2004 <--- June
- 3 AULTMORES
never had a really good Aultmore before,
and well, I think I'll have to wait a
15 yo 1987 (46%, Whisky Galore)
Colour: white wine. Nose: grainy and a
little feinty and milky. This must have
been a tired cask. Some grassy notes.
Mouth: quite fruity but very spirity and
grainy. Not very interesting, that’s
for sure. Medium finish. Okay, 75
points (Davin 73, Olivier 74).
12 yo 1989/2001 (43%, Signatory, butt
#2394) Colour: white wine.
Nose: very grainy, milky and sourish.
Yogurt, yeast… Almost like a new
make. Very little cask influence. Mouth:
sugary. Gets grassy with a back burn.
Charcoal, acidic fruits (lemon, kiwi).
Long, but mostly spirity finish. 76
points (Davin 74, Olivier 72)
15 yo 1976/1992 (45%, Bristol Brandy Company
Ltd) A legendary and now
rare bottling. Colour: amber. Nose: sherry,
coco powder, furniture polish, wax. Turpentine,
resinous… well, you got it. Mouth:
wood infusion. The tannins glue your tongue
to the palate… Some nice sherry,
though. A salty tang, and quite a lot
of vanilla and pepper. 80 points
(Davin 79, Olivier 79).
- 3 YOUNG LICENSED AND 3 OLD INDEPENDENT
Dhu 10 yo (40%, G&M OB)
Colour: light amber. Nose: fresh and floral.
Wild flowers, apple, honey, traces of
sherry. Quite clean. Mouth: on fruits
and spices, with some ‘salt’n’peppa’.
Sherry, cooked apple, tarte tatin. French
cream, vanilla crème. Medium finish
with a salty tang. 80 points (Davin
80, Olivier 75).
1990/2001 (40%, G&M OB)
Colour: bright yellow. Nose: shoe polish,
old books, wax, sulphur, then some quite
nice sherry and some hints of eucalyptus.
Mouth; nice sherry and some quite nice
wood, alas getting weak and sourish. Old
wood is soon to appear, with a medium,
dry finish. 78 points (Davin 77,
10 yo (40%, G&M OB)
Colour: light amber. Nose: nice toffee.
Cooked apple, raisins, melon, peach, tobacco.
Some woody notes. Mouth: nicely balanced.
Spicy, orangey. Notes of honey and butterscotch.
Some woodiness, medium finish. Nothing
special but a nice all-rounder. 78
points (Davin 81, Olivier 82)
19741997 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s
Choice) Colour: full amber.
Nose: extremely fruity. Great light sherry.
Melon, peach liquor, Cointreau. Very fresh
and elegant. Very little wood, and a great
nose altogether. Mouth: nice balance.
Toffee, roasted peanuts. Gets weaker after
a while, woody and dry. Too bad! Rather
short finish. 82 points (Davin
78, Olivier 78).
1974/1997 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s
Choice) Colour: pure gold.
Nose: all sorts of dried fruits, and some
fresh tropical fruits as well. Hints of
spices. Very fresh and lively, beautiful.
Mouth: lots of fruits: ripe pear, passion
fruit, guava, crystallised angelica. Milk
chocolate. Too bad the finish is a little
weak, as often. 85 points (Davin
84, Olivier 83).
1972/2002 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s
Choice) Colour: straw.
Nose: very fresh and fruity (pear drops)
at first, but then gets grainy. A little
eucalyptus and apple juice, not much else.
Mouth: a little weak. Old wood, grain,
some fruit. Medium finish, getting dryer
and dryer. 72 points (Davin 71,
trumpets! Yet another new Malt Maniac
joins the gang: Alexander van
der Veer, from Holland. The
'recruitement' is now over for this year,
now 15 certified Maniacs from all continents.
I'm sure Johannes will publish all the
new credentials shortly on maltmaniacs.com.
- A SHORT OBAN SESSION
12 yo (43%, OB, John Hopkins & Co,
80’s). Colour: gold.
Nose: quite peary – peatier than
the 14 yo – a little dusty, with
some tropical fruit, riesling, pineapple,
guava, peppermint. Gets quite spicy (white
pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon). Mouth: bold,
peppery, with lots of fruit (apricot,
peach, strawberry. Nice peat underlining
the whole. Medium finish, getting juts
a little metallic. 88 points (Davin
88, Olivier 90).
(43%, OB) Colour: golden.
Nose: dusty and a little grassy. Dried
fruit, tobacco, candy sugar. Mouth: a
little thin and syrupy, getting bitter.
A lot of old wood character. Medium finish
on pepper. 80 points (Davin 79,
(43%, OB) Colour; light
amber. Nose: more maritime than the 1984.
Orange juice, passion fruit, cold tea
(lapsang souchong), Grand Marnier. Quite
spicy (clove and nutmeg). Medium finish.
I like it a little better than the 1984
version… 82 points (Davin
82, Olivier 82).
- GLENGOYNE SESSION ON THE SS TAORA
the ‘natural’ malt (i.e. completely
unpeated) organised a funny public relations
operation on Islay. Well, not exactly
‘on’ Islay, as they came with
a yacht, that was berthed at Port Ellen.
Dave Broom and Charlie MacLean took us
with them on-board, and no need to say
that we had great fun there. Great company
of course, but also lots of Glengoynes
10 yo ‘Pirate’s Choice’
(40%, OB, SS Taora, Islay)
Heavy notes of rum (is that the pirate
effect?) quite punchy, with notes of cooked
apple, caramel and spices. Very close
to the regular 10 yo in fact. 84
17 yo (43%, OB) Previously
tasted. 88 points this time
21 yo (43%, OB) Previously
tasted. 87 points this time
Three other very good Glengoynes, but
sorry, no note – too much fun on
the boat – only ratings…
12 yo Cask Strength (57.8%, OB) 88
Glengoyne 31 yo
1972 (56%, OB, single cask #2970, 510
bottles) 91 points (Davin 93)
Glengoyne 31 yo
1972 (57.9%, OB, single cask #2968, 540
bottles) 90 points (Davin 94)
- TWO (POOR) GLENURIES
Royal 1976/1998 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s
Choice) Colour: light
amber. Nose: cooked fruit, nutmeg, cinnamon,
cold tea. Some tropical fruits. Not bad!
Mouth: apple and pepper, strong tea, not
much else. Short finish. Well… 72
points (Davin 73, Olivier 70)
Royal 23 yo 1975/1998 (57.2%, Signatory,
cask #5238) Colour: white
wine. Incredibly light. Nose: very spirity.
Feints, hot milk, very few aromas. Some
old cardboard and dust. Gets grassy after
a while. Mouth: pungent. Notes of methanol,
varnish… no other flavour, I’m
afraid. Long, but alcoholic finish. Quite
disastrous. 65 points (Davin 63,
my entry about the rare and exceptionnal
Mamie Lee - Monty Stark tunes which are
downloable from soundclick (see June 20.),
Monty just wrote me that 'Don Costa
produced an album, "Mamie Lee - Once
In A Life Time" and a 7" single,
"I Can Feel Him Slipping Away"
for MGM in the late 60s / early 70s...
the single is big in the English Northern
Soul circle, and has been bootlegged on
a compilation CD. Here's
what's available on GEMM". Thanks
for that, Monty.
FROM ROME - And when in Rome...
Do what the Romans do: buy some good whisky.
I could find some quite rare Moon Imports
and Samarolis, but what I found most interesting,
considering the 'does whisky age in its
bottle' debate, is this Clynelish's baseline:
'Refined inside the bottle since September
2002' - which is its bottling year, obviously.
Haha! More later..
25 to June 27, 2004
TO ROME - NO UPDATES, SORRY
Rachael Yamagata's new album is out! I
think it should be strictly forbidden
to be so brilliant. Rachael Yamagata and
Nellie McKay really are this half-year's
greatest surprises. Rule the girls! (see
also May 26.)
- A FEW LEDAIGS (off-festival)
(40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice)
1990 was the year when the Tobermory distillery
reopened after a decade of silence. Colour:
straw. Nose: ripe apple, whiffs of peat…
Not much more. Mouth: bold peat and apple,
but in a much simpler way than in an Ardbeg.
Some sugary notes. Medium finish on cooked
apple and pepper. 75 points (Davin
73, Olivier 73).
15 yo (43%, OB) Colour;
amber. Nose: very peaty. Fresh peat, a
little grassy. Apple pie and some pepper.
Mouth: quite pungent. Peat, fruit (pear
, apple). Quite long finish. A rather
good, but simple peaty malt. 80
points (Davin 82, Olivier 80).
yo 1992/2002 (45%, Blackadder, cask #115)
Colour: white wine. Nose: fruity and spirity,
quite fresh and clean. Pear drops, pineapple,
and lighter peat this time. Strong notes
of burnt coal. Mouth: very fruity. Melon,
gooseberry, apple. Whiffs of smoke. Long
and spirity finish. Not bad! 81
points (Davin 82, Olivier 83).
yo 1992 (58.2%, Cadenhead)
Colour: white wine. Nose: grassy and spirity.
