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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2005 - Part 2
       
   
January 2005 - part 1 <--- January 2005 - part 2 ---> February 2005 - part 1
 
January 31, 2005
CONCERT REVIEW
Gang of Four  

GANG OF FOUR
Shepherds Bush Empire
Friday January 28th 2005

by Nick Morgan

Men, according to some marketing bloke I once met, trade information with their friends as part of shared exchange of social currency. So, a malt whisky hoodie might say, “Hey Serge, have you tasted the latest McRobbem and Pisonem’s Hazelburn 1977, it’s ace!”

In music the fab factoid of the moment seems to be, “Hey Serge, don’t you think that Franz Ferdinand’s guitar sound is deeply influenced by the Gang of Four's Andy Gill? It’s ace!” As a non-participant in such dialogues I’m surprised. I always thought that Gill’s stuttering and sometimes painfully spare style was a reductio ad absurdem of the machine-gun licks of Wilko Johnson. But obviously the PR driven princes of British pop, darlings of the liberal media, prefer to plant their roots in the milieu of maverick Marxism that the Gang represented (albeit briefly), rather than with the deeply unfashionable proletarianism of the King of Canvey Island rhythm an blues. C’est la vie Serge. History is always the victim of the progress of capitalism.
Anyway, the result of all this highbrow chattering is a renewed interest in the Gang of Four’s early work, and an unstoppable GOF speedwagon of consensus about their influence on today’s coolest practitioners of rock and roll. So it is that we find ourselves crammed into the second balcony of the Bush for the last night of a short tour by the original four Grumpy Old Men. Older, wiser, greyer and fatter (and that’s just the audience) we’re here for a no-frills economy trip to a twenty-year time warp – ninety minutes of sheer bliss – the majority from the Gang’s first album, Entertainment (of which more later). The visceral energy of Gill’s fractured and alienating guitar; huge Hugo Burnham’s driving rhythms (like a drum machine on steroids); Dave Allen’s abrupt and pounding bass lines; Jon King’s vocal wails, epileptic dancing and Neanderthal ramblings (too much time in male-bonding sessions?). Oh yes, and the ritual, and rhythmical, destruction of a portable TV (or was it a microwave – I really can’t remember if we had them in 1978?); “Zut alors”, I muttered to my companion, “tres intellectuel n’est pas ?” As fresh, fierce and frenetic and the same as it ever was. Simply nothing quite like it, before or since.
Gang of Four   Now, if you don’t know, the Gang of Four released their first defining and groundbreaking EP, Damaged Goods, in 1978. Ask anyone who was there and they’ll tell you. It blew the door open wide on the parameters within which contemporary music operated, and showed that the rare essence of rock and roll could be taken to a different and sublime level, both musically and politically. They could, and perhaps should, have stopped there, “at the top of their game” as the soccer pundits like to say. But there followed the bizarre signing to EMI (less like taking over the means of production than buying a substantial shareholding in it) and the first album Entertainment, notably shorn of that most seditious of songs from the EP, ‘Armalite rifle’ (which caused the BBC even more angst than 10CCs ‘Rubber Bullets’) and featuring the hit single ‘At home he’s a tourist’ (more angst from the BBC over an unacceptable reference to ‘rubbers’ – condoms that is, not ammunition).
Gang of Four's Andy Gill
That’s when I first saw them – in Glasgow – and it was clear that something was already going badly wrong. Self-delusion, acrimony, musical differences, egos, political realignments, departures – they did the whole thing, ending up losing their edge, as impotent as a beetle on its back.
But tonight is a feisty flashback, not to what could have been, but to what was. And if only half of the bandwagoners who claim GOF as a seminal influence are genuine, then it’s still a testament to how much two small pieces of vinyl, and a little bit of guerrilla war struggle, can change the face of entertainment. Oh yes – talking of vinyl – I note that the first GOF EP is worth around ten quids. So to boost my Whiskyfun expense account (current balance zero quids) I’m giving readers the opportunity to buy my own, very special rare, unique and quite collectible pressing, on Robert Thorne’s Inconceivable Records. Come on Malt Maniacs, anyone want to invest in some real damaged goods? - Nick Morgan - 'Tickets + Lagavulin' picture by Nick, Andy Gill's picture by idle time.
Thank you very much Nick. I could find a tune by the Gang of Four, it's To hell with Poverty - mp3, from 1990. May I say that GOF's music sort of puts me into the Haze, whether Thorne's or not? Not all the 'punk' bands made it into France in the 70's, and I'm not so sure we must regret that, I'd add. Of course there was The Clash, but otherwise... Err... Well, I know, tastes and colours and noises, different countries, different cultures... And then again, we don't have a Queen!   Gang of Four
 

TASTING - TWO OFFICIAL TOMINTOULS

Tomintoul 12yo (40%, OB, ‘old perfume bottle’) Tomintoul 27yo (40%, OB, 2004)   Tomintoul 12 yo (40%, OB, ‘old perfume bottle’)
This one has always been famous for its bottle – rather than for its intrinsic quality. Let’s find out whether that was a shame now... Colour: light gold. Nose: lots of caramel at first nosing, developing on burnt cake, malt and praline. Nicely balanced. It then gets slightly sour, with some notes of vanilla and old wood. It’s not complex but quite nice and compact, getting more and more toffeeish. Mouth: very sweet attack, again on caramel and malt. Cake, dried oranges, camomile, grains… The caramel gets then heavier and heavier, which makes the whole a little bitter, but not un-enjoyable. The finish is rather long but too toffeeish, alas. 78 points. While I was at it I also had a sip of the Tomintoul 10 yo 40%, bottled a few years ago. It's quite similar but less complex and somewhat stronger (75 points).
Tomintoul 27 yo (40%, OB, 2004) A new bottling by the new owners, Angus Dundee. Colour: light gold. Nose: it’s funny, this one is much fresher than the old 12yo, with lots of tropical fruits and kiwi at first nosing, together with some marked woody notes. It then gets very fragrant with hints of fruit sweets and grape juice. Some notes of light caramel and sweet white wine. It’s quite entertaining! Some whiffs of white pepper too. The nose then shifts to heavy litchi and passion fruit. Nice! Mouth: strange attack, a little weak and watery. Some notes of cold herbal tea, caramel, malt… It gets quite oaky and bitter. Rather simple, with just some added notes of dried fruits (mostly orange)… The finish is balanced but again, a little watery and disjointed, getting even a little too dry. In short, I liked the nose but the palate doesn’t quite make it for me, it’s a little too weak. 79 points.
BLACK VELVET ad  

