, for example. Mouth: exceptional old malt, greasy, waxy, citrusy, tense, vertical and yet fat, with some salt, plasticine, marrow, perhaps a little peanut butter, aspirin tablets, a sooty and ashy side, a drop of brine, a tiny oyster, west-coast squat lobsters while we’re at it (Scotland’s west coast, naturally), a wee metallic side (sucking a coin)… Finish: Comments: I really hope some new distillers will manage to produce this style again, rather than pre-blended malts (ex-Laphroaig quarter casks anyone?) or wine-flavoured monstrosities. Perhaps the new Brora? A variant of lovely Daftmill? Others? An astounding Glendronach in any case.
SGP:462 - 94 points.

It was really cool to be able to try an old distillate-driven Glendronach, whilst all recent ones are rather totally cask-forward, as we could see - but not for the worse! So I’m afraid this session is over. Dozens of other Glendros soon on WF.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glendronach we've tasted so far

 

July 22, 2020


Whiskyfun

A vertical trio of Longmorn

No wonderful old sherried Longmorn by G&M this time, rather a short verticale of… well, what we found in the Longmorn box.

Longmorn 15 yo 2005/2020 (63.1%, North Star Spirits, oloroso butt, 596 bottles)

Longmorn 15 yo 2005/2020 (63.1%, North Star Spirits, oloroso butt, 596 bottles) Four stars
This one should be on the heavy-ish side, given the strength and the cask, let’s see… Colour: rich amber. Nose: someone’s distilled some Mars bars, added toasted oak scrappings, some chestnut honey, butterscotch, some moist pipe tobacco and a few Chinese black mushrooms. Then bottled it at an insanely high strength. Cool idea. With water: stuff that we like, moss, fern, bitter chocolate, cigars, cedarwood, brand new wooden cabinet (not from Ikea’s though), drop of soy sauce and miso… In short, classic heavy sherry in some young or rejuvenated cask. Mouth (neat): creamy as honey, spicy as oak spices (cinnamon, pepper) and as coffee-ish as some high-roasted ristretto. Rather works but boy is it strong. With water: some unexpected tropical fruits (passion fruits, pink grapefruits) and rather more peppery oak. A lot of bitter chocolate. Finish: very long and very spicy. Ginger and chilli, cinnamon mints in the aftertaste… Comments: a big and moderny young beast of truly excellent quality. Takes water very well.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Longmorn 1996/2018 (57.8%, Or Sileis, Craftsman Selection, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #911627, 277 bottles)

Longmorn 1996/2018 (57.8%, Or Sileis, Craftsman Selection, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #911627, 277 bottles) Four stars and a half
Cats and a lighthouse, that is funny indeed. Colour: full gold. Nose: you can’t go wrong with these pretty ‘natural’ 1990s Longmorns, even if the wood was still rather active here. Starts with quite a lot of marzipan and halva, turon, then a little spearmint and banana cake, and lastly, overripe apples and quinces, as well as some pies made thereof.  A good dollop of custard too. With water: hints of plasticine and paraffin, then croissants and amaretti. The almonds from our marzipan are back. Mouth (neat): excellent, on spicy lemons, some green curry, quite a lot of pepper, vanilla, lemon curd, barley, heather honey… Feels good for sure. With water: wee herbal and mentholy notes coming through, that’s always a blessing. Verbena, artemisia, chamomile tea, a little thyme… All that is good for our health anyway, is it not? Finish: medium to long, with some lemon plus some peppermint and a little ginger. A little earth in the aftertaste. Impeccable. Comments: earthy signatures just always work. High-class Longmorn.
SGP:561 – 88 points.

Longmorn 29 yo 1990/2019 (49.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #12291, 104 bottles)

Longmorn 29 yo 1990/2019 (49.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #12291, 104 bottles) Five stars
In theory, this should go well and effortless. These good people over there in London have already had several 1990s ‘morns and they’ve all been very good according to my book. So, for the record… Colour: white wine – true refill here. Nose: many styles of treatments and maturing are excellent, but you cannot beat an old distillate of exquisite quality that’s fetched its maturity in a true ageing vessel – as opposed to a flavouring container. I know, rambling on. Pink bananas, sweet barley, avion mangos, touch of humus, hoppy hints, a little bread dough, leaven… The original materials keep shining through, that too is a blessing in my book. Mouth: a wee fizziness at first, not unseen in these batches, Schweppes Lemon, then green bananas, barley syrup, touches of bitter oranges, more bread, more leaven, more pepper, and a wee touch of wasabi (or horseradish) in the back of the background. Lovely freshness, good body. It’s true that 50% ‘natural’ is a great strength. Finish: pretty long, even fresher, with more grapefruits, honeysuckle, a little chalk, and green peppercorns. Indeed, sauvignon blanc territories once again. Comments: I would say these reach stardom at 30. Or 29, let’s not nit-pick yet again.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Longmorn we've tasted so far