White rum, freshly cut apples, fern, grass.
Mouth: extremely pungent. Fruity and sweetish.
Lots of smoke. Some coffee and malt. Long,
powerful finish. Again quite beast by
Cadenhead. 79 points (Davin 73,
- THE HARBOUR INN, SAFE HARBOUR?
Harbour Inn, Bowmore,
used to be a rather good restaurant, but
it’s become the worst place to eat
at on the island – and the most
expensive. Save your bucks and go twice
at the Lochindaal Pub or at the An Tigh
Seinnse Portnahaven for less than the
half! Or even at the Port Charlotte...
The good news is that they have some nice
whiskies at the Harbour Inn’s bar,
even if they’re very expensive.
Anyway, we were already seated around
our table, and we asked for the ‘carte
des whiskies’. I spotted a 1969
Bruichladdich G&M ‘cask’
that wasn’t on display at the bar,
so I ordered a dram, for 7.90 pounds.
Expensive? You’ve seen nothing yet.
The waiter came back and said that they
had only half a measure left in the bottle.
That’s why, I guess, they were hiding
it somewhere, out of sight. Anyway, he
asked me whether I wanted it, and I said
yes. I was still in a good mood. The guy
came back with what must have been something
like 6 or 7ml – just enough to humidify
my lips. And in a big tumbler, no need
to say. I poured it into a proper copita
(never tour Islay without a proper glass
in your pocket!) Bah, that was a waste
of time: the Bruichladdich was completely
flat and lifeless. In short: gone. But
the worst is yet to come: they still charged
me 3.95 pounds for it.
to that the fact that the food was served
in such small quantities, that even a
five year old kid would have starved (see
above picture, this is an untouched plate
of smoked salmon they charge 12 pounds
for– uh!) and you can imagine
that this lunch at the Harbour Inn is
the worst – and only – bad
remembering I have from our fabulous week
P.S. I already went to the Harbour Inn
two years ago, and it was much better.
But I’ve heard they changed proprietors
since then. Having said that, I’ve
also been told that the Lochside Hotel
ISLAY - TWO LOCHSIDES (off festival)
Another distillery I like very much. I
never had any bad ones!
19 yo 1981/2001 (46%, Murray McDavid,
refill sherry MM9637)
I already had another batch of this 1981,
bottled in 2000, and it was very good.
Let’s taste this one. Colour: straw.
Nose: very aromatic. All sorts of flowers
(lilac, dried camomile) and fruits like
tangerine, pink grapefruit and kiwi. Very
fragrant. Mouth: punchy, on vanilla fudge,
macadamia nut, dried orange, coconut liquor
(Malibu). Long finish, quite dry, on lemon
pips. A great, fresh Lochside. 89
points (Davin 88, Olivier 89).
22 yo 1979 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask)
Pretty much the same profile as the MmcD,
but a tad woodier, with more tannins and
beeswax notes, and less fruity. Notes
of cooked carrot, nutmeg, orange peel
and clove. Mouth: quite bitter and astringent.
Dried orange, dried kumquat. Long finish
on some fino notes. Very good, even if
a little less fresh than the Murray McDavid
version. 89 points (Davin 87,
- THE BRUICHLADDICH SESSIONS
one of the casks which will be vatted
and bottled later this year as a 40 yo
OB. We had so much fun enjoying the
music and the friendship during the Bruichladdich
open day, that we almost forgot to taste
some malts! I must also say that the new
aquamarine coloured Bruichladdich
cocktail was gushing forth and that
it was (too) highly drinkable. Anyway,
again, we had brought a few indie samples
to the island, which we tasted in our
Port Charlotte home....
yo 1990/2004 ‘Flora McBabe’
(55.2%, OB, valinch, cask #3666)
Nose: heavy torrefaction, coffee, sherry.
Gets a little dusty, with some notes of
bitter chocolate. Like a Kahlua. Mouth:
bold sherry. A little winey, lots of old
dark rum notes. Very long finish, on coffee
liqueur. A great sherry monster, even
if Bruichladdich’s usual freshness
is somewhat lost here. 88 points.
1991 (46%, Whisky Galore)
Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh and grainy,
with some sulphur. Gets a little feinty,
with some milk and some varnish. Notes
of grass, dill and parsley. Mouth: very
spirity, on aniseed and white fruits.
Not a lot of depth, not to mention complexity.
Short finish, most surprisingly. Quite
deceptive, especially when compared to
the OBs. 70 points (Davin 73,
1974/1990 (56.3%, SMWS 23.5)
Colour: straw. Nose: toasted bread and
grass. Herbal tea, camomile, melon. Hints
of dust after a while. Some cedar wood.
Mouth: quite punchy. Elegant, nicely balanced.
Dried fruit, melon, orange juice. Gets
woody after a while, and quite peppery
as well. Long and refined finish. Very
good Laddie! 86 points, (Davin
10 yo 1991/2002 (56.1%, Blackaddder Raw
Cask, cask #3264) Colour:
white wine. Nose: same as the Whisky Galore
version, even more grainy. Lots of milky
notes, gets very grassy. Easily drinkable,
though. Just like a good blend, no less,
no more. 75 points (Davin 78,
new Murray McDavid Missions (off festival)
– thanks to Ho-cheng.
26 yo 1977/2004 (46%, MmcD Mission III)
Colour: straw. Nose: fresh tropical fruits,
mostly Guava. Then dried fruits like banana
or pineapple, and some hints of camomile.
Develops on fresh banana and milk…
Some kiwi as well. Gets then a little
grainy. Mouth: nicely balanced. A basket
of freshly cut fruits covered with white
pepper. Some vanilla fudge and a nice
woody finish. 85 points (Davin
83, Olivier 83).
24 yo 1979/2004 (46%, MmcD Mission III)
Colour: straw. Nose: very interesting,
floral notes (lily of the valley). Lots
of tropical fruits (passion fruit, pink
grapefruit, pineapple). Mouth: like a
fruit eau de vie. Very delicate, fruity.
Notes of pear brandy, a little burning.
Gets a little woody. Really like a ‘grain
eau de vie’. Long finish, on all
sorts of spices. Who would have said an
Old Rhosdhu would taste that good, eh?
Well done, gang. 88 points (Davin
92, Olivier 91).
- JEAN DONNAY'S PEATED COOLEY
: a peated Irish on Islay, with a view
on Ireland in the background (Can't see
it? Try harder ;-). Btw, here's the quote
of the day: ‘If you can see Northern
Ireland from Islay, it’s going to
rain. If you can’t see it, it’s
Jean Donnay is the man behind Celtic
Whisky Compagnie, a French
indie bottler who’s getting more
and more famous amongst aficionados. Beside
his range of branded whiskies and single
malts (Clonmel etc.) and his ‘in
Brittany finished’ malts (Sauternes,
Armagnac, Jura vin de paille, Banyuls
etc.) he’s also launched a new line
of ‘regular’ malts, under
the brandname ‘The Spirit Safe’.
We had the opportunity to taste one of
those with Jean, at an aperitif party
at Martine Nouet’s new and beautiful
house on Islay. It’s the…
yo 1991/2003 ‘peated’ (43%,
The Spirit Safe) Colour:
straw. Nose: very nice, on peat of course.
Lots of fruity notes like strawberry,
and quite some pepper as well. Very different
from any Islayer or even peated Highlander.
Just a few similarities with Ledaig. Perhaps
the spirit isn’t quite bold enough
to stand the peat, but it’s still
working quite nicely. Mouth: balanced,
quite refined and elegant. Peat and typically
Irish fruity notes (strawberry, tropical
fruits). Very nice finish, spicy and peppery.
I feel this version is a little subtler
than the recent Cadenhead’s cask
strength Cooley. It’s less of a
monster and more drinkable, in any case.
Very interesting. 86 points.
Btw, Jean’s new distillery in Brittany
is under way. He’s already got most
of the equipment, especially the wash
and spirit stills. I’ll visit him
in July and report on it here. In the
meantime, you can check the Glann
ar Mor website.
- THREE LOCH LOMONDS WORTH 375 EUROS...
well, the Croftengea just made 345 euros
at whiskyauction, while the 'blue' Loch
Lomond and the Old Rhosdhu are worth,
say 15 euros each. But is that in line
with their 'organoleptic' values? We'll
Btw, the Loch
Lomond distillery produces eight different
malts, by varying the degrees of peating
and by combining their stills in different
ways. They use two normal stills, plus
four stills with rectifiers. Three malts
were already well known: Loch Lomond itself,
Old Rhosdhu and Inchmurrin. The first
bottling of the heavily peated Croftengea
was just launched in Germany, in Limburg
(all the bottles have been sold within
two or three days). Four malts are yet
to be bottled as singles: Loch Lomond
HP, Craiglodge, Glen Douglas and Inchmoan.