CRAZY WHISKY ADS - BLACK VELVET'S ANSWER TO EVAN WILLIAMS ON AGE

Remember? A few days ago we were talking about Evan Williams 7 yo showing low-IQ girls and telling us that 'the longer you wait, the better it gets' (see January 27). Here's the Canadians' answer: whisky doesn't obligatorily get better, but it gets smoother! Especially at such an old age as 8 yo ;-) Now, as for the call-girl, she could finally dress in fur instead of displaying her advantages... Yes, smoother... Oh, perhaps I'm excessive when I'm saying that these brands show 'call-girls'... Really? Check this one by Chivas then...

 
January 30, 2005
Glen Scotia 1992/2003 (62.1%, G&M Cask Strength, cask #89.92, refill sherry hogshead)   TASTING - Glen Scotia 1992/2003 (62.1%, G&M Cask Strength, cask #89.92, refill sherry hogshead) Colour: gold. Nose: heavy, punchy, on roasted coffee beans, roasted hazelnuts and caramel. Tons of praline. Very malty. Some milk chocolate, high-quality vanilla ice cream (not the industrial stuff). It gets a little meaty after a while (game). Really interesting. With some water, it gets nicely grassy (fern).
Mouth: wow, lots of oomph, but it’s ‘drinkable’ at 62%. Well, just letting a drop a time rolling on the tongue… Again, lots of coffee, praline, caramel, roasted peanuts, overcooked breadcrumb. Very malty and spirity. It gets much fruitier with a few drops of water (cooked apple), and develops some nice lavender sweets, sour cream, Indian yogurt sauce. Long, nutty finish. A great Glen Scotia, better than the old official 12 yo Full Strength. 86 points.
MUSIC - Cuban Jazz for Sunday - Canadian high-class flutist Jane Bunnett has golden blond hair, yet she's mostly famous for leading one of the most successful Cuban combos, the Spirits of Havana. Have a try at Quitate el chaqueton - mp3 and you'll find yourself transported to La Havana instantly, on a sunny Sunday afternoon... To be enjoyed with a Partagas Lusitania and a glass of Glenmorangie Gran Reserva... Please buy Jane Bunnett's music if you like it!   Jane Bunnett
 
January 29, 2005
Uno en Mil Brandy de Jerez (40%, OB, Romate, cask #174)   TASTING - Uno en Mil Brandy de Jerez (40%, OB, Romate, cask #174) An extremely interesting brandy made out of the best hollandas and matured into 1,000 solera casks having contained Amontillado or Fino sherry. The average age of the spirit is twelve years old, and all casks are bottled separately. Colour: pure gold. Nose: sweet but not too much, quite complex, with some notes of marc, oak and vanilla, the whole being very nicely balanced. Some funny hints of Madeira. Quite fragrant but not dull and lumpish in any way – unlike a few‘Jerez matured’ malts we all know too well. Mouth: again, sweet and vinous, with some very nice oaky notes that prevent it from being too sweet. Great balance! It then gets sort of herbal, with some camomile and liquorice. Some interesting notes of fruit jam and cooked strawberry. The whole is compact and very satisfying, with quite some vivacity. A very interesting product, somewhat between a grappa and a malt, at half the price of a Macallan 12yo. Unjust? Perhaps…85 points.
MUSIC - Oldies but goldies: 1959, a tender and temporarily appeased Jacques Brel sings Isabelle (mp3). Already 26 years without Jacques Brel, that's way too much.   Jacques Brel
 
January 28, 2005
Natalie Merchant   MUSIC - Recommended listening: folk-rock goddess and 'conscious' artist Natalie Merchant sings Life is sweet - live - mp3. Gives me gooseflesh; please buy her music if you like it - of course you do. (Via Saphenia).
TASTING - Taol Esa 4 yo 1999/2004 (46%, OB, Glann ar Mor distillery, Brittany, 99 bottles) Ah, finally, here’s this famous experimental Breton single malt whisky everybody’s talking about since one or two months! I know some fellow Maniacs, like Lex, liked it a lot, so I’m more than happy to have the opportunity to taste it myself now. Let’s go and try to avoid all chauvinistic considerations ;-)… Colour: deep amber. Nose: smooth and very bourbonny at first nosing. Lots of fresh vanilla, butterscotch and light toffee, together with some very fine oaky notes. Develops on cookies, praline and roasted peanuts, while staying very fresh and clean, with whiffs of sea breeze and iodine. Some subtle hints of dried coconut… And then some other tropical fruits like, perhaps, mango. Wow, tell me about an experiment! It even starts to smell Springbank-esque! Yes, that’s it, a mixture of A.H. Hirsch and Springbank on the nose, no less. And I swear I’m not making up my feelings…   Taol Esa 4yo 1999/2004 (46%, OB, Glann ar Mor distillery, Brittany, 99 bottles)
Onto the mouth now: ah, yes, now it’s getting a little weirder – had the mouth matched the superb nose, it would have been the work of God himself. Granted, the first mouthfeel is very nice, bold and coating, on butter caramel, vanilla cream an rum, but it’s soon to get a little sourish and somewhat oddly fruity (stale cider and ale), with some hints of ‘still’, quite typical of some young fruit eau de vie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good and even very enjoyable, but it’s perhaps not as close to a classical Single Malt as the nose suggested. The wood gets then quite dominating, with some rather bitter notes (very strong coffee) and lots of vanilla, like in some bourbons. The finish is long and enjoyable though, on coffee liquor. Well, I guess it could have needed just a few more years of maturation, but the cask seems to have been anything but neutral and the wood had already taken a big portion of its share, I think. And finding a neutral cask to re-rack 50 litres musn't be too easy. Anyway, all I can say is that it’s by far the best non-Scottish / Irish / Japanese / American whisky I ever tasted, and that I like it much better than many, many Scotch Single Malts. And the nose, the nose! If the ‘regular’ Glann ar Mor follows the same route, I’m bloody sure it’ll be a winner, especially because the place where the whisky will be matured – near the sea – seems to impart a great maritime character to the malt – no codswallop here. And they will also distil some peated malt! Okay, enough babble: 88 well-deserved points for the Taol Esa.
 
