Google Remembering Michael Jackson on his birthday

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

March 27, 2021



Happy International Whisk(e)y Day!

Every year since 2008, the original, truly non-commercial International Whisk(e)y Day celebrates the birthday of the late Michael Jackson, eternal king of whisky writing. Today raise a glass to Michael Jackson and please help fight Parkinson's Disease!

I would add that I'm proud that we could raise £4,470 for Parkinson's UK with the sale of Whiskyfun's cask of Kornog earlier this year, and would suggest you donate, say the price of a lousy blend to this very worthy cause yourself, in remembrance of Michael Jackson.
Cheers, pace e salute! - S.





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Remembering Michael Jackson on his birthday
I met Michael Jackson only once, at Whisky Live Glasgow in 2005. I was only 19 at the time and yet I remember the conversation very clearly.


I introduced myself and informed him I was a fan of his writing and what sticks in my head most of all is that he listened to what I had to say and took the time to answer. He also asked me some questions in return and was generous with his time in a way he didn't need to be. He took time and paid attention and was completely charming and authentic. Someone who clearly loved whisky and beer as an enthusiast first and foremost.



The lasting impression for me is that he was a writer, and a man, with humility and not too much ego. Someone who was interested in people as much as in their products, unfussy and genuinely curious. It was a long way from any number of other whisky 'people' I've encountered over the years who have been boringly wrapped up in their own legend. I wish I'd known him properly and had occasion to share a dram with him and talk at length. But, as it is, he left a lasting and important legacy in the way we write about whisky, and the language and systems of communication we use to describe it.



Seeing as today is his birthday, let's begin with two of Scotland's newest single malts. It strikes me that, if he were still with us, he'd be just as excited as many of us continue to be about whisky and the promising times ahead for those of us interested in quality and characterful single malts.



Torabhaig 2017/2020 (46%, OB, Inaugural Release, Legacy Series, first fill bourbon, cask #300-600, 32,000 bottles)

Torabhaig 2017/2020 (46%, OB, Inaugural Release, Legacy Series, first fill bourbon, cask #300-600, 32,000 bottles)
To tell you the truth, life must be passing me by in a blur; I hardly even knew there was another distillery on Skye, let along that it was of age already. Anyway, I think it's cool that they would release such a large batch for their first bottling so that many folks could actually taste it. I've heard nothing but good reports about this one but let's see what, precisely, is what… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: look, I know Skye only has Talisker besides this, but there is something 'Skye-ish' about this already. This assertive but polite mix of yeasty breads, lemon peel, chalk, white flowers and wet rocks all feels like it could pass for some young Talisker. There's a mineral edge as well, chalky, briny, salty, flinty and precise. Really, three years old you say? Mouth: taut, pristine and rather sharp. Lemon juice, sheep wool, lighter petrol notes, caraway and ink. Not just good young whisky, but good whisky full stop. Feels very pure, coastal and saline. Some very slight farmyard aspects too, such as this persistent sheep wool oiliness, and some nice white peppery notes. Finish: good length, briny, anchovies in oil, a slight camphor note and becoming more medical with embrocations and a little TCP. Some more gristy and yeasty aspects in the aftertaste betray some youthful imbalance perhaps. Comments: pristine, modern peated malt whisky. Are we perhaps entering an age where many such malts can easily reach a baseline of quality after only 3 years? I still find this charismatic and feel like time will only improve things. What a great start for a new distillery, I can't wait to go up and visit!
SGP: 366 - 86 points.



Dornoch 3 yo 2017/2020 (59.4%, OB, Thompson bros. first fill ex-oloroso butt, cask #1, 893 bottles)
Dornoch 3 yo 2017/2020 (59.4%, OB, Thompson bros. first fill ex-oloroso butt, cask #1, 893 bottles)

Dornoch 3 yo 2017/2020 (59.4%, OB, Thompson bros. first fill ex-oloroso butt, cask #1, 893 bottles)
The first bottling from some great friends who have made an unequivocally impressive achievement with their crazy micro distillery up there in Dornoch. When I talk about the coming decade of whisky being an exciting one, these are exactly the type of folk I'm referring to. Colour: gold. Nose: what is great is that you immediately know this is something different. It is not 'business as usual' whisky production. There's some sharpness of youth and some grisliness from the sherry that time might have further ironed out, but this is nit picking. What comes through most impressively is aromas of moss, agave, roasted vegetables (they like their turnips up there in Dornoch) clay, putty, camphor and caraway. Mashy, pulpy, mineral, greasy and oily. In short: the impression of texture and fatness is huge and impressive: a 'new' highlands style perhaps? Quite unlike anything else really. With water: more harmony between the spirit and the cask, the slightly salty, bacon notes of sherry mix with marzipan and almond oil. There's also fruit teas and hessian. Mouth: sharp to begin, then extremely bready and spicy, the sherry and distillate together delivery a lot of rye bread flavours and dark fruits. Also some bitter chocolate, unlit cigar, camphor, olive oil and bouillon stock. With water: very good now. Salty, wonderfully savoury and umami, these persistent breads, dark grains and spices, still slightly vegetal, earthy and with nice tobacco touches. Finish: long, spicy, bready, light notes of cured meats such as Iberico ham, and some tiny wee green fruits. Comments: what is important to remember here is that this really is the first cask filled. To get things this good on a first go and at three years old is hugely impressive in some ways. But in other ways perhaps it says a lot too about the fact that making good whisky is not technically mysterious - you simply need willpower, understanding and a business model designed around the value of quality over quantity. Oh, and a shit load of cash helps too! Anyway, bunnets aff' to the Thompsons…
SGP: 651 - 88 points.



