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Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2004 - Part 2
       
               
December 2004 - part 1 <--- December 2004 - part 2 ---> January 2005 - part 1
 
December 31, 2004

TASTING – THE ULTIMATE HEAD to HEAD SESSION FOR THE VERY LAST DAY OF 2004

Loch Dhu 10 yo (40%, OB) Yes, a true legend, that goes for £150 in some circles! I rated this legend from Mannochmore 55 points last time I tasted it, so let’s see whether my score can be lifted this time. Colour: coffee, with a reddish hue. Nose: a strange mix of raspberry jam and cold coffee at first nosing. Not utterly disgusting, I must say. Develops on Christmas cake, Chinese plum sauce (the one they serve with the Peking duck), black toffee, coffee drops, Tia Maria…  

It all starts quite well in fact, but alas it then gets a little too sour. But in a whole, the nose is much nicer than expected. Yes, Serge talking. Mouth: well, now it’s getting really worse! Bitter attack, on burnt sugar, cold espresso, cheap black toffee. It gets really too drying, and going on would be really too painful now, I'm sorry. Okay, the nose is somewhat interesting, but the palate is catastrophic, really. I wouldn’t call this Loch Dhu a swill, but I can’t go any further than, say 49 points this time. Next time I’ll try it on ice – or in a sauce?
Cu Dhub (40%, OB)
This time it’s the Speyside distillery who’s in command. Well, sort of. Colour: mahogany, quite lighter than the Loch Dhu. Nose: starts quite weirdly, on overcooked coffee and cheap perfume, with some smoke – some smoke from an exhaust pipe, that is. Pear drops, orange marmalade… Not ‘too’ bad in fact but the bigger problems are soon to arrive, with some strange notes of stale Campari, Schweppes, ‘chemical’ orange juice (Tang), cheap grapefruit juice, bubblegum, grape juice… Lots of aromas you don’t usually find in a single malt, in fact. Funny, yes, it’s funny… but almost disgusting as well! Mouth: ouch! Weak and watery attack, on old vase water. Develops on all sorts of ‘chemical’ tastes: Nutrasweet, cheap sweets, rotten orange zest, American restaurant coffee at the end of the day, burnt butter… Yuck! Now, this one is a swill! Finally, the Loch Dhu has found its evil master, it appears! He he he… 35 points.
Next time I'll oppose Glen Kella 'The White Whisky' and an old White Duck. Not sure 'black' isn't nicer, to be honest...

MUSIC - Recommended listening - in the mood for some high-speed 'electrified bluegrass, garage country, and Appalachian punkabilly'? I'm sure you'll answer you could not have waited any longer, won't you? Try Boston based band '3 Day Threshold' playing Whiskey, you're the Devil (mp3) then. Energetic - and to be enjoyed while sipping Loch Dhu or Cu Dhub!  
  SPECIAL RECIPE - After Sandy's clootie dumpling flambé with Brora 30yo, my good old friend Paul Adam just sent me this new recipe of the Fondue Savoyarde with Old Potrero 2 yo (old indeed).
Mind you, the whisky's not been used as an ingredient, but as the necessary combustible. In fact, The recipe is very easy: 1. pour some Old Potrero into the burner instead of industrial alcohol and light. 2. prepare your mix with Swiss cheese, white wine, kirsch, pepper and nutmeg and put it onto the burner. Let it melt: it's ready. Bon appétit! By the way, that would probably work with any high-proof malt as well, like for instance Port Ellen 22 yo 1978 rare Malts or Brora 22 yo 1972 Rare Malts, but maybe all these phenols will then clog the burner...
 
December 30, 2004

NICK MORGAN'S M.A.W. 2004 - By Nick Morgan

"Nick” said Serge, “The reviews they are ok for the website, but we Maniacs need more than these silly words and pictures. Where are the stars and scores? Where are the points and prizes? Without these we cannot see truth, we cannot sense beauty”. Well, “Bah humbug” says I. But with an unusually seasonal gesture of goodwill to The Hooded Ones, here’s my 2004 NM Music Awards Winners.

  Gig of the Year
With a long list to choose from – and some excellent performances – it just has to be Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Brixton Academy. It was hard to see much wrong on the night – power- emotion- velocity – and a tight, tight band. Ace !
Gig of the Year that wasn’t reviewed on Whiskyfun
This one provoked much debate amongst the judges – but in the end the winner by a long-neck was John Prine, who delivered 50 minutes of still-non-conformist-after-all-of-these-years country perfection in a circus tent in Finsbury Park in June. “I wrote this song about the Vietnam War when I was a boy and never thought I need to play it again …’till now…” Heaven (how many points is that Serge?)
 
  Most Irritating Performer
Sorry – but without exception the judges found for Sarah Slean, supporting Ron Sexsmith in London and Victoria (with her band). Just when the world had thought it was safe to go outside after Kate Bush we get this! Nice voice, some decent tunes, but somewhere in the personality mixing-pot a disaster. No stars. 41 points. Ouch!
On-stage Nutter of the Year
A hybrid category that provokes affection, fear, and loathing. Strong contenders were Larry Love (we saw him with his acoustic Show Band at Dingwalls as well as with the A3), D. Wayne Love, Jah Wobble, and of course, Jon Ottway. But way ahead of the field was Edgar Winter, supporting an avuncular and still quite fast-fingered Alvin Lee at the Albert Hall. Edgar was dressed like an extra from an early episode of Star Trek, and, blind to the totally geriatric nature of his audience, strode like a giant across the stage assailing us with “LONDON ARE YOU READY TO ROCK !!!!” every few minutes – particularly during the twenty painful minutes when his keyboard failed to work. For self-belief, self-deception and self-confidence in the face of absolute adversity, Edgar the award goes to you with honours.
 
  Performer You Would Most Like Your Daughter to Bring Home
The shy, sensitive, singer-songwriter and General Troubadour Ron Sexsmith. Ron, you’re welcome any time Mate. And don’t forget to bring the Telecaster …
Performer You Would Never Want Your Daughter to be Seen Out With
Despite a strong push from Blues Tyro Jon Spencer (“We Are The Blues Explosion”) it’s a team award to those nasty old men of rock and roll, The Bad Seeds. Today’s youth could learn a lot from these middle-aged musical mayhem makers.
 
  Da Bling Special Award for the most bejewelled performer
To Mike Love of the Beach Boys. Thanks Mike, for showing us where our thirty-five quids were going to. 50 carats.
The Best Concert I Missed
Hard to say. The conformists all wowed to Brian Wilson (again – yawn!). We tried hard for seats for Tom Waits but eventually got a little disheartened when even ‘my people’ were telling me that this had turned out to be the celebrity gig of the year – loyal Waitsters simply priced off the market by the A-B-C-D list celebs who just had to be seen there.
 