 

July 20, 2020


Whiskyfun

Fight

Ultimate duos and wee fights, today Port Ellen

 

When the Port Ellen 40 yo ‘9 Rogue Casks’ came out a few weeks ago, we had chosen some young PE as sparring partners, and that worked out well. That is why we will do just the same today… I would simply add that any Port Ellen that comes out these days is described as being ‘one of the very last casks’. But the thing is, we’ve been hearing this very selling point since around the year 2000, so who knows, given that the make seems to age particularly well, we might be able to enjoy many other new bottlings, 45 yos, 50 yos, 55 yos, 60 yos… Like they so gracefully do in Armagnac! Or, indeed, at Old Fettercairn's, but that’s a whole different story.

The (not so) friendly sparring-partner:

Port Ellen 1977/1992 (61.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #43.4)

Port Ellen 1977/1992 (61.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #43.4) Five stars
We are approaching our 300th PE on little Whiskyfun, but I doubt that one will be a 1977, as those are really becoming increasingly rare. What’s more, as far as I can say from my old notes, it wasn’t the best vintage ever at PE, but let’s drop any preconceptions if you don’t mind. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a different, truly recorded style of Port Ellen, with rather more metallic notes than usual. Steel, old coins, copper kettle, Japanese teapot,  then crushed seashells, seawater (a lot), metal polish, coal, pencil lead, chlorine (rather huge), bleach… Now, do not inject, please, even if it will probably ‘clean your inside’. I agree, no fun anymore. With water: some wonderful shoe polish. Say Church’s, brown (S., yet new lows..). Then marginally rounder notes of lemon and citron liqueurs. Mouth (neat): oh the bomb! Extreme concentrated lemon juice, crushed chalk salted water and gentian. Would take no prisoners, so quick… With water: very sharp, blade-y, on lemon and wax, at first, but goes then straight towards green olives and sharp brine. And wakame! Finish: long, tarrier, with more coal tar, some kinds of plastic fluids… Comments: Angus tried this one earlier this year and loved it. So do I. No you can’t say we’re making the life of the new Prima & Ultima easy, but is this Whiskyfun or not?…
SGP:367 – 92 points.

The Prima & Ultima:

Port Ellen 40 yo 1979/2019 (51.2%, OB, Prima & Ultima, European oak butt, cask #6422, 436 bottles)

Port Ellen 40 yo 1979/2019 (51.2%, OB, Prima & Ultima, European oak butt, cask #6422, 436 bottles) Five stars
One of the last casks of 1979, said to have aged particularly well. In truth the ‘9 Rogue Casks’, which was a 1979 too, had been superb indeed, but this very one’s a single cask, so it may be rather ‘bigger’, we shall see. It’s very rare, but the only Port Ellen I’ve seen that wasn’t advertised as ‘very rare’ was probably Signatory’s 10 years old ‘Scottish Wildlife’; remember when those were available as miniatures in any souvenir shop north of the Borders?  Colour: pale gold, almost straw. Nose: I don’t think I’ve ever ‘met’ a Port Ellen that had gotten too old, never. Not even ‘a wee bit tired’. This is all smoked salmon, face cream, almond oil, suntan lotion, pink grapefruit, riesling, cooling fluid, lit cigar, new plastics (new iPhone, but I believe that works with Huawei too), green olives, seaweed, capers, plasticine, pencil eraser or even, l.o.l., Tippex!… With water: gets much fruitier. Prickly pears, tangerines, guava juice… Does Port Ellen start to become fruity after 40 years? Are its own mangos prickly pears? (see what I mean?) Mouth (need): no no no, this cannot be 40. Big blast, huge lemons, litres of seawater, tons of grey pepper, oyster plant, plasticine, beeswax, black olives, fir tar liqueur… It does remind me of the first Annual Release, which was a 1979 too. And it did not get really ‘smoother’, mind you, just better polished indeed. With water: more fruits once again, waxy fruits, salty tangerines, strawberry cream, always this plasticine, this pepper as well… Hold on, this is Timut pink pepper! But I’m not sure it needs water. Finish: medium and pretty brilliantly waxy and tarry when neat, a tad jumbled and drying when reduced. Better drop water. Comments: lovely to see this fruitiness coming out after forty years. Great, great Port Ellens, very different when neat and when reduced, even with only one or two drops of H2O.
SGP:456 - 93 points.