Lomond NAS (40%, OB, blue label)
Colour: white wine. Nose: very feinty.
Heavy low wines smell. Hot milk, porridge…
Not THAT bad. Mouth: I’m tempted
to write it’s good because it’s
sort of special. Grassy; sugary, old wood
notes. Quite long finish on fresh bread.
Keeps developing on yeast, oat cakes,
broiled cereals. Really smell like a distillery
(feints, low wines etc.) I think it’s
very interesting… 72 points
(Davin 72, Olivier 69).
NAS (40%, OB) Colour;
a little darker than Loch Lomond. Nose:
same base (yeasty and feinty) but with
more fruit (dried banana, dried pinapple,
fresh pineapple). Mouth: quite bold, oily
and creamy. Some perfumy notes (methanol?)
Less ‘original’ than the regular
Loch Lomond. Kind of a ‘dirty’
feeling. 65 points (Davin 68,
10 yo 1993/2004 (54.8%, Whiskyfair Limburg,
208 b.) Interesting peated
malt, the first bottling of it ever. Colour:
white wine. Nose: powerful and fresh.
Tangerine, grapefruit, fresh ginger, and
quite some peat. Somewhat like some independent
Caol Ilas. Mouth: very powerful, pungent
and a little sour. Blast of peat and alcohol,
getting a little bitter. Not that enjoyable,
in fact. Long, but burning finish. Well,
this one’s more a curiosity than
anything else! 70 points (Davin
74, Ho-cheng 91, Olivier 75).
- FOUR PEAT MONSTERS ON ISLAY
17 yo 1987/2004 (55.2%, OB for Feis Isle
2004, 250 bottles) Colour:
light amber. Nose: vanilla fudge, caramel,
maple syrup. Great, elegant peat, quite
airy. Beautiful, very refined. Mouth:
powerful yet very elegant, on freshly
cut apple, peat and liquorice. What a
perfect balance! Long, beautiful finish.
Great Laphroaig, that has his price: 150
pounds sterling. Perhaps the most expensive
‘new’ 17 yo I ever saw. But
it’s worth it! 94 points.
14 yo 1978/1992 (63.5%, Cadenhead 150th
Anniversary) Colour: white
wine. Nose: extremely dusty. A lot of
peat and bitter chocolate, but otherwise
completely closed. Some grassy notes and
some burnt sugar. Water doesn’t
change anything. Mouth: it just burns
your tongue. Extremely pungent when tasted
neat. Again, some water won’t change
much… Just a few lemony notes do
appear. Very spirity finish, making the
whole quite difficult to enjoy. It must
have been a dried out cask. 73
points (Davin 73, Olivier 65).
Islay (55%, Blackadder, cask #2003/06)
Colour: white wine. Nose: sweet and sour,
not unlike Ardbeg 10yo. Peat, cooked apple
and white pepper. A little simple but
very enjoyable. Mouth: bold, rich and
powerful. Lots of peat and fruits, sort
of sweetish. Nice balance, again in the
Ardbeg 10yo’s style. Still a little
simple. Develops on cooked apple andd
liquorice. Long finish, with notes of
clay. 83 points (Davin 89, Olivier
7 yo 1991/1999 (59.3%, SMWS 29.10)
Colour: amber. Nose: great sherry influence.
Lots of ripe apple, mint, all sorts of
fruit (gooseberry, passion fruit, melon,
kiwi) and of course quite a lot of peat.
Seaweed, iodine… a perfect match
peat-sherry, with a beautiful coastality
(oops, did it again). Mouth: huge, great
sherry melted with peat. Notes of rum,
banana flambée, candy sugar and
spices (clove). Eternal finish, incredible
considering its age. 90 points
(Davin 92, Olivier 90).
- JAZZ FUSION - Here's
some true hidden gems! Cult band Stark
Reality's supremely talented keyboardist
Stark met obscure singer
Mamie Lee in the 70's and made some music
with her in a Los Angeles studio. They
later got married, but alas, Mamie Lee
was soon to die. All tapes were lost,
except for a cassette, which Monty Stark
recently converted to mp3s and uploaded
There are four tracks with Mamie Lee on
this page, and several other great mp3s
as well, either played or produced by
Monty Stark. I think you'll have to register
to be able to download them for free,
but believe me, it's really worth it!
The Mamie Lee tracks are very moving,
of the highest musical quality, and quite
psychedelic, with some great ARP synthesizer
playing. 'Tomorrow's Child' is my favourite
track, but I love them all! Picture:
Monty Stark, 1970
ISLE - THE PORT ELLEN SESSIONS
Ellen 14 yo 1979/1993 (43%, Signatory,
c# 1847, 350 bottles)
Colour: almost white. Nose: fresh, spirity,
feinty and peaty. Smoke, cereals, rubber.
Mouth: peaty, feinty and peppery…
that’s more or less all. Rather
long finish, but really lacks complexity.
83 points (Davin 80, Ho-cheng
81, Olivier 81).
10 yo (43%, Scottish Wildlife)
Already tasted this young winner, so no
notes, sorry. But here’s my rating:
90 points (Davin 90, Ho-cheng
91, Olivier 90).
1981/1997 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s
Choice) Colour: white
wine. Nose: quite fresh and subtle. Peaty
of course, smoky but not too much, with
hints of smoked salmon, burnt milk, and
feints. Mouth: a little weak. Lots of
pepper but it gets dry. Some unusual hints
of tropical fruits. Gets dryer and dryer.
Long finish, but too bad it’s so
dry. 76 points (Davin 80, Ho-cheng
78, Olivier 76).
23 yo 1975/1998 (43%, Signatory, distilled
14/1/75) Colour: white
wine. Nose: nice peat and fresh fruits.
Pepper, broiled cereals, some sour notes
but a nice freshness. Mouth: bold, rich
and fruity. Sweet and very smoky at the
same time. Develops on Port Ellen’s
markers: rubber and tar. Hints of tropical
fruits. A perfect balance and a very long
finish. This one is really strong for
a 43% malt! 89 points (Davin 90,
Ho-cheng 87, Olivier 89).
23 yo 1979/2003 (46%, Wilson & Morgan,
cask #6778) Colour: straw.
Nose: lemon and peat, lemon peel, ginger,
grapefruit – lots of fresh fruits
in fact. Notes of garden bonfire. Much
in line with the OBs, just a little lighter.
Mouth: rich and powerful. Peat, leaves
fire, citrus, dried orange and dried lemon.
Long finish on tropical fruits and a little
pepper. A very good Port Ellen, even if
Wilson & Morgan’s cask #6769
was even better. 91 points (Davin
88, Ho-cheng 91, Olivier 91).
20 yo 1982/2003 (61.2%, Scotch Single
Malt Circle, sherry) Colour:
deep amber. Nose: round and bold. Very
nice sherry, smoke, dried orange, ‘distillery’
aromas, caramel, fresh fruit (pear) and
charred wood. Mouth: extremely powerful.
A great mixture of peat and sherry. Great
coffee, toffee, very peppery. Hints of
leather. Long finish, on some strong woody
notes. Another great Port Ellen. 90
points (Davin 92, Ho-cheng 91, Olivier
24 yo 1978/2002 (58%, Signatory, Portwood
finish, cask #02/159/1, 804 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: powerful and peaty.
Notes of dry ‘fino’. Quite
elegant. Some fruit and caramel, hints
of pepper. Nice peat. The port is quite
discrete on the nose, which is good news.
Mouth: again, extremely bold and pungent.
But lots of sweetish notes are soon to
transform it into kind of a monster. I
understand some would like it, but I’m
not convinced, even if it’s sort
of drinkable. I’m quite sure the
spirit would have been better when ‘naked’.
Davin and Ho-cheng liked it, but Olivier
just hated it. It’s true that when
you love both the great malts and the
great ports, you can’t avoid looking
at this one with kind of disdain. Anyway,
my rating is 70 points (Davin
85, Ho-cheng 88, Olivier 55).
23 yo 1978/2001 (62.2%, McGibbons Provenance
for John Milroy) Colour:
straw. Nose: pungent and very spicy. Lots
of peppery notes, the whole being very
austere and strict. Lots of smoky notes
developing. Mouth: strong tannins, wood,
and heavy peat. Bold, strong and spirity
– a little simple. Very long finish
on grassy notes and bitter almonds. Just
a little sweetness towards the end. A
good one, even if somewhat 'Jansenist'.