The teenage reviewers thought it was fad and generally the best thing since sliced-bread – like the new album – which led me to believe that they’d never heard or seen Tom Waits before. I’m told Steve Earle played a great, though understandably low-key gig the week after the USA Presidential Elections. But for all their immature vulgarity the band I most missed this year were Kings of Leon; fired by the impetuosity of youth these boys are flying. So Kings – the prize is yours – come back next year please.
  Album of the Year
Simple. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. As I can’t write proper, here’s a quote from a review I found on the web which despite its artsy bollocks prose says it all: “Abattoir Blues and The Lyre of Orpheus are so strong, so above-the-bar, that they represent an ascension to a new abstract plane of creativity. In their evocations of sin and redemption, lust and love, nature and religion, Cave and the Bad Seeds have unleashed a contentious vision of sound and fury. It's a palette as dense and complicated as life itself, a gauge of our fears, hopes, and absurdities. With Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus, Nick Cave leads us into temptation and delivers us from evil. Amen.” Cor Baby! Plot that on a medals matrix if you can.
Best Re-released Album
Amidst another year of more Nick Drake nonsense – when will this insanity end? – the star re-release was a remastered Mr Wonderful by Fleetwood Mac – that’s the real Fleetwood Mac rather than the ‘pure’ version. For me this has always been the most complete of their offerings – before Peter Green went bonkers and took the band that way with him. With original sleeve-notes by the late John Peel (he really did get everywhere didn’t he?), musings from Mike Vernon on the recording of the album (in a day!) and a few bonus tracks, it’s a real treat for British Blues aficionados. Only problem is that despite a release date of February Sony have made this CD almost impossible to buy. So thanks Santa – you get a prize for this one too.
 
  Nicest Album
Good old Atlantic Records sessions mesiters and star performers brought together to produce The Country Soul Review’s Testifying. Play it, play it, and play it again. It’s just nice. And if there was a packaging award these guys would have won it too. Great design and materials, artfully constructed, and (would you believe?) made in England. 97 points.
Best Album by an artiste I hadn’t really known about before
Aimee Mann’s 2002 Lost in Space. A really interesting piece about her in the normally nauseating Nick Hornby’s 31 Songs (after all that trash he manages to produce a decent book), and then she pop’s up singing on Jim White’s Drill a hole … And I would also recommend Bachelor No. 2. Serge likes these pretty ladies who sing like angels too, so we’ll call this one the Valentin Award. Well done Amy !
 
  Most Politically Incorrect Album track of 2004
On Steve Earle’s excellent Revolution Starts Now, ‘Condi, Condi’. If you haven’t heard it then listen now and get ready to laugh. Steve, it’s so naughty its nice – but now she’s the most powerful woman in the United States will your life ever be the same???? Five star award. And finally …..
The Non-Plus-Ultra Award
To Jim White. For a studio perfect gig in Islington, and then a truly idiosyncratic solo-show at the Bush Hall. For 2004’s quite excellently weird Drill a hole in that substrate and tell me what you see. For ‘Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi’ (from 2001’s No Such Place) – just a song without compare. And for being such a dammed nice fellow too. Jim – it’s simply privilege to hand this year's NPU to you …And that’s it from me.
 
Off to Scotland now, so unless we catch a cool gig in Inverary at Hogmany (don’t hold your breath folks) no more ‘till mid January 2005. Thanks Serge! - Nick
 

TASTING - TWO GREAT OLDIES

Harrods 12 yo (70 proof, G&M, from Speyside distilleries, bottled early 1970’s)
Another dram poured by Valentino Zagatti. It’s very classical, beautifully balanced. Quite some peat (Mr Zagatti would say ‘molto torbato’) and lots of elegant sherry. All sorts of dried fruits. Gets quite waxy. So great! I’m wondering if today’s ‘Harrods’ whiskies are as great as this stunner. 90 points.

Dalmore 20 yo (43%, OB, bottled 1971)
Nose: very special. Lots of roasted coffee beans and fresh herbs (dill, celery). Gets then quite meaty (smoked ham, beef bouillon). Some soy sauce too… Mouth: very medicinal, with lots of wax, old turpentine, natural varnish, camphor. The finish is very long, getting just a little bitter. Another blast from the past. 91 points.
 
MUSIC - Recommended listening - star of the blues and 'undisputed Earth Mother' Etta James sings Take it to the Limits (mp3 - live). Just fabulous! Must have been a hell of a set!    
   
 
December 29, 2004

ANTIQUARIAN JOTTING ON WHISKY

'Sandy Fawshawe', our new and occasional antiquarian correspondent just wrote:
It saddens me to note that the once common practise of ‘Flaming the Spirit’, gradually bastardised into that incendiary Yuletide celebration known to so many in the islands and coastal settlements of the remotest parts of Scotland, is now almost forgotten by all.
Its origins, of course, lay in the early experiments of John Damien, alchemist at the court of Richard IV of Scotland. Damien, keen to establish (or “proof”) the strength of the spirit he was working with devised the technique that was to become known as ‘Flaming the Spirit’, and still today sometimes referred to by Italian farming folk as ‘Ardente l'acqua di vita’.

 

Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601)
Of course what Damien was not to realise was the absolute importance of the host matter used to burn the spirit. Quite what Tycho Brahe was doing in Islay with a Clootie Dumpling in his hand on that auspicious night of 25th December 1478 (old style) still perplexes antiquarians around the globe, but without doubt this was both the turning point in the science of establishing (or ‘proofing’) both the strength and quality of spirit by fire, and in that annual Christmas ritual of ‘Combustin da cloot’, now so rarely performed.
Today of course we find ourselves relaying on prosaic and generally pedantic ‘tasting notes’ for a measure of the quality of a spirit. But then, it was the robustness of the flame, the depth of the colour, and the length of fire (“Quanto tempo da fiamma leccare” Brahe is alleged to have asked his young assistant that fateful ‘eve) that judged all.
  And so imagine my delight when a figure, bustling through the crisp and even snowfall on St Stephen’s day morn beckoned me from my cottage to witness the great ceremony revived, in a small byre hidden in a sequestered Glen. “Burn af’ your dram” (“Ustione af 'il vostro dram“) we called as the flames rose and we witnessed both a strong liquor and a pudding of stout heart at work – both testified to by the evidence of our tongues and senses a few minutes later.
So feel assured, dear readers, that the great traditions of whisky do linger on in the hearts and souls of the few. And hopefully as the months and years roll on I may bring your more instances of its rude survival despite the pressures of this modern world, which we all so despise. - Sandy (picture by Sandy)
Thank you, 'Sandy'. Not sure all your historical points are 100% correct, but at least all that is very funny - and besides, we can see that the Brora 30 yo OB burns like hell. Keep your notes coming, I'd say, but save the Brora for me. I can provide you with several other cask strength whiskies that might be more suitable to such a treatment. Well, unless you have it for free...
By the way, my old friend Paul just sent me another short - and new, and true - story about how to use Old Potrero. Yes, with a picture. Stay tuned!
TASTING - Dunglass 5 yo (40%, OB, Barton brands, 1970’s) This one was made by the same owners as Littlemill's, yet I'm not 100% sure it was the Dunglass single malt, i.e. the experimental malt they made in the seventies, together with the peated Dumbuck. Colour: white wine. Nose: light and very grainy, as expected. Gets quite grassy (hay, heavily sugared iced tea). Dried flowers, caramel, hints of praline. Mouth: aromatically weak, sweetish… Hints of lavender ice cream, pear juice, apple juice. Rather long, and slightly peppery finish. Not so bad, in the same vein as the Glen Grant 5yo. 72 points  
  MUSIC - Recommended listening - Slither Hither (mp3) by Soul-Junk. Hip hop isn't my cup of tea at all, but free jazz (often) and experimental music (sometimes) are, and Soul-Junk's work blends all that in a very interesting and pataphysical way. The art of collage is always thrilling when made with craft, and it's the case here. Listen to it, perhaps you won't make it to 1:00, but it's going to be interesting, at least. Something (rather) new, at last!
 