Phew that was tight.

(Thank you Angus)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Port Ellen we've tasted so far

 

July 19, 2020


Whiskyfun

Neisson and apéritif

It was national holiday in France this week – I mean, not all week mind you, just on July 14 - but I forgot to do a ‘French whisky’ session, for no reasons that I could explain. Let’s try to make up for that and have a few good, or possibly super-good French rums!

Habitation Clément 4 yo ‘VSOP’ (52%, OB, Martinique, agricole, Private Cask Selection, Belgium’s Ambassador Selection, 2011 bottles)

Habitation Clément 4 yo ‘VSOP’ (52%, OB, Martinique, agricole, Private Cask Selection, Belgium’s Ambassador Selection, 2011 bottles) Four stars and a half
It’s really nice that they would do ‘national selections’, just like the Cubans do with their cigars and their Edicion Limitada. Or the crazy disruptors at Waterford in Ireland. By the way, this is 100% blue cane. Colour: full gold. Nose: all on honeysuckle, dandelions, cinnamon rolls (sweet oak), bananas flambéed, barley sugar (yep), eucalyptus, liquorice and aniseed. There’s much more happening than in other Cléments as far as I can remember, and while I find this pretty ‘modern’, I find it rather superb this far. Awesome aromatic floral/herbal style. With water: menthol, ylang-ylang and wisteria! Mouth (neat): oh so good! Aniseed, lavender sweets, citric hops, gingerbread and artisanal banana and pineapple liqueurs, all that with a rich, oily profile. Almost decadent. With water: touches of earthy and pine-y oak, more gingerbread, heather honey, triple-sec, Mandarine Impériale (a Belgian thing, no wonder)… Finish: rather long, sweeter, very fruity, yet never cloying. They may have used pinewood (indeed I am joking). Pepper, earthy menthol and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: this is proper ‘new’ rum, without any swindles or silly mixtures. Very well done and well selected; mind you, 4 years.
SGP:661 - 89 points.

Yeah there, go climb over that one. Unless we go straight to the top of Martinique, with kings of white and aged rhums…

Neisson ‘Bio’ (52.5%, OB, Martinique, organic, +/-2020)

Neisson ‘Bio’ (52.5%, OB, Martinique, organic, +/-2020) Four stars
I won’t tell you what I think of Neisson. Well, I will, they make the greatest rums while keeping quiet, which is pretty much unseen in the rum world, if you ask me. No? Colour: white. Nose: oh to resist this pure, emphatic, clean spirit! How do they do that? Plantains, fresh litchis, bits of tar, bits of rubber, lemon, fresh cane juice, lilies, peonies, wisteria this time again… This is pure eau-de-vie de canne, complex and delicate. Oh to not down the whole glass straight way, Kurt-Russel-style… With water: grassier and more on sugar cane. Some expurgated description, you see. Mouth (neat): incredibly fruity, fresh, profound… I’m finding green bananas this time, these wee white pineapples – forgot their name – plus this lovely rubbery/salty touch yet again, some oils for sure, hints of violets (as sweets), various tropical fruits, and only a tiny rooty side, perhaps on beets (which would take the biscuits, historically speaking). With water: oh, pears! Other than that, the rooty side grew up and we shan’t complain. Gentian, hurray! Finish: long, superb, clean, with a touch of cane sugar, muscovado-style. Pears and bananas too. Mint in the aftertaste. Comments: a tad fruitier and less grassy/herbal than expected, but just as awesome. Impressive white.
SGP:641 - 87 points.

Neisson 12 yo 2005 (49.7%, OB, Martinique, +/-2018)

Neisson 12 yo 2005 (49.7%, OB, Martinique, +/-2018) Five stars
Last time I tried another expression of the 12 I thought we were in Pappy territories. But that was under Obama… Colour: amber. Nose: extraordinary, literally. Touches of orange cake, mocha and cappuccino, then mint and liquorice, earths, tobacco, some kind of earthy marmalade, a touch of toasted oak, barbecued bananas an soft corn… Water isn’t obligatory, but for the sake of research… With water: a superb earthiness, humus, damp nuts, a drop of soy sauce… and then the richest, most emphatic kind of tropical jam there ever was. Pick your fruits. Mouth (neat): huge, on some kind of spicy fudge, liquorice, a little pepper, roasted pecans and walnuts, a touch of salt, a hint of sour wood perhaps… With water: classic agricole, on liquorice covering ripe bananas, pineapples, mangos and papayas. Touch of salt, touch of tar. Finish: long, a tad fermentary or ‘bacterial’, which is very cool mind you. Just don’t tell your Covid officer. More oak in the aftertaste. Comments: very excellent, as expected. While the Clément was not!
SGP:661 - 90 points.