January 27, 2005
CRAZY WHISKY ADS - EVAN WILLIAMS CAMPAIGNING ON AGE: 'THE LONGER YOU WAIT, THE BETTER IT GETS' (click on the small pictures to enlarge)
Ewan Williams ad   Ewan Williams ad   Ewan Williams ad
2003: Carbon... 2004: TV set...
Ewan Williams ad Ewan Williams ad
2002: Brunette... 2004: Blonde... 2004: Fish...
Well well well, lots of stuff to be learnt from this incredible campaign, don't you think? First, that 7 years is 'old', according to Evan Williams. Second, the baseline 'The longer you wait, the better it gets', even if not suited to a 7 yo whiskey, is pure nonsense anyway and does not fit the pictures. Hey, why not an ad with a 95 year old granny instead of some 20 year old bimbos? Speaking of which, why should some perfectly alright young girls turn into some Miami Beach call girls? Do the Evan Williams people think it's an improvement? The best future for our daughters? (sigh ;-) And even the TV sets: why buy a new one? Just wait and there's gonna be a better one soon, say the Flintstones... Yeah, like computers. Wait, now I get it! Maybe they want to tell us that instead of buying Evan Williams 7yo, we should wait a bit until they launch an older expression. Like, a 50yo? Or, perhaps, that girls are 'goods' just like a TV set, a fish or a diamond? Another set of ads for Joe Sixpack, it appears...
Now perhaps there is a hidden message, which could be this one: 'Don't try to date a schoolgirl, better wait a few more years'. Yes, must be that.
 
Strathisla 8yo (40%, G&M Licensed bottling, mid to late 80’s)  

TASTING - THREE SIMPLE STRATHISLAS

Strathisla 8 yo (40%, G&M Licensed bottling, mid to late 80’s) Colour: dark straw. Nose: the attack isn’t too bold, but nicely fruity. Apple juice, cooked apple, light caramel, apricot… Hints of chardonnay. Rather undemanding but enjoyable. Mouth: perhaps a little watery at first, but a rather nice development on cooked apple, white pepper and oak. Again, a malt that’s a little MOTR. The nose is very nice but the mouth is simple. 78 points.
Strathisla 1982 (40%, G&M Licensed bottling, mid 90’s) Colour: light gold. Nose: quite restrained, just a little oak, vanilla and overripe apple, and some caramel. Mouth: quite flat at the start, it takes off after two or three seconds but stays simple and really MOTR this time. A few tannins, a drop of caramel and basta. 74 points.

  Strathisla 1982 (40%, G&M Licensed bottling, mid 90’s)
Strathisla 12yo 1989/2001(43%, Signatory, cask #5259)   Strathisla 12 yo 1989/2001(43%, Signatory, cask #5259) Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh and lively but really simple. Broiled cereals, freshly mown lawn, hints of caramel, breadcrumb, cattle food. Mouth: quite nice and enjoyable, with quite a lot of oomph, but again, it’s really simple. Porridge, hot milk, cooked apricot… not much else. Not interesting but sippable. Medium finish with hints of liquorice. 75 points.
MUSIC - Recommended listening - I guess you'll agree this is 'improbable', yet fun music - Har Mar Superstar does DUI, Cry for Help and Power Lunch (all mp3). Even crazier than John Otway... Anti-heroes are very trendy these days, it appears! Please buy this Superstar's music if you like it!   Har Mar Superstar
 
January 26, 2005
I NEED YOUR HELP - And it's going to be quick. Some friends told me that more and more people use laptops to browse the Web, and laptops usually have narrower screens. I can easily delete the right column and sneak all the items into the left column, making the whole page not wider than 800 pixels. Please tell me what you think by just clicking one of the options below:
Yes, I prefer a narrower screen!
No, please don't change it!
 

Glenlivet 12yo ‘unblended all malts’ (40%, OB, 1970’s)

   

TASTING - OLD AND NEW 12 yo GLENLIVETS

Glenlivet 12 yo ‘unblended all malts’ (40%, OB, 1970’s)
Colour: light gold. Nose: it starts very grassy and grainy, but gets then quite fragrant and flowery. Not sign of bottle age whatsoever. Lots of lilac, peony… Then some aniseed, dill… All that is still quite restrained, alas, and the malt gets very grainy once all the flowery notes have vanished. Feint hints of sherry and crystallised oranges. Mouth: ah, now it’s getting better, yet it’s a little week. Dried fruits, aniseed, liquorice, dried herbs… Very classical but so nicely balanced! Some great notes of bergamot tea, fudge, Werther’s Originals… The finish isn’t too long but again very balanced, on cold herbal tea. Very good! 84 points.

