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

February 10, 2014


Tasting Duo

  The Tandem Sessions
Or the joys of trying rare whisky with a co-taster and yet good friend, on location in Scotland.
Today: a bunch with Jon, Patrick, Olivier, Hans, Angus and Phil.

Port Ellen 14 yo 1974/1988 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante) Five stars With Jon. We’ve already tried several 1974s by G&M but none at 43%. Colour: gold (Tuscan sunset – ha). Nose: an approachable Port Ellen, classic mid-seventies, with oysters, seashore, tincture of iodine and only little tar or heavy oils.

Port Ellen Jon

Yellow plums and green melon, salty pebbles, touches of fresh cardamom, green peppercorn in brine, then more and more hessian and paraffin. Smoky bandages ;-), embrocations, a little chlorophyll, cold ashes, lemon wax, preserved lemons Morrocan-style… Globally rather elegant and delicate for Port Ellen. Mouth: salty lapsang souchong with drops of lemon and oyster juices. Big ashiness and smokiness, chiselled, barbecue sauce, hickory smoke, rocket and peppery watercress, getting more kippery, with also smoked mussels and hints of flambéed pineapple. And the notoriously unknown clabbie dubh. Rather silky mouth feel. Finish: not huge but with nice grapefruit and liquid smoke. Tea-ish aftertaste. Comments: pure pleasure but it’s also not overly complex and maybe a little dry. SGP:356 - 90 points.

Tally Ho Blend (70°proof, A.A. Muirhead, 1960s?) Five stars With Angus. A very weird bottle bearing an Italian tax seal from the 1950s, a shiny black plastic cap, a bottle code from the early seventies and a charming 1920s-style label. No wonder Angus bought it ;-). Colour: Scottish suntan. Nose: we think it’s very Taliskerish and we cannot not wonder if it isn’t actually Talisker. Maybe did the funny name hint at that?

Takky Ho

Beautiful cigary smoke, very clean, with dry wood spices, winter spices, seaweed, old tarry ropes, a dockside and maybe salty lemons or something. Blood oranges, maybe a little wild strawberries… Quite punchy at 70 proof, good staying power. More extravagant raisins after a few minutes, dried dark fruits, a little pine resin or perhaps retsina… Wonderful.  Mouth: big delivery, starts peppery ala Talisker indeed, punchy, quite fat, resinous, with marmalade, crystallised orange peel, a little sesame oil, mint-flavoured liquorice, earth, just a little rancio… All very fantastic. Finish: long, zesty and kind of dirty (forresty dirt), with all previous flavours flashing back. Comments: a huge surprise and a mystery but it’s phenolmenal whisky. SGP:564 – 92 points.

The Dragon 1973 (56.4%, Robertson, +/-1990) Five stars With Olivier. There are several versions of this famous undisclosed Highland Park, esp. two lovely 1973s (unless that would be three?) It’s the first time we’re having this one, but one at 56.6% was superb (WF 93).

Dragon Olivier

Colour: rich amber (Angus, who’s passing by, says ‘rusted fuselage’). Nose: starts right on ripe tropical fruits with a little honeydew and ‘ideas’ of fennel, as well as quite some cut hay, encaustic, beeswax… Slightly prickly, with also a little tar, tarry/smoky ropes, touches of peat, cold tobacco ashes… It’s all very elegant and pure. Keeps going on with some rancio, mildly sour fruits, tangerines… Nutshell, firm yet very fine and elegant. Mouth: slightly leathery arrival, all being powerful and lively, without any heaviness, the sherry being very ‘accurate’ and clean. No rancio this time but a lovely woodiness (cigar box, cedar wood), this light smokiness… At the fruits department we have a little quince but the whole remains dry and pretty malty. Some shoe polish, more wax, smoke, dried orange zests… Light tannicity. Compact rather than wide. Kind of cigary (?) Finish: long, pleasantly drying and woody. Liquorice, pepper, ginger and tea in the aftertaste. Comments: a very nice yet slightly challenging sherried expression of HP that lets the original distillate shine through. ‘Respectful sherry’ says Olivier. SGP:463 – 91 points.

Cape Wrath (70% proof, bottled for Cape Wrath Hotel in Inverness, 1930s) Four stars and a half With Patrick. Or maybe 1940s. One of the pleasantly unlikely and extremely rare whiskies our friend Patrick is famous for ;-). Not too sure this is a blend, but it should be. The Cape Wrath Hotel doesn’t exist anymore. Colour: gold.

