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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

July 28, 2014


WF 12 years

Celebrating Twelve
Years of Whiskyfun (quickly)

All right, little Whiskyfun is twelve today (it's no NAS website!... ermnrlr...) , but let’s keep this short. We aren’t far from our 10,000th whisky review, but that should rather happen in September. As far as WF’s readership is concerned, I’m happy to announce that we’re up again, by approx 15%, as we’re welcoming around 200,000 visits a month these days.

Maybe that’s not much, but WF only tries to cater for a small group of dedicated whisky enthusiasts anyway, and we remain 100% amateur. No ads, no bads! Granted, as with any website, not all the visitors are ‘worthy ones’, but one figure I’m particularly proud of is the proportion or returning visitors, which is 76%. On the other hand, Whiskyfun isn’t heavily seo-ised – actually, it’s very badly seo-ised – so the high proportion of returning visitors may be just a consequence of that.


There are seasons for whisky websites too...

As far as the top ten malt distilleries are concerned, and according to the number of visits to each distillery page, these are the figures (2014/2013). They may give us a faint feeling of ‘what’s happening in the high-end market’:

  1. Ardbeg (+1.79%)
  2. Bowmore (+15.35%)
  3. Highland Park (+13.99%)
  4. Glendronach (+45.97%)
  5. Laphroaig (+3.08%)
  6. Caol Ila (+22.84%)
  7. Lagavulin (+23.25%)
  8. Springbank (+9.32%)
  9. Clynelish (+22.92%)
  10. Talisker (+6.69%)

Now if you take the fact that the overall figures have risen by around 15% into account, the real movers are Glendronach (impressive!), Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Clynelish. Bowmore, Highland Park and Springbank are kind of flattish. Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Talisker are rather down. That could kind of mean that more marketing is less marketing in our circles, or maybe that NAS is not for us. Or that peat is plateauing. Or that heavy sherry’s back. Or just nothing…

And our visiting countries, you may ask? This is the top ten:

  1. Germany (+9.87%)
  2. USA (+15.13%)
  3. France (+20.42%)
  4. UK (+10.53%)
  5. Netherlands (+17.52%)
  6. Sweden (+11.78%)
  7. Belgium (+7.33%)
  8. Switzerland (+12.16%)
  9. Taiwan (+42.15%)
  10. Japan (+1.82%)

France has overtaken the UK, but that may have come from the fact that I’m French. Excusez-moi. Or do the French read more English? (yeah, rather globbish.) Taiwan has overtaken Japan. As for the famous BRICS ‘that are the future of Scotch’, Russia’s rising fast (+29.05%) but still represents less than 7% of Germany. China +46.45% and Hong Kong +108.49%! Brazil +110% but figures remain tiny. India remains very, very low as well but we know there are a few die-hard enthusiasts over there. Same with South Africa. Now, some figures matter even more to us at WF Towers: maybe you do remember we used to have one reader from the Vatican, whom had left after a few years. I’m happy to report that apparently, he’s back. Hallelujah!

Love - Serge

Now let’s move on and taste a few drams if you don’t mind…


Celebrating Whiskyfun’s 12 Years
with five symbolic drams

It’s not been easy to select a few drams to celebrate Whiskyfun’s 12 years. Verticales of old Macallans, Bowmores or Ardbegs? Nah, too obvious. Contemporary luxury bottlings? No way, too boring! Just any newish whiskies? Come on, twelve years! So why not try a funny – albeit very unlikely - selection of a few ‘symbolic’ bottles, such as these?... 

Allt-A-Bhainne 13 yo 1979/1993 (43%, The Whisky Castle Tomintoul, cask #026329)

Allt-A-Bhainne 13 yo 1979/1993 (43%, The Whisky Castle Tomintoul, cask #026329) You may think it’s a strange idea to taste this one, but I’ve got three good reasons. First, The Whisky Castle in Tomintoul was the first whisky shop I ever visited, around 1980. Second, this particularly naïve label used to be showcased in the first pages of the first French edition of Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion I ever bought. I remember the great man did not like it at all, so I’ve always been thinking ‘I’d love to try it too!’ And third, Allt-A-Bhainne is a very humble and understated name, which I find quite refreshing in these noisy days.

Colour: straw. Nose: an old style ultra-grassy and porridgy Speysider from a tired cask. Today, most bottlers would do a finishing on such a cask, or dump it into a blend. Cardboard, dust, damp oatcakes from last week (or month), stale beer, aspirin tablets, hay… Not the best part, let’s hope the palate will be better. Mouth: a little more to my liking, but here is a soapiness in the arrival, more cardboard, more porridge… Nah, frankly, it’s not good. I usually try to rather write ‘I don’t like it’, but as I doubt anybody will like this baby, I’d say it’s simply not good and that’s not just a matter of taste. Finish: a little short, always on the same cardboardish notes. The soap is back in the aftertaste, together with some stale pepper. Comments: I humbly think MJ has been a little too kind with his 73 points, but there, I tried this baby too! Cheers MJ! SGP:261 - 65 points.