Glenlivet 12 yo ‘American oak finish’ (40%, OB, duty free, circa 2003) Colour: light amber. Nose: starts on full vanilla mode, with some hot butter and oak. Tarte tatin, caramel, vanilla crème… Getting a little sour after a two or three minutes, and very grainy. Quite narrow, in fact, too bad… Hints of liquorice. Mouth: quite nicer than the nose suggested, even if quite watery. Some nice liquorice roots, dried fruits, caramel, vanilla crème, and yes, quite some oak and white pepper.   Glenlivet 12yo ‘American oak finish’ (40%, OB, duty free, circa 2003) Glenlivet 12yo ‘French oak finish’ (40%, OB, circa 2003)
It develops on crystallised orange zest. It’s not as complex as its older brother but rather enjoyable and satisfying. The finish is quite long but there’s perhaps too much caramel. A nice mouth, very compact and appealing; too bad the nose was so simple. 81 points.
Glenlivet 12 yo ‘French oak finish’ (40%, OB, circa 2003) Colour: light amber. Nose: even more restrained than the ‘American’ version, but oakier. Lots of cold ashes, grass, dust… It gets grassier and grassier. Hints of stone, vanilla, sand… Plus just a little caramel. Well, this one isn’t too aromatic, to say the least. Mouth: quite thin and ‘narrow’ again. Vanilla, dust, water… Getting quite grainy and grassy, with again some caramel, but not much else, except perhaps some hints of aniseed and violets. The finish is medium long and sweetish, with some fructose and some dusty notes. I liked the American way better – hey, who said for once? 77 points.
Krawattendesign
SHOPPING - Forget about Dior, Armani or Hermes! Yeah, show your true colours and switch to these supremely elegant 'distillery ties' made in Germany by Krawattendesign. If you like The Macallan Traveller's series, you can even wear the four ties at the same time. I'm sure you'll impress everybody when visiting any whisky event! But if you visit a distillery, please try to wear the suitable tie, not another distillery's ;-) (thanks Luc)
Serge Gainsbourg   MUSIC - Oldies but Goldies: 1980, Serge Gainsbourg and Catherine Deneuve sing Dieu fumeur de havanes - mp3. 'God smokes Havana cigars', says Gainsbourg; 'But you smoke only Gitanes', answers Deneuve. One might wonder what she was smoking...
 
January 25, 2005

TASTING - THREE PORT ELLENS

Port Ellen 1980/1996 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice, Old map label) Colour: light gold. Nose: very delicate and elegant, with some very subtle peat, smoke and fresh orange juice. The added rubbery notes make it un-mistakenly Port Ellen. Very fresh and clean – a real treat, even if this one isn’t too complex. Some very nice peppery notes. Mouth: perhaps it’s a little too sweet at first – too drinkable – but the peat and the apple juice mix quite well… Too bad it’s a little weak… not much structure… some notes of cardboard… A finish? Almost none, sorry. Great nose, vanishing palate - too bad. 80 points (for the great nose).

  Port Ellen 1980/1996 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice, Old map label)
Port Ellen 18yo 1982/2001 (43%, McGibbons Provenance, Winter/Winter)   Port Ellen 18 yo 1982/2001 (43%, McGibbons Provenance, Winter/Winter) Colour: amber. Nose: a great mix of sherry and peat that blend perfectly here. Orange marmalade, smoke and pepper. Some great winey notes, together with some old rose, smoked ham and salmon, balsamic vinegar… Superb nose! Mouth: beautiful attack on wet stone, gentian an liquorice. Very special indeed. It then gets very peppery and slightly rubbery… Some great fruity notes (mostly dried orange coming from the sherry). Excellent malt, not too complex but extremely satisfying. Flawless and giving lots of pleasure. 88 points.
Port Ellen 19 yo 1977/1996 (58%, Signatory, cask #3615) Colour: straw. Nose: a little closed right at the start, with just some whiffs of sea breeze (seaweed, iodine). You have to wait for a good ten minutes before some notes of green pepper, lemon juice and old hay start to develop. It then gets quite sour and dusty. Some curious hints of tequila… Not many of the usual Port Ellen markers, alas (rubber, smoke…) Mouth: rather nice attack, with yes, quite some rubber and smoke this time. Very bold and powerful… Peat, cow stable, old oysters (?), seaweed… With a nice sweet coating (dried apricots). The finish is long, getting just a little bitter. Well, for once, the mouth was much nicer than the nose. 86 points.   Port Ellen 19yo 1977/1996 (58%, Signatory, cask #3615)
MUSIC - Mmm... Why not extend the 'Islay feeling' a little bit further by listening to the Praise of Islay (mp3) sung by Sarah Denning? (via Steve Gilschrist's great website on Islay)   Sarah Denning
 
January 24, 2005
MUSIC - Recommended listening - Did you know there's a band named Aberfeldy, just like the distillery? Yes, that's true, and their music is poppish, yet nicely crafted. Try for instance Love is an arrow (hey, why not?). Nice - and there is the obligatory violin, no need to say... Why not a little CD as a gift with each bottle, just like Glenfarclas did a while ago?   Aberfeldy
Mosstowie 12yo 1970 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice, old brown label)  

TASTING - THREE MOSSTOWIES BY G&M

Mosstowie 12 yo 1970 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice, old brown label) Colour: light gold. Nose: fresh and quite clean, on butter caramel and flower nectar. It does lack some oomph and development, sure, but it’s quite ‘pretty’.