82 points (Davin 86, Ho-cheng
93, Olivier 81).
24 yo 1978/2002 2nd Annual Release (54.3%,
OB) Tasted at Port Ellen
maltings. Nose: clean and austere, with
great smoke, tar; rubber. Some herbal
tea notes. Mouth: much sweeter than expected,
with lots of peat. Really powerful, and
always the smoke and the burnt tyre notes.
Gets floral with a few drops of water.
Very good. 91 points (Davin 92,
ISLE - THE ISLE OF JURA SESSIONS
Jura distillery - What a beautiful
place! Islay looks like New York City
compared to Jura... Great people too -
even if only 80 or 200 souls, depending
on who's advertising the island - and
beautiful scenery. We didn't expect to
'meet' some palmtrees there, but the ones
on the above picture are just next to
the distillery. We spotted the deer on
our road back to the ferry. Great and
friendly tour, and some very interesting
casks offered for tasting at the end:
Jura 30 yo 1973/2004 (55.3%, OB, oloroso
cask #1, will be bottled later)
Colour: gold. Nose: very nutty. Develops
on grassy notes, dill, aniseed, and on
some great orangey notes. Great balance.
Hints of ginger. Mouth: bold, yet clean.
Very sherried. Nice notes of both dried
and fresh fruit. Dried pineapple, orange,
toffee, cream. Long finish. Excellent
Jura! 89 points (Davin 90, Olivier
Jura 15 yo Gonzalez Byass finish (57.7%,
OB, single cask for Islay Festival 2004)
Colour: quite dark. Nose: starts a little
dusty, then some very heavy sherry notes
(old walnut), raisins. Hints of old rum.
Mouth: bold and rich, prunes, raisins,
orange zest, milk chocolate. Another sherry
monster. 87 points (Davin 87,
Jura 5 yo 1999 (59.9%, cask #21, not bottled
yet, peated). Another
very interesting peated Jura, following
the casks that had been bottled for Japan.
These peated batches were made to be vatted
into the Superstition, and only a few
casks have been kept aside. Let’s
taste this one. Colour: straw. Nose: very
Ardbegish. Quite close to the Ardbeg 6
yo ‘very young’. Bold peat,
a little sour. Vanilla, some grassy notes.
Mouth: bold, roots, smoke. Some vegetables,
aniseed. Very long finish. Beautiful!
90 points (Davin 92, Olivier 90).
At home - After our great
visit at the distillery, we thought it
would be a good idea to complete it with
a few different versions we brought. Here
of Jura 27 yo (45%, 0B, Stilllman’s
Dram, cask #590) Colour:
amber. Nose: Big citrus. Very fresh and
clean, with lots of tangerine and dried
orange. Then some wood and some pepper,
and whiffs of smoke. Mouth: bold and rich,
creamy, on lemon pie. Quite spicy (cinnamon).
Oily. Notes of Mandarine Imperiale. Long,
bold finish, on citrus. 88 points
(Davin 83, Olivier 88)
Jura 25 yo 1976/2001 (50%, DL OMC, sherry)
Colour: amber. Nose: quite woody. Develops
on heavy sherry notes, with some bitter
chocolate. Gets a little dusty. Hints
of orange peel, some grassy notes and
a little pepper. Mouth: bold, on herbal
tea. Camomile, dried orange… very
warming, but not very complex. Some bitter
chocolate and perhaps a little coconut…
and a little salt on the tongue. Long,
bold and tannic finish. A good whisky!
86 points (Davin 82, Olivier 83).
Jura 13 yo 1988/2002 (59.4%, Blackadder
Raw Cask, cask #1639)
Colour: light straw. Nose: caramel. Hot
milk, bread, mashed potatoes, tapioca.
Some grassy notes, parsley. Gets dusty.
Palate: almost undrinkable when undiluted.
Pungent and spirity. Notes of acidic fruits
(lemon, kiwi) and gooseberry. Gets grassy
and spicy (nutmeg), and then quite dusty.
Long and burning finish. 79 points
(Davin 74, Olivier 79).
3 yo 1999/2002 (60.7%, OB for Japan, cask
#92, 447 bottles) Beautiful!
I didn’t take some proper notes,
because I already tasted it before. But
what a great heavily peated youngster!
90 points (Davin 91, Olivier 91).
take a very large bag. Second, throw a
bunch of great records into it. A little
Funkadelic, some Frank Zappa and Captain
Beefheart, a dash of Brooklyn Funk Essentials,
a good measure of Johnny Cash, a drop
of Eminem, some John Cale, some Paul Oakenfold,
add a little Bob Dylan an just a pinch
of Kevin Ayers, Arlo Guthrie, Leonard
Cohen and Ry Cooder. Shake your bag vigorously…
What do you get? Yes, something quite
odd. And yes, kind of a musical –
and political - collage… but a collage
that works most interestingly, named Alabama
3 (or A3). I didn’t
know the band before Diageo’s Nick
Morgan gave me an excellent CD they released
in 1997, called ‘Exile on Coldharbour
Lane’, but I found out that one
of their latest opus is called ’Last
Train to Mashville’. Wait, Mashville…
must be in Speyside or on Islay. ;-) I’ve
been told many whisky people are fans
of Alabama 3 after Nick passed the word…
No wonder! You can have a listen to ‘Bullet
Proof’ (mp3) if you wish…
I don’t think it’s very representative
but if you like it, please buy one of
their CDs. I especially like their songs
‘Peace in the Valley’, ‘The
Night We Nearly Got Busted’ and
their great versions of John Prine’s
‘Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness’
(btw, Nanci Griffith’s is also great)
and of The Eagles’ Hotel California
– despite the fact that it’s
one of the songs I hate most in the world.
But A3’s version is very…
err… different, so… Anyway,
again, thanks for the tip, Nick!
- THE BUNNAHABHAIN SESSIONS
and tasting at Bunnahabhain
- Distillery manager John MacLellan (yes,
it's him on the picture - good guess!)
is a true showman, and a tour of the distillery
with him is nothing but great fun. Lots
of jokes, but bunches of interesting insights
as well, what more would we ask for? The
main piece of news is that Bunnahabhain
will go on making some small runs of peated
malt for ‘peatophiles’, as
they already did six years ago (read my
notes about the 'Moine' hereunder). By
the way, we learned something that makes
sense: if some usually unpeated malt smells
peat, perhaps it’s just because
it was matured in a 2nd or 3rd-fill cask
that had contained some Ardbeg, Laphroaig,
Caol Ila or Lagavulin just before, and
that was bought ‘blind’ from
a cooperage. Anyway, after Jura and Bruichladdich,
Bunnahabhain entered the ‘peated
era’, as John calls it. And after
our interesting visit, and after John
had showed us more than just ‘how
whisky’s made’, we could taste
a great cask he selected for us:
1971 (around 45%, OB, bourbon, to be bottled
later) Colour: straw.
Nose: extremely fresh and flowery. All
sorts of white fruit like ‘white’
melon or freshly cut pear, with some light
pepper and some notes of nutmeg. How nice!
Mouth: rich, fruity and very elegant.
Candy sugar, great fruit (peach and apricot).
A great balance and a long, fresh finish.
Beautiful and very subtle – not
an ‘in your face’ whisky at
all. Not unlike the great Bruichladdichs
(1965, 1966, 1970, 1973, not to mention
the 1964 to be launched later this year).
Our ratings for the bunny: 93
points (Davin 91, Olivier 92).
‘Moine’ (59.6%, OB, bottled
20/5/2004 for the festival, cask #3180)
Here’s a good example of the peated
run they did six years ago – btw
‘Moine’ means peat in Gaelic.
Colour: white wine. Nose: nice and elegant
peat. Great smokiness but all quite light.
Some grassy and feinty notes, but almost
no fruits. Mouth: bold and quite fruity
this time (strawberry, gooseberry, fresh
pineapple). Lots of smoke. Long finish,
with a little pepper. A beautiful whisky,
perhaps just not as big and majestic as
Port Charlotte, but I tasted the latter
only at 2 and 3yo. Ratings for the Moine:
90 points (Olivier 90).
Bunnahabhain session at home and
at the Lochindaal Pub):
40 yo 1963/2003 (42.9%, OB, 743 bottles)
Nose: almost youthfull!. Tropical fruits,
white pepper, all sorts of spices (clove,
nutmeg, cinnamon…) Very complex.
Mouth: bold, rich and complex, with lots
of fruits (orange), lots of spices and
some great peppery notes. A nice salty
finish, very, very long. In short, a very
good one, not tired in any way, but the
1968 ‘Auld Acquaintance’ is
still much better. 87 points
for the 1963 (Davin 88, Ho-cheng
90, Olivier 90)
34 yo (40.5%, DL Old Malt Cask)
Colour: straw. Nose: lots of fruit and
white pepper. Quite fragrant (violet).