Neisson 15 yo (48%, OB, Martinique, +/-2019)

Neisson 15 yo (48%, OB, Martinique, +/-2019) Five stars
Colour: orangey amber. No, no caramel, come on! Nose: explosive, rich, extremely aromatic, with this little varnishy side that hints at bourbon. Loads of Jaffa cakes (chocolate, sponge cake, marmalade), pineapple jam, Sauternes, whiff of pipe smoke, gorse, a touch of celeriac, butterscotch, fudge, sour sauces (something Thai), then a whole sack of prunes… In French we say ‘c’est de la bombe’. With water: moss, earth, nail polish, chocolate cake, drop of acetone, soy sauce, old teas, Jamaican coffee…Oh the complexity of it, never, ever have it without water. It’s becoming epic once watered down. Chamomile! Mouth (neat): Neisson handles oak very well – because this is pretty oaky, in a sweet and spicy way. Loads of ginger, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, but also pineapple and banana jam, roots (pickled parsnips), chilis… High extraction here, but the distillate is keeping control. Mind you, it is Neisson. With water:  lemon grass, lime juice, cane juice, gingerbread made with Melipona honey. More about that another day. Finish: long, rich, and yet vibrant and fresh. With this thing I’m often finding in Neisson, stewed mango. Or mango jam. Stuff like that. Also natural vanilla and a ton of tarry liquorice. Comments: grand cru of rum. Te quiero bang bang bang, as the Gypsy Kings would have said.
SGP:651 - 92 points.

Neisson ‘XO Full Proof’ (50.8%, OB, Martinique, +/-2019) Five stars
A blend of 2005 and 2007, so around 11-12 years of age. Prices are relatively moderate (last time I’ve checked) given the name, that’s probably the lack of age statement. With rum too, no numbers, no proper deal – well that’s what many believe, and that’s why so many makers are using fake numbers. Like, Solera… 22! Colour: full gold. Nose: butterscotch favoured with cane juice, plus liquorice and dried mushrooms. Porcinis. Also the usual tarry side, a little menthol, a touch of seawater, and some proper chocolate. Please drop palm oil. With water: really very butterscotchy. Works a treat here. Mouth (neat): amazing. Varnish or even vegetal glue, mint, liquorice and chocolate at first – believe me that’s a statement – then a lot of cane juice, with assorted spices and that thing that I often find in the best agricoles and that should’t quite be there: agave. Love that, personally. With water: tenser, more ‘aguardiente-y’, earthy, rooty, agave-y, salty… Totally excellent. Finish: long, rooty, grassier yet. Some citrus-led fruitcake in the aftertaste. Comments: don’t we all dream of some kind of infinite supply of Neisson? They should do subscriptions, after all some people even subscribe to steaks. I think there were ‘higher esters’ in this cuvée, but I’m probably totally wrong.
SGP:562 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far

 

July 18, 2020


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Angus  
Visiting England
Something that’s sadly not on the cards for a while yet, at least not in a ‘whisky trip’ sense. Anyway, it seems that the English whisky scene is picking up a fair bit of steam these days, which is something to celebrate as far as I’m concerned. Although, I’m not too sure how consistent the quality is sometimes in my experience, but given that most distilleries are still young that may just be a ‘teething’ issue. There’s a bunch of new Bimber’s out so we’ll try them today, but first an aperitif from Cotswolds…

 

Cotswolds 3 yo ‘Batch 1’ (50.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1783 bottles)

Cotswolds 3 yo ‘Batch 1’ (50.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1783 bottles)
Cotswolds distillery started production in 2014 and use barley grown in the Cotswolds and floor malted at Warminster in Wiltshire. They also make their own Limoncello it would seem - tasting notes coming to Whiskyfun summer 2038. Colour: gold. Nose: very creamy, buttery, lots of vanilla sponge, cakes, iced biscuits, custard and young sweet wines. Easy, syrupy and undeniably impressive for 3yo. It’s also good that the sweetness feels natural and unforced, in that you don’t readily feel the oak. With water: a little juicier, a little fruitier, some flowers, cereals and orange water. Mouth: a little more oak presence now, with the warmth of ground ginger, green pepper and nutmeg. Still lots of vanilla cream, lemon barley water and even - I swear it - limoncello. Extremely easy to get along with. With water: more sweet malt extract and barley sugars, grapefruit peel, lemon and breakfast cereals liberally dusted with icing sugar. Finish: a tad brief but still on this naturally syrupy, barleyish sweetness, some white pepper, nutmeg again and citrus piths adding a wee touch of bitterness. Comments: Undeniably impressive, it’s firmly in this very ‘Jim Swan-esque’ modern style, but you cannot fail to be impressed given the age. It’s true that it’s becoming something of a cliché to say ‘amazing for the age’, when in reality we simply live in a time where active American oak is very well understood and carefully deployed in whisky maturation. What’s smart and good about this wee English knave, is that it has retained a lot of raw ingredient character and a nicely natural edge that sits in balance with the wood. For me it’s as much about the impressive absence of these harsh sawdust and pencil shaving qualities that dog so many modern youngsters as it is about those natural aspects. Good work, everyone involved.
SGP: 631 - 85 points.