Hints of turpentine and mint coming through after a few minutes and a little wood as well. Very discrete, that’s for sure. Mouth: much bolder than expected, but also quite woody and drying. Oxidised apple juice, burnt bread, caramel… It gets a little bitter. The finish is medium long, on toffee. Not too interesting, I’m afraid. 74 points.
Mosstowie 1970 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice, old map label) Colour: gold. Nose: a little sweeter and rounder, with also a little more vanilla and wood. Lots of flower nectar too, but not much else. Perhaps some traces of rum and raisins. Gets a little dusty. Mouth: the attack is a little weak and watery, with some caramel and some wood. Again it gets a little bitter, yet it’s got more punch than the previous expression. Nothing too special, though, just some orange zest developing after a while. 74 points.
Mosstowie 1975/1994 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice, old map label) Colour: gold, just a little lighter than the 1970. Nose: this one is more complex, clearly. Starts on fresh walnut skin, fresh hazelnuts, apple skin… Develops on dried orange, tangerine, citron, pomegranate. Lots of praline too. Very nicely fruity and elegant. Mouth: much bolder again, but also quite bitter. Old walnuts, rum, lapsang souchong tea, rocket salad. Gets woodier and woodier… Too bad! This 1975 was much punchier than the two 1970s, but it’s hard to go above, let’s say 77 points.
 
Nine Merlots
A LITTLE WINE AGAIN – ‘SUF-CLUB’ SESSION – NINE MERLOTS
Well, not all pure merlots, as some ‘foreign’ winemakers are allowed to add some other grape varieties, whether that’s disclosed on the labels or not. From left to right on the picture:
Colle d’Avra 1998 (Ticino, Switzerland) A very fruity wine, with lots of blackcurrant and some sweet pepper, but that smells pinot noir rather than merlot. The taste is a bit metallic and lacks a little oomph.
St. Francis Merlot 1991 (Sonoma, USA) Lots of cooked fruits and strawberry jam, like in many old wines. Hints of rum and toffee. The mouth seems to be a little tired (cooked wine) but otherwise it’s very good. The best of the evening.
Casa Lapostolle Merlot Cuvée Alexander 1998 (Chile) Lots of coffee, sweet pepper and blackcurrant. More like a cabernet. Hints of rubber. The palate is rather bold but it gets very bitter after a while. Not too good, despite its high reputation.
Eagle Peak 2001 (California, USA) Lactic and oaky, getting too grassy. The palate is too commercial and simple – just a wine for every day. Too spicy for a merlot, there must be some kind of syrah in there.
Beaulieu Vineyards Merlot 1997 (Napa, USA) Hot, powerful and compact, rather oaky. The palate is bold, spicy, fruity and oaky. Very technical and commercial (world taste), but quite enjoyable.
Reserva Miolo Safra 2000 (Brasil) Lots of vanilla, coffee and caramel. Pure oak infusion. The mouth is bitter and disjointed. I don’t like it at all – the worst of the evening.
La Monardière Merlot Syrah 2002 (Vin de Pays du Vaucluse, France) Strange nose, on old gewürztraminer (rose), toasted bread, vanilla and oak. The mouth is weak and restrained, lacking fruits and oomph, and getting bitter.
Bohigas Crianza 2001 (Catalunya, Spain) The nose is weak and vinous, sour, watery and dirty (‘old sister’, says my disrespectful neighbour). The palate is better but still weak, yet very drying. It improves after a few minutes, though.
Tenimento Dell Or Merlot Riserva 2002 (Ticino, Switzerland) Lots of vanilla and oak on the nose, but with a nice balance. The mouth is too young and a little astringent, but it shows a very nice potential. To taste again in five years.
 
January 23, 2005
Sergio and Marivone   MUSIC - Recommended listening - Wow, just a bass and a voice! These two Brazilians are incredible: Sergio and Marivone sing and play Esperanta (mp3). Aren't they good?
TASTING - Hakushu 14 yo 1988/2004 (62.9%, SMWS 120.2) I already had the 120.1 (83 points) and the official 12 yo by Suntory (84 points), so this is my third try at Hakushu – and I’ve heard wonders about this version. Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely powerful, pungent and esthery at first nosing. Ouch! But there’s soon some very fine peat making it through the alcohol. Some nice hints of wet hay, garden bonfire… Quite some liquorice after that, plus some very elegant oaky notes. Not monstrously complex but very, very nicely done.   Hakushu 14yo 1988/2004 (62.9%, SMWS 120.2)
Mouth: smooth attack, but it gets stronger and stronger, with a lot of peat, smoke, grapefruit, and a nice bitterness (lime). Again it’s not too complex, but the finish is very long and so nicely balanced, with a belated explosion of white pepper. Luc, you were right, it’s astonishingly good. 89 points.
 
January 22, 2005
MUSIC - Somebody wrote: 'think a countrified twelve bar blues saloon rock to quickly identify the music of Joe Flood' and I thinks that's pretty correct. Try Cripplin Crutch (mp3) or All the Same to You (mp3). He's good, isn't he? (Via Diesel Only)   Joe Flood
Royal Lochnagar 30yo 1974/2004 (56.2%, Rare Malts)   TASTING - Royal Lochnagar 30 yo 1974/2004 (56.2%, Rare Malts) Colour: pale straw. Nose: very spirity and grassy. Hay, straw… Not too expressive, I’d say. You really need to ‘work’ this one. Hints of fresh natural water (minerals). Mouth: bold, sweet and spirity, with quite some pepper right from the start. Cooked apple, peach. It gets more and more peppery, and even prickly. Adding a few drops of water sort of kills it – too bad. Hints of burnt caramel developing after a moment. The finish is long and very powerful… A rather 'difficult' malt, I'd say, for adventurous aficionados only? 84 points.
 
January 21, 2005
Bill Mallonee   MUSIC - Recommended listening: the excellent Bill Mallonee and his Vigilantes of Love play a speedy She walks on roses (mp3). I don't know whether this is alt-country like some say or not, but I like the energy. Very good! And while we're at it, here's another great, yet smoother song: Galaxy (mp3). They make me think of the Waterboys...

TASTING - OLD AND NEW MACALLANS
18 yo '1986', HEAD TO HEAD

Macallan 18 yo 1986 (43%, OB, old presentation, 2004) The label says: ‘Youngest whisky distilled in 1986’ so it wasn’t a vintage anymore. Colour: amber. Nose: fresh and sweet. Quite some sherry but not the usual heavy oloroso at first nosing. Some burnt cake, liquorice, caramel, Grand Marnier. Hints of smoke. The sherry grows much stronger after a few minutes, though, and the whole gets greater and greater. It smells more and more like the great old 18 yo Macallans distilled in the 70’s.