Melon, apricot, fresh pineapple. Elegant
traces of wood. Mouth: fresh and refined.
Herbal tea and lots of fruits, dried orange…
Too bad, it gets very dry after a while.
Hmm, too much wood, it appears. This one
must have been bottled a tad too late.
Too bad! 85 points (Davin 85,
16 yo (50%, DL Old Malt Cask)
Colour: straw. Nose: fruity (apple and
pear). Apricot juice. Develops on coffee,
bitter chocolate, and even pepper chocolate
(ever tried some?) Notes of dark rum.
Mouth: spicy at first, getting sugary
and sweetish. Hints of pink grapefruit.
Getting woody… Bold and long finish
on sugary notes and pepper. This one is
quite burning, and really lacks complexity.
81 points (Davin 78, Olivier 79).
6 yo 1997/2003 (59.4%, SMWS 10.56)
Colour: amber. Nose: hot chocolate, milk,
yeast, caramel. Very malty. Mouth: very
powerful? Strong rum, heavy sherry. Quite
violent, with lots of orange and orange
zest. Notes of blackberry jam. Long, ultra-bold
finish. A very interesting malt, but it’s
not for little boys! 86 points
(Davin 80, Olivier 83).
Picture below: arriving and leaving Bunnahabhain
distillery: view of the same cask.
- FOLLOW-UP TASTING OF A FEW BOWMORES
at various places
if the Bowmore tour was one of the worst
we ever had (see yesterday's entry), we
were still in good hopes regarding Bowmore
and that’s why we decided to taste
a few other samples we brought with us.
And we started with the…
‘Legend’ (40%, OB, 2004 bottling)
Colour: straw. Nose: nice peat with some
burnt wood notes. Quite smoky, with some
funny hints of soy sauce. Mouth: balanced,
fruity and peaty, with some nice smoke
and bitter chocolate. Lacks a little oomph,
but an excellent dram for its price. And
it’s so much better than many recent
‘older’ versions! 80
points (Davin 80, Olivier 80).
Darkest (43%, OB, circa 2002)
Colour: cognac. Nose: very perfumy. Lots
of sherry influence. A little vulgar and
dull, with notes of grape juice and dried
orange. Mouth: bold sherryish notes. Sweetish,
the peat being quite masked. A little
salty, and very, very dull. Quite a ‘catastrophy’,
if you ask me. 65 points (Davin
70, Olivier 60).
25 yo (43%, OB, new circa 2004)
Colour: golden orange. Nose: rich, yet
subtle, on dried fruit and tea. Tropical
fruit (guava, passion fruit). The peat
arrives after a while. Some pepper as
well. Develops on strawberry jam, apricot,
kiwi. Great nose! They can also do good
things at Bowmore’s these times.
Mouth: great balance, between peat and
fruit. Lots of acidic fruit notes (passion
fruit). Quite spicy (cinnamon, clove)
with some linseed oil. Very nice finish.
In short, this new 25 yo isn’t stellar,
but it’s still a very good whisky.
Okay, perhaps not for 125 Sterling Pounds.
87 points (Davin 88, Olivier 89).
32 yo 1968/2000 (46%, Signatory, oak cask
#1422, 236 bottles) Colour:
straw. Nose: full tropical fruits (passion
fruit). Herbal tea, camomile… Hints
of riesling (and better than BNJ, Mr Dave
M.) Grapefruit, kiwi, lemon… Develops
on some nice wood, with just a whiff of
smoke and a dash of pepper. Mouth: youthful.
Lots of fruit with a layer of pepper and
one of vanilla. Some tea (earl grey).
Great balance and no sign of over-aging.
Great! 91 points (Davin 93, Olivier
1989/2002 (46%, Signatory UCF, cask #20942,
402 b.) Colour: white
wine. Nose: nice and delicate peat. Fresh
and quite austere. Notes of grapefruit
and pepper. Not overly complex but nice.
Mouth: punchy, on peat, lemon and pepper.
Somewhat like a Zubrovska vodka. Long
finish, straight and still a little austere.
86 points (Davin 83, Olivier 84).
life is important for the Brits and the
Scots (yes I can make a difference), especially
after work and Portnahaven’s brand
new pub ‘An Tigh Seinnse’
pulls huge success since it's been reopened
by Carl, the Port Charlotte Hotel's previous
owner - just in time for the festival!
Not sure the name is the easiest to memorise,
but anyway, after having had a few pints
of Finlaggan ale there, I suddenly spotted
a bottle of the old dumpy 12 yo Bowmore
on some shelf. So I asked the lady behind
the counter if she was selling it by the
dram… and she answered ‘No,
we don’t… but you can taste
a tiny drop of it if you wish.’
Sure! Guess what, she poured us much,
much more than just a measure of it, so
that the three of us could taste it. Cool,
eh? Speaking of which, here are my notes:
12 yo (43%, Dumpy Golden Label, 1970’s)
Nose: very briny, sea air, tropical fruit,
lots of flowery notes and lots of peat.
How great! And no ‘perfumy’
notes at all! Mouth: sweet, ‘good’
caramel, café latte, peat, milk
chocolate. Very ‘slippery’,
says Davin, and he adds: “This whisky
was made by somebody who wasn’t
only in it for the money’, whatever
that means. The finish is medium long,
very fresh and clean. Wow, it’s
soooo much better than the current 12yo!
Besides, it kept perfectly, which might
be thanks to its plastic stopper. Plastic,
better than cork or metal? Mmmm…
Anyway, 90 points for
this old Bowmore (Davin 92, Olivier
- TASTING AT BOWMORE
tour was sort of catastrophic. First they
gave us some almost empty goody bags before
we started the tour (a miniature of the
12yo, some advertising, and a CD-rom with…
Jim McEwan!) So we were all carrying our
bags all around the distillery. Second
the guides were quite unfriendly. And
third, after they made Davin work in the
floor maltings (see picture above ;-),
they let us taste the Cask Strength before
the 12yo… and again, no special
cask, just the usual core range any kid
has already tasted. Well… Anyway,
Bowmore’s become IslayDisneyland,
and if you can only visit six distilleries
next time you hop to Islay, Bowmore’s
the one to skip. Btw, our visit happened
on the open day, not on any day when the
usual tourists assail the distillery.
They could have made an effort. Anyway,
here are two malts that were quite interesting…
NAS ‘Cask Strength’ (56%,
OB, 2004) Colour: amber.
Nose: smoky and fruity, buttery and creamy.
Notes of apricot pie… and no ugly
perfume (whatever its source)! It seems
that things are improving at Bowmore –
whisky-wise). Mouth: bold and very powerful.
Quite a lot of peat, vanilla fudge, quite
heavy. Much better than the previous versions.
I’ve got an opened bottle on my
shelves since at least two years…
I think I’ll re-distil it sooner
or later. Anyway, the 2004 version deserves
an encouraging rating: 85 points
(Davin 74, Olivier 85).
15 yo (43%, OB, circa 2003)
I refused the 12 yo they wanted to pour
us after the C/S, and got this Glen Geerie
instead. Cool! Colour: light amber. Nose:
fresh, a little spirity. Floral and fruity,
with notes of light honey (acacia). Gets
a little buttery after a while. Mouth:
elegant and fragrant. Violet, lavender.
Lots of honeyish and sweetish notes (violet
sweets). Nice and balanced finish. A very
good whisky. 84 points (Davin
Yes, I know, that was hardly a ‘tasting
session at Bowmore’. I’m sorry.
- The Malt
Maniacs Malt Monitor now
includes almost 5400 ratings and 2400
- Breaking news
Dr Henk Hendricks
(TNO Nutrition and Food research), from
Holland, just conducted a survey and came
up with an interesting result: a moderate
consumption of alcohol brings, within
six weeks, a +17% increase of the rate
of Depryanepi... err... Dehydropea...
fudge! Dehydropeanio... Holy sugar! Dyhepiantrosdeti...
I mean, Dehydroepiandrosterone... Okay,
got it. In other word, that's DHEA,
a substance that should make you get younger.
Yes, I said 'moderate' consumption...
- FOLLOW-UP TASTING OF A FEW ARDBEGS at
our Port Charlotte home
25 yo 'Lord of the Isles' (46%, OB, 2001)
Yes, that's the one in the green coffin
- by the way the new bottling for the
Festival 2004 comes in a green coffin
too... Tastes and colours... Anyway, imagine
I never tasted this one before! Nose:
very smoky but not especially ‘peaty’.
Or let’s put it this way: only the
‘smoky’ component shine through.
A little restrained. Lots of ripe apple.
Heavy peat arises after a while, though,
together with some grassy, farmy notes.