December 28, 2004
  MUSIC - Recommended listening: The Jeni Fleming Trio plays the standard Invitation (mp3 - beware, it's jazz ;-). Very, very special, and very, very nice. Wow! Please buy their music if you like it.

TASTING - THREE CLYNELISHES

Clynelish 10 yo (43%, James McArthur, Fine Malt Selection) Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh, maritime and fruity, with some lavender perfume. Very clean. Mouth: again, fresh and clean, perhaps a little spirity, even prickly. Quite close to a newmake, with very little wood influence. The finish isn’t too long, and quite grainy. 78 points.
Clynelish 28 yo 1976/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission IV, 600 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: some great sherry, with some waxy notes and some turpentine. A little oily. Lots of crystallised kumquats and oranges. Very, very nice!

 
 

Mouth: the first mouthfeel is superb, with lots of tropical fruits a la 60’s Bowmore, passion fruits, pineapple juice, beeswax. Gets quite spicy (clove and pepper). The finish is long and bold… A great Clynelish! 90 points.

Clynelish 32 yo 1971 (55.5%, Jack & Jack Auld Distillers Collection) Colour: light straw. Nose: fresh, very flowery and delicate despite the high alcohol level. Extremely elegant and feminine, almost aerial. Lots of wild flowers, very ‘nectary’. Mouth: sweet yet rich and extremely satisfying, on honey, nectar, light caramel… Not overly complex but highly enjoyable. 91 points.

 
December 27, 2004
MUSIC - Recommended listening: very good country-rock Baltimore-born singer Amy Speace sings Idle hands (mp3). She offers lots of very nice mp3 songs on her website, cool! Too bad the photograph doesn't feature some Single Malt Whisky instead of wine... Anyway, please buy her music if you like it!  
 

TASTING - THREE MALTS BOTTLED IN 2004

Isle of Jura 1991/2004 (55.1%, James McArthur Old Masters) Colour: white wine. Nose: a little closed at first nosing, getting then spirity and grainy. Lots of broiled cereals and hot milk. Mouth: sweetish and spirity – fruit eau de vie (tutti fruity, kirsch). Strong and long finish, on spirit. 79 points.

Lochside 14 yo 1989/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC) Colour: white wine. Nose: lots of smoke and sea air at first nosing. Then tons of fresh fruits (tangerine, blood orange). Absolutely fabulous young Lochside, really in the style of the best Bowmores from the 60’s. Mouth: extraordinary! Campari-orange, tangerine juice, Mandarine Impériale liqueur, with whiffs of smoke. Long and coating finish. A stunner by the Laing bros, one of the best buys of the moment, I believe. Ah, when Lochside is good, it's very good. 93 points.  
  Dailuaine 1976/2004 (57.1%, James McArthur Old Masters, cask #5967) Colour: straw. Nose: beautiful, on sherry, beeswax and turpentine. A fino cask? Some great soft tannins, light oak, and some elegant winey notes (hints of rancio from the sherry). What a nice nose! Mouth: bold and perfectly balanced. Fructose, aspartam, kiwi, lemon… goes on with tarte tatin (caramelised apples). Long finish, on some enjoyable notes of green apple. A very, very good Dailuaine! 88 points.
 
December 26, 2004
  TASTING - Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Bonfanti Milano, bottled circa 1978) This version was bottled just before the ‘unblended’ ones (see the October 10 entry). Nose: absolutely stupendous, on all sorts of fresh and cooked fruits. It left me speechless… Mouth: fabulous attack on peat and spices, with tons of dried fruits and dried herbs. An incredible richness, brilliantly elegant. The best Laphroaig I have ever tasted, punto basta. I know, these notes were short, but I've been stunned - yeah, let's do this! 96 points.
Laphroaig 17 yo 1987/2004 (50%, DL OMC, cask # DL 1217, 256 bottles, 6 month rum finish)
Colour: white wine. Nose: wow, how fresh, how floral at first nosing. Alas, some grassy notes of white rum and even tequila are soon to emerge. Freshly mown lawn? Crushed leaves? Green tea? Even vodka… I feel it’s been that ‘muted’, that it doesn’t really smell scotch whisky anymore… It’s nice, but it’s a little weird. I’m wondering what’s the story behind this particular cask and why they’ve finished it like that. Mouth: again, we have quite a strange mixture here. Some peat and smoke, sure, but also some tequila, over infused tea, cod-liver oil… Bitter orange, marzipan, bitter almonds, walnut skin… Well, I understand variety is good, and something different from time to time is great, but this one is off the limits for me. The finish is rather long, on liquorice, turpentine and orange zest. 70 points.
 
  MUSIC - Recommended listening: The Little Hercules play Malt Liquor Revelation (mp3). Funny title, nice groove, great music! If you like the Red Hots, you'll like the Little Hercules too. By the way, did you know there's also a band named 'The Single Malt Band'?
 
December 25, 2004
 

It's with this quintessential American whiskey ad from 1962 that I wish you a

Merry Christmas

I hope Santa will be generous with you!

TASTING - Glenfarclas 21 yo (51.5%, OB, Pinerolo Torino, Square bottle, circa 1980) Nose: waxy, with lots of roasted nuts. Light coffee, cappuccino. Gets then very flowery (nectar, dandelion, buttercup), and develops on dried fruits. Mouth: quite bold, with lots of gingerbread and eucalyptus at first. Then you get a superb mix of both fresh and dried fruits, with some toffeeish notes. Really majestic, and so fresh and lively for such an old bottle. A thrill. 93 points.  
  MUSIC - Recommended listening for Christmas: this and this. What else?
 
December 24, 2004

CONCERT REVIEW
ALABAMA 3
The Astoria, London

Tuesday December 14th, 2004 - by kllo-yotta-deluxe guest writer Nick Morgan

It’s almost a year to the day since I was last in the Astoria – then as now to see that most peculiarly British rock and roll band, the Alabama 3. Twelve months on and a few things have changed.