Macallan 18yo 1986 (43%, OB, old presentation, 2004) Macallan 18yo 1986 ‘sherry oak’ (43%, OB, new presentation, 2004)
Mouth: wow, classy stuff! Bold sherry, dried orange, vanilla fudge, milk chocolate. Less complex than the nose suggested, and a bit rough around the edges, but very satisfying. The finish is long, a little winey and oaky. A very good and powerful Macallan: 88 points.
  Macallan 18 yo 1986 ‘sherry oak’ (43%, OB, new presentation, 2004) Again, distilled 1986 and earlier. Colour: amber, but a bit lighter than the ‘old’ version. Quite similar but even lighter, and more flowery. Markedly less sherried, and slightly more on orange, and less on caramel. It gets even grassy and malty. No big sherry developing, even after a long time. Both versions diverge more and more on the nose after a few minutes. Some whiffs of smoke appear in the younger one, though…
The younger one (right) is slightly lighter in colour...
In short, the old one is much more classic, more sherried, punchier while the young one really is middle-of-the-roadish, simpler and more restrained. Mouth: again, it’s weaker, grainier, and even sweetish and sugarish. Not the same whisky at all, this time – and not the same class either. Big bold orange but not much else, I’m afraid. It gets sort of disjointed, fragmented. The finish is medium long but sweetish and a little ‘dirty’. 78 points. Okay, I guess the conclusion is easily drawn… I liked the new one a little better when I tasted it ‘alone’, but compared to its older twin brother (hey?) it tastes much duller, alas. Not the same whisky in any case, me think.
 
January 20, 2005
MUSIC - I had the luck to listen to Frank Zappa live several times, mostly between 1976 and 1985. He was brilliant but everybody knows that. Anyway, I just came accross this fantastic track (mp3) which was recorded live in Boston on October 24, 1976. The end isn't 'clean' but the quality is XLNT. Yes, nobody ever played the guitar like he did. Vive Zappa! And by the way, I just found a DVD of Frank Zappa at Saturday Night Live (1976 and 1978), with James Belushi as guest sax player. It's hilarious.   Frank Zappa
Springbank 12yo (59.8%, James MacArthur, cask #226, early 90s)  

TASTING - TWO INDIE SPRINGBANKS

Springbank 12 yo (59.8%, James MacArthur, cask #226, early 90s) Colour: deep amber. Nose: wow, much, much better than expected. Bold sherry, with lots of chocolate, espresso, balsamic vinegar. Heavy sherry but not the kind of lumpish, sweetish sherry one can find sometimes. Very dry and almost austere, which is rare for a very sherried whisky. Magnifico, and again a great surprise. Full of subtleties and elegance. Perhaps it was a lottery but they won! Mouth: triple wow! Heavily concentrated, extremely creamy and sherried, and bottled at its aboslute peak. Tons of light caramel, fruit jam (apricot, quince, mirabelle), white pepper, tea, spices… Just superb. Ah, Springbank at 12yo! When it’s good it’s very good! 91 points – especially for the great surprise.

The Springbank ‘Cuvée’ 10 yo 1965-1993/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid, sherry and bourbon, MM 0406)
They added some 1965 because they hadn't enough left to make one bottling of it. Colour: light amber. Nose: interesting, on flowers (peony), fructose, green lemon, citronella, coconut. Develops on marzipan, cherry-tree leaves. One really smells that there’s some young and some very old whisky (even if a little) in there. Mouth: very nicely balanced and satisfying, with some bold grassy notes (violet ice cream, lavender sweets), dried fruits, kiwi, watermelon. Very long finish, on grape seeds. A very good malt, not top class but highly enjoyable. 86 points.
  The Springbank ‘Cuvée’ 10yo 1965-1993/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid, sherry and bourbon, MM 0406)
Citronella
 
SHOPPING - GOING SWISS!
   
The Swiss make the best chocolate in the world, for sure, but it's even better when filled with single malt whisky! I tasted it, it's really excellent!   Why not buy this nice hipflask made for the Swiss Military (they say)? Suitable for your best Schnäpsli - or Whiskyli, of course..   If you desperately need a keg for your saint (or any other vigorous dog) you can order it here. It will work with your favourite whisky - but they don't do sizes for chihuahas.
 
January 19, 2005
TASTING - THREE CASK STRENGTH STRATHISLAS BY G&M
Strathisla 1974/1992 (57.8%, G&M Cask, Casks #2206-2207)

Strathisla 1974/1992 (57.8%, G&M Cask, Casks #2206-2207) Colour: full gold. Nose: full sherry at very first nosing, but it then gets quite spirity. Some rubbery notes and cooked fruits but it otherwise stays quite closed. Perhaps some dried orange... Let’s try it with a few drops of water now: It works, there are lots of flowery notes developing now: cool!