 

 

Downwards (geographically speaking) to Bimber. Interestingly enough, seeing as my Google Maps automatically preferences ‘walking directions’ these days for some reason, I can inform you that it takes precisely 25 hours to walk from Cotswolds to Bimber. Good information for any whisky groups lacking a designated driver.

 

 

Bimber Ex-Bourbon Batch 1 (51.8%, OB, 2020, 1948 bottles)

Bimber 'Ex-Bourbon Batch 1' (51.8%, OB, 2020, 1948 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: what’s immediately, glaringly apparent, is that this is a distillate influenced more equitably by its fermentation rather than just by its malt and its wood. You have this initial hit of bubblegum, then some rather bright and shiny green fruits. There’s also a similar richness and natural quality to the cereal components as we saw in the Cotswolds, but here it sits alongside these bolder and more assertive fruity aspects. Citrus peels, wee fizzy esters and eventually more vanilla from the American oak emerging. With water: spices, orchard fruits, gooseberry, kiwi and some softer things like sandalwood and fabric. I even get a wee impression of chalkiness. Mouth: here you feel the oak a little more directly at first. Quite a lot of green and pink peppercorns, rye breads, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric. All hyper clean and in some ways more towards what we might think of as as ‘world whisky’ profile (terminology that’s increasingly loosing meaning in my view). With water: indeed, rather grippy spices, a mixture of fresh and bitter herbs, lime, sorrel, peppery watercress and some pretty classical vanilla sponge cake. Finish: good length, a nicely bitter, peppery, lightly herbal and even showing some notes of ointment and witchhazel. Comments: Extremely impressive stuff. The oak bites ever so slightly for me but this is undeniably classy and very well-made young whisky. I love these herbal qualities that emerge with time and a little water. Would love to try this distillate from refill one day.
SGP: 551 - 87 points.

 

 

Bimber 2016/2020 'Ex-Bourbon Cask' (58.3%, OB, cask #8, bourbon barrel, 267 bottles)

Bimber 2016/2020 'Ex-Bourbon Cask' (58.3%, OB, cask #8, bourbon barrel, 267 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: we’re in similar territories but this is greener, leafier, things like mint leaf and light herbal infusions. Green tea with lemon, cream soda, gentle ointments, freshly baked white bread, lemon curd. Everything is more concentrated, richer, more highly polished and emitting this impression of texture and density. With water: more towards fabrics, linens, baking parchment, dry cereals and softer peppery tones. Caraway, turmeric and toasted hazelnuts. Mouth: spiciness and creaminess on arrival. Vanilla custard with green pepper, lanolin, sourdough, brown toast with salted butter, chopped parsley, more green tea - matcha even - and fabrics, a little chalk and sunflower oil. Again this tension of differing sweetnesses between the natural and the additive. With water: opens really well with water, gets earthier, richer, spicier, more bready and with a drier leafy quality that incorporates tobacco and dried herbs. Super richness in the mouth! Finish: long, terrifically bready, lemony, oily, lightly minty, cereal and retaining this almost glistening, buttery textural quality. Comments: I would say Bimber is one of a neat bundle of distilleries around the UK that is forcing us to rethink and reframe our language around youth in whisky. As Serge mentioned the other day regarding Waterford, I would say this is not good young whisky - just really good whisky full stop. Now, I’m not saying these batches won’t improve with further age, but rather that this a demonstration of what can be achieved when you dispense with all that bullshit about yields and uniformity and instead focus on a process that builds character and identity.
SGP: 661 - 89 points.