 
Last time I had ‘flu – this time its going to creep up on me in a few days (so hence the late review Serge, for which I apologise). Last time we were deep in the Pit with the Coldharbour Lane Crew (most of whom seemed to be medicated with something stronger than my Beecham’s Powders). The south London crowd are here in force tonight too, but with them are a lot of people who have come a very long way for this gig. Last time it was the last night of a fairly long UK tour. Tonight is a one–off ‘Christmas Special’ – and as it turns out the show is being recorded and filmed. Last time the sound was Astoria-crap. It's much better tonight – aided by our position overlooking the pit just to the right of the mixing-desk. And last time joint front man D. Wayne Love was a shambling incoherent mess. Tonight – well, he’s a shambling lucid and highly articulate mess. As he confides to the audience early in the second of this two-set gig, “I don’t mean to sound Parochialist, but I’m buzzing!”
  Now, let me tell you about the Alabama 3. First – they’re not from Alabama. Sort of Brixton via the Celtic fringes of industrial Wales and Scotland. And there aren’t three of them. More like eight plus various support musicians, singers and ‘performers’ (more of that later). And the style? In their own words – “sweet pretty country acid-house music”. Actually it’s a lot more than that – but if you’ve never heard them – or tried once and switched off – you need to understand that they approach most of their songs with the same compelling recipe that produces a sort of layer cake of sound.
First its Tekno style samples and loops (the first song, ‘I’m Johnny Cash’ was introduced by a long Moby style sample of Robert Johnson’s ‘Me and the Devil’). Then drummer L. B. Dope and percussionist Sir Real Love. At this point gently sprinkle some harmonica (from The Mountain of Love – who also does most of the samples – I think) and add a little keyboard (by the wraith-like and chain-smoking Spirit of Love). Then bring in the bass (Segs, ex punk band The Ruts) – which it has to be said really hits your chest like a jackhammer – and guitarist Rock Freebase, who works his way through a series of feisty Telecasters (including a beautiful Telecaster Thinline – see it here). And finally sprinkle lightly with lead singer Larry Love (whose gyrations speak loudly of a sustained dose of cod-liver oil tablets, and who makes Nick Cave look like a nicotine abstainer) and singer, rapper, narrator and general philosopher on the state of the world, The Reverend D. Wayne Love. And there you have it. Did I mention the daft names?
We get almost two and half-hours of songs spanning the A3’s four ‘official’ albums, and then a number scheduled for inclusion on the forthcoming album Outlaw. Highlights? Too many to mention, but of course including ‘I’m Johnny Cash’, ‘REHAB’, ‘Bullet Proof’, ‘Hypo full of love’, ‘Ain’t goin’ to Goa’, ‘A Heaven somewhere’, ‘Speed of the sound of loneliness’, ‘Mao Tse Tung’, ‘Peace in the Valley’ – almost everything that any A3 fanatic could have wished for. And more …
The A3 aren’t just funky – they’re painfully and artfully funny. But they don’t pull their punches either. Subtle their politics may not be – but their sometimes uncompromising messages, picked up from a ragbag of influences, ring through loudly and sincerely (folks) in their songs. ‘Let the caged bird sing’ is a real classic. And so is ‘Woody Guthrie’, which opens the second set with a wonderful agitprop set-piece (ah yes, brothers and sisters, just like the good old days!); slinky red-robed burlesque stripper at the front of the stage, Palestinian (and other) women freedom fighters projected on the rear screen, ‘sing a song for the asylum seeker - for the frightened baby on some foreign beach’ (which, ignoring the rather offensive final line of the song about marketeers - how could they? - puts me in mind of a great read for Christmas – for those who are interested in more reality than Whisky Scotland often seems to represent – have a go at Ian Rankin’s Fleshmarket Close).
The great cause of the A3 is their fight against miscarriages of justice – Birmingham Six (no – its not another band) member Paddy Hill toured with them last year. This year they raise a slightly different question – which is when do criminals become folk-heroes? The song – no doubt destined for Outlaw – is in praise of Britain’s Great Train Robbery and in particular its mastermind Bruce Reynolds. And guess who joins D. Wayne on stage to rap his way through a long list of villains, some home grown, others not? A rather bewildered (if not disequilibriated) Bruce Reynolds himself.  
Reynolds was a known admirer of Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall gang – the original great train robbers – so there’s a sort of symmetry at work here. He ends by addressing the audience “We used to ‘av our own train robbers in Engerland, they’re all geriatrix nah, but no one eva writes songs abaaat ‘em”. Well – they do now; and no one should be in doubt of the likely theme of Outlaw.
And all the time the beat pounds, the bass bounces off your chest, and the harmonica wails. Lights flash – dollar bills (issued by the United Sates of the Alabama 3) flutter to the floor from the packed balconies. Larry Love works the audience up to a frenzy (us included I’m ashamed to say) – “Just dance for the fuckin’ cameras will you – you’ll all be on fuckin’ TV”. D. Wayne rails against J. Edgar Hoover (who did sell acid for the FBI?) worries about his hair and is wordperfect – when he needs to be. The Spirit lights up – again. “Whisky flows like the crystal streams they say flow in heaven…” Its almost a bit too much but then they crash to an end with what ended up sounding like a full-on version of ‘Last train to Mashville’. “Happy fuckin’ Christmas” leers a departing Larry. Last to leave the stage, D. Wayne invites us all to a party in Brixton “where you can meet the real me in person”, and true to his word there’s an already overcrowded bus outside in the street waiting to take the unwary to meet their fate … - Nick Morgan (photos by Kate).
Thank you very much, Nick. I like Alabama 3 - and I could find some nice mp3s, like, yes; 'I'm Johnny Cash', or 'Woke up this morning' which is part of the Sopranos' OST. I also like Alabama 3 's website quite a lot - true rebels, eh! - with it's Prozac pills and crushed cigarettes.
   
CHRISTMAS WHISKY ADS - left: Black & White, 1963 - How to say "Merry Christmas" in Scotch: "Black & White". Middle: Black & White, 1971- 'A man can never have too many friends'. Right: Black & White, 1974- 'They melt in my paws when I give them Black & White - You dawg you! Arf. Arf.'.Design or humour? Dogs or no dogs? The equation wasn't too simple to resolve, it appears...
 

TASTING - TWO MUNDANE MALTS FROM THE 70's

Glenesk 12 yo (40%, OB, Wm Sanderson, 1970’s) colour: straw. Nose: very grainy and malty, with some cooked apple and caramel, not much else. Mouth: weak and watery, on grain and diluted apple juice. Very short finish. Okay, not all malts were great in the 60’s and the 70’s! 60 points.

Tullibardine 10 yo (40%, OB, 1970’s) Colour: straw. Nose: olive oil, diesel oil, very mineral. Really special! Engine grease, ginger tonic… Mouth: grainy and oily, really strange. Old cardboard, wet straw, grenadine syrup… The finish is short and grainy. I don’t like it, but I feel the fact that it’s so special allows me to give it 77 points.
 
December 23, 2004
 

TASTING - BLAST FROM THE PAST: TWO 'OLD YOUNG' BOWMORES

Bowmore 7 yo (43%, OB, Sherriff, COGIS Milano, 60’s) Colour: straw. Nose: a superb mix of diesel oil (yes, I like that), citrus, old books and smoke. So fresh! Sea water, marzipan, freshly crushed nuts, wet grass, lamp petrol… The fruits strike back: tangerine, orange zest… It’s endless. Mouth: great attack on freshly squeezed oranges, tangerine, white pepper, pink grapefruit. It then gets very mineral (wet stones, riesling). Really superb, so clean and pure. Lots of elegance… And lots of nostalgia. This, is a ‘legend’… 95 points. By the way, I’d like to insist on the fact that buying some very old bottles for drinking based on some simple tasting notes by others, can be very tricky, as two old bottles from the very same batch can taste completely different after twenty, thirty or forty years of 'glass maturing'.

Bowmore NAS ‘Ship label’ (43%, OB, Sherriff, EMMEPI Roma, 60’s) Colour: straw. Nose: grassier, and much less smoky than the 7yo, but again, quite mineral, on oil, stone, lamp petrol, clay. Hints of ripe apple and pear. Some bitter almonds and cod oil. Not too enjoyable, I’m afraid… Mouth: very nice this time, with quite a lot of fruits and smoke. Too bad it then gets a little dusty and drying, with some strange hints of green olives. Gets a little flat. The finish is rather short, on cardboard. Perhaps was this bottle a little tired? 75 points will do.These two Bowmores were tasted at Whiskyship Zurich.
MUSIC - Recommended listening: multi-artist Everett Griffiths sings My Alibi or Glinko the Cat (both mp3s from his CD 'Chinese Music Paste') Really excellent, with a clever guitar playing. Please buy his music!  
 