Mouth: bold, powerful and quite creamy. Very nice, even when undiluted. Dried orange, marmalade, both dry and sweet wine. Lots of toffee, mocha… Alas, the water kills it, making it dry and flat. Too bad. 84 points for the very nice mouth – for once.
Strathisla 1972/1995 (61.8%, G&M Cask, Casks #7520-7523) Colour: straw. Nose: much more interesting at first nosing, with some funny meaty notes (smoked ham), dried longans, banana flambée, Special, but also extremely powerful. Gets very waxy, paraffin, Develops on heavy beeswax, cocoa powder, Irish coffee. Nice and complex, with yes, some nice hints of sherry. Great nose. Mouth: extremely tannic and strong, which sort of takes your mouth as a prisoner. Ouch. With patience, some beautiful tropical fruits shine through (again dried longans), as well as some hints of balsamic vinegar. There must have been a very special cask in the vatting. The finish is very long, no need to say. A curious, and very interesting baby, much more ‘special’ than its youngest brother! 86 points.
Strathisla 1972/1994 (62.1%, G&M Cask, Casks #7510-7512) Colour: light gold. Nose: quite similar to the previous one… and to the one before. Kind of a mix of both: some nice sherry but not too much, some ‘weird’ tropical fruits like longans but not too many… Very nice, even if again, it’s not monstrously complex. Mouth: ouch, again it’s extremely bold and powerful. Re-ouch! Lots of liquorice and, yes, dried longans. Okay, rather than ad some water that could kill it, let’s just drink a little water before each sip. Try that when you’re heavy a very strong whisky and you don’t want to take the risk to kill it with water, it works! Some dried banana, Stroh 80 (you know, that strange Austrian rum)… The finish is very long but burning. Okay, let’s sum things up: ouch! 80 points.
MUSIC - Recommended listening - Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal 'The Sorcerer' is a pure genius. Whether playing the piano or blowing a teapot (yes), he is the Soul of Brazil. Mesmerizing! Listen for instance to Viva Jackson do Pandeiro or Chorinho MEC (both mp3) and you'll see what I mean. And oh, by the way, I'll tell you about Benjamin Velle in the coming days - one of the most skilful 'Brazilian' guitarist I've heard within the last years.   Hermeto Pascoal
 
January 18, 2005
CONCERT REVIEW
Dr John  

DR JOHN at The Barbican, London
Tuesday January 11th 2005

by Nick Morgan

It takes something (a charmed life perhaps?) to survive childhood illness, a shooting injury to the hand, long term addiction to Class A narcotics, two years imprisonment in a State Penitentiary, sessions with artistes as diverse as Little Richard, Phil Spector, Frank Zappa and the Rolling Stones, and an appearance in an advert for Southern Conmfort. But Mac Rebennack, aka Dr John, aka The Night Tripper has managed all of this and pursued a solo career for over thirty years with a chain of somewhat erratic and diverse albums, and a heavy touring program. His last few visits to London have been in the company of an irresistibly funky band but tonight he’s solo, and for the most part devoid of the Voodoo paraphernalia that normally bedecks his piano.

Maybe this is because the management of the Barbican objected to (plastic?) skulls and Ju Ju beads being hung from their Steinway, or that they were concerned about the sensibilities of their elderly and genteel audience, the majority of whom look as though they are out for a night of Gilbert and Sullivan, rather than the master-class in N’Awlinz ‘second-line’ syncopated rhythm and blues that they receive.
The Doctor is in unusually avuncular form, as if stripped of the sinister aura that he displays with his band – anyone who has witnessed his bizarre spastic-dancing will know what I mean. But tonight he’s almost a jolly old gentleman –“dats- definitely- not- da- way- Cole- Porter- compozed- dat- song- but- itz- definitely- da- way- I- decompozed- it” – chatting and joking to his audience in an N’Awlinz patois that was almost incomprehensible to most of the audience. In between what we got was a history lesson (“I- gonna- play- one- or- two- dat- you- might- know- and- spose- one- or- two- dat- youz- might- not”) and the Doctor’s greatest hits...
So we get ‘Walk on gilded splinters’ from his first album Gris Gris, played seamlessly into ‘Marie Laveau’, a celebration of New Orlean’s famous Voodoo Queen, from last year’s N’Awlinz dis dat or d’udda. Professor Longhair’s ‘Tipitina’, Dave Bartholomew’s ‘The Monkey’, a Huey Smith medley ending with ‘Rocking pneumonia and the boogie woogie blues’ made up a bit of the history; ‘Such a night’, ‘An imitation of love’, and (again from “Dis dat”) ‘I ate up the apple tree’ the Dr John catalogue.
  Dr John

And not only was the Doctor good-humoured. His growling drawl of a singing voice was on top-form – clearer and more concise as it needed to be without a band. His piano playing was outstanding. Not an instrument I really understand – but his improvisations over and around the driving rhythms of his left hand were inspired – and if Dr John looked possessed at all it was when he was in the middle of these long, flowing and complex passages. The Gilbert and Sullivan fraternity were foolish enough to try and clap along (a bit like tapping your foot to Rachmaninov), which in turn prompted the Doctor “to- persionally -hit- on- youz- to- participate”. The resulting “Dooba dooba doos” were sung with all the conviction of a dwindling congregation in a Home Counties Parish Church. I cringed – the Doctor visibly winced - “I- tink- dat- most- of- youz- were- shocking- but- datz- just- my- persional- opinion”.
Apparently there is a forthcoming DVD of Dr John scheduled for release later this year – if you’ve never seen him then it’s worth looking out for. If that’s a strong recommendation (which it is) then a very weak one is to look out for Mr David Viner. This young tousle haired Oxfam suited friend of the stars gave us thirty uninspired minutes of folk-club average blues covers. But be warned – this young Mr knows people in high places – I fear we’ll be hearing more of him than we will of the good Doctor in the future. - Nick Morgan (photo by Kate).

Thank you very much, Nick. I happened to tap my foot to Rachmaninov, I must admit (but that was meaning 'when the hell will this be over?') Ah, yes, some music... Let's listen to Dr John's very funky Food For Thot (mp3)...
 

TASTING - THREE LITTLEMILLS

Littlemill 5 yo (43%, OB for Aldo Zini, Italy, 70’s) This one is to celebrate this poor Littlemill distillery that just went into flames. Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh, fruity and flowery. Very lively, vernal and youthful. Lilac, violet, freshly cut cider apple, not too ripe kiwi, rhubarb… Develops on vanilla and caramel. Amazingly enjoyable! Mouth: very nice attack on soft spices and cooked apple. Violet sweets, caramel, vanilla fudge, and some soft tannins. Some praline too, as well as some milk chocolate and a dash of white pepper. The finish is amazingly long and soft at the same time. I know many much older malts – Littlemills included – that are much less mature than this nice old-young puppy. Excellent! 85 points (yes, no less).