Clan-An-Ghael Scotch Whisky (Blayney & Co, +/-1930?)

Clan-An-Ghael Scotch Whisky (Blayney & Co, +/-1930?) Four stars and a half I chose this baby first because it’s totally unknown, so in a way an anti-Auriverdes (I know what I’m trying to say), and second, because one of the guys who inspired me the most when I started Whiskyfun was François Audouze, a French wine freak who used to publish tasting notes for old and rare wines only, rather than new ‘commercial’ wines that everyone could find – whatever the bottlers are trying to make us believe. So this baby’s a very old Scotch, probably a blend but it could be pure malt, most possibly from between the two World Wars (early two-part welded bottle, few small bubbles in the glass), by a famous wine and spirits merchant in Newcastle upon Tyne that disappeared a long time ago.

Check the funny old advert that was published in the London Monitor in 1903, it’s interesting to see that there were four categories, from the cheapest to the most expensive: malt whisky, fine malt whisky, old Highland malt whisky and liqueur whisky. I’ve also seen other teasers such as ‘King Bacchus Never Tasted a More Delicious Nectar’, or, in 1914, ‘A General Election There May Be, But The General Opinion is That Blayney’s Clan-na-Ghael Is in The Very Front Rank of Whiskies.’ Or better yet, ‘Refreshes The Anatomy.’ Or, in 1915, ‘So Far The Great War Has Not Affected Whisky. Our Famous Clan-Na-Ghael, For Flavour And Quality, Is The Finest Whisky Yet Produced. Clan-Na-Ghael is British, And That Means It Is The Best.’


Colour: gold. Nose: dry, and tertiary at the same time. In fact it’s as dry as the Allt-A-Bhainne, and probably just as grassy, but what’s behind that is much more complex. Notes of old garage (you know, engine oil, tar, old tools and such), menthol cigarettes, quite some cured ham, newspaper-of-the-day (new ink, paper), then hints of new rubber boots and coal smoke, raw garden peat (not smoke), leaf mould… Mouth: another proof that old blends (very high malt content in this one, unless, again, it’s all malt) were much smokier and earthier than today, less smooth, less rounded… And rather more medicinal. I’d swear there’s some Laphroaig in this, or maybe it’s entirely Laphroaig, or any other peated malt. Why not Malt Mill? After all, Peter Mackie was trying to copy Laphroaig when he built Malt Mill within Lagavulin Distillery. Maybe this is Malt Mill single malt? And why not? Can you show me evidence that it’s not? ;-). Brilliant palate, just a little acrid and too grassy. Finish: very long, grassy, maybe a bit too metallic now. Comments: modal old unsweet whisky. Maybe from a legendary malt distillery that was closed even before WWII… Aahhhh, I’ll never know… SGP:364 - 88 points.

Banff 1975/2013 (43.7%, Malts of Scotland for Dram Brothers and Vinotek Massen, Luxemburg, cask #MoS 13056, 72 bottles)

Banff 1975/2013 (43.7%, Malts of Scotland for Dram Brothers and Vinotek Massen, Luxemburg, cask #MoS 13056, 72 bottles) Five stars Why this baby? Because it’s a closed distillery, because the name’s always been ‘obscure’, because there are only a few die-hard Banff aficionados, because it was bottled by one of these wonderful and truly passionate German bottlers, and because it’s exactly what one would call ‘a hidden gem’. Mind you, finding hidden gems has always been at the heart of WF. Colour: gold. Nose: can a nose be ‘un-commercial’? I’m sure 90% of the general public would find this nose ‘off’, while only 2 or 3% will really love it. Imagine, old tin box, soot, rotting passion fruits, sweet mustard, vase water, dried kelp, mead, tomato leaves, chervil… Does that sound unlikely enough? And yet it’s a rather brilliant nose… You may even add notes of menthol, cedar wood and Armenian paper (or Carta d’Amrmenia).

Mouth: probably not as unlikely now, but finding notes of raspberry-flavoured mustard is quite uncommon indeed. Mirabelle syrup as well, café latte, a little caraway and then herbs liqueurs (Bénédictine), metal (it’s a bit steely), citrons, very ripe oranges and kumquats, ashes, old turpentine… The complexity is just amazing here, this is akin to a very great old white wine. And yet, it’s very un-commercial… Finish: not very long, but hugely complex, echoing the palate from the arrival to the end of the middle. Maybe a little more leathery? Comments: the terms ‘old glory’ may have been invented for these Banffs. It’s really like tasting the past. SGP:561 - 91 points.