     
CHRISTMAS WHISKY ADS - left: Old Jim Gore, 1954 - 'Holidays call for the gift that's "Best in the World". Right: Ambassador, 1968 - 'New York's 3rd largest selling Scotch, America's fastest growing Scotch, The World's Lightest Scotch'. What did the advertisers learn within just 14 years? That's it's always better to give evidence of what you claim, even if the result somewhat lacks romantism...
 
 
December 22, 2004
 
CHRISTMAS WHISKY ADS - left: Lord Calvert, 1961 - 'Gifts of distinction from Lord Calvert.' The decanters are embossed with, from left to right: 'Friendship', 'Horn of Plenty', 'Liberty' and 'Courage'. Right: Glenmorangie, 2003 - 'Peace on Earth'. Well, I like this headline better than these 'finished' whiskies. But whiskymakers for true values? Humanists? Hmmm... Why not? At least they have a message ;-). Oh, by the way, speaking of these 'finished' Glenmorangies...
 

TASTING - OLD AND NEW GLENMORANGIE 'WINE FINISHINGS', HEAD TO HEAD

Glenmorangie ‘Sherry Wood Finish’ (43%, OB, ‘plain label’, circa 1999) Colour: light amber. Nose: very sherried, winey, but neither bold, nor ‘creamy’. Quite fragrant and fruity (ripe kiwi, cooked apple). Gets more and more winey, yet it stays quite fresh and rather clean. A lively malt! Mouth: very nice and youthful! Lots of sherry, butterscotch, vanilla fudge, caramel. And a very nice balance at that… Rather long finish, on rum and raisins. In short, a very good dram to pour your guests at home – provided they are no hardcore malt fans, that is. 82 points.

Glenmorangie ‘Sherry Wood Finish’ (43%, OB, ‘stripe label’, circa 2004)
Colour: light amber (just the same). Nose: similar in style but more restrained, much less expressive and lively. More caramel too. Gets a little grassy. Mouth: strong attack, quite spirity and sour. Overcooked caramel, burnt cake, candy sugar. It gets more and more sourish… Some offbeat notes (vinegar, overcooked wine sauce). Not too enjoyable, I must say. Long, but kind of dirty finish, on raisins and cheap rum. I don’t like it too much, I’m afraid. 72 points. Maybe it was just the batch, but what a downfall!
Glenmorangie ‘Madeira Wood Finish’ (43%, OB, ‘plain label’, circa 1999) Colour: gold. Nose: quite strong Madeira, raisins, pink grapefruit. Rather nice at first nosing. Develops some funny notes of soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, apple juice. Quite enjoyable. Gets a little mat: chocolate, sawdust, cardboard… Mouth: starts on lots of caramel, sugar, sweet wine (young Banyuls). Gets quite toffeeish, burnt caramel, roasted beans. Medium long finish, with a pinch of salt on the tongue. Not bad at all, although I liked the sherry version better (much livelier). 79 points.
 
Glenmorangie ‘Madeira Wood Finish’ (43%, OB, ‘stripe label’, circa 2004)
Colour: gold (again, just the same). Nose: like with the sherry version, it’s much more restrained. Some caramel, citrus, white wine. Goes on with some apple skins and pepper, not much else. Mouth: again the same phenomenon happens: this more recent batch is much bolder, but also even less defined. Burnt caramel, cooked wine, meat sauce, lemon juice. Gets very sour and rubbery… The finish is long but bitter… I don’t like it at all – good luck with this one, LVMH. 69 points.
 

Glenmorangie ‘Port Wood Finish’ (43%, OB, ‘plain label’, circa 1999) Colour: amber. Nose: smells like a rosé wine (blush wine) – more discrete than both the sherry and the Madeira versions from the late 90s. Gets more and more winey and flowery (dandelion). Hints of burnt rubber, cooked strawberries. Not too bad…Mouth: rather nice attack on caramelised apple, but it’s soon to get sourish and winey – not in a good way, this time. Gets also a little fragmented and watery, with some burnt sugar and overcooked soy sauce. Rather long finish, on burnt caramel and old wine, and again a pinch of salt. 75 points.

Glenmorangie ‘Port Wood Finish’ (43%, OB, ‘stripe label’, circa 2004)
Colour: amber (again and again, the same). Nose: again, the more recent version is (even) less expressive. Cooked butter, caramel, cooked wine… Getting quite sourish after a moment. Stale wine. Develops on cardboard and old wood. Well…Mouth: ah, quite a nice attack on toffee and port, but it then gets quite weirdly perfumy – like some Bowmores. Some honey, Chinese sweet and sour sauce, mango chutney. Hints of cheap fruit liquor… Gets a little bitter… The finish is medium long but a little watery, on candy sugar and Turkish delight. Okay, not a very big difference with the older version, this time. Good news, but still not a great rating, I’m afraid: 72 points.
  BONUS - Glenmorangie 12 yo ‘Golden Rum finish’ (40%, OB) Colour: straw. Nose: very clean, fresh and lively, on fresh butter and flower nectar. Tons of fresh apple(golden delicious) and a little oak. I must admit I don’t really get the rum, but maybe that’s good news. It’s simple, not complex at all, but very clean and full of youth. I like it! Some apple skin develops after a few minutes. Mouth: very nice and clean attack, on apple juice, vanilla and oak. A little bourbonny. Again, not too complex, but nicely balanced. Some caramel and some milk chocolate do emerge after a moment… The finish isn’t too long but nicely balanced, getting quite malty. Again, it’s very nice whisky. Much nicer than all ‘wine’ finishes from Glenmorangie’s core range, that’s for sure. 84 points.
     
MUSIC - Recommended listening - ultra-highly energized queen of the blues Koko Taylor sings 'Bring me Some Water' (mp3). Wow, imagine her singing about whisky instead! She really makes Tina Turner sound like Norah Jones, if you see what I mean... Please buy Miss Taylor's music if you like... the blues.  
BRORA NEWS -  After the 3rd bottling of the 30 yo OB (I didn't taste it yet but rumours say it's quite good) and the new Peerless, Signatory just launched two new 22 yo 1981 (one is in the 'Unchillfiltered' series and the other in the new 'Cask Strength Collection' - beware, the tin box is pretty but the lid is very fragile if you let it been shipped to you). The Laings have a new 22 yo 1982 OMC 'sherry' and a 34 yo 1970 'Platinum', and the SMWS has a new 1978 '61.22' - for UK only, I've been told. Gasp, I didn't even know there has been a 61.21! The Society has lauched no less than five new Broras in 2004 - not available everywhere, that is. But hey, what a machine gun!
 
December 21, 2004
MUSIC -  Recommended listening: Norwegian band Beady Belle (nope, it's not Madonna) playing Loose & Win (mp3). A great singing, mixed influences (R&B, electronica, jazz...) and an interesting result that's easily above the usual so called 'indie radio' music.  
 