  Littlemill 5yo (43%, OB for Aldo Zini, Italy, 70’s)
Littlemill 17yo (40%, OB, 80’s)   Littlemill 17 yo (40%, OB, 80’s) Colour: light gold. Nose: sweet and gentle, with lots of hay and grain at first nosing. Very delicate, which does not mean restrained. It gets buttery and creamy, before some interesting notes of fresh rubber and berries do emerge. Really feminine. Hints of tropical fruits too (the old bottle effect?) Mouth: perhaps a little weak, a little watery, especially after the 5 yo which was so compact and bold. Caramel sauce, grain, broiled cereals, porridge… Hints of lavender ice cream and toffee. Not too interesting, I’m afraid, even if the finish is not too short, but getting a little dusty. This one is quite tired. 77 points, for the very nice nose.
Littlemill 8 yo 1983 (64.8%, James MacArthur, Fine Malt Selection) Colour: white wine. Nose: hey, is somebody drilling a hole into my nose? Incredibly pungent – and it’s not the first time I taste a +/- 65% malt. Just some caramel and coffee make it through, otherwise, there’s only alcohol. One for Jackass? With a few (well, a lot of) drops of water, it gets much fruitier, but starts also to give out some ammoniacal smells (old fish, dead prawn). Is that saponification? Mouth (undiluted): now it’s drinkable, but not enjoyable, let’s not push it too far. Lots of coffee, apple, cider, but also dust and old wood. The finish is rather long but somewhat indefinite… Just a curiosity. 69 points.   Littlemill 8yo 1983 (64.8%, James MacArthur, Fine Malt Selection)
 
January 17, 2005

TASTING - TWO NORTH PORT-BRECHINS

North Port-Brechin 1974/1996 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice) Colour: gold. Nose: quite light and very grassy. Fern, raw celery, roots, parsley…Hints of mustard and horseradish. Then come the liquorice and the woody notes (old oak plank) together with some burnt caramel and roasted peanuts. Quite interesting, getting more and more toffeeish. Some funny hints of carrot leaves and dill do arrive after a few minutes.

  North Port-Brechin 1974/1996 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice)
Mouth: a little watery at first sip. Some caramel, tea, burnt cake… It grows bolder after a moment, but also quite oaky and slightly bitter. Bitter orange, white pepper. Another one that is a little disjointed. Yet the finish is quite long, on beer (stout) and infused green tea leaves. Not too good, not too bad… which means exactly 75 points.
North Port-Brechin 17 yo 1976/1994 (64.1%, Cadenhead’s, dist December) Colour: straw. Nose: pungent and rather closed, as expected considering its abv. Just some traces of cooked apples, gooseberries, crushed leaves. It seems to be quite vegetal. Let’s try it with a few drops of water… Now it gets a little better, but even leafier and grassier. Lots of straw, but also some rather interesting notes of sandal wood, mastic and incense. Mouth (neat): hard to drink it like that. Very bitter (acetone), grassy and too burning, really. With water – i.e. reduced to 45%, roughly, it gets very nutty and again, even grassier than before. Lots of cold tea, white pepper, chicory, bitter salad, bitter chocolate…It lacks some roundness, I’d say. The finish is rather long but too grasssy, alas. I liked the G&M a little better. 73 points.
Amy Allison   MUSIC - Recommended listening: young American country singer Amy Allison. A strange, girlish voice and lots of energy! Try Shadow of a Man (mp3, quite punchy!) or her excellent and fresh rendition of 'Baby you're the One' (mp3). Please buy her CDs if you like her music.
silver cartridges   SHOPPING - These superbly crafted silver cartridges can contain one dram of whisky each. For your best shots? Wild boars approved, I'm sure! But wait, there used to be on the market also such cartridges that were already filled with whisky, like...
silver cartridges  
silver cartridges
... this beautiful Glenfarclas miniature containing 1.2cl of single malt. The 'Best Shot of the Day'? Yes, sure! (seen on ebay - thanks Mitsubishi.Man)
 
January 16, 2005
Glen Keith 21yo 1973 (50.9%, James MacArthur)  

TASTING - TWO 21 yo GLEN KEITHS

Glen Keith 21 yo 1973 (50.9%, James MacArthur) Colour: white wine. Nose: very perfumy at first losing, with some funny notes of Chinese fruits: dried longans, overripe litchis and bananas. Very special, quite close to a newmake. 21 year old? No kidding? Gets very fruity, on fresh bananas this time, guava, gooseberry… Really young and lively. Some interesting notes of Belgian beer (gueuze). Some prunes too…

Mouth: ouch, quite weird at first sip. Cardboard, dried longans, manioc. Some violet sweets, genever, Worcester sauce, even tabasco. I think I never tasted something like that. It’s not balanced at all, but so special! Hence my 81 points.
Glen Keith 21 yo (62.5%, James MacArthur, bottled 1991) Colour: light straw. Nose: sharper, grassier and cleaner. Green tea, lavender perfume, celery… Not too complex but very ‘young’, just like it’s colleague. Hints of bubblegum and fructose. Maybe like some white rums or mescal. Mouth: extremely pungent, this one needs some water – otherwise it’s undrinkable – but then it gets very vegetal. Difficult to handle this puppy! Okay, I give up. 75 points.
MUSIC - Recommended listening - yet some powerful South-American music for a chilly Sunday: Angel James, from Venezuela, does Caribe Mar (mp3). Mucho Caliente - I love it! But take care, it's highly addictive...   Angel James

January 2005 - part 1 <--- January 2005 - part 2 ---> February 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:

Springbank 12 yo (59.8%, James MacArthur, cask #226, early 90s)