 

 

Bimber 2016/2020 (58.1%, OB, cask #42, ex-PX sherry, 329 bottles)

Bimber 2016/2020 'Sherry Cask' (58.1%, OB, cask #42, ex-PX sherry, 329 bottles)
Colour: ruby / amber. Nose: a rather sweet, fudgey and elegantly jammy sherry at first. Red fruit cordials, cranberry jelly and then some encroaching notes of leather, sultanas and a nice mix of damp earthiness and balsamic reduction. I don’t detect any of the more dreaded aspects of contemporary PX casks, notably these sawdusty and cloying qualities. With water: drier, leafier, more earthy, lean and even slightly mineral. I am a bit disconcerted by how many echoes of old school sherry casks are emanating from this. Mouth: bags of chocolate sauce, pink pepper, salted caramel, various meat broths and umami stocks, tobacco, earth, walnut wine. Still quite sweet with lots of treacle pudding, raisins soaked in brandy, plum wine and then again, a more leathery and slightly hessian-tinged development. Praline, hazelnuts and milk chocolate eventually. With water: strawberry jam, walnut oil, serrano ham, salted pistachios, quince, damson preserve. There’s a slightly more assertive woodiness now but it’s all very dense and gooey and cohesive. Finish: long, leathery, deeply earthy, slightly minty and just bags of dark sticky fruits. Comments: speaking as a whisky lover, all I can say is: hats off! This doesn’t quite have the fruity sheen of the bourbon cask, you do feel the pepperiness of the oak encroaching a little at times, but it’s still hugely impressive stuff. Now, speaking as a Scotsman, I say: BURN THEM!
SGP: 561 - 87 points.

 

 

Bimber 2016/2020 (57.8%, OB, cask #7, virgin oak, 249 bottles)

Bimber 2016/2020 'Virgin Cask'(57.8%, OB, cask #7, virgin oak, 249 bottles)
Virgin oak you say? I will be extremely annoyed if I like this… Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: very focused initially on tinned fruits, particularly peaches, apricots and yellow plums, all very gloopy and in their own syrups. Indeed, the whole thing is very syrupy and concentrated. Also some paprika, darjeeling tea, miso, cocoa, glace cherries and cocktail bitters. With water: sootier now, also drier, earthier, more on dried fruits, pot pourri, a little hessian and this rather gravely minerality. Some figs as well. Mouth: the wood is far more prevalent here as expected but it’s very toasty, creamy and buttery with plenty more paprika, some cooking oils, nutmeg, cumin, herbal bitters, natural tar and liquorice. Warming, bready and very spicy. With water: still a lot of tinned peaches, dried apricots, fruit salad juices, apple sauce, spiced custard and these rather simmering, toasty wood spices. Also brown bread, and plenty of it. Finish: long, spicy, earthy, sticky, many dark fruits, fruit cordials, cumin, paprika, bitter lemon and some slightly meaty notes in the aftertaste. Comments: FFS! I’m usually no fan at all of virgin oak, but there’s a style going on with these Bimbers that seems to work quite well, I would characterise it as very ‘concentrated’ where the wood and distillate seem to bring out the best in each other rather than jar and quibble. Now, whether that will be the same with further years remains to be seen, but it works very well right now I think.
SGP: 651 - 87 points.

 

 

 

 

July 17, 2020


Whiskyfun

Fight

Ultimate duos and wee fights, today Caol Ila

 

Today’s Prima & Ultima is an old glory, but we’ll rather choose a crazy young beast as the sparring partner, if you agree. For more contrast…

The friendly sparring-partner:

Cola Ali 11 yo 2008 ‘4’ (56.1%, Dramfool, 1st fill oloroso hogshead finish, 160 bottles)

Cola Ali 11 yo 2008 ‘4’ (56.1%, Dramfool, 1st fill oloroso hogshead finish, 160 bottles) Three stars
These good people are pretty crazy and their previous ‘Cola Alis’ (with a name like that it can’t be Bruichladdich, can it?) were just as mad, either stellar or plain whacky in my book. More fun, I suppose we shouldn’t complain. Colour: amber. Nose: fun indeed. Looks like someone’s smoked some walnuts and added some iron fillings, some chestnut honey, some Bulldog/tonkatsu sauce, cloves and a dollop of crème de menthe. With water: rather green walnuts, manzanilla, mustard and leather/ginger. Mouth (neat): what is this? Some kind of chilli liqueur? A blend of gun oil and red pepper flakes? Distilled tabasco and harissa sauce? How many Scoville Hotness Units? (that’s a measurement of pepper pungency, ever heard of that?) I know why they call these Cola Ali, that’s because these babies beat you like they’re Muhammad Ali. With water: some sour spices, more pepper, more tabasco and ‘chewing your cigar’. It wouldn’t give up, even at 35% vol. Finish: long, dry, ueber-spicy, salty, with touches of rubber. Comments: a very beastly young Caol Ila, probably produced around Medellin or Cali rather than in bonnie Scotland; no need to call Interpol though. Friends who like to pour tabasco over their oysters may want to try this instead.
SGP:277 - 82 points.