TASTING - FOUR OFFICIAL ARDBEGS

Ardbeg 13 yo 1990/2004 ‘Cask Strength’ (55%, OB, Japan, 1140 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: freshly cut Golden Delicious apple, gentian spirit again, oak smoke. How clean and fresh! Spectacular. Gets quite waxy, with hints of varnish. Mouth: lots, lost of gentian, roots, lapsang souchong tea and pepper. Develops on clove, and even dried ginger. Bold and long finish. 88 points.

Ardbeg 1975/2001 (43%, OB) Colour: straw. Nose: a little closed at first, even slightly dusty. Some tropical fruit and some smoke, plus some sea air. When nosing deeper, some fine farmy aromas do appear. Some say all 1975 were the same whisky that had been vatted once, and then kept in some steel tanks. But when comparing the ‘2001’ with the ‘2000’, the whiskies indeed are different. The 2000 is bolder, stronger and peatier. Mouth: bolder than the nose suggested. Peppery attack, with even some chilli. Gets nicely fruity (apricot), but also a little bitter. The finish is quite long, on some pink grapefruit. A good one, yet not as satisfying as the 2000. But that ‘might’ be batch variation. 86 points.  
  Ardbeg 32 yo 1972/2004 (48.3%, OB Manager’s Choice for Oddbins, bourbon cask #866, 239 bottles) This one is said to have been sold out within one hour and thirty minutes. Colours: straw. Nose: so beautiful, so complex! Well done Douglas Laing – oops, Ardbeg! A whole beehive (wax, pollen, honey, propolis…) Grandma’s cupboard, camphor. Hints of eucalyptus and turpentine. Smoke, garden bonfire… Perhaps it could have been smokier, but it’s so complex! Mouth: splendid, waxy attack. Gets grassy (liquorice stick) and farmy (hay). Perhaps the mouth is slightly less complex than the nose. Pine syrup? Long finish, with some Chartreuse and Jägermeister (a little bitter). 93 points - and £300, roughly.
Addition:
strange, even if some have said it's been sold very quickly, oddbins still have it on their website.
Ardbeg 1976/2004 (51.4%, OB for Feis Isle 2004, sherry butt #2398, 504 bottles) Colour: cognac/tobacco. Nose: very sherried attack. Some wax and some rancio, plus lots of burnt rubber and alcohol and hints of orange marmalade– but there isn’t too much of Ardbeg’s usual smoke… Lots of roasted coffee beans too. Let’s try the mouth: big attack, very peppery. Cooked apple, compote, clove, orange marmalade. Bold and compact, but not overly complex. Long, bold finish. Not the best ‘Feis Isle’ Ardbeg (ah, the 2002!) but a very nice Ardbeg, for sure. 88 points.  
 
CHRISTMAS WHISKY ADS - left: Dewar's, 1932 - 'Some Christmas, eh?' Funny to see that the maid is so happy about the fact that her 'masters' will get flat drunk with this full case of whisky for Christmas! Right: Teacher's, 1937 - 'It's the flavour'. At that time, whisky was to be offered to your best buddies, because it's so good. In other words, keep it simple and stupid: tell the truth... And oh, about Teacher's...
  ... I've seen this funny wall calendar in Italy a few weeks ago. I guess it dates from the early 1970s or so... Cool, eh? You just can't spend all your time with your best buddies, can you? Yes, the masses must be educated.
 
December 20, 2004

TASTING – HEAD TO HEAD, TWO 15 yo ‘OLD’ CAOL ILAS

Caol Ila 15 yo 1969 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice) Colour: light gold. Nose: extremely maritime at first nosing. Lots of seaweed, iodine, oysters… A walk on the beach, really. Very clean and pure and astoundingly fresh. If some peated whiskies are sort of farmy (cow stable, hay and all that), this Coal Ila is just the opposite. Hints of bitter almonds… Superbly elegant, that’s for sure...

 
There are some whiffs of deep forest after the rain, moss, fern developing after a few minutes. Really fantastic! Goes on with dill, freshly crushed mint leaves, apple skin… Sharp like a blade, I really love it. Mouth: oh! This one is like no other whisky I ever had before. First, it’s very bold, which is amazing considering both its ABV and its age in glass. Second, peat, cooked apple, and pepper rush into your mouth at the very same time, with a lot of fructose and bitter almonds following very closely. It then gets very bitter indeed (grape seeds), and I don’t quite know whether I like that or not. I feel like if I just drank some turpentine! What’s sure is that it’s like no other whisky, but I must admit it’s one of the first times I taste an ‘Old’, pre-refurbishment Caol Ila, so… Hints of white rum and tequila – even mescal. The finish is long but, again, quite bitter, with also some dusty notes (flour, cocoa powder). It even sort of sparkles on the tongue! In short, the nose is totally stupendous, and perhaps the mouth is great, but I just lack reference regarding the latter. Maybe it’s an acquired taste? Okay, let’s give it a conservative rating: 90 points.
Caol Ila 15 yo (57%, OB, Bulloch & Lade, orange label) - thanks for this one, Luc - Colour: straw (just a little lighter than the G&M). Nose: much fruitier than the G&M at first nosing (freshly cut pear), with some butter and creme. Then comes the peat, again very maritime (bold seaweed) and then some tropical fruits a la Bowmore (I mean, Bowmore as it was in the 60s). The whole is superb again, more complex and bolder than the G&M, but perhaps a little less ‘pure’. Feint hints of aniseed, dill, fresh parsley. It keeps developing after ten minutes, getting a little medicinal (camphor) and slightly peppery (white pepper). Let’s be clear: I love it. Some dried fruits strike back, like dried pineapple or guava. Hard to say which one I like best for now, between the G&M and the official… Both are stunning. Mouth: wow, what a bold and strong attack! Very, very medicinal and ‘rooty’: camphor, gentian spirit, liquorice stick, horseradish… Yet, the balance is perfect, this time. It then gets very peppery and salty while the malt really invades your mouth, together with some maritime flavours like oysters, smoked fish, glassworts. What a beast indeed! Perhaps it’s not overly complex, but what a great ‘compactness’! The finish is very long and salty, getting more and more drying (the tongue ‘sticks’ to the palate). Again, a stunning nose, but also a great mouth, perhaps just lacking some extra-complexity to make it to 95 points or more in my book. 94 points, then.
 
 
CHRISTMAS WHISKY ADS - left: Crown Royal, 1979 - 'Can you look this man straight in the eye and honestly say you deserve Crown Royal?.' Erm... the answer is 'no'. Right: Chivas Regal, 1982 - 'Why settle for Champagne?'. The answer is 'because I prefer champagne in this situation'. In other words, never ask questions.
 
MUSIC - Recommended listening - especially for a good laugh: Willie Nelson singing the Whisky Waltzer in... German! That was in... 1964 - and his accent was absolutely terrific! Try it again, Mr Nelson: 'Ich trink einen Whisky, und ich denk' an dich...' Hard, these 'ch', eh? (Via great website allcountry.de)  
 
December 19, 2004
 
     
CHRISTMAS WHISKY ADS - left: Crown Royal, 1984 - 'Anyone who has to work on Christmas Eve deserves a lot more than milk and cookies.' Right: Crown Royal, 1989- 'No title'. Christmas ads are usually much less creative than normal, very codified and somewhat 'rushed', but these Seagram ads are, let's say 'above' the average, especially the one from 1989. Yeah well, at least we're in the mood...
 