Cape Wrath

Nose: incredibly ample at barely 40% vol, without any weak spots, with some honey and motor oil (and many other oils, very ‘old style’), a little dust, a little metal, old papers, ‘old peat’, old books, some mint, dried herbs such as tarragon, peppermint tea… Not straight OBE though, it remained fresh, clean and crisp. The smoke comes out more and more (fireplace after the ski – ha.) Mouth: starts very creamy, on mint, apple peelings, apricot liqueur, old yellow chartreuse and heather honey. Extremely well balanced, soft, slightly Sauternes-y. Also cashew nuts coming through after a while. Finish: not extremely long but gentle and very elegant. Gently fades away. Comments: very elegant. The customers at the Cape Wrath, while being probably all dead, had it good. SGP:541 - 88 points.

Mortlach 1938 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, +/-1985) Four stars With Hans. We’ve already tried the 50yo decanter, but never this ‘regular’ version bearing the famous eagle label. Our friend Hans Ekström is helping this time. Colour: rich gold. Nose: lovely mentholated nose, with a little burnt wood and whiffs of coal smoke.


Some thuja wood too, more heavy liquorice, raisins, pine needles, touches of liquorice wood, cigar boxes, cloves, vetiver, chocolate… Very typical. Mouth: some maple syrup, liquorice, fudge and mint liqueur, then touches of coal again, this very particular tar, some leather (new shoes). Tends to become much drier, with a lot of cocoa powder, slightly chalky, more camphory as well. Cloves. Finish: medium length, rather drying, quite chocolaty. Charcoal tablets in the aftertaste. Comments: lovely nose and arrival, the rest was a notch too dry and sooty. SGP:462 – 87 points.

Dufftown-Glenlivet ‘SS Wallachia’ (Peter Dawson, Scotch Whisky, sunken 1895 in the Clyde) With Patrick. The distillery’s name is embossed in the bottom of the bottle, but there aren’t any pieces of label left of course. This one was retrieved by sport divers from the wreck of the SS Wallachia, a cargo ship that sank in the firth of Clyde on September 25, 1895 after having been rammed in the bows by a Norwegian steamer.


We had tried another whisky from the same shipwreck, a Robert Brown that had remained kind of fresh and clean after more than 100 years under 34 metres of dirty water. But this one is another bottle, with a dark glass that’s seemingly covered with a thin layer of tar… Colour: gold. Nose: some kind of stale diesel oil mixed with rotten cabbage, Chinese 1000 years old eggs, long forgotten Japanese nato, durian, surströmming, decomposing flesh and rotting floated wood. Also burnt tyres. Utterly awful, makes you cry. Instantly. Mouth: burnt plastic, rotten mud, dead animals of many kinds including aquatic (of course), rotten cabbage, sludge, rust… And death. Finish: totally foul. Fading traces of damned souls. Comments: utter abomination. Probably toxic. Please call our lawyers. SGP:022 – minus 20 points.Honest.


Probably Talisker (bottled or received 1913, Berry Bros & Co) Five stars

With Phil. The bottle comes from Trelissick House, Cornwall, and the data could be found in the cellar’s records. No label left but it was Berry’s old ‘barrel label’. The company wasn’t named Berry Bros & Rudd yet. This could well be 1885 Talisker according to company records and old Berry price lists, but we haven’t any dead proof. Colour: gold. Nose: starts with bitter almonds and linseed oil, as well as a little peppermint, oily hessian, fresh pine resin, Demerara sugar and touches of ‘good’ detergent....

Probably Talisker (bottled or received 1913, Berry Bros & Co)

Fresh wet bracken, both earthy and floral, a little rye beer, elderberries… Also cigars and hints of sandalwood, barley sugar, damson. The longer you wait the more sweetness you get. Also very tough pear (calvados pears). Just superb. Mouth: very punchy, drier than expected, smoky, earthy and woody, a notch acrid but in a nice way, with many herbal liqueurs, deep fried sage, fried baby capers… It’s really some kind of drier old bénédictine or chartreuse. Lovely dustiness Also touches of roots. More and more peppermint and wax, it just never stops developing, never losing steam. Bitter grapefruit liqueur. Amazing and perfectly dry like many old malts used to be.

Finish: Geert, who’s assisting, says good. Thank you Geert. We say sweet red fruits, around red currents, pomegranates. Sweet and dry and the same time. More white pepper in the aftertaste, as well as something slightly spirity. After all these years! Comments: fantastic, with a very long development, which is amazing after all these years. Could well be some triple distilled, mildly peated Talisker indeed (as Talisker used to be in those days). SGP:462 – 91 points (but emotional score 99).

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