Mouth: bold and rich with some tropical
fruit and a load of peat and smoke. Very
nice balance. This is pure Ardbeg, even
if I think there are some (even) better
versions around (OB Provenance, Douglas
Laing OMC or Platinum etc.) The ‘LOTI’
just lacks a little complexity in my opinion,
but has a very, very long finish. 92
points (Davin 92, Ho-cheng 91, Olivier
yo 1990/2002 (?) (43%, McGibbons Provenance,
Autumn) Colour: almost
white. Nose: fresh, peaty and ‘farmy’.
Grass, pepper, vegetables… Quite
clean, though. Some lack of maturing.
Mouth: bold, sugary, a typical young Ardbeg.
Some dusty notes. Long finish, on peat
and sugar. Quite close to a new make,
in fact. 82 points (Davin 82,
yo 1974/1994 (43%, The Ultimate, cask
#4395) Van Wees has done
only two or three bottlings of Ardbeg,
I think. Colour: almost white. Nose: very
fresh, peat, peach, passion fruit, with
some detergent. And lemon. Mouth: great
peat with some sweetish notes. Apple,
parsley, smoke… Some soapy notes.
Long finish. Much stronger than the ABV
would suggest. 86 points (Davin
89, Olivier 90).
yo 1990/2002 (54.8%, DL for 5th anniv.
Speyside Whisky Bar Tokyo, rum finish).
Colour: white wine. Nose: bold and powerful.
Big peat, some grassy notes from the rum.
Burnt sugar, hints of soy sauce. Lots
of smoke, seaweed. Mouth: extremely bold.
Like a regular strong Ardbeg but with
some candy sugar added. A little off-beat.
Very long and bold finish. 87
points (Davin 87, Olivier 90).
yo 1972/2001 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask, sherry
finish, 432 bottles) Colour:
light gold. Nose: some sherry (sweetish)
and the usual Ardbeg. Very bold and rich.
Mouth: great interplay peat-sherry. Lots
of iodine, tar, and some burnt tyre notes
ala Port Ellen. Long finish, on some strong
medicinal notes (campher, bandages). A
beauty, and in this case the finishing
seems to add some complexity. I wouldn't
say a 'naked' version wouldn't have been
better, though. 92 points (Davin
95, Olivier 95).
- TASTING AT ARDBEG - at 3:00 am...
from 0:00 to 3:30am with Stuart Thompson
(picture above) is a thrilling experience...
Especially when the distillery is lighted
by hundreds of candles instead of light
bulbs or neon tubes. But I don't want
you to get green with envy, so I'll just
tell you about a few interesting malts
we had while there...
Uigeadail new bottling (OB, bottled 2004)
Already a new edition, which proves how
successful the first one’s been.
Stuart tells us it contains some 10yo,
some 13yo, and a few very good casks from
the 1970’s. What’s sure, is
that it’s more in the ‘sweet
and sour’ style this time, at least
at first nosing. The smoke appears later…
Very interesting notes of fresh strawberry
(were some port casks thrown into the
vat?) Some sort of a ‘Burgunder’
feeling. Then becomes quite yeasty, with
some funny hints of mustard. Mouth: very
bold and rich. Quite complex, with lots
of smoke, peat, and all sorts of fruit
including cooked apple, of course. Long
and majestic finish. Wow, this new version
is superb and even a little more complex
than the 2003 edition. 92 points.
Stuart let us also taste two great cask
samples, a fantastic 1975 fino sherry
that was bold and very elegant at the
same time (much more elegant than the
oloroso versions) and a very good 1990.
He also told us that most of the new casks
they use at Ardbeg’s come from Jack
Daniels’ (to see a cask click ).
So, they aren’t ‘bourbon matured’,
but ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ matured,
technically speaking, am I wrong? What’s
more, the last batches of the 17 yo contain
quite a lot of Kidalton (i.e. unpeated)
malt. That’s why, I guess, it’s
so subtle… Anyway, that were the
(short) news from Ardbeg’s!
btw, click on the above picture if you
want to see a strange ad juxtaposition
involving both Ardbeg and the AA, plus
various other 'useful' services... ;-)
Maybe we should slow down regarding our
Having said that, it's not the new festival
bottling that will endanger our livers,
as it was priced at... £165! I guess
they want to avoid any further speculation
on these bottles...
our encounter on Islay, famous whisky
writer and expert Charles
MacLean joins the Malt Maniacs!
We always wanted a Scottish member and
now we have one - and not the least. Check
his first E-pistle in Malt
Maniacs' next issue to be published
in the near future. BtW, Charlie's much
funnier and more relax than what you'd
expect when looking at the above 'official'
- In memoriam
Mr Ray Charles...
great he was! Let's listen to 'Georgia
on My Mind', again and again...
- FOLLOW-UP TASTING OF A FEW CAOL ILAS
at our Port Charlotte home
Ila 11 yo 1990/2001 (40%, G&M Private
Coll. Portwood finish, c. #99/47)
Colour: ridiculously pink/salmon. Nose:
cooked apple, oxidised wine, hints of
peat. Thank god the malt is soon to overwhelm
the port. Mouth: very sweet, I’d
even say sweetish like a liqueur. These
sweetish notes makes it difficult to enjoy.
Surprisingly long finish, though. Not
the worst portwood finish! Gets feinty…
74 points (Davin 77, Olivier 64).
12 yo 1988/2001 (40%, G&M Private
Coll. Sherrywood finish, c. #87/330)
Colour: amber. Nose: quite discrete. Nice
sherry, some subtle notes of grapes and
cooked apple. Nice peat. Some nutty notes
as well. Mouth: nice, on the fino (walnut,
flor). Nutty and elegant, with some nice
peat that balances the whole. A nice whisky,
much better than the portwood version.
Nice finish. 82 points (Davin
82, Olivier 80).
Ila 1984/2000 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s
Choice) Colour: white
wine (no caramel!) Nose: light but fragrant.
Peat, fresh apple, cinnamon, strawberry.
Develops on apple compote. Alas, the whole
is quite weak on the nose. Thanks god,
the mouth is bolder than expected. Peat,
pepper, apple pie, and some fresh fruit
like kiwi. Medium finish, getting a little
dry. 79 points (Davin 79, Olivier
7 yo 1989/1997 (43%, Signatory, cask #4516)
Colour: white wine. Nose: nice peat. Fresh
almonds, rum, some grassy notes as well.
A little simple, though. Some white pepper
after a while. Mouth: bold and rich, a
little cloying. Gets sugarish, with peach
and marzipan. Long, but quite uninteresting
finish on sugar. Really lacks complexity,
I think. 77 points (Davin 87,
- TASTING AT CAOL ILA DISTILLERY
visit with Donald Renwick, Lagavulin’s
distillery manager. He knows the distillery
very well, as he’s used to replace
its manager when he’s on vacations,
and the latter does the same when Mr Renwick
takes some days off. We learned some interesting
things, and here are a few insights:
- Caol Ila is used to produce some ‘Highland
Caol Ila’, which is completely
unpeated. They do that for four months
a year, because of the very high demand
for blending (especially Bell’s
and Johnnie Walker). It’s never
been bottled as a single. They need three
weeks to go from the last peated run to
the first unpeated one and clean up all
the stills, pipes etc. That’s why,
I guess, some independent Springbanks,
like the latest Whisky Galore, taste a
little ‘Longrowish’. Perhaps
they don’t have three weeks!
- Caol Ila isn’t matured on the
island, but if all the Islay distilleries
would store their malt on the island,
it would be a giant warehouse,
said Donald Renwick. Makes sense…
- Caol Ila has been recently promoted
as a single malt by Diageo because Lagavulin
was short of matured spirit. Again, that
makes sense. Smart move! But only
18,000 litres are sold as OBs
every year, while Caol Ila produces no
less than… 3.5 million litres.
- Caol Ila uses almost only 2nd or 3rd-fill
bourbon cask, which explains why it’s
always much lighter in colour
than, let’s say Laphroaig, where
they use only 1st-fill bourbon casks.
Anyway, after the visit and after having
paid 8 extra-quids each, we could taste
a few whiskies. Two interesting new makes,
two 4 yo and the usual range 12-18-C/S
we all already knew. They didn’t
let us taste one or two old casks like
Jura, Ardbeg or Bannahabhain did so brilliantly
– often for free. Too bad, we’d
have appreciated just a little more generosity
for 8 pounds, especially during the festival.
But all this was fun anyway, and here
are my notes:
Caol Ila, peated
Peated: smoky, feinty, grassy and farmy.
Unpeated: spirity, fresh, clean and very
The unpeated version wins.
4 yo Caol
Peated: harsh and pungent. Smoky but not
overly so. Very grassy, lots of kerosene
on the nose.