 

TASTING – HEAD TO HEAD, OLD AND NEW HIGH-STRENGTH GLENMORANGIES

Glenmorangie 10 yo ‘100 proof’ (57.2%, OB, circa 1999) Colour: pale straw. Nose: powerful and youthful, starting on caramel, cooked butter and vanilla. It’s soon to get very grassy, vase water, hay. Whiffs of peat and rubber – the latter growing stronger and stronger. It gets very farmy at the same time, and then develops on lavender perfume, before it goes back to cooked butter and stays there. Nice, and much more complex than expected!

Mouth: a very sweet, yet powerful attack, but it’s soon to get spirity, malty and grassy again, with lots of liquorice and cold infused tealeaves. Violet sweets, toffee, liquorice stick, cold strong coffee. Perhaps it lacks some complexity now, but I guess that isn’t the main purpose of a 10 yo malt bottled at 100 (UK) proof. The finish is long and bold, getting a little too bitter. I still like this now discontinued malt, hence my very good rating: 85 points.
Glenmorangie ‘Traditional’ (57.2%, OB, circa 2004) Colour: pale straw. Nose: much more subdued than its older brother at fist nosing, jumping then almost directly to the grassy and farmy notes. Again, some whiffs of peat and rubber, and then some very flowery notes, like lilac and buttercup. It gets somewhat cleaner than the ‘100 proof’. Some vanilla fudge and butter caramel do emerge after a while, though… In a whole, it’s a little more restrained, a little less farmy, and also a little fresher, but it’s still rather similar. Again, nice! Mouth: again, a strong and punchy attack, and again a somewhat ‘simpler’ feeling, with more caramel, cold tea, malt – and more fruits too. Cooked apple, caramelised pear, cassata. A very nice retro-olfaction on fresh fruits and violet sweets. Again, perhaps it’s somewhat fresher than the ‘old’ one, but also a little less complex and a little more ‘smack in your face’. Okay, I’ll go for one point less, but I wouldn’t say it’s ‘less good’, just a little livelier, but also simpler. 84 points – almost tie.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Franco-Algerian singer Rachid Taha sings Valencia (1995 - mp3). This has been produced by Steve Hillage! Please buy Rachid Taha's music if you like it.  
 
December 18, 2004
 
     
WHISKY ADS - left: Old Forester, 1957 - 'Design for giving - You give much more when you give the year's most advanced decanter...' Right: Old Crow Traveler, 1967 - 'The tuckaway fifth that packs as flat as your shirt'. When looking at these two old ads - and considering the replica age we're living in, one can wonder if today's designers aren't sort of exhausted. On the other hand, we consumers keep asking for 'tradition', whatever that means, and perhaps these two funny bottles haven't pulled huge success when they were launched anyway... But hey, weren't they cool? (design of the Old Forester bottle: Raymond Loewy). By the way, I'll publish some interesting old Xmas whisky ads in the coming days. Stay tuned!
 
 

TASTING - FOUR INDIE HIGHLAND PARKS

Highland Park 1990/2000 (59.1%, James McArthur, cask #5152)
Colour: white wine. Nose: very spirity and even a little soapy, almost a newmake. Very little wood influence, if any. Mouth: bold and pungent, extremely fruity and flowery (courgette flowers). Just like an excellent newmake, with a long and almost pungent finish. Another straight shooter. 81 points.
Highland Park 1989/2004 (53.5%, James McArthur, cask #10535)
Colour: white wine. Nose: quite closed at first nosing, quite grainy and very vegetal. Some great hints of smoke, peat and heather. Mouth: sweet and bold, very enjoyable. Some burnt tyre notes, pepper and smoke. Long and almost burning finish. A smoky Highland Park, great! 83 points.

Highland Park 19 yo 1985/2004 (54.1%, Signatory, cask #2908, 303 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: smoky, malty and rather straightforward. Very little fruit if any. Hints of heather and sour milk. Mouth: sweet but pungent. Lots of fruits this time, like peach and melon. Too bad it gets a little too drying and peppery at the end, because otherwise it’s a very good HP. 83 points.
Highland Park 1980/2000 (46%, Moon Import 20th anniversary, cask #4765) This one’s rather sweet and smoky at the same time, nicely balanced. One of the smokiest Highland Parks I ever had. Very good! 86 points.
 
  MUSIC - Recommended listening: Diana Darby sings Sarah (mp3). When I first heard the song, I thought it was an unknow early Pink Floyd song! Please buy Diana's music if you like it.
 
December 17, 2004
TASTING - A MIXED BAG OF 2004 BOTTLINGS
Brora 22 yo 1981/2004 (56.4%, Signatory, cask #1561, 611 bottles) Here’s the one we could taste before bottling at WhiskyLive Paris. Colour: straw. Nose: smoke and coffee, quite fresh. Lots of burnt cake, raisins… Not too maritime, this time. Some nice hints of peat, though. Mouth: bold, strong and very fruity. Very close to a Clynelish. Lots of English liquorice, acidic fruits. Not typically Brora in fact, but perfectly balanced, with lots of nice fruits. Develops on apples and ripe pears, with a long and nicely balanced finish. A good one, even if not a stunner. 87 points.  
  Oban 20 yo 1984/2004 (57.8%, OB, 1260 bottles)
Matured in American refill casks. Colour: white wine. Nose: smoky and farmy, with some great coastal notes. Lots of white fruits, apple, pear. Quite some peat, but the whole isn’t too demonstrative – perhaps a little understated. A nice freshness, still. It gets then smokier and smokier, on garden bonfire. Mouth: very sweet first mouthfeel, but with a lot of punch. A superb balance. Lots of tannins but they are sort of balanced by the ‘sugary’ feeling. Very interesting! I think this one is a very good example of a malt for wine freaks. 91 points, no less.
Tomatin 12 yo (40%, OB, 2004) Colour: straw. Nose: malty, on toasted bread. We’re in blend territory here – nice blend, that is. Charred wood, rum, getting a little floral (nectar) and slightly sourish (old wood, cider, sherry). Somewhat farmy. Mouth: very nice, sweet attack, with some hints of rubber. Lots of caramel, apple juice, rum, herbal tea. Some funny winey notes (sherry?) Rose jelly, Turkish delight… Quite complex! Medium long attack, on sweets, strawberry jam. A smooth, very good everyday whisky. 81 points.  
  Strathisla 27 yo 1977/2004 (43.9%, The Bottlers, cask #4472)
Refill sherry hogshead. Colour: straw. Nose: fresh, flowery and youthful. Clean and pure, on flower nectar (dandelion, buttercup, daisy) – getting a little sweetish. Mouth: nice attack, on light fruit syrup (apple, melon). Gets a little peppery, yet sort of sugarish. This one’s a little too simple, very different from the usual great malts by The Bottlers. 81 points.
Port Ellen 23 yo 1981/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 675 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: burning matches, smoked ham, charred wood. Not too balanced, this time… Mouth: fruity and very mineral at the same time, perhaps a little drying. Not a stunner this time, but I guess all OMC Port Ellens can’t be like the stupendous 21 yo 1982 ‘420 bottles’. 85 points.  
  Old Pulteney 39yo1964/2004 (49.5%, Jack Wiebers for Monnier, cask #1084) Colour: straw. Nose: so much younger than expected! Fresh and little grassy. Hints of fern, dill, parsley… Some fruity notes (melon, pear). Very nice. Mouth: sugary attack, with lots of typical old wood notes (varnish, wax polish). Lots of fructose, kiwi, passion fruit, with a rather long and peppery finish. Nice! 85 points.
MUSIC - Recommended listening: this might well be the 15,247th time somebody records 'Whiskey in the Jar' (mp3) but I quite like this 'live in a pub' feeling offered by the band Pubcrawler, from Austin, Texas. Please buy their CDs or attend their gigs if you can! Now, perhaps you'll prefer the funniest version I've everheard: Whiskey in the Jar (mp3) by a 10-12 yo school choir from Monza, Italy.  
 