The Prima & Ultima:

Caol Ila 35 yo 1984/2019 (50.8%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill butt, cask #5773, 499 bottles)

Caol Ila 35 yo 1984/2019 (50.8%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill butt, cask #5773, 499 bottles) Five stars
Apparently, this old cask has been sourced elsewhere as it had been bought by some customers a long time ago. Diageo (or another affiliated entity) bought it back thirteen years ago because as I understand it, it’s one of the oldest representant of Caol Ila’s ‘new style’. New in 1984, that is. Let’s try it… Colour: gold. Really love it that Dr Beveridge would have decided to put refill, rather distillate-driven malts under the spotlight with this new series. Nose: as always in my book, Caol Ila is much less ‘light’ than in any official literature. This one would rather display almond and cashew oils, bergamots, then oyster juice and antiseptic (mercurochrome), waxed papers, face moisturizer, Wulong tea and pinewood smoke. Delightful. With water – it’s extremely viscimetric: Islay mud, seashells, clams, ink, almonds… In short, Caol Ila. Mouth (neat): a blade, as we sometimes say. Anything but light and soothing, extremely tart and vertical, almost aggressive, sharp, ultra-clean and pretty ‘green’. All the wonders of refill in your glass. Lime juice, grass juice, seawater, miso, grapefruit, a drop of peppercorn sauce, rollmops… With water: same flavours and dimensions, green, tart, lemony, grassy… I’m reminded of smoked oysters now. Finish: rather long, tense, lime-y and grassy. Comments: it would still qualify as ‘young’ as far as flavour are concerned. Caol Ila may well be the slowest malt whisky in the west, not the first time we’re experiencing that. But lots of love.
SGP:466 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Caol Ila we've tasted so far

 

July 16, 2020


Whiskyfun

Fight

Ultimate duos and wee fights, today Clynelish

 

Which sparring partner shall we select this time? Perhaps one that comes with a little secrecy? In any case, it’s Clynelish day at Château Whiskyfun, so I highly doubt that anything bad will happen. Especially since the Clynelish within the Prima & Ultima series comes with an age statement this time. Phew.

The friendly sparring-partner:

Distilled in Sutherland 19 yo 2000/2020 (53.2%, Thompson Bros., Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar 20th Anniversary, refill hogshead, 462 bottles)

Distilled in Sutherland 19 yo 2000/2020 (53.2%, Thompson Bros., Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar 20th Anniversary, refill hogshead, 462 bottles) Four stars
Well, last time I checked Tain was not quite in Sutherland, and neither was Wick. Which leaves us with Dornoch indeed or, alternatively, Brora. Right. Colour: white wine. Nose: relatively hot at first, both slightly ethanoly and acetic (pinot grigio – I know), but other aromas are soon to enter the dance, with first a wee touch of vanilla and coconut, then new Wellies, new inflatable dinghy (that’s the same, S.), paraffin, beeswax, fresh almonds, tangerines, inner tube, touches of sage and tarragon, barley, pumpernickel… How ‘idiosyncratic’ is all that? In truth and in my opinion, not much. With water: toasted bread, gingerbread, black tea, nutmeg. Mouth (neat): starts unusually bready and spicy, that’s the cask. What was it actually? Caraway, cumin, cloves, ginger… It’s not that that would overwhelm the spirit, not at all, but there… Then black olives, wax, roasted tea (ho-chi-cha or something like that), salt, ginger... I’d be curious to learn about what was in the cask before it was filled with the latest make. With water: even breadier, with more gingerbread, cinnamon rolls, focaccia… Finish: long, bready and spicy. Salty and peppery aftertaste. Comments: alright, we shall call this excellent baby Mr. Enigmatic. There should be no doubts, but… Hey isn’t there a Sutherland county in Australia too?
SGP:362 - 87 points.

The Prima & Ultima:

Clynelish 26 yo 1995/2019 (49.8%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak hogshead, 941 bottles)