If you don't mind, we'll also pay a quick visit to Campbeltown. After all, when it comes to whisky, looking to the future is best done with one eye on the past…



Springbank 26 yo 1993/2020 (51.1%, OB for Virtual Open Day 2020, two refill hogsheads, 432 bottles)

Springbank 26 yo 1993/2020 (51.1%, OB for Virtual Open Day 2020, two refill hogsheads, 432 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: some 93s are a bit wobbly in my view, but that is certainly not the case here. A stunning and direct aroma bristling with coastal freshness, waxes, beach pebbles, chalk, herbal teas and delicately scented with peat smoke. Pin sharp and totally sublime. With water: medicines, herbs, beach wood, canvass, rapeseed oil, lemongrass, tiger balm. Controlled, yet also complex. We're flying extremely high here. Mouth: totally brilliant! Textually perfect, waxy, thready notes of smoked olive oil, camphor, sandalwood, tea tree oil, bergamot, tangerine, dried papaya, generally a few notches more tropical than other casks from these vintages. But overall the sense of coastal vigour, waxy thickness and general Springbank power is just wonderful. With water: exquisite. Complex, powerful, elegantly peaty, perfectly coastal, chiselled notes of dried flowers, honeys, medicines, wood saps, precious teas. Finish: long, warming, honeyed, flecked with peat, olive oil, natural tar, verbena, medical ointments and sandalwood. Comments: a stunner! Probably the best 1993 Springbank I ever tried.
SGP: 563 - 93 points.



Longrow 1987/1999 (55%, Samaroli, cask #141)

Longrow 1987/1999 (55%, Samaroli, cask #141)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: take one part 70s Ardbeg, one part 80s Brora and one part 90s Springbank and… sell them at auction!!!! No, I'm kidding. But this is a nose that immediately suggests some kind of distillery mash up. Stunning oily and tarry peat, leathery camphor, seawater, iodine, fir wood and this medicinal accent that shares much DNA with those mid-90s Springbanks. Beyond that there's also tiny notes of coconut, roof pitch, Bonjella (medicine for mouth ulcers, I know, delicious!) and smoked fish. With water:  extremely pure now, on almonds, wet seaweed, driftwood, oysters and lime slices in pickling juice. Mouth: not as complex as the nose. More singular around tarry rope, oily peat, boiler fumes, black pepper, motor oil, camphor and salt-baked fish. Powerful and immensely charismatic, there's no other whisky quite like Longrow when it is on top form! With water: some kind of dystopian Monster Munch doused in kerosine. Totally brilliant! Finish: long, peaty, deeply oily, tarry, medicinal, crisply smoky and totally its own thing. Comments: because I don't try it very often, and because it can be variable on occasion, it's easy to forget just how much I bloody love Longrow!
SGP: 476 - 93 points.



Longrow 25 yo 1994/2020 (52.1%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 186 bottles)
Longrow 25 yo 1994/2020 (52.1%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 186 bottles)

Longrow 25 yo 1994/2020 (52.1%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 186 bottles)
Let us humbly try this without thinking too much about a certain North Star bottling which may or may not have been totally stunning… Colour: gold. Nose: gah! Stunning, yet again. Please prepare you smallest violins if you will. Exquisitely coastal, elegant, riddled with bandages, gauze, medicinal-accented peat smoke, touches of brine, dried seaweed, metal polish, iodine and shellfish boiling in seawater. You might also add smoked olive oil, preserved lemons, natural tar extract and sandalwood. Totally beautiful. With water: a guttural, gravelly minerality, also some green pepper and muddled fresh herbs. So, added freshness you might say. Mouth: immensely rich, mouth-coating and with a sublimely leathery peatiness. Tar, pepper, medicine, seawater, camphor, grapefruit, ointments, herbal liqueurs - just show-stopping. With water: it's the depth and breadth of the palate simultaneously expanding that is so impressive. Just keeps on giving and evolving. Finish: wonderfully long, oily, peaty, medical, fat and yet also still with freshness, citrus, coal smoke and seashore notes. Comments: if today's session were a poker hand, let's just say I'd happily be putting Serge's Aston Martin keys in the pot without hesitation!
SGP: 466 - 93 points.



Three times 93! I suspect Mr Jackson would have found that far too generous as he was a notoriously strict scorer. But then again, I wonder what he'd have made of many modern NAS bottlings today?



Big hugs to Andy and Catriona! And here's to Michael Jackson. 










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