 
CRAZY WHISKY ADS- Elliptic Cutty Sark campaign 1992. Left: 'Drinking Cutty Sark won't make you seen more attractive. Or help you get a date. But if you really want to score points at a bar, there are other ways.' Right: 'If you're the type of person who thinks caviar tastes better when it costs $120 an ounce, you'd probably like Cutty Sark better if it cost $120 a bottle. Let us know. Our price tag can be easily changed.' I guess the copywriter had to taste the product a lot before he started writing these funny teasers.
  NEWS - Jean Donnay's Breton distillery Glann Ar Mor is now completely equiped - state of the art - and will get 'active' early next year. Now, Jean has also got a smaller wood-fired still he already used in 1999 at the very same place, hence his first official bottling: Taol Esa (see picture - no, it isn't a Bruichladdich valinch - Jim's influence? ;-). The whisky is said to be very good, but there are just 99 bottles... be quick!
 
December 16, 2004

TASTING - FOUR SPRINGBANKS, OLD AND NEW - GRANDS CRUS INDEED

Springbank 12 yo 100 proof (57.1%, OB, imported by Samaroli, early 80’s, 2400 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: extreme beehive, wax, propolis, old papers… Mirabelle jam, quince jelly… absolutely brilliant. Bold, coating… Gets then quite smoky, with some mocha. Then banana flambéed, coconut… Then some high-end wine (great old Pomerol – no, not just any merlot)… Then chicory… Then lots of pineapple liqueur, Malibu, old Muscat wine. Really breathtaking. Gets then buttery, with some crème brulée… Hay jam, apricot jam… Just an endless development. Mouth: so extraordinarily bold! Almost pungent, after more than 20 years in its bottle. All sorts of jams, orange, crystallized kumquats. Lots of spices, nuts, smoke, herbs… I could go on for hours. S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G.

 
Second go after some breathing, one hour and a half later, from the very same glass (no refill!): the nose gets quite similar to a very old Sauternes or a Sélection de Grains Nobles (by Zind-Humbrecht, no need to say). Raisins, quince jelly, very old rum. The mouth is still very strong: old Port, grilled beef, balsamic vinegar… even some Japanese sake! A complete catalogue of aromas and flavours. Yes, this one is well a ‘Grand Cru’, or a malt king.
98 points (record!)
  Springbank 21 yo (46%, parchment label, ‘Archibald Mitchell’, 80’s) Colour; apricot. Nose: starts on all sorts of dried fruits, honeys (pine, chestnut, lavender, acacia), wax, cooked apricot… Goes on with tarte tatin, butter caramel. It gets rather smoky after ten minutes or so, with some great crumb. Notes of old rum and vanilla. Perhaps it just lacks a little bit of vivacity. Mouth: lots of herbal tea and dust, cocoa powder and cinnamon, getting slightly bitter. Yet there’s a lot of light toffee, caramel, cooked apple, candy sugar… It even gets quite hot, but also tannic and dusty. The finish is quite long but again, rather tannic, that’s why my rating is ‘only’ 91 points.
TASTING - Springbank 34 yo 1969/2003 (54.7%, Signatory Rare Reserve, butt #262, 408 bottles) This one’s been matured in a second-fill sherry cask. Colour: pure gold. Nose: not too bold at first nosing but it’s soon to become extremely interesting. Or even stunning. Furniture polish, eucalyptus and beeswax at first… And then some incredible notes of Indian curry and mustard. Amazing – I only had that once – it was a Banff. Develops on some heavy marzipan, clove… And yes, quite some peat! Really unusual. Goes on with some dried fruits (apricot, pear) before some heavy eucalyptus and camphor do return – and even some malt, yes. Really amazing, so special!  
Mouth: very strong and quite bitter and tannic (cocoa powder). Quite peaty as well, almost like a Talisker. I’d never have said this one’s a Springbank, had I tasted it blind. Lots of resin, seaweed, pepper (certainly from the wood). Grapefruit, orange zest, ‘old’ walnut, burnt cake, dark acid coffee (Ethiopian). Grape seeds. It gets more and more peppery and bitter – but nicely bitter. Some will argue it did spend too much time in its cask, and it’s true it’s very tannic, but I’m sure that’s what made it so special. I really like it for its 'bitter sweetness' even if it’s sort of full of flaws. I’d say they’re ‘good’ flaws. The finish is long, but rather bitter. 87 points.
Springbank 32 yo 1971/2004 (46%, OB) Matured in re-fill sherry casks, bottled last September. Colour: astonishingly light (pale straw). Nose: very waxy, grandma’s cupboard, vanilla, natural varnish. Hints of spices (cinnamon) and flowers (lavender). The whole is still quite fresh and so nicely balanced. A little coconut developing after a while, but perhaps that’s the mind’s work. Mouth: sweet and quite oily, on resin and propolis. Really a great mouthfeel. Some bitter orange and a little Turkish delight. Quite complex! The finish is long and bold, on orange marmalade. An excellent new-old official Springbank! 91 points.  
  MUSIC - Oldies but Goldies: French yé-yé star France Gall sings Bébé Requin ('Baby Shark', mp3, 1967, words by Serge Gainsbourg). Sweetest sweetness... Funny to see that the yé-yés are very popular in... Japan these days.

December 2004 - part 1 <--- December 2004 - part 2 ---> January 2005 - part 1
 


C
heck the index of all entries:
Whisky
Music
Nick's Concert Reviews
 

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Ardbeg 32 yo 1972/2004 (48.3%, OB Manager’s Choice for Oddbins, bourbon cask #866, 239 bottles)

Bowmore 7 yo (43%, OB, Sherriff, COGIS Milano, 60’s)

Caol Ila 15 yo 1969 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice)

Caol Ila 15 yo (57%, OB, Bulloch & Lade, orange label)

Clynelish 28 yo 1976/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission IV, 600 bottles)

Clynelish 32 yo 1971 (55.5%, Jack & Jack Auld Distillers Collection)

Dalmore 20 yo (43%, OB, bottled 1971)

Glenfarclas 21 yo (51.5%, OB, Pinerolo Torino, Square bottle, circa 1980)

Harrods 12 yo (70 proof, G&M, from Speyside distilleries, bottled early 1970’s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Bonfanti Milano, bottled circa 1978)

Lochside 14 yo 1989/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC)

Oban 20 yo 1984/2004 (57.8%, OB, 1260 bottles)

Springbank 12 yo 100 proof (57.1%, OB, imported by Samaroli, early 80’s, 2400 bottles)

Springbank 21 yo (46%, parchment label, ‘Archibald Mitchell’, 80’s)

Springbank 32 yo 1971/2004 (46%, OB)