Unpeated: pure and fresh. Lots of fruit
(pineapple, pear). Great palate, with
lots of fruit. Tastes just like e good
pear spirit, only (even) better.
Winner: again, the unpeated version.
12 yo (43%, OB) New try.
Colour: greenish gold. Nose: gentle smoke
and peat, not very complex but highly
enjoyable. Mouth: quite strong and smoky
with some apple notes. Long finish, quite
clean and pure. A good all-round Islayer
for the week days, while the 18 yo is
for Saturdays and the C/S for the Sundays.
Well, ‘everyday is like Sunday’,
sang Morrissey and The Smiths. So true…
Enough ranting, 84 points
for this 12yo.
18 yo (43%, OB) New try.
Colour: dark straw. Nose: light peat,
very nicely balanced. Some grassy notes.
Quite subtle, and less peaty than the
12yo. Some tannins but they aren’t
too aggressive. Mouth: quite rich, with
lots of cooked apple. Very nice peat and
a salty tang, and a medium long finish
, quite mellow and nicely balanced. A
good, quite subtle Caol Ila, worth 86
points on my scale. Better than
almost all independent versions.
We did taste the cask strength (which,
by the way, is a 10yo), but I didn’t
take any proper notes. I had already downed
quite some bottles of that puppy, which
I always liked a lot. Great whisky, perfect
to complete the fearless cask strength
squadron of the Lagavulin 12yo/Laphroaig
ISLAY: Springbank tasting (off festival)
was our very first session with fresh
Taiwanese maniac Ho-cheng – I'm
sure there will be many more!
11 yo 1989/2000 (43%, Van Wees, dist 10/3/1989)
Colour: white wine. Nose: very fresh and
spirity. Quite feinty, with some notes
of broiled cereals and banana. Could be
any distillery. Well, not an Ardbeg or
a Brora… Mouth: fresh and spirity,
feints again, with some peppery notes.
Medium finish, getting bitter and more
and more spirity, with lots of grainy
notes. Err… 75 points (Davin
73, Ho-cheng 79, Olivier 72).
15 yo (46%, Black Label, mid 80’s)
Colour: amber. Nose: complex and balanced.
Lots of tropical fruits (coconut, guava).
Mild pipe tobacco (Virginia), vanilla,
burnt sugar. Nice hints of wood. Mouth:
rich and creamy. Extremely complex, liquorice,
dried orange, fresh vanilla, crystallised
kumquat. Long finish, very complex, on
fresh pepper and orangey notes. Very,
very nice whisky. 91 points (Davin
91, Ho-cheng 88, Olivier 91).
15 yo (46%, OB, 1994)
Colour: light gold. Nose: simpler than
the oldest version, but with the same
kinds of aromas. Tropical fruits, slightly
feinty and yeasty, with some caramel and
breadcrumb. Gets a little toffeeish. Mouth:
bold and rich. The mouth is better than
the nose this time. Chewy and very creamy.
Nice tropical fruits mixed with wood and
pepper. Very, very good. 89 points
(Davin 88, Ho-cheng 84, Olivier 89).
21 yo (46%, OB, dumpy, parchment label)
Colour: dark amber. Nose: heavy coconut,
fresh pastry. Some peat. Gets buttery
and creamy with hints of plantain and
some great woody notes. Mouth: bold and
rich, quite spicy (nutmeg, cinnamon) with
hints of peach syrup and fresh apricot.
Long and bold finish. Superb! 92
points (Davin 92, Ho-cheng 90, Olivier
25 yo (46%, OB, dumpy, parchment label)
Here’s one I already tasted last
year. Colour: golden orange. Nose: whiffs
of pepper arise amongst some beautiful
tropical fruit, cocoa, and some nice feinty
notes. Mouth: very creamy. Coconut, white
pepper, fruits, cinnamon, nutmeg. Quite
close to the 21yo, with a little extra-complexity
93 points (Davin 90, Ho-cheng
93, Olivier 94).
1969 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM7787)
Colour: cognac. Nose: bold and powerful.
Quite leafy, with notes of tea (pu-her),
sherry. Fresh and punchy. Hints of vanilla
and mint, the whole getting more and more
complex. Whiffs of cedar wood. Mouth:
bold, but much simpler than both the old
21 yo and 25 yo OBs. Some nice orangey
notes, some cocoa, and a very long finish.
A great Springbank. 89 points
(Davin 87, Ho-cheng 89, Olivier 89).
1969/2003 (56.7%, Signatory Rare Reserve)
Colour: straw, which is strange. Nose:
punchy and grassy. Vegetables, French
beans, roasted peanuts. Quite feinty…
Some fern and some pepper as well. A strange
old Springbank… Mouth: better than
the nose. Tropical fruit, tannins, fructose.
Not unpleasant but not what we’d
expect from a 34 yo Springbank.
83 points (Davin 80, Ho-cheng 80, Olivier
1966/1998 'Local barley' (54.4%, OB)
New tasting of this one, so very short
notes. Colour: light gold. Nose: condensed
milk, orange, porridge, apple… a
little cheesy. Very complex. Mouth: extremely
bold and rich, and quite peppery. Very
complex. Seems to keep developing forever.
93 points (Davin 94, Ho-cheng
91 Olivier 94).
TASTING: a few rare whiskies (off festival)
- Or why
miniatures are great if you want to try
some very expensive malts...
15 yo (40%, G&M OB, Smith’s)
This one isn’t rare, but has been
chosen to prepare our palates for some
much older G&M Glenlivets to come…
Colour: light amber (I know, it’s
not very useful to comment on a caramelised
malt’s colour). Nose: Quite woody.
Some tannins and some sourish notes, plus
some caramel. Notes of cooked apple and
overripe pear. Nothing special, really.
Mouth: balanced and quite spicy. Lots
of cinnamon, tannins, vanilla, getting
dry. Quite long, dry finish. Not a winner.
70 points (Davin 72, Olivier 76).
50 yo 1940/1990 (40%, G&M)
A wartime malt brought by Davin, perhaps
a good way of commemorating D-day’s
60th anniversary and to pay tribute to
the Scottish soldiers who lost their lives
in Normandy. Anyway it’s not that
often that we can taste a 50 yo whisky,
so thanks Davin! Colour: superb gold.
Nose: surprisingly fresh! Quite flowery
(lily of the valley), some cinnamon and
some fresh fruit (orange). Melon and strawberry
as well. Hints of pepper and of caramel.
Hey, they didn’t caramelise this
one, did they? Mouth: like a liqueur.
Grand Marnier, crystallised orange, tangerine.
Bold tannins, and perhaps not enough fruit
to compete. Again, what a pity they didn’t
bottle it at higher strength! Even 43%
would have been sufficient… Medium
finish, on pepper from the wood. In short,
it’s good malt, even when not considering
both its age and its distilling year.
83 points (Davin 85, Olivier 85).
50 yo 1946/1996 (40%, G&M)
This time, war was over, and again, this
miniature was brought by Davin. It’s
colour is pure gold. Nose: like a gewurztraminer.
Old rose, violet, lavender. Quite fragrant.
Hints of orange water and eucalyptus.
Much better on the nose than the 1940.
Develops on bitter chocolate and tannins.
Mouth: quite spirity, much more than expeccted.
Woody, with again lots of tannins that
dry up the mouth. Long but very drying
finish... Too bad, the wood took command
this time, making the malt less than enjoyable
on the palate. But the nose is very nice!
80 points (Davin 82, Olivier 82).
31 yo 1968/2000 (51%, Signatory, Cask
#685) I had this miniature
on my shelves since quite a long time,
and I knew Davin was on a mission, consisting
in tasting every single post-war distillery.
That’s why I thought our gathering
on Islay was the perfect moment to crack
it open. Colour: straw. Nose: cold coffee,
lots of vanilla, very malty. A little
peppery, with some flowery notes (lilac).
Gets grassy with time. Mouth: bold attack
on cold coffee, pear drops and some tropical
fruit. Quite spicy and peppery. Long finish
on coffee and, again, pepper. Surprisingly
good, more, much more than just a rarity
or a curiosity. 85 points (Davin
83, Olivier 87).
21 yo 1981 (56.2%, Cadenhead’s)
Another one I brought to help Davin downsize
his ‘to taste’ list. Cadenhead
appears to own several good casks of Glencraig,
and the one I had last year at Whiskyship
Zurich was excellent. Let’s find
out about this one. Colour: light amber.
Nose: quite oaky at first. White fruits
(gooseberry, pear). Gets a little grainy,
then develops on coffee and black toffee.
A little dusty (old books) as well, with
hints of smoke. Mouth: very rich and bold.
Sweet, with lots of fruit and some peppery
notes. Develops on coffee and on some
grassy notes and camomile. Long, bold
finish… again, a very good Glencraig
by Cadenhead. 85 points (Davin
86, Olivier 89).