Clynelish 26 yo 1993/2019 (49.8%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak hogshead, 941 bottles) Five stars
According to the official literature, it was around that time that the glorious distillers understood where that famous, trademark waxiness was coming from. Well the official story remains very vague (the secret really lay in the way the stills were run, which affected how the feints and low wines gathered) but we do know that these waxy notes are imparted by some thick black sludge that builds up in the old cast-iron receiver. And that they found out about that when they replaced that receiver with some shiny new gear, which just made the waxiness disappear (and, consequently, the blenders furious). Well, that’s the unofficial story, please don’t quote me. Colour: straw. Nose: obvious, undisputable, and glorious. Tart, tense, pure, mineral, chalky, waxy, and all on cider apples as far as fruit are concerned, and otherwise on green olives. A true competition piece. With water: some steel, some grass, some clay, a lot of apple peel. Mouth (neat): oh please get out of here. Warming, yet tight, very vertical, briny and lemony, not that waxy after all, but full of lovely bitter herbs and chalk. High-precision malt whisky. With water: careful, don’t let it drown or it would get a little too bitter. Oh well just forget about water. Finish: medium, with more oak oils, eucalyptus, green pepper. Comments: remarkably pure and void of any obvious cask influence. Got to love those virtual statements by Dr. Jim.
SGP:462 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Clynelish we've tasted so far

 

July 15, 2020


Whiskyfun

Fight

Ultimate duos and wee fights, today Mortlach

 

The majority of the new Prima & Ultima consists in peaters (PE, CI, Lagavulin, Talisker), while there’s one lighter Speysider (Dufftown) and two fatter, bigger pretty much unpeated malts, Clynelish and… Mortlach. It’s the latter that we’ll have today, and we won’t make its life any easier mind out. See the sparring-partner we’ve chosen…

The friendly sparring-partner:

Mortlach 27 yo 1989/2017 (55.7%, Kingsbury, hogshead, selected by Julie Lee, 245 bottles)

Mortlach 27 yo 1989/2017 (55.7%, Kingsbury, hogshead, selected by Julie Lee, 245 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one for Taiwan I believe. Colour: gold. Nose: Mortlach without any sherry can be rather fruity, but this one’s not, at least this far, as we’re rather finding various oils, especially graphite oil and lamp oil, then bags of limestone and chalk, crushed fruit stones, suet, this very specific kind of sulphur (stone), aspirin, ointments, white asparagus… It’s a pretty old-school nose, rather crisp and yet fat, really curious about the palate. But first… With water: I was expecting more fruit but it’s rather vegetables (eggplant) and perhaps paint that come out. Damp mortar. Mouth (neat): big, big stuff, pungent, a tad acrid, very oily and bitter, with bitter roots and herbs, green pepper, black pepper… I think we need to try to tame it right away. With water: much nicer, even lovely now, while stull fat and austere. Grapefruits, starfruit, mint, basil, olive oil… Finish: long, tense, lemony, chalky and bitter. Fizzy and peppery in the aftertaste (bitter tonic water). Comments: I utterly loved it at times, but it’s a difficult malt that really needs all your attention. You cannot even sip it while watching Netflix! (Amazon Prime is okay tough).
SGP:362 - 88 points.

The Prima & Ultima:

Mortlach 25 yo 1994/2019 (55.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima, first-fill PX /oloroso seasoned European oak butt, cask #2652, 389 bottles)

Mortlach 25 yo 1994/2019 (55.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima, first-fill PX /oloroso seasoned European oak butt, cask #2652, 389 bottles) Five stars
Good, it’s still a bit unclear how a cask could be both PX-ed and oloroso-ed, unless some mad coopers have used a mix of both beverages to season this butt. Or it’s been seasoned twice. Why not, but we’ll find out and update this modest note if necessary. Now are 1990s Mortlachs really ‘prima’ and ‘ultima’? Not too sure, we have plenty yet to try in our well-guarded boxes… Colour: full gold. Nose: sulphur, burnt vegetables, bitter chocolate, barbecue, coffee beans, pea, used matches, vintage car engine, bean curd, hard-boiled egg, battery, concrete, balsamico, grilled steak, leatherette… Well this sure is Mortlach! With water: fumes, concrete and stewed cabbage all over the place. Mouth (neat): resinous, peppery, fermentary, rooty and bitter. This one sure is beastly, I wouldn’t consider pouring it to someone who’s not deep into malt whisky. An anti-bourbon, I would say. With water: yess, excellent now, perfectly citrusy and jammy, rich, on kumquats, bergamots, cinchona, and a little burnt oak. Bitter dry chocolate. Finish: long, dry, on more raw chocolate and then ginger and pepper. Ginseng? Comments: huge, dry, extreme whisky, pretty intellectual, a tad difficult or at least challenging at times, but fully Mortlach. Perhaps more ‘Mortlach’ than Mortlach, well I know what I’m trying to say.
SGP:272 - 90 points.

UPDATE after a wee chat with Diageo’s Dr. Jim Beveridge, the cask was actually an older European-oak transport butt that had been rejuvenated with a blend of PX and oloroso. Mystery solved, thank you.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Mortlach we've tasted so far



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