Port Ellen 16 yo 1978/1994 (63.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, for Intertrade, CASK series, cask #2698)

Port Ellen 16 yo 1978/1994 (63.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, for Intertrade, CASK series, cask #2698) Four stars and a half I’m not sure I have to explain why I also selected this baby. Because it’s young Port Ellen, because it’s G&M, because it’s frighteningly strong, because it’s a rare bottle, because it was bottled for the pioneering Italians, and because this now defunct series used to shelter utter beasts. Colour: gold. Nose: it is not a very tarry one, and in that sense it’s rather the antithesis of the well-known Rare Malts from the same vintage. In fact, this is rather round, civilised, even mellow, with oranges and honey, cake, mead, plum pie… And it’s not even too strong! Granted, one can feel that something raw and coastal is sleeping in the background, but so far, it’s a gentle giant (remember that band?) With water: I wouldn’t say it becomes beastly, or ultra-phenolic, but indeed I now find seaweed, hessian, beach sand, engine oil… Little tar, though, it’s a gentle Port Ellen.

Mouth (neat): holy featherless crow! There it goes again, his is as estery and fruity as malt whisky can be, and both peat and tar are almost absent. Orange drops, jellybabies, marshmallows, lime juice… Is that possible? Or is it only the very high strength? Let’s see… With water: a little more pepper and a little more peat again, but more oranges as well, more sweets, fruit liqueurs… Finish: quite long, very fruity and jammy. Cranberry juice, oranges, even raspberries… Comments: this is extremely unusual for Port Ellen, in a way it’s to PE what Blasda was to Ardbeg. Except that this PE is much, much bigger than Blasda. I’m glad I could try it, it’s a true Anniversary Dram. SGP:644 - 89 points.

And a last one if you please…

Clynelish 21 yo 1965/1986 (86 US proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers Sacramento, USA)

Clynelish 21 yo 1965/1986 (86 US proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers Sacramento, USA) Five stars I’m wondering if I really need to tell you why I chose this one. It’s ‘old’ Clynelish – later rechristened Brora, it’s utterly rare, and it should be totally stunning. It’s possibly the same juice as that of the Cadenhead/Sestante/Mainardi ‘yellow brick label’, but that one was bottled at 46% vol. while this one was reduced to the equivalent of 43% vol. Not too sure. Colour: full gold. Nose: makes you cry. First, it’s big, fat malt whisky. And second, there’s literally an avalanche of all thing oily, metallic and earthy. At complete and utter random, there’s old copper coins, old tools, engine oil, ‘grandma’s old tin boxes’, old well-cared-of leather jacket, soot, cigar ashes, a beach after the rain, tar and liquorice (the beloved black compadres), fresh asparagus, roasted chestnuts, old turpentine, mud… And thousands of other tinier notes. Dry but flabbergastingly complex!

Mouth: makes you keep crying. Absolutely stunning, now with more fruits and spices. What I find first is praline, hazelnut liqueur (quite uncommon in whisky, but very vivid here) and chocolate. Then various oranges, kumquats, bergamots and such. And then a zillion tiny spices and bits of just any matter, from earth to heavenly ones, including holy smokes. Look, you’d better call the anti-maltoporn brigade RIGHT NOW. Finish: almost eternal. At 43% vol.! Fabulous aftertaste on orange blossom water, chocolate and cigar ashes – but can there be an aftertaste when the finish is eternal? Discuss! Comments: this is just smoky/coastal perfection. Whisky’s Zauberflöte. No, it’s not whisky, it’s ueberwhisky. Metawhisky. I’m really sorry about the fact that it’s going to be very hard for you to try this whisky too, and I do hope you’re happy with a bit of vicariousness. Honestly, I’m very sorry. And very embarrassed. But hey, today Whiskyfun is 12 and let me know solemnly declare that this flabbergasting Old Clynelish is Whiskyfun’s official 12th Anniversary Dram! ;-). SGP:664 - 98 big fat points.

Post-Scriptum – It appears that Diageo decided to celebrate WF’s 12th year by expanding Clynelish Distillery. The old one used to shelter two cylinders, the new one six, and there will be six more added in the near future. A twelve cylinder distillery for WF's twelve years, hurray! (yup that would be stills). A link here.

(With many mercis to Diego, Max, Phil, Simon and Thomas)







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