OF ISLAY - Distilleries'
fellow malt maniac Olivier
Humbrecht is nosing both a regular
Bruichladdich newmake and an organic one.
The organic version is much fruitier and
cleaner, and is most enjoyable just as
it is. It hasn't got the usual 'grassy
and farmy' notes one can smell in almost
any newmake. Bruichladdich's regular newmake
is great, but the organic version is just
stupendous! Who said the barley doesn't
Besides, we could taste different interesting
'variations' while on the island:
Jura 5yo, cask sample,
heavily peated (following
the 3 yo bottled for Japan)
Highland Caol Ila new
make, unpeated for blending
Highland Caol Ila 4yo,
cask sample, unpeated
Croftengea 10yo, bottled,
peated Loch Lomond
young bottling for the Festival 2004,
Bunnahabhain 6 yo SWMS,
Port Charlotte 3yo, cask
sample, heavily peated
Very interesting, I can tell you. What
if Jura, Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain
were better when peated, and Caol Ila
when unpeated? I'm quite in a rush right
now, but due tasting notes that'll answer
to that question will be published in
the near future...
FROM ISLAY - What
need to say that I've tons of stories
and tasting notes in my bags. But contrarily
to popular belief, Islay's main assets
aren't the distilleries, or their whiskies,
or even the landscapes, but the wonderful
people you can meet on the island. For
instance that old farmer we met near Loch
Gruinart, who showed us - and gave us
as a present! - this exceptional bottle
of Islay malt he had in his barn (see
picture). I couldn't find any info about
'Loch Scainam Tlam' on the web, but the
label's style indicates it might have
been a pre-war bottle. And just because
we didn't want it to become a collector's
bottle, Davin, Olivier and I decided to
crack it open. Too bad Ho-cheng was already
back to Taiwan! Anyway, yes we're maniacs,
and here are our tasting notes...
Tlam (70 proof, OB?, 1930's?)
Colour: magnificent golden amber. Nose:
a whole basket of tropical fruit at first,
certainly the 'old bottle' effect. Then
some notes of toasted bread, and yes,
some fantastic hints of peat. Incredible
how youthful this 'old' malt is! Then
it develops on old books, dust, with whiffs
of white pepper. Triple wow from the three
of us! Mouth: a little weak at first,
but passion fruit, mango and guava are
soon to appear. Incredibly fresh! Not
much wood, which might indicate that it
was quite a young malt when it was bottled.
Some spicy notes as well (nutmeg), not
to mention some elegant hints of espresso
coffee and yes, some peat. Slightly tired
of course, but nothing to be ashamed of.
Medium finish on white pepper and some
notes of old rum. Yes, this wonderful
malt stays the course! And here are our
ratings: Davin 99 points, Olivier 99 points,
Serge 98 points. Okay, we might well have
been a little too emotional here... But
hey, a pre-war Islayer!
Stay tuned for some other stories and
tasting notes, because we had more than
150 different single malts within the
week. Don't worry, only short drams...
29 to June 6, 2004
TO ISLAY - SO NO UPDATES, I'M AFRAID.
I've uploaded a bunch of ads and some
musical tips. The ads I already posted
have pulled huge success amongst whiskyfun's
readers, so I'll post even more later
on. For the moment, he are a few interesting
ones, to keep you entertained while I'm
doing some clay pidgeon shooting on Islay
(yes, a metaphor)...
Sark: improving variations on seamanship...
left to right: 1956, 1969, 1972... staying
left to right: 1975, 1977, 1982 (Ted Turner)...
campaign: focusing on the sailors, finally!
Improvement or regression? You decide...
and Ardbeg: playing with legs...
Cointreau 1982 - right: Ardbeg 2003. To
show or to suggest, that is the question...
Horse and Glenfiddich: the art of
wedging some animals...
Horse 1972 campaign. The one in the middle
is quite funny as it has a Glenfiddich
feeling. Speaking of which...
here's the Glenfiddich 2003/2004 campaign.
brands: when advertisers have no
idea, they always show girls, said my teacher...
he was right, but you can do it more or
less cleverly. From left to right: early
20th century Kentucky whiskey ad, J&B
1967 'I don't know who he is, but he just
ordered J&B' (so I'm gonna sleep with
him asap?) and Passport 1970 - at the
immigration desk: 'But you said you wanted
to see my Passport'. Thank God they didn't
ask her for her Redbreast...
left to right: Black Velvet 1972, 1979
(Christie Brinkley) and 1984. Black and
blondes always works.
1975 campaign. At the peak of the 'sexy
left to right: Two Fingers Tequila 1982
(incredible teasers), Canadian Mist 2000's
and Tanqueray Gin 2002, which finally
tells you the truth: girls are more interested
in your booze than in yourself, even if
you're Playboy's boss. Teasers: 'Distinctive
since 1953 (Heffner), Distinctive since
brands: ... and if you don't use
girls, you can always use golf...
left to right: Vat 69 1939, Johnnie Walker
1962 (they're below the par and that's
thanks to Johnnie Red - who said whisky
makes you shake?) and Ballantines 1962
(or how to use an empty bottle - well,
I hope it's empty...)
left to right: 100 Pipers 1969 (each part
of the body is a famous golfer's, and's
that's how they make the scotch - well,
sort of), Dewars 1986 Highland games 'a
winning smile to impress the judge' -
this is a kind of golf, isn't it? And
finally Glenlivet 2003 'A great finish'
brands: ... in Paris (please forgive
left to right: Four Roses 1959 (or the
good old dogs' trick to start to talk
to a girl), Canadian Club 1961 (now we
know why there's always some traffic jam
around the Arc de Triomphe) and Dewars
1965. Please note that these three ads
were published in the US, not in France.
Pipers and Bruichladdich: did they
use the same agency?...
left to right: 100 Pipers 1973, Bruichladdich
2003. Thirty years!
brands: some of my favourite ads...
1952/1954 Haig & Haig campaign, with
one of the best ever teasers: 'Don't be
vague, say Haig'. Bottles aren't only
for whisky or small boats, it appears...
left to right: J&B 1962 - really avant-garde,
all objects are drawn with words, J&B
1989 'J&B among friends' and the most
famous X-mas ad they launched in 1990.
left to right: two excellent 1967 Teachers
ads 'No scotch improves the flavour of
water like Teachers' and a funny 1969
ad, again for Teachers. Click
if you want to read it (will open a new
left to right: a 1964 Vat 69 Gold ad,
or how to mock conservative England with
a lot of British... humour. Teaser: 'Every
100 years Vat 69 does something impulsive...
this is it'. Then, two fantastic 2002
Glengoyne ads, which are the ads I liked
best in the recent years. Or how to appeal
to yuppies with style. See how they used
two famous 'status symbols' (Porsche and
Cohiba) without showing them... too much.
- ROCK -
Here another (rather) new talent from
Gryner. I happened to listen
to her beautiful rendition of one of the
songs I like best: Robert Wyatt's 'Sea
Song'. Try to put your hands on it if
you can - it's on her CD 'Girl Versions'.
Otherwise, you can listen to Beautiful
Things (mp3), another, more 'rock'
song which is on her very good latest
album, 'Asianblue'. BtW, Emm is also doing
some backing vocals on some of David Bowie's
recent CDs, and yes she's pretty. So what?
- JAZZ -
I've already been ranting a long about
the fact that I love jazz organ. I told
you before about Pat Bianchi, Barbara
Dennerlein or Jimmy Smith (see archives),
and here's another fantastic player: Joey
DeFrancesco. He's one of
the true living masters of the Hammond
organ, and is particularily amazing when
playing with great guitarists like Danny
Gatton or Pat Martino. For example, have
a listen to El
Hombre (mp3) with Martino. He takes
some incredible almost one-note solos
around 5:00... Wow wow wow!
- BAROQUE -
Here's a very good young Norwegian ensemble,
Baroque. Check their website,
I really like the background picture they
used ;-). And while you're at it, listen
to their recording of Telemann's Sinfonia
Spirituosa (mp3). Quite good, isn't
What's that? It's a beer bottle
organ made by Peterson's in Chicago,
'and this is no joke'. If they ever decide
to make one with some Single Malts, i'm
a volunteer for emptying the bottles!
More info and sound samples here
(I told you, it's no joke!)
all folks. I'll be back from Islay on June
6, and I'm sure I'll have loads of stories
to tell you and a huge quantity of new tasting
notes to publish. Fellow Malt Maniacs Davin,
Ho-cheng and Olivier will join me on the
island, and it'll all start brilliantly
with an Ardbeg midnight tour on Saturday.
I hope we'll not meet some ghosts... unless
it's some of the MacDougalls'
the meantime, why not have a look at the
archives? (see top of this page, on the
Month (home page)
the